3. Dawn

'Do you know? I heard Merry's voice, clear as ever. I knew it at once though I've not heard it in over a year.'

'What did he say?'

'He said, 'Odd way to ride a horse, now, cousin!' Then I must have fallen, for the next thing I knew old Fargon was bending over me.'

The room was flooded with sunset light. 'Look at that sky!' the King exclaimed. 'I have not seen such a sunset in many months.'

'Is it?' the hobbit whispered. 'Seems so dark.' The King abruptly sat upright and peered intently into Pippin's face.

'Funny, Merry spoke of being surrounded by a great light, even though night's shadows were stealing over the room.'

'How are you feeling?'

'It was dark under the troll,' Pippin answered irrelevantly. 'So hard to breathe. It feels like that now.' He stirred restlessly. 'It is so dark. So dark,' the hobbit murmured. Aragorn gripped his hand. 'I am here,' he reassured.

Pippin turned unseeing eyes in his direction. 'I know you are, Strider,' he said gratefully. 'You were always there in the darkest places. On Weathertop, when we didn't quite know if you could be trusted. Oh, it was dark there. And Moria! D'you remember my dropping that stone down the well?'

Aragorn chuckled. 'How can I ever forget?'

The hobbit grinned. 'Always wanted to know what would happen.'

'So curious,' the King agreed.

'Always was curious. Just had to know… to know…' The smile was gone. 'Thought I had killed Gandalf, you know. Thought we might have just quietly walked through and out, had I not dropped the stone.'

'Peregrin,' the King soothed.

The smile was back. 'Never heard such sweet words as his 'Fool of a Took!' Never was so happy as when I saw him at Isengard that day.'

'Rest now,' Aragorn urged. 'Try not to talk.'

'Try not to talk? Is such a thing possible?' Aragorn laughed in spite of himself. The next words came lower and he had to strain to catch them. 'Thirsty…'

He gave the hand a squeeze. 'I will get you some water.' The hobbit breathed his thanks. He was not gone more than a minute but when he returned, Pippin was sitting up in bed, eyes wide.

The hobbit's face was transformed by joy. His lips were moving, and the King bent close to hear the words.

'So… bright…!'

Then [Meriadoc] and Thain Peregrin went to Gondor and passed what short years were left to them in that realm, until they died and were laid in Rath Dinen among the great of Gondor… It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the bed of the great king…