The East Gate
Cast list: Frodo, Samwise, Pippin, Merry, Legolas, Aragorn, Boromir and Gimli and everyone else – Llinos
In this chapter none of the original players were available and were all understudied by Llinos
Story Editor Llinos
Dead or Alive
As the arrows flew, one after the other from both Legolas' and Aragorn's bows the orcs were thrown into disarray and then panic. They had not expected any attack, as they believed this group were completely isolated, and so, were intent upon enjoying their victory.
Ten fell dead in the first thirty seconds and another five followed in the ensuing mayhem as the circle was broken and orcs rushed in every direction trying to escape their unseen assailants.
Legolas pursued another six into the woods, picking each off with a deadly accuracy honed over many ages. Aragorn set to with his sword and before long, five more orcs lay dead to the Ranger's skill, the remainder ran for their lives.
The threat of the orcs now passed, still the danger of the fire remained to those atop the flet. "Have you a rope?" Legolas called up, "Lower it over the far side, the fire is less there and we will try to beat it back." So saying, he and Aragorn scooped up handfuls of dirt to throw against the flames on that side, dousing the blaze as best they could.
Draenog had followed the battle from above and could only watch in relief and surprise, since his supply of arrows was finished. However, once the orcs had fallen or fled, he quickly found rope and dropped it over the side. Then, looking up, realised with horror that the others did not realise their siege had been relieved. "Hold!" he cried, "Do not give the little one more opium! We have a chance now if we can escape the flames."
Boromir looked up in startled surprise. Pippin had already been given a large dose of the drug and was working his mouth up and down in his sleep, trying to rid himself of the strange taste. Frantically Wiwer pulled the hobbit's jaw open again and, holding the mouth open firmly to avoid being bitten, scraped his finger around the inside of Pippin's mouth clearing away as much of the paste as he could find. "Hold him upright!" The elf ordered Boromir.
Taking a water bottle now, Wiwer poured a copious amount into Pippin's unresisting mouth and Boromir swilled the liquid around then held Pippin forward so that the water would dribble out again. "How much do you think he's had?" The man asked anxiously.
"Enough, that's for certain," The elf shook his head, then leaned his patient forward and pushed his finger all the way down Pippin's throat, making him retch and finally heave. He brought very little up but then he had not eaten for a day and the lembas was probably all but digested now. What little he coughed out was mostly the offending paste. "The little one obviously has an iron constitution to have managed six lembas loaves in the first place, his system may be able to cope with this."
"Let us escape from the flames first and then hope your words are true Wiwer." Draenog began fastening the rope around a, for once, unresisting Gimli. "Help me to lower Master Dwarf down and then we will follow. All three elves took a hand in carefully easing the injured dwarf over the side of the flet into the waiting arms of Aragorn and Legolas.
"Gimli! You are hurt!" Legolas forgot his triumphant words of heroic rescue from the jaws of death when he saw the swollen bandaged leg. Suddenly the crutch marks in the tracks fell into place. "Is the leg broken? It must be painful."
"Nay, 'tis but a scratch." The dwarf actually welcomed the chance to make light of his injury in front of the elf. "The little one is in more dire need of healing."
Wiwer took the rope next and lowered himself using one hand with Pippin slung over his shoulder. The others followed in quick succession. Aragorn took Pippin from the elf as he reached the ground and laid him down. "What ails the hobbit? He seems to be very peaceful."
"A little too peaceful." Boromir felt Pippin's brow and patted his face to try for a reaction. "He was already sick from eating too much waybread – lembas – in one go, so Wiwer here," Aragorn nodded to the elf indicated, "gave him medicine, opium I think, to ease his pain. But when we thought our situation hopeless, we gave him more so that he would not suffer at the hands of the orcs."
"There is naught else to do now," Wiwer said, "I have made him vomit and I do not think there is more to be gained from that. He will sleep and hopefully awaken none the worse for the experience."
Aragorn put his ear to Pippin's chest to listen to his heartbeat, fast for a man, but slow for a hobbit, then carefully felt his breathing, slow and a little too shallow. His own heart picked up pace as he realised that the hobbit was in a poorly way. "We must hurry!" he lifted Pippin up into his own arms. "There will be more skill to heal him in Caras Galadhon than I think is among us."
"Yes," Wiwer agreed, he made hurried introductions of his two brothers and Aragorn and Legolas reciprocated. "I will conduct you with all speed to the heart of our land and Draenog and Llygoden can follow on with Master Gimli."
Boromir leaned over Aragorn and kissed Pippin lightly on the brow. "Carry him to safety my friend," he said, "I will stay by Gimli as I might slow your progress. Farewell until we meet again, hopefully in happier circumstances."
Legolas was torn between the two groups. Pippin looked so small and helpless but his conscience was tinged with guilt at his planned triumphalism over the dwarf and now seeing him so badly hurt it seemed petty and unworthy. "I shall stay and help Master Gimli," he declared. "You will carry Pippin faster with just two." 'Besides,' Legolas thought, 'I managed to lose the other hobbit twice, dwarves are much harder to misplace.'
Aragorn nodded his agreement and without further ado followed Wiwer through the trees, the hobbit resting upon his shoulder, his head tucked up against the Ranger's face.
The journey was uneventful, Pippin showed no signs of stirring and after two hours of travel, with no rests, they reached Caras Galadhon. Aragorn relinquished his burden, but he and Wiwer followed the elves that took Pippin up to the higher chamber where the Lady looked upon the sleeping hobbit. She touched his eyes lightly and smiled at the Ranger and elf. "Do not worry, the little one will awaken, his life-force is young and strong. Yet even in his sleep he has a fear," Galadriel looked knowingly at Aragorn, "he pines for his cousin, fearing that he may have perished."
"That does not surprise me my Lady." Aragorn bowed his head as he spoke. "I will lie him alongside Meriadoc, who also frets for Peregrin, perhaps even in sleep they will be comforted by each others' presence."
As Aragorn entered Merry's chamber he was glad to see that the older cousin was still sleeping. Carefully he laid Pippin down beside Merry, making sure he was on the opposite side to the hobbit's wound. "There," he whispered, "sleep soundly until morning light and then you will be reunited at last." As he left the chamber he smiled to see Merry, without waking, wind his arm around Pippin's neck.
The Ranger guessed that Frodo and Sam had finally gone to take some rest and considered going back to meet the remaining three members of the Fellowship, but then decided they could manage quite well without him. Especially as he now felt extremely weary and, satisfied that he had done all he could for that day, allowed himself to be shown to a sleeping chamber of his own.
Meanwhile, Legolas and Boromir had supported Gimli for most of the trip. The dwarf had finally succumbed to offers of help and allowed the elf and the man to take most of his weight upon their bent shoulders, finally permitting them to lift him bodily off the ground, since it was less strain for them to carry him than to stoop constantly.
Thus they finally made their weary way to the innermost part of the Golden Wood and Gimli the dwarf was the first of his kind to lay his eyes upon that beautiful realm since Durin's Day and a marvellous wonder he found it. But the greatest awe fell upon him when the Lady of the Golden Wood herself came forth to meet him.
The dwarf's mouth fell open and he stammered in embarrassment, "I-I had not dreamed this place con-concealed so fair a treasure, My Lady. I am honoured beyond words to look upon a beauty that rivals the Golden Wood itself."
"Your tongue is as precious as the metals you mine, Master Gimli," The Lady laughed, "But you are hurt and weary beyond measure. Be at rest now and take comfort from the healers of this realm."
Boromir bowed low, "The courtesy of the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn is unprecedented in our travels, I thank you both deeply."
Legolas patted Gimli on the shoulder, "I regret Master Dwarf that we did not find the hospitality of the dwarves after all, perhaps one day. But in the meantime I hope the hospitality of the elves will make up for your loss."
So with polite bows and great relief the last three members of the Fellowship who had survived the East Gate, were shown to fair beds and offered refreshment and aid for their wounds before falling into a deep, replenishing sleep, that lasted past the first light of the new day.
"Merry?" Pippin's eyes squinted half open, although he was aware of his older cousin beside him long before his eyes confirmed that he was indeed there. "Are you asleep?" Pippin wondered in his delight if the rules about not waking Merry applied if you have been separated from your dearest friend, believing him to be dead and thinking you have died yourself, only to wake and discover him sleeping next to you.
'Dead!' The word reverberated through Pippin's consciousness, 'Of course Merry was dead! They both were!' That was logical. Pippin remembered how ill he had been, desperately sick and his stomach had hurt so much. And he knew Merry was dead! He'd seen him die – twice! First in the caves of Moria during the terrible fight and then again when he had sensed his cousin's departure from the world. He had felt him stop breathing and his heart had stopped beating – Pippin knew this for certain.
Well as they were both dead it made no sense not to wake Merry. "Merry! Merry!" Pippin shouted in his snoring cousin's ear, "Wake up! We're Dead! Wake up and see!"
Merry groaned and tried to roll over. He had been in the same position for a long time and could scarcely feel any of his limbs. In fact, he was pretty certain he did not have any limbs to speak of. His arm was still bound to his side and when he tried to move it, and nothing happened, he realised for certain that he had no arm. "Pip? Where did my arms and legs go?"
Pippin was unprepared for this question. "I don't know Merry, I think they're attached to you. Maybe they haven't arrived yet. Anyway, I'm sure you have to feel all right soon because we're dead now."
"Oh well that's all right then." Merry grunted and tried to lift his head up but it flopped back onto the pillows, "only I don't seem able to move Pip. Shouldn't I be able to move when I'm dead?"
"Well maybe we're not in Overheaven," Pippin reasoned, "Perhaps we have to atone for all our wrong-doings first."
"That should take quite a while," Merry murmured, still not really awake, "I'd best just have a nap, build my strength up ready, you know." And his lead weighted lids insisted on closing once more.
"Oh!" Pippin felt a little deflated that Merry was not as excited as he was about being dead, especially as they seemed to have made it to wherever they were together. "Please Merry, you can have a 40 winks later. You'd best wake up now and see what we have to do."
"What is all this din in here?" Gaeaf had actually been in and out of the room all morning, tending to the sleeping hobbits. In spite of Merry's numbness, Gaeaf had repositioned him several times while he slept and Pippin had been carefully bathed from top to toe and clad in a long white nightshirt without even waking. "If you are going to shout and leap around Master Peregrin Took I shall no longer consider you my patient and you will be banished from the healing chamber."
"Healing chamber?" Pippin's face furrowed, "do you have to get healed in the Overheaven?"
"I daresay," Gaeaf agreed, not really understanding what the excitable perian was talking about, "So please sit up and eat your breakfast so that you may heal as fast as possible and give me some peace." The elf deposited a tray onto the big bed, laden with fresh fruits, a large mug of milk, a bowl of porridge with brown sugar and slivers of crustless bread, spread with butter and honey.
"Breakfast in bed!" Pippin's eyes opened wide at the delicious spread, "I think I'm going to like the Overheaven!"
"Mis…ter F…ro…do! Fro! Fr-frr…" Sam gave up the unequal battle for a moment and leant against the door jamb, panting and trying to find where all his breath had gone. "I… It's… you h-have to…to come… now!"
"Whatever is up Sam?" Frodo's wide eyes grew rounder and bigger than usual with surprise at Sam's obvious agitation. "What's happened?"
"It…it's Mistrer, I mean Mister Boromir… and Mister Legolas and all… and Strider and they comed… I mean they came back… and everything… they got Mister Gimli… only he's got a broken elf and… and…"
"A broken what?"
"Leg, I mean he's got a broke leg… but he says… says…"
"Sam! Slow down!" Frodo leapt from his bed where he had been waiting on a promise of breakfast from his servant, but it seemed he had something rather better than food to offer. "Tell me!" Frodo caught hold of Sam's forearms and stared hard into his face, willing him to catch his breath. "Pippin?"
Sam had no words left, but nodded so hard his head might have fallen off it weren't so stubborn.
"Let's go!" Frodo quickly pulled on britches and shirt and was still buttoning as he ran after Sam, heading to where he knew his precious little cousin would be.
"No thank you."
"A drink? Would you like some fruit cordial?"
"No, truly, I am not thirsty."
"How about some ale? I am certain I could smuggle some in without the healers seeing."
"Legolas, you really don't have to do anything." Gimli grunted as he tried to change position, but his stretched and elevated leg made it tricky. "Your Elven kin have tended to my every need and I will be up and about in no time, or so they tell me."
"I could read to you." Legolas ran his finger along the row of books. They were all written in Sindarin and almost certainly illegible to the dwarf. "There are some worthy manuscripts here."
"I do not need bedtime stories either," Gimli snorted, "although I suspect the hours may hang heavily upon my recovery. Your company would be welcome to help while away the long hours that I will be confined to bed."
"Then you shall have it," Legolas exclaimed with a smile, "my company is an easy gift to give. Would you have me sing to you, tell you stories of my people, or do you prefer poetry? I have many a long ballad and lay to heart."
"I would sooner you carry me news," Gimli said a little too hastily, "although the songs and stories are enticing. But what of the hobbits? Are they fit and whole? And Strider and Boromir? Are they to visit?"
"Of course friend Gimli," Boromir had been standing by the door listening to the exchange between the two, "I am glad to see you are faring better."
"Takes more than a broken leg to bring a dwarf down to size." Aragorn laughed as he followed Boromir into the room, "and Pippin and Merry are fine too, as are all the hobbits. Do not trouble yourself over their health but fasten rather on your own recovery."
"Really?" Gimli fixed the Ranger with a beady eye. "Young Pippin looked to be in a dire state when last I saw him, and what of poor young Meriadoc? Pippin thought him to be dead – and he seemed so sure."
"We believe he may have been for a brief while." Aragorn agreed. He placed his hand gently on Legolas's shoulder, "and had it not been for this noble elf, he may have remained so."
"I did little enough," Legolas looked abashed, "it was through my hasty actions that Merry was almost lost."
"I trusted and hoped that you would save the young hobbit with your fleetness and speed." Gimli paused and his voice darkened with the memory. "But Pippin knew he had died, it was more than just a feeling; of that I am certain. Yet you tell me he lives!"
"Indeed he does," Aragorn's hand remained on Legolas' shoulder, tacitly preventing any objection from his friend. "Legolas offered up to the Valar his immortality in exchange for Meriadoc's life. It was a courageous and selfless act and one of which you should be proud."
"But…" Boromir had not heard this tale until now, "what does that mean? Are you now doomed to the fate of Men?"
"No indeed," Legolas was clearly uncomfortable at being made so much of. "They gave the little one back his mortal being without accepting my sacrifice. He was void of life for a short while. That Pippin felt his death is further evidence of the Grace in which these dear perian abide."
"Which should give us all renewed hope for the Quest," Aragorn nodded gravely. "After we lost Gandalf, my grief aside, I was sorely worried that all was lost. But the survival of the halflings against such terrible travails is surely a sign that they may yet prevail."
"Peregrin Took! You bad hobbit! Where have you been all this time?" Frodo's scolding words were delivered with a tender embrace, belying the severity of the rebuke.
"You had us all worrit to death and no mistake!" Sam added his own admonishment as his Master hugged his young cousin and managed to upset Pippin's cup of milk in the process.
"Frodo?" Pippin gasped with dismay, "but you're not meant to be here! Oh no, this is terrible. I mean, it's wonderful to see you, but what's to become of the Shire and the Quest and everything if you're here?"
"What are you talking about, you silly hobbit?" Frodo felt Pippin's brow, checking for fever, "you must still be poorly my dearest?"
"No," Gaeaf had entered the chamber so quietly the three hobbits jumped, "he's almost well enough to leave. In fact, since he's so wide awake, he should get up and about as soon as he's finished throwing his breakfast over the bed, if only to give his companion a little peace." Gaeaf mopped up the spilled milk and lifted the still sleeping Merry slightly apart from his boisterous cousins. "Your clothes, Peregrin, are being washed and mended and will be here soon, then you can go."
"Oh no," Pippin exclaimed in alarm, "I have to wait for Merry, I can't go exploring the Overheaven without him!"
"Overheaven?" Sam scratched his head, "I know these trees are pretty tall, but I don't think we're that high up, leastways, I certainly hope not."
"Of course you must wait for Merry," Frodo had decided that his young cousin was still quite muddled following his ordeal, "we'll all wait for Merry to wake up. He's been so upset and anxious waiting for you Pippin."
"Really?" Pippin poked Merry gently in the side to see if he was about to stir. "He wasn't surprised to see me at all. I thought he was expecting me. Oh well," Pippin heaved a mixed sigh of relief and sorrow, "I'm sorry you're here Fro, and you Sam, but at least we're all together. Where do you suppose Gandalf has got to? Perhaps we'll see him soon do you think?"
"But Pip my dear heart," Frodo took Pippin's hand gently in his, "have you forgotten? The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm? Gandalf fell – do you not remember?"
"Yes, of course," Pippin nodded, "the Balrog, the fight and everything. I just thought that perhaps he would come to see us now we're here. But I suppose he is too important or maybe they have a particularly splendid place for wizards, you know, what with them being wizards."
"Um… What… what's all the ruckus?" Merry stirred and opened one eye just a slit. The sleeping draught that Gaeaf had fed him was only just wearing off. "Trying to get some shuteye around here you know."
"Merry, you sleepyhead," Frodo smiled as he remembered how difficult it had been to get Merry to rest before, "I thought you would have been bouncing off the ceiling now that Pippin is safe and sound."
"Pip?" Merry opened both eyes now, "Pippin! You're here! I thought you were… that is I remembered you were here, but that was only dreaming!
"No Merry," Pippin put on his best aggrieved and exasperated tone, "we're in Overheaven, remember? We were just waiting for you to wake up and for Gandalf to come."
"Pippin dear heart," Frodo began explaining carefully again, "Gandalf isn't coming back. I'm sorry, and we're all dreadfully sad about that, but you have to understand."
"But… but," Pippin felt that awful feeling in the pit of his stomach as he began to realise all was not well. His bottom lip trembled and his eyes filled up, until a fat tear escaped down his cheek, "I thought he would come to see us, now we're all dead. I thought he'd want to make sure we were all right, maybe show us around, I thought… oh I don't know! Why doesn't he want to come here?"
"We're not dead Master Pip!" Sam looked perplexed. "That is, I don't exactly remember dying myself and I don't think that's the sort of thing you'd forget easily."
"Yes, yes," Pippin's tears were running down his cheeks now and he hiccupped a small sob as he spoke. "I know Merry and I died, I remember Merry anyway and… and I heard Gimli and Boromir saying we would soon all be dead, leastways… hic… I think that was it… hic… so when I saw Merry… well then I knew for sure…"
"Oh Pippin," Frodo gulped as he realised the enormity of the horrors his young cousins had both faced, "you didn't die, neither did Merry. Sam and I are fine and so are you, and Merry is getting better."
"I don't understand." Pippin sniffed back his tears and lifted his cousin's hand up to his face and pressed the palm into his cheek. "Are you real Fro? Or am I dreaming you?"
"I'm real Pip, truly, so are Merry and Sam." Frodo kissed the top of Pippin's curls, "and so are you, you silly Billy."
"…and Gandalf?" Pippin asked hopefully.
Frodo shook his head sadly, "I'm so sorry Pip, but Gandalf really did sacrifice himself so that we could escape."
"So are we dead or not?" Merry murmured, still unable to raise himself up and not really following what was going on. "Do I have to do anything?"
"Yes," Pippin dragged his sleeve across his soggy eyes and nose, the realisation that he and Merry were not dead, finally sinking in, "you have to get better, fast as you can please Merry."
"All right Pip," Merry agreed sleepily, smiling happily even as his eyes closed again. "I'll do my very best, just for you."
It was a week later that Merry, with Aragorn guarding his progress in front and Boromir guiding him from behind, climbed slowly down the long winding staircase of the Mallorn tree.
He had made good progress and was expected to be fully recovered in another week or two so that the four hobbits would be able to continue on the Quest together.
But there was something that had to be done first and Merry had not wanted to be left out. He sat next to Pippin on a little hillock and surreptitiously held his cousin's hand as Celeborn began to intone sweetly complex words in Sindarin.
Although only Legolas and Aragorn and, to some small extent, Frodo could understand the poetry that was chanted by the Elven Lord, all eight of the surviving members of the Fellowship that had set out from Rivendell felt the emptiness that Gandalf's loss had left. All of them had lacked the time to mourn for the wizard when he had fallen in Moria, beset as they had been with travails and battles of their own. But now that omission could at last be mended and some healing of their grief could, at least, begin.
When the evening was almost spent, Frodo stood and told the company his own tribute to Gandalf in the verses he had written and even Sam added his own lines about the wizard's fireworks.
And as the elves sang and the glow that filtered through the mallorn trees faded from gold to red, the Fellowship drew close and found renewed strength in their mutual grief and a deep comradeship that came from the battles shared and won since they had left the Mines of Moria by the Eastgate.
Author's Note: Well that's it for now, back to writing Recaptured for me, I don't know where everyone else has gone but I'm sure you'll see them around. Thanks for all your reviews and I'm sorry this has taken so long to get to the end, but hope it was worth waiting for.
Now I'm going to leave the final Q&A to Pippin (ably assisted by Marigold) since Merry still has a headache and the others are far too busy!
Lindahoyland: What an exciting place to leave off!
Pippin: Well, I am glad that you thought so!
Lindahoyland: I liked the way Frodo comforted Merry.
Pippin: Frodo can be quite solicitous. And he makes an excellent cottage pie! Oh, and he's brave and noble and all of that stuff too.
Storyfish: Yay! Orc attack! Um, I mean...Orcs bad! BAD! But being scared stiff for the lives of Boromir, Gimli, and Pippin is always fun (and seems to happen a lot in this tale). Am especially freaked out by the end of this chapter (YAUGH! DON'T MERCY-KILL PIP!).
Pippin: Yes, you must have been very amused by this tale, with all of the horrible things that have happened to us. Really, the way that some of you people get your jollies! And "YAUGH" indeed! I admit that the end of this chapter freaked me out as well, or at least it would have done, had I been at all conscious.
Storyfish: But am especially looking forward to the next (last) chapter, which will hopefully end on top of the cliff, with no more stragglers dangling off the edge by their fingertips, screaming (since I don't know if I can handle another cliff-hanger like this one!).
Pippin: Thank you! I think… Oh, and Marigold is poking me to poke you about some Challenge starter or other that you are supposed to be working on. I do hope that my life isn't going to be in too much jeopardy in it, though I suppose that is a vain hope. Sigh…
EVIL MANIAC: I'm glad Merry liked the chocolates! This time Pippin gets one too.
Pippin: Only one? I think that I deserve a lifetime membership in the Chocolate of the Month Club! You really are evil!
EVIL MANIAC: And that song was...interesting... I can imagine the healer would be rather amused. Or shocked. Or something to that effect. :)
Pippin: Actually your average elf has been around so long that nothing shocks them. Although Merry and I have managed to curl Legolas' hair a time or two!
EVIL MANIAC: And also poor Pippin... stuck up a burning tree with no eagles and too many drugs. Dear me... what a pickle. Do hobbits like pickles? In their sandwiches, that is.
Pippin: We don't have pickles. We have pickled onions, pickled beetroot, pickled eggs, pickled cabbage, pickled peppers, pickled walnuts, pickled lemons, pickled cauliflower, pickled pears, pickled shallots, pickled cornichons, pickled mackerel…but no pickles. Those are called gherkins!
EVIL MANIAC: this chapter was great! Just like the rest of the story is great! (Although of course the bits with people dying/getting stabbed/bleeding are better!)
Pippin: All of us are terribly happy to have been injured and made to suffer mightily for your enjoyment! Always glad to be of service! Namarie!
IceEmber: I know Pip will live but maybe the sheer amount of drugs he keeps getting fed explains why he is the way he is.
Pippin: I am going to have to get Merry to explain that comment… I think that you might be having a go at me, but my head is a bit muddled just now.
Pip4: Nice chapter, although, to be honest, I like it when everyone is playing and writing it. I think it gives us more to read in each chapter because each person is going into detail with each individual character. But you did a very good job of writing all of them in this chapter, good work.
Pippin: Llinos did an outstanding and amazing job! All of us characters are enormously pleased at how she has written us after our original tormentors…I mean authors…had to leave the role-play! It was a big job, on top of prodding reams and reams of material into an exciting and enjoyable story, and we thank her very much! On behalf of all of the characters that appeared in The East Gate, Three Cheers for Llinos! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!