Title: Token
Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd)
Characters: Pippin, Gimli, Eomer, Merry, Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf; implied Mouth of Sauron; implied Frodo; implied Bilbo
Rating: PG.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Summary: The confrontation with the Mouth of Sauron at the Black Gate affects those present in different, though haunting, ways. Movieverse.

Story Notes/Announcements: German translation to be posted shortly (a special thanks to Belegcuthalion for this!). In addition, "Counterpane" will soon be updated; I expect to finish the story this month. "What May Come" will be updated in June. Other short fics will be posted as well. For the latest in fic updates, please feel free to stop by http/ permission to reproduce or archive this work in whole or in part, please contact febobe at yahoo dot com.

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Original characters are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.

TOKEN

Pippin

Frodo. . .

The light catches, glinting like water upon fish-scales from a million perfect points of light.

Yet were I blind, I would recognise it.

Frodo's shirt. Frodo's shirt, the one Bilbo gave him for his very own, to keep him safe.

What good has it done him in the end, if they took that from him? And if they could take it from him, I don't suppose it mattered whether he was wearing it or not, as safety goes. . . .

I feel sick.

I can't look away.

What have they done?

And when Gandalf gingerly slips it down into my waiting hands, I - I cannot do what I would wish.

I want to know if it is all their stench, or - or if any of Frodo's smell is left on it.

It's the last thing I remember, even the last night before he left, and I've been forgetting what it's like. I'd hoped he might remind me soon enough.

And yet I cling to it despite not knowing. It is all we have.

Gimli

He grins.

His head would look fine removed from his body. His teeth would be fine on a belt, in fact, or some decoration or other. Something.

"Dead," Frodo had once told me when I spoke to him of his parents. I can see him still, sitting on the bank of the river, a half-nibbled piece of bread in one hand, bright eyes already shadowed and hollow and absent, save when he spoke of home or of Bilbo. "They drowned the year I turned twelve years of age."

I should take these to Bilbo, then, instead, if Master Elrond thinks the shock will not kill the poor fellow.

Eomer

Merry's anguished cry startles me, and my own words come back to strike at me.

"I do not doubt his heart. . ."

Meriadoc, would that I had never doubted heart nor arm when it came to you.

I doubt not now.

Even my spirit quails at the thought of what is meant by the words cast at you and your kinsman. At us. Perhaps had none of us doubted you, it would never have come to this.

But at heart I am responsible for that, for as a leader among my own people I should have set the example.

Eowyn, may you not be shamed by me in these final hours. I would do you honour in honouring the truth.

I thought the people of Rohan knew what suffering was.

Now I begin to fear otherwise.

Merry

"No!"

It slips out before I can help it, and I'm not sure I'm sorry. Too long have I sat in silence, perhaps. I was silent when Frodo ran off by himself, held Pippin back, told Frodo to run, to go on, rather than insisting he join us in our hiding-place as we'd urged him to do only seconds before.

What sort of cousin does that?

I let him run off alone into the Blue, without us.

And what about me? I go into service where I will be looked out for by good people, by Eowyn and Aragorn and Theoden and others, where I am given bed and food and drink, where I at least had people to tend my injuries.

What did Frodo have at the end?

Legolas

They sense it - the little ones sense it before the rest of us, even, and cry out, their sweet voices a heart-rending ache to make stones weep. But the evil we face is worse than stone, and cannot be moved. . .and even if he could, the damage is done. It is finished.

There is nothing I can do to comfort them.

Were it possible to ease their grief, to soothe them, by simply putting an arrow through the monster at once, gladly I would give him a dozen through the throat for his trouble. . .but that will serve no useful purpose. Aragorn has trouble enough without such conduct at present.

Still, nothing would give me more pleasure at the moment, for memories of Frodo's eyes and his sweet laughter pass through my fea like music, and my blood heats until I feel as if my veins may overflow.

Aragorn

"Do not reveal your emotions," Adar had said - Elrond, of course, for my father by blood was long dead when I was taught such lessons, struck down by orcs in the Coldfells. i "Not when meeting with the enemy. There are times for it, yes. A true man should not fear showing emotion before his wife or his children when the time is right - showing love, for example, as I show love to Elladan and Elrohir, and to you. But to allow an enemy to see your fear, or your anger, or your impatience - do you understand, Estel, how disastrous that might be? Kingdoms may stand or fall on this matter."

"Yes, Ada." I had been young then, still a child, calling Elrond papa and swinging my legs as I sat in one of the great chairs in my foster-father's study, having my lessons.

Failure, hisses the whisper in my heart. i Failure. . .had you only had the courage to claim your rightful inheritance and take the One, to come at last into your own and use it to rebuild Arnor and unite the Northern and Southern kingdoms, all would be well!

This argument I can bear. These words I can suppress.

But the sight of the mithril-coat. . . .

Adar. . .Adar, what happens to hobbits when they die? Surely the Valar must have some high reward for Frodo. I cannot believe that he would have been allowed to endure so much, then die with no peace, with nothing. . . .

The pain comes in crushing waves.

What if you were his rescuer, Aragorn, and you were the one who failed him? The one who left him to die without peace?

Steeling myself, I slow my breathing and listen, allowing Gandalf to speak.

But my arms remember a small, soft bundle. . .and I remember too well watching bright, merry features fade into a pallid, hollow countenance deeply shadowed.

This messenger will pay. Dearly.

Gandalf

Frodo.

Between his laughter and his words, I hear - as if in hallucination - other voices, other laughter, other words.

A child's laugh.

"Gandalf! Gandalf!"

Bilbo's warm chuckle. "Now, lad, give the fellow half a moment to sit down and rest! I'm sure he'll give you his surprise when he's had bite and sup and a good smoke. Now settle down and have your tea!"

"Uncle Bilbo!" Not much of a whine. Nor was there much reluctance in the boy's return to his seat - a tiny hobbit, still a young orphan, biting into a slice of toast spread with strawberry jam. . .a lad whose usual melancholy seemed lifted by an extended stay with his beloved "Uncle Bilbo."

Oh, my boy, my boy, was I right after all? To take the purest of souls and send it into darkness. . . .

Who would have thought one so small would endure so much pain?

I flinch at the sound of the voice, resisting the urge to nod. Clearly they did not know Frodo. Had not known Frodo, rather.

Feeling sick, I look down at Pippin as he turns the mithril-shirt over in his hands, cradling it, his feelings, I think, betraying us all. . .and yet it is too late. I have had done with trying to quiet the others in their grief.

They know.

They know.

But he did, Gandalf. He did.

That is precisely what I am afraid of most.

May the Valar forgive me for what I have done.

finis -