The End! (A full tale about Frodo's awakening at Cormallen, and his reunion with Aragorn, Gandalf, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, can be found in this archive in a story I wrote several years ago -- "In the Keeping of the King".)

SHELTER - Chapter 4

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April 8

The glad shouting and applause coming from the other side of camp were so loud, Aragorn wondered if the sound could be heard from Osgiliath. Making his way to the shelter, he stopped short just inside the entrance. Pippin was standing amongst the Men for the first time, looking very proud. Legolas stood just behind him to lend a supporting hand, if needed. Pippin looked up as Aragorn arrived.

"I didn't disobey you, Strider." Pippin's voice was confident, but his eyes betrayed a mixture of hope and excitement. "You said Frodo and Sam would wake today. And you said I could get up when--"

"Yes, I did," Aragorn agreed. "Legolas, please do not let our young friend collapse from overexertion. He may be nearly healed, but a fall would be--"

"He is proceeding in easy stages," Legolas assured Aragorn. "We are walking slowly about the camp. Perhaps the kitchens first, then Pippin wishes to see Shadowfax. After the morning meal, we might do a bit of fishing before returning to the pavilion."

"I'll be careful." Pippin promised.

"My lord," Beregond said, "perhaps Pippin might take his morning meal with us?"

Aragorn looked around at all the smiling faces. Pippin's presence was – as always – a welcome diversion for the Men, who found the presence of any of the hobbits inspiring and delightful.

"Is that what you wish, Sir Peregrin?" Aragorn asked gravely.

Pippin gasped and stood up straighter. He and Merry had been honored in a private ceremony the previous day, but he had not realized that anyone – let alone the King – would call him "Sir" in public. He nodded.

"Very well." Aragorn smiled, and Pippin beamed at him.

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Aragorn was engaged for several hours that morning with preparations for the Ring-bearers' awakening; however, he began to feel a sense of urgency to return to the pavilion. As soon he did so, he understood that something momentous had indeed occurred. Sam was still peacefully sleeping, and Merry – curled up next to Frodo – had not yet awakened from another restless night's vigil. But Frodo lay with his eyes open, looking about in wonder.

"Welcome back, my friend," Aragorn said gently.

Frodo's face was wet with tears, but he was smiling so radiantly, Aragorn knew they were tears of joy.

"I remember the Eagle," Frodo whispered. "Did we... is Sam..."

"You succeeded beyond hope, Frodo," Aragorn said, coming quickly to the small bed and kneeling beside it. "Sam is well, and should wake soon."

"What is this?" Frodo asked, touching Merry's tunic emblazoned in bold white on green.

"Your cousin is now a Knight of the Riddermark," Aragorn explained. "He proudly bears the garb of Rohan, which he served with distinction and honor."

"And what is that?" Frodo smiled broadly, pointing past Aragorn's shoulder. Pippin and Legolas had arrived just after Aragorn, and stood in the entrance. Pippin stared at his cousin in shock.

"That," Aragorn told him, "is an Elf of Mirkwood, and a young Knight of Gondor."

"Hullo, Pip," Frodo grinned. "Did we miss anything?"

Pippin ran to Frodo's bed and hugged his cousin fiercely.

"Hullo, Frodo," Pippin grinned through his tears. He shook Merry's shoulder. "Wake up, Merry, you sleepyhead!"

"Mmmf," Merry murmured, not quite awake. "Is it time for breakfast?"

"You see, Frodo?" Pippin laughed. "You didn't miss a thing! Nothing at all has changed."

"Frodo!" Merry gasped, his eyes flying open.

Legolas, who had disappeared briefly, returned with Gandalf and Gimli in tow. As the seven Companions rejoiced, this time it was the Men in the shelter, far across camp, who heard the whoops and glad shouts. And they knew that one of the Ring-bearers had awakened at last.

END