Nine For Mortal Men Part Eighteen
At last Pippin was back in the hobbits' guest house. He went out into the little garden and leaned on the wall with his good arm, looking at the sky. The air still smelled of sulfur, but all the visible ash was on the ground. Frodo rose from a low seat and joined him at the wall.
"How do you feel, Pippin?"
"Merry tells me you kept the arrowhead."
"Yes, I mean to hand it back to Faramir at some highly inappropriate moment. Can't pass up a good chance for mischief, after all, or I wouldn't still be a Took."
"You have nothing to prove in that regard," said Frodo, a little too seriously.
"Goodness sakes, Frodo, I didn't mean to imply I think I'm not." Pippin looked at Frodo's hands, draped over the white marble, and suppressed an impolite shudder at the sight of the mutilated finger. "I hated you for a while, you know."
"I imagine you did." Frodo did not look at him, but shifted uncomfortably and started fidgeting with something on a chain around his neck.
"Uh, Frodo—what's that?" Pippin asked in a tone of dread.
"Nothing. Just a pendant. Um, see?" Frodo turned toward him then, displaying a white jewel.
"It's not nothing," Pippin accused. "I know that sound. That has the ring of a lie, Frodo, I'd say, yes, it rings false. Don't think you can dance rings round the truth with me now."
"Alright, alright! You don't have to keep saying that. If you must know, Arwen gave it to me. In the way of a parting gift, you understand. We'll all be heading home soon, us hobbits, and the elves heading for Rivendell, and many of the great folk are going with us as far as Rohan."
"Don't try that innocent blue eyes expression on me, Frodo, I know the shadow world. I know the taste of the ash that blows there, where the fire once burned. I know the gaze of the great deceiver."
Frodo sighed, and stared out over the city. "It's a symbol." He paused for a long time.
Finally Pippin said, "I hope you aren't planning to reply in Entish."
Frodo tried to smile at the feeble jest, but the expression died on his lips. "She gave me her place on the ship, Pippin. I am going into the West."
"That spell you brought back. The re-anchoring. How did you manage to use it?"
"Wait a moment, don't change the subject."
"I'm not. How did you cast a Morgul spell? You had barely had the Nine for a few weeks. Even with having seen the Eye in the Palantir, you should not have been able to attune that fast."
"You said it yourself, Frodo. Will gets in the way."
"Oh." Frodo let the pause go on too long again, absently following the flight of a stray seagull as it dived over the heap behind the inn far below.
"So, what about the spell? Did Gandalf try it on you?"
"No. He thought it was a curse, actually. Sorry. But it does seem to have done the trick; Gandalf and Elrond both say you are no longer faded, no longer subtle. So you have no need to come yourself to the Undying Lands, to prevent you from becoming a ghost."
"Wait, Frodo—are you saying that if I hadn't had Tarondor cast the re-anchoring on me, I could have gone too?"
"Well, nobody has said so in so many words, but my guess would be yes. They would have found some way to bring you along."
Pippin made a little squeak, but said nothing. He turned away and wiped at his face, then made a sort of flapping motion as if smoke was getting in his eyes.
Frodo set his four fingered hand on Pippin's shoulder. "Do me a favor."
Pippin turned back toward Frodo, dislodging his hand, and snarled through his tears, "A favor? You drop that on me and then ask for a favor?"
"Don't tell Sam I'm leaving Middle-Earth."
Pippin pulled out a pocket handkerchief and dried his face. "You're not going right away, are you? I mean, could you hold out about, oh, four years?"
"Why four years?"
"Because you and Merry and going to throw me a massive coming of age party, of course. It's going to be bigger than Bilbo's birthday party. Lots of food and drink, fiddlers and dance bands, pipe weed—you two can pay for it all of course—"
"And why would we do that?" Frodo teased, amused despite himself.
Pippin suddenly brought his face nose to nose with Frodo and whispered, "Because you owe me." Then he moved back to the wall, and resumed chattering lightly in normal hobbit fashion, as if nothing had happened, "And of course I expect you to talk Gandalf into giving a display of his fireworks. And I'm going with tradition, of course—giving away lots of party favors. I think I'm going to find something very special for you, Frodo. Birthday Present. Heh heh heh."
"That is the most evil laugh, Pippin." But Frodo was smiling. It was not a carefree hobbit smile; it reminded Pippin of Gandalf somehow. But still, a smile nonetheless. "Of course I'll help plan your party. Friends again?" Frodo held out his four fingered hand.
Pippin hesitated only a moment before he clasped it and shook. "We hobbits have got to stick together."
They turned back to the view, and the sun came out over the White City. All was warm and bright, and cheerful. In every avenue and alley, and on every balcony and byway, the people of Minas Tirith began to wash away the ash. And everyone was happy. If not ever after, at least for an hour or so.