The Road Home
Frodo supported Bilbo as they slowly walked to the old hobbit's room. They did not speak. Bilbo was tired and overwrought, and spared his energy for the task of walking. Frodo let him keep his silence. When they got to his room, Frodo helped Bilbo undress, helped him on with his nightshirt, then settled him, sitting up, on his comfy bed.
"Horrible," the elder hobbit sighed as a shiver went through him.
Frodo sat on the edge of the bed. He reached over and patted Bilbo's thin, trembling hands. "Yes," he softly said. "I won't say we've got used to it. I'm not sure one ever gets used to it. We have all got to where we don't let it upset us any longer, as that accomplishes nothing. It does no good at all."
The two held each other's eyes for a moment, then Frodo continued.
"The fits will come just as his spells and bad spells will come. They will come and go and what is important is that we keep him from harming himself while they are happening and that we give him our support when they are past."
"I should have asked more about it," Bilbo berated himself. "There just seems to be too much for my old mind to deal with these days, and after the last time we spoke, I . . . well I've just not thought of it again."
"Quite all right, Uncle," Frodo smiled as he clasped Bilbo's hands and gave them a squeeze. "In some ways, Pippin prefers it that way. A minimum of fuss. He's become weary of being fussed over." They both chuckled lightly. "He is better than he was. He has an elixir that Elrond devised for him that has done very well at lessening the occurrence of both the spells and the fits. And, even though the Ent Draught that he and Merry drank in farewell to Treebeard has caused some odd things to happen, I will say I think he is having fewer of both his spells and fits since then."
Frodo looked at Bilbo and smiled. The old dear was starting to drift off again.
"He is brave and has a merry heart. He will be fine, dearest Bilbo."
"A merry heart . . ." Bilbo murmured and he grinned as he fell asleep.
"They will all be well," Frodo murmured to himself, meaning his cousins, Sam and Bilbo. He increasingly wondered about himself though. He had done some reading and some inquiry, while in Rivendell, about Celebrian. Her husband, Elrond, had done all he could to heal her but it was not enough and she had had to go into the West. He fingered the jewel that Queen Arwen gave to him, he thought of her other gift; her place on a ship going into the West. Sometimes he felt he would have no need of it . . .
. . . other times he wasn't so sure.
Pippin woke around dinner time. He was still very tired and thinking a bit slowly from the harsh fit. He drank some beef broth then quickly fell back to sleep, the empty mug still in his hands. Merry, who had handed Pippin the mug, took it out of his hands before gently patting the lad's curly head. In the quiet hours of the early morning Pippin awoke again, suddenly alert from a deep unremembered dream. Somehow, he knew he had had a bad fit earlier that day. Perhaps it was because of how tired he was, perhaps it was his unsettled thoughts, or perhaps it was how closely tucked against him Sunshine was.
Merry was sprawled in a chair between the bed and the hearth, sound asleep. Pippin smiled. Yes, it must have been a strong fit as the others no longer bothered staying that close by after his more usual ones. It pleased him that, even though Merry was in the room, he wasn't right next to the bed nor hovering over him. He liked that they were no longer, what he felt was, overreacting to his condition.
"Come along lass," he said to Sunshine as he rolled to the edge of the bed then sat up. He and the dog toddled off to the privy, for Pippin, then out into a part of the garden outside his room for Sunshine. Then they both went back up onto his balcony to look out over the valley, bathed in the light of a blue-bright moon.
Pippin rubbed, scratched and tousled Sunshine's ears with the good fingers of his right hand. They were in easy reach as she sat beside him. He thought of how important she was to him. Memories of Mallefinros and Parsow, Beregond and Bergil, Strider and Arwen, of his other home now far to the south swirled happily in his mind.
He thought of how far he had already come. Not in distance, though far in that way as well. No, it was how far he had come in growing up, in dealing with what life, fate? destiny? had handed to him. He was a very different Peregrin Took than the one who ran off on a great adventure with his older cousins and dear friend. Different in so many ways . . . good as well as not so good.
Which, he wondered, was the whole matter of the faerie?
"Good or bad, Sunshine?" he asked the dog without looking at her. "Is that a good or a bad sort of different? I think, somehow, you know all about it as there is something not exactly the usual dog-like about you."
Pippin looked down as she looked up. She gazed trustingly into his green eyes as he looked searchingly into her brown ones. A wee shiver ran through him.
"Yes, you know."
"She knows what?"
Pippin jumped at the sound of Merry's voice coming from close behind him.
"Oh you're a good one, Merry!" he panted. "Make me swoon or have another fit or something while you're at it."
It showed how much the elder hobbit had grown accustomed to the lad's condition that he was able to see that his younger cousin was joking.
"Fine. Swoon. Have a fit. Naught I haven't seen before. If that's all you can do, you are a poor form of entertainment."
They laughed together, and it felt good and easy and freeing.
"She knows what?" Merry finally asked again.
Pippin turned to lean on the railing and stare out over the valley.
"That I'm different," he said so quietly that Merry almost couldn't hear him.
Merry leaned on the railing beside his cousin. Sunshine pushed her way in between them, nudging Merry until he reached down and scratched behind her ears. He felt, as he had a few times in the past, a calm and comfort flow from the big golden dog into him. "Of course she knows he's different," he thought, "she is too."
"Yes, you are Pippin," Merry said aloud. "No secret there. You're a Took and they are all a bit odd."
"Are you worried about it?"
"A bit. I mean there is good different and, well, not so good different, and there are times now that I'm not sure which I am and which is which."
"Well, if it's any comfort, I'm different now too. Actually, according to most of the hobbits of the Shire, I'm as different as you. I'm one of those odd Brandybucks who had the gall to leave the Shire and live between the River and the Old Forest."
They both huffed softly, smiles on their faces.
"But yes, you are even more different now, and again so am I. So is the heir to Mad Baggins and Gaffer Gamgee's son 'what's been ruint by spendin' too much o' his time with them Bagginses'," Merry said in an excellent imitation of the speech of rustic hobbits. "We always have been different, Pip, and we always will be."
Nothing was said for several slow minutes.
"Is it odd that some folk are . . . well . . ." Pippin breathed deeply then let it out with a sharp huff. "We've met some odd folk, folk that back in the Shire would be called magical folk. Do you think they were good different or bad different?"
Merry smiled. "Which ones do you mean, Pippin? That's rather like lumping Bilbo and Frodo in with Lobelia and Lotho just because they are all Bagginses. You know as well as I do we've met magical folks who are good and some that were as bad as bad can get."
"Hmm. True. You're right, it doesn't work to try to do it that way."
They were quiet again. An owl hooted off in the distance and a breeze rustled the leaves of the trees. Merry's mind was working hard at figuring out the puzzle that Pippin was presenting. Why was the lad asking about this? Ah! The strange fit that the Ent Draught had caused?
"Is this all because of that odd fit you had when we met Saruman on the road? Elrond said it was because of the Ent Draught."
Pippin startled, but did not look at his cousin. "What? Oh! Yes. Yes, it's because of that. I, eh . . . I'm different now. Well, different again, or more different, or . . . something." The lad let out another big breath. "Blast it all! There is more to it than that. Elrond told me. Gandalf knows. But it is Took business and not their place to say anything. I'm about to drive myself mad with needing to tell you but being terribly afraid to. You'll . . . I'm thinking you will think I'm mad. Gone 'round the bend. 'Poor mad Pippin! Has the falling sickness and addled brains. Should hide the poor lad away lest he . . .'"
"Pip!" Merry cut him off. "Whatever you are babbling about I will never, never, ever say you need to be locked away unless you start running about naked and challenging trees and rocks to sword duels."
He had expected Pippin to laugh a bit at the strange picture that conjured up, but he didn't. Pippin turned toward him, grabbed both of his arms, his green eyes filled with a pleading look that was part desperation.
"It's true," he fiercely whispered. "It is all true and your Mum is one as well and so are some of the other Tooks and no one knows because we don't even believe it ourselves, but Gandalf thinks your Mother knows and he told Elrond Belladonna was one and that's why he picked Bilbo to go with the Dwarves, and you are my best, dearest friend . . . no!" Pippin finally paused to breathe. "No, you're my brother. None closer or dearer. And you need to know that it's all true."
Merry's mind truly was spinning now. He was trying his best to straighten all of this out while Pippin kept staring at him with that desperate, pleading stare. His Mum? Belladonna Baggins? Pippin? Tooks. His brain stopped as though he had hit a wall at the thought of the Tooks. Odd Tooks. Strange Tooks. Tooks that ran off and had adventures. Tooks who hadn't come back, and sometimes stranger still were the Tooks who had come back. And what was it that was always said, in whispers by some and in jeers by others?
A knowing light came into Merry's eyes. He stared more deeply into Pippin's eyes and the strange pleading look vanished. He was drawn into those sparkling green eyes.
"Yes! That's it, you know. You mustn't say anything," Pippin's voice flowed like golden honey in Merry's mind. Floating. Surrounding. Guiding. "But I had to have you know. I needed you to know so when those types of fits come, you will know what it is that is happening. You mustn't say anything."
The strange feeling lifted and Merry was looking into a concerned looking pair of green eyes. The odd sparkle in them had vanished. Pippin blinked and swayed on his feet. His hands slid from Merry's arms as Merry reached out to steady him.
"Tired, Merry. I'm tired now."
Merry walked him to the bed and eased him down. He tucked him in and sat on the bed beside him, holding onto Pippin's left hand. The lad's eyes were already closed, his breathing starting to slow. Merry leaned forward to kiss his cousin-brother's forehead.
"I believe you, and I won't say anything to anyone, Pippin. I won't let anyone shut you away either. Rest easy, dear Pip. Rest easy."
A peaceful smile graced Pippin's lips, his fingers tightened on Merry's hand, then he was sound asleep.
The next day the peace and beauty of Rivendell reigned once more. Pippin was relaxed, Bilbo probed no further. The four lads and the old hobbit relaxed, ate, talked, ate, sang, ate, walked in the gardens and ate. Soon it was announced that the four wanderers had decided it was time to leave the Last Homely House and go home to the Shire.
Bilbo called them to his room. He did not feel up to the large farewell party and send off that was planned. The weather had turned cold, his joints were hurting and all he wanted was to stay near the cozy fire in his room.
"A few quiet moments with those dearest to my heart," he told them.
He gave Merry and Pippin each a beautiful pipe, with pearl mouth-pieces and bound with silver which the Elves had made for him. Mathoms in the finest sense. Sam got a small bag of gold, "Almost the last drop of the Smaug vintage," Bilbo said, "May come in useful, if you think of getting married, Sam." Sam blushed as he accepted his gift.
Bilbo gave Frodo the mithril-coat and Sting, apologizing for not being able to find them, forgetting Frodo already had them. He then gave him three volumes of his books of lore, bound in red and labelled "Translations from the Elvish, by BB". He also told Frodo to take all of his notes and papers concerning his journey and life. "You see, I haven't much time for the selection and arrangement and all that. Get Sam to help, and when you've knocked things into shape, come back, and I'll run over it. I won't be too critical," he said.
Frodo assured him that he would return, and with that Bilbo fell asleep.
The next day Gandalf and the hobbits stood before the main entrance to Imladris as the household all bid them farewell.
Elrond laid his hand on each of the hobbits, speaking a blessing over each one of them. He spoke somewhat longer to The Ringbearer, and Frodo looked a bit sad when the Elf Lord stood back. Thenk Elrond raised his hand and spoke.
"This I say for all of you, the four of you who have done so much:
May you all be brave, and have the strong heads to think with, and the strong hearts to love with, and the strong hands to work with and the strong feet to travel with and always come home safe to your own.
This blessing has been said over young Peregrin many a time, I give it now to you all. You are well prepared for your lives in your homeland. You have all become strong in many ways, ready for the time when you will be leaders in the Shire. Although most of my people will soon be leaving Middle-earth, know that you will be in our thoughts and that we will be sending you our continued blessings."
The four hobbits solemnly bowed to Lord Elrond, mounted their ponies as Gandalf mounted Shadowfax, and they left the valley of Rivendell.
Most of the journey home was pleasant. It was nice to take their time and to not be pursued by the forces of evil. Everything along the way seemed fairer and more full of colour than it had a year ago. Yet the journey was not without grief. Frodo had a difficult time of it at the Ford of Bruinen and again as they passed Weathertop. Darkness fell upon his heart and evil memories plagued his mind. But this did not last and each time by the next day he was as jolly as the rest of them.
On a wind and rain swept evening they came to Bree. They had a long wait at the gate and had the feeling that, had the gate-keeper not recognized Gandalf and seen the others were hobbits, they may not have been let in at all. The gate-keeper had carried a large, sturdy club.
Their welcome at The Prancing Pony was the same. Nob shouted out that, "They've come back!" and old Barliman rushed out with a club in his hand. After scolding Nob for not "giving old friends their names" they were welcomed into the inn and given their old rooms for free. After a good and filling supper, served in the parlor of their rooms instead of the nearly empty common room, the old innkeeper joined them for a smoke and a talk.
What they heard troubled them. There had been trouble in Bree from the time they left with Strider till the present. There had even been some folk killed at the turn of the new year, including two of the town's hobbits. Barliman's business was down as people were staying home in the evenings and the only travellers on the road were ruffians and trouble makers that the gate-keepers turned away at the gates.
However, Barliman was greatly encouraged by the news the wizard and hobbits brought. News that the Rangers had returned, and that there was now a king who would be bringing peace and order to Middle-earth. A bigger wonder was that they said this new king cared about the north-lands.
". . . it will be good for business, no doubt. So long as he lets Bree alone."
"He will," said Gandalf. "He knows it and loves it."
"Does he now?" said Barliman looking puzzled. ". . . What's The Pony to him, or mugs o' beer? Not but my beer's good, Gandalf. It's been uncommon good, since you came in the autumn of last year and put a good word on it."
"Ah!" said Sam. "But he says your beer is always good."
"Of course he does. He's Strider. The chief of the Rangers. Haven't you got that into your head yet?"
Barliman finally got it and was amazed. But for Sam the best was yet to come. The mention of Strider had brought back to Barliman's mind the last time the hobbits had been there; the time they had left with Strider.
"That pony as you bought, well, it's here. Come back all of itself, it did."
Sam was ecstatic and would not sleep until he had gone to see his old friend Bill.
The next day and night the travellers stayed in Bree, visiting with folk in a very full common room in the evening. But they were anxious to get home and so set off the following morning with a large crowd of Bree folk gathered along the street to see them off and wish them safe journey.
Barliman wished them good luck, adding that, similar to Bree, things had not been good in the Shire over the past year.
"But if I may be so bold," he added, "you've come back changed from your travels, and you look now like folk as can deal with troubles out of hand. I don't doubt you'll soon set all to rights. Good luck to you! And the oftener you come back the better I'll be pleased."
His parting words put a bit of a chill into the group as they rode off toward the Shire with Bill the pony happily trotting along beside Sam. They kept up a quicker pace than they might have other wise, soon coming to that place along the road where they had said their farewells to Tom Bombadil. Here, Gandalf left them. He had said earlier in the day that he wished to visit with Tom.
"He is a moss gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another." the old wizard had said. They had come to the place where they would at last part company.
Frodo sighed and wistfully mentioned that he wished they were going to visit Tom again. But Gandalf encouraged them to continue on their way. "If I were you, I should press on now for home, or you will not come to the Brandywine Bridge before the gates are locked."
The hobbits all stared at Gandalf as though he had lost his mind.
"But there aren't any gates." said Merry.
"There weren't any gates, you mean," said Gandalf. "I think you will find some now."
The astonished hobbits listened as the wizard told them that they could expect trouble ahead before assuring them that they would "manage all right." He told them good-bye, turned Shadowfax and was gone like the wind.
And suddenly it was just the four of them on the road again, like it had been a little over a year ago, only this time they had Bill the pony with them as well. It felt strange, as though, perhaps, all that long year had been a dream and they were waking up. Although that was obviously not right. There they sat upon ponies from Gondor and Rohan; Frodo and Sam dressed in the finery of foreign lands, Merry and Pippin in the livery of knights of Rohan and Gondor. No it had not been a dream and Frodo it was who spoke up and said that to him the other had all become so real, that this, that coming to this place on the road, seemed like the dream.
They sat there, suddenly a bit reluctant to move on.
What would they find when they got to the Bridge? Would they find it barred and gated as Gandalf had indicated they would? Barliman had said there had been troubles in the Shire as there had been in Bree. People had been killed in Bree, had hobbits been killed in the Shire as well? Would they be greeted with the same looks of fear that the gate-keeper, Nob and Barliman had worn on their faces as they took their first peeks at the travellers?
Merry was anxious to get on with it. If there was trouble in the Shire, if there was now a gate barring the road across the Brandywine Bridge, then there was certainly trouble in Buckland as well. His father, his people, needed him. Yet doubt tugged at his heart. Would the four of them be strong enough?
Sam's eyes grew steely. If folk were that afraid in Bree, then they were most likely just as afraid in the Shire. He'd been worrying about his Gaffer for awhile now, Rosie too for that matter. He thought of what he had seen in Lady Galadriel's mirror; the Shire being torn apart and ruined, Bagshot Row dug up and his father pushing his few belongings down the road in a barrow. It was time they found out what really was happening back home. Then his mind was weighed down. Had everything he loved, excepting Mr. Frodo, been destroyed?
Frodo's thoughts went straight to Lotho Sackville-Baggins and his bitter mother Lobelia. He wouldn't put it past either of them to be a part of whatever mischief was abroad in the Shire. But, he himself really was quite ready to be done with discord and strife. He had lived through all the darkness he cared to, and more. He had wanted to come home to peace and quiet; the serenity that was the Shire. He sighed heavily. What were they heading into? He had dreamed dreams, seen visions . . . he prayed they were wrong.
Pippin thought all of this and more. If there was trouble in the Shire, if the ruffians and ne'er-do-wells that had been in and passing through Bree had gone to the Shire . . .
What would he and the others do? More specifically, what could he himself do? He had had dreams and visions that had shown him a horribly damaged Shire. Hurt and hungry hobbits, ruffians that looked like the Men he had seen in Isengard. Would the terrible sights prove true?
Pippin looked at his hands, at his sword hanging on his right side instead of his left. He looked down at Sunshine, the dog who went with him everywhere because he had spells and fits. What would he face in a troubled Shire, and what would he face when the troubles of others were past, seeing as his own troubles would never go away? His head lowered to his chest as he began to despair of being able to do or be anything.
"May he be brave," Pippin heard the voices of dear friends in his mind. Strider, Parsow, Gandalf, Elrond, speaking in unison. ". . . and have the strong head to think with," Pippin raised his head. ". . . and the strong heart to love with, and the strong hands to work with," he put his right hand over his heart while his left reached across to grasp the hilt of Troll's Bane. "and the strong feet to travel with and always come home safe to his own." He could feel his feet in the stirrups. He was nearly home. Peregrin Took sat tall and straight in his saddle.
"We will be fine," he said aloud, breaking the group's thoughtful silence. "Strider and Elrond, old Gandalf too, have sent us home with their blessings upon us. We will all be just fine."
Sam, Frodo and Merry all sat up straighter; Merry and Sam's hands strayed for a moment to their sword hilts. They had indeed been sent home with the blessings of the greatest people in Middle-earth going with them.
"Then let us go home." Frodo said the words simply, with calm determination.
They set their heels to their ponies and trotted off down the road towards the Brandywine Bridge, and Buckland, and the Shire beyond.
A/N: All quotes followed by are taken from the chapters "Many Partings" and "Homeward Bound" in the book "The Return of the King".
A/N: Please don't despair, dear readers. This is only the end of "The Blessing" in this form - that of one contiguous story. The story will be continued as stand alone vignettes in "The Blessing" universe. These will be posted in chronological order so the story will flow properly.
We don't know when the first vignette will appear, as we both need a break from The Blessing at the moment. However, we hope you will all keep an eye out for when we post the vignettes. Golden and I have been thrilled and honored to have so many people reading this story.
Thank you all so very much!
Golden and Pearl Took