FINISHED! (I think) What an unexpected path this story has taken, thank you so much for taking it with me. This was a one-chapter vignette, then I tacked on a second chapter, then somehow we were on Chapter 9. I really, really think this is the end, but I'm not going to put "The End" at the bottom as I usually do. You just never know.

Ancalime: I actually *didn't* think to intentionally mirror the "Grumpy Baggins" tale with what was actually taking place in the Shire. Thanks for assuming that I'm even more perceptive than I really am!

Frodo Baggins of Bag End: A pleasure beyond words to hear from you, dear Febobe! Let me express my deepest appreciation for and continued enjoyment of the FrodoHealers website. I would never have started writing these stories at all if not for the inspiration I found from you and all the writers there. What a wonderfully supportive, talented group.

LilyBaggins: I wouldn't have made poor Frodo faint for ANYone but you. (Well, maybe for Febobe, too.)

JRRrox: Thank you for the kind comments! (Yes, occasionally lists a story before the chapter is available for viewing; that's what happened to Chapter 8. If you wait a few hours the missing chapter usually suddenly appears from wherever secret place it was hiding.)

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.



Chapter 9 - Thain Peregrin I

That day the five companions took turns keeping Pippin amused and in bed, watching over Frodo, and exploring the area surrounding the refuge. By evening Pippin was nearly his old self again, and Frodo's fever had diminished enough that he woke and declared that he was starving.

"We should be able to return to camp tomorrow," said Aragorn with relief. "If anyone else was going to get sick I am sure they would have done so by now." He smiled at Frodo. "I will insist that you at least rest quietly for at least one more day, but I'm sure I can depend on Sam to sit on you or tie you down if necessary."

"An unexpected adventure, my friends," said Gimli. "But I would not have missed seeing this cave. There is much work to be done in Gondor, Aragorn. You will not be rid of me so easily."

"I also would like to return," said Legolas. "There is something most welcoming about this land."


The next morning Aragorn declared Pippin and Frodo well enough to travel. "We will go slowly," he said to them. "I'll not let either of you walk the whole way. And if you begin to feel even slightly ill once more you must tell me at once."

"We will," said Frodo. "But you're changing the subject."

"Again," said Merry, standing nearby.

"Why don't you sit down over here?" Frodo guided Aragorn to one of the benches and everyone sat down, grinning with anticipation. Merry pulled Pippin front and center.

"It's too short," fretted Pippin. "I wasn't feeling well enough to really work on it. I haven't had time to----"

"Don't worry, Pip," said Merry soothingly. "I know Strider will love it." He shot a stern glance at Aragorn, who was looking as if he would rather face a hoard of Orcs.

Gimli could hardly keep from laughing. "Son of Arathorn, you have confronted the Dark Lord himself and lived; can this be more perilous?"

"At no point in our confrontation do I recall Sauron breaking into song," Aragorn groaned. "I do not know what Pippin has in mind to-----"

Frodo frowned at him. "Hush."

Pippin began to sing:

A boy did live as fair Estel
An honored son of Rivendell
Through battles fought and wisdom earned
The soldier named Thorongil learned

In Shire safe, we never knew
Beyond our land a Darkness grew
So Strider's men with no reward
Guarded us with strength and sword

A secret hope, a hidden king
Who turned aside from throne and Ring
The Dúnadan in humble dress
The living light of Westernesse

In homage rise the Dead as one
To Aragorn alone they come
The Seeing Stone now his to own
A healer's touch, the king is known

Now Shadow fled, a secret bare
Elfstone, they cry, Isildur's Heir!
And so they come from near and far
To honor good King Elessar

A secret hope, a hidden king
Who turned aside from throne and Ring
The Dúnadan in humble dress
The living light of Westernesse

Pippin stopped singing. Aragorn sat perfectly still, absolutely speechless, staring at Pippin in open-mouthed astonishment.

"Young hobbit, I can scarcely believe what I just heard!" Gimli could hardly contain himself. "We all thought you would...... well......" He walked over and patted Pippin on the shoulder. "Excellent, most excellent."

Suddenly Legolas laughed and swooped down on Pippin, whirling him through the air. "What a delightful surprise! If that is what such a fever can bring, I believe all bards should spend time abed!"

Frodo and Merry exchanged happy looks, proud of their cousin. Sam was beaming.

Frodo looked up at Aragorn with a smile. "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" When the Man still said nothing, he grew a bit alarmed. "Aragorn, didn't you like it?"

After a long silence Aragorn finally stood up and walked over to Pippin. He knelt in front of the hobbit and folded him into his arms. He finally drew back, and smiled the fullest, most beautiful smile Pippin had ever seen.

"That was wonderful, Pippin. Just wonderful. I loved every word."

"Truly?" His words made Pippin fairly glow with joy.

"Truly." Aragorn shook his head and gave Pippin another hug. "There is no end to the ways hobbits can amaze you."

Frodo stood up, grinning. "All right, *now* we can leave!"

Everyone picked up their gear, their mostly-empty packs now filled with empty bottles.

As he was about to leave the cave Pippin saw Aragorn carefully wrapping several full bottles of wine and stowing them in his pack. "Why are you taking those, Strider? I know for a fact there is wine in Minas Tirith."

Aragorn looked him calmly. "You never know, I may need an appropriate gift for someone some day. These would be just perfect." Pippin shrugged and left.

Aragorn bent to finish his task, Frodo's words from days ago echoing in his mind. "You must visit the Shire when he becomes Thain." I'll be there. That little scamp, he thought with a smile. I wouldn't miss it.