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The Blue Book
Summary: While in Minas Tirith after the war, Frodo and his companions come to realize that hobbits have to settle the events that happened during the War of the Ring into their own words.
Rating: PG







In the fullness of victory over the threat of Darkness Unending, Frodo wanted nothing more than to pour himself into the whispering beauty of Ithilien at night. He enjoyed a hollow contentment brought about by the absence of pain, a curious feeling he had woken to when called by the King from dark wanderings under falling ash to healing and reunion under a flawless sky. The living joys and remembered sorrows evoked at the celebration on the Field of Cormallen had left him empty and eased, with a gritty feeling in his eyes and an abiding peace from all the tears he'd shed.

His fellow hobbits and Gandalf seemed to share his contemplative mood as they lounged about on cushions or low sofas under open pavilions, some smoking, some gazing at the stars. Sam reclined on a deep cushion next to Frodo, close enough to throw heat Frodo could feel, and his feet lazily paddled back and forth as he stared off. He tilted his head as if listening to the soft night sounds of Ithilien and said, "There they are, like always."

"Sam?"

"The stars, Mr. Frodo," he replied. "For all the goings on we've been attendin' to, they're there, just the same, as if naught happened as could disturb them."

Frodo sighed, infused with gentle happiness, and he was moved to recite a brief elvish prayer for the stars, but Pippin stirred and spoke before he did.

"Oh, things happened, Sam, no matter what the stars thought about them," Pippin said. "More things happened than I can remember all at once. I'll have to tell Bilbo, so he can write it all down in that book of his." Reclined on a low couch, he propped himself up on his elbows. "Take some notes, Frodo. I want to start now."

"Why me?"

"Because that's what you do," said Pippin.

"Is it?" said Frodo, and he frowned in the soft darkness.

"You let Bilbo sweep you away to his room to help him write his red book in Rivendell," said Merry.

"Yes, you two were closeted for days," added Pippin.

"Well, taking notes is hardly necessary tonight." Frodo dug his shoulders deeper into the soft cushion. "I'm confident that you, Pippin, can carry on for quite some time without anyone writing it down."

The others laughed at Pippin, and he laughed, too, until their mirth bled gently away. Then, as if a key had been turned in a locked chest, each told of the paths he had taken: recollections of the fantastic deeds and places and people they had encountered since that day at Rauros when the Fellowship had broken. Gimli and Legolas joined them while Merry spoke of the fury of the ents as they dismantled Isengard. Once the elf and dwarf settled to their own comfort, Merry continued his tale.

"Of course, it's a lake now since they flooded it, all very peaceful and calm, and you'd hardly guess their power when they are not roused. When they were angry, it was like when a tree pushes its roots through a farmer's rock wall, if he neglects it," said Merry, "but Quickbeam would do that before I could draw a breath to shout about it."

"Ents. Just like trees, you say," said Sam, "and it was while you were with them that you grew like that?" He insisted that Merry stand at his back so he could measure the difference, and then to Frodo's, and then he urged Pippin from his couch as well to compare his height all around, once more marveling at the change in both the younger hobbits. "Mr. Frodo was taller than you both, and now look at you. Can't understand it at your age, but there it is: you're three inches taller than you ought to be, or I'm a dwarf."

"That you certainly are not," said Gimli. Gandalf seemed to agree, nodding, and he released a stream of smoke that curled into a dragon shape and circled above Sam's head before it flew out the open pavilion.

"I can hardly credit it, and I'm looking at you right now," said Sam. "Folks back home won't know what to think."

"Pip's right. Bilbo will have to write it in his book, and then he'll have to let people read it," said Merry. "Maybe then they'll believe what happened to us."

"The Master and the Thain," said Frodo, and he shook his head as the hobbits sat again. "I could never see you two stepping into your rank until you'd settled down and grown some sense and children, and plenty of both, mind, but there you were, grand and tall, serving kings as if you'd never had a thought about mischief."

"That's hardly fair," said Merry. "Neither one of us had opportunity to be so serious before."

"Thus you speak more wisely than you know," said Gandalf, and then he laughed, which prompted Frodo to smile in response even though he was puzzled as to the cause of Gandalf's mirth.

Pippin seemed to take the comment as unwarranted teasing and sat up straight to provide a stronger defense. "We both have years to go before we have to act responsible and gracious and grown up, and yet here we are right now, under the stars after a victory feast. I think Merry and I have both done rather well on all counts."

"Responsible? Perhaps a bit," said Gandalf. "And you are certainly brave. But gracious? You haven't mastered that quite yet, Master Peregrin." His cheeks hollowed and red embers lit his face as he drew on his pipe, the light kindling amusement in his eyes.

"I should think the proof is obvious," said Pippin as he put his fist to his chest over the emblem of the White Tree there. "Am I not a Knight of Gondor, esquire to both the Stewart and the King? I've had no complaints from them." He settled back onto his pillow, smug.

"Is this the day Pippin has finally gotten the best of Gandalf?" said Frodo, teasing. "I can hardly imagine it."

"I'll reckon no." Sam shook his head. "Since I can't imagine it a'tall."

"Oh, Sam!" said Pippin, exasperated, while Frodo laughed aloud.

"That day has yet to come, my friends," said Gandalf. "If ever. I was speaking of graciousness, which Pippin's speech could have used more of during his first days in Minas Tirith as he waited on the Lord Denethor."

Pippin, Frodo noticed, frowned, and then squirmed back into his cushion. Frodo said, "You were proper with the Lord, weren't you, Pippin? You didn't insult him, or - or tell bawdy jokes -- did you?"

"No! I would never --!"

Gandalf raised his hand, palm out, still smiling but insistent. "This young Took is made of better mettle than that. He was merely untutored -- or perhaps forgetful -- that the people of Gondor use the deferential mode of address not only in the elvish tongues, but also in the Common Speech."

Sam frowned, puzzled, but Frodo gasped, and then laughed. "Even the Lord Denethor?"

"Indeed. Even the Lord Denethor." Gandalf blew a smoke ring that spiraled away and up until it became a flowering tree that flamed and faded. "The household mistook Master Took for royalty, but I think it amused Denethor to be addressed as young Peregrin's equal."

"Oh, Pippin," said Frodo severely.

"But," Pippin exclaimed, "it's been ages since school! I couldn't think of all those formal words just inside the gates of the city; I was tired. And I did remember, after a bit -- I did!" He turned to Merry. "You heard me during the feast -- I was entirely proper!"

Merry was guffawing into a mug of ale. "So how long did that take? I'm of a mind to tell your old tutor, Baldy Bracegirdle. I'd wager he's still got that willow switch for your knuckles."

"And it's a wonder I can hardly remember my lessons? That hobbit is a terror to lads and lasses all over Tookland with his switch. I'd like to see him try now, the old bully," said Pippin. "I'd stare him down."

"You have to stare down at everyone in the Shire now," Sam pointed out.

"Mortals cannot go drinking ent-draughts and expect no more to come of them than a pot of beer," said Legolas.

"Ent-draughts?" said Sam. "There you go about ents again; but what they are beats me. Why, it will take weeks before we get all these things sized up!"

"Weeks indeed," said Pippin. "And then Frodo will have to be locked up in a tower in Minas Tirith and write it all down. Otherwise he will forget half of it, and poor old Bilbo will be dreadfully disappointed."

Frodo cleared his throat and sipped the last drops of wine in his glass regretful it had emptied so soon and touched by a mild unease. Sam looked at him, his face troubled, and then Frodo recalled another high, locked tower: Cirith Ungol. He remembered little of it himself, though he had scars from the whip, but he knew the memory was heavy for Sam. He pressed Sam's shoulder, and Sam covered his hand with his own.

"Well," said Frodo, "perhaps we'll forgo a locked tower, but I will have to take some notes, for you are quite right: Bilbo will be disappointed if I don't report to him fully."

*

Frodo's days in Ithilien were filled with food, sleep, and easy walks with friends in the gentle woods. The time was not without all concern, for remnants the Southron and Haradirim armies roamed the area, most looking for passage south to their home, or the quickest path anywhere out of Gondor. The Captains of the West pursued them, singly or in small groups, and they guarded against bands of rogue orcs and other evil creatures that had escaped while they destroyed the last fortresses of Mordor.

When he could, for his healing hurts demanded much rest, Frodo paid heed to Aragorn and Gandalf as they and the other Captains dealt with the last vestiges of the war, though the details were overwhelming. His road, though it had been hard and tested him to breaking, had been plain. So it was that while on occasion he thought of jotting notes to remember names, deeds, or places, he couldn't while his injured hand mended. Once it did, Frodo never had writing implements with him when the notion to write struck, nor did he think to seek them when he had opportunity. Soon, the Captains of the West removed to Minas Tirith with all the companies of returning soldiers, and Aragorn, the King Elessar, entered his city. Following the ceremony and celebrations, Frodo and his fellow Companions of the Ring were shown to a fair house within the upper level of the city where they could dwell together. As he explored his room, Frodo found a desk made of rich, dark wood. He sank into the chair, caressing the smooth finish of the desktop. The ruined finger no longer pained him, and he realized he had written nothing.

He opened the top drawer of the desk. It was empty, and so he closed it. He opened and closed the next drawer, and then the next and the next with growing speed. Urgent need for paper, ink, and a quill gripped him. "Sam?" he said, and then turned and called louder. "Sam?"

Merry stepped into the open doorway of Frodo's room and answered him. "Sam's round here somewhere. Do you need anything?"

"I, well," and Frodo was abashed at his sudden irrational desire, "no, I don't need anything."

"Don't hesitate to ask, Frodo," said Merry. "It seems half of Minas Tirith is waiting to deliver our smallest wish. Pippin is testing their resolve right now in the kitchen by explaining preferred hobbit mealtimes." He shook his head, smiling. "I could fetch you some tea and bread, if you're hungry."

"No, I need nothing," said Frodo. He turned to the desk. "What is the time?"

"The first hour past midday, more or less." Merry approached the desk. He stepped to the left of it where a tall window cast fulsome light into the room. "You've a lovely view, cousin. You can see the Anduin. I think I'm envious."

"Are there no views from your window?"

Merry smiled impishly, and Frodo was minded of the Brandybuck boy Merry used to be. "Only the great heads of the mountains with their caps of silver snow."

"I like mountain views."

"Sorry," Merry said loftily. "The rooms are set, and I'm not surrendering mine. Besides," and he looked at the desk, "it seems you've got all you need here."

Frodo frowned. "It's all very grand, yes, but how do you mean?"

"You can't beat the light here for writing, and this desk is remarkable." He stroked the top. "Why, my dad would pull the hair off his toes for envy if he could see it."

"You think I'm going to spend my time here in Minas Tirith slaving at this desk, writing?" Frodo asked dryly. "You and Pippin both seem to have this mistaken idea."

"Hallo, are you talking about me?" Pippin stepped in from the hallway.

"In fact, I am," said Frodo. "I'm just now realizing that the future Thain and Master are sloughing off their duties onto their poor old cousin, Frodo."

"Oh, I'm injured." Merry feigned dismay by clutching his breast dramatically. "Insulted by family at that. Besides, you're hardly poor."

"Just old, eh?" The teasing banter with his young cousins warmed him through, and Frodo smiled. "The two of you seem eager to see me record our adventures, yet aren't you the imminent leaders of the Shire?"

"I'm sure the current Thain and Master would have much to say about that," Merry rejoined dryly.

"Besides, a leader must learn to delegate," said Pippin brightly.

"Ah, but a good leader will never assign a task he wouldn't take on himself," replied Frodo.

"Yes, well," said Pippin, "remember that no one can read Merry's writing."

"And don't forget that Pippin can't spell," Merry countered, and fended off Pippin's playful slap. "Besides, you're ever so much better at writing. According to Father, Bilbo bragged about your talent on many occasions."

Frodo clenched his right hand into a lopsided fist, and the compliment tasted bitter as his good cheer drained away. Slowly, he said, "I'm not sure I can write."

Merry's face settled into pitying lines. Pippin frowned, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"I haven't held a pen since...before." Frodo splayed his maimed hand on the desktop.

Pippin delicately traced the back of Frodo's hand with a fingertip in the mellow, golden sunlight of the window through which faint street noises of pedestrians and the odd hand-cart bumping over cobbles wafted into the room. But these sounds faded from awareness as the three of them watched Pippin's tapered finger move across Frodo's scarred hand for long moments of silence.

Abruptly Pippin withdrew his hand as if burned and said, "You can. Of course you can. Silly old hobbit." He gestured to the drawers. "Pick one up and see."

"I have none."

"We'll find one, then," said Pippin, and he went to the door that opened onto the hall. "Sam! Hoy, Sam!"

"Mr. Pippin?" Sam called from the suite of rooms next to Frodo's, and then he opened the door that connected them and stuck his head in. "You called?"

"We need a pen, Sam, and some paper and ink." Pippin strode toward him purposefully.

Sam entered the room fully and looked thoughtful a moment. "I reckon we could ask the housekeeper, if there's none to be found here."

While Merry gently fidgeted, darting sorrowful looks at Frodo, Pippin bustled energetically, rousing the entire household staff until he procured paper, ink, and a long, black quill. Sam looked from Merry to Frodo, puzzled, until Pippin returned, breathless.

"Here!" Pippin laid the writing implements in front of Frodo as if they were quested treasures. "Now, start writing. It is all for Bilbo, you know." His eyes glistened, and his voice was tight and high-pitched; Sam looked at him sharply, and then again at Merry and Frodo, this time with a knowing light in his eye. Frodo saw his expression soften to the same compassionate encouragement that had sustained him through the ash-pits of Mordor up the side of Mount Doom, and then he picked up the quill, dipped it full of ink, and scratched a name on the parchment: Samwise the Stouthearted.

*

Frodo worked hard to reacquire the act of writing. He could hardly remember when he had done this last, formed letters and words, and he thought not of Rivendell, where he had written long pages for Bilbo after he'd recovered from the Morgul knife, but of Bag End, where he'd sat in fair weather and fine health and tallied harvests and accounts from the tenants on Baggins land. He'd always preferred to write letters to his cousins, or puzzle elvish meaning and express it in the Common tongue, continuing in a small way Bilbo's extensive translations. Now, as he faced blank paper and tattered memory, he yearned for those neat columns and numbers: days without recall because, though beyond all hope Frodo would return the Shire after his ordeal, Lobelia would never give up Bag End.

When memory opened for him, he wrote long, and felt drained and content afterward, but when it seemed all doors in his mind were locked shut, he found himself making repetitive, meaningless marks, wasting both paper and ink. Sam often appeared at his elbow at such times, urging Frodo to take a walk, or drink some tea, or lie down for a nap, and Frodo usually did as Sam asked. Frodo waited for something he couldn't yet define, and though he often imagined it was mere inspiration, he suspected it might be something quite different.

In the meantime, he drank Sam's tea, walked in the sunshine, visited with his loved ones, and eagerly followed any written accounts of the War. In Faramir, he found a grand scholar and fellow writing enthusiast, and Faramir generously shared all he wrote, as well as those documents he procured that were written by leaders and scholars of Gondor and surrounding fiefs. When the senior scribe released a scroll to Faramir, he brought it to the house of the Companions, and shared it with the hobbits one bright afternoon.

Faramir read from the scroll, his voice clear. Sam leaned forward in his chair, enthralled, while Merry and Pippin listened attentively, but with enough attention diverted to the white cakes and sweet wine near to hand. Frodo noted how Faramir pronounced some words with unexpected inflections that echoed the cadence of Prince Imrahil's speech.

"'Here let it be said that in those days the Heir of Isildur arose in the North, and he took the shards of the sword of Elendil, and in Imladris they were reforged; and he went then to war, a great captain of Men. He was Aragorn son of Arathorn, the nine and thirtieth heir in the right line from Isildur, and yet more like to Elendil than any before him. Battle there was in Rohan, and Curunir the traitor was thrown down and Isengard broken; and before the City of Gondor a great field was fought, and the Lord of Morgul, Captain of Sauron, there passed into darkness; and the Heir of Isildur led the host of the West to the Black Gates of Mordor.'" He stopped reading and looked over the top of the scroll expectantly.

Frodo nodded slowly, rolling the words in his mind as he looked to his cousins. Pippin frowned as he thought hard. Merry squirmed a bit in his seat and said, "It rather skips over the mud, and the noise, and the fear, doesn't it?"

Faramir smiled grimly. "Indeed, Master Meriadoc. That is the nature of this sort of account."

"But they left out everything that happened," said Pippin. "The city was on fire, and then the gate was battered down, and then Gandalf and Beregond saved you, and the Rohirrim came blowing their horns, and --"

"And yes, it's true that Strider's sword was reforged in Rivendell," said Merry, "but what you have read there skips over everything that happened between Rivendell and the battle at the gate, which was nearly the whole story."

"Do not forget; there is another scroll being made that will record the lays sung about Nine-fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom. Our most knowledgeable lore-masters are writing right now." Faramir raised the scroll again. Before he resumed reading, he said, "Many people will write books about the War of the Ring.

"'In that last battle were Mithrandir, and the sons of Elrond, and the King of Rohan, and lords of Gondor, and the Heir of Isildur with the Dunedain of the North,'" read Faramir. "'There at the last they looked up on death and defeat, and all their valour was in vain; for Sauron was too strong. Yet in that hour was put to the proof that which Mithrandir had spoken, and help came from the hands of the weak when the Wise faltered. For, as many songs have since sung, it was the Periannath, the Little People, dwellers in hillsides and meadows, that brought them deliverance.'"

"Ah, here we go," Merry said quietly to Pippin.

"'For Frodo the Halfling, it is said, at the bidding of Mithrandir took on himself the burden, and alone with his servant he passed through peril and darkness and came at last in Sauron's despite even to Mount Doom; and there into the Fire where it was wrought he cast the Great Ring of Power, and so at last it was unmade and its evil consumed.'"

Frodo abruptly stood, sending his chair scudding a little distance from the table. Faramir stopped reading, and everyone looked at Frodo. Frodo stepped to the window and opened it wider. "Go on," he said, looking outside. "I just want a bit of air."

Faramir nodded slowly. "'Then Sauron failed, and he was utterly vanquished and passed away like a shadow of malice; and the towers of Barad-dûr crumbled in ruin, and at the rumour of their fall many lands trembled. Thus peace came again, and a new Spring opened on earth; and the Heir of Isildur was crowned King of Gondor and Anor, and the might of the Dúnedain was lifted up and their glory renewed.'"

For long moments silence followed his words. From the window, Frodo looked over the stone-cobbled street below. Tall houses across the way seemed to have long faces, fair but somber. Stone urns lined the street, some broken, some missing, but Frodo noticed that those remaining had been filled with rich soil and tiny seedling flowers. He heard Merry and Pippin move restlessly, and then he felt with abrupt certainty that Sam approached. Just when he expected it, Sam's warm hand covered on his where it traced the veins in the cold marble sill.

"Well how do you like that," said Pippin suddenly, breaking the somber mood. "We're not mentioned at all, and Sam doesn't even get a name. That hardly seems fair."

Frodo turned to face the others and smiled. "I agree: Samwise Gamgee's name should be included -- in all the books." Sam sputtered, embarrassed, and Frodo laid his arm along his shoulders and squeezed.

"And what about us?" asked Pippin.

"Yes, what about Pippin?" Merry said, a sly crook curling the corner of his mouth. "We mustn't forget the mighty pints of beer he defeated at The Prancing Pony, or the stone he let drop down the well in Moria -- that was a very heroic moment -- and let's not forget how you left another stone under Gandalf's elbow --"

"Hoy!" said Pippin.

"Merry!" cried Frodo at the same time.

Merry folded his arms and tilted his shoulders, grinning. "It's part of what happened, so you might as well put it in."

"And whose brilliant leadership almost got us eaten by a tree in the Old Forest?" said Pippin, putting his hands on his hips.

"Eaten by a tree?" asked Faramir. Frodo caught his glance and read a deep amusement and lively curiosity there. "It seems the minstrels did leave out some details after all."

"Oh, yes. Merry thought a few visits to the other side of the High Hay with his father made him an expert on the Old Forest, so he led us there and got us lost before --"

"Before you could say Tom Bombadil," Frodo interrupted, and then he sang, "'Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow / Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow!'" He smiled, delighted, because he could see Tom in his memory when he couldn't see him before: the mirth in his wrinkled face and the feather that nodded above his hat. He could hear his voice, deep as a big bell and pealing like a child's with pleasure.

*

Frodo established a routine of writing every morning when the sunlight streamed into his room, and he found that random events from the past months came in rushes from his heart and poured out his hand, squeezed through the nib of his pen into awkward, bitter lines on the paper. He found the process of forming words and phrases and sentences with his maimed hand to be both a way to accept the pains of his long journey and a reconnection to the gladder parts of his adventure. He had been blind to many things as soon as he'd walked away from them, and he had walked away from so much, both good and evil.

Oliphaunts and Sam's delight in the seeing of one came to Frodo. Ithilien was close in his memory, since he had spent his recovery there, and those events that had happened before the end of the war returned to him easily. He inventoried the smells, the herbs, the restful cleanliness of the place, as well as the pools of defilement hidden here and there under the green, signs of the Enemy's possession. He remembered each thing: waking to Sam's voice and seeing his own hands thin and grubby rising to rub his eyes, Gollum's pathetic capering under the yellow sun, the rich smell of greenery all around, and the pan of thin, brown broth, redolent of Sam's care that made it taste more savory than any feast at Elrond's table. The memories were warm with him, clear and remote like small, beloved toys on the table before him, hovering on the edge of his vision as he followed the words he wrote. With the constant practice, his handwriting slowly regained its usual slant and flow.

"Hoy, Frodo," said Pippin. "There you are." Frodo blinked, surprised to find himself not surrounded by the whispering beauty of Ithilian but enclosed within somber gray walls and covered by the clear light of Gondor spilling through narrow windows. Pippin entered the room fully. "I hoped to walk along the wall and take in some air with a friend, but since Merry and Sam are visiting the Houses of Healing, and Beregond is busy preparing for his duty in Ithilian, I'm reduced to begging favors from stuffy cousins."

"Stuffy, is it?" Frodo set his pen down and leaned back in his chair.

"Stuffy old Frodo," Pippin agreed as he wandered to the window and peered out. "You've been in here since elevenses, you know. It'll be tea soon."

"We could take tea together on the rampart," said Frodo.

"Just the thing," replied Pippin. He came to Frodo and took his hand, urging him out of his chair. The odd clasp made with too few fingers did not seem to bother him, and Frodo was comforted by his nonchalance as the younger hobbit led him out of his room. "I heard there were tarts today, but I don't know if they're spring berry or winter apple. I'm thinking there ought to be some sort of berry to be had this time of year, it being so warm, but maybe they're still hard to get. Bergil said this is a merry time to be in Lebennon with the bushes full from April until first frost late in the year, and that's not so far from here." Pippin paused in the hall. "That would be a grand little trip, don't you think? We could visit the sea; I've never seen it, and I think I should like to."

"I want to journey north, first," said Frodo. "To Rivendell. I want to see Bilbo."

"Of course! Jolly old Bilbo." They continued to the kitchen. "You're right, Frodo. First we must see Bilbo, and then..." He stopped speaking as they entered the kitchen where the cook and his helper worked, Men from the city assigned to serve the Companions of the Ring while they stayed in their grand house. Berlind, Cook's helper, quickly packed a light basket at Frodo's request. Pippin insisted on the inclusion of tarts -- they were apple -- and then Frodo took the basket and herded Pippin out before he began his usual suggestions of more food that had been known to clean out the pantry.

They sat on the wall and looked out over the fields as they ate. Industrious men from all over Gondor labored to heal the hurts inflicted by the enemy, and there were patches of green to be seen between the scars in the land. As he watched the work, Frodo alternated bites of apple tart with sharp cheese and felt nothing but contented in the mellow afternoon sunlight. He looked to his cousin and saw that Pippin leaned on the wall, facing out; his gaze rolled along the long expanse afforded their view as he put a biscuit to his mouth absently, without thought or enjoyment.

"Hullo, Pippin," said Frodo. "You were here a minute ago; where have you gone to now?"

"What?" Pippin turned. "Oh, wool-gathering, I guess." He put more attention on his food, finished the biscuit and began nibbling a tart. "Just thinking, really."

Frodo affected a stricken look. "Before you've finished your tea?" He laughed, suddenly pierced by a memory of Pippin, aghast at the mention of deep thought during breakfast. That had been during their walk to Crickhollow, the morning after they had met the Elves in Woody End, when Pippin was still a child and Frodo had ten fingers. The tall tweenager looking so soberly over the healing field of a great battle seemed another hobbit entirely, not a tweenager at all but a hobbit come of age through ordeal and wiser for it.

Pippin smiled, but his eyes remained somber. "Well, I was keeping a thought how to distract you so I get the last tart."

"But you're thinking about more than that," said Frodo. "I can tell."

"I surprised myself, Frodo," he said reluctantly. He looked at the pastry in his hand, and then away to the south, and he continued, his words coming faster. "Just now, when I had the sudden fancy about visiting Bergil's gransire in Lebennon it was as if there was nothing more important to do than romp over hills and valleys. Yet when you mentioned Bilbo, I remembered it's been so long since I left Tuckburough, I can hardly reckon the days I've been gone." He turned his face to the north. "Now I have a wish for home pressing on me that feels heavier than a troll." Pippin smiled a little, and he glanced at Frodo over his shoulder. "And I happen to know how that feels, mind."

Frodo stood and hugged his cousin, who turned again and engulfed him in a strong embrace. Into the folds of Pippin's gray cloak, Frodo said, "I'm glad you're here to give the report of it."

"Oi, reports!" Pippin ended the hug with a thump on Frodo's back and resumed making inroads on his tart with better effort while he talked, blowing crumbs over the wall. "I have reported and reported and reported again: to the Captains of the Tower of the Guard, to Prince Imrahil, to the King, and to Gandalf -- twice, even."

"Ah," said Frodo as he fetched a bottle of pale, sweet ale and two cups from the basket and returned to the wall. "But have you told the story of it to anyone?"

Pippin accepted a cup of ale and swallowed noisily. "Well," he said, and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, "I told Merry some of it."

"Good." Frodo sipped from his own cup and looked over the fields. "We hobbits have to stick together and settle the events that happened here into our own words and memories."

"There are parts I'd as soon not settle at all, Frodo. I'd rather root them out."

"As have I," he said. "But it's important. No one else will tell our tale, not as we lived it. We have to bring news of this to the Shire, so that they'll appreciate all that they have, all that we fought to protect."

"You're not just taking notes for Bilbo, are you? You're writing the whole story of the quest, aren't you, on those papers in your room."

"Yes, well, I'm trying to do both, really. Bilbo wants a full accounting of all our adventures to add to his book, for it's important that hobbits know what transpired here." He laid his hand over Pippin's on the wall. "It's important that people know your part in the story, even when it gets bitter. Will you tell me yours that I might set it down?"

"You know," said Pippin, and he fixed Frodo with a disgruntled look, "When I fetched you paper and quills, I thought you would write notes for a few days and be done. Now I find I have to drag you from your room to get you into some fresh air and stop brooding on things, and yet here you are, urging me to tell tales I'd rather not for you to write down the whole ordeal. I know Bilbo cares, but no one in the Shire will pay much heed to a war so far away."

"Oh, but of all our tales, yours and Merry's must be told," Frodo said, and then he laughed. "How else to explain your new stature if you don't tell the story of the ents?"

"I want to tell that, I do," said Pippin. "But there are other tales I don't wish to tell."

"I've spoken to Faramir, and to Gandalf." Frodo carefully rolled his cup between his palms. "Lord Denethor ended badly."

"His own son," whispered Pippin. "And for what?" His tone roughened. "Was it something in him that made him love one child over the other, and then go mad with grief when he'd lost his favorite? Or," and his voice grew frightened, "was he poisoned by the Enemy?"

Pippin turned away from Frodo then, and stared to the east for a long moment before he dropped his gaze and bowed his head. "I wonder how little or how much he looked into the stone before the Enemy overwhelmed him. He looked when Faramir was injured, I know, and he was defeated after; only after he looked into the stone did he act so fey." His voice lowered so that Frodo had to step closer to hear. "The Enemy, he beheld me in the Palintír. Just a few moments, and yet the terror of it hunts me when I dream, and I am naked to cruel pain, like knives, and then I wonder -- I wonder if he could defeat me even now."

Frodo stepped back, stunned to hear such fear issue from his cousin's mouth. A stab of anguish struck through him in answer to Pippin's words, and he was filled with sudden disquiet that crept in cold tendrils up his left arm and into his heart. His hand clutched the front of his shirt, grasping in vain for something that no longer lay hidden there.

Still turned away, Pippin said, "I think that's what caught me most by surprise when I thought about going home. I've been gone so long, I almost couldn't remember home, and then I could, and it was so vivid and I wanted it so much that it hurt worse than when the troll crushed me; it hurt as much as the nightmares hurt, and I wondered how it would be to go back, and then," he drew in a shuddery breath, "for one terrible moment I wondered if I ever could go back." He sighed audibly, his shoulders rising and falling with his breath, and then he turned around, smiling wryly though his eyes were wet. "Foolish thoughts, I know. The nightmares are less now than they were, and my injuries are fading to naught but bad memories. The Enemy has been vanquished -- how could he harm me now that I'm better, and the King has returned, and spring flowers round us in Gondor? I'm the fool Gandalf accuses me of being, for I've frightened myself out of my skin and ruined a perfectly good tea."

To Frodo, the very world seemed to pitch, and he felt himself falling out of it into silence -- not his body, but his hold on the earth under his feet, the bright presence of Pippin, and the air in his lungs. The contentment he'd felt all morning evaporated and revealed behind it the crippling evil that crushed him by its gaping absence. He looked at Pippin, and the young hobbit was at once familiar with his Tookishly sharp features and tousled curls, but also strange in his great height and the shadow of remembered hurts dark in his eyes. Pippin looked at him, concern breaking over his face, and Frodo forced his maimed hand release his shirt as he forced his lungs to take in a breath; it was then he realized he had spoken, but he knew not what he said.

"Oh, Frodo." Pippin's hand was on his shoulder. "Please tell me you're all right. Frodo? Should I fetch a healer?"

"No," he said harshly, panting. He found he still held his cup in one hand but had spilled the ale. He groped for the bottle to pour more and banged the neck against the rim of the cup.

"Here, let me." Pippin took the bottle from him and steadied the cup with a hand over Frodo's. His words were teary. "I'm sorry, Frodo, please don't think you're alone! Here, sit. Sit and rest. Can't you see the sun shining?"

He did not want to tell Pippin that he was alone behind a dim veil that that sundered him from the world, and so he allowed Pippin to help him to the bench and nodded as he drank the tasteless stuff in his cup.

*

Pippin had escorted him to his room after their tea and insisted he have a lie-down since Frodo refused to go to the Houses of Healing. Because the room was dreary, wreathed as it was in gray afternoon shadows so like the veil that descended upon him at whiles, he retired to his bed gladly. Pippin seemed satisfied to see him tucked into bed and set a bottle of sweet wine and the rest of the biscuits from tea on a table near to hand, which Frodo promised he'd eat once he'd rested. He had no such plans, but he'd seen the worry lift a little from Pippin's brow, and that comforted him more than any food could.

Soon as Pippin left him, Frodo sat at his desk, for he could not face his dreams, and so he tried to write what it had been like for a young Took in the chilly halls of the Citadel, but all he could write was pain, like knives. He abandoned the papers and quill and eventually found escape in a volume of history that Faramir had lent him.

From the great armchair in his room, Frodo heard Sam's footsteps outside his door when the dinner hour approached. Sam's noises paused outside the door, and Frodo could hear another tread and hushed voices -- Pippin was, it seemed, reporting the afternoon's odd fit, and if Sam's tone meant anything, he was also catching it hot for not sending for Sam right away. Sam's concern beneath the ire warmed Frodo, yet he disliked the thought of disturbing his friends with worry only because he had fallen a little faint in the sun, especially Sam.

Sam shooed Pippin off with a final reproach. Before he could open the door, Frodo laid the thick history book of Minas Tirith face down on his chest, folded his hands over the spine, and closed his eyes. The door opened with a quiet inrush of air, and then closed with a sigh. Sam's feet whispered on the floor. "Mr. Frodo?" he said softly. The pungent scent of crushed herbs he could not identify came to Frodo, and he felt Sam's warm hand pass over his brow. He considered feigning sleep rather than face a scolding for his behavior this afternoon -- gently diplomatic compared to what Pippin got, he was sure, but a scolding none-the-less -- or worse, face the worry he could hear in Sam's voice. But Sam called his name again, and he could not help but to open his eyes.

"Hullo, Sam; did you learn much of herb-lore during your visit to the Houses of Healing?"

"This and that, and a smidgen more besides, Mr. Frodo," replied Sam, and the spark in his eye confirmed Frodo's suspicion: this was indeed a scolding, "but there was naught to learn there so important that it warranted you keeping quiet if you needed a healer. You could have sent Mr. Pippin to fetch one, or fetch me; I would have waited on you."

"If I had needed a healer, I would have come to the Houses, Sam." Frodo sat straighter in his chair and let the book slide into his lap where he closed it, taking care so none of the pages wrinkled. The chair, built for the comfort of Men, took some traveling for Frodo to cross it, stand, and set the book on the table. "And there was hardly any reason to trouble you."

"Now, Mr. Frodo, you've never been any trouble for me, and it's small of you to suggest that you are now," said Sam, but he smiled as he spoke. He picked up the woven covering Frodo had spilled to the floor and folded it. "Would you like your supper up here tonight? I could bring you a tray."

"No, I'll come down to table." Frodo stretched, feeling his blood speed up, and then his stomach grumbled loudly with sudden insistence. "Well, that settles it. I hope supper's ready soon."

"Berlind's putting it up now, a venison roast with new onions and bread that smells as good as Mr. Bilbo's did in the Shire, if I may be so bold." He set the folded blanket over the arm of the chair.

"I can think of no better reason to come to the table than that." Frodo stepped to the washbasin and readied himself for the meal, tugging the wrinkles from his vest and washing his hands. He frowned at his reflection in the mirror, unsatisfied with his mussed curls. When he reached for his brush to tidy his hair, Sam stayed his hand.

"Let me, Mr. Frodo," he said.

Frodo met his gaze in the mirror and was stilled by the expression of hurt determination on Sam's face. He nodded.

Sam picked up the brush and applied it with gentle competence. He straightened the back of Frodo's shirt and dusted the line of his shoulders. "There. Now you look proper."

"Did I look that much the ragamuffin?" The jest felt weak to Frodo even as he said it.

"Never, Mr. Frodo. It's just my job to take care of you, naught but simple as that."

A rush of warmth at feeling cared for warred with a prickle of shame. Frodo wanted to demand that Samwise Gamgee deserved his own service and honor as the bravest hero in all of Middle-earth, for he knew Sam was the hobbit who had endured the bitterest quest and insured its success even to the cruel end. Yet, he wanted also to ask that Sam never stop taking care of him. Rather than voice either of those thoughts, Frodo laid his hand over Sam's on his shoulder and said, "Thank you, Sam."

*

At supper, Gandalf kept the hobbits company. Aragorn, as he had been since claiming the Kingship of Gondor, remained busy on his throne, and Legolas and Gimli were absent, away with Prince Imrahil and his scouting party on a foray east of Osgiliath to make secure the outlying lands there. Pippin tucked into his food and kept pace with Merry as he ate four servings of everything, but when he wasn't making contrite offers of small comforts, he kept shooting forlorn glances at Frodo until, once they'd adjourned from the table to sit in a cozy semi-circle of deep chairs on a small balcony to smoke and look at the stars, Frodo was vexed with him. Even in the quietude, Pippin asked Frodo if he wanted a blanket, or if he wanted a pipe, or if he wanted another sweet, or a drink, all of which Frodo declined with lessening courtesy.

Finally, Pippin ceased his offers, and the companions sat together in silence. After contemplating the lights of the city and the night sky for long, satisfied moments, Merry broke the quiet with mild talk of pipeweed with Sam and Gandalf, recounting what the hobbits knew from their longfathers and what they had learned during their time in the Houses of Healing with knowledge the wizard had gathered when he'd first encountered the Shire and its peculiar relationship with the plant.

At last Merry sighed and emptied pipe and said, "All that for a few moments' pleasure and ashes."

Pippin, sitting on Frodo's right, leaned over the man-sized arm of the chair to hold out his own pipe, filled and ready. "It's Longbottom Leaf. Are you sure you wouldn't like a bowlful, Frodo?"

"Oh, burn it, Pippin -- you've asked me twice already," Frodo said sharply. "You've been hovering all over me, and I'd appreciate it if you'd just leave off and give me some peace."

In the soft light coming from the open door behind them, Frodo watched Pippin's expression crumple, hurt, and was filled with sudden regret. Gandalf said his name mildly, and Frodo felt thoroughly rebuked. He reached out and patted Pippin's knee and said, "I'm sorry, Pippin."

"He's worried, Frodo dear," Merry said softly. "We all are, just a little. You seemed to have taken so seriously to this writing project of yours."

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Frodo felt an odd blush of anger, though he knew he was wrong about the motivations of his young cousins.

"No!" said Merry, and his voice grew cutting with an anger that he seldom expressed. "What do I care about it, other than the fact you've latched on with your usual tenacity and taken it to the extreme?"

"Oh, come now," said Frodo.

"Don't dare deny it," Merry continued. "Such things are important to Bilbo, and when have you ever been able to deny him anything that he asks?"

"I do things that Bilbo think are important because they are important," said Frodo. "And this is important. Of course I want to do this for him."

"He would not want you to do this if it hurt you," said Gandalf. "Not if it were not needful."

"But that is ridiculous -- it doesn't hurt me," Frodo protested, to which Gandalf nodded solemnly and replied, "I know."

"It takes a toll on you," Pippin declared. "This past fortnight, I've seen it wear you. This afternoon --" His voice caught, and he stopped.

"It is not the recording of his trials that you are see trouble him, young Pippin," said Gandalf gently. "Time was dammed nearly eighteen years for Frodo, and with the passing of the Ring, the dam has burst, and the days flood him."

Frodo slumped back in his chair wearily. He knew the truth in his bones that ached and the frost that crept into his hair, just as he knew when he ignored the twinges in his knees and the silver threads that grew in number each time he looked into a mirror. He knew even when he behaved like the young hobbit he'd been for so long, and paid for it with restless nights. He knew another truth, too.

"I don't think Bilbo will write the end of his book, if he writes anything at all," he said. Merry and Pippin and Sam all looked uncomfortably at Frodo or the floor by turns, grieved. Gandalf drew thoughtfully on his pipe and emitted streams of smoke that flowed shapelessly, like water, into nothing. Frodo added, "If I don't mark down our tale, who will? Certainly not the lore-masters of Gondor -- you heard their version."

No one could offer an answer, and the evening ended on that unsettling note. Later, Sam helped Frodo prepare for bed, shaking out his clothes and hanging them, and then offering a clean, soft nightshirt. Dressed for bed, Frodo brushed the day's dust from the thatch on his feet and asked Sam his opinion. "Sam, what do you think? Should I write of our adventures?"

"All great tales should be remembered so they can be told to those as never saw them, or who would forget them," said Sam, and he shrugged. "But does it have to be you? Only you, and no one else but you to do the writing of it?"

Frodo lowered his foot to the floor from the edge of the chair and lifted the other to apply his brush with rigorous strokes. He slowed, and set his mind to thinking about it as he worried his lower lip with his teeth. Sam knelt in front of him. He took the brush from Frodo's hand and gently finished taking the dust from his foot before guiding it to the floor.

"It seems clear to me that this," said Sam, "doesn't hardly have to be a task for you alone, Frodo."

"It's rather a bad habit I've picked up, isn't it," Frodo said ruefully.

"Not but I've ever noticed," replied Sam. "You're just the same as you've always been." He stood, and Frodo looked up at him. In his face, Frodo saw loving affection and the wisdom that had always been there and was growing deeper, like roots of a great tree. Frodo had a sudden flash that seemed like a memory, but was more like a reflection in still, clear water: Sam, with gray streaks in his curls and brass buttons on a green vest covering a fine, round stomach, standing between two angry hobbits, mediating firmly and fairly, an older boy standing near. In his vision, Sam turned and told the boy, Frodo-lad, tell yer Mum I'll be along soon. This won't take but a minute.

"Goodnight, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, and his voice drew Frodo back to his gray room in Minas Tirith, feeling brittle but oddly content. Sam hesitated and laid his hand on Frodo's shoulder. "There's time enough to tackle this particular knot proper, you understand. Put some sleep under your ear, and once Mr. Pippin has done the same, he'll come round. Things that look grim at black night always look better in the morning."

*

Prince Imrahil returned to the city in the morning with encouraging tidings for the King, and the Companions of the Ring had a merry reunion with Legolas and Gimli. The elf and dwarf were full of tales and good cheer, and for several days that seemed enough reason for the fair people of the city to invite all the Companions of the Ring to feasts and celebrations. During the day, Gimli and Legolas took the hobbits to walk through the streets of the city, where the dwarf would pause to examine stonework here and there and mutter, and the elf would point out the little nooks where trees or gardens could be convinced to grow. Frodo had no time to sit at his desk during all that week, and though his cousins avoided him that first morning, they forgave him before luncheon and treated him with their usual teasing affection.

By the end of a week's worth of feasts and parties, Frodo was tired of having his health and praises toasted while sitting on cushions at tables made for big people. He retired early from the long feast held by the Prince Imrahil for his knights and members of the scouting party, and snuck off to his bed. Sleep refused to roll over him, daunted by deeper waves of weariness and pangs like ghosts of old pain hunting under his skin. For long hours he watched moonlight, sharply edged where it came through the window, slowly traverse his room until it failed, covered by clouds, and the soothing sound of falling rain lulled him to soft dreams.

The morning dawned bright, but rather than rouse Frodo to industry, the vigor of the day apparently carried on happily without any effort on his part, and so he stayed in bed. The air smelled fresh and the light was merry, yet the sheets were softly mellow against Frodo's skin, and he could hear the people of Minas Tirith as they greeted each other and began the day's labor. Just under his open window a deep, bass voice instructed his workers in the methods of re-paving a section of walkway using old cobbles, and it seemed he was displeased with their performance though Frodo understood only little of the conversation, for though he spoke Sindarin, the man's accent sounded odd to the hobbit's ear, and he used words Frodo had never encountered. With hands behind his head while he lounged and eavesdropped, Frodo smiled and wondered if the elven-tongue could possibly contain coarse words.

When Sam tapped on the door and entered, Frodo asked for some tea and a muffin on a tray because it seemed too much effort to get out of bed. Before Sam could inquire, Frodo said, "I just feel lazy today, though maybe that rain last night has reminded me I have joints." He burrowed into his pillow contentedly. "This is as good a day as any to sleep. To rest."

Nonplussed, Sam nodded at him, and when Frodo had finished with his breakfast, he removed the tray and brushed away the crumbs before he withdrew and left Frodo with the sunlight and his open window. When he grew bored, Frodo rose from his bed and slipped into his clothes before he settled at the desk. Loose leaves covered the surface: many blotched and messy, written while he'd regained his handwriting; some neat with blocks of words and illustrated with little maps or drawings. He shuffled through them and made no move toward his quill.

There was a brisk tap at the door, and before he could call out an invitation, Merry and Pippin entered.

"You abandoned us early last night, cousin dear," said Merry. "We had plans for you, and before dessert, you were gone."

"If you had plans, it was just as well I escaped."

"Oh, it wasn't anything painful," said Pippin, and Merry added, "Mostly." Frodo laughed at that.

Merry sauntered to the desk, Pippin in his wake, and looked at the mess of papers littering the surface. "Back to it, I see."

"I still consider this a task that needs doing," said Frodo, and he shrugged, unwilling to relapse to an uncomfortable exchange with his dear friends.

"You know, Frodo," Merry said, "you've always been a stubborn, disreputable, independent sort."

"Hm. Thank you," said Frodo dryly. "I've always tried."

"Well, it certainly wasn't clean living and pure thoughts."

Frodo laughed. "No, rather not."

"Makes me wonder what sort of inns or taverns they have round this city," said Merry. "I doubt the barmaids are much to look at, but maybe someone brews a good beer. There might be some tabletops to dance upon, at least."

"What bothers me most is that I know you're serious."

"Too good for all that now, cousin? Or just too old?"

"Never mind him," said Pippin as he pushed Merry out of the way and stepped forward. "We brought you something, Frodo." He held out a book, wide as an open hand and twice that tall, bound with soft, blue leather. Frodo took it and looked up at Pippin. "Go on -- open it."

Frodo opened the book, and on the front page was written in Pippin's careful script:

Official Notes and Tales of

The War of the Ring

as told to Frodo Baggins by

Meriadoc Brandybuck

Samwise Gamgee

and Peregrin Took


"Keep going," Pippin urged, and Frodo turned the page. "See, there are three sections. Merry and Sam wrote on their own pages, and I added some just this morning, too -- sorry, the ink smeared." He brushed at a page. "It was all Sam's idea. We found the book down in the markets in the second circle of the city, and we've all taken turns working in it all week. It's nothing fancy or finished, mind, but we can add to it as we recollect things, and maybe you can use what we wrote for when you report to Bilbo and write the official version in his big red book. And there are plenty of blank leaves to write your own notes and look; you can tuck your drawings and loose papers between the pages, too. See?" He pulled at the book. "There's a flap inside each cover and a strip of leather sewn into the spine so you can tie it closed."

"Oh, Pippin," said Frodo, and thick emotion stopped his voice. He closed the book and ran his fingertips over the fine grain of the leather cover.

"I picked the color," offered Merry. "And I'll have you know that I took every effort to insure my penmanship is completely readable."

"I- I don't know what to say," he said. "Except thank you."

"Not all of us can give speeches like Bilbo, you know, and just as well, or we'd be forever late to meals," said Merry.

Pippin nodded. "Just make sure when you write about me that I sound brave."

"Oh, and make sure I sound wise," said Merry. He jerked his thumb at Pippin. "Wiser than him, at any rate, though that shouldn't be too hard a task."

"Bilbo had an ending he favored." Frodo clutched the blue book to his chest.

Pippin frowned. "Yes, I think I can recall he spoke of it. In Rivendell."

"'And they all settled down and lived together happily ever after,'" quoted Frodo. He opened the book once more and spread it in his lap. "It's so much more than I ever thought would come to pass."

"See, that's why everyone loved Bilbo," said Pippin. "Always handy with the appropriate thing to say."

Merry added, "That and the kegs of beer in his cellar, and the four pantries, and his stock of Old Wineyards."

"Oh, that's hardly fair," said Pippin, but he laughed. "You can't say Bilbo was only as good as his larder."

"Ah, he was better than that, of course, but not all his guests were, you know: coming to Bag End only to eat Bilbo out of cake and ale."

"You're turning this around to defame my character again, aren't you?"

His cousin's banter continued over Frodo's head as he turned the pages, his heart full. More leaves were filled than he expected. When the book opened to Sam's section with the spare, strong letters, his eyes fell to the last paragraph, and he sank into the words:

"I saw many deeds both wonderful and terrible, but I am minded most of the times I watched Mr. Frodo sleep. He slept whenever he could, for his burden was heavy, and it wore him like a river eats stone, but so much quicker. It broke my heart to take him from his dreams because he was beautiful and unafraid when he slept. The sight at him at peace gave me peace, too, just as it gave me strength to carry on, as if his face were plain light and clean water in the deserts of Mordor. I saw a light in him that did not go away until I took his hand and called him to wake, and I hated every time I had to call and douse that light. He's like that still, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no."


Frodo closed the book and held it clutched in his hands as he stood slowly and stepped to the window. Sunlight shafted steeply down. He raised his face, eyes open, and for a moment he was flooded with painless heat that left no room for shadow. He closed his dazzled eyes and saw behind his lids a curtain shimmering with runnels of gray rain that brightened to white. He no longer heard Merry and Pippin but listened instead to a gentle, deep voice of water: waves lapping a distant green shore, another memory of the future.

Before returning for a little while to the brittle container of his life, he drew a deep breath and poured himself into the pleasure of sunlight.






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