Is He Going to Die?
Is he going to die? Pippin thinks. Could he really, possibly, actually die?
Pippin runs behind Merry and Sam, his ragged breath catching in his throat as Aragorn carries Frodo over his shoulder. They run through the night, through the dark woods, which seek to delay them with roots maliciously set to trip them and branches reaching across their path. There is little light to run by; the stars peer down at them through the canopy of the forest, unfriendly eyes savouring the slowness of their progress.
They are no longer trying to hide their presence. Their only need is to move quickly.
Pippin stumbles as he hears Sam call out to Strider in a voice full of anguish: "...he’ll never make it!" and another dart of fear strikes his heart. He really might die, Pippin thinks. Frodo could die. He feels tears gather behind his eyes, even as he runs, and finds it difficult to keep his attention on the path under his feet.
This was not an outcome he would ever have thought of when he first got caught up in the adventure. Bumping into Frodo and Sam, running from Farmer Maggot -- those were real situations. This does not feel real, he thinks, running through woods at night, running from black riders, a menace unconsidered just days before.
‘Gandalf,’ he hears Frodo whisper. He knows why Frodo cries for him. There is fear for Gandalf in the cry, and disbelief. ‘Hold on, Frodo,’ Strider whispers back, but Frodo cries out in agony - ‘Gandalf!’ Gandalf, how could this be happening, Gandalf, where are you, why didn’t you meet us. He hears the agony of shock and grief in the one word.
For a time they run in silence, only aware of the steady cadence of their feet on the dark forest floor. Each time Frodo moans, Pippin’s heart aches. He thinks of times, happy times, they wandered in the Shire -- he, Merry and Frodo, wandered at will through the peaceful countryside, exploring the fields and rivers and woodlands. Frodo often invited them to accompany him. He remembers one time, when they got caught in a thunderstorm, lightning flashing, hail pelting down on them. They had run ‘for our lives’ to a shed for shelter. Now Pippin knows what it means to run for his life.
At last Strider stops for a rest, laying Frodo gently down on a soft patch of lichen. Pippin slows, chest heaving, and drops his pack to the ground. He falls to his knees beside Frodo and, for the first time, truly sees the pallor of his face. He catches his breath at the blue tinge to Frodo’s skin. This time the thought comes out. ‘Is he going to die?’ he cries, believing the possibility at last.
The Darkness Just Before Dawn
It is the darkest just before the dawn, my old Gaffer used to say. And I thought it couldn’t get any darker when Strider lay Mr. Frodo down and I took his hand in mine. It was colder than a chilly day in December. I could hardly bear watching all that bouncing poor Frodo went through on Strider’s back, or the moans he gave when he was jarred, though I know he was trying not to. But the icy feel of Frodo’s poor hand was more frightening than all the rest.
Then Strider pulls me away from Frodo’s side and sends me to find king’s foil, a weed no less, which he gives a fancy name to and says it might help him. Well you know what it’s like when you’re afraid, like - I couldn’t see wood for trees, you might say. I was looking straight at a patch I’m sure when I hears Pippin call to me. I look over to where he is sitting with Frodo, and he and Merry are staring with their mouths open at something to the other side of some trees. He points at Strider, who is leaning over some flowers with a sword to his throat! At first I could just see this shiny, curved sword - in the light of Strider’s torch I could see it were something special - not an evil looking sword, like. I heard a soft voice, though I couldn’t hear what it said.
It turns out to be an elf maid playing a trick on Strider. It seems like they were friends, but I think it was a bit risky putting a sword to Strider’s neck, any road! I thought that even back then, before I’d seen him in real battle! He’d take on a hundred orcs as soon as ten.
I was that relieved when I saw her, Arwen it was. I thought, like a ninny, that she would be able to fix Mr. Frodo, or at least put him on the way to recovery. But instead she takes one look at him and gets all worried. That didn’t help my peace of mind, I can tell you. ‘We have to get him to my father,’ she says. And then don’t the two of them take my poor sick Mr. Frodo and put him upon her horse! He could hardly sit up, never mind ride a horse. And where are they going anyways, I thinks to myself.
Next thing I know, Arwen and Strider are talking Elvish, and she climbs on the horse behind Frodo, and rides off with him! I know it’s not my place, but I didn’t think of it then. I yell at Strider, ‘What are you doing!? Those wraiths are still out there!" I was that upset that he would send off my Frodo and a maid, elf or otherwise, with nine wraiths looking for him!
The funny thing was, when I looked over at Strider, he had a look on his face, it’s hard to describe, like, he was sending the person he loved best in the world into the worst danger. And he was not just thinking of Mr. Frodo.
That’s really when it was the darkest, but Pippin and Merry jumped up then, and the four of us took off after them, not thinking of any danger, not realizing how quick the dawn was to come. Because that elf lady, Arwen, got my Mr. Frodo all the way here to Rivendell safe, and now he’s beginning to recover, Bilbo. And when he sees you, we’ll see the day really begin!