The Magnificent Speaks

by Avondster


Every one of the Travellers was once again lost in his own thoughts, remembering their first day in Rivendell. They were startled out of their reverie when a small, trembling voice spoke up: “Will there be more happy things soon?”
The voice came from Sam’s daughter Ruby, a sweet and sensitive little Hobbit-lass. She was sitting in a corner holding her sister Elanor’s hand, and looked up at Merry with her large, brown eyes brimming with unshed tears. “I don’t like it when you’re all so sad.”
“Oh Ruby love,” said Merry, touched by the child’s words, “we don’t, either. But this is as it was, then. We were sad too. But you know the story, right? You know it will get better.”
Sam pulled his daughter onto his lap. “Listen to your uncle Merry, lass, and don’t you fret, now. It’s happened and we can’t change nothing about it. I know the story is a bit sad right now, but things will have to get worse before they can get better, as the Gaffer used to say, and that’s a fact. Come now, you can sit with me until they get better.”
Merry nodded and smiled at the little Gardner girl. “And they will.

But at this moment in the story, unfortunately, things were not improving. Frodo didn’t look any better when we visited him the next day, in fact he seemed to look even worse. His face, that had been merely pale the previous night, had now turned a sickly grey. We sat with him for two hours until Bilbo sent Pippin and me away, saying we needed some fresh air now that the rain had stopped. We were reluctant to go, but I found that it was indeed refreshing to spend some time outside the sad athmosphere of the sickroom. More than for myself, I saw that Pippin started to look a little better, too. He had been crying or holding back tears for most of the day, and I thought suddenly of how young he still was. I usually never gave the age difference a thought, but Pippin, in his grief, looked more his age than ever.
“So, where do you want to go, Pip?”
Pippin shrugged. His apathy was beginning to get alarming to me, though I knew that it was his concern for Frodo that caused it. I put my arm around his shoulder and gave the back of his neck a little squeeze. “We’ll just go for a walk and see where we end up, then.”

We ended up at the gate of Rivendell, where we encountered a group of Elves on horseback, who seemed to have arrived just that moment. One of them, a golden-haired warrior on a white steed, halted when he saw us coming and dismounted his horse to greet us.
“Mae govannen, Halflings, well met!” he said to us. “It has been long indeed since we saw folk of your kind. I take it you have also been summoned for the mysterious council?”
I bowed as low and as courteously as I could, kicking Pippin to indicate he’d do the same and stop staring; it was clear that this Elf was one of a high position. “Greetings, Fair People!” I said. “Welcome to Rivendell. My name is Meriadoc Brandybuck and this is my cousin, Peregrin Took. I know nothing about a council, I’m afraid. We arrived here two days ago with our cousin, who has been wounded while we were travelling and is being treated by Lord Elrond as we speak.”
The Elf nodded. “That would explain why the Lord of Imladris did not come to greet us.” He looked down upon us with a mild expression, and pity was in his eyes. “I daresay your cousin is recovering under the skilled healing hands of Elrond.”
I swallowed hard. “So far he’s not. His condition is getting worse by the day. I’m sure Lord Elrond is doing all he can, but Frodo has been wounded by the weapons of the Enemy.”
The fair face paled and anger sparked in the Elf’s eyes. “Curse the foul hands dishonouring the last innocents in this world!” he spat. “Were they Orcs?”
“No, my lord. They were Riders, cloaked in black.”
The other Elves muttered exitedly among themselves in their own tongue, while their captain looked at us in awe. “Then you are fortunate that only one of you got hurt, young Halfling, and that even he yet lives. We know and fear these servants of the Enemy, and their evil is still fresh in our minds, even though they have not been seen in our lands for many a year. Do tell me how you have managed to escape.”
“That was largely thanks to the presence of our guide, a Ranger who goes by the name of Strider. He fought the Riders off and brought us here.”
An affectionate smile came onto the Elf’s face, making it look even fairer. “Of course. I might have known,” he muttered. “Your errand must have been one of great importance then, if the Enemy sends his most dangerous servants after you and you travel under the protection of this particular Ranger.”
“That it is,” said Pippin, who finally found the courage to speak up. “You see, my cousin Frodo, the one who is now wounded, was carrying…”
“Peregrin Took!”
Pippin’s words were interrupted by Gandalf’s booming voice as he came hurrying down the steps towards us. “If you cannot keep your loose tongue at bay, I shall clench your teeth together with it in between!”
“I’m sorry…” said Pippin, looking crestfallen and a bit frightened. His lower lip quivered as he lifted his pale face to meet Gandalf’s eyes. This picture brought back to me a vivid memory of the twelve year-old who had been caught stealing fireworks by this very same wizard, so many years ago.
“Hmph,” said Gandalf, looking down at Pippin. “Hmph. All right. But think before you speak of such things next time. Be gone now, off with you.”
I pulled Pippin along in no particular direction.

So, naturally, when I looked around after a while, we were hopelessly lost. I could not recognise anything I saw. The two of us had entered some kind of garden that lay between three buildings (all of which seemed to be deserted), so that there was hardly any sunlight there. The look of it would have given Sam many sleepless nights. What little light could come in the garden was almost completely blocked out by the tall trees, so nothing grew there anymore but weeds and moss. In the middle of the garden was a single statue, the only thing that seemed to be neatly kept and cleaned, of a lady. Her face had a gentle yet sad expression and on the stone by her feet lay one white lily.
“Merry,” whispered Pippin. “Are we at a cemetery?”
“I don’t think so,” I whispered back, because it seemed the only appropriate tone of conversation in this place. “Elves don’t die, remember?”
“Yet she was no Elf,” said another voice at a normal volume, so that it made both of us jump nearly two feet in the air and look around in all directions for the source of it.
Strider stepped out of the shadows, looking down at us with the same expression as the statue, gentle yet distant.
“She was a mortal woman who dwelt among the Elves. These – “ he gestured towards the deserted buildings, “ – were her quarters. She passed away many years ago, and since the Elves do not have cemeteries because they have no need of them – as you already pointed out, Merry – she was buried in her beloved garden, and the shadow that grows has turned it into a graveyard.” He sighed and looked over our heads into the distance. “Let us hope that hers shall remain the only grave here.”
His words brought Frodo back to our minds – for a moment I was ashamed I had not been thinking about him in the past hour – and we both felt the desire to go back to him, to sit at his side and hold his hand and tell him not to give up. The very air in this dark place seemed to be filled with the sorrow that we felt in our hearts. I wanted to leave.
“Strider,” I said with a trembling voice, “could you show us the way back to the House? We’d like to return to Frodo’s room.”
The Man looked at us as if he had just come out of a deep sleep. “Yes, yes, of course,” he muttered, and hurriedly walked past us. I suddenly had the idea that it might not have been just Frodo he was talking about.

Our visit to the ‘graveyard’ seemed to have given us even more reason to be with Frodo, though our presence did not seem to have any effect.
We sat in his room the entire afternoon with Sam and Bilbo, speaking little and always in a whisper. Gandalf came to visit once, but did not stay long, and Elrond, who came to check on his patient later that day, merely changed his bandages and left, saying he would treat the wound again after nightfall.
Around tea-time, Frodo’s eyes suddenly fluttered open and he called with a croaky voice: “Sam!”
The four of us jumped and hurried over to the bed. Frodo’s eyes were glazed over with a grey mist, as if he was blind, and his body shook with involuntary spasms. “Sam… Merry… Pippin… where are you… can’t see… the hand… cold… so cold…”
Sam grabbed his master’s right hand. “Mr. Frodo?”
But Frodo was not awake, he was delirious or maybe dreaming. We sat around him and talked to him, but he gave no response, muttering loose words that mostly made no sense at all.
“I’m right here, Frodo, I’m here, don’t worry…” But my cousin neither heard nor saw me.
“Where… Merry… not outside… in the dark… dangerous… Black Riders…”
His head rolled from side to side on the pillow. “No… they’re coming… closer… they are calling… they’ll take It… no!”
He sat upright, uttered an unworldly scream, and fell back into the pillows, frantically kicking and beating thin air. We tried to hold him down, but he was surprisingly strong.

The door flew open and in ran Strider, followed by Glorfindel and Lindir. Strider grabbed Frodo tight. “Hold his legs down!” he said to Glorfindel, and then to the other Elf: “fetch Lord Elrond and Gandalf. Hurry!” Lindir nodded and hurried out, coming back moments later with the wizard and the Elf-lord. He then beckoned to us and led us out of the room while we looked over our shoulders at Frodo with fear and sorrow in our eyes.”


The door of the living room opened and Rosie came in, carrying an enormous tray of tea-cups, taking the children back to the present for a moment with the tinkling of porcelain. Merry’s voice had become such a natural sound during this evening that they saw rather than heard his story. He had pulled them into his memories, and they felt as if they were walking beside him, looking over his shoulder. Merry seemed to have that gift. He was not called ‘the Magnificent’ for nothing!
After everyone had been supplied with tea and cake (which took some time), everyone occupied their seats around Merry once again and looked up at him expectantly. His eyes seemed clouded, his mind still walking around in the long-gone past. His voice still sounded a bit distant when after a few moments he spoke again.

“We slept little again that night and woke up early, finding, as usual, that Sam had already left. Linnadín had also gone, but not without leaving us some breakfast and clean clothes. Both of us felt little like going out again, and we agreed that we’d have a hurried breakfast and then join Sam at Frodo’s side.

But when we arrived at our cousin’s room, we found that Sam was not by his side – well, not physically anyway. He had assumed his usual post by the door, and was sitting on the floor with his head in his arms. I thought at first that he was sleeping, which wouldn’t surprise me at all, considering his amount of rest in the past few days, but when Pippin gently touched his arm he looked up, and his eyes were red and swollen.
“Sam!” I cried, kneeling beside him. “What…” I did not finish my sentence and looked at the closed door before us, feeling as if the air was squeezed out of my lungs. I looked again at Sam, who said: “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you, sirs. Lord Elrond is treating Mr. Frodo right now and it’s not a pretty sight. Not at all,” he added, and swallowed back a sob.
“Oh,” I said, feeling momentarily relieved that nothing worse was the matter, but my concern soon returned as I asked Sam: “any change?”
He brushed his sleeve over his eyes. “Well, I’ve tried to ask Gandalf, but you know how much of an answer he usually gives. He just shook his head and said somethin’ about not givin’ up hope, probably meanin’ that he’s worse. He said nothing else, but when I ran an errand for Lord Elrond I had to bring some bandages inside and…”
He took a couple of deep breaths and shook his head. “I’d rather not talk about that, beggin’ your pardon, sirs.”
“That’s quite all right, Sam,” said Pippin, “because I don’t think I want to hear it.”

We sat beside Sam at the door most of the day, but no one who came out of the room could or would tell us any news. Gandalf, who emerged from the room around noon, didn’t even seem to notice us, walking down the corridor to Bilbo’s room looking exhausted and sad.
Lindir kept walking in and out running messages for Elrond, Glorfindel dropped by a few times and Linnadín, who seemed to be assisting Elrond, came out with silent tears running down her face. I saw that she was carrying a blanket under her arm, stained with red, but when she saw me watching she quickly tucked it out of sight and walked on. When she returned she set down a tray of food for us before hurrying back into the room again. We barely touched it and sat in silence, watching the sky darken through the opposite window as night fell over Rivendell and over our hearts.
Many more feet passed us, but now we wouldn’t even bother looking up to see who it was. That is, until one pair stood still right before us and someone cleared his throat. I looked up, nudged Pippin, and the three of us stood up to hear what Strider had to say.
“Come,” he said wearily, casting a look at the closed door. “Gandalf is expecting you in Bilbo’s room.” We stood still, looking from him to the door and back. Strider put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “You shall not be allowed inside this night at any rate. Come now.”
We nodded mutely and followed him down the hall to the old Hobbit’s quarters.

Bilbo was nodding in an armchair as we came in, and Gandalf was sitting on the bed. Both were holding their pipes and a transparent mist of smoke hung in the room, making the athmosphere even heavier. The old Hobbit awoke with a start as Strider tapped his shoulder, and Gandalf stood up, his face grim and set, but his voice soft and gentle as he spoke.
“I think you had better sit down for what I have to say,” said the wizard to us. I sat down on the floor, feeling the colour drain from my face and a heavy rock drop onto my stomache. I was suddenly sure that whatever it was, I did not want to hear it. But I had to.
“Frodo is in greater danger than ever,” Gandalf began. “Elrond’s treatments have hardly had any effect on his injury. This, and Aragorn’s story about what happened on Weathertop, led me to believe that there is still a shard of the fell Morgul-knife in Frodo’s body, yet Elrond did not find it until today. Frodo is very weak now, but there is no more time to lose, or the shard will have reached his heart and he shall be worse than dead. Therefore this night will be crucial. We need to trust now in Elrond, and in Frodo also. Do not despair yet! There may be little hope left, but I know from experience how surprisingly tough a Hobbit can be.” He looked at Bilbo, who responded with a small smile and a nod, and turned to us once more.
“You must go to your room now, and stay there.”
All three of us started protesting at once, saying that we wanted to do more than sit and wait.
“There is nothing more you can do for Frodo except hope,” said Gandalf, “and he will need that from you tonight more than anything else.” With that, he picked up his staff, indicating that this conversation had ended. Strider led us out of the room and back to our own, not heeding any further protests. When he closed the door behind us, he knelt and looked at each of us in turn. “I will not ask you to go to sleep as if nothing is wrong,” he said. “But I stand by Gandalf in saying you should remain here, no matter what you hear tonight.”

Strider left the room and I was just about to start grumbling about being treated as children that would be in the way of the adults, when Frodo’s voice tore my thoughts apart and froze my blood. He was screaming, screaming in pain and terror, and it was terrible to listen to. Pippin pressed his hands onto his ears, and Sam quickly closed the windows and the curtains, but the screams seemed to pierce everything and were audible all through the long night. The longest night of my life. Time seemed to go by twice as slow, as I sat on Pippin’s bed with my arm around my cousin, while the sounds from the sickroom were beating against my ears and numbing my senses, until nothing was left but darkness, sobs and screams.
Then, the screams faded away, died, and I was swallowed by darkness and oblivion.

I woke when clear, golden sunlight touched my face, with the smell of fruit and flowers in my nose. For one moment I thought I was home, and that everything in my memory was just a dream, a nightmare, that I had just fallen asleep under a tree in the yard of Brandy Hall.
I opened my eyes and saw that Pippin had fallen asleep with his head on my shoulder, and that my own head was resting on his. I just thought about how silly we must look, when Linnadín danced into view from the window she had just opened, and playfully pinched Pippin’s cheek to wake him up. She looked more beautiful than ever, carrying an armful of yellow and white roses (where did she get roses in the fall?), and a basket of shining red apples. She smiled at me, and for the first time I noticed how blue her eyes were, remarkably blue, like a summer sky reflecting in the Brandywine. I had never seen someone with eyes like that, except…
“Frodo!” I said, and all the memories of last night flooded back to me. “Is Frodo…” I did not finish my sentence and looked questioningly at Linnadín, who was still smiling. A ray of sunlight seemed to get through to my heart when I read the answer in her dancing eyes. “Is he… all right?”
Her smile broadened, and my own finally broke through my expression of disbelief.
“He’s cured?”
She nodded, and I jumped off the bed so abruptly that Pippin fell over. My cheeks seemed to be on fire, but a broad grin spread across my face. “He’s awake?” Pippin lifted his head to look at her also, his eyes wide and questioning.
The Elf laughed silently and kissed me on the top of my head. If she could have made a sound, I am convinced that she would have been singing. At the sight of her joy, and the realisation of this great news, I felt as if my heart doubled in size and I laughed out loud. Pippin jumped off the bed, also laughing in that ridiculously high laugh of his, and hugged me tight. I returned the embrace, then grabbed his hands and danced around the room with him until we got so dizzy that we both fell on the ground, laughing.
Getting up and looking out of the open window, I realised that it must be at least noon. Had we slept so long? And where was Sam? I had grown so accustomed to him not being in the room when I woke up, that I had not noticed his absence at first. He must not have slept at all, I thought, and went to Frodo as soon as he was allowed.
“Can we go to him, Linnadín?” asked Pippin.
“What, go anywhere without breakfast, Pip?” I teased as I ruffled his hair.
Linnadín, who was already at the door, laughed her delightful silent laugh and threw us both an apple from her basket.

But when we arrived at Frodo’s room, there was no one there. There was also no sign of the darkness that seemed to inhabit it earlier, nor any trace of it having been a sickroom for so many days. The golden light of the sun trickled in through the open windows, and made the many flowers standing about the room light up like stars. Linnadín walked to the balcony and pointed out into the gardens, where we could see two small figures walking slowly, side by side. I nudged Pippin and we ran out of the room, both snatching another apple from the basket on the Elf’s arm as we passed her, and chased each other through the hall like we were little children, until we reached the sunlit garden and began searching for Frodo.

It didn’t take us long to find him. I spotted him first, walking quietly next to Sam. I called his name and he turned towards the sound of my voice. His eyes – oh, how I had missed those! – widened as he smiled. I ran towards him, laughing like a madhobbit, and he echoed my laughter as he embraced me. I could not even describe to you how happy I felt when I held him again, when I felt his breath and heard him laugh.
He let go of me and looked into my eyes, still laughing, before he embraced Pippin. I swallowed hard and touched his shoulder; he was still ever so pale and thin! His lips seemed bloodless and there were purple shadows under his eyes. But he was alive, he would get better and we would go home. Home.
I embraced Sam, not taking my eyes off Frodo. At last the nightmare would be over.”