~*~The Drop of a Hat~*~ - Epilogue
I've sincerely hoped and prayed that Mikala never found out that her father's had been among the heads catapulted over the City wall that terrible day. She never spoke of it to me, and of course I never asked her. I'd met her dad a time or two, and found him a right jolly and pleasant chap, and she got her bright eyes and rosy cheeks from him. He looked not much like my idea of a soldier--more like a baker or innkeeper. I really hope she never found out just how he died. Deep down, however, I know life doesn't work the way we wish, more often than not, and probably...she knew.
I met her again recently, and although we didn't speak of her father then either, I saw she'd named her oldest son after him. He was nine years old and yes, taller than I, but taking mostly after his grandma in looks. Her twins she was going to call Frodo and Sam, but at the last minute she decided on their prettier Elvish names of Iorhael and Perhail (hope I spelled those right!) They were six, and looked nothing alike, the one looking the most like his dad, the other favoring his mum. Still, they had that special something between them, that you see so often with twins, and that, come to think of it, I saw often enough with my Frodo and Sam. It was most uncanny sometimes, and something you felt like you'd die to protect, as well.
And her youngest boy--he was named after, guess whom? Me! Well, she actually named him Pippin, not Peregrine, because she just liked "Pippin" better, she said. I'll wager he's the handsomest of them all!
I was surprised none of the boys were named for their dad, but she patted her belly, grinned at Bergil, and said the next one would be, if a lad it were...but I think they both really hoped for a maid-child this time. They would name her "Evenstar" for the Queen...which was the prettiest name Mikala could think of, didn't I agree? I said yes...after "Diamond."
I knew, too, that they'd get their little Evenstar yet...even before she wrote me telling me they did.
It came as quite a shock to me, long before, when Mikala informed me that her mother had remarried, and to a man who'd once been a thief. Yes, I heard right. I won't say I didn't have serious misgivings about that, as you might well expect. But when I saw them together, how happy and shining they looked...well, who was Peregrine Took to have any say in the matter? Especially seeing as how they'd gotten Mikala a little brother out of their union....
....who, if you must know, was named..."Gandalf".
Looking at the City, you'd never believe anything bad had ever happened there, or ever could. As we stood out on the balcony of her home, however, the sunlight making bright work of the clothes hanging out on the line, Mikala gently asked me if I had trouble dealing with my memories. I couldn't lie. Yes, there they were, and I was stuck with them. And when you're stuck with something, whether it's a deformity, or a troublesome relative, or a load of evil memories that have no intention of going away, you're pretty much stuck with it, and all the moaning and grousing in the world wouldn't get rid of it. Still, you don't ALWAYS feel the load. There are things that can make you forget about it, especially if you work at it. Then eventually there comes a time when you stop working so hard at it, and just let things take their course. That's when some of the load starts dropping off and falling away, and you're moving on a downhill slide, before you even know it, just greatly enjoying the ride. Although you do have to look where you're going lest you hit a nasty bump or two.
It's really hard, though, when you see so many folks going about it the wrong way trying to get shed of their loads. You want to tell them their way is wrong and is hurting others around them, and you want to tell them your way of dealing with it, but it ends up sounding foolish in the telling, for it's something that can only be learned by doing. And all the while you know they won't listen anyway. But that's how it goes.
I'm rather glad Frodo is where he is now. If my load of memories was heavy, then his, I imagine, would have been at least ten times more so, and there'd be no working it off. And no one was ever less deserving of it. But it's my guess that he is now laughing and free of them. His lamp may be broken, but his inner flame lives on, and will shine all the brighter when I meet him again on the Other Side. And he'll give me That Look...the look which was what ultimately decided me to go to Mordor to do my part for him in the grand scheme of things.
I just hope they let us take a pipe together.
As for Gandalf.....
I don't know if he wears his hat now or not. He was wearing it when we saw him off on the ship to the Undying Lands, and I rather like to think he wore it on board all the way over, and when he stepped off on those white shores, the Elves knew beyond a doubt that SOMEONE had arrived. I think maybe he wears the Hat for special. Then again, maybe he's retired it, and has hung it in a tree for birds to nest in. Nice use for it. Oh yes, and he told me he loved my song just as it was, and not to change a word of it. He had me write it down for him just before he left. I wonder who sings it to him now.
But I can see him in his hat, and I think he's wearing it tonight and thinking of me. And looking at the stars and thinking of all of us. Remembering our journey and our purpose, our songs and our pranks and our mushrooms and our dragging feet. Waterfalls haunted by a lost maiden's voice. Doors that opened when you spoke "Friend." Horses that blazed like lightning in fields of gold. Fireworks and hanging lanterns and smoke rings. And a Tree full of blossoms, and a girl who put names to their whiteness and to the brownness of oak leaves in the fall.
And as he thinks of me, maybe he hears music from a distant land, adjusts the Hat to a jaunty angle and starts to dance, by the light of the Moon.....the diamond-white Moon.