Epilogue - The Blessed Realm, Mighty Warriors Still and The Red Book
The wind brushed softly through his hair as the shore grew faint in the grey haze. Like a dream after waking, misty and shrouded as consciousness pulled you back to the waking world. Only he wasn't sure whether he was leaving a dream or sailing into one.
Much to his surprise, he had not felt any apprehension about this trip. The boat had not caused anxiety to board it. The weight of his 103 years drifted away as he had stepped onto those planks. As the gulls cried high in the distance, the burdens he had carried while on Middle Earth passed and he was free.
He stood on the deck alone. The shore gone now, only the setting sun melting the grey waters into a brilliant spiral of reds and yellows was his companion. Closing his eyes, he began to pull memories out of the drawers of his mind, one by one, securing them fast to his heart: his garden in full bloom, the scent of pipe weed, the touch of his wife's lips, the sound of his grandchildren's giggles. All that he was before was growing dimmer. But, he wanted to remember them, all of it; he wanted those memories to travel with him across the sea. This way he could be sure, that in some small way, they would be forever.
The stars were just peeking out from behind the twilight sky when a drowsiness grew over him. He had wanted to stay awake, experience it all, but common sense won out and he retired to the small cabin furnished to accommodate beings of his size. His head lay on the softest pillow he had ever felt, and soon a sleep of complete contentment overtook him. His heart, finally unrestrained after long years of denial, glowed warmly in his dreams. He was able to, at last, recall those thoughts, both the good and the unspeakable, without being overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. They darted across his dreaming mind freeing that part of his heart that had been denied so long. He saw images of Bilbo's party, Weathertop, Gollum and the Black Gates of Mordor. He relived the oliphaunt, Shelob, his triumph at Cirith Ungol and his despair at Mt. Doom. He saw the Ring, beautiful and simple, as it poisoned all who possessed it. Those happy days after their return to the Shire and the loneliness of his journey back from the Grey Havens replayed before his sleeping eyes. It was all there, He was there, just as fresh and raw, as when He had been locked away. He shed no tears at these sad memories, only joy at being reunited with his whole heart, reunited with Frodo.
He spent a peaceful night as the boat that carried the Last Ringbearer to the Blessed Realm sliced through the Great Sea bringing two friends torn asunder together again.
On the distant shore, one small hobbit stood gazing out to sea. He would wait there until he spied the sails on the horizon bringing the last ship from Middle Earth, bringing his Sam home. Then he, too, would be whole once more.
Mighty Warriors Stil
Pippin looked at the old hobbit in the mirror and, not for the first time, he was surprised that the old man looking back was him. Hair had long turned silver; lines creased his face telling of a long and fruitful life. Only his eyes had remained undimmed by time. They sparkled now as he fingered the White Tree on the front of his tunic. He was about to set out on the last great journey of Pippin and Merry.
Tugging his belt around his waist, Merry was pleased to see that he was still trim enough to fit into his uniform, (his daughter-in-law hadn't had the heart to tell him she had taken it out. Twice.). After all this time spent as Meriadoc, the Magnificent, Master of Buckland, noted author and herbologist, the smell of the leather and the weight of his armor made him realize he had gotten soft resting on his laurels. He couldn't believe it, but he was actually looking forward to the saddle sores he would most assuredly develop on their ride to Edoras. The last great journey of Merry and Pippin.
Eagerly they had both relinquished their titles to their sons when word of King Eomer's illness reached the Shire. If truth be told, Merry had been harboring a secret desire to ride off South for many years now. If only he had known that Pip was dreaming of the same adventure, too, the past years would not have been spent brooding on days that once were.
The pair of silver haired hobbits sat astride their horses, sunshine gleaming off Pippin's Gondorian sword. All of Brandyhall and Tookborough had turned out to see the living legends depart. Even Sam's children and grandchildren were within that throng of hobbits. Pippin knew that all were waiting for a speech, some poignant parting words that would be recorded in the Yearbook of Tuckborough for time immemorial. But, he could not find the strength within him. He had said his goodbyes earlier. Against his family's wishes, he had walked by himself to Hobbiton, to stand on the Party Field once more. He strolled past Bag Shot Row, had tea with the Gamgees at Bag End, even threw one back at the Green Dragon. His family was resigned to his leaving and they had passed the previous night over a normal supper and a good smoke. He was ready to go, to leave the Shire behind and face this last leg of his life.
Merry, too, was tired of this display and was chafing to ride away. All this pomp seemed hollow and disrespectful to those who had left before them; they had received no parade, no speeches had been demanded of them. Both had quietly slipped out of the Shire and Middle Earth. Merry wanted to do the same.
He knew, however, that they would not able to ride away without a few words. So calling the crowd to order, he spoke to all. "Fellow Shirelings, Master Took and I, Master of Buckland, must ride south one last time. We are called by the King, and we will answer. Never let it be said that hobbits shirk their responsibility to the welfare of Middle Earth." Cheering from the crowd cut short his speech, and both hobbits were relieved.
Turning his horse to the east, Pippin, followed by Merry, crossed the Brandywine Bridge for the last time. An older hobbit, standing in the crowd, eyes brimming with tears, told his grandson to remember this day, the day he watched the heroes of the Battle of the Bywater answer the King's call.
Both were laid to rest in the Halls of the Kings. Their monument sits high above the plains of Gondor, surrounded by stone shinning white. Two halfings, the smallest of beings, who were big enough to help save the world.
The Red Book
Lily Fairburn searched frantically. They had been forced to move again. Big People were encroaching more and more these days and hobbits were hard pressed to find a secure place to call home. Many had scattered, believing numbers only drew more attention from the Big Ones. Others burrowed deeper in the ground and, where once hobbit holes had been bright and cheery with many windows to invite the sun, these holes only boasted one small opening to the outside world. The better to hide in.
The Fairburns had been forced from their hole by the sound of wheels, thousands of them, bringing stone and mortar to construct another monstrosity to block the view. Fortunately, the whole family, mother, father and her three brothers, had managed to just slip away before the axes had begun to fall.
They huddled together under the roots of a giant elm, waiting for dark. Then they would be able to escape further north. It was colder and harsher up there, but fewer Big People to harass them and destroy their homes was the main selling point of going north.
As they all sat there listening to the sounds of destruction around them, Lilly rummaged through the few boxes they had been able to bring. It wasn't there! Through all their other moves she had been so careful to see that the box that held her great-grandmother's things was kept safe. Leaving behind others, she always saw to it that Nana Roses' went with them. Only not this time.
That box, worn and cracked with age, had been given to each eldest girl in the family since Nana Roses' great-grandmother Elanor gave it to her. There was nothing particularly valuable in there: some pressed flowers fragile with age, an invitation or two, other memento's gathered over the years of Westmarch women. Since her father Fastred had been an only child, her grandmother had bestowed the box on Lily to keep it safe. And she had failed.
Too afraid her crying would make noise, she stuffed her scarf into her mouth and wept in silence. She would have given everything else in that box, everything else she had, if only she could have saved the Red Book. Filled with wonderful tales of daring, she would read for hours about dragons and trolls, about the Nazgul and that awful creature Gollum. So many times had she skimmed those pages she felt she knew intimately the elf princess Arwen who gave up her immortality for love, and Faramir, so brave to face imminent death just to please his disapproving father. She dreamed of Legolas and the unlikely friendship that grew with the dwarf, Gimli, of the Rohirrim within their golden hall. And the Ring, the one to rule them all, slipped into her slumber causing her to wake in fright. The stories she loved the most, though, were the ones of the Halflings. She could proudly boast that flowing in her veins was the blood of three of those hobbits. She had come to depend on that book to give her the courage when her family had to flee the Big People's coming again and again. If those tiny hobbits could face the ultimate danger and save Middle Earth, then surely she could face anything. Her brothers scoffed at her, told her the Red Book was just filled with fairy tales, believing in dragons and orcs was for babies. But, Lily knew they were wrong. She believed that once Gandalf the Grey had ridden a giant eagle and Frodo Baggins had endured the horrors of being the Ringbearer until the end.
Her tears drew hot streaks down her dirty face. She had failed her great-grandmother, failed them all. The Red Book, and all its wonderful tales, was gone, sitting somewhere in a hobbit hole obscured by a tree. The Red Book was lost.
Who would find it now?