The Prince Demised - Chapter Three: Too Nice a Day

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(A/N) This is the third chapter of a fic that I've spent the last year writing. It's an Angst AU that starts at the Black Gates and asks the question of "What if?" What if a member was lost in that battle? How would the Fellowship react?

I've tried to keep this story as much in character as I can, and I have worked very hard on it so any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. The end result will be a total of 11 chapters long. Thank you for your time! I hope you enjoy. (end A/N)


April 8, 1419

Sam yawned and stretched as the light of the world began to peak between his closed eyelids. He felt the sheets under him and realized he was in a bed. This puzzled him immensely and for a fleeting moment he believed he was back on Bag Shot Row and had dreamed the entire thing. He eyes fluttered open slowly and he immediately saw that wasn't the case; his master was beside him and bore his wounds of the journey.

"It wasn't a dream!" Sam cried. "Then where are we?"

"In the land of Ithilien and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you." Sam jumped at the voice and turned to see Gandalf, no longer the grey, but the white. Sam's mouth flew open and he stared in awe at the dazzling wizard.

Gandalf gave the hobbit a warm smile. "Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?"

Sam blinked a few times and collected his wits before he could answer. "Gandalf!" he said. "I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?"

At this, Gandalf seemed to falter, and the merriment in his eyes lessened ever so slightly. Still, he smiled and responded; "A great shadow has departed. Many things that were evil in the world have died off and may now be made anew, however not all things good that were lost may be so easily restored, Master Samwise. Sacrifices were made that can not be undone, but the great evil of the world has been absolved."

A small knot formed in the wizard's throat as he looked down at the beaming Sam. He hadn't realized until that moment how difficult of a job telling the Hobbits about Pippin was going to be. He could handle Balrogs, Nazgûl, Orcs, and even the Dark Lord himself, but he had always had a strange weakness for the Halflings. The news he was holding from them could crush them, and he didn't think he'd be able to see that happen.

Slowly, Sam and Frodo began to regain their health and walk about the fields of Ithilien. Sam didn't think he'd ever seen a more beautiful place, except of course his home, and perhaps Lothlorien and Rivendell. But other than those, it was the most beautiful place of Middle Earth. The days went by in a whirl, and as Sam sat on a green mound late one night, he tried to remember all that had happened. Visions of Aragorn bowing and the great feast in their honor came to his mind. Sam smiled fondly at the memory of the feast; better food he had never eaten, nor had he ever seen so many important and powerful men in one area before.

Frodo stirred in his place beside Sam where he was lying and took the strand of grass he had been chewing out of his mouth; a shadow of worry was across his face.

"Sam?"

"Yes, Mister Frodo?" Sam looked down at his master and waited for him to continue.

"Has Gandalf made mention of Merry or Pippin to you yet?"

Sam's brow creased and he thought hard for a few moments before replying, "No, sir, I don't believe he has."

Frodo nodded. "I didn't think so..."

Sam frowned as worry crept into his mind. "Why, Mister Frodo? Do you think anything's wrong?"

Frodo shook his head and smiled at his loyal friend. "No, Sam; not at all. I was just curious, is all. I'm sure we'll see them when we travel to Minas Tirith." Frodo put the green twig back in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully on the end.

Sam nodded slowly in agreement and turned back to face the sunset. `My, doesn't Home look pretty from here?' he thought as hues of pink and gold splashed the western sky. He smiled and thought of the day he, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin would all return to their long missed homes and live once again in happiness and peace in the Shire until the end of their days.

pril 9, 1419

The bright morning sun woke Sam from his slumber and he stretched the weariness out of his arms and legs. He turned and saw that Frodo was already on his feet and staring thoughtfully into the distance.

"Good morning, Mister Frodo." Sam stood and Frodo turned to face him with a smile. "Looks like a beautiful day, if I do say so."

"Simply lovely, and it's kind of you to wake in time to enjoy it with the rest of us," Frodo laughed lightheartedly as Sam's cheeks went pink. "Now hurry up and rub the sleep out of your eyes. Gandalf sent for us to come and help him prepare the company to ride out to Minas Tirith."

Sam nodded and began walking towards the nearby spring to wash his face and feet.

~*~

The two met up with Gandalf at the far side of the camp where horses were being groomed and groups organized to set out early the next day. The Wizard smiled and held his arm out, motioning a small table to the two as they approached.

"You'll be wanting breakfast before anything else, will you not?" he asked with a smile; the two Hobbits eagerly sat at the table and began to eat. Gandalf also pulled up a chair and took a seat beside them.

"When is the group leaving, Gandalf?" Frodo asked between bites.

"Soon, soon; hopefully early tomorrow morning if all is ready. Here, try the butter with your bread, Sam." Gandalf passed over the small tray to the hungry gardener.

"And the people of Minas Tirith?" Frodo paused to swallow a large piece of fruit. "They are alright?"

"Yes, they are fairing well. Though I imagine they are greatly anticipating the coming of their King, which is all the more reason for us to hurry and leave." Sam began to cough as he choked on his piece of bread. "Well we're not in that big of a rush, Sam; don't think you have to rush through your breakfast."

"Oh, I wasn't Mr. Gandalf. I mean, thank you, sir. But how is the rest of our Fellowship? I know Boromir's dead, which was an awful thing to happen of course; would you mind telling us how? I'm not sure if I exactly understand it all myself. Perhaps not now though, it is too nice a day to talk of such things. And if you don't mind me asking, sir, I noticed Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are all here, but what of Merry and Pippin?" Frodo stopped eating and looked up at Gandalf, silently waiting for the Wizard's answer to Sam's question.

Gandalf felt the eyes of the expectant Hobbits on him, yet he kept his calm composure and lighted replied, "Merry was doing quite well when last I saw him. He slew the King of the Nazgûl outside the walls of the city while fighting for the ranks of Rohan, and is now most likely in the care of the healers at the Houses of Healing." The small knot began pulling at the sides of his stomach again; he knew what he would be asked next.

Sam and Frodo smiled momentarily at this, but the darkened face of the Wizard was discouraging.

"And Pippin?" Sam asked, still smiling but with a great amount of foreboding beginning to mass in his stomach.

Gandalf gave a heavy sigh and his thoughts raced; he could avoid the question no longer. He turned to face the hobbits and leaned against the table, laying his white staff on the floor beside him. He looked solemnly in their eyes, and laid his hands on each of their shoulders.

Sam's heart plummeted to his stomach. He shivered at the touch of the powerful wizard; he believed he felt Frodo beside him do the same. He felt a great urge to close his eyes, turn, and run; maybe the news he was about to hear wouldn't follow him and all would be well again.

Gandalf looked Sam straight in the eye. The Hobbit gulped and began to shake in anticipation of what he was about to hear.

The Wizard drew a breath and finally replied, "I am afraid, Samwise, that it will be a long time yet ere you see Pippin once more."

"Surely he has not gone too far?" Sam asked pleadingly; though his heart knew exactly what Gandalf meant, he didn't want to give in to that terrible feeling of agony just yet. "Shall we see him when we ride to Minas Tirith? Is he with Merry there?" Sam looked out of the corner of his eye and saw Frodo sitting perfectly still, his hand tightly grasping his glass cup and his face drained of all color.

"No, Sam." Gandalf's words were slow and articulate. "His time on this earth has ended; he died in the battle at the Black Gate." A glint of a silver tear shone in the Wizard's eyes but he held Sam's gaze. "I am sorry."

Sam felt the news cut through him like a knife. A wave of agony overcame him and he leaned into the table. He felt tears rush upon him and burn in his eyes, but before he could release them he was startled by a loud crash as Frodo's cup fell from his hand and shattered on the hard ground below it. Sam turned to see his master on his knees, staring blankly ahead with silent tears forming in his eyes and streaming down his cheeks. His face was twisted with anguish and his body swayed.

Sam fell to his own knees and faced his master. He placed his large hand on Frodo's shoulder and hesitantly called to him.

"Mr. Frodo?"

Frodo continued to stare ahead, not showing any signs of being aware of Sam's presence.

"Mr. Frodo!" Sam cried and shook Frodo sharply.

Frodo jerked and shook his head. He looked at Sam with empty, lost eyes and his chest heaved as he drew in deep, staggered breaths.

Sam felt tears fall from his eyes as he looked into his master's once again hurt and pained face. He didn't think he could take it anymore; how could Frodo be forced to carry so many pains and sorrows?

"Mr. Frodo, I'm... I'm sorry... it's not fair!" Sam sobbed as he placed his hand comfortingly against Frodo's now tear-stained cheek.

Sam's hand sent a shock wave through Frodo, waking him from his agonizing daze and silent mourning. He looked at Sam for a moment or two before springing his feet and turning away from the table. He began to run towards their camp.

Sam watched him run for a moment before he too rose to his feet and stumbled after his master, hurt, confused, and distraught.

"Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo, wait!" Sam called after Frodo, but his master only quickened his pace.

Gandalf had risen when Frodo fell, and now watched the scarred Hobbit run towards his camp, his ever loyal and loving companion following behind him. The Wizard leaned against his staff and gripped the rod tightly. His head dropped and held it in his hand as he silently wept.

TBC

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