Time to Go Back - The last journey of the Fellowship
He took counsel with his friend the Thain and soon after they rode away and were not seen again in the Shire ~ Return of the King
"Am I right in assuming this is Meriadoc Brandybuck's home?" he asked.
"Yes, and am I right in assuming you are from the country of Rohan?" Merry asked back.
"Yes, I have a message for you from Lord Eomer of the Golden Hall,"
He handed Merry a thick, red edged envelope, with the words:
Meriadoc son of Saradoc of Brandy Hall, The Shire
Merry set the letter down on a table inside and turned to the man.
"Would you care to come in? I always like to hear the news from the South,"
"I cannot come in now, I must hurry back to Rohan, but I can give you some quick news, what would you like to know?"
"How is Eomer and Eowyn, Ellessar and Faramir too?"
"I know not about the comings and goings of Gondor, I hear Ellessar is still alive and well, with the long life of Númenor in him. Eomer is getting on in years, he is 102, we fear his time is running out." He ended sadly.
Merry was taken back a little by the news that Eomer was getting so old, but he did not wish to show the rider his emotions. He held back a flood of tears and continued.
"Have you seen or heard of Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood or Gimli son of Gloin of the Lonely Mountain,"
"Nay, I hear the elves and dwarves now come often to Minas Tirith, but as I have said, I know not the news of Gondor,"
"Thank you sir,"
"Good bye" he replied, and bowed low. Merry bowed in turn and then walked back inside his home. He shut the door and picked up the heavy, very beautiful envelope. He walked back to his own room and sat down in his favorite green chair. He picked up the envelope and tore the seal.
The day was growing old when Pippin rode up to Brandy Hall. He had received a message from Merry that he needed to see him quickly. The message had come about noon that day, but Pippin was out and about in the Shire. He rode in at about six o' clock and found a note on the front porch. It read:
"Master Meriadoc Brandybuck is in need of the council of Master Peregrin Took"
It said only that, a strange message, but in some way, Pippin felt he needed to go to Brandy Hall that night. Merry often wished for Pippin's company, but he usually rode over in person. Their old ages had no effect on the vigor of the two hobbits. The ent draughts left lasting marks.
He rode away on a fresh pony. The way was not far, but he lingered along the road, taking it slow and breathing the night air deeply. So it was that the sky was quite dark when he arrived at Brandy Hall.
Merry welcomed him warmly with a hug and they went back into Merry's big living room. There were many rooms at Brandy Hall and Merry had about half a dozen to himself and his family. They were now closeted in Merry's tiny bedroom, deep in talk.
"It was Eomer who sent the message, he wants to see me again," Merry began.
"Well I don't see how this is a matter of distress, no black riders will chase you on the way," Pippin joked back, but Merry was not in a mood for jest. He stared into the small fire, not moving for awhile. Pippin studied his face. It was the same face he had looked at almost every day of his life. The brown curly hair gave way to the small forehead, and the familiar brown scar, the round nose and upturned mouth, his face was creased now with wrinkles from years of smiling, but his brown eyes were downcast.
"What is it Merry?" Pippin asked, concerned.
"Just this, were getting on in years, Pip," Pippin laughed at this, as if the 94 years he had lived were nothing.
"I am serious, Pippin, we can't go on living forever, were not Bilbo and we don't have a magic ring, sooner or later, the years will catch up with us,"
"You speak like we'll be dead tomorrow,"
"No, but our years are running out, and well, Eomer is now 102, and I want to be with him when he dies,"
"So how's this, we go to Rohan, together, and then stay with Eomer, and if his days end, we go to Gondor until ours do,"
"I want to see old Strider again,"
"And Legolas and Gimli too, they come to the white city often now, especially Legolas, Ithillien just captures the elf,"
"Well then, I agree, should I tell Faramir to pack up? Or will we wait awhile?"
"I mean just this, Pip, we leave, and only us, give Faramir the Thainship and were off, for good,"
"For good? But what about Faramir, and Goldilocks, what if they have a little one?" Pippin asked.
"We can't be everywhere at once,"
"Another goodbye, I have spent so much of my life saying goodbye,"
"We can leave, leave everything and just be with our companions, like old times,"
"Pip, its time to go back, its been too long, we belong there, in Gondor with what is left of the fellowship,"
"You're right, you always are. Should we wait for September? We usually do."
"No, I have a feeling growing on my heart, Eomer's days are running out, I fear to come too late,"
"Make it next week Pip, I need to say goodbye to my sons properly, and I want to take a few things with me,"
"As you wish, I will bring Faramir and Goldilocks here with me to say goodbye, in five days,"
"See you then,"
Pippin did not return home that night. His son and daughter in law would not miss him, they would think he was staying at Brandy Hall. He rode his pony far off the road, and up into the hills. He let the beast wander aimlessly, and sat atop the saddle just thinking. In his mind, he was remembering his last journey to Gondor, years before. He had stayed only a short time, because Strider was about on some business and Legolas and Gimli were in their own homes. He had visited with Bergil, who now lived in Minas Tirith, but soon went home. Back then he had a wife and son to care for and could not be away long.
Now he would go back for good, he would live in the white city as he had done when the War of The Ring was over. He had only one son, and was thankful for that. Merry had many and saying good bye would be hard. He had never known himself to be so depressed. There was joy in his heart, at the thought of returning to Minas Tirith, but there was also pain. He knew that he and Merry, last of the four travelers, would not return to the Shire. He took up his reins and meandered through the hills.
The pony began to gallop and he did not slow it down. Soon he was nearing Hobbiton. He passed an old tree, rotting and withered, with a hole in it. He pulled his pony to a halt and got down off it. He picketed the pony and went inside the hole in the tree. He caught his breath, inside there was an old, shapeless, colorless hat. He remembered it well. It was the hat Sam had worn on the first journey together. He had lost it somewhere along the way and Pippin had never thought about it. Now he picked it up, and caught tears springing in his eyes as it crinkled in his hands. It had been close to sixty years and the hat had seen weather and age. He marveled at the fact that it was still recognizable. He could still see Sam in his mind, wearing that hat in the gloom outside Bag End.
The night they left Bag End, he remembered very well. He knew in his heart that he would leave the Shire and his home far behind, but he still tried to trick himself into believing Frodo would settle down in quiet retirement at Crick Hollow. He remembered what that night felt like. The autumn wind had played with his hair and the moon shone brightly down. Now Sam was gone, he had not told Pippin where, but he knew, and Frodo was gone too. Pippin felt terribly alone, youngest of the travelers. Merry's presence always helped the aching feeling of grief, but now Merry was not here.
Pippin carried this strange burden of grief with him all the time, it went up and down, and usually was not noticeable, but of late that loneliness had been growing on his mind. He felt as if the wells of cheerfulness within him had finally dried up, leaving a dark hole in his heart. Alone, in the hills of the Shire, in a tree that had not seen visitors since himself and his companions sixty years before, he clung to the shapeless, old hat and wept for days gone by, and a joy that was forever out of reach.
To be continued...