chapter 4 The Fourth Element The Crimson Flood in Crystal Water

by May 8, 2009Stories

Time, that river of life, passes. Sometimes swiftly, as in a torrent, sometimes gently, as in a dream, and thus went the current of the
lifetime of Peregrin Took. Like the marks of water, which rises and falls upon the riverbank, time and events tallied the years.
Sitting in his study with the shawl about his shoulders, Pippin held the piece of wood and he had been carving, waiting on Faramir
to bring his tea and biscuits. As usual, the wood took shape in his hands without conscious effort, and he could never remember
actually carving them. Looking now at this one, which he had assumed would be Merry since there was only the two of them—
Merry and himself—left before the little wooden Fellowship became the complete Nine Walkers.
He sighed, cocking his head in puzzlement at the way this one seemed to be taking shape. Perhaps not taking shape might be a
better description, for this one seemed to refuse to assume the shape Pippin had expected. Certainly it must be either himself or
Merry, but somehow this one seemed to look more like a mixture of the both of them.
“You are losing your touch, or perhaps your Sidh blood has become tired,” he told himself, setting the figure back into the box in
frustration. “Ah, but when the Sidh woke up in you!” He sighed again.
A few weeks after Pippin had discovered the letter from Gandalf and the Stone of Parting, he tried to see if it held some special
power. Merry was with him, of course, standing there as steady as stone, yet with a grim look of disapproval on his face: Merry
did not fancy the idea of Pippin mucking about with something like that, as he had so plainly put it.
Pippin had stood before a mirror as he put the collar around his neck. He shut his eyes, wondering what might happen. But what
happened, other than a subtle sharpening of the senses, was more or less nothing. He sighed, plainly disappointed.
“Well?” Merry asked.
“Hmmm—nothing. Perhaps a bit of a tingle, and I seem to smell and hear a little better; the birdsong is a little louder and clearer,
not so very much, but a little. The color of everything looks a little sharper and clearer, but other than that…” he shrugged.
“Well, I cannot say I’m unhappy about it,” Merry said, nodding his approval. “I have not forgotten the fright you gave everyone
with that Seeing Stone, even if you have.”
Pippin looked at Merry, and Merry suddenly became very sorry he had not chosen his words more carefully. Even after all this
time, Pippin still felt terrible about his misdeed, though he knew well that things might have turned out far worse had he not looked
into the Palantir.
“I’m sorry, Pippin,” Merry said, and gave him an affectionate cuff on his shoulder. “I did not mean to make you feel badly. I just
want what is best for you, is all. I don’t want to lose you to some Fairy stone, or whatever it is. I want you to have everything good
that life can give you. I want to see the both of us wedded to some nice, lovely lasses, and…”
Pippin grinned. “I’m sure we will, when the time comes, cousin!” he said, his chipper nature erasing his former distress. “Still, I
will confess I had hoped something would happen. If my people are to carry the blood of the Sidh, I should like to have more
knowledge of them. They, too, were my people. I suppose the stone has little to offer.” He shrugged and gave Merry a smile. “But
it is a lovely thing, is it not? I should like to wear it always, to remind myself of all the good things that happened. And it does hold
special meaning, for me, at least. When I see it around my neck, there in the mirror, I think of Gandalf’s words, that he loved me as
a grandson. Yes, I think I will wear it, every day. I will do my best to make myself worthy of such affection. And it is special to me,
too, that Faramir has one, and Boromir has—had—one, as well.”
“Then it has a special magic in it, after all,” Merry said. “Come, let us go a-wandering. I should like to ride to the Great Smials.”
“Oh, ho, and you would also like to stop at the Bolger’s for a while. You long to see Estella again, I can tell.”
“You know me too well,” Merry grinned, and wriggled his brows up and down.
The ride was a pleasant one, affording a stop at hall and home of many friends and kinsman, along with every inn on the way—and
some that were not on the way. Merry did see Estella again, and spent a quiet evening courting her in the Bolger family’s parlor.
Pippin could only smile gently. Merry’s face lit up when he looked at Estella, and Estella seemed equally enthralled with her suitor,
the dashing Meriadoc the Magnificent, Knight of the Golden Hall at Meduseld, in the storied land of Rohan. While the budding love
affair grew before Pippin’s eyes, he found himself wandering out of the parlor. It was bad enough that Estella’s family watched over
the pair so closely, though this was only proper custom for those gently born and reared. Still, Pippin thought they did not need
another pair of eyes on them.
He decided a bit of tea would be nice, and went to see if one could be scared up in the kitchen. On the way, he stopped at a mirror
in the hall to see if his mop of curls was behaving itself. He had always felt his hair had a mind of its own, and found himself
checking his appearance more often than he had before he had been knighted. As he beheld himself in the mirror, the Tear of
Parting caught his eye. Did it really look different? Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but the jewel seemed to take on a milky and
opalescent glimmer. Suddenly, Pippin saw something, something inside the stone, itself. He leaned closer to the mirror. There!
Who is that lovely creature? It was the face of the most beautiful hobbit lass Pippin had ever seen, with skin as smooth as cream,
large, liquid, dark eyes and hair as black and shiny as jet. My goodness, but she takes the breath right out of me! She is perfect…
as beautiful as a diamond. Then, the vision of her face receded, and Pippin caught in the briefest of flashes another face, a face
that smiled broadly at him, but before he had time to make out the face very well, it was gone. The Tear of Parting became once
more the white stone it had been. Well, at least something was still special about the stone, and he promised himself to share the
experience with Merry.
Merry, of course, worried about it. Merry always worried about everything. In Pippin’s opinion, Merry worried too much. But the
news of the small magic Pippin had seen in the stone was eclipsed by happenings at the Great Smials. There Pippin saw once more
the beautiful lass he had seen in the stone, only when he saw her again, she was taking tea in the garden with his sister, Pearl.
Thus began the courtship of Peregrin Took, Knight of Gondor, and Diamond North-Took of Longcleeve, the fabled beauty, whose
loveliness surpassed that of even Belladonna Took, and whose beauty, it is said, could rival even that of the Fair Folk.
And the river of time meandered on. Many watermarks there were: the marriages of both Merry and Pippin, the births of their
sons, assuming the mantles of new authorities and new responsibilities. Most of the time the Tear of Parting slept, but it would,
from time to time, yield up small bits of magic, usually something yet to happen. Most special to him and dearest to his memory,
Pippin knew exactly when Diamond came to be with child, and knew also that the babe would be his Faramir. Sometimes he even
caught glimpses of Legolas and Gimli, still often found keeping company and continuing their friendly war of words. He beheld
glimpses of Prince Faramir and Éowyn, Éomer King and his queen, Lothíriel, and even beheld, far in advance, the wedding of his
Faramir to Sam’s daughter, Goldilocks.
But these were visions of small magic compared to the one which left its deepest mark in Pippin’s heart, for it was this vision which
brought the fullness of knowledge to Pippin of just how potentially perilous the magic of the Sidh could be.
It happened one day during lambing season, when Faramir was still a faunt. Merry had come to help him out, because Pippin liked
to assist in lambing along with many other relations who lived in the Great Smials, for Pippin dearly loved the birth of a new life,
even if it was only that of his sheep. They were in the barn by a rain barrel, washing up. Merry and Pippin leaned over the barrel,
full to the brim with crystal clear rainwater, to wash their hands and faces when the stone flashed at Pippin’s throat like a star,
producing its own brilliant, white light. The light of the Tear of Parting speared through the clear water of the rain barrel, and in it,
as though in Galadriel’s own mirror, both Merry and Pippin beheld visions the likes of which they had never seen.
They beheld the face of Boromir, sitting in the dark in the Golden Wood of Lothlórien. They saw Galadriel touch his shoulder and
silently beckon, and saw him follow her; he trod in her trackless footsteps heavily, as though his feet were leaden with weariness and
his heart heavy with care. Merry and Pippin could even see the stars shining clear and bright above the Lady and Boromir as they
made their way to their destination. They watched her prepare her mirror, and saw her guide Boromir to it. She turned and faced
Boromir, who hung his head. She placed her fair hand beneath his chin, tipping his face upward so that she could look into his eyes.
“Your mind is weary and embattled, and you know not which path to take,” she said.
“Aye, Lady,” he replied, and cast down his gaze once more, as though he felt sure she could read his every thought.
“Hold hope in your heart; you may yet find your way. Behold the Mirror of Galadriel, in which you may choose to look for wisdom.
I will not ask that you look into it, but only offer the opportunity to do so as a gift, though a perilous one it may prove. Yet I sense
in you the desire to do all you may to save Gondor and her allies, though your heart be torn, and your path a confused and stony
one, bearing no mark by which to find your way. My heart tells me you are in torment, and I would do what I may to help you
choose your way. Will you look into the mirror, Boromir of Gondor?”
“I—I am filled with dread, Lady,” he said, his head bowed and shoulders slumped, as one bent beneath a great burden. “Yet, I will
look into the mirror, if it will help me to see more clearly what I must do.”
“Then look, look and behold what is not, but yet may be,” she said softly, touching his shoulder, as if to give him succor. “Do not
touch the surface of the water,” she said. “Hold fast, for you are brave of heart, though your spirit is weary and torn. Be strong a
little while longer, and may you find your way in the mirror.”
He seemed to struggle within himself, but only for a brief moment, and then, seeming to brace himself, he looked into the crystalline
waters of the mirror. As if standing at his side, Merry and Pippin could see the images he beheld in the Mirror of Galadriel. There,
Boromir beheld himself, taking the Ring from Frodo. Slipping the Ring on his finger, he dragged Frodo into the wood, and hid until
the others came to look for them. When the others sought for them in distress, he forced Frodo to go with him to the boats. He
could not release Frodo, for the hobbit would surely have called for help, and so must be forced to go with him. As he slipped
across the Anduin undetected with his captive, he could hear the rest of the Fellowship in distress as they were attacked by the
Uruk-Hai, but even that did not sway him from his chosen course of action.
He took Frodo to Minas Tirith, where Frodo became more and more mad; as mad and twisted as Gollum, himself, a shrunken and
twisted creature that stared at nothing with the eyes of the mindless. He saw himself taken by the Ring, eventually imprisoning his
father, and even his dear brother, for he could no longer bear Faramir’s accusing eyes upon him. He saw himself grow more and
more corrupt, until at last he became a creature of Sauron, a wraith to almost rival the Captain of the Nazgûl, but a wraith, nonetheless.
The nightmarish scene in Galadriel’s Mirror shifted, and Boromir beheld the second vision: he saw himself choosing a different way,
allowing Frodo to wander alone and undisturbed. He saw the orcs come upon himself and the others, surround them, and—one by
one—slowly kill all but the hobbits. Sam, Pippin and Merry were taken to Orthanc, and there left to the tender mercies of Saruman,
while Frodo fled to Mordor alone, and there in the mirror Boromir saw Frodo slain by Gollum, and saw Gollum taken by Nazgûl to
the dungeons of the Dark Lord, returning the Ring at last to its dark master.
Then Boromir beheld a third vision. Leaning heavily against the mirror, his face crushed with grief, he wept, and his tears fell into
the Mirror of Galadriel like little stones of sorrow, forming circular silver ripples upon its surface.
“Why have you shown me these things?” he asked Galadriel, his voice a horrified rasp.
“Because you must choose, Faithful Jewel,” she said, and placed a slim hand on his shoulder. “The fate of more than Gondor
rests upon your decision. Choose wisely and remain Boromir, Gondor’s Faithful Jewel. Choose foolishly, and all shall be lost.”
He stood and faced her, his shoulders slumped under so great a burden. Galadriel reached out her hand, and gently brushed a tear
from Boromir’s face, and then she embraced him briefly, placing a soft kiss on his brow with a nod of approval.
The choice was made there, with the Lady Galadriel that night, and again upon Amon Hen, on that fateful day when the Fellowship
was broken. Merry and Pippin saw it all again, down to the last arrow in Boromir’s chest, and the clear, clean water in the rain
barrel seemed suddenly to have become a crimson flood.
They fell back, dropping to their knees, and there they held each other a while, filled with the bitter knowledge that must ever remain
a secret, for to divulge the secret would be to divulge the secret of the fairy blood that ran in the Took clan.
But it did not end there. For they could faintly hear Boromir’s voice, floating bodiless around them. “Weep not for me, nor carry
this secret as a burden,” said his voice, its tone gentle, comforting, like warm hands soothing away sorrows unspoken. “For gladly
would I do as I did again. It was the only choice I could make, and it ended the torment that the Ring had laid upon my heart, for in
dying, I became free in every goodly way. Weep not for me, for I did what I did out of love, and was purified by that love. For
such an act, the rewards are many and wondrous. Great are the Halls wherein I now dwell, and in them I reside in both peace and
honor, made sweeter still for the love my kin and friends yet bear for me. Know this, too: I see you all, in my dreams, for the dead
do dream, my dearest pupils. I see all the wonderful things that have happened to you both, and my heart is made the gladder for my choice, for the dead also hold dear still their living loved ones. You would not have had me live, only to lose me in the end, and to such an unseemly and evil fate. Do not carry this secret truth as a burden. Weep for me not, but rejoice. I am not gone, nor am I ever sleeping.”
And then the voice was gone, leaving only the quiet sounds of two hobbits as they struggled to catch their breath and blinked in the
muted golden light of the afternoon. Merry looked at Pippin, pale, shaken and wracked with sobbing. He held his cousin, rocking
back and forth, making soft and soothing sounds, as if Pippin were still a wee faunt. Then, to Merry’s surprise, Pippin began to
laugh as he wept.
“Do you see, Merry? Do you see the wonder in it?” Pippin stood and spread his arms wide, looking up as if he could see Boromir
where the voice had floated about them. His bright eyes still glittering with his tears, Pippin’s face burned with joy. “He rose above
the net he was caught in. He made the right decision. He chose us, as I have said before, but more than that, in choosing death, he also chose life. He chose our lives, he chose many lives—and he chose his life, too!”
Ah, yes, when the blood of the Sidh burned in him, it burned as brightly as the first star, glorious in its newborn beauty. He never
forgot that day, yet time is a thief, and one day Pippin could no longer recall Boromir’s voice, or laugh, and even his face came to
Pippin only with difficulty. Grief hit him anew at this gradual theft, and though still quite healthy and hale, he began to feel more and
more weary, especially after his Diamond passed away, taken by galloping consumption.
A clatter at the door of Pippin’s study heralded the return of his son with the promised tea and biscuits, drawing Pippin back from
the memory of that day. He did not let on that his memories had been flooding through him like a rising river. Instead, he filled the
time with small talk and the companionship of his son. He wanted to enjoy Faramir’s company a while yet, for he had made a
decision. Merry wanted to take one last journey, to Rohan and to Minas Tirith. Now that both Estella and Diamond had passed on
and with their son’s both having come into their own, it was time. Yes, they would go on one last journey together, dear old Merry
and himself. But until then, he had some things to explain to Faramir. He was a Took, after all, and Pippin knew Faramir would
make a wonderful steward to the Took legacy, both halves of it, Hobbit and Sidh.
‘Boromir, O Boromir!’ he cried. ‘What did she say to you, the Lady that dies not? What did she see? What woke in your
heart then? Why went you ever to Laurelindorenan, and came not by your own road, upon the horses of Rohan riding
home in the morning?'” J.R.R. Tolkien – The Two Towers, p. 652


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Found in Home 5 Reading Room 5 Stories 5 chapter 4 The Fourth Element The Crimson Flood in Crystal Water

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