Folly of the Wise ~ Part Two
The journey from Rivendell did not seem real for the first part of it – at least, until we reached the Misty Mountains. There, it truly began to sink in, for the first time, I think, that we were going on a perilous journey…one from which there might be no return.
I forced myself not to think of such melancholy things, and instead focused my attention on learning more about those who traveled with me. Despite my first misgivings about that Ranger who called himself the Heir of Isildur, and the rather arrogant Elf prince, Legolas, I tried to do the honorable thing and treat them with respect.
Aragorn, the Ranger, is more and more earning that respect. Even I have to admit, he is noble and brave. We encountered a small rockslide when we had first begun to climb the Misty Mountains, and I believe that without Aragorn’s assistance, some of us, at least, would have been killed.
These hobbits continue to amaze me. Their ability to go without food for extended periods of time (that being, for them, more than a few hours) is practically non-existent, and yet they are able to bear the hardships of travel – which they have not experienced before, I know – better than many Men I have known. And their almost never-ending cheerfulness and ability to make light of a difficult situation has kept all of our spirits up.
Merry and Pippin, especially, seem to be equally fascinated with Men as I am of them. While Frodo and Sam have the tendency to isolate themselves from the rest of the Fellowship at times, Merry and Pippin eagerly engage in conversation about anything and everything. I have never been good with children, but their innocence and wide-eyed wonder is very much like a child’s, and it both amuses and puzzles me. They have absolutely NO training in self-defense or hunting, which was evidenced this afternoon, when we had paused for a rest somewhere in the middle of the Misty Mountains. Merry and Pippin endeavored to have a playful sparring match, using the short swords they had apparently been given by Aragorn earlier in their journey.
The attempt failed miserably when the two ended up nearly slicing each other’s heads off. When it became apparent that the safety of the entire Fellowship was in danger, I decided that it was high time these lads learned the proper ways of sword fighting.
“Merry, Pippin,” I called, walking over to them and narrowly avoiding being sliced in half by their slightly wild swords. I raised up my hands in self-defense. “Do you think you two can stop trying to kill each other long enough for me to give you a lesson in sword fighting?”
The two lowered their swords and looked at each other a moment, before turning to me. “I think we can spare a few minutes,” Merry said with a teasing sparkle in his eye. Pippin grinned and nodded. “But I warn you, Boromir,” he added. “Merry and I are some of the best swordsmen…er, hobbits in Middle-earth! Wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
I laughed and ruffled his hair. “I think I’ll be all right.”
We found a larger bit of open space for our sword fighting, and I waited for Merry and Pippin to get ready. I spotted Aragorn sitting on a nearby rock, smoking his pipe and watching.
“Perhaps you would like to assist me in coaching these two imps?” I asked him, astonishing even myself. “I think that it may be a job too great for one man alone.” I could see a quick look of surprise flash across Aragorn’s features, before he covered it so quickly that I wondered if it had been there at all.
“I’d rather stay out of the fighting, actually,” he replied with a grin. “Those hobbits look rather dangerous. I’ll sit safely on the side-lines and watch.”
I returned his smile. “Coward,” I muttered in jest. Whatever his faults, Aragorn is no coward. That I know.
Merry and Pippin seemed to be debating something together, speaking too low for me to catch the words. With a sigh, I turned around to see Frodo sitting on a higher rock, staring at nothing that I could see, seeming to be in deep thought. His eyes held a distant look in them, one I had seen before.
Behind Frodo, Sam was cooking some sort of meal, chattering cheerfully to his master all the while. Those two had been much too somber of late, I decided.
“Frodo, Sam,” I called. Frodo snapped out of whatever trance he had been in, and looked down at me.
“Yes, Boromir? Something wrong?”
I smiled and shook my head. “No, nothing is wrong. I am about to give Merry and Pippin a sword-fighting lesson – ”
“They certainly need one,” I heard Sam mutter. Frodo chuckled. Good! Perhaps they would forget their cares for a few minutes, at least.
“Would either of you like to join? I believe I’ll need all the help I can get, trying to manage those two.”
Frodo glanced back at Sam, and I could see that he was torn in two. His wide blue eyes are so strangely mirror-like, I can read any and all emotions that his face does not show. Part of him wished to join the fun, I think, and the other part wanted to stay where he was and think, or worry, or whatever it is he does when he is alone.
He opened his mouth to answer, but just then, Merry and Pippin finished their debate and turned to me. “Ready!” they cried simultaneously. I glanced back at Frodo with a shrug. He smiled, a real, true smile, which I have not seen in what seems like days. “I think we’ll have to decline,” he said. “At least until after Merry and Pippin have burned off some energy. You’re on your own, I’m afraid.”
I groaned in mock-despair and I heard him snicker behind my back as I turned around to face the two whirlwinds who went by the names of Merry and Pippin.
“All right,” I said, walking up to them. “Before we start sword-swinging, we must get into the proper position.” I stood behind them and putting my hands over Pippin’s much smaller ones, I helped him hold his sword properly. When I was satisfied that his hands were in the correct position, I moved on to Merry and did the same.
Then, it was time to get their lower body into correct stance. That task proved more difficult than the first. “All right, now – Pippin, your feet need to be a bit farther apart…no, not that far! There. That’s perfect – don’t move. Merry, your feet are too close, too. There, a little farther…good!” With a sigh, I stole a glance at Aragorn and found that he was grinning, no doubt quite amused by my difficulties.
Squaring my shoulders, I turned back to Merry and Pippin. “Now I’m going to teach you how to move,” I began, but was immediately interrupted by Pippin. “But you just told us not to move!” I heard several snickers behind me and I sighed again. “Yes, Pippin, but that is just so that you stayed in the correct beginning position -“
“Beginning?” Pippin groaned. “You mean, there’s more than one?!”
I was beginning to believe that this was the craziest thing I’d ever done.
“I’m not going to teach you all of them,” I reassured him. “Only a few basic ones.”
Satisfied, Pippin said no more, and he and Merry listened attentively while I taught them the different defensive and offensive maneuvers. By the time they were ready to begin the actual sparring, the greater part of an hour had been taken up.
“All right, now,” I said with relief. This was the part that I enjoyed. “We’re going to begin. Pippin, you first. Ready?”
The young hobbit jumped forward with such boyish eagerness that I wondered what I had gotten myself into. He had a wide grin on his face, obviously enjoying the prospect of showing his fighting skills.
“Into position,” I ordered. He obeyed immediately, putting both his feet and hands in the proper position. Much to my surprise, he remembered them both excellently.
“Go!” Aragorn yelled suddenly, and without hesitation, Pippin obeyed. I found myself quickly parrying blows that reined on me from all sides – Pippin was deceptively quick on his feet. In the background, I heard Aragorn, Frodo and Sam laughing, no doubt greatly enjoying the performance. “You’ll pay for this, Aragorn!” I shouted, having difficulty containing my own laughter. “You get to teach them next time!”
When I had finally disarmed Pippin, being careful not to hurt the small person, I called a pause for a moment to catch my breath. Sitting down next to Aragorn, I watched as Merry and Pippin dropped their swords and climbed up the rocks to where Sam and Frodo were eating.
“They are a strange folk,” I said, half to myself. “I do not know if I’ll ever be able to truly understand them.”
Aragorn chuckled. “They are indeed strange,” he agreed. “But they do grow on you, do they not?”
I nodded. “Aye, and they never cease to surprise. ‘Twould be a very dull journey without hobbits along.”
“And quite a hungry one, without them to pack all the necessary foods.”
I laughed, listening to Merry and Pippin joking playfully with Frodo and Sam, and still managing to devour their food in astonishing speed.
Aragorn and I sat for a few minutes in silence, waiting for Merry and Pippin to finish eating. Watching the Ranger out of the corner of my eye, I began to wonder if perhaps he could be the Heir of Isildur, and the King of Gondor. Our people have not truly believed that a King would ever come for generations, but perhaps the times are changing.
But my thoughts were interrupted as Merry and Pippin suddenly jumped down from the rock, landing on top of me and sending us both into a pile on the ground. Groaning, I disentangled myself from the two hobbits, and slowly stood up.
“That hurt much more than it should’ve,” I grumbled to Aragorn. “I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Aragorn did not reply, save a small chuckle, and I sighed, turning to the two young halflings that were practically bouncing with energy.
“Let’s try this again…”
After repeated attempts that lasted nearly an hour, we finally made some progress. These two young hobbits surprised me with their quick learning abilities and excellent memories. I have trained young soldiers before who did not make half as much progress in even a full day of practice.
“Two – one – five,” I instructed, giving Pippin another lesson. He blocked my blows excellently, but he was still forgetting one thing…
“Move your feet,” Aragorn reminded him. He did, and there was a tremendous improvement as he went on the offensive and I was the one parrying blows.
“That’s good, Pippin,” Merry congratulated him.
“Thanks,” Pippin returned, and I turned to Merry. He quickly swallowed the bite of apple he was chewing and deflected my blows, remembering to move his feet. He preferred to stay on the defensive, but occasionally he would give me a few strokes.
“Good, that’s very good!” I encouraged them. They both grinned, and we started over again with Pippin. These hobbits improved by the minute! I did another round with Merry, and then it was back to Pippin once more.
I tried to be careful and avoid hurting them, but as our swords clanged together, I accidentally pricked his hand. He yelped and dropped his sword. “Sorry!” I cried, moving forward to help him.
But instead of receiving my help, Pippin kicked me in the shin! “Ouch!” It was my turn to yelp, and lowering my sword, I rubbed my bruised leg. That was a grave mistake.
Suddenly my sword was on the ground and I was being tackled by two blurs of color, which I guessed were Merry and Pippin. After wrestling me to the ground, the two imps began tickling my sides. Their small, nimble fingers sought out every ticklish place I had, and showed no mercy.
“For the Shire!” Pippin cried. “Get him, Merry!”
I could hardly hear them over my own laughter, and I heard Aragorn laughing as well in the background. “A little help, Aragorn?” I managed to gasp. I caught a glimpse the Ranger, shaking his head with a rather cruel smile. Merry suddenly jumped on my stomach, sending all the air out of my lungs.
“Pippin, get him!” he shouted. “Ah, he’s got my arm! He’s got my arm!”
Holding Merry’s arm for dear life, I struggled to get away from these two pitiless hobbits. Despite the pain in my chest thanks to Merry’s flop, I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes. What magic did these creatures possess, that could brighten the darkest hour? I could even hear Frodo laughing, and I was willing to put up with this tickling-torture if only to raise his spirits.
But suddenly, I felt the camp go still. Gimli stopped grumbling to Gandalf, and Merry and Pippin stopped shouting. I stood up, keeping my arms on the two halflings’ shoulders. In the distance, I could see a dark shape, moving swiftly towards us.
“What is that?” Sam asked, fear evident in his voice.
“Nothing,” Gimli replied gruffly. “It’s just a whisp of cloud.”
I shook my head. “It’s moving fast…and against the wind.”
“Crebain from Dunlend!” Legolas cried.
Aragorn suddenly took control. “Hide!” Suddenly the camp was a flurry of frantic activity. Frodo grabbed his and Sam’s packs and dragged them off the rocks, hiding beneath a large one with Aragorn. Sam put out the fire and took the other packs, crawling beneath another rock for safety.
I did not see where the others hid, for I was concentrating on keeping Merry and Pippin with me and getting under cover in time. I could hear screeches and the flapping of wings, and at the last moment, I dove under a bramble bush, dragging Merry and Pippin with me.
Lying on my back, I stared through the leaves of the bush and watched as a large flock of black birds flew over the camp. Were these the spies of Saruman? It would be clever, indeed, to use birds for such work. The creatures circled the camp several times, and I did not doubt that they had seen us. Yet another evil pursuing our company!
When the birds had passed, we all slowly crawled out of our hiding places. Merry and Pippin broke away from me and ran to Frodo and Sam to make sure that they were all right. I watched as the black form faded into the distance, before disappearing entirely.
“Spies from Saruman,” Gandalf announced grimly. “The passage south is being watched.” The Fellowship gathered round, and he looked at each of us in turn. “We must take the Pass of Caradhras.” All heads turned to look up at the large, snow-covered mountain, not far distant.
For once, Aragorn was the first to argue with the old wizard. “We cannot attempt the Redhorn Gate!” he protested. “It is too late in the year – the weather will be against us.”
As usual, when one disagrees among a group, an argument is soon to follow. I decided to stay out of it, not knowing what other choice we had, save to try the Gap of Rohan. I sat down on the rocks beside the hobbits.
“We’re not going to try that mountain, are we, Boromir?” Pippin asked me.
I shook my head. “I don’t know, Pippin. Aragorn and Gandalf are debating it now. But I do not see that we have much choice.”
Merry sighed. “And all because of a flock of birds. Isn’t there anything in Middle-Earth we don’t have to fear?”
I patted his shoulder, well understanding his frustration. “Not much, I fear. But cheer up; with your newly acquired sword-fighting skills, there shan’t be much in Middle-Earth that will stand in your way.”
Merry grinned and to my surprise, he leaned into me, burrowing beneath my arm to rest his head against my side. I was completely dumbfounded when Pippin did the same, nestling comfortably against me and using my arm as a blanket.
Glancing beside me at Frodo and Sam, I saw them watching me with amused smiles, Frodo resting his head on Sam’s shoulder. I looked back down at the two hobbits curled up against me, and I saw with surprise that they had fallen asleep. I am not used to such shows of affection; the men of Gondor are hard and disciplined, training themselves to avoid showing emotion.
But these hobbits unrestrainedly display every kind of emotion: fearful, depressed, playful, joyful…and trusting. A much wider exhibit of feelings than any Gondorian soldier shows; save my brother, Faramir, who is also capable of showing a wide variety of emotions.
The argument between Aragorn and Gandalf ceases, and even Legolas and Gimli have stopped their bickering. All turn to look at me, a hardened soldier, with two sleeping hobbits nestled against me. A peace falls over the company, and Gandalf smiles. “We will rest, before attempting the Pass.”
Legolas wanders away to stand perfectly still on a rock, keeping watch, I suppose. Gandalf settles himself down and lights his pipe again, and Gimli goes over to inspect his pack. Aragorn lays down on the ground, hands clasped behind his head, and is asleep within minutes. This is the first time I have seen him do so without signs of fear or concern.
Frodo and Sam nestle down in the blankets close to me, Sam’s arms locked protectively around his master, who burrows his head comfortably beneath Sam’s chin. They also drop off to sleep quickly, and soon, it is only Gandalf and myself awake.
Gently, I shift the sleeping hobbits so that I can lie down on my bedroll. They make no sign, except to burrow in closer to me. Pulling the blanket over us, I sigh and look up at the sky. Though tomorrow our road will become darker and more perilous, today, I am able to sleep without care. The last thing I see, before sleep takes me, is Legolas sitting beside Gimli, one hand companionably on the dwarf’s shoulder, and nearby, Gandalf, smoking his pipe, smiling at me.
The hobbits have worked their magic once again.
~ To Be Continued ~
Note: Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed, and I will continue this soon!