Chapter One: Ernil i Pheriannath
<strong>March 25, 1419</strong>
‘What a battle!’ Gimli thought to himself. He examined his axe as he walked along the ruin of the battlefield. ‘Notched.’ He shook his head. ‘Those wretched Orcs are thick skinned, and their armor can almost rival dragon scales.’ He ran his finger gently along the blunted edge. ‘Though not even a coat of Mithril could have saved them from my axe!’ Gimli chuckled as he dropped his weapon in its sheath at his side and continued to walk slowly through the battlements.
Aragorn had ordered a short search for survivors among the dead, and Gimli volunteered to scout out the frontal area. Smoke was still rising from the ground around him and mounds of Orc and troll bodies were everywhere. ‘I don’t know how I’ll see anything alive amid all the dead.’ He let out a sigh as he looked down at one of the many mounds that covered the land. A large troll lay facedown on the ground, covering several bodies. Gimli paused and debated whether or not he should move the massive beast to check for survivors underneath. He shook his head and started moving on. Nothing could have survived the crushing weight of a full-grown troll.
As he walked past, he saw a man lying nearby, his leg bent under the body. Gimli approached him and bent over, looking closely for signs of life. He smiled when he saw the soft rise and fall of the man’s chest. The Silver Tree painted on the breast of his armor showed his heritage to that of Gondor. Gimli tapped the side of the man’s face gently and called to him.
“Good soldier of Gondor, can you hear me?” Gimli waited for a response.
The man let out a soft moan and slowly opened his eyes. When he saw Gimli he tried to sit up, but was stopped immediately and winced at an excruciating pain on his left side. He felt his hand to the source and found it to be wet with his blood; the troll’s spear was lodged in his body. He blinked up at Gimli, who patted him on the shoulder and smiled.
“You’ve survived War, my good man. It’s a War we were happy to win, and now you may live to see better times!” The man gave him a weak smile, but his eyes revealed the pain and concern on his mind. Gimli faltered at this look, but quickly asked, “What is your name, soldier of Gondor?”
The man moistened his dry lips and replied in a cracking yet surprisingly strong voice, “I am Beregond, son of Baranor, of the Guard under the command of Lord Faramir.” As the man’s mind continued to awaken he began to grow more and more restless. He looked away from Gimli and his eyes began to dart around the ground surrounding him.
“Where is he?” Beregond asked, holding himself up by the arm and looking around him. He ignored the stab of pain he felt from his side.
Gimli frowned. “Who? Lord Faramir?”
The man shook his head and his brow creased as a look of deep concentration overcame him, the kind of look one would have when trying to remember a name they spoke not too long ago. Beregond opened his eyes with a look of defeat and replied simply, “Pheriannath—Ernil i Pheriannath…”
Gimli’s frown deepened. “I’m sorry, Master Beregond, but I do not know that name.”
Gimli’s words reached deaf ears. “He—he saved me… where is he?” Beregond asked again; he sat up quickly and yelled in pain before he collapsed back onto the ground, only slightly conscious.
Gimli shook his head sadly. He stood up, caught the attention of one of the other scouts, and called him over.
The young man ran up to Gimli. “Yes, sir, have you found something?”
“Gather some men together and bring this Soldier of Gondor to the camp,” Gimli said as he motioned to Beregond. He lowered his voice so Beregond couldn’t hear, just in case he was still conscious. “He’s severely wounded, and I’m afraid that if we don’t get him help soon, he won’t make it.”
The young man nodded and ran off. He returned shortly with more men, all bearing the Silver Tree on their armor and carrying a large, crudely made stretcher. They set the makeshift bed on the ground and walked over to the fallen soldier. They knelt around him and one of them placed several white rags and towels they had brought with them around Beregond’s wound and nodded to the other men. Gimli winced at the sudden scream that escaped Beregond’s lips as the soldiers slowly drew the spear out of his side. Once removed, the man with the rags pressed the white towels to Beregond’s skin, applying pressure to the wound. The rags were stained red with blood in a matter of seconds. The instant pain sent the soldier into shock, and Beregond once again lost consciousness.
Gimli watched solemnly as the men steadily lifted Beregond and moved him slowly towards the stretcher. Though they were soft-handed and gentle, the movement woke Beregond from his coma-like state. His eyes snapped open. They now reflected a kind of panic, and he did not seem to know where he was.
“Pheriannath!” He called out again as he was laid on the stretcher. “Ernil i Pheriannath! I can not leave him! Where is he?” The men frowned at this and shook their heads, muttering to each other in low voices.
Gimli sighed and looked up at the men. “He was calling that name earlier,” he said as they lifted the stretcher from the ground, turned, and slowly made their walk towards the camp. He had to raise his voice to be heard over Beregond’s yelling. “I told him I did not know the name, but he continues to call it nonetheless.”
The young man looked back at Gimli. “‘Ernil i Pheriannath’ is no name. It is a title in another language.” He turned and started back with the other men towards the camp.
“What does it mean?” Gimli called back at them.
The young man stopped and turned his head back to meet the eyes of the dwarf. “It means…” He let out a sigh. “It means ‘Prince of Halflings’.” He turned and disappeared from view over one of the large mounds, leaving Gimli standing alone, dumbstruck and with his mouth hanging open.
The Dwarf blinked several times while it sunk in. ‘Halfling? But the only Halfling in the battle would be…’
His eyes widened. “Pippin!” he cried out loud. Filling with a frantic panic, Gimli ran back to the troll mound, threw himself to the ground, and began searching the area viciously, looking and praying for any sign of the young Hobbit. His eyes grazed the side of the troll, and something caught his eye.
It was a foot. A relatively hairy foot could be sticking out from the black and green scales of the troll. Gimli lunged at it and cursed as he heaved his weight against the troll in attempt to roll it over. ‘No, no…’ his mind cried as beads of sweat rolled down his brow. He’d know that foot anywhere.
Gimli struggled with the troll for what seemed like hours, but was no more than a few minutes. His urgency filling him with a new strength, and he managed to move the massive troll enough to expose the small, lifeless body hid underneath the thick hide. The Hobbit was on his stomach, his arms and legs spread out with one hand still tightly clutching a short sword, which was covered with black blood. Gimli hesitated, not really wanting to turn the Hobbit over and see what fate had befallen him. Gimli drew a deep breath and rolled him over, wincing as he did so.
“Pippin?” He asked softly as he shook the Hobbit at the shoulders.
Pippin’s eyes were closed and a look of peace was across his young, pale face. Dry blood covered the areas around the small scratches on his cheek and the red of the wounds greatly contrasted the white of his skin. His lips had of a tint of blue and were slightly opened, but Gimli could feel no air escaping from them.
Gimli bent down and put his ear against Pippin’s small chest. He held his own breath as he listened for an intake of breath or the flutter of a heartbeat in the Hobbit’s chest.
He groped for Pippin’s wrist and held it between his fingers, feeling and praying for a pulse.
“Pippin!” Gimli yelled through gathering tears, and he began to shake Pippin harder. But it was no use; the Hobbit did not stir. A deafening silence seemed to surround him, and it pounded in his ears and pressed down on his heart.
“No!” Gimli yelled aloud. “No, it can’t be! Legolas… I’ll get Legolas!” Gimli scooped up the small body in his arms and stood up. “Yes, Legolas can help him! And if he can’t Gandalf surely can! Hold on, Pippin, you trust old Gimli; old Gimli will find you help!”
He began to run. He ran faster than he’d ever run before. He stumbled often, for the tears that had built up in his eyes blurred his vision. He was covered in his own sweat and tears, and the troll blood that covered Pippin was rubbing off onto him. As he ran he felt his mind go back to the days he, Legolas, and Aragorn had spent in search of the captured Hobbits. He remembered the days of running he’d gone through to find them, the aching of his legs after a straight day’s worth of running, and the relief he felt when he learned they were safe. He ran faster.
Blinded by tears and sweat, Gimli tripped over a shield and fell to the ground with a cry. He threw Pippin in front of him so he did not crush him again with his weight. Gimli’s face was pressed against the ground, and he lifted himself slowly and looked ahead to make sure Pippin hadn’t taken his fall too hard. Pippin was lying on the ground just in front of him; his face was unmoved and he showed no sign of feeling the blow, or anything at all.
A cry of dismay leapt from Gimli’s heart and he pushed himself back up and recollected Pippin. Gimli thought that he could feel faint warmth coming off of Pippin’s body, which was enough to fill him with a desperate hope. He looked down at the limp form in his arms before fixing his gaze determinedly ahead. He began to run again.
His legs felt stiff and sore and his heart pounded in his chest and echoed in his head, but he didn’t slow. He finally reached the camp area and made the final sprint to the Healing Tent. Breathless, he barged through the flaps and looked around him. Surprised by the sudden entrance, the others in the tent looked at him curiously. He could feel the stares of the others on him, but he paid them no heed. He ran down the aisles of the sick, a panicked and almost crazed look in his eyes, as he searched and cried out desperately for the Elf.
Legolas walked along the aisles between the beds, singing softly in Elvish, helping with the sick when needed, and greatly boosting the tent’s overall morale with his presence. It did the sick and injured good to look upon Legolas, for the fairness of the Elf’s face and singing gladdened their hearts and softened their beaten spirits. The healers were very grateful for his presence, for his Elvish melodies and soft, magical voice seemed to heal even the sickest of men.
While some were entranced by the Elf’s beauty, others who looked upon him marveled at his calm demeanor. Despite the havoc, chaos, and anguish that surrounded them all, the Elf’s face remained peaceful and without flaw, and his humming and singing were steady and soothing. His walk was slow and he stood tall above all others. A light seemed to lead in front of him and follow behind as he walked, giving a ray of hope to those who had none.
And this was how Gimli beheld him, walking calm and fair amongst the panicked and scarred. The Dwarf wished to pause for just a moment to revel at the tragic calmness of the Elf, but the urgency of his errand wouldn’t allow it. He called out to his fair friend and ran forward, pushing his way through the crowded aisles.
“Legolas!” Gimli called to him.
Legolas turned at the sound of his name and knew the voice to be that of Gimli’s. Worry touched his heart at the urgency and panic that was reflected in the stout Dwarf’s call, and his eyes searched for him.
Gimli came bursting through the crowd, wheezing loudly, and holding Pippin tight against his heaving chest. Fear dominated his eyes. Legolas’s heart sank as he saw the small bundle Gimli was carrying, and he slowly fell to his knees. Gimli looked down at Pippin, held him out to the Elf, and allowed fresh tears to roll down his cheeks. He looked back up at Legolas in desperation.
“You must help him, Legolas!” he cried.
Legolas reached out and carefully took the Hobbit in his arms. He stood and rocked the small form gently while his eyes searched for a bed. The whole room seemed to stop and grow silent. All eyes were turned to the Elf as his face showed its first signs of distress. He saw a healing bed and quickly walked to it, carefully laying Pippin on it. Gimli paced slowly around the side of the bed, periodically casting hopeful looks towards the Elf before turning them again to the ground.
Legolas began examining Pippin. He felt his long hand to the small face and despair touched him at the icy feel of the little one’s skin. He felt along Pippin’s sides and found his right side was wet with blood. He looked at his small, pale face and frowned. Gimli held his breath and watched in a hopeful silence. Legolas placed his hands on the Hobbit’s forehead and chest and took a slow, deep breath and slipped into a trance. He focused on Pippin and searched for a stir of mind, struggling to find any kind of connection that could mean Pippin was alive.
He felt nothing.
The Hobbit’s mind was closed, and Legolas’s hand felt neither the stir of breath nor the beating of a heart under it. After several failed attempts to connect with Pippin, Legolas slowly opened his eyes and sighed.
Gimli’s heart sank at the Elf’s fallen face and he stopped pacing. “He’s going to be alright, isn’t he, Legolas? You can help him, can’t you?” A soft sob escaped from Gimli’s chest and his voice was strangely high and raspy.
Legolas lowered his head. “I do not know.” His clear voice faltered and he looked at the dwarf with sadness and defeat in his eyes. “I’m afraid we are too late.”