"You are really leaving the Shire and won't come back!" Faramir said one more time as he watched his father fasten his saddlebags to his pony's back. Pippin, without turning, nodded. "But I don't understand why, Da, why now?"
Pippin turned back to his son. "It is time, Farry."
"But why is it time now, Da? Mum's not been gone for all that long, and now I must lose you, too?"
Pippin looked deeply into his son's eyes, then away. Faramir had been surprised at what he'd seen there, a deep longing for something he couldn't understand. He'd surprised hints of that in his father's eyes in the past, when he and Goldilocks were married, when his father had held his first grandchild in his arms, and at very odd moments before that, usually after Pippin had been sitting, smoking his pipe, on a hilltop looking Westward. Finally he hazarded a guess: "Are you especially missing Uncle Frodo now?"
His father gave a slight shrug. "In part."
"But why now, Da? He's gone now beyond the West."
"I know, and Sam with him."
"Are you running away to die, the way he did?" It was a cruel thing to say, and he knew it. It was what so many had said of Frodo in the past how many years--that Frodo Baggins had been dying and had left that he not have a fussy funeral and then be forgotten. Rather than that, the gossip ran, he'd ridden off with the Elves so he could leave those of his kin who still mistakenly loved and cared for him forever guessing as to whether he was yet alive or dead, avoiding the expense of funerals altogether and prolonging the grief.
He saw the pain in his father's eyes. "I suppose you might say I'm doing just that, Faramir Took," he finally answered, "although if I know Aragorn he will not spare expense on my funeral when it comes."
"Then you are going to Gondor."
"By way of Rohan--yes."
"And Uncle Merry's going with you?"
"Yes. You saw the note--Éomer is dying and wishes his Holdwine at his side when the time comes."
"And neither of you will come back."
"No, Farry, we won't come back. Now you can either wish us well and let me remember you with love, or you can keep arguing, get a full quarrel going, and let me remember my last moments with you with regret at what we've both said!"
"Why don't you wish to die here and be laid by Mum, Da?"
The frustration Pippin was feeling finally broke out. "Because I'm restless, child! Because ever since the quest I've been restless! I came back here because I thought it was here I was restless for, but I was mistaken. I've gone on extended travels elsewhere because I was restless, and I thought the travels would ease my soul, and it hasn't. I hear a gull crying, and I want to go West. I want to stand on those white shores Frodo knew, lie under a greater White Tree than grows in Minas Tirith. I want to hear the singing of the Great Elves in joy because they--and I--are where we belong!" His pain could be seen by his son. "I have the Sea Longing, Farry--that's it, plainly and simply. I've had it most of my life, and I can't go and demand a place on one of the grey ships and relieve it."
"Why?" It was such an un-Hobbit thing to feel.
Pippin turned half away, shrugged. Finally he spoke quietly. "I must suppose it's the lembas."
"Lembas? You mean the Elven waybread?"
Pippin looked up into his son's face again. "The last time I was in Imladris I was speaking with Elrohir about--about how I feel, and how Merry feels, too; about the dreams that keep recurring, of waves on white shores, a shining city, rain curtains pulling away into the glory of dawn on a land where sunrise falls on the shore first. He sent me back with a book, and I finally translated it--with considerable difficulty, I'll have you know. Sindarin is difficult enough; Quenya is near impossible for me to wrap my mind about.
"It told about the sowing of the grain for lembas, of the harvesting, of the grinding to flour, the making of it. All of it is done by those dedicated to Yavanna, the Vala of growth and harvest. It is not only for those who travel, but for those who are sorely hurt, who must have strength to continue on, who are in grave danger.
"Strider and Legolas both looked on the packets of lembas the Elves in Lorien gave us with surprise, and last time we saw him I asked the King why. He'd been raised by the Elves, after all, and had been in Lorien before. Why would the packets of waybread placed in the boats surprise him?
"He told me that that was the first time he'd ever been allowed to eat any of it, although his brothers carried it with them whenever they went out on patrol or on raids on the orc strongholds they'd found. The only time they would share it with mortals was when those mortals were plainly dying, and it appeared to ease their way. When he asked them why, they told him it was perilous for mortals.
"Yet we were given a sizable amount of the stuff. Merry and I--we found from our first taste of it we craved it. Aragorn put as much as he could of it in Sam and Frodo's packs, and we couldn't understand why. I thought it was only because they were the oldest and most responsible and least likely to gobble it up just because it was there. Now I think it was because his foresight showed him they would probably break away and go on alone, and would need it desperately. It was all that kept Frodo alive, most of the time they were in Mordor. Both said afterwards that it alone gave them the strength to go on."
He stopped again, and looked Westward. "Lembas tends to make mortals have Elvish cravings, including waking the Sea Longing. Aragorn admits he has bouts of it at times, and that he dreams of himself and Frodo and Sam wandering along the shores of Tol Eressëa, all of them singing with the Elves.
"Merry and I had some in our pockets when we were taken by the Orcs, and perhaps it's the only reason that after we ate it we didn't feel particularly bad when we started exploring Fangorn. It speeds healing, you see. Merry had been in a rather bad way with the wound on his forehead before he ate it, although the orc draught helped heal that, too. But the lembas helped at last to wash away the nastiness of the orc draught, made us feel cleaner where the orc draught just made us feel sick at heart and tainted. After he ate the lembas Merry just never complained about his forehead again."
Faramir was looking at his father with surprise. "You want to go to Elvenhome, Da?"
"Yes, Farry, I do. I want it more than I can say, and I can't go. Legolas can, and I suspect that when Aragorn and Gimli are both gone he will build his own grey ship there in Ithilien and sail it down the Anduin and out to sea until he finds the Straight Path. And five will get you ten he'll have lembas on the ship to tide him over until he arrives. How he's fought the Sea Longing this long I don't know, for I've seen how strongly it would take him, there in Minas Tirith, standing on the great keel of rock above the city, looking down the Anduin to the Sea, listening to the gulls cry."
"But he's to be allowed to take Gimli with him," Faramir said. "The King told me so, when he was North last time. The Valar granted it the same time they granted it for Uncle Frodo and Uncle Sam."
Pippin's expression lightened. "They did? Gimli gets to go, does he?" He sighed. "Well, at least one of us remaining will be allowed to follow Frodo and Sam all the way, then."
He called out, "Peringard, do you have the pack pony ready?"
Peringard was Aunt Pearl's oldest grandson, and loved working in the stables. "Yes, Uncle Pippin," he said from the back of the stable. "Mum brought out one more blanket she insisted I find some way to add to the luggage." In a moment he came out leading a sturdy grey loaded with bundles and packs.
"At least this time you'll start out with all you need," Farry said.
"We started out with far more than we ended up with the first time," Pippin sighed. "Started losing it right there in the Old Forest, and didn't quit losing things until we returned to Minas Tirith."
"You're not planning on leaving that way, are you?" asked Faramir.
"No, son--once was enough." He swung himself up into the saddle of his pony. Actually, Roheryn had horse blood in his line, Farry knew, and was of both Rohirric and Dúnedain breeding as were many of the ponies both at the Great Smial and at Brandy Hall. It was rumored that the King's own horse after which Pippin's current steed was named had been one of this ones forebears.
Faramir walked alongside his father out to the gate in the stableyard and opened it, and for a moment they were still looking at one another. Pippin looked down at his son, and finally spoke. "You asked if I was missing Frodo, and I told you in part I am. First time I left the Shire I was following Frodo, but in the end I couldn't go all the way with him, although I certainly intended to. Now I can't go after him the way he went, either, but I'll go to those who understand because they feel it, too. It's as far as I can go to follow him this time, until I die and I can finally see him again. I wouldn't do this while your mum was alive, any more than Sam would give in and go while Rosie was still here. But I'm going. And hopefully, there by the King and Queen, able to sit for a time beneath the White Tree there and able to listen to her and her brothers and Legolas sing, I'll be at ease until it's finally time for me to finish the journey, and find Frodo and Sam again."
Faramir nodded his understanding. He reached up and gripped his father's hand until at last they both realized it was indeed time. Both withdrew the clasp together. "I love you, Da," Farry said.
"Love you, Farry," his da replied, smiling. And as he rode away Pippin was singing the song he'd heard the Elves sing as they led the horses aboard the grey ship on which Frodo had sailed to Elvenhome.