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39
"All Woods there Be Must End at Last"

Written for the Songs/Poetry challenge at the LOTR Community. Beta as always by RiverOtter, and with my many thanks for her help and feedback!


~~~

"All woods there be must end at last"


“I can’t think how in Middle Earth I allowed you to talk me into this!” Merry growled to Pippin. “We’ve been going about in circles for far better than an hour, and I’m certain we’ve been heading the wrong direction much of the past fifteen minutes.”

“I don’t see how you figure that,” Pippin answered with a quick glance at his cousin and then away again, looking once more for some sight of a trodden path. “It’s far too cloudy to tell what direction the Sun is traveling, after all, and the trees and underbrush are terribly thick about us.”

“Estella will pull out each hair on my left foot one by one when we get back to punish me for the worry we’ll have given her!” Merry added, slumping back against a birch tree. “Luncheon is well past, and we’re now missing tea, as your well-known appetite ought to be telling you.”

Peregrin Took sighed and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a rather bruised plum and with a level of reluctance handed it to his cousin. “Here--I was saving it to have on our way back, but it appears that for once you need it more than I.”

Merry accepted it, looked briefly between the plum and its giver, then defiantly (and hungrily) bit into it. “Not,” he said between swallows, “that you don’t have two or three more about you.”

Pippin grinned, and he quickly produced another one, slightly more battered than the one he’d given Merry. “Well, of course. You know what Sam always says--there’s no harm to bein’ prepared. So, I left Emyn Arnen prepared. And if you’re still hungry I see some cress over there, and a hint of wild onions. We’re not in danger of starving, you know.”

“But I was looking forward to boiled eggs and some of those cubes of poultry dipped in batter and cooked in hot oil,” Merry sighed. “Faramir’s cook does such a good job at preparing things like that!” He slid down the tree to sit on the ground, looking as dejected as a tween whose first love took the last serving of honeycake rather than sharing it with him. He went silent as he finished the plum and began worrying the last bits of flesh from the stone. He gave his companion another glance, finally suggesting, “Diamond isn’t going to be any too pleased with you, any more than Estella will be with me. They will think we did it on purpose to avoid having to go to the market with them.”

“Well, didn’t we?” Pippin managed to look smug as he sat down facing him and finished his plum. He threw the seed to his left, then produced two more, both decidedly the worse for having spent much of the day in his pocket. As he handed one to Merry he cautioned, “Mind the lint, now.”

“You sound as if you were speaking to Fari,” objected Merry, who nevertheless accepted it and checked it over carefully, pulling loose some fuzz and a hair before eating it.

“We ought not to have slipped out of the gardens that way,” Pippin said as he disposed of the second plum stone. “It’s not as if we were familiar with the forest in this part of Ithilien, after all.” He bent his knees and folded his arms across them, looked past the next stand of trees, and began to sing.

“Oh, the forest’s deep, the leaves do turn.
The woodsman gathers wood to burn.
And ’neath the boughs we wander still,
seeking ’venture ’neath light of gil.
Anor’s long fled, and Ithil’s fleeing,
and stars alone their light we’re seeing.
So we’ll sleep the night and greet the dawn,
and in coming day we’ll journey on
and find our way to hearth and hall.
‘Our adar’s home!’ the children call!”


Merry’s bad mood had faded away as he’d listened to Pippin sing. “I like that one,” he said. “Where did you learn it?”

“The gardener was singing it last night when I went out to smoke my pipe,” the Took sighed. “And that I’d like to have with me at the moment. Did you bring yours? And some leaf?” He gave his older cousin a hopeful look.

“No--mine is sitting on the clothes press in my bedchamber. Not much use to us now, is it?”

“I suppose not,” Pippin sighed, and laid himself back on the leaf mould that carpeted the area. He sighed again and looked upward through the arching branches overhead toward the glimpses of grey sky. “You know, we could be only feet from rescue and would never know it, considering how thick the woods are here,” he complained.

“That is very true,” said another voice, causing both to jump and swing about. Lounging negligently--and most elegantly--on a limb to a nearby alder was Legolas, smiling down at the two of them with that arch expression that he so often wore. “This is at least the third time you have passed near me, and I am barely within the forest at all.”

Both Hobbits had sprung to their feet and were staring at him. “Are you telling us we’re almost out of this wood?” demanded Merry.

“Indeed. You are barely a quarter of a mile from the old Harad Road, and somewhat less than that to the edges of the settlement below Prince Faramir’s dwelling.”

“And you knew we were wandering about in here and didn’t think to let us know you were here or to tell us which way to go?”

“And how was I to know you were lost?” the Elf asked, his eyes dancing with laughter.

“You had to know!” Pippin pointed out. “He’s not stopped complaining of it for ever so long!” He indicated the Brandybuck’s glaring face, and now his expression was hardening to match Merry’s.

“It was amusing to see you living out the song you just sang, Pippin.” The Elf’s voice sounded so reasonable.

There was but a glance between the two Hobbits, and they’d both stooped and thrown before Legolas could quite be prepared. He held up his hands defensibly as he was struck twice by seed cones. “Hold!” he cried, then retreated up toward the tree’s crown, out of range of the Hobbits’ aim. “If you wish direction,” he finally called downward, “you had best desist! Otherwise I would indeed be strongly tempted to let you lie here all night long. Let you miss a few meals and you will be less likely to pelt a harmless wood Elf with litter!”

“Harmless?” sputtered Merry. “We have seen you fight, Legolas Thranduilion! There is nothing harmless about the Lord of Ithilien’s Elves!”

“Give us direction, and we might just allow you to descend,” added Pippin.

“Never mind,” came another voice, and they turned to find that they were being joined by Prince Faramir, who was accompanied by their wives, both of them with smoldering eyes. “So this is where you two have wandered off to, is it? Thank you for finding them, my Lord Legolas.”

“Find us?” The affront in Merry’s voice was palpable. “He didn’t find us--we found him! Instead he was allowing us to blunder about aimlessly for at least the past hour!”

“I was keeping an eye on them,” the Elf offered as he dropped again to the lower limb of the tree. “Had they been truly in danger I would have alerted them.”

“And what were you doing here?” asked Estella Bolger Brandybuck of her husband in a dangerous tone.

“We were searching for the end to the wood so we could be back in the gardens by the time you were ready to leave for the village market,” Pippin offered.

Diamond glared at her husband. “You weren’t expected to leave the gardens to begin with. One would think you hadn’t wished to accompany us!”

Estella watched the exchange of guilty looks between the two gentlehobbits and gave a brief nod. “There you have it, Diamond,” she sighed. “These two are no more likely to enjoy shopping with us here in Gondor than back home in the Shire, are they?”

“Frills and laces,” muttered her husband. “You expect us to rejoice to stand by while you spend hours choosing just the right ones?”

Diamond gave her friend an evil smile. “Then, I suppose we shouldn’t seek to share with them the candied nut meats we purchased today, even though they both dote on them?” She looked up at the amused Man who’d served as their guide. “Shall we go, then, and leave the two of them to continue to blunder about aimlessly until they finally find their way back?” she suggested.

“Now, wait a moment, my beloved wife and most dearling of women!” Pippin hurried to catch hold of her arm. “You’ll do no such thing!” He smiled. “Besides, now that I smell your perfume, I could follow that--most eagerly--back to the Prince’s house.” His expression had become decidedly suggestive.

Faramir laughed outright. “Come, friends--the evening meal is almost ready, and the cook will be most upset should you not praise it to the stars!”

Legolas watched, most amused, as the four Hobbits followed the Prince of Ithilien from the small glade. “Are we indeed so near the end of the woods?” Pippin was asking as they passed beyond sight.



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