West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
In which the Fellowship is just a few days out of Rivendell, and Pippin gets on Gandalf's nerves.
Author: Slightly Tookish
For many sunless days an icy blast came from the Mountains in the east...
~ "The Ring Goes South," The Fellowship of the Ring
It was raining hard, and the wind blew wild, dashing wet leaves and other debris every which way. Though the country was mostly barren, it seemed that its few trees were being broken apart and sent their way to hinder their progress.
The Company was led by Gandalf, who used his staff to knock away large twigs and branches that flew toward him, and behind him was Aragorn, his face bent against the wind. His great fur cloak pulled tightly around him, Boromir marched in the middle, managing to deflect some of the branches and pebbles that came his way with his shield. At the end of their line was Legolas, who walked in perfect serenity, his face turned toward the dark sky. Nothing more than rain fell upon his upturned face, a fact rued by Gimli, who was forced to untangle leaves and twigs from his beard.
Hoods pulled low over their eyes and cloaks wrapped tightly around their shivering shoulders, the hobbits fared worst of all as they trudged through the night. The puddles were enormous, and they were forced to wade through them, the water soaking their breeches and freezing their toes. Bill the pony only provided so much protection against the wind, and twice already a large gust had knocked the hobbits to the ground, and if their companions were less careful, they surely would have been trampled upon.
Thoroughly soaked, the hobbits pressed together and plodded along, wishing desperately for a rest, or at least a respite from such dismal weather.
"Another gust like that and I think we shall all be carried back to the Shire," Merry grumbled, grimacing as he peeled off a large leaf that had attached itself to his face.
"Or at the very least we might land in a tree and have to be rescued by Eagles," Frodo remarked wryly, and nearly tripped over Sam, who had frozen in place.
"Don't say such things, Mr. Frodo," Sam said, shuddering. He scanned the sky, as if waiting for an Eagle to swoop down and snatch him away in its talons.
"At least we would get a rest out of it," Pippin replied. "My legs are tired."
"Your legs are always tired," Frodo and Merry replied at the same time. It had become a familiar complaint.
Pippin nodded sadly. "I'm starving, too," he announced, and his stomach chose that moment to growl loudly, superceding even the howling wind.
The others shared a knowing glance; this was the other oft-heard complaint.
"See, Pip, if you were trapped in a tree you would have no hope of your next meal," Merry teased. "At least you know we'll have supper in, oh, five hours. Four, perhaps, if Gandalf is feeling charitable today."
Pippin's expression became thoughtful and he eyed Gandalf for a moment before scampering ahead.
"What is he doing?" Merry cried in exasperation, watching as Pippin barreled through several puddles, splashing Aragorn along the way.
"I hope he's not going to ask Gandalf to set up camp early today," Frodo said, shaking his head.
Sam nodded. "Last night I thought Mr. Gandalf would crack Mr. Pippin over the head with his staff if he asked again."
They watched with a mixture of anxiety and amusement as Pippin finally caught up to Gandalf and tugged on his robes.
"Gandalf, did you eat anything when you were trapped in the tree with Bilbo and the dwarves?" he asked loudly, fighting to keep his little voice from being carried away by the wind.
The wizard sighed, knowing that even the shortest response would encourage Pippin to ask more questions. "No," he replied brusquely, and glowered at the hobbit for good measure before walking away.
"No?" Pippin repeated, incredulous. He picked up his pace until he was nearly running in his effort to keep up with the wizard. "But weren't you hungry?"
"In case you have forgotten your cousin Bilbo's tales, Peregrin, I had several more important things on my mind other than my next meal - namely burning trees and a horde of wargs and orcs waiting below," Gandalf replied, making his tone as gruff and menacing as possible in hopes that it would quell the young hobbit's curiosity.
But Pippin was as persistent as always. "How did you manage to wait so long for the Eagles to rescue you without eating? Did you have a snack tucked away somewhere?" His eyes seemed to search Gandalf's robes, as if expecting a seed cake to drop from the wizard's sleeve.
Gandalf stopped walking, bringing the entire Company to a halt. "I most certainly did not, Peregrin Took," he thundered. "And if you ask me one more ridiculous question I shall toss you up into a tree and leave you there!"
Pippin's eyes widened, and at that moment a particularly strong blast of wind knocked the hobbits to the ground once more, and swept Gandalf's hat off his head and sent it straight into the upper branches of the lone tree nearby.
Lighting his staff, Gandalf strode over to the tree and glared at his hat swinging in the branches. Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli each helped a hobbit to his feet, and together they crowded around their leader at the tree.
"I shall get it down for you, Mithrandir," Legolas offered, and nimbly climbed up the first few branches.
"No," Pippin cried. The other members of the Company turned to stare at him, and he blushed a little under their scrutiny. "I was the one who distracted Gandalf, so it's my fault that it happened," he explained. "I should be the one to do it."
"Pippin, Legolas could have it down in seconds," Frodo protested.
"So could I," Pippin replied. "Well, maybe not in seconds, but I can do it too."
Legolas smiled, realizing how desperate Pippin was to prove himself useful to the rest of the Company. "I do not doubt it, Pippin," he said, and gracefully hopped down from his perch.
"Thank you, Legolas," Pippin said with a grin. The rain had tapered off, and he shed his cloak without a thought, handing it to Merry before scrambling up the side of the tree like a squirrel. The rest of the Fellowship fanned out around the tree below, fully prepared to catch Pippin should he fall.
"Will it not be too much for him?" Boromir asked, worriedly watching Pippin climb higher as the tree swayed from side to side in the wind. "He seemed weary before, and he is so small..."
Merry smiled. "Pippin is one of the few hobbits who actually likes to climb," he said, proudly watching his cousin's progress. "And he was more bored than tired before. I know that Pippin is delighted to be doing something now, instead of marching along."
Boromir shrugged, turning his attention back to Pippin. The little one seemed to have an excellent sense of balance, and was nearly at the top of the tree with hardly a stumble on the slippery branches.
By now Gandalf's hat was within arm's reach, and Pippin reached out and grabbed it easily, though it was so large and floppy that he needed both hands to hold it.
"I've got it," he called down, and in the dim light of Gandalf's staff Pippin could just barely make out the rest of the Company gathered below.
"How will he climb down?" Gimli asked. "Perhaps he should throw down the hat, so his hands will be free."
"It's too windy," Aragorn replied. "It might be carried away."
Gandalf leaned on his staff as he peered through the darkness. "I am certain that Peregrin will think of something," he said with a smile.
Pippin was still perched in the upper branches, looking at the large pointed hat in his hands. "Gandalf?" he called down timidly. "Is it all right if I wear your hat on the way down?"
Frodo groaned loudly, and Merry buried his head in his hands, but Gandalf replied without hesitation.
"Yes, Peregrin," he said. "Do be careful, my lad."
With a smile, Pippin donned Gandalf's hat, which slipped over his eyes. "It's a little big," he muttered, and the wind carried his voice down to his companions below, who hid their laughter with difficulty. He pushed back the wide brim so he could see, and slowly began his descent.
Holding the hat in place with one hand, Pippin climbed down steadily. When he neared the bottom, he stood on one of the lower branches and reached out to set the hat on Gandalf's head at a jaunty angle, which earned a half-hearted harrumph from the wizard.
Once he was back on the ground, Pippin was pleased and surprised by the rest of the Company's admiration, and soon they were able to continue their march as the night crept closer to dawn.
After a time, Gandalf glanced at the hobbits, who had resumed their places in the middle of the line and were chattering amongst each other.
"Peregrin," he said, and motioned for the young hobbit to join him.
"Yes, Gandalf," he said hesitantly, wondering if he might still be scolded. At least Gandalf had not kept his promise to leave him in a tree, Pippin mused, though there had been ample opportunity.
"It was very good of you to bring down my hat," Gandalf said, patting the hobbit's shoulder. "Thank you, my lad."
Pippin brightened at the praise. "You're welcome, Gandalf," he replied, beaming. "It was the least I could do."
Releasing Pippin's shoulder with a smile, Gandalf strode ahead, his face turned toward the mountains. A small bundle fell out of the folds of his cloak, and Pippin rushed forward to pick it up before the wind carried it away.
"Gandalf, you dropped something," he said, holding out the tiny parcel.
The wizard turned around and frowned at the package in Pippin's hands. "I do not know what you are talking about, Peregrin. I have never seen that before," he said, his voice sounding as grumpy as ever, though when Pippin looked at him in confusion, his eyes were twinkling.
Gandalf turned to Aragorn then, asking where in this land would be a safe place to camp. Pippin watched for a moment, still perplexed, before he turned his attention to the small wrapped bundle in his hand.
Loosening the string, Pippin peeked inside the cloth, and it was with delight that he discovered a small stack of biscuits. With a smile he ran over to the other hobbits, eager to share his snack, as Gandalf pulled his hat low over his eyes and hid a grin.
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