In The Dark Before Dawn by Pearl Took

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In The Dark Before Dawn

Merry rolled over and peered through the darkness at Pippin’s bed. Empty. He shook his head as he sat up. This was the third night in a row that Merry had looked over at his cousin’s bed in the dark of the morning only to notice that Pippin wasn’t there. The other two nights he merely rolled over and went back to sleep, not really thinking much of it, but three times in a row seemed a bit odd. He stepped into then tugged up his breeches, haphazardly tucking the hem of his nightshirt into them before heading out into the house.

Faint light from occasional lamps hanging on the wall lit the hallways as Merry searched for his cousin. He checked each common room in the house without seeing any sign of Pippin. Then something he caught out of the corner of his eye solved the riddle. He looked closer to make sure he was seeing correctly in the dim light. Yes, there was an empty spot in the row of cloaks hanging from hooks by the kitchen door. Pippin had gone outside. Outside into the chill dark of the predawn morning. He’d been gone too long for it to be a trip to the privy. Whatever was Pip doing? Merry wrapped his own cloak about himself as he went out the door. He walked around a bit before spying a solitary huddled figure sitting on the little hillock to the west of the house.

"Hullo, Pippin."

The lad gave a small shriek, jumping enough that his cloak slipped from his shoulders. Merry doubled over with laughter.

"It’s not funny," gasped Pippin, who had his hands clasped upon his chest over his pounding heart as though he needed to keep it from escaping. He had spun around and was now facing his cousin.

"No," Merry was gasping as well but from his laughing. "It was . . . better than funny. ‘Twas . . . hilarious!" He plopped down next to Pippin and pulled the twelve-year-old into a hug. "Didn’t know anyone could jump that high whilst sitting down."

"Not funny, Merry." Pippin jabbed Merry in the ribs before pulling out of the hug. "Well, it would have been if it had been you, but it wasn’t funny as it was me." Merry could see Pippin’s grin.

Merry drew in a deep breath then let it out in a whoosh. "You’ll agree with me that it was very funny, unless you want me telling your Mum and Da that you’ve been sneaking out of the house before sun-up three days in a row."

"You wouldn’t!"

"Would."

"Merry! Please, don’t tell."

"Only if you tell me what you’ve been up to."

Pippin was quiet for a few moments before hesitantly replying. "I’ve been looking at the stars. Eh. Looking at my favorite constellations." He lifted his arm to point slightly south of due west. "You know, The Swordsman and The Netted Stars." He pointed to the north. "And The Wain. I, eh, I like looking at them."

"No, don’t believe you. Best come up with something better than that if I’m to keep quiet."

Pippin sighed. "It has been to see if my Mum is right."

"Speak up Pip, I barely heard you." Merry chided. "See if Auntie is right about what?"

The younger hobbit shifted around to scan the horizon. "Well . . . ah, yes . . . well. She often says, ‘Don’t fear in the dark before dawn,’ and I’ve been trying to find out what is scary about the dark before the sun comes up. You know, the dark before the dawn. But, Merry," he now looked at his older cousin, "There isn’t anything. I’ve been out here, as you’ve said, three mornings in a row and it isn’t scary. It’s just, well, dark the whole time, it’s no different before dawn. Why is my Mum saying something that isn’t true, Merry?"

Merry laughed as he rubbed his knuckles into the top of Pippin’s head. A gesture he knew annoyed the lad. "It’s a saying, Pippin, an expression. You know, it is meaning something other than what it actually sounds like it’s meaning."

"I know what a saying is, Merry." An irritated Pippin drawled while rubbing the sore spot on his head. "What does this one mean then?"

"It means that when something bad happens, and then something else that is bad happens and so on till it maybe seems hopeless, well, it means don’t give up because good things will happen again. The dawn will come even after the darkest night."

"It’s to be encouraging then. Well," Pippin sat staring at the stars a few moments then moved closer to Merry to lean against him, "will you stay and watch the sunrise, Merry? It’s actually rather lovely and such."

"Sure, Pip. I’d love to." They turned to face the east then Merry put his arm around his favorite cousin and they sat there as morning broke upon the Took farm in Whitwell.

*******

 The foul night passed slowly. The small fires the army of the West had lit seemed dull. The sound of coughing was heard throughout the camp as the filthy air irritated the soldier’s throats and lungs. Tomorrow they would stand before the Black Gate.

Pippin sat huddled in both his Elven cloak and the black cloak that was part of his uniform as a soldier of Gondor. He wore the grey cloak under the black. He wasn’t supposed to wear the cloak of Lorien at all while on duty, but he had done so on this march, feeling that he might need whatever Elven magic or blessing might be upon it. It didn’t seem to be much help, though. He felt dismal. They all felt dismal. None of them slept neath the brooding malevolence of the Black Land. Sounds in the night put fear in their hearts just as the very air that they breathed seem to drain any memories of cheer or gladness from their souls.

The grey morn came with a cold breeze from the north. The army of the West gathered itself and marched until their King arrayed them as best he could upon the heaps of rubble that stood a-ways away from the Black Gate. Pippin had ridden forward with the Captains. He heard the words of the being that called itself "The Mouth of Sauron." All hope died within his young heart. The Enemy had Frodo; that meant the Enemy had the Ring. That meant all was lost. Pippin now stood in the front line of the ranks of soldiers, "The better to be done with it quickly," he thought.

"Do not fear in the dark before dawn."

Pippin heard the words in his mind but swept them away with a bitter laugh. "Not this time. No, not this time. There will be nothing good ever again," he said softly to himself. A troll bore down on them. Beregond fell beside him. The troll leaned in for the kill. In a swift, smooth move, Pippin drove his blade deep into the troll. It fell upon the hobbit and those beside him as it died.

Pippin lay beneath the troll, feeling its weight crushing down upon him, stealing his breath. He was in pain, then slowly he wasn’t as he let himself go.

The next day the sun rose over the newly freed East, and the dawn came to bless a new age.

********* 

 Eight-year-old Elanor Gamgee made her way down the dimly lit tunnel toward the parlor. She had the satin pillow that she liked to cuddle while she slept tucked in her right arm. The parlor door was open, soft firelight flickered from within. By the light of the dying fire she could see someone curled up on the couch. It was her Uncle Pippin who, along with her Aunt Diamond, was visiting at Bag End.

On silent feet, Elanor moved closer. Her Uncle’s hair was wet. There were tears on his face. He was moaning and writhing in his sleep. She lifted one of his arms to lay her pillow against his chest. In an instant both his arms closed around it hugging it tightly, clinging to something soft amid his harsh memories. More tears ran into his hair at his temples. Elanor reached out to begin gently running her fingers through his hair, pulling it back from his sweat drenched forehead.

His panicky, pain filled moaning gradually faded, his tense muscles began to relax. Eventually, he opened his eyes.

"Elanor. Why are you awake?"

"You were having bad dreams, weren’t you, Uncle Pippin?"

Pippin’s brows drew together. "Yes, but what are you doing up, dear?"

"You came in here so as not to bother Auntie Diamond, didn’t you?"

"Yes."

"My Daddy does that when he has bad dreams," Elanor said in a soothing voice as she continued to comb her fingers through her Uncle’s sweat-soaked hair. "So he won’t bother Mummy. Uncle Merry has bad dreams too sometimes when he visits."

"Yes, he does." Pippin did not understand what was going on, but decided to let the lass talk.

"Daddy dreams about Orcs and Gollum."

"I suppose he would, yes." Pippin was getting uncomfortable with this.

"Uncle Merry dreams about Orcs and the Witch King."

"Yes. Yes he does, but, Elanor, how do you know this?"

The child looked steadily into his eyes. "You were dreaming about Orcs and the Dark Lord." Pippin gasped but Elanor was continuing. "Dreams about the Orcs that hurt you and Uncle Merry and the Eye that you saw. He hurt you very badly. He hurt your soul."

"Elanor," Pippin whispered.

"I dream about the wood where the flowers grow that Daddy named me after. I dream about the Golden Wood. It’s pretty there." The firelight lit the little girl’s face, her golden hair gleamed. She looked as though she was an Elf child, born to the land of which she spoke.

Pippin suddenly wondered if he wasn’t still dreaming. "Yes," he murmured, "it was very pretty there."

"The Elf Lady hasn’t forgotten you, Uncle Pippin. Not you, nor Daddy, nor Uncle Merry. She told me that she thinks of you often and she smiled when she said it. She has a nice smile."

"The Elf Lady? The Lady Galadriel? Is that who you mean, Elanor?"

"Yes," the child said happily.

Pippin felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising. The Lady Galadriel was gone, she left Middle-earth when Frodo and Bilbo did. Elanor had been a babe. She and The Lady Galadriel had never met. "The Lady Galadriel speaks to you in your dreams, sweetheart?"

"Sometimes. She is sad because you and Daddy and Uncle Merry have bad dreams. Sad they won’t go away. But she said something, something I am to tell you." The soft touch of her little fingers left Pippin’s hair. Elanor placed her hands on his and gently squeezed them. A warmth spread from her hands to his, spreading further until it filled him. He felt himself floating away as his heart and mind were soothed. Softly, Elanor spoke. "The Lady said, ‘The dreams will always be with you, a price that you pay. But remember, Peregrin Took, a lesson you have learned well. You need never fear in the dark before dawn.’ "

His eyes closed in a deep slumber. Elanor kissed him on his forehead as the first light of a new day came in around the edges of the curtains.




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