Story by Indil Salquende

The Ring and the Road and the War

Pippin touched a soft kiss to Merry’s shoulder and eased away from him. They hadn’t bothered with nightshirts; he located his trousers on the floor, pulled them on, and slipped out the door to the corridor.

Frodo had not come to bed. Pippin had lain awake listening for him, but no sound of padding feet had reached his ears, nor had he seen the glow of lamp or candle. Glancing into empty rooms as he passed, he made his silent way to the parlour.

The fire was embers now, the lamps dim, the candles guttering in pools of wax. Deep in shadow, Frodo sat still in the tapestry chair. A book lay open in his lap, but Frodo was not reading. His eyes were closed, his chest rising gently in sleep.

Pippin carefully lifted the book, closed it, and set it on the table at Frodo’s elbow. From the settee, he took a finely woven throw rug and tucked it ’round him, making sure to cover his feet. When he had made Frodo as comfortable as he might, Pippin stood a moment, studying his face. Lines there were that should not be there, and a pallor that worried him. He had been ill, Sam wrote, and he looked it still; his sleep this afternoon had been too heavy. Pippin had been half-afraid that Frodo would not wake.

Pippin brushed Frodo’s cheek, finding it cool. Relieved that there was no fever, he bent to kiss Frodo’s brow. He pinched the candles out, turned down the lamp, and left Frodo sleeping. When Pippin reached the bedroom, he stepped out of his trousers and resumed his place at Merry’s side, snuggling close. Sleep did not come quickly, but it did come.