Written for the GFIC group's September 2009 Challenge!
Theme: Out on a Limb
Element: Oak Tree
Author's Chapter Notes:
References made to my story “If You Could See What I Hear”
“Like Father, Like Son…”
Pippin cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted his son’s name over and over until he was hoarse from the effort. How, oh how, had the lad got away from him so quickly? He’d only been distracted for a moment or two by the call of a passing hawk. When he turned back to his son the little one had vanished. Pippin tried not to panic as he trotted down the forest path where he and Faramir had been strolling a few minutes earlier. He scolded himself soundly for not paying closer attention. His lad was as slippery as he’d been as a youth and he knew better than to turn away for long.
Pippin paused and shaded his eyes from the glare of the afternoon sun as he peered into the thick grove of trees on the path ahead. They hadn’t gone far into the woodland before Faramir stole away from him, no doubt thinking his father needed a good fright. More than likely the scamp was hiding somewhere nearby and having a giggle whilst he watched his poor, frantic father pursue him! Well, they’d have a word or two later about the folly of frightening one’s parent half out of his wits! Pippin allowed himself a quiet chuckle at the irony. How well he remembered being on the opposite side of such a talking to. His heart twisted painfully at the memory of his father. Paladin was not long passed away and Pippin still ached with sorrow whenever he thought of his beloved da.
Picking up his pace, he pushed his sadness aside and focused on locating the missing Took. Although Faramir was almost five years old, being a father still felt new to Pippin in many ways. Most of all, it often felt so odd to catch himself saying the exact same things that his own father had said to him. Pippin remembered fondly the stories he’d heard about his grandfather, Adalgrim Took, and how Paladin had found much of the same mischief as Pippin, and now Faramir, did.
“I miss you so much, Da,” he whispered, scanning the woods in silent contemplation. A light breeze rippled through the grove of young Oaks to his left, and Pippin tilted his head. Was that a song, he wondered? No. But what, then. . .?
After a moment he shook himself from his trance and folded his arms across his chest, frowning at his surroundings. Enough was enough. He took a deep breath and again shouted, “Faramir! Where are you? This is not amusing and you’d best show yourself right now, lad!”
Pippin listened, concentrating on the stillness of the afternoon air. The warm summer sun filtered through sections of the dense undergrowth and the cooing of a dove nearby soothed his heart. He knew that before he took many more steps the forest would begin to darken as the growth thickened. The trickling of the stream seemed suddenly much louder than it should, despite the tranquility. Abruptly he wondered just why he’d thought a visit to the old farm to see his sister Pearl and her family had been a good one?
“So many memories…” Pippin whispered, moving a little faster. The longer his son was out of his sight, the more anxious he became. As he walked, continuing to call out for his son, his thoughts trailed back to another summer’s day so much like this one, when he had caused his parents such dreadful worry for not one, but two whole days when he had gone missing. It had been an exciting adventure for him, but time and maturity had taught him just how much his parents had gone through during his escapade.
“Well, you’re not about to have a jaunt like the one I had! I shall find you, my little imp, and quickly. That’s simply all there is to it,” Pippin promised himself as he trotted down the path even quicker now. He couldn’t help shivering at the thought of having to go back and tell Diamond the same thing his father had told his mother on that long-ago day.
“No, we shan’t have need to gather the farmhands and the neighbors, nor the shirriffs and all the relatives in the Tooklands,” he muttered, realising his feelings of annoyance were merely a façade to mask his mounting apprehension when Faramir failed to answer him yet again. Where was that rascal?
The stillness was no longer as pleasant. Pippin’s attention was drawn up into the trees as he walked beside the aged Oaks, Ashes, and Thorns that grew so abundantly here. A memory occurred to him and he placed his hand on the trunk of the nearest Oak; a huge tree, it’s twisted, gnarled limbs told the story of a long, eventful life. Pippin thought it must be hundreds of years old. After a short time, the life within it seemed to well up and envelop him in a welcoming embrace.
“Where is my son?” Pippin closed his eyes and allowed his mind to open. The question was simple and undemanding, and filled with the belief he would be guided in his search. Pippin recalled what his father had told him many years later about the strange spirit inhabiting the ancient Oak that had guided him, and his other mysterious experiences in the woods that night. He knew that his father had never told the whole story to another, not even Pippin’s mother. Now as his concern grew, he called upon the same spirit and wondered what would happen.
After several minutes had passed a sweet melody, barely perceptible, sang in his mind and a feeling of comfort fell upon him. He smiled and continued along his way, following the path with renewed certainty. Pippin called out to his son again as he travelled deeper into the woods. The farther he went the more the memories captivated him. He wasn’t afraid for Faramir any longer, although he remained anxious to find him.
He hadn’t walked this path in many a year. What had drawn him here today while taking a walk with his own wee one? Was there a reason behind his being here once more? How wonderful to retain the memories of that long ago experience.
Ever since he’d encountered his forbearer, Eolande, while in Rivendell, he’d not only recalled what happened, but was also able to embrace every sweet memory of the time he’d spent in the Otherworld, cherishing them all. In fact, they were even more precious now because what had happened was part of a special bond he’d shared with his father.
But, what of Rhoswen and Alfie? Pippin pondered as he walked. If he had seen either of them since that time, he did not recall. Pippin remembered how Rhoswen had assured him they would meet again some day. Now he wondered if that would ever happen? It had been so long. Pippin wandered further into the woods, alternately fretting over his son, and feeling tranquil and free from worry.
Pippin sneezed, awaking with a start and looking around wildly. He scrubbed at his nose and shifted his weight, his back stiff from slumping against the towering Ash where he had apparently decided to have a nap. A nap? He hadn’t yet located his son and he was having a nap?
“What is going on--?”
A giggle from behind the tree made him blow out a sharp breath and roll his eyes in relief. He didn’t know whether he should scold his son or hug him until the lad couldn’t breath, and then scold him. Pippin reached behind the trunk of the tree and caught the laughing child by the arm, hauling him into his lap. Faramir extended his hand and tickled his father’s nose with the yellow primrose he held. Pippin sneezed again.
“Hullo, Da!” The impish grin almost made Pippin think he was gazing into a mirror. “How come you’re sneezing? Don’t you like my primrose?”
“I like it fine, but I like seeing you even better!” Pippin pulled his son to his chest in a mighty squeeze and they both laughed.
Finally, Pippin held Faramir at arm’s length, looking him up and down, his expression now serious. “Wherever have you been? Oh! do you have any idea the worry you’ve caused me? Are you all right?”
Faramir bobbed his head and pointed. Pippin swiveled his head to look behind them. He saw only a fading glimpse of a filmy pale gown. The air carried the sound of a merry laugh and then they were alone again.
Pippin shook his head as he rose to his feet taking his son’s hand. “Come, lad. Supper’s no doubt on the stove, and your mum and Aunt Pearl and all your cousins will wonder what has happened to us.”
“Who is she, Da?
Pippin smiled slightly and squeezed his son’s hand. “A friend, lad. An old friend.”
*References to my story “If You Could See What I Hear”