This was it, this was the end of the line, and we had finally made it. Why was he hesitating?
“Frodo?” He turned, and our eyes locked. Something was wrong, very wrong.
“I’m here,” he said, but the way he said it triggered a sensor in my head that said, ‘not for long’. He turned back to the precipice dangling over the river of fire.
“What are you waiting for, throw it into the fire!” Sam shouted. I inched forward; Frodo was looking at the ring rather hard, as if fighting with it for control of his mind. Despite the heat bouncing off the walls, I shivered. How could somebody make something so malicious, so controlling? But somebody did, and it was taking Frodo from me. If Frodo couldn’t fight the ring any longer, I would fight it for him. He turned around, and I could see in his eyes when he looked at me, the ring had all but won. He really was trying, if only just for my sake, but he was weakening, that much I knew, and losing fast. I had to do something, say something, but when I opened my mouth to say something, nothing came out. What could I say that would banish all thought of the ring aside? What could I do? This was Frodo’s burden, Frodo’s battle, nothing Sam or I did before ever deter him from his duty. He would see it done, even if it cost him his life, an option I knew was playing through his head, an option I refused to consider. Frodo glanced at Sam then, and I knew I had to do something quick.
“What are you waiting for?” muttered Sam; the poor fellow was finally catching on to what I had figured out. A creepy smile curled on Frodo’s lips, frightening me, and no doubt Sam.
“The ring is mine,” he stated, pulling the ring off the chain. I watched in horror as the piece got closer to his finger.
“No!” screamed Sam and I in unison, but I acted. I don’t why or how I even did it without knocking both Frodo and myself into the lava, but I ran up to him, and kissed him. He gasped when I released him, but I didn’t stop to think about it and kissed him again.
“You are not going to lose to this thing, do you hear me? You are not going to lose. If you must, look at me as you let go.”
“Pearl . . .”
I could feel the tears streaming down my face, “You are not going to lose; we’ll defeat this thing, together.” The next thing I knew, a pair of hands had wrapped around my throat and began to squeeze.
“No! Smeagol! Let her go!”
“Not until Master gives us Precious!” With a cry, Frodo disappeared and the hands around my throat came off of me. I fell to the ground, choking, my vision became blurry. I could hear Frodo and Gollum struggling, but my body refused to move. I could barely even open my eyes; my mouth was busy getting air for my lungs. Suddenly, I heard Frodo cry out in pain, and my heart just about stopped. I tried to see what had happened, but my vision was only just starting to clear up, so I had to settle to listening. I could hear Frodo still gasping in pain and Gollum cheering, he apparently got the ring. I was able to see a little bit better at that moment and I gasped with horror at what I saw. Gollum bit off Frodo’s finger!
“Frodo!” I gasped as I reached for him, but he had already risen and was walking towards Gollum. “No, don’t!” But Frodo didn’t hear me and began to fight again with Gollum. My vision began to get blurry again, and I had to fight to keep from falling asleep right then and there. I could still hear the battle, but my mind wasn’t thinking straight. “No, please, stop! Sam, h-help!” I tried to rise, but I couldn’t get my legs to work. I felt a pair of arms steady me and helped me into a sitting position.
“Stay here Miss Pearl, I’ll help him!” I could sense more than see Sam moving towards the battle. I paused; I couldn’t hear a struggle anymore. “Give me your hand!” I cried out in fear and worry. “Don’t let go. Reach!” I finally get up on my legs, only to be met by two pairs of arms.
“Let’s go Pearl.” I nodded, overjoyed that Frodo was back in our midst. With him between us, we ran out as fast as we could, the lava not far behind us. We made it to a rock ledge, the lava surrounding us not long afterwards. “It’s over. It’s done.”
“Yes, Mr. Frodo, it’s done.” Frodo smiled, and tears sprang to my eyes, we got him back, just like I told him we would. The ground shook beneath us, causing us to go higher on the ledge. Frodo lied down and closed his eyes, remembering the Shire while I tore off a piece of my skirt to tend to his finger.
“Rosie Cotton with ribbons in her hair,” muttered Sam. Frodo opened his eyes and glanced at me before turning his eyes on Sam. “If there was ever a girl I was to marry, it would have been her.” Frodo slowly sat up and put his arms around his weeping friend.
“I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee, here, at the end of all things.” He turned to me and wrapped his other arm around me. “And I’m glad you’re here too, Pearl Took, though I also wish you were far away from here.” I could only smile at him for the next thing I remember was that I had blacked out. I don’t know how long I had slept nor what happened during that time, but when I finally came to, I was in a lovely room and lying in a soft bed. The air here was cooler, sweeter than that of Mordor. I could also hear the happy chirping of birds. The first thought that ran through my mind was, am I dead? As I tried to rise, I realized a hand was resting upon my own. I glanced down at the sleeping figure and, noticing his hand, knew I wasn’t dead at all. I placed my other hand over Frodo’s freshly-bandaged hand and placed a kiss on his curly head. He slowly stirred, but when he glanced up at me, his eyes grew wide. “Pearl!” He practically leaped into the bed and kissed me, first my lips and then my face. “Oh Pearl, Pearl, you’re alright!”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Of course I’m alright, you saved me!”
“But I thought I had lost you for good when you fainted there on Mount Doom. They, they weren’t sure if you were going to make it.”
I gaped at him, “I-I almost died?”
Frodo nodded, “Don’t scare me like that again, alright?”
“What? You, scared? What about when you put on that stupid ring, fought Gollum and, and fell off that cliff! I could have died there I was so scared! If, if Sam hadn’t been there, I. . . I . . .” Frodo pulled me into a hug.
“I’m sorry; I was just trying to protect you.”
“Can you be a little smarter about it next time?”
Frodo gave a soft chuckle, “I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.”
“Uh-huh.” He just pulled me into another kiss. My only wish was that the moment didn’t end.
“Hey!” The voice startled us, but I’d recognize that voice anywhere.
“Pippin!” My little brother stomped up to the bed, his arms crossed. I noticed that Merry and Sam were standing in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear like idiots. Frodo helped me off the bed to meet Pippin. My brother simply wrapped me up in a tight hug and sniffled.
“Mr. Pippin, be careful, she just got up!” came Sam’s voice.
“She’s fine, Sam, don’t worry. But we should let her get changed so we can go eat.” As if on cue, my stomach growled.
I could feel my face getting hot, “Something to eat sounds good right about now. And Frodo’s right, I should change.”
Pippin nodded as he wiped a tear from his eye, “Alright, we’ll be waiting in the hall.” I closed the door behind them and changed quickly. My new dress fitted me nicely, and I really liked the green and pink floral design. The lace on it meant it should have been worn as more of an evening dress, but since it was my only option, I had to wear it. I walked out of the room to join the guys and came across them talking. Well, Pippin, Merry, and Sam were chatting away about what they had seen and done, primarily oliphaunts, while Frodo’s mind was apparently somewhere else, somewhere dark, I feared.
“Well, here I am, let’s go eat,” I announced. The guys glanced at me, even Frodo, but his eyes didn’t seem to see me at first, until they widened and I saw some red rise in his cheeks.
“Great, let’s go, I’m starving!” blurted Merry before he took off down the hall, followed by Sam and Pippin. Frodo held out his arm to me.
“My lady?” I smiled at him and gave a little curtsy.
“With pleasure, sir,” I stated as I placed my hand on his arm. We walked in silence behind my brother and our friends, still chatting about oliphaunts and orcs and Nazgul. A shiver went down my spine at the mention of the last one and I’m afraid I gripped Frodo’s arm a little too tight, but if it hurt him, he didn’t say. I relaxed my grip on Frodo’s arm by just a bit; I could feel my legs start to weaken from hunger. I made it to the dining table without falling, and eagerly ate my fill. We talked at the table, and I learned that I had been out for a week, we were in Minas Tirith, the capitol of Gondor, Merry was made an Esquire to Rohan, Pippin was made a Guard of Gondor, and that Aragorn would be crowned king in less than a month. The next few weeks passed by in a blur almost, they were well spent in Pippin showing us around Minas Tirith and helping out wherever we could with rebuilding the great city. Before we knew it, the day of Aragorn’s coronation had arrived. The city was all decked out in ribbons and banners, everyone bustling around to finish preparing for the great event. It was an amazing day; Gandalf crowned Aragorn king and gave his blessing on the new king’s reign. King Aragorn greeted the people gathered with his queen, Arwen. King Eomer of Rohan, his sister Eowyn and her fiancé Faramir, Lord Elrond, Legolas, and a host of other men and elves had gathered. But the biggest surprise came when King Aragorn and Queen Arwen approached us. The five of us began to bow when King Aragorn stopped us.
“My friends, you bow to no one.” He knelt, followed by everyone else. My right hand flew to my heart while my left went to Frodo’s arm as I glanced at him. Tears had begun to fill my eyes; this was probably the greatest honor anyone could receive. But I was happy; Frodo was being recognized for what he had done for everyone. He turned to me, and pulled me close, so close that we almost kissed. The king rose then, followed by everyone else, so we didn’t kiss at that moment, though Frodo did give me a quick peck on the cheek. Finally, about two weeks later, we left Minas Tirith in the company of Gandalf and the elves. We visited Rivendell and Bilbo for about a week before heading towards the Shire. When I saw the green, rolling hills and the little taverns, my heart soared, we were home. We rode straight on through to Bag End, the four of us having silently agreed that we needed to get Frodo home promptly. Pippin, Merry, and I stayed the night at Bag End, thoroughly tired after our long journey and the scene Sam made by proposing to Rosie Cotton at the tavern that evening. Early the next morning, Merry and Pippin rode off for home, but I stayed behind to help clean up Bag End, and ended up having to take care of a sickly Frodo. A good thing that I was there for Sam was out talking with Rosie of wedding plans and might not have known of Frodo’s condition until he returned. As ill as Frodo was, he nearly made more of a mess whilst attempting to help me clean. I promptly sent him to bed when I noticed the dangerous splashing of the mop pail. When he got up some time later to check on me, I knew what was bothering him, the wound from the Morgul blade. I shivered slightly when I saw his hand clutch the area where he had been stabbed, but I got up and marched his pale form straight back to bed.
“Pearl, you shouldn’t be cleaning up my house all by yourself,” he muttered as I tucked him into bed. “And you shouldn’t have to take care of invalids all your life.”
I burst out laughing, “Frodo, Frodo, Frodo, you are so much easier to handle than Grandma Lalia, trust me. Now, lie down and get some rest, I can handle some dust.”
“So, you won’t be killing me any time soon?”
“What? Frodo Baggins, what utter nonsense! I didn’t kill old Lalia, and I certainly won’t kill you! I’d do anything for you!”
“Even cleaning my house?”
“And doing my laundry?”
“And becoming my wife?”
I glanced at him in surprise, “Wh-what?”
“Oh come now, Pearl, it’s a simple yes or no question, will you marry me?” My mouth opened and closed, I knew what my answer would be, and it would be the same answer I held in reserve for him and him only. But I had begun to despair that he would never ask, and now here he was, asking me the one question I had long desired to hear come from his mouth. Of course, I could only sit and stare at him like a stupid idiot. “Well? Don’t leave me in suspense!”
“Suspense! You try waiting seventeen years to marry the one you love, and then we can talk about suspense!”
Frodo sighed, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I should have asked you then, and now I’m worse off than I ever was. I’ll never be whole again. I’m sorry.”
“I know that, with everything you’ve been through, how could you come home unchanged?” I kissed the nine-fingered hand. “But even with all that, I still love you, Frodo Baggins. And my answer is yes, I will marry you.”
Frodo smiled, “Good, thank you.” I smiled in return and kissed him gently before rising to finish tackling a dusty house. But he didn’t let go of my hand. “Please stay, your presence comforts me.”
I knelt by his bed, “Of course.” I watched the worry and fear fall from his face as he succumbed to sleep. I waited a few minutes before returning to my work, checking on him periodically. Eventually, my thoughts turned to his statement about me taking care of invalids. Was it really what I wanted? I looked in on him again and thought of everything we had been through in the past thirteen months. Yes, I wanted this, I wanted him, and I’d do it all again, just for him. I gave him a quick kiss on the forehead before heading back to work, humming along as I went through each task. This was the beginning of a wonderful, new life, and I planned on taking on both the good and the bad. We had certainly earned it, now it was time to enjoy it.