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Memory...9 A Chance Meeting at Woody End

They ran toward the music of the elves with excitement in their hearts. Pippin was soon puffing, however. "Slow down, Fam! I'm not as young in the legs as I once was!" he called. Secretly, he just didn't want Faramir to get there first.

"Stating the obvious again, Pop!" Faramir slowed down to let his father catch up. "Your mind isn't as young as it once was, either!"

"Don't be cheeky, you sprout. You've a lot of growing to do before you're as sharp as I am!" The two settled down to a brisk walk in companionable silence. They drew deeper into the woods, walking on the soft path that wound its way through old growth trees that had seen eons of history pass beneath their boughs. They were tall, reaching to the sun and creating a thick canopy above them, but leaving a fairly open wood beneath. Younger trees and bushy growths struggled for a place between these gentle giants. The path followed the slant of a hill as the wood rose to a peak toward its centre. There, thought Pippin, we may find them.

They were puzzled by the fact that the singing which had drawn them in grew no louder. In fact, the woods now seemed more quiet, not less, and then the music faded altogether. Pippin stopped, indicating to Faramir to do the same. At first all he could hear was the quick beating of his heart and the rasp of his breathing, but as his breathing settled down, he noticed the rustling of the leaves by a light evening breeze, and the sudden notes of a late songbird. Apart from that, all was still. There was nothing that indicated any presence in the woods other than their own.

"Did we imagine it, Dad?" asked Faramir, disappointment in his voice. He had listened for so long to the stories told by his father, by Merry and Samwise Gamgee, that he had a clear idea in his mind of what the elves would look like and what they would say to him. "Hail, elf friend," they would say. "We have long desired to meet with you. You bear the name of Faramir of Gondor with honour!"

Pippin put his arm around his son's shoulder. "I don't think so," he answered. "Either they do not wish to be found, or else..."

"Or else we await your attendance at our feast," said a silvery voice from beside them. "Come, we await you in the woods above Woodhall." A tall elf with long dark hair held by a circlet of silver stood beside them, his arm out to indicate the path they must take between the trees. Saying no more, he turned and led the way, his feet making no sound as he walked

The bemused hobbits followed him as if they were in a dream. They walked at a comfortable pace and yet the woods seemed to slip by them swiftly and, although the trees were now younger and thicker, they found their path unobstructed. At length the silent elf led them out of the shadow of the trees and into an open space, a grassy circle among the trees, with the boughs intertwined overhead to form a canopy of green. On the grass sat many elves, talking and laughing gently together so that their voices reminded Pippin of sunlight dancing on water.

As they entered the greensward, a lady stood, wearing a soft shining gown of a colour Pippin could not describe later. "Not quite gold," he said to Faramir later, when they felt like talking, "nor yet blue. But something of both." She came toward them, smiling. "Well met, Peregrin Took," she said, "who wanders in the woods thinking of things past. And greetings, young Faramir," she said to a quailing Faramir, who had realized at once how far from the truth had been his imaginings and dearly hoped she did not know what he had been thinking.

Pippin bowed, nudging Faramir as he did to follow his lead. 'We are honoured, Fair Folk, that you visit our small woods, and meeting you thus is good fortune beyond our hope."

"Sweetly said," she laughed. "We see you have arrived in timely manner - our feast is now prepared. Come and partake, and then we shall speak, Elf friend." She led them to a table covered with a shot gold cloth and laden with sweet foods.

Set out before them was a feast the like of which Faramir had never seen, and Pippin far too seldom, he thought, in recent years. They filled their plates with sweet breads and exotic fruits and took them to sit in a quiet place on the grass. They ate ambrosia that afternoon, and drained a cup of pure sunlight as they watched the joyous faces of the Elves as they spoke in mellifluous tones in their own tongue.

When Pippin and Faramir had eaten and were sitting quietly watching, the elf who had led them and the lady who had greeted them came and sat by their sides. "How do you come to be in these woods?" asked Faramir, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Pippin hushed him but the lady smiled. "It is as your father suspects," she said to Faramir. "We are Exiles on our final journey to the Grey Havens and over the Great Sea. It is our time to go," she said to Pippin, seeing the sorrow in his face and forestalling his sympathy. "We have journeyed far, from Rivendell. Some of our company came even from the Woods of Lorien. Tomorrow we go from these woods."

She stood, as did her companion, and added to Faramir, " To greet your father, one of the Nine Companions, have we made ourselves known. Heed him well, son of Gondor!"

Faramir turned to Pippin, mouth open, and when he turned back, the greensward was empty and silent. They walked back through the wood and toward home silently, each filled with his own thoughts. "We did not even learn their names!" said Faramir suddenly, sadly. "We did not even learn their names."