A Leap in the Dark by Lbilover

Originally written in 2005 for Marigold's Talechallenge 19. A gap filler based around this scene from FOTR, Book II, Chapter 4, A Journey in the Dark: There were fissures and chasms in the walls and floor, and every now and then a crack would open right before their feet. The widest was more than seven feet across, and it was long before Pippin could summon enough courage to leap over the dreadful gap.

“Here’s your food, Mr. Pippin; you eat up now.” Sam handed Pippin a battered tin plate with the meagre cold supper that was all they could hope for while travelling through the Mines of Moria.

Pippin took the plate with a trembling hand; he felt shaky and sick. Just a short distance away was the dreadful chasm that the Company was going to have to surmount in order to continue their journey through the Mines. Strider estimated the distance across it to be more than seven feet. Seven feet! And they had no rope, a fact that Sam kept bemoaning. That meant that they would have to jump across the chasm. Easy enough, maybe, for the tall Men and for Legolas, even for Gimli, but for the hobbits…

Pippin wished that Gandalf had not called a brief halt for rest and food, not until after they’d crossed that gaping black hole. It left too much time to think. The chasm loomed larger and larger in Pippin’s mind, until it was wider than the Brandywine River.

Frodo and Merry were seated on either side of Pippin, and he was very glad of the comfort of their bodies pressed warmly against him. Pippin had never imagined anything like the vastness of the Mines. The looming darkness of Moria was worse by far than the dense fog on the Barrow-downs, and he felt certain that horrors far greater than any barrow-wight lurked in the deep shadows and deeper caverns.

As Pippin choked down his frugal meal of cured meat, rather stale bread and dried fruit, he glanced ever and anon at the steady glow of light emanating from the tip of Gandalf’s staff that the wizard had set securely among some rocks. He could see the eyes of Merry, Frodo and Sam, who had settled into his usual place at Frodo’s side, directed toward the light, too. Were they imagining, as he was, what it would be like to be lost in the Mines without Gandalf as their guide, to be stumbling blindly through the blackness with outstretched hands… to fall into a bottomless chasm…

“Pippin, are you all right?” Frodo said in a low voice. “You’re trembling.”

"I'm fine, Frodo,” Pippin lied stoutly, trying to still his shaking. He must stop thinking about the darkness, that was all; or about the chasm and the noise of churning water rising from it; or about how it would feel to fling himself across that terrifying distance...

Frodo and Merry exchanged looks. Merry’s arm went around Pippin’s shoulders. Frodo took one of Pippin’s cold damp hands in a comforting grip.

“It’ll be all right, Mr. Pippin. You’ll see,” said Sam. “Here.” He fished in his pocket for a moment, then held out a small round object. “Take this. It’s my lucky penny.”

“But Sam,” Pippin protested, “I can’t take that. Won’t you need it?”

Sam leaned across Frodo and pressed the coin into Pippin’s free hand. “Nay, I’ve my four leaf clover, and my hare’s foot, too. I’ll do.”

Frodo chuckled. The sound, as commonplace as if they were sitting in the snug parlour in Bag End swapping jokes and drinking brandy after a hearty meal, did more to steady Pippin’s nerves than any number of consoling words could have.

“Sam, I ought to have known you’d come prepared for every emergency,” Frodo said with gentle humour.

“Not every one, Mr. Frodo,” Sam began unhappily, but Frodo interrupted him.

“I don’t want to hear another word about rope, Sam,” he scolded, “or the lack thereof. ‘Talking won’t pay toll’ as your gaffer would say. We’ll manage without it.”

Sam subsided, but he didn’t look happy. Pippin’s heart sank further as he leaned into Merry and clutched Sam’s lucky penny in his sweaty fist. But could they manage without rope?

Just when Pippin thought he couldn’t bear to sit in dreadful anticipation for one moment more, Gandalf spoke.

“Time to move on, I think,” the wizard said, standing and stretching his limbs with a series of cracking and popping sounds. He picked up his staff and made a subtle hand motion over the crystal set in the top. The light grew immediately brighter, chasing a few more shadows back into the dark corners of the Mines.

The rest of the Company followed Gandalf’s lead, stowing their belongings and hefting their packs onto their shoulders. As Pippin drew the straps of his pack over his cloak, he felt a hand briefly touch his shoulder. It was Strider. “It’s not as far as you think, Pippin,” he said quietly, his dour features briefly lightened by a smile. “Remember that.”

Were they all aware of how terrified he was? Numbly, he followed behind the Ranger, joining the others near the lip of the chasm. Gandalf held his staff out over the edge and looked down. How could he bear it? There was nothing in Middle-earth that could ever tempt Pippin to lean out over that fathomless depth.

Finally Gandalf stepped back. He looked thoughtfully at the assembled Company. “We’ll go in this order,” he said, “myself, Gimli, Boromir, Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Legolas, and last of all Aragorn.”

The words had hardly left his mouth when the old wizard was gathering himself and springing lightly over the crack, as if, Pippin thought in amazement, it was of as little matter as some small puddle left by a rainstorm on the Bywater Road. Gandalf went immediately to stand by the edge on the other side and held out his staff as far as he might in order to light the way for the rest of the Company. “Now Gimli,” he said in a soft but carrying voice.

The Dwarf backed up a short distance to get a good start, and then he ran, pumping his arms while his heavy boots pounded on the rock. With a muted roar he leapt, his chain mail jingling, and he soared across the chasm to land solidly on the other side. “Nothing to it, young hobbits,” Gimli said, huffing a little, but he looked straight at Pippin as he spoke.

Boromir went next. The tall Man made light work of the jump, as was to be expected. Next it was Frodo’s turn. Pippin wished he could close his eyes, for he was deathly afraid that his cousin would fall short in his attempt, but then he looked at Sam. Sam’s eyes were filled with anxiety for his master; his hands were clenched in fists by his side; and he was biting his lip so hard that Pippin thought it must draw blood. But Sam uttered not one word, and he never removed his gaze from Frodo. Well, decided Pippin, if Sam could stand it, so could he.

Frodo, with a quick reassuring smile at Sam, pushed his cloak back to free his arms, and then, his face set, started to run as fast as he could. Pippin hadn’t even realised he’d been holding his breath until Frodo had launched himself into the air and landed safely on the far side, and then he expelled it on a relieved sigh. Frodo had made it with a foot to spare.

Hardly had Frodo touched ground when Sam was taking his turn, determined that he would not be parted from his master for even a short space of time. Pots and pans clanging on his back, he raced forward and jumped. Moments later he, too, was on the other side of the chasm, and hugging Frodo as tightly as if they’d been separated for months, not mere seconds.

Pippin became suddenly aware that the eyes of the Company were upon him, and his mouth went dry. The brief feeling of euphoria at seeing his cousin and Sam safely across vanished in a moment, and the sick feeling rushed back.

“It’s your turn now, Pippin,” said Gandalf in a brisk no-nonsense voice.

Never had any five words sounded so ominous.

“Pip.” It was Merry, and he took Pippin by the shoulders. “You can do it,” he said, his eyes boring into Pippin’s as if he could convince him of the fact by sheer force of will. “You know you can. Frodo and Sam made it without any problem, and if they did, so can you. You’re the quickest of the four of us. Just don’t think about it, Pippin, just put your head down and run. All right?” He gave Pippin a little shake and let him go.

“All right, Merry,” Pippin said, but his voice, which he meant to sound brave and determined, sounded small and afraid as he made his way to the spot where Frodo and Sam had started, some twenty feet back from the edge.

IcandoitIcandoitIcandoit, he repeated over and over as he turned to face the pure white light that showed all too clearly the distance he had to clear. He closed his eyes briefly, swallowed hard and started to run. He pumped his arms like Gimli, the penny still clutched in one fist, and ran faster and faster toward the rapidly approaching gap… he was almost there…

“I can’t!” he gasped, sliding to a halt just a foot from the edge. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I’ll fall in, I know it.” He backed abruptly away, the sound of the water churning in the depths below seeming to mock him for his lack of courage as he did so. On the other side, Frodo and Sam were exchanging looks, but Gandalf’s eyes, bright in the flickering light, were fixed on Pippin, their expression unreadable.

“It’s all right, Pippin,” Strider said calmly. “Take all the time you need.”

But Pippin, turning shame-faced from the edge, knew that time was something they didn’t have. Every moment they spent in Moria was fraught with danger. They wouldn’t- couldn’t- wait for him forever. What if he never got up the courage? Would they leave him behind, alone in the dark?

“Stop it, Pip, stop it right now. We won’t leave you behind. You’re being ridiculous.” It was Merry, and he sounded angry. Pippin hadn’t realised he’d spoken the words aloud.

“I’m sorry,” he said yet again, sinking down onto a rock and burying his head in his hands. “Don’t be angry, Merry.”

“I’m not, you foolish Took,” Merry replied, kneeling down at his side. “I could never be angry with you. Frodo would never forgive me.” Pippin summoned a wan smile. Dear Merry, trying his best to cheer Pippin up, when he looked nearly as sick as Pippin felt. “You give it a minute,” Merry went on, “and try again. I’ve got faith in you, Pip. We all do. You’ll do it this time.”

“Aye.” “That’s right, Mr. Pippin.” “You can do it, Pippin.” “We’re with you, laddie.” Bracing words from the other members of the Company wrapped around Pippin, and he tried to take heart from them.

“Imagine there is someone on the other side, Pippin.” It was Boromir, standing beside Gandalf, who spoke, his haughty voice unusually gentle. “Someone injured or ill, perhaps, and in need of your aid. Would you let this small distance prevent you from reaching him? Surely not.”

Someone injured or ill… Pippin thought for a moment. Merry. What if it was Merry, prone on the cold stone of the Mines, bleeding from a knife wound, or perhaps an Orc arrow? Yes, an Orc arrow. He could see the feathered shaft protruding from Merry’s shoulder, the slow trickle of blood. His dear grey eyes were closed and his face was ghostly pale. He was whispering Pippin’s name faintly, desperately, “Pippin…”

I’m coming, Merry! Pippin jumped to his feet and bolted. He could do it this time, he was certain. He had to reach-

“Go Pippin!” It was Merry’s voice, coming from behind him, and the image of wounded Merry faded. Reality intruded. Fear returned.

Pippin stopped.

There was a collective sigh from the Company.

And then Frodo began to sing. It was a song Pippin recognized at once, a lullaby from his childhood, one that had never failed to comfort and soothe him. One with which he’d been rocked to sleep too many times to count. One that Frodo himself had sung to his baby cousin many years ago, as he leaned over his cradle and gently rocked it with one hand.

“My baby's boat's a silver moon shining in the sky…” began Frodo, his voice nearly swallowed up by the vast space, ” sailing on a sea of sleep as the clouds roll by.

Before he’d reached the end of the first line, two of the Company had joined him: Sam and Merry, who knew the lullaby as well as he did.

“Sail, baby, sail out upon the sea, ” they chorused, their voices gaining in strength as they sang, “only don't forget to sail back again to me…

Tears pricked at Pippin’s eyes as he listened to the well-loved voices, and his heart filled with love and determination. Without a second thought, he whirled and began to run. And as he did, a fourth voice rose up to join with those of the three hobbits, a clear, high voice, one that was meant to sing of far loftier matters: for it was the voice of Legolas.

“My baby's fishing for a dream, fishing near and far, ” Legolas sang, “your line a silver moonbeam is, your bait's a silver star.

Afterward, Pippin felt certain that it was his shock over hearing Legolas singing the simple Shire lullaby that finally allowed him to overcome his fear. His mind was so occupied with wondering how the Elf could know the tune, that he had flung himself forward and was sailing, sailing, sailing out over the chasm before he even realised he’d left the ground.

“Sail, baby, sail out upon the sea, ” the singers’ voices seemed to carry Pippin with them, “only don't forget to sail back again to me.

Pippin landed lightly on the other side, a good two feet beyond where Frodo and Sam had. Elation filled him. He had done it! But he barely had time to take in the truth when Gimli, Frodo and Sam were upon him, laughing and hugging him and slapping him on the back.

“Well done, Pippin,” said Boromir, his grave face split into a wide grin.

“Indeed,” Gandalf agreed, a twinkle in his eyes. “Very well done, my lad.”

While this small celebration was taking place, the remaining three members of the Company crossed the chasm, and Pippin only discovered that Merry had successfully jumped across when he was swept into a familiar embrace. “Oh, Pip, I do believe you’ve set a record for the running broad jump that no one in the Shire will ever surpass,” Merry exclaimed, laughing. “And you were so worried. I thought you’d grown wings and taken flight!”

Pippin grinned, then a sudden stab of pain caught his attention and he opened the cramped fingers of his hand with some difficulty. Sam’s lucky penny was now stuck to his palm, and when Pippin pulled it away, the imprint of the design was plain to see on the skin of his palm. He shook his head ruefully, and put the penny in his pocket.

“Let us be on our way, now that young Master Peregrin has shown us how well hobbits can fly,” Gandalf said. “We have many miles yet to go.”

“But not until Legolas has solved a mystery for us, Gandalf,” said Frodo. He turned to the Elf, who was regarding Pippin with a faint smile upon his face. “Bilbo never told me that the Elves share our simple Shire songs.”

Legolas’s expression turned grave. “Bilbo did not tell you that for the very reason that we do not share them, Frodo. That song I learned from the creature Gollum.”

A stillness fell over the Company at the mention of that name, and the mood grew solemn.

“G-gollum?” Frodo repeated, and Pippin could hear the apprehension in his cousin’s voice at the answer, an answer that he was certain none of them had expected. Except, perhaps, for Gandalf: he only leaned on his staff and looked thoughtfully at Legolas.

“Yes, Gollum. Do you recall at the Council, Frodo, when I told you that while we had Gollum in our keeping, he liked to climb to the top of a high tree, and would spend many hours sitting there?”

Frodo nodded, but said nothing.

“This song he would sing to himself, over and over,” Legolas said. “Many wearisome hours did we sit at the base of the tree and listen to it. I doubt that there is an Elf in Mirkwood that does not know that song by heart.” He sighed.

“This is yet more confirmation of what I told you many months ago in the Shire, Frodo, loath though you were to believe me,” Gandalf said. ”Gollum may well indeed share a kinship with hobbits.”

Pippin was too astonished to speak, but Sam and Merry exclaimed aloud at the very idea. Frodo only said, “Yes, I fear you are right.” His face was troubled in the wavering light, and he cast a look behind him into the dark shadows beyond the chasm, as if afraid of what he might see. But he was silent as he fell into step behind Gandalf, who led them away from the chasm, and deeper into the heart of Moria.

Before hurrying after Merry, Pippin glanced uneasily over his shoulder, and wondered what it was that Frodo had thought might be there.

***Had Pippin (or indeed any of the Company) lingered behind, he might have heard the faint sound of feet slapping on stone as a small figure cautiously approached the edge of the chasm, muttering quietly under its breath. “Afraid they were, Precious, yes, afraid. Silly hobbitses. They don’t know it’s safe in the dark, safe from the nasty Yellow Face. We hates it, oh yes, we does Precious.” Then he stopped, and a strange, almost sad look passed over his withered features. “But they know the song, Precious. We heard them singing it, didn’t we Precious?” He shivered, then began to sing, softly under his breath, “ “My baby's boat's a silver moon shining in the sky,” as he leaped nimbly over the gap and continued his furtive pursuit of his Precious.