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Scribblings  by Baylor

“What is it, Frodo?” Merry asked in puzzlement, stooping down to examine the dusting on the ground.

“It’s snow, Merry,” Frodo said. “Like rain, only colder.”

Merry stood back up and yanked off a mitten. “It’s not like rain, Frodo,” he said with six-year-old seriousness after several flakes had fallen onto his outstretched palm. “It’s like, it’s --” He screwed up his face in thought and stuck out his tongue.

“It’s like little bits of cloud that have been shaved off,” he announced after catching a flake on his tongue.

Frodo laughed in delight. “That it is,” he said.

***


“It’s snow, Marigold,” Daisy said. “It’s what falls from the sky when it’s too cold to rain.”

“Too cold to rain?” Marigold asked, poking around the door to examine the strange, white world.

“And too cold to go outside!” May said, tucking her feet underneath her legs in her chair.

Sam extended his hand. “Come on, Marigold, it won’t hurt you,” he encouraged, and started to step outside.

She took his hand, but whispered, “No, Sammie, no, we’ll ruin it, and it won’t be new.”

“Then we’ll just look,” Sam whispered back, so they stood in the doorway and marveled.

***


Frodo’s first winter at Bag End, a snowstorm trapped them inside for three days. Frodo carried much of the woodpile into the kitchen before it was buried beneath the snow, and Bilbo stoked the fire and dragged armchairs up to it.

Over tea and mushroom soup, Bilbo told Frodo of the exodus of the High Elves from Valinor over the Grinding Ice and thus to Middle-earth, and as the wind rattled the round windows of Bag End, Frodo saw fair faces touched by bitter cold, and immortal bodies struggling over a vast white landscape, their will set to their task.

***


Frodo stepped outside, and a snowball hit him upside the head.

“Frodo, it snowed!” Merry yelled, as if the snowball had not been enough of an announcement.

“So it did,” Frodo said. “We should wake Pippin -- I don’t think he’s ever seen snow before.”

“He won’t know what to think!” Merry said, thrilled. “We shall have to teach him everything. There’s snowhobbits, and sledging, and --”

A snowball caught Merry right in his mouth. “Snowballs,” Frodo finished.

From on top the hill, Pippin squealed, “It’s snow, isn’t it? I’ve discovered snow!”

“And all its uses,” Frodo called back.

A young, new nurse had once asked Briony if she did not wish she had children of her own. Briony had looked at the lass with something close to scorn and said, “Each one of them is my own.”
 
She has raised three generations of Tooks, from Paladin and Esmie, to Paladin’s four children, and now her little Faramir. She has had a hand in the upbringing of countless other children, from Pearl’s lot to Esmie’s lad to dozens of other children at the Smials.
 
Now that she is old and somewhat more placid, she thinks that perhaps she could have been kinder in her youth, but then again, she has never heard a complaint from a child over her part in his or her life. Perhaps children understood and loved her fierceness; perhaps they needed someone in their lives who would speak bluntly and truly to them.
 
She is not so fierce now, and she lavishes Faramir with all of the kindnesses stored up within her. Briony thinks this is for the best, for this child who may as well be without a mother most of the time. She knows she is his nurse chiefly in name, and that the lass overseeing Pervinca’s children (dreadful little things that they are) has charge of Faramir as well. But it is Briony who puts Faramir to bed at night, and dresses him for festivities. It is Briony he comes to when his body or his heart have been bumped and scraped and bruised. It is Briony who rocks him when he cries for his mother, and it is Briony he presents with toads and marbles and birds’ eggs and the other treasures of his young life.
 
Wish she had children of her own, indeed. She is loved (and feared) by more children than she can account for, and now, in the last years of her life, some greater power has given her this last little lad, who looks so like his father and has a heart as big as the Shire itself. No, Briony is much too sensible a hobbit to waste time over could-have-beens. Besides, what could have been better than this?

(Note: Briony is my original character, the childhood nurse of the Took children. She appears in a number of my stories.)

Beregond proudly placed the squalling babe into Pippin’s arms. The hobbit seemed surprised by the size of the infant, but soon had soothed the plaintive cries to whimpers.

“Are you going to call him Peregrin or Pippin?” Merry asked.

“Peregrin, I think,” Beregond said. “It’s a noble name.”

I’m going to call him Pippin,” Bergil asserted.

Pippin nodded in approval. “You should do that,” he said. “Then it will be his special name, just from you. And Peregrin is a noble name, isn’t it?”

Legolas peered into the child’s face. “It is indeed,” he said. “It will suit him well.”

***


“I did not think you would ever return,” Pearl said by way of explanation, and though she was laughing as she said the words, she was crying at the same time.

“Look at you!” Pippin cried, lifting up the crawling babe. “Look at how big you are!” The baby laughed and grabbed Pippin’s nose. His uncle jiggled and swung the baby until he squealed with delight and Pippin finally sat, babe upon his knee.

“That’s two for me, Merry!” he crowed. “But don’t worry, someone will name a baby after you. Someday. Eventually.”

Merry glowered, but little Pippin laughed again.

***


“Hah!” Merry said when Sam set the baby in his arms. “At last!”

“See, I told you someone would name a baby after you, if you were only patient,” Pippin said. “Maybe someday, you’ll even have two babies named for you. Though not everyone can hope for such riches.”

“Mr. Merry, don’t you mind him,” Sam began, but Merry cut him off.

“Not Mr. Merry, not ever again, Sam,” he said. “I tried to do away with that years ago; now you have named a son for me, I won’t have you calling me mister ever again.”

“Aye,” Sam sighed.

***


“Two!” Merry bellowed, and dropped the letter without continuing on. “Two!” he cried again proudly, rocking on his heels and stuffing his hands into his weskit pockets.

Pippin grabbed the letter. “A lass,” he said as he read. “Meridwyn, for you and Éowyn. That’s nice, Merry.” Then he kept reading, and his eyes grew wide. He began to laugh, and soon was bent over double.

“What?” said Merry crossly, and snatched the letter back. His eyes went wide and he groaned. “Oh, no.”

“Twins!” Pippin gasped. “A lad -- Peregond.” He fell over and kicked his feet against the floor. “ Three !”

***


“Four!” Pippin exclaimed as he accepted the baby.

“Four what?” Elanor asked.

“Four children named after me,” Pippin replied. “There is Peregrin, Beregond’s son, and my sister’s Pippin, and Faramir’s Peregond, and now your brother.”

“How many children are named after you?” Frodo-lad asked Merry.

“Just the two,” Merry muttered, Merry-lad on his knee.

“You can tell how important a hobbit is by how many children are named for him,” Pippin began, but Elanor interrupted with, “Mummie says not to believe everything you say, especially when you use that voice.”

“Mummie said that?” Pippin asked. “Well, Mummie is right again.”

***


“Well,” Esmeralda said, “what about a name, Merry?”

Merry cleared his throat. “I had thought to name him Saradoc,” he said, “but I’m sorry, Mum, I don’t think I can. To hear it all the time . . .”

The baby whimpered, and Esmie dropped her gaze from her son to her grandson. “That’s all right,” she soothed them both. “Let’s see, love, what do you look like?” She rocked and thought, then declared, “Periadoc!”

Merry let out a short laugh. “For me and Pip?” he said. “That is wonderful.”

“Aye,” she answered. “But that is five, and he will crow about it.”

***


“We will not name him Peregrin!” Goldilocks said.

“You love my father,” Faramir protested.

“And he’s got more lads named for him than is decent,” she came back. “His head doesn’t need any more swelling. Besides, I let you name the first one Boromir.”

“All right, then, you name him,” her husband said. Moments later, he placed the newborn in his grandfather’s arms.

“Named for you,” he said proudly.

“It suits him,” said grandfather number two, leaning over to look. “And it’s about time you had a namesake. Hullo, then, Samwise.”

Sam simply pressed his lips to the baby’s head.

(NOTES: Periadoc is not accounted for by the family trees, and Marigold and Llinos came up with the name. Marigold also named Faramir and Éowyn’s twins, Meridwyn and Peregond, for, respectively, Merry and Éowyn, and Pippin and Beregond. Tolkien did not provide us with the names of Faramir and Goldilocks’ children, but what could their oldest son be named but Boromir? And lucky for Sam, Goldilocks wouldn’t hear of naming the second one Peregrin.)

The Gamgees

Elanor
Frodo had known for many years that he would never be a father, and this had not grieved him greatly. He was content with spoiling young cousins who adored him, and Bag End did not lack for the sound of children’s voices.
 
It is a shock, then, this slicing combination of joy and envy and loss that is Elanor. Perhaps it is because he knows, already, that he will never see this baby become a lass. This is the last child he will buy outrageous gifts for (and thus he makes certain they are especially extravagant), the last child he will tell bedtime stories (though she is too young now to recall them later), and the last child who will contentedly snuggle into his chest and sigh, “Fro.”
 
He has saved the world for this beautiful child, he has given up all that he has for her, but never did he know how achingly bitter it would be to give her up as well.
 
Frodo
Frodo-lad has a round, kind Gamgee face, and strong Gamgee hands that were seemingly born buried in the soil, coaxing life out of it. So it is that Sam does not understand how he can sometimes see a shadow of the hobbit his son is named for in those plain features. It is something in Frodo-lad’s eyes, he thinks, that harkens to a greater understanding of the world around them, and a sadness for things that have passed.
 
Rose
Rose-lass has been in love with Pippin Took since infancy, when she would follow him about on unsteady legs, gazing up at him with glowing eyes. It was darling at that age, and adorable when she was a very small lass and shamelessly courted him with biscuits and glass beads and stories that began, “Mr. Pippin, did you know?” It was sweet, though a mite troubling, when she was a slightly older child and her worship became shy, composed of sighs and blushes and stolen gazes at the object of her affection. When she was a teen-ager, it manifested in her prettiest dresses and pinched cheeks and carefully arranged hair whenever the Thain came to visit, and Rose finally told her that this nonsense has to stop. Rose-lass was haughty and disregarding of her mother, and merely learned to hide her heart better, nurturing her love and dreams covertly. She scorned the lads her own age who sought out her company, and by the time she was a tween-ager, her parents feared she had made for herself a life of disappointment and loneliness.
 
It is to everyone’s enormous relief, then, when at Elanor’s wedding, Rose is caught with her dress mussed and her cheeks flushed behind the tool shed with Tripp Bolger, Fredegar and Maisy’s oldest son. He is as far from Pippin Took in manner and appearance that one can imagine, and in truth, Sam and Rose do not understand the attraction. Tripp is a kind lad, though (if not particularly hard-working or learned), and it is with great pleasure that Rose and Sam see the Thain dance with their second daughter on her wedding day.
 
Merry and Pippin
“We really should of known better than to name those lads Merry and Pippin,” Sam said to Rose after one particularly difficult day.

“Aye,” Rose agreed.
 
Goldilocks and Hamfast
When Hamfast cries, Goldilocks gets impatient and snaps at him, but Faramir always puts an arm about the younger lad and says, “Don’t cry, Hammie, Goldilocks and I will take care of you.” He then, naturally, proceeds to force Hamfast into doing whatever it was that frightened him into crying in the first place, and that more often than not leads to the three of them being sent to bed without supper once they are discovered.
 
Sam worries about Goldilocks’ sharp edges, but Rose tells him that they will round and blunt once the lass learns that she does not need them to be on equal footing with the lads. Rose worries that Hamfast will never get his legs up under him, that he will be this whimpering child for all his life, but Sam reassures her that Hamfast has too much good hobbit-sense born and bred into him for that, and that someday he will come into his own.
 
Daisy and Primrose
Daisy and Primrose are never far from each other, and their lives are filled with whispered secrets and promises and dreams. They are scornful of Goldilocks, whose dresses are eternally soiled and mussed and ripped, and whose bright curls (which her younger sisters silently envy) are often tangled and sprinkled with blades of grass and burrs and leaves. They agree early on that they simply must marry brothers, so that they can live together all their lives, and that while adventures may sound exciting when Dad tells about them in front of the warm fire in their cozy home, they are something to be avoided in real life.
 
When Daisy marries young and hastily and necessarily, she moves to Buckland with the lad (who, alas, has no brothers) and Primrose refuses to get out of bed for a week. Nothing Rose says will comfort her, and finally Sam takes the matter in hand and bullies her up. He drags her with him on a trip to Rivendell (much to Goldilocks’ ire), and when she hears elves singing for the first time, something deep inside her breast stirs and awakens.
 
“Who would have thought that Primrose was a poet?” Frodo-lad says, not unkindly, and Sam thinks of reciting silly verses about trolls on an October night outside of Rivendell.
 
Bilbo
Bilbo has imbibed none of the wanderlust or oddities of the hobbit he is named for. He has no use for poetry or history or dwarves or elves. He does not even care for flowers or trees. He does, however, love neatly plowed fields and growing crops and vegetables, and when he is 17 he wins a prize at the Fair for the biggest potatoes anyone has ever seen. It is hard to be disappointed in such a willingly obedient and good-natured (if somewhat dull) child, so Sam gives the lad the highest compliment he can think of: “The Gaffer would be so proud of you.”
 
Ruby
Ruby was such a happy, placid baby that no one gave much thought to that fact that she had not yet begun to speak. After all, with 10 older siblings overrunning Bag End, she would hardly have been heard over the din. It is not until one day when Rose-lass knocked over an entire stack of cooking-ware directly behind the toddler and she did not respond that Sam and Rose began to worry. They banged spoons onto pans beside their daughter, and yelled directly into her ear, but Ruby did not look up from her fascination with Daisy’s old doll.
 
They taught her to read and write, eventually, with much agony, and once she learned language, Ruby was a wealth of things to say. They could not begrudge her the paper, and over her lifetime, she wrote enough to rival the contents of the Red Book. But Sam always wondered what her voice would have sounded like, and wished she could know the sweet sound of her mother’s singing.
 
Robin
Robin loves all things that grow, and she is never happier than when she is working in a garden, in between her father and Frodo-lad. She knows every flower by name before she knows her letters, and when she is not allowed outside because of weather or health or party clothing, she is mournful and listless. Frodo-lad will sneak her in a handful of wildflowers at these times, rewarded by a glorious smile on his small sister’s chubby face and a thankful kiss on his cheek.

Tolman
“We’ve ended with an unlucky number, you know,” Sam said to Rose as he diapered little Tolman.
 
“If you want to end with 14, you’d best discover a way to carry the next one yourself,” Rose said without looking up from folding linens.
 
“I suppose you’ll just have to do then,” Sam said to Tolman. The baby smiled happily, and then peed down the front of Sam’s shirt. 

The Brandybucks

Periadoc and Éowyn
Merry and Estella had nearly despaired of ever having a child when Periadoc finally came. Before his first year was out, he was joined by Éowyn. When Merry held Periadoc over the cradle to see his sister for the first time, Periadoc leaned down and said in awe, “Oh, ba!”
 
They speak a secret language to one another in their many hiding places, forgotten closets and overlooked cupboards and hidden hollows in the riverbank. When he was 11 and playing with some other lads, Periadoc fell down a sharp overhang and broke his leg. The other lads could not find him and Periadoc lay unconscious for several hours. While all of Brandy Hall emptied to search for the child, Éowyn took her father by the hand and unerringly led him to the overhang and pointed down to her brother. Merry could see nothing below in the deepening twilight, but he trusted his children’s connection and carefully climbed down to discover his son. When Estella later asked Éowyn how she had known where Periadoc was, Éowyn simply said, “I always know where Periadoc is.”
 
Estel
It is Estel, the son of Merry and Estella’s later years, past when they thought any more children would be forthcoming, who came out looking like a small replica of Peregrin Took. It is not so surprising, really, with both Merry and Estella’s strong Took bloodlines, but it still startles Merry, to be walking toward the Hall and see this small bundle of energy and chestnut curls tearing toward him with his arms open, begging to be picked up and swung around. Some days, for just a moment, he is not sure where in time he is, and it is another hobbit-lad he sees rushing toward him, crying, “Merry! Merry!” instead of the “Da! Da!” that Estel greets him with. 

The Tooks

Faramir
By the time Faramir is seven, Diamond is spending more time with her relatives in the North Farthing than she is at the Smials. Pervinca had wrested management of the household affairs from her sister-in-law before Diamond had even learned her way about the burrow, and while she loves her husband, Diamond has discovered that love does not always overcome dissimilarity. She is a foreigner here in this place she should be mistress of, and she is young and misses her mother and sisters.
 
Faramir does not know all this, but he knows that as he grows older, he sees his mother less and less. It is not so bad: Briony kisses his small hurts and rocks him when he cannot sleep, and his father takes him everywhere with him, even as far as Bree. Faramir’s father is his best companion, and he openly adores him. They will have grand adventures together, Pippin assures his son, once Faramir is a little older. Faramir feels he will burst with the waiting to grow up, but when Pippin carries his sleeping son to bed, he cradles the small body close and wishes the sweet joy of this moment would never end.

(NOTE: Merry and Estella Brandybuck’s children are my characters and not accounted for in the family trees. As Merry’s generation is the last listed in that family tree, nothing in Tolkien’s work mandates that he not have children. The name of their oldest son, Periadoc, is taken from Llinos and Marigold’s Hobbits Abroad.)


Frodo ended every September 22 by toasting to the health of Bilbo Baggins, and if he had any doubts that the old hobbit was not still alive and rousing dragons and kings, he never gave indication of it. He learned to discern who the best of his young cousins were by how they embraced Bilbo’s birthday, if they found it an amusing lark or if they met that toast with hopeful eyes and confident smiles. For his part, every year when he set the glass down and ended the day, Frodo would think, “Maybe next year, Bilbo. Soon, I promise.”
 

***


Sam took Frodo’s word at everything. He had been filled with reverent love for Bilbo, which now spilled over to Frodo, and if Frodo said Bilbo had gone off with the elves and the dwarves for more adventures, then that was all there was to it. When he spoke of the old hobbit, it was with a note of wonder in his voice, and no derision of Bilbo’s name in the Green Dragon could sway his opinion. Sam had deep roots in the Shire, but sometimes the breeze stirred him and he wondered what it was like to wander free.
 

***


Merry was probably the only hobbit besides Frodo who really had some idea of where Bilbo had gone, and he truly believed that the old adventurer was out there on the Road, walking stick in hand, sniffing the night air and humming as he meandered along beneath the stars. As the years slipped by, Merry thought it more likely that they would find Bilbo living in comfortable retirement over the mountains than actively adventuring, but he never doubted that they would find him. Merry watched his cousin carefully, awaiting the day when they would set off after Bilbo at last.
 

***


Pippin had been so young when Bilbo left that he had never questioned Frodo’s explanation that Cousin Bilbo had left with the dwarves on a new adventure, but as the years went by, Frodo began to suspect that Pippin was just playing along for his sake. It was with a jolt of pleasure, then, when at a much later birthday party, Frodo overheard Pippin answer the standard question – “You don’t really think old Bilbo is still alive, do you?” – by spreading his arms out to the wide world, and saying confidently, “He is out there, somewhere, on the great adventure.”

Rivendell
Pippin was sucking his thumb in his sleep. Frodo had not seen his youngest cousin do this in at least a decade (and he had been too old for it then, as well), and it troubled him greatly. Merry had brushed it off, but then Merry was also not protesting Pippin sleeping in his room, with him in his bed, something Pippin had not sought out since childhood. Sam gave Frodo the most reassuring answer: that Pippin had been such a brave lad at Weathertop, and at the Fords, but he was still a lad nonetheless, and if sucking his thumb comforted him, well, it wasn’t hurting anything, now was it?
 
Hollin
Sam-Frodo-Pippin-Merry is how they always slept, though when Merry was on watch, Frodo would put Pippin between him and Sam. This annoyed Sam to no end (when would Mr. Frodo and Mr. Merry finally stop babying that lad?), but he knew better than to breathe a word of dissent to his master when it came to his youngest cousin. Pippin smirked at Sam on these nights as he nestled down in between the gardener and his master. Sam would scowl, and if his elbows and knees were a bit more forceful than they were when it was Frodo beside him, well, then, Master Pippin could just be quiet about it, or move.
 
Moria
It was so very cold beneath the mountain, and the rock floor was so very hard and unyielding. Exhaustion gave them sleep, but sleep gave them sore necks and bruised backs and chilled them to their marrow. Frodo and Pippin were so weary that they would fall asleep before they had even eaten, and Sam and Merry, nearly as tired themselves, would have to wake them for dinner. Each of them would later recall the long, dark march with a dreamlike, surreal quality, turning into a nightmare of flame and shadow in the end.
 
Lothlórien
Though still winter, it was not cold in Lothlórien, and their beds were comfortable. Still, the hobbits had immediately turned four neat little bedding arrangements into one large nest and ensconced themselves, lined up as tightly together as need for air would allow. Waking safety allowed nighttime horrors to come out and play, and Aragorn heard each of them wake from nightmares at one point or another. And once, only once, he spied Frodo silently crying, his body wracked with sobs as he buried his face in Pippin’s curls. Merry and Pippin slept on, but Sam stirred and tenderly wrapped his arms about his master without a word.
 
Wellinghall
“Where did you go?” Pippin demanded, looking like a small, disgruntled bird sitting up in Treebeard’s nest of fern and twig.

“I had to pee. Forgive me for not waking you for permission, cousin,” Merry groused back. He allowed Pippin to plaster himself to him and petted his cousin’s hair until Pippin dropped back to sleep.

Carted by orcs clear across Rohan, bound hand and foot most of the way, with Merry injured and unable to help for much of it, and Pippin as mature and filled with common sense as any Brandybuck the whole time. But now, safe and whole and together, and he was suddenly afraid to let Merry out of his sight for five minutes.

“Tween-agers,” Merry muttered, and went back to sleep.
 
Helm’s Deep
Merry’s muscles were actually twitching with exhaustion, but he lay awake for some time, curled onto his side, Gimli’s reassuring, solid presence at his back. He envied the dwarf’s ability to go almost immediately to sleep, under any circumstances. Merry hunched into himself a little more, and restrained his hands from groping out, from seeking what was not there. Finally, Legolas came and lay down on Merry’s other side.

“Merry,” the elf whispered, gently touching his curls. “Gandalf will not suffer a hair on Pippin’s head to be harmed. By anyone other than himself, that is.”

“I know,” Merry whispered back, and finally slept.
 
Minas Tirith
Pippin dreamed that he and Merry had been caught by Bilbo in the beer kegs at Bag End (it had been Frodo who caught them in reality, and Pippin still in his teens) and as punishment, they had to hide very quietly under a tree root at the side of the road. He twisted himself in his sheets and shuddered as he felt something evil approach, his hands suddenly trembling and burning with the memory of smooth glass. He cried out and jerked back as large hands scooped him up, but then Gandalf patted his back reassuringly.

“Enough of that,” the wizard said firmly. “You are keeping me awake with your unrest. If you are going to dream about beer kegs, try remembering that birthday of Frodo’s when poor Fredegar got trapped behind them.”

“All right,” Pippin agreed, and when he slept again, his dreams were merry.
 
The Houses of Healing
Merry could not sleep here, and lay awake in dark agony, alone. His mind would careen along in wide circles, ever narrowing, until it was pared down to three words, over and over: PippinFrodoSam, PippinFrodoSam, PippinFrodoSam. He did not protest when the healers began pressing sleeping draughts upon him, for then at least he had a brief respite. The draughts left him dreamless and unaware, though in the mornings he was sluggish and could not order his mind properly until midday.

Of all the horrors that year entailed, he would remember this as the blackest hour, this lonely, endless waiting from which there was no escape, during which his worst fears seemed close enough to grasp.
 
Minas Tirith
Frodo was sound asleep when a familiar body snuggled up against him. He reached out an arm and nestled it around slim shoulders, remembering when this knight of Gondor had been small enough to sleep curled up on Frodo’s chest.

“All right, dearest?” he asked with a yawn.

“Yes,” Pippin whispered. “I just needed to be sure of you.”
 
Rivendell
This time, it was Merry who suddenly found he could not sleep even a room away from Pippin. It was too far, after a year spent within arm’s reach of one another, and he would startle awake with the horrific thought that he was still in the Houses of Healing, waiting for the final blow to fall. In the daylight, Merry felt tall and strong and gloriously happy to be alive, but sometimes in the dark, half-awake, it was difficult to discern the shadows of nightfall from the ones of memory. Pippin did not object when his cousin appeared in his bed night after night, but after Merry had managed to fall asleep, Pip’s face would crinkle in worry.
 
The Great Smials
Pippin was too big for his old bed, he realized with distress. He loved this bed, and since childhood, it had been an inviting, familiar constant in his life. But now he sprawled all over it, and banged his feet and his knuckles on the footboard and headboard. And just when, he asked himself, did he begin sprawling in his sleep? He had always been a burrower, snuggling in a mound in the center of the bed.

“Child, you have not been so fussy since your ill-tempered infancy,” Briony told him one night when he had actually rolled himself out of bed in his vain attempts to find comfort.

“I think I have forgotten how to sleep by myself in a real bed,” he confided.

“Then go outside and sleep in the fields!” was the tart reply. “But don’t expect me to keep you company.”
 
Brandy Hall
Saradoc listened to his son pace the floor of his room night after night, and would have given up anything to return to the days when Merry’s nights were easy and welcome. He finally tired of Merry’s incessant dodging of his questions, and went to Frodo.

“We are changed,” Frodo had said, “all of us, and it is difficult to fit back into the old ways. It does not mean, cousin, that he is not happy to be home, for I know he is.”

Crickhollow was the solution (“Oh, I am so grateful I need not resort to the fields!” was Pippin’s bewildering response to Saradoc’s recommendation), where Merry could check on Pippin at will, and where he was not so pressed upon by countless relations but near enough to the Hall to assist his father. A new way, perhaps, but home nonetheless, and by spring, Merry was thriving so that it swept Saradoc away with joy.
 
Crickhollow
Pippin cracked open an eye and scowled when Merry leaned over his bed. “ Must you hover so?” he demanded.

“You should not sleep so lightly and then my hovering would not bother you,” Merry retorted.

“I am a knight of Gondor,” was the haughty reply. “My senses are alert at all times.”

“They were not so alert earlier tonight when you nearly tumbled down off the porch at the inn,” Merry reminded him. Pippin yawned indifferently.

“Well, we are both awake now,” he said. “Let’s make hotcakes.”

“It’s four in the morning,” Merry said, but he wasn’t really objecting.

Watching Pippin lick golden syrup off his fingers soon after, warm and sleepy again from the hotcakes, it occurred to Merry that this moment was what it had all been for, and he was content.

Merry’s first word was “eat,” not uncommon among hobbits, and his second and third were “Mum” and “Da.” His fourth word, though, was “Fro,” and he used it lavishly once he had learned it. “Fro!” he would crow in delight when Frodo came into the room. “Fro?” he would say hopefully to Esmie when he tired of his toys. “Fro!” he would demand sternly when he felt they had been apart for too long. “Fro,” he would sigh in sleepy contentment as he rested his head on his cousin’s shoulder. Frodo had never known his name could mean so much.

***


“It’s just odd,” Gilda said to her daughter-in-law. “Lads his age aren’t interested in babies.”
 
Esmie sipped at her tea. “Merry adores him,” she said. “And Frodo is a great help to me.”
 
“If you would get a nurse, you would not need Frodo’s help,” Gilda answered.
 
Esmie set down her cup. “Mother Gilda,” she said, “Frodo has nothing in this world to love with all his heart, as his very own. I’ll not begrudge him his friendship with my son, not for anything.”
 
Gilda sniffed, but there was no reasoning with Esmeralda when she had her mind made up.

***


They had been waiting and waiting for Merry to walk, and while he would pull himself up beside chairs and grin proudly at them, he would not let go and take those first steps. Enticed by favorite toys and treats, he would drop back to his hands and knees and crawl quickly toward the prize. It took Frodo returning from a fortnight’s absence to watch the roopie tournament at the Midsummer Fair for Merry to start toddling, and then it was all the way across the room in one confident go, arms open wide, with a delighted cry of, “Fro!”
 

***


Frodo knew that Merry was too young to understand the stories, but the baby was always so seriously attentive that it seemed, sometimes, that he understood every word. He even would smile or giggle in delight at the right moments, sensing from Frodo’s voice that they had reached an amusing plot point. He gave little squeals when Frodo’s voice would rise with excitement, and when Frodo would drop his voice into a serious, intent whisper during riveting or scary passages, Merry would stare at his face in rapture, mouth hanging open and eyes wide, waiting to discover what happened next.

Bilbo gave Frodo the best bedroom at Bag End when the lad came to stay. It was not so large as the master bedroom, though like the master room, it looked into the garden. But this room was turned just so, and best captured the morning sun. The walls were brighter in here, and it was cozier, more welcoming than the grander master bedroom. It had been Bilbo’s room when he was a lad, and now he outfitted it with new drapes and blankets to go with the new books and toys and oddments that went with the new lad.

***


Merry lay claim to his own little room at Bag End, directly across the hall from Frodo’s room. He left clothing in the drawers, and hid treasures in the chest, and possessively called it “his” room from the first night he stayed there. It was one of the smaller bedrooms, without a window, but cheery enough, with the bright red quilt with a blue star that Bilbo had bought just with Merry in mind, and an armchair to match. Before long, no one would remember that it had ever been anything but Merry’s room, and that suited Merry just fine.

***


Pippin, though, always wanted to sleep with Frodo at Bag End, and was prone to creating dramatic scenes if denied. At Brandy Hall, he would sleep with Merry and only Merry, but at Bag End he wanted to sleep with Frodo and only Frodo, irregardless if Merry was also staying at the Hill. Pippin loved Frodo’s cheery room, loved that it had been Bilbo’s room, knew it was the best bedroom in the burrow, and would have nothing less. Frodo, shamefully indulgent of Pippin, did not refuse his little cousin, but merely slid over to make room in the bed.

***


It took Frodo six years to move into the master bedroom. Sam had begun to think the luxurious room would stand empty for the rest of Mr. Frodo’s days, when one morning he went to wake Mr. Frodo and he was not there. Sam found him tucked in Mr. Bilbo’s bed; furthermore, he discovered that overnight Mr. Frodo had moved his clothing and personal effects into the master bedroom. Neither of them said a word about it, and when Mr. Frodo asked Sam to fix up Pippin’s bedroom, Sam prepared the old room for the lad, and that was that.

***


Sam took the room next to Mr. Merry’s when they came back home; it was the room he had used whenever he had stayed at Bag End in the past. It was cozy, but small, with no window. The week before Sam’s wedding, Frodo, pouring his tea at the breakfast table, said, “Sam, why don't you and Rose take my old bedroom? It wouldn't do to move your bride into anything but the best room." It was on the tip of Sam’s tongue to refuse, but then he stopped himself – his Rose did deserve the best, and she would have it.

***


“Merry,” Pippin hissed, “Frodo has given Sam and Rose my room!”

“He’s made you up a nice, new room, Pip,” said Merry, who had foreseen this reaction.

“But it’s not my room!” Pippin whined.

“It’s got your quilt and your favorite chair all ready for you in it,” Merry said. “And Sam and Rose certainly deserve the best room, don’t you think?”

The tips of Pippin’s ears flushed, and he skulked off to the kitchen to console himself with ale and gingerbread. But the next day, he brought in a bouquet of Rose’s favorite blossoms to adorn her new bower.

***


They let Frodo’s room stand empty for several years, but children began piling up in the nursery, until Ellie stamped her foot and said, “Why do I have to sleep with all these babies?”

“Let’s change it all around,” Rose said that night, “and then it will be like new.” She sewed up drapes and blankets, moved in books and toys and little dresses, and then it was Ellie and Rose-lass’ room. Sam didn’t think he would be able to sleep in the master bedroom, that first night, but Rose softly stroked his hair, and he dreamed of Bagshot Row.

***


Ellie and Rose-lass reigned from the best room for many years, until they had married and moved to the West and East Marches, respectively. Goldilocks inherited it, by claim of seniority, taking Roo along with her, to the chagrin of the other lasses, confined still to the old nursery. Goldilocks really only wanted the room for the handy window, which she commonly used as an escape route for unsanctioned adventuring. She found a second use the night Faramir Took stood in the garden and leaned in the window of his father’s old room to kiss her for the first time.

***


Frodo-lad ended up with Merry’s old room, and refused a new quilt or chair. He liked the bright red cover with the blue star, and he liked that it had been Mr. Merry’s. He was the only Gamgee child with his own room, but he was generous about sharing his cozy haven, and many a younger sibling found refuge in the old red armchair, while Frodo sat at his little desk and listened to all their childhood woes. Sam watched, and would think of another Frodo, welcoming a host of miscreant younger cousins, and sheltering them with his kind heart.

Spring
Frodo thinks that Sam is Spring itself. He watches as Sam coaxes life from the earth, as he wakes flowers and trees and vegetables and nurtures them into bloom and leaf and growth. Living things answer his call and come rushing back to life. Sam smells like good, clean soil, and new grass, and soft rain. Scars and damage are soon washed away in the renewal of Spring, healed and turned into something beautiful and growing. Sam is the dogged persistence of life, surging forward against all barriers. Sam is the promise of all that is to come.
 
Summer
Sam thinks that Merry is Summer personified, he has grown so gloriously shining and confident and joyous. His presence is warm and glowing and heartening, and when he passes through a room, hobbits (especially the lasses) turn and lean in toward him, as if to soak up his heat and light. Merry is giving and unhurried and celebratory, and if he has dark nights filled with violent storms, they do not show in the morning. They call Merry the Magnificent, now, and he shines down on the Shire in basking rays.
 
Autumn
Merry thinks that Pippin is the very essence of Autumn. He even smells like it, all year round -- crackling leaves and apples and harvest and bonfires. He is a bracing, twirling gust of wind that comes crashing through the front door of Crickhollow and blasts straight back to the kitchen, leaving objects quivering in his wake. Pippin is all vibrant and varied colors, bristling in the wind. He is the call to adventure, to walking-trips and roopie games and cantering ponies. Pippin is the harvest of abundance, and his very presence satisfies those surrounding him.
 
Winter
Pippin thinks that Frodo is Winter. Sometimes he is the Winter of warm and cozy rooms with a heartening fire and a good cup of tea. Other times, he is the Winter of softly falling snow, making familiar landscapes achingly beautiful and strange and ethereal. And yet other times, he is the Winter of frozen waters and biting winds and black, black nights that seem to never end. The chill of Winter has seeped into Frodo’s very bones, and even in the glory of Midsummer’s Day, Pippin can see the frost clinging to him. Pippin is afraid that the only thing that can thaw Winter are the warm currents of the Sea.

Breakfast
Morning calls too urgently to wait for breakfast. It is better to shove crumpets and muffins into pockets and sausage into your mouth and bolt out of the smial and across the fields with Pippin at your heels. Breakfast is better in the air of the new day, augmented by berries you pick on the path. They stain your fingers and Pippin’s face and you think their sweet taste must be the flavor of summer itself.  The grass is damp with dew and the muffin crumbs onto your shirt and all the world was made just for you, just for this day.
 
Second Breakfast
Second breakfast is good for listening to adults, and sitting across from your mum and watching her face as she talks to Aunt Hilda. It is good for eggs and bacon and toast and watered-down tea that makes you feel grown-up. It is unhurried and warm and heartening after the bustle and buzz of breaking the day has worn off. You mind your manners and sit up straight and ignore Berilac when he nudges your leg under the table with his foot. Your mum smiles at you in approval, and then winks in conspiracy as she slips you the last sticky bun.
 
Elevenses
For some bemusing reason, elevenses are Pippin’s favorite meal. You think perhaps he just likes the word. Or maybe because elevenses most often are taken in the kitchen, and sometimes standing up. There is no need for plates or silverware when one can nab a little of this and a dab of that, tucking it quickly into your cheek before dropping the next culinary treat into your pocket. Elevenses are quick and varied and casual and you are back to the business of the day in no time. Pippin licks his fingers and smiles up at you and says, “What shall we do now, Merry?”
 
Luncheon
The masses of lads and lasses who reside at Brandy Hall take luncheon in the Children’s Hall, running alongside the main kitchen and out of hearing range of the adults in the dining hall. This is just as well, as it is a riotous affair that commonly involves overturned plates, spilt drinks, a weeping child or two, and sometimes a tussle. There is a great deal of commerce, ribbons traded for glass beads and slingshots for tops and biscuits for tarts. Luncheon is less about food and more about secrets and pacts and afternoon plans, and that suits everyone just fine.
 
Tea
The finest tea is served at Bag End. The tea and pastries themselves are of no higher quality than those served at Brandy Hall, but the event is so splendidly special that it has its own flavor. You eat at the kitchen table and Cousin Bilbo pours from the kettle himself. You are allowed to sit right beside him, across from Frodo, who is in charge of supervising Pippin, and while you eat he speaks to you just as he would a grown-up. He listens seriously to everything you say and when you look across the table Frodo is smiling at you while Pippin sticks his fingers into the jam.
 
Supper
Sometimes, the future Master takes supper in the dining hall, but more often, he takes it in his apartments with his wife and son. This is the best way to have supper, just the three of you about the small round table in front of the fire. Da’s voice is low and rumbling and Mum’s is warm and murmuring and it doesn’t matter, really, what is said when it is enough just to hear them. You do not know, yet, that there is anything grander in the world than this, and you have not learned, yet, that this is in fact the best thing of all.
 
Midnight snack
It is Frodo who has taught you that sweets taste best when they are burgled, and then eaten together in some secret place, heads close together, giggles stifled and manners abandoned. You are careful not to wake Pippin when Frodo gently shakes your shoulder, and the two of you sneak silently to the kitchens as only young hobbits bent on mischief can sneak. You think it is the splendor of Ruby’s cake that makes these excursions such a delight, but someday you will know that this sweet joy is the taste of friendship.

One year Sam planted a whole field of strawberries, and when they were so ripe and red and beautiful that one's hand would reach for them with its own will, the children ate until their hands and mouths were sticky with sweet juices, and their bellies round, and they flopped on the grass, unable to eat another bite.

“You’d think they’d get tired of the taste and want something else,” Rose said.

“I shall never tire of the taste of strawberries,” Hamfast said from Sam’s lap. “Will you, Dad?”

“Never,” Sam said, and happily accepted the berry Hamfast offered up.  

1443
Elladan presented Ruby with a candied fruit to reward her cooperation. It went immediately into her mouth, and she squirmed off the elf’s lap. Once free, she wandered onto the porch.

“Is there anything can be done?” Sam asked.

Elladan shook his head. “I am sorry,” he said. “It is beyond my skill.” He looked toward the porch, where Frodo-lad was showing Ruby some flowering bushes. “You should teach her to read. She is a bright child.”

“We’ve tried,” Sam said. “She doesn’t understand that the letters mean anything.”

“She will come to understand in her own time,” Elladan advised.

1461
In the Hall of Fire, songs and poetry took on taste and texture and scent, and wrapped themselves around Primrose until she felt she had actually stepped into the words. They flowed into her veins and thrummed under her skin until her whole body quivered with them.

Her own attempts at poetry seemed poor and paltry, and she wept over their inadequacy. But then her dad rescued them from her hands before she could toss them in the fire, and when he cried over them, his tears were ones of pride. Smoothing out the parchment, Primrose went back to work.

1445
Celeborn knew that Samwise had named his oldest daughter Elanor , but he did not see the child until several years after he came to Rivendell . More elven than hobbit, she caused him to wonder if the soil the Last Ringbearer had scattered to the wind had touched even the children born that year. As small and perfect as the flower she was named for, Elanor stirred in Celeborn a deep longing for the Golden Wood. Yet she was a balm as well, for if the goodness of that land was within her, then he knew it would be carried on.

1442
Faramir grieved so deeply when Briony died that Pippin feared for his health, and finally planned a trip to Rivendell to spark the lad back to life. Pervinca scolded that he was too young, but Rose not only approved, she sent Goldilocks and Hamfast along for good measure.

There was not a nook or cranny of The Last Homely House that the three children didn’t explore. They heard new tales, and met strange travelers, and saw distant horizons. Faramir blinked and took it all in, seeing the world beyond the Shire, and falling in love with the wideness of it.

1451
“I have become convinced there is some dark power inherent in the names themselves,” Elladan said as he yanked another burr out of his hair.

Elrohir moved the ice-pack from his eye to peer at his twin. “I am quite certain there is nothing fundamentally evil about the names of two hobbit-lads,” he said dryly. “They are merely . . . enthusiastic. And undisciplined.”

Elladan muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “catastrophic,” and then cut off a braid rather than attempt to salvage it. “Anyway,” Elrohir added, “they may yet grow out of it.”

From somewhere, the sound of shattering glass drifted in.

1455
Elrohir looked down at the newest child to visit Rivendell and raised an eyebrow. Merry laughed. “Scary, isn’t it? Both Estella and I have strong Took bloodlines, so I don’t know why we were so surprised. He looks to be more Pippin’s child than mine.”

The elf bent to look the lad in the eyes. “Hello, Estel ,” he said. “You were named for my foster-brother, you know.”

Estel , not a shy bone in his body, nodded. “He is the High King,” he answered. “It means hope .”

“It does indeed,” Elrohir said gravely. “It suits you well, child of the Shire.”

1448
Frodo-lad had come to Elrohir and asked, and the elf did not feel he could refuse. He handed the hilt of the broken blade carefully to the young hobbit. Frodo handled it reverently, and studied it intently.

“The cry of the Witch-King broke it,” Frodo murmured, and Elrohir laid a gentle hand on Frodo’s shoulder.

“Yet even then he did not yield,” the elf said quietly.

At length, Frodo passed the hilt back. “Our people do not know what he did,” he said sadly, “not really. They do not understand.”

You know,” Elrohir answered. “You understand, and will not forget.”

Sometimes it feels a burden, living a life worthy of this name, but you know it is a gift. Grass is softer beneath your feet (no sharp stones of a fiery mountain), air is sweeter in your lungs (no choking smoke and ash), daylight is brighter to your eyes (no Darkness unending). Home is a gift you open anew each day with joy, and you think perhaps that is enough, a worthy tribute. You name your daughter Primula, and as you tend your family with glad diligence, you hope someday he will know that you have used well the days.

Sam had never been in a bath so luxurious as the one at Rivendell. He was reluctant to sink back into it, to submerge himself to his chin, to relax completely in that cocoon of warmth.

It weren’t proper, Samwise Gamgee in a bath fit for a king. Certainly not with his master so ill. Why, a place to wash up was all he had asked for, not all these fancy soaps and those thick, soft towels.

Still, there was something mighty wonderful about elves, and that extended to their baths, Sam decided as he finally sank into the water.

***


“How deep is it?” Pippin asked.

“You need not fear,” the Lothlórien bath attendant assured, “though it is deep past the edges, more than twice the height of an elf. But it --”

He did not have the chance to finish as Pippin tore past them all in a running start and happily plunged feet-first into the hot spring. His curly head surfaced a moment later.

“Come on,” he urged. “It’s splendid!”

Frodo and Merry opened their mouths to scold, but before they could, a lean body streaked by them and Legolas followed the shrieking, delighted tweenager into the pool.

***


In Quickbeam’s house, Merry dangled his feet in the spring, and let the bubbling water wash away the dirt and grime, the filth and vileness. He peeled off his clothes and scrubbed them against a rock and laid them out to dry, and then scrubbed his hair and body as best he could.

“Here, little hobbit,” Quickbeam said, and then poured water from a pitcher over him. Merry had braced for the cold shock, but the ent had done something to the water, and it was warm and cleansing, and it purged him of the last traces of orc captivity.

***


Frodo sank into the steaming water and let himself drift. Here in Minas Tirith, he was pampered as never before in his life, not even in the luxury of Rivendell, and he bathed nearly every day. In Mordor, he could not recall water, even as his body screamed its need for moisture. Water was a thing forgotten, along with the rest of the world.

But now, he was surrounded by water, immersed in water, comforted by water. And some days, when the wind came from the south, Frodo imagined he smelt the salt tang of the greatest water of all.

For Writerj, who gave me the first lines.

Merry appeared, begrimed and disheveled.

"Everything's under control," he insisted.

From behind him, there was the sound of breaking glass. A wisp of smoke trailed out of the door and into the corridor.

"There's no cause for alarm," Merry said, holding soot-covered hands out in reassurance.

A horrible squealing noise erupted from the kitchen, followed by Pippin's frantic, "Merry! The pig!"

"Just stay calm and let me handle this," Merry hastily said, and disappeared back into the kitchen.

In the corridor, Frodo covered his face with his hands.

"Sir," Sam said with a pained look on his face, "it hurts me to say this, but they're just horrible lads."

"I know, Sam," Frodo muttered.

In the kitchen, Pippin gave a high-pitched squeal remarkedly similar to the pig's. It was followed by a bang and a thud.

"We're all right!" Merry called. "No need to come in here. Nothing happening here!"

For Pippin’s Wolf, who put the idea in my head.

"Really, Merry, it doesn't look that bad," Pippin said in a reassuring voice. "I don't think anyone will even notice."

"Not even notice?" Merry answered, his voice rising to a scratchy peak. "How could they not notice?"

"Hush, Merry, and hold still," Frodo said, not quite able to keep the amusement out of his voice. "You should be glad that the worst damage here is going to be to your vanity."

Sam, carefully rubbing salve onto the now-furless top of Merry's left foot, muttered something that sounded suspicously like, "Not that his vanity couldn't use some trimming."

"What's that, Sam?" Merry said sharply. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were pleased by all this."

"Mr. Merry, you know I'd never want to see you hurt," Sam said stoutly, and then dug his fingers firmly into Merry's foot. Merry gave a little squeak and his leg, held aloft in Frodo's hands, twitched. "There now, hold still," Sam added. "It's for your own good."

"Pippin," Merry said, gritting his teeth, "no more roasting nuts for you. Ever."

"I'm sorry, Mer," Pippin said mournfully. "It was hot. It just flew out of my hands -- I couldn't help it!"

"It was hot because it was on fire, dearest," Frodo said. "Which you might have noticed if you had not been blinded by your greed."

"I was hungry," Pippin said woefully, and blinked back tears of remorse.

"It's all right, Pip," Merry soothed. "My foot fur will grow back. And it would seem my vanity could use some trimming."

"If you think so, Mr. Merry," Sam said, not bothering to hide his grin.

"Frodo, why don't you have proper servants?" Merry asked.

"Because they wouldn't allow the likes of you in the smial, Merry-lad," Frodo said without hesitation, and Merry could not help but laugh with him.

I take a moment for quiet thought, a moment for reflection, a moment for grief, here in this small lane, away from the frightened, grieving crowds and the flash of armor far across the plain. In another moment, I will rise and take my tasks back up, but for this moment, I will sit and breathe and remember two small brothers in Gondorian finery, playing with wooden swords in a green courtyard.

The near-silent patter of hobbit feet recalls me too soon, and without looking I know that Peregrin hovers uncertainly, fretfully, near my elbow. He now wears one of those very same small suits of Gondorian finery, though his sword is not made of wood. No, it is all too real.

I sigh and stir slightly, so Peregrin takes it as invitation, and presses himself quickly up against me, his face buried in my shoulder and his arms encircling my neck. I reach out automatically to pat his back in reassurance. He is lonely, and frightened, I know, here in this cold, strange city of stone without his cousins. He is so very young.

“Gandalf,” he says in that sweet, piping voice that echoes to me of many old friends, “is there still a fool’s hope?”

Surprise at the question makes me laugh, and now I look down at large green eyes that know no guile. “Yes,” I say, “there are some brave fools who would hold out hope, even now.”

He smiles, chubby face glowing with delight at having made me laugh. “I do not mind being a fool,” he says softly, and now I cannot laugh at the sincerity of those words.

“You have had much practice,” I answer, and then rest my head atop his curly one. “As have I. No, Pippin, I do not mind being a fool either.”

Then taking his small hand, I lead us back to our duties, small and large.





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