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Twice Twenty  by Dreamflower

Title : Cloudwatching

Theme:  Set #1, Theme #1 “Under the Sky”

Genre (s): Fluff

Rating: G

Notes: Frodo is 26, Sam is 14, Merry 12 and Pippin 6 ( Ages 16 and a half, 8 and a half, 8 and 4 in Man years)

Summary: It’s a good way to spend a lazy afternoon…

CLOUDWATCHING

They were sprawled in the thick daisy-strewn grass on the Hill atop Bag End. Frodo had Merry’s head tucked into the crook of his left arm, and Sam on his right. Little Pippin lay with his head pillowed on Merry’s round tummy, and his furry little feet propped on Frodo’s knees.

They were engaged in that age old pastime of lads everywhere, finding pictures in the clouds. Frodo was watching a particularly large billowy cloud. “It’s a ship,” he said, “an Elven ship, sailing across the Sundering Sea.”

Sam squinted. “That one looks like an Oliphaunt there!”

There was a moment of silence, and then Merry said, “Well, it’s not an Oliphaunt anymore, now the wind’s blown the trunk away--looks more like one of Cousin Bilbo’s trolls now.”

“Nuh-uh.” Pippin’s piping voice was firm.

“ ‘Nuh-uh’, Pip?” asked Frodo, amused. “What is it then?”

“Cakes! A big pile of lovely white cakes!” And his tummy gave a rumble for emphasis.

Title: Playing at Stones
Theme: Set #1, Theme #2, “Stone”

Genre (s):Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 22, Sam is not quite 11, Merry has just turned 9, and Pippin is not quite yet a year old. ( Ages 14, 7, 6 and about 8 months in Man Years.) 

Summary: It’s Pippin’s very first visit ever to Bag End…

PLAYING AT STONES

When the pony-trap pulled up in front of Bag End that morning, Merry was down the path like a stone from a sling. “They’re here! They’re here!” he crowed, leaping through the gate to be first to greet the visitors. “Hullo, Aunt Tina and Uncle Paladin! Where’s my baby?”

Eglantine laughed, and lowered the little bundle in her arms for his inspection. “Hullo, Pippin. I’m glad you’re here. It’s good to see you again. Come and look, Sam--it’s my lad-cousin!”

Frodo and Sam had followed at a more leisurely pace. “Good day, Cousin Paladin and Cousin Tina. Hello, Pearl, Pimmie and Vinca.”

The lasses, who had looked highly indignant over being completely ignored by Merry, thawed a bit at Frodo’s greeting, especially as he handed them out of the trap like grown-ups.

Sam hung back a bit, slightly intimidated. These were Tooks, after all, but Frodo drew him forth and introduced him as Hamfast Gamgee’s son, and a good friend, which made him blush and stammer.

Merry had taken possession of the baby. “Come see him Sam! Isn’t he wonderful?”

Sam looked at the baby politely. He did not have Merry’s enthusiasm for it. Babies were nothing remarkable to him. “He’s very nice, Merry,” he said, just to have something to say.

“I should say he is! He’s my very own little lad-cousin, and I’m going to take care of him just like Frodo took care of me!”

Frodo grinned and ruffled Merry’s curls. “Well, not quite, sprout. After all, I lived with you when you were a baby. It’s a little bit different with wee Pippin here. You will only get to see him when he visits, or when you visit him.”

“Well, we shall just have to visit a lot, then,” said Merry with determination. He looked down at the baby filling his arms. “He’s gone and grown a good deal since Yule. See how much bigger he is, Frodo?”

Just then they heard a call from the front doorstep. “Well, bless my buttons!” exclaimed Bilbo, “don’t just stand about in the road. Come on up to the smial. It’s very nearly time for luncheon. Samwise, be a good lad and ask your father to see to the pony.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Bilbo!” Sam darted off to the south side of the smial, where the Gaffer was working in the vegetable beds.

______________________________________________________

After luncheon, Merry had to relinquish little Pippin to his mother to be fed. The lasses sat in the front room, with their mother as she nursed, Pimmie and Vinca playing at cat’s cradle, and Pearl reading a book. Frodo and Merry went to clean up the kitchen while Bilbo and Paladin had a smoke. Then the two lads went back outside. The Gaffer and Sam were just finishing up their own lunch of sandwiches and fruit.

Frodo looked at the Gaffer and caught his eye. “Gaffer?” he said.

Hamfast sighed, and glanced at his youngest son. Sammy was still too young to keep working by his side all the live-long day; even if he’d been so inclined, Mr. Bilbo would never have allowed it. Mr. Bilbo believed lads needed plenty of time to be lads, and the Gaffer couldn’t say as he disagreed. And the understanding was there, that when Master Merry visited, Sam would spend time playing with him. That, he thought, was the rub. He couldn’t say as he was comfortable with his lad playing about with the future heir to all Buckland. It weren’t really proper. But, as Mr. Bilbo pointed out, there wasn’t any gentlehobbits nearby with lads of that age. And they was still too young to have an understanding of why it weren’t proper. He jerked his chin at his son. “Go on wi’ ye now, Samwise, and mind you stay out of trouble.”

Sam grinned at his father, and the three lads ran around to the front of the smial.

Frodo plopped himself down on the front step. “Let’s play at ‘Stones’, shall we?”

The two younger lads agreed, and set about finding just the right pebbles to play with, sorting amongst the gravel in the front path. “You find mine for me, all right Merry?”

Merry agreed.

Frodo smiled. His little cousin would put far more diligence into finding nice stones for him than he would for his own. And Sam would help him.

Sure enough, in a few moments the two sandy heads were bent together, as they consulted which half-dozen of the little pebbles gathered were good enough to present to Frodo. Frodo watched with amused affection, as the springtime sun glinted golden off their curls. He felt, rather than heard, the door open behind him.

“They make a nice picture, don’t they, Frodo?”

“Yes, Cousin Tina,” he replied. He glanced back to where she stood, with little Pip cradled in her arms.

“I thought my own little lad might like a bit of sunshine.” She stepped onto a patch of grass to the right of the front step, and lay the baby’s blanket out. She plumped him down in the center, lying on his little tummy, and then went to sit on the bench by the door and took a bit of tatting from her pocket to work on.

Merry and Sam had finished their consultation over the pebbles, and turning, Merry caught sight of the baby. He went over immediately and knelt down next to the little one. “Hullo Pippin.”

Eglantine shook her head, smiling. “Let Pippin nap, Merry. He has a full tummy right now. You go on with your game.”  

Merry sighed. “Yes, Aunt Tina.” He went back to the step, and handed to Frodo the six lovely pebbles in his left hand.

“Those are splendid, Merry, thank you!”

In a few moments they began to get into the rhythm of play, as they tossed up the stones and caught them and Frodo tallied the score with a stick in the dirt by the step. Up would go the stones, and a small hand would flash out to catch--one, two, three, four, five, six--Merry was getting quite good at catching them all in his palm, but he was not quite ready yet to graduate to catching them on the back of his hand as Frodo could. He tried Sam’s trick of leaving one on the ground to pick up before he caught the falling ones. One, two, three--the last two he missed…

“Hsst,” said Frodo, “look.” He flicked his eyes to baby Pippin, who had awakened. His big green eyes were following the motions of the stones.

Merry laughed. “I think you are still too small to play, Pippin.” He tossed the stones up, one at a time. Pippin’s gaze went up, and then down with each one. Even Sam found this fascinating. The lads abandoned the game altogether, in favor of a new one, as they crouched over the baby and held up a stone, tossing it and moving it in front of his face. The green eyes followed every little motion, no matter how fast, with bright curiosity.

Eglantine chuckled with amusement.

Merry leaned in a bit closely, and little Pippin waved a hand in his direction, grabbing more or less by accident his cousin’s nose. Merry jerked back, sitting down hard on his bottom, and dropped one of the pebbles. More quickly than anyone would have thought possible, the baby picked it up in his fat little fist and started it towards his mouth.

Eglantine sat forward, alarmed, but Frodo was faster. “Oh, no you don’t, you little Took! That’s not for eating!” He retrieved it and gave it back to Merry.

“Did you see how fast he did that? He’s going to be a very good Stones player when he gets bigger!” exclaimed Merry proudly, even as he rubbed his smarting nose.

“I think you are right, Merry,” answered Frodo. “For a baby he has very nimble fingers!”

_________________________________________________

 

Title: What You’re Used To

Theme: Set #1, Theme #3 “Night”

Genre (s): General

Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Author’s Note: This is just on one of Merry’s and Pippin’s springtime visits to Bag End

Summary: A drabble

WHAT YOU’RE USED TO

In his bed, Sam tossed uncomfortably, drawing pillows and coverlets into his embrace. Though it had been a few years since his older brothers had gone away to their apprenticeships, Sam still sometimes felt the lonesomeness of being alone in bed. He glanced out his small window, that gazed up the Hill; Mr. Frodo and his cousins, being gentlehobbits, they probably was used to a bed all to themselves.

Frodo shifted a bit; it didn’t happen as often as it once did, but he had both Merry and Pippin snuggled up to him tonight. It was good to have cousins.

______________________________________________________

Title: A Sticky Situation

Theme: Set #1, Theme #4, “Hair”

Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: In this story, Frodo is 30, Sam is almost 18, Merry is 16, and Pippin is almost 8 ( Or 19, 12, 10, and 5 in Man years.)

Summary: Pippin’s got a little problem...

A STICKY SITUATION

“OOooww! Merr-ry!” Pippin’s howls drew Frodo’s attention from the accounts he was copying for Bilbo.

He stuck his head out the window. “Merry, what on earth are you doing to that lad?” For they were on the bench beneath the window, and apparently Merry seemed to be yanking on Pippin’s hair.

Merry looked up. “Look what he’s done to his hair, Frodo!”

Pippin stood up on top of the bench, and stuck his little head in the window. Right at the crown of his head, his hair was a stiffened dark mass, with twigs and bits of bark sticking out of it. Frodo put his hand out, and it came away sticky. “What is it?”

“He’s got tree sap in his hair! I was trying to get some of the sticks and bark out, so maybe I could comb it out.”

“I don’t think you’ll be able to, Merry!”

“But we’ve got to! Aunt Tina’s coming to pick him up this afternoon, and if she sees him like this, she’ll never let him visit by himself again!”

“I see your point. Well, we can’t wait for Uncle Bilbo to get back from shopping, for there won’t be enough time before she gets here.” He shook his head at Pippin. “However did you *do* that, Pippin?” he asked in bemusement.

“I don’t know,” the little one said sullenly. He really didn’t know what the fuss was all about. “Why don’t you just cut it off?” That was what Pearl had done last year when he got the toffees stuck in his foot hair.

“No!” shouted both his older cousins together. They could just imagine Eglantine Took’s reaction to that!

Pippin looked hurt. “It was just an idea. You don’t need to shout at me,” he said, sniffling.

“Don’t cry, Pip! I’m sorry!” said Merry contritely. “But you know your mother would hate it if we cut your hair!”

“I suppose.” Merry was probably right. His mother was always going on to folks about his “beautiful chestnut curls”.

“I’m coming out,” said Frodo, withdrawing his head from the window, and reappearing a few moments later at the door. He sighed. It was true that he enjoyed having his cousins visit at Bag End. But Merry never got into the kinds of predicaments that seemed second nature to Pippin. As much as he dearly loved the little lad, that Took had a talent for trouble.

Merry was once more trying to pick out the twigs stuck to his younger cousin’s head. Pippin squirmed and flinched, but did not yell again, now that he already had Frodo’s attention.

“Give over, Merry, it’s not going to work.”

“What’ll we do?” Merry was almost whining. He knew who would bear the blame, if Eglantine got a look at that.

Frodo put a finger to his pursed lips, and thought briefly. “Come on.”

“Where’re we going?” asked Pippin.

“The Gaffer will know how to get it out, I’m sure. Gardeners must get into sap all the time.” He took Pippin’s hand, and led them to the back of the smial, where they found the Gaffer and Sam mulching the newly planted vegetable beds.

Frodo presented the gardener with the problem. He suppressed a smile, and shook his head. “Aye, Mr. Frodo, I know what to do. Sammy, take them to the toolshed and get them some of that soap we use. Help ‘em get that off ‘n the lad.”

Sam did not even try to hide his grin. He had found Master Pippin’s visit this year highly amusing. Things were never boring with that one around. “Yes, sir.”

He led them to the toolshed, and went to one of the shelves, where he took down a jar filled with a dark gritty soft soap, almost black. It had a very strong smell. He also picked up a clean piece of rough sacking to use as a towel.

“We’ll have to be right careful not to get it in his eyes,” warned Sam.

They led Pippin over by the nearby well. Merry divested his little cousin of most of his clothes. “This is going to be cold, Pip, but you can’t squirm about. It will hurt your eyes if this gets in them.” Merry used his most serious tone of voice.

“Yes, Merry.” Pippin knew it was no good wheedling, so he would do as his Merry told him. He always minded Merry.

Frodo had him bend over, and they poured water over his head. Sam took a great, goopy handful of the strong-smelling soap, and worked it into a lather in his hands, and then began working it through Pippin’s hair.

Merry supported his little cousin as Sam rubbed thoroughly, and Frodo poured more water over to rinse, as Sam directed. It took three applications before Sam was satisfied that they had it all out, and the ground around their feet was a puddle. Frodo took the sacking and toweled the soggy little head, and then he and Merry helped Pippin back into his clothes before he could get too shivery cold.

“Thank you, Sam, and thank your father,” said Frodo. “I don’t know what we’d have done without you.”

Sam blushed. “It weren’t nothing, Mr. Frodo,” was his reply, though privately he thought his master was right. They’d have been in a pretty pickle without that soap. ‘Tweren’t *nothing* else Sam knew of that would get sap out.

They found another piece of sacking to dry their feet, and went back up to Bag End. “Let’s spend the rest of the afternoon indoors,” said Frodo cautiously. “Pippin’s clean and dry right now, and I think he needs to stay that way till his mother gets here.”

____________________________________________

Pippin leaped into his mother’s arms when the door was opened, and she hugged her baby close. She had missed him so. She buried her face in his curls, and then sniffed.

Huh. She would have to make a point of giving Bilbo some nice soaps for her birthday. Obviously the old bachelor used false economy, and bought what was cheapest and strongest.

_______________________________________________

Title: The Hard Things About Waiting

Theme: Waiting

Genre (s): General

Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Author’s Note: This is set across the growing up years of our lads…

Summary: Four drabbles

Frodo often thought waiting for spring to arrive was hard. When he had been a bit younger, waiting for spring meant waiting for Bilbo to come. His cousin would arrive in Buckland with the first of the really pretty weather, sometimes alone, sometimes with old Aunt Dora, and spend a few days before whisking him back to Bag End, to spend two or three glorious months reveling in privacy. But now he lived at Bag End, and spring meant waiting anxiously for the sound of Uncle Saradoc’s cart, bringing his Merry here to visit, and lift his heart from loneliness.

_______________________________________

The hard part of Yule, thought Merry, was waiting. Weeks spent finding the right gifts, smelling the wonderful scents coming from the kitchens: the cinnamon and ginger smells of cakes, the fruity smells of pies, the yeasty smells of bread, and the savory smells of meats. Of course there were the heady smells of the cut evergreens that were brought to fill Brandy Hall with a bit of winter cheerfulness. But none of that was as important as the news that Frodo had arrived from Bag End. Or that Pippin and his family were finally over the River from Whitwell.

________________________________________

 The waiting’s hard, thought Sam, every autumn. First there was The Birthday, when Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo would throw a lovely party. There was always food and drink and lots of gifts and sometimes even, if Mr. Gandalf was there, there would be fireworks, and there was music and dancing as well. And Mr. Bilbo always invited both the high folk and the low. But the next day, Mr. Frodo would pack up his traveling case and ride back to Buckland to stay with his kin. And every year, Sam waited, nearly breathless with the fear he’d not return.

_______________________________________________

Waiting’s no fun at all, thought Pippin every summer as his family would pack up and head to the Great Smials for the Lithedays. They would arrive before most anyone else did. Pippin would find himself poking about aimlessly through stuffy corridors, and trying to avoid the servants that seemed to be everywhere, and trying to stay out of mischief by himself. It was no good having that kind of fun without Merry. He would mope about and sigh, and tease his sisters, until they too, were anxious for Merry to come, and Frodo, and take him out from underfoot.
 

Title: Cousins and Caterpillars

Theme: Set #1, Theme #6, “Butterfly”

Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: In this story, Frodo is 31, Sam is almost 19, Merry is 17, and Pippin is almost 9 ( Or 20, 12 ½, 11, and 5 ½ in Man years.)

Summary: In which Pippin makes a discovery and Frodo tells the lads a story…

COUSINS AND CATERPILLARS

Frodo sat on the bench in the lower garden with an after luncheon pipe and a book, keeping half an eye on his cousins. Sam and Merry were have an earnest conversation about some of the herbs Sam had helped his Gaffer to transplant earlier in the day. Frodo was amused at the interest Merry seemed to have recently developed in herb-lore. Merry was at the age where he would develop sudden enthusiasms for different hobbies. At Yule it had been rock-collecting, but rocks seemed to have given way to herbs now. He cast his eye about for Pippin, and noticed his little rump sticking halfway out of the hedge at the foot of the garden.

“What are you doing, Pippin?” he called softly.

The little head and shoulders emerged, well-decorated with leaves and twigs. “I found something. Come see, Frodo!” He grinned enthusiastically, and Frodo shook his head, smiling ruefully. It could be anything from an unusual looking bug to an abandoned bird’s nest. He carefully closed the book, laying it and the pipe on the bench, and walked over to the hedge.

“Oh, my, Pippin!” he said, as he got a good look.

“What is it, Frodo? It’s moving?” He reached a chubby little finger forward, but Frodo pushed it back gently.

“Don’t touch it, Pip. It’s a cocoon, and it looks like it is ready to hatch!

Pippin turned wide green eyes in his oldest cousin’s direction. “What’s a ‘coo-coon’?”

“ ‘Co-coon’ “ Frodo pronounced carefully. “Butterflies come from cocoons.”

“Oohh! Like an egg!” Pippin nodded. He’d seen chicks and baby ducks hatch from eggs.

“Well, not quite” said Frodo.

Sam and Merry were now crouching by the hedge, wanting to see as well. The cocoon was splitting open, and they could see the beginnings of the insect’s emergence.

“I think it’s a Red Emperor!” said Merry. Last year his hobby had been butterflies.

Sam nodded. “I think you’re right, Mr. Merry.”

The four watched in fascination as the butterfly emerged, and gradually moved the wet wings, which soon began to unfold, dark, almost black, with a semi-circle of vivid red marked upon them.

“He’s beautiful!” whispered Pippin. He wanted so badly to touch, but Frodo would not let him. To distract himself, he looked at Frodo. “You said ‘not quite’. ‘Not quite’ like an egg?”

“No, Pippin, not quite. You see the butterfly starts out as a caterpillar--you’ve seen them--”

Pippin nodded. Fuzzy worms with lots of legs.

“The caterpillar spins himself a cocoon to sleep in, and when he wakes up, he has turned into a beautiful butterfly.”

Just then, the butterfly stretched forth its now dry wings, and launched itself into the air. They all watched, and Pippin laughed for the sheer joy of it.

They backed out of the hedge, and dusted themselves off. Pippin reached up to Frodo. He wanted to be picked up. Frodo carried him piggyback to the bench, and then sat down with Pippin in his lap; Sam and Merry sprawled on the ground by his feet. Pippin snuggled up, and looking at Frodo imploringly said, “Tell us a story, Frodo.”

Frodo gave his little Took cousin a squeeze, and closed his eyes briefly in thought.

“Once upon a time, there was a little green caterpillar. He liked to eat leaves and explore the bushes where he lived. But he was not very happy. He never saw any other caterpillars or insects who looked just like him.

The other bugs and insects teased him. The earthworm teased him because he was all plump and fuzzy, instead of long and sleek. The spider taunted him because he had even more legs than she did. The ladybug and the dragonfly teased him because he had no wings and could not fly. And nowhere did he see anyone who was just like him.

Where, he wondered, were his mother and father caterpillars? He had never seen them anywhere. This puzzled him, and made him very sad.

One day when he was eating some nettle leaves--his very most favorite thing to eat--he looked up and saw a beautiful creature, hovering in the air above. She had lovely dark wings marked with scarlet, and long delicate antennae. The little caterpillar shrank into himself, sure that she would taunt him, like all the other insects had.

‘What is the matter?’ she asked him, for she could tell he was distressed.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘you are so beautiful, and you can fly, and I am just an ugly little caterpillar, all fuzzy and green, with too many legs.’

The butterfly did laugh, but it was a kindly laugh. ‘Why goodness me!’ she said, ‘you are indeed a caterpillar, but you are not at all an ugly one. Why you are a fine figure of a caterpillar, just as fuzzy and green as you are supposed to be, and with just the right number of legs!’

Well, he was quite surprised to be spoken to so nicely, unaccustomed to it as he was, but he thought she was just trying to be kind. So he said to her ‘Thank you kindly.’ But he thought privately that he had never seen anything so lovely as that butterfly before.

They spoke a bit of the weather, and of leaves and nectar, and then the butterfly flew away, and the caterpillar felt happy that he had found a friend, but rather sad that she had needed to leave so soon.

A few days later, the caterpillar had a very strange feeling come over him. He felt as though something in him was trying to get out. He found a small branch in the bush where he lived, and to his own surprise, he began--he knew not how--to spin himself into a cocoon. When it was all finished he was very tired and sleepy in his dark wrapping, and soon was deep in slumber.

Many days passed, though he did not know it. The other insects passed by and saw his cocoon, and wondered at it, that he had shut himself away in the dark, during a nice springtime. But one day he awakened. He was very hungry, and did not at all like this dark he was in, so he struggled and struggled, until the cocoon split open, and out he came. But he felt so different! Where were his many legs? Where was the green fuzziness he was used to? And what were those strange wet things on his back. He tried to move them, and realized he had wings! He flapped them about a bit, until they had dried, and then joyfully launched himself into the air! Why, he had turned into as beautiful a butterfly as the one he had seen before!

He flew about a bit, and then--he saw her! She flew towards him.

‘Hello, my son!’ she said. ‘I see that you have grown up now!’

And so now he understood, and he was glad that he was all grown up, and no longer a little green caterpillar.”

Pippin sighed. “That was a nice story, Cousin Frodo.”

Frodo hugged him. “Thank you, Pippin!” He looked down at Sam and Merry, who had been listening just as raptly as the little one, and laughed. “Well, stories are all well and good, but who’s for elevenses?” And the four of them raced up to the kitchen door of Bag End, to see what Bilbo might have for them.

_______________________________________________________ 

Title: Running

Theme: Set #1, Theme #7, “Running”

Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Summary: A drabble

RUNNING

Frodo walks; Merry runs--tiny legs, pumping to keep up with his older cousin’s stride.

Frodo watches; Sam and Merry run--racing up the Hill, breathless and laughing.

Merry walks; Pippin runs--tiny legs, pumping to keep up with his older cousin’s stride.

Frodo, Sam and Merry watch; Pippin runs, racing up the Hill, breathless and laughing.

Running is for fun, to feel the wind in one’s face, to race with good friends, to escape the consequences of mischievous pranks, to arrive before anyone else when the food is ready.

One day, some day, running will be a thing to do for survival.

________________________________________________

Title: First Lessons

Theme: Set #1, Theme # 8 “Beginnings”

Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: In the first one, Frodo is 19, Merry 6 (12 ½ and 4 in Man years); in the second one, Frodo is 21, Sam 9 (13 ½ and 6 in Man years) and in the last one, Frodo is 26 and Pippin is 4 (15 and 3 in Man years)

Summary: Drabbles about learning…

FIRST LESSONS

The cove was still, shallow and sun-warmed, with a soft, sandy bottom. Frodo shed his clothes, and waded a few feet. Kneeling, he held out both hands. “Come on, sprout,” he said with an encouraging smile.

Merry looked at him, grey eyes wide, but trusting. “Is it cold?”

“Not so very, dear.”

The little one stepped into the water, his mouth making an “o” of surprise. “It feels nice!”

Slowly, he waded towards his cousin’s outstretched hands, reaching out to grasp his own, as the water reached his chest.

“Kick, Merry!”

Laughing the six-year-old grinned and sputtered. “I’m swimming, Frodo!”

_______________________________________________

Frodo glanced up from his book, amused. Sam was staring again. “Come over here, Sam, I’ll read to you.”

Sam flushed. “I don’t think my dad’d like that.”

“If I tell him it’s my idea, he won’t mind.”

Sam nodded, relieved. He plopped on the ground, brown eyes bright with anticipation.

Frodo read. When he finished, he glanced at Sam’s shining face.

“Mr. Frodo, how do you know what it means?”

Frodo smiled. He’d been waiting for this question. “Each mark is a sound.” He used his forefinger in the dirt: “Sss-aahh-mmm.”

“Sss-aahh-mmm, Ss-Sam!”

The gardener’s lad laughed for joy.

________________________________________________

Frodo leaned back on the tree-trunk drawing his legs up on the branch. It was harder finding some peace and quiet at the Great Smials than at Brandy Hall. There were just as many relations living there, and twice as many servants , not counting company.

“Frodo!”

He looked down at the mop of chestnut curls and pointed face. “Pip?”

“Want up!”

“Up here?”

“Yes!”

He grinned. “All right. See that little branch? Grab hold and pull. Again. Now the next one.” He reached out, and soon had a lapful of green-eyed Took.

“I did it!”

“So you did, dearest!”

___________________________________________

Title: Clear Night

Theme: Set #1, Theme # 9 “Heaven’s field”

Genre (s):
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: It is Frodo’s 29th birthday, Sam is 17, Merry is 15 and Pippin is 7 ( 18 ½, 11, 9 and 4 ½ in Man Years)

Summary: Gandalf talks to the lads about the stars…

CLEAR NIGHT

The fireworks had been lovely, and the food had been delicious. The music and dancing were winding down, and Bilbo was having a talk with his old friend Rory Brandybuck. Most of the older adults, in fact, were busy in conversation, and most of the older tweens who were not still dancing had slipped off by couples.

Frodo was tired, but he was enjoying this party. It was lavish as with Bilbo such things always were, but not so crowded as some years. He had no doubt that in four years, when he came of age, Bilbo would probably invite half the Shire. Right now he headed up the Hill, where Gandalf was putting away his fireworks and cleaning up after his efforts. He could see that Merry and Sam were already up there.

“Frodo!, Frodo! Wait for me!” a little piping voice, and the sound of small feet running hard. He turned and smiled. It looked as though Pippin had slipped away from Pearl. Most of the little ones were tuckered out, and had found themselves places to curl up and sleep, but considering the size of the piece of birthday cake Bilbo had given the lad, it was no wonder he was still wide awake. Pippin had far too much energy when he ate much in the way of sweets.

He reached down and swung the lad around, before putting him up on his shoulders. Pippin crowed with glee, and fastened his fingers firmly in Frodo’s hair, though he didn’t pull hard enough to hurt, as Merry usually had at that age. He shook his head, remembering when he finally realized that Merry was frightened by heights. Yet he had never wanted to let Frodo know, because he thought Frodo would feel bad about scaring him. Pippin however, was utterly fearless, and would already clamber up into the tree branches with Frodo.

As he approached, he heard Sam speaking. “Mr. Gandalf, those was the best fireworks I’ve ever seen! They were like rain showers of stars! I think they was even prettier than the real stars!”

“Yes,” said Merry “they were all kinds of colors! And so big and loud!” he added enthusiastically.

Frodo approached and swung Pippin down. He saw Gandalf look uncharacteristically serious. “No, my lads, they were nice enough, and I am glad you thought them beautiful, but they could never compete with the real stars of heaven’s field.”

The wizard sat himself upon the ground, and Pippin clambered quietly into his lap. Gandalf seemed easily able to calm the little one by his mere presence. Frodo, Merry and Sam sat themselves down around him, and looked at him expectantly. “Ah,” he said. “It appears that you expect a story.” Merry and Sam looked abashed, but Frodo just grinned.

The wizard looked up at the sky, at all the stars wheeling above, and a smile lit his gruff face. “Fireworks, you say, my lads, are beautiful, and so they are, in imitation of the stars. But fireworks burst forth and are gone in a brief instant, scarcely lasting longer than it takes to draw a few breaths. They are larger and more colorful, but they are very fleeting, gone in a blink.”

He looked down at the young hobbits, who were now gazing at the sky. “But you know, my lads, the stars have been there for a long time--longer even than the Sun in her splendor or the Moon in his glory. Do you know how the stars came to be?”

Frodo smiled. Of course he did; but Merry and Sam and Pippin solemnly shook their heads, and turned rapt attention to the wizard.

“Many long ages ago, the world was once lit by the light of two beautiful trees--a Tree of silver light, called Telperion, and a Tree of golden light, called Laurelin. These Trees shone with so mighty a light that the world was lit by their glow. But one day the evil Enemy came, and destroyed the Trees, and the world was cast into utter darkness.

Then the Lady, whom the Elves called Elbereth, Varda the Star-kindler, took some of the dew that was left by Telperion the Silver, and with it she kindled the stars across the field of heaven, and so for many ages, there was naught in the world but starlight. This was so long ago that there were no hobbits, there were no Men, there were not even any Elves. That is how long the stars have been in the heavens, and when the Elves awakened and came to be, the first light, the most beloved light they saw, was the light of the stars.

For the stars endure, my lads, and give light even on the darkest night, even when they are obscured by clouds, and they give hope to the weary and guidance to the traveller who must wander at night.

None of these things can a firework do. And as much as I love the fireworks, I love the stars more.”

The young hobbits gazed in awe at the stars above, glittering down upon them.

After a moment of reverential silence, Gandalf put a finger alongside his nose, and said “On the other hand, the music of the stars is very faint and not easily heard by mortal ears. But I do think that I have some squibs and crackers left that careful hobbit lads might use to make a glorious noise!”

______________________________________________

Title: A First Time for Everything
Theme: Set #1, Theme ‘# 10, “Tree”
Genre (s): General, Family, Friendship
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: In this story, Frodo is 30, Sam is almost 18, Merry is 16, and Pippin is almost 8 ( Or the maturity of 19, 12, 10, and 5 for humans).

Summary: Pippin learns what it means to make Merry angry…

A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Merry and Sam sat beneath the huge tree that grew atop Bag End. Above their heads, on a branch some seven or eight feet up, Frodo sat with his back against the trunk, and Pippin in his lap. He finished the story he was reading to them all, and closed the book.

“Time to get down, now, Pip. I need to take the book back inside the smial.”

Pippin craned his neck around. “I don’t want to get down, Frodo. Can’t I wait here?”

Frodo glanced down at Merry and Sam. “I suppose so. I will be right back.” He scooted Pippin out of his lap gently, and as the little one sat, swinging his toes back and forth, Frodo slipped off the branch, with the book under one arm, dangling briefly from the other, before he dropped gracefully and lightly to the ground.

“I’ll be back as soon as I put the book away, Merry.”

Merry nodded absently. He and Sam were now having a serious discussion about the dragon in the story and wondering if he were bigger and more dangerous than Smaug.

Pippin sat there on his branch, swinging his feet. It was boring just sitting up here waiting for Frodo to come back.

“Aye, Mr. Merry, I think you have the right of it. It took ever so many Elves to defeat that dragon, and old Smaug, he were killed by just one bowman.”

Just then several leaves and twigs pattered down from the tree to drop on their heads. Merry looked up, annoyed. “Pip--” his face suddenly changed, as he went pale. “Pip?”

Sam looked up. Pippin was no longer on the lower branches where Frodo had left him. In fact the two lads could not see him at all, though they could see the movement of the leaves and branches as he was ascending.

Merry gasped.

Sam patted him on the back. “It will be all right, Mr. Merry! Remember that tree he climbed at the Cottons’ place t’other day? He went up right high, and come down just fine!”

Merry shook his head. “Sam, he’s already far higher than he was that day! He must be more than twenty feet up now.” Merry swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. He looked up, craning his neck to see. He thought he caught a glimpse of something pale. “Pippin!” he called. “Pippin, come down, now!”

“All right, Merry,” came the answer promptly. Then there was a silence.

“Pippin! Peregrin Took!”

“Merry?” There was a hint of panic in the lad’s voice. “Merry, I can’t! It’s too far!”

Merry felt his heart drop to his toes. “Pippin!” he called again, more than a hint of panic in his own voice.

“Merry!” Pippin wailed.

Sam looked at Merry’s white face. “Mr. Merry, I’m going to go get Mr. Frodo, right now!” He turned and dashed off.

Merry stood, staring, feeling nearly paralyzed.

“Merry!”

He could tell. Pippin was crying. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he reached for the tree.

xxxxx

Followed closely by Sam on his heels, Frodo dashed up the Hill. He should have known better than to leave Pippin in that tree alone!

As he arrived beneath its canopy, he wondered where Merry could be.

He heard a whimper.

On a branch about ten feet up. Merry was clinging for dear life, his face pressed against the trunk.

Oh, Merry! thought Frodo, you shouldn’t have tried.

“Merry!” called Pippin again.

Merry sobbed, and clung even tighter to the tree trunk.

Frodo shook his head. “Pippin!” he called, “I’ll be up in just a moment, dear. Hold on!”

“Frodo? I’m holding!”

Sam had arrived breathless on Frodo’s heels, and looked up, astounded, at the sight of Merry in the tree. Frodo scrambled up to him. “Merry?”

“Frodo?” he whispered. “I was going to help Pip, but--” He was weeping. “You need to get Pip.”

“I’ll get you first, sprout. Here,” with much effort, he pried Merry’s hands loose from the tree and transferred them to his neck. Merry clung, almost too tightly, and Frodo carefully clambered down, holding on to the tree the whole way down, rather than dropping from the lowest branch. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he pulled Merry free. “Sam, look after him please, while I get Pippin.” And he leaped for the lower branches and once more began to climb, going up and up, until he was almost invisible among the upper branches.

Sam was worried now about Frodo, but he could not watch, for he was too busy comforting the hysterical young Brandybuck. “I tried, Sam! I really tried to get Pip,” he sobbed.

Sam patted his back awkwardly. He was not used to seeing the confident Merry in this kind of state, though he’d seen him worried about Pippin before.

“It’ll be all right, you’ll see! Mr. Frodo will get him.”

Merry nodded. Of course Frodo would get Pippin. Frodo was brave enough to climb up to where Pippin was, not a coward, like he was. 

Pippin was a good twenty-five feet up. Frodo was grateful he had gone no higher. Frodo himself had been higher up, but he was a good deal larger now than he had been then, and he was sure that the branches further up would no longer support his weight.

Pippin was clinging to the branch just above him. “Frodo? I think it’s too far!”

Frodo smiled at him. “Well, it very well might be, if you cannot get yourself down, you know. Come here.” He reached up, and Pippin trustingly loosed himself from the branch into his older cousin’s arms. “Here, hold on piggyback.” They climbed down about ten feet, and Frodo could feel Pippin beginning to relax. “Do you think you could let go now, and we’ll climb down together, Pippin?”

He heard a sigh. “I think so, Frodo.” Pippin loosened his grip, and the two of them climbed down together, Pippin gaining more speed as they got nearer the bottom. At last they dropped to the ground and stood beneath the tree.

As they had come in sight, Merry and Sam had looked up, and followed their progress. Merry’s face was a sight, his nose red and his eyes tear-swollen. Pippin darted over to embrace him.

Merry flinched and jerked away. He looked down at Pippin, grey eyes stormy. “You stupid little hobbit! Don’t you ever do that to me again!”

And he raced back down the Hill, leaving three shocked hobbits staring after him.

Pippin burst into tears.

Sam looked up at Frodo, perplexed. “I ain’t never seen Mr. Merry angry at Master Pippin before!”

Frodo sighed and shook his head. “There’s a first time for everything, Sam.

Sam took himself home to Bagshot Row, and Frodo carried the still weeping Pippin into Bag End. A startled Bilbo stood waiting.

“Frodo, whatever is the matter with your cousin? He ran into his room and slammed the door, and I could hear him crying.” He looked at Pippin, whose own tears redoubled at this statement.

“Merry said I was stupid!” he sniffed.

Frodo sighed, and explained what had happened.

“Oh dear me!” said Bilbo. “Here, Pippin, come to me. Frodo, you go talk to Merry, and I shall try to explain things to young Peregrin.”

Frodo knocked on the door to the room Merry was using.

“Go away!”

“I think not, dear.” Frodo leaned his forehead against the door, and willed Merry to say something.

A mighty sniff was the answer, then a brief silence. “All right, come in.”

Frodo entered quietly, and shut the door behind him. Merry was sitting up on the bed, looking at him half-defiantly, half-longingly, with his tear-ravaged face.

Frodo walked over to the washstand and poured some fresh water into the basin from the ewer. Then he wet a clean flannel, and went over to sit on the bed and wash Merry’s face. Merry suffered his ministrations silently.

“You know, Merry, that was very brave of you to try to get Pip.”

“Brave! I was a coward! I couldn’t even get half-way to where he was! Why did he do that anyway?” His voice rose shrilly.

Frodo carefully wiped his face once more with the cool cloth. “Yes, Merry you were brave to even try, knowing how you feel about climbing. As to why he did it--” He poked a finger on Merry’s nose ”--you know the answer to that as well.” He smiled slyly.

Merry tried to hold on to his temper, but felt his lips twitch. “Because he’s a Took and it was there,” he responded, with an attempt to cling to his sullenness.

“You know, he’s too young to understand why you were angry.”

“I know,” Merry sighed. “I was scared, Frodo.”

“I know,” said Frodo, and wrapped his arms around his cousin, and rocked him back and forth, as he used to do when he was a very young  faunt.

xxxxx

In the front room, Bilbo sat with Pippin on his lap. He pulled out his handkerchief and held it up to the lad’s nose. “Blow!”

Pippin blew mightily, and then handed the handkerchief back to Bilbo.

“Why is Merry angry at me?”

“He was frightened, Pippin. Merry is frightened about going up in high places. Have you never noticed that he does not climb trees the way you and Frodo do?”

“But Merry’s not scared of anything!” Pippin exclaimed firmly.

“You are wrong, Pippin,” said Bilbo. “Everyone is scared of something. Is there nothing you are frightened of?”

Pippin’s little brow furrowed in thought. Indeed, there were many things, but only one stood out at the moment. “I’m frightened of jumping the ditches. I always think I will miss and fall in. When the big lads do it, I run away, and they call me a baby!”

“Well,” said Bilbo, “there you are! And you see, Merry was doubly frightened, because there are two things that terrify him very much: one is high places, and the other is that something bad will happen to you.”

“Oh.” Pippin leaned into Bilbo’s embrace silently for a few moments. Then he said, “I’m scared of two things, too. Ditches. And having Merry mad at me.” He looked up at Bilbo with wide eyes. “It’s really scary having Merry mad at me.” He snuggled up to his oldest cousin, and sniffled a bit more. What if Merry stayed angry with him forever? How could he bear it?

Just then he looked up. Frodo stood in the doorway, his arm around Merry’s shoulders.

Merry held out his arms.

Pippin rushed into them.


Title: Sums, Showers, and Scones

Theme: Set #1, Theme # 11, “Food”

Genre (s): General


Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 32, Sam is almost 21, Merry has just turned 19, and Pippin is not quite 11. ( or 20 ½, 13, 12 ½, and 7 in Man Years)

Summary: The lads decide to make tea for Bilbo…

SUMS, SHOWERS, AND SCONES

The afternoon was quiet. In Merry’s last few years of visiting at Bag End, he too, had lessons when Frodo did. And since Pippin was there, he also was having them. This afternoon, Bilbo had given the lads their assignments, and then taken himself off down to the stationer’s, to pick up some bound volumes to write in, for the stationer had sent a note saying his order was ready.

Frodo was occupied with some translations from the Sindarin, of one of the Lays of Beleriand. Merry was writing a more mundane essay, on the last days of the Northern kingdoms. Pippin had sums to do.

Merry sighed. “I wish Sam could come in.” For the last few years, most days the young gardener had taken his own part in the lessons. But this year, the Gaffer’s health had deteriorated, especially after Sam’s mother Bell had died of a sudden apoplexy shortly after Yule. Sam was now responsible for the garden, and the Gaffer had decreed that the lessons were at an end.

Frodo sighed as well. “So do I, Merry. But it’s not practical right now. Sam can’t go against his father.”

Merry put the finishing touches on his essay, and his attention was caught by Pippin’s foot, starting to tap against the chair leg. He looked over and caught the increasing scowl on his younger cousin’s face, and just as Pippin started to bang the chalk down upon his slate in frustration, he reached his hand out and caught Pippin’s little fist in his own.

“What’s the matter, Pip?”

“I can’t get this last one! It’s too hard!”

Merry shook his head, and looked at the paper with the problems Bilbo had left. “Pippin, it is simple addition--it’s just that you have more than two places. You will have to carry over.”

“I *know* how to carry over! But it’s not coming out right!”

“Let me see, Pippin,” said Frodo gently. Pippin handed the slate over, and Frodo’s eyebrows rose. He smiled. “I see the difficulty, dearest. You just don’t have them lined up straight.” He rubbed the problem out and rewrote it more carefully, then handed it back.

Pippin looked at it doubtfully, and then grinned. “Oh thank you, Frodo! *Now* I can do it!” He calculated rapidly, and then showed his answer to his cousins.

“That’s perfect, Pip!” exclaimed Merry giving him a hug.

“Well,” said Frodo, “it looks as though all of us are finished now. Maybe we should see about a little snack?”

This proposal was greeted with enthusiasm, and they hurried to the kitchen, where Frodo found some cheese and crackers and apples, and poured out cups of cold buttermilk for them all. They were enjoying their little snack immensely, when there was an unexpected peal of thunder. Pippin jumped into Merry’s lap and hid his face. Frodo looked out at the sudden spring shower. “Oh dear!” he said.

There was a knock at the kitchen door. “Come in, Sam!” Frodo called.

The door opened. Even though the rain had barely begun, Sam was soaked. “I’m that sorry to be a bother, Mr. Frodo, but this rain wasn’t supposed to come so soon…” Sam had been sure the rain would hold off until after sunset.

“You are no bother whatsoever, Sam. Get out of that wet shirt. There’s a towel hanging behind the larder door.”

Sam toweled his head off, and Merry fetched one of his own shirts. “Mr. Merry! I can’t take one of your shirts! It’s not fitting!”

“It’s fitting if I say so, Sam,” responded Frodo. “Besides, it’s just until yours gets dry.”

“I suppose,” Sam said doubtfully. He didn’t guess he’d be mentioning *this* to his Gaffer. He was *sure* his father would not think it was proper.

“Anyway, Sam, you are right about one thing,” laughed Merry, “It’s *not* exactly fitting!” For though Merry was a stocky and sturdy lad, he was two years younger. The shirt was a good bit too short, and not really wide enough across the shoulders.

Pippin giggled. “You look funny, Sam.”

“Well,” he grinned, “I reckon I do.”

Frodo was looking out the window with concern. “Bilbo did not take his umbrella. And he’s going to have all that new paper, and the new volumes to carry, that we can’t really afford to get wet. He won’t be able to come back until the rain is over.”

Sam looked out the window. “It should let up in about an hour or so.”

“I have an idea,” said Frodo. “Why don’t we surprise him and make tea. That way it will be ready and waiting when he comes in!”

This idea was greeted with enthusiasm. “I’ll cut some sandwiches and devil some eggs,” said Frodo.

“Mr. Frodo--if you’ve still got some of those mushrooms from the Cottons in the larder, I could make some mushroom soup,” offered Sam.

“I’ll make some scones!” said Merry eagerly. This was something he had recently learned from one of the aunts at Brandy Hall, and he was glad of the chance to show off his new skill.

“What can *I* do?” asked Pippin. At home his mother and sisters rarely allowed him to help in the kitchen, but Bilbo was a good deal more indulgent, as was his Aunt Esmeralda when he visited Buckland.

Merry looked at Frodo. “He can help me?” This could be chancy, as he knew, for there was no guarantee of what might happen with Pippin in the kitchen.

Frodo nodded. Pippin could hardly make *too* much mess, with all of them there to supervise.

“Oh goody!” The little one clapped and jumped up and down. He did really *like* to help cook.

For a while, there was a good deal of silent industry, interspersed with the occasional question or instruction. ( “Sam, are you finished with the whisk?” “Mr. Frodo, is there any dried rosemary in the larder?” “Frodo, where is the baking soda?” “Pippin, keep your fingers out of the honey!” “Merry, can I eat the raisins that spilled?” )

As the delicious smells began to permeate the kitchen, Frodo glanced once more out the window. “Look! The Sun’s come out! See, she’s peeping out from the clouds and giving us a rainbow.”

They all crowded to the window to look. Frodo glanced down at Merry and Pippin. As usual when they baked together there was a good deal of flour on both of them. “Merry, I’ll take the scones out of the oven. You and Pip go get cleaned up, because Bilbo will be back very soon now it’s no longer raining.”

“Mr. Frodo, I guess I will go now,” said Sam diffidently.

“I wouldn’t hear of it, Sam! You helped make this food; you get to help eat it.”

Sam nodded. Truth to tell, he liked having tea at Bag End--and those scones did smell good.

__________________________________________

“Bless me, lads!” exclaimed Bilbo, as he looked over the tea table, now bare of even the least crumb of food. “This was a wonderful tea, and a marvelous surprise! Thank you all, my dears!”

Pippin hopped into Bilbo’s lap and gave him an enthusiastic hug. “You’re welcome, Cousin Bilbo!”

__________________________________________

Merry’s Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

¼ tsp. Baking soda

¼ tsp. Salt

6 TBSP. Cold butter, cut up into little pieces

¼ cup honey

¼ cup sour cream or 3 TBSP. Buttermilk

1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

½ tsp. Vanilla

1 cup of raisins (or currants or other dried berries

1 egg white

1 tsp. Sugar

½ tsp. Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. When thoroughly mixed, cut in the butter until the mixture is like coarse crumbs.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the honey, sour cream or buttermilk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Add raisins (or other fruit).

Stir into the dry ingredients, mixing well. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly for about three or four turns, then pat out into about an 8” circle. With a sharp knife, cut into eight wedges.

With a fork, whip up the egg white until frothy, and brush on top of the scones. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle on top. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Title: Looking Back

Theme: Set #1, Theme #12, “Nostalgia”

Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 35, Sam is 23, Merry is 21 and Pippin is 13 (or 23 ½, 14½, 13½ and 8 ½ in Man years)

Summary: In which Bilbo is fondly remembered…

LOOKING BACK

As Sam examined the shade-loving plants that grew beneath the ash in the lower garden, he became aware of movement in the branches above him, and glanced up.

“ ‘Morning, Master Pippin,” he smiled. Mr. Frodo might have taught that little Took to climb, but he spent far more time in the branches of the trees than Mr. Frodo ever had.

“Hullo, Sam,” he replied seriously.

“You’re looking mighty thoughtful today.”

Pippin swung around, and then slid off the branch to land lightly on the bench beneath the tree. Sam shuddered; that had to have been at *least* a four and a half foot drop.

The lad sat sideways on the bench, and drawing his legs up, wrapped his arms around them, leaning his pointed little chin upon his knees. “Do you ever miss the olden days, Sam?”

Sam’s eyebrows raised, and his eyes twinkled, but he kept his voice level. “The ‘olden’ days, Master Pippin?”

“Yes, back when I was just a child,” he said.

Sam put a hand to his mouth, and turned his bark of laughter into a cough.

Pippin looked at him astutely. “Oh, I know. You and Merry are ever so much older than me. Why, you’re tweens! And Frodo is *old*--he’s been of age for two whole years! But sometimes I miss the way things were when I was littler and Cousin Bilbo was still here.”

“Ah.” Sam sat down next to him on the bench. The lilies could wait a few minutes.

“Yes. Back then when Frodo wasn’t a grown-up, and you didn’t have to work all day, and Merry’s lessons weren’t as hard, and Cousin Bilbo was here--and--and it was so *nice*!”

“Do you miss Mr. Bilbo a lot?” Pippin had only been eleven when Bilbo left.

“Well, not most of the time,” he said honestly. “But I do when I come visit Bag End. I miss the way he always hugged me and smelled of peppermint and Old Toby, and he said--” he lowered his voice and attempted to imitate Bilbo’s rolling tones “-- ‘Peregrin, my lad, how you’ve grown! Soon you’ll pass the Bullroarer’” He glanced at Sam slyly. “I know that wasn’t really true, but I liked him saying it just the same. And I miss his *stories*” Pippin sighed and looked wistful and scooted a little closer to Sam on the bench.

Sam felt tears sting briefly, and he blinked. “I miss Mr. Bilbo, too, Master Pippin.”

Pippin impulsively threw his arms around the gardener. “I bet you miss him a whole lot more than me! I mean, you used to see him every day!”

Sam blushed and returned the hug. “Well, Master Pippin, I need to get busy.”

Pippin grinned. “What are you doing, Sam? Can I help? I’ll call it ‘watching’!”

“Bless me, Master Pippin,” Sam laughed. “You may ‘watch’ if you like--and I’ll even let you call it helping.” For it was an open joke that when the Gaffer had still been gardening, he would not allow the young gentlehobbits to ‘help’ him. It wouldn’t have been proper; but he would allow them to ‘watch’ and if somehow their little hands found themselves busy while they ‘watched‘, no harm done.

A short while later, Merry spotted them on their knees beneath the tree as Pippin aided Sam in the delicate task of dividing the lilies-- “Because,” explained Sam, “they been too happy under there, and now they’re all crowded like.” Pippin was gloriously dirty.

As he approached them, he heard Pippin’s high-pitched giggle, and Sam’s warm chuckle. He grinned as he came up. “What’s so funny?”

“We was just remembering Mr. Bilbo,” said Sam.

Merry knelt down alongside them. “Where are you moving these, Sam?”

“Right now, just into these pots. Tomorrow I’ll be putting them up by the gate.”

Pippin handed Merry one of the newly divided plants. “Merry, do you remember the year the Dwarves came?”

Merry laughed. “Do I? How could anyone forget? Bilbo got them to chase us to bed, singing like goblins!”

“Why would he do that, Mr. Merry?” asked Sam, his mind rather boggled at the image presented.

Merry blushed. Pippin said “He caught us listening to them after we were supposed to be in bed!”

Sam put on a droll expression of mock disbelief. “Now you wouldn’t've gone and done something like that, now, would you?”

This sent both the cousins into gales of laughter. When Merry could speak again, he said, “You know, Cousin Bilbo told poor Nuri some *awful* fibs while they were here!”

Sam grinned. “Well, Master Nuri was just too curious about hobbits. He’d come out and pester the Gaffer to death with his questions: do hobbits really like turnips; do all hobbits eat six meals a day; how do hobbits get anything done if they have to keep stopping for meals--after he asked the Gaffer that, he went off, and then the Gaffer, he turns to me and says ‘How do Dwarves get anything done if they have to keep stopping to ask daft questions all day?’ He was right put out he was. But Master Nuri didn’t mean no harm. So what awful fibs did Mr. Bilbo tell him?”

“Well,” chuckled Merry, “he told him that hobbits put their foot hair up in curling papers at night--”

Pippin looked horrified. “Merry! He didn’t!”

“He did. And he told him that guests must always leave a parting gift of mushrooms--I thought that was a good one! And he told him that there was a widespread theory that hobbits had rabbits for ancestors--he made that one sound really quite good. If he had not winked at me, I would not have guessed he was having poor Nuri on.” Merry laughed. “But he told Dori to set him straight after they left. Dori thought it was very funny as well.”

Pippin and Sam both laughed again, and Sam sat back and looked at the lilies. “I think that we are finished here,” he said.

Pippin flopped back to lie upon the grass, and remarked to the sky “I really liked helping him bake. We made lovely honeycakes when Cousin Bilbo was here.”

This drew a murmur of agreement from both Merry and Sam. Bilbo’s honeycakes were popular.

Just then, they heard Frodo calling: “Merry! Pippin! Sam!”

“We’re down here, Frodo!” called Merry.

“It’s time for elevenses! Is anyone interested in freshly baked honeycakes?”

______________________________________________________

 

Title: Bullroarer

Theme: Set #1, Theme #13 “Legend”

Genre (s): fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 24, Sam is almost 13, Merry has just turned 11, and Pippin is just barely 3. ( 15, 8, 7 and 2 in Man Years)

Summary: Bilbo tells the lads a story about one of their relations...

BULLROARER

The faunt climbed up to his knee. Bilbo looked down into a pleading pair of wide green eyes. “ ‘tory, Bi-bo! Pip want ‘tory.”

He lifted him up and settled him on his lap, and looked at the others in the room, Frodo on the chair across from him and Merry on the floor by his cousin’s knee, Sam sitting shyly next to Merry, and looking up with almost as much eagerness as Pippin, and Eglantine on the settee with Vinca in her lap, and Pearl and Pimmie on either side. Paladin, having business in nearby Overhill, had dropped his wife and children off for a visit.

Eglantine’s lips twitched. She knew exactly how much resistance the old bachelor had to her youngest. Pip looked up through long dark lashes expectantly, and stuck his thumb in his mouth.

“Ahem. So, then, Peregrin, you want a story?”

The lad nodded his head.

“Hmm…what should I tell?” He noticed Merry, quite ready to speak up and make a request--the Brandybuck lad almost always wanted the ‘Battle of Five Armies’--but he held up his hand and shook his head. That one was not appropriate for a faunt , nor for the little lasses. Merry subsided, disappointed.

Sam’s favorite, the riddles with Gollum, was also a bit too dark and frightening for present company, and Frodo loved stories of the Elves, which were too melancholy. And he was in the mood for something a bit different this afternoon…ahh, he had it!

“Since our visitors are Tooks, I think that I shall tell a story of one of their Tookish relations. How does that sound, young Pippin?”

The little one nodded again. He didn’t much care *what* story Bilbo told, he just loved to hear the old hobbit’s “story-telling voice”, so different and more amusing than his everyday voice--soothing, exciting and funny by turns. Pippin at that age would have been happy for Bilbo to recite his grocery list, so long as he used that voice.

Bilbo slipped into it now.

“Long ago--many generations back, there was a Took. This Took was the brother of the one who was Thain back then, Ferumbras the second. He was great- uncle to Gerontius, the Old Took. His name was Bandobras.”  Bilbo saw Frodo and Eglantine smile, for they had heard this one; Merry and Pearl nodded, for though they had not heard the story before, they did know their family trees.

But this story happened when Bandobras and his brother were only tweens, long before Ferumbras became Thain. Bandy and Ferry, as they were called, were both strapping lads--uncommonly large and tall for hobbits, both already overtopping their father. But Bandy was even taller and stronger than his older brother, and being only in his mid-tweens, had yet to get all his growth.

The two brothers were very good friends, as does not always happen with brothers, but being so close in age, they had developed a friendly but fierce rivalry, and they often dared one another to do some very interesting things, some of which I am afraid their parents would not at all have approved. From jumping ditches to raiding crops to snatching undergarments off the washing lines of lasses and finding strange and unusual places to display them to snatching pies from the sills of kitchen windows--it is said the song ‘One Hundred Apple Pies’ was started by them--there was not much mischief that they had not found in which to indulge. They never got caught, amazingly enough, and though everyone was sure who had perpetrated each outrage there was never any proof. As the lads were kind-hearted and cheerful and uncommonly comely, most folk just looked the other way, or shook their heads and chuckled.”

Merry looked up at Frodo, who grinned back at him with a wink. The two of them had found mischief enough in Buckland, in spite of the difference in their ages.

“One day, the two lads had slipped out after luncheon. I am very much afraid they were playing truant, for they had been expected to report to one of their older cousins for lessons. But they were not much for learning, those lads, and often gave their poor cousin a hard time when he set them lessons. They often slipped away or sometimes played pranks on him. But he was fond of them all the same, I am afraid, and so he seldom punished them or reported their misbehavior to their father, who would not have been at all amused.

They had taken their fishing poles, and some food they had raided from the larder, including a jug of ale--which at their age they should not have had in that quantity--and set off cross-country.

They spent the afternoon wetting their lines and their whistles. They caught no fish, but made themselves rather merry by finishing all the ale. The time passed, and as it drew on for teatime, they decided to head back to the Great Smials in order not to miss the meal.

As they passed the farm of one of their tenants, arms around one another’s shoulders, and singing ‘Hey Laddie, Laddie’ rather loudly, Bandy stopped singing.

‘Look, brother,’ he said.

‘What am I looking at?’ asked Ferry.

‘There’s Old Red.’ He pointed.

Old Red belonged to the tenant farmer, who was I believe, a Grubb. He was a bull renowned for his temper, and he was minding his own business in the middle of the field quietly enough.

Bandy looked at Ferry. ‘I dare you.’

‘Dare me to what?’ giggled his older brother.

‘Pick some flowers for mother’ laughed Bandy. I am afraid he would not have thought that such a bright idea if they had not consumed such a quantity of ale.

Ferry gave his younger brother a grin, and ducked between the rails of the fence, and began to pick some of the meadow flowers that grew in the field in abundance. Bandy leaned over the top rail and encouraged his brother. Ferry gradually moved further and further into the field. The bull still paid him no mind. But the further he went, the more Bandy began to be afraid this might not have been such a lovely idea after all.

‘Ferry, that’s enough! Come on, we’ll be late for tea!’

Ferry turned and laughed, and called ‘Don’t be such a worry wart, Bandy!’

Bilbo leaned forward, and his voice suddenly became more ominous.

“That was a ba-ad mistake!” Pippin looked up with a gasp, his eyes very round, and took his thumb out. This was Cousin Bilbo’s exciting voice!

“The bull looked up for the first time, and seeing his field had been invaded, raised his head, stamped the earth, and gave a mighty snort.

‘Look out, Ferry!’ Bandy called.

His brother turned and saw the bull was watching him, an angry gleam in the beady eyes! He started to run, which was a mistake, as the bull decided to charge!

Poor Bandy! He was frightened for his brother. He leaped over the top rail and gave a mighty roar, to distract the animal’s attention! It worked! Suddenly, Old Red was focused on Bandobras instead of Ferumbras! He changed directions. Ferry had gained his feet, and was nearly to the fence, when he saw the danger had turned to his brother!

He gave a forceful yell, which drew attention to himself once more, and then ran to the fence! But Bandy gave another roar, and whipped off his red weskit, which he began to wave about in a most distracting manner.

Well, of course, everyone knows one should never do such a thing with a bull, but Bandy was determined to protect his brother!

Enraged the bull made for Bandy! Now Ferry was already over the fence and screaming for his brother to hurry! The farmer had heard the commotion and was also headed toward the field, followed by his wife and sons--he was terrified that he was about to witness a tragedy!

Bandy was nearly to the fence--suddenly, he turned and *flung* the weskit! It flew through the air and landed right over the bull’s head, covering his eyes, and caught by his horns he could not throw it off! He ceased his mad charge and began to jump about in circles, for of course he could not see! It gave Bandy *just* enough time to leap over the fence into the arms of his terrified brother. But I am afraid that was the end of the lovely red weskit, which had been a gift of his mother, for the bull completely destroyed it in the efforts to get it off his head.

Now the farmer, over his fright that one or both, of the Thain’s sons would be hurt or even killed on his farm, was furious. For all that the lads were larger than he, he marched them home to their father by the ears.

The Thain, as you can expect, was most vexed with them, and for once they reaped the consequences of their foolish actions, for they had to go the farmer’s place for a week and muck out his stables. And the Thain had a word with their cousin. After that, they had to produce for their father’s inspection each day the lessons they were set.

But of course, the word of their exploit got ‘round quite quickly, and Bandy soon found himself with a new nickname: Bullroarer.”

Eglantine and Frodo were chuckling; they had heard this particular bit of family history before, but not for a while, and Bilbo told it well. The lasses were round eyed with excitement, Sam was nodding in agreement with the ending of the story. Merry had a speculative gleam in his eye--Frodo noticed, and knocking his knuckles on his younger cousin’s head, whispered “Don’t *even* think about it, Meriadoc Brandybuck.”

And Pippin? Well, after the exciting part was over, and Bilbo got to the soothing part at the end, he had slipped off into sleep, and was snoring ever so gently in Bilbo’s arms.

 

 

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Title: Far Away

Theme: far away

Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Sometime during the growing up years of our lads.

Summary: Pippin has a question; everyone has a different answer (a drabble.)

 FAR AWAY

“Frodo?”

“Yes, Pippin?”

“Where’s ‘far away’?”

Frodo looked puzzled.

Merry chuckled. “Why do you ask, Pip?”

“All the stories start ‘long ago and far away’, and I wonder where ‘far away’ is.”

“Well, Master Pippin, I think it’s beyond the Brandywine,” said Sam.

Pippin stared. Merry laughed outright. “Beyond the Brandywine isn’t ‘far away’” said Merry, “it’s home!”

Sam blushed. He hadn’t thought how that would sound to the young Brandybuck.

Merry said “It’s over the Misty Mountains, where Bilbo went.”

Frodo smiled. “Pippin, where do *you* think it is?”

Pippin thought a moment. “I think it’s wherever we *aren’t*!”

Title: The Wall Came Tumbling Down

Theme: Set #1, Theme #15 Walls

Rating: G

Notes: Frodo is 47, Sam is almost 36, Merry has just turned 34, and Pippin is about a week from his 26th birthday. (about 30, 24 , 22 , and 16 ½ in Man-years)

I have to thank Marigold for giving me the bunny to get started with this theme.

Summary: Frodo and his cousins decide to give Sam a hand with a difficult task…

THE WALL CAME TUMBLING DOWN

It was with a good deal of trepidation that Sam sloshed his way up to Bag End. The storm of the previous night had been a hard one. The roadway was a muddy mess, and he could see debris everywhere.

As he approached, he looked at the roses twining the fence. Those which had bloomed already were battered, but there were still a great many unopened buds. It was too early yet for them to be blooming in their full glory.

The young poplar in the front garden was fine. He stopped beneath it briefly to replace the basin of the bird bath on its pedestal. He had removed it the previous day in anticipation of the storm.

The flower beds around the smial were a sorry looking sight, but the damage was not as severe as it looked. Most of the battered and broken plants were the last of the early blooming bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and narcissus--already past their prime. He cast an eye over them. He could fill in with some bedding annuals until the summer perennials came in.

The lilacs under the kitchen window were weatherbeaten, but would come back quickly. He spared a smile for the bushes, remembering how he often played beneath them as a small lad.

In the vegetable beds the young radishes and carrots and early lettuces which had recently sprouted were drowned. He sighed, realizing that he had been pushing the season a bit. But they could be soon replanted. Sam set up a couple of large potted herbs that had tipped over. Beneath the ash tree in the lower garden, the shade-loving plants had fared well.

So far no damage that a couple of days of dry weather and steady work would not quickly set to rights. Perhaps there would be no need to make any changes in Mr. Frodo’s plans for him after all.

He went on past the well and the tool shed towards the far edge of the garden where the stone retaining wall marked the southern property boundary.

Or rather where it *had* marked it.

For a goodly portion of the wall had collapsed.

Sam groaned, and clambered down to inspect the damage. Apparently the roots of the rapidly growing ash tree had weakened the wall’s foundation, and the erosion from last night’s storm had caused the damage. The stones had been dry-laid, with no mortar, and once the foundation had been breached, it had not taken much to topple a large part of the wall.

Sam sighed; he was not looking forward to telling Mr. Frodo that he could not go walking to Tuckborough with him and his cousins after all. He started up to Bag End to tell his master what had happened.

________________________________________________________

Frodo looked at the damage in dismay. “Sam, can’t this wait until our return?”

Merry and Pippin stood silently behind Frodo. Pippin was wanting to say something, but Merry’s firm fingers on his elbow reminded him that this was between Frodo and Sam. It’s hardly fair, thought Pippin morosely.

Arrangements had finally been made to allow Sam a bit of time off to go on a short visit to Tuckborough with Frodo, Merry and Pippin. It was going to be Pippin’s birthday in less than a week, and he really wanted Sam to come along. Frodo had prevailed on Sam and the Gaffer, arranging that the Gaffer would oversee any work in the garden while Sam was gone, aided by the strong back of Till Twofoot, grandson of Daddy Twofoot, the Gamgee’s neighbor. And the Gaffer’s reservations about how “proper” it was for Sam to be visiting Tooks was overridden by Frodo making arrangements for Sam to stay in town with one of Sam’s cousins on his mother’s side, Dob Goodchild.

Sam gave Frodo a look. “This has to be at least temporarily fixed, or it will keep getting worse every time it rains.”

“Can’t we hire someone else to do this?”

“Not without me here to supervise. A job like this, it wouldn’t be fair to leave to the Gaffer and Till. I’m probably going to need Till’s help anyway.”

Frodo gazed at the damage, and then at Sam. He knew, as did Sam, that he could *order* him to let it wait, and to go on with their plans. He also knew, as did Sam, that he would do no such thing. To *order* him to accompany them would completely defeat the purpose of having him come along. He would no longer be going as a guest, but as Frodo’s servant. Frodo sighed. “Do as you think best, Sam. But if you can, see if you can hire a few more helpers besides Till. Then perhaps the job can be finished in time for us to go on as planned.”

Sam nodded. “Yes, Mr. Frodo.” They both knew the likelihood of Sam being able to hire extra help this time of year was slim. And the chances of the job being finished within the time needed was even slimmer.

After a bit more dispirited discussion of some of the other damage, Frodo and his cousins headed back to the smial.

Pippin was inclined to pout, but Merry pulled him off to a corner.

“Peregrin Took. You know as well as I do that both Frodo and Sam already feel badly enough about this as it is. Don’t make them feel even worse because they are disappointing you!”

Pippin looked abashed. “I’m sorry, Merry! But it was going to be such fun to have Sam along. He knows almost as many jolly songs as I do! And he’s a better cook than any of us!”

Merry laughed. “That’s you all over, Pip! Your stomach and music! Which one is more important to you?”

The green eyes went huge. “Whyever would I have to *choose*?” He exclaimed, horrified at the thought.

Sam dutifully made inquiries in town about labor, but this was not a good time of year to find anyone already standing idle. Till came along, and Sam set him to leveling out the ground around the wall’s foundation, while he himself set to putting the rest of the garden to rights. He cleared up the debris and pulled out dead plants. Replanting would have to wait a few days until the soil dried out a bit more.

The next day, Sam and Till began in earnest the task of stacking the wall back up. Stone masons would have made quicker and easier work of it, but there were at this time none to be found in Hobbiton, or even Bywater.

After elevenses, Frodo came down with some cold fruit tea for Sam and Till, and some savory biscuits and apples.

“Sam, I--”

“Now, Mr. Frodo, don’t go saying you can help. This isn’t gentlehobbits’ work. You’d tear your hands up something fierce, not to mention it just wouldn’t be proper.”

Frodo shut his mouth with a snap. Saying he could wear gloves would cut no ice with Sam, who was determined to keep everything and everyone in their “proper” place. Frustrated, Frodo went back up to Bag End, muttering about “stiff-necked gardeners”.

Merry and Pippin fared no better. Merry had the foresight for both of them to be wearing work gloves, and while Sam’s back was turned, he and Pippin just began to pick up the stones.

Till looked grateful, but nevertheless, Sam still sent them off with a “No thank you, sirs. You’re Mr. Frodo’s guests and it wouldn’t be right.”

By the time Till had to go home at teatime, it was clear that the two hobbits were going to need a good deal more time to finish the job. Sam, as was his habit with a task on, took tea in the kitchen at Bag End with Frodo, Merry and Pippin, but the conversation was desultory at best.

Sam knew only too well that Mr. Frodo was not best pleased at this setback to his plans and was cross that Sam would not accept his help. And Frodo knew that Sam was feeling cross at having to let them down, and that the gardener’s stubbornness was as much pride as it was propriety. Merry and Pippin simply felt caught in the middle. It made Merry terse, and made Pippin even more fidgety and edgy than he normally was.

Sam returned to his task after tea; he would work until sundown, and then go home to Number Three for his supper. Then he’d be up again at the crack of dawn to work some more. Till would not be able to come back and assist him again until after luncheon the next day.

The three cousins watched the exhausted gardener leave, feeling more than a little guilty that nothing more than an accident of birth kept them sitting idle when a friend needed help.

“This is ridiculous,” said Frodo. “There is no real reason we could not help him with this.”

Merry looked thoughtful. “No, there isn’t.” He turned to Frodo with a speculative eye. “How many lanterns do you have around this hole, anyway?”

Pippin grinned.

Frodo raised one brow, and looked at Merry questioningly.

Merry nodded.

The night was clear and the Moon was bright as the three hobbits made their way down, each of them carrying two lanterns.

__________________________________________________

The Sun had barely made her way over the horizon when Sam arose, dressed and made a quick first breakfast of strong tea and toast with cheese.

He was sore all over. Stacking stones worked a whole different set of muscles than digging in the garden, and he had been at it far longer than he usually had to do any one task. Still the walk up the Hill began to loosen him up, and he thought that he had most of the kinks worked out before he reached the wall.

Which was completely finished.

Stunned, Sam stared in mute incomprehension. Slowly, the light dawned. Mr. Frodo and his cousins must have come out in the night and finished the task.

He walked the wall, unable at first to see where his own work left off and theirs began. That would be Mr. Merry. Sam would wager Mr. Merry had probably done a bit of stone-laying in Buckland. Bucklanders were queer and had odd ideas about gentlehobbits doing the same tasks as working hobbits. That was why he had to be so stern with Mr. Frodo all the time about keeping their proper places. His Buckland upbringing was telling.

Torn between delight that the task was finished, and a bit of anger that they had disregarded his desires, all he could do was sit down on top of the wall and laugh.

Well, if they were that determined to have his company on their walk to Tookland tomorrow, he would just have to oblige them. After all, they had surely proved their friendship even as they went against his wishes.

But he wagered they would be three very tired and sore hobbits today.

 

Title: The Manner of Dreams
Theme: Set #1; Theme #16, “In a Dream”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: This story takes place when Frodo is 18 (age 12 in Man-years), on one of his annual visits to Bilbo, prior to his adoption.
Summary: Frodo recounts a strange dream to Bilbo.

THE MANNER OF DREAMS…

Bilbo gave a worried look across the table at his young cousin. “Frodo-lad, you’re scarcely paying attention to your breakfast. Is something troubling you?”

Frodo gave a start out of his brown study. “I’m sorry Uncle Bilbo. It’s not so much troubling me, as puzzling. I had the oddest dream last night.”

“Do you remember it? Perhaps it would help to tell me about it.”

“It was very strange. I seemed to be grown up. I had gone on a walking party, with Sam and Merry and another hobbit, whom I do not know, though in the dream I seemed to know him well, and I am quite sure he was a Took. It was very odd, as Sam and Merry were grown up too, and seemed to be the same age as I was. I didn’t find it at all peculiar then, but after all, they are so very much younger than I.”

“Well, Frodo, it’s the manner of dreams, you know, to mix such things up.”

“I suppose. At any rate, we were going along pleasantly enough at first, in the Shire, but then suddenly I knew we must be in a terrible danger. I tried to make them go away, so they would not be in danger as well, but they refused to leave me, and they insisted they would protect *me*!”

Bilbo nodded, and encouraged, Frodo continued.

“Something dreadful was chasing us, and suddenly Sam was hustling me out of harm’s way, while Merry and the Took tried to distract whatever it was. I was so frightened for all of them, but they would not listen to me at all. And then I woke up, and my heart was beating ever so fast, and I was all in a cold sweat. It was horrible.” Frodo had gone pale as he finished.

Bilbo reached over and placed a comforting hand on Frodo’s. “Lad, I think it is just that you know how much they love you, and enjoy your companionship. You do all you can to protect and teach those little ones, and the day may come when they will repay your love and effort with trying to help and protect you. But hopefully you will never encounter anything horrible here in the Shire. And I think you may be a bit homesick for little Merry.”

“Do you think so, Bilbo?”

“I’m quite sure, my lad. Here, have another scone and some more bacon.”

Reassured, Frodo tackled his breakfast with renewed appetite. It was just a dream, after all.
____________________________________________
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am afraid I cheated a bit with this one, as Pippin was not born yet. But after all, it is the manner of dreams.

Title: Blue Eyes
Theme: Set #1; Theme #17 “Eyes”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: Pre-Quest, no particular time period
Summary: Three drabbles; Merry, Sam and Pippin think about Frodo’s eyes.

BLUE EYES
My earliest memory is a pair of blue eyes. I wasn’t old enough to even know words for what I felt, seeing those eyes filled with love and sadness. I knew those eyes. All I wanted to do was drive away the sadness in them. I felt a fierce joy when I could bring a smile to those eyes.

I was seven years old when I first saw fury in those eyes, directed at one who had dared to hurt me. The offender dealt with, Frodo turned my way. “My brave Merry,” Frodo said, and my heart swelled with pride.
__________________________________________

I suppose I weren’t much past being a faunt the first time I seen them blue eyes. Mr. Frodo was just a lad--maybe the same age as my older brother Halfred, as it seemed. He was sitting there on the back step at Bag End, a faraway look in them eyes. He didn’t see me there at first, staring at him. Then he saw me and smiled, though his eyes was still sad.

“Hullo. And who are you?”

I took my finger out of my mouth. “I’m Sammy,” I says.

“Frodo Baggins at your service, Sammy. Shall we be friends?”
_________________________________________

If you talk to Merry or Sam, they’ll talk about the sorrow in Frodo’s blue eyes. I know-- it’s often enough I’ve seen it myself.

But there’s something else in those eyes--something Tookish, for all they are blue rather than green. Something I recognize; I see it in the mirror. Merry may be half Took, but his eyes are Brandybuck through and through. But Frodo’s eyes have that curiosity that makes Tooks want to know what lies around the corner: a new road or secret gate. Merry fears Frodo leaving the Shire one day. I look forward to joining him.
_____________________________________________

Title: The Way of Things

Theme: Set #1, Theme #18, “Gentle Heart”

Genre (s): Mild angst
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 31; Sam, 19; Merry, 17; and Pippin is 9. ( 20, 12 ½, 11 and 5 ½ in Man years) Summary: Sam observes the cousins on a spring morning, during one of their annual visits to Bag End.

THE WAY OF THINGS

I’m thinning the spring onions in the vegetable beds, and watching Mr. Frodo and his cousins in the lower garden. He and Mr. Merry are sitting on the bench below the ash tree, talking, and Master Pippin’s playing about near the hedge. Suddenly, the little Took gives a cry, and picks something up from the ground.

I watch as Master Pippin runs up to his cousins, his dirty little face streaked with tears, and his hands cupped about something. Usually when he’s upset, he goes straight for Mr. Merry, but not this time--no, he runs to Mr. Frodo, to show him the little bird, a fledgling fallen from its nest, already dead.

Mr. Merry stands up, and puts his hand on little Master Pippin’s back, rubbing gently, but not sure what to say. He knows that pointing out it’s too late to do anything, and that it’s sometimes the way of things for the weak to die will be of no comfort to his young cousin. But he’s like me, of a practical turn of mind, and won’t find the words of comfort the lad needs, though he offers what he can.

Mr. Frodo, his eyes fill with tears as well. He takes the lad on his lap, and they look over the poor little creature together, and he gathers the child up, and murmurs just the right words of comfort as they weep together.

Mr. Frodo, he’s that gentle-hearted, and it looks like Master Pippin takes after him.


Title: “He Sat and Sang a Melody…”
Theme: Set #1, Theme #19, “Song”
Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: This takes place during the same annual spring visit as Story #12 of Set #1, “Looking Back”
Summary: Pippin spends the morning singing a particular song, which triggers memories for Merry, Sam and Frodo.

“HE SAT AND SANG A MELODY…”

Pippin leaned back against the trunk of the ash tree, his furry little feet swinging gently from the branch where he sat. He finished singing the last verse of “Nob O’ the Lea”, and then cast about in his mind for what to sing next. Soon his boyish treble soared out in one of old Cousin Bilbo’s compositions:

“There was a merry passenger,
a messenger, a mariner;
he built a gilded gondola
to wander in and had in her
a load of yellow oranges
and porridge for his provender;
he perfumed her with marjoram
and cardamom and lavender…”

In the grass below, Merry put his hands behind his head and settled in to get comfortable. He loved to listen to Pippin sing. His little cousin always seemed to pour his whole heart into the music. It was the one time he seemed to relax, and lose the fidgety restlessness that seemed to grip him the rest of the time. And this was a nice long song, one that went on for ages. The first time he had heard Cousin Bilbo sing it, it had lulled him to sleep. Idly, Merry wondered how it was that a lad who could forget from one moment to the next what he had done with his jacket, or who had given him a message, never seemed to forget the words of a song, no matter how long or complicated.

“He called the winds of argosies
with cargoes in to carry him
across the rivers seventeen
that lay between to tarry him.
He landed all in loneliness
where stonily the pebbles on
the running river Derilyn
go merrily forever on.
He journeyed then through meadow-lands
to Shadow-land that dreary lay,
and under hill and over hill
went roving still a weary way

He sat and sang a melody,
his errantry a-tarrying:
he begged a pretty butterfly
that fluttered by…”

By the hedge, Sam grinned and hummed along. That there was one of old Mr. Bilbo’s songs, one that was full of fanciful words. It wasn’t one Sam had ever managed to get his own tongue around--a lot of nonsense, the Gaffer had called it, and Mr. Bilbo had laughed and agreed. “Utter nonsense,” he had said, “just a bit of doggerel to see how the rhymes fit.”
But listening to Master Pippin singing it, it almost made sense. It made a lovely picture in the mind--though exactly what of, Sam could not say.

Pippin continued on, for it was a very long song, carried away himself by the wonderful way the words all seemed to flow together.

“…He passed the archipelagoes
where yellow grows the marigold,
where countless silver fountains are,
and mountains are of fairy gold.
He took to war and foraying
a-harrying beyond the sea,
and roaming over Belmarie
and Thellamie and Fantasie.

He made a shield and morion
of coral and of ivory,
a sword he made of emerald
and terrible his rivalry…”

In his study, at his desk next to the open window, Frodo put down his quill and putting his elbows on the desk, rested his chin in his hands and listened to the clear voice floating up to him. He remembered when Bilbo had written it. “I have in mind a more serious and longer work I should like to do some day, a translation of a tale from the Sindarin. But I want to see how the rhyming scheme and scansion will fit. This is just a bit of practice.” But Frodo had found himself enraptured by the imagery that the strange poem conjured up, and now coming from little Pippin’s sweet voice, he found himself somehow journeying with that mythical voyager, that merry mariner…

“…he took and turned, and coming home
with honeycomb, to memory
his message came, and errand, too!
In derring-do and glamoury
he had forgot them, journeying
and tourneying, a wanderer.
So now he must depart again
and start again his gondola,
forever still a messenger,
a passenger, a tarrier,
a-roving as a feather does,
a weather driven mariner.”*

Pippin’s voice faded out at the end of the song, and he breathed a sigh at its ending. Such a strange song, it seemed somehow both light-hearted and sad at the same time, the way he imagined Elves might be. He wondered if maybe the mysterious mariner was an Elf. Perhaps.
Now, what should he sing next?
__________________________________________________
*These are portions of the poem “Errantry” from “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” in The Tolkien Reader The title is also taken from part of the poem: “He sat and sang a melody, his errantry a-tarrying…” According to JRRT, “Errantry” was practice for the poem about Eärendil which Bilbo wrote in Rivendell. Personally, I find it far more charming than the more serious poem which followed from it.

Here it is: the final entry of my first set of themes:

Title: Sometimes It’s Worth It
Theme: Set #1, Theme #20, “Sunrise”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: Frodo is 47, Sam is almost 36, Merry has just turned 34, and Pippin is a few days from his 26th birthday. (about 30, 24 , 22 , and 16 ½ in Man-years) (This story takes place the day after story #15, “The Walls Came Tumbling Down”)
Summary: It’s hard to get started in the morning…

SOMETIMES IT’S WORTH IT

“Tell me again why we are waking at such an unnatural hour?” He glared blearily at Pippin, who had bounced into the room to cheerily waken his oldest cousin. He, himself, had wakened at midnight, helped himself to a snack of half an apple pie, left from three Marigold Gamgee had sent up for them for their supper, some bread with as much jam as bread, and some tea well sweetened with honey, and then never gone back to sleep. He had spent the intervening four hours prowling about Bag End, snooping, as he was too wound up to go back to sleep.

“It was *your* idea, Frodo! You wanted to make up the time we lost yesterday, because you and Merry were too whipped to go anywhere.”

“Me and my brilliant ideas,” Frodo groaned. “I suppose it’s too late to change my mind.”

“That’s right,” chirped Pippin, “for we’re to meet Sam in an hour.”

Frodo muttered under his breath, and swung his feet to the floor. “Well, if I have to be up, so does Merry. Have you wakened *him* yet?”

“Just the first time. As soon as you’re up I’ll go check. If it didn’t take, I’ll wake him again.” Merry would usually wake up right away, but sometimes he appeared to be awake, and would then roll over and go back to sleep.

“I’m up! I’m up!” said Frodo crossly.

“I’ll go make first breakfast after I check on Merry. I *think* there’s still some jam left from my snack last night.” He left the room and Frodo rolled his eyes. So *that* was the explanation for all Pippin’s energy, and not just the excitement of their walk to Tookland with Sam, to celebrate his birthday.

They were getting away a day later than they had planned, for their help to Sam in rebuilding the stone wall which a storm had damaged had left all three of them--Pippin included, in spite of his jest--sore and exhausted.

Sam had been grateful, if somewhat taken aback, by their help, and as a thanks, he and his sister had prepared a lavish supper for them the evening before. Sam had also given them massages with some of the Gaffer’s liniment, to ease their sore backs.

He heard a thump, a thud, and a yell from Merry’s room, followed by a slamming door and the sound of footsteps running. Merry must have gone back to sleep, and Pippin had probably taken the expedient of rolling him onto the floor to waken him. He chuckled, and finished getting dressed.

True to his word, Pippin had made breakfast: sausages, eggs, toast--and, yes, jam. There were still a few scrapes left in the bottom of the pot. It had been nearly full the night before. The three cousins were still eating when Sam knocked on the kitchen door.
“Come on in, Sam!” Frodo called.

Sam joined them for a cup of tea, and then they collected their packs, readied the evening before, and Frodo locked the front door to Bag End, before they headed down the path.

“It’s only about fourteen miles going cross-country,” Frodo said, “so we should get there by teatime if we keep a steady pace.”

They walked silently at first, heads down, still a bit tired; the sky was beginning to lighten in the east, though to the west darkness was still there, and the last of the morning stars. But after a while, Pippin said “Look at the sunrise!”

The four of them stopped, and stared to the east. The line of trees was silhouetted in black, casting long shadows on the gentle and newly planted fields. The sky was streaked with vivid pink and orange and lavender, shading into pale violet and blue, and the rays of the sun were just peeking over the trees, as she began her daily journey.

Merry took a deep breath, and Sam said in an awed whisper, “That’s an eye-opener, that is!”

They stood for a while, watching as the Sun came up, and the colors faded into the pale blue of day.

After a moment, Frodo sighed. “That was worth losing sleep over,” he said, as they started walking once more.

SET TWO: The Fellowship

Title: Who Best Will Serve?

Theme: Set 2, Theme 1, “Doomed”

Genre (s): Drama
Pairing (s): N/A

Rating: G
Notes:

Summary: The Ring goes South, and begins to probe for weaknesses…

WHO BEST WILL SERVE?

Many others of Elrond’s household stood in the shadows and watched them go, bidding them farewell with soft voices. There was no laughter, and no song or music. At last they turned away and faded silently into the dusk. 

They crossed the bridge and wound slowly up the long steep paths that led out of the cloven vale of Rivendell; and they came at length to the high moor where the wind hissed through the heather. Then with one glance at the Last Homely House twinkling below them they strode away far into the night.*

As they forded the Bruinen and crossed the Road, Frodo felt it starting up once more--the relentless whisper of the Ring…

It was useless. The halfling had steeled his mind, and would not allow the whispers to be aimed at the other halflings. When they had left the Shire it had tried. One of them was intelligent and ambitious and proud. But that pride was too bound up in kinship, and was not usable against one of his own. One of them had the fears and insecurities of youth--but too much faith in his kindred to allow the Ring to discourage him. One of them was no kin at all, and it seemed if only he could be convinced that he was a poor down-trodden servant--but he simply did not even listen. All his attention was focused on his Master, and he would not even *hear* the whispers. And all of them were intent on protecting the bearer, no matter the cost to themselves. Try as it might, it had gained no quick hold on any of them, and was beginning to simply count on persistence to wear one of them down.

But as soon as the bearer had realized what was going on, he steeled his will and with a firm “No more!” put an end to the attempt. It took all the strength he had, and then some, but his will placed a wall around the other three.

Then there was the Ranger, that Dúnadan. It recognized the heir of Isildur, and perhaps there were some of the same weaknesses--but alas, his will was also too strong. He heard the whispers,no doubt of it, but he paid them no heed, and instead fixed his mind on the half-Elven maid whom he loved. The Ring could find no purchase there--that tie bound him too firmly. Even promises to make gaining her hand less difficult were rebuffed as empty.

It had resumed its efforts on the bearer, trying to get him to betray them to the pursuing Ringwraiths, and finally, at Amon Sul, had succeeded. When the Morgul blade had pierced him, the Ring had exulted, and given over its own attempts, for surely he would soon succumb, and carry it straight to its Master. But he had not, through days and days, until they entered the vale of the Elf-lord, and the influence of one of the Three. Without being on its Master’s hand, it could not challenge one of the Three, and so it slept for a while….

But now…

The Elven prince, perhaps. He was proud and stiff-necked. He had a good deal of resentment towards those of Dwarven-kind. But the whispers were quickly recognized for what they were, and ran up against a deep hatred for Sauron and all he represented--the ruin of the Greenwood. Promises that he could master the Ring and somehow heal all those ills met with a stubborn and inflexible skepticism…

The Dwarf? Dwarves were nearly impossible to master. The Seven had never worked properly on them, but perhaps a promise of wealth and gold? This Dwarf however, seemed to be all but deaf to the whispers…

The Maia could hear the whispers, all too easily. The promise of healing the ills of Arda, of throwing Sauron down, of saving the small ones from the suffering they were likely to endure. He heard them all right. He had heard them before. And paid them no more heed now than he had then. It intensified its efforts. Did he not know that he was one of the few who could actually *master* the Ring? Did he not know that he could accomplish all his task in an instant with its help?

“Enough!” came a mental shout from the Wizard, and a wall slammed down.

The other Man…

Ah, yes, the other Man. He could hear the whispers, loud and clear, and he did not seem to understand what they were. Pride was there, and despair, and anger…

Ah, yes. Yes, indeed.

______________________________________________

*From The Fellowship of the Ring” Book II, Chapter III, “The Ring Goes South”

Title: The Long Dark of Moria
Theme: Set #2, Theme #2, “Dark”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: A drabble…

THE LONG DARK OF MORIA

The glow at the staff’s end makes a circle of light, radiating just enough to encase the figures within its compass and illuminate the way a few steps. All around, the darkness presses against the pale circle of light.

Within the glow, nine figures move: four short, one a bit taller, and four quite tall. The figures halt. The four smallest collapse in a weary huddle, followed by the remaining ones, until only the one with the staff yet stands.

The light slowly fades out.

In the blackness all that remains is the sound of ragged breathing and pounding heartbeats.

_________________________________________

 

Title: If I Only Had a Fire
Theme: Set #2, Theme #3. “Fire”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: Pippin wants a fire.
 

IF I ONLY HAD A FIRE

It was cold. It was wet. It was dreary. Aside from the Company themselves, there was not another living thing around them for miles and miles. Aragorn had said so, and so had Legolas. Pippin was perfectly miserable, and he felt not unreasonably, quite cross with Gandalf.

Why couldn’t they have a fire? If they had a fire, they could dry out their wet clothes from walking in a freezing drizzle most of the night. And he didn’t care if Merry said that if the drizzle was freezing it would have been sleet rather than rain. Pippin *felt* frozen from the tips of his curls to the ends of his furry toes. And he didn’t much care for Strider’s comments either, that he wouldn’t really know what frozen was until they got to the Redhorn Pass. If Strider thought that frozen was worse than this, he didn’t want to know about it, thank you.

If they had a fire, Sam could cook something. Pippin could really use a warm meal in his belly. Cold camp meant cold food. Pippin could just imagine the nice hot soup Sam could conjure up out of their meager stores. He’d be perfectly willing to go and get some firewood, and help build a fire.


If they had a fire, then Boromir and Gimli could be warm while they stood watch. He was quite sure the Man and the Dwarf would appreciate it. But Pippin was unreasonably cross with the Elf. It wasn’t fair that Legolas wasn’t as cold and miserable as the rest of them.

If they had a fire, it wouldn’t be so dark and dank. True the Sun had more or less shown herself, and Frodo said it will get lighter by and by, but not to worry about it, because Pippin ought to be asleep by then anyway. Of course, that was saying nothing about the perversity of walking all night and trying to sleep during the day, was it?

If they had a fire…

Merry sat down next to him, and bumped his shoulder with his own. Drat. His cousin was trying to cheer him up. Pippin didn’t want to be cheered up. He wanted to be cross. He wanted a fire.

Another bump. He turned and looked into Merry’s grey eyes which were trying to twinkle for him, but were tired-looking all the same.

Bump. “Come on, Pip. You’ll be warmer once we get under the blankets, you know you will.”

In spite of himself, Pippin smiled at Merry, and dragged himself up, to snuggle up with him and Frodo and Sam, with all their blankets on top.

But he still wished they had a fire.
_______________________________________


Title: Two Nights Out of Rivendell
Theme: Set #2, Theme #4, “Question”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: The thoughts of the Fellowship during a long night of walking…

TWO NIGHTS OUT OF RIVENDELL

It was with a worried expression that Frodo noticed Pippin stumble for the third time in the last few minutes. His younger cousin was no longer shrugging off Merry’s steadying hand on his arm. He, himself, was flagging and he could feel Sam’s anxious presence at his elbow. Only a couple of days out of Rivendell and already walking all night felt old. He raised his eyes ahead where Gandalf strode at the front. When will Gandalf let us stop?

The Wizard looked up at the small copse of trees in the far distance, black against the violet night sky. It would normally be a half-hour’s trek, but as tired as the hobbits probably were, it could take twice as long. He thought of his conversations in Rivendell, with Bilbo and with Elrond. Perhaps he’d made a mistake. Was young Peregrin really up to this journey?

Pippin allowed himself to lean on Merry just a bit. It was important for Frodo’s sake that he keep up, and if that meant letting Merry help him, so be it. No one was going to have to regret letting him come along because he slowed them down if he could help it. It was just so hard to sleep in the daytime. Yesterday he’d curled up, tired enough, with Merry at his back, and Frodo at his front, and Sam on the other side of Frodo, snoring gently, only to realize he was wide awake. But he could not move for fear of waking the others. It was worse torture than having an itchy nose and not being able to scratch it, to lie there awake, with sleep eluding him, unable to move. And then when sleep finally did come, why it was almost time to go. His belly gave a loud rumble. He twisted his mouth ruefully. Time for breakfast--not *first* mind you, but *only* breakfast! He supposed bacon and eggs and broiled tomatoes and fried mushrooms and scones and tea were out of the question. What *would* Sam make for breakfast?

Sam heard Pippin’s stomach growl, and his own begin its morning rumble. It would soon be time to stop, and he’d need to be making breakfast, if you could call it that, when they were going to bed instead of getting up. He thought perhaps some of that summer sausage, fried up, and griddlecakes. And he might chop up some apples and simmer them to put on the griddlecakes. Porridge would be nice and filling, but he wasn’t sure he had the time to make a proper porridge. Had Legolas found them a nice place to camp for the day?

Legolas looked at the small clearing he had found. The trees had been very obliging, and this was an ideal spot for the day’s rest: hidden from spying eyes by the canopy of the trees, as well as shade enough to make rest easier for bodies more accustomed to resting at night. But plenty of room to make a small cookfire. It was in a small depression, which would also help to hide a fire. Fortunately Sam was skilled at making sure his fires did not smoke. He cocked his head--ah! small game. Perhaps he’d find something for the cookpot this evening. He was sure the hobbits would appreciate that. Would Aragorn feel like joining him for the hunt?

Aragorn was not at all tired. Perhaps instead of sleeping after they stopped, he would do a bit of hunting. They had not travelled nearly the distance he was accustomed to covering on his own. It was difficult to have to keep his pace slow enough for the hobbits; he had learned the hard way on the trek from Bree that they would attempt to keep whatever pace he set, and he did not wish to make them ill or overly exhausted. It was not so desperate a journey as that from Weathertop. Whatever the urgency Gandalf felt, they had time. He glanced briefly at the rest of the Company. Gimli moved tirelessly. Would the Dwarf be best to take the first watch?

Gimli’s pace was steady. The taller folk were having to go slower for the hobbits’ sake, and the little ones appeared on the verge of exhaustion. But he knew from what his father had told him that these little people were quite tough. They just needed a few days to get into condition was all. But he himself felt quite fresh. Perhaps he would offer to take the first watch. Yesterday Aragorn and Gandalf had taken the watches. If he took the first watch, then Boromir would probably take the next, for the Elf would be scouting again. Elves were useful for a few things he supposed, especially since they did not seem to sleep much. He glanced over at the big Gondorian, who did not seem winded. His sword had been notched yesterday when he had allowed Pippin to hold it and the hobbit had accidentally allowed the edge to strike a rock. Would Boromir take it amiss if he offered to hone it for him to pass the time during his watch?

Boromir moved along, feeling the restraint of not being able to walk in his usual ground eating pace. He shook his head. The hobbits were trying very hard. He remembered poor Pippin’s consternation yesterday, when he had not been able to hold up Boromir’s sword. Perhaps the Dwarf would have what he needed to hone the notch out. His own sharpening stone had been lost in the waters of the Greyflood ere he reached Rivendell. His eyes moved to the hobbits, as they trudged along. Pippin had not slept well yesterday, either. But Merry did not seem quite so tired. The young Brandybuck was quite tough. It would not do to allow too much time to lapse in the young one’s lessons. Would Merry feel like weapons-practice when they wakened this afternoon?

Merry saw Boromir looking his way. Probably wondering if they were up to having a lesson this afternoon. He steadied Pippin again, and gave the lad a fond look. He was sure Pip had not slept well yesterday. The Took was very much a morning person, and it would have gone against his grain to try and sleep in the daytime. Merry hoped that his younger cousin’s exhaustion would be enough to let him sleep today. He was sure that in just a few more days they would adjust to this new schedule. It was a worried expression he cast at Frodo. Frodo, too, looked winded and tired. He saw how Sam was hovering at his master’s elbow. But the Baggins stubbornness would not give in. Frodo would continue until he collapsed if Gandalf didn’t call a halt, and never show a sign of it till he fell over. He caught the look Frodo shot in Pippin’s direction. Frodo’d be more likely to call a halt for Pip’s sake than his own; but Pip would find that humiliating. Blast all these long-legged Big Folk anyway. And blast that Ring as well. Why did it ever have to come to Frodo?

Aragorn raised a hand, and the Company halted. Legolas was approaching--perhaps he’d found a place for them to stop for the day.

________________________

 
Title: O! Water Cold
Theme: Set #2, Theme #5, “Falling rain”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: Readers of this story who also follow “The Road to Edoras” at Stories of Arda, may recognize this as an expansion of an anecdote told by Gimli and Legolas in Chapter 13.
Summary: The Fellowship seeks some sort of shelter from a thunderstorm; tempers are short…

O! WATER COLD

The Company trudged along miserably, soaking wet, their cloaks offering little protection from the downpour. It was early afternoon, as the storm made night travel dangerous, and Gandalf was quite sure there would be no crebain flying, what with the rain and the wind gusts.

It was raining so hard that the hobbits were certain it could rain no harder. They were wrong. There was a loud clap of thunder, and the water came down in buckets.

“That was very near,” said Frodo.

“It was,” agreed Aragorn. He was beginning to think that it might be wise to seek *some* sort of shelter, though what they might find in the wilderness was doubtful. It would most certainly not be a good idea to get under a tree, with all the lightning and thunder.

“Gandalf!” he called.

The wizard turned to look at him. His hat brim was soaked, and hung about his head, while his hair and beard were streaming. He did not look happy. “What is it?” he asked gruffly.

Before Aragorn could answer, there was another clap of thunder, nearly simultaneous with a brilliant flash, followed immediately by a crash just behind them. Bill nearly bolted, and it took both Sam and Gimli to keep the frightened pony from careening away. Half a huge pine tree lay on the path behind them, steam and smoke coming from the break, where the lightning had hit.

Everyone stared. Boromir swore, and the hobbits were pale and trembling. Even Legolas looked dismayed.

Aragorn turned back to look at Gandalf. “I think we need to seek what shelter we may find, and quickly.”


Gandalf nodded. “I think perhaps you are right. But I do not know what we may find in this barren wilderness.” They had begun to leave the foothills of the Misty Mountains behind, and were getting near the knees of the mountains themselves.

Legolas said “I can go ahead to scout for a place, perhaps a crevice, or even a cave.”

Gandalf nodded. “Do not seek too far, however. The nearer the better.”

The rest of the company huddled together, chilled and shivering. Legolas soon returned.

“Alas, the best thing I could find is a bit of an overhang nearby. Perhaps we bigger folk can keep the worst of the rain off the smaller ones, and we would at least be safer from the lightning.”

Another, somewhat more distant crack of thunder decided them. They picked up their pace as best they could, and coming around a curve in the path, they saw what Legolas had described. They put poor Bill on the windward side, and as the four hobbits huddled together, the rest of the Fellowship stood over them, cloaks spread, trying to at least keep them a bit warm, if not dry.

Sam was muttering softly, and gradually grew louder. Finally he said “I don’t call this shelter. No walls, no roof, no floor. Shelter keeps the weather off…”

Merry said crossly “At least it’s better than being on the trail, with trees falling on us.”

“If we was in a nice cozy smial…” Sam started.

“Well, we are *not* in a nice cozy smial, Sam, and we *won’t* be in a nice c-cozy s-smial or anything else remotely called cozy f-for sometime to come,” said Frodo firmly. Sam rarely complained, but on the few occasions that he did, he would stubbornly go on and on, on the same theme over and over.

Sam snapped his mouth shut, as Frodo hardly ever used that tone with him, but he looked very nearly mutinous.

Gandalf said nothing, leaving the squabbling to the hobbits, and the other members of the Company wisely followed his lead. They had learned to let the hobbits settle these occasional difficulties themselves.

Pippin had said nothing, but looked at the angry faces of the others, and now said brightly, “How about a song?”

Now Merry looked at him crossly. “A song? Are you insane? You think everything in the world can be solved with a song?”

Pippin looked seriously thoughtful. “It would be well if it could. But sometimes songs do help a bit--and with all this water, I think I know just the one!” He turned his face up, and closed his eyes and began to sing:

Sing hey! for the bath at the close of the day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!”

The others looked at him incredulously, their quarrelsomeness completely forgotten in their surprise. Even the Big Folk looked amazed, as Pippin continued:

“O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.”

Merry rolled his eyes, and a little smile began to twitch at Frodo’s lips. Sam suppressed a chuckle.

“O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back!”

Just then a huge gust of wind-driven rain sent copious amounts of very *cold* water down the backs of the Big Folk as they stood over the hobbits! Boromir gave an exclamation of startlement, but Aragorn laughed out loud at the incongruity of it all. Frodo began to snicker.

Pippin began the last verse:

“O! Water is fair that leaps on high”

And then the other hobbits joined in.

“…in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing hot water beneath my feet!”
*

The hobbits all laughed, and the others began to smile in spite of the conditions. But after a moment, Merry said: “Well, Pip, that’s all well and good, but you’ve seem to be confused. This water is anything but Hot.”

With a very solemn expression on his face, Pippin lowered his voice to a whisper and replied--“Shh--don’t tell me. If I don’t know, then maybe I won’t notice.”

At this, the whole Company burst out in laughter, even Gandalf.

The hobbits began to reminisce about the song, and several memorable bath times, mostly involving Pippin’s older cousins getting drenched trying to bathe an enthusiastic small Pippin. Pippin had always loved his bath--only too well, sometimes.

“You came out lucky, Frodo,” said Merry. “You usually had my help, and only had to give him a bath at Bag End. I had to deal with *this* one at Brandy Hall as well!”

“Well, you will recall that *Bilbo* managed to *never* have to give him a bath! He always gave that particular task to us!”

“Do you recollect the time I had to help you wash the sap out of his hair?” asked Sam.

Far from being abashed or embarrassed at these childhood anecdotes, Pippin managed to stand there looking insufferably pleased with himself. He glanced up, and grinned, as Gandalf gave him a wink.

Legolas turned slightly, and looked to the sky. “The rain is slacking off. I think this storm shall soon have passed us.”

And within moments, the rain was gone. Cold and wet, the Company moved on.
_______________________________________________
*Taken from The Fellowship of the Ring Book I, Chapter V, “A Conspiracy Unmasked”

 
Title: A Convivial Evening
Theme: Set #2, Theme #6, “Beer”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: This was one of several entries written in long-hand to while away the hot, powerless days after the storm.

Summary: In which Bilbo entertains the Fellowship before they leave on the Quest…

A CONVIVIAL EVENING

I was uncertain as to what I should expect, as I stood at the door to Master Bilbo Baggins’ apartments in Imladris--Rivendell, as the Northerners call it. Hobbits, as the halflings call themselves, are still very much a mystery to me. I have had a brief but compelling conversation with the Ringbearer, and I find him to be an exceptional person of much quiet dignity, with a keen intelligence, but sadly lacking in any self-conceit. He reminds me a good deal of my younger brother. Faramir, too, often carries modesty and self-effacement too far. But I know what is the cause of Faramir’s self-doubts; I do not yet know why Frodo Baggins is that way. And I have noted that when it comes to wielding his authority with his younger cousins, he is quite confident and firm with them, though never lacking in affection.

Merry and Pippin I have come to appreciate--they have charming personalities, the both of them. They are earnest learners, as I try to teach them somewhat of sword-play and self-defense. Merry has a good deal of brash self-confidence, and his sly boasts are very often true. He also has a natural talent with his blade. Pippin is a sweet lad with a tender heart, but when it comes to sparring with his cousin he does not hold back. He is quick with his wits as well, though also more impulsive and less apt to consider consequences. Both of them will soon learn enough to make a foe cautious in spite of their small size. Nevertheless, they often say or do things that baffle me; I confess that some of their concerns seem very odd. I recall that when I told them my family consisted only of my father and brother, they were quite worried, until I confessed that I also had my Uncle Imrahil, and several cousins in Dol Amroth. This seemed to reassure them, even as it worried them. They seemed concerned that I had not included my uncle and cousins as family at the first, and feared it indicated some family feud or bad blood between us. Their jests as well are often obscure to me, as though there is some secret language between them. And woe betide me if I should cause their weapons practice to go even a few minutes past a regular meal. I do believe I could set a clock by the rumblings of Pippin’s stomach.

I fear I do not know Master Gamgee at all yet. Samwise seems shy of me, and somewhat cautious and wary around me. I hope that this will soon be remedied as we travel together.

And I began with some very embarrassing misconceptions about Master Bilbo Baggins. I am afraid that I misunderstood his standing in the House of Lord Elrond, and, partly based on his droll manner of speech, had taken him for no more than a comical, and possibly senile, old fool. I was soon set straight by the grave attention paid him at the Council, and after speaking with him a few more times, began to realize that he was a person of sharp intelligence, and had a certain amount of authority due him not only due to his advanced years, but also to his social standing in his homeland. For though he had forsaken the Shire, it was quite clear by the relief his younger kin felt in finding him here, and in their quick submission to his authority as the senior member of their family. I then realized that Lord Elrond had consulted him as to who would be sent with the Ringbearer as well. So, although I had thankfully never said anything untoward to the elderly hobbit, I felt a bit embarrassed in his presence, realizing the injustice I had dealt him at the first. I was therefore very surprised to receive this invitation to his small domain this evening.

Of course, when he explained that he wished to get to know those who would be accompanying his nephew on this journey, I accepted at once.

I had barely rapped on the door, when it popped open. “Ah, Lord Boromir! How pleasant! Do come in! Most of the others are here already! We now await only the arrival of Aragorn and Gandalf.”

The spacious rooms were furnished with a combination of furniture meant for persons of both small and tall stature. I was led to a large overstuffed chair. Young Pippin came and sat on a footstool next to it.

“Hullo, Boromir!” he grinned cheekily. “I’m glad you came to this little party!”

“Why how could I turn down an invitation when I knew you would be a guest as well, you little imp,” I replied. Pippin laughed at my sally, as I knew he would. Of all the four hobbits, I feel the most comfortable jesting with him.

“Pip!” said Merry sharply. “Stir your stumps and get over here and help with the refreshments. And I don’t mean by that to sample it for quality!”

Pippin stuck his tongue out at Merry, but laughingly went over to the table where the five hobbits were laying out a lavish spread. I saw there breads, sliced meats and cheeses, fruits, several kinds of pastries and cakes and any number of other tasty items. It seemed to me enough food for thirty, yet we would be only ten in number tonight. Of course, the hobbits would probably eat twice as much as the rest of us put together. The first time I watched Pippin eat, I was worried that he would make himself sick with all the quantities of food I watched him consume, only to have Merry turn to me, in all seriousness, and say “I’m worried about Pip. He seems to be off his feed. I suppose it’s all the fear for Frodo that has blunted his appetite.” I have since learned that Merry was quite right. I do not know what hobbits do with all the food they eat.

But of more interest to me was the cask which Bilbo, with the help of Samwise, was preparing to tap. Lined up in front of it were a number of mugs, five in hobbit size and five of a regular size. The presence of such small mugs made me realize once more that Bilbo was an honored member of the community here in Rivendell, and not simply a passing guest. From what Merry had told me, the elderly hobbit had been living here for very nearly seventeen years.

The Elf, Legolas, was standing near the back of the room, watching the procedure with curious eyes. I get the feeling that hobbits are almost as much a mystery to him as they are to me. Like most Elves, he gives off an aura of unseen power, but he does not seem so aloof as the Elves who dwell here. I know little of his land of Mirkwood save a few tales, but one thing I do know: it has been very nearly as besieged by the Enemy as Gondor. And I must try not to let myself be deceived by Prince Legolas’ seeming youth. I know not what his age is, but he is most decidedly older than I by several hundred years at the least.

The Dwarf, Gimli, is displaying a good deal of interest in the cask as well, but Master Baggins laughs him off. “All in good time, my dear Gimli. We must wait for the other guests to arrive.”

I have as yet had no real conversation with the Dwarf. I have of course, spoken to him in passing, and when Lord Elrond and Mithrandir were giving us information we needed for the journey. But I have not spoken with him at all informally. Perhaps this evening will help to remedy that. From what I have observed of him, he seems to be very blunt-spoken, but that, I have been told, is a characteristic of all Dwarves. He also seems to have a very dry sense of humor, and is as quick to aim a jest at himself as at others.

There was another rap on the door, and at the same moment, Bilbo, Frodo and Merry all said “Get the door, Pippin!” I have noticed that he is quite cheerful about the way he is constantly ordered about, and does not seem to resent it in the least. A Gondorian youth would have taken offense at the casual orders, and obeyed sullenly if at all.

He opened the door with a grin. “Strider! And Gandalf! Come in, come in! Bilbo won’t let us touch a thing until everyone is here!”

Aragorn smiled, and greeted him cheerfully. Gandalf looked at him with an indulgent twinkle in his eye. “And of course, Peregrin Took, that is more important to you than our company, I am sure!” he said gruffly.

“Of course, Gandalf,” he said. “After all, food’s food and beer’s beer, and what’s more important than that?” He gave another of his giggles when he said it, and the old Wizard just shook his head.

I am amazed at how cheeky all the hobbits are with the Wizard. I, too, have known Mithrandir from my childhood. He was ever a good friend to my brother, and was always kind to me as well, in spite of the fact that our father was never more than coldly polite to him. Yet even though I have known him at least as long as the younger hobbits, I would never dream of being so familiar with him. Yet he seems to take it in good humor, using a gruff and cranky tone with them, and scolding Pippin frequently, all with that same fond look in his eye.

Aragorn is another with whom I have been hoping to have a talk. He is, after all, the only other Man in the Company, and if we should succeed in our task, it is more than likely he shall one day be my King. But what can a Ranger of the North know of the White City? Is he worthy of his blood? This I long to know. He was reared among the Elves--I hear him call Lord Elrond “father”, and he calls the sons of Elrond his brothers. He certainly does not present the picture of a king; he dresses in the worn leathers of a Ranger, and allows the hobbits to call him by the familiar nickname of “Strider”. They are certainly impressed with him, and from what Merry and Pippin have told me, he faced down five of the Nine when the Ringbearer was wounded, armed with naught but a flaming brand. And, too, when I look at him, there is something very familiar about his face, and even his voice. Perhaps it is merely the stamp of his Númenorean blood. I have a great curiosity about him.

Perhaps he has a similar curiosity about me, for even as I was thinking of him, he came over to me.

“My Lord Boromir, I have been hoping to speak with you away from the formalities of conferences and councils; yet I have been much abroad scouting with my brothers, and no chance has arisen until now.”

“I am glad to have this opportunity, as well, my Lord Aragorn.”

He gave a wide smile. “Listen to us. Shall we dispense with ‘my lord’? For we are to be travelling companions for many long months. Please feel free to call me Aragorn, or even ‘Strider’ as the hobbits do.”

“I would never be so presumptuous as that; however I shall call you ‘Aragorn’ if you will call me ‘Boromir’.”

“Done.” He reached out and I clasped his hand briefly to seal the bargain. His grip was firm, but not crushing--he felt no need to impress his strength upon me, as some Men do upon meeting. “It has been many a year since I was in Minas Tirith. Tell me how does the White City fare?”

“You have been in Gondor?” I was surprised.

“Many years ago, I had some business there.”

He did not seem inclined to say more, and I did not press him. Perhaps he would tell me more when we became better acquainted.

“The City is fair, but grim. My father prepares her for war even now. The enemy is pressing us hard. Your strength will be welcome there, and the return of the King would put heart into our people.”

“Yet would your father truly welcome me? I think my presence there might trouble him.”

This troubled me somewhat as well. My father has always held that the Stewards were all the nobler for never having claimed the kingship, yet I know that he also grips his own authority with a strong hand. Still, he has always trusted my judgment. I think if he were satisfied that Aragorn was who he said he was, he would accept it. I am sure of it. Really, I am. Of course he would.

“He would,” I said aloud, “need to be sure of who you are. But I think that he would welcome any aid to the realm that could be given.” I thought to turn the subject. “What do you think of the hobbits?” I asked.

He laughed. “I have known Bilbo for many a year, and have observed hobbits as I guarded their lovely little land of the Shire. I thought that I knew somewhat of hobbits. But it is only since travelling with those four that I learned just how little I truly knew. Their toughness and resilience is remarkable. A strong Man would have succumbed to that Morgul-blade in a matter of days, or even hours. Frodo bore his wound for over two weeks, uncomplaining, even at times attempting to be cheerful for the sake of his companions. And I was surprised at how well the younger hobbits kept up with us--Pippin especially felt the pangs of our short rations. Yet ever their care was for their wounded one, and they were always by his side.”

“They are creatures out of legend to me,” I confessed. “We have the occasional nursery tale of the mischievous pheriannath, the little folk who are fond of pranks, but are shy and seldom seen. Most folk in Gondor do not even believe that they exist.”

I do not know what he would have replied, for just then, Master Baggins announced that the beer was ready to be served. Merry brought two mugs over to us, and encouraged us to find our food at the table “before Pippin gets a chance at it, and leaves it bare as a field after locusts.”

The Dwarf Gimli quaffed his beer quickly, and rubbing a rough hand across the foam that flecked his beard, said “By Durin’s beard! That is a most excellent beer, Master Bilbo! Where did you come by it?”

“From the cellars here at Rivendell, of course,” that worthy replied.

“*Elves* made this?” he sounded incredulous. “I thought Elves only drank wine!”

Bilbo chuckled, and the Elf Legolas said, with the slightly patronizing air he tended to use with the Dwarf, “That is a common misconception. Elves in general, *are* far more fond of wine. But we certainly like beer and ale as well.”

“In fact, they are uncommonly good brewers when they choose to be,” said Bilbo, “but I must confess that they do not broach the beer casks as often as *I* would prefer.”

Mithrandir laughed, and said “My dear Bilbo, if they broached the beer casks as often as *you* preferred, you would soon be an avowed tippler!”

“Now, Gandalf, I seem to recall that you are fond of your beer as well as your pipe, so don’t take that tone with me!”

“Well,” said Pippin, who was at the tap and filling his own mug once more, “I’d say this is even better than the beer at The Golden Perch!”

“I think you’re right, Pip,” agreed Merry, who waited behind him to refill his mug as well. “What do you say, Sam?” he turned to Samwise, who was right behind him.

“I don’t know, sir, as I never got the chance to try the beer at The Golden Perch. But I’d say it’s at least as good as The Green Dragon, though it’s not so brown.”

Frodo nodded. He was still on his first mug. I had noticed that he seemed to be just a bit more abstemious than the others. “I think that you are right, Sam.”

This led to a discussion of different inns and the excellence or poor quality of their beers and ales, and from there we soon, as it will happen in a company of males, of whatever races, began to tell stories of times when we had managed to be the worse for drink. I told of the first time I took Faramir out to get drunk, and how he somehow turned the tables on me, so that both of us were somewhat more than mellow when we made our way back to the Citadel. It was only the kindness of an older Guardsman that we slipped in without our father discovering our folly.

Mischievously, Frodo told of Merry’s initiation into over-indulgence, and had all of us laughing, but when I asked Pippin about his first such experience, he looked at his toes, and Merry quickly said, “Oh, no one wants to hear that story.” The hobbits looked so solemn at this that I wondered what the tale might be, but Merry went on “How about you, Gimli?”

“Dwarves never get drunk!” he proclaimed. “Although it would not do, perhaps to ask my cousin OÍn if that is really true.”

“It would not do to ask me, either,” said Bilbo. “For I have seen enough Dwarves in their cups to know. I will confess, however, that it is rare. Dwarves have a remarkable capacity for drink, and Dwarven ale is a potent brew!” He looked at Legolas. “And I know that Elves are not immune to over-indulgence either. I seem to remember a couple of Mirkwood Elves who made themselves rather merry over some wine, and thus allowed me to make away with some of my friends.”

Legolas burst out into laughter. “My father *still* rails over that from time to time. But the wine of Dorwinion is remarkably potent, and even by Elves not meant to be drunk unwatered!”

We now listened to some of Bilbo’s reminiscences of his adventure in Erebor. Although I had heard his tale at the Council, there had been so much else told there, that I am afraid his story was rather lost on me. Now, as I listened, with some additional remarks from Gimli, and even Legolas, it suddenly dawned on me: this small being had bearded a dragon in it’s lair and lived to tell of it. He had survived a series of mishaps on his own with remarkable ingenuity and courage. And it was through his quick wits that a war between those who should have been allies was averted, and enabled them to overcome the Enemy’s forces in the Battle of Five Armies, tales of which had come down to us even in Gondor. I stared at him as if seeing him for the first time.

The hobbits were making more inroads on the food, and I rose and took a bit more to nibble on as well.

Pippin grinned up at me. “We’ll make a hobbit of you yet, Boromir.”

I chuckled. I can think of worse fates.

The evening began to wind down. Mithrandir took his leave, saying he had promised to speak to Lord Elrond, and then Aragorn as well made his excuses. I confess it, I was the last except for the hobbits, to leave.

The younger hobbits, under Frodo’s direction were clearing away the signs of the party, as Master Bilbo escorted me to the door.

“I cannot thank you enough,” I said, “for inviting me here this evening. I have had a delightful time, and you are a most excellent host.” I meant every word. I have not felt so relaxed since I left Gondor.

The old hobbit looked up with a twinkle in his eye. “I had my reasons. I am confiding into your care, and that of the others, those whom I hold most dear. I needed to know that they will be with those I can trust.”

I nodded. “And do you think that you can trust me?”

“As well as any,” he said. “I think that you are a noble and honorable Man, and will do all in your power to protect my dear ones.”

“Thank you.” And as I made my way to my room, I felt a deep respect for that venerable hobbit, and I realized how honored I was to have his respect in return. I vowed not to let him down.

 

 
Title: A Conspiracy of Comedy
Theme: Set #2, Theme #7, “Smiling face”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: My thanks to Marigold, who helped me over the hump with this one!
Summary: The Company tries to cheer Frodo up…

A CONSPIRACY OF COMEDY

"The Company were footsore and tired; but they trudged doggedly along the rough and winding track for many miles. The sun turned from the noon and began to go west. After a brief halt and a hasty meal, they went on again.” *

“This isn’t right, Gandalf.” The wizard looked with surprise at the hobbit who stood at his elbow with a mug of soup.

“Whatever do you mean, Meriadoc Brandybuck?”

“Look.” He gestured with his chin to where Frodo sat, taking his soup from Pippin, and thanking him solemnly, even though Pippin had presented it to him with an extravagant gesture and a flamboyant bow. “Even Pippin can’t cheer him up.”

Pippin glanced over at Merry, with a crestfallen face, and gave an apologetic shrug.

“I am sorry to see that, Merry,” Gandalf replied, “yet it is only to be expected that he will sometimes be feeling his burden too much to feel cheerful.”

“Yes, well, he’s always feeling *that* burden. But I think it’s more than that right now. He’s feeling guilty again, that Pip and Sam and I are along--after the snow and the wolves and all. And he‘s not at all happy with having to decide that we are going through these dangerous mines of yours.”

“I am sure that you are right, Merry. Yet would you turn back to spare him the guilt?”

Merry’s grey eyes went flat. “No.” He looked at the Wizard speculatively. “But even though I know we are in a hurry, I don’t think we should press on until he’s feeling a bit happier. When he‘s miserable like this it wears him out. And it‘s dangerous.” He shut his mouth with a snap. Now that he was an adult, he knew more than he was comfortable with sometimes about what Frodo’s occasional melancholy could mean. But even if he said nothing more, he was sure Gandalf would know what he meant.

The wizard looked at him with a frown. “Meriadoc--”

“I mean it, Gandalf. Pip and Sam and I agree. We’re not budging a foot from here until we see a smile on his face again. We are all tired and footsore, but he’s got it worst of all. The least we can do is lighten his mood, if we can’t lighten his load.” He gazed back at the wizard firmly, as stubborn and steely a glint in his eye as Gandalf had ever seen there--fully as stubborn as Frodo himself. He sighed. One of the reasons he had wanted the hobbits to come was that he felt they would always be keeping Frodo’s best interests in mind, so that Frodo would not be in danger of being thought of only as “Ringbearer”. Clearly he had been correct, even though it was not exactly the most convenient of times for them to assert themselves. They really did need to reach the Gates of Moria before dark.

He cocked his head, to where Legolas stood, several feet away. “You heard,” he said.

The Elf nodded. Merry had been speaking quietly, but not nearly quietly enough to remain unheard by Elven ears. “They are very protective of him.”

“As they should be,” said Gandalf. He glanced over at Frodo himself. Yes, he saw the dark mood that Merry feared, gathered over the Ringbearer. He flicked his eyes to Legolas, who was speaking quietly to Aragorn.

Then Aragorn was having a quiet word with Gimli, and next Boromir. Gandalf twitched his lips. It might be worth a small delay to see what they could come up with.

A moment or two later, Gimli sat down next to Frodo and began to remove his boots. Frodo did not even glance in the Dwarf’s direction, but Pippin’s eyes gazed with intense fascination, and Merry curiously asked “What’s wrong, Gimli?”

“Nothing, Master Hobbit. But I do think that it is time that I changed my stockings.”

Now Merry and Pippin both stared in bemusement at the stockings that were revealed--they were bright red, with a heel and toe of grey, and on the right foot a large toe was peeking out through a hole. “I suppose I have some darning to do,” he said. As he peeled the stockings off to reveal his knobby feet, pale and hairless to hobbit eyes, the two hobbits backed up, as he waved them about a bit before rolling them up. Frodo merely wrinkled his nose, and did not seem to otherwise notice.

He pulled out from his pack another pair of stockings, this pair a vivid purple, with bright yellow stripes.

Boromir had come up behind him, and snickered. “Master Dwarf, it is as well that you will be putting your boots on over those stockings, for otherwise you would be blinding us.”

There were several moments of banter, as the others all came over and passed remarks upon the rather colorful stockings, but Frodo did not seem to notice. Finally, Gimli spoke up as he began to pull his boots back on. “What say you, Master Baggins? Are these not fine stockings?”

Frodo gave a slight start. “Oh, I’m sorry, Gimli! Did you say something?”

Merry and Pippin rolled their eyes, and Sam sighed. Gimli got up and stamped off, muttering to himself. Frodo merely shrugged.

They had begun to pack things up, although the glare Merry gave Gandalf clearly said that though they might be packed, that did not mean they were going anywhere.

Legolas picked up the bag containing their supply of rather shriveled apples, in preparation to putting it back on Bill; somehow he managed to get the wrong end of the bag, and all the apples came rolling out.

“Oi!” Pippin and Sam ran to gather them up, and Pippin tossed one to Legolas, who had already picked up a couple. With a little smile, he began to juggle the three apples. Pippin laughed, and Merry picked up another one and tossed it to the Elf, who added it to the ones he was already juggling. He spent a few moments spinning the apples in an ever widening circle, but when a glance showed him that Frodo was paying no attention, he sighed, and as he caught each one, placed it in the bag. He loaded it on the pony with a shrug and an apologetic look.

Boromir suddenly seemed afflicted with a bout of clumsiness; as he went to douse the fire, he stumbled, and as he tried to catch his balance, he caught his sword against a large rock, and then landed flat on his bottom. Merry, Pippin, and Sam began to snicker, and Aragorn and Gimli laughed outright, but Frodo got up and went over to the Gondorian. “Are you all right, Boromir?” he asked, concern writ large on his face. Boromir looked startled at this.

“No, Frodo, I am just fine, thank you. I was simply unaccountably clumsy. I am sorry.”

His eyes met Merry’s and Pippin’s over Frodo’s shoulder, and they could see the apology in them.

Gandalf had been watching all these antics with a glittering eye, as he sat smoking and waiting, his hat on the ground beside him. It was gratifying to see the efforts being made on Frodo’s behalf, but it was also disturbing to him to realize just how melancholy Frodo was. For normally Frodo was a very perceptive hobbit, and it would not have escaped him that these bits of clumsiness or other diversions were being aimed in his direction. Everything was nearly ready to go, and they could not much longer stay here if they hoped to make the Gate before darkness fell. He did not look forward to a confrontation with the three younger hobbits. Perhaps he might manage some bit of sleight of hand himself, if nothing else was forthcoming.

Behind him, Aragorn had turned over a large rock, and had taken something from beneath it. He held it in his cupped hands for a moment--and then glanced up.

Frodo happened to meet his eyes then, and his own widened in surprise as he saw the Ranger hold up--

A small lizard. It looked quite disgruntled at having its winter slumber disturbed, but the warmth of the Man's hands meant it was no longer sluggish. With a roguish grin he lifted up Gandalf’s hat, and dropped the lizard inside.

By this time, everyone except Gandalf himself had seen what Aragorn had done. When Aragorn handed him his hat, he took it with brusque thanks and set it upon his head.

Only to yank it off again after only a second, and throw it to the ground.


“Great elephants!” He exclaimed. “What on earth?” He snatched it up, and reached in, removing the offended lizard, which thrashed between his fingers. He aimed a glare in Pippin’s direction.

Pippin gave a frightened squeak. “Not me! I promise not me, Gandalf!”

But his protests were drowned out by the welcome sound of Frodo’s astonished laughter.

And soon the whole Company was laughing as well, except for Gandalf who was muttering imprecations.

But he glanced at Frodo’s smiling face, and then at Merry.

Merry could never be quite certain, but he always thought Gandalf had winked at him then.
___________________________________________________________________
*From The Fellowship of the Ring” Book II , Chapter IV, “A Journey in the Dark”


Title: “That Song…”
Theme: Set #2, Theme #8, “Music”
Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s):
Rating: G
Notes:(1) The song in question was first introduced in my story “All You Have to Do is Ask” (Found here at Stories of Arda in my “Dreamflower’s Mathoms".)
(2) My great thanks to the talented Ithildin, on the Stories of Arda yahoo!group, who was kind enough to provide me with the Sindarin in this story. My greatest thanks and appreciation to her. Please see the Author’s Notes for the information about her translation.
Summary: Pippin teaches Legolas a traditional song of the Shire. Legolas teaches Pippin some Sindarin…

THAT SONG…

Frodo glanced over at the sight of his youngest cousin and Legolas, huddled together beneath a stately mallorn. He had heard a bit of humming and snatches of tunes from time to time, and realized that Legolas was teaching Pippin a song. Or at least that was what he *thought* was going on, but--wasn’t there something familiar about the tune?

Oh no. He moaned and put his palm over his face. Pippin wouldn’t.

He heard a giggle, a laugh from the Elf, and then a snatch of Sindarin, repeated in Pippin’s voice…

“…baith-ivas chim erin lan chen ..” Pippin shook his head. “That’s not quite right, is it?”

“No it is not-- lanc chennath.”

Frodo sighed. Sam, who with Merry, had been preparing to cook lunch,
looked over at him. “Is something wrong, Mr. Frodo?”

“What is it, Frodo?” asked Merry.

“Listen--”

Now they could hear Legolas’ voice lightly singing…


“Ritho vin dad maded na-den pant.” sang the Elf.

Merry and Sam looked puzzled.

“That tune sounds awful familiar--” started Merry.

Now Pippin’s high voice:

“Pass it around, no need to fight--”

“Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad – --” The words as the Elf sang them sounded a bit crowded; they didn’t quite fit the tune. He sang them again with a slightly different emphasis; it sounded better. He nodded.

“Edanno den, ú-moe-– ,” repeated the hobbit, singing lightly.

Merry and Sam looked at each other. Sam shook his head. “He wouldn’t.”

“He *is* Sam, and so is Legolas.” They both looked at Frodo, who shrugged helplessly.


There was more laughter from the two. The only other occupant of the pavilion at the moment was Gimli, who was napping. He gave a snore, and turned over. Boromir had gone for a walk, to clear his head, he said, and Aragorn had been summoned to speak with Lord Celeborn.

“You don’t suppose he’s going to teach him all the numbers?” asked Merry in a tone of horrified fascination.

“Oh stars! I hope not!” exclaimed Frodo.

Two voices floated over to them--

--liphen geritha nâg!” Pippin laughed, and then sang: “Ninety-nine apple pies…”

Frodo looked at Sam desperately. “Sam, isn’t lunch ready yet?”

“Almost, Mr. Frodo,” Sam moved rapidly. The situation over there was getting dire.

The singing was a bit softer, almost inaudible. Then there was another giggle from Pippin. Now two the voices singing together--

Odog nederchaen baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Ritho vîn dad maded na-den pant.
Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad –
Ilphen geritha nâg!

More laughter.

“Mr. Pippin! Mr. Legolas!” Sam called. “Lunch is ready! We have those mushrooms the Elves gave us this morning!”

Merry moved to waken Gimli, and the two beneath the tree got up, still laughing and shaking their heads, came to join the others. Soon, hobbit fashion, the conversation was all on the food before them, and Frodo breathed a sigh of relief, thinking perhaps they’d managed to nip the language lesson in the bud.
______________________________________

A day or so later, Legolas was singing softly to himself as he climbed to one of the flets where he was to meet Haldir and his brothers.

“ canad tolothchaen baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Ritho vîn dad maded na-den pant.
Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad –
Ilphen geritha nâg!


“And what is this strange song?” asked Haldir. “It is not a mode with which I am familiar.”

“Ah, this is a song of the hobbits of the Shire, cast into our tongue,” laughed Legolas. “It is most amusing--”
______________________________________

Aragorn looked at Pippin in irritation. How long had he been listening to this? And *why* had Legolas taught him to sing that song in Sindarin?

“toloth tadchaen baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Ritho vîn --”
a cushion hit the hobbit squarely in the face.

“Oi! What was that in aid of?” he exclaimed indignantly.

“You know very well, Peregrin Took!” said Frodo firmly. “Now pipe down and leave the rest of us in peace.”

“Hmph,” Pippin snorted. “You like my singing well enough when you are bored. Just because I am trying to expand my knowledge--” another cushion smacked him in the head.
________________________________________

“Namárië” The last notes of the plaintive and haunting song of farewell still floated on the breeze, as Galadriel turned to her Lord, and he led her away, back to the depths of their realm. Yet she found herself humming…

“ …ritho ven dad--” She stopped abruptly, and shook her head. She had survived nearly Three Ages of the World without this, and now--“Ai!” she exclaimed, “I shall *never* get that deplorable bit of nonsense out of my mind!”

Celeborn wisely schooled his face to solemnity. It would be more than his life was worth to laugh at his lady wife at this moment. He had a reputation for wisdom after all.
_______________________________________

The Company had not gone many miles down the Anduin, when there came a cry of frustration from the Dwarf, who suddenly buried his head in a vain effort to block the singing of his companion:

“Min enegchaen Baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Ritho vîn dad maded na-den pant.
Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad –
Ilphen geritha nâg!”


In the boat with Aragorn, Frodo and Sam looked at one another and sighed. “I’m glad I’m not in the boat with those two,” Sam said laconically.

Frodo gave a heartfelt nod.


Sitting with Boromir, Merry and Pippin looked over to the boat with Elf, still lightly singing, and Pippin sniggered.

Merry looked at his younger cousin and shook his head. “You have no shame at all, do you, Pip?”

At this Pippin laughed even harder. “Not a bit of it cousin, not a bit! Shall I join in the singing as well?”

“NO!” cried Merry and Boromir together.

Pippin just laughed again.

In addition to being an entry for the 20_rings challenge, this is also for Imrahoil, who won a fic for guessing how many times I used the title phrase in "It's Nothing Really..."  She requested "So, a ficlet, please...set during Fellowship, something between 1, 2 or all the hobbits and Boromir"

Title: Never Give Up
Theme: Set #2, Theme #9, “Yield”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: Merry and Pippin learn to use their weapons, with a little help.

NEVER GIVE UP

Boromir stood watching his pupils. There was a bit of pride in his expression; for only a few days of instruction, they were doing surprisingly well in spite of certain limitations. He pursed his lips, and then called out: “Remember, Meriadoc, to *breathe*!”

He tensed slightly as he felt a presence behind him.

“They are doing remarkably well,” said a smooth voice.

“M-my Lord Glorfindel,” Boromir responded. The famed Elven warrior had been pointed out to him at the evening meal the night after the Council. It had taken a few moments conversation, before he finally realized that this was *the* Glorfindel, of myth and legend. He pulled himself together, and reminded himself that he was the son of the Steward of Gondor, and not some callow awestruck youth. “I am pleased with what progress they have made so far--” he started, and then turned once more as the clanging of metal on metal sped up, indicating a flurry of blows. Merry was gaining an advantage over his somewhat smaller cousin. Pippin was blocking well, and then the flat of his blade connected with Merry’s upper arm.

“Ow!”

Pippin flung his sword down and went to his cousin’s side. “I’m sorry Merry! I didn’t mean to!”

“ Peregrin!” Boromir called sternly. “Pick up your weapon!”

Merry was rubbing his arm ruefully, but he shook his head, “Pippin, you are *supposed* to mean to hit me! It’s all right, it will just be a bruise.”

Pippin picked his sword up, and shook his head sadly. “I just can’t think of you as an enemy, Merry. And we *aren’t* supposed to hit too hard--” he looked up at Boromir “--you said we had to be careful of actually hurting one another with these real blades.”

Boromir sighed. “I think we have done enough for this afternoon. We shall work on it some more after luncheon tomorrow.” His face flamed, and he just managed to avoid putting his palm to his face, as he heard the Elf next to him chuckle lightly.

“I see that hobbit nature is not so easily overcome,” said the Elf mildly, as they watched the two hobbits walk away, Pippin still apologizing. “They are so tender-hearted, I can see how difficult it must be.”

“That is not my only problem. They really are not properly equipped. What they are learning now is more like exhibition fighting than anything that will serve them against a foe.” Boromir’s frustration came into his voice, and he forgot that he was speaking to a famed warrior thousands of years old, and spoke merely as one soldier to another. “They know how to care for their weapons now, and how not to cut their own feet off. And I have been able to teach them much footwork and blocking. But I should have wooden sparring weapons for them, and some sort of armor, so that they can give full force to their blows, and so that I can spar with them safely and give them some experience at a foe larger than they.”

“Hmm…” Glorfindel smiled. “Perhaps I can help you with *that* problem. Let us see what we might be able to find. I know what it is you need, for I did my share of training younglings in my time…”

But an hour later both looked discouraged at the finds which had first made Boromir hopeful. They had at least found several wooden practice swords that would only need to be cut down a little bit to match the size of the blades the hobbits bore. But the armor, that was different.

Glorfindel sighed. “I am afraid that even at the tender age of nine, Estel--as we called Aragorn in his youth--was far larger than either Merry or Pippin. And he was the last child to need such training.”

Boromir shook his head at the small armor that even so, would not begin to fit either of the hobbits, even poorly. However--

He reached into the trunk and brought forth a small item made of hardened leather, and smiled. “Lord Glorfindel--do you think there are any here who would craft some items of boiled leather? And perhaps some padded jerkins as well?”

The Elf laughed. “Most certainly, my Lord Boromir! That is well thought! Leather protection for the more vulnerable areas such as throat, elbows and so forth, padding for the rest. It should only take a day or so to craft what you need. Let us speak to the armorer.”

The next afternoon, Boromir took Merry and Pippin to meet the armorer, who took a good many measurements of them both, nodding as he did so. Then they went to the practice area, and he drilled them once more in the basics of drawing their weapons, holding them properly, and taking various stances. Merry seemed a bit cross that he would not allow them to spar, though Pippin seemed somewhat relieved.

The day after that, Boromir showed them where a larger enemy would be most vulnerable.

“The first thing you must do is bring your foe down to your level. Here are your most important targets--” he pointed to the back of his knees and ankles--”to hamstring or otherwise bring your opponent down. If you cannot get to the back of the legs, which are often unprotected by armor, or inadequately so, then strike at the feet or lower legs. You will need a blow of considerable force, however, if the feet or shins are armored. If you are together, you may work in concert to bring a foe down. One of you may drive him back, as the other comes behind to trip him. You must be very careful however, *not* to get pinned beneath a fallen foe, for this will leave you helpless to other enemies.”

He glanced up to see that several were watching his speech, including Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Although Frodo’s shoulder was still recovering and it was felt that weapons training might be too much of a strain as it healed, Boromir had also offered to train Master Samwise. The hobbit had tried the first day or so, but he was hesitant and diffident, and very reluctant to spar with Merry and Pippin, whom he saw as his “betters”.
After the third session, he had declined to come, in spite of coaxing from the other two, and Frodo had told them to let Sam be. Yet he was currently hanging on to every word Boromir spoke.

“However,” continued Boromir, “if you are in a desperate situation, and have great need to kill a larger foe, then find some means, any means, to have it come at you with all its force. Stand fast, and hold your weapon so that the enemy’s own momentum will cause it to be skewered on your sword.”

Pippin looked a bit queasy at this bit of advice, yet he nodded solemnly, Merry was pale, but clearly taking it in very seriously. The Man glanced over at Frodo and Sam. Frodo looked every bit as disturbed as Pippin, but he saw Sam purse his lips and nod. Boromir felt a sense of satisfaction. Even if the hobbit would not work out with the other two, he would at least be hearing something to his advantage.

He allowed the two to spar again, concentrating on their footwork. Pippin was very agile and nimble, so that in this one area, he surpassed his older cousin.

When they finished, he took them into the armory. “Master Dorlas,” he said to the Elf who awaited them there, “shall we show my pupils what you have prepared for them?”

“Certainly, my Lord Boromir.” He went to a nearby shelf and took down a wooden box, which he brought forth and placed upon a table at one side of the room. He opened it and began to lay the items out. Merry and Pippin clambered up to sit on the table in order to see better.

There were two long white jackets, that laced up at the sides, and had long sleeves that tied on with laces at the shoulders. They were thickly padded and firmly quilted. They looked a bit awkward to wear. Alongside them he placed several items of leather. There were two things that looked like over sized collars, eight items made of over lapping curved and hinged pieces of leather, four smaller and four larger, and two other small items.

The two hobbits’ eyes grew wide at the sight of them as Boromir identified each one--”This is a gorget; it will protect your throat and neck. These are elbow cops, and of course are to protect your elbows, and these are knee cops.”

Pippin pointed to the other two items of leather, pear-shaped and about the size of teacups, without handles. “And what are those?”

“Those,” said Boromir, raising his eyebrows, “are the most important protection of all. A serious blow to the area they protect can not only incapacitate you for the fight, but can have very lasting consequences indeed. And as you have both been identified to me as the heirs to important positions you will wish to take no chances.”

Merry’s face flamed in sudden understanding, and he swallowed hard, nodding furiously. Pippin looked at his cousin in puzzlement.

Merry shook his head. “Pip--they’re to protect the family jewels!” he hissed. “*You* know!”

Now Pippin’s face flamed. “Thunder!” he exclaimed. He crossed his legs and hunched over slightly with a wince.

Boromir and Master Dorlas exchanged an amused glance over their heads.

“There was no time to fashion helms for you, so you will still have to be very careful about head blows.”

The armorer turned to a rack, and took out two wooden practice swords. He gave them to Boromir.

“Get down,” he said.

The hobbits hopped off the table and stood attentively. He handed one to each of them. They took them, and looked surprised.

“These are a little heavier than our real swords,” said Merry.

“Yes, they are. And you will be swinging them a good deal harder. Tomorrow you will begin to spar in earnest, for you will not need to pull your blows for fear of causing serious harm. The padding and the leather will protect you. You may still get bruised, and I am quite sure you will be sore, but hopefully you will not injure one another seriously.”
_______________________________________

As they walked back to the house, Pippin was uncharacteristically quiet. Merry cast a sideways look and him, and nodded to himself. He could tell from his face that Pippin was not upset, but thoughtful, and was trying to work himself up to talking about something serious. When he had it set in his mind what he wanted to say or ask, he’d come out with it.

The Elves in the kitchen were more or less expecting them, as the two young hobbits tended to show up there after their session with Boromir expecting a bit of sustenance. They were provided with a small basket of sweet buns and a bottle of perry, and then went into the nearly deserted dining hall to eat.

Pippin finished two of the buns, and then looked at Merry very gravely indeed. “Merry, do you really think we can learn enough to hold our own? Much less protect Frodo?”

Merry returned his solemn regard. He had some doubts of his own. “Boromir seems confident that we can learn enough.”

“But,” said Pippin astutely, “Boromir is *supposed* to seem confident. He’s our teacher. I don’t want to make a mistake at the wrong time, and--” he swallowed, “endanger someone. Don’t get me wrong, Merry, I’m not saying we shouldn’t go with Frodo. He *needs* us. But I don’t want to think I know how to do something, and then find out it’s no good after all.”

Merry pursed his lips for a moment, and thought rapidly. Pippin absently ate another sweet bun, and took a swig of the perry, and watched Merry as his cousin’s mind was working. Suddenly Merry grinned. “I know who we can talk to. Someone else who’s had to fight larger foes!”

“Cousin Bilbo?” asked Pippin incredulously. “He told us himself that his winning over the spiders was pure luck, and he never used his sword a stroke in battling goblins!”

“No, not Cousin Bilbo! Someone else--come on then.” He grabbed Pippin by the shirt sleeve and as they took off, Pippin grabbed one more bun.
______________________________________

The Dwarves during the day were nearly always to be found in their own quarters.  Gloín looked very surprised when his son Gimli answered the knock upon the door, and then ushered in the two youngest hobbits. He had come to know them since his arrival, as they had been with Bilbo when the Dwarf had entertained them to tea, and they had shared a table at breakfast and luncheon, but at those times, Bilbo, Frodo and Samwise had also been present.

The two hobbits gave a polite half-bow of greeting. “Master Gloín , Master Gimli,” said Merry.

“Do come in, young hobbits,” said the older Dwarf, “Please, be seated. I know you would not say ‘no’ to a goblet of ale? Gimli, if you please?”

The younger Dwarf went briefly into another room in their chambers, and returned with a tray bearing four goblets. They were larger than hobbit-sized, but smaller than those used by Men or Elves, clearly items the Dwarves had brought with them.

Gimli offered the ale to their guests. His curiosity was piqued as to the reason for this visit. He would be travelling for many months with these hobbits. It behooved him to get to know them better. He gave a goblet to his father, and then sat down with his own.

Gloín took a sip, and then asked, “To what do we owe the honor of this visit, my young friends?”

Merry sat forward. “You know that we have been getting lessons on how to use our swords from Lord Boromir of Gondor?”

The dwarves both nodded. “Yes. We’ve observed your lessons once, in fact.”

The two hobbits exchanged a glance. “Boromir is a good teacher,” said Merry. “But, well, we have a question we think that you perhaps may be able to answer better than he.”

“And what may that be?”

“We are wondering, quite honestly, if the lessons will actually mean anything if we should truly run into trouble. Any foe we meet is bound to be much larger than we. I am wondering--*we* are wondering if we truly would stand any sort of chance in a real fight.”

Pippin leaned forward as well. “Seeing as you’ve fought enemies, and well, Dwarves *are* larger than hobbits, but still, it seems that most enemies would be larger than Dwarves, if you know what we mean?” His green eyes were wide, and his young face earnest.

Gimli found himself impressed. To be honest, he had not previously formed a particularly high opinion of the intelligence of these two youngest hobbits, for most of the time he had heard little from them save jests and banter. But this spoke of both perspicacity and a serious intent to carry their own weight on the journey.

Gloín nodded. “I see. Well, Master Took, you are quite correct. Dwarves are accustomed to fighting foes much larger. And I can understand your concern, coming as you do, from such a peaceful race.” He took another sip of his ale. “Tell me, what advice has Lord Boromir given to you, regarding the fighting of larger enemies?”

Merry answered, repeating Boromir’s advice of earlier in the day. “He seemed to think if we can get whatever we’re fighting down, we would actually stand a chance. But, after all, he is teaching us, and it would hardly give us confidence if he told us otherwise.”

“I see you still carry your weapons. Excellent. May I see them?”

Merry and Pippin exchanged surprised looks. For some reason, Gimli thought their surprise was not that his father had asked to see their swords, but for the fact that they had them. It was clear they had completely forgotten they had their weapons.

Merry stood up, drawing his sword carefully, as Boromir had taught him, and proffered it to Gloín, hilt first, across his left arm, also as he had been taught. Pippin stood up, and waited until Gloín passed Merry’s sword to his son, and then he offered his in the same way. Both hobbits stood quietly, clearly anxious to hear what the Dwarf had to say.

Gimli returned Merry’s to him, after a lengthy examination of the runes upon it, and then he returned Pippin’s, after a somewhat briefer look. Impressive. Very impressive. He had heard from his father how the swords--really, they were more like long knives, but as they now purposed to be swords, that is how they should be thought of--had been found in the Barrows near Bree. Clearly both weapons were very old.

Gloín looked at Merry and Pippin, as they returned their weapons to the sheaths, and they sat down once more. He leaned back. “Those are neither of Elven nor Dwarven make; however both of them are clearly of ancient and noble lineage, made by Men of the West. I can tell you that they will not dull easily and, with the potent runes they bear, will be very deadly to any of Morgoth’s brood. They will not glow, as do Orcrist, Glamdring or even Sting, in the presence of such enemies, however. You will find, though, should it ever come to that, they will easily cleave the flesh of any foe who has black blood.”

At this statement, both hobbits went pale, and Pippin swallowed audibly.

“Black blood?” he asked.

Gimli and his father exchanged glances. These two really were very untutored in such things. Gimli said, “Trolls, orcs and the like--their blood is black, not red.”

Gloín added “The advice Lord Boromir gave you is very sound. When fighting, Dwarves generally hew the legs from their enemies, and then finish them off upon the ground. But we wield axes. Such small swords would work well in hamstringing or otherwise crippling your foe. Pay close attention to your teacher. Lord Boromir is a mighty warrior of his race, and will do all he may to see you are prepared to defend yourselves.”
______________________________________

Frodo and Sam had watched Merry and Pippin walk off. “They are probably going to the kitchens, Mr. Frodo. Should we go with them?” Sam still felt Frodo’s appetite was not back to what it should be, and he knew the Elves in the kitchen spoiled Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin with treats.

Frodo shook his head. He still felt disturbed at hearing Boromir’s advice to his cousins. It was dreadful to think they might be going somewhere that such advice would be needed. It was even more dreadful to think of his young cousins forced into having to *do* such a thing. Yet it would be even worse if they were unprepared for it if it happened. And--he looked at his companion. “Sam, are you sure you do not want to take some more lessons from Lord Boromir? He seems to be a very good teacher.” Frodo meant that last. He had done enough teaching of Merry and Pippin himself to recognize it.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Frodo, but I just can’t somehow feel easy with Mr. Boromir. He’s just too grand a Man for the likes of me, I think.” Sam sighed. That wasn’t the real reason for his unease, yet he could not for the life of him put his finger on what *did* bother him about the Gondorian, and it weren’t fair to say anything, for the Man had always been perfectly polite. He said the one thing he knew would make Mr. Frodo drop the subject. “Of course, if you *tell* me to, I will.”

With a sigh, Frodo shook his head. That was not playing fair at all, and Sam knew it. It wasn’t that Frodo never told Sam to do anything, but any telling of that sort was strictly related to his duties. And Frodo considered that what Sam was already doing in coming with him to be far above and beyond the call of duty. “If you feel that strongly about it, Sam, then I’ll say no more on it. Perhaps, though, you can get a few pointers from Merry and Pippin later on. I just want you to be safe.”

“Of course, Mr. Frodo. And maybe I will talk to Strider when he comes back--I’m sure he can give me some advice on how to swing a sword around.”

Frodo chuckled. “No doubt he can.” He found it quite humorous that while Sam felt the Gondorian son of the Steward “too grand”, he still felt comfortable calling the Heir of Isildur “Strider”.
______________________________________

Merry and Pippin felt a good deal better about some things after their talk with Gimli and GloÍn, and a great deal worse about others. Merry found their assurances that Boromir’s teaching would be helpful set his mind at ease, but the way the two Dwarves simply assumed that they *would* be encountering such things as Orcs more than a little grim. And every so often, he would hear Pippin mutter “black blood” under his breath.

The next day when they arrived at the practice field, Boromir had their new gear ready for them. He helped them into it, and then helped them out of it, and then made them put it all on again by themselves. When they had all the gear on, they looked at one another and began to first giggle, and then to laugh more and more hysterically, falling on one another and pointing, gasping incoherently at the sight they made.

Boromir knew that this was a way of releasing the stress they had been under, so he let it continue for a few moments, before he schooled his own face to sternness, cleared his throat loudly, and bellowed, “Meriadoc! Peregrin! Straighten up *now*!”

Startled, they instantly obeyed, though they were careful not to catch one another’s eye lest they start all over again.

The Man looked them over. The thickly padded jackets covered them from shoulder to knee, with slits at the front, back and sides, for ease of movement. The leather gorgets covered their throats, necks and collarbones. He checked the fit of the leather elbow and knee cops, and then took off his gauntlet, and gave them each a swift “thwack” across the groin area, for the cups were hidden beneath their clothing. Their eyes widened, but there was no wincing nor yelp of pain, so clearly they had placed them properly.

He handed them the wooden practice swords. “Remember the stance I taught you?” Instantly, the two stood straighter, placing their feet shoulder’s width apart, with their right foot slightly behind, and the sword held at the ready. “Very good. You have a good advantage in having feet slightly larger for your bodies than Men do. You should be able to maintain your balance more easily. Let me see your footwork.”

Both of them moved in the steps that the Man had taught them. “Good. Now, bring your sword back, and instead of checking its movement as I was having you do for safety with the real weapons, swing it forward with all the might you may without losing your balance.”

There was a large pole at one side of the practice field, hacked and scarred. Boromir took them to it, and had them take turns landing blows on it as hard as they could, stopping them now and then to correct how they did so, or to demonstrate with a Man sized practice sword what he wanted. Their hands and arms grew weary and numb with the force of the blows, but he kept them at it. Finally he called a halt. In spite of the brisk fall air, all three of them had worked up quite a sweat.

“Very good. I expect you will be very tired and have sore muscles tomorrow. I recommend a hot bath tonight.”

“Do you want to come with us now, Boromir, and have a bite to eat and drink?” Pippin invited. Once or twice he had done so after their lessons.

He smiled. “You go along, my friends, and I shall be there in a few moments.” He dropped onto one of the benches that surrounded the practice field, and applied a towel to his face.

“Lord Boromir?”

At the sound of that gentle, but firm, voice, Boromir lowered the towel from his sweaty face, to glance at another face level with his, though he was seated, and the other was not.

“Ringbearer,” he replied courteously.*
__________________________________________________

Frodo felt a good deal better after his talk with Boromir. The Man did seem to believe that Merry and Pippin would not be completely helpless with their weapons. As for himself, he no longer had a weapon--his had shattered at the Ford. Perhaps he should speak to Aragorn when he returned. If he were going into the Wild, he *should* have a weapon. Still, he felt a bit relieved that he did not.

He decided to take a stroll before returning to the house. He had not actually been outdoors *alone* since he had wakened from his injury. Everywhere he went, there was either Sam or a solicitous cousin at his elbow--or all four. He could not fault them for their care of him. If one of them had been snatched from the jaws of death, he was certain he’d be doing the same. Nevertheless, the attention could be a bit smothering at times.

He took a path that ran east of the practice grounds, and curved around a copse of beeches before it turned once more in the direction of the Last Homely House. Seen from this vantage point, it appeared that the building simply had grown out of the ground. It was truly beautiful, and in spite of the alien architecture, very welcoming and appealing. He stopped for a few moments to admire the view.

“Master Baggins?” the mellifluous voice made him jump. He had not heard the Elf approaching behind him at all.

“My apologies!” said Legolas, “I did not mean to startle you!”

“That is quite all right, Prince Legolas. I was admiring the view.”

“Please, call me simply ‘Legolas’. We shall be travelling companions for some time, and titles are cumbersome and unnecessary.”

Frodo smiled. “Very well, if you will call me ‘Frodo’.”

The Elf nodded. “It is a lovely view. Rivendell is so different from my own home.”

Frodo grinned. “I am quite sure that it is. I have heard many a detailed description of your home from Uncle Bilbo!”

Legolas chuckled. “Well, he certainly had the opportunity to observe our dwelling in minute detail.”

Now Frodo laughed outright. “He called it ‘having to endlessly burgle the same house over and over’.”

“Yes, I am certain that it felt that way to him at times!” He chuckled once more, and then looked curiously at Frodo. “And you seem to be on your own for once--I don’t believe I have seen you without at least one other hobbit by your side since the Council ended.”

“I sent Sam off to Uncle Bilbo. I wanted to watch Merry and Pippin at their sword-fighting lessons, and have a quiet word with Boromir of Gondor.”

“I have watched them at their sword-play. He is a very good and patient teacher. And he is a mighty warrior himself.”

The two began to walk toward the house. “Well,” said Frodo, “that is very good to hear. I have formed a favorable impression of him as a teacher, but I know very little of the skills involved in wielding such weapons. It is good to know that his ability matches his instruction, if you know what I mean.”

“I do. Some teachers can impart knowledge of a skill without being particularly skilled themselves. Rest easy, though. Lord Boromir is not among that number. I have watched him enough to know. And his survival to make the journey here, alone, would tell me more.” Legolas looked at Frodo quizzically. “You are very cautious about your young kin.”

The hobbit smiled, as if at fond memories. “I’ve done my share of teaching them myself.” He sobered quickly. “They’ve given up a good deal to come with me. I cannot help but worry.”

Legolas stopped, and caught Frodo’s gaze with his own. “They are doing what they believe they must. But they have come to support *you*--you should allow them to do so in whatever way they can, or they will come to feel that their sacrifices are in vain.”

Frodo looked startled for a moment, and then nodded. “I think that you are probably right. But I have worried and watched over them since they were born. It will be difficult to see the roles reversed.”

“I think, however, that they will have it no other way.”

Frodo nodded. They had arrived at the house, and the two parted ways with a quiet farewell.
_________________________________________________

Merry and Pippin had grown used to drawing a small audience for their lessons. The first time or two it had happened they had allowed it to distract them, and had also shown off a bit, and acted somewhat silly to the amusement of those watching. But Boromir had soon disabused them of that, and now they knew better than to acknowledge that anyone was watching at all.

And now that they were able to spar outright, they soon found they had to concentrate a good deal more, now that they were hitting one another as hard as they could with the practice swords. Boromir had told them the truth about being stiff, sore and bruised afterward, but what they had discovered for themselves was that in the excitement of sparring, they did not always realize how hard they had been struck until afterward. The wooden swords clacked and clattered, and the thump when it landed on their padded “armor” grew more seldom, as they learned how to block one another’s blows.

“Get your shoulders back, Peregrin! Follow through with your full reach! Meriadoc, how many times must I tell you--breathe!” Boromir watched intently, nodding as they began to engage more fiercely. Merry, as often happened, began to gain an advantage, and pressed his cousin hard. Pippin was blocking the blows well, but a particularly hard stroke sent his own weapon flying.

“Hold!” called Boromir. “That was very well done! I think that is enough for today.”

Puffing, the two hobbits looked at one another, and then with a grin and a quick embrace, got ready to quit the practice grounds.

“Merry, a word with you.”

Merry looked at Boromir, surprised. “Go ahead, Pip. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“What is it, Boromir?”

“Merry, you are getting entirely too lost in the action. I am repeatedly having to remind you to breathe.” Boromir looked a bit frustrated, for actually in most ways Merry was a very quick learner, and was talented with his weapon. It was only in this one thing that he had difficulty. “Why do you keep holding your breath?”

Merry shook his head, feeling a bit chagrined. “I don’t really know, Boromir. I get so caught up in what I am doing. I mean, I’ve never really had to *think* about breathing before, unless I was swimming.”

Boromir shook his head. “You really do need to remember to breathe, Merry. Your engagements with Pippin are fairly short and we often stop so that I can instruct you. But in a real skirmish, not breathing could be dangerous.” He sighed. “Pippin does not seem to have this problem; perhaps you could ask him.”

Merry gave a nod, his face red with embarrassment.

Boromir clapped him lightly on the shoulder. “Do not be dismayed. In all other ways you are doing very well, and I am very pleased with your progress.”

The hobbit looked up, the shame quickly banished by pleasure at his teacher’s praise.

“Now, you had better catch up with your cousin, or he will have already finished eating whatever treat it may be that they have found for you in the kitchens.”

Merry darted off, and Boromir glanced over at where the small knot of spectators had been. Only Mithrandir was still there, watching with a twinkle in his dark eyes.

Boromir walked over to him. “Mithrandir. I have had little chance to speak to you privily since I arrived.”

“We both have had many duties to occupy our time, Boromir. Yet I am glad of a chance to talk to you. How is your brother?” He paused. “And your father?”

“Faramir was well when I left. He was unhappy that I was the one to carry our message here to Imladris, but I am afraid that father would not entrust him with the task, and I thought it might be safer if I undertook it. Yet he is probably now in Ithilien, for he is captain of the Rangers there now.”

“Is he indeed?” Gandalf nodded. “I am sure that he does well in that duty.”

“Yes,” Boromir smiled in proud reminiscence. “His men are very devoted to him. They think very highly of him.”

“And Denethor?”

There was a brief silence. “My father is doing his best. But Gondor is sadly beset.”

Gandalf sighed, but did not pursue the subject. “I see that you are doing every bit as well teaching our young hobbits as I thought you might.”

Now Boromir grinned. “They are apt pupils, and try very hard. I find I quite like them.”

Now Gandalf laughed. “That, my dear Boromir, is inevitable when you are dealing with such hobbits as these, who well know just how charming they are!”
_______________________________________________

The next morning, Rivendell was a-buzz with the news that Aragorn and the sons of Elrond had returned from one of their scouting expeditions, and would remain for a few days before setting out again.

Aragorn spent the morning briefing Elrond, Gandalf, Frodo and Sam on what had been discovered so far. Afterward, he accompanied them to luncheon. Merry and Pippin had finished their meal, and were on their way out.

“Strider!” Pippin exclaimed joyfully. “I’d heard you were back!”

“It’s good to see you, Strider,” Merry said, less exuberantly, but just as cheerful. “I wish we could stay to talk, but we’ve a few things to do before we meet Boromir for our lessons!”

The Ranger watched them hurry off, shaking his head with a grin. “And what are these lessons they are on about?”

Gandalf answered. “Since you had to be gone, we asked Boromir to give weapons-training to those two young rascals. They really need to know how to use them, but it also keeps them busy.”

Aragorn raised a brow. “And keeps the Gondorian busy as well? I see.”

Frodo flushed. “Actually, I’ve been told they are proving to be very good. And I have seen him at work with them. He is a good teacher!”

Aragorn nodded, noting the way Frodo had jumped on what he considered a slight to his cousins and their instructor. “Perhaps we should go and watch after we finish eating.”
_________________________________________________

When they arrived at the practice grounds, there was already a small knot of spectators--Aragorn noticed that the other members of the Company--Legolas and Gimli--were there, as well as Elladan and Elrohir and Glorfindel, and standing with Lindir was Bilbo.

The two hobbits had warmed up a bit with the exercises that Boromir had given them, and then spent several minutes hacking at poles.

“Now,” said Boromir, “I want the two of you to remember what I told you, and I want you to try and take me down. Do not fear to harm me--use as much force and guile as you need.”

The two of them looked at one another, grinned and nodded. Boromir took a stance, and the hobbits began to circle him, seeking a chance to move in on him. With his long reach, he was weaving a defense with his own practice sword, trying to keep them at bay. After a moment, in which neither of them could seem to get near him, they glanced at one another and moved apart, to either side of him, and began an intricate dance in and out, seeking to get beneath his guard.

Aragorn grinned. “Very clever. He will have a difficult time guarding himself against them both.” He watched their stances, and their footwork, pleased. Indeed, Boromir *was* a good teacher if they had learned so much in such a short time.

Suddenly, Pippin, who was on Boromir’s right, ducked under his arm, and aimed a blow at the back of the Man’s knee. Boromir saw the danger and swung around to block it. Merry took the advantage to roll beneath the shield and take his feet from beneath him. The Man stumbled back, and though he attempted to regain his balance, Pippin gave him a shove. He went down flat, and found himself with Merry’s practice sword aimed at his throat and Pippin’s at his heart. Both of them were flushed and breathing hard.

“Are you all right, Boromir?” Pippin asked, though he did not move his weapon.

Boromir laughed. “I am fine, little one. Both of you, that was most excellently well done.”

They stepped back, and allowed him to get to his feet, and were startled at the sound of applause.

Merry and Pippin turned cocky grins at the spectators, the first time they had really noticed them.

“Would you like to spar with one another now?”

“Oh, yes please!” cried Pippin, face shining. Merry nodded enthusiastically.

“We’ll do it a bit differently today. I am not going to interrupt you. Be careful, still, as I have told you, of head and feet, but I want to you fight on until one of you yields. I will not call ‘hold’ unless I see a danger of real injury.”

Several of the spectators were smiling and anticipating some good entertainment. But Frodo looked at Sam. “Did he say ‘fight until one of them yields’?”

“Yes, Mr. Frodo, he did say that.” Sam bit his lower lip.

“Uh-oh.”

Gandalf chuckled.

Aragorn glanced down. “Is that a problem?” he asked Frodo curiously.

Frodo rolled his eyes. “Let us just say that for Merry ‘yield’ is not in his vocabulary. He always *has* to win. But over the years he’s also made it clear to Pippin that he doesn’t expect any quarter from him. Pippin used to give up too easily when they were younger, but Merry’s trained that right out of him.”

“Ah. I see.” This should prove very interesting.

Boromir had stepped back to watch. “Lay on!” he called.

The two began edging in on one another cautiously, not immediately striking any blow. Boromir nodded, pleased at the way they were holding themselves and their weapons.

Suddenly Merry lashed out with a snap. Pippin threw up his sword and blocked it, and the clack of wood on wood was loud. Now they began to move back and forth, exchanging blows almost in rhythm. Merry got beneath Pippin’s guard and landed a hard blow against his cousin’s left side. Pippin let out with an ‘oof!’ but did not falter, and a moment later landed a blow of his own.

Now they moved quickly, and there was an exchange of several blows, but neither of them was anywhere near to the point of giving in or crying quarter.

Boromir was nodding in satisfaction, but as the exchange continued, he shook his head, and place his palm over his face. “Meriadoc,” he muttered, “breathe.” He sighed, and shook his head but did not call out to them.

Aragorn began to frown a bit.

“What’s the matter?” asked Frodo, who had been watching his cousins in amazement. Merry had always enjoyed rough sport, Pippin not so much, but the younger hobbit was definitely holding his own, and in fact in appeared that Merry was slowing down a bit.

“Merry is holding his breath,” said Aragorn.

“Oh,” said Frodo. “He’s always done that when he is concentrating on something very hard.”

“But it is not a good idea in a fight, Frodo.”

Pippin landed a couple of hard blows, and then Merry moved more quickly. He managed to get under Pippin’s guard several times, and Pippin found himself backing up.

Suddenly Merry stopped, and swayed a bit. Pippin went in but Merry blocked him, and then--

Keeled over.

At the same instant that Boromir yelled “Hold!” Pippin threw down his weapon and knelt by Merry’s side. Frodo was already racing there with Sam at his heels, and Aragorn right behind him.

Merry sat up dizzily. “What happened?”

“Master Brandybuck!” said Boromir angrily. “What have I told you about breathing.”

Aragorn supported his back. “Take a few deep breaths, Merry. In. Out. In. Out. There, that’s it. You simply swooned from lack of air.”

Merry looked up at the ring of concerned faces, and his face flamed with embarrassment.

Pippin sat back with a relieved thud. “Well, Merry, it looks like I won.”

Merry glared at him. “No, you didn’t. I did *not* yield.” He looked up at Boromir. “Can we finish now?”

Boromir burst out into a hearty guffaw. “No, you cannot. Pippin did in fact win, even if you did not yield, because you allowed yourself to become incapacitated. You *will* work on your breathing, Meriadoc.”

Merry sighed. “Yes, Boromir.” He allowed Frodo and Sam to help him to his feet, and tried to ignore Pippin’s chatter.

“Did you hear that, Merry? Boromir said I won! I almost never beat you, Merry! Can you believe it Frodo, I beat Merry at something for once…”

As they walked back, Merry cringed. He was never going to hear the end of this.

But he was going to break himself of holding his breath if it killed him.
__________________________________________________
*“A Conversation in Rivendell”
http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=2714&cid=10567

AUTHOR‘S NOTE: The description of the training given to Merry and Pippin by Boromir is based entirely on my uninformed observations of SCA fighters, and I am sure that there are any number of inaccuracies. Please forgive them, for I am no fighter myself.

 
Title: Too Long
Theme: Set #2, Theme #10, “Come back to me”
Genre (s): Drabble
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: Thanks to Marigold for the bunny!
Summary: Merry worries…

TOO LONG

I know I’ve gone with Strider a few times to look about. So has Sam. Frodo hasn’t, but none of us ask why, for he’s the Ringbearer, and we won’t take the least risk with him. But this is the first time Strider has taken Pippin. I wonder what’s taking so long.

The others don’t seem to think it’s taking long--Sam’s cooking, Frodo’s napping and so is Gimli. Boromir’s mending something. Legolas is on watch, and Gandalf’s just sitting there smoking. None of them seem to think Strider and Pippin have been gone too long.

Come back to me, Pippin.

 
Title: Candle in the Dark
Theme: Set #2, Theme #11, “Candle”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: In Moria, a little more light is called for…

CANDLE IN THE DARK

The only light was Gandalf’s staff. After they had wakened from their first rest stop and continued on their way, some of the awe and fear had begun to give way to discomfort. Gandalf could hear the grumbles behind him, and the occasional bitten off cries of pain as toes were stubbed on the rubble-strewn passageway.

With a sigh, he stopped. “What is the problem?”

Aragorn and Boromir, who had been bringing up the rear, looked at one another. Then Aragorn spoke.

“Your staff does not give off enough light. The hobbits are tripping and stumbling, because they cannot see the ground beneath them.”

Gandalf glanced at the hobbits, who gazed up at him hopefully.

“Really, Gandalf,” said Frodo in an overly reasonable tone of voice, which the Wizard knew was masking annoyance, “we could do with a bit more light.”

“Perhaps torches,” ventured Legolas, his voice sounding far more tentative than the voice of an Elf had any right to.

“We do not have torches,” said Gandalf, now sounding overly reasonable himself. “As I said on Caradhras, I must have something to work with.”

“It’s been a long time,” said Aragorn, “but as I recall, there are still old torches to be found here and there, in sconces in the walls or sometimes fallen in the passageways.”

“There would be,” said Gimli.

Gandalf raised his staff to look about their immediate area. “There are none to be found here. If I take my staff to go and search for possible torches, the rest of you will be left here in utter darkness until I return.”There was no answer at all to that, but in the silence the remaining eight members of the Company shifted uncomfortably. Not one of them fancied the idea of being left in the blackness. Then just as Gandalf started to turn and lead them on, Sam said:

“Excuse me, Mr. Gandalf, sir, but I didn’t like to say nothing before, as they are only little bits of things, and they wouldn’t hardly last but maybe a quarter hour at best, but maybe they might come in useful after all--”

“Out with it, Samwise,” the Wizard interrupted impatiently. “If you’ve something that might help, then say so.”

Sam brought his pack around to the front, and fumbled with its openings. “I’ve a few little candle ends. Like I said, they won’t last long, but if Strider or Mr. Boromir wants, they could take them to go and look for some torches, as would burn longer.”

Frodo beamed proudly, Pippin grinned, and Merry slapped Sam on the back. “Sam, you are truly a marvel.”

Sam bent down and fumbled in the pack, and brought out half a dozen little candle ends. He had told the truth--any one of them would not last more than a quarter of an hour at best, but Aragorn took two of them, and lit one with his striker. “I will search as far as I may, until this one burns down. Then I shall have to return here, whether I have found any torches or not.”

“I will accompany you,” said Gimli, and soon the two had moved away from the little circle of light around Gandalf’s staff, and those who remained could only see a tiny bobble of a flame until it turned a corner.

The others waited in anxiety. The quarter hour at least, had passed, and another ten minutes, perhaps, when they saw the little bobble of flame reappear.

Both Dwarf and Man bore several torches, shorter than what Men would make. “It is a good thing Gimli went along. I had not thought to look lower on the walls for the sconces,” said Aragorn.

They had brought back eight torches, the heads wrapped and soaked in pitch, and meant to burn for long periods of time. Aragorn lit one and passed it to Legolas. “Here, my friend, you light the way for the hobbits.”

He and Boromir divided the remaining torches between them, and took up the rear guard once more.

Impatiently, Gandalf said, “Well, now that is settled. Let us be on our way.”

And once more the little group moved on.

 Title: O Pilgrim Grey!
Theme: Set #2, Theme #12, “Tears”
Genre (s): Angst
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes:

Summary: The Company mourns Gandalf in Lothlórien

O PILGRIM GREY!


“ ‘The finest rockets ever seen
they burst in stars of blue and green
or after thunder, golden showers
come falling like a rain of flowers.

Though that doesn’t do them justice by a long road.’ *

‘No, I’ll leave that to you, Sam. Or perhaps to Bilbo. But--well, I can’t talk of it anymore. I can’t bear to think of bringing the news to him.’ “

______________________________________________

I glance over at them. Sam, red to the tips of his ears, sits down abruptly, looking as though he will burst into tears at any instant. Frodo sits pensively with his chin on his knees, looking every bit exactly like what he is--a person with the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. Merry is sitting next to him, and casting covert glances in Frodo’s direction, although his arm is around Pippin, huddled miserably next to him with eyes and nose red from weeping though he is dry-eyed now. I fear the youngest hobbit still blames himself for Gandalf’s loss, though all of us who are more experienced in the ways of Orcs have explained to him that it was more likely than not that we had been discovered *long* before that stone was dropped.

Boromir is sitting quietly by the fire, his unease apparent in his posture. He has been difficult to talk to since we entered Lothlórien. I fear that Denethor, ever a difficult and distrustful man, has instilled in his elder son a fear and suspicion of Elves, and of the Lady Galadriel in particular, I know not how or why. He, too mourns Gandalf. One of the few things he has said since we came here was how hard it was going to be to bear the news of the wizard’s death to his younger brother. He says nothing of his father. There was no love lost between Denethor and Gandalf.

Gimli is also sitting by the fire, honing his axe again. I believe that he has honed every weapon he carries a dozen times or more. I do not even begin to know what he is thinking--whether he is mourning Gandalf or dreaming of the Lady Galadriel, either way he keeps his own counsel.

Legolas as well has been tight-lipped. He knew what the laments were saying, as did I, but it’s true, with grief so near it is hard to think of translating those sad songs for our companions. They say too little, as is: in the common tongue their feeling is lost. He stands pensively at the edge of our pavilion, listening to the sad singing, drinking it in.

Of all the things that could have gone wrong, even with all the fears and premonitions I had of danger to Gandalf when we entered Moria, I do not think I believed that we would actually lose him, or that I would be left with the leadership of this small Company. It is not a burden I wanted--and Gandalf had kept his plans close to his own heart--I do not even know if he meant for us to come through the Golden Wood, though after Moria, it was the only logical destination.

We will rest here for some time I think; the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood are gracious hosts, but they are also canny. They will make sure of their borders before they allow us to venture forth from them. But I think the Lady also knows we need time to mend our grief as best we may.

The silence is broken by a sudden sob, this time, Merry, who I think was the only one of the hobbits *not* to weep since we entered this place. He has been trying so hard to be strong for the others. He bites his hand and shakes his head, as if to deny his grief, but the other three hobbits are around him in an instant, and now all of them are weeping together.

Merry sniffed. Frodo is holding him, as Merry yet holds Pippin, while Sam has placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I just--” Merry stopped, and then went on haltingly “ I just was remembering *him* when he was just *our* Gandalf, you know, always growling at us, but he had that twinkle in his eye. He put up with so much nonsense in the Shire. We never knew how great he was--we never appreciated him.”

Pippin, who is forgetting his own misery, in his effort to comfort his older cousin, shakes his head. “No, but we loved him. And he loved us.”

And I feel my own tears now. I see them sparkling in Gimli’s eyes, and Boromir’s. They run unchecked down Legolas’ cheeks as well.

We grieve, we mourn together. Perhaps that is the beginning of our healing.
_____________________________________
*From The Fellowship of the Ring Book II, Chapter VI, “Lothlórien”

 
Title: Ill Wind
Theme: Set #2, Theme #13, “Wandering wind”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: Legolas has a moment of doubt (a drabble)

ILL WIND

The wind keeps shifting, south and east and back. I cannot help thinking of the saying in my father’s realm, that “An East wind blows bad news; a Southeast wind worse yet.” It has not been long since we saw crebain.

I look at the others. Mithrandir and Aragorn are worried; Boromir is watchful and wary; the Dwarf seems impervious.

But the hobbits are dispirited and discouraged. They seem only now to grasp the enormity of the journey. I hear the fear beneath their poor attempts at jesting.

I cannot help but wonder if we are doing the right thing.

 

"Reminder"
Another entry for 20_rings

Title: Reminder
Theme: Set #2, Theme #14, “Strength”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: In the aftermath of Gandalf’s loss, three members of the Company take a moment to themselves…

REMINDER

The hobbits are bent beneath the weight of their grief and their packs. I watch as they struggle to move forward; we have scarcely escaped the East Gate, and as the foes vanish back into the darkness of Moria, we come to a halt, finally overcome by our sudden loss.
Aragorn’s words echo in my ears:

“We must do without hope; at least we may be avenged. Let us gird ourselves and weep no more! Come! We have a long road, and much to do!”*

“Come, Gimli!” Boromir helps me to my feet; I see Legolas staring, stunned, disbelieving. I can scarce believe it myself. Sam sits hunched and weeping alone, while Merry and Pippin are huddled together in grief. Apart from us all, Frodo stands, staring back, tears falling unchecked down his face, which is as pale as the patches of snow that surround us.

We look about us, and Aragorn points the way to us. I do not need his prompting; I look behind at Zirakzigil, Bundushathûr and of course, Barazinbar, Caradhras the Cruel. I shake my fist at the mountain vainly, my imprecations weak and ineffectual. How cruel we had no way to know--had we known could we have chosen differently? And Gandalf--Gandalf, of all people, lost to us.

I glance down, down to the Mirrormere, and speak of my longing to look into the clear waters of Kheled-zâram. Though I know of our haste, I long to assuage my grief with a look into its clear waters. I have never had such a chance before, and there is no knowing if ever I shall have such a chance again. I do not believe Gandalf would have stayed me from a chance to do so, and I feel that perhaps it will give me strength, to draw from this place.

I see each landmark that has been described for me, from my earliest childhood, so that though never have I laid eyes on them before, it seems they are familiar to me.

I cannot resist. “That is Durin’s Stone!” I cry, “I cannot pass without turning aside for a moment to look at the wonder of the dale!”

Aragorn gives a grudging, though sympathetic, permission--along with the admonition, which I scarcely need, to make haste. Impulsively, I call to Frodo to join me. He turns aside, and Sam follows. Merry casts a glance at Frodo, but Pippin is still nearly incapacitated with sorrow, and he remains with his younger cousin.

There lies the mere, aptly named, it mirrors the surrounding mountains perfectly. We stoop over it, and see the stars, deep and glittering, as though a picture of a night sky limned with diamonds was there. Do I seek a sign? I do not know. Frodo and Sam stare as well. I see Sam draw a
deep breath, and draw his arm across his eyes; Frodo gazes an instant longer, and then he straightens up, I see a new set to his shoulders. He breathes out a long breath through his nose, and nods as if answering a question to himself.

I look once more into the clear and calm depths, unchanged by all else that has occurred. “O Kheled-zâram, fair and wonderful,” I murmur, “There lies the Crown of Durin till he wakes. Farewell!”

We three turn away, strengthened by this place, this sight, this reminder, that some things are eternal and enduring, in and of themselves.
______________________________________
* Words in italics taken directly from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter VI, “Lothlórien”


 

Title: Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
Theme: Set #2, Theme #15, “Shadows”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: Inspired by a shot from the film, of the Fellowship walking along in silhouette.
Summary: The Company puts Caradhras behind them. (a drabble)

THROUGH SHADOWS TO THE EDGE OF NIGHT

The Sun was westering, and in the east, peeking up behind the Misty Mountains, a few stars had begun to twinkle in the gloaming. Along a barren granite ridge, nine weary figures pick their way downhill, retracing their footsteps, now made futile by the fury of the mountain. Every stride is slow and labored, yet they trudge doggedly on, determined to leave their defeat by Caradhras behind them. None care to halt until they have come to a more hospitable place. Their shadows fall behind them, and on the cold grey rock, they are silhouetted against a slowly darkening sky.

Title: "The Wolf One Hears..."
Theme: Set #2, Theme #16, “A new road”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Summary: Boromir ponders the Warg attack, and considers the way ahead of them… (a double drabble)

“THE WOLF ONE HEARS…”

We are to take a new road after all. After that attack by Wargs, there is little choice left. I am wondering, however, what dangers there are ahead of us that makes even so fell a warrior as Aragorn fearful.

I am reassured as to the mettle of my Companions. I have seen the power my father always suspected in Mithrandir with my own eyes. Though I could tell by their bearing that Aragorn and Legolas were experienced warriors, I have fought alongside them now. They are mighty indeed. As to Gimli, I knew not what to expect of a Dwarf--but his axe has proven a powerful weapon.

I am pleased with the hobbits. Though they struck no blow, they were prepared to do so. Merry and Pippin held their stances as I had taught them. Frodo and Sam followed their example. There had been no need to tell them to stand back to back--they seemed to do that instinctively. If one of the Wargs had broken through, I’ve no doubt they could have held it off long enough for one of us to finish it.

I hope this new road proves a more useful one, if not less perilous.

Title: Slinking
Theme: Set #2, Theme #17, “Foolish people”
Genre (s): General
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: PG
Summary: In Moria, the Company was followed…

SLINKING

Tricksy. Tricksy to come here.

They think they will be hidden here. Hidden from the nasty White Face and the Yellow Face staring down, watching all ways--yess, yes--they are hidden from the White Face and the Yellow Face but they are not hidden from us, Precious, no indeed, Precious. We sees them, sneaking, sneaking through the dark. Nasty Elf with his bright eyes and his sharp arrowses. And the Wizard, making light where there shouldn’t be any light, no, none at all, precious. And Men with big swords, swords that cut. We knows *that* Man, oh yes we does, putting nasty rope around our neckses and dragging us off to the wicked Elves. Wouldn’t we love to bash his head with a big rock when he sleeps--crush him and curse him! We could smash his face, yes we could, and put out his eyes, almost as bright as wicked Elf eyes! And the Dwarf? Dwarfses are tough meat, yes they are! No good to chew with only six teeth--we could push him, push him off and hear him clatter and clank as he falls, down and down and down, oh yes!

And hobbitses, tricksy little thieves! How we hates them--but what sweet tender meat they would be if we could get our fingers around their neckses. No riddles this time, oh no, none at all. We could squeeze them, one at a time--one, two, three!

But not the Baggins. We takes the Precious from the Baggins first, and we hold the Precious, and make the Baggins do what we wants. Maybe we make the Baggins squeeze the other hobbitses? Gollum, precious, gollum--how that would makes us laugh and laugh. Then we squeezes *him*!

But they stay together, poor Gollum, we can’t squeeze them or crush them or push them. But we follows--we won’t lose the Precious again.

Foolish people. They thinks they are safe in the dark all together.

But we are not the only thing that follows in the dark.

 Title: Oliphaunt Am I
Theme: Set #2, Theme #18, “Laughter”
Genre (s): Gapfiller
Pairing (s): n/a
Rating: G
Notes: This is slightly AU to canon, as I am inserting a few extra minutes into the story, between “Flotsam and Jetsam” and “The Voice of Saruman”, in order for one conversation to take place. My thanks to lindelea1 for the beta.
Summary: The Fellowship may be separated by distance and danger, yet in their hearts they all remain connected.

Oliphaunt Am I

Even though Aragorn had said it was time to find Gandalf and Treebeard, the little group of friends found themselves reluctant to move from their picnic-spot. Aragorn, Gimli, Merry and Pippin smoked in companionable silence for a while; Legolas leaned back on his arms, and turned his face to the sky, enjoying the breeze.

It was Pippin, as it so often happened, who voiced what the others would not speak. “I wonder where Frodo and Sam are, and what they are doing right now?”

Merry bit his lip. He looked up at Aragorn, his brow furrowed with worry. “Strider, while I am ever so grateful to know that you all three came after Pippin and me, shouldn’t you have stayed with him?”

Aragorn sighed, and shook his head. “Frodo had his reasons for leaving us behind; I am glad that Sam, at least, was able to go with him.”

“Sam’s a sturdy fellow; I know he will take good care of Frodo, but it ’s going to be hard to keep Frodo’s spirits up by himself.” Merry shook his head sadly.

Aragorn smiled at him. “I think Master Samwise has a good notion of how to do that. Do you remember his poem of the comic troll on the way to Rivendell? Even wounded as he was, Frodo laughed.”

Pippin chuckled. “Sam always had a way with a recitation! One of my earliest memories of him was him reciting that funny poem about ‘Oliphaunt’. I was only a tiny chap myself, but I can still see his red face.”

“I’m surprised you remember that, Pip,” said Merry. “You were barely out of faunthood yourself!”

“I think it was the day Sam took care of my bee-sting, though I’m not certain of it…”

“It was. Frodo and I had been down to Bywater visiting with Fatty and Folco at Folco’s aunt’s house. Bilbo invited Sam to tea with us.”
______________________________________

Frodo looked at Sam in astonishment. The failure to enter Mordor by the Black Gate had been a crushing blow, and Frodo had his doubts about the “secret way” Gollum wished to show them. Yet their only other choice was to give up the Quest entirely.

And now Sam was standing up and reciting that old Shire poem, “Oliphaunt“! Here at the edge of Mordor, with danger and disappointment all around them. Frodo listened to the words of the old poem, and remembered a long ago spring day…

“Grey as a mouse, Big as a house,
Nose like a snake,
I make the earth shake…”

Young Sam stood before the hearth, his face red as a beetroot, his hands clasped behind his back, as he recited the poem he had been learning for Bilbo. Frodo grinned to see his little friend’s discomfiture, but the lad was not missing a word. He’d coaxed Sam to recite it for Merry and Pippin, in part to distract them both from the distress of little Pippin's bee-sting. The distraction seemed to be working. Merry was listening carefully. He disliked recitations himself, and it was clear he was impressed with Sam, whose blush was fading as he became more confident and enthusiastic.

“As I tramp through the grass;
Trees crack as I pass.
With horns in my mouth
I walk in the South,
Flapping big ears.
Beyond count of years
I stump round and round…”

Sam deepened his voice and stamped about the hearth, earning a delighted giggle from little Pippin, who was snuggled up comfortably in Bilbo’s lap and watching in amazement. Sam grinned at the child, and stamped harder…

“Never lie on the ground,
Not even to die.
Oliphaunt am I,
Biggest of all,
Huge, old and tall.
If ever you’d met me
You wouldn’t forget me…”

Sam was thoroughly enjoying himself now, gesturing widely, pleased with the laughter of his friends, and completely over his earlier shyness at being asked to tea "with the gentry".

“If you never do,
You won’t think I’m true;
But old Oliphaunt am I,
And I never lie.”

_________________________________

Merry chuckled along with Pippin at the memory. “Cousin Bilbo told us he’d learned that poem from his Uncle Isengar. While he and Frodo got tea ready, Sam and I played ‘Oliphaunt’ and stamped about chasing you, Pip!”

“I remember that, as well. Remember Frodo telling us his flute was made of an oliphaunt’s tooth?”

Merry scoffed. “I doubt that. But I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.”

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas all laughed as well. “Perhaps one day you will see an ‘oliphaunt’, Merry,” Aragorn said, "and then you may judge for yourself.”

“I am not familiar with ‘oliphaunt’, “ said Legolas.

“It is a beast of burden and of warfare used by the Southrons out of Harad,” replied Aragorn. “They are properly named ‘mûmakil’.”

“Ah! I have heard of them, then!”

“And,” added Gimli, “the ivory of their tusks is prized by many Dwarves for the fashioning of various items.”

Merry’s jaw dropped. “You mean they are real?” he asked in surprise.

The others all laughed at him.
________________________

Frodo listened to Sam debating with Gollum about the reality of oliphaunts. Sam was quite passionate about it; perhaps they might see oliphaunts before all was ended. He had seen Elves, after all.

*Frodo stood up. He had laughed in the midst of all his cares when when Sam had totted out the old fireside rhyme of Oliphaunt, and the laugh had released him from hesitation. ‘I wish we had a thousand oliphaunts and Gandalf on a white one at their he ad,’ he said. ’Then we’d break a way inot this evil land, perhaps. But we’ve not; just our own tired legs, that’s all. Well, Sméagol, the third way may turn the best. I will come with you.*

________________________________

“Strider,” said Pippin, “you did say we should find Gandalf, and mention the pipe-weed to him.” He stood, and brushed the back of his breeches, and reached a hand down to help Merry up.

**“I wonder what he is doing,” said Merry. “The afternoon is getting on. Let us go and look round! You can enter Isengard now at any rate, Strider, if you want to. But it is not a very cheerful sight.”**

And the five friends left their brief respite behind.

_________________________________

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

According to the Tale of Years, the day that Merry and Pippin were reunited with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at Orthanc was the same day that Frodo, Sam and Gollum were stymied at the Black Gate--and also the same day that Sam recited “Oliphaunt” to Frodo and Gollum.

* From LotR: The Two Towers, Book IV, Chapter III, "The Black Gate Is Closed", as is the poem “Oliphaunt”.

** From LotR: The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter IX, "Flotsam and Jetsam".

 

Title: Where Light in Darkness Lies
Theme: Set #2, Theme #19, “Light”
Genre (s): Drabble set
Pairing (s): n/a
Rating: G
Summary: Nine drabbles, one for each member of the Fellowship, encounters with light, for good or ill…


Legolas

He blinked as they exited the East Gate. Moria had been dark and oppressive. He had been looking forward to seeing the light of Anor once more. He should have been glad to be once again under the open sky, the Sun high above, her light glittering and breaking over the snow. He should have been rejoicing.

But there was no joy, only bleak cold, only numb grief. Of all the disasters he had imagined when they had set out from Rivendell, this had been beyond any imagining: that they would lose Mithrandir, the light of his fëa snuffed out.


Gimli

When he had gone to join his father at the Lonely Mountain, the first thing he had done was to pay his respects to Thorin Oakenshield. There the old chief had lain, the Arkenstone upon his breast. He had gasped at the brightness of its light: a shaft of sunlight had been directed to reflect upon it perfectly. Nothing could surpass its beauty.

Until now, as he looked upon the Lady of Lothlórien. Her words of welcome pierced his heart, and he saw beauty there he could never have imagined.

Wonder came into his face, and he smiled in answer.


Gandalf

Light. Light he had seen once, and not yet thought to see again. The Two Trees in all their glory and splendor had been but a pale imitation of this Light.

Eru Iluvatar. He had no lips with which to speak, nor need. Love and submission flowed through him. Your servant has failed you. If he had eyes, he would have wept.

Love and approval washed over him. You have not failed, oh good and faithful servant. Take up your task once more. Knowledge and power are yours, Servant of the Secret Flame.

He awakened, cold, naked in the snow.

Boromir

He smiled. The last words he heard: “Minas Tirith shall not fail.” With his failing eyes, he had seen the Light about the King Returned, and knew those words were true. His own failure was redeemed, the darkness of despair fled from his spirit, along with his pride and self-doubt.

If there were such a thing as regret now, it was only the knowledge of the grief he would leave with others, especially his father and Faramir. But now another, stronger, Light beckoned.

Somehow, he knew. The Dark Lord could not prevail. All would be well.

He followed the Light.

Pippin

Pippin writhed in agony. Light should not be dark, but dark light drew him down, down into a spiral of red and purple flame, blackness at its heart. Speak! came the unspeakable command, slamming against his mind. No! He would not. He would find true light somehow-- clear light, light remembered of Sun and Moon and starlight, reflected from the clear waters of the Shire. The Shire where all that was good was green and growing. How he longed for the Shire!

Who are you? What are you?

Who am I, alone, myself and nameless? Oh, the pain!

A hobbit.

Sam

“I love him. He’s like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him whether or no.” That light that seemed to come from within his Master pierced Sam’s heart. He’s a hobbit, thought Sam, but he shines like an Elf, yet not an Elf--he‘s still his own sweet self. I wish old Mr. Bilbo could see him now. It would break his heart to see his lad so frail and worn. But he’d be so proud of him, to see him shining so. “The finest hobbit in the Shire”, he’d say. And haven’t I always known it?

Frodo

The voice seemed to come from far away. Sam, telling him something, something of urgency it seemed…“The Lady’s gift! The star-glass! A light to you in dark places, she said it was to be! The star-glass!”

Frodo woke, as from a dark dream. The star-glass? A light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out!

He reached into his shirt, his hand brushing the chain. No! Further in, there! Cool to the touch, the Lady‘s phial, and clean and comforting. He drew it forth, and words came to him unbidden, and he saw the Light blaze forth.


Merry

There was no light in the world. But not blackness, just grey gloom shrouded in cold and dreary mist. Cold, so cold!

Once there was hope. Once there was a place of warmth and sunlight. Once there was life. But death had come with a chill hand, stealing life away. Théoden! Éowyn! So brave, so valiant, so lost and small against the strength of the pale king! He would weep, but tears were warm, and warmth did not exist here.

Wait-- that scent? Appleblossoms and heather in the sunlight?

Sunlight, a strong voice, calling him with love.

I’m coming, Strider!


Aragorn

It was not the first time Aragorn had seen that Light, not the first time he had called someone away from the path leading to it, not the first time he had met with resistance.

But the two small shining figures ahead were closer than ever he had seen before.

Sam! One hesitated, then continued.

Frodo! Still he did not hesitate.

Frodo! Do not leave us bereft! Do not take Sam with you!

Now both hesitated.

Frodo! Sam! Those who love you are waiting here. Do not leave us.

They turned. Aragorn held out his arms.

Come home, my friends!

 

Ithildin's Translation Notes for "That Song".

(The song in question, "One Hundred Apple Pies..." is my hobbity equivalent of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall", one of the world's most irritating countdown songs, created by children to drive parents and bus drivers mad. The following are the translation notes which were provided by Ithildin, who was kind enough to attempt the translation for me.)

Neo-Sindarin Translation notes:

…Apple pies cooling on the sill;
Snatch one down to eat our fill.
Pass it around; no need to fight—
Everybody has a bite!


 from suggestions by Elhath)

Neo-Sindarin Translation notes:

…Apple pies cooling on the sill;
Snatch one down to eat our fill.
Pass it around; no need to fight—
Everybody has a bite!

...Baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Ritho vîn dad maded na-den pant.
Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad –
Ilphen geritha nâg!

apple pies cooling on the sill;
Baith-ivas chim erin lanc chenneth;
Baked-fruit cool on the edge (of the) window


snatch one down to eat our fill.
Ritho vin dad maded na-den pant.
Snatch one down eating until full

Pass it around; no need to fight—
Edanno den, ú-moe am maethad –
Share it around, no need for fighting


Everybody has a bite!
Ilphen geritha nâg!
Everyone will have a bite

Word-by-word:

apple pies – Baith-ivas
*_baith_ a possible synonym for `a baked thing' (from MBAS-)+ *_ivas_ - a possible way to coin `fruit' (from suggestions by Elhath)

cool - him (adj. cool) (h > ch – lenition)

on the – erin (on the)

sill – lanc (sharp edge/sudden end) + henneth (window) (h > ch – lenition)

snatch - ritho (to jerk/snatch/twist, imperative)

one – min (m > v – lenition)

down – dad (down)

to eat – maded (eating) (gerund is used instead of infinitive in S.)

until – na-den (Neo-Sindarin from Dragonflame)

full – pant (full)

Pass it aroundEdanno den

Edanno - (`share') - _ed-_ (pref. `forth/out') + _anno_ (v. imp. `give') (from suggestions by Elhath)
it - ten (it - obj.) (t > d – lenition)

no need - ú-moe(not necessary) (from movie dialogue by D. Salo)

for – an (an > am – nasal mut.)

fighting— maethad (fighting)

Everybodyilphen – Neo-Sindarin for "everyone" (from *ilja; OST lyrics) comes from David Salo's book (Gateway 110). (from suggestions by Elhath)
will have – geritha

a bite! – nâg – (3rd. sing. Pres. Verb) or – possibly N.S. noun (


Here are the numbers attempted (as best I could) according to Thorsten Renk's `Pedin Edhellen' Sindarin course format. I have not received any comments so far on these number constructions.

ninety-seven - odog nederchaen

eighty-four - canad tolothchaen

sixty-one - min enegchaen

twenty-eight - toloth tadchaen

My thanks to Elhath at the Elfling Yahoo list for several suggestions and corrections. Any mistakes are mine. ;-)

Ithildin *(





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