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That night, Legolas crept into the tent to shake Merry gently. "Oh, I am nearly asleep," Merry groaned in response, then jerked upright. "Is he all right?" he demanded, already fumbling about for his discarded outerwear by the light of the moon coming through the open flap.
"Yes, yes, I am sorry," Legolas hastily assured him. "He is sound asleep, and Gimli will stay until morning. I just could tell you were not quite asleep and wanted to ask you something."
"Oh," Merry said, letting the tension run out of his body and flopping back down on his bed. "In that case, whatever do you want and why must you ask it now?"
"You gave Pippin his name?" the elf asked. "Is that hobbit custom, or was there some special reason you were allowed to name your cousin? You must have been just a child yourself, were you not?"
Merry yawned hugely. "Legolas, I cannot believe you woke me up to tell you a bedtime story. Do you really want to know?" When Legolas nodded, Merry sighed. He shut his eyes, but continued speaking. "Don't laugh at me, but I had an omen when he was born. He was born too early, you know, and I believe everyone truly thought he would die that first day of his life. But he is my strong little lad, even now, isn't he?"
"Yes, he certainly is," Legolas answered quietly. "And I would not laugh, Merry, to think you had an omen about Pippin. What was it?"
Merry opened his eyes to look into the elf's face. "I was young, myself, just eight years old. My family arrived at the Took estate that morning by chance, and found the baby just born but so frail. We children were shooed off and told to behave and I wandered off alone for a bit, to sit and think. So, I was sitting and thinking, and really quite sad, because I had been wanting a little lad cousin forever, and just kept getting more lass cousins all the time, and now here was my lad, and he might die. And while I was thinking this, I looked up and there was a peregrine falcon flying overhead, coming to rest atop a tree. They are not common in my country, and we had just been at Bag End, so Bilbo and Frodo had been filling my head with all kinds of nonsense, and I somehow became convinced that the bird was an omen to me, and that it must have to do with the new baby. We looked at each other, and after a while it flew right over me, circled three times and cried out before flying away. So then I was completely convinced that it was an omen that the baby was going to be all right, which of course he was.
"Anyway," he concluded, "the whole story came bursting out of me that evening to my mother and Pippin's father, who was so delighted by it that he named the baby Peregrin. And that is how I gave Pippin his name."
Legolas' face was quiet and thoughtful. "Thank you, Merry," he said. "I am glad to have heard that story." He stood, then hesitated. "I have not much experience myself with omens," he added slowly, "but I do not doubt their reality. Nor do I doubt that you and Pippin are deserving of one. You should not describe it so, Merry, as though it were a childhood fancy. I do not believe that it was."
Merry's face was somber as well. "I do not really believe it to be a childhood fancy, you know, though it is Pippin who deserved it, not I. But my people tend to make light of things we do not completely understand, rather than give them the reverence they deserve. Thank you for treating it thus."
Legolas smiled at him, and reached out a hand to gently touch the sleep-tousled honey-brown curls. "Sleep well, Meriadoc of the Shire," he said.
"Good night, Legolas," Merry answered, but he lay awake for a while, thinking about omens and fate and friendships.
(Note: In writing this story, I found that it was connected to many of my other stories. I have tried to make this tale self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to let me know if something requires further explanation. The story Merry relates above to Legolas appears in its original form as the chapter "Just In Time for Supper" of my story "I Always Know You.”)
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