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Written for Marigold's Challenge 14.
Title: In a Pig's Eye
In a Pig's Eye
Meriadoc stirred slightly at his younger cousin’s excited tone, but detecting no panic, he pulled the covers up over his head and settled deeper into the pillow. Lovely large pillows they had here, all he wanted and more.
He ought to have known better. His hands fisted in the bedcovers as a game of “tug” commenced; all the while excited babbling nibbled him awake.
‘It’s wonderful! It’s marvellous! It’s the most astonishing...’
When, as was inevitable, his mouth was uncovered, Merry muttered, ‘Did you sleep at all, Pippin?’ He groaned as he felt a bounce on the bed.
‘Of course I slept!’ the younger cousin said, but under the older cousin’s sleepy stare he retrenched slightly. ‘Well, I went to bed, anyhow; couldn’t help it, with you hauling me away as if you were my minder or my mum... Merry-Mum, has a sort of ring to it, doesn’t—?' He gave a delighted yelp as Merry rolled over, grabbed him, and rolled him in the bedcovers, ending staring down at the unresisting younger cousin.
‘Ha!’ Pippin said, triumphant. ‘You’re awake now! You’ve got to see it! It’s the most fantastic...’
‘Yes, it’s wonderful,’ Merry agreed, flopping down upon the bed once more and closing his eyes, for all the good it would do. ‘It’s marvellous, how Lord Elrond was able to find the sliver, just when all hope was lost...’ A sudden thought had him sitting up abruptly. ‘Is he awake?’
‘Not Frodo, you nit!’ Pippin pronounced, bouncing with glee on the overlarge bed. Really, Elves knew how to do things properly, they did! Large beds with lots of bounce in them!
Merry appreciated the bed, as well, large, soft layers to sink into, rather like sleeping on clouds, only warmer. However, it seemed as if his appreciation was doomed to be cut short, at least on this morning.
He began to pull the bedcovers over himself once more, and Pippin, saying, ‘No you don’t!’ grabbed at them hastily. In another moment, Merry’s hand had prisoned one of Pippin’s.
‘Look at that,’ Merry said in disgust.
‘Let go!’ Pippin protested.
‘Your hands are a sight! The Elves are going to think hobbits are as dirty as—!’
With another bounce Pippin pulled himself free, reminded of his errand. ‘Give over, Merry, it’s not as if you could go back to sleep now that you’re awake! Come, it’s a glorious day! The Sun is just rubbing the sleep from her eyes, and—’
‘She’s not the only one,’ Merry grumbled, but conceding defeat, he rose, threw off his nightshirt, and began dressing. He seemed to remember dropping his clothing in a heap on the floor last night, instead of draping it neatly over a chair as he usually did. For one thing, the chairs here were inconveniently high, and for another, he’d been tempted to crawl into the bed fully clad, exhausted as he was over the long battle for Frodo’s life and his very soul. The snowy whiteness of the linens, however, and the heavenly softness and warmth... these were better enjoyed in clean nightclothes, not dusty, sweaty garments of the day.
However, his clothes were not puddled at his feet, but hanging over the chair, and when he lifted them, a fresh, clean smell came to his nose. He quickly donned his breeches, but buried his face in the shirt a moment before moving to put it on. ‘How do they do it?’ he muttered. The shirt smelled as if it had just come from the line, dried by sun and breeze of a pleasant summery day.
‘No time for that, Merry—you’ve got to come!’ Pippin said, grabbing at Merry’s hand as soon as his arms cleared the sleeves and pulling him to the doorway before he’d even begun to find homes for his buttons.
A smiling Elf nodded to them as she passed in the corridor, and Merry hastily did up the buttons as Pippin hurried him along. He was scarcely listening to the steady stream of talk coming from his excited young cousin. Pippin was acting more like an eight-year-old than his eight-and-twenty years, but then he was excited, and exhausted—Merry could read the signs that without doubt Pippin, sleepless in anxiety for Frodo all the days they’d been here, however many it might have been, for day had blurred into night—in any event, it appeared that, crisis over, Pippin had been too tightly wound to sleep.
When they stopped, it took Merry a moment to realise that this, indeed, was their destination. He rounded on his younger cousin.
‘You hounded me out of bed for this?’ he said, incredulous. ‘A dirty pigsty?’
‘Exactly!’ Pippin said in satisfaction. ‘Isn’t it amazing?’
Merry put the back of his hand against Pippin’s forehead to check for fever. The younger hobbit swatted it away, laughing. ‘I’d hardly call a pigsty amazing,’ Merry said. ‘It looks just like something we’d have back home. Pip, have you lost your wits?’
‘It does!’ Pippin crowed. ‘You’ve got it! It looks exactly like the pigsties we have back home!’
At Merry’s dumbfounded look he laughed again, so heartily that he had to grab at his stomach, bending over in his mirth. At last he came up, gasping, pointing a shaking hand at his older cousin. ‘Your—face!’ he gasped, and bent over again.
Through it all Merry stood like a stone, fighting irritation, though worry for his younger cousin was gnawing at his edges.
From the Homely House, two tall, lordly figures stared out, arrested by the sounds of merriment heard as they’d passed by the open window, deep in discussion.
Gandalf smiled, but Elrond frowned.
‘Their hearts are too light for such a heavy task,’ he said solemnly. ‘I will send them back to the safety of their homes.’
‘A dubious safety at best,’ Gandalf said, but Elrond shook his head.
‘They can bring warning to their fellows,’ he said. ‘In any event, the Shire will be safer than the journey that must go forward.’
‘We do not even know, yet, that Frodo will take the burden to the End,’ Gandalf argued. ‘He has free choice in the matter.’
Elrond bowed his head before the other, and when he looked the wizard in the eye once more, his lips were set in a thin line. ‘Does he?’ he said, low. ‘Does he indeed? My heart...’
‘We will discuss this in the Council,’ Gandalf said. ‘Much will be made clear, then.’
‘Nevertheless,’ Elrond said, ‘if the hobbit does go forward, his cousins will wish to go with him, as you say. I would at the very least send the younger one back to his home.’ His lips twitched involuntarily as a peal of laughter floated to them on the breeze.
A messenger interrupted them then, with news of yet more arrivals, and the discussion was tabled by mutual agreement until a later time. Gandalf went to Frodo’s bedside, sending Sam off for a rest, and Elrond went to greet the newest guests.
‘It’s a pig sty,’ Merry said, putting space between his words for emphasis and striving to maintain an even tone.
‘You have the right of it, Merry!’ Pippin said cheerfully, and ducking through the fence rails he brought up a double handful of mud. ‘Isn’t it lovely?’
‘Pippin!’ Merry said. ‘You get out of there this instant!’
Pippin began to dance in the mud, singing some inane ditty about pigs in their sty and the Sun in the sky. The lone wakeful pig eyed them in mild astonishment. There were no little ones to protect, this time of year. Most of the pigs were burrowed into the straw at the far end of the pen, still sleeping at this early hour. They’d seek the cool mud as the day warmed, but for the moment there was plenty of mud to share.
Merry rolled his eyes and climbed through the fence to grab at his cousin. ‘Pippin!’ he said. ‘Get out of here this inst—!’ Pippin, losing his balance in the sticky, slippery mud, had grabbed at his arm, pulling them both over as he fell.
Sitting up, Merry was about to give Pippin a piece of his mind, but his cousin lay face-down in the mud, unmoving. Alarmed, he bent over Pippin, calling his name. He put his hands on Pippin’s shoulders, feeling them shaking. ‘Pippin!’ he said urgently.
Pippin came up from the mud, grinning, eyes and teeth shining white from his mud-caked countenance. ‘Merry!’ he said in return. ‘Isn’t it a marvel?’
Now that Pippin had his undivided attention, Merry sighed and gave in to the inevitable. ‘Isn’t what a marvel, Pippin?’ he asked resignedly.
‘This!’ Pippin said, flinging out his arms, little splatters of mud flying from his fingertips.
‘What, exactly, is a marvel about a pigsty, Pippin?’ Merry asked with exaggerated patience.
‘It’s just like a pigsty back in the Shire, Merry!’ Pippin said brightly. He put on his best lecturing manner, seeing his cousin’s mystified look. ‘Hobbits have ponies, Elves have horses. We have shaggy little cows, and the Elves have these great monsters of cows—why, I could walk under one of them and hardly have to bend over to do it! But look at this! Hobbits have pigs—and Elves have pigs!’
Merry was underwhelmed, but Pippin didn’t notice. He was dancing about, flinging handfuls of mud into the air, singing, ‘Elves have pigs! Elves have pigs!’
A pair of passing Elves stared in some astonishment, but when Merry caught their eye they stopped and bowed with great respect—probably on Frodo’s account—and went on.
Merry grabbed at Pippin’s arm, pulling him to a stop. ‘Pippin!’ he said in his most no-nonsense tone.
‘Yes, Merry?’ Pippin said brightly, panting slightly from his exercise.
‘Time for a bath, I think,’ the older cousin said crisply, looking down at his clothes with regret. Well, someone had made them fresh and clean in the span of a few hours, while he was sleeping. They would likely be made clean once again. He had great hopes, anyhow.
‘A bath? Before breakfast?’ Pippin said, oblivious to his state. He was swaying with weariness, Merry saw, and more than likely to fall asleep in his breakfast. But first things first...
‘A bath,’ Merry said, standing firm though mud squidged between his toes. ‘You have dirt under your fingernails...’ he said, and mud everywhere else went without having to be said. ‘Come along now.’
Pippin followed obediently, still talking about this remarkable point of similarity he’d found between Hobbits and Elves.
They met not a few Elves along the way, receiving bows and uplifted eyebrows. Merry snorted to himself. If the Elves were astonished by Pippin-of-the-pigsty, just wait until they saw Pippin-in-the-bath!
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