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Eucatastrophe: The Return  by Dreamflower

(This chapter written for Marigold's Challenge #37)
AUTHOR: Dreamflower
AUTHOR'S NOTES: (1) My starter sentence: What am I going to do with you?" (2) This story takes place in my "Eucatastrophe" universe; in that universe, the Three Elven Rings did not fade, but were freed to full power by the destruction of the One, Saruman was killed by Quickbeam during the storming of Isengard, and the journey to Elvenhome is now a two-way trip, allowing those who have gone to return to Middle-earth, if they so choose…
SUMMARY: A return home, and a new and less perilous adventure awaits Frodo…
DISCLAIMER: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
PREVIOUSLY: Frodo and Gandalf returned from voyaging to the Blessed Isle, to see Bilbo settled into his new home; now a couple of weeks later, Frodo has written to Merry and Pippin, to tell them he is considering yet another journey, this one somewhat shorter, and asking them to accompany him.


"What am I going to do with you?" Estella hissed. "Merry Brandybuck, you *know* what my mother would say to you turning up at my door this hour of the night!"

Pippin leaned against the corridor wall, and tried unsuccessfully not to listen to the hastily whispered conversation. He was keeping watch, and was also there to witness the propriety--such as it was--of this clandestine meeting.

"But Estella, I've hardly seen you since you arrived at Brandy Hall! And I really need to speak with you."

She stepped out of the room into the passageway, closing the door behind her, and holding her dressing gown close. She saw Pippin watching, and rolled her eyes.

"Well, what is it then, Merry?" her expression softened as she looked at her betrothed's desperate face.

"We got a letter from Frodo today…"

Estella looked surprised at that, and Pippin arched a brow, wondering what her reaction would be. "And?" she asked.

"Estella, he wants Pip and I to go with him to Rivendell. He promises we'll be back before the wedding--and I've never known him to break a promise. But if you'd rather I stay…" his voice trailed off.

Pippin bit his lip. He and Merry had discussed it earlier, and painful as it would have been, Merry had said that if Estella said "no" then Pip would have to go along with Frodo without him.

She stared at him for a moment.

"Estella, I--"

Estella reached a finger up and placed it on his lips. "Actually, Merry, it might be a good idea."

Pippin nearly laughed out loud at the expression on Merry's face. Before his cousin could speak again, Estella said, "Really, I do. I know how frustrating it is for you to have me here, and yet we've no time for one another. And Mother's being her most annoying and managing self--I'd really not rather have my bridegroom run mad before the wedding. She was in a fair way to making you lose your temper yesterday, when she went on and on about the color of your weskits!"

Merry blushed. "I didn't say anything to her, Estella!"

"No, dear, I know you didn't. But you were *thinking* at her very hard--and not, I'm quite sure, anything very complimentary! Not that I blamed you."

Merry caught her in a quick embrace. "Estella, if you're sure--"

"I am. But I don't envy you telling the rest of the family. And it might be best if my mother does not encounter Frodo before you leave--she'll never believe that you'll be back in time, and she's liable to give him a piece of her mind!" She gave a warm little chuckle, and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and reaching behind to open the door, she vanished back within her guest room.

Merry turned and met Pippin's amused eyes.

"Pip, was there ever a lass like her?"

"Well, I think there is at least one other--I'm quite sure Diamond would have been just as practical!" Pippin grinned. Actually, Diamond would have been more practical, and would never have stood for all the fol-de-rol that Estella was putting up with from her mother. But then, Diamond's mother was a rather quiet and unassuming little widow, and he expected she would probably be letting his mother do most of the planning when the time came.

"We are a lucky pair, aren't we?" Merry flung a companionable arm around Pippin's shoulders. "I suppose we'd better get home. Frodo will be here sometime tomorrow."

They were mostly silent on the walk home to Crickhollow--the stars lighting their way, the late spring air balmy. Pippin found himself lost in thoughts of Frodo.

He and Merry had not discussed it much while Frodo was gone, but he knew that Merry had been just as fearful as he that their beloved older cousin would not return from his voyage. There had been no logical reason for that feeling in the pit of his stomach, as he watched the Grey Ship sail away, that he had seen Frodo for the last time. After all, they had been assured by the Wise that the Ban on Elves returning from the West had been lifted. And they had never had reason not to believe Gandalf.

He had promised them he would bring Frodo back himself, and he had.
Still, the sight of Frodo, so happy and carefree had lifted a great weight from Pippin's heart.

And now, now, they had a chance to have a real journey into the Wide World--no peril, no flight from enemies too terrible to contemplate, no danger that pursued them relentlessly. Just a simple visit to friends in a somewhat distant place, and a quest for knowledge--no evil Rings, no Wraiths. They would have a chance to *enjoy* the trek, as they had not the first time.

He laughed aloud, and when Merry glanced in his direction quizzically, he began to sing:

"Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell,

Along the road, to their abode,
Where with joy our hearts will swell.
With friends ahead, we gladly tread
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.
We must away! We must away!

We ride before the break of day!

Merry shook his head, grinning. "I think I like those words a lot better than our original ones! But I do hope that we don't have to start off before the break of day this time!"

Softly, they sang it through again as they passed up the lane to their little house. Merry lit the lantern that hung beside the doorpost, as Pippin unlocked the door.

Pippin smiled as he opened it. It always gave him a little feeling of pride, this round blue door on their very own house. He turned to Merry. "What do you say to a cup of tea and bite to eat before bed?"

"That sounds like a very good plan, cousin! I do think that Bluebell baked extra seedcake this morning…" Bluebell was the matron engaged by Merry's mother to come in and do a bit of cleaning and cooking for the "young masters" twice a week.

"I think you are quite right!" And they made their way into the kitchen.

It was after elevenses the next morning when Pippin left Merry in the study trying to balance the household accounts, and went to the stable to tend the ponies and feed the cats. Then he sat on the front step, stroking Dumpling and enjoying a pipe.

When he heard the sound of hooves approaching the front gate, he knew right away it was Frodo.

"Well, it seems that you made good time," he grinned.

Frodo dismounted, and gave Pippin a brief embrace, and then Merry came out.

"I thought I heard you arrive," said Merry. "Pip, why don't you help Frodo see to Strider, and I'll get luncheon started!"

A short while later, the cousins sat down to a meal of vegetable soup, a salad of spring greens from the garden, cold sliced ham, with the last of the winter apples and cheese for filling the corners.

"Merry, this is excellent!" said Frodo. "Sorrel in both the soup and the salad! I take it you had an abundance in the garden this year?"

"Well, thank you for the kind words, Frodo! And yes, we do have quite a bit of sorrel in the garden."

Soon they were leaning back and lighting their pipes.

"I suppose you are wondering what got into me, wanting to go off to Rivendell, this soon after my return?"

Pippin looked at Merry, who was looking rather surprised. This Frodo was a deal more forthcoming than he had been before. They nodded, not wanting to say anything that might stop this unexpected flow of information.

He chuckled. "You're thinking good old Frodo is not so close as he used to be, aren't you? The truth is, I feel that I left a good many things undone, due to the Ring. And this history is one of them--I would like to get the information I need, and go forward with it. And I suppose that I could write and ask, but I think I will get a much fuller accounting if I ask in person. And I want to see what I missed from Bree to Rivendell, I want to enjoy the journey, not feel as though I am fleeing from danger into more danger. Gandalf thought it was a very good idea." He took a draw on his pipe and blew a couple of smoke rings. "So, are you coming with me? I know that you would *like* to, of course, but I also know you have obligations."

Pippin laughed. "Obligations? Well, I don't, and I'd be coming with you anyhow! I can't allow the Bagginses to get ahead of the Tooks when it comes to adventurousness! Besides, who knows what sorts of bogs and ditches you might fall into without me along?"

"Why thank you, Peregrin for your vote of confidence!" Frodo turned his eyes on Merry.

Merry tried to school his face to solemnity, but he failed miserably. Pippin rolled his eyes--as if Frodo were not going to see right through Merry.

"Uh, well, Frodo, you see…" He let his voice trail off, and then he laughed. "Estella can't wait to get rid of me! She's afraid, I think, that I will murder her mother before the wedding. But you had better get me back in plenty of time! And she says you'd better avoid Rosamunda before we leave if you don't want to be raked over the coals!"

Frodo grinned widely. "Ah, Merry! You have found yourself a rare one! Tell her I will indeed have you home in plenty of time! After all, that's my duty as your witness!"

Merry left Pippin and Frodo to do the washing up, for he was going up to the Hall to break the news of his departure to the rest of the family.

"Wish me luck!" he said. "If I'm not back by teatime, then either Rosamunda Bolger has murdered me, or my parents have locked me up! I trust you can think of a rescue!"

Pippin laughed, and shook his head, and turned to Frodo, who was gathering up the plates. "You do know that he is only half joking? Your timing on this could have been better, cousin!"

Frodo placed the dishes in the dishpan, and began to pour the hot water from the kettle. Pippin fetched a clean dishtowel, to dry.
"If I had waited until after the wedding, he could not have come at all. I would not have taken him away from his bride then."

"Is that why Sam's not coming?" Pippin honestly was surprised that Sam had not insisted on accompanying Frodo--Rose would have been understanding.

Frodo shook his head. "I know you think Rose would not have minded, but she also would have been left alone once more. And I think the Cottons and the Gamgees would very much have minded." He handed Pippin a wet plate. "Besides," and here he smiled mysteriously, "I had my own reasons as well for forbidding him to come."

"Which were?" asked Pippin curiously.

"My own." And he began to pay close attention to the bowl in his hands.

Pippin rolled his eyes. Now *this* was the Frodo he remembered--close as wizards.


The next couple of days were spent in a whirlwind of preparation. Three days later, they approached the Great East Road at the Brandywine Bridge, and began their journey. Pippin found himself grinning. This was going to be lovely; this was what their Adventure *should* have been. He allowed Merry and Frodo to ride a bit ahead of him, and he studied them fondly. He remembered what Bilbo had said about Adventures not being all "pony rides in the sunshine". Well, they'd made a good start on it--a better one than Bilbo had, to be sure. They all had handkerchiefs, and plenty of coin, and soon enough they'd be having a pleasant night at The Prancing Pony…


*Adapted from "Farewell We Call" in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter V, "A Conspiracy Unmasked"

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