First Day, The
1. The First Day
Peregrin Took eased himself down onto the soft leather chair. He leaned back placed his arms on the armrests and slowly let out the breath he had been holding. He may have thought he was finally calming down but if someone else had been observing him they may have noticed that his fingers were making quarter inch deep indentations into the cushioned ends of the armrests. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes. It was now official; he was the Took and Thain of the Shire. The formalities of his accession to both titles and the ensuing celebration were over and done and the guests all gone home or, like Sam and Merry and their families, to guest rooms at Great Smials.
Only a week had passed since his Father’s death and the black band on Pippin’s left arm would remain in place, a somber reminder, for several months. He was now Thain Peregrin. No, Thain Peregrin I he thought to himself.
“Might as well practice it.” He said aloud. “I suppose I ought to have been doing that long ago.” He sat forward and started to reach for the drawer that held the paper. His hands were slow in releasing their grip on the armrests of the chair.
“A bit more worried about all this than I thought.” Pippin said with a wry chuckle as he flexed his fingers and rolled them to work out the stiffness. He then got the paper from the drawer and pulled over the stand that held the ink and quills. Dip the quill, quill to paper: Thain Peregrin I.
His new signature stared at him and Pippin sat and stared at it. A tremor passed through him. Strangely, this simple act seemed to him to truly make it all final. There it was, black ink on white paper in his own handwriting, unfeelingly reminding him that his Father had died and, prepared for it or not, he was now, in truth, Thain Peregrin I.
He returned the quill to his Father’s . . . no, his, ink stand. Pippin stared at the ink stand with its quills and bottle of ink . His. He stared at the lamp, at the paperweight and at the desk itself. His now; because this is the Thain’s study and he was now the Thain. He placed his hands on the desk top and spread out his fingers. Slowly Pippin ran his hands over the soft surface of the dark brown wood. “My desk.” He whispered in awe. He watched his hands caress the massive piece of furniture. Gerontius, Isengrim III, Isumbras IV, Fortinbras II, Freumbras III, his Father Paladin II and now himself, Peregrin I. Six Thains before him had sat at this desk.
After a few more moments Pippin drew in a deep breath, closed his eyes and pushed against the desk top as he stood. “What will tomorrow bring, Father.” he murmured and touched the black band that circled his arm, “I am glad we had one good solid week together. You seemed to think I was going to prove to be up to the task. You even had me believing it. Heh.” Pippin patted the desk top. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings.” he said as he picked up the candle he had been carrying when he came into the study, blew out the desk lamp and left the room, closing the door behind him.
He would have run. He wanted to run, but he felt, in the end, that he should at least retreat with some degree of dignity. Pippin had made his way, at a quick yet not hurried pace, to a remote tunnel of the Great Smials. Grateful, for a change, that he had been such a mischievous scamp as a youth because he knew about all the best ways to leave the Smials with the least chance of being seen. And he didn’t wish to be seen. He quickly went into the storeroom at the end of the tunnel and out the small door at the back of the storeroom, across a very narrow bit of lawn and into the sheltering woods.
Pippin slowed down as he took several deep breaths of moss and leaf scented air. After about a mile the woods opened onto a small glade with an even smaller pond. The pond was small but deep and spring fed so it didn’t disappear in the summer time as do many small ponds. Cattails waved along it’s banks and the breeze put gentle ripples upon its surface. Pippin sat in a spot of sun light at the base of an old oak tree, leaned back his head, closed his eyes and sighed. He had not felt so immature and incompetent in a long while.
The morning had been horrible. No, he thought, being kidnaped by orcs was horrible. Terrifying? No. The Balrog in Moria, the Nazgul, those were terrifying. Intimidating? Frustrating? Demoralizing? Pippin sighed again. He wasn’t coming up with the correct word, but he felt sure that what ever the morning had been, he did not wish to go back for another helping of it in the afternoon.
The first thing he saw on entering the study, just after breakfast, was the desk piled high with papers for him to read and make decisions about and sign. Money was needed for various projects and which projects were even necessary? Did the Smials need more staff? Less staff? Would he be hiring or firing? The chimneys in the kitchens didn’t seem to be drawing properly, did they need cleaning, repairing or rebuilding? How much would each cost? And the ramps and stairs to the various levels of the huge dwelling; were they still sound? Did all or some of them need rebuilding? Second haying would soon be upon them and this years crop was bountiful. Did they need to hire extra field hands? Should they buy or rent extra wagons? Was the sheep herd too big? Not big enough? Should they buy some North Farthing Thick Coats to improve the wool production. And then there was . . .
Pippin brought his hands up to cover his face and he groaned at the memory. He hadn’t even read through half of it when the maid brought in his elevenses; he had worked straight through second breakfast. Then the morning’s appointments had begun.
A distraught mother to see the Took. “Help me with my daughter, sir.” Followed by a tale of woe how the poor lass had fallen for a drunkard. Wasn’t there anything he could do to help her see her folly? Pippin had gone and talked to Diamond. She knew first hand about living with a man who was overpowered by ale; her Father. Diamond said she would talk to the daughter that afternoon.
Distraught mother number two had a son who only had eyes for a hobbit lass with a very poor reputation. “His father died five years ago, sir. Seeing as you’re the Took, well, don’t that mean you to be head of the whole lot of us, sir, and so, in a manner of speaking, sir, the lad’s father then? Can’t you try to talk sense into his head, sir?” The appointment to talk to this Took “son” was made for tomorrow. Though what he would have to say to the lad was well beyond any thoughts Pippin could muster at the moment.
A man who had just recently become a widower; how could he go about placing his four children, ages newborn to six years, for adoption? A young couple who feared they had been cheated by a merchant from Pincup were wondering how to get their money back.
Farmer A and Farmer B shared a fence. The fence had gone down and both cattle herd A and cattle herd B had become thoroughly mixed. Both herds are the same breed of cattle. Whose cattle are whose? Who should pay for and make repairs to the fence? No, it wasn’t a problem set out in one of Pippin’s school books from when he was a boy. Farmer A was Isenbold Took and Farmer B was his twin brother Isengar Took and the problem quite real. “You didn’t brand your herds?” Thain Peregrin I had asked. “Tweren’t no need, sir. They weren’t free roamin’ after all!” had been the response. Pippin had drawn up the agreement between the two brothers. Divide the herd equally, by quality of the beasts as well as by number of beasts. Measure the gap in the fencing, divide it in half and each brother pay for and repair one half of the damaged fence since neither knew whose cattle had caused the damage. If there was an odd beast left after dividing the herd, they were to wait until the fence was mended and then slaughter the cow and both families were to have a grand celebration of the matter being settled.
All of Thain Peregrin I’s decisions had been good ones, the problem was there had been too many of them. Pippin’s head ached, his thoughts were getting muddled and escaping was the only idea that had fixed itself in his brain. So much had transpired and it was just now time for luncheon. A shiver ran through him as he thought about what the secretary had said as he left the study to make his escape. “Don’t forget, Thain Peregrin, there’s the paperwork to finish and five more appointments for this afternoon.” It had taken a great deal of self control on Pippin’s part to not run screaming down the tunnels after that.
His face scrunched up as though he was in pain. He had thought he would live to watch his little Faramir grow up, maybe sire a few more little Tooks and then get to enjoy being a grandfather, but now he knew that it would not be so. Pippin moaned. He gave himself a month, month and a half at the most, and this was going to send him to an early grave.
Pippin had no idea how much of the afternoon he had worn away sitting beneath the old tree when he heard a jolly whistled tune growing increasingly loud until he knew the whistler stood beside him.
“No hiding from you, is there Merry?” Pippin said without opening his eyes.
“Of course not! I’m the all-knowing older cousin!”
“All-knowing or know-it-all?”
Merry kicked Pippin in the side of his rump. “Careful little cousin or I’ll let everyone at the Smials know you like to hide here.” Merry plopped down next to Pippin and folded his hands over his stomach as he leaned back against the tree.
“Don’t force me to kill you, Merry. I have enough on my head at this point without adding murdering you to the ever growing list. Actually, I don’t think I could work killing you into the schedule until next week Hensday. You will have to come back then.” Pippin paused then added, “If I haven’t gone mad or died myself in the mean time.”
Merry put his arm around Pippin and pulled him into a one-armed hug. Pippin leaned into Merry with a sigh. It was good to be with someone he knew was on his side, so to speak. “Finding it a bit overwhelming, Pip?” Merry softly asked.
“That’s the word I wanted!” Pippin exclaimed then sighed again. “Couldn’t think of it earlier. Yes, overwhelming fits nicely. If it were water, Merry, I would have been washed away clear out of the Shire by now.”
“In just one morning, Pippin?!”
“Yes.” Pippin pulled away from his cousin, drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. He squinted as he stared at the sun sparkles on the pond. “Pathetic isn’t it?” He put his forehead down on his knees. “Whatever am I to do, Merry?”
Merry’s stomach clenched at the sight of his forlorn younger cousin. Pippin had survived everything the Ring Quest had thrown at him. He had actually come through better than he had gone into it, in most ways. But Merry had been wondering, ever since he had become Master of Buckland, how well Pippin would handle his own titular inheritance. Merry knew exactly the sort of responsibilities Pippin was now dealing with, and he knew that little of it was his cousins ‘cup of tea’.
“It does get better Pippin.” Merry calmly said.
“It truly does. The paperwork will not be in such huge mounds and the number of appointments will go down as well.” Merry reached over and started scratching Pippin’s back. He could feel some of the tension leave Pippin as he leaned into the firm finger tips. “Right now your people are trying to see what you’re like. Will this new Thain see them or turn them away? Will the Took be understanding and patient? Will Thain Peregrin give them a fair deal, an equitable settlement? Does the lad have any brains in his head?” Merry was rewarded with a soft chuckle from his cousin. He sat up and started rubbing Pippin’s shoulders with both hands. “The only way they think they can learn about you is by deluging you with every little problem and need that presents itself. In a way, it doesn’t help that they know you as the friendly jovial lad they’ve had good times with at the taverns and inns. They already see you as approachable."
“I want to be approachable, Merry.” Pippin stretched his head, neck and shoulders, and Merry felt the tightness ease even more. “I know my Father wasn’t, and although I now know it was from shyness and discomfort on his part not coldness and lack of concern, I want to make sure the hobbits of the Tookland and the Shire know I’m different from my Father. But, truly Merry, I can’t answer every question and solve every problem! I feel doomed to never see the outside of the study again. Unless it’s to be paraded about at some official function.”
"It was one of your Father’s foibles, Pippin, that he did everything himself. It’s is not the only way to do this you know.” Merry paused a moment to think over something. “Didn’t he even tell you not to do that? Didn’t he suggest that you have Diamond help with the financial matters?”
Pippin’s head came up and for the first time there was a note of hopefulness in his voice. “Indeed he did Merry! How did I let that slip my mind. That would get rid of much of that dreadful paperwork right there. She knows more about business matters and the farming than I ever will.”
“And you can limit the number of appointments you have each day, you know, as well as when you have them. All done to your liking, Pip.” Merry said encouragingly, “It’s what I do. I have non-official appointments two afternoons a week and deal with official Buckland business on two afternoons. I leave Highday afternoon free, of course, as should you.”
“No morning appointments?”
“None. Well, there are always exceptions, emergencies and such. But otherwise, no. No morning appointments. You know I don’t feel a reasonable hobbit till after elevenses, and by then it’s just as easy to leave the appointments till after luncheon.”
“But I could do mine so that I’m finished for the day by luncheon and have the rest of the day free, couldn’t I?” Pippin was sounding near to his usual self. He turned and smiled at Merry.
“Of course, Pippin.” Merry returned the smile and patted Pippin on the back. “You are the Took and Thain, you know. The rest all do what you tell them to. Like being Master of the Hall, it’s a rather nice arrangement I think.”
“So, what you’re saying, cousin of mine, is that I can go back to the Smials, tell the secretary that I want no more paperwork or appointments today. Then you and I can figure out what might work best for me, what I can give over to Diamond; perhaps we should have her in with us, and present it to him tomorrow and I shan’t have to go through another morning like this one. Do I have that right?”
Merry could see the ghost of tween-aged Pippin in the hopeful look now lighting his cousin’s green eyes. Somehow Pippin could still look so very young. “Yes. You have it right, Pippin. Barring the times things run amuck, you set your schedule, you run things to your liking. Yes. I thought your Father had told you all of this?”
Pippin stood, turned and offered a hand up to Merry. They both took turns brushing the other off and they left the peaceful glade in the growing shadows of the fading day.
“I think he did, it just didn’t catch in my brain is all.” Pippin said waving it off. “I get to do as I wish then, Merry? Whatever I wish?” came Pippin’s voice as they walked along the path heading back to Great Smials.
“Within reason, Pippin. Within reason!” Came Merry’s reply as he wondered to himself what sort of Took and Thain he had just created.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.