49. Spring Day at Long Cleeve
And now, to top things off, he could feel no hand on the reins, no reassuring steady pressure at his mouth to let him know his driver was on the job. He might as well be jogging along without a driver at all! He shook his head again, and there was no answering tug on the reins.
Suddenly a great white flapping monster was blowing towards him from the side of the road; it tried to trap his feet and he reared and plunged, upsetting the other ponies. Grabbing the bit in his teeth, he led the team into a wild gallop down the road.
Pippin had just crossed the road, walking towards the barn when he heard Diamond scream behind him. Turning round, he saw wee Faramir following as he so often did. The toddler had stumbled in the road and sat down, and bearing down upon him was a careening wagon being pulled by six wild-eyed ponies.
Diamond was running for the road, but there was no way she could be in time. He heard Tad shout from the barn as he ran towards his son. The team was faster, he would not make it, with a supreme effort he put on a burst of speed, scooping Faramir up as he ran. A heavy blow struck him and sent them spinning into the dirt.
Faramir lay screaming where he had been thrown by the impact. Pippin closed his eyes. Screaming meant the lad was still alive. He opened them again to gaze into the blue sky of a glorious spring day.
Tad ran up to him. 'Pippin!' he shouted. 'Pippin, are you all right?'
'No,' he answered. 'No, I don't believe I am.'
Diamond scooped up the screaming toddler, soothing and looking him over.
'Is he all right?' Pippin called.
'I don't think he's broken anything, he's just shaken up,' Diamond answered, coming to kneel by him.
'He's better off than his old dad, then,' Pippin said with a grimace. Tad had been going over his arms and as he bent to check Pippin's legs the latter stopped him. 'Don't touch that one, Taddy,' he said. He looked back at Diamond. 'What happened, anyway?'
'A sheet blew off the line. I do believe the driver was napping, when the ponies took off he fell backwards into the wagon. It would have been funny, but...'
'Oh, aye,' Pippin breathed. 'Very funny, indeed.'
'Taddy, go get Dad,' Diamond said. 'Run!' The lad ran out to the field where his father was plowing.
'Do you think... can we help you to the house?' Diamond asked.
Pippin shook his head. 'No, I'd rather stay here for the nonce,' he said casually. 'Perhaps you could bring me my tea out here.' He met her eyes. 'It feels like a bad break, love, and I'd rather not move at all until I have to.'
He heard the sound of a galloping pony and caught a glimpse of Tad on Socks as Farmer Took reached him, breathing hard. 'I've sent for Old Holbain,' he said. 'We could fix up a stretcher, get you to the house.'
'No, it would be better to stay here until the healer comes,' Pippin said. 'After all, the grass is soft, the sun is shining. I might even take a wee bit of a nap.' He caught his breath sharply, then relaxed again with a smile for Diamond. 'Where's that tea, then?'
'It hadn't come to a boil, yet,' she said distractedly.
She swayed and her father caught her. 'Hey, now,' he said sharply, 'none of that! Take deep breaths, lass.' She obeyed and the ground steadied beneath her.
'Why don't you go see if the tea is boiling, love,' Pippin pressed. 'Go on,' he smiled as she looked to him in astonishment. 'I'll be right here when you get back. Nothing like a good cuppa to heal all ills.'
'Go ahead, lass,' her father seconded. 'Take Faramir with you and keep him in the house.' She nodded and rose to comply.
Pippin heard a combination of ponies' hoofs, jingling harness, and rumbling wagon as the carter returned with his team now in hand. He jumped down, eyes horrified, apologizing profusely. He closed his eyes, willing the healer to arrive soon. It seemed to take forever, but was probably less than that, before he heard the familiar beat of Sock's gallop coming down the road, mingled with the sound of another pony.
He heard the Farmer's voice raised in greeting, and Old Holbain's answer. Then the healer's voice was near at hand. 'Well, what have we got here?'
'Right leg, I think. He warned the lad off from touching it.'
'How's your head, young master Took?'
'It's still on,' he murmured.
'Well that's good news at least,' Holbain said cheerfully. 'Now, then, I'm going to take a look at the leg. I'll be as gentle as I can.' Which wasn't gentle enough, to Pippin's way of thinking, but one must make do with what one can. 'Oh, aye,' the healer murmured, 'you've done yourself some damage there.' Pippin saw him glance up at his father in law. 'Good thing you didn't try to move him, would have only made things worse.'
'What'll we do, then?'
'I'm going to try to set it here, then take him to the house. We'll need splints and bandages.'
'Right,' Farmer Took said, and headed for the house at a heavy jog.
'Other than the leg, how are things?' Holbain asked.
'Oh, couldn't be better,' Pippin muttered. 'I hear we are even having seed cake for tea.'
'Good thing I showed up then, Mistress Took makes the best seedcake of anyone I know.'
'Be sure to save me some,' Pippin said.
The healer looked up at the carter. 'Take your ponies over to the barn and tie them up,' he said. 'I'm going to need your help when I set the break.'
'Right!' the carter shouted. Pippin closed his eyes again. He wished people wouldn't shout just now. He felt the healer's hand tighten on his shoulder.
'Stay with me, lad, don't drift off just yet.'
'I'm not going anywhere,' he managed to answer.
'Good lad.' Holbain rummaged in his sack and came out with a biting stick as Farmer Took arrived with the splints, and the carter returned from securing his ponies. 'Right, then. Let's have you bite down on this.' Pippin complied. 'Now, then...' the healer placed farmer and carter where he needed them, explaining exactly what they were about to do. The carter looked about as sick as Pippin felt.
Holbain caught his eye. 'Ready?' Pippin took a deep breath and nodded. There was a moment of excruciating pain and then merciful blackness claimed him.
He woke up in bed in the farmhouse, Diamond sitting nearby. 'Hello, love, we saved you some seedcake,' she smiled.
'Ah, good, I'm glad you didn't let Holbain eat it all this time.' He looked out the window at the sunset sky. 'We were due to arrive at the Hall about now. I hope they won't be worrying.'
Diamond said, 'Taddy rode out on Lady just after we got you into bed; he'll carry the news there.' He nodded. She went on, 'Do you think you could drink something?'
'From your hands, cool water would be nectar from the sweetest flower,' he answered.
'Would you settle for tea with plenty of honey?' she asked. He didn't like sweet tea as a rule, but recognizing the remedy for shock, he sipped obediently until he'd drunk the whole cup.
The next time he woke, Merry was smiling at him. 'What's the Hall going to do without the two of us?' he asked.
'Oh, I'm sure they'll limp along somehow,' Merry answered.
'More than I'll be doing,' Pippin mused.
'For awhile, anyhow. You managed to do quite a bit of mischief to your leg.'
'How long?' Pippin asked.
'Six weeks, at least. And then you have learning to walk all over again, to look forward to.'
'Such a treat.' He closed his eyes. 'So, did you come to take me back to the Hall?' When Merry was silent, he opened them again. 'What?'
'The healer says you're not to stir from this bed for a month,' Merry answered. 'It was a bad break.'
Pippin's eyes widened. 'A month!' he said, 'But I've got to get back to the Hall!'
'It looks as if you're going to spend all the rest of March and part of April here, so you might as well get used to it. You're going to have to suffer the famous Long Cleeve cooking for some weeks.'
'I'll be too fat to fit through the doorway by then,' Pippin whispered. He looked back to Merry. 'How long are you staying?'
'I'll go back tomorrow. I don't want to leave Estella for too long.'
Pippin understood. 'Call Diamond in here, will you?' he asked. Merry nodded and rose.
When Diamond came in, Pippin said, 'I'd like you to write a note for me.'
She smiled. 'Oh, some Hall business that cannot wait upon your return?'
'Something like that,' he answered.
She smiled and patted his arm. 'I'll be right back.'
When Merry came to take his leave the next morning, Pippin handed him a piece of paper, folded and sealed with wax.
'It's a love note for your wife. Don't tell Diamond,' Pippin jested.
'What is it, really?' Merry asked.
'Just give it to Estella. I'm planning a surprise birthday party for you and so you mustn't peek and find out all the gory details.'
Merry laughed and tucked it into his shirt. 'As you wish, cousin.' He patted Pippin's shoulder. 'Mend quickly,' he said. 'I'm not sure how long the Hall will be able to get on without its Steward.'
'Oh, aye,' Pippin said, and closed his eyes. 'Now will you get out of here? I want to try one of those healing sleeps we heard so much about down South.' Merry chuckled, and left the room.
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.