Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 1. Chapter 1
Merry was lucky, his father had never given up on him.
Sam and Frodo came out to bid them farewell, just as Merry came up.
“ Well, cousin,” said Merry to Frodo, “ are you sure that you don’t want to come on over to Crickhollow and stay while they are working on Bag End?”
“No. It wouldn’t be practical. I need to be close by to oversee the repairs; also *thanks to your meddling* I have to be available to act as ‘Deputy Mayor’. I cannot believe I let you get me into this.”
Merry and Pippin laughed, and even Sam grinned. The fact was the three of them had maneuvered Frodo into the job; they were determined to see that he received some honor and respect in the Shire, whether he wanted it or not.
“By the way” said Pippin, fishing in his saddlebag, “since you are the acting mayor, I guess I give this to you.” He pulled out three thin leather pouches, sealed with the official seal of the King of Gondor. He handed a second one to Merry. “and I know you’ll see this gets to the Master. “ He looked at the third one, placed it back in the saddlebag, and sighed; “This one’s for the Thain.”
Frodo took the diplomatic pouch and casually tucked it beneath his arm, and leaned against the fence with a bland expression and a glint in his eyes. Merry looked at him with narrowed eyes.“ You already know what’s in there, don’t you?”
Frodo grinned. “Of course I do. I helped Aragorn to draft the documents.”
“And…” said Pippin.
“And nothing. If your liege lord and sovereign did not see fit to tell you what his sealed documents say, King’s Messenger, then far be from me to tell you. You’ll just have to wait and find out.”
“Frodo, that’s just mean!”
“No meaner than getting me stuck with the job of Deputy Mayor.”
Merry shook his head. “He’s got the better of us this time, Pip. We might as well give it up. Besides, I don’t suppose even *he* knows what the one *I’m * carrying to my father from King Eómer says.”
Frodo grinned again. “Wrong. I was consulted on that one, too.”
Pippin and Merry looked at one another and laughed, then mounted their ponies. “Goodbye, Frodo, Goodbye, Sam,” said Pippin as they rode off. “I’ll see you again in a few days.”
The trip back to Tuckborough was longer this time. Not only was he riding by the road, but he was often stopped by other travelers, or by those he passed. All of them wished to greet him, congratulate him on his return, discuss the rout of the ruffians, or just tell him how much he had grown. Though he kept his responses as brief as possible, common politeness held him up more often than he would have liked. It was late afternoon by the time he finally arrived at the Great Smials.
He stabled his pony himself, and brushed the dust from his jacket briefly before going to present himself to the family. He wasn’t wearing his livery today. He wore some hobbit-style garments that the four had had made in Minas Tirith. It was the only set of clothing he had that was not “foreign”, and even it seemed a little different. Perhaps it was because the tailors of the Big People simply could not understand what they had
wanted. But at least it was not one of his uniforms, which for some reason had irritated his father. No reason to upset him today, at least any more than he already was. He’d have to wear it again soon, but not today
“Hullo, Peregrin” said a voice behind him. “I saw you ride up.”
Pippin turned to see his new brother-in-law, Tanto Hornblower standing
there. “Hullo yourself. How is everything? Did everything go all right here the other night?”
“Well, the Thain set a guard, and we did have several ruffians pass through, but most of them were in too much of a hurry to leave the Shire to stop and give any trouble. I think that there may still be some of them holed up in the Southfarthing; Lotho had a lot of property down there where they could hide. Can I give you a hand with your gear?”
The two walked back up toward the smial, gaining an accompaniment of several more friends and relatives along the way. Pippin was beginning to feel distinctly like a novelty instead of a person; he normally liked being the center of attention, but this was a little much.
Fortunately, his mother was waiting in the front hall with his sisters Pervinca and Pimpernel, and Pimmie’s husband Milo Goodbody. Eglantine quickly dispersed the peripheral relatives.
“Mother.” Pippin enfolded his mother in a hug. It felt strange to be so much larger than she. “Where’s Pearl? I would have thought she’d be here.” He looked about for his oldest sister.
“She is. But she’s resting right now. Did you know she was a widow now, son?”
“No! Falco?” Pippin was shocked. “was--was it the ruffians?”
“No, thank goodness. It was last spring. He simply dropped dead very suddenly. It’s been very hard on her, but at least it was natural causes.”
Eglantine led her son back into the smials towards his old room. “I’ve had it cleaned and aired for you. We hadn’t done anything to it yet.” She saw his stricken expression. “Son, *I* never gave up on you. Your father, well, it was harder for him; he could not deal with the uncertainty, with the wondering.”
“So he just arbitrarily *decided* I was already dead.” Pippin’s tone was bitter. “Then he wouldn’t have to wonder anymore. I guess I should not have expected him to have any faith in me!”
Eglantine wisely refrained from replying. She had not agreed with the Thain’s decision, but she also knew that any lack of faith in his son was more or less justified, considering the kinds of scrapes the lad had gotten himself into over the years. The mischief that he was often in as a lad had only gotten worse as he entered his tweens, and Paladin’s insistence that he “start to act his age” after having spoiled him so when he was younger, had not helped. Instead she stopped at the door to his room, tiptoed up to bestow a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll see you at supper, son.”
Pippin looked around his room, at once both familiar and strange. It seemed smaller somehow, and it had seldom been this neat when he was living in it. He tossed his gear on the bed, and reached his hand for the diplomatic pouch. This could be a problem. Timing was going to be important. Perhaps tomorrow. It was Highday, and his father would be conducting the Thain’s business for the week. He could bring it to him just like any other petitioner. Still, he wasn’t looking forward to it. If only he knew what it said. Thirteen months ago, that seal would have been no bar to his curiosity, but not now. Aragorn was not only his king but also his friend, and he could no more betray that trust than fly to the moon. He took another bundle from the other side of his pack. Now *this* will be more fun…
There was a sharp rap on the door, and then his father entered the room without waiting for a reply. “Well, I see you are back. I want you to know that things are not going to be made easy for you. And the first thing you are going to do is to explain yourself and your actions to us. After that, we will find enough duties for you here to keep you busy and out of trouble.”
Pippin’s face went hard. But he kept back the angry retorts that sprang to his mind. It would do no good, and only hurt his mother, if he said anything to widen this rift between him and his father.
“Very well, Father. I will be glad to make a full explanation of all that happened. It will be time consuming; perhaps after supper tonight.” But his heart sank. Having, up till now, been among those who *knew* most of the story this would be his first time to tell it *all*. It was daunting.
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