29. The Shire Remembers
It was a raucous evening. The tables were loaded with food and the ale flowed freely. Occasionally there was a small flare as pipes were lit. It all reminded Pippin of Bilbo's spectacular party of so many years ago, despite the absence of a Party Tree. That particular party had been the grandest thing before the year 1420, which itself was the grandest thing any living hobbit had known. But it was a year dearly bought.
Most hobbits didn't realize it, but they had been part of a larger struggle. Pippin knew this, as did Sam and Merry. These three had gone out and played their part beyond the Shire, only to come home and find that the Ring War was not quite over.
Pippin grew quiet as he thought over that homecoming. A nasty surprise that had been, after all that he, Merry, Sam, and Frodo – especially Frodo – had been through. He wished they could have stayed home, to prevent the invasion of the Shire, but in his heart, Pippin knew that had they not been away fighting other battles they would not have been ready for their own. Nineteen hobbits dead and thirty wounded in the Battle of Bywater. Those numbers paled in comparison to the carnage on the Pelennor Fields and before the Black Gate, but nineteen dead hobbits were nineteen too many, Pippin thought.
"You look a bit too serious to be sitting in the midst of a party," Merry said, noticing Pippin's somber mood. "Is something you ate disagreeable?"
"Oh, no. The food is excellent," Pippin replied. "I was just thinking about all the reasons we have to be celebrating."
"Ah yes," Merry said. "Sam's Mayor for a second term, you're the new Thain, and the three of us are Strider's Counsellors of the North-kingdom."
"Aye, there is that. But I was thinking of the Ring War and coming home from it." Pippin sighed, "I wish Frodo could see this."
"Oh, I bet he's celebrating every day over there in Elvenhome," Merry said, winking.
"Probably. He deserves it, he did so much. And so did we," Pippin said and stood, raising his mug high. "To the hobbits of the Shire," he cried, "who, fifteen years ago this day, rose up to defend their own and protect the Shire." All those at the table cheered loudly at this and drank in toast.
Several hobbits, by now well into the ale, began calling for a song. Pippin caught Merry's eye, and, grinning, they climbed atop the table together to sing of Frodo of the Nine Fingers.
My discussion can be found here.
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