3. "This is getting out o' hand..." - Samwise
“And if you lose?” Merry’s face was apprehensive but delighted. Pippin tugged on Merry’s waistcoat. Disgruntled, Sam thought that Mr. Merry had best put in an order for a new one if the youngster kept that up. “What is it, Pip?” A little shy around the lordly Elf, Pippin rose up on his furry toes and whispered in his cousin’s ears.
“Ahhh,” Merry murmured to him, “good thinking, Pippin-lad.” Merry faced the amused Glorfindel again. “If you lose,” he continued, “will you … will you muck out Bill’s stable and curry him when you do Asfaloth? For a week?”
The two hobbits had surprised the Elf. “Are you not pleased with the stable-workers? You have only to speak to -”
“Oh, no, no” the small ones chorused. When Glorfindel stared at them, Merry started, “It’s only … well… You care for Asfaloth instead of leaving him to the hostlers, don’t you?
The Elf nodded and stroked a slender hand along the stallion’s backbone. “Yes, his lordship here prefers that I attend him.”
Merry nodded rapidly. “Well, we’re all so busy, sitting with Frodo and preparing to depart and getting our supplies, well, we don’t have much time. Poor Bill doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough attention.” (Sam swallowed a protest and glared at the straw on the floor.)
Glorfindel reached a long arm over and scratched the pony gently between his curiously watching eyes. “It would be an honor,” the Elf said. “I agree.”
* * * * *
“Now enough is enough!” Sam’s round face was choleric. “Mr. Frodo’s not going ‘ta like this at all! I don’t even want ‘ta think ‘bout when he finds out-“
Merry rode over him cheerfully. “And who’s going to tell him, Sam? Are you?” The stocky hobbit dug a toe into the soft earth and growled under his breath. “Ah, I thought not… Look, Sam, we’ll just talk to Arwen and Aragorn –“
“No! No, we won’t. I’ll not be involved in this! I’ll honor me word ‘cause I gave it already, but you two villains can just leave me out o’ any further dealings!” With that, the angry hobbit turned on his heel and strode away, smoke almost visibly rising out of his pointed ears.
Pippin watched him go, misery pictured on his small, sharp face. “Merry,” he ventured hesitantly, “don’t you think that Sam might be right? This does seem to be getting awfully complicated…”
“Don’t worry, Pip. It will all work out! How could we possibly lose?” Merry gave his cousin a brief hug and strode off towards the living quarters.
Trailing after his older cousin (and out of his hearing), Pippin said softly, “Oh, I can think of lots of ways…”
“Lots of ways to what, Pippin?” The young hobbit jerked himself away from his worries at the gentle inquiry. Aragorn stood next to him, his arms laden with strips of leather and a whetstone. Pippin flushed; the Ranger had snuck up on him with the quietness of a hobbit. Pip hadn’t even known he was there, and that was embarrassing.
“Hullo, Strider. Um … Aragorn.” The Man smiled at him but a dark eyebrow rose and Pippin felt he had better explain himself. “Ummm … ummm,” he said.
“I know that look, Pippin, and it means trouble for someone. Usually for you. What are you and that rascally cousin of yours up to?” The young hobbit squirmed under the Ranger’s full attention.
“Why, Aragorn! What an insulting thing to say. How could you think that?” Merry draped an arm over Pippin’s shoulders and beamed up at the Ranger. With the sun glinting in his blond curls, his glowing face looked positively cherubic.
“Oh-oh.” Aragorn eyed them both mistrustfully.
“As a matter of fact,” Merry continued, ignoring his fidgeting cousin, “Pip and I were just coming to look for you.” Pippin groaned and Aragorn looked at him. “Pip and I have a little wager running, on if Cousin Frodo can complete a full circuit of the nearest garden. He’s a lot better, you know. I say he’s strong enough to do it, and Pippin says he isn’t.”
Pippin unobtrusively kicked his cousin’s instep and Merry grunted. The Ranger’s gaze sharpened on them both. Merry smiled at him sweetly. “Since you saved Frodo’s life, we feel that we should give you the opportunity to join the two of us.” The young hobbit leaned down to rub the back of his ankle.
“That seems innocent enough.” Aragorn tried staring them down but the twin sets of eyes, blue and gold-green, looked absolutely guileless. The man sighed. “I would dearly love to take Arwen on a picnic. Just the two of us. But my duties do not permit…”
“What if we can get someone else to go in your place?” Merry interrupted. “If you win and we lose, we’ll find someone to go in your stead.”
“Go where, Merry?”
The young hobbit realized that he had been over-eager. “Ah … to the tree harbors in the north. Word gets around, you know.”
“And if we win,” Merry rushed on, hoping that Aragorn would forget about his gaffe, “we want you to talk to Lord Elrond and ask him if he’ll speak to his cooks and let Pippin and I have a full hobbit-sized second breakfast, as much as we can eat. For a week.”
The Ranger stared at them like he would like to peel back their skins and see into their hearts. “That seems innocent enough,” he repeated doubtfully. “All right. Having seen how stubborn your cousin is first-hand, I wager that he does complete the walk.” Another deep-set stare, which the young hobbits ignored. “So if I win, then you’ll arrange with Elrond for me to have a day to spend with Arwen instead of riding out?” They nodded, Pippin more slowly than Merry. “How exactly do you propose to do that?”
Merry grinned up at him disarmingly. “Don’t worry about that, Aragorn. We’ll take care of it. After all, we can’t lose – have you ever met anyone as stubborn as Frodo?”
Watching the two halflings walk off, arm in arm, Aragorn thought to himself, ‘Yes, two.’ Pippin looked back over his shoulder at the Ranger, clearly unhappy about something. ‘Or one, certainly. What is going on here?’
* * * * *
Pippin, meanwhile, was making his unhappiness known to his cousin. “What do you mean asking Strider to ask Lord Elrond for second breakfasts for us? Sam has to do that, if he loses.”
“Sam’s not too happy with us right now, Pip,” Merry returned. “Maybe if we let him off the hook, it will square things between us.” Pippin relaxed slightly, until Merry continued. “And no matter who wins or loses, someone asks Lord Elrond for us. He certainly won’t turn down Aragorn. We most probably get second breakfast either way.”
Pippin gaped at him. Merry ignored the look. “Come on, Pip. We’ve got work to do. Let’s find the Lady Arwen.”
The two found the Elf-maid in the staples room, supervising the re-stocking of the medicinal inventory. With so many delegations guesting at the elven sanctuary, part of her duties included ensuring that there was enough of everything on hand in case of need. At the quiet shuffling of unshod feet, she turned to face them. Merry and Pippin were struck dumb with wonder, their proposals lost in the ethereal beauty that smiled gently at them.
Arwen Evenstar’s dark eyes warmed as she looked upon the two small persons. Until now, the only hobbit she had known was Bilbo and she had learned to love the old halfling dearly. These four little ones were a delight, each as individual in their personalities as the stars, yet alike in the greatness and joy of their spirits. And the Ring-bearer … such courage humbled and awed her.
“Good afternoon, little masters,” she greeted them. Rising gracefully from her place before the supplies chest, the Elf towered over them. “How may I be of service to you?”
The two little ones stared at her. Arwen smiled inwardly and politely waited for them to recover themselves. At last Merry sighed and stirred. Visibly forcing himself to stop staring and respond, the halfling said, “Lady Arwen, um … Pip and I have a little bet going on our Cousin Frodo’s recovery. We thought you might like to join in.”
“Yes?” she prompted him gently. Beside him, Pippin hadn’t yet closed his mouth as he stared at her.
Following the direction of her gaze, Merry elbowed his younger cousin sharply in the stomach. Pippin closed his mouth with an almost inaudible “urpp!” then blushed furiously.
“A little bet,” she mused. “What terms do you offer?”
Again Merry explained the bet. “Pip and I were thinking that … knowing how busy you are, maybe we could negotiate you a day off. Then you and Aragorn could … um, spend some time together, maybe go on a picnic or something.”
“That would indeed be a prize worth having,” the Elf-woman said, her breathtaking eyes unfocused for a moment as a smile curved her lips. “A picnic with my beloved… What must I forfeit if I lose?”
Again Merry spoke for them both. “Only a little of your time, Lady. Our Cousin Bilbo has long desired you to sing him some of the songs of your kin of the Golden Wood, so he can record them in his book. Would you do that, if you lose?”
Arwen smiled. “I have long wished to accommodate dear Bilbo, but have had no time to give him. Even were I to lose, I would count myself the winner if I could fulfill his wishes in this matter. Very well, you have my agreement.” Now she stopped and thought. “I know how sorely Frodo was wounded, and I know that he has not been the best patient here.” When they moved to protest, she fixed them with smiling eyes as clear as coming twilight. “The battles to make him eat are becoming legendary in Imladris,” she continued. “He will not recover his strength if he will not eat.
“I therefore wager against him, that he will not have the strength to complete his walk in my father’s gardens.” Arwen gravely held out her slim hand to the two halflings, and they shook it in turn.
“Snap out of it, Pip!” Merry shook his cousin hard and only then did Pippin realize he still had that silly smile on his face, the one that blossomed there whenever he was around the elven princess. Coming back to Middle-earth, he realized that he and Merry were halfway back to Frodo’s room. Sometime during his fog, Merry had acquired a pocketful of apples. Vaguely, Pippin remembered hearing something about making Frodo eat them to get his strength back.
“Oh no,” he heard Merry murmur and tried to refocus on his surroundings. Gandalf was coming towards them, his sharp eyes under the bushy brows fixed on them. It was too late to use their natural hobbit-stealth to hide. The wizard pulled up to them and planted his staff directly in their path, leaning on it as he glared at them.
“What’s this I’m hearing about you taking bets on your cousin’s strength? Does Frodo know about this?”
“Good afternoon to you, too, Gandalf,” Merry returned, not in the least intimidated. “Would you like a piece of the action?”
“It would serve you right if I did. In fact, I think I shall. I wager that Frodo will make it all the way around Elrond's garden. If he can’t, then I will supply you a solvent that will dissolve the moss on the base of the fountains for you. No scrubbing; just wipe it on and wipe it off. But if I win,” and the wizard leaned in closer and they involuntarily took a step back, “you stop all this book-making and place no more bets – ever!”
* TBC *
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.