6. Chapter 6
He got dressed, this time in his livery. He picked up the diplomatic pouch and shook his head. Maybe today was not the best time. No, no, he could not honorably delay any longer. This had to be done. But *what* did Aragorn have to say to his father?
After breaking his fast in the kitchen amid several chattering cousins who asked him question after question but gave him no time to reply, he took the pouch and made his way to the garden. He hung to the back, and since the Thain was busy, he was not at first noticed.
It didn’t last long. Pretty soon, he was the object of all eyes. Paladin looked up, and quirked an eyebrow, irritated to notice his son in that “livery” again.
Pippin took a deep breath, and stepped forward. “May I approach the Thain with business?” he inquired formally.
“You may.” Now Paladin was intrigued.
Pippin stepped forward, holding out the pouch, seal upward.
“King’s Messenger, from His Majesty, Elessar Telcontar, High King of Gondor and Arnor, with a message for the Thain of the Tooks.” He bowed slightly as he presented it, whispering “honestly, Father, I’ve no idea what it says. Please read it.” He reddened. He’d no business adding that last, but his greatest fear was that his father still might be angry enough to simply destroy it unread. He stood up and waited to be dismissed. Paladin gave a nod, and duty done, Pippin strode purposefully off, not allowing himself to be caught and questioned by curious bystanders.
Paladin looked around at those who still waited, their own business forgotten in their curiosity. His own curiosity was piqued. “That’ll be all for today.” He got up and took the pouch with him, as he made his way into the smial, to his study.
Frodo sat in a large comfortable chair in the room the Cottons had set aside for his use, slowly slapping the still unopened pouch against his knee. When Aragorn and Faramir had approached him to ask his advice on the messages they wished to send to the leaders of the Shire, he had
agreed mainly as a way to take his mind off himself.
His job had really been to advise as to the proper modes of address, and the way in which to approach the worthies to whom the messages were being sent. He had particularly wanted to avoid alarming them into thinking that Big People were going to come in and take over the Shire.
After what had happened anyway, coming to terms with having a King again was going to be difficult.
Of course, he’d done what he could to get them to leave out several phrases that he found more than a little embarrassing. Faramir, in particular, was fond of several passages full of high flown flattery for the hobbits, especially the Ringbearer . He thought Aragorn was simply amused. For the most part, it was a simple document, but when it was being drafted, he certainly had *not* expected it to come back and haunt him personally. Acting mayor, indeed! And now it looked like he was going to have to *do* something about it.
Just then, a horrible thought occurred to him. Faramir *had* given in rather easily--and he had not seen the document himself since it had been sent down to the Royal Scribes. With a feeling of dread, he picked at the seal.
Paladin sat down at his desk and picked up a letter opener to lift off the seal. It was large, of black wax, bearing an imprint of a tree, beneath seven stars and a crown. As he drew forth the large, official looking document, a second smaller document came out. That one was folded in thirds, and sealed with a bit of green wax, with the imprint of an eight pointed star. Hmm--curious. But official business first.
From His Majesty, Elessar Telcontar, High King of Gondor and Arnor, to Paladin Took, the Thain of the Tooks, in the Shire, are sent Greetings and Good Will.
It being Our intention to restore Our ancient kingdom of the North, of which, in times past, the Shire was a part, it behooves us to consult with those who are the natural and rightful leaders of the Halflings who dwell therein.
For it is unto the race of the Halflings that all of Middle Earth does owe a great debt of gratitude, for the valiancy of those who accompanied the Fellowship of Nine, most especially the Ringbearer Frodo Baggins and his Companion Samwise Gamgee, who courageously and without hope of succor, went into the Black Land of Mordor itself, to accomplish the downfall of the Dark Lord Sauron, and for the bravery of Sir Meriadoc son of Saradoc and Sir Peregrin son of Paladin, who accomplished great and mighty deeds of valor beyond their stature. There is no praise high enough, nor reward great enough to express all that is owed unto them. Yet all that they did was out of love for their own free home.
Be it known therefore, that it is Our intent that the Shire shall forever remain a Free Land, to be protected from any who would mean it harm. It is Our hope to consult with the following worthies: the Thain of the Tooks, the Master of Buckland, and the Mayor of the Shire, on the ways in which We can begin to show Our gratitude.
We therefore request that those three worthies together prepare such
recommendations as will be useful and of benefit for the Halflings of the Shire, and to send such unto Us.
Our Knight, Sir Peregrin shall convey your replies to Our Messenger, who shall await the answer in Bree.
By Our Hand
Elessar Telcontar, High King
Well. Paladin found himself amazed. In spite of the fact that he had not actually *doubted* any of Pippin’s story, he had not exactly *believed* it either. The King. Well. He gave a small laugh. So much for the old saying about “when the king comes back” meaning something that would never happen. This was going to take some getting used to.
And it looked like he was going to have to bend his stiff neck and make it up with Saradoc sooner rather than later.
He picked up the smaller missive and broke the seal. It was written in an elegant, but old fashioned, hand, and not by a professional scribe, either.
I hope you will excuse the informality of this enclosure. I write, now, not as a king, but as a friend to the father of a friend.
I traveled for many months as a companion to your son; I came to value his cheerfulness in the face of disaster, his bright curiosity about the world, and even his sense of mischief, which often enlivened the dullness of travel, as well as his courage in physical dangers that he could never have imagined before he left the safety of his home.
But that which I have come to value most in him is the greatness of his young heart, which seems to me to hold an infinite capacity to give and accept love. He has made his way permanently into the hearts of many, mine not the least.
I know that you will at some point come to hear of the horrors and hardships so bravely faced by your son and his companions. Believe me when I say that such things cannot but scar the spirit, and weigh upon the heart from time to time. I hope that at such times, he can rely upon the love and support of his family.
I have, in all my life, known well only five Hobbits. They seem to me, all of them, to be most remarkable. Yours is a fortunate race indeed to have such people. I tell you now that there is no thing that any of them would ask of me that I would not do if it lay in my power to grant.
I have written this to you, Thain Paladin, because I know that by the reckoning of your people, Pippin is yet a youngster; youthful, by the standards of Hobbits, he may be still, he is a child no longer. He is grown into a fine person, of whom you may rightly be proud, as I am proud to call him friend
Aragorn son of Arathorn
(sometimes known as Strider)
If the first and official message had amazed Paladin, this one left him breathless. A Man, a warrior, a king, to say such things about his son.
What was he going to do now?
Some time had passed. After reading and re-reading both letters several times, he had reluctantly picked up his quill to compose a long-overdue letter of apology to his brother-in-law. The fact that he knew Saradoc was likely to graciously forgive him made it more difficult, rather than easier.
He was starting over on his sixth such attempt, when there came a tap on the door. It was Eglantine.
She entered with a loaded tea-tray, which she brought over to a table next to the desk. “You missed luncheon. I thought you might like to take tea with me.”
He nodded. “Indeed. It’s a welcome interruption. I would like you to see something.”
He waited until she had poured the tea, and handed her the official proclamation, watching her face closely as she read it.
She smiled, shaking her head in amazement. “When the king comes back…”
He handed her the second letter.
As she began to read it, her hand started to tremble and her eyes filled with tears. “This is…this is such a tribute. He must be a wise and wonderful Man.”
“Why? Because he’s fond of Peregrin?” he asked wryly.
“No, because he trusts him. Do you have any idea what a sore trial it was for our son to carry that message for weeks without trying to find out what was in it?” She laughed. “He told me that Aragorn reminded him of *me*! When I asked what he meant, he said didn’t I remember how I used to keep him from having fun -- I would look him in the eye and say ‘I trust you, son’ before he’d go somewhere. He thought that was awfully unfair!”
Paladin nodded. “I remember that always worked for you. I could never bring myself to use that tactic.”
“That’s because you were too proud to risk being wrong.”
“So where is Peregrin now? I suppose it would only be fair to assuage his curiosity.”
“After he delivered the message, he decided to make himself scarce. I think he wanted to avoid being questioned by all and sundry until he knew what it said. He packed up a picnic luncheon and went for a ride. He did say he’d be back by teatime.” Eglantine furrowed her brow with a touch of anxiety.
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