1. Of Pipe Weed
After watching the flooding of Isengard, Merry and Pippin had become expert scavengers. Picking through the wreckage, they tried to find anything of worth.
“Hang on Pip! I think I’ve found something!”
“Not another helmet I hope.” Pippin replied, “You know Treebeard and his attitude towards fire. We can’t melt them down for anything and they’re far too big for us! Any way: I don’t s’pose we’ll get to see any more battles the way this fog is going!”
It was at this point that Pippin came to look over Merry’s shoulder; no doubt in his mind that he was about to be disappointed.
“Oh, by the Wolves of Saruman! Isn’t that a sight for sore eyes!” cried Pippin.
There, half buried in the poisonous silt of Isengard, was a barrel. And branded onto the top of a barrel were the best seven words the two hobbits had ever read.
1417 Hornblower’s Pipe-weed.
Longbottom, The Shire.
“A 1417 Barrel of Hornblower Pipe-weed! Longbottom Leaf! That was a fine year, that was! I knew it wasn’t an old orc helmet! Help me dig it out!” said Pippin.
After being trapped in the guard house at the gates to Isengard, when it had been flooded by the Ents, the Hobbits were pleased to finally find something of use in the flotsam and jetsam. The night before, they had been whiling away the time by pretending they were at a feast hosted by King Théoden of Rohan, whom they had heard tell of from Treebeard. Their actual meal the night before (if one could call it that) had consisted of Lembas and of the waters drunk by the Ents.
“He is a kind King,” Treebeard had said, “He never cuts down my forest and was always fighting the orcs that did cut it down. And to think I never knew they came from the Tower-of-Impenetrability-that-is-Dark.”
They had been told the history of Rohan and of all Middle Earth. They had learnt of Glittering Caves in Rohan and thought how Gimli would love them. Of the forest in which they had wandered, the Fangorn Forest named after Treebeard (who had many names and was the eldest Ent); for they knew that Legolas would have loved it. They also learnt of the time before men when only Elves had walked the land.
But now they were alone. Two hobbits in a foreign place. A place that had been ruled by a wizard and had fallen at the roots and branches of the Ents, and they wondered how Hornblower leaf from the East Farthing had ended up here: in the stronghold of Saruman. For they now knew that he was evil. He had been corrupted by the power of the One Ring, as Gandalf had suggested at the meeting in Rivendell. So long ago that seemed now. And then they remembered the Southerner at Bree; and how alike he looked to some of the orcs they had by now met in their travels, and then they knew that unless Frodo got away with the Ring, to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, that surely the Shire would be taken over by these monsters. Trashed: as Isengard now was.
“If only the rest of our company were here to enjoy this pipe-weed too,” Mused Pippin.
“Aye; if only they were. Gandalf fallen in Moria and Boromir fallen at Parth Galen. Then, dear Frodo and Sam: all on their own trying to get to Mordor. I wonder if we’ll ever see Frodo and Sam alive again.” replied Merry.
“Well now; Pip! That’s not a very cheerful view! Hear, hear, and come open this barrel. I always did hate the Hornblower’s and there need to nail the lids on! There’s a knife over in that corner; I saw it last night.”
Pippin hurried over with the knife, eager to get into the pipe-weed. “Where’s your pipe, Merry? I think I lost mine running from that Balrog in Moria,” asked Pippin.
“Mine was lost when the orcs kidnapped us,” replied Merry.
“Well, I reckon, if they have pipe-weed they must have pipes too, hereabouts. Isn’t there a cupboard down the hall? See if you can’t find anything of use.” ordered Pippin.
The two young hobbits had been trapped on the top of the wall that surrounded Isengard, having been forced to find higher ground to escape the floods, the previous night. They had seen doors to the guardhouse but had not been able to open them till now and so it was a
joy when Merry shouted: “Pippin! Take a look at this!”
Merry had found the pantry of the guards, and being two young hobbits, they were always hungry. Inside they found almost every thing they could have wished for.
Beer, wine, salted pork, bacon, honey and fresh butter. Along with all they needed to eat the food with: dishes, bowls, cups, knives and best of all two little pipes. It was as though they had been expected.
They were beautiful little pipes. They were made of oak and with carved mouthpieces of bone. On the base was a mark saying: DALE. Merry and Pippin knew that Dale was a long way from here. They had, after all, been listening to old Bilbo’s stories since they were very young.
They were just about to fill the pipes when a sound reached their ears. A deep, Hoom hom bom dom, hoom hom dum de dum. It was the sound of Treebeard.
“I wonder what Treebeard’s come to say?” said Merry.
“Probably reminding us to watch out for the Huorns. No need to tell us that!” replied Pippin.
"Hoom hom, young hobbits! I have some news for you. Rather hasty news. Some that I don't think really concerns you but that I thought I should tell you. The news has come from Quickbeam for he is guarding Saruman in his Tower-of-Impenetrability-that-is-Dark."
"Can you just tell us the news, Treebeard?" interrupted Merry.
"Hasty today, are you not?" retorted Treebeard, "Well the news is, that Saruman is being held in his Tower-of-Impenetrability-that-is-Dark, which you call Isengard. Quickbeam and some other Ents are guarding it and will make sure that the wizard stays there. And I say to you that we shall soon be expecting some guests. Some very important guests for they have just fought in a war for the King of Rohan, defeating the vile orcs of Saruman. The King himself is coming, and I wish for you to welcome him onto our field of glory with fitting words. I am sure you little folk can do this for me. And can you please find food enough for a feast for Men. I am not very good with the food of Men for I do not eat food. There is a beautiful spring on the north side of this place, outside of the ring of stones if you would be so kind as to direct our visitors there. That is where I shall be."
And with that, Treebeard left, and the hobbits did not see him until the next day.
But they did not care for there was now food to be eaten and tobacco to be smoked. The finest tobacco in all of Middle Earth; and they had a whole barrel of it!
“Just one puff,” said Pippin.
“No! We have to do as Treebeard has asked and get that food ready! What if the King of Rohan turns up today and all we’re doing is sitting here smoking? I promise you as soon as we’re done we can sit down and we don’t have to get up until Strider tells us to. And that is unlikely seeing as we don’t even know if he is still alive after that orc attack at Parth Galen -,”
And there Merry broke off, before all the memories of their ordeal came back, but it was too late: the horrors of the march had come back to the fore, and before he could stop himself, Merry found he was filling his pipe and striking a match.
Pippin, too, filled his pipe, and then walked over to the pantry once more. In a crate at the back were flagons of ale. Pippin read the makers mark in shock.
This was beer from Bree. And not just any beer; it was the beer made by Butterbur, for The Prancing Pony. The best beer east of The Shire, if Pippin had any say about it. And so Pippin pulled out one of the flagons and un-corked it with a pop, pulled down a couple of tankards and went back to Merry.
“Where in Arda, did you find that?” said Merry incredulously.
“The pantry, where else? All good things come from a pantry. You know that!” said Pippin.
And as Pippin sat down he remembered a day long ago. Or at least it felt like long ago. He, Frodo, Merry and Sam had left Hobbiton and were heading towards Crickhollow. They had been pursued by mysterious Black-Riders (he knew enough of them to last him a life-time, now) and they had just sat down to eat. They had found their bottles filled with an Elven draught and it had made them remember one of Bilbo’s old songs:
Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.
Just less than six months had passed since that day, and yet they had all aged years. Pippin was 28 years old and not yet considered an adult in The Shire, but he had already fought in battles and was ready to fight in more to protect Middle Earth. Merry on the other hand: well he appreciated the finer things in life. Good ale and a pipe in his mouth.
Together, the two hobbits sat on an outcrop of rock next to the tangled wrought iron gates that guarded the entrance to Isengard. Wreathed in smoke and surrounded by food, hoof steps reached their ears. Judging by the noise, it was a party of more than twenty.
“Here come the cavalry, Merry...”
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.