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Frogs  by Lindelea

'What it is, Pip?' Merry asked in response to a heavy sigh from his cousin.

'O I dunno,' was the reply.

'How about another pint?' the older cousin asked gently. He could see from the look in his eye that Pippin was thinking about the Shire again. They all did, these days, as the day of their departure approached... had to be approaching, though no one spoke of it openly, yet. Much as he'd grown to love the Fellowship and their friends and companions who'd surmounted War with them, his heart turned ever homewards.

'It's a lot like the Green Dragon at home,' Pippin mused, 'except that it's all so...'

'Big?' Sam said.

'No,' Pippin said, frowning in concentration. 'Dull!' he said.

Dull? Merry looked about at guardsmen shouting a drinking song, laughing Big People sharing jokes, a game of darts in the corner with an appreciative crowd of onlookers applauding their favourites.

'Dull, you know,' Pippin said. 'If we were home there'd be a game of Frogs going, you know it.' He sighed again. 'I haven't played at Frogs in ever so long,' he said wistfully.

'Frogs?' asked Legolas. He was slow to drink his own ale, preferring instead to drink deeply of his surroundings, taking in every nuance of every face. The more time he spent with mortals, the more they fascinated him with their urgent grasping at life and experience.

'O you know Frogs, don't you?' Pippin said. 'After all, elves are always spouting poetry.'

'It's not exactly poetry, cousin,' Merry said.

'Well it rhymes, doesn't it? I call that poetry!' Pippin maintained.

'So how do you play at Frogs, young hobbit?' Gimli said indulgently. He'd seen the homesick look, too.

'O, you take someone's name and come up with a rhyme to fit it. Of course, one of the rules is that it must fit the rhythm.'

'Poetry making? Why do you call it Frogs, then?' Faramir asked.

Merry chuckled. 'They sort of jump out at you,' he said. 'Let me see if I can give you an example, though I'm no poet, really.'

'You could be if you just practiced at it, Merry!' Pippin said earnestly.

Merry patted his arm, then stood straight, hands behind him, and began to recite. 'There once was a gardener named Sam, Sometimes he was sweet as a lamb, But when Shelob did spring, He drew out Frodo's Sting, And skewered her, neat as a ham.'

'O Mr Merry,' Sam said, blushing.

'Sorry, Samwise, it's all that came into my head.'

'That wasn't bad,' Pippin said critically. 'With a little practice you could come up with something clever.'

Legolas had been thinking, a small furrow on his flawless brow, and he spoke up suddenly. 'There was a brave hobbit named Baggins, Who held conversations with dragons. He returned to the Shire, Where they called him a liar, For they didn't believe all his braggin's.'

The four hobbits clapped. 'Excellent!' said Frodo. 'Very nice for a novice.' The elf bowed and thanked him.

'But it doesn't rhyme,' Gimli rumbled.

'What's that?' Pippin asked.

"Braggings doesn't rhyme with Baggins or Dragons,' the dwarf maintained.

'Ah,' Pippin said wisely, 'But the rules do allow you to stretch a word a bit to make it fit.' He brightened suddenly. Like this: 'There once was a hobbit named Frodo, Who looked to be gone like a dodo, His cousins all thinked He might get extinct, While carrying his heavy Load - oh!'

'There's no such word as "thinked",' Gimli said, as the four hobbits groaned and Frodo gave his young cousin a whack on the arm.

'That's what he's trying to tell you,' Frodo said. 'You're allowed to alter words--slightly mind you--if by doing so you can achieve a clever rhyme and still fit the rhythm of the form.'

'Yes, you can stretch words pretty far and still stay within the rules,' Samwise said. 'Case in point: There once was an elf name of Legolas, Who accused a grubby Ranger of being reck-a-less, While fighting an orc, the Ranger said "snork", "At least it's the orc going leg-a-less." '

'Snork?' said Pippin.

'It's allowable,' Sam argued. 'I heard Strider snork just now, as a matter of fact, whilst he was choking on his ale.'

Beregond said suddenly, 'There once was a weary old guardsman, Who retired to become a yardsman. Whilst sweeping the stones...' he ran out of inspiration.

'That's quite good, Beregond,' Pippin said critically. 'Are you stuck?' Beregond took a hefty swig from his mug in answer. 'O, it's easy, it is!' Pippin crowed. 'Whilst sweeping the stones, Said with mutters and groans, "Don't splinter your sword into shards, man!" '

He bowed, modestly accepting the acclaim the others showered upon him. 'How about...' he said, and Merry waited to see what might come next. 'There once was a hobbit named Merry..."

'I wouldn't, if I were you,' his cousin broke in, shoving his own mug over at Pip. 'Here, put this to good use!'

'Well, then, how about this one?' Pippin asked. 'There was an old wizard named Gandalf...'

Merry forcibly lifted the mug to Pippin's lips. 'Drink up, cousin, you're falling behind.'

Pippin pushed his hands away, seized the mug and took a deep draft. 'Thank you, cousin, I can manage it by myself,' he said.

'I have another!' called Frodo. It seemed as if Frogs were beginning to jump out all over. 'There once was a dashing young Ranger,' he began.

'Grubby's more like it,' Pippin snickered.

Frodo ignored his cousin and went on, 'Who laughed in the face of great danger. When urged by an elf to take care of himself, he said, "Peril to me is no stranger!" '

The four hobbits cheered and applauded, joined by the Big People who'd begun to gather around, drawn by the novelty of the game.

'Fascinating,' said the elf. 'But it seems as if some rhymes would be impossible to achieve.'

'O, I haven't found a name yet that I couldn't fit a rhyme to!' Pippin sang. 'Even names like Boromir, Faramir, Gimli...'

'Gimli?' said the elf. The dwarf perked up his ears.

'O aye, there are any number of rhymes to fit the dwarf's name,' Pippin said.

'Pippin,' Merry muttered warningly, but his cousin paid no mind.

'For example,' he went on cheerfully, 'There once was a dwarf...'

Frodo interrupted him. 'Would you like another ale, Pippin?' He shoved a mug in front of his cousin, effectively breaking his concentration for the moment.

'Thank you, cousin, very kind, I'm sure,' Pippin said, and there was silence at the table for a moment whilst he drank.

All too soon inspiration struck and he started up again. 'There was a good maid of Ithilien, With the enchanting name of sweet Gilwyn...'

'Master Perian,' Beregond said mildly, lifting an eyebrow.

Pippin stopped himself instantly. 'Yes, Beregond?' he asked helpfully.

'I hope this doesn't lead where I think it's going... you are speaking of my lovely wife, after all.'

'O you're right!' Pippin said brightly, and subsided into his ale. There was a general sigh of relief.

'How did you do that?' Faramir muttered to Beregond.

'Do what?' Beregond said with another gulp of his own ale.

'Quell him that way!'

'O he saved my life, you know,' Beregond said matter of factly.

'...and?' Faramir said, when the explanation seemed to stop there.

'Well, where he comes from, when you save someone's life, you're obligated to keep watching over them.'

'Odd,' mused Faramir.

'Yes, but it comes in very handy.'

'But you're not a halfling!' Faramir said suddenly, 'How can it apply to you?'

'I'm willing to make allowances,' Beregond said, unruffled. 'So's Peregrin.'

Realization dawned on the Prince of Ithilien's face. 'Is that why he's always there when I turn around?' Beregond grinned at Faramir's expression. '...he's watching over me?'

'Something like that,' Beregond said, draining his mug. He raised his hand for another.

Pippin was starting up again.

'There once was a dwarf name of Gimli, who started a fire in a chimbley. He took up his axe, gave the stones several whacks, And as it came down, scurried nimbly.'

'The lad has a deathwish,' Faramir murmured, watching the dwarf's fingers tighten on his mug.

'I wouldn't be surprised,' Beregond returned. 'But he's got someone watching over him as well.'

'See, I told you I could work it out!' Pippin said, flushed with success. 'And that's not the only one, either.'

'O no,' Beregond groaned, shaking his head and releasing his mug to bury his face in his hands.

Ignoring the storm warnings, irrepressible Pippin continued, 'There was an old dwarf name of Gimli, In Moria could see only dimly... He took a long stroll, With an ugly cave troll, And now...'

Beregond found himself holding his breath. '...minces along very primly!' Pippin finished in triumph.

'Peregrin Took, you...' Gimli roared as he started to rise from the table, only to be slammed back down to his seat by the unexpectedly strong arm of the King, whilst a mug of ale appeared magically before him.

'Drink up,' the King said serenely, from behind the dwarf.

'Well, it was the only rhyme I could think of,' Pippin said plaintively. 'Didn't you like it?'

2. Poetic Justice

With quite a bit of coaxing and several more mugs of ale, the grumbling dwarf was persuaded to stay seated, stop glaring at the young hobbit, and even stop muttering under his breath.

‘You know, we haven’t even scratched the surface of possibilities,’ Merry said. ‘For example…’

‘Don’t start up again,’ Frodo said under his breath.

‘No, really,’ Merry said cheerfully, taking another swig from his mug. The beer here in Minas Tirith grew better with every sip, it seemed. ‘What do you think of this? A hobbit by hill-troll was flattened…’

‘This ought to be interesting,’ Gimli said, lifting his head from his scowling contemplation of his latest mug. None of the rhymes thus far had been about Pippin.

Merry continued, ‘With black blood his hair was all mattened.’

‘I don’t like the sound of this,’ Pippin said plaintively, but Merry went on relentlessly.

‘They cut off his kit, But a new one was knit, An officer's garb, silked and satined.’ He accepted the whistles and cheers as his due, with a bow and a smile.

‘Well, it is a better uniform than I’m used to,’ Pippin said, his hand unconsciously caressing the White Tree broidered on the front of his surcoat. Seeing the gesture the guardsmen smiled, remembering their own pride in the uniform that had started when they had first been vestured.

Sam said, ‘You know, you’re right! There are endless possibilities in the subject. How about this one? A daring young Halfling named Pip…’

Pippin groaned but there was a pleased look in his eye as Samwise continued, ‘Stabbed a hill troll but sadly did slip. To the ground he did roll, Falling under the troll, But his sword never left his firm grip.’

‘Indeed, ‘twas still in his hand when Gimli heaved that carcase off him,’ Legolas said, raising his mug in a toast. Pippin turned quite red. ‘I do believe you have a point, Master Samwise! A hobbit upon a bleak knoll, Slipped and fell underneath a great troll…’

‘Legolas, please!’ Pippin said, but the elf only laughed. Legolas was glad to see Gimli’s visage brightening as the young Halfling’s embarrassment grew.

'A dwarf said, “Dagnobbit! That's the foot of a hobbit!” As the carcase off Pip he did roll.’ A great cheer arose, Gimli rose and bowed to the company, and Pippin showed signs of trying to slide under the table, only to be hauled upright by his eldest cousin.

‘Mind your manners, Pip,’ Frodo warned, then launched into a Frog of his own. ‘A diminutive curly-haired chap—that’s you, cousin!’ There was a ripple of laughter and he continued, ‘Took a young hill-troll babe on his lap…’ a great shout of laughter answered this and Frodo bowed.

‘Please…’ Pippin said, but Merry said jovially, ‘Now, lad, you’ve served everyone else a heaping plate, it’s time to eat your own helping.’

Frodo nodded, lifted his mug in a toast to Merry, drank, and continued. ‘Troll's father did claim That he'd do the same; Papa Troll crushed him flat as a map!’

‘A griddlecake, perhaps, but not quite as flat as a map!’ King Elessar shouted above the general hilarity. Pippin put his head down on the table and covered it with his arms but his scarlet ears were still visible.

‘Do you know, I think I am learning the game!’ Beregond said, sounding quite pleased.

‘Not you, too, Beregond,’ came Pippin’s muffled voice, but the guardsman smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

‘A guardsman by hill troll was grabbed,’ Beregond said. ‘Whilst upwards a brave halfling stabbed. The troll on them fell, But the twain lived to tell, Though they dwelt for a time rather crabbed.’

‘Bravo!’ shouted Faramir, applauding, spilling a fair amount of beer before he remembered to put down his mug and clap his hands together instead. Perhaps it was about time to call it a night… but no, the dwarf was standing up on his chair, hefting his mug.

‘I have something to say!’ he shouted, and all turned to him. He grinned, and said, ‘Young hobbit isn’t the only one who can find a word to rhyme with “stroll”!’

Pippin unburied himself from under his arms, saying, ‘Gimli? I’m sorry, really, I am. I didn’t mean…’

Gimli smiled at him kindly, then cleared his throat impressively. All were listening as he rumbled, ‘Young Pippin went out for a stroll. On a slag heap he met a hill troll. The troll feinted left, But Pippin was deft... He stabbed, then he slipped on the knoll.’

‘O very deft, cousin!’ Merry shouted, and the public house erupted in cheers and laughter.

‘Had he kept his feet, we’d be at a loss for Frogs!’ Frodo said.

‘I’ll be sure to keep my feet in future,’ Pippin said grimly.

Faramir said, ‘You know, I think this game quite a diverting one!’

‘Do you?’ Elessar said.

‘Indeed,’ Faramir answered. ‘Why, it could go on all night! There was a young Halfling named Pippin…’

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