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The Dwarf Dagger  by Dreamflower

 AUTHOR:  Dreamflower



AUTHOR’S NOTES: (1) The “MacGuffin” assigned to me for this challenge was a pearl-handled dagger.  (2) This story takes place in S.R. 1336.  Isumbras IV is still the Thain and Fortinbras II is his heir; Ferumbras is 20 and Pearl is almost 20, Primrose and Primula are 16, Peridot is almost 15, Paladin is 3, and Esmeralda has not been born yet. (13, 10, 9 and about 20 months in Man-years)

SUMMARY:   The annual summer visit of the Whitwell Tooks to the Great Smials takes a tragic turn…

DISCLAIMER:  Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate.  I own none of them.  Some of them, however, seem to own me.

WARNING: OC Character death



“Winkie, my love, do we really need to go?”  Adalgrim turned the full force of his considerable Tookish charm on his wife.  “After all, dear, travelling can’t be that pleasant for you, in your condition.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Adalgrim,” she responded dryly.  She was not immune to his charm--she had married him after all--but she had learned to look past it.  “But they are *your* relatives after all.  And they are expecting us.  I will not have it said that we do not know what’s proper and owed to family.”  She folded another of little Paladin’s nightshirts and placed it in the travelling case.  “At any rate, the Great Smials are large enough.  We do not need to spend that much time with Fortinbras and Lalia.” She sniffed.  There was no love lost between Periwinkle Took and the future Thain’s Lady.  “Besides, I know that you look forward to seeing your other cousins.  And you know that your parents look forward to seeing the children.”

He sighed.  It was not as though he thought he’d be able to persuade her to stay away.  And he did look forward to seeing his mother again, and even his father--though he always dreaded the initial disapproval of his father.  Hildigrim had never approved of the wild behaviour that had caused Gerontius to send his son off to live at Whitwell.  But now that Adalgrim had settled down with Periwinkle, he wished for them to return and live at Great Smials, and a visit there never began or ended without his father‘s urging that they do so.  Adalgrim shook his head; they were happy here on the farm, and he knew Uncle Isumbras wasn’t going to last forever.  He had no intention of living at Great Smials once *Lalia* was lady.  Poor Fortinbras!

“Pearl!” called Periwinkle, startling Adalgrim out of his thoughts.  “Have you finished your packing yet?”

“Yes, Mother!”

“Then help your sisters with theirs.  I want us to be able to leave right after luncheon!”

Sixteen year old Primrose stuck her face in her parent’s room indignantly.  “I don’t *need* Pearl’s help, Mother!  I’m nearly finished with my own packing!”

“Very well, dear,” said her mother, examining one of Paladin’s little shirts for any overlooked stains or tears, before folding it up as well.  “I will come in and check on it in a few minutes, and make sure that you did not forget anything important.”

Primrose rolled her eyes.  Her father caught her eye, and raised an eyebrow at her reprovingly, and she ducked her face, abashed, before darting away once more.  Adalgrim’s lips twitched.  Primmie was a handful, and he was amused at her assertions of independence, but he was not going to let any disrespect for her mother pass.

“Mama!” a little form raced into the room and barrelled into Periwinkle’s legs.  “I’m hungry!”

Adalgrim scooped his son up.  “Mama’s busy packing your things for our trip.”  He plopped Paladin atop his shoulders.  “Let’s go see what we can find in the kitchen, shall we?”


Ferumbras twitched uncomfortably. 

“Now, lambie, stand still and let Mr. Banks check the fit of your jacket,” Lalia crooned.

Ferumbras was not fooled by her sweet tone.  There was steel behind it, and he’d have this new suit whether he wanted it or not.  And he didn’t want this one.  For one thing it was black, and he hated black--it was far too hot.  But black was supposed to be fashionable now, and his mother was determined that he would uphold his “position”.   Not for the first time he wished his Uncle Isengrim had sired children--six years ago the Thainship had descended on his grandfather and now his fate was sealed.

“Stand up straight, Ferumbras, darling,” she said absently, fingering the back of his collar.  “Mr. Banks, you did use the top quality velvet we had agreed on for collar and cuffs, did you not?”

“Yes, Lady Lalia.”  Strictly speaking, Lalia was not “Lady” yet, but Mr. Banks was nothing if not cautious.  She *would* be the Thain’s Lady sooner or later, and it was quite clear she was not the sort to forget any slight--real or imagined.

“I think you need to take in another quarter inch on the cuffs, Mr. Banks.  And add another half an inch at the trousers.  Also, I’m not very fond of those buttons; I think brass would be far better than bone.”

The tailor nodded, hiding his disgruntlement.  He knew from experience that he’d not see so much as a farthing until she was completely satisfied, and knowing her, she’d not *be* satisfied until time had run out and the lad needed the suit for Lithe.  Then she would grumble and pout about it, and threaten to use someone else, but she’d pay, because the only other tailor in Tuckborough now refused to do any work for her.

Ferumbras looked out the window longingly.  It was a gorgeous summer’s day, and his Brandybuck cousins Dody, Dinny and Primula were out by the paddock watching the ponies.  Uncle Gorbadoc and Aunt Mirabella had arrived last night, with all their brood.

There was a rap at the door to the apartment, and Lalia barked out “Get the door, Begonia!”

His mother’s chambermaid was already at the door, and she turned to say, “It’s Mr. Adalgrim and Mrs. Periwinkle, Mistress.”

Lalia gave a long-suffering sigh.  Of course, they’d just arrived, and courtesy required them to pay their respects and for her to bid them welcome, but there was no love lost--just as well to get it over with.  Naturally they’d dragged all their brats along with them.  And she noted with displeasure the swelling beneath Periwinkle’s bosom--another one on the way, for goodness’ sake!  All those lasses--and she sniffed at the sight of the lone little lad.  What had they named him?  Something ridiculous starting with a “P” like all the other children. 

Adalgrim and Periwinkle came in and gave her a rather insincere greeting, while the children made their courtesies very properly.  Lalia turned to Ferumbras.

“Ferumbras, dearheart, why don’t you take your cousins along to greet your other cousins!  I’m quite sure the lasses would be very glad to see Primula…”  That was a safe enough guess.  Primula Brandybuck accounted Adalgrim’s daughters as her very dearest friends.  “Mr. Banks, you may go.  Be certain to make all the changes which we have agreed upon.”

Each in his own way relieved to be dismissed, Lalia’s son and the tailor both made their exits with alacrity, Ferumbras with Pearl, Primrose, Peridot and little Paladin at his heels.  As they left the sitting room, Ferumbras was startled when Mr. Banks cleared his throat, and said, “Master Ferumbras?”

Ferumbras turned in surprise.  Mr. Banks had never actually spoken to him before, except to say “turn around” or “lift your arms” when he was being fitted.

“Master Ferumbras,” he repeated, “the suit?  I need to finish it according to your mother’s specifications.”

Ferumbras blushed to the tips of his ears.  Of course he could not go anywhere in this horrible suit--it wasn‘t even hemmed yet.  He looked at Pearl.  “Can you wait here for me?”  They stood in the apartment’s entrance hall.

She was clearly suppressing a snigger, but she said “Certainly, cousin.  We’ll wait for you.”

The lad darted to his room, and quickly donned his more everyday clothing--still more expensive and fancier than anything the others would be wearing, but it was what he had.  He carefully folded the suit, and rushed back out, handing it over to the tailor, who bowed and took his leave.


Rory Brandybuck leaned on the top rail of the paddock, with one eye on his younger siblings, and another eye for the fine pony-flesh trotting about.  But his attention was on the conversation of his companions, his older cousins Siggy Took and Bilbo Baggins.  Siggy had recently become betrothed to one of the Brownlock sisters from Tuckborough, but Bilbo was still firmly a bachelor, and was twitting Siggy on his upcoming loss of freedom.

Although Rory had only just come of age a year ago, and the other two were now in their mid-forties, they had been good friends and his favourite cousins on the Took side of the family for as long as he could recall.  Of course, there was Chop--no, he had to remember to call him Adalgrim now--who was a good deal older than all three of them, and had been the ringleader for many an escapade of mischief until a farm and marriage and four children had settled him down. 

Bilbo and Siggy had settled down a good deal as well; the Fell Winter had done much to impress itself on lads who were in their tweens at the time, and Bilbo now reflected the Baggins opinion on such things as Adventures.  Only fitting, thought Rory, since he’s the Head of the Bagginses, now.  But both of them had retained their rather irreverent sense of humour, at any rate.

Siggy was regaling Bilbo with Lalia’s latest manoeuvre.  “As you know, her birthday is right after Midsummer.  Since any gifts given to her must be given before her birthday, she has been dropping hints right and left about the generous gifts *she’ll* be giving.”

Bilbo looked shocked.  “But then people might feel obliged to give more expensive gifts to her!”

Siggy nodded.  “Of course that’s what she hopes will happen.  But I think the only truly impressive gift she’s planning is the one for the Thain.  She’s never given up trying to win over her father-in-law.  Isumbras has never been impressed with her--he thinks, quite rightly, that she is unnaturally ambitious.”

“So, has she let slip what she’s giving him?”

“From what I’ve been told, it’s a rather expensive dagger: pearl-handled and chased with silver, with a matching sheath.  I believe one of her Clayhanger brothers had it off a Dwarf as part-payment for a leaf shipment.”

Bilbo gave a shudder.  “Sounds a rather ill-omened sort of gift to me.  And nothing good ever comes of trying to meddle with the courtesies.”

For most certainly, one thing drilled into young hobbits from their youngest age was that when it came to gifts, it was better to give than to receive.  Anyone who tried to make of gift-giving a reciprocal occasion was thought of as excessively greedy and downright ill-mannered.  Any occasion involving gift-giving was hedged about with an elaborate structure of etiquette designed to avoid any such vulgarity.  Rory vividly remembered when his little cousin Gorbulas had left faunthood behind, how he had shocked the guests and mortified his parents by trying to keep the gifts he was meant to give.  It was amusing now to recall, for Gorby had turned out to have a very generous nature in later years, but at the time it had nearly caused a scandal.

Siggy shrugged.  “Some of those hobbits from the Southfarthing have more money than sense.  Bracegirdles, Sackvilles, Clayhangers--they all seem to go in for the sort of ostentation that the rest of the Shire would find vulgar.  Comes of the pipe-weed trade, and dealing with Men and Dwarves.”

“You don’t have to tell me about the Sackvilles, at any rate,” said Bilbo with feeling.  “Uncle Longo has been thoroughly corrupted by them.”  His expression was sour.  Longo Baggins and his Sackville wife Camellia had not even the decency to attend his mother Belladonna’s funeral two years before.  He broke off suddenly, for they saw the approach of young Ferumbras, with his Whitwell Took cousins in tow.  

Pearl grinned at the sight of her Brandybuck cousins perched upon the paddock rail--only Amaranth and Asphodel were not there.  They were probably inside with their mother, or perhaps visiting with some of the other lasses who lived at Great Smials.  They’d rather outgrown going about with their brothers, and probably thought themselves too old for it.  But Primula leaped down with a shout, and ran to give the Took sisters an enthusiastic embrace.  Paladin tried to run to her as well, with a squeal of “La-la!” which was his way of saying her name--to him “Primmie” was his middle sister--he could not comprehend them having the same name.  But Pearl gripped him quickly by his little collar and caught him up.

The four lasses were soon engaged in the happy chatter of their reunion; they’d not seen one another since the Buckland Spring Festival in Astron.  Pearl teased Primula for wearing a frock--for at home in Buckland, Aunt Mirabella often allowed her youngest to run about in lad’s breeches.  Primula was a bit of a hoyden, fond of climbing trees, playing kick-the-ball and swimming in the river, and her mother said it was far easier to patch Dinny’s old breeches than to be always mending new frocks.

Having been allowed to give “La-la” a smacky kiss, Paladin began to wriggle in his sister’s arms.  He wanted to go and greet his big lad cousins Dody and Dinny, so Pearl handed him over.  He was soon squealing as they tossed him about, and then Dody settled him on his shoulders, where the faunt gripped his cousin‘s sandy hair, and chattered happily.  Ferumbras meanwhile, stood about with the lads looking a bit wistful and awkward.

It seemed the reunion had only lasted a few minutes when Pearl glanced up to see her father, accompanied by Cousin Fortinbras and Uncle Isumbras, approaching.

They greeted the other adults amiably, and then Adalgrim turned to Pearl.  “Pearl, your mother wants you to bring Paladin in for his nap.”

“Yes, sir,” she answered, going over to retrieve him from Dody, who had begun to look a bit harassed at the child’s bouncing up and down on his shoulders.  She was surprised to realize that Ferumbras was watching her, and even more surprised to hear him say--

“I’ll walk back with them, then.”  He was blushing furiously.

“That’s very hospitable of you, Rumble,” said his grandfather in an amused tone.  The Thain was the only person who used this nickname.

“Thank you, Grandfather,” he replied, blushing even more.

“When you return,” added Isumbras, “perhaps all you young people would like to go for a ride?”

There was a whoop of joy from all the teens and tweens, and grinning, Pearl put Paladin down and took his hand, and followed Ferumbras back into the smial.

Ferumbras glanced over at Pearl, and felt himself blushing again.  He’d never noticed before how pretty she was.  They were the same age, too--at least, almost.  He’d had his birthday nearly a month ago, and she would be having hers in another two weeks. 

He looked back for a moment at the others.  Primula was the centre of attention, as usual, with her dark hair and striking looks.  He’d often heard his aunts and uncles say she was the image of Aunt Mirabella at that age, except her eyes were blue instead of green.  Peridot seemed to take after Cousin Periwinkle--she had warm brown eyes, and light brown hair, and tended to be rather quiet.  Primrose was very Tookish, with a pointed face and green eyes and chestnut hair.  But Pearl seemed to be a blend of both her parents, and looked nothing like either of her sisters.  Her hair was a glossy light brown, but her eyes were green, and she had her mother’s chin and nose.  It gave her a character all her own.

“Do you know which apartment we’ve been given?” she asked.  Up until Isumbras’ wife had died a couple of years ago, the Whitwell Tooks had been given the same quarters every time they came, but Lalia thought it was a waste to save perfectly good guest rooms for a family that only visited briefly once or twice a year.

Ferumbras nodded, and led Pearl and her small charge through the maze of passages, wishing he could think of something to say, and to make conversation with her.  He suddenly realized they were near the Thain’s mathom room--not one of the more common ones, with everyone’s cast-offs, but the one where the Thain and his immediate family kept some of the more valuable items.  “Would you like to see something?  It would only take a moment.” he asked hopefully.

Pearl was a bit surprised, but curious.  “See what?” she asked cautiously.

“Here,” he said, opening the door.  It was not kept locked--Isumbras had said testily to Lalia’s suggestion that it should be, “we are not in the wilds of Buckland”, and that was that.

Intrigued, Pearl followed him in.  This was not the sort of mathom room she was used to.  Most of them were dim and dusty, and filled with jumbles of cast offs.  This room was neatly kept; there were low cabinets and chests in the centre of the room, and shelves from floor to ceiling against each wall.  Nothing had simply been tossed in and forgotten--all were in boxes or caskets or bags or baskets, neatly arranged on the tables and shelves.  A skylight let in a shaft of sunlight, and the dusty motes illuminated the lower shelves, which were filled with several volumes of the Yellowskin.  Pearl let go of Paladin’s hand and followed Ferumbras.  Paladin toddled after his sister.

On top of one of the cabinets was an item *not* in a box.  It was apparently a sheathed dagger, decorated with pearl and silver on haft and sheath.  Pearl’s eyes grew wide at the sight of it.  Ferumbras glanced at it and shrugged.

“It’s a Dwarf dagger.  Mother got it from Uncle Bardo.  She’s giving it to Grandfather for his birthday.  But *this* is what I wanted to show you.”  He moved over to one of the shelves.  “Magic.”

“Magic?” Pearl asked, following him.

“You’ve heard of Great-Grandfather Gerontius’ shirt-studs, haven’t you?”

Pearl’s eyes grew wide at the thought of seeing those legendary shirt-studs. 

As Pearl and Ferumbras went over to some shelves at the far side of the room, little Paladin gripped the cabinet, to steady himself.  He could just see over the edge of it.  What was that shiny thing?  He reached out a chubby hand, and soon had it tightly gripped in his little fist.  Sitting down with a thump, he wondered if it tasted good.  Quite fortunately, the dagger was well-fastened into the sheath by a cunning wire. 

Meanwhile, Ferumbras had taken down a small casket.  He opened it.  “See, here they are!”

“How do they work?” asked Pearl.

“No one knows.  When Great-Grandfather died, the magic word that worked them was lost.  But they are still magic--no one can fasten them or unfasten them without the word.”  And he demonstrated.  Though they appeared to fasten just like ordinary shirt-studs, as soon as Ferumbras released them, they fell away.

“Oh! Let me try!”  And Pearl also tried to close them, with no more luck than her cousin.

Sitting on the floor by the cabinet, Paladin tried to take a bite of the shiny thing.  But it was disappointing--it looked very pretty, but it tasted cold and nasty.  He dropped it in disgust, and with a little kick from his furry foot, it disappeared beneath the cabinet.  He was getting tired; he did not try to stand up again, but crawled around to where he could see Pearl and that other lad cousin, laughing over something.  He watched them with drooping eyes, and then lay down upon the floor and was instantly asleep.

Ferumbras took the shirt-studs and put them back in the casket, and Pearl said with a start, “I had better get Paladin to Mother!”  She looked around, almost panicking at the realization that her brother was not at her skirts.  Her expression softened as she saw him asleep, and she bent down and picked him up, holding him over her shoulder.  “Poor baby!” she said.  “We really need to go!  Besides, remember--we’ve been promised to go riding.”

They passed out of the room, Ferumbras closing the door behind him, neither of them noticing that the Dwarf dagger was no longer on top of the cabinet.


 “I’ve been robbed!” Lalia’s furious screams of anger could be heard all up and down the corridors of the South wing of the Great Smials.  Doors flew open and hobbits rushed in the direction of her shrieks.  “There’s a *thief* here!”

Hortensia Hornblower, one of Uncle Isembold’s grand-daughters, shrank back, and tried to avoid covering her ears.  Just after supper, Lalia had pulled her aside, and told her she wanted her opinion on the “little trinket” she was planning to give the Thain on her upcoming birthday.  When it was not to be found where Lalia had expected to find it, all chaos broke loose.

Fortinbras was the first to arrive, and tried vainly to calm his distraught wife.  Lalia was having none of it.  “That dagger was very valuable!  It was Dwarven work, with real pearl and silver!  Someone has stolen it!”

Isumbras pushed his way into the mathom room.  “What else is missing?” he asked grimly.

“How should *I* know--” Lalia began indignantly, before suddenly realizing to whom she spoke.  “I, I mean the only thing I noticed was that the item I put here is gone.”

The Thain sighed.  His daughter-in-law’s scheming had insured that he already knew what she planned to give him.  He could scarcely say that he thought it dreadfully inappropriate and in very bad taste.  What in the world would he need with a weapon like a dagger?  But it *was* very valuable, and there were many other valuables here.  He cast an eye over the room, and noticed with relief that everything else seemed in order. 

The crowd around the door had grown, and young Ferumbras came forward.  “But it was here,” he said.  “This afternoon, before tea.  It was here then.  I saw it.”

Pearl, who stood nearby with her parents, nodded.  “It was.”

“What were you doing in here, lad?” Isumbras asked his grandson.

“I brought Pearl in here, to show her the magic shirt studs…” his voice trailed off as he realized everyone was staring at him.

Lalia stepped forward, eyes blazing.  “You brought her in here?” she asked.  Suddenly, her hand shot out like a striking snake, and grabbed Pearl by the arm.  “What have you *done* with it, you little thief?”

Pearl gasped, and flinched back as though she had been struck.  Adalgrim and Periwinkle stepped up.  Paladin twisted in his mother’s arms and stared with wide eyes.

“Take your hands off my daughter!” said Adalgrim, his voice tight with fury. 

“How dare you!” said Periwinkle in a low fierce voice, her face nearly in Lalia’s.  Paladin whimpered and hid his face in her shoulder.

Lalia dropped hold of Pearl, but she didn’t step back.  “Obviously she stole it!”

“NO!” Pearl shouted.  “I didn’t *touch* your beastly dagger!”

“Of course you took it!  Who else could it have been?”

Pearl burst into tears.  Her father turned to her.  “Pearl, go back to our guest rooms and wait for us.  We will deal with this.”

“Don’t let that little thief out of your sight!”

But Pearl had turned and run back down the passage, with everyone staring after her.

 She ran into the apartment, slamming the door behind her, and began to pace back and forth, trying to understand.  *She* hadn’t taken it, and she knew Ferumbras had not.  Someone else *must* have come in afterwards.  But who would believe her?

She wanted to go home.  The more she thought about it, the more she just wanted to go *home*.  She didn’t want to be here with all these hobbits who thought she was a thief.

She *could* go home.  She could.  It was late, true, but she knew the way back to Whitwell very well indeed.  And it wouldn’t have to take her that long.  She could use one of the ponies.

After all, they already thought she was a thief.


Isumbras sighed wearily, and put a hand to his forehead.  The scene in the mathom room had degenerated into a shouting match between Lalia and Periwinkle, and Adalgrim had threatened to take his family home at once if he did not get an apology to Pearl, which Lalia was firmly refusing to do, convinced that the lass and no other, had taken the cursed dagger.

“That’s enough!” The Thain finally shouted.  He caught sight of his nephew Sigismond.  “Siggy, please summon Mistress Fern.  We will find out if anyone else might have been in this room.”

Sigismond nodded, and left to get the head housekeeper.  She would know if any of the servants have been in here since the children were.”

Lalia flushed.  It had never occurred to her to ask if anyone else had been in the room.  But it still seemed likely that Pearl was the culprit.  If the Thain had taken her advice about a lock, they’d not be having this problem.  She glanced at all the hostile faces glaring at her.  None of them believed the child had done it.  She spotted Bilbo Baggins in the crowd, looking at her as though she were something nasty on the bottom of his foot.  How dare he!

But close questioning of Mistress Fern revealed that it was unlikely that any servants had been near the place.  They had all been very busy at their tasks.

“See!” said Lalia, “that just proves it.”

Bilbo shook his head.  “It proves nothing.  Has this room been searched?  Thoroughly searched?”  He caught the Thain’s eye, and Isumbras looked startled.

“Such a waste of time!” Lalia exclaimed. 

“I will get some neutral parties to search,” said Isumbras.  He glanced about.  “Flambard, Sigismund, Bilbo, Gorbadoc, if you would.  The rest of us will move out of the way.”  He shooed everyone else into the corridor, though Lalia stayed right at his elbow, staring into the room with a gimlet eye.

The four searchers divided up the room, and moved about it methodically.  Bilbo carefully opened up the various boxes and caskets, and Flambard, who was a bit taller than the others, reached up to run his hand along the upper shelves.  Time passed, and several of the hobbits who had been watching wandered off, but Pearl’s family, Lalia, Fortinbras, and Ferumbras all remained.

It was Gorbadoc who found it, as he crawled about looking beneath every cabinet and chest.  He drew it forth and held it up towards the Thain, an implacable look on his face.

All eyes turned to Lalia.

She blanched.

“I believe that you owe Pearl an apology,” said Isumbras. 

Adalgrim turned to Primrose, who, with Primula and Peridot had been huddled anxiously together.  “Primmie, go and fetch your sister.”

Casting a scornful look at Lalia, Primrose turned and raced towards the guest quarters, and after only a moment’s hesitation, Peridot and Primula were at her heels. 

But in just a few moments, Primrose returned.  “Mother! Father! She’s not there!”  She waved a note at them.  Adalgrim snatched it from her.


Dear Mother and Father,


I’m not going to stay where people think I steal.  I am only borrowing a pony, not stealing it.  I am going home.




Periwinkle looked at the note, and burst into tears, and Paladin began to wail.  Adalgrim gathered them close, patting his wife’s back.  “There now, dear.  She knows the way home.  I’ll go after her.”

“But it’s dark!”

And that was Adalgrim’s own fear.  But he swallowed it.  He spotted his Aunt Mirabella, who had been waiting for Gorbadoc to complete the search.  “Aunt Mira, would you see Winkie and the children settled for the night?”


“Think of the children, dearest.”  Adalgrim kissed top of his wife’s head.  “Think of the little one you carry.”

Periwinkle allowed Mirabella to draw her away, and Adalgrim turned to the Thain.  “I’m going after her,” he said.

Isumbras nodded, and then Bilbo spoke up.  “I’ll come with you, Chop,” he said firmly.

“So will I,” added Sigismond.

The Moon had risen by the time the three of them rode away, back towards Whitwell.


In the Thain’s family quarters, Lalia fumed.  Her father-in-law had told her in no uncertain terms that she had behaved outrageously, jumping to conclusions and making accusations without reason.  Fortinbras had stared at her coldly, and Ferumbras had refused to allow her to embrace him and kiss him good-night, giving her a reproachful look before heading to his room.  Everyone was against her.

The dagger had been missing from where it belonged! What *else* was she supposed to think?  How on earth did it come to be on the floor?  And now of course, everyone blamed her because the little chit had run off.  If Pearl had stayed where she had been sent, this would all be over with now.  Well, she wasn’t going to sit up all night.  The child’s apology would have to wait until tomorrow.

“Begonia!” She called for her chambermaid.  It was time to get ready for bed.


The three hobbits rode quickly; Adalgrim felt an unaccountable sense of urgency, he knew not why.  After all, Pearl *did* know the way home, and she *was* a good rider.

Suddenly, Siggy pulled up.  “What’s that?” he asked, pointing ahead.

It was a pony, riderless and limping.

Adalgrim could feel the blood drain from his face, and his heart pounded.  There was a roaring in his ears. 

“Steady, old friend,” said Bilbo, reaching out to him.  The three of them made their way reluctantly towards the pony.


It was after first breakfast when they returned.  Adalgrim cradling his daughter’s limp form in his arms, the tears running freely down his face.  Bilbo was leading his pony, for the distraught father had no attention for it.  Sigismond was leading the lame pony, following slowly behind.


It was Bilbo who told of how they’d found Pearl’s body, its location making the tragedy clear--how she’d tried to jump a low hedge in the dark, and the pony had missed its footing.  Her head had struck a stone, and her neck had been broken.  The healers said either injury would have been fatal, and it was hard to say which had killed her.

Lalia found herself blamed for the whole debacle, and as a result, she did not even celebrate her birthday at all that year. 

The Whitwell Tooks went home for the funeral.  Periwinkle went into labour early, and their daughter Esmeralda was born a month and a half early.  Periwinkle never returned to the Great Smials, and Adalgrim returned only for Isumbras’ funeral three years later.  It was many years before any of his children returned there.

Primula Brandybuck never rode a pony again.

No one ever knew how the dagger had come to be beneath the cabinet.  It remained a mystery ever after.

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