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Time to Make a Change
5: The Thain and the Took (Paladin Took)
Paladin Took was a very doting grandfather. Pippa and Adella, the daughters of his youngest daughter had always been spoilt, since Pervinca was the only one of Paladin’s four children who still lived in the Great Smials. But when Peregrin returned to his childhood home (after Meriadoc became the Master of Buckland), Paladin had a grandson to spoil as much as he had his granddaughters.
Despite being over 100, Paladin played with young Faramir (as well as Pippa and Adella) as though he were still a lad himself. On numerous occasions (when Paladin had time to escape his duties as Thain), both grandfather and grandson would return from an outing completely covered with dirt and were scolded by their respective wife or mother.
Peregrin enjoyed watching his father and son bond so well. He had never known either of his own grandfathers, but often latched onto Merry’s, when Old Rory had been alive.
But Pippin knew that Paladin would not be around forever. The passing of his Uncle Saradoc two years earlier had been a painful reminder (though Faramir had been too young at the time to remember). Paladin was almost ten years older than Saradoc had been. Pippin tried to push these morbid thoughts to the back of his mind.
There they remained, until one glorious Autumn afternoon. Peregrin was sitting in the Thain’s office, as Paladin often bid him to. He had just started to doze in the very comfortable chair when he heard a high-pitched squeal.
“Uncle Pippin! Uncle Pippin! Come quick!”
Pippin instantly recognised the voice as belonging to Peredoc Brandybuck, Berilac and Pimpernel’s son. Pippin’s elder sister had brought her children to visit their Took relatives. Earlier that day, Paladin had taken all of his grandchildren on a picnic.
“Uncle Pippin!” Peredoc burst into the room.
“What’s wrong, Perry?” Pippin asked.
Peregrin immediately rose from his seat and followed after Perry. He didn’t bother asking for any further explanations. The lad was only ten, after all. This was probably frightening enough for him. Perry led him to the stables. In the paddock reserved for Paladin’s favourite pony, Toffee, Pippin could just make out the form of a hobbit on the ground. He quickened his pace.
“Perry-lad. I want you to get your father and Uncle Everard. Can you do that for me?”
Peredoc nodded, and ran back to the Smials. Pippin now saw the other figures in the paddock, by the fence. Perry’s sister, Garnet, was holding Faramir. Pippa had her hand on Adella’s shoulder.
“Garnet! Pippa!” he called. He jumped the fence and ran to them. Just a little way in front of the children, Pippin saw his father’s battered and bruised body. “Oh, no.”
“Toffee got scared or something,” Garnet sniffled. “She bolted and Granddad flew straight off her back. He was showing us how to ride, because Addie said she was scared of ponies.”
Hearing her name being mentioned, Adella let out a loud sob. Pippin realised that the poor lass thought it was her fault. “Now, now, Adella, sweetheart. This wasn’t your fault. Ponies get startled all the time and buck their riders off. Look, here comes your Daddy.”
Peredoc had just returned with Berilac and Everard Took, Pervinca’s husband. Pippin took Faramir from Garnet’s arms so that she could be comforted by her own father.
“What happened?” Everard asked, lifting Adella into his arms, even though she was eight years old.
“Pony bolted,” Pippin replied. He walked slowly over to where Paladin lay and gently touched his head. To Pippin’s surprise, Paladin’s eyes opened, and he smiled slightly.
“Pippin…” he croaked.
“I suppose Addie’s even more scared of ponies now. Tell her I’m sorry.”
A sob escaped from Pippin’s throat, and he almost forgot that he was holding Faramir in his arms. “No, Dad, you can tell her yourself. She’s just over there. Dad?”
But Paladin would say no more. His eyes had closed once more, but the smile remained on his face. Pippin’s legs gave way beneath him. He only just managed to catch Faramir in time, before the lad fell from his arms.
Faramir seemed to sense that his father was upset. “Grandda sleeping?” he asked hopefully.
Peregrin looked at his young son, and managed a sad smile. “Yes, Faramir, Granddad’s asleep, but he won’t wake up.”
After many tears had been shed, Pippin knew that they would have to take Paladin’s body back to the Smials. Eglantine and the girls needed to be told also. Everard, Berilac and Peregrin made a stretcher from junk they found in the nearby stable, and carefully placed Paladin onto it. Slowly, they made their way back to the Smials.
The look of his mother’s face was something that Peregrin remembered to the end of his days. She was the first to see them returning. The smile had frozen on her lips when she caught sight of the stretcher. A cry escaped her lips and she ran forward. She collapsed onto Paladin’s chest, sobbing.
“No, no, no.”
Pippin placed his hand on his mother’s shoulder. She turned to face him, and fell into his embrace. “I’m sorry, Mama.”
Neither of them seemed to notice that he had used his childhood name for her. He hadn’t called her “Mama” since he had been a small lad.
* * * * * *
After the funeral business had been taken care of, Peregrin had been officially named the Thain and the Took. The thought still terrified him. He was certain that he was far too young for such responsibility. His father had been eighty-two when he had become Thain, and looking back through the Took family records, Pippin had worked out the average age to be around sixty-five. He was only forty-four!
But his mother, wife and sisters all had faith in him. And Merry offered some words of encouragement. He had become the Master of Buckland two years before, and at age fifty, he was the equal youngest to do so (Gorbadoc Brandybuck, Merry’s great-grandfather, had also been fifty when he became the Master). He assured his cousin that it wasn’t all that hard, just a lot of organising, note taking and book keeping. Pippin’s heart sank. He was terrible at those sorts of things.
At the close of his first exhausting day of being Thain, Peregrin Took sank into his chair, just as he had the day his father had died. He had never missed Paladin more. To take his mind off everything, Pippin started to reorganise the desk – he supposed it was a good enough start to being organised. In the top drawer, he found a letter addressed to “The Thain and the Took”. The envelope looked old, and Pippin wondered if it was a letter that Paladin had misplaced.
“Well, I’m the Thain now,” he said to himself. “And that means I can open it.” He tore the letter open and read it.
Thain Peregrin I, (“So it is for me!” Pippin gasped aloud)
If you are reading this, it means that I have left this world and that you are now the Thain and the Took – or that I am still alive and you have been going through my private documents, and are certainly in for severe punishment! (Pippin had to laugh. Paladin Took had been well known for his dry sense of humour.) I do hope my end was a good one, and not dying in a sick bed, as Ferumbras did. Perhaps being attacked by wolves… (Another reason to laugh. Pippin wondered if being thrown from a startled pony was good enough for his father.)
But I digress from the point of this letter. I realise that it may be difficult for you to face your newfound responsibilities. I write from experience, for I write this letter at the end of my first week as Thain. Quite an interesting week to say the least, but I am sure you will have a similar experience. You are a fine lad of twenty-five as I write – and your mother has sent you to Hobbiton for a fortnight. Probably so that you will not bother me. I do wonder how old you are now, as you sit in my chair and read this letter. Let us hope that my exciting end was not untimely.
I have learnt, Peregrin, that the duties of the Thain are not as daunting as they first seem. And do not, for a moment, believe that you must face them alone! It is my hope that my brother-in-law, Saradoc, was kind enough to depart this world before me, and that Meriadoc is currently serving as the Master of Buckland. Do not hesitate to ask him for guidance. I know I have, and will continue to plague Saradoc with questions! (Pippin smiled as he remembered his father constantly sending letters to Brandy Hall. Barely half of them were addressed to Esmeralda. Most went to Saradoc.)
I also hope that, by now, you have found yourself a fine Mrs. Took. Your mother has been and always will be my saviour. If you have found a lass that is half as wonderful as my Eglantine, you are indeed blessed.
You may also call upon other friends that you have (perhaps friends that you have not yet made as I write). Being the Thain and the Took, Peregrin, does not mean being alone.
Finally, my son, my Pippin, I leave you words of my love for you. I am honoured to have you as my son. You have made me proud (and, no doubt, I was prouder still before I passed on). I know that you will continue to do so.
Your father, Paladin Took
(If you would not mind, this leaving a letter for the next Thain is almost a tradition. I found mine from Old Ferumbras this morning. Awfully boring, but I suppose it came to the same point this one did. Be a good lad and leave a letter like this for your successor. And I do hope that it will be your son, and not some offspring of Meriadoc’s!)
Pippin grinned broadly. He hadn’t smiled like that since before Paladin died. Trust his father to make him smile even in death. Aside from amusing him, the letter had also relieved most of Pippin’s anxiety. If he could face a troll before the Gates of Mordor, he could face this Thain business. After all, he was a Knight of Gondor!
Still smiling, Peregrin found pen and paper.
Thain Faramir I,
* * * * * *
A/N: This one seems so short after Merry’s huge story! I think I still managed to get the point across, but I hope that Paladin's letter wasn't too cheesy and tacky spy movie-like. As you may have guessed, Paladin's grandchildren (aside from Faramir, of course), were all from my twisted imagination. The final chapter will be for Elanor, Faramir and Merry’s children.
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