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When the King Comes Back ( Brandy Hall )  by Dreamflower

It was after nine o’clock by the time they arrived at Milo Burrow’s door in Frogmorton. There was still a light visible in the front room, so fortunately they were not going to have to rouse the whole household. Saradoc rapped briskly on the door.

They heard footsteps approaching. “Who is it this time of night?”

“It’s Saradoc Brandybuck, Milo. I have Esmeralda, with me, and Merry and Berilac.”

The sound came of locks being unlocked, something familiar enough in Buckland, but until recently, rare in the rest of the Shire. “Saradoc! What in the world are you doing here this time of night?”

“Well, Esme and I were rather hoping you could put us up for the night. We’re on our way to Hobbiton and then to Tuckborough.”

“Tuckborough? Does that mean the Thain is no longer angry?” He looked beyond and saw Merry and Beri. “Bless me! Merry, you’ve grown!”

Merry grinned and rolled his eyes. He was beginning to heartily regret the Ent-draughts. He supposed that once everyone in the Shire had seen him, they would cease to remark on it.

Beri winked at him. He remembered his own reaction. But then who would expect a growth spurt from a thirty-seven year old?

“Come in, come in” said Milo. “Esmeralda, you must be cold, come sit by the fire. Let me get Peony and we’ll get some food and drink…”

Merry interrupted the host’s flow of talk. “Milo, Beri and I are going to see to the ponies. We’ll join you in a few minutes for a bite, but the two of us are going to camp across the road with the cart, so you’ll only be putting up mother and father.” This was something that Merry and Berilac had discussed in advance; after all, the Burrows home was small, and they had four children at home, three of them still in their tweens.

“Yes, I understand. These days it doesn’t do to leave such things unattended.”

By the time that the two younger Hobbits had taken care of the ponies, had a brief visit and a late supper with their hosts, and built a campfire, it was nearly midnight. The younger cousins of course had all wanted to see the visitors, especially Merry, who was held in awe for his actions of the week before. Mosco, the oldest Burrows son, told Berilac with great glee how the four returning travellers had marched the Shirriffs out of town, much to Merry’s embarrassment. It took a lot of dissuading to keep the four from joining him and Berilac at the campsite. They’d have had no rest at all.

“I’ll take first watch, Beri. I’ll wake you in four hours.” Merry sat himself with his back to the fire, pulled up his hood, and took out his pipe. If he had only known it, his small figure looked much like Strider’s often had when keeping watch.

Berilac had trouble falling asleep. He was too cold on one side, too warm on the other, the ground was hard, and on his mind were all the things that Merry had told him. He imagined having to sleep rough for weeks on end, knowing something evil was always searching for you. Finally exhaustion had its way, and he drifted off.

Merry smoked and thought. Seeing the Burrows again had heartened him. He remembered that Peony had been born a Baggins. That had been the problem with the last few generations of Baggins, not enough lads, lots of lasses. But she had four children; and there was Angelica, Ponto’s daughter, she wasn’t wed yet. Ponto, and his brother Porto in their seventies now. Come to think of it, he and Pip had Baggins blood from the first Ponto. It was some consolation to think that even if the Baggins name died out, at least the Baggins blood would go on. Still he worried about Frodo. He thought he understood what Strider meant in his letter.  Sometimes he felt a pretty deep melancholy himself...


They got an early start the next morning, leaving right after Peony had provided them with a substantial first breakfast.

Merry again set a brisk pace. He was quite enjoying this outing. Berilac, however, looked weary, unused to getting along on only four hours of sleep. His respect for his younger cousin, already high, went up another notch. Saradoc and Esmeralda were refreshed from their night’s sleep, but tired of riding in the cart. They would be glad indeed when Bywater came in sight. They had decided to rest a day, on Hensday, and then head on over to Tuckborough on Mersday.

The area near Bywater and Hobbiton was the scene of some of the worst devastation. Saruman had concentrated his malice there where his revenge would hurt Frodo the worst; it was the first sight of this desolation for Saradoc, Esmeralda and Berilac, and they had been shocked. Esmeralda had wept to see it.

They pulled up in front of the Cotton farm off the South Lane. Rosie was sweeping the path, and came to greet them. “Mr. Merry! We weren’t expecting you quite so soon! Sam and Mr. Frodo are up to Hobbiton overseeing the repairs.”

“Thank you, Rosie,” said Merry. “If you’ll so kindly see to my parents, Berilac and I will ride on up and let Frodo know we’re here.”

They found Frodo and Sam assisting with the restoration of what had formerly been Bagshot Row. Along with a number of other Hobbits, they were busy hauling debris over to the other side of the road.

The first thing Merry heard as he rode up made him grin, it sounded so familiar.

“Now, Mr. Frodo, you didn’t ought to go getting yourself all worn out trying to haul this trash away yourself.”

“Nonsense, Sam. There’s nothing here I can’t handle, and every pair of hands is needed for this work…Merry! I can’t believe you are here already! We weren’t expecting you here until tomorrow! Hullo, Berilac, it’s good to see you again.”

“Why, Mr. Merry, you must have just flown to get here so soon!” put in Sam.

Merry and Berilac dismounted. “Not at all; just a brisk pace. But we did leave as soon as we could when we got Pip’s message. Da’s not one to put something like this off even a minute if he can help it.” He turned to Berilac. “Beri, have you met Sam Gamgee? He’s quite a good friend to have in a pinch.”

Having been warned, Berilac extended his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Sam.”

Sam carefully wiped his own hand on his trousers before taking Beri’s. “The same to you, Mr. Berilac.”

“Mum and Da are over at the Cottons‘, Frodo, and will probably rest up right now. Mum’s pretty worn out from the trip. Could you use some more hands at the work here?”

“Certainly, cousin, if you are offering!”

Berilac looked askance at Merry. Here they were, with only four hours sleep apiece the night before, after a long trip, and Merry offering them to do hard labor with every appearance of enjoyment. Well, he was game if Merry was. But he wondered where his cousin got the energy.

Merry had been glad to see Frodo busy. He had been worrying about his older cousin ever since the incident at the dinner party on Highday. It still both hurt and rankled to think about the end of the Bagginses. There was some wariness and pain behind Frodo’s blue eyes, but there was good humor there as well. Perhaps his suspicions that Frodo would never fully recover from the Quest were wrong, if only they could keep him occupied enough. But then he thought of the words in Aragorn’s letter-- his melancholy is a deep and abiding one, and I yet fear for him. If a healer as experienced as Strider felt that way, then his own instincts could not be far wrong. Still, Frodo was having a good day today. One thing at a time.

They spent a pleasant afternoon working at taking apart the mess made by Saruman and his ruffians. It was satisfying, in a way, like taking an Orc out in battle. In fact, he said as much to Sam, when Frodo was out of earshot. Berilac’s eyes grew wide, but Sam just grinned.

“Oh, aye, Mr. Merry. I know what you mean. Cleaning out wickedness, it is, one way or the other.”

The look the two friends exchanged spoke volumes. Merry and Sam understood one another.

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