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The Dare  by Dreamflower


“What is it?” asked Pippin as Clovis hustled him into the guest room the brothers were sharing. It was across the hall from Pippin’s room.

“We’ve a little something we thought you might like to share with us,” said Clovis as he shut the door. “Cado, show him.”

Cado threw up the coverlet on the bed and reached under the pillows to pull out the five bottles they had purloined.

Pippin stared, wide-eyed and not altogether approving. “*Where* did you get those?”

Clovis sniggered. “Where do you think?”

“You raided my father’s wine cellar?” he asked incredulously.

“Don’t be that way,” Clovis smirked. “I daresay you’ve raided the larders often enough.”

“That’s different!”

“How is that different? Aside from one’s food and the other’s drink?” Clovis thought this a pretty clever response.

“Well--” Only Pippin couldn’t think of a really good answer, other than nobody much minded a raid on the larder, and he was fairly certain his father would *very* much mind a raid on the wine cellar. He was about to say as much, when Cado piped up.

“For goodness’ sake, Pippin, aren’t you even curious?”

Now that was a different question altogether. Of course he was curious. Who wouldn’t be? The adults seemed to enjoy this stuff, and tweenagers were usually restricted to nothing more than half an ale or maybe a small glass of wine on a special occasion.

Clovis picked up one of the bottles of brandy and handed it to his brother. Cado took a good-sized swallow. His eyes bugged out and began to water, and he opened his mouth and panted. “Whoa!” he said breathlessly. He looked at the bottle in surprise. This stuff had quite a kick to it!

Pippin looked at him skeptically. “Come now, it can’t be that bad. The grown-ups sip it like tea!” He took the bottle, tilted it back and took a large swig.

He gasped, his own eyes popping and his face going bright red. “*Thunder!*” he wheezed, “that tastes like *cough medicine*!” He too looked at the bottle in surprise--his father *liked* this stuff?

Clovis took it and sniffed it suspiciously, and then took a small sip. It was a bit on the warm side, with a little kick to it, but not all that bad. Maybe you weren’t meant to take large swallows. He’d never seen any of the adults gulping it. In fact, when his father had some, he seemed to spend as much time smelling it as he did drinking it.

“Here, let’s try some of the other stuff.” He picked up one of the bottles of fortified wine and opened it. He cautiously took a taste. “Not bad.” He handed it to Cado.

Cado took a sip. “Oh my!” He took another sip. “That’s pretty good!” He handed the bottle to Pippin.

Pippin had a swallow, and then another swallow. “You’re right,” he giggled. “This is kind of nice.” He took one more swallow.

Clovis looked at Pippin out of the corner of his eye. “I’ll bet you couldn’t drink the whole bottle in one go.”

Pippin pursed his lips, as he considered the idea. “I might--I might could do it.” He stopped for a second. “Could do what?” for some reason he could not remember.

Clovis grinned. Looked like Pippin was already getting a little drunk. “Drink it all down at one go. I dare you!”

“I--(hiccup)--I double dare you,” giggled Cado. He was definitely a bit tipsy.

“Oh.” Pippin looked at the bottle in his hand, as if wondering how it got there. Once he had finished a whole bottle of Aunt Esme’s ginger beer in one go and it had made him burp all afternoon. Would this stuff make him burp? “In that case--” he upended the bottle into his mouth and began to gulp, draining the bottle, and making a satisfying “glug” with each swallow. Just as he thought he’d have to breathe or burst, the bottle was empty. He dropped it on the bed. He felt a bit dizzy.

He looked at Clovis fuzzily. “I did so too could do it.” He blinked. Did that make sense?

Clovis handed him the bottle of brandy they had opened. “Yes, but could you do it with this stuff?”

“Why?” Pippin thought he remembered something about that stuff tasting pretty foul. Did he really want to drink it all? “Tastes nasty.” He pushed the bottle away.

Cado nodded and giggled again. “Nasty!” he repeated. Clovis glared at his brother. Looked like he was drunk, too.

“I bet you’d do it fast enough if Merry Brandybuck asked you to,” Clovis said sullenly.

“Merry?” Pippin looked around the room owlishly. He didn’t think he remembered Merry being there. “Where’s Merry?”

“Come on, Pippin” said Clovis, “give it a go.” This time Pippin took the bottle and put it to his lips.


After tea, Merry and Frodo had gone for a short stroll in the south garden, to enjoy a late afternoon pipe.

“How are you enjoying your visit this year?” asked Frodo, knowing how much Merry had been looking forward to it.

“Don’t ask,” he groaned. “Those Banks brothers are spoiling everything.”

“They are pretty dismal, I must admit,” said Frodo. “I’m afraid I can’t like them much. I hate to say it, but that Clovis reminds me of no one so much as Lotho at that age.”

“Exactly.” Merry sighed, and sat down on a nearby bench, Frodo sitting down next to him. “I just wish Pip would give it up and stop trying to be nice to them. They don’t deserve it.”

“You know he won’t do that.”

Merry told Frodo of what had happened that afternoon when the lads were playing ball. “And I had to go down to put a stop to it. I must say I was surprised at Aunt Tina. She’s not one to let that kind of thing go by.”

“Think about it, Merry,” said Frodo, shaking his head. “You know how ill her mother is. And you know what Clodio can be like.”

“You don’t mean to say he would keep her from seeing her own mother if she displeased him, do you?” Merry looked shocked.

“I am very much afraid that is what *Tina* thinks might happen. And she should know her own brother.” Frodo sighed.

“I still wish Pip would stand up to them. Or at the very least give up on trying to like them. I don’t know why he does that.”

“Yes you do, Merry. No one knows him better than you.” Frodo blew a smoke ring, and watched it float away.

“I know,” Merry sighed. “but sometimes I wish he didn’t have such a large heart. He’s got room in there for everybody, but not everybody deserves to be in there.”

“But if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be our Pip, would he, dear?” He gave Merry an encouraging hug. It wasn’t often he found himself offering comfort to the usually cheerful Merry. It was more likely to be the other way round.

“Besides, the Bankses will leave soon. And in a couple of weeks it will be just the three of us, on our walking trip.” He gave a bit of a squeeze to the sturdy shoulders, and stood up. “And I am tired. I think I am going to my room and have a bit of a nap before supper.”

“I’ll walk back with you, and then see if I can find Pip. He probably needs to be rescued from the clutches of those cousins of his.”

“Probably,” laughed Frodo.

Merry said good-bye to Frodo at his door, and went down two doors to Pippin’s room. He knocked and poked his head in. No one there, but he had really not expected it. He looked across the hall to the Bankses’ room. As he crossed the hall, he heard Cado’s inane giggle, and as he approached the room, he heard Clovis talking.

“I bet you’d do it fast enough if Merry Brandybuck asked you to do it.”

Then came Pippin’s voice, all but inaudible, but Merry thought he heard his name.

Clovis’s voice again. “Come on, Pippin, give it a go.”

Filled with a sudden sense of foreboding, Merry flung the door open without knocking. In one dreadful instant everything froze and he took in the picture: the three lads sitting on the bed, Clovis staring at him in shock, Cado in bewilderment, Pippin gulping from the half-empty bottle; the empty wine bottle next to him; the other three bottles on the nightstand.

“Pip!” he shouted. Time began to move again. Startled, Pippin dropped the bottle and it smashed upon the floor. He turned a drunkenly reproachful look on Merry. “Shee what’cha made me do, Mer? I coulda done it, too, all in one go.”

Furious, Merry strode into the room. “Stars above, Pip! Why?”

Pippin grinned at him in confusion. “Th’ dared me; th’ dubba dared me. I did thish’n,” he picked up the empty wine bottle and waved it about proudly. “Bu’ now gotta shtart over.” He reached for one of the bottles on the nightstand.

“No!” Merry darted over, grabbed Pippin by the shoulders and looked his cousin in the face. A wave of alcohol fumes nearly made him gag.

Pippin gazed at him with wide, unfocused eyes. “Mer--whish one of you is you?”

“Come on, Pip,” he sighed, “up you go; let’s get you to your room.”

Clovis sniggered and Cado grinned. Merry shot them a baleful glare, as he tried to get Pippin to his feet.

“Up you go, Pip,” he said, pulling from under Pippin’s arms. He got him to stand, and drew him forward a couple of steps. “Let’s go.”

Pippin looked at him with a baffled expression, and Merry could see his eyes glazing over. His knees began to buckle, and suddenly Merry was supporting a dead weight in his arms. Pippin had passed out cold.

Merry lowered him to the floor, and gently smacked him on both cheeks. “Come on, now Pip, come out of it.” No response. He studied Pippin’s slack face; he didn’t seem to be breathing so good. A lump of fear formed in his stomach, and he felt the panic begin to gibber around the edges of his mind. He sat back on his heels, and allowed that panic to give him the strength he for one loud yell: “FRODO! FRODO! I need you!”

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