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The Dare  by Dreamflower


Frodo had just begun to drift off in a light doze when suddenly the sound of Merry, screaming his name in terror, brought him bolt upright. He dashed into the hall.

From the open door across the way, he could hear Merry sobbing and crooning. “Pip, please, Pippin, wake up, please wake up--”

He stepped into the room. Merry was kneeling on the floor by his cousin, with Pippin’s head in his lap. The Banks lads still sat on the bed, wide-eyed.

Merry looked up. “Frodo, help me.”

“What’s wrong with him?” he asked as he swiftly moved to Pippin’s side.

“These two,” said Merry with loathing, and casting a murderous glare their way, “dared him to get drunk.”

Indeed, from the smell and the sight of the broken bottle, Frodo had suspected as much. He knelt to examine the unconscious tweenager. Pippin really did not look good. He was pale, clammy, not breathing well. Frodo looked at Merry’s terrified face.

“Merry, I need you to calm down. Go at once. Fetch his parents and the healer, right now, as quickly as you can.” Frodo kept his voice as even as he could, trying not to let it quaver.

Merry nodded and flew from the room. He raced up the corridor, but had not gone far when he nearly collided with Pippin’s oldest sister, Pearl. She grabbed him by the shoulders.

“Merry,” she started crossly, and then she saw his face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Pip! He won’t wake up. Frodo said get the healer and your parents.”

She grew pale. “All right, I’ll get Mother and Father. Do you know where Mistress Poppy lives?”

He nodded.

“Where is Pippin?”

“Bankses’ room,” he called over his shoulder, as he ran off once more.

He dashed for the nearest exit. The healer, Poppy Burrows, did not live in the Great Smials, but in a cottage at the far edge of the west garden. Merry cut straight through the garden, jumping over low hedges and flower beds. He cut to the path leading to her door, and soon was hammering on it.


Frodo held Pippin’s head, softly smoothing his curls. Pippin’s face was pale, but it seemed to grow paler and acquire a greenish tinge. Frodo felt his young cousin’s body tense involuntarily. With an idea of what was about to happen, he rolled Pippin to his side, just in time. Pippin began to vomit. For a moment, Frodo was hopeful that the lad would regain consciousness, but he did not, which really was worrisome. He waited until the spasm had passed.

“Eeeww, that‘s awful,” said Clovis with a look of disgust. His expression was avid, and his eyes glittered. It was apparent that he was enjoying the drama he had created.

Frodo looked up at the brothers. A cold anger was building in him at the danger they had put Pippin in. “Get up. Get off the bed.” They just stared, not moving. “I said: ‘Get. Off. The. Bed’.”

They stood up.

In a low, firm voice, he said, “Go over to the other side of the room. Now!”

They moved as quickly as they could, stepping around Frodo, Pippin, and the mess on the floor.

Frodo gently picked Pippin up, as easily as if he were a faunt, and laid him on the bed, carefully arranging him on his side and placing pillows at his back. Then he sat down and took Pippin’s head in his lap again, and once more began gently smoothing the chestnut curls.

He spared a glance for the two miscreants leaning against the wall. Cado had the sense to at least look frightened. Clovis, on the other hand, looked sullen and there was hint of a smirk on his face. Frodo had no doubt whatsoever that he was looking at the ringleader of this whole disaster.

“Clovis,” he said, gesturing with his chin toward the washstand, where there were clean towels, a ewer of water, and a basin, “take those and come clean up this mess.”

“You can’t tell me what to do.” The tweenager raised his chin defiantly. Frodo Baggins was no kin of his; he had no authority to order him about.

Suddenly, Clovis found himself on the receiving end of the coldest, most contemptuous stare it had ever been his misfortune to encounter in his life.

He felt a chill run down his spine.

In a low voice with more than a hint of steel in it, Frodo said, “I just did. And bring me the basin while you’re at it. Now move.”

Clovis moved.


Pearl burst breathlessly into her parents’ sitting room, where Paladin and Eglantine were visiting with Paladin’s cousin Reginard, his wife Hyacinth, and Eglantine’s good friend Dianthus Goodbody.

“Mother, Father, you must come at once. Pippin is ill.” They looked up at her in alarm.

With barely an “excuse us” Pippin’s parents followed their daughter.

As they left, Reggie looked troubled, and Dianthus gave a sympathetic gasp.

“Oh dear me,” said Hyacinth with a gleam in her eyes, “I wonder, is it serious?”

As Eglantine and Paladin followed their daughter down the corridor, Pearl explained her encounter with Merry.

“He won’t wake up?” asked Eglantine.

“That does not sound good,” said Paladin. “Did Merry say what was wrong?”

“No time,” answered Pearl. “He’s gone after Mistress Poppy. But he did say they were in the Banks cousins’ room.”

At those words, Eglantine felt an ominous foreboding.


Poppy was just sitting down to a nice bit of supper when the banging on the door began. She was between apprentices right now, so she had to answer it herself. She opened to a pale and breathless Merry.

“Mistress Poppy, you must come at once. Pippin has passed out and we can’t rouse him.”

Poppy snatched her medical satchel from its hook by the front door. “Tell me as we walk.”

Merry started to cut back across the garden. “No, young hobbit, stay on the path. Trust me, it will be faster. I’m too old to be jumping hedges. Now tell me what happened.”

Merry swallowed. “Those Banks cousins of his, they dared him to get drunk.”

“How much did he have, do you know?” This was something she had to deal with from time to time with young tweenagers, and it never boded well.

“As far as I could tell, he drank almost an entire bottle of fortified wine without stopping to draw breath, and perhaps half a bottle of brandy the same way before I could stop him.” Merry choked a bit as he remembered the scene that had met his eyes earlier.

“Good heavens! That much strong spirits for a hobbit of Peregrin’s age and weight could be fatal!” She had gone several steps before she realized Merry was no longer beside her.

She turned. Merry’s face was stark white, and he swayed where he stood.

“Meriadoc Brandybuck! I do not have time for you to faint. Bend over and take a few deep breaths.”

He did as she directed, and after a few breaths, stood upright, with a bit of color back in his face. “I’m sorry, it’s just--”

“No, young Meriadoc. It is I who should apologize. I should not have said that to you, especially since I have not even seen the patient yet. I did not mean to alarm you so.”


Frodo watched Clovis sternly as he picked up the glass shards, and used the towels to clean up the mess on the floor. Suddenly he felt Pippin’s body stiffen again. He propped his head up and placed the basin in front just as Pippin began to retch and heave. He was still vomiting when Paladin, Eglantine and Pearl appeared in the doorway. As he finally stopped, Frodo put the basin on the nightstand and wiped his cousin’s face with a handkerchief.

“Oh, my baby!” cried Eglantine, flying to her son’s side.

Paladin looked grim. “What has happened here?” Though from the evidence of the bottles and the smell in the room he had a very good idea of what had occurred.

Clovis looked sullen and refused to meet his eyes. He turned his attention to the glass shards he was carefully placing in a towel. Paladin looked at the younger brother.

Cado blurted out “We just thought we’d try--umm--some of the grown-up stuff.”

“Did Pippin help you steal from my wine cellar?” Although Paladin was fairly sure he knew the answer. Pippin had done more than his share of mischief from time to time, but this was not his usual kind of trouble.

Again it was Cado who answered. “No--no, sir. He was in Tuckborough.”

“Shut up!” shouted Clovis to his brother.

“I think not.” Paladin’s voice was grim. He fixed his eye on Cado. “How is it that you two seem unimpaired and my son is in such a state?”

This time, Cado’s answer was an inaudible mumble.

“Speak up, young hobbit!”

“We--we dared him, sir. To--to drink a whole bottle without stopping--” his voice faded away again.

“And then--” said Merry furiously, as he came up with Poppy, “they dared him to do it again!”

Poppy pushed her way into the room, where Frodo and Eglantine sat with Pippin. She cast a trained eye on her young patient. “Not good.”

She looked at Frodo. “Has he been just like this?”

“He vomited twice,” said Frodo, “and he seems a bit weaker than he was.” He indicated the basin and the mess that remained on the floor, and in the towels. Clovis met his eye, and began scrubbing again.

Eglantine was crying.

Poppy placed her hand on the pulse in Pippin’s neck. “Has he shown any signs of awareness?”

“Not since I’ve been here, Mistress Poppy,” answered Frodo.

“Well, you showed very good presence of mind, Mr. Baggins, in putting him on his side so that he did not choke. That is one of the worst dangers of this kind of drunken state.” She reached to her patient’s face and drew back one eyelid to examine the pupil. “Let’s get him out of this mess and into his own room.”

Paladin strode over, and lifted up his son gently. Pearl darted across the hallway and turned down Pippin’s bed, and his father followed to lay him in it, placing a kiss on his brow as he did so.

A crowd had gathered in the corridor, as word had gone out that the Thain’s son was ill. Pippin’s other two sisters, Pimpernel and Pervinca were there, looking alarmed. Mother, sisters, Merry and Frodo all followed Poppy into Pippin’s room.

The healer turned round. “Miss Pearl, bring me three slices of burned toast, some water--I need both hot and cold. Everyone else except his mother needs to leave. I need room to work.”

Paladin lingered a few moments to embrace and comfort Eglantine. As the others filed out, Merry saw Clovis and Cado standing by the door. In a few quick strides, he had shoved Clovis up against the wall by the shoulders so hard that the back of his head hit the wall.

“This is all your fault, you two and your stupid dare!” he said, grey eyes blazing, and his face only inches from Clovis’s. Merry jerked him and slammed him again, with a satisfying thud. “I’m telling you right now that Pip had better be all right!” He was aware of Frodo and Pearl speaking to him and trying to pull him away, but he paid no attention. “I don’t think anyone as stupid as you should be allowed to breed. If I have my way you will sing nothing but high notes for the rest of your life. I’ve a good mind to--” He pulled him forward and prepared to thrust him against the wall again.

“MERIADOC! That’s enough!” Paladin had come out of Pippin’s room. He was not surprised at Merry’s strong reaction, but he couldn’t allow it, though it was tempting.

Merry snatched his hands away and backed up a few steps, wiping his hands on his breeches as though they were soiled. But he did not break eye contact with Clovis. “I promise you right now that I will do what I said if you ever put a toe out of line again and it comes to my ears.” He allowed Frodo to draw him away finally.

Paladin looked at the two brothers. “Go to my study at once, and wait for me there, no matter how long it takes.” They looked at him, not moving. “I said go at once, or I will allow Meriadoc and Frodo to escort you there!”

They glanced at Merry, who gave them a mirthless grin. “Please, let us do that, Uncle Paladin.”

With a look of horror, the Banks lads fled down the corridor in the direction of Paladin’s study.


Frodo drew Merry to his own room. “Merry, you have got to get hold of yourself. You will not do Pippin any kind of good if you allow yourself to be in such a state.”

“It’s just--I’m so angry! They could have killed him! They might have killed him!” Suddenly he began to sob.

Frodo put his arms around his distraught cousin. “There now, Merry-lad, I’m right here.”

Merry sniffed. “You haven’t called me ‘Merry-lad’ in years. Frodo, we can’t--we can’t lose Pip this way! It’s not right!”

Frodo drew back and looked Merry sternly in the eye. “My dear young hobbit! We have not lost him! And you cannot think that we might! You have to have faith that he will pull through. He’s going to need his Merry.” He shook his head. “We have to be strong for him.”

Merry drew a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s just--” The expression on his face was still close to one of panic.

“I know, dearest, I know. It’s frightening. Now go over to the washstand and wash your face. Then we’ll go back out into the hall and wait for them to let us see him again.” Frodo also drew a deep breath. He could not possibly let Merry see just how close to panic he himself was. Just as he had told Merry to be strong for Pippin, he was going to have to be strong for Merry.

“Thank you, Frodo.” He did as his older cousin directed. As he scrubbed his face he said, “You know, I feel like it’s my fault. I should never have let him go off with those two.”


In Pippin’s room, Eglantine sat upon the bed with her son’s head in her lap, and tears running down her face. “My poor, poor baby. This is all my fault.”

Poppy looked up sharply from where she was setting out the contents of her medical satchel on the dresser. “Mistress Took! Why on earth would you say such a thing?”

“I should never have allowed those horrible nephews of mine anywhere near Pippin!”

“You could not possibly know a thing like this would happen. And keep in mind that your lad bears some of the responsibility for his condition himself.

He could have said ‘no’ to them, dare or not. He is not a stupid child. He knew that it was wrong.”

She shook her head. “Of course he did. But he never would have thought of this by himself.” Suddenly Eglantine stiffened. “Poppy! He doesn’t seem to be breathing!”


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