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The Dare  by Dreamflower


Paladin left Pippin’s room in a somewhat hopeful frame of mind, but as he headed for his study it became grimmer. It was nearly two hours after midnight. Those two rogues would have been waiting for nearly eight hours now. He wondered if the young fools had waited for him as he had told them to. He half-expected them to be gone. What in the world had they been thinking, to raid his wine cellar? And Pippin? How could he have gone along with them? By the time he hit his study door, he had worked himself into a fury.

He burst into the room, crashing the door open, startling Reggie into dropping the book he was reading. This roused the two lads, who had fallen asleep in their chairs.

He looked askance at Reginard, who quirked a brow and said, “I thought someone should keep an eye them and make sure they didn’t slip away. How is Pippin?”

“He is doing much better, else I would not be here. Thank you for taking this on. I’m afraid I have one more task for you. Please rouse a messenger to leave immediately for Underhill. He is to tell their father to come *at once* and fetch them away. They are being sent home in disgrace.”

“Certainly.” Reggie got up and left the room with alacrity.

As soon as the door closed behind his cousin, Paladin turned his glare on his nephews. He sat down at his desk. “Stand up,” he said, “over here.” He pointed to a spot in front of it.

Nervously, they complied. “Uncle Paladin--” started Clovis.

“Don’t ‘Uncle Paladin’ me! Do you even begin to understand what serious consequences your behavior nearly had? If it were not for the quick thinking of Merry and Frodo, and for the skill of the healer, my son could be lying dead right now!” He looked at them closely; Clovis looked shocked. It was clear the young idiot had not believed such a thing possible. “If that had happened, there is *nothing*--and I mean *nothing* that would have kept you from being flogged, marked and banished for causing a wrongful death! It is only the fact that you are my wife‘s nephews that keeps me from thrashing the both of you now!”

Both brothers went stark white.

“You will go at once and stay in your room. You will have only bread and water until your father comes to fetch you away! Do not try to slip out of your room! If Pippin’s cousin Merry catches sight of you again, I will not be inclined to intervene a second time. Have I made myself perfectly clear?”

Clovis nodded, wide-eyed, and Cado stammered out “Yes-yes, sir.”


Frodo had brought Merry his nightshirt with a soft “Call me if you need me, cousin,” and then he was gone.

Merry undressed and drew on his nightshirt, and climbing into the bed to lie alongside his younger cousin. He raised up on one elbow and studied Pippin’s face. He noted the faint flush of color and the now steady rise and fall of his breathing. Satisfied, he turned over, blew out the candle, and settled himself for sleep, one hand clasped protectively on Pippin’s thin shoulder. If Pip so much as stirred, he would know it.


Exhausted, Frodo threw himself into his own bed. This had been one of the longest days of his life, very nearly as long as the day he lost his parents.

But this day looked to have a more hopeful ending. Pippin would live, and his Merry would not have to know the kind of grief and loneliness that had blighted his own life.

And Pippin’s bright spirit and great heart had been spared to them. In his fear for Merry’s sake, he had kept his own fear for Pippin at bay. But he knew what it would have meant to him to lose that precious little Took.

He drifted finally into sleep, chasing after the funny and sweet memories of the two cousins he loved like little brothers.


Pearl had tucked her mother up, and sat by her until her father came to their room. Then she wearily made her way to her own room.

When she entered, she saw Pimmie and Vinca in their nightgowns, sitting on her bed.

“Pearl,” said Pimmie shakily, “can we stay with you tonight?”


Clodio Banks and his wife Beryl had just sat down to elevenses when there came a knock on the door. The maidservant went to answer it, and came back instantly.

“Mr. Clodio, sir, there is a messenger for you, come from the Thain. He says it is urgent.”

With a sigh of exasperation, Clodio threw down his napkin and got up.

He did not invite the messenger inside, nor offer him a cup of tea, but stood in the doorway at the threshold. “You have a message for me?”

The messenger nodded, but did not look at him directly. Instead he fixed his gaze on the rug in the front hall. “Begging your pardon, Mr. Banks, sir, but I was told to give you this exact message: ‘The Thain says you are to come at once to fetch your sons away. They are being sent home in disgrace’.”

Clodio was livid. “What? Why?” he shouted.

The messenger spoke to the shrubbery at the side of the front step. “I can’t say, sir, I’m sure.” Which meant he had not been given leave to say, not that he didn’t know. Everyone in the Great Smials knew by now, he was sure. He stood there briefly, just long enough to make Clodio know that he was aware of the lapse of courtesy for not asking him in for tea, not to mention failing to offer the customary tip. Not that he expected one. The Mistress’s brother was known to pinch his coppers till they squeaked.

“Well, sir,” he said to the doorpost, “I’d best be getting on.”

Clodio yelled “Beryl!” and slammed the door in his face.

The messenger grinned. Mr. Reggie had given him plenty of money to break his journey before he returned to the Great Smials. He’d ridden hard to get here so quickly, and the pony needed rest. The Man in the Moon was the best inn in Underhill. He’d take himself there for a good meal and a bit of a nap. He’d be surprised if his bit of gossip about the Banks’s sons did not get him a few free ales.


Merry woke to the sound of a loud groan from Pippin.

“Good morning,” he said cheerily.

His answer was another moan.

Merry slid out of the bed and padded over to the window to open the curtains.

“Gahh!” exclaimed Pippin. “It’s too bright! And why are you stomping around in my room!” He pulled the pillow over his face.

His older cousin chuckled. Having Pip alive and able to experience his first hangover was lovely.

“And why does my head hurt so? I think my brain is exploding!” Pippin moaned.

Merry went over to the hearth and began to light a fire, to heat the kettle and make the willow-bark tea that Poppy had left.

“Because, Pip-my-lad, you have one very nasty hangover!”


The silence lasted so long that Merry thought maybe Pippin had gone back to sleep.

“Pip?” He carried the tea over to the bedside.

Pippin cautiously poked his head and hand out of the covers to take the tea.

“Uh, Merry? How could I have a hangover? We only had half an ale?”

“My word, Pip! Don’t you remember last night at all?”

Pippin was silent again, as he concentrated, and sipped the tea. His brow was furrowed in the effort of recalling what he could of the night before.

“Clovis and Cado,” he said finally, “they had raided Father’s wine cellar!”

“That’s right,” said Merry grimly.

“And--and then,” he thought for a moment, “then they dared me!” He gave another moan as his head throbbed.

“Yes, that’s right.”

Pippin laid his head back on the pillow. “Well, that’s all right then, I guess I showed them, didn’t I, that I could do it.”

“Peregrin Took!” Merry shouted.

Pippin opened his eyes to the astonishing sight of Merry in a fury.

“You nearly *killed* yourself last night! Frodo and I and your family and the healer were in here for *hours* last night trying to keep the breath in your body! All because you had to do such a stupid, stupid thing as to take a dare from those two wretched idiots! And you lie there and say ‘that’s all right then’?”

Each of Merry’s words penetrated Pippin’s aching head like a sharp knife. The tears came. “Merry, why are you being so mean to me? My head hurts.”

“Good! I hope it does!”

Shocked at his Merry being so angry with him, Pippin was stung. “I’ve taken dares from *you* before!” he said sulkily.

“Are you really so thick you can’t tell the difference?” Merry shouted. “Have I ever dared you to do something that would hurt you, or that I would not have done myself?”

Just then the door opened. It was Frodo. “Merry! What on earth are you doing? You can be heard all the way down the hall.”

Merry glared at him. “I’m glad you’re here. Maybe you can talk sense into this impossible Took! I’ve no patience left!” He pushed past Frodo and left the room. Frodo stared after him, wondering what on earth could have caused Merry to be so angry with Pippin.

He looked at Pippin who was crying quietly. “Pip, what did you say to him?”

When Pippin told him, Frodo shook his head sadly. “Oh, dear! No wonder he grew angry, love. You scared us all out of our wits last night. But of course you don’t remember any of it.”

Pippin looked up at him, a scared expression on his face. “Frodo?” he whispered, “just what did happen last night?”


Across the hall in their own room, the Bankses had heard Merry’s little tirade.

“Sounds like the Brandybuck has turned his temper on Pippin for a change,” chuckled Clovis. “Maybe now he’ll forget about us.”

Cado rolled his eyes. “Maybe when the king comes back.” Personally Cado thought he might make an effort to avoid Merry for the rest of his life. The Brandybuck did not seem like the type to forgive and forget.


Frodo talked to Pippin for a while, making sure that the lad understood the gravity of what had happened.

It was a very subdued tweenager who greeted his mother when Eglantine entered bearing a tray with toast, broth, and a cup of fruit juice.

Frodo got up, ruffled Pippin’s curls, gave Tina a peck on the cheek, and left in search of Merry.

Pippin looked up at his mother, saw the haggard face, from her worry and sleeplessness over him, and the gentle rebuke in her eyes, and burst into tears.


Frodo finally found Merry in the south garden, sitting on the same bench where he had watched Pippin and his Banks cousins playing ball.

“So there you are. Feeling any better?”

Merry looked up. “No. I can’t believe I yelled at him like that. I haven’t been that angry with him since he got himself lost for two days at Brandy Hall, after I had told him to stay away from those old tunnels.”

“I remember that. He was about eleven then, wasn’t he?”

Merry nodded. “I shouldn’t have yelled at him. Not after--not after last night. I was so scared, Frodo.”

Frodo put his arm around Merry. “I know, Merry, so was I. And that’s *why* you were angry, because you love him and he scared you.”

“I know, but I still shouldn’t have yelled at him. He’s feeling so wretched.”

“Actually,” said Frodo, “yelling at him might have been the best thing for him. He doesn’t really remember what happened to him, and if he’s to learn a lesson from this, so that it never happens again, he needs to see some consequences. Otherwise, he might take it far too lightly.”

Merry looked at his older cousin. “That was what made me angry. He seemed to think that doing what he had been dared to do was something to be proud of. I couldn’t stand that.”

“Well, seeing how he has hurt and frightened and disappointed his loved ones will do the trick. Pip’s a clever lad. He’ll realize soon that a dare is not worth doing that to people who love him.”

“You’re so wise, Frodo.”

Frodo laughed. “I don’t feel wise. I just feel tired.”


Paladin steeled himself as he approached Pippin’s room. This was going to be hard, so hard. But he had to do it. His son had to learn this lesson. He didn’t think he could take another night like last night.

He entered the room quietly. Pippin was lightly dozing and looked about half his age. Paladin felt his heart melt. Stop it, he told himself, be firm. It’s for his own good, after all. He sat down in the chair next to the bed.

Pippin’s eyes opened cautiously. “Hullo, Father.”


“I don’t mean to be rude, Father, but do you mind if I keep my eyes closed? The light hurts rather.”

“Yes, I would think that it does,” Paladin said wryly, remembering hangovers of his own. Under other circumstances he’d let the hangover *be* Pippin’s punishment, but there was far too much at stake here for that.

“Peregrin, I have to tell you that I am sorely disappointed in your behavior. You may not realize it, but you very nearly died last night.”

Pippin sniffed a bit. “I know. Merry told me. Frodo told me. Mum told me. I *am* sorry. I did not know that could happen.”

“There are reasons we do not allow tweenagers to drink anything stronger than ale and wine, and why we put limits on that. Now you know one of them. But even if you did not know what would happen, you knew it was wrong.”

“Yes, sir.” Pippin sighed.

“You allowed yourself to be swayed by others, and to be led into taking a foolish risk simply because you were dared to do so. This is not something you can afford to do. You will be Thain one day, and you must accustom yourself to being the leader, not being led.”

Pippin’s eyes *did* open at this statement. He looked at his father resentfully. He *hated* being reminded he would be Thain. He didn’t want to be Thain--after all, that would mean his father had died, which didn’t bear thinking about. And he didn’t want to be ordering people around. Paladin was looking away from his son for an instant, gathering his will to deliver his verdict, and did not notice the glare.

“You will have to be punished for this transgression. I’ve given the matter careful thought. I will be curtailing Merry’s visit, and you will not be allowed to go with Frodo and Merry this summer on the walking trip. Instead, you will be confined to your room for a week, and to the Great Smials for the rest of the summer. If you do not get into any further trouble, you will be allowed to go to Bag End for Frodo‘s birthday, and you will be able to see Merry again then.”

Pippin gave a wordless cry of anguish, and then burst into tears. Merry was still angry at him. If they sent Merry away, how could he make it right?

Paladin stood, and clamped his lips together to keep from rescinding his pronouncement. He could not change his mind now. The lad would think that all it took to get his way would be a few tears. He didn’t even dare to say he was sorry, lest he give in. With a heavy heart, he left his son’s room.


As he left the room he saw Merry on his way there.

“Meriadoc, a word with you please.”

“Yes, Uncle Paladin?”

“I am very sorry to do this, but I must ask that you not go in to see Pippin right now. I have given him his punishment, and it is to be separated from you for a while. I know that it will be hard for you as well, but it is for his own good. There is no other punishment I could give him that would mean as much, or get the point across as well.”

Merry gave a cry of pain that sounded very much like the one Pippin had made a few moments earlier. “Uncle Paladin! Please! No!” His grey eyes filled, and his face contorted with the effort not to cry. Paladin was surprised. He had expected Merry to object, and maybe even to be angry with him, but it cut him to the quick to see the lad so distressed.

Paladin reached out to touch his shoulder, but Merry shrugged him away miserably. “Merry, please understand--it really is for the best right now. Pippin *must* feel this punishment. I don’t want something like this to ever happen again.”

Merry just drooped. “I do understand, Uncle Paladin. I just don’t think you do,” he said desolately, as he turned and walked off.


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