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The Dare  by Dreamflower


Paladin went back to the family quarters feeling very unsettled. He had known that Merry would not be happy with his decision, but he had not realized the lad would take it quite so hard. He disliked the feeling that he was punishing Merry as well, especially since they might have lost Pippin altogether if Merry had not come so quickly to his rescue.

Eglantine was waiting for him in their sitting room. “Well?” she asked.

“Pippin took it a bit better than I expected.”

She nodded. “He knows he deserves it.”

“Merry, on the other hand, was very distressed.”

“Of course, dear. He didn’t do anything wrong, after all.”

Paladin winced.

He decided it was time to broach another unpleasant subject. “Your brother will very likely be here this evening. Do you wish to see him?”

“I’ll see Clodio when he comes. I will *not* see those odious nephews of mine. I do not care to have them under my roof one second longer than need be!” She looked at him, eyes glittering. “You could have thrashed them. No one would have blamed you.”

“Tina!” he exclaimed. “I can’t say I wasn’t sorely tempted to do so, and I did threaten them with it. But we don’t thrash our own children, much less someone else’s.”

“I know.” She sat back. “Of course, we could always let Merry have them.” She was serious.

“Eglantine?” This was not like her. She saw him looking intently at her, and burst into tears. He moved to hold her while the storm lasted, suddenly realizing that her vindictive attitude was because she blamed herself. Curse her brother and his whelps for doing this to her!


Just as Pippin’s first thought when he was troubled was to find Merry, Merry’s first thought was to find Frodo.

He found him in the first place he thought to look--the library. In spite of how upset he was, he could not help but stop and admire the picture his older cousin made, sitting in the lamplight with a book on his knee.

Frodo felt his regard, and looked up. “Merry?” he asked hopefully, until he caught sight of the expression on his younger cousin’s face. “I take it that you didn’t make up with Pip?”

“I didn’t even get to see him. Uncle wouldn’t let me.” He came into the room and flopped down in a chair opposite Frodo.

“What?” Frodo said sharply, leaning forward to look at the bleak expression that sat ill on Merry’s usually cheerful face.

“It’s to be Pip’s punishment. For us to be separated.” Merry sighed. “I just wish I could have talked to him first. I’m afraid he’ll think I’m still angry with him.”

“That’s hardly fair to you, Merry!” said Frodo indignantly. Sometimes he wondered about Paladin. He could be just as thoughtless as his tweenaged son at times. Imagine coming up with a punishment for Pippin that would be just as hard on someone else!

Merry shrugged. “I guess it is for Pippin’s own good. He can’t go around thinking it’s safe to take just anyone’s dare. But I hate not having a chance to make it right first.” He tried to look indifferent, but only succeeded in looking even more miserable.

Frodo sat back and pursed his lips. If Merry’s parents were here, they’d see that he was at least allowed to say farewell, or Esme would give her brother an earful. Since they were not-- “Merry, I’ll have a word with Paladin myself. This is not right.”

Merry looked up at him, his heart in his eyes. “Oh Frodo! Do you think it will do any good?”

“I don’t see how it could hurt. But I think that I will wait until he gets it settled with the Bankses. He’ll be in a better mood then.”

The mention of the Bankses distracted Merry, as Frodo had hoped. His expression went from sorrow to anger. “I’d like a chance to settle it with them myself. I plan to get one someday.”


Afternoon tea was rather dismal. Pippin was still in his room nursing his hangover, and since he was being punished, would not have been able to come to tea anyway.

His sisters were tired and cross, Eglantine distracted, and Paladin taciturn. Merry was not speaking to his uncle, afraid that if he did, he would either break down and start begging or get angry and yell. Frodo was attempting valiantly to maintain a pretense of normality, but it was an uphill climb.

It was with distinct relief that they greeted the maidservant who came to tell them that the Mistress’s brother had arrived.

“Show him in, then, Appleblossom,” said Eglantine. She looked at the younger hobbits, but they were already preparing to make themselves scarce.

Merry gave her a peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you later, Aunt Tina.” Her daughters and Frodo also made their farewells, and left with alacrity. None of them wanted to be anywhere near when Clodio Banks found out what had happened.


Clodio breezed into the sitting room. “Hullo, Egg, Paladin! I take it my lads have been up to some mischief?” He had decided the best attitude was one of nonchalance.

Eglantine’s eyes sparked. “Mischief!”

Paladin put his hand out. “Easy, Tina. He doesn’t know yet what they did.”

What could they have done this time? He’d sent them here to get them away from the talk in Underhill about Clovis’s last escapade: getting a bit rough with a lass who had refused his attentions. He kept a puzzled look on his face though. He had not told his sister why he had insisted on their visit. “So, what *did* they do, that warrants me hurrying to Tuckborough?”

“First of all, they raided my wine cellar, and stole two bottles of brandy and three bottles of fortified wine. Then they lured Peregrin to their room and plied him with so much drink that we had to call in the healer.”

“They nearly killed Pippin!” Eglantine burst out.

Clodio was taken aback. The young idiots! Still, they *were* his sons. He plastered a disbelieving smile on his face. “Oh, I’m sure you must be exaggerating, Egg--”

“Don’t call me ‘Egg’!” She stood up. “Your sons nearly killed mine! I want them out of my hole now, and I want never to lay eyes on them again!”

Clodio’s eyes grew cold, and he smirked a bit. “That might make it a bit difficult when you wish to see Mother.”

Eglantine gasped, and flinched as though she had been slapped.

Paladin turned his gaze to his brother-in-law. “Eglantine,” he said softly, “I’d like to talk to your brother alone.” She looked at him, recognizing the danger in his tone.

“Good night, Clodio.” She did not look at her brother when she said it. “I will not see you again before you leave.”

As she closed the door, Paladin turned to his brother-in-law, eyes blazing. “You,” he said, “are a piece of work! Make no mistake, your sons very nearly *did* kill Peregrin. They are no longer welcome in the Great Smials until your sister says otherwise. Furthermore, if you make even the least of difficulties for my wife about seeing her mother, you will regret it to your dying day. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

Taken aback by the Thain’s fury, Clodio backed off. “Paladin, please, there is no reason for threats. You misunderstood my meaning, that’s all.” There was nothing to be gained by pushing the issue now, but Clodio would not forget this.

“I understood you just fine. Now, you will take those two young villains you call your sons, and be gone within the hour. I expect to hear that they have been sufficiently punished for this outrage. If I do not, then I will lay my case against them before the Master and the Mayor.”

Clodio clenched his teeth. That could spell disaster for the Banks families. “Surely you do not mean me to leave with them tonight?”

“I said within the hour, and that is what I meant.”

“But it’s too late to be starting back to Underhill.”

“I don’t care. You can stay at the Inn in Tuckborough, or you can ride all night, or you can sleep under a haystack. I want them gone!”

He turned his back deliberately, and Clodio, fuming, was left no choice but to leave. He guessed he knew where the lads were staying--they usually had the same room whenever they came here.


A short while later, there was a commotion in the corridor outside Pippin’s room. Feeling slightly better now, after more willow-bark tea, and another light meal brought to him by a maidservant, Pippin risked getting out of bed and cracking the door to his room to peer out. He was greeted by the amusing sight of his Uncle Clodio, who with one hand had Clovis by the ear, and with the other had Cado. Both lads were dragging their traveling cases behind them as they were being pulled along.

“Ow! Father! Let me explain--ow--ow! We didn’t mean to! Ow--we didn’t know! Ow, Father! Please let go!”

He watched as they retreated, and until they had turned a corner and were out of sight, though the pained cries still reached his ears. Suppressing a snigger at seeing the two bullies so discomfited, he returned to his bed. Well, that was one blessing, at least. Now he would not have to put forth any more efforts into being nice to them.


It was after first breakfast the following morning, and Paladin had already gone to work in his study, hoping to catch up on paperwork he had missed the day before. When the knock came on the door, he thought it was the maidservant, bringing a tray with second breakfast.

“Come in,” he said without looking up.

“Good morning, Paladin.” It was Frodo.

“Frodo!” he said in surprise. “Did you come to say farewell?”

“Not quite.”

Paladin looked puzzled. “Of course, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish, but I assumed that with Pippin being punished you and Merry would go back to Bag End.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk about. I’d like you to reconsider letting Merry see Pip, at least long enough to say good-bye.”

“Frodo, this is not your concern. I have given Pippin his punishment. That is my right and you have no standing to interfere!” He was surprised. Frodo knew the proprieties. It was not like him to intrude into someone else’s business.

“No one questions your right to punish Pippin as you see fit. But Merry *is* my concern, especially as Aunt Esme and Uncle Sara are not here to take his part. And *Merry* needs to see Pippin. He needs to see him now, before we leave.” He looked at Paladin with firmness and determination. Paladin was reminded very much of Bilbo, who could look just so, when he thought he was right.

“What do you mean?” he asked uneasily.

“Like the rest of us, Merry was frightened out of his wits by what could have happened. And when Pippin woke up, he had some harsh words for the lad about it. He was on his way to apologize to Pip for yelling at him when you stopped him.”

“Oh dear.” Paladin had not realized this and was dismayed. No wonder Merry had taken it so hard.

“If you send Merry away now, without giving him a chance to mend things with Pip, he is going to fret himself sick. I mean this.” He turned his blue eyes full on his host with all the conviction he could muster. “You know Merry, almost as well as I do. You tell me if I am wrong.”

Paladin pursed his lips, and leaned back in his chair. He sighed. “Very well. Merry may see Pippin today to tell him good-bye. He may take as long as he needs to reassure himself that all is well. The rest of Pippin’s punishment stands. But remind them that I did not forbid them to keep in touch. Pippin is not a very diligent letter-writer; perhaps this will provide an incentive.”

“Thank you, Paladin.” Frodo’s smile was like sunshine after a storm.

“No, I thank you, Frodo. You are a good friend to Merry; and I will not forget your quick action the other night in getting Pippin the help he needed.”

“I love them both. I’d do anything I could for them.”

“I know that. Go. Tell Merry that mean old Uncle has relented.” He laughed. He felt much better, himself.

Frodo laughed too. “Farewell, Paladin, if I do not see you again before we leave.” He hurried to find Merry, imagining the lad’s joy at his news.


Merry knocked lightly at Pippin’s door, and then cracked it open to enter.

Pippin, who had been sitting gloomily by the window, looked up, and his face lit up. “Merry!” But then his expression fell. “Merry, you had better not come in. I’m not supposed to see you. I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“It’s all right.” Merry grinned. “Frodo talked your father into at least letting me come say good-bye.”

“Did he? Good old Frodo!” Now Pippin really felt pleased.

Merry went over and sat by his cousin. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“I know. But I guess I deserved it. It wasn’t a very smart thing to do.”

“Well, no, not really.” He smiled. “So now you’ve had your first taste of strong liquor. How did you find it?”

“Merry, that brandy tasted awful! It tasted like cough medicine!”

Merry laughed. “Of course it did. What do you think they use to *make* cough medicine?”

“Oh.” Pippin was silent and thoughtful for a moment. “I could promise you never to drink any more.”

“You could. And if you made that a promise, I know you would keep it. But I don’t think that you need to promise me that. Would you ever want to do such a thing again?”

Pippin shuddered. “Oh no!”

Merry smiled. “I have a better promise. Promise me that you will never get drunk without me.”

“Only if you will promise me the same.” Pippin looked at Merry seriously. “And that we’ll never get *that* drunk! I don‘t like not remembering what happened.”

“It’s a deal, you scamp!” He ruffled Pippin’s hair, and gave him a squeeze about the shoulders. He was going to miss being around Pip for the next few weeks.

“I’m sorry about the walking trip, Mer.”

“So am I. But we’ll do it another time.” Merry looked at Pippin closely. He seemed to be fully recovered from his ordeal. “Please take care of yourself, Pip.”

“I will.” He looked at Merry mischievously. “Did you see when the Bankses left last night?”

“No. I missed that.”

Pippin told him what he had seen. “I think by the time they get home they each will have one ear twice as long as the other,” he giggled.

“Good. It would serve them right. I hope their father soundly thrashes them, though knowing him, I doubt it. Someday I’ll make up for that.”

Pippin looked at Merry in surprise. “That sounds like a promise.”

“It is, Pip, it is.”


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