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Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all it peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF QUEST
On a bright spring morning near the end of Thrimidge, as such things would have been reckoned in the Shire, in the enclosed garden of a large and lovely house in the sixth circle of Minas Tirith, two hobbits sat on a bench beneath a tree.
One of them, clad in the green and white livery of Rohan was stretched out full length at a diagonal, head leaning on the tree, furry toes just barely touching the ground. His arms were folded on his chest, and there was a fierce scowl on his face.
The other, dressed in the sable and silver of Gondor, was the picture of dejection. His posture was bowed forward, elbows on his knees, hands folded beneath his chin, and eyes half-closed in his sorrowful countenance.
“I want to go home,” he said mournfully.
“I know, Pip,” said the other. He meant to be encouraging, but it came out rather flat.
“I miss the Shire, Merry.”
“So do I.” Merry pursed his lips and bumped his head crossly against the tree.
“I miss my mother and my sisters. I even miss my father, though he’ll probably lock me in my room and throw away the key.” Pippin’s voice was gloomy and resigned. He felt tears threaten, and was miserable enough not to care.
“Probably.” Merry had no illusions about his Uncle Paladin’s temper.
“I surely thought Strider would say we could go home now when Frodo asked about it yesterday. I truly did. I couldn’t believe he said ‘no’, not after everything we have done.” Pippin felt a bit resentful, as well as sad. They had done more than anyone could have expected hobbits to do. Frodo and Sam had destroyed the Ring, Merry had helped to slay the Witch-King, and even he had done some worthwhile things in the War. It ought to count for something.
Merry sighed. “Gandalf said the King was waiting for a sign. He didn’t say what.” He bumped his head against the tree again, and they lapsed back into gloomy silence. A sign! They could be stuck here in this City for years if he were waiting for a sign!
Two figures, one tall and fair, the other short and stocky, watched from a balcony of the house.
“It breaks my heart to see them thus,” said Legolas.
“It’s unnatural, is what it is,” answered Gimli gruffly. “These two always jest and make light of their troubles. Even when they are half-dead.” Especially when they were half-dead. For them to succumb so to a bout of homesickness was not right.
“They are at loose ends. They are both off-duty today. And they are homesick.” Legolas sighed. He felt a bit homesick himself, cooped up in this vast city of stone, where there were so few things green and growing to be found.
“Aye,” Gimli nodded, “and Aragorn telling them they could not go home yet disheartened them all. Where are Frodo and Sam this morning?”
“Aragorn and Faramir summoned Frodo to the Citadel early to consult him about something. Sam has gone up to the Houses of Healing to learn of cultivating some of the healing herbs they grow here. And he is going to find out whether or not athelas can be grown from seed.”
Once more they looked down at the forlorn figures in the garden below. The Elf straightened up. “Come, Gimli, let us see if we can cheer them up.”
“It’s not like we’ve anything else to do today, lad,” agreed the Dwarf. They turned to make their way through the house and down to the garden.
Soon enough the Elf and the Dwarf stood before their small comrades.
“Good morning, Merry and Pippin,” said Legolas, crouching down next to them. Gimli grunted a greeting and sat down on the other end of the bench.
Merry fought down the urge to say “What’s good about it?” and muttered a brief “Hullo.”
“What’s good about it?” said Pippin sullenly.
Merry moaned. A Pippin miserable enough to be rude to his friends was a miserable Pip indeed. Besides, he’d thought of it first.
Pippin looked abashed as soon as the words were out of his mouth. “I’m sorry, Legolas. That was unkind.”
Legolas laughed. “It’s a fair question: what is good about this morning? Well, for one thing, I am hale. Are you hale, Gimli?”
Gimli snorted, and made a show of considering. “Aye, I do believe I am hale. Not as hale as some days, but more hale than on others, I would say. Yes, I am quite hale all the same.” His eyes twinkled, and he waggled his eyebrows at the hobbits.
Pippin couldn’t help it. He giggled. And in spite of his efforts to maintain his scowl, Merry found himself smiling.
“Yes. Well. We, too, are hale,” he said. “So are Frodo and Sam. The Sun is in Her place, the Enemy is defeated and the King has returned--”
“And we want to go *home*!” said Pippin firmly. He did not look so much mournful at this as determined. Merry’s scowl re-appeared.
“Ah,” Legolas met Gimli’s eyes, and decided to change tactics. “My friends, I am quite sure you *will* be allowed to go soon. But surely there are *some* things you wish to do here in Minas Tirith that you have yet to accomplish?”
The two young hobbits looked thoughtful for a moment. Merry pursed his lips and gazed off into the distance. After a moment he spoke. “Do you suppose there is anyplace here in the City I could buy a spyglass?”
The Elf and Dwarf looked at one another in mild surprise. Legolas shrugged, but Gimli nodded. “Yes, Master Meriadoc, I would say there are more than a few places here where such a purchase would be possible. I myself know of one such, right now.”
Pippin looked excited. “You mean for your father? Oh, Uncle Sara would be so surprised!”
Merry nodded. “And I wouldn’t mind getting something for Mum as well,” he grinned.
“Gifts!” exclaimed Pippin. “I could get gifts for my family as well! I’ve not spent a single silver piece of my stipend yet!” His face lit up at the thought.
Within a few minutes, the four of them were on their way down to the fourth circle of the City, where there were many shops that sold luxury items to the wealthy and influential who lived above. These shops had been evacuated and boarded up long before the Siege, and their valuable inventories spirited away and hidden. Now that the War was over, the merchants and craftsmen had returned to re-open their shops. Yet custom remained slow. The levels below were far more damaged, and though there was plenty of coin to be had, it was spent more on the necessities of life, such as food, clothing and the needed materials of repair which for some were more dear than jewels and silks. However since the King had returned the merchants were hopeful. A King meant a court, and a court meant courtiers, eager to make an impression.
As the four friends made their way through the streets of the sixth circle, Legolas gave Merry a curious look.
“Meriadoc,” said the Elf, “if you do not mind my asking, why a spyglass? Will that have some special significance for your father?”
Merry and Pippin looked at one another with wry grins. “You could say that!” answered Merry. “My Da had a spyglass. It was lovely one of Dwarven make, brass, it was, in three sections that nested together to make it longer or shorter. He had it of my grandfather Rory, who had it of my Great-Grandfather Gorbadoc, who had it as a birthday gift from his dear friend Isengar Took--”
“Who--” Pippin put in “was my great-great-uncle, who went to sea in his youth and--”
“Well, he was my great-great-uncle, too, on Mum’s side, and--”
“My dear hobbits!” interrupted Gimli. “Do not, I pray you, get off the subject. You were telling us of this marvelous Dwarven spyglass.”
“Yes,” laughed Legolas. “Please do not give us any more genealogy lessons.”
“Yes. Well.” Merry looked abashed. He sometimes forgot that Legolas and Gimli were not fellow hobbits. “At any rate, that spyglass was one of Da’s favorite things. Sometimes he’d take it out of its place in his desk and use it to watch the birds through his large study window. When I was about fourteen, he started to share it with me. I was never allowed to touch it unless he was with me. He taught me a lot about birds that summer. Then a few weeks before Midsummer, Pip and his family came to visit. Pip was six, and though you’d never think it now to look at him--” Merry cast a sideways look at his cousin and smirked, “--he used to be a cute little tyke.”
“Oi!” said Pippin indignantly, aiming a playful swat to the back of Merry’s head. “Cousins!” he muttered with irritation.
“Ow!” Merry rubbed the back of his head, but kept his smirk. “Anyway, for some reason I was taken with the creature, and allowed him to follow me around everywhere I went. Kind of like the tail on a puppy--” this time he ducked the swat and Pippin laughed. “Well, I go in one morning to see Da, and he’s watching a pair of warblers. Of course he offers me a look, and I take it. I start to hand it back and Pip gives me his poor, pitiful, pleading look--not a word, mind you, but I knew what he wanted. So he’s getting me to do his begging for him. ‘Da!’ say I, ‘Please can Pippin have a turn?’
‘No, son,’ he says, ‘I don’t think his little hands can handle it’.” Merry stopped. They had reached the fifth circle. “Which way, Gimli?”
“This way.” The Dwarf turned left, and Elf and hobbits followed.
“So anyway, I’m begging and Pip is giving my father the same look he gave me.”
Pippin turned around and began to walk backwards, facing his friends. He ducked his head and looked up through his lashes, making his green eyes very wide, as he puckered his lower lip, and it trembled a bit. For just a brief instant, he did look just like a six-year-old on the verge of tears. Then he gave a roguish grin and turned back around. The others all burst out into laughter, including Merry, who had seen some variation of that look almost every day he had ever spent in his cousin’s company, and *still* was taken in by it.
“See?” he said, still chuckling. “My poor father never stood a chance. Da says ‘Very well. Come here, Pippin-lad,’ and he puts Pippin by the window--his chin barely comes up to the sill--and he hands him the spyglass. Pip takes a look and gives out with a gasp--”
“I can remember it, you know,” said Pippin. “It was so amazing. Suddenly it seemed as though I had been instantly transported far outside. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.”
Merry took up his tale again. “He looks for a few seconds, and his little hands start to tremble, and the next thing you know, he’s dropped it.”
Merry sighed before continuing. “If it had just fallen to the floor, it probably would have suffered no worse than a dent in the casing. But I panic, and lunge for it. Instead of catching it, I send it flying. It crashes into the corner of Da’s desk. The lenses are broken and that’s the end of it. Pip and I both burst out crying, and I think Da felt like it, but all he said was ‘Ah, lads, it was only an accident, after all, and the fault mine for letting you have it in the first place, Pippin’. I was even more upset than I would have been if he had been angry. I promised him that someday I would get him a new one.”
The friends had now entered the fourth circle of the City.
Merry shook his head sadly. “I’d no idea how hard it would be. There was no such thing to be had in the Shire. For a couple of years, every time a merchant came from Bree, I would pester them. Finally one of them took pity on a poor little hobbit-lad, and told me how dear it would be, even if one could be found. I was crushed. In despair, I took all the coppers I had been saving and blew the lot on sweets. Pip and I shared them out, which gave me a belly-ache, and had him bouncing off the walls and chattering non-stop for three days.”
Legolas and Gimli chuckled, and Pippin looked indignant. “Merry!” he said reproachfully.
“Sorry, but you know how you get when you eat too many sweets! Well, after that I started saving up again, with the idea that I’d be able to get it for his gift at my coming-of -age birthday. I was so sure that I could do it. I enlisted Frodo’s help, and he wrote to every Dwarf that Bilbo knew. But we had no luck and few answers, and I ended up getting him a pocket-watch at the last minute.”
Merry sighed; his eyes glittered for a moment, and he blinked. Pippin put his arm around his cousin’s shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. Legolas laid a comforting hand on Merry’s back.
But Gimli grinned. “Master Merry, I do believe your long search is at an end. We near the shop of Girion son of Gerolt, a Man of Dale, who in his youth was apprenticed to a Dwarf, Nuri son of Nain. If he himself has no such spyglass, he will know who in the City does!”
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