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A Different Kind of Quest  by Dreamflower

CHAPTER 3

Three days later, Merry and Pippin returned to Master Girion’s shop. Legolas did not accompany them this time, being closeted with Faramir to discuss the settling of Elves in Ithilien, but Frodo and Sam went along .

Sam had been delighted by the idea of the mechanical oliphaunt. Frodo had been curious to see the spyglass Merry had finally found for his father.

He well remembered Merry coming to him, shortly after turning thirty-one, and asking for his help in the quest for the spyglass. Merry had, over the years, managed to save up nearly twenty silver pennies, which was what the merchant from Bree had said it might cost him. The two cousins had thought that with nearly two years to seek, that they surely would be able to find one. Frodo had written to several of the Dwarves Bilbo had known. They had provided many of Bilbo’s more extravagant gifts over the years. A few had answered the letters, more from the pleasure of corresponding with Bilbo’s heir than with an answer to his query, although both Dwalin and Nori had given him the names of some merchants who might have been able to help. However, it had proven fruitless. At least *now* he knew why Balin, Ori and Oin had not answered his letters.

Frodo had no way to write to Bilbo; though he had the occasional letter *from* his elderly cousin by way of various travellers to the Shire, Bilbo was always very careful never to hint of his whereabouts. The only person he could trust with a letter *to* Bilbo was Gandalf. But it had been four years since had seen the wizard, and had he but known, it would be another five until he saw him again. Frodo sighed. Life had been so much easier when his worst problem was trying to find a spyglass for his cousin.

With Gimli in the lead, the friends soon came to Master Girion’s shop. When they entered a couple were being waited upon by the craftsman, but as soon as he saw them, he excused himself to the man and woman.

“Sir Meriadoc and Sir Peregrin!” he exclaimed. “How good it is to see you again!” He turned to Frodo and Sam, and his eyes widened. “Ringbearers! My shop is honored by your presence!” He bowed deeply. “Girion son of Gerolt at your service!”

Sam and Frodo both blushed deeply, but Frodo’s ingrained good manners took over. “Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee of the Shire at your service, Master Girion.” He could not return the man’s bow, by Aragorn’s command, but he gave a polite nod of the head. “Please, finish attending your other customers first.”

The man and woman, at first annoyed when Girion had abandoned them, had lost their annoyance as soon as they realized they were in the presence of the famous pheriannath who had saved the City.

Girion nodded politely, and returned to the other customers, soon finishing with their business of paying for the repair of a clock, and ushered them out. He knew that they would soon be spreading the word that the Ringbearers and the little halfling Knights were patrons of his shop.

He went over to one of the locked cabinets, and opening it with a key, he took out Merry’s and Pippin’s purchases.

Pippin took hold of the oliphaunt and turning the key, set it down to walk across the floor. “See there, Sam! What did I tell you?”

“You’re right, Mr. Pippin, that toy is a caution! Why any little fauntling would love that. Your little niece is a lucky lass!” He turned his grin to Frodo, who smiled to see it. “Look at that, Mr. Frodo!”

Frodo nodded. “Pippin, I think you will spoil Flora! She is going to expect such marvels from you all the time!”

Pippin just grinned and picked up the toy. “Master Girion, did you finish the engraving on the pocketwatch?”

“Yes, Sir Peregrin, I did.” He took the pocketwatch from the tray and held it forth. Pippin was quite satisfied with the engraving, and said so.

“Sir Meriadoc,” said Girion, “here is your spyglass.”

Merry took it, and handed it to Frodo. Frodo was touched that Merry wanted him to see it first. He looked through, and examined it, giving his cousin the opinion that it was a very fine spyglass indeed.

“Gimli’s going to put an inscription on it for me,” said Merry.

Gimli, who had been standing back and observing, looked up at the sound of his name. “Indeed. Master Girion, if I could have the use of your table and tools for a few moments?”

While Gimli was working on the inscription, the four hobbits decided to wander about the street a bit, and look at some of the other shops.

A few doors down, they found a shop that had numerous items made of beautifully carved oliphaunt tusk. “Look, Frodo!” exclaimed Pippin. “There’s a flute almost like the one you gave to Folco for your birthday!”

Merry laughed. “Looks like Fatty and I are going to owe Folco an apology! We never believed that it really was made from an oliphaunt’s tooth!”

Frodo stopped for a moment to look admiringly at a carved penholder and matching inkwell, before moving on with a shake of his head. Pippin took note. Frodo had stubbornly refused to allow Aragorn to gift him with any sort of stipend or allowance, and Sam had followed his master’s example, so the two of them actually had no money. Pip knew that if Frodo so much as hinted that he liked it, the shop owner would insist on gifting it to him, but he also knew that it would embarrass Frodo to death. He looked up and caught Merry’s eye. Merry nodded. They’d come back and get that set for Frodo the first chance they had.

At another jewelry shop, not so exclusive as Master Valdacar’s, Pippin found a couple of silver watch fobs for his brothers-in-law. He was fond of them, but he did not know them well, so the gifts for them were a bit less personal.

“Well,” he said, “all I have to do now is find something for little Alyssum. I wonder if there is a shop that sells stuffed toys?”

The jeweler happened to hear. “Sir Peregrin, I do not know of a shop that sells such things, but on the third level there lives a widow who makes them and sells them for pin money.” Pippin was very interested, and so the merchant gave him the directions to find Mistress Ivorwen.

They decided to save that errand for another day, and so returned to Girion’s shop, where Gimli had just finished putting the inscription on the spyglass. The Dwarf smiled and held it out for Merry’s inspection. It read: “To my father and friend. M.B.”

“Just as you asked, Master Merry,” said the Dwarf.

Merry gave Gimli a hug, which caused the Dwarf to blush behind his beard and sputter. “It’s perfect Gimli,” he said in a slightly choked voice. He could not believe that after all these years, he was finally going to be able to keep his long ago promise!

Master Girion promised to have everything boxed up securely, so that there would be no breakage, and delivered to them in the guesthouse, so the friends were able to make their way home unencumbered.

___________________________________________________

A few days later, Frodo and Sam went to spend the morning at the Hall of Records, where Frodo hoped to find some information that could be used to help with Bilbo’s writings in the account of the Kingdom of the South.

Merry and Pippin decided to take the opportunity to return to the ivory carver and get the pen-and-inkwell set Frodo had admired, as well as to go down to the third circle and find the Widow Ivorwen. Pippin had great hopes of finding a gift for Alyssum from her. Legolas alone came with them, for Gimli was meeting with some of the stonecutters that Aragorn had working to repair the lowest level.

They decided to go first to the widow’s home, and began the trek down to the third level. Along the way, they discussed various ways of getting Frodo to take the gift they were getting today.

“Face it, Pip,” said Merry, “if we give it to him while we’re still here in the City, he is quite capable of ordering us to return it. We’re going to have to take it back home with us and hope to find an occasion to give it to him there in the Shire.”

Pippin sighed. “You’re right, Mer. But I do wish he’d take it now. I’d love to see his face!”

“I wish he’d get over being so stubborn, and accept a stipend from Aragorn. It’s been explained to him over and over that he’s attached to the court while he’s here, and so is entitled to it.”

“Perhaps,” said Legolas, “you could get him to take it for Sam’s sake, for Sam will not take one either, as long as Frodo will not. And Sam could also be appealed to in the same way, I think. If Sam were to indicate there is some purchase he‘d like to make, but cannot--”

With a whoop, Merry and Pippin gave Legolas a hug, right in the middle of the street. “Legolas, you’re brilliant!” exclaimed Merry.

The Elf gave them an indulgent smile and shook his head as he returned the hug. He’d never get over how quickly and easily the hobbits, especially these two young ones, would share their emotions.

Soon they found themselves in the third circle, and following the directions given them by Master Valdacar, made their way to the small shabby shop of a minor fabric merchant. There they stopped, as they had been told, to inquire.

“Y-yes, my lords!” exclaimed the proprietor. “My cousin’s widow. She has rooms upstairs in this shop. She uses the small remnants which I cannot sell in order to make her small poppets.”

He watched them ascend the staircase, his eyes huge. Three of the Companions of the Ringbearer, in his shop!

They found themselves ushered into a small room, clean, but in obvious need of repair. It was well illumined by two south facing windows. On a bench to the left of the door was piled a heap of the toys which the old widow made. A small bed, a table and a chair completed her furnishings. The table was scattered with the materials and implements of her work.

Mistress Ivorwen was amazed at these gentlefolk seeking her out. She had not known her little toys would be so famous. She handled the introductions with aplomb, however, and listened to Pippin explain what he needed.

“My niece will not even be two years old when we return, she’s still a babe in arms. But I’d like to find something soft she can cuddle when she sleeps.”

“Well, your lordship, please look through all that I have,” she pointed to the pile on the bench, “and find what you think that she would love.”

The three went over to the pile of dolls of every description--babies and ladies and jesters and children, and animals enough for a menagerie. There were puppies and kittens and bunnies and bears and various other creatures. The three friends began to go through them. Most were discarded as being too large for the tiny hobbit baby.

Legolas looked at one doll with an exclamation. Merry and Pippin looked at his find--a doll with large hairy feet and small pointy ears, obviously meant to be one of the pheriannath. They managed with some effort to control their faces, and their laughter, so as not to hurt the widow’s feelings.

They had managed to make a pile of somewhat smaller toys now, and as they looked through, Pippin grabbed one. “Look at this one!”

It was a lamb, with a sweet embroidered face, and wool made of loops of white yarn. It was tightly stuffed and well-made, as indeed all the widow’s handiwork had been. She had embroidered it with green eyes.

Merry laughed. “Oh, Pip, that’s perfect! A Tookish lamb!”

Pippin turned to her and asked the price, dreading her saying that she didn’t want his money. Gimli wasn’t here to haggle with her.

But she was too humble to understand that which had motivated the grander merchants. “Well, your lordship, I generally get three coppers apiece for most of them, but as that one's so small, would two be too great a price?” she asked diffidently.

_________________________________________________

The three companions made their way carefully down the staircase, Legolas with a rather large bag slung over his back, Merry and Pippin cumbered with somewhat smaller ones, and Pippin with a small parcel containing the little lamb.

“I know the poor woman could use the coin,” said the Elf, “but what are we going to do with these toys?”

“Perhaps we shouldn’t have bought them all,” said Merry. It had been clear that she could use the money.

“Well,” said Pippin with a grin, “it’s hardly our fault that all we have is silver, and she couldn’t change the coins.” Five silver pennies had bought not only the lamb, but everything else as well. He sat on a step halfway down the staircase. “I do have an idea. They have put aside a house on the grounds of the Houses of Healing for the children orphaned by the War. I would imagine they could find a use for these.”

“Yes,” said Merry, “that’s a grand idea, but if we have to drag these all the way up to the second circle, we’re not going to be able to stop and shop on the way.”

Legolas gave a nod. “I have the solution.”

They went into the fabric shop, and Legolas begged of the merchant a parchment and quill. “Good sir,” said the Elf politely, “do you think that you could hire a couple of Men to deliver this note and these bags to the Houses of Healing?” A few coins changed hands, and the bargain was struck. Legolas gave him the note, which was to Mistress Ioreth, telling her of the toys and their intended destination.

They made a brief stop at the ivory carvers, and Frodo’s gift in hand, found their way back to the guesthouse.

_______________________________________________________

It was not quite a week later when they received a message from Master Valdacar, telling them that the jewelry they had commissioned was completed. They decided to wait until the following morning to go down, as Pippin had guard duty that afternoon, and Merry had promised to spend a bit of time with Éowyn and Faramir.

Gandalf had vanished on some mysterious errand the day before and had yet to return; Frodo indicated that he wished to stay at the house and do some writing. So the next morning it was Sam, Legolas and Gimli who accompanied the two young knights on their errand. Merry and Pippin were rather glad of this, for it was their first chance to speak to Sam about their idea for getting Frodo to accept a stipend.

“Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, I was up to the Houses of Healing the other day and all anyone could talk about was that gift of toys you sent up to the orphans. That was right nice of you.”

Pippin laughed. “Bergil told me. He said that now we needed to find some things for the boys, as those were all toys for the girls and babies!”

Merry grinned. “We’ll have to keep that in mind. But you know Sam, we didn’t really plan it that way--we just ended up buying more toys than we had a use for.”

Sam smiled rather wistfully. “Your nieces are going to be lucky little lasses, Mr. Pippin. I can just think how their little faces will light up.” There was a slightly sad note to his voice, and Merry thought this might be the perfect time to bring up the idea.

“You know, Sam, if you would accept the King’s allowance, you could get gifts for your family as well.”

“Not to mention Rosie Cotton,” added Pippin slyly.

Sam shook his head. “Not so long as Mr. Frodo don’t take one. It wouldn’t be right.”

Merry looked at Sam. “Does Frodo know that you would like to get gifts? Does he know that you could use the money?”

“No. I don’t want him to feel bad.”

Pippin laughed. “But that’s just the thing; sometimes he needs to feel bad for his own good!”

Legolas smothered a snort. He and Gimli were trying to ignore this conversation, as he knew it was a business best left to the hobbits.

“I don’t understand, Mr. Pippin. That don’t make no sense!” Sam was a bit indignant.

“Of course it makes sense, Sam,” said Merry. “You won’t take a stipend because Frodo won’t. But if he thinks that you *need* one, *then* he will take it, so that you will.”

Sam mulled it over. After a minute he smiled. “Aye, you have the right of it! And I happen to know he’d probably like a bit of coin himself, if he weren’t too proud to say so. It goes hard to him, everywhere we go, folks giving him things. I think he‘d like the idea of paying.”

“Good. Then next time you see him, just mention some of the things you wish you could get for your family, but not taking the King’s money, you can’t. It should solve the problem soon enough.” Merry’s tone was decisive. He knew that they had Sam now, and pretty soon, Frodo would take what was due him.

Soon they entered Master Valdacar’s shop. He had been expecting them, and had the jewelry ready for their inspection.

First he brought out the necklace for Esmeralda.

The chain consisted of tiny niphredil blossoms, joined by even tinier square links of gold. The oval emerald hung as a pendant, set in silver, and reflecting the light in sparks of green. The clasp was of golden leaves. Merry gasped when he saw it.

“Master Valdacar, that is perfect!” He could just imagine this hanging on his mother’s neck, setting off the reddish highlights in her chestnut curls, the emerald very nearly the same color as her eyes.

Next the jeweler brought forth the earrings he had made for Pippin’s sisters.

For the two younger sisters he had their namesake flowers, wrought in gold and bright enamel, while for Pearl of course, there was a pair of perfectly matched teardrop pearls in an exquisite silver setting.

Finally, Master Valdacar held up the bracelet he had made for Eglantine.

The links were gold and silver entwined, the clasp a golden leaf with silver veins. Dangling from the bracelet were four charms. Three of them matched his sister’s earrings, save that the flowers were set with colored jewels rather than enamel. The fourth charm was an exquisitely fashioned little peregrine falcon of silver, wings spread, talons outstretched, as though swooping throught the sky.

Tears sprang to Pippin’s eyes, and he reached out a finger to touch the little bird. “This is beautiful,” he whispered. “I am sure my mother will love this.”

The jeweler took the gifts up, and carefully placed them into small carved boxes that he kept for such a purpose. The hobbits left it to Gimli to negotiate the final payment.

They haggled just a bit, but soon agreed. Gimli was certain that the jeweler had undervalued his work, but he believed the Man’s protestations that the privilege of making them was very nearly payment enough. He had seen the love and care that had been put into the work; the beauty of the finished pieces was testimony to that.

Before they left the shop, Master Valdacar spoke up hesitantly. “Master Legolas, would you very much mind if I adapted your designs for the use of my other customers?”

Legolas looked at the hobbits. “Merry and Pippin, would you mind very much if the ladies of Gondor had jewelry like that which you got for your mothers?”

The hobbits were in fact delighted with the notion, and said so. Arms laden, they returned to the guesthouse.

They were surprised on their arrival to find Gandalf and the King waiting for them, talking to Frodo.

“My friends,” said Aragorn, with a gentle smile, “I think you will be pleased to know that one of the signs I have been waiting for has come to pass: we have planted a sapling of the White Tree in the Courtyard of the Fountain. I expect the other thing that I await to come to pass very soon indeed.”

With a yell of joy, the hobbits engulfed the King, nearly knocking him down with their enthusiasm.

Home.

Soon.

________________________________________________________





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