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Frogs  by Lindelea

2. Poetic Justice

With quite a bit of coaxing and several more mugs of ale, the grumbling dwarf was persuaded to stay seated, stop glaring at the young hobbit, and even stop muttering under his breath.

‘You know, we haven’t even scratched the surface of possibilities,’ Merry said. ‘For example…’

‘Don’t start up again,’ Frodo said under his breath.

‘No, really,’ Merry said cheerfully, taking another swig from his mug. The beer here in Minas Tirith grew better with every sip, it seemed. ‘What do you think of this? A hobbit by hill-troll was flattened…’

‘This ought to be interesting,’ Gimli said, lifting his head from his scowling contemplation of his latest mug. None of the rhymes thus far had been about Pippin.

Merry continued, ‘With black blood his hair was all mattened.’

‘I don’t like the sound of this,’ Pippin said plaintively, but Merry went on relentlessly.

‘They cut off his kit, But a new one was knit, An officer's garb, silked and satined.’ He accepted the whistles and cheers as his due, with a bow and a smile.

‘Well, it is a better uniform than I’m used to,’ Pippin said, his hand unconsciously caressing the White Tree broidered on the front of his surcoat. Seeing the gesture the guardsmen smiled, remembering their own pride in the uniform that had started when they had first been vestured.

Sam said, ‘You know, you’re right! There are endless possibilities in the subject. How about this one? A daring young Halfling named Pip…’

Pippin groaned but there was a pleased look in his eye as Samwise continued, ‘Stabbed a hill troll but sadly did slip. To the ground he did roll, Falling under the troll, But his sword never left his firm grip.’

‘Indeed, ‘twas still in his hand when Gimli heaved that carcase off him,’ Legolas said, raising his mug in a toast. Pippin turned quite red. ‘I do believe you have a point, Master Samwise! A hobbit upon a bleak knoll, Slipped and fell underneath a great troll…’

‘Legolas, please!’ Pippin said, but the elf only laughed. Legolas was glad to see Gimli’s visage brightening as the young Halfling’s embarrassment grew.

'A dwarf said, “Dagnobbit! That's the foot of a hobbit!” As the carcase off Pip he did roll.’ A great cheer arose, Gimli rose and bowed to the company, and Pippin showed signs of trying to slide under the table, only to be hauled upright by his eldest cousin.

‘Mind your manners, Pip,’ Frodo warned, then launched into a Frog of his own. ‘A diminutive curly-haired chap—that’s you, cousin!’ There was a ripple of laughter and he continued, ‘Took a young hill-troll babe on his lap…’ a great shout of laughter answered this and Frodo bowed.

‘Please…’ Pippin said, but Merry said jovially, ‘Now, lad, you’ve served everyone else a heaping plate, it’s time to eat your own helping.’

Frodo nodded, lifted his mug in a toast to Merry, drank, and continued. ‘Troll's father did claim That he'd do the same; Papa Troll crushed him flat as a map!’

‘A griddlecake, perhaps, but not quite as flat as a map!’ King Elessar shouted above the general hilarity. Pippin put his head down on the table and covered it with his arms but his scarlet ears were still visible.

‘Do you know, I think I am learning the game!’ Beregond said, sounding quite pleased.

‘Not you, too, Beregond,’ came Pippin’s muffled voice, but the guardsman smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

‘A guardsman by hill troll was grabbed,’ Beregond said. ‘Whilst upwards a brave halfling stabbed. The troll on them fell, But the twain lived to tell, Though they dwelt for a time rather crabbed.’

‘Bravo!’ shouted Faramir, applauding, spilling a fair amount of beer before he remembered to put down his mug and clap his hands together instead. Perhaps it was about time to call it a night… but no, the dwarf was standing up on his chair, hefting his mug.

‘I have something to say!’ he shouted, and all turned to him. He grinned, and said, ‘Young hobbit isn’t the only one who can find a word to rhyme with “stroll”!’

Pippin unburied himself from under his arms, saying, ‘Gimli? I’m sorry, really, I am. I didn’t mean…’

Gimli smiled at him kindly, then cleared his throat impressively. All were listening as he rumbled, ‘Young Pippin went out for a stroll. On a slag heap he met a hill troll. The troll feinted left, But Pippin was deft... He stabbed, then he slipped on the knoll.’

‘O very deft, cousin!’ Merry shouted, and the public house erupted in cheers and laughter.

‘Had he kept his feet, we’d be at a loss for Frogs!’ Frodo said.

‘I’ll be sure to keep my feet in future,’ Pippin said grimly.

Faramir said, ‘You know, I think this game quite a diverting one!’

‘Do you?’ Elessar said.

‘Indeed,’ Faramir answered. ‘Why, it could go on all night! There was a young Halfling named Pippin…’

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