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Chance Encounter  by Dreamflower


Menelcar drew his cloak more closely around him as he made his way back down to the second circle of the City. It was late, and he had been offered a bed at the Citadel. But he needed to think.

Court Bard.

Bard to the High King, but more than that. As Court Bard, he would also
control the access of *other* minstrels and bards. It was a lot of
responsibility. Did he want that? It would mean being tied to the capital,
and to the Citadel, for the most part--it would mean an end to his wandering days. He would no longer be carefree. He would be constrained to a certain level of formality much of the time--the free and easy ways of a minstrel on the road would not be appropriate to court. And though he certainly knew he could do it--every bard had to be a diplomat to a certain extent--it did not follow he would like it.

But he had to face it, he was no longer so young as he used to be; sleeping
rough and missing meals, sometimes going days without an audience through largely deserted and dangerous lands, alone. Of course, he could take an apprentice to relieve the loneliness, but he had not met anyone else since Pippin whom he felt would be as good a companion.

As Court Bard, he would receive a generous stipend. It would mean he could send money to his mother, and to his sister and her family. It would not make up for all the years he had neglected them in the past, but it could definitely make a difference in their lives in the future.

And he had a chance to see history made. The reign of the new King, the
beginning of a New Age--he could be a part of that, and could chronicle it
in song.

The new King.

He found himself very impressed with their new King. He had heard of course, of the healing hands of the King, and how he had spent himself among the wounded after the Battle of the Pelennor, and again after the Battle of the Black Gate. After meeting him, he now gave much more credence to those tales. A certain air of empathy and deep understanding seemed to radiate from King Elessar--he obviously *cared* about people, as people, and not simply as subjects under his rule.

And he was not relying here on merely his own judgment: the hobbits clearly adored their "Strider"--there must be a tale there worth the telling, how they came to call him by that name--and he found that he trusted their instincts. He also thought of the tales told in the City of how the King had healed the valiant pheriannath, and remembering the conversation between the hobbits this afternoon, he began to think it had been no small mean feat to snatch them back from the brink of death. Truly, he owed his friend's lives to this King.

More and more, he felt, he could like the job. But was he up to it? He cast
his mind back over the evening. The King had not pressed him for an answer, but had told him to think it over for a few days.

Minas Tirith was going to be much different place, without the grimness of the Enemy staring across the River, without Denethor's hard and inflexible hand upon the reins. It might be good for the court to see things through the perspective of one whose whole world had not been enclosed within the walls of the White City.

And now he knew why he had been offered the job. His own experience in
wandering the world would be a reflection of the King's.

Menelcar nodded to himself. He did not need a few days. When he awakened today, he would return to the Citadel and deliver his answer.

This was not an opportunity to pass up.

The hobbits had packed up their belongings: mostly the clothing gifted to them since the end of the War, and servants had arrived to carry it down to the new house. Only Pippin was not present--he was already on duty in the throne room for the morning. Merry would also need to attend Éomer in a little while, but for now he was going down to the guesthouse with the others.

Sam was elated. "Mr. Frodo, I don't mean any offense to these Men, but
hobbits are not meant to live so high up. It will be nice to sleep in a ground floor room again." This house wasn't quite so cozy as a smial, but it was at least a house, and not some high fortress.

Merry nodded emphatically. "I couldn't spend much time at the window. It made me quite giddy to look down." He shuddered. He had done his best on their journey to suppress his fear of heights, but it had never truly left him, and now that more immediate dangers were past, he found it claiming his attention once more.

"I have to agree," said Frodo. "I, too, will be glad to once more sleep in a
ground floor room. And I think the house will be a bit more homelike. It
will be just the Fellowship; not all of these servants and guards about us
all of the time."

Legolas overheard the hobbits' quiet conversation among themselves, as he and Gimli followed after the servants who carried all the gear. He shook his head ruefully. While it was true that Frodo had prevailed in the matter of not having to have servants about the house, there would still be guards. They would not be in the house, and would be stationed unobtrusively, but neither Aragorn nor Faramir had any intention of leaving the hobbits completely unguarded. He smiled. As if there were need for such, with himself, Gimli and Gandalf also sharing the place. And as Merry and Pippin had proven, the hobbits themselves were not without a means of protection.

Gandalf was already there; he awaited them at the gate to the courtyard, and herded them inside. Once there, the servants were to leave the things they had brought and then return to the Citadel.

Of the little group that was involved in the moving only Merry had yet to see the house. Frodo and Sam showed him the chamber they would be sharing. He stared at the bed. "Lawks! You could get half the Shire in that bed!"

Frodo laughed. "Hardly, Cousin. But we should be comfortable enough."

"Well, I've little time to admire our new dwelling just now I am afraid. I
need to change into my armor and livery, and go to attend my King. " And he quickly began to do so.

Frodo watched as Merry prepared to go to his duty, with the mingled feeling of pride and dismay that he felt every time he saw his younger cousins so array themselves. He was prouder of them than he could begin to say, for all they had accomplished, for the way they had acquitted themselves so bravely and staunchly. Yet still, he felt dismayed at the thought that they had needed to learn a warrior's skills, that it had been necessary for them to kill.

Such a thing was against hobbit-nature, and was bound, sooner or later to
take its toll on them. If the nightmares were anything to go by, it already
had. He sighed.

Merry looked at him sharply. "Frodo, are you feeling guilty again because
Pip and I came along?" He could usually tell what Frodo was thinking.

Frodo flushed. "I just wish that you could have stayed home peacefully."

"Peacefully?" Merry shook his head. "What do you think would have happened to us, with the Black Riders already on your tail? I have spent more hours than you can imagine, worrying about poor Fatty." Merry walked over, and put his hands on Frodo's shoulders. "We were *meant* to come along Frodo. We had things to do as well. Not as important as what you did, but still needing to be done."

"Mr. Merry's making sense, Mr. Frodo. Why just think what they've done, and how bad it might have turned out for Strider and the others, without them! Not to mention what a help they was to us, away in the Black Land, by killing that Wraith and distracting the Eye and all!"

Merry was gratified at what Sam said. He'd not thought before of how he and Pippin actually helped Frodo and Sam as well as the others. But Frodo still looked troubled even as the understanding dawned that the scope of his cousins' deeds exceeded even what he had before realized.

"Listen to them, Frodo," came Gandalf's voice from the doorway. "All fell out in the way that it should have. Do not take burdens on yourself that are not yours to take."

Frodo gave a rueful little laugh. "Well, I daresay all of you are right. And
this is too nice an occasion to spoil with gloomy talk. What shall we do,
our first day in this new house?"

"Well," said Sam, "seeing as how I've finally got a proper kitchen, even
though it's a bit too large, I'm going to see about scaring us up some
elevenses! Anybody care to join me?"

This met with general approval from everyone. Only Merry looked a bit
downcast, as he had to leave. He'd missed Sam's cooking.

"Don't worry, Mr. Merry," Sam called after him, cheerfully in his element
once more. "I'll have a proper tea waiting for you and Mr. Pippin when you
get back."

Menelcar had risen early, packed up his few belongings, and returned to the Citadel, to deliver his answer to the King's offer.

He was passed into the Citadel and received by the Chamberlain, a man
by the name of Ondahil, who had served in the White Tower under Denethor's elderly chamberlain, who had borne much, and gratefully sought peaceful retirement upon the return of the King.

"Master Menelcar, welcome. I have been told of the possibility that you
might come to give us the answer to King Elessar's offer. Will you accept
it, and become his Court Bard?"

Menelcar noted the careful politeness of Master Ondahil's phrasing, while his eyes and face carried a studied neutrality. There was neither warmth nor enthusiasm in his greeting, but Menelcar knew that he would have to prove himself to the old retainer.

Most of the staff at the Citadel had been there under Denethor, and were still trying to find their way in the new order of things.

"Yes, Master Ondahil, I have decided to accept His Grace the King's most
generous offer. I would be foolish indeed to pass up the opportunity to
witness firsthand the establishment of his reign." He put into his own voice all the warmth he had found lacking in the other. He did feel privileged, and had very warm feelings towards the new King.

There was a tiny bit of thaw in the Chamberlain's voice, then. "Very well,
Master Menelcar. I have been directed to tell you that you will receive four sets of livery, and we have prepared a chamber for your use, as you will be expected to dwell here. We shall also set aside a more public chamber, for you to use when interviewing other minstrels, bards and gleemen who seek admittance to perform for the court. In addition, you are to receive an annual stipend of fifty silver, and I have been directed to give this to you in advance." A very slight note of disapproval crept into the chamberlain's voice at this last sentence, but Menelcar got the impression it was directed at the policy, and not at him personally.

"That is generous indeed!" he exclaimed.

Ondahil handed him a small, but heavy, purse, and then rang a bell to summon the servant who would show him to his chamber.

"Please come to see me again after you have settled your belongings, and we will see to getting you measured for your livery."

A few hours later, his belongings stowed, and having been measured for new livery, he took his harp and made his way about the more public spaces of the Citadel. He would go down to the chamber granted him to use as an office and interview room later. But right now, he thought, he would make his way to the kitchens.

That had always been a habit of his whenever staying in one of the halls or homes of the great. In the kitchens, one could not only ingratiate oneself with the cooks--always a good idea--but one could pick up gossip and gain a feel for how things were run. It also helped in determining the pace of the day in that particular establishment--in how the meals were scheduled and so forth. And the cooks and other servants were almost always glad to have a minstrel sing for them as they worked, and it made them generous and talkative.

Since he was actually going to be dwelling here, it was going to be a habit he wished to establish early on. They would get used to seeing him there on a regular basis.

As he came around the corner of a corridor, he saw the Steward and the Lady Éowyn approach. Stopping, he made a courteous and graceful bow. "My Lord Steward, my Lady Éowyn! It is good to see you once more."

"Master Menelcar! I am pleased that you accepted the King's offer," said
Faramir, looking at the bard curiously. Éowyn had told him of how she had
finally remembered Menelcar, and Faramir had been both touched by her
confidence, and amused by her account of her youthful follies. But she had been uncertain if the bard had in turn remembered her.

"Thank you, Lord Faramir. I hope that I will prove satisfactory. I have to
say that it will be a change for me. I am not accustomed to staying in one
place overlong."

Éowyn glanced at the minstrel's face. He was looking at her with a humorous glint in his eye. She was almost certain he remembered her.

Almost, but not quite. "And where were you going, Master Menelcar? Have you already found tasks here?"

He grinned a bit cheekily, and decided to put her out of her misery. "I
thought that I would go to the kitchen. The pot-scrubbers, too, often like
to hear a song!"

She laughed delightedly. "So you *do* remember me! I was not sure if you did so. Why did you say nothing?"

"Well, my lady, I was uncertain as to whether you *wished* to be remembered. If I recall correctly, the circumstances were a bit less than ideal."

She laughed once more. "That is a very diplomatic way to put it, Master
Menelcar! I was a mess! And in disgrace!"

Faramir glanced at her, and then said teasingly, "Master Menelcar, have you ever cast into song this tale of the battle between a youthful shield-maiden and her cousin? If not, perhaps I could commission it as a gift for my lady."

"Do not dare think of it, beloved! Master Menelcar, whatever he might
propose to pay you to do such a thing, I promise you it will not be worth it
to raise my ire!"

"Having seen your abilities in battle at the tender age of fifteen, I would
not dare your wrath, now you are a seasoned warrior, Lady Éowyn!" He looked back at Faramir with a look of mock regret. "You see, my Lord Steward, that I am threatened with bodily harm, and should not dream of taking on such a commission."

"I see that such a gift would not be to the liking of my lady," Faramir
responded, also with mock regret, "and instead will have to be content with sweets and flowers."

The expression on Éowyn's face at this declaration was one of astonishment, and then all three of them burst into laughter.

"Well, Master Menelcar," Faramir continued, "we shall leave you to go and
serenade the cooks and pot-scrubbers."

Menelcar bowed, and took his leave. The couple watched after him. This,
thought Faramir, was going to be a pleasant change in the atmosphere he had been used to, growing up in the Citadel. Having a bard in the court, and especially one as quick-witted as Master Menelcar, was going to be most entertaining. He would have a word with Chamberlain Ondahil about the duties the bard would be undertaking in the next few days.

The Fellowship had dined together on Sam's cooking, greatly enjoying their new quarters. Frodo was pleased that a small library was located in the house--when Merry had been convalescing in the Houses of Healing, he had cheered himself up by finding books he thought Frodo would like when his Quest had been completed. Aragorn and Gandalf had also made some additions to the shelves, and Frodo was delighted to see a number of books he had been longing to read.

Legolas had found that there was a stairway leading to the roof, where he could sit and enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars. And he and Sam had already begun to make plans for the poor neglected little garden. Gimli appreciated the house's solid construction and stonework. Merry and Pippin were just glad to be out of the huge Citadel. Even if this place was not so cozy as a hobbit hole, it was definitely more homelike than the White Tower. And for Gandalf, it was very familiar--he had dwelt there before, after all.

The wizard hoped that perhaps this new setting would help the hobbits'
increasing homesickness to abate somewhat. He knew that they wanted desperately to return to the Shire, but there were a number of things that must occur before that happened. He was also in the hopes that the new room, on ground level, and the new bed, large enough for the four of them to find comfort in one another, would help a bit with their night terrors. Only the night before, it had been Sam who first awakened, startling Frodo into panic. Their cries had woken nearly everyone along the corridor. Merry and Pippin had managed to calm Sam enough to get him settled down, though he was filled with remorse at causing his Master distress. Aragorn had needed to dose Frodo before the terrified beating of his heart returned to normal, and he calmed enough to get back to sleep. It was nearly a nightly occurrence, and there had been some nights when all four hobbits had been affected at the same time. Gandalf was sure that eventually these dreams would fade for the three younger hobbits. He was not so certain about Frodo. He would be glad of Elrond's opinion when he arrived in the White City.

That night, after the hobbits had retired, Legolas passed their door. His
sharp Elven ears heard the sound of whimpering. Cautiously, he opened the door and glanced in. It was clear that Merry was in the beginnings of a nightmare: his face was furrowed, and he was twitching uncomfortably.

Legolas glided over and sat by the bed, placing his hand over Merry's brow, and began a soft singing. Soon, it was clear that Merry had relaxed--not only he, but the others as well, seemed to sink into a deeper, more peaceful slumber.

The Elf stayed there, singing, until the dawn began to break and the Sun was making her way over the horizon. Silently, he took his leave. Perhaps the hobbits did not need to suffer in their dreams after all.

The next day or two, Menelcar spent beginning to learn his place in the King's Court. It soon became clear that those who had served there under Denethor were uncertain and uneasy about their place with the new King. This was displayed in different manners toward the new Court Bard: some there were who tried to flatter him and sought him out, as a possible link to the King's favor, while others displayed a thinly veiled disdain for him, this wandering minstrel who had come out of nowhere. And there were others, still, who unsure as to how to treat him, simply avoided him as much as possible. He found all of this highly amusing. Many years ago, he might have taken offense, or been hurt, but all the years on the road had helped him develop a thick skin and a sense of humor.

In the evenings, the King had summoned him to sing and play, once for him
alone, and the second night with his close friends, Mithrandir, Legolas and
Gimli. The hobbits had not yet joined them again. They were too much
enjoying their new dwelling place, and did not yet wish to return to the
heights, save when Pippin and Merry needed to do so for their duty.

The minstrel soon understood that the King really enjoyed hearing him sing the songs that old Bilbo had written, that he had gone to the Shire to learn in the first place. It was clear that the former Ranger had a great fondness for the old hobbit, and that he missed his friend.

A couple of days after the remaining Fellowship had moved into the
guesthouse, Menelcar went to it. He found Frodo, Merry and Pippin in the

"Menelcar!" Pippin jumped up to give him an enthusiastic hug. "Do come join us! How are you liking your new position?"

"Well enough," smiled the Man. "I have yet to take on any of the more
onerous duties, and I am beginning to find my way among the courtiers and staff. But more importantly, the day we were speaking of is nearly upon us. Where is Master Samwise?"

"Sam's in the kitchen," said Frodo, "supposedly making luncheon, but he's
been there for most of the morning already. Even though tomorrow is his
birthday, he thinks we do not know that he is preparing gifts for everyone. Most likely sugar biscuits and gingersnaps. At least, I hope so! I have missed his gingersnaps."

"*He* is preparing gifts?" asked Menelcar, curious.

Merry nodded. "The custom among our people is that the byrding-- that is the person having the birthday-- gives out gifts. I know that Big Folk do it otherwise."

Pippin put in, "Of course, we can give gifts to him, as well, but not after
noon of the day of his birthday." The youngest hobbit laughed delightedly. "But this year, we are following Big Folks' custom, as we are giving him the surprise party. You are still coming, aren't you?"

"Of course I am," said Menelcar. "Should I bring anything?"

"Just your harp."

"Hsst," warned Merry, "here he comes."

Sam announced luncheon, and the hobbits invited Menelcar to join them. He readily agreed. Master Samwise was an excellent cook, as he well remembered. All of them were careful not to comment upon the lingering smells of spices and baking in the air.

Mithrandir--Gandalf, as the hobbits called him, was also there for the meal, as were the Elf and the Dwarf. The Little Folk sat at a smaller table while the Big Folk sat at a larger one in the center of the room. Still they were close enough together for amiable conversation. The hobbits were in a talkative and playful mood.

"I think," said Frodo, "that moving to the house has been good for us. We
have not been plagued with ill dreams since moving in."

Legolas glanced up sharply for an instant, and a small smile quirked his

"Indeed," said Gandalf, "that is most remarkable." He glanced up through
shaggy brows at the Elf. Legolas saw his regard, and steadfastly returned
it. But he felt relief when the Wizard looked away.

"Master Menelcar," said Gimli, "perhaps you could grace us with a song to
finish off this fine meal." The Dwarf took out his pipe, and Gandalf and the hobbits did the same. Legolas resignedly scooted his chair closer to the open window of the large kitchen.

Menelcar strummed his harp slowly for a few moments, and then sped up into a rollicking tune. The hobbits began to grin as they recognized another of Bilbo's songs. Menelcar had scarcely begun to sing, when first Pippin, and then the other hobbits joined in:

"Look there is Fastitocalon!
An island good to land upon,
Although 'tis rather bare.
Come, leave the sea! And let us run,
Or dance, or lie down in the sun!
See gulls are sitting there!
Gulls do not sink."*

As the song drew on to its conclusion, all the company were clapping and
nodding. Menelcar grinned. This was a small audience, but it was the most
important audience of all.

After his luncheon with the hobbits, Menelcar made his way down toward the lower levels. He had a free afternoon, and he missed the bustle of the taverns and street corners.

He saw a couple of acquaintances of his, one playing a lute, the other, a
fiddle, busking on one of the corners. Careful to stay out of their line of
vision, he nevertheless managed to drop a couple of coins in the hat that
lay on the ground nearby. They were of substantially larger denomination
than any of the other coins already there, and he imagined with pleasure
their surprise when they came to count their take later. But he did not want them to know he had been there. He was sure news of his good fortune in being appointed Court Bard had already made the rounds of all the performers in the City, and they were sure to guess who their benefactor was if they caught sight of him.

He stopped at a tavern, The Queen's Cats, and went in to find a table out of the way, where he could sip an ale, and think in peace.

"They're the apple of the King's eye." The voice was a bit oily and

His ears caught the sound of the low conversation taking place behind him. There was something furtive about it, which he did not care for.

"So I hear. Not much he wouldn't do for them, or give them little
creatures." This voice, rough and gravelly.

Menelcar raised his brows. They *had* to be talking about the hobbits.

"They're not staying in the Citadel no more," said a third voice with just a
bit of a lisp.

"This is true," said the first one. "I hear they're staying at one of the
King's guesthouses. But they've got the Wizard, Dwarf and Elf staying there as well. We'll have to get an opportunity to speak to one of them away from the place."

"Do you think it will work?" said the third voice.

"Oh, I think it will. The word is they are as soft-hearted as they come, and so I've no doubt they would likely believe any hard-luck story they might be told."

Menelcar felt a rage building at the obvious plot to take advantage of his
small friends. The hobbits were much shrewder than these villains were
giving them credit for, but if a sad story were plausible enough--well, he
could imagine that Pippin, for one, might be taken in. He did not think that
they would find it so easy to deceive Merry or Frodo. Sam, though, was like Pippin--he, too, might believe such a story, if it were told well enough.

"Do you think we can find one alone? Does it matter which one?" asked the second voice.

"Maybe the youngest one, or the servant would work best. But so long as we can find one of them alone, I am not sure it matters."

There was a bit of rough laughter, and the three plotters got up to go out. Menelcar observed them carefully, and then threw the payment for his ale on the table, and sauntered out as well, trying to keep them in sight without being spotted.

Menelcar followed them down into the second circle and into one of the less reputable parts of the City. When he was certain that they had reached their destination, he fixed it in his mind, and hurried back up to the Citadel. He hoped that the Steward was available.

Luckily, he found Faramir in his outer chamber, looking over some old
contracts that the Steward's office had held with various merchants. They were quite informative, and Faramir could not help but feel admiration for the way his father had made the most advantageous dealings to the benefit of the realm.

"How may I help you, Menelcar?" he asked. He was surprised by the grim look on the minstrel's face. It was not an expression he had ever seen there before.

As Menelcar told his tale, Faramir's expression soon matched his.

"This is insufferable!" Faramir rose. "Let us find the King. He wants to
know anything at all that affects the hobbits."

They had to search a bit, but finally located him as he returned to the
Citadel from the Houses of Healing.

Aragorn took one look at their faces, and led them to his private study.
"Gentlemen, what disturbs you so?"

Once more Menelcar related the conversation he had overheard. As he spoke, he was surprised to hear a low rumbling sound. It took him a moment to understand that the King was actually growling. The sound stopped abruptly, as Aragorn realized what he was doing. There was a brief silence after Menelcar finished his tale. For a long moment, Aragorn closed his eyes and clenched his fists. His knuckles were white. Faramir and Menelcar watched warily, both of them understanding exactly why he was so angry. Both of them were very nearly as angry themselves. Finally, the King blew out a long breath, and when he looked at the two once more, his expression was still grim, but composed.

"Tell me, Menelcar, is it your judgment that these wretches intend to offer any violence to my friends?"

Menelcar thought carefully back to all he had overheard in the tavern, and on the street as he followed. "I do not think so, my Lord King. It seemed to me that the idea was to cozen one or more of the little folk with a sad tale of hardship, with the idea of relieving them of a goodly sum of coin. I think the idea was that the pheriannath would ask it of you, and that you would give them whatsoever they wished."

"I see." Aragorn stuck his tongue in his cheek and looked very thoughtful.
"Well, we do not wish to take the chance that you are wrong about harming them, but I do think that your judgment is probably correct. You are fairly shrewd about people, I have found."

Menelcar blushed briefly at the praise. "Thank you, my Lord King."

The King turned to his Steward. "Faramir, is Pippin on duty this afternoon?"

"Yes, he is. He would have been free today, but he wished to have tomorrow, on account of Sam's birthday."

Aragorn nodded. He looked at Menelcar. "How soon do you think these villains plan to act?"

"I think that the only thing holding them back has been a lack of opportunity to find one of the pheriannath alone."

"I do not wish Sam's birthday to be spoiled. We will have to make sure that the opportunity does not arrive until after that is over." He turned to Faramir. "Send for Pippin. I have an idea."

Pippin stood at his post with his friend Adrahil. They stood to attention,
but managed nevertheless to hold a quiet conversation. He was quite
surprised to be approached by Adrahil's brother Artamir. "Sir Peregrin, the King wishes to see you in his study. I am to take your place here."

Pippin trotted along, worried just a bit that he might have done something
wrong. He was, after all, still new to this Guard business, and now that the War was over, things were a good deal more formal and ceremonial than they had been during the fighting.

He knocked, and entered as he was bid, a little surprised to see Faramir and Menelcar there, but as he was on duty, he knelt to his liege. Aragorn smiled at him. "Rise, Pippin, and come have a seat." There was a chair near the table Aragorn used that had been altered so as to be comfortable for hobbits, though it was a bit of a climb to sit in. Pippin never took his eyes off his King. Something was going on.

The King sat down behind the table and gestured for Faramir and Menelcar to sit as well.

"Menelcar, would you tell Pippin what you overheard today?"

Yet again the bard repeated the tale. He watched Pippin's face, so much older and more mature than the sweet lad he remembered from the Shire, as it grew grim and troubled. Tears stood in the green eyes, but they were tears of anger. Pippin reached up and dashed them away roughly. When the minstrel finished speaking, the hobbit looked back at his King.

"How could they?" he exclaimed. "After what Frodo and Sam *went* through, after they offered their very *lives*? After Merry nearly *died*? And they want to use us to make *money*!" His face had gone dead white, except for two bright red spots on his cheeks.

"Strider, what are you going to do to them?"

Aragorn leaned forward, and placed a hand on Pippin's arm. "We are going to watch them for now; we do not want to spoil Sam's day tomorrow. I must ask you please, not to tell the others about this yet."

Pippin flushed. He knew that was a command of his King, and he would obey. He did not mind not telling Frodo or Sam. It would hurt their feelings dreadfully, he feared, when they found out. But it was going to be hard not to tell Merry. Aragorn could tell what he was thinking.

"You may tell Meriadoc when the time is right, but not yet. And if you agree, this is what we are going to do--"

As Aragorn spoke, the expression on Pippin's face began to clear, and he
began to grin. A gleam came into his eye; this was going to be more fun than the holewarming present he had left for Lobelia and Lotho when Frodo had vacated Bag End.


*Taken from The Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. Tolkien, "Fastitocalon" poem
number 11, in "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil".

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