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What Goes Around Comes Around
The stream was very near the campsite, that’s what was so great about it. It was easy to get a drink of water, to wash, to wade around in its crystal clear ripples. Fish were abundant. There were also some large boulders nearby which created the perfect hiding place for a little hobbit to remain concealed and take in the goings-on about him. Not that he would spy on anyone of course. Pippin just had to be Pippin, wherever he was, whatever the outcome. He also surely wouldn’t mean to make trouble for himself either, if he were to saunter down here alone, just to see whatever he might. Then, there was that shiny thing he’d glimpsed just to the other side of the largest boulder. He wanted to get closer to it and find out just what it was. For some reason Pippin could not quite fathom, he decided he needed to do it alone. That notion just tickled away at the back of his inventive and mischievous little mind and he simply could not escape its grasp. Ah yes, the stream was a marvelous place to play, and Pippin had plans.
The Fellowship had been forced to take an extra day’s respite. While struggling across the rocky ground the pony had stepped badly, placing a strain on his leg. In order to prevent poor Bill from becoming lame they had made the difficult decision to stop for an additional day, and were taking advantage of a cavern’s shelter. Its proximity to the stream made the location more than ideal for an extra day’s camping and the weary travellers were grateful for even a brief reprieve. Evening was falling fast.
“Aragorn,” shouted Gimli from the clearing, “I’m going to scout a wee bit on this side of the stream, just to see what’s about.”
Aragorn waved him on. “Do not lose your way back, Master Dwarf. The night will be dark, with little moonlight.”
Gimli scoffed at this, “What, me lose my way? Next you’ll be suggesting that my mother was an elf!” he chuckled as he disappeared from their sight.
Grinning at Legolas, Aragorn shook his head and squatted to stir the fire Sam had built.
“Bit of a chill to the air tonight, wouldn’t you agree, Strider?” Sam looked up from the pot he was stirring and reached for some herbs to add to the stew.
Aragorn nodded in agreement. “Certainly a night to stick close to a warm fire Sam. Speaking of which, where are the others?”
“Mr Frodo and his cousins? I believe they went on down to the stream for various reasons, before it gets dark you know.”
“I see. Well I hope they won’t be too long. As I told Gimli, this night will be dark indeed. I wouldn’t want anyone to get lost in the woods.”
“Aye,” agreed Sam. “Don’t worry Strider, they’ll be back soon. Supper is nearly ready.”
Boromir had taken up a spot near the fire and was mending his pack. Gandalf removed the long-stemmed pipe from his mouth and gazed at him thoughtfully. Boromir sensed the wizard’s eyes upon him and looked up questioningly.
Gandalf smiled. “I was merely admiring your skill with a sewing needle.”
Boromir chuckled at Gandalf’s comment. “I have many skills that will serve us well on this journey.”
Gandalf raised an eyebrow. “Indeed?”
Their quiet conversation continued as Aragorn stood at the cavern entrance, keeping watch on their surroundings.
Frodo was leaning over the rocks watching the small waterfall created by the boulders in the stream with interest. Where the water ran off the outcroppings a slippery and rather treacherous area had been created.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to take this log and just float down the stream on it!” Pippin was already pushing a large limb out into the water.
“Pip, it’s far too cold tonight to be playing around in the water. Just leave it be,” Merry offered reasonably.
“Oh, come now! Just one little trip down the stream. It isn’t deep here….”
“No Pip!” Merry was not feeling particularly patient with his cousin’s antics and fastened a look of severe disapproval upon him that Pippin chose to ignore. He continued pushing the log down the rocks and into the water, chattering away as he went. Merry and Frodo shared a meaningful look and then reached out and hauled their little cousin back onto solid ground.
Pippin sputtered at them. “Hey! What’d you do that for? I just want to have a wee bit of fun. There’s plenty of time before it gets dark you know!”
“I said no, Pip. It’s too cold and you’d fall in anyway and then we’d wind up getting wet coming in after you.”
“Oh, Merry. You’re being far too cautious and no fun at all. Why I’ll bet…..”
“Stop this now, or I’ll tell Aragorn what you are up to!” Frodo interrupted firmly. His voice softened and he placed an arm around Pippin’s shoulder. “Have a little sense Pip – that water is ice cold and night is coming on fast.”
Pippin glanced about uncertainly. “Well, maybe I’ll try it in the daylight then.” He was not to be put off easily.
Frodo and Merry both shook their heads. “No, you will not try it in the morning or we will still tell Aragorn,” Merry asserted.
Pippin sighed. “Oh, all right then, I’ll let it alone for now. You two are being no fun at all.” I’m still coming back later and have a closer look at that shiny spot in the little pool, he thought. Keep your plans to yourself now lad! Pippin contented himself by climbing back onto the rocks near the little waterfall and planning his strategy for later.
Gimli came wandering out of the woods at that point. “Lads,” he called to them, “Come! It’s getting late and the evening meal is about ready.”
“All right, Gimli, we’re coming.” Frodo gestured at the others to follow as he hurried after the dwarf, Merry following closely behind.
Pippin watched them go, a twinkle of amusement in his green eyes. Good! Maybe I can have a little look-see right now then. He lay down on his stomach and contemplated the water, edging ever closer to his goal over the slippery rocks and began using his hand to root around in the shallow water. One thing Merry and Frodo were right about, he mused. This water is freezing!
Merry was trudging along with the others. “Now Pip, won’t it be much nicer to get back to a warm fire and a good supper instead of getting all wet in that stream? Aren’t you glad we kept you out of the water?”
Merry looked over his shoulder when his cousin failed to answer him and realized that Pippin was not with them. Letting loose a sigh of the long-suffering he whirled around and stomped back to the stream where he encountered the unwelcome but not unexpected sight of Pippin splayed across the boulder, his bum up in the air and his head down, fingers waving through the cold water as if in search of something. Merry paused for only a moment and then crept up on his wayward cousin with a gleam in his eye. He pounced, collaring Pippin and hauling him down.
“What are you doing? You were supposed to be right behind us!”
“Merry, I was coming you know. I just wanted to have another look--”
“Enough looking, Pip. Come on!” Merry began to walk faster until they caught up to the others. Frodo glanced at them in amusement when he noticed that Merry had a firm hold on Pippin’s shirt collar. He rolled his eyes at Gimli, who grinned.
The fire glowed invitingly as the Fellowship gathered around for the evening meal. Frodo studied the glowing embers, becoming lost in his own thoughts. Sam watched Frodo, concerned that his mood seemed somewhat somber. Aragorn studied both of them, also deep in thought. They remained unaware of the Ranger’s close scrutiny. So much depends on this little one, he mused. How can we make his path a bit less burdened? Frodo grows more restless and serious with each passing day. The Ring weighs heavily upon him. We must do all we are able to help lighten his burden.
Aragorn turned slightly to where Boromir crouched near the fire speaking quietly with Gandalf, and then looked about the campsite and studied the faces of his companions one by one. Much that lies ahead is unknown. One thing is certain. It will not be an easy road. His eyes wandered and finally met with Legolas’s, who smiled in understanding. Aragorn wearily returned the smile.
“Well then, how about some of those stories we were promised earlier?” Sam attempted to lighten the mood and favored Frodo with a crooked grin. “You always have some interesting tales to tell, Mr Frodo.”
Frodo looked up from the fire as all eyes fell upon him. He smiled, perfectly aware of what Sam was doing. A twinkle lit up his blue eyes and he glanced around the circle at the expectant faces. “Hmm. I don’t know if I can recall any just now.” His gaze settled on his young cousin. “But Pip, surely you are able to regale us with an interesting tale or two?”
Pippin looked thoughtfully at Frodo for a moment and then glanced mischievously at Merry. “Well now, I don’t know. Hmm… let’s see.” Pippin rubbed his chin and looked up at the cavern ceiling as though deep in thought. “There are so many good stories it’s hard to narrow them down.” His expression brightened. “I know! There was the time that Merry made a bet with the other lads that if we offered Fatty Bolger enough money he’d do just about anything--”
Merry groaned loudly. “Pip…”
“Like put a fly in his mouth.”
A round of chuckling began from the group.
Boromir laughed. “Oh, I have to hear this one!”
“No you don’t,” Merry’s voice was cross. “Pippin, tell something on yourself for a change why don’t you?”
Pippin ignored him and warmed to his tale immediately. “Well, you’ve got to understand how Fredegar Bolger feels about the value of coin in his hand. It’s really something he sets a great deal of store by.” Pippin grinned at his red-faced cousin. “So, Merry was wondering just how much old Fatty would consider it worthwhile to earn himself a bit of coin by accepting an outrageous dare. You see, the more outlandish the dare, the more money it was worth!”
Frodo was grinning ear to ear by now. “Oh yes! It didn’t end so well for poor Fatty. Or for poor Merry, for that matter.” Frodo turned to his cousin, “And how long was it before you could sit down again, poor lad?” More laughter from the circle of companions and Merry scowled at his cousin.
“I definitely feel we should instead be hearing more young Frodo stories. Oh! I have a good one! This is really funny! Remember when--”
“Oh no!” Frodo chuckled and held up a hand to forestall Merry’s argument. “We’ve heard enough about me over the last few nights. Come Pippin! Tell your story.”
Pippin looked smug as he began again. “The rest of us bet he wouldn’t do it for anything but Merry just knew that he would. So he and Cousin Berilac started to take up a collection. All the lads and even a few of the lasses from all around Budgeford threw in some coins. Pippin glanced at his embarrassed cousin before turning back to the group once more. “Of course, you couldn’t blame Merry that much for instigating the whole thing. After all, he was just an immature tween when he did it.”
Merry frowned. “I did have a bit of help, you know! Besides, it really was all that foolish Berilac’s idea in the first place--”
“Oh, I am sure that it was, Merry! Then why were you the only one who got in trouble?”
Pippin ignored the glare Merry shot his way and resumed his tale. “Anyway, after they’d got what they thought to be a sufficient amount of money collected, the lot of us who’d contributed--”
“You gave Merry money too, Pippin?” Boromir was grinning widely.
Pip looked over at the big man, eyes twinkling merrily. “Oh, aye! I most certainly wanted to see if Fatty would go through with the dare! By then we all were very curious to find out how far he would go. A rather large group of us gathered in the meadow behind his smial and Merry had caught a fly already, but it got away.” Pippin glanced at Merry again and then leaned over to Boromir and whispered loudly, “Confidentially, I think he let it go on purpose because it was part of his plan.”
Merry grunted in disgust.
Pippin turned back to the others. “Sooo…he was pressed into finding a substitute bug. We didna realize it was actually a honeybee that Merry trapped and stuck in Fatty’s mouth. Of course, neither did Fatty!” Pippin fell back on the ground, his whole body shaking in a fit of laughter.
Frodo and Sam were also howling at the story. Even Merry was grinning now.
Pip sat up, struggling to get his mirth under control. Tears were leaking from the corners of his eyes. “Oh! You should have seen Fatty! When he opened his mouth to let the ‘fly’ go, the bee stung him on his tongue! Did he shriek! And run! Oh, I’ve never seen Fatty run so fast! And for a big lad like him who never did move very quickly, why I think he must’ve set a record!” Pippin fell back on the ground once more, laughter quite out of control.
Aragorn was delighted to witness Frodo’s enjoyment of the tale. It was so good to see him smiling and laughing. Indeed, the entire Fellowship was appreciative of the merriment. Pippin was a master of storytelling.
When the revelry died down Boromir leaned over with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes, and asked in a serious voice, “Pippin tell me, did the honeybee survive?”
“Well, of course not Boromir! Do you not know that bees die when they lose their stinger?” The exclamation caused them to collapse in hilarity once again.
Pippin looked about the circle, a huge grin on his impish face, obviously enjoying being at the center of attention.
“What happened then?” Boromir wanted to know.
Pippin giggled but before he could answer Frodo spoke up. “Fatty’s father heard all the uproar and came to see what was going on. It didn’t take him long to get the story out of us.” His eyes flickered to Merry in sympathy. “It turned out that Fatty was allergic to bees. Fortunately, he did not have a severe allergy. Merry however was not so lucky.”
“Aye, the foolish tween! He got marched to Uncle Saradoc and Auntie Esme right after Mr Bolger attended to poor Fatty.” Pippin teased his cousin unmercifully. “What was it again your da used on you? A switch?”
“As if you didn’t know. All right, Pip. You’ve had your fun at my expense. Tomorrow night it’s going to be your turn!” He looked over at Frodo. “And we have the perfect story in mind.” Frodo nodded slightly.
“Hmmph! We’ll see.”
“Oh, but I want to hear about it Pip! We all do!” Boromir grinned shamelessly at his little friend.
“I think it’s time to go to sleep now,” Pippin pouted.
Merry leaned over to his cousin with an evil grin and whispered one word in his ear.
Pippin jumped up, aghast. “Merry, you wouldn’t!”
“No? Well we’ll see, won’t we?” He was still chuckling as he settled down into his blankets next to the fire.
Pippin turned his back but couldn’t resist snuggling up for the warmth. He crossed his arms and muttered to himself unaware that his cousin still wore a huge smile of anticipation.
“What goes around comes around, Pip!” Merry whispered.
Morning came early, as was the norm. The travellers rose at dawn. Before long the fire was going and breakfast would be ready. Merry got up from his blankets with sleep-filled eyes and stumbled about for a few minutes, seeing to his usual early morning needs. Coming back from the tree-lined edge of their camp he yawned widely and looked around. Something wasn’t quite right. His eyes were drawn to the bedrolls inside the cavern and the realization hit him that Pippin was missing. Was he there when I got up? Merry’s head was still foggy with sleep, and he shook it to clear away the cobwebs. Frodo started over to Merry and out of habit began looking around for Pippin. Before he could speak they both looked around in surprise as the hobbit in question streaked past them and headed straight for the campfire.
“What the--” Merry’s eyes followed and he looked at Frodo, askance.
“Hoi! What’s wrong Pip?” Frodo and Merry trotted over to the shivering, unhappy hobbit and noted quickly that he was soaking wet.
“Oh, you didn’t!” Merry shook his head in disgust.
“Here, we’ve got to help him get dry!” Sam, always the sensible one, had appeared with another blanket. “You have to get those wet clothes off now, Mr Pippin, or you’ll get sick.”
Pippin complied, all the while glancing sheepishly at them before Sam wrapped him in the warm blanket and pushed him closer to the fire. He then set about tending to the wet clothing. Curious about the commotion, Aragorn wandered their way.
“Uh, oh…” Pippin kept his eyes down until he heard his name spoken sternly and looked up at the Ranger.
“What happened?” Aragorn folded his arms over his chest and regarded the errant hobbit. A smile threatened to overcome his strict countenance but he managed to keep it at bay.
“I’ll tell you what happened!” Merry was obviously peeved. “We told him to stay out of that stream and he sneaked off anyway to look at some shiny thing he saw in the water last night!”
“I fell in. The rocks are slippery.”
“Indeed. It appears that you did, young hobbit.”
Pippin looked up to find the wizard watching him now. “I’m sorry Gandalf! I just had to look.”
“Someday, Peregrin Took, that habit is going to get you into great trouble.”
Pippin grinned sheepishly. He raised his hand and opened it. There in the center of his palm lay a shiny silver coin. Gandalf quirked an eyebrow curiously and plucked the coin from Pippin’s hand.
“Hmm. This appears to be very old.”
The others gathered around to see what the wizard held.
Gandalf smiled at Pippin and held the coin up, squinting his eyes as he gave it a closer inspection. “Well! This is indeed a rare find, young hobbit. Perhaps it was worth the dunking you got, after all!”
Pippin’s grin widened until he saw Merry’s frown. “Well, perhaps not. That water is icy cold…”
Merry’s frown slowly became a smile and he patted his young cousin’s shoulder. “Just don’t do anything that foolish again, Pip. You could’ve been hurt.”
Pippin nodded in agreement and fixed his attention on the wizard again.
“Unfortunately, I am unable to make out the inscription. It must have been in the stream for a very long time as the water has worn the surface nearly smooth. Most likely it originates from old Eregion, which of course is the ancient name by which Hollin was known.” He dropped the coin back into Pippin’s hand. “Yes indeed, my lad. I would hold onto that. It is quite the unusual find!”
Pippin regarded Merry and Frodo with a smug expression, as if to say ‘I told you so!’
Merry simply shook his head in wonder and rolled his eyes at Frodo, who grinned back at him.
Aragorn turned to them. “Well, we must get Pippin and his clothing dry. Come, help me build up the fire and it will go more quickly. We want to make sure everything is in order before tonight when it is time to set out on our journey once again.”
Everyone moved to help and Sam continued with the breakfast preparations. It wasn’t long before they were all seated around the fire enjoying Sam’s culinary talent.
Merry and Frodo exchanged a look and then Merry cleared his throat dramatically before he spoke.
“Ahem! Well, here we are again! And since we have some extra time while Pippin dries out, I think now would be the perfect time to share another story.”
Pippin looked at Merry in alarm. “No! Merry!” He turned to Frodo and pleaded, “Frodo, make him stop!”
Frodo grinned at his young cousin. “Make him stop? Why, Pip, I’m going to help him tell it!”
Pippin moaned and curled himself into a ball underneath the blanket, pulling it over his head and muttering to himself about the unfairness of older cousins.
“What’s that?” Merry leaned closer. “I didn’t quite catch that comment, Pip.”
A loud snort was his only reply.
The rest of the group watched the scene with interest. Boromir, always ready to hear a good tale, raised his gaze to Merry and Frodo. Aragorn simply arched a brow and settled back against a rock next to the elf to enjoy the story.
Merry began. “Well, first of all you’ve got to understand how Pippin feels about being made to look foolish, even if he does it to himself. When he was a wee hobbit lad he was even better at it than he is now, if that’s even possible.”
Another moan from beneath the blanket.
Frodo began, “When Pip was little he often became the responsibility of Merry and myself during visits to Bag End.”
“You mean you spent a great deal of time playing nursemaid.” Boromir snickered.
“I take extreme exception to that term!” The petulant voice was muffled by the blanket.
“Aye Boromir! That’s it exactly.” Merry laughed and continued. “During this particular visit Pippin was left alone with Frodo and me for the entire day. Bilbo was off to Hobbiton for some reason or other and well, the two of us had grown weary of keeping up with the little imp’s antics—Oww!” Merry received a sharp kick in the shin from the huddled form under the blanket. He reached down to rub his leg and scowled in Pippin’s direction when he heard the muted giggle. Frodo took up the story.
“If you think keeping up with Pippin’s exploits is difficult now, you wouldn’t believe what it was like when he was such a small lad.”
“How old was he?” Boromir wanted to know.
Frodo had just learned at Rivendell about the differences in physical aging that there were between men and hobbits and had found it quite interesting. He did a quick calculation in his head, then said, “In hobbit years he was eight. The human equivalent would be about five, I believe.”
“Ah, a mere sprout then!” Gimli chuckled.
A grunt of disdain emanated from the blanket.
Merry began again. “Pippin was supposed to be having his nap. He had to take one every day. As you may imagine, he didn’t like having one but his mum insisted. We thought he was asleep and that it was safe to go outside, not far mind you, but out by ourselves. Our friend Folco showed up and wanted us to go about with him. Of course, we had to explain that we couldn’t, and the reason why.”
“Pippin awoke while we were talking and overheard us.” Frodo glanced at the blanketed form that was his cousin. “He apparently wasn’t happy with what we said about feeling weary of chasing after him. Unknown to us of course, he decided to take off and show us a thing or two about what a grownup lad he really was, and that he didn’t need tending to by anyone. So, after a time we went inside to prepare lunch. I set Folco and Merry to setting the table while I went to check on Pippin. Imagine my dismay to find him missing!”
Merry laughed, “You should have seen Frodo! He came out of the bedroom in such a state, shouting for us to come help him find Pip! His distress was almost funny! He wore such an expression of horror.”
“Good.” The muffled voice sounded satisfied.
“I didn’t think it was funny, Merry. Pippin had frightened me out of my wits. As the eldest I was supposed to be the most responsible. Aunt Eglantine would have had my head if something had happened to him.”
“I suppose so.” Merry looked around at the attentive listeners. “We searched high and low for him and Folco helped us. We even enlisted Sam and the Gaffer. As the day wore on we became increasingly dismayed. Bilbo returned and found out what had happened and we knew we were in for a real scolding later, but we still had to locate Pippin.”
“You were very good at causing havoc and mayhem even then, weren’t you little one?” Boromir patted the blanket affectionately.
Boromir chuckled. He could see the scowl in his mind’s eye.
“And where did you find him Frodo?” Gandalf’s eyes were twinkling. He had heard this tale before.
“Well, we continued our search for another hour or so after Bilbo arrived. Finally we decided to head further out because we had looked everywhere closer to home. As we wandered into a wooded area across the meadow we began hearing a high pitched keening wail.” Frodo shrugged and glanced about with a grin. “Of course, we knew that wail very well--”
“I do not wail!” Pippin flipped the blanket off his head and glared at his cousins.
Frodo sniffed. “You most certainly do. Particularly when you are in some kind of trouble.”
“We approached one of the great trees and looked up. Sure enough, there was Pippin, trapped in the highest branches of the tree.”
“But, Pip is so good at climbing trees!” Boromir rubbed his hand over his face. “I suppose getting down was harder at that age though.”
“Aye! Especially when you’re hung up by your braces!” Merry collapsed in laughter that was joined in by all except Pippin.
“There he was, the little rascal, all hung up in the tree and his braces the only barrier to him getting down on his own! Actually, he was swaying around a bit, his feet not even firmly on the branch below him. It’s a very good thing his braces held tight or he could have fallen.” Frodo’s expression sobered. “It really was quite a fright for all of us. And it took a coordinated effort to get him down but we finally managed.”
“You looked so ridiculous Pip! Trying to teach us a lesson when you’re the one who ended up learning one. Besides, it was a very dangerous thing to do and you disobeyed us.”
“Hmph, I seem to recall that I was not the only one who learned a lesson, Merry!”
“Quite true. But you were the one everyone wanted to have a turn at paddling!”
“Bilbo was beside himself, just as I was. He couldn’t imagine having to explain to Pippin’s parents that their youngest had not been watched over closely enough and had fallen out of a tree.” Frodo chuckled and squeezed Pippin’s shoulder. “It took all of his self-control to keep from spanking your deserving little behind, but in the end he decided to leave that to your folks and instead sent you to bed without supper.” Frodo laid his arm about Pippin’s shoulders and his cousin grinned up at him.
“Being sent to bed without supper is even worse! I remember crying myself to sleep that night.”
“You did. And the rest of us had to suffer for your punishment by listening to you wail.” Frodo laughed again. We couldn’t even enjoy our own meal, we felt so sorry for you.”
“Good then. Served you right!”
“Oh, but we made the sacrifice Pip, for the sake of you learning a valuable lesson.”
“How very thoughtful of you, Merry.”
“Are you dry yet Pip?” Frodo rose and checked the clothing laid out on the rocks near the fire “Yes, it would seem these are quite ready for you to redress yourself. Go on then before you catch your death in this dampness and cold.”
Pippin stood reluctantly and gathered his things, pulling on his shirt and britches as the others set about tending to their tasks. There was much to do before they bedded down again for some rest before the nightfall and the start of another long trek in the darkness.
“I believe I will go check on Bill once more.” Aragorn rose from his seat on the large rock just inside the cave’s entrance. “He was looking much better this morning and I think he will be ready to travel by tonight.”
Pippin appeared thoughtful as he finished dressing.
“You know, this reminds me of another interesting story involving the three of you,” he pointed at his cousins and Sam, “in which I was the one responsible for the outcome being a happy one. Of course, it did include the necessity of telling on you, but at least you came out of it safely, though a bit humiliated…”
Three groans erupted simultaneously.
“Pippin! Don’t you dare!” Frodo admonished him.
Pippin’s huge grin and twinkling eyes “Let’s see now. A boat, a lass, some missing clothing--” Pippin turned and ran, laughing loudly as three embarrassed hobbits took off in hot pursuit. Pippin shouted over his shoulder as he ran, “You couldn’t figure out who stole your clothes when you were swimming! That lass sure got an eyeful, didn’t she?”
Pippin sprinted faster, barely managing to reach a tree and start climbing it as the others pursued him.
“Wait until I get my hands on you! You’ve told enough stories involving me, Pip!” Merry was scrambling up the tree after his cousin, closely followed by Frodo and Sam as Pippin climbed higher.
Gandalf and Boromir watched the commotion with interest.
“I believe that is one story I really must hear, Gandalf.” Boromir grinned at the wizard.
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