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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower


Hyacinth flipped the sheet viciously, and then spread it out with hard swipes of her hand. Really, the problem had been Reggie. The problem had *always* been Reggie. He just had not had the ambition she wanted him to have. Yet no one else would have done. Paladin was already married to Eglantine Banks before the opportunity had arisen. Reggie was second in line after Paladin. It was very simple.

Of course, there was Ferumbras himself. But Hyacinth had never made the mistake of thinking she’d ever be a match for Lalia.

However, Reggie did not seem to be interested in pursuing the idea of the Thainship. It would not have been impossible to get Paladin set aside, if only Reggie had shown the proper interest…

"You wanted to see me, Cousin Ferumbras?" Reggie asked.

"Yes. Tomorrow I will take the name of ‘the Took’." Ferumbras punctuated this sentiment with a satisfied sigh.

Reggie nodded. In the Shire, a widow traditionally took her husband’s place as head of family; yet in practice, most widows with adult sons gave over that title to their eldest son as soon as they could, usually only holding it for a short while. Many made exception if they still had children under age, but these days it was rare for a widow to hold the title and place for her lifetime, though it had been more common a couple of generations ago. Lalia had naturally been one of those rarities. Ferumbras had been Thain for very nearly twenty-two years, but he had never been "the Took". Lalia had held on to that very jealously. Of course, she had given most of the *responsibilities* of the Took to her son, but she had carefully guarded the privileges for herself.

"It is not before time, sir," said Reggie judiciously, when it appeared that Ferumbras was waiting for more than a nod.

Satisfied, the Thain cleared his throat and shrugged his shoulders as if settling a mantle thereon."No, no it is not. There will be a feast in celebration of the occasion tomorrow, however, and that gives us a bit of a problem. Have you heard the unfortunate gossip about young Pearl?" 

Reggie’s mouth pinched. How could he have avoided it, the way Hyacinth harped on it so constantly? Out loud, he merely said, "I have, but I give it no heed. Pearl hasn’t a shred of malice in her, and the accident could not have been her fault."

"Nevertheless, we shall have to do something about it. I think that it may be for the best that she not attend the feast tomorrow evening. I will let Paladin know this myself. And I would like you to look into a way that we can let the rest of the family know--without doubt--, that she is not responsible, and not under suspicion. I want you to look into the matter very thoroughly indeed, so that any future talk may be quickly put to rest on this matter."

Reggie smiled. This was a task he would undertake with pleasure. And the less Hyacinth knew about it, the better. No one wanted Paladin to succeed Ferumbras more than Reggie Took.


Peridot answered the hesitant knock on her door.

"Why, Pimpernel, dear! What are you doing here this time of evening?"

"Please, Auntie, I’m to let you and Auntie Primrose and Pearl know that Pippin’s ill."

"Oh, dear! Come right in! Pearl! Prim!"

Her other aunt and Pearl came hurrying as Peridot led her young niece into the sitting room. "Please, dear, tell us about it."

She explained how they had missed Pippin at teatime, and how Cousin Frodo had found him upon the roof, all sunburned and sick from the heat.

"The healer’s been," she said, "and he’s all tucked up now. Merry’s sitting with him. But the healer said he’s likely to be very ill for a few days, so Mother sent me to let you know." Her eyes filled with tears. "He looks dreadful."

"Will Merry be staying with him tonight?" asked Aunt Primrose.

Pimmie nodded.

"Please let your mother know, then, that we shall be along before first breakfast, to help with sitting with him, or for anything else that’s needed."

"Do you think I should go back tonight?" asked Pearl.

"No, dear," said her oldest aunt, "for your parents wish you to stay with us for now. We shall talk to them in the morning, though, and see if they wish you to stay with them while Peregrin is ill."

Pimpernel sniffed, and Pearl went over and hugged her younger sister. "It will be all right, Pimmie."

"It just--it’s Pippin!" the younger sister sobbed.

"I know, Pimmie," Pearl replied, holding her tight, "I know."

For all the jokes Pippin played on his sisters and all the work it was sometimes keeping up with his boundless energy, Pippin was the cherished apple of his family’s eye.


Hyacinth looked up with a speculative glitter in her dark eyes. "Well, Reggie, what did the Thain want?" she demanded.

"Tomorrow he will hold the feast to celebrate his becoming the Took. We need to see to it."

"Is that all he wanted to say?"

"What else would there be to say?"

Hyacinth nodded. "I’ll go and speak to the head cook, then."

She left immediately, and Reggie breathed a sigh of relief.


Pippin had displayed a worrisome lack of appetite at supper, though he was induced to eat a few chilled sliced peaches, and to drink some more fruit juice. Merry just picked at the food on his own tray. It took his own appetite away when Pippin didn't eat.

Eglantine looked at her nephew's tray. He'd not finished all of his supper; she'd have to keep an eye out, or she'd have another lad falling ill. If he didn't eat his breakfast, she'd have a word with Esme, and they'd have to make sure that he had his meals elsewhere than in Pippin's room. She knew very well how Merry could be. For a lad who was ordinarily so cheerful, he could worry himself into quite a state sometimes.

She gave Pippin another dose of willow-bark, and watched in astonishment as he drank it down quickly, with only a grimace to indicate his dislike. She was certain there must be a story of some kind behind that, but so far neither Frodo nor Merry had offered any explanation. She supposed that she should simply be glad it was no longer a fight to get him to take his medicines.

Just then, there was a tap on the door, and Frodo stuck his head in. "Cousin Tina, might I spend a little time with the lads before Pippin goes to sleep?"

Eglantine stood up, smiling. "Of course, Frodo." She stood up, caught his eye, and then cast a significant glance at Merry's unfinished supper tray. He raised an eyebrow, and gave a little nod.

Frodo took the chair, and Merry sat carefully on the edge of the bed, so as not to jostle Pippin.

Pippin yawned. "Tell us a story, Frodo."

"Hmm...a story? One of Bilbo's Adventures?"

"Yes, please," said Pippin drowsily. "Tell about Bilbo and the Elves, and escaping in the barrels."

"Very well." Frodo surreptitiously pulled Merry's tray a bit closer, and began to tell them the well-known tale. "As you know, Bilbo was quite put off by the sight of the Elf-king's underground stronghold, and it was all he could do to screw up his courage and follow his Dwarf friends inside, as the Elves led them over the bridge and into the cavern...Merry, I'm a bit peckish, do you mind?"

Merry shook his head absently, and Frodo broke off a good- sized chunk of bread and meat. He continued with the story, absently breaking the food in half and handing one half to Merry, who did not even seem to realize that he had it at first, as Frodo took a small bite, Merry's hobbit manners took over, and he automatically took a bite of the piece Frodo had handed him. Frodo offered a tiny piece to Pippin who shook his head. Frodo swallowed, and then once more began the tale, every so often taking another little piece of food from the tray and offering a portion to Merry, who ate without even realizing it.

By the time Bilbo had made his plans for the Dwarves' escape, Pippin was fast asleep, and by the time he was riding the barrel down the river, Merry had finished just about everything on his tray that could be eaten with fingers.

Frodo stood up, and wiped his fingers off on the cloth that lay upon the tray.

Merry looked at the tray, and then blushed, as he realized what Frodo had done. Frodo met his sheepish look with a fond smile, and then reached over and ruffled his hair. "Did you enjoy your supper, sprout?"

Merry's eyes flashed, and he opened his mouth to indignantly protest this use of his baby-name, but Frodo grinned, put a finger to his lips and glanced at the sleeping Pippin. Merry subsided, as he realized he might wake the child. Unfair!

Frodo bent over and placed a little kiss on Pippin's brow. "Take care of him, Merry. I'll see you tomorrow."


After seeing Frodo out, Paladin and Eglantine looked at one another. Pimpernel and Pervinca were already tucked up.

"You get some sleep, Tina," Paladin said. "I'll sit up, in case Merry calls for anything."

"Thank you, dear." She moved toward him, however, rather than away, and they shared a warm embrace, before Eglantine broke away, and went to their room. Paladin settled himself in the armchair nearest Pippin's door.


Primrose sat up with a sigh. Between her right hip and her left knee, her old bones were leaving her very uncomfortable tonight. Perhaps a cup of warm milk with brandy; she could heat a brick and wrap it in flannel, to put against her hip. Stiffly she arose, and put on her dressing gown. As she opened the door to her bedroom, she heard soft weeping in the room across the hall. It seemed young Pearl was suffering a sleepless night as well.

She tapped lightly on the door, and then opened it. "Pearl?"

The bed rustled, as Pearl sat up. "Oh, Auntie Prim! Everything's so *beastly* right now!"

"I know, my dear. Put on your dressing gown, and come and join me for some warm milk, and we can talk."

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