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Summer Games by Aliensouldream

Author: Aliensouldream
Title: Summer Games
Rating: G
Theme: Embarrassment at self
Summary: The hobbits compete at some sporting events.
Word Count: 2,000



In all the livelong months of summer, there was nothing that the inhabitants of Hobbiton looked forward to as much as the Fourfarthings Festival. Months of preparation went into it. Cider brewers set aside their choicest preparations in fermenting barrels of the finest oak. Pig farmers lovingly rubbed linseed oil into the hides of their competition pigs to make them glossy and handsome. Giant marrow growers fed secret preparations to their vines after sundown and tucked the swelling marrows into fluffy blankets at night with encouraging words. In bubbling kitchens, preserves of delectable fruits in intoxicating family recipes were put up by anxious cooks, dreaming of prize ribbons, and the gardens hummed and trilled in the evening with the fiddles and flutes of rehearsing musicians.

Among tween hobbits, the anticipation was even greater. First, there would be the journey to Waymeet, a jolly adventure in itself, involving ponies, wagons dressed in bunting and lots of singing, then staying at an inn or under canvas. There would be so much to see, crowds and curiosities, wonderful victuals, and the freedom of exploring while their elders were occupied. It was a rare chance to meet many other young hobbits from all over the Shire. There was a huge dance on each of the three evenings and everyone got to stay up till after moonrise. Unlike school where it was essential to pretend to ignore the one you liked, at the Festival everyone was expected to ask their favorite to dance, to flirt and even ... kiss. If the one you wanted was taken, there was always another one, or at the very least, treacle tarts and gooseberry punch. But all of this paled into insignificance compared with ...

'The Farthing Games,' said Merry, eyeing his companions sternly as they jogged along in the back of the cart to the festival. 'This is the year we make Frogmorton eat our dust. Are you with me lads?'

'Yess!!!' chorused Pip, Sam and Frodo, with the wild gleam of contest in their eyes.

'Pip, you're on the Turnip-Shy and Rope-Shinning.'

'Consider them won!'

'Sam, you're on Sledgehammer and Piglet-tying.'

'Try me best,' grinned Sam.

'I'm on Ring-Toss and Spilikins. And Frodo,' Merry paused and smiled at his cousin, 'is on Sprint and Long-Jump.'

'Frogmorton is toast!' said Frodo firmly. 'Bilbo promised me half-a-guinea if we beat them.'

'BUT ... it's the Hay-jump we really need to trump this time.' They all murmured in agreement, still smarting under last year's inglorious performance, when Frodo had been left spitting hay after pitching straight into a bale.

'It's those Cottlers,' fumed Pip. 'They're all scythers and used to swinging. And they have all that hay to practice with.'

'But there's not a one of them can jump like Frodo,' said Merry, 'The bang from that squib someone let off last year put us off our game. This year we've got to do it.'

'I've been thinking,' said Sam. The others looked at him. 'You know my brother makes ropes? Well, he's got one that someone ordered special for a job and ordered too much of. So he'll let us have the length over for nothing ... well, sixpence.'

'How will that help?' asked Merry.

'It stretches, he says. We can rig it up as a kind of sling. It'll give us a boost at the start, and it's not against the rules, I checked. "Launched", it says, it doesn't say how.'

Merry was interested. 'Sam, you may have something. I'm completely confident anyway but ... every bit helps. Here's sixpence. Go buy the rope from your brother when we get there. Hay-jump's not till the last day so we can practice setting up the rigging.'

They were so buoyed by this idea that when Pippin burst into song with 'Away Went The Fiddlers Three' they all joined in, laughing and stamping and light-hearted, as their cart rolled along with dozens of others full of happy hobbits towards Waymeet.


***


Once arrived and having dropped off their bags at the Cherrytree Inn and entered the bustling festival grounds, the hobbits were busy running around in excitement. There were hundreds of stalls with gaily striped awnings selling trinkets, clothes, homewares, tools, pipeweed and food. There were booths with prizes for pitch-and-toss, guess-the-weights of something, shove-ha'penny and skittles. There were giant boat-swings and slides and roundabouts. Best of all there were colourful tents with barkers shouting their attractions or characters juggling outside to give a taste of the entertainment within. They advertised clowns and contortionists, acrobats and escapologists, trained jackdaws and someone who could fascinate snakes.

'There's even more this year!' gasped Pip. 'We'll never get round it all.'

'We'll have a jolly good try,' said Merry. 'And it's only Day One!'

The four friends fit as much as they could into the next few hours. By the end of it, they had seen wonders, they were replete and their purses were considerably lighter. Sam had purchased the lightweight rope and carried it coiled over his shoulder. At last, the stall holders were preparing to close down for the evening. The hobbits went back to the inn for a quick wash and brush-up then headed out in great excitement for the First Day Party. The party was free as long as you paid for your food and drink. After filling whatever space remained inside of them with barbecue and ginger ale, the hobbits took up a place at the side of the field where tweens had gathered to dance. Little knots of friends from all the different villages stood about together. Some had their eye on a potential sweetheart from the same village as themselves, some looked elsewhere, shyly or boldly.

'Watch your step, Frodo,' hissed Merry. 'You don't want to get lumbered for the next three nights with the wrong girl.'

'Don't worry about me,' said Frodo.

Frodo had his eye on Lilac Buttons, a girl who attended the same school as him in Hobbiton. He had noticed she was kind and that endeared her to him. She was a pretty, honey-coloured little thing with green eyes, bedecked with blue ribbons tonight but not yet dancing with anyone. He ambled over casually, hands in his pockets, seemingly accidentally coming to rest beside the edge of her little group.

'Hey,' he said, nodding at her as though just seeing her.

'Hey,' she smiled back. 'Enjoying the festival?'

'It's alright,' he said. 'You here with anyone?'

'My sisters,' she nodded at the dancefloor though it was impossible to pick out anyone from the throng. 'You?'

'My cousins,' he tipped his head in their general direction.

'That's nice.' She looked back at the dancing.

Frodo couldn't think of another thing to say. His mind seemed a complete blank. He had just made up his mind to say 'Nice ribbons' and drawn a breath to do so when Bill Cottler appeared before them, panting.

'Dance, Lilac?' He held out his hands.

'Yes please!' She grabbed his hands and away they whirled away into the midst of the other couples and were swallowed up.

Frodo looked after them, lips parted. It had all happened so quickly. A cold and sinking feeling filled him. He became aware of eyes resting on him.

Begonia Wiggins was looking at him rather pityingly. There was nothing wrong with Begonia really but she did remind Frodo sharply of a teacher he particularly disliked.

'I'll dance with you,' she said, with not an ounce of tact.

Frodo gaped. 'I ... can't, I have to ...um, visit the privvy.' He spun and walked away as fast as he could, wincing at what he'd said and his own rudeness. But Merry was right, she might have stuck to him after that. It was self defence. He arrived back at the punch stall and drank two cups of ginger beer straight down to cool himself.

A heavy hand clapped him round the shoulders, causing him to dribble.

'Hallo there Frodo!' said Stan Bumblebrige, who had gathered round with a couple of his Hardbottle mates. 'See you brought that Buckland lot down again to give you a hand. Not that it helped much last year!' A round of derisive laughter caused Frodo to gather up his pride.

'Don't be too sure. This year we're going to wipe the floor with Hardbottle AND Frogmorton,' he boasted.

'Big talk!' sneered one of Stan's pals. 'Sure that's just ginger ale? I bet any bunch of girls against your lot.'

'You shouldn't run yourself down like that,' said Merry, appearing at Frodo's side. 'You're actually not that bad.'

'Haa-bloody-ha!' Stan steered his mates away with a grin. 'I'm looking forward to tomorrow, lads!'

Frodo looked after them and sighed. 'Can we do it, Merry?'

'Course we can. You didn't lay a bet on with them, did you?'

'No. But there could be something else riding on it. Maybe.'

'Something with blue ribbons.'

Frodo elbowed him.

'Oof! Alright, cuz, we'll do our best.'


***


The day dawned fresh as a daisy and all the boys' focus now was on the games.

It started beautifully. Pip shinned up the rope like a mouse and knocked off every turnip in his rounds. Soon he was sporting two rosettes, a garland of juniper leaves and wouldn't shut up.

'Alright, Pip, you're the king of the world, now give it a rest!' growled Merry.

'Sorry,' giggled Pip, munching some of his prize toffee. 'Want some?'

It was sheer bad luck after that. Despite a heroic effort from Sam in ringing the bell at fourteen pounds, some bruiser from Bywater rung it at fourteen and a half pounds. Then Sam's piglet was the fastest streak of bacon ever seen at the games and escaped him for five whole minutes before being tied. Merry won the ring-toss brilliantly but lost at spilikins. Suddenly they were three games to Frogmorton's four.

'No pressure,' said Merry, 'but the honour of Hobbiton rests solely on you Frodo.'

'Thanks, I'm sure.'

Their jubilation when Frodo broke the tape at the end of the sprint was ecstatic. They screamed and kissed and jumped on each other's shoulders. They insisted on lifting him up and parading him around the enclosure. Frodo would have protested but he hoped Lilac might see him and be impressed. He wondered later if the distraction had put him off when his performance at the long jump fell three inches short of last year's jump.

'Never mind Frodo,' said Pip. 'We're neck and neck with Frogmorton now, and we'll squash them tomorrow!'

They had a fine time at the party that night. Frodo danced with many girls but Lilac was not among them and he did not look for her. He had fun with his friends but knew he could only face Lilac again when total victory was his.


***


The last day of the festival dawned in sunshine and anguish that it was the last. Pippin had to run around every single stall again and taste every kind of sweet and see his favourite clowns and go on every ride. By lunchtime he was bilious and Merry had to put him to bed in the inn amidst his tearful protest against missing the final game.

'It's your own fault, Pip. You're no use to us doubled up like that. You'll just have to drink your gripe water and get over it.'

The remaining three hobbits held a serious council.

'Are we enough as three?' asked Frodo.

Sam displayed the sling he'd fashioned between the ropes. 'You slip in here, see? Then we pull back on this and - whoosh. It'll be a doddle.'

'Just like a rocket,' said Merry.

'That doesn't sound very reassuring.'

'Do you want to give up half-a-guinea and Hobbiton's pride to those fools?' Merry challenged. 'You're landing on hay, it's not as though it's dangerous.'

Frodo reluctantly agreed.

The final game drew a huge crowd. Many had already had their fill of stalls and jugglers and were winding down. The event was always fun to watch and marked the end of the festival hi-jinks before the final celebration.

Rows of carts had been set in position with their stacks of hay piled high. The object was to get the jumper over as many stacks as possible. A springboard was set on the launch cart at the start of the jump but a team could help, by forming a chain of arms to launch the jumper by hand, or possibly pitch him over. It helped if the jumper was light and springy but only if the wind was not against him. Conditions today were perfect.

Hardbottle went first: four bales. Frogmorton: five bales. The record was eight and Merry hoped they might match that. When it came their turn, Sam rigged their rope sling to the rails of the launch cart. Frodo stepped into it, feeling very nervous.

'Didn't we talk about practising this?' he whispered urgently.

But it was too late. 'Lift your arms up,' said Merry. 'Don't fight the spring. When I say jump, jump!'

Merry and Sam both pulled back on the sling as Frodo lay back into it. They managed to pull backwards quite a surprisingly long way. The audience seemed to have gone very quiet as they watched this strange procedure. Eventually the resistance became very strong and Sam grunted.

'Just a bit more, Sam,' urged Merry.

They heaved and got a little more give from the ropes, their feet straining and slipping as they leaned back almost horizontally.

'Ready, Frodo?'

'Ready!'

'1 .. 2 ... 3 ... Jump!'

Frodo leaped, expecting a hearty boost towards the springboard. The released ropes hurtled him up and off the back of the cart with the fury of slingshot. Air whooshed past him, his arms and legs cycled in the air, the crowd gasped beneath him. As he passed the high point of his trajectory he saw hundreds of astonished faces looking up, the hay piles whizzing by below, and the top of some striped awnings hurtling towards him as he fell.

'Whaoaaoohaoaahhhhaooww!' he yelled as he crashed through the canvas roof of a pastry stall.

'Frodo!' cried Sam in alarm, dashing off to see if he was alright.

'We have a winner!' yelled Merry, arms upward. But he soon dashed off to check on Frodo too.

They found him in a tangle of canvas, smashed pastries and covered in treacle.

'What happened?' he asked, dazed.

'I think you invented flying,' said Merry. 'Sorry about that mate. It worked a bit too well. But we won! Fourteen carts! Hobbiton rules!''

They had to pacify the stall holder by giving him what remained of their money for damages. They returned to the arena with the limping hero to find themselves disqualified for having completely missed the hay which was after all the point of the thing. Frogmorton won, to Merry's utter dejection.

When they got back to the inn, Pippin had made a full recovery and they all sat bathing Frodo's bruises and commiserating with each other.

'What were those ropes your brother made, Sam?' asked Frodo.

'I don't know. He said they were for something he'd never heard of, called a Tramp-O-lean. I think he must have got the tension wrong though. They're blooming dangerous.'

'Never mind Frodo,' said Pip. 'There's always next year.'

'And we did have a good festival,' said Merry, cheering up.

'Next year, you're for the hay-jump, Merry, I retire from the field.' said Frodo.

'You mean you flew right over the field!'

'Like the cow over the moon!'

'Boiiiing!'

'Spectacular! Next year we'll charge for goes! We'll make a fortune!'

Frodo was a little depressed at the thought of school and facing Lilac again. But when his friends were laughing and teasing him about his amazing flight, he couldn't help laughing with them.


Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
lindahoyland
May. 31st, 2015 11:19 pm (UTC)
It is nice to see the Hobbits having fun.
aliensouldream
Jun. 3rd, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you, they do like their games.
shirebound
May. 31st, 2015 11:23 pm (UTC)
'Frogmorton is toast!' The Tramp-O-lean! Genius!

*huge grins* What a delightful story.
aliensouldream
Jun. 3rd, 2015 12:10 am (UTC)
Thanks, got to have a bit of competition when young lads are involved.
dreamflower02
May. 31st, 2015 11:58 pm (UTC)
LOL! This was too funny!

I could just see poor Frodo flying through the air!
aliensouldream
Jun. 3rd, 2015 12:22 am (UTC)
He flew just a bit too far!
blslarner
Jun. 1st, 2015 05:30 am (UTC)
Now, that was the most spectacular loss I think I've ever heard tell of! Heh! Sounds as if it were delightful fun, though. A trampolene, eh? Interesting!
aliensouldream
Jun. 3rd, 2015 12:27 am (UTC)
That was a long toss, even Gimli didn't get that far!
nessrealta
Jun. 1st, 2015 03:55 pm (UTC)
What a fun story to read! I really like your descriptions of the Festival, I could picture everything so well.
aliensouldream
Jun. 3rd, 2015 12:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! Hobbits do love a good festival.
talullahred
Jun. 25th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
What a sweet tale of the young hobbits, having fun and being friends.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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