Title, Author and link to original story: Unbelief by Larner
Author's Notes: There were so many of Larner’s stories that I would have loved to play with. Unfortunately, the ones that tempted me the most were far too long for a good remix, or would not lend themselves to another author very easily. I began to look among her shorter stories, and found the bunny bit me for this one, as I wanted to know more of her OC Margil. So I decided to retell it from mostly his POV, with a little of Pippin’s thrown in for good measure. Readers of the original may note that a good deal of the dialogue is lifted directly from her story. I did not indicate such with italics, my usual practice with quotes, as I feared that would interrupt the flow of the story. But this is a remix, and I give full credit to Larner for the use of her own words in this story. It is, after all, no more than we so often do to the good Professor himself as well.
My thanks to my excellent beta, Lindelea. Her hard work made this a much better story!
Summary: A young Gondorian finds his world-view shaken by events in post-War Minas Tirith and an encounter with four halflings.
Word Count: 11,877
Margil had been shocked when his family had ridden through the broken gates of the City. The Pelennor had been disturbing, but to see those great Gates broken into splinters made him shudder. He cast his eyes to his parents, hoping they had not noticed. He was old enough not to be afraid of things, especially things that had not happened! The City had won, it had, and his nightmarish thoughts of the Dark Lord’s armies overrunning Gondor, burning and pillaging as they would were just that, nightmares. He firmly thrust away remembrance of other dreams, somehow more terrible for their reality. It would not do to remember how he had felt that dreadful night as he had watched the passage of that terrible Army, trying his courage. Dreams were of no substance and memories were in the past. He was not going to think of those things!
They had stopped briefly at their own house, and even though Margil had been told, it was yet another shock to see it covered in ash. His mother, Narieth, and their servant Popea got out there, meeting with the workers who had been engaged to help see to the cleaning. His father continued on with Margil and his older sister, Valariel, to the home of Aunt Elisien and Uncle Marcarion, where the family would stay until their City home was habitable.
Now Margil tried to put the destruction out of his mind and look forward to seeing his cousin Valdarion again. He had not seen his cousin since before the War began in earnest. They were much of an age, and Margil thought that the two of them could have a lot of fun now that the Enemy had been vanquished and the King had returned. He had not seen his cousin since before the War began in earnest.
As they travelled up the levels to the home of his Aunt Elisien and Uncle Valdamir, the signs of damage were all about them. The First Circle was nearly destroyed, and the damage in the Second and Third Circles also bore some traces of damage from the siege. But things were somewhat improved as they passed from the Third to the Fourth and then the Fifth Circle, where his uncle’s home was. It was a large house with a walled garden and a wrought-iron gate and Margil felt relieved to see it come in sight, though he nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the screeches of the peacocks.
His father cast a sidelong look at him, both worried and wary. “Is something wrong, son?”
His father’s gentle question annoyed and irritated Margil. He did not need to be babied! “I am fine, father!” he snapped. He was instantly appalled at the way he had sounded, and hunkered down sullenly, waiting for his father’s sharp reprimand.
Instead, Marcarion just sighed and tightened his lips. This made Margil feel even worse than he would have if his father had yelled at him as he deserved. He did not know why it seemed lately that everything and everybody rubbed him the wrong way.
But all his irritation was cast aside by the enthusiastic greetings of his cousins. Valdarion was as glad to see him as Margil was to see Valdarion. They embraced briefly, and then exchanged playful blows to the shoulders. Margil also greeted his Aunt Elisien and his younger cousins, Hirgon Arniel and Meliseth.
Within, the conversation turned to the ending of the War and the presence in the City of those who had come with the new King."Where is Valdamir?" his father asked.
“Down in the First Circle with several others of the guild masters and engineers and masons and Lord Gimli the Dwarf, discussing how the guild halls should be rebuilt.”
“Dwarves in the city,” Uncle Marc murmured, shaking his head not in disbelief but awe. “Dwarves and Elves. Who would believe it? When we saw the company riding through the town followed by the army of the Dead, all cried and covered their heads--but they saved the realm for us. And the King has returned! Legends walk abroad in the land.”
Margil thought to impress his cousins with his tale of seeing the King riding through Pelargir, and reached up to take Valdarion’s shoulder, pulling him down so he could whisper into his ear, “I didn’t cover my head--I was peeking out the window to see, until Popea realized what I was doing, and hurried back to pull me inside and slammed the shutters closed.”
“What was it like?” Valdarion hissed back.
“There were figures riding through--a group of Men on horseback followed by a dark shadow. The Men were all very tall, save for one who rode on the same horse as another.”
“That would be Lord Gimli riding behind Prince Legolas, I think,” Valdarion answered somewhat more loudly. “We see them riding sometimes together through the city.”
Margil's father heard him. “Lord Gimli? Prince Legolas?”
He thought perhaps Valdar looked a bit impressed, but he lacked the chance to make the most of his daring, as the adults kept the conversation moving.
But Margil soon grew bored with the talk and again drew down his cousin’s ear to whisper “Let us get out of here and leave the grown-ups to their talk.”
Valdarion shrugged, and then turned to his mother. “Nana, may I take Margil out to show him the chicks?”
“Of course, beloved. But do not seek to handle them overmuch.”
“I’ll go out with them,” Arniel announced. Her brother smiled, but her cousin shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes, for he had little use as yet for girls. The three older children quitted the room, and headed out to the enclosure where Margil’s sister Valeriel already waited with the two younger cousins, Meliseth and Hirgon.
The children went into the enclosure where the peacocks were kept in the evenings, and Arniel went to a large pot with a hinged lid, and lifted lifting up one side she scooped out a handful of grain with which to feed the chicks, which had come scurrying up—although they stayed beyond arm’s reach. Valdarion also scooped up a handful and put the grain into Margil’s hands.
Margil was trying to entice the chicks to him, but they shied away from him. He grew impatient, and at last threw the grain from him, at which all the birds hurried to where it had landed. “Stupid birds,” he muttered. Valdarion scowled at him, which made him flush.
Arniel shook her head, got some grain herself and knelt down, holding still. After some minutes of patience at last two of the chicks approached her, cautiously feeding from her hand while she remained still, followed by three others. “You have to be patient,” she said quietly, “like the Cormacolindor. He is very patient with them, and they love to come up to him.”
Margil sneered. “Little girls have very big imaginations.”
Arniel looked at him sharply, an expression of hurt on her face. “I did not imagine anything. Valdar and I have met the Cormacolindor and his friends as well! All of the pheriain have been here!”
Margil flushed, and then, moved by what imp of mischief he did not know, said “What a load of tripe!”
Arniel’s eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped. “Margil!” Her voice was sharp and shocked.
Hirgon and Meliseth were staring with round eyes, and Valdarion was giving Margil a look that he’d never seen before on his cousin’s face, one of pure fury. Then Valdarion took a deep breath, and said in a voice entirely too cool for the fire in his eyes, “Margil, you should not speak to her that way. She is telling the truth. We have indeed met the pheriain. They like to come and see the peacocks, for they have nothing like them in their own lands.”
Valdarion’s voice was calm and reasonable, which for some reason made Margil even angrier. “Do not encourage her tales, cousin,” he said nastily. “Everyone knows that halflings are but nursery tales. There are no such things as pheriannath!” Until he said this, Margil had not really thought to doubt them—after all if Elves and Dwarves could be, why not halflings? But the certainty in his cousins’ voices and the idea that they had actually met such creatures somehow infuriated him.
He was startled when little Hirgon stepped up to him. “Take that back!” he yelled, brandishing his toy sword.
“What are you going to do, then,” he said mockingly, “slay me, like the halfling and a woman supposedly slew the Captain of the Nazgûl? As if anyone believed that tale! How could tiny little creatures only half the size of Men do any of those things the wild tales are saying about them?”
Valdarion pulled Hirgon to his side and put an arm around him as if to protect him from his older cousin.
“You haven’t the slightest idea what they’re like, for you haven’t even seen them. Well, we have, and more than once. And you might think of that before you make such foolish statements in the future!” So saying, he gave Margil a glare and patting his brother on the shoulder, turned away and went off in a carefully controlled temper around the side of the house. Margil gazed in dismay after him. What had he done? This was not at all what he had hoped for from this visit.
And then the adults came out, fetched by Meliseth, who had slipped away unnoticed to tattle about the quarrel.
Margil’s heart sank. He knew he was in trouble now. And what made it worse was he knew he deserved it. Yet he could not admit that now! Besides, even if there were such things as pheriannath, it was hard to countenance the idea that they had actually met and spoken to his cousins, who after all, were just ordinary children.
Still, he’d never known Valdarion to lie. He only half listened to his father’s stern scolding. As to his punishment-- since his parents had decided to bar him from going to the banquet, well, he would just spend the time when all were at the feast alone. At least that way he would not insult anyone else with his big mouth.
What was wrong with him anyway?
Pippin had found his mind wandering during the last half-hour of his duty shift. He and Merry were worried about Frodo. His cousin needed some kind of distraction, something to get his mind off the way the Quest had ended. They’d discussed it the night before, as they’d sat smoking in the courtyard of the guesthouse smoking. Frodo had gone to bed early with a headachean aching head, and Sam was watching over him.
“You know, Merry, as long as Frodo has other people to worry about, he does fine.”
Merry had nodded. “He’s always cared more for other people’s troubles and pleasures than his own; it’s one of the things we love about him, after all. But it seems that since this whole business began, he can’t find any pleasure of his own making.”
“We can still stir him up a bit, though,” said Pippin. “I think he wants stirring right now.”
Merry chuckled. “I don’t think the things we used to do will work as well. And Sam and Strider probably would not approve of our usual methods of stirring Frodo up.”
“Well, we are a bit too old and too large to hold him down and tickle him anymore. And there aren’t any convenient farms to lure him out scrumping.”
Merry shook his head. “He’s not done any scrumping since he was caught by Farmer Maggot. He didn’t used to be above an occasional larder raid, even after Bilbo left. But I can’t see us trying to raid the larder at the Citadel.”
Pippin shook his head. “That’s no fun anyway. Knowing that they’d give us whatever we wanted and then some rather takes away the whole point of a larder raid. Besides, at our ages, there has to be a more subtle way to stir him up.”
“Yes. Well. We shall have to think on it.”
Well, Pippin had been thinking on it for a while, but so far no idea had seemed quite right to him. He recalled his mind from wandering. He was on duty after all, even if his post by the outer door had been rather boring. So far the only ones seeking admittance to the Citadel during his shift had been three tradesmen from the City, who were on the appointed list of those seeking to speak with the Steward, and his cousin Frodo accompanied by Sam, who had been sent for by the King, and they’d left a couple of hours ago. No one had even approached in the last hour and a half, and his stomach was reminding him that it had been more than three hours since he’d eaten. It was with gladness, then, that he noticed the approach of a fellow guardsman to relieve him. “Ah, Hardorn! I’m very glad to see you!” He gave a nod, reported briefly on who had entered, and took his leave. He did, at least, have one thing he wanted to look into, and it was not too far off his way back to the guesthouse—Bergil had told him of a quiet spot, not far from the place to turn aside on the path to the Rath Dínen. There was a yew growing there, an old and large one, where a boy or two—or a hobbit—might find a cool place of peace and quiet. Pippin thought it might be worth checking out.
He padded along, and soon saw the spot Bergil had spoken of. Indeed, the way the branches hung down made for a very hobbity sort of hiding place. He remembered a similar sort of spot beneath the lilac bushes at Bag End, and sighed. He’d grown too large for that hiding place before they’d ever left the Shire. He’d certainly not fit in there now.
But as he approached, he heard youthful voices, and when he got close enough he heard:
“No, I’d best not.”
Pippin smiled to himself. It seemed at least a couple of boys were already there. He pushed his way through the branches. “You’d best not do what?” and smiled to see the boys start. Hobbits do know how to move quietly, and they’d no idea until he spoke that he was there. He gazed about. The tree was immense, and the cool dirt hollow beneath would allow him, even at his height, to stand up without discomfort. “This does indeed make a good private place, Bergil--I can see why you thought I should see it. I’ll have to tell Frodo about it, for there are a few times when he would appreciate feeling hidden away, I think. Hello, Valdarion. Fancy meeting you here!”
“I rejoice to see you, Captain,” Valdarion sounded shy. Pippin supposed that it was seeing him in uniform and away from the boy’s home that made him so formal.
“Well, Hardorn has just relieved me of duty, so I thought I’d check into the space under the tree and see if it was as wonderful as Bergil and Tergil have told me. So you, too, know of this place?”
“Yes, although I’d not expected to meet others here, particularly so many at once,” Valdarion said wryly.
“Does take a bit away from the hidden feeling, doesn’t it? But I suspect it’s usually empty.”
“And what were you wishing to hide from?” Pippin asked as he finished pushing himself into the hollow about the bole of the yew.
“My cousin Margil.”
Pippin could not help but remember his own occasional cousin troubles. As dearly as he loved Frodo and Merry, at times the mere fact that they were older led them to make some annoying assumptions. “An older cousin, then, a bit pushy and overbearing?”
“No, actually almost my own age, really. And usually he’s a fine enough fellow, but today he’s being particularly--particularly--” Valdarion shook his hand with frustration at not finding the right word to describe his cousin.
“Obtuse?” Pippin suggested. “It’s how Frodo usually describes Lobelia and some of our Bracegirdle relatives when they’re at their worst.”
“That sounds like a good word for him,” Valdarion said.
“What’s the problem?”
“He doesn’t believe in Pheriannath, you see. He’s just come to the city from the Pelargir, and he says he watched the King ride through followed by his kinsman and Prince Legolas and Lord Gimli and the Army of the Dead, so he feels himself to know all.”
Pippin gave a sniff to suppress his wish to laugh. “Well, I have it on the best of authority that Hobbits do exist, you know. Why is he here in Minas Tirith?”
“His ada, my nana’s brother, came to attend the trade council meeting tomorrow.”
“The one at the Potters’ Guild Hall in the Third Circle? He’s a merchant, then?”
“Uncle Marcarion captains the family trading vessel.”
“Excellent. And will his family attend the banquet tomorrow noon?”
“I think so. Arniel and I have been fitted with new garments so that we might attend, although Nana says Hirgon and Meliseth must stay at home, and the two of them are very rebellious.”
“I can imagine, although they’d find the business part of the banquet quite boring, I believe, remembering how bored I’d feel when I had to attend Took convocations when I wasas a small lad.” Now Pippin felt free to grin. The disbeliever would get an eyeful, wouldn’t he? He was starting to get the beginnings of a notion. “Well,” he said, “if your cousin doesn’t believe in Hobbits, he’ll have his beliefs blown apart like the seeds from a dandelion clock tomorrow, for we are all to attend. Sam doesn’t wish to go, but Strider’s insisting Frodo must, and so Frodo is insisting in turn Sam must. Frodo’s a firm believer in misery loving company, you know.”
Valdarion laughed. “Then I don’t think I’ll tell him. Let him find out at the banquet! That would serve him right, I think.”
Pippin’s mind was working furiously. How wonderful to be handed such an excellent opportunity to both help Valdarion put one over on his cousin, and stir Frodo up nicely into the bargain. And he thought he knew just what might do the trick… “I have an idea that might add to the impact. I’ll suggest it to Strider tonight, then. Just don’t be surprised at how we appear tomorrow. Frodo will be most upset, but now and then it’s fun to force him to appear in his full glory.” He carefully led the way as the four of them exited the haven under the lowest boughs of the yew tree. “I’ll not tell Frodo about the hollow under the yew until after the banquet, for it may distract him from seeking my head, and will perhaps serve as a reward for looking his new rank.” He gave a slight bow. “Until tomorrow, then, Valdarion.”
He went on his way back to the guesthouse, cheerily whistling “Ho! Ho! Ho! To the Bottle I Go!”. With any luck, he’d have a word with Merry before he turned his wheedling on the King. And that would be fun as well.
Margil ignored his sister’s rather supercilious sniff as she read his letter. He’d been quite careful not to blot the paper, and to be very correct in his spelling and punctuation. He knew she’d enjoy a chance to correct him, and he did not intend to leave any arrows for her quiver. He sat in stiff silence, awaiting her verdict. With an effort, he avoided rolling his eyes and sighing as she gave another sniff and read over it again.
Finally she pursed her lips, clearly disappointed that she had found no mistakes so as to make him do it all over. “I suppose that it will do,” she said, and handed it back to him. He took it and went to show his father.
His father shook his head. “If Valeriel believes that this is an adequate apology, you need not show it to me. It is between you and Valdarion. You may give it to your cousin at dinner.”
Margil sighed and placed the letter by Valdarion’s place. He hoped that his cousin would accept it.
At the meal, he watched as Valdarion picked it up, and in his mind he read along, remembering what he had written:
I am very sorry that I chose to quarrel with you today. I was ill-tempered and ill-mannered and ungracious. Whatever my opinions, I should not have spoken in such a haughty manner, and I hope that you will forgive me, that we may once more be friends.
He watched Valdar scan over it twice, and then his cousin looked at him and said quietly, “Apology accepted.”
Margil blinked. Valdar looked perfectly sincere, and he felt a wave of relief wash over him, followed by surprise. He knew how angry Valdar had been, and had expected that he would only grudgingly accept the apology. But Valdar met his eyes, and though there was challenge there, Margil saw not a hint of hostility. He let out a breath he had not known he’d been holding, and blinked away the moisture from his eyes. Just because he was glad to make it up with Valdar did not mean he had to get as weepy as a maiden!
They stood for the Standing Silence, and then Valdar turned to him.
“Will you sit by me at the banquet tomorrow?”
Margil flushed and looked down at his plate. Apparently Valdar truly had forgiven him, and now he was going to have to explain why he could not honour his request. He felt his father’s eyes on him, and then his father said, “I fear Margil won’t be going to the banquet after all. Those who insist on being as contrary as Margil, to the point they drive their best friends to fight with them, are obviously not old enough to attend banquets.”
“Oh, but he has to come, too,” Valdarion blurted out. “The fight is over and he’s apologized, and very thoroughly at that. Please, Uncle Marc!” Margil looked at Valdarion in surprise, and felt somewhat gratified at the stricken expression on Valdar’s face. It was nice to know that someone wanted him, even if he did not deserve it.
His mother gave him a significant look. “If it were just the argument with you, Valdar, that would be one thing. However, this is just one more incident in what has become a very long string of very similar incidents.”
Popea, who’d been part of his family for years. ever since his father’s sailors had saved her from an Umbari slaver, also was giving Margil a critical look. “This boy has been contrary--most contrary. He has done his best to argue with every soul he must come into contact with for the last several moon cycles. Perhaps if this boy wishes to do things such as attending banquets he would do well to behave far more agreeably.”
Margil flushed at the criticism. It was true he had been a little moody lately, but surely he had not been that bad! He cast a look at his sister, wondering what fault she would find. Valariel merely returned his look coolly and then focused her attention pointedly on her plate again. “The chicken is very good, Aunt Elisien,” she said. “You must give me the recipe.”
Margil nearly sighed with relief, grateful that she had not piled her own opinion on theirs, and thankful indeed that she sought to change the subject off himself.
Elisien fought a smile. “I will be glad to do so tomorrow evening, Valariel. And what will you be wearing to the banquet?”
Uh-oh, Margil thought, feeling a bit less thankful. If he had to hear the tedious details of his sister’s dress one more time…
He nearly groaned as Valeriel took the bait and began to launch into her favourite current subject.
“Naneth and I have had the most beautiful dress made, Aunt. It’s....” The description was lengthy, and the explanation of how they’d found the fabric and the perfect one to make it for her even more so. Margil and Valdarion found themselves rolling their eyes at one another across the table. Margil had to fight the urge to giggle aloud, which would surely infuriate the adults once more. Still, it was lovely to have made it up with Valdar!
Gradually the subject of the dress meandered to an end.
Hirgon and Meliseth looked quite bored. Margil could not quite hear what Valdar said to his little brother, but he heard Hirgon’s response.
“Then I’m glad I’ll get to go to Gerthol’s house tomorrow. We’ll get to play guardsmen. He has a new sword his uncle bought for him, made to look like the one Sir Meriadoc used on the Witch-king.”
Margil carefully said nothing to this. He would keep his lips firmly sealed about anything to do with the mythical pheriannath!
Meliseth was still looking sulky. “Will the Lord King attend the banquet?”
“Pippin says he will attend much of the conference,” Valdarion answered her almost without thinking.
“You saw Pippin? When?” Aunt Elisien’s voice was sharp, and Margil wondered who this “Pippin” was, that got such a reaction. Perhaps some friend of Valdarion’s of whom she did not approve? Funny, he had never heard his cousin speak of a “Pippin” before. What an odd name!
“When I went up to the Sixth Circle to calm down. We spoke for a time, Apparently those in his household will be expected to attend, and his cousin is afraid he will be very bored.”
“Oh, Nana,” Meliseth begged, “please can’t I go? If Pippin and the rest are going to go....”
“They won’t be sitting anywhere near us, I fear, sweet one,” her mother said gently. “They’ll have to sit at the high table, I suspect.”
“But Hirgon and me, we’ll miss the stories!”
“I really doubt there will be much in the way of stories tomorrow. As your brother pointed out to Hirgon, most of the talk will be of cargoes and lading and merchandise and where best to sell it. And from what we know of Pippin’s kinsmen, I suspect they’re attending mostly out of courtesy and not because of their interest in trade. Although, considering Pippin’s family ties perhaps he might be expected to talk business.”
“But he’s not of age yet--he’s said so!”
“Neither are your brother and sister and cousins, but they are attending that they prepare for the day when they must take up whatever trades or such they might embrace.”
“Will Margil be going to Gerthol’s house with me?” Hirgon asked.
“Well, I’m hoping,” Elisien said quickly before her brother could answer, “that his parents will forgive him enough to allow him to attend the banquet, too.”
Margil blinked. The conversation between his aunt and Hirgon had been puzzling, but her sudden support of his going to the banquet was totally unexpected. Why was she championing him? He knew he’d done nothing to deserve it.
He looked over at Valdarion, who was trying to suppress the dawning hope in his eyes, but could not suppress the smile at his mother’s intervention.
Margil’s mother looked more than a little surprised. “You believe that after his behavior today we should allow Margil to attend a banquet?”
Uncle Valdamir suddenly asked, “Who is Pippin?”
“We met him as a result of the war, a most pleasant young gentleman.”
Margil was confused at his uncle suddenly changing the topic. He wished to know: Was he going to the banquet or was he not? Why did his uncle have to choose that instant to ask about this Pippin person?
“As Meliseth has pointed out, young Pippin is not quite of age, although he’s proven himself to be very responsible nonetheless. I think it would be very--instructive--for Margil to have the chance to meet him tomorrow. After all, if he and his kinsmen will be attending....”
The topic turned now to the feast itself, and the more boring subject of trade. Margil felt frustrated that he still did not know if his parents would change their minds. The opportunity of his aunt’s unexpected support seemed to have passed.
But after they had finished supper and the youngest children had been sent on to bed, the rest gathered in the back parlour. His father seemed thoughtful, and then turned to Aunt Elisien.
“So, sister, you now feel Margil should attend after all.”
“Oh, yes, particularly if Pippin and his kinsmen are to be there.”
Margil looked sharply at his aunt. Who was this Pippin anyway, that it would make his aunt want his parents to suspend his punishment?
“It’s a most unusual name.”
“I agree. It’s the dear-name his family uses for him.”
“Does he live in the city?”
“He and his kinsmen remain here I believe for a couple more months, although they live in the countryside, I understand. His father and uncle are important officials of their folk, we’re told, and he will be expected soon enough to assist in arranging trade agreements for their region. I’m certain this is why they are expected to attend the conference.”
Margil’s parents exchanged a glance, and he felt very hopeful. He had seen that look before.
“Narieth and I will consider changing our minds if you believe it advisable,” Marc said slowly, “if Margil will agree to consider how his constant arguing has made him a most disagreeable one to have to deal with.”
He was quick to nod his agreement. “I promise, I’m sorry I keep arguing, although I’m not sure why I do. Although I still don’t believe in Hobbits,” he added, wanting to be completely honest. He used the unfamiliar word that his cousins had used. “but I promise not to argue about it.”
“What are Hobbits?” asked Popea.
Elisien smiled and shook her head. “Probably best a subject left to tomorrow to discuss,” she temporized. “But as Valdarion has forgiven Margil for the quarrel, it’s best we all do so as well, don’t you agree?”
Margil heaved a sigh of relief, and smiled as he saw Valdarion do the same.
Pippin left his King and Gandalf hurriedly. He could not wait to tell Merry, who was waiting for him. The two hobbits had thought that Strider might suspect something if both of them were suddenly pushing him to make Frodo wear his more formal court gear. He was fairly certain that the King suspected something anyway, but Merry’s presence would have made him certain. As for Gandalf, Pippin had known the instant he opened his mouth that Gandalf suspected something. But his black eyes had held a twinkle, and Pippin knew that the wizard would hold his peace. Gandalf could be quite as close with the secrets of others as he was with his own— Pippin remembered all too clearly his shock on discovering after the Quest was ended, that Gandalf had known all along of the Conspiracy and never said a thing to any of them.
“Well?” asked Merry.
Pippin grinned. “He will tell Frodo to wear his finest court clothing.”
Merry gave a bark of laughter. “I can’t wait to hear Frodo’s words on the subject! I have to say, Pip, this is one of your better ideas for stirring Frodo up! And it’s all in a good cause after all. Imagine poor Valdarion’s cousin not believing in hobbits!” and he chuckled again.
Pippin arched an eyebrow at Merry. “And I seem to remember an older cousin who did not believe in oliphaunts,” he said mildly.
“Oi!” Merry exclaimed, aiming a swift swat to the back of Pippin’s head, which Pippin easily ducked, laughing.
“Let’s hurry, Merry! I am sure that the King will send a message swiftly, so that Frodo and Sam will have time to be prepared for tomorrow! I’d like to be there to see Frodo’s face.”
Merry began to sprint. “Race you!” Even with a head start, he was hard pressed, and the two were breathless and laughing when they arrived at the guesthouse. Pippin put on a last burst of speed, and touched the door first.
“We -- we haven’t done that -- in a long time, Merry!” he huffed.
Merry bent over, breathing hard and shaking his head. “I can’t -- believe you -- you won!” he said ruefully.
Frodo looked up curiously as they entered. “The two of you are huffing and puffing as though a wolf were after you!”
“We—were racing,” said Merry.
“Good heavens!” said Frodo. “I would think you are too old for such games, especially you, Merry! Sam’s made leg of lamb for supper. I suggest the two of you go and wash up; aside from puffing like a bellows, you are both all sweaty.”
He stared after them, a look of fond amusement mixed with exasperation, as the two headed to clean up.
“This was definitely a good plan, Pip,” Merry whispered. “He’s getting downright stuffy. Stirring is most certainly in order.”
Legolas and Gimli joined them for supper; Gandalf was still up at the Citadel, so Sam put a plate aside for him. Supper consisted of mushroom and barley soup, a salad of young greens, leg of lamb with mint sauce and fresh peas cooked with tiny new potatoes. There were lemon tarts for afters, which Sam had purchased at a nearby bakery. They were just finishing the meal when Gandalf arrived.
“I’ve a message for you from Aragorn,” he said, holding out a sealed letter. “I told him I would bring it, and save one of the pages having to carry it down here.”
“Thank you, Gandalf!” Frodo opened it curiously, wondering what his friend could have to say, since he had seen him earlier in the day.
“Lawks!” he exclaimed.
“Frodo!” Merry outwardly appeared shocked; after all, he’d not heard Frodo use that common Buckland oath in years, since he’d gone to live in Hobbiton. But inwardly he was grinning. He carefully avoided Pippin’s eye.
“What is it, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked.
Frodo took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Our Lord King, Samwise Gamgee, has seen fit to order us to wear full court dress tomorrow for that – “ he hesitated, apparently trying to temper his language, “that banquet we’ve been asked to attend! Mail and all the other get-up we had to wear at Cormallen, as well as those fancy new surcoats he had made for us!”
Sam blinked. “Mr. Frodo, you aren’t serious!”
“See for yourself, Sam!” He passed the letter over to Sam, and then put his face in his palm. “I can’t believe it,” he muttered.
Pippin was avoiding Merry’s eye as well. “Frodo! I wonder why on earth he’d do such a thing, when he knows you don’t care for it?”
Merry kicked his younger cousin under the table. Pippin ignored him.
Frodo took the letter back from Sam, who appeared to be rather pole-axed. He’d not said a word on reading the letter, but had just gone pale.
“I believe that your arrival dressed fitting to your ranks as Lords of the Free Peoples of the West will work to the advantage of Arnor and of the Shire. If the traders see you primarily as Lords of the land they will underestimate your knowledge and that of the others in dealing with the trade of foodstuffs and pipeweed and wool. It will give your people a remarkable tactical advantage.”
“What a lot of folderol!” said Frodo. “I can’t think what on earth could have put such a silly idea in his head!”
Pippin drew in a breath and suddenly began coughing until he was red in the face. Merry pounded him on the back, and Frodo handed him his goblet of water. Legolas and Gimli leaned forward with expressions of concern, while Gandalf just watched, his bushy eyebrows raised skeptically.
When Pippin finally could speak again, he waved a hand. “Sorry! I think I breathed in a breadcrumb! Now what were you asking, Frodo?”
Frodo just shook his head. “I suppose there is no hope for it. We’ll look like a pair of Mistress Elisien’s peacocks tomorrow, Sam!” He sighed in resignation to his fate, and Sam nodded. If Mr. Frodo had to wear his gear, Sam knew he’d not get out of wearing his own. When it came to that sort of thing, Frodo was a keen believer in sharing the misery around.
As soon as he could get the chance, Merry drew Pippin aside. “Pip, what was all that choking about? And don’t tell me it was a breadcrumb!”
Pippin shook his head. “If Frodo finds us out, Merry, we are in for it. That bit in Strider’s letter? He was quoting me. And Frodo’s right, it was a lot of folderol—I made it up myself to convince the King.”
Merry moaned. “We will be in so much trouble when Frodo finds out.”
“Maybe he won’t,” said Pippin, attempting a lighter tone.
Merry just gave him a dark and knowing look. “I just hope it’s worth it. It’s most certainly stirred him up!”
“Well, that was the point, after all.”
Margil had been on his best behaviour throughout the morn. He had no desire to be sent off with the younger ones instead of going to the banquet. He even complimented his sister on her dress, winning a look of approval from his mother and one of pleased surprise from his sister.
He hoped it would be worth it, and not boring. But to be at a banquet where the high lords and even the King himself were in attendance was not an honour to be lightly cast aside, even if it did turn out boring. And at least he’d get to be with Valdar.
Thinking of whom—“Ada,” he asked, “where is Valdar this morning, and the others?”
“Your uncle had to go down early, and the others went with him. They will be wanting to make sure everything is done correctly, and to make any last minute changes in the arrangements.”
“Ah.” Margil had wished to ask his cousin some questions, particularly about his mysterious friend “Pippin”.
His mother examined him closely. “Yes, I think the grey shirt looks well on you, son. I am glad I decided on that rather than light blue. It looks well with your surcoat.” She reached over and tucked a lock of his hair behind his ear. Margil just hoped she did not see any smudges on his face. If she wet her finger and rubbed it, he was not certain he’d be able to refrain from any unfortunate retorts. But her attention quickly turned to his father as she reached up to straighten the collar of his tunic.
After a bit more fussing on his mother’s part, they made their way out to the streets, for they would be walking the short distance to the Potter’s Guild Hall. There were many other friends and acquaintances going there as well, and the street was filled with people in their best finery, all heading down in the same direction.
When they arrived, it was Valdarion himself who greeted them, and he seemed quite pleased and excited to show them to their table.
Margil blinked. There was a chair at one end, fitted with a raised seat. “What is that for? Are we to have a little child sit with us?”
“No, not a child, although you won’t understand probably until that one comes. He’ll be among one of the last, I believe. Ada says the King has advised that his folk do much trading of wool and woolen cloth.”
Margil felt peeved. His cousin had not explained anything. But before he could ask any questions, Valdar hurried off, to show more newcomers to their tables. He took his own seat and gazed about. It was not the first time he had been in the Guild Hall, but it was the first time he had been there when it was arranged for a banquet. It looked quite different, festooned with the banners bearing the arms of the various Guilds that were represented, and also other banners as well. The one hanging above the High Table was the sable and argent standard of the King, though not the bejeweled on that flew above the Citadel, which Margil had seen unfurled for the first time when the Army of the Dead had passed by. This one was much smaller and the device was not so finely wrought. There were other unfamiliar banners hung about the Hall as well.
Suddenly the murmur of conversation went quiet. Stragglers who had not seated themselves hurried to do so. Margil realised that the King’s party must have arrived. He watched as Uncle Valdamir stood moved to stand by the high table and raised his voice. Valdarion caught his eye, then; his cousin was positioned near the entrance along with several others, the sons or apprentices of various Guildmasters, waiting their turn to usher the important guests to their places, and he looked suitably serious.
Margil turned his attention back to his uncle, who began to announce the new arrivals. He was impressed at how easily Uncle Valdamir pronounced the nearly incomprehensible syllables of the names of representatives from Harad and Umbar, and he looked curiously at the Dunlending, for he had never seen one before. Aside from his bushy beard, however, he looked ordinary enough.
“Lord Gloin, a Dwarf from Erebor, and his son Lord Gimli, one of the King’s Companions.” Lord Gimli! That was the Dwarf whom Margil had seen riding with the Elf that night! And the other was his father!
“Prince Tharen and Prince Legolas, one of the King’s Companions, sons of King Thranduil of the great forest realm of Eryn Lasgalen.” The Elf, who had ridden with the King as well…and the other Elf was his brother. Margil stared at them; there was no mistaking an Elf, even from a distance.
“King Brand of Dale in Rhovanion,” and a party of three was led within, one led to a seat at the high table, and a Man and a woman led to the table of those who traded finely artificed goods.
Margil wondered just where Dale was. He knew that Rhovanion was in the North-East, but he had not heard of Dale before. His father’s dealings were mostly along the coastal areas. The name was vaguely familiar, but he could not recall what goods were supposed to come from there. The Steward of Arnor had been introduced as his attention had wandered, before he paid heed once more.
“Lord Elfhelm of Edoras, Captain of Eóreds and representative of the King of Rohan,” and a tall Rider with the long golden hair of that people, dressed in golds and greens with the White Horse impressed onto the breastplate of his leather gambeson over his silvered mail, entered and was led to the high table.
“Sir Meriadoc Brandybuck, Holdwine and Knight of the Mark and Esquire to the King of Rohan, shield brother to the Lady Éowyn, slayer of Nazgul, son of Saradoc Brandybuck, Master of Buckland of the Shire, one of the King’s Companions." Margil stared at the entrance, expecting to see another of the Rohirrim, as tall and impressive as Elfhelm, but the archway remained empty—and then his eye was drawn downward. There, standing straight and proud was a person only slightly more than half the height of the Lord who had preceded him. Margil suddenly got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He could hear the whispers: "He helped to slay the Witch-king of Angmar!" following the small figure in the livery of Rohan, and he remembered his own foolish remark to his cousins. He slumped down in his chair, and did not dare to look at Valdarion, whom he was certain would be wearing a look of triumph.
But he had little time to recover his composure, for Uncle Valdamir was announcing another.
“Peregrin Took, a Captain of the Guard of the Citadel and a knight of Gondor, and son to Paladin Took, the Took and Thain to the Shire in Eriador, known in the city as the Ernil i Pheriannath--one of the King’s Companions.” Here was another pherian. He had a mass of auburn curls and was clad in the livery of a Guardsman, complete with mail, the White Tree blazoned across his breast—save he, like the other halfling before him was barefoot, the feet well covered with thick curls like those atop his head. Valdarion moved to his side and began to lead him in their direction. Suddenly the meaning of the seat at the table became painfully clear, as did the conversation about the mysterious “Pippin”. Margil suppressed a moan of embarrassment, and glanced at the shocked looks on his parents’ faces.
Valdar showed the pherian to his place at the table, and as he moved past Margil, he paused for a brief instant. “Close your mouth before you swallow a fly, Margil,” he said, somewhat smugly. Margil flushed deeply, and blinked, for his eyes were moist with humiliation. It was his own fault for being such a know-it-all, after all. He risked a look at the halfling, and was surprised to see a knowing smile of sympathy there. And then, most unexpectedly, a wink. The friendly gesture lifted Margil’s spirits immensely, though he realised he had missed the introduction of the Wizard, who was already being led to the high table. But then his attention was caught by the introduction of yet another pherian.
“Samwise Gamgee of Hobbiton in the Shire, Lord Panthail of all the Free Peoples of the West for his service as one of the two Cormacolindor, beloved Companion of the King, esquire to the King’s Friend, lover of growing things.” Arniel met this hobbit, and led him to the high table. He was shorter than the first two had been, and somewhat more solidly built. His mail was gilded, worn over a shirt of creamy lawn and beneath a surcoat of wine-coloured velvet, broidered with a pattern of leaves and vines in gold and green. On his golden curls was a circlet of silver, and a sword was belted at his side. His face was bright red with embarrassment, but he followed Arniel with his head held high.
“Frodo Baggins of the Shire, kinsman to Master and Thain and Bilbo Baggins, the Ring Finder and hero of the Battle of the Five Armies, the Lord Iorhael of all the Free Peoples of the West for his service as Cormacolindor, the Ringbearer, beloved Companion and Friend of the King.”
The figure that stood there now was pale, save for two bright red spots on his cheeks, his dark hair setting off another circlet of silver. His mail shimmered in a way that Margil had never seen before, and his surcoat of midnight blue was broidered with the Two Trees, the Sun, the Moon, and Seven Stars. He too, wore a small sword. His face was quite impassive, and he moved with a dignity and grace that rivaled that of the Elves who had entered earlier.
There was a pause in the introductions, and then Uncle Valdamir took a deep breath and exclaimed: “Our Lord King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, Aragorn son of Arathorn, born Chieftain of the Dúnedain of Eriador, Lord now of Gondor and Arnor, the King Returned.” And all bowed low as the exceedingly tall Man garbed in a sable robe embroidered with the White Tree in Flower, his brow encircled by the Elendilmir, a great green jewel holding closed the neck of his robe, came to claim the central seat at the high table.
He did not immediately sit down, but began to speak of the benefits of peace and of trade. Though Margil was interested in what the King had to say, his attention kept wandering to the two pheriannath on either side of the King. Both were looking up at their King with rapt attention, and for an instant it seemed to Margil that the three of them were kindred in some way. He shook his head to clear it. The notion, of course, was silly. But perhaps it was the dignity of bearing that all three displayed made them seem uncannily alike.
Cormacolindor. Ring-bearers. The stories now began to make a dreadful sort of sense. Those two small people had gone alone, step by step into the Black Land and seen to the destruction of the Enemy’s Ring! He could not begin to imagine what courage that had taken. How fearless they must be, to have done such a horribly difficult and dangerous thing! He dragged his attention back to the King’s speech.
“I ask you to speak freely with these guests from far lands and strange peoples seated among you today, and let all learn what others have to offer--how silks and cottons and shells and ivory are produced and passed through Harad, how Umbari traders deal with all kinds of goods. And let all see how free converse throughout Middle Earth benefits all, now that we no longer need fear for the interference of Mordor.
“Now, if all will join me in the observance of the Standing Silence....” The King turned to face the West, as did everyone else. Margil rarely gave the Standing Silence much thought. It was just what they did in his family. He knew some families did not observe it at all. But today, observing how solemn the King was made him truly think about what it meant, looking to the past, to Númenor from whence their people had come, and beyond, to the Uttermost West where all had begun. When the Silence ended, he glanced at the two Elves, and wondered if they were among those who had come from there, or if they were born in Middle-earth. Suddenly he noticed that everyone was seated again, and he hastily sat down himself.
“Well, it’s an honor to be seated by all of you today,” the pherian was saying. “As Aragorn has indicated, my father is Thain of the Shire, and we of the Tooklands have always prided ourselves in the quality of the woolens we produce. Not that I’m wearing any examples of our folk’s weaving right now--I fear that once we reached here we all needed new garb, for what we brought with us was much damaged by our long journeys.” He looked at Valdarion. “It’s good to find myself by you, Valdarion. And is one of these the cousin you spoke of yesterday?”
Margil felt the flush creeping up his face, as Valdar introduced him. “I am sorry, Captain Peregrin, that I did not believe in you.” Then he flushed as his parents and the other adults laughed. He was grateful to notice that Valdar did not laugh, nor did the Captain.
“That is quite all right, Margil. And please, call me Pippin. It is hard enough to get used to being called by my rank by fellow Guards!”
“Thank you—Pippin,” Margil said shyly. Truly, the pherian-- that is, the hobbit-- was friendly and kind, and he was very glad of the chance to get to speak with him.
Conversation soon turned to the events of the War, and then to the opportunities for trade that would be opening now that there was no longer a threat from the Dark Lord In the East. Margil noticed that though Pippin was young, he was well informed and able to hold up his end of the conversation with the adults, He spoke of the sheep of the Green Hills of Tookland, and of the fine wool they produced, and of the woolen cloth that was the result. He told of the fairs of his land and the markets of Bree, and talked of pipeweed and of the orchards and all they produced. But then the food began to arrive and suddenly he found a far more interesting— at least to him— topic.
As the breads and butter, onion and ale soup and the salad of mixed herbs and greens were brought to the table, Pippin tucked in, treating them to a running commentary on the food, never seeming to stop eating and yet somehow still managing to not speak with his mouth full.
“I’ve found that these confounded Gondorian banquets don’t really give me enough time to truly enjoy the meal. They don’t bring everything to the table at once and they come take it away and bring more before I’m really ready!” He paused to put a bit of bread which he had dipped in the soup in his mouth. “Take this soup, for instance! It’s wonderful! They’ve used good brown ale with the onions, and there’s bread at the bottom as well! It’s only lightly seasoned, and the saffron makes a world of difference. But I’d love more of it later in the meal to see how it goes with other foods.” He then turned his attention to the salad. “I love this combination of greens and flowers, but what really makes it special is that unusual vinegar they use down here. Faramir told me that it has to age for at least twelve years! And of course, there is the olive oil. We don’t have that in the Shire. Yet, anyway. I’m very much hoping it will be one of the items we can get in trade—it’s quite a change from the butters and oils we use in the Shire. Sam says the trees won’t grow up there, unfortunately. He says the weather’s all wrong for olive trees…” he stopped as a servant began to remove his soup plate and when he turned his attention to the new plate, with its serving of stewed chicken and spicy roasted chickpeas what was left of his salad was taken away. A platter of highly seasoned cold pies was also placed on the table, and one vanished almost magically, barely making a stop in between on Pippin’s plate. Valdarion and Margil exchanged astonished looks, and very nearly forgot to eat their own food. Margil noticed that the adults at the table were also having a difficult time hiding their amazement at Pippin’s appetite.
By the time the third course, of pork pies, mashed peas with onions and cherry bread pudding arrived, Pippin was the only one still eating with any enthusiasm. Indeed, he still kept up his comments on the food. “The mashed peas don’t look like much,” he said. “I think they’d taste just as well if they were just cooked until tender and not mashed, and they’d look a lot more appetizing than this.” However, it did not stop him from conveying a large amount to his mouth. He attacked the pudding with clear enjoyment. “I must get the receipt for this! I am quite sure it can’t be that hard to make, and I do like a good bread pudding!” He looked at Valdarion’s barely touched portion, and shook his head. “Are you going to waste that?” he asked, a hopeful gleam in his green eyes.
Valdar mutely pushed his dish over, and Pippin finished it up, giving a blissful sigh as the servant took the dishes away, and placed a platter, this one of thin cheese wafers, on the table. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “Look what they brought for filling up the corners!” He was the only one who reached for any, and he began to eat it absently, occasionally breaking off a bit and playing with it before popping it into his mouth, following it with a sip of the sweet spiced wine that had been brought to finish the meal. Pippin did not seem to notice the silence of the rest of his companions, but gave a deep sigh of contentment. “Now that was a nice meal, I have to say, even if it was rushed.”
Valdarion and Margil just stared. Marcarion cleared his throat. “You are quite the trencherman, Pippin.”
He laughed. “I’m a tween. We are known for our appetites.”
Narieth looked puzzled. “I thought that your people called yourselves hobbits?”
“We do. But I am not of age yet. I’m only twenty-nine and won’t be of age until I’m thirty-three. I’m probably not going to get any taller—thanks to Ent-draught I’m already taller than I have any right to be-- but I’ve a lot of filling out to do before I hit my full growth. We call hobbits between the age of twenty and thirty-three ‘tweens’ because we are between childhood and coming of age.”
“Ah,” said Marcarion. “To our eyes, you appear to be a youth of about eighteen.”
Pippin nodded. “That’s what I’ve been told. Frodo says as far as he can tell, hobbits grow up at about two-thirds the rate of Men. I know when I met Bergil, I thought him a child of about seventeen! Then I learned he was only ten!” He shook his head in amusement at the memory.
Just then the servants came and began to clear away all the remaining dishes. Pippin quickly snatched one more of the wafers and grabbed his goblet out of reach, and slid down from the high seat. Other people were beginning to leave their tables and mingle with others. In a few moments many of the guests would go into the inner chamber for the actual trade talks, leaving those friends and family not principally concerned with trade to socialize for a while. Valdarion had to be with his father, and would be attending the talks in order to observe and to run any errands his father had. He excused himself and went to find out what he had to do.
“The King wants both Frodo and me to attend the talks. Frodo’s the eldest, of course, so he’s the senior member of the family here in Gondor. But I’m to be Thain one day, so he says they need my thoughts on the matter as well. Of course, anything we do or say here won’t be binding until we can get back home and see what my father and the other Family Heads think, but as we are here we can at least get a head start on things.” He looked at Margil. “Would you like to meet my cousin Merry?”
Margil nodded, and followed the eager hobbit as he led him towards the little cluster of folk near the Elves. He noticed that Valeriel was following them, probably in hopes of seeing the Elves up closely. Sir Meriadoc was at the side of Prince Legolas, but he turned with a grin when Pippin called out “Oi! Merry, I’ve someone I want you to meet!”
The other hobbit made his way to them with an engaging grin. “Merry, this is Valdarion’s cousin Margil.”
Merry made a little half-bow. “Meriadoc Brandybuck, at your service and your family’s,” he said politely.
Margil took a deep breath, and returned the gesture. “Margil son of Marcarion, at yours?” he said hesitantly.
Pippin laughed. “Now there’s a clever lad and a quick learner,” he said proudly, “even if he did not believe in hobbits!”
Margil flushed again. He supposed he’d never hear the end of it, but he did not feel as bad about the teasing as he would have a day before.
Pippin looked up, and saw Frodo gesturing to him, and many of the guests were moving towards the inner chamber where the actual talks would take place. “I’ll leave Margil to you, shall I Merry? It looks like they need me now.”
Margil felt somewhat bereft as Pippin rushed off, but he had little time for it. Merry smiled at him and said, “So you did not believe in us?”
“I did not really think about it, Sir Meriadoc,” he confessed ruefully. “So many unbelievable things have happened lately, and somehow, that just seemed one thing too much.” Suddenly he remembered that night in Pelargir, and gave a shudder. He bit his lip, and hoped that Sir Meriadoc had not noticed. But the sharp grey eyes were looking at him intently.
“Let’s find a quiet corner to talk,” he said. “And call me Merry.” He led Margil off to a bench beneath a window, far from the crowded center of the room. As they walked, he said “You know, before we came here, I did not believe in oliphaunts— what you call mûmakil!”
Margil gave him a look of astonishment. Merry laughed. “You see, I could believe in Elves and Dwarves and Dragons and Trolls and Goblins—after all, old Cousin Bilbo had seen them himself, and as Frodo believed Bilbo, so did I. But Cousin Bilbo admitted he had never actually seen an oliphaunt himself, so I felt that I could doubt them. It seemed impossible to me that any animal could be so large!”
Margil gave a chuckle as they sat down upon the bench. He was unprepared to see his companion suddenly turn serious.
“So, Margil, what unbelievable thing frightened you so?”
If his father or his uncle or even his cousin had asked him that question, Margil knew that he would have hotly denied having been frightened by anything! But somehow he knew that this hobbit would understand. “I didn’t cover my head that night as everyone else did— I saw the Army of the Dead go by. I felt cold all the way through, my stomach dropped clear to my toes, my heart was pounding so fast I thought it would burst, and I could hardly breathe. I was terrified. But I did not wish anyone to know…”
Merry nodded, and gave a little shudder of his own. “I think I understand, Margil. I have felt that way many times since I left my home.”
“But you are so brave!” Margil exclaimed.
“So they tell me,” Merry said. “But don’t mistake that with never being afraid…”
When Margil’s mother, sister and aunt found him, he and Merry had been talking for a long time, and he felt lighter than he had in many weeks.
“Come, Margil,” said his aunt. “Master Meriadoc, the talks will be going on for quite a while today. If you will excuse Margil, we are going to return to our home.”
Merry stood. “Indeed, Mistress Elisien! It has been a pleasure. I am sure that all of us will come to call on you again soon.”
Margil turned as they left to give the hobbit a farewell wave.
And that night, for the first time since that horrible night of the passing of the Dead, Margil slept truly and well.
The next day the four hobbits paid an informal visit to the gardens of Margil’s aunt and uncle. He watched them carefully and listened to all they said. For the first time, he got the chance to meet and speak to the Ring-bearer, the Cormacolindor. Frodo was quieter than Pippin, more serious than Merry, less practical than Samwise, yet he seemed to see more deeply. And he so appreciated beautiful things.
Margil was privileged to see them there a few more times. They came to say farewell to the family shortly after the King’s wedding, and it was all Margil could do to avoid weeping openly. He noticed Valdarion was also blinking back the glitter in his eyes. Valariel and Arniel were sobbing, and Meliseth flung herself on Pippin, and begged them not to go. Frodo knelt and dried her tears and comforted her, reminding her gently that Gondor was not their home, but they would never forget them.
But Margil had been very thoughtful. And before the year turned, he had convinced his father to apprentice him to an overland trader. Someday, perhaps, he could bring goods to the North, to Arnor, to Bree, maybe even to the Shire…
Author’s End Notes: If you have not read Larner’s original story, I encourage you to do so. I do hope I’ve done it justice with this remix from Margil’s POV. The ending of the story is particularly beautiful, and I did not feel I could even begin to approach it so well, but I hope that I’ve given some hint of how that ending came about.
The feast, as I described it using modern terms, is based on a Medieval feast recreated, and the proper names of the dishes and links to the recipes, both original and modern redactions, may be found AEthelmearc Academy November XXXIII AS at the Gode Cookery site.