22. Red Roses, Golden Arrows
Foreword: The Tooks make a banner of their own for Pippin to carry as he rides out to battle the Ruffians.
Pimmie shook out the banner so everyone could see it entire. Pervinca reached out and stretched it to its full width. Pearl leaned forward, studying the stitching of some of the roses; she had fussed endlessly over them. Eglantine picked up a fringed edge, rubbing it between her fingers as tears welled up in her eyes.
"Oh, my dears, it really is beautiful," she said. "Don’t you think so, Paladin?"
The Thain of the Shire nodded slowly, his face full of pride. "Yes, it is, Tina. All of you have done a wonderful job." His jaw tightened. "And now those ruffians will get a fine reminder of what it means to challenge the Tooks. This makes a splendid device for Peregrin to carry as he rides forth—a lucky thing it was almost done already."
The Took ladies had begun to sew and embroider the banner nearly six weeks ago, soon after Sharkey and his men had arrived and started their destruction in late September. Paladin had sent the messenger from Lotho Sackville-Baggins on his way with a warning that anyone who presumed to enter the Tookland without the Thain’s permission would be shot on sight. The Big Folk had laughed at that, they heard later, certain no hobbits would dare to kill them. But they stopped laughing after the first round of skirmishes, when they crawled back to their holes with many dead or wounded by the Took archers’ arrows.
It was Pimpernel who suggested one night at dinner that the Tooks ought to have a banner of some sort to fly over Great Smials, as both a gesture of defiance and a reminder of independence. All, particularly her sisters and mother, greeted her idea with great enthusiasm. The next morning, Eglantine rummaged through the storeroom where she kept the spare cloth, and found a good-sized square of forest green velvet.
"The color is just right since we live in the Green Hills, isn’t it?" she asked.
Pearl in turn contrived the design of a golden bow and arrows intertwined with and surrounded by red and white roses that honored their mother’s name. All the hobbit women in Great Smials formed a sewing circle and set to work with a will. They stitched and embroidered as though their lives depended on it, but none worked harder than Pearl.
She had been consumed by anxiety from the day the Tooks learned that Pippin, Merry and Frodo had ridden off together into the wild. Now she sewed until her eyes watered and her fingers bled, as though making the banner would somehow bring her kin back to the Shire safe and sound. She even set her two little girls, Amethyst and Lilac, to tatting fringe for the edges. Pimmie sewed on it as well, between the patrols she insisted on riding with her male cousins; she was one of the best archers in the family and was determined to make the ruffians pay in blood for what they were doing to the Shire.
By early November, it was almost finished, with only one strip of fringe left to attach. And then that very night, Pippin rode up to Great Smials, tall and proud in his sable and silver livery. His stunned family welcomed him with endless tears, kisses, and embraces, amazed at both his sudden return and his long journeys. When he declared he would be riding out again in the morning with a squadron of Took archers to help end Sharkey’s rule, his mother and sisters sat up half the night in flickering candlelight to complete the banner, so Pippin could carry it with him.
Paladin slipped the banner onto the staff in his hands and looked at the others. "Come," he said, "it’s time."
They walked in silence to the Great Door and stepped out. There, Pippin sat on his pony, a hundred archers mounted behind him, awaiting his command. Paladin marched down the flight of stairs and thrust the banner up to his son.
"Your battle standard, Peregrin," he said in a choked voice. "I know you will ride under it with courage—you have shown so much already. I am so very proud of you." He grasped Pippin’s hand firmly.
Pippin looked down at Paladin, and then turned his gaze to his mother and sisters standing on the stoop. "I will, Father, you needn’t worry about that." He smiled. "And I will be back sooner than you can imagine." He lifted his arm and brought it down sharply. "We ride!"
Everyone spurred their ponies into a gallop as they headed north to Hobbiton. Pippin raised the banner into the wind as he rode, letting it wave, the green and gold and red blazing in the autumn sunshine. His family watched as they held hands. Pearl turned to Pimmie, her face filled with concern.
"Will he be fine, do you think?"
Pimmie smiled. "Oh yes, Pippin will be just fine." She put her arm around Pearl’s waist. "He’s all grown up now, and not afraid of anything." She laughed then, her eyes shining. "We’re free, free for good—didn’t you know?"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.