It was almost time for Pippin to go back to school, his eye was better and the swelling on his nose was completely gone. But it was a very different hobbit that would be going to his lessons now. There was one thing left for Merry to teach.
"Now that you can defend yourself, you have to learn the philosophy of fighting Pip." Merry told him, as they sat in the stables, having been chased out of the Smial by Eglantine for making too much noise and mess.
"I don't want to learn any fill-soppy" Pippin pouted a little, "I only needed to learn to fight."
"No Pip," Merry said sternly, "There are rules you have to know too. They are very important and you have to stick to them."
"All right," Pippin pulled the straw out of his hair. "Tell me and then can we have another practice fight?"
"If you remember the rules." Merry agreed. "The first and most important rule is; you must never hit a lass."
"No." Merry shook his head sternly. "There is never a good reason to hit a lass, no matter how much she might tease or aggravate you or even if she hits you first."
"What if she hits me and it really hurts?" Pippin asked.
"It won't, not now you're a big lad that can fight. You just walk away."
"What if she follows me and keeps hitting me?" Pippin found this first rule a little strange.
"Umm, if she really won't stop," Merry gave him a funny little sideways look. "Kiss her."
"If she hits you again after that – I promise you it won't hurt – in fact you might quite like it."
"Oh Merry," Pippin gave his big cousin a little punch in the arm. "Did you do that?"
"Who did you kiss?" Pippin wanted to know.
"Can't tell, it's not manners." Merry hastily concluded that part of the discussion. "The next rule is…"
"Wait," Pippin interrupted, "I've got another question. What if cook hits me? Or Pearl or Mamma?"
"Well you probably deserve that," Merry decided. "Although you could try the big eyes and hurt expression." He knew that Pippin was already well versed in these techniques. "Next rule; try never to start a fight."
"Not if you can help it." Merry confirmed. "And always talk your way out of it if you can."
"So I should never hit first?" Pippin asked.
"Oh yes!" Merry added quickly. "Don't wait to get hit. Just don't look for a fight – but once you know it is inevitable give it all you've got and always, always hit first."
Pearl Took stood in the centre of the big dusty old library at Great Smials. She had finally managed to corner her parents in one room and in private, although it had taken her all morning.
Pearl had been more than a little surprised to learn that cousin Ferumbras had in fact asked her parents to try for a son, so that he could pass the title of Thain on to her father. She knew that he had abdicated with some relief as soon as Pippin was born, and that her parents were pleased with the situation, but she had always assumed that Pippin had just happened in the normal course of events.
And where had these tales that Pippin was bought off a gypsy come from? She was worried that the tormenting would continue to be aimed at her little brother. Pearl knew for certain it was not true – she had been there in the Great Smials the day Pippin was born, had heard his first cry outside her mother's room and been the second person allowed in, after her father.
Pearl remembered holding her tiny brother for the first time and how surprised she was that he was even smaller than Pimpernel or Pervinca had been, or was it just that she was bigger by then? But that aside, Pearl knew a newborn baby when she saw one and Pippin was most certainly her natural born brother.
"Papa you can't send him back to that dreadful school." Pearl could feel her temper rising and clenched her teeth and unclenched her fists to calm herself. "Please Papa, those bullies are tormenting the life out of him."
"Pearl, I know it seems hard, but it really is for the best." Paladin looked nervously over at his wife, worried that she might agree with their eldest daughter. "You agree with me dear, don't you?"
"To be honest, Paladin," Eglantine had kept silent so far, but now she was being asked directly. "My every instinct is to let him be taught at home. It does seem overly harsh, if we know he's getting bullied. Besides it seems to be adding fuel to those silly stories and that's bad for all of us."
"That's exactly the kind of thing I want him to face up to." Paladin insisted.
"But he's so little, dear." Eglantine knew she could be overprotective at times, but she could not stand the thought of her baby being ill-treated. "And Pearl says now that he didn't get those bruises falling out of the pony trap – Paladin, those big lads chased him and beat him!"
"I know," Paladin admitted. "I suspected at the time. But you underestimate him." He looked at his daughter with a knowing glance. "And I think Pearl has done something about that."
"Me?" Pearl exclaimed, "I did nothing."
"You made sure Merry was invited over." Paladin smiled. "I think Pip will do better next time – don't you?"
"So you're not going to stop him going back to school?" Pearl asked defiantly. "You're just going to let him be teased and abused?"
"Pearl if he leaves now, they will have won," her father explained gently. "He has to go back."
"They've already won." Pearl retorted. "I suppose you won't be happy until they've killed him."
"Pearl, that's enough!" her mother chimed in. "Your father has the last word on this and if he says Pippin must go to school, then he must."
"Well I'll not fetch him!" She turned on her heel to leave the room, calling back over her shoulder. "You go and get him Father, and see what kind of state he comes back in."
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.