6. War and Peace
Most children love the sound of the dismissal at school. As Mr Penawl gave the hobbit lads leave to go there was a rapid clattering of desktops and his request for someone to clean the chalk from the board was almost missed. Except one little hobbit lad put his hand up and willingly rushed forward to collect the duster.
"Peregrin Took, I wish you would put as much enthusiasm into making letters as you do to cleaning them off." There was an edge of sarcasm to Mr Penawl's voice, but a grim smile played about his lips, so Pippin did not take it too seriously but set about the task with vigour.
The other lads gradually filed out of the schoolroom and soon only Pippin and the master were left. "Peregrin, you have cleaned every inch of that board, if you scrub much more you'll rub the board away." Mr Penawl had finished collecting his papers and was ready to leave himself. "Now go home."
Reluctantly Pippin put the duster back in its proper place, patting it into position and adjusting it again several times. Then he collected his slate and pencil and stowed them in the little bag Pearl had made for him and slung it over his shoulder and walked slowly out into the school playground.
As he walked along the lane, towards where the pony trap would be waiting, he realised that the Jeb and the other lads were falling in behind him. Pippin started to walk faster and then to run.
"Go on run scared baby!" Jeb taunted him. "We'll catch you in a second and then you'll be sorry."
Pippin was nearly at the end of the lane and could see the main street ahead. Usually if he could make it that far, the beating wasn't as bad as adult hobbits might see and think it more than just roughhousing. But the littlest Took suddenly recalled something his big cousin had said to him. 'If you keep running Pippin, you'll never be able to stop and if you keep being frightened, you'll always be frightened.'
"Right!" Pippin muttered under his breath. He spun round to face his tormentors, "Come and catch me then! You don't scare me!" He lied. As they caught up Pippin dropped his little bag and stood firmly, fists raised just as Merry had taught him, the stance now becoming natural and automatic.
"Come on Jeb!" Pippin remembered Merry told him to single out the leader. "You want to fight me?"
Jeb stopped in his tracks for a second, a look of surprise on his face. Then he laughed and came on, his fists also raised. As he sized up to the smaller lad his companions stood back a little. Suddenly it did not seem quite right once they saw the proportions of the two, Jeb was more than a head higher than Pippin as well as six years older.
Jeb came towards Pippin and jabbed at him with his fist, although, for the first time ever, he missed. Pippin moved backwards out of range of the blow and darted back in quickly with one of his own. He caught the bigger lad in the midriff, eliciting a puff and an involuntary groan. Pippin's heart was pounding and the adrenaline pumped in his ears, but the fight was only just beginning.
"Right!" Jeb snorted, angry now at having missed and been hit himself. He reached out and grabbed Pippin's hair and pulled him towards his fist. Pippin let himself be pulled, in fact he moved even faster and slammed his whole body into Jeb, knocking him backwards. Jeb hung onto the handful of hair determinedly and still connected his fist with Pippin's mouth on the way down to the ground, knocking out a last baby tooth.
Both the lads were struggling on the ground now and Pippin, still unable to get the grip off his hair, pushed his face into Jeb's arm and bit as hard as he could. The lad yelled and let go, but he threw his arms around Pippin, wrestling him and stopping him from using his fists to hit.
Pippin remembered Merry's instructions, 'think about which bit of you is free and use it. ' They were now face to face and Pippin was on top with his arms pinned to his side. He pulled his head back and smashed his forehead down onto Jeb's nose as hard as he could.
The lad let out a fearful yell to his friends, "Gedd him! Gedd the lit-le bastard. He's broke by dose!"
As the other lads moved forward to pull Pippin off Jeb, two other, older hobbit lads stepped in between them and the scuffling pair on the ground. "I think they're about evenly matched, don't you?" Merry did not raise his fists, but the threat was there.
"My gaffer alus says it's a fair 'nuff fight if the little-un's winning." Samwise Gamgee had come along at Frodo's suggestion when Merry had told him the problem. It was a little far for Sam to travel, but Frodo himself was far too grown up to get involved, so he had contrived with Bilbo to send young Sam on an errand to Tuckborough overnight. Although Sam was a peace loving and gentle hobbit, his physique was daunting to the young hobbit lads.
Jeb in the meantime had released Pippin's arms to clutch at his bleeding nose and Pippin had made the best of his advantage by pummelling several fierce punches into Jeb's shoulder and chest. Now he realised that he was in charge and that Jeb had run out of fight. Time to win, he decided.
"Who's my father!" he yelled at Jeb, "Go on say it – who's my father?"
"Paladin Took," Jeb admitted. "The Thain."
"And who's my mother?" Pippin raised his fist again. "A gypsy?"
"No – no, Eglantine Banks – Took – I mean Mistress Took."
"And what's my name?" Pippin persisted. "Go on say it. Cry baby? Gypsy's son? I dare you!"
"Peregrin Took." Jeb mumbled. "Now let me up." Jeb's pride was now taking as big a battering as his nose.
"Don't you ever – ever say bad things about me or my family again or I'll beat you black and blue." Pippin threatened. He then remembered Merry's last piece of fight philosophy, 'when you've won – stop. ' Pippin climbed up off Jeb's prone figure, dusting his hands together, "and don't you ever forget it!"
Now, to Pippin's amazement, the other lads came forward and started to pat him on the back as if he were some kind of hero.
"Good fight Pip."
"You showed him."
"Where did you learn to fight like that, Pip? That was truly superb."
"Some Thain you'll make! Well done, little Pip."
Merry and Sam said nothing but their faces were beaming with pride. They glanced at one another and nodded. They knew what had to happen next. Together they walked over to Jeb and offered him a hand each to pull him up off the ground. The hobbit lad stared at the hands and then up at the two older lads and eventually took the proffered help.
"Now why don't you two just shake hands and call it even." Merry suggested. Pippin held out his hand at once, another lesson in fight philosophy.
Jeb looked at Pippin's hand with some disdain but then looked around at the faces of his peers. They were not laughing or jeering, they obviously were on the side of his previous victim now. If he was going to stay in the gang, he had to do this – and do it with good grace. "All right, even?" He took Pippin's hand, keeping his other firmly over his bleeding nose.
"Even," Pippin agreed, although he knew it had always been uneven, but he could let that go. He pulled out his pocket-handkerchief and offered it to the lad. "Friends now?"
"Friends," the lad agreed, taking the handkerchief and holding it to his nose.
The other lads all cheered and then laughed and the tension was gone. Danno produced the inflated pig's bladder, or perhaps a new one, and bounced it on the ground. "Who's for kick-a-ball? You wanna play Pip?"
"I have to go." Pippin said, knowing that the pony trap would be waiting for him and he was feeling a little light-headed in any case. "I'll play tomorrow."
"Tomorrow then." Danno and the others raced off and Jeb limped after them.
Pippin walked with Sam and Merry towards where the pony and trap would be waiting. "Thank you for coming Merry and you Sam, I don't think I could have won if you hadn't been there."
"Oh I think you nailed him Master Pippin." Sam laughed, "especially with that head butt. That will go down in Shire history."
"Well Pip, that was actually a Sam special." Merry confessed. "He taught me how to do that."
"Did you Sam." Pippin's eyes widened. Bilbo's gardener's son had talents he had not seen before. "It certainly surprised Jeb – and me."
"Well that's the idea." Sam ruffled Pippin's hair good-naturedly. "I'd best be on my way now, I'm staying at the Missus Bustlethwaite's house tonight and I wouldn't want to miss tea."
"No Sam," Pippin implored. "Come to tea with us, you can stay at the Smials tonight, Mrs B won't mind, and then Papa will send you home tomorrow in the pony trap. You can't walk all that way on your own."
"Are you sure that's all right?" Sam was not used to mixing in grand circles like the Thain's. "Only I'm not proper dressed or nothing."
"Course you are, Sam." Merry laughed. "Anyway, you deserve a good tea after teaching me to fight, so that I could teach Pippin."
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.