6. A Plan is Made
"He arrived last night." Merry explained patiently. "I told you I'd sent for him. This is business, sweetheart, not a state visit. He doesn't want any ceremony."
"But - but where did he sleep?"
"The garden!" Estella stopped in the middle of the passage, hands on hips, and glared at her husband. "Meriadoc Brandybuck, you mean to tell me you allowed the High King of the West to sleep out in our garden like some tramp?"
"It was his idea." Merry protested, trying not to quail from the steely glint in his wife's eye. "You know our ceilings are to low for him. And believe me, he's slept in much worse places in his time."
"You can't sleep in the garden anymore." Merry told his liege lord some little time later, "Estella won't have it."
"I never thought she would." Aragorn replied with a glint of amusement, sitting cross-legged on the short green turf under the windows of Brandy Hall.
"And this is for you," Merry continued offering a large shawl to Boromir, leaning eyes closed against the side of the hill, "Estella doesn't want you taking cold."
The Man opened his eyes and smiled. "Mistress Brandybuck is a most kind and gracious hostess. You are fortunate to have such a wife, Little One."
"I don't need you to tell me that." Merry plopped down on the grass between Pippin and Sam. "Still, it would be nice to get my own way from time to time."
Snorts of agreement came from the other two Hobbits and even Aragorn smiled a little ruefully.
"So," Merry continued, changing the subject, "what's in the Old Forest and what do we do about it?"
"From what Boromir tells me I believe it is a werewolf." the King replied.
There was a short silence as the three Hobbits exchanged looks. Finally Sam sighed. "All right, I'll ask; what's a werewolf? - not that I want to know."
"An evil spirit of great power in the form of a giant wolf." Aragorn answered.
"Wonderful." Merry grimaced. "What do we do about it?"
"What we do *not* do," the King said fixing him with a stern eye, "is go back into the Forest until we know more about what we are facing." his gaze moved pointedly to Boromir who bowed his head.
"As you wish."
Merry and Pippin gave little sighs of relief and shared a look of muted triumph.
"Your idea of consulting Tom Bombadil was a good one, Merry." Aragorn continued. "I suggest we do so but *not* by passing through the Old Forest."
"That means crossing the Barrow Downs which is almost as dangerous." Pippin pointed out.
"But not quite." Aragorn smiled. "And we are none of us unaccustomed to danger."
It's not easy to look regal while stooping under a ceiling some inches too low for for your height but Aragorn managed it.
Estella curtseyed. "Welcome to Brandy Hall, King Elessar."
"Thank you, Mistress Brandybuck." he replied bowing in return. "I beg you to forgive the unseasonable hour of my arrival, you know the cause."
"Yes, of course." she said, slightly flustered. "How long - that is I hope you will stay with us a few days."
"Tonight only. Then I fear I will be taking your husband and your guest away with me."
"Oh!" Estella shot a worried look at Boromir, hunched just behind the King. "Is Mr. Boromir well enough to travel?"
Aragorn smiled. "Thanks to your care." suddenly he went down on one knee and kissed her hand. "I am most grateful, as always, for your hospitality, my lady."
She blushed cherry red and melted visibly.
"That takes care of her." Pippin muttered in Merry's ear. "No doubt about it, these Men have a way with the womenfolk."
"Being King doesn't hurt either." Merry whispered back.
"I'm thinking of putting in some Man-sized guest rooms at Great Smials." Pippin remarked conversationally as he and Merry wrestled with a pile of bedding, making a second pallet for Aragorn in Boromir's room.
"Not a bad idea." Merry agreed. "Though I hope the next time you come to visit, Strider, it'll just be a social call."
"As do I." said the King with some emphasis.
"By the way, Pip," Merry continued. "shouldn't you drop a note to Diamond, to let her know what's happening?"
Pippin winced. "She's not going to be at all happy about this, me going off on an adventure without her."
"Sounds like a lady of spirit." Boromir observed.
"That's one way of putting it." Sam said drily. "She and her brothers were the terrors of the North Farthing - and marriage hasn't changed her." a sidelong glance at the Thain. "She and Pippin deserve each other."
Boromir laughed. "I'm sorry not to have met Mistress Diamond."
"Perhaps you may yet." Pippin said hopefully, then as the Man looked at him added plaintively. "Boromir, are you *sure*."
He didn't have to ask about what. "Yes, Pippin, quite sure. I wish I were not."
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.