7. Chapter Six: The Diamond in the Library
It was still the favorite watering hole of many Breelanders even though to the hobbits that were presently drinking there, it retained its sordid and somewhat sinister atmosphere. Long shadows seemed to fill every corner of the seedy establishment, with faces peering through the gaps of light that could easily perceived as ominous if one did not know better. Patrons sat in their corners, nursing drinks, staring furtively about the place, stealing glances at other drinkers, trying to guess one another's agendas, whether was they were here merely for the drink, the lodgings or simply because there was nowhere else to go. It was a place that felt like a haven for lost souls or the last port of call for restless travelers during a storm.
It was another typical night at the inn.
The hobbits came here every year and every year Barlimann would put them up at the same table, present them all with pints of draught and prepare rooms for their eventual retirement in the small hours of the morning. They would drink and eat, then return to their rooms before setting out for the Shire once again, never to return together unless some specific business brought them to Bree, until the next year. To Barlimann, it was like the changing of the season to see the small gentlemen appeared in his establishment and after the second year, he no longer waited until they arrived to prepare their room in readiness for their eventual appearance.
For many years, there were four hobbits that made the annual pilgrimage to Bree. The one that Barlimann knew as Frodo Baggins often appeared too frail to make the journey and gave the innkeeper concern by the shadowy look in his eyes. Then six years ago, Baggins stopped making the journey and though Barlimann would have liked to inquire as to the fate of the missing hobbit, he had a feeling his posed question would not be answered and so thus he did not bother to ask. He merely furnished the remaining hobbits with their pints and the best meal his cook could offer along with the best hobbit sized rooms in the house and accepted that his role in the play of their lives was to involve no more than that.
If Barlimann had asked the hobbits what they were celebrating with this annual ritual, it was quite possible he might have received an answer in some form. It was Frodo who had begun the practice of making this annual pilgrimage, possibly out of some need to always have those who were closest to his heart know what it meant to him when they accompanied him on the perilous quest to destroy the One Ring. Thus every year, on the anniversary of their arrival in Bree as well as their historic meeting with their much loved friend Strider, the hobbits gathered here to share a drink and each others company as they recounted old times.
Now that Frodo was gone across the sea, it felt all the more important to continue the ritual because it was good to face each other as they were when they had first embarked upon the quest, three young hobbits swept away by dark times to a great adventure. These days, they had a kind of celebrity in the Shire and their lives seemed very far removed from the young hobbits they had been when they first came to Bree. Sam had become Mayor in Frodo’s stead, a rather elevated place for so simple a hobbit, he often thought. Of course, Rosie had told him often enough that he was the only one who considered himself simple, though she had doubts about herself since he could be so obtuse about the obvious.
Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin often found themselves recounting their adventures abroad, from the battle of Bywater to their earlier adventures with the Fellowship. Their part in the Battle of Bywater had won them the labels of Captains and heroes. However, they received the honor with amusement at the realization that it had been bestowed upon them without the Shire even being remotely interested in the fact that one of them had once killed a troll and the other had helped with the defeat of the Witch King. Despite this, the duo enjoyed their fame immensely, throwing great parties and wearing their mail and for all to see as they traveled about the Shire, telling their tales of the outside world.
"So did you hear?" Sam remarked after they had toasted their latest excursion to the Bree and settled down into more friendly chatter.
"Hear what?" Pippin asked before taking a long sip of his pint.
"Diamond of Long Cleeves is taking over the library,"
Pippin started coughing loudly as he choked on the draught that seemed to have taken the wrong way to his stomach at that announcement.
Merry and Sam exchanged knowing glances before Merry turned to his best friend, "so I take it you didn’t hear then?" A spark of mischief gleamed in his eyes as he regarded his friend who always had a little crush on the lovely hobbit maiden with the golden colored hair.
"No," Pippin said once he had collected himself, wiping his lips with a handkerchief. "I didn’t hear. I lost touch with her after we set off on the quest and never got around to seeing her again."
"Well she hasn’t been very sociable after what happened," Sam remarked, feeling for the poor woman since he was aware of her tragic situation.
"That’s right, she was engaged to Drogo Hedgeworth from Woodhall," Merry declared upon realizing why he remembered Diamond’s history so well. "He was killed during Bywater wasn’t he?"
"He was," Pippin nodded somberly, still feeling as badly for Diamond as when he had first learnt that one of the nineteen hobbits killed during the Battle of Bywater had been Drogo Hedgeworth. Pippin had always harbored a secret crush on Diamond but could never summon the nerve to speak to the beautiful, young hobbit lass. He had always admired her straight golden hair, worn loose like a glittering cascade over her shoulders and could never produce a single intelligible word whenever she smiled at him. Pippin supposed that in the wake of her loss, that smile would have been a long time in coming again.
"Anyway," Sam remarked, pretending to feign nonchalance at Pippin’s obvious lingering affections for Diamond. "She’s come to stay with her aunt Willow whose getting on in years and not up to looking after the old library anymore. I mean it took its turn on Willow seeing to it that none of Sharkey’s men razed it to the ground during those dark times."
Willow of Long Cleeves had been the guardian of the local Shire library for the past fifty years and had protected her charge most fiercely during the time when Saruman had invaded the Shire. It was said that she was even more determined and feisty than Lobelia Sackville Baggins but fortunately, not as shrewish which was why she had not ended up in Lobelia’s company during the lady’s imprisonment. Since she was content to remain quiet as long as her beloved library was not interfered with, Saruman’s men were of the belief that it was best to leave her be and not invite the grief of trying to dislodge her.
In truth, Diamond was actually her grand niece and Pippin supposed that if Diamond was ready to leave her grief for Drogo behind, taking her aunt’s place at the library was the place to start.
"Well that’s nice," Pippin said taking another sip. "I suppose we’ll see her around then."
"See her around?" Merry stared at his friend in astonishment. "You’ve been carrying a torch for that lass since before Bywater! I would think you would be doing more than that."
"Like what?" Pippin retorted annoyed because he had no wish to discuss Diamond so publicly.
"Like calling on her!" Merry snorted as if Pippin had suddenly striped naked and was dancing on the table. "Honestly Pip, you can be rather thick at times."
"I can’t just call on her!" Pippin burst out so loudly that he drew the attention of a few Breelanders who glanced their way with curiosity.
"Why not?" Sam asked pointedly. "You’re not as young as you were when we left the Shire. You’re a grown hobbit now, well in theory anyway. I don’t see why you aren’t settling down with a nice girl."
"Well not all of us had someone like Rosie waiting for us when we got back," the youngest of the Fellowship said snippily.
"What do you want to do?" Merry added. "Wait until you’re Legolas’ age before you get married?"
"No," Pippin replied darkly, wishing they would just let the matter drop. "I mean what reason would I have to just bump in on her?"
"Well she does work at a library," Sam suggested, "perhaps you might try borrowing a book."
"What do I want with a book?" Pippin blurted out.
Merry dropped his face in his hands and shook his head in resignation, "this is going to be a lot harder then we thought."
Pippin had thought he was terrified when he had faced the troll, however it was nothing in compared to how he felt as he was being ushered through the doors of the library by Merry and Estella Bolger.
This had not seemed like such a terrible idea when Sam, Merry and he had been discussing it that night at Bree but Pippin supposed after many pints of draught, invading Mordor would sound like a good a idea. However, now that it was time to put the plan into action, Pippin found his resolve fading. He wondered whether or not he was being foolish. After all, he had faced far more terrifying things in his time and emerged unscathed. Why should calling into the library to say hello to Diamond frighten him so much?
Because he really liked her.
Until now, he had considered her a chapter unwritten in his life and most likely to remain that way even if he never forgot how she made him feel and still did. Even now, the memory of her smile could make his heart beat faster and inspire dreams of things he usually never concerned himself with like marriage and children. Well he was not young any more and adventure was something he had experienced, just like its uglier aspects, danger and death. He knew of late that he had been searching for something that not even his friendship with Merry or the parties they threw could satisfy. Perhaps Sam was right, it was time to find a nice girl and settled down. However, he was still unconvinced that Diamond would be agreeable to play that part in his life.
"Are we going to do this or not?" Estella Bolger asked impatiently.
Estella, unlike her brother Fredegar, was never cursed with the weightiness that seemed to plague all Bolgers and was very pleasant to look at. She had dark hair and soft brown eyes that framed her lovely features and would have been a good match for any gentlemen if not for her somewhat acidic manner. She spent most of her days working in the markets but had set aside some spare time to help her brother’s childhood friends with desire to see Diamond. She knew for a fact that Pippin, though like Merry was rather immature for a hobbit who had traveled the world and fought in battle, was generally of good character pr else she would not have bothered to inflict either of them upon Diamond.
"Of course we are," Merry retorted, securing his hold around Pippin as he continued towards the library.
"I don’t think this is such a good idea," Pippin offered ineffectually as he was unwillingly led to the entrance. "I mean what if she doesn’t even remember me?"
"Then she’s be luckier than I," Estella remarked sourly.
Merry straightened up and looked up at her, "must you be so negative about things? He just needs to work up his courage."
"Oh wonderful," she shook her head in sarcasm, "he can fight Sharkey’s men but when it comes to talking to a woman, he has to sum up courage. Very flattering."
"Well some women are more frightening than Saruman," Merry muttered under his breath and glared at the tail end of Estella’s flouncing skirt when she turned her back on him and continued through the door, no longer bothering to wait for either of them. "Come on Pippin, I’m not going through all this for nothing."
"Going through what?" Pippin demanded as they started towards the entrance of the library.
"Putting up with that woman to help you," Merry hissed, his faced scowling as he followed Estella.
The library of Hobbiton was not very big. The entire history of the Shire was contained within its walls and its size was a testament to how much of it there was by the size allotted for its keeping. In its entirety, the library would have been no larger than Bag End itself if all the internal walls had been knocked down and only the outside ones were left standing. The wooden floor was polished and like all shire buildings, the room was circular with round windows. Most of the walls were covered with heavy wooden shelves laden with leather bound volumes of books that were surprisingly dust free.
It appeared they were the first visitors of the day, even though it was noon outside. Pippin could only stare as saw Diamond seated behind the counter, her long hair draped over her shoulder as she paid deep concentration to the book before her. She had not changed much in all the years he had known her and when she raised her eyes to him at their arrival, he felt his throat go suddenly dry. If not for Merry holding his elbow surreptitiously to ensure he kept moving, he would have most likely remained where he was, gawking at her.
"Hello Diamond," Estella took the lead and broke the silence first.
"Hello Estella," Diamond said politely, "finished your book already?"
"Yes," Estella smiled brightly, "it was very good as you said. I didn’t think we kept such saucy things in here."
"Well some of the older ladies like it," Diamond remarked with a little crook of her brow and a slight smirk. "Shall I recommend you another one?"
"If you please," Estella retorted. "And while you’re at it, you might as well find something for Pippin there as well."
"Oh?" She turned her eyes upon Pippin. "You want me to recommend you something?"
"Yes," Pippin managed to say after Merry elbowed him sharply in the back to prompt him into speaking. "I’ve been having trouble a little trouble sleeping lately and thought a good book might help."
Pippin was rather proud of his response and was even more pleased when she seemed satisfied by his answer.
"Good idea," she nodded in approval. "Any idea what you want to read?"
Pippin blinked, having never considered his brilliant deception would succeed far enough for him to require this particular detail. "I don’t know…" he stammered uncertainly.
Merry tried not to curse under his breath and wondered if Estella was right, that this was not a disastrous idea to begin with. "Why don’t you suggest something, Diamond? Pippin doesn’t know what he likes."
"Yes I do," Pippin suddenly became very animated, deciding he did not need Merry to help him talk to Diamond after all. "I like history books," he found himself saying.
"History books?" Merry and Estella exclaimed in unison.
Diamond was growing a little suspicious of the strange behavior of the trio but chose to ignore it. After all Merry and Pippin, despite being heroes had been abroad and their conduct could be excused by the influences by the outside world, while Estella was probably trying to keep them from embarrassing her. Besides, Pippin had voiced a request and that was something she could help him with despite the peculiar manner of he and his company.
"Well we have many books on Shire history," Diamond offered kindly, "all the way back to the Greenfields in 1147. There’s many fascinating volumes on the settlement of the Shire if that’s how your fancy goes."
"What about outside the Shire?" Pippin found himself asking for no particular reason.
"Outside the Shire?" She stared at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"I mean outside the Shire, in the lands beyond the Shire, like Rohan and Gondor. Don’t we have any books about that?" Pippin asked, finding it very disturbing that the scope of historical record in the Shire did not extend beyond its boundaries.
"The hobbits of the Shire are not concerned with the affairs of other races Pippin," Diamond retorted, finding his pointed questions rather flustering. "We don’t have any."
"At all?" He exclaimed, forgetting quickly what he had come here for in the first place in the light of this disturbing revelation. "We have no books of any kind about the elves, the dwarfs or the big folk?"
"No," she stared at him, wondering if he was mad. It was a way of life that hobbit had no general interest in the world outside. After all, to the average Shire inhabitant, what point was there to nose around the business of men and elves or even dwarves for that matter, when they had their own concerns to deal with? "We only have books on the Shire," she repeated.
"That is disgraceful!" Pippin exploded in open horror.
"Pippin," Merry tried to stay his friend’s excited manner as he saw Diamond stiffening in annoyance. "I don’t think this is the time to discuss it."
"How can you say that?" Pippin whirled around and faced him. "Look at what we’ve been through. In the last few years, we’ve seen Sauron and Mordor destroyed the reunification of Arnor and Gondor, we saw the Ents march on Isengard and the Riders of Rohan defending their lands against Orcs and other terrible things. Are you going to tell me its right to let all that disappear into nothingness? Don’t you want people to know about Boromir and how he died to protect us, or how Theoden led the Rohirrim to Pelennor? Don’t you want people to know how you and Eowyn fought the Witch King? What about Aragorn and how he became king? Or even Frodo with everything he went through to destroy that dammed ring? How can we just let that all go without even writing it down!"
"Isn’t Sam doing that?" Merry pointed out; uncertain of how to answer his friend because he had not seen Pippin so properly provoked in a long time. It was like seeing Ents on the march.
"I think he is but there’s more than just this age! What about all those other ages and other heroes like Beren and Luthien, or Gilga-lad and Elendill? You can’t let all of that get forgotten."
"He’s lost his mind," Estella declared.
"Pippin maybe we should come back," Merry started towing him out the door. "When you’re a little less excitable."
"It’s a disgrace that’s what it is!" Pippin was still raving as he was dragged out the door, leaving Estella and Diamond staring after him with astonishment.
"I am sorry Diamond," Estella apologized after a long pause since neither could think of anything to say after the departure of the two Shire heroes. "I had no idea that he was insane."
Inwardly, Estella made a note to tell Meriadoc Brandybuck that he was never to ask a favor of her again. If truth were known, she had only consented to this because Fredegar considered them his best friends and she had known them for almost as long as her brother. There was also this unspoken wish that perhaps Diamond might actually show some interest in Pippin since she had been living in something of an emotional vacuum since Drogo’s passing.
"Oh its alright," Diamond turned away from the entrance where the two men had disappeared, a rather thoughtful expression on her face. "I had no idea he was so passionate about things."
"Is that what you call it?" Estella’s brow crooked in skepticism.
"I think so," she said with bemusement. "You know I never thought he had such deep thoughts in his head. Before he went away, he didn’t seem all that grown up to be. I think the last time I remembered seeing him was during Bilbo Baggins’ party. Remember that?"
"I don’t think anyone in the Shire every forgot," Estella shrugged, starting to realize that Pippin may have done himself a good turn with Diamond after all, despite his ludicrous outburst.
"It was the last time things were ever normal in the Shire," Diamond said sadly, remembering how she and Drogo had danced at the party and how he had walked her home after the celebration had ended following Bilbo’s sudden disappearance.
"If you ask me, Pippin and Merry are turning out to be just as peculiar as old Bilbo," Estella pointed out. "Fancy wanting books about the history of other places? What use is to us anyway? We’re Shire folk, we have our own ways of doing things."
Diamond did not answer her friend but she disagreed with Estella’s perception that it was unnecessary to know what was going on in the outside world. The scourging of the Shire by Sharkey’s men had proved how vital it was for Shire folk to know exactly what was happening in the world around them because too often, they were being caught unawares when danger came upon them.
Diamond resolved herself to tell Pippin the next time she saw him how right he was.
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF GANDALF’S GREAT GREY BEARD WAS THAT ABOUT?" Merry demanded as soon they were a suitable distance away from the library, having held his tongue back until now so that he could vent his disgust at Pippin’s behaviour with the loudness it deserved.
"What do you mean?" Pippin asked innocently, his mind still inflamed over the whole idea that centuries of history beyond the borders of the Shire were blithely ignored by the hobbits simply because it had little do with them. He could not believe that such ignorance existed, especially after what happened with Saruman and his rape of the Shire.
"You were there to say talk to Diamond!" Merry roared angrily. "I had to put up with Estella Bolger all morning trying to convince her to help us so you could go talk to the girl of your dreams and all you ended up doing is getting into a debate with her!"
Like a splash of water, Pippin realised what he had done and the expression on his face went from the crusader of historical records to failed suitor with remarkable speed. He slapped his hand across his forehead as his faced show dismay at what he had done.
"Oh no!" He exclaimed. "What was I thinking?"
"I have no idea!" Merry retorted shaking his head, glad that Pippin had returned to reality once again. "You were practically shouting at the girl!"
"But I was right!" Pippin offered desperately, hoping that he had not behaved as terribly as he did - though in principle he was quite unrepentant.
Merry rolled his eyes in exasperation, "that may be so but you were not there to champion the First and the Second Age! You were there to talk to Diamond!"
"I have to apologise," Pippin stammered, unable to think of what else to do. "I have to go now."
"I don’t know whether that’s such a good idea after the fool you just made of yourself in front of her," Merry pointed out bluntly.
"I’ve got to say something!" Pippin declared marching past him towards the library again. "I don’t, she’ll be mad at me and I won’t get her help."
"Her help?" Merry’s brow wrinkled in confusion. "Help for what?"
Pippin turned around and stared at him as if he had suddenly transformed into an Ent and retorted impatiently, "to help me with updating the library of course?"
"Updating the library?" Merry’s eyes turned into saucers. "You want to update her to update the library?"
"Of course not!" Pippin shook his head wondering how his best friend could understand him so little. "I can’t expect her to do that, she’s got enough to do as it is."
Merry’s head was starting to hurt the more he attempted to keep track of what was on Pippin’s mind. He had not seen his best friend so properly inspired since the Battle of Bywater and oddly enough, it was not even about Diamond, but rather books. "Pippin, you’ve lost me," he finally called out, crying defeat at attempting to unravel Pippin’s so called logic.
"I mean to do it myself," Pippin said proudly and very pleased with the idea that was taking grand shape in his mind the more he thought about it. "I mean why not. Between you and I we know most of the kings of Middle earth, I don’t see why we can’t go see them and get their help in updating our library or better yet, creating one a whole new one?"
"You’ve gone mad!" Merry finally exclaimed. "You looked into the palantir too many times and gone mad. Gandalf warned you that thing was dangerous and now you’ve just ruined your mind completely."
"You have no vision Merry," Pippin let out a sigh and turned back to the library. "Can’t you see a great library with all the history of the world here in Hobbiton? I’ll bet there’d be nothing like it anywhere in the Shire."
"That’s probably because most hobbits don’t care about the history of the world," Merry pointed out dutifully, "just the Shire."
"Well it’s got to change," he said purposefully, refusing to let go of the idea that was spreading through his mind like a fever. "We can’t be as closed off as we have been. Look at how easy it was for Saruman to just walk in here and take things over? Can you imagine how long it would have lasted if we hadn’t come back and got everyone moving?"
Merry did think about it and it disturbed him just as greatly as it did Pippin. They had always assumed that the Shire would remain untouched by whatever mischief took place in the outside world. It was a foolish hope to think that the Shire and hobbits would be kept safely in isolation while beyond their borders Middle earth had nearly torn itself asunder. However, he was uncertain adding foreign texts to the library would help very much either to change the traditional view of hobbits and the outside world.
"What about Diamond?" Merry reminded Pippin in all his bluster about the Shire and their close mindedness to all things beyond it. "This whole exercise was so you can talk to her? Don’t tell me you forgotten about her?"
"Of course not," Pippin paused long enough to give Merry a look, "I’m going to talk to her and I’m going to apologise too."
"Good," Merry let out a sight of relief, glad that Pippin had returned to some semblance of self. "I don’t know receptive she’s going to be after the way you behaved."
"I’ll make her understand that I didn’t mean to yell," Pippin resumed up the steps to the library entrance. "I have to convince her," he replied.
Merry rolled his eyes and shook his head in resignation as he stared after Pippin, still somewhat stunned by the whole episode.
"I’m glad you got priorities straight," he muttered before following his insane friend into the building again.
Estella and Diamond were still chatting away at the front counter of the library when Pippin and Merry entered the place once again.
As expected, it was Estella who reacted first while Diamond merely looked on with surprise at what they were doing back in the library after the embarrassment of their rather memorable departure. Pippin’s bluster had faded somewhat at the sight of Diamond and he made his return somewhat contritely. Unfortunately, it appeared that Estella was not about to let him come away unscathed for his earlier outburst.
"What are you doing back here?" Estella demanded, unable to hold her tongue or her temper, "How dare you come crawling back here after talking to Diamond that way Peregrin Took!"
"I know," Pippin struggled to explain himself in the face of Estella’s sharp rebuke. "I am sorry Diamond…"
"Oh will you shut up and let him have a word edgewise, Estella Bolger?" Merry immediately came to his friend’s rescue as he floundered under Estella’s sharp tongue. Merry was certain that if Estella wielded her tongue like a sword, not even Aragorn would stand a chance of coming out of their duel alive.
"I think he’s had quite enough words Meriadoc!" Estella returned without being thrown off slightly by her indignation at Merry’s interruption.
As Pippin and Diamond watched Merry and Estella confront each other like two great storms meeting in the sky, Pippin inched his way around the two combatants and spoke to Diamond over the sound of their furious voices.
"Can I have a word?" he asked once again, this time to the lady herself.
Diamond answered by slipping out from behind the counter and gesturing to a door on the other side of the room. Pippin followed her immediately, unsurprised that neither Merry nor Estella noticed that they were leaving the room. He looked over his shoulder to see if Merry needed any help but when he heard his best friend telling Estella that her voice was worse then the Crebain of Dunland, Pippin decided that Merry was more then capable of taking care of himself. Besides, Pippin wanted to be well clear of the duo when blood was finally spilled.
The door led to an alcove where there was a little stove and a comfortable wing chair and a window that allowed the sunlight into the room. Pippin guessed that this had been Willow’s little refuge when she needed a break and surmised that it was now Diamond’s since she had taken over the library for her aunt. It was a pleasant little room, with a nice wing chair that looked terribly comfortable and enough sunlight pouring through the window to ensure that it was always was warm as it always got the sun.
"This is nice," Pippin commented looking around with approval.
"Its for when I feel like a spot of tea or a little moment to myself during the day," Diamond explained. "The stove warms the room quickly in winter and the tea is nice on cold mornings."
He did not doubt that and felt very privileged at being invited into this secret place of hers. Pippin was also very encouraged by the fact that she did not appear angry with him although he was not about to take advantage of her kind disposition when he still owed her an apology.
"Diamond, I am sorry I went off at you like a fool earlier. I let my temper get away from me and took it out on you. That was very wrong of me."
"No its alright," she said easing into the chair and motioned for him to sit as well. There was a cushioned footstool that served the purpose of a second seat for an unexpected guest and Pippin was not about to decline the lady’s offer to join her.
"You were not wrong," she replied when he had sat down. "It is true, the library does seem lacking when all it has is just the lore of the Shire."
"That’s still no reason to take it out on you,. It isn’t your fault because you’re right too. That is how it is with hobbits, isn’t it?"
"Yes," she agreed, "it is."
"It’s just that I’ve seen so much in my life Diamond," Pippin felt compelled to explain truthfully why he felt so passionately about this, so she would understand. "I’ve seen things that no hobbit ought to and I know I haven’t even seen all of it. When we first left the Shire, we were like children who had no idea what was out the door. We used to hear Bilbo speak of his adventures but we never really understood. A lot of it was like a fairy tale, a part of us didn’t even believe half the things he said were true until we left ourselves and learn different. There are terrible things out there Diamond, some so evil that words cannot fully describe them, they hide in secret places or they ride horses in the dark. Sometimes it is easier to stay hidden and be forgotten the way we are, to be safe from such terrors but then we miss so much."
Diamond listened to him speak and said nothing for she could feel each word against her skin like a soft breath. He spoke with such earnest sincerity that it was difficult not to be swept away by the intensity of his sentiments.
"But there are also beautiful things Diamond," Pippin continued. "I’ve met elves who can make you see the stars just by looking into their eyes. I’ve seen trees that move and breathe like we do and life that is so old that what we say or do in our little world is a blink of an eye to them. It pains me to think that the rest of the Shire won’t know any of this. Do you know that Frodo Baggins has saved all of Middle earth? That everywhere but here, he is the Ringbearer that saved us all. He lost his finger destroying something that could have plunged us all into a Dark Age and yet no one really knows and I don’ really think they care. Sharkey’s being here was just the final act in a tale that has spanned centuries and we knew nothing of it here in the Shire until it was too late and almost destroyed us."
When he finished speaking, he noted that she did not answer and he wondered if he should not have just apologized and spared her his long explanations.
"I think its sad that more people don’t think as you do," Diamond replied finally and drew a breath of relief from Pippin by her answer. "I used to be like them, not wanting to know what happened beyond the Shire. I didn’t care to know until Sharkey came and everything changed. It cost me not knowing Pippin, it cost me a great deal."
"You mean Drogo don’t you?" he made a guess.
She was rubbing her hands together as if she were cold and he fought the urge to rest his own upon them to provide her with some warmth. However, he sensed it was a different kind of coldness that gripped her and his touch would do little good but to confuse the issue.
"I loved him so much," she raised her eyes to Pippin’s and he saw that they were glistening with emotion. "I haven’t spoken about him to anyone you know, not since I stood by and saw him buried into the earth. For so long, I couldn’t understand how it had happened, how the Shire where I had felt safe for so long could become such a dangerous place, where a battle could be fought. My life was never more than getting married and having children, I never thought about anything beyond it. When he died, the world became colder for me Pippin but it also became bigger. I do not want some other girl to find that out the way I did."
Pippin felt his heart ache as he heard her speak, feeling privileged that she should chose him to make such revelations while at the same time saddened by her loss. He wondered if Drogo knew how lucky he had been to be loved so deeply and envious because he wished she cared for him in the same way. For the first time in his life, his infatuation for her was not some idealised version of what love ought to be. Instead it was something real and tangible that drew the emotion from him in all its purity and he was glad that he could appreciate her the way she deserved to be.
"I didn’t know him very well," Pippin confessed after a time, when the atmosphere had soaked up her words and he was accustomed enough to it to answer. "I know he fought well because everyone who fell in that battle did. He died protecting the Shire, protecting it for you I’m sure."
"I know," she smiled faintly, drying her eyes even though the tears had yet to spill over her lashes. "Its nice to be able to talk to someone about it."
"I’m glad you could," he replied. "You can always do that around me. I don’t mind listening."
"Thank you," she met his eyes and this time when she smiled, Pippin knew that it was for him.
Away from the sight of Pippin and Diamond, though certainly not beyond their hearing, Merry and Estella were still screaming at each other, having thrown out the rule about being silent in the library not merely out the door, but down the steps and into the street. Merry had thought that he had encountered unpleasant things in his life capable of making his skin boil but Estella had brought him to new heights of fury. Not since their capture by the Uruk Hai, had Merry felt such unbelievable anger at this female whose mouth was more lethal than any creature Sauron might have created in the darkness of Mordor.
"I don’t know why I bother to help either of you! You have not changed one bit. You were silly before you went away and one would think you would have developed some sense travelling in the world but apparently not! I can never understand why Fredegar would surround himself by such lunatics!"
"Probably because he can’t stand his immediate family," Merry retorted. "Which is perfectly understandable after meeting you!"
"Oh that’s a fine way to behave in front of lady!" she hissed.
"A lady?" he snorted in derision. "When I see a lady I will behave like a gentlemen. Honestly, the only kind of behaviour you seem to inspire in a man is the need to dash one’s brains against the walls."
"Be my guest!" she growled. "Not that there you have brains to dash anyway!"
"If I had any," he stared at her, eyes narrowed. "I certainly would not be wasting them on someone like you!"
"Someone like me?" She glared at him. "You mean someone better than a Brandybuck?"
Now Merry was properly incensed at the attack upon the Brandybuck name especially from someone called Bolger.
"If it was not for the fact that your brother rises a head above everyone else in your wretched family, I would say all the Bolgers can go throw themselves in the Brandywine!"
"Better a Bolger than a Brandybuck!" Estella hollered back angrily."Its no wonder you’re not married yet," Merry retorted with just as much venom. "You’re as sweet as vinegar!"
"And you’re a pompous, vainglorious halfwit!" Estella sputtered angrily.
"I am the halfwit who helped save the Shire!" Merry said smugly.
"Oh we knew that had to come out eventually," she placed her hands on her hips and stared at him with something akin to satisfaction. "Its not enough that you throw all these parties and ride about the Shire in your finery, constantly reminding everyone that you and Pippin were the heroes at the Battle of Bywater, expecting everyone to fall at your feet swooning with gratitude that you came to save us. I’m sick of you lording it over us! You weren’t alone at Bywater you know!"
"If you were not a woman, I would knock you on your behind for that!" Merry declared, quite enraged that she had accused them of lording their accomplishments over the Shire. They did nothing of the kind. Well not entirely anyway. However, as the words sunk in, Merry could not deny that perhaps on some level she was right. Still, he would rather be dragged through the heart of Mount Doom before making that admission to her.
"My behind is none of your concern!" Estella snapped though he noted she took a cautionary step away from him.
The withdrawal was too much of an opening for him to resist and he took a step towards her, hoping to intimidate her further in this battle of wills that had spiralled so much out of control since it had ignited so spectacularly in the last few minutes. Neither was even aware that Pippin and Diamond were no longer in the room, they were too concerned at who would win their verbal fencing match.
"That is unfortunate," he gave her a wicked look. "If you were a mare, I think you would benefit from a good whipping."
"A mare?" Her mouth dropped open in outrage. "And what are you supposed to be my master?"
"If that were only true," his lips curled in a little smile, "I would see to it that you were stabled and muzzled for the rest of your life!"
"Cur!" Estella cried out, her cheeks flushed red with ire.
"Nag!" He returned sharply and suddenly realised that she was very beautiful when she was angry.
For a second they stared at each other, breathing hard, trying to catch their breath as they considered what way was best to resume their attack. Merry found himself taking the momentary pause to really look at her. She had been such a familiar fixture in his life for as long as he remembered that it was easy to forget how much she had grown from Fatty’s annoying older sister to the harpy that was presently screaming at him. She had very strong features he noticed, with thick lashes and dark eyebrows that accentuated her eyes. Her lips reminded him a little of a baby’s, bow shaped and resembling the colour of pink roses.
When she was not wearing a scowl she was actually very pretty. No sooner than that observation had crossed his mind, Merry acted purely on impulse and did something very unexpected. He took her by the arms and pulled her to him. Before she had a chance to offer protest, Merry crushed his lips against hers and discovered that they did feel felt like rose petals against the skin. His tongue invaded the cavern of her mouth, slipping through her lips, partly open from surprise, and for a moment he was lost in the sweetest taste imaginable.
If only briefly.
"How dare you!" She shoved him away with indignation.
He was fairly gasping when she forced his lips away from hers, suddenly overcome by how she felt against him.
"How dare you kiss me?" She demanded. Her cheeks were tinged with red as she stared at him, clearly flustered at the contact. Merry was in the process of trying to think up a suitable response when suddenly, he felt her hands on his face, pulling him to her once again.
"They’re quiet," Pippin suddenly stated, noting the sudden cessation of silence.
"They probably noticed we weren’t even in the room," Diamond cracked a smile.
"It’s either that or they’ve gone and killed each other," he answered and glanced at the doorway, wondering if he ought to go investigate.
"I’m glad we had this talk," Diamond replied, leaving behind the topic of Merry and Estella for the moment. "I haven’t told anyone how I’ve felt about Drogo in so long. My friends and family have been very sympathetic but they seem to think that I should have got over it a long time ago."
"People can be misguided with their good intentions," Pippin agreed, understanding far better than she could possibly imagine. Once upon a time, a young hobbit not knowing any better had followed his friend beyond the Shire with no idea of what was awaiting him there. He had done so out of friendship but had thought little of the consequences really, until he was waist deep in trouble and swept away on a title wave of world changing events.
"Thank you Pippin," she said warmly, "thank you for listening."
"Thank you for not throwing me out the door after my stupid behavior," he reminded. "I didn’t think it was stupid," she countered immediately. "I thought it was very true what you said about building a library that keeps record of all kinds of thing, not just of the Shire."
"I’m glad," he met her gaze. "Because I really do intend to something about it and I’ll need your help with it, you being a proper librarian and all."
"It will be my pleasure," Diamond said graciously.Pippin was about to answer when suddenly they heard a sharp and abrupt scream. He raised his eyes to Diamond’s a split second before they ran out of the alcove into the main library floor one again. Upon doing so, they were brought to a complete and utter halt as they discovered that the scream had not originated from Estella as they feared but rather a portly old matron who was staring at the counter with extreme shock and for good reason.
Merry and Estella were in the process of disengaging themselves from each other’s embrace, their arms and legs appearing an unruly tangle as it became quite clear what they had been doing on top of the counter when they were stumbled upon by the latest visitor to the library. The top three buttons of Merry’s waistcoat was undone and a corner of shirt tale was hanging loose from his trousers. Estella was in no better condition, the sleeve of her dress had been pulled down enough to expose one creamy shoulder and her pinned hair was dishevelled, with loose strands dangling about her neck. Her lips were red and swollen and she looked decidedly flustered.
"Merry!" Pippin exclaimed in stunned disbelief.
"Estella, really! Oh Mrs Hornblower," Diamond immediately went to the startled old woman to calm her down. "I am so sorry!
For once, Estella had no words to answer, her only response being the deepening flush of red on her cheeks.
"I should hope so!" The woman’s pursed white lips unclenched enough to declare. "Its disgraceful! Cavorting like that in public!"
It was difficult to say who was more astonished by the scene but those present were equally mute on the subject. Fortunately, Diamond had ushered Mrs. Hornblower into her little alcove, intending to ply her with tea and possibly ensure that Estella's and Merry's 'display' in the library did not become a matter of public knowledge, though that was going to be a difficult task indeed. The Shire thrived on gossip and Mrs. Hornblower, as her name implied, was usually not one to keep secrets.
"Cavorting?" Pippin finally managed to say, firing the word at Merry.
" I shall never live this down!" Estella cried out, unable to hide her mortification any further.
"I'm sure it won't be that bad," Merry tried feebly to say something to make her feel better, but making her feel something was what had landed them in this situation in the first place.
"Oh what would you know!" She snapped out at him and hurried past Merry and Pippin, unable to face either of them.
"Estella…." Merry started to say but she was out the door before he had a chance to speak further. As he heard her footsteps grow distant, Merry suddenly had the feeling that his life had become a great deal more complicated.
"So you and Estella huh?" Pippin asked, wearing a smirk on his face as the two of them left the library behind.
"Shut up," Merry said darkly, his eyes fixed firmly on the ground before him.
"Of course," Pippin nodded, forcing the grin across his face into a smile that would not hold for very long. "Not a word."
"Good," Merry retorted with an edge of warning in his voice that told Pippin it was probably not wise to provoke him at this moment. His heart was a jumble of uncertain feelings towards Estella Bolger and he had no idea how it was all going to turn out. However, he did know ridicule was the last thing he needed right now.
Unfortunately, Pippin was not about to spare him anything.
"Still if I was going to say anything," Pippin added, "it would probably be to say…."
Merry stopped in his tracks and glared at Pippin with a look that would have frozen Aragorn his tracks.
"Not…a….word," he growled.
"Alright, I won't make comment at all," Pippin declared holding his hands up in mock resignation before adding with a wide grin because it was too good to resist, "except to say that you make a cute couple."
"Right that's it!" Merry swore and lunged at him.
Pippin got halfway across Hobbiton before Merry finally caught him.
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.