126. Chapter 125 - May 1446
“When you’re a little older, I’m going to teach you how to use a bow,” Legolas said, smiling at the ten-month old hobbit boy cuddled in his arms.
“A bow?” Gimli scoffed. He looked at the boy in his arms. “I’m going to teach you how to wield an axe! Much better than a bow.” He tweaked the tiny nose, eliciting a giggle.
“Bows are much more elegant,” Legolas said to little Legolas.
“Gah!” his little namesake said in agreement, waving his arms.
“Axes are much more effective,” Gimli said sagely to little Gimli.
Legolas cocked an eyebrow, then looked at little Legolas. “You’ll be the swiftest hobbit in the Shire!”
Gimli frowned at Legolas. “You’ll be the toughest hobbit in the Shire!” he said to his tiny hobbit.
“Mine’s cuter,” Legolas said to Gimli.
“Mine’s stronger!” said Gimli, as little Gimli grabbed a handful of beard and pulled.
“All right!” Pippin said, stepping between them. “No bows and no axes! At least not until they are much older.” He turned to Legolas. “And he’s not cuter, they’re identical!” He shook his head at his two friends. “Honestly, does everything have to be a contest with you two?”
Legolas turned to Gimli, a smirk on his face. “I believe our young Master Peregrin has become responsible on us, Gimli.”
“Who would have thought it possible,” chuckled Gimli.
“Somebody here has to be responsible,” Pippin muttered.
“That would be me,” said Merry. He took a baby in each arm, then turned to look at the elf and dwarf. “I think you’ve corrupted my grandsons quite enough and it’s time for their naps.”
Legolas leaned over to Gimli. “Even Master Meriadoc has become responsible,” he said in a mock whisper, grinning at Merry.
“Of course!” laughed Gimli. “He is a grandfather after all. It’s the years and years of wisdom.”
Merry frowned, but he had a twinkle in his eye. “I’d watch what you say about being a grandparent,” he said. “They do have another one here and she’s quite skilled with a sword.”
“Again! Again!” Bori shrieked as Gimli swung the boy down off his back.
“Me next, Uncle Gimli!” Willow squealed.
“Me next!” Ari pouted, trying to push past Willow.
“Children,” Ivy scolded.”Let Uncle Gimli have a rest.” They had become quite attached to their visiting ‘uncles’. Especially to Gimli, who spoiled them rotten. The three of them pouted, but they didn’t argue.
“They’re fine,” Gimli said, patting Willow’s head. “I’m not at all tired.” He glanced down at the children. “But I do think it’s Éoleof’s turn next.”
The children gave disappointed sighs when Gimli swung their little sister up for a ‘pony ride’, but a look from their mother made certain they didn’t complain.
She turned back to the table. The supper dishes had long been cleared away, but they still sat in the dining room, catching up on news from the south with Legolas. “He spoils them,” she muttered.
“He spoiled you, too,” Éowyn whispered from across the table.
Pippin snorted and Ivy poked him in the side. Her mother chuckled and turned back to Legolas’ news of Ithilien. Ivy watched her mother. Éowyn had been in a melancholy mood since Legolas and Gimli’s arrival: once again there had been no letter from Théodwyn. Ivy was angry with her sister for doing this to their mother. She had promised Éowyn she wouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stand it anymore--she was going to write to Wyn and it wasn’t going to be pleasant this time. She had already tried to be understanding for her sister, but it had accomplished nothing.
Ivy had been happy to hear that Théodred’s recklessness had come to an end. He no longer pushed himself to go on every patrol and he didn’t argue when a group of orcs were left to be dealt with another day. That, at least, had made her mother happy, though it still didn’t ease the worry for her Elboron and Théodred’s safety. War was still brewing with the regrouping enemy, and though Harad and Umbar were now their allies, both lands had been decimated by the War of the Ring. They offered their assistance to Gondor, but it would most likely not be enough. And Gondor and Rohan had not yet fully recovered from their own losses. If war came again, would Pippin and her father have to go? They were sworn servants of the kings.
She turned sideways in her seat to lay her head on Pippin’s shoulder, looking back so she could watch the children play with Gimli. Her hand found his and she squeezed.
“Ivy?” he whispered. “Is something wrong?”
She shook her head against his shoulder. She didn’t want to worry him and it was silly for her to worry. Pippin and her father were too important as Thain and Master to be called away, and The Shire was far away from danger. Elboron and Elfwine’s wives worried every day that their husbands would not return home. They worried about their sons growing up to fight. What did she have to worry over?
She only saw it out of the corner of her eye by luck, a chance glance into Pippin’s study as she walked by. Ivy stopped in her tracks and backed up. A small figure was tiptoe on a chair, trying to climb up onto the mantle, his small hand stretched out to the Gondorian sword that hung above it. She ran into the study.
“Boromir!” She realized her mistake the instant the shout was out of her mouth, but managed to dash forward just in time to catch the boy as he startled and slipped off the chair. She sat down hard on the floor, heart pounding and body shaking, and only then realized it was Ari in her arms. “Aragorn, what were you doing?” she scolded, her voice shaking with fear and anger.
Ari stared at her, wide-eyed and scared. His lip started to tremble. “Mummy....” And then the tears started.
She clutched her sobbing son to her chest, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She couldn’t think straight. All she could see in her mind was her son perched dangerously on the chair, his fingers just inches from that sword. She rubbed his back and kissed him, trying to soothe him. When his tears turned to sniffles, she turned him in her lap to look into his face. “You mustn’t climb like that, Ari,” she said, working to keep her voice steady. “And you must never, ever touch Daddy’s sword.”
Ari wiped his nose on his sleeve and looked up at her defiantly. “Daddy lets me.”
Ivy went cold. “He let you touch the sword?” He’s only four years old!
“Daddy let me hold it!” Ari said proudly, his fright quickly forgotten. “He said I can have one when I get bigger!”
He looked up at the sword and the look that came over his young face made Ivy draw in a shocked breath. Her son had a look of determination and fierceness that reminded her of Uncle Éomer. She slid him off her lap, then used the chair to push herself up. Her legs were shaking and she had to lean on the chair for a moment before she could move. When she was steady again, she bent over to take Ari’s hand and pull him up. “Come with me.”
Ari had to trot to keep up with her as she headed to the parlor, her anger building. She heard the voices within, Pippin and her parents chatting with Legolas and Gimli, and the laughter of her playing children. She had been on her way back after taking the tea tray to the kitchen when she had spotted Ari. She shuddered to think what would have happened if she had left the tray for the maids to take care of. A small hand grasping a too-heavy sword and both tumbling to the floor...
“I need to talk to you, Pippin.”
Conversation came to a halt and they all looked at her. Something must have betrayed her state--her tone of voice or her flushed cheeks, perhaps--because Pippin’s eyebrows shot up and her parents frowned.
“What about?” Pippin asked warily.
“I found Ari climbing up on the mantle to reach your sword.”
Pippin glared down at their son. “You were supposed to be going to the privy,” he scolded.
Ari’s eyes dropped to his toes. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
Ivy tugged Ari over to her mother and put him in her lap. She turned back to her husband. “We need to talk about this. In your study.” She turned and left, not wanting to say anymore in front of their guests. Her anger was bubbling just beneath the surface.
Pippin caught up with her, but he didn’t say anything. The hallway was not an appropriate place for the Thain and his wife to have a discussion.
They reached the study and Ivy went inside to stand by the mantle. Pippin closed the door behind him and sighed. “I’ll have a talk with him--”
“He said you let him hold it.”
She surprised herself with the harshness of her voice. Pippin gaped at her a few seconds, seemingly confused. He shook his head and shrugged. “Yes. I took it down to show Gimli because the pommel is loose, and Ari asked to hold it.”
“Pippin! He’s only four!”
“He’s nearly five!” he said defensively, his voice raising slightly. “I was teaching you the sword when you were--”
“That’s different!” Ivy snapped. “It wasn’t serious for me! I was a girl. I could play at being a Shieldmaiden all I wanted and it still didn’t mean anything. I’d still never be called away to war.”
“Our boys won’t be called to fight in a war,” Pippin said. He was obvioiusly working to keep calm. “But they need to learn to use a sword. They still may need to defend The Shire someday. I was going to start Boromir soon, and--”
“Ivy!” Pippin threw up his hands. “Why are you acting like this? You don’t complain about Fari learning.”
“It’s different with Fari. He’s...” She frowned at the memory of Ari’s eyes when he looked at the sword. “He’s not part Rohirrim!”
Pippin shook his head. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You should have seen Ari, Pippin! When he was looking up at that sword. He looked like Uncle Éomer!” Ivy shivered and hugged herself. “They’re not like other hobbit boys, and you know it. They’re always doing things, dangerous things, like...” She looked at the sword. “Like climbing up to reach a sword and nearly falling and breaking their neck.”
The room was quiet for a moment, the only sound her slightly panicked breathing. Was she being irrational about this? Was she wrong to want to keep her sons from danger?
“He scared you, Ivy,” Pippin’s voice was calm and loving. He came over and put his arms around her. “Boys do that. Even hobbit boys. I know I scared my mum a few times.”
She shook her head. It wasn’t the same. Why couldn’t he see it wasn’t the same for Bori and Ari, and perhaps even the twins when they got older?
“I can feel you’re still shaking, love.” He rubbed his hands on her arms. “How about you take some time to calm down, and we’ll discuss this tonight?”
She squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed back the sob in her throat. He was going to talk her into it, into letting him train their sons to fight. She wouldn’t be able to win, because deep down she knew he was right. She nodded. There was nothing she could do to protect her sons. Did all women outside The Shire feel like this?
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