67. Chapter 66 - May 1436
Next to him, Pippin leaned against the bridge post, fiddling with his pipe. The healer had forbade him from smoking until Midsummer, because of the pneumonia, but Pippin still needed to hold the pipe out of habit. Merry worried about him. He looked worn. It had been weeks since he had gotten over his illness, but his recovery had been slow, hindered by the stresses of being Thain, fighting with his wife, and the drinking. Pippin’s relationship with Diamond was openly hostile now. He knew Pippin worried himself over how this was affecting Faramir. He was always looking for reasons to send Fari to Brandy Hall or Bag End to stay, just to get him away. Merry thought he and Sam saw the boy more than his own father did.
Merry didn’t like seeing his once joyful friend this way. With all the eligible girls in the Shire who had swooned over Pippin, he would never forgive Paladin Took for choosing Diamond of Long Cleeve to marry his son. Merry knew the reasoning had been to “reunite the families”, but what good did it do the families to push their children into such a miserable life? The unhappy marriage actually drove the families apart. The North-tooks believed whatever stories Diamond brought them about Pippin.
After Paladin’s death, Diamond no longer had to play the dutiful daughter-in-law and she made it quite clear to everyone the animosity she felt towards Pippin. Pippin, for his part, just didn’t have the will to do anything about her. He had asked for a divorce just days after becoming Thain but Diamond had refused. The laws of the Shire were quite strict about divorce. Unless some wrong was done, both parties had to agree to it. Nobody could figure out why she stayed. She hated Pippin and had no affection for her son--Faramir’s birth had most likely been a way to seal her position in Tuckborough. Merry had his own suspicions about Diamond. If Pippin died, his wife would be head of the Tooks until she relinquished it to Fari or died herself. Merry suspected Diamond was hoping for her unhappy husband to drink himself to death.
A year ago, Pippin started to suspect Diamond was bedding Sancho Proudfoot. Proof of the affair would allow Pippin to divorce her without her agreement, but the couple was careful and the evidence Pippin needed to rid himself of his wife eluded him. Through it all, Pippin remained faithful to his marriage vows and he never even looked at other lasses. Loyal to a fault, thought Merry, even if it kills him.
The sound of horses broke Merry from his thoughts. Over the hill he could see the approaching banners of the King. He shared a grin with Pippin and the two hobbits crossed the bridge, stopping on the other side as the King and his entourage crested the hill. The two hobbits bowed as the King and Queen rode up to them.
“What did I tell you two about bowing?” King Elessar laughed as he dismounted. He went to his friends and bent to pull them up, then swept them into a joyful embrace.
“It’s good to see you Aragorn. And you Lady,” Pippin said, backing away to bow gallantly to Arwen.
Merry noticed the momentary look of shock on Aragorn’s face at Pippin’s appearance, although Merry had warned him about it in letters. They shared a look and Merry shrugged and shook his head. No, Pippin wasn’t really doing any better.
“It’s been way too long.” Merry said, clasping Aragorn’s hand. “Now, where are you hiding my daughter...” His voice trailed off as he saw a woman approaching. His breath caught in his throat. Éowyn?
“Dad!” the woman cried and ran toward him.
He caught Ivy in his arms in a tight embrace. “I missed you, my girl,” he said, then stepped back to look at her. “What happened to you?” he breathed.
Éowyn had written in her letters that Ivy was maturing, but he didn’t expect this. She was about an inch or two taller than him now, and her body had transformed. The girl he had sent to Gondor had come back a woman.
Aragorn laughed and patted Merry’s shoulder. “She’s growing up, Master Meriadoc.”
“But you’re only sixteen,” he said to her, ignoring Aragorn. “This,” he gestured towards her body, “shouldn’t happen for... years!”
“Dad!” Ivy chided, blushing. “I am half Rohirric,” she said quietly. “Éowyn even said I was a late bloomer. She became a woman when she was twelve.”
Late bloomer? Merry shook his head and looked to Pippin for support, but Pippin was staring at Ivy, eyes wide and mouth open. Ivy followed her father’s glance. Merry noticed her quick intake of breath when she saw Pippin’s appearance. But she recovered quickly and then a new look came over her face, one he couldn’t quite identify. “Pippin!” she said happily and launched herself at him.
Pippin woke from his trance and embraced her back. “Hello, Ivy-lass.” he said, squeezing her in a tight hug. He broke the embrace to look at her. “Look at you! You certainly gave us a shock! You’ve grown up!”
Ivy laughed and blushed, then stepped close to kiss Pippin’s cheek. “I missed you,” she said softly. “I was worried about you.”
“Oh. Well...” Pippin gave her a weak smile and shrugged, his cheeks turning pink. “I’m doing fine now.”
Merry watched them, frowning. He wasn’t comfortable with how Pippin had been staring at Ivy. Or how Ivy’s eyes lit up when she looked at Pippin, how she focused on him... “Well,” he said, touching his daughter’s shoulder to get her attention. “We’ll get camp set up and then you’ll be able to rest.”
She smiled and turned away from Pippin to hug him again. She kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Dad. I’m exhausted!” She took his hand, and Pippin’s as well, and together they walked up the shore towards a clearing a short distance from the bridge. King Elessar and his entourage would camp here on the banks of the Brandywine for a few days before continuing their trip north to Annúminas, the King’s capital city in Arnor. In their correspondence, Merry had offered the hospitality of Brandy Hall but Aragorn declined, wanting to honor the prohibition of Men entering the Shire while on his official tour of the kingdom.
Sam and Rosie joined them later that day, bringing their children as well as Theo, Eomer and Fari. Ivy was disappointed Estella was unable to come, but she had a cousin’s first baby to deliver.
Ivy had worried about this reunion with her brothers and friends. She had changed so much since she had left, had turned into a tween in their eyes. It was somewhat awkward at first, as they all gaped at her in astonishment and she tried very hard not to cross her arms over her chest. But then Theo snickered and asked why she’d stuffed melons down her blouse, and Ivy smacked him for it, and then everything was back to normal.
Well, almost back to normal. The other children drifted away to play among the brightly colored tents, leaving her and Elanor. It was Elanor she’d been most worried about. Would Elanor still want to be her friend now that she had changed so much? They made smalltalk about her trip and and Elanor’s trip, but after one too many stretches of silence, Ivy gave up. She grabbed Elanor’s hand and dragged her off to the tent they would be sharing.
“I’m sorry,” Ivy said, once they were inside.
Elanor scowled. “What are you sorry about?”
“This!” said Ivy, gesturing at her body. “I didn’t mean to change so much. I’m like a tweener now.”
Elanor stared at her a moment, then giggled. She grabbed Ivy and hugged her around the waist. “You’re silly, Ivy. I don’t care.” She looked up at her. “Do you care that I’m just a teen and won’t catch up with you for a while.”
Ivy’s lip trembled. “No.”
“Good!” Elanor gave her a squeeze. “And now that you’re grown up, maybe you won’t make me catch frogs with you anymore?”
They both broke down in giggles. The talk came easier then and Ivy told her more of her time in the south and the friends she had made. Ivy even brought up Derwyn. Elanor agreed he was a pig.
After dinner, Queen Arwen asked Elanor if she’d like to be a Maid of Honor. Ivy thought Elanor might burst with pride.
“It’s a very great honor,” Ivy told her later, trying not to giggle at the dreamy smile on Elanor’s face. “There are only six ladies in Gondor, counting the two who came with us, who are the Queen’s Maids.”
“She didn’t ask you?” Elanor asked, frowning a little.
“No,” Ivy said. “Um...” She was uncomfortable with this subject. It had never come up before in her life in the Shire. She’d never even thought about it.”I can’t be, because my mother is a princess of Rohan and Ithilien...” She trailed off. She hated bringing it up, because it sounded like she was supposed to be better than Elanor. And she wasn’t.
But Elanor didn’t even seem to notice. “Oh! I always forget!” she said cheerily. “You’re royalty!” She curtsied prettily, then grinned up at Ivy. “But don’t let it go to your head,” she said, winking. She grabbed Ivy’s hands. “But now I have to go. The Queen needs me!” She gave a broad smile, then trotted off towards Arwen’s tent.
Ivy smiled after her, glad she had a friend like Elanor.
Merry slipped into his tent and pulled the letter from his pocket. Arwen had given it to him just after they’d arrived. A letter from Éowyn.
“Come speak to me after you’ve read it,” the queen had said as she pressed the paper into his hand. He’d nodded, confused as to what he’d need to speak to Arwen about. Then he’d gotten pulled into a discussion with Aragorn and Sam and it was evening before he’d managed to get away to read the letter.
My dearest Merry,
It has been a joy to spend time with Ivy. I am grateful that you allowed her to come for such a length of time. Her brothers and sister love her and we are all deeply saddened to see her leave.
I hope she doesn’t surprise you too much and I hope it will not be too hard for her to fit back in with her friends. It was not always easy for her here, being a hobbit. I worry about her, that she is trapped between worlds and will have trouble fitting into either one.
She had a particularly rough time before she left, and I fear she is hurt more than she will say. I have discussed this with the Queen and I have decided that it would be better if Arwen told you and Estella of what has happened, rather than reading it in a letter. I only hope that being back home in the Shire will mend Ivy’s heart.
I miss you, my friend, and I hope we can see each other again soon. Give Ivy my love.
Merry put the letter back into his pocket. He wanted to find out what Arwen had to tell him, but the Queen had already retired for the evening. He wondered what could have happened to Ivy. She had seemed happy enough when she arrived. But he’d have to wait until morning to find out.
He left the tent and looked around the camp for his daughter. It was mostly empty now, with most having gone to their tents. Ivy and Pippin were sitting together by the fire. Pippin was catching her up on Shire gossip and she was laughing with him. Merry suddenly realized that it was the first time in a long time he had seen something other than a forced smile from Pippin, let alone hear him laugh like that.
Merry heard footsteps beside him. Sam came to stand next to him. He nodded towards Ivy. “It’s amazing how much she’s changed,” he said.
“Too fast,” Merry said, still watching his daughter.
“It’s good to see Mister Pippin laughing again, though.”
“Mmm.” Merry narrowed his eyes as Ivy rested her hand on Pippin’s arm.
“Is there something bothering you, Mister Merry?” asked Sam. “You seem awful quiet.”
“What do you think of that, Sam?” asked Merry, gesturing towards Ivy and Pippin.
Sam shrugged. “Oh, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, Mister Merry. Girls are bound to flirt when they mature. My sisters were just like that. Worse, even.”
Sam patted his shoulder and bid him goodnight. Merry sighed and sat outside his tent, pulling out his pipe. Maybe it was just harmless flirting and he was being an overprotective father. But he’d still keep an eye on her.
Ivy laughed. “I can’t believe they did that!”
“That was nothing compared to some of the things your dad and I used to do.” Pippin winked at her and he saw a slight blush appear on Ivy’s cheeks. She’d been blushing a lot. He supposed it was normal for girls her age. Well, Big Folk girls her age.
“What did you do?” she asked. “Gran always said you two were troublemakers.”
Pippin chuckled and shook his head. “I can’t tell you that! Might give you ideas! Or worse, you’ll tell your brothers and Fari and give them ideas.”
Ivy pouted. “Dad would never tell me either.” She fluttered her eyes at him. “Please, Pippin?” she begged.
He laughed and shook his head. Then a thought struck him, and he wondered why he hadn’t noticed it until now. “It’s not Uncle Pippin anymore?”
She shrugged. “You’re not really my uncle, are you? It seems a bit childish to call you that, cousin.” She smiled at him and Pippin was struck by how pretty she was.
“I suppose so,” he said. He pulled out his pipe, his hands needing something to do, and looked around the camp. He hadn’t noticed how quickly time had passed while talking to Ivy. Most had gone to bed already. A few of the men from Aragorn’s escort were playing a game of dice. He spotted Merry sitting by his tent on the edge of the fire’s light. Merry was smoking his pipe, watching Ivy, and scowling. Merry certainly seemed to be in a mood since Ivy got back. Pippin assumed he was still in shock over her transformation. He was, too.
Pippin looked over at Ivy. She was tracing patterns in the dirt with a stick and singing to herself in Elvish. She looked up at him, caught him watching her, and smiled. Pippin smiled back and tried to ignore the sudden flutter in his stomach. The lad who won Ivy’s heart was going to be a very lucky fellow.
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.