68. Chapter 67 - May 1436
“The boy is lucky I’m not in Gondor,” he said through clenched teeth.
Arwen smiled and sat back on her pillow. “If it makes you feel any better, Éowyn nearly had to have Faramir restrained by his own men to keep him from going after the boy and doing him harm.”
Merry relaxed a little. He was glad to know Faramir had been looking out for his daughter.
“But,” the Queen continued, “Derwyn did not mean to hurt her. Éowyn talked to him and he feels very bad about the whole thing. He did not realize Ivy had fallen in love with him.”
Merry almost retorted with Ivy’s too young to fall in love! but bit his tongue. There was a lot he was learning about his daughter. He felt like he didn’t really know her anymore.
“Éowyn suspects he has feelings for Ivy, but with his parents--”
“I know,” Merry growled, cutting her off. Arwen had explained that as well. He was even angrier at the boy’s parents, for what their prejudices had done to Ivy.
“I know it has not been easy for her. Ivy was already very insecure about being different, and maturing early took her by surprise. I imagine the situation with Derwyn was made worse by that.”
Merry sighed. “I still want to strangle the boy, though.” He could not bear the thought of his daughter getting hurt.
“I think you are just being a protective father,” Arwen said. “Ivy is lucky to have you.”
“Thank you,” Merry said, “for telling me all this, for watching out for her on the trip...”
“She seems better than when we left Gondor, but I think she is still a little hurt.” Arwen said.
Merry ran his hand through his hair. “Well, I don’t think she’ll be comfortable talking to me about this, but I’ll have Estella talk to her when we get home.”
He bid farewell to Arwen and left the tent. The campsite was quiet, as Rosie had taken all the children down to the river to wash. Ivy had gone with her to help with the little ones. He saw Pippin, Sam and Aragorn sitting by the fire. They all looked up as Merry joined them. He sat on the ground next to Pippin.
“Well?” Pippin asked.
Merry sighed. “Ivy got her heart broken by a boy in Gondor.”
“Oh.” Pippin scowled and Merry saw his jaw clench, a sure sign he was angry.
Merry filled Pippin and Sam in on the details that Arwen had told him. He could barely bring himself to tell them that Ivy had nearly chosen to stay in Gondor for that boy. He’d nearly lost his daughter for good.
“The boy didn’t mean to break her heart,” Aragorn said diplomatically.
“I know,” said Merry, “but my daughter is unhappy and a part of me wishes Éowyn would have let Faramir deal with that boy.”
Pippin gave a chuckle. “Good old Faramir!” He raised his mug of ale.
“To Faramir!” Merry agreed. He raised his own mug and tapped it against Pippin’s.
Aragorn and Sam exchanged amused looks and Sam leaned in close to the King. “I pity the next lad to take an interest in Ivy,” Sam said.
Merry raised his mug to Sam. He couldn’t agree more.
Ivy pulled her pony up, laughing so hard she nearly fell off. Pippin rode up next to her, scowling.
“That was not fair!”
“I don’t remember there being any rules,” she said. She gave him an innocent smile and he scowled at her. She giggled. Their race had been spontaneous, the result of a good-natured argument over who was the better rider. The challenge made, they had jumped on their ponies, not even bothering with saddles, and took off down the road into the forest. She didn’t even know if anyone realized they were gone. During their race she had ridden up next to him, then reached over and tickled his side. He’d yelped and pulled back on his pony’s reins, which gave her a healthy lead.
He tried to keep the stern look on his face, but it was no use. His mouth slowly bent into a smile and then he was laughing just as hard as she was.
“You’re riding skills have improved,” he said as he caught his breath.
She gave him a haughty look. “I am a shieldmaiden of Rohan,” she said. She had to fight the grin that threatened to take over.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “And how is your skill with a blade, shieldmaiden of Rohan?”
“I was taught by the best. My mother, of course, and the Prince of Ithilien and even the King of Gondor gave me a few lessons.” She smiled mischievously. “However, my early training was from a master swordsman known as the Ernil i Pheriannath. He has some renown in the land of Gondor. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”
Pippin cringed. “No! Who told you about that?” he groaned.
Ivy laughed. “I don’t know why it embarrasses you,” she said. She looked at him slyly. “It’s far less embarrassing than what I heard from Legolas and Gimli about you.” She grinned at him and kicked her pony into a gallop. “Race you back!” she called.
Ivy heard his surprised shout behind her and she smiled. It was good to be back. She had enjoyed her stay with her mother and her family in Gondor, but she had missed her father and Estella and her brothers...and Pippin.
She had convinced herself that her feelings after looking at that painting were just another silly infatuation. She’d convinced herself it was only her longing for the Shire mixed up with an attraction to the image of a handsome hobbit that had made her think she was in love. What girl wouldn’t get a flutter in her stomach over the image of young Peregrin Took!
But seeing him now... She wasn’t so sure anymore. After she’d gotten over the initial shock at his appearance, that old feeling had come back--the fluttery, breathless feeling she’d had that day at the painting. And this time it wasn’t over the handsome young soldier of Gondor that her heart was pounding, but an older and worn Thain of the Shire. When she was with him last night, talking and laughing, her heart had quickened and she had butterflies in her stomach, just like she had with Derwyn. And you know how well that one turned out, Ivy-lass, she chided herself.
She heard hoof beats behind her. She hadn’t been paying attention and her pony had slowed. She looked back and saw him gaining on her. He smiled wickedly and she knew she was in trouble.
He struck just as they hit the creek. He reached out to grab her pony’s reins. She tried to swerve away, but the ponies got confused and collided, sending her and Pippin into the creek.
She sat in the water for a moment, drenched from head to toe, catching her breath and watching the ponies race away. Pippin crawled over to her. “Are you all right?” he asked, concern on his face. “I’m sorry...”
She waved him off. “I’m fine.” They looked up at the sound of hooves. Her pony had come back, trotting back over the hill down to the creek, but Pippin’s was nowhere to be seen.
“How come your pony came back and mine’s still going?” asked Pippin.
“My pony likes me,” she teased. Pippin made a face at her and stood up. He took her hand and pulled her up. “Really, though, she was trained in Rohan,” she said as she sloshed her way up to the bank. “They always look for their fallen rider.”
Her pony came up to her as she was wringing the water from her skirt, nuzzling at her cheek. “Hello, Star, that’s a good girl,” she crooned. She grabbed a handful of mane and hopped up on Star’s back, adjusting her sopping skirt as much as she could. Then she looked down at an equally waterlogged Pippin. “Well, I guess I’ll see you back at camp,” she said, and turned Star towards the road.
She glanced back, grinning as he crossed his arms in mock indignation. She laughed. “Oh, come on,” she said, patting the pony’s rump. “You know I was only teasing!” He chuckled and jumped up behind her.
He hesitated for just a moment before putting his hands at her waist. She drew in a quick breath when he touched her. She wondered if he could feel her suddenly pounding heart or her quickening breath. His hands were warm on her hips through her wet skirt and she had to fight the urge to lean back into him...
“Ready to go?” he asked.
She startled, her face burning at being caught in those thoughts, and nudged Star with her heels. The pony tossed her head and trotted up over the hill towards the road. As they came over the other side of the hill, the motion of the pony pushed them together and she was pressed against Pippin’s chest. She could feel his heart thudding against her back. Then the road leveled off and he shifted away from her.
They rode back to camp in silence. Ivy didn’t think she could talk anyway. Her throat was dry, her heart was pounding and her stomach was doing flip-flops. They were gradually sliding together again, into the shallow dip of Star’s back. She could feel the heat of his body and his breath on the back of her neck. He shifted a few more times, pushing away from her, but at the same time it made his hands move further forward on her hips, until his fingers rested on her belly. And it was doing things to her, leaving her warm and breathless.
She felt a mixture of disappointment and relief when the camp came into view through the trees. They arrived just as her father and Aragorn were getting on their mounts. Merry jumped back down and stomped towards them. “Where have you been?” he yelled. “What happened? One of the guards said you had ridden off and then Pippin’s pony came back by itself and I didn’t know what to think! Well?” Her father glared at them, then his eyes flashed angrily as he looked at Pippin’s hands at her waist. Pippin must have noticed as well, because he pulled his hands away from her rather quickly and slid off the pony.
To Ivy’s horror, she felt a hot blush color her face and her father narrowed his eyes at her. “We decided to have a race.” she said quickly. “We collided in a creek and fell off. Only my pony came back. But we’re fine!” Ivy dismounted and led Star away to care for her before she went and changed. She wanted to get away from her father’s accusing scowl.
She heard her father lay into Pippin about putting her in danger and his foolish behavior. Pippin just stood there and took it. She started to go back to them, but then her father was stomping away from Pippin. Pippin gave a heaving sigh and led his pony to the far side of the picket lines.
She patted Star’s nose and took a step towards Pippin, but Elanor was coming towards her, looking quite shocked.
“What did you do to get your dad so upset?” she asked.
Ivy shrugged and crossed her arms. “He doesn’t like me racing,” she said. It was only partially the truth, she suspected, but she didn’t know what else to say to Elanor. That her dad was probably upset because Pippin had his hands on her and that she actually quite liked Pippin’s hands on her?
“That is awful dangerous,” Elanor said.
“I know,” Ivy said, “but I’m a good rider and Dad worries too much.” She glanced down the line of ponies, but Pippin was gone. She sighed. “I should probably go get dried off,” she said.
She found Pippin later, sitting by himself on the banks of the river, staring out at the water and twirling his unlit pipe in his fingers. She walked up next to him and he turned to look up at her.
“I’m sorry about Dad,” she said.
Pippin chuckled. “Don’t worry, Ivy. One of my earliest memories is being chewed out by Merry. It’s nothing I haven’t experienced before.”
She crossed her arms and glared out at the river. “He still shouldn’t have done it. I’m not a child anymore.”
“I think that may be part of the problem,” Pippin said, so quietly that she barely heard him.
She shook her head. It was hard enough dealing with all the changes in her life without her father acting like this.
Ivy turned to go back to camp, to leave Pippin to his thoughts, but then she stopped. She looked over at him. “I had fun today,” she said.
He looked up at her and smiled. “Me, too.” He almost reminded her of the smiling lad from the painting in Minas Tirith.
Ivy tossed and turned and was grateful that Elanor was a heavy sleeper. She couldn’t get thoughts of Pippin out of her head. She thought about the conversation she had with her mother, about the difference between infatuation and love. She was pretty sure it wasn’t an infatuation anymore. Even Derwyn didn’t make her feel like this.
She heaved a sigh and rolled over. It’s not like there was anything she could do about it. She didn’t know if he felt the same way and besides, he was married. Ivy didn’t know the specifics of divorce, but there must be some reason he was still married to Diamond.
What a pair they make! Both of them miserable and unable to do anything about it. But she had overheard Rosie tell Sam something that made her think she could change that. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pippin so happy in a good long time,’ Rosie had said to her husband. ‘It seems having Ivy back is doing him good.’ Then Sam had coughed on his drink and said something to his wife, but all Ivy caught was ‘Merry’.
What Rosie said reminded her of something else her mother had told her, about two people giving each other comfort and strength during a bad time. She felt herself go warm at the thought. Well, maybe they wouldn’t have to go quite that far, but she had to do something.
Merry frowned, watching his daughter across the crowded garden. She was doing it again. Watching Pippin. He’d caught her at it often, ever since they’d said their farewells to the King and Queen yesterday and made their way back to Brandy Hall. She’d been kept busy today at the party to welcome her home, catching up with relations and friends, but even if she was talking to someone else, eventually her head would tilt slightly and her eyes would seek out Pippin.
Merry had a funny feeling about that, because of the looks she was giving his cousin. Pippin had received looks like that before, from lasses wanting to become the future Mistress of Tuckborough. At least Pippin didn’t seem to notice her. Merry had worried about that, too, after the look Pippin had on his face when he first saw Ivy. But Pippin didn’t seem to be paying her any attention at all today.
He’d ask Estella about Ivy and see what his wife thought of it. She’d know more about... tweens? He sighed. He supposed Ivy was like a tween, now. He needed to tell Estella everything he’d learned from Arwen and bring up his own suspicions about his daughter. Hopefully Estella would know what to do about Ivy. And then he should probably talk to Pippin about it, if Estella thought his suspicions were correct. Pippin would be coming back to Buckland next week, for the wedding of Pearl’s oldest daughter to one of the Burrows lads who lived here at the Hall. He’d have a word with Pippin then.
“She’s growing up, Merry. You’re just going to have to face that.” Estella climbed into bed next to him and lay on her side to look at him. “It’s only natural she’s going to be flirting with lads.”
“But it’s Pippin!” exclaimed Merry. “He’s not exactly a ‘lad’.” Merry huffed. He’d just told Estella everything he knew about Ivy, but she seemed surprisingly unconcerned with it all.
Estella shrugged. “I suspect she may still have an infatuation with him. Different now, of course, than when she was little. But an infatuation all the same.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better, Estella.”
Estella scooted over and embraced her husband, laying her head on his shoulder. “She probably considers him someone safe to practice on. I flirted with older cousins as well.”
“I just worry about her, Estella. I wasn’t expecting any of this for a very long time. It’s a bit of a shock, honestly.” He sighed. More than a shock, really. He was still trying to deal with this young woman who had come home instead of his little girl.
Estella patted his belly. “I’ll have a talk with her, let her know she can talk to me about things. But you’re going to have to realize there will probably be more broken hearts and tears in the future, and it isn’t always the lad’s fault. This is a difficult age for a lass, Merry, and it must be especially difficult when the lass wasn’t expecting to go through it for many more years.”
Merry sighed. He wasn’t ready for this either.
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.