For Marigold’s Challenge #32
My elements were: A magic flask, Great Smials, Pippin, Boromir
A Mother and/or A sibling.
It had been a long spell of drizzly, grey days. Stay inside days. Not a great deal of fun for two hobbit brothers full of the energy of youth. So they had wandered deeper into the corridors and tunnels of Brandy Hall than they ever had before; two little Brandybucks off on an adventure.
At the end of a long dark tunnel they found a mathom room they had never seen before. It opened before them dusty, musty and large enough that their candle’s glow dimmed before it quite reached all the walls. They each took a deep breath, each one gave a sharp nod of his head to the other, then, blowing out the breath, entered bravely into . . .
“Where are we this time, Jebbin?” Other asked before crossing the threshold of the room.
“Eh . . . we’re . . . Fangorn. This is Fangorn Forest, Other.” The room felt very old to the elder brother, but not as scary as he always imagined Moria to be, so it had to be Fangorn Forest. And, of course this being Jebbin Brandybuck, they were on The Great Quest of the Travellers.
“All right,” the younger exclaimed cheerily, following his brother and the candle light into the forest.
Soon Other was climbing up stacked crates and discarded furniture while Jebbin was digging into crates and rummaging through drawers.
“I’m Peregrin the Peerless climbing the Ents!”
“They didn’t climb the Ents, Other, the Ents picked us up and carry us about.”
“Oh yes. I’m Peregrin the Peerless, because I have green mixed in with the blue in my eyes, climbing the trees of Fangorn Forest!”
Jebbin smiled as he pried open a large trunk. There was, indeed, Took blood in him and Other. More it seemed in his brother than in him, showing up in his green-blue eyes and nosey nature. Other was very proud of it and always wanted to be Peregrin the Peerless, which was quite all right with Jebbin who much preferred being Meriadoc the Magnificent.
“What are you doing, Jeb . . . Meriadoc?”
“I’m finding things and learning things so I know everything.”
“While I get into everything and am very brave.”
“Yes, you get into everything,” Jebbin said aloud but under his breath added, “Into trouble. Into mischief. Into danger. Fool of a Took.”
“Took! Right now, in here, you’re a Took.”
“Hmm,” Jebbin grunted in reply. His attention was at that moment focused on what felt like a book, wrapped in the old clothes he was digging through. It was a small book, one that would fit in a grown hobbit’s jacket pocket, which was exactly where it was. Other was happily scampering about getting covered in dust and cobwebs, putting on an old cap and shawl that were transformed into a helm of Gondor and an Elven cloak. Jebbin opened the little book and started to read.
“I’ve just come back from a visit to cousin Orgulas Brandybuck’s hole and am, I hate to say, more than a bit upset. He was telling stories to the youngsters and they were full of the myths and exaggerations that have started to spring up regarding The Great Quest of the Travellers. I have decided to set down what I have learned of those events from my father, Periadoc ‘Cheerful’; whose father was Theodoc ‘Magnanimous’, son of Meriadoc the Magnificent. Hopefully my elder brother, Saradoc II, who is Master of Buckland (although as of yet untitled) will see fit to insist that these properly recorded remembrances will be what is henceforth taught to young Brandybucks. To the best of my knowledge, this will now be in accordance with records kept at Great Smials and The Red Book kept by the Fairbairns of the Towers.”
Jebbin’s eyes glowed. He was holding real treasure in his hands. He sat down and began to devour the words before him. Nearly twenty minutes passed before Other, wondering what on earth was keeping his brother from joining the playing, wandered over to stand behind Jebbin.
“I should’ve known that you would have your nose stuck in a book.” Other pouted.
Jebbin didn’t respond. He was held entranced and horrified by the words he was reading.
“Jebbin?” Other nudged his sibling. “Jebbin!” He punched his sibling.
“Wrong! He has it all wrong!” Jebbin’s voice was a shocked whisper.
“Who’s got what wrong, Jebbin?”
“Our great-great-great something Grandfather Jebiamac has The Great Quest all wrong, or well . . . at least this part that I’ve read. He has it all wrong but he said that he was going to set it all down properly.”
Other plopped down next to Jebbin and leaned in to see the writing in the book for himself. He could pick out a few words here and there, but the style of the writing was different than what was in his primer, making it hard for him to read.
“What part are you reading?”
“Well, we’re in Fangorn Forest so I went ahead to that part of the story. But it’s all wrong. He says that the orcs captured Meriadoc and Peregrin instead of them tracking the orcs to take revenge for their killing Lord Boromir.”
“What?” Other exclaimed.
“Yes. And it gets worse. He has that the orcs . . .” Jebbin paused. He didn’t think he should tell his younger brother what he had read. This story had the orcs being cruel to the two hobbits; whipping them, dragging them over the ground by their bound arms, hitting them, kicking them and not feeding them proper meals. “He has that the Uruk Hai were in charge and the two Travellers were tied up.”
“That’s not right,” Other said with a small trembling in his voice. He shook his head for emphasis even though Jebbin hadn’t looked up from the old book in his hands. Other was starting to get an odd feeling about this book, and the room they were in.
“No, it isn’t right at all. He has the riders from Rohan killing all the orcs instead of Meriadoc and Peregrin using their swords that were hidden under their Magic Elf Cloaks. And there’s no mention of Peregrin the Peerless using the Magic Flask of Miruvor that he stole from Gandalf to heal Meriadoc the Magnificent’s wound on his head. Treebeard doesn’t bow to them and ask for their help to rid the forest of Saruman and his Uruk Hai. He has Treebeard thinking they’re little orcs and nearly stepping on them to kill them!”
“Whatever are you going on about, young hobbit?”
The two lads jumped at the sound of a stern adult hobbit’s voice.
He stood at the edge of the candle light, almost blending into the darkness behind him. “Well?” he said. “I asked a question of you, if you’ve been taught any manners at all you’ll answer me.”
Jebbin cleared his throat. “It’s . . . it’s this book cousin . . . eh, cousin . . .” Jebbin was having trouble seeing the hobbit’s face clearly and what he could see really wasn’t all that familiar looking. The only thing he was sure of was that the grownup was a Took, his accent gave him away. But Jebbin’s mind was still on the falsehoods he had been reading, along with a need to defend the history he loved. “It’s this book,” he went on more firmly. “Great-great-whatever Grandfather Jebimac wrote the most horrible lies, but he says at the beginning that he was going to write the truth. I love history, Cousin . . . eh, Cousin Took, I love history and work hard at my studies and this is all wrong.”
“Jebbin.” Other’s shaky voice cut in. Jebbin ignored him.
“He has our great ancestors being weak and frightened. He has them not being . . .”
“Not now, Other.”
“Not being what?” the adult hobbit asked.
“Jebbin, he’s . . . he’s . . .”
“Not now, Other! He has them not being great.”
But the grownup had been distracted by Other. He quickly realized that Other was the younger of these two lads and that, for whatever reason, the little lad was becoming increasingly frightened. He always had a soft spot in his heart for the youngest of a pair or in a group. He stepped closer, coming fully into the candle’s glow. He bent and reached his hand towards the small lad who pulled away as the hand came nearer.
“There now, lad. There’s naught to be afraid of. You aren’t in any trouble, as far as I know.”
“You’re him!” Other squeaked.
“Him who?” the big hobbit paused, stopped by the lad’s statement and by the glimpse he had of his own hand.
“Peregrin the Peerless.” Other breathed as Pippin noticed that it seemed he could see the candle stick and it’s flame through his hand.
“Peregrin the what?” Pippin muttered, his thoughts now busier with this illusion than with the child’s words. He turned his hand this way and that, held his hand then his arm between his eyes and the candlelight. “This is really rather odd. I seem to be able to see through myself. Not completely, mind you, but I’d swear I can see the candle and such even with my arm in the way. Peregrin the what was that you said?”
Pippin looked at the two brothers. They sat ridged and pale on the floor before him. Two sets of huge eyes stared at him. They were trembling.
“Peerless,” Jebbin managed to whisper.
“Sounds like a Brandybuck title. Well,” Pippin said, still looking at his hands and arms against the light. He had decided to see if his left arm was acting as strangely as his right one was. It was. “I’m no Brandybuck, though I’m guessing you two are from your accents and your faces. I’ll also guess that this is Brandy Hall and not the Great Smials.”
The lads nodded slowly as the odd hobbit noticed a mirror on the wall and shifted his weight to lean over and look into it.
Pippin slowly sank to sit on a crate. He had seen nothing in the mirror but the mathoms behind him.
“I’m not here.” he finally mumbled.
Jebbin and Other shook their heads.
“But, I have to be here because we’ve been talking to each other. Haven’t we?”
Other and Jebbin nodded.
“I couldn’t see myself but you can see me.”
“Yes, sir,” the brothers said together.
Pippin blinked a few times before sitting up straighter. “All right then, what do I look like? I mean, I know I got old, I suddenly remember growing old. Do I look old?”
“No, you look as you did on the Quest.”
Jebbin and Other didn’t think anything could startle a ghost, but the Peregrin ghost gave a noticeable jump when the other ghost appeared as it spoke.
“Merry,” Pippin said warmly as he stood. “Then I guess I’m the ghost of a Pippin past.” The two ghosts laughed as they embraced each other, patting one another’s backs.
“Who are these two?” Merry asked, pulling back from the embrace to look over his cousin’s shoulder. Pippin turned his head to look at the lads.
“Eh, I think I heard Jebbin and Other, with Jebbin being the bug-eyed, gaping fish out of water on our right and Other being the smaller bug-eyed, gaping fish on our left. Odd names, but then what can one expect, they’re Brandybucks.”
“Good solid names then, if they are Brandybucks, even if I’ve never heard the like before. Why are they staring at us like that, Pip? They look as though they’ve seen a ghost.”
The lads nodded and Merry looked at, and suddenly through, Pippin. His cousin helped him onto a crate as his knees gave out under him.
“Answers that question,” Merry weakly muttered.
Suddenly, Other found his voice. “I was thinking that if only you could be here, if only Peregrin the Peerless, who I’m a bit like because I’m a bit Tookish even though I’m a Brandybuck, well, if he could be here with our great an . . . an . . .”
“ . . .cestor, Other. Ancestor.”
“An - ces - tor. Yes, thank you Jebbin. If only Peregrin the Peerless and our great an-ces-tor Meriadoc the Magnificent could be here, *they’d* set everything right and Jebbin wouldn’t need to be all upset by this stupid book and worried that everything he had learned, and me too really, that everything we had learned was wrong.”
Merry and Pippin looked at each other. “Took,” they said in unison.
“Let me see the stupid book.” Merry said and held out his hand toward Jebbin. Jebbin placed the book in the ghost’s hand.
“What do you know, Merry,” Pippin exclaimed, “it stayed! You can hold things!” He turned and picked up the jacket in which Jebbin had found the book. “Ha! I can too. We can’t see ourselves in mirrors though.” he added, nodding with his head toward the mirror on the wall.
“That’s nice, Pip,” Merry said but his nose was already in the old book. Pippin leaned over and read over Merry’s left arm.
They read a few pages. They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. They looked at the lads.
“This all seems in order,” Merry said gently. “Does the Uruk Hai hurting us have you upset?”
“They hurt you?” Other squeaked out sharply.
Jebbin hugged his brother to his side while looking up at the ghosts. “I hadn’t told him that, Mum wouldn’t like it.”
“I should have thought of that.” Merry turned to Pippin. “Estella and Diamond made us wait until Theodoc and Faramir were fairly old before we told them.” He turned back to Jebbin and Other. “I’m sorry I said that, but is that what was troubling you?”
Jebbin shook his head. “No. It’s that it isn’t right. It isn’t . . .” He stopped. He looked down as his expression turned to a scowl which cleared away to disbelief. He looked Meriadoc the Magnificent’s ghost in the eyes with a pleading look. “But you just said that it seems to be in order. That means that it is right. That means that what you read in there is right.”
“Well,” Peregrin the Peerless’ ghost cut in, “we’ve been . . . eh . . . gone awhile it seems, and it did take me a bit to remember having grown old and . . .” Pippin paused. He almost said ‘dying’ which didn’t seem a good idea to mention just then. “. . . and being gone. Maybe we’re a bit befuddled.” He felt Merry tighten up, getting ready to interrupt, and shook his head slightly. Merry relaxed. “What have you learned?”
Jebbin took a deep breath. “I’ve learned . . . we’ve learned, that you were the biggest hobbits ever.”
“Four foot nine and Five foot one and three quarters inches.” Other put in.
“Who was taller?” Merry asked. Pippin kicked him a bit in the shin.
“You are,” Jebbin answered. “Though I’ve heard the Tooks say you were shorter.”
Pippin chuckled as Merry rolled his eyes. “Go on, Jebbin,” Merry said.
“Where was I? Oh, yes. You were the tallest hobbits ever. You led the Walkers through Middle-earth because you studied all the Elf maps and knew the best ways to go. That you knew Frodo the Faithful and Fearless and Samwise the Stalwart had to go to the Dark Lands alone, so you held back the orcs that tried to stop them. You were fighting orcs in one part of the woods and heard Lord Boromir’s horn and ran to his aid, but the orcs slew him just as you got there. They ran and you both tracked them and killed them all. You, Meriadoc the Magnificent got hurt on the head and Peregrin the Peerless used the Magic Flask of Miruvor, that would always become filled with whatever tonic was needed to bring healing, to heal your forehead.”
“Look, Jebbin!” Other interrupted. “I can see his scar a bit. Can you see his scar, Jebbin? I
can see it!”
Jebbin looked. It did seem that no matter how the Meriadoc ghost moved it’s head, there was a darkish spot above his right eyebrow. “Yes, I see it, Other. Now let me finish. Um, oh yes. Treebeard had heard of the mighty hobbits who had been sent to destroy the Ring and he came out of his forest, bowed before you both and begged you to help clean away the filth of Saruman. And you did. And then . . .”
“Enough, Jebbin.” Pippin cut the lad’s recitation off, holding up a hand as well to stop him.
“Where did you learn all that? You’ve obviously learned it well.” Merry smiled at the young Brandybuck lad.
“From the Hall’s tutor, Mistress Woodsorrel. She told all of us I was the best student of history she has ever taught.”
Merry and Pippin looked at Jebbin’s proud, shining face. They turned to look at each other, then back to the beaming student of hobbit history.
“A moment, if you would.” Merry said as he and Pippin rose and moved off into the gloom, not knowing they actually faded nearly to the point of disappearing as they did so.
“We can’t do this.” Pippin whispered as he caught at his cousin’s sleeve.
“I know, Pip. I know. It would crush that lad to have me of all hobbits say what he’s learned is a load of rubbish.”
“It’s quite the mess, isn’t it though? I barely recognized our own story.”
“Yes, it is. I wonder?” Merry turned toward the lads, becoming more solid in appearance as he did so. “Other, do you know what year this is?” he asked, giving the younger lad a chance to show his knowledge.
“It is Shire Reckoning 1819, Mr. Meriadoc the Magnificent Ghost,” Other answered with a big smile.
It was the two ghost’s turn to look like bug-eyed, gaping fish out of water.
“Four *hundred* years?” Pippin finally managed to gasp.
Merry swallowed a few times before he could answer. “Well, I guess that explains what happened to the story of our Quest. I remember stories of things that happened to me when I was a little lad being told slightly differently by my family by the time I was a grandfather. With four hundred years of time, no wonder we barely recognized it.”
The two ghosts sighed, nodded to each other then walked back over to the crates and sat down. Merry handed the book back to Jebbin.
“Well, Jebbin,” Merry began. “You see, I said this book seems in order because that was the story we told most people when we returned from the Quest.”
“Yes,” Pippin spoke up. “We didn’t want to make things any worse than they already were.”
“Worse?” Jebbin asked doubtfully.
“Worse,” said Meriadoc. “All the hobbits already thought we were making up things to make ourselves seem important and such. Thought we were just bragging, you see. So we made this other story up, the story that is in this book. In that story we’re weak and frightened for much of the journey.”
“And I make a lot of foolish mistakes and nearly ruin things in that story.”
“Fool of a Took,” Other said knowingly.
“Exactly,” replied Pippin, while he was wondering where the lad had heard that phrase.
“We still had ourselves come out well in the end, but we cut out all the wonderful and magical things we learned and did. And all the hobbits in the Shire were much more comfortable with our story that way,” Merry continued. “They started to stand us drinks again and to treat us like regular hobbits.”
“As regular as the Master and Thain can be, that is,” added Pippin.
Merry nodded. “Well, yes, as regular as that.” He turned back to the brothers. “But now it seems that the truth found its way out eventually, and what you both are learning is the real story of the Quest.”
Jebbin’s relief was easy to see. He sat up straight and proud. “Then great-great-great-great . . .”
“. . . whatever,” interjected Pippin.
Jebbin nodded at the ghost. “. . . Grandfather Jebiamac has it wrong after all.”
“Yes,” the ghosts said in unison. They looked at each other once more.
“I think we’re leaving, Merry. I feel oddly.”
“I think you’re right, Pip.” Meriadoc the Magnificent turned back to his descendants and smiled. They were good hobbit lads, no matter what they had been led to believe. “You’re a smart, wonderful lad, Jebbin, and you as well Other. I’m proud of you both.”
“As am I,” added Pippin.
Other suddenly jumped up. He leaned close to Peregrin the Peerless’ ear. “I knew it was you! I knew you were here before you said a word. I knew!”
“You did indeed, young Tookish Brandybuck.”
Pippin moved to hug the lad as he disappeared, sensing just before the room faded from his vision that there was Took blood indeed in Other Brandybuck.
A few moments later, Clary Brandybuck was nearly knocked over by two dusty hobbit lads who looked somewhat like her sons.
“We saw them, Mum. We saw them and talked to them and they were proud of us, Mum. They told us they were. And they told us we were learning all our history really well and they were really tall, Mum, just like we knew they would be. And we were scared at first, but they were nice and kind and then we weren’t afraid.”
Clary looked at the larger of the two dust bunnies, who actually wasn’t quite as dusty as the smaller one, clinging to her hand while hopping up and down. Jebbin was acting like Other, unable to hold still while talking faster than a tongue should be able to form words.
“Who? You saw whom, Jebbin?”
“Them, we saw them, Mummy!” Other managed to get a word in.
“Meriadoc the Magnificent and Peregrin the Peerless, Mum.” Jebbin finally supplied the names. “They were ghosts, of course, but nice ghosts. Not in the least bit scary. They were proud of us!”
Clary marveled once again at her lads’ imaginations. Most likely they had dozed off and Jebbin had dreamed it all, then pulled Other into his dream upon their awakening. She hugged them in spite of their covering of grey dust and cobwebs.
“Of course they are proud of you. There can’t be two hobbit lads in all the Shire who love their stories more than my two lads. Now,” she stood and began to wipe her hands off on her now dusty apron, “you two will head straight to the bathroom for baths. You’re a sight, the both of you.”
The brothers started off jabbering as fast as they could.
“And don’t take your clothes off in your rooms,” Clary called after them. “They’re filthy. Just leave them on the bathroom floor.”
“Yes, Mum!” she heard before they disappeared around the corner.
In a distant mathom room an old book raised itself off the floor, tucked itself into an old jacket’s pocket, which folded itself before lowering into an old dusty trunk. The whisper of a satisfied sigh could be heard as the lid on the trunk slammed shut.
Chapter End Notes:
Please read "Remembering Aright" next.