Elements: a cook, a room, a chair, the color red.
Author's Notes: This is PG because it ended up darker than I had anticipated
"What is next on the agenda, Isembold?"
"Dealing with a rather touchy matter, Thain Peregrin. The matter of Tom Took. The paperwork is on the top of the stack I put on your desk, sir, just before we left for luncheon."
"Ah, yes! You did come in with something then. I must confess I was already tasting the cook's Shepherd's Pie and the raspberry tarts I knew were planned for afters."
"Both were excellent, sir."
"Indeed they were. Now, let's see what we have here. Hmm . . . Yes, a touchy matter indeed. Over in Fallingbrook. That's between here and Pincup."
"Yes, sir, nigh to the Lindenbrook Falls."
"Yes, hence the name. You may show the concerned parties in, Isembold."
"Thain Peregrin the First, I present to you Tom Took, a minor, his father Tam Took, maker of Tookland Whisky and the village piper for Fallingbrook, and Mr. Halingrim Took, the baker in Fallingbrook."
"Nice room you have here, Thain Peregrin."
"Watch your insolence, Tom!"
"Eh, thank you, Tom. Mr. Halingrim, would you care to begin by relating your side of this matter."
"This miscreant stole a Pig from the display in my bakery, Thain Peregrin. I thought I saw him do it from out the corner of m'eye, and when I checked the display, sure and enough the Pig was gone."
"Pig? I thought you are a baker."
"Aye, sir. Short for "Pig's Ears". 'Tis a pastry sir, made of a dough that puffs up when baked that is filled with cinnamon, honey and bits o' apples. Well, leastwise in Fallingbrook we make 'em thus. I've heard they're made differently elsewhere and are called by other names. When it's all baked it looks a bit like a pig's ear."
"Oh, I think I know those, although I've always heard them called "Ewe's Ears" and they had pears instead of apples."
"You were raised over Whitwell way then, weren't you, sir? I've heard they call them that over there."
"Well, sir, to get back to this ne'er do well lad, I saw the Pig was missing and I lit out the door after him, as he'd ran like a spooked pony once he'd slithered out the door like a snake in the grass. But by the time I caught him, he'd shoved the Pig in his mouth. Shoved it in whole, he did, and had filling runnin' all down his chin."
"I would say that made it clear you had the right lad, Mr. Halingrim. Still, you're a hobbit who looks like one would expect a baker to look. How did you mange to catch him?"
"Well, Thain Peregrin, 'tis hard to breathe with a mouth full of pastry. The scoundrel started choking on it and had to stop his running."
"Hmm . . . yes. I see. Very convenient for you, I should say. Tom, does this all sound correct to you, lad?"
"Answer when you're spoken to, ya daft lad!"
"Yes, Father. Um . . . well, you see Thain Peregrin . . . it was . . ."
"Tom Took! Ya'd best not be a thinkin' o' lyin' to the Thain."
"Then, Thain Peregrin, sir, 'twas like this. I'd had nothin' to eat all that day and the smell a'comin' out the bakery was just too much for me to take. I tried to walk on by, truly I did, sir, but my feet just seemed to take a path o' their own straight into the shop. I'd no coin in my pockets; else I would've eaten sooner in the day, sir. If I had I would've stepped right into the shop, knowing I could pay. But I sort o' snuck in behind a wide old matron and grabbed the smallest thing on the platter, hopin' I'd not been seen."
"My son got naught to eat that day 'cause he'd not done his day-chores whilst I was tendin' to my whisky still and my draughts games with my mates, so I told him he could just go hungry as he'd not done his work. The truth be I was just come to town to fetch him home for his evenin' chores. Right upset I was too as I ought not have had to come lookin' for him. He should have come home on his own."
"Hmm . . . I see Mr. Tam. Did you find the lad when you got to town, or did Mr. Halingrim bring him to you?"
"I came upon him and Mr. Halingrim in the middle o' the road. The lad was given the baker a sob story about being hungry, as though it weren't his own fault. I said I was t' lad's Pa and got told the lad had been thievin', so I cuffed him 'bout his head, boxed his ears and he set off a running, makin' the most foul racket ya ever heard."
"I had only intended to scold the lad, Thain Peregrin. I thought I'd take him back to close up my shop, drag him off to his folks and ask for proper payment. Leastwise, until his father showed up and was more a miscreant than his boy. 'Twas his treatment of the lad that caused me to seek you out, sir. It made me see red, sir and that's a fact."
"Well . . . There's more here than it seemed when I read the complaint. Isembold, please show Mr. Tam Took and Mr. Halingrim Took back out to the foyer, send a messenger lad to the kitchen for tea for them. Tom, if you will have a seat in that chair - yes that one to your right, lad - I would like to speak with you alone for a few moments. Oh, and Isembold . . ."
"Yes, Thain Peregrin?"
"Have the lad fetch some tea, meat and cheese for Tom and me as well, please."
"Of course, sir. This way, gentlemen"
"Now, Tom, I'd like to hear what you have to say about all of this, lad."
"I . . . I, eh . . . I took the Pig, sir. My Father is right. I hadn't done my chores. I slept late and then I just took a walk down to the pond to do some fishin'. I . . . thought maybe we'd have fish for supper, but I didn't catch any and I started to get hungry so I went home and my . . . my Father yelled and I went into town. You . . ."
"Here, lad. Use my handkerchief. "
"Thank you, sir. You know the rest of the story sir."
"Yes. How old are you, lad?"
"I'm fifteen, sir."
"Ah! Our tea is here. I need to think through what I've heard, Tom. Have your tea, whilst I think. We can talk in a few moments when you've eaten."
"Have you had your fill? Good. That's just fine, lad. To return to our problem here, has your Father always treated you this way? It sounds as though he ignored you most of the day until you came to him wanting something to eat."
"No, Thain Peregrin. It's only been . . ."
"There, there, Tom. Use the handkerchief again, lad, and take a few moments to compose yourself. That's right, take another deep breath."
"It's only been since my Mum passed on, sir. Pa's always been one of the best makers of Tookland Whisky, but he didn't always . . . he didn't always drink so much of it himself."
"It isn't that uncommon a thing, Tom. I've seen it before when a hobbit is struck with grief. My own wife's father . . . Well, suffice it to say I've heard of it before. Isembold! . . . Isembold! I wonder if he's out th . . ."
"Yes, Thain Peregrin?"
"Good, you were out there. Show Mr. Halingrim and Mr. Tam back in."
"Gentlehobbits, please come back in."
"I have come to a couple of decisions in this matter, Mr. Tam and Mr. Halingrim. First, the matter of Tom's theft of the Pig's Ear. It is my ruling that Tom will, starting tomorrow, work in Mr. Halingrim Took's bakery for a fortnight without pay or compensation other than being given something to eat for elvenses, luncheon and afternoon tea. Do you think that will atone for his theft of your goods, Mr. Halingrim?"
"More than, I should say, Thain Peregrin."
"Well, there is a reason for the length of time. My second decision is that Mr. Tam Took shall spend those two weeks in the Tuckborough jail under the care of a healer."
"What! What rubbish is this, Thain Peregrin! I'm ta get punished? Fer what?"
"You were unnecessarily rough with your son in a public place, Mr. Tam. Also, it is quite clear that you have not given him proper attention at home because you have given too much attention to drinking your whisky."
"Of all the bloody rubbish! Why I ought to . . ."
"Mr. Tam! I strongly suggest you not lift a hand toward me again. For one thing, you can see I am taller than you and second there are stiff penalties for attacking the Took and Thain while he is acting in his official role. That's better, Mr. Tam. I quite expected you to dislike my decision, but it stands nonetheless. At the end of the fortnight, Mr. Halingrim, you may decide if you would like to take Tom on as an apprentice if he has show skill at baking and if he also decides he would like to learn the trade. Mr. Tam, at the end of your two weeks you will also have some choices to make. Should you decide that you need to get out of the business of making whisky, we will assist you in finding and learning a new trade. If you choose a new trade, your son will come back home to live even if he is apprenticing. If you decide to return to making whisky, Tom will take up lodgings with Mr. Halingrim or at the home of someone else. Is all of this understood by all parties concerned? Tom, do you understand this?"
"Yes, Thain Peregrin. I'm to go with Mr. Halingrim for at least a fortnight."
"Yes. Serve him well, Tom, put honest effort into learning the trade or you will answer to me."
"Very well. Mr. Tam Took, you are glaring at me. Do you think my decisions unjust?"
"I've done naught wrong."
"It is against the law in both the Tookland and the Shire to administer a public thrashing to anyone. You have at least done that wrong, sir. Think about that and the fact that you might lose your son altogether while you are incarcerated."
"Aye, Thain Peregrin. If I must."
"Mr. Halingrim, do these solutions satisfy you?"
"They do, sir. My only lad decided two year ago that he wished to be a farmer, so I've none to give over my business to. I'm happy to give young Tom a go at it and if he takes to baking, he'll know he will someday own the shop."
"Then the matter is done and done. Isembold, if you have someone see to escorting Mr. Tam took to the jail then send word to Mistress Pearl Bolger* to look after him. He will need it. Come back in here when you are done. Mr. Halingrim, if you will, take Tom to his hole so he may gather some of his belongings then you may take him home with you. Tom."
"Best of luck to you, lad."
"Thank you sir, and to you."
"Thank you, Tom."
"Thain Peregrin, you said you wanted me when I was free?"
"Yes, Isembold. Let's close up shop for the day. I wish to spend the rest of the day with my wife and children."
"Yes, sir, I thought you might. This kind of matter gives one thought in that regard."
"It does indeed, Isembold. I want you to take the time off as well. No sitting about here shuffling all the papers about. Go enjoy your family."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, and a good day to you, sir!"
"And to you, Isembold."
"What is next on the agenda, Isembold?"
Chapter End Notes:
A/N: In my universe I have Pearl Took married to Ordegar Bolger so this is Pippin's sister. She is also a healer like their mother was.