A/N: This ficlet is my response to a challenge posed by Dreamflower on the PippinHealers group a short while ago!
"Here's the Challenge: I'd love to see someone write a drabble or a ficlet or even just a snippet about the first time Pippin saw the Old Took's room. How old was he? Why was he in there? And what happened while he was there?"
Author's Chapter Notes:
The Tooksday Quote:
“’Yes, it is all very dim and stuffy in here,’ said Pippin. ‘It reminds me somehow, of the old room in the Great Place of the Tooks away back in the Smials at Tuckborough: a huge place, where the furniture has never been moved or changed for generations. They say the Old Took lived in it, year after year, while he and the rooms got older and shabbier together. Gerontius was my great-great-grandfather: that puts it back a bit. But that is nothing to the old feeling of this wood. Look at all those weeping, trailing, beards and whiskers of lichen! And most of the trees seem to be covered with ragged dry leaves that have never fallen. Untidy. I can’t imagine what spring would look like here, if it ever comes; still less a spring-cleaning.’” (TTT, Book III, Chapter III, “The Uruk-Hai“)
“Room for Adventure. . .”
If it hadn’t been for Lily, he never would have found it. On the other hand, if it hadn’t been for Sancho scaring Lily away, he wouldn’t have found it, either. Then again, if he hadn’t been teasing Sancho, his friend wouldn’t have stepped on Lily’s tail and scared her, resulting in the kitty tearing off down the long passageways and disappearing with a yowl of indignation.
The musty corridor lead into a section of Great Smials where Pippin was sure he’d never been. Of course, at the age of ten, there were many places he hadn’t yet explored, and in a place as large as the Took’s ancestral home, it would probably take him years. No matter, he was up to the task without a doubt. Always curious, never satisfied with just one answer to a question, Pippin knew there was always more to any story, and he meant to learn what had been left out.
Lurching around a corner, hot on the cat’s trail, he spied Lily’s wandering paw prints at last. A little further away he noticed a door standing ajar, smoky light filtering into the corridor through a dirt-smeared window. Pippin watched the dust motes swirling and dancing from the room on the murky ray of sunlight.
Everything was thick with dust here; even the air felt heavy and strange, as if this part of the smial was holding it’s breath, waiting.
Waiting? Pippin grinned with anticipation, settling fisted hands on hips. “Hallo?” he sang out, and listened to his voice echoing faintly in the stillness. His smile widened. Now here was a place with a feeling of mystery about it! He peered through the half-open door and a sudden whoosh of air raised goose flesh on his arms. Instead of running away in fear, as other children almost certainly would have, Pippin enjoyed the shiver running through him, finding that it whet his appetite for more.
Rubbing both hands up and down his arms to quell the delicious goose bumps, he used his foot to give the door a nudge.
It fell open completely, almost soundlessly. . .almost. Pippin was certain he’d heard a little sigh. Taking it as an invitation, he crept inside. Eyes widening, he turned in a circle, taking in the huge room and the grimy furnishings.
Faded curtains, shredded from neglect and the weight of dust, covered the only window and moved a little in the draft from the open door. A shabby couch was shoved against the far wall; stacks of books marched across the shelf above. The thin volumes made him think about his game of dominoes and he frowned, remembering that Pervinca had lost some of the pieces only just yesterday.
Lily poked her head out from beneath the couch and cried for his attention just then, and he turned with a laugh at the sight of cobweb-covered whiskers as she scampered over to him and rubbed her head against his foot with a purr. Kneeling to gather her into his arms, his gaze fell upon it.
The great desk seemed to beckon him, and he approached it with a curious feeling of wonder. He reached out with a hesitant hand and trailed a finger along its surface, then wrote his name in the thick dust. A book lay nearby, its cover opened as if the reader had just stepped away for a moment. Next to it laid a tattered quill and a dried out inkwell. The curling, yellowed pages were unreadable, so Pippin took a deep breath and blew on them. The resulting cloud of dust rained down on his head and he sneezed several times in quick succession. Scrubbing his nose on his shirtsleeve absent-mindedly, he smoothed the pages and squinted at the words.
The handwriting was antiquated. He was reminded of the old letters his mother kept in her remembrance box, tied with a velvety ribbon of green. He knew only because he had once poked about in the cupboard in his parents’ room after spying his mother putting it away. The letters had been a bit of a disappointment to him at the time. However, the writing in this journal seemed to be much older than anything he’d seen before and Pippin’s interest grew.
Lily weaved in and out between his legs and chirped, and he patted her head with one hand, while the other one wiped away more of the grime. He squinted harder, but was still unable to make out much in the dim light. What was this place? He wondered how long it had been since anyone else had visited. A very long time indeed, he decided, looking around with a sigh.
He lifted his head at the faint shouts of laughter and pounding feet of the other children far down the corridor, and Pippin paused in his inspection. Coming to a decision, he hurried from the room and pulled the door shut firmly behind him.
He wasn’t ready to share this secret place with anyone today. But he’d be back, and perhaps he’d bring someone along to share the mystery with. The hidden room was an adventure waiting to happen, Pippin decided, and he would return soon to see if he could make it yield some of its past to his inquisitive eyes.
He took off on the run, skipping around the corner and heading back to his friends and cousins. Lily followed at a more sedate pace.
Behind him, dusty curtains again stirred in the draft. The room seemed to sigh with loneliness and the longing to yield up a few of its secrets to a curious lad.