The Life of a Bard by Dreamflower

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The evening was still early when Pippin made his way into the public room of The Leaping Hare. There were not yet many customers, which was fine with Pippin as he wanted a word with the innkeeper Dodd Brockhouse before the crowds started. It was only a Hensday, so there wouldn’t be that big of a crowd anyway. Less chance of it coming to his father’s ears that way.

“Master Dodd,” said Pippin to the innkeeper, who was stocking the bar and preparing for a moderately busy evening.

“Hullo, Mr. Pippin,” was the affable reply. He would have been affable anyway to the son of the Thain, it was only prudent, but the truth was that he liked Pippin. He had come in frequently over the years since he entered his tweens, in company with his older cousins, and about twice on his own, now that he had turned twenty-five and was allowed to buy his own half. He could always be counted on for a song or tale, and maybe a bit of dancing on the tables, but he never took advantage of his rank, and he never tried to get more than the half that was all that was allowed to tweenagers. Dodd thought him a good-hearted lad, and believed that one day he’d make a fine Thain. “What’s that you have with you, Mr. Pippin?”

Pippin blushed. This was the first time he’d tried this. “It’s my fiddle, Master Dodd. I’m a bit short of coin this evening, and I wondered if maybe I could play a few tunes for my half tonight?”

Dodd’s eyes twinkled. “Will you sing for us as well?”

Pippin grinned. “I’ll always sing--you know that!” He felt relieved. He had not been too sure how his proposal would be received. You could never tell with grown-ups.

“I’ll go ahead and stand you the half. I know you’ll nurse it. But wait till there’s a few more folk here to start. No use wasting music on an empty room.”

Pippin’s face lit up with pleasure. “Thank you, Master Dodd!”

The innkeeper shook his head with amusement. With those eyes and that smile, it was hardly fair that he was the son of the Thain as well. That one could charm the birds out of the trees.

A few moments later, Dodd heard a stir from the folk in the room, and felt the apprehension. He looked up to see a Man, stooping to enter. He was more than a bit alarmed. He’d hosted a few Dwarves, but never had he one of the Big Folk in his inn before. But the Man seemed polite and diffident enough as he came up to him.

“Are you Master Dodd Brockhouse?”

“I am,” he answered warily.

The Man made an elegant bow. “Menelcar the Minstrel at your service, Master Dodd. The innkeeper at The Oak and Thorn in Pincup recommended your fine inn to me as one where my talents might be appreciated.”

Dodd relaxed. It never rained but it poured. Here was another musician! It was a shame that it wasn’t a Highday, but the sounds of music and the talk of one of the Big Folk was going to draw a crowd anyway. He was going to do a very nice bit of business for a Hensday.

“Well, Mr. Menelcar, I’ll not turn away a bit of good entertainment. But the burden won’t be only on you.” He gestured with his chin to Pippin who sat at a corner with his half, and was polishing and tending to his fiddle.

“Ah, a fellow musician! Does he play here often?” Menelcar was intrigued, as this was the first hobbit he had seen whom he knew played an instrument, though he was sure it wasn’t unique.

“He’s a local lad--sings a lot, but this is the first time he’s brought his fiddle.” He was not about to tell this Man that he was looking at the son of the Thain. The minstrel seemed a good sort, but Dodd was not going to throw all caution to the wind.

Pippin had looked up as the Man had entered, and was curious, but not in awe like many of the hobbits there. After all, he’d known a Wizard, and Gandalf, he thought, was taller than this person. He smiled a welcome as the tall form approached his table.

Menelcar introduced himself, and now Pippin grinned widely. “I’m Pippin,” he said, not giving his last name as was usually customary. He was not sure if this Man knew who the Tooks were, but he wanted to keep things on a friendly basis, and not have rank cluttering things up. He knew from Frodo’s tales that Big Folk put a lot of emphasis on rank. “I’ve never met a minstrel before.”

The Man sat upon the floor. He had found that this seemed to put him at about eye level for most hobbits seated in a chair. He had sat upon tables to perform, and so far it seemed to work.

“You seem a bit young to be playing in a tavern?” said the Man. He had found that most of the hobbits seemed to look younger than he expected.

Pippin flushed. “I am twenty-five.”

The Man looked skeptical. Dodd brought him an ale, and Pippin glanced up at the innkeeper. “Master Dodd, he does not believe I am twenty-five.” said Pippin

“I should say you are!” exclaimed the innkeeper. “Else you wouldn’t be in here like this!”

Menelcar nodded. But he still thought this hobbit looked very young indeed.

He turned his attention to his harp. He noticed the look of interest that Pippin gave it. “Do you play other instruments besides the fiddle?”

“I play the Tookland pipes, and the lap harp. My Aunt Esme taught me to play the fiddle--I’ve played it the longest. Mostly, I sing.”

“Tookland pipes?”

“They are pipes which are played by pumping a bag of air--” Pippin gestured, as though he were playing.

“Ah. In Dale, they call those ‘bagpipes’.” He chuckled. “When played well they sound magnificent; played badly they sound like nothing so much as a cat being tortured."

Pippin laughed. “I see you have encountered them! You have been in Dale?” That was exciting; that was where Bilbo had gone in his adventures.

So Menelcar spun a few tales of his travels, keeping an eye all the time on the room, seeing how many customers were entering, how much of a crowd being drawn by word of his being there.

“I think you should go first, Pippin,” he said, finally.

“Already?” Pippin looked a bit apprehensive. He had not minded doing this before, just in front of the other hobbits, who were there all the time. But now he would be performing in front of a professional, someone who knew music. It was slightly intimidating.

Menelcar smiled. “You can warm the crowd up for me.”

With a sudden look of determination which his cousin Merry would have recognized, he took up his fiddle and made his way to the front of the room.

There were several pleased cries from the crowd of “Mr. Pippin!” and “Play us a tune, Mr. Pippin!” This bolstered his confidence, and he tucked the instrument under his chin and began to play a sprightly tune.

Menelcar listened, nodding his head in time to the music. The lad was good, quite good.

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