Of Entwives And Hobbits
Chapter 3 - Trouble with Pippin
Merry went down to the kitchen and found Pippin buried in the cupboards, looking for something to smoke. Grumbling, he rocked back on his heels and exclaimed crossly, "There's nothing to smoke. I've lost my pipe, there's Ents running wild, there - "
"Oh, be quiet," Meriadoc told him, annoyed.
He sat down and began calculating if he had enough money to pull a few pints of mead down at the nearby inn. He didn't notice that his cousin was now looking out the window and mumbling under his breath about moving trees, not until Pippin began jumping up and down and pointing excitedly out the window. For one wild moment, Merry thought an Ent was outside, but it only turned out to be Diamond of Long Cleve, Pippin's latest flavour of the week.
"It won't last, you know," his cousin told him firmly. "She's too good for you."
Peregrin Took chortled and bounded over to the round door, eagerly pulling it open. Diamond was accompanied with a friend, Estella Bolger. Both had become rather giggly upon being invited into the house, something Merry despised terribly. He made a hasty retreat to his bedroom. But Pippin had other plans. He bellowed down the hallway, "Merry! We've got guests!"
Thus it was with great reluctance that Brandybuck unbolted the door and pushed it slowly open. His cousin was innocently grinning in a way which convinced Merry to give him a good beating later. Later would probably turn out to be in the evening, when Diamond and Estella left. If, they left.
"Nice to see you," muttered Merry before storming off to the kitchen to cook up the second breakfast.
He heard his cousin comment about having the cold or some virus. He also heard Estella suggesting bed rest. Grimacing, Merry ignored them. He wouldn't stand for this.
Moment outside caught his eye. A tree on the horizon swayed in the breeze, upper branches waving furiously. He then realized that no other trees were doing so and leapt out the window, not evening waiting to tell Peregrin. Sure enough, it was an Ent - one which wasn't sticking around. With a graceful turn, it began racing across the grass, waving back at Merry who was already out of breath.
By the time he'd reached a thick belt of trees, the elusive Ent had vanished. Merry swore. It seemed that he needed Pippin with him - and quickly. He couldn't quite shake the feeling of emergency or the distinct fear emanating from the Ents. He turned back to Bag End, walking in measured strides. He saw Pippin hanging out the window and shaking his fist at him. Oh, let him. There's no harm in it.
It was evening by the time Diamond of Long Cleve and Estella Bolger left, giggling all the way to the gate. Pippin waved them off, a dreamy look in his eyes. Merry snorted when he saw this, and presented the stolen pipe back to his cousin. Pippin wasn't too mad. Meriadoc waited until the other had calmed down before saying placidly, "I chased an Ent this morning, while you were chatting up the guests."
Pippin coughed and dropped his pipe. Merry continued, "I think we both need to be together for the Ents to talk to us."
"You've cracked." Pippin went on with his coughing fit.
His cousin waited a moment until the coughing subsided. He relieved Peregrin of the pipe, threw it aside and hid most of the substance. "Pippin, are you going to help me or not? We need to figure who these guys are! Why exactly are they here and why knocking on our door? Aren't you the slightest bit curious?"
"Even a little?"
"I'm sure you'd want to find out...you hate being chased by trees in your dreams don't you?"
Pippin glowered at him, the familiar of a troll. "Get to the point."
Meriadoc Brandybuck cleared his throat and sat back in his chair, puffing thoughtfully. Finally, he tossed his pipe aside and did some quick thinking. He looked his cousin straight in the eye. "We're going to hike into the Old Forest."
The brisk night air bit at their heels, reminding forcefully that winter was on its way. The moon shone down in all her radiance and bathed the fields and houses in a soft glow until they shone like stars. Merry cheerfully walked along, grinning into the night as though it was a childhood hike long before Mordor.
Peregrin Took, however, complained every chance he got. He hated the weather, hated the hike across the new road, hated leaving his pipe at home, etc etc. He wanted to go home, and kept calling his cousin an idiot who had embarrassed himself in front of a general audience at the inn with too much mead.
It was well past resting hour when they reached the spot Merry had camped out at before. He whistled as he stared out into the woods, wondering if he really should walk into them. Maybe Pippin was right, maybe there weren't any Ents. But they had seen them, hadn't they? Merry bit his lip thoughtfully.
"Well?" demanded Pippin crossly. "Are we going in or not?"
Merry's lantern gave one last splutter and dimmed. He stared at it, frowning in the dark. It hadn't been coincidence that he had flickered out, surely. He smiled slyly at his cousin, even though he couldn't see him. "Pippin, I hope you're not afraid of the dark."
The "fool of a Took" swallowed nervously. "And if I was?"
"Forget it," Merry advised him. "Come on - let's get to the heart of this matter."