Frodo sat quietly, listening to the two Big Folk talk about them as though they were not there. This may have angered some, but Frodo found it amusing.
He recalled The Green Dye Incident, as all Tookland and Brandy Hall had come to call it. Frodo had been sure Pearl would skin Pippin alive. He had rarely seen any hobbit lass so angry as when Pearl had run into her mother’s chambers, crying “Mother!”
“What’s he done now?” asked Eglantine. She turned to look at her daughter and beheld a lovely hobbit lass with bright green hair. Like her errant son, Eglantine had a great sense of humor, and couldn’t suppress her laughter. This had made Pearl even angrier. “Oh my…oh dear!” she exclaimed, and a slow smile spread across her unwilling face. “Well, darling, at least it matches your eyes!” Eglantine tried to hold her laughter, but failed.
Pearl had gone to her father expecting more sympathy than Eglantine had shown. Paladin Took, however, had been as amused as his wife had. Pearl’s fury had increased ten-fold.
The result was that Pippin had been sent to visit Bilbo Baggins and his ward, Frodo. It was that, or sit idly by as the situation escalated. It was then that Frodo had come to know Pippin a little better. All too well, in fact. The youngster seemed to live for the pleasure of making the veins in one’s head stand out. Frodo had his hands full keeping the little one out of trouble, and only began to have some measure of success when Merry was sent for. For whatever reason, when Merry was around, Pippin seemed to be, while not exactly perfect, a little better.
It had been during this time that the band of hobbits known as Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin had been forged. There was some difference in ages, but this seemed to matter not at all to any of them. They had mostly stayed out of trouble, save the occasional raid on Maggot’s fields and the purloining of the occasional apple.
Bilbo had taught them to read and write. Pippin, though hard put to concentrate on his lessons, had proved a quick study, perhaps too quick. He surprised everyone by helping Sam, seeming to think that Sam, above all, needed to learn more than the others. Astute Pippin knew that Sam’s station in life would only be changed with a proper grasp of letters and numbers.
Pippin had liked Sam from the first. He admired Sam’s grounded nature, and thought he should be a bit more like Sam, but he seemed to be unable to emulate the older hobbit. The Gaffer had always delighted in the pranks of the youngest of the four, and did nothing to curb the young Took’s sense of mischief. Was this, then, Frodo thought, when our own Fellowship began?
The four of them loved to hear Bilbo’s tales told before the fireplace. Countless times had Bilbo told them his stories, yet they never seemed to tire of them. “A story, Uncle Bilbo, a story!” they would plead. Bilbo liked being called “uncle”, though in actuality he was a cousin. He found that he obtained great joy in recounting his adventures, and not for the first time, he thought, he should commit them to paper.
For now, though, he would pass the story on by word of mouth, as the little hobbits seemed to find immense pleasure in hearing them. They always gawked and gasped in all the right places. Pippin seemed to fear the trolls more than the rest for some reason, and Bilbo took his own delight in the mischief of frightening little Pippin. He never took it too far, but the look of rapt attention on the little face made it too tempting to resist.
Frodo, for his part, loved every detail of the entire adventure. He thought, as he had countless times now, of how Bilbo found the ring.
At times, the Ring felt heavy, far heavier than it ought. Frodo seemed to be unable to keep his hands from wandering to the perfect circle of gold. It was indeed a thing of simple beauty, he thought. Suddenly he had an urge to put the Ring on and slip away, go back to the Shire…
Suddenly Pippin sat up. His eyes opened, and seemed clear and aware. He looked directly at Frodo.
“Go. You should go. Better still, bring it to me.” The words were coming from Pippin’s mouth, but the voice was all wrong. Even worse was the laughter. This was not the laughter they were so familiar with. It sounded cruel and it churned with hatred and envy. Pippin’s lungs bubbled frightfully. He fell back with a long, rattling exhalation.
That was when Pippin convulsed. The seizure was short, but quite violent. Then there was silence. Much too much silence, in fact.
“He’s stopped breathing!” Boromir rasped. He seized Pippin and shook him. “Breathe!” commanded the Captain, shaking Pippin again, this time a little harder.
Still, no tide of air moved within those still channels of Pippin’s lungs. He was turning grey.