A Partnership in Villainy by Llinos

Author's Note: This story is an extrapolation of a brief memory that occurred in the story Recaptured. It is unbeta-ed because it is dedicated, with love, as a Christmas present to my good friend and beta, Marigold and to all the people who have read and reviewed Recaptured over the past year.

Merry (and Pippin) Christmas to all our readers.


Pippin's memory flitted back to the time he and his cousin had first had chocolate on that Yule. All the hobbit children spending the 12 days in Brandy Hall had been given a piece, there had not been enough for the adults. The doling out had started with the youngest and allocated according to age until it was all gone. Pippin remembered how Merry's face had dropped as Ferdibrand, Merry's junior by a year, was given the last piece.

The littlest Took, who worshipped his Brandybuck cousin, couldn't bear the look of disappointment on his hero's face. But Pippin had gobbled his piece of chocolate with relish the moment he was given it. There had to be something he could do. Pippin had resolved the problem in his own unique way by stealing his sister, Pervinca's chocolate and giving it to Merry.

Pervinca had wailed and told and both boys had been beaten, Pippin over his father's knee and Merry over a chair with a strap, because he was old enough to know better. But it had merely served to form a closer bond between the two – a partnership in villainy had been cemented.

From Recaptured – Chapter 61 – Rough and Tumble This is what really happened… Thluggul – The Yuletide Dragon

"No Pearl! I don't want to wear it – it's a baby's hood and I'm a big boy now – I'm five!" Peregrin Took stamped his small foot and pulled the pixie hood off and threw it petulantly to the floor.

"Come along now Pippin," Pearl patiently picked the woollen hat up again. "You have to wear it, Mamma says. It's cold outside and we have a long journey, we don't want you to catch a chill."

"You're always dressing me silly," Pippin pouted. "Merry laughed at me last Yule in that silly hat and I don't want Merry to laugh at me."

"No he didn't," Pearl tied the hood back in place, tucking Pippin's curls and ears firmly beneath the knitted flaps. "He said you looked like a little squirrel."

"See – he laughed at me." Pippin wailed, tears starting to spring to his eyes.

"Oh hush now." Pearl pulled a pair of knitted mittens onto her brother's little fists that were rubbing at his eyes. "I promise you can take your things off as soon as we get to Brandy Hall and Merry won't even see you dressed like this. It's a long way in the carriage and Mamma's afraid you'll take cold and you don't want to be in bed for Yule – now do you?"

"Why can't I ride on a pony like Papa?" Pippin demanded. "I could you know."

"One day darling," Pearl assured him, "when you're big."

"I'm big now!" Pippin stuck his bottom lip out defiantly and put his hands on his hips, drawing himself up to his full one foot five and a half inches. "See – Papa says I'm getting very big at last."

"Well when you're big enough to reach the mantelpiece in the study – that's Papa's own rule for riding a pony." Pearl completed her little brother's outdoor attire by adding his best woollen cloak and buttoning it tightly at the neck. "Be a good boy Pippin, we're going to have a splendid time at Brandy Hall and if you behave I'll show you something nice when we're in the carriage."

Twenty-year-old Pearl enjoyed looking after her tiny brother, very often pretending that she was married and Pippin was her own baby. So did her sister Pimpernel, who was four years her junior, but still eleven years older than Pippin. However, their father, The Thain worried that the boy was being overly mothered, particularly when one day he found his son and heir dressed in Pimpernel's doll's clothes sitting in her toy baby perambulator.

He could not condemn his daughters for their loving indulgence, especially as Peregrin tended to be somewhat frail and sickly, taking ill very easily, all the women in his household worried and coddled him a great deal. But it pleased him secretly when just lately Pippin had started to protest and refuse to take part in dollies' tea parties and wanted to play The Thain in their games rather than the bad baby.

Another thing that pleased him was his son's obvious admiration and hero worship of his older cousin Meriadoc. On their frequent visits Pippin had followed the older lad everywhere and then talked about him incessantly when the visits were over. Young Merry was his sister Esmeralda's son and the son and heir to the Master of Buckland, Saradoc "Scattergold", a good role model for his own heir, Paladin decided. A fact that played no small part in his decision to spend this Yule at Brandy Hall – a break with tradition it was true, but The Thain wanted his son to get the right kind of values – strong and loyal – as befitted the titular head of The Shire and Merry seemed to be growing into a good example of this.

"What are you going to show me, Pearl?" Pippin was now tucked cosily into the carriage between his two older sisters while his mother sat opposite with ten-year-old Pervinca. "Can I see now – I've been very good."

"Well I suppose you have," Pearl reached into her embroidery workbag. "But you have to promise to keep that rug tucked tightly round you."

"I will." Pippin squeaked enthusiastically. "Won't I Mamma?"

"Yes my darling." Eglantine agreed. "Show him now Pearl before he gets too excited."

Pearl brought out a white linen pillowcase, which she had embroidered in red gold and green silks. The design was a flying dragon and all around the border were leaves of holly and ivy, scattered about with golden coins. Across the top was Pippin's name.

"Oh is that mine?" Pippin gasped in awe at the magnificence of the dragon. "What does it say?"

"Oh my darling, you can read that," Eglantine held it up and pointed to the first letter. "What does that say?"

"P!" Pippin said decisively. Then wavered a little. "Or B, I think – no P for Pippin!"

"That's right," Pearl laughed. "But it says your whole name." Carefully she traced over the letters spelling them out. P-e-r-e-g-r-i-n T-o-o-k, you see."

"It's grand Pearl, but why did you have to write my whole name?" Pippin pretended not to know, but then added excitedly, "I know it's so Thluggul will find me isn't it!"

"Yes my dearest one." Pearl laughed. "Of course it is."

"What about me?" Pervinca asked with a frown. "My pillowcase hasn't got a name."

"Oh it has now my darling." Eglantine took the embroidered case from her bag. "You see, it's the one you always had, but I've stitched your name on it this year, because we'll be at Brandy Hall instead of the Smials."

"…and Thluggul might not know!" Pervinca pointed out. "Thank you Mamma." She put her arms around her mother's neck and kissed her cheek.

"So can Thluggul read?" Pippin asked in awe. "He must be so clever."

"But of course," Pearl cuddled her arm around Pippin and Pimpernel smiled at her over his head. "He's the cleverest dragon in the whole world."

"Tell me again, Pearl." Pippin asked excitedly. "Tell me what happens."

"All right, once more." Pearl actually never really tired of telling the story, but she liked to pretend. "All year long Thluggul, the great magic dragon, watches The Shire and he flies over every so often to see which are the good hobbit boys and girls and which are the no so good ones. At the setting of the sun on the eve of Yuletide, Thluggul gathers up all the gifts that the dwarfs have spent the year making in their secret caverns. He looks at his long list to see who are the good little hobbit boys and girls and then he decides who will have which presents. As he leaves his home in the high frozen mountains, his great wings flap so hard that sometimes he blows the snow right off the mountain top and it falls down over The Shire and turns it all to white."

"Oh do you think he'll do that this year?" Pippin squeaked ecstatically, "Do you Pearl?"

"Well no one knows for sure, we'll have to wait and see." Pearl drew a breath. "Then he flies right over the Shire and visits every hobbit hole and home where there are children and, if they've been good – very good – he fills their pillowcases with special gifts and treats."

"But if they've been bad?" Pervinca prompted.

"If they've been bad," Pearl added sadly, "he leaves them nothing but a piece of charcoal."

"Oh that's so sad!" exclaimed Pippin. "I've been good haven't I Mamma? Please say I have."

"Yes my darling," his mother reassured him. "Both you and Pervinca have been very good. I'm sure Thluggul will be kind to you and leave lots of nice things."

"But you have to remember as well, Pippin." Pearl continued. "You should leave Thluggul a cup of wassail and a mince pie, else he won't have enough fire to finish his journey."

"Does everyone leave him that?" Pippin asked his eyes wide. "That would be a lot and lot of wassail. I only had a little sip and it made me wobbly."

"Yes but Thluggul is a big dragon and magic too." Pearl assured him. "He can drink a lot of wassail and never get wobbly."

"Who gave you wassail, Pippin?" his mother asked anxiously, "you're too young to have that you know."

"Oh sorry Mamma, it was…" Pippin realised suddenly that to tell his mother it was Merry, last year, when the Brandybucks had visited just before Yule, might get his cousin into trouble, especially as he had told him not to say anything to anyone. "… it was a big boy, I forget who."

"Hmm," Eglantine eyed Pippin suspiciously. "Never mind then. But you're not to drink wassail, even if the big boys do give it to you."

"No Mamma." Pippin did not want to do anything to spoil his good behaviour record, not with a visit from Thluggul imminent.