Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.
Welcome once again. I'm going to start off this time with a warning. "Repercussions" is not a happy story. Some very traumatic events take place, with very real and adult consequences. If such themes disturb you while you are reading, I will not be insulted if you choose to read something else for a while.
"Repercussions" is based on a true story. It happened nearly sixty years ago, and I will tell you a little about it when this story is over. This story also has roots in my love of codas and epilogues. What happens to characters after the rumbling stops? How do they pick up the pieces and continue on with their lives? Reaction is not just a single, discrete act. It is also an ongoing process of adaptation and mending. Much depends on character, and much on circumstance. Everyone's reaction process is different and is a vital part of their story.
At one point in this story, there is a hymn sung. I am going to toot my own horn just a little and announce that, though I am ordinarily not much of a poet, I wrote that hymn my very own self. It doesn't yet have a particular tune, but it is in the Common Meter, so you can sing it to any Common Meter tune you like. The tunes to "Amazing Grace" and "Auld Lang Syne" will work well. The story is set in the year 1428, Shire Reckoning. The War of the Ring has been over for nine years. It begins on 1 Lithe, that is to say, Mid-year Day in summer, at the Free Fair in Hobbiton. Enjoy the story, and I will return at the end.
1. The Free Fair
"Ooh, Mamma, the Fair!" Seven-year-old Elanor Gamgee's eyes were as huge and as round as saucers as she pulled at her mother's hand. The Free Fair had begun the night before, officially opened by Samwise Gamgee, newly elected Mayor of Hobbiton, and Elanor's beloved father. Elanor and her brothers, Frodo-lad and Merry-lad, and her sister Little Rose, had woken up at dawn clamoring to be taken to the Fair. Rosie had had her hands full that morning trying to wash four squirming Hobbit children, but at last the task had been accomplished, and the family had set out.
The Fairgrounds were packed with merry, laughing Hobbits. Craft workers had set up small booths, and packs of children had gathered around each one, gazing in awe at the blacksmith beating hot iron into fanciful shapes, crowding around a lady who was embroidering blouses, or playing with the wood shavings dropped by carvers. Bakers wandered through the crowd with trays of hot pies for sale. At one end of the Fairgrounds, several sturdy lads were competing to climb a greased pole, while yet more children bobbed for apples. Small orchestras had struck up at several corners, and the din of music, laughter and shouting tied all the colors and smells together into a most delightful whirl.
"Elanor! Frodo-lad! Don't run too far ahead!" Rosie called. In truth, though, she could hardly blame them for being so excited, especially as they had gotten a rather late start that morning. Once again, Rosie had felt the familiar sickness, and she was sure that, come next winter, a fifth child would be added to the Gamgee family. Fortunately, the sickness had been over with quickly this morning, and Rosie was free to enjoy the excitement, one arm balancing baby Merry-lad on her hip, the other firmly grasping Little Rose as she toddled along.
Elanor and Frodo-lad dashed through the crowd, weaving in and out of the forest of legs, until they ran right into one large pair. "What's this?" a strong young voice boomed, and Elanor found herself swung high into the air.
"Uncle Pippin!" she squealed.
"Well, if it isn't Elanor Gamgee," Pippin Took said with a smile. "You're growing like a weed. Why, soon you'll be taller than I am, and no mistake!"
"Then she'll have to catch Merry," one of the young ladies at Pippin's side laughed. She bent down and dragged a wriggling Frodo-lad from his hiding place beneath her skirts.
"Auntie Diamond," he giggled shyly. The other lady frowned at Frodo-lad in deep concentration.
"No," she said. "Look at the feet on this one. He'll be the one to challenge my Merry for height."
"You're just being silly, Auntie Estella," Elanor said. "Can I sit top of the world, Uncle Pippin?"
"Ready? Up you go," Pippin replied, as he swung the little girl to his shoulders. He grasped Elanor's ankles as she flung her arms out wide.
"I can see the whole world!" she crowed.
"And I can see your mother. Good day, Mistress Rose," Pippin said politely.
"Pippin, Diamond, hello," Rosie said warmly, kissing them lightly on the cheeks. She turned to Estella. "How are you feeling these days, dear?"
Estella gave a small smile. "Better, thank you, Rosie. I did feel a little green this morning, but it's not nearly so bad as it has been."
"It gets easier with each child," Rosie said. "The first one is always the worst. Why, when I was expecting Elanor --" She stopped at the horrified look Pippin was giving her. Diamond and Estella laughed.
"Don't worry, Pippin," Diamond said. "With any luck, it'll be a bit before we have to worry about that." Grasping Elanor's ankles lightly for support, Diamond sprang to her tiptoes and kissed Pippin firmly on the mouth.
Estella scooped Little Rose into her arms. "We shall talk more later, Mistress Rose," she said. "I'm sure you'll have much wisdom for me."
"Indeed," said Rosie. "We shall share it together." All three women beamed. Pippin cleared his throat.
"Er, yes," he said. Rosie patted his arm sympathetically.
"Have you seen Sam?" she asked.
"Ah, Sam," said Pippin, glad to be back on familiar ground. "Master Samwise is just getting ready to judge the archery contest over in the west field. My estimable cousin is among the competition, which is how I have the honor of squiring these two lovely young ladies around the fair."
"And a fine job you're doing, Pip," Diamond said.
"Thank you. We were just on our way to the Show Tent, Mistress Rose. Would you care to join us?"
"I certainly would," Rosie replied. "In fact, I was heading there myself. The Gaffer's entered some of his prize taters in the vegetable competition, and I sent a bottle of strawberry-rhubarb preserves."
"Then by all means, let us be off," Pippin said. The small party made their way through the crowd. As they passed the west field, they turned and waved to the archers gathered at the butts. Far off at the other end of the west field, Sam waved back. Merry put two fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle, which Pippin returned, eliciting a squeal from Elanor atop his shoulders. In short order, they came to the enormous white tent at the south end of the Fairgrounds.
Inside, the smells of crowded hobbit bodies and of various livestock were so strong that the children pinched their noses. Pippin put Elanor on the ground. Elanor immediately tugged at Rosie's skirts. "Please, Mamma, may me and Frodo-lad go look at the rabbits?" she begged.
"Frodo-lad and I," Rosie corrected. "Yes, you may, but stay by the rabbits until one of us comes to get you." Once again, Elanor and Frodo-lad took off into the crowd. The adults and the two smaller children headed over to the corner where the cookery and vegetable contests would be held. They found old Gaffer Gamgee fussing over the display of potatoes, dusting them off and turning them so that they would be displayed to their best advantage.
"Hello, young 'uns!" he called. "Come to see my prize taters, have you?"
"Gaffer, they can't be prize taters," Rosie giggled. "They haven't been judged yet."
"Oh, you're a sharp one, Rosie Cotton," the Gaffer said. "I've had prize taters these past ten Fairs. I know when a tater is prize and when it ain't."
"They are certainly bigger than last year's," Diamond said diplomatically. Rosie and Estella went to the cookery section, where Rosie found that her bottle of preserves had been labeled neatly and displayed in the center of a shelf. Pippin wandered over to a stack of barrels.
"What's this?" he asked.
"It's a new idea they've had," the Gaffer said. "The barley and grapes have been so good these past seasons that there's a new competition for beer and cordials."
"Well, that's one change I approve of," Pippin laughed. "Now we'll know for certain where to find the best beer in the Shire!"
"That'll save you all those trips for comparing, will it?" Diamond asked.
"Absolutely. Merry and I won't have to waste time going from inn to inn. We'll find the best inn and stay there."
"Why, Peregrin Took!" Diamond cried, smiling to take the sting from her words.
"At your service, Diamond Took!" Pippin replied, and kissed her. The Gaffer wheezed with laughter.
The young couple's concentration was broken by a horn-blast from the other end of the tent. Rose and Estella hurried over. "The pony show's beginning!" Estella cried. "Let's collect the children and go see!"
"Would you like to see the show ponies, Gaffer?" Rose asked.
"Well, if you think I can leave my taters. . . "
"Gaffer, no one will touch your taters while you're looking at ponies," Rose assured him.
"All right, then," the Gaffer said. A thump against his leg startled him. "What? What's that?"
"G'ampa!" said Little Rose, clinging to her grandfather's knee. "Go see ponies, G'ampa!"
"All right, all right, Little Rose, we'll go see the ponies." The small party left the cookery stands, collected Elanor and Frodo-lad from the rabbit hutches, brushed them clean of the hay that was strewn all over the ground, and inserted themselves into the crowd surrounding the corral that filled one end of the enormous tent.
One by one, the sleek little ponies were trotted into the ring. They were made to walk, trot and gallop, one by one. The crowd was enchanted; the pony show was one of the most popular draws of the Free Fair. Elanor was drawn to a lovely little chestnut colt with a white star on his forehead. "Please, Mamma," she begged. "I'm big enough for a pony this year, aren't I?"
"Of course not, Elanor," Rosie said. "That pony wouldn't even know you were on its back. I'll tell you when you're big enough for a pony of your own."
Diamond, meanwhile, had become enchanted by a dappled gray mare. Pippin followed her gaze and smiled. "I could talk to the handler afterward," he said. "You should have a riding pony anyway; the hills around Tuckborough are perfect for long rides with a picnic lunch. And you could take her to visit your parents in Long Cleeve without having to wait for the next trade wagon heading that way." Diamond nodded enthusiastically, never taking her eyes off of the dappled gray.
"Pippin!" a new voice called from the crowd. Pippin turned and waved to his sister Pervinca. Pervinca had taken in a group of children orphaned by the War and the hardship of Saruman's occupation of the Shire. She had brought them all with her to the Fair. The youngest of the sisters, Pimpernel, had come along as well, to help manage all the children. Diamond waved at her sisters-in-law, and she and Pippin cleared a space closer to the edge of the corral so that the children could see the ponies.
By this time, the pony show was in full swing, and it had captured the undivided attention of every hobbit in the Show Tent. No one wanted to miss a minute of the beautiful ponies, which was why no one noticed the fire.
It started quite small, no more than a lick or two of flame at the bottom of the tent near the show vegetables. Picking up a burst of energy from the hay on the floor, the flame strengthened and ran along the edge of the tent toward the barrels of beer and cordial. It needed little energy for a spark to leap and catch on one of the barrels on the ground.