A Fistful of Flowers

Take these words/phrases, and weave a story with them: A giant slug, green, tickle, tied up, Merry

Did a little figuring of character's ages before I started writing, to get a clearer picture. (Math is not my strong point. If I made an error, please let me know.)

Pippin - 8

Pearl - 22 (she does not appear in the story, but is mentioned)

Frodo - 30

Merry - 16

Sam - 18

****

Merry stretched and came back to himself with a start at the sound of cousin Bilbo's voice. 'Merry, my boy, go and fetch Pippin. He has just enough time to wash before tea.' This meant considerably more time than Merry himself would need. Pippin would undoubtedly be considerably dirtier.

Bilbo smiled to see his young cousin reluctantly putting down the book of old tales. Young Merry shared his love of books, and though in many ways he was an awkward teen, he handled Bilbo's precious tomes with care and reverence.

Through the window, open to admit the spring breeze, they could hear Frodo asking questions, and young Samwise Gamgee answering. 'Tell Frodo that tea is almost on,' Bilbo added. 'I'm sure Hamfast would be happy to see Sam back at work gardening, instead of answering questions, with idle hands.'

'Yes, Bilbo,' Merry said, rising from his curled position in the big leather chair. 'What's for tea?'

'Something quick and simple, I'm afraid. I've got to drive Pippin back to Greenmeadow Farm for Pearl's birthday supper.'

'How could I forget?' Merry said wryly. 'It's all he's talked about for days. He even tried to get me to take him after breakfast, so he'd be sure not to miss it.'

Bilbo put hands in pockets and rocked from toes to heels and back again, chuckling. 'Evidently she promised him a very special present.' The sound of a kettle at full whistle came to them, and the older hobbit said, 'Better hurry!'

Merry nodded and strode from the room, tripping on his way out the door. He was growing so fast, he wasn't sure where his feet were these days.

'Pippin!' he called. 'Teatime!' There was no answer; obviously Pippin was not in any of the numerous rooms of Bag End or he'd have popped out, for young Pippin never missed a meal if he could help it.

Merry emerged into the garden, to see Samwise kneeling, bent over, clippers in hand, and a bucket next to him, and Frodo standing over him, hands in pockets, asking another question.

'Well, you don't want to plant tomatoes and potatoes in the same patch,' Sam answered. 'They don't do well together. Tomatoes and carrots, now...'

'Teatime, Frodo!' Merry sang out, and Frodo looked up with a smile. 'Have you seen Pip?'

'No, I thought he was with you,' Frodo said.

'He's not in Bag End,' Merry answered. He watched in fascination as Samwise picked a large, fat slug from its moist, shady hiding place and plunged it in the bucket. Looking into the bucket, he could see several more of the creatures. He made an involuntary sound of disgust, and Sam smiled up at him.

'Quick end to them, and good riddance,' the gardener's son said. 'They're death on primroses.'

'Have you seen Pippin?' Merry asked him.

Sam shook his head. 'He were around earlier, asking the gaffer if I might walk him back to Tuckborough, but the gaffer told him I've work to do and not to be bothering, but to go and find his cousins.'

'How long ago?' Merry asked.

'Just afore nooning,' Sam said promptly.

Nuncheon was, most days, a simple affair at Bag End. The hired girl would lay out meat and cheese and fresh baked rolls and sliced fruit and a plate of crisp vegetables, and anybody there at the time would make up his own plate whenever he was hungry. Bilbo's casual approach to meals would have scandalised Merry's mother, but it was just another of his carefree bachelor ways that endeared him to Merry. This was not to say that he couldn't put together a sumptuous sit-down feast anytime the whim took him. He just had better things to do. The meals were regular, the food was plenty, and his younger cousins reveled in the freedom at Bag End from stifling things such as table manners and polite conversation.

'Let's go ask Buttercup. He likes to pester her for food between nooning and teatime,' Frodo suggested. But the hired girl had not seen the eight- year-old since she had been laying out luncheon and he had swooped upon the table to carry off several large sandwiches wrapped in his handkerchief. 'He said something about a picnic, I recollect,' she said absently, taking the smoking scones from the oven.

'It's a little damp outside for a picnic,' Merry said, beginning to be worried.

Frodo gave him a slap on his back. 'Come on,' he said. 'I know all the best hiding spots around Bag End. I'm sure we'll find him.' ...but they didn't.

Bilbo looked up from the table, mouth full of scone. 'You're late,' he said. He hastily chewed the morsel, cleared his mouth, and added. 'I started without you.' He looked from Frodo to Merry. 'Where's that young rascal Pippin?'

'We don't know, Bilbo,' Frodo said soberly. 'No one's seen him since just before nooning.'

'No one's seen him?' Bilbo snorted. 'Did you start a game of hide-and-seek and forget to go find him?'

'You know we'd never do that,' Frodo reproached. 'That's the kind of thing Fatty might think funny, or Reginard Took, but I would never...'

'It's all right, Frodo, I know you and Merry are always fair to the young scamp. More than fair. You spoil him dreadfully.' He chuckled. 'But then, so do I.'

'We've looked everywhere,' Merry broke in. 'All the usual places, and other places in the bargain.'

'Well, grab a scone and take it with you whilst you keep looking,' Bilbo said. 'I'm a bit tied up at the moment with my book, or I'd join you.' The others nodded and piled scones, cheese, and fruit into handkerchiefs and headed out.

Samwise and Hamfast were sitting on the garden bench, drinking tea and eating the meal Daisy had brought them from Number Three. Frodo said, 'Master Hamfast, may we borrow Sam for a bit? It seems as if young Pippin's misplaced himself.'

'He's still got a lot of weeding to do,' the gardener huffed, but remembered that he was talking to the young master. 'Be sure you send him back to his work as soon as you find your young cousin,' he said grudgingly.

Sam rose abruptly. 'No, Sam, finish your tea,' Frodo said, but the young gardener shook his head, pointing to the others' bulging handkerchiefs.

'I'll just pack mine up as well and get to it later,' Sam answered. 'If young Master Pippin's gone missing, no telling how far he'd get should I make a leisurely meal.'

Merry gave a start. '...how far he'd get...' Frodo gave him a sharp glance, and he returned it, the colour draining from his face.

'You don't think...' Frodo said slowly.

'O Frodo,' Merry said, sick with worry. 'What if he decided to take himself back to Greenmeadow Farm?'

'By himself?' Hamfast said abruptly, and rose, scattering his sandwiches on the ground. 'There's foxes and badgers, for starters, and the ditches are brimming from all the rain we've had...' He stopped at the sight of Merry's face and said, 'I'll get the lads. We'll have a search going in three shakes of a lamb's tail.'

The searching hobbits scattered along the likeliest paths, all except Samwise, who'd been thinking. It was Pearl's birthday, and Pippin dearly loved his eldest sister. He'd told Sam just that morning that he wanted to do something special for her, but he didn't know what. Samwise had suggested a bouquet of flowers, and offered to cut them himself, for he knew the young Took was not allowed anything sharp, at his age.

One of the paths running towards Tookland ran through a field of wildflowers. It was a little out of the way, heading towards Tookbank rather than Tuckborough, but mightn't Pippin discount the extra distance if he thought he could gather an armful of flowers along the way?

Samwise shouldered his spade and set off down the path. If he found Master Pippin in the wildflower meadow, he'd go him one better. He'd dig up a shovelful of those wildflowers so that Pippin could give them to Pearl to plant in her garden, to enjoy long past the time it would take a bouquet to wilt. He could hear voices calling 'Pippin! Pippin! Peregrin Took!' as he trotted down the path.

When he reached the wildflower field, he saw several torn spots amongst the riot of green and purple, red and yellow, white and pink. He nodded to himself. Young Took had been here gathering flowers, for sure. He went on to find a flattened spot where Pippin had sat to eat his lunch, an apple core providing further evidence.

Sam glanced at the angle of the sun. His longer legs had brought him pretty quickly to the meadow; he'd only been trotting along for an hour, whereas it would have taken Pippin from noontide until teatime to reach this spot. The eight-year-old must be nearby. Sam clapped a hand to his head. Of course! The apple core had not yet turned brown; the young Took must have just been here.

A thin scream reached him, not far away, where a copse of trees grew, and Sam leapt towards the sound. He heard the sound of growling, and a terrified shout. 'You go away! Leave me alone!' His hands tightened on the handle of his spade. It sounded like some stray dogs had joined together in a pack and were hunting for food or sport... and from the sound of it, hunting a young hobbit.

Sam raced for the copse, heart in his mouth. He heard barking break out, and another scream, and fear for Pippin lent wings to his feet. He reached the copse to see two large dogs and a smaller one leaping against a tree, where a young hobbit crouched among the branches.

'Hi! You!' Sam roared, striding forwards, swinging the spade. He connected with the head of one of the large dogs, stunning it. Another swing killed the smaller dog outright. As he was swinging the spade at the third dog, it leapt agilely aside and the spade hit the trunk of the tree, shattering the handle. The injured dog staggered away as Sam hefted the broken handle and faced the last snarling dog.

'You just try it, you lout,' Sam growled back. 'I'll take your head off just like old Bullroarer did that orc chieftain.' Something in his look and tone convinced the dog that his sport was done, and the beast slunk away.

He looked up into the tree. 'Are you hurt, Master Pippin?'

The shaking child didn't answer, his eyes wide with fright. Samwise could see a long tear in his trousers, and a red trickle. He reached up into the tree to lift Pippin down. 'Let's have a look at that leg,' he said. He was relieved to find that one of the dogs had evidently grazed the young hobbit's leg while leaping to try to pull him from the branch, but it was shallow, and not the terrible torn flesh he'd feared he'd find.

'We can patch that up in a twinkling,' Sam said. He gave Pippin the sandwich he'd wrapped up, and used the handkerchief to dress the wound while the food did its part in calming the young one.

Giving the spade handle to Pippin, he said, 'Here, you hold this, in case any of those brutes decides to come back. We'll have to tell the Shirriff that there's some dogs needing catching.' Pippin nodded without speaking, and Sam lifted him up and bore him as quickly as he might back to Bag End, where Mr Bilbo waited, and the other searchers would return after they'd gone all the way to Tookland without finding the missing child, probably with a horde of searching Tooks on their heels.

Pippin's leg had been washed and bandaged and he'd been borne away by his family to Greenmeadow farm. Sam had been showered with gratitude by the Tooks, and showered with abuse for his carelessness in breaking the spade, by Hamfast, and he was back at the garden, pursuing the neglected weeds, when Frodo spoke behind him. 'Sam?'

Sam turned, even though he knew he'd be weeding by lantern-light if he stopped to answer any more of Mr Frodo's questions. 'Yes, Mr Frodo?' he said.

Frodo crouched beside him. 'We might have lost Pippin today, if not for you.'

'O, 'tweren't nothing, Mr Frodo.'

Frodo shook his head. 'I saw the marks on his leg. Those dogs would have pulled him down out of that tree and...' he swallowed hard, and couldn't speak for a moment.

'Don't go borrowing trouble, Mr Frodo. Master Pippin is safe at home by now, and none the worse for it but a bad fright.'

Frodo nodded, then dug in his pocket. 'I'm supposed to give you this.' He brought out a shining coin, not silver or copper, like the only coins Sam had ever seen up until now, but a yellow colour, shining in the sunset light.

'Mr Frodo,' he gasped. 'I cannot be taking that...'

Frodo pressed the coin into his hand. 'Pippin's father gave it to me, to give to you. He told me you were to buy a new spade, and then use what's left over for whatever you'd want to buy for yourself.'

Sam stared at the coin in wonder. 'I cannot...' he said.

'You must,' Frodo answered firmly. 'Paladin Took doesn't take his gold lightly, you cannot insult him by refusing.' Meeting Sam's eyes, he added, 'He said Pippin's life was worth much more, but that was all he could afford to give you. So take it.'

Sam wrapped the coin carefully in his spare handkerchief and put it carefully away in his deepest pocket. 'Thank you, Mr Frodo,' he said slowly.

Frodo seated himself on the ground to watch Sam pull weeds. 'Do you know what you'll do with the rest?' he asked idly.

Sam nodded. He would give it to the gaffer. His father would be tickled pink.