1. Interrupted Plans

Peregrin Took did not automatically follow his father, Paladin, as Thain. The story of how he proved himself to the rest of the Tooks, earning the right to be called The Took, and Thain, is detailed in "FireStorm". This story takes place at the same time as the events in the later chapters of Firestorm, but focuses on the Steward of Tookland, Reginard Took.

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The Thain looked back down at the stack of papers before him. 'Let's get to business, you know I won't work past teatime.'

'Yes, Sir,' Regi answered. That was one custom of old Thain Paladin's that his son had chosen to continue. Reginard rather enjoyed having the afternoons free, himself. There was a certain lass in Tuckborough whose family he'd been taking tea with, now, and he'd beaten her father at Kings several times in the past week. He figured he'd soften him up a bit more, let him win a few games, then ask him for his daughter's hand. Autumn, when the leaves turned to gold and scarlet flame, was a fine time for a wedding... (From "FireStorm", chapter 12)


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The Thain pushed himself back from his desk just after finishing his elevenses. 'Regi, I know we don't usually work past teatime, but I wanted to ride out, survey the fields for myself this afternoon. I don't like to depend completely on the reports of others, you know.'

'I know,' his steward answered. Though Pippin was not one to breath heavily down the necks of those working for him, he did believe in checking their work upon occasion. He gave his hobbits a fairly free hand in performing their tasks, but he expected the work to be done, and done well. 'Which way are we going?'

'We checked the western fields last week, all the way to the Waymoot road. I'd like to go east this day. If we leave early enough, we can have supper at the Crowing Cockerel and either spend the night or ride back under the stars.'

'Good beer at the Cockerel,' Regi said casually.

Pippin flashed him a grin. 'I suppose we ought to taste the beer, make sure it is up to standard,' he said.

The steward nodded gravely. 'Of course.' He looked to Ferdibrand. 'Ferdi, would you notify the escort and have the ponies readied?'

'Have a meal packed,' the Thain added, 'or Diamond will have my hide.' Ferdi hid a grin as he went to comply. Pippin's wife Diamond was always nagging him to eat. The Thain had found life easier if he went along with his wife's wishes, though often he pressed his food upon the hobbits around him, giving the appearance of having eaten without the necessity of downing more food than he could stomach. If Ferdi had not been kept busy running errands and messages, he'd have gained a stone by now, he was sure, from helping the Thain do away with his food to Diamond's satisfaction.

'D'you mind if we make a small stop in Tuckborough?' Regi asked. 'I just need to drop a message, and it's right on the Stock road.'

'Go ahead,' Pippin said. 'We've the whole day before us.' He pulled another paper over, read it through, wrote a few notes, put it in Regi's pile, then picked up another.

'Ah,' he said. 'Looks as if the engineers are finished at Buckland. They'll be coming back to Tuckborough with a whole wagonload of black powder.'

'Dangerous stuff, from what Ev'ard's written me,' Regi commented.

'Yes, we'll have to store it out of the way,' Pippin said.

Regi nodded. 'Everard said that Aldebrand already has a storage hole picked out, a ways out of town, but fitted with a locking door.' Pippin's eyebrows went up without comment. Most doors in the Shire had no locks. 'From the time of the ruffians,' Regi answered the look. 'The door was disguised, as well, but if a ruffian stumbled acrost it, he might be discouraged by a stout door and a lock. And if he got curious... well, one who opens that door without a proper key will trigger a rockfall onto his head.'

'Ah,' Pippin said.

'Thain Paladin put all of Tookland's gold there, just in case the ruffians decided to attack the Smials in greater numbers. Thankfully, we were able to keep them out of Tookland altogether, but your father believed in being prepared.'

'That he did,' Pippin nodded. 'Is the gold still there?'

'O aye,' Regi said easily. 'No reason to move it, really. A lot of work, and it's safe enough there as anywhere.'

'I suppose you're right,' Pippin said. 'Of course, if we lived among Men, it wouldn't be. We'd have to post guards, and even then...' He shook his head, and Regi nodded. From the bits Pippin told him on occasion, he'd decided Men were a wonder, but he was glad not to have to deal with them day to day.

They kept working until Ferdi reappeared to say the escort was ready and waiting before the Smials. Regi quickly cleared the papers from the desk, putting them neatly away, for Pippin frowned on clutter, and insisted on leaving the desks clear at the end of the day. No chance of a cat straying into the room at night and knocking something important off the desk and under a piece of furniture, as had happened under the old Thain.

They mounted the ponies, after Pippin gave a hug to Diamond and had a word with young Faramir. 'Make up a good story for me, now,' he told the lad. 'We won't have tea together today, but I'll be wanting to hear it on the morrow.' Faramir promised solemnly, and his father smiled, then turned to swing himself into the saddle.

They rode through Tuckborough. Pippin nodded to acknowledge people's greetings, overlooking those who directed their waves at Regi instead of himself, for he knew that not all had yet accepted his succession to the Thainship, and he understood their reasons, even agreed with some of them. However, he'd made his bed, and now he was going to lie in it to the best of his ability.

Regi pulled up outside a handsome dwelling on the outskirts of Tuckborough and swung down from his pony, tossing the reins around a spike of the fence around the front garden. Pausing at the gate, he said, 'I won't be long,' and the Thain nodded.

The door was open to admit fresh air, and as the escort waited, the scent of roses wafted to them on the breeze, from the front garden. The Thain's pony stamped restlessly, and Pippin slipped from his saddle, digging in his pocket for an apple. He proceeded to cut slices from the apple, feeding them to the pony. 'Steady now, Socks,' he murmured. 'You'll have your outing.'

Inside the front room, Regi was explaining his errand. 'I'm sorry I cannot come to tea as we'd planned,' he said to Mardibold Took, 'but I'm told we'll be back by teatime on the morrow.'

'If not, the next day will do as well,' Mardi said easily. 'Though Rosa will be disappointed, I'm sure. She wanted to show off her berry tart, I think it was.'

'Ah,' Regi said. 'And you were going to show me a new move.' He was learning to play at Kings, and had actually beaten the other the previous day.

'I might be reconsidering,' Mardi said, and Reginard laughed.

Outside, the Thain became aware of a small lad, about Faramir's age, watching him. 'Hullo,' he said.

'What's your pony's name?' the lad asked.

'Socks,' Pippin answered.

'But he hasn't any,' the lad said, scandalised.

Pippin laughed. 'That's why his name's Socks. He's a contrary one.'

'Ah,' the lad nodded wisely.

'And what's your name?' the Thain enquired.

'Hildibold. But folk just call me Hilly,' the lad said casually. He cocked his head at Pippin. 'Are you really the Thain?' he said.

'O aye, that's what they tell me,' Pippin answered.

'What makes you Thain?' the lad asked.

Pippin crouched down to be on the lad's level, holding out his hand. 'See this ring?' he said, displaying the seal and signet of the Thain.

'That makes you Thain?' the lad asked.

'O aye,' Pippin said. 'It's like magic. People have to do what you say when you wear it.'

'May I see it?' the lad asked.

Pippin laughed, then drew the ring from his finger. 'Have a care, now,' he said, placing it in the little palm. 'It's heavier than you know.'

The lad tried the ring on each finger in turn, ending with his thumb, but it still hung loosely.

'And what would your orders be, Sir?' the Thain asked.

The lad thought for a moment. 'I would order seedcake for tea,' he said solemnly.

The Thain nodded approval. 'A hobbit after my own heart,' he said. 'You'll go far, lad.'

The little hobbit nodded, then took the ring from his thumb and held it out. 'Here,' he said. 'It doesn't fit.'

The Thain smiled and took the ring back. 'Lucky for you,' he said.