I posted Part I of this ficlet in my LiveJournal with no clue as to where the 'story' might go next, and Budgielover was inspired to write Part II. I added Part III, MagicalRachel claimed Part IV, and before anyone knew what was happening, we had a 13-part ficlet written, in successive parts, by ten people. We had a blast! On behalf of everyone involved, and with their permission, I am posting the entire "froggy ficlet" here -- we hope you enjoy it!
DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to us; we just get to think about them day and night.
HAVOC IN HOLLIN
PART I (shirebound)
Gandalf walked over to the boulder where Merry and Frodo were sitting. The Company had reached a part of Hollin lush with trees and small ponds, and both hobbits were enjoying the smell of green after walking through so much desolate countryside.
"Hold out your hands, Meriadoc," said the wizard gravely.
Meriadoc? Merry stared up at Gandalf in shock, then leaped to his feet and cupped both hands in front of him. Gimli and Legolas looked on, both obviously concerned at the wizard's tone.
"Gandalf, what---" Frodo had risen to his feet as well, and was struck speechless as the wizard gently deposited a tiny green frog into Merry's hands.
"The next time Peregrin uses my staff to knock down some apples," Gandalf intoned, "it will go harder for him. I will be back in an hour." He walked off without another word.
Merry gaped at the frog, then at Frodo, then back at the frog.
"Pippin?" Frodo whispered. He bent down to the frog's eye level, and the tiny amphibian gazed back at him mournfully.
PART II (Budgielover)
"Pippin?" Merry echoed, cradling the tiny frog in his hands carefully. "Pippin, is that you?"
Merry was so startled that he almost dropped the tiny creature. He rocked back on the boulder on which he and Frodo were seated and all the blood drained from his face, leaving it almost as pale as his cousin's. His hands trembled and Frodo was quick to reach over and rescue the slimy creature.
"Frodo, it croaked! When I asked it if he was Pippin, it croaked! Frodo, that's Pippin!" Frodo winced as his younger cousin's hand fastened around his arm with bruising force.
"Calm down, Merry-lad," said Frodo in what he hoped were steadying, reassuring tones. "Gandalf is just putting us on. He wouldn't do that to Pippin … and especially not for a little unsanctioned use of his staff. This is…" Frodo struggled, obviously trying to convince himself. "This is a joke. It must be."
Merry shot to his feet, gazing wildly about the camp. "Do you see him anywhere? I don't! Pippin!"
Frodo reached up with his free hand and yanked his cousin down. "No shouting, Merry! You know we aren't supposed to call attention to ourselves. Do you want Aragorn over here?"
"Yes!" Merry choked, keeping his voice down with an effort. "I want him to tell Gandalf to turn Pippin back into a hobbit!"
"Meriadoc!" Frodo leaned forward and hissed at his cousin, both hands now sheltering the frog. "This is a joke and Pippin is no doubt in on it. He's hiding. You just watch – we run about like idiots and he pops out and they all enjoy a good laugh at our expense."
"Let them think they put one over on us, Merry-lad. We'll just play along and then when Pippin jumps out of hiding, we'll act surprised." Some color returning to his face, Frodo cautiously raised his cupped hands and peered into them. Merry pulled anxiously at his fingers and Frodo spread them to reveal the little frog, sitting quietly in his palm.
"But just in case, let's take care of it?" begged Merry.
Frodo nodded slowly. "Just in case."
* * * * *
A short while later, the frog had been transferred back to Merry's safekeeping. The young hobbit had spent some time studying it, while Frodo conducted an unobtrusive search of the camp. Merry looked up eagerly when his cousin returned, seating himself quietly on the boulder.
"Any luck?" Merry whispered.
Frodo glanced around them before answering. Sam was fussing with Bill's packs, a pile of supplies at his feet. Legolas and Aragorn were seated on a log, speaking quietly with Gandalf. Legolas gestured as he spoke, waving at the surrounding trees with a slender hand. Gimli leaned on his great ax, listening to the discussion but offering no comment. Boromir had the guard, and Frodo met the soldier's eyes for a moment and received a cordial nod before Boromir's gaze traveled on, alertly watching the silent countryside.
"I couldn't find him," Frodo murmured back. "I did find these, though." Merry noticed for the first time that Frodo had removed his cloak, and used it as a catchall for a mound of lumpy objects. Frodo up-ended one side of his cloak and a cascade of apples spilled forth, rolling to bump against Merry's feet.
Merry's hands tightened around the frog then hurriedly relaxed as he realized what he was doing. "That proves it, then!"
Frodo shook a few leaves out of his cloak and donned it, then crouched and picked up one of the apples, examining the bruise on one side. "It proves nothing, Merry -- except that something struck this apple from the tree. Or perhaps it was bruised in the falling. It certainly doesn't prove that Gandalf turned Pippin into a frog for stealing his staff to knock them down." Frodo absently bit into the apple, nudging Merry's hands open. "He's looking rather dry, don't you think?"
Merry looked down at the tiny amphibian in alarm. The tiny creature's skin did seem dry and, in some way that neither hobbit could explain, it looked uncomfortable.
"Should we put him in a pond?" Merry shook his head before Frodo could point out the flaws in that plan. "No, not a good idea. We need to keep him right here, where we can keep an eye on him. In something not too deep…"
Merry raised his head to see his cousin staring at Sam. The gardener was lashing his treasured pots on Bill's panniers, re-distributing the pony's load. Merry's eyes narrowed as he followed Frodo's gaze. There, hanging from a strap, was Sam's wide, shallow frying pan.
"Perfect," breathed Frodo. He caught up a couple of the apples and ambled over to Sam, engaging him in idle conversation while he handed him an apple and gave one to Bill. Merry watched as Sam thanked Frodo with a smile then went back to his work, walking around to the far side of the pack-pony. In a flash Frodo's quick fingers were working on the knots and he had the fry pan, holding it against his stomach and wrapping his cloak over it as he meandered over to one of the ponds and knelt, then walked quickly back to Merry.
Frodo knelt again and put the filled fry pan on the ground, angling it so that the boulder hid it from Sam's view. Merry slid off the boulder and crouched down, gently placing the frog in the water. "There, Pip! Is that better, my lad?" The frog ducked under the water for a moment then paddled to the edge of the pan and resumed staring up at them.
"Do you suppose he's hungry?" Frodo asked, returning the frog's regard.
"He probably is, poor lad," Merry returned, using a finger to carefully stroke the little amphibian's back. He wondered if all frogs had that mournful expression, and he had just never noticed. "I don't think we have anything, though…"
"Flies," Frodo interrupted. "There are some buzzing around Bill. But how can we catch them?"
Merry tore his eyes away from the frog to glance at the pony. "Cut an apple in half and set it out. They'll be drawn to it quick enough."
"Good thinking, Merry." Frodo choose the squishiest apple and borrowed his cousin's belt-knife to slice it. Sweet juice oozed from the overripe fruit. Frodo set it down carefully and drew back.
It wasn't a minute later that one of the flying pests alighted on the apple, and others quickly joined it. Frodo edged closer, his cloak in his hands. With hobbit quickness, he cast it over the fruit and its tiny diners, and gleefully proceeded to stamp on it.
"Frodo, what on Middle-earth are you doing?"
The hobbit looked up, startled that he had not heard Gimli's heavy boots. The Dwarf was staring at him with a perplexed expression, his unspoken opinion very evident on his mustached face that hobbits, or perhaps just Ring-bearers, were quite mad.
"Um … hullo, Gimli. Um…" Frodo's enormous blue eyes seemed to grow even larger as he cast about desperately for an explanation.
"I thought I saw a spider," Merry interjected. Seeing that doubtful gaze turned on him, he elaborated, "A big spider."
"So you throw your cloak over it and step on it?" rumbled Gimli dubiously.
"Well, I didn't want to get smashed spider on my feet," rallied Frodo magnificently.
The Dwarf wandered back to the others, shaking his head. Frodo knelt and rather gingerly pried up his cloak, shaking it out. Amongst the bits of apple he was able to discover three dead flies. He pushed them into a little pile before the fry pan, grimacing.
The frog showed no interest in them. Merry made a face then picked one up by a wing and waved it before the tiny creature. "Pippin-lad, want a fly? Here, lad, don't you want a nice, juicy fly?"
The frog ignored him and paddled to the other side of the pan.
"Maybe you should wave it about," Frodo suggested. "Stimulate his natural instincts or something."
Merry reached over the pan and wiggled the fly before the frog again. "I don't think Pippin has any natural instincts. Look, Pippin, a nice juicy fly!"
Unbeknownst to the two cousins, Frodo's little dance had also drawn Sam's attention. His work finished, Sam decided he'd best check on his master. "Everything all right, Mr. Frodo? – what's that frog doing in me best fry pan?"
Seeing his master and Mr. Merry staring at him with trapped expressions, Sam sighed inwardly. He determinedly put on a cheerful face. "Doing a bit o' hunting, then? Well, frog legs are a treat. Right smart of you to keep it fresh. I'll just get some flour and –"
"No!" exploded Merry, throwing himself across the fry pan. Water splashed on him, soaking his fine yellow waistcoat. Sam looked at him, shocked.
"Sam," Frodo said carefully, "Merry and I have something to tell you."
PART III (shirebound)
Aragorn seemed mesmerized by the frog as it paddled about in Sam's best pan.
"Well?" Frodo asked again.
"Have you ever seen Gandalf turn someone into anything?" Merry demanded.
"No," Aragorn admitted. "On the other hand, I have never known him to tell a falsehood."
"But that's just it," Frodo insisted. "He never exactly said that this was Pippin. He just sort of implied it."
"And Pip is nowhere about," said Merry anxiously. "Is the hour up yet?"
"Nearly," Boromir said. He crouched down to join the others in staring fixedly at the tiny frog. "Amazing."
"I do not believe it," Gimli declared. "Such punishment is beyond reason."
"'Tis a bit harsh," Sam agreed. "Still, remember what Gildor said about wizards bein' quick to anger and all." He placed a small, round stone in the pan, and the frog swam over to inspect it. "D'you think he knows he's still Mr. Pippin? Maybe when you're a frog, you think like a frog."
"Just you start thinking like a gardener, Sam," Frodo said anxiously. "You know about animals and plants and all -- what else can we try feeding him? Do you think he's getting cold?"
"Speaking of getting cold," Gimli mused, "what has become of Peregrin's clothing?"
Legolas dipped a finger into the water, and the frog climbed up onto it. The Elf raised his finger up to eye level and gazed at the tiny creature.
"There is a wizard living on the western border of Mirkwood," Legolas said thoughtfully. "It is said that he is a master of animal-lore. If a wizard can understand the minds and hearts of beasts… and over the years, Gandalf has studied the minds and hearts of hobbits…" He sighed. "Who is to say what one of the Istari cannot do?"
"But would he do it?" Aragorn asked. He looked closely at the frog's bright eyes and glossy skin. "It doesn't seem to have done Pippin any harm, at least."
"I hope you're right," Merry sighed. He looked up as Gandalf suddenly loomed over him.
"It is time," Gandalf said calmly, holding out his hand. "Give him to me, Legolas."
PART IV (MagicalRachel)
The tiny frog looked mournfully up at Legolas as he placed him carefully in Gandalf's waiting hand. The wizard drew his hand in carefully and raised his staff, pausing for dramatic effect.
"Don't hurt him, Gandalf!" cried Merry, gazing worriedly at the imposing figure in front of him.
"Hush, Mr. Merry," said Sam, taking the younger hobbit's hand, "Master Pip will be fine."
Merry grasped Sam's hand firmly as Gandalf lowered his staff to a few inches above the frog and began to chant incomprehensibly. A mist seemed to envelope the small amphibian, and Frodo thought he could see the faint outline increasing in size. He looked at Aragorn, who nodded. Good, he thought, everything was going to be fine.
Gandalf's chanting reduced substantially after a minute, but the glittering mist remained. He crouched and placed the little being on the dusty ground; even the most uninformed person could see that the shrouded mound was not hobbit sized.
Merry stared at Gandalf with a look of consternation in his eyes. Gandalf smiled uncertainly at the wide-eyed hobbit in front of him.
"Ah...." he said quietly, "well, that can sometimes happen...."
The mist cleared, and the Fellowship saw on the ground what had been the tiny frog. It was three times its original size, but otherwise still remarkably frog-like. Either way, it was still not a Took.
Merry gulped, and bent to look at the creature.
"Aunt Eglantine is going to kill me...."
PART V (Pippinswolf/Kit5)
Gandalf shook his head. "I don't understand what went wrong," he said, mystified. "I am so very sorry, hobbits."
"Well, he doesn't have to stay like this forever, does he?" Merry cried. The huge frog uttered a mournful "Blorp."
"No, I do not say that, but I must think on this," Gandalf muttered. He turned away, his brows furrowed as he pondered this unfortunate situation.
A particularly pesky fly hovered over the hobbits' heads and Frodo swatted at it crossly. He and the other hobbits all gasped when Pippin Frog's tongue shot out and neatly snared the fly, pulling it into his mouth with a grotesque slurp.
"Blorp," Pippin Frog said contentedly.
Gimli made a face and Legolas blinked.
"Well, I guess there's always some good to be found in a bad situation," Sam said lamely.
PART VI (Cellibella)
As they all stood around looking at a slightly enlarged Pippin Frog, Gandalf paced the camp muttering bits of unmentionables, scowling. Merry looked up and walked to Gandalf, standing right in his pace-trail.
"Is that really Pippin? Because if it isn't, I think we all would like to know right away," Merry said, with the brazen attitude only a little Hobbit could possess.
Gandalf knelt low to the ground, placed his hand on Merry's shoulder and looked straight into his eyes.
"I assure you, that croaking, blurping mess of pond slime is indeed your annoyingly talkative cousin," Gandalf said, drawing his words out and sighing at the end.
Merry gulped. "And, uhm, sir, you do know how to change him back, right?"
Gandalf narrowed his eyes before returning to his pacing, and again muttering curses and mumbled spells. Merry walked back to the group around the large frog with a melancholy expression. "Now what?" he whispered, not wanting to anger the wizard further.
Frodo could hold it in no longer. When the situation first presented itself, of course he had been worried, but as it had gone on, he realized now that everything would be fine. They had to trust Gandalf on this journey, or they couldn't trust anyone. Frodo bowed towards the large frog, looking him in the eye much like Gandalf had to Merry.
It started as a snicker, but it grew with time, and soon Frodo was rolling on the ground, clutching his sides with laughter. Mixed phrases could be caught between the laughs, such as "Frog", "Pippin", or "blorp". The large frog looked up at Frodo angrily, before proceeding to hit him in the forehead with his large tongue. However, this did not have the desired effect. While the slippery, slimy tongue did hit its target, Frodo's laughter only doubled in intensity, and soon the Fellowship was chuckling along with the rolling Ringbearer. Pippin Frog watched the laughter continue for several minutes, croaking angrily.
Finally, the laughter stopped, and gasping breaths were all that could be heard. Frodo stood, out of breath, and brushed off his clothes. He brought his up hand to rub his forehead, where a small welt was developing.
"Gandalf will think of something, I'm sure. Everything will be fine!" Frodo said, still rubbing his forehead as he walked of to find an apple to attract more flies for their dear cousin to eat.
PART VII (shirebound)
"Whatever is the matter, Frodo?" Gandalf asked.
"It's nothing," Frodo giggled, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "I just realized how much I trust you, that's all. I know that everything will be fine." He gazed at the wizard, his eyes shining.
"Hmmph," Gandalf muttered, secretly pleased. "I hope I can..." Suddenly he snapped his fingers. "Too many people!"
"Too many people!" The wizard glowered at the Fellowship grouped around him, and scooped up the swollen frog from the ground. "Magic works best when done quietly and privately." With that, he strode away and disappeared behind some boulders.
One minute passed, then two, during which Gandalf could be heard mumbling and chanting in several rather obscure languages. Suddenly there was a tremendous flash of light, and a satisfied, wizardly grunt.
"Pippin!" cried Merry, as his cousin stumbled out from behind the boulder. Pippin looked dazed and his clothes were a bit askew, but otherwise fairly un-froglike.
"Oh Pip, are you all right?" Frodo rushed at his cousin and threw his arms around him, followed closely by Merry. One by one the others went back to their tasks, grinning. Even Gimli looked happy to see the young Took.
"There now," Gandalf said, coming to stand next to Pippin. "No harm done, and a lesson learned, I suspect."
"What kind of bird was that?" asked Pippin suddenly. He glared up at the wizard.
"What are you talking about?" Frodo asked.
"Gandalf said he needed to teach me a lesson and turn me into something, and I asked if he could turn me into an eagle, and he said he'd try for some type of bird." Pippin folded his arms and looked crossly at the wizard. "I don't know what you turned me into, but I didn't feel like an eagle. I was cold and damp, and every time I tried to flap my wings I found myself swimming around in a big lake somewhere." Pippin frowned. "It was a strange lake, too. It smelled of sausages."
"It's all right, Pip," said Merry reassuringly. "We took good care of you."
"That's right, Mr. Pippin," added Sam. "No frog's ever had better care."
"What did you say?" Pippin gasped. "A frog?"
PART VIII (Serai1/Serai)
Pippin rounded on Gandalf with a furious look. "You turned me into a frog?"
The wizard pulled himself up into an imposing stance. "Magic is an art, not a science," he intoned mysteriously.
"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Pippin crossed his arms, not the least intimidated.
Gandalf's eyebrows fair bristled. "It means, don't take that tone with me, Peregrin Took, lest I actually try for a frog next time. You might get something altogether worse. What do you expect when you steal a wizard's staff? Cakes and jam?"
Pippin turned to Merry. "Did you hear that?" he cried. "That was a threat! He threatened me – again."
But Merry was having none of it. He'd been at the edge of panic for an hour now, and felt disinclined to be sympathetic. He looked straight back at Pippin. "You did steal his staff, Pip."
"Yes, but – "
Frodo chimed in. "And it's not as if you don't know Gandalf by now," he scolded, a smile still trembling at one side of his mouth.
"Yes, but – "
Sam rounded out the trio with, "You ought to be grateful he didn't turn you into a newt!"
"Yes, but – a newt?"
The three hobbits stared at Sam. After an embarrassed moment, he answered, "Well, newts are a lot uglier than frogs."
Pippin looked around in disbelief. Was nobody outraged on his behalf? Legolas looked bemused, Gimli was chuckling quietly, Aragorn's eyes twinkled, despite his grave expression, and it was clear that the wrong word from Pippin would send Boromir into rare peals of laughter. Pippin's shoulders sagged. For a moment, it looked like he'd have to apologize for himself once again.
Then a thought struck him.
PART IX (Melnotmeli/Melylott S. Banks)
"I'll show them! They'll be sorry they ever crossed Peregrin Took! I'll make them think I really have been turned into a newt. Everyone will be so worried, they won't remember the trouble when I finally return," Pippin thought to himself. "Why, they'll be so happy to have me back I'll get all the best little morsels for weeks!"
Later that night, while the rest of the Fellowship slept, Pippin crept around their slumbering bodies and over to the pond. Holding up a small candle, he illuminated around it, searching for any newts that might be nearby. He finally found one, and, grabbing it by its slippery red tail, placed it in his sleeping sack. It didn't seem as if the newt planned on going anywhere, so Pippin crept off.
Laughing madly, he hid behind a large rock, and did his best to be patient and make himself comfortable.
"Imagine the ruckus come morning," he thought, doing his best to stay awake.
PART X (Elendiari22)
Legolas, for all his keen sight and sharp hearing, had not seen Pippin capture the newt and place it in his bedding. Nor had he noticed that the errant Took was not in his bed -- not, that is, until he went to awaken the hobbit for his turn at the watch. Then he frowned, noticing the odd flatness of the bed. Pippin was not one to idly waste his sleep.
"Pippin," he hissed. "Pippin, where are you?"
The blanket bounced. Legolas, to his chagrin, started, then suspiciously drew the blanket back. His eyes widened, and he darted a glance at the sleeping wizard, then back at the newt that lay on Pippin's pillow. Not again!
"Pippin? Is that you, little one?" the Elf whispered, lifting the newt.
It stared at him, blinking rapidly. Legolas started back, then stood and walked slowly back to the boulder where he had been keeping watch. Utterly perplexed, he gazed down at the rather slimy newt. Gandalf had had a reason to turn Pippin into a frog before, but...a newt? Surely even the wizard would not go that far. What had the lad done now?
"Legolas? What are you doing?"
Once again chagrined, Legolas turned to face Boromir, holding the newt aloft. "What do you make of this? It was in Pippin's bed."
Boromir's eyebrows raised, and he gazed at the tiny newt. "Well, I know one thing. We must never anger the wizard."
Legolas nodded; Boromir had a point. Then a noise, so soft that it almost escaped his attention, sounded from the large rock that stood not ten feet away from them. Moving in Elvish silence, Legolas stood up, and crept towards the rock. Boromir followed just as noiselessly, and together they peered into Pippin's hiding place. And groaned.
"Only a hobbit," muttered Boromir, shaking his head at the new mess they had on their hands. "Only a hobbit."
PART XI (Redautumn)
"Pippin!" Legolas whispered. He did not want to wake the others, least of all Gandalf, as Boromir did have a point.
Pippin grinned in response, trying to stifle a laugh. "I had you fooled, Legolas! I'd meant to give Gandalf a start, though. It's a shame he didn't find my little friend." Pippin turned his eyes toward the newt, whom Legolas was having trouble hanging on to.
Pausing for a moment, Legolas' lips curved into a smile. "Gandalf hasn't woken yet, I suppose your friend might still have a chance to pay him a visit," he said, and winked at the hobbit.
Boromir sighed. At the rate these two were going, the whole fellowship would be in some form of amphibious creature by daybreak.
Pippin jumped up and enveloped Legolas in a tight hug. "You're the most clever Elf I've met, Legolas!"
"I learned from the best," he said, ruffling Pippin's hair.
Pippin took the newt in hand and crept toward Gandalf's bed.
PART XII (Cassandra Elise)
The newt did his part as if it had been rehearsed. He scampered up to the slumbering wizard and nestled into his beard. Gandalf stirred and swiped at the creature, but remained asleep.
Pippin had to bite his hand to keep from chuckling. Unfortunately, a snort escaped his lips -- a snort that awoke the wizard. Pippin quickly scampered behind a boulder in order to view Gandalf's reaction without being seen.
Gandalf gave a cry as he surveyed the newt that was resting so peacefully in his beard. He rose to his feet, waving his arms like he was weaving an incantation. He didn't see young Peregrin, laughing behind the rock. He only saw the newt, gazing steadfastly at him.
Legolas had witnessed the entire scene and now stepped forward, shaking his head. "Gandalf, it will not harm you. It's only a newt!"
"I suppose that is supposed to comfort me?" asked the wizard. "I wake up and find that abomination in my beard, and Legolas Greenleaf tells me it's only a newt."
"The creature likes you." Legolas grew serious. "You haven't turned young Pippin into a newt, have you, Gandalf?"
Gandalf opened his mouth to reply.
Part XIII (Elendiari22)
Boromir and Pippin sat on the boulder and watched the sun rise, pink and gold. Both were weary, but neither had any thought of sleep.
"Do you think he'll be angry, Boromir? It is my fault, after all," sighed Pippin.
Boromir shrugged. "He's an Elf, Pippin. Surely he's had enough lunatic experiences in his millenia of years to allow him to forgive them readily."
Pippin nodded in agreement and glanced over at Gandalf. The wizard was deeply asleep again, a peaceful expression on his face. The rest of the Fellowship dreamed on, as well, and Pippin figured that he and Boromir would be wishing that they had slept as well by that afternoon.
"Don't tell Frodo," he said to Boromir. "He'll likely be angry at me for getting back at Gandalf."
"I won't. We can't have the Ringbearer in a temper," Boromir replied. "Although the newt was a bit much," he said as an afterthought. "It reminds me of when my brother, Faramir, put a cockroach in our father's ale. Not a wise decision."
"I am sorry," Pippin said. "I would say that I wish Gandalf had punished me instead, but I'm really glad he didn't. Poor Legolas."
"Well, I daresay it'll give the Elf a chance to get off of his pedestal," Bormir replied. "Won't it, Master Greenleaf?"
Pippin raised his hand, and they both gazed cheekily at the bright green frog that was the Elven Prince of Mirkwood.