This is a collaboration with Murron, talented writer extraordinaire. Go and check out her stories!
The Cooking Conspiracy
by Eretria & Murron
Characters: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin (non-slash)
Timeframe: Some years after Bilbo's spectacular 111th birthday party, but still a couple of years previous to the LOTR trilogy.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings in this story strictly belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. We remain humble admirers of his incredible work, which inspires in so many ways. This story was written for entertainment purposes only. No money is gained and no harm is meant.
Summary: Years before the Ring journey, Frodo has to face yet another trial. Which involves a Frog-Hunt, Merry Undercover, a fabulous custard, Pippin in distress and ... Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.
Feedback: is better than mushrooms – almost :o)
Please leave it here or send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
A/N: This is our first try at something funny, so we hope it worked. In any case it was a whole lot of fun to write :o).
eretria also wants to say THANK YOU for a wonderful collaboration, which often made me think that it was better to *not* let my Padawan loose too often. :o) Sheesh, she can be scary. :o)
Dedication: This story is for ambersky, the first among us hobbits to get married. May you live happily ever after :o). In addition, for Leslie and Baylor, who are truly wonderful and capable beta readers. Thank you, dearies, for the great support and kind words!
Oh, and all similarities to actual hobbits living in the neighbourhood are *purely* coincidential. *winks at Fran*
Whatever can go wrong, most probably will go wrong.
The tin flour-box dropped to the floor, seemingly in slow motion, releasing a huge white cloud.
"Heavens above, what was I thinking?" Frodo exclaimed, fighting a fit of coughing.
His kitchen bore little resemblance to the pristine state Sam always kept it in, though Frodo had been in there scarcely half an hour.
Now it was dusted with a deceptively innocent white powder. Frodo Baggins groaned and hid his face in his hands. Another coughing fit bubbled up. Most of the flour that had been clinging to his hands was now covering his cheeks and colouring his raven-black eyebrows an unbecoming grey. "What was I thinking?"
For a moment, he was at a complete loss. He had figured that cooking was not exactly easy, but no one had told him that it would be worse than riddling with dragons. He had also never thought that his rather unhobbitish lack of cooking skill would bring about such complications. With a heavy sigh, he ran his hand through his hair, spreading the flour even more thoroughly into his dark curls. He didn't notice the pair of wide, worried eyes peeping cautiously over the casement of a rear window.
Sam had long since laid his gardening tools aside and was now spying on Frodo with growing concern. The repeated swears and yelps of dismay coming out of the kitchen had been much too disquieting to let him stick to his work. After all, Mr. Frodo needed someone to look after him, with good Mr. Bilbo gone and all. Sam did what he could to spare his master trouble, but sometimes it proved a very difficult task. Sorrowfully, Sam shook his head. Today was his master's birthday and therefore, as a special present for his closest friends, Frodo had chosen to cook a magnificent meal. Soup, dessert, mushrooms, cakes and all with his own two hands. Yet at the moment it looked as though his ideas were all disappearing into little flour puffs. It was a pitiful sight. Sam had never understood how a hobbit could possibly be so incompetent in a kitchen. Although he had always refused to listen to others' gossip about Frodo's unhobbitlike foibles, he himself had to admit that not being able to cook was quite unhobbitlike . . . more unhobbitlike even than meeting with wandering Elves in the woods, and that was saying something.
If Sam had been doubtful about this whole matter before, he now considered it to be nearing the point of a full-blown disaster. The only proper meal Mr. Frodo had ever produced in the kitchen had been a simple porridge. 'And not a very good porridge, either,' Sam thought, remembering the noxious smell that had wafted through Bag End for the next several days.
Trying to decide on the best course of action, Sam chewed on his lower lip. Inside, Frodo was making a half-hearted try to shove flour from the table with a cloth. 'No,' Sam thought at last, 'this is no good at all.' Silently, he slid away from the window and hurried to the front gate. He needed go and get help. A frustrated cry followed by a tremendous clatter of dishes followed him across the lawn.
Sam quickened his pace. The way Mr. Frodo was going, not only would there be no Birthday Dinner, Sam's precious cookware would not survive to see another meal.…
We could go and see if there are some plums left on Farmer Cotton's trees."
"Nay, we did that last week."
The grass rustled lightly as Merry turned around to lie on his stomach. With an expression of strenuous concentration on his boyish face, he propped his chin in his hands.
"Then let's go swimming in one of the ponds," he proposed.
Pippin rubbed his nose and shook his head. "Uh, no. I'm not in the mood for water today."
"Well then, Master Took," said Merry with a highly arched eyebrow, "why don't you tell me what we should do with this remarkably nice but utterly boring day? But please try something which doesn't involve us getting thrown out of hole and smial."
A wide grin shone at him and Pippin winked, cheerfully. "No need for me to tax myself, cousin. Keep thinking, you'll come up with something."
"Huh," snorted Merry, "So you admit that I am the mastermind behind this partnership, while you are just my humble follower?"
Pippin laughed, getting ready to escape Merry's inevitable tickling. But fortunately, it didn't come to that. Merry seemed to be suddenly occupied by something coming down the road, and as Pippin followed his cousin's gaze, he beheld a rosy-cheeked Sam Gamgee marching swiftly in their direction.
Frodo still had five hours before his guests would arrive. Now that the pastry was prepared and set aside to rest, the next thing awaiting his attention was the goose.
It couldn't be all that hard. He had watched Bilbo and Sam do this so many times, and his relatives in Buckland had had goose for dinner on the special holidays. He remembered watching the burly cook prepare the bird when he was just a wee lad.
He just had to take it, apply salt and pepper and herbs, stuff it with the apples and plums and mushrooms and ... now, how - for the love of the Shire - how was all of this supposed to fit into one little goose? Frodo stared at the bird, mistrusting the recipe more and more by the minute.
Half of the ingredients were inside, but the other half was still littering his kitchen table.
He went back to the cookbook Bilbo had left him and scratched his head in confusion.
What, he had to actually cut the mushrooms? And slice up the plums and apples as well?
Right. That would explain things. Why had he thought the pastry would be a challenge? This was worse – far worse.
He managed to cut up the plums and apples without too much fuss, but Frodo stared at the small, perfectly shaped mushrooms for a long while before taking the silver-sparkling knife again. "This hurts me more than it hurts you, trust me." he whispered when he cut the first innocent, small white form in half.
Pippin reached the door of Bag End at a full run and, as soon as he was certain he had an impressive-enough look of drama on his face, burst in, gasping for breath.
Between his heaving breaths, he exclaimed in a loud voice: "LOBELIA!" and promptly fell into one of the soft chairs as if completely drained of energy.
Quickly he retrieved a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. "It's her, Lobelia," he repeated, his widened eyes staring at Frodo, trying not to laugh at the impact of his words.
The expression on Cousin Frodo's face was remarkable. No message could have been worse, no name uttered could have been more terrifying.
Frodo dropped the mushroom he was holding and went instantly pale. "What do you mean?" he choked, addressing his excited cousin.
"I mean trouble's at hand," Pippin clamored, "as is always when Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is around." Furrowing his brows, he sat up in the chair and quite dramatically propped his hands on the armrests. "Frodo, she's come to Hobbiton this morning, making a real fuss to all who'd listen about it being your birthday. Telling them as a proper and close relation she claims you owe her a present."
"What!" Frodo exclaimed, his cheeks flushing.
"Aye," Pippin nodded eagerly, by this time having lost himself in his part, "she wants something from Bag End, which you know she thinks should belong to her anyway -- she fancies telling everyone so often enough. The whole Dragon is thrown into a turmoil. I slipped off as quickly as I could to warn you, dear cousin, but I fear she won't be far behind me." The young Took looked at the window as though he expected Lobelia's pointy nose to appear behind the sill. "She will be here any minute," Pippin said.
"Oh, botheration," Frodo swore, throwing his hands in the air, "won't I ever be free of that old dragon?"
"Not unless another dragon comes and carries her off," Pippin said with a grin.
Frodo shook his head violently, tearing the apron from around his waist and storming out of the kitchen.
Pippin hopped out of the chair and sneaked to the passageway, listening with a devilish smile as the hole's door slammed shut behind his elder cousin.