(For the first time, I am going to be posting "When the King Comes Back (Great Smials)" and "When the King Comes Back (Brandy Hall)" simultaneously and chronologically, more or less. The first chapter of both stories share some of the same dialogue, but from two different POVs. Since the stories are not the same length, this one having nine chapters and the other sixteen, they may not be exactly chronological, but I'll do my best. I will also be interspersing some little one-shots that may fit into the same time slot.)
I wrote this second story from Merry's POV so that I could use some scenes deleted from the first story, which needed to focus mostly on Pippin's POV. They are companion stories, and share the same period of time.
Two weeks later, Merry stood upon the Brandywine Bridge, watching Pippin prepare to read the King's message for the third and last time.
He could tell Pip was still nervous, so he leaned around his father, uncle and Frodo, to tip him a reassuring wink. Pippin gave him back a rather lopsided smile, before schooling his face into the proper solemnity for the occasion.
It had been rather sad the day before yesterday, when they did this in Hobbiton, standing where the Party Tree should have been. But the hobbits there had been just as enthusiastic about the news as they had in Tookland. He was not sure if most of them realized what it really meant, that the King had come back.
Now Pippin was beginning to read, although by now he scarcely had to look at the parchment, he very nearly knew it by heart. Merry was quite proud of him.
As soon as this was over, the two of them were going to ride down to Crickhollow and take a look at their new little home. It was going to have to be refurnished, as they would be shipping most of the furnishings there back to Bag End when the restoration was complete. Pippin's family would be staying at Brandy Hall for a few days, while he and Pip took the answer of the Shire to Bree for delivery to Aragorn. Then everyone would be heading back to the Great Smials until Afteryule.
Life was beginning to settle back down for the Shire; there were still some rumors of a few ruffians hiding here and there, but he and Pip had plans for taking care of that. And Merry had not had any more nightmares. He'd no illusions they were gone, but they were not plaguing him as they had been.
The crowd broke out into the now familiar cheering. Merry scanned the Brandybucks arrayed at the foot of the bridge-his mother, Berilac, several other cousins. Oh, good, he thought, Estella is still here. He caught her eye and gave her a smile. He'd have to get Frodo to refresh his memory about Beren and Luthien.
There was a knock upon the door of Faramir's study, where he and King Elessar sat at the table surrounded by various reports.
One of the messengers came in. "Your Majesty, this dispatch just arrived from the North."
Faramir took it, and a smile came to his solemn face as he handed it to the king.
Aragorn grinned. "Thank you. This is a welcome message indeed." He looked up at the messenger. "You have traveled a long and weary way. Go find yourself some food and some rest, you are dismissed for today."
"Thank you, sire," said the messenger as he bowed his way out. The King was kindness itself, unlike the old Steward, who probably would have sent him right back out with another message, and never mind how far he'd come or how tired he was.
"Come, Faramir, let us see what our Shirefolk have to say to us."
To Our Lord King Elessar Telcontar, High King of Gondor and Arnor from the Thain of the Tooks, the Master of Buckland, and the Deputy Mayor of the Shire, our humble greetings.
Your Grace, we thank you for your kind consideration of the Shire and the Hobbits who live here. It has been many generations since Hobbits have had a King, but we have never forgotten that we were part of the Kingdom, nor shall we be loathe to be so again.
After much consultation, here are some of the recommendations that you have requested for your governance of the Shire.
It would be good if you could reinstate the watch of the Northern Rangers upon our borders, for though we have learned somewhat of defending ourselves, we remain for the most part a small and peaceful folk; since there is now no need for secrecy in this matter, we feel it would be wise if we are informed of who and where these Rangers are, so that our Bounders may communicate with them.
We hope to keep communications flowing from the Shire, so that having a King's Messenger nearby would be helpful. Bree would make a good waystation for such messengers; perhaps other locations near our borders could be found as well.
It is to be hoped that trade may take place between the Shire, and the rest of the restored Kingdoms, to the mutual benefit of all parties. In particular, we are anxious to re-establish the trade in pipeweed, which was disrupted by the troubles in the south.
Finally, and sadly, due to the wicked machinations of the former Wizard Saruman and his use of renegade Men to carry out his will, it would not be wise to allow Men free access to the Shire. We suggest that any Men who would come to the Shire must have the approval of the Thain, the Master and the Mayor, before being given permission to enter. Elves and Dwarves, are of course, another matter altogether, and may continue their passage through our land as always. If this does not work well, in time it may be necessary to extend this ban.
We thank you, Your Majesty, for your long care and watch upon our land, and wish for you the blessings of a long and joyful reign.
Paladin Took, Thain of the Tooks
Saradoc Brandybuck, Master of Buckland and Brandy Hall
Frodo Baggins, acting Deputy Mayor of the Shire
Aragorn laughed. "Straightforward and to the point. Hobbits are delightful."
"Sire-" Aragorn gave his Steward a look. "Sorry. Aragorn, there seem to be more messages in the pouch, personal messages."
One from Paladin Took, one from Saradoc Brandybuck, and from Pippin, Merry, Frodo and Sam.
Yes, indeed, Hobbits are delightful. He would see what his friends and their fathers had to say.