Love Conquers All

Chapter 1 – Spirit Of The Party

'Make a wish!' A voice from the crowd around the table called out. Merry looked up from the huge birthday cake in front of him, complete with 16 burning candles, and caught the eye of Frodo Baggins, one of his closest friends. He was grinning, and it was obvious that the command had come from him.

'All right, if you insist!' Merry said, blowing out the candles before closing his eyes and making his wish. Then he began to cut the cake, causing his friends to cheer loudly. "The way to a hobbit's heart is through his stomach", so the saying went.

'Three cheers for Merry Brandybuck!' Came the call from somewhere in the crowd. 'Hip hip…'

'Hurray!' Everyone shouted. This happened three times, and then once more for luck. Merry found himself going bright red, and tried to concentrate on cutting the cake into equal slices.

Today was Merry's 16th birthday, and his parents had allowed him to hold this party for all his friends and relatives. The older members of the guests were gathered in a large huddle quite a distance away from Merry and his friends, holding glasses and mugs of various alcoholic beverages, and talking and laughing cheerfully. This group was made up mostly of the parents of Merry's friends, and his older relatives.

As Merry began to hand out the cake, he felt a slight tug on his shirtsleeve. He looked down to see his little cousin Pippin standing there, looking back up at him. At 8 years old, Pippin was by far the youngest guest there, maybe a little too young for such parties.

'Hello Pip!' Merry said cheerfully.

'What did you wish for, Merry?' Pippin asked curiously.

'I can't tell you that!'

'Why not?'

'If you tell other people your wishes,' Merry began, sounding very serious, 'They won't come true.'

'Really?' Pippin gasped, sounding utterly shocked.

'Really.' Merry said as Pippin tried to stifle a huge yawn, which suddenly turned into a hiccup. Pippin giggled stupidly.

'Whoops!' The young hobbit laughed, hiccupping again.

'What have you been drinking, Pippin?' Merry asked, trying not to laugh.

'The fizzy stuff!'

'The fizzy stuff.' Merry repeated. He knew that must mean the champagne. 'Who gave it to you?'

'Frodo! He said it was a party so I could have whatever I wanted!' Pippin replied between hiccups.

'Did he?' Merry asked, picking up his cousin. Pippin nodded innocently as Merry carried him over to his mother, who was talking to Bilbo Baggins, Frodo's uncle.

'I think it's getting a bit too late.' Merry said to Eglantine Took, Pippin's mother, handing Pippin over to her as he yawned again, then burst into a string of hiccups. 'And maybe a bit too much alcohol.' Merry added, before walking quickly away. He wasn't going to take the blame for getting Pippin drunk.

His friends had dispersed now, and Merry spotted Frodo talking to Fredegar Bolger, another one of his other friends.

'Fro,' Merry said, coming up to Frodo. 'Can I have a word?'

'Sure!' Frodo replied, allowing Merry to steer him away from Fredegar and the crowds of hobbits.

'Why were you giving my 8 year old cousin champagne?'

'It's a party! Let him have some fun!'

'For Valar's sake, Frodo, he's eight years old! He could have been very ill if he'd carried on drinking that much alcohol!'

'Okay, okay, calm down Merry! It's no big deal!'

'No big deal? He's 8 years old Frodo, loads of alcohol could kill him! If he died, would it be a big deal?'

'You're over-reacting, Merry!' He had a few glasses, that's all. He's only slightly drunk, there's no harm done!' By now both voices were angry and raised. Bilbo, who had noticed his nephew and Merry arguing, came over to see what was going on.

'What's all this about, then?' He asked, coming in between Merry and Frodo before anything worse happened.

'Merry's accusing me of trying to kill Pippin!' Frodo said maliciously. 'He thinks Pippin shouldn't have had those drinks.'

'He shouldn't!' Merry stood up for himself.

'Now now, boys.' Bilbo said. 'Let's not argue. If you must know, Merry, I gave Frodo permission to give Pippin those drinks. At first he, like you, didn't think it a wise thing to do. If you want to blame someone, blame me, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't think it will do the little one any harm to have a bit of drink inside him.'

'Oh…' Merry said, his gaze directed to the grass under his feet. 'Sorry… I didn't realise…'

'Well, no harm done!' Bilbo said with a smile, and wandered off again.

'Sorry, Frodo.' Merry said uneasily, still looking at his feet.

'Don't worry about it, it's all just been a big misunderstanding.' Frodo said, putting one arm around Merry's shoulders. Merry shrugged away.

'Merry?' Frodo asked, surprised by his friend's coldness. 'What's wrong?'

'Nothing.' Merry snapped, walking away before Frodo had a chance to say anything else. Frodo followed Merry as he broke away from the party, left the field it was being held in, and stopped by a large tree in the next field.

'Merry?' Frodo asked again, not giving in to his friend's silence. 'Please tell me… you've never kept anything from me before.'

'That's what you think.' Merry muttered, more to himself than Frodo.

'Oh, please Merry. I don't know what's happened, but I want to help you!'

'I very much doubt you'll be able to do that.' Merry said bitterly.

'Try me!'

'Fine!' Merry said, spinning around suddenly to face Frodo, took hold of his waist, and pulled him into a kiss.