(Written in 2006)

Author: Dreamflower
Title: Pippin and the Mask
Rating: G
Pairing/Characters: Pippin, Merry, Frodo and a couple of adult relatives.
Warnings: shameless fluff and baby-talk
Summary: At the Fall Festival, Merry and Frodo hope to initiate Pippin into a Buckland tradition...
Author's Notes: Frodo is 25, Merry is 11 and Pippin is 3 ½ ( or 16, 7 and about 20 months in Man-years)

PIPPIN AND THE MASK

"This is going to be fun, Frodo!" Merry was fidgeting as they waited at the ferry landing. "Pippin's never been here for the Fall Festival before!" The festival took place on the morrow, and this afternoon, Pippin and his family would arrive for a rare fall visit to Buckland.

Frodo grinned. He had to admit he was looking forward to seeing the faunt's reaction to the festivities. At eleven, Merry had outgrown some of the activities that he had enjoyed when he was younger, and Frodo had rather missed that as his cousin grew older. And this was the first year since he had moved in with Bilbo that his fall visit had lasted long enough for him to attend the festival.

It was held near the end of Winterfilth, on the first Highday* following a full moon, and there were all sorts of competitions, as well as feasting and dancing, followed by a great bonfire at night.

But one of the highlights of the day was the costume contest, held early in the day for the younger children. Frodo had always had the greatest fun dressing Merry up for the competition, and Merry had won more often than not. There were two contests, one for faunts and one for children under ten, and they were very popular.

Merry, with fond memories of how Frodo had dressed him up, as everything from a tiny Dwarf with a long beard of cotton-wool, to a very scary barrow-wight, wrapped in white gauze, and his hair all powdered with flour the last year he competed, was looking forward to doing the same for Pippin this year, with Frodo's help.

The two of them had already been making preliminary preparations for the costume, and only awaited the arrival of their wee competitor to add the finishing touches. They would show the things to Eglantine and Paladin this evening after supper, and in the morning they would dress Pippin up for the contest.

"Will you help me finish the mask tonight, Frodo?" Merry asked anxiously.

"Of course I will, sprout." Frodo grinned, and then looked up. "Look-someone's at the landing on the other side! I think they are here!"

xxxxxxx

After the flurry of greetings, during which Pippin nearly strangled Merry with the enthusiasm of his hugs, and then attached himself to Frodo with equal fervor, the two cousins walked the newly arrived visitors up to the Hall. Pippin was gleefully perched on Frodo's shoulders and squealing in delight, as he tangled his tiny fingers in the dark curls.

Merry was excitedly telling his aunt, uncle, and female cousins all about Pippin's costume. "And Mum gave me some of her old jewelry, that she says is just gimcrackery, to put on it!"

Paladin chuckled at his nephew's enthusiasm, and Eglantine smiled at him. "I'm looking forward to seeing it, Merry," she said.

He shook his head. "Not until tomorrow, Aunt Tina!"

She laughed. "Very well, Merry! Keep your secrets!"

xxxxxxx

That night, after Pippin had been all tucked up with his parents in the guest quarters, Frodo and Merry retreated to Frodo's old room, to put the finishing touches on Pippin's costume.

Esmeralda had gone with the lads to one of the mathom rooms, and they had found some old garments which she said they could alter. They had taken a worn playsuit for a faunt about Pippin's age, an old weskit, and the sleeves of an old jacket, and had dyed them all a deep golden yellow. The sleeves had been stitched together to form a long tapered tube, which the lads stuffed with scraps of fabric, and with his mother's help, Merry had sewn it to the back end of the playsuit, making a very creditable tail. Now he sat on the floor, dismantling the spangled scarf and the glass beads she had given him, and was industriously gluing spangles and "jewels" all over the weskit with milk glue.

Frodo had been working on painting the mask, which had a stick on the side, to hold it up to the face. Now the paint was drying and he was cutting bits of yellow and red tissue into long strips, which he planned to glue at the bottom of the mouth.

He took the stick and held it up for Merry's inspection.

Merry grinned. "Very scary! Frodo that's splendid! Pip's certain to win with a mask like that!"

xxxxxxx

The next morning after second breakfast, they took their tiny cousin to put him into his costume.

He was delighted. "Ooh! Shiny!" He touched the "jewels" on the weskit. Then he hopped up and down and looked behind him at his marvelous appendage. "I have a ta-yuh! Look at my ta-yuh, Mer!" He giggled as only a three year old could.

Merry laughed at Pippin's delight.

"Look, Fro!" he crowed, "I's Smaug! I's a dwagon!"

"Not yet, Pip!" said Merry with enthusiasm. "Look! Here's your mask!" He held up the fierce dragon-face, with its tissue flames.

Pippin's eyes grew wide, and he let out a screech of terror. "Fro!" He darted over as best he could with the tail in his way, and tried to climb Frodo like a tree, screaming and crying.

Frodo picked him up, and jiggled him a bit. "It's all right, Pippin! Really, it's only a mask!"

Merry went over and put a reassuring hand on his little cousin's arm. "It's just a bit of pasteboard and paint, Pip! It's not really scary! Look!" He held it up again, this time in front of his face. Pippin's eyes grew huge, and he buried his face in Frodo's shoulder.

"No!" he said emphatically. "No ma'k. No dwagon! No! No! No!" He grabbed Frodo around the neck so hard Frodo's face turned red.

Frodo sat down on the bed, and managed to loosen Pippin's grip around his neck enough to get the child seated on his knee. "Pippin, it's not real!" He reached for it, and held it up in front of his own face.

Pippin shrieked again, so shrilly that it hurt Merry's ears, and leaped at Merry from Frodo's lap. Now he was choking Merry.

Frodo shook his head, and put the mask down on the bed. He sighed.

"I don't think we will be able to get him to use the mask, Merry," he said sadly. He'd worked very hard on that mask. Merry had always been very enthusiastic about his costumes, and he had liked all of them; in fact, the scarier the better.

Merry was crestfallen. "What will we do, Frodo? No one will think he's a dragon without the mask!"

"Let me think, Merry! There has to be something we can do…" He cupped his chin with his hand, and furrowed his brow.

xxxxxxx

Paladin held his little dragon, as Pippin proudly played with the blue ribbon pinned to his "bejeweled" weskit. "I's the best dwagon, Papa!" he proclaimed.

"You are indeed, my lad!" He looked at Frodo and Merry who were walking alongside them. "That was a very clever idea, to paint his face, Merry. I really think that may have been why he won-all the other faunts had masks."

"It was Frodo's idea," said Merry. "And don't worry Uncle Paladin-we asked Mum, and she said it will wash off. We have to rub his face with some lard, and then wash it off with soap."

"That's good." In truth, Paladin had already asked his sister about that, as he did not relish the idea of his little lad walking about for weeks with a dragon-face painted on.

"Roaarrrrr!" Pippin growled loudly. Paladin winced, as his ears were assaulted. "I's Smaug! I eat the Dwarveses all up! I eat up all the ponies! Roarrrrrr!"

Merry and Frodo laughed at their uncle's reaction. Yes, they had created a fierce little dragon indeed!

xxxxxxx

*Winterfilth is sort of the hobbit equivalent of October, and Highday is the equivalent of Friday-except that it is really more like a Saturday.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:
This story was inspired by an incident that happened to me when I used to work as event coordinator at a craft store chain. My pre-school craft class was to make masks that day. I only had one little two year old show up, and he was scared of the mask! He was fine with decorating it with stickers and glitter and feathers, but as soon as anyone would hold it up to a face, he was terrified, poor little tyke!