At the coronation of King Elessar the four were feted and praised for their part in Sauron's downfall (after a reverential two minutes' silence for the dead hero Bloggin). Many songs were sung in their praise and many toasts were drunk in their honour.
"It's like having all your birthdays in one go," Sam, who was somewhat embarrassed by all the fuss, remarked. "Can't think what my Gaffer would say about all these grand folk making such a to-do of the likes of me!"
"Well he probably wouldn't believe it for a start," Frodo said jokingly, "so enjoy it while it lasts!"
Eventually they would find this to be only too true when they returned to The Shire to discover it in the hands of the evil Sharky, otherwise known as Saruman. Even once they had set the former wizard to rights and chased the evildoers from their homeland they were still more famous for the deeds done in the Battle of Bywater than for their parts in the destruction of the Dark Lord Sauron.
After a year or two Frodo left with Bilbo, Gandalf and the elves for the Undying Lands, for the trauma of bearing the Ring still lay heavily on him, also he would not see his dear Uncle go off without him again.
But that was all in the future, for now they dwelt for a time in Minas Tirith and were pleased with their lot, except for one thing.
"Gandalf," Pippin enquired one day. "Why you go think I still not getting talkerings straightening? It soundering good at I but Merry go saying it gets roundabouts and updownsides agains and agains. Why it go be at that you thinkerings?"
"Ah yes," Gandalf smiled wryly at the confused hobbit. "I've been meaning to have a word with Elrond and the Lady Galadriel about that."
"Well I not thinkering it gone go on itselfs!" Pippin said in an exasperated tone, "Not I can't go back at Shire and I talkering higgle-go-piggle!"
"No indeed," Gandalf said. "Let us see if anything can be done."
So Pippin, with Merry and Legolas along for moral support, was brought before Elrond and Galadriel who both listened carefully and, having taken counsel with Gandalf and each other, finally confronted Pippin with their diagnoses.
"We believe," Elrond said, "that the cure is in your own hands."
"Is?" Pippin looked bemusedly at his hands.
"Not literally, you nitwit!" Merry hissed, poking his cousin in the side.
Gandalf raised an arched eyebrow which clearly said, as if he had uttered the words; Do not fool around Peregrin Took! This is a serious matter!
"Pippin has tried quite hard to control his speech," Legolas interceded. "But he says it sounds right to him. He does not seem to hear what actually comes out of his mouth."
"Hmm!" Gandalf could not resist a little levity himself, "'Twas ever thus!"
"Nevertheless," Elrond suppressed the smile. This was, after all, important. "Tell me Peregrin, are you quite healed now of all your hurts? For I know they were many."
"Yes am," Pippin nodded. "Dysgwr and go make it me bettrer and more bettrer and he get all hobbit get go good now!"
"In that case," Elrond touched Pippin on his shoulder and when he turned to look, as quickly as a conjuror producing a coin or fake bunch of flowers, produced a stoppered vial of liquid from the hobbit's coat. "You will not need this any longer."
"Oh!" Pippin turned a vivid shade of scarlet. "Onerly did get some littel bit and in cases of..." he tailed off.
"You have to stop dosing yourself with opium," Elrond said sternly. "And you Meriadoc," he raised his eyebrows at the other, "must see that he does not acquire any more of this narcotic. It is useful in very small amounts, but we fear Pippin has become quite addicted and this, not only will do him great harm, but it is also affecting his speech."
"B-but i-it..." Pippin's shade had turned from red to deathly white. "What i-if..."
"It will not be easy," Galadriel said gently. "I have spoken to the healer Dysgwr and he will give you something else that is less harmful and that you will be able to relinquish in time with less distress. You must be strong and Meriadoc must help you."
"I will," Merry put his arm around Pippin's shoulder. "You know you have to stop taking it Pip. Even if that is not the cause of your speech problem, it nearly killed us once, so it can't be good for you."
"But there is more," Elrond said. "We believe that there is an obvious solution to Pippin's confused speech. It has apparently been caused by his mental interaction with Legolas."
"It is clear Peregrin," Galadriel told him as kindly as she could, "you would appear to have been adversely affected by learning to mindspeak. This has, until now, been the sole province of Elvenkind and few mortals have ever acquired the skill."
"Therefore," Elrond took up the point. "You must never again use your new ability, we can help you to unlearn this skill, but if you wish to speak normally again you must not contact Meriadoc or Legolas or anyone else in your mind."
"Oh..." Pippin was crestfallen. "Not go speak at my Mer and not at my Legolas in we heads? No go do it eenery weenery littlel bits?"
"It is the only way," Elrond confirmed. "And they must not speak to you in that fashion either. Legolas I am sure can control the impulse to do so, but I fear Meriadoc will also have to unlearn the ability for he may well inadvertently allow his mind to wander into yours."
"That's sad," Merry looked crestfallen. "Of course if it is the only way that Pippin can speak normally again, it is what we'll have to do, but it was wonderful to talk in that way."
"Is it even possible that they can unlearn the skill?" Legolas asked as he moved to stand between the two hobbits, placing a hand on the shoulder of each. "For I too would be sad to lose my dear friends from my thoughts and what of Sam and Frodo? They too have gained some skill in mindspeaking through Merry and Pippin."
"Ah yes, Frodo Baggins," Elrond paused for a moment as he seemed to consider something. He glanced meaningfully at Galadriel. "When Frodo speaks in your mind it is less confused – is that not so Legolas?"
"Yes," Legolas said with a wry smile. "Frodo is much easier to understand, although I have grown accustomed to Merry and Pippin's style of communication now."
"But Frodo is able to speak and understand Sindarin," Galadriel pointed out. "That is why he is clearer, because the language of our thoughts is Sindarin."
"Therefore, when Peregrin speaks aloud he is subconsciously translating what he hears in his mind back into Westron," Elrond said. "But the problem really is that he does not understand Sindarin."
"Indeed," Galadriel gave a silvery laugh. "So there could be a gentler solution to your problem."
"Really?" Merry nudged Pippin excitedly. "That would be wonderful."
"Peregrin," Elrond's face turned serious once more. "You need to learn to speak Sindarin."
"Uhh!" Pippin looked possibly more devastated than he had with the news of the poppy juice. "You say we, me, us, Pippin got go learnering and books it makes I go in schools and more for work and work at I?"
"Yes!" Gandalf could not resist a chuckle at the horror on the hobbit's face. "Although who you will persuade to teach you I cannot imagine!"
"I could get him a book I suppose," Merry suggested.
"Not gone get book at I for learnering! Not can't do it never!"
"Pippin," Legolas said with a grin. "They are teasing you. I will help you and so will Gandalf."
"Indeed," said Gandalf. "In fact, I should think Meriadoc will have to also learn the language of the Elves."
"Yes, of course I will!" Merry did not flinch. He had had the importance of scholastic achievement drummed, and sometimes even beaten, into him from an early age. "We can learn together. It'll be just like going to school again Pip."
"Not did like at no schools in first time!" Pippin said decidedly. "Not gone get like it now!"
"Don't worry," Gandalf laughed. "We won't make you stand in the corner or wear a dunce's cap."
"I not go worryingus roundabouts that!" Pippin sniffed. "It's the writtings and readerings not can do anynuff good!"
"You'll be fine," Legolas smiled. "Promsis!"
So for the rest of their time in Minas Tirith, Merry and Pippin spent each morning studying. It was not too arduous when Legolas taught them, for he had become rather soft-hearted towards the hobbits and lessons would often relapse into social occasions when the three would begin joking or reminiscing. But Elrond ran a stricter regime and insisted on copious reading and copying and lists of vocabulary would be demanded. Gandalf too, although not as severe as Elrond, required them to pay attention and unfinished homework was frowned upon and greeted with cutting irony and disapproval.
Merry's stubbornness for any undertaking served him well, added to which he had an inherent aptitude for academia and learning as was demonstrated by his rapid acquisition of the Rhohirric speech and later his authorship of several tomes of importance in Hobbit culture.
Often Frodo and Sam joined in the classes and Sam too proved an able learner, his dogged determination acting in much the same way as Merry's tenacity. Frodo, of course, already had a head start but he enjoyed the chance to brush up his language skills and would also put the others through their paces by refusing to understand them unless they spoke in Sindarin. This worked particularly well for Pippin when he wanted to wheedle something from his older cousin.
It was Queen Arwen who discovered that Pippin learned best through the medium of song and she spent many evenings with the youngest hobbit, teaching him, at first simple nursery songs, and eventually the longer lays and ballads of her people.
Pippin also found that singing helped to alleviate his craving for the banned narcotic and after several weeks he stood in the main hall of King Elssar's court and, to everyone's surprise and delight, sang a beautiful rendition of The Lay of Beren and Luthien, first in Sindarin and then, as an encore in Westron as Strider had sung it to the hobbits in the dell on the perilous road to Rivendell. He was word perfect in both versions.
When they finally arrived in Rivendell, on their journey home, the elves there were most impressed with the hobbits' grasp of their language; although none of them actually revealed that they had learned to mindspeak as well. Some things are better kept between friends.
Nor did they ever let their new talent be known in The Shire, although they found it a great advantage when coordinating the Battle of Bywater.
Merry and Pippin, particularly when they had acceded to the titles of Master of Buckland and Thain respectively, would often mindspeak to each other during long, and sometimes boring, meetings, although never when Sam was presiding as Mayor, for he strongly disapproved of such impolite behaviour. Added to which, not only could he hear them, but also knew why they would both suddenly burst into fits of hysterical laughter for no reason that anyone else could determine.
They had tried it though:-
"Mayor Gardener, Master Meriadoc, Thain Peregrin, Gentlehobbits," Belco Fairstaff began. "I would bring to your attention the matter of turnips versus mangel-wurzels planted in the lower field, south of Three Farthing Stone!"
'Are you paying attention Pip?'
'Oh yes! I wouldn't want to miss a second of this!'
"Whereas I concede that Rufus Appleby is the rightful tenant of this field," Belco continued. "I, as the landlord feel I should be able to dictate that at least three quarters of the area should be planted with mangel-wurzels."
"Aye, but that's only because you wants more mangel-wurzels for the feeding of your pigs," Anders Fulcrow objected loudly. "Them turnips is good for our eating and they is more traditional."
'Ha! That's not the reason at all!'
"Stands to reason, Rufus should plant what he likes, long as he pays his rent," Samwise pointed out.
'I remember Merry! Mangel-wurzels make brilliant ale!'
"But turnips grow bigger and go further," Jeb Pooter protested.
'Strongest I ever tasted!'
"Perhaps Thain Peregrin has a view," Sam suggested, looking knowingly at Pippin.
'Yes, Belco got so drunk on it last Yule they had to ship him home in a wheelbarrow!' Pippin said, forgetting that his conversation with Merry had been private.
"Opps!" Pippin put his hand to his mouth. "Did I say that out loud?"
"If the Thain and the Master would confine themselves to the subject on the table," Mayor Samwise looked sternly at the cousins. "We might resolve business without any more irrelevant and indiscreet interruptions!"
But there were wider repercussions. Each of them could, at times, reach out and touch the minds of their former companions, especially Legolas who was always glad to just pass the time of day with any of the hobbits.
Queen Arwen would relay requests for guidance to Aragorn, who would then, through her, pass on his thoughts to the Mayor, the Master or the Thain on political or judicial matters.
Gimli too proved a willing and useful correspondent, with a wealth of knowledge in building and crafting as well as sage Dwarven advice, which was seldom acted upon but always entertaining, such as when Pippin was courting Diamond and trying to summon up the courage to ask her to marry him. Gimli suggested that he just fix the date and buy her a good strong axe as a token of his love. Fortunately, Merry had been listening in and told Pippin to ask her first and give her a diamond ring rather than an implement to chop firewood – or possibly his head!
Gandalf too would infrequently slip into their thoughts with reminders, especially to Merry and Pippin, to behave with the decorum and sobriety required of heroes and role models, or sometimes just to say 'hello'.
Others too, such as Éowyn and Faramir and even Sniggin, would speak to them at need, usually with news of accomplishments, visits or births and such gossip as good friends make when keeping in touch.
But, most importantly, after the two Ring-bearers had departed the Grey Havens with the Elven folk, occasionally, and usually late at night when the lanterns were dimmed and the moon rode high in a clear starlit sky, the three remaining hobbits would feel Frodo's mind gently touch theirs. Then all four, within the sanctity of their thoughts, would embrace and remember.