DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.
BELTS OF SILVER, LEAVES OF GOLD
Chapter 1 – A Letter from Gondor
When Pippin rode up to the Crickhollow house he found Merry waiting outside for him. Pippin swung down from his pony and started walking him to the small stables he and Merry had built. Merry accompanied him, an odd expression on his face.
"Meriadoc, I've only been gone a few days, what could have happened? You look as if you're bursting with news, but I can't tell if it's good news or bad!"
"I don't know if it is either, Pip. I'm so glad you're back." He and Pippin saw to the pony's needs and walked back to the house. Once inside, Merry pointed to a large wooden box that lay unopened on the floor. "This arrived yesterday at Brandy Hall. Uncle Merimac brought it over in the wagon."
Pippin walked over to the box and knelt down, his eyes widening at the seal engraved with seven stars and a tree in full flower. "Gondor," he whispered. He looked up at Merry, who was holding a folded, sealed packet in his hand.
"This came as well, addressed to us both," said Merry. "I didn't want to read it until you were here with me."
Pippin took off his cloak and hung it up, eyes sparkling with excitement. "Read it, Mer. Out loud."
"Wouldn't you rather have dinner first, or maybe a drink of----"
They sat down next to each other and Merry broke the packet's seal, unfolding several sheets of parchment. "It's from the King," he said with a smile.
S.R. 1423, October 1
Dear Merry and Pippin,
I hope this letter finds you both well and happy. Now that trading routes are well established between the Shire and the south, word has reached us of the restoration of the Shire lands and what Sam and all of you have been able to accomplish in so short a time. Congratulations to all of you.
Stories of the Fellowship and our journey have inspired a number of young Men to travel widely and visit the places that are become known in song and tale. One such group rode as far as Parth Galen, and camped there for some days before returning. I was quite surprised to learn that they had discovered our abandoned gear and remaining boat exactly where we left them. Gimli, Legolas, and I had done our best in haste to safeguard our gear beneath the overturned boat, thus protecting it from weather and beasts, but as you can imagine I hardly expected to see any of it ever again.
Much that was returned to me I am adding to the collection that will be displayed with honor in Minas Tirith. We had of course kept Frodo and Sam's Orc-gear and many other things. I should be able to make a quite a large display when time permits.
Please open this box when you are both together. I trust the memories thus renewed will not be of sadness or fear, but rather reminders of what we were able to accomplish and how far we have come; you two not least of all.
My dearest Arwen sends her love and blessings to you both, and to Sam when you see him. She has sensed that Frodo has already left us for the West, and she wants you to know that he will find peace and wholeness across the Sea. He will be much honored there, and find the healing that he seeks.
Be well, my dear friends and colleagues. May we someday sit together once again with full pipes and joyous songs. You well deserve all good fortune.
P.S. I trust that Pippin's coming of age party was a celebration that will be talked about for years. I can only imagine the mischief, and feasting that must have put a king's table to shame. You must write me with all the details.
Merry finished reading and looked up. Pippin was smiling, but his eyes were full of tears as he stared at the box. "Merry," he whispered.
"I know." Merry sighed and put the letter on the table. He dropped to his knees in front of the box and laid his hand gently on the top. "Pip," he said softly, "Shall we?"
Pippin took a deep breath and joined Merry on the floor, wiping his eyes. "Silly hobbit, we'll need a knife or something." Merry chuckled and went to the kitchen, bringing back a large knife. He cut the cords binding the box before breaking through the many seals. Putting the knife down on the floor he put a hand to one side of the lid and Pippin grabbed the other side. Tthey lifted off the lid and placed it on the floor next to the box.
Merry pulled out a layer of wrapping, then another layer, then……… there they were, nestled together at the bottom. Their packs. Pippin pulled his out of the box and ran his hand gently over the once-familiar worn and weather-beaten leather, still soft to the touch. Merry did the same.
"It's amazing to see them again, isn't it?" Merry asked wonderingly. "I mean, we started our adventure here in this very house, and now it's as if only ten minutes have passed."
"Or ten years," murmured Pippin. "Oh Mer, I can hardly remember what's in here." Suddenly he burst out laughing. "I can't stand the suspense!" He hurriedly undid the lacings of the pack and upended it, spilling the contents on the floor.
** TBC **