Bernigard Took, Master of the Guild of Shire Lawyers, and primary legal advisor to Thain Paladin, sat in the sunny room he now used as his office and glared down at the paperwork before him upon his desk. Opposite him sat Reginard Took, who ought to have been in Michel Delving today working with old Flour Dumpling on finishing up the investigation of those lawyers who had worked hand-in-hand with Lotho Sackville-Baggins and that foul Timono Bracegirdle cousin of his to deprive so many of their rightful property, homes, and businesses. It was a crying shame that instead Reggie was forced to sit here today, obviously upset and embarrassed, uncertain what to think of the Thain’s latest lunacy.
“He can’t disinherit Pippin!” Reggie was saying when the knock came at the door.
“He can do so, and indicated before he set off to Bag End he intended to see it done. I only hope that Frodo managed to straighten out his thinking during that dinner when he entertained Pal, Lanti, Sara, and Esme. I cannot imagine what happened to cause Pal and Lanti to hare off to Buckland as they did after that dinner, but I so hope that they are both thinking far more clearly when they get back!” Berni said, and then barked, “Oh, do come in then, why don’t you?” as the knocking, now more urgent, was repeated at his door.
The door flew open as if relieved to be free of further knocking, and outside, looking slightly wary, stood Paladin Took himself. “Are you certain that I am welcome, Berni?” he asked. “I couldn’t help overhearing what you were saying….”
“It depends,” Reginard said, indicating the papers that lay on the desk, “on whether or not you intend to go forward with this! Do you truly intend to disinherit your own son?”
Pal grew first pale and then flushed. “Oh, yes, that. No, I need to ask that the papers be destroyed, although I first need to confess to Pippin----”
“Confess what?” Pippin asked, arriving with his now long stride to stand at his father’s shoulder.
His face still red with embarrassment, Paladin Took turned to face his son, momentarily surprised to find himself looking at the buttons on Pippin’s waistcoat rather than down into the younger Hobbit’s face as still seemed more natural, somehow. “It’s just that I—well, I did something rather—rash, there just before your mother and I went off to Hobbiton to have dinner with Frodo that night he demanded we come to meet with him, Sara, and Esme.”
Looking into the room and seeing Reginard sitting there, an expression of sheer relief on his face, and Bernigard taking a deep breath, Pippin’s own expression grew wry. “So,” he said gently, “you intended to disown me after all, did you, Adar? But now you’ve thought better of it?”
His father looked confused. “Adar? What’s that from?”
“It’s Elvish for Father. Sorry—I’ve heard rather more Elvish, perhaps, than was possibly good for me. But considering you were planning to disown me, I felt something more formal that Da was called for. But why else would Reginard be sitting there looking as if he’d been hit by a fallen tree, with Cousin Bernigard with his mouth twisted up like that?”
Paladin stood looking fully contrite. “I do apologize to all of you, and particularly to you, Peregrin. I’ve wronged you far too much. I was far too hasty in assuming that you left merely on a lark, and failed to realize just how much you have grown up since you left with Frodo. I should have realized that you and Merry could not have driven out the Big Men as easily as you did without having had some experience in dealing with louts, and that when you said your sword had become a part of you that it was true. If we cannot imagine the Rangers without their swords and bows, we should realize that your sword is now just as much a part of who you are, what you’ve become. It’s only that—that here in the Shire we haven’t needed fighters—real fighters--for so long!”
Pippin bowed his head, looking down at the ancient blade that hung at his side. “I never thought that carrying a sword would become what it is to me, back when Tom Bombadil gave this to me. But once we realized just how dangerous things had become and how many—evil creatures—there were who’d been ordered to capture Frodo and the Ring, I knew I had to learn to use it right. Strider and Boromir both taught us to use our swords, with advice from Legolas; and before we left Minas Tirith Captain Gilmaros had me teaching some of the shorter recruits how to use their swords more effectively against taller opponents. But these bully-boys of Lotho’s, most of them never learned how to properly use any weapon at all. I’m sure some of them might have been fairly good throwing knives at targets, and had they tried doing that instead of coming at us with cudgels, long knives, and daggers they might have given us a real fight.” He looked up at his father, his hand on his sword’s hilt. “I’m so glad you understand now, Da. I’ve had to fight orcs and goblins, trolls, wolves and Men now. I’ve learned better how to use even a thrown stone against enemies—Merry and I got quite good at that when we went with the Ents to Isengard. Even Treebeard was impressed, I think. But we never imagined that when we got home we would have to use the skills we’d learned against enemies here.”
“And I am sorry I called you a coward.”
Father and son searched one another’s eyes. Finally Pippin replied, his voice particularly soft, “I forgive you. I saw awful things out there, Da. It wasn’t easy to do some things, like killing a Man before he killed the person fighting at my side. But no matter how necessary it was to do so, I don’t like killing anyone—or anything. And the terrible things I saw orcs doing to one another and that they told us they intended to do to us once Saruman—Sharkey, that is—said he was through with us, those things will haunt me forever, I fear.”
“So,” Reggie said rather tentatively, “you are saying, Paladin, that you have changed your mind, and now you aren’t disowning young Peregrin here after all?”
Paladin Took gave him a sidelong glance and nodded solemnly. “Yes, I’ve realized that I’ve been the childish one and the cowardly one, not Pippin.”
“Why?” Reggie persisted.
Pippin commented, “Frodo told me that he would sort you and Mum out as best he could. This is because of what he told you at that dinner he had for you, Uncle Sara, and Auntie Esme, isn’t it?”
“Yes. He—he had me examine one of his scars, one Willigrim told me about that I couldn’t quite believe in.”
“The one where he was stabbed by the Witch-king of Angmar with a Morgul blade?”
“Yes, that’s what he told me it was caused by. He said he was told it wouldn’t ever heal properly.”
“Not here in Middle Earth it can’t—that’s what they told us all in Rivendell.”
“And then,” Pal paused and licked his lips, “then he read to us from that book he wrote, about what you and Merry did while you were gone, how you were taken prisoner and how you particularly managed to see to it you and Merry escaped, and how you each swore fealty to a different lord down there in the Southlands and how you became soldiers. Then how you each fought and almost died.”
“He wrote all that, and read it to you?”
Again the Thain gave a solemn nod. “Yes.”
“So you started to believe what we’ve tried to tell you then?”
“So,” old Bernigard interrupted, “why didn’t you come back then and stop all this? You have had me worked up for weeks, and Reggie has been fit to be tied all morning, terrified he would be saddled with the job of Thain once anything might happen to you.”
“I’m dreadfully sorry,” Paladin said rather stiffly, “but what Frodo said to me about how Pippin here had seen that lord of his down in the Southlands almost kill his son and how he, Frodo, was afraid I was doing the same to my own dear lad made me realize that I was his father long before I was made Thain, and I do believe I was a reasonably good father at that, and that I needed to be that again. So Sara and I went to Crickhollow intending to apologize to the two of them and to talk it all out properly, only they weren’t there. House was empty and the kettle boiled dry and the fire allowed to burn out, cheese was sitting out hard as a stone, and we found some Elvish bread and leaves under a bench. We thought they’d gone off on another adventure until the letters to them came from Bag End. That was when we realized that someone had come to send Merry and Pippin here to see Frodo off properly, to give them the chance to bid him farewell.”
“And why didn’t you come home?”
“We figured out how long it would probably take for them to return, and so first we went out to talk to the King’s Steward here in the north, who had said he’d be in Bree about then, and then we came back to be there when Merry and Pippin got back. He didn’t need me as the Thain when he got home to Crickhollow—Pippin needed me just to be his Da.”
Pippin smiled in a rather watery manner. “Which you were, and for which I will always be grateful.”
“So, Frodo has gone off to where?” Berni asked. “This Rivendell? Or has he gone south to be with this new King of ours?”
But Pippin was already shaking his head. “No, not either one of those.”
“Then where?” demanded Reggie. “And when will he come back again?”
“He can’t return, not where he’s going,” Pippin said softly, wiping at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “He’s left Middle Earth. He’s gone with the great Elves and Gandalf, to Elvenhome. It’s the only place where he can be fully healed, or this side of actually dying, at least. He’s been scoured out by what he went through. I don’t wish our adventure had never happened, for I’m glad it did. We saw marvelous things out there, and we got to actually visit places we’ve only heard hinted at in songs and tales. And we got to know Strider, our King Elessar, both before and after he was crowned, and we took part in his wedding to our Lady Arwen Undómiel. I’d never want to have missed those!” He fumbled a handkerchief out of his pocket, wiped his eyes properly and blew his nose. “But still we each and every one of us almost died, and it was worst of all for Frodo himself. And for him to come back to find the Shire in shambles and Lotho murdered and his own home all but caved in—that was too, too much for him.”
“He’s looked anything but well for quite some time,” Reggie said.
“I know. Although he was certain he had us fooled,” Pippin agreed. “Silly, dear old Hobbit!” He swallowed. “So now he will have the chance to heal properly after all. But he won’t be able to come back again. Those who sail West cannot return—or not usually, at least. Lord Glorfindel did come back, and apparently the Wizards came out of the West. But none of them has ever, to my knowledge, told anything about how they got here, or specifically why they were allowed to come—or why they were sent, at least, other than to teach us to stand against Mordor. And with Sharkey dead and the Brown Wizard somewhere else and Gandalf gone West with Frodo, I doubt we’re likely to ever find out.”
There was silence for a time while they all digested what Pippin had said.
At last Berni asked, “Then am I correct in assuming that you have forgiven young Peregrin here, Paladin Took?”
“It’s not for me to forgive him,” Pal answered. “I’m the one who has been in the wrong, not Pippin here. And he says he’s forgiven me, for which I am so glad. But can you two forgive me now? After all, I have been such an ass!”
Reggie and the old lawyer exchanged relieved looks. The former smiled shakily. “I think I can, Thain Paladin. And I look forward to the day I serve young Pippin when he’s invested as the Took and the Thain. Although I’m certain none of us hopes that day comes any too soon. I’m just glad it won’t be me saddled with that responsibility. It appears that this adventure of theirs has helped prepare Pippin and Merry well for the day they must take up their own positions of authority within the Shire.”
“And Sam, too,” Pippin added. “Frodo has made him and Rosie Master and Mistress of Bag End and the Hill. He’s going to have quite a say in how the Shire goes on now, is Sam Gamgee.”
Bernigard Took nodded thoughtfully. He had the feeling that when he went to his own rest the Shire would continue to do well under the direction of these three. But he still found he mourned for the loss to the Shire of Frodo Baggins, who would, in his estimation, have made the best successor to himself as Master of the Shire’s Guild of Lawyers.