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Story Notes:
Based primarily off the movie version of The Fellowship of The Ring.
“Hobbits have been living and farming in the four Farthings of the Shire for many hundreds of years, quite content to ignore and be ignored by the world of the Big Folk.”

At least, so goes the conventional wisdom. For Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took however, despite being able to quite adeptly ignore the world outside of the Shire, the world seems unable to ignore them. It began in late September, in the year 1400 of the Third Age of this world. An air of uncertainty pervaded the Shire following the disappearance of one Bilbo Baggins on the night of his eleventy-first birthday, and whispers had begun to spread of strange, cloaked men roaming the countryside. This of course, was of no concern to Merry and Pippen, who were still a tad resentful of Gandalf having them clean up the aftermath of the birthday party.

“Merry, what time is it?” asked Pippin, sadly gazing at the prunish lumps that were his hands.
“And how should I know? I’ve been here with you the entire time!” retorted an irritated Meriadoc as he put away the last of the now-sparkling plates.
“Well, I was just getting kind of hungry and reckoned it must be about time for second breakfast, seeing as we most certainly missed the first.”

With a scoff and a roll of his eyes, Merry turned his back to the young Took, irritated both by his fixation on food and the gnawing hunger in his own stomach. In the silence that followed, Merry felt a greater and greater sense of remorse for being so short with his younger cousin. Turning and preparing to apologize, he was dumfounded to find a vacant field and no sign of Pippen. More shocked that Pippin had managed to sneak off without making any noise than anything else, Merry turned wildly about, searching for some sign of the hungry Hobbit. Finding none, he began the trek back to his own home, convinced Pippin must have gone there to find nourishment. “Lord knows he treats the kitchen as his own anyhow” muttered Merry as he approached the Hobbit-hole. Curiously, upon entering he found no trace of his cousin, and not a crumb of food was missing from the pantry. Confused but not entirely concerned, he concluded that Pippen must have gone foraging elsewhere for once, and went about the rest of the day in his usual manner.

As dusk approached and with it still no sign of Pippen, Merry began to worry. It was out of character for his cousin to stay away for so long. As he considered his next course of action, Pippen burst through the door, panting excitedly. He was clearly trying to form words, but was unable to draw enough air to actually say them. Finally, after a minute of gasping for air, he choked out “Farmer Maggot… not home… field open!” For a moment, Merry was puzzled, unsure of what his younger cousin was trying to say. As realization dawned on him, he exclaimed “Pippen! Didn’t anyone ever teach you that stealing someone else’s hard work is just not right?”

Sheepishly looking down, Pippen replied, “Well, yes, but you see Merry don’t you think we deserve a little compensation for cleaning up after everyone and all? It’s not like Farmer Maggot did anything to help.” Merry glared at his cousin for a few moments, until the suggestion began to slowly take hold in his mind. After all, no one else had bothered to help clean up, even though at least half the Shire had shown up to the party. Eventually, with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, he said to Pippen “Well, let’s get along then. Don’t want to miss supper now do we?” Gleefully, the two Hobbits set off along the road towards Maggot’s farm.

By this time, night had fully fallen, and it was oddly quiet as they neared the fields. Just as they we’re about to hop the fence surrounding Farmer Maggot’s crops, they heard the quick trot of a horse coming down the road. Who would be travelling at this hour, mused Merry. Thinking along the same lines, Pippen asked “Maybe Gandalf forgot something and he’s coming back for it?” Eyes widening in panic, the cousins realized that if Gandalf caught them sneaking about, he wouldn’t undoubtedly force even more chores upon them. Immediately they dived to opposite sides of the road, Merry up an over Farmer Maggot’s fence and Pippen into the shrubbery. In silence they waited as the trotting grew nearer and nearer, until finally a black horse quite unlike any owned by Gandalf came into view. Atop the horse was a strange figure, clad entirely in black with his face hidden in shadow. As the black rider drew level with the Hobbits, he stopped, tilted his head to side and produced the most curious sounds they had ever heard. Eventually, Merry realized it was the sound of sniffing, while at the same time the rider turned his head directly towards the sport Pippen lay hiding. For a moment he was still, until he stirred and began to climb down off his steed, still staring directly at the foliage that concealed Pippen. A knot of dread formed in Merry’s stomach and his instinct told him he could absolutely not, under any circumstances, let the rider find his friend. Unable to come up with a better plan, he grabbed the nearest stone and chucked it directly at the rider’s horse. Startled, the creature took off at a gallop down the road. Hissing with fury, the rider turned just mere feet from Pippen and set off in pursuit of his fleeing horse. The Hobbits waited, completely paralyzed by fear. They continued to wait, until eventually dawn crept up on the Shire, and with it a feeling of at least temporary safety. Pippen crossed the road and into the fields, where for a few moments he simply stared at his cousin.

“I can’t believe you did that” he said in a thunderstruck tone. Confused, Merry similarly stared at his cousin, until he continued “Did you see that sword that… thing had?” The blood drained from Merry’s face. He had had no idea the rider was armed, and realized he had probably just saved Pippen’s life. Quickly composing himself, he shrugged and gruffly said “Yeah, well… don’t mention it. Lets get on with it.” And so they went deeper into Farmer Maggot’s fields, collecting carrots and potatoes and mushrooms as they went. Not ten minutes had gone by when they heard rustling just a couple rows away, causing them to freeze in there tracks. The area had gone quiet again. Looking at each other, Merry and Pippen prepared for the worst…

“WHO’S TRESPASSING IN MY FIELDS?” boomed the comfortingly familiar voice of Farmer Maggot. “TOOK! BRANDYBUCK! IF THAT’S YOU TWO AGAIN YOU’LL BE WORKING MY FARM FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES!” With almost gleeful sighs of relief, the cousins turned and ran farther into the field with their ill-gotten goods. Constantly checking back to see how close Maggot was, neither of them looked at what was in front of them until they bowled over two travellers in their hasty scramble.

Dazed, Pippen looked down at the figures, and exclaimed “Frodo! Merry! It’s Frodo Baggins!”
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