Stories Told

Hobbits were a story-loving people. There were stories that were best told around the dinner table -- told in between bites of food and flagons of ale, with everyone around throwing in bits of the tale. Those were stories where it didn't matter in exactly what order the parts were told, or if you missed a piece because the potatoes were passing your way again, or the sausage was, or the bread, or the pudding.

Then there were stories best told after supper, beside the fire, with pipe and drink and your feet up. Other stories were for outside, with large crowds, and some were for inside, with just one or two best friends. Some stories were the stories your elders told when you'd got caught, and some were they told to everyone *else* when you'd thought you'd got away with it. Merry was familiar with the last two. Very familiar. He would have said it was all Pippin's fault, except when he did so, he generally felt bad about lying.

There were many more kinds of stories -- as many kinds as there were kinds of hobbits, if not a hundred more besides. No single hobbit knew them all, but the ones they knew they enjoyed re-telling, and any new story was always gladly received. Merry was thinking about another kind of story, though, tonight.

"Some stories for supper, some by the fire,
some for the clan, and some for the Shire.
Some for the children, some for the old,
And some are the stories that never are told."

As they had walked towards Bree -- in between dodging Black Riders -- he'd been unable to get those lines out of his head. Once he'd said them quietly to Pippin, who'd just nodded like he'd already thought of them and figured out what they meant. He hadn't, Merry knew him too well for that. But Pippin would have understood what Merry had told him, and he was too much a hobbit to worry it over when it couldn't be helped.

Merry had managed to put it out of his head when they had arrived in Bree. The town of Men and Hobbits was strange and new enough to curtail any tales out of turn. But now they were in the forest again, traveling with the man they'd met at the Prancing Pony. Merry couldn't deny he seemed on their side -- on Gandalf's and Frodo's side, that was, the same as he and Pippin.

Frodo seemed to trust him, at any rate, and that was enough for Merry. Strider might well get them to Rivendell, safely and swiftly. But he was a Man, not a hobbit.

Some stories were not for Men.

The group was stopped for the night, hunkered down in a pale excuse for a camp, in Merry's opinion. He hadn't camped much, but he'd have thought a fire a necessity. Fire, warm supper after a warm dinner, and a pipe or two before bed. Instead, they'd had one cold supper and no fire, and as he'd pulled out his pipe, Merry had gotten a look from Strider which said he was better off not even trying to point out it was a simple part of a proper bedtime ritual.

Smoking a pipe would have helped take his mind off other things. Things like the bed rolls, scattered about the small camp. Strider at one edge of the circle, nearly opposite Merry, still sitting up to keep watch. The other three hobbits lay around where the fire should have been: Frodo to one side of Strider, Sam beyond him. Pippin lay past Strider's other side, with Merry, past him. Close enough to reach out and touch.

But far away, all the same. Merry didn't know if he would sleep, tonight. He couldn't remember a day in his life he'd spent without Pippin, and for the last many years, there was not a night he'd slept without him.

Close enough to touch wasn't close enough. But among hobbit kind there were stories that were not told beyond the Shire, and trusty-worthy as a man might be, he was still a Man.

Next Story: Dreams of Air