For Lily the Hobbit and Cairistiona for their birthdays. Enjoy! Beta by RiverOtter.
Reginard Took slipped into the hallway where the Thain kept the rooms for his family. There it was, Lalia’s wheeled chair, sitting outside the Mistress’s door. It wasn’t kept inside the apartment as she tried to pretend that she wasn’t as dependent on it as she had actually become. It would be about an hour before Lalia the Fat was sufficiently done with her toilet to call for it so she could be wheeled to the dining room for second breakfast. They’d arrive before the rest of those within the Great Smial who ate in the public dining room so Lalia could be shifted to her regular chair at table and the wheeled chair settled discretely in a small parlor nearby where it was pointedly ignored by the denizens of the place and wouldn’t be noted by the many guests. In that hour this particular glue would be sufficiently set to be properly tacky, and hopefully would hold her for a more public transition than she wanted.
Reginard was a young Hobbit with a mission, as well as a small pot of glue and a brush. Making certain no one was likely to come upon him, he pried the lid off the pot and set to work, carefully painting the characters he’d learned the previous day. He was reasonably certain Bilbo would be called to examine the results of the prank, and he hoped that once she sat Lalia wouldn’t squirm and make the letters illegible, for he wanted her to know what he’d written here. And as he worked, he remembered his brief interview with his cousin Frodo Baggins the previous noon.
“You’re certain you’re willing to do this?” Frodo asked Reginard.
“Of course I am!” Reggie insisted. “I mean, you’d do it if they weren’t watching you so closely, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d do it anyway if no one else would,” Frodo agreed. “But she’s not likely to believe I didn’t do it, considering my reputation and how angry I was yesterday, so they’ll be watching me closely--and possibly Bard as well, and thinking in their hearts that one of us two did it, and most likely me. I doubt they’d ever consider that you did it. Oh, perhaps Bilbo and Cousin Ferdinand might think so, or maybe even your dad; but the Thain and Lalia and all of them--they’ll all be convinced that most likely either Isumbard or I did it, and will all be trying to work out how we could have done so and not been seen.”
“To have her stuck to her own chair--I know she doesn’t like being seen in it by most folks, but it’s not easy for her to walk too far at a time now.” Reggie gave his cousin a decided look. “But I’d like to write something with the glue, you know.”
“Yes, like fat pig or something like that. After all, she was calling poor Linden a skinny stick and saying she was far too quick for a maid and things like that, and had her crying last night!”
Frodo’s expression grew grim. “I know.”
“Now, don’t go telling Linden, Frodo Baggins, but--well, you see, I like her--rather a lot. She’s nice and sweet and a good brick and all, and...well, she’s pretty, too. I hate to see her so upset.”
His Baggins cousin gave a satisfied smile. “So, you’ll do this to avenge her honor?”
“Yes.” There was steel in the young Took’s expression.
“All right, but don’t go writing it out in common letters--they could tell by the writing perhaps who did it.”
“Then how do I make certain no one knows it was me who wrote it?”
Frodo was clearly thinking, and suddenly a sly grin could be seen. “Well, if you were to write it in Tengwar letters, Bilbo could tell them what it says, and it will look more like I did it, as everyone knows I know some Elvish. But if I show everyone this afternoon how to write fat and some other words in Tengwar it will make it harder for folks to say I had to have done it.”
So that afternoon quite a number of teens and even some tweens were gathered in one of the parlors where such tended to meet, and all of them were learning how to write words in Tengwar lettering from Frodo Baggins. Concerned as to what was up, Paladin Took wandered into the room with Bilbo Baggins at his elbow.
Watching as Ferdibrand Took carefully copied out a translation of bloody bully on a sheet of foolscap from the example provided by Frodo, Bilbo shook his head. “I have a feeling you shall be seeing such insults traded rather prominently for a time here between the younger Tooks,” he commented to his younger cousin.
“That’s all we need,” Pal sighed, pulling out his pipe.
Bilbo laughed. “I remember when you had me teaching you some of Balin’s more objectionable phrases in Dwarvish,” he said, “so you could insult Sigismond’s son.”
“That was different!”
“Was it really?” Bilbo asked.
Paladin packed his pipe and finally pulled out a silver matchcase his sister Jade had given him, and soon had it lit as he watched Isumbard’s sister Linden happily writing out a Tengwar translation of lumbering cow and her friend Acacia working on fat pig. “I just hope none of this leads to trouble.”
Reggie listened. He’d already mastered fat pig during his previous private tutoring received from Frodo; now he was working on ham-handed tyrant. He was rather glad he’d not been seen writing what he planned to actually write on Lalia’s chair.
In moments it was done--the Tengwar rendition of fat pig was complete and he was away, slipping into one of the public parlors where the fire had already been lit to dispose of the brush, and then off to the carpenters’ storerooms to replace the pot of glue on a rack where six such pots already stood. No way for anyone to say for certain who’d taken or used it. In moments he was returning to his family’s quarters, and ostentatiously clattering in the tiny kitchen where earlier he’d begun preparing scones for a late first breakfast. In moments his mother was with him, praising him for his thoughtfulness; and no one appeared to notice the scent of the glue on him as he set a cooking tray filled with finished scones on the counter where his mother split them and filled them with butter and raspberry jam. No one was eating heavily, for they knew that second breakfast in the public dining room would be elaborate today, what with all the family and Took relations who were filling the Great Smial for the Took moot being held. But all were praising Reginard for his scones, which they were consuming even as his mother was arranging her hair and his father was fixing the studs in his cuffs.
Then they were off for the dining room, only to find the way blocked near the entrance. They could hear a loud bumbling of questions and guesses at answers, while from within the dining room itself they could hear Lalia’s voice raised in shrieks.
Then all went quiet, and Ferumbras’s voice could be heard declaring rather loudly, “Here’s the robe fetched for you. Let’s put it about you, for we’ll have to cut away your skirt, Mother.”
Excited, fascinated glances were exchanged by those out in the hallway.
Lalia shrilled, “I won’t be seen without a skirt, Rumba!”
All winced, for all knew how much Ferumbras had hated that childhood nickname. And all could hear the frustration and barely-suppressed fury as he answered, “You won’t be seen without a skirt! You’ll have a blanket over your lap and a bathrobe about you. None would even know you were without a skirt if you’d only been somewhat quiet about things!”
“And I won’t be seen in my bathrobe here in the dining room!”
“I want to be taken back to my room!”
“But you were insisting that no one was to see you in your chair....”
“Then hide it!”
“How do we manage to hide the fact you are in a wheeled chair when you must be in it until we get you back to your room?”
Then they could hear Ferdinand explaining, “Everyone in the hallway is listening to all the two of you are saying!”
Voices inside the dining room dropped, and in a few minutes Ferdinand came out and had the hallway cleared sufficiently to allow the chair, Lalia seated firmly in it and seething with indignation, pass through, back towards the Thain’s quarters while Tooks and their relatives peered after her from intersecting passages and the rooms to each side of the way. All watched after her and the furious Ferumbras, who was pushing the chair, with fascination, and in the renewed buzz that rose once the two were gone were heard, again and again, “Somehow the Mistress is stuck in that great chair of hers!”
Oh, but it was a success! As Frodo had predicted, all tended to believe he had been the author of the prank. But no one could work out precisely how he’d managed to get from the rooms granted him and Bilbo on the far end of the Great Smials to the Thain’s quarters and then back to have half the youngsters who’d already eaten their fill with him in a parlor nearby the guest quarters, listening to stories while the older Tooks and their guests met for the obligatory second-breakfast convocation of the first day of the moot. Bilbo insisted that except for the brief time Frodo had been gone to the nearby bathing room, where he’d been in the company of Paladin Took and several others whose testimony not even Ferumbras and Lalia could gainsay, he’d not been out of his older cousin’s presence. “And as he went to the bathing room with Saradoc and Dinodas, I doubt he had a chance to do much in the period I did not see him,” the Baggins added.
On inspecting the fabric left on the chair adhering to the glue he’d laughed as he translated the writing there. “But you can’t say that Frodo wrote that just because it was written in Tengwar,” he noted. “At least fifteen teens and tweens were practicing writing such phrases yesterday, after all.”
“Actually, I counted nineteen,” Paladin added.
At last the matter was dropped. A new cushion was fabricated for the chair, and Lalia admitted that actually it added to her comfort for those times when she rode in it. But she never gave over her suspicion that it had been Frodo Baggins who had left her stuck to her own chair and made her dependence on the thing such public knowledge.
And each time he saw Lalia being wheeled by, Reginard Took had to suppress a pleased smirk. Somehow after the chair was replaced he managed to get hold of the original seat, and kept it ever after in his private study, where a sight of it and the framed sheet on which he’d inscribed ham-handed tyrant in Tengwar script always managed to leave him with a feeling of satisfaction.