MN. Chapter 3: Three Short Men.

Aragorn and I had been walking down the road for quite some time, asking people and companies if they could hire us for a couple of days. We managed to do a little work for random people, mostly consisting of mowing lawns or cleaning gutters - one person offered to let us shingle his roof if we were still around in three days.

Aragorn looked over at me with a confused look on his face seemingly for no reason. I just looked at him blankly and he turned away again. A few moments later he did the same thing again.

"What is it?" I asked, growing irritated.

"Is that… Hobbit singing?" Aragorn asked, tilting his head to the side slightly to hear better.

I strained my ears and heard a faint voice singing. I returned Aragorn’s confused look and we sped up, walking towards the sound. As we grew closer we both agreed it had a distinctive hobbit quality to it—although to anyone else I would have described it as Celtic.

"This doesn’t necessarily mean any of the hobbits are here, though," I told Aragorn, "It could easily be some drunk guy who happens to know some, er, hobbit-like songs."

"But it could be them," Aragorn insisted, "If we somehow ended up here, they could have as well."

I shrugged and we continued down the road, the singing growing nearer as we walked. We halted in front of the local bar, the music seemed to be coming from inside it. Aragorn and I exchanged wary glances - although I think I was the only one looking wary. I’d never been in a bar before and didn’t exactly want to start now, I figured it would be full of unfavorable characters.

On some hidden signal we both stepped through the doorway and looked around the dimly lit, smoke laden room. As our eyes grew accustomed to the lighting we were able to survey the faces of the people and, sure enough, picked out two short, child-like people dancing and singing on one of the tables. I groaned mentally, I had really been hoping it would be no one I knew.

"Merry, Pippin," Aragorn called out, grabbing the hobbits’ attention and stopping their jig.

"Aragorn! Rachel!" They cried, jumping down from the table full of smiles, "Gimli look, it’s Aragorn and Rachel!"

"So, uh, where are the others?" Merry asked although I’m sure even he wasn’t sure of who he was referring to as ‘the others.’

"We’re meeting up with Katy and Legolas in the Wal-Mart parking lot in a couple of hours." I said.

Gimli had walked over by now and already greeted Aragorn, "Well, lad, where are we?"

"Rachel tells me we are in a place called Athens, Tennessee," Aragorn stated, "It’s somewhere near her land, I think."

I nodded, "It isn’t exactly near to my land, but it’s nearer to mine than it is to yours." I said, "We’re trying to earn some money for our trip there."

"See, Merry, I told you that’s where we were!" Pippin exclaimed, "It’s got those magical carts like she was talking about."

Merry rolled his eyes and hit Pippin on the back of the head causing the younger cousin to pout a little while rubbing at his head and shooting Merry a glare.

"Er, Aragorn," Gimli started, sounding a little nervous with his usually loud voice rather hushed, "I think we may have a bit of a problem…"

"What is it?" Aragorn asked, him and me both leaning in a little closer to hear the dwarf.

"Well, see, when we came in here the hobbits insisted they get something to drink," Gimli stammered, looking up at the ranger nervously, "but I’ve been watching what these other people have paid with and, well…"

"You don’t have that kind of money." I finished for him, slightly miffed.

"Er, yes." Gimli confirmed, "We didn’t even consider the possibility our money might not work here, but…"

"It won’t." I supplied, "We’ll just have to pay for it out of what we’ve made today…" I paused, frowning slightly, "How did you manage to get them to serve Merry and Pippin, anyway? There aren’t any hobbits around here, they shouldn’t have been served."

Gimli shrugged, "They made me vouch for their ages, although I’m fairly certain Pippin isn’t quite thirty, is he?"

"No, I think he’s in his twenties…" I said vaguely. "Anyway, let’s go pay for it and get out of here."

Aragorn nodded his agreement and we walked up to the bar, Gimli and the hobbits following behind.

"That’ll be…" The woman checked some paper, "Sixty-four dollars."

"Sixty-four dollars?" I repeated incredulously.

Pippin and Merry were looking equally indignant next to me even though they had no idea how much sixty-four dollars was really worth. "Don’t pay her," Pippin hissed.

"The rum was very poor quality," Merry agreed, nodding firmly.

I rolled my eyes, "If it was such poor quality why did you guys drink sixty-four dollars worth?" I questioned, counting out the money we owed.

"Well, we had to try everything between us to make sure it was all horrible." Merry replied thoughtfully.

"Yeah, yeah…" I handed the woman our money and turned irritably to the doors.