Those of Saruman’s men who had been stationed to watch the borders of Tookland got a rude awakening on the night of November 3. As they slept, they heard the sound of the Thain’s horn ringing out in the dark, and they sprang up cursing to find the threat and put it down.
They did not find the small group of rebellious hobbits they had been expecting. Instead, they were confronted by a large band that had every appearance of an army, and which would not be easily dispersed and sent packing.
Nevertheless, the men tried to fight, expecting that a show of arms would cow their opponents, as it always had before. Their mistake was soon made clear when they found themselves surrounded, with several of their number lying dead and wounded on the ground.
Suddenly and without warning, the silent crowd around them parted, to let pass a single figure, taller than the rest, on a pony. He showed no sign of fear, although he faced armed enemies several times his size, and although he had no protection but his companions and the sword at his side.
When he reached the front, he raised his head and looked straight at them, unblinking.
“My name”, he said clearly, “is Peregrin Took, and I am here to offer you a choice. You will either leave the Shire on your own legs right now, or you will remain here forever in a shallow unmarked grave. I have every able-bodied hobbit in this country behind me, and we will tangle with you if you force it upon us. If it comes to that, we will win. Never doubt it.”
The biggest of the men sneered at him. “You really think you can defeat us, with the strength of Sharkey behind us? Your people have tried to rebel before, and we crushed them in our hands.”
Pippin rode closer to him, and spoke, coldly and calmly.
“I have walked through fire and death and madness, and I have survived, and I have come home. I killed a troll with this very sword. I have saved the lives of great men when I could, and watched them die when I could not. I have seen those I love crushed and broken and maddened by fever. I am a friend of the King, and a soldier of Gondor. And now, I will lead my people to the rout, and we will not stop until every last one of you is gone from the Shire. My answer is yes, then. I really think we can defeat you. Who cares to test me?”
Only a few, it transpired. They lunged to pull him from his pony, but they did not get far. Arrows were loosed, Pippin’s sword flashed, and his attackers fell dead. The survivors turned tail and ran, chased to the southern borders of Tookland by the hobbits Pippin led.
Only when he was sure they would not be returning did Pippin go back to the house of his father, to prepare for the battles to come. He had not been sure but he knew, now, that this war would be won.