As Merry was laid down next to Pippin he awoke at the jostling, although too exhausted to open his eyes, so whoever carried him to the cot, Gandalf he thought, didn't realise he had woken. Merry said nothing, he was bone weary and sore, but the cuts across his back were hurting and the pain kept him from sleeping again.
Merry was still very drowsy and it took him a couple of moments to realise that he was lying next to another body. He reached out to touch the face that was breathing so near to him, a very familiar breathing. The touch was only a confirmation of what he had known at once. The scent, the comfortable flavour of it and the texture of the body was Pippin. Smiling for the first time in many hours, Merry looped his arms around his cousin and snuggled into his neck. As he did, Pippin's broken wrist was squashed between their bodies and the smaller hobbit drew in a sharp breath and opened his eyes.
Pippin began to tremble as soon as he woke and Merry kissed his cheek softly and stroked his hair, trying to soothe his distressed cousin. Voices of the council at the table drifted over and parts of their discussion seeped into Merry's consciousness.
"I fear for them both."
"…enter Pippin's mind… whatever dwells there…"
Merry wondered what could be in Pippin's mind – was that the cause of his distress?
"…dark spell… Peregrin … a path into his mind … Sauron … place …claim. …look … palantír."
This was sounding more ominous to Merry every second. Perhaps Pippin had been laid claim to in the same way the wraith had told him his blindness had cast him into shadow.
The more Merry thought about it, the more he realised he had to do something to take Pip's mind away from what was troubling him. He placed his lips against Pip's cheek and very softly blew a raspberry into his skin. At the same time he unlooped his arms from the small trembling body and, bringing his hands to the front, began to tickle his cousin in the way that used to bring him to helpless mirth.
At first there was no reaction, but gradually Pippin stopped trembling and, although Merry couldn't see it, he began to focus on the external stimulus. Merry, however could sense the change in Pip's physical state. Instead of trembling with fright, he was quivering and moving his head from side to side as if he could not bear the touch.
"… marked him …Sauron's property, … sees and speaks inside Pippin's mind."
These words struck hard at Merry. The intrusion of something that had taken sole possession of Pip's mind made him fill with unaccustomed rage and not a little jealousy. The adrenaline pumped into his blood once more and he stopped tickling Pippin and put his hand on his cheek and began writing the letter 'P' then an 'i' with a fierce dot on the top, another two 'p's another 'i'. Before he could make the 'n' Pippin reached up to take Merry's hand.
The little hobbit turned Merry's hand over onto the blanket and with a trembling finger made an 'M' on his cousin's palm.
"pleasures are simple… food… pipeweed… each other. …fearsome enemy … Sauron …never encountered … before."
The words drifted over Merry and he thought hard about what he must do. Pippin needed to be distracted from whatever his internal pain was. Merry found his cousin's face again and kissed his soft lips as tenderly as he could. Pippin responded at once. Meriadoc mentally chalked up a small victory, his cousin was paying attention to him once more.
"…wraith …pursue them… Meriadoc …leave here tonight…"
That was what Gandalf had said earlier, that he would have to leave Isengard tonight. Merry vaguely wondered how much time had passed and when he would be leaving. The next thing he heard nearly made him cry out.
"Pippin is not fit to travel…"
But it was Aragorn speaking to Gandalf and Merry knew that any arguments in that direction would be a waste of his breath. He would wait, and when the time came, refuse to leave without Pip.
"He must leave directly."
No! But just then Pippin put his good hand up and pulled Merry's hair. He responded by gently pulling some auburn curls in return. Pippin wrote on Merry's cheek, 'O' - 'w' - '!' with a big dot on the exclamation point.
"…of healing? …sight and hearing be restored? …you can do Gandalf?"
Merry listened a little more carefully at this.
"It is unlikely that I can remove a spell cast by Saruman,"
"Poor Pip!" was Merry's first thought. But the second was for himself, believing that if Gandalf could not restore their sight and hearing, he would never again see Pippin and never again be able to talk to him. He clutched his cousin tightly, making Pip squirm as he pressed too hard on the broken wrist once more.
Pippin reached up to write on Merry's cheek. "c – a – r – f – i – l / o – v / m – i / r – y – s – t – !" It took Merry a little while to straighten Pippin's spelling out in his head. He smiled as he remembered trying to teach his cousin his letters and the beatings Pip had suffered at the hands of the schoolmaster. He remembered imitating the scratchy penmanship as he had forged Pippin's homework to save him from further indignity administered by the bully with the cane in front of the whole school.
He wrote back "s-o-r-r-y!"
"…two trusty riders… bear Meriadoc to Edoras … as soon as the other holbytla is well enough to travel."
Then frantically "p-i-p / I / g - o / w-a-y"
Pippin made a big "N – O !" on his cousin's cheek.
Gandalf came over to the cot. "Hello, are you two awake?"
Merry was becoming so immersed in empathy with Pippin that he had almost forgotten for a moment that he could still hear and speak. "Yes. Please Gandalf, don't make me go without Pip."
"Meriadoc, I don't have time to argue with you. It is decided. Peregrin has to stay here with me and you have to leave at once." Gandalf had another blanket in his hands and he gently lifted Merry up into a sitting position and wrapped the warm fleece around him.
"I should at least bathe those cuts and bruises before he leaves." Aragorn looked at the badly injured hobbit with concern. He turned to Gandalf, "It will not take too long."
"Yes I think you had best do something for the time being," Gandalf carried Merry over to the table and sat him there.
As he saw his cousin taken away Pippin tried to sit up, but was too weak to manage it on his own. He reached up his good arm instead, trying to catch hold of Gandalf's cloak, his face filled with panic.
Legolas came over and took Pippin in his arms, holding him close and rocking him slightly. Large tears welled from the small hobbit's eyes and he wept silently as he watched Merry being tended by Strider, knowing that he was about to be taken away.
Aragorn carefully washed Merry's face, soothing his hair back from the feverish brow, then he gently removed the fleece and scrap of cloak from Merry's back and, using a cloth steeped in athelas infused water, bathed the weals, cuts and bruises on the hobbit's upper body. As the ranger finished he wrapped the piece of cloak back around his patient's shoulders and taking out the box of opium put a little on his finger. "Open your mouth Merry, I'm going to give you some medicine for the pain and to make you feel better." He put the paste in Merry's mouth and gave him a drink of water to dilute it. As he finished his ministrations and wrapped the fleece around Merry again, Gandalf lifted him carefully up onto his shoulder and carried him outside.
"Please, Gandalf." Merry tried once more. "I was talking to Pip. He was spelling words to me."
"That's very good," Gandalf agreed. "Don't worry, Pippin will join you in a day or two. You can't stay here any longer. I fear the Witchking may return with others of his kind. I have not yet tested my strength against their combined force and I cannot be certain that I can protect you. You have to get to safety, to a place where he will not find you."
"But Gandalf… Pippin needs…"
"Merry I am not deliberately being unkind." Gandalf's voice became gentle. "This is for your protection and for Pippin's. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Merry's voice had a slight quaver to it still and hot tears ran from his unseeing eyes. "But it m-makes me s-sad, to leave Pip when he n-needs me."
Gandalf felt a sympathetic twinge run through him for the sorrow he was causing the little ones. But he believed it was the right course of action for everyone. "I know, I know." He patted Merry's fair curls as he handed him up to the young rider who waited outside the guardroom.
"Here Master Meriadoc." King Théoden took Merry's hand and placed a sealed envelope in it. Although Merry could not see it, he could feel the indents of a sealing wax impression. "Take this with you. It is my seal containing a letter that will give you introduction to the Court at Meduseld."
"Thank you, my Lord." Merry sniffed as he composed himself. "You are most kind."
"That's better." Gandalf patted Merry's arm. "Safe journey and we will be with you in 2 or 3 days. I know you will be brave, Merry. Trust me to look after Pippin."
Merry felt the strong arms of the rider surround him and the warm body of the horse underneath. As they leapt forward into the night, he soon gave way to his constant darkness and fell into a deep sleep and dreamed that he and Pippin were running through the Shire. They were laughing as they ran, having just plundered Maggot's field, not because they needed what was there. They just enjoyed the challenge.
In the midst of his laughter he looked at Pip and saw to his horror that he had no mouth and his sweet little pointed ears had curled up and become decayed. As he screamed in fright, Farmer Maggot, suddenly black and terrible, fell upon him, blocking out the sun and crushing him into darkness.
The rider who held the strange little creature looked down to see that it was asleep, but sobbing with grief.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.