Merry and Pippin eventually fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms on Aragorn's bed, as they were both emotionally exhausted. The ranger left them to sleep, it was early for him yet and he had other business to attend to. Legolas too was quite drained by the whole experience and decided to take a walk in the fresh air to calm himself. He covered the sleeping hobbits with Aragorn's quilt before he left, kissing each of them lightly on the brow.
Aragorn hurried along to the main hall where Théoden, Éomer and Éowyn, together with Gandalf and Grima Wormtongue were in council.
"For two nights and a day now my riders have reported sighting the terrible winged creature over Rohan. I fear the Nazgûl has returned." Théoden looked to Gandalf, "Do you suppose they hunt the little ones?"
"This is grave indeed," Gandalf agreed. "I doubt their sole purpose would be to hunt down Merry and Pippin, although the risk to them should not be ignored."
"Your people, too, My Lord," Aragorn stepped forward. "They will not be safe here with the Nazgûl abroad. This place is too exposed and all nine could attack. You will have to send those who do not ride to war, the women and children, to a safer place."
"They will go to Dunharrow." Théoden turned to Éowyn, "Will you lead them, sister-daughter? The people trust you."
"What of Grima?" Éowyn asked her eyes cast down to the floor. "Would you not put him in command of the refugees?"
"Grima will ride with us." Théoden turned to his adviser. "Every man who can wield a sword and sit astride a horse will be expected to take arms."
"Then let me take up arms and come with you My Lord." Éowyn looked up at the King. "I am as valiant as any man and I fight as well. Let Grima lead the people to Dunharrow for I know he has no taste for war."
"I would not fight, My Lord." Grima spoke up now. "It is not in my nature or my bearing. Pray do as the lady says and let her join you in battle. I will lead the women and children and the two halflings to Dunharrow and safety."
"No!" Théoden was adamant. "I will not allow you to take arms sister-daughter. I know you wield a sword as well as any man, but do not ask me to suffer a maid to go into battle. It would cleave my heart if anything amiss should befall you."
"Yes My Lord." Éowyn knew that to argue would be pointless, but she looked with envy at her brother Éomer and then stole a sad glance at Aragorn. The tall ranger had become very close to her and begun to appreciate her skills as a healer. She wished that he and all the other men around her would acknowledge her skills as a warrior also. Should they fall in battle she would sooner be with them and facing death, than hiding in caves in the hills.
"And you Grima," Théoden continued contemptuously. "You will ride with us or take a horse and get you gone now. For we have no use for cowards at times of need such as this."
Grima made no reply but bowed low and backed to the door, he knew that his magic was spent. No longer could he whisper poison into the King's ear and manipulate the old man to his own, or his secret master, Saruman's will. He knew that Saruman had fallen, but that he was still alive and imprisoned in Orthanc. A plot had formed in his head to help the disgraced wizard and restore them both in the eyes of the Dark Lord.
The halflings, Grima reasoned, were cause of Saruman's downfall and they were also the wizard's offering to Sauron at the time of his defeat. He, Grima Wormtongue, would seize the little rats and take them to Isengard and then free Saruman and let him either take his revenge on the pair or offer them in tribute to Sauron. Their capture, he reasoned, would not be difficult as one could not see and the other could not speak or hear.
The turncoat for now was anxious to remove himself from the accusing gaze of the King and his new advisors. He bowed his way obsequiously out of the Great Hall.
Pippin awoke before Merry. His cousin was still wrapped around him and Pippin lay there in that first forgetfulness of waking, wondering where they were. Slowly he recalled why he felt so drained and tired. He had talked to Merry, but now he was trapped once more in his silent, lonely world. Perhaps it was worse for Merry, not being able to see, but the little hobbit wondered if it was as lonely.
Then he remembered what Legolas had told him. The Fellowship and all the Riders of Rohan were leaving – going off to do great deeds in the war – and he and Merry were to be left behind. Of course they would be in the way and of course there was little they could do to help, but it didn’t make it any easier. Especially now that he had talked to Merry with Legolas’s help. Once the elf was gone he would not even be able to talk to Legolas, let alone Merry. Perhaps Legolas would be killed, perhaps all of their friends would all be killed and never come back. The war would be lost, Middle Earth would be lost and he would never hear or talk again and Merry would never see him again.
Pippin untangled himself from the still sleeping Merry as he felt tears begin to fall. ‘I have to stop thinking like this,’ he told himself. But it was all too sad, he could see no hope, nothing good. The thought made him remember poor Boromir and the despair the man had felt in Lothlorien. '…and then he was killed by the Uruk Hai defending Merry and me. Maybe he knew something bad was going to happen.' The thought of their valiant defender, pierced with so many arrows as Merry and he were carried helplessly away, made him, if possible, even more depressed.
Pippin held Merry's hand for a moment, gazing lovingly but sadly at his sleeping cousin. Then his eyes wandered around the room. It was Aragorn's room, he had forgotten they were there. Aragorn would be going too, of course. Poor long-suffering Strider who had patiently nursed him and Merry when they had been so hurt and ill, never getting angry – well hardly ever – except maybe when he stole poppy paste.
Poppy paste – no more of that for certain once Strider was gone. Even though it had been quite a few days now since he had had any, Pippin suddenly felt a pang, a desperate need for some of the soothing mixture that made all his troubles seem to fade, all the pain go away. It even eased the loneliness for a short time.
Maybe there was some here, in Strider's bag, that was where he kept it. One little dip of his finger, what could it hurt? No one need know and it would make him feel better for a little while.
Pippin felt a sudden urgency to find the medicine before Merry woke up or Strider came back. He slung his drum over his back and, tucking the sticks in his waistband, climbed off the bed as quietly as he could and, very carefully, started to go through Aragorn's minimal luggage. The little hobbit was certain that the ranger would not travel without his magic paste, so it had to be in his newly packed bag.
The stealthy hobbit did not lift anything out of the loosely packed saddlebag but rummaged blindly around, feeling for the familiar wooden box. His hand touched something else. A smooth, cool object, that was electrifying to the touch.
Pippin knew at once that he desired this object more than anything else in Middle Earth. More than his new drum, more than mushrooms, more than poppy paste, more than hearing and talking, more even than his Merry. A clarion warning sounded in his mind as that thought flitted through, but now he had touched it, the desire for it overwhelmed him.
Carefully he lifted the dark glass orb from the bag and, hiding it beneath his shirt, he quietly opened the door.
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.