42. The Plan
"You should be ready to leave in the morning, Meriadoc." Gandalf put his hand on the hobbit’s shoulder, startling him slightly.
"Where am I to go?" Merry asked in surprise, he had thought that he would be staying in Dunharrow.
"I have to go to Minas Tirith," Gandalf explained, "and I think I would rather keep you close by. The Wraith will not give up its search for you so easily and you will be safer with me to protect you. It will not stand against me."
"Oh," Merry sounded less than enthusiastic. "I just thought I was to stay here… with the others."
"They will also be leaving at first light, Merry." Gandalf had known Meriadoc long enough to sense that the hobbit was not telling him everything, but did not feel he should pressure him. "Legolas and Gimli plan to ride with Aragorn, so there will be none of the Fellowship left here. You cannot ride with Théoden and his men, so I think you will be better off coming with me."
"But if Legolas goes I might not be able to talk to Pip any more." Merry said in dismay. He did not tell the wizard that it would also upset any plans he was hatching for finding a way to reach Pippin.
"I think you will," Gandalf patted his shoulder. "Legolas seems to think you don’t need to be in close contact with him any longer as you have established a strong telepathic bond now and that through him you will still be able to talk to Pippin."
"But what if something were to happen to Legolas?" Merry asked anxiously, "If he were lost, then Pip would be lost too. That is I may never find him again."
"I know, Merry," Gandalf took the hobbit’s hand to lead him to the tent. "But that is a fate we all face at the moment. You being with Legolas will not make any difference."
"It’s just that, I know Pippin is going to need us really soon." Merry wished he could articulate what he felt. "and it seems as if we can help him more when I am beside Legolas."
"Pip!" Merry sat bolt upright, hands gripping onto nothingness, his heart thumping so hard he could hear it. "Pippin!"
Merry tumbled out of his blanket, pulling on his breeches and shirt, he groped for the tent flap. He made it outside but then fell over a guy rope, thumping down hard on the ground, grazing both his knees. Before he could jump up again a hand steadied him and then two hands went under his arms and effortlessly lifted him back to his feet.
"Take care, little hobbit." It was Gimli. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Gimli, where’s Legolas?" Merry caught hold of the dwarf’s arm to steady himself. "It’s Pippin, I think he needs us!"
"I know," the dwarf began steering Merry towards where the elf sat on a patch of moonlit grass. "He asked me to see if you were all right."
‘Merry, don’t worry little one, you don’t need to be by me now. We can still hear each other, and Pippin as well, when we want to.’
‘sorry i legolas – forgotted’
‘merr! legolas! you go waked up?’
‘what wrong pip? you go sad?’
‘no – i go be h-happy!’
‘Why are you happy little one?’
"Pippin! Have you been eating poppy paste again! Where did you get it, you bad hobbit?’
‘pip! strider be cross’
‘strider not gotted be here.’
‘then merry be cross!’
‘not find i it – orc give – put in mouf – mou-tttthh.’
‘legolas – he go drunked!’
‘Well, high, any way. Pippin was that what you woke us up to tell us? Or was it something else?’
‘elshh – elfff – no you go be elf – ha ha! – elssh – think – forgottened’
'try 'member pip – is imprortran – is big thing?'
'What about the big orc?'
'take i go up – not same – not think good now be.'
'Pippin, think slowly and do one word at a time, we can't understand you.'
'he sayed – go up steps – got differnent orc – some bad thing gone to go happ- happnen-ed – no – happen.'
'what merr sayed – go 'fraid bit – but poppy good'
"Legolas?" Merry said out loud. Gimli guided the hobbit over to where Legolas was sitting on the grass. "Do you think he's in trouble?"
"I don't think he knows himself for sure." Legolas steered Merry down onto the grass beside him. "Perhaps we had better wait with him and find out."
'Are you all right Pippin?'
we wait – you go say things pip'
'go in dark – bad – 'fraid it too big othrer orc'
'aaai! iimmm! mer… h-hel-p… nooo it he… comed back m-m-mmeerrry… too 'fraid'
'what is pip?'
'Calm down, Pippin. Tell us slowly, little one, take a breath.'
'wraith comed! nooo! taked i – holded i – meerrr… please… too 'fraid…'
'QUIET – BE SILENT! YOUR THOUGHTS ARE DISPLACED AND MEANINGLESS – WHY IS THERE NO CHANGE?'
"Merry, Don't speak in Pip's head." Legolas urgently warned him out loud. "Wait until we find out what's happening. We shouldn't have heard the wraith, but it seems the link is growing stronger than ever."
"What should we d-do?" Merry asked breathlessly, "We can't leave Pip alone."
"No we can't. Gimli, could you wake Gandalf and bring him here." Legolas asked the dwarf, "I think we may need his help before too long."
Pippin trembled in fright and horror as the big orc threw him to the ground in front of the black robed wraith. He thought he might be sick again, simply with fear, but the poppy juice was the only thing in his belly. The effects of the poppy were now turning sour, as adrenaline mingled with the opiate to send the little hobbit's head swirling and his stomach churning.
The wraith reached forward with its gauntlet-clad fists and plucked the terrified hobbit up, clutching him to his ice-cold, vapour-white breast. Pippin began to hyperventilate, his eyes grown wide with fear; he could not even struggle since his hands were tightly bound behind his back.
Merry and Legolas sat holding hands, listening in tense silence. They could hear Pip's rapid breathing and an occasional whimper that echoed through his mind and filtered into theirs.
Gandalf arrived, anxious and concerned. He had only had the briefest explanation from Gimli, who did not really understand himself what was happening. He put a hand each on Merry's and Legolas's shoulders.
The elf opened his eyes, which had been tightly closed in concentration, "Gandalf… I think it is the wraith, the Witch-King, Lord of the Nazgûl, himself I believe. He is holding Pip and I suspect he may be taking him to Sauron."
"Is Pippin saying anything?" The wizard asked. "Does he sound coherent?"
"Quite the opposite." Merry put in. "He's b-been at the poppy p-paste again – or rather some orc gave it to him. B-but Gandalf –he's v-very frightened."
"He does sounds very afraid." Legolas could not hide the anxiety in his voice either. "What shall we do if they start to question him – about the Quest or the Ring?"
"But is he saying anything now?" Gandalf asked again.
"No, he stopped when the wraith sh-shouted at h-him." Merry bit his tongue in annoyance at the return of the stutter. "We k-kept quiet then t-too."
"I want to attempt something," Gandalf knelt down on the grass next to the two. "I need the help of both of you and it is not something I do lightly – but much is at stake."
"Will it put P-Pip in more d-danger?" Merry knew he would have to agree no matter what. "Only I-I…"
"It may help Pip." Gandalf drew Merry to him in a light embrace to let him know he understood. "It certainly won't make things any worse for him. Are you willing?"
"Of c-course." Merry said at once.
"And I." Legolas agreed.
"Very well," Gandalf drew a deep breath. "Here's what we shall do."
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