"Merry, listen very carefully." Gandalf held the little hobbit's face in his hands. "I'm going to join minds with you. It might seem overwhelming and frightening at first. But I will try to be very quiet. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Merry sounded a little nervous, but resolute. "Will I still be able to h-hear Legolas and Pip?"
"That link remains now unless it is broken," Gandalf explained, "you are linked to Legolas and he is linked to Peregrin. But Merry, I want you to keep completely silent – I am going to use your voice, I will be speaking, but it will sound like you. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Merry was not sure if he could manage this, "I-I'll try."
"Good. Now Legolas," the wizard turned to the elf. "You have to be silent as well, but I want you to keep Pippin quiet too. Do you think you can?"
"I'm not sure," Legolas had experienced both Pippin's over-exuberance and his panic and he didn't even know which he would be dealing with. "He is fairly drugged at the moment, but scared, too. What is your plan exactly?"
"We don't have much time." They all sensed the need for urgency, but Gandalf realised he would have to let the other two know what to expect. "When Sauron starts to question Pippin, He will in reality be speaking to me. Merry's voice is close enough that He should not be aware of the difference. If you can shield Pippin, Legolas, and yourself as well, He should remain unaware of your presence. I will try to keep Him diverted enough that He will not see you."
"One th-thing, Gandalf," Merry felt a little presumptuous at questioning the great wizard at such a time, "Pl-please remember Pip is actually really there and…"
"I will, but remember nothing can guarantee his safety at the moment." Gandalf did not want to promise the trusting hobbit something that he could not be sure of. "But we will do our best. Now you must try not to think of anything, make your mind blank. Are you ready?"
"Yes… and G-Gandalf, I-I think the wraith has stopped moving… quickly!"
'I'M HERE, MERIADOC!
'oh –ahhh! gandalf?'
'DON'T WORRY, I WILL EASE MY THOUGHTS INTO YOURS, BE STILL NOW. Legolas? Does This Sound Right?'
'Almost – down a little more.'
'Good! I will go to Pip now.' The elf reached out in his mind, virtually without articulating. He found the trembling incoherence that was a mixture of muddled thoughts, drugged hallucinations and whimpering fear and carefully enfolded his consciousness around it, soothing and stroking it into stillness and sleep.
'WHAT ARE YOU DOING? LOOK AT ME!'
Gandalf realised an immediate problem was that he could hear the wraith, but not see it, although Pippin probably could at least see its form. He was not even sure whether the hobbit was conscious.
'not can see where be you.' Gandalf replied, almost feeling a smile as his own words formed into Merry's awkward-sounding mind-speak.
'YOU WERE SENT TO LEARN OBEDIENCE – NOW OPEN YOUR EYES!'
Either Legolas or Pippin had become aware of the order, as the hobbit must have complied.
'DO NOT RESIST ME AGAIN!'
'YOU WILL ANSWER TO A GREATER MASTER THAN I – NOW YOU MUST LOOK UPON THE DARK LORD HIMSELF'
Gimli, who was anxiously watching the mind voyagers, saw all three suddenly tense and spasm. They had all felt a ripple of pain as Pippin's hair was seized and his head pulled back. Then a wave of compelling fear and nausea, tantalising and repulsive, seductive and sickening, washed through them. Gandalf and Legolas were also aware that the small innocent creature could not begin to comprehend, and certainly not articulate, the evil that he was seeing. They were left with a deep soul sinking impression of blackness and despair. Merry was merely numb, like Pip, unable to comprehend the enormity of the presence but centring his mind on keeping still while the wizard used his persona.
Gandalf gathered himself to relax once more into his part – subsuming the adrenaline that tried to push his reflexes into an immediate confrontation. Legolas concentrated on his mental stroking and soothing, 'quietly, quietly, hussshh,' his innermost being whispered to Pippin.
Sauron touched the mind of the little hobbit. 'MALICE AND HATE YOU WERE SENT TO LEARN – I FEEL YOU HAVE SEEN THAT NOW – BUT STILL IT SEEMS IMPLAUSIBLE.'
'MASTER IT HAS BEEN TAUGHT'
'STILL THE MIND IS UNDISCIPLINED BUT IT IS MUCH IMPROVED. I WILL WAIT NO LONGER. TELL ME HALFLING – WHERE IS THE RING OF POWER? ANSWER!'
'YOU WERE TAKEN BY THE WIZARD – BY SARUMAN AT ISENGARD – THAT WAS HIS PURPOSE. DID HE TAKE IT FROM YOU? ANSWER!'
'HE HAS BEEN CAST DOWN BY THE OTHER ISTARI – GREY NOW WHITE – DOES HE HAVE THE RING OF POWER? ANSWER!'
'YOU HAVE LEARNED SOME DISCIPLINE HALFLING – BUT THERE IS STILL MUCH YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT OBEDIENCE. I MAY CRUSH YOU NOW OR LATER - OR I MAY JUST THROW YOU TO THE ORCS FOR FODDER. YOU ARE AWARE OF THE RING OF POWER? ANSWER!'
'WHAT WAS THE WIZARD'S SCHEME? YOU KNOW THIS – I CAN TELL. WAS IT TO BE TAKEN TO MINAS TIRITH? OR TO ROHAN OR ISENGARD? ANSWER!'
'sc-scheme? taked to tirif n-not rohan'
'SO THE LORD DENETHOR IS TO BE THE WIELDER OF MY RING OF POWER – OR IS THERE ANOTHER – ONE FROM THE ANCIENT LINE OF KINGS PERHAPS – THE SPAWN OF ISILDUR!'
'praps – not knowed…'
'WHAT INSOLENCE IS THIS! SPEAK WHEN YOU ARE SPOKEN TO AND NOT BEFORE – I DID NOT BID YOU ANSWER – SILENCE!'
Sauron's attention flashed suddenly towards the hobbit. The terrible Lord had been more concerned with gaining answers to help his search for the Ring until then. Now he began to focus on the source of the information.
'HOLD IT UP I WOULD LOOK MORE CLOSELY AT THIS CREATURE!'
Gandalf, Merry and Legolas all felt the shift in movement as the Witch King dangled Pippin by the scruff of his collar and the rope about his neck. The little hobbit started to choke, as his air supply was severely limited.
'PUT IT BEFORE ME!'
The three felt a painful jolt as Pippin was dropped to the floor. They also felt the little one's cringing terror as the Dark Lord physically, with what kind of anatomy Pippin would never be able to articulate, touched him.
'I STILL CANNOT READ IT – NOT FOR THE CHAOS – THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE! WHAT IS IT?
'aaaiiieee huuh huuh huuh huuh huuh aaaiiiee!'
Pippin himself had cried out in his mind as he was lifted up and thrown down against the floor. No twisting or turning in the air, his arms still bound, he was frozen stiff as he fell, all senses numb and useless, except to feel the smash of his face against the flagstones. He lay still, his body unconscious, his mind barely ticking, only bolstered by the continued contact of the other three, Legolas frantically trying to hide the little one's physical pain by leeching it into his own consciousness.
'YOUR MIND SHOULD BE SILENT NOW!
'THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE THAT TRIES TO EVADE ME!
'YOU CANNOT HIDE – ELF! I SEE YOU!
'BE GONE YOU BANE – INTERFERE NO MORE – YOUR MIND IS GONE – YOUR MEMORIES DECAY AND DIE! NOW GET OUT!'
"Aaaiiieeeee!' Legolas screamed out loud, a heart-rending cry of pain. Gandalf's eyes shot open to see the elf slumped forward onto Merry, clutching at his head in obvious agony. Gimli caught hold of his shoulders from behind and pulled him back to lie on the grass.
"Legolas, can you hear me?" Gandalf leaned over him, anxious both for the elf but even more for the hobbit left behind at the mercy of Sauron. "What happened? Have you lost Pippin?"
There was no response Gandalf tried again, taking Legolas's pale cheeks in his hands he pulled his face up to gaze into the blue eyes, but there was nothing except a blank vacant stare.
The wizard groaned in defeat and resignation – this could mean total disaster, not just for his companions, and not just for Peregrin. If the little hobbit were left alone to face the questioning of Sauron he would not be able to sustain the lies Gandalf had told Him through Merry. He would reveal the purpose of the Quest and all Middle Earth would be lost. But without Legolas there was no route back to Pippin's mind.
Just then there was a small tug on his cloak and Gandalf remembered he had broken his mental contact rather abruptly with Merry when Legolas had screamed.
"Oh Merry?" Gandalf knew what was coming. He was going to have to explain to Merry that Pippin was probably going to die and that the whole fate of Middle Earth was now in his cousin's well-meaning but rather inexperienced little hands.
Merry whispered in a tiny voice that the wizard could only just discern, "I st-still h-hear him, Gandalf, I-I've st-still got Pippin."
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.