57. Hide and Seek
'not heared i… legolas…'
'Maybe not, but from now on you must keep quiet. No talking to me and absolutely no talking to Merry. You make it more dangerous for him.'
'Just listen and don't answer. Keep safe now.'
But Pippin could not just sit in the tunnel and wait for Merry to be thrown to the orcs. He needed a plan.
First of all he went further into the tunnel going towards the outside. It was difficult as he could not see at first, but eventually he reached the light from outside and, even though it was dim, it helped him to see where the mucky water started.
Carefully this time, so that he did not get wet and smelly, Pippin dipped his hand into where he had left the mithril coins and hoisted his little store out. He unwrapped the little bundle and took a good handful of the treasure, probably about half, and distributed it into various pockets. Then he returned the balance to the bundle and hid it again in the water. He knew how highly the orcs prized these little coins and maybe he could use them as bribes if necessary.
Pippin then made his way back along the tunnel and, looking about with caution, stepped out into the corridor. It was the first time he had actually been loose on his own in the Dark Tower and he could hear his heart thumping loudly in his chest, so loudly it seemed impossible that it would not be overheard and he had to tell himself not to be so silly. He reasoned that his heart sounded loud to him because he could not hear anything else and he did not really hear, rather felt it. Nevertheless, he took a little sip of the poppy juice just to calm his nerves and then another just because.
It was very dark in this part of the corridor and the only light was from a burning torch on the wall some distance away. Pippin was not too sure of the way but followed the light as that seemed to make the most sense.
As the hobbit crept stealthily along his eyes darted in every direction. Not being able to hear made him especially vulnerable. As he glanced warily behind he spotted a shadow moving just around the bend, coming towards him. He sank down against the wall, covering his hands and face, with his arms his feet tucked beneath him, making himself as small as possible.
The patrol of 6 orcs marched obliviously past the hobbit as he crouched scrunched up in the dark. The leader had carried a lantern and after they had passed by Pippin decided to follow them – but cautiously and at a distance. He reasoned that any sound he made would be covered by their crunching feet, which must have be much noisier than his.
Pippin followed the orcs all the way back to the mess hall. Here was somewhere he recognised and from here he could make his way back to the big Uruk's room, but if he did that he would probably be put back in the tunnel.
The hobbit looked very carefully all around the room to make sure no orc was paying attention to the corridor he was in and then, as fast as he could, he scurried into the room and under the table.
Pippin realised by now that what he was doing was almost suicidal but he knew he would not want to live if he didn't at least try to save Merry. He reasoned that when he had been sentenced to death this was where he was brought, so if Merry suffered the same fate he could… he could… well he was not at all sure what he could do, but at least he could die trying to do it.
"There he is, trying to hide." Éowyn urged Windfola forward as she spied Wormtongue crouched down on the side of the road. His horse and pride having completely deserted him.
Legolas circled around to make sure the cowardly man could not make a dash for it and the two avengers closed in on the traitor.
Éowyn dismounted, her sword drawn, "So you betrayer, you have given up the little one to the Dark Lord, a foul deed for a foul knave."
"No, my Lady, do not be misled," Wormtongue whined up at her. "I was forced, I had no choice. the Dark Lord held me in his power."
"Liar – do not sully your act further with your mendacity!" Éowyn lifted her sword to the man. "I should finish you now."
He raised his hand in terror and scrabbled in the dirt. "Mercy, please I beg of you. It was not my doing."
Éowyn re-sheathed the weapon in disgust. "What mercy did you show to those two defenceless halflings? But I will not stoop to your level. I will not blemish my noble sword with your filthy blood."
"But prepare yourself for a long walk Master Wormtongue." Legolas added. "I will fetch your horse when we leave here, but I shall not bring it back to you. Neither shall I leave you food or drink." Legolas set his mouth in a grim line, he was not very forgiving to bullies, particularly this one who had treated his little ones so callously. "The Lady deems you should not die by her hand and I will bide by her choice, but I will raise no hand to save you either."
"Nor shall I!" agreed Éowyn. "You are at the mercy of the open plain, and I fear it is most unforgiving."
"Please, no you can't leave me here." Wormtongue grovelled. "That's the same as if you murdered me now."
"It's more of a chance than you gave to the halflings, to Merry and Pip." Legolas said quietly, "and it is of your own making."
"The halflings belonged to the Dark Lord's empire. Saruman gave them to him – not I." Wormtongue cried in desperation. "He gave them both to the Wraith, I know that was the spell he cast on them."
"What do you know of the spell?" This was news to Legolas. He had grown so accustomed to Merry's and Pippin's afflictions that he had almost forgotten how they came to be that way. "Speak, tell me more!"
"I have seen it done before, by Saruman," Wormtongue gabbled, trying to talk his way out of certain death. "He would cast victims into the shadow world of the Wraith taking a sense away from them. The sense whether it is sight or sound or touch or hearing would exist only in the shadow world of the Wraith. It is the Witch King who holds them in thrall!"
"And how would that spell be broken?" Legolas was almost prepared to leave the man some water at least if he could unlock this riddle.
"It cannot." Wormtongue realised this probably was not what the elf and the Lady wanted to hear. "At least in my knowledge. The Witch King holds the power of the halflings' senses and he will not relinquish it. Such is not in his nature, he exists to see such as them suffer."
"There must be a way to undo the spell!" Éowyn took her water bottle from her saddle and held it towards Wormtongue. "Speak Worm, how can the little ones, should they live, how can they be released?"
"Only by the defeat of the Witch King." Wormtongue shook his head at the impossibility of the task, "and no living man may hinder him."
'Merry Noooo! Merry talk at i… Merrrrrryyy!
'WHAT IS THAT? THE OTHER SPEAKS TO YOU AGAIN!"
'what is oth? not know.'
'THE OTHER HALFLING – YOUR COMPANION – WHERE IS IT?'
'not know – co'pan – what is?'
'THE VOICE THAT SHOUTS IN YOUR HEAD – IT IS NOT YOURS – IT BELONGS TO YOUR COMPANION!'
"I don't have a companion." Merry spoke out loud without considering why. The voices in his head bothered him. He did not know if they were of his making or if they belonged to something or someone else. The little voice especially bothered him. He wished it would go away and then as soon as it did he wanted it back.
'DO NOT TRY TO DECEIVE ME! SOON YOU WILL GO BEFORE THE LORD SAURON AND HE WILL ASK YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ONE RING. WHAT WILL YOU ANSWER?'
"I don't know what you m-mean." Merry felt himself dropped to the ground. He wobbled awkwardly and then fell to the cold flagstones. His hands were tied in front of him and he could see nothing except the white being and, more importantly, he could remember nothing. "I d-don't even know who I am!"
'YOU ARE THE HALFLING GIVEN TO THE LORD SAURON BY THE WIZARD SARUMAN. YOU WILL TELL THE LORD SAURON ALL THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THE ONE RING.'
"It will be a short conversation then," Merry felt he should know what the white being was talking about but he really didn't. "because I've nothing to tell."
'THEN YOU LIFE WILL ALSO BE A SHORT ONE!' The Wraith was not about to be thwarted again. If this halfling had nothing to tell, he would be no doubt sent to his death at once.
Merry saw the white being reach out for him once more. It lifted him up filling his body with ice and bitterness and carried him. It felt to the hobbit as if they were climbing stairs, a lot of stairs that wound round and round. Eventually he was dropped once more and this time he fell flat on his face.
'THE SECOND HALFLING, AS MY LORD COMMANDED' The voice echoed in Merry's head, although he could tell he was not being addressed, rather introduced. Was he a halfling? And if so what was a halfling?
Something touched him. Merry quivered. It was not pleasant.
'WHAT ARE YOU? ANSWER!'
'WHAT IS YOUR NAME? ANSWER!'
Maybe it was sheer terror or perhaps the name just popped into his mind automatically but Merry suddenly found an answer in his head.
'pip… n-name is b-be pippin…'
'WHERE IS THE ONE RING? ANSWER!'
'n-n-no – not g-g-gotted…'
'THIS ONE IS MORE STUPID THAN THE OTHER. IT KNOWS NOTHING!'
'IT DOES NOT REMEMBER, MY LORD – DO YOU WISH IT DESTROYED?'
'NOT YET – LOCK UP THIS, PIP. WE WILL HAVE IT LATER – WHEN IT HAS SOMETHING TO TELL US– AND WHEN YOU HAVE FOUND THE FIRST ONE!'
Merry felt himself lifted once more and saw the white being's face. He was carried back down the steps, he sensed the rocking movement of going down and down. There was something very frightening about the sensation. Something he felt he should remember, something terrifying that had happened before. To him? No but he had felt it. How? The little voice in his head?
It was too difficult, the thought too elusive. At least he had remembered his name now. It was Pip!
The white being was handing him to someone or something else. Not putting him down but putting him into other hands. He listened with trepidation, wondering what was happening.
"Keep this one safe. Do not let it escape, but do not destroy it. It has a name, it is called, Pip."
"Yes my Lord. I will give it to the jailer to keep under lock and key."
Merry was angry that he was going to be locked up. He wasn't sure why but the idea made him balk more than the prospect of being put to death. As the other something took hold of him, still holding him off the ground, he began to struggle and kick. But whatever held him was extremely big and strong and carried him easily.
Merry could hear noise in the distance now. It sounded like a cacophony of wild beasts that had somehow learned to speak in words. The noise grew louder and all at once he knew he was in the middle of it.
"Hey Grutfley! Corporal! I've got another job for you two."
"Is that another… Captain?"
"Yes, you're all right with these things aren't you, Grutfley?" The Captain's voice. "I don't suppose you've seen the other one yet anywhere have you?"
"No, Captain. Can't think who could have got that one." That must be Grutfley answering.
"Well you need to lock it up and make sure no one gets this one." The Captain again. "Keep it under lock and key and don't let anyone else near it."
"Very well, Captain." That sounded like the other voice to Merry. "You can rely on us."
"I know." The Captain handed the poor hobbit, who was beginning to feel like luggage, to the other waiting hands. "By the way, its name is Pip, apparently!"
If Merry could have seen the faces of the two orcs as they stared at their Captain's retreating back he would have seen two mouths that were open in stunned amazement.
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.