6. King Théoden
Gandalf made his way swiftly down the Orthanc steps, Pippin was no weight on his shoulder and the wizard began to regret his decision to leave Merry behind. "Both wasted away to nothing," he muttered angrily. "I could have carried the pair with one hand. Can't be helped now. I'll send Aragorn up for Merry as soon as I get down." Gandalf continued his musings. "No, not Aragorn, I need him to tend to this little one. Legolas then, he will be swift and gentle."
But when Gandalf reached the bottom of the stairwell he was dismayed to find only King Théoden waiting there. "Where are the others, my Lord?" The wizard asked urgently.
"A band of orcs attacked the Ents with fire." Théoden indicated beyond the broken Isengard gates. "Your companions and Éomer went to assist them." Théoden looked at Pippin as Gandalf gently eased the little hobbit from his shoulder to cradle him in his arms. "So this is a halfling? You spoke truly Gandalf. Until now I thought they existed only in legend."
"Yes, but I fear he may die" Gandalf felt Pippin stir a little and moved his arm to hold him more securely. "He is very ill. And I have had to leave his companion on the tower alone."
"What may I do to help?" King Théoden felt deeply moved by the vulnerable little creature. "Shall I take this little one? Or I could climb the stairs and bring the other down."
"I must summon help for Pippin." Gandalf felt very torn. "I need Gimli to break this metal band off his wrist, for Dwarves are skilled in such matters. I also need the help of Aragorn who is skilled in healing. Legolas could go – once I find him,"
"Then I shall climb up and bring the other to safety." Théoden stepped onto the stairs. "Gandalf, you cannot be responsible for everything and everyone."
"Thank you Théoden." Gandalf was still anxious though. "But I don't think Merry will be willing to go with someone he does not know. Also Saruman has blinded him and he is badly hurt. I fear he would find it difficult to traverse the steps, even with help."
"And you think he will not let me, a stranger, bear him." Théoden voiced Gandalf's unspoken fears. "Or perhaps I am too old to cope with even such a small burden." Théoden smiled as the wizard did not contradict him. "I could send one of my men, but that might alarm him further. No I shall go aloft and sit with him and guard him. At least he should not be alone."
Gandalf could see the sense in this. "Very well My Lord Théoden, but let me send a message to Meriadoc, that is his name, but most call him 'Merry'. A message that will reassure any doubts of your allegiance. Say to him, 'Gandalf understood why you stole The Tribute to Smaug. It was a grand firework.' He will know what that means."
"Very well. I shall remember." Théoden resumed his climb. "I will wait for you or for Legolas to come."
Gandalf hurried out, with Pippin in his arms, to search for the three hunters.
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