Merry woke with a start. They had not meant to fall asleep there was no knowing when the Nazgûl would return and they could not risked being questioned, they had to carry out their plan first.
Something had woken Merry and as Smagnu spoke again he realised that it had been the voice of the Uruk who was now shaking him as well. "Wake up new little Pip?"
Merry sat up and felt for Pippin. "I'm awake Mr Smagnu, I didn't mean to go to sleep."
Pippin sat up as well and felt for his cousin's mind. 'My orc bringed food merr…'
Pippin began busying himself with the new supply of bread and honey. There was also another cake to go with the first, still uneaten, so now they could have one each. As well as the feast Smagnu had brought them a half bottle of orc whiskey, which Pippin hated but it was a kind thought. He had a sudden kind thought of his own.
'merr… get all the mith pennies… give my orc.'
'will pip… bested he have all…'
Together they began scrabbling around, Pippin under the cot mattress and Merry in his pockets and the waistband of his breeches. Smagnu watched them both with puzzlement. Once all the coins were collected in Pippin's hand he reached up and took hold of the Uruk's mighty fist and turned it palm upwards and carefully poured the little store of treasure, about 30 coins, into the amazed orc's hand.
"Where did you get all this little Pip?" Smagnu knew he couldn't hear or answer but he was getting used to the other one responding now as if he were little Pip's ears and mouth.
"Err he just had it in his pockets and forgot." Merry tried. Then added quickly. "But he wanted you to have it all."
"Do you know what these are worth?" Smagnu's eyes widened in disbelief as he counted the small coins.
"No, is it a lot?" Merry was not sure if Smagnu was talking to himself or to him.
"Well I don't know either, but it's a small fortune." Smagnu concluded. "Why does little Pip want me to have them. What do you want? I can't let you go, you do both know that, don't you?"
"Yes, we know." Merry had not even thought of bribing the orcs with the coins to escape and, with the possible exception of Smagnu, he would not trust them anyway. "It's just that you were very kind and… and…we're not…"
Merry trailed off as Pippin tugged at his sleeve to get his attention. 'he make smile at us merr… my orc go pleased'
Smagnu knelt down so that he was level with his little Pips. "You know if it were up to me," he spoke very quietly, "no one would touch either of you. I've never known… that is… well it's a lot of money for wanting nothing in return."
Smagnu stood up again. What he was trying to tell them, but did not know how, was that no one but Pip had ever given him a present before. Just given him something, without him needing it or taking it or threatening violence. The feeling was so alien he did not even know how to say thank you.
"I know you can't help us," Merry realised there was something they needed to know and Smagnu might just have the information. "but do you know when… when th-the wr-wraith is coming back?"
Smagnu unfastened a money pouch that he kept tied close to his skin and stowed the money away inside. "Last I heard he was flown out to the battle, there's fighting in Minas Tirith, so I reckon he'll not be back a'fore tonight." He patted both the hobbits on the head ruffling their hair slightly. "You two eat your food." Then, because he did not know what else to say, he left them alone again.
'orc sayed we got big time wraith 'fore comed…'
'…how big merr…/
'…can't know night day here merr…'
'…oh… i not know…it go dark?'
'…is…we in dunge - not wind-y-oes … wind-does.'
'…we eat… then do…'
Pippin had made their food ready and pushed Merry down on the cot and put a piece of bread and honey in his hand, licking up the honey that ran down his cousin's wrist. Rather than waste the whiskey Pippin had devised a recipe of his own. He peeled the orange and using one of the little bowls he had rinsed out in the jug water, poured some whiskey over the pieces. He then put sugar, stolen from the storeroom and kept back from Grutfley, on the soused orange segments, together with some honey. He decided they would go well with the poppy juice later...when… when… best not to think about it yet.
They finished all the bread and honey and then nibbled the cakes – slowly. It was difficult, as they were good cakes but they knew what was at the end. Pippin gradually nudged closer to the older hobbit until they were snuggled together, Merry was now getting used to Pip's fairly pungent state.
'merr… we go talk at Legolas?'
'…say bye he?'
'…say he give bye others too.'
'…say bye at ma 'n' pa, merr… they not knowed where we…'
'…oh bested they not knowed where we be at – what happed us, pip… not ma… she go too sad.'
'…but pa… got know i not runned 'way… i would been good at thain…'
Merry felt a surge of guilt when Pip said this. It was shortly after the chocolate incident which he now remembered that his father and uncle had given him a talking to and charged him with the responsibility of looking out for Peregrin, the future Thain of the Shire. They said that he, as the older of the two, and future Master of Buckland should take the lead and set a good example and, most importantly, keep Pippin out of trouble. "Sorry Papa," Merry said out loud so Pip could not hear, "all I've done is lead him to his death."
'…we call at Legolas now pip…he think what say at they…'
They held hands tightly and concentrated hard on making contact with the elf.
'legolas!… it we… you sayed things at we?'
'Merry? Pippin? What happened little ones? Did you remember everything, Merry?'
'did… all 'membrered now…'
'Where are you both?'
'in dunge…in the blacked tow… we in trub!'
'…not you go think bad us legolas… we be… we taked care it…'
'One at a time.' Legolas was inundated with two hobbits speaking in his head at once. "Merry you go first.
'…we not get 'scape… Wraith come soon… gone ask we cest- quet- not can sayed it.'
'… is "cest-yons" – we not get do lies at he… not think so…'
'…my turns… legolas… you got do say byes for us…'
'What do you mean Pip? I've got to say goodbye for you?'
'…to all other… gandalf… gmil-li… strider…e-ow… big king… all.'
'… and at ma and pa's we both… sorry not be mastrer buck-land… pa go be sad… ma go be sad i not comed back…'
'… and i not be thain… tell pa… i would be good at thain… but not can't do…'
'Oh my precious hobbits. Have you given up all hope? Please try to hold on a little longer. The war is just gathering speed and…'
'no! … legolas, it why we not waited more… we got die now!… or we tell all much to wraith…'
'… he get frodosam and you knowed what… we not wait… can't do… we got poppy… we gone go drink now…'
'…bye legolas, love at you… tell other ones love too…'
'… bye me legolas… 'membrer us… maybe we get song?'
'No! Merry! Pippin! Don't!'
The hobbits squeezed hands and scrunched up their faces as they pushed the elf out of their minds.
'…we get go good at this pip…'
'… shame not do much more at…'
'…what make i more sad…i not heared you talk or laugh more'
'…can try in head… list i now…'
Merry drew a deep breath and held it in deep concentration and speaking out loud tried to transmit the words at the same time. It was very difficult. "This is me talking properly to you Peregrin Took."
Pippin heard. 'this isss mee talkering prop–lerly tooo yoooo Pergerine Took!'
'…ha ha tee hee!'
'pip you go laughing like littlel bells!'
'and you go talks like will whit-thing'
'…i go sad too pip… not see your face more…'
Pippin suddenly realised once more that Merry was in a worse position. At least they could communicate now and he was getting used to the funny hobbity language they used in their minds. He was even getting fluent at understanding it when Merry spoke. But Merry would never ever see him again.
'…we bested get it done then…' Pippin began to uncork the little bottles setting them in a row on the floor against the wall.
'…i putted the bottlels here on wall merr so taked corks out …you want pee first?'
'…no i not need…'
Pippin looked at the bucket thoughtfully and put the little bottles down and, picking up the bucket and the jug, went to the cell door and rattled the jug on the grille.
'what you do pip?"
'…get some drink…'
The jailer shuffled over and opened the door. He looked down at the little creature holding up the half-full bucket and the empty water jug and took them with a sigh. "I don't know you's drinks it and pees it faster 'n I can carry it." But in spite of the complaint, he brought back an empty bucket and a full jug and Pippin rewarded him with his biggest smile, although Smagnu had already rewarded him with his extra coin.
Now Pippin set to work. He poured half the jug contents into the bucket and placed it near the grille so that there was some light cast on it from outside. Then he went to Merry and took him by the hand pulling him over to where the bucket was. He took a very deep breath and held it.
'…gone try merr… 'membrer legolas do? show me face of you…'
'…'membrers…when you in dark… make you go sleep…'
'… think hard in my head… like legolas do… see at where i sees…'
Merry also took a deep breath and held Pippin's hand tightly almost bruising it with the tension. Pippin gazed down at the bucket, staring hard at his own reflection.
Wait… wait… a pause… a beat…
'Pip! I sees you! I do! make a smile!'
'Oh pip you go cry… please… pip… oh…'
'…you go cry too…sorry cry…'
'…sorry pip not make you cry more… see you… see your face!'
'... got stops now… can't more… 'membrer face merr…'
'… will 'membrer not stop 'membrer… evrer pip… oh pip!'
Pippin collapsed against Merry suddenly. The effort in sustaining that kind of transmission was exhausting for the elf and totally brain numbing for a hobbit.
Merry stroked Pippin's hair and held him close, his heart thumping so loudly he could hear it but still savouring every second of the wavering reflected image he had just seen. He was mortified that it had cost his little Pippin so much hurt to bring it to him. But so overwhelmed with the gift of seeing Pippin one more time before they died he thought his pounding heart would break.
'…take poppy now merr…' Pippin's voice sounded weak and far away.
'…did get all corks out?'
'…did… get one bottlel each now…'
Pippin pulled himself up and staggered a little as he made his way to pick up the little containers of death. He picked up Merry's five and put four on the end of the cot.
'…there you one merr… other go here'
He guided Merry's hand so that he could find the other bottles. Then he fetched the remaining five and put those at the other end of the cot, keeping one to start with.
'pip… how much bottlels it take you thinks?'
'take i 3 p'raps 4… but i go used it lot now… you take 2 and 3 p'rap…'
'…we got do now…'
'…hold hand… keep hold…'
They clutched tightly and Pippin closed his eyes as they both started to drink the first bottle. Normally Pippin relished the taste, but now it was bitter and vile, it was taking him away from his Merry.
'hold i close merr… don't want die not touch you…'
'alwayses hold you pip… day you borned - day you die… alwayses…'
Merry thought back to the day Pippin was born. His mother had gone to help her sister-in-law during the last stages of her pregnancy and Merry had gone too. He had complained that the Took household was full of silly girls. He was at an age when he dismissed all girls as silly although 5 year old Pervinca was in awe of him and 11 year old Pimpernel felt superior to him and 15 year old Pearl regarded him as another nuisance.
There were many hushed whispers about the household regarding whether the baby would be a boy or girl. Merry caught some of the gossip, although he failed to see the fuss. Apparently his Aunt Eglantine was getting too old to have more children but the Tooks needed a male heir. This had to be a boy, it was the last chance.
Merry could not see why one of the girls shouldn't become the Thain, Pearl was certainly bossy enough, but he would be glad if it was a boy, he had quite enough silly girl cousins already.
Then the baby was born and it was a boy, but still there was much shaking of heads and worried looks about the Great Smials. Merry had asked his mother what was up, were they not happy now they had a new boy. "Well yes, Meriadoc," she had explained gently. "But he is very small and weak, we are not sure if… if…"
"If what Mamma? If he'll be big enough to be Thain one day?"
"Yes. But I'm sure he'll grow."
"Can I see him, Mamma? As he's new today. I never saw a brand new baby."
"Very well, just for a moment, if you're very good."
So Merry was taken into the nursery. His Uncle Paladin was there as if he were standing guard over his new son, gazing down at him, willing him to grow and thrive, or so it seemed to 8-year-old Merry.
Merry peered down into the cradle and was entranced. The tiny baby had the pointiest ears he had ever seen and a tiny snub of a nose and little rosebud lips. But what impressed him the most was, when Merry surreptitiously put his finger into the minuscule hand, it grabbed on and held tight as if it would never let go.
"Oh Merry! You mustn't touch the baby." His mother cried in anguish.
"He's holding me Mamma, really tight. I dursn't pull away." Merry looked anxiously up at his uncle expecting a telling off, but his Uncle merely smiled.
"He's a tenacious little thing, for all that he's so small." Uncle Paladin said with a look of pride.
Merry had wondered at the time what the word 'tenacious' meant, but as Pippin grew and thrived, he found out.
'…merr i go sleepsy now… if i not drinks nuff juice… you pour it i down?'
'…will… make you safes first pip…'
'…what think happed when died merr?'
'…we go over-heavs… be 'gethrer… all time… no bad things more…'
'…we not be 'gethrer…'
'i be too bad hobb't'
'no you good hobb't… you my hobb't'
'no i bad – so go bad place'
'no pip you not bad…not bad!'
'am – tolded big fibs'
'not to i'
'no – but did steal lot and lot'
'on–erly eat things – not big 'portrant things… and i too taked things…'
'merr you not un-standering i – i got go bad place i verra bad hobb't'
'pip please you not un-stand…. i not let you go… an' if you goed i come get you'
'from sunder sea, over heav… elves haven place any where – i come get you'
'…how you can merr?'
'can… cause i love you so much…'
'…merr love you… promsis you find i…'
'…founded you here…'
'…al-ways finded you…'
'…merr… i sadded when you forgetted i…'
'…pip never do 'gain… it see you made i 'membrer all!'
'…when we go die… may-be you go see 'gain.'
'…see you pip…an you go talk 'n' hear…hear you go laugh 'gain…'
'…merr we got take more juice now…'
'…do 'fore get too sleepsy…'
Both the hobbits upended another bottle of juice and downed it. Pippin had forgotten about the whiskey soaked oranges until now so he gave Merry a piece to take away the taste of the poppy and sucked one himself.
'…merr… what think over-heav be…'
'… think blue sky…white cloudses… birds sings… new drum at you …quiet one…there be mushrooms… and choko-lit… and pip and merr… we be 'gethrer… boromir be there too and we do thank at him save us orcs.'
'…oh think it that merr?… i go most sleepsey now…need drink more poppy…'
'…and i do too…hold i pip…don't let go…'
'…not let go at you merr…nevrer evrer!'
'…get more drink juice 'fore we go sleep… be sures we dead…'
'…oh dead… merr… can't… it too… still think i go bad place…'
'…not 'fraid pip, i comed with you …not leave you… stay you… hold hand…
Pippin dragged his sleepy self up and took his third bottle and managed half of it before collapsing across his cousin's lap. Merry's heart gave a lurch as he felt Pip's mind shut down and his little body go still. But this was what they wanted. He had to hurry now, Pip couldn't go alone.
Feeling for Pip's hands he crossed them over his heart and leant down to kiss him once more and whispered his own little prayer.
"May the Valar bless you and keep you, Pip
Safely now and forever
And may They grant wherever we are
We'll always be together.
"Good night sweet Pippin, my little one, sleep tight."