85. Telling the Tale
The halflings had slept soundly, even when they were passed up to sit before a rider, Merry with Éowyn and Pippin with Legolas, neither of them had awakened properly, although Merry murmured a little and Pippin opened his eyes to look blearily about, they were both quite exhausted and soon fell back into a deep slumber.
When they reached the encampment one of the men led Legolas and Éowyn with the two hobbits, carried by Mablung and Damrod, to a small dell, which was in the centre of the camp.
"I think we must awaken them if only for food. They are sorely in need of nourishment." Legolas suggested.
"Very well." Damrod placed Merry carefully on the bedroll that had been set out for him. "I will go and find something for them to eat and drink."
"And you Captain," Éowyn turned to the leader who had accompanied them this far to make sure the halflings were well looked after. "May I assist now with your wound? I fear you have carried that arrow shaft over long."
"I would be most grateful." Faramir had mixed feelings about the beautiful Éowyn tending to his shoulder. He craved her company, but was not too sure about her healing methods.
"Very well," She covered the still sleeping Merry with a blanket. "I will go to find my pack for it contains a sharp-bladed knife which I shall need."
Faramir nodded, "When you have found it Milady, ask one of my men to escort you to my tent. I will await you there."
Éowyn gave him a stunning smile and left in search of her things. Faramir looked at Legolas uncertainly. "Don't worry," the elf assured Faramir, "Éowyn took an arrow from my chest and dealt with it most efficiently."
"That's what worries me." Faramir winced a little as he remembered the efficient way she had snapped off the shaft. "Please let my men know of anything you may require." He took his leave of Legolas then with a respectful bow, and left him to see to his two halflings.
Damrod returned shortly after Faramir's departure with several clean bowls and spoons and a large pot of stew, together with some flat stone baked bread. "Will you wake the small ones now?" he asked the elf.
With difficulty they roused the pair and once Pippin had opened his eyes wide enough they gave him a dish of stew and bread. He automatically tasted it first, then handed it to the still sleepy Merry, placing his cousin's hand on the side of the dish and putting the spoon in his other hand. Pippin then broke the bread into pieces and laid these on a clean stone at Merry's side placing his hand on them again so he knew what was there.
Legolas said nothing but was very touched at the care Pippin took of his blind cousin, seeing to his needs before his own.
Merry asked tentatively, "Who's here?"
"I'm sorry, Merry." Legolas said, "I'm here and Damrod, who carried you much of the way down the mountainside, brought the food."
"Thank you Sir," Merry said, "You must be tired now." Then added quickly. "Does Pippin have some food as well?"
"Yes, of course, Merry." Legolas had prepared Pippin a dish while the younger hobbit had been attending to Merry.
The hobbits ate two large helpings of stew each and drank a bottle of water apiece as well as a good amount of red wine which was accompanied by ginger biscuits and they both rounded off the feast with a large apple.
By the time they had finished eating Éowyn returned carrying two large shirts, two of the smallest shirts she had been able to find in this encampment of doughty soldiers, and she was followed by men bearing bowls of warmed water infused with herbs, lye soap and cloths for drying. She insisted the hobbits should both strip and wash and bathe their hurts with the soap and herbal water.
They were about to protest when Faramir reappeared, his arm in a sling and a worn look on his face. “I would not bother to argue with the Lady Éowyn,” he warned the hobbits. “She does not shock, nor does she brook refusal in these matters.”
“Come Merry,” She said softly, “pay no heed to Captain Faramir, he is jesting. And it is not the first time I have bathed your hurts, now is it?”
Merry remembered the time at Edoras when Éowyn had gently cared for him, bathing him, feeding him and dressing him when he had been too weak to fend for himself. “I know, Milady,” he whispered back. “I’m just not sure who else is here.”
Éowyn understood at once. She remembered also how vulnerable Merry had felt in his blindness, especially his terror when Aragorn had first brought him out of captivity and into the bedchamber at Edoras, where she first met the halfling. He was lost, deeply hurt, on unfamiliar ground and could not even see. He had to be feeling much the same way now. "There is Legolas, Pippin and Damrod here." She told him, "and we are in a small dell so the people around do not see you, although you may hear them."
Merry nodded and let her help him out of his filthy clothes, appreciating the fact that she covered him with a cloth to preserve his modesty. Éowyn thoroughly washed his hair, borrowing a comb from Legolas to take all of the disgusting matter from the halfling's curls. She gently washed his bruised and battered skin and redressed the wound on his head. The men brought fresh water for them several times. Finally she helped Merry dress in the overlarge shirt and he curled up on the bedroll again, waiting for Pippin to be finished with.
Legolas had meanwhile helped Pippin to disrobe and he climbed right into the bowl of deliciously warm water and sat in it while Legolas poured more warm water over his head. Pippin washed himself with the rough soap, enjoying the feeling of the scented water on his abused little body.
When Éowyn had finished with Merry she came and helped Pippin to dry off and examined his foot at the same time. The bruises on his body she could do little to help, they would heal on their own with time, but she carefully unwrapped the now soaking bandages and, removing Merry's flute, which she put it to one side to clean and give back to its owner, then rebound the wound with a smaller and lighter splint, fashioned from wood for the purpose. She looked at his wrist as well and decided that a bandage would be a good idea, if only to remind Pippin and others to be careful of it.
Then, because Éowyn knew Pippin was in pain and because Legolas said he could feel the need growing again, the hobbit was given a small amount of poppy. He thought of begging for more, but realised that he was going to be rationed and was grateful for the little he got. He was also becoming increasingly worried at his need for it, especially as it brought back horrible memories of their attempted suicide. Pippin joined Merry on the bedroll and they curled up together and in seconds were asleep once more.
Éowyn gave their clothes to one of the men who said he would have them washed and returned, although there was too little of Merry's shirt remaining to warrant the trouble and his cloak had already been discarded. Pippin's coat was not suitable for washing and Éowyn considered throwing it away too, although it was not as soiled as Merry's cloak had been. Instead she wiped at it with a cloth dipped in the soapy water and as she did felt something slightly weighty in the pocket. She felt inside and withdrew a little cloth tied in a bundle about something that looked suspiciously like coins.
"Legolas, what do you suppose this is?" Éowyn held the little bundle out to the elf, not wanting to open Pippin's private belongings, but curious just the same.
The elf took the bundle and weighed it in his hand throwing it up and down a little. "Mithril coins I would say. I did not realise Pip had so many, he told me he had found some."
"What do you think they are worth?" Éowyn smiled at the halfling's enterprise. Not only had he escaped from Barad-dûr, he'd managed to show a profit into the bargain.
"If Aragorn became prisoner these could be useful." Legolas said with a smile. "I would say there is a King's ransom in here."
The Witch-King sped easily through the clouds above Mordor, watching with pleasure as the shadow cast by his flight darkened all the land below. He would be returning soon to Barad-dûr with those two wretched halflings in his possession. They would not escape this time, how could they? They were but two tiny insects in comparison to the might and power of his Master and the will that He could bend towards them if he chose. He would take them back to the Black Tower, they should not have escaped in the first place.
As he approached the Minas Morgul end of the secret pathway, an urgent summons halted his mission. His Master called. He must return now – at once! New information had reached Barad-dûr concerning the war. There was a new enemy, a previously unseen force to be dealt with. The halflings could wait – the orcs that he had sent to waylay them would hold them and they would be dealt with in due course.
As the Wraith reached the top most sanctum of Barad-dûr he felt his Master's wrath and fury emanating through the Tower.
Once he had entered within, the Nine were complete, all summoned by Sauron in his anger at what had occurred. "HE HAS ARISEN! THE ONE WHO WOULD CHALLENGE ME!"
The Witch-king spoke for them all, "Who have you seen My Lord? Who is this new enemy?"
"HE TASKS ME – THROUGH THE STONE, THE GLASS THAT WAS SARUMAN'S, FROM WHICH I DIRECTED – HIM TO BUILD THE ARMY, THROUGH WHICH HE OBEYED ME AND GAVE ME THE HALFLINGS – IT HAS MOVED ON AND IS WEILDED BY ANOTHER! THIS ONE WOULD DEFY AND CHALLENGE MY WILL!"
"But Lord, do you know who it is?" The Wraith asked again. "Should we pursue him in the flesh and strike him down?"
"I KNOW HIM – THE LOST KING OF GONDOR! HE LIVES! ISILDUR'S HEIR! ISILDUR SON OF ELENDIL WHO DARED TO SMITE ME, ABOVE ALL OTHERS I WILL HAVE HIS BLOOD!"
"Should we abandon all else to pursue him My Lord?" The Witch-king was still intent on his own purpose. "I am still in pursuit of the halflings. I am certain now that they know of the Ring and its whereabouts."
"MORE! ONE OF THEM CARRIES IT. THE FULL MEANING OF THE PROPHESY WAS REVEALED TO ME BY THIS UPSTART KING. HE NOT ONLY WEILDS THE PALANTÍR BUT ALSO THE REFORGED SWORD OF ELENDIL – THE ELVES HAVE REMADE IT AND THIS FOOL HAS RENAMED IT ANDÚRIL, FLAME OF THE WEST – BUT IT WILL NOT PREVAIL"
"But the prophesy Lord, what did you learn of the Ring from this prophesy?" The Witch-king was keen for proof of the halflings' role.
"SEEK FOR THE SWORD THAT WAS BROKEN:
IN IMLADRIS IT DWELLS;
THERE SHALL BE COUNSELS TAKEN
STRONGER THAN MORGUL SPELLS.
THERE SHALL BE SHOWN A TOKEN
THAT DOOM IS NEAR AT HAND
FOR ISILDUR'S BANE SHALL WAKEN
AND THE HALFLING FORTH SHALL STAND.
"WE KNEW MUCH OF THIS FROM THE STEWARD, BUT THERE WAS STILL DOUBT THAT HE WAS A FANCIFUL FOOL. THIS ENCOUNTER NOW CONFIRMS THE TRUTH! THE RING IS IN THE HANDS OF A HALFLING. YOU, CAPTAIN OF MY SERVANTS, WILL SEEK IT NOW."
"Indeed My Lord, I was about to recapture the escaped halflings when I was called to Your audience."
"THEN GO! WAIT NO MORE. THE REST SHALL HUNT DOWN THIS FALSE KING. GO ALL OF YOU NOW! THE WAR IS AT HAND!"
The Witch-king left Barad-dûr, certain now that one of the two halflings bore his Master's Ring. It mattered not which, they seemed to remain together in their escape, talking to each other in their simple mind talk. He would find them now prisoners of his orcs he was certain.
He approached the mountainside on his foul flying steed and let out a shriek of anger that echoed across the cliff and down into the valley. The area was deserted save for the bodies of many slain orcs. He could see several of his soldiers, including the two Uruks lying on the rocks below, but of the halflings there was no trace. His foolproof trap had failed and he was consumed with rage.
Pippin awoke still feeling tired. He looked around him and saw that he was still in the grassy dell beneath the trees, with pale sunlight filtering through the leaves and branches. He was wrapped in several blankets, and he was aching all over. He was dressed in a very large shirt, which came down almost to his ankles. This was just as well as his breeches were missing. No, there they were, hanging next to his shirt from a nearby branch, but they still looked very wet and were too high up for him to reach in any case. However his belt, with the sword and scabbard still attached, were beside him so he wriggled out of the blankets and strapped the belt over the shirt making it, he hoped, look a little less comical.
The little dell was a natural dip and Pippin could not see out and there was no one with him, more disturbingly though, he could not see Merry. His foot now had a new bandage although it still hurt terribly so he crawled on all fours to the top of the dell and peered out looking all around.
There was a large encampment, with far more soldiers than had come to rescue him and Merry from the mountain, Pippin thought there must be about 10 score men at least.
A large number of company sat in a wide semi-circle, between the arms of which the man that he had saved from the orc was seated on the ground, while Merry, also comically dressed in an over-large shirt and no breeches, stood before him. There was a white bandage bound about his head, stained with a little blood. It looked strangely like the trial of a prisoner.
Pippin remembered just in time that they were not supposed to mind-talk, so instead he looked about and, finding a stout piece of wood, hitched it under his right arm and hobbled into the semi-circle and stood protectively in front of his blind cousin, his chin stuck out and his head held defiantly high, dropping the crutch, to put his hand on the hilt of his sword.
He noticed the leader had his arm in a sling now and was saying something. Pippin glanced around guardedly and saw that all the men were smiling, some of them were even laughing. He took hold of Merry's hand and felt a reassuring squeeze. Then suddenly Legolas was there. The elf took Pippin's hand to lead him away and when Pippin shook his head Legolas shrugged and said something to the man.
As if by magic a rolled up bundle appeared and Legolas made Pippin sit down on it. He looked quizzically up at the elf so Legolas took up a stick and wrote in the soil. "They want to hear your story." Pippin frowned as he slowly spelled the letters out and finally smiled and pulled Merry to sit down beside him on the bedroll.
"Are you sure you're well enough to tell your tale Meriadoc?" Faramir asked with concern.
"Yes Sir, I'm quite rested." Merry sat down now with his hand firmly in Pippin's. "Although Pippin may be somewhat tired. What would you like to know?"
"My men are more than curious, as am I, to know how two halflings survived the horrors of such a hostile and terrible place as Barad-dûr and escaped with their lives. It is truly an amazing feat!" Faramir glanced around at the assembled company, "Although judging from your cousin's performance on the mountainside and your joint destruction of that monstrous spider I could almost believe the two of you could endure being brought before the Dark Lord himself!"
"Yes we did, but of course I couldn't see Him." Merry stated baldly. "I don't remember that much about it now."
A murmur of astonishment ran around the company.
"You mean that you both actually faced the Dark Lord Sauron and lived?" Faramir's voice fell to an awed hush.
"It was frightening," Merry agreed, "but I had lost my memory so I didn't really understand what was happening to me."
"What do you remember Merry?" Faramir asked. "Do you recall your arrival in Barad-dûr?"
"Vaguely," Merry admitted. "I had lost my memory, I think when I was kicked by a horse." The blind halfling was struggling a little to remember the sequence of events. "The traitor who took me tied me to his horse and that was when I was injured and forgot everything. Then the Wraith-Lord came down from the skies and took me and I think I was flown to the Dark Tower that way." He touched his hand to the blood stained white bandage. "So I suppose I wasn't so frightened as poor little Pip must have been when he was snatched away the same way and taken to the Dark Lord by the Wraith King. I didn't really know who He was, but Pippin did.”
Merry of course could not see the open-mouthed astonishment of the men listening and Pippin did not know what had been said, although he was interested to see that Merry was surprising everyone with his tale. Pip thought that Merry must be telling a very exciting story and telling it as well as Cousin Bilbo could, as it seems to be enthralling the listeners. He hoped Merry would tell it to him later as well.
"It must have been very frightening to have lost your memory." Faramir said with concern. "Had you no recollection of anything?"
"I knew how to walk and talk," Merry furrowed his brow as he pulled the recollection back. "But I didn't know that I was blind. That is, I didn't know what it was to see, I had forgotten."
"So how did you manage?" Faramir prompted.
"I didn't!" Merry frowned. "I fell over a lot."
Many silent smiles and a small ripple of good-natured laughter ran around the circle at this matter-of-fact statement.
"But then Pip's two orcs looked after us." Merry stated simply. "Mr Smagnu especially was very kind."
This brought wave of amazed whispers from the listeners. Halflings certainly were the oddest little creatures. The other two had been strange but this pair were astounding.
"You made friends with orcs?" Faramir shook his head in disbelief.
"Well Pip did really." Merry went on. "He was there first and Mr Smagnu saved his life when the orcs were going to tear him…" Merry suddenly stopped as a cold shiver ran down his spine. He collected himself, took a deep breath and continued, "and then Mr Smagnu looked after him and me as well when I came."
Pippin had been surveying the listening men alertly and noticed that the smiles were starting to evaporate and the men were whispering to one another, their expressions growing more and more astounded.
"Then we were locked in a cell together and that made me remember and because of that we knew we couldn't let ourselves be taken to the Dark Lord again because we couldn't risk being questioned. So we realized the only thing we could do was to somehow kill ourselves." Merry remembered in time that he could not talk about the Ring. "Pip managed to steal a lot of poppy juice and we drank it and we were going to die, we meant to, truly we did. But Mr Grumpfly came before we did quite and made us sick it up and beat us both till we came back to life and Mr Smagnu put us in a water barrel and we were sick again, so we didn't die." Merry knew he had to tell that quickly or his nerve would have failed him or the memory might have made him weep in front of all these brave men.
The brave men were now open-mouthed in astonishment at the resolve of the under sized, bedraggled little warriors before them.
"Then Mr Smagnu said he would help us get away and so we escaped through the secret tunnel that Pip had found all on his own." Merry continued still rather breathlessly. "We had to meet him and Mr Grumpfly outside, but we managed all right. Then we were riding to Cirith Ungol but a large company of orcs stopped us."
"How strong was the company?" Faramir realised as he asked, that the blind little halfling probably would not know.
"I could not say for sure as I did not have time to ask the others." Merry thought for a moment and added. "But I would guess score upon score from the sound of them."
"So how did you evade them?" Faramir prompted once more.
"We didn't." Merry said simply. "They caught us. But Mr Smagnu got into a fight with them trying to protect us and we thought he was dead and that was very bad. Then the chief was angry and beat us both and really hurt Pip's bad wrist." Merry squeezed Pippin's hand as he remembered the terrible pain they had both suffered, both physically and the sorrow believing Smagnu to be dead. "Then the chief took us to Cirith Ungol and he got into a fight with some other orcs and they all killed each other while Pip and I hid under a bench."
"That was fortunate." Faramir could not begin to conceive what this halfling had gone through – what they both had suffered – it seemed impossible. His simplistic telling though made it sound like a slightly rainy picnic.
"Then we met our kinsmen, Frodo and Samwise." This caused another murmur of surprise to run around the company. "Frodo had been captured and Sam had just rescued him, so we all went out of there together, but Sam gave us half of his elven rope."
"And where did the other two go?" Faramir asked with great interest now.
"Their path was different from ours." Merry did not really want to say any more as he did not know how much of the Quest Faramir knew or what could be revealed to this company. "But I could not tell you exactly."
Faramir knew better than to pursue this after his encounter with Frodo. "What did you do then?"
"Pip and I were frightened because the Wraith was threatening to take us again and we went into a tunnel." Merry shuddered at the thought of what came next. "We met Gollum there."
This news caused a gasp from the men who remembered the sneaking creature that had been Frodo's guide. "Yes, Legolas told me that you had encountered that treacherous creature."
"And his treachery was still intact. He separated us and then led me into the giant spider's lair and offered me to her as prey." Merry's voice quivered a little at the memory.
"You must have been very brave." Faramir observed and he shuddered at the thought of this blind little halfling in Shelob’s Lair, all alone and apparently defenceless.
"No I was very afraid," Merry said modestly. "Pippin was very brave. He found me somehow and he fought with the spider and She nearly killed him. That was when his foot was broken; She threw him at the wall. He couldn't walk but he gave me pictures in my head and showed me where She was so I could stab her, then burn her." Merry shrugged in the oversized shirt he wore, pushing back the sleeves, which slipped down over his hands every so often. "That was when I got covered in all that sticky, smelly mess."
"The next part I think I know." Faramir put in. "You had to set Pippin's foot and bind it. Then make your way down the steep path. That was when you fell."
Merry nodded. "Pippin saved me again. He is the bravest hobbit ever." Merry put his arm round his cousin now. "I fell off the cliff. It was mostly my fault because I couldn't see. But Pip tried to pull me back and I was too heavy."
This comment caused another general smile at the thought of the small halfling being too heavy.
"Then I tried to climb but I couldn't. So Pip managed to pull me up by using the rock as a lever – it was very clever of him."
"What about the rope Merry?" Legolas wanted to know now. "Pippin said it was magnic – I mean magic."
"It is," Merry nodded gravely. "It glowed so bright that I could see it and I was able to follow it and then it hummed to us to warn us of the orcs, and Pip could hear it too."
"That is a rope truly blessed by the Valar," Legolas bowed a little to the two, "as indeed are both of you, dear Meriadoc and dear Peregrin."
Faramir now stood and addressed his men, "The valour of the halflings is to be greatly admired and I would charge you all to treat them with great honour and respect." He then knelt before Pippin and took his hand. "My debt to Peregrin is also great, as is his heart."
Pippin looked at Merry, then at Legolas for some clue. Legolas just smiled and nodded towards Faramir, so Pippin turned his attention back to the man and donned his most serious face.
"Without thought for danger or fear of a mighty foe, he came to me as I struggled with a dire wound to overcome an Uruk-hai." Faramir stood now and gently drew Pippin to his feet, the hobbit balancing his weight on his left foot as Faramir turned him around to the assembled company. "This valiant warrior slew the orc and saved my life. I will claim for him from my father the knighthood that he so richly deserves. He shall be Sir Peregrin, Knight of Minas Tirith."
All the men now applauded and so did Merry, for he of all people knew how much his brave little cousin deserved the honour of these great warriors.
Pippin gazed in awe and wonder at this great company of men who all seemed to be looking at him and clapping. He suddenly felt very self-conscious and tried to shuffle his weight, but stepped awkwardly onto his broken foot. A spike of pain shot through the damaged bone and Pippin sank suddenly to the ground in agony.
At that moment he suddenly put his hands up to his ears as if in pain there too. He turned to Merry and saw that he had turned very pale and was clutching at his ears too, his face filled with horror. Legolas came to both of them then and held them around the shoulders.
'GET OUT ELF, I WILL HAVE THESE HALFLINGS, YOU CANNOT HIDE THEM FOREVER, I SHALL FIND THEM!'
'I remain, you cannot prevail, go back to your Dark Lord and leave these innocents alone.'
'legolas, what he thinks he do?'
'Hush Pip, don't worry.' Legolas was a little surprised at the rebellion that had grown in Pippin's tone.
'not scardred we, pip we go fight now.'
'make he big noises, not go come at we.'
'You shall fear me before the end, I vow you will relinquish that which you keep hidden. That which belongs to my Master.'
'you got find we firsted…'
'FOOLS! DO NOT PLAY GAMES WITH ME! Fools!'
'we got you go playded hide-go-seeks…'
'Leave now, foul creature!' Legolas saw that the hobbits were in a fighting mood; perhaps they had grown enough now to stand up to wraith mentally at least. 'Merry, Pippin send him away!'
'GO OUT WE!'
'GET WAY WE HEADS!'
It took a strange and new kind of effort for both of the hobbits to try and force their mental will at the Wraith, but the combined effort of the three seemed to have an effect, suddenly the Wraith was no longer there.
"What do you think he will do?" Merry asked slightly exhilarated from the trial of wills.
"I think he will certainly look for you." Legolas said with concern. Then added quietly "I fear he believes one of you is the Ringbearer."
"Well that is all to the good," Merry whispered back. "It will keep attention away from the true Ringbearer."
"But it will be difficult to evade the Wraith," Legolas pointed out. "He will double his efforts to take you both now."
"Well we'll have to separate then." Merry said sadly. "Can you explain it to Pip, write it down maybe."
"That would be for the best," Legolas agreed. "Although it grieves me to split you two up again."
"As it does us," Merry nodded, "But I'm sure Pip will see the need."
The three now took leave of Faramir and his company and returned to the little dell. Éowyn was there and had been thoughtfully remaking a warrior's shirt into a smaller version for Merry.
"Do we have anything to write with?" Legolas asked. He did not want to have to scratch in the soil a complicated message for Pippin as it might be misunderstood.
"I will see what I can find." Éowyn said with a smile and headed off to the main part of the camp.
The Lady of Rohan returned before long with a slate and chalk but before Legolas could write Pippin held his hand out for the materials. He crouched down on the ground, writing laboriously with the difficult equipment. 'Mer an me ned to go in difrent diretshons now! sory mer I wont to go wiv yu but weve got to go awae frum eech oter ovver.
Legolas read the message out to Merry and he smiled that Pippin had reached the same conclusion on his own. "Can you write back Legolas? Tell him 'I know and I'll miss him and… and…" Merry lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "that he's the best hobbit in the whole of Middle Earth - Sir Peregrin, Knight of Minas Tirith elect."
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.