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Recaptured!: 12. Interlude
As Merry was laid down next to Pippin he awoke at the
jostling, although too exhausted to open his eyes, so whoever carried him to
the cot, Gandalf he thought, didn't realise he had woken. Merry said nothing,
he was bone weary and sore, but the cuts across his back were hurting and the
pain kept him from sleeping again.
Merry was still very drowsy and it took him a couple of
moments to realise that he was lying next to another body. He reached out to
touch the face that was breathing so near to him, a very familiar breathing.
The touch was only a confirmation of what he had known at once. The scent, the
comfortable flavour of it and the texture of the body was Pippin. Smiling for
the first time in many hours, Merry looped his arms around his cousin and
snuggled into his neck. As he did, Pippin's broken wrist was squashed between
their bodies and the smaller hobbit drew in a sharp breath and opened his eyes.
Pippin began to tremble as soon as he woke and Merry kissed
his cheek softly and stroked his hair, trying to soothe his distressed cousin.
Voices of the council at the table drifted over and parts of their discussion
seeped into Merry's consciousness.
"I fear for them both."
"…enter Pippin's mind… whatever dwells there…"
Merry wondered what could be in Pippin's mind – was that the
cause of his distress?
"…dark spell… Peregrin … a path into his mind …
Sauron … place …claim. …look … palantír."
This was sounding more ominous to Merry every second.
Perhaps Pippin had been laid claim to in the same way the wraith had told him
his blindness had cast him into shadow.
The more Merry thought about it, the more he realised he had
to do something to take Pip's mind away from what was troubling him. He placed
his lips against Pip's cheek and very softly blew a raspberry into his skin. At
the same time he unlooped his arms from the small trembling body and, bringing
his hands to the front, began to tickle his cousin in the way that used to
bring him to helpless mirth.
At first there was no reaction, but gradually Pippin stopped
trembling and, although Merry couldn't see it, he began to focus on the
external stimulus. Merry, however could sense the change in Pip's physical
state. Instead of trembling with fright, he was quivering and moving his head
from side to side as if he could not bear the touch.
"… marked him …Sauron's property, … sees and speaks
inside Pippin's mind."
These words struck hard at Merry. The intrusion of something
that had taken sole possession of Pip's mind made him fill with unaccustomed
rage and not a little jealousy. The adrenaline pumped into his blood once more
and he stopped tickling Pippin and put his hand on his cheek and began writing
the letter 'P' then an 'i' with a fierce dot on the top, another two 'p's
another 'i'. Before he could make the 'n' Pippin reached up to take Merry's
The little hobbit turned Merry's hand over onto the blanket
and with a trembling finger made an 'M' on his cousin's palm.
"pleasures are simple… food… pipeweed… each other.
…fearsome enemy … Sauron …never encountered … before."
The words drifted over Merry and he thought hard about what
he must do. Pippin needed to be distracted from whatever his internal pain was.
Merry found his cousin's face again and kissed his soft lips as tenderly as he
could. Pippin responded at once. Meriadoc mentally chalked up a small victory,
his cousin was paying attention to him once more.
"…wraith …pursue them… Meriadoc …leave here
That was what Gandalf had said earlier, that he would have
to leave Isengard tonight. Merry vaguely wondered how much time had passed and
when he would be leaving. The next thing he heard nearly made him cry out.
"Pippin is not fit to travel…"
But it was Aragorn speaking to Gandalf and Merry knew that
any arguments in that direction would be a waste of his breath. He would wait,
and when the time came, refuse to leave without Pip.
"He must leave directly."
No! But just then Pippin put his good hand up and pulled
Merry's hair. He responded by gently pulling some auburn curls in return.
Pippin wrote on Merry's cheek, 'O' - 'w' - '!' with a big dot on the
"…of healing? …sight and hearing be restored? …you
can do Gandalf?"
Merry listened a little more carefully at this.
"It is unlikely that I can remove a spell cast by
"Poor Pip!" was Merry's first thought. But the
second was for himself, believing that if Gandalf could not restore their sight
and hearing, he would never again see Pippin and never again be able to talk to
him. He clutched his cousin tightly, making Pip squirm as he pressed too hard
on the broken wrist once more.
Pippin reached up to write on Merry's cheek. "c – a – r
– f – i – l / o – v / m – i / r – y – s – t – !" It took Merry a little
while to straighten Pippin's spelling out in his head. He smiled as he
remembered trying to teach his cousin his letters and the beatings Pip had
suffered at the hands of the schoolmaster. He remembered imitating the scratchy
penmanship as he had forged Pippin's homework to save him from further
indignity administered by the bully with the cane in front of the whole school.
He wrote back "s-o-r-r-y!"
"…two trusty riders… bear Meriadoc to Edoras … as
soon as the other holbytla is well enough to travel."
Then frantically "p-i-p / I / g - o / w-a-y"
Pippin made a big "N – O !" on his cousin's cheek.
Gandalf came over to the cot. "Hello, are you two
Merry was becoming so immersed in empathy with Pippin that
he had almost forgotten for a moment that he could still hear and
speak. "Yes. Please Gandalf, don't make me go without Pip."
"Meriadoc, I don't have time to argue with you. It is
decided. Peregrin has to stay here with me and you have to leave
at once." Gandalf had another blanket in his hands and he gently lifted
Merry up into a sitting position and wrapped the warm fleece around him.
"I should at least bathe those cuts and bruises before
he leaves." Aragorn looked at the badly injured hobbit with concern. He
turned to Gandalf, "It will not take too long."
"Yes I think you had best do something for the time
being," Gandalf carried Merry over to the table and sat him there.
As he saw his cousin taken away Pippin tried to sit up, but
was too weak to manage it on his own. He reached up his good arm instead,
trying to catch hold of Gandalf's cloak, his face filled with panic.
Legolas came over and took Pippin in his arms, holding him
close and rocking him slightly. Large tears welled from the small hobbit's eyes
and he wept silently as he watched Merry being tended by Strider, knowing that
he was about to be taken away.
Aragorn carefully washed Merry's face, soothing his hair
back from the feverish brow, then he gently removed the fleece and scrap of
cloak from Merry's back and, using a cloth steeped in athelas infused water,
bathed the weals, cuts and bruises on the hobbit's upper body. As the ranger
finished he wrapped the piece of cloak back around his patient's shoulders and
taking out the box of opium put a little on his finger. "Open your mouth
Merry, I'm going to give you some medicine for the pain and to make you feel
better." He put the paste in Merry's mouth and gave him a drink of water
to dilute it. As he finished his ministrations and wrapped the fleece around
Merry again, Gandalf lifted him carefully up onto his shoulder and carried him
"Please, Gandalf." Merry tried once more. "I
was talking to Pip. He was spelling words to me."
"That's very good," Gandalf agreed. "Don't
worry, Pippin will join you in a day or two. You can't stay here any longer. I
fear the Witchking may return with others of his kind. I have not yet tested my
strength against their combined force and I cannot be certain that I can
protect you. You have to get to safety, to a place where he will not find
"But Gandalf… Pippin needs…"
"Merry I am not deliberately being unkind."
Gandalf's voice became gentle. "This is for your protection and for
Pippin's. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Merry's voice had a slight quaver to it
still and hot tears ran from his unseeing eyes. "But it m-makes me s-sad,
to leave Pip when he n-needs me."
Gandalf felt a sympathetic twinge run through him for the
sorrow he was causing the little ones. But he believed it was the right course
of action for everyone. "I know, I know." He patted Merry's fair
curls as he handed him up to the young rider who waited outside the guardroom.
"Here Master Meriadoc." King Théoden took Merry's
hand and placed a sealed envelope in it. Although Merry could not see it, he
could feel the indents of a sealing wax impression. "Take this with you.
It is my seal containing a letter that will give you introduction to the Court
"Thank you, my Lord." Merry sniffed as he composed
himself. "You are most kind."
"That's better." Gandalf patted Merry's arm.
"Safe journey and we will be with you in 2 or 3 days. I know you will be
brave, Merry. Trust me to look after Pippin."
Merry felt the strong arms of the rider surround him and the
warm body of the horse underneath. As they leapt forward into the night, he
soon gave way to his constant darkness and fell into a deep sleep and dreamed
that he and Pippin were running through the Shire. They were laughing as they
ran, having just plundered Maggot's field, not because they needed what was there.
They just enjoyed the challenge.
In the midst of his laughter he looked at Pip and saw to his
horror that he had no mouth and his sweet little pointed ears had curled up and
become decayed. As he screamed in fright, Farmer Maggot, suddenly black and terrible,
fell upon him, blocking out the sun and crushing him into darkness.
The rider who held the strange little creature looked down
to see that it was asleep, but sobbing with grief.
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