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Recaptured!: 22. Don't Let Me Go!
"How much do you think they've had?" Éowyn was
listening carefully to Pippin's breathing and monitoring his pulse. "This
little one doesn't seem so well."
"At least half of what I had is gone." Aragorn was
checking Merry in the same way. "Certainly enough to kill two halflings.
We're going to have to try and wake them up and then keep them conscious.
"Why do you think he took so much himself?" Éowyn
had never encountered drug taking for the sheer pleasure of it. "Is Pippin
ill as well?"
"No, it's my fault I'm afraid," The ranger
admitted. "First of all I started giving Pippin opium to ease his pain
when his wrist was so badly broken. Then he got a little too fond of it and
started begging for it and then he stole some." Aragorn clamped the lid
tightly down on the half empty wooden box. "I should have been more
careful and not left it where his little fingers would be tempted. He obviously
thought he was helping Merry by feeding it to him, but he would have had no
idea how much to use."
"Perhaps putting them in a bath would wake them
sufficiently." Éowyn suggested, "The water would probably revive
"Indeed, and it would clean Merry's wounds at the same
time, the dressings are soiled with blood now and if it is fairly cool it will
bring Merry's temperature down as well." Aragorn mouth quirked up into a
half smile, "and perhaps, if no one is looking, I could drown
Éowyn laughed at the obvious joke, she could see how fond
the surly ranger was of these odd little halfling people. She requested that a
bath be brought to the bedchamber and filled at once. In the meantime Aragorn
attempted to rouse both the unconscious hobbits. He patted Merry's cheeks
gently and called to him, "Come on, Meriadoc, wake up now. You've slept
enough and you have to wake up now. Merry! Merry!"
The ranger sat him up but Merry just slumped forward onto
the man's chest. Aragorn lifted him back by his shoulders and shook him a
little. Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief as Merry finally opened his unseeing
eyes and tried to push himself away from the ranger.
"What did you put in my mouth?" Merry worked his
jaw around and made a face. Obviously there was a residue of the opium taste
still there and so Aragorn gave him some water and bade him rinse his mouth and
spit out. Merry did as told, spitting several times into a basin that Aragorn
held for him. "Can I drink some?" He asked gripping the cup tightly,
his thirst growing following the unpleasant taste.
"All right you can swallow a little water now."
Aragorn let him take a small sip.
"What happened?" Merry asked still very bemused,
"why did you make me spit the water out?"
"Pippin was trying to help you." Aragorn explained
as he started to loosen the bandages from Merry's neck. "He gave you some
medicine, but it was too much and so I had to take it out of your mouth. He
thought he was doing the right thing."
Éowyn returned from organising the bath and took over
removing Merry's bandages while Aragorn roused Pippin. The ranger was slightly
rougher with the younger halfling, almost letting his exasperation with the
opium stealing hobbit get the better of him. He held him up by the scruff of
his collar and took hold of his chin and shook the little face from side to
side until two bleary eyes eventually opened and peered at him.
The bath was filled now and so Aragorn took Pippin's sling
off, followed by his oversized shirt that was still his only garment and
unceremoniously plonked him into the warm water. The tub was very deep for a
hobbit and Pippin slid straight under the water, so the ranger quickly reached
in and grabbing a handful of curls pulled the half drowned hobbit to the
surface, spluttering and rubbing his eyes. He looked so bedraggled and sorry
for himself that Aragorn felt very guilty at his rough handling of the
miscreant and carefully dried his face with a cloth.
Merry was added to the bath, and as he was still very sick
as well as drugged, Aragorn lowered him very carefully into Pippin's arms. When
he was undressed, Merry had kept a tight hold on the scrap of Gandalf's cloak
and nothing could persuade him to let it go. Éowyn held a candle in front of
Merry's eyes and scrutinised his dilated pupils. "Do his eyes normally
look like this, or is it the opium?" She asked the ranger.
"I'm not sure," Aragorn moved the candle closer.
"It’s possible that the pupils are that wide because of his blindness.
Pippin's are not as dilated as Merry's, but that may be because he didn't eat
as much paste as he gave his cousin."
"What's the matter with my eyes?" Merry asked
fearfully, "I know I can't see but is something else wrong?"
"Don't worry, Merry," Aragorn put the candle back
on the table. "We were just trying to see how awake you are, but as you
can hear us you obviously are alert enough."
Pippin by now was also fairly alert and had got hold of a
bar of soap and started washing Merry's hair rather too vigorously. He managed
to get soap in his cousin's eyes but was oblivious to Merry's complaints until
he caught hold of Pippin's hand and made him stop rubbing the soapy curls.
Éowyn rescued him by taking the soap away from the overly helpful hobbit and
pouring clear water over Merry's face to wash the stinging suds out of his sore
Pippin then just contented himself with holding his cousin's
face above the water while the others soaped and washed Merry's hurts.
As soon as they were out of the water and wrapped in towels
the ranger spent a long time examining Merry's wounds and putting salve on the
bruises or ointment into the cuts that were infected. He bandaged any open
wounds and carefully rebound his neck and wrists while the whole time Pippin
was his willing helper, holding things or leaning Merry up against him.
Both hobbits were sleepy again once the ranger had finished,
but Aragorn did not want to let them doze off yet. The opium was still too
recent and he decided it would be better to keep them both conscious until it
wore off; just to be sure they were both sound.
As he had worked Éowyn also helped and was further impressed
with the ranger's skill in healing. She was also curious about the halflings,
having never come across one before, let alone two together. "How did they
come to be so hurt?" She asked. Then added almost teasingly, "you
must have been very careless with their care."
"Don't be deceived," Aragorn smiled at the
beautiful woman, whispering so that Merry could not hear, "they are
stronger than they look. Although Merry has had a particularly hard time, he is
very brave and valiant, even by full-grown men's standards. And Peregrin!"
The ranger actually laughed out loud, "he
is a tenacious imp as his persistence in stealing my opium has probably
Éowyn fetched the clothes they had sorted out and as she
brought them over saw that the hobbits had actually fallen asleep again.
"They are very close, but if Merry cannot see and Pippin cannot hear or
speak," Éowyn began to lay the clothes out on the bed "It is almost
like keeping them apart."
seems very little could separate these two." Aragorn held up a shirt Éowyn
had laid out, trying to decide if it would fit Pippin. "Look at
Pippin was snuggled up to Merry, the fingers of his good
hand entwined in his cousin's hair and Merry had both arms tightly wrapped
around the smaller hobbit as if his life depended on it.
"But now I have to be cruel to be kind," Aragorn
shook Pippin and unlaced him from Merry's grasp, "and wake them both
again. It's still too close to them eating the opium to let them sleep."
All the things that Drâmym and Ŭnomer had brought were
children's clothes but still a little big for the hobbits. Aragorn stood Pippin
up and gave him a pair of breeches and a shirt and while he dressed himself,
Éowyn and Aragorn manoeuvred Merry into a similar outfit. Merry still would not
be parted from the scrap of cloak so Aragorn tied the tatty, damp piece of
cloth about his shoulders.
"Come on Merry you have to walk about," Aragorn
told the hobbit. "Lady Éowyn, if you take Pippin, Merry can come with
The woman first replaced the sling on the smaller hobbit's
arm and then took his right hand and led him towards the door. Pippin looked
anxiously back towards Merry.
Aragorn stood Merry on his feet but he immediately sank down
to the floor. The ranger lifted him up again and steadied him. "Come on
Merry you have to stay on your feet."
"Where are we going?" Merry whispered fearfully,
"He's over here," Aragorn turned Merry's shoulders
towards the door. "Just walk ahead."
Merry took a couple of tentative steps, but then caught his
toe in the rug and stumbled. Falling forward he tried to catch himself but
grabbed hold of a table covering, which fell with him and brought the contents
of the table crashing to the floor. The cloth twisted over his head and as he
tried to turn he collided with the solid wooden leg of the table, banging his
head with a loud thump.
Aragorn stepped forward to pick the shaken hobbit up, but
Pippin was there first. He had pulled away from Éowyn at the first sign of
Merry's accident and reached him just as he sat up from hitting the table leg.
He dropped to his knees, pulled the cloth off his cousin and put his arm round
him and kissed his brow where a bruise was appearing. Merry brushed at his face
with his sleeve, not wanting to show the tears that had sprung to his eyes. He
would not normally cry at such a silly thing, but the culmination of events,
particularly being unable to walk without his sight, was overwhelming.
"Come on Merry," Aragorn squatted down beside him
and took his hand. "That was just unlucky, you'll get used to it. Stand up
and try again."
Merry stayed rooted to the safe piece of ground that he was
now on. . "I-I can't…" he faltered. "I don't know wh-what's
there… I'll fall."
"Come on Merry," Aragorn tried to coax him,
"There's no real damage done."
Merry shook his head "I'm sorry," he whispered,
"did I break things?"
"It's all right," Éowyn assured him, "just as
long as you're not badly hurt. Try again."
Aragorn picked the shaken hobbit up once more. "Hold my
hand this time." The ranger took the small hand in his large one and tried
to gently pull Merry forward. But he steadfastly refused to move and grabbed
hold of Aragorn's hand with both of his and pulled back.
"Don't make me, please." Merry was getting very
distressed and his tears were starting to fall once more. Éowyn felt tears of
sympathy start to well in her own eyes, Merry seemed so vulnerable and beaten.
Pippin, however was less fearful for his cousin. He found it
hard to contemplate that there was anything in Middle Earth that Merry could
not cope with. He looked up at Aragorn indignantly with his hands on his hips
and then took Merry's hands out of the ranger's large one and, holding his
cousin's hand in his own, set off towards the door again.
Perhaps because it was Pippin's familiar feel or because his
cousin never doubted he would follow, Merry suddenly felt as overwhelmed with
confidence as he had with fear and let Pippin lead him along. Aragorn and Éowyn
just watched in amazement.
When they reached the door, Pippin let go of Merry's hand to
stand on tiptoe and open the latch, but Merry lunged out in panic and grabbed
Pippin's arm as if suddenly dizzy. The smaller hobbit turned in surprise. He
could see Merry was saying something and, although he could not hear, the
message was clear. "Don't let me go!"
He took Merry's hand again and together they reached up for
the latch so his cousin knew what he was doing, after which he touched Merry's
nose with his finger. Merry then waited patiently while Pippin opened the door
and grasped his hand once more.
Aragorn and Éowyn followed at a discrete distance as the
pair set off, hand in hand, to explore their new surroundings.
Aragorn raised his eyebrows at Éowyn, "Well that seems
to have solved that problem."
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