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Recaptured!: 28. Rumblings
Merry and Pippin eventually fell asleep wrapped in each
other's arms on Aragorn's bed, as they were both emotionally exhausted. The
ranger left them to sleep, it was early for him yet and he had other business
to attend to. Legolas too was quite drained by the whole experience and decided
to take a walk in the fresh air to calm himself. He covered the sleeping
hobbits with Aragorn's quilt before he left, kissing each of them lightly on
Aragorn hurried along to the main hall where Théoden, Éomer
and Éowyn, together with Gandalf and Grima Wormtongue were in council.
"For two nights and a day now my riders have reported
sighting the terrible winged creature over Rohan. I fear the Nazgûl has
returned." Théoden looked to Gandalf, "Do you suppose they hunt the
"This is grave indeed," Gandalf agreed. "I
doubt their sole purpose would be to hunt down Merry and Pippin, although the
risk to them should not be ignored."
"Your people, too, My Lord," Aragorn stepped
forward. "They will not be safe here with the Nazgûl abroad. This place is
too exposed and all nine could attack. You will have to send those who do not
ride to war, the women and children, to a safer place."
"They will go to Dunharrow." Théoden turned to
Éowyn, "Will you lead them, sister-daughter? The people trust you."
"What of Grima?" Éowyn asked her eyes cast down to
the floor. "Would you not put him in command of the refugees?"
"Grima will ride with us." Théoden turned to his
adviser. "Every man who can wield a sword and sit astride a horse will be
expected to take arms."
"Then let me take up arms and come with you My
Lord." Éowyn looked up at the King. "I am as valiant as any man and I
fight as well. Let Grima lead the people to Dunharrow for I know he has no
taste for war."
"I would not fight, My Lord." Grima spoke up now.
"It is not in my nature or my bearing. Pray do as the lady says and let
her join you in battle. I will lead the women and children and the two
halflings to Dunharrow and safety."
"No!" Théoden was adamant. "I will not allow
you to take arms sister-daughter. I know you wield a sword as well as any man,
but do not ask me to suffer a maid to go into battle. It would cleave my heart
if anything amiss should befall you."
"Yes My Lord." Éowyn knew that to argue would be
pointless, but she looked with envy at her brother Éomer and then stole a sad
glance at Aragorn. The tall ranger had become very close to her and begun to
appreciate her skills as a healer. She wished that he and all the other men
around her would acknowledge her skills as a warrior also. Should they fall in
battle she would sooner be with them and facing death, than hiding in caves in
"And you Grima," Théoden continued contemptuously.
"You will ride with us or take a horse and get you gone now. For we have
no use for cowards at times of need such as this."
Grima made no reply but bowed low and backed to the door, he
knew that his magic was spent. No longer could he whisper poison into the
King's ear and manipulate the old man to his own, or his secret master,
Saruman's will. He knew that Saruman had fallen, but that he was still alive
and imprisoned in Orthanc. A plot had formed in his head to help the disgraced
wizard and restore them both in the eyes of the Dark Lord.
The halflings, Grima reasoned, were cause of Saruman's
downfall and they were also the wizard's offering to Sauron at the time of his
defeat. He, Grima Wormtongue, would seize the little rats and take them to Isengard
and then free Saruman and let him either take his revenge on the pair or offer
them in tribute to Sauron. Their capture, he reasoned, would not be difficult
as one could not see and the other could not speak or hear.
The turncoat for now was anxious to remove himself from the
accusing gaze of the King and his new advisors. He bowed his way obsequiously
out of the Great Hall.
Pippin awoke before Merry. His cousin was still wrapped
around him and Pippin lay there in that first forgetfulness of waking,
wondering where they were. Slowly he recalled why he felt so drained and tired.
He had talked to Merry, but now he was trapped once more in his silent, lonely
world. Perhaps it was worse for Merry, not being able to see, but the little
hobbit wondered if it was as lonely.
Then he remembered what Legolas had told him. The Fellowship
and all the Riders of Rohan were leaving – going off to do great deeds in the
war – and he and Merry were to be left behind. Of course they would be in the
way and of course there was little they could do to help, but it didn’t make it
any easier. Especially now that he had talked to Merry with Legolas’s help.
Once the elf was gone he would not even be able to talk to Legolas, let alone
Merry. Perhaps Legolas would be killed, perhaps all of their friends would all
be killed and never come back. The war would be lost, Middle Earth would be
lost and he would never hear or talk again and Merry would never see him again.
Pippin untangled himself from the still sleeping Merry as he
felt tears begin to fall. ‘I have to stop thinking like this,’ he told
himself. But it was all too sad, he could see no hope, nothing good. The
thought made him remember poor Boromir and the despair the man had felt in
Lothlorien. '…and then he was killed by the Uruk Hai defending Merry and me.
Maybe he knew something bad was going to happen.' The thought of
their valiant defender, pierced with so many arrows as Merry and he were
carried helplessly away, made him, if possible, even more depressed.
Pippin held Merry's hand for a moment, gazing lovingly but
sadly at his sleeping cousin. Then his eyes wandered around the room. It was
Aragorn's room, he had forgotten they were there. Aragorn would be going too,
of course. Poor long-suffering Strider who had patiently nursed him and Merry
when they had been so hurt and ill, never getting angry – well hardly ever –
except maybe when he stole poppy paste.
Poppy paste – no more of that for certain once Strider was
gone. Even though it had been quite a few days now since he had had any, Pippin
suddenly felt a pang, a desperate need for some of the soothing mixture that
made all his troubles seem to fade, all the pain go away. It even eased the
loneliness for a short time.
Maybe there was some here, in Strider's bag, that was where
he kept it. One little dip of his finger, what could it hurt? No one need know
and it would make him feel better for a little while.
Pippin felt a sudden urgency to find the medicine before
Merry woke up or Strider came back. He slung his drum over his back and,
tucking the sticks in his waistband, climbed off the bed as quietly as he could
and, very carefully, started to go through Aragorn's minimal luggage. The
little hobbit was certain that the ranger would not travel without his magic
paste, so it had to be in his newly packed bag.
The stealthy hobbit did not lift anything out of the loosely
packed saddlebag but rummaged blindly around, feeling for the familiar wooden
box. His hand touched something else. A smooth, cool object, that was
electrifying to the touch.
Pippin knew at once that he desired this object more than
anything else in Middle Earth. More than his new drum, more than mushrooms,
more than poppy paste, more than hearing and talking, more even than his Merry.
A clarion warning sounded in his mind as that thought flitted through, but now
he had touched it, the desire for it overwhelmed him.
Carefully he lifted the dark glass orb from the bag and,
hiding it beneath his shirt, he quietly opened the door.
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