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Recaptured!: 60. Questions and Answers
Pippin's eyes opened to the dim half-light cast through the door grille by the jailer's burning torch. He saw that Merry was awake and that he was smiling sleepily. He realised that what had woken him was a kiss on his hand. Had Merry remembered him? He planted a reciprocal kiss on his cousin's cheek.
Merry woke up completely and the smile was replaced by a look of query and then sudden panic. The blind hobbit's thought processes were waking up and with them the realisation of all that he could recall, which was not enough. He pulled away from the warm body and sat up, pulling his arms around his own body and shivering slightly.
Pippin touched him tentatively on the hand and, although the other hobbit didn't fight it, he did not touch back, but stayed wrapped protectively in himself.
Just then the jailer unlocked the cell door and brought in a metal jug with water in it and a tin cup, as well as a bucket. Pippin guessed the purpose of the bucket, but just to be sure he hopped off the cot and picked it up and followed the fat jailer orc to the door and pulled at his coat.
The jailer turned and looked down at the hobbit who was standing holding the bucket up, his head tilted to one side in query. The orc actually laughed out loud, making Merry jump in fright. "You pee in it!" He confirmed. Although Pippin couldn't hear him, the jailer mimed a peeing stance at the same time. Pippin nodded his head in understanding and put the bucket back with the jug.
The fat orc slouched back through the cell door and, as he didn’t close it, Pippin followed him to see what else was on offer but the orc turned round suddenly almost stepping on the little hobbit. "Eh! you ain't s'posed t'be out 'ere!"
Pip looked up at him, his best wide-eyed innocent expression in place. "Whach yer want? Eh?" The fat orc had been going to fetch some stale bread for the two small prisoners. Grutfley had promised to bring them food, but there was no sign of him yet. Also the Corporal had given him that coin and another one wouldn't go amiss, so he had decided to take a bit of extra care of these two.
"'Ere yer go. Yer can 'ave this bit o' bread." He gave Pip a half a small loaf. It was as hard as a rock and green in places.
Pippin looked at the bread and then looked up at the fat orc, a disappointed and hurt expression on his face. The jailer smiled at the cheeky little thing's indignation. "Well it's all I got till Grutfley brings yer summat else. Now go on back." He pointed to the cell and Pippin obediently walked back, his head down, slouching his unshod feet on the flagstones.
The orc shook his fat body with chuckles at the sad little creature. He was not used to fussy prisoners and certainly not amusing ones like this little thing. He reached up to his own personal tin of rations and took two sweet biscuits from his supplies. They were ginger flavoured and had a sprinkle of sugar on top – his favourites.
The jailer followed Pippin back into the cell and when the hobbit turned round to face the door he saw the fat orc holding out the two delicious looking biscuits. His face lit up with the biggest smile a hungry hobbit can manage when faced with food that is not green and mouldy. He scampered over to the jailer and was rewarded with the biscuits and a pat on the head.
The jailer locked the door again but continued chuckling to himself for a while. Pippin wasted no time, however. First he put the biscuits carefully on the cot then he scooped the tin cup into the jug and took the water to Merry. Taking his cousin's hand in his, he placed it carefully round the cup and then put the other hand up to hold the other side. He pushed the cup up to Merry's lips and waited while he took a long drink. Then he took the cup away and put the biscuit in Merry's hand, again pushing it up to his lips so that he knew it was food.
Merry ate hungrily and the biscuit was gone very quickly. He had in fact been without food for some time, except for the small bowl of porridge the night before. Wormtongue had not fed him and he had not eaten much just before he was kidnapped. Pippin could see that Merry was famished; he had eaten the biscuit with desperation almost. He sighed deeply and handed his beloved cousin the second biscuit as well, pushing it up to his lips again.
Merry took a small bite, then stopped. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he sensed that there were only two biscuits and he was being given them both. "Did you have one?" he asked, realising almost as soon as he spoke that the other wouldn't or couldn't answer him. Instead he held the biscuit out to where he could feel the other one was standing.
A little hand pushed the biscuit resolutely up to his mouth again. Merry shook his head, "No," he said, "this one is yours, isn't it?" Merry sensed something. A catch – an intake of breath – a beat. It was as if they had made a connection.
Merry listened carefully, he could hear the other moving away. The sound of water, he was refilling the cup. He heard him drinking, then filling the cup again. Returning to him, taking his hand and placing it around the cup once more. Merry carefully placed the uneaten biscuit on the cot and took the cup with both hands to drink. Then, handing the cup back, took up the biscuit and broke it in half, holding the bigger piece out to the other one.
This time the other took it and sat next to him on the cot. They both ate together.
Smagnu and Grutfley had been on patrol longer than usual. All the guards had to do extra rounds to check for intruders and spies and had special orders to find the missing halfling. Needless to say they didn't make much of an effort with the special orders, but they still had to stay out longer as it would have been suspicious not to.
"All the fugging grub will have gone by now." Grutfley complained. "An' we gotta get extra for our two Pips."
"We'll be all right." Smagnu snorted. "They won't give me short change! Besides, p'raps it's time we took little Pip on a raid again. Get some extra rations."
"Better send him for more of that mithril." Grutfley was certain there was a lot more of it to be had. "That'd be worth fifty times more rations than he could carry out to us."
"Hey! You two, over here!" The Captain had spotted the two orcs coming into the mess hall. They moved over quickly to see what was wanted. "That halfling you got. He wants it up top, for questioning."
"When's He want it?" Grutfley felt rather uncomfortable about this. "It don't seem to know much."
"It's Number One as wants it." The Captain corrected. "Reckons it might know where something or other is."
Smagnu and Grutfley exchanged a look. The Head Nazgûl was not to be trifled with any more than the Dark Lord Himself. "When do we get it up then?" Grutfley asked again.
"Bring it up at nightfall, tonight," the Captain turned to leave, calling back over his shoulder. "I'll be elsewhere, you take it up Corporal, don't forget."
"Dunno how we'll know it's nightfall." Grutfley complained. "T'wern't no sun up this morning anyway. Can't tell night from day no more."
"We'll have to take him." Smagnu was taking no notice of his partner's complaints. "I don't see any way round it." The big Uruk's mind was racing. Until recently he would not have given a second thought to such orders. But now he knew for sure that he did not want anything bad to happen to the little creatures, even if it meant disobeying orders. "I'll take him and I'll stay with him too, so as I can bring him back an' all."
Merry was longing to know who the little creature was that was so like him, that stayed by him and cared for him, but never spoke to him. He wished the jailer or one of the others who had brought him down would come back so he could ask one of them what it was.
He was beginning to realise that his black world was not shared by others. Only he appeared to stumble around in ignorance of his surroundings. The other seemed to have no difficulty in finding things and moving around the space they were in. He had even let him know where he could pee, which was a considerable relief, as Merry was sure that was not something you did just anywhere.
The blind hobbit let the other one hold his hand but no matter how hard he tried to get a response it did not seem to react to anything he said.
Pippin sat next to Merry on the cot holding his cousin's hand wondering how to tell him that he couldn't hear him or speak to him. He turned the little hand over and wrote in his palm as he had done when they first became afflicted. He wrote: 'm-e-r-r-y / i-t-s / m-i / P-i-p-p-i-n-!'
Merry shook his head in bewilderment. He could make no sense of the marks on his hand. Pippin tried again. 'i / c-a-r-n-t / h-i-r / y-u / i-m / d-e-f!'
Merry shrugged – the other was drawing lines on his hand, it meant nothing to him.
Pippin sighed and thought again. He took Merry's hand and put it on his cheek, then he touched his blind eyes. Merry jumped a little, startled at what the other was doing. But Merry's hand on the other's cheek felt the little head shake vigorously from side to side, indicating 'No'.
Merry nodded showing that he understood. Pippin then placed his cousin's fingers on his ears and then his lips and then back to his cheek, once more shaking his head.
Merry knew what it was to speak and hear, so he was certain now. The other could not hear him or answer him, in the same way that he could not see.
But why could he not remember the other. He could not remember anything, he reasoned but this little being seemed to know and care for him more than anything else he had encountered so far and… and there was something familiar, something in the feel, the smell, the touch of it… of him.
Just then Merry's concentration was broken by the arrival of someone. The other jumped up and ran to the door, Merry knew where the door was, he could hear it creak open.
Pippin grabbed Smagnu's leg affectionately almost tripping him up. He unhitched the hobbit carefully and set him back down on the cot next to new Pip. Then opened the bag on his shoulder so that little Pip could explore the contents. Fresh bread, some cheese, a small flagon of ale, two large apples and, most wonderful of all, two pieces of chocolate.
"Please Sir," Merry was not sure who was in the room but suspected it was not someone too hostile. The other one seemed to be relaxed and happy. "Can you tell me who the little one is, that is with me?"
"Well I don't know his rightful name, but we call him little Pip." Smagnu smiled at new Pip's surprise.
"But, but…that's my name. Well I thought it was my name." Merry frowned, "perhaps it isn't."
"Well we don't know for sure, what his name is." Smagnu admitted. "We just made that name up for him. He don't speak nor hear at all, so he couldn't tell us."
"Why is he here?" Merry's voice dropped to a fearful whisper. "and why am I here? and… and… please… where is here?"
"Hmm them's is a powerful lot o questions." Smagnu was not too sure how much he should tell the little one. "Far as I knows the Wraith brought you both, something to do with the Dark Lord Hisself and the war. Though what two little odd things like yous could have to do with it beats me."
"…and where are we?" Merry asked again.
"Why in Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower in the middle of Mordor. That's where."
'Oh… and who are you, Sir? What is your name?" Merry could remember how to be polite.
"Smagnu, I am Corporal Smagnu." The Corporal was starting to realise that halflings could be very persistent. "Is there anything else you want to know new little Pip?"
"What's going to happen to us, Mr Smagnu?" Merry asked quietly.
"Well, you'll be questioned and when you've told what you know." Smagnu paused, he couldn't think of anything good to end this with. "You'll be well… that'll be the end of it."
"…and when will that happen?"
Smagnu patted Merry on the shoulder. "Later tonight, but don't worry new little Pip, I'll stay with you all the while."
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