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Recaptured!: 80. Needing Help
As Merry's foot started to throb and his belly ache with want for opium he realised that Pippin was stirring. Poor Pippin, he had left him tied to the rock and had not even set his broken foot and after all the pain he had suffered.
Quickly, Merry shook himself, scrubbed at his sore eyes with his sleeve, and felt for Pip's face so that he could plant a loving kiss on his cheek, before untying his wrists from the rock.
Then he found his carefully prepared bandages, pulled the precious flute from his jerkin and meticulously feeling his way, bound his cousin's poor foot to the splint. It was possible to feel through the mind link whether the bandage was too tight or just right and this helped the blind hobbit to get the doctoring right in spite of not being able to see.
'pip you go good?'
'i knowed you hurts pip… poor my pip…'
'i makes you hurts merr… try stop…'
'no you share i… not go you hurts you more…'
They both knew that sharing the pain would lessen it for the other and although Merry was sending a certain amount of his own hurts, he was absorbing a great deal from Pippin. His cousin did not argue further but sent a mental hug – something that was becoming second nature.
'legolas? eow?' Pip called to the two. 'where you?'
'hussh pip – wraith come'
'not care more… just want go home… want poppy…'
'i knowed my pip…'
Merry was beginning to get past his overwhelming depression once more. He took several deep breaths, bit down on his lip a little against the pain, and decided that whatever happened now, happened. He would do his best for Pip and the Quest and keep going for as long as he could.
'Merry? Pippin?' It was Legolas! Merry felt as if his extra little mental effort had been rewarded.
'legolas' Merry answered first 'you go good? e-ow go good?'
'We are good, Merry. How are you Pippin?' Legolas could already feel the stabbing pain in his own foot so he knew the injured hobbit was awake and hurting. Gradually he collected up a share of the pain in the link, feeling it lessen a little for the other two as he did.
'So, same as usual.' Legolas gave a quick mental smile. 'Don't worry little one, we'll try and get you some soon.' Although Legolas knew Pippin had to stop using the opium eventually, now did not seem like a good time for him to give it up.
'will? will get i some?' Even Pippin brightened up at the prospect of poppy.
'What did wraith say to you Merry?' Legolas decided it was time for a rapid change of topic.
'bad things…' Merry was not sure how to deal with what the wraith had threatened them with. 'sayed send orcs get we, come at pass… not knowed where … gone get we think…'
'I'll try to help you, don't you two worry about it now.' Legolas was not sure how he would help, but the halflings had enough to deal with at the moment. 'Did you pull Pippin's foot all right Merry?'
'think did, pull hard… it hurt big… put band-gages… put flute… did best…'
'That's good. Do you have any food?'
'got bread, got fruit frodosam' Pippin remembered and felt inside his pockets and discovered it still there, squashed but intact.
Legolas was about to ask about frodosam but then remembered that the wraith could be listening, so let it go. 'Good – perhaps if you two eat some food you'll feel better.'
'not here… it stink…stink'
'Can you move?'
'can go try…pip?'
Legolas looked up at Éowyn and Faramir, then climbed to his feet, stretching like a cat as he did so. "Merry and Pippin have another slight problem," he announced.
"You mean more than having to traverse the Cirith Ungol pass with a broken foot and opium withdrawal to say nothing of their other injuries." Éowyn remembered Aragorn telling her that halflings were more resilient than they looked, she hoped he was right.
"Yes." Legolas was on his feet and taking in the surroundings for the first time. A large encampment had grown up around them and Faramir's men were obviously well equipped and efficient. The brigands were nowhere to be seen and Arod and Windfola were with the other horses, looking content and rested. "The wraith that broke our link with them has threatened to take them as they come through the pass. I suspect a company of orcs will be set to watch for them as they come down from the high point."
"Perhaps we can help?" Faramir was aware of the importance of Frodo's mission and he suspected that these other two halflings might be vital to the successful outcome of the war. "Can you tell me more of plight of your friends?"
Legolas thought for a moment before answering. This man was the brother of Boromir, who had been privy to the quest. Also he seemed to know much of Frodo and Samwise and as he had obviously not hindered their progress, he would be sympathetic to Merry and Pippin's situation. It was vital as well that his two friends were not captured by the Wraith again.
"It is important that they evade capture, not just for their own sakes, but for the good of Middle Earth and the battle against the Dark Lord," Legolas said. "If we can help them in any way, that must be our path." Legolas realised he could not ask Faramir for his help, but he hoped his veiled explanation would elicit a favourable response.
Faramir would have liked to have known more but, after his encounter with Frodo, he realised that some things were safer left unspoken. He looked at the fair Éowyn and could not help but be entranced by her bravery and honourable bearing. He was touched too by the sincerity of both the lady and the elf and impressed by their obvious dedication to their mission and the care they felt for the beleaguered halflings.
Denethor would probably not have approved his action, Faramir thought, but in the field he had to make his own decisions and he always found it difficult not to follow his heart. "May I offer my sword and protection and that of my company to aid you in your mission?"
"It is much to offer." Éowyn began to protest.
"But if so much is at stake," Faramir smiled at her. "What little I can offer is yours to command." He would have liked to add, 'including my heart and soul', he was becoming truly captivated by the Lady of Rohan, but he restrained his presumption.
"We accept with gratitude." Legolas knew the little ones needed much help now and it was a worthy mission. "Can you spare a troop of ten men to go up into the pass and protect the halflings' way?"
"My very best soldiers will go," Faramir was glad the offer had been accepted, "and I shall lead them."
Merry managed to get to his feet, he was rather surprised at how many parts of his body were protesting until he remembered that not all the bumps, cuts and bruises were his own. His head was still pounding but Pippin's foot was excruciating. Merry quickly realised that Pip was not going to be able to walk, at least, not without a lot of help. It would probably be safer and easier to carry him.
'pip? want play tiggy-back?'
Merry smiled inwardly at the way the old childhood words had automatically popped into the mind speak. He thought of all the times when Pip was little and had followed him and the other bigger hobbit lads far out into the fields and woodlands. Usually the undersized tag-along had been too tired to walk all the way back and too stubbornly proud to admit it. Merry remembered the first time he suddenly realised with panic that his tiny cousin was missing. He had run back through the woods frantically calling his name. Eventually Pippin had wearily answered from his cosy hidey-hole in a tree bole where he had curled up and gone to sleep.
Merry had piggy backed the exhausted youngster home to Great Smials that time and Pip learnt fast. The next time he had tagged along and got too tired, he called to Merry "tiggy-back Mer, you want play tiggy-back?" And Merry always treated it as a game, jiggling him up and down and singing him songs all the way home.
'oh tiggy-back – mer i go too big now…'
'no you be like feaths my pip…'
'feathrer…be on gooses…like you!'
Merry took hold of Pippin's hand and helped him to stand up on one foot. Then he realised that he needed to collect up all their belongings, things they might still need.
'you sit littlel rest pip… i gets we things…'
Pippin let himself be lowered back down and directed, as Merry collected up the rope, which he wound round his own waist now, his knife from Grutfley and Pippin's sword. He decided the shields would be too much trouble and stowed the knife in his belt and Pip's sword back in its scabbard at his cousin's waist. His shirt was in shreds, having served as bandages for Pip's foot, but his jerkin covered most of the bare places. He still had his cloak and Pip his coat.
Ready at last, Merry helped Pippin to stand again and lowered his back so that his little cousin could hold round his neck. Merry lifted him up and tucked Pip's legs under his arms then realised he had no idea which way to go. But there was no need to ask. Pippin turned Merry's head in the right direction and wordlessly they set off.
Merry was bone weary and aching, also he could not help limping slightly as he found himself automatically favouring his right foot simply to avoid Pippin's pain. It made no difference to the agony whether he walked on the foot or not as the injury was not his, but it was difficult to ignore the message his body sent him that his own foot was damaged.
Pippin's need for the poppy paste was also aching in both their bellies and now Pip had begun to sweat and shake as the withdrawal grew stronger and more desperate. The smaller hobbit could feel what the shared pain was doing to Merry and, even though he was sick and disorientated, Pippin tried to rein his mind in as much as he could to keep his hurts to himself.
Merry trudged doggedly forwards, heeding Pip's gentle pulls and manoeuvres on his ears as he guided his cousin through the tunnel, following a dim light which grew steadily brighter until they finally spilled out into an open area with broken pillars of stone.
Pippin wriggled in a way that told Merry they should stop and he gently lowered the injured hobbit to the ground. Pip stood on one foot for a moment holding tightly to Merry's arm for balance, then sank to the ground and pulled Merry down beside him.
Now the air smelt less foul, the two sat and made a little picnic on the bread and dried fruit and thought sadly about Frodo and Sam, wondering how far they had managed to go.
The orc battalion was marching along at a good pace now so it was lucky for Smagnu that he had made a reasonably good recovery. In fact he and Grutfley had managed to position themselves near the back of the line and as Smagnu was an Uruk breed he was gradually manoeuvring himself to be in the guard line, rather than with the common soldiery.
Both Smagnu and Grutfley were still looking for a chance to improve their lot further, possibly by slipping away, but the journey back to Barad-dûr on foot would be long and pointless as they would be in considerable trouble there for making off with the Pips. It seemed better for the time being to stay with the battalion until something better presented itself.
"'Ere Smagnu," Grutfley poked his companion in the side and pointed ahead. "Wassat? Look them two by the road."
Smagnu followed the other's finger with his gaze. Two very small orcs were sitting by the roadside, their heads bowed and their shields set before their feet. There was something very familiar to the two orcs about the shape and demeanour of the pair.
Suddenly the whole company was called to a halt as one of the Uruk guards challenged the two figures. "Hi, you! Get up!" They did not answer. "Come on you slugs! he cried. "This is no time for slouching." He took a step towards them. "Get up and fall in, or I'll have your numbers and report you."
The two small soldiers struggled to their feet and limped towards the rear of the line. "No, not at the rear!" the slave-driver shouted. "Three files up, and stay there or you'll know it when I come down the line." He sent his long whip-lash cracking over their heads, "Oi you! Smag," You'se a Corporal ain't yer? Well keep an eye on these two, make sure they don't get off. Use yer arrows if'n they try. Gotta keep order, see. Make 'em an example."
Smagnu had been gradually insinuating his presence and superior rank on this battalion since One Ear's non-return and it was paying off now. He moved towards the reluctant warriors with Grutfley at his side. The slave-driver gave another crack of the whip and with a yell he started the company off again at a brisk trot.
The two new recruits were smaller than the average orc and were obviously having difficulty keeping up. Smagnu moved to a position immediately behind them with Grutfley still beside him. "Fugging Pushdog!" The smaller orc muttered. "D'yer see what I sees?"
"What?" Smagnu followed Grutfley's gaze to the unshod feet of the potential little deserters. "Fug me! More imps! D'yer suppose they're related – to our Pips I mean?"
At that moment one of the imps stumbled and nearly fell, but the other caught him and held him up. They were both obviously terrified of discovery and were trying their best to keep up. Smagnu moved closer still and, spreading his cloak out to the side, picked the smaller one up in his great arm and tucked him close to his hip the way he had always carried Little Pip.
Although the small creature made no great protest Smagnu felt a strange power emanate from him. He already knew that these imps carried some kind of magic about them, but this was different, it seemed to call to him, but not in a pleasant way, in a devouring, all consuming way.
His small companion on the other hand reacted swiftly and violently. He leapt at Smagnu's great hand and tried to bite, snarling like a wild animal protecting it's young. Grutfley moved in to pull the valiant little one off his partner. "Steady little imp," he reassured. "Smagnu ain't about to 'urt it. He's just giving 'im a bit o' a lift, looks like he's had enough. Yer both do."
The little creature trapped in Grutfley's strong arm grip, looked up at the ugly orc in astonishment. "What do you mean? He picked my master up. What's he want with him?" Even though the imp could not escape Grutfley's hold, he was still defiant and ready for a fight.
"It's all right Sam," the imp in Smagnu's arm called out to the other. "I don't believe he means us any harm." He addressed the Uruk, "Do you, Sir?"
Smagnu could not help smiling at the politeness. "You're just like new Little Pip, with your manners an' all. No I don't means yer no harm. Just thought yer needed a bit o' help like."
Sam relaxed at the words of his master and allowed Grutfley to hold him up under his arm, helping him to trot along and keep up more easily.
"Who is new little Pip?" Sam's master asked Smagnu quietly. The other orcs around them had glanced about at the disturbance, but small skirmishes and fights often broke out in the ranks and they paid no more heed now it had settled down again. "Was he a creature like me?"
"He was too, just like you," Smagnu looked at the imp he was carrying. "Only his curls were lighter, his face a little rounder and he was blind."
"Merry!" The little one gasped. "Then you must be Smagnude and your friend is Grumpfly?"
"Smagnu and Grutfley," The orc corrected. "Yes! How could you know that? Did you see them? Were they all right?"
"Yes, they were both all right." Frodo was not too sure just how much he should tell this surprising orc. But on the other hand Merry and Pippin had trusted him, although they had not seemed so sure of his partner. "They told us about you and how you took care of them."
"Where are they now?" Smagnu was surprised at the weight of this little one. He was not a lot bigger than Little Pip but much harder to carry, although the weight did not seem to come from his body. It was as though he were oppressed with some great burden. "Did they get away?"
"They went on their way." Frodo assured him. "But why did you help them?"
This probably was not the best question to ask the big Uruk, he was not too sure himself. "They were going to kill Little Pip." Smagnu tried to remember how it had all started. "I was told to protect him – you know keep him alive, and I just never stopped. Then he kind of grew on me – on both of us."
"What about Merry?" Frodo asked.
"Merry?" Smagnu had never found out new Little Pip's name, and he had told them his name was Pip when they first met.
"Yes the one like me with light hair that was blind." Frodo reminded him.
"Oh new Little Pip." Smagnu remembered how amazed he and Grutfley had been to discover that one was called Pip too and how the two Pips were both injured in the same place and felt each other's pain. "He just seemed to match with the first Little Pip."
Frodo smiled to himself at this, Merry and Pippin did somehow seem to match and now that they were linked in their minds it probably appeared more so.
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