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Recaptured!: 84. Many Meetings
Merry was glad to have Pippin's hand back in his. He had been frightened when Pip had suddenly not been at his side. He could hear the battle going on, shouts and cries, orcs cursing, swords clashing and arrows whooshing through the air. What had happened to Pippin? Was he fighting or had someone grabbed him? Merry wanted to call out but, being blind, he could not gauge if he would make things better or worse. Time, he decided, to trust Pippin to manage.
Then something – orcs he thought from the sounds they made – had rushed past him as he pressed up against the wall. He wondered if they couldn't see him or if they just didn't care, whichever it was he heard them run by and take off up the steps. Then Pippin had come back and reassuringly taken his hand again.
Pippin watched as the men tended to each other's wounds and then he saw the leader, who was sitting up and being attended to by two of his followers, touch one and nod over towards him. The man left the leader, pulled off his hood and Pippin could see he was handsome with keen bright eyes. He came over to where Pippin stood, half concealed by the entrance and, smiling at him kindly, knelt down to his height and said something.
Pippin pulled Merry out of the hiding place and pushed him forward a little. Pippin watched as the man then addressed Merry and his cousin answered.
"My name is Mablung, I take it I address the halflings, Meriadoc and Peregrin?" Mablung paused while Merry nodded. "We were sent to find you by the elf, Legolas and the Lady Éowyn," he told Merry. "May I assist you in any way? Would you like food or drink?" Mablung could see that both the halflings were in a sorry state and thought perhaps this would be a good start. It seemed to the man impossible that the dishevelled and battered looking smaller of the two had just saved his Captain's life, yet he had seen it with his own eyes.
"Y-yes Sir," Merry was more than a little disorientated and he had no doubt Pippin felt the same. Now that the danger was past, the rope had ceased to hum and he could no longer see it. They both felt a slight pang of loss, as if a dear friend had gone away. The pain from Pippin's foot had returned only it was worse, he felt achingly tired and he could also feel that strange knot in his stomach again that he now recognised as Pip's need for poppy. "I think we are a little thirsty and hungry," was all Merry could think of to say. Now he came to think of it, he did feel very thirsty and hobbits are always hungry.
"Here, take some water." Mablung took a flask from around his neck, unstoppered it and offered it to Pippin first. The little hobbit accepted it with a grateful smile and taking a small sip, just to check, placed Merry's hands on the flask and pushed it up to his lips. Between them the two drained the contents of the flask, realising for the first time how desperately thirsty they had become.
"I will get you some more." Mablung smiled at Pippin and went to find another flask. Merry and Pippin, holding hands and leaning against each other, now sank down and sat on the ground, weariness suddenly washing over both of them.
"Merry, Pippin, My little ones!" A familiar voice made Merry's heart leap with happiness and he turned his head towards the sound, nudging Pip as he did so.
Pippin looked around just as Legolas reached them with Éowyn close behind. The elf squatted on his haunches before them and put a hand to each of their faces, the way he had when first the three had linked together. Merry put his hand on top of Legolas's, pressing it closely against his cheek, "Legolas," he whispered, "you came to fetch us…"
Pippin reached up to touch Legolas's face in return, as if to confirm that what he saw was real. Then he stood, all his weight on his left foot, and threw his arms around the elf's neck, burying his face into Legolas's chest and hugging for all he was worth.
Legolas knelt now and put his arm tightly around Pippin, stroking his back and kissing his hair. The elf tried to put his other arm around Merry, pulling him gently into the embrace. The blind hobbit climbed to his feet but hesitated and Legolas could feel him trembling with emotion.
"What's the matter Merry?" Legolas tried to enfold him again, but the hobbit moved back a little.
"I stink too much." Merry whispered, not knowing who else was listening. "I think I'm very dirty and I'll get this mess on you too." Legolas could see and smell that Merry was covered in blood and pus and gore from Shelob's guts, his clothes were soaked in it and his hair caked with the gruesome matter.
"Merry, don't worry." Legolas drew him in firmly now and hugged him tightly, the hobbit gladly returning the embrace, shaking a little with relief, shock and weariness. "That mess as you call it," Legolas stroked Merry's hair now too, "is a battle scar, one you can be proud of."
Éowyn had wanted to look at Pippin's foot, but decided to leave the three alone together for a moment. Instead she went to Faramir and knelt beside Damrod who was cutting away the clothing from around the arrow wound.
"Would you like some help?" She offered, "I have removed arrows from wounds before and am familiar with the treatment of this kind of injury."
Damrod looked at her gratefully. "I have limited knowledge," he said. "The man who usually attends to wounds is injured himself. I would be honoured to have your assistance, Milady, if the Captain permits."
Faramir squeezed his eyes open a fraction through the obvious pain. "You are most gracious, Lady Éowyn, I am sorry to cause you…Aiyyyee!" The Captain broke off to cry out as Éowyn bent down beside him and snapped off the shaft of the arrow.
"There now," Éowyn smiled. "You hardly felt that at all, I'm sure."
Faramir looked up with a furrowed brow, "Hardly at all Milady." He gritted his teeth and drew a deep breath. 'Beautiful and formidable,' he thought.
"Do you carry any healing remedies or bandages?" Éowyn asked Damrod. The man nodded an affirmative and went to find supplies. She turned back to Faramir, "I must see to the halflings as well. They both have bruises and injuries and the smaller of the two, the one with the sword, has the broken foot and I do not know how well it has been tended."
"That's the one with the broken foot?" Faramir was opened mouthed, "You mean the halfling that was so badly injured by the giant spider?"
"Yes," Éowyn confirmed. "That's Pippin. Why?"
"Because he displayed great bravery just now. He stood between me and an adversary over twice his size and parried my deathblow, then delivered his own mortal attack on the beast. He killed the massive orc and saved my life." Faramir shook his head in wonder. He rose up onto his knees. "Would you be so kind as to help me to rise?
"Captain, you are injured and should remain still." Éowyn pointed out.
I think it would be a small thing for me to go to him after his great feat." Faramir struggled up, taking Éowyn's arm as she finally offered her help. "Such valour deserves a great reward, and he shall have it by my father's leave, but for now the least I can do is offer my own thanks and gratitude."
Legolas held Pippin closely, rocking him slightly to sooth him as he could feel him shaking with silent sobs now. The little hobbit was overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing his dear elf again suddenly reminded Pippin of all the horrors and hurts and anguish he and Merry had suffered since he last saw Legolas at the Great Hall where the King lived, where he had found Merry in the cage and Legolas had linked him and Merry together for the first time.
He thought of all the times since then when he had been afraid and Legolas had talked to him and comforted him and lessened his pain and suffering and told him what he should do. Now Legolas and Éowyn had come all this way just to find him and Merry. Pippin wished he could talk out loud and thank him and tell him how much it meant, that he had shown so much care for him and Merry and that they both loved him.
Merry did it for him. "Legolas thank you, th-thank you for c-coming for us and – and for everything. It was… it was… well we both love you Legolas." Legolas drew Merry in close again and hugged both the hobbits until he was all at once aware that they were being watched.
"Legolas." Éowyn said gently. "I think we must get away from here as soon as we can." She knelt next to the three. "May I take a look at Pippin's foot?"
Legolas drew the hobbits around to face Éowyn and sat Pippin down on his knee so that Éowyn could examine the bandaged foot. "It seems you did a fine job, Master Meriadoc." She smiled at Pippin reassuringly. "I think this will hold until we reach a better place."
Pippin looked shyly up at the leader of the men who reminded him so much of brave Boromir. He was standing behind Éowyn, still clasping the arrow shaft protruding from his shoulder. To Pippin's surprise and confusion as Éowyn stood up, the man knelt down in front of him and taking his small hand, lifted it up to his lips to kiss the back of it with great reverence.
Pippin saw the man's lips moving, he was saying something to him, but Pippin shook his head in regret and pulled his hand back with some embarrassment. He stood now and reached out to take Merry's hand once more.
"Pippin does not hear you Faramir," Éowyn reminded him. "Legolas or Merry can explain it to him later." She offered him her hand again. "Shall I look at that wound now?"
"It can wait until we are removed from here." Faramir knew the process to remove the arrow would probably be more debilitating than leaving it in for the moment. "Why don't you see to the halflings then we can leave here?" He took her hand and climbed to his feet. "It is not a good place to linger."
Éowyn turned back to look at the two bedraggled hobbits, still holding tightly to each other and keeping near to Legolas. "How are you Merry?" She asked the hobbit. "Very tired I should think."
"I think Pippin's hurting a lot." Merry was sure his cousin had suffered more bruises than him, although it was hard to tell as they both felt each other's pain.
Éowyn began to unfasten Merry's cloak. "I think if we take this off, you'll feel a little better, most of the smell is coming from it."
"I'm sorry," Merry was a little embarrassed at being in such a disgusting state, especially in front of a lady. "I haven't been able to wash it off and…"
"Merry it's all right." Éowyn reassured him, "I've smelt worse," she lied, "but let me clean some of this off you." She turned to Damrod and Mablung who were standing nearby. "Could you possibly collect up some water bottles from the fallen orcs? The water will serve to clean these two a little so that they will feel more comfortable."
Mablung handed Éowyn the flask he had already collected for the halflings to drink from. "I think they may still be thirsty too Milady." Then the two men moved off to collect up the other bottles.
Éowyn gave them both another drink and finished removing Merry's cloak. She was glad to see that his shirt, although in shreds, was fairly clean, as that was the material he had used to bandage Pippin's foot. The jerkin however was filthy, as were his breeches. Éowyn undid the jerkin as well and took it off and, receiving two flasks from Damrod, poured some water onto Merry's hair, combing it through with her fingers to try and remove some of the mess.
Although Merry shivered a little at the cold water he did not complain, but Éowyn could not miss his wince as her fingers met the wound on his forehead. She examined it closely and realised that it was an old gash, which had been reopened and was now badly bruised and swollen. "How did this happen?" She touched it lightly.
"It was the horse that kicked me, I think." Merry's memory of that was still dim. "Then an orc hit me against a wall."
As the water ran down Merry's bare chest Éowyn could see large purple and black patches on his ribs. "This I'm guessing is where you fell over the cliff side?" She ran her finger over the discoloured area.
"I don't know." Merry admitted. "But Pippin has much worse bruises I think. I can feel them."
"You're both bruised a lot Merry," Legolas put in. "I can feel it too, remember." He turned to Faramir. "Do your men carry any opiate? I can feel the little one's need for it is growing again."
"Yes we have a small supply." Faramir's company always carried such drugs in case of severe injuries. He relayed the request to one of his men
Legolas had taken Pippin's coat off and was checking him over for damage at the same time as Éowyn was washing Merry down and taking stock of his injuries. "Merry's right," he confirmed. "Pippin has bruising all around his neck as if someone were trying to strangle him." Legolas opened the hobbit's shirt to check his body. "He has a terrible bruise all down his right side. I'm sure that's when the spider threw him against the wall. Also evidence of being squeezed or pinched around his middle, that's probably where Shelob took hold of him."
"Oh Pippin!" Merry was listening to the catalogue of his cousin's injuries. He had felt the soreness but did not know for certain how each injury had been inflicted. He wondered who had tried to strangle Pippin, that Gollum creature maybe and when Pippin had pushed him aside from Shelob that was when She had picked him up, causing the hurt to his middle. He had never even complained, his brave little Pip!
Legolas fingered the rope wrapped around Pippin's waist, looking up at him with a question in his eyes. Pippin nodded with a big smile. This then was the magnic rope Legolas realised. He recognised the weave as being elven and wondered what part it had played in the hobbits' adventures, but that tale would have to wait.
Pippin held his wrist up as well and Legolas took it to feel the flexibility, watching Pippin's face wince as he moved it up and down a little. The hobbit then looked up at Legolas and took hold of the elf's finger and pulled it to his mouth to suck. Legolas smiled as he remembered how Pippin used to feign hurt to try and persuade Aragorn to give him poppy. "It's all right Pippin," Legolas nodded and said to himself. "You don't have to convince me, I know you need it."
Legolas took one of the spare flasks and rinsed some of the muck off Pippin, although it was mostly his hands and knees that were dirty from crawling around in Shelob's filthy lair. Legolas took his cloak and dried Pippin off and handed it to Éowyn to do the same for Merry.
Damrod came now with a small wooden box, which he presented to Legolas. “This is all we have with us, and we nearly did not bring that, except that you said it might be needed.”
Legolas took it with a nod of gratitude. “The little one needs it badly,” he said but offered no further explanation. The elf decided not to let Pippin help himself, as he also remembered his propensity to take as much as he could. He wondered if his experience with the overdose Merry and he had taken might have dulled his desire a little.
As he opened the box Pippin was already reaching up to grab Legolas’s hand, trying to pull it down to confirm what he had. Legolas would not let him, but he scooped a small amount of the paste onto his finger and offered that to Pippin.
Pippin grabbed the finger and pulled it to his mouth at once and began to suck contentedly, his eyes closing in relief. Both Legolas and Merry felt the knot in their stomachs untie and a warm feeling spread through them as the opium hit Pippin’s system.
Legolas returned the box to Damrod and rebuttoned Pippin’s coat. Then he lifted the hobbit up gently, placing him on his shoulder. Pippin wriggled a little, but not for long, he soon snuggled into Legolas’s shoulder and fell asleep.
Éowyn meanwhile finished washing the worst of the mess off Merry and, having sponged his jerkin down, put that back over the remnants of his shirt. Then she began to remove her own cloak to wrap it around the shivering hobbit, but Faramir’s hand stopped her. “No Milady, please allow me.”
Faramir’s own short cloak had been rolled up and stowed away in a small pack at his side. Awkwardly now, because of the wound in his shoulder, he managed to shake the garment free and hand it to Éowyn. She accepted it with a smile and wrapped it around Merry.
Faramir was not sure why, but Éowyn taking his cloak to wrap the halfling in made him feel incredibly happy. “Could it be possible?” he thought wistfully. “Was he in love?”
"Captain Faramir," Éowyn finished adjusting the cloak about Merry and fastening it warmly about him. "Could one of your men carry Meriadoc? I don't think he is well enough to walk all the way."
"No I can manage." Merry felt a little embarrassed at the thought of being carried like a babe when he was still able to walk. "What about Pippin? He's more hurt than I."
"Pippin is already asleep on Legolas' shoulder." Éowyn whispered to him. "We have to leave here soon and apart from being tired and hurt, the path will be difficult for you without sight."
Damrod stepped forward. "Mablung and I would deem it an honour to assist one so valiant Master Halfling. We will carry you in turn, if you will allow."
Merry still felt slightly like a piece of luggage, but Éowyn had made sense and the man's words were most gracious. He nodded his assent. "Thank you, Sir, you are most kind."
Damrod lifted Merry up onto his shoulder and the hobbit realised he was quite relieved that he did not have to walk any more. He rested his head on the man's shoulder and relaxed.
The small group was soon ready to leave and made their way down the path around the mountain, which was barely a wide ledge for a long way, with a nasty drop to the side. Eventually they reached the crooked path down, at the very end of which the light from the noisome, luminous, noxious flowers make the path glow. On through a gap in the stone wall, to the stream, to see Minas Morgul perched on the other side of the valley.
Both the exhausted hobbits slept the whole way.
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