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Recaptured!: 88. Rejoined
"What is it Merry?" She guessed the answer before he spoke. Éowyn had seen that expression on Legolas's face too many times to not know. "Does the Wraith speak?"
"He pursues Pippin and Legolas." Merry whispered urgently with a shudder. "I can't help… I-I no Pip. Ssshhh Pip!"
Éowyn held her hand up to Drâmym and Ŭnomer, indicating they should halt. The men pulled up beside her and dismounted, then helped the lady to lift Merry down. They set the halfling on the ground and Éowyn sat beside him, holding his hands as he seemed to be lost in a trance, much the same as she had experienced with Legolas, muttering to himself or saying half formed sentences to Éowyn and breathing too quickly.
"They fall!" Merry breathed, "Arod was overcome with fear and has thrown them in his terror. Aiieeee!" Merry put his hand to his head in obvious pain, but not where the previous damage lay, it was the opposite temple. Then he seemed to relax again. "It's Legolas, he fell from the horse and hit his head, but he is unconscious now, I no longer feel him."
"Does he live?" Éowyn asked anxiously.
"Yes, I feel him still." Merry put his hand to his heart. "Pippin has drawn his blade and stands betwixt Legolas and the Wraith. He is so brave Éowyn, but I fear for them both!"
"Merry?" Éowyn could see the distress on her blind companion's face.
"The Wraith reaches for Pippin, no please! He has lifted Pippin! Oh Pippin no! But… but…" Merry suddenly looked down at the rope wound around his middle. "Look Éowyn! Can you see it?"
Éowyn followed the gaze of Merry's blind eyes and saw with astonishment that the rope about the halfling's waist was glowing with an eerie, silvery light. "Yes Merry, I see it. Do you? How can you?"
"I don't know." Merry whispered. "It's magnic – I mean magic, that is, it's enchanted in some way, it's what happened before, when Pip and I were in danger. It… oh Pippin! He is winding it into a noose!"
Éowyn held Merry tightly as he hyperventilated, she could feel his heart beating fast in obvious fear for his cousin. Eventually Merry calmed a little and spoke "Pippin was thrown from the back of the Wraith's steed, he is on the ground." Several moments passed as the two sat still, Merry's pain and anxiety throbbing into Éowyn as the two emissaries waited patiently, holding the horses, wondering what was happening.
Merry began to tremble and Éowyn took his face in her hands and soothed his hair back from his forehead. Suddenly at the contact she felt a twinge, something from before. Just as she had linked minds through Legolas when directing Merry to set Pippin's foot, she was back in the minds of the hobbits. Mostly she felt Merry's thoughts, but through those she knew what was happening to Pippin as well. At first she went to withdraw, as it was accidental and felt like an intrusion. But Merry's mind held her close, wanting her there, feeling her calming but strong influence.
They felt Pippin's terror of the Witch-King, but also his resolve and bravery now in the face of this enemy. Then they knew that Gandalf was riding to his aid, but felt Pip's horror as the Wraith moved towards him again.
"Ohhh! Merry no!" Éowyn felt her own heart leap now as she felt rather than saw, through Merry via Pippin's thoughts, the brave Captain. Pippin's mind described the one that he had saved from the orc. The man who took his hand and said things he couldn't hear. "Faramir!" Éowyn realised she had gasped his name out loud. "No! Please no!"
The two continued to cling together as Gandalf arrived and drove the Witch-king back. Éowyn and Merry both drew a sigh of relief as they realised through Pippin that, although injured, both Legolas and Faramir lived. Then gradually, as the fear subsided, the link grew less and without verbalising both the hobbits knew they must draw back now and hide their minds from the Wraith as best they could.
"TOO LATE" The Witch-King snarled to himself. "I SEE YOU BLIND HALFLING!"
The company of marching orcs were moving slowly now, almost at a standstill, as they had reached the mouth of Udûn and were waiting their turn to go through. Several roads met at this point and many companies had arrived there at once so there was much pushing and shoving. Sam was relieved for the brief respite, as he had run the whole way, albeit with Grutfley's supporting arm. It was dark now and in the distance they could see watchfires on the walls, but the immediate area was lit only by the odd torch.
At this convergence there was much confusion and skirmishes and fights were breaking out, not just in this battalion, but in the lines pouring in from other directions, it was noisy and chaotic with order rapidly breaking down. The orc bosses were running up and down the lines cracking whips and brandishing swords, desperately trying to keep order.
Smagnu was still concealing Frodo in his arms, wondering what to do with these two imps. To let them carry on into Udûn and thence to battle, he was sure would be the end of them. He was certain that was not where they had intended to go, just as he was equally certain he wanted to know nothing more about where they did intend to go, or why he felt the smaller one carried some hidden, terrible danger.
"Hoi you! Smag, whacha got under yer cloak?" The slave-driver with the whip came back down the line. ". . .'r yer tryin' to flitch summat?"
Smagnu thought quickly, "No Chief, this one was tryin' to get off, so I just pulled him back again." The Uruk set Frodo down next to Sam, "he won't try it again."
"I'll give 'im what fer." The whip wielding orc strode over to grab Frodo by the arm but Smagnu stood in front.
"I said, he won't try it again, an' I meant it." Smagnu growled and Grutfley sidled silently up beside his companion, his hand on the long dagger in his belt.
"Dare says 'n 'e won't," the slave-driver cracked the whip at his side. "just need to make 'n example out o' some o' 'em, thass all, give it 'ere."
As the two Uruks confronted each other Sam moved in front of Frodo and just behind Smagnu. Their part of the line had stopped now and all the orcs nearby were the smaller driven breed. They tried to move away from the two mighty uruks, not wanting to get caught up in a brawl that could easily get them killed. Grutfley scanned the lines, watching Smagnu's back. The other Chiefs he could see were occupied near the front of the battalion, trying to keep order amongst the weary ranks, who were now pushing to get through the gate.
There were large circles forming around various fights and the bosses had given up trying to stop them, but were instead wagering on the outcome. The loser would wind up dead and the spectacle, shouting and cursing in the meantime would entertain the others.
"Go on, 'ave 'im." Grutfley urged quietly to Smagnu, "...'s all clear."
"I said," Smagnu took a step towards the whip holder, "he's all right, leave him be!"
"P'raps yer'd like a taste o' the whip yerself." The orc expertly cracked the lash swiftly across Smagnu's face. Sam caught hold of Frodo pushing him further away and shielding him with his body, his hand on the hilt of his own sword ready to fight to the death if needed. Both he and Frodo were astonished that these two orcs were prepared to defy their own masters in their defence.
Smagnu growled and the whip rose again, coming down across his back. This time the Uruk turned slightly with the blow and caught the end of the lash in his fist. He spun his arm to wrap the thong several times around, to get a better purchase on it. The whip orc jerked it back in anger, but Smagnu pulled harder bringing the slave-driver towards him and smashing his raised elbow into the other's face as he fell forward.
The smaller orcs scattered as the big body fell amongst them and Grutfley moved in front of Sam and Frodo, shielding the little imps from the fight, whilst reaching for his dagger. Smagnu followed his adversary down to the ground, his knee in the other's stomach and his great fist driving into the already broken nose.
The downed orc still had a good length of the whip in his hand and expertly flicked the slack around Smagnu's neck. He twisted the two ends together to make a garrotte and began turning it slowly but tightly, a malicious grin on his face that showed it was not the first time he had despatched a victim in this way.
Smagnu growled with anger and moved his knee from the other's belly, straightened his leg, then brought it up again viciously into the other's groin. The blow brought an agonised groan from the slave-driver and this gave Smagnu a second's respite but before he could deliver another attack the lash twisted again. His breath began to fail and the sounds of jeering and fighting from the other orc battles became distant, as his eyes dimmed and all around him began to fade to black.
"Mr Smagnude? Mr Smagnude?" It sounded like new Little Pip for a moment, not the same accent exactly, but the kind of thing he would say. Had he died? Had new Little Pip died and come to greet him? Is that what happened? No, surely he could not end up in an afterlife that had a creature so gentle and good as new Little Pip in it too?
Smagnu opened his eyes. The dark haired, thin-faced little imp was standing in front of him, leaning down and looking anxiously into his face, with his companion just behind him. He looked a little further and could see Grutfley pulling his long bladed dagger out of the whip wielder's back. Once more, his partner had assuredly saved his life.
The surly orc came quickly over to his companion. "C'mon Smagnu, get on yer feet." He hauled the bigger orc up and looked surreptitiously around. "Don't think any of the bigger ones've noticed yet." He pushed the long whip into Smagnu's hand. "You jest take over, no one'll care."
"Right." Smagnu was up and functioning again. "Er. . . Thanks again, Grutfley."
"Saving my skin again, 's getting to be a habit with yer." Smagnu grimaced.
"Yer can do the same fer us sometime." Grutfley harrumphed, a little embarrassed now.
Smagnu turned to Frodo and Sam who were now holding onto each other, their cloaks drawn tightly about them, looking in awe at their two champions. "You's two'd better get off while yer can." Smagnu looked quickly around, then gave them a little push towards the side of the road where Grutfley was now dragging the slave driver's body. Several of the smaller orcs were helping him, they had suffered under his lash and were not averse to the idea of a new master, especially one that seemed willing to stand up for their kind.
Smagnu hustled Frodo and Sam to the edge of the road. It had a high kerb by which troop-leaders could guide themselves in black night or fog and it was banked up some feet above the level of the open land. The hobbits looked over the side but could see nothing below.
"Do you have any food?" Smagnu asked them, suddenly smiling to himself at the memory of how much the little Pips liked to eat, especially how excited Little Pip got whenever he brought them something good.
"Yes Sir, Pip gave us some." Frodo opened his cloak to show Smagnu the bag tied around his shoulder. "He tried to give us all he had, but we made him take a little back."
Smagnu recognised his food bag. "Thass the one that was stolen from us. Little Pip must've recaptured it." Smagnu laughed at this. "He always was a good little thief."
"Oh is it yours?" Frodo went to take the bag off and return it to its rightful owner.
"No you keep it." Smagnu pushed Frodo's hands down. He lifted his newly stolen water flask from round his neck and hung it about Frodo's. "Here and take this'n as well, you'll need both."
"You're very kind, Mr Smagnude. Thank you." Frodo said quietly.
As Grutfley dumped the dead body over the side where it would lie undiscovered and unmissed, probably for all time, Smagnu indicated to the two hobbits that they should climb over the kerb as well. "I don't know where you two little creatures are bound or why," Smagnu whispered. "But if you stay by us you will not survive, of that I am sure, you two don't belong in this outfit. You lie here quiet until all this rabble has gone and be on your way."
"We're very grateful to you, Sir." Sam whispered in amazement. He had scarcely been able to believe Mr. Merry's tale of the orcs that had befriended them, and had still been unable to completely let himself trust them during the run, but all Sam's doubts were gone now.
"If I ever find it in my power to be of service to you, I will remember your kind actions to Sam and me and my cousins." Frodo looked the great ugly creature in the eyes and was moved by the sincerity that he saw there and gave a little gracious bow. "I am forever in your debt."
"There's one thing you can do for me – for us." He waved his hand towards Grutfley who had finished disposing of the body and rejoined his partner. "If ever you meet with your kin again, say hello to the little Pips for us." Smagnu gave a small smile. "Say we miss them."
"Éowyn! Éowyn! Dear sister! Well met at last!" Éomer was riding in a forward éored away from the main Rohirrim. Ŭnomer and Drâmym were riding either side of Éowyn and Merry was perched before the warrior maiden on Windfola. As the two groups of riders met they drew up and Éomer dismounted and Éowyn, having first let Merry slide to the ground, gave the hobbit her reins to hold as she ran forward to embrace her brother.
"You succeeded in retrieving Merry I see," Éomer reached out to grasp Merry's shoulder, "but what of Peregrin, the other halfling?"
"Pippin is a little injured, Éowyn smiled at her brother's concern. " but both the halflings managed to escape the Dark Tower and Pippin is now on the way to Minas Tirith with Legolas."
"But where did you meet with Ŭnomer and Drâmym?" Éomer addressed the two emissaries now. "Did you complete your mission?"
"We met with a division of men from Minas Tirith, a Captain Faramir and he is delivering news of our approach."
"Very well," Éomer helped Éowyn back onto Windfola. "Come Merry I will help you up." He lifted Merry to sit back in his place. "I see there are many reports to be made and tales told. Let us join Théoden King first to save you the labour of explaining twice."
The Rohirrim were making their last camp that night before the expected battle the next day and when the group arrived there was much bustle and activity. Merry could hear the stamping hooves of many horses as they passed the lines of tethered animals and clashing of spear and sword as men parried in mock battle. Voices all around him cried out orders and acknowledgements as men moved hither and thither, readying the camp for the meal and rest, but he could also sense the palpable tension in the air as they anticipated the forthcoming fight.
At last they reached the tent of the King and Éowyn whispered to him, "Théoden my uncle will no doubt try to dissuade you and me from accompanying them into battle. I know where my destiny lies, Merry."
"Mine also," he whispered back. "I will go with you if I can, if you will allow me to burden you a little further."
"You are no burden, dear Merry." Éowyn said quietly into his pointed ear, making him tingle slightly at her touch. "I would sooner have such a valiant warrior as you at my side than many I could name."
Éowyn slid from Windfola and Merry followed, having learned now how to hold the pommel of the saddle while he slung his leg over to gradually lower himself to the ground.
They entered Théoden's tent just ahead of Drâmym and Ŭnomer, but waited until the tired men had given their report to the King.
When they had left Théoden embraced his niece with relief. "Sister-daughter I was afraid I would not see you again, such a perilous path you choose."
"I did not really have a choice, Uncle in truth." Éowyn finished the embrace and led Merry forward, the blind hobbit always felt slightly nervous in new situations since losing his sight. "Merry is too dear to me now to abandon."
"Of course," Théoden took Merry's hand and clasped the hobbit's shoulder. "Meriadoc I am glad you are come back safe and sound."
"Thank you, My Lord." Merry bowed to Théoden. "Once more I am in your debt and to the Lady Éowyn I owe my life as well."
"Do not be deceived by this halfling's humility." Éowyn's voice was light and smiling. "He is valiant beyond measure and has performed great and noble deeds."
"With deference to Milady," Merry smiled now, "I am indeed humble, before her heroism and perhaps one day when our tale is told you shall judge for yourself."
"I shall look forward to the day, Master Holbytla," Théoden agreed. "When the war is done I hope you shall sit beside me in the Golden Hall at Edoras and both shall tell your tales for me to judge. But for now, when you have rested, you must begin the long journey back to Helm's Deep."
"My Lord," Éowyn had known this would be her Uncle's wish. "Meriadoc and I have proved our worth in battle already, please do not attempt to turn us aside now, for we shall disobey you, although it will grieve both our hearts."
"Sister-daughter, how can you ask me to allow you to go to such peril," Théoden shook his head in dismay. "A fair woman and a blind halfling. My men will think I have taken leave of my senses."
"Surely to turn us out into the road alone, would be a greater folly." Éowyn argued. "And there are no men you can spare to guard us, or those that you sent would be ashamed to draw such a task when a great battle lies ahead."
"My Lord, I am no great warrior, but I can make a defence," Merry slung the little buckler that was on his back, across his arm and laid hold of his sword. "The Lady Éowyn tutored me."
Éowyn drew her own sword and Merry reacted to the sound by drawing his as she had schooled him. He parried several passes that Éowyn made and when she finally stood down he re-sheathed the weapon.
"My Lord." Merry laid his hand on the hilt of his little sword and drew it across his arm as Éowyn had taught him. "I once said, as you protected me atop the tower of Isengard, that if I had a sword I would lay it at your feet."
"Indeed and I said I would accept it." Théoden put his hand on Merry's shoulder. "I was impressed with your valour then as now, Meriadoc."
Merry knelt before the old King and offered up the hilt of his sword across the back of his left arm in the correct manner. "Please accept it now, My Lord," he finished simply.
Théoden looked at Éowyn's determined face and at Merry's sincere gesture. "I shall grieve this day if aught harm should come to either of you, but stout heart may not be denied."
The King laid one hand on Merry's sword and the other on his head. "Meriadoc I accept your sword with gratitude and I hereby appoint you Esquire to the King. You shall ride in the King's guard along with Sister-daughter Éowyn, if Windfola will gladly bear you both."
Then Théoden embraced Éowyn, "Sister-daughter I will be honoured if you will ride beside me in the King's éored. Your presence will stand as a symbol of the valour of the bloodline of the House of Eorl for all time and you will become legend in song and story.
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