"Shhh!" Merry hissed. "You'll have me caught!" Merry had come to know Bergil well in recent days; the boy was as distraught for his absent father as Merry was for Pippin. Merry, for his part, found Bergil rather reminded him of Pippin, and his companionship eased his burden very slightly.
"Caught? So, the Warden has not granted you your leave yet?" Bergil whispered as they both retreated as far from the gate as possible.
"No," Merry answered ruefully. "I'm perfectly all as well as a hobbit should be, but yet he will not believe me, and will not let me anywhere alone. And even if I were ill - which I certainly am not! - I don't know the harm of being in the garden."
"Nor do I, but the Warden is well known to err in favor of annoyance," Bergil grinned. "When I was with the pox he would not let me free for a month."
"A month!" It was all Merry could do not to shriek it. "I have been here far too long already. And there's something about the city today. Something is going to happen, and I do intend to be part of it."
"As do I," agreed Bergil. "I was coming to fetch you. I have heard tell of an eagle arriving at the city."
"An eagle?!" gasped Merry. "Gandalf knows the eagles. Perhaps - Owph!"
Merry was interrupted by the twisting of his ear by a strange hand, and by the yelping sound Bergil made, Merry suspected the hand's owner might have acted likewise with the boy. Nor was Merry excessively surprised to find the hand belonged to the Warden.
"Master perian, you lead a fine chase! Far too fine. Shall I have you locked in your room? Or do you even recall the instruction I gave you earlier?" Several days of seeking solace in the garden without permission had caused the Warden to be increasingly frustrated with Merry.
Merry was no less frustrated by the Warden's excessive caution, and was no longer inclined to hide his distaste for his imprisonment. "Well, I believe your instructions were to stay in the Houses and not leave for any reason without your permission, were they not?"
"A cheeky one you are, and I see you have enlisted one of our lads to assist you in your escape, no less. Indeed, I shall have you locked away for now."
"You can't!" Merry insisted. "There is news in the city and I shall hear it in spite of you!"
"Yes, you will hear it indeed," grumbled the Warden. "You shall hear it -"
"From the eagle himself, and in my company," Faramir finished, striding in just in time to retrieve Merry and Bergil from the Warden's grip. "Remember Mithrandir's words about the Pheriannath? Remarkable they are, and far more resilient than men. I am quite certain Master Merry is perfectly well and able to attend, would you not agree?"
The Warden may have found Merry frustrating, but he had no wish to defy his lord. And so Merry (and Bergil) were quite glad to find themselves escorted by Faramir to the gates of the city, where the eagle was awaiting Faramir's approach.
"Lord Faramir," the eagle began, "I bear news from my King, Gwaihir, and from Mithrandir. Sauron has fallen, and his army has dispersed."
The eagle had to pause then, as the cheers and shouts from the men present made speech difficult. He continued when the din lessened. "King Elessar requests a caravan be sent to the fields of Ithilien with all haste. There are many warriors fallen, and many more injured and in need of tending."
Merry could wait no longer. "Is there any news of a halfling?"
"Or my father, Beregond?" Bergil added.
The eagle cocked his head slightly. "There are far too many injured men to be accounted for, nor have I heard of a halfling who fights alongside of men. Yet I have heard, that my King has rescued two halflings from the foot of Orodruin, and they are borne to Ithilien as we speak."
"Sam and Frodo!" Merry cried out joyfully, though his heart still pained for news of Pippin. "They have succeeded!"
"So they must have," Faramir agreed. "And I am glad to hear of it. Friend eagle, I beg you to advise Mithrandir I shall send as many as may be spared to Ithilien as the King requests."
"My Lord! I must be sent with them! I cannot wait for another moment more to learn what has become of Pippin," Merry begged.
Faramir smiled. "And tell him if you would, that I shall send this halfling and the boy as well, so that they may learn of those they seek."
Not even each other's companionship could ease the anxiousness of Merry and Bergil as their company made its way to Ithilien. No more news was forthcoming to the travelers, and little more was made available when they reached the camp well after nightfall at the end of their journey. A guard sent Bergil to seek his father among the wounded men, but he said he knew nothing about a halfling fighting for Minas Tirith, and sent Merry on his way into the encampment to seek his answer.
Merry wandered for hours on end, first about the camp, then through the fields searching for Pippin or news of him, yet he found no one whom he recognized and none who knew Pippin's whereabouts. His feet and his heart grew heavier with each step as both his hope and his strength flagged. He was beginning to consider that the Warden's cautions might have been well taken, when he was startled by the snort of a horse behind him and then surprised by a familiar voice addressing him.
"Meriadoc Brandybuck! I had sent word for you to be brought to me upon your arrival, but it seems some men do not remember more than a little of their instructions, and I had to seek you myself."
"Strider!" Merry's relief was such that he could not help but throw himself upon Aragorn, even before Aragorn had fully dismounted from his horse. Merry wanted desperately to know everything but felt awkward inquiring about Pippin immediately. "I-I greatly feared for all our company…do you know…"
"Yes, all those of the Fellowship have survived, and so has your King Éomer. Most important to you, I know where you may find the brave Pippin. Gimli and Legolas remained with him while I searched for you." Aragorn grasped the Merry's shoulders gently. "But he is not well. I have done such as I am able, but he was gravely injured."
This certainly was not the news Merry had wished to hear, while he supposed it could have been even worse. All the same Aragorn's eyes betrayed his concern, and as for Merry, both his eyes and his voice betrayed him. "He will live though, Strider, he will, won't he?"
Aragorn did not answer, but instead lifted Merry onto his horse. "We have done what we can, my friend. But we are not hopeful."
Merry remembered very little of the journey back to the camp, as he spent much of it hiding his fear and distress for Pippin by burying his face in the horse's long mane. Nor did he remember Aragorn lifting him down from the horse and half-carrying him into a tent. Indeed Merry was largely unaware of his circumstances until he was greeted warmly by Gimli and solemnly by Legolas.
"Merry!" Gimli bellowed. "Your fellows have proven themselves as much of warriors as you did for your King. Frodo and Sam are here being tended quite well. And a pity you were not here to witness Pippin's might, as he felled a great troll-chief himself!"
"But he yet bears the cost of his bravery," Legolas added. "Come, Merry, perhaps your presence may aid your friend."
Merry gasped at his first sight of Pippin. However taller the two of them might now be compliments of the ent-draughts, Pippin still seemed far too tiny and fragile, bound up in bandages nearly from head to toe. "He slew a great troll-chief, but could not escape soon enough and was crushed to the ground," Aragorn said softly. "He is broken, far more than any man could survive. But the hobbits are strong, and perhaps he is waiting for you."
Aragorn's words were not heard by the ears they were intended for; Merry had already thrown himself beside Pippin's cot. One of Pippin's arms was tightly bound and clearly broken, so Merry took the less injured hand into his own and peered into Pippin's still and quiet face. "Pippin! Pippin! It's Merry, I came as quickly as I could," he called quietly at first, but receiving no answer and recalling how best to acquire Pippin's attention, Merry raised his voice. "Peregrin Took, you cause me too much worry! Wake up, you have a long tale to tell and I shall hear it at once!" But he received no response at all. "Oh, Pippin," Merry whispered, "you must wake. You must."