11. The Council
Aragorn lifted Pippin from the floor and put him back on the table to finish bandaging his arm. The splint reached from the palm of his hand to his elbow. Then the ranger bound the hobbit's arm to his body to further immobilise the injury.
"Do you think we should let him sleep?" Legolas sat on the table and stroked Pip's hair. "I fear what torment or evil dreams he may be suffering."
"He is restless and pained." Gimli leaned forward on his axe to look at the small quivering form. "But perhaps we should wait for Gandalf."
"Let him sleep for now." Aragorn took a warm blanket from his pack to wrap around Pippin. "There is the opium I gave him, that may help somewhat."
Théoden and Gandalf, with Merry asleep on his shoulder, arrived in the guardroom and Aragorn carefully looked over the other hobbit's injuries without awakening him. Finding nothing immediately life threatening he opened Pippin's blanket and carefully placed Merry beside him and wrapped them up together for warmth.
Gimli had lit a fire in the hearth and found a store of food that was wholesome and unspoiled and so the strangest mixture of peoples, king, wizard, dwarf, elf and ranger, sat down to discuss two small hobbits.
They moved the sleeping pair to a cot that had obviously been used for off-duty guards in the corner of the room, then sat around the table.
"I fear for them both." Gandalf had given the others an account of what happened on the Orthanc tower and listened with growing gravity to Legolas's description of the terrifying mind or vision he had met inside Pippin's memories.
"Can you not enter Pippin's mind and confront whatever dwells there?" Legolas suggested. "I would do so myself, but I am not sure what it is or how to deal with it."
"I am not too certain either, Legolas." Gandalf shook his head. "But from your description I believe Saruman cast a dark spell upon Peregrin that opened a path into his mind enabling Sauron to place his claim. This path was used when he was made to look into the palantír."
"Then does this not endanger the whole Fellowship?" Aragorn asked. "Frodo's mission would be in Pippin's mind for Sauron to read."
"No. Saruman had robbed Peregrin of speech and hearing, as he robbed poor Meriadoc of his sight." Gandalf continued. "A poor spy that would make him, if he did not know what was happening. I think rather that when Pippin looked into the palantír he saw the great lidless eye and it has marked him as Sauron's property, but it sees and speaks only inside Pippin's mind."
Théoden looked over to where the two hobbits were now apparently sleeping peacefully, "and what of the other? What of young Merry?" Though he had just met the hobbit the venerable King of Rohan had formed an attachment to the brave lad and found he cared greatly for his well being."
"Much the same thing," Gandalf explained. "He could see the wraith, although he can see nothing else. A part of him has been cast into the shadow world of the Dark Lord. The wraith itself claimed exactly that. But hobbits are outside Saruman's experience. He is not familiar with their innocence." Gandalf actually smiled a little. "They are so naïve in their dealings with the world outside their Shire that there is little that will corrupt or pervert them. They do not crave power or wealth. Their pleasures are simple and easily obtained, food, pipeweed, each other. A fearsome enemy such as Sauron has most certainly never encountered such an adversary before. A fact that is in our favour as he will be unsure how exactly to deal with them."
"But it is a sore trial for Merry and Pippin." Gimli said. "Perhaps they will be corrupted by the torture of what is happening to them."
"Even if that were to happen, we will not abandon them," said Aragorn, "but how much of a danger are they, to themselves and to others?"
"I fear the wraith will not cease to pursue them." Gandalf sighed. "Meriadoc must certainly leave here tonight, as soon as possible. King Théoden has offered to send him to Edoras and that may be the safer path for him. With Peregrin I must seek out his inner turmoil and alleviate it if I may, although a wizard does not lightly enter the mind of a hobbit. They are too fragile and easily damaged by such contact."
"Pippin is not fit to travel far at the moment in any case." Aragorn pointed out. "Although his broken bone is now set, he is still very ill in body, he has a fever and needs rest. He must not be jostled on the back of a horse for hours on end."
"Merry also needs his wounds tending," Théoden added. "But to wake him now would seem unkind, he was so exhausted."
"He will have to waken soon," Gandalf said, "but there is no time to tend to him properly here. He must leave directly."
"Surely I can remove the fetters from him?" Gimli took up his borrowed foundry tools. "That at least would be some help."
"There are many skilled blacksmiths and healers at Edoras," Théoden assured him. "I will send him with trusted men who will look after him well and see that the chains are removed and all his hurts tended to."
"But what of healing?" Legolas asked. "Can their sight and hearing be restored? Is there nothing you can do Gandalf? Are you not a wizard of equal status to that of Saruman when he bewitched the hobbits?"
"It is unlikely that I can remove a spell cast by Saruman," Gandalf replied. "But when I learn more, it is possible I can persuade him to reverse the effects. In the meantime the Ents will keep him safely locked up.
"There is still much to do in Isengard." Gandalf continued. "We will aid Treebeard in rounding up any stray orcs or renegades and, with the assistance of your company of men, My Lord Théoden, we must secure the entire area before we leave."
"Very well, Théoden rose to leave, "I will summon two trusty riders, with fast horses to bear Meriadoc to Edoras with all speed and we shall join him there as soon as the other holbytla is well enough to travel and Isengard is secured."
"We need to rejoin the war, as soon as we may." Aragorn said. "Gondor is in deadly peril."
"The Rohirrim will be ready." Théoden replied. "I will see to it."
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