17. Merry Gets Sad
The troupe travelled on the rest of that day, leaving Drâmym by the roadside, keeping the captive hobbit in the tiny cage on the back of the horse drawn wagon. They paused in the heat of the day and Spandif came to look critically at Merry again. "Better give it some water, lad," he told his son and maybe take those bits of rags off it, make it look more wild."
The sun was high and Merry was hot and feverish, the wounds on his back were sore and becoming infected. The lad opened the cage door and pulled Merry out, there was very little fight left in the hobbit and the big youth held him up while Spandif dragged his breeches off. As he did so, King Théoden's letter fell from his pocket. "What's this?" The showman picked the parchment up and tore it open. Merry had been set down on the ground and realising what had happened blindly made a grab for the letter, but all he managed to do with his manacled wrists was rip the wax royal seal away, which he kept tightly in his hand. "It's some kind of message, but I don't know what it says." Spandif shoved it into his pocket, "I'd better keep it," he said, thinking it might either be incriminating or have some kind of value. He pointed back to Merry, "Take that scruffy bit of cloth off it as well."
The lad caught hold of the remains of Gandalf's cloak but Merry was not prepared to let that go without a fight either. He hung on to the cloth as if his life depended on it. The lad took pity on him. "Aw let it keep its bit o' blanket Da', can't do no harm."
"Well if it's that riled up about it, we can mebbe use the rag to tease it with." Spandif rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Make it a bit more lively. Put it back now, anyhow."
The lad picked Merry up around the waist and shoved him back into the cage. He put a bowl of water and some scraps into the cage with the hobbit and locked the door. Then remembering that Merry could not see the food or water, splashed his hand in the bowl and said, "drink, com'mon, little thing, drink." He rattled the food scraps around, "eat, you hungry? Eat little thing." Merry was actually desperate with thirst and he overcame his pride to creep forward and drink from the bowl.
"There!" Spandif glowed with satisfaction. "It's settling in nicely!"
That night it rained. The cage Merry was in had no roof and he pulled the scrap of cloak over his head trying to keep dry but it was hopeless. Before long he was shivering with cold and was wet through. The little hobbit could not see the flashes of lightening, but he heard the accompanying claps of thunder, which made him whimper with fear. The animals in the cages around him were howling and growling and throughout the long night Merry grew more and more fevered, terrified and ill. The sounds and smells of the creatures around him were strange and frightening and he wondered if at any moment a claw or slavering jaw would reach in and tear at him. He hunched up as small as he could, curling his body into a tiny ball in the centre of his prison.
By morning he lay on the floor of the cage not moving except to tremble, but Spandif had other concerns by then and no one looked at him or cared.
The travelling show eventually drew to a halt and the company became very busy, setting up stalls and going about the business of preparing their acts as well as their encampment. The wagon that contained Merry's prison was unloaded and the animals' cages were ranged around inside a canvas barrier to form a private zoo. This was so that the public could not view the strange creatures without paying a fee. Merry's little cage formed part of this zoo although he was so ill he was barely aware of what was happening.
After a time people began wandering through the side shows, buying the fairings and trying their luck at the games. They paid to see the small performances or freaks in the various booths, or had their fortunes read and most of the people parted with the entry fee to come and gawp at the display of strange creatures from far off lands.
"What is that?" A gawky lad pointed to Merry's cage. "Could it be a baby elf or something from a legend? It has very odd ears and feet."
"I do not know what it is." The matronly woman escorting the child was unsure. "It does not look as if it belongs in a cage though." She tutted with concern "It seems to be rather ill as well."
"No no! Madam" Spandif was supervising the little menagerie. "This is a wild hafin' from out of the North lands. Strange and wonderful creatures they are and very wily. If you let it out it will play tricks on you. It will poison your well and eat all your corn. Put a curse on your livestock."
"It is very strange," the woman agreed. "I have never seen one before, but I have heard tell of them."
"Well tell all your friends, that there is one to see at the fair at Edoras!" Spandif announced proudly. "Just outside the Golden Hall of the King! Two days only! Today and tomorrow then we move on."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.