19. A Sulky Hobbit
Pippin rode in front of Aragorn even though he was not his favourite person at the moment. Right now the hobbit was not very happy with the ranger and he was bemused with Gandalf. The latter for fighting a battle with him as the ammunition and the former for forcing salt water down his throat, followed by his fingers, making the hobbit very sick. Pippin was sulking.
Aragorn, however had determined not to let Pippin out of his sight if he could help it and was making certain he did not get his light little fingers on any more opium.
As the day drew to a close and they were about to make camp for the night, the riders overtook two men of Rohan who were limping slowly along with one horse between them. It was Drâmym and Ŭnomer.
The whole company drew to a halt and the men were brought before the King to tell their misadventures. The faces of Théoden, Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship grew grim and worried as they related how they had been attacked by orcs. "But what of the halfling in your charge?" Théoden questioned urgently.
"The last I saw of it," Drâmym explained, "was when it pulled the arrow from my back and bound my wounds. It is a most valiant creature and wrapped me in its own blanket." The rider shook his head in sorrow, "Sadly, I lost consciousness and when I awoke the halfling was gone. I know not what happened to it. Although I had been left some food and water and my horse was still there. I hope someone kind took pity on it."
"I found Drâmym the following day." Ŭnomer explained. "My horse had been killed by the orcs so I took Drâmym's mount and searched for the little one as far as I could, but there was no sign of it."
Aragorn had taken Pippin with him to hear the report of the two riders and the hobbit was watching the faces of the Fellowship grow more worried and grim with every second. He wanted to know what was happening and tried to go to Legolas, but Aragorn kept a tight hold on him.
"This is dire news indeed," Gandalf frowned "I do not know what to do except hope that he has come to no harm. Although the chance of a blind and injured hobbit surviving in the wild is not very good."
"As soon as it is light I will send more riders out to search for him," Théoden promised. "They will find him if it takes forever."
As the company made camp for the darkness hours Pippin was feeling very frustrated with life in general. He felt a very bad need for more of the poppy paste, so bad that it was hurting. He very much wanted to know what was going on, especially as he had a bad feeling that no one else wanted him to know anything. Aragorn would not let him go anywhere and instead of keeping a tight hold of him, the ranger had now tied a short length of rope around the hobbit's right wrist. Pippin could not get the cord off, in spite of trying quite hard and Aragorn or Gandalf kept a firm hold on the other end as if he were a dog on a lead, which was rather embarrassing. Legolas did not come and talk to him, he felt very lonely and he was so, so, so missing Merry!
They obviously all knew something, Pippin decided and if no one would tell him, then it must be something very bad! He made a few half-hearted attempts to suck on Aragorn's finger in the hope he might get some paste. The ranger merely shook his head and ruffled the hobbit's curls.
While Aragorn was moving about the camp, Pippin had to go too, which kept him a little busy, but eventually the ranger settled down to eat and so the hobbit had to be still. Pippin was given a plate of food, but when Aragorn did not untie his wrist so he could eat, he decided to sulk even more and left the food untouched.
Aragorn half-relented and tied the cord around Pippin's ankle instead, but still he refused to eat. The hobbit had suddenly found a way of getting attention he wanted.
"Come along, Pippin you have to eat." The ranger pushed a fork into the sulky hobbit's hand. Pippin looked at the fork for a moment then turned it upside down and used it like a pen to write in the dirt, 'whers meri?? wots hapend??'
Gimli and Legolas came to stand behind Pippin and saw what he had written. "Should we tell him?" Legolas asked.
"I don't know," Aragorn frowned, "I'm already expecting him to become more agitated over the opium, the news of Merry's disappearance will be too much to ask him to bear!"
"Does he even know that Merry is blind?" Gimli asked astutely. "It's easy to forget how little information this young hobbit is getting now that he can't hear anything."
"We should tell him," Legolas decided. "I will explain it to him. It is unfair to treat him as if he could not deal with such hardship."
"It is just that he has already suffered so much," Aragorn reasoned, "I fear for his sanity. It might be more than he can cope with."
"But we have already seen that the periain are more resilient than might be supposed," Legolas argued.
Pippin was watching this exchange anxiously. He reasoned to himself that they were discussing whether or not to tell him where Merry was and decided to help their decision along a little. He stood up and caught hold of Legolas's hands one at a time and placed them on either side of his face and looked pleadingly up at the elf.
Legolas always found this hard to resist in the little hobbit. 'Hello Pippin' he greeted him, 'what's wrong?'
'legolas …where merry gone? …more paste?' Pippin was straight to the point.
'No you can't have more paste.' Legolas decided to deal with the easy bit first. 'Listen carefully to me, I don't want you to get distressed, but we're not too sure where Merry is at the moment.'
'He was blind, he couldn't see. It was Saruman's spell.' Legolas explained, although he was not sure this was the reason Merry was missing, but it seemed better to blame someone Pippin had a grievance against. 'We think he may have wandered off and got lost.'
'merry gone? no! no! stop say that!'
"Théoden's riders are going to look for him as soon as it gets light.' Legolas could feel the panic building up inside the little one. 'I'm sure they will find him. Many riders will look for him.'
'merry gone! why? i bad? eat paste much, much? make merry go?'
'No! Pippin, No! Don't think that again.' Legolas could see the tears starting to fall and hear the matching sobs. 'You are not to blame, and I'm sure we'll find Merry. Don't worry.'
Pippin cried for most of the night, albeit silently, and Legolas, Gimli or Aragorn stayed with him and tried to soothe the trembling sobs. They also noticed that he was starting to become quite feverish and the ranger suspected that was more to do with the need for opium, but it all added to the little one's distress. At one point Aragorn decided to give him just the smallest dose of the paste and rubbed a little on his finger and let Pippin suck on it for a long time. It calmed him a great deal, although the ranger resisted giving him any more.
By morning Pippin was exhausted and slept as he rode in front of Aragorn for most of the journey to Edoras.
As good as his word, Théoden sent many riders off in different directions to search for Merry, but they were all eventually to return without any sighting of the lost hobbit.
In the meantime, the Fellowship were welcomed to Meduseld and given comfortable rooms there. Théoden held council with Gandalf, Éomer and Aragorn, discussing at length what their next strategy should be. The latter three were anxious to ride to Gondor and defend that city from the might of Mordor, or even to launch an attack on Mordor itself. However, Théoden was inclined to listen to his councillor Grima Wormtongue, who argued that as no red arrow had been brought from Gondor, any action on their part would be premature.
Gimli and Legolas were also anxious for action as they felt they were there to represent their free races and wished to show their support for Gondor, to some extent, out of respect for Boromir.
Pippin, however had other things to think about.
Rather humiliatingly, Aragorn still kept the light-fingered hobbit on a leash and Pippin's first concern was to be rid of it so that he could explore on his own. He had decided that he needed to go and investigate his surroundings. He did not expect to find his cousin there, but anything would be better than just waiting. But no opportunity to go off on his own had yet been presented.
During several tiresome hours of sitting at Aragorn's feet while the Council talked, Pippin's attention wandered round the large hall where many people came and went. In particular he noticed a group of about half a dozen children, all young boys, probably between 10 to 13 years of age, all of them taller than Pippin himself. They were playing a complicated game of war with small, carved horses and riders. Pippin himself as a lad had only ever played with wooden farm animals and these intricately carved toys intrigued him.
Pippin tugged at the leash, which was once again around his wrist, making Aragorn look to see what he wanted. The hobbit pointed at the children and then at himself and back at the children again. The ranger could see that sitting still for so long was very tiresome for someone who could not hear or speak and decided that Pippin was obviously interested in the children's game as it was something to look at and probably he would not get into any trouble just seeing what the boys were doing. The ranger untied the cord and nodded that Pippin should go and investigate.
Cautiously he ambled over and stood watching the game with interest. One of the boys finally looked up and spoke "Hello, who are you?"
"Don't you mean, what are you?" said another laughing at Pippin's odd-looking feet and ears. The boy stood up and looked down at the pint-sized hobbit. "and are you planning on growing at all?"
The boys all turned to look now and laughed at the wit of their companion. Pippin smiled too, the closest he could get to a laugh. He squatted down and picked up one of the horses and examined it with fascination.
"Hey! Leave that!" The witty boy snatched the toy from Pippin's hand.
"Don't be so mean Omie! Look it's got a hurt arm." The first boy took another carved horse and rider and gave them to Pippin to look at. "Let it see."
"Say 'thank you' then," Omie demanded. Then when Pippin did not react, added, "see Aomor your generosity doesn't even get you a 'thank you'."
"I don't know," Aomor looked at the newcomer with interest. "It doesn't say anything, perhaps it can't." Pippin was now squatting to look at the rest of the game, and the boy tapped him on the shoulder so that the hobbit looked up at him. "See," Aomor announced proudly. "It didn't know I was talking till I tapped it." He pointed to his mouth and ears and shrugged at Pippin and the hobbit pointed to his own ears and mouth and shook his head sadly. "There," Aomor declared. "told you, it can't hear or talk. That's why it didn't say 'thank you'."
"Just a minute," one of the other boys looked carefully at Pippin now. "I've seen one of these before. Different coloured hair, but the feet and size were about the same – and the ears."
"No you haven't, Ionmer." Chimed in a fourth. "My Uncle rode with King Théoden and he said that these are really rare, although they did have another one, but they lost it."
"Perhaps it was the lost one I saw." said Ionmer "We can go and see, it's in the circus outside."
"We've got no coins for the circus," pointed out Aomor.
"Doesn't matter," said Omie, "we can sneak in, I know where there's a hole in the canvas. Come on, we'll take this one with us and compare them."
The boys collected up their game and pulled Pippin up with them and left the grand hall. Nobody took any notice of their departure and Pippin was happy to sneak out with his new friends to explore.
They made their way out of the castle by a long route, mostly designed to get them past various forbidden gates and guards, but like most boys their age, they were streetwise and able to navigate quickly on their own territory. Pippin tagged along with increasing fascination in their company.
Finally they came to the outer wall and the circus. Pippin had seen the travelling show on the way in and had wanted to investigate it then, but of course other business was more pressing for his company at the time and Aragorn was certainly not going to let him off his leash to explore on his own.
The boys located the gap in the canvas and they all crawled through. The proprietor was actually astutely aware of the flaw in their security. It was left there deliberately, as Spandif knew that boys would always find a way in and inevitably a taste of the show would cause them to persuade their parents to take them again by more conventional means – which meant more money in his pocket.
Pippin's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he gazed at the amazing assortment of animals in the little menagerie. There was a large manlike creature covered with hair, several fierce great cats with different patterned coats, a strange bird with such long legs. The boys had seen such beasts before and Ionmer held Pippin's hand as he pulled him along to the far cage.
"There!" Ionmer announced proudly, pointing at the little cage. "See it's just the same."
Pippin's jaw dropped open in amazement and he flung himself at the bars. He pulled his left arm out of the sling and reached inside the cage with both hands. With his face pushed up against the metal rungs he could just manage to touch Merry's hand. It felt hot and Merry did not move. Tears were running down Pippin's face as he frantically tried to wake his cousin. The boys were watching him in surprise not really understanding what was going on. Pippin turned to look at them, hoping for help, but they did not know what to do.
Pippin reached in again and found Merry's hand once more. This time he managed a slightly better grip and as he clutched at the clenched little fist, it suddenly opened and dropped the wax seal into Pippin's hand.
Pippin knew what he had to do, although it was a fearful wrench to leave his poor Merry there, he pulled himself away from the bars and caught hold of Aomor's hand, pushing the boy back towards the tear in the canvas. The hobbit managed to indicate to the young boy that he needed to go back to the great hall and Pippin's choice of Aomor as probably the smartest and most compassionate of the boys was not wrong.
Quickly the lad took the frantic hobbit back to the Golden Hall where King Théoden's Council was still in progress. Aomor, himself would not have dared to interrupt the austere meeting that was in progress, and waited by the far door as Pippin ran straight to the mighty Mithrandir himself.
The hobbit tugged frantically at Gandalf's cloak and the wizard looked down at him with a frown and shook his head sternly, with a look that plainly said do not bother me now Pippin.
Legolas! Pippin took the elf's hands and placed them on his face, but Legolas just smiled at him and moved him aside without talking to him.
Gimli hated anyone to touch his beard, so Pippin caught hold of one of the plaits at the side and gave it a good tug and ran off. Gimli muttered something dark and dwarvish at him but did not react more than that.
Pippin tried Aragorn next, he caught hold of the ranger's finger and put it in his mouth, except instead of sucking it, he sank his small teeth into it as hard as he could.
"Ouch! Pippin what was that for?" Aragorn snatched his bitten digit away and sucked at his wounded finger.
Now Pippin had the ranger's attention he snatched a quill from the King's table and ignoring his damaged left wrist grabbed Aragorn's hand and wrote on his palm, '…i fond meri!'
Aragorn frowned and read the frantic message, but Pippin's spelling had let him down again. "Yes Pippin, we know that. But why are you being so ridiculous?"
"Whatever is wrong with the little one?" Théoden asked.
"I thought at first he had just seen something he was excited about." Gandalf explained. "Hobbits can get very over-enthusiastic at times. Come here Pippin," he beckoned. The wizard knew now that it was something more. "What's wrong?"
Pippin suddenly remembered the wax seal he had shoved in his pocket. He did not know what it was, but Merry had kept it with him so it must be important. He reached for the treasure and opened his fist to show the seal to Gandalf and the King and pointed to outside.
Théoden took the piece of wax and held it up to examine it in the light. "It is my seal. The only letter I have written recently was the introduction I gave to Meriadoc."
"That's what he wrote!" Aragorn suddenly realised what Pippin was trying to spell. "I've found Merry!"
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.