27. Drums of War
As soon as the show had finished, Théoden told Spandif he could go on his way as long as he observed the conditions Merry had laid down regarding the caged beasts. However, he suggested his company should leave Edoras as soon as possible, as the Riders of Rohan would be riding off to battle the next day and a great war was about to begin.
This was the first Merry had heard that the plan to ride to Gondor's aid was going to happen the next day and he was anxious to know where he and Pippin would be going.
Pippin led Merry to the kitchens, on the off chance that Yomyn would be there and baking something interesting that they could help him to sample, but the cook was not to be found. As they sat at the long scrubbed table to wait, and Pippin started to practice his drumming, Merry wrote on the little slate. He used his hand as a ruler to try and keep the words as straight as possible, and wrote, 'pip they ar al go-ing a-way - we hav to fynd strydr so-s we can go 2.'
He had to pull Pippin down from the table, as he was now marching up and down the full length of it proudly banging his drum. "At least I know how to find you now with that din." Merry said out loud. Pippin sat down on the table and looked at the little slate, tracing the words with his finger. When he had finished reading it he tapped Merry's cheek and wrote 'al go?'
Then he wrote 'us go?'
Merry shrugged. He took the slate again and wrote 'fynd strydr!'
Pippin got the message and reluctantly left the kitchen, leading Merry in search of Aragorn. They found him in his room, packing his few travelling things and laying out in readiness his sword and dagger. "Hello you two," he greeted the hobbits. "Did you enjoy your show, Merry?"
"Yes thank you very much." Merry put his hand on Pippin's drum to silence it as his cousin had discovered holding it with one hand and drumming with the other made a very satisfying vibration. "Strider, where are you all going and are we coming with you?"
Aragorn stopped what he was doing and rested on one knee in front of the pair. He took Merry's hand, so that he knew where he was. "No, you cannot come with us. It will be very dangerous and we could not protect you."
"You mean we would be in the way." Merry regretted the words as soon as he had said them. "I'm sorry, you were being kind. But I suppose we would be in the way. We're not much use, are we?"
"Of course, you are." Aragorn patted Merry's hand with his. "You and Pip have performed wonders in ways that I don't think you even realise. You helped Frodo and Sam to make their start on the Quest. I am sure the Ents would not have overthrown Saruman had it not been for you two and I know you helped to win Théoden round."
"But we're not exactly warrior material." Merry added. "No I understand. It's just that, I once said to King Théoden that I would offer him my sword if I still had one. I suppose he was just humouring me, but he said he would accept it. I'm just being foolish but I… I…" Merry trailed off, feeling rather embarrassed.
"You're not being foolish, Merry." Aragorn stood up. "I think I know how you are feeling. It can't be easy for you or Pippin. We treat you like children sometimes, to our detriment. Looks can be deceptive and I know what stout hearts you both have."
"So what's to happen to us? Where are we to… Pippin! Stop it!" Merry grabbed hold of his cousin's drumsticks to silence him. Pippin carried on pounding the drum with his hand.
"He's just getting frustrated." Aragorn took hold of Pippin's hands and kneeling down to his eye level shook his head and put his finger to his lips. "We have to find Legolas, so that he can explain it to him more easily."
"Poor Pip," Merry suddenly felt very ashamed for being irritated. "It’s not your fault." He put his arms around his cousin and hugged him close. Then gave him back the sticks.
"You two wait here," Aragorn led them to the bed and lifted Merry up to sit there while Pippin clambered up beside him, his drum still slung around his neck and the sticks tucked in his breeches' waistband. Aragorn took Pippin's face in his hands and mouthed the words carefully, hoping the little hobbit might understand, "I – get – Legolas." He ruffled the hobbits' curls and left the room.
Pippin knew Merry was upset, but he suspected it was not really at him. He took his cousin's hands and put them on his face and spread the fingers over his cheeks. Then he put his own hands on Merry's face and put his thumbs either side of the sad mouth and pushed the corners up.
"Oh Pip, you still make me laugh." Merry ran his hands over the sweet features and curled his fingers into the unruly locks. "Why don't you play me your drum again?" He tapped his fingers on the drum to show Pippin what he meant.
Pippin took the sticks and began to beat the instrument violently once more. Merry laughed and caught hold of his arms. "Not like that Pip." He manoeuvred the younger hobbit to sit in front of him and, reaching round from behind him, put his hands on top of his cousin's. Merry then gently manipulated Pippin's hands on the sticks beating the drum with a gentle rat-ta-ta-tat rhythm. Pippin could feel the vibrations of the drum against his body as Merry increased the tempo. Then they tried a slightly more syncopated rhythm and finished with a neat little roll.
Merry was quite a good musician as well as a good teacher and Pippin had a natural feel for the beat, as most hobbits do, he just needed showing. It was not long before, in spite of his deafness, he was making the little drum sound quite pleasant all on his own.
Merry then took the flute from his pocket and played a simple folk tune and when Aragorn and Legolas returned they paused outside the door and listened for a minute, not to interrupt the pretty music the two were now making. As the melody finished they entered the room applauding. Pippin could not hear, but could see their hands clapping and saucily jumped off the bed to take a bow.
He ran at once then to Legolas and put the elf's hands on his face. 'where go all?' He asked at once. 'where go merry and me?'
"What do I tell him Aragorn?" Legolas hated upsetting Pippin and he was sure that the little one was not going to like the answer.
"The truth. He and Merry have to stay with Éowyn while we all go to war." Aragorn shrugged. There was no easy way to explain it, but the hobbits had to realise they could not come along.
'We have to go and fight now, Pip.' Legolas held Pippin's face as he explained it. He did not need the physical contact now as their minds were becoming so attuned, but the little hobbit seemed to like the touch. 'You and Merry have to stay with Éowyn, we would not be able to protect you in a battle and you could not keep up.'
'we go come battlel too!' Pippin said exasperatedly. 'i go play drum – merry go play flute – like in old stor-ires - we go help at you!'
'No, Pippin, it would be too dangerous, you could be killed.'
'legolas go be killded? – strider go be killded? – gandalf go be killded – gimli go be killded?' Pippin pointed out logically.
'We'll try not to be' Legolas smiled down at him.
'merry and me try not go be killded!' Pippin looked the picture of misery now 'all get killded – merry and me lefted out – not go be fair!'
'No one wants to be killed.' In spite of the gravity of the situation Legolas was nearly laughing at Pippin's indignation.
'if legolas go be killded … i be…' Pippin struggled to express the thought behind the emotion which was partly a growing love he had for the elf and partly selfish motives. 'i go be too sad… too lonely.'
'You would have no one to talk to, is that it?' Legolas did laugh now. 'But you would still have to look after Merry, what would he do without you?'
'go be too sad' Pippin agreed. 'wish i go talk to merry too.'
Legolas looked up at Aragorn who was watching the exchange with fascination. The faces of the elf and hobbit tended to animate the conversation and the ranger could sense the different moods as the subject matter changed.
Merry was waiting patiently, stoically even and it suddenly occurred to the elf how very lonely it must be for this little one to be so cut off from the only other one of his kind in this foreign land. He felt it himself sometimes, it was not since Lothlórien that he had spoken with another elf and they were not his kindred. But he could at least see and hear and speak with others. The only contact these two little waifs could make with each other was to touch. The elf all at once felt overwhelmed with compassion, especially as they were now to be parted from the Fellowship who had been their protectors and friends.
Legolas suddenly realised that Aragorn was waiting for him to speak. "Pippin wants to come too. I've told him it's too dangerous, but he doesn't seem to mind that. He- he wants to talk to Merry."
"We know that Legolas." Aragorn put his hand on the elf's shoulder sensing something amiss. "What's wrong?"
"It's just something, I thought about." Legolas seemed to be in a half dream. He took Pippin's hand and led him over to the bed where Merry was still sitting and lifted Pippin up to sit next to him. He then took each of the hobbits by the hand. "Merry would you like to talk to Pippin?"
"Legolas is this some kind of elvish teasing?" Merry sighed, then, realising the sincerity in the voice, stopped. "No you're not teasing, what do you mean?"
"I may be able to let you." Legolas put his hand round Merry's face. "If you'll let me come into your mind, like I do with Pippin and be in his mind at the same time. I've never done it before, but it might be possible. Do you want to try?"
Merry's face lit up like a beacon, breathlessly he whispered, "could you? Would you? That would be wonderful!"
Aragorn looked a little sceptical, "are you sure it's safe?"
"No, but then neither is anything you try for the first time. I just cannot do it for too long, I will get too drawn in and start to lose myself." Legolas shrugged. "But I cannot see the harm for a little while, though I can certainly see the good."
"So can I." Aragorn agreed. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Just remind me to stop after a few minutes." Legolas pulled the hobbits a little further forward on the bed and knelt before them. "Make sure I don't get too absorbed. That is where the damage can happen."
The elf lifted Pippin's face in his hands and made the easy contact first, 'Pippin, do you want to talk to Merry?'
'talk merry? can talk merry? do! do! do!'
'Calm down, little one. I am going to speak to him like I do to you and you should be able to hear him as well.'
Legolas waited a moment for the turmoil of Pippin's thoughts to settle a little, otherwise Merry was going to start with a completely incomprehensible jumble of emotions. Then he took Merry's face in one hand, leaving the other on Pippin's cheek. 'Merry, Merry!' he called. 'Say my name if you can hear me. Say Legolas.'
Slightly uncertain and muted, he heard the different Bucklandish accent whisper in some awe, 'legolas?' Then more strongly 'legolas.'
'Good, Merry, now say something else to me and we'll see if Pip can hear you.'
'd-don't know what good s-say? Merry bit his lip. It was ridiculous, the thing he wanted in all the world, after being able to see Pip, would be to talk to him, and now he couldn't think of the right words.
Pippin came to his rescue. 'MERRY! – MERRY! – MEERRRRYYY!'
'Oww! Pippin.' An Elven voice 'stop shouting!'
'sooorry legolas i bad! merry! – merry! am go hear you!'
'p-pip – is r-realily you? oh go m-miss you too m-much.'
'not cry merry! want merry i go miss merry!'
'i'm n-not cry – p-pip you all right?'
'i good – not be ill. not cry merry – say me things.
Legolas could feel the massive emotion in Merry that was almost too much to bear. His love for Pippin was overwhelming and the elf noticed how the older hobbit tended to stutter when his feelings got the better of him. His thoughts weren't quite as muddled as Pippin's, but right now his emotions were running riot.
'Pippin you could tell Merry what your drum looks like.' Legolas suggested.
'blue and red and white – strings on and it shinery'
'oh Pip, that nice – do you go like?'
'best drum i got'
'only drum you got!'
'Thank the Valar!'
'shut up legolas'
'not be cheeksey, pip – while you in legolas mind - 'taint mannrers!'
'sorry mer – i go get 'cited legolas says i do'
'Well you do.'
'i sayed legolas we go war – i play drum – merry… no you! – you here! - i forgetted – you play pipe.
'we could pip, that would go be grand!'
'legolas sayed no – we be killded!'
'oh – I still like go war with othrers!'
'and i go war – legolas sayed no – they all want go be killded but not got go me and you.'
they cruelbad at us! praps we go fight them – then we got go too!'
Pippin giggled at Merry’s teasing of Legolas. 'merry can we go fight?'
'NO, You two are not going to the war. You have to stay here and look after each other.'
'we look aftrer us at war – eh pip!'
"Legolas! Legolas!" Aragorn's voice cut into Merry and the elf's hearing. "Come back now."
'Pippin, we have to go. Say goodbye to Merry now.'
'noooo! please noooo! not go – not got go!'
'pippin please not go be sad – not want membrer your voice go be so sad.'
'sorry merry,– i – i it so' Pippin's little voice dissolved into hiccupping sobs.
Legolas was squatting in front of them, pressing their faces together, his palms on their outside cheeks.
'please pip' Merry put his arms round Pippin. 'hold at i - when we go at bye - when I gone - you still feel i - i not gone – is good?'
'merry… merry… not go – not got go…'
'hold hand, pip make hug – n-not let g-go.'
'not go… merry…stay at i '
'hold hand tight keep at hug…d-don't let go!"
Legolas gently, with tears streaming down his face, moved his hands from the little wet cheeks and hugged his arms around them both. Then gradually he moved to stand back with Aragorn shaking the contact out of his befuddled head.
Merry and Pippin sat on the edge of the bed wrapped tightly in each other's arms, their eyes squeezed shut, they both shuddered slightly as if sobbing with pain.
As Legolas turned to the ranger to speak, he heard one last whisper in his head.
'legolas, sorry i forgottened - tell merry i love him!'
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.