Merry felt his way along the wall, stepping carefully, making sure he had solid ground beneath each foot before putting all his weight down. He listened carefully every so often, hoping to hear footfalls or another voice so that he could ask for help, but there seemed to be no one around. He tried calling out even though it made him feel slightly foolish and rather vulnerable, but nobody answered anyway.
As Merry walked along he gradually grew more confident and his pace quickened, slowing only when he found gaps in the wall where arches or doors were set. He then had to feel his way more carefully following the recess until it returned to solid wall.
Suddenly the wall ended and Merry, touching ahead with his foot along the ground, realised he was at the top of a flight of steps. He wished that he had paid more attention to these details when Pippin had been leading him about, but there seemed no need at the time. 'Pip would always be there for me. But now…' The thought trailed off, Merry did not want to start imaging what had happened to his little cousin.
"What are you doing, halfling?"
The voice was so abrupt and unexpected that Merry was startled and as he turned too quickly in the direction of the challenge, he stepped backwards and tripped over the top step. His balance was lost and he tumbled head over heels to the foot of the steps, landing with a thud at the bottom. He was not really hurt, hobbits are very good at falling, rolling and jumping up, but he was very badly shaken.
As the hobbit lay in a heap at the bottom of the stairs he heard a voice above him mutter, "Stupid thing, it's probably killed itself now!" Then he could hear footfalls descending towards him, probably the owner of the voice.
"Are you hurt?" The voice seemed businesslike rather than concerned and, as Merry pulled himself up into a sitting position and decided nothing was broken, he realised it belonged to Grima Wormtongue, he recognised his voice from the trial..
"No, I'm not hurt." Merry stood now and waited for the man to come all the way down. He did not like Grima particularly and after overhearing his last comment, did not trust him either. But at the moment he had very little in the way of choice.
"Can you help me?" Merry asked, "I have to find my cousin, Pippin, the other halfling. Or at least could you take me to Aragorn or Gandalf or Gimli or Legolas or Éowyn or…or…" Merry trailed off, realising all at once that what he had said was rather rude.
"You mean anyone but me?" The implication was not lost on Grima.
"No, it's just that I don't want to bother you, but I do need to find Pippin quite urgently." Merry was suddenly struck by the fact that when anyone else talked to him they seemed to have a knack of letting him know where they were. It might be as much as taking his hand or as little as a very direct voice projection. But with this man he could tell nothing and did not even know if he was looking at him as he spoke. Merry suspected that he was not.
"I will help you, halfling. Come with me and we will go and find your cousin together." Grima put his hand on Merry's shoulder and pushed him forward to the steps. The man lifted Merry's arm so that his hand found the rail and they climbed back up to the top.
Merry shuddered slightly at the touch, noticing also that it was distant and unfriendly, but he told himself not to be stupid. He was still in Meduseld, under Théoden's protection and, much as he disliked this man, what could he do to him here?
Legolas had wandered far from the castle in his search for solitude and trees. As he ran back he realised it must be a league distant and the urgency made it seem even further. He felt a surge of anguish as he remembered the scream that had leapt unwarranted from his lips. What could have happened to Pippin to make him cry out so and how had he heard him over such a great distance?
The elf knew that joining minds was not to be played with and could have far reaching consequences. He wondered if he had already overstepped the limit with the perian. Pippin had needed him so much, he found it hard to resist talking to him. But Legolas knew that, just like the poppy paste, it could become addictive. Added to that, it became unconscious. If contact was continued over too long a time, they would find themselves wandering in and out of each other's minds unbidden and very often unwanted. It was not a comforting thought.
But then Legolas remembered how lonely and hurt the little one had been and that the touch of his innocent mind was pleasant, it was so refreshing and naïve to an ancient being such as he. Perhaps it was part of his destiny to be linked in this way, it did not seem such a trial and if he could help to protect Pippin by being in his mind – then so be it.
He entered the castle keep at a run and made for the Great Hall. Although the hour was late, Gandalf, Aragorn and Gimli were there with Théoden and his entourage, still planning for the following day.
Legolas made straight for his companions, "The halflings – where are they? He caught hold of Aragorn's arm, "where is Pippin?" he asked frantically.
"In my room, as far as I know, unless they woke and took off for the kitchens again." Aragorn frowned at the elf's urgency. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know. There was a cry. It came from my lips, but 'twas not mine." Legolas wondered if this made any sense to the others. "It was Pippin, he cried out in my head! Come, we have to find him."
Legolas and Aragorn went to see if the hobbits were still in the ranger's room, while Gandalf decided to look in the kitchens and Gimli, Éomer and Éowyn started a search of other parts of the castle.
The scene in the bedchamber did not bode well. The bed was in disarray, with no sign of Merry or Pippin, then Aragorn noticed his bag was opened and a few little things were spilled on the floor. "I'm glad I didn't leave my poppy paste in there," he smiled and patted his chest pocket where the box was stowed. "I'll wager that Pippin has been searching my things again in the hope…Oh no! This is far worse! How could I have been so careless?"
"What is it?" Legolas's eyes widened as the ranger frantically pulled things from his bag, obviously searching for something.
"The palantír! It's missing. Pippin must have taken it – this is dire news indeed." Aragorn turned to the door, the elf at his heels. "We must find Gandalf and the hobbits now. If Pippin has looked into the palantír…"
"I know the consequences Aragorn. Come let us not waste time or breath on words. Let us find them."
Pippin lay curled around the glass ball on the battlements of the castle. As he gradually came to his senses the hobbit did not sit up but lay with his eyes open, still staring at the globe pressed into his chest. He wanted to look away, with all his being he longed to push the hateful thing from him and cast it over the steep side of the castle wall. It was only a short distance, without taking his eyes from the globe he could still see the edge, but his will failed him. He could not move.
'Merry what have I done?' Pippin's mind was running in anguished circles now, the memory of staring at the ball so frighteningly fresh in his head. In reality several hours had passed, but it seemed like only a few short minutes since the dark shadows had coalesced into terrifying forms, twisted and distorted images that could not be, even in his worst imaginings. Then HE had come!
"MY DAINTY," he had mocked the frightened hobbit. "MY GIFT FROM THE WIZARD! WHY DID YOU TRY TO HIDE?
Pippin had made no reply, his whole being was transfixed with fear.
'SPEAK! ANSWER AT ONCE!' His cruel voice cut Pippin through his heart, it hurt so badly he tried to speak just to make the pain stop.
'not hide – not – not knowed how!' He squeaked, it was all he could manage.
'LIES!' He cut back at the hobbit. 'I WILL HAVE YOU NOW! WHERE IS THE OTHER?'
'gone – is gonned!' Pippin tried to clamp his mind shut from thoughts of Merry. It was not easy and just the realisation that he was being questioned about his cousin brought him into Pippin's undisciplined head.
'HE IS NEAR YOU. I WILL HAVE YOU BOTH. YOU WILL STAY THERE! YOU WILL NOT MOVE. I WILL SEND FOR YOU NOW!'
Then He was gone. But as He withdrew a terrible shock wrenched through Pippin and he screamed without making a sound, but there had been a momentary flash of Legolas through his head and he heard the sound of his own cry in the elf's mind. Then all conscious thought had died.
The hobbit did not know how long had passed until he gradually came back to his senses, but since then Pippin had lain still, unable to move. Perhaps it was an enchantment or perhaps just a trick of the mind but the hobbit had remained paralysed.
Grima was pushing Merry rather than leading him, a procedure the hobbit found very uncomfortable and unnerving. The others always took him by the hand but Grima gripped Merry's upper arm, almost as if he were a recalcitrant schoolboy caught in mischief, and marched him along at a smart pace.
"Halfling, I think it would be better if I leave you somewhere safe and conduct the search on my own." Grima's words immediately put Merry on his guard. What was this man up to?
"I would rather come with you." Merry tried to turn to face Grima as he spoke, but the man had too firm a grip on the hobbit's arm. "Or take me to one of my friends, if you don't mind."
"I think not, Halfling." Grima was opening a door, that much Merry could hear. Suddenly the hobbit was pushed forward. "You wait there, I will find the other halfling and return."
"No! I want to come too. Please don't leave me here." Merry's heart was thumping loudly as he turned and met the closed door with his fists. His plea was answered by the sound of a key turning in the lock.
"How long ago did you hear the scream?" Gandalf sat at the scrubbed kitchen table opposite Legolas. Gimli sat next to the elf and Aragorn paced the kitchen floor. They had searched all of Pippin and Merry's usual haunts and found no evidence of either of them. Gandalf had insisted they take stock and try to think the situation through rather than rushing blindly about the castle.
The wizard was considering asking Théoden to bring his men in from their war preparations to carry out a fuller search, but first he wanted to calm his companions and see if they could not work out the problem by logic.
"It was several hours since." Legolas shook his head with worry. "I have heard no more from him. Nothing."
"Have you tried to contact him again?" Aragorn paused in his pacing and came to the table. "Perhaps you should attempt it."
"I tried when I was running from the wood." Legolas thought back to his frantic run. "But I was hurrying and maybe I was not focussed enough."
"Please try once more, Legolas." Gandalf knew what a strain it was putting on the elf. "If you think there is any chance he might hear you now."
Legolas placed his hands on the table and closed his eyes, reaching into his mind. Gimli noticed the trembling in the elf's arms that ran through to his fingertips. He stood behind him and held his arms steady, as if he were trying to leech his own strength into his companion.
'Pippin, Pippin. Little one, hear my voice – it's Legolas. Can you speak to me?'
'mmmrrmr' the slightest whimper flitted through the elf's consciousness.
'Pip, Pippin we need to find you – where are you?'
'high – i up'
'Pippin, tell me more. Can you tell me more?' Legolas waited, straining to hear some extra words. But Pippin had gone. He could tell that it had been a big effort on the part of the hobbit to manage as much as he had.
"I got a few words." Legolas opened his eyes and reported. "He said 'high – I up' then he said 'see stars'."
Aragorn snapped his fingers. "He's on the battlements."
Grima Wormtongue had already reached that conclusion. He knew the castle better than the recently arrived members of the Fellowship and his search was efficient and thorough. As soon as he saw the halfling lying on the battlements, pressed up against the wall, the palantír clutched to his breast, he knew what had happened. The turncoat had been in the service of Saruman long enough to know the properties of the Seeing Stone.
"So you have summoned the Nazgûl yourself, have you." Grima looked down at Pippin and poked him with his foot. "I know that trance. He has paralysed you this time so you cannot escape and will send the winged black rider for you."
Grima wondered how long he had and how he could capitalise on this situation. If he were to be present when the Nazgûl arrived and present the other halfling as well, he could indeed claim favour with the Dark Lord. Perhaps he would be given the stewardship of Isengard or even Edoras after the war was won. Now that would be an opportunity.
The risk he would have to take would be in the timing. It would not do to be discovered before he had handed the halflings over.
Suddenly his attention was drawn to the distant sky. A shadow had passed over the moon. It was the Nazgûl. This was perfect. He would hurry now and fetch the other one and be back just as the messenger landed. Ready to present his offering to the Dark Lord.
Merry had finally grown too weary to hammer on the thick wooden door and had slid down to the floor, resting his cheek against the solid oak. He still cried out every so often in the vague hope that someone would hear him, but no help came.
When Grima pulled the door open, Merry fell forwards as he had been pressed up against it and had not heard the key turn. Quickly the man grabbed the hobbit's arm and dragged him to his feet. Merry cried out and began to protest, so Grima put his hand across the hobbit's mouth. "Be silent, or I shall cut your throat."
Merry felt the sharp nick of a blade at his neck and stopped struggling. He would be no use to Pippin if he got himself killed now. Grima slowly took his hand away and resumed his vice-like grip on Merry's arm.
"Where are you taking me?" The hobbit writhed slightly in the grip. "Where's Pippin. Did you take him away?"
"I know where he is, I'm taking you to see your little friend." Grima sneered. "Oh but I forgot, you can't see him anyway, can you. But we're going to find him anyway and then I have a second nice surprise for you."
Grima hustled Merry along, pushing him up the steps to the battlements.
Pippin had just managed to answer Legolas with a couple of tiny thoughts. He was not even sure if the elf had heard him, but if he had, he was certain that Legolas could work out where he was.
Then from the corner of his eye he saw the evil man come back and this time he had Merry with him. His heart dropped. Whatever that man wanted, Pippin was certain it wasn't good and now he had Merry in his clutches he knew it was something very bad!
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.