"Just remember Merry, he is still alive." Legolas had admitted that Pippin had sounded very afraid, "But if he had not, I don't think it would have truly been him calling to me. It would be frightening for Pippin." The elf was looking for something positive in the sad and desperate little cry for help.
"Also Meriadoc," Gandalf steered him along the passageway following Éowyn, "it must have taken an enormous effort and a lot of bravery for Pippin to make contact with Legolas at all."
"Do you think so?" Merry was finding it difficult to find anything positive in the situation. It felt to him as if Pippin had died – no worse than died – and he had let it happen. "But can we ever find him again?"
"I don't know," Gandalf drew him to a halt and turned him round to speak directly to the anxious hobbit. "That is what happens in a war, Merry – no one can see the outcome and sometimes things turn out ill. But you have to keep striving and do your best and be as brave as you are able. That is all you can do."
"I know Gandalf." Merry sighed; he was drained by the emotion and grief that had spilled from him, "and I will now – it's just I think – well hobbits feel things differently – show things differently…" he trailed off, feeling awkward.
"You do and you are none the worse for that." Gandalf said kindly. "All wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care – to teach them the meaning of the word." He stood again and led Merry on to the armoury where Éowyn was waiting. The wizard and Legolas then went to make their own preparations for the ride ahead.
"Come Merry," she took him by the hand. "I have prepared some things for you. I feel you should be armed for battle, my heart tells me that you will need such gear ere the end."
She put his hands upon the helm that was small enough for a hobbit, then showed him how to hold the buckler on his arm. "No mail have we to fit you," Éowyn said, "nor any time for the forging of such a hauberk; but here is a stout jerkin of leather, also a belt and a knife."
"I used to have a sword." Merry said quietly, "but I don't know if I could manage to wield it now."
"You may try, if you are willing." Éowyn smiled as she drew the little sword she had laid aside for Merry. "This is a tidy sword that may suit you that comes from your part of Middle Earth, it was forged by the Westernesse and a great age is upon it."
"But I cannot take this if it is an heirloom of your house." Merry touched the blade and found it to have a similar feel to his little sword that was lost to the orcs.
"It is a sword for fighting, Master Meriadoc." Éowyn began to buckle the scabbard about him. "Better it serve its purpose than to lie on a dusty shelf for evermore."
Merry carefully placed the light sword in the scabbard at his side and, with his buckler poised in front, took a battle stance as Boromir had taught him with his hand upon the hilt.
"Are you ready, Master Holbytla?"
Merry nodded and Éowyn drew a sword. Merry listening carefully drew his at the same time and managed to parry Éowyn's first thrust with his sword and the second with the buckler. They made several more passes before they stopped, each holding their own to good account until Éowyn stood down. "Very good Merry. You may surprise everyone yet."
"I don't think I will go looking for a fight," Merry gave a wan smile and replaced the sword in its scabbard. "But it is comforting to have some means of defending myself." He reached out and found Éowyn's hand and touched the back of it to his lips with a slight bow. "Thank you, my Lady. You are most kind."
"And you are most welcome, Master Meriadoc Brandybuck of the Shire."
"Have you sensed any sign of Pippin yet?" Gandalf watched Legolas anxiously. "I would reach out myself, but I think you have made the deeper connection with Peregrin."
"It was apparent even before he was taken away." Legolas agreed. "It was starting to worry me that we were becoming too attached."
"I had wondered at that as well." Gandalf had decided that the elf should accompany Merry and him that night. They were to ride urgently to Dunharrow, mostly to throw the Nazgûl off the scent of their whereabouts. Gimli would come too, since he always rode with Legolas and the others would follow the next morning. Now the three were waiting for Merry to be ready and they would be off. "But perhaps this link is to our advantage." Gandalf continued.
"Although it may prove to be a sore trial for you, my friend," put in Gimli.
"This is true," Gandalf agreed. "But I see no other way. One thing I will offer though. Should you feel the presence of Sauron in Pippin's mind, I will join you in protecting the little one."
"Not the least to be sure he does not reveal too much." Legolas said. "Although I think his own innocence will help him to survive."
"Did you feel any other presence in his mind, when he cried out to you?" Gandalf asked.
"No, but the link was brief, although I sense that Pippin had heard someone else in his mind." Legolas shook his head, trying to recall. "But I think he was too distressed to focus clearly."
Merry arrived then and they stopped talking about Pippin. Aragorn lifted the hobbit up onto Shadowfax and bade them all farewell before the four sped off into the night.
Pippin came round slowly from a black nightmare to a waking horror. The wraith had gone but now he was being carried, by the scruff of his collar, along a dark passageway. His face felt swollen and sore and his head hurt. He vaguely remembered the terrifying flight, the hideous pain and the final stunning blow across his face that must have knocked him senseless.
But more than the ache in his head, there was a vague feeling in his memory. It was like an itch that he could not scratch as if someone had been there, trampling on his thoughts. Pippin gulped and wriggled a little as he tried to pinpoint what it was. At the slight noise and movement the large orc that was carrying him stood still and lifted him up to eye level to look at him. The enormous creature poked the hobbit in the middle with his other hand. Pippin kept very still, he had had experience with orcs before.
The orc grunted and tucked Pippin under his arm and carried on walking.
What Pippin could not remember was his arrival in the Dark Tower. The wraith had carried the small tribute to his Master and the hobbit was placed before him.
'WHERE ARE THE TWAIN? WHY DO YOU BRING ME JUST ONE?'
'THE WIZARD PREVENTED THE OTHER'S CAPTURE.' The wraith replied stepping back.
Sauron examined the tiny unconscious creature with interest. 'IT IS PASSING PRETTY, SUCH THINGS AS THIS ARE MADE FOR PLEASURE – NOT TOIL'
Sauron touched the corner of Pippin's mind. 'IT IS A POOR LITTLE THING. IT KNOWS NOTHING. IT HAS NO BURN FOR POWER – IT DOES NOT EVEN UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR CONTROL.'
The Dark Lord stroked the edges of the hobbit's unconscious thoughts. 'IT KNOWS NOTHING OF MALICE AND HATE IS ALIEN TO IT. AH! IT HAS SEEN EVIL BUT FAILED TO COMPREHEND THE PURPOSE.'
'AND WHAT OF THE RING, MASTER – KNOWS IT AUGHT?' The wraith was intent on this single purpose.
"I CANNOT READ IT – THERE IS TOO MUCH REFUSE AND TURMOIL – THE MIND IS UNDISCIPLINED, IF I TAKE IT NOW, I WILL CRUSH IT.'
Sauron left the mind touch, and spoke directly to the wraith. 'IT MUST BE TAUGHT OBEDIENCE – IT HAS NONE.'
'YES MASTER, I WILL TEACH IT.' The wraith took Pippin up again in its icy grasp.
'I HAVE OTHER TASKS FOR YOU – I WILL QUESTION IT LATER, WHEN IT HAS LEARNED.' The Dark Lord snarled his commands, he was displeased with the wraith. 'GO AND FETCH ME THE OTHER. I WOULD HAVE BOTH PLEDGES FROM SARUMAN!'
Sauron turned his attention back to Pippin. 'GIVE THIS ONE TO THE ORCS. TELL THEM TO SHOW IT PAIN!' He paused, remembering something from the little mind touch, 'FEAR! – IT ALREADY KNOWS FEAR, BUT IT MUST FEEL MORE TO TEACH IT MALICE AND HATE.'
The wraith backed from the presence, with his small captive held firmly.
'THE ORCS WERE BRED FROM ELVES – LET US SEE WHAT KIND OF CREATURE WE MAY TURN THIS INTO?'