56. Sad and Lonely
The elf climbed down from Arod and sat on the ground. "There is something very important I have to do first." Legolas put his head in his hands, "and I need to concentrate very hard, I do not know whether I can manage this."
"What must you do?" Éowyn also dismounted and stood beside the elf. "Is it related to what has happened?"
"Yes. I have to try and stop Pippin from talking to Merry." Legolas scrunched his eyes closed. "The wraith will read Merry's mind and know that Pippin still lives."
"I understand." Éowyn drew her sword, standing guard over the elf. "I will wait."
'Pippin, can you hear me?'
'Pippin don't cry. What's happened little one?'
'not knowed… talked at merr… not… not talk at i…'
'You talked to Merry and he didn't talk back?'
'what you sayed…'
'He probably didn't answer for a good reason. Pippin I don't want you to talk to him again until he calls to you. Do you understand.'
'How do you know that? Pippin what happened?'
'…i go talk at merr… wraith see'd i…'
'Did it know who you were? Did it recognise you?'
'Does it know where you are?'
'…not sayed… just it sayed why i not go be dead'
'Pippin you'll have to try and stay hidden, if you think it might find where you are now. Is there somewhere else you can go?'
'go mith hole…'
'Yes you go there if you think that will be safer.'
'not food… wetted and shivved...'
'Right. I know it won't be nice little one, but it may be safer.'
'legolas… why merr not talk at i'
'Tell me what happened.'
'i call merr talk i… he sayed…--?…--?…--?'
'What did he say Pippin? You have to use words.'
'sayed… who? what? he goed …'tending not knowed i?'
'It's possible he's lost his memory, when he was banged on the head.'
'nooo! poor merr… i go talked at he…make he 'member i…'
'No Pippin! You mustn't do that. Promise me you won't do that.'
'promsis legolas… why i not? please need talk merr… he go too sad…'
'Well either he's protecting you from the Wraith or perhaps he really doesn't remember…'
'…no i got telled he…'
'No! Pippin, if he doesn't remember he can't give anything away, including the Quest or you.'
'oh… so i not got goed talked at he…'
'No. Now you wait until he calls you. I still feel him – he isn't awake just now.'
'can feel… goed sleeped…'
'While he is with the Wraith, you stay away. Can you do that, little one?'
'My brave Pippin.'
"That was a long conversation." Éowyn was waiting with growing concern.
"I know," Legolas swayed to his feet, his hands to his head. "I should not stay linked for so long, it is disorientating and possibly detrimental to us both."
"Both? Were you only talking to Pippin?" Éowyn touched the elf's brow with concern. "Where was Merry?"
"He was not there." Legolas looked worried, "I think, and I hope, he may have lost his memory. If that is so, let us hope it lasts while they interrogate him. Without Gandalf to protect his thoughts it is doubtful he would last long under Sauron's questioning."
Terror raced through Merry's mind. He opened his eyes but saw only the gaunt, white face and body of the creature that held him. Held him close against the rush of wind and heat, its body cooling him against the onslaught of pressure and fever. Voices echoed through his mind, frightening, worrying voices, calm, stern voices, fierce, authoritative voices.
Someone spoke to him in a soft rolling accent, it was familiar but he could not quite catch the memory.
'merr? you talk at i?'
'talk at i my merry please… i go think you hurted…'
'who you are? what do? what merry is?'
'YOU! THE OTHER – YOU SHOULD BE DEAD! WHERE ARE YOU? I WILL FIND YOU! THIS ONE WILL COME BEFORE THE DARK LORD AND YOU WILL JOIN HIM!'
'…nooo! i not… merr! please…'
'stop! in my head… no talk i… not know who…' Merry's mind blurred into a sob, his consciousness whirling in black circles.
'SLEEP NOW – YOU WILL REACH THE BLACK TOWER SOON. DO NOT RESIST ME.'
Merry relaxed a little into the firm grasp of the white spectre. It filled his whole world, it was all he could see and all he could remember. Who was he? Where did he exist between Over Heaven and Middle Earth? What was he? Why did he have no memory of anything?
The worrying made him hurt, it pained his head, especially the echo of the busy little voice in his mind. He knew he should recognise it. It wavered on the edge of his being, something familiar like a snatch of melody that would not be captured. The thought of the plaintive pleading made him sad, because he knew it was important, but did not know why.
But he had sent the little voice away. It had bothered him too much, stirred an emotion in him he did not understand. The white being held him safely, securely, so he would trust that. He clutched tightly to the cold metal gauntlets, sensing that he was floating, flying, although how he could not tell. He could see nothing above him and nothing below. Probably he was dead.
The being had ordered him to sleep and his body did not want to resist that thought. He let his mind drift along with his weightless body, but somewhere in the back of his consciousness the tiny voice resonated still. 'merry i love you…'
Smagnu had put Pippin back under the blankets as his clothes were still wet and the little hobbit was curled up tightly, his body trembling every so often with cold, fear or emotion. The Uruk had climbed into bed for his day's rest and used the little hobbit as a foot warmer, eventually letting little Pip snuggle up against his broad chest for warmth and comfort. He felt as though he had only been asleep for a few hours, although it was longer, when a banging of doors and an orc commotion woke him abruptly.
Grutfley had crashed through the door, the clamour of shouting and arguing behind him. "Get up!" he snarled at the Uruk. "I don't know why I'm bothering to tell you this, but you'd better get rid of that thing right now. We're gonna be in right fugging trouble."
"What's going on?" Smagnu was out of bed and pushing Pip's clothes at the sleepy hobbit, who started to dress automatically, getting in a muddle with his buttons and sleeves.
"They're looking for it." Grutfley pointed at little Pip, "the captain is. I heard the wraith came back and somehow he knowed it wasn't dead and now he's come looking for it. Don't know why I should bother telling you, but there it is."
"You're telling me, because you want more of that mithril." Smagnu had no doubt of his partner's motives, although his own were a little muddled. When first Pip had been given to his care he would have strangled it without a second thought if so ordered. Now, he knew beyond doubt, he would do all he could to keep the little thing alive. "Wonder how the Wraith knew about it?" He started to impatiently sort little Pip's clothes out, pulling the shirt off over his head, unbuttoning it and starting again.
"The Wraith came back with another one." Grutfley said knowingly. "P'raps I'll get that one and train it m'self."
"You couldn't train fug-all!" Smagnu sneered. "Where's the captain now? Is he heading this way yet?"
"No one ain't told you got it," Grutfley assured him "They're all shit scared what you do to 'em."
"So they should be." The Uruk did not bother pointing out that if he got caught with little Pip he would probably not be in a position to do anything to any of them anyway.
"Right, come on," Smagnu picked little Pip up and hid him beneath his cloak. "Show me where this tunnel is."
"You gonna send it for more mithril now?" Grutfley's eyes lit up at the prospect of more of the valuable little coins. "Might as well make the most of it."
"No you fugging ijit!" Smagnu collected an extra blanket, a water bottle and, as an afterthought, a bottle of poppy juice. "I'm gonna hide little Pip down there."
Grutfley checked both ways at the door and indicated the coast was clear and together the uneasy partners set off for the tunnel.
They had a few uncomfortable moments when the captain's second-in-command hailed him "Ho Corporal, you're a little early for duty aren't you?"
"Just getting ahead of the game, Sergeant," Smagnu kept the bulge in his cloak turned away from the questioner. "I hear there's some trouble brewing."
"Yeah – something about one of them 'alflings." The Sergeant confided knowingly. "Wraith's brought another back and now they're looking for the first one. Apparently it's still alive 'n it should've been eaten by now. Some bloody orc saving their grub for later maybe, fattening it up a bit p'raps." They both laughed.
The two conspirators went on their way and reached the tunnel without further incident. At least Smagnu never had to worry about little Pip crying out or making a noise at the wrong moment. The little creature never made a single sound, save from the odd hiccupping sob when he was upset or hurt.
Smagnu peered into the dark tunnel and wished he could give Pip a light to take with him, then he wondered how he was going to get little Pip to stay put and understand that he must not come out unless he told him he could. How would the little thing know he had not just been abandoned or perhaps he would think that he was just supposed to get mithril again.
The Uruk set Pippin down on the edge of the tunnel and knelt down to his eye level. He held the little hand tightly and pointed into the opening. Then he put the blanket around the little shoulders and pulled it up tightly around Pip's chin. He hung the water bottle around the hobbit's neck and put his large hands together and rested his face on the side of his great fists, miming sleep to the little creature and pointing to the tunnel once more.
Pippin looked at Smagnu with his head on one side and his brow furrowed. The corridor they were in was lit by a burning torch held by Grutfley and the hobbit pointed to the light with a questioning look on his face.
Smagnu shook his head sadly, a light in the tunnel would be a danger to the little one, giving away his location to any that passed. As an extra incentive he remembered the poppy juice and put the precious bottle in the hobbit's hand, waving a warning finger at him. Pippin knew that meant don't drink it all at once, he was learning. With that the Uruk gave Pip a little push towards the tunnel.
Pippin did not know how his Uruk protector knew that he had to hide, but he obviously did and had reached the same conclusion that he had – the tunnel was the best place to keep out of sight. Reluctantly the hobbit took a few paces into the blackness. Then he ran back and grabbed around Smagnu's big leg hugging the Uruk, tears running down his face.
Smagnu bent down again and unwrapped Pippin's arms and turned him back to the tunnel once more. Fearfully the little hobbit crept into the darkness. Just before he was out of reach, Smagnu reached in and patted his head and little Pip grabbed the hand and put his lips to the big rough fingers in a farewell kiss.
He went down the tunnel as far as the first bend, where the roof became too low even for a hobbit to stand. He crawled along a short distance and then made himself a little nest with his blanket and settled down to sleep. He felt very lonely.
'Pippin? Are you all right little one?'
'Where are you?'
'in mith hole…'
'That's good Pip, you stay there until it's safe.'
'when that be legolas?'
'When Merry has been questioned I would think…'
'but what do him then?'
The realisation had suddenly hit Legolas and Pippin at the same moment. Things had been happening so fast there had not been a chance to consider the most likely outcome. The Wraith was taking Merry to Sauron. What would the Dark Lord do when He found that Merry knew nothing? The same as He had ordered for Pippin? Probably, only this time the big Uruk might not be there to save his cousin. Merry would be torn to pieces by the orcs just as he had been sentenced to die.
Without stopping to think about the consequences Pippin screamed at the top of his mind's voice 'Merry Noooo! Merry talk at i… Merrrrrryyy!