"Merry! Pippin! As I live and breathe! How did you get here?" Sam had been quickly released from Merry's grip and the two hobbits scrambled to their feet, pulling Sam up with them.
"It's a very long story, Sam I wouldn't know where to start." Merry clapped his hand on Sam's sturdy shoulder and Pippin hugged the little gardener. "But what about you? And where's Frodo?"
"He's all right!" Sam drew a deep breath; "well at least, he is now I think. Ours is a long story too as you'd think. But bless me look at you both, what a sorry state you're in."
"Well we've been in the wars a bit." Merry admitted. "And we're not through them yet."
"No. Best not to stand around here." Sam agreed. "Help me to get some clothes for Mr Frodo and I'll take you to him."
"I-I… can't…" Merry trailed off as he wondered how to explain to Sam that he could not see to help him. But Sam was distracted for the moment by Pippin hanging on his arm and squeezing him every so often with excitement.
"Steady Pip, you'll have me over in a moment." Sam held the excited hobbit still "What is it?" Sam grasped both Pippin's arms and held him out looking at the smiling face with suspicious curiosity. "What's wrong with him, Merry? There's something missing."
"Err he can't hear or talk, Sam." Merry heard Sam's sharp intake of breath and imagined the look on his face. He decided to give him all the news at once and get it over with. "…and I can't see."
"You mean… you're blind." Sam reached out to touch Merry's eyes, then pulled back uncertainly and a little embarrassed. "You poor things." Sam looked from one to the other a little lump forming in his throat. They both looked so thin and battered, not the well-fed, happy hobbits that had left The Shire with Frodo and him. But then his Master had suffered appallingly too, they all had.
"Come on, Sam," Merry realised that his news had stunned the hobbit, "Don't worry about it. You need some clothes for Frodo, right? I'll get Pip to help you."
'pip… frodosam… mean sam… got get clothes off orc… you go help he?'
Pippin went back to the orc Sam had been looting when they attacked him and started to pull its coat off. Sam looked curiously at Merry, wondering how he had told Pippin to help, but he let it pass and just lifted the orc into a sitting position so they could wrestle its garment off.
"So where is Frodo?" Merry asked a little puzzled, he would have expected them to be together. "Is he here?"
"He's up in a loft, just outside of here," Sam tentatively turned another body over, collecting a belt. "You wait there just a moment and then we'll all go see… er begging your pardon Mr Merry, go find Frodo."
"That was you, earlier wasn't it!" Merry had just realised what had woken him.
"How d'you mean?" Sam was now selecting orc helmets and discarding them.
"Singing!" Merry snapped his fingers. "… you were singing Sam. It woke me up. Why were you singing, Sam? Here of all places."
"I was sort of looking for Mr Frodo." Sam thought it seemed a bit foolish now, "but it did help me to find him."
"How did you two end up here, anyway," Merry could hear Sam and Pippin working at their looting with due diligence. "Were you captured?"
"Well Mr Frodo was," Sam admitted shyly. "So I came to look for him."
"You mean you, bravely fought your way in and rescued him." Merry smiled as he imagined faithful Sam brandishing his sword and battling the fiercest orcs to save Frodo. "You are a marvel Sam and no mistake."
"I don't know about that," Sam said modestly. "Seems most of the orcs just upped and killed themselves."
"But Sam, just one thing." Merry knew he probably should not ask, but then again the others would want to know. "Does he still have It?"
Sam nodded and then realised that, of course, Merry couldn't see. "We do Mr Merry, It's safe."
"Well done Sam." Merry did not enquire further, the less he knew the better, it was enough, but he was certain that Sam had no small part to play in keeping the Ring secure.
Sam eventually made a bundle of what he needed and beckoned to Pippin, who took Merry by the hand and the three made their way back to the landing, Pip carefully leading Merry around yet another dead orc on the floor.
Sam called softly "Elbereth, Elbereth," and Frodo let down the light ladder.
Sam looked at Merry with concern. "Can you manage a ladder Mr Merry?"
"You go up first, Sam and warn Frodo," Merry smiled at the thought. "Don't want to give him too big a shock. Then give me a call when you're ready and I can climb up. Pippin will follow me." Merry felt for the rungs and waited for Sam to call him up.
"Mr Frodo, I got a bit of a surprise," Sam hardly knew where to start so just stated in a conversational way. "I just bumped into Merry and Pippin."
"Sam! Shame on you for teasing me at such a time." Frodo looked at him quizzically. "They couldn't possibly be here!"
"No it's true," Sam leaned down to call Merry. "Come on up, now." He turned back to Frodo who was sitting cross-legged on the floor with Sam's cloak pulled around his naked body. "Just one thing though, they're both a bit unwell."
Before Sam could elaborate further Merry emerged through the trap door. Frodo climbed to his feet and went to the opening, his own hurts forgotten for the moment in the wonder of seeing his cousin. "Merry, Merry! I can hardly believe it. Is it really you?" Frodo helped Merry into the loft. "…and Pip!
"Frodo?" Merry was disorientated after the climb and stumbled a little, Frodo held his arm and steadied him.
"Merry?" Both the hobbits were a bit shaky and Frodo could tell something was very wrong with his cousin as he gently enfolded him in a loving embrace. "What happened? How did you come here?" he asked softly.
Before Merry could answer Pippin scrambled nosily up the ladder and would have barrelled into Frodo, except Sam intercepted him and slowed him down a little. Frodo took one arm from Merry to hug Pippin as well and the youngster immediately wrapped both arms tightly around his older cousin. "Oh Pippin, Pippin it's good to see you too." Frodo almost laughed at Pip's enthusiasm.
"Well, we'd best get sorted out." Sam was getting anxious about their present location. "Come Mr Frodo we'd better get you dressed at least."
"Oh I'm sorry Frodo," Merry drew back and pulled Pippin off as well. "I didn't realise you weren't dressed."
Frodo looked at Merry in surprise. Sam realised he had not explained. "Mr Merry's been, um… well he's blind."
"Oh Merry," Frodo was all contrition. "That's terrible, for you I mean. How did it happen?"
"It was something that happened to us at Isengard," Merry explained very briefly, "a curse Saruman put on us."
"Both of you?" Frodo looked at Pippin, "But Pip can see all right."
"He can't hear or speak." Merry felt for Pippin and drew him close, "but we have a way of talking. But enough of our adventures, how have you two fared?"
The four of them sat down in a little circle on the floor, after Frodo had put on some of the disgusting orc clothing Sam had brought him. Pippin took some rations from the food bag he had liberated from One Ear and they made a little picnic. There was nothing to drink, but there were two large apples, which Sam cut up with Sting and shared out.
Pippin nestled in close between Frodo and Merry, putting his head on Frodo's arm every so often, Frodo patting him gently each time and smiling at his little cousin, although he was secretly worried and distressed to see Pippin afflicted so.
"So what do we do now?" Sam asked once they had nearly finished the serious business of eating. They were all of them famished, but Sam most of all as it had been several days since he had eaten. "Are you two going to come with us?"
"We didn't even expect to meet you," explained Merry. "We were trying to make our way out of Mordor," he gave a small sigh, "and I don't think we'd be much help now anyway."
"I wouldn't want to put you two in more danger." Frodo added. "Especially Pip, here. It's so strange not to hear him chattering all the time. Poor Pip."
"There's something else though." Merry added. "I've just realised, we have to part soon, Pip and I are putting you two in more danger by being with you."
"How's that?" Sam asked. "It doesn't seem possible, reckon we're in about as much danger as we can manage as it is."
"It's the Nazgûl." Merry said simply. "It's a bit complicated to explain, but Pippin and I have become sort of linked - mentally linked that is - to each other."
"So that's how you talk to one another!" Frodo was wide eyed. "That's amazing Merry. I know elves can do such things, but I never heard of hobbits doing that before."
"No, it probably is a first." Merry agreed. "Legolas taught us, more or less by accident really. But there is a problem. The Nazgûl, their chief, he has found a way into our minds as well and he can hear what we say to each other. We're afraid he is going to find us with this link."
"That's why you think you will endanger us!" Frodo gasped in horror. "Oh you poor things, but you are in terrible danger as well and it's all my fault! I'm so sorry!"
"No Frodo, it's not your fault, you didn't ask for this trouble any more than any of us did." Merry patted him reassuringly on the shoulder.
"Merry's right." Sam agreed. "We're all in danger, but we just have to do whatever's for the best."
"You're right, I know." Frodo sighed. "We've seen the Nazgûl Lord ourselves, flying overhead and we were terrified. It would be a dreadful thing if he were to catch up with us, all would be lost!"
"I know and I think we can turn this about to our advantage." Merry was always the strategist given the opportunity. "Pip and I can perhaps lead him and maybe the other eight away from you and Sam."
"The way you did with the orcs in Parth Galen, when we parted." Frodo shook his head sadly. "I would hate to think of you and Pip acting as decoys for us again, putting yourselves in extra danger."
"But as Sam says, we all have to do whatever is for the best." Merry finished his last piece of apple and added matter-of-factly, "besides all we have to do is feed him some confusing messages in our heads."
"I don't know," Sam found the whole mind link business a little too hard to take. "Are you sure that'll work?"
"No," Merry admitted, "but it's worth a try."
"What does Pip think?" Frodo asked looking at his little cousin curiously.
Merry closed his sightless eyes.
'we go help frodosam?'
'tell frodosam i happ… happ see at them…'
'they do know…'
'but tell 's well…'
"Pip wants to help, of course he does." Merry hugged his little cousin close and added. "Pippin wants me to tell you how very, very happy he is to see you both."
Frodo looked at Pippin again and saw he was now beaming at him and at Sam in turn. "Tell him the same Merry." Frodo laughed. "Both of you!"
'frodosam sayed it too at we…'
"But Sam and I must certainly carry on and soon." Frodo added sadly. "I fear for you two as well, the journey from here to outside of Mordor is extremely perilous, especially for you Merry without being able to see."
"That first stair we came up," Sam agreed, "and the narrow ledge, you'll have to be really careful."
"Sam, I don't suppose in all this ruin and devastation around here there is anything to write with is there?" Frodo did not really expect there to be, but Sam had surprised him with his resourcefulness many times before.
"You know me Mr Frodo." Sam looked half embarrassed as he dug into his pack and sheepishly from the very bottom pulled a dog-eared little journal and a stump of wax crayon. "I was thinking way back, before we left Rivendell of keeping a bit of a diary, but what with one thing and another."
"It's hardly surprising, Sam." Frodo smiled, "but it's going to come in very useful now."
Frodo, like Merry, knew Pip's reading and writing style and its limitations. He carefully tore a blank page from the book and drew a little map on it showing the route he and Sam had taken through the tunnel and the stairs of Cirith Ungol. He made short notes at the most dangerous points, such as 'very big and steep' or 'hi-up steps'. Frodo then passed it to Sam, who added some notes of his own, particularly at Shelob's lair, which he marked and wrote 'big spider heer, but I stuk it wiv sting. Mighten not be ded tho so bee carfull.' Sam's spelling was a bit wobbly too.
They gave this to Pippin who frowned at first then shrugged. Frodo took it back and wrote on the back, 'Dearest Pip, this the way out for you and Merry.' Then added, 'you must be very careful and look after Merry as it is going to be dangerous for him!'
Pippin inspected the writing on the back, tracing the words with his finger, pointing to 'dangerous' with a frown. Frodo rewrote it 'DANE-JER-US!' Pip nodded in understanding.
"I've an idea, Mr Frodo." Sam suddenly lit up with inspiration. "I'll cut a length of my elven rope for them, that way they can tie themselves together and make sure if one falls the other will hold them up."
"But won't we pull each other down?" Merry questioned, not wanting to put Pip in danger. "I'm not sure if Pip could hold my weight."
"I think you'd be safer with it," Frodo agreed with Sam. "It's very light and strong and it seems to have something about it."
"But won't you need it?" Merry protested.
"I'll cut it in half." Sam was already measuring the centre of the rope. "That should be enough for both." He sliced through the rope with Sting and stood Pippin up and wound the rope around his waist. Sam then pointed at the map and took the other end of the rope and pointed at Merry. Pippin again nodded his understanding.
"You must both be careful in Mordor." Merry said, "There are many orc battalions on the move and they seem to accost anyone who gets in their way."
"So how did you reach here?" Frodo asked.
"We came as captives," Merry explained, "we passed Mount Doom on the way here, Smagnu described it to me and it was all by road that we travelled, but that may not be safe for you if you are to avoid being captured."
"Who's Smagnu?" Frodo smiled at the name. "Sounds like an orc."
"He is. Oh there's something important I have to tell Pip!" Merry suddenly remembered he had not been able to explain to Pippin about Smagnu being alive, and then meeting Sam and Frodo had occupied them both.
'i not telled you 'bout smag…'
'what telled… he goed dead…' Pippin gave a little sniff and Merry could tell the memory had made Pip about to cry again.
'not… he go 'live… orc bring'ded us here sayed it…'
'mer… you go sayed… make i feel bettrer…'
'not… it true… other orc sayed he not go dead yet… but he will… 'cept think that orc go dead now? does?'
'…does! he go got no head!'
'…it cutted off!'
'…so smag and grump go be 'live!'
Pippin, for no apparent reason that Frodo and Sam could see, suddenly jumped up and flung his arms around Merry almost knocking him down.
"What was that all about?" Sam asked in amazement at the little hobbit's erratic behaviour.
"I just told him some good news." Merry prized Pippin off his neck and smiled at him, nodding vigorously to confirm what he had said. "I told him his favourite orc is still alive!"
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.