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Walk Warily  by Anso the Hobbit

Title: Walk Warily
Authors: Anso the Hobbit and Marigold
Characters: Merry, Pippin
Timeline: Isengard, early March SR 1419
Summary: Looking for food is a perilous affair when you are walking on treacherous ground.
Note: Written from an idea from Dreamflower. "Walk warily!" said Merry. "There are loose slabs that may tilt up and throw you down into a pit if you don't take care." (The Voice of Saruman, The Two Towers, by JRR Tolkien). Written for Marigold`s Challenge 12.

The fumes that rose from the steaming waters of the lake Orthanc now stood within made the eyes of two small hobbits water and their noses and throats burn. Merry and Pippin had found a dry niche in the crumbled wall, not far from a guardhouse just by the destroyed archway into Isengard, and sat hiding out of sight with their grey elven cloaks wrapped tightly around themselves.

“I don´t suppose you have any more food do you?” Pippin asked miserably as he sat precariously on top of a boulder just beyond the edge of water. The Ents had released the Isen the previous day, flooding what had, before Saruman destroyed it, been a beautiful garden. Now the hobbits waited for the Ents to finish their work. Gandalf had been there in the night and talked at length to Treebeard, but they hadn´t got much news out of him*, and Merry wondered where they would be going and what they should do when the Ents were finished.

“I`m sorry Pip,” Merry said, rummaging his pockets and finding not so much as a crumb. Yesterday they had found the guardhouse, containing a pantry, dug into the outer wall, but water had been closing in on them rapidly, and they had had to hurry away as water had started to rise up to the rooms. They had managed to eat their fill first, and taken away as much food as their pockets and hands could hold, but now Pippin was hungry again. After days and weeks on small rations, his stomach had quickly got used to real food and in proper amounts again, and now he wanted lunch.

“We haven’t eaten for hours, Mer!” Now that he was feeling relatively safe, Pippin’s hunger had come back in its full glory and the tweenager was restless and starting to wear on Merry´s patience with his never-ceasing twitching and endless stream of questions.

“I know that Pippin. But we can’t get any more food right now unless you want to get all wet.” Merry was hungry again himself, but he had no intention of walking down into that bog if he could prevent it. There was no other apparent way to enter the guardhouse. He could see several Ents working not too far away, but he didn`t want to bother them with asking for a lift to gather more food. Now that they finally had got Treebeard to understand that they needed to destroy Isengard, he was loath to disturb him for a bit of food no matter how necessary the hobbits might consider it. The Ents had more important business to see to, hard as it was for a hungry hobbit to admit. Merry decided that if it came to asking the busy Ents for help, he`d rather go without food a little while longer. What worried him was how long Pippin would be willing to go without food now that he had got the taste of it again, and a whole larder of it was within reach.

Not long apparently. Pippin rose decisively and climbed down from the crumpled wall. “I can’t wait any longer, and I did see some roasted pork there. And apples Merry, large red apples. And… and a barrel of ale too!” He brought up the last two items in a blatant attempt to gain Merry’s agreement to the quest for more sustenance.

That was true; there had been what looked to be a barrel of ale, and roasted pork and apples there. Merry hadn`t had an apple in what seemed like months…and ale? How long was it since he had tasted ale? Rivendell? He`d enjoyed the ale the dwarves had brought with them there, but how long ago was that? Merry shook his head to clear his thoughts and focussed on the matter at hand again. He had wanted to bring some apples in the first round of pilfering the larder but he had discovered them late and his pockets were already too full and he couldn´t decide what to leave behind of the other things he had taken. There had been no real time to pick and choose, or their escape would have been cut off. Now his mouth began to water and he started climbing down from his own hiding place, just a little above where Pippin had sat. It would be worth getting a little wet.

“Be careful where you step, Pippin. It doesn`t look very safe. There are loose rocks and you don’t know what’s floating around in that water.”

“I know Merry. I`ll be careful.” Pippin was now at the bottom of the wall, and he stepped out into the filthy water. The ground was treacherous and Pippin wavered a little before he managed to right himself. Suddenly Pippin was stuck, scarcely two feet away from the wall. He tried to untangle himself with only his feet, but something was wrapped around his ankle.

"Merry, I`m stuck. Something has caught my foot!" Pippin said in a shrill voice.

Merry had come down from the wall too. "Take it away then."

"The water is vile, Merry."

"I know Pip. I`m sorry, but there`s not much we can do about that, is there? This little expedition was your idea, remember." Merry shuddered a little as he put his own foot down in the disgusting water and started to wade towards Pippin. Pippin had bent down and tried to free his foot of whatever it was that held him captive. He groped around a little and managed to get hold of something made of metal, something round...

Merry came up just beside him, and Pippin put one hand on Merry`s shoulder to steady himself and freed his foot from the metal. Bringing the round object up from the slimy muck it had lain in Pippin just stared. He had never seen such a thing before.

"What is it Merry?"

"I don´t know." Merry was just as curious as Pippin about this thing. “I wonder what it`s used for?”

“I’m not sure I want to know what it’s used for,” Pippin said. “What if Saruman used it to harm people?”

Pippin had heard tales about people being harmed in the cruellest of ways and the orcs that had taken them captive had explained with great relish and in great detail what they wanted to do to the hobbits when they came to Isengard.

“Let´s hope it´s not that sort of thing.” Merry said, looking intently at the object, trying to figure out if he had seen something similar before.

Pippin held the thing at arms length and tried to understand what it was. It was rather heavy and circular, and going around the edge there were some sort of curious sharp hooks or teeth. Pippin handed the thing to Merry.

"It looks a little like a mill wheel, only smaller,” Merry said. "Gimli must know what it is. It´s too bulky and heavy for us to carry, but we could ask him when we see him again." Merry put the thing down on a boulder and out of harm’s way and straightened back up.

"Do you think we will see Gimli again - or the others, Merry?" Pippin looked anxious and frightened. They had been safe with the Ents within Fangorn, and now, they were here in this place that had been infested with orcs and even if most of them were destroyed thanks to the Ents´ work, there were still a very few about and they had lost their swords. And now the two of them were just outside the tower where they were supposed to have been taken if the orcs had managed to bring them captive to Isengard. Pippin shuddered.

Merry, knowing his Pip so well, could all but read his thoughts and he reached out for him and hugged his little cousin tight for a moment. "I don´t know Pip. Let´s not lose hope yet. We did see Gandalf last night after all, when we never thought we’d ever see him again, and even if he was being even more secretive than usual he would have told us if anyone…anyone other than Boromir... was dead, don´t you think? Let´s keep up hope Pip." Merry tried to smile, but his eyes betrayed him and his blue eyes clouded over, like a summer sky suddenly filled with rain clouds.

Pippin nodded. His own eyes were damp and he hugged Merry back. "Come on, Merry-mine. Let´s find that food." He boosted his confidence in that all would be well and started to walk towards the guardhouse again, Merry following right behind.

The farther out from the wall they ventured, the deeper the water got as if the ground under them was sloping downhill, and Merry started to become concerned. Maybe all of Saruman´s evil machinery and orc breeding and other nasty things happened below ground and the desolate circle was saturated with all the water that filled it and it had begun to sag? If it collapsed into whatever drowned caverns lay below, that would be the end of them, and Merry began to seriously think about calling off this expedition and returning to the rocks. The hobbits tried to keep as close to the wall as possible, but large stones had toppled off and blocked their way in several places, making them take long detours around the boulders. Standing before a particularly large one Merry put his hands on his hips and stared at it, as if he could move it with his will. Debris blocked their way around it, but he could see the guardhouse opening just a little bit further ahead now and he had no intention of turning back when they were so close.

"We could climb it,” he said. "It wouldn’t be too difficult and it would get us out of this slimy pond for a while again. Pippin? What do you think?" Merry knew that Pippin wouldn’t think twice about scaling the massive stone. He had climbed almost every tree he came across as a child, and, plucking up his courage for his little cousin’s sake, Merry had had to climb up to rescue him more than once. One time he had actually broken his arm while rescuing Pippin from a plum tree back home in Buckland. Pippin had been lifted down to safety but Merry had somehow slid on the bark and fallen to the ground, landing awkwardly. Merry hadn’t cried, but Pippin had been inconsolable.

"Pippin?" Merry turned around to look for his cousin. "Pip!" He called, a hint of desperation in his voice. Pippin was nowhere to be seen, but hearing his name being called, Pippin popped his head up from where he had been curiously rummaging through a pile of debris and Merry breathed a sigh of relief.

”Yes?” Pippin stepped up to the boulder, curious about what Merry wanted. Seeing the impassibility around the rock, and the determination in Merry`s eyes, Pippin understood and took the lead, starting to climb. “Well come on then! Up and over! Here,” he reached out a hand. “I`ll help you.”

Merry took a step closer to the rock and Pippin, but his foot came down on something slippery and he almost toppled over. He flailed his arms alarmingly but managed to keep his footing.

Merry caught up with Pippin and took his outstretched hand. To Merry`s relief it wasn`t a difficult climb and the rock wasn`t as high as it had looked from beneath, so they soon clambered down the other side back into the water and started walking again. The fumes here wrapped around their bodies, and more than once did they try to protect their sensitive noses from the smell. "I wonder what`s down there,” Pippin said after a particularly bad smell had entered his nostrils.

"I don´t think I want to know,” Merry answered, looking around a little and covering his nose with his cloak.

The destruction of Isengard wasn´t a silent affair and the strangest of noises came to Pippin and Merry´s ears. Water sloshing and running like a large river or waterfall, mechanisms and mechanical things falling to pieces, wood creaking and breaking with a snap, the Ents´ booming talk and other sounds they could not identify.

A little to the left of Pippin, a bit of scaffolding of sorts suddenly fell to pieces, and Pippin jumped, and shrank back towards Merry. The debris came splashing down, and retreating another step, Pippin suddenly fell and found himself sitting in the water, shaking his suddenly damp curls.

Merry reached out for him, and helped him back on his feet.

"Yikes, but that was disgusting!" Pippin shuddered, trying to drag his wet-through clothes as far away from his body as possible while still having them on. Shifting about for safe ground to stand on he stepped down hard to test how solid the ground was and suddenly went pale. "Ow! My foot."

Quickly he lifted one foot and reached for Merry, steadying himself. "Are you all right?" Merry frowned, trying to assess the damage. "Let´s sit down over there Pip, and have a look.”

Merry helped a limping Pippin over to the wall and sat him down on another boulder. Merry took his cousin’s foot in his hands, gently feeling it, pushing away foot hair to see if it was damaged. Seeing so close the red welts left from the cruel rope that the orcs had bound around Pippin’s ankles, Merry`s heart lurched and for a moment he closed his eyes, thinking that little Pippin should not bear such scars.

"Hey," Pippin said touching Merry´s curls to get his attention. "It´s not that bad is it? It only hurts a little now."

Merry looked up and for the second time in a very short while tried to smile but faltered. "It´s all right Pip. The skin isn’t broken anyway."

"I`m sorry if I scared you Merry, I can walk on it." Pippin said softly, looking down at his own foot as if the appendage had offended his Merry in some way.

Merry shook himself a little then said firmly "I don´t think it`s broken or anything, perhaps just a little sprained. The water is cool, even if it is vile. If you put your foot back in for a moment it will keep any swelling down and I´ll see about finding some means to bind your ankle.

Pippin put his foot in the water as directed and Merry rummaged about his person for something he could bind Pippin´s ankle with. They had lost their packs at Parth Galen, and any bandages they had carried were in them. Merry tore a strip of cloth from the bottom of his ragged shirt and bound the ankle tightly but comfortably. "There, that should help." Merry eased Pippin to his feet and Pippin tested his weight on the foot deeming it to be good enough to keep going.

Looking ahead towards the guardhouse Pippin´s face lit up in a huge smile. "Look Merry! There are apples floating about. I am hungry, let´s go!"

He grabbed Merry by the hand and together they set out again. "You can’t eat those, Pip,” Merry said as Pippin reached for an apple. "We´ll find some in the guardhouse. They haven’t been floating around in bad water." Sighing, Pippin let the apple go again and they walked on.

The water was growing deeper, and Pippin now had water up to his chest. If they only could get around the debris that was so thick here, and back towards the wall again, the water would be much shallower.

Nearly at the guardhouse, Pippin let go of Merry’s hand and sped up, forgetting the danger of loose slabs on the unseen ground.

"Pip, slow down!" Merry said, disentangling himself from a wooden formation sticking up out of the water. Their cloaks were good for many things, but in water they dragged behind their wearers and got tangled up in all sorts of rubbish.

Pippin didn´t stop but turned around and said, "Come on, Mer. We’re almost there."

"I know Pip..." Merry started to walk faster too, wanting to keep an eye on Pippin, forgetting about the loose slabs himself, and suddenly the stone Merry stepped upon slid away under him, and Merry fell backwards into the water. He tried to put his feet down, but he couldn’t find his footing.

"Merry!" Pippin shouted, as he turned around to look for him, and found no cousin walking towards him, only water rippling and a few bubbles to indicate where Merry had gone down. "Merry!” he called again, but no answer came, and the water stilled.


Merry tried to hold his breath and make his way up to the surface, but there no longer seemed to be a bottom to push off of, and he imagined the deep, dark depths below and fought not to panic. The water was filthy with the most unimaginable things and he was almost out of air, his lungs burning. Desperate he kicked up again, but this time he hit his head against something solid and sharp and for a moment everything went even blacker. Merry´s thoughts were getting muddled. His head hurt, and he started to drift down again. Then something heavy hit him along the side and stomach and the last bit of air he had managed to keep in was driven out of his lungs. Reflexively, he tried to gasp for air, but water filled his mouth and all went black and cold.


On the surface, Pippin had started to cry in desperation and fear. Looking about for help, he realised that there was nobody close enough to help him, and even if he did cry out for help, the Ents could not hear him over the noises of their work.

Drawing a breath to calm himself, he tried to stop panicking, waded to where he had seen the bubbles, and gasped when the bottom suddenly disappeared and he went under himself, coming up sputtering. Frantically, Pippin began to tread water and started to search about desperately for any sign of his cousin. It was terrifying how deep the water was here... Pippin groped anxiously around beneath the surface, then dove, and dove again, without success. The water was too deep and full of floating debris for him to search efficiently, but as fate would have it Pippin felt something soft brush against his leg. He grasped it and pulled, and found it was attached to a heavy weight. Was this Merry’s cloak he held? Please, let it be! Pippin took a deep breath and dove under the water yet again, one hand clutching the wet fabric, the other flailing desperately for his cousin, for it was too dirty to see anything. His hand connected with something solid…an arm. Pippin struggled with all he had in him to pull Merry’s body to the surface. It was almost more than he could manage, and he broke the surface and went under again several times before he managed to get both of their heads above water and keep them there. Staying so much in Buckland as he had, Pippin had learned what to do if he should have to help someone who fell into the Brandywine and that knowledge helped him keep calm through his terror. Looking around for things that would hinder him in easily swimming to the shallows, Pippin turned over on his back and manoeuvred Merry around so that he cradled his head on his chest, folding his hands under Merry`s chin so his cousin’s head was above water.

Reaching the shallows, Pippin spotted a flat stone and dragged Merry over to lie on it,
Merry was very still, his face ashen and eyes closed. He showed no signs of waking up and it did not look like he was breathing.

"Oh, Merry! Please wake up, Come on!" Pippin shook his cousin a little, but Merry remained limp and still. Tears ran freely down Pippin`s cheeks and he climbed up beside his cousin, trying to rouse him. Remembering what Uncle Saradoc and Merry himself had taught him, Pippin rolled Merry over onto his stomach, and after several attempts finally managed to make him expel the water that he had swallowed. But Merry did not stir or make a sound.

Sobbing, Pippin rolled Merry over again. Still not breathing, Merry still wasn’t breathing! Pippin tried not to panic, tried to remember what Merry and his uncle had said to do next…

Pippin leaned Merry’s head back and opened his mouth checking with trembling fingers that nothing was blocking his cousin’s airway, then he pinched Merry`s nose shut with two fingers, took a deep breath and sealed his lips over Merry’s, blowing in. He pulled away to watch his cousin’s chest for any movement. Nothing. Thrice more did he do this, tears running down his cheeks, pleading and murmuring encouragements between each effort. As Pippin drew his breath for another go, Merry started to shudder and gag. Pippin pushed Merry over onto his side, and held him in his arms as he gasped for breath then retched and vomited.


Merry had been dreaming anew the foul nightmare he had had in Bree after he had followed the Black Rider to Bill Ferny´s house, in which he was drowning, over and over,** when he suddenly felt air in his lungs again and he gagged.

"Merry?" Pippin was holding him, stroking his hair. They were both drenched to the skin. This was no nightmare, this was real. He had nearly drowned. Merry retched uncontrollably, Pippin holding him safe all the while.

Finally Merry was finished and turned over to lie on his back with his head in Pippin`s lap, shivering from the cold air, his wet clothes, and the exhaustion of it all. "Hullo, Pip," he croaked.

“Hullo Merry,” Pippin said softly, continuing to stroke his hair, crooning soft reassurances as Merry started to weep, his body overwhelmed by the shock of almost drowning. At last Merry was spent and lay limp in Pippin`s lap. He could see that Pippin had been crying too, but his young cousin was in control of his emotions now, a calm and comforting presence, and Merry clung to him. He must have given poor Pippin a terrible fright. What exactly had happened after he had gone under? Merry couldn’t remember. He shivered, from fear as well as cold.

“We’d better get you warmed up, Mer,” Pippin said soothingly. “Do you think you can walk? Are you much hurt?”

Merry sat up gingerly and winced as his head started to pound. He had problems drawing breath properly and felt a stabbing pain in his side. “I`m not sure. My head hurts and something has hit me in the side.” He sat up a bit more, and steadying himself on Pippin, Merry rose slowly to his feet. For a moment he swayed alarmingly, but Pippin put an arm around his waist and held him up.

“Very good, Merry. It`s not far, and I promise that you can rest when we get there. We need to get you dry so that you don`t catch cold.” Merry wanted to joke that Pippin was just as wet as he was, but couldn’t manage to speak, all his breath and effort focussed on simply moving. Pippin led them out into the water again, avoiding the deep place where Merry had almost been lost, and very slowly so as to not trip, steered them towards the guardroom. It was a strenuous journey because Merry could barely stand on his feet and Pippin had to support most of the bigger and heavier hobbit`s weight. If the buoyancy of the water hadn’t helped, Pippin didn’t know how he would have managed.

“That`s it Merry. Slow and steady.” Pippin panted in relief as he half-carried Merry. “We`re almost there.”

Pippin hadn`t thought about his slightly sprained ankle much after Merry had bound it, but as Merry became more and more exhausted and leaned more heavily on Pippin, pain shot up through his leg and he hissed.

“S..sorry Pip.” Merry said, teeth chattering, and stopped dead to give Pippin a moment to rest. When Pippin nodded that he could go on, Merry stumbled forward again, longing to lie down or at least sit down for a while. He felt thoroughly chilled, and his head was spinning.

Unsteadily, like two drunkards, the hobbits managed to climb up the steps, higher than the water, and into the guardhouse. Fortunately the floods had not reached the rooms. There was a fireplace, and it looked dry enough. Pippin sat Merry down and glanced around the room. “Let’s get you warm and dry. There is a stack of blankets here, Merry, try and get your wet clothes off and wrap yourself in one.” He handed Merry a blanket and began to search around for firewood. Merry nodded, but he was shivering too much to manage to unbutton anything or drag his clothes off.

Pippin was back in just a few minutes with some tinder and dry wood and dropped it on the hearth, turning to see how Merry was faring. “Here now,” he said seeing Merry half-asleep in his wet clothes. “I`ll help you then, Merry-lad.” Limping over to his cousin and rousing him a little, Pippin soon had him undressed and wrapped in the blanket. There was a large bruise on Merry`s right side that looked to be quite painful if he were to move about too much, but other than that and a nasty new gash over his ear, Pippin could not see any injuries.

Merry, sleepy and disorientated, made no complaint as Pippin gently smoothed his curls away to better assess the head wound. It wasn’t bleeding much, but the water that Merry had been submerged in was filthy and that could be very dangerous, Pippin knew. He would need to boil water to clean it with. Aragorn had taught the hobbits some basic healing techniques and Pippin knew how to bandage a wound, and of some herbs to cure sickness. The Ranger had tried to make sure that they knew what to do if they were alone with someone injured. Maybe Aragorn knew that someday he would not be with them? Well, Pippin thought, he would see how much he had learned. But first things first. He couldn’t do anything for Merry until he had taken care of a few things.

Making sure that Merry was snugly wrapped in the blanket, Pippin quickly built a blazing fire, and collected more wood, piling it beside the fireplace where it would be near to hand.

Pippin found another blanket and got out of his own wet clothes, put both his own and Merry’s to dry by the hearth, then went to look for some clean water.

They both needed to get a hot drink into them, and Pippin luckily found a full cistern in the pantry. He put water on to boil for tea, and filled another kettle for tending Merry’s hurts and for washing. He found a cloth that looked fairly clean, tore it into strips, and set the strips to boil in a third pan of water. He remembered that Strider had been quite serious that any cloth that touched an open wound should be boiled first. “How is it that we managed to get into so much trouble for a little bite to eat,” he said as he went about his tasks. When Merry didn`t answer he turned from measuring out the tea leaves to see his cousin sitting asleep on his chair. That was bad. People who hurt their heads weren’t allowed to sleep. Pippin had been a rather active youngster and knew that from personal experience.

“Merry?” Pippin didn`t like that gash on Merry`s head and he willed the water to boil faster. “Wake up Merry, you can`t sleep right now. I know you are tired and that your head hurts, but you need to stay awake.” Pippin shook him gently and Merry blinked his eyes open.

Coming awake, pain was the only thing he was aware of at first and Merry moaned. “Ow! My head.” Putting both hands over his face, he tried to keep out what felt like stabbing light in the dimly lit room.

“Poor Merry! I am sorry, but you have a gash just above your ear you know. That’s why your head hurts. I can’t let you sleep yet, but I am boiling some cloth, and water too, so I can clean it. Then you can have some tea and something to eat, all right?”

“All right. My clever Pip.” Merry said, reaching for Pippin and drawing him into a tender embrace. “What happened? I don’t remember anything much – I slipped and went under and then something hit me. You saved me, didn’t you Pip?”

Pippin began to tremble, and Merry tightened his embrace. “Pippin? Tell me dearest.”

“I found you under the water, and pulled you out,” Pippin finally whispered. “I dragged you onto a stone, and got the water out of you, like you and Uncle Saradoc taught me, but you weren’t…you weren’t breathing…” He broke off, unable to continue.

Merry looked at Pippin solemnly. “So you breathed for me. Thank you Pippin.”

Pippin nodded. “I was so very scared, Merry.” He nestled into Merry’s embrace.

“You were very brave. My poor Pippin. Are you all right now?” He raised a hand to brush the curls from Pippin’s eyes, but his hand trembled so much that he had to give up the attempt.

Alarmed, Pippin took a deep breath, sat up, and took Merry’s hand in his, once more the protector. “I’m fine Merry, but you aren’t. Let’s see about that gash in your head. The water must be boiled by now.”

Merry nodded and once more surrendered himself to Pippin`s care, too exhausted and ill to do anything else.

Pippin took a piece of the boiled cloth and gently washed away dried blood from the wound, then took strips of the boiled fabric that he had set to dry by the fire and bound them around Merry’s head. “There, I think it will heal nicely. It doesn’t look bad, and your ear is in one piece.”

Merry felt around the shell of his ear and found nothing marring the pointed tip. “No, it`s not hurt. And my head feels a bit better now, thank you Pippin.”

Pippin next took up a sliver of soap that he had found, and a piece of cloth and helped Merry to wash off the worst of the filth and stench from the mucky water. He winced in sympathy when he got to Merry’s bruised side. “That’s a nasty bruise I am afraid. Is it hurting you?”

“Yes, but not as much as it did at first,” Merry drew a deep breath and felt the muscles knot together in pain, but no ribs were broken and he could breathe deeply without too much discomfort now. “And it feels like I was knocked about quite a lot, but nothing more than bruises I believe.”

Pippin pulled away a little to look into Merry’s face. “We were very lucky. I am so sorry Merry. If I hadn’t been hungry…” He broke off, overwhelmed at the thought of what had almost happened. Merry gave him a little shake.

“Don’t Pippin. This wasn’t your fault. I was hungry too. I still am. Why don’t you have a quick wash, and then we’ll eat, all right?” He grinned at Pippin encouragingly, and after a moment Pippin grinned back.

Pippin washed himself in record time, and was finished by the time the tea had brewed. “Shall we eat now, Merry? I am ever so hungry and you are alive and nearly whole and safe here with me and everything will be fine.” Pippin said, all irrepressible tweenager again. He had been so afraid when Merry had been hurt while they were captives of the orcs and now he had been hurt again. But they were alive, and they were together, and that was all that mattered. Pippin dearly hoped that things would be well from now on and that Strider and Gandalf and the others would come soon.

“Of course we can eat Pip. You might have to help me set the table, though.” Merry said smiling at Pippin and Pippin laughed and threw his arms around Merry in a careful, but enthusiastic hug.

A short while later tea, a goodly amount of cheese, salted pork, toasted stale bread, several apples and a quantity of ale had been devoured, and by the time they had finished filling up the corners their clothes had dried. They put them on again, feeling a little better now that they had dry clothes and had got some tea inside of them, but Merry still felt quite dizzy and his side and head pained him. Pippin made a warm nest of blankets in front of the fire and helped Merry as he eased himself down, obviously feeling exhausted and battered. “I think I could sleep for an age now, Pip. How about you?”

Pippin put another log on the fire. “I am tired too Merry, but I am afraid you can`t sleep yet. I am worried about your poor head. Do you think that you can manage to stay awake a while longer? I would feel better if you could.”

Merry nodded, then winced as pain shot through his sore head. “I’ll try Pip, but I’m afraid you’ll have to talk to me or I’ll drop right off. Can you manage it?”

“Of course I can manage it. I never thought I’d see the day that you asked me to talk your ear off. I have a few stories that you might not be tired of hearing yet. And even if you are tired of them, I am afraid that you are stuck. You’re not going anywhere until I say you may.” Pippin wrapped another blanket around Merry’s shoulders affectionately.

Merry laughed. “I shall follow your instructions, O’ Healer Peregrin, and hang on to your every word.”

Pippin grinned. “Well, at least that bump knocked some sense into your head, that’s something. I found a stairway in the pantry that looks like it might lead up and out onto the wall. I’ll see if I can’t get out and get Treebeard or Quickbeam’s attention and let them know that we’ll be staying in here tonight. I don’t think that either of us fancies going back through that muck, and it’s warmer in here anyway.”

He started to get up but Merry stayed him with a hand to his shoulder. “What about your ankle, Pippin?” He asked in concern. Pippin had been limping slightly as he had bustled about caring for Merry but had waved away Merry’s worry though Merry could tell he was in some discomfort.

“It hurts a bit, but once I come back inside I’ll stay off it for the rest of the night unless we need something. I’ll be all right Merry, so don’t you worry about me. Now, keep your eyes open, and I will be back before you miss me.” He limped across the guardroom and into the pantry. The stairs did indeed wind their way up to the top of the outer wall, but they were blocked in places by debris and it took Pippin some time to make his way past the obstructions, attract the notice of an Ent – Treebeard himself as it happened – and then get back down to Merry.

He arrived back in the guardroom to the most delicious scent; to keep himself awake until Pippin returned Merry had begun roasting a few of the many apples and the smell was intoxicating. Sitting down in his own nest of blankets, Pippin shut his eyes and remembered last autumn in Tookland, the night before he and Merry had left to meet the others at Bag End. It seemed so long ago now, a lifetime away, and yet he remembered the evening in perfect detail. His mother had sat in her rocking chair, mending the torn strap on his rucksack, lost now at Parth Galen. He and Merry had smoked a pipe or two and played chess with his da while the lasses cracked nuts and roasted apples for everyone and chattered about lads and clothes and what they would wear to the Harvest Ball.

“What are you thinking about?” Merry said as he saw the blissful look on Pippin`s face.

“Oh, nothing really. Just thinking about happy times back in the Shire is all.” Pippin said a faraway look still on his face.

Merry nodded, thinking back to the last time he`d had roasted apples. “Do you remember the last time we sat in front of a fire eating roasted apples? It was just before we left for Bag End to celebrate Frodo`s birthday.”

“Yes. That was the night I was thinking about,” Pippin said. “It was a night like so many others, yet the memory of it is so precious to me. I suppose because it was the last. Or rather, the last until we get home again,” he added quickly. He felt tears pricking his eyes again. Better to change the subject, before they both became too melancholy. “Frodo was so glad to see us the next day; he was nowhere near packed and ready even with Sam’s help! We tricked him into thinking that we were only coming for a birthday visit, and to help him move.”

“Well, we were there for a birthday visit.” Merry laughed, and handed Pippin a roasted apple. “Only, we weren`t planning on leaving him when the birthday was over. I still had to take his things to Crickhollow though. And we gave him quite a surprise when he came there, didn`t we?”

They both smiled fondly. They had both worked very hard for months to keep the wool over their cousin’s eyes, and it had been one of their most successful joint endeavours.

“Yes. “ Pippin giggled. “Dear old Frodo got himself quite a surprise. Poor Fatty, though. He had such a horrible time of it all, working like he`d never done before while you just showed off your strength while putting all the things into the cart.”

“It`s not my fault that I had to work in the new orchards all spring digging and then dragging that heavy hammer around, pounding all those supports into the ground. I think Berilac counted them and it was thousands of them!” Merry said, exaggerating just a bit as he remembered a strenuous spring planting the seedlings, and fixing the support posts for two new orchards around Brandy Hall. He and Berilac had worked very hard helping with the task, and Merry still remembered the pleasure he had felt at his father’s enthusiastic praise when he had inspected the completed project. Those orchards would be an asset to the family for many years to come, he had said and Merry and Berilac had been so very proud.

The two hobbits sat in silent contentment for a while, each of them nibbling on a roast apple and remembering. After a little while though, exhaustion once again caught up with Merry and he yawned hugely.

“I`m sorry Pip but if you don`t start telling me a very exciting story soon, I`m going to fall asleep.” Merry pulled his blankets a little better around himself and yawned again, feeling his eyelids growing heavier and heavier.

“Wait!” Pippin said, seeing Merry`s head starting to droop. “How do you feel?”

“My head still hurts, but I don‘t feel as dizzy as I did, and,” Merry drew a deep breath. “And my side hurts, but not as much as it did earlier.”

“That is good. Let me just see how your head wound is doing. I don`t think it is bleeding any more, but I want to check to be sure.” Pippin walked on his knees over to Merry and unwound the cloth he had bound around his cousin’s head to protect the wound. The cloth came away clean and Pippin tied it back on. “It looks as well as it should I think, but I`ll put this back on in case you accidentally re-open it in your sleep.”

“I can sleep now then, O`Master Healer?” Merry felt relieved to finally be able to lie down.

“Yes, I think you can. I`ll just bundle some blankets together for a pillow for you, and we can sleep right here by the fire.” Pippin rose and went to the stack of blankets to bundle a couple of them together so that Merry could rest his head on them. He placed the blankets at the top of Merry’s little nest, and patted them. “Here you go, Merry-mine.” Merry nodded in thanks and snuggled deeper down in the blankets Pippin so comfortingly had wrapped around him earlier, and lay down, closing his eyes.

Pippin grabbed a blanket or two to make a pillow for himself and lay down beside Merry, putting his arms protectively about his cousin, snuggling down for warmth.

“Do you know, you`ve saved my life twice in less than a week?” Merry said in a drowsy voice.

“I have?” Pippin pulled away a little to look into Merry`s face. Maybe he had? He had just done what he had to, but what an odd and awful thing, that they were in such straits that such actions had been necessary.

“Yes. You freed us from the orcs and now you`ve saved me from drowning. I can never thank you enough for that, Pippin. You are brave and strong and I do not know what I would have done without you. I can`t think of any other person I would prefer to have by my side, in good times or bad. I am very proud of you.” Tears started to gather in his eyes then, and Merry hugged Pippin as tight as he dared. “Thank you Pippin. For everything...”

Pippin hugged Merry back, and stroked his curls. “You`re very welcome Merry. I wouldn`t be half the hobbit I am had it not been for you, you know. You have taught me so much and I would not have managed to do half of what I have done so far in life had it not been for you. Thank you for always being there for me, supporting me and believing in me.” He kissed Merry’s brow. “Sleep now, Merry dear. You are awfully tired and you need to rest. Let`s hope things will take a turn for the better in the morning, shall we?”

“Yes. Let`s do that.” Merry said and his breath deepened as he began to drift into an exhausted, dreamless sleep, nestled safe within Pippin`s arms. Safe and loved. “Good night Pippin-my-lad.”

“Good night Merry-my-own.”

Outside, Treebeard carefully, so as to not wake the hobbits, placed Quickbeam as a guard in front of the doorway to the guardhouse and went back to managing the destruction of Isengard.


* “The White Rider”
** "Watch Every Shadow"

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