A/N: Golden had the idea for this story and sought out a native English speaker to do the actual writing. I read her idea and request and immediately volunteered to be the writer. She accepted my offer and we got to work. We also have and will continue to receive medical information assistance from Surgical Steel.
What would have been like if Pippin had suffered permanent damage from the troll falling on him at the Battle Before the Black Gate? How would that affect him, the other hobbits, the Fellowship? That is what this story explores.
The title is based on a starter from Marigold's Challenge #39 that appears near the end of the Prologue.
Merry walked down the gangway of the Gondorian ship. The area around the quay was teeming with Men meeting the ships and he sighed as he was pushed along.
"Is there anyone here to meet me?" he wondered aloud.
He had been looking too far afield, for at the bottom of the gangway stood Legolas and Gimli.
"Greetings young hobbit!" Gimli said, though he did not look quite as cheery as the greeting sounded.
"Welcome, Meriadoc," Legolas added quietly.
"Well," Merry looked his friends over. "I can see you two aren't the injured ones the note mentioned."
"Note?" Legolas asked.
Merry reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a folded piece of paper. "The note that came ordering me to come here with the wains."
The elf and dwarf looked at the note.
You are to join those bringing supplies to the camp at
Of your friends and kin, all live, some are injured.
King of Rohan
"We knew you had been sent for, but did not know the request had been written. This is terse enough." Legolas looked up from the note. "I do have a cut upon my right leg and Gimli here took a particularly bad gash to his left arm. But you are correct in saying we are not the ones referred to by King Éomer."
"He could have said a little more. Who is injured and how they are injured would have been nice to know." Merry made no effort to hide his frustration.
Dwarf and elf looked at the hobbit as they began to walk away from the river's edge. Merry's bearing was stiff and he hadn't smiled when they had greeted him. The two shared a concerned look over the hobbit's head.
"Everyone has been rather busy, young hobbit," Gimli was gentle in his tone. "I'm sure that's why your message was so brief."
"Where in all this chaos are they?" Merry irritably asked. "All I see are wains and beasts of burden and boxes and crates and men and . . . Oh!"
They had come up to a young man holding two horses, Arod and a small chestnut horse.
"May I give you a leg-up Merry?" Legolas asked as he stood beside the smaller horse's side. Merry accepted the offer as Legolas contiued. "It is a bit of a ride to where they are."
Merry may have questioned his friends further on the way to the camp but Srad, his horse, was rather spirited and he had to concentrate on his riding.
More than an hour later they crested a slight rise. Before them stretched a huge city of tents.
"Now you see why we were sent to claim you, Merry." Gimli said, laying a hand on Merry's shoulder. "'Twould take you a lengthy time to find them in all of that without guides."
"Yes. Yes, it would."
"Come," said Legolas. "We will take you to Frodo and Sam first."
It was the beginning of a long and tiring afternoon for Merry. It was a long walk to where Frodo and Sam were housed. Their pavilion stood off from the rest of the tent city. It sat at the edge of a lovely copse of beeches, where it was quiet and the air was free of the dust raised elsewhere by the coming and going of the many healers, soldiers, horses and others in the more crowded parts of the camp.
"Welcome Merry," Aragorn said, rising to greet the hobbit.
Merry stood still in the doorway. Frodo and Sam lay upon low pallets, covered by light blankets, with their hands resting on their stomachs. They were pale. They looked dead.
Merry stiffened even more as the colour drained from his face. Strider moved quickly to his side.
"They are sleeping, Merry. Deeply sleeping. They will heal more quickly this way and their recovery will be less painful."
"May I touch them?" the tense hobbit whispered.
Strider smiled. "It will be good for both of them if you do."
Merry went to where a small stool had been placed between the pallets. He moved it close to Frodo's then sat down. Frodo was horribly thin. His cousin's hair was cut rather short and there were still places where Merry could see the hair had been singed. There were small burn marks on Frodo's face. Some, that had blistered and were weeping, others tender looking red spots. The neck of the garment he was wearing was large so as not to rub against the abrasion that trailed upwards across Frodo's collarbone, up over his shoulder, around the back of his neck then down over his other shoulder. Merry reached as though to touch the angry red line, but stopped short. Frodo had said It had got heavier.
The Ring had done this to his dear cousin.
Merry shivered at the thought of how it must have hurt. Then he looked at Frodo's hands. There were burn marks on them as well, but worse than that, the right hand was bandaged and was missing the ring-finger. Merry gently touched the remaining fingers.
"What happened to his finger?" he quietly asked.
Aragorn hesitated. He knew what had happened. He had seen it through Frodo's eyes, felt the pain of it, as he had brought him back from the brink of death. But was Merry able to bear it?
"It happened at the Cracks of Doom," was all he said.
Merry nodded. He somehow knew Strider wasn't telling the full tale. Cold began to seep up Merry's right arm. He wondered, had Frodo put on the Ring? He decided it was best not to know the answer just now. He kissed Frodo's forehead, "You are safe now, Frodo. Sleep peacefully. I will be here to welcome you better when you awake." Then Merry moved over to Sam's side.
The stout gardener was no longer stout. Though not as thin as Frodo, it was obvious that neither of them had fared well. Like his master, Sam had burn marks on him and patches of singed hair. There was a bandage wrapped around Sam's head, scrapes and bruises on his face and his hands were bandaged. It looked to Merry as though there had been a fight. He hoped Sam hadn't had to fight with Frodo; that would have been grievous indeed. He grasped one of Sam's shoulders then kissed his forehead. "I know you watched over him, Sam. Now we'll all watch over you. Thank you," he whispered then he stood up and faced Legolas, Gimli and Strider. "Where's Pippin?"
Strider sent for one of the women who helped the healers to come sit with the Ringbearers and the four friends left the tent.
As they walked the short way to the tent where Pippin was being cared for, Strider wondered how he was going to tell Merry that he was fairly certain his young cousin was going to be facing difficulties. That like Frodo and like Merry himself, though from a different cause than either of them, Pippin would have trouble using his right hand. The lad's left knee had been damaged. And, what worried the king most, was how long the youngest hobbit had lain trapped beneath the heavy troll. Several hours had passed before Gimli had found Pippin, and all that time the lad was barely able to breathe enough to keep himself alive.
The plan had been for Strider to tell Merry about Pippin's injuries, but just as they neared the tent, an errand runner for the healers came up and bowed to the king.
"Your Majesty. One of those suffering from the Black Breath appears to be slipping from us once again. I was sent to find and fetch you."
The King turned to his friends, but Merry spoke before he did.
"Go Strider. We'll be fine here. You're needed."
Strider gave a quick nod. Merry knew well what the Black Breath could do to a person. "I'll return as soon as I'm able." He then followed after the errand lad, both at a run.
Legolas stopped at the entrance to Pippin's tent. He looked down at Merry.
"Aragorn had intended to be with you. He is best able to tell you of Peregrin's injuries and I do not know if he would wish us to attempt to do so in his stead. Perhaps we should wait . . ."
"No," Merry cut the Elf off short. "No, I don't wish to wait. Tell me what you feel you can. Strider can tell me the rest when he comes."
They entered the tent. Gandalf sat beside a low pallet, like the ones Sam and Frodo had been laid upon. Merry swiftly moved to Pippin's side.
"Aragorn isn't with you?" Gandalf asked.
"He was called away," Legolas replied. "Since you are here, Mithrandir, I shall return to keep vigil with Frodo and Sam." He looked sadly at Merry then left.
Merry had closed his eyes. He dreaded to look at Pippin. He had more than expected Frodo and Sam to look terrible. They had gone to the Black Land itself. They had gone to a place called Mount Doom and to the Cracks of Doom. Ashamedly Merry had to admit to himself that after he was felled by the Black Breath he really had not expected to ever see Frodo or Sam again - dead or living. He had been amazed when the short note had said all were alive.
For some reason, he simply had not put Pippin in with the ". . . some injured" the note had mentioned. It was when he was walking down the gangway and saw no sign of the rascal that the fear had started to grip him. If Pip wasn't there to greet him . . .
He heard movement behind him.
"Sit down, laddie." He heard Gimli say as he was gently pushed downward.
He sat down. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
There was Pippin. Pale, but no burns or singed hair. Pale, but not horribly thin. He had light bruises on his face. His right hand was wrapped, but all of his fingers were there.
He didn't really look very bad at all, though he didn't seem to be breathing.
Merry put a hand to Pippin's chest. He rested his thumb in the space between Pippin's collarbones, resting it along the inside edge of the tendons there, and waited a few moments. Merry sighed. He could feel his young cousin breathing, he could feel his pulse.
He had been looking at his hand on Pip's chest so hadn't noticed Pippin opening his eyes.
"It's about time you got here." Pippin's voice was soft and he sounded as though he was winded.
"Have you managed to catch cold?"
Pippin smiled. "No. Broken ribs. My chest is bound and . . ." he took a short, shallow breath, "it hurts to breathe very deeply. It's . . . quite awful when I have to yawn."
"How did you manage to break some ribs, Pip? Did you fall off Strider's horse or something?"
"I found the lad trying to hide under a troll." Gimli answered for Pippin.
Merry looked wide-eyed at the Dwarf.
"Aye, Meriadoc. All that was to be seen of the lad was his wee left foot. His knee got twisted or even his foot might not have showed. And when I pushed that great stinking beast off him, imagine my surprise to find the only thing that was sticking into it was young Peregrin's sword."
"I killed a troll, Merry!" Pippin said with as much enthusiasm as his limited breathing allowed. "Boromir would have been proud, I didn't let go of my sword. My right shoulder aches, and my hand got hurt."
"It isn't broken though," Gandalf added, noting the sudden look of concern on Merry's face. "His hand is badly bruised." Merry didn't notice the wizard said nothing of the sore shoulder.
Pippin's face contorted as he dealt with a yawn. He blinked as he smiled at his cousin. "I'm tired, Merry."
"I'm certain you are, Pip! You close your eyes and sleep. I'm here now and I won't go anywhere except to check on Frodo and Sam from time to time."
"You've seen them?" Pippin asked excitedly. "I haven't been able to, of course. How are they? Have they been awake yet?"
"They are thin, and have some burns and bruises on them. They are sleeping." Merry didn't mention the line the chain had carved into Frodo's skin nor his missing finger. He did not mention Sam's bandaged head and hands.
Pippin suffered through another inhibited yawn. "That's what Strider told me, that they're sleeping." His eyes started to close. "I'm glad you're here, Merry," he said, then was asleep himself.
Merry looked at Gandalf. "He's hurt his ribs, his leg and his right hand? That is all that is wrong with him?"
"He was carried immediately to Aragorn and it is he who has been the lad's healer, as he has been with Frodo and Sam. He hasn't let anyone else but the master healer here see to their care." The wizard paused, weighing his words carefully. "I do think there were things he wished to discuss with you regarding all three of them, and I shan't presume to have that discussion without him. Until then, you know a good deal. Try to content yourself with the fact that the four of you are all alive and together in the same place."
Merry at first looked as though he might argue with Gandalf, but then he looked down at Pippin and nodded. "Yes. Alive and together will do for now. With the war won, there is time now to deal with anything else that arises."
"Would you be wanting to hear the whole story of how I found the wee lad?" Gimli asked Merry. "'Twill be the first chance I've had to tell it with no interruptions from the Elf."
Merry smiled and chuckled a bit at the eager look in the Dwarf's eyes. "Then by all means tell me the tale, Gimli. I wouldn't want to deprive you of such a rare opportunity."
Gimli began his story, and Gandalf was glad for the conversation taking a different direction.
Later, in the still of the evening after Gimli and Gandalf had left, Merry himself was nearly asleep. There had been no sign of Strider, but Parsow had come to watch over Pippin. Parsow let Merry lie down next to Pippin while he sat in the chair Gandalf had occupied earlier.
Merry was dimly aware of someone entering the tent. He didn't bother opening his eyes, Parsow would tend to whoever it was. Then he had the feeling of someone leaning over him. Merry opened his eyes a crack to see what was happening.
Strider had come in. Parsow was dozing in the chair, blocking the other side of the pallet, so Strider was reaching over Merry to lay his hand on Pippin's head.
"May he be brave, and have the strong head to think with, and the strong heart to love with, and the strong hands to work with and the strong feet to travel with and always come home safe to his own."
Strider softly spoke the words, then left.
"It is an old blessing, usually spoken over newborn males in Gondor."
Merry jumped a bit at the sound of Parsow's voice.
"He has come in and spoken it over Pippin every night."
"Why would he do that?"
There was a pause then Parsow replied, even softer than he had spoken before, "Pippin has need of such a blessing."
The quote is from: "Five Children and It" by Edith Nesbit