Moria's Revenge
Chapter 43 - Completed

Authors: Kookaburra & Llinos
Beta: Marigold

"But what did you say to him Sam?" Frodo turned away from Aragorn to question his servant. "I realise now that I was… I was a little abrupt with him… but now Strider tells me that poor Merry had a disagreement with every one of us… Sam this is awful, how could it have happened?"

"I know, I feel mighty sorry too," Sam hung his head and could not meet Frodo's eyes. "I didn't mean nothing by it – I was just trying to… I mean I wanted to…"

"What he is attempting to explain," Aragorn supplied helpfully, "is that he only wanted to protect you but, in the process, hurt Merry."

"Well I suppose that's about the gist of it," Sam admitted. "And a bad show it is an' all."

"Yes, I'm sure you meant to act for the best Sam," Frodo smiled kindly at the crestfallen hobbit, "but it seems we were all rather harsh on poor Merry."

Aragorn had spent the time while Merry and Pippin were reliving Pippin's worst moment of captivity, explaining to, first Legolas, Gimli and Boromir, and now Frodo and Sam, Merry's anguish and despair as he was torn in two, between Pippin and duty. The Ranger had only realised, after Galadriel had explained, what Merry was going through and that Frodo had been reluctant to acknowledge that he might not be able to continue the Quest and relinquish the Ring to his cousin.

"Well my Gaffer used to say, 'soonest friended – soonest mended'. I'll go make my peace with Mr Merry right now if that's all right with you Mr Frodo?"

"We all must, Sam." Frodo looked up at the Ranger, "Am I well enough do you think to walk Aragorn? I'd like to go and see Merry too, it doesn't seem right that he should come to me."

"No Frodo, you certainly are not well enough to running around looking for Merry," Aragorn knew that the healers would complain with justification if he indulged Frodo in this way, but the look of anguish on the hobbit's face almost made him relent. "I will fetch Merry here to you. I think he will understand."

"There is no need to go looking for the young hobbit." Gimli stood at the door to Frodo's room with Legolas. Merry stood between them, looking exhausted, red-eyed but with a resolute smile on his lips. "We found him and brought him because he wanted to talk to you."

"But he was afraid you wouldn't want to see him." Legolas raised an eyebrow, asking Frodo to confirm that was not so.

"Of course I do," Frodo looked sheepish too, "Merry lad, come here."

Merry climbed up on the bed and gently put his arms around Frodo. Now that he had resolved the difficulties with Pippin, all other problems, even that of the Ring Itself, seemed to diminish into insignificance. He knew now that his fight with Frodo and with Sam and with the others, had been, for his part, due to the anguish he was feeling at losing Pippin. Normally Merry was slow to anger and patient with his friends, but the thought of Pippin giving up on life had made everything else in his world discordant and unbearable and he had tried to confront the conflicts without realising why.

Now that this was resolved there was no need for words of apology, Frodo and he both knew that all was well again between them. In fact, as Frodo embraced his younger cousin, he was aware of something else. When they had hugged for a long time, Frodo pulled Merry back and looked at his face intently. "It's all right, Merry, isn't it? Pippin chose to remember and you've helped him through it – haven't you? We haven't lost him?"

Merry nodded. He did not need to ask Frodo how he could tell, Frodo knew him so well, better possibly than even Pippin. Frodo was more insightful with his friend's emotions and he could often read what had happened with just a look.

Frodo caught himself wondering then about his own reaction to Merry. Why had he been so angry earlier? Why had he felt cross and betrayed by his cousin? Merry had talked of taking the Ring from him – was that it? Had It taken such a hold on him that, even as he lay here, sick in this bed, brought low by Gollum's vicious attack, the slinking creature's drive to regain the evil thing was starting to affect he himself! Why else would he have felt such rage at Merry's suggestion? Frodo knew that Bilbo liked to keep the Ring about his person and now Frodo himself felt anxious at even the thought of being parted from It.

This was all wrong! Frodo shuddered, even as he drew Merry back into his embrace once more he realised that something was deeply wrong – not with Merry, but with him. How could he ever destroy the Ring if he was so loathe to even think of allowing Merry to take over the Quest and become the Ring-bearer in his stead? Was it just that he wanted to protect Merry from the danger inherent in such a thing? Frodo searched deep within himself as he held his dear cousin close, and found that, although it was a factor, it was not the whole case. The very thought of handing the Ring to his darling Merry made him sick with rage!

"Merry I know now, it was not your fault, nor mine – it is the Ring!" Frodo stroked Merry's curls as he held him near, It preys upon me and eats away at my friendship and love for you and Sam and Pippin – It's not me, truly. I fear for you though, my own dear cuz. How will you fare if I lay such a burden upon you?"

"I don't know," Merry admitted, "I was just doing what I was told to do – what the others said – I would have done my best, Frodo that's all I could."

"Of course you would dearest Merry," Frodo was becoming weak with the prolonged activity and sank back down onto the bed with exhaustion. "Indeed you will. Aragorn is right, I'm not fit to carry on. Look at me, one minute of hugging you and I'm too tired to sit up any longer."

Frodo, even though his body was worn out and spent with the emotion and activity, reached deep within his soul to summon up the courage and resolve that he needed. He could not allow this Thing to take possession of him, he had to be stronger than the evil contained in the wretched burden around his neck, strong enough even to cast It away, as eventually the Ring-bearer – whoever that should be – would have to. He took hold of the Ring, pulling the chain over his dark curls, "No Merry, you shall take It in my stead, and Sam shall go with you." Frodo held the Ring out to his cousin. "Pippin and I shall stay here until we are both healed and then you shall meet us once the Quest is complete."

"You can't mean that Frodo?" Merry put his hands behind his back, almost in horror as his cousin dangled the Ring on the end of the glistening chain before his face. "I can't take It – can I?"

"Not yet Frodo," Aragorn interceded, the man was surprised indeed at Frodo's actions, but impressed with the hobbit's sudden resolve. "There is no need to decide immediately. You may recover sufficiently to continue."

"I am very frail still Aragorn," Frodo smiled weakly, "I can barely sit up for more than two minutes at a time. How can I carry this Ring to Mount Doom?"

"That's true enough, Mr Strider," Sam put in, "Mr Frodo's hardly even been out o' bed since that creature attacked him and near ripped his throat out."

"Sam's right," Frodo nodded, "I don't think I can…" Frodo stopped suddenly as if something had caught him unawares, his eyes blinked rapidly and he felt a strange energy pulsing through his body and a great heat moving towards his neck and the injury in particular. He reached his hand to touch where the bandages were and was surprised to feel a strong pulse there. It was not painful, as it should have been, which was a little frightening in itself.

"What is it Frodo?" Merry saw Frodo's face change, "Are you all right?"

"Here, let me…" Aragorn reached forward and touched Frodo's brow, lightly, but he withdrew his hand almost at once, as if he had been scalded.

"What's wrong?" Sam's voice had an edge of panic to it. "Is he sick? Mr Strider? What's the matter with him?"

"No, it's all right Sam… Merry," Frodo slipped the Ring back around his neck and took hold of Merry's hand, using it to pull himself up. From deep within his being, the hobbit could feel a powerful thrumming resonate, as if energy were surging through him. It was a strange feeling, but not altogether unpleasant. Now the fear of what was happening to him fell away and Frodo was calm and confident about what was happening to his body. He knew that he should not feel that way, but for some reason he could not help himself. "I feel so much better! Perhaps that little argument we had Merry was what I needed to buck me up."

"Frodo?" Merry looked at him quizzically. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"So much so, I think I could even get up and go for a little walk," Frodo announced to the astonishment of all present. "Where are my clothes Sam?"

"Wait!" Aragorn held up his hand to belay Sam from rushing to find something for his Master to wear. "This is too strange. Frodo let me have a look at you." Aragorn looked carefully into Frodo's eyes, felt his forehead and loosened his nightshirt and the bandages around his neck. "This is amazing!" Legolas and Gimli leaned forward to see what had astonished the Ranger so, "The neck wound is virtually healed! I saw it myself, not 24 hours since. It was suppurating and bruised, the gash was hardly mended and yet now…!" Aragorn broke off in astonishment.

"The wound looks like a mild scratch, nothing more," Gimli gasped in deep awe, "What happened Master Baggins? How did it this recovery occur so quickly?"

"There is a powerful force at work here," Legolas added, "Frodo must have been touched by the Valar for such an occurrence."

"I am not so sure that this was done by a power for good!" Aragorn narrowed his eyes as he continued to examine the now rapidly healing wounds on Frodo's neck and arm. "What made you offer the Ring to Merry, Frodo?"

"I knew that I was too ill to continue," Frodo admitted, "and I was suddenly aware that if I kept It, The Ring would never be destroyed and so I had to pass It to Merry."

"There, my friends," Aragorn smiled grimly, "I think we have our answer! It was the Ring Itself that brought about this miracle. While Frodo lay here, It was secure, but once he resolved to pass the Ring to Merry, It knew that keeping Frodo an invalid would not save It from the fires of Mount Doom." And, he thought to himself, the evil Thing knew that It would have to start afresh to wear away at the mind and body of a new bearer, another of these dauntless little creatures that proved nearly impossible for It to control. It believed It served Its own purpose better by remaining with Frodo. Ah, Frodo, what will become of you in the end, dear friend!

Frodo just smiled at his anxious friends and then stretched casually, "Are there some clothes I could wear Sam?" His question was wide eyed and belied the tumult of thoughts tumbling over and over behind his innocent expression. 'How had the Ring done this to him? He had felt It embed Itself even more deeply within his soul, even as It cured him, how was he ever going to be able to destroy It?

'The Ring whispered to him to be calm, not to worry, no one would guess Their secret, that They were One now, Frodo Baggins and the Ring. There would be time for him to decide Their fate, he would make the right choice, the Ring told him. But what that choice should be Frodo's heart knew, Gandalf had told him – It must be destroyed! But an insistent voice inside was nagging at him, clawing at his soul, you may have to keep It to save all. Frodo will make the right choice. Wise Frodo.'

Frodo's face changed to a grimace, although no one seemed to notice. Deep inside he was holding back a tiny inner thought of his own, a thought that the Ring could not hear, so deep was the secret that Frodo would not voice it, even to himself, but he knew, if he could not cast the Ring into the Mountain of Fire, he would cast himself in and take the accursed Thing with him.

But for now the burden around his neck again sang It's insidious song, 'Don't worry, you are well and no one else may touch your beautiful Ring. You alone may keep It, you alone…' Frodo's reverie was suddenly snapped back to the healing chamber.

"Well, I suppose it's a good thing, in a way," Sam scratched his head in perplexed bafflement, "That the Ring made you better, Mr Frodo, I mean. My Gaffer always says, 'it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good!' And that's a fact!"

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Through the next few weeks, Pippin made rapid improvement, though he still had his good days and his bad days. Nothing could take away the dreams that would haunt him, even though Merry was always there upon his waking to soothe away Pippin's fears. However, an unfortunate side effect of having personally witnessed what Pippin went through were some nasty dreams for Merry, although he did his best to not let Pippin know about them. The rest of the Fellowship, not privy to Pippin's night terrors, often only saw a hobbit who each day was closer to the one they had entered the Mines with. And one day, when Boromir and Aragorn were walking through the woods towards their pavilion, and witnessed Pippin running and laughing with Merry and Icicle, wearing his old mended shirt and britches, they knew they had spent time enough for healing.

So it was that one month after they had arrived in Lothlórien, a battered and bereft party, that finally all were healed and could leave to continue onwards with their Quest.

Aragorn, now at the head of the eight remaining travellers, resolved to guide as best he could in Gandalf's stead. Frodo, with the faithful Samwise at his side, was well and resolute in his task to overcome the evil inherent in his Burden and carry It to Its final destruction in Mount Doom. Gimli and Legolas, their friendship growing by the day, would stand firmly beside the Ranger and the Ring-bearer and Boromir, whilst yet counselling that they should take the road to Minas Tirith, resolved to follow Aragorn and do all he could to aid the mission. Merry and Pippin, now both whole and healed, were determined to stand by Frodo until his mission was complete or death took them, just as they had vowed back in Crickhollow at a time that seemed so very long ago now.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Pippin took a long and mournful farewell of Icicle. "What will become of Umum, I mean Icy, Milady?" Pippin looked up at Galadriel with pleading eyes, "Can she not come with us?"

"That is not her path, Peregrin Took," Galadriel spoke soothingly words Pippin did not really want to hear. "She has another task to perform that will take all her time and thought. Do not fear for her, for she has been touched by the Valar and such a creature will always carry their protection."

"But… but I'm going to miss her so much." Pippin kept his arms firmly around Icicle's great ruff, "I'm not sure what I will do if I were to meet with an orc again."

"Do not fear young Pippin," Galadriel placed her hand upon his head in benediction, "you have a greater strength within you now than you ever had before, and that was great indeed. Trust in yourself and in your cousin. You will meet many sinister things in these shadowy times, but few have encountered and survived as much darkness as you have. It is possible that you can turn what you suffered to your gain, I sense that you are skilled in this way."

"Yes, he is very good at that, Milady. Particularly when he needs to get out of trouble caused by his mischief making!" Merry came up behind Pippin and placed a hand on his cousin's shoulder. "Come, Pippin. It is time to say good-bye."

"Yes Merry, I know. I just need a moment." Pippin still kneeling beside the snow-white warg, his arms lovingly around her neck, buried his face in her fur and whispered. "Dearest Umum, I owe you so much, my very life, Lady Galadriel says you can't come with me, but I will always carry you in my heart, please carry me in yours and think of me sometimes. Thank you Umum, thank you for loving me when I was so lost and alone. Keep safe and remember, I'll always love you and be your little pup, no matter how big I grow."

Merry looked up at the Lady now, his head tilted questioningly on one side, "Couldn't Icicle come with us? I mean she'd make our numbers up to nine once more and, although she'd not replace Gandalf, she'd be a wonderful companion."

"No Merry," The Lady laughed sweetly, "I suppose I shall have to tell you her secret or you two will give her no peace or farewell."

"Secret? Task?" Pippin looked up with furrowed brow, "What is it Milady? I don't understand."

"Do you recall in the orc's chamber that there were two white warg wolves?" Galadriel asked them both.

"Yes," Merry said first, "I do remember that.

"Yes," Pippin agreed, "They were a matched pair, but the other one never took any notice of me."

"That was Icicle's mate," Galadriel bent a little to stroke the noble white head, "Madam Icicle, is expecting a pup of her own – in fact I believe it is to be twins. So you see Pippin, she is going to be too busy to take care of her older adopted pup for much longer."

"Oh Umum! Pippin threw his arms around her once more, happy now that she at least would not miss him too much with pups of her own to care for. "That's wonderful – you're going to be a real mother! Is that why you took such good care of me?"

"No Pippin," Galadriel smiled, "She would have cared for you anyway I am sure. But now she will have her new little ones to look after, so you see it would not be good for you take her any further."

"Ha!" Merry patted the warg too, "And I just thought that Gimli had been feeding you too much! Congratulations Icy – you should call the pups Merry and Pippin, so you'll remember us always."

Then Pippin stood and wiped what he hoped would be the last tear from his eye and stood by Merry. Icicle lifted up a paw and placed it on Pippin's knee for a moment, and then she threw her head back and gave a long heartrending howl, as if mourning a great loss, Before Pippin could hug her again, Icicle placed herself behind Galadriel, lying at the elven queen's feet as if she had decided this was now her place.

Pippin's jaw dropped in dismay, "Oh Umum, don't be sad…"

"Do not begrudge a mother her mourning Pippin," Galadriel leaned forward and patted his hand, "She is just saying goodbye to you in her own way. The nestraden naneth gave her life for you and the Valar breathed breath back into her because of the great love that she bore for you. But like a good mother, she knows it is time for her little one to strike out on his own and she will soon have her new babes to care for. Her offspring will be twice blessed for their lives too were returned by the Valar. They will be strong and fair, a precious gift to their mother that is well deserved.

"Then I do not," Pippin smiled now at his protector, "Farewell Icicle – Umum. I know, I'm healed now, but I'll always love you and…"

"Peregrin, please wait one moment." Pippin spun around, surprised at Haldir's sudden appearance. "I have a gift of my own to give you, to go with the Lady's." He held out a cunningly crafted elven dagger, like Legolas's, but different somehow. It was as long as his old sword and was housed in a scabbard that matched the golden belt the Lady had given him. "I realised that the orcs must have taken your sword in Moria, and would not have you go out into the world without a fitting weapon.

Pippin's mouth worked soundlessly for a few moments, then he looked up a Haldir. "Thank you so, so much Haldir. I'm afraid I hadn't even thought of my sword until now. I'm truly grateful that you thought of me." With that he lunged forward and gave Haldir an enthusiastic hug around the elf's waist. "Thank you for everything." Pippin breathed.

Galadriel bent and whispered to Pippin as he finally disengaged himself from Haldir's amused embrace, "I think you have a gift too, do you not? For Icicle?"

"Oh I wasn't… that is…" Pippin flustered in embarrassment. "It's nothing and I think Icy would think me strange." He wondered how the Lady had known what was in his mind, but then recalled that this particular elf usually knew what he was thinking.

"I do not believe she would ever think that of you Peregrin," Galadriel drew him by the hand back towards Icicle, putting her other hand on the warg. "Give her gift to her now, you made it with love and gratitude and she will know that it is a deep token of your love."

Pippin looked shyly up at Haldir, then realised that Sam and Frodo were waiting there too. He gulped a little, "It's just my thank you to Icy and Merry helped too, you know, with the rhymes and such." He then knelt down in front of Icicle again and, taking her paw in his small hand, he sang in his sweet melodious voice, to his dear saviour, a heartfelt, parting gift.

A little nothing scrap,
Fell into your lair,
A mouse caught in a trap,
That shouldn't have been there.

The mouse was lost and broken,
All hope he'd given up,
But a light in you was woken,
And you took him for your pup.

They say the Valar moved you,
To take me for your own,
But your love it was that proved true,
Yours – and yours alone!

No other soul had pity,
On a helpless little mite,
That in the Dwarrowdelf city,
Lay weeping in the night.

All the Stars were hidden,
The Sun covered up Her face,
The Moon there is not bidden,
In that dark and fearful place.

But into the deepest mining,
There came a spark of light,
Ice white fur brightly shining,
A beacon burning bright.

You stood fast beside me,
And soothed as best you could,
Cradled and tried to hide me,
As only a mother could.

Then they pulled we two apart,
Took you from your child,
I know it broke your noble heart,
When I was beaten and reviled.

But Icy, still you heard my cry,
Came back and held me tight,
Licked my salty tears dry,
And nursed me through the night.

The love you gave, made me try,
To hold on to life so dear,
Because of you I did not die,
Although death seemed so near.

You gave me hope when I had lost,
All spirit, strength and pride,
And dear Merry would have borne the cost,
If I had given up and died.

So thank you Icy from my soul,
From Merry and from me,
You kept me safe, kept me whole,
And helped to set me free.

Icy, though I've got to leave,
And we can't be together,
My darling nurse please believe,
You're in my heart forever.

Now Merry will look after me,
And I'll watch him like no other,
But part of my soul will always be,
With my nestraden naneth mother.

Icicle's tail thumped heavily on the ground and Pippin was sure she had understood every word. Satisfied at last that it was time to part, he stood and turned resolutely to Merry. "I think we're prepared to face whatever's ahead." He smiled at his cousin, "Come on Merry, I'm ready, let's go."

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Pippin tried to keep his panic down – orcs, huge orcs were surrounding them. He clutched Haldir's dagger in his hand, though for a while he thought he would not have to use it – Boromir was defending them well, and orcs fell to his blade like wheat to a harvester's scythe. Merry gripped Pippin's free hand, and immediately Pippin felt calmer – no matter what happened, as long as he and Merry were together, it would be all right.

Suddenly there was a hissing sound, and Boromir staggered. A black-feathered arrow shaft seemed to have sprouted from his chest. Pippin stared dumbly at it, for a moment wondering if the orcs thought that mere arrows could stop such a brave and strong man. For a few more moments it looked as though his first reaction was accurate, as Boromir continued fighting. Then two more arrows followed the first, and Boromir sank to his knees.

Pippin was struck dumb, but his heart echoed Merry's cry of rage – how dare they? How dare they hurt his dear friend, when they'd already hurt him and all of them so much? He dimly heard Boromir calling to them, telling them to run, but like Merry he did not heed it. Both of them charged the orcs, Merry reaching them first and cutting a few of them deeply.

Boromir struggled against the dark clouds that were threatening to overwhelm his vision – with curious detachment he watched his two pupils fighting bravely against odds they could never hope to defeat. His detachment lifted as pride swelled up in his breast and he watched Pippin, face contorted in rage, bravely fighting for his life the monsters he had faced before. Whether he lived or died right here, Boromir knew now, Pippin truly had been healed.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

"Merry! Merry!" Pippin pulled himself up the grassy slope, his bound hands hampering his movements as he crawled. He knew there were orcs all around him but the only thought in his head was for his cousin. "Merry are you hurt? Merry? Please say something!"

"Pip?" Merry turned over and looked groggily up at his little cousin. "Don't worry it's just a scratch I think." Merry lifted his tied hands up and touched his forehead, his fingers came away bloody and he winced his eyes shut at the sudden sting. "Not sure what hit me though."

"It was an Uruk with the butt of his sword," Pippin drew himself closer and nudged his body against Merry as the other tried to sit up. "Lean on me Mer, let me see your poor head."

Pippin had had a moment of near panic when he had seen the monstrous creature smash his weapon across Merry's brow. Merry had collapsed bonelessly and the Uruk had picked him up like a discarded bag, his cousin's head lolling about as he was swung upside down and thrown to another Uruk, who caught him with a raucous laugh at the hobbit's smallness and the ease with which they could heft him about. Merry was thrown from orc to orc as another held Pippin tightly, restraining his struggles and keeping his great hand over his screams for them to leave Merry alone.

But then a leader strode into their midst and caught Merry's limp body in midair, "What the fug do you lot fink yer's doin'? The Master wants these little rats alive and unspoiled! Now tie 'em up and stop fugging abaht wiv 'em!"

Pippin knew then that whatever happened, it was never going to be as bad as what had already been served to him and, most importantly, he had to stay alert and look for a chance to get away for Merry's sake. Merry was wounded! His head was hurt and that might mean anything. It was up to him this time to take care of his older cousin.

"Are you hurt Pip?" Merry looked furtively around, he could see nothing but orcs in every direction. "Did they… I mean, I'm sorry I was out cold and I should have stayed by you… are you…?" he dared not even ask the question directly. This was their worst nightmare come alive. After all that Pippin had suffered at the hands of the orcs he must be petrified.

"No, Merry, I'm all right." Pippin whispered. "I'm scared but they seem to think we've got something and they're not to spoil us, whatever that means." His green eyes bore steadfastly into his cousin's, "They didn't hurt me like that, and Mer, I'm not afraid – even if they try anything – I won't be frightened, because you're here and I'm going to take care of you."

Merry leaned against Pippin and closed his eyes, "Yes my Pip, I'm not frightened either, because I know you'll look after me."

"Nothing can harm us Mer," Pippin whispered, "Not if we're together and even if we're apart, I'll still have you in my heart and in my spirit – you and Umum."

"Quiet you fugging scum!" A rough orc voice bellowed above them, "No talking," and a large foot kicked out at them both, catching Pippin in the belly.

"Don't be afraid Merry," Pippin whispered it so quietly now, even the orc standing above couldn't hear, "I'll take care of you forever and ever and ever! I'll never be afraid again as long as we're together!"

THE END

This has been a Kookaburra/Llinos Production

Last Chat for this story…

Lady Greenleaf2: wow... I mean...wow... awesome! please keep this going.. I must read more!
Llinos: Oh dear now I feel bad that this is the last chapter. So sorry.
Kookaburra: Who knows- maybe we should do a sequel!

Baylor: You've tied up a lot of pieces to this puzzle in this chapter, but there are still some things that need to be settled. Don't make us wait so long this time!
Llinos: Ah and that's the last time you can say that! Except I think we caught all the pieces! We did – didn't we? (looks anxiously around for spare pieces.)
Kookaburra: (Peeks under the furniture) No, Llinos, I think we got all of them!

Oliversqurl: This is such a wonderful story. I love it... please keep going.
Llinos: I'm afraid that's it. Now I feel really bad!
Kookaburra: Then we'll definitely have to collaborate on another story in the future!

Assena: Aw yay! I knew they'd figure out a way! I knew it'd work out all right. grin
Llinos: Hey – I wish you'd told me that – I was really worried.

Coriandra: and what's going to happen with the Ring.
Llinos: I guess you'll just have to read the Professor's version to find that out.

LadyoftheLlamas: "Be one with me, my little friends, be one within my mind…"
Is it just me, or does that sound a little cultish?
Llinos: Well there are only so many ways to talk to people inside your mind. "Oh hello! Do come in, have a seat, no not that one, that's the hypothalamus… er, nice weather, would you like a cup of tea? Oh dear you've stepped in the grey matter, never mind." You see, better to keep it cultish really.
Kookaburra: You've found us out. We're really a pair of Scientologists sending out subliminal messages through fanfiction. Now, stare at the shiny watch... you're getting sleeeeeeepy....

Amy2: Looks like there may only be a few more chapters... :( I don't want to see this one end. I like the nice long chapters though :)
Llinos: Sorry just this one – everyone's making me feel so guilty!

Shirebound: And what a hopeful, courageous, wonderful chapter.
Llinos: Thanks Shirebound
Kookaburra: Thanks for sticking with this story from the beginning.

Hai Took: I am still quite concerned over who will be taking the Ring from here! I think that everyone needs to apologize to Merry! At least the hobbits need to not be so tense with each other! looking forward to more!
Llinos: Think we got it sorted out now – just as well as there is no more.

Sam ): My favorite part had to be when Strider was saying sorry to Merry or when Pippin saw Merry in the Mirror and went to find him. That almost made me cry and that would be bad. :)
Llinos: Oh it's not too bad. Only don't cry now we've finished.

Pipwise Brandygin: overwhelmed by all the hobbity love I cried all the way through this chapter but you left me feeling very happy rather than heartbroken, so thank you! This was an amazing resolution to all their hurt and loneliness, what a beautiful and brave thing to do. I'm so glad that by sharing what happened Pippin now knows that he was still brave and loved and Merry has also now done what he needed to do, to be there for Pippin when he most needed him. I think this was the best chapter yet, it was really wonderful.
Llinos: Thanks for that! It was originally intended to be the last chapter, but there were still some loose ends to tie up.

Samwise The Strong Hello: So Pippin finally got that load off his chest. That's good. Sharing is indeed good for the soul, It has been for mine, and I've been through some tough shit. Then again, haven't we all.
Llinos: Yes and isn't it easier when it's shared.

pipinheart: A long wait but well worth it. I really like this fic, it's great! You are very talented... Hope to see the update soon...
Llinos: Well the best I can offer now is for you to read the other stuff Paula and I are writing, although not together. Unless you count our RP game on Lord of the Slashed. She plays Sam and I play Merry.

Pipkin Sweetgrass: Had I not read your story, The Bee Charmer may not have ever been written. So this is to officially thank you for writing this story,
Llinos: Well it's wonderful to know that we inspired other fic so thank you for the thank yous.
Kookaburra: Yes- it's really nice to know that a scenario we've created was good enough to make other people create more.

Scarlet Angel4: Oh, the cleverness of you! Is amazed at the wonderful twist you brought in
Llinos: Glad you liked it – although it wasn't too difficult to persuade Pip to change his mind and that Galadriel is such a tease.
Scarlet Angel4: "cough, cough" recaptured "cough, cough" Smiles
Llinos: Umm, yes – I still have East Gate to make excuses with but, yes will get on with it (embarrassed blush).

Pearl Took: What a wonderful lesson both Merry and Pippin have learned. Sorrow shared is half the sorrow. Joy shared is double the joy. Well done!
Llinos: Beautifully summed up!

Agent Pip: thank you for writing another chap, Pippins free from pain now! whoohoo!
Llinos: Yes we were all relieved – the poor dear has suffered enough!

Epilogue

Llinos looks surreptitiously around, "Is that it Kooks? Are we done? Can I go now."

Kooks looks up in surprise, "Yes I think we just about tied it all up, all the characters are back on track now as if nothing had happened."

Llinos scratches head, "How can you say that? I mean Icy is pregnant, Pippin and Merry are exhausted, goodness knows how the others are feeling."

Kooks shrugs in resignation, "I know, but you can't do everything, I have to go and write Hubris and you need to get on with East Gate and Recaptured, to say nothing of our RP game. Maybe we'll come back this way sometime and see how the pups are getting on."

"Fair enough," Llinos gives Kooks a big hug, "But it's been great writing with you and shouldn't we thank all the nice people who have read and reviewed?"

Kooks untangles herself from hug, "Oh yes, thank you everybody, it's been great having you."

Llinos frowns, "Was that the best choice of word there Kooks?"

"Oh don't you start or I'll get Marigold to bring the stick over." Kooks wags finger warningly, "You wouldn't want to get our conversation beta'd."

Llinos looks warily around again, "No, but let's give a big thank you to Marigold for the beta while we're at it."

"Oh yes," Kooks nodded emphatically, "Thanks Marigold – great beta, we appreciate it."

"Okay Kooks, both together now!" The two writers join hands and shout as loudly as they can, "THANK YOU EVERYONE – YOU'VE BEEN GREAT!"

0-0-0-0-0-0-0