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This and That  by Lindelea

This morning, Dreamflower posted on her LJ that she'd had something of a mishap in the night. I was alarmed in the reading, until I reached the part that said she was unhurt, whereupon the Muse began to nudge. Here is the result.

Dreamflower, I hope you find a chuckle and some comfort here.


Rude Awakening

The first assault crashed into them. Like a storm, the hill-trolls out of Gorgoroth broke upon the line of the men of Gondor, and beat upon helm and head, and arm and shield, as smiths hewing the hot bending iron. At Pippin’s side Beregond was stunned and overbourne, and he fell; and the great troll-chief that smote him down bent over him, reaching out a clutching claw; for these fell creatures would bite the throats of those that they threw down. Then Pippin stabbed upwards...

Crash. Merry woke from a sound sleep. He sat bolt upright, trying to orient himself. It was their first night in Crickhollow, the shadows unfamiliar and yet strangely recognizable, as if he’d slept there before. ...Of course he’d slept there before! Ages ago, of course, on the threshold of the adventure of a lifetime, a year of beauty unimaginable and terror beyond belief.

‘Pippin?’ he called. No answer.

He struggled into his dressing gown and rose, pulling the belt tight, his scalp prickling. For some reason he couldn’t explain, he took down his sword, the one King Eomer had presented him upon conferring his new rank as Knight of the Mark, from its pride of place above the bedroom hearth. Too ostentatious by half, to hang it in the parlour...

He nudged the door to his room open, just a little, and peered into the hallway. Nothing but a gurgling noise to disturb the night stillness.

Stepping out, he found the carpet on the hall floor uncomfortably squidgy underfoot. Definitely wet through. And Pippin’s door wide open.

He grasped his sword a little tighter--not that he planned to use it on Pippin, but why would a fellow be bathing, at this hour, when only owls and healers were wakeful? He laid the sword on the hall table and took up the turned-down lamp burning there. He turned the knob to expose more wick to the hungry flame, finding comfort in the resulting brightness as the shadows fled before the light.

‘Pippin?’ No answer. Curiously, the bath room at the end of the hall was dark. But the gurgling noise seemed to be coming from there, and it was the most likely source of water... Was Pippin splashing about in the dark, hoping not to disturb the older cousin...?

Squidge. Squidge. Squidge. ‘Pippin?’

Squidge. Squidge. Squidge. The door to the bath room was open, but the room itself was dark. The gurgling noise was louder here, and the stone floor swimming. And as Merry splashed his way into the room, he swung the lamp forward to illuminate... ‘Pippin!!!’

All he could see was a furry foot protruding from under the wreck of the platform and the cistern it had held, the cistern that collected rainwater from the roof and gutters through a cleverly situated pipe. If you turned a tap, water would run into the great copper boiler with its fire-pit below, and once you’d let the heat of the fire do its work you could turn another tap and steaming water would run from the boiler into the tub. It was an innovation they’d brought back from Gondor, the plans anyhow, and hired the construction when Frodo had given them Crickhollow: hot-and-cold running water, and a lovely thing, too. With their love of baths, it was a wonder hobbits hadn’t invented it in the first place. There was even a tap you could turn to empty the tub into a trough that ran out of the little house and into the kitchen garden. Marvellous work of modern efficiency.

But the tub stood empty and dry, not even glistening with recent wet, and Pippin...

Merry roused himself from his shock, set the lamp upon the small table by the door, and frantically began to pull the wreckage away from his younger cousin, calling. ‘Pip! Pip! Do you hear me? Pip!!’

At last he’d pulled the younger hobbit free. There was a large bump on Pippin’s forehead, and bruises were appearing, and a trickle of blood, and at first Merry was afraid he wasn’t breathing, until he took a gasping breath at last.

‘Pippin!’

Pippin’s eyelids fluttered with returning consciousness. ‘Cold,’ he muttered.

‘Stone cold,’ Merry agreed, sitting down in the puddle and cradling his cousin, safe from the water’s chill. ‘What...?’ He wasn’t sure just what to ask.

Pippin took another gasping breath and suddenly and startlingly sat upright, raising his sword. His sword?

Merry hadn’t noticed, but Pippin’s troll-bane was clenched in his young cousin’s fist. ‘Pippin?’ he said cautiously, leaning a little away. ‘Er, ah, why don’t you put that, er, down before you hurt someone?’

Not down on the flooded floor, that wouldn’t be good for the sword, but perhaps upon the little table, or even in the tub, nice and dry at the moment.

‘The Troll!’ Pippin gasped. ‘Where did he go? I stabbed him, and he fell...’

‘Pippin?’ Merry said again, and then he understood. ‘Pip, it was but a dream.’

Pippin grasped at Merry with his free hand, wincing a little as he used his wrist, evidently strained in the disaster. ‘Beregond! Where is Beregond? He was going to...’ He blinked. ‘He was going to bite out his throat, his jaws were gaping wide...’

‘It’s all right, Pip,’ Merry said, helping Pippin to his feet. ‘Steady, lad. The battle is done, the Troll is slain, and Beregond is saved, thanks to your stalwart thrust...’ Time enough to clear away the wreckage in the morning. Pip would scarcely be any help at all in his present state.

‘All right?’ Pippin said. ‘But Beregond...’

Merry knew from experience that Pippin, sleepwalking, was nearly impossible to waken. He’d learned to play along with whatever dream happened to be going. As from old practice, he guided his cousin back to the bedroom, eased the sword from his cousin's fingers, stripped off Pippin’s sopping nightshirt, robed him in dry clothing, and tucked him up in bed once more.

Pippin turned over with a sigh and drew up his feet as Merry smoothed the coverlet over him. ‘G’night,’ he murmured.

‘Good night, Troll-slayer,’ Merry said, half affectionate, half exasperated. He’d have to change out of his own wet things before seeking his pillow.

He took Pippin’s sword with him and put it away in the chest in the corner of the parlour, just in case.

***

A/N: Text in italics taken from “The Black Gate Opens” in The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

(10/20/07)





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