This was written for Marigold's Challenge 38, in which I was to write a gap-filler for the chapter "The Voice of Saruman", and which was to include the elements of a pot of glue, a kettle, and a dog.
Of Wizards, Dogs and Worrisome Cousins
Beta by Llinos and Marigold
"Don't talk to me in that tone of voice, young hobbit", Gandalf said sternly. The young hobbit standing in front of him gulped and hung his head. "If you keep obsessing about this thing, I'll have you ride with King Théoden the rest of the way to the Hornburg. How would you like that?"
Pippin blushed and sheepishly glanced down at his fidgeting feet. He had nothing against Théoden whatsoever; he thought him to be a kindly man for all that they had just met. He was just very intimidated by such a great man...one who had just won a very important battle. He didn't want to be saddled with someone with whom he would be tongue-tied the whole way. Pippin mumbled, "I'm sorry, Gandalf," and actually had the grace to look it.
"You'd better be, Peregrin Took. Haven't you ever been told not to meddle in the affairs of wizards? There are things in this world that are better left untouched and unthought, especially by hobbits who have no clue what they could get themselves into. Now go and put yourself in the company of your cousin, and we'll be off shortly."
Pippin really didn't appreciate being lectured to in this way by Gandalf, especially after all he'd been through up to this point. Meddling in the affairs of wizards was what they had all been doing since leaving the Shire, for pity's sake! If it hadn't been for Gandalf, Frodo would never have left the Shire for dangers unknown; in fact, if it hadn't been for Gandalf, Bilbo would never have found the wretched Ring in the first place! He had a lot of nerve telling everyone else what to do when he couldn't keep his own nose out of people's lives! And he seemed to think that interfering in hobbits' lives in particular was an interesting way to keep himself occupied.
Pippin didn't understand where the danger lay; when he had picked up the strange, round object that had been thrown from off the top of Orthanc, he hadn't sensed anything mystical or magical about the thing. It was slightly heavy, and kind of pretty, but that was it. It had been perfectly spherical, and very shiny and smooth, as if made of glass or crystal. He had been intrigued, that's all; it had belonged to Saruman, after all, and it must be something he valued, the way he had shrieked after finding out it was gone. How could such a small thing be dangerous? Well, if Gandalf was going to be so close, then Pippin would just steer clear of him until he was more approachable, and then he could ask his questions. In the meantime, he would just think about other things.
Now Gandalf was looking for Treebeard to talk to before they left, and Pippin sought out Merry to sit down next to him with a large sigh. Merry looked over at Pippin, an amused look on his face. "What's the matter, Pip? Bored already?"
"It's just Gandalf. He's annoyed with me because I keep asking questions about that large sphere that I picked up and he took from me. He seems to think my curiosity is going to get me into trouble."
"No! Imagine that? The last time you were curious, you threw a stone down a well and..."
"Yes, well, that was one occasion," Pippin said, eager to change the subject. "Being curious can be a good thing, you know. Having information can help once in awhile."
"Well, Pip, all I can say is, don't get on the bad side of a Wizard. You don't want anymore problems than you already have, so just keep that inquisitiveness reined in, all right?"
Pippin sighed. It was hard for him to sit still during the best of times, and now it was nearly impossible. "I wish we were on our way away from here, that's all. I've had my fill of Isengard to last a lifetime. I want somewhere that reminds me of the Shire, you know? It seems so long since we left home." Pippin glanced around at his surroundings, as if trying to find a bit of home somewhere in this desolate place. "Sometimes it seems we'll never see home again, Merry." Pippin began to feel tears pricking behind his eyes. "I mean, we don't even know where Frodo and Sam are, let alone if they're still --- they're still --- " With that, the young hobbit lost all control; he placed his face in his hands and started to weep.
Merry turned and placed his arms around Pippin; he desperately wracked his brain for some encouraging words for his young cousin. 'Nonsense, Pippin. We'll return home safe, all of us; you, me, Frodo and Sam. The Ring will be destroyed, and everything will be all right again. You'll see, I promise." Merry stood up and held out his hand to Pippin. "Come on, Pip; let's take a short walk while we wait for Treebeard to show up. Remember that small dog we saw wandering around earlier? Maybe we can find him and see if he's tame enough to take some food from us. You like dogs, don't you?"
"Yes, I like dogs. I think that one is wild though; he probably won't come near us."
Well, let's take a walk anyway. It'll clear our heads and give us a bit of exercise after that large feast we had with our friends, yes?" Merry smiled encouragingly. Pippin couldn't resist.
"All right Merry, "he extended his hand to Merry's. Let's go and see what we can see, shall we?"
"I wish we hadn't lost our packs, Merry... I had brought along some glue that could help repair the crack in the hilt of my dagger." Pippin had been inspecting his Westernesse blade ever since Aragorn had returned it to him, and had found a small crack that had been of some concern to him. "Oh well, what's done is done, I suppose." He gazed off into the distance, where the small dog they had seen earlier had been watching them and circling closer to them bit by bit. Pippin smiled. "You may be right, Merry...that dog may be tame, and just want some attention and food. Do you have any strips of meat on you? I'm afraid I've eaten all of mine."
In the background could be heard the voices of Treebeard and Gandalf as they discussed Saruman; the hobbits were keeping out of the way for now, knowing they had no part to play in the larger picture here. Merry smiled. "Yes, I think I have some here...let's see if he will take the bait." Merry brought out the thin strips of beef, and waved them in front of him. The dog was sitting on its haunches about 20 feet away, licking its chops. "Come here, fella; we've got plenty where this came from. We can spare some for a hungry friend. Come on, boy."
The dog began whining, and then started forward slowly, keeping a cautious eye on Merry the whole time. As he got closer, he crawled on his belly until he was only a few feet from Merry's outstretched hand. Merry smiled encouragingly and tilted his head. He jiggled the meat in front of the dog's face. "Come on," he cajoled softly, "you know you want it. It's very good." Merry broke a small piece off and ate it himself. "Mmmmm...very good." Pippin tried hard not to laugh at Merry's antics; one would think he was trying to entice a child with a new toy.
The dog finally could not contain himself any longer; he leapt forward, grabbed a strip of meat in his teeth, and then backed away to a safe distance where he contentedly chewed on his treat, his eyes never leaving Merry's. "Good boy, " Merry said softly, and smiled at the animal. "I wonder if you belonged to Saruman. Surely you wouldn't be so tame; I can't imagine Saruman treating any animal with kindness. If not him, then, who? You're not wild, that much is obvious. Who do you belong to, pup? Maybe to one of the men Saruman had bewitched into working for him?"
"Well, we can't take him with us, Merry, that's for certain. He'll either have to fend for himself in the wild, or maybe the Ents can help to find a home for him. Some of the men working for Saruman have repented and asked for mercy; perhaps one of them will look after the dog."
Merry sighed. "I know, Pippin; my heart just goes out to displaced creatures of any kind; human, hobbit, animal, it doesn't matter. It also makes me wonder how Toby is doing."
"Toby? You're wondering how your dog at home is getting along?"
"Yes. I've had him for ten years now after all...raised him since he was a pup. I hope that someone is looking after him while I'm gone. I asked Berilac to take him if I had to leave for any length of time, and I hope that he's doing just that. He loves that dog almost as much as I do. I hope...I hope that I return to see him again."
"Of course you will, Merry! Stop thinking such gloomy thoughts, will you, now? You said it yourself; we'll all return safe and sound. After all, you promised that we would. I'll tell you what; as soon as we return home, I'll make my famous stew for you...you know, the one you like so well, with the mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions and coney? You always said that was your favourite. I'll make a whole kettle of it, just for you, as soon as we arrive back in our beloved Shire."
Merry smiled at Pip's attempt to cheer him up; that was the thing he loved most about Pip, his ability to raise the spirits of everybody around him. Maybe that was his function on this Quest.
It amazed him, really, how Pip had managed to turn the whole thing around; Merry had been comforting Pippin, and now Pippin was encouraging Merry. It seemed that the emotions of the two hobbits were in tune with each other much of the time, and that each could fill whatever role was needed by the other at the time.
Merry's thoughts turned to a more sombre direction. He truly didn't know what he'd do if he and Pip ever got separated during this Quest. When they were prisoners of the orcs, Merry couldn't stop worrying about his little cousin the whole time...wondering how much he hurt, if he was hungry, if he had given up hope. He was so grateful that they had remained together for that entire time, as unpleasant an experience as it was. It made him appreciate all the more the fact that Frodo had Sam with him, to keep his spirits up and to keep his hope from failing.
This business with the round globe was worrisome to Merry. He had seen the look Pippin had given Gandalf when Gandalf had told Pippin to give it to him; it had been a mixture of disappointment and resentment. Knowing the way Pip's mind worked, he wouldn't be able to forget about it until he tried to look at it at least one more time. Who knew how deadly that could turn out to be? A wizard's toy was not a plaything to be fooled with, and Pip was just reckless enough to ignore this truth and try to satisfy his curiosity.
Gandalf interrupted Merry's thoughts by bellowing, "Young hobbits, time to go! Come and say your farewells to Treebeard, and we'll be off." Shaken out of his reverie, Merry held out his hand in farewell to the dog. The dog cautiously walked over, sniffed Merry 's hand and started licking it. Laughing, Merry scratched behind the animal's ears. "Well, farewell, my friend. I hope that you find a good home, perhaps find a mate and have some pups." Smiling, Merry stood up, glanced at Pippin and nodded, and joined him to walk back to the waiting company. The next time Merry would remember his fears, he would be too exhausted to worry about it until Pippin and Gandalf had left, separating Merry and Pippin for the first time since the Quest began.