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Section XCII-Merry and Pippin

Escaping through the forest, my ears capture the sound of battle behind me. I know my Elven-cloak will conceal me, but not entirely. Anyone following will surely see the movement. Some way, I know not how, I sense I am being tracked. I must hide.

My headlong flight down the mountainside turns to sliding as I misstep over a tree root blanketed by dead leaves. I glance back, and see Aragorn attack those beasts attempting to follow me. A quick scramble behind a tree, and I flatten myself against its trunk, nestling down between large exposed roots digging into the earth.

Several creatures, orcs, I think, but bigger than any I have ever seen; they hurry past my hiding place, without noticing me. I struggle to silently catch my breath. Am I safe?

I hear my name.

Glancing to my left, I startle to see Merry and Pippin, hiding inside what appears to be a hollow tree trunk covered in moss and ferns, felled long ago.

Pippin beckons me to share the safety of their cover, yet I am able only to gaze on them, drinking in the sight of their sweet, youthful faces; my kin... Memories sweep over me, then vanish, replaced by the knowledge of my decision to go on alone.

I will not lose another Companion to the Ring. Slowly, I shake my head.

Merry knows; I am certain.

Will Pippin understand?

Clearly not, as I watch in horror. My dear young cousin leaps bravely from his protected shelter to accompany me still, with Merry following after.

My heart aches as I see courageous Merry once again take charge. The memory of how he protected me after Bilbo went away flashes through my mind.

I hear his command, just like Aragornís.

What are they doing? Do they not realize the danger they place themselves in heedlessly?

Mayhap it is not heedless, after all. My heart whispers they offer themselves in my place. How can I allow them to do such a thing?

Yet how can I throw away their sacrifice? Their wisdom grows. If I stay, the Ring will surely be lost. There are simply too many of the enemy. If I go, there is a chance.

Suddenly, I am alone and unnoticed. A backward glance, then I flee again, down, down, down, toward the lake. I feel the wetness of the tears streaking down my face.