Merry was cold. Cold and tired and hungry, but
he did not dare let the rest of the group know. They had been on the
so to speak, for two weeks now and already he began to have his doubts
whether or not he would be able to complete the task before them. Keep
Merry, he told himself, one foot in front of the other. I cannot let
others down. He trudged on following Gandalf and Aragorn, Frodo close
them. Sam, with Bill the pony was next, followed by he and Pippin, then
Gimli and Legolas.
The wind blew icy knives through their clothes and whipped their cloaks about them. Only Aragorn and Legolas seemed to be unaffected. Merry wasn’t sure if elves felt the cold and the Dunedain seemed to have ice water in his veins. Nothing seemed to bother him and his expression seldom changed.
“Merry,” he heard behind him.
“So what’s new about that? You’re always hungry. Shut up and keep walking. We’ll stop for the night soon enough.”
I hope so, he thought to himself as they trudged on. At least there’s no snow yet. He looked to his left where the Misty Mountains towered over them. He knew that sooner or later their route would take them there. He had heard Gandalf and Aragorn discussing it.
Another five minutes passed, or was it an hour? He was getting hungrier by the second and needed to do something to distract himself. Suddenly he was hit between the shoulder blades with a force that nearly knocked him over..
“What the heck was that for?” Merry said as he spun around.
“Tig” said Pip with an innocent smile on his face.
Merry brightened and touched Pip on the arm. “Tog!”
Pippin raced forward and tagged Frodo. “Tig-tag!”
Frodo stumbled, but he too was bored and cold and needed something to distract him. He dropped back to where Sam was leading Bill. “Tig-tig.”
Sam sighed. “Ninnyhammers!” he said as he reached forward and tapped Frodo on the shoulder. “Double tog.”
Aragorn turned around to see what was causing the commotion behind them. He smiled as he watched the hobbits. He knew that the long days were hard on them and that they were unused to going long distances and hours without food and rest, but it was imperative that they keep moving while the weather held.
“Tag!” Pippin had been tagged again. This time he had an idea for something different. He dropped back to walk beside the Gondoran, Boromir.
“Tog-Tag” he said as he touched Boromir on the side.
Two nights before the hobbits had been playing their game as they sat around the fire after finishing their supper. Boromir had watched them, amused by how little it took to entertain them and revive their flagging spirits. Merry and Pippin had tried to teach him how to play, but he wasn’t sure exactly what the object of the game was. He also wasn’t certain that the rules didn’t change from moment to moment. He was used to games of skill or strength. He played chess with his father and Faramir occasionally, but not often as it was something he was not very good at and he hated to lose almost more than anything else.
“Double Tag,” he said as he tapped Pippin on the head.
“No, no, Boromir, you can’t double tag on a tog-tag. You can only double tag on a tog-tag if the person before is tigged.”
“Can’t double tag on a tog-tag,” Boromir mumbled to himself. “What about a tog? Can I Tog on a tog-tag?”
Pippin nodded. Yes, you can tog on a tog-tag if the previous two players haven’t used a tig.”
‘Verrry good. Now you’re getting it.” Pippin went forward to Merry again and tapped him on the shoulder. “Double Tig!”
“Ahhh,” said Merry and he winked at Pippin and dropped back next to Boromir. “Double tog-tig.”
“Double tog-tig! said Boromir in confusion. What in blazes is a double tog-tig?”
A double tog-tig can only be given after at least 6 moves have already been made and none of them has been a double tag.”
Boromir thought about this for a second, his brow furrowed. “So how do I respond to a double tog-tig?” he asked Merry.
“Well, if it was me,” said the fairest of the hobbits. “I would tag after a double tog-tig.”
“Alright,” began Boromir and he opened his mouth to say it, but before he got the chance, Pippin chimed in.
“But Merry,” he began. “You can’t tag on a double tog-tig if a double tig has been played in the last four moves.”
Merry snapped his fingers. “That’s right, thanks Pip, I forgot.” He looked up at Boromir who was now thoroughly confused. “He’s right. You can’t tag.”
Boromir shook his head. How had he gotten himself into this? “Alright how about a tog, can I tog?”
Pippin looked at Merry who was nodding his head vigorously. Pippin joined him in nodding. “Yes! You can tog. Well done!”
Frodo and Sam had dropped back to join them. Aragorn had taken Bill’s lead rope for a while.
Merry tapped Frodo on the shoulder. “Tig!” Merry responded quickly with a quick poke at Sam.
This time Sam touched Boromir. Merry and Pippin winked at him as he did so.
Boromir’s eyes widened. “Why is it always me? Why don’t you lot pick on each other more?”
Pippin looked at him with innocence all over his face. “You need the practice.”
The tall man muttered something unintelligible. Pippin wasn’t sure he wanted to know what he had said.
“Well done!” Pippin replied. “Wasn’t that well done?”
Merry clapped his hands and all four of the hobbits praised him for his move.
Boromir laughed. Finally he had done something right! Maybe he would learn this maddening game after all.
Aragorn and Gandalf turned to see what the commotion was. The hobbits still clustered around Boromir telling him how well he was doing. Aragorn chuckled and Gandalf smiled, then they continued on their long trek.