11. The Long Road Home
He went over every word of the parley at Isengard, then had his son go over it again. He shook his head. 'Hard to believe that he would come to wreck the Shire out of spite. That is a small thing for a great one to do.'
He found the idea of the palantirs interesting, to be able to speak over a distance, but somewhat disturbing as well. After all, if news was not worth writing down, or the trip to look someone in the eye whilst you told it, then it wasn't worth the telling.
Pippin was silent and withdrawn as Merry told of the stones of seeing. He'd not a single word to put in. Not like the lad at all. Saradoc mused that not all wounds left scars that you could see.
The lads took turns with their storytelling after their ways had parted. Pippin had much to say about the White City, and Merry told of the Rohirrim and the Golden Hall. Saradoc was interested to hear of the similarities in language between the Shire and Rohan, and was gratified by the kindness shown his son by the King of Rohan.
'The tale grows darker, I fear,' Merry said one afternoon. Pippin had spoken of the siege of Gondor the previous day, and Saradoc regarded his son soberly. Darker?
Merry described the long, secret ride of the Rohirrim, by forgotten paths.
'They tried to leave you behind?' his father asked.
'Oh, aye, but they would have had to tie him up in a sack to leave him!' Pippin cried. 'And then he would have chewed his way out and followed them anyhow!' Saradoc smiled at this picture of his son's determination.
Riding behing Dernhelm, tolerated, nay, ignored by the Riders, coming within sight of the burning city, the charge into battle... Merry fell silent. Pippin touched his shoulder, gently.
'Merry?' They waited. 'Merry? Do you want me to tell it?' Meriadoc's head began to shake, ever so slightly.
Saradoc exchanged glances with his wife. The healer sat tense, expectant.
'Merry? Are we done with the Story for today?' The headshake stopped. He sat quite still, seeming not to breathe.
'Merry?' Suddenly he took a great, sobbing breath, and another, and Pippin caught him as he crumpled. Saradoc half rose from his seat in alarm, but the healer waved him back, watching intently.
The dam burst, and the hobbit began to weep, great wrenching sobs shook his frame as Pippin held him. Ossilan nodded, satisfied, and motioned Saradoc and Esmeralda to go to their son. They enfolded him and Pippin in a great hug that lasted until the flood was over.
'My boy,' Saradoc whispered. 'My poor lad.'
'It was the Witch King,' Pippin said softly, still holding his cousin close. 'The Dark Captain of the Ringwraiths. He came on a winged nightmare, and Darkness followed him.'
'Go on,' said the healer, gently.
'The Rohirrim could not stand against him. The horses threw their riders and ran wild. The King's horse fell and crushed the King beneath him. The Witch King stooped to gloat, and the Lady Eowyn...'
'Eowyn!' broke in Saradoc. 'How came she to be there?'
'Dernhelm was Eowyn,' Merry spoke, so low that they had to strain to hear him. 'She was so fair, so desperate. It would have been wrong to let her die there alone.'
'Merry?' Pippin said again.
'I crawled aside after being thrown from the horse. I was behind him. I stabbed upwards as hard as I could. My arm turned to ice as my sword turned to fire and burned all away. Shadow fell upon me and I lost myself...' he paused, and there was no sound in the room for several breaths. '...for a time. The King brought healing. He drove the Shadow away.'
Meriadoc's family held him for a long time, long after the tea in the cosied pot grew cold.
They were winding down to the end of the story. All that had been left to tell was the part that Frodo and Samwise had played. Merry and Pippin took turns telling of the long, weary journey. Saradoc and Esmeralda grieved for the young Frodo they had known and loved.
'...and he stood on the edge of the Cracks of Doom,' Merry said softly. His audience was riveted to every word, scarcely breathing, 'and the Ring, there in the place where it was made, came awake with its awful power, and it took him at last. He could not fight any longer. He had nothing left. He put the Thing on.'
Saradoc buried his face in his hands. 'My poor boy,' he sobbed. 'Poor wee lad.' Merry sat in shock, while his mother went immediately to Saradoc and embraced him in a fierce hug, then rose again to stand behind his chair, rubbing his neck and shoulders with gentle hands.
'It's all right,' Esmeralda said softly to Merry, hands soothing her husband's heaving shoulders. 'It's just... They are all the tears that he never let himself shed when we thought we had lost you...'
Saradoc regained himself and sat up again slowly. 'Forgive me, lads,' he whispered. 'You could not know that to me, young Frodo will always be the wee lad with wondering eyes who stood before me that day we found Primula and Drogo.' He gave a great sigh, then mastered himself and looked up. 'What happened, then? Obviously there is more... you all came back...'
'The creature Gollum had followed them into the Mountain's heart,' Merry continued. 'He threw Samwise down. Somehow, though Frodo stood unseen, the Ring drew the creature to him. They grappled. Gollum bit the Ring from Frodo's hand and fell into the Fire. Then, I think, Samwise carried Frodo down the Mountain as far as he could. Perhaps Frodo walked part of the way. They don't remember exactly.'
Esmeralda finally broke the silence. 'How then did they get back?'
Pippin stirred. 'The Eagles... I still remember the shouting, "The Eagles are coming!" ' He hugged his chest as if an old pain lingered there. 'Gandalf rode upon the wings of an Eagle to the Mountain, and brought them back.'
Saradoc turned to his nephew, 'And where were you while all this was going on?'
'Under a troll, I believe,' Merry said dryly. 'The creature was about to bite the throat of a good friend of his, so he stabbed it, but forgot to get out of the way.'
'Ah,' Saradoc grunted. 'I see. "Fires started, fish fried, trees climbed --" '
'Trolls killed!' Merry and Pippin chorused along with him. Esmeralda blinked at the three in astonishment.
Saradoc smiled at her. 'Very resourceful and versatile lad, our nephew!'
'So I gather,' she answered.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.