3. Walking in Light
'Sam! I am glad you are come. I hate to ask you to turn around and leave again, but I need to get to Long Cleeve just as soon as I can, and I would like you to come with me.'
'Of course, Mr Frodo. Let me just unload the wagon and get a fresh pony and we can be right off.'
Frodo shook his head. 'Sam, can you get someone to unload for you? I would like to set out right away, and riding will be faster than driving.'
Sam was surprised, but it must be important or Mr Frodo would not be in such a hurry. 'I will be right back, Mr Frodo!'
'Right, Sam! I want to be off within the hour.' Mr Frodo was in a hurry indeed. Sam trotted the pony and wagon all the way to the Cottons'. As Farmer Cotton came out to greet him, he hopped down and with the barest greeting said, 'Mr Frodo needs to be off, and he wants me with him. Do you have a fresh pony I could ride?'
Farmer Cotton, ever a practical hobbit, immediately called one son to take the pony and wagon and another to saddle his fastest riding pony. Sam covered the road from the Cottons' farm to Bag End much faster on the return trip. He found Frodo putting saddle bags on his pony, and Marigold there holding Sam's own bags, ready to slip over Sam's saddle as he pulled up. The farmer's boy mounted Pippin's pony and the three were off at a fast jog.
Frodo and Sam rode knee to knee, Frodo explaining the emergency.
'I wish I'd got back sooner,' Sam said with regret.
'You got back at just the right time, Sam,' Frodo reassured. 'Tim here arrived just before you did.' The farm boy dipped his head in greeting; there had been no time for introductions earlier.
They made good time, and by late afternoon were dismounting their lathered ponies in front of the farmstead door. The farmer's wife greeted them at the door with a look of relief, showing them to the room where Merry lay and Pippin watched. Diamond plied her needlework in the chair in the corner, ready to jump up to tend the fire when it burned low.
Pippin rose as they entered and Sam's first impression was that he looked terrible, drawn with worry and lack of sleep. Then he looked at the bed and decided that Pippin looked good next to Mr Merry.
Mr Pippin was talking urgently to Frodo. 'The healer says there's nothing,' his voice broke on the word, 'else that can be done. There is no reason for him to be sinking this way, but he is!'
Frodo bent to take Merry's right hand. It was icy cold. His cousin's face was grey and beads of cold sweat stood out on his skin; Merry seemed scarcely to breathe. He looked up at Pippin. 'Is this what he looked like before?'
Pippin knew what time he was talking about. 'Yes,' Pippin gulped. 'I wish that Strider... or even Gandalf...'
Frodo shook his head. 'We are on our own, I am afraid. Even if we knew where to send for Gandalf, he would likely not get the message in time to do any good.'
'What can we do, then?' It tore at Diamond's heart to hear the despair in Pippin's voice.
'Shhh. Let him think,' Sam said to Pippin. He had confidence that if there was anything to be done, Mr Frodo would think of it.
Without releasing Merry's hand, Frodo sank into the chair beside the bed. He bent his head, fingering a white jewel that hung at his neck. Suddenly he let go Merry's hand. Taking the jewel on its chain from his own neck, he gently eased the chain over Merry's head and placed the jewel over his heart. He picked up Merry's hands and clasped them about the jewel, keeping his own hands over Merry's. It all looked somehow elvish to Diamond, at least what she imagined an elvish sort of thing might be. Frodo bowed his head and the room was very quiet.
Frodo's hushed voice seemed loud as it broke the silence. 'He is walking in a very dark place.' Then he spoke to Merry. 'Come back! Walk no more in darkness, Meriadoc Brandybuck. Come back to us. Walk in the light, Merry!' No change was apparent. 'Merry!' Frodo urged again, then bowed his head, keeping his hands clasped on Merry's. There was a long silence.
'Is he going to die, Mr Frodo?' Sam whispered anxiously.
'I should hope not!' said a low voice. All in the room looked at each other in bewilderment until they realized the voice came from the bed. Merry's eyes were open. Frodo exclaimed with joy, Pippin seized Sam's hands and danced about the room, Diamond looked on from the corner, eyes shining.
When the uproar had died down, Merry whispered, 'I intend to dance at your wedding, Samwise Gamgee! Have you asked that girl to marry you yet?' Frodo and Pippin chuckled. It was Merry's standing joke, the first thing he asked every time he met Sam was whether he had proposed to Rose Cotton. Sam blushed and hung his head to hide his face, mumbling something unintelligible.
Merry continued as if he hadn't just been at death's door. 'If I find you have not asked her, I swear the next time I am in Hobbiton I am going to ask her myself. That lass makes the best meat and mushroom pie I've ever tasted.' He noticed Diamond in the corner and smiled, '...saving perhaps yourself, Miss, seeing as how I have not yet had the opportunity to try your cooking...'
Diamond buried herself in her needlework, tips of her ears burning, as Pippin chided Merry. 'Now, cousin, do not tease the lass so... she will fall in love with you and you know you cannot marry both her and Rose!' Sam muttered something indignant and the three cousins burst into laughter.
Merry tired quickly and closed his eyes. Frodo bent closer. 'Merry?'
'I am fine,' Merry whispered. 'I am just very tired. I want to sleep.'
The farmer's wife entered, face hopeful, drawn by the laughter. She carried a covered bowl and cloth. 'D'you suppose he might take a sip of this broth? I have been keeping it hot... it is good and rich.'
'Merry,' Frodo urged. 'Stay with us just a few moments longer. I want you to have some broth, then you can sleep.'
They propped him up, tucked the cloth under his chin, and Frodo spooned half the bowl of broth into him before his eyes would not stay open any longer.
'And now for you, Mr Peregrin, you have hardly had a bite to eat since he was taken. I have a good supper waiting on the table for you all. My Diamond will keep watch.' Frodo took Pippin's arm and escorted him to the table. He had been as shocked at his cousin's appearance as Sam had. They made a good dinner with the farm family and hired hands, but Pippin's head kept nodding and he threatened to fall asleep in his plate, something he had not done since he was a very small hobbit-lad.
Diamond came to the doorway and beckoned smiling to Frodo. 'I have made up a bed for him on the floor in here, by the fire,' she said. Frodo led Pippin to the bed and eased him down. He was asleep before his head touched the pillow.
As Sam and Frodo returned to the main room, the farmer rose to meet them. 'We do not have extra rooms, but we can make up beds for you by the fire easy enough.' They thanked him for all he had done.
'Warn't nothing,' he answered. 'I should hope someone would do t' same for one of my lads should he fall ill on a journey.'
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.