1. The Gates of Mundburg
A/N: Finally, I give my answer to this challenge. Please note that I directly repeated or paraphrased a few lines from the books. I do not own anything in this story.
Chapter 1: At the Gates of Mundburg
March 15, Year 3019, Third Age in the Reckoning of the Kings of Gondor
Edge of Grey wood, en route to Minas Tirith.
The smell of burning brought Meriadoc Brandybuck of the Shire back to his senses. Quickly, he sat up straight and peered out from under Dernhelm’s cloak.
“Are they gone yet?” he asked the Rider uneasily. As if in answer, a voice came from the front of the éored they found themselves riding in, which was led by Éomer.
“My lord, the orc band has been slain,” Grimbold said to King Théoden. “The scouts have returned to us and they have found the bodies of the errand-riders of Gondor. It seems as if Denethor has not heard news of our riding,”
“Alas that he will despair! But we can tarry here no longer” Théoden said and he looked over the éored. For a while, Merry feared that he might be discovered and he hid once again under the cloak.
The king then sat tall upon Snowmane, his faithful steed and called in a loud, clear voice, “Riders of the Mark! We are delayed and it may come to pass that the City will fall ere we reach the field if we do not make haste. Forth we now must go!”
Merry looked up at Dernhelm, who until this hour, had not uttered a single word. The young Rider looked straight ahead, at the road that lay before them and rode forward, but still staying at the rear of the king’s guard. A wind was blowing from the south, but all was dark in the east.
As the Rohirrim neared the Pelennor, Merry could see a great army of Haradrim and Easterlings gathering at the gate to the City, which was now broken as if by some terrible blow that no living man could deal. Two figures could be seen there, one black atop a great beast with wings, and another clad in white, seated on a white horse. A great battle seemed to be going on between these two, and finally, the black rider, the Witch-King himself, was borne away into the skies, behind the clouds.
“Was that Gandalf we just saw? Ah, he must’ve had a horrid task, beating away that great beast!” Merry thought to himself. He now became aware of the forces of Mordor running hither and thither on the Rammas as a light broke over the mountains. Yet his heart sank, for another terrible sight was before them.
“The City burns!” Éomer exclaimed as he rode alongside the king. Indeed, the first circle, and parts of the second circle too, were aflame. The white rider that had been at the gate was now nowhere to be found.
“Onward to Gondor! Forth Eorlingas!” Theoden cried as he seized a great horn and blew a great blast on it. No sooner had he done this that he charged first, with his knights not far behind, and all the Riders of Rohan blowing their horns. Grimbold, leading one éored charged to the south, while Elfhelm’s company pressed to the north. Théoden and Éomer rode to the east, where the battle was fiercest at the Gate. All of a sudden, Dernhelm charged after them, taking Merry by surprise.
“What are you doing?” Merry asked. “We’re supposed to be with Elfhelm by the north wall!”
“Just trust me!” Dernhelm whispered. “You said yourself you wished to go whither the king goes!”
The sound of the Southron scimitars clashing with the swords of the Rohirrim was as terrible as thunder to the City. Onwards the Rohirrim rode against the Haradrim, though the former was seriously outnumbered. But now, men streamed out of the city, driving the Southron horde down the road.
. Merry realized after a while that Dernhelm was fighting his way towards Théoden, who’d just thrown down a Harad chieftain, but a great press of foes lay between them. But the Rohirrim went wherever the enemy was, and soon the Haradrim scattered. At last, they reached Théoden, Éomer, and Elfhelm, who were near the ruins of the first circle.
“My lord, where do we go now?” Éomer asked Théoden. The king looked grimly over the field and back at the City. Suddenly, a terrible cry came from the skies, chilling the blood of every man and causing the horses to neigh and run wild in fright.
Windfola, in his terror, bore Dernhelm and Merry up into the first circle of the City. All around them, flames leaped up and the men who were about to march to battle now quailed in fear of the Black Captain, who was still in the air.
“We cannot go further in! We must help the king!” Merry cried as Dernhelm tried to steer the horse back to the field. Suddenly, the Lord of the Nazgûl, coming down swiftly from a cloud on his fearsome steed, swooped down upon them and flew upwards again.
“Somebody shoot it down!” Elfhelm shouted above the din of battle. Some bowmen let a rain of arrows towards their enemy, but the Witch-King flew to the White Tower, swooped down over Rath Dinen and flew upwards and now back to the Gate. But he now, brandishing a flaming sword, flew towards Théoden. All the other riders were borne away by their horses that fled in panic. Snowmane almost bolted in fright, but the Nazgûl Lord was swifter, for first he dealt horse, then rider, a blow. Théoden fell to the ground right before Merry’s eyes.
“Théoden King!” Merry cried as he got to his feet, for Windfola had thrown him to the ground. The hobbit ran towards the fallen king alone, for Dernhelm had been borne away elsewhere due to WIndfola’s panic.
“Master Holbylta!” Théoden called weakly from where he lay. Merry quickly ran up to him and clasped his hand, weeping. Shouts of,” Corsairs! The Corsairs of Umbar!” could be heard in the distance and another army, this time of Variags, was marching to the gates, but Merry heeded them not.
“Grieve not, Master Holbylta! You are forgiven. Bid Éowyn farewell!” Théoden said weakly.
“Théoden King!” Éomer called as he and some other knights rode up to them. Théoden opened his eyes and looked at Éomer then at the banner. Merry took the banner from the dead banner-bearer and handed it to Éomer.
“Hail King of the Mark! Ride to victory, and to a new dawn!” Théoden said, and so he died. All present wept.
“Weep we must some other day, when we raise his mound. But now, battle lies before us, and we must do as he bade; to ride forth to glory,” Éomer said, and he wept as he spoke. “Bear him to the City, for he must not lie here like carrion” he ordered as he mounted his horse. Elfhelm and some knights lifted up the fallen and bore him to the Gate, then to the Citadel.
“Master Holbylta, to where will you go now?” Éomer asked Merry.
“I do not know. Have you seen Dernhelm?” Merry asked.
“Dernhelm? Never have I heard of that name among the Riders. But if by chance I should meet him, I will tell him that you sought him,” Éomer said as he rode off. Merry plodded on alone, following the marshals who carried Théoden’s body. As he walked, he caught sight of Dernhelm standing by the road. Upon seeing the old king dead, Dernhelm bowed his head and began to weep.
Merry walked up to Dernhelm as the latter sprang into the saddle. Wordlessly, Dernhelm pulled Merry up behind him and they rode down to the outwalls near the Harlond where the battle still raged. But now they rode faster than ever as if in pursuit of something. When they were around a league away from the walls, a terrible cry came from the skies. The Witch-King once again flew over the Pelennor and landed in front of them. Windfola threw both Merry and Dernhelm off this time, and now only they stood between the Nazgûl lord and the road to the City.
“Begone, dark undead! Leave the dead in peace!” Dernhelm spoke all of a sudden. Merry looked up, for now Dernhelm’s voice seemed strange, and Merry knew that he’d heard the voice before in some other place.
The Black Captain turned his steed to face them, and Merry stood still in fear. For instead of a body to hold up mantle and hauberk, there instead was a hellish flame with a crown on top. A horrid stench emanated from the winged beast’s wings and all was dark about them.
“Thou art a fool! Come not to challenge me, lest I shall not slay thee but instead bear you before the throne of my master! No living man may hinder me!” a shriveled voice answered. Dernhelm did not shrink back in fear but instead, drew his sword and pulled off his helm.
“You look not upon a man! Éowyn I am, Ëomund’s daughter. I come now to avenge my lord and kin, whom you have slain. For the blood you have spilled, I will smite thee, foul dwimmerlaik!”
Merry looked up at Éowyn in shock. Fair she was with her golden hair that was like a river down her back, yet terrible for her gray eyes were cold and fell, as of one seeking only a brave death in battle. But still, she wept for she loved Théoden as a father.
The Winged Beast in front of them shrieked, bringing the hobbit out of his reverie. At once, the dark creature sprang on them, but Éowyn also struck with her sword. The beast fell to the ground dead, its wings crumpled down. But the Black Rider arose, with a shrill cry, and swiftly, he let fall his heavy mace on her left arm. Merry could hear the sickening crack of bone and the sound of metal being cloven as Éowyn fell to her knees. The Witch-King towered over her, and he readied his mace to deal the final blow.
“For the Shire!” Merry suddenly cried out as he drew his sword and stabbed at the foe. Though the Witch-King pushed him aside effortlessly, still the Black Captain was not unscathed, for the hobbit’s sword had pierced his side.
“Éowyn!” Éomer called from somewhere in the field. Éowyn struggled to her feet, and plunged her sword straight underneath the iron crown. A terrible shriek pierced the air as the black mantle and hauberk fell to the ground.
Merry felt a searing pain jolt him as he stood up. He hoped nothing was broken in his body. He looked towards the river as all the world began to spin and darken before him. Men all around him were shouting, standards fluttered in the wind and strangely, cheers came from within the City, but all this was fading before his very eyes. Suddenly, a familiar voice called his name.
“Strider?” Merry thought as he collapsed and knew no more.
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.