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Recaptured!: 96. No Surrender
Beta and additional material: MarigoldG
As the Witch king had wheeled around and left, Gandalf first looked back up at the tower and then let his eyes follow the retreating shape in the sky. Although the wizard knew the Wraith did not flee, but rather was gone in pursuit of another prey. The Rohirrim were riding from that direction and Gandalf knew the devastating blow the Lord of the Nazgûl could strike against the massed troops of riders.
A deep wrenching gasp from Legolas made him turn towards the elf, who was even now climbing to his feet, having been brought to his knees by the disturbing thought images he had received earlier. Gimli was by his side, helping him up and Gandalf took his other arm and supported him the rest of the way to his feet.
"I must leave." Gandalf told the two. He pointed up towards the tower. "I fear for young Peregrin. But there is no time. I must pursue the Nazgûl. You Legolas must stay here before the gates and Gimli must aid you."
"Wait!" Legolas clutched the wizard's white clad arm. "You are right to fear for Pippin. He is in great danger, I am sure."
"The Black Rider is even now abroad and he will yet bring ruin on us." Gandalf put his hand on the elf's shoulders. "You and Gimli must direct the holding of the gates, the men of the City are weary, they need help."
They could all see this was so. Even as the Black Captain had retreated his forces had fallen back to a large extent, but the City was vulnerable and exposed without its mighty gates as protection. The guard of Minas Tirith were standing firm, but they needed leadership.
"But Pippin!" Legolas practically pleaded now. "You cannot desert him! I am not sure what Denethor intends, I could not clearly see his mind and when Pippin severed direct contact with him it was only hazy, but I know he is bent on some dire purpose. Pippin will not speak to me – he is trying to keep away – but he is anxious. The Lord Denethor's depression grows deeper and he holds Pippin now and takes him… takes him away somewhere."
Gandalf had listened carefully and then paused in thought for several long moments. At last he spoke, his voice filled with resolve. "It is not an easy choice, but I will go to find Pippin. I must since no other help can reach him. But evil and sorrow will come of this. Even in the heart of our stronghold the Enemy has power to strike us for His will it is that is at work."
Denethor passed on down the steep winding road. Light was growing and the tall columns and carven figures beside the way went slowly by like grey ghosts. Pippin across his shoulder was now becoming distraught at the journey, wondering where they were going and to what purpose, especially as the Steward's mood had seemed to sink lower and lower into hopelessness and despair. He struggled now against the mail-clad shoulder, trying in vain to dislodge himself, but Denethor held him firmly.
What also disturbed the hobbit was that the Steward had taken also the palantír with him, wrapping it in its cloth and carrying it now secure under his other arm. Pippin could feel the hum and call of it even now.
At last they came to Rath Dínen and hastened towards the House of the Stewards, looming in the early light under its great dome. As they reached the door, Denethor spoke to the guard who then stood aside and ushered them through.
As the great man set Pippin down he could tell another order was given to the man on the door, who left immediately. Pippin looked around wide-eyed at his new surroundings, taking in the monuments, the engraved plaques and the lifeless but perfectly preserved bodies. But what caught and held his attention the most was a table with wood piled under it and high all about it. Next to it was a large cask, which Denethor cracked and then lifted so that he could pour the contents onto the wood.
Pippin backed away as the Steward moved towards him. The grim faced man had taken a flaming torch from a holder in the wall and the hobbit did not like the combination of wood, oil and fire. Perhaps now would be a good time to call for Legolas he thought.
But before Pippin could reach out mentally to the elf, he fell suddenly to his knees in dire and flaming agony.
Merry crawled on his hands and knees, his eyes cast down, not wishing to look up into the face of the Witch king. Before him he heard the terrified cry of a great horse and Théoden's voice trying to calm Snowmane. Merry backed up, realising that the steed was just in front of him and as he did so Théoden's voice came again. "Whoa Snowmane, Merry! Move back, back! Snowmane is hit, he falls!"
There was a terrible solid sound of flesh hitting the ground as the horse keeled over, narrowly missing the hobbit. Merry could feel the still warm body of Snowmane trembling beside him. Théoden had at the last possible moment pulled his mount's reins hard around and forced the stricken animal over onto his side, thereby missing the hobbit by inches as he fell. The King had managed to slide off as he completed the manoeuvre, although had he not seen Merry in time he realised the horse would probably have crushed them both.
Théoden lifted his great sword, standing tall over the little hobbit who was relieved to hear the king whisper reassuringly "All right Meriadoc?" Then Merry felt Éowyn's hand touch upon his head as the warrior maiden stood beside her uncle, their kingly blood causing neither of them to be cowed or darkened by the terrible presence that loomed over them.
The stench of the foul beast ridden by the Witch king was almost suffocating and the Black Captain himself made no move against them yet. Rather the great black nightmare of living carrion swung its long neck forward and smote Théoden to the ground with a single blow, its ugly great head having the strength of a crushing metal ball.
As the King was felled, the creature screamed in triumph and turned its long neck back so the fearful beak could tear at the unconscious Théoden.
Merry looked up and saw the terrible white apparition of a king again. He clasped tightly to his small sword and reached up for Éowyn's hand and pulled himself to his feet with her help. As she lifted the hobbit her voice rang out in defiance, "Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the fallen in peace!"
A cold voice answered and Merry could see that the Witch king spoke to her and he was uncloaked now so the hobbit realised she would not be able to see the Wraith at all. "Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
A sword rang as it was drawn. "Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
Éowyn's clear laugh was like the ring of steel. "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman and…" She touched Merry's shoulder, "a hobbit, who, though half the stature, is as great an adversary as any living man and yet not one."
"I have no fear left to give you." Merry's voice now joined Éowyn's defiance. "You have chased my cousin and me from Isengard to Edoras to Barad-dûr and back through Mordor and still you do not prevail. So do your worst!"
The great beast swung around towards Éowyn now and the mighty head caught the maid in the midriff, knocking her off her feet and swiping her body around in a semi-circle before pinning her to the ground.
Merry was not sure what had happened but he realised that Éowyn was no longer beside him and he stood, feet firmly apart, his sword bravely clasped in both hands, listening desperately for an indication of which way to strike. The Witch king he could still see, he was high off the ground, seated on, what was to Merry, the invisible winged beast. But the creature itself seemed to have attacked Éowyn. Then the hobbit heard a voice calling to him. "Merry! Merry! Unbind me! Unbind me!" At first he thought it was Éowyn, but then the realisation dawned quickly. It was his 'magnic' rope!
As fast as his fingers would work, Merry unwrapped the thick silvern cord from around his waist. The job was made easier by the fact that the rope was glowing and he could now see it clearly. Merry lifted the rope up, not too sure what he was to do with it at first, but then he saw, to his utter astonishment, a twin piece of rope suspended in midair, also glowing fiercely. It was the piece of Pippin's rope left there when he was attacked by the Witch king outside Minas Tirith.
The elven rope snaked out with astonishing speed to find its lost half and join with it once more. As the two pieces of cut rope melded together, Merry hung on hard, knowing that his strength of will was passing into the magical rope. He clamped his teeth and willed his strange ally to win until he was rewarded by the sound of a clarion screech of pain as the silvery rope pulled upwards, something obviously caught in it that tugged frantically back against the strain.
Éowyn felt the pressure on her back ease and then vanish, allowing her to roll over. She gained her feet quickly, sword still in hand and saw her adversary being pulled up by a noose of shining rope. Merry the little hobbit stood at the end of the rope, his sword in one hand and the silver cord straining in the other.
Without hesitation the warrior maiden sprang forward and smote the great head from its body. It gave one last death scream and Éowyn sprang backwards as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her and her hair shone in the sunrise. The magical rope slowly unwound itself from the fallen beast and returned to entwine itself around Merry's waist once more.
Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening, but Éowyn could not see him. He was uncloaked and invisible. Merry moved quickly to stand bravely between the Wraith Lord and the place where he heard the maid choking back her horror. He looked up at the Witch king, still filled with horror at the deathly apparition, but no longer quaking with fear as in the past. His Lord and friend, King Théoden lay stricken somewhere behind him and his friend and comrade-in-arms, Éowyn was vulnerable to this tyrant. Merry vowed to himself he would die before relinquishing his stand against the white apparition.
The hobbit raised his sword and faced the ancient white king that only he could see. The apparition struck out with deadly force, the blade searing across Merry's shoulder blade and down towards his waist, cutting right through the leather jerkin and leaving a deep jagged slash across his chest. He fell back grabbing at the wound attempting to stem the blood flow.
As the hobbit fell, he saw the Witch king raise his great mace and he frantically called out to Éowyn as the metal star swung towards her. "Éowyn, your shield! Protect yourself."
Éowyn lifted her shield to fend off the blow, but nevertheless, as the great mace struck her defence her arm was shattered and she fell back in pain and anguish.
Merry gasped in horror. He was still clutching the terrible gash in his chest, which spurted blood like a red fountain, soaking through his small fingers as he tried to stem the flow. His chest was turning cold as the effect of the Morgul blade ran through the wound. He saw the apparition move toward Éowyn to finish her off and with shaking legs he pulled himself up to his feet and raising his little sword with both hands reached into his mind and gave the loudest mind speak shout he had ever managed.
'YOU NO GO PAST I!'
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