Closing the Book: 2. Part 2

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2. Part 2

Pippin was far more accurate in his suspicions than he would have liked, for by the time they reached Minas Tirith three days later, his condition had deteriorated such that Pippin was taken directly to the Houses of Healing. He had become wracked with a high fever and could scarcely breathe, and he was now far too feverish and weak to realize where he was. Nor did he recognize Elessar when the King arrived in the Houses, summoned by the healers when they realized the severity of the hobbit’s illness.

Meanwhile, Merry was sent outside by the healers, so distracting was his fretting and worry. He waited in the gardens, pacing frantically about in his distress, for much more than a day before Elessar sent for him. It was well then for Elessar, now slightly bent and grey with age, that Merry was also elderly, or otherwise the anxious hobbit might have toppled the King in his urgency. “What of Pippin? Will he be well? What can I do? What-“

“Hush, Master Brandybuck,” Elessar responded. “No, Pippin is not well. I have done what I may for his fever, and indeed it has nearly left him. I doubt he will die, but I doubt he shall be well again either. Such an illness does not leave the old. Would that we should meet again under better circumstances, but be assured he will be the best kept hobbit in Gondor, and you nearly as well.”

“Please don’t misunderstand me, my King, your generosity is always the finest, but I should not be happy until Pippin is himself once again. And he will be, I’m sure, Tooks are a stubborn sort as you know well as I. He will be better, and soon,” Merry answered, speaking far more bravely than he felt.

But Merry was not right on this occasion; though Pippin recovered from his immediate condition, he failed to improve, and after a time his condition began to deterioriate. He was rarely well enough to leave his room and visit the gardens with Merry and Elessar, and after a few months Pippin no longer sought to be anywhere but in his bed. This distressed Merry to no small degree, and while he continued to be Pippin’s constant companion, Merry’s consistent denial of the same facts Pippin had already accepted caused great concern to Pippin, who in turn had confided his concerns about Merry to Elessar.

One evening, a month or so after Pippin’s last venture outside his quarters, Elessar found Merry alone in the gardens, halfheartedly smoking his pipe and appearing rather distraught. Elessar was certain the hobbit would not have been found at all, if Merry’s ability to make himself vanish were anywhere near to what it had been in his younger days.

“Master Brandybuck! I see that we have the same thoughts for such a fine evening as this, I had intended to enjoy a pipe as well,” he greeted the unhappy hobbit. “I would wish to join you, if you would allow it.”

While the expression on Merry’s face clearly indicated he wished to be alone, his natural preference for companionship and his respect for Elessar won out. “If you so wish, my King, you may join me. Although I will admit this is not the finest I have smoked, and you may find the company disappointing.”

Elessar sat near Merry and lit his own pipe. “Never would I find the company of any halfling disappointing,” he responded. “Particularly the company of you, or of Master Took.” Elessar received the response he expected; at the mention of Pippin, Merry looked away and fell silent. “You are troubled this evening.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Why do you think so, my Lord?” Merry asked quietly.

“For all the many years I have known you, you do not smoke your pipe alone, and since arriving here you have always taken it with Pippin,” he answered. “Merry, I do not speak to you as your King, but as a friend of long years.”

Merry sighed. “Pippin did not wish to smoke with me this evening. Since he first took up a pipe, he has not declined to at least join me.”

“It is the pipe he declines, not your company,” Elessar said kindly.

“Is it?” Merry asked sadly.

“Master Pippin is quite worried about you, in fact.”

“Worried about me?” cried Merry. “I should think not, for it is Pippin who deserves the worry. He has not gotten a bit better as he should.”

“No,” Elessar said slowly, “He has not improved. And he understands why he has not. And he understands that you do not understand, and he is quite concerned about you, as are we all.”

“It is you who does not understand!” Merry leapt to his feet and paced about in agitation. “Pippin is barely 96 now, young enough for a hobbit in this day. Surely he will improve, if not tomorrow then the next day, and he will be better again. He would not leave me, no sooner than I would leave him, for we promised long ago we would never let the other be alone in this world.”

Elessar also rose, and placing one hand upon Merry’s shoulder, turned the hobbit to face him. “Some promises cannot be kept, no matter how much one wishes so, and Pippin has accepted that he must break that promise to you. And in your heart, Merry, you must accept it as well, for yourself and for Pippin.”

Merry looked away. “I cannot.” He looked to his pipe. It had ceased to burn with his lack of attention. “I am afraid I really was not wanting to smoke tonight. Good night.” And he returned to the castle without looking back.

“Good night to you, my friend,” Elessar sighed as he watched the hobbit disappear. It was strange to him, that the living should need counsel while the dying were gracious about their lot, and particularly surprising to him that this should be with the two hobbits. He could only hope that Pippin would fare better, should Merry allow Pippin the opportunity.

Not many more days passed before Pippin found himself not only uninterested in his pipe, but he no longer cared to be sitting up, and the mere act of drawing breath had become an unwanted chore. He was quite certain his time was now very limited, and he very much wanted to discuss this with Merry. However, Merry had barely been to see him since the night Pippin had no choice but to decline the pipe, and the information Pippin had received from Elessar was not encouraging. Pippin knew he could wait no longer for Merry, and he requested another meeting with Elessar.

“It is a very sorry circumstance that I must call upon you again, Strider, but I fear it can’t wait any longer,” Pippin explained.

“You need not apologize, my dear friend,” Elessar answered, “but I have seen little of Merry for several days now. He has kept only his own company. I am surprised, I would have expected much the opposite of him, but as Gandalf often said, hobbits can still surprise you.”

“He surprises me, indeed,” admitted Pippin. “I haven’t the time now to wait, though, and I would wish to speak with him tonight, whether he wishes it or no.”

“Consider it done. He will appear this evening if I must order him chained and dragged, though I am sure it will not require that much effort,” Elessar smiled. “You have been a most worthy subject of Gondor, Master Pheriannath, and I am pleased to have been so long in your company.”

Pippin could hardly help but blush. “It has never been any less than an honor to have you as my King, even when you weren’t yet a King, and I regret I cannot serve you longer.”

“Regret it not, dear Pippin. Farewell,” Elessar kissed Pippin’s hand before he left.

‘Well,’ thought Pippin, ‘would that things should be so well with Merry tonight.’ But he knew that was not likely at all. Indeed, he was not so sure but that Elessar would have to have Merry dragged in like a sack of potatoes. Fortunately this did not come to pass; Merry did appear at Pippin’s chamber within the hour, unchained and upright, although firmly escorted by a soldier.

“Really now, Pippin, sending a soldier after me?” Merry grumbled.

“It was very important that you come tonight,” Pippin responded, “whether you wished to or not.”

Merry fell silent. “I – I do wish to be here, I just – I don’t…”

“You don’t want to,” Pippin finished. “As I do not want it, either. Unfortunately, my dear cousin, time cares little about our wants.”

“No, it most certainly does not,” Merry sighed and sat beside Pippin. “I am most truly sorry for my behavior, Pippin, I truly am. I have no excuse for it.”

“Perhaps you do, Merry. Perhaps you were frightened.” It was not often that Pippin understood things better than did Merry, and he could not help but enjoy the look of shock upon
Merry’s face.

Merry recovered himself quickly. “I should think not!”

Pippin chuckled. “Ah, my dear Merry, you don’t stretch a story quite like you used to. I’m afraid I don’t believe you, not a bit. And furthermore, I do believe I know what you’re frightened of.”

“Really, cousin?” Merry crossed him arms, a bit too defiantly. “And that would be, if I might ask?”

“You forget that many years ago, you told me what you were afraid of,” Pippin answered softly. “You told me if I were gone, you feared you would not wish to live any longer. And I am afraid, Merry, that this may be true, and put to the test quite soon.”

Merry had no answer, for truly he knew that Pippin was correct. After several minutes, he finally spoke. “I had forgotten that day in Ithilien. After we returned to the Shire and things were right again, I made myself forget. And I did not remember it again until we arrived at Minas Tirith. I am frightened, Pippin, because I knew myself far too well that day, and I still do.”

“Even the little I have seen of you, I have seen less of my dearest cousin, and more of a stranger,” Pippin whispered, “and I knew you remembered. But you must find a way without me all the same. I’m quite sorry about it, but I cannot change it.”

“No, we cannot change it,” Merry answered sadly. “And I know not what I might do instead.”

“Well,” Pippin replied, “you might start by visiting with me this evening. I’ve scarcely seen you in some time, and I’m sure we could find something to speak about.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure that we could,” said Merry.

“For instance, do you think we
shall ever meet again? In the next world, I mean, I suppose it’s rather like the Gray Havens but of course I really don’t know…”.

Elessar left the two hobbits alone that evening, and ordered his servants to do the same, although he left instructions to keep near throughout the night. He needn’t have done so, for as the first gray fingers of light reached Minas Tirith the next morning, the anguished wail of a hobbit could be heard in nearly every corner of the city, and those of the house of Elessar knew the Pheriannath was no more.

When Elessar reluctantly entered the chamber, he found that Merry had thrown himself across the still form on the bed, and Elessar required his utmost patience to coax the despairing hobbit away from his departed friend. He could not, however, persuade Merry to eat, or to sleep, or to leave his chambers. The inconsolable halfling refused to come out even when Pippin’s body was laid to rest in state, an honor rarely granted to any but a king, and Elessar became greatly concerned for Merry.

It was not long after that Gimli and Legolas arrived in Minas Tirith to offer their respects to their departed companion. “After all these many years, I no longer need worry myself about you, dear Pippin, and I should wish I would still be worried,” Gimli lamented, and then he had laid the Elven brooch given to him by Galadriel so long ago beside Pippin. “A token of the fine chase you once led us upon, my friend.”

Legolas added one of his arrows to Gimli’s brooch. “And this, a token of the troll we slew together, and the one you bravely destroyed alone. A fine soldier, and a worthy companion you were.”

Elessar had left instructions summoning both Legolas and Gimli to meet with him after they had paid their respects. “I am certain that the absence of the remaining member of our Fellowship was conspicuous. I am, to be sure, of great concern regarding Meriadoc, for he was not himself even while Pippin lived, and he has yet to leave his chambers since Pippin breathed his last.”

“You believe he has not much time remaining,” Legolas noted. “Perhaps it would not be our place –“

“Our place, bah!” Gimli sputtered. “Where would I find our friend Merry? A dwarf can always find reason to continue onwards, and so shall he!”

Elessar stifled a laugh. “Indeed, and such is why summoned you! Please do meet with Merry, and best of fortune go with you.”

Though it took much persuasion and argument with the grieving hobbit, at length Gimli was able to gain a brief audience with Merry. And indeed Gimli’s encouragements seemed to help Merry in the next few weeks; while he rarely ventured into the city, from time to time he visited the gardens, and he accepted such as the servants would bring him. Merry took it upon himself to review many of Gondor’s ancient texts to ensure they mentioned hobbits, and properly so, and this endeavor kept him well occupied and reasonably content for several months.

One morning, however, Merry was suddenly taken ill, and was far too sick even to rise from his bed. Alarmed by this news, Elessar went quickly to see Merry and was quite surprised to find the hobbit considering his illness rather casually.

“I hadn’t thought to mention it, really, but I am ill every year on this date,” Merry had explained. “It is the anniversary of the day I struck the Witch King, and he will not let me forget the hurt I put upon him, for he returns it in kind each year. I shall be much better tomorrow, and the day after, you needn’t worry about me.”

And yet, while Merry did improve over the next several days, he was slow to return to the old texts, and did not have quite the same fervor for them that he had prior to his illness. Nor did he visit the gardens, and by the end of the summer he no longer left Elessar’s house, and did not take interest in the old books at all.

“No complaints, really, and no fault of Master Gimli, or Pippin, for they were wise enough,” Merry told Elessar, “but I don’t care for another visit by the Witch King, and if I am not present for his next visit, it would be far preferable to me.”

As the days wore on, Merry left his quarters less and less, and rarely spoke to anyone save Elessar, and he spoke infrequently even then. While Elessar was reluctant to break any confidence Merry had, he nevertheless had the servants report to him their observations of the elderly hobbit. It seemed to the servants, that Merry rarely left his chair by the fire, where he would sit and read the old hobbit histories, many of which he had written himself. They also told Elessar that Merry appeared to consume less and less of the food brought to him, and that he had not asked for any pipeweed in some time.

One morning, the servant responsible for Merry’s breakfast returned to Elessar’s chambers with unusual haste. “My lord! Master Brandybuck does not answer his door, despite several calls to him,” she informed the King.

Elessar went directly to Merry’s quarters, and called for Merry himself, but received no answer. He felt he already knew why Merry did not respond, but allowed the hobbit ample time to answer before he opened the door and entered the room.

The fire had long since burned out, and the room was chilly. Merry’s bed was untouched. Merry was still sitting slightly slumped in his chair, the book of Bilbo’s journey still open in his lap with one hand resting upon it as if to turn to the next page. It appeared as though he had fallen asleep while reading, but Elessar knew better.

He approached slowly, not wishing to confirm what he already knew. He placed a hand upon Merry’s forehead and tried not to shrink back as Merry was as cold as his room. “Sleep well, my friend,” he whispered as he gently removed Merry’s hand from the book, “You shall no longer be alone.” He then closed the book, and placed it on the shelf with the other books which would remain in Minas Tirith permanently, a testament to the hobbits and their place in the history of Middle Earth.

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.

Story Information

Author: Gonzai

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 07/31/03

Original Post: 08/11/02

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