1. Pursuit of the Last Lantern
Old before your time, you sorry grump. And likely you’ll be dead before your time too, and on your last night here you are, thinking about your aches and pains.
It still pained him far less than other things he could be thinking about. Sooner or later he would have to allow himself to turn his thoughts toward those he loved who had taken other paths. But surely all roads would meet, somewhere? Did they all go down into this featureless darkness where the Enemy waited?
He held it off. Around him he could hear a cool wind in the pines, and it at least did not yet smell foul—only green and moist. Sleeping Riders snuffled and snored in the dark, mail jingled and leather creaked, and horses stamped and whinnied from time to time, all reminding him he was not yet on that last road alone.
Would he catch a last glimpse of Pippin in trembling Gondor before the blade fell on them all? Did he even still live?
That was it, the thought he’d been avoiding. It shot through him like an arrow, half unexpected, and he almost sobbed with the sudden weight of it. His shaking hands sought out pipe and tinderbox in his belt-pouch. No pipeweed of course. His fingers flicked the tinderbox idly where he lay, and he caught glimpses of Dernhelm beside him in the sparks.
Dernhelm kept his leather undercap on, and it slipped over his face as he slept. Wisps of pale hair escaped and floated on the breeze. From what Merry had glimpsed of that face, it was smooth; the hands on the reins in front of him were small for a Man, swimming in large gloves. He had to be horribly young—no wonder he hung back, why he too avoided the eyes of the King’s men. Did his mother still live, and if so, what lies had he told her? Did she wait for him even now to return from the field, or the market, or whatever errand he’d claimed as he rode off to a death meant for men, not boys?
Merry remembered the lonely chill in those grey eyes. No, surely his family is gone. And he hopes to join them. For himself, he fought off taunting glimpses--the sounds and scents of Brandy Hall at the harvest, an old storyteller bellowing to make himself heard in the cheerful din.
Lost in these thoughts, he jumped and twinged his sore legs when he heard a soft voice.
“Can you not sleep, Master Meriadoc?” He whirled around, and Dernhelm’s eyes glinted in the gloom.
“Merry - call me Merry please …” He simply wanted to hear someone call him that again before the end.
“Merry. I like that name for you.” Was Dernhelm smiling? Did his teeth too catch the meager light? “I would see you be merry again.”
Though Dernhelm could not see it, he gave a small dry smile. “I shall be, if I see my friends again. If not—perhaps we all shall be, on the other side.”
Merry had to lie back down to hear what Dernhelm said next, for he spoke in a husky whisper little louder than the wind in the pines far above them. “If I may speak freely-“
“Of course. How else should we speak?”
“You sound like one who fears the deaths of friend and kin more than his own.”
“Well…” Merry had not thought about it in quite that way, but now that Dernhelm put it so succinctly, it seemed obvious. “Yes. I think that’s true. I think…that one’s own death comes quickly, when it comes, and takes you off just that fast. But if you’re left behind, then it’s a terrible pain that endures for years and you’re never completely free of it. It’s dreadful to think of, being alive yourself but with those empty spaces cut out of you.”
There was a long silence of Dernhelm’s breathing, scarce steadier than the fickle breeze. “I would not like to be left behind when this battle is done.”
Merry sighed. “Then you too believe that –“
“Ssh,” said Dernhelm. Merry was surprised to feel a fingertip at his lips. “Do not say that now. I cannot bear to hear another voice speak what my heart is fearing. We will buy time with our blood. The world will still be free when we leave it.”
“Is not for us to decide.” Dernhelm’s touch was light, and Merry shivered. Someone walking over my grave, he thought. Perhaps an army marching there.
“Can you not sleep?” Dernhelm repeated, and Merry tried to find some sign of heaviness in his head, behind his eyes. Frustrated, he lay back down again, his arms behind his head, and was surprised to find Dernhelm nudging him to roll over. He did so, feeling only slightly pushed around like a bag, and curled backwards into Dernhelm’s embrace. The young Man’s long arm wrapped lightly around him and drew him close. His feet reached barely below the Rider’s knees.
He waited for sleep to overtake him in its warmth, but felt only the youth’s breath stirring his hair.
“No,” he finally sighed. “No sleep for me.”
Dernhelm’s hand cupped his chin, and the boy sighed. “Very well. Tomorrow night we shall sleep long.”
When the moment came, Merry felt he vacated his body just a little, just for an instant—as if it were some other will that turned his face around to meet the Rider’s, both sets of eyes wide and both hands shaking, though trying to hide it. He couldn’t believe how soft Dernhelm’s lips were, like warm butter on the whitest bread inside the loaf.
Had he meant this all along? Merry wondered. Dernhelm’s tongue came lightly questing, as if unsure it was wanted on this venture—-then once tasting, never looking back. Merry’s own rose up to meet it or be conquered by it. As they tasted each other, he knew they were both fighting surprise.
There was a quiet gasp, a clink of mail, as Dernhelm rolled half over and pinned him.
Merry realized the boy was silently laughing at his nervous glance around the camp. “Were you listening, you would have heard those same sounds many times!” whispered Dernhelm, “Do you think the men of Rohan go to death pure, like a bride? I assure you, we do not. If they chance to hear us, they will never speak of it. But I think they will not hear.”
Truth be told, much as Dernhelm might have watched, Merry doubted he had done this before himself, but he said naught of it. Rather he struggled playfully against his pinned position, finding Dernhelm’s mouth with his own again, his hand twining around through the leather and knotted hair at the back of his neck, pulling that kiss back. For that large mouth—-small for Dernhelm's kind, but certainly like no hobbit’s—-had a way of engulfing his own, and letting it go again, and reclaiming it, that kept calling him back.
“Are you sure,” he whispered at least, half into Dernhelm’s slender neck that bent and shuddered under his lips and teeth, “You are young, aren’t you?”
Dernhelm pushed him against the ground hard, and Merry couldn’t help but push back. “So they say,” Dernhelm sneered. “Will the hosts of Mordor care? Will they spare me for my youth? I think not—-and they would not if they found me on the battlefield or in the ashes of my house. If I am old enough to die, I am old enough to live! And you have been mistaken for a child enough that you should understand me better!”
With that Dernhelm’s head bent, and lips and teeth closed lightly, menacing, promising, on Merry’s ear, and the hobbit gasped hard as shudders lit up his spine. Merry said no more. He had two of Dernhelm’s slim fingers in his mouth, and the texture of them, the salty dirt, the squirming strength of them, was magical on his tongue.
“I am not as young as I may look, Master Holbytla,” Dernhelm whispered. His other hand trailed down Merry’s leather jerkin; knowing the proper fastening of buckle and cinch, it went so easily, so quickly before his fingers, nimble now, undid the laces of the soft leggings beneath, letting the night air in to brush against his wakening prick a mere moment before the hand did.
“It must seem so small to you,” said Merry ruefully.
“That is well,” Dernhelm whispered, and lowered his head slowly. The anticipation was sweetly terrible, and then Merry felt his cock enclosed entirely in warm wetness with a light tug, again and again, and Dernhelm opened his mouth on each stroke, letting the cool air in. Merry struggled against his voice, keeping it quiet on each beat, leaning into it, stuffing the back of his hand against his mouth. For all he hadn’t done this before, Dernhelm was doing his best; Merry felt grey eyes watching him, judging, pleased with his response, before sinking half-closed in concentration. For him, it was working; for the moment, Death faded in Dernhelm’s mouth. He was aware of each flutter of tongue, irregularity of lip, as they moved.
He caught Dernhelm’s wet chin in his hand. “I – I...” When the youth crawled back up towards his face, he tried to reach between the boy’s legs, searching under mail and leather, and was surprised when Dernhelm firmly pushed his hand away before he found the bulge he sought, and pinned his errant wrist over his head to the grass.
“Like this,” whispered the boy, his voice rich and thick as Buckland ale, before he slid a leather-clad thigh between Merry’s, pinning the hobbit’s prick against its creaky skinlike feel, drawing Merry’s other leg up between his own, and showing him how to ride, once again. Patience, Merry remembered. Don’t try to move before the horse. As they moved together in a quiet, slow gallop, he adjusted once again, this time to Dernhelm’s coltish pace. Finding the spots where they fit together. Soreness was forgotten as he spread open once again, this time to push lightly against Dernhelm, searching for the right spot to press. But before he could find it, he felt his peak take him. It had been so long. He gave up trying not to think of Pippin as his vision went blue and starry, shooting waves of climax against Dernhelm’s chest.
For his part, Dernhelm still worked to find sweetness on Merry’s thigh, moving against him and moving his lips on Merry’s neck, something wild and pleading in his own strange language, until his body froze in a queer rigid pulsing cry.
Merry tasted sex in his mouth as he claimed the last flutterings in a kiss. He started to speak, hoping wise words of gratitude and comfort would come from his mouth, but he only felt one small fingertip on his own, and a heavy rustling as Dernhelm did some wiping in the dark with his cloak, then lay back on his side, drawing Merry once more on his side and backwards to spoon against him. There was that breath in his hair again, a soft shared laugh, and that was all as it faded into Dernhelm’s gentle snore. Merry’s head felt heavy, and he laid it down, pillowed on the young Rider’s arm, as he drew the cloak around them. He thought at the last of Dernhelm’s face he’d never fully seen, and hoped someday to see it bare -- bold and proud and handsome as he was sure the young Man must be. Or would be, when he grew to it. That’s more like it, he said to himself, for you’re thinking when, not if.
Pippin’s alive, he knew suddenly, for no reason that was clear, half-awake and dreaming. The dark took him sweetly.
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.