“Merry, wait!” Frodo shouted down the hall as he ran. He caught up to his cousin just as the other was opening the front door. When Merry didn’t stop, Frodo grabbed his arm. Merry pulled it away.
“Let me go, Frodo!” he growled, “I have to get away from you all. You’re not safe.”
“Maybe we’re not,” Frodo told him sternly, “But I won’t let you go running around in the night. We care for you. We want to help you. Those people out there may not be so kind if they discover your secret.”
“I hurt Pippin!” Merry yelled, turning on Frodo, “I could have killed him and I didn’t even realize I was doing it! And the way he looked at me, Frodo...” here his voice quieted, his eyes filled with pain, “He was frightened of me. You can’t understand what that feels like.”
Empathy washed over Frodo’s face and he put his hand on Merry’s shoulder. “I can understand, Merry,” he said, remembering what the Ring had made him do, how it had made him treat Sam, “All too well.”
Merry remembered what he’d heard of their part of the quest and suddenly felt very foolish for saying what he did. On the verge of tears, he embraced Frodo and held him tight. Frodo reciprocated, and for a brief moment, Merry’s breathing slowed and Frodo felt perhaps this crisis had passed. He could feel the hole in Merry’s shirt where Sam had stabbed him in his panic, but to his surprise, Frodo could feel no blood, and it seemed to him as if the wound were already healing. He should have been glad his cousin was apparently unhurt, but it only served as another reminder of what a strange, inhobbit thing Merry had become.
As Merry held Frodo, his chin resting on his cousin’s shoulder, he happened to look down and see the red, barely-healed wound he had inflicted on his beloved kin. No one else had yet seen it (save Sam, who tended it to prevent infection) as Frodo had been very careful to wear a scarf or high collar at all times since the incident. He had no wish to raise questions or upset anyone, least of all Merry. But he had forgotten about it in that instant and his fears were confirmed.
Merry’s eyes widened in horror at the reminder of what he’d done and was still capable of doing. Shoving Frodo away from him quickly, he looked forlorn, lost. His eyes began to water despite himself as he stumbled backward toward the door. He was overwhelmed with emotion. There was so much he wanted to express, to cry out for help, but all he could do was stammer in a tight whisper, “I’m sorry, Frodo. I’m so...I...I have to...”
Not bothering to finish his sentence, he turned and dashed out the door before Frodo could stop him. When Frodo ran the few steps out the door into the night, he could see nothing of his tormented cousin.
He turned to go back inside, but a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye made him stop. He spun, an old instinct forcing his hand to where his sword would have been if he’d made it a habit to carry one to bed. But he relaxed when he saw a small figure coming up the walkway. Long curls bounced in the night breeze and soon a gentle face came into view.
“Good evening, Frodo. How did you know I was coming?”
“What are you doing out so late?” Frodo asked, a bit of scolding in his voice, “It’s not safe.”
“Good to see you, too.”
“Yes, sorry, Rosie,” Frodo said, putting a hand on her back to guide her toward the door, “Just come inside. It’s cold out.”
By the time Frodo was back in the living room, Sam and Pippin were there. Sam was stoking the fire and Pippin sat huddled in a blanket in one of the chairs. When the door latched they both looked up to see Frodo and Rosie enter.
Without a word, Sam ran to her and hugged her, not letting go for several seconds. When he looked at her, it was with great love and relief, but she could also see worry in his eyes.
“I’m sorry it’s so late,” she said, setting a book down on the side table while he helped her off with her cloak, “But I had to come as soon as I found this.” She noticed that all of them seemed quite alert already. “Though it appears I needn’t have worried about waking anybody up.”
“It’s been a rough night,” Frodo told her.
“What have you found?” Pippin asked eagerly.
She took a seat and Frodo and Sam followed suit. She grabbed the old book she’d brought and flipped through it as she spoke. “I searched everywhere with no luck, but finally I found this hidden in the basement at Michel Delving. The curator didn’t seem to even realize it was there, so I got it out without much problem.”
“What is it?” Sam asked.
“An old chronicle of some kind. Looks to be several hundred years old at least. The language is a bit odd, but understandable. It seems a hobbit from long ago had an adventure and wrote this story about it. When he came back and told others, no one believed him.”
Pippin was already getting impatient. “But what does it say, Rosie?” he asked, “Does it say anything that will help Merry?”
She got the hint and hurried on. “It seems this fellow ran into something dark and strange at the north end of the Misty Mountains. Something the elves called Gurthweth, Death Shadow, a demon cloaked in black that drained people and animals of blood. Its victims would then become a sort of half-version of it, becoming blood-drinkers themselves.”
“So this thing came after Merry?” Pippin said, then his face became serious and affronted, “How do we kill it?”
“Well, seeing as how it obviously wasn’t killed,” she answered, “whoever wrote this didn’t know how to do it. So I have no idea.”
“But why would it attack Merry?” Frodo asked, “Why him specifically? We’ve not had any reports of such things in the Shire nor anywhere else that I’ve heard. Why would it travel all this way for one hobbit?”
“Do you know what the name of that area is?” she asked.
Frodo realized what she was getting at and became solemn, “Angmar.”
She nodded, “The Gurthweth was a servant of the Witchking.”
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.