Over the next two days, the four hobbits searched everywhere they could think of for the Brandybuck, but they found no sign of him. They’d not heard of any strange attacks or other signals that he’d exposed himself, but time was passing and if he hadn’t drunk anything yet he would need to soon. They knew he wouldn’t want to attack any hobbits, but they also knew full well that if it came to it, he wouldn’t have a choice in the matter.
They met together in the corner of a pub in Bywater after a long day of searching with no results. There weren’t many people in the pub and those that were stayed out of earshot, so they felt reasonably safe about discussing their plans.
“This won’t hold out much longer,” Sam said, “Even a strong hobbit like Mr. Merry can only last so long against such evil workings. And without us there to hold him back...”
“What was he thinking running out like that?” said a frustrated Pippin.
“We’ve been through that, Pippin,” Frodo answered, “He thought he was doing what was best. He didn’t exactly think it through beforehand.”
“But even if he had stayed,” Rosie offered, “Even if we do find him before he hurts someone, what will we do? We still don’t know how to cure him. The book only said that one of the hobbit’s companions was changed and killed himself. They didn’t have time to find a cure.”
Pippin grew panicked at a sudden realization, “You don’t think he’s done that, do you?! He wouldn’t!”
“If it had been you, Pippin, I might have worried,” Frodo said, “But not Merry. I do not believe he would go to that extreme. Not unless he’d actually killed someone, perhaps.”
They sat in silence for a minute, all staring in thought at the table before them. Suddenly, Pippin looked up, “What was it Daisy Proudfoot had said? What was her advice?”
Sam scoffed at the memory, “‘Find a better healer,’ she said. Fat lot of help that was.”
“But it was, Sam,” Pippin said, getting excited, “I didn’t realize it before, but maybe that’s exactly what we need. Who’s the best healer we know?”
“She’s the best healer in Hobbiton,” Frodo said, “and she couldn’t do a thing.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Pippin said, a cheeky smile growing on his face, and suddenly Sam and Frodo got his meaning. “Frodo, do you remember where I put my mantle?” he asked facetiously, “You remember it, the one with the white tree.”
It had been several days and nights now. How many, he did not know exactly. It took all of his concentration now to stave off the unconsciousness that threatened to overwhelm him with every blink. He wanted so dearly to sleep, but he knew that if he gave in to this desire someone might die, so he did what he could to stay awake.
He huddled now in the small, dirty hollow beneath a tree in some far-flung field. He had run from Bag End, run from Hobbiton, run from any sign of civilization. He wanted to get as far away as he could from anyone he may have the chance to hurt if whatever it was lurking deep within him got out. Finally, he’d found this place, a good enough one for now, but he knew he couldn’t keep running forever.
He was so weak. He shivered from the cold and from hunger. With a pang of self-chastisement he realized that he’d not eaten or drunk anything at all since his departure and would be feeling weak even if it weren’t for this other...condition. It was because he was in this state that he did not act as he might have when It came.
It was dark and he was tired, so he thought he had succumbed to slumber. When he realized what he saw was real, he also knew he was too weak to do anything about it. He wanted to fight it, to kill it, but he could not.
It was as a vision from the past, a dark-cloaked figure gliding across the field toward him. He thought it a nightmare until he felt its cold breath on his face. It seemed to move so swiftly that it could not be physical, and so smoothly that it could not be mortal. But it was not the grace of the elves. Rather, it more closely resembled the hypnotic swaying motions of a snake.
“What are you?” he asked it when he realized it was real. He had wanted to yell at it, to shout, ‘Get back!’ but he felt himself in a strange trance.
The figure hissed a scornful laugh. “Magnificent indeed,” it whispered in a harsh, grating voice, “Huddled in a hole, terrified of yourself.”
“Wait,” Merry said, suddenly recognizing the thing, “I’ve seen you before. A few months ago, on the road. I thought you were a dream.”
“Soon you’ll be the dream,” the figure hissed, “Dead from hunger or killed by your friends for the monster you’ve become.”
“You did this to me,” Merry said, his voice weaker than he’d hoped, “Why?”
The figure lashed out, grabbing him by the throat. Merry felt the cold breath sting his face. “You thought we would not avenge?” the nightmare asked, “You thought you could slay our master and return to the comfort of your home?”
Finally, Merry knew what this was all about. In the next instant, he realized the further danger and unconsciously looked away, toward the south. The figure saw this and, though Merry could not see its face beneath the hood, it seemed to smile.
“Do not think to save the woman this existence,” it hissed, “I have already visited her.”
Filled with terror, Merry had no response. Apparently satisfied, the figure let him go and was gone in an instant. Merry crawled out of his hole, all fatigue momentarily forgotten, and took off at a hard run toward Hobbiton.
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.