Cold Be Hand: 1. Cold Be Hand

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1. Cold Be Hand

When Merry wakes up he knows it has all been just a dream. A rather horrible dream, it is true, but a dream none the less. Of course, it is. After all, why would he have been riding through the Old Forest and then the Barrow-Downs – which all sensible hobbits know are haunted – with Frodo and Pippin and most especially Sam? And then why would he dream about them in that way? And in such a place? Most confusing, really, thinks Merry, still more than half asleep… *** He is cold, so very cold. Where are his cousins? Where is Sam? He must find them, he must defend them, they are lost in the fog, and it is all his fault... His responsibility, his... His eyes snap open and look around wildly. It is dark, black as pitch, and he is lying on stone, his hands flat against its roughness, and his heart is beating hard. There is an icy waft of air that curls unwillingly into his mouth and it is all he can do not to choke on it, as the scent of the grave enters and takes his breath away. Where is he? The last things he remembers are pale green eyes and long grasping fingers. They took his shoulder in a grip like ice, that burned like fire. And then he remembers no more. I must have passed out, thinks Merry faintly. And then. Is this death? His hand twitches and reaches involuntarily for his shoulder, whether in unknowing reassurance, or in remembered pain, and the scratchiness of wool on the skin of his palm brings him back to himself a little. Surely, if he was dead, the wool of his cloak would not still be prickling his fingers this way. Surely, he thinks, as he takes another breath, the air would not taste like this, would not taste of anything at all, surely... But his lips are numb and he knows he has no idea what things would feel like, if he were really dead... *** It isn’t as though he doesn’t have those sorts of dreams all the time. Well, after all, what sensible hobbit of his age and situation doesn’t have those sort of dreams? (And those who do deny it are lying, Merry is sure.) But it isn’t as if he had ever had those sorts of dreams with Sam in them before. And such horrible circumstances. That is definitely something new. He lies there for a moment, the muzziness of too little sleep clouding his mind, and thinks hard about it. And then wishes he hasn’t as he becomes aware it is scarcely the only thing that is hard in this bed. Well, perhaps that is not at all to be wondered at... *** All at once he becomes aware that there is a steady light growing. Merry realises he can see the outline of an arch of rough stone above him. Can faintly make out his own fingers as he waves them in front of his face, like pale worms wriggling. The light is greenish, and it turns things livid and unreal. But at least he can see. He turns his head, carefully, for the passageway – if passage it is, or rather, the Barrow, Merry understands with a jolt – is utterly silent and Merry knows he doesn’t want to draw any attention. Any attentions. He shivers, but it is no relief, it is like a rattle in his bones, his skin a paper-thin mask over the dust and emptiness. There are bodies next to him. He can see that now. And – it’s Frodo! – he thinks joyfully, but Frodo is lying still, and utterly silent, his limbs wrapped in his cloak, as though he is laid out for burial. And the breath stops in Merry’s throat, and he thinks once again of death, stop-start, stop-start, like a window shutter clicking closed on a bright day, the image resting under his eyelids, unable to be erased. He is reluctant now, to turn his gaze the other way, his neck feels stiff as he fights with himself, but he has to know, he has understand the worst, so he does turn and the image slots into place again, like in a magic lantern, and it as Merry fears, as Merry knew it would be. Pippin. Lying still, blanched in the light, like meat on a slab, and then beyond him, a glimpse of Sam. He blinks, his lashes sticky with moisture, but even that is cold, here. Frozen like everything is, into semblance of corpses, stored like ice in the ice house, and he tries to remember it is hot outside, a sultry day, or was. Before they were taken, before they were... claimed. He blinks again, and the image still resolves into Pippin, looking fearfully like a corpse, his skin pallid and perhaps a little damp, shining like marble. His sweet curls are brushed back from his forehead, making him look older than he is. And he is naked. For some reason. And despite the horror, and his numbness, and the certainty of death ghosting across his cold flesh, the sight still makes Merry catch his breath... *** Then Merry snaps suddenly into full wakefulness, as he also becomes aware of the shifting of another form beside him in the bed, and a small sigh, and the warmth of a carelessly thrust arm touching the middle of his back through the thin linen shirt. It could be a flaming hot brand, for all the burning it is doing. No, it isn’t at all surprising he is having those sorts of dreams. Not at all... *** Then the noise starts. A soft noise. Like cloth being dragged over stony ground. A soft susurration of sound, gentle, and yet ominous, for how can any noise here not be ominous? Merry doesn’t want to look. If he doesn’t look then… But Pippin still lies next to him, naked as the day he was born – which Merry also remembers – and he might not be dead, he might be alive, Merry might yet be able to save him, he might yet be able to tell him, someday, about all of this, about how he feels, about… He can’t be a coward. He must… So he looks. And it is not so very dreadful, he tells himself. He can barely see the Wight at all really, in the gloomy light its cloak is black and voluminous, it drags in tatters on the ground, hush-scrape, hush-scrape… All Merry can really see are the eyes, like pale lamps, and a thin bony arm that grasps a sword. It is an ordinary arm, he tells himself, it has flesh on it – it looks like flesh – but it is long and spindly, not at all like a proper arm. And it is tall, this creature, much taller than Merry expected, much taller than a Man, surely? And why isn’t he more frightened? His shoulder burns then, where the Wight grasped him. It burns with cold, and soundlessly Merry opens his mouth in agony. But that is apparently enough, that thread of connection, enough of a noise, his mouth gaping into the frigid air, and the Wight turns. It lifts the sword then, all shining silver, and Merry can only stare at it helplessly, wishing there was something he could do, wishing he had been braver, for now Pippin will never know… And that is a strange thought to be having when facing your doom, Merry thinks, or maybe it isn’t, maybe that’s normal, all the long lost regrets that come crowding round at such a time, to distract, in friendly attempts to lessen the shining silver horror... But the Wight doesn’t plunge the sword into his breast. Instead it waves it consideringly at him, and then brings it to lie hovering at Sam’s neck, and then at Pippin’s. Merry closes his mouth and swallows. The message is unmistakable. His friends will suffer first if he tries to move, and that thought is more paralysing than his own danger. I am a coward, Merry thinks, numb once again. I am a coward. I am dead, after all. And then he lies stiff and still once more, in this tomb of kings... *** Then the full circumstances of the last few days crash into his mind and slowly Merry closes his eyes again, lying still and rigid, despite the comfort of mattress and pillow. Oh… Oh yes. How could he have forgotten? They are in Bree now. His other rather obvious problem solves itself as he contemplates all the rather horrible happenings they have been through, and the even more uncertain road they are facing now. Although this time they do have Strider with them, who is a friend of Gandalf’s, of course, so that must be all right. He is glad something is... *** The Wight leans forward now, and still all Merry can see under the cloak are black depths and two palely glowing eyes. It lays the sword down on the bier, the side away from Merry, but still very close at hand, all the while holding Merry’s eyes with its own. He does not move, the clutch of this place having stilled more than just his tongue. He longs to reach and touch Pippin, or to feel for Frodo’s hand, all wrapped up in his cloak, but he has missed his chance, he knows that now. All he can do is lie here and wait. Although he doesn’t want to think about what he is waiting for. Instead, as he lies, he counts his breaths, the only tangible life left to him in this place, for he does not even think he can feel his own heart beat any more. Silently the Wight reaches down and pulls something from the floor below Merry’s eyesight. There is a soft sound, the shift and slide of fabric, and some filmy white substance is pulled up and onto the platform. Slowly the creature leans forward, almost lying across Sam’s body, and drags the fabric up his broad thighs and across his chest. Merry shivers. He does not want to think about the prickly cold of those fingers, the icy brush of that torso. He doesn’t want to think about what is happening to them here. He doesn’t want to think about any of it. Deliberately the Wight leans and pulls Sam up into a sitting position. Sam is still unconscious and slumps like a bag of grain, all lumpen, his natural poise all gone. But even so, Merry can’t help but notice that Sam is rather well built for a hobbit lad, not surprising perhaps for one who enjoys his vittles and a sup or two of ale as much as Sam, but it has never been something that Merry has ever felt before, not about Sam anyway, and he feels a twitch, somewhere completely unexpected. It surprises an almost silent gasp out of him, and the Wight pauses, his lamp-like eyes turning and boring into Merry’s own. Merry closes his mouth with a snap, and lies still once more. Mutely he watches as the Wight finishes dressing Sam in long white grave-clothes, thin and ragged, and he chokes a little as he contemplates what may have lain in those clothes not long since. Next, golden trinkets are brought up from the floor and bestowed on poor old Sam. Gold rings and necklets, armbands and belts, clinking coldly in the still and utter quiet of the passageway. Then Merry clenches his hands into fists, digging in his nails, as he strives to stay quiet as the Wight turns its attention to Pippin lying next in line. He is prepared. He knows he is prepared. It has been obvious that this will be what happens next but still Merry cannot keep from shifting in protest as spindly arms reach for his dear cousin. The Wight seems to sense this. He keeps his eyes on Merry this time, and Merry feels pinned, like a butterfly to a board, as he watches the Wight lift Pippin up, running its thin bony fingers down the smooth planes of Pip’s unresisting body. Is it Merry’s imagination or is it slower this time, slower than it was with Sam? Does it seem to be… relishing the contact? He wants to shout out now, as he could not earlier. He wants to shout and scream at it to leave Pippin alone, he wants to throw himself in his place, to make the creature take him instead. He wants… The Wight pauses then, as though listening, and then nods ponderously at him, just once. And Merry stops struggling. His throat closes, so dry and choked he cannot even swallow. What has just happened? What has he done..? *** Slowly Merry runs over recent events in his head, rather like he might gingerly run his tongue over a loose tooth, not sure whether it should hurt, or whether it is all just a necessary but perfectly normal part of life. Well, perhaps not normal, but it’s not as if he hasn’t been planning their trip and its potential problems for months now. Surely he should expect a few… setbacks. After all, disturbing dreams are going to be least of their worries, Merry is sure… *** The Wight takes other things now, swords and shields, and lays them down beside his friends, arraying the cold stone like they are kings of old upon their death beds. It is a weird sort of ritual, a farewell of sorts, even showing honour of a kind, and Merry distantly wonders if the creature thinks it is offering them fair recompense in exchange for their lives. Then, at last, it turns to him, still lying unmoving, pinned to his place, and Merry wants to tell it no, to tell it that he was mistaken, that this is not what he meant, but he says nothing. It might return to Pippin or even to Sam, or it might turn to Frodo, and find in his clothes what they have fled the Shire to conceal. In the face of that, how can Merry refuse to endure what he knows he must? But still he cannot help himself. When the Wight reaches for him, he flinches, and its long fingers hover over him for a moment, seemingly considering his helpless form, examining it like he might examine a fish, newly caught, or a fine wine, newly opened. It does not reassure him. But the fingers, when they descend, are gentler than he fears. They peel him from his clothes, removing cloak, and coat, and shirt, as gently as a mother might, if any hobbit matron could have thin long fingers like bony icicles, with nails of dirty pearl. He shivers now, clad only in his breeches, his flesh shuddering as it touches cold stone, but not as much as when the creature reaches for his breeches buttons, popping them one by one, and sliding the protesting fabric, still damp from the clammy fog, from around his shrinking form. Merry almost wishes he could be as unconscious as his friends, but only almost – is it more or less a violation when one is unaware? He looks at the Wight, but the creature is as much a mystery as ever. The greenish light does not penetrate far, and the hood is all encompassing. Its hands are hovering now, and Merry wants to curl into a ball, wants to cover himself, his reaction earlier from the sight of Sam not yet entirely ebbed away. The resilience of the young, he thinks wildly to himself, a phrase that has been lobbed at him on more than one occasion, although in circumstances far removed and much more pleasant than this one. And, unfortunately, ominously, the creature seems to like something in what it sees. The hands jerk in the air, they rub together a little, emitting a sound like dried sticks sliding one against another, and a low moaning emerges from the cloak, punctuated by the odd word – Merry can make out ‘warmth’, and ‘life’, and it makes him shiver once more, and shrink at last, which he is very glad to see. He can cope with being touched now, he thinks. Touched while having those grave-clothes put on, and to be clad in jewels and trinkets. He can handle it now... *** In fact, as he thinks back, he begins to relax a little more. It is probably just some kind of residual effect of being breathed on by those creatures – what had Strider called it, the Black Breath? Well, that was true enough, it had made his dreams black enough anyway. And as for the rest of it, well, as he thinks some more, Merry begins to smile. Well, not that many hours ago he had been running around naked as a newborn on the downs with his cousins and Sam. And that is probably enough to explain all the rest of it, isn’t it? After all, seeing Pippin or Frodo in the buff is hardly a new experience, but Sam? Respectable, upright Sam? That’s bound to be enough to set off a few thoughts. Especially given he is such a fine figure of a hobbit. Who would have thought? Yes, that would explain it and, heartily reassured, Merry settles down into the mattress and prepares to go back to sleep… *** The moaning changes in pitch, in tone. The Wight is agitated now. Merry braces himself for the caress of those fingers as it leans over him. He prepares himself for the drag of fabric, as it brings the garments from the floor as it has done with the others, he prepares himself… His breath catches in a gasp, the first proper sound he has made since he was pinned in the stare of those evil glowing orbs. Its fingers are icy, they leave a trail of cold behind them as they slowly draw themselves up his leg, and across his thigh. The fingers of the other hand meanwhile splay on his chest and now, when he would have moved, finally would have moved, despite the frozen immobility the Wight causes, they pin him down, they hold him back. “No!” Merry shouts then, at last, in realisation, as the fingers on his thigh continue to make their spider-like way towards sensitive flesh. The moaning of the Wight seems disturbed by his noise, and that’s good, thinks Merry viciously, as the horror of this begins to sink in. Why had he thought he was dead? How could he have thought such a thing for even a moment. This is death – this thing that reaches for his warmth, that wants to take all of it, all of him, and drain his life into its dusty shell, wants to steal him away… The second hand moves from his chest then and Merry chokes, as it reaches for him. The hand splays itself across his face, and the cold is burning his skin, burning his mouth. The stink of rot is in his nostrils. He writhes, even as he chokes, as he feels cold fingers envelop his member, encircling and stroking him, and he doesn’t even have to try and prevent a reaction, it is too cold, and his body is too scared, and he is choking with the horror of it. But the creature is not to be deterred, it seems, it reaches down, and Merry whimpers despite the gagging palm, as it spreads his legs a little, a very little – it is strong, so strong, Merry can’t stop it, however much he strains – and then… Violation – a sudden bright pain, and then cold is eating him from the inside, a bitter needle of ice pushes itself within him, he is splitting from the cold, it seems, and he tries to bite the hand that holds him, but it tastes foul and his little teeth slip from the dry leathery strength of it. And then the bitter cold inside him, moves... Ah no, can he not even prevent this, this final humiliation? He drums his heels on the stone and flails his hands, but still his rebellious body betrays him, swells and grows inevitably, and then the needle of cold, with one final deep caress, that has Merry jerking away in horror, but in arousal too, withdraws and resumes its ministrations on his by now far more interested flesh. Once, just to see what it was like, Merry took a playmate to a field of pristine snow, and they laughed in the cold, and hardly undressed at all, and had a blanket too, so it was probably not at all what such an experience was meant to be. But, Merry finds that the memory is precious now, because he knows what such things are meant to feel like, warmth puffing out into frigid air on the end of a sputtered giggle, or maybe a fractured gasp, fingers and noses red and glowing in the cold, the trailing of sweet kisses barely felt in the numbing air. He struggles to keep those memories, to hold on to them, as he is stroked again and again, by a hand that can hold all of him, as a hobbit never could, not quite, and so he is surrounded by cold, and by heat too, because he can’t prevent the inevitable building of pressure, however much he wants to. And as he scrabbles blindly, desperately trying to press himself away from the frigid touch, that clever, careful touch, his one thought of comfort in all the horror, the one thing he knows he must be glad of, is that it could so easily be Pippin lying here. It very nearly was. And that is a thing to be grateful for, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Although very nearly, Merry isn’t, very nearly he wants to cry out for an ending to this, for it to be someone else, even Pippin, and the realisation of that hurts worst of all. Then his flailing hand catches on something at last. It is long and smooth, the cool of metal at one end, with the slight roughness of criss-cross bindings down its length, and he grasps it like one drowning. It is a handle, a sword handle, he realises at last, in that second, that split second, just as little flashes of light are sparking in his vision, under his lids, just as the tide rolling in him is reaching its highest level, just as he cannot prevent his peak from cresting and spilling over the frozen hand that holds him, and drawing part of his life away. In that split second of pain, of agony and ecstasy, he strikes blindly upwards with all his strength. The eager greedy moaning of the Wight escalates into a screech, painful on his ears, and horribly suddenly the hands are removed, even as Merry feels a greater weight of cold travel down his arm, to lodge in his heart, and the sword hisses and feels lighter in his hand. Desperately he opens his eyes, groping for some freedom, for some relief, for some knowledge of whether he has succeeded, and in the instant of time before the pale light is extinguished, Merry sees the figure of the Wight rearing in agony, but unbalanced now, uneven in its looming shadows. And, good, thinks Merry once more, his mind exhausted with horror, his consciousness fracturing at last, as he drops into a darkness blacker than the one shuttering the passageway. Good, thinks Merry, more viciously than he had ever thought himself capable of before, I am glad. I cut off his arm. I cut off his arm, and I am very, very glad... *** With a jerk, Merry snaps awake again, his heart beating fast. And the dream fades and dies. It seems he is just not going to have an easy time of it tonight. Too much has happened today, too many things, and his unconscious mind is spilling it all into nightmares. That must be it. Of course, that must be it. Anything else would be… ridiculous. He is hard again too, but this time Merry creeps his hand down to cup himself, a little blind reassurance, and his fingers are warm on cool flesh. He shivers a little, and hopelessly wishes the nightmares could be a little less vivid. They will have an early start in the morning, and the road will be hard and difficult, he has no doubt. As his heartbeat begins to calm, he listens for the slow breathing of his companions, and the slight crackle and hiss of the small fire. And that at least does reassure him. All is safe now, and he is grateful for it. All is safe, with Pippin lying beside him, and Frodo too. All is safe, and no dream, however disturbing or horrible, has any power over him any more...

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: Nickey

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/20/05

Original Post: 05/31/05

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