Gandalf hitched up the "filthy wizard cloth" of the remains of his cloak as he raced up the Orthanc steps, with the other hand firmly grasping his staff. "Should never have left him!" he muttered as he reached the entrance to the platform.
As he flung open the door, the sight he had most dreaded met him. Merry and King Théoden were both overshadowed by the terrible steed of the Nazgûl, which spat venom and bile, while the wraith itself was reaching forward to clasp the little hobbit.
As it touched Merry, Gandalf heard the wraith's scream before he saw it draw back as though burned. The wizard raised his staff above his head and, as he moved between the deadly creature and the hobbit, his raiment began to glow with fierce white light. He roared at the threatening shape. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"
"Foolish old wizard!" The wraith spat back, "I will take what is mine, stand aside before I cleave thee to reach it!"
"There is naught here for you!" Gandalf brought his staff down on the flags causing a flash of brilliance to light the Orthanc tower. "Be gone while you may!"
"Saruman, gave tribute to the Dark Lord." The Nazgûl snarled, retreating to remount his vile steed. "He will have what is His. The wraith pointed his apparently empty sleeve at Merry, although the terrified hobbit alone saw a long, white, bony finger. "This one already dwells in the Shadow. He is mine. He shall be borne away beyond all darkness, where his flesh shall be devoured and his shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Be silent and be gone!" Gandalf roared as finally his power prevailed.
The foul creature rose up on its winged steed and, screeching into the night, flew off, momentarily blocking out the stars.
Théoden had regained his feet and gone to Merry's side. "Meriadoc? Take my hand. Meriadoc? Merry?"
The small figure put his hand into that of the King's but still stood transfixed as if turned to stone. Gandalf knelt in front of him and took hold of his face. "Merry? Can you hear me?"
"C-can he do that Gandalf?" Merry eventually stuttered, "all those terrible things?"
"They were just threats to make you afraid." Gandalf stroked Merry's hair off his face. "Just because Saruman offered you and Pippin to Sauron doesn't mean you are His."
"B-but I could s-see him, Gandalf." Merry was trembling now. "He was all white, an ancient king – like Frodo saw at Weathertop when he wore…" he trailed off remembering that he was not supposed to talk about the Ring.
Gandalf took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly before speaking. "We must take you far away from here, as quickly as possible. Tonight! Just in case the creature returns to seek you. You should not be in Isengard."
"But where should I go?" Merry clasped Théoden's hand a little tighter, a slight note of panic creeping into his voice. "And Gandalf, what about Pippin? Where is he? Is he all right? Will he come too?"
"Do not fear, Merry, we will look after you both." The wizard could see that the little warrior was exhausted and on the point of collapse. "Come, let me carry you down the stairs."
"Can't I walk? I think I'll be all right." As Merry took a step, his legs suddenly betrayed him and he slumped forward. Gandalf scooped him up gently and rested the small weight on his shoulder.
Théoden held back the half open door for the wizard to pass through. "What's to be done?" He asked looking at the unconscious hobbit with concern.
"I fear greatly for him." Gandalf shook his head wearily. "I ask so much of these little ones and yet they seem to cope with all manner of horrors. Perhaps I underestimate them."
"You said he must leave here tonight." Théoden walked in front of Gandalf and his small burden. "I could send him to Rohan. He would be well cared for."
"That may be the best plan." Gandalf sighed. "His cousin, young Peregrin is too ill to travel and needs more healing. It will distress them both to be apart at a time like this." Gandalf lifted Merry a little higher on his shoulder. "But I fear there is no help for it."
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.