98. Requiescat In Pace
Beta and additional material: MarigoldG
Additional material borrowed from: Prof J R R Tolkien
Legolas gasped as if it were his last breath. The ailing elf clutched at his still bleeding chest in anguish and opened his eyes wide. "No, please, come back!" He called to the thin air.
"Legolas? What happened? Are you wounded?" Gimli knelt before him, his face filled with concern and questions, especially as he could now discern tear tracts on the elf's white cheeks. "Merry? Pippin? How fare they?"
"It's Merry!" Legolas sat forward, the blood now seeping prolifically through his fingers, "He has gone completely and taken his pain with him. I don't feel it or him anymore." Legolas was more distraught at the loss than anything Gimli had seen before. "He leaves a terrible void in my soul where he once dwelt and now all I can feel is Pippin's overwhelming grief!"
"Young Meriadoc?" Gimli shook his head in disbelief at what he was hearing. "Are you saying he is lost? Is there nothing we can do?"
"N-nothing, I fear. He is b-beyond this world now." Legolas breathed deeply, trying to master his grief.
"There was a dreadful scream, Legolas," Gimli steadied the elf with a hand on his shoulder. He whispered in awe, "is that what took Merry? It sounded like a wraith, but more terrible. All about that I saw, comrade and enemy alike, crouched still in horror at the sound."
"It was the Witch King." Legolas breathed. "It was his death cry." The elf looked up at the clearing sky. "He is defeated! Gimli it was the bravest fight! Éowyn and Merry defeated his physical form, although I do not know all that happened in the living world, but Merry and Pippin… I cannot find the words to truly describe what took place; they joined their minds and battled him as one being. It – it was incredible, a wonder to behold, but even at the moment of victory Merry fell with him. I felt his sacrifice, he could not prevail without giving of himself and Pippin would have fallen too, the Witch King had a pull on the one warrior they had become."
Legolas paused for breath, looking up at Gimli to see his eyes grow wider with every word. "At the last moment Merry pulled him and Pippin apart and sent Pippin back. Pippin lives, but is drowning in sorrow, his heart is broken, I fear deeply for him. But Merry is gone I no long sense his life force – he is gone – gone!" The elf dropped his head down into his hands and wept.
Gimli stood in silence, for the moment too overcome for words. After a while Legolas looked up again. "Éowyn lives yet. I feel her soul faintly, she is as one in death, but there is still life."
Gimli felt sore at heart at the dreadful news was at a loss to know what to do for the best, so he resorted to the practical, "Come," he muttered gruffly and took Legolas's arm, "see if you can stand. Lean upon me and we will go to seek out Gandalf and find some means to bind your wound."
Théoden raised his head from the mud. His senses were returning gradually, slowed by age and inactivity. When he was young, the king thought, he would have leapt to his feet in a moment, but now the effort to move at all seemed like an impossible uphill climb. He remembered steering Snowmane away from the halfling, who was crawling on his hands and knees, and then falling from the stricken beast. He remembered the terrible presence of the Witch King and Éowyn standing beside him, while brave, blind little Merry had tried to stagger to his feet. Then the fearsome beast that the Wraith Lord rode had swung its great head around. Théoden had not seen it coming until it was too late, so swift was the foul thing's movement. The hideous skull had hit him like an iron mace and he had fallen.
He remembered no more until now and as he lifted up his eyes he beheld the terrifying sight of the black-scaled beast that had attacked him. It was laid low and foul steam was rising from its decapitated body. Merry stood in the wreck of the slime covered creature, his little sword held up in defiance, but at what, Théoden could not see. The hobbit rushed forward to stab at nothing and Éowyn followed behind him, swinging her sword one-handed in a cutting blow.
At first Théoden thought his Sisterdaughter was attacking Merry, he could see nothing else there, but as her blow swung round there was an unearthly cry that reverberated across the whole land. A silver crown spun through the air and fell to the ground as if she smote off the head of an invisible foe, then Éowyn's sword broke, sparkling into many shards and Théoden knew it was the Witch King.
The two warriors had collapsed forward, each dropping their swords and clasping their ears as the cry had come, lying across each other and now Éowyn lay motionless on the scorched ground, her body shielding that of the little hobbit as the battle raged on around them. But as Théoden eventually managed to rise to his feet he saw that the sky lightened and the lowering black shadow started to pass away allowing the blessed sun to break through. But although the darkness was almost gone, it seemed as if it had moved into his heart instead. His beloved Sisterdaughter lay unmoving on the battlefield amid the ruin of the invisible but terrible foe, whilst he was still living, gladly would Théoden have given his own life to have prevented this.
The King staggered towards the fallen maid and dropped to his knees at her side. "Éowyn! Éowyn!" Théoden cried, "Of all the warriors who should fall you were the one I could least spare, dearer than daughter." As he lifted Éowyn's still body up into his lap he saw his valiant swordthain, crumpled up into a tiny shape, lifeless on the ground.
"Merry?" Théoden reached out a hand to touch his curls, "Then you both are slain, I feared such a pass, but did not imagine to what valorous end you would come. To have laid low so terrible and mighty an enemy you have made such a noble and final sacrifice and perhaps too well have you both served your King and Rohan. Merry you spoke truly of the minstrels and ballad makers finding many deeds for their songs this day. And of all, yours and Éowyn's shall be the best remembered and most valiant deed."
Théoden felt tears spring to his eyes as he kissed Éowyn gently upon her brow and made ready to lift her up into his arms. Before he could, at that moment, there was a great clamour and all about them horns and trumpets were blowing. Théoden looked up, in his grief he had almost forgotten about the war, but now he saw that they were in danger of being caught in the very middle of the great battle. The conflict had swept past where they were and was now fiercer to the south but would soon move back across the vast field.
New forces of the enemy were hastening up the road from the river and from under the walls came the legions of Morgul and from the southward fields came footmen of Harad with horsemen before them and behind them rose the huge backs of the mûmakil with war-towers upon them.
But northward the white crest of Éomer led the great front of the Rohirrim, which he had again gathered and marshalled and out of the City came all the strength of men that was in it and the silver swan of Dol Amroth was borne in the van, driving the enemy from the Gate.
Éomer, seeing his Uncle, rode up in haste and with him came the knights of the household that still lived and had now mastered their horses. They looked in wonder at the carcase of the fell beast that lay there and their steeds would not go near. But Éomer leaped from the saddle and grief and dismay fell upon him as he came to the King and knelt at his stricken sister's side, taking her cold hand in his. "Éowyn, Éowyn, you lie so still? I cannot believe you perish in battle. What dread foe brought this about?"
Théoden laid Éowyn back into his lap. "Your beloved sister and Meriadoc showed great courage and between them they have battled and defeated the Witch King. Although they fought together, it was scarce an even match. The Wraith Lord in his might scattered a whole éored and yet the tiny halfling and maid stood firm before him and, in the end, prevailed. The cry that you heard was his death scream, but I fear they have perished with him."
"So the prophecy had come to pass." A voice they knew made Théoden and Éomer look up in surprise. There was Aragorn at the head of the Dunedin seated on a great horse. "We arrive in the midst of battle to find the greatest deed completed by a fair maid and a small hobbit." He dismounted and knelt beside Merry's curled up form, placing his hand gently on the halfling's brow. "Yet it was foretold by Glorfindel that no man could defeat the Witch King of Angmar and so it proved. Even as my own prophecy was fulfilled, so too have Meriadoc and Éowyn brought about another." Aragorn could not prevent the tears that fell from his eyes and he shook his head slowly in sadness as he ran his fingers down Merry's cheek, finding no sign of life. "It is strange to think that even as I left you both to follow my own destiny, yours was equally determined by the fates. But the loss of your precious life, Merry grieves my heart sorely."
Turning him over the ranger saw the terrible wound across Merry's chest and the blood soaked shirt showing through the slashed open jerkin. "Such a cut as this must have been a sore trial to bear, and yet I think it is not what overcame you." Aragorn traced his finger lightly over the gash. "Did the Witch King retaliate?"
"I witnessed no such strike, the Wraith must have struck first." Théoden gasped at the blood-covered chest. "I am certain Meriadoc fought even after he was wounded. He truly had a great heart and valiant spirit."
Then Aragorn turned to Éowyn, cradled still in the King's gentle arms. "Éowyn, I did not know that you would ride to battle, yet it does not amaze me that you accomplish greater deeds than a man might attempt." But as the ranger touched his hand to her cheek he noticed a slight mist of breath upon his vambrace. "My Lords Théoden, Éomer," he held the metal arm cover there longer, so all could see. "She is hurt, to the death maybe, but I deem that she yet lives!"
"Éowyn! It is a Grace that you are spared." The King eased her armour a little looser and Éomer helped him. "We will take her to the City with due haste, and trust we are in time." Together they lifted her up as the King ordered the men to fashion a bier and on that they placed Éowyn to carry her into the City.
Then Théoden turned to his heir, "Go now Éomer, you shall bear my standard into the battle, my fighting is done, my steed is slain and my rule is finished."
"Surely my Lord, you would lead the men on," Éomer pointed to the raging battle. "The day is not yet won."
"It is yours for the taking now, Éomer." Théoden said, "I am weary, when this war is fought and won you shall rule in my stead, I am too grieved for now to continue and I would see that Éowyn is given the best healing the City can offer."
The King beckoned forward his two faithful henchmen, Drâmym and Unomer who had appeared from the throng and had, with shock and then grief, caught sight of Merry lying at Théoden's feet. "Is there no bier on which to lay my swordthain?" Théoden asked sadly.
"There is none my Lord," Drâmym said, "But I will carry the Meriadoc from the field in my arms."
"Let him be borne forth as the warrior that he is," Théoden declared, turning to bend and retrieve his golden shield that had fallen in the fight "If no bier can be found, place him upon my shield. It is fitting that the noble armour, which he bore for his King, should now bear him from the field in great honour."
"Indeed, my Lord." Aragorn said as the King laid his purple cloak upon the upturned shield and the ranger carefully lifted Merry's small body up and reverently laid him upon the makeshift bier. "None but a halfling could fit such a pall," Aragorn kissed Merry's brow, "but it is fitting for one who slew an enemy no man among us could master."
Aragorn picked up Merry's sword and as he did the blade smoked like a dried branch and then crumbled and turned to ash. Aragorn laid the hilt at Merry's side and, taking his little hands in his he squeezed them gently to his heart before laying them crossed over the halfling's still breast.
"Goodnight, sweet Merry," he whispered. "I know the Valar will receive you with love and honour, dear friend."
Gandalf held Pippin closely to him. The hobbit was quivering and pressing his hands tightly over his ears, his eyes squeezed shut.
Beregond looked frantically from the wizard to the Steward who was now beyond help, his clothes were in flames and the wood and oil around, him an unapproachable conflagration. The smell of burning flesh was unmistakable and as Gandalf urged the soldier back towards the door, a mighty cry rang out from Denethor's lips and, still clutching the palantír in his hand, the last Steward of Gondor fell to his destruction upon the pyre.
Gandalf pulled the door closed behind them to shut off the stench of burning and set Pippin down on the ground so that he could take a better look at him. Pippin immediately flopped down to the ground, partly because his singed feet were painful, but mostly from grief and despair.
"Peregrin? Peregrin Took? Do you hear me?" The wizard bent down and lifted Pippin's chin a little so that he could see into his face. The hobbit was distraught, tears streaming from his eyes, as he hiccupped great sobs, not aware of anything around him. Gandalf guessed and knew insightfully much of what had happened. Pippin had cried out, that could mean only one thing, the Witch King had been slain and the spell was broken, but by whose hand had he perished and at what cost.
"Pippin, Pip." Gandalf tried again. "I know the Wraith Lord is dead, I heard his cry and I know you can hear and speak again. Can you tell me what occurred?"
Pippin kept his ears covered but looked at Gandalf at last. He whimpered in a tiny voice, "Merry dead… dead… gone… "
He sobbed and this time the wizard asked him no more but enfolded him in his arms, soothing his back with small pats and whispering, "there, there…" as he had when Pippin was a small child and had hurt himself or more often, been caught out in some mischief.
He remembered suddenly a warm summer's day in The Shire when a group of hobbit lads had been pilfering in his cart while it stood outside Bag End. They had obviously thrown Pippin, the smallest, up into the back and told him to throw things down to them. But when the wizard had caught them with a roar the big boys had run off leaving little Peregrin Took, unable to jump down from the big cart, to take the blame.
The little lad had at first bravely stood his ground and claimed an eagle had picked him up and dropped him there by accident. When Gandalf told him that the eagles were personal friends of his and that he would check the story, Pippin had broken down and confessed. Just as the wizard said he would inform the Thain of his wickedness Meriadoc Brandybuck, who had obviously crept back to the scene of the crime, tugged at his cloak and, trembling with fear, had claimed it was all his fault, he had put Pippin up there, he was very sorry and please don't tell the Thain.
That was when Pippin had cried bitterly, saying he was so sorry and please don't punish Merry and they'd both be good forever and ever and don't turn Merry into anything horrid! Gandalf had comforted the frightened little hobbit and patted his back and said he was forgiven this time and not to do it again. Merry had sniffed a little too, wiping unshed tears on the back of his sleeve and Gandalf had finally given them both a special ride on his cart. He remembered sadly the happy, proud grins on their faces sitting proudly up on the bench beside him as they jogged through Hobbiton.
Now in this tragedy the wizard held Pippin close again as he sobbed his painful grief that could have no end. In all his wisdom there was nothing, no words, Gandalf the White could think of to comfort the hobbit – or himself.
Legolas and Gimli had made their way slowly back from the Gate. Legolas was still touching lightly Pippin's mind, attempting to stroke and soothe him in much the same way that Gandalf was doing in the physical world, but his grief was too enormous to make much impression on it. Nevertheless he could feel the perian moving towards them, carried in Gandalf's arms.
As they came into view, in spite of the sun reaching through the cloud, a drizzle of rain had started and all the land seemed to weep with it. Gandalf, on spying Legolas and Gimli, hurried forward with Pippin carried on his shoulder, the hobbit's feet blistered from the flames adding to the pain of his broken bone, but in any case, too distraught to attempt to walk now. Beregond followed discretely behind.
The wizard set Pippin down as the two parties met and Legolas knelt on one knee as he drew Pippin to him, the hobbit burying his face in the elf's shoulder but still holding his hands over his ears.
'Pippin, listen to me.'
'Pippin, Merry wanted you to live. That's why he went without you.'
'not go be live… not got mer…'
"Pippin?" Legolas spoke very softly, trying to ease Pippin's hands off his ears. "You can hear now can't you? And speak?"
Pippin blinked at Legolas, trying to decipher the difference between out-loud and mind-speak, "No, it go too loud," he whispered between sobs. The hobbit was so accustomed to his silent world that every slight sound was reverberating painfully in his head. 'it go hurt i much legolas…'
'All right little one.' Legolas turned to Gandalf, "Can you bind his ears with something just for now? The sudden volume of his newly found hearing is painful to him."
Gandalf nodded and took a piece of cloth from inside the bag he always carried, glad to have something practical to do for the hobbit, he bound it around Pippin's brow making a little pad over each of the pointed ears to muffle the sound for him. The wizard wondered vaguely what had become of the little soldier's helm, but he suspected Pippin had always found it uncomfortable in any case. "There," he asked quietly, "is that better?"
Pippin waited for a moment and then nodded. Gandalf was glad that he was taking notice at last, although he now seemed to be stunned and in shock. The wizard encouraged him to sit on a step, while he helped Gimli to bind Legolas's wound with more bandages brought by Beregond after which they bound up Pippin's blistered feet.
Just as they had finished tying off the bindings, they heard the sound of commotion coming from the City Gate. Legolas stood to gaze into the distance, "It is Théoden," he announced, "He walks at the head of an entourage, I think they bear the fallen into the City. I must go down."
"Wait Legolas," Gandalf lifted his hand. "This may not be the best thing for Peregrin, I will take him to the lodgings and perhaps you should seek some further help from the healers for your wound."
"Sorry I Gandalf." The wizard looked round in surprise. Pippin was tugging at his robe. The wizard had become so accustomed to the hobbit not hearing or speaking, he had forgotten for the moment that he was listening. Pippin's speech was still very quiet and muddled and interspersed with heaving sobs, "I want - need to - go at see who it – p-please. I think it M-Merry."
The sad procession was entering the City Gates as wizard, elf, dwarf and hobbit came to meet it. The people who stood back to let them pass were in awe at the sight. The great King Théoden led the cortège and behind him was borne a beautiful maiden, with flowing golden hair, but clad as a warrior, she lay on a stretcher, which was carried at each corner by a fair soldier of the Rohirrim.
Following the maiden's bier was a great shield of gold carried by two warriors and, cushioned on a regal purple robe, lay a perian, his broken sword at his side, his chest bloody and torn, while his face, framed in fair curls, was deathly pale.
Pippin tugged at Gandalf's arm, "Please, put I down," he was still whispering, his own voice sounding painfully loud. "I have go see my Merry." The wizard complied and set him gently on the pavement and he stumbled as fast as he could on his sore feet towards the group.
Unomer and Drâmym saw him coming and placed the shield on the ground with great care. Drâmym stood aside as Pippin knelt beside the strange pall and took Merry's lifeless hand in his. The grief that fell from the tiny knight was almost too immense to contemplate. Slowly he brought his face down to rest on Merry's cold cheek and gently kissed the still lips. Then Pippin curled his body around his cousin's as if the heat of his body could leech enough warmth into the cold flesh to bring him back to life.
"Merry, Merry?" Pippin whispered it frantically into the delicate pointed ear. Please not leave I, please come back. I love you Merry. I not live without you. I can go talk again and go hear now, can you see again? Please open your eyes Merry, please look at me, Merry, Merry, please, if you love me, don't go, don't go."
"Pippin, dear heart," Legolas gently put his hand on Pippin's back. "I think Merry has gone my little one. Come away now. You have to let him rest in peace."
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.