2. Meriadoc Brandybuck
The Sackville-Bagginses are enough to make anyone want to disappear, but when Bilbo literally does just that one sunny afternoon—not knowing a young Brandybuck is around to see—he initiates a chain of events that forces Merry to become very adept at sneaking, lurking, and spying.
The evening before they set out from Crickhollow, Merry finally admits to himself that part of his reason for accompanying Frodo is not for friendship's sake but for his own; he has long been a part of Buckland's defenses, whether against the Old Forest or against Men who venture too near the boundaries, but a good defender is rarely a good adventurer and it is the latter Merry desires to be.
Given the others' anxiety, Merry dares not show his own concern when he can't find the Bonfire Glade or when the only path forward seems to lead south; but when he ventures forward alone for a moment along the River Withywindle, he allows his fear to surface, and he stands trembling and pale beneath the burden of knowing the Old Forest well but not knowing it well enough.
He is Merry, son of the Master of Buckland, but beneath the Wight's shadow, he has become a defender of Arthedain, betrayed by one of his own to the men of Carn Dûm; the Brandybuck within rails against this violation of mind and self, but the spear that bursts through breast and ribs shatters the division and sends any sense of Merry tumbling into black.
They can all feel Frodo growing nervous as Bree's gatekeeper presses them with questions, and the defender in Merry prompts him to take the lead, stepping forward to reveal his own name and claim the other three as hobbits of Buckland—nearly true given how much time Pippin spends in Brandy Hall—for whom Merry will tolerate no more interrogation.
In Bree's dark streets moves an even darker shadow, and Merry follows it silently until something…cold sweeps over him; he falls to the ground, but the ground does not stop his fall and he continues to sink, drowning in deep pools of night that smother the mind, the will, the body, until he finally succumbs with naught more than a whimper of protest.
The adventure has spiraled well beyond Merry's control, Frodo's arm is icy to the touch, Frodo himself grows worse every day, the dreary rain saps everyone's spirits, and Merry has no reckoning of the lands they now travel; helpless against almost everything that besets them, he can only follow Strider blindly, hoping the Ranger continues to prove faithful.
If the journey has taught Merry anything, it is that a good adventurer must know the lay of the land; thus he spends part of his time in Rivendell exploring with Pippin but an even greater portion of his time studying maps of the eastern lands.
Merry stares at distant Caradhras, remembering the difficult climb and deepening snow, and decides he would rather scale the Redhorn ten times over than even attempt to summit the mountain of grief rising in the wake of Gandalf's death.
When Haldir tosses a rope across the Celebrant and explains it is too perilous for Lothlórien to construct permanent bridges, Merry thinks of Rivendell's many bridges and shudders at what this says of the dangers on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains.
Merry has always enjoyed boating and the feel of effortlessly gliding across the water, much like a dance on the river with swirls and turns dependent upon eddies and paddles; of course, like any dance, those new to the steps are bound to experience a few mishaps, which is the excuse Merry gives when he and Boromir accidentally ground their boat atop a sandbar not even an hour after departing Lothlórien.
There is no leak in the elven boat, but Merry still feels he is drowning; a steady trickle of murmurs and mutters fills the space around him, the tension making it difficult to breathe, and he glances uneasily at Boromir, who has somehow become something other than the lordly yet generous man Merry first knew.
The whole world is commotion—banging, shouting, crashing, ringing—and Merry's head spins as he blocks a swinging club with the blade of his sword; Boromir is rushing forward, desperately trying to gain the orcs' attention through taunts and yells, but Merry has not the strength to hold off the weight of the orc and he plummets into darkness when the club slams into his brow.
The edges of his vision blurring, Merry is sorely tempted to collapse and let the orcs do all the walking, but the burning gash on his brow and the thought of enduring more orcish medicine keeps him on his feet much longer than should be possible.
Even as he leads Pippin forward and even as the sounds of battle echo too closely and too loudly behind them, Merry silently wonders if they shouldn't just stop where they are and avoid the looming darkness of Fangorn; they survived the Old Forest only thanks to Tom Bombadil, and once again, Merry finds himself in the position of knowing the land well but not knowing it well enough.
"A few days' time is not long for an Entmoot," Quickbeam tells Merry and Pippin on the evening of the second day, adding that he once watched an inch of mold grow on Leaflock's beard during a particularly long conclave; Merry is not encouraged.
It's only natural to find ease in spoils of war when they present themselves as common comforts, but Merry still berates himself for missing what surely signals trouble for his home; these comforts are common by Shire standards, not Orthanc standards, but it is only after Aragorn points it out that Merry realizes how unnerving it is to find South Farthing pipe-weed in Isengard.
Though the Rohirrim keep to the foothills, Merry cannot help but be intrigued by the distant mounds on the open plains, covered in flowers; in hushed tones, Éomer names the blooms simbelmyné, explaining they cover the tombs of the dead, and when Théoden stirs at this, Merry feels a stir of obligation to the old king, hoping someone in Buckland is looking out for his own father.
Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and even Boromir have all left Merry behind in one way or another, but as he presses close to Dernhelm beneath the dawnless day, trying to look like nothing more than baggage, he smiles grimly at the thought that he is no longer far behind any of them.
The sounds of war seem distant as Merry watches his sword burn away, reminding him of the falling snow that drifted too near their fire atop Caradhras, and feeling the cold in his nerveless arm—all but dead since he struck the Witch-King—he wonders if he will melt away, too.
He has sunk beneath the shadow of the Barrow-downs, fallen into the pools of a Nazgûl's hiss, and cried out at the torments of orcs and orc medicine, but the numbing ice that creeps into his heart after he stabs the Witch-king is darker and deeper than anything he has felt before; when Aragorn reaches down into the night to draw him forth, the Ranger must do more than simply call him back—he must rekindle the flames of his heart and renew the light of his spirit.
Merry quickly understands why Pippin speaks so highly of Faramir after the latter sends for him in the Houses of Healing and offers his company for the day; he also understands why Faramir will make such a good Steward for Aragorn as the man courteously but skillfully keeps turning the conversation back to Merry's impressions of Éowyn.
Stark against the gleaming beauty of Ithilien, Frodo and Sam are pale as wights, and Pippin looks as though a mountain fell atop him; though Aragorn assures him their physical hurts will mend, Merry now knows enough to hear what the King doesn't say, for some wounds strike deeper than flesh and some healing scratches only the surface.
Over time, even some of the Brandybucks wonder when he will return to more sensible clothes, but to Merry, wearing his Rohirrim livery makes more sense than pretending to become someone he is not.
In the years following the War, Merry often feels the tug of adventure and answers the call, but he has never felt it as strongly as when Sam bids farewell and sails over the Sea; though it all began in the Shire, that cannot be where it ends, and thus Merry readily agrees when Pippin suggests the only possible remedy—one final journeyto the lands where an adventure's end will be remembered with honor.
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.