Chapter Eleven: Farewell, My Friend
<strong>September 19, 1484</strong>
A loud pounding on the door startled Sam from his reading and he rose with surprising swiftness from his chair.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” he said as a boom of thunder sounded beneath the eager and powerful knocks that came from the other side of the round door. “Be patient!”
He swung open the door and a rather wet and exhausted Merry fell into his living room, panting slightly and grasping something tight in his hand.
“Merry!” Sam exclaimed. “What in the Shire are you doing here in this kind of weather? Here, let me take that.” Sam lifted the dripping cloak off his friend and hung it to dry on a peg by the door. He stepped back and began walking towards the kitchen. “You must be freezing. Would you like tea?”
Merry had caught his breath and was able to respond. “Yes, thank you, Sam. Tea would be wonderful.” He began walking towards the old armchair in front of the warm fireplace. “I’m so sorry for barging in like this and all, but I’ve got some news that couldn’t wait.”
“That’s quite alright, Merry, quite alright. You know you’re always welcome here,” Sam’s faint voice replied from the kitchen.
Merry put the paper he had been holding into his pocket and warmed his hands in the heat of the fire with a content sigh. He turned and examined the small room in the dim light of the candles; aging books filled aging bookcases, odd trinkets and family heirlooms rested on the tops of forgotten papers, and the dust on old picture frames made the paintings beneath almost impossible to discern from a distance. Merry smiled; the room seemed like it hadn’t changed a bit since he saw it last. Even dear old Frodo and Bilbo kept it in the same shape and appearance.
A large book with red binding that sat on the side table next to the large armchair caught his attention. He recognized it as the Red Book of Westmarch; the one Frodo had given to Sam before his departure for the Grey Havens. The book was open. Merry leaned forward and read off the page:
#8216;While trying to heal from the pains of my injuries, I’ve come to one decision: I must leave. I cannot stay here and be a burden to Sam any longer. My wounds are deep and cannot be healed. The Shire is no longer my home. I’m leaving for the Grey Havens, with Bilbo and Gandalf and the Elves. Sam doesn’t know it yet. But he will understand; he will join me when he can, but not yet…’
“Would you like sugar, Merry?”
Merry started and pulled his eyes away from the book to see Sam staring at him from inside the kitchen. He smiled thankfully and responded, “Sugar would be wonderful, Sam. Thank you.”
Sam nodded and dropped a teaspoon of sugar into the dark tea. He placed the two cups on a wooden tray, which he carried out to the living room where his friend was waiting. He handed Merry his cup and sat down in the old armchair, motioning Merry towards the couch.
“Have a seat, Merry.” He smiled warmly and took a sip from his cup.
Merry smiled gratefully and laughed. “I would, Sam, but I’m afraid I’d get your couch all soaked! Awful weather outside.” He shuddered as he remembered the cold pounding rain he traveled through to get to Bag End. Another roll of thunder shook the windowpanes as an affirmation of Merry’s observation.
Sam shook his head. “Now, now, Merry, don’t you worry about nothing. Water dries, does it not?”
Merry smiled and sat slowly down on the welcoming couch. “I suppose it does.”
Sam placed his teacup carefully on the side table next to the Red Book and leaned forward to look at Merry. “Well, Merry?” he asked curiously. “What could possibly posses you to come to Bag End in the freezing rain?”
Merry laughed softly. “Strange weather for the Shire, isn’t it? Even for this time of year, the rain is never this strong. Or this cold. But anyway, on to what I came to tell you: I received a letter earlier this week.”
“Oh?” Sam cocked his head in interest. “What sort of letter was it?”
Merry reached into his pocket and drew out the crumpled piece of parchment. Its binding was accented with a rich gold and red pattern, and the hand that the lettering was written in was elegant and profound. It was obviously Very Important, or at least came from someone who was.
Merry unfolded the creases gently and cleared his throat.
“Master Holdwine,” he read aloud:
“I am writing to you on behalf of Lord Éomer, son of Éomond and King of Rohan, who greatly requests your presence in the royal city of Edoras as soon as you are able to arrive. The King has fallen ill and wishes for you to come and see him so he may bid you his final farewells before his passing. Please come in haste as the amount of days the King has left is unknown, yet his chances of surviving much longer are doubtful.”
Merry began folding the letter back up and shook his head. “And it just goes on with signatures and ‘respectfully yours’es from there.” He shoved the parchment back into his pocket and sighed.
Sam leaned against the back of his chair and frowned as he rubbed his forefinger and thumb together thoughtfully. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath; he knew what this was leading up to.
“And you’re leaving.”
Sam opened his eyes to see Merry nod.
“Tonight?!” Sam’s outburst caused Merry to jump slightly. “Merry, why such haste? And in this weather?” A loud roll of thunder shook the windows of Bag End. Sam motioned outside to emphasize the point that was just made. “You’ll catch your death ‘fore you even reach as far as Bree!”
“I have to go, Sam!” Merry looked at Sam with pleading desperation. “I won’t let him die before I can reach him.”
“Leave now and you’ll die before you can reach him.”
“But, Sam,” Merry continued to protest, “I’ve packed and am ready to leave immediately! Stybba is outside now, under the cover of the think overhanging branches of the mallorn tree just out front. I can’t leave him outside all night, and Bag End has no place for proper stabling.”
Sam stood, walked to the window, and peered out into the hazy yard. He could see the dark form of the pony as Merry had said, to the side of the road covered by the huge branches of the tree that sprouted out of the top of the hill. It, of course, wasn’t the same pony Merry had ridden home from Gondor on, but was a descendant of the same and was given the same name. Sam lowered his head in thought. Stybba was larger than most ponies, after all he’d have to be to carry Merry, but he was still small enough to squeeze into a hobbit hole.
After the few moments of silence that followed, Sam looked back up at Merry to give him his decision. “You’ll not be going nowhere in such weather; I won’t let you. Bag End is a large place and Stybba is well disciplined. He will come inside.” Merry opened his mouth to protest, but Sam raised his hand to stop him. The tone of his voice changed from demanding to pleading. “Merry, please. Just until the storm lets up.”
Merry let out a heavy sigh and rested his aching head against the back of the couch. “Very well, Sam, but only until the storm lets up. The moment the rain stops, I’m off, and I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night.” He turned to look outside where sheets of rain pounded relentlessly against the window. “Which is possible; after all, it’s only early evening.”
Sam nodded. “Fair enough. Now let’s get that pony out of the cold.”
Merry stood and followed Sam outside, trying to shield himself and his friend from the large droplets with his already soaked cloak.
Almost 5 hours had passed, and Merry still had not left. He lay spread out on the couch, his hand lightly stroking Stybba’s dark muzzle. Sam shifted in the armchair, stretched, and yawned. He stared at the dying fire in the hearth and wondered whether he should put another log on. He turned his gaze outside and decided it wouldn’t be necessary; the rain was gradually slowing to a soft sprinkle. A knot formed in his stomach as he realized what this meant.
“The rain should stop soon.” He said gloomily. Merry slowly raised his eyes up to meet his friend’s sad smile. “I guess you’d best get ready to leave.”
Merry turned his tired eyes from Sam to the foggy window and saw that the branches of the mallorn and the winding road beyond the small gate were finally visible. He nodded slowly and replied, “I suppose you’re right.”
He sat up on the couch and stretched his sore muscles. Sam rose and disappeared into the kitchen. Merry watched him vanish and turned to his loyal pony. He rubbed the animal’s back and smiled warmly as Stybba rose clumsily to its feet.
“Well, Stybba,” he said as he scratched behind the pony’s pointed ear, “are you ready? You’ll be making the same journey your dear old dad made all those years ago, except backwards in a way.”
“Here you are, I’ve fixed a little something for you and Stybba while you were sleeping.” Sam emerged from the kitchen, carrying a large bag and sporting a nice shade of red on his round cheeks. “It ain’t much, I’m afraid, but it’ll do for a couple of days, or so I hope, but then again I know how a pony and hobbit like to eat, so there’s no guarantee in that.”
Merry opened the bag when Sam handed it to him and saw a collection of sandwiches, mushrooms, and carrots, along with a small pot and pan for cooking them in. He looked back up at Sam with a wide smile across his face. “Thank you, Sam. You’ve already gone through enough trouble on my account tonight; you didn’t have to do this.”
Sam nodded and the tint on his cheeks deepened. “I know, Merry. But I wanted to.”
The two exchanged warm smiles and Stybba stamped his foot impatiently against the floor. Merry laughed light-heartily and took up the pony’s reigns. Sam helped navigate him around the furniture and rug to the large, green door and hesitantly took hold of the smooth knob. Merry retrieved his slightly drier cloak from the peg, clasped the Fellowship broach around his neck, and dropped his arms to his side.
The wind whistled between the windowpanes and the two stood in silence, both with downcast eyes and sorrowful hearts.
Sam cleared his throat. “I guess… I guess this is goodbye.”
Merry nodded silently, his eyes still fixed on the hairs of his feet.
Sam wiped his eyes quickly with his sleeve and sniffed casually. “Well, Merry, I wish you well…” Sam felt a choke coming on and coughed loudly to cover it.
Merry looked up and smiled solemnly at his friend. “Dear Sam, you’ve been a wonderful companion to me these past few years; I doubt I’d have survived them without your support. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” He placed a grateful hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
Sam fought the tears that were burning hot in his eyes and smiled. “And you’ve been a dear friend to me and the one hobbit I knew I could always come to. You would understand all that I could feel and go through, Merry.” Sam surprised himself at his words; did he really say all that? He didn’t know he had it in him. “Never doubt that you won’t be missed dearly.”
Merry’s watering eyes shone in the flickering of the candles. He looked down and dried the corner of his eyes as he pulled another damp paper out from his shirt pocket and handed it to Sam.
“If I could ask you for one last favor, Sam,” Merry began as Sam flipped the paper over in his brown hands. “Please share this with my son and daughter. It has my final farewells, though I gave them each one earlier when I told them I was leaving, and a detailed explanation of what is to happen with the estate. I’d greatly appreciate it if you could give this to them.”
Sam nodded and placed the parcel on bookshelf beside him. “Of course, Merry, I’ll call for them tomorrow morning. Or, actually, this morning.” He looked up at the high moon and sighed. “You’d best be off.”
“Yes, yes. I’ve a long road ahead of me.” Sam opened the door and Merry led Stybba out. He turned back and Sam smiled at him warmly.
“May you rest forever in peace, my dear Brandybuck.”
Merry laughed and nodded. “And may you find all that you search for and more beyond the Grey Havens, Master Samwise.”
The two shared a strong, friendly embrace. Merry bent and gave Sam a farewell kiss on his forehead that sent a shiver down his friend’s spine; Frodo had done the same before he boarded the white ship to the Valinor.
Merry slowly turned with a half-saddened, half-relieved sigh. “Well, my friend,” he said into Stybba’s ear as he led the pony slowly towards the gate and onto the road, “let’s begin.”
He paused and silently turned his eyes to behold Bag End for the last time, taking in the sight of the grand hill, beautiful mallorn tree, and bright green door; Sam stood as a dark, motionless silhouette in the doorway. Merry turned his eyes to the road ahead of him and effortlessly mounted the small pony. Stybba shook his mane and slowly stepped out onto the now muddy road.
Sam stood silently and watched as the pony inched out of sight. Merry never turned back, and Sam didn’t expect him to. As the blackness of night slowly engulfed the hobbit and pony, Sam moved back inside and shut the door softly behind him. His heavy feet carried him to the couch, where he gratefully sank into its soft, warm cushions. The fire was no more than a faint light in its own ashes, and the candles in the room were burning low. Sam curled up in the thin comfort of the couch and hugged himself as he wept.
<strong>November 4, 1484</strong>
Merry slowly pulled his chain mail, dagger, belt, and helmet out from his bag and laid them gently on his bed. A cool breeze floated through the open window, sending a chill up his spine.
After several weeks of hard traveling, Merry had finally reached Edoras in late October, and was at King Éomer’s side when he passed. Merry had continued his ride to Minas Tirith alongside Éowyn and Faramir, who had both gone to give the king of Rohan their final farewells. The ride was slow and often silent, but not much time had passed before Merry stood before King Elessar at the mithril gates of the White City. The King had passed by the Brandywine long ago, and Merry was able to see him there and introduce his wife and children. Looking back on the King’s appearance then, Merry could see how greatly Aragorn had aged. It was surprising to see his white head of hair; Merry had for the longest time seen Strider as being so strong and proud that he was in fact immortal. But he was only a man, and Men are mortal.
“Have I forgotten anything?” Merry puzzled as he looked over the articles that were spread before him. He draped his cloak beside the dagger and began to change into his battle gear; he thought he’d save Strider’s men the trouble of having to change him later on.
Upon Merry’s arrival only a day before, he had also noticed that the Lady Arwen seemed no different than when he had last seen her. Still powerful and beautiful, she sat next to the King during the large feast he hosted to celebrate Merry’s return. Merry saw many others he recognized, and shared a wonderful talk with Bergil. Beregond had passed earlier that year, but the son was now a strong member of the army of Gondor and was a respectable man in the city. He was huge now; he seemed to no longer be the small friend Merry confided in all those years ago.
He had noticed with slight annoyance the amount of attention the Men of Gondor gave him; they often stared after him as he walked down the dark stone halls. Whispers followed behind him, all concerning this grim and aged cousin of the Prince of Halflings.
Merry fastened the leaf brooch of his cloak around his neck and drew a deep breath. This was it. He took one last look of himself in the mirror and silently walked out of the room.
After what felt like an agonizingly long walk down the cold and hard stone flooring of the city, Merry felt warm grass beneath his feet again. He could see the mounds before him now; he was almost to the burial area of Rath Dínen. He spotted the mound he had been looking for and dreamt about during the long years since he’d seen it last as they shoveled the dirt over Pippin’s tomb. It was now covered with bright green grass and many small flowers that had yet to taste the bitterness of the fast approaching winter. Merry quickened his pace.
He soon was standing over the grave: Pippin’s grave. He fell to his knees and dropped his old head. “Well, my old friend, I’ve come at last.” His voice started thin and unsure, but grew in strength as Merry felt a reassuring warmth spread over him like a blanket.
“In our hearts I know we believed we would die together on that awful quest. Though I was unable to join you in death then, I’ve come to honor the promise I made to you after they covered you in your grave and had held in my heart since we left for the Journey. I’ve come to die at your side, dear Pippin, as I had planned to do since we set out from Rivendell.” He drew a slow breath and a small sob escaped his throat. “Farewell for only a moment longer, dear cousin, for I will soon be joining you for the rest of forever.”
And with his arm reaching across his heart and his hand lightly grasping the brooch of the Fellowship, the small and weakened hobbit drew his last breath and felt life leave his body. At last, after years of suffering, his heart would be whole and joyous once again.
When the cold of winter comes,
Starless night will cover day.
In the veiling of the sun,
We will walk in bitter rain.
But in dreams,
I can hear your name
And in dreams,
We will meet again.
When the seas and mountains fall
And we come to end of days,
In the dark I hear a call;
Calling me there, I will go there
And back again.