This is the sixth chapter of a fic that I’ve spent the last year writing. It’s an Agst AU that starts at the Black Gates and asks the question of “What if?” What if a member was lost in that battle? How would the Fellowship react?
I’ve tried to keep this story as much in character as I can, and I have worked very hard on it so any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. The end result will be a total of 11 chapters long. Thank you for your time! I hope you enjoy.
April 16, 1419
“Mr. Merry?” Ioreth asked softly and listened for a response.
A long moment of silence from the other side answered her. She shook her head sadly and sighed.
“Mr. Merry, are you there?” she asked again.
A few more seconds of soundlessness passed before she heard a soft voice reply.
“Yes,” it said as if it regretted the answer.
“Good. Now the procession’s gettin’ ready to start. You don’t want to miss the burial, do you?”
An unsure silence followed before the voice sighed.
“No,” it said, sounding only half sure of its answer.
“I didn’t think so. Now hurry along and come on out, or they’ll start without you.”
A small amount of movement could be heard coming from the room before the knob slowly began to turn and the door opened, swinging hesitantly on its rusted hinges. A small form looked out from inside the dark room and turned its eyes up to meet with the healer’s.
Ioreth had never seen the halfing look so small and helpless before, like a child who knew he was about to receive a harsh beating for his misbehavior. She smiled warmly and reached out her hand to place on his shoulder.
“Come along, Mr. Merry,” she said, “it won’t last long.”
Merry looked down to the ground and stepped out from the door, shutting it quietly behind him. He fingered his Fellowship broach as he walked heavily out of the houses and to the graves of Rath Dínen. The mounds loomed in from of him ominously, and he could see a mound of brown sand that was waiting eagerly to cover Pippin. An open stone casket was placed in the grass beside it.
Heads turned as Ioreth and Merry slowly approached. Merry lifted his head to look around him. At the side of the casket, Merry saw Bergil standing with dried tears and a downcast face. He tightly held the larger hand of his father Beregond, who was staring sadly into the casket, his head shaking slowly and tears streaming down his cheeks.
Merry’s eyes continued to scan the people present and saw Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn standing among the many Gondorian soldiers present, including a teary-eyed Captian Faramir. Frodo and Sam were standing off to the side of the mounds, looking sadly in the direction of the stone casket. Sam looked down at the ground and then in Merry’s direction. He tapped Frodo on the shoulder and nodded over to the new arrival.
Merry stood silently as the two slowly approached him. Tears were shinning in both their eyes. Frodo walked up to Merry’s side and gently took hold of his arm. On the other side, Sam did the same.
“Merry,” Frodo addressed his cousin in a soft voice, “will you go see Pippin with us?”
Merry raised his head and looked at the beautiful stone casket only a few feet away. A knot formed in his throat when he realized that that stone casket held Pippin. He fought back the tears and nodded his head slowly. Frodo and Sam began to lead the slightly hesitant Merry towards the casket.
Merry reached out to the edge of the stone as they approached it and stopped. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, trying to ready himself for the blow. When he opened his eyes and lowered them to see the form lying before him, he gripped the sides of the coffin and a cry escaped from the depths of his throat where he’d held it for the past several days.
The sight that met his eyes looked both terribly noble and grim. The small Hobbit was dressed in a gleaming mail shirt and clad in the armor of Gondor, over which was his slightly torn Elven cloak. His arms were crossed over the silver tree on his chest and his white hands rested on his short blade from the Barrow-wights. A headband made of cold silver wrapped around his forehead, and a bright circlet in the center contained a single glittering green gem. Had Merry not seen the scar on Pippin’s hand from a tree-climbing accident in the Shire, he would have not believed this was his dear, playful cousin. He looked so white; so awfully tragic.
Merry could hold it in no longer. He collapsed and began to weep. Frodo knelt and embraced his cousin, getting neither rejected nor pushed away as Merry finally allowed for the contact. He buried his face into Frodo’s shoulder and they both cried.
As Merry stood to the side, endless tears streaming relentlessly down his face, and watched them lower Pippin into the ground, he felt a part of him also retreating into the depths of the tomb. He winced as the first shovel of dirt was dropped onto the closed casket.
A sad voice softly singing threads of sad words rose up from among the crowd. The King Elessar began to sing a lament, and as the people listened to his words their eyes began to fill again with tears of despair.
Leaving the golden hills of home,
He longed to follow his friend
From fertile lands to halls of stone,
Where he met his end.
Through Elven-halls and Dwarf-lands cold,
Over mountains and through the streams,
His Journey will be sung and told
And be remembered in our dreams.
A body only half Man’s size,
But courage many times stronger,
Alas! For our dear Prince demised,
The Halfling shall breathe no longer.
At the end of the lament, silence once again dominated the fields. Many others felt moved enough to add their own verses, but most felt too weak with sadness to do so.
Merry watched as the coffin slowly disappeared under the sand and knew, with every fiber of his being and thread of his heart, that he wouldn’t allow for Pippin to be buried among the tombs of Kings alone without a friend to spend the lonely nights of eternity alongside him.
While the crowd surrounding the fresh mound thinned and went back to their homes, Merry remained motionless at the tomb. When all others, even Frodo and Sam, had left, Merry stood alone and continued to stare at Pippin’s grave. Memories flooded back to him. He thought back to the last glimpse he had of Pippin, a small boy in an army of giants, slowly disappearing out of sight and marching to his death. Merry knew then that he’d never see his cousin again. Deep in his heart somehow, he knew. At last he fell to his knees over the soft, fresh dirt and cried the remaining tears he held in his heart.
“I’ll come back, Pippin,” he said between the sobs, “I swear it. I’ll be back some day, my friend, and when I do return, I shall never leave you again!”
After some time, the last of Merry’s sobs had subsided and he curled up on the ground, his body shivering in the chill of the night and chill of his distress. He remained there until Ioreth came and collected him, half-asleep, in her arms and carried him back to the Houses of Healing, where he was finally able to drift off into an uneasy, yet restful, sleep.