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To Serve The Prince Part One NC17
Author: LadySunrope
Title: To Serve the Prince - Part One –A Small Remembrance
Challenge: Hobbit Smut “Ash Nazg” Challenge
Word Count: 6948
Rating: NC 17 for darkfic, violent themes and realities of war.
Pairings: Implied Frodo/Merry. Merry/Pippin. Later chapters Frodo/Sam
Warnings: Not for the faint at heart. **Character death in this part.**
Violent war (not gratuitous situations)

Summary: The First War of the Ring ended with Frodo claiming the Ring. How this happened is yet unknown. For eighteen years there has been resistance to that rule and finally victory for Faramir and his resistance fighters all over Middle Earth. Each of the hobbits has been irrevocably changed by what has happened. The rule of the Ringbearer and his Warden of the Shire might be over but there are lessons facing Pippin and Sam, lessons they thought they would never learn from those hobbits once loved and now hated and reviled.

A/N. Aspects of the movie verse are used in this story. This story is the first part of a larger series. The rest of the chapters will be posted in one months time in my livejournal. Thanks to ismenin for beta.




One: A small remembrance

Minas Tirith.

The guard salutes. He’s heard of this one, favourite commander of one of the King’s own battalions. He’s heard of his courage, his tenacity and his loyalty. He’s never served with him, but as a fellow soldier he notes how easily this commander carries the uniform, how well it looks upon him. It has been a while since the white tree has flourished upon a soldier’s breast, at least lawfully. It is a fine sight.

“How may I serve, commander?”

“Open the door, and let me speak to the prisoner.”

“’Fraid not, sir. He’s a dangerous one. Got my orders, no one in or out.”

The commander sighs and produces a document replete with flourishing signatures and, more importantly, the King’s seal. The guard’s reading and writing skills are not up to much but even he recognises the King’s seal when he sees it.

“Aye, well that changes it, but be careful, they say he has a smooth tongue and can be a might persuasive. Not that he’s tried it with me, sir. It would take more than that to get past a loyal member of Lord Faramir’s guard.”

The commander smiles. “I’m sure it would. Now open up and wait until I give a knock once more. I may be some time.”

The heavy door is opened and the commander steps inside. He waits until the door is closed and locked behind him before he moves into the room.

The occupant is sat in the window seat staring through the narrow window at the opposite tower. He makes no move to see who has entered the chamber. The fire in the stone hearth makes the room airless and too warm for the commander’s liking. He slips off his cloak, noting that the occupant of this cell prefers to keep a fur lined robe about him and still shivers as he keeps his watch.

The room is sparsely furnished. A table, two chairs, one candle in a sconce and a jug and two beakers. A bowl of fruit rests upon the table. There is a small ante-room nearby and the commander presumes a bed lies therein. He’s glad to see Faramir ordained it thus. It would have been easy to throw this one into the darkest hole to leave him to rot and many have demanded such - but Faramir is a decent man, and mindful of his commander’s heritage as well as his views.

“Why do you want him to know we are merciful whilst we deal with him?” the king had asked.

“Because I want him to know how different we are,” he had replied.

The commander coughs to signal his presence but no reaction is given. All attention is focused on the tower. There is no awareness of anything else.

“Merry.”

The name drops into the silence and for a moment the commander wonders if the former Warden of the Shire has grown deaf in his imprisonment until the fur-wrapped bundle in the window seat turns slowly to acknowledge his presence.

“You took your time. Missed the trial. Don’t worry, your evidence was heard just the same.” Merry’s voice is bitter, his eyes look upon the uniform with contempt.

The commander does not rise to the bait. “What do you want? You requested my presence, and after I completed my duties for my future king, I made my way here. I ask again, what do you want of me?”

He has been told that the prisoner has been prone to melancholy of late, bouts of rage and storms of weeping but he sees no evidence here. If anything, Meriadoc Brandybuck, gaunt and pale because of his imprisonment, seems cold and aloof. There is no sign of remorse or sorrow or anything at all. The commander knows that the knowledge of one’s impending death can do that, but still, he had though - no, had hoped - that somewhere there would be a trace of Merry, his Merry even though so many had warned otherwise.

“I have a favour to ask of you.”

The sheer effrontery of the request stuns the commander into open mouthed gawping.

“Since when does the great freedom fighter, Peregrin Took, stand looking like a fish in front of his sworn enemy?” Merry is amused, head cocked to one side, taking in the sight of his former adversary.

“I am no fish even if you are my enemy, although now we are at peace, I think enemy is not the word I would use. I much prefer prisoner. Condemned prisoner. It has a certain ring to it.”

“Ouch. You have wounded me with your words. No matter. You look well. Older and fitter, but well. It is good to see you, Pippin.”

Pippin bites back the words he would like to say. Faramir would not be impressed if he abuses his prisoner, condemned or otherwise. “I cannot say I’m exactly pleased to see you again, Meriadoc Brandybuck. The last time I saw you, you were trying to burn down the Old Forest round my ears. Luckily I survived, even if the forest did not. As for older and fitter, I would ask you to take a hard look in the silvered glass over the fireplace. You are old and haggard, sir. No doubt a product of your wicked ways.”

He takes a breath before he turns blue and flushes as Merry’s laughter peals about his ears.

“You have not changed, Pip. Still you try to score points against me. You win. I surrender. Oh dear, I have already. Better luck next time. Silly me, there won’t be a next time.”

There’s something about Merry’s tone…brittle, almost fearful but then he’s to be executed with Frodo in the morning so it’s to be expected. Pippin is proud of the fact he can think of this fact without emotion. It has been eighteen years in the making. Eighteen long years of resistance and terror, loss and despair and it will all end in the morning.

“What do you want? This favour? Want me to end your life now? If I had known, I would have brought my sword, but sadly I didn’t. Unfortunately. you’ll have to turn up tomorrow, and do whatever it is you have to do.”

Pippin is secretly enjoying this. He remembers the time he was captured and tormented, and the time when he was coerced into a bed to save another’s life. Every moment of the past eighteen years he has endured, and he remembers every one.

“I have to turn up as you call it, listen to the sentence of death being read to the no doubt baying crowd, and then escorted to the battlements of the citadel, to the furthest point that overhangs the levels. From there I will be able to take a last look at the world before I will be invited to step onto the battlements. No doubt my arms and legs will be hobbled in some way so I look ridiculous and have to be helped as well as taunted. Then whilst the wind howls in my face, I will be pushed over the edge…and,again no doubt, my life will flash before me as I plummet to the ground, and hopefully when I smash into the earth, my life will be extinguished. I say hopefully because if this is not so and I lie broken and in terrible pain it will be some time before the commander of the King’s guard can travel down the levels to put me out of my misery. Finally, if all goes well and I am dead, my body will be burned and the ashes scattered to the four winds with all of Minas Tirith’s curses and imprecations behind them. Of course, there is the vaguest of chances that I may survive the fall and the killing blow. I’m sure it will depend on the officer’s need for vengeance of some kind. If so, then I will be burned alive. So yes, no doubt I will have to do what I have to do…it is not as if I have a choice.”

Hearing it described like that makes Pippin feel sick. He’s seen death and destruction. He’s fought against the tyranny of the Ringbearer and his minions for long enough. The heat of battle, the horrors of survival at any cost are different to this list of stages, the final steps of a dying being. He is suddenly aware that even in this very room, Merry is dying with each moment that passes. One more step towards the battlements -as for Frodo… Pippin shudders.

He was fighting in the Shire when the Ringbearer fell, tricked by his greed for power. Thinking that if he sired a child with the Elves, his seed would be immortal. That summer of madness as the Prince copulated with his mind-blasted slaves, Galadriel and Arwen, while Merry howled his fury at being cast aside to the now silent palantir and took his vengeance out on the resistance in the Shire. It still brings Pippin nightmares. Frodo had not noticed the Ring was silent,was indeed a substitute, swept away as he was by thoughts of dominion over the Elves and immortality. Not until Faramir and Legolas had destroyed the ring in Mount Doom had he realised his error. Galadriel and Arwen had died horribly for their bravery before the combined armies of Middle Earth had reached Minas Tirith, but the land was saved. Small consolation when he saw their broken bodies and felt the guilt and shame that he and his hobbits hadn’t somehow travelled faster.

“You have seen Frodo?” Merry asks interrupting Pippin’s thoughts.

“No, no-one is allowed to. It is forbidden.” If Pippin is truthful, he doesn’t want to. The stories he’s heard, he’s not sure he could keep his hands from the hobbit’s throat.

“I have seen him…once when they tried him…or attempted to. We were tried together at first. He sat in the middle of the floor and recited rhymes, twisting his clothes this way and that. I remember the words but they made no sense to me -
Alive without breath
as cold as death…


He could not hear the pleas for him to take his seat and they became angry and tried to make him do as he was bid. He fought them then, like a wild thing, till he was bruised and all the clothing had been torn from him. He sat and rocked, naked and crying. Even I could not reach him. All he could say when I was allowed to talk to him was… stay and hide with me… tugging on my clothes as if he knew of a place to go. They dragged him away from the hall. He was screaming for Sam to help him. He didn’t even know I was there.”

Merry turns away in obvious distress and Pippin shifts in discomfort as he hears the sound of weeping. Stay and hide with me.It reminds Pippin of when he was a youngster and they played hide and seek during a visit to Brandy Hall. Pippin never ever winning because Merry was too quick, too clever, until Frodo caught Pippin in a laughing embrace and showed him the very best place to hide and even told a half truth to Merry to divert him away from a delighted Pip who squealed at the pleasure of winning for once. The memory causes his eyes to prickle. He walks over to the table to find an apple.

“Be careful - they could be poisoned.” Merry regards him in all seriousness. “It is the guards joke. They leave me with every comfort they say. Fruit, wine, a knife to peel my fruit, a glass to groom myself by. A rope to hang my clothes to air, a cord to tie up my trousers. All very civilised and all very convenient if I am driven to use them to end my life to save them the trouble. They have allowed me to keep all the implements that I could use to leave this world without a murmur. Again, a small joke, although told each day it does become tiresome but I’m not so easily persuaded. When he is gone, then I follow. It’s as simple as that."

Pippin shakes his head. He is a soldier, not a player of tricks and he takes up an apple and cuts it open. The smell is sweet and pleasant. He takes half and hands the other half to Merry. He notices Merry waits for quite some time before he eats his half, preferring to observe Pippin’s continued good health.

“We were talking of Frodo.”

“We were, yes. He has none of these comforts or so my guards take delight in telling me He is watched night and day. His clothes have no fastenings. His food is a bland gruel. His hair is matted because no one will let a comb near him in case he hurts himself. They want him alive for tomorrow but do not care how he appears only that he does so. I cannot bear the thought of him going through that.”

“Please, excuse my thinking but isn’t he the cause of his own poor circumstance? Why should I plead with Faramir to ease the burden of Frodo’s imprisonment?”

The hand that stretches out the small blue bottle is shaking. “I’m not asking you to plead. I’m asking you to take this to Frodo’s cell and place five drops in his water and let him drink. It will be swift and without pain. He will sleep and never wake. He will not have to endure any further.”

“Are you mad? Do you think I’m going to show mercy to one who... let go of me…”
Pippin is pulled towards the window by a frantic Merry still clutching the tiny bottle.

“Listen…listen, for the love of the Shire, to the monster you intend to execute tomorrow!”

The window is open and across the way another tower lies with a private courtyard. In the courtyard there are guards, six in all. They look after a single hobbit who sits on a bench talking and giggling to no-one.

Frodo looks like a child, all bundled in loose clothing until he moves to catch a bird and yells ‘Boo!’ to scare it away. Clapping his hands in pleasure he begins to twirl and twirl until he staggers dizzy to the bench once more. He looks up and his face lights up “Pippin! Dear Pippin! I see you. I SEE YOU!!!” and his hands go to his face in the shape of an Eye and Pippin shudders. The hands drop and Frodo’s gaze switches to Merry. Pippin can feel Merry stiffen beside him, hoping for recognition, something, a crumb to hold onto but the moment passes. A shadow flits across Frodo’s face as if he’s trying to think and then its gone and there’s another bird for him to chase.

“Can you imagine what tomorrow will bring? Can you? How terrified he will be? I swore I would protect him and you are my last hope.”

Merry presses the bottle into Pippin’s hands and Pippin finds his own fingers curling over the bottle holding it fast.

“Thank you,” Merry breathes in relief and thankfulness. “After this, he will be allowed to sleep…there is no time to waste.”

Pippin stares at the bottle. How did he come to agree to this? “I’m not sure I can do this…”

“What do you want? Anything I have is yours. Name it. Look, see? A memento of the Butcher of the Shire…take one...why not? It was the price I paid a guard for the poison.” Merry pulls his hand from under his fur robe. Pippin hadn’t noticed it was bandaged. As the binding is unwound he sees with horror that one of Merry’s fingers is missing. “For his wife. A remembrance of the monstrous being her husband once guarded.”

Merry waves the fingers in front of him. “Take one…do it!” The room reeks of despair and pain and Pippin cannot breathe. He rushes to the window and retches. Sometimes there can be too much even for him in spite of eighteen years.

Wiping his mouth, he tries to bandage up the hand once more, then finds he is crying and soon they are a tangle of arms and bodies, both needing the comfort of touch and a momentary forgetfulness of pain and suffering. Neither enemies nor friends, but simply hobbits who have forgotten what they are.

“I will do this. I promise.” Pippin whispers into Merry’s embrace and Merry nods wordlessly. This is the first touch of comfort he has received for many years that has been freely given and it tears at him in its sweetness.

He stores it away, the dear memory of it, to take with him to the battlements.

******
Reaching the tower is easy. The guards are friendly and have heard of his reputation. They laugh and joke and want to know as much battle glory as he can give them. When he asks if he can see Frodo, they want to know why. He gives them the best reason of all.

“So I know it is really him and not some impostor you have under your control. After what he and his minion did to my home, I need to see his face and leave a trace of my spittle upon it!”

They laugh at the crudity while inside Pippin cringes. The words came so easily and yet he hopes he is not like this, not for ever. There has to be something else for him to be. Farmer. Gardener. Husband. Father. Something else.

They let him into Frodo’s chamber and, surprisingly, leave him alone there. The uniform guards him from suspicion and so he sits and waits. Like any child, Frodo is aware he is being watched and lifts his head from his pillow. He regards Pippin in silence and then reaches for the water in the tumbler by his bed. It is empty and he shakes it, perplexed by the lack of what he wants. “All gone.”

The childlike words break Pippin’s heart, if indeed it could be broken any more. For once Merry is right in what he has asked Pippin to do. Frodo cannot be made to face what Merry will face on the morrow. Pippin silently blesses Merry’s protectiveness, and then stops. They are now on the same side for the first time in eighteen years and it is astonishing to Pippin.

“I’ll get you water” he whispers and the childlike hobbit watches as Pippin pours and adds five drops from the blue bottle. Pippin’s hand shakes and his eyes fill. Frodo snatches it from him and gulps it down while Pippin presses his knuckles to his mouth and remembers Merry’s skill at persuasion and deceit. What have I done?

Frodo is soon sleepy and Pippin keeps watch because he needs to. His doubts swirl in his head but he knows that Merry is right. He has to make sure Frodo doesn’t end up broken and torn at the base of the citadel and he is the only one who can do this. I hate what this war made you,my Frodo,my Merry. What it has made me.

He holds Frodo tightly to his breast and rocks him gently. Frodo murmurs softly as he slips into his last sleep of all and Pippin strains to hear…

“Gandalf…Merry…Merry…my pre…”

Before he can think twice, his hand seals the word inside Frodo’s mouth.

“You will give this gift to him...you will…you have to for all he’s done in your name!”

and Pippin is half sobbing, half choking on the bile that surges into his throat because he is reduced to this, nearly throttling the love of Merry’s life in his dying moments just so he cannot hear that vile word linked to Merry’s name.

And then he is gone. At peace.

And Pippin sobs soundlessly into Frodo’s hair, and curses the Ring.

**********

“It is done. What you asked of me. He died peacefully in my arms and I thought I would be glad, but I was not. I cried and I mourn him.”

Merry bows his head and there is silence. Pippin sees the tears fall on the tattered shirt, and wonders why he cannot comfort Merry as he should.

“I loved him, Pip. Loved him with all my heart, for as long as I have known I could love. For weeks I’ve known his mind was gone…and each day I heard him cry and call out for those he could remember…some long dead. Gandalf…Aragorn…Sam. Never me…he never cried out for me. The jailers hurt him Pip, and he never knew why.”

“I know, and I’m sorry for it. He was taken by the Ring and it destroyed all that he was. I never blame him…I cannot although others might. It could have been any of us.” It feels right that he says the words because it is not a popular opinion amongst the taverns or the levels where scholars discuss the politics of the day.

“Thank you, Pip. What you did was the greatest gift you could have given Frodo -and myself. I did not want him to die in front of them all and not know why or what was happening to him. He would have been so afraid.” Merry comes closer and Pip flinches. The movement is noticed and there is pain in Merry’s eyes.

“Some things leave their mark,” Pippin states in as matter-of-fact tone as he can muster. “Torture is one of them.”

“I know. I tried to escape but they captured me and broke my leg to stop me trying again. Faramir punished the over-zealousness of his guard but it worked. I’ve not walked straight since.” Merry moves awkwardly in front of him and touches his face.

“What I did to you, I cannot excuse or forgive. What burned in me changed me to something I can’t think about any more without wanting to brain myself against these very stones. One day, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Pippin starts to object because, in truth although he wants the war to be over, forgiveness is not something he has even considered - it is too soon - but Merry places a finger across his lips. The fingers are not straight either. This war has changed us all.

“I don’t mean this day. Forgiveness takes a long time, if ever it comes at all. And if it does not? I’ll understand that too. I’m resigned to the thought of a fate that lies within the halls of darkness. I deserve no less.”

“Merry…Frodo did speak of you…he did at the end…” The words come out in a rush because Pippin’s mind is skittering from one thing to another, away, away from the rising sympathy he is beginning to feel for this Hobbit. His cousin. Once his lover. His friend. Merry…precious

“Pip, you are a terrible liar. Always were. I know he didn’t. The last time I can truthfully say he knew me was on the day of Boromir’s death when we distracted the Orcs and Uruk-hai. He looked at me as you leaped out and he mouthed goodbye…and that he loved me. I never saw him again except as a ruler of worlds…my Prince. By then, if I had only thought…it was the Ring, not him. I didn’t want to see. He was beautiful beyond words and my heart and soul were his.”

Oh if only you knew, Merry, how I can lie. I learned it running and hiding, trying to save my skin.

“You should have said all these things at the trial. They told me you made no move to defend yourself. You admitted your guilt. They had no choice but to condemn you!”

“What was I supposed to say? You know, the worst thing of all, Pip, is not the dying although I hope I won’t disgrace myself. It’s the knowing that I cannot undo anything that I’ve done. I’m guilty. I did some terrible things to serve a Prince that knew me not. I thought I was loved…and perhaps I was once…and yet at the end he only wanted the Ring. I never meant to be a destroyer of lives, only a protector of one. He never needed that protection, not from me. I did all these things for a lie, Pip. In many ways, I’ll be glad when the sun rises.”

The thought that Merry might want to die has never occurred to him. He can’t fathom it, any of it, and so Pippin doesn’t resist when Merry pulls him into the kiss. All the hatred he has ever felt has burned away under the intensity of Merry’s sorrow. He returns the kiss with a mixture of longing and self loathing for not being strong enough to resist - but then, he never could, not where Merry was concerned.

Merry releases him suddenly, eyes searching his face. “No, it cannot be. You are as bound to me as I was to him? How did I not know this? Pip, no, tell me this is not so. I cannot face death knowing I’ve destroyed you as I have so many. You have a life to live, children to sire…a Shire to rebuild.”

It occurs to Pippin that he could have the ultimate revenge for all the pain and sorrow. He could tell Merry just how much Merry has doled out to the one who has always defended him until Merry went beyond actions that could not be defended. Only a few words and Merry would be in torment until his last breath.

“Bound to you? You flatter yourself, sir. I have indeed a Shire to rebuild because of the depredations of its former Warden.” The sharpness of the words cause Merry to reel back confused but spared from knowing otherwise. Pippin knows he’s given him a shred of hope that not all his actions were destructive, and that is more comforting to him than it has any right to be. He should want Merry to suffer this night, but for the life of him, cannot bring himself to cause it.

“I’ll say my farewell. I will think of you.” It’s hurried and he can’t look Merry in the eye. He ignores Merry’s desperate “Pippin!” and leaves the chamber, the kiss still burning on his lips, weighed down with something he does not understand.

He does not seem to notice what lies ahead until he bumps straight into a group of guards led by Faramir himself.

“What have you done, Peregrin Took?”

Pippin bows his head.

“I gave two Hobbits a comfort, my lord. To one I gave peace, and to the other hope and I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done.”

It is announced that the king is deeply disappointed in Peregrin Took, although inclined to be merciful in view of his great service to the kingdom of Gondor. The uniform is taken away, the commission revoked and Peregrin Took will be allowed to leave Gondor with his friend and companion Samwise Gamgee, on the morrow.

Privately, Faramir kisses Pippin’s brow and thanks him because he had not relished the thought of the public martyrdom of Frodo, so clearly lost in the terrors of the mind. In spite of Pippin’s request, no mercy can be shown to the remaining servant of the Ring although both Pippin and Sam are excused the witnessing of it. Pippin is not surprised at Faramir’s words - more surprised that he himself even asked for any form of mercy, for he loathes what Merry did as much as anyone, Man, Elf or Hobbit, but he is tired of it all. Tired of rooting out enemies, tired of the pain and suffering even now, tired of the grief. He longs to return to the Shire.

Yet he is thankful, for the thought of having to witness Merry’s last morning is too much for him to bear. He knows in his heart that a price has to be paid. Too many voices of the dead clamouring to be heard. What was it Faramir had said? A line had to be drawn between what had been and what was to come. Merry’s death was that line. It was no coincidence that Faramir’s coronation was to be the following day. A new start, a signal that all would be well and that finally the Second War of the Ring would be truly over.

A blessing indeed, though, that Faramir understands enough to allow them to leave before the celebrations. Faramir has a courage of soul that would make him a great king of Gondor. He already knows that for them there would be no celebration. The New Age would be born on the death of two Hobbits and no matter what were Frodo’s crimes or Merry’s blind obedience to him and the crimes of his own - they were Hobbits. As Hobbits they were born, and as Hobbits they died. In between they were lost to those who loved them. No, no cause for celebration.

*********

The morning is clear and bright. Pippin dresses hurriedly, feeling strange in his travelling clothes without any markings to show he had once served and fought for Gondor. He moves through the corridors of the King’s residence and is painfully aware of how others refuse to meet his eyes. One tainted, all tainted they seem to say, and as he squeezes through a knot of people talking excitedly, he overhears a remark that makes him want to stop and argue with the one who has uttered such foulness.

“Not enough dead Hobbits if you ask me. Two down, rest should follow, nothing but trouble, you can’t trust them.”

He realises how much the uniform has protected him, how much his cousins' actions have tainted his race in the eyes of others, and how lonely it can feel when those you think of as friends look at you with suspicion and walk away from you before they are contaminated in their turn.

The press of people continues and it puzzles him to see they are all going in the same direction until the revelation hits him. They are going to watch Merry die…and he is going in the opposite direction. He should be going with them, he should witness this momentous occasion. He should be with Merry.

The thought of cowardice unnerves him and he reaches Sam’s room with relief although what he finds within is not what he expects.

Sam is sitting in one of the Hobbit-sized high backed chairs Faramir so courteously provided, but as soon as Pippin enters, Sam stands up, violently scraping back the chair against the stone floor.

“What have you been doing? Why am I hearing your name mixed up with his?”

Sam is as angry as Pippin has ever seen.

“Do you know what puzzles me most about all of this? Do you know what spins around in my head in the nights when I can’t sleep? At what moment did all we had unravel? When did it take that path to our worst fears? I can’t think of it…I can’t!” He paces the room, pulling at his clothes, willing Pippin to provide some answers. “Was there something we should have done that we didn’t? I ask myself, and blame myself, and yet here you are, giving aid to our enemies!”

“That sort of thinking is no good now. We need to collect our things and leave.”

There is the sound of the fanfare of trumpets as Pippin scrabbles for his gear, so thoughtfully deposited in Sam’s quarters for the journey.

“Quickly now!” he pants, not wanting to be there a moment more.

“Wait.” Sam moves to the window and opens the glass. The sun catches the diamond panes and turns them to stars. Outside there is a collective gasp and a shout that is swept up and buried under the roar of a thousand voices.

It is over. Merry is dead. Pippin slides down the wall in grief, trying not to see the smile on Sam’s face.

It has ruined us all.

**********

They ride leisurely for the best part of the day and make camp in the late afternoon. Pippin sees to the horses as soon as Sam has taken off the saddlebags. He notices that the smaller of the two horses has not suffered from having a rider who is unsure about such animals.

Pippin lets Sam set up the cooking things. He seems content enough to bother with the domestic necessities while Pippin quickly puts up the two tents. He’s had much practice over the years and, even now, searches for the site that is easily defended before he hammers in the first stake. Occasionally Sam watches him and it takes a while for Pippin to understand why. The last time Sam saw him was chained, bloodied and bowed in a wheeled cage escorted by Orcs, on its way to Gondor. He had no knowledge of the Took Pippin became. Freedom fighter, resister of tyranny…and lover of the tyrant. He shakes his head to rid himself of unwanted images and concentrates on the matter at hand. Some things are best forgotten.

It is Sam who finds the package. He is searching for something or other in the saddlebags and pulls out a package wrapped in cloth and tied with what looks like a cord from a robe.

“What’s this?”

Pippin looks up, but cannot make any sense of it from a distance. Getting closer, he is startled to see the cord fastening. They have allowed me to keep all the implements that I could use to leave this world without a murmur. I’m not so easily persuaded. When he is gone, then I follow. It’s as simple as that.

He knows the package is from Merry and blesses Faramir for allowing it to be part of their baggage. He pulls apart the wrapping with an earnestness that makes Sam frown. He doesn’t know how he knows, but this is important. The notes that fall from the package land at Sam’s feet. Sam picks them up slowly but doesn’t read them. He’s staring at the Red Book.

“Mr Frodo always wanted to finish Mr Bilbo’s book. That had a red cover, too. He never did…” and the words choke off in Sam’s throat as he stumbles away for some privacy to deal with his thoughts.

I rescued this for you commander. I feel sorry for what was done to you. After all you was only seeing to your friends. The Brandybuck died well. He stepped off those battlements with a smile on his face. T’was the queerest thing. Almost as if he was going for a walk. Shouted a name, not sure what it was…but here is what he left..it had your name on it. Written by a scribe for Pharon, citadel prison guard ,for Peregrin Took, soldier.

Pippin takes a deep breath before opening the next note.

I bequeath to you, Pippin, all that has befallen me in the service of my Prince and after. You know that some of these words will mark me as a monster and for that I claim no defence except that I was a slave to the one who wore the Ring as much as he was to that Ring. I loved him with all my heart and strength and swore never to abandon him. It is the only truth of my life that I’m proud of. The rest? The rest remains inside - a journey of discovery, yet what I found at the end was not what I thought I had. I hope you will read it, and perhaps, Sam and his son, Frodo, can bring themselves to know more of these matters.

In a short time I leave this world. It comforts me to know that the last touch I received from a Hobbit was yours. I hope you find peace in the Shire, Pip and that this small remembrance can help those whom I wronged to find it in their turn.
Your Merry.


Sam has doled out a portion of stew from the cooking pot and some bread from the kitchens of the citadel and set to, eating his with an unnatural attentiveness, refusing to look at Pippin. Pippin’s meal is going cold and so he hands the note over to Sam without a thought.

Sam reads quickly then crumples it in his hands with a snort of disgust. Before Pippin can stop him, he flings it towards the fire.
The note crinkles up in the fierce flame and disintegrates. Nothing left of Merry’s sorrow except what is held in Pippin’s heart, only the Red Book.

Sam stands, wiping the crumbs from his bread off his clothes and abruptly announces “I’m away to my bed. We have a journey ahead of us. I’d wrap that up till we get to the Shire and then place it in some chest in the Mathom House. Those words are poison and not for the likes of me. I’ve enough darkness ahead without wanting more. Goodnight, Pippin.”

“Sam?” The smallness of the voice causes Sam to turn. “Do you truly hate them? Because I can’t. I’ve tried and I can’t. I keep seeing what they were. Keep hearing them laugh. I keep remembering…” Pippin clutches the book to his chest and hopes Sam can answer at least this.

“Then you are a fool, Peregrin Took. What died at Minas Tirith were monsters whose foul stench polluted our lands. I do not hate - I loathe them and their memory with all of my being. I lost my wife, my family, my friends and my home. There is nothing I want to remember, nothing, for each memory takes me down the same path - to here - to this very moment.” Sam’s face is lit by the flames, his expression dour and grim.

Pippin tries to speak but Sam kicks earth over the fire and a shower of sparks fly, causing Pippin to shift quickly and with a small cry of alarm but Sam makes no apology.

“They destroyed what we had, and they destroyed what we are. Nothing will be the same - and I will never forgive him, even in death.”

The darkness is like a shroud, binding them both and Pippin is glad he cannot see Sam’s face, the lines that suffering and sorrow have wrought. He has to know and so he asks, realising he has no right to an answer at all.

“Him? Frodo?”

“Frodo? No, not Frodo. I was there, remember? I hated what the Ring did to him but at least I know what happened. The other one…the murderous bastard Brandybuck…no, I’ll never forgive him, ever.”

The knowledge hurts Pippin. He remembers the last time he spoke with Merry when all the hatred he held tight and hot and fierce evaporated to be replaced with a sorrow he had never thought possible.

The worst thing of all, Pip, is not the dying, although I hope I won’t disgrace myself. It’s the knowing that I cannot undo anything that I’ve done. I did some terrible things to serve a Prince that knew me not. I thought I was loved…and perhaps I was ,once…and yet at the end he only wanted the Ring. I never meant to be a destroyer of lives, only a protector of one. He never needed that protection, not from me. I did all these things for a lie, Pip. In many ways, I’ll be glad when the sun rises.

‘He stepped off those battlements with a smile on his face. T’was the queerest thing. Almost as if he was going for a walk. Shouted a name, not sure what it was…’

Oh, Merry. Pippin staggers upright, trying hard not to drop the book before he has a chance to read it and understand. He needs to understand because the sorrow hurts, settling inside him, weighing him down. His bones ache with it.

“You’d be better off without that. There’s a stream yonder. Throw it in and don’t look back…”

“What happened to the Mathom House?” Pippin tries to joke wanting so desperately to end this night on a note that will make him feel less alone.

“He burned it. All of it. I’d forgotten. There is no Mathom House.”

Sam disappears inside the tent and Pippin is left in the dark, with a book he wants to open and yet wonders, now, if he can. Once he had a cousin, a dear cousin called Merry whom he loved…and even if Merry loved another more, he always had time to laugh and joke and live life with Pippin. Good times, spent in sunlight, not shadow. Then he had a cousin who hunted him down, captured him, tortured him and destroyed so many lives and brought an army of occupation to the Shire to serve a Prince who wore a circle of gold on a chain around his neck and loved only that. Finally it ended on a battlement in a breeze-blown citadel where that cousin, unwanted and unloved, stepped into the void knowing he had lived a lie and lay in a pile of broken bones whilst some cheered, others mourned, and one wept.

How had it come to this? He has to know. He has to understand somehow. The four of them loved and understood each other so well, and yet the threads that connected them frayed, tangled and snapped.

It’s going to be a long journey home, and with Sam as he is, a lonely one. This book, this Red Book will help to give him answers, he hopes, to so many questions.

Maybe, somehow, it will also bring them peace.
23 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
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ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much. *blushes* It was painful to write too. I hope the rest of it matches your expectations.
From: melandry Date: November 27th, 2006 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my, what a thoughtful and heart-breaking AU! I love how you start at the end of things, as it were - it's certainly got me intrigued to read more. The characterizations of the scarred hobbits, Pippin and Sam, is beautifully done and so plausible that in Sam's case especially it's frightening to think of.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your comments. Thinking about how things might be was quite horrifying really -poor hobbits!
claudia603 From: claudia603 Date: November 27th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Such a darkly compelling scenario! It's heart-breaking, the idea of Frodo and Merry being so hated by everyone in Middle-earth, just heart-breaking. And yet you could see that come to be, given the situation. *shudders*
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
It made me feel somewhat guilty just to imagine it -kept mentally apologising to poor Merry and Frodo.
grey_wonderer From: grey_wonderer Date: November 27th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I almost cried when Pippin and Merry embraced. I do think it fitting that Merry would die bravely whatever else might have happened before this. This is so very emotional and moving. You've put so much into it and it shows. I can't imagine what has happened before this with Sam but I do plan to read as you post.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
thank you so much for your comment -I'll let you know when the rest is posted.
grey_wonderer From: grey_wonderer Date: December 16th, 2006 10:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you. I was afraid with Hobbit_Smutt closing down that I wouldn't be able to locate the next parts of the story.
notabluemaia From: notabluemaia Date: November 27th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Powerful and riveting and sooooo dark - but had Frodo claimed the Ring, it *would* have been this terrible - and it's just heartbreaking. Thank you, LSR, for this devastating glimpse of what might have been. Beautifully written - and I am still shuddering at such horror.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for reading and seeing it as possible- it is a horror and my poor beta nearly had nightmares. Bless Gollum, that's all I can say!
addie71 From: addie71 Date: November 27th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is such a beautifully written, heartbreaking story. It tore me apart.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much. It was hard to write too. *still feels for the dear hobbits*
plaidpjs From: plaidpjs Date: November 28th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow..this was incredibly touching, disturbing and real. I'm very much looking forward to reading more!
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much. It is disturbing and I'm glad I could make it feel real for you. Thank goodness Tolkien had a different vision!!!
althea_lady From: althea_lady Date: November 28th, 2006 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
This is intriguing, beautifully written, and so hard on the heart. I am looking forward to reading the rest of it.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much and it is hard on the emotions. I hope the rest when it posts pleases you as well
aelfgifu From: aelfgifu Date: December 1st, 2006 08:01 am (UTC) (Link)
terrifying- in the best possible way. Gah! you've inspired me, dammit..must write! This is an extrordinary piece!
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
wow- I'm so pleased you like it! I hope you find the rest as good when it posts. Thank you!
unbrokenmuse From: unbrokenmuse Date: December 1st, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. This is stunning. Both in its darkness and in its beauty. The images of Merry and Pippin here are especially heartrending. Thank you.
ladysunrope From: ladysunrope Date: December 15th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so pleased you liked it. Thank you for the lovely feedback.
elanorgardner From: elanorgardner Date: December 17th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Someone once wrote that real love is wanting what is best for the beloved and false love is just wanting the beloved. You have given us two examples here of real love. So very sad. This is very complex and well drawn. Some of the images are very hard to shake -- very memorable, in a horrible way.

So appropriate that the last story in the community is just the beginning of a story, and, oddly, an end of so many stories. *sniff*

Looking forward to the rest of this. Thank you so much for participating in the challenge.
garnet_took From: garnet_took Date: January 2nd, 2007 03:13 am (UTC) (Link)
This story has haunted me for a month. It definitely has an impact. The reason I'm writing is to ask if you are still planning to complete it on your Live Journal? I really want to read the rest of it. It is not an easy story to get through, but it is still an interesting, emotional, and thought pervoking one.

Thanks for stepping out on a limb with this one.

Garnet Took
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