BagEnd
Fic: Vengance is a Dish Best Served with Ale - "My Birthday Suit Needs Pressing!" Challenge - Hobbit Smut Fan Fiction Challenge Community
Phurveyors of Phreferred Pheriannath Phorn
mordelhin
hobbit_smut
mordelhin
Fic: Vengance is a Dish Best Served with Ale - "My Birthday Suit Needs Pressing!" Challenge
Name: Mordelhin
Title: Vengance is a Dish Best Served with Ale
Challenge: Hobbit Smut "My Birthday Suit Needs Pressing!" Challenge
Word Count: 3690
Rating: NC-17
Pairing/s: Merry/Éothain
Other Pairing/s: Merry/Pippin implied, I suppose
Warning/s: Interspecies Merry! Murder! Mystery! Intrigue! And a story structure ripped off from Memento! Oh yeah -- and a bit of teh sex (of course) and violence, too. Definitely not fluffy, light, or funny.
Summary: Post-Quest -- Merry loses himself in his ale on a visit to Rohan researching herb lore.
Notes: Unbeta'd and LATE! My humblest apologies.


I.
Birdsong, the hiss of wind, and above it all, an incessant roar like the sea in a storm fills his ears. It is all about him, enveloping him in darkness and a foul dream. A heaviness stills his limbs and he cannot shake it. Where am I? Merry thinks. Slowly, awareness creeps back and he feels the ground beneath him, cold and hard and wet. His face is mashed into the dew-soaked grass, and he wonders, Have I fallen? He feels the wind on his skin and shivers. His nose catches the scent of grass and clover and horses. His tongue is thick with thirst, and his mouth tastes of ash and stale ale. A little groan escapes his lips, the only sound he can manage to make.

His eyelids flutter open and the darkness subsides a little. He tries to focus his bleary eyes, tries to move his head a bit. At first, all he sees is the grass right in front of his face -- green and bent as if it had been trampled. His eyes haltingly travel a short distance to rest on another object, tanned skin, fine golden hair -- the arm of a man lying next to him. Tracing a path up the stranger's arm, he comes to the curve of a bare, rounded shoulder, the turn of a thick, strong neck. The man's face is turned away from him, and his long red hair is bound in a single braid. No, not red -- more of a yellow-gold. But there is something dark and rust-colored staining it and matting the ends. With some difficulty, Merry lifts his head and props himself up on one arm. The red caked into the man's hair runs in streaks down his shoulder and ribcage, more of it pools on his back around...a horrible gash, and...a dagger, buried deep. The broadening sun glints on red and gold serpents adorning the hilts.

Merry rolls over onto his back and shields his eyes with his arm from the suddenly too bright sunlight, waiting for the world to stop spinning around him.

II.
"May I kiss you?"

Merry thinks it strange that this man of Rohan would wish to do so, but feels no desire to deny him.

"Is this all right?"

Large, warm hands explore under his shirt, unbutton his trousers, pull them off, and yes, Merry nods, yes it's all right.

"Will you touch me here?"

Strong hands guide his own until they grasp hard flesh, and Merry obediently begins stroking to the rhythm his companion sets.

"No, not yet."

The man pulls away as Merry's strokes quicken. Kisses, hot and wet and urgent, then those hands parting his thighs make Merry's pulse gallop. He moans softly as his own hardened flesh is taken in and slowly sucked. Rough beard scratches his thighs, slick tongue teases and flicks until, rigid and arching, Merry comes with a cry.

"Turn over."

No more questions, just a husky, breathless command. Merry rolls onto his belly, raises his hips. The pillows catch his moans as his body opens to tongue, then fingers, then more, yes more, Merry breathes. The bed squeaks and groans under the weight of them, and Merry squeals and moans under the weight of him. The man thrusts and thrusts, then shudders, falls still. Gentle kisses rain upon the back of Merry's neck, strong arms encircle him, hold him tight.

Merry listens to the sound of deep, steady breathing at his back, until finally his eyes grow heavy, and the room about him recedes into the forgetfulness of slumber.

III.
Merry's face throbs, and the metallic tang of blood is sharp in his mouth. He is placed in a chair by the hearth. The man who carried him into the inn and up to this room now fills a bowl with water and sets it on the floor next to Merry.

"Can you tell me what that was all about?" he asks.

"Honestly, I don't know," Merry answers. "I was taking a drink in the common room. I was keeping to myself, I assure you. But the men in there...they were all whispering. I think they were whispering about me. And the air was so close. I had to get out...take a bit of air."

The man bathes the cuts on Merry's lip and over his left eye. His gentle touch and the concern that fills his eyes and furrows his brow make Merry more at ease. He is still shaken and confused about all that has happened, but there is something familiar about his companion that Merry can't quite place. Moved by gratitude, Merry grasps the man's hand and kisses it.

"Thank you for what you did! There was no reason for you to get involved; you could have stayed out of it and I would hardly blame you. But if you hadn't come along just then...I think I might be dead now."

The man shakes his head and smiles. "I could not leave things as they were between us this afternoon. You were not yourself. I should have realized it then, and not let you out of my sight. I had to come looking for you. I only wish that I had come sooner."

The man's words serve only to deepen his confusion, but he is too tired to try to work it all out now. He merely sighs and shakes his head. "No," he says, "Now that you mention it, I haven't felt myself at all lately."

"You should go to bed... get some rest," the man says. He pushes the bowl of red-tinged water away and stands.

Merry reaches out and places his hand on the man's arm.

"Yes," he murmurs. "Take me to bed."

IV.
Merry's head hits the wall and he cries out in pain. Rough hands dig into his arms and spin him around. There are two, maybe three dark figures surrounding him. One puts a hand over his mouth to stifle his calls for help, while another aims blow after blow upon his body. Merry manages to get a bit of flesh between his teeth, bites down hard. A savage fist to the face splits his lip open. Blood fills his mouth, spills down his chin. He is shoved backwards and hits the ground with a crunch of gravel. A strong, deep voice calls out. There is scuffling and shouting all about him now. Merry drags himself closer to the wall to avoid being trampled by heavy booted feet. He closes his eyes, covers his head, and waits for the blows to continue.

A pair of worn, mud-caked boots appears before Merry's eyes. He feels himself being lifted and carried off. He cannot even mutter a sound in protest.

V.
Merry wanders in a haze down a dirt track. He doesn't think he has ever been here before. He passes by some ricks, and the men at work in the fields to either side pay him no mind. The late afternoon sun is beginning to set behind white-tipped mountains in the distance. The air is crisp and clear, in marked contrast to the fog that clouds his mind. Perhaps a mile or so away, a cluster of thatched roofs marks the center of a small hamlet. Merry supposes it would be best to make his way there; perhaps find an inn, sit down with a cool mug of ale and gather his muddled thoughts about him.

He hears horse hoofs, then a voice calls out behind him, but doesn't turn. It's nothing to do with him. He walks slowly, now keeping his eyes on his feet as they shuffle down the dusty road.

The hoofs stop, and someone dismounts. Quick footsteps, then a hand is on his shoulder and he is gently pulled to a halt.

"Master Holdwine, did you not hear me calling?"

Merry turns. Before him is a man, fully a foot or more taller than he. This man is dressed in rich, fine cloth. His leather cuirass and vambraces are of exceptional quality, and are gilded with silver and embossed with stallions. Merry stares at them intently, losing himself for a moment in the swirling ridges of brown.

"Master Holdwine!" The man says again louder, giving him a rough shake.

"Steady on!" Merry says, looking up at him, annoyed.

"Did you not hear me?"

"No, I'm afraid I didn't," Merry answers. "What is it you want?" he asks a bit more sharply than he means to. But someone, he can't quite remember who now, but someone did tell him to be wary of strangers claiming to know him on the road. He was sure of that much, at least. Or very nearly sure.

"What do I want? Why, you of course. You were to meet me at Helm's Deep at noon. When you didn't show, I came to look for you."

"Meet you? There must be some mistake. I'm sure I agreed to no such thing. Now if you don't mind..." Merry takes a few steps back to put some distance between him and the stranger.

The man closes the gap between them with a single stride. He grasps Merry firmly by the arm and scowls. "I am not a liar, sir," he growls. "Or perhaps this is a joke you wish to play on me? If so, it is indeed in poor taste."

Confusion feeds Merry's growing fear, and turns it quickly to anger.

"Good day to you, sir!" he says, his voice sounds shrill, and he can't keep it from shaking. "This is no joke, and I'd sooner meet an orc than you." He wrenches his arm free of the man's grasp, and takes off running. He ducks behind a cluster of small cots, watching from a hiding place beneath an old plough as the man gallops by. Merry waits until his heart leaves his throat and settles down into his chest again before climbing out. He makes his way quickly towards the town, keeping well off the road.

VI.
Merry sits at a large, heavy table across from Almód, the hamlet's old and very knowledgeable apothecary. An assortment of dried leaves, flowers, roots, and powders litter the table between them. The room is dark and close, and a fire is on the hearth though the warm, early autumn weather hardly warrants it. Above, a haze of smoke drifts about the rafters, where Merry's pipe smoke mixes amiably with that of the smoldering bundles of fragrant herbs drifting up in swirling columns from the room's corners.

Almód is a thin, pale man. His eyes are small and dark and cunning, almost bird-like under their heavy lids. His hair is straight and lank, and retains still some of its ebony color through the silver veneer of age. He methodically presents the herbs on the table, holding each one up in turn and describing its various uses. Merry puffs at his pipe and sips at a tankard of ale, every so often interjecting a question or acknowledging familiarity with a certain root or weed.

Almód holds up a few yellowish leaves with thick, green veining. "And this, Master Holdwine," he says, "is comfrey leaf -- good for the treatment of abscesses and blood poisoning."

"Oh aye," says Merry, setting down his tankard and wiping the foam from his upper lip. It is a good brew, though it does have an odd after-flavor -- almost a hint of black peppercorn -- sharp, but not unpleasant. "We use comfrey as a poultice for burns and ulcers in the Shire."

"Do you indeed?" Almód replies. "It seems you already have a great knowledge of herb lore. I hardly think that I can tell you much you do not already know."

"Oh no," Merry says. "I've already learned much. And there are quite a few more here, particularly these roots right here, and those thorny fruit-like things there that I've never seen before."

Merry polishes off the ale in his tankard, and Almód reaches over to refill it from a large clay pitcher. His own tankard remains full and untouched.

"Ah, that would be thornapple. A very useful weed, though it can be very dangerous as well, and should be dispensed with great care."

"What does it do?" Merry asks, and eagerly takes another great swig of ale. His cheeks are warming, and he is beginning to feel rather carefree, even a bit fey. A dangerous herb? How wonderful! He hums softly, and giggles as the humming reverberates in the pewter tankard when he takes another sip.

"The dried leaves can be used for cough, and the ground seeds to relieve pain. In larger doses, it induces forgetfulness and a lack of will. But those larger doses can also be poisonous, even deadly. However, a skillful herb master would know the proper dose to be effective, without killing his charge. Indeed, if one were so treacherously inclined, he could brew it into a tea, or even say, a cask of wine or ale, to make his victim pliant and cooperative without putting him to sleep."

Merry stops humming and peers at Almód over the rim of his tankard. The man's dark eyes glitter with malevolent glee and his smile is almost a snarl.

"Oh yes, Master Holdwine, you have been poisoned. But not so much that it will kill you. No, I will have my sport first, and my revenge. Through you."

"What...?" Merry feels the room begin to spin, his thoughts are muddled and confused. He tries to pull himself together enough to speak coherently, but words are difficult to find. "I don't understand," he ends, feebly.

"It is quite simple. My family has suffered greatly at the hands of Éomer King, in no small part with your help and the help of your friends. My brother-son, a dear and close counselor of Theoden for so long, was exiled from his home due to your meddling. Driven out like a dog, and then killed by Shire rats! Oh yes, the manner of his death reached my ears. And I will not forgive it."

Wormtongue, of course! Merry sees the resemblance now -- pale skin, heavy-lidded eyes, and dark hair, so rare among the Rohirrim. The urge to leave, to run from this house is overwhelming, but Merry can no longer will himself to move.

"And now," Almód continues, "you have come to me as an instrument of my revenge. By tomorrow, Éothain will be dead, his family name ruined. Éomer will suffer an embarrassment and a weakened grip on this region, which I will be only too happy to exploit. And you," he laughs, and the sound of it raises the hackles on Merry's neck. "You will, perhaps, only wish that you were dead. I may never be able to pay back the grief that you have caused in full measure, but we shall begin here."

Merry's breathing is labored and his heart is thunderously loud in his ears. "Why...why are you telling me this?" he gasps.

"Because you will remember none of it."

Almód picks up some dried yellow leaves from the table and holds them up. Merry tries to focus on them, but a fog is creeping into his mind, shrouding thought and memory. Almód sits silent for several long minutes, until suddenly he speaks.

"And this, Master Holdwine, is comfrey leaf -- good for the treatment of abscesses and blood poisoning."

There is something familiar about all of this, something important Merry struggles vainly to remember. But the fog completes its descent upon him, and the something important, whatever it is, drifts beyond his reach. He stares vacantly at the dried leaves Almód holds up to him. "Oh aye," Merry replies, slowly. "We use comfrey as a poultice for burns and ulcers in the Shire."

"Do you indeed?" Almód replies, and smiles.

VII.
"I do not think you should meet with him alone."

They have made camp beneath the stars of Westfold, in a small green dell gone grey in the deepening night. The wind blows from the north, and Merry retrieves an extra blanket from his kit, to stave off the growing chill.

"You think he's dangerous, then?" Merry asks, seating himself at Éothain's side and offering the blanket to share. Unbidden, his mind casts back ten years, when he, lonely and afraid on the perilous road from Dunharrow, had shared a bedroll and some fleeting solace with this man. Would he be welcomed now? Ten years is a long time, and so much has changed.

"Not dangerous perhaps," Éothain replies, accepting Merry's proffered blanket, "but prone to mischief and deceit. Aside from what he tells you of his herb lore, be wary of whatever else he might say."

"I'll be careful," Merry reassures his companion.

They settle into a comfortable silence, disturbed only by the crackle of the fire and the occasional stomp of hooves as the horse and pony settle. Merry's crooks his knee and rests it on Éothain's thigh. Calloused fingers stroke the back of Merry's hand under the blanket, slowly, questioningly. In answer, Merry leans in to Éothain's warmth, entwines his fingers with Éothain's and gently squeezes.

Perhaps ten years is not such a long time, after all.

VIII.
"But Pippin, you have to come. We've been planning this for ages."

"I'm sorry, Merry, but Diamond has her heart set on attending Queen Lothiriel's autumn feast tomorrow night. Couldn't you just delay the trip a day or two? I could ride with you then."

"No, Pip, I can't delay it," Merry answers testily. "The herb master at Halfara is expecting me in three days time. He's an important man there – how would it look if I were to be late? I'm leaving today."

Merry knows he is being stubborn, but he doesn't much care. Even two years after Pippin's marriage to Diamond, Merry still has a hard time reconciling himself to the fact that he is now second best in his cousin's affections.

"I'll follow you then, the day after tomorrow at latest," Pippin says, brushing his hand along Merry's shoulder in an effort to appease.

"Fine," Merry snaps and shrugs him off. "Do as you please."

Merry stalks off towards the stables to ready his pony, scowling and muttering to himself. He pays no mind to those he passes that nod greetings to him. Deeply mired in his own jealous thoughts, he startles to hear a deep, warm voice call out close behind him, "Master Holdwine!"

A strong hand grasps him by the arm, and Merry turns about. A smile lights his face in spite of his foul mood of only a moment before.

"My Lord Éothain!" he cries, and the two old friends embrace.

"Well met, Master Holdwine," Éothain says. "I did not know that you had come to Edoras. But I see that your bags are packed. Where are you off to, then?"

"I'm going to Halfara to meet with the old herb master there. I'm thinking of writing a book, you know."

Éothain laughs. "Are you indeed? I wish you luck with it. I'm sorry to say I cannot add to your knowledge of herbs and remedies, but I can offer you company upon the road, for you are going my way. I am lord of Westfold Vale, and I ride now for home."

"King Éomer told me as much, about your being Lord of Westfold Vale I mean. Indeed, I was hoping to visit with you before returning to Edoras."

"And you shall be a guest in my home after your herb meeting. Until then, I would be honored to ride with you as far as Halfara."

"I would be glad of the company," Merry says, and they walk down to the stables together.

IX.
Merry uncovers his eyes, rolls over, tries to sit up. The roaring in his ears slowly subsides, only to be replaced with the murmur of voices. He blinks and squints at the villagers standing in a semi-circle about him. Somber-faced women whisper together and point. Old men on horses stare and shake their heads. All seem confused, unsure of what should be done or who should do it. Suddenly, a high, clear voice breaks through like the peel of a bell.

"Merry!"

A hobbit pushes his way through the crowd and lands on his knees before Merry. Quickly, he undoes a leaf-shaped broach at his neck and removes his cloak. He wraps Merry up, and scans his face with wide, worried eyes.

A tall, pale man with silver and black hair follows quickly behind the hobbit and stoops down beside him.

"Master Holdwine, are you all right? Can you tell us what happened?" he asks.

"I," Merry falters. "I don't know...I can't remember."

"There, there," the man sooths. "It's no wonder -- you are badly shaken." He reaches over and picks up a small pair of tattered breeches and a blood stained tunic lying nearby. "It seems obvious enough what has happened," he says more loudly, as if to be sure the gathering crowd about them can hear. "Those bruises on you and these torn clothes tell the tale plainly enough. I shouldn't think you have aught to worry about. I shall discuss the matter with the proper authorities here. I doubt you will be charged with the killing."

"What?" Merry gasps. "You...you think I did this?"

"Well, cousin," the hobbit beside him replies matter-of-factly, "That is your sword in his back."

"And no one could blame you for defending yourself, of course," the man says. "Come now, both of you. My home is not far from here. We'll find you a quiet place to rest." His eyes flash at Merry under their heavy lids, and he smiles reassuringly. "And," he adds, "perhaps a mug of ale to calm your nerves."

That smile makes him uneasy, though Merry knows no reason for it. He finds himself answering slowly, as if still half asleep. "Yes," he mumbles, "a mug of ale to calm my nerves."

"Come on then, cousin" the hobbit says, wrapping his arms about Merry's shoulders and helping him up. "You never could say no to a spot of good ale."

END

Current Mood: late

13 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
claudia603 From: claudia603 Date: September 29th, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was delightfully unique and intelligent and I think I'll still have to read through it a few more times!!!! :-) Lovely story crafting!
mordelhin From: mordelhin Date: September 29th, 2005 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I thought I'd have a little fun playing with the narrative structure. Glad it seems to have worked.
elanorgardner From: elanorgardner Date: September 30th, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh. I can't wait to get to this one! Don't go anywhere! I will be RIGHT back ... later ... this weekend. This one looks to take some focused, concentration.

(You are gonna LOVE our next challenge!! heeee)
mordelhin From: mordelhin Date: October 1st, 2005 04:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
(You are gonna LOVE our next challenge!! heeee)

*squee!* It's going to be a halloween-y challenge, yis? Hooray for scary smutty stories!

I've already got a vampire bunny (Bunicula?!) nibbling at my neck, and a zombie bunny nibbling at my skull.

;-)
elanorgardner From: elanorgardner Date: October 3rd, 2005 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent, excellent stuff! The icon really doesn't fit this, but, eh.

Very engaging and intelligent. What a puzzle! And it made me want more (and wonder about the movie you mentioned as well). I want someone to find Almód out! And to see Merry AND Pippin heading right back into his nasty lair -- grrrr.

Poor Éothain. Poor poor Merry. Someone come and root out this evil -- NOW!!!

Fabulous dark dark stuff. I hope more folks come and enjoy!!

Thanks so much for participating in the challenge.

EG
abby_normal From: abby_normal Date: October 2nd, 2005 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay, wow. You are very, very wicked. This was really well done and really disturbing. Oh, I hate to see Merry duped like this but DAMN! was it effective. Wonderfully intriguing and an excellent tale. Thank you so much for playing!
mordelhin From: mordelhin Date: October 2nd, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, poor Merry. I was terribly unkind to him in this one. But I'm glad you enjoyed it.

*cackles and rubs hands together wickedly*
aussiepeach From: aussiepeach Date: October 2nd, 2005 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Hee, Bunicula! This was very Memento and dark and daring. It took me a read or two to work out what had happened. Creepy. Well done!
mordelhin From: mordelhin Date: October 2nd, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Hee, Bunicula!

That was so my favorite book when I was 11 - I adored Chester, despite his neurosis.


danachan From: danachan Date: October 3rd, 2005 01:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I've now read this story too many times to count, and I've liked it more and more each time. The premise is just wonderful, and I love how you constructed it, and I just -- oh, the narrative flow. It all makes me wibble!

Oh, Merry, Merry, Merry. Really, the work here is just fantastic, and I love how it all works, and ow, Merry, Merry, Merry... Oh, this is just so well done.

*glee!*

The ending is just -- wow. Really. Love this, I do.

(Write more more more more more. Please? *grin*)
sophinisba From: sophinisba Date: October 4th, 2005 04:41 am (UTC) (Link)
You write so evocatively, Mordelhin, I just love the atmosphere of this. I hope you'll be writing and posting more fic soon.
rubynye From: rubynye Date: October 23rd, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
danachan sent me here. What an awful series of events, and what an awesome, well=characterized, beautifully crafted and skillfully told story!
mariole From: mariole Date: October 29th, 2005 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
What a gorgeous mood-- and such a horrific story! Agh. Poor Merry, poor Eothain. This was lovely and you had me engrossed from the first paragraph. Well worth waiting for. Thank you. I so enjoy your work.
13 comments or Leave a comment