On the Fields of the Pelennor
Lines in italics quoted from the movie, The Return of the King
Merry lay on the ground, stunned and in pain, watching as Eowyn screamed in inarticulate rage and rammed her sword through the mouth of the Witch King's helmet. The wraith spasmed and shrieked in agony, voice trailing off as its form withered and shrank down to nothing.
The pain in his right arm was intense - a cold so extreme it burned. When he tried to push himself up he found the arm was useless. Clutching it with his good hand, he found the flesh frigid to the touch. A vivid memory of Frodo flashed across his mind and he began to sweat. Struggling to a sitting position he pulled off his cloak and searched for a wound, breathing a sigh of relief when he found nothing. Climbing with difficulty to his feet, he staggered in the direction of Eowyn and Theoden, but before he'd gone more than a few feet, he was cut off. A small clump of orcs and Rohirrim surged across his path, battling fiercely.
He dimly realized that he had lost his sword at some point, and wouldn't be able to use it even if he could hold it. Stumbling backwards, he carefully skirted the fighting but by the time he'd made his way around the milling men and orcs, he was completely disoriented, no longer certain in which direction he should be going. His mind was growing foggy and the day seemed to be getting darker. He wandered the field for an unknown length of time in a haze of confusion, until he was brought to himself with shocking abruptness.
He stood still, staring blankly as he tried to understand what he was seeing. A Mumak was standing athwart his path, which would be alarming enough in itself. What was more shocking was the swarm of ghostly green forms surging over the gigantic creature. His heart seemed to go as cold as his arm and he stood motionless as the beast staggered under the onslaught, awaking to his own danger only just in time. He stepped backwards as the beast shuddered and fell to its knees before listing to one side and landing where Merry had been standing just seconds ago. The ground shuddered and shook as the beast landed and Merry lost his balance, falling to the ground in a crumpled heap.
Pippin ran across the battlefield, calling Merry's name and carefully scanning the bodies lying singly and in clumps across the ground. He had found his friend's cloak hours ago and had picked it up, but diligent searching had failed to reveal Merry, himself. He desperately feared finding Merry lying in one of these silent, lifeless heaps, but he more desperately feared he would simply never find his friend.
The day, which had never lightened beyond a dim twilight, was now darkening into true night. Soon he would be forced to return to the city, but he put that decision off a bit longer.
"Merry!" he called again, hoping against hope to hear an answer. There was none, and Pippin's hear cried out against the silence. Refusing to admit defeat, he took a few more steps, approaching the mammoth shape of a dead oliphaunt. There were lumps and mounds all around and in the gathering dark it was hard to see any distinguishing features on the still forms. But as he scanned the ground, something caught his eye. A foot covered with a hobbit's distinctive thick hair was sticking out from under a larger body.
Heart pounding a ferocious tattoo against his ribs, he ran over to the form, dropping Merry's cloak to the ground as he pushed the larger figure to one side and sank to his knees. "Merry," he breathed, gathering the still figure into his arms. There was blood at the corner of Merry's mouth and his face was terribly pale, almost grey, but he was alive. "Merry, it's me. It's Pippin." He choked back a sob as Merry's eyes opened and his cousin struggled to speak.
Merry had been lying in a pain-filled stupor that seemed to defy the passage of time, when he felt his body being shifted and dimly heard his name being called. Fighting against the darkness that was trying to drown him, he opened his eyes enough to see a familiar face hovering over him.
He tried to speak but it took a moment to get his lips and lungs working together to form words. "I knew you'd find me," he finally managed to mumble thickly. A thought struck him then and his eyes widened in panic. "Are you going to leave me?"
Pippin held him in strong, comforting arms and whispered, "No, Merry. I'm going to look after you,"
Oh, that was fine, then. Sighing wearily, Merry closed his eyes again, unable to fight against the pain and darkness any longer, but feeling safer for knowing Pippin was at his side.
Pippin was keeping himself under tight control. He was on the edge of panic, fear for Merry making it difficult to think. He needed to get help for his friend but wouldn't - could not - leave Merry alone again. Grabbing Merry's discarded cloak, he draped it over the unconscious hobbit and settled back on his heels to think.
"Alright, Pip, get it right now," he thought to himself. "Check him for wounds before you do anything else."
Pulling the cloak back, he carefully searched Merry. He was greatly relieved to find no visible injuries, but his heart stilled as he felt the clammy chill in Merry's right hand and arm. Biting back a sob, he double and triple checked that arm and shoulder for any cuts, no matter how small, but was unable to find anything.
He was also concerned about the blood at Merry's mouth and nose, but when he turned his friend's head slightly, he was able to see bruising across the left side of his face, and a small cut at the corner of his lip. There was hope, then, that he wasn't bleeding inside. Settling back on his haunches, he frowned anxiously. There was nothing else to do now but wait, and Pippin was not good at waiting.
It was a long wait, and Merry grew restless, tossing and muttering in pain or fear, Pippin could not tell which. It was completely dark when he finally saw a clump of torches moving towards him. Throwing all caution to the wind, he called out to the dimly seen figures.
Gimli stumped about in the darkness, muttering angrily to himself. When he found Peregrin Took he was going to pound that young rascal so deeply into the ground he would never be able to extricate himself. What was the lad thinking, taking off with no word to anyone immediately after the battle like that. It was still dangerous out here, no place for a hobbit to be wandering around.
After Aragorn had healed Faramir, the new Steward had asked after Pippin and that was when it became apparent the young hobbit had gone missing, and a little investigation revealed that no one had seen him since Aragorn released the army of the dead from their oaths of service. Greatly concerned, Aragorn had sent out several search parties and Legolas and Gimli had each joined one.
He'd been out here for nearly an hour now with a small group of Gondorians, slowly crisscrossing the field of battle. They were approaching the gigantic corpse of one of the Mumak when Gimli heard a faint, shrill cry. Listening intently, he heard it again, coming from the direction of the downed Mumak.
Moving as quickly as they could in the dark, the search party made their way in the direction of the call, and Gimli felt a great and unexpected surge of relief when he saw the small figure huddled on the ground between the dead beast's legs. Pippin was moving and appeared uninjured.
"Peregrin Took!" he growled, "what in Durin's name are you doing out here? A battlefield is no place to wander about, especially at night." He wanted to say more but stopped as he saw what, or rather who, Pippin was holding.
"I had to find Merry," Pippin explained in a low voice that hovered on the verge of tears. "He's hurt, Gimli. He needs help."
Quickly, the dwarf issued orders and the Gondorians with him assembled a stretcher and, lifting Merry's body up onto it, began walking back to the city. "Come on, lad," Gimli said gruffly, offering a hand to Pippin, "you look done in. We can talk once we've seen Merry safely to the Houses of Healing."
Merry wandered in a delirium of pain and feverish nightmares. He was alone. All of his friends had deserted him and left him here to die. But then he heard a sound. No, not alone, then. There were plenty of orcs and other foul creatures to keep him company in his final hours or moments. He tried to grab his sword but his sword arm was numb and hung limp at his side, unresponsive. Scrabbling at the ground desperately with his left hand, he felt a large rock and grabbed it up, ready to do the best he could, but as he raised the rock to throw it, his eyes widened in horror. It wasn't a rock, after all. It was a skull, too small to belong to any of the Big People who were fighting in this war. This was a hobbit skull, and in the way of dreams, Merry suddenly understood that it was Frodo's and that his cousin was dead. He began to sob, dropping the skull from lifeless fingers. It had all been for nothing then, they had failed. Sinking to his knees, he bowed his head in despair.
And yet, even as he gave in, it seemed that a hand reached down to him and lifted him to his feet. Raising his eyes, he beheld a figure that was at once familiar and entirely strange.
"Come back to us, Merry," a strong and comforting voice ordered. "Do not despair. These are but shadows of your own fears, given life by the Black Breath. Come back to us."
Merry blinked and found himself lying on a soft pallet, with someone bending over him. Staring about in consternation, he tried to comprehend what was happening.
"Be at ease, Meriadoc."
The figure standing over him resolved itself into Aragorn. The ranger reached down one hand and placed a cool cloth on Merry's forehead. "You are safe, now. Rest for a time and do not fear the shadows."
Unable to resist the note of command in his friend's voice, Merry allowed his eyes to slide shut and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The sleeping hobbit stirred and Pippin came fully alert. He had been sitting, and sometimes sleeping, by Merry's side all night and the stars were beginning to fade with the spreading of dawn's first light. Merry stirred again and sighed lightly in his sleep, turning his face towards Pippin. A moment later, his eyes fluttered and drifted open.
"Good morning," Pippin smiled. "I see you've finally decided to join the living."
Merry looked blank for a moment and then he shuddered, drawing in upon himself as tears welled up in his eyes. "Theoden King..." he murmured, "I saw...is he..."
"I am sorry, Merry," Pippin had not spent as much time with the king of Rohan as Merry, but he had seen that the Man deserved all honor. "He died in the battle. He has been brought in to rest in the Citadel until he can be taken back to Edoras."
"And Eowyn?" Merry asked, fear in his voice.
"She is well. As well as can be expected, at any rate. Aragorn brought her out of the shadow, as he did with you, and she is resting."
"She killed the Witch King, Pippin!" Merry's voice grew stronger as he spoke. "She stood her ground when the rest of us quailed in fear, and she drove her blade through his face, and he...he simply crumpled up and withered away."
"You are far too modest, my dear Merry," Pippin smiled fondly. "Eowyn has told us the Witch King would have killed her if not for the bravery of Meriadoc. She claims to owe you her life."
Merry made to sit up and Pippin helped him, settling pillows behind his cousin to provide a backrest.
"What is the time? Have I missed breakfast? Where is my pack? I think I want a good smoke almost as much as I want some food."
"My dear ass," Pippin laughed, "your pack is lying right beside you, and it is still a good hour until breakfast, although I'm sure I can round something up for you."
Aragorn arrived shortly after that, and looked Merry over thoroughly. "Hobbits!" he stated, half admiringly and half in disbelief as he shook his head. "You really do have an amazing toughness about you. You may count yourself lucky, Merry. Many have fared less well than you." Their friend looked more than weary and Pippin wondered if he'd slept at all. "You may get up and walk about today, if you promise to take it easy and rest when you tire. I imagine you'll be nearly back to full strength by tomorrow." He shook his head again as he stood to leave. "Rest while you can, my friends. We may have won this battle but the war is not over yet, and there is still much to do."
"Well, I see he's as cheerful as ever," Pippin commented with a grin. He refused to worry about anything, right at the moment. His Merry was well again and they were together. That was all that mattered right now. Moving slowly, the two friends made their way out of the Houses of Healing, walking in the sun and sharing the adventures they'd had while separated, never forgetting about the dangers still to come, but able to put them aside, for a few hours at least.