Watcher of the Woods

Summary: What if Merry did fall off from Treebeard during the take-over of Orthanc? He was not washed into a hole underground but rather to a creature not seen by anyone for thousands of years… a true watcher of all woods in Middle-Earth.

Pairing/s: None.

Warnings: Blood, some violence. Think that's all.

Disclaimers: I don't own LotR. Belongs to Professor J.R.R Tolkien.

Follows the movie… for a little bit anyway. Also, I have made up some changes that fit my story. What do you call it now again when it's a bit different from normal? AU?

Last note; don't kill me because of this one-shot! This one just got into my head and demanded to be written out! So if you don't like it, don't bother saying anything about it, just hit the back-button! Agreed? Yes, good. On with the story.

-

"Hang on, little Hobbits!"

The powerful wave of water hit Treebeard's dangly body and he leaned forward to ease the impact up. The water was everywhere, surrounding them, drowning their enemies. Other Ents dug their roots into the ground, holding fast against the powerful stream of the wild river. Distant screams from Orcs were heard but neither Hobbit cared for the sounds.

Merry had a slight dislike for water, as he had for heights. All in all, he was a rather normal Hobbit with normal fears. He had never liked being in the water for too long, hence the reason why his mother always said he looked dirty. Washing his hands, fine. He could do that for a long time if she wished. Clean his hair? Fine too, if he just could stick his head into a bowl and clean it that way. Sit down in the water… not fine. That was just plain scary. So he was not enjoying sitting high up in the air and having water underneath him. One wrong move and he would go straight down there.

As if someone had heard him and decided to play a cruel joke on poor Merry, he saw Pippin loose his grip when a new wave came. His failing arms told Merry that Pippin might be even more scared of water than him at the moment and did the only thing that he could; he released his grip and with a push brought Pippin back to safety. Error with that move; now Merry had nothing to hold on to. Realizing that, Merry could do nothing but fall down. His impact with the water made Pippin scream.

-

There was no sense of up or down. All was swirling, making Merry moan in displeasure. He was wet, disoriented and extremely dizzy… and he most definitely did not recognize the place. This sucked.

He slowly dragged himself up to what he hoped was a standing position, wondering just how far the water had taken him. He squinted his eyes, trying to will some of the dizziness away. It did not work that well. He slowly slid down and rested his head against the bark of the tree. It felt different from Fangorn… was this even Fangorn? He had no idea where he was.

A soft rustling was heard behind him and Merry tried to turn around. He did not want to end up in enemies' hands. Soft hands held his body still and a voice, whispering like the wind, said:

"No worries, little one. Close your eyes."

Merry felt better when his eyes were closed and his body was moved. He was too tired to fight it and his cheek rested now on a silken fabric. Someone was lifting him and he fell unconscious.

-

While they had felt victories due to Helm's Deep not long ago, the company moved through Fangorn Forest in depressed silence. The only real sound was the sound of Treebeard's feet. Pippin was sitting behind Aragorn, his hands fisting into the man's clothes and his eyes empty. Aragorn had placed one his hands on top of one of Pippin's small ones and held it tightly.

They had lost another one. Gimli had fallen to his knees once they heard about Merry. Legolas had simply walked away, needing some time alone. Death was not new for the fair elf, but death of companions was far too much for him. Aragorn had stayed, if only to try and comfort the normally happy Hobbit. Pippin had not said a word; it was Treebeard who had told them.

The sunlight came through the thick masses of trees and the exit began to show. As they went out of the forest, Gandalf turned Shadowfax around to look at Treebeard.

"I thank you for looking after young Pippin," he said to the old Ent.

Treebeard nodded and looked over to where the Halfling was. He slowly went down to one of his knees, bringing himself closer to the ground and to the Hobbit.

"Pippin?" His voice was as quiet as it could get. The Hobbit looked up at him and said:

"Yes?"

"If it is any comfort to you… I will look for Merry… whether he is alive or not. And if he is, I will make sure he comes to Edoras."

Pippin nodded, eyes filled with tears. The old Ent rose up and slowly moved back into the forest.

-

Aragorn looked over the bare landscape, sighing. The celebration for the victory at Helm's Deep was being prepared in the Golden Hall of Meduseld but after the news about Merry he did not feel quite up for it.

Pippin was not up for it either. The Hobbit had joined him and now stared around the landscape as well.

"What if Merry drowned?" he suddenly asked.

Aragorn looked down at the Halfling and said:

"I don't know… I truly don't know."

"Merry didn't like water," Pippin continued. "No Hobbit does really. When we were travelling along the river… he was a bit freaked out by that."

"Constantly surrounded by water in a boat with nowhere to escape… I would be frightened too, if I had a dislike of water."

"I don't like water either, but it was easier for me. I don't know but it was."

Aragorn put a hand on Pippin's shoulder.

"I've never been away from Merry for this long," the Halfling said. "He's always been there with me."

"Then we can only hope he is alive," Aragorn said.

-

Merry was aware of the sun shining on his face, and sleepily opened his eyes. A warm blanket lay over him and he slowly sat up. His dizziness had all but disappeared and he was dry. He looked up at the trees; they were different from what he remembered in the Fangorn Forest. They were glowing with a strange silvery light, almost looking like Lothlórien trees. Above the trees he saw mighty mountains rise to the sky.

"You are awake at last."

His head snapped to the side, and his eyes widened as he saw something he had never seen before.

The hair was glowing silver-white and was flowing down the man's chest and back. The skin was dark grey, almost black, reminding Merry a bit about coal, and shining yellow eyes watched him. Two pointed ears stuck up from the hair, heavily pierced with silver jewellery.

The man wore a silvery long skirt, slits up the sides of his legs for flexibility and a red sash securing it around his waist. He wore a silvery open vest as well, his wrists on both arms and legs decorated with silver bracelets.

He rose up from the small fire, his steps soft and quiet. The bracelets jingled softly, and the Halfling noted his legs were bare. Was not the man cold? Said man crouched down and he put a hand against Merry's forehead.

The dark skin was soft, smooth and warm. The nails were long and elegant. The whole man was elegant.

"Your fever has lessened," the man said, sounding relieved. "Might I ask who you are?"

"I'm… Merry. Merry Brandybuck from the Shire."

"Shire? Halfling-land?"

"How do you know?" Merry said, surprised. "Not even Treebeard knew!"

"Treebeard, the Ent?" the man said. "He knows his forest. I myself must know all forests."

"Wait… who are you?"

"I am a watcher."

"A watcher?" Merry asked.

"I watch the woods," he said and sat back onto the ground in front of the Hobbit. "I have watched the woods for a very long time so long that not even the Ents knows me."

"But they watch the forests…"

"They watch one forest at a time," the watcher said. "I guard over all woods, along with others like myself."

"And what exactly are you except for a watcher?" the Hobbit said and cocked his head curiously.

"An Old Elf," he said. "My name is Emalrion. My people are known to few. The Modern elves may know of us from history books dated long ago. Most of us left Middle-Earth well before the Second Age."

"How old are you?" Merry asked with wide eyes.

"I have stopped counting the millennia," Emalrion said with a wry smile. "Now I wish to know how I found you half-drenched at the foot of the Misty Mountains, far from your Shire."

Merry took a deep breath and began his tale.

-

It was night by the time he finished and Emalrion had moved him closer to the fire and bundled him up again. Merry grasped the blankets tightly and looked on as the elf worked with preparing a meal. He still wondered if Emalrion was not cold; the air was cold and it made Merry shiver. But the elf sat crouched down, seemingly comfortable with how cold it was.

"How long was I out?" the Hobbit suddenly asked. He was thinking of Pippin, Treebeard… maybe even Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli had found Gandalf and they were going to Isengard.

"It has been some days," Emalrion said and Merry froze. "Are you worried about your friends?"

"A bit," the Hobbit confessed.

"I heard the Rohan-people moved out. King Théoden moved to war."

"King Théoden?"

"Your friends must be with him," Emalrion said. "Cannot think of anywhere else they could be."

"Where were they going?"

"Gondor," the elf replied as he passed Merry a bowl. "The last stronghold against this Sauron."

"You aren't worried about the outcome?" Merry asked.

"I have lived so long, Merry, that it is difficult to start caring," Emalrion said. "However, I am cheering on men as I always have done. They will at least try to make a good future, when they are not busy with their thoughts of greed."

Merry looked on as Emalrion seemed to mash different leaves and herbs together in a bowl with steaming hot water. The Hobbit began to eat the meal the elf had given him and pushed away his worries for now. Emalrion would probably help him if he asked.

-

Pippin looked out at the lands of Gondor. Gandalf was smoking his pipe quietly beside the Hobbit.

So many things had gone wrong. Merry had been lost, and Pippin began to loose hope that his best friend would be ever found again. He himself had foolishly looked into the Palantir and had now gone to Gondor with Gandalf. It had been hard leaving Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli behind. He knew they could take care of themselves but he still worried. Ages had passed since they had been carefree and enjoying the journey. Ages since Frodo and Sam had gone to Mordor alone. Ages since he and Merry had been taken by the Uruk-hais… only moments since Merry had been pulled away from him.

If he had only hold onto Treebeard like the old Ent had told them…

"Don't dwell on the past, Pippin."

The Hobbit looked up at Gandalf. The wizard looked down at him and continued:

"Nothing you berate yourself for will bring Merry back quicker."

"He maybe is already dead," Pippin said.

"But he could also still be alive," Gandalf said. "Have faith, Pippin. Have faith in your friend."

-

Merry tugged on the clothing, looking up at Emalrion. He just smiled at the pouting Hobbit and said:

"It looks good."

The smaller one of them had now instead of his clothes (that had been nearly destroyed by the water) black chopped off pants, a silver shirt with longish arms and a black vest on top of that. Emalrion had also wrapped him up in a sort of silvery cloak with his Lórien-clasp.

"I look strange," Merry objected.

"No you do not," the elf shot back. "You look wonderful. A little watcher of the woods."

"I'm not a watcher."

"False. You are one now."

"How come?"

Emalrion just smiled and continued to pack.

"I will guide you as far as to Minas Tirith," the elf said as he rose up gracefully. He wore the same clothing as before, only now he had a light back resting against his left hip, the sling across his chest. "There your friends should be."

Merry nodded, still wondering what the watcher meant with his comment of Merry being a little watcher of the woods. Nonetheless, he followed Emalrion as the elf began walking.

-

Aragorn looked around as they arrived. Théoden had managed to gather people, but not enough. The Ranger knew that. Sauron never settled for little. The forces would be enormous, and not just from one way. No, evilness would come from every way to aid the downfall of Middle-Earth.

He glanced over at his friends and saw Legolas come to the same conclusion. The elf shook his head sadly and spurred the horse on, despite Gimli's protest of 'slowing the beast down'. Sometimes Aragorn believed Legolas rode faster only to tease the dwarf.

They finally could mount off and the Ranger stroke Brego's mane lovingly. The horse stayed with him, despite not belonging to him. A pale hand came and joined him, and Aragorn looked into Legolas' deep eyes. At first the elf just continued stroking the mane, tangling his fingers into the hair and looking at the horse. Then he looked at the Ranger and shot him a half-smile.

"Victory, if there is any, will cost us a lot," Legolas then said sadly. "Blood will be spilt, over and over again."

"Fear not, mellon-nin," Aragorn said and laid a hand on the elf's shoulder. "We will win." He then walked off to find something for them to eat.

"Will we?" the Sindar asked the horse quietly. Brego merely puffed his shoulder.

-

Merry's legs felt light, almost too light. He had no problems whatsoever keeping up with Emalrion's long strides which could be compared with Aragorn's fast pace. Normally, he would have collapsed.

"Emalrion, how come I'm not tired?" the Hobbit asked.

"Yes, how come?" the elf said with a teasing smile. "I told you."

Told him? When?

Click.

"But I can't be a watcher!" Merry said, knowing what the elf was talking about. "I'm just a Hobbit!"

"Why else were you brought from that wizard Saruman's home to my home? The water should not have been able to bring you to me, because there is no way the water could. Yet you were there."

"Should not have been able to?"

"Merry, I live higher up. The water brought you upstream, which I may say is rather impossible."

The Halfling's eyes widened. Emalrion smiled and said:

"Worry little about it. Being a watcher is not that bad."

"But…? Will I live as long as you? Will my friends die while I remain?"

"I do not know. Maybe you will pass on as normal, maybe not. You will see in a few years time, when you should start to age. Do not worry."

"Emalrion… have you lost friends?"

"More than I can count," the elf answered truthfully as they moved through the forest. Now Merry began to recognize Fangorn, the twisted trees hovering over them, whispering amongst them. "They all have a special and fond place in my heart, and I gladly await the day when I shall sail and meet them."

"Sail and meet them?"

"In the Undying Lands, they wait for me. All who has died waits in Valinor."

"Undying Lands? Isn't it there the elves sails?"

"Yes. But not only elves dwell there. The dead are also there."

Merry looked at Emalrion and said:

"When are you sailing and meeting them?"

"I do not know," the watcher replied, stepping over a fallen log. "It will be many centuries before that, maybe even a few millennia. I have no hurry."

"But your people left before the Second Age! Aren't you missing them?"

"We always lived in solitude," Emalrion said. "If there is time after this wretched war, I shall show you the remains of one of our former palaces. It lies near humans, yet no one has discovered it. You can show your friend the elf."

"Legolas? If it's a former elf-palace, I'm sure he'll be quite interested. Maybe even Sam! He loves elves!"

"It is decided then! You shall take your friends to our palace, and show them that we indeed did exist," Emalrion said with a smile. "Aah, finally out!"

They came out from the forest and Merry looked around the lands now when it was day, and he was not amongst Uruk-hais.

"Home of the horse-lords," Emalrion said. "Truly beautiful."

Merry closed his eyes against the wind. He could feel it so much more than before. Before the wind was just the wind for him but now it was more. It brought life with it from all different places, coating the air with smells from far away. He never noticed the elf's smile getting broader, yellow eyes flashing.

-

Aragorn boarded the ship hurriedly, wasting no time. The Dead Army would follow him where he went so with their help he quickly set sail for the harbour that would lead them to Minas Tirith. That done, he turned to his two companions. Gimli and Legolas had started push the corpses overboard and the elf had even gotten buckets of water to get away the worst of the blood from the wood.

Aragorn himself sat down tiredly and leaned his head against the wood. He had succeeded. He had brought the army with him, and now hoped he was not too late to save Minas Tirith and King Théoden's people. For a while, he just watched his two friends work, Legolas wrinkling his nose at all the blood and scooping up more water with his bucket to clean some away. That elf was a perfectionist.

Noticing he was being watched, Legolas came over and sat down beside him before smiling a bit.

"Something wrong?" the man asked.

"No, not at all," the elf said and smiled wider. "In fact, it feels like everything is going fine."

"What do you mean?" Just a few days prior Legolas seemed to await his own death. What had changed so suddenly?

"The wind is carrying with it a message," Legolas said and tilted his head up, closing his eyes.

"And what does it tell you?" the man asked suspiciously. Trust an elf to think that the wind is speaking.

"That there is a Halfling on his way to Minas Tirith."

Against his will, Aragorn's eyes widened.

-

Merry ran alongside Emalrion, the wind seemingly carrying them to Minas Tirith. The elf let out childish laughter from time to time, as Legolas had done when they just had started their journey. It had been so long ago it felt like:

Merry trudged along with Pippin, feeling very ready to call it a day and rest. However, the sun was still high and they had to keep on moving. The Hobbits were tired, but they could not afford to stop. They needed to cover ground.

Suddenly Legolas raced past them, and Sam, who was still in awe of the elves in Rivendell, stared at the blonde. They had never seen an elf in Rivendell actually run. All of them had been striding along so slowly and gracefully, not like Legolas with his long strides. The Sindar laughed as he turned his head and moments later came Aragorn running, screaming on Elvish while getting leaves and grass from his hair. Legolas laughed more and took off, the Ranger following.

The Hobbits stared at the two as the elf was chased around by the human, his clear laughter echoing around them. Gimli and Boromir seemed surprised as well while Gandalf only sighed and said:

"Even after all these years, those two are nothing but children."

Merry smiled at the memory and raced to catch up with Emalrion. Said elf laughed, his hair shining in the sun and his skin changing depending how he moved.

"How come I can run as fast as you?" Merry called out. Emalrion laughed again and replied:

"The wind knows you and helps you to catch up!"

"Knows me? Because I'm a watcher?"

"Of course!"

Merry ran faster than the elf who grinned and spread his arms out. At this rate, they were to arrive faster than Emalrion had anticipated. But not fast enough to come in the midst of battle. Emalrion could smell war in the air, and knew he would go slow enough to spare Merry from that battle. Whatever battle ahead Merry could fight, but not this one.

Because Emalrion knew this battle was already won by man.

-

Aragorn turned and met Gandalf's gaze as the ghosts slowly faded from view, freed of their duties. He smiled a bit and then looked around the field. Orc and men lay together on the ground, smoke rising from Minas Tirith. Worn men from Rohan searched for survivors, Gondor's men slowly coming out as well.

He was glad that his friends were still alright. He looked over where Théoden was cared for by Eomer and to everyone's earlier surprise Eowyn. The brave woman had a broken arm from fighting the Witch King but she had high spirits. Théoden had a broken leg after being attacked by the Witch King's beast and his horse was injured as well.

Suddenly Legolas looked away, further from the battle and not to Minas Tirith or Mordor. His eyes widened, and Aragorn said:

"What's wrong, Legolas?"

"Legolas?" Pippin asked worriedly.

"Merry…" the elf whispered.

They all turned to look and gaped.

Merry walked forward, still too far away for shouting distance but close enough to see his small stature and mop of hair. He was dressed in strange clothes and looked behind himself, as if someone had accompanied him and suddenly was gone.

As on cue, the remains of the Fellowship began running.

-

Merry heard the last whispers of Emalrion die out, and knew the watcher did not want anyone to see him yet missed his presence. He turned back and saw his friends coming. His smile broadened when he saw Pippin, and he started to run as well.

The two Hobbits almost crashed into each other, Pippin trying to hug the life out of Merry.

"I thought you were dead!" the slightly younger of the two sobbed out as the others surrounded them.

"Hey, not getting rid of me that easily!" Merry said.

"You truly are stubborn creatures," Legolas said at the Hobbit, and Merry looked up at him with a bright grin.

"Where did you get this clothing from?" Aragorn asked, touching the cloak in wonder.

"I met someone," the Hobbit said and looked at them all. "He took care of me."

"Who was it?" Gandalf asked.

"He is a bit like Treebeard I suppose," Merry said. "But in a wider range."

"What do you mean?" Gandalf asked.

"He's watching all of the woods in Middle-Earth."

He knew he was going to see Emalrion again, whether it would be here, in the Shire or perhaps even in Valinor. He would see the elf again; he just had to wait.

End


There you have it, another example of my mind making up stories when I'm really supposed to do something else (this one was made up during school, and as you know my teachers didn't always appreciate when I disappeared into my own world during their lessons).

It's an open ending story just so you know I won't be posting another chapter or so.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Until another time,

Ja,

Tiro