CHAPTER SIX

In the shadows, Frodo could see what was happening, a tendril had wrapped itself around Merry's throat, choking the life out of him.  He saw the creatures as they were, and the female wraith waiting in the background, smiling with glee as she saw Frodo now helpless in her realm.  Frodo scowled, he was not helpless.  Whoever wore the ring, was never helpless...never.  "You shall not take him!" Frodo cried out.   They were getting closer.  He tried to figure out what to do, he was not Gandalf, he was not a wizard.  He could not fight magic.   He finally looked down at the elvish sword in its hilt, and wondered. Sting was made by the elves, and the elves had great magic. Would it?

Without thinking anymore on it, Frodo drew the blade and cringed as a flash of white light nearly blinded him. His eyes became focused once again and he saw that Sting was glowing white and not blue in the Shadow Realm.  He took a deep breath, and hoped against hope, slicing down against the tendril.  To his great surprise, it was cut clean in two, and fell harmlessly from Merry's neck. As more came towards him, he cut and slashed at each one, despite the horrific screaches that were coming from the creatures of shadow who attacked him.  Frodo breathed heavily, sustaining a wound from a claw to his arm but still keeping them from his friend who was slipping away even now.

"Do not fade, Merry...Open your eyes, open them I say. I can take you back if you open them. Think of something good...the Shire. Think of why we are here. You cannot die, Merry, I need you. Pippin needs you..."  Frodo panted as the shadows stopped attacking him for a little while, his eyes darting around and focusing on the wraith. 

She was looking directly at Frodo, now, eyeing his shoulder menacingly.  The dead elleth spoke a few words and the ringbearer howled, forced to drop Sting and to collapse to the ground.  Frodo writhed, clutching the old wound as it throbbed as though it was just made. "Merry..." he gasped, before he could no longer form coherant words, and his breathing became rapid and shallow.

Merry's eyes fluttered open and he coughed, disoriented at best. What had happened? Where was he? His eyes searched the area and they fell immediately upon Frodo, then the ring, and then the elleth as he staggered to his feet.  He did not see a wraith, he saw the beautiful creature who had lured him to her gravesite. 

"Take the ring, Merry." She said softly, "Take the ring and his sword, and strike the urn that binds me." Her eyes glittered, "I wish to be free of this world, I have been bound here long enough."

"Do not believe her Merry, she is trying to trick you..." Frodo gasped out, cringing again as he was wracked with pain.  "It was all a trick, to lure us here. To use you..." he choked, clawing at the ground as he tried desperately to steady himself.

Merry glanced at Frodo, then back at the elleth. He struggled with the desire to obey the elleth, the pull of the ring and all that was evil in the land.  But, as he was a hobbit, hobbits were far more resistant to evil than most.  There was one person that he thought of, one clear face that came to mind as well as the beautiful land of the Shire, and she gave him the strength he needed to recognize friend from foe.

"This is my test." he said softly. "You said you would help me to choose, and you have." The heir of brandyhall straightened. He approached the prone form of his cousin, bending down as Frodo tried to struggle away from him. He ran his hands through his curls and looked at his cousin, smiling slightly.  "Its alright, Frodo." he whispered. "Its me, I'm back..." he looked back at the Elleth again. his expression changing and he reached down to pick up Frodo's sword, and held it over the elder hobbit, to his neck, as though he meant to kill.

However, Merry suddenly spun around and flung the sword thruogh the air towards the Elleth, a great shriek came from her and the other creatures who surrounded them. Merry collapsed to his knees and Frodo was released from the spell, so he was able to move again.  The elder hobbit looked at Merry in amazement when his friend smiled. "I choose you, Frodo. Not the ring. Lets get out of here, quickly."

They locked hands and Frodo removed the ring even as the elleth wraith seemed to explode into a blinding light, shards of her urn sailing towards them, but vanishing as soon as they were away from the shadow realm.  Merry glanced towards the urn, it had been broken, Sting lying next to it, and there was no sign of the elleth. "Merry!" Frodo struggled to his feet and slipped the ring away, reaching out to hug his cousin.

The two hobbits shared a brief tender moment as they hugged and then parted. Frodo winced slightly, for his arm now bore a scratch which did not bleed a great deal, but was still very painful.  "How did you do it? How did you break free of the trap?"

"I thought of the dearest things in the world to me." Merry said softly, "And my fondest wish. When I saw this, I saw the elleth for what she truly was. Evil. I thought of Stella, the lass my mother wants me to marry, I daresay that I am quite fond of the idea as well.  I thought of the Shire and all the reasons why the ring had to be destroyed. And I thought of you, cousin, and everything you had been to, and of my words when you first allowed us to follow you."

Frodo could not help but laugh, inspite of everything. "Stella...I thought so. I was not sure. She'll make you a fine wife, Master Brandybuck. And yes, a finer friend I could not have and you are my friends, you Sam and Pippin.  I could not have done this or gotten this far if you were not with me."  He then wheezed, feeling quite faint from the entire episode.

"We should return and have someone look to your wound."

"It is not bad, just a scratch, but you are right. We should not linger here."

"What will we tell the others?" Merry asked, going to retrieve Sting for his cousin.

"We tell them nothing." Frodo said with determination. "I fell and scratched myself on tree bark. That is all." He took Sting and sheathed it.   Merry reached over to lay a hand on his cousin's shoulder and they shared a look of understanding. 

So the pair returned to Lorien to leave evil behind, not discovering the fate of the elleth, but knowing for sure that at least one member of the fellowship had passed the test of the ring. Perhaps indeed she -had- aided him as she had promised, and as such, Merry had finally released her from her bounds to the realm of Arda. Released her to her final rest, despite the evil deed she had committed in the past which caused her suffer the fate she did. But that, is another story.

THE END.