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Beyond the Bounds of Life  by Hai Took

Disclaimer: I, of course, own nothing. Just playing around after being gone from the world of Lord of the Rings fanfiction for many years now.



Merry rubbed fretfully at his eyes. Something was wrong with his vision. At least, he thought there was. A strange mist seemed to float before him. It appeared to be growing thicker about him, and shadows ran through it, a deeper black. Then his vision would clear momentarily and he could see the stone walkway he was trudging along. It had been quite some time since he lost sight of the Rohirrim soldiers that were bearing away Eowyn and the King. Had it been merely moments? Or hours? He couldn’t say --the mist was making it difficult to see and to think clearly.

He sank to his knees, rubbing his eyes with his left hand. He couldn’t seem to use his right hand properly, not since he stabbed him. He shuddered, not wanting to think of such things. The mist encircled him, growing darker, and he shivered. Dark shadows crowded around him, closer and more distinct.

The mist rose up, taking the shape of the Wraith King! Merry grasped for his sword, but, no, it had already burned up! He shrank down, hearing the shrieks ring through his head, and the shadow dissipated and he saw again King Theoden lying on the field, but, no, his fingers scraped a stone walkway, dissolving the mist momentarily. Mist, memory, shadow; it all swirled around his mind. He stood again and moved to stumble on, not knowing what was real and what was a terrifying nightmare.

“Well Merry! Thank goodness I have found you!”

He looked up and the mist before his eyes cleared a little. There was Pippin! They were face to face in a narrow lane, and but for themselves it was empty. He rubbed his eyes.

“Where is the King?” he said, “And Eowyn?” Then he stumbled and sat down on a doorstep and began to weep again.

“They have gone up into the Citadel,” said Pippin. “I wish I could carry you. You aren’t fit to walk any further. They shouldn’t have let you walk at all; but you must forgive them. So many dreadful things have happened in the City, Merry, that one poor hobbit coming in from the battle is easily overlooked.”

“It’s not always a misfortune being overlooked,” said Merry. He kept his gaze focused on Pippin’s face but the mist was pressing in again. “I was overlooked just now by -- no, no, I can’t speak of it. Help me, Pippin! It’s all going dark again, and my arm is so cold." Almost like a weight, the mist and shadow pressed in, and he gasped as Pippin’s face began to fade, lost to the shadows.

Muffled, he could hear Pippin still speaking to him but couldn’t quite make out the words.

The shadows became distinct as he lost sight of Pippin completely. There, wavering around him were the phantoms of men and orcs, swarming about. He heard the shrieking Wraith as he swayed. 

A warm hand gripped his arm, and Pippin wavered into view again as the shadows blurred once more. “Are you going to bury me?”

“No indeed! No, we are going to the Houses of Healing.”

Merry lost sight of Pippin once more, although he felt they had stopped moving. It was as though he were watching the battle again. Eowyn standing over King Theoden, hair streaming behind her. Although in the mist it was dull, he had some vague memory that it had shone bright in the sunrise. He watched her shield shatter, and he knew he ought to move toward her. He should stab the hooded creature behind the knee, but he could not move. He cried out to her, but he made no noise. He watched the Wraith beat her down, and he wept.

Then all faded into silence. The landscape shifted around him, all gray, darkness pressing in once more. There was only cold - he would forever be cold. Silence and darkness. He had an uncomfortable feeling that this was all that was left to him, but he couldn’t seem to muster enough emotion to care. He stumbled forward. He would wander this dark and desolate world from now on. This was to be his end.

Once he thought he saw a man stumble through the darkness, but he quickly faded. Then he saw Eowyn stumble along ahead of him. Duly, his mind thought he should follow, but his feet responded sluggishly, and she was soon swallowed by the ever-present mist. 

Had he always wandered in mist and darkness? That seemed to be all there was and had ever been: darkness and cold. He had an uncomfortable feeling there had once been more than that, but as he found thoughts like that confusing and painful, he let them go. 

There was a smell. Was that what it was called? That tickling sensation in his nostrils? He turned, looking behind and ahead. Where was it coming from? It was fresh, like orchards and heather and sunshine full of bees. He felt his heart lighten, and he even smiled. 

“Merry,” Merry looked around for the source of the resonant voice. “Merry, come back to us.”

Color began to seep back into the surroundings. He stood upon a green field. The mist parted before a man in shining garments who strode forward. “Oh!” Merry felt his heart lurch as he recognized Strider, taller and grander he seemed than he was before.

“Merry, you have wandered enough in Shadow.” Aragorn knelt before the hobbit, and Merry was nearly blinded by the green stone that shone forth from his brow.

“I do not know the way.” Merry squinted up at Aragorn. “It was so horrible on the plain. The Wraith! Is he truly gone? The King and Eowyn -- did they perish?” 

“The King has passed on,” said Aragorn, and Merry bowed his head in grief. “Eowyn still lives. She was also touched by Shadow, but her injuries will heal. As will yours. Come, Merry.” 

“The-the Wraith?” asked Merry, and the mist seemed to try to push in, but it was held back by the light emanating from Aragorn as he knelt beside the hobbit.

“The Wraith is truly gone. It was foretold that no man could defeat him and thus, he had a false confidence in facing a Shield Maiden of Rohan and a Hobbit of the Shire.” Aragorn smiled fondly at Merry, placing a hand on his shoulder, and the mist seemed to fade back even more. “Now, come!” 

“I do not know the way, and I am so very tired,” said Merry, leaning against the Man. “I can’t find the way. The path will just fade before me.”

“No more, Merry. Here, take my hand and let me guide you,” Aragorn stood, and taking Merry’s cold right hand, led him forward. Slowly, the plain seemed to dissolve around them as the mist cleared and finally resolved completely around the scruffy form of Strider bending over him.

Blinking, he he smiled at his friend. “I am hungry. What is the time?”

Italics are from Return of the King Chapter VIII: The Houses of Healing

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