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When the King Comes Back ( Brandy Hall )  by Dreamflower

Sterday morning a messenger left the Great Smials with messages for Brandy Hall, for the first time in nearly five months, and with a message to the Cotton farm, as well.


Sunday had passed uneventfully in Brandy Hall; Merry was beginning to ease himself back into his duties as his father’s assistant, but he found himself thinking wistfully of his friends in the Fellowship, and wondering how they fared, and worrying as he often did, about Frodo and Pippin.

Monday morning he was having elevenses in one of the kitchens with some of the younger members of the household. Berilac was there, Doderic, and another cousin Merimas, as well as Estella and Melilot. They had finished eating, and Merry had collected up the plates to wash; he naturally pushed his sleeves up to keep them out of the water.

Suddenly, he was aware that the conversation around him had stopped. He turned, and realized they were looking at the scars on his wrists.

“Rope burns,” he said. Might as well get it over with; if he didn’t tell what really happened, speculation would run rampant. “Present from some Orcs.” He touched the scar on his brow. “Got this about the same time. Pip and I spent a not so delightful three days in their company before we got away.”

Five pairs of eyes stared at him in horrified fascination. Oh, lovely! he thought, now I’ve got to tell them more. As he desperately cast about in his mind for what to say that would satisfy their curiosity for the time being, and yet not frighten the lasses to death, the door opened, and one of the children came bursting in.

“Mr. Merry! Mr. Merry! The Master is looking for you.”

“Ah, well. I should go and see what he wants, then, shouldn’t I?” he said, pushing down his shirt sleeves and exiting with alacrity, leaving his cousins staring after him. Whatever his father wanted, it could not have come at a better time, bless his luck.

He found both his parents in his father’s study. “You needed to see me?”

“Well, Merry, it looks like Pippin’s come through for us. We have messages from Tookland--from Paladin for me and from Pippin for you, and a message from Frodo also. Seems that Paladin thinks we need to talk. How soon can you be ready to travel? We’ll go by way of the Cotton’s farm and pick up Frodo as well.”

Merry gave a great whoop of delight, lifting his mother up and swinging her about. “How about that! I knew Pip could do it, but knowing how stubborn Uncle Paladin can be, I didn’t think it would be so quickly. I can be ready to go as soon as you are!”

“We’ll leave right after luncheon. We‘ll be taking the cart since your mother‘s coming, and go by way of the Bridge.”

“That’ll mean staying overnight in Frogmorton, Da. There’s no inn there any longer.”

“I can camp if I have to,” his mother said firmly.

Merry was scanning his letter from Pippin. “I’d better go armed, Da. Pip had a run in with some ruffians. They haven’t all been run off yet. Looks like we’ll have to do something about that.”

“I’ll leave that up to you, son.”

“I’ll see if Beri can come along as far as the Cottons’. Having one extra sturdy lad with us could be enough to keep trouble away before it starts.”

Merry turned and left to get everything ready, a joyful spring in his step.


Berilac was delighted that Merry asked him to come along, although he felt a bit apprehensive when Merry suggested he bring along a stout cudgel.

The two younger Hobbits rode their ponies up ahead of the cart in which rode Saradoc and Esmeralda. Merry set a pace that was a bit brisk for the cart-pony, but not nearly as fast as he had ridden alone on his way back to Buckland. They’d been a bit late in starting, but Merry was determined to push on to Frogmorton before they stopped for the night. Although he knew she was willing, he didn’t want his mother to have to camp, and Saradoc felt sure that his cousin Milo Burrows and his wife Peony would put them up for the night.

Merry and Berilac had ridden in silence for a while after crossing the Bridge. Merry had already seen the devastation wrought by the ruffians, but Beri had not. Since the Bucklanders had cut themselves off, he had not been west of the Brandywine in months. His eyes grew wide at the sight of the ugly square buildings and the cut down trees. Merry, on the other hand was heartened by the sight of Hobbits going about their business, and dismantling the works of Men. He could see that there had already been a start at building a new inn.

“Beri? Are you all right?” Even though he was two years younger, Merry felt ancient compared to his cousin.

“It’s just so awful! I’d heard the talk from the East Farthing folk who’d come to us, but I thought they were exaggerating. If anything they understated the case.”

“It’s bad enough, but we’re already putting it to rights. And it might make you feel better to know that it’s worst here along the roads and in the towns and villages. I rode cross country coming down, and they’d yet to get to most of the countryside.”

“You seem so calm about it all.”

“I’m not. But I have seen how much worse it *could* have been; I *know* how much worse it *would* have been if not for Frodo. ”

“Merry, was it very awful?” Berilac sounded tentative. He wanted to know, but he wasn’t going to push. “Was what Frodo did really *that* important?”

“Yes to both questions. It was very awful; I could tell you some of it, and probably will, but the second question--what Frodo did was the most important thing anybody has done in the whole of the Third Age. In fact, it was so important that out in the wide world, the day he did it is now considered the New Year, and we‘re starting a new Age. But it cost him, Beri.” Merry had to blink away tears. “You’ll be seeing him soon, and you’ll see of changes in him. I don’t think he will ever be truly happy again. Yes, it was very awful for me, but however awful it was for me, and for Pip, what Frodo and Sam went through was a hundred times worse.”

“Is that why you got so angry the other night?”

“Well, you know how close I am to Frodo. I guess I would have been angry anyway, but angry enough to say what I said? I just want him to get the respect he deserves here at home. Do you know, that in Gondor, the King does not allow Frodo to bow to him? Do you know that everywhere we went in Minas Tirith people in the street bowed to Frodo?” Merry did not mention that he and Pippin had come in for their own share of bows. “And then to come home and hear that kind of ignorant talk--well, I must say it set me off.

On the other hand, I have to say that I am glad that I went with him, and that Pip and I were able to help him as far as we did. And there was a lot to see and do in the world, Beri, and a lot of good people in it as well as wicked.”

“So you and Pippin got separated from Frodo?”

“Yes, thanks to that bunch of Orcs I mentioned this morning. I didn’t want to say much with Estella and Meli there, but I don’t mind telling you about it.” And it was so, he decided. He was going to have to talk about it now and then, and Beri was truly concerned.

He didn’t mention Boromir’s death. That would have been too harrowing, but he started from when he regained consciousness slung across an Orc’s back, and told the tale from there. He left off after the Ents took Isengard, and Berilac did not press for more, though it was obvious he wanted to know more.

It was nearly tea time, and Merry heard his father call out from the cart that they needed to stop, take a break and have a bite to eat. They pulled over to a grassy spot at the side of the road, and Esmeralda pulled out the basket she had packed. And they absorbed themselves in eating and discussing the meal with the kind of attention to detail that only Hobbits would appreciate.

Afterward, they went on their way again. Merry and Beri picked their conversation up again. By the time the sun began to set, Berilac had a good idea of what had happened to the four Hobbits during their absence. He marveled at Merry, and felt a bit envious of Frodo and Pippin. He was much closer to Merry in age, and they had been good friends growing up, but nothing like the bond Merry had with Pippin and Frodo. He thought again at some of the things Merry had told him; even Sam, Frodo’s gardener, seemed closer to Merry, which was a wonder to him. In fact, Merry had warned him that when they arrived at the Cottons’ he should be very careful about condescending to Sam or treating him like a servant, because otherwise he would be sure to draw Frodo’s ire, and Merry would not be any too pleased, either. “Just you keep in mind, Berilac, that in Minas Tirith one of the Ringbearers has a higher standing than a mere Knight of Rohan.”

When it grew dark, they pulled over, and had a brief discussion. Merry and his father decided to continue on, though it was a good three more hours to Frogmorton. Saradoc lit lanterns and hung them on either side of the cart, and they went on, though at a slower pace.

Conversation died, as both Merry and Berilac had to concentrate on the road in the dark.

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