by Mel Baggins

Moria is a dark place. A place of evil, a place of fear. Anyone would know that, and not even hobbits are immune to the dreaded tales of those dark mines. The Fellowship had been traveling for two days with the incredibly crushing weight of stone overhead, seeming to suffocate each of them, quelling their spirits. Merry and Pippin had stayed close together, at times holding hands to comfort each other through this terrible stage of their journey. Now they rested, and though Pippin was able to fall easily into an exhausted slumber, Merry could not.

He lay on the cold stone, staring at the never-ending black above him, wishing for even a ceiling to stare at rather than the black all around him. For a brief moment he fancied that he had gone blind, but quickly reassured himself by looking on the faint glow radiating from the elf, Legolas, as he stood guard while the company slept. The hobbit clutched his cloak tighter under his chin and squeezed his eyes shut, banishing thoughts of goblins and gigantic spiders lurking in the dark passageways around them.

Slowly, slowly his mind began to drift. At first it was desperate thoughts of home, his family, the Brandywine glistening in the sunshine. He then began to think of meeting Pippin in Farmer Maggot’s garden and the pure rush of excitement at being somewhere they weren’t supposed to be, not to mention feasting on the fresh mushrooms they’d taken before his dogs could come after them. His thoughts again drifted to meeting Pippin, Frodo and Sam at the river, and the night spent at Crickhollow. They rose early in the morning to leave the Shire on their quest…the quest they were all still on. Was that really so long ago?

Merry jolted awake as he heard a voice. Pippin was mumbling in his sleep. Merry gave his cousin a jab with his elbow before turning over, gripping the cloak tighter and trying desperately to find rest. His thoughts again drifted through the past, taking him all through their journey out of the Shire. Through the Old Forest. He could see it all so clearly…every tree, every leaf. He even smelled the deep earthy tang in the air, felt the humidity on his skin, felt the fear of-

What? What was he afraid of? They were lost! They couldn’t get out of the forest! How will they ever meet Gandalf now? Suddenly, there was music. Not of instruments, but the quiet symphony of nature. Oh how he would love to rest for a while, just stretch out here by this tree. Just a short nap. But soon he realized that the Tree is the source of the lullaby and that the roots began to move about him. Beside him he could hear Pippin’s muffled cries as he wakes up, only to find the inside of a tree’s belly! Soon Merry is crying out too, feeling the roots slowly squeeze the life out of him, clutching at his shoulders, shaking him-

“Master Merry!” The soft and soothing voice woke him from his nightmare. His eyes opened to stare into the almost luminescent ones of the elf above him. “Wake up, young one, your dreams are frightening you!” Merry, still half in his dream, reached out for Legolas, clutching the elf to him for dear life. He smiled and wrapped his arms around the trembling hobbit, realizing with some dismay that he was crying. He did his best to soothe his charge, and found himself rubbing his back. After a few minutes he began to sing, very softly so that only they could hear him.

As soon as the song began, the tears ceased. Merry did his best to stifle his sniffling so he could listen to the beautiful song of his Elven guardian. Although he did not understand the words, his heart was comforted and he even felt himself begin to drift again in the vast ocean of dreams. Just as he was slipping away, the song ended and he felt himself being picked up and wrapped in his cloak. As Legolas rose to continue his watch, Merry spoke.

“Legolas?” It was barely a whisper, but more than loud enough for elven ears.
“Yes, what is it, Merry?”
“Are there evil trees where you live?” There was a long silence, and Merry thought he would not answer. Maybe he had offended him?
“Yes,” was his answer, “there are. Trees that have been corrupted by the darkness, who are angry at all beings, even the elves who would care for them. Why do you ask this?” Merry worried the edge of his cloak in his hands while he thought of an answer.

“There are evil trees in the Shire too,” he said. “One of them tried to eat me and Pip. I..” he paused, and the elf came closer. “I was dreaming about that. If Tom Bombadil hadn’t come, none of us, not even Frodo, would be here.” Merry felt, rather than saw the elf smile.

“Iarwain, the one you call ‘Bombadil’, is very wise. It is well that he was there to help you.” Merry opened his eyes when he felt his cloak being tucked in around him, quite comfortably, he thought to himself. “And although I would be last to call myself wise, I am here to help you, however you would need it.” He could not help but look into the elf’s reassuring gaze. “No harm will come to you this night while I stand guard. I wish you pleasant dreams, Merry.” The hobbit watched Legolas rise and resume his post, his sharp eyes scanning over the sleeping Fellowship. Merry watched him for a long time, feeling his heart warmed by the elf’s presence.

Legolas also watched Merry, noting with dissatisfaction that his eyes remained open. With a smile on his face he began his song anew, using all the magic of his ancestors to cast the spell of sleep over the eyes of the little hobbit and to, for a while, remove the fear from his dreams.