“The rain had fallen in sheets for the past three days and the river
was in full flood. The adults of Brandy Hall were scrambling to prepare
the smial against the onslaught of the rising waters” said Frodo. “You
had been left in my care. You were only six years old at the time. Do
you remember this, Merry?”
Merry looked at his cousin, dumbfounded. “No, I don’t remember” he
said, settling in next to Frodo on the bed. He had been allowed to
visit Frodo for a few hours, provided that neither of them exerted
themselves too much. They were both still healing from their wounds
suffered during the quest. “Tell me the story, Frodo. Will you?” He put
his head on Frodo’s shoulder, and looked up at his older cousin with
those hazel eyes that had melted Frodo’s heart since the day Merry was
“All right then.” In his soft, melodious voice that was still seared
from the ash and smoke of Mount Doom, he began to tell Merry a story...
Desperately, the family of Meriadoc searched for him along the banks of
the ever rising Brandywine. The dogs sniffed at the rain soaked earth,
vainly trying to pick up any scent of their master. He was feared lost,
submerged in the currents of the raging storm.
Esmie wrung her hands in fright, and muttered his name over and over.
“Merry, oh my sweet Merry” she moaned. She was as white as linen and
her hair was plastered to her face. The rain mingled with her tears and
blurred her vision. Saradoc placed an arm about his wife, and whispered
in her ear “We will find him.”
Frodo looked on helplessly, fear and worry etched on his young face.
“I’m sorry Aunt Esmie, I don’t know how he got away from me. He just
wanted to go outside and play in the rain...” he trailed off, knowing
that any excuse that might pass his lips would be no comfort to his
Merry sat up straight in the bed. “I was lost?” he asked, puzzled. “I really don’t remember this at all!”
“Of course you don’t. And I’ll tell you why. Just be patient” said
Frodo. Merry settled down against Frodo’s warmth, and listened...
The search party had split up, combing the banks of the swollen river.
Frodo was left alone to search the banks closest to Brandy Hall, trying
in vain to spot his young cousin through the torrential downpour. He
was very close to giving up all hope when he heard a small voice
calling for aid. He squinted through the deluge, and saw a curly head
bobbing down by where the gnarled trees hung over the river. He saw
Merry’s arm clutching desperately at one of the tree limbs, but it
would not support his weight for long. Frodo could see the branch was
close to cracking, and he ran through the slippery, muddy bank to his
cousin, almost falling into the river in his haste.
As he made his way gingerly to the spot where Merry was fighting to
stay afloat, he was overcome by a strange sense that this had happened
before. His eyes widened, and he realized that this was the spot where
his parents had drowned, and although that had happened years ago, the
memory and the emotions associated with it slammed into his heart like
it had just happened.
He gasped, and fell against one of the trees, frozen by the memories
playing behind his eyes. Merry screamed, and called his name. “Frodo!
Frodo, help me. Please!” he gurgled, as he swallowed some river water.
Tears welled up in Frodo’s blue eyes, and overflowed like the
Brandywine spilling over the banks of Hobbiton. He was hearing his
mother’s voice in his head...”We’ll be back in a few hours, darling .Be
a good boy.” He had been so angry with them; they wouldn’t let him come
with them. He hadn’t kissed them goodbye...
He fell to his knees, rife with grief. Nothing existed for him at that
moment but his memories. He did not see little Merry flailing his arms.
He did not see the tree branch finally snap; but the sound of it, as
loud as a thunderclap, snapped him out of his reverie. He watched in
horror as Merry went under. A low cry was heard as the child was washed
away by the current. Frodo let out a strangled sob, and dove into the
river without hesitation.
He was a strong swimmer, and he followed the current. Over and over he
dove under the water, looking for his cousin. He shouted Merry’s name
until he was hoarse. Finally he saw him, washed up on the banks.
Sobbing, he made his way over to the small, limp form draped over the
rocky terrain. He turned Merry over, and gasped to see the youngster’s
face was ashen; his eyes were open, but their spark had dimmed. He had
a large gash at the top of his forehead from being dashed against the
rocks, and blood dripped into his hair and face. He wasn’t breathing.
Frodo took Merry in his arms, and gently placed his mouth over the
youngster’s blue-tinged lips. He breathed what life he had into his
cousin, hoping against hope that Merry would begin breathing on his
own. Any second now, he thought.
Merry gasped, and heaved up a stream of dirty water. The youngster
looked at Frodo with wide eyes and began to cry. “My head hurts” he
wailed. He touched the gash, and began to cry even harder when his
fingers came away red and sticky.
Frodo scooped Merry up in his arms, and whispered soothing words to the
frightened youth. “It’s all right, darling, everything is all right.
We’ll get you home, and your Da will bandage your head, and you’ll be
Merry whimpered, more in fear than in pain, and his arms crept around
Frodo’s neck and he nestled his head against his cousin’s chest. Frodo
had to bite back his own tears. He didn’t want to frighten the poor
child any more. He had been through enough that day. And it’s all my
fault, Frodo thought bitterly. He kissed Merry’s cheek, and vowed to
himself that he would always protect his cousin from this day forward,
even if it meant his own death.
“You always did have the most unruly hair” Frodo said with affection,
as he tousled the young Brandybuck’s curls. “I was always glad your
mother never made you brush your hair. It’s kept this hidden. I don’t
think I could ever bear to look at it, even now. That scar has never
fully healed” Frodo said sadly, gently placing his right hand on
Merry’s brow and stroking back the soft curls that lay there. He ran
his thumb over the jagged, dimpled line of skin that had always been
hidden by those luxurious honey-brown locks. “No one knows this scar
exists, except for me, and you. You see, you hit your head so hard that
day, that you forgot the incident ever happened. Something I was
extremely thankful for” he said softly, fighting back the tears that
threatened to obscure his vision.
“I didn’t remember how I got that, until you told me the story” Merry
breathed, his eyes closed as Frodo stroked his brow. His lashes
fluttered, and he looked at his cousin with watery hazel eyes. “I’m so
sorry Frodo” he whispered huskily, and took Frodo’s left hand in his
own. He lifted it to his lips, and kissed the maimed finger, his tears
spilling onto Frodo’s hand. “I guess we both have scars now, don’t we?”
“The worst ones lie in here” Frodo murmured faintly, pulling his maimed
hand from Merry’s grasp and placing it over his heart. “I almost lost
you that day by the river, Merry. I never meant to hurt you. I just
hope you can forgive me.”
Merry put his arms around his cousin and hugged him tightly. He smiled,
and it lit up his whole face. “There is nothing to forgive, cousin.
Especially now. You have saved us all” he said simply, with feeling.
As the cousins enjoyed the comfort in each other’s arms, Sam knocked on
the door lightly and entered the room. “I have second breakfast, Mr.
Frodo” he said, gently placing a tray on the bedside table.
Pippin casually strolled into the room at that exact moment. “Did I
hear someone mention second breakfast?” he said longingly. Frodo and
Merry exchanged a look, then they both burst out laughing. “Yes, dear
cousin, second breakfast it is!” Merry said gaily, as the four hobbits
sat down for their meal.
Frodo was unusually quiet during the meal, lost in his own thoughts. He
looked across the table at Sam, and really noticed for the first time
how Sam had suffered during their quest. He had lost a lot of weight,
and there were cuts on his face and hands. His eyes were shadowed; he
hadn’t been sleeping. It pained Frodo to know that he was the cause of
Sam’s suffering. Now Sam has his own scars to bear, thanks to me, he
thought. The deepest scars lie within.