The Magnificent Speaks
"The next day of travelling was very much like the first," said Merry.
"It seemed like we were on a holiday. It was cold, but the sun was
shining and the going was fairly easy. Until the third day, that was.
At some time way too early in the morning, we woke up when the first
snowflakes descended upon us. A few minutes later, we sat huddled
together, wrapped in our cloaks, having breakfast, cold, because we
could not succeed in making a fire. Then, just as suddenly as it has
started, the snow stopped and the sky cleared. We began stowing the
luggage back on the pony's back and Sam brushed the snow off him - he
had taken a liking to the animal, which was already more
healthy-looking and cheerful than when we had left. Strider came back
from exploring the area. "Gentlemen, we do not stop till nightfall."
And then Pippin…" Merry started laughing.
Pippin, who seemed to know what was coming, turned slightly pink; Sam grinned.
"That part really does not have any significance to the story," Pippin mumbled.
Merry stopped laughing and looked at his cousin, still grinning. "On
the contrary, Pippin-lad," he said in a mock-serious voice, "that
display really shows your motivation for the whole of the journey. I
should tell it. And…" he added with a chuckle. "It's very funny, too."
He cleared his throat. "So Pippin looked at him, appeareantly really shocked. "What about breakfast?" he said indignantly.
"You've already had it, " Strider replied, referring to the cold leftovers we had earlier.
"Well," said Pippin, who didn't seem to think that counted as breakfast, "I've had one yet. What about second breakfast?"
Strider cast him an odd look and turned around. I caught a fleeting
glimpse of his face and was sure he was strongly surpressing a laugh.
At that moment I realised I had never seen him so much as smile once
during the journey.
But the look on Pippin's face made me have to use every bit of strength
I had to keep from laughing myself. He wore an expression of mingled
wonder and disappointment as he watched Strider's retreating back. I
patted his arm, trying to keep my voice casual. "I don't think he knows
about second breakfast, Pip." I started walking, too.
Pippin's eyes widened; he looked positively alarmed now. "What about
elevenses?" he asked, grabbing my arm. "Luncheon? Afternoon tea?
Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?"
He looked so thoroughly bewildered that I almost pitied him. "I wouldn't count on it."
Just then, an apple came flying from over the trees. I caught it, gave
it to Pip with a reassuring pat, and continued walking, gazing back
just in time to see Pippin get hit square in the head by a second
apple. He wavered for a moment, looking even more bewildered.
I could no longer resist and started laughing at the expression on his face.
However, I was very soon deprived from laughter when I saw what we were
facing today. No more fields and hills, but a huge, stinking marshland,
covered in fog. Strider informed us that these were the Midgewater
Marshes, and that we would be travelling through them today. I looked
at the bogs before me miserably. Goodness knows I have never minded a
bit of dirt, but the sight of this was depressing even to me. A
landscape of grime, muddy brown water and small islands of grass and
reeds stretched out before us, endlessly it seemed. Insects were
swarming over our heads as we started the long way through the Marshes.
I can say in pure honesty that it was the most uncomfortable experience
in my life up to that point. We sank away in pools of water and mud,
sometimes even up to waist-height. The going was extremely slow because
of the thick mud, and many times we had to stop to pull poor Bill out,
and occasionally each other as well. Pippin fell face-first into the
dirty water one time, and accused Sam of pushing him, while Sam
insisted he had only tried to help him. And the midges, don't even get
me started on those!
"Midgewater!" cried Pippin. "There are more midges than water!" And
that was indeed about as close as you could get with describing it.
What had seemed like fog from afar, turned out to be a cloud of tiny
little insects. They got everywhere, into our clothes, our hair, our
packs… At the end of the day we were all covered in red, itchy spots
from their many bites.
They continued to haunt us with their buzzing and stinging all through the night, like many other things did.
The next day was not much better. It started raining late that
afternoon, and I have never been more thankful for it. It chased most
of the midges away for a while, and clean, fresh water was a welcome
change after two days of splashing through filthy, half-warm mud.
I was altogether overjoyed when we could say goodbye to that miserable place after almost three days.
Just before nightfall, we saw the oddly shaped silhouet of Weathertop
loom up against the horizon. It was not a very welcoming sight, but
after three days of unsheltered sleep in the Midgewater Marshes, I
could not care less.
But as we drew nearer the next day, what had seemed like a great
building was actually nothing more than a ruin; I could see broken
stones and oddly misshapen carvings and statues and I was suddenly
overcome with the foreboding feeling that we should not go there. The
sight of it brought the dark, cold Barrow back to mind, and I did not
like the reminder.
When I expressed my feelings to Strider, he merely shook his head and
looked at the ruins on the hilltop with a sad expression on his face as
he told us of its history, and of Elendil and Gil-Galad. And I must say
I was very surprised that when I asked him about Gil-Galad, it was not
his, but Sam's voice that replied, soft but clear, with that beautiful
poem. When Sam spoke those words, it suddenly seemed to be less dark
and cold around me. I didn't want him to stop, I wanted to hear more
about this mighty Elven King of old, because it seemed that even his
memory was powerful enough to drive away the darkness that was around
me and - even though I would not admit it - still inside me.
Later that day we arrived at the Weathertop. It was even more
depressing from up close. Strider left Sam and Pippin with Bill, and
took Frodo and me with him as he climbed to the very top.
The stone circle had a very eerie feel about it, and when I looked
around at the world around me, it was as if evil eyes were staring at
me from every direction. I felt the urge to hide somewhere; I felt very
naked and exposed, standing on this unfriendly hill in plain sight.
Frodo and Strider seemed to be exited about a sign that was supposed to
be from Gandalf, but I couldn't help feeling sceptic. It would take a
lot more than some vague scratches on a stone to make me feel any
better. The cold seemed to grow more intense and I shivered; I felt all
but comfortable and I wanted to go away from this miserable place.
Then Frodo gave a cry, and I didn't need to look in the direction he
pointed to read from his face that we were in deep trouble. I threw
myself onto the ground, shivering more violently. "What is it?" I
whispered, hoping beyond hope. Yet I knew, even before Strider
announced it with a grim face: the Enemy was coming.
When we had climbed back to the hollow, Strider took every precaution
in order to keep us from thinking of our fear. He made a fire, which
would be useful in both keeping us warm and - hopefully - keeping the
Enemy away, and he agreed in telling us more tales of the Elves of old.
But I found the fire would not warm me, and the tales did not keep me
from looking over my shoulder every so often. Unless the heroes of
Strider's stories would come to life and rush to our aid, they weren't
of much help except as a distraction.
After a while I stretched and got up; I knew I would never be able to
sleep here. I walked carefully to the edge of the dell, then turned
back and nearly screamed when I bumped into a figure standing right
"Calm down, Mr. Merry, it's only Sam." Samwise was standing behind me
and looked into my eyes, which were wide with fear. I quickly covered
my eyes with my hands, but I knew he had seen it. "I am sorry, Sam, I
"It's all right, really, Mr. Merry," said Sam softly. "I'm as much
afraid as you, sir. But you must remember - not that it's any comfort,
of course - that it's not you or me they're after. They don't care
'bout us, it's Frodo they want."
I lowered my hands and looked at Sam again; his eyes were as full of
fear as mine, but his was different. His fear did not concern himself.
His only fear was for Frodo. I suddenly felt extremely guilty. Of
course, you fool! I thought. They could have killed you back in Bree if
they wanted to, but they didn't seem to think you were important enough
and left you there. You came on this journey to protect and help Frodo,
and that's all you should think about!
"You are right, Sam, you are absolutely right. I should…" I stopped
speaking when a sudden, violent and awfully familiar wave of icy cold
swept over me. My heart skipped a beat.
"Did you feel that?" I whispered. Sam looked at me, very pale, and
nodded. We both ran back at once to the relative safety of the fire,
and when I looked back I thought I saw two or three shapes coming our
way. When I told Strider, his face went pale and he disappeared in the
direction we had just come from, ordering us to stay where we were.
For a while there was silence, as we were all afraid to speak. The cold
inside me grew more and more intense, and I could tell the others felt
it, too. Pippin was shaking so violently beside me that I was afraid he
might faint. I wrapped one arm around him, but could find no words to
comfort him, even if I had dared to speak.
Then Frodo got up and crept to the edge. He looked down and his eyes
grew wide. The three of us gathered around him and there we saw them;
three or four black shapes gliding alarmingly fast to the slope of our
hiding place, even the fog seemed to recoil at their presence. Fear had
rooted us to the spot and we could not move.
Frodo was the first to come out of his trance. He pulled out his sword
and turned to us. "Go!" he yelled. We drew our own swords and ran up
the slope. When we reached the scorched stone circle, we stood
together, back to back, looking fearfully in all directions.
Then they came. Silently, out of the shadows, darker than the darkest
night and colder than the coldest winter. Their horrible swords gleamed
with a cold light as they advanced on us. They were too big, too many,
too powerful… this was the end, I was sure. Then I remembered: it's not
you they're after… And I realised there were greater things at stake
than just our lives.
I pushed Frodo backwards and stood before him, my sword - oh so tiny it
now seemed! - raised. I felt a shoulder touch mine and saw Pippin
standing beside me, tears of horror and fear in his eyes, but with a
desperate determination. Sam stood before us all.
The first Ringwraith towered over us menacingly. Sam feebly brandished
his sword at him. "Back, you devils!" His fight was brave yet short; a
mighty blow from his opponent sent him flying into a rock, where he
fell down motionless. Pippin's and my fight was even shorter: it took
only one blow to make us fall to the ground. I was only out for a few
moments, then I grabbed Pippin and crawled out of the way. For a few
seconds he was all I could think about, but he opened his eyes wide
when I lay him down. "Merry? Where's Frodo?"
At the same moment an agonized scream pierced the air, and it seemed to
freeze the blood in my veins even more than the presence of the
Ringwraiths. It was the dying scream of someone I loved."
The room had gone awfully quiet. Merry sat very still in Frodo's chair,
his eyes closed and his brow furrowed. Sam's eyes were full of tears
and Pippin, still sitting on the arm of the chair, was squeezing
Merry's shoulder so hard his knuckles had gone white. No one said
Finally Merry reached out and gently took Pippin's hand. "If you don't
mind, Peregrin, I will be needing that arm in the future."
Pippin nodded and loosened his grip somewhat. Merry wiped his eyes on
his sleeve. "Well," he said to the room at large. "As you can all see
this was one of the most fearful moments of our journey. Here we were,
with no way to escape, Frodo was injured or worse, and we could find
neither him or Strider. I managed to stand up, but I could not see my
cousin anywhere. Five great shapes were standing together, a small
sword was laying on the ground by their feet, abandoned, but where,
where, was Frodo?
I was just halfway through wondering where Strider had got to, when the
Ranger jumped out of nowhere, or so it seemed, with a flaming torch in
each hand. I vaguely remembered him saying something about the
Ringwraiths being afraid of fire. But to me, the fire of the torches
was nothing, nothing, compared to that which blazed in Strider's eyes.
I also think it was that fire more than any other that made the
Ringwraiths recoil, but recoil they did.
Pippin tugged at my arm, and brought me back to searching for Frodo. At
the other side of the stone circle, Sam had regained consciousness. He
looked around frantically, trying, like us, to locate Frodo somewhere
in this chaos. He caught my eye and mouthed silently 'the Ring!'.
My stomach made an unpleasant lurch. Of course, the Ring! Frodo had put it on!
But if he was so badly hurt he could not make a sound or take it off,
we would never be able to find him again… Please, I prayed to anyone
who would hear it, please let us find him before it may be too late…
Just then, a second scream pierced the air, and suddenly there was
Frodo, lying on the ground right where the Ringwraiths had stood
moments before. Sam was at his side in an instant, grasping his hand.
Pippin and I crawled his way, too, more careful though. The Ringwraiths
may not find us important, I figured, but no one knows what they might
do if we accidentally get in their way…
Finally we reached Frodo and Sam. My cousin was extremely pale, and
seemed to be in great pain. I was not even sure if he could recognise
us. Pippin quietly took Frodo's other hand and I - because I felt I
needed to show him I was there - put my hand on his forehead, like he
had done with me in my childhood, whenever I was hurt or scared. His
eyes darted in my direction for a moment, but I was not sure if he had
His skin felt hot, as if he had a fever, but it was drenched in cold
sweat. I just stroked his forehead a little awkwardly, it was the best
I could do. Then I heard Pippin's voice speak to me, and it was
trembling with cold fear.
I looked up and saw what Pippin was looking at. He had pulled away
Frodo's jacket and on his shirt was a growing red stain. Sam made a
sound that was a mix of a gasp and a sob.
Everything around us had gone quiet, but we only noticed it when
Strider walked up to us and pushed the torches into my and Pippin's
hands. "Take Frodo, and lay him by the fire," he said shortly. "Watch
over him. I will be back soon."
He disappeared and we did as he had said. Sam and I carried Frodo to
the fire, as carefully as we could manage, and wrapped him in our
blankets. He had now lost consciousness and was breathing difficultly,
and in the gentle light of the fire he looked even worse.
We sat with him the whole time, without any desire to eat or sleep, and
we did not speak much. When Sam was not crying, he was mumbling to
himself or to us about Strider, and that he didn't trust him one bit,
disappearing like that.
After a few hours, Frodo started to stir. We hurried over to him as he
opened his eyes and spoke in a weak voice that was still full of panic.
We were not sure if he knew what he was saying, but he was speaking and
that had to be a good sign. After a while he calmed down, and we told
him all that had happened.
Suddenly Strider reappeared, and Sam jumped up, growling. But Strider
knelt down to calm him, then went to Frodo immediately, examined him
and meanwhile listened to his side of the tale. He looked more worried
than I had ever seen him before. When Frodo was done speaking and lay
back, exhausted by the reliving of those undoubtedly terrible moments,
Strider pushed Sam's two kettles in Pippin's hands and told us to heat
some water and bathe Frodo's wound. He and Sam settled down and spoke
Pippin heated the water as he was told, but hesitated when I pulled
back Frodo's shirt and revealed the still bleeding wound. "You do it,
Merry. I'm so scared I might do something wrong."
Frodo, who was having a clear moment just then, looked in Pippin's eyes
and attempted to reach out his good hand to him. "You can hold my hand
then, Pippin my lad, I'm sure you can do that just fine."
Pippin tried to smile bravely and gratefully took Frodo's hand in his own.
When I applied the damp cloth to the wound, Frodo bit back a cry and
sunk back into his half-consciousness, still clinging to Pippin's hand
for dear life.
The wound, to my surprise, wasn't as bad as I had expected. It was
small and stopped bleeding quickly once I had cleaned it. But it looked
odd to me and I found I was rather reluctant to touch it with my hands.
Frodo was sinking into something between sleep and unconsciousness, his
eyes still open but glazed, and he was breathing with a horrible
squeaking sound, as if breathing itself cost him immense pain and
trouble. Sam came back from his talk with Strider, looking stricken, to
check on his master. "Mr. Frodo?" he whispered and put his hand on
Frodo's forehead, then pulled it back. "He's goin' cold!" he cried.
Pippin seemed to be on the verge of tears as he turned to Strider. "Is he going to die?"
The Ranger sighed sadly as he told us that Frodo's fate might be much, much worse…
Pippin and I were left alone to watch over Frodo that night. Strider
had told us to keep Frodo warm and left again, in search for tracks of
our enemies most likely. He handed Sam a torch and asked him to find a
certain plant I had never heard of before, that might be able to slow
the poisoning. Sam seemed to know what he was talking about and ran
into the darkness of the trees as fast as he could, waving his torch so
frantically that I feared he might set the trees on fire while
Frodo kept waking up, and the two of us did not sleep at all. Sam came
back after a few hours of fruitless searching, and sat with us.
The night air was chilling, and to our dismay we saw Frodo shivering in
his blankets - already all the blankets we had.
"Keep him warm, keep him warm," I mumbled as I poked up the fire. "With
what? I think we have about used every single bit of cloth for that
purpose, the fire cannot possibly be larger, and he is still cold as
"I could do without my cloak," said Sam bravely, though he, too, was shivering.
"I suppose we could use our cloaks, indeed," I said thoughtfully.
"I seriously doubt you would be of any more help to me if you all
freeze to death yourselves," said a weak voice behind us. Frodo's eyes
were gleaming in the fire as he looked at us, and he even managed a
"He has a point, as usual," said Pippin.
"But what will we do, then?" whispered Sam. "How will we warm him without blankets?"
"Wait a moment…" I said, as an idea had just occurred to me. "Sam, I need your help. Frodo, do you think you can sit up?"
Frodo nodded weakly, and with some help from Sam he was soon in a
half-sitting position, though wavering dangerously. I sat down on the
ground behind him, and let him lean back against me, the back of his
head resting against my shoulder. I took the hems of my cloak in my
hands, and wrapped both my arms and my cloak around him. "Is that
Frodo sighed. "A little." Then he fell into an uneasy sleep.
We took it in turns to warm Frodo for the rest of the night, which
unfortunately caused a lot of discomfort for him, as we had to move him
every now and then. The lack of sleep was taking its toll now, so one
of us would have watch and keep Frodo warm while the others slept.
At dawn, Strider returned at last. He did not have much news, but he
had found a few things that the wraiths had left. One was a cloak with
a hole in it where Frodo had tried to hurt his attacker - good old
Frodo, I thought - and the other was the dagger that had pierced his
shoulder. Once again I felt strangely reluctant to come near those
things, as if I could still feel an icy cold still about them. The same
cold that overcame me on the Road in Bree. I also realised then why it
was that we could not warm Frodo. Had I not felt that same intense cold
myself, inside me rather than on my skin?
But when Strider tended to Frodo's wound with athelas and the sweet
scent reached me, I felt the last of the cold leave me, and I was a
little calmer. I felt myself again, for the first time in many days,
and I had hope again. The others also seemed refreshed and even Frodo
looked a little better. For as long as I live, I shall never forget the
scent of athelas, and the hope it brought back to my heart."