The Magnificent Speaks

by Avondster


Merry leaned back and smiled at the memory of that first sight of Tom Bombadil's house. Faramir leaned forward and tapped his uncle's knee. "Can I ask something, Uncle Merry?"
The Master looked down on him. "Of course you can, you silly Took."
Faramir grinned a grin very similar to Pippin's, and said: "How did you know you could trust Tom Bombadil? Shouldn't you have been more cautious? He was a stranger after all, and the Enemy was looking for you."
Merry smiled and ruffled the tweenager's hair. "You are a bright lad, Faramir, and what you say makes sense. But you have not seen him. If you would have, you'd never ask me this. You could do nothing but trust Tom Bombadil, once you had looked into his eyes. And the beautiful Lady Goldberry…" He sighed and his eyes stared in the distance as he recalled the sight of her.
"Was she fairer than the Lady of the Golden Wood? Fairer than the Queen of Gondor?" asked Primrose eagerly.
Merry shook his head slowly. "Just like I told Faramir, Prim, you should have seen her. If you had, you'd know there was no comparison possible. They are just too different. Goldberry felt like… fresh spring rain. She looked like dew on untouched grass, glittering in the light of the sunrise. There are no words great enough to describe her, and if there were, I would not use them, for they would be too heavy for her, as it were.

I will never forget the first sight of her, as we stood on the threshold of their house, sitting on her simple throne, fair as an Elven-queen. She did not walk, but dance towards us, she took Frodo's hand and smiled at us. I looked at her with wide eyes and my mouth hanging open, and when I looked aside I saw Pippin and Sam wearing similar expressions. Sam seemed to be enchanted, Pippin looked fearless for the first time today. And why shouldn't he? Who could think of any evil things in the presence of these creatures, who seemed to be alight with goodness and love?
Frodo's eyes seemed to glow with a light of their own as he watched her and sung to her. He smiled and I saw the weariness leave him.
We sat down at the table and watched Goldberry set the table. From outside we could hear Tom Bombadil singing. We had food, warmth and light. I felt at ease for the first time since we had left the Shire.

Thinking logically, you'd say that there was many an odd thing about Tom and Goldberry. But sitting at their table in their house and in their presence, everything around me seemed obvious. It was almost as if this was the only place that made sense, the rest did not.
We sung more than we talked, because they did. And it felt right. While I was there, I did not wonder even for a moment how Tom knew we were coming. Four beds were set ready, the meal was cooked for the right number (even calculating the appetite of hungry Hobbits), there were chairs for us, slippers… But I never asked myself how he knew we were coming. He just knew, that was all that mattered.

After dinner, we sat down with Tom by the fire. I was already half asleep; so was Pippin. I heard Frodo ask about Old Man Willow, and jerked upright. "No, don't!" I yelled, and at the same time Pippin said the same. We felt so content and secure at that moment, and we definitely did not want to be remembered of our stay inside the tree. In fact, we didn't want to think about such things at all.
"Not now!" begged Pippin.
"Not until the morning!" I said.
"That is right!" said Tom, and I was glad he said it. I saw him look at me with a glint in his eye before he blew out the candle and led us to our beds.

The beds were lovely and soft; we felt contented and secure. My sleep should be untroubled, yet it was not. I had tried to push away the thoughts of the dark and unsafe world outside these walls. But they trickled into my dreams, streamed into my head like water.
I heard water in my sleep. I could hear it stream around the house. The window was open! It would come in, I would drown! I tried to move, but seemed to be stuck. A bog! I thought, and panicked. I must get out! I struggled loose, and my foot touched something hard and cold. When I opened my eyes, I found myself sitting upright in my bed, sweating and tangled in my bedsheets. I quietly untangled them and lay back down, trying to get back to sleep, but somehow afraid to. Then I heard a voice, a soft whisper: "Nothing passes doors or windows save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top." It was Goldberry's voice, floating on the wind through the curtains, and I fell asleep at the sound of it.

The next morning came with the promise of rain, and it was the most beautiful morning I had ever seen. We were all grateful for the rain, that delayed our departure from this safe house.
After breakfast and second breakfast, we settled down by the fire with Tom, and listened to his tales. And many he had! There were more stories in Tom Bombadil than there are in all the folk of the Shire, indeed, maybe even more than in all the folk in Middle-Earth. He told us about the Forest and all that lives and has ever lived there, and then he started speaking of the Barrow-downs. I shivered uncontrollably.
I suddenly remembered my grandfather telling stories by the fire in the Hall when I was little. One night he started one about the Barrow-downs, and I remember Frodo picking me up and taking me to bed, saying I should not hear that story. When I heard it, years later, I understood why. The stories about that dreadful place could even give a stout tweenager nightmares.
I looked aside at Frodo, who looked back at me uneasily, and at Pippin on my other side, who had suddenly gone pale. I felt like I should pick him up and take him to bed, like Frodo had done with me. But I knew we had to recall every single story we had ever heard, since we would be travelling over those mounds soon.

Being in the presence of Tom Bombadil was like dreaming while I was awake. Nothing seemed odd, like I said before, and when he started telling about the time when the world was young, I found myself walking in those stories, I could see them happening before my very eyes. Time seemed not to matter in the enchanted bliss that overcame me.
I was unpleasantly pulled back into the present when I heard him mention the Dark Lord. Suddenly I remembered why we were here and what still lay ahead. A shadow seemed to creep past the window and I saw Frodo look around anxiously.
Then the Lady Goldberry entered the house and the moment passed.

After supper it was our turn to tell stories. We talked freely about our history and our quest, and I learned a great deal that night. Frodo, who had been really close about the details of this whole affair, spoke more openly than ever before, and he told Tom things that we, his companions, didn't even know about.
Then Bombadil asked for the Ring and, to my astonishment, Frodo gave it to him without hesitation. He seemed not to be troubled by it at all, and the thought crossed my mind that we could just leave the Ring here and go back home.
Tom looked at the thing, laughed, and tossed it into the air. It vanished and Frodo gave a yell. I looked aside and was scared by what I saw. His fair face was twisted in a grimace of fear, anger, and desire. It was the first time I could see the effect of the Ring, and it was horrible.
Tom produced the Ring out of his other hand and gave it back to Frodo, who examined it carefully. Pippin, who did not seem to have noticed the change in his face, gave a laugh. "Come on, Frodo, don't look so alarmed! That is such an old juggler's trick! I can do that!"
I turned back to Frodo and opened my mouth to say something to him… but he was gone. I started, and looked around anxiously. Sam and Pippin had similar expressions. Only Tom remained calm, and looking in the direction of the door, he called to Frodo.
I heard a laugh ring in the air, and my cousin reappeared, putting the Ring back in his pocket and looking very pleased with himself. I, however, did not find this very amusing. I remembered Bilbo disappear in a similar way, even though it was many years ago. And he did not reappear."


Merry sighed deeply and listened to the crackling of the fire. "I wanted to stay in that house forever. As far as I was concerned, we could just let our adventure end here."
He looked at the children and tweenagers gathered around him. "But it does not look like you want it to," he snickered. "I'll go on then, there is still much to be told.

The next morning was as beautiful as a morning in late summer could be. Yet somehow I felt I would enjoy it a lot more if I'd be sitting in the garden of Bag End, or on my own bench in front of the Hall. But the fact was we were busy getting packed and ready for the next part of our journey, and it would take us past the Barrow-downs and hopefully out of the Forest.
We said goodbye to Tom Bombadil, after he'd provided us with supplies and good counsel for the Road.
Shortly after we had left, Frodo suddenly remembered he hadn't said goodbye to the lady Goldberry, and he was very grieved. But just then, she appeared on a hill-top to bid us farewell. She showed us the land around. I could immediately locate Buckland and my home, even though I could not see it. I sighed deeply as I bade a last silent farewell to my homeland, before turning the other way and facing the world ahead of me. From up on the hill where we stood, it looked innocently beautiful. Even the feared Barrows seemed harmless in the light of the rising sun. But they weren't, as I would soon learn.
Melancholy came over me as I watched the world stretching itself out in all directions. Bilbo was right in that silly song of his, I thought. The Road goes ever on and on, indeed. And whither then? I cannot say…

The day was hot, the sun was burning upon our heads and necks, and there was hardly a breeze to refresh us. But we had to move on, get those Barrows out of sight before nightfall. Even in the full light of the afternoon sun, they looked threathening and seemed to look down upon us menacingly. I didn't even want to think about what would happen to us if we'd still be here at night, alone in the darkness. I shivered despite of the heat, and we rode on.
We could now see the Road ahead, and the end of the downs. The sight gave us new strength.
We had lunch when the day had just reached its hottest point, and there wasn't a shade anywhere that we could sit in. For a moment I was grateful for the cold stone that stood there. They provided no shadow, but were pleasantly cool nonetheless. I closed my eyes for a while to enjoy the short relaxation.

But when I opened my eyes again, it turned out not to have been so short after all. The sun was half hidden in the fog, and it wasn't as warm as before. In fact the atmosphere was chilling, although I can't recall if that was because of a lowered temperature or the uneasy tension I felt. I could still make out the shapes of the others and of the ponies, but everything else was covered in a veil of fog.
I got on my feet and began putting the packs back on the frightened ponies, and soon Sam came to assist me. "Come here and help!" I called to Frodo and Pippin. "We have to get away from here. I do not like this at all. Come on, the Road is not far ahead now!"
I went in front, desperately trying to remember the direction I had to take to reach the row of trees I had caught that hopeful glimpse of earlier. Had it been today? I had never seen a day change to quickly. The fog was so damp that soon our hair was dripping wet, in spite of the hooded cloaks we had put on.
Finally I came to a halt. "This is not going to work," I said. "But we can't afford to stay here and wait for the fog to disappear. Frankly, I don't want to stay here a moment longer than is required. Frodo…" I turned to my cousin with a worried expression. "Your sense of direction is better than mine. I suggest you take the lead, and I will be at the back to keep us together."
Frodo nodded. "You are right. The most important thing is that we stay together."
"The fog seems to be getting thicker," I continued. "You have to walk slowly, so that I can still see you. If I can't, I'll call."
He nodded again and took the lead. I fell back into the line, and we moved on.

It seemed to be going all right for a while. I kept a close watch on the back of Frodo's head, which became more like a dark spot floating in the fog as we proceeded. Then suddenly, he ran or was pulled forwards, and I could not see him anymore. I saw Pippin's red cloak vanish in another direction and called his name, but there was no response. When I turned my head back, Sam had disappeared as well. I wanted to call out, but somehow I couldn't. I stood there, mesmerised, and listened to a strange song that came out of the fog. It sang of cold stones and cold hands, about lying in the dark between treasures. The voice that sung it was horrible, cold and without emotion, and I would have run for my life if I could. But I found I could not. My head seemed to be the only thing that did not obey the song. My body grew cold and stiff, and I could not move. "No, I'm not dead!" I wanted to yell, but all that came from my lips were faint, whispered words.
Suddenly something cold as stone grasped my arm from behind, and I felt I was pulled back. The sudden cold cleared my head and I could hear a voice, calling from the mist. Slowly, almost unwillingly, my brain gave the name that belonged to that voice. I remembered why I was here, and hearing his voice again gave me back my own.
"Hoy Frodo!" I yelled as loud as I could.
I heard other faint voices, as if from far away, repeating my call. Sam and Pippin! This meant they were still alive, and that gave me some hope. But then another cold hand grabbed me, and it became dark. I passed out for a moment, but was awakened again by the sound of Frodo's voice, desperate, but closer than before. I was surrounded by darkness. I called out again, while my hands wandered around to feel where I was. Suddenly a cold light shone from somewhere in the darkness, and I looked straight into Pippin's face. He was lying beside me, his face ghostly pale, and when I touched his hand it felt just as cold as the hands that had grasped me earlier. I panicked. Pippin… He was dead, or close to it at least… I began calling for help, from Frodo, from anyone…
Then the cold hands gripped my throat, my last desperate wail was cut short and I fell into complete darkness.

Darkness was all around me, and inside me. I dreamed visions of battle-fields, great fights, glimmering swords, of victory and defeat, but they somehow seemed more like memories than dreams. Then I heard a faint singing growing ever clearer, and it was like I was pulled out of very cold, very deep water, into sunlight and clean air.
Whose were those blue eyes that stared at me as I opened my eyes? There were tears in them, but the face smiled, and I remembered the love I had for that face even before I remembered the name that goes with it. But I also remembered other things, and jumped up with a start.
"What in the name of wonder…"
This wasn't right! How could I be here, I was dead. I remembered dying…
"Of course, I remember! The men of Carn Dûm came on us at night, and we were worsted. Ah, the spear in my heart!" I clutched my chest, but the spearshaft I had felt so clearly just a few moments before (or so it seemed) was not there, there was no pain. Remembering who I was seemed almost painful, but I finally recalled being Merry Brandybuck, a Hobbit who had most certainly never been on a battlefield and did not even know what a spear looks like.
"No," I mumbled, "what am I saying? I have been dreaming." Memories of what had happened today came flooding back and I looked at my cousin. "Where did you get to, Frodo?"
Frodo's face, that had been alight of joy at the sight of us awakening, grew dark again, and I decided I did not want to hear it.

It felt good, running around on the grass again, and somehow it felt as if it was long ago since I had done it. I took off all the wight's rags and jewellery that were on me, and felt the warm sunlight and the soft wind upon my skin, the most pleasant feeling you can imagine after lying in a dark tomb. When I stopped running, I had sorted out which memories were my own and which ones from my dreams. I felt hopeful again that we could make it, especially when Tom announced he would ride with us to the Road.
After eating, I felt completely like the Hobbit I had been, or almost completely. A part of me seemed to be left behind in the dark barrow, and a new part had replaced it, so to speak. I don't know whether it was a remainder from the spell of the Barrow-downs, or just something that had always been hidden inside of me, and showed itself now.
Bombadil gave us each a dagger he had gotten from the Barrow. I felt reluctant to touch anything that came from there, but when I took it, it felt somehow familiar. I pulled it from its sheet, held it up, and looked at it, wondering if I would ever have to use it. Pippin, by my side, seemed to be thinking the same thing as he looked down on his sword with a thoughtful face.
I heard Tom Bombadil speaking of old Kings, and I saw them, and as I looked upon my own sword, it seemed to be the lower part of a much larger sword that was broken once, a long time ago, and I had a vision of a dark-haired man with a star upon his brow.

Tom rode with us, and the land seemed not to be threatening any longer. It was sunlit and beautiful, and we were glad to have him for a companion as he drove away our dark thoughts with his silly songs and funny stories.
At last we reached the road, and there we said goodbye to Tom Bombadil. I think Sam spoke for all our thoughts when he said "we may go a good deal further and see naught better, nor queerer." It was true, as so many of Sam's little wisdoms were."