The Ride of the Rohirrim

ItwasdarkandMerrycouldseenothingashelayonthegroundrolledinablanket;yetthoughthenightwasairlessandwindless,allabouthimhiddentreesweresighingsoftly.Heliftedhishead.Thenhehearditagain:asoundlikefaintdrumsinthewoodedhillsandmountain-steps.Thethrobwouldceasesuddenlyandthenbetakenupagainatsomeotherpoint,nownearer,nowfurtheroff.Hewonderedifthewatchmenhadheardit.

Hecouldnotseethem,butheknewthatallroundhimwerethecompaniesoftheRohirrim.Hecouldsmellthehorsesinthedark,andcouldheartheirshiftingsandtheirsoftstampingontheneedle-coveredground.Thehostwasbivouackedinthepine-woodsthatclusteredaboutEilenachBeacon,atallhillstandingupfromthelongridgesoftheDrúadanForestthatlaybesidethegreatroadinEastAnórien.

TiredashewasMerrycouldnotsleep.Hehadriddennowforfourdaysonend,andtheever-deepeninggloomhadslowlyweigheddownhisheart.Hebegantowonderwhyhehadbeensoeagertocome,whenhehadbeengiveneveryexcuse,evenhislord’scommand,tostaybehind.Hewondered,too,iftheoldKingknewthathehadbeendisobeyedandwasangry.Perhapsnot.ThereseemedtobesomeunderstandingbetweenDernhelmandElfhelm,theMarshalwhocommandedtheéoredinwhichtheywereriding.HeandallhismenignoredMerryandpretendednottohearifhespoke.HemighthavebeenjustanotherbagthatDernhelmwascarrying.Dernhelmwasnocomfort:heneverspoketoanyone.Merryfeltsmall,unwanted,andlonely.

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