Lost in the Wild
The day grew sunnier as our trek stretched on throughout the day.
The nip to the morning breeze had come and gone leaving the air feeling
warm and almost spring-like. This only added to the perplexity I was
feeling. I had absolutely no memory of this or any other part of
our journey to the Goblin pits. The blow to my head sustained in
trying to protect my cousins and the foul tasting medicament the
goblins had given me had kept me well out of my senses so that, even in
my waking moments, I had been confused.
The lads had told me the goblins had traveled at a quick pace at night
stopping with the dawn but would venture further if the weather was
overcast. Merry and Pippin too had been given the foul liquid to
quench their thirst and were uncertain as to the length of our
journey. Perhaps my onetime jailer and now friend, Ur'gup, had
been correct after all and we really were some place in the
It was now my responsibility to guide my young charges home. I
felt this task acutely. It was my fault that we had ended up
here; all because I had the need to do some exploring. I had much
on my mind as we set forth on our homeward journey. I needed to
get us home as quickly and safely as possible. I needed to make
certain that we found food in addition to our provisions as well as
water along the way. Ur'gup had pointed out some places where we
should be able to find water, but I had my doubts about traveling at
the pace the goblins had used in bringing us to Etelë Vanwa. I
tried to gauge the time that had passed. According to our original
plans, we had hoped to return to Brandy Hall three days before the
Midsummer festivities. I knew we had been gone for at least three
months to the best of my calculations. I also knew this meant the
weather would soon be changing and not for the better. One thing
was certain: I had no idea where we were.
My cousins, on the other hand, seemed none the worse for the wear from
their experience of having been imprisoned by the Goblins. The
episode had been harrowing, but hobbit fry are quite resilient.
Not once did they look back as I had and seen my friend, Ur'gup,
watching after us until we must have been out of his line of
sight. It was as if a chapter in their young lives had been
closed and they would give it no more thought, for the time being at
least. That was just as well. The boys, though somber at
the start, were soon chatting gaily and running back and forth along
the path that I had decided we should take. They had missed the
whole of the summer and were full of pent-up energy. They
delighted in the lay of the land and the wild flowers we saw growing as
well as the call of the birds and small animals that scurried across
As the day warmed with the growing heat of the sun we wiled away our
time by playing games. I Spy is a good sort of game as one walks
along. Word games and stories also occupied our time. When
we stopped for luncheon, we played a rousing game of Dizzy-Tig a
variation of the regular game of Tig in which the losing one has to
whirl until dizzy and remain in the position in which they fall to the
ground while singing a song chosen by the others in the game. I
did a lot of singing that afternoon. When we set out again,
we had a contest to see who could do the best imitation of each bird
that was heard. The loser of the contest was allowed to pick the
prize for the winner or winners, as the case may be. I freely
admit that I allowed both of them to win. I had a score to settle
with the boys and needed to come up with something worthy of the
honor. I would also choose the right time and place to enact my
We were on the third day out and still heading in a westerly
direction. Bilbo had taught me to follow the sun and the stars as
we tramped about the Shire together. Another thing to look for
was moss on trees. It was helpful to know the plant life and
signs of animals. All these things would be helpful if I ever
needed to survive in the wild, he had told me. I had learned my
lessons well. It was part of the reason I had been allowed to
take Merry and Pippin on our excursion. Bilbo had spoken up on my
behalf. He had said he would not hesitate to place his life in my
hands. This was a boon in convincing my aunts Esmeralda and
Eglantine. Saradoc and Paladin were a bit more willing to give
their sons this experience in the wild. We were not going to be
that far from the borders of the Shire. Bilbo had suggested
that we have a trial expedition at the edge of the forest. We
spent two days camping and I had proved my worth in looking after the
boys. I know that Bilbo had been secretly watching out for us
with Saradoc and Paladin.
Dear Bilbo … the very thought of him made me smile. We had been
very close when I was small and then, after the accident that claimed
the lives of both my parents, Bilbo had been one of two relatives that
I felt I could truly be with; my cousin Merimac was dealing with his
own problems at the time. Bilbo neither hovered over me, nor did
he insist that I eat, sleep, or cry according to some unwritten
schedule. He was just simply there for me if I needed him to be
there as he had said he would … just as he always would be. When
the nightmares started, he was there. When the feelings of
loneliness started, he was there. When the feelings of emptiness
started, he was there. When the anger grew inside me, he was
there. Through it all, Bilbo was there. He had become as
both a mother and a father to me. He seemed to understand me and
my moods. We delighted in each other's companionship. I spent
more and more time with him in Hobbiton. There were the times
that I had allowed my anger over the loss of my parents to get the
better of me, the times when the pranks I would play got out of hand
for a proper young hobbit lad. I was after all the progeny of
three prominent families in the Shire and had a status to
maintain. It was not as if anything I was doing was malicious;
just rowdy. Bilbo seemed to understand this aspect of my
personality too. He had hidden a great grin and a wink when he
suggested that I stay with him in Hobbiton for a prolonged period of
time following a disastrous foray into Farmer Maggot's mushrooms.
I think my Brandybuck relations were relieved at the prospect of some
peace and quiet at Brandy Hall. I could almost hear them heave a
collective sigh as I boarded Uncle Bilbo's buggy and we turned toward
Over the years, Bilbo had seen to my education. I had learned my
letters and lore well. He also taught me history, geography,
cartography, elven lore, the elven tongue, astronomy, nature, survival,
cooking, cleaning and responsibility. I thought of Bilbo and
missed him terribly. I knew he was fretting over our
disappearance. … I hoped he was in sound health.
The family had held quite a discussion about this excursion. I
had wanted to bring Berilac Brandybuck the son of my cousin Merimac
with us. He was two years older than Merry and enjoyed the
outings we would take closer to home. When Berilac was younger
Merimac would accompany us on our outings. I had taken many an
'adventure' with Merimac when I was young both before and after Berilac
was born. Berilac had sustained an injury to his leg when he was
young. He had taken a fall from a large tree on the fringe of the
Old Forest; the same tree Merimac and I had each taken a fall from at
about the same age. The injury to Berilac's leg had done lasting
damage. The lad had a halting gait but was otherwise
healthy. Showing quite the aptitude for the skills of a healer,
he would be following in the footsteps of his grandfather Andwise
Bolger as well as his mother. Berilac was appeased by an excursion with
his grandfather to collect herbs for the making of medicaments a task
he genuinely enjoyed. It was a sobering thought to realize that
Berilac would not have been able to keep up the pace of the Goblin's
workforce and would have been killed for his hindrance. I
shuddered at the memory of the bones strewn in the passageways leading
to the Goblin Master's chamber and was grateful for Berilac being
forced to remain in Buckland.
My thoughts led me away from the games that my cousins were playing
while we walked along. I really did not know if I had been
brooding or smiling but I could sense whispers and eyes piercing the
back of my head. Merry had been watching me for a
while. Even before we made our departure from the Goblin pits he
would often stare at me and then enter into a sullen mood. I
noticed that he continued to give me strange sideways glances even
after I had rejoined their games. Pippin paid no mind after I
rejoined their games. The other thing I had noticed was that any
breeze seemed to bring a foul odor on the air.
We had come upon an outcropping and, to our fortune, there was a creek
where we could refill our water bottles. Though it was barely
noon, I decided we would make camp for the day. The weather and
the setting were perfect. Everything was idyllic with the
possible exception of the foul odor on the air. I sent the boys to
gather some wood and kindling to make a fire. I would refill our
water bottles. I had stripped off my jacket and left it by our
packs as I waded into the water to refill the bottles. The stream
felt cool and refreshing bringing a smile to my face. After a few
moments, I knew what needed to be done. I came out of the water
to find Merry staring at me; more specifically, at the back of my
shirt. Then it dawned on me what was bothering him about
me. He was still feeling guilty about his accusations and
treatment of me in the goblin pits and worried over our
Placing the water bottles with our supplies, I took a quick inventory,
though it was more for an act to appear engaged. "What seems to
be troubling you, Merry?" I asked over my shoulder trying to
"Nothing, Frodo," Merry seemed a little defensive.
"You are acting as if you have something on your mind. I would
like to hear it." I busied myself with the task of laying wood
for a fire.
"There is nothing bothering me…"
"Oh, come now; you have been shooting me strange glances and muttering
under your breath for some time now. If you have aught to say, go
ahead and say it." I stood up and slowly walked towards him so
that he had to step backwards.
"I…I don't have anything to say…"
"No? Well I do," I forced him to take another step
backwards. Pippin was watching this with an expression of
fascinated horror on his face. I winked at him and turned my
attention back towards Merry.
"What? You are frightening me, Frodo…"
"It's you, Merry; I am tired of your attitude." I shoved him backwards
as I spoke. "You are always watching me and you stink. I,
for one, am tired of it. I will brook it no longer; but you
shall." With each statement, I gave him another little push
"I said you stink." Having restated myself, I gave him a good
push backwards into the stream and laughed; the expression on his face
was precious. I turned my attention towards Pippin. "You
are next, my boy. You smell every bit as much as our cousin. You
can either go willingly or I shall have to toss you." I did not
wait for his answer but picked him up and tossed him into the
water. When the lads overcame their shock at my antics, they
began frolicking and splashing in the water just as they would at home
on the Brandywine.
I completed my task of building the fire, pulled our blankets from our
packs so they would be ready to hand and donned my jacket. Soon
all three of us were splashing about in the water. When I figured
we had given our clothing a good soaking, we all got out of the
water. We stripped off our wet outer clothing and laid it
out in the hot sun to dry. Then it was back into the water for
some more cleansing. When we came out of the water again, I
handed the boys their blankets to cover up with. We ate our lunch
seated by the fire and spent some time lazing in the soft grass.
I turned our clothing over to aid its drying. It was really a
pity that we had no other clothes to change into. The bathing
followed by draughts of fresh air and warmth of the sun seemed the best
medicine yet to recover from our ordeal of captivity. Merry
continued his vigilant staring at my back. It was getting on my
"Merry, if you have something to say, just come out and say it or ask
it or what ever you need to do, but let's bring it out into the open."
"Yes you do Merry. He wants to know about your back, Frodo." Pippin, being diplomatic, felt the need to say something.
"What about my back?" I knew what was bothering him, but he
needed to say it not me. We waited while he stared at me fighting
to hold back tears.
"He wants to …" I shook my head at Pippin to keep him quiet.
"Does it…Did it hurt very much?" He finally asked as he reached
over to touch the faint marks left by Ur'gup's lash and quickly drew
his hand back lest he cause me harm.
I sighed and waited before I answered. This wasn't something I
relished talking about. I hoped I would not have to explain that
I had brought it on myself. "It has healed very well,
Merry. Do not fear. Yes, it hurt an awful lot both when I was
first dealt the stripes and then when the welts broke open. The
pain was as nothing, though, not knowing if the two of you were safe."
"We didn't believe you, Frodo. We thought you only wanted to save
yourself. You drew that map and you were always with the goblins."
"I know. I planned it that way. It was more convincing if even the two of you did not believe in me."
"The Goblin Master said you were going with him. He was going to make you like a king in the Shire."
"You were going to kill my mum and da'. I said I hated you, Frodo." Pippin had tears running down his ruddy cheeks.
I put my arms around the young boy and gave him a warm hug. "It's
all right, Pip. I would have said the same thing."
"I'm glad we are safe now," Merry stated.
"… And away from that place," added Pippin.
I swung an arm around Merry's shoulders. "Me too, lads, me too," I mumbled as we enjoyed a familial hug.
I was greatly relieved to have our feelings out in the open.
Though I had been very hurt by the attitude my cousins had expressed
towards me before we obtained our freedom from the goblins, I knew that
I too had hurt them. Their hurt ran deeper. Not only had
they trusted me when we had embarked on our expedition and I had failed
in my task; but also, they saw me as arranging the deaths of their
parents and the destruction of the Shire. We spent a great deal
of time getting reacquainted with each other so that by the time I led
the boys into the water for some more swimming and bathing there was
nothing remaining between us and it was like being at home once more
frolicking on the banks of the Brandywine.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon swimming and chasing each other
around playing games and reveling in our unrestrained freedom. We
donned our dry clothing as the sun lowered in the sky casting its beams
over our bodies giving a rich golden hue to our flesh to match our
moods. I frowned at the sight of the still-evident stains
on the back of my shirt, but took comfort in the fact that my cousins
and I were as close knit as ever once more. There was a fresh
scent to the air and we felt cleansed both in body and
soul. We would be able to leave Etelë Vanwa far behind
us. We ate well as the sun set and filled our evening with my
telling the tale of Eärendil as Bilbo had first told it to
me. We slept soundly that night fearing no danger as the bright
stars shimmered and watched over us. I prayed for guidance before
letting sleep overtake me.
The morning brought new strength and a resolve to reach the Shire as
soon as was possible. The weather was holding which facilitated
our travel. I felt we were making good progress, even though I
still had no idea of our location. We continued to move in a
westerly direction. Bilbo had taught me well. By virtue of
our various treks, I knew eventually we would reach an area that would
be familiar to me.
For three more days the weather held clear and bright. The
sunlight warmed the air and our hearts were light given the renewal of
the brotherly bond I shared with my cousins. The only occurrence
that served to mar the peacefulness of those three days was the
inevitable litany of "I'm hungry!" and "Me too!" which I would hear in
varying degrees of urgency. I finally needed to stop and explain
to the lads that if we stopped for every twinge they thought their
stomachs felt we would not arrive home for at least a year. This
was a sobering thought and served to suffice for the time being.
What I had not explained was that our dwindling food stores would not
last a fortnight.
I could sense something on the wind; an ill feeling of being hunted.
Darkness seemed to be troubling my dreams. It was nothing I could
name; just a sensation. My cousins had not seemed to notice
anything. As they had said nothing, I kept my intuitions to
I wanted to move as close to home as we could go still traveling west
while the weather held. We needed to extend our travel time each
day if possible while at the same time it was becoming necessary to
snare or catch food. I found myself hunting for herbs and roots
and late berries as we walked along. Anytime we found something
of value, we would take a few moments to glean a small area.
I felt quite fortunate when I had been able to snare a couple of small
birds. I knew they would not provide much in the way of a meal,
but was totally unprepared for the reaction I received from
Pippin. I had a difficult time trying to convince him that given
the appeal of their appearance, sometimes it is necessary to take the
lives of small creatures to sustain our own. When all was said
and done, once the meat was prepared, Pippin had no trouble taking in
his portion and much of mine as well.
The landscape did not hold much in the way of trees in this
region. It was basically a scrubland with stunted trees, shrubs
and thickets. As the evening wore on we were very grateful for
the outcropping of rocks where we had made our camp. The fire we
made had obliterated the fact that the night sky had grown
overcast. We spent that night huddled under the overhanging
rocks. Dampness hung in the air which had turned into a fine mist
and the mist into a drizzle. During the night, the drizzle had
turned into rain. I had been able to bank the fire to keep it
burning. At least we were warm. Once again I was filled
with a nagging feeling of unease and slept little that night, thinking
the situation required one of us to keep watch.
By morning the rain had stopped leaving us engulfed in a thick
fog. It was impossible to see the way we had come let alone the
way we were heading. There was nothing for it but to stay put
until the fog burned off. I doled out a bit of food for each of
us. We dared not go far from our camp; however, we did take the
opportunity to stretch our legs with orders to keep each other and the
outcropping in sight.
For some reason the fog seemed to stimulate the imaginations of my
cousins. I suggested that we each tell a story and would go in
the order of youngest to oldest. Pippin was thrilled to be given
the chance to be first for a change. He began: "The horse
ran up the lane. I rode on his back…" That was all I heard
I woke to the immediate knowledge that something was wrong….very
wrong. The fog had lessened to a degree. I was alone.
The fire had been allowed to burn out. Worst of all was the
complete sense of solitude. There was no noise. My cousins
were gone. I came out from under the overhang. Looking
around, I could see nothing.
"Merry! … Pippin!" There was no answer. "Pippin! ...
Merry!" I called again and heard nothing but the sound of my own
My heart was in my throat. There was a rushing in my head.
I was beginning to panic. I had enough foresight to gather our
belongings; they were not much, but invaluable in the wild.
Keeping an eye to the camp, I moved out from the outcropping and called
again. No sound was heard.
I walked slowly, circling the rocks, calling their names every few
yards. I did not want to miss them. Eventually, I thought I
got a response. I stood still to listen but heard no sound.
I called again and heard my name sounding very far away. In the
fog it was difficult to see for any distance. I called out again
trying to determine a direction. I had definitely heard my name
being hallooed. I told the boys to stay were they were but to
call out again and I would find them. I was moving slowly and
could hear their voices ever more clearly. Gratitude washed over
me to hear both of their voices.
Suddenly scaring a covey of partridges, I nearly jumped out of my skin
and fell backwards. My fright saved me from stepping in a cony
hole. Getting to my feet once more I told the lads to give
another shout to ensure I was moving in the right direction. It
was a relief to hear their voices so much closer than the last
Moments later, I found myself abruptly stumbling and falling head over
heels down some type of embankment. The fall temporarily knocked
the wind out of me. I lay for a few moments before struggling to
my feet with the knowledge that I had sustained not a few
bruises. Using a branch, I pulled myself upright.
I called out to my cousins once again and was relieved to hear their
voices closer than they had been prior to my fall. I was trying
to determine the wisdom of a climb up an incline of indeterminate
height and condition when I heard Pippin's voice.
"Frodo! Merry and I climbed down a hill. Merry fell and
hurt his arm. I don't think he can climb up again." The young boy
"Pippin! I'm all right!"
I turned in the direction I knew my cousins had to be in. "Stay there, Pip, I'm coming."
The boys were no great distance from where I had landed, but the dense
fog cost some time. My cousins heard me before they saw me as I
stumbled along caution thrown to the wind in order to find them.
The sight of the two wide-eyed boys made me want to laugh. Out of
respect for their fears I stifled myself. Merry was reclining on
a wide rock at the base of the hill with Pippin hovering over him.
Hurrying to him I tripped on a smaller rock and fell right on top of
"Ungh!" Merry moaned, holding back the tears in his eyes.
"Steady on, Frodo." Pippin helped me to my feet.
"I am relieved to have found you. Why did you leave the
camp?" I crouched down to check on Merry. One look revealed
the pain he felt. At least there was no blood to be seen.
"Here, Pip, help me slip Merry's jacket off." Merry's forearm and
wrist were purple and swollen. He winced as I examined
Merry had been holding his arm and was being quite brave in his attempt
to conceal his fear. I saw no signs of any major cuts; only a few
minor ones and some bruising. His arm was the only major injury
with purpling and swelling creeping between his fingertips to his
elbow. To our relief, he was able to move his fingers.
There was no break. We had naught for bandages in the slim packs
we carried. I took my knife and cut two strips from my
blanket: one narrower, with which I wrapped his arm splitting an
end and tying it securely; the other was cut a bit wider in order to
fashion a sling. We each had a sip of water and sat back to do
"Why did you leave the campsite?" I repeated my question from
earlier looking from one to the other while trying to hide my
My cousins looked at each other, uncertain as to what should be
said. They said nothing. I was truly happy to have
found the pair of them safe and relatively whole, but I could not
contain my annoyance.
"Do you not think before you act? Can you not see beyond your
curiosity? Are you aware of the danger you have placed us
in?" I was beginning to sound like my Uncle Rorimac who was also
Merry's grandfather. Memories of my uncle which were not all
pleasant flooded my mind. I ceased for the time and sat looking
at them and waiting.
"The fog was so thick," Merry began. "We couldn't see a thing. You had fallen asleep."
"Something was out there," Pippin added.
"We heard it moving."
"We couldn't see it." Pippin was wide-eyed at the memory. A
chill ran down my back as I felt a sense of dread.
"We left just to take a look. A cony broke out of the bushes. Pip decided to follow it and I followed him."
"I tripped and fell. Merry reached out for me, but instead tumbled over the top of me and we landed here."
The nagging feeling of being stalked in the middle of wherever we were
assailed me more than before at the story my cousins told. The talk of
the cony served for an explanation for the time being. The fog
grew thicker once more. We found sheltering in a small hollow in
the hill. The denseness of the fog drew a mist in its wake
forcing us to remain where we were drawing our blankets about us for
warmth. Merry and Pippin were buoyant taking this all in
stride. It was an adventure after all. The responsibility
of getting them home safe and sound weighed more heavily on me.
The mist let up and the fog burned off after another hour by my
reckoning. The sky remained overcast. The boys grew
restless. Merry assured me he felt well enough to move on.
I examined Merry's arm and did not like the continued swelling. I
knew the discoloration would continue. I rewrapped his arm and
cut another strip from my blanket to reinforce the sling keeping his
arm more elevated. We decided to venture out of our cover making
certain to carry all of out belongings with us. I did some rapid
mental calculating and led us in what I judged to be a westerly
direction. We found a few scrawny berry bushes as we
walked. As the berries were sweet I allowed we could eat our
fill. Coming upon a stream allowed us to refill our water
After walking for what seemed like hours, I decided to call a halt for
the day. The sky was darkening once more. There was a
sheltered area of rocks. I was beginning to feel that my space on
the floor in the goblin pit was quite appealing.
Gloomy and overcast the weather remained for five more days. The
only means of knowing day from night was the degree of light to the
sky. There was no sun by day; no moon and stars by night. We saw
no sign of wildlife. Nothing seemed to be moving in this
wasteland we floundered in. All was desolate as my spirits
flagged and mirrored the landscape.
I was concerned about Merry's injured arm. He seemed to be
favoring it to quite an extent when he did not think I was watching
him. There was nothing to give him in the wild for the
pain. All I felt I was able to do for him was to make certain we
rested for his sake, ensured he ate well giving him extra food from my
portions, and drank plenty of water. Pippin was concerned about
Merry, yet at the same time was jealous of Merry's extra portions.
Our food stores were dwindling. My cousins and I had to make due
with rations of cram and the wild onions and garlic that we
found. These were not the best meals or the most fragrant but,
after a fashion, they did fill the hollow spots in the pits of our
stomachs. The boys ceased their complaints with a
meaningful look I sent in their direction.
I wondered about the lack of trees and other vegetation as we seemed
lost in an endless sea of scrubland. I had never imagined such a
bleak and desolate area bereft of any comfort save a few small streams
of bitter tasting water we had come across. At least we could
fill our water skins. It was encouraging that we seemed to be
making good progress as we moved day by day.
Whatever lurked on the fringes of my awareness was still there; dark,
swift, silent, filling me with dread. It began to touch my dreams
whispering words of fear and anguish to my soul. It walked with
us by day and kept watch over us by night. I had no rest.
The sixth morning after the dreary weather began and the rain and the
fog assailed us, we woke to a beautiful sunrise. It warmed the
hearts of each of us. We broke our fast on cram and the last of
the wild berries we had found the day before. As I surveyed our
surroundings and used the sunrise to mark our bearings, I discovered to
my great dismay that we had not been heading west at all, but
north. We had been totally turned around in the fog. In my
eagerness to arrive home as quickly as possible, we continued our
journey when we should have stayed in that location until we could be
certain of moving in the right direction. Not only had my actions
cost us five days of travel, but five days of travel in the wrong
I sank down on a rock with my head in my hands trying to think.
The lack of sleep had frazzled my nerves. I did not want to tell
my cousins of my mistake so as not to worry them, though I would admit
it if pressed.
"Are you ready to go?" Merry had come up behind me.
I nodded and stood up. Without saying a word, I checked to make
certain everything was gathered. I noticed the boys heading in
the same direction we had been taking the past several days.
"This way, Merry, Pip," I sighed.
They came bounding up beside me as cheerful as ever. I had no
smile to share with them. I hung my head and continued walking in
what I at least knew now to be the correct course.
"What's wrong, Frodo?" Merry was by my side. I could not give him
an answer. "Oh, that…." He had easily picked up on the
situation. "Well, it's all right."
"Five days, Merry."
Merry was nearly as tall as me and slipped his arm around my
shoulders. "Well, we're going right now, aren't we?" I
"And the sun is shining." Pippin had been listening. His
exuberance flowed from him. He was going home and nothing would
dampen his spirits.
"And my arm is starting to feel better."
"I heard a bird singing." Pippin tried to imitate a bird. I had to
smile at the manner in which my cousins were trying to cheer me.
The ground was rocky making it difficult to maneuver. The light
of the sun brightened my spirits as its warmth renewed my
strength. I reasoned if we were to keep the morning sun just
behind my right shoulder and in the afternoon just before my left
shoulder we would be correcting my mistake. This made sense to
me. I prayed that the sunlight would hold at least for a few days
knowing the precarious nature of the weather at this time of year.
We camped that night by a brook. Finding enough sticks and scrub
brush for kindling enabled us to build a nice fire. In looking
for firewood, we discovered that others had used this same area as a
camp recently, but not too recently. That was a reassuring
thought. The brook yielded a small catch of fish for an evening
meal that brought a smile to each of us. Peering at
the diamond studded deep blue of the night sky brought to mind happier
times spent under the stars with Bilbo, Merimac, Merry, Pippin and my
parents. The stars always seemed have an inexplicable calming
affect in my life. With the cleared skies, I was able to sleep
again and had two good nights of rest with the stars keeping vigil
Days passed in this seemingly endless scrubland. The sky once
again turned overcast. It had been ten days since we had seen
sunlight by day and stars at night to guide our course. I had
been made aware of my folly in taking us in the wrong direction and
sought to set our course aright. I had no way of determining our
present path as we foundered in the wild. The landscape was
bleak. We saw little sign of wildlife. Whereas this boded
well as far as danger from predators, it boded ill for our dwindling
food stores. Berries which had seemed somewhat plentiful at first
were now seen less and less as the days passed; what we found were
I had been relieved to discover that Ur'gup had placed extra stores in
our packs. These were decreasing as well. Merry and Pippin
were hungry all the time; I tried not to notice my own hunger.
When we would come across an occasional cony or a field hen which
provided a little meat, I saw to it that my cousins got the larger
portions. We were fortunate in that there seemed to be plenty of
springs or creeks in order to replenish our water every couple days,
but in between our water had to be rationed. It held a foul taste
that lingered on the palate.
The days were pleasant enough though the nights were becoming
chilled. The grayness of the skies was even depressing Pippin who
seemed to find a simple joy in everything. We had been sitting
around our small fire one evening. The talk of home gave us
something to look forward to.
Merry had been carrying on most of the conversation and had become
quite animated in fact regaling us with the story of the first pipe he
ever smoked. He and his cousin, Berilac, had been off on a
jaunt in the Marish. They had decided to take a trail which led
through Bamfurlong the grand farm belonging to Farmer Maggot. It
was not long before the dogs were out chasing the lads who climbed a
tree for safety. Farmer Maggot was wandering through the fields
with a pitch fork yelling at his dogs to catch the thieving
Merry was a good storyteller. A good portion of his style was in
trying to get his listeners to react in one way or another. He
had a puzzled expression on his face when he looked at Pippin.
His grin grew when he saw my face. I could feel myself blanching
and broke out in a sweat. That was all the fodder he needed to
embellish his tale. His tale had Farmer maggot alternately
swinging and stabbing that pitchfork into anything he thought he saw
move. The dogs were not only barking but they were snarling and
growling. He continued with Farmer Maggot accusing the miserable
mushroom thief, Frodo Baggins and yelling a reminder about the
dogs. I must admit Merry told a good tale. I wondered if he
knew how close he had come to the mark with his story.
I glanced over at Pippin. Normally, he would have been rolling on
the ground laughing at a tale of this nature, but not tonight. Pippin
was not talking which was unusual in itself. Something had upset
the boy. He had been quietly pulling up little tufts of grass and
tossing them into the fire. This activity was alternated with worrying
a tear in the right leg of his breeches. He began chewing on his lip as
a tear trickled down his cheek. I held up a hand to momentarily
halt Merry's story. I had vivid memories of Farmer Maggot and his
dogs. A respite from Merry's tale would not hurt.
"What's wrong, Pippin?"
"Nothing…." Pippin hugged his knees and shook his light brown curls.
"Yes, there is. We have to keep each other going. What has you upset?"
"Yeah, you haven't interrupted me all night."
"Would you care to talk about it, Pip?" Pippin hugged his knees tighter
and sniffed. "It might help …" I tried to reassure him not knowing what
was bothering him.
Pippin hesitated and took a deep breath. "Mum made me a new suit of clothes for my birthday…"
"How do you know? We were living with the goblins on your
birthday." We all shuddered at Merry's reminder. All three
of us had spent our birthdays in the company of the goblins.
"Go on, Pippin…"
"Mum made me a new suit of clothes … I begged her to let me wear them
when we left on our trip, Frodo. She didn't want me to."
"Aunt Eglantine is pretty strict," Merry felt he should inform us for
whatever reason but we had all felt her well-deserved discipline at one
time or another.
"I told her I would be careful …" Another tear followed the track down
his cheek. "She said if my new clothes came back ruined, she
would have my hide …" His voice was quavering. "… and I promised…"
"… And she let you wear them anyway." Frodo was trying his best to console his young cousin.
"Mums are always saying things like that, aren't they, Frodo?"
I could tell from Merry's eyes he regretted his words as soon as he
spoke them. I winced while he swallowed. I nodded at Merry.
"Why, yes, they are I guess," I said quietly as I pictured my mother
gone from me for so many years now. How I missed my parents!
"… But look at this!" Pippin showed us a good-sized rip on the right leg of his breeches.
"I wouldn't worry about it, Pippin."
"But Mum said…" Pippin was alarmed.
"Pip, your mum loves you. She will be so happy to have you home
safe and sound. She won't care what your clothes look
like." I wrapped an arm around my younger cousin's shoulders and
gave him a hug. "And that goes for you too." I ruffled
Merry's dark blond curls. I only wished I could say the same for myself
after all the time we had been gone and everything my cousins had been
We wandered through the scrubland for eight more days without the sight
of a single tree let alone a line of trees that would indicate a forest
or wooded area. Our trip home had begun as an adventure; it had
become a matter of survival. The weather had turned chilly in the
daytime as well as at night. Our food stores had been depleted
days ago and that after days of rationing. We were at the mercy
of what could be found in the wild.
We spent the next five days moving closer to the trees seen in the
distance. With the sight of the trees came the hope of warm
food. Thoughts of food other than the wild onions and the
roots and stems or tufts of parched or drying grass were an appealing
consideration as we walked. We sang and played games as we
journeyed encouraged once again by thoughts of home.
Uneasiness returned to me during the late afternoon of the day we
spotted the trees. I sensed someone walking by my side.
When I turned to look, nothing was there. The closer we got to
the trees, the stronger the sensation grew. Merry and Pippin bore
their usual cheerful demeanor. I tried to tell myself that it was
merely childhood memories of being told to stay away from the trees
especially after I had been severely injured by falling from a
tree. My cousin Merimac and I had shared a strange occurrence
concerning a particularly large and magnificent tree on the fringes of
the Old Forest. Now, as I thought about it, I remembered that
Merimac's son, Berilac, had also suffered an injury falling from the
same tree. It had kept him from coming with us. I am as
fond of Berilac as I am of Merry and Pippin, but was again grateful
that he had not been able to accompany us due to the terrain we had to
cross. The goblin pits came to mind once more. It was strange
that these memories should keep coming back to me.
Finally, we rested at night knowing that we would reach the trees by
mid-day on the morrow. I had given my invisible stalker little
thought. He had not begrudged us our meal. As we made up
stories sitting around the fire before retiring for the night, I again
sensed his presence. He was there circling our camp; watching our
moves. I fancied I could see his eyes glowing red as he watched
us from his stand on the outskirts of our camp. A breeze was
blowing. I heard his laughter on the wind. Merry and Pippin gave
no indication of seeing or hearing anything out of the
ordinary. I tried to shake it from my mind; yet it seemed
to remain laughing and mocking. As we grew drowsy from our day's
march and were ready to sleep for the night we lay down. My cousins
were asleep within minutes. The night was crisp and clear.
There right above me was Eärendil, the bright star; the star I had
sought in the sky since I was a young child.
"Eärendil, "I whispered, "You have helped me in the past.
Help me now." I saw the other stars glimmering in the sky.
The words came back to me that Bilbo had taught me; those same words
that had helped comfort me in the Goblin's pits: "A Elbereth
Gilthoniel, silivren penna míriel, o menel aglar elenath!"
Our fire cracked and sputtered. I would have sworn I heard a hiss
in the breeze. I felt a sense of calm as my stalker seemed to
The following day my nameless companion traveled with us again.
He seemed to be sometimes at my side and sometimes behind us.
Each time I glanced about me, all I could see were my cousins, birds or
small scurrying animals we had scared from there holes. I
would not give in to fears and doubts but smiled and laughed with Merry
and Pippin. We sang songs as we walked. Not knowing why, I
remembered a day from childhood spent with my cousin, Merimac. He
had been gravely ill, yet he changed the words to "The Fox and the
Frog" to ease my fears. Merry and Pippin were delighted with this
story and came up with a new game for changing the words to any song
they could think of. This kept us occupied until we reached the
It was odd the way the forest loomed up ahead of us like a great
wall. I knew some of the history involving this area; but not
much. I was aware of the northern kingdom and the fact that the
office of the Thain arose to take the place of the king when there was
no longer a king in the north. I realized as we got closer to the
trees that we were following a natural path or possibly a deer trail
not readily visible but nevertheless, it was there.
The three of us were elated at having at last reached the woods. The
day had been quite warm; the shade of the boughs, welcome. It was
probably curiosity more than anything else that made me follow the path
instead of staying in the edges of the trees. Forgetting all
about my stalker, we moved deeper into the forest. I had been
warned since I was a child about the dangers of the forest, especially
following the accident that nearly took my life and as a result
Merimac's as well. Uncle Rorimac had had plenty to say on the
subject. Bilbo had had something to say as well … and the thought
of giant spiders was terrifying. This forest was not nearly as
frightening as anything I had been warned about. Sunlight
could still be seen overhead through the branches. Merimac had
taken me camping in the woods when I was a child. Bilbo and
I had camped in the woods on many an occasion. We had even met
some elves more than once.
Having thrown caution to the wind, as they say, I led the boys
on. The path wound about more than I would have deemed
necessary. Hindsight tells me it was for the sake of
secrecy. The sight I really wanted to see was the Brandywine
River, for then I would know without a doubt that we would soon find
our home. We even made a game out of what we thought the path
might lead to. Pippin's first thought was mores trees.
Merry cuffed him upside the head for that one. We suggested
various sights including anything from elves to dwarves to Bag End to
the Brandywine to Brandy Hall to the goblin pits. I cuffed Merry
upside the head for that one. Merry had to get in one last jab
and declared what we would most likely see would be Farmer Maggot with
his two biggest dogs. I paled and shuddered while my cousins
doubled over with laughter. How did that lad know of my fear of Farmer
Maggot and his dogs? I let the question pass.
We were totally unprepared for the sight that did greet out eyes.
The path led us to a small glade. There were rocks and boulders
and a stream. Yellow flowers still danced in the meadow.
Birds sang and chirruped in the trees. Coneys and other small
animals scurried at our approach. There appeared to be a garden
tended towards the coming winter. Nearby was a hillock.
Even we three hobbit lads did not notice the smial at first.
Merry and Pippin wanted to rush to the door immediately. It was
supper-time and they were certain they would be invited for the
meal. I had to warn them that we needed to be cautious.
There was no welcoming smoke coming from the chimney. It was then
I noticed the two small mounds between the garden and the trees.
Merry and Pippin were all for going inside and making themselves
comfortable as no one lived here. I knew that would not be a wise
move until we knew more about the surroundings.
Something was not right here. The whole scene just seemed to be
unreal. I turned about to get a better look at the area and
turned straight into a notched arrow. Stranger, yet, was the
person holding the bow. It was a hobbit lass perhaps a couple
years younger than me. She had long dark-golden hair
worn plaited over one shoulder. Her clothing was strange
consisting of a dark green shift with a brown overdress laced at the
sides for a snug fit. Her face was heart-shaped with a golden
complexion from time spent out of doors. She was certainly not
plain and yet definitely not what some might call beautiful. Her
eyes were striking. They reminded me of a doe and yet they were
not a true brown; one could see hints of green and gold and a tinge of
blue making me wonder how they might appear in the moonlight. I
found her enchanting. There was something oddly familiar about
her. I knew the boys were rudely staring like fish out of
She gave us the same appraising look I had been giving her.
Suddenly she took a quick intake of breath as if trying to catch
herself. "Oh!" She lowered her bow. "Well met
and good day to you young gentlehobbits." She scanned the horizon
for the sun. "We had best be going inside before the sun goes
down." She retrieved the string of fish she had dropped in the
grass handing them to Pippin and provided Merry with a knife drawn from
a sheathe at her waist before leading them to a spot near the garden
where they could clean the fish. They never questioned her but
went to do her bidding.
After directing Merry and Pippin she turned her attention back towards
me. I found that I had watched this calm demeanor of hers
in amazement. "You may bring in wood for the fire." She literally
had to turn me in the direction of a stacked woodpile. With that
she disappeared into the smial.
I had to smile to myself as I gathered up wood for the fire. We
had been imprisoned by goblins sharing our condition with elves,
dwarves and big folk. Up to this point in time we had seen little or
none of any type of wildlife having traveled through endless scrubland
to arrive at this forest glade. The very last thing that any of us had
expected to find was a hobbit lass dwelling in an almost unbelievable
location if nothing else for the pure beauty of the setting. She
was a strange lass, to say the least, if nothing else by her manner of
dress and the way she wore her hair. It was unlike anything I had
ever seen in the Shire. Her speech was different as if she had
not spoken with many Shire folk in her lifetime. Yet, there
remained the gnawing feeling of familiarity about her.
I made certain Merry and Pippin were progressing with their fish
cleaning task and then entered the smial by the same entrance I had
watched the lass enter and found myself in a spacious kitchen.
The lass was nowhere to be seen though I could hear her moving
about. She was humming an old tune from the Shire. I placed
the wood in the wood box by the stove and lit the stove for some reason
hoping she would be pleased she did not have to tell me she wanted the
stove lit. Having accomplished that task I went to retrieve more
wood for the hearth all smials having large hearths in common. This one
was no exception. I carried the second load of wood into an adjoining
room. What surprised me was the fact that there was not one dining
table, but rather two large dining tables. I set about making up
a fire and noticed I could see straight through the fireplace into
another large room. It was a type of parlor or sitting
room. The woodcarving on the mantel and all the trimmings
to the room was amazing. I traced my fingers in the cuts forming
birds, animals, leaves, flowers and stars. This last item was a
startling feature. I traced my finger in a line of stars
representing a constellation and there it was: my star.
Immediately I felt at peace about our situation. I turned
slightly to find the lass watching me, a smile on her face. Her eyes
sparkled in the flickering firelight reminding me of the stars beneath
my fingertips. Feeling embarrassed, I dropped my hand to my
"It's beautiful. Who carved all this?"
"He's very talented."
"Yes … I think you had best see if your young companions need
help. It will be dark soon." Her voice seemed quiet, almost
"All right." I headed towards the door. This was the second
time she had mentioned about the oncoming night. I felt a shiver
run down my spine as I thought of my invisible stalker. It was
difficult to imagine anything dark or sinister invading this
Though I had not realized it, there was a sort of headiness to the air
inside the smial. I was glad to be out of doors again. I
looked at the sky settling rapidly into dusk and thought of the warning
I had twice been given. I walked over to inquire if my cousins
needed help. Merry had been struggling with the use of only one
arm. Pippin was not a very experienced fish cleaner; he was more
of a fish eater. I sent the boys into the smial with those fish
they had already cleaned with instructions to ask our hostess if she
was in need of assistance and remained outside to finish the task of
cleaning the string of fish myself. While I worked my thoughts
ranged freely from how good it felt knowing we would be spending the
night in an actual smial to the thought of seeing another hobbit to
realizing we had not even introduced ourselves to the hobbit lass nor
she to us to the familiarity of the lass herself to the ominous
sensation that I was being watched. I quickly cleaned the fish,
took them into the smial and returned to sluice the area. I
looked up into the sky once more and smiled as I saw the large bright
star that had meant so much to me in my life.
"It is called Eärendil. To me it is the most beautiful star
in the sky." I turned sideways to see the lass standing by my
side watching the same star that I had hoped to see as I looked to the
sky. I was correct; her eyes did sparkle and glimmer in the
"This star has been with me as if it were watching over me most of my
life," I confided, though I had no idea why. "I always feel comforted
somehow when I see it shining whether it is morning or evening."
We stood looking at the star in silence for some minutes as a number of
other stars appeared in the sky.
"Elenna," she said softly.
"Elenna Boffin…It's my name. I was born here under the stars…"
she nearly whispered her voice being filled with awe for the night sky
opening out above us.
Somehow her revelation of her name did not surprise me in the least.
Searching my memory, I recalled the word 'elenna' meaning 'starwards';
Merimac had taught me to think of the word and to look to the stars to
give me hope. There did seem to be something hopeful for the first time
in weeks on our journey home. Still there was something familiar
about the last name she gave as well.
"Frodo Baggins," I mumbled in response.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Frodo Baggins." She smiled even though she continued to look into the darkening sky.
I looked at her sideways and smiled as well. "It is my pleasure as well …"
"I sent the lads to wash up. The young lad's arm is healing
nicely. He can try leaving the sling off tomorrow if he wants to."
"You seem to have some medicinal knowledge."
"I have to living here. I never know when I will need to use it. My mum always said I was a lot like her father."
I was about to ask her about that when we heard the door open to see
two hobbit lads staring out at us. "We'd best be going in now.
Your dinner is nearly ready. You'll have just enough time to wash up
before hand." She smiled at me as I allowed her to walk ahead of
me into the smial. The boys watched us as if they were trying not
to laugh at a joke.
The lass bade us sit at a smaller table she had set using a fine
embroidered tablecloth and napkin set and included a vase of the yellow
flowers. It was not until this moment that I realized there were
two different sized tables and chairs. The act of sitting while
she waited upon us did not take place. We were so thrilled to be
amongst somewhat familiar surroundings that we all helped to bring and
carry the various serving dishes in from the kitchen.
"What is this place?" I finally asked after we were all seated.
"It's a public house, silly" Merry was trying to impress us with his
knowledge as he helped himself to the platter in front of him.
"Yes, I can see it is an inn of sorts, but there are different sized furnishings if you have not noticed."
Elenna looked at me and smiled. "It is a type of inn, but more of a way station."
"I thought so." I smiled back.
"A weigh station for what?" Merry had not heard of this.
"Hungry hobbit lads," I nodded towards Pippin who had already devoured
one plateful and was shoveling his plate with second helpings. I
gestured towards Merry's heaping plate and we all laughed.
"It is a sort of in-between stopping place with larger inns or public houses along the traveled route," our hostess explained.
"But who travels here? Are we back in the Shire?" Pippin asked excitedly over the food in his mouth.
"Many travel here. You can see this from the furnishings as Mister
Baggins has observed." For some reason it felt strange to have this
lass refer to me as 'Mister Baggins'. She apparently had her
secrets which she did not feel ready to divulge if her guests could not
glean the truth on their own. "…and, no, I am sorry to say you are not
back in the Shire; not yet, but you are close."
"The fare is delicious. I can't say how long it has been since we've eaten …"
"… real food." Pippin interrupted my compliment.
"Thank you. It is my pleasure." We all joined in her laughter.
"I did not think hobbits lived outside the Shire," Merry commented.
"Why would they want to?" Pippin stopped chewing long enough to ask.
"How did your family come to live here?" I inquired ignoring my young cousin's rude remark.
"They chose to. Hobbits are not prisoners in the Shire you know." She was a little defensive about the matter.
"I didn't mean to offend you Mistress Boffin." If she could be formal, I could as well.
"It is I who should apologize." Elenna dabbed her mouth with her
napkin and took a sip of water before continuing. "My parents
came here when they were wed. They wanted the sense of adventure
of living here just outside the Shire."
"It is odd that they should choose to live so far from anyone," I mused.
"We would receive word of what was taking place in the Shire from travelers like you."
"But to live so far from family and friends … it is almost as if you were …"
"… As if we were what, Mister Baggins … outcast?"
"I did not say that."
Merry and Pippin were enjoying this bit of heated exchange and
heightened by their sense of entertainment ate all the more. I had
stopped eating and sat watching her as she spoke.
"Yet it was implied was it not? Just because we chose to live
here does not mean we are daft or anything. It is not as if we go
wandering about all the time on adventures like Old Mad B…" She stopped
talking. The color drained from her face as she looked at me.
I knew I was angry and tried to speak evenly, but my words came tinged
with ice. "I realize that it is a common practice at public
houses, inns, way stations and whatever it is you choose to call this
place to exchange news. I also realize that that news is often
twisted into gossip and innuendoes. You would do well in the
future, Mistress Boffin, to check out the facts of what you are saying
before you spread whatever you hear."
"I did not mean…Are you he?" A tear slide down each of her cheeks;
first one side and then the other. "Please excuse me. I am
sorry…" She left the room.
Pippin stopped chewing long enough to yell after her, "Mmph mmph Baggins is the nicest person I know."
"Pippin … just eat your dinner." Merry had a way of trying to
keep his younger cousin in line. He was watching me. "What
are you going to do, Frodo?"
"Spend the night as planned. We leave first thing in the
morning." I spoke very crisply towards Merry as I watched the
doorway Elenna had gone through.
"I mean about her?"
"What is it you want me to do, Merry?"
"She doesn't know…"
"That's right she doesn't know and yet she says whatever comes to mind that she has heard."
"But that's my point, Frodo. All she knows is what others have told her."
"Do you really think that the elves are going to speak derogatorily about Bilbo?" I was irritated.
"Elves?" Merry and Pippin asked as one.
"Look around you. Do you not see the furnishings and the
appointments of the rooms? Who do you suppose this is for?"
"Maybe there are big folk who travel on the road she talked
about. There were big folk in the goblin pits with us.
Remember Wyatt?" Pippin had been following the conversation
better than I would have thought.
"That's right. There aren't just elves that would travel through
here. There were dwarves in the pits as well as other hobbits."
"She's probably never even been to the Shire."
"That does not make her comment amenable."
"And yours was, Frodo? You nearly came straight out and accused
her whole family of being tainted and outcast in the Shire."
I was in a sullen mood but I had been listening to my cousins.
"Very well," I sighed, "I will try to speak with her." Seeing
Pippin start to get up I quickly added "I will speak with her.
You will stay here."
I left the dining room through the same door I had watched Elenna leave
by. The door led to a passageway with rooms on either side.
There must have been at least a dozen rooms spaced down the
passageway. Lamps were lit for the night. This smial was
fantastic both in its size and its furnishings. Most of the rooms
allowed for the height of an elf. Some of the rooms had one bed;
some had as many as four. All the rooms had the same
beautiful carving. I found the room that must have been her room;
all green of color and flowery. I thought she was within at
first, but the room proved to be empty.
The passageway connected to another hallway. I followed this one
and found storerooms stocked with plenty. Coming to the end of
this passage, I found myself standing in the kitchen. There was a
fresh baked pie on the table. Our hostess had served up three
pieces and left them to cool. Having found no sign of her inside the
smial, I had a notion as to where she might be and stepped
outside. I saw nothing but the moon and the stars in the
sky. A bird sang in one of the trees which sheltered the smial. A
hawk screeched as it circled overhead in search of prey. At the
moment I felt very much like the hawk.
Standing in the dark trying to get my bearings, I remembered the lay of
the outside of the smial and its surroundings. I looked for
the garden by the line of trees but was unable to see it in the
dark. I heard the sound that would guide me to where she
was. I knew what I would find there. Elenna was down on her
knees between the two small mounds with her face buried in her
hands. Kneeling down in front of her, I took her hands in mine
holding her close to offer her what comfort I could while she
wept. I knew exactly what she was feeling and struggled to hold
back my own tears. The sight before me brought back the loss of my mum
and da' all too vividly. I waited a few moments before speaking.
"My parents died when I was twelve. I lived with my uncle and aunt at
Brandy Hall in Buckland for a few years before Bilbo took me in and
adopted me." She backed away slightly and looked into my eyes.
"I did not mean to be so cruel," she whispered.
I took her hands in mine. "Cruel? No you were only repeating what
you had heard. So if you were cruel, it was unwitting and not on
purpose and therefore easily forgiven."
"Then you do forgive me?" She smiled a bright starlit smile.
"I forgive you, on two conditions."
She pulled her hands from mine. "What are the conditions?" She was wary.
"The first is that you must also forgive me. I did not mean to be rude concerning your family."
"You are forgiven. The truth is I do not know why my mum and da' left
the Shire. They never really told me. I do know we were
happy living here," she sighed. "What is your second condition,
"Only that you call me Frodo. Mister Baggins sounds a bit too stuffy," I laughed.
"All right, Frodo." She smiled and I forgot the stars in the sky.
We spent a long while talking about our parents and Bilbo; life in the
Shire and life in the woods; her knowledge of the stars and mine.
It was a beautiful starlit night. We had much in common. By the
time we returned to the smial, we entered talking and laughing together
as friends. Before she closed the door to the night, I noticed
Elenna start as if coming from a dream and quickly glance around the
clearing. Hastily locking the door, she turned to smile once more
as she looked about the kitchen.
Merry and Pippin had cleared the dishes from the table and eaten all
but one piece of the pie. They had also done the washing up and
so could not be faulted for anything. Elenna and I found them in
the sitting room. Merry had found a collection of pipes as well
as some tobacco and had helped himself while Pippin was strumming a
small harp he had found. The lads merely smiled at us. I
had not seen them this contented in a long time.
We joined my cousins and talked about the Shire and families for a
while before retiring for the night. It was interesting to note
that Elenna had Took blood on both her mother and her father's
side. Something was so very familiar about her. She led us
to a room that occasionally a group of dwarves would occupy.
There were four beds. The thought of sleeping in a real bed was
pure bliss. We said good night with a squeeze of the hand and a
kiss on her fingertips.
With full stomachs and the contentment of an enjoyable evening Merry
and Pippin and I felt relaxed without a care knowing we would set off
in the morning on the last leg of our journey home. We had been
provided with nightshirts. The luxury of sleeping in a real bed
with clean linens was indescribable. We lay contentedly and as
one all three of us stopped talking. I woke during the middle of
the night. It was strange not to feel one had to be on watch
after so long on the road watching for who knew what in the
wilderness. I got out of bed and paced the floor.
All of my conversations with Elenna came flooding back into my
mind. I had not really thought of my parents in so long. It
seemed I would willfully shove their memories from me. There was
still pain after all these years. I really did know what Elenna
was feeling about losing her parents. At least I had family to
cling to and Bilbo was like a father to me. She did not even know
her family. Of a sudden it dawned on me as to who Elenna would
have to be. I had known her family quite well as a child as Merry
does now. She would have to be the granddaughter of Andwise
Bolger the healer in Buckland. The reason she seemed so very familiar
to me was that she was the image of her Aunt Lily, my first love.
It had been whispered about that the eldest daughter of Andwise and
Fern Bolger had run off with a Boffin lad from the Tookland.
Neither of them had come of age and it was forbidden for them to marry
until at least one of them was of age. Elenna's parents had found
this glade as they wandered. It had seemed idyllic and her father
and mother together built the smial and set up a garden plot. As
was to be expected, in time her mother found she was with child, but it
was a difficult time. They had thought of returning to the Shire
but knew the laws; though her father would not have cared. As
luck would have it when her time came, a small band of elves were
traveling through the woods and provided aid to her mother while her
father provided them sustenance. Elenna was literally born under
the stars with Eärendil smiling down on all of those
present. It was the elves who helped name her saying she should
always look for the blessings in that which is above.
It was at that time that the smial was enlarged into the way station
which could house many at need. The elves and some of the big
folk who wandered helped in the construction and brought provisions and
news of the outside world. There was a group of dwarves who
enjoyed the hospitality of the station as well. The station was
well hidden and only those who knew of its existence generally
stayed. A group of the big folk arrived during the goblin attack
three years ago which had taken the lives of Elenna's parents. They
tried to persuade the lass to return to the Shire, but this was the
only home she had ever known and refused to leave. Elenna had
never before seen another hobbit other than her parents until that
Exhausted, I knew I should force myself to try to sleep. The
thoughts running through my mind kept me awake. Glancing out the
small window and watching the stars as they danced in the sky did not
help with the thoughts swirling in my head. I sighed and smiled
to myself as I thought of both Lily and Elenna. I had not thought
of Lily like that since I was a child. I am not certain I ever
quite forgave Merimac for taking her away from me even though I was
perhaps only nine years of age at the time. Merry, Pippin and I
needed to leave in the morning. Elenna is related to us by
marriage I rationalized. Perhaps we could persuade the lass to return
to Buckland with us.
I lay back on my bed with that thought in mind when I heard what I
thought was a scream or a cry. Jumping up quickly I pulled on my
breeches over my nightshirt leaving the door ajar as I ran down the
hallway to Elenna's room. Knocking softly for fear of frightening
her, I opened her door, but she was not within. I headed for the
kitchen making certain I had my knife in my pocket. Unbolting the door
I hastened outside. I had thought I had heard her crying;
standing outside all was quiet. Then it was that I heard a second
scream and turned in the direction of the sound trying to follow the
Another scream led me into the woods. I was hastening towards it
in great fear for Elenna's safety for a woman's cry it was. I
became aware as I ran that I was being followed by something unseen as
if I were being hunted by some unknown creature toying with its
quarry. My thoughts which had been filled with joy and the
anticipation of home so short a time before were quickly turning to
terror. Running towards the screams, I became acutely aware of
three facts: I was totally unfamiliar with these woods; I was
hearing voices and so knew there was more than one; and my pursuers
were trying to wear me down.
I sought refuge by climbing a tree. More shouting from a
different direction caused my pursuers to give up the chase in my
direction as they were led away from me. Without any warning, I lost my
hold of the branch I was desperately trying to cling to and landed on
my back with a thud feeling a pain in my left chest. I looked at
the sky and seeing my guiding star whispered "Eärendil."
When I woke I noticed faint light was beginning to appear in the
sky. The stars had shifted in their courses; yet I still saw
Eärendil and smiled. My chest pained me as if it were on
fire. I reached up to determine the extent of my injury from the
fall I had taken and felt an arrow shaft protruding from just below my
left shoulder. This explained the pain but not the reason for my
not being able to rise. I drifted back towards
Morning had dawned when I sensed or heard someone or something coming
through the trees. A twig snapped; there was a sharp intake of
breath. My assailant was approaching. It was impossible to keep
my eyes open forcing me to rely on my sense of hearing. Drawing my
knife from my pocket I thought I would at least be able to try to
defend myself but my enemy wrenched the blade from my hand. I
heard it land with a dull sound in the grass nearby. I felt the
sensation of pulling and tugging but was powerless to defend myself
from any further onslaught. I was struggling to open my eyes for
as frightening as this experience was proving I was curious as to what
was happening to me. I felt a horrible wrenching pain in my
shoulder and heard myself cry out. There was the sound of ripping
cloth and again my attacker took a sharp intake of breath and said
something unintelligible. Again I fought to open my eyes.
The glint of a knife blade was followed by a stabbing pain. My
assailant was bending over me doing who knew what. I felt its teeth and
tongue pressing against my shoulder. I groaned and tried to fight
him off of me. My attacker spat and swatted my hands away
as he put his mouth and tongue to my shoulder once more.
Struggling with the little strength I had I tried to shove him from me.
He shifted his position so he was right on top of me kneeling on my
hands. Again I felt his mouth and that tugging pain as he gnawed
on my flesh.
"Elbereth Gilthoniel…" I whispered and groaned again. He spat
again. I could feel his eyes on me as his mouth came down again
on my shoulder. The drawing pain was almost unbearable; over and
over again, each time as he put his mouth to my shoulder the pain
"Frodo!" I heard Merry's voice yell from somewhere.
"Make one more move and it will be the last you ever make,
goblin…" It was Elenna's voice, but with coldness I had not
"What's it doing?" Pippin sounded frightened.
My assailant stopped for a moment. He must have turned to look at
Elenna and my cousins before he spat and laid his mouth to my shoulder
once more. I heard the stretching of a taut bowstring being
"No…Stop!" Merry and Pippin yelled at the same instant an arrow
whizzed past my assailant's head only because he again bent over me.
"Stop, Elenna!" Pippin yelled as Merry ran to me.
"He's a friend!"
I willed myself to see his face. "Ur'gup?" I whispered and saw his face covered with my blood.
The poison from the goblin arrow had taken its toll. Had it not
been for the sudden arrival of Ur'gup I would be dead leaving Merry and
Pippin to fend for themselves. Persuaded by my cousins that this
particular goblin was, in fact, a friend, Elenna allowed Ur'gup to
carry me back to the way station. He had given her instructions in
caring for my wound before disappearing only to return the following
afternoon with a preparation of herbs that would act as an antidote to
the poison. Once again the healer saw me pass by death's portals
as I lay in a fevered delirium for three more days.
Slowly opening my eyes during the night I was able to acknowledge
Merry, Pippin, Elenna and Ur'gup all sitting anxiously at my bedside.
"He's awake!" Pippin cried. My cousins rushed to take my hands.
Ur'gup's amber eyes flared and I saw the hideous grin that I had
learned to know as his smile. "You have slept long, Little
One. You gave us cause to worry."
"I'm sorry …" I swallowed. It was all I could say as I looked at each of them.
"Why …? Why did you leave the smial?" Elenna's voice was soft; the tears in her eyes revealing the pain of loss.
"I … I heard a scream. I thought I heard you scream … you were not in your room …"
"But the doors were locked against the darkness of the outside …" She looked to Ur'gup to explain.
"There is much you do not know, Little One. Evil things walk this
land you walk through … things from ages past. Did you not feel
"Were you not warned?" He looked accusingly at Elenna.
"Yes, we were warned, but I felt safe here. I felt we were truly
safe for the first time since we were captured and taken to the pits."
I shuddered at the thought of our captivity.
"You would have been safe inside the smial, Frodo." I saw the weary
glance Elenna gave to Ur'gup imagining she now felt betrayed to the
"But I was trying to protect you …" I felt more than a little
defensive, "… and Merry and Pippin. If the scream was not yours,
whose was it?"
"Whose indeed?" She asked and glanced at the goblin.
"There is much to fear," the goblin looked deep into my eyes, "but, the first cry you heard was a great cat."
"… And the others?"
"How do you know this? Ur'gup how is it you are here?" I saw Elenna tremble at my question as she gave me broth to drink.
"You had not been gone much time. The master's second returned
for what they could find. There were five … I heard them speaking and
hid myself. They watched you. The second knew you and
remembered the map. He would follow and take what he wanted." His eyes
flared as he contemplated his words. "They follow you; I follow
them. They waited in the trees to attack. The cat drew you
out. They made mockery of the cat to draw you away. They would
kill you and come for the others."
"How do you know?" Merry interrupted.
Ur'gup glanced at my cousin and then looked back at me. "I watched them and led them away."
I chewed my lip considering what he was telling me. "I heard voices and
knew I was being chased. Something … another voice drew them off.
That was you?"
"They did not all follow … I am sorry, Little One."
"You saved my life. I am very grateful you were here,
Ur'gup." I reached for his hand and held it trying to convey my
gratitude. "What of Elenna," I inclined my head towards the lass,
"how will she be safe now?"
"You are safe now, Little One. You may go home." Turning to Elenna he
spoke as softly as possible for one of his kind, "Do not fear for
yourself or for them. You will not be harmed."
"How do you know this?" I worried for her safety.
"I killed them … they are gone. They were the last that knew of the master's plan. None others followed."
"Do you know this for certain?"
"I will watch the trees for a time." The lass gasped at his
words. "Then I return to my home. I will do no harm. She is safe."
Even though his promise was made to me, Elenna answered him. "I trust
you, Ur'gup. Thank you for helping me … for helping us." She
smiled at him before turning to me. "Now, Frodo Baggins, it is time you
rested once more and you lads must sleep too. Your friend may
watch with you this night."
Following breakfast the morning after I awoke, my goblin friend and I
said our farewells once more. The wound I received kept me confined to
bed for a week following my waking. I needed a further week to
regain enough strength to travel. Our time was spent in leisurely
companionship with our hostess becoming fast friends as we shared our
lives in the Shire and Buckland with her; she shared her upbringing in
the woods with us. Merry and Pippin delighted in the stories and
songs that were imparted, but even more to their liking was the ample
hobbit fare served six times a day.
As time drew near for us to leave the way station, my cousins and I
each begged Elenna to come with us to Buckland and live among her own
people instead of alone in the wild. Each time we spoke her
answer was always the same. "This is where I was born it is the only
home I know." She looked at us with regret in her eyes. "There are
others who count on me; I cannot leave them bereft of their haven.
Should you ever travel these paths again, you will find me."
The hobbit lass made certain we were each in good health before she
would allow us to pack. My wound was healing but it would make us
travel at a slower pace. There was fair warning about the
inclement weather which could begin at any time during this season of
the year. Knowing we were closer to home than we could have hoped, I
refused to hear of remaining through the winter months. With due speed,
we would soon be home. Our hostess saw our packs stocked with
provisions for a fortnight, enough to see us home. She placed
extras in our packs against unseen delays.
Calling me to her side, Elenna took pen and ink and a piece of
parchment. A chill ran down my spine as I observed the map she drew for
me; it was nearly identical to the map I had been forced to produce for
the Goblin Master. I paled as I watched over her shoulder. She
smiled shyly and blew on the ink to aid its drying before rolling it up
and placing it in my hands.
"Have no fear, Frodo, they are far away now. Trust to the stars"
Elenna saw us on our way watching us until we were out of sight. Our
first days gave us much to think about as we silently reflected on what
was most important in our lives.
The weather was growing rapidly colder. The last days of warmth had
been spent in the forest clearing with Elenna. The delay of
recovering from my injury had cost us dearly in hopes of making it home
before winter set in. We would at least have food for a fortnight
worth of travel from the stores we had renewed and providing Merry and
Pippin did not eat them all at once. I could not blame the boys
for their appetites. Our hostess had proved to be an accomplished
baker, as well as cook who could provide a feast for three hungry
hobbit starvelings at a moments notice. The provisions Elenna
sent with us far surpassed those we had left the goblin pits
with. It was a continual source of amazement that she would
prefer to live alone in the forest with only an occasional visitor
rather than return with us to the Shire. She was a Took after
all; life in the forest perhaps provided the adventure she
craved. As for me, I was more than ready to return home to the
Shire to loud and boisterous Brandy Hall, jolly Tookland and pleasant
hum drum little Hobbiton. If luck held, we would make it to Brandy Hall
in the span of a fortnight. I hoped against hope that there would be no
The first week went smoothly. We had picked up where we left off
with our stories, songs, games and pranks. Though I had not been
here before, I had a good idea as to where we now were. I moved
slowly at first but by the end of the week was making good
progress. It was infuriating to me that I was once again the
source of our slow progress. At least it was not out of ignorance
By the morning of the tenth day following our departure from Elenna's
clearing, dampness joined the coldness of the air stinging us with each
bite of the wind. We were forced to bundle our blankets around us
by day as well as by night. The nights were crisp and
clear. I delighted in the sight of the sky filled with the stars
that had provided me with comfort through so many times in my
life. I pointed out all of the constellations as Bilbo and my
cousin Merimac had taught me: Soronúmë, Telumendil,
Wilwarin, Anarríma, the mighty Menelmacar and Valacirca the
sickle. I could tell the individual stars: Helluin,
Nénar, Lumbar, the blue star Luinil, the red star Carnil, and
Alcarinquë the glorious. I would ever after smile at the
sight of Elemmírë the jeweled star and the remembrance of
the hobbit lass who lived as a jewel in the woods and provided a haven
to weary travelers. The most comfort would always come from the
sight of Eärendil.
Though we had moved slowly for the first week, the second week we were
able to cover a little more ground by picking up our pace a bit.
The cold made us willing to move at a brisker pace. I was still
not seeing familiar territory. The instructions we had received
from Elenna seemed reasonable. I knew if we kept within the edge
of the trees keeping any moss to the north and what sunlight there was
to the proper location in the sky for morning or afternoon we would
eventually come to the Brandywine River.
If we stayed with the river, we would arrive home. This was a
cheering thought, but sobering nonetheless. We had learned some
lessons concerning trust and acceptance. We had learned about
fear and resentment and greed. We also honed our survival
skills. We speculated about changes to our homes knowing we would
be welcomed with open and loving arms as winter was born in the
Buckland and the Shire.
It was nearly sundown. We had traveled for twelve days since
leaving Elenna's clearing. I saw a flash of something ahead and
could not tell what it was; whether friend or danger. I left my
pack and ordered Merry and Pippin to stay where they were in a thicket
for protection. I made certain my knife was ready to hand and
found a large stick to use as a club. Stealthily I made my way
through the trees all the more cautiously because I heard no
noise. I caught the flash again and stood stock still for a few
moments before proceeding. Creeping slowly towards the location of the
flash, I parted some low branches and saw the river. I wanted to
shout for joy but refrained for the sake of our
I surveyed the surrounding area before making my way back to Merry and
Pippin. All appeared safe which was well for us; it was too late
in the day to travel any further.
"Frodo…Frodo?" Pippin loudly whispered. I was grateful for
his call. I nearly missed the hiding place as night came
"What is it, Frodo? What's over there?" Merry was excited.
"Not much." I tried to suppress a grin. "It's big and
winding and brown and dangerous." Pip's eyes grew larger.
"What is it, Frodo?"
"We've made it to the Brandywine." I threw my arms around my
cousins as the three of us cheered. "Shhh!" I quickly
whispered. "We'll have to camp here for the night. I'm not
sure about risking a fire. We'll just have to wrap in our blankets
close to each other."
Excitement over finally reaching the river as well as the cold left me
without sleep most of the night. I kept watch against the wild
and allowed the lads to sleep. No movement was seen nor sound
heard. My blanket had been cut down for bandages and had lost
much of its size for wrapping into. As dawn neared I could take no
more. I felt stiff from the cold and slowly got to my feet.
I laid my blanket over Merry and Pippin who were both sleeping
soundly. Pulling my jacket closer against the breeze, I sought to
occupy my time finding something for breakfast.
The boys woke to the smell of fresh roasting fish which I had cleaned
and stuffed with bits of wild onions and garlic. The meal and the
warmth of the fire made some small amends for the conditions endured
during the night. It would have felt good to spend a day by the
warmth of the fire; however, from the appearance of the sky, I knew we
dared not linger. The sky had the opaque cast seen in the late
autumn when the sun is still shining as clouds develop and one knows
they bear not rain but snow. Merry and Pippin saw my gaze and
without being told made haste to gather their gear.
Knowing we were only a few days away from home lifted our spirits to
the point of soaring. Following the river and anticipating seeing
home and family again we were able to quicken our pace a bit for the
next five days. I had to remind my cousins and Pippin in particular,
more than once that as we were still in the wild it was necessary to be
cautious. A loud noise or wrong movement could bring unspeakable
danger upon us. We were fortunate, though, that the cold weather
seemed to be keeping most creatures in their burrows or nests.
It was a chill that went right through one's very being. The cold
would have been bad enough but there was dampness in the air. By
nightfall the wind had picked up cutting and biting as it lashed us
with the dried and fallen leaves. We spoke less and less.
Our teeth chattered together as we talked. It was a boon that we
had some cover from the trees. Our evening fire was a blessing.
We slept as close to the fire as one could actually be without being in
the fire itself.
By morning the fire had burned out waking us as much from the cold as
the lightening of the sky. We ate a hasty breakfast hoping to
make the most of the day. It was evident the weather was
changing; we had seen the last of any of nature's warmth for a
time. I thought I was seeing areas of woods I had been to with
Bilbo a couple of times and once with Merimac. I prayed it was
true and not just my wishful thinking.
Marry and Pippin had lost their sense of exuberance and stumped along
staring at the ground with their hands stuffed in their pockets.
Every once in a while I would hear a giggle as one or the other of them
sprawled on the ground ahead of us. I came to the realization I
was as well hearing something else: sniffling. I suggested
we break for lunch as our breakfast had been hurried. In truth I
needed to assess the state my cousins were in. The best plan I
had was to try to get them to laugh. I told them the tale of when
I had put a bucket of frogs in Aunt Amaranth's laundry tub. Merry
was laughing so hard he could barely sit. He had endured his own
experiences with Aunt Amaranth. Pippin smiled and giggled a
little but it was definitely not his usual show of mirth.
"Are you all right, Pippin?"
"I'm all r…r…right, F…F…Frodo." He looked at me and tried to smile but the glossy sheen to his eyes belied his words.
Merry looked at Pippin and then at me. "Are you sure?"
Pippin nodded. "I'm j...j…just s…s…so c…c…cold."
"I know, Pip, we all are. I wish there was just some place to just hole
up for a day or two but I don't think it would help. The weather
is turning and we are so close to home. The trees are helping
somewhat. It would be worse out there." I gestured to the
east outside the trees. "We need to be moving on if you fellows
are ready. I want to cover as much ground as we can today
yet. I don't like the looks of the sky. Pippin, walk in
between Merry and me. That should help some." I pulled his
blanket more snuggly around him and covered his head. Merry and I
did likewise with ours. I glanced at the sky again and we headed
south still following the river.
By nightfall a chill rain had moved in. We were able to locate a
slightly banked area which afforded us the opportunity to have the wind
behind and mostly over the top of us. If the wind changed
directions we would be in trouble. I insisted that Merry stay
with Pippin and they see if they could locate at least a small amount
of dry kindling to get our fire started. I gave my self the task
of trying to find any amount of dry wood to make a decent fire to begin
with. My task proved easier than I thought as the rain had not
had sufficient chance to soak the wood. Supper proved to be more of a
challenge; both boys looked askance when I handed them each a handful
of nuts, two wild onions and their water skins. The weather
hindered any chance of catching fish. We bundled up for the night as
close together as could be keeping Pippin between Merry and me.
Soon we were lost in dreamless sleep.
I rose early and tucked my blanket around my cousins and went down the
bank to the river. Living the years I had in Buckland as well as
lessons from my cousin Merimac and all the excursions with Bilbo had
taught me the best ways to catch fish with no pole available. I
used my knife and sharpened a good sized stick. It was a stroke of good
fortune the rain had stopped during the night; though the wind still
blew with the viciousness of a wild beast. Finding a
likely spot I had several nice fish in a short period of time.
Merry and I were both ravenous but Pippin could find no appetite.
We had to coax the boy to eat with the promise that he would see his
mum and da' the following day. I prayed I was correct with my
Before midday our fortunes changed for the good and the ill. We
had come at last to the Bridge of Stonebows giving us only twenty miles
to Brandy Hall. We stopped to rest before crossing the Great East
Road at the bridge. Pippin was feeling worse than before and had
begun to cough. Adding to our misery, the drizzling rain which
had started in again before we reached the bridge was now turning into
a freezing downpour. We stayed under the cover of the trees as
much as possible for all our sakes. I was worried about both of
my cousins especially Pippin who had ceased talking altogether and
shivered under his coat and blanket. We were in luck to be able
to traverse the road once we had crossed the bridge at first but the
frozen ruts and ice were making the road treacherous and we were forced
once again into the grass at the sides of the road. The weather
compelled us to slacken our pace. I had hoped to encounter
someone - anyone - traveling along Buckland Road but there was not a
soul in sight other than the three of us. The weather was forcing
even the more adventurous travelers indoors.
We spent the night in a grove of trees to the side of the road. I
got the hardtack out of my pack which I had saved for an
emergency. It was the last of the provisions Elenna had given to
us insisting it might prove useful if our situation went awry.
Even though we were surrounded by trees there was nothing but drenched
wood to make a fire with. We consoled ourselves with the
knowledge we would be seeing family and sleeping in real beds again the
next night. The illness that had come upon Pippin was doing its
work. The child was wracked with fever and bouts of coughing. I
spent much of the night trying to wrap my blanket around the two of us
to keep him warm.
The last leg of our return journey was going from bad to worse.
The snows began blowing through the Buckland in the wee hours of the
morning. The dawn showed another ill member of our group as Merry
was coughing now as well as Pippin. I had hoped to be at Brandy
Hall by midday. The setback with the snow would prove costly as
far as our time spent traveling. Pippin could barely walk he was
so ill. Merry and Pippin were both desperately shivering; I
shrugged my coat onto Merry and bade him wrap his blanket over the top;
I wrapped my blanket around Pippin and carried him which unfortunately
meant yet more frequent breaks for rest. Without either my
blanket or my coat, the only thing keeping me warm was carrying the
feverish child. I could feel the rattling in his chest and feared
for his life.
Reaching Brandy Hall had been difficult through the blowing and
drifting snow. By the time we arrived at the hall itself the snow
was letting up yet the wind swirled and howled all about us. The
hall had the appearance of an empty waste. Fear rose in me that
something untoward had taken place in our absence. I thought of
the Goblin Master and his second in command and wondered if any other
copies of my map had been made. I halted Merry and tried to stand
Pippin on his own feet thinking he would feel better if allowed to
enter the hall on his own. The child all but collapsed in my
arms; Merry began to sway thinking this was a dream. He drew
added strength from the knowledge that he was home. Knowing
someday he would be Master of Buckland provided him incentive to enter
Given the hour of day and the weather it was safe to assume someone
would be in the Great Hall. I knew the customs well enough to
know if the Master chose to receive us it would be in the Great
Hall. I recalled many lectures on deportment and decorum.
We stood outside the main doors to the Great Hall which opened on a
"Merry … stomp your feet outside," I instructed and did the same
forgetting all about brushing snow from the rest of our bodies.
"Now, hold your head proudly despite the consequences of what anyone
might say or do for we have done nothing wrong, but we must be received
by the Master of the Hall before we say a word to anyone else. Do
you understand?" Merry nodded. "I only hope your
grandfather is in a good mood."
"He will be happy to see us Frodo…" I gave him a wary look, "…all of us."
"I hope so, Merry. Are you ready? Are you certain you can walk?"
"I'm fine, but I'm worried about Pip."
"I am too. If we are in luck, Lily should be within somewhere; if
not she or Mister Bolger will be sent for. They will take care of
him." Merry nodded his acknowledgement.
With Merry's help I pushed open the doors to the hall bringing swirling
snow and chill winds in with us. My cousins, Seredic and
Marmadas, seated near the doors, jumped up and shut the doors against
the weather. I nodded to Merry and we strode forward towards the
head table. The Master had been speaking. There was an audible
gasp heard throughout the hall.
Merry was true to his word and was able to make it as far as the
Master's table before he began to sway again and was caught in the arms
of his parents Saradoc and Esmeralda. I felt someone lifting
Pippin from my arms and relinquished my young cousin to Lily who
immediately started giving orders about medical needs as she took the
sick child from the hall. I was left standing alone to face the
Master of the Hall. I began to shake or maybe I was shivering. I
was straining to see my uncle's face as I stood there. I felt
arms around me trying to hold me on my feet.
"What do you mean by this, Frodo Baggins, disrupting this feast unbidden, late and in this manner?"
It was then I noticed the hall decorated for the Yule feast. "Sir,
f…f…forgive me. I … I have t…t…tried to p…p…perform to …" I heard
my voice speaking. I could say no more as I felt myself
"All is well, Frodo, I have you," my cousin, Merimac, whispered in my
ear. "Father you are ever too harsh with the lad. Can you
not at least say to him what has been in your heart…in all our hearts
all these months?"
"I did not say unhoped for: you are most welcome at my hall, Frodo Baggins." There was a softening to his harsh voice.
I started to crumple. Merimac caught me in his arms. "I
have you, Frodo. All is well." Merimac whispered to me. "Father,
someone should ride to the Thain…"
"Let me go Da'… I can still ride." Berilac was imploring his
father. Merrimac simply nodded towards his father. "Grandfather,
please, let me go…I should have been with them."
"What of Bilbo?"
"He is at Great Smials, Grandfather."
"Very well, but take Merimas with you. Stay on the road and mind the weather."
"Someone bring some blankets and something to warm to give the lad."
I was shivering violently with the cold as I stood facing my uncle
Rorimac. I worried for Merry and Pippin but knew they were in good
hands. I heard voices and hastened movements around me. The last I knew
was the stern features of the Master of Brandy Hall as Merimac half
carried me to the hearth.
Slowly opening my eyes, I wondered at the uncomfortable nature of my
bed and the flickering light of a campfire. I turned my head to see the
group of people clustered nearby whispering in hushed tones. I tried to
focus being forced to quickly close my eyes to the pain in my head and
the nausea that was beginning to wash over me. After a while the nausea
subsided, yet the pain remained. As I became a bit more aware, I
realized my entire body was wracked with pain; my back, my shoulder,
and particularly my head felt as if I had been through some torturous
experience. Keeping my eyes closed to the pain, I attempted to listen
to the words being spoken around me. It was to no avail; their voices
were too soft and indistinct.
I struggled to open my eyes once more. To my horror the shapes I saw
before me flickering in the light of the fire were the all too familiar
shapes of my tormentors from the Goblin pits. I saw them all there
before me: the Goblin Master and his second in command, Knife and
Cudgel; each of them leering at me with their flaring red eyes. The
amber-eyed Lash who was both my tormentor and my healer. He had
become my friend, or so I thought, and allowed me to know him as
Ur'gup. Now he too stared at me from time to time. Would this nightmare
never end? I wanted to scream, but knew I was safe for the moment only
in my silence. I sensed them glancing in my direction. I still
could not make out their words, but by their tones understood them to
be arguing about something. As I watched them from slits in my
eyes I knew them to be arguing about me.
Suddenly cold fear washed over me. I had been removed from the Goblin
pits without being aware of it. I did not know the whereabouts of
my cousins. Numbness filled my very being as I watched the group of
goblins in the glow of the fire. I was quaking with dread, filled
with fear for Merry and Pippin. I had promised to care for them
and failed miserably. Suddenly I realized I could see them
nowhere. I struggled to rise from where I lay near the fire. Two of
them saw my movements and came towards me.
The sight before me was terrifying as I looked into their hideous grins
magnified by the flickering light of the fire. The smaller one of the
two reached out to touch me bringing a wave of nausea mingled with
pain. I flinched and shied from the goblin's touch. The larger one
brought his face closer to mine.
"All is well, Frodo. We are here with you. Everything will be fine but you must remain still."
I heard the voice of my cousin, Merimac. I struggled and was able
to see his face, the familiar light brown curls and warm brown eyes
served to offer some comfort. The smaller one came into
focus. How could I ever mistake her for a goblin? I knit my brows
forcing the pain in my head to throb more than ever.
"Lily …? Elenna …?" I saw the sparkling eyes and was uncertain
who I was seeing and felt color rise in my face. She smiled and glanced
"I think this lad has been dreaming. I have not seen him color at the mention of your name in years."
"Merimac …" Lily chided.
"I'm sorry Frodo. This is not the time to tease you. How do you feel?" My cousin was duly chastened.
"Merry and Pippin … where are they?" Filled with fear for my younger cousins, I ignored his question.
"They are fine, Frodo. Please lay still." I have something to help stave the pain." She aided my drinking.
I shoved the cup away. "Merry … Pippin …" I called trying to rise. "Pippin … Merry …!"
"Please, Frodo, stay calm." I heard the concern in Merimac's voice. He and Lily exchanged a glance over the top of me.
"I have to help them. I am responsible …"
"Frodo, you're awake …" Pippin arrived first at a run.
"Frodo what is it?" Merry followed close on Pippin's heels.
"Hullo, Frodo …" Berilac came behind the other two a little slower for
his limp. "We've piled the branches as you asked Da'."
"Thank you, son." Merimac clapped his son on the shoulder. "Thank you, lads. I will show you what will have to be done."
"Where am I?" I asked relieved to see Merry and Pippin safe.
"… At the Table Rock, silly." Pippin thought it was obvious.
"We came to camp and climb the rock," Berilac continued.
"You had climbed up halfway to the table and found a section of the rock interesting."
"That's right … There was a carving of some sort …"
"You were balancing in a small cleft trying to draw the carving when a
hawk dived for you. It gouged your shoulder." Merry continued.
"You lost your balance and fell …" Berilac handed Lily the root he pulled from his pocket.
"It was a bad fall, Frodo." Merimac was watching me.
"You've hurt your head, scraped up your back…" Merry began.
"… and wrenched your shoulder besides." Pippin concluded.
"We need to get you home as soon as we are able now that you are
awake." Neither Lily nor Merimac showed the cheerful disposition of my
three younger cousins.
"We are going to make a litter with branches and make a soft bed with
blankets. You will be riding home in style." Merimac tried to
"I am sorry … I've ruined our outing."
"I think we have all had quite an adventure with you the past couple days." Lily reassured me.
"Was it all a dream then?"
"You were dreaming," Merry affirmed with a laugh.
"The goblins … they were not real? They did not … attack us?" I was afraid to feel relieved.
"Don't be daft, Frodo. You know there haven't been goblins in the Shire
since the Battle of the Green Fields two hundred and fifty years ago."
I managed a smile but the haunting memories of my dreams made me hope he was right.