14. Frodo and Sam
Only two days after parting from Niphredil, before which Frodo had thought that her retreating back would be the closest he’d ever see of adventure, he himself set out south, and found courage he had not thought he possessed.
For Samkin had suggested they go by boat to the Ford of Sarn. And Frodo was afraid of water, and still he agreed. For he wanted to go fast and by the shortest road, or river, so as too return soon.
And Samkin owned a boat, and knew how to navigate it. And the stream sped their way so they reached the Ford in a day. Frodo was afraid, camping out in the wilderness, but he dared not show it. These were empty lands, with few paths and few wanderers, if any, for they met no-one. Frodo’s fear was not of orcs and troll but of bears and wolves. Samkin had a guardsman’s spear and a hunting bow, but Frodo was unarmed save for a knife and a sling, so he borrowed the spear from his friend.
‘Are you really called Sam?’ Frodo asked, as they fried fish for supper - they had hung a line from their boat and been lucky to catch some.
‘So why were you named Samkin?’
‘Well, my father knows your father, although he got a bit shy when good old Sam was made Mayor, anyways he named me sort of after him.’
Of their journey a long story could be told of, as they came the great road that goes south, and walked it one cold day after another. Winter is a time of warm beds and staying home, but these were forgotten by the two companions. Sometimes they did meet other travellers, Big People with a funny way of speaking and dark brows, the people of these lonely lands, who had been here before Numenor built its roads and would probably reman as long as the roads did. And the tidings echcanged were simple: that Shire was not for humans but Bree and ancient Arnor welcomed them, and that in Gondor and Rohan all was well and in Enedwaith getting better. But in the East, far in Rhûn and Khand, there were warlords who troubled King Elessar and slaves who still yearned for freedom.
And the companions crossed a river the name of which they had known at a bridge they had expected to be a ford, and entered an inhabited land, although sparsely so. Enedwaith. And there was even an inn or two on the road, but the beer served was too bitter for hobbit tastes.
Niphredil followed Marron and Eowyn to their house in Bree, which they reached just in time for Yule. She wanted to guard her friends on the road, yes, but she knew also that she was putting off a great decision. They young couple were glad of her help in arranging the house and of her company, for Marron had but few friends in Bree and Eowyn had none, and not even newlyweds want to spend Yule in a silent and empty house. Niphredil, even in her present state of mind and holding onto her promise of drinking plain water, was one who knew how to make a party. She urged them to invite all their new neighbours, she told stories and arranged fun and games, and took the party to the Prancing Pony after the hosts retreated to their bedchamber.
And then it was closing time, well after midnight, and she stepped out into darkness, perhaps the first time ever she left an inn straight sober.
And she knew, in the silence of that darkest of nights, that it was time she found her way.
She sat on a pile of firewood beside the door of Marron’s house, and took out the Speaking Stone, Quetondo.
‘Merry Yule, my friend.’
‘Yule? Forget Yule! You have to hurry!’
‘To Gondor, of course! I feel it, I feel something terrible happens if Frodo gets there before you!’
‘But how can I catch him? I cannot fly, never again!'
‘Are you sure? Have you tried?’
‘Well, no. Not as such. But I think no magic will come to me. Not even in the Phial.’
‘Try it. Try the Phial, and see.’
‘Eärendil be blessed! A spark, tiny but bright, steady. I see it, do you see it, Quetondo?’
‘I see it.’
‘Tule!’* She called, and all her possessions from indoors were suddenly at her feet.
A falcon flew from where a maid had stood, high into the cold air, towards the south.
A falcon landed on a tree in Ithilien only a week later.
* Quenya, ‘Come!’