2. Into The Wild
I could tell it was tough for the hobbits. We were fighting through thick trees, hills and bushes, nothing that Strider and I couldn’t handle with just the two of us; but with four hobbits and a packhorse, it took longer.
While we were walking through the forest, I could hear the hobbits talking among themselves. It seemed that they still believed that Strider and I didn’t have their best intentions at heart. “How do we know that these two are friends of Gandalf,” I heard the one called Merry say.
“I think servants of the enemy would look fairer…and feel fouler,” Frodo said in response.
“Strider looks foul enough.”
“We have no choice but to trust them,” Frodo said.
“But where are they leading us?” Sam added.
Suddenly Strider came out of his self-imposed silence. “To Rivendell Master Gamgee, to the house of Elrond.”
I loved Rivendell. To me, it was a home away from home. Being at Strider’s side, I had made many trips to the Last Homely House. I wasn’t as close to the elves as Strider was, but they still considered me as close to family as I could be not being of the Firstborn.
Being a woman, most of the elves in Rivendell thought I would strike up a friendship with Arwen, but I took to the twins more than the Evenstar. I loved Arwen as a sister, but I always had more fun with Elladan and Elrohir. They would take me with them when they would practice archery, hunting trips as well. The twins were a pleasure to be around.
Soon the tall trees began to thin around us and we came upon an expanse of short, almost shrub-like trees. Strider and I hadn’t noticed anything until we heard the clanging of Sam’s pots and pans. When we turned around, we discovered the hobbits preparing to cook a meal. “Gentleman,” Strider began. “We do not stop till nightfall.”
Pippin was the one who answered. “But what about breakfast?”
“Breakfast Pippin, but you’ve already had one?” I answered back.
“We’ve had one breakfast Mistress Maire, but what about second breakfast?”
Strider just shook his head and started to walk off, and I followed him. “Why can’t we let them stop, just this once?” I asked.
“Because if we stop for second breakfast, then we’ll have to stop for elevensies, and luncheon, and Eru knows what else. We can’t Maire, not with the Nazgul tracking us.”
“Is there anything we can do for them then?”
Strider rummaged through his bag and found a few apples. “Do you think these will do?”
“Guess they’ll have to.”
Strider threw one of the apples behind him and then the other. I couldn’t help but hear the second one connect with flesh. I heard Merry call out Pippin’s name and turned to see the youngest hobbit looking dazed. I went back to Pippin and put my arm around his shoulder. “Come on Pippin, we have a lot more ground to travel.”
“I know; I just wish Strider didn’t throw apples so hard.”
I chuckled. “You’ll be glad that Strider puts that much force into his swing the next time we run into the enemy. But let’s not think about those things, focus on your apple.”
Pippin looked down at his apple and took a bite. “It’s not that bad.”
“I thought so. May I have a bite?”
Again Pippin looked down at his apple. “Usually I wouldn’t, but under these circumstances, I’ll let you.” He handed the apple to me and I gladly took it.
He was right; it wasn’t that bad. When I finished I handed it back to him. “Thank you Pippin.”
“You’re welcome Mistress Maire. Glad to be of service.”
I went back up to walk with Strider and found him in almost a foul mood. “What’s the matter Strider?”
He pointed to the horizon. “That’s the matter; the Midgewater Marshes. I’ve never taken you through them have I?”
“No you haven’t. I’ve heard the other Rangers talk about them. More midges than water so I’ve heard.”
“It will be tough for the hobbits. If we weren’t so short on time, I’d go around, but we can’t risk the Nazgul catching up with us.”
“I understand Strider. We can do it. They may be just Hobbits, but I can already tell we aren’t giving them enough credit. I’m sure we’ll be fine, it’s just a few bugs.”
When we arrived at the borders of the marshes, I discovered that I was dreadfully wrong. I could literally see clouds of midges hovering above the patches of soggy earth and puddles of water. It was a fight to cross them. I felt bad for Sam who took it upon himself to lead Bill across that horrid landscape. When it looked like he was going to die of exhaustion, I fell back and took the reigns from Sam. “Go on ahead Sam; I’ll take care of Bill.”
Sam eyed me cautiously. “You won’t do anything to hurt him?”
I smiled. “I will take the best care of Bill. Go on Sam; we’ll be fine back here.”
Sam eyed me one last time before going to walk next to Frodo. I actually had a good time with Bill. He really was a good horse and I could understand why Sam was so protective of him. He seemed to like it when I scratched behind his ears, like he had just been waiting for someone tall enough to fix the itching behind his ears. I was more than happy to oblige.
I never expected to cross the marshes in one night. My suspicions were confirmed when the sun set behind us and Strider stopped us to make camp. “I’m going to go and find us something to eat,” Strider told me. “I want you to stay with the hobbits. Help them set up camp.” Without another word, Strider set off on his quest.
I turned around to see the hobbits unloading Bill and setting their burdens on a somewhat dry patch of ground. “Frodo,” I called out. “Could you help me find some wood for a fire?”
“I can do that,” Frodo replied.
Frodo walked toward me and then we set out on a path around camp. We were able to find a few sticks that weren’t so water logged. “How are you faring Frodo,” I asked him. “Tis a great burden you carry.”
Frodo reached into his pocket and drew out a small band of gold. “I’m not sure what to think of it Maire. You wouldn’t think that something so small was capable of so much pain, could you?”
As I looked at it, I found myself almost drawn to it. I heard a voice in my mind, clear as if someone was speaking to me face to face. “Lalaith,” it called out to me. “Hear me. I know your heart. I know your desires. Take me and I will make you the greatest of Men. Take me and you will conquer your loneliness.”
A shiver went up my spine. “Put it away Frodo, please!” I managed to say almost screaming, as if the sound of my voice would drown out the sounds in my mind. I think I scared Frodo, because he looked afraid of me when he put the ring back in his waistcoat pocket. “Forgive me Frodo,” I said with tears welling in my eyes. “I’m afraid that I’m not as resistant to the ring’s evil as you are.”
A look of understanding washed over Frodo’s face. “There is nothing to forgive.” He stood right in front of me and reached for my hand. I let him take hold of it and he pulled me down so we could look into each other’s eyes. With his other hand, he wiped away the tears that had already spilled. “Why do you cry so,” he asked me.
“You and your friends have entrusted Strider and I with your care, and I act like…I don’t know what. Strider and I are only here to help. I don’t mean to frighten you Frodo, I know I did.”
“Only because I didn’t expect someone to shout at me. Anyone would have the same reaction to that. Come, let’s search for more wood.”
Frodo and I finished our task and brought the wood back to camp. Merry and Pippin had set out the bedrolls for the hobbits and Sam had started to prepare for supper, which wasn’t much since we didn’t have a fire yet. I soon remedied that and it wasn’t long before Sam was busying himself with dried vegetables and other things.
All that was left for me to do was set up my own lodgings and that of Strider’s, which he left behind. Strider always left that job to me. I didn’t mind it, I actually enjoyed it. Strider did so much for me, it was the least I could do to make his night a comfortable one.
As things settled down, Strider returned with a deer on his shoulder. I knew what he was going to do with it, but I couldn’t bear to watch. I turned around on my bedroll as he cleaned the creature, making it fit to be eaten.
Silently I said a prayer, thanking the deer for giving its life so that this unusual company wouldn’t starve. I did this whenever Strider or I killed an animal. He told me once that it was a very elvish thing to do.
It took some time, but soon there was fresh meat to be eaten. Sam had mixed it with some other things, and it was actually good. When we finished, we packed the unnecessary things away and settled in for the night. Strider and the hobbits sat around the fire smoking their pipes and I still sat on my bedroll, watching.
I pulled a book out of my bag and opened it. There were no words on these pages, it was a book meant to be drawn in. I also found in my bag the gift that Arwen had given me the last time I was in Rivendell. It acted like a pen, but it didn’t need any ink. What came out of it wasn’t black either, but more of a charcoal gray. Arwen called it a “pencil”; I called it a miracle of science. She sent me off with a handful of them, telling me that they needed to be sharpened instead of filled with ink. She thought that they would be better suited for a traveling artist than a pen and ink bottle, and I agreed.
When I had all my supplies in order, I began to sketch Strider and the hobbits. Drawing soothed me. It took my mind off the worries of the day and channeled my energy into something useful. Strider heard me and turned in my direction. I looked up from my project and saw him smiling. I returned the gesture and went back to sketching Merry’s profile. It was a good night.
I had set my book down and laid down on my bedroll. I watched and listened to the five men until the constant noise lulled me to sleep. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to the sound of Strider singing. I loved it when he sang. He sounded like the elves when he sang. Frodo heard it too and sat up. “Who is she,” he asked. “This woman you sing of.”
Strider looked back at Frodo surprised that anyone was listening. “Tis the lady of Luthien,” he replied. “The elf-maiden that gave her love to Beren, a mortal.”
“What happened to her?”
“She died.” Strider turned around to look at the Hobbit. “Get some sleep Frodo.”
Frodo did so and was soon asleep again. I couldn’t help but speak as well. “You were thinking of Arwen, weren’t you?”
Strider turned to me as well. “You know me too well Maire. I was thinking of her.”
I got up off my bedroll and sat down next to Strider. “You know Strider, I really have no idea what she sees in you,” I said with a smile.
“Then it is good for me that it’s Arwen I plighted my troth to instead of you.”
“Aragorn, that hurt.”
I never used his real name unless I was being serious, and he knew me well enough to know that. “I’m sorry Maire, it was not my intent to offend.”
“I know. Don’t worry about Arwen. I may not know her as well as you do, but I am sure she cares for you a great deal.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of Maire. I’m afraid that by her denying her elven heritage that it’s my fault she’ll die.”
“She knows that and she has made her choice. She loves you Aragorn.”
Strider was silent for some time. Thinking that our conversation was over, I began to move back toward my bed, but Strider stopped me. “Thank you. Sometimes I forget about those things.”
“I am more than willing to help a friend in need.”
“Speaking of that, how are you? I noticed that you withdrew yourself from the rest of us tonight. Is anything the matter?”
Quietly I sat back down. “I heard it call to me Strider.”
“The Ring. Frodo helped me collect wood for the fire this afternoon. He showed me the ring and it spoke to me, as plainly as you are speaking with me now. It frightened me Strider.”
A look of concern washed over Strider’s face. “What did it say to you?”
“It called me by my elven name. It said that if I took it from Frodo that I would ‘conquer my loneliness’.”
“Are you lonely Maire?”
“Deep down, I think I am. I know I’m not as old as you are; but there are sometimes when I think that I don’t have enough time. There were actually times when I didn’t want to be a Ranger anymore and just go home and live a normal life. Is that wrong of me?”
“I don’t think so. Everyone deserves companionship, even Rangers.” Strider put back a few strands of hair behind my ear that had fallen out of place. “You don’t have to give up the life you have chosen to lead out of fear of being alone. The one that is meant for you will accept your life and be happy that you choose to lead it. You must have faith that there is someone out there that shares your love of the outdoors; that shares your fondness of trees and growing things. He’s out there, don’t worry.”
“Thank you Strider, that means a lot.”
“I’m glad. Now get some sleep, I want to try to make it to Amon Sul before nightfall tomorrow.”
I went back to my bedroll and pulled my blanket over me. “Strider?”
“Would you finish your song?”
A smile crept up on Strider’s face. “Of course.”
A/N: I went out on a limb this chapter. Do they have pencils in Middle Earth? If they don't, please let me know; I don't wanna be off-canon. Thanks!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.