He didn't know how far he'd gone from where he left Huck, but he found himself near a field again. Only a few dozen feet away, there were two men. One was whipping the other savagely and Frodo instantly knew it was the same brutal man they'd seen earlier. His eyes narrowed and his hands curled into fists as he watched his meaningless cruelty. Then, with sudden panic, he recognized the other man.
"Jim!" he shouted, drawing the attention of the two men. Before anyone knew what was happening, he was barreling down on them, screaming.
"Fred!" Jim shouted, holding out a hand to stop him. But it was too late.
Frodo tackled the other man roughly to the leaf-covered ground. He grappled with the man for a few seconds. A vague sense of déjà vu flew through his mind and the man quickly gained the upper hand and Frodo struggled to get away from him. Finally, being smaller and quicker than his opponent, he succeeded.
He took off through the trees and the man snapped his whip after him, but was unable to reach him with it. Hearing the man following him, Frodo ran harder and dived behind a tree. He tried to listen for the sound of footsteps, but all he could hear was his own haggard breathing. He scooted down closer to the base of the tree, looking around to try to see his pursuer while not giving himself away. There was no sign of him, but Frodo felt sure he was still in danger. His eyes roved the woods as his mind searched for an idea. Unconsciously, his hand moved to his chest, where the Ring lay, suspended on its chain. Suddenly the desire to become invisible was overpowering. Before he could think about it, he slipped the ring onto his finger.
The blurry, windy-vision world of shadow he was used to seeing whenever he put on the ring was not there. Nothing had changed. Was it possible the ring had lost its power?
"Gotcha!" The man jumped out from behind the tree, landing inches away from Frodo's right shoulder. The man reached for him, but Frodo managed to scramble up and out of the man's reach, which was difficult since his hand was still tethered to his neck via the ring chain.
Frodo sprinted through the woods, terrified and desperate. Yanking the ring from his finger, he wished he had not left Sting and his elven cloak in the house, traded for these silly clothes he now wore. He stumbled once, and thought himself lost, but to his amazement he had time to rise and resume his escape. He ran hard, as hard as his little body could endure, until he came to the river.
He screeched to a halt. There was no where else to go. Spinning around, he prepared himself for a fight. But none came. The man was nowhere to be seen. He looked around cautiously, making sure it was not some trick, but it was true. Frodo felt a pang of embarrassment as he realized that the man had only meant to scare him. Of course he wouldn't beat a child, the guest of his employers. Frodo kicked up some leaves in frustration. He snatched a stone from the ground and threw it into the river with a yell.
Frodo sat on the bank for a time, he didn't know how long. He was hoping the fog would return and he'd see Sam walking through it, calling his name. He couldn't stand this world any longer. Feuds, slavery, guns - he'd seen more than enough. The thought of those shackles Jim had worn brought back the memory of his vision in Galadriel's mirror. He remembered seeing Sam and all his other friends back home, shackled, chained, led by the whip of an orc through the desolate land that had been Hobbiton. He wondered if that would be the ultimate outcome here, as it seemed the process had already started. No, it was too late for this land. They would have to deal with it on their own. He only hoped there were still good people who would fight for what was right in their world. But for him, he had his own mission. He had to make sure that vision would never come true. In the water of the mirror, it was real, yet not really real. But now he'd seen it with his own eyes. He'd heard the moans of the abused and seen the perverse pleasure the abusers took. He'd smelt the sweat of over-worked laborers and the perfume of their oppressors, and both were vile. Such a thing must never reach his home.
A cool breeze blew across his shoulders and he reached up to wrap his cloak around him tighter, then he remembered that he'd left it at the house. His cloak, his sword...even the phial Galadriel had given him! He had to go back and get it all before he could leave. With a soft push off the ground, he started on his way back.
As he walked back through the trees, he thought of one thing that was good about this world. One thing that his own did not have. Or rather, one thing this world was blessedly lacking: the power of Sauron. Whatever boundary he'd crossed to get here must block out the influence of the Dark Lord. The thought crossed his mind to leave the ring here, but he realized that he did not know how he came to this shore. It was possible that at some point, another would cross through the fog, and it may not be a friend. He couldn't take the chance that the ring might still fall into evil hands if that happened, if someone brought the ring back. It had to be destroyed, once and for all. He quickened his pace.
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.