Smiling delightedly to myself I sit at the front of the boat, gazing into the distance. It's amazing how often the riverbank changes as we drift further south. On our right we have already passed the meadows and fields of The Marish. I've seen some farmers far away tilling the ground or picking up the windfall. But it is some time since I saw the last hobbit. The western bank is now more or less empty except for some animals.
On our left there was a meadow at the beginning of our journey but then it changed and there was a forest. The leaves were rustling in the fresh autumn breeze and I have heard many a bird. But now we have even passed the forest and some great hills are looming up on the eastern shore. I look at them in awe before turning my attention to the river again. My eyes suddenly fix themselves on some strange black spots jutting from the water. I try to figure out what they could be, but fail. "What's that?" I ask, pointing towards the spots and looking at my parents questioningly.
My mother kneels down beside me gazing into the distance intently. Full of expectation I'm watching her, but she does not answer.
"Can you see it?" I ask for I'm not sure if she does.
She nods but still says nothing. I frown as I see her face which suddenly seems to be veiled by shadows. She looks to the eastern shore, gazing pensively at the hills, then to the things I have pointed at and finally her eyes come to rest upon the water.
I'm scared because she still hasn't said anything. She has knitted her brow and there is something in her expression that makes me even more afraid. Suddenly she turns towards my father. "The current!" she shouts. "We've come too far south! Paddle or we shall be driven to the rocks!"
Before I even realise what has happened she grips me by the shoulder and tells me to sit down and grab hold of something. My fear grows even worse when I do as she wishes. My father has already started paddling and so has my mother. Frightened I look from one to the other. What has happened? Suddenly I hear the water rushing. I have heard that sound all afternoon but now it is louder and more fiercely. My eyes turn towards the distance and now I can see what has scared my mother so much. There are rocks; many sharp stones jutting from the water.
Eyes wide with fear I look at my parents. I can see deep anguish in their faces as they paddle with all the strength they have. But nothing happens. The boat is still drifting towards the rocks.
"Mama, why aren't we moving?"
The sound of my own voice makes me tremble. It sounds shrill and reflects the anxiety I see in the eyes of my parents.
"Hush, dear," I hear my mother's soft but trembling voice. "Everything will be alright."
Somehow I'm not sure if I can trust her words. Looking around frantically I suddenly find the answer to my question myself. There is a current pulling the small boat along right towards the rocks. For one short instant I think about uncle Rory and wonder if this is the same current of which he has warned us the evening before.
I look at my father.
His face is grim. I can see that he has no more strength left but he is paddling on, although we still do not move.
"Go on!" I hear him shout, but my mother is breathing heavily. She is at the end of her tether. My eyes are full of pity, as I see her pale and distraught face. Never have I seen her like this before. That is another reason why my fear grows worse still and almost chokes me. At this moment my father suddenly grips my mother's paddle and begins to paddle all on his own. I look at him in awe. He does not give up hope, although he is at the end of his strength too.
The river rushes and I feel fear choking me again. Sinking into my mother's arms I squint towards the stones again.
"The rocks are moving closer."
My voice is trembling and I realise my vision is blurred with tears. She holds me tightly, rocking back and forth to soothe me. I do not hear my father's desperate cry, as he looses hold of one paddle. All I hear is the rushing water and the constant murmur of my mother's soft voice.
"I'm afraid," I mumble as my father comes to us.
He wraps his arms around me. "Me too," he answers, his voice barely audible.
He rubs my back as I begin to sob. He is as much afraid as I am, although he does not show his fear; but I can feel his arm trembling as I desperately clutch it.
The water rushes.
Have I not listened with great pleasure to that noise? Now I detest it.
Everything will be alright.
I hear my mother's voice in my head. Suddenly I find myself hoping for these words to be true. My mother has never lied to me, why should she do so now? But still there is doubt. "Everything will be alright," I assure myself nonetheless, trying to control my sobs.
Suddenly there is a cracking. I look up startled. I feel my father turning me around. Cool water touches my feet. I hear him cry my name. His voice scares me and so does my mother's desperate scream.
"Papa!" I shriek, as he pushes me.
The water rushes and then there is silence.
It is cold, very cold. My arm hits one of the rocks. The wound burns but the rest of my body is freezing. I struggle to the surface. I can see the light; still I'm not able to reach it. The current is pulling me down. Struggling, my foot hits yet another rock. Desperately I feel that I can't hold my breath any longer. I swallow water, when suddenly I feel someone grasping the collar of my neck and pulling me to the surface. Spluttering and bubbling I gasp for breath. A wave of white foam hits me and I go under again, swallowing even more water. Once more I'm pulled to the surface.
"Swim!" my mother's choked voice orders.
I cough, struggling fiercely not to go under again. It's difficult to breathe and ever and anon water is splashing into my face.
"Swim!" she orders once more and pushes me ahead.
I try my best to do so but the current is still pulling me down. It's too strong for me.
"I can't!" I tell her and again a wave of foam hits me and forces me to swallow liquid.
Coughing fiercely I try to struggle on.
"Of course you can! Just go on!"
I have not yet seen my mother, for she is ever behind me, pushing me ahead and keeping me on the surface whenever a new wave of water splashes into my face and forces me to sink. The wind is hissing angrily and still the river rushes. I'm shivering with cold as I feel tiredness creeping into my limbs. I'm sinking only to be pulled back to the surface again. Gasping for breath I try to struggle on, but I'm too weak now. My arms and legs won't obey me.
"Swim!" my mother calls again and her voice sounds as if she is crying.
The current has grown less strong now and so I make a last effort to reach the shore. One last time a wave of foam splashes into my face and drowns me, but now my strength has left me. I can't struggle any longer. It is so very cold and dark. Black spots are dancing before my eyes; I can't hold my breath any longer. The cold arm of fear clutches me and makes me feel sick. I'm drowning. I know there are tears burning in me eyes but I do not feel them due to the water all around me. Dimly I'm aware that her hand is grabbing me again. Coughing and spluttering I grasp her arm.
The river rushes and the biting cold wind makes me shiver as she is using all her strength to finally carry me to the shore. With a last effort I climb up the riverbank, still coughing fiercely. I shiver violently when I turn around at last and look into my mother's eyes. Small breath-mists are dancing before my face when I finally get my breath back.
"Are you alright?" she whispers, her voice choked with tears.
Have I ever seen her crying before? I do not remember but it grieves me to see her like this with so much fear and desperation in her eyes.
I nod and realise that I'm crying as well. Jumping forward I fling my arms around her neck weeping bitterly. She hugs me tightly and I notice that her whole body is trembling.
"Hush," she soothes but her tears betray her.
Only now I become aware that my father is not with us. "Where's dad?" I whisper looking around frantically, trying to find him.
The sadness in her eyes almost breaks my heart. "I will go back and find him."
My jaw just drops at her words. I'm sure she is seeing the fear in my eyes for she is hugging me tightly again. New tears are welling up inside me as I look at her with a pleading expression. "Promise me that you will come back. Promise me that everything will be alright."
Her eyes are full of pity, fear and sadness. I have never seen her like this and the tears I have tried to choke back now fall freely down my cheeks. She hugs me anew rubbing my back in a calming manner. She has always done so when I was scared.
"Promise me!" I beg again.
But she does not answer. She looks at me again, her hands still resting on my shoulder. "You go back to Brandy Hall and get your uncle Rory. Tell him we had an accident and are down by the hills. He'll know what to do."
"You can't send me away!" I plead in desperation.
But her eyes are stern. "Go Frodo, please!"
I nod slowly, unwilling to leave her and hug her one last time.
"Go now!" she urges. "Hurry!"
"I will come back!" I assure her and then, gathering all my strength, I dash off.
I'm still shivering violently with the cool wind blowing into my face, as I climb up the hill. I suddenly become aware that the weather has changed. Now dark clouds are hanging in the sky like a portent. But I do not heed them and only try to run faster.
When I finally reach the top of the hill I stop, gazing down to the river. Up here the wind is blowing even stronger and I feel icy cold as I search the water for my parents. I do not find them but then I see one small figure swimming back to the current and going under!
"Mama!" I cry out desperately, but she doesn't hear me.
For one moment I'm tempted to run back when suddenly she reaches the surface again. A sigh of relief escapes my lips.
I see a piece of wood that got stuck between two of the cliffs. Something is moving there. Is that my father? I'm not quite sure, so I'm turning my attention back to my mother but now I can't find her anymore. Eyes wide with fear I'm searching the water, when finally I see her clutching the piece of wood and pulling herself to the figure I have seen there before. Now I am sure that that must be my father.
"Run!" I urge myself.
Relieved to know that they both are alright I start running again. It is just then that I feel a single raindrop caressing my cheek. Down the hill and up the other I run, always stumbling forward. My lungs are burning as I finally reach the forest and have to slow down a little for there are big roots sticking out from the ground. I'm freezing with cold, yet I'm sweating from racing. After all, the wind is less fierce in the forest.
While going on I find myself thinking about my mother. I can't forget her eyes. I have never seen her like that. Feeling my former fear return I also realise that my hands are trembling. She also shivered when I hugged her, but if with cold or with fear I do not know. Tears are burning in my eyes as yet another thought hits me. She did not promise. I begged her to promise me that everything will be alright, but she did not. Stopping short I turn around. Did she know anything I am not able to recognise? Why was my father not with us?
Sudden dread falls on me and I start running again, running towards Brandy Hall. Uncle Rory will know what to do. I do not heed the roots anymore or the bushes blocking my way. As I stumble along the weariness I have felt in the water returns. I try to ignore it. Every breath hurts, for my lungs are still burning. It has been too much, but I do not give up, not yet.
"She did not promise!" I remind myself and trudge on.
I do not notice the hidden root and trip over it, falling flat on my face. The wind is hissing and I still can hear the water rushing. The rain gets heavier as I struggle to my feet again. I feel my body tremble and my legs turn to jelly but I go on.
The wind is howling and rain is coming down in buckets as I finally see the lights of Brandy Hall.
Go now! Hurry!
My mother's words ring in my ears. The last light of day is fading. Hoping I've not been too slow I make a last effort stumbling towards Brandy Hall. I see uncle Rory sitting on the bench and call for him. He is running towards me, followed by Esmeralda.
"Frodo, dear! What happened? Where is Primula? Where are your parents?" He looks at me distraught, as he kneels down, holding my shoulder.
Gazing at him bleary eyed, shivering all over, I feel tears welling up inside me. "An accident " I whisper. " the water so cold down by the hills."
Weakness and tiredness finally conquer, as I collapse into his arms.
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.