The decision made, I began hurriedly packing. Gandalf seemed to calm considerably, whereas my concerns began to grow. I knew full well I had not the slightest understanding of what it meant to have Mordor turned against me. I also knew that if I tried to comprehend it I would find myself overwhelmed. Pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind, I endeavored to concentrate on what Gandalf was saying, but it was akin to listening to two conversations at once, the one that Gandalf was conveying and the one inside my head. In between Gandalf's instructions, I struggled to grapple with the fears crowding my mind.
Who am I that the ring should stay with me? True, I have sought adventure most of my life, but this is hardly what I imagined. If Gandalf, a powerful wizard, cannot take it, how am I, a simple hobbit, to perform the task given me? But then Gandalf tells me I have only to get it to Bree, to the inn of The Prancing Pony. Surely, I can get it that far. Gandalf will meet me there. He's not going with me?!
What's that he's saying about visiting the head of his order? Doesn't matter really I suppose. It seems more related to him searching for more answers. It matters not to me who he sees as long as he meets me in Bree. I banish the thoughts of what I will do if for some reason he is not there, one thing at a time. He'll be there. I cast about in my mind trying to remember everything I might need. Fortunately, I've packed for enough journeys to have a fair idea, and the job is done in short order.
I haven't traveled so far before. Only for a moment, I allowed my thoughts to wander through the possibilities presented by this sudden departure. Perhaps it is time I took to my own adventures and stopped wishing for them. Sam will be able to take care of things while I'm gone, and I am sure I'll be back before too long, not like Uncle Bilbo. Most of Hobbiton won't really even know I've been away. But then, this may be the perfect time to go see Bilbo. Be done with the ring and then just enjoy a little holiday to Rivendell. A flicker of excitement stirs in my heart at these thoughts. Just as quickly, I put them away, returning to the task at hand.
As Gandalf helps me on with my cloak and pack, I am only half listening as I map out my journey in my mind. I must remember to call myself Mr. Underhill. I heard that instruction. Wait, stay off the roads and travel only by day. That changes my plan a bit, but I can cut across country easily enough. Certainly a course I'm familiar with, I've done it so often. It's almost as though I have been preparing for this the whole of my life. I think I'm ready.
"My dear Frodo! Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you." I could not, and did not try to, contain the smile that filled my heart at Gandalf's high praise. I know it reached my eyes. The warmth of his words brought me much needed comfort, pushing the fears aside, and the impossible task now seems possible.
My moment of peace shattered as I heard a scrape outside. Our eyes flew to the open window; there's someone out there. Have they found me already? How? Is it over before it's begun? At Gandalf's silent command, I drop to the floor fighting to hold back my fear. Are we too late?