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Section XXXVI-And So It Begins...

Stepping out onto the road, we were on our way. Gandalf walked with us a ways, leading his horse. We considered going quietly through Hobbiton proper in the hopes of not disturbing anyone, more importantly not rousing anyone. How different from some of our other adventures. But this was not like other adventures. This would take us far afield, to places neither of us had been before. We decided it would be safer to slip out the back gate. In this way, even a chance meeting would be avoided.

Our trip started out not unlike other ventures, though admittedly quite a bit earlier. In the early morning hour, I was grateful for my cloak. Gandalf set quite a pace to start, and Sam had a bit of a time keeping up. I felt again the urgency in Gandalf's voice and manner as he prodded Samwise to keep up. While we walked along, Gandalf again reminded us to travel only by day and to stay off the roads.

As the sun crept up the sky, I was relieved for every moment Gandalf remained with us. It did not last long. We entered a stand of trees and Gandalf stopped, turning to me. He again needed reassurance that I had "it" secret and safe. I placed my hand over the breast pocket of my waistcoat. He endeavored to reinforce the importance of never putting it on. He warned me again of its terrifying power to draw the dark agents who sought it. If his intention was to frighten me further, he succeeded. I doubted more deeply my ability to accomplish the task given me. Though I realized there was no choice, I was no less disturbed by the prospect of being hunted. I reminded myself that there was no one else but me. I must somehow learn to live with my fear if I cannot be rid of it.

Gandalf swiftly swung up onto his horse, and galloped away unsettling some grouse in the bushes. They weren't the only ones feeling alarmed. For a moment the terror swept afresh over me, and I turned to Sam. Without a word, reassurance of sorts was given. I took a deep steadying breath, and we headed for Bree.

For a time, I relaxed a bit. Our walking was more purposeful than in journeys past, but other than that, for the time being anyway, all was familiar. We walked a course we had walked before, just earlier this summer. The comfortableness of the way eased some of the fears.

We hiked all day without seeing anyone, save from a distance. I began to rest more easily in my mind. Keeping a steady pace through fields and over streams, we'd be out of the Shire in the next few days and on our way to Bree. Then we would be in new territory for both of us. I felt a tinge of excitement. I had not planned on starting my adventure quite this way, but the adventure had now begun. Sam blessedly asked me no questions. Truthfully, I knew of no answers nor where to begin if he had. Each day would be faced and got through without incident, I hoped.

I knew we covered a lot of ground but had not realized how much until Sam stopped in the midst of a wheat field. He admitted he never had been so far away from his home. Having lived at Brandy Hall, still some distance away, it would be a while before I could say the same. I remembered aloud what Uncle Bilbo used to say, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep to your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to...."

As evening approached we found a tree to camp under. I felt suddenly glad for Sam's company; he cooked a hot meal for us. We spoke briefly of Gandalf's directions and discussed the best way to go. In truth, I made the plans and Sam agreed. Once our plans were settled on, at least the ones for tomorrow, I became sharply aware again that this was not one of our summer adventures. Rather than sing and talk into the night, as had been our habit, we wrapped ourselves in our cloaks shortly after supper and slept.