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Thoughts

Section XXXIX-Bucklebury Ferry

Since our encounter with the Black Rider, we haven't stopped moving. Regardless of the obvious danger, Merry and Pippin remain attached to us, so to speak. There is no time to fight or argue. They're headed in the same direction, toward the Brandywine. We'll say our good-byes after that. For now, there is simply the desire to escape.

We've been traveling steadily for hours. Evening has passed and the dark of night has overtaken us, but still we continue on. Faintly, I remember Gandalf's warning to travel by day. But neither night nor day seems safe.

I must get the Ring out of the Shire. It's the only way the Shire will be safe. Knowing this, I find fleeing more bearable. Curious, I have dreamed of leaving the Shire and going on my own adventures all of my life. Now, I still wish to see Bilbo, but I find it an unexpected comfort knowing the quiet, retiring Shire will be here when I return. But only if I get the Ring away, drawing with it the wretched beasts pursuing me -- it.

For a moment we pause to listen and catch our breath. I feel Merry approach me from behind.

"That Black Rider was looking for something... or someone... Frodo?"

What do I tell him? How do I explain a nightmare I do not comprehend myself? How do I even begin? What do I say? There's no time for Gandalf's story.

Before he can ask again, I hear and obey the warning from Pippin -- or was it Sam? -- "Get down." My mind flashes to Bag End -- was it only two days ago? -- and Gandalf giving the same command. Then, the intruder was only dear Sam. Now, a figure dressed in black, riding a black horse, appears in the distance, not nearly far enough away. They pause. I hold my breath. They continue on. I breathe.

There is no answer for Merry's question. Instead I turn my mind to the immediate need. I look Merry square in the eye.

"I have to leave the Shire. Sam and I must get to Bree."

From where we are, Merry knows the shortest way to Bucklebury Ferry. I am relieved to have a closer destination in mind. We're running again.

From out of the darkness, a massive black form appears, a shadow separating itself from the night. The size alone is frightening, but it is more than that. Its very presence strikes terror in my heart. How did it find us so quickly?! Could there be more than one?!

My friends are able to elude the creature and head toward the ferry. The beast is focused on me. I must somehow buy the precious time for them to get away...

Now I must escape myself. A weave at just the right time and place -- a slight stumble is almost my undoing. Now I too am racing for the ferry.

Sam, Merry, and Pippin urge me in frightened voices to hurry. I yell at them to GO! Sam pushes the ferry from the dock. There is nothing for it but to jump...

There's no time to rejoice in the momentary safety. Already I am thinking ahead. How far must they go before catching up to us again? Twenty miles to the Brandywine Bridge? I wish it were farther.

I find momentary comfort in Sam's companionship, knowing I am not alone.