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Section XLII-A Night in Bree

What is this vision before my eyes? The world is shadowed and grey. I know Bilbo's trick well enough to know what has happened to me in everyone else's eyes, but Bilbo never warned me of this. My fear of this blunder grows swiftly to horror at the malevolence that touches my heart. Oh! Bilbo!! What I see!! Why did you never tell me? But how could you explain this to me? Did you not see what I see? Surely, if you had seen this -- nightmare, you would not have used the thing so casually. I hold up my hand. Am I trying to push the vision away or hide? but there is no place, no place... How do I escape?? I must escape!! I stumble in my backward retreat. The Ring!! It slipped so easily on my finger, and yet now I must struggle to get it off, almost as though it refuses to release its hold on me.

I heave a sigh of relief as I reappear, blessedly out of sight under a table. Well, almost out of sight. I no more catch my breath than I find myself hauled up almost by the scruff of my neck like a wayward kitten. The man they call Strider sets me unceremoniously on the stairs, chastising me for my folly, as though I did not already know. He gives me a push up the stairs, down the hall and into the room I'm to share with my companions.

Though he seems to know what I carry, still I must plead ignorance. I cannot betray the trust that Gandalf placed in me.

The Ranger asks me if I am frightened. This I can answer honestly. "Yes." He tells me, 'not enough.' How could I be more? Suddenly the quiet safety of my beloved Shire is a lifetime away from here.

I am vaguely aware of footsteps running up the stairs. Sam, Merry and Pippin burst in. Sam, half the size of this stranger, truly poses no threat. Though I know that he would do all in his power to -- rescue? -- me... My eyes are riveted on the man with a drawn but broken sword. I suddenly realize I did not call out any warning to my friends. There most assuredly is a threat, but this Ranger is not it. I find myself trusting this one known as Strider. Perhaps he is right; mayhap I am not frightened enough.

Our hobbit-sized beds are made up to look as though we are sleeping in them. I take a last look, still unable to fully grasp this new subterfuge, so far removed from Shire ways.

Strider shepherds us to his room, where he takes up his watch at the window. My companions barely fill the bed that would have held only one man. They would have made room for me had I asked, but for me, sleep will not come. If it did, it would only be fitful. The fear is seemingly a physical thing; I am able to almost touch it.

The waiting is over.

The destruction of the room we had planned to occupy wakens my friends from their sleep. The otherworldly shrieking, and the pawing and snorting of horses chills me to the bone. Strider was right; I was not frightened enough. Am I now?

A question arises, and I must know. The only way to know is to ask.

"What are they?"

The story begins. There are names for the Black Riders that hunt me : Nazgūl or Ringwraiths. The names chill me. I cannot keep from swallowing hard. First they were in the Shire and now they have followed me to Bree -- followed me? or the Ring? But then again, for the time being, the answer is one and the same for it seems I must carry it still.

As the tale unfolds, I find it difficult to take in, all at once. My eyes are fixed on Strider until he finishes speaking. Then I realize it's another part of what Gandalf was telling me back at Bag End... how much more has the wizard not revealed to me?