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Section XLVII-Flight to the Ford

"Gandalf." Why doesn't he answer? Whose frightened voice rings in my ears?

At the edge of my mind, I hear Sam. Something about Rivendell. Who will never make it?

Jostling along, Strider is urging me to hold on. I believed I was, perhaps not as well as I thought, or why else would he feel the need to counsel me on something I would think is obvious.

"Gandalf!" Is that shrill voice mine? Where is he? I'm so tired, so cold. Why is it so misty?

Where are we? Why have we stopped? I wished so for Strider to stop and now that we have I desire only to push on. More than anything, I want the pain to go away. I gasp for every breath. I'm cold, so cold. Is Sam holding my hand? Why do I feel no warmth from him? I'm gasping much like a fish out of water. I think I may never go fishing again. So cold.

I know that some days I am quite coherent and yet others I am not.

Uncle Bilbo's stone trolls. They're real. Dear Sam, always trying to cheer me. I wonder if he realizes the song he created really is quite good. Does he see my smile? It's difficult... difficult to focus.

Is it Pippin asking if I am going to die? What a relief death would be. But what is Strider saying? Something about becoming a wraith. Who? Wait. He also said he's passing into the shadow world. I struggle to push away the fog clouding my mind. Wait. He means me! Become a wraith? I have seen them, felt their cold and terrifying presence. NO! All that escapes my lips is a racking gasp for air. Why couldn't I just simply die?

Sam is gone, but where?

Dimly at first, a vision of beauty somehow penetrates the pain, an elf. Sam will be sorry he missed her. I am vaguely surprised by the oddity that I understand the soft-spoken command to return to the light. I feel compelled to do her bidding, but how? There is so little strength left to obey.

I am somehow aware of Strider gently pushing my shirt aside to inspect the wound. Agonizing pain rips through my body, as my shoulder seems to burst into flame. I try to cry out, but all that escapes is another loud rasping gasp. Just now, did I sigh with relief? The pain is easing.

Oh, please, don't move me. Let me lie here, quiet. If you must. Where are you taking me? I find myself straddling a horse. Asfaloth? Sam will never forgive me if I don't introduce you two properly. I wonder if Strider expects me to stay astride on my own? Guess not, since someone is holding me. Good thing, I'm starting to slide, oh, not any more. They've got a tight hold now.

I am trying to decide which is rougher, riding over Strider's shoulder or Asfaloth's back. I do hope Strider will not be offended when I tell him Asfaloth is smoother. Who is that reaching for me? My ability to resist is weakening. The horse is urged forward, beyond the grasping gloved hand.

What is this? A ford. I hear the Wraiths beckoning me. My reply is shrill. "You shall have neither the Ring nor me!" At least, I thought I screamed. Or is it all in my mind, for if anything came out I did not hear it. The rushing of water fills my ears; the sound reminds me of thunder. Magnificent white horses grow and crest in the foam overtaking and sweeping away the Black Riders.

As the river recedes, it is so quiet, except for that terrible gasping sound. What is that? Every breath is a struggle. I am so cold. So cold. So tired.

Oblivion is inviting, and I am yielding to its embrace.

Grace? What is grace and who requests it for me, begging I be spared? Again, the plea to stay. I desire to obey...