The boats the Elves provide are of remarkable beauty and construction, catkin grey and gracefully carved. Of we hobbits, Merry only may truly boast of any knowledge of the workings of such things. He does so proudly, reminding us of the close proximity of the Brandywine River to Brandy Hall and his years spent indulging in the Brandybuck peculiarity of swimming and boating.
My mind wanders fleetingly over memories of the Brandywine. Fishing with my da, wading with my cousins, picnics beside it, the loss of my parents... I do not allow my thoughts to linger there... days and nights spent camping beside it with Merry, then with Merry and Pippin. A smile, I feel it, tugs at my lips. Then my last memory of the Brandywine flashes through my mind, the haste and terror to escape the Black Riders. I shake off the sudden chill.
So many rivers and streams have been crossed since then; I know the names of some, and some have no names at all. Now we are to continue our journey on the Great River, Anduin. It holds sway in tales and legends for Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, and Aragorn. I imagine we shall hear a few of those stories during the coming days.
Only dear Sam is doubtful, but then he canít swim. In truth, he is also an impeccably practical hobbit -- discounting his fascination for Elves -- and so has no use for boats or swimming. It will be a difficult voyage for him, though it be only a river and not the Sea... the Sea... shall I ever see it?
The Elves prepare our boats with all we might need, including lembas, as they call it, a waybread of unusual make. Gimli declares it more than satisfactory, and in fact quite tasty. The Elves struggle to hide their dismay as he downs one, declaring they are only for use in dire need, explaining their virtue for filling a Man. If a single wafer may sustain even a Man of Minis Tirith for a full day of labour, how little must a hobbit need?
I endeavor not to consider beyond the moment, for then my questions spiral -- when do I strike out on my own, how do I tell my friends what I must do, how do I convince them to allow me to go on alone...
We find ourselves gifted with Elvish cloaks of astonishing material and design. It is difficult to determine the color, as it shifts with the light and shade and surroundings, be it rock or bush or tree. They are unexpectedly light and comfortable; one hardly knows it is draped about oneís shoulders. The Elves advise us such garb is never given to any but their own people. I cannot help but note the wonder in their voices as they discuss their own startled surprise that the Lady herself and her maidens wove the attire. They assure us that though it will not deflect blade or arrow, it will shield us from unfriendly eyes. Is it able to hide me from the Eye of Flame? My heart whispers sadly, no. Nothing may conceal me from the Wheel of Fire, but my own ability to resist its searching...
We bid farewell to the green lawn where we have tarried for so long. How many days or weeks have truly passed? I am uncertain. It matters not. I know only the moment has arrived when we must continue the Quest. One last time, I allow my eyes to caress the gentle loveliness of a place where for a season, however short, I found solace, then turn away.