I remember playing a game... when was it? So long ago it seems now... another lifetime, certainly. Two teams on either end of a rope, each team attempting to pull the other team into the pit of mud between us. We were well matched, until one of our members slipped in the soft grass. I remember not who it was, and it does not matter, I suppose. It may have been me. Be that as it may, I do remember the coarse rope pulling through my hands. Even now my hands sting at the memory of it.
In all my life in the Shire, never did I dream I would one day find myself climbing down the side of a cliff with only the aid of a thin Elvish rope. Soft it is in my hands, and unexpectedly easy to grasp, almost as if it wishes to be held.
From above me, words float down:
“Can you see the bottom?”
I briefly glance below me, then gaze up at my friend.
“No! Don’t look down, Sam! Just keep going!”
One, two, three more steps, so to speak; we descend, but to where? And how much further? Must not hurry. Above me I hear a frantic:
“Catch it! Grab it, Mr. Frodo!”
Without thought, my hand snakes out, snatching the falling object. A sigh of relief, then my foot slips.
Again, I hear a desperate:
There is no time to think, nor even hope. Astonishment fills me, then ebbs away.
“I think I found the bottom.”
The ground feels nothing like Shire soil. It is rocky, hard, and bare. What little growth can be found is tufted and brown. Barely do I hear Samwise speak.
“Bogs and rope, and goodness knows what. It’s not natural. None of it.”
Without seeming to realize, my attention is drawn to the feel of my fingers running lightly over the smooth wood of the simply-carved box in my hand.
“What’s in this?”
My eyes take in the blend of colour and carving.
“Nothin’. Just a bit of seasonin’. I thought maybe if we was havin’ a roast chicken one night or somethin’...”
I cannot help but stare at my friend, stunned.
Scarcely can I believe my ears. Do I even remember the taste of such simple fare? Sam’s roast chicken... moist and tender, always the perfect touch of seasoning...
“You never know.”
Sam’s earnest hope touches my heart.
“Sam. My dear Sam...”
I can see my words touch him as well -- or perhaps a look on my face I cannot hide -- for there is the slightest lift of his chin. Such pride he takes in these simple things and is quick to defend his reasoning.
“It’s very special that. It’s the best salt in all the Shire.”
I gaze at the box once more, enjoying its homespun beauty, then return it to the waiting hand of its owner.
“It is special. It’s a little bit of home.”
I find myself walking past my friend, gazing at the rope that saw us safely down here. Even as I think of what a pity it is we must leave it behind, other thoughts, dark thoughts, crowd my mind.
“We can’t leave this here for someone to follow us down...”
I allow my fingers to lightly caress the thin rope, as my eyes follow its trail back up the cliff. The top is completely hidden from my view. I feel Sam at my shoulder.
“Who’s gonna follow us down here, Mr. Frodo? It’s a shame, really. Lady Galadriel gave me that. Real Elvish rope. Well, there’s nothing for it. It’s one of my knots. Won’t come free in a hurry.”
I watch as Sam gives the rope a tug, then stare as the slender, silver coil falls at our feet. And I cannot hide the smile inching across my face. My bemused gaze captures his.
“Real Elvish rope.”