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Old 03-27-2005, 08:00 PM   #161
Encaitare
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Reggie was glad he had not taken a tumble into the ravine like some of the others, but he slightly envied them the protection that it provided. Even if they were stuck, the trees couldn't reach them down there. While in previous situations he had felt safest sleeping with his back to a tree, he did not dare go too close to any of them. They seemed unfriendly, if that was possible. The fire seemed to keep them at bay, though, and so he lay as near to it as he could, flat on his back so nothing could sneak up on him, and tried to go to sleep.

Lulled by the crackling of the fire and its warmth, Reggie did manage to doze for a while, and he dreamed...

He is home, playing games outdoors with his cousins under a bright, friendly sun. A good-natured game of tag is well under way; they are running from each other and shouting in mock fright. But then the sun seems to fade, and one of the players grows until he is the size as one of the Big Folk, but with sharp, wolfish teeth. He starts to chase Reggie, who runs as fast as he can. The monster is much stronger and faster, though, and Reggie looks over his shoulder to see the thing gaining on him. Suddenly a rough hand grabs his shoulder--

The young hobbit woke with a shout, grabbing his left shoulder, the one furthest from the fire. Something had just touched him there, he knew it -- and was he crazy, or did he just see a bough of the tree nearest him go snapping upwards, as if it had just been caught doing something a tree oughtn't to do?

He knew he would not be able to fall asleep again.
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:23 AM   #162
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Bingo lay miserably still inside his tattered bedroll, unable to settle down and fall asleep. The eerie sounds of the forest and the impending presence of the trees hovering menacingly over them were bad enough. Even worse was the fact that, for the second time on the journey, he had managed to get separated from his brother. Reggie was on top of the ravine, while he was stuck here below. He cursed the ill luck that had sent him tumbling downward.

But there was something else very wrong. Bingo hadn't said anything to the others but he was in considerable pain. In his downward fall, he had glanced off the side of a jagged rock. Ever since then, he'd had a hard time even breathing. Every mouthful of air and compression of his chest brought an agonizing sensation of tightness, almost like someone repeatedly jabbing him in the side with a dagger; he could only guess that one of his ribs must have been cracked in the fall. He knew there were herbal remedies that could help stave off the pain, but he didn't know how to find the herbs or concoct a suitable potion. Maybe he could take his one spare shirt and wrap it tightly round his chest to help support the broken rib. Yet every time he tried to manoeuver his body to do that, the pain in his side worsened to the point that he had to stop.

Finally, he could take no more. Speaking loud enough so anyone who was awake could hear, whether in the ravine or on the hillside above, he spluttered out a plea for help, "Anybody awake? I think I've broken my rib. Can anyone help me.....?"
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:00 AM   #163
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Sondo was startled out of a deep reverie by the voice in the darkness. He had not been able to fall asleep, and so had been contemplating their situation. Every time he ran through possible scenarios the forest seemed blacker and their position more hopeless. He was the leader; he had to get them out of this. Somehow. He was not accustomed to such real fear and did not know how to cope with it, though he knew he couldn’t let it show through to the group. So he was grateful for the interruption.

“Bingo? Is that you?” Sondo asked quietly.

“Yes.” Sondo could almost hear the pain in Bingo’s voice. Sondo got up and walked over to the other side of their small fire where Bingo had set up his bedroll.

“What happened?” he asked.

“When we fell down here, I think I must have broken my rib. Hurts to move, and to breathe.” Bingo’s breathing was shallow and his sentences disconnected. Sondo tried to keep the wince off his face. Sure sounds like a broken rib. He should’ve said something about it earlier - he probably made it worse by walking on it so far. Of all the injuries one of the hobbits could have gotten, this had to be one of the worst. A broken arm or leg could be splinted, a sprain could be wrapped (the pain and swelling in his own wrist had quickly gone down), cuts and such could be wrapped. But a broken rib? His oldest brother Longo had broken a rib some years back by falling out of a tree. His Ma had prescribed bed rest for quite a while. All you could do for a broken rib was hope it fixed itself pretty quick.

“You’ve been trying to wrap it?” asked Marroc. Rory was there, too. They probably couldn’t sleep either, so of course they would have heard us, he reasoned. Sondo caught sight of the shirt lying nearby that had caused the comment.

Bingo nodded. “I couldn’t - hurt too much.”

“Well, I suppose we could help with that,” offered Sondo. He was glad he wasn’t the only other one awake down here - he hoped that one of the others knew more about medicines and such than he did.

Last edited by Firefoot; 03-28-2005 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 03-30-2005, 11:42 AM   #164
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Sam woke from his sleep and walked over to where the small commotion of noise was coming from. He found the rest of them huddled around Bingo. The shallowed breathing caused Sam to tense.

"What's wrong?" Sam asked immediately as he joined the group. He watched Bingo's face, a wave of concern tingled through his body. He could see in the light that Bingo had been trying to wrap himself up. Realizations hit him before anyone said anything.

Thoughts flew through his head. How where they to treat it? Would he die? He had heard of hobbits breaking their ribs, it punctured the lung and they died in their own blood.

"Do you taste blood, Bingo. It's very important that we know that," Sam interjected, silently praying that the young hobbit didn't. If he did then Sam knew that Bingo would be as likely to survive as a rabbit did in the mouth of a fox. Worse yet was the thought that they would have to be the ones to carry his corpse all the way back to the Shire and tell his parents that they were to blame for the early demise of their son. No, Sam thought to himself, there will be no corpses.
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Old 03-30-2005, 08:24 PM   #165
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Bingo and the Ghost.....

Bingo glanced over at Sam and ruefully shook his head, "Nope. There's no blood. Just a bruise on the outside, and my insides hurt. But Sondo putting on the band has helped a little. I'm tough. If I have to go on like this, I will."

Clearly, none of the lads knew much about herbs or where to find them in the forest. A real potion would not be forthcoming that night. He would just have to do the best he could without it.

Bingo settled uneasily into a pile of leaves, being careful to lie on his good left side. He slept a little but only fitfully, waking up at the slightest noise or when he managed to twist the wrong way and the pain came surging up. The night seemed to drag on endlessly. Once or twice, he awkwardly sat up in bed and gazed around at the clearing. He thought he say two feral eyes in the bushes, golden and unblinking as they stared back at him. Another time, he swore he heard the distant patter of footsteps, not down in the ravine but up above. Craning his neck upward, he saw what appeared to be a shapeless grey shadow gliding forward. Bingo could not exactly make out the form of the thing, but it looked like a gigantic bearded ghost in voluminous robes gliding through the thicket of trees. His eyes grew round in trepidation, and, despite his resolve to be brave, he found himself shuddering. What if this restless spirit of the dead wandering the forest in the dead of night decided to attack them? He wondered if ghosts ate hobbits.

For the rest of the night, Bingo could not sleep. Visions of the floating ghost continued to occupy his mind. As the first strains of daylight filtered into the ravine and his companions awakened from their sleep, Bingo spoke in halting terms, first describing how he had broken his rib and then what he had seen late last night. "There's a ghost out there. I swear. I glimpsed it on the ridge. It's gigantic. Maybe twelve feet tall. And truly horrible. Looked as if it would like to swallow us all."

One of his companions burst out chuckling. "Bingo, I think you broke more than your rib. Your brain must be a little cracked!"

"Laugh if you want....but I swear I saw a ghost. And for all I know, that thing may be waching us now." He glanced up uneasily hoping his brother Reggie and Sassie and all the others were alright.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 03-31-2005 at 07:05 AM.
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Old 03-30-2005, 09:28 PM   #166
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Sondo frowned uneasily. He didn’t exactly doubt Bingo, but really, a ghost? And so large - what could it be a ghost of? Bingo probably had seen something, like an illusion in the trees or the like. The truly concerning thing was that Bingo truly believed it was a ghost. If they were ever to escape this horrid place, they needed their wits about them. If they all started going mad, well, he simply refused to let himself go down that path.

Well, he had more important things to worry about right now than ghosts (he would worry more later, if Bingo’s mental health really did seem to be suffering). He called up to those on top of the ravine. “Hey, everyone awake up there? Did you make it through the night all right?”

“We’re in one piece,” answered Reggie, coming as close to the edge as he dared. “The fire seemed to have helped. You’re all okay down there?”

“I think so. Bingo seems to have broken a rip when he fell down here yesterday... but he seems to be doing all right.” Sondo didn’t mention the ghost.

“If you’re sure,” said Reggie, concern evident in his voice.

“It hurts, but I should be fine,” said Bingo.

Reggie nodded, apparently satisfied. “We were just getting breakfast - you have food down there, right?”

“Yes. Once we eat, we can get going,” said Sondo. He went over to their packs, ready to dig out some food for all of them. He flipped open the top pack and frowned. On top was a small bottle that he knew had not been there last night. What’s this? He took off the top and took a tentative sniff. It smelled herbish - but that didn't tell him much. It could be made out of good plants or poison plants. And where did it come from? He scowled up at the queer trees. This place got stranger and stranger all the time, and he didn't like it at all. There seemed to be no reason to any of it. First roots that moved to trip them, then trenches and ravines, then ghosts, now a suspicious bottle. In light of the other events, Sondo figured the bottle was probably poison. It had to come from somewhere, surely.

“Hey, do any of you know what this is?” asked Sondo, holding up the bottle. “It was in the packs.”

Last edited by Firefoot; 03-30-2005 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 03-31-2005, 10:45 PM   #167
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Bingo is not the only one to see ghosties in the night . . .

Night in the forest was of course worse than day if that were possible. Gloom oozed from beneath the thick tangle of branches and covered the ground beneath the trees in a creeping blanket of unease. Sassy did not stray too far from the little fire those above the ravine had made for themselves. She had scrunched herself up, back against a rock, knees drawn up to her chin beneath her ragged cloak. The thought of sleep gave her the willies; she was sure that if she closed her eyes the trees would creep closer and do her in. As it was, she catnapped, her lids falling wearily at intervals and just as quickly she would rub at them with her grimy fists to grind the sleepiness away.

It was during one of these bouts where she fought hard against her tiredness that she thought she saw something drifting from one tree to another. She was rubbing her eyes hard, and there in what pale moonlight could pierce the leaves, she was sure she saw a sort of shadow flit from behind one tree to another. Not just a shadow, though it was dark about its outline . . . it was sort of lighter colored . . . dull light.

‘Like a dirty, drab ghost,’ she thought to herself. Tall and moving with some purpose toward the ravine wasn’t it? She inched forward just a bit to get a better view. Her leg scraping against some loose pebbles made a small noise in the night . . . the figure disappeared. ‘Sassy, you’re just imagining it,’ she told herself, her eyes straining to catch some movement again. ‘Or maybe you weren’t,’ she argued with herself. ‘Maybe some old evil tree spirit is just looking for some fat little Hobbit to fill his woody belly . . .’ She drew back and bunched herself against the rock again. ‘If I just keep still and quiet and shut my eyes maybe it won’t see me.’

~*~

What passed for morning came too suddenly. Sassy had fallen into some semblance of exhausted sleep and it was the sound of the boys talking in the ravine and Sondo’s loud question that snapped her head up and forced her bleary eyes open. He’d found a jar, it seemed. One he’d not seen before in their packs. And just a few moments earlier, she could swear she’d heard Bingo’s voice saying something about a ghost.

Sassy shivered and stood up. She walked toward the treeline where she had seen her own phantom making for the edge of the ravine. There were no tracks she could see as she studied the ground nor was there any sign of a misty stranger lurking at the back of the trees or in the low underbrush. She shivered again imagining a pair of unseen eyes somewhere watching her. She turned back to make her way to where Reggie and Falco were, when something stirring in the breeze caught her eye.

It wasn’t a leaf, she thought, not even a weird leaf from this most odd forest. Its was a thin strip, dirty grey, uneven at its edges as if the branch it was on had reached out and torn it from something . . . something made of rough cloth, she murmured to herself, taking the scrap between her fingers and pulling it from the branch’s grip. Neither of the boys up here with her were wearing something that matched it . . . so it hadn’t been either of them.

Sassy ran back to the part of the ravine where Sondo was and crept near the edge, laying finally on her belly to call down to him and to Bingo, whom she could see still clutching his ribs where they hurt. She waved the scrap in her hand at her brother, saying Bingo hadn’t been wrong. There was something that had crept about last night; she’d seen it last night herself making for the ravine . . . but it wasn’t a ghost . . . not unless ghosts had taken to wearing clothes of some sort. Nonetheless she thought whatever it was it was bad and out to hurt them just like the trees were.

She let the little piece of material float down to where Sondo stood. ‘Don’t open that bottle,’ she cried down to him. ‘Whoever left it means us no good!’ As if to punctuate her statement, one of the trees above the ravine let fall a dead and twisted limb. It went skittering down the incline sending a shower of pebbles and dirt flying out towards those below.
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Old 03-31-2005, 11:54 PM   #168
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"See! I wasn't mad," snapped Bingo. "I told you I saw something, and Sassy saw it too." To emphasize his point, Bingo hastily stood up from where he'd been sitting but then let out a miserable howl. A grimace of pain splashed over his face. It was all he could do to keep standing upright and hope that the moment would quickly pass.

His face wan and ashen, Bingo stumbled over to where the bottle had been set down on top of Sondo's open pack. Eagerly, he snatched it in his hand, "Give me that. I want to have a look."

First inspecting the outside of the vial, Bingo gingerly unscrewed the top and then bent his head for a closer look. The stuff was brown and icky, and smelled a bit like rotting turnips. All of the hobbits standing near Bingo wrinkled their noses in utter distaste as they caught a whiff of what was inside. "This isn't poison," Bingo reasoned "It's got to be medicine, maybe a potion to help me. Only medicine can look and smell this bad. Who would be foolish enough to try and tempt anyone to their doom with such horrible nasty bait?"

Bingo gingerly reached forward and stuck his pinky inside the bottle, emerging with a single drop of the precious stuff. Impulsively, he stuffed his finger into his mouth. Everyone around him held their breath, thinking that he might keel over in agony, but Bingo only made a wry face, "Just as I suspected. This tastes even worse than it smells. When Aunt Hilde broke her leg, the clan brought in a healer from Bree, and he gave her a bad-tasting remedy like this. The pain went away almost at once. In no time, she was up and about practically dancing in the market. Anything has to be better than this. My side hurts so badly I can't go on. You'd just have to leave me here, and I'd die anyway." With that final verdict, Bingo raised the bottle to his mouth and impulsively gulped down its entire contents.

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Old 04-03-2005, 04:29 PM   #169
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Sondo confronts the "ghostie"

"...My side hurts so badly I can't go on. You'd just have to leave me here, and I'd die anyway."

"Now that's-" nonsense, Sondo started to say, but he was cut short as Bingo downed the entire contents of the bottle. Idiot!

"Bingo!" he cried. "Even if it was medicine, you ought not to have taken the whole thing! Even medicines can become poisonous if you take too much, and if it wasn't medicine...!"

Bingo shrugged. "It's done now." Sondo could think of nothing to say to that, and, at any rate, Bingo seemed to be suffering no ill effects as yet. As much as anything he was annoyed that he had had no true say in the verdict, but of course he could not say this out loud. He was concerned as well for his friend, and Bingo’s actions seemed extremely foolhardy. He figured Bingo was much more likely to die as a result of drinking so much of that.. stuff as he was because they left him behind. Why ever would they do that?

He turned to face Sassy, who was still laying atop the ridge, watching the whole affair. He glared at her for a moment, for it had been she that had been the final push for Bingo to open the bottle, because she had seen whatever Bingo had seen. However, he gave no word of the reason for the glare and left her to puzzle it out for herself.

He knelt and picked up the scrap of cloth that Sassy had let fall. "It wasn't a ghost, at any rate," he grumbled. "Ghosts don't wear clothes." The fact that it was actually a living being was more disconcerting than the illusion of ghost, though - what were they doing here? He scowled at the cloth and stuck it in his pocket.

"Let's eat breakfast and get out of here," he said, his snappish mood evident in his voice. "I don't want to spend another night in the forest." He dug out some food from a pack, leaving the others to get their own. He ate his own meal in silence, and the others let him, sensing his dark mood.

Some foul adventure this was! Shipwreck, mutiny, attacks, injuries, evil trees, ghosts... It wasn’t fair. Didn’t he ever have any good luck? All he had wanted was an adventure, like in tales. Was that so much to ask?

He stood up abruptly. The rest of them seemed about finished eating. “Come on,” he said resignedly. “Maybe if we go on enough we’ll find someway out of this curséd ravine.” He didn’t like this option one bit, but it seemed the only one they had. Suddenly, he heard some noise behind him and spun about.

“Are you sure that is such a wise way to go? The deeper you go into the forest, the more your peril grows,” said a kindly voice. The man that stepped out from among the trees was fairly tall (to Sondo’s eyes, anyway; it might not seem so amongst the Big Folk) and glad in a grey cloak and blue hat. He looked quite old, with a long grey beard and a staff. There was something about him Sondo thought he should recognize, though he knew he had never seen him before. And though he seemed friendly, Sondo was instantly suspicious for several reasons: clearly, this was Bingo’s “ghost,” and why had he been lurking around them? Closer to Sondo’s heart, however, was the sharp memory it brought up: Hey, Sondo? Are you sure you’ve covered all your options? This recollection brought Sondo’s hand to the hilt of his knife. “Who are you?” Sondo demanded. “And what do you want with us?”

“I have come to help you,” the man said. “And I should think that such an adventurous lad such as yourself would know my name.”

Sondo scowled, refusing to play along with this man’s games. “And how do we know this isn’t a trick?”
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Old 04-03-2005, 09:03 PM   #170
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Sassy was still lying on her belly, her head hung over the edge of the ravine, when the old man in grey made his appearance. ‘I have come to help you,’ he said. He was sort of raggedy looking, his long hair and beard a bit tangled; his grey robes perhaps made greyer by the fact that they were travel-worn and stained. Part of her was thinking he was just some other sort of ruffian who would take advantage of them and part of her was wanting to trust him even though he was a Big Folk. His eyes were bright and sparkly and there was the hint of a smile at the corner of his lips. And his voice, well it seemed very kind.

Now Sassy, she could hear her Gammer saying. Never judge a person by his clothes. The kindest heart might have been through some rough patches and their clothes be a little tattered. But underneath they’re the same good person as afore.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, thinking. ‘Well, maybe I’ll give him a chance. Maybe we can trust him.’ She narrowed her eyes and took a long look at Sondo. More than I feel about you right now. she thought to herself with a tinge of regret.

‘I think we should listen to him,’ she yelled down to her brother. ‘Maybe he can show us the way out of the forest. And maybe he should take a look at Bingo and his ribs.’ She looked toward the old fellow thinking that if the others weren’t going to let him help them out, then maybe she could get him to help her get home . . .

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Old 04-05-2005, 12:18 AM   #171
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Bingo inched forward hesitently to have a closer look. He instinctively liked the old man with the grey beard and couldn't understand why Sondo was being so pig headed. There was something about the man's face and eyes that made Bingo want to trust him. He didn't look or sound anything like any of the ruffians he'd met before. He could not imagine this man killing his parents, even though he was undoubtedly the tallest person that Bingo had ever seen.

Bingo came a step closer and then piped up, "You were the one who left the medicine, weren't you. I drank it all. Every drop, and my side is starting to feel better already. I think maybe I won't lay down and die. I am going to be alright, aren't I? Maybe you could just have a look at it?"

The man chuckled, sat down on a log, and took a pipe out of the folds of his robe and began to smoke. The stranger deftly blew a smoke ring in the air that was shaped like an elaborate sailing ship on the ocean, the kind that Bingo had never seen in real life but which had always fascinated him in books. Bingo's eyes grew wide with admiration, and his jar dropped open in surprise. In utter excitement, he burst out, "I've never seen anyone blow a smokering like that, not the best smokers in the Shire and Buckland. I know who you are, or at least I know somebody who used to tell stories about you. Old Bilbo, Frodo's kin, the daft hobbit who disappeared from the Shire years ago, used to talk about a strange tall fellow who could blow smokerings like you wouldn't believe.....even better than the rings a dragon can blow. Cousin Merry told me about Bilbo's stories. That's got to be you!" He looked quizzically over at the stranger.
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Old 04-05-2005, 04:50 AM   #172
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Marroc was relieved when the old man came out of the woods. Sondo seemed suspicious, a few of the other hobbits seemed ready to accept the man's help. He had a kind face and Marroc was completely prepared to accept his help on getting out of the forest.

He was the one who left the medicine for Bingo. He had to be. Marroc couldn't believe this old man meant them any harm. He watched the old man's movements carefully. He was trying to think what his father would do.

Mongo Brandybuck was always willing to help and accept help if he needed it. He was never too proud to turn someone away. Marroc felt the same way. They needed help and this old man could help.

And there was something about him. Something Marroc couldn't place. He had heard tales from older hobbits about this kind of man coming through the Shire from time to time. A wizard. But this man couldn't be Gandalf, could he?

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Old 04-05-2005, 11:45 AM   #173
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Falco carefully climbed to the bottom of the ravine (and without too much difficulty, considering his every day adventures that involved similar feats) to join the others and observe the newcomer. He saw the kindly glint in the old man's eyes, and he felt a warm confidence go through him. Of course they could trust this man. He had the atmosphere of a father or a grandfather or an uncle or something. Someone who would take care of them. And he wanted to say so, but... of course Sondo was still angry with him. If he said anything in favour of the old man, it would probably make Sondo be against him.

Timidly he approached the old man, and, with Bingo, gazed up at the smoke rings. But slowly he drew his eyes away from the pipe and looked into the old man's face. And then, he put a shy hand on the old man's knee, and looked up at him with and earnestly trusting smile.

"Sir, would you really help us?" he breathed. "I... I would like your help so much. We've been running into trouble ever since we set out. If you would help us, it would be just like a real adventure. Real adventurers always have guides!"

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Old 04-05-2005, 03:31 PM   #174
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Bingo's words fell into place in Sondo's mind as Falco drew closer to the man. He was right, of course; this had to be the one who had taken Old Mad Baggins off on an adventure. Some luck at last!

"...Real adventurers always have guides!" Falco was saying. Sondo shot a withering look at Falco's back. Falco couldn't be the leader, but he would try to put someone else in that spot. Sondo was too excited now to pay much attention to Falco, though. Maybe later. And just because there was a guide didn't mean he wouldn't be leader - the two were different.

"That means that you're - you're Gandalf, right?" asked Sondo, stepping a little closer.

"Ah, so you do know who I am," Gandalf answered, mostly to Sondo but with an affirming nod towards Bingo's query. To the others, he said, "And, yes, I can guide you out of the forest, by this afternoon, even. Unless, of course, you still think this is a trick?" He raised a bushy eyebrow at Sondo, who colored slightly. "No, I believe you." Sondo knew he had just made a complete idiot out of himself, and he hoped the others did not think so as well. Hopefully they were more concerned about leaving this horrid place.

"Very good," said Gandalf. He looked up at those not trapped in the ravine. "We'll be heading west, out of this ravine, so first you need to come down here. And as to your side, I can take a look at it, though you should be all right, now..." Sondo tuned the rest of it out. He walked over to the edge of the ravine.

"Here, you can toss the supplies down. I'll catch," offered Sondo. His mood had switched around completely, now; as he helped out he made up an improptu song and hummed along softly, improvising as he went.

We'll have a real adventure,
'Cause with a bit of luck,
We'll have a real adventure now,
No longer we'll be stuck,
We'll have a real adventure now,
'Cause Gandalf'll get us out of the muck,
And we'll have a real adventure,
A real adventure now!
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Old 04-05-2005, 05:21 PM   #175
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White Tree

Could it really be Gandalf himself? Oh, Rory remembered so many stories about the Grey Rider. However, Rory wasn't so easily convinced (as much as the others) that he was who he says he is. He could have sworn hearing stories about Frodo going away, with a Gandalf. His suspicions of the man disappeared as he started remembering stories about what the real Gandalf did. The best part was fireworks. He had heard wonderous stories about Gandalf's fireworks. Though he had never seen them, or atleast he didn't remember them, he was was still very young when Gandalf last shot off fireworks at Bilbo's party. Rory got caught up so much about fireworks, he forgot all his suspicions about the old man.

"So, Mr. Gandalf sir, this place is perilous then?" Rory asked.

"Any place is perilous, young Rory, even the Shire. That you will find out in time." Gandalf replied, Rory looked confused.

"I've heard some wonderful things about your fireworks, Mr. Gandalf. Do you suppose if we ever get back home you could show us some?"

"I must say, I have not come prepared for a show, and they are only for special occasions Mr. Brandybuck. It's a pity since you would all be too young, or not even born, when I shot them off at Bilbo's party, I presume?"

All the hobbits nodded enthusiastically. Hearing about fireworks excited them all. However, Rory couldn't explain it, he just got a funny feeling about the old man.

He whispered trying to make sure Gandalf didn't hear him, "I think we should be cautious, atleast have someone stay up and watch him. I could have sworn I heard about Gandalf disappearing with Frodo, and...and Sam Gamgee."

"Don't be silly Rory, of course he is Gandalf. What would be his reason to lie?" one of the hobbits said, not understanding Rory's reasons for concern.

"Still, it wouldn't hurt to watch him, atleast until we are sure."

Somehow the man overheard the conversation, "Well Rory, I tell you I am Gandalf, and if my word is not good enough for you, that is your own problem." Most of the hobbits seemed to agree with him.

Rory didn't understand. When had he ever been wrong, yet? Sure he makes jokes during inappropriate times, but he can't remember a time on this adventure when he said something, and he hadn't been right. Maybe, I need to get more serious, then people would start listening to me, Rory grumbled.

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Old 04-06-2005, 01:53 PM   #176
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Reggie didn't know why Rory was being so distrustful. He knew that there were people in the world who were more subtle than the Big Folk they had encountered, people who would get you to trust them before tricking you. The worst experience he'd had with this, though, was just when some of his cousins, very mischievous people, had told him that the strangest fish they'd ever seen was swimming lazily in the Brandywine, and if he leaned over the water just a little further then he'd be able to see it. Of course, they'd pushed him in, and though it was all in good fun he'd learned to be a little more wary. Yet there was a benevolent look in Gandalf's eyes which made Reggie trust him immediately, almost as if it seemed to him that the old man was incapable of actually telling a lie.

"Of course he's who he says he is!" Reggie insisted, eagerly climbing down into the ravine. "Who else would be able to blow smoke rings like that? And who else would leave medicine for Bingo?"

"He's no ruffian, that's for sure," said Marroc.

"Indeed I am not!" said Gandalf. "Now, young Master Brandybuck--" here, all the hobbits (except Sassy) wondered if he was addressing them until he continued, "--let's have a look at your side."

Bingo obligingly lifted up the side of his shirt. A mottled bruise marked the flesh over his ribs, but when Gandalf kneeled and gently prodded the area Bingo did not wince. "It is, as I thought, broken," Gandalf announced, rising. "You seem to be mending nicely, though. There is certainly no need to lie down and die!" At this he chuckled, making Reggie feel lighter at heart.

"Thank you for helping us, sir," he said earnestly. His brother was going to be alright, and they were all going to get out of this awful forest in one piece -- hopefully rib included.

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Old 04-08-2005, 06:53 AM   #177
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Sam couldn't believe his eyes. Gandalf the Grey! And he was going to help them in their adventure! It was far more then Sam had ever believed would happen. He was stunned into silence, unable to think of anything remotely intelligent to say to the man that had seen almost all of Middle Earth. He was friends with the most amazing people and yet here he was, helping them on their adventure. The thought it self was mind boggingly.

"Sondo, what can I do to help?" Sam asked his quietly, not wanting Gandalf to hear him asking. Sam didn't want Gandalf to think that he was not bright enough to figure out what needed to be done. Sam wrung his hands slightly as his eyes watched Gandalf. He blinked a couple of times. Truly this had to be just a dream. Or a mistake of some sort. After he blinked he saw that indeed Gandalf was still here.

He snapped out of his short ravine of thought to hear what Sondo would tell him. He wanted to be helpful. To show that he was a brave and noble hobbit. He wanted to show that he was much more then what many hobbits in the Shire thought he was. He was determined to show Gandalf the Grey that he was worthy of great things too.
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Old 04-11-2005, 07:39 PM   #178
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Annoyance flashed in Sondo's eyes at Sam's innocent question. Just do whatever you see needs to be done! But Sondo could not say this, of course; or rather, he could, but he wouldn't. Sam wasn't trying to be so dependent, after all.

"Ah, I don't think there's a whole lot to do. Just hang tight for a moment; I think we're getting ready to move on." Sam seemed a little disappointed, but there wasn't a lot Sondo could do about it. He gave Sam an encouraging grin and looked around, trying to remember what he was about to do. Oh, yes, Rory. He approached Rory, who was still watching Gandalf skeptically at the back of ring of hobbits. He leaned over toward Rory and whispered so that not even Gandalf would hear: "Hey, I understand where you're coming from... but even if it's not Gandalf, it's basically our only hope, right? I have no idea how we would ever get out of here on our own. As long as we get out of this horrible place, I don't suppose it really matters whether it's Gandalf or some ruffian that leads us out. Right?"

He didn't get a chance to hear Rory's reply, though, for right at that point Gandalf spoke up. "Now, if you are ready, we can go. I believe there is no more to be done here."

Sondo nodded. "We're all packed up and ready. So how are we getting out of this ravine?"

Gandalf stood. "Come, and I will show you." The hobbits shouldered their packs and followed Gandalf a short way down the ravine, back the way they had come. Very soon, they came upon a spot where Gandalf had tied a rope to something up above the ravine.

"Um, we've already tried this," someone said apologetically. "It didn't work."

"But you did not have me with you then," answered Gandalf. "You must trust me." Then, he murmured a few words under his breath, and Sondo understood them not. He was fair confident that they were not in the Common Tongue at all, and a sense of wonder filled him. Was this some kind of magic?

"I will help you up the rope one by one," explained Gandalf, "and do not fear, for the rope will hold." And miraculously, the rope did hold and each hobbit made his (or her) way to the top of the ravine, partly climbing the rope and partly lifted by Gandalf. Last of all, Gandalf came up with them, much easier since he was so much taller than any of the lads. Sondo hoped that Rory's doubts were now allayed; who else but Gandalf could make such a feat work?

"We should have just enough time to make it out before night falls," said Gandalf, taking up his staff and leading the way. Sondo was shocked to find that with Gandalf leading the way, the forest behaved. There were no roots that tripped or branches that hung low or ravines which opened before them. They did still feel menacing though, and the air still felt stuffy, or else it might have been counted a pleasant trek. Gandalf said very little, save to answer a few of their questions, and not always satisfactorily. For example, they had not yet figured out just what Gandalf was doing here in the first place, nor would he give them any more of an answer than that he was helping them. After a long spell of silence, Sondo finally got up his nerve and stepped up alongside Gandalf. "Master Gandalf? Would you tell us about Ol- I mean, Mister Bilbo?" He already knew the tale by heart; at least, the tale as the hobbits told it (and those accounts tended to differ on more points than one), but Gandalf would know how it really went, after all.

Gandalf paused for a moment before thinking. "Very well. I will tell you a part, for it is a long tale indeed and some of it would be best not told under cover of this forest. But I will tell you about the trolls." Sondo quickly agreed, though he personally would have preferred to hear about the dragon. So Gandalf launched into the story and Sondo and the others listened avidly, having never heard the familiar story told this way.

But as he listened, he also began to think. What made Bilbo's adventure so much more adventurous than theirs was? Bilbo had come back with treasure, perhaps, but had that been the point? What had Bilbo really gained from his adventure - what was he gaining? Could it be - had he really been having a 'real' adventure all this time without really even realizing it? Perhaps so. It was worth thinking about, but later - once he got used to the idea.

Gandalf was finishing his story: "'Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!'" Lucky for them that Gandalf had come along, thought Sondo. And lucky for us, too.
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Old 04-14-2005, 12:17 AM   #179
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Bingo rubbed his knuckles against his eyes and struggled to stay alert. It was near nightfall and he felt increasingly tired and cranky. His side had begun to hurt again, though not so bad as last night. Bingo was so weary that he was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other and staying on the path.

Things had gone a great deal better with Gandalf in the lead than they had before. The hobbits had made excellent progress through the morning, singing and listening to tales as they tramped along their way. For lunch, Gandalf had pointed out a shady spot underneath a thick grove of trees where a number of fine mushrooms grew. The hobbits had made a feast of the mushrooms and finished off their meal with fresh water and some berries that Reggie discovered growing just a short distance away.

Setting off after lunch, they had tramped steadily onward for several hours. But as the afternoon wore on and Gandalf gave no sign that he meant to stop for dinner, a number of the hobbits began to grumble among themselves.

"I wonder where this blasted forest ends," Bingo whispered to Sassy, being careful to keep his voice low. "And I wonder if Gandalf ever means for us to stop and have a bite of dinner. My stomach is grumbling miserably..."

Bingo's voice trailed off as Gandalf turned about, imperiously tilting up one eyebrow while looking sternly looking at the young hobbit, "Perhaps, Master Bingo, you'd care to spend another night underneath these trees? Because that is what is going to happen unless we continue going steadily orward till we come to the edge of the wood. Every tree in the vicinity surely knows we're here. With all our singing and chattering, it would be hard for them not to hear us. Or did you forget how the trees tricked you to fall into the ravine?"

So that's what happened, Bingo thought. I knew it was more than our clumsiness or unfamiliarity with the woods. With a sigh, Bingo nodded his head, "All right, Master Gandalf. I'll do as you say. I don't want to sleep under these trees tonight any more than you do. Still, it would be nice to know when and where we'll be bedding down for some sleep. It's a good thing that we've got a full moon tonight...."

With that Bingo closed his mouth and continued walking forward hoping that very soon the trees would end and there would be a place to set up camp.

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Old 04-15-2005, 11:28 AM   #180
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The old man in grey walked briskly along, his strides short enough for the band of rag-tag children to keep up. There were grumbles as empty bellies protested their lack of food, but a word of encouragement from Gandalf and a bit of dried fruit and nuts helped them to push on.

It seemed to get darker as they neared what the man said was the edge of the forest. Sassy supposed it was because the sun was beginning to near the western horizon, though the trees ahead of their little band seemed to crowd in over the track they were following as if to drive them back into the forest.

‘Stop that!’ Sassy yelled as a small branch dipped down its leafy fingers and scratched her cheek. She was last in line and she could hear the tree creak as it bent toward her. She felt the malice of will as another branch whipped down to bar her path. Mustering her courage and her speed, the little girl ducked beneath it, feet flying as she pushed into the middle of the Hobbit line. Her panic had set the others now behind her running, too – to get away from whatever imagined horror had made Sassy run.

The group jostled up close to Gandalf just as he raised his tall staff and tapped the branches of two lowering trees, murmuring some uncaught words to let him and his companions pass. ‘Well, here we are,’ he said, stepping through the opening now between the trees. His feet met the soft grass of the clearing beyond, the last light of day softly lighting the tips.

He stepped to one side, just in time to miss the jumble of Hobbits that came piling through the narrowing portal. They fell over one another in their haste. Last was Sassy, who was almost through when a sharp ended branch snagged the edge of her cape. With a determined tug, she ripped it free and rolled backward, head over heels to the clearing.

‘Stupid, mean trees!’ she yelled back at the shadowed forest. With a big sigh of relief she picked herself up and stumbled over to where the others were. Gandalf was urging them toward a small, clear brook, saying this would be a good place to set up camp.

Sassy took one last look at the forest behind. The exit they’d come through had now closed, and she could almost hear a foul, dry laughter that chittered among the leaves. She turned away quickly and ran up to be near the old man.
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Old 04-17-2005, 09:23 AM   #181
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Things were going a good deal better for the hobbits since Gandalf took the lead. Marroc trusted Sondo as a leader, but even he would never have been able to get them out of the forest. Now with every step the hobbits drew closer to the edge of the forest. Unfortunately with Gandalf in the lead they weren't stopping to eat and the wizard made it clear he had no plans to stop.

Marroc felt his stomach growl. He hoped the forest ended soon so they could stop and eat and rest their weary feet.

Marroc moved closer to Gandalf. "Is it true, do the trees really trick you here?"

Gandalf turned to him. Amusement in his eyes. "Have you heard none of the stories, young Marroc?"

"Of course I have, but I never thought any were true. I thought they were just stories to scare us." Marroc had been told hundreds of tales about various things he should be wary of. He barely believed any of them. Now he wished he had listened better to his elders.

"Even legends have some truth to them, Marroc." Gandalf said simply and turned his attention away.

Marroc thought about it for a moment and nodded to himself. He'd have to keep that in mind for any future adventures.

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Old 04-18-2005, 03:46 PM   #182
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The little brook that Gandalf had pointed out looked like absolute heaven. The sun had now all but set, and none of them had eaten anything of substance since lunch. Sondo wondered how they had ever gotten through a couple days with hardly anything to eat, before they encountered those ruffians.

The hobbits quickly had a small fire going and the aroma of cooking meat filled the air. Some dry bread and fruit was passed around while the meat cooked, and those were gone in a matter of minutes. Luckily, the meat did not take long to cook and everyone was soon satisfied. Having eaten, most of the hobbits were ready to drop off; few of them had gotten much sleep the night before and it had been a long march.

Before doing so, however, Gandalf had a few word of advice for them. "You have come quite a ways north of where you entered the forest," he told them, "and you are almost home. If you follow this little brook for perhaps a mile, it will run into the Brandywine River. Keep the river in sight during your march tomorrow, and the Old Forest will give you no trouble. Your march tomorrow will be unpleasant, but not terribly difficult. Here between the Brandywine and the Old Forest is marshlands which are inhabited by little more than stinging insects. A full day's march will take you to the banks of the River Withywindle; I do not recommend trying to cross it during the night, nor should you camp too close to it's shores. You will have to use your wits to get across, but I have no doubt that you are capable."

"But wait!" said one of the hobbits. "Why are you telling us this? Won't you be with us?"

"I will not; I will probably be gone by the time you awake tomorrow," answered Gandalf. "I have important business elsewhere, and I have no doubts that you will not need my aid to get home. Your journey has been hard, but all of you have grown from it. Use what you know, rely on yourselves and each other, and you will be fine." Sondo had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, Gandalf's leadership had been vitally important in saving them from the forest, and could continue to be helpful, but under Gandalf's leadership, he had become just another of the group. "Leader" had merely been a nominative role, yet another blow to his pride. To top it all off, their trip had not really been any more adventurous than before Gandalf came; in fact, it may have even been less so. So, in all honesty, Sondo could not say he would be entirely sorry to see Gandalf go.

A few hobbits pleaded with Gandalf not to leave them, but while Sondo wasn't one of them, he wasn't obvious about it, either. One of those things he had learned was that he couldn't be a leader without having followers, a prospect that had been threatened more times than he liked.

Gandalf could not be moved to remain with them, and the talk eventually died down as the hobbits drifted off to sleep.

~*~*~*~

The sun was casting its first rays upon the land when Sondo awoke the next morning. Gandalf was gone, even as he had said, and Sondo was the leader again. The last stage of the journey was before them; here was his last chance to prove that his plan had not been an utter disaster. He knew he had made a real mess of things more than once, but not today, he wouldn't. Not today, and not for the rest of the trip.

With that in mind he got up, and a few others who were by now awake joined him. The rest were up once breakfast started cooking. They ate, put away their bedrolls, and shouldered their packs, ready to set off. Sondo led the way down the creek. The day was warm, and the creek shallow, so Sondo soon switched to walking in the creek. The cool water felt good on his feet as it swirled and bubbled past. And then - there it was! The Brandywine River, which none of them had seen for several days past, became visible. A broad grin lit Sondo's face. "Almost home, now," he murmured.

They turned north to follow the river. His good mood was quickly dampened as the ground became soggy, opening into shallow meres and pools. The insects were horrendous, biting and buzzing about their faces. Swatting at them in irritation, he nearly tripped into a pool of greenish-water. Cursed swamp. Sondo set his jaw. He had beaten ruffians and evil trees; he would not be ousted by bugs and marshes.

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Old 04-22-2005, 12:03 PM   #183
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Sassy could not tell which was worse. The muck or midges. She was wet to mid thigh with the slimy goo that passed for much of the marshland; her face and arms were welting up from the insect stings. No wonder the old man had left them, she thought to herself. Her only comfort, and small comfort at that, was that the others were as miserable as she.

Lunch was eaten as they slogged along. The little group had found that if they kept up a good pace, the insects were less able to land on them. Sassy’s legs, though, were growing tired and she did not know how long she could keep on being a moving target for the blood thirsty midges.

Sondo was leading the way and she hoped he had a clearer view of their route than she did. She was once again at the back of the line and her gaze was focused on the pair of muddy legs in front of her. If they stumbled or dodged something she made sure to avoid whatever obstacle there was as she came along.

As the sun set, cool breezes began to blow across the marshes from the two rivers. Now the Hobbits were wet and chilled. Sassy’s teeth began to chatter. She hoped with all her might that a patch of dry land could be found and a warm little fire built.

Tomorrow, she remembered the old man had said, they could safely cross the Withywindle and be home.
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Old 04-22-2005, 12:09 PM   #184
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As the day faded into twilight, Sondo was beginning to wonder if they would ever see the end of these marshes. He was hungry, chilled, bug-bitten, and wet, but they could not stop and set up camp until they found some dry land. He was ready to be home, and wanted nothing more than a hot meal and a real bed.

Suddenly, he stepped foot onto firm ground. Looking around, he realized that they must be close to the Withywindle, for the Old Forest had curved around and was now not more than a half-mile to the east, and very close indeed to the north. Sure enough, some five hundred yards distant, he thought he could see where the Withywindle met the Brandywine, and beyond that, the tall, dark shape of the Hedge. Home was so close now... did they really have to spend another night here?

He stopped and turned to face the other hobbits. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to spend the night here, not with home in sight. Just past the Withywindle up there is Buckland. I know Gandalf said not to try to cross the Withywindle at night, and it’s starting to get pretty dark, but if we did, then we could be home tonight, with hot meals, clean, dry clothes, and real comfortable beds. And, unless we go and get wood from the Old Forest, there aren’t any trees from which we could get wood tonight for a fire.” He looked around, trying to figure out if they agreed or not. “We don’t have to, but I think that we should try to cross the Withywindle tonight.”
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Old 04-24-2005, 02:02 PM   #185
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Home! The word never sounded so enticing to him before. Only a few days ago Reggie had so badly wanted to leave, but now the thought of going back to the comfort of Brandy Hall was far more appealing. However...

"Gandalf said we shouldn't cross the river by night," he said. As much as he wanted to be back home, he trusted the wise old man, who had seemed to know so much more than he was telling. "I don't know about you all, but I think I can wait one more night to get home."
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Old 04-24-2005, 02:31 PM   #186
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She was dirty, and ragged, and scratched and bitten. All her things she’d brought along on this adventure were gone save for the sling and rocks she had jammed firmly in her breeches pocket.

Just across the dumb river lay home. Sassy could almost catch the scent of one of her ma’s stews dancing on the breeze. She imagined she could hear her Gammer rocking in her little chair, sighing as she waited for Sassy to come listen to a story. She simply couldn’t stand it any longer. She had had enough of adventuring!

As fast as her feet could carry her, she ran down to the edge of the Withywindle and waded into the water. She called to the others left gathered about Sondo.

‘Hey! Come on! I want to go home!’

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Old 04-24-2005, 07:11 PM   #187
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“We don’t have to, but I think that we should try to cross the Withywindle tonight.” Sondo said.

Marroc cast a weary eye to Sondo. Hadn't Gandalf advised against crossing the Withywindle at night? Wouldn't they be safer trying to cross in the daylight. He looked to his other companions, but he could not tell what they thought of crossing now.

"Maybe we should wait," Marroc said, "We've had some bad luck this trip and I don't want to end it like this. Not when we're so close to home. We are all going to be in a lot of trouble as it is, so what's another day to our punishment?"

Marroc feel silent, hoping desperately Sondo would take that into consideration. He knew everyone just wanted to get home, but if they took the chance and crossed now they might never make it.

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Old 04-25-2005, 07:36 AM   #188
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Sam had come to the end of his attention span. Yes, he wanted desperately to get back home. He couldn't exactly recall when he had had a decent meal last. Yet, the young hobbit knew that Gandalf was far more versed on subjects like rivers and crossing them at night and he tended to believe the man. He stood, listening to them as they bickered over going over.

"Hey!" Sam yelled, his bottled up frustrations finally taking over. The group stopped and looked at him.

"Listen you fools. We cross that river by ourselves in the dead of night and we will all die. Do you not remember what has already happened on this river? It is because this river that we did not get to the places that we wanted to see. Granted it all was one big adventure, but we can not navigate that blasted river. We are all tired, depleated of energy, and some are clearly not thinking straight. The brilliant thing to do is to camp. I know that you all want to get back home. I want to get back home too. Yet you have to think about the circumstances. It is dark. That river is winding. One misstep and we all will go down the river, possibly drown and die. Is that what you all want? To drown and die in the river right in front of our own homes? That thought is completely suicidial!" Sam yelled.

He threw a hand into his hair and turned away from them. He turned back, the fury building within him causing his body to shake with its full intensity.

"Gandalf is wise. He knows far more then any of us. And at the first sign of home you want to risk any chance of getting back alive. Do you want Gandalf to have to bring back our dead bodies to our parents? Do you? Do you want your parents to have to deal with that fact? I have known you all for quite some time. I have gone of this journey. I have had a change of heart, as all of you have noticed. I have tried to help. I have followed Sondo's lead, but if you, Sondo, are going to put all the lives of everyone here in danger then I am stepping up. What you propose is a death wish. Yes I will give it to you that there is a slight possibility that we will make it, but what about that bigger possibility that we will be wisked away and that we will have to travel any further?"

"If you all want to be fools and go ahead and kill yourselves, just go for it. I will not be the one that takes your bodies back."

Sam stood in front of them all, his fury finally dying down. He crossed his arms and gave them all a very hard stare.

"The choice is yours. Wait patiently and we cross in the daylight and get home alive or follow Sondo and get yourselves killed and come back home in a box. What is it going to be."
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Old 04-25-2005, 02:17 PM   #189
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Sondo was becoming increasingly annoyed with Sam as he went on. What did they all want of him?! They say they want to have input, so he gives it to them, and now Sam just explodes! He had asked for opinions; he hadn't said it was what they would do.

"The choice is yours. Wait patiently and we cross in the daylight and get home alive or follow Sondo and get yourselves killed and come back home in a box. What is it going to be."

"Are you done?" asked Sondo. "Because if you are, I have a few things to say to you, Sam. First of all, I never said that we were going to cross right now; I said that I thought we should try. It's not very wide, it's not quite dark yet, and we're all wet and will be chilled, so it seemed like a worthwhile suggestion. So excuse me for trying to cover all of our options! And also, if you want to argue with me, maybe you should get all of your facts straight first! This is not the Brandywine, which we were sailing down. This is the Withywindle, and it is less deep and swift than the Brandywine, even if it does come down out of the Old Forest.

"I don't mind hearing your opinion, Sam, but you know what? I'd appreciate it if you didn't treat me like an utter idiot. I've gotten us this far, and I'll admit I may have made some mistakes, but I'd say overall I've done a pretty decent job of it. If your fury is what I've earned for it all, so be it, but I don't want to hear it. Obviously you're not the only one who feels that we should camp here for another night, and that's fine! But, Sam, I have not come this far to hear you yelling at me." Never once had Sondo raised his voice, but his cold words were dripping with hot intesity and fury, and his eyes were blazing.

Sondo deliberately turned his back on Sam and, without giving the other lad a chance to respond, spoke to the others, his voice sounding strangely pleasant. "I'll be honest; I'd really like to be home tonight, with a warm meal and bed and clean clothes. The river can't be more than 25 feet across and not too deep, and Gandalf left us that rope - it's pretty long. But most of you seem to want to camp here another night, so if you're all against me then we can do so. But, unless you want wood from the Old Forest, both the night and the food will be chilly and wet. If we are going to stay here, though, I suppose we'd best get away from this river and unpack." This last was said with a mournful look at the river. There was home. He was certain that they would be able to cross the river, but he couldn't, nor would he, do it alone. He looked around expectantly, hoping for some support from at least one of the lads, since Sassy's vote didn't exactly count. If he didn't want the popular choice, though, at least he would follow the popular concensus.

*********************************

Nurumaiel's post:

Did I seem like that to the others?

Falco could not help but wonder. It was a humiliating thought. He agreed with what Sam said, but he did not agree with how Sam said it. There was no need to lose tempers. But he had done the same thing. It became even clearer to him that he was in the wrong, and that he would have to make it up with Sondo.

"Thank you, Sam," he said, patting the lad on the shoulder. Perhaps it was an odd thing to say, but he was grateful. He realised now that he had erred before, and it would not be so hard to apologise to Sondo now. He believed he should apologise... it took only humility now. "And," he added to the angry young hobbit, "calm down.

"I agree with the others, Sondo," he said, and thought rather miserably that he wouldn't look better in Sondo's eyes for teaming up against him. "I'm very anxious to get home, but I think it would be safer to wait." Sondo would be feeling overwhelmed with all this opposition, as he had been at the mutiny. He cringed at the word, and then lifted his chin a little. It was true... but he'd make up for it. He moved closer to Sondo and spoke in very friendly tones. "I can't agree with Sam that we'd be fools to try," he said. "I don't think you're a fool, you know. Maybe you're right, and we could make it all right. But we're all rather exhausted from this adventure, and perhaps it would be better to wait until morning, when both the sky and our minds are a bit lighter." He hesitated for a half a moment, and then put a hand on Sondo's shoulder and smiled the most confident and comradely smile he knew.

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Old 04-25-2005, 03:34 PM   #190
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So be it, thought Sondo wearily. They would spend another night here, since it seemed that at least half if not all the others were against him. He wondered where he stood in their eyes. He doubted that he was the same high-ranking leader that he had been at the beginning. Maybe you're losing it, thought Sondo to himself. He was the leader, not the dictator. It was a nice niche, so long as the leader status was maintained.

He was slightly startled at Falco's hand on his shoulder. He met Falco's eyes and saw only friendship. He smiled back. "If you don't mind... I'd like to talk with you tonight," he murmured. Falco nodded, and Sondo addressed the rest of the group.

"Come on, then," he said. "Let's get camp set up before it is utterly dark." He caught the relief on several faces as he turned to lead them away from the Withywindle's bank. He stopped about half way between the marshes and the river, figuring about an eighth of a mile to be far enough distant. He was only too happy to put down his pack; after carrying it all day, it seemed much heavier than it actually was. The others set up their bedrolls as well, and then they started to unpack some dinner.

As he had expected, the bread was soggy and had to be thrown out. The meat was wet and cold since there was no fire to heat it, but otherwise edible. The fruit seemed little the worse for the wear. After the food had been doled out, Sondo waved Falco over. Falco fell into step beside him, and after a few moments of uneasy silence, Sondo said, "I guess we were both acting kind of stubborn, back when the raft crashed." Pride told him that Falco had been more wrong than he, and the mutiny still hurt. But in the end, his friendships were worth more to him than grudges, and Falco had been a good friend. And maybe he shouldn't have lost his temper like he had... He gave Falco a jaunty smile. "Friends?"

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Old 04-25-2005, 04:17 PM   #191
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Falco swallowed hard. He hadn't expected it so soon. He had hoped for some time to grow used to the idea of casting away his pride, and at the moment his pride was still heavily upon him. But he would not, could not, reject Sondo's friendship. He took a deep breath.

"I'm awful sorry for the way I acted earlier," he said, very hurriedly. "I shouldn't have disagreed with you in the first place, but if I really had to disagree, I ought to have done it in a way that was more respectful to your position as leader. As it was, I not only disagreed with you myself, but did my best to make the others think the same way as I. Thank goodness they all had the good sense to either stay with you or abandon me later.

"I'd like to say, Sondo, that you've just proved what a good leader you are. If you'd been such a bad leader as I've been implying throughout this whole trip, you wouldn't have taken everything as graciously as you did. You gave in to us when you saw you were out-voted. If you were a bad leader you would have insisted on having your own way, against majorities and even against common sense. You've done a wonderful job, and I'm sorry for making things so hard on you."

He drew another deep breath, and smiled rather shakily. "There! That was rather hard to say, but I'm glad I did." He reached over and grasped Sondo's hand in his own, shaking it heartily. "Friends."
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Old 04-26-2005, 03:04 AM   #192
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Sassy could see by the expression on his face that Sondo was expecting one of the boys to support him. Never mind that she had thought it a good idea to go home. She didn’t count. She hadn’t from the first and how stupid of her not to have learned her lesson by now. But none of the boys had stood by him. They were all for waiting til morning before they dared the river.

And now Sondo had come round to their way of thinking. She looked to where Falco was standing, talking seriously to her brother. Looked like they were patching up their friendship. Sassy shook her head, thinking about how things had started out between the two of them. And now look at them . . . the adventure at least had brought those two together.

‘I wish I coulda . . .’ she thought, then took a deep breath and shrugged it off. No point in wishing for what would never be. ‘Sassy,’ she muttered to herself in her mother’s voice, ‘I hope you learned your lesson. You never shoulda tried to tag along in the first place.’

The boys had trooped back to a drier place, away from the river. Some of them were setting up a little camp while others gathered firewood. Sassy hung back, knowing no one would pay attention to what she was doing. With all of them bent to their tasks, she made her way slowly back to the edge of the river.

There were willows that grew down to water, their thick roots dipping down into the Withywindle. She climbed out onto one of the bigger tree’s roots, hanging onto a slender sucker branch for support. In the gathering darkness, she thought she could see the small glow of old Rufus Burrows' little house that stood on the small rise just beyond the Hedge. It didn’t seem so very far away and the water that flowed past her toes seemed slow and easy going.

Sassy sat down on her bottom and slid into the river. Here near the tree’s roots it was shallow and sandy, coming only to mid calf. She walked out further. It was chilly, of course, against her legs, but she’d been colder than this during the spill in the Brandywine. Her cloak was weighing her down as it wicked up the water. She shrugged it off and watched it roll slowly on the river’s current, until it became too soggy and was pulled under.

Her eyes were fixed on the other shore, though it was harder and harder to see in the gathering dark. Her little arms came up, elbows held out to the side as she stepped carefully along on the rounded rocks that led into the middle of the channel. The water grew deeper coming up now to her armpits.

She wasn’t frightened though, as she kept her goal in sight. She was halfway across, she was sure. A noise from the bank behind her made her turn. Someone had called to her, she thought, but it was only the cry of a nighthawk hunting the fat, tasty moths that rose up with the moonlight. Caught off balance as she turned back, her feet slipping on the mossy rocks, she went under for a moment. Then righting herself in the water, she tried to find some traction for her feet. But the current had pushed her a little ways downstream and into the deepest part of the channel.

Sassy bobbed up and down, pushing as hard as she could to move toward a shallower section. But the water was too deep now, and she was cold, and growing tired. An eddying current turned her about so that in the distance she could see the little campfire the boys had built. And just as quickly it turned her again. The other bank was so far away she saw in an almost dreamy manner. She thought perhaps she should call out, but her lips were too numb to obey.

So cold, and so tired. Her desperate eyes closed against her will. With an ‘O’ of surprise, or perhaps welcome, she felt the night-dark waters of the old river roll over her.

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Old 04-26-2005, 05:39 AM   #193
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Sondo grinned, and was about to say something when he caught sight of their camp. Wait - why were there only five hobbits? Falco looked at him with evident concern. "What's wrong?"

"Hang on," muttered Sondo. He quickly counted again. Where was the sixth? His eyes scanned the surrounding area, once, then again. There! He caught sight of someone; what were they doing? Laying on the ground? No, he was in the river. And not a he, either! The bobbing curls could only belong to Sassy. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Sassy... in the river...

"No! Sassy!" he cried. Just then her head dipped out of sight. He sprinted off in her direction, hoping against all hope that he would not be too late. Fear and panic propelled him faster than he would have thought possible, but even so precious seconds were wasted in the time it took him to reach the river. He scanned the river desperately for some sign of his sister. Where was she? How long had it been? A minute? Two? Time was running out!

There! Her still form was bobbing along, maybe ten feet downstream of him. He made to dive in after her and found himself being bodily restrained by the other lads, all of whom were at least a little larger than he himself was. "Easy, Sondo," said one of them gently. Sondo did not know who; his eyes had not left his sister. "She's gone. You can't be throwing your life away, too."

A spark of madness lit his eyes. Sassy could not be dead! He would not, could not, allow it! With an impassioned burst of strength he twisted and pulled from their grasp. Before any of them realized what was happening, Sondo was in the water. Water was in his mouth, and he could see only barely between the dim light and the splashing water. He was completely consumed by a single thought: Must save Sassy... Swimming as hard as he could, he was soon within mere inches of her. Her face was in the water, and she did not move save for how the current took her. Sondo told himself that she was merely unconcious. He reached out his hand for her when suddenly she was not so close. With a swirling wave, they were pushed out into the Brandywine.

Sondo was tired to the bone, but he did not take notice of it. Madness and fear drove him. Sassy would get home, just like the rest of them. It took him a moment to spot her again, and when he did, she was further away from him than when he had started. Hang on, Sassy. I'm coming. Doggedly he struck out again. His limbs were numbing in the chill water, but it did not bother him.

Finally, finally he caught up with her. Taking his arm around her waist, he struck out towards shore. He neither knew nor cared how far downriver they had washed; Sassy was safe. He staggered up on shore, nearly collapsing from exhaustion. He refused to quit, however, and taking Sassy's still form in his arms he took off back towards the camp. He was back in the marshes, and he stumbled more than once before he was met by some of the other hobbits who had run downstream after him. One of them offered to take Sassy; Sondo refused with a few mumbled words. He had to get Sassy back to camp. He no longer cared if a fire must be made with wood from the Old Forest. Anything to keep Sassy alive.

It was perhaps an hour later and pitch dark when he stumbled into their camp. He laid Sassy out on his own bedroll. She was cold, too cold. He covered her with a blanket. He checked for her breathing; there was nothing. She had no pulse, either. She was gone. He had done everything that he could, and she was gone. Tears now formed in his eyes as he gathered Sassy up in his lap. Why, why had he not insisted that they cross the Withywindle tonight? Then Sassy would not have tried it alone. They would have come up with a safe way to do it. And why hadn't he been nicer to her these past several days? He knew that she had admired him, in her way, yet he had scorned her. Always he had told her to go run and play. Why hadn't he insisted that she go home on that very first afternoon? There were so many things that he might have done instead. Your fault, your fault, your fault, bounced the voices in his head. Alas that he had not kept a closer eye on her!

He began to shiver as a damp chill set in. He did not care. He would not leave Sassy, because she was his sister, and only too late did Sondo realize that he had loved her, in his own way. Except now she was gone.

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Old 04-27-2005, 12:43 AM   #194
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Bingo

Bingo sat on the ground shuddering, his eyes shadowed with disbelief, as he watched the sad tableau played out on the shoreline. This should not be happening: not here and now when they were so close to home. He had been so caught up in listening to the other lads argue that he had paid no attention to Sassy or what she was doing. He cursed his own inattention. Why did this have to happen? Their trek was supposed to be a fun adventure, not a tale filled with tragedy. The whole thing didn't seem fair, certainly not to Sassy and, to be truthful, not even to himself. He had lost both his parents without warning in the middle of the night, and now a companion was gone too. For a moment, life seemed too difficult to bear.

Bingo peered over at Sondo, thinking that he should try and help him, but a number of the other lads were already crowded round and were coming to his aid. At that moment he spied his brother standing off to the side. Bingo looked closely at Reggie; his brother's face was filled with concern, yet also with awareness and maturity. Somehow his little brother didn't look so little anymore. Without thinking, Bingo impulsively rushed over to Reggie and threw his arms around his slender frame and hugged him possessively. "I am so proud of you. You have grown up, and I didn't even notice. I should have seen it back home, but it took this trip to show me. You're ready to go your own way, but just be careful with yourself and don't run off on your own without me if there's anything I can do to help...."

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Old 04-29-2005, 09:18 PM   #195
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Reggie's heart swelled with appreciation of Bingo's words despite the sorrow he felt. "Well, it's not such a big deal, really," he said modestly, returning Bingo's embrace. "I guess I had a good role model."

"I can't believe it, though," he continued in a hushed tone when they let go. "I mean, after all that we've been through, it's now, so close to home that this has to happen. Why her, though? It could've been any of us, at any time. She wasn't even supposed to be here." He furrowed his brow. "Neither was I, come to think of it."

"None of us were supposed to be here," Bingo reminded him.

"You're right. We weren't. We're still not." There was silence for a few moments while Reggie thought. He hadn't even known Sassy that well; she had mostly kept to herself. The ones she'd most spoken to were Sondo and Sam, and now Reggie regretted that he hadn't been more friendly. "Bingo?" he said at last.

"Yes, Reggie?"

"I don't think I want any more adventures. Not for a long time."
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Old 04-30-2005, 06:04 AM   #196
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When Sondo awoke the next morning, he had little recollection of the previous night save for his swim after Sassy. The memory seemed to have been replaced by a splitting headache. He lay in his own bedroll; Sassy had been covered up in hers. He knew not whether he or another had put her there, but he was glad, for he did not desire to see her face. His grief had been replaced by a dull sense of duty. He was still the leader. He must get the others across the river safely. They would not end as Sassy had.

When he tried to get up, he found that his limbs were stiff and his muscles, sore. His clothes still retained some dampness from the previous night. No, he did not feel very well at all. He would not let it show, though, and moved about camp as easily as he could manage. He pulled some breakfast out of the packs, giving to the others as they awoke. He said little, and his motions were by rote. He had hit the same level of focus that he had felt the former night when trying to reach Sassy, only now his goal was Must get everyone home safely.

Once everyone was awake and had eaten and the sun risen above the trees, Sondo spoke up, "Well, let's get going. Maybe we can be home by noon." The only optimistic part about this sentence was the words, for his tone carried no enthusiasm for the task. Certainly, he wanted to be home, but suddenly he was loathe for this adventure to be over, for what would he do then? Could he so easily go back to the pranks and mischief that he had so much enjoyed before leaving? He did not know, and the not knowing troubled him more than anything else.

The lads hefted their packs for the short walk to the river. Sondo carried Sassy's body wrapped in a blanket. He wondered how to get across during this trek and, by the time they reached the Withywindle, had in mind a plan to get them all across.

First, after gently laying Sassy's form down on the ground, he dug out the rope Gandalf had left hem from his pack. It looked long enough to stretch across the river easily. Then he looked around for a fallen log or some other such thing that might work for a boat. Luckily, he spotted one about twenty feet from the river, and it didn't look to be rotten.

"Okay, here's my plan," he said. "I don't want to have to swim across, and I don't trust the branches of these trees enough to swing across on a rope." He felt silly saying this, but he knew they would understand what he meant. "So, as nearly as I can tell, the only other way is to row across. We can use that log over there-" Sondo pointed. "-for a boat. To ensure that no one slips-" (What he meant was drowns) "-we can tie the rope around each hobbit as they go, so if they fall off the log they can be pulled back to shore. All right?"

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Old 04-30-2005, 08:25 AM   #197
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Marroc woke the next morning feeling strangely distant. He barely slept at all the night before, he kept thinking of Sassy's lifeless form lying in Sondo's arms. At first no one had wanted her along and now it was so hard to let go. They should have known better, Sassy had so wanted to go home. But it was too late now. Marroc knew this, all they could do now was get themselves home safely and bear Sassy's body back to her parents.

Sondo looked tired and gave instructions to the others as they prepared for the final leg of their so-called adventure. The lads all followed him down to the river. It was the only thing standing between them and home.

"We can use that log over there. We can tie the rope around each hobbit as they go, so if they fall off the log they can be pulled back to shore." Sondo said.

A few of the lads went to retrieve the fallen log Sondo was pointing at. When the log had been set in the river everyone looked to Sondo.

Marroc let out a sighed, and moved closer to Marroc. "Can I go first?" He wanted to get over to the otherside as fast as possible. He knew it was selfish after what had happened, but he couldn't bare being one of the last to go.

"Yes, Marroc." Sondo said, handing him the rope.

Marroc smiled weakly and scanned the ground for a small branch that could pass for an oar. When he found one he tied the rope to his waist and knelt on the log. The other lads picked up the other end and helped Marroc cast off.

It isn't so bad, he thought as he slowly rowed out. Finally Marroc was close enough to the other side. He reached a foot out and found that the water was not so deep anymore. He hopped off the log into water that was just below his waist. He moved closer to the shore.

Marroc untied the rope and tied into onto the log and signaled for his friends to pull it back over. "Who's next?" He called when the log was back on the other shore.
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Old 05-03-2005, 03:57 PM   #198
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A reflective and wet Bingo....

Bingo watched uneasily as the other hobbits made their way across the river one-by-one while clinging to the log. When Bingo's turn came, he climbed aboard the makeshift craft and took hold of the branch. His paltry strokes did little to propel the log to the other side of the river. It was the hobbits who stood on the far bank and pulled on the rope with all their might who actually guided the log over to the shore.

Bingo slid down from the log once he'd reached the shallow waters, wading through the reeds and bracken, and then clambering onto the muddy bank. Home was close now, no more than a short walk away. Yet Bingo felt no joy and little relief to be safely out of danger. Sassy was not coming home: not now, not ever. The one message pounding through his mind was that they should never have gone. None of them were old or wise enough to deal with the perils of the road. It would have been bad enough if Sassy had died defending them from some danger. But an accident like this seemed random and senseless as if there was no real purpose or meaning in it.

Bingo walked over towards Sondo. His friend's face was a blank so that it was hard to tell with certainty what he was thinking or feeling. But one thing was painfully clear to Bingo. The only possible way to live in a world where bad things happen at random was to offer a helping hand to those around you, especially the hobbits you cared the most about. That's what his aunts and uncles had done by taking them in after his parents' death. In their own bumbly way, they were trying to repair the bad stuff and make things at least a little better.

Bingo came up to Sondo and spoke, "You did alright. You did your best by us. That's all anybody can do. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. None of us meant for this to happen. There isn't a hobbit here who wouldn't have stuck his neck out for Sassy and tried to rescue her if we could have. We didn't know her when she started. But she showed us what she was made of. Really, she was a lot like you.....a born leader and a generous hobbit. I'm sorry, Sondo. I'm so sorry. And once we get back, it's not going to be easy. If I can help you get through this, if there's anything I can do, just let me know. " He added softly, "I can still remember how I felt after my parents died." Bingo's voice trailed off.

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Old 05-03-2005, 07:31 PM   #199
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"Thanks, Bingo," Sondo answered softly. "And not only for what you said... just, thanks." Bingo nodded in acceptance, not saying anything but offering Sondo his support. Sondo looked away southward, following the path of the Brandywine for as far as he could see it. Curséd river. You crashed the raft, took our supplies and left us with nothing but an argument, and now you took my sister's life. Curséd river. How could something so serene looking be so vicious and deadly? We never stood a chance. Why, oh, why did I think this to be such a grand idea? We were in over our heads, and I'm to blame, and I'm not the only one to pay. Curséd adventure. Thrice curséd river.

You gave in to us when you saw you were out-voted. If you were a bad leader you would have insisted on having your own way, against majorities and even against common sense. You've done a wonderful job, and I'm sorry for making things so hard on you.

You did alright. You did your best by us. That's all anybody can do. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. None of us meant for this to happen.
So why did he feel so guilty? He had done his best, used his best judgment... yet it all turned out horribly. Yet, had it all been horrible? Certainly he had learned a lot, and he had done a lot of reevaluating. Friends, family, these were more important than his own proud position as leader and the adventure itself. A rude awakening, mayhap, but he had needed it. Alas that it had taken so much in order to get through to his head! So now, the only thing he truly regretted was the loss of his sister. There isn't a hobbit here who wouldn't have stuck his neck out for Sassy and tried to rescue her if we could have. We didn't know her when she started. But she showed us what she was made of. Really, she was a lot like you.....a born leader and a generous hobbit. Yes, she was like him, wasn't she? Much more so than he ever would have realized before. I'll never forget you, Sassy. Never, ever, ever.

He had almost forgotten that Bingo was standing there, but now he turned back to his friend and smiled, just a little, but a smile at any rate. Neither hobbit said anything, but they understood.

Sondo turned back to those gathered on the bank and realized that the final lad was finishing the crossing. Triumph was evident in the air, and some even put up a small cheer. It had been a long and difficult road, but here they were, standing in their very own Buckland. Brandy Hall was only a few short miles away.

"Come on," he said, tired, filled with grief, and yet at peace. "Let's go home."
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Old 05-04-2005, 01:41 PM   #200
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As they headed towards home, Reggie lagged towards the back of the group. The whole thing had been more or less disastrous -- a ruined raft, ruffians, wolves... death. Bingo apparently thought that his younger brother had grown up a lot, and Reggie felt that he really had. He'd seen and been through so much, and though he only wanted to go home, he was at least grateful that he had learned a bit about the world, as well as won Bingo's respect.

The birds sang as Reggie ran to catch up with his brother.
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