Reality Sinks In
Miril reached up and knocked three times on an ornate wooden door.
"Enter," said a voice on the other side. Miril motioned for Grace to go forward. She did so.
One exhausting hour of being interrogated by Elrond later, she stumbled out of the study. Finding Miril nowhere in sight, and seeing a door to the outside, she walked towards it. Upon reaching the exit she found a garden. There was a breathtaking view of the valley, and a tinkling of water coming form the distant waterfalls.
Grace spent at least half an hour wandering around, looking at the flowers, and listening to the birds. While following a robin (he looked and behaved exactly like the robin from The Secret Garden), she came to a screen of evergreen trees. (Wow, I'm rhyming a lot lately. Screen of evergreen. Never mind...) Beyond the trees her newly enhanced hearing could catch the sound of a twanging, like when you pull a piece of yarn tight and have someone flick it with their finger. Then there came the sound of voices.
"Good one, Dan!" said voice #1.
"Thanks, Ro," replied voice #2.
Grace walked quickly along the green wall barring her way. She soon found a stone arch, and the source of the voices.
A dark-haired Elf was standing at the far end of a grassy field. At the bottom of the field, there was a small target set up. To the left, across from Grace, another Elf, identical to the first, was sitting on the ground with his back to a bench. The first one had just finished shooting an arrow into the target. He was reaching for another shaft when the Elf on the bench stopped him with a call.
"Dan! We have company." The second Elf was the owner of voice #1, not that there was much difference.
'Dan' turned toward Grace. "Ah, the mysterious Lady who fell on our hunting party."
"Quite literally, I might add," said the other. He stood up. "I am Ro, and this is my worst half, Dan."
Dan looked indigent, and hit his brother. Ro hit him back, then they laughed. Their laughter was contagious, and Grace soon found herself joining in.
"I'm Grace, daughter of Mark," she introduced, sticking out her hand.
The shadows lengthened to evening. All afternoon Maggie had trudged through the wood with her four favorite characters from Lord of the Rings. While walking, Frodo, and especially Sam, had plied her with questions. Who was she? Where did she come from? How come they had never met before? Samwise Gamgee had to be the most suspicious person she had ever met. Eventually she gave out that she was a River from the Northern Downs on her way to visit her mother's sister, Mrs. Maggot. She hadn't met them before, but had they met everyone in the Shire? Thankfully, that satisfied them, though Frodo kept looking at her like she was a tiger read to pounce. He was also grabbing at his breast pocket.
"Obvious much?" she had muttered. Pippin had heard her, but thought she was talking about something else, and agreed with her.
"Anything?" Sam now asked.
"Nothing." Frodo replied.
"What is going on?" groaned pippin.
Merry walked up to Frodo, and looked at him questioningly. "That Black Rider was looking for something, or someone. Frodo?"
Maggie was listening to the conversation, so was thrown off balance and onto her nose when Sam yanked her down. She looked at him indignantly, but he pointed up the hill. There was a Ringwraith crouched in its saddle. Slowly its grotesque steed carried it out of sight.
Frodo looked at the three younger hobbits, Merry Pippin, and Maggie. "I have to leave the Shire," he said. "Sam and I must get to Bree.
"Right. Buckleberry Ferry. Follow me." Merry dashed off through the trees. After a moment's hesitation, the others followed in hot pursuit.
Then everything seemed to happen in an instant. A Black Rider screamed behind them, bursting out of the bushes where they had been moments before.
"This way!" Pippin's voice was shrill with terror as he pelted for the Ferry. "Follow me!"
Sam looped the robe off the post, fumbling several times. Four of the five hobbits were on the raft as it began to float away from the bank. Frodo was running up the pier, a Nazgul hot on his tail.
"Go!" he yelled at his friends. With one last dash and an almighty leap he escaped the Rider and cleared the water, landing in an undignified heap on top of Merry and Sam.
"How far to the nearest crossing?" he asked, as soon as he had got his breath back.
" Brandywine bridge," Merry answered. "Twenty miles."
Two people sat in a dark corner of the Prancing Pony. They were swathed in black or dark brown cloaks, though one looked like he? she? it? was swimming in his? her's? it's? Whoever it was, the worthies of Bree wondered how Strider had picked up a companion.
Sarah peered out over the heads of the costumers at the inn. Aragorn, once he had gotten over the whole how-do-you-know-my-secret-name-that-no-one-else-around-here-knows thing, had been quite helpful. Even though she had explained where she came from, and had told him about the Lord of the Rings, he was still tight-lipped about why they were waiting yet another night in Bree before going on to Rivendell, and she didn't confront him about it. He had bought her a long sleeve woolen dress in a dark green, as well as a pair of shoes, and she was borrowing his spare cloak.
A small party of Men got up from their table to get more beers, clearing Sarah and Aragorn's line of sight to the door. It opened, admitting a small group of five hobbits wrapped in cloaks. Sarah sighed, resigning herself to another night in Bree, when one of the hobbits caught her eye. Instead of a cloak, he had a blanket. Upon closer inspection, when said hobbit had thrown back his make-shift hood, she discovered that it was not a he but a she. A very familiar she, with tan skin and long black hair, wearing jeans and a soaked purple shirt.
"Maggie!" Sarah breathed, and jabbed Aragorn in the side with her elbow.
Christopher stood nervously on a platform, with Haldir next to him, waiting for the Lord and Lady. Haldir looked down at him reassuringly, remembering when the boy had appeared out of nowhere on the northern borders of the wood.
A light descended the steps and, when it had faded, you could see the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel.
"Welcome, Christopher Rivers," Lord Celeborn greeted him. "You have come from far away."