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The Tenth Walker  by Lindelea

We go from uncertain ground... to uncertain ground

I am only a pony, and not good at counting, but I think it is the fifth day since we left my old misery behind, and we have not gone far this day before leaving behind us the most recent misery, the last of the straggling pools and reed-beds of the marshes – and those miserable midges! It is such a relief!

The land is rising steadily under my hoofs, and reassuringly firm it is, and prospects look bright for the future, for ahead of us against the eastern sky there is a line of higher ground, hills. Give me higher ground any day, even if I must climb to meet it!

(I’d rather go uphill than down, actually, for at least there’s a “downhill” on the other side to look forward to, where when one is moving down a hill, one must watch one’s step more closely, and there is also the inevitable “uphill” to follow.)

My load is shifting about on my back, for a strap has come loose. My Sam notices fairly quickly, before it can rub my skin raw, and he sends young marsh-stinking hobbit to pull at the Ranger’s sleeve, for a short stop to adjust things.

A stitch in time saves nine, says my Sam as he pulls some of the bags off, shifts the load, and tightens the offending strap. ‘Ah, here’s the trouble. The leather has stretched a bit from the damp. We’ll have to move it up one notch.’

Meanwhile, young marsh-stinking hobbit is taking full advantage of the halt, to press his questions upon our guide.

‘What is that?’ he says, pointing to the highest of the hills ahead, at the right of the line, and a little set apart from the others. ‘Does it have a name? It looks as if it ought to be a landmark of sorts.’

‘That is Weathertop,’ the man says, and goes on to tell how the Road runs to the south of it, passing not far from its foot. It seems that we might reach it by noon on the morrow, if we go straight towards it.

There is some discussion as to the best course, and for the first time the smell of uncertainty comes from the man to my nostrils. He thinks that our pursuers might make for the spot, and any birds or beasts now upon that hilltop could see us where we are stopped, and even as we continue to travel in this open land. The thought of wolves or other such creatures makes me shudder where I stand, and my Sam soothes my forehead even as his eyes search the pale sky.

‘You do make me feel uncomfortable and lonesome, Strider!’ he says.

I rub my nose against his sleeve. I’m here. He smiles absently, but it is more of a grimace than a smile and the comfort I offer is fleeting, for he turns away from me to listen as the Master speaks.

‘What do you advise us to do?’

As if recalled to our journey, my Samwise picks up the bags he’d removed and begins to resettle my burden in place. I pay no heed, however, for I am listening intently. The smell of uncertainty intensifies, such that I should think the hobbits could smell it, even above the lingering reek of swamp that comes from young apples-and-mischief – at least, I wish he still smelled of apples. It would be something in this land of browning grass.

The man speaks slowly. We are not to go direct for Weathertop after all, but for the line of hills. I am glad to hear that he doesn’t expect me to struggle up hill and down again, but that he plans to strike a path that runs at their feet, bringing us to Weathertop from the north.

I certainly hope that he knows what we are doing!


A/N: Some material in this chapter was taken from "A Knife in the Dark" in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

After being up all night with a sick child I have reached that dreamy point where one's imaginings run freely, and with said child finally asleep, I even have a little bit of writing time.

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