The Adventures
of
Frodo Gardner

Volume II
Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 4, Part 34
Independence
(November 22, 1451)

Frodo got off to a late start the next morning in a cold rain, riding one very disgruntled little mare who obviously wondered why the saddle bags got heavy again all of a sudden. "This is it," Frodo thought. "If I ever had any doubt before, this is the point where I really, truly become an adult--I don't care what the calendar says." The city did not overwhelm him quite so much in the rain; the weather laid low all the dust and smoke, the laundry and the market-wares had vanished from his view, the doors and windows stood shut, and as few people as possible hunched outdoors, hastening to warm hearths out of sight. The splash of hooves in puddles made a music that would sound grand and solemn only to someone very young and dramatic, but Frodo relished every liquid note.
 
In no time at all the wide prairies of Rohan spread before him, the city of Edoras dwindling behind him to a rain-veiled smudge. The grasses shuddered under the bluster as raindrops made a hushing sound across the landscape, and all else fell silent all around them, except for the soft clop of pony-hooves in mud. Frodo would have felt very cold and miserable indeed, if not for a single thought warming his breast. "I'm on my own now. I am entirely, completely on my own." He couldn't quite understand why such a thought didn't dismay him (and indeed, he did feel more than a little thrill of fear.) But something satisfied him beyond words to know that he had nobody to fish him out if he made a mistake, nobody to notice for a fortnight or more if anything happened to him, nobody to advise him, nag him, make sure he succeeded in spite of himself. If Frodo made it to Gondor in one piece, he could credit it all to himself.
 
The South Road unfurled before him like a muddy river cleaving through grassy shores, but crushed stone actually made it quite firm enough for Billie-Lass. "The road goes ever on and on," he hummed to himself, "Down from the door where it began." It occurred to him that the door at Bag End must have a particularly strong current running from its step. "Now, how did that old song go? And I must follow if I can--or I will follow if I can...several versions, aren't there? Pursuing it with..." he glanced down at his pony. "Pursuing it with your feet, Billie-Lass, you lucky girl." He couldn't remember all the words, except something in there about "where many paths and errands meet". He certainly hadn't expected to cross paths with all the strange errands he had met so far!
 
"But that's what adventure's all about, surely," he said out loud, unabashed, with nobody to hear him talking to himself aside from a mare who was pointedly not paying attention. "Unexpected chances--stone trolls and talking trees, magic mirrors full of starlight, enemies leaping out at you unawares, and elves stepping out of woods you thought you knew." This common road beneath him, mere gravel and clay pounded solid by the passage of merchants bent on little beyond their ledgers and the hope of their own sweet hearths, this ordinary ribbon of earth had already carried him into the mysterious realm of his father's tales--and beyond, to tales not yet told, tales he had yet to make happen, himself, personally. He rode on in silence for awhile, awed by the thought, till that awe tranformed in his breast into a song and the music welled up from him like something beyond his control, making his toes curl with pleasure on the cold, wet stirrups. All around him the rolling hills shimmered in the storm from a few rays of sunlight only now beginning to peep under the hem of the clouds, and he knew, deep in his heart, that a rainbow would just have to break out any minute now.
 
For years to come one of Frodo Gardner's fondest memories would be this day, striking out completely on his own for the very first time, singing in a cold November rain.

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