M.E. Chapter 2: A Fire in the Marsh.

As the sky darkened, the air grew chill, my legs were freezing since they were soaked in marsh water, and I was now glad for my jacket. Jackets aren’t usually allowed during school, but in physics we were performing various experiments on inertia and other ‘physic’ topics outside, and being an always prepared student, I had brought my jacket to class… It has nothing to do with her telling us the day before to bring them.

"I’m hungry… And tired," Katy complained, "Rachel, let’s stop!"

"In the middle of a marsh?" I asked, "you really want to stop in this place?"

"Yes…" Katy replied hesitantly.

"Alright, fine. Let’s find a dry spot first, though." We walked along in silence, making a kind of zigzag pattern while trying to find some solid ground to spend the night on.

"I think I see some light up ahead." I commented some time later.

"Maybe someone else is camping there! Or maybe it’s a house!" Katy exclaimed, "Let’s stop, Rachel!"

"I don’t think anyone would build their house in a swamp, and I think it’s pretty crazy for someone to camp here on purpose, but who knows. We’ll see if they at least know the way to a nearby town." I declared. So we quickened pace and headed directly for what we could now make out to be fire light. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to pick our way through on the dry patches, and ended up in water up to our waists.

We backtracked and went around the water, now mindful of where we stepped, but still heading towards the fire. "It looks like there are people there, that could be a good sign." I said to Katy.

"What do you mean could be a good sign?" Katy asked, "Of course it’s a good sign!"

"It could be a weirdo who will try to kill us and suck out our brains for jelly." I pointed out thoughtfully.

"I don’t think we’ll find anyone weirder than you, Rachel." Katy shot back mockingly. We walked along in silence for a few more minutes until we drew near the camp sight.

"Who goes there?" One of the strangers asked, I couldn’t make out his face since he was standing in between us and the fire.

"Um… I’m Rachel and this is Katy." I said motioning to my companion who had conveniently stopped a few paces behind me, "could you please tell us where there’s a town or city around here? We seem to be lost."

"Seem to be?" Katy whispered.

"The town of Bree is to the south west." He replied not moving.

"Okay, thank you then." I said and started walking off, Katy following. "Katy," I whispered, "Is it just me, or did that guy say ‘Bree’… And I could swear those kids were hobbits." I shot an inconspicuous glance back over my shoulder at the four ‘kids’ around the fire.

"That’s just what I was thinking… So why are we leaving?" Katy whispered back.

"I wanted to make sure I’m not just going crazy," I told her, "And be careful what you say when we get back, don’t let on like you know too much about them… We could mess up the space-time continuum and or something!" We turned around and walked back, finding the man still standing there as if he was waiting for us.

"I thought you’d be back," he laughed, "You were walking east."

"Um, yes, well, I’m not very good with directions." I said, "Um, would you mind if we stayed near your fire for the night?"

"I was going to suggest the same thing." He said, laughing again, "Bree is over 10 miles off, and you’d probably collapse before you arrived there, ladies." Then in a slightly more serious tone he added, "I’m called Strider, and these are my companions: Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Mr. Underhill." He motioned to each of them as he told us their names.

"So…" I said trying to make conversation as I sat down, "where are you heading? It seems strange that anyone would brave the Midgewater on purpose." I said, as I now knew about where we were.

"And I was wondering why two young ladies were wandering the marsh alone, and at night for that." Strider commented, avoiding my question.

"We didn’t come here on purpose," Katy finally piped up, "we were looking for a town, but thanks to Rachel’s navigating, we wound up here."

"If you were looking for a town, why did you not just follow the road?" Frodo—I mean, Mr. Underhill—asked.

"We never saw a road, or we would have." I said a little sourly, "I’m not THAT stupid."

"Where did you come from," Strider asked, "that you did not see a road?"

"I think someone brought us this way, and left us in some nearby woods, because that’s where we woke up some hours ago." I told him, it was my turn to avoid his question, "We didn’t even have any supplies with us besides the clothes on our backs." I added, hinting to the fact that we were both hungry; he apparently caught on.

"Would you like some food?" he asked, "We can spare some of ours at least."

We both thanked him, and ate the food he gave us greedily. That night we stayed up late talking with the hobbits (it was hard to remember to keep on calling Frodo ‘Mr. Underhill’ all night, and apparently the other hobbits found this a challenge as well, as they repeatedly avoided calling him by name), until Strider broke us up and told us to get some sleep, because we would all have a long walk in the morning.

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