At dawn, the three hobbits continued their journey through the tunnels. While Merry and Sam debated over who should be the leader, Pippin chose to be last in case any creatures decided to catch them, off-guard, from behind. It seemed hours since the hobbits had been on the surface of the world they could not call home, yet somehow they felt the need to return to the Shire. The hobbits wondered if they would ever see their homeland again.
After a climb out of another tunnel, the three hobbits entered a circular room, already filling up with water. As the water climbed past their knees, the two torches in Merry and Pippin's hands blew out by a strange wind. Before the two young hobbits complained, Sam calmed them down. He, on the other hand, did not expect the water to climb higher. The moment Sam and Merry began to think optimistically, the water was up to their waists. Pippin whirled around in circles, searching for an exit.
The hobbits trudged on until they spotted the next larger tunnel. When they saw the tunnel was too high to reach, Sam found a brass ladder embedded in the arched wall. Soon after he called the two scoundrels, Sam began his ascent up the ladder. Once he was over the threshold, Sam peered out from the edge of the tunnel as Merry climbed up the ladder next. Pippin, although he showed fear in his eyes, followed last after his cousin.
Pippin noticed the ladder breaking off from the wall, the moment after Merry was helped over the threshold by Frodo's gardener. Sam and Merry told Pippin to take their hands. Pippin was nearly successful with this small task, hadn't the hinges on the ladder tore off from the wall. Before he knew what was happening, Pippin hit the water's surface and was swept downwards, by the ladder, to the room's stone floor.
Sam and Merry cried out Pippin's name, but they neither heard nor saw the young hobbit. Merry stared over the edge for several long moments. Sam looked at the greenish water with troubled eyes. Common sense warned him that Pippin might drown if he was not saved from the water and brought back on land. Just then, Merry pointed out with his index finger a dark shape swimming beneath the water's surface. As Sam returned his gaze to the circular room, he saw a young hobbit woman, with yellow cat eyes, splash up out of the water. In her arm was Pippin Took, who tried to break free of her strong grasp.
The woman sneered at the hobbits, as she warned, "If you two go on, I'll force this Halfling to beg for mercy. Then it will be too late for him and Frodo Baggins." The woman's voice changed from stern to wickedness. "Don't follow me. Return to your homes… at once. Do you understand?"
"Let him go!" barked Merry. "Set them both free!"
The young hobbit shook her head. "Make me, Master Meriadoc." She gave him an evil grin. "Say goodbye to your friends. You'll never see them again." Sharply, she added, "They will both be dead, long before you can catch up to me… if you ever make that decision." With that, the hobbit lass dragged Pippin back underwater.
Merry glanced up at Sam with worried eyes. In haste, Sam led Merry through the tunnel. When they came out of the larger tunnel, the two hobbits snuck past a creature that was on duty. Soon after they left the rocky corridor behind, Sam and Merry entered a cavernous, reddish-lit room. From the balcony, the hobbits looked bewildered at the varying devices of torture and execution. Merry guessed the creatures had a knack for harming their prisoners. Sam dragged Merry behind a pile of wooden barrels, prior to a battalion of beasts marching past their hiding place. By chance, Merry smelt fresh fruit coming from one of the barrels. Sam warned him not to touch the food, for fear of it harming his friend. Merry dealt with Sam's logical reasoning, even after his stomach began to ache. Sam worried about Merry's condition; at the same time, he wondered where Pippin and Frodo were being held captive.
"Unlock the door!" shouted the hobbit woman, her cat eyes changing from bright yellow to a blood-red color.
Frodo jumped in shock at the sound of this familiar voice. He remembered her name began with the letter 'S', yet he could not piece together how he knew her. He figured…
"Open it, Stilts! Do as you are told!" barked the woman, her voice growing angrier by the second.
Frodo heard coughing that came from another familiar voice. His first guess was the coughs belonged to Pippin, but no. Frodo was certain Pippin had escaped the abandoned mansion with Sam and Merry. Did the evil creatures capture to his cousin too? Whatever the case, Frodo realized something had gone amiss during Merry and Pippin's unsuccessful diversion.
The wooden door was pulled open by one of the beasts. Frodo backed up against the wall, as the creature transformed into a red bull. Like the woman, the bull had bloodshot cat eyes. Frodo stared in horror at a shovel that now rested in the bull's sharp hoofs. He was seconds away from crawling out of the cell, when he was clonked on the head by the bull's shovel. Frodo glanced up at Pippin, who struggled in one of the creature's arms, a moment before he blacked out.
Coming to, Frodo found his wrists were bounded by ropes to a wooden post. He tried his hardest to break free from his bonds, but to no avail for his failed in his first few attempts. Blood rushed to his head, making him feel light-headed. Frodo watched the woman with the cat eyes as she advanced towards him. Her face was filled with pleasure, as if she enjoyed forcing the hobbit to be her prisoner. Frodo tried not to grieve, but the woman's wicked smile made him agitated.
The woman chuckled softly, as she stated, "Well Frodo, I must say you are in a tight spot. Good luck trying to free yourself, but I highly doubt you will." She cackled happily, and then walked towards three of the beasts.
Frodo waited until the woman was out of his sight, along with the majority of monsters, before attempting yet again to break free of his bondage. He nearly bellowed out a scream when two voices shushed him. The voices belonged to Sam and Merry, who used daggers from a nearby table to cut their friend from the ropes. Once he was free of the post, Frodo stumbled and fell on the brown, pebbled earth. Although his hands and knees broke his fall, Frodo received more pain than he realized.
Just as he was helped up from the ground by Sam and Merry, Frodo watched the silvery-blue doe as she stood next to a golden dust horse. The two vanished from sight in the blink of an eye. A moment after Sam snapped him back to reality, Frodo saw the hobbit woman re-enter the room from a tunnel that stood across from him. Behind the woman were five battalions of monsters. In one of the creature's arms was Pippin, who was limp and staring aimlessly at the beast.
In a few seconds, Sam and Merry screamed out in pain. As the two hobbits collapsed on their knees, Frodo returned his gaze to the woman, who reflected a knowing expression across her face. Briefly, the woman gestured an index finger to Frodo, telling him to follow her. Despite his reluctance, Frodo let the woman lead him down an orange-lit passageway. Inside a room, there were bookcases filled with vials of liquid.
Frodo asked in a brave response, "Why did you bring me here? My friends…"
The woman interrupted him with a mocking look on her face. "Did you think I would free your friends? They are dying, by my hands." She ranted, showing little emotion in her voice, "I kept you safe. I've made sure you were left alive, long enough to see my greatest concoction." She shook her head as tears streamed down her face. "Isn't that enough for you? You can't just walk away from me. I won't allow it. I won't!"
Frodo stated in a stern tone, "You tortured me, and then you harmed my friends." Calmly, he addressed her, "You are not in love with me. I would know if you were." He paused. "You are not a hobbit or a human." He guessed, "You are one of them. Aren't you, miss?"
"My name is Sarah. Yes, I am one of those evil beings. You know their name." She cocked her head and asked him, suspiciously, "Don't you, Frodo?"
Frodo nodded with an understanding look across his face. "Yes, unfortunately I do." He took a few steps back towards the doorway, right as Sarah turned her back on him.
As Frodo left the room, he caught Sarah telling him, "…feel free to join us. It'll be your special trip."
Halfway down the rocky tunnel, Frodo ran into an armory room and grabbed a suitable weapon of choice. After facing a couple of adversaries, Frodo dodged past a six-foot tall beast before he returned to the cavernous room. The second he reached Sam, Merry, and Pippin, who lied on the ground in an unconscious state, Frodo watched the lights as they were doused by a foul wind. Staring up at the ceiling, Frodo noticed massive cracks that spread across the rocky surface.
A brief moment after Sarah bumped into him, Frodo nervously faced her. Instantaneously, Sarah forced Frodo up against a nearby wall, where she kissed him sweetly on the lips. The kiss felt strange to Frodo. Instead of a cold kiss it was warm, as if he deserved it. The next second, Frodo's thoughts plummeted into a world of darkness.
Frodo awoke underneath the sheets of the bed, inside his bedroom at Bag End. Sweat beaded across his face and chest, making him feel hot and flustered. With the dream fresh in his mind, Frodo asked himself what he had done to be kissed by a woman, particularly a creature that wasn't a hobbit, let alone human. He was afraid of the answer, yet he did not stop pondering over the events of the dream.
On his feather pillow, Frodo saw small patches of dried blood over the cover. He checked the left side of his face and found five scars, which were spread jaggedly across the skin. Confused, Frodo wondered if everything in the dream was real. Another question crept inside his mind: what had happened to Sam, Merry, and Pippin? Did they survive?
Frodo learned the following afternoon that his friends hadn't been injured, yet he learned Sam and Merry had suffered with the same cold all throughout the next morning. Pippin felt weakened for reasons he could not comprehend. Frodo asked his friends if they experienced the same dream.
Their final answer was "no".
Once again, I would like to thank Sauron Gorthaur for her hard work, time, and patience with this three-shot.
I wish to thank all the readers who have read this story until the last sentence. It is much appreciated. :)
This three-shot took me almost a month to complete. In a way, this story-within-a-dream has been a journey. I am relieved and happy to have finished another piece of fan fiction storytelling.