Thank you to everyone who reviewed my story! I have been overwhelmed with how kind and supportive you all have been in the reviews. You have given me so much to think about as I continue to write. I hope to improve my writing and throw in more interesting spins on the trilogy. I'm not sure if you can tell, but this will be a very long fanfic. It will be a slow burn romance story that will span over the entire trilogy. I really hope I can do the story justice and entertain you all as well. Thanks again for all the constructive feedback!
"Anne, it's time to wake up. We must be on our way soon," a voice informed her, shaking her shoulder gently.
"It's too early," Anne groaned and turned over.
"What should I do Mr. Frodo?" the voice asked.
The name made Anne open her eyes. Sam was kneeling next to her with a bright smile plastered across his face.
"Good morning Anne! I've already cooked breakfast," he said cheerfully.
"No, no, no," she repeated to herself, shaking her head in disbelief. "This can't be happening."
"Why am I still dreaming? Why can't I wake up? What is happening to me?" she asked in rapid succession as the panic soared within her to overwhelming proportions. Her mind was racing uncontrollably as she tried to understand her situation.
"Oh my gosh," she whispered in horror as she came to a startling revelation.
I'm in a dream that I can't wake up from!
Her mind immediately wandered to the movie Inception before Anne burst into tears. She remembered that the main character had been stuck in the dream world for decades, and there were still debates about if he really made it out of the dream. Too freaked out to hold in her emotions anymore, she covered her face as she cried harder.
"Don't look at me!" she sobbed and turned away from the hobbits. She had always been an ugly crier.
"Try not to worry Anne," Frodo advised and sat next to her. He patted her shoulder in a comforting manner before continuing. "Gandalf is seeking the answers for you right now. He will find a way to send you home. We just have to meet him in Bree and it is only a two-day journey from here," he reminded her encouragingly.
Anne furrowed her brows as she mulled over his words. Her mind briefly flickered to The Wizard of Oz and she thought maybe Frodo had a point. Of course, none of it made sense. But, if she was stuck in a dream, a wizard would be the person to get her out of it somehow.
Anne's tears slowly subsided as hope began to return to her. She let out a whimper and hiccupped before she used a clean part of Gandalf's cloak to wipe her nose.
"Yeah, you're right," she agreed as she batted away the last of her tears. "I just need to calm down until Bree. I can do that," she asserted aloud in an attempt to convince herself. "None of this makes sense…I'm trapped inside my own dream…but at least it's not a nightmare. I'm just going to be calm and not freak out until we get to Bree," she reiterated to herself, nodding several times.
Yes. I can do that. I'll be fine. Everything will be okay.
I just need to make it to Bree and everything will be fine.
"Would you like some breakfast?" Sam asked delicately, careful of her fragile state of mind.
Anne nodded. "That would be great, thanks."
Sam went off to make her plate while Anne took several deep breaths to calm herself. He returned carrying a plate that had two slices of bacon, a thick slice of ham and a large piece of plain bread on it.
"This will make you feel better," he assured her confidently as he handed her the plate. "Bacon always makes folks happy," he reasoned.
He had her there.
"I can't argue with that logic," Anne replied with a small smile of thanks.
If she had to stay stuck in Middle-earth, she was at least grateful to be in the company of two kind hobbits. Things could have been worse; she could've woken up in Erebor with a dragon next to her. She thought back to the story Frodo told her and shivered. Yeah, things could definitely be worse.
Anne ate her breakfast in silence while the hobbits packed up their belongings. Just as Anne finished eating, her bladder made itself known in an urgent kind of way. It was then that she realized she hadn't had to use the bathroom in Middle-earth yet.
"Where is the closest bathroom?" Anne asked as she handed Sam her now empty plate.
The hobbits exchanged an uncomfortable look with one another before Frodo spoke up.
"The thing is…" Frodo began and paused. He scratched the back of his neck and looked down at his feet uncomfortably. "There isn't one for miles," he admitted, looking up at her from under his eyelashes. "You will have to find a spot in the woods to relieve yourself," he finished as a red tinge of embarrassment appeared on his cheeks.
Anne's mouth fell open.
"I can't pee in the woods!" she hissed in horror.
It was one thing to sleep on the ground in the wilderness, but it was a completely new level of mortification to relieve herself out in the open. Anne continued to debate if she could hold it in in long enough to make it to a farm and then beg for dear life to use a bathroom. Although the more she thought about it, she wasn't sure they even had toilets in Middle-earth. It didn't matter though because her bladder wouldn't give her a chance to make it very far.
"Finnnneeeee," Anne groaned in defeat. "Stay here. I'm going to go find a place to…," she trailed off, not wanting to say the word "pee" in front of the hobbits. "…In the woods…like some barbarian," she added dramatically as she stomped off.
Once she was finished tending to her bodily functions, Anne returned to camp and joined the hobbits once more. They quickly loaded up their belongings then set out on their journey, leaving the comfort of their makeshift camp behind them.
They walked for several hours as Anne kept mostly to herself. She wasn't in a very talkative mood as her mind was bombarded with non-stop questions that held no answers. They exited the woods after second breakfast and continued on into more farmland until elevenses where they stopped behind a nearby barn to eat and take a short rest. It wasn't until after luncheon that Anne finally pulled herself out of her morose thoughts just as they came up on a new farm.
"I really do not wish enter Farmer Maggot's farm," Frodo revealed anxiously as they continued onward. "But it is the fastest route," he added with downturned lips.
"Why?" Anne asked curiously. They had already walked through so many farms, she didn't see what was so special about this one.
Frodo grimaced. "When I was younger, I used to sneak on his farm and steel mushrooms," he revealed, much to his chagrin. "One time he caught me and beat me something awful. Then he let his massive dogs chase me all the way to Bucklebury Ferry," he added with downcast eyes. "Ever since then, I have been somewhat terrified of him."
"I would be too if he beat me and had me chased by hounds," Anne agreed, horrified by the farmer's cruelty. "Wait a minute, does he still have his dogs?" she asked, suddenly worried herself.
"Most likely," Frodo mumbled nervously. "As long as we don't steal anything, we should be fine," he speculated aloud, mostly for his own benefit. He seemed to be trying to bolster himself up with enough courage to continue on.
Anne swallowed loudly. She didn't want to encounter any massive hounds. Although if Farmer Maggot was a hobbit like them, she figured his massive dogs might turn out to be corgis. She laughed at the thought and almost wished to see the hounds in order to confirm her suspicions.
When they made it to the beginning of the farm's property line, they stopped and looked around for any signs of activity. Having confirmed that the coast was clear, they decided to go through with their plan.
"Let's make haste and try to cross his land as quickly as possible," Frodo urged and took his first step onto Farmer Maggot's land.
They passed several rows of varying crops with great speed before they finally made it to the cover of cornfields. She heard Frodo release a deep breath, relieved to be hidden from view. The stalks reached up so high that even Anne was completely covered from view with several feet to spare.
They continued walking in the corn stalks for some time with no sign of exiting anytime soon. Anne concluded that Farmer Maggot must have possessed a ridiculously large farm considering how long they had been walking on his property.
"Let's play hide and seek," Anne suggested suddenly, growing bored with the simplicity of just walking.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Sam replied from in front of her.
"Too late!" she said and dashed over a couple of rows until she disappeared.
She could hear Sam calling out for her in a harsh whisper but she ignored him. Instead, she ran up ahead and then busted out of the cornstalks in front of them. They both jumped back in fright, causing Anne to burst out laughing. Then, she jumped out of sight again. She did this several times until one time she appeared and only found Frodo.
"Where's Sam?" she asked confused.
Frodo smiled. "He went in search of you. He planned to jump out and scare you this time around," he revealed conspiratorially.
"That will never happen," Anne declared smugly. "I would hear him coming a mile away with all those pots and pans jiggling," she insisted with a chuckle.
"He thought of that and put them inside his bag so they would be quiet," Frodo whispered in confidence.
Suddenly, they heard Sam calling out for them in panic.
"That's Sam. We better go find him," Frodo said, moving in the direction of the sound.
Soon, they found themselves in a large pathway that separated the different sections of cornfields. They spotted Sam a little way off in the distance and he looked beyond relieved to have found them.
"I thought I'd lost you," he said walking up to them.
Frodo laughed. "Sam we're still in the shire. What could possibly happen?"
Just then, two figures ran out of the cornstalks and into Frodo and Sam, tackling them to the ground. Anne screamed and backed up, moving so quickly that she tripped over her own feet and fell hard on her backside.
One of the figures looked up and smiled wide when he saw her. Anne was relieved to see it was just another hobbit.
Frodo groaned from underneath one of the mysterious hobbits which caused the unknown hobbit to look down at him.
"Frodo?" he asked as he looked down at him. He smiled and turned to the other hobbit who was currently on top of Sam. "Merry, it's Frodo Baggins."
"Hello Frodo!" the hobbit 'Merry' called out.
Sam ungracefully pushed Merry off of him and stood up. He walked over to the hobbit on top of Frodo and pushed him off of his friend as well.
"Get off him," he ordered irritably. "Come on Frodo," he said holding his hand out to assist him.
Frodo grabbed Sam's hand and allowed him to pull him up to his feet.
"May I help you my lady?" A hobbit said from beside her.
Anne looked to see Merry holding out his hand to her with a large, friendly smile.
"Hey why do you get to help her?" his friend shouted while dusting off his clothes. "I saw her first!"
"Well I got to her first," Merry said with an air of superiority.
Anne smiled at their antics. They were adorable.
"Thanks but I doubt either of you can pull me up," she informed them and got up on her own.
Merry looked displeased at her slight against him but didn't comment on the matter. Instead, he put on his brightest smile and introduced himself.
"I'm Merry Brandybuck," he said bowing slightly.
The other hobbit ran over and pushed him out of the way. "I'm Peregrin Took but everyone calls me Pip," he said bowing politely as well.
Merry pushed him out of the way. "I was here first Pip!" he claimed angrily.
"And like I said, I saw her first Merry!" Pip quipped back and folded his arms across his chest in defiance.
"Both of you leave her alone!" Sam ordered, pulling them back by their collars. "She doesn't need a Brandybuck and a Took fawning all over her."
"We were just introducing ourselves Sam," Pip argued as Sam continued to pull them backwards. "There's no harm in that."
"Yeah well you can do it from a distance," Sam instructed and let go of their collars, satisfied that they were a respectable distance from her.
"I'm Anne Wellington but you can just call me Anne. I don't need the 'lady' part attached to it," she explained in advance, knowing that they would call her 'Lady Anne' if given the choice.
Merry was just about to say something when Frodo interrupted him.
"What's the meaning of this?" Frodo asked, pointing to the array of vegetables strewn across the ground.
Sam gasped. "You've been into the Farmer Maggot's crop!"
He had just finished his accusation when they heard the sound of barking in the distance.
"You better follow us," Merry advised and quickly picked up his ill-gotten gains, throwing a few items to Pip who caught it with ease.
"Hey, you get back here!" an angry voice yelled from inside the corn stalks. Anne could see a scythe tool threatening them from above the top of the cornstalks. It reminded her of the image of the grim reaper.
"Quick! We better hurry," Pip said and turned to run inside the next section of corn stalks. Merry was right behind him with Anne right on his tail. She didn't need to be told twice!
She turned and saw Frodo behind her with a panicked stricken face, followed by Sam who appeared equally angry at Merry and Pip as he was scared of Farmer Maggot behind him.
"You'd better watch out when I catch up with you!" the voice threatened as the sound of barking grew closer.
"I don't know why he's so upset," Merry stated from in front of her. "It's only a couple of carrots."
"And some cabbages," Pip added from in front of Merry. "…and those three bags of potatoes that we left you last week," he said, calling out to Frodo. "…and then the mushrooms from the week before."
"Yes, Pippin," Merry shouted in annoyance, exasperated by Pip's honesty. "My point is…he's clearly overreacting!"
The barking grew louder as the dogs drew closer to them. Anne could tell by the deep sounds of the barks that those weren't corgis chasing them. She imagined the dogs were closer to "the beast" from The Sandlot than they were to the Queen's preferred four-legged companions. Yes, Anne was pretty sure those deep sounding barks were coming from something similar to an English Mastiff.
"Run faster!" she demanded and pushed Merry forward. She was not going to get bitten by some monster hound.
The hobbits ran faster and soon they were out of the cornstalks when Pip stopped abruptly. Unable to stop in time, Merry and Anne crashed into him from behind. Anne just noticed the cliff ahead of them when Frodo bumped into her. She had a brief moment of pure panic before Sam came hurtling out of the cornstalks and ran into all of them, causing everyone to fall over the cliff's edge.
The five of them fell forward, down a steep slope that was covered in plants and shrubs and a few trees that Anne thought she saw as she tumbled uncontrollably down the hill. The world spun in circles around her as she grunted and groaned as her body hit various objects on its descent down the slope. Anne felt one more terrifying drop like she was on a rollercoaster, before she fell onto Pip and Merry. Before she had a chance to think, Frodo fell on top of her followed by Sam who thankfully, landed mostly on her legs.
A melody of groaning ensued as everyone felt the painful effects of falling down a hillside. Anne lifted her head to see Merry's face squished into her chest underneath her. She could hear him mumbling something but couldn't make out the words. She lifted herself up a little by pushing up from resting on her forearms to resting on her hands. It reminded her of the plank position in yoga.
"I think I've broken something," Merry groaned from under her and pulled something from under him. It was a broken carrot which seemed to give him a great amount of relief. He finally looked up for the first time and saw that it was Anne who was pinned on top of him. She watched as a large sly grin spread across his face.
Anne smirked at his apparent joy at their unfortunate predicament, but it was short lived as she was currently being crushed by the two hobbits on top of her.
"Can you guys get off me?" she asked with a strained voice. "It's kind of hard to breathe right now."
Sam got up, muttering something about trusting "a Brandybuck and a Took" under his breath before he assisted Frodo in getting off of her as well. Anne took a much needed breath of air before she too got up. She offered her hand to Merry who took it with great enthusiasm and helped him to his feet.
"Mushrooms!" Pip shouted with joy, still lying on the ground. He was pointing to a grouping of fungi growing on the ground nearby.
Before Pip had a chance to get up, Sam jumped over him and ran to the grouping of wild mushrooms with great enthusiasm. Pip tried to get up again but Merry purposefully pushed him to the ground in order to get to the free food first. Finally, Pip jumped up and rushed over to join them for his fair share of the mushrooms.
Anne looked to Frodo who just smiled and shrugged. She guessed it was a very hobbit thing to do.
"That's mine!" she heard Merry complain and snatch a mushroom out of Pip's hand.
"Oh that's nice" Pip reprimanded sarcastically.
Anne was walking over to the hobbits to see what all the fuss was about when she felt a chilling sense of dread crawl up her body and settle in the pit of her stomach. It felt like an invisible link had been made between her and something dark and sinister. Anne swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat as goosebumps rose along her arms in warning. She could feel something evil headed straight for her.
Anne walked forward in a daze, her feet moving of their own accord until she passed by the hobbits and finally stopped. She felt like she was being called, like someone was in dire need of finding her. She felt both drawn to it and terrified of it at the same time. She peered down the abandoned road and squinted hard, trying to confirm the nagging sensation that something was out there.
Anne couldn't see anything but the empty road surrounded by woods on both sides. Nothing seemed out of place and yet, Anne couldn't shake the feeling that she was in grave danger.
"Can you feel that?" Anne whispered worriedly over her shoulder to Frodo. She needed him to verify it wasn't all in her head like the voice she heard at the party. She needed to know someone else could sense the approaching evil like she could.
Frodo walked over and stood next to her as he looked down the road. She watched as he examined the road in front of them for any signs of unusual activity. She almost let out a breath of relief but saw his body go rigid out of the corner of her eye. She turned and his wide, alarmed eyes locked on to hers.
She knew then. He could feel it too.
Before they had a chance to say anything, a low screeching noise sounded off in the distance. A misty fog appeared slowly, twirling the leaves toward them in a creepy fashion. She heard the ghoulish sound again and shivered violently. Something about the eerie sound made Anne's insides shrivel up to the point she thought she might vomit.
"I think we should get off the road," Frodo suggested to the hobbits over his shoulder. His voice had wavered as he spoke.
The other hobbits ignored him and kept bickering over mushrooms but Anne paid them no mind. She couldn't take her eyes off the road. The link between her and the ominous energy was growing stronger by the second.
The gnawing sense of impending evil grew so pressing that Anne's hand shot out like lightening and latched onto Frodo's wrist in a crippling hold. Her wild eyes found his and she wanted to scream at him that the sinister energy was almost upon them but she found herself unable to talk past the lump in her throat. Not knowing what to do, she squeezed his wrist harder, hoping that he would understand her.
Frodo's large panicked eyes stared back at her and she realized that he already knew.
"Get off the road!" Frodo shouted in a harsh whisper to the hobbits behind them, "Quick!"
The hobbits looked up in confusion and almost ignored him again, but something about the terror-stricken look of Frodo's face gave them pause.
Merry nodded once and grabbed the last of the mushrooms, stuffing it into Sam's bag before running over to Anne and Frodo who were already jumping off the road and down into the woods below.
Anne tripped over a root and fell to the ground with a loud thud. As she was getting up, she noticed the tree next to her. It had an open space near its roots, large enough for them to hide under.
"Over here," she whispered to the hobbits.
It was a tight space but she hoped they would all fit. If the knot in her stomach was correct, they wouldn't have enough time to outrun the macabre energy coming their way. Whatever was producing the screeching noise would soon be upon them. They needed to hide quickly.
Frodo silently directed the other hobbits to the hiding space and they all gathered in next to Anne with Frodo being the last to join them. Merry, Sam and Pip were still silently arguing over mushrooms when the first sounds of horse hooves echoed in the distance.
Anne's heartbeat sped up and pounded so hard in her chest that she could barely focus on the sound of galloping hooves growing closer and closer. It wasn't until the horse was almost upon them that she noticed the sound was off. The galloping didn't sound like a normal horse; it sounded unequivocally wrong and demented like what she thought the four horsemen of the apocalypse would sound like.
The galloping grew unnaturally loud until it abruptly stopped right over them. Everyone froze and Anne held her breath, too scared to make even the tiniest of noises. She remained immobile as she heard the rider dismount from the horse. She heard metal clinking against each other like chainmail but even more rigid. Anne couldn't be sure but she thought the rider might've worn medieval battle armor based on the sounds it emitted.
Anne's body seized up as she heard the figure walk over to where they were hiding. Each footstep felt like a footstep closer to death until finally, the noise stopped. The figure didn't move but stayed perched above them, causing Anne's stomach to coil tighter and tighter until she thought her insides might rupture.
Suddenly, it was as if a sonic energy wave pushed forward through the still air. Immediately, Anne felt a low vibration in her mind calling out to her to succumb to its power. Anne couldn't explain the strange sensation but she felt a heavy longing to reveal herself and join with the figure calling out to her.
Anne cringed as she heard the rider above them sniffing the air as if he could sense her presence. The low vibration she felt in her mind continued to hum alluringly as all manner of creepy-crawlies seeped out of the earth, drawn to the sinister energy trying to seduce her. She tried not to yelp as her body jerked in fear.
The ominous energy wave pulsated over and over with a presence so overwhelmingly oppressive, that Anne felt like her very soul was being sucked out and replaced by a darkness so menacing she could hardly fathom it.
She struggled as the humming vibration in her mind grew steadily until she felt almost drunk with the staggering sense of evil within her. It reminded Anne of a siren's call luring a sailor to his death. The temptation of the call was so strong that Anne could barely keep her eyes open as the darkness beckoned to her. She felt increasingly incapable of not heeding its call. Frightened, she grabbed the hand sitting next to her and squeezed as she tried to resist the urge to reveal herself.
Her eyelids became unbearably heavy and she turned to see Merry looking at her with concerned eyes. She barely managed to mouth the word "help" before the lure became too strong and her eyes closed against her will.
She briefly felt Frodo's presence in her mind like he was somehow connected to the link like her. She wanted to yell and scream for him to help her but she found herself unable to speak. Soon, Frodo's presence was sent to the background as the ominous presence consumed her mind. She could hear the same bone-chilling voice from the party whispering to her. It was dominating and unyielding in its demand for her. She felt herself moving, like her body was willingly trying to reach the rider calling out to her. A part of her realized she should be panicking but instead, she felt a strange sense of calmness take over her body like a trance. She wanted to join the rider. No, she needed to.
She heard a noise in the distance and then suddenly, the link luring her in was abruptly severed. She felt like a fish that had been cut off the line unexpectedly while being reeled in.
Anne opened her eyes just as Merry grabbed her by the elbow and hauled her up. He continued to pull her behind him as he started running. Anne followed in a daze until the fog of darkness retreated from her mind and instead, was replaced by soaring panic. With all her senses back, she ran after Merry, no longer needing him to pull her along.
Anne could see the other hobbits running beside her and met Frodo's eyes for a brief second. His eyes looked just as terrified as she felt.
She knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, that he had been in her mind. Somehow, they were connected.
Anne could not think on the matter for long because she had more pressing issues like not getting abducted and possibly murdered by some crazy demented energy.
They ran for a long time, keeping as low as they could in an attempt to remain hidden. It was much harder for Anne as she had to run hunched over, but she didn't complain as she was too terrified of being caught.
Finally, they stopped near a large gathering of tall bushes and knelt on the ground as they caught their breath.
"What was that?" Merry demanded as he caught his breath. "What's chasing us?"
Before anyone could answer, they heard a loud, ominous screech nearby. She looked in the direction that the sound came from and saw a black figure atop a large black horse. It looked suspiciously like…
"Is that a freaking dementor?" Anne whisper-yelled in disbelief and pure horror.
Anne didn't think dementors could be any scarier than they were in Harry Potter. However, seeing one on a horse that looked like it was bred in the depths of hell told her she was wrong. Apparently, they were much more terrifying in Middle-earth.
The horse reared up as the screeching noise pierced through the quietness of the woods like a gunshot going off. The sound was frightening enough that it caused all them to start running again.
They ran for what seemed like hours, in a crisscross fashion, as the black rider kept blocking their path. It didn't seem to matter which way they went, the rider was always too close for comfort.
They continued to run and take brief moments of rest before they were forced to run again. Soon, the sun faded and the sky turned dark. Anne couldn't be sure but the rider seemed almost more threatening in the dark, like he was more skilled hunting at night.
Heavy fog stuck low to the ground making it harder for them to see. They relied on the screeching noise or sound of horse hooves galloping to alert them to the rider's presence. They ran from tree to tree, trying to keep hidden behind their massive trunks in an attempt to outsmart their pursuer.
They had been on the move again for at least twenty minutes of quick paced running when Anne stopped near a large tree trunk. She leaned against the tree and took in large gulps of air while she held the stitch on her side. Her lungs felt like they were ablaze with fire and her legs felt like jelly, too tired to go on. Frodo ran up to the tree and stood next to her as he kept a look out for the rider nearby.
"See anything?" Merry whispered, coming up to rest alongside them. Anne could hear the hobbit huffing as he took in hard, deep breaths. It made her momentarily grateful that she wasn't the only one struggling to keep going.
"Nothing," Frodo answered, peering into the darkness.
Sam and Pip quickly caught up and joined them, each taking in large gulps of air.
"That black rider was looking for something…," Merry speculated aloud. "…Or someone," he added as an afterthought and looked at Anne.
She quickly turned her head away from him in guilt. Something deep inside her told her he wasn't wrong. She had a growing suspicion that the rider was specifically looking for her. But then, she thought of Frodo and the link they shared. She wasn't the only one the black rider was looking for. She just hoped the hobbits wouldn't give her up to save their own hides. Could she really blame them if they did?
"Get down!" Pip shouted suddenly.
Instantly, they all dropped down to the ground and remained low, watching their surroundings.
Up ahead on the road, they could see the silhouette of the black rider on his horse, illuminated by the pale moon's light. She felt like she was in a scary movie and Anne hated scary movies. She held her breath as the rider's head whipped in their direction and felt another shiver of unease filter through her body. She desperately wanted to close her eyes out of fear but was too scared to do so.
The rider looked around a while longer before it sped off in the opposite direction away from them. Anne let out a deep breath and almost cried with relief. She looked at Frodo who had a grave look on his face. She knew that look. In fact, she was sure she had the same look on her face. It was the look of pure dread at the thought of being captured by the darkness that hunted them.
They had to find a way out of the woods and fast.
"I have to leave the shire," Frodo spoke, echoing Anne's thoughts. "We must get to Bree," he whispered to Merry, giving him a pleading look.
"Right," Merry nodded. "Bucklebury Ferry. Follow me," he ordered and took off in a new direction.
Anne and the remaining three hobbits quickly followed behind him, all of them eager to escape the rider. As soon as they darted from their hiding spot, a black rider shot out of nowhere, blocking their progress.
"There's two of them!" Sam shouted as they tried to dodge the horse.
Anne's insides twisted brutally to the point of crippling fear, and she found herself unable to move.
The hobbits all ran in different directions, causing the rider to move around in a circle, unsure of which one to follow. He finally turned his attention to Anne who had been incapacitated by her fear and remained immobile. As she looked at the black rider in horror, she noticed that the rider had no face. It was hollow—a vast emptiness reminding her of a black hole in space.
It was the stuff nightmares were made of.
Anne screamed and found herself moving as adrenaline shot through her veins. She tried to run past the rider but he cut her off. She realized she needed to outmaneuver the rider. Remembering a basketball game she once saw, she ran hard in one direction until the rider was almost upon her; then she stopped, pivoted in the opposite direction and ran like the flames of hell were upon her.
"This way," Merry shouted from in front of her. "Follow me!"
Anne kept running, forcing her tired legs to keep moving as she tried to catch up with the hobbits. Merry, Pip and Sam were well ahead of her but Frodo wasn't too far off. She kept her eyes on his back, too scared to look away in case she lost him in the darkness of night.
The hobbits all hopped over a fence in front of her before heading out into an open clearing. Anne could see the clearing right in front of her and pushed herself to run faster. She hopped over the fence behind Frodo and fell hard, face first into the ground beneath her.
Frodo was at her side in an instance. "Come on Anne!" he shouted and tried to pull her up.
Something was holding her back and she was unable to escape her position. She looked behind her and saw that her cloak was caught in the fence.
"My cloak!" she screamed in panic.
She started pulling at her cloak in terror as Frodo joined to help her. Anne briefly looked up to see the black rider approaching them quickly.
She was just about to tell Frodo to leave her when they got her cloak free.
"Run!" Frodo shouted and they both took off into the clearing.
Anne heard the horse jump over the fence with ease and she cringed as she heard its hooves pounding the ground right behind her. She focused ahead and saw that the other three hobbits were already on the dock in front of her. They were untying the raft that was secured to the dock. Panic flared within her as she noticed the raft start to float away.
"Run Frodo!" Pip screamed from the raft.
"Go! Hurry!" Frodo yelled back as his little feet ran quickly.
Anne pushed herself to run even harder when she realized the raft was drifting further into the open water.
"Run Mr. Frodo! Run Anne!" Sam shouted from the raft and held out his hands.
The gap between the land and the floating raft continued to grow larger by the second, all while Anne could feel the horse's breath practically breathing down her neck. She realized with horror that she might not make it out of this alive.
"Run!" Pip yelled again and again, urging them to run faster.
Run like Tom Cruise. Run like Tom Cruise, Anne thought over and over as she pushed herself to sprint as fast as her legs could move.
Anne caught up with Frodo and they both ran at maximum speed until they reached the wooden pier in front of them.
"Jump!" Sam shouted as he and Pip held their arms open to catch them.
Anne looked at Frodo out of the corner of her eye as they both jumped up into the air. There was a moment of weightlessness before they crash-landed into the hobbits on the raft.
"You made it!" Merry shouted with relief as he continued to row the raft away from the pier with an oversized oar.
Anne rolled off Pip and sat up, staring back at the shore. The black rider had stopped at the very edge of the pier and stared at them a moment before turning back.
"How far to the nearest crossing?" Frodo asked in panic.
"The Brandywine Bridge…," Merry answered as he rowed, "…twenty miles."
They all watched in horror as the black rider who had almost caught them, joined with two other riders in black and headed in the same direction their raft was traveling.
"Look Merry! There are three of them!" Pip shouted from next to her.
It reminded Anne of the age old saying that bad things always come in threes.
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