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Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By  by Pervinca

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 11: Journey Through the Barrow Downs

The morning had started out bad, and started to get worse. Faramir, Goldi and Pippin woke to another miserable morning, but unlike the previous day, the weather did not improve. As the hobbits picked their way through the notorious Barrow Downs, a faint drizzle of rain began, which became heavier as the continued on.

It was Pippin who suggested they have a break first. In fact, he demanded it, and collapsed on the ground, refusing to go any further. Had they wanted to, Goldi and Faramir would not have been able to get him to move, so they followed his lead, and sat down.

Goldi wrapped her cloak around her, trying hopelessly to keep out the rain. Faramir handed her an apple; she wondered where he had found them. Goldi shivered, but not because she was cold. The Barrow Downs were as frightening as their legend told.

"I think we should keep travelling until we come to Bree," said Goldi. "I do not wish to spend the night in this place. I do not like it."

"The Forest was worse," Pippin promptly replied.

"No, Pippin. I would much prefer to be back in the Forest. In the Forest, I felt uncomfortable and suffocated, yes, but here…here I feel only dread. The Forest is living, however queer it may have seemed, but there is nothing living about this place. Only death."

"That would be the Barrow-wights," said Faramir. He sounded carefree, as if the thought of a Barrow-wight did not bother him at all. He bit a huge chunk out of his apple, and continued talking with his mouth full. "We are lucky to have not been captured by one yet."

"Yet?" cried Pippin, not hiding his terror.

"Of course! We are not through the Downs; there may be wights waiting for us just a few miles ahead."

Goldi looked at Faramir in shock, but soon realised that he was not as fearless as he tried to appear. His face showed no fear, but his eyes betrayed him. They were dilated, terrified for his own safety, and that of his two closest friends.

Faramir had succeeded in one thing, at least. By scaring Pippin, he had given the Gamgee a new source of energy. Now, instead of begging for his companions to wait for him or for a rest, he was urging them to hurry up and be on their way. He wanted to be out of the Downs as quickly as possible, and if that meant ignoring his aching feet and tired legs, then he was willing to do it. And Goldi and Faramir were willing to let him; Pippin did not complain once more during the trip across the Downs.

But no matter how much they wanted to leave the dreaded Barrow Downs, the hobbits could not go on forever without resting. They had to stop twice more.

The first stop was planned. The three hobbits rested on the flat, carefully avoiding the towering barrows, with their stone teeth puncturing the curtain of rain. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin huddled close together, for safety as well as for warmth.

The second stop was initiated by a discovery rather than a suggestion. Utterly tired of the dismal place, Goldi was looking ahead, searching for any sign that they were nearly the end of the Downs. Ahead of them, she saw something glitter in the limited sunlight that managed to pierce the heavy cloud cover.

Curiosity got the better of her, and she started towards it. Since she was leading, Pippin and Faramir followed her. It was not until they were trudging up the side of a small grassy hill that they noticed what Goldi had. The cap of the hill was scattered with various trinkets and treasures. It was obvious that there had once been a great lot of treasure, but it had been greatly reduced.

Goldi, Faramir and Pippin knew exactly why there had been a pile of treasures sitting atop a hill. They were shocked that after forty or so years, there was still some left. They had reached the hill where Tom Bombadil had left the treasures removed from the barrow of the Wight that had captured Frodo, Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc.

"Lawks, look at this!" cried Pippin. He had found a knife much like the ones that Bombadil had armed their fathers with. It seemed that there were more of the weapons than four. Faramir grinned at Pippin’s discovery. He also picked up a wide, flat knife, obviously of Westernesse design. He found a longer, thinner Elvish knife, which he handed to Goldi.

Goldi took it hesitantly, wondering why they should need to be armed. The lands between the Shire and Rivendell had been mostly free if danger for many years now. For the first time in the entire journey, Goldi began to worry that Faramir planned on going further than Rivendell. Perhaps he planned to go to Moria, where orcs were still known to live. Or North, to Angmar, which was still home to many dark and unpleasant creatures.

Since she did not have a belt to hang the sword, Goldi found a piece of leather which she threaded through the sheath of the sword. This, she strapped against her back, beneath her pack, though she could easily reach it in an emergency.

Amongst the treasures, Goldi found a small gold broach, dotted with green gems, which she thought her mother might like. Apart from this and their swords, Pippin and Goldi took nothing else from the hoard.

But Faramir – when Goldi and Pippin were not looking – pocketed a small gold and blue object. For reasons known only to himself, he kept it hidden from his friends. They would find our what it was and its purpose in due time.

Since they had already stopped. Faramir, Goldi and Pippin decided to have a meal break also. They finished off the bread and fruit, and treated themselves to some salted pork.

They started out again after eating, Pippin, surprisingly, leading. He set a fairly rapid pace, still anxious to escape the Barrow Downs.

* * * * * *

Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc came to the West-gate of Buckland, dripping wet and miserable. The rain had started while they were on the road, and they could not find anywhere to stop. The gate warden let them in, only half-believing that these three bedraggled hobbits were really the Mayor, the Thain and the Master of Buckland.

Unable to go any further that day, Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc started looking for somewhere to spend the night. Peregrin suggested Brandy Hall, which was what gave Sam his idea.

"Why don’t we stay at Crickhollow? Do you have the keys?" he asked.

"I do not have mine – I left them back at the Smials," answered Peregrin.

"Do not worry. I can pick up mine from Brandy Hall. Why don’t you two wait at Crickhollow, while I fetch them." Meriadoc steered off their current course and returned to his home.

It was a good couple of hours before he met Sam and Peregrin at Crickhollow. By this time, they were both in a foul mood, which was not helped by Meriadoc’s ‘apology’.

"Awfully sorry," he said, upon his arrival. "You know relatives – all wanting to know how the party went, why I am back so soon, why I want the keys to Crickhollow, when…"

"Just open the door!" Peregrin snapped. His teeth were chattering, and as if to urge Meriadoc on, he let out a series of violent sneezes.

Meriadoc opened the door, after murmuring a profanity about Peregrin and his family. Sam and Peregrin rushed in, not caring that they were dripping water all over the floor.

"You are making a mess!" Meriadoc complained.

"Maybe if you had not taken so long, we would not have been so wet!" Peregrin shot back.

As the cousins continued arguing, Sam explored the house, remembering the first time he had been there. Announcing to Frodo that they would not let him go on his quest alone. He came to the kitchen, and found the first signs that someone had been in Crickhollow recently.

"Merry! Pippin!" he called.

Meriadoc and Peregrin rushed at the sound of his call. There was a hint of urgency in his voice. When they reached the kitchen, they saw what he had. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin had neglected to clean up their breakfast dishes. Three dirty plates and three used cups were sitting on the table, with crumbs littered about.

"I will check the bedrooms," said Meriadoc, leaving the room. Sam and Peregrin remained, staring at the table, prematurely believing that they had caught up with their truanting children.

But, when Meriadoc returned a few moments later, they knew that they had gotten their hopes up too soon.

"Three of the beds have been used, but it appears to have been at least a day ago," Meriadoc reported. "There is a certain ‘abandoned’ feeling about them."

"The same applies for the entire house," said Sam. "Can we be sure that it was them, and not just a group of wandering hobbits?"

Meriadoc shook his head. "There are no signs of any break-in. One would need a key to get inside Crickhollow."

"Then how did Goldi and Pippin get in?"

"Faramir must have taken my set of keys," answered Peregrin. "Very resourceful boy, my Faramir. Always thinks it all through."

Sam frowned, but did not say anything aloud. If your resourceful Faramir lets my Goldi get into any trouble, I’ll have his head on a platter, I will.

Meriadoc sighed. "There is no point in going on any further today. We are all too cold and tired. We should rest here tonight, and leave early tomorrow morning. To Bree."

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