Lord of the Rings
Trial and Error
Notes: The Lord of the Rings and all related characters belong to J.R.R. Tolkien! I got the idea for this fic after watching Mysterious Ways today ^_^ It takes place during the Fellowship of the Ring, while the four hobbits are traveling to Bree. Groovy title suggested by JP! BTW, I'm supposing that most of the townspeople in Salem were scared, and genuinely believed that the witches had to be killed to keep the other people safe, while some others did things just out of hate. Forgive me if some details are incorrect; I haven't had the chance really to study on life in Salem in 1692 and only know the very basic stuff ^_~
Frodo looked about, shaking. He had just leaped into the ferry and escaped a Ringwraith that had been pursuing them. He could still faintly see it on the banks, watching them.
"Wait a minute," Merry suddenly spoke up, breaking into Frodo's thoughts. "This doesn't look like the way to Bree."
The ferry was moseying on down the river, passing by strange-looking rocks and trees. Then the clouds split open, sending torrents of rain down on them.
"We'll be capsized if we're not careful!" Sam cried as the little wooden ferry, which really wasn't more than a raft, was tossed about on the waters, which had suddenly turned ferocious.
"And suddenly there's no sign of land anywhere!" Pippin exclaimed.
It was true. The hobbits were surrounded by water on all sides.
"Maybe Bree was flooded over," Pippin suggested, ducking as a huge wave of water swept over them.
"I don't think so," Merry said.
"I don't think so either," Frodo agreed, though he couldn't imagine what had happened. Normally they would've seen Bree—or *some* land—before now.
"There's something!" Sam called, pointing at a great cluster of lights in the distance.
"Alright, let's go for it," Merry said.
"Bree must just have been a little further on than we remembered," Pippin said.
But as they got closer and closer to the land, Frodo had a sinking feeling that that wasn't it at all.
The ferry crashed on the banks of the lighted area and sent the hobbits unceremoniously rolling out and across the wet grass. They soon became aware of a giggling voice nearby and, looking around when their wild ride halted, saw a young girl sitting on a rock watching them.
"Hello, sirs," she greeted them. "Are you the traveling circus? You put on quite a show there."
The hobbits looked up at her, and Frodo smiled warmly. "No, we're not the traveling circus, but we are traveling. Could you be so kind as to tell us where we've traveled to?"
"Salem, Massachusetts, of course," the girl replied.
The hobbits exchanged worried looks. "We have never heard of this Salem, Massachusetts," Frodo said finally.
The girl cocked her head. "You sound British. Are you from England?"
"England?" Pippin repeated, confusion showing on his face. "We're from Middle-earth."
Now it was the girl's turn to be confused. "Middle-earth? Where is that? I haven't learned about it in school. Is it far?"
"Frankly, I have no idea," Pippin replied.
"It might help to see a map," Merry spoke up.
"The only maps are in the town hall and the school," the girl replied after some thought. "But, oh! We've been getting ahead of ourselves. We haven't had introductions. I'm Carolina Bradbury."
The hobbits introduced themselves in turn, then Frodo asked, "Do you suppose you could take us to someone who might know about Middle-earth?"
Carolina paused. "Well, I think everyone who might know are over there." She pointed to a fire several blocks away.
"Why, what's happening?" Sam gasped.
"Another witch execution," Carolina replied, lowering her eyes.
"Witch execution??!" Pippin burst out in sheer horror.
Carolina nodded. "They've been rounding up people who act unusual—in their eyes—and burning some of them 'cause they think they're witches using black magic. The ones who aren't killed have their lives permanently ruined. And most of them aren't even witches!"
"Mr. Frodo, I don't like the sound of this," Sam said in a low tone.
"You're not alone in that dislike, Sam," Frodo replied. "Oh, how I wish Gandalf were here to tell us what to do!"
Carolina paused. "I could show you a good bed and breakfast where you could spend the night, and then I could take you to the mayor's office tomorrow."
"We'd be much obliged," Sam spoke up.
Frodo nodded in agreement. "Yes, that sounds good."
Carolina led them down a path that spread out right down the village's main street and pointed to an old building on the corner. "There, right there," she declared. She smiled shyly. "I have to be getting home now, but look, there's the town hall over there, and the mayor's office is in there."
"Thank you, Miss Bradbury," Frodo said, and the others thanked her as well. "You've been a wonderful help."
Carolina waved and walked on down the street. The hobbits looked at each other. They were all thinking the same thing as the yells from the townspeople watching the witch killing met their ears: Whatever had they gotten into?
By midmorning of the following day, the hobbits had to admit defeat after talking with the entire village council.
"Oh, Mr. Frodo, they must all think we're crazy!" Sam wailed. "Did you see how they looked at us when we asked for Middle-earth?"
"It doesn't look good, Sam," Frodo admitted, "but it's better than having them think we're some kind of evil sorcerers or something."
"I'm not sure they don't," Merry muttered to Pippin. "After all, they must be wondering how we traveled from an unknown country to their country in such a small sailing craft!"
"That's ridiculous!" Pippin returned.
"I know," Merry said. "But somehow I have a feeling that that's what they think."
"Well, we did get invited to that social thing tonight by Carolina's mother," Sam said thoughtfully, not having heard Merry and Pippin's conversation. "I suppose we could go to that and try to figure out what to do then."
"I suppose," Frodo said. He knew they needed to get away from this place as soon as possible and back to Middle-earth, but their small ferry would need a few repairs before they could set out again, so while a carpenter was taking care of that, they would have a little free time on their hands.
And that is how the four hobbits came to be at the social gathering that night. Some of the people were friendly towards the newcomers, but others stared at them silently, suspiciously, wondering what new strange thing had entered their community.
"Sam, I'm starting to have second thoughts about this," Frodo declared, looking around uncomfortably.
Frodo's sense of foreboding was not just due to the vicious stares they were getting, but from something much more serious, as he and the other hobbits would soon discover.
At that moment, one of the young people dancing accidentally jostled into Frodo, knocking the Ring out from under his shirt. It gleamed in the moonlight. Frodo gasped and reached to stuff it back, but he was abruptly thrown forward, whether by the same person or another one he wasn't sure. The Ring somehow found his finger and slipped over it before Frodo could prevent it.
"The little person vanished!"
"You must be joking!"
"Right into thin air—look!"
"He's a sorcerer—a witch!!"
Before long the entire town had taken up the cry. The other three hobbits, standing near the edge of the town square, looked at each other in horror, realizing what had happened.
And then Frodo was suddenly in back of them, holding the Ring in his hand. He was gasping in fright and exhaustion, having gone through another experience of running from the All-Seeing Eye and trying to get the Ring off before it would see him. "We have to get out of here," he exclaimed.
"Mr. Frodo, they think you're a sorcerer!" Sam said in horror as they tried in vain to hide in the nearby trees. Frodo was soon grabbed and pulled back.
"This is the one!" the townsman cried. "This is the sorcerer!"
"I'm not a sorcerer!" Frodo exclaimed indignantly, trying to pull himself free.
"Then just explain your mysterious disappearance," the man replied tightening his grip.
"This is nonsense!" Sam said, stepping forward. "What are you going to do with Mr. Frodo?"
"Lock him in the jail until we can decide on a proper fate for a sorcerer such as he," the man said as Frodo continued to struggle to get free.
"No one in the village is safe with a sorcerer at large!" the sheriff agreed, coming forward.
"If you take Mr. Frodo, you'll have to take me too!" Sam declared.
"We have no reason to take you," the sheriff returned, though the man holding Frodo looked like he wanted to. "Unless you can mysteriously disappear and reappear as well!"
Sam glared defiantly. "You can't take Mr. Frodo!"
"He's done no wrong," Pippin chimed in angrily.
"No wrong!" A woman spoke up, looking outraged. "He's a sorcerer, is what he is! He will destroy the entire town!"
"No, I won't!" Frodo said, screaming to be heard. "I'm not a sorcerer! I'm a peaceable hobbit!"
"Not anymore you're not," the man restraining him hissed. The other hobbits finally gathered that he was the sheriff's deputy, and much more of an extremist than the sheriff was. If the sheriff wasn't there, the hobbits doubted very much that this man would be taking Frodo to a jail for a waiting period before the execution at all.
In fact, they still doubted it. As Frodo was carted off to jail, the other hobbits followed, staying far enough behind that, they hoped, the deputy wouldn't know they were there.
The jail turned out to be a small, out-of-the-way building away from most of the rest of the town. The deputy, alone with the hobbits—as the sheriff had trusted him to take care of things himself—opened the door to the jail and shoved Frodo inside.
"We have to get him out of there!" Sam moaned as they hid around a corner, watching.
Pippin, ever the impulsive one, dashed up to the jail and looked around for a back door or a secret entrance. Merry and Sam exchanged a look, then they crept closer as well.
Suddenly from inside came horrible cries and the hobbits realized that the deputy must be beating poor Frodo.
"What a horrible man!" Sam gasped. "We must get in there! We must!"
And then Pippin found the secret entrance he was looking for and dove in with a warcry. As Merry and Sam tried to find the secret entrance again (which had strangely closed up), the cries and moans changed to another's voice.
"Pippin!" Merry exclaimed. "Now he's attacking Pippin!"
"Stop!" they could hear Frodo yell. "He's done nothing!"
"Yer're all in on it together, most likely!" the wicked deputy hissed in reply. "Yer're all sorcerers!"
"This is a fine way to treat four innocent hobbits who land in your country!" Frodo burst out, outraged.
"'Innocent?'" the deputy repeated, and he laughed wickedly. "'Innocent'? Oh, now, that's a good one!" There was a pause. "Stop that, will you??!"
"I won't let you keep hurting him!" Frodo replied. Obviously he was trying to somehow get the deputy away from Pippin.
"Oh? And just how are you going to stop me?" The deputy suddenly shoved Frodo back against the wall. At that same instant, Pippin gave one last cry and then was silent. Merry and Sam heard a sickening crash. "That's the end of him," the deputy cackled. "One less sorcerer meddling around."
"He killed him," Merry gasped in disbelief, sinking to the ground. "He killed Pippin!"
Frodo gasped as he looked around the tiny jail. Six unkempt cells with small, barred windows were lined up against the wall. The sheriff's and deputy's desks were against the other wall, and . . . Frodo's eyes went wide. Was that a blood-stained knife peeking out from under a file on the latter's?
"When I become sheriff, there won't be no waiting period, or any trials!" the deputy hissed. "We'll kill all sorcerers on the spot!" Without warning, he suddenly punched the hobbit, sending him sprawling. "In fact, why wait?" He grabbed an iron bar and began hitting him, again and again.
Frodo yelled in pain as he groped wildly for something to hit this madman with. Finally he grabbed a wooden crate and threw it. The deputy ducked, but it bounced off his shoulder. "Oh, a tough one, are you?" He grabbed the blood-stained knife and was just about to use it, when . . .
"Pippin!" Frodo gasped, as the younger hobbit burst into the room. "Get out! He'll only come after you too!"
"Come on!" Pippin taunted the deputy. "Come and get me!"
The deputy turned, angry eyes flashing. "Why you little . . ." He raised the hand bearing the knife, ready to bring it down into Pippin's heart. Instantly Frodo was there, sticking it in the wooden crate before the deputy could react. Angrily the deputy shoved Frodo back and came at Pippin with murder in his eyes, hitting him with his fists and feet, and the iron bar.
"Stop it!" Frodo cried. "He's done nothing!"
The deputy angrily kicked Frodo and he fell back against the jail cell door, dazed.
"Frodo's certainly done nothing either!" Pippin yelled, outraged, grabbing the deputy's arm and trying to restrain him.
"Let go of me you little warlock!" the deputy growled, suddenly throwing the iron bar at Pippin with his free hand, catching the poor hobbit right in the forehead. Pippin gasped, a painful yelp escaping from his lips before he collapsed on the floor, his curly locks falling across his face.
Frodo pulled himself up, injured as well, but not as severely. "Pippin!" he gasped. "What have you done to him?"
The deputy kicked at the hobbit's lifeless body with a wicked sneer on his face. "One less sorcerer to meddle in my life," he remarked.
Frodo, though his strength was failing, rushed over, horrified at the implications of that statement. "Pippin?" he asked, gently turning the other hobbit to face him. Pippin's face was cold and pale, and blood dripped from where the iron bar had clanked him. Upon checking, Frodo could find no visible signs of life. Outrage surged in his heart and he looked up at the deputy.
"What kind of person are you?" he demanded, blue eyes flashing. "We came here quite by accident, and when we appeal for help, we're accused of witchcraft, clapped into jail, and beaten!" His eyes filled with tears. "And killed!" he added, looking down at Pippin in disbelief.
The deputy only laughed, kicking Frodo in an attempt to shove him into the cell. "Get in there, warlock," he growled.
Frodo stood still, weighing his options. If he agreed to go into the cell, he might get a trial later on, but according to Carolina, it wouldn't do much good. Almost assuredly he would be accused of being a sorcerer and then there was the chance that he might be killed. What would happen to the Ring then?
Of course, there was also the chance that they would simply ban him from the village. They possibly might give them the raft back and allow them to make their escape. . . .
"I wish this Ring had never come to me," Frodo whispered softly to himself. He had only barely started out on the quest, and already there were problems, major problems . . . and casualties. "Oh Pippin . . . I'm sorry . . . So sorry. . . ." Frodo shook his head. If he stayed, he could almost count on Merry and Sam coming to break him out of jail, and then they could wind up with Pippin's fate as well. If he could help it, no one else would be a casualty of this escapade. He knew he couldn't enter the jail cell.
He gathered Pippin's limp body into his arms and acted as though he was going to go in the jail cell, but then instead he sent the desk flying into the deputy's path and ran for the door, a newfound energy surging through him. "I'll never get in that cell!" he called over his shoulder as he frantically dashed out the back door, running as fast as a hobbit possibly could, especially when carrying another hobbit.
"Frodo!" Merry and Sam exclaimed in unison as he ran out.
"Oh, Mr. Frodo, what's happened?" Sam gasped.
Frodo shook his head, indicating there'd be time for talk later. "Quick! We have to find some kind of transportation. If that deputy isn't coming after us right now, you can bet he'll be riling up the townsfolk telling them all kinds of lies that will send them all after us to burn us at the stake!"
A brisk search procured an old carriage and a horse, which the three live hobbits quickly hitched up, and then they were off.
"Oh, Mr. Frodo, whatever has happened?" Sam asked again as they tore back down the main street, heading for the woods to hide.
"That deputy," Frodo replied. "He was beating me and Pippin suddenly came in trying to distract him. The deputy hit him right in the head with that despicable iron bar . . ." He stopped, looking down at Pippin.
"Oh no, Mr. Frodo, you don't mean . . ." Sam's eyes went wide. Merry was also horrified. Though he had assumed that Pippin had met his end from what he and Sam had heard, he had been hoping that it would be otherwise.
As they drove through the wood, Frodo nodded slowly, blinking back tears.
"Well, that's Pippin for you," Merry said softly. "Loyal to the end."
Suddenly Sam gasped, seeing a frightful sight in the near distance. "Mr. Frodo, those people back there all have torches, and they're heading right for us! They know we came in here!"
Frodo turned to look. Sam was right. Practically the entire town was there, all waving fiery torches and yelling. They had to do something—and quickly!
Merry, who was driving, snapped the reins, causing the horse to go faster, and faster still, until . . .
Merry, Sam, and Frodo all tumbled out of the carriage when it hit a rock. The horse whinnied and took off through the woods, spooked.
"Now what?" Merry gasped. The townsfolk were almost upon them!
"We run," Frodo said grimly.
"I don't think so," a cold, hateful voice rumbled, grabbing all three hobbits. They didn't have to twist around to see their captor to know who it was. "I have them!" the deputy called to the townspeople.
"Burn them at the stake!" an incensed man yelled. The deputy had, as Frodo had feared, told the townsfolk many lies about vicious black magic Frodo and Pippin had used on him when he tried to throw Frodo in jail, that he'd finally had to kill Pippin in self-defense because of it, and that the others must be executed immediately before they could bring disaster on the whole town.
"Away with the sorcerers!" a woman cried.
"Sheriff, what do you think?" the deputy asked, his eyes glinting. He knew what the sheriff's answer would be.
The sheriff sighed. "Take them away," he agreed.
"You can't do this!" Sam burst out. "We aren't sorcerers! We'd never hurt anybody, unless they'd starting hurting us first!"
"Then why did you attack Deputy Clemmons?" the same angry man growled.
"He told you lies!" Frodo yelled. "He didn't bother to tell you that he started beating me without reason and that Pippin came to rescue me—without the use of any black magic, I should add."
"Lies! More lies!" Clemmons lied, clutching the hobbits tighter as they approached the execution site, where more people were waiting with rope and fire . . . and plenty of both.
"What a way to go!" Merry moaned.
"We're not licked yet," Frodo returned, trying to sound sure of himself.
"Maybe not, but things don't look very hopeful," Merry sighed, shuddering as he looked at the people holding the ropes ready to bind them to the stakes.
"Let's try one last time to get away," Frodo whispered to Merry and Sam. "Look, when Clemmons loosens his grip to make way for those people there with the rope, we'll run for it. Understand?"
Merry and Sam nodded, though they had no idea of where they would go from there, and they could see that Frodo didn't, either.
By now Clemmons had dragged them over to the square. "Tie them up good," he growled to a nearby man, shoving the hobbits towards him.
"Now!" Frodo exclaimed, and the three hobbits took off, pushing the would-be executioners out of their way and flying over the grass.
"Mr. Frodo, what now? The townsfolk are following," Sam panted, "and they'll surely catch up to us!"
"Yeah, and our raft won't be waiting!" Merry added.
Frodo looked near-panicked as he saw the townsfolk, with Deputy Clemmons in the lead, gaining on them. He had to think of something quick and get them all out of there. He was about to tell Merry and Sam to start heading for the woods when suddenly . . .
Out from the woods came their carriage, horse and all, and driven by . . .
"Pippin!" all three hobbits gasped in unison.
"Well, come on!" Pippin yelled frantically. "Get in, get in!"
Frodo, Sam, and Merry gratefully (but confusedly) climbed into the carriage and Pippin took off, heading through the thick woods for the water.
"Pippin! Where are you taking us?" Merry exclaimed. "The raft isn't going to be there!"
Pippin grinned. "Carolina snuck it out of the carpenter's shop and left it there for us at the water's edge. She didn't believe all that nonsense about us being sorcerers and wanted to help us get away."
"Is that right?" Merry said thoughtfully.
Before long, the hobbits had reached the bank, and there was the raft, waiting behind a shrub.
"Not a moment too soon," Frodo said, seeing the townsfolk not far behind.
"Quick! Everybody on!" Pippin exclaimed, shoving the raft into the water. The other hobbits needed no encouragement. Just as Clemmons appeared and reached for them, they cast off, and the deputy fell into the water. Pippin and Merry got a chuckle out of that, and from his angry expression when he hauled himself out.
"Sorry! We don't intend to be deep-fried tonight!" Merry called with a grin, and Pippin offered a mock salute.
As the raft sailed further into the water, three pairs of eyes turned to Pippin in confusion. "Alright, Pippin, now what happened to you?" Frodo demanded. "We all thought you were dead!"
Pippin winced. Under his sandy-colored, curly bangs, the other hobbits could see the deep gash where the iron bar had hit him. "I don't know whether I was dead or not," he said with a mischievous smile, "but it was quite a rude awakening to find myself flying through the woods in a runaway carriage while attempting to endure a splitting headache!"
"We're sorry about leaving you in there, Pippin," Sam piped up, "but we didn't seem to have much choice in the matter. We were thrown out of the carriage."
"But it's a good thing you weren't as well," Merry said, "or else you wouldn't have been here to rescue us."
Pippin laughed. "Oh, Carolina would have come with the raft anyway."
"Yes, but we might not have been able to get to it in time, and we wouldn't have known it was there if you hadn't met up with her," Frodo put in.
Suddenly a huge wave came up, swallowing the raft and drenching the hobbits. Pippin coughed. "Well, here we go again," he announced. "Everybody hold on for dear life!"
After they were tossed and turned on the boisterous waters for several long moments, Sam exclaimed, "That looks like Bree over there!"
"Sam, you're right!" Frodo said in relief. Finally, they were back in familiar territory! "Now to find the Prancing Pony. . . ." They couldn't know what new adventures would lie there, or that they hadn't had their last experience with time travel, which is, of course, what they had just gone through.