Ah, yes, our dear Merry and Pippin. Were they indeed a necessity to the Fellowship and Middle Earth or are they just an extra burden, spare luggage? Well, let's find out. This is what might happen if the two hobbits never existed. The story begins right after Gandalf left Frodo and Sam to their quest. This follows the movie, by the way, but with my own words and with some references to the book. Much simpler, I think. (Though that can be bad in some ways…)

Disclaimer: I own nothing! This will all be Tolkien's! Not mine! This is the first and last time I will say this!

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Chapter 1- Evil Seeks You

Frodo swallowed hard as he watched his old friend, Gandalf the Grey, gallop off into the forest and disappear in a matter of seconds. Once the wizard was but a speck in the trees, he turned to his faithful friend, Sam, with a small frown. Sam sighed heavily and shifted his weight onto one leg, waiting for the other hobbit to begin. With another glance in the direction of the Istar, Frodo sighed and took the first few steps on his journey to Rivendell.

A small golden ring had been given to the young hobbit by his uncle along with all of his other possessions, including Bag End. Little did they know, this ring held within it a power that could destroy all of Middle Earth and enslave all free peoples if it were to fall in the wrong hands. Gandalf had come to the conclusion tha hould be taken to Imladris, the elven haven founded by Lord Elrond, where it would be kept safe for a time until it was decided what would be its fate. He had given this task to Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee while he traveled to Isengard to seek council with Saruman the White, head of the Istari order. He would meet the two hobbits at Bree afterwards, then continue on to Rivendell.

The two hobbits crossed over hills and plains, through forests and streams. Packs were strapped upon their backs, carrying all of the supplies they thought they might need on the road. A corn field appeared in front of them and Sam stopped suddenly, catching the other hobbit's attention.

"Sam, what is it?" Frodo asked with a chuckle.

"I am sorry, Mister Frodo, but I do not think I can continue. You see, I've never been so far from home." The sandy haired hobbit replied with a frown.

"Come, we must take the Ring to Rivendell. We cannot let Gandalf down." He took a few steps forward, motioning for Sam to follow, "Come on!"

The hobbit sighed shakily and took a small step, then another, until he was beside his friend and Frodo smiled. Without another word, the two continued into the corn field, speaking rapidly about their fantasies of Rivendell and the elves that inhabited it.

The corn fields of Farmer Maggot seemed to stretch on forever like a yellow meadow in the fall with its crisp wind blowing in through its grains. The occasional field mouse would scurry across the dirt path and a crow would cackle as it soared above them. Sam looked up at the crow with a suspicious look but the bird only took off with a caw.

The two hobbits passed unhindered through the fields. Secretly, Frodo worried that the old Farmer's dogs would come after him again like they did so long ago. When the stalks of corn began to shrink, the young hobbit sighed in relief and smiled, thankful that his reason for fretting did not come to pass. He looked back to his companion and laughed. Sam looked up from a small mouse that he carried in his hand with a shy smile.

"I am sorry, Mr. Frodo, but I could not help myself." He said quietly as he bent down to put the creature back on the ground. The small animal squeaked softly as it sniffed the ground, then scurried off into the rows of corn. Frodo continued to chuckle and they continued on.

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It was nightfall before the two hobbits stopped. Sam immediately dropped his pack and set about gathering dry sticks and leaves. Frodo watched him work with a small smile and he leisurely pulled his pipe out of his pack. The other hobbit continued to work quickly.

"You may take a break before starting supper, Sam." Frodo said, chuckling slightly and Sam looked up from his work.

"I know but I'd sure like to get something in my stomach and soon, Mr. Frodo, if you understand." The dark haired hobbit nodded with a smile. Soon, a small fire was licking at the sticks and the companions were seated next to each other, smoking contentedly on their pipes. The sweet smell of sausages wafted up into their noses and the smiled, imagining the savory taste that would engulf their taste buds in only a few moments.

The sun disappeared into the west quickly. Darkness crept into the land and the sounds of the insects surrounded them. They lay down their blankets and cast themselves upon them, weary from the day's travel. Frodo lay on his back with his arms under his head, staring up at the stars. He wondered how many there were and if it were possible to reach them. He smiled as he imagined himself dancing effortlessly along in their bright majesty, twinkling as his wooly toes touched them gently.

But his hobbit sense suddenly took over and he shook his head, clearing those thoughts away. Dreaming of walking amongst the stars! What a preposterous notion. With that, he rolled over onto his side and fell into a deep sleep.

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"Where to next, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked as he hoisted his pack onto his back. Frodo tore his eyes away from his home in the distance and smiled at the hobbit.

"Gandalf says to meet him at the Prancing Pony in Bree." He replied, "I believe the fastest route would be to go over the Brandywine and follow The Greenway directly to Bree. Hopefully, Gandalf will be waiting for us with a large pint of ale for the both of us." The other hobbit smiled at the idea and nodded.

"We best be off then so old Mr. Gandalf doesn't get impatient waiting for us." He said and they started off, leaving all that they had known behind with no idea of when they would return.

Before they knew it, they could hear the rushing of the large river ahead of them. With big smiles, they quickened their pace and soon arrived at the ferry. An old hobbit sat there, slumped over in his chair. Frodo and Sam exchanged amused glances and the dark haired hobbit strode over to the elderly hobbit. He tapped him on the shoulder and he jolted, blinking his eyes rapidly. The hobbit squinted as he gazed upon the companions and raised his hand above his eyes.

"Eh, you want a ride?" He asked in a raspy voice and Frodo nodded.

"Yes, please, if you don't mind." The old hobbit stretched with a groan and stood up.

"Well, best get a move on then. Come on! Hurry up! Get your things together." Sam hurriedly hobbled onto the raft, glancing from side to side warily. He dropped his pack and cried out when he nearly fell off the raft. Frodo laughed mirthfully and stood beside him. The other hobbit unraveled the raft with shaky hands and pushed off into the swift moving current.

"Where you be off to?" He asked after a while and the shore was barely in sight on the other side.

"Bree, sir." Frodo answered.

"Bree, eh? What business do you have there?" He questioned, "Nothing there for us Shire-folk. Only there for the odd hobbits and the long-shanks."

"We are meeting a friend there. Gandalf. Have you heard of him?"

"Ai, Gandalf!" The old hobbit cried, "You best not be messing in the affairs of wizards, my lad! They cause nothing but trouble. Haven't you heard of old Bilbo Baggins and how he ran off with a mess of dwarves, then came back with heaps of treasure? Not natural, no indeed, not natural at all!"

"Bilbo is my uncle." Frodo commented and the hobbit gasped.

"Then that would make you Frodo!" He exclaimed, slapping his forehead, "Ai, I never would have recognized you! Last time I saw you, you were just getting into your tweens!" The dark haired hobbit smiled.

"Oi, Mr. Frodo, what is that over there?" Sam said suddenly, pointing in the direction they had come. The other two hobbits looked back quickly. The old one squinted again but Frodo's heart constricted in his chest.

On the back was a black rider on a mighty black steed. His cloak concealed his face- or he did not have a face at all. Spiked gauntlets and greaves were the only armor he wore but Frodo had a dreadful sense that a full set was not necessary for the rider. The horse reared suddenly with a great whinny and the black rider disappeared into the trees.

"What the blazes was that?" The old hobbit gasped as he trembled from fright though he did not know why.

Suddenly, Frodo slumped down and his eyes rolled back into his head. Sam called his name and rushed towards him, leaning him against his shoulder. The old hobbit watched on worriedly.

"Mr. Frodo, it is gone now! Wake up!" Sam called, shaking his friend. The dark haired hobbit's hand meandered its way up to his neck and he pulled out a thin, gold chain. A ring was attached to the end and a great evil emanated from it. Sam's eyes widened, "No, Mr. Frodo!" And he took hold of his hand, keeping it away from the Ring.

A few moments later, Frodo inhaled sharply and he gazed around at the two hobbits with wide eyes. Sam stepped back and the young hobbit sat up, rubbing his head.

"Are you alright, lad?" The old hobbit asked softly and Frodo nodded.

"Yes, I think so." They said no more.

It did not take them long to reach the far shore. The companions gathered their belongings together and headed away from the elderly hobbit. They waved to him as they departed and Frodo noticed that he gazed back at the opposite shore with apprehensive eyes as if he was reluctant to return there. Frodo did not blame him.

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Darkness crept back over the world but the hobbits did not stop. Images of the black rider remained in their mind and they feared to stay in one place. No words were passed between them as they walked in single file. Their only wish was to come to Bree as soon as possible.

About an hour later, they saw the dim lights of a town in the distance. Their heavy ponderings seemed to lift off their shoulders and they increased their pace. Rain began to fall heavily on their heads, matting their curly hair. The water saturated the ground quickly and the mud squelched between their toes and dirtied their trousers. They pulled their cloaks tightly around their shoulders and pulled their hoods up. The lights flickered as they approached a large wooden gate and they exchanged weary glances.

"Is this Bree?" Sam questioned.

"I believe so." He replied and they stopped at the doors, looking up a great height. The dark haired hobbit knocked loudly on the doors and an old man stuck his head out. His stringy gray hair stuck to his wet face and his weary gray eyes studied them sternly. His thin lips turned down into a frown.

"What business have you here in Bree? It is not everyday that two young hobbits come

a' knocking at these old gates. The rain falls heavily this night. Speak quickly!" He questioned. Frodo and Sam exchanged glances. His voice seemed unfriendly and they wondered if they should just leave.

"We seek the Prancing Pony." Frodo replied, shouting above the pitter-patter of the rain drops, "And that is all you will hear of our business." The man pursed his lips and wiped his hair out of his eyes.

"No need to get stingy, Master Hobbit. It is my job to question travelers, you know. Especially recently!" His head disappeared for a moment and the heavy gates creaked open. The hobbits rushed inside, "Yes, indeed! Odd folk have been passing by ever since a fortnight ago. Rangers are coming down from their hiding places in the hills! Never say a word, those rangers. A strange folk, the lot of them" The hobbits exchanged glances once more as the man leaned down to their level.

"And even odder things have been happening." He continued in a hushed voice, "Tall, hooded men have tried to come in but I've never let them. They are clad in tattered black robes and their steeds snort in agitation as they paw at the ground. Their voices sent chills down my body so I did not allow them passage. They offered me a pouch of gold coins but I refused. Frustrated, they screeched- yes, screeched- and galloped off." He glanced between the wide eyes of the hobbits, "They have come asking for one by the name of Baggins. You young masters haven't heard of someone by that name, have you?"

"No, we have not." Frodo answered quickly before his companion could speak, "I am sorry."

The old man narrowed his eyes and studied them suspiciously. He nodded once before hobbling slowly back into a small room by the gates where a flickering light emanated. Sam looked over to the other hobbit quickly with questioning eyes.

"Come, we must hurry." Frodo said as he began walking again. Sam followed quickly.

"Why did you not give him your proper name, Mr. Frodo?" The sandy haired hobbit questioned.

"Gandalf told me not to tell anyone who I was." He answered quietly, slowing his pace so his friend could catch up, "And now I understand why." Frodo stopped and turned to him, "We are not in the Shire anymore, Sam, and it would not be safe for anyone to know of who I really am. Here, I am Underhill." Sam nodded slowly.

"I understand."

Tall, dirty men littered the muddy streets of the town. Horses and other animals were wandering amongst the people and the two hobbits were constantly pushed around as if no one noticed them. Buildings of stone and wood lined the roads and small flickers of candlelight shone through the paned windows. The chattering and boisterous laughter of the people inside reached their ears and the smell of warm brews engulfed their noses.

They passed a group of hobbits perched upon some abandoned barrels in the corner. Smoke wafted up from their pipes and the corners of their lips. Their hair was covered under wide brimmed hats and their clothes were caked with mud. They watched Frodo and Sam pass by with curious eyes, never taking the pipes from their lips. The two companions hurried on, keeping their eyes to the ground.

A wooden sign creaked as it swung in the chill wind. A great horse rearing was engraved in the wood and the words 'The Prancing Pony' were written in large letters underneath. Grateful smiles came upon the hobbits' faces and they hurried inside.

Warmth overtook them and they quickly shed their cloaks. They squinted their eyes against the light and approached the desk in front. Frodo stood on his toes to look over but still found it was too tall.

"Excuse me?" He called and a pudgy man leaned over the counter with bright eyes. He glanced around in confusion before glancing down. His eyes widened and he leaned over even further.

"Oh, forgive me, good sirs! It is not everyday a hobbit wanders in! After all, once you come in you will find it hard to leave." Frodo smiled, "But what can old Butterbur do for you? Name it and I'll see that it's done."

"We are meeting someone here, a friend." He said.

"Ah, I see! Well, how about a nice pint while you wait? Who are you waiting for?"

"Gandalf the Grey." Frodo answered. Butterbur furrowed his brow.

"Hmm, Gandalf. Where have I heard that before?" He tapped his chin, "The Grey Pilgrim is another name for him, yes?"

"Indeed." The man's eyes glittered and he gasped.

"Ah yes! Old Gandalf!" He furrowed his brow, "Many weeks it has been since I have seen that wizard. I had began to wonder if he went off on some new adventure!" He laughed heartily. Frodo glanced back to Sam with worried eyes. The sandy haired hobbit shrugged, "Well, just take a seat and I will bring you some freshly brewed ale to warm your toes. Go on!"

The two hobbits nodded and dropped their packs by their cloaks and started into the frenzy of laughing men and rushing bartenders. They perched themselves at a table that was clearly made for a human, their feet dangling a foot from the floor. They folded their arms over the old table and glanced around at the other people. The air was so thick from the others tha uffocated them. The smell reminded them somewhat of a pig pen back in their homes but they paid no attention to it.

Soon, a young man hurried over to them and set down two mugs in front of them. The hobbits smiled at him and nodded their thanks.

"Compliments of Master Butterbur." He said quickly and hurried off.

Frodo and Sam talked quietly together, avoiding contact with anyone else. The dark haired hobbit would glance back at the doors, hoping to see the old wizard come through but he never came. Disheartened, he looked back down to his mug and took a long swig.

"Mr. Frodo." Sam whispered, leaning over the table and Frodo followed his example, "See that man over there in the corner? He won't take his eyes off us. I've felt him staring at us ever since we walked in those doors." Turning around casually, Frodo noticed a tall human sitting in the corner by the fireplace. His mud caked boots were rested up on the table and smoke from his pipe concealed his face. A hood was over his head and he was clad in strange garb as if he had sewn it himself. Only his lips chewing on the pipe were visible.

"Who could he be?" He asked, turning back around.

"I don't know but I reckon he is no good. Who knows! He could be one of them black riders we saw or maybe a ranger. He looks to be one but I've never seen one before." Frodo nodded and turned back around but found that he was gone. With a furrowed brow, he turned back around and his eyes widened.

The tall man stood behind Sam with his hand on the hobbit's shoulder. The sandy haired hobbit's eyes were wide with bright and he seemed to be holding in his breath. The other hobbit swallowed hard as he met eyes with the man.

"May we help you, good sir?" He asked nervously. The man's lips turned up into a smile.

"I would like to have a word with you." He answered. His voice was rough yet held a gentle tone, "If you don't mind."

"Oi!" Someone called and the three looked over to see Butterbur watching them with suspicious eyes, "Don't you go bothering them hobbits, Strider! I don't need any conflict from you." Once again, the dark man smiled.

"I do not seek to cause trouble, Master Barliman. I only wish to speak with these two privately." He spoke softly yet his voice seemed to travel over the noises of the bar. Butterbur put his fists on his hips.

"If you know what's good for you, you'll leave them alone or I'll kick you out of here!" He argued. 'Strider' nodded, still smiling and turned to leave.

"The fifth door on the left." He whispered quickly to the two, "Meet me there when you are ready." And he strode away quickly. Frodo watched him go then looked to Sam.

"What do you suppose he wants?" The sandy haired hobbit asked, still shaken.

"I do not know."

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Drunken men dragged themselves out of the bar and only a few hobbits and quieter, darker men remained. Butterbur had finally sat down and was dabbing his forehead with a damp handkerchief. He glanced over to the two companions and smiled widely.

"How is the ale treating you?" He asked and Frodo smiled at him.

"I cannot say that I have ever tasted better." He replied and the pudgy man grinned. He stood up and made his way over to them, pulling up a stool.

"What did he tell you two earlier?" He questioned quietly after a moment. Frodo shook his head.

"Nothing except what he told you." Butterbur pursed his lips.

"Who is he?" Sam asked.

"He is one of them Rangers, that Strider. He walks in and out of here without a word. Always sits in that corner, he does, but he never bugs anyone. Still, he makes everyone uneasy. No one knows his rightful name though. He never says a word to anyone." He replied, frowning, "I wouldn't meddle with him, if I were you." Someone called his name from another room and he hurried away. Sam looked to his companion.

"Well, what now? I don't particularly trust this Strider character. I know nothing about Rangers except that they guard the Shire's borders but no one ever speaks of them."

"We should listen to what he has to say, I believe. Who knows? Maybe he knows what is keeping Gandalf." Frodo said and Sam shook his head.

"Whatever you do, I'm going to come in case anything bad happens." The dark haired hobbit smiled and nodded.

"Thank you, Sam."

The two stood up and quietly started down the hallway. The snores of men reached their ears and from one door far down the corridor, a light shone out. They strode towards it, counting it as the fifth door. Frodo swallowed hard and tapped gently. Almost immediately, the door swung open and they were allowed inside. Sam glanced up at Strider warily before coming inside. The man closed the door softly and turn to face the hobbits. He smiled slightly.

"I am glad to have you in my company." He said.

"What do you wish to speak of?" Frodo asked quickly, watching the man with wide eyes. Strider's smile widened and he pulled down his hood.

Black, shoulder length hair fell down in small, wavy clumps, accenting his chiseled face. A stubble was upon his face and his piercing gray eyes bored down into the hobbits'. His skin was an almost golden brown from wandering under the sun for many days at a time. His thin lips were set in a slight frown.

"You do not know the evil that seeks for you day and night." He placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, concealed by his long cloak, "And I have come to protect you," He smiled, "Mr. Frodo Baggins." The said hobbit's eyes widened.

"How do you know my name?" He demanded quickly, taking a step back.

"I know your errand, Master Baggins. Would it not be strange if I did not know the one who carries such a burden? Your friend, Gandalf, he is not coming and you cannot linger here. Do you not think it odd that a wizard is late for a date that he set?"

"I demand you tell me how you know of such things!" Strider frowned.

"Frodo, you cannot stay here. You must leave lest the Black Riders find you and take it from you."

"Black Riders?" Sam questioned, "Do you suppose the one we saw was a Black Rider?" The man's frown deepened.

"Alas, they have found you already. Now we have no time to linger here and wait for them to knock at the front gates. They hold such fear that if anyone knew your true name, they would give you up without a second thought." Strider bent down to Frodo's level, "You must trust me, Frodo. Gandalf has been my friend for many years and to be late is not like the wizard I know. I urge you to leave at first light to Rivendell."

"How do we know you are not lying?" The dark haired hobbit asked, narrowing his eyes. He smiled sadly.

"You can never know if I am lying, Frodo, but it is a risk you must take. All I can give you is my word and that is sometimes not enough." He answered, "I can be your guide, if you wish it. I have traveled these lands many a time with my brothers and I can get you there more swiftly then any horse could."

The hobbits looked between each other hesitantly. Finally, Frodo nodded.

"Alright, Strider, we will have you lead us there."

"But no tricky business!" Sam commented agitatedly. Strider smiled softly and nodded.

"Ai, no 'tricky business'." He stood up and fingered the hilt of his blade, "We set off at dawn. The Ring must come to Rivendell as soon as possible."

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Well, there you go. I am sorry not much happened in this one but you might be able to tell there are some differences already. I hope you liked it! And REVIEW please!

Oh, if you want a response for your review, include your email in your review so I can thank you. :) Also, I did not plan on posting this so early so don't expect rapid updates. My other story, Lost in My Mind, is my main priority. Speaking of which, go read that, too! See you later!

Until Next Time,

Manwathiel