Chapter One: The Start

It was a clear Spring day in the Shire, and the golden sun shone down upon three small figures making their way through a field of wheat that was nearly over their heads. The smallest hobbit (for that is what they were) appeared to be bouncing rather than walking, and he was far ahead of the other two, who seemed to be in a quiet conversation together, punctuated every so often by soft laughter.

Presently, the oldest stopped and shaded his eyes to see the smallest hobbit still hopping far ahead. "Merry!" he called frustratedly. "Slow down! Uncle Bilbo told us not to get seperated." The distant figure halted, his hands on his hips and the sun turning his curly hair as gold as the field he was in.

"Frodo," he complained as the other two neared, "would you quite worrying about me? We're hardly out of Hobbiton! What could possibly happen?"

They continued on their journey until they reached a small green meadow near a clear stream and surrounded on three sides by trees. Frodo decided that they would make their camp here, so while Merry went to explore the stream, the older lads dropped their packs (Merry had given his to Frodo when he got tired of carrying it). Frodo lay down on his back, clasping both hands behind his head, and watched the clouds with his companion. "Look, Sam," he said, pointing, "doesn't that one look like Smaug? See, there are his wings and there's the fire coming out of his mouth."

The younger boy settled down next to him and looked where Frodo pointed. "It surely does, Mr. Frodo!" he agreed, grinning. "Oh, look at that one! It looks kind of, maybe, like an Elf!"

Frodo shaded his eyes with one hand and sought to find the Elf-shaped cloud. "Ooh, there it is! You're right Sam; there's his head and the bow in his hand...and oh, look! There's Bilbo beside him!"

Both lads laughed and Sam started to point out another interesting cloud when they heard an excited shout from the stream. They jumped to their feet and rushed down to the water. "What is it, Merry?" asked Frodo in alarm. The creek zig-zagged ahead of them, so they could not see the youngest hobbit as they splashed towards him.

"Come on, Frodo, Sam! Hurry up! Help me!"

Frodo sped past Sam and rounded the corner where he saw Merry near the shore, soaking wet and muddy, struggling to keep hold of an enormous fish in his hands. Frodo laughed and ran over to help him while Sam stood back a bit and watched. The water was deeper there, up to his chest and Frodo's waist, and he didn't want to get in any deeper than his knees.

Both Merry and Frodo were laughing so hard that they could barely keep ahold of the fish, which was nearly as tall as Merry himself. Frodo got dunked into the water once and Merry slipped in himself trying to help him up with one hand. In the process of trying to get up, the fish squirmed free of their hands and quickly disappeared downstream.

"Aww!" Merry complained, sitting at the bottom of the creek (near the shore, so it was not very deep). Frodo laughed again and pushed his cousin back down in the water, and so began a noisy water-fight.

"Give up now, you...you, Baggins, you!"

"Never! I'll eat mud before I surrender to a Brandybuck!"

"Oh really? Here, then!"

"(cough) MERRY!! You'll be sorry for that!"

"Oh, come now—AHH!"

"Ha-ha! Serves you r—"

(splash)

"Who's laughing now, Frodo?"

(SPLASH)

"I believe I am!"

"HEY!!"

Sam backed up a bit so as not to get splashed, and laughed at the two lads wrestling playfully with each other. But his laughter quickly turned into a gasp as he saw something thin and black swimming towards them. "Mr. Frodo!" hw shouted. "Mr. Merry! Look out, a snake's swimmin' your way!"

Merry had just dunked his cousin underwater and looked up, perched on Frodo's chest. "Oh don't be such a ninny, Sam! It's just a sti—AHHH!!" He grabbed Frodo's shoulders and pulled him up out of the water. "Frodo! A snake!"

Frodo shook the dripping dark curls from his eyes and looked over where Merry was pointing. His eyes widened and he quickly sprang into action. "Merry, out of the water, quick!" he ordered. Merry jumped up to obey his cousin. "Sam, go back to the other side!" Sam was already hastening to the shore and was quickly out.

Frodo stepped backwards toward the shore, keeping his eyes on the snake, which was fearfully trying to avoid the enormous splashes the boys were making. He knew that the snake would not hurt him as long as he left it alone. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Merry, still in the creek, splashing about frantically. He turned to his cousin and his eyes widened in fear as he saw Merry's head go under water as if pulled.

"MERRY!!" Without a second thought, Frodo took a deep breath and plunged into the deeper water.

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