DISCLAIMER:   Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.


Chapter 1


Dear Merry.  From the moment we awoke he's stayed close, reassuring me that everything will be fine, that I'll feel better once we've begun.  He's positive he knows why I'm so tense this morning, why I've been so quiet.  But he's wrong.  Possibly for the first time since we began this journey, logical, practical Merry is wrong.  But he doesn't know it, and I can't tell him.  Merry thinks I'm remembering my parents, that I'm nervous about rivers and boats because of them.  But that's not it.  What a simple reason that would be, what a normal, simple thing.

But life is no longer simple for me.  Ever since Rivendell, when I took my first good, long look at the maps of the southern lands, I knew we might have to travel far on the Anduin.  And I'm afraid.  But it's not because of my parents, and not because I can barely swim.  It's because of the Ring.  Water…… and the Ring.

Isildur --- the Ring left him, slipped off his finger into this very river, and he was killed.

Déagol --- Sméagol took the Ring from him at the river's edge, this very river, and killed him.

Sméagol--- now Gollum, I suppose.  The Ring left him at his deep pool under the mountains.  He stalks us even now, I can feel it.

The only Ringbearer to avoid this dire connection with water has been Bilbo.  But then Bilbo is different.  How did he ever find the strength to leave It behind?  Here in Lórien, I feel stronger than the Ring.  I could have left It here, willingly, if Galadriel had agreed to take It.  But once we leave, once we start down that river, what will It do?  Will It sense we are approaching Its origin, Mordor, and stay quiet and hidden?  Will It seek another bearer and leave me?  No, It's mine.  My own.  Don't leave me.

It's all right, Merry, everything is all right.  I just have to stop these dark thoughts.  If they are my thoughts.  It's just a coincidence about the water.  Still, I wish there was another way.

We have a long way to go yet, and so much can happen.  I can already see things happening I don't want to see.  It isn't Boromir I fear, though.  It's the Ring.

I wish Gandalf were here.