NOTE: This will be a short, 3-chapter vignette. Chapter 2 will go back in time 20 minutes (to Sam's POV), then Chapter 3 will go back 20 minutes more (to Frodo's POV). Let me know what you think!

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

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THE WAYS APPOINTED TO US

Chapter 1 --- Faramir

They are both asleep, if sleep it can be called. Frodo collapsed nearly unconscious in my arms, exhausted beyond anything I have yet seen. Samwise seems alert to the slightest murmur or rustle from his master's bed. Is it mere chance that our paths meet thus? They are near starving, though they have somehow maintained themselves until now. They are far from home, yet they pursue a farther road still. Can I do naught for them save a meal and a night's rest?

I can all but hear my father's advice, and good it seems to me. All things of value, of strength, of power, to be brought to Minas Tirith. How else can Gondor stand? How else can the southern lands be defended? Surely these must have been Boromir's thoughts as well. He saw the folly of Frodo's quest even as I see it. As Frodo sees it. "I do not think I shall ever get there," he said. And indeed, how can these two possibly achieve this? How can the borders of Mordor be breached? How can the plain of death be crossed with little provision, no defenders, no concealment?

Concealment. Where does Frodo keep it, I wonder? What does it look like? I asked not to see it, although the thought of it burns me. Does Frodo not hear its call when it is so clear to me? "And the Halfling forth shall stand." The words are with me still. Does he not desire to stand forth in triumph, wielder of the One and savior of the West?

This is what Boromir felt and thought. He resisted long, but at last his thoughts dwelt solely on the Ring. O Boromir, my brother. To travel such a distance with Isildur's Bane within reach was too sore a trial. The test is before me as well. I must be strong. As strong as these little ones in my keeping.

The strength of their bodies wanes, but their spirits burn as fiercely as once the Silmarils must have burned. Perhaps that is a kind of strength than is found but rarely now in Men, one little known in these days of Shadow. The strength is not in using, but in holding unused and being willing to destroy what all others wish to wield. Perhaps such strength can be found in all Halflings. I would like to meet more of them someday.

But I too have strength, and wisdom enough to know that Isildur's Bane has been the ruin of any Man arrogant enough to reach for it.

I have decided. I can aid them but little, but I will not hinder them. I will give them whatever provision for the road they can carry. It is a hopeless path indeed, but it is theirs to walk, not mine. I must let them go. I must let It go. While I still can.

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** TBC ** (Part 2: Sam's POV)