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[page 44] The Road GOES EVER ON {Title Art: The words "The Road" in the title are written so that each pen stroke appears in parallel three times. "GOES EVER ON" is set in the same type as the remainder of the article. A small line drawing of a road appears to the right of the title, reaching a vanishing point in the distance.} SYNOPSIS: Merric, son of Meridoc 'The Magnificent,' and his four companions, Rose, Hamfast, Bilbo, and Tolman; sons and daughter of Sam Gamgee, have set out on a journey to the Northern Kingdom of Fargraith where they hope to start a life of their own. On the way to their first stop at Merric's father's home, they have stopped to have a meal, when Rose cries out that the fire for the lunch has gotten out of control. So, on with the story... PART TWO All four hobbits turned their heads toward the fire, and sure enough, it was spreading straight towards a tall maple. Merric jumped up and ran to the wagon, where he grabbed a blanket off the baggage and yelled: "Bilbo, Tom, grab the ponies! Hamfast, grab another blanket and come help me!" He ran to Rose and pushed her out into the road, and away from the fire. Then he started swatting at the fire on the ground, while Hamfast attempted to stop the bit of fire that had caught onto the tree. Within ten minutes, they had the fire completely extinguished and ended up with nothing less than two charred blankets, and Merric's slightly burned fore arm. "Well, that was quite a scare you gave us, Rose," sighed Tom. "Please don't do it again." Then, noticing Merric's burned arm, he said, "Hey, you got quite a bad burn! Better let Rose look at it." "No, it's really not that bad," protested Merric, hiding his arm behind his back and trying to act tough. "Oh no you don't!" replied Rose, stepping out from the road. "You better let me try to fix it. It's the least I can do after starting this mess. Come over to the wagon, Merric." [page 45] After Rose had bandaged Merric's arm, they all sat down to a slightly over-cooked stew. Merric had some trouble eating for, though he didn't admit it, his arm did smart a bit. About two hours after they had stopped, they finally got started on their way again. Tom and Hamfast sat up front this time, and the others sat in the rear and tried to catch a little nap. Bilbo was asleep in seconds, but the bouncing kept Merric from sleeping; it bothered his arm. Instead, he sat up and began talking to Rose, who was combing her hair. "Thanks awfully for fixing up my arm," he started. "It really did hurt just a little." "And, I'm sorry it ever had to happen," she replied. "I really am so clumsy when it comes to cooking outdoors. I've only done it once before in my whole life, you know." "Oh, that's all right. The stew turned out fine and, well, it was probably destined to happen, if you know what I mean," Merric said. "Yes, I understand exactly. There was probably nothing I could have done to alter it," she agreed. "But, you must let me check that arm tonight before we go to bed, all right?" "Sure, only it really isn't that bad, so don't worry too much about it," he replied. He was actually glad that she fussed over him so. {Image: A line drawing of a scene from the story fills the bottom of the page. The five hobbits ride in a wagon along a dirt road. The page ends before the animal pulling the wagon can be seen. The distant background consists of a short, ice-capped mountain, and four coniferous trees. Suggestions of two other rises appear on either side of the mountain. The sun appears, close to ground level, on the right side of the mountain. The sun is the only part of the image not inked in purple. It is inked in red and bears an expressionless face.} [page 46] It was now getting very dark, and the wind was blowing harder. They probably wouldn't reach the bridge tonight, due to the time they had wasted at lunchtime. Hamfast turned around and said to Merric: "Stop gabbing with my sister for a moment; I want to ask you when we should stop and set up a camp. It's been getting darker every minute, and I'd like to stop soon." "Well, we could stop anytime, I guess," retorted Merric, with a slightly red face. "I really don't care!" "All right, all right. I think I see a spot up around this turn," answered Hamfast. He was right, for just around the bend there was a break in the row of trees that lined the road. It formed a rather large field, so they turned in and set up their sleeping roles. Tom started a fire by which they ate their dinner, after which he made sure it would not spread during the night. The four men slept on the ground and took turns at the watch, while Rose slept in the wagon. The night passed rather peacefully, even though all five hobbits had to getused @get used@ to the hard ground and wagon after their sof @soft@ feather-beds. The wind died down during the night, and by morning it had reduced to just a small breeze. When the morning did come, each hobbit was up and ready to start on again. They had a rather large breakfast (for you or I), and then loaded up the wagon, hitched up the ponies, and were on their way. That day proved to be much warmer, and everyone was gay and lighthearted. The sun shone bright all that morning, and the wind was all bug @but@ gone. They rode on, singing songs and laughing loudly the whole morning. They soon began climbing a rather large hill, around which the road wound up and up. They glanced back towards Hobbiton and saw the spires of smoke rising from the hobbit-holes of the Shire, and their hearts were softened with the sight of their old homes, which they must now leave behind. They turned their heads toward the road ahead as it climbed the hill gradually, surrounded by [page 47] tall adler and beech trees. The wind (little that there was) rustled the leaves in the trees. As the little ponies trudged up the hill, the hobbits (being hobbits) directed their thoughts toward the noontime meal. "And what are we eating this noon?" asked Hamfast. "I certainly hope it isn't more over-cooked stew." "No." replied Rose, "we're having a rather light lunch, and we won't even need a fire. I can depend on Meeric's father to feed us with more than enough food this evening. So, why don't you keep your mind and eyes on the road? Look, you're going to run us off the road in a moment!" And she wasn't just bickering, either; they were just about going to run off into a big, gaping hole ono the side of the road. Hamfast tugged at the reigns @reins@, and the ponies halted, a little too close to the ditch to please the hobbits. He then turned the ponies away from that hole, and they headed on with their nerves just a little big @bit@ shaken. Soon they found a small field to the left of the road, at the top of the hill, with a perfect view of the countryside that lay before them. Pulling over, they had a rather light lunch (for hobbits, that is), and then surveyed the land in front of them. From where they stood, they could see the rolling green hills which led right down to the edge of the Brandywine River. As they followed its winding waters with their eyes, it wound around the foot of the hill they were on, and then flowed under the Bridge, which they would soon be going over. Across the river, and down a little to the right, they could see the tree-hidden forms of Brandy Hall, Crickhollow, and Newbury. And, a little further in the distance, they could see the forbidding form of the Hedge, on the edge of the Old Forest. Even though they had been through Frogmorton and Witfurrows, two hobbit-filled towns along the East Road; Merric felt overly happy at the sight of his birth place and long time home, Buckland. He had been raised in the heart of this tree-covered countryside, and up to a few years ago, he had lived with his father, Meridoc 'the Magnificent,' in this green, green, part of the Shire. From there he had moved in with the Gardeners (formerly Gamgee), and had been there for some time without returning to Buckland. [page 48] They picked up their things and headed for the Bridge. Soon they had crossed into Buckland, and they were all smiles by thattime @that time@ they spotted a young hobbit lad running towards them. "Master Merric, Master Merric! Where have you been all this time?" the little child gasped, obviously out of breath from running @.@ "We though @thought@ you were never coming back, but I can surely see we were wrong. You've even brought a whole load of friends with you. Oh, merry day!: Debbie Cole {Image: A line drawing of a hand gripping a sword and two hands holding a glove fills the majority of the page. The arm holding the sword is well-muscled, and wears a protective bracer over the forearm. The bracer is studded with decorative bumps. The sword is a simple design with a slightly curved blade, decorative cross guard, and wrapped hilt. Only the forearms of the two hand holding the globe are visible. Both also sport bracers, these undecorated. On the globe two amorphous shapes appear. Both shapes are darkened with hatching. The image is inked in purple, except for the bracers and sword hilt, which are inked in red.}