It was a cold and stormy night when two small figures approached the gate in the Hedge. There they stopped for a moment and seemed to hesitate. Meriadoc Brandybuck looked at his younger companion, Peregrin Took. “Are you sure you want to come along, Pip? You don’t have to you know.”
The eight-year-old looked at his “big” friend. “I know, Merry. But we are friends and friends don’t leave each other alone when things get a bit prickly, right? And that Lotho won’t be able to say that a Brandybuck has more mettle than a Took”. Pippin nodded, drew his hood over his head and stepped out onto the forest’s main path. Merry followed suit and together they made their way towards their target destination – the Fire Glade.
“Foolish Halflings”, a low voice whispered into the ears of his companion.
“They are children, Haldured,” soothed the voice that belonged to those ears. “Which makes it of course not less true… This is no night to go on a walk through the Old Forest, not in this weather and with the wolves and spiders lurking around.” With that, the owner of both ears and voice, a middle-aged man clad in green and brown leathers and a grey woollen cloak, pointed a bit further along the path where a barely visible track joined the main path from the east. A thick cluster of dead wood and bushes hid it even more while several large trees closed in on the other side. Movement and faint chittering was audible for the two rangers – for such they were of course. A sturdy bow with quiver and arrows and a long sword as well as a leather pouch on the belt under the cloak completed their equipment - and a dagger of course. “Three spiders there and two hiding on the other side. And we found fresh wolf tracks earlier before we reached our post.” This post was another collection of bushes and trees on a slight hill which allowed them a good overview of the gate opposite as well as a good distance along the path when the weather was more favourable than tonight's.
“Hmmm. I daresay they would welcome a snack and a bite given the chance,” Haldured agreed. “Five spiders, six wolves at least according to the tracks - sounds a bit much for the two of us.”
“Hmm, agreed,” his companion said. “We better get word to the others and invite them for a game of chase and hunt." He grinned cheerfully and nocked an arrow which he aimed high as he prepared a long shot in the direction of the river.
Not long after that came a howling and whistling and an unholy noise of wood being bashed. As soon as the noise started, the two rangers first ran noiselessly with drawn swords towards the hiding place of the spiders, but as they drew closer they started a great noise shouting and walking over thin branches – they caused a racket as only half a dozen dwarves could make or at least that is what they hoped to achieve. They succeeded. Five spiders fled back into the forest, the two rangers hard on their heels driving them with shouts and whistling on their side towards the river and their companions who had done the same with the small wolfpack whose traces were discovered earlier and at the banks finally challenged for battle and defeated by the rangers.
This, of course, all happened outside the knowledge of the young hobbits. All they could hear was noises – hissing, howling, yelling, the crackling of branches. Their fear caused them to stay put and huddle under some bushes, but as the noise finally subsided they trudged on to the Fire Glade where Merry broke off a branch of an old tree with a dark bark. “This is the proof for Ted Sandyman that we have been here,” he declared to Pippin. “Let’s get back. I am looking forward to my bed and maybe a hot drink of some sort.”
“I think that you will get a set of hot ears when you get home,” another voice said suddenly behind them. There stood Frodo Baggins with crossed arms and looking at them sternly. “What in the name of Bullroarer’s great horse has given you the idea to come out here of all places?” Even though his words sounded angry, there was more worry about his young cousins in his voice.
“What do you think, cousin Frodo?” Merry asked. “It was that Ted Sandyman who said he wanted a stick from the Fire Glade and that no one would have the courage to get one, least of all one of the Brandybucks who were all cowards anyway.” He snorted in anger as he repeated those words.
Frodo looked angry but then he laughed and sighed. “Well, then, I’ll accept that as excuse. Let us get home but be advised you were lucky this time. Be happy that you didn’t have any dangerous adventures.”
The two miscreants looked at each other and said in unison, “No, Cousin Frodo. We didn’t have any adventure at all. It was just a dare.”