Secret Love: Part 2 - A new creature in Middle Earth. Tells of the title later on.

Frodo's eyes bore into Aerrianah's for several minutes until he finally broke away. He was in deep thought when little Merry pounced on him and shouted gleefully. "Betch ya can't catch me cousin!" and he ran off towards the grassy hills near the river. Frodo got up and shot after him followed by Sam, and Marigold. Pearl took Aerrianah's wrist and pulled her to her feet. "Come on! Let's go sit on the top of that hill and watch them." Aerrianah nodded and they all took down the hill. They ran right through the boys' game of tag and the wind whipped their braids up then dropped them heavily onto the girls' backs again. They plopped down on the top of the hill closest to the boys and stretched out on the soft green grass.

***
Pearl pulled out her tie and unwove her braid. Aerrianah followed suit. As soon as she had undone her hair the girls gasped. "Are you an elf?" Pearl asked. Aerrianah smiled at her. "I suppose you could say that." Pearl blushed, "Sorry, it's just, elves are twice your height usually." Aerrianah nodded. "I don't know why I'm not taller. My dad probably won't get any taller anyway. He thinks I might be a cross between a hobbit and an elf." She turned back to watching Frodo and the other kids play.

***
Merry turned to her and waved. Frodo stopped chasing Marigold and walked over to Merry. "Frodo, why doesn't Aerrianah play with us?" Frodo chuckled. "Maybe the pretty little thing is too busy playing with the older girls." Merry looked back up at her. "No she's not, she's watching us." He pointed a tiny finger to the hill. Frodo turned, and looked directly at Aerrianah. She straightened up as a tingling sensation moved up her back. Blushing, she turned away and began to weave a grass rope. Frodo turned back to Merry and said, "Maybe we should rouse her up a bit huh?" Merry smiled and nodded enthusiastically. Frodo turned around and started up the hill. Aerrianah's stomach fluttered and she began to weave faster. When Frodo was about halfway up the hill, Aerrianah put the rope down and put her hands on the grass next to her, ready to bolt if he got any closer. Just then, Merry ran up the hill after Frodo. The small hobbit slapped him on the arm. "Tag! You're it!" He crowed, and ran up the hill laughing. Frodo laughed and bolted after him.

***
Aerrianah gasped. She knew exactly what Merry had in mind. She closed her eyes and prayed. Merry collided with Aerrianah, sending her sprawling 5 feet down the other side of the hill. She gasped as the breath was knocked out of her. Frodo jumped over her and continued running after Merry. Aerrianah stumbled back up the hill, trying to reclaim the breath that had been stolen from her. A few minutes later she heard the excited squeals of little Merry. She turned around and threw herself into Pearl, just as Merry came skimming over the hilltop. They both screamed and started to laugh. Frodo stopped at the top and turned towards the girls who now seemed very ruffled. He chuckled at their position. The girls growled and jumped at Frodo. He ran down the hill and turned around. "I hope you girls don't run into me when you fall down the hill." Pearl put her hands on her hips and shouted, "That's easy for you to say, JACK!!" Frodo laughed and turned to Aerrianah. "And as for you Jill, see ya at the bottom of the hill." The wind lifted his brown curls and he winked at Aerrianah. Then he turned and ran. Pearl giggled and turned to Aerrianah, "You are so lucky!" Aerrianah raised her eyebrow. "What??" She asked. "Don't you know?" Pearl smiled at Aerrianah. She shook her head. Pearl laughed, "Frodo is so Flirting with you!" Aerrianah opened her mouth to say something but giggled instead. Turning toward the bottom of the her smile vanished and she froze Merry came tearing over the hill, followed by Frodo, Sam and Marigold, and colliding with her once again sent them both sprawling down the hill.

***
Merry regained his footing and began to run again. Frodo did not slow down. When Frodo was about 5 feet away from her she stood up. Frodo tried to stop but with a yell smashed into her. Aerrianah screamed and they rolled down the hill only to land in a tangled heap at the bottom they sat up laughing and Frodo looked over at Aerrianah. "Jack and Jill fell down the hill all because of Merry!" He sang. They jumped up and bolted after Merry.

***
Aerrianah's feet flew gracefully through the warm grass and the wind whipped her long hair in all directions. She nimbly jumped over rocks and branches in her pursuit of Merry. Frodo began to fall behind as he watched Aerrianah, who seemed to be as light as a feather, chase after his cousin. Merry was running towards the rushing river. Frodo stopped. "MERRY!! STOP!! SLOW DOWN!!" He shouted. Aerrianah sped up and soon snatched the small hobbit off the ground, a yard from the river's edge.

***
Frodo was running towards them and Aerrianah dropped the squirming hobbit. "NO! Stop Frodo!" she screamed. He skidded but slipped in the mud. Coming to an abrupt stop he lost his balance and fell in the mud. Aerrianah, however, did not stop. She plunged into the icy river and came up gasping. The water chilled her to the bone, sucking the air from her lungs. She stood in the waist deep water and tried to walk to shore.

***
A cold and slimy thing wrapped around Aerrianah's ankle and she froze. As a sudden panic took hold of her, she began to tug at her ankle in an attempt to escape. The surface of the water was disturbed, and a large gray tentacle emerged from the depths. As it settled around her neck a second one emerged, pinning her arms in front of her. In a matter of seconds she was completely tied up in tentacles. Every one on the bank screamed. Aerrianah struggled to get free but their grip tightened. The tentacle monster yanked Aerrianah under the water. The water stung like shards of ice and her lungs filled with the icy water. She struggled to reach the surface but soon her body grew limp. Frodo and the others stood frozen on the river bank. Frodo turned to the others and said, "I'm going in after her." He pulled his tunic off and walked to the edge of the river. Sam caught his arm just before he stepped into the icy water. "Mr. Frodo, you don't even know how to swim and the water is freezing!" He fussed. "Sam, I'm the oldest and the strongest and I have to do what I have to do." He pulled out of Sam's grip and was about to step in the water when Sam started to take off his tunic. Frodo stopped and looked at him. "What are you doing!" He asked. "I'm going with you." He said flatly. Frodo stared at him, "No you're not. Your father would kill me if anything happened to you!" He said. "Not if you're already dead!" Sam retorted. "Sam, that's not the point..." "The point is, if you go I go!" Sam interrupted. Frodo smiled at him. "Bless you Sam. Bless you." Sam smiled.

***
The ground near the river began to vibrate. They all fell on the ground. A huge burst of water showered them all and Aerrianah landed on the ground behind Frodo sputtering and coughing. Pearl ran to her side, "Aerrianah! You're all right! What was that thing?" Aerrianah was about to answer when Marigold and the boys came running and jumped on her and pearl. Aerrianah was kissed several times on the cheek and hugged very tight. Merry clapped and cheered. When she was finally able to get to her feet, Pearl pulled her away to the Gamgee house and gave her a dry dress to change into. Frodo came in soon after followed by Bilbo. Frodo walked over to where Aerrianah was sitting and said. "This is my uncle Bilbo. He has some tea that he wants you to drink. It will warm you up and keep you from getting sick." Aerrianah took the mug from Bilbo and took a sip. It was a strong tea but very sweet. It tasted of raspberries and spring mixed with a bit of lemon. The tea warmed her body from the inside out and she felt her energy come back. "You all right now lass?" Bilbo walked to her and took the empty mug from her. Aerrianah nodded and smiled at him.

***
She stood up and went out the door. Pearl was standing with Merry and Sam. Aerrianah walked up to her and tapped her shoulder. Pearl turned and when she saw Aerrianah she smiled. "Hey Pearl. Do you know where Frodo is?" Aerrianah asked. Pearl nodded. "He is on that hill we sat on when we were watching them play tag." Aerrianah nodded a thanks and ran toward the hill. When she reached the top she found Frodo sitting down and facing the river. She sat down next to him. "Hey. Why do you keep staring at the river Frodo?" He shrugged, "No reason. It almost took your life you know." He said. Aerrianah smiled, "Yes, I know." Frodo looked into her eyes. "I'm right sorry Aerrianah. I really am." Aerrianah held up her hand. "Frodo, it wasn't your fault. Mud is cruel sometimes." Frodo chuckled, "Yeah, but I'm still sorry." Aerrianah laughed, "It's all right. I don't blame you in the least. But, if it will make you feel better, apology excepted." They both laughed. "Thank you." Frodo laughed. "Come on. Let's go back." Aerrianah took his arm and pulled him off the ground.

***
The wind blew through their hair as they walked over the grass. "Frodo, I'm going to be leaving tomorrow." Aerrianah said. Frodo looked at her and was about to say something, but Aerrianah was faster. "But I'll come back again. I promise." Frodo sighed in relief. Then he turned to her again. "Merry's parents are expecting him home tomorrow but Bilbo nor I can take him. Do you think you could give him a ride?" Aerrianah smiled. "Sure. There's plenty of room on Killi's back for two. And I think he'll have fun." Frodo smiled, "Thank you so much. He only has to carry his waistcoat. Bilbo is giving him a leather satchel with some corn cake in it and he might be able to carry the waistcoat in there too."

***
That night the Gamgees, Frodo and Bilbo held a going away party for Aerrianah and Merry. There was lots of food and plenty of music. Aerrianah also received her first Ale. Once the party had ended, Merry and Aerrianah went to bed. They got up early in the morning before the sun had risen and Sam brought the well fed Killi around to the gates of Hobbiton for the riders. Aerrianah mounted the white mare and waited for little Merry. About ten minutes later he came running from the Baggins' residents followed by Frodo. His new satchel dangled at his side. When they reached Killi's side, Frodo looked up at Aerrianah who was trying not to laugh at their messy hair. Sam's was messy too. "Hello again. Sorry we're late. The little chap overslept." Frodo lifted a yawning Merry onto Killi's back in front of Aerrianah. Aerrianah placed one of her arms around Merry and held the rope with the other. Pearl came running to the horses side still in her night gown.
"Aerrianah, you were about to leave this." Pearl handed the silver stranded cape up to Aerrianah and smiled. Aerrianah smiled back. "Thanks for everything Pearl. I'm going to miss you all of you. You were all terribly kind to me and I appreciate it." She fastened her cloak on and kicked Killi in the flanks. Little Hobbit children ran after them waving and all the hobbits cheered.

***
After the last Hobbit child stopped following, Aerrianah, Killi, and Merry turned to the wind. After a couple of hours, Aerrianah and Merry dismounted and allowed Killi to graze while they sat down for a bit of corn cake. As soon as they finished, Aerrianah whistled for Killi. Lifting Merry, she jumped on the back of the running horse and placed Merry in front of her. Merry looked up at Aerrianah and asked, "How come Frodo couldn't come?" Aerrianah smiled gently and said, "He and Bilbo had a lot of things to do." Merry kept that in thought for a while. "I'm glad you're taking me. I like you." He said. Aerrianah smiled and kissed the little hobbit on the head. "I'm glad." She said. A while later, Merry fell asleep to the soft beating of Killi's hooves and the cool whisper of the wind on his face.

***
Once his hobbit hole was reached, a still sleeping Merry was passed into the hands of his parents. Aerrianah did not intend on staying but was persuaded to sit down for a nice cup of tea with the Brandybucks. Soon after she and Killi left to continue their journey back across the Brandywine, through the old Forest, through the Barrow weights and the elfin countryside. It was well after dark by the time Aerrianah reached the castle of Rivendale. The moon was full and the white wolves could be heard howling. The owls flew through the night sky hooting softly. A light drizzle of rain had begun and it was sweet on Aerrianah's tongue and gentle on her face. Something was missing though. What was it?

***
The elves. No elf song could be heard floating from the castle and the sky around it seemed unusually dark. Aerrianah moved forward on Killi and a tinge of orange and red flickered in the dark sky. Her throat tightened in warning. The ground outside of the castle was charred and the vines at her window were black. She had a dreadful feeling about what the red and orange flickering was. She kicked Killi and ran to the entrance to the castle. Red and orange flames were flickering in and out of the castle. *But how can that be? The Marble cannot be burned. Unless...* Aerrianah gasped. She jumped down from Killi's back and ran inside the burning castle. "MOTHER!!!! FATHER!!!!" She cried. *Oh Please! No!*


...To Be Continued...

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