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Frodo glanced around, avoiding the eyes of the strange man in the corner who he now knew, from the usually forgetful Butterbur, as a Ranger by the name of Strider. He felt uneasy; Sam and Pippin were relaxing, and he felt that they may let something slip accidently. He hoped they wouldn’t, although they were trustworthy enough. He kept his eyes low, sipping from the mug of ale that he held in his hands.

“May I sit?” The voice was soft and low; Frodos blue eyes flew up to meet the same colour eyes as his own, although higher up, and caressed by slight curls of light brown hair. He nodded.

The stranger sat and Frodo began to doubt his nod, but the man seemed friendly enough, and started a simple conversation with him, telling him a tale involving himself, and two rather dismissive ladies. Frodo snorted now and again, and laughed twice. He became more relaxed.

"Wainrider is my name. What is yours?" The man said, offhand. Frodo met his eyes, unblinking.

"Underhill. My name is Underhill, Wainrider. Although you must understand that to have my total trust, you must ask not of my first name; too many nosy people around, I'll assume. Begging your pardon, as you do seem like a trustworthy person." The man laughed.

"And I'll gladly ask you, Mr Underhill, to not ask of my other names, first or last. They are mine and mine only, and not for other's ears." Frodo hastily nodded, and looked around. The man known as Strider, sat alone, gave a wave of his hand and a nod, indicating that Frodo should sit near him, and Wainrider looked up at that moment, and frowned.

"Be careful." he whispered into the hobbit's' ear, "There are some queer folk around in Bree, least of all them who travel on long shanks and call themselves Rangers." Frodo nodded and bit his tongue, reminding himself hastily that he knew nought of Wainrider, bar his name and an amusing tale. He stood and sat near the man with keen, grey eyes, and began to converse with him, with care and hastiness.

Some time after, Pippin became rather loud. He talked of Bilbo's farewell speech, and was hastily approaching of the tale of the Disappearance, when Frodo stood and began a speech. The Bree-landers called for a song, and so Frodo began a song of an inn; after the first round, people began to join in, for the song tickled their fancy and they were quick to pick up words.

But lo! Frodo had been holding the Ring in his pocket, jumped much too vigorously, and landed with a crash, bump and a thump on the floor, and disappeared! Local Hobbits drew back from Sam and Pippin, as if some devilish treachery or wizardry were at hand, and Frodo crawled to a nearby table, feeling very much foolish.

After apologising to old Barliman, and promising to talk to him and Strider later, he departed to the parlour, Pippin, Sam and Wainrider not far behind.

“Pray, Mister Frodo, who is this man?” Sam asked, eyeing Wainrider with mistrust and wariness.

“Oh! Sorry, Sam, it must have slipped my mind for a moment there. This is Wainrider – I think that he'd very much like to come with us.” Sam looked the blue-eyeed man up and down, and turned to Frodo with disbelief in his eyes, then whispered to him:

“Begging your pardon, Sir, but I believe that we should wait for Gandalf or an acquaintance of his to assure us that this – " He glanced at Wainrider, "Man is indeed, trustworthy." Frodo nodded, and they turned around to see Strider in the corner, his walking-boots on a small table, caked with mud. His travel-stained cloak was difficult to make out the colour, and he was still smoking his pipe. He put it out, and stared at them keenly, before throwing back his hood and surveying them with a cautious but confident expression.

"Pray, tell, who you may be." he indicated his head towards Wainrider, who nodded slightly and held up his right hand, his palm facing towards him. A five-pointed star was deeply engraved in the skin, like a grevious hurt, scarred.

"Ah." Strider ignored him from thereonin, and asked Frodo several questions after, before Barliman stumbled in, closely followed by Nob and Merry, who rushed into a hasty explanation of the Black Riders.

Wainrider sat down near to Aragorn, and spoke in hushed tones to him, whilst Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin sat away, discussing in whispered voices whether they could trust the two strange men or not. They made an unusual pair; whilst Strider was tall, with a keen eye and an air of mystery and knowledge, Wainrider let his feelings show more easily, and had a smoother, younger face. He was not unlike Frodo, with a pale complexion, blue eyes and an air of Elvish-ness. The Hobbits had decided, and they hoped that they were doing the right thing as they turned towards the two men.

"You may accompany us." Frodo said.
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