Concealed behind a large pile of rubble near the ruined aqueduct, the three sons of Goldwyn remained hidden until the silence seemed almost overpowering. The only sounds were the boys' measured breathing and the trilling call of a night bird somewhere towards the Anduin.
"Fródwine, it has been a long time since we saw any torches or heard any shouts. Do you think the orcs will come back to look for us?" Frumgár asked uncertainly.
"There is no way of knowing, but we must leave this wretched place in case they do. Wake up Fritha," Fródwine whispered urgently. Rising to his feet, he stretched prodigiously, limbering up his long arms and legs.
"Fritha is not asleep. He is only pretending. As a matter of fact, he bit me twice on the hand earlier tonight," an indignant Frumgár retorted.
"You would bite, too, if someone stuck his hand over your mouth!" the youngest boy protested, rallying up from his feigned sleep.
"It was the only way I could keep you quiet," Frumgár muttered. He gingerly rose to his feet, his legs numb from crouching on the chilly ground. Tugging at his brother's arm, he ordered, "Come on, Fritha! You heard him! We have to go now!"
"We must get distance between this place and ourselves," Fródwine repeated. "Is your hand bleeding where our gentle little brother bit you, Frumgár?"
"No, just a little sore where the brat attacked me!"
"Fritha, you really should not bite people, you know," Fródwine chided, the gravity of his voice hiding his sarcasm. "Orcs can smell blood. They will hear your whining, and when they do, they will come back and stick a spear through your belly and spit you up like a pig over the fire."
"Do not say things like that, Fródwine!" Fritha pled, looking about fearfully as he gripped Frumgár's hand for comfort. "You are scaring me!"
"Fródwine, I told you that my hand was not hurt, so let us talk about what we do now." Frumgár turned to his elder brother, not approving of the way he was scaring Fritha. "Which way are we going?" When Fródwine did not answer, Frumgár snorted. "You do not even know, do you?" When he still received no response from his elder brother, he clenched Fritha's cold hand even tighter. "We have to find Mother!" Always a timid boy, Frumgár felt his stomach churn and was afraid he might vomit. On the verge of tears, he sucked his lower lip into his mouth and gnawed upon it.
"No. That is not what she wanted us to do," Fródwine replied stubbornly.
"Fródwine, what did she tell you before she left?" Frumgár demanded, not certain of anything anymore, except that they were being hunted by enemies, his older brother was bullying him, and his mother was no longer there to protect him.
"She told me to take you home, and that she..." Fródwine fumbled for the words, "...would join us later. Anyway, this is no place to discuss the matter, so be quiet."
"Fródwine," exclaimed a skeptical Frumgár, "I do not believe you! Where is she and when will she be back?"
"Soon." With that word, Fródwine increased his pace and left the two younger boys behind.
"Wait!" hissed Frumgár as his fingers slid out of Fritha's and he scrambled to catch up with Fródwine. "Where are we going?"
"Home," came Fródwine's terse reply.
"Frumgár! Do not leave me!" Fritha wailed, close to tears. All around the little boy lay dark piles of rubble and broken columns. Fritha was convinced that each shadowy mound hid some monster, orc, or ghoul. He could feel their eyes all around him, watching and waiting until he drew too close to one of their lairs. Then they would pounce out...
Fritha had a theory about why the horrifying red eyes of the monsters could not be seen all the time. They could will their eyes to glow if they wished, but if they desired to take one by surprise, they would dim the fell brilliance of their fiery orbs. Fritha felt the hair rise at the nape of his neck and goosebumps prickling his flesh as they rose on his arms. What if... those things were planning to spring upon them at that very moment...
"Fródwine! I am scared, Fródwine! Wait for me!" This was no time to tarry until the ghouls launched their attacks! The little boy bounded after his two older brothers as though the fiends of hell were nipping at his heels.
As Fródwine forged onward through the bleak ruins of Osgiliath, his two younger brothers struggled to keep up with his long strides. Although the monsters had never materialized, Fritha fretted at the constant hurrying and Frumgár added his share of grumbling. After walking for what seemed to him like a very long time, Fritha could not bear any more. Pulling back on Frumgár's hand and digging in with his heels on the ground, he delivered his ultimatum.
"I want to find Mother now and I am not going one step more!" Fritha stated adamantly, stomping his foot for emphasis.
"Fródwine, Fritha is not going to budge! We cannot see where we are going. We are walking farther and farther away from where Mother left us. Maybe she is waiting back there for us. Let us go back and look for her... please!" Frumgár's words came out in a rapid burst, bordering on hysteria. When his mother had told him that they were going to escape, anything seemed possible, but now without her, he was lost and alone. Everything was becoming worse and worse, blacker and blacker, and he had never been more afraid in all his life.
"No, we are not going back!" Fródwine set his mouth into a stern line and resolutely slogged on ahead.
"Brother, this is a foolish idea!" Frumgár's voice was almost sobbing. "Please let us go back!"
"I have to pee!" Fritha whimpered as he jumped from one leg to another, clutching himself.
"You always have to pee!" the oldest brother grumbled as he halted and folded his arms across his chest. "If it were your own funeral, you would sit up in your barrow and announce to one and all that you must relieve your bladder! When you die, they will have to cut a hole in the side of your tomb so that you can piss out the window! Your howe will be lined with chamber-pots so that whenever you have a terrible urge, you can fill them all one by one!"
"Do not say things like that, Fródwine!" Fritha exclaimed as he kicked the ground in front of him. "You are just making it worse, and I do not want to think about tombs and dying!"
"Just pee and be quiet about it then!" Frumgár ordered gruffly.
"I have held it so long now... I do not think I can even pee any more!"
"Just go, Fritha!"
Stomping away, Fritha glanced back over his shoulder at them. "Do not look!"
"I am looking, Fritha! I am looking!" Frumgár deviled him, pointing his finger at the back of his brother, who stood facing a large rock. "You are a little girl and have to squat and pee! Look at Fritha! He has to squat! He has to squat!"
"You are both mean to me, and I still cannot pee!" Turning back to look at them, Fritha stuck out his tongue.
"Pretend the rock is an orc's face!" Frumgár suggested helpfully.
They heard a small, contented sigh of relief as a stream of liquid splashed against the stone.
"Are you finished yet?" Fródwine asked impatiently.
"Now?" encouraged Frumgár.
"Yes, I hit him right in the eye!" Fritha boasted as he turned around and walked back to them.
"With that victory beneath your belt, you are a real warrior now," Fródwine muttered. "Let us go! Frumgár, hold his hand. I will lead the way!"
"You do not even know the way!"
"Do you know it better than I do?" Fródwine turned and gave his brother a disdainful look.
"Stop!" implored Frumgár as he held up his right hand.
"What is it now?" Fródwine asked, greatly irritated.
"I have to pee, too!"
"What did the two of you do, drink a whole barrel of water?" groaned Fródwine. "The two of you are going to do nothing but urinate all the way back to the Mark! Hurry up!"
There was another sound of splashing liquid, and then a satisfied grunt, "All done!"
"Finally! Let us go!"
Together the three boys skirted around ruined buildings and piles of rubble, making their way through what had once been the proud city of Osgiliath.
"Oh!" exclaimed Fritha when they had passed by a massive column which had toppled over and broken into three pieces. The ground was littered with large chunks of the ruined support, making walking even more difficult here than it had been at other places.
"What is wrong now?" Frumgár queried.
"I hurt my foot," whimpered the youngest brother.
"Nonsense!" muttered Fródwine, a look of total indignation on his face. "You are lying because you are too lazy to walk."
"But I did!"
"Come on! Get moving!"
"Well then, sit down and we will leave you here. Then when a huge, stinking orc with bright, yellow gleaming eyes, terrible long teeth and sharp claws, and really foul breath comes along, he will gobble you up, and there will be one less brother for me to have to worry about."
"No, no, I can run! Really, I can!" Fritha shivered as he thought of the foul orcs. "Why do Fródwine and Frumgár always have to taunt me just because I am the youngest?" he complained to himself, despising his brothers. "I hate them! They are so mean to me! They always make me do things that I do not want to do!"
"Come, little brother." Feeling sorry for him, Frumgár reached out to Fritha. "I will help you. Take my hand." Gratefully the younger boy grasped his brother's fingers.
The two younger boys could not match the longer strides of their long-legged brother for any length of time. Before they had gone very far, they had slackened behind once again.
"Fródwine, please stop," Frumgár panted. "Fritha is just too little and he has to rest!"
"All right, let us stop here, down behind this statue," Fródwine growled. His brothers looked at him in gratitude as they sank to the ground. "But do not get too comfortable! We cannot stay here long!"
As they lay there panting, their breath coming in great gasps, Fródwine pointed towards their right, where a large dark mass stood outlined against the lighter shade of the eastern horizon. "That must be the Great River over there where the trees are growing. That means we are going the way we should."
"I am glad you know what the right way is," Frumgár muttered skeptically. Why did Fródwine always have to be so overbearing and all knowing? Just because he was their big brother did not make him any better than they were! Frumgár was very doubtful that Fródwine had the slightest idea where they were. "We will probably walk around and around in circles and get lost. Then the orcs will find us," he thought dismally.
"I am scared!" wailed Fritha. "I want to go back!"
"That would not be such a bad idea," Frumgár suggested hopefully, thinking about the great orc that must be waiting for them just ahead in the darkness.
"No! Bah! You sluggards have rested long enough. Let us move on!"
"Oh, no," Frumgár groaned as he struggled to his feet, dragging an unwilling Fritha behind him.
Fródwine would have made a good military commander. Impervious to his brothers' grumbling complaints, skinned knees and bruises, he kept them plodding steadily along the Anduin, alternately marching and resting through the remainder of the night. As the sky grew lighter towards the east, Fródwine grudgingly accepted the fact that his brothers could go no farther that morning without rest.
"Follow me... Frumgár, you serve as rear guard," he briskly directed them as he set off down the riverbank.
"Fródwine, this is no game! I am not able to guard us against anything!" Comparing himself to his older brother, Frumgár always felt inferior. Fródwine was so cocksure of himself while he was indecisive and faltering.
"That is what is wrong with you, Frumgár. You have no belief in yourself! Do not think about it too much, though. Just do what I tell you!"
"There is his damnable smug arrogance again," Frumgár thought with a grimace.
Throughout the long walk, Fródwine's mind had been set on finding a good location for a camp. He did not want to risk placing it on the open plain of the river where they could be seen easily. They would have to do that soon enough, but maybe by then, the pursuit for them would have died down. How much time would anyone spend on searching for three young boys anyway?
At last he found a place where the young trees grew closely together, offering better cover for them. His next order of the day was to look for more food to supplement their meager larder. If only he had a fishing hook and line!
Perhaps he could tear his worn shirt into thin strips and make a substitute for a line? "Far too thick; the fish would detect that immediately," he thought in frustration. Perhaps he could spear the fish with a sharp stick? Hit them with rocks? Even if he could catch them, there would be no way to cook the fish. Though they were hungry, the thought of eating raw fish was distasteful. Fródwine did not like to think about the time when they might be so desperate that they would be willing to eat anything. There would be time to think of that later, but at that moment, he needed some rest.
"Here we will sleep," Fródwine pointed to a spot beneath a leafless plane tree. "Not elaborate," he chuckled, "but at least it has a wonderful view."
"Who cares?" Frumgár groaned as he sank down on the ground. Fritha whimpered plaintively until Frumgár slung an arm over him protectively. The smallest boy was quickly sound asleep, and Frumgár soon joined him in slumber, too tired even to care about the hunger that was growing in his stomach. As the morning sun chased away the last wispy trails of fog, Fródwine stared moodily at the great, rising form of the White Mountains far away across the plain.
"Home," he thought, and wondered if they would ever reach it.