The Fellowship of the Ring Book 2, Chapter 9
Sam awakes Frodo. They start pretty quickly in the morning. They follow the current of the stream and do not row to conserve their strength. They continue in this fashion and leave early every day. There is no sign of the enemy for many days. The banks are treeless and they can see for miles on either side. A phalanx of black swans flies over them. They look over the fields of Rohan where horses are raised. The absence of trees makes Sam nervous. This insecurity spreads throughout the band over the next few days. The members of the company are silent. The notion of boats still makes Sam very uncomfortable, although it does not bother Pippin or Merry who grew up near rivers. He keeps thinking that he sees a log with eyes tagging along in the current with them. It seems to have the shape of a creature rather than a tree trunk. Frodo is worried that it is the same creature that was in Lothlorien. Sam suggests that it might be Gollum. Frodo tells him that this is exactly what he feared. He expected the creature to come after its lost ring since he heard that it had escaped the prisons in Mirkwood. Sam thinks that they should watch themselves much more carefully. They decide not to worry the others with this fear.
Sam wakes Frodo in the night; they see two pale eyes in the darkness and then hear splashing. Aragorn wakes when Frodo draws his sword. Frodo tells Aragorn what has been going on, but Aragorn already knew that the creature was following them. "'We shall have to try going faster tomorrow, you lie down and I will keep watch for what is left of the night.'" Book 2, Chapter 9, pg. 453. For the rest of the voyage, they see no sign of Gollum.
They travel for another seven days under an overcast sky. The next day, the landscape begins to change drastically. It becomes rocky and barren. They are beginning to enter the hill country. Legolas spots an eagle hunting in the sky far from his normal terrain and they worry more. Aragorn thinks they should start traveling by night. They keep a sharp watch while floating and resting. Sam sees the dark shape of rocks up ahead and they struggle to take the boats out of the water. Everyone must work at the oars to pull the ships to the land and avoid the crushing rapids. As they paddle, they hear the twang of bowstrings and arrows begin to fall around them. They look to the shore and see orcs. They must turn back into the water. Amid the shower of arrows, they paddle furiously against the current and make the other side of the river. Dread falls over the company and a black shape flies over them. Legolas shoots into the sky and it falls into the gloom on the other side of the river. They find a place to stay until dawn and huddle together in the boats. Aragorn warns them to keep their weapons at hand. Sam mentions that the moon is still a sickle, but Frodo says that he can remember no moon in the elf city.
The night passes silently and there is a fog over the river when morning comes. Boromir thinks that they should head over land and go straight to Minas Tirith instead of going down river. Aragorn tells him that going down river is the only way to get to Minas Tirith. He relents because he knows that Frodo will do what Aragorn says. They prepare to go and Aragorn and Legolas go ahead to look at the rapids. They tell the group that if they do not return in one day, they should choose a new leader and proceed without them. Aragorn thinks there might be a portage on the shore that will make passing the rapids easier. Boromir says that the rapids are perilous; Aragorn repeats that every way is perilous.
The pair returns by midday and announces that they will have to carry the boats and their contents for a half-mile around a difficult portion of the river. They labor doing this and come slowly to the portage way. For some time they follow it and come to a place where the river passes between two cliffs and can no longer be navigated. They decide to rest for one more night. Nothing happens during the evening except for a light rain. It stops by the time they wake. Once they get further down river, Frodo sees two great rocks on either side. They pass through these pillars and Sam voices his fear. Aragorn speaks proudly that he should not fear because these pillars bear the signs of his ancestors. He thinks of Gandalf and wishes that he were with them. They go further down the river and soon come to a dark section:
"The chasm was long and dark, and filled with the noise of wind and rushing water and echoing stone. It bent somewhat towards the west so that at first all was dark ahead; but soon Frodo saw a tall gap of light before him, ever growing. Swiftly it drew near, and suddenly the boats shot through, out into a wide clear light." Book 2, Chapter 9, pg. 463
The sun is low in the sky, and when they see a mountain in the distance where Aragorn's line used to sit, they stop. They have come to a place where they must decide whether to go eats or west: Mordor or Gondor.