RECRUIT Merry, and cross the river in the ferry. Go to Cotton's Farm and meet with Rose in the house. She will be glad to see Sam, and she will offer you a Token. Have Sam take it. Head to the Bucklebury Tavern where you find a lady named Athelwyn standing in the corner. TALK to her a bit, and RECRUIT her. TRADE her some rations and the sword (make sure you have her EQUIP the sword). Next stop is Brandy Hall. Standing at the door of Brandy Hall is Esmerelda, but she won't let you pass because there is a ghost in the library. Use the SNEAK skill to get past her, and go downstairs. TALK to Fatty, who is all excited about the ghost. Find Saradoc standing next to his bed and TALK to him; ask about the ghost and the key.
He will mention that he lost both his pipe and the key. Using the PERCEPTION skill, you will find a pipe and some pipeweed under his bed. Get both items and go west to the bathroom, and, again, use PERCEPTION to find the gate key in the bathtub. Get the key, go to the southern rooms to find some more silver pennies, and head back upstairs. The ghost is hanging out in the library, and he wants a pipe. TRADE him the pipe, and he will disappear. Using the READ skill to read the books in the library, you pick up on a lot of useful information, most importantly, the path through the Old Forest. Leave Brandy Hall, and head east to the Hedge Gate. USE the gate key to open the Gate and leave the Shire.
After leaving the Shire, you will see a short cartoon depicting what is going on in the Shire. Those Black Riders sure sound like some evil dudes! You have escaped them for the time being, but now you have to get through the Old Forest which is quite large. Remember that you read about the path through the forest in one of the books in Brandy Hall. It said to find the ruins at the northwest corner of the forest, to proceed south and east, then follow the southern path which winds, but you are also to avoid the eastern paths. In essence, this is the true path out of the forest, but I didn't think it was since I went east a lot.
After about 20 minutes of wandering, I thought I was totally lost, but suddenly I was out. When I thought about the directions that the book gave again, I found that they were, in fact, correct. What the book tells you to do is to go south from the ruins, go east for awhile, then when you find the first path south, take it. If you have a choice between paths, always take the south or west path. If you have no choice, then just keep following the path. The reason I was confused is that I went east and north a lot, when the book said not to go in those directions, but I had no choice: the path just wound that way. If you follow the directions, you should get out of the forest in about 10 minutes. When you get to a large hill, you are out of the forest; save your game here!
From the hill, go east until you hit a river. Follow the river bank north, and soon you will come to a bridge that leads to Tom Bombadil's house. If you want to, head west from the bridge and wander in the forest a bit until you come across a large tree. This tree turns out to be Old Man Willow, and he is not friendly. He will capture a few of your party members. Answer N' to the question about fighting the willow, instead use the PERCEPTION skill to find an opening into the willow. Answer Y' to the question about entering, and inside the willow you will find the rest of your party. You will also see something shining near the middle of the tree.
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