Steward and the King, The
The rocks were a constant battle. Remembering Legolas and the snow, Gimli muttered, "The Elf would have been of more use to you." But the rocks, wicked as they were, seemed to speak to the Dwarf and the party made steady progress south and down.
The sun was hiding behind clouds as they wound their way down near the end of the rocks. As they sat at midday for a scant meal of lembas, Frodo checked Sting and told the rest, "no orcs near." A few hours later, Faramir saw movement. Gollum was still following.
They came to a sharp drop, the only way down was to use the ropes, they camped a short distance from the rubble at the base of the cliff. Faramir took the first watch, silently woke the others -- hand over their mouths -- when he saw Gollum start to crawl down. When the creature was twenty feet above their heads, Faramir stood and let loose the arrow he had notched. It struck inches to one side, skittered up a space then fell and Gollum, startled, fell with it. Gimli got to him first, then he was held by all and Faramir questioned him.
His short curses soon turned to whining and begging. "Don't hurt us, Gollum. Nice walkerss, travelling where it's lonely, yesss. Hiding from orcess, yes?"
"Must have heard us talking," Sam muttered. "He's been following us close."
Gimli stated his opinion in a stronger voice. "Now we've found him, now we kill him."
That set up another round of begging. Faramir motioned Gimli to silence, then lifted Gollum out of his crouch. Gollum put his knees under his chin and hugged his legs. "Why were you following us?"
"Don't hurts us, nice walkersss, nice travelerss. Don't hurt us, precious. Shoots at us with arrows, precious. Not nice."
"And you were set to throttle us, I'm guessing," Sam said. "I agree with Gimli."
"Don't kill him!" Frodo said. He wanted to make it an order. Gandalf's words echoed in his mind. It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Gollum stared at him and went very still. The other three faces were angry, but not Frodo. Frodo searched for reasons that would convince. "We're enough to guard him. What he knows could be useful."
"Yesss, yesss," Gollum said to Frodo, to the kind face, making promises.
That led to a long argument, Gimli and Sam speaking the most and loudest. They wanted rid of the threat. Gimli complained about Faramir's bad shot, and he replied coldly that he hadn't missed.
Sam opened his mouth to voice his opinion again, but Faramir stopped the debate. "We are here to help Frodo, not tell him what to do."
"He will slow us down," Gimli grumbled.
Sorting out the new order of things was a problem. Rope was no good, Gollum could not abide the touch of anything elvish. Gimli then wanted the rope attached to a loop of other cloth cut from clothing, but Faramir called that impractical -- Gollum would bite through -- so it was uneasy watches.
Later that night, Frodo followed Faramir on watch. "I'm glad you didn't aim to kill," he told him. "Gollum wants to be good to me. I want to be good to him. He will hold to his promise for a while, I think. I know his pain, I want the pain for both of us to be gone."
"Don't be too trusting," Faramir admonished.
"He won't leave me behind," Frodo answered. "So guard me. Don't make him angry being cruel."
In the morning Faramir fetched his arrow for mending, the shaft had cracked. It also turned out that Lembas was no good, so they would be spending more time hunting.
They stayed on the east bank, travelling south toward Ithilien, as far away from the Black Gate as possible. Gollum said he knew a way in, which seemed to be Morgul Vale. Gimli was right. Having the creature in the party slowed them down even more than the rocks, for he was always under guard. Faramir and Gimli always found a place that was somehow enclosed when they slept.
Once they were out of the rocks, Sam got to use his pans again, and got used to Gollum eating his meat raw. A few times, when they were close to the river, Gollum was allowed to show hinself trustworthy. They let him go for short times unguarded, to caught fish. Frodo stood so we was in view as he watched from the bank, and Gollum always returned.
As they walked through northern Ithilien, Faramir's eyes ranged wide, catching familiar landscapes.
"Don't be so eager to meet your people," Gimli told him. "Should you not have gone home by the fastest route, in their expectation?"
"Yes, but I would say I would return as soon as may be."
"Huh. Better if Aragorn were here."
"He's needed West." The words were said with surprising heat. Faramir would have no one question his dream's orders.
"Better the Elf, then," Gimli growled, "than your young foolishness."
He pointedly ignored the challenge, the better to appreciate the humor of a dwarf speaking well of an elf. "Do you miss your friend, Master Dwarf?"
"You wished to go West as well," Gimli kept to his original complaint, speaking so the others could not hear. "You should have. Legolas would do well enough in these trees, and he would have killed that footpad quick enough." He gestured at Gollum. "That is a mistake we have yet to pay for, mark my words."
"He would be challenged, likewise so would you or Aragorn."
"Only if seen. You -- " He spent a long time pacing, choosing his words, and picked a different tact. "You are homesick, looking for news. When you left Gondor, war was on her borders. You have never been gone so long."
"It matters not. Any we meet -- I am not expecting that -- I could order. There are only two who could order me, and my father would not go beyond the Pelennor."
And the other? You are the younger brother.
=== end chapter ===
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