1. Too Late
The creature stares at me, its face twisted into a hideous grimace, and I know I am too late.
When first the Strider suggested it come along with us, I balked.
"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer," he said, and I was out-voted. The Wizard, the Elf, the Dwarf...
Only the fat Halfling had his misgivings.
As the journey went, the creature provied its worth- got us past the Orcs in Moria, even.
It could not help against the Beast, of course, could not help the Wizard... but it wept as many tears as any of us when it watched him plummet to his doom.
Perhaps I was wrong, I thought to myself, as we trudged along- perhaps the creature did deserve a second chance.
"What have you done?"
My voice is but a whisper.
The creature blinks, huge eyes owlish in the flames, and it titters.
"Me? What have I done?"
I cock my head to one side. I have caught it red-handed- the Ringbearer lies dead in its grasp. What does it think to achieve by lies?
"It asksss uss what we have done, Preciousss, yesss."
My hand flickers to the hilt of my sword, but something stays it- some dark, creeping urge to listen, to learn, to know.
"It asks us what we have done, when it knows already, Preciousss. Knows we have only done what it wanted to do all along."
My heart catches in my mouth. How could it know?
How could it know?
The grin on the creature's face stretches still wider, a hideous sneer made still more obscene in the flickering shadows of the firelight.
"Knowsss that we took what it wanted, doesn't it, Preciousss? Knowsss that we tricked it, yesss, clever we is, yesss, cleverer than any stupid man, yesss, isn't we, Preciousss?"
It titters again, the hideous laughter disintegrating into a coughing fit- that noise, that awful gollum, gollum...
"What have you done?"
I turn, and the fat Halfling is staring at me, horror-struck. My gaze flickers to the creature, and to the Ringbearer, and...
The creature's voice turns to a shriek in a second, and I know whatever answer I give is too late.
One long finger points at me, another at the dead Ringbearer.
"Killer, he is! KILLER!"
Now I hear scuffles as the others awake. Gone is any chance I might have had of proving my innocence- gone is any chance of avenging the Ringbearer-
-gone is any chance of stealing the Ring for myself, for my own, for my Preciousss-
-and the creature flees into the dark, shrieking and hollering as the world explodes into a screaming Hell and our camp is beset on all sides by Uruk-Hai.
The fat Halfling stares agog at me.
How can I defend myself? How can I...
An arrow tears through my chest, and I sink to my knees.
Still the fat Halfling stares, horror-struck, as blood- blackened in his eyes as much by my guilt as the firelight- pours forth from my mouth and stains my beard.
"You killed 'im!"
A second arrow skewers my through the shoulder, then a third through my throat, choking my pleas of innocence.
"You killed Mister Frodo!"
I shake my head, wordless, and something pierces the fat Halfling's heart as surely as the Uruk-Hai arrow has mine.
"It wasn't you, was it?"
I nod- it is barely a movement, but it is enough.
"It was him, wasn't it? That... that Gollum?"
I nod again, and his eyes harden. I wish I could do more, but a fourth arrow pierces me and I topple like a felled tree.
As my sight blurs, I see the fat Halfling dash the way the creature went, drawing his little sword as he runs.
As the world dims, I know that perhaps there is still a chance, that perhaps it is not too late.
As the last of my blood pours out onto the floor of the clearing, I know that perhaps things can be put right...
But then all is black, and I am gone.
And it is indeed too late.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.