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Answering the Call: 9. Frodo
The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, at the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.
"Master!" cried Sam.
Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and the walls.
"I have come," he said. "But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!" and suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight. Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened.
Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him. He lay still and for a moment all went black.
And far away, as Frodo put on the ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.
From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.
- RotK, Mount Doom
Upon hearing Its warning, Frodo turned from the fiery pit. He saw Sam lying on the ground and Gollum stalking him, or where the creature judged him to be. Frodo watched him for a moment, standing very still, and when the creature came within reach, Frodo grabbed him by the throat. "And what do you think you're doing, Gollum?"
The hobbit thanked the Ring silently for alerting him for a second time to Gollum's presence. Frodo had heard Its adulation for months, but recently he had begun to listen. During their rocky ascent of the Mountain, the Ring had praised his strength. It had hinted that through his suffering he had earned the right to claim It. And while he contemplated those words, the Ring had warned him of danger just as Gollum had attacked them, and so Frodo had held onto the Ring. Now, as the Ring lauded him for claiming his due, It again warned of Gollum's approach, and Frodo had turned in time to stop Gollum's final attempt at claiming his Precious.
"You think to get the Ring for yourself, finally? You think you can take It from me?" He threw Gollum down hard onto the rock. A part of Frodo was pleased with the new power he heard in his voice. "Don't fool yourself, Gollum. The Ring is mine, and mine It shall remain." He bent close to Gollum's face. "Now, if you swear allegiance to me, and truly do not plan any treachery, perhaps, just perhaps, I will allow you a moment to gaze upon It on occasion. What say you, Gollum?"
Gollum stared back at him, or rather the direction from which his voice came. Frodo saw the fury lighting Gollum's eyes as he lunged blindly at him, latching on to the hobbit's arm by chance. The Ring made Frodo far stronger now, and he flung Gollum onto the rock, who quickly made ready for another lunge.
"Enough, Gollum. You have failed! It is mine now!"
"No!" He whined, muttering, "The Precious...."
"Yes, Gollum. If you continue, you will never see the Precious again."
Gollum became utterly still, and Frodo saw the fight leave him as his body drooped. Eventually, he nodded. "We swears. We will be true to Master. "
"I will know if you lie, Gollum. Remember that." Gollum nodded mutely and repressed a shudder. Frodo's tracks in the dust moved silently past Gollum.
Sam awoke to Frodo's proddings, which he thankfully ended quickly. "Sam, you must get up now. We cannot stay here."
"Mr. Frodo! What's happened? Ow!" He rubbed his head. "Where is It? Did you throw that dreadful Ring into the fire, Mr. Frodo?"
Frodo looked at Sam for a moment, then said, "I have It, Sam. And we're leaving." As if to emphasize the need, they heard a Nazgûl's screech not far away.
"Leaving? But if you still have It - we're not done." He frowned. His stomach dropped as he began to understand. "After coming all this way, Mr. Frodo, won't you finish what we've come to do? Or have we come all this way for naught?"
"Because we have come all this way, Sam. I did not suffer this torment for naught." He looked more kindly on Sam. "Oh, Sam, you wouldn't leave me now, would you?"
Sam looked at Frodo then, saw the gleam in his eye, the determination in his jaw, and the smile that went no further than his lips. He knew then that very little of his master remained. This was a new Master. But he was his Master all the same. A deep grief came over him. Things would never be the same. "No, of course not, Mr. Frodo. You know I never could."
"Good, Sam. You'll see. It'll be for the better."
Sam forced himself to return Frodo's smile then and rose with Frodo's help. "Let's get out of here then. But where will we go?"
"Don't worry about that, Sam. I'll take care of it." Glancing back, he added more sternly, "Come, Gollum. We're leaving." Sam could not resist throwing a glare in the creature's direction.
As they stepped out to begin the slow journey from the Crack of Doom, they could see Nazgûl gathering. There was little time. They sped up, but soon Frodo stopped. A few more steps and he halted in his tracks, looked over the waste of Gorgoroth, and seemed to make a decision. "Wait, Sam," he said quietly. Sam turned to him with a question in his eyes. "I'm afraid I was wrong. We don't have to leave. In fact, we cannot."
"What-" Sam started.
"Just let me fix this. All right?" He turned from Sam then to face the high tower of Barad-dûr and slipped on the Ring.
Sam cried out, "Mr. Frodo! Where did you go?"
"I'm right here, Sam. There is something I must do." Then, in a voice Sam barely recognized, one filled with power and will, he called out, "Sauron. Do you know who I am?"
A chill went down Sam's back. Taking a step away, he looked to the Tower across the wasteland, then back to where he'd last seen Frodo.
"I wear the Ring," Frodo continued. "I bore your precious Ring for a tormented year. I possessed It far longer. Now, I wear It. And I shall keep It. But I shall keep It here in Mordor, if you call off your Nazgûl. The Ring shall remain in Mordor. I shall remove myself to Cirith Ungol, but any Orcs there answer to me."
After some moments of silence, Sam heard Frodo say, "Your soldiers fight a battle with Men outside the Black Gates. Call them off. No-" He spoke as if to himself for a moment. "There is no need. They already run scattered and mindless, but... yes. Hear me. There are some beyond the Gate I would see. Open the Gates and have a soldier summon them to the Tower of Cirith Ungol. A man, an elf, and a dwarf. Oh, and a hobbit." At Sam's small gasp, Frodo said to him, "It's Pippin, Sam. He's here... Which man? The man you know by many names, but you are better acquainted with his sword. He carries Andúril, forged from the shards of the broken blade of Narsil. You know this weapon, I gather? Yes, Aragorn, heir of Isildur. He, the dwarf, the elf, and the hobbit are to be brought to me. Unharmed." He turned to Sam then, and spoke in the voice Sam was accustomed to hearing from his mouth. "Sam - oh," and he took off the Ring. Sam's face eased in relief to see his master and friend again. "Sam, we are going back to the tower, where you found me, remember? I think we can go that far."
"Go that far? I was thinking it's not far enough. Begging your pardon, but why would we want to stay anywhere near this forsaken place for a moment longer?" Frodo looked at him for a moment, his face suddenly filled with pity and gratitude, and Sam longed for days that he knew were past. "It's the Ring, isn't it? It doesn't want you to leave. It wants to stay here."
"Perhaps. Perhaps I would not have the strength to hold onto the Ring if I left Mordor. I do know I must stay here to keep It. And keep It I shall. But don't fret, Sam. It will be all right. You'll see."
"Yes, Mr. Frodo. I'm sure it will." As he made to follow his new Master down the rocky slope they had just spent their last strength to climb, Sam's heart wept, for all they had lost, for Frodo, for the Shire, even for himself. Nothing would be right again.
The Nazgûl screech receded into the distance. The oppressive heat and stench of Sammath Naur faded. The blaze of the Fire dimmed to a pale glow. And as they left behind the horrors of Mount Doom, Sam left behind the tattered remnants of his hope. He had no need for it any longer.
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