10. Man and Monster
It was a strange thing to see two men once sworn as allies against a common foe now locked in a struggle on the field of a horrible battle. Against all fates there they stood, sword to sword, glare against piercing glare, and the air grew stiff. Sound was swallowed by the hungry tension. Though elsewhere man fought Orc, and swords sang through the misty morning air, here there was nothing but the startling sight. Inconceivable as it may be, it was true to all eyes as the men and the Dwarf watched with gaping stares.
In a split second the hold on them all broke, and Aragorn snarled, You demon! Traitor!
The words hurt Boromir deeply, but his fury would not allow him to retreat. He ground his feet into the loose soil for leverage, his arms shaking with the strain of holding the enraged ranger at bay. With a howl he pushed back Aragorn, breaking their stances, and he stumbled.
Murderer! cried Gimli from Aragorns side. The stout Dwarf raised his bloodied axe. His face was the picture of a vengeful nightmare. But he was restrained by Aragorns arm, which shot before him as if to take rights to the taking of Boromirs life. Boromir turned his eyes back to the heir of Isildur. He met fire and rage. Disgust. The glare cut into him, cleaving all hope from his heart, and in spite of himself, he found himself returning a look of loathing. There was an unspoken challenge and unfathomable hatred. He had hoped to make peace with Aragorn, but he knew now that such a dream had been folly; Aragorn would not trust him so easily. He had been a fool to expect anything but a fight!
By now the men of Rohan had arrived. He felt Erkenbrand come up beside him, winded, and heard the lords old sword ring as it exited his sheath. What is the meaning of this? demanded the aging commander in a deep, angry tone. Neither Boromir nor Aragorn answered or broke their glares, holding their own weapons tightly. Time seemed to lean towards bloodshed.
A blonde man, young but of high stature and adorned in dented and bloodied armor, jogged closer and stopped near Aragorn. His face broke in obvious confusion at the peculiar sight before him. Then the mans eyes fell to Erkenbrand. Before Boromir could speak, Erkenbrand shouted, Drop your weapon, stranger, for you know not whom you threaten! At this the commander raised his own blade.
Aragorn narrowed his eyes. I know all too well, he hissed venomously.
Boromirs heart was thundering painfully in his chest, and his palms were clammy as tighter he clenched the hilt of his blade. For the pain of his spirit, he had to stop this fight! But his own pride and spite would not allow him to lower his guard or his blade, and he cursed himself for this failing. I do not wish to fight you here, he declared lowly, finding his tone repulsively seething, but I will if you do not stand down and allow me to explain!
Stand down? repeated the blonde soldier incredulously, irritation popping in his gaze. Another sword came free from its scabbard. Who are you to question the will of this man, for he is the Elessar, the heir of Isildur?!
A surprised murmur went through the crowd of Erkenbrands troops that had assembled in curiosity. Then Erkenbrand himself stepped into the divide between the two forces. And you should learn well of thought before action, Éomer, son of Éomund, for this man who you brush aside is the son of Denethor and the steward of Gondor! We owe him our allegiance!
Now came a hush of confusion and amazement that took hold tightly of the instant, and it did not easily release it. Weapons were the language of the silence, wavering in taut anxiety and distrust. Aragorns infuriating glower had not abated, the dark gray eyes intense upon Boromir, and the son of Gondor felt his insides grind in agony. Drop your sword! his mind reproached sternly. Drop it now, and make the peace you seek! Let go of your pride! Stand down!
His ego could not be defeated by his guilt and sorrow, no matter how smothering and demanding they became, and he narrowed his own gaze dangerously, refusing to either be bested or be made a coward. Hot anger made his form tight, each limb poised to strike.
It was Aragorn who finally broke the harsh moment. The ranger dropped his blade slowly, skeptically. But he did not lower his gaze. Speak if you wish then, growled the ranger, but your words will not weasel your way again into my trust.
Something stung Boromirs eyes, and he distantly realized it was the salt of his tears. He cursed himself for his weakness and his desires. The guilt welled up inside again, and he had to fight to maintain his resolve. Damn Aragorn for reducing him to such! I would, but in the silence of privacy, for what I wish to say is a sensitive thing.
You have lost that right, Boromir. Speak now! Gimli raged.
He winced but said nothing. The words he had rehearsed endlessly to himself during his trek from Isengard were now lost in a maelstrom of awkward shame and attention, and he finally broke his gaze. His eyes fell to the trampled grasses, and the scene grew blurry with wetness.
Speak, Aragorn ordered quietly. His voice held no compassion. Where is the Ring?
Boromir jerked. Ring? What is the nature of this Ring that it might divide two men of solid loyality? questioned Erkenbrand in frustrated urgency. He was ignored.
A silent moment came, laden with palpable rage and hurt. Where is it, Boromir? There is no time to hesitate! Aragorn snapped harshly.
I know not, Boromir responded quickly, nearly interrupting the other. He looked up, clenching his fist tightly to stop its infernal shaking, and met Aragorns eyes. The ranger was surprised, but it hardly seemed to show on his hard, stony face. I would tell you if I did!
Aragorn shook his head sharply. Tell us what you do know, son of Denethor, and do so plainly, for I have not the patience to stand for your lies.
The rage boiled within him again, but he would not submit to its fiery release. He would not! I had it but a few hours, he stated through clenched teeth, again averting his eyes. He could not stand to look at Aragorns disapproval and disgust. But it was lost. The Orcs did not find it.
Tell him, his mind implored. He hesitated. This would incur the rangers wrath like nothing else! It was this he had feared when wandering in a daze of pain and guilt! Could he now subject himself to the punishment he knew he so rightly deserved? Tell him! Legolas took it, he declared finally. His eyes burned and his throat constricted around the words as though struggling to keep them within. He wrested it from me and ran into the woods. When I again came upon him, the Ring was gone.
Aragorns glare shattered. For the briefest moment it was still, and Boromir stood in a quivering expectation. Then the ranger demanded, Where is Legolas? And Sam?
Something suddenly fell into place for Boromir. It was so odd that never before had he considered it, for it seemed simple and stupidly obvious! Where had the Ring gone? What could Legolas have possibly done with it to so completely separate it from him? Why, but give it to another! If Sam was not among those of the Fellowship, then he was the obvious recipient! His mind reeled with the possibility. Surely Sam would seek to continue to Mordor. Brave Sam. Loyal Sam. He had to have the Ring! This undoubtedly explained Legolas defiance; he was protecting Sam, holding deep inside him the secret of what the two had done for the sake of the Hobbits safety. This knowledge caressed again his desires that he thought long dead, suffocated by his own nobility and shame. The desire to find the Ring. To touch it. To feel its glory again and to know the promise of its power. He had to find it. His heart thundered, his blood ran inside him in a rush of arousal, and his mind was a flurry of pleasurable memories.
Suddenly he was yanked forward, and he snapped from his reverie. The world crashed down upon him, and he was faced with the cold fury of Aragorns frantic eyes. Where are they?! he yelled, his fists balled in the cloth of Boromirs tunic.
Boromir was shaken by how easily the desire again had surfaced in him. I he stammered, his senses overloaded with memory. He licked his dry lips. Sam was not among the Uruk-hai. Never did they come upon him. This I swear!
Aragorn slowly let him go, distrust and relief at once evident on his face. And Legolas? he asked carefully, never releasing Boromir from his gaze.
And Legolas Boromir quivered and hesitated. This was the moment that would define him, and he stood at this crossroad confused and dazed. The consequences of the truth daunted him. Could he bear to be so exposed in front of Aragorn? This he could not escape. But which would be more painful, he wondered quickly. The truth was vile and undeniable; he had left Aragorns closest friend to the sadistic whims of Middle Earths most treacherous enemy. But a lie seemed so much worse. Yet this he could not completely turn away. He knew what he would say. The rancorous words he found burning at his lips and stinging his heart, and it alarmed him. He wanted to tell Aragorn that Legolas was dead. He wanted to hurt the ranger for his spiteful words and arrogant glares. And why should I not? he wondered bitterly. Surely Saruman would kill the Elf for his defiance, if he had not done so already. It would not be so much a lie in the end.
Then his heated blood turned cold and he shuddered. He felt the color drain from his face. What sort of monster have I become?
What have you done to him?! demanded Aragorn furiously, again advancing on Boromir and snatching away his dark and disturbing thoughts. The ranger was a black menace, a vicious and cruel punisher, and the cold war between Boromirs hurting anger and frightened conscience seemed at an impasse.
Silence. Then the stampede of falling feet. Others were coming. Men were running from the fort bearing bows and expressions of confusion. A blonde, lithe Elf that Boromir recognized to be Haldir from Lórien swiftly and elegantly approached, his sword raised. This he dropped at the strange scene, but the stoic calm never fled from his face. Boromir had not to time to question the Elfs enigmatic appearance among the Fellowship, for behind Haldir came a quiet and familiar banter. Inside his heart broke.
Merry and Pippin pushed forward the crowd of men. When they saw him, they said no more. Upon their innocent faces was a mark of shock. Wide-eyed and amazed, they gazed upon him, as if unbelieving that anything at all had ever separated their group. Then Merry closed his mouth and his eyes grew to slits. In them Boromir saw a great many things: anger, fear, disgust betrayal. Pippin shook his head blankly.
Pain spread all over his body, a horrible hurt that he had not the strength to face. Was this to be his greatest trial? To lay bare his terrible crimes before all he once held dear? He released a slow breath to steady himself, desperately struggling to still the racing of his straining heart.
Quickly he stated, I do not know what has become of him. It was the only thing he could think to say.
You lie! cried Gimli. Speak the truth or my axe shall sever your serpent tongue!
Rage spilled inside the man from Gondor, filling his spirit and burning his bones. I do not lie, he hissed, glaring at the Dwarf. Gimlis face paled. He would not tell us what he did with the One Ring. He defied and taunted instead of submitting. Saruman took him captive in Isengard. Boromir let loose a sharp, mad laugh. What he had left unsaid was achingly clear. I did not know what the Elf expected to come of it! If he had only spoke the truth If he had only had some sense! The words came faster and faster, slurring with thick emotion, and he choked on a sob. I tried to stop him from his foolery! I swear on the noble blood of my father, I pleaded with him, Aragorn! But he would not listen to me!
The confession hung on the air, stunning the men of Rohan into silence. Aragorn appeared distressed and unbelieving, his expression slack and his complexion white. Then anger slowly crept into his gaze. Is he still alive? the quiet ranger then asked malevolently.
Moisture blurred Boromirs vision, but he found he could not force words from his mouth so intense was the pain, horror, and rage he felt inside. At his vacillation, Aragorn fumed. Is he still alive?!
He spat, I know not!
Then they were still, locked in time, and held prisoner cruelly by the fates to wallow in the horrid tidings of the moment. The steward stared upon the would-be king, and the king shook in ire and contempt. You left him, seethed Aragorn, his eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. His words stank of a ruined trust and promised vengeance. You detestable beast! You left him, did you not?! You abandoned him to the tortures of the black, to Sarumans insanity, to Aragorn trailed off, his voice broken in pain, and he looked away.
Boromir drew courage enough to again gaze upon the ranger. What would you have had me do, Aragorn? he snapped. There was naught I could in Sarumans stronghold! Alas, I wished for nothing more than to free him, but we would have both been slain! Those are not the actions of a wise man!
But they are the those of a friend, countered Aragorn.
You are no friend of mine.
And he could hold in his anguish no longer. Quietly it spilled from his eyes. His last reserve of resolve disappeared in the cold truth of Aragorns accusations and Legolas words. How could he have done this? Legolas was gone. Legolas would die. His own hand had committed the foul deed. This was the undeniable reality, the cold truth that he could not erase for all the yearning of his soul!
But he did not speak. He did not have the bravery. He did not feel himself worthy. He closed his eyes and waited for Aragorn to fill the void within and out. What is it you want, Boromir? the ranger finally asked, ending the unending silence. Do not ask forgiveness; it shall not come to you.
I would not, said Boromir quickly in cold anger, once again at bristling at Aragorns superiority. Though he ached inside for Legolas plight, he still loathed Aragorn. I seek only to offer aid as I once did. The Ring no longer holds my heart, and it will not again. The words bit at his conscience inside, but he ignored it. Slowly he lifted the blade of Gondor. Though it took great will, he lowered himself to one knee and bowed his head. He presented the weapon to Aragorn with both gloved hands. My sword follows your lead.
The offer lingered alone in the field of the dead. Aragorn did not move or speak a moment. Though Boromir did not raise his head to look upon the ranger, he felt the worry and hate seep from the others being. Then came footsteps, slow and deliberate. First just one man, his stride proud and cold. After others followed, shorter strides of a Dwarf, light feet of the Elf. Boromir cringed inside as they all walked away from him without so much as a word. Cruel treatment indeed!
There was shouting and more yelling returned, as though the tense scene before had never occurred, as though Boromir did not exist. Aragorns voice rose over the din. Prince Éomer, ready your men. We march to Isengard.
After was a volley of conflicting exclamations that Boromir cared not to hear. To the dejected man, the words meant nothing. The blade of Gondor fell idly to the grass from numb fingers. Tears streaked down his dirty face as the wind picked up, brushing his hair back with a soft caress. He raised his eyes.
Lingering before him were Merry and Pippin. He saw them, standing as though transfixed, staring at him as though he was less of a man and more of a ghost. He wanted to speak, to say something, anything, to assuage the growing division he felt between himself and the Hobbits. Yet there were no words that erase the treachery or the hurt. Never again would their faith fill that void.
His gaze was imploring, speaking at length of his regret where his lips could not, but it was brushed aside. Merry glared hatefully upon him. Come on, Pip, he said quietly, grabbing his cousin by the arm before pulling him in the direction of the others. Pippin staggered and gaped a moment more, and then he too, the last hope Boromir had, abandoned him.
He was alone now. He feared he always would be. Both man and monster, both friend and foe. Neither trusted nor feared. Simply cast aside, unfaithful redemption rejected and unspoken apology refused. He knelt in the field, surrounded by the dead, and wept. They were the only ones that heard his pain.
Time passed for them all, but for the lone traveler of eastward intentions, it seemed to drag its feet.
Frodo had once loathed the undeniable silence of traveling alone, for though he was a mellow Hobbit, he enjoyed the companionship of his friends. He had changed much though since leaving the Shire, and now free from the weight of the One Ring, he found a strange strength coming from his solitude. The silence gave him a chance to heal, an opportunity to again find himself. During the strenuous journey from Rivendell to Caradhas, and then through Moria, he had reveled quietly in the whims and words of their motley group. He had benefited greatly from Aragorns keen, strong eyes and from Gandalfs wise reassurances. He had laughed at Merry and Pippins inane antics, and enjoyed Sams silent loyalty. In Gimlis boisterous tales of Dwarven might he found entertainment, and from Legolas unwavering protection and soft, calming songs he drew security. And Boromir had been tall and proud, strong and courageous in the darkest places of Moria yet laughing joyfully in wrestling with Merry and Pippin.
The memory turned sour with anger and bitterness. Again the mans corrupted words filled his mind. None of us should wander alone, you least of all. So much depends on you.
Only Sam depends on me now.
I know why you seek solitude. You suffer. I see it day by day. Be sure you do not suffer needlessly. There are other ways, Frodo. Other paths that we might take.
One small twist of fate had changed everything and veiled the sun. Other paths indeed!
The memories came, though he did not want them, and he closed his eyes, stopping still in the forest. Boromirs rage flashed through him like lightning, intent upon sundering his calm. If you would but lend me the Ring. Why do you recoil? I am no thief! The warning inside had pierced him with panic then, but it had done little good. He had only stood mortified, watching as noble man morphed into a wretched monster. The kind concern in Boromirs eyes had been gone in a blink, replaced by the coldness of contempt and greed. What chance do you think you have? They will find you. They will take the Ring and you will beg for death before the end! You fool! The cold ground had then struck him. If not for your sake I might have had a chance! It could have been mine! It should be mine! Give it to me! Give it to me! A great weight on top of him, pummeling him, crushing him. He could not breathe. He could not even fight! Rough fingers ripping at his tunic, digging for the Ring. Then there was intense hurt at his forehead as Boromirs elbow at slammed into his temple, and he had fallen into blackness.
One by one, it will destroy them all. He opened his eyes then, the pain slow to recede. It left a wake of weary destruction. Frodo sighed slowly, his shoulders sagging, and slumped to the forest floor. He pressed his back to the thick, rough trunk of an old tree. There he sat, struggling to catch his running breath and reclaim his composure. After a moment of gasping, he slowed his heart. Galadriel had been right. It had brought ruin to each of his friends and to himself. This task of destroying the Ring had been appointed to him, and he had failed.
A few tears fled from his bright blue eyes and ran down his pale cheeks, and he was infinitely glad in that instance that he was spared the worried and prying looks of the others. He knew they had always meant well in their concern, but he also knew they could not understand. The duty had not been appointed to any but him, and though he was glad for their assistance, it had not been their failure that had resulted in such disaster. They did not know the weight of the Ring. They did not know its sick call. They had not seen the Eye burning through their nightmares. What had happened to him, what he had taken upon himself, was nothing to which even his closest companions could relate. And as such, they had not understood his inevitable seclusion. Words of some comfort came to him. You are a Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins. To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone. How true were Galadriels words! Even now, without the burden of the Ring, he was on his own, in mind and body. This he could accept.
Though the few tears escaped, he quieted the quake of his heart and looked skyward. He might have failed the Fellowship, but he would not fail Sam.
Night was coming to the land. This was the fifth day since he had left the city of Rohan, he believed, and the sunset was always behind him each night, assuring him of his course. Though he knew not what to do when he reached his destination, he felt sure some sort of plan would come to him as he stealthily traveled east. He hoped to retrace the path Aragorn had taken in pursuit of the Orc army and find his way back to the shores of the Anduin and Amon Hen. He did not think he was very far away now. Albeit he held no wish to again visit those woods where fate had forsaken him, he hoped to find Sam there. He supposed it was silly to think that Sam had not left in all these days since the fateful fight, but he could not so easily cast this notion aside. At least there might be in that maze of forest some hint as to where Sam might have gone.
The shadows were growing longer as the sun sank to the horizon, and he was weary. Frodo glanced about slowly, taking stock of his surroundings. The trees were packed tightly together in a lattice of limb and leaf; it would provide adequate cover. He chose to rest in the thicket upon which he had inadvertently stumbled. This was a bit earlier than he normally retired from his days walking, but he was extremely weary this night. Numbly he searched in his pack for the heavy woolen quilt he had taken from his room in Edoras. After producing that, he pulled out a bit of crusty bread, dried meat, and water. As he dined, he listened and watched. The woods were quiet and peaceful, and he felt no ill will from these trees. Legolas had once told him that each forest had a unique spirit all its own, and if one paid close enough attention, one could hear a melody of passing ages, of scars of fire and weather, of spring breezes and winter snows and all the creatures that had come to pass within the shelter of the trees. He had not the skill of the Elf to detect such an intricate and delicate thing, but he felt secure enough here in the sights of these ancient soldiers.
A long time passed in which Frodo did not think, content to simply feel, his mind blank and his expression impassive. A chilly breeze brushed by him, and he shrugged deeper into the warm blanket, leaning back into the embrace of the tree. The wind took with it his strength and his worries, and he looked up to the sky. The sun had disappeared, leaving the world in blackness. It was brilliant this night. Dotted with thousands of tiny specks of distant stars, the entire dome overhead seemed to twinkle gently. With tired eyes he sluggishly tried to count all the flickering lights. When they became too numerous for his exhausted mind, he gave up with a small smile and closed his eyes. How many times had he and Sam done the same stretched out in the cool fields of the hills of the Shire? It had become a summer habit, a quiet game they shared, laying in contemplative silence beneath the celestial blanket, counting and lazily dreaming.
His last thoughts before drifting to sleep were of Sam and the stars.
Sam released a slow breath. A longing suddenly pricked him inside, and he raised his eyes. Though black clouds covered the sky, through the patchwork a few stars poked their light, shedding it silently and peacefully. The shy Hobbit stood still then, halting in his weary march, and watched the wispy tendrils of the clouds sweep over the stars as if in a caress. A hot wind came by that smelled of foul things. A queer feeling came to him. For the briefest of moments, he thought he heard the sound of Frodos laugh on the breeze. Surely it was his imagination, but the sense had seemed so vivid that he unwittingly mistook it for truth, and he turned to glance behind him.
Nothing but black rock and burnt ground. The hope that had inevitably been borne from the momentary impression crashed down, bringing with it his spirits, and his face fell. He lowered his gaze to the cracked, dried ground beneath his feet. Anew he began to miss his dear friend. Worries he had set aside for the sake of concentration on their journey returned with fierce demands, and his mind was swept away in melancholy. What was Frodo doing now? Surely Strider had kept them safe if they had survived the battle at Amon Hen. Strider would let no harm come to Frodo as long as the ranger had strength left within him to fight. Though the belief was entirely logical, he found it difficult to completely trust it. So much was unknown, and he had never been the optimist.
He squinted as he blankly stared into the black shadows. A thousand fond memories came to him, each equally enticing, and in their peace he basked. He recalled times of the Shire, of sharing a meal with his friend, of fishing and dancing, of ale and good pipeweed and stargazing. Through his memories inexplicably he felt connected to Frodo, though the distance between them was great. Sam knew relief then. Though he could not explain it, he knew Frodo was safe. He knew his dear friend was of solid mind and body. He sensed the other as clearly as he did Gandalfs great form ahead. Indeed he had worried much, and this was a sweet reprieve for his heart!
It was gone as quickly and as strangely as it had come, and he came back to his body. Yet he was grateful for this strange gift, this unexpected blessing on a dark night.
Samwise, you tarry. Are you well? came Gandalfs deep tones.
Sam startled a bit, and then blushed as he turned to meet the wizards gaze. Aye, Gandalf, sir. I was just thinking of Mister Frodo. The Hobbit glanced back behind him wistfully once more, as if to look again for Frodos aura.
Gandalf chuckled quietly in spite of the dreary situation. Friendship crosses many miles, my boy. Then he grew still. At his silence, Sam turned. He appraised the old wizard with narrowed and concerned eyes. Gandalf seemed troubled, his brow furrowed, his expression nearly a wince.
Sam grew perplexed and frightened. Gandalf?
The wizard released a slow breath. His voice lost its merriment. A black air has come to us tonight, said Gandalf. He met the Hobbits meek gaze. The others are in turmoil, I sense. Panic pounded inside Sam, but he dared not say a word at Gandalfs intense visage. Yes, it is a dark time for one.
One, whispered Sam softly, the color draining from his face. He shook his head. What can we do, Mister Gandalf? he then asked. He could not keep the want from his tentative voice. He was imploring the wizard to lift these bitter tidings!
Gandalf released a slow breath and looked down. His white robes shone like the brightest star in the black world around them. Nothing, I fear, for we are far too distant to be of any aid, and the goals of our minds must outweigh the pains of our hearts. If we turn back, a great sacrifice will have been made in vain.
Sam did not completely understand the old man, but saw enough reason in Gandalfs words to abandon his desire to somehow be of assistance to his friends. Obviously the strange air that had brought relief to him had carried dissonance to Gandalf. A curse veiled in comfort? That was a cruel trick!
Again Gandalf broke his reverie. A spot of wise reassurance had crawled back into his tone, and Sam met his strong eyes. Fear not, Sam. Hope comes to them. In strange forms it may seem, but surely it does.
As they began to walk once more, Sam yearned for Gandalfs words to be true.
There came a scratching. So deep in slumber was Frodo that he did not notice the sound. The woods were eerie and quiet, as if waiting for the commotion to break the silent night once more. It did, and this time it was quite a bit more pronounced and heavy, like footfalls scraping along dried leaves. A shadow was creeping about the trees, slithering like a snake.
When the noise approached, Frodo stirred from his sleep. The frightening sound invaded his ears, and he sat up quickly, his pulse immediately jumping and his stomach clenching. He held his breath and strained his ears, his gaze frantically darting. It took a moment for him to shake away the hazy remnants of sleep. The blur of black took form in front of him, turning from terrifying apparitions into thick trunk and limb, as his eyes adjusted to the sparse illumination. But the sound came again and the frightened and panicked Hobbit rolled from his bed of the forest floor.
Frodo swallowed uncomfortably and turned in place quickly as he reached the center of the small thicket. Leaves swayed in the breeze, causing his heart to lurch at nothing, and he shook in fear. What was coming? His gooseflesh prickled as the noise became unbearably loud. A dragging, sliding gait it must have been, crackling the leaves loudly. Yet the shadows became no substance, neither of man nor demon, and he waited anxiously, cold sweat dribbling down his cheeks. His fear burned within him. He should never have left Aragorns side!
Then he felt a weight at his hip, and common sense spurred his paralyzed mind and body into action. With a grunt he ripped Sting from her sheath, the sword blade coming free with a clear and satisfying sound. He nearly dropped it, his fingers clammy and clumsy, but maintained his grasp. The blade glowed like a spike of silver, but without the ethereal blue that clung to its edges with the nearness of Orcs. This simultaneously relieved and alarmed him, for if it was not an Orc had come upon his camp, it might be a friendly traveler meaning no harm. It could as well be something far worse.
Come no closer! he called into the darkness, forever shifting his stance as each shadow seemed equally suspicious. The rustling leaves stopped a moment, leaving a chilling emptiness. But the visitor was obviously undaunted, and soon after the approach resumed. The Hobbit gritted his teeth and felt his body shake. I mean it! he shouted again, forcing bravado into his voice. He lowered Sting into a defensive position to emphasize his words. Who are you? Tell me, for I am armed!
No answer. Frodo was beginning to lose his patience to his terror, his calm and his strength fleeting. Momentarily he considered running, but he quickly banished the idea. It would do him no good; if a creature fouler than an Orc had found him, he doubted he would be able to elude it.
A rustle of brush came from behind him, and he ripped around, wide-eyed. There, that shrub shook with movement! With a howl, the young Hobbit thundered forward, Sting leveled to strike. In the split second of his charge, the shadows took the form of a hunched being. He had not the time to be surprised as he came upon it. An ear-piercing shriek disturbed the oppressive quiet, and Frodo stopped.
There, barely inches from the dangerously sharp edge of his weapon, were eyes of a disturbing pale green. The lids flicked open and closed like that of a reptile. He recognized them immediately, and shock coursed through him. Gollum he whispered hoarsely.
Please, dont kill us! came a cry. The words were more a hiss than anything, the s sound elongated with a serpents accent. A strange glint that Frodo supposed to be recognition shone in the gaze. Baggins, he hissed. Icy fear and hot repugnance claimed Frodo. He narrowed his eyes dangerously. Good Hobbit, fair Hobbit, please spare us, gollum!
The wretched creature was shivering in fear, and his thin, emaciated black arms came up to guard his lowered face. Frodo backpedaled, surprised at the strange appearance. His racing heart slowed a bit, but he would not lower his guard. Gollum had for days relentlessly pursued the Fellowship through Moria. He was a sick and twisted demon, pathetic in his obsession. He had once perhaps had the mind of a man, but the Ring had reduced him to nothing more than a lowly fiend. Frodo was disgusted. What is you want of me? he asked softly, though the answer was obvious.
The big green eyes gazed soullessly upon him. The Ring he moaned. Please give it to us kind Hobbit. Return it to Sméagol, my precious Yes, give it! A grimy hand shot forth.
Frodo found himself snarling in hatred and he threatened Gollum with Sting, pushing the bright blade closer. I dont have it, he snapped in anger. I dont any more!
Then Gollum let free a high-pitched wail. Dont have it? No, dont have it! Give it to Sméagol! Give it!
Murky revulsion sickened Frodo. Youll never have it now, Gollum, do you understand? He was surprised by the cruelty in his own voice, but he could not stifle it. His anger and hatred would not let him. Its gone forever from you!
For a moment the creature did naught but weep and snivel, still hidden in the foliage of the bush. A strange pity bit at Frodo enough to make the mellow Hobbit regret his harsh words. He thought it odd that he should feel sympathy for the beast that had betrayed his location to Sauron, forcing him to flee from the Shire. But Gandalfs wise words filled his mind. He had felt this rage before, when he had spotted Gollum trailing them through the winding and dark paths of Moria. This he had expressed to the wizard, but Gandalf had been far from accepting of his mindset. Many that live deserve death; some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or evil, before this is over.
Frodo licked his lips, remorseful of what he had said. You do not need to follow it any more, he said quietly. He returned Sting to his sheath, but warily keep his hand close.
Gollum sobbed a moment more, but then he choked out, Lost are we, gollum! Traveled to a great river we did but could not pass. Could not pass! Good Hobbit help us, yes? Help Sméagol find the Ring!
Frodo tried to make sense of what he said. Clearly the creature had followed the Fellowship to the Anduin but had been unable to cross the river and reach the eastern shore. He wondered what drove Gollum, what directed his feet. How did he know where to find the Ring? And did this mean that the Ring was in Mordor? Frodo disregarded his thoughts and reminded himself that the evil trinket was no longer his concern. He then sighed. Im not looking for the Ring, understand.
Gollum grew quiet, disturbingly so. Then without warning the fiend leapt from the bush, pouncing upon the surprised Hobbit. Frodo yelped in surprise as a long white knife gleamed wickedly in the starlight. It snapped down towards him, and he hardly had but a second to sidestep. The sharp edge grazed his arm, slicing his tunic and drawing a bit of blood. Crazed with fear, he drew his own weapon once more, but barely had time to rightly defend himself, for Gollum was deceptively agile and was on him again in a mere moment. He hit the ground roughly with the creature on top of him, hissing and spitting, struggling to drive the knife down into the captive Hobbit. Frodo caught Gollums wrist and pushed with all his strength, forcing the attacking hand back and the quivering blade from his own gasping throat. After a few moments of wrestling, he managed to slam his own hand up, ramming the hilt of Sting into the creatures slimy head. Gollum gave a squeal and fell limp on top of him.
Frodo was gasping, greatly shaken, tears of panic and fear filling his eyes. Then he scrambled from beneath the unconscious beast, untangling their limbs and scooting to the other edge of the thicket. There he stood, trying to regain his breathing, fighting against his fear. His arm began to sting, but he could not tear his terrified eyes from the prone beast but a few feet from him. He swallowed uncertainly as the forest grew still again. Gollum did not move. Had Frodo killed him?
On quiet feet, the scared Hobbit slowly neared the body. Sting still clenched in his sweaty hand, he knelt tentatively beside it, expecting at any moment for the beast to again attack him. Yet this Gollum did not do, unmoving and as still as the shadows once more. His small chest rose and fell, indicating breathing and life, but this did not relieve Frodo. With shaking fingers and wavering courage, he rapidly snatched the creatures weapon from the dirty, limp hand. Then he skittered back a safe distance.
He glanced at the acquired weapon. It was strikingly familiar to him. The hilt was meant for fingers longer than his, and the blade was slender, elegant, and of the purest metal. The pale, sleek knife glowed. Upon the hilt was an inscription in Elvish that he could not read. It then made sense, and the knowledge chilled and upset him. This was Legolas knife.
Bile burned in the back of his throat, and the forest spun. For a moment he thought he might be sick, his knees suddenly rubbery and weak. Yet he did not fall. Vaguely he questioned why Gollum should have such a thing. Obviously he must have found it in the woods of Amon Hen as he searched for means to ford the Anduin. Did not this vile creature hate all things Elvish? Once the Hobbit had heard such. Still, if that were so, why would he have taken the lost knife? Truly this demon was of contradictions! Both man and monster, both mad and driven, both hating and loving.
He held the knife tighter until his palm ached. A flood of emotions overwhelmed him. Dizzily his mind reeled, and he could bear to stand still no longer. Frodo jammed Sting back into the scabbard. Then he ran. He did not look back as he tore through the forest, leaving Gollum to the shadows. For a long time he fled, driving his body beyond its limits, his heart heavy with despair. When he finally rested, great distance had been placed between the nightmare and himself. He wept quietly, tightly holding hand clenching Legolas knife to his breast, as he slumped against a tree. His battered body ached, and his soul was bleeding. What a fool he had been to trust his pity! His ragged breath was so loud in the silence. The peace of the forest seemed false. Tonight he would not sleep again.
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.