12. Not With a Bang but a Whimper
I’ve had several episodes of Extreme Fear in my life. Like when I must walk over a rusty drain in a parking lot – it could break right me! I could drop my glasses! I could become trapped in the sewer kingdom forever!!!
Anyway, that’s nothing compared to free falling from a Fell-beast .
Tears streamed from my eyes. The wind was sharp as butcher knives. I could see little grains of dust of the ground. This is the part I die... And the creature pulled up just an inch off three feet from the ground and landed. I detangled from the reins and fell. After dusting off my fur, I gave it my most milk-curdling glare. It scratched the dirt, bobbed its head, most chicken-like.
Right. Good mule! Now let’s go someplace less desolate.
It turned and hissed. Full height was ten or twelve feet. I backed up slowly.
Well I don’t need you anyway! You just keep scratching dirt, ya greasy chicken. Yeah.
I turned, began walking, ignoring the guttural clucking behind me. Mount Doom was still a good jogging-length away over and up ashy, jagged rock. The Fell-beast ’s wings might have made things easier. The only thing that kept me going, from collapsing into a sobbing fetal ball, was my mission.
It was as clear as bottled water – stop Frodo from leading Sauron to the Ring. Gandalf must’ve believed I had it hidden under a rock when he sent me off. His problem! I knew where the Ring really was. And if Frodo was going down the road to Mt. Doom… that was B-A-D. The Eyeball Lord wouldn’t have let Frodo go if he didn’t believe Frodo would cooperate in some way, that he would help him somehow, wittingly or unwittingly.
Sometimes as I stumbled along I saw a colored flash in the west. I took the near-stone and caught one in the lens. The firework formed words that said less than nice things about certain Dark Lords. Yet more than Gandalf’s performance was going on. I saw no Orcs, trolls or other minions. But I heard trumpets, sounds like thunder, somewhere, I couldn’t pin it down. Something was happening and I was running out of time.
After hours and hours and hours I was getting grumpy. My paws swelled and blistered. But I didn’t dare take a break – I didn’t have food or water anyway.
Get this over with…it’s like a calculus test… just ‘er done… worry about life’s necessities later.
I tripped and didn’t move. This dirt sure smelled familiar. Like – like Hobbit! I backed up. Footprints! Hobbit tracks! This was it! They were fresh, the black dirt still loose and fine around the edges.
I looked up. Why, I’d been going uphill. I felt giddy. It wasn’t just that this was Mount Doom at last – I’d always had a fascination for volcanoes. Call it morbid, but I’d always wanted to have a front-row seat to an eruption. I’d read books on Mts Saint Helens and Vesuvius over and over till I could recite every ashy detail.
But up close this volcano wasn’t all that impressive. A disappointing lack of action. Absolutely no drama. Just some nasty black rock that went up and up, something that I’d have to climb.
Left. Right. Left. Right. Man, this stinks. I want a taco. Stop thinking. Right. Lef- no, wrong. Left. Right. Better. The footprints were getting cleaner…
It was Sam’s voice. And that meant Bill was somewhere… he’d look at my blistered paws, his brown eyes would mist over and such pity would he feel… Wait, then I must’ve beat Frodo here. I’d won!
“Odi!” Sam was whispering, I finally took note, and my heart skipped a beat – I smelt a stench I had wished never again to whiff. Sam gave up, shouted – “Run!”
Well, that was a warning two seconds too late.
“GET THE RAT!”
“I got the rat, Ma!” A sweaty claw seized my tail and hung me upside-down.
“I got the shortling!” Snarl dived at Sam.
“I got ‘em first!” Grik and Grak pulled the Hobbit by both arms till Sam turned blue.
“Don’t tear ‘im,” said Mama Orc.
I searched the lopsided landscape. Where was Bill? They didn’t eat Bill, did they???
The Orcs hopped in place and slapped each others’ claws like a creepy game of patty-cake.
Mama Orc threw rocks at them. “Let’s move, maggots!”
Suddenly Gur cried, “Ee iii!”
Grik translated. “The Eye’s lookin’ right at us!!!” He pointed. His brothers turned pale shades of green.
“Let Him look.” Mama Orc stood straight and slapped a hideous grin on her warty face.
Drat and drat again. The crimson searchlight really was shifting around the mountain.
I still hung from my tail, and the near-stone bumped my nose. Idea!!! I pulled the stone from its bag and held it over the Eye, focusing the red light over Mama Orc’s foot. It began to sizzle and pop. She shrieked and dropped her pose. I aimed the beam at Grik and Grak, Snarl and Gur, and finally at Gutbag’s toes. ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! This was so cool – just like Star Trek!
They all writhed on the basalt. Hehe. Suddenly the beam faded and went out. What the- I looked around. The Eye had turned away, to the plains. And the Orcs began standing up and glaring. Double-drat.
Mama Orc extended her claws. I winced. Then very curiously, her eyes rolled up and she fell sideways. And one after the other, her sons went down. Sam stood tall above their limp bodies, frying pan in hand.
Success. We shook hand-paw.
“Odi, you must go to the Crack – you got to – Mr. Frodo…”
I noticed for the first time he was wobbling on his legs. He sat down, took a deep breath.
Yeah, Frodo, whatever. Where’s Bill?
Then I almost had my third heart-attack that day. Off to our right, I heard yet another all-too-familiar voice, “FOR FRODO!” And a chorus of other familiar tones chimed in, blending to produce a continuous battle cry that sounded like “AAAAA!”
I left Sam to himself. This couldn’t really be real! I ran over to the voices and stepped right into their path. They came to a tumbling halt and I was very nearly road-kill.
Their weapons were drawn and their capes billowed, as dramatic as you please. They gazed at me as open-mouthed as the day we met by the Ford. Oh yes, they were real.
“Odi,” said Aragorn after setting his jaw back into its socket.
“Otter!” Gimli slapped his thigh.
“Inconceivable!” said Legolas.
I love you, said I.
The two Hobbits were quiet, twitching, till one exploded.
“She killed Frodo!” Merry pointed a stained sword.
My eye followed the blade up to its owner, and I had my first good look at them all. Wow. Merry and Pippin wore full armor– shining breastplates and helmets twice the size of their heads, and huge battle axes were swung on their backs. They were mini-Genghis Khans! The others had much the same getup – spiky armor, helmets with horns and such. Gimli wore an eyepatch. A perfect scar stretched across Legolas’ perfect face. And Aragorn, even minus one arm, looked buffer than ever. They’d all been having fun without me.
Pippin turned to the others. “Yes! Don’t you remember what Boromir said? That ‘the red otter will herald the coming doom’?
“Or if she didn’t kill him herself, she may as well have!” Merry snorted. “She led him to his death. Sauron said he was dead!”
You’d believe a thesis student to the Professor of Lies?
Sparks incinerated the air.
“Enough!” Aragorn held out his sword. “Now is not the time. We must destroy this thing…” He opened his palm. A tiny golden ring on a chain was wrapped around the hilt of Andúril.
WAIT JUST A MINUTE!
“This we seized from Sauron,” said Aragorn, gazing into my eyes. “It cost many lives...”
“Tell her about the Troll revolt!” said Gimli. Aragorn did not.
“To make swift a long tale, the Tree-lord and the Ents broke down the Gate. Gandalf kept Sauron at bay and we surpassed his guards and came into the very vaults of Barad-dûr itself.”
The others cheered and sobbed. Aragorn’s face burned with sorrow and kingly pride. It was my turn for my jaw to drop.
You morons! That Ring’s a dud! Sauron let you take it… so you could lead him here… to us all together… to the real Ring… THIS IS A TRAP.
I paused. I expected something horrible to happen as the realization bloomed. Everything was quiet, even the two Hobbits.
“What did she say?” muttered Gimli.
“I think she is praising our victory,” said Aragorn.
“Enough talk! This is for Frodo!!!” Pippin charged me. Just as Sam limped over and said STOP so soundly Pippin halted almost in midair.
“You’re alive!” Gimli boomed.
“Are all the dead walking?” Legolas wagged his fair head.
Aragorn was getting better at controlling his astonishment. “Sam…”
Merry and Pippin ran at and embraced him. “We thought… that Odi… had made you disappear… put a spell on Frodo…”
“No! Frodo’s alive! He…” and he was cut off by Pippin’s loud wails. Legolas and Gimli looked mildly uncomfortable and I remembered that in this alternate world, they’d never gotten much a chance to hang out with Sam Gamgee.
Sam struggled for breath. “No, no, no! And that’s not the Ring that you are holding, Strider! I can’t explain it all… I found a Ring in a stream in Rivendell… I replaced it with the true one that afternoon.”
Yeah, I knew it all along. Since Barad-dûr -ish.
“Frodo’d just hung it on his doorknob, you see. Then I left with Galdor… and… we planned to destroy it ourselves while you kept Him busy. Well, it wasn’t Galdor’s idea. Someone else’s but he never really said who…”
Everyone nodded mechanically.
“And we were captured by Orcs and brought here into Mordor with Frodo and Odi. Bill and I escaped with the Ring. Frodo had the one from the stream.” Sam rubbed his nose. “Sauron must have found it and let you take it. But Sauron let Frodo go… he must have known Frodo would seek out the real Ring… well, me and Bill.”
“I wondered about Bill!” said Pippin.
“Where is it now!” Aragorn never looked so very… not tan.
“Oh, well, sir, Frodo indeed found us. He wasn’t himself, you understand, so I don’t blame him for what he did. He asked for the Ring and when I refused he shoved me a bit.”
Just a bit?
“But I didn’t have it anymore.” Sam sighed. “I’d given it to Bill and he’d gone right as soon as I spotted Frodo coming at us…”
A minute off cue, a Nazgûl’s screech exploded over our heads. BILL! I had to get to him before Frodo did… or the Nazgûl… or Sauron…
I tried to move, but two sets of feet squashed me between them. “We’ll protect you!” Pippin flashed his sword.
“Don’t you worry, Miss Otter,” said Merry, grimacing at the Nazgûl as he fingered his oversized battle-axe.
I tried to breath. Your guilt trip is touching, really touching, but I got things to do… I gaped at their feet. Even their toes had armor!
Three Fell-beast s circled overhead. I felt the hobbits brace themselves. The beasts swooped lower and lower – you could almost smell them – and suddenly a fourth appeared. It rammed right into the other beasts. The Wraiths fell off, shrieking all the way down. The freed beasts flew in ecstatic loops and took off south with their liberator, from whose scrawniness I recognized as my chicken.
The Nazgûl rose from their craters, shook their fearsome fists at their steeds, and then turned their faceless hoods our way. They took a simultaneous step forward.
“ELENDIL!” roared Aragorn. “Stay or be slain!”
One Nazgûl –I called him Henry – laughed like crowbar raked across a chalkboard. He stepped ahead of his fellows.
Aragorn too put a foot forward. “I am heir of Isildur…”
Henry cut him off with another scraping chortle. “A King?” He doubled over, clutching his middle. “Would you stay me with words?” He sniffed at Aragorn’s limp right sleeve and emitted another round of chortles. “Where is your sword?”
“Here,” said Aragorn, whipping out his left arm – and Andúril entered Henry’s chest and poked out his back.
Then Henry exploded. I can’t describe the sound as anything except WAAAAaaa… pop.
The other two levitated back and put their heads together in council. But the shock wave sent of us non-Wraiths into the rocks. Aragorn recovered first. He lunged himself at the remaining Nazgûl. Legolas and Gimli sprung to their feet, followed by the Hobbits. I ran the opposite way, didn’t look back. Judging from the hollow walloping sound of iron on cloth, they were kicking Wraith butt.
From my eye’s corner, I thought I saw the Witchking riding up the mountain on a rhinoceros. Not my problem.
Now, this part of the climb was easier. Maybe because I was so close, or… maybe because of Narya.
The one detractor was the horrible smell. There’s nothing romantic about the Essence of Volcano. It was swine rolled in rotten eggs on a holiday in a wet dump.
And for the sole purpose of displeasing me, the smell was all gushing from the Door. How could Sauron have stood it? I screwed my face up tight as I entered. Strange this place was still here at all. I supposed the whole volcano was laced with sorcery that kept it from flying to pieces. After over 3500 years –three-thousand-five-hundred, that’s not a tiny number, like, Moses would be that old – this Crack o’ Doom hadn’t cracked or crumbled. The floor was polished to a black sheen. A metal cylinder with a curious resemblance to a trash can sat in a corner and the walls glowed with runes that looked fresh enough to have been etched that morning. They repeated over and over and I guessed they said ‘Me Sauron’.
I listened to the echoes of my paws on those walls. The heat seemed to push my breath back in my lungs and hold it there. A pink haze bordered my vision and I thought of tacos with extra cheese. A geology prof told me once (from her very hard personal experience) that bad air makes you stupid. And an astronomy prof (again, hard experience) said that thin mountain air makes you really stupid. Up here I had the benefit of both bad and less air. I walked into a boulder.
Silly rock! I sat on my tail and shook my head. The tunnel’s walls and floor now were carved with fissures, glowing faint crimson. Hehe, so these are the Cracks of Doom. Well, goodbye Boulder of Doom.
Did the U.N. install some Give An Otter A Heartattack Day?
I looked up. Frodo leaned arms-crossed against the corner of one of the wall fissures.
We eyed each other till that got boring. I turned to the boulder and tried to bang the stupid out of my head but I think that made it worse. I looked back up and two Frodos tilted their heads. “Hello Bill.”
I blinked and two ponies become one. Bill came fully out of a shadowy tunnel. Frodo was between him and the way to me and the Crack.
“I knew you’d come out eventually,” said Frodo. Bill flicked his ear. “Give it to me. I’m the hero. I’m saving the world. Me.”
Bill moved his lips. Something shot from his mouth. It hurled right at me. My legs were too short for catching, so I reared up my long neck and caught it in my teeth. I fell back onto the floor and stumbled. The thing in my teeth jarred into the back of my mouth and I swallowed.
Something round and hard made its way down my esophagus.
Then the whole tunnel went cold like a freezer had been opened wide. Frodo and Bill looked toward the entrance and slunk back into the wall. I didn’t need his voice to tell me who it was.
Sauron strode in. His every footstep was a hallow thud that reverberated through the whole mountain and his huge armor clanked like a drumbeat. He stopped. He was so tall, he seemed to reach to the ceiling. Maybe it was an optical illusion. He seemed more like to combine with the shadows along the tunnel.
His head turned slowly to rest onto Bill, then Frodo, then past them, onto me. I sunk low onto the egg-reeking rock and pretended to be invisible.
Now I saw how it was. After Sauron left me in the Tower, he went to deal with Aragorn and company, and so hatched a new Plot of Impending Doom. He lured us all here to kill us with one quick stroke – picking us off in a distant battle would not have been enough. The sicko’d rather have us all watch him take the Ring.
Sauron extended his nine-fingered hand. “Excellent, Baggins. Your reward will be great… now, give it to me.”
Frodo didn’t even give him a glance. “See Odi, I had to let the Orcs take me. I wanted a talk with Sauron. And we came to an agreement.” He nodded to the power-thirsty Maia. “That I would find it. Then that he’d let us remain happy to the end of our days and that those will be extraordinarily long.
Stupid! You can’t appease evil! I flapped my paws. His eyes shined, filled to the brim with self-applause.
“FRODO! TOSS IT INTO THE FIRE… Oh…” Sam’s voice. Then Gimli’s muffled grunt cutting into Legolas’ into Aragorn’s and so on down the line. I heard even Gandalf’s ‘ooopha’.
Sauron creaked around. And he laughed, so chilling it felt like my bones were shattering.
“None of you can stop me. All of you will die here. And I will have what is mine. You will be first, Halfling.”
Frodo picked a hangnail.
“You’re mistaken!” Pippin shouted. “Odi’s right there! She’ll stop you! She’s a powerful spirit!”
So much for my sneak-away plan. Sauron glared daggers at me, then turned back to the entrance.
“Fools! This is no Maia – just a miserable mortal in beast form.”
Why deny it? I waved.
“That’s interesting,” said Frodo.
Gandalf laughed. “And that’s precisely why you should fear, Sauron. You underestimate the power of the very smallest.”
Such insults. I had had a growth spurt just before the semester!
“Lies!” Sauron’s armored muscles flexed. “Only in their most desperate hour would they send women in the form of rats.”
Gandalf pointed a finger. “Tis you who lie, Sauron. You well know the Valar do not take such matters lightly. Mark the Lady Elwing…” And yadayada.
It when on and on, back and forth. Sauron would say something about himself and Gandalf would contradict him with some historical reference, whether relevant or not. Hey! Could it be that Gandalf was trying to buy us time? And here I was, just tapping my claws. Maybe that was why Legolas and Gimli were twirling their arms so suggestively. They knew Frodo did not have it – but Sauron didn’t know that.
I took baby steps in reverse. Sauron’s back was turned. He had seized one of Frodo’s feet and was shaking him out. Gandalf lectured still on.
“Where you going, Odi?” said Frodo. Sauron dropped him, sniffed.
“SHE has it!”
He flung a bolt fire… Bill appeared over top of me and I shut my eyes… at the same time I felt a surge of energy from my ear… there was a BOOM. I looked up. The air was fried, but we weren’t. Only my ear felt warm – Narya had absorbed the fire.
Bill got up and shook his mane. Sauron stared, the others stared. This was no good. They’d all be blasted in the crossfire, simple and self-sacrificing as they were. I spun about and ran. Behind was an explosion of yelling, squeaking, and clanging. Dummies – trying to hold him off.
The Crack smoldered straight ahead. I ran… but something slowed me. I felt so… heavy… tired…
I sat down. Yells echoed through the tunnel. Why’d they have to be heroes? If I had things my way, we’d never have needed to die here. We’d be in Rivendell with hot Elves, and I’d be studying circuit diagrams and eating Hershey Kisses. I’d have attached the Ring to a ballistic missile and blasted it to Mordor. Bebother the bureaucracies and politics! If I were Czarina of the Earth, everything would be right…
…A giant otter statue carved with a Spock face rises high over a green field. Space craft are parked beside it. Multitudes of cheering Elves, dwarves, Klingons, hobbits and unicorns fill the field, stretching from the Fangorn post office to the Pizza Hut at Osgiliath.
In the very front, Captain Kirk stands on Haldir and Celeborn’s shoulders and waves his shirt.
I walk from the otter’s mouth, my cape rippling, my boots clunking. My hair blows from strategically placed fans. Three Vulcan advisors follow at my heels.
My hand lifts. “Here’s some hope n’ change even you can believe in!”
Ear-rupturing applause. I point my finger. The Ring shimmers. A blade of energy flows from it, falls into the Black Land in the east. It goes boom. A nuclear power plant appears where Barad-dûr had stood moments before.
“Electricity for all!”
More cheering. I yawn.
“Bring me a taco.” I wave at my Vulcans.“Taco’s rule.”…
Yes! YES! THE RING IS MI –
Something took a bite from my shoulder. OWW! Bill? He lifted me in his teeth and plodded to the edge. He set me down and looked, expecting.
It can’t be like that! It ain’t gonna come out for a good while and by then, it’ll be too late for whole world.
Really, my stomach bubbled like I had poured Jello powder down my throat, then topped it off with a glass of raw eggs and Tabasco sauce.
Bill waited. I sighed. I never did thank him, though he always had our backs. He had tried to stop me from going after Frodo in Barad-dûr. He had known that Frodo had not had the real Ring. There was much more than that… it was just… though he wasn’t dashing and didn’t wear a suit, and didn’t have a manly mustache, I did like him.
He just stared at me, at the Crack and back at me. Suddenly his eyes widened and he whinnied. A shadow came over us… Sauron flung him. The pony crashed somewhere out of sight. Pasties splashed the ground like blood.
You jerk! I pounded Sauron’s iron sneakers with my paws.
His other foot brushed me off. “Give it to me. Much power will be mine to give… and to you will I give your choice. Don’t be a fool as those in the door yonder… broken against stone.”
The edge was so close that half my tail hung off.
He reached down.
“I will have it! I command it! Do you think you have more power over it than I, I who forged it, here in this very place?”
Good point. I glanced over my shoulder. The red glowy stuff was far down. I so very despise heights.
He was reaching for my throat. And then… he doubled over, grasping his leg. Frodo had kicked his shin.
“Don’t pick on girls.”
I heard Sauron’s teeth grind. Beside the Dark Lord Frodo panted from his dash. His eyes were clear blue… almost normal. Maybe, after all, it was Ring-withdrawal that had made him crazy. But though heroic and nigh in-character the hobbit’s attack had been, Sauron still blocked the way back from the edge. I gave Frodo a nod, and looked down again.
Well, every time I dream of falling off the stairs or the Alps, I wake up before hitting the bottom. If this doesn’t wake me up, nothing will.
Sauron didn’t even see it coming. All this time and he still hadn’t imagined it was our master plan. He grabbed at my head and clutched only air. That’s the last thing I saw, Sauron on his stomach, leaning over the edge as far as gravity would allow, his hand reaching.
I closed my eyes, my body felt so light.
Was this what it feels like to be beamed up…?
To be concluded…
A/N: My imprecise calculations say the amount of O2 at the Crack of Doom will be about 10% less than the amount at sea level. That’s really not bad. Compare that to 55% at Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the even more oxygen-scarce Everest, whose percent I don’t feel like figuring. :P
The next chapter has been partially written since March, so it might be finished before Christmas…
Thank you so much for hanging around! ^^
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.