1. The Unexpected Companion
An Unexpected Companion
"We cannot very well not take him with us!" Gandalf hissed into the Ranger's ear as they stood beside one another beneath an archway of woven vines on one of Rivendell's terraced gardens. "Believe me, Aragorn; I was as skeptical of his apparent repentance as you were when Legolas Thranduilion reported it at the Council. But alas, the creature will not be left behind, declaring to any willing to listen to his tiresome mutterings that he will follow in our footsteps, even if bound hand and foot… And though he is a habitual liar, this time I believe him. It may well be that he is too dangerous to leave behind. And Frodo has become convinced of his trustworthiness, and that given how much the Ring caused him to suffer, he has as much a right to see this through as any of us. And the Ring-bearer's opinion matters a great deal…"
Aragorn frowned deeply. "I agree with you on that point. But Frodo's heart is too generous, too… well, too innocent, if you ask me. It is simply too much that Gollum..."
"Smeagol," the wizard interrupted gruffly.
"Very well… 'Smeagol'… that Smeagol, of all the unlikely folk, accompany the Ring-bearer on his perilous Quest! By whatever name, that one has a dark shadow upon his heart, one that will not be dislodged by a few months of Elvish healing or a few weeks of Hobbit friendship… I fear the worst, Gandalf…"
The wizard sighed deeply as he glanced at the short-statured trio gathered some fifty feet away. The slender Hobbit sitting on the bench smiled at the scrawny, wiry appearing creature who sat beside him. Frodo's hand lay upon Golllum's—Smeagol's, the wizard corrected himself—shoulder in a gesture of friendship. Yet the other cringed and shrank away as though even the gentlest of touches caused him enormous pain. And the third figure—Sam—stood behind the bench, his face turned partly away and out of the sight of either of his two companions. But his scowling, deeply mistrustful expression was easily seen by the two men watching.
"So also, apparently, does Sam," Gandalf sighed. "Ah! Well, my heart has struck a warning that Smeagol has some role to play in all this, for good or ill… And though I share your fear, Aragorn, I am afraid that… well, that the Fellowship of Nine Walkers shall be Ten…"
The Ranger grunted. "Nine Walkers… and one Slinker…"
At least, Aragorn thought glumly, he could still make his old friend the wizard chuckle.
* * *
Aragorn had never been so angry, so hot with rage. That he outweighed the thing groveling at his feet by three stone and towered over him, that he had him utterly in his power was of no consequence. They all knew who had alerted the Orcs in Moria—and the Balrog—to their presence. They all knew that had Gollum—yes, that was the disgusting thing's name, after all—was to blame for what had happened.
Gandalf was dead, and this… this thing was to blame, as much a murderer as if he had stabbed the wizard in his back.
Aragorn ignored Frodo's feeble attempts to protest that this wouldn't have been what the wizard would want… All that mattered was that he pay for what he had done.
He reached down and grasped Gollum's lank, greasy hair in one hand, drew Anduril from its sheath with the other, and slit the miserable creature's throat.
* * *
Sam hesitated for the count of ten full heartbeats before he could force himself to stand and follow his Master.
"We're walkin' right into His Hand," he whispered hoarsely to himself as he followed a dozen feet behind Frodo directly toward the massive, hideous Black Gate. "But I suppose he's right… This is the only way in to Mordor, and we've got to get in…"
Sam flinched at the sound of the Orc's shrieking howl, followed in seconds by a blaring trumpet call. They'd been seen. It wouldn't be long now. He wiped the back of his hand over his eyes, which had suddenly overflowed with tears, even here, in this desert. "I told Mr. Gandalf that I'd never leave him, not ever… It's just that I never thought it would be quite so hard as this…"
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.