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Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is owned by J.R.R. Tolkien, his family, New Line cinema, etc. I have written this story for my own enjoyment.
Credit: www dot Tuckborough dot net.
Note: This chapter updated 08/02/2010.
Frogmorton, 1435 Shire Reckoning
With their supper finished and a final pipe smoked, Sam bade Merry goodnight and retired to his room.
He was exhausted after the long day at the Shirriff-post, exhaustion which was compounded by several hours spent avoiding his friend’s probing questions and trying to convince him that all was well.
Now, all Sam wanted was to try and get a decent night’s sleep before the journey home tomorrow.
Yawning, he lay down on the bed and pulled the covers over himself, praying for a restful night, and wishing once more that his Rosie was with him. His head was beginning to ache again, and he was also feeling strangely unsettled.
Perhaps he should use some athelas to aid his sleep? It might make his rest easier.
But he had only brought a couple of leaves with him, and he had already used one after his meeting with Robin in order to refresh himself before Merry came, because the very last thing he had wanted was for Merry to suspect he may be unwell and start fussing over him.
Fat lot of good that did, thought the gardener ironically, recalling how tenacious the Brandybuck had been with his questions all evening.
Of course, Merry was not worrying without reason. And, as unwilling as he was to admit it openly, Sam knew that something was wrong, too. His sleep had been disturbed by nightmares a couple of weeks before the anniversary of the One Ring’s destruction but, unlike every other year, they had not stopped after the anniversary passed. On the contrary, they had increased, becoming more and more sinister with each passing week. He did not understand it.
It was now several months since they had started and hardly anything seemed to soothe his sleep anymore. Hardly a kiss from his Rosie, or sweet smile from his children. As a result, he was constantly tired and short-tempered; his head always ached, and his eyes always burned. Furthermore, Sam was finding it ever more difficult to concentrate and participate in his daily tasks. His family life was suffering because of this.
Every aspect of his life was being affected.
For many weeks now, the hobbit gardener had fought to retain an illusion of normality for the sake of his loved ones. He didn't want to worry his Rosie. But it was getting harder to deny that something was wrong, with the effects of his lack of restful sleep becoming more obvious. Even the athelas plant did not aid him as much as it should. This evening, it had barely lasted an hour before he began to feel irritable. And now he only had a single leaf remaining. Why hadn’t he thought to bring more?
Well, there was nothing else for it but to keep the one he had left until morning. If the athelas wasn’t proving as durable as it should, it wouldn’t be much good to him tonight. Maybe using it before breakfast with Merry would be enough to stop his friend worrying further until they had both left Frogmorton and he could get back home to Hobbiton.
He yawned again, feeling weary through to his very bones. His eyes began to droop and he soon fell into a dream.
One of the worst of his life …
Only a few yards away from the dark entrance to Shelob’s lair, a grieving Sam held his master’s still form close to him, rocking gently back and forth and weeping bitterly. Frodo was motionless; no breath left his body, his eyes blank and unfocussed.
He was dead.
“Don’t go where I can’t follow!” cried the faithful gardener in dark despair. “Don’t leave me, Mr Frodo. Come back.”
But Frodo did not heed his call. He would never come back. The Master of Bag End was dead, and the realisation was a pain more acute than any he had ever experienced.
Voices suddenly pierced the fog of his grief. Harsh and ugly they were. Sam cocked his head to the left - they came from the stairs leading up to the Tower of Cirith Ungol. And they were coming towards him.
An orc patrol!
The hobbit was torn. What should he do? He and Mr Frodo would surely be discovered; the orcs would then find the Ring and all would be lost! He mustn’t let that happen! But what was he to do? Did he have the strength to carry on the task by himself? Was he meant to? No! He was a simple gardener, not a mighty lord of men, or a glowing hobbit master. He had no business thinking he was fit to finish such a task!
But if not him, then whom? There was none other available to complete his master’s duty. Who would see the job through to the end if not him? Not the orcs, that much was certain!
Oh, this was not the time to be digging for inspiration! A mind as empty as his from all but sorrow would yield none, anyway! What mattered was that he hide himself and his poor dead master first. As for what he should do after the orcs had gone? Well, he could think about that when they were out of sight.
Decision made, Sam surveyed his surroundings wildly as the voices grew nearer. They were almost upon them!
Spying a recess in cluster of large rocks near the stairs, he lifted Frodo’s inert form and hurried over to it, squeezing them both inside. They barely fit, and it did not quite hide them from anyone who may be approaching the crude stairs on his side; fortunately, the orcs were coming down the stairs, and it was Sam’s hope that they would not have reason to glance backwards after descending them.
He held his breath when they finally appeared. There were three in total, all dressed in the garb of Sauron’s army, and they were uncouth, bickering amongst themselves in their foul tongue. They did look around them - his heart almost stopped in fright - but they did not look behind them, and it was with great relief that Sam watched them disappear into one of the larger caves.
So now it came to it his moment of decision; and Sam had little time to make it. He did not know how far into they caves the orcs would patrol, if they thought Shelob may be a danger to them. He might know that the monster was severely wounded, but they did not, so he would have to leave soon.
He turned his tear-soaked face back to Frodo’s dead body and cried at the unfairness of it all. This should not have happened to such a gentle spirit! How could this be fair? His master was gone, his last days tormented by the cursed thing he bore!
Rage swept through him then, filling him with hatred for it. He had felt the Ring calling to him during the journey to Mordor, trying to seduce him, but he had ignored it. It was a deceiver, Sam knew that. Getting Frodo to Mordor so he could destroy it, and getting him back to the Shire in one piece afterwards, was all he had cared about. Power meant nothing to a simple gardener like him. It would not make his roses grow!
But Frodo would not be returning to Bag End ever again. Nothing could change that now. He had died trying to destroy the Ring and Sam would not allow his sacrifice to be in vain! He would take it himself and throw it in the fires of Mount Doom where it had first been given life, thus destroying it forever.
Suddenly, Sam was overcome with a feeling of ... wrongness. A feeling that told him this should not be happening. But he shrugged it off and made up his mind.
It was time to act.
Tearing at the vile webbing that encased his beloved friend, Sam reached beneath Frodo’s shirt and pulled the Ring and the chain over his head, freeing it from his body. His hand felt unclean where it grasped the Ring, a feeling which only increased as he slipped the chain over his own head and felt the golden sphere nestle on his breast. It made him feel heavier. Vulnerable.
Yet he was also determined.
Placing a gentle kiss on Frodo’s forehead, and promising he would come back for him, Sam left the recess, placing some large boulders in front of it to further conceal the body within. He had no idea if he would be successful in his attempt to destroy the Ring, let alone how he would get back to collect Frodo’s body for a lengthy return to the Shire, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try!
Sparing another glance at the cave into which the orcs had disappeared, he wondered if they were on their way back yet, or if further patrols were to be found at the top of the stairs. He would have to slip by the Tower unnoticed, to be safe. But how to achieve this?
The Ring! It would render him invisible enough not to be seen by greedy orcish eyes.
The thought of actually wearing the Ring was repulsive to him. He was reluctant to put it on - knew it was dangerous to do so, for he had seen daily proof of the effects on Frodo. And to wear it this near the border of Mordor might prove perilous to the Quest. But what other choice did he have? Perhaps, if luck was with him, he could ambush an orc near the Tower and take its armour. At least that way he could take the Ring off before he crossed into the realm of the Dark Lord. And orcish gear might help him get across Mordor unchallenged. The only worry was finding a solitary orc to ambush …
It did not seem like much of a plan, but it was all he had. With a shiver of disgust, Sam pulled the Ring from its chain, slipped it over his finger, and disappeared from sight.
A wave of dark seduction flowed through Sam’s mind the second the golden band rested on his finger. The Ring was now whispering to him forcefully, showing him armies at his command and kings bowing before him; promising all this would be his if he would only succumb to its will. But Sam did not want such a thing. He was no great leader of hobbits, elves or men, and had no wish to be. Realising the futility of its actions, the Ring changed tactics. It showed him vast gardens of indescribable beauty, telling him he could be master of all. Again Sam refused, knowing it for a false promise. He was still too distressed by Frodo’s death to pay attention to anything the Ring offered.
The Ring lashed out at him in anger, but he could not afford to let himself be affected by that. As long as he wore it, he could feel the burning Eye searching for him, as if Sauron himself sensed the presence of his greatest desire. Sam swallowed his fear, knowing he had not the time for such a luxury. He had to leave. Now.
With his mind steeled for the journey ahead, the stalwart servant made his way towards the steps and, taking one last look at the recess where Frodo’s body was concealed, climbed the stairs towards his fate.
Ten days later, and a very determined Samwise Gamgee was still forging his unsteady path towards Mount Doom.
After leaving his fallen master, he had indeed found an orc patrol near the entrance to the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and had successfully slain one of its number when it wandered some distance from the main group to relieve itself. Truth be told, he had been surprised - although grateful - that the creatures had such modesty. He ran it through with Sting, donned its filthy armour and helmet, then concealed the body. Taking off the Ring and placing it on the chain around his neck, Sam then crossed into the Black Lands, beginning the final leg of his journey.
Unfortunately, the great number of orcs and uruk-hai in Mordor was proving difficult to evade, and he had almost been caught by a large army marching towards what he thought was the Black Gate. But evaded them he had. He was now mere days from his intended destination and could see the fiery summit of the mountain he was headed towards.
Something still didn’t feel right. He couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was, exactly, but he was certain that this should not be happening.
“Of course this shouldn’t be happening Samwise Gamgee!” he chided himself. “You should be home in the Shire with Mr Frodo, bringing him his afternoon tea in the garden at Bag End and discussing the tater crop! Instead you're here in this evil place, with this evil thing around your neck, and a great flaming Eye trying to find you!”
Shaking his head at his own foolishness, the weary hobbit trudged painfully onwards, his feet aching and blistered from the unforgiving terrain, his tongue thick with thirst, and Barad-dúr looming menacingly in the distance.
His water had run out two days ago. Driven by desparation, Sam had been surviving on any and all puddles of tainted fluid he came across. It tasted awful, but his body screamed for liquid sustenance. And though he carefully rationed his food, there was little left of the provisions Faramir had given them at Osgiliath. All the Elven bread was gone.
To make matters infinitely worse, the Ring had taken to taunting him ceaselessly. It showed him visions of his family in pain, of the Shire destroyed, and told him that he could stop this if only he claimed it. But the thought of what it had done to his beloved master stoked the fire of Sam’s hatred for it and he defied it time and again, wishing nothing more than its destruction.
However, it would not give up. Its attempts to control him had increased the nearer Sam drew to Mount Doom, as if it sensed its impending demise.
That night, exhausted by the heat from the burning mountain and sick from the filthy water he was drinking, combined with his lack of proper nourishment and the effects of weeks without proper rest, Sam collapsed by a dry river-bed.
He was not going to make it!
The Eye was searching for him, he could feel it. The Ring continued its efforts to wear him down with each step that brought him closer to his goal. Sam was feverish and malnourished. He did not know if he could go on. Was this what Frodo had experienced whilst carrying it on their journey these many months? His poor Master! How had he endured this for so long?
The thought of Frodo gave him strength. He would do this for his sake; the Ring had killed his greatest friend and Samwise Gamgee would destroy it no matter what he had to go through!
“But I did not kill your master,” whispered the Ring. “You did!”
Sam’s whirling mind stilled at the accusation. He did not want to hear any more of its lies, yet he was completely powerless to stop them.
“Your master was not dead when you left him.”
Sam scowled in disbelief. “You’re lying! I saw him and he was dead, killed by Shelob’s poison!” His breath hitched as he remembered Frodo’s body lying in the recess. The Ring was trying to deceive him again!
“It is no deception, foolish hobbit. He was drugged by her poison, not killed. My master’s servants easily found his resting place on their return and he was taken to the Tower for questioning.”
He swallowed thickly. It wasn't true, was it? Frodo had been properly concealed from the patrol! Unless ... Had the orcs found the spider, badly wounded as she was, and searched more thoroughly for the one that inflicted her hurts?
No! It couldn't be true. This was all wrong and deep down his innate hobbit sense had already recognised that! But what proof did he have that something was amiss?
Still, he wasn't the Gaffer's most stubborn lad for nothing ...
“No, I won’t believe you! You’re trying to trick me again, but I won’t be having none of it!” he said desperately. It couldn't be true!
“You abandoned him too hastily; refused to see what was before your very eyes because your desire to possess me was stronger than your need to see the truth. You betrayed him.”
“Stop it!” yelled the hobbit, fearing the truth behind its words. What had he done? “I never wanted you! I thought he was dead!“
The Ring seemed to laugh at him. “He is now.”
"Liar! You're a liar," cried the trembling hobbit as he dissolved into tears. Of all the things the Ring could have accused him of, the thought that he may have inadvertently caused his master harm was too much - especially as he had no way to refute it. Guilt gnawed at his heart when the Ring showed him a vision of Frodo, bare-chested and bleeding, in the Tower.
“The Uruk-hai made great sport of him before he died. He suffered greatly at their hands.”
“Stop it! Stop it! I would never betray Mr Frodo. Stop it!” he begged.
“He was whipped and tortured for days,” it taunted. “He pleaded for mercy again and again, and called out for his Sam to help him. But you were not there and neither was I. He died believing you had stolen from him. He died hating you in his madness!”
“Liar! You’re a liar! Mr Frodo doesn’t hate me. This is wrong. This is all wrong!” Sam was weak at the thought of what he might have done to his master. Could it be true? Or just another of the Ring’s tricks to stop him from fulfilling his task? “Elbereth Gilthoniel protect me! I can‘t fail him now!”
Whether the desperate hobbit's plea had been heard, or whether he was hallucinating, Sam couldn't rightly tell, but suddenly the Ring’s taunts abated. In their place, there came to him then a vision, but this time it did not strike fear into his heart: he saw Frodo resting peacefully on a cot underneath a sprawling canopy in a fair green land. Next to his beloved friend was another cot, in which he himself lay asleep. Strider sat by the RIng-bearer, bathing his face, and all at once it struck Sam: this was the truth. This glorious, peaceful vision was the way his world aught to be; this was what he must believe - not the twisted, evil corruption of the One Ring! But if his vision was the truth, why, then, was he here?
Another image flickered into existence. He saw himself returning safely to the Shire with Frodo, Merry and Pippin. He saw Rosie Cotton, now Gamgee, placing a tiny hobbit infant in Frodo’s arms; saw Frodo smile with pure pleasure as he held the babe.
That was reality! Sam would never leave his Mr Frodo! The Ring was trying to turn him mad!
It all came flooding back to him: they had both survived! The Dark Lord Sauron had fallen, and Barad-dûr with him. The people of Middle Earth were freed from his tyranny forever. But Mr Frodo had been too poorly to enjoy his victory. The Master of Bag End had long since left the Shire to seek comfort across the Sea …
A pang of sorrow struck at Sam’s heart, and he wept as he realised he would never see Frodo again.
As if sensing the chink in his temporary relief, the Ring made its move.
“What does it matter if your master lived? You will never see him again because you failed him. You know that. Everyone knows that.”
“You’re not real. This is not real. I’m not even in Mordor anymore - haven’t been for years!” sobbed Sam. “And you’re dead! Gollum fell into the lake of fire and took you with him!”
The Ring laughed derisively. “I will never be dead as long as you live in Middle Earth. For you bore me yourself and I will live on in you, tormenting you.”
“I only carried you for a day! You don’t have the power to torment me like you did my poor Master.”
The Ring's anger swelled until the little gardener thought his head might burst with the fury of it.
“You are as witless as your name suggests, Samwise,” it sneered. “For many years you have ignored me in this belief, going about your daily life with hardly a care in the world. Yet I have grown in strength within your feeble mind while you did so, and you have not even suspected it! I have seen things as you have not. You may think yourself honoured by your false king and your pitiful friends, but I have seen the true measure of their feelings when they gaze at you. They hate you!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about! They love me,” he croaked.
“Are you so certain? Frodo was ever the favoured one. It is he whom they miss so keenly. Do you not think they blame you for his departure? For failing him and ultimately them?”
Despair nestled heavily in the pit of Sam's stomach, an additional trial he could easily have done without: it was bad enough trying to fight the assault on his mind. In desperation, he cast his gaze around him, searching for a way out of his nightmare; yet no matter that he now knew the truth of his reality, he knew no way to escape from the dreadful dream-Mordor.
But there must be a way, or how did he get in?
“You will never escape, fool, because this is the land of your greatest failure! For all your pitiful attempts, you were unable to save your Master; he still succumbed to me in the end.”
“But you were destroyed, and your master with you!” cried the distraught hobbit.
“And was your master not also destroyed?” demanded the Ring.
He did not want to listen to it, but his memory betrayed him as it pulled him towards visions of the years Frodo had suffered before he finally left Middle Earth; of all the anniversaries that had weakened his body and spirit - and he knew there was a grain of truth in this.
Grief shook the stricken gardener to his core.
“Did you not promise Gandalf that you would not leave him?” enquired Sauron’s relentless monstrosity with sadistic pleasure.
Sam remembered hiding in the cave by himself and watching as the orc patrol found his master’s body. He recalled the horror which gripped him when he heard them say that Frodo was still alive. It was his fault Frodo had been imprisoned in the Tower! His. No one else's ...
His strength to fight against the Ring was crumbling faster and, in his despair, he began to claw at his head in a feeble attempt to liberate it from the voice of the One Ring before it conquered him.
It was useless. His once-dormant Enemy delivered its final blow with deceptive gentleness. “Did you not promise his cousins - your friends - to take him to Mordor and bring him back again? All of him?”
Sam recalled the deep grief in Merry and Pippin’s eyes as Frodo sailed away from the Grey Havens, knowing they had lost him for good; he imagined their disappointment when Bag End's front door opened to reveal him instead of their beloved cousin.
It was too much.
"No, No, NOOO!!!!!!!!"
The shattered hobbit screamed in denial, tearing wildly at his hair, and then collapsed. He did not move again.
And the Ring cried out in victory.
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