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1440 SR, Bag End
Merry had dared Goldilocks, which was always certain to guarantee she would take the bait. Just to make the dare more tempting, he added that both he and Pippin had already done it.
“We sneaked in last year and held it,” he boasted. “We weren’t scared, like you are.”
“I’m not scared!” Goldilocks declared, and stomped her foot. “I’m going to do it right now.”
But now that it had come to it, she was scared, after all. They had sneaked into Dad’s study, and she had opened the chest, but now stood frozen above it, her hands poised to grab the prize, but not quite able to make herself reach in.
“See, I told you she wouldn’t do it,” Pippin said to Merry behind her back, and suddenly Goldilocks’ hands fastened about the hilt, and she lifted the blade.
The lads fell silent, and all three of the children looked at it in awe. “It’s heavy,” Goldilocks gulped.
“I know,” Merry said, his voice almost a whisper. “It’s splendid, isn’t it?’
Goldilocks nodded, impressed. She wanted to swing it about a bit, but it seemed too heavy for her tiny hands to manage such a feat so she thought she had better not. Just holding it made her want to hunt dragons and giant spiders.
Just then the study door opened and Faramir came tearing in, Hamfast at his heels. Goldilocks jumped, and nearly dropped the blade, but managed to maintain her grip.
“Goldilocks!” Faramir cried. “You know you mustn’t!”
“Hammie, you little tattletale!” Goldilocks snapped, turning narrowed eyes on her brother.
“You only didn’t want me to know because you knew I’d say it was wrong of you!” Faramir came back. “Now put it away!” and he reached out for the blade. He and Goldilocks scowled at each other in soundless confrontation for several moments, but then Faramir stepped closer to her, his eyes flashing, and she grudgingly turned it over. Once it was in Faramir’s hands, though, he hesitated, feeling its weight and power.
“See?” Goldilocks said smugly, brushing bothersome locks out of her face. “Now you want to play with it too.”
“Children,” said a quiet voice in the doorway, and all five of them turned, horrorstricken. “Dad!” four voices cried, while a fifth squeaked, “Mayor Gamgee!”
Sam stood in the doorway of the study at Bag End and studied the young, terrified faces in front of him. Finally, he walked over to Faramir and held out his hands.
“Give that here, Faramir-lad,” he said quietly, and Faramir gently gave it over, his own hands trembling.
Sam stood looking at the blade a long time, not seeming to take any notice of the frightened children. Finally, he sighed deeply and sat down.
“Perhaps this is my fault,” he said. “I have not taught you as I should have. I have not told you proper how I came to own this.”
Hesitantly, the children circled ‘round him. Sam finally looked up at the uncertain faces.
“It’s Sting, sir,” Merry said promptly. “It’s your sword.”
“And it was Cousin Frodo’s,” Faramir added. “And Cousin Bilbo’s before that.”
“Yes, that’s right,” Sam said. “Mr. Bilbo gave it to Mr. Frodo as a gift when we left Rivendell. Mr. Frodo gave it to me as a gift, later, but that is not how I first came by it.”
“After you killed Shelob with it,” Goldilocks provided.
“I don’t know that I killed her, Goldilocks,” Sam said, “though I did manage to drive her off. But I want you to think of what I saw the first time I took this sword in my own hand. It was Mr. Frodo, bound up by her foul ropes, and her already dragging him away, like a spider in the garden does to a tiny fly she plans to feast upon. And there was Sting, lying on the ground, and I picked it up without thought or leave, because I could not let her have him. Have you thought about that, children, when you’ve heard the story? Merry-lad, if it was your Pippin you came across, bound and helpless, or one of you three, finding another like that?”
The children were silent, suddenly chilled and frightened. Sam had never spoken to them thus, never asked them to entertain such thoughts, and they were sharply aware of the seriousness of his words. Suddenly the story was no longer just a story.
“It weren’t bravery, me taking up this arm,” Sam said. “If I’d’ve thought about it, I suppose I would have run screaming away, because nothing you can imagine is more like a nightmare as that creature was. But I did not think about it, and that is a blessing, because then I was able to drive her off, me and the power of the Lady Galadriel. But it was for naught, or so I thought.”
“Because you thought Mr. Frodo was dead,” Hamfast whispered. He was clinging to Faramir, and the older lad put an arm about his shoulder.
“But he wasn’t, Hammie,” Faramir said firmly.
“No, but I thought he was, I surely did,” Sam said sadly, “and no blacker moment have I ever known. I hope none of you children ever feel even the littlest bit as I did that day. And then I felt even worse, because I realized what I must do, that I must go on without him.
“And so I took Sting as my own. I gave him my own sword, though it was the lesser, and it tore at me to do so, but if I was to finish the quest, and get into Mordor, to the fiery mountain alone, I reckoned I would need it. And that’s what I told him. ‘If I’m to go on, then I must take your sword, by your leave, Mr. Frodo,’ but of course, he could not give me leave. So I took up his sword, and I took up his Burden, and I took up his Light, and I left him behind, because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
“But you went back,” Goldilocks said. “You went back and saved him from the orcs. You didn’t leave him, after all.”
Sam laughed softly and sadly. “No, I could not leave him after all,” he agreed. “And I saved him from the Tower, and if you ask me, it was by the grace of Elbereth herself. And later, after we escaped from the orc-company, Mr. Frodo asked me to carry the Light for a bit longer, as he had no where to keep it, and said, ‘But Sting I give to you.’ I tried to give it back, and he wore it at least for the feast at Cormallen because I asked him to, though he said he wished for no sword. He threw off his weapon near the foot of Mount Doom, and said he would not bear one, ever again, fair or foul.”
The children were scarcely breathing now. Sam had never spoken of these events in such a manner to them before. He had always made his travels sound like a grand adventure when he spoke of them, and talked about elves in Lórien and the High King newly crowned and the blowing of horns and the singing of songs.
“Once more he gave it to me, though he did not name it of itself, when I traveled with him for the last time, and he said to me that I was his heir, and all that he had and might have had he left to me.
“So, I took it first without asking leave, and second asking leave but not having it, and third by his bidding, and fourth by his love,” Sam said, cradling the sword carefully in his palms. “But never have I held this blade without need or cause, nor would I have any of you children ever do so. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Dad,” and “Yes, Mayor Gamgee,” they chorused solemnly.
“Good,” Sam said with a sigh. “Now, who got this out?”
“I did, sir,” Goldilocks confessed.
“All right,” Sam offered out the sword, “put it back proper.”
Goldilocks took Sting from her father’s hands as carefully as she would have a baby sibling. It still felt heavy in her hands, but as she set it in the chest and covered it with its velvet wraps, she thought that its weight might be that of her father’s love.
(NOTE: Sam quotes himself directly from “The Two Towers,” from the chapter “The Choices of Master Samwise.” He quotes Frodo directly from “The Return of the King,” from the chapter “The Land of Shadow,” and indirectly from “The Grey Havens,” in the same book.)
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