Within the Tower

by Dandy
II

I.

“Sam?” I looked backwards. I could no longer see the lady’s light shining in the dark. Wasn’t he just behind me? I know he was just a short while ago. The euphoria that had seized me when I first saw the pass had past. My voice cracked with fear. “Sam, where are you?” I glanced at the pass ahead. The tunnel’s end at last, but I couldn’t leave Sam.
I slowed and thought “I ought to head back the way I had just come.” Sting gave off a soft glow around the edges. Orcs? Oh dear, where was Sam?

I heard his voice, but I could not make out from what direction his voice came from or what he said. “Sam?” A noise sounded behind me. “At last” I thought “There you are.”

I felt the stab in my neck. Seems the shirt does not protect all. One step, Sting dropped from my hand. I could no longer hold it. Two steps, an eerie darkness covered my sight. Three, the blood drained from my face, oh please, not again. My body could no longer hold up its weight. I dropped to my knees as the poison began to eat its way through my system. A single crawl. And the world was gone.

Another wave rocked the deck, the ship tossed upon the tempest. Water splashed onto my face. Where was I? The sea sickness again turned my stomach. Would this voyage ever end? Strange, I had always heard that the sea was made of salt and water. The water splashing on my lips wasn’t salty. I wish the deck would stop rocking, where was the wind that would so rock a ship? The deck spun. The water dropped again.

My eyes partially opened. I could see nothing but the floor, the wall. The coolness of the rock beneath my face let me know that I was not aboard a ship. My neck felt like it was on fire. My shoulders and head aching from the pain; “What a horrid dream I had Sam. All about a tunnel, a spider, and a ship. I feel so sick. Is there anything to make tea with?” I spoke to the wall. There was no answer.

“Sam?”

I opened my eyes all the way. The empty room was spinning. I shut my eyes again. I fought to keep down the nausea. This isn’t right. There were stairs and a tunnel and nothing…..Maybe Sam has gone scouting around. I hope we don’t go very far today. If I sit up, I think I am going to be physically sick. The room is already starting to get warm. I think I had better just lie here on the cool floor and slee….

Pain flared in my ribcage. What?…Then I felt the kick again.

“Wake up you dunghill rat.” I opened my eyes and jumped back in fright. An orc. I was found. Another kick sent me sliding towards the wall.

“Gorbag! I tol’ ya to let him be. He’s not fer you to ‘buse.”

“Garn, Shagrat, yer spoilin my bit o fun. It was only a kick or three, get him use to the question’r when he arrives. Why should he get all the fun? We do all the work.”

“Gorbag, I ha’ me orders and yer not ta inerfere, our orders are to search, strip and confine any spies. I tol’ yer that afore. An that’s what I’m goin ta do.”

There were four of them in the room. Where did they come from? There were no doors, nor windows that I could see. I was trapped. Where was my sword and more importantly where was Sam? A single torch was lit in the room. That was no help. It was too far away. I couldn’t go anywhere and my back was against the wall. The four of them advanced claws and teeth bared. I grabbed the only weapon I could find, a loose rock on the floor, and slung it at one of the orcs. The other three laughed as I caught him in the eye.

“HA! Gorbag, yer idiot, you deserved that”

“I’ll show the rat what needs deservin’.” He grabbed me up by my hair. I lay dangling, my scalp burning. He slammed my head up against the wall. The impact caused the room to turn red and then black. The words filtered through the darkness.

“Gorbag! Stop!”

I felt myself falling. I never reached a bottom. A vile liquid was being poured down my throat. I nearly choked on it. The hideous faces before me grew clear. Their knives were now out and they ran their fingers over them. I could not think. My ribs and my head were both aching.

“So little dunghill rat, what are you doing in the tunnel?” Nothing, running, hiding….
Their eyes.

“Where did you come from little dunghill rat?” nowhere, lost, empty….
Their claws.

“Where did you get the pretty shirt?” shirt? I am naked in the dark….
Their knives.

“Why did you come to Mordor?” why was I here….
Their whips.

“How did you find the tunnel?” alone, guided. guided?
Their eyes.

Again and again the same questions came at me. Again and again the same answers came to me. Nothing, nowhere, alone. My breathing became labored. It was getting more painful to squeeze air past the bruised ribs.

“Garn, we won’t be able to get straight answers from him until the spiders poison wears off. By then the question’r will be here”

The voices receded and the darkness returned.
-------
I wandered through Bag End. The rooms were unlit save for the kitchen. The fire was roaring in the fireplace. At the table sat Bilbo. Mumbling to his self and writing. It was so hot.
“Hullo Bilbo, what are you doing?”
“My dear boy, what ever are you doing up so late? You’re running a fever. You should be in bed. Resting.”
“Well, sir. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Me neither lad.” He laughed. “That’s why I am sitting out here.”
“What are you writing, sir. It looks like a list?”
“It is a list lad, let me read it off to you….cloak, staff, sword, shirt, mail shirt and a precious mithril one at that…bundle it all up and take it…”
“Why sir, it almost sounds like almost everything you left the Shire with….”
“The Shire? Dunghill rat, what is that?”
“Are you being silly Bilbo, that’s where we live, remember?”

A crack sounded and I felt the whips lash across my bare shoulders. A groan escaped my lips.

“Dunghill rat. What is this shire yer onto ‘bout?”

I shook my head. “Nothing, a dream.”

“Well, quit yer yammering. Yer wish you had enough to tell the question’r when yer seen ‘im”

“Where are my clothes?”

“Where yer goin’ yer not going ta need ‘em.”

Where I was going? I lay huddled on a pile of rags in a corner. Where was I going? Why was I alone in this room of orcs? Sam, my friend what has happened to you? The tears slid down my face. If anything has happened to you, I will never forgive myself. Everyone is gone. I have forgotten something, something important. I wish I could filter through this internal fog. What have I forgotten? There is the tunnel, the spider and nothing….

“Snaga!” The voice came through the (floor?) .
“Snaga! He can’t go anywhere, leave be and come help. Gorbags brought in his force; he’s tryin’ to pinch that pretty shirt. I need yer skill as arch’r not guard.”

The orc standing guard raised a trap door and descended. Well that answers that question. He took the torch with him. The room was soon left in darkness. Now how do I use that to get out? The sounds of battle reached me. The clang of swords, the screaming and cursing. I put my hands over my ears. I was being taken back in time. I have heard this sound before…..where? when? Moria, a wave of sorrow flowed through me, Moria……Oh Gandalf….How I wish I had your fatherly advice here and now.

The trapped door opened again. Two bowls were quickly pushed into the room, and it shut again. I fumbled through the dark room. Trying to remember the direction of the light….water…bread…Well they did need to keep me alive for the questioner who or whatever, that was. The battle sounds had been drawing nearer. How soon before Gorbag reached me again. Maybe I shouldn’t have thrown that rock at him. I took my food and water back towards the bedding I had made for myself out of my shredded backpack. How soon before one of them returned with their whips and knives again? I sat in the dark ate and drank. The water helped. My throat and head felt like they were on fire. Something was missing. Ah. That’s what it is. The sounds of battle have stopped. Who won? Shagrat or Gorbag. I shivered. I don’t know which one I feared more. A wretched choking scream reached my ears. And then silence. The eerie silence was worse than listening to the battle.

Inside the tower
That loneliness built
a tower constructed
of ashes and silt

Lost and alone
a blanket woven of fear
unable to shed
these ravaging tears

My friend will come
I must not lose hope
How did we end up
on this slippery slope..

“Singing me to sleep now are you Bilbo? You haven’t done that for years.”
Bilbo chuckled. “I’ve missed it too lad. Did you attend to the singing at the Great Fire last night? I made up a new song.”
“Yes sir, I heard it. It was all about Earendil. Mr. Strider called you cheeky.”
“Did you hear the new one from Sam, too?”
“Sam? No sir, I must have missed that one.”
“I will sing you a bit of it then. ‘In western lands beneath the sun, the flowers may rise in spring’. Leave it to Sam to sing about flowers and a tower.”
“Beyond all towers strong and high. Beyond all mountains steep. It does stick with you don’t it?’
“Ho la! You dunghill rat! Stop your squeaking, or I’ll come deal with you.”
“I don’t understand.”

The trapdoor opened with a crash. Snaga had come back.

“See now, if ya don’t want the fun to begin now, then ya had best lie quiet. ‘Eres a reminder fer ya.” Again the whip crack. This time it laid a welt onto my side. My flesh burned from its contact.

”That was pretty” Snaga snarled. “Let’s try ‘nother.” I only half heard him through the haze. I braced for the next blow, huddled on the floor, my arms covering my head for protection. A scuffle sounded behind me. I didn’t dare to turn and look the very thought of looking at the orc while he whipped me filled my soul with dread. Please just get it over with.

--------

“Sir?”

A sob caught me and tears ran down my cheeks. A trick. I know it’s a trick. He is just playing with me again. If I roll over I will be more exposed. He’s already invaded my dreams as Bilbo. That’s what it is, another dream about to become another nightmare. I waited. My eyes shut. I felt the arms lift me into sitting position. A gentle hug was given. I opened my eyes and peered into the eyes of Sam. A dream it has to be a dream. Sam was lost. “Am I still dreaming?” Soon he will start beating me again for speaking out of turn again. “Sir, you’re not dreaming, it’s me. I’ve come.” I lay back in his arms. Still unable to believe that it was him. The other dreams of Bilbo had seemed real too. “I can not believe it, an orc with a whip turns into Sam. Was I dreaming, when I heard the singing?” I muttered to myself. “No sir that was me. I nearly gave up. I couldn’t find you.”

“My dear Sam, please don’t disappear after I wake up.”
I closed my eyes and fell back asleep.

“Come. Mr. Frodo, you must wake up.” I felt the small kiss on my forehead. “Please Sir; I must get you out of here.” I sighed and reopened my eyes. It was still Sam. He hadn’t disappeared. I sat up.

“Where are we? How did I get here?”

“Well sir, we are in the top of that tower that we saw.”

“How long……?”

“I can’t rightly say, Mr. Frodo, sir, more than a day, I guess. But sir we don’t have time for tales. The orcs that were here have either fled or are dead. Who knows how many messengers have been sent to Barad-dur already. Or what’s lurking behind this maze of doors and stairs.”

“Something hit me, Sam, the world went all black and the nightmares started. Orcs surrounded me. They stripped me of everything Sam, my clothes, my heart, nearly my life. Their eyes still haunt me. Awake or asleep; I can see them leering at me. You must tell me how I got here sometime.”

“Not now Frodo, there is no time. Don’t talk about them orcs, sir. If you talk about them it will only make them more real to you. Think about something different.. Can you walk?”

Could I? I hadn’t tried before. I was too afraid of calling more attention to myself.

“I can try” He helped me to my feet. “Yes, I can. I’m just so very tired Sam. I guess I am not as hurt as I feel. My neck, ribs and head positively ache, but yes I can walk.” Slowly I paced across the room. The steps becoming easier as I went. Yes, I felt much better as I kept moving.

“Well, sir, as I see it we need to get you some clothes, get out of here. And continue on our way.”
Our way? Our way…..was to Mt. Doom. I stopped in my tracks. It hit me, the quest, everything came back to me and slapped me in the face.

“Sir…what is it?”

“Sam, they’ve taken everything, do you understand? Everything. I have failed. Lorien, Rivendell, Ithilian, The Shire. It’s all gone. Even if we get out of here we couldn’t escape. The vision in the lady’s mirror has come true. I have failed.” I dropped to my knees and put my face in my hands. “It’s all over.”

Sam knelt beside me.

"But Sir, the quest hasn't failed. They didn't take everything. Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but I thought you were dead. You weren't breathing, moving or anything. I took the Thing from you sir. I kept it safe."

"S-Sam you've got It…..You've got it here. Bless you Sam! You are a marvel! Where is it? Give it to me."

"Alright sir, If you insist, but it is a terrible weight. Are you sure you don't want me to carry if for you?"

He drew the chain over his neck and handed it to me. The touch of the Ring in the palm of my hand caused my vision to blur, the face that was before me changed. My body broke out into a fevered sweat. A strange lightheadedness had caused the room to spin and I was on the verge of losing my balance. This was a new orc. It was as I thought. The pleasant dream had erupted into a nightmare again. "NO!...It's mine, you can't have it, I won't let you take it from me." The violent words spat out of my mouth.

"M-M-Mr. Frodo.....Please don't talk like that, they are going to be coming soon."

Come for you, come for you. The words echoed through my head. The questioner had come. Why had he dressed as Sam? What a terrible torment, far worse than the other orc tortures by whip. But I had the Ring again and that was all that mattered.

"I will tell you nothing. You will get nothing. You are nothing. You lying, sneaking thief."

"Oh, Please Sir....Wake up....Don't say such cruel things to me."

I saw the questioner scrambling away from me, startled. The voice sounded full of tears. Orc's cry? I rubbed my eyes and as my vision cleared. The questioner was gone, and in his place he left a weeping Sam. From the expression on his face it looked as though I had stabbed him through the heart. My words came back to me. My poor Sam. I have wounded you deeper than I had ever been wounded. The tears now ran from my eyes
"Oh Sam, I am so sorry, what have I done. Will you ever forgive me? After everything you have done for me. I am so very sorry. I forgot about The Ring's powers. And how quickly it has consumed me again; I’m sorry Sam, you won't be able to help me that way again. It is my doom and my burden. You can not come between me and it again."

"But I can still help you others ways, can't I, Sir? We need to get you some clothes and some gear. I'm afraid it will have to be orc gear. I doubt they have a hobbits wardrobe handy." He said trying to smile; he wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

"Of course, my dear boy, of course you may help.” I rubbed the tears out of my own eyes. "I-I don't think I can make it without you."
-------

II.

I paced across the floor. I should have gone with him; I should have gone with him, my thoughts beating time with my pounding head and footsteps. What if something happens to you, Sam? I couldn’t bear it. I have to do something. The waiting was getting unbearable. I glanced around the room. Not much to see by the torchlight. My bed of rags, the ladder, the knife that Sam tossed onto the floor; the knife! I stopped and stood staring at the orcs knife lying next to the ladder. My fevered head began spinning visions of fear; once again I saw the knife in the orcs hands. Clenching, unclenching their claws the tiny pricks of pain as they questioned me. I shook my head. I had to think of something else. That route lead to madness. I clutched the cloak around me; thank goodness Sam left me this. It at least adds a small measure of comfort.

Keep moving, Frodo. I said to myself. Keep moving. I walked over to the torch and took it down from its bracket on the wall. I wonder what I can find in the dark corners of my den. Maybe they left something behind to help us. The heat of the torch so close to my face, sent another wave of nausea, through my stomach. I am not going to be sick again, I am not. My hands began trembling, the torchlight flicker in tune. I sat the torch on the floor and backed away from it. It was too much for the moment, I sat down against the wall. Taking deep breaths I waited for the feeling to pass. I chuckled to myself; maybe it’s a good thing Sam had left to go find some clothes and gear. I felt weaker than a kitten.

Breathe. Frodo. Breathe.

Listen to me talking to myself. Well at least the sick feeling has faded again. A shiver ran through me. Hot one minute, cold the next. At this rate we’ll never get out of this tower. Let alone to the mountain. I looked at the torch, its red glow causing shadows to flicker around the room. I wonder if that’s what it will be like at the Cracks of Doom. Hot like the feel of the torch when it was so near my face, or cool like the rock against my back? Will the walls have the same eerie shadows? The torchlight flared up as a new section of wood was lit. A white sparkle came from a corner just beyond. One of Sam’s favorite sayings came back to me. “Now what the blazes could that be?”

I rose to my feet and wandered past the light. A cheer of hope leaped from my throat. “Lembas!” Some broken, some in just pieces but honest-to-goodness, Lembas. Thank you Elbereth! I put a small piece in my mouth and sighed at the taste. Thank you Lady Galadrial. Eagerly now I went to work gathering up the broken bits and put them into a pile. Picking up the dropped torch. I wandered through the room. Spying into the corners and edges. The orcs must have hated these worse than Gollum. The bits were scattered everywhere. A measure of hope had returned. And at that moment I heard a soft voice echo up through the trap door.

“Elbereth. Elbereth.” Sam had returned.

I lowered the ladder and up he climbed. He dropped a large bundle on the floor.

“Quick now Mr. Frodo, I had to search a bit to find anything for someone our size. And it took longer than I thought it would. I’ve met and seen nothing but I think this place is being watched like one of those Flying Riders is up in the darkness where he can’t be seen.”

"That was a bit of a loud thump Sam. Are you sure you didn't forget anything?" I chuckled as we watched several helms of various sizes rolled away from the pile on the floor.

"I only have just the one head, Sam."

"I wasn't sure which one would fit, so I grabbed several." He said blushing.

I looked at the clothes and my smile faded. The breeks were made from some unknown animal skin and the simple leather tunic that was covered in an unknown filth. There was also a large mail shirt, a belt and short orc sword. Sam caught my look of disgust. "Sorry sir, the Morgul stuff was in better shape and had a better fit, but I didn't think it would be smart to walk around Mordor dressed as one of those orcs. Especially after this business here in the tower."

"No, it's okay Sam. I hate to think what you had to go through to get these for me." I picked up my pants by my fingertips. I held them out at arms length the smell coming from them turned my stomach. I swallowed, unable to hide the green color coming over my face.

"Well, sir, I did slam the pants and shirt up against the wall a couple times to knock any critters out of them. But there was nothing to be found. Um...are you okay sir."

The room grew hot. Quickly I dropped the pants and moved to the far side of the room. I couldn't stop the wave a nausea this time. I waved Sam away as he tried to comfort me. I leaned my head forward against the wall. The coolness reviving me after a bit.

"Sorry Sam" I said apologetically. "There's nothing else you could have done." I came back to the pile of clothes and put them on. My skin crawling from the touch of them.

Sam helped me to put on the mail shirt and found a helm that fit. Sort of. The weight of them nearly dropped me back to my knees. "I forgot how heavy these things might be."

"Sorry...."

"Sam! If you apologize one more time, I'm going to kick you." I said with a small grin.

"Yes, sir." He chuckled. "You know sir, not only do you look like an orc, your starting to sound like one too." He put on an orc mail over his clothes, then he put a cape around his shoulders and a helm on his head.

"Grrr...So, I guess we are just about ready. Did you make inquires about inns on the way? Nothing less will do for such a fine looking pair of orcs."

“Except what's left in my pack of Faramir's food and the elves bread. I don't think I have much water left in my water bottle."

"Ahh, but that's where your wrong Sam." I said with a small smile. "They cut up my water bottle and took Faramir's food, of course, but I have gathered up a fair supply of lembas myself. Eat a cake of lembas and drink that last drop in your bottle. I'm not going to budge from here until you do."

"Yes Sir, Mr. Orc."

"And just you remember that...Grrr.."

We started down the steps. They were long and wearisome. I was already tired and dizzy by the time we reached the first landing. Wearily I sank to the steps as Sam lit a new torch. He partially drew Sting, the blade was dull.

“Ready?” He asked laying his hand on my shoulder. I nodded.

“How far down is it?”

“Well Sir, I didn’t count the number of landings on the way up . More than ten, I reckon, The torch I carried burned out before I reached the top. So I expect it’ll be about the same amount of time going back down. I counted at least 200 steps ‘fore I lost my reckoning.”

“Well let’s get started again.” I stood up . The stairs seemed to sway. Sam reached out and steadied me. “It might take more than just a couple of torches, Sam.” I chuckled.

“Well Sir, we’ll just cross those bridges when we come to them.”

Landing after landing. It was me against these horrid steps. Still going down was a lot easier than it would have been if we were climbing up. The weight of the iron about me dragging me earthward. My breath turned to gasps for air.

Landing after landing. Poor Sam has already had to climb them once. I concentrated on putting my feet on each step. I swayed and leaned against Sam. He put his arm around my waist and kept me on my feet.
At the next landing I halted. Enough. I had to rest.

"Hold up Sam" I said and sat down on the landing step. "I must catch my breath for a moment." My ribs and lungs were aching from the strain of breathing, and the stairway had begun to spin. I put my head in my hands as he sat in the step next to me. We paused until the sound of my breathing return back to almost normal. I started to shiver as the sweat cooled on my skin. The smell of the orcs clothing rising about us.

“Sam, I think I need some fresh air, lets move on again.”

“Yes sir.” He stood up and lit another torch. He extinguished the first torch, the smoke began rising from the embers.

“Half a moment Sam.” I noticed the smell of wood smoke coming from it. That surely would surely smell a lot better than what I had been smelling. I stepped over to the still smoldering torch and let the clean smell of wood smoke seep into the clothes. After a moment the smell masked the worst of the orcish odors. “Okay Sam, I’m ready.”

Landing after landing was past. I gazed at the gray stone floor. My vision blurring as the sweat poured down under the helm into my eyes.
Landing after landing. Would we never reach the bottom?

“Well that makes ten, Sam.”

He chuckled. “Yes Sir, I was counting them too.’

The second torch was beginning to burn itself out. When at last we reached the bottom step. Cautiously we leaped across the orc lying dead in the partially opened doorway. We picked up a couple of shields to finish our disguise as we peered into the courtyard. It was empty. Sam pointed to the left.. “That’s the way we need to go to get out.” He whispered in my ear. “There are two stone watchers there. They are rather scary to look at. The lady’s glass got me in – it should get us out.” I nodded in understanding. As we looked towards the stone watchers, I felt their anger and hatred. An evil malice radiated from them that we could feel across the distance of the courtyard. We stepped out into the open area. Each step a drag and a torture. My strength being sapped from my body. What was wrong with me, even the stairs weren’t this exhausting? We weren’t even to the archway before my remaining strength dissipated. I dropped to my knees.

“ I can’t go on, Sam, I’m going to faint” the effort even to speak was a painful chore. “I think I am going to be sick, I don’t know what’s come over me.”

“I do, Mr. Frodo” he said as he helped me back to my feet. “It’s that gate. There is some devilry there, but we’re going to get though. It can’t be more dangerous than before.” He drew out the ladies glass. The phial blazed with a brilliant light that illuminated the courtyard around us, But the wall was still there.

Suddenly he cried. “Elbereth”

The thoughts and the words from the elves came into our minds. “Aiya Elenion Anacalina” The words burst from my throat. Suddenly we felt the will of the watchers broken like the snap of a cord. We stumbled forward. Sam caught me up into a surprised stumbling run. We had just passed through the gate when there was a loud crack above us. The keystone of the archway fell at our heels. The wall gave way and fell into ruins. The low clanging of a bell sounded and up from the watchers was raised a loud wail. To our horror it was answered by a shriek in the black sky. My words were answered. A Nazgul had come..

Running now in fear and a blind dark (Sam had put away the phial again thank goodness). Sam caught my arm. “Don’t run that way Mr. Frodo, there is a sheer drop. Follow me.” He led the way down the road, a swift bend took us out of sight of the tower. We cowered back against the rock. Stopping for the moment to calm our racing breath and hearts. The cliffs around us echoed the yet unanswered shrieks of the terror. We didn’t pause for long. The road swung eastwards again and we were once more exposed.

“This won’t do Sam. We need to get off the road. If we were real orcs we would be running towards the tower, not away from it. The first enemy of any type that we meet will know us for sure.”

“But we can’t, sir, not without wings.”

“Well there is bridge not to far ahead. We should be able to get off the road there.”

Onward we ran, coming at last to the bridge, further up the road we saw the red torches of the rapidly approaching orcs. “Now, Sam. We have to go over the edge now.” We climbed over the small ledge and clung to the edge. We each took a deep breath. The dark hid the bottom.

“Ready?”

He nodded “Well here goes, Mr. Frodo. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye Sam.”

We let go.

For about a dozen feet we dropped. Instead of landing on sharp rocks as we anticipated, the drop landed us into a tangle of thorny bushes. We lay quietly nursing our bruises and scratches as the orcs trampled over the bridge and were gone.

We had escaped.
Bruised, scratched, tired and weary we had escaped.
Hope still remained for the company of two.

“Thank you Sam.” The tears glistened in my eyes.
“Thank you for coming for me.”