Frodo sat head against his knees. He was finally resting; it was dawn and Gollum paused at the base of the stairs. Sam had looked upon the ascent and knew that a rest would be needed before it was attempted. “Hoy Gollum”, he had said, “We must rest now.”
Sam looked at his master sitting lifeless against the rock wall. His head bent, dragged down by the weight of his burden. The closer they got, Sam realized, the more Frodo was tormented, the insistence of the ring drove into him. His master spoke seldom and when he did it was in vague distant muttering. The moments of lucidness had grown few.
Inside Frodo’s mind he was again a spectator. Only Sam’s will kept him on his appointed path at times. When he was exhausted it was his servant who was able to pull him forth from his own mind and spur him on. He could see the ring and the great eye searching for him, all the time. It was a searing pain behind his eyes and it was a horrible knowledge that had become a dreadful truth. The Quest would claim his life, he did not know how or when; but he would not survive. How could he and why should he go on? The dark coercing of the rings dreadful voice began. The exhaustion fed the rings power over him and he lacked the energy to deny. It must be truth, it pounded into him; you will not survive.
Frodo tried not to despair; after all he never expected to live through to the end. Yet he wanted to survive; at least until the quest laid upon him was fulfilled. He had no hope left however; and each day was a weary exercise in continuing. He was not alive now, not by any standard he had ever heard or seen. He had passed over to a shadow world more than once. He could no longer see or remember the simple things from his life in the Shire. All was black and white; all color had been removed. It was as if the darkness spewed from the mountain of fire had infiltrated his mind. He remembered beauty and love existed; yet he could neither see nor feel it. He slept fitfully, dreaming of nothing and everything, the ring and the eye…
Sam watched him as he dozed fitfully, never truly resting. His hands twitched spastically at his sides. Drifting inevitably to the ring beneath his shirt; then down again to rest on the ground. A bazaar competition for the soul of his master was taking place. He could see it every moment; asleep or awake Frodo was being tortured. Sam had to turn away at times to hide his grief from Frodo. His master bore enough; he must keep hope alive for him. He hid well the horror he felt when he looked at his beloved master; when he looked and saw naught but a shell of the vibrant being he was. The anguish Sam felt was a grief; a grief akin to the loss of a loved one. This was worse; he knew he was losing him and yet he was powerless to stop the slow decay of his “Frodo’s” bright spirit. Only when Frodo slept did he allow himself the luxury of tears for the loss he felt. But he knew somehow Frodo would never be the same, or himself.
Like as not neither would survive, Sam knew this it was the thing he had unwittingly accepted. The “something he had to see through to the end”. Yet even knowing as if it were truth and a fact. He would not change his course. If Frodo was to…
He could not quite admit it in words; his brave hobbit spirit would not yet allow it. Where there is life there is hope he thought. And as far as he could tell they were both still alive.
The hours wore away and again it was time to move onward. Onward to a hopeless goal, yet onward they would go until they could go no further. Sam roused Frodo for another day, just as he would any bright and fair morning in the Shire. “Rise and Shine Mr. Frodo”!
For the briefest of moments Frodo was home. The weight forgotten his cares erased; the simple greeting had transported him. It was a moment that did more to restore his soul than the hours of restless sleep. “Good morning Sam is it breakfast already”? Frodo answered in his waking moment.
Sam was rewarded for his effort Frodo had returned; it was a fleeting thing and it was a blessed moment. The torment and anguish gone from his face the past months of worry erased. Sam savored the moment for even as he saw it, the spark faded as if there was not enough left to shine through. The glimpse restored him for the day; yet its brief flash and disappearance steeled him for a pain he could not imagine and could not bear.
The Quest would claim his Master's life…
The black stench dripped from Sam’s arms. He was covered in the bubbling ooze as he pierced the vile creature. The smell almost made him swoon yet he had kept his wits; now the creature had gone. She left a noisome trail behind marking her retreat and posing a riddle to those who would come later.
As he turned back toward his fallen Master he stumbled. Not from the effort he had put forth but from the horrid reality that met his eyes. Sam paused and swayed on his feet as he tried to steady himself, hands on his knees. The hot bile rose in his throat and he thought he would lose the battle. “Frodo!” he choked from his raw throat, then more quietly, “Frodo”…
He fell to his knees, mindless of the state of his own body. He looked upon his master stricken. It can’t be his mind reeled over and over. Images of Frodo flashed before his eyes, Frodo as he was in BagEnd when he was adopted. Frodo at his coming of age his smiling face and his amused smirk at Bilbo’s “surprise”. Even this last bit of time with him was filled with snatches of him; his quiet strength and ever present calming countenance. Just moments before the ruthless attack his beauty shown forth in the elven light of Earendil. His eyes had blazed a fury in them Sam had not seen before. It was the last image before this one.
It was an image he had seen before and now it returned to him. Frodo asleep under a steep cliff face, he understood now; not sleeping Frodo was…
NO! The primal scream pierced the brooding silence of the dark land. The scream released him and he stood shakily; “Master, dear master,” he said but Frodo did not speak. “Master, dear master!”…Sam listened in vain. He cut the cords that bound him and listened and felt; no breath stirred in his limp body. He tried all that he knew to rouse him and yet only silence could be heard around him. Frodo! Mr. Frodo he called his voice strangled by tears. “Don’t leave me here all alone! Don’t go where I can’t follow!” Wake up, oh wake up please master…please.
The anger took him then and if any watched they would have felt fear and sorrow. The blind rage that was on him was born of grief and doubt and indecision.
He fell back to his side and lifted him gently in his arms. He was heavy and lifeless, his arms hung limply to the ground. Sam pulled his master to him and his head lolled back and Sam watched as his mouth parted slackly. He held him securely supported by his strong arms head now pulled close to his chest and Sam wept freely over the body of his beloved master and friend. It could not be true, what would he do and how could he do anything? His heart was pierced, a black despair came over him and he collapsed over his fallen master.
The Quest had claimed his life.