Frodo and Denethor
Chapter 9: The Road to Mordor is Paved with Good Intentions
Frodo and Sam waited until the orc-host had passed, tramping noisily on
its way to cross the bridges of Osgiliath to join the siege of Minas
Tirith. The hobbits climbed the steep slope of the ditch that had been
cut to funnel water to the drainageways and concealed themselves in the
thick bushes and trees. The road ran past them a few yards away, and on
it came more soldiers of Mordor, score upon score of orcs, companies of
Men in dark and evil-looking armour, and teams of Trolls, pushing
strange wooden contraptions and carrying great loads. They roared and
grunted as their handlers kept them in line with cruel discipline.
Frodo lay in the cover of the trees and gulped his breath. The courage
he had found in Minas Tirith seemed to have disappeared with the soft
light of Peregrin's lantern, lost in the tunnels beneath the land. The
orcs were so savage and so near... surely they would sense them or
smell them, only a few yards away!
The stench of the sewers actually concealed the hobbits from the sharp
noses of the orcs. They lay utterly still and waited, watching them
file past. It seemed an endless stream of enemies, all headed toward
that city where they had left their friends behind. And yet in their
hearts, Frodo and Sam feared for those they cared for that stood behind
stone and sheild, while they crouched cold and exposed in the weeds
within bow-shot of the Morgul army.
Suddenly the fear they felt increased until Frodo though he would swoon
with panic. His heart nearly stopped in his chest when he heard the
Nazgúl and saw them fly overhead. He and Sam dared not move a
muscle while those sharp-eyed beasts lurked. They soared through the
corrupted sky, circling the army and screeching in their horrible
voices while their beasts roared and fanned their wings, bringing foul
draughts of air over the offended ruins of Osgiliath. They hastened
westward, where the fear was thick in the air as a city despaired of
the absence of the Sun.
It seemed almost that Frodo and Sam's road had come to an end, when the
marchers trailed to a trickle of stragglers and the last Nazgúl
flew past to settle on a broken tower. For a moment the road was
abandoned, and the two hobbits hurried across swiftly and disappeared
into the woods.
Now they traveled slowly and cautiously, watching for stray orcs and
wolves that might have tarried behind. Another company of orcs were on
the road now, but it was behind them and farther away, as they worked
their way into the trees and followed the streamlet that Faramir had
told them about. They had to stop frequently to let orcs pass, cutting
swiftly through the trees on whatever mischief they were about. They
didn't expect to find anybody on this side of the river, apparently,
for they were not searching at all.
Sam and Frodo lay flat after the third such passing, gathering their
strength for another furtive march. Sam fished in his pack and brought
out some food to share with Frodo, and they drank liberally from their
bottles, having the stream at hand to draw more from as they needed.
They agreeded without speaking that they should linger beneath their
leafy refuge for spell, and catch their breath.
Frodo lay with his eyes closed, trusting Sam to keep a watch. He was
frustrated that they could not travel faster, and yet each step seemed
harder than the last. He concentrated on his errand, to get the thing
to Mt Doom where it would be ended, and then all his friends would be
safe. The Shire, Bilbo, his cousins, Strider,...everyone who survived
the war, anyway. No time for the luxury of tears, he opened his
stinging eyes and nodded to Sam. They began to move stealthfully toward
the tall trees.
A ruckus sounded ahead, and Frodo and Sam melted into the grass. It was
deepening evening, and a fire's light could be seen, winking through
the trees, and a smell of roasting meat came to them.
Frodo caught Sam's coat and shushed him, then crawled forward to see a
party of four orcs camped beside the stream. Frodo heard Sam hiss ever
so softly, then he, too, spotted him... a familiar gangly figure amid
the orcs, bound by a rope to a tree.
"An' I'd though we'd seen the last of him," muttered Sam, very softly.
He looked at his master, his forehead creased with doubt. "We don't
need him anymore, Mr Frodo. Captain Faramir told us how to find the
Frodo was staring at Gollum, probably being marched toward the city he
had just escaped from, or bound to be taken to Minas Morgul for
questioning. He was filled with loathing and pity for the creature, and
his heart whispered clearly to him. "We can't just leave him in the
hands of the orcs, Sam."
Frodo looked eastward, toward the knot of trees that hid the crossroads
and obscured the road to the Morgul Vale. He couldn't afford the delay,
he did not need Smeagol's guidance to find the pass, and yet, he could
not forsake he creature. It had most likely been captured trying to
follow Frodo's own trail.
Frodo sighed and removed his backpack. "Wait here, Sam," he said.
"Mr Frodo! You can't risk yourself, sir...!" Sam objected.
"Hush! Sam, don't worry; I will be right back. Stay right here and
don't dare move!" Frodo crept carefully away. He approached the four
orcs silently, coming as near as he dared.
Frodo knew he was taking a dreadful risk. But he learned something that
he though the could use, and now seemed to be the perfect opportunity.
It was dark and the Nazgúl were busy... he took out he Ring and
slipped it on his finger.
It was still very dark, but the orcs he could see somewhat clearer.
Their eyes seemed to shine oddly, and their weapons glowed with angry
red light. He stood up, feeling extremely visible and vunerable, but
still he walked softly forward until he was standing right beside the
They were disgusting, fithy and foul. They had a carcass of some beast
that they were roasting, but unwilling to wait they tore raw flesh off
in strips and ate them, buring their hands and cursing in their foul
tongue. Smeagol was roped to a tree, sitting huddled down on himself in
that way of his, like a spider with its legs drawn up, ready to spring
if given a chance. Frodo meant to give him that chance.
Carefully and slowly, he slipped a small knife from the belt of one of
the orcs, and using the sharp blade he stealthfully cut the straps to
the orc's iron-shod boots. He stole arrows from a quiver and used them
to nail down the hairy cloak of another orc. He took weapons he could
find and hid them in the darkness, then finding nothing more to do to
hinder them, he slipped close to Smeagol and cut the rope that bound
him to the tree.
The wiley creature knew something was amiss. He had been watching
quietly, his large lamp-like eyes darting about the camp. Gollum, more
than any other mortal creature, was aware of the movements of one
unseen. For a wonder he did not give the game away, as Frodo feared he
might. He merely took the slack rope in his hands and waited. Frodo
snuck out of the camp and then turned, hefting a sizable rock he had
lifted. With all his strength, he threw it hard against the head of one
of the orcs, then he dropped to the ground.
It was a fine throw and one for which his Uncle Bilbo would have been
proud of him. The orc's skull was cracked by the stone and he fell dead
on the spot... or rather, fell onto the fire. Sparks and flames leapt
up and logs scattered coals and burning meat onto the other orcs.
Smeagol leapt up and vanished into the darkness. An orc let out a yell
and tried to follow him, but tripped over a rope tied across the ground
in a snare.
A second orc picked himself up from the tumble he took when a flaming
log of wood had landed in his lap. He tured to try to see what was
going on and was yanked from his feet as his cloak caught on the
ground. He fell and gagged, ripping the hide away with a snarl.
Smeagol was slithering in the direction from which Frodo had thrown the
rock, and the third orc saw him with his sharp night vision. He drew a
bead on the creature's back with his bow. He released the arrow with a
shout of triumph that turned to disbelief. The arrow missed, seeming to
glance off of the creature, as if it were made of stone. He heard a
shout of pain, but when he ran to see, his boot come loose and he
tripped, falling across his fallen companion. Loud curses rang out
Frodo lay still. He had leapt up to follow Smeagol as he had run past,
and caught the parting shot in the center of his back. The mithril
shirt had foiled the missile, but it had struck him like a fist and
robbed him of wind. He lay and fought for breath, willing himself to
move and yet unable to do so yet. He heard furtive movement near, and
raised his head to look.
Smeagol was a shadow under the trees, and his huge eyes were like lamps
indeed. He cames sniffing, proding the ground before him with his
fingers. He looked right at Frodo and then past him, still sniffing.
Frodo remembered that he had the Ring on. He slipped it off, tucking it
back into a deep pocket.
Smeagol saw him at once, but he lay down flat. Frodo did not move. The
orcs were in a row, now, trying to find their weapons. As the argument
heated, Smeagol reached forward and grabbed Frodo by the jacket and
hauled him into the trees.
Smeagol pressed his repulsive face close to Frodo's ear, "Masster tried
to trick Smeagol... gollum!" The long hands twitched as they held his
tunic, as if Gollum would rather have them wrapped round Frodo's neck.
Frodo shook off his hands and whispered coldly, "I tried to save your
life then, just as I have acted to free you now. We have a bargin,
Smeagol. The Precious holds your promise!"
Gollum cowered down to the ground, snivelling, but his eyes were still
lit with an angry green light. "Yess, masster. We promised to serve the
They fell silent and remained hidden as the orcs went running past,
foiled by the cunning of Smeagol and the elvish cloak Frodo wore. They
disappeared through the trees. Frodo pointed toward the east and Gollum
began to crawl that way. They came at length back to were Frodo had
He was there waiting, looking as if he had not breathed the whole time
Frodo had been gone. Frodo gave him no time to ask; they snatched up
their things and set out at once, not wishing to be found by the angry
Smeagol was nearly dancing with delight to have 'found' his master (and
his Precious), but he made no sound, only capered as he waited for them
to catch him up when he had gone a few paces ahead. Sam would have
grumbled if he had the breath for it. He had truly thought he might
have seen the last of that wretched stinker!
They reached the tall trees before the moon rose, a smear of yellowish
light beyond the murky air. They secreted themselves for a moment's
rest in a ditch some distance from the road. There was no traffic on it
now, no sounds at all except for the occasional boom and shriek from
Osgiliath behind them, and a rummble of distressed earth coming from
the east like thunder. Smeagol crept forward, leaving Frodo and Sam to
Frodo leaned against a tree and panted, his eyes closed. His breath was
painful and he could not seem to catch it, even after they had rested a
few moments. Sam came to him and gave him water. He noticed a gleam
through a tear in the back of his master's tunic, matching a neat hole
in his elvish cloak. The mithril coat winked at him in the moonlight.
Sam tisked and muttered, but taking his pack he dug into it and tried to find something to ease Frodo's discomfort.
"A bit of lembas for you, Mr Frodo. Do you good." He seemed to chuckle, but tried to cover it with a cough.
"What's funny, Sam?" asked Frodo in soft gasp, "I could... use a joke now."
"I wouldn't call it funny, sir. If you'll forgive me for asking, how did you get that slinker free of them orcs?"
"If I... told you, Sam, I would... only make you angry."
"Like as not. Well, we got our guide back, that is, if he's still
willin' to lead us on. Are you sure this is what you want? Or shall we
find some more orcs to play with?"
"Sam!" Frodo nearly laughed out loud, and he grabbed his friend's arm
affectionately. Sam was shaking and white-faced, knowing that Frodo had
endangered himself and suffered a very close shave. The only thing the
hobbit could do was make a joke, and try to forget his fear.
"It's too dark to have a look at your back, Mr Frodo, but I'll be seeing to it, if morning ever comes."
Smeagol came snaking up, hissing and grabbin his mouth and fussing for
them to be quiet. A sound of running came from the road and then faded.
"Masster still wishes to go to Mordor? Good Smeagol searches for him
and finds him. We go now, yess?"
Sam hurumphed. "You'd think he had found us, rather than the other way about!"
Frodo laid a hand on Sam's shoulder, and levered himself to his feet.
"Yes, Smeagol. We still have our bargin, don't we?" Frodo asked softly.
Smeagol sat down and hung his head. "Masster tried to help men catch
uss," came his voice in a sillabant hiss. Then another voice said,
"Master freed us from the orcses and saved us. Master looks after us.
We will serve the masster of the Preciouss!" Smeagol scrambled away
toward the crossroads. "Dangerouss here! Very dangerous! Musst be
They moved on, taking advantage of the hooded moon.
~~~Here endeth the musing. I release Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol back to
their paths as preordained, knowing in my heart that while some things
may be changed, others are irresolute. May the Valar protect them!