The Darkness Within

by NorthStar, January 2003

Chapter 1: The Day All Hope Died

Osgiliath crumbled and burned – the air was thick with choking smoke and alive with the sound of Gondorian archers loosing their arrows on the invaders.

Frodo, Sam and Gollum were driven behind soldiers; surrounded. Now that Gondor had the One Ring in its grasp, they would not let it be taken from men ever again.

The ring burned Frodo’s skin, and its whisper was no longer hidden. It invaded Frodo’s ears, his heart, seeming to circulate in his very blood; insistent, insidious, victorious. It was almost home.

Frodo suddenly felt a lightness overtake him, as if the cloud were lifting. He looked up, and what he perceived made him sick with dread. The ring laughed. He whispered to no one “They have come.”

“Nazgul!” Faramir’s cry was filled with fear.

Sam was pushed forward roughly by his captor, towards a corner wall, which still held shelter. Frodo stumbled behind him like a sleepwalker. Gollum was dragged forcibly by the rope still tied about his neck. The soldiers gathered around them, and Faramir looked down and said sternly “Stay here.”

The Rangers positioned themselves to strike, drawing their bows taut.

Above them, the air was fouled as the Nazgul swept the area and returned, drawing ever closer to the ruins of the city.

Sam, transfixed by the sight of the Witch King, did not see Frodo get up. He moved with a purpose, stepping over broken chunks of rock and fallen bodies. Arrows fell around him, striking the ground harmlessly at his feet. His elven cloak floated on the foul air, borne aloft as though he were to take wing himself. His hand clenched the ring around his neck.

Frodo reached the parapet atop the city wall, his steps sure. In the center, he stopped and turned towards the east, where the dull fires of Mordor could be seen. With a great rush of air, the Nazgul rose up and stopped, hovering, just inches away from Frodo’s still form.

A freezing gust of air blasted across the wall where Sam and Gollum sat huddled. Sam’s head jerked up and what he saw froze him cold. “Frodo, Frodo, no! Getting to his feet he began to run, his heart pounding in his chest. Desperately he dodged debris and made for the steep stone stairs leading to the parapet.

Gollum followed, too in thrall to this moment of reckoning to stay.

Frodo slid the ring from inside his shirt and held it up to the fading light; the ring gleamed dully. It seemed to Sam, too many steps away, that the Witch King made a sound, simultaneously covetous and desirous. It stretched out its hand, the iron glove opening to receive the prize it had searched for, for so long.

Frodo flinched, remembering with the last shards of his mind, that ghostly claw gripping the blade that had stabbed him atop Amon Sul. The pain of that wound struck again and he gasped and stumbled backward. He would have fallen, but for the ring. It strained on its chain, toward those bladed fingers; then they closed around it.

The ring broke free of the silver links that had bound it to its courier; a stream of light emanated from it; light that turned red, like the fires of Mount Doom.

Frodo wavered; he was passing to the shadow lands from which none ever returned. His body crumbled to the ground, all will gone – a pale light circled his withered form and then in a flash, it disappeared. As Sam watched, horrified, his beloved friend faded from earthly sight, leaving nothing behind, save a travel worn elven cloak, closed by a single jeweled green clasp; and a small sword, still sheathed, on the stone parapet.

The Nazgul’s cry of victory was a sound awful beyond reckoning – it pierced the sky and rent it, the blue giving way to a sick yellow, and the air vibrated with a deafening cacophony which had men on their knees, hands clasped over their ears, crawling like babies to get away from the sound. Sam could not move, nor could he take his eyes from the Witch King, hovering above Frodo’s fallen body.

Gollum also was transfixed – but not for long, As the Nazgul triumphantly held his sword aloft, the ring could be seen gleaming like a beacon, circling the blade. Gollum quivered, then hissed, and with one movement, he leapt towards the Witch King, attenuated fingers outstretched, grasping, ever grasping for the ring. “Its miinnnnee! You cannot have it! HE cannot have it, its mine, my precious!

The Nazgul laughed, an entirely inhuman sound, and one bladed claw poised itself to slice the creature to ribbons – but he did not get the chance.

Galvanized by pure rage, greater and darker than anything he had ever felt, Samwise Gamgee of the Shire threw himself on top of Gollum, pinning him to the stone. Gollum struggled, the pull between fear and desire warring in his bulbous eyes. Sam, bearing down with all his weight, stared at this creature, and it suddenly seemed to him that Gollum was to blame for all of this – all of it. He had led them to the area where the Rangers had captured them. He had betrayed the ring to Faramir of his own selfish intent, bringing them to Osgiliath. And now, Frodo was dead, taken by the Ring, a shadow wraith who would never again find peace.

 A fire crept through Sam, igniting his veins with heat, clouding his eyes until he could stand it no longer; he burned. He let go of Gollum, releasing his fingers from around Gollum’s pale cold neck and rocked back on his heels. The creature wriggled away from Sam, casting a frightened eye over its shoulder as it crawled away. Still the Nazgul hovered on his fell beast, the black figure motionless. Sam staggered to his feet and looked up at the Black Rider.  The spell broken, he found his voice. “Why are you still here? You got what you wanted, you have the ring…take it to the monster who wrought it…TAKE IT!”

“Nooooo,” screamed Gollum. “Mine, mine, MINE!

Sam turned on him, his grief and rage becoming one defining force. Gollum hissed…then cowered as he saw what shone in Sam’s trembling hand.

Sting.

“Master’s blade…no…you wouldn’t dare!”

Gollum’s last words died still on his lips, as Sting found its mark and severed the creature’s head cleanly from its body. Black blood spilled itself in rivulets on the stone.

Sam crawled over to Frodo’s cloak and laid his face upon it. Sting lay gleaming wetly beside him

 He did not care if he lived or died.

Frodo was gone, and all would be destroyed.

Blackness overtook him and he wept.

Above him, the scream of the Nazgul echoed through the land as it wheeled away and sped eastward.

To the land of Mordor…where the shadows lie.