1. At The Sammath Naur
Frodo glanced back for one last look at his friend. Sam stood over Gollum, sword ready at the creature’s throat, eyes aflame, muscles tensed in anticipation of blood spilled for his righteous purpose. Frodo turned to the winding path leading to the end of his Quest - and most assuredly his life - and closed his eyes, searing the image of Sam into his memory, praying it would give him the strength to do what he knew he must, but knowing in his heart that it wouldn’t be enough.
He had known since he lay in the tower, cold and bereft at the emptiness at his breast, that this task was beyond him – knew since he had felt the cool weight of it ripped from Sam’s hand and returned to his own, his accusations still echoing in the dark chamber, that the Ring was now entwined in his soul and he could never part with It by his own hand. The unspeakable tortures endured at the hands of the orcs were but a foul price paid to have the Ring once more wrapped around his heart and hanging from his neck. The weight of Its constant drag and the horror and beauty of Its unceasing song an indescribable, consuming penance for the feel of It against his skin, the sound of Its melody flowing in his blood.
He had lost everything of himself to It and though he knew what he must do and would try with his last strength and breath to see it done, his heart whispered to him that It had already won; that he would die here with Its song ringing in his ears and Its laughter shattering his mind.
His feet had taken him to the dark door in the Mountain’s side and the heat and fumes reached out to envelope him and draw him into his last dance with the Thing that had led him here through eternities of pain and torment. He floated into the Sammath Naur on torn feet and trembling legs, into the embrace of the smoke and fire that would be his last vision of the world he would soon leave. His mind grasped for more pleasant things to hold – the hill that nestled Bag End under its emerald blanket; the majestic mallorns of Lothlorien, branches reaching forever skyward and keeping their treasures well protected within their embrace while the song of the Nimrodel splashed and laughed out its lullaby; the faces of his friends, left behind one by one until he stood alone with his doom – he could see none of these things. It had taken them from him long ago and the small mercy of seeing them again before he was cast into the dark oblivion that awaited him was certainly too much to hope for in this evil place…with this hated/beloved trinket clenched tightly in his hand.
Scarlet flame leapt from the chasm before him, turning the orange glow of the chamber into a macabre dance of shadow on flame, specters of things beloved and lost joining in an obscene waltz against the blackened stone and curtain of fire. His eyes were dazzled, his body numbed to the heat and fume that caressed his skin, inflamed his lungs. His ears filled with the roar and hum of the fire below as it sang in harmony with the Ring in his fist, the song thrumming through his flesh and burrowing into his staggering heart. He found he was not surprised by the loss of his senses – after all, It had taken everything else. He should not wonder that his last embrace would be that of empty flame, burning ice, cold fire, freezing his soul as it consumed his will.
He could feel the evil here as a palpable presence in the place of Its sinful birth. It reached for him and wrapped Its arms about him in a vile embrace that both soothed and horrified him. He lay his head on Its breast and felt the thrumming of Its wicked heart as Its music sang in his ears and he wept at the joy and terror of Its soothing and appalling voice. He pulsed with Its breath in his lungs and danced to Its dreadful, magnificent tune.
I hang upon the razor’s edge, my hands torn and bloodied. Do I hold fast and endure the pain or do I let go and endure the fall?
He opened his fist and gazed upon the small band of gold that sat expectantly in the palm of his hand. The song escaped as his fingers loosed their grip and it floated through him, in him, around him. Its call swirled behind his eyes and caressed hot, wanton breaths in his ear. Wanting him. Lusting for him. He closed his eyes – acceptance at one with denial.
The fires leapt higher from the chasm below, roiling and churning as if in dread and anticipation of the Deed he had come to do. He watched, entranced as the flame danced and capered along the smooth expanse of gold in his hand and his hand shook with hatred and love as he extended it toward the flame of Its conception.
So close. So close to completing his task, so close to letting it slip from his hand to tumble, end over end, glinting reflections of crimson and orange and black as It plummeted into Its fiery cradle to Its death. He wondered if he would hear It scream in Its death throes as It plunged and joined with the flame and molten rock of Its nativity…wondered if he would hear It cry out as It was unmade.
It called to him. It reached for him with fingers of icy fire that seared his soul and froze his heart. He wept scalding tears of sorrow and joy that scorched blistering tracks on his cheeks. His arm locked and his hand shook as it hovered over the flaming chasm – craven lust at war with weary righteousness.
It had imprisoned his soul…he knew that now. He must let It fall. But when he did, his spirit - manacled to It by years of patient abiding, months of weary travel and pitiless torment – his spirit would fall with It and he was too drained to cling to it in his own deteriorating grasp. He would be left empty, bereft of his mind, his heart, his soul.
The weight of It comforted him and he neither saw nor heard anything but the beauty and malevolence of what lay in his palm. He felt himself pulled and drawn into the blackness at Its center and he twisted with ecstasy and revulsion within Its golden embrace.
He felt the last of his will clawing at his mind, screeching, wailing, trying desperately to assert itself and demand that he do what he had come to do, finish his task, complete his Quest. Begging him to cast It from his hand now, before it was too late and shrieking and weeping at his denial.
It dragged him within Itself and commanded his body against the last of his splintered will, squelching it and grinding it into dust that bled through his faithless fingers to melt in the very fires from which It was forged. He dimly heard the voice of one he thought he knew but could not remember, calling to him. He was buried within himself under Its crushing weight and he watched as his body obeyed the command of the Ring while his mind screamed against the suffocating power pulsing through it. He felt the last of his will conquered and suborned and flung shrieking against the confines of his mind as it died a pitiful death at the feet of his tormentor and savior. His lungs pulled in burning air and his throat forced out a voice that was not his own…
‘I have come,’ he said. ‘But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!’ and he set It on his finger.
There was crushing silence and deafening tumult. His vision darkened to blackness yet he saw…everything.
He heard a sharp intake of breath behind him as Sam gasped and he was the air and he was the lung that pulled it in. He was the gash at Sam’s forehead, he was the pain that radiated from it and he was the droplet of blood that slid down the sweaty face and into the eye that widened in shock, terror and despair.
He was the dark dream that haunted the Knight of Rohan and he was the tear that slid from his eye as he lay swaddled in white linen and numbing agony in the House of Healing.
He was the Soldier of Gondor that lay crushed under a troll at the Black Gate and he was the black blood that seeped to drench and scald the skin of the small being beneath. He was the cry the soldier had voiced in despair before the weight had fallen upon him and he was the wish to see cool sunlight and green grass the soldier had spoken before his fall.
He was the whisper of current through the wings of the Eagles and the tortured scream of the Nazgul that rent the air.
He was Celebrimbor gazing upon the beauty of Annatar as he was schooled and tutored in the art of forging. He was the fire in which It was conceived and the mold into which It was poured. He was the betrayal in Celebrimbor’s heart as he became aware of the One Ring upon his friend and enemy’s finger.
He was the dazzle of sunlight on the white robes that clad the wizard – the wizard…alive! -and he was the black stone and fine dust upon which he stood. He saw the truth of his Quest in the wizard’s heart and he was the pain and betrayal that surged throughout himself as the infidelity of that truth rocked his soul. He saw the same truth echoed in the heart of the Elf Lord and the treachery of it unwound his spirit and trampled his heart.
They knew. The wizard, the Wise – all of them. They had known he would stand here with his heart bleeding in his hands, had known he would not win this struggle, had known he would break beneath the weight of It and spill out his soul, piece by piece upon this foul land. They had known that casting It from his hand, here at the place of Its evil origin was impossible. They had known…and they had sent him anyway. They had sent him to ruin in this fiery chasm and had known it would be the end of him.
He reeled with the shock and treachery of the revelation and wept tears of rage and despair. I am the sacrifice that Good demands before it will vanquish Evil. I am the blood that must be spilled before the world is healed. I am the tears that must be wept before joy can find its place in a world torn and broken. I am the body that must be shattered, its blood spewed across the foul lands to cleanse it in shades of crimson.
He cried out at the trickery. I would have done it anyway. I would have come. You needn’t have lied. I would have tried…
He closed his eyes and ears and heart to the silence, the roar, the fire. Closed himself to all and stepped toward the flame.
Hissing and clawing and his body reacted and his mind stumbled. ‘If I, wearing It, were to command you...’ Long, white hands seeking – clutching at his throat. ‘…cast yourself into the fire…’ Hot, rancid breath panting and skittering across his face. ‘…you would obey…’ Razor teeth through bone and sinew and he was on his knees, It’s song of triumph casting about his mind, mingling with the cries of the creature that danced its mad ballet before him. ‘…such would be my command…’
Out of the depths came his last wail ‘precious,’ and he was gone.
Its song of victory twisted into screams of rage and fury and with Its last shriek of agony it cursed him.
He would die here in the whirlwind of fire and ash and that was acceptable. Pleasing even. An end to all and he could lay down his weary bones and sleep the sleep of final oblivion. Sweet relief. He had expected nothing more, after all.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.