Written for the LOTR Junebug challenge. For Tari for her birthday.
Frodo awoke when Sam, whose left arm lay across his Master’s chest, cried out and jerked upright into a sitting position, his eyes filled with mixed horror and fury as he threw his other hand out blindly, as if striking away weapons targeted at the two of them.
“Ye shan’t have ’em!” he said in a shrill, terrible tone. “Ye shan’t have ’em!” Again he waved his right hand threateningly, even as his left hand sought to close about----
Frodo felt his own lust for the Ring rise in his heart, even as he felt fear for what It was possibly doing to his friend. “No, Sam!” he cried. “Do not touch It!”
Something in his tone got through the confusion Sam was feeling, as the gardener turned a pasty grey in color and pulled back from Frodo, his expression turning from righteous fury to terror that was focused on the small, seemingly insignificant lump under the dark leather orc shirt Frodo wore. Whatever state he’d been in was gone: now he was definitely awake and aware. “Smoke and ash!” he muttered. “I would of used It! And against a dream!”
Frodo felt alarmed even as he quelled the Ring’s call to protect It from imaginary danger. Sam rarely remembered any dreams he might have, yet this time he had known one—and whilst his hand lay across Frodo’s chest, right over the Ring! Who could guess the kind of dream that the Ring would cause one such as Sam to know?
“We both appear to have slept once we escaped from the orc army and made our way here,” Frodo said.
“Have you heard aught of them? Any sound of them orcs followin’ after us?” Frodo noted that Sam’s face was now filled with worry.
Frodo shook his head. “No, not that I’ve been awake all that long. Indeed, it was you sitting up and calling out that woke me, Sam. But I doubt that the orc with the whip will dare take any time to chase after the likes of us with other overseers now beside him. After all, he had hoped to earn credit for himself by forcing the two of us ‘deserters’ into his own line. To admit before others that he first found us and then lost us again would be too awkward a thing to do, particularly as he could easily be slain for such an error in judgment.” He glanced sideways at the orc helmet he’d prized off his own head on their arrival here in this shallow pit and let fall before allowing his previous exhaustion to overwhelm him. Truth to tell, he did not feel particularly rested even now after however much sleep he and Sam had managed to know. His legs ached, and the skin burned where the orc’s whip had broken the skin and it now rubbed against the sharp ash that appeared to serve here instead of soil. “I know I was glad to get shut of that and the shield as well,” he added. “They were growing too heavy for me to have carried much further.”
Sam nodded his appreciation of that idea, looking sideways at where his own discarded helm and shield lay, obviously sharing Frodo’s own distaste for the orc gear. “I’ll say this—I ain’t lookin’ forward to carrying on with that, but until we’re certain as the armies is far behind us, I don’t think as we’ll be able to let them go.”
Frodo gave a tired nod of agreement, glad to see that Sam was already going through his pack to bring out a wafer of lembas for the two of them to share. Although, he realized, he’d more appreciate a cool drink of water. Well, there was little good thinking of that, considering there was little chance they’d find good water here in the wastes of Mordor, and particularly not in quantities that would likely leave them feeling satisfied. He licked his dry lips with an equally dry tongue, and sought to distract himself from the subject of drink.
“What were you dreaming of that made you shout out like that?” he asked.
Sam’s hands, as he pulled them out of his pack, held some of the fragments of lembas they’d gathered together in the orc tower. His face twisted in disgust. “’Tweren’t that much of a dream, I suppose.” He sat back upon his haunches as he brought it up before his mind’s eye. “I was in the vegetable garden there behind Bag End,” he said at last, “goin’ to weed the tomatoes. I could see the tomatoes, there on their vines, all big and ripe and oh, so red. Only as I got closer, first one and then another sort of popped, like a pig’s bladder such as you might buy at the Free Fair for the little’uns to play with, one what was stuck with a knife blade or somethin’ like. And I saw as the vines was covered with aphids, only them aphids looked like orcs, once you saw them all close up, all ugly with nasty, filthy scimitars such as the orcs seem t’like so much, and wearin’ gold rings about their middles. And as they sucked on the vines the tomatoes, they began to pop, or hollow out and fall in on themselves. It was awful—about the awfullest thing as I think I’ve ever imagined. And I knew I could stop it, maybe! And I felt It, there, almost ’neath my hand, tellin’ me as I could use Its power to stop it all. So I was goin’ t’do just that—stop them—only----”
Frodo could feel himself shuddering at the thought of it. “Only you called out in your sleep and woke me, and that in turn woke you, too.” He took a noisy half breath, wondering if he should go on alone from here to protect Sam from Its further influence.
But Sam apparently read that thought from his expression. “No, Master, you can’t leave me behind, not now. And I know Its plans now. It wants you alone so as It can take you easier, like. Or so It thinks. Only I’d guess as It still don’t have the proper measure of you yet. It don’t realize, even now, just how strong you are, there in your heart. It won’t be able t’do as It wants till there’s nothin’ else left. And only I can keep remindin’ you as there is more to life than just the Ring. I’ve worn the foul thing now, and can recognize when It’s tryin’ Its tricks on me now. Don’t you worry none about me. Know this—I don’t want nothin’ to do with what It promises, ’cause I have the measure of It. It’s naught but a liar and a cheat, and I wouldn’t have It again on a bet!” And he spat on the ground to emphasize that thought—or at least he tried to, not that he had much in the way of spit to spare.
And against all logic Frodo found himself smiling. He might even have laughed, had he more energy. But he knew that Sam was right, and that the Ring once again had overplayed Its hand, driving Sam that much further from Its proper influence.
They each had a measure of the Elvish waybread and two swallows of water, picked up their helms and shields, and set off on the next leg of their trip to the Mountain, which now lay dead ahead of them.