Interlude - Frodo and Sam in the Tower of Cirith Ungol

Foreword: One evening, when chatting with friends I commented on Romestamo's observation in this thread: Sam, is he more than he appears to be? that Sam was able to relinquish the Ring to Frodo in Cirith Ungol because the Ring did not want to stay with Sam (a brilliant observation, and one that had never occurred to me). Anyway, this got us to thinking `what if Sam kept the Ring?' The challenge went out to write a fanfic based on that premise, and this is my contribution. You will find Trasmerg's story here What if Sam kept the Ring? and one day you will likely find Marea's contribution on this site as well.

The italicized paragraphs and the stanza of the song Sam recognizes are quotations from JRR Tolkien, The Return of the King, The Tower of Cirith Ungol. Bilbo's song can be found in Fellowship of the Ring, The Ring Goes South. The rest is my humble offegay. Thanks go out to Trasmerg, for taking this journey with me, to Rosie the Hobbit for being my Beta, and to the original KL's for their fellowship.

INTERLUDE

"I took it, Mr. Frodo, begging your pardon. And I've kept it safe. It's round my neck now, and a terrible burden it is, too." Sam fumbled for the Ring and its chain. "but I suppose you must take it back." Now it had come to it, Sam felt reluctant to give up the Ring and burden his master with it again . . .

Not when he could see on his Master's shoulder the scar from the Nazgul blade glowing eerie white in the red light of the lamp and the whip weal a bloody strip on the scarlet skin of his rib cage -- skin that stretched tight across the lines of his ribs. Far too thin for a hobbit.

"You've got it?" gasped Frodo. "you've got it here? Sam, you're a marvel!" Then quickly and strangely his tone changed. "Give it to me!" he cried, standing up, holding out a trembling hand. "Give it me at once! You can't have it!"

"All right, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, rather startled. "here it is!" Slowly he drew the Ring out and passed the chain over his head. "But you're in the land of Mordor now, sir; and when you get out, you'll see the Fiery Mountain and all. You'll find the Ring very dangerous now, and very hard to bear. If it's too hard a job, I could share it with you, maybe?'"

"No!" Frodo cried lunging forward and making to snatch the Ring from Sam's hand.

Startled and without thinking Sam drew swiftly back, clutching the Ring to his breast. "No, Mr. Frodo!" he cried hoarsely, "let me keep it a while longer. Leastways `til we're safe out of this foul place."

Sam saw his master's face contort with desire and loathing. Slowly Frodo advanced on him.

"Thief! The Ring is mine! Give it to me!" Frodo commanded.

Sam stumbled back and away from the fierce eyes holding his gaze. Still Frodo came on, his trembling hand outstretched.

Unbidden, Sam's free hand strayed to the hilt of Sting, sheathed at his side. "You're not yourself, Mr. Frodo," he said uncertainly. The Ring was heavy in his hand as he clutched it safe to his breast, feeling its fierce heat flow through his fingers to sear his lungs and throat. It throbbed in sympathy with the pounding of his heart. Its power coursed through Sam, and his knees buckled under its force. He fell heavily onto the stone floor. There was an emptiness just behind him.

Frodo lunged, but misjudged his stumbling target. Sam raised a hand to fend him off, but even as he did so up he desperately flung the other to catch Frodo tumbling over his head. But too late. With a cry Frodo fell through the trap door just behind. Sam was on his feet and down the ladder like a cat. He gave no thought to the Ring. Dimly he knew that when he reached for Frodo he had loosed his grip on it, and it had flown on its chain from his open hand, and clattered onto the stone floor. He did not care. It was gone from his possession and the only thing he wanted was to find his master, unharmed.

The dead orc had cushioned Frodo's fall, and he lay next to it, senseless, but alive. Sam dragged the orc away and knelt by Frodo. "What a fool you are, Sam Gamgee!" he cried, "look what you've done! You've earned every name the Gaffer's ever called you, tenfold and more." Tears started in his eyes but he impatiently rubbed them away and began gingerly testing Frodo's limbs for broken bones. He felt none.

Frodo groaned and shifted restlessly. His eyes fluttered open, glassy and unfocussed, then closed. Sam gathered him into his arms. Desperately he wished that the last few minutes had never happened and that his grief for Frodo's burden had not made him think that he might be strong enough to share it. He longed to be back in the tower, cradling Frodo again for the first time, when he had been his saviour.

A long time Sam sat, holding Frodo gently as he summoned the strength to subdue his regrets and think what to do. Frodo lay still in his arms. Finally Sam scolded himself: `wasting time wishing for what you can't have only keeps you from getting what can, as my Gaffer always says.' He took a deep breath and bent his head close to his Master's ear. "Mr. Frodo," he whispered, "wake up now, wake up for your Sam."

Again Frodo's eyes opened and fixed uncertainly on Sam's face above him. He smiled weakly. "Is it morning already, Sam? What is the time?"

Sam forced himself to speak calmly. "I don't know, sir, but never mind that now. You must wake up. It's not safe here."

Only once before had Sam seen an injury such as this. It had been three summers ago when Rosie Cotton's twin brother, Jolly, fell out of the hayloft at the Cotton's farm. Sam and young Tom carried the dazed hobbit into the farmhouse and his mother had tucked him into bed. At first he had only vaguely known them, and he'd not known where he was or why he was there. Under Mrs. Cotton's guidance her family and Sam stayed calm and quiet and so Jolly just as calmly accepted the not knowing. They had taken it in turns sitting with him to make sure he did not sleep, because Mrs. Cotton feared he might never waken if he did. As the afternoon turned to evening his memory and understanding had returned (though he never could recall the climb to the hayloft, nor the fall), and by morning Jolly had been his normal self again.

But Sam could not wait here with Frodo for hours. He looked despaigayly up at the steep narrow ladder. "We've got to get back up to the Tower," he whispered. Frodo raised his head and looked blankly up, then eased himself back into Sam's arms, and closed his eyes. His face was peaceful. Sam watched a thin trickle of blood flow down Frodo's neck from behind his ear. Furiously Sam rubbed a sleeve across his eyes. How was he to get his Master safely up? Somehow he must rouse him.

Sam shifted Frodo to sit him up on the floor with his legs splayed out in front. He knelt behind on one knee and grasped his Master under the arms and around his chest. "Up you get now, Mr. Frodo", he whispered, and staggered to his feet, hauling his Master up with him.

Frodo's knees locked, then buckled. His eyes flew open. Sam heaved him again, and this time his knees stayed locked and his legs took the weight. Sam held him steady. Quizzically Frodo looked down at the arms hugging him and saw his own nakedness. "I'm cold, Sam, I'm so cold", he said with a small moan, "and my head hurts, I don't know why." Frodo touched his hand to the hair above his temple and his fingers came away bloody. He did not notice.

"Don't you worry about that, Mr. Frodo," Sam said encouragingly, "you just climb up this ladder for Sam and then you'll be safe and warm." Sam loosened his grip, ducked his head under Frodo's right arm and draped it across his own shoulder. With his left arm he still held Frodo steadily about the waist. A few stumbling steps brought them to the ladder.

Frodo looked up at the trap door and quailed against Sam. "Safe from what?"

"Just safe, is all, Mr. Frodo." He placed Frodo's hands on a rung just above shoulder height and anxiously considered the trembling, unsteady hobbit. Frodo's head lolled forward onto his own outstretched arm. "Hang on tight, now, Mr. Frodo." Sam took off his elven cloak, draped it over Frodo's shoulders, and pulled it close at the neck. Obligingly Frodo raised his head while Sam carefully clasped the broach under his chin. "That'll keep you warm, won't it, sir." He gave Frodo an reassugay smile. "Now, up you go."

"Thank-you, Sam," Frodo said vacantly. He did not move.

Sam waited, then urged, "climb up now, Mr. Frodo, please, sir." He heard the desperation in his voice and regretted it.

Frodo squinted to focus his eyes on Sam's face. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"

"No, Mr. Frodo, just climb up, like I said, and everything will be fine."

`Climb up,' Sam silently begged in his heart, `climb up away from the orcs.' Then Sam thought of what awaited them in the chamber and knew he was saying as well, `climb up to the chamber with the Ring. Let me take you to the Ring.' He bit his lip and felt a hot tear slip down his cheek. Frodo reached out to touch Sam's wet face, and his eyes seemed to clear for a moment.

"Please, sir, climb up," Sam whispered, taking Frodo's hand in his own and guiding it back to the rung.

Frodo bowed his head to look at his feet. He took a deep breath. His right foot stepped up to the first rung. Sam moved behind him and put his own hands on either side of the ladder at waist level. "You start on up, Mr. Frodo, I'm right behind. You won't fall with your Sam behind you."

"Of course I won't, Sam," Frodo said.

Sam saw Frodo's back straighten and his chin come up as he set his will. Then steadily he began to climb, white knuckled and with trembling legs, but he did not falter or pause to rest until he was through the trap door.

Sam quickly followed. He drew up the ladder, closed the trap, then led Frodo back to the spot beneath the window, where the nest of rags offered the only soft place to rest. He sat Frodo down with his back against the wall, saying, "you rest a bit, Mr. Frodo, there's summat I've got to find."

Frodo smiled, "all right, Sam." He leaned his head back and stared vacantly at the roof of the Chamber. For a moment Sam stood studying his face. The cares and worries of the quest were gone with Frodo's memory, and he sat now in a peaceful befuddlement.

Sam turned reluctantly and scanned the floor of the Chamber. It was littered with broken wafers of lembas bread, scraps of Frodo's torn pack, and foul bits of rag and discarded orc clothing. Somewhere among this flotsam was the Ring. Sam could not see it. He began to search methodically. It was very quiet. After a time he glanced over and saw Frodo sitting forward with his chin resting on his bent knees and his eyes drifting shut. That wouldn't do at all.

"Mr. Frodo," Sam whispered urgently, "don't go to sleep now, sir, we'll be leaving this place as soon as I'm done."

With an effort Frodo lifted his head. "All right, Sam." He looked about with vague curiousity at the high narrow window, the rough stone walls, and finally at the leather whip lying not far off. He shuddered. "I know this place. I've been here before, haven't I, Sam? Why are we here?" He buried his face in his hands and cried softly, "what's happened to me? Why can't I remember?"

Sam went swiftly to kneel beside his Master. "You took a little tumble, Mr. Frodo, and got knocked on the head. But you'll be better soon, don't you fret." Quickly Sam rubbed the tears from his eyes.

Frodo gave him a sad smile. "But then why are you fretting so, Sam?" He glanced around again and shivered. "It's this place. We're far from the Shire now, aren't we?

Sam ignored the question. He snugged the cloak tighter around Frodo's chest and crooked knees, and said briskly, "now, don't you worry your head, Mr. Frodo, just rest a bit longer." He stood and turned, ignoring Frodo's eyes on him. Soon Frodo would remember his task and his burden but it was more than Sam could tell him. It was hard enough that the thing Sam most wanted to be rid of was the thing he now must find and burden his Master with.

He glanced back at Frodo. Again his head was drooping and his eyes were nearly shut. Sam must keep him awake, but conversation was dangerous - it led to questions he did not want to answer. "Will you sing with me, Mr. Frodo?" he asked.

Frodo's head came up and he focussed blearily on Sam. "All right, Sam, if you like."

Sam cast about for a song, and remembered the one Frodo had sung to him in Rivendell, that he'd said Bilbo had taught him. "This is one of Mr. Bilbo's isn't it, Mr. Frodo? Here's the tune." He hummed the first few phrases, and Frodo nodded, a bit uncertainly. Together they began:

"I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen . . . "

Frodo faltered and Sam stopped. He watched Frodo's lips move silently and then he began again and carried on without Sam to the next two lines.

"of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been . . . "

Frodo hesitated and Sam encouraged him, "that's right, Mr. Frodo. You sing it for me, I don't remember the words." Frodo began again. When he continued past the first four lines Sam turned back to his search. He had looked everywhere seemingly, but somehow he had missed the Ring. He must start over and be even more careful.

Frodo sang with confidence now, though his voice was thin, and if the tune escaped him at times he did not seem to notice. Sam completed his second search and paused to watch. Frodo sat with his head tilted back against the wall. His eyes were shut and he smiled serenely as he sang:

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.


Frodo raised his head and looked benignly at Sam. His eyes were clearer but still his face was peaceful. "I miss Bilbo," he said wistfully, "but we will see him again, won't we? I remember before we left that I promised to come back and see him again." His face clouded. "Why did we leave?"

"We had things to do, Mr. Frodo, and Mr. Bilbo understood, didn't he?" Sam said gently, "now, will you sing me the song again? So I can learn the words proper. I'd like to know it, too."

Frodo nodded slowly; he seemed distracted, but then he looked at Sam and his face brightened. "Of course, Sam." He shut his eyes, sang the first four lines, faltered, shifted the tune and sang,

the trees may bud, the waters run
the merry finches sing.

The words froze Sam where he stood.

Or there maybe `tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Frodo stopped and looked at Sam. "That's not right, is it? It's a different song. I was trying to remember how I came to be here and somehow I began singing it. I don't know where it came from, do you?"

"Yes, Mr. Frodo," Sam said quietly. He looked warily at his master and saw his now bright eyes closely watching him. "It's the song I sang to you, not more'n an hour or so ago."

Frodo nodded and rubbed the back of his head as if trying to tease out a faint memory. "Who taught it to you?"

"No one, sir. It just came to me, when I couldn't find you, and I was that sad and hopeless." He shouldn't have said it, but the grief was still too much to keep to himself.

Frodo gave Sam a piercing look and then his eyes unfocussed as if his thoughts were turning inward. "And I sang it back to you."

"Yes, sir."

Frodo stared blankly at the wall opposite and his voice was flat when he spoke. "I was a prisoner. There were orcs. They took my clothes." He looked at Sam. "They searched me."

Sam nodded, stunned.

"I had something they weren't to find." Frodo squeezed his eyes shut and leaned his head back against the wall. "They searched me." His left hand massaged his right shoulder. "What was it I had?" He glared at Sam. "Did they find it?"

"No, sir," Sam whispered.

"Are you looking for it now?"

"Yes, sir. Just rest quiet while I look."

Frodo's head lolled back against the wall. His eyes slid shut, and now his face was tight and his brow furrowed. Quickly Sam searched. He must have the Ring for his Master before he missed it. But how could he give it to Frodo if Frodo did not know what it was? He did not think he could let his Master unwittingly take the most dreadful object in Middle Earth. Still Sam searched; there was no sense in worrying about that until he found it, and time anyways was threatening to solve his problem for him.

For the third time Sam picked up the same orc rag, but now he had the sense to shake it. The Ring fell to the stone floor, and rang for an instant with a sound as clear as keening voice. Sam swiftly lifted it by the chain and held it behind his back as he turned to Frodo.

Frodo was on his feet. His hand fumbled at his neck as if searching for something, then fell to his side. "What have you got!" he demanded.

"Mr. Frodo, I found what you want," Sam said cajolingly, "what I've been looking for, to give to you, if you understand." He felt the thrumming of the Ring through its chain, but he fought back his desire.

"What you took from me! What you kept from me!" Frodo's voice was now strong and his eyes were clear.

"No, Mr. Frodo, leastways, I didn't mean to." Slowly, reluctantly he held the Ring up by its chain and forced himself to walk towards his Master. "Here it is, Mr. Frodo." He willed his hand to stay steady. "I can explain, if only you'll let me."

"No, no!" cried Frodo, snatching the Ring and chain from Sam's hands. "No you won't, you thief!" He panted, staring at Sam with eyes wide with fear and enmity. Then suddenly, clasping the Ring in one clenched fist, he stood aghast. A mist seemed to clear from his eys, and he passed a hand over his aching brow . . ."

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