Return of the King: Kyshri's Story - The quest to destroy the One Ring told through the eyes of a runaway Elf (part nine of thirteen)
[Elvish thought or telepathy]
Recap of Tale 8 . . .
"That's right, Mister Frodo," Sam answered. "He's agreed to fly us all the way to Mount Doom so's we won't have to walk!"
"That's great! You're a lifesaver, Kyshri!"
"Kind of you to say so, but I will not risk Pikmon's life. I love him too much to allow him to fly to his death. The first bad sign I see and Pikmon goes back to Veikai, deal?"
Unfortunately, that `deal' unraveled several hours later. Watching over Sam and Frodo--as they slept with full stomachs for the first time in only the Valar knew how long--and Pikmon as he roosted the day away on the uncomfortable earth, I was alerted to an approaching Nazgul.
In moments Pikmon was up and ruffling his feathers. Sam and Frodo were awake and searching the skies for the airborne Ringwraith. I spotted it and watched as the dragon-beast zeroed in on my owl. Pikmon noticed this as well and waited until the last possible moment before taking several awkward, running steps to the side to evade the creature's talons.
It ascended and circled; I knew that even being patched and speckled with grey and brown and black, with the majority of him white Pikmon stuck out in this bleak land too much.
I flung my arm to the side and into the air. [Flee, Pikmon! Return to Veikai at once! You are not safe here!]
Reluctantly, the greater owl took off into the clouded sky above and flew to the northwest, but not before dodging the Nazgul's dragon and then whirling and scoring the beast's back deeply with his talons. Only then did he fly from Mordor on silent wings, hooting as loudly and triumphantly as he could to agitate the beast and its rider even more.
"Run!" I hissed at the hobbits. "Find a place to hide! When the Nazgul is gone from sight, continue on without me! I shall try to draw it away from you and catch up later!" Shoving the pack into Sam's arms, I hurried them toward a nearby overhang and then ran in the opposite direction.
My ploy worked. The beast dove on me and at the last instant I drew Feanar and Daenar, whirling and using the momentum to slice it deeply across the chest as I dropped to the earth to avoid its strike. It shrieked and wheeled away, returning to Barad-dur as dark blood dribbled to the earth.
I sighed to myself. The dragon would not die this day, but it would be out of commission for a while. I headed back in the direction of Orodruin at a jog, my ears tuned for sounds of the hobbits or incoming peril. For a full day, nothing came to my ears but the roaring of Orodruin. The noise soon began to grate on my patience and I ground my teeth just to give my ears something else to listen to.
This is, until the swords sang.
For quite some time I had paid them very little attention, not expecting to find Orcs away from previously set roads. Yet now I felt my swords vibrating in their sheaths so quickly that the air resounded with the humming of their steel. I drew the blades and their song stopped almost right away as they glowed the bright yellow of a midday sun.
Advancing briskly but cautiously, I watched as the swords' shine became a rich orange and then, finally, a blood red. The wind was strong at my back, so only faint echoes of harsh Orc-voices reached me. I approached the cliff ahead of me as carefully as possible, knowing that it would be easy for the Orcs to catch my scent if I did not take care to draw no attention to myself.
I found the hobbits in a dire mess, trapped between the cliff face and a group of Orcs. The pack of food I had brought had been torn through and some of it was still being fought over, though it seemed that most of the water was in good shape. I refocused on the hobbits and hissed to myself as the Orcs took fake jabs at them to taunt them, scaring them even more.
Deciding instantly that enough was too much I lunged over the cliff, Daenar and Feanar held back and to either side.
A rageful scream tore from my throat as I descended and the Orcs looked up too late; I brought my swords around and used one Orc to break my fall as I slashed at the ones around it.
Apparently, my savage behavior caught them quite off their guard, because I had decimated them in mere moments and survived the battle with only a few dozen slashes from their weapons; never mind that one was on each hip and the rest sliced up and down the backs of my arms and legs, which were not protected by my otherwise substantial armor.
I turned to Sam. "Are you two all right?"
"We could've been a lot worse, that's for sure," he replied. "You saved us just in time."
"Glad I could help." I looked at the remains of the pack scattered all over the ground. ". . . Oh boy . . ."
". . . Can we save any of it?"
I sighed and shook my head. "My work has spattered everything with Orc blood. We may be able to salvage some of the water, but that is all. I doubt we will find much more."
"Well, I still have the leftover lembas from before," he said, producing the crinkled leaf that held many chunks of the waybread.
"Keep it. You will certainly need it." I collected the water bottles, discarded the ones that had been cut and were leaking, and tied the remaining two to my belt. I dug through the pack and found, to my surprise, a few cakes of lembas. "Here, Sam, take these and give me yours."
He obeyed reluctantly. "But Kyshri, they're dirty and---"
I smiled. "I am not the one who needs the strength to continue. The lembas you have now are far fresher and will provide you with more energy. I am merely tagging along as your guardian--I need little in comparison. We shall have to ration the water as well, but I am sure we can work something out during our journey. For now let us move on; the smell of blood will surely draw here others who we have no desire to interact with."
We continued to Orodruin slowly but surely. I nibbled quietly on my lembas whenever I felt hungry or tired and ignored its taste of ash as much as I could while Sam very carefully monitored how much he and Frodo were eating each day and made sure that Frodo always had the most of the two.
As we walked I trailed behind so that Frodo would not be blinded by my presence ahead of him. Also, I did not want either of them to see just how badly I limped from the wounds bestowed by the Orcs I had fought. I had no strength to heal them or bandages to wrap them with, so they had torn wider and bled more fiercely the longer I ignored them.
Something else that kept me from healing was that I did not sleep. I dared not for fear of being caught off guard. It allowed Sam to get decent sleep and let Frodo get snatches of rest as well, though the Ring and his growing distrust of us usually kept him awake.
Still we continued, reaching Orodruin in what seemed like years after we had started for it. Even though we had not gone far that day, we stopped at the base of the volcano and rested once again, for the climb up the steep slope would certainly be the most arduous task we had yet faced. I looked up the slope covered in ash and large rocks that had been thrown by the volcano and knew I was heading for a great deal of heat.
Therefore, I spent about half an hour casting fire-resistant spells on my armor and clothes; relatively simple magic I learned to utilize after leaving Lorien--and the Orb of Eru--behind.
We started again what might have been very late the same day or very early the next--it was impossible to tell under the volcanic clouds--and trekked gradually but determinedly up the mountainside. Frodo's will weakened and gave under the Ring and Sam--brave, loyal, dear hobbit that he is--took Frodo upon his back with not the faintest complaint and went on.
Close enough to our goal to feel the first waves of the more intense heat from the volcano, Gollum appeared from nowhere and leapt on Frodo, causing Sam to stumble and fall. I grabbed the little beast and threw him down the trail--a distance that likely would have been doubled if I had not felt the sliced muscles in my arms tear even more. Gollum was out of sight for the time being, but I knew for certain that he would be back.
"Sam! Take Frodo into the mountain! I will follow in a moment!"
Sam nodded and took Frodo's free hand, leaving the other to clutch the Ring, and led the weary hobbit on up the mountain. Gollum's attack had reawakened the greedy defensiveness that Frodo had of the Ring and the hobbit now moved with a renewed, if only temporary, strength.
Gollum tried to sneak past me, but the shuffle of his feet did not escape my ears. I reached onto the ledge above me and dragged Gollum down by his wrist. I caught him in one arm and held his head at my mercy.
"By your attempt to get past me, I must not be the first of my kind you have encountered."
"Nassty Elvesess! Kept poor Smeagol in darkness always, yes, Preciouss!"
"You must have deserved it."
In a spectacular show of extreme schizophrenia, his voice went from meek and pleading to vile and demanding. "Filthy Elvesess! Always hurting us, yesss! To never be kind to uss because we are not them!"
"You think Elves were evil to you then? Very well. In that case, wait until I get through with you, you little beast! None of the race of Elves are nastier than me when I am angry!"
That was, of course, a mild fib. Yet taking it as an imminent threat--which it was, really--Gollum writhed just enough so that he had leverage to bite my forearm. I gritted my teeth to keep from yelping in pain and put my free hand on the top of his head, planning to jab him in his big eyes to make him let go.
He must have caught on to what I was going to do, because he let go and I was able to pitch him down the trail once more. I retreated into Orodruin at that point, clutching my mangled forearm to my chest, just in time to see Frodo slip the Ring on his finger and disappear. The earth trembled and I turned to find that the Eye of Sauron had found us at last.
I quailed under the unblinking glare of the Eye, blood freezing in my veins. Never before had I felt such hatred and never did I wish to feel it again. My throat and mouth were dry--I was petrified by fear.
Then, in my mind, I heard laughter. Mad laughter. Tense and malicious from a veiled fear, but still utterly triumphant.
It will be mine, came harsh words in the Black Tongue. The mistake shall be rectified--it will be mine again!
I continued to stand there, frozen, until the shriek of approaching Nazgul was able to reach my ears. Instinct overrode fear and I tore my eyes from the Eye to the Nazgul and their beasts.
There was still time . . .
I ran around Sam into the volcano to where Gollum was twirling in the air as he wrestled with an invisible foe. At last, after dancing in this manner from safety to the edge of the chasm and back again, Gollum took hold of something, brought it to his mouth, and bit into it.
Frodo's cry echoed in the cavern as he fell to the floor and Gollum pranced free, holding the Ring with a separated finger still through it. I tapped Sam, who had blood all down his face, on the shoulder and pointed at Frodo. He ran to the other hobbit instantly while I made for Gollum. I would throw the little monster into the fires of the mountain as well if he did not give up the Ring.
Gollum saw me bearing down on him and snarled warningly, hiding the Ring against his side. I dug my heel into the rock as much as I could and skidded to a stop, but not out of concern of the creature. The Ring was whispering deep in my head for the second time, making the exact same promises it had made in the forest around Veikai. My eyes locked on the Ring as they had been locked on the Eye, I stared for a long moment before forcing my eyes closed so that I could regain my senses a second time.
"Doess the Elf want the Precious?" came the evil cackle. "Smeagol thinks it doess! Here! Have the Precious, nassty Elf!"
I recoiled, trying desperately to avoid having the Ring touch any part of me. I could not believe Gollum was actually risking the chance that I might snatch it from him and take it for myself until I felt the intense waves of heat from the volcano's heart at my back.
He had done this on purpose.
I skirted to the side. "Fine, Gollum! Have it! Have your Precious! Just leave me to my own!"
Cackling once more, Gollum, took me at my word and started dancing once again. I turned to face Sam and Frodo, to get them out so that I could take care of the Ring--or the Ring and Gollum, even--without having to worry about them being in any further danger.
Several things happened at once at that point. The Nazguls' fell beasts landed outside the cavern and the Nazgul dismounted and started to make their way inside. I began to move on toward Sam and Frodo to protect them, though I was sure the Nazgul would be after Gollum now.
It was as I took that first step that I felt long fingers wrap around my ankle. I whirled and saw that Gollum had danced a step too far and gone over the edge. He had grasped at anything nearby that could save him, which was me. Yet I was quite unbalanced on one foot and my legs were still in agony from the Orcs and therefore I had no strength--particularly considering my meals, or lack thereof, had provided only minimal aid--with which to support both of us, though if I had been in good health things would have gone quite differently.
However, I was not in that good health and Gollum was now attempting to climb my leg. The leg I had still in contact with the stone gave beneath the weight and we both went over the edge of the chasm.