What If Sam Kept the Ring - How would the story play out?

What If Sam Kept the Ring
Traz's viewpoint

I dedicate this, my very first fanfic, to pippinsqueek. She is a most worthy beta, and helped me with my effort to stick as close to canon as possible. From her guiding I learned a lot about writing stories: avoiding repetition; describing what the character sees and how he feels; avoiding "the easy way out". Thanks, Pip!

Author's note: I started and ended with a quote from the master himself, JRR Tolkien, to whom the characters belong. There is also a small section near the end that is directly quoted. These paragraphs are in italics. My invention is written in between these places, begging your pardon.
~traz~


`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.

`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?'


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"No, no!" cried Frodo, grabbing at the Ring and chain, but Sam recoiled from his sudden actions and, pulling back, he kept the Ring out of Frodo's reach. A fire blazed up in Frodo's eyes. He leaped at Sam and tackled him to the ground. "Give it to me!" he shouted, as they struggled on the floor. Sam held the Ring fast in his right hand as he kept it out of Frodo's reach, fighting off grabbing hands with his left, but Frodo was on top and had the advantage. Frodo finally had Sam's right arm pinned to the ground and was frantically trying to open the firm grip when Sam found his chance and landed a solid left punch on Frodo's jaw. The force of the blow knocked Frodo back and dazed him momentarily. He shook it off and looked at Sam, bewildered. "Why are you doing this, Sam?"

Frodo's words were like a knife in Sam's heart. He scrambled up, breathing heavily, and looked guiltily at his feet. He blinked away the sweat and tears that were stinging his eyes. "I...I don't know, Mr. Frodo..." he stuttered. "I'm sorry, I don't know what's come over me!" He glanced up to find Frodo staring at his hand, the one that held the Ring. Sam felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as an almost uncontrollable urge to strike came over him. He quickly put his hand behind his back.

Frodo breathed in sharply but he kept his voice steady and calm. "I know you believe you are trying to help Sam, but this is not your burden. Please, give me the Ring." Sam wondered silently what he should do. He toyed with the Ring behind his back and looked at his toes. He flinched, almost dropping the Ring, as Frodo abruptly raised his tone.

"Give it to me now!" shouted Frodo. The air was tense as he firmly held out his hand in silent command.

Sam brought his hand out from behind his back to give the Ring to his master but his arm fixed solidly to his side like an iron bar and he could bring it no further. Frodo took a step toward him. Sam could not move. He wanted to give the Ring to his master, but something held him back. He struggled with an unseen force but found he could only stare into Frodo's eyes. A malignant fire kindled deep within them. Suddenly, the face before him changed. The glowing eyes grew as the face shrunk. The cheeks hollowed. Hair that was thick and curled became thin, almost non-existent. The once familiar smile now wasted and stretched to reveal sharp teeth that were more suited to some wretched beast than a hobbit. Sam grimaced as he watched blue veins swell beneath the pale skin. His mind reeled. Gollum stood before him. Gollum! How the creature came to be here mattered not to Sam. His only desire now was to put an end to his vile wickedness.

"You Villain!" Sam yelled hoarsely. "What have you done with Mr. Frodo? I've had enough of your tricks! You'll not trouble us again, I'll kill you first, you filth!" Seething with anger, he leaped forward and seized Gollum around the neck. Sam was determined to pay him back for his treachery in the tunnel. Gollum kicked and struggled, but Sam tightened his firm grip. He glared with hatred into Gollum's cold eyes and found a strange pleasure at his power over the squirming creature. As the eyes slowly lost their focus, the struggling played out and Gollum lay still.

Sam was breathing heavy as he stood up and turned around. "Mr. Frodo, he's gone," he said between gulps of air. "I'm sorry, but something had to be done. He'll not trick us again!" He looked around the room. "Mr. Frodo?" then to himself, "Now where'd he run off to? He was right here a moment ago..." Sam was still exhilarated from the struggle as he pondered the situation. He almost couldn't believe how easy it was to put an end to Gollum, but he felt no regret. He turned back to the form on the floor. But Gollum was no longer there. Sam's eyes grew wide in disbelief and he choked. There was Frodo, lying in a heap on the floor.

"No!"

He threw himself down next to Frodo and grabbing him by his shoulders he shook him. "No Mr. Frodo, no! Wake up!" He clutched Frodo to his breast. This can't be happening again, he thought wildly as he rocked his master back and forth. Sam could find no sign of life in his master, and there was no poison in Frodo this time that would trick Sam. The truth to him now seemed all too clear. "Mr. Frodo, you must wake up!" he yelled through blinding tears, "I didn't mean it! You weren't here...it wasn't you! It can't be you!" He sobbed uncontrollably. Guilt rose with the same overwhelming intensity as the bile in his throat. He swallowed hard. Slowly, he lay Frodo down and looked into his face. "Wake up...please! Oh Mr. Frodo...I just didn't know it was you! I thought it was..." His eyes flashed. Gollum! Through gritting teeth he growled at the air. "If I could just get my hands on that filthy stinker!" He regarded his master's peaceful face, then cried out in agony. "No!" He began punching the floor until his hand bled. "Mr. Frodo..." he whispered between sobs and crumpled convulsing to the floor next to his master.


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He didn't know how much time had passed when the tears finally slowed. Bringing himself painfully to his feet, Sam wiped his face and nursed his swelling hand. How did this happen? Frodo had been standing right in front of him, but then it wasn't Frodo, it was Gollum. But it wasn't Gollum, and that thought fed Sam's hatred for the creature even more. "If ever I get my hands on you...you..." he clenched his teeth so hard his jaw ached. Then he noticed the Ring.

It was on the floor still on its chain, not far from where Frodo lay. I must have dropped it when I...when I attacked him, he thought bitterly as he tried to swallow the lump forming in his throat. He looked helplessly at his master as tears threatened to flow once more. He closed his eyes; his stomach was in a knot. He recalled all the names his Gaffer gave him for all the wrong he had done in his years growing up, and not a one was fit to use for the shameful crime he had just committed. He took a deep breath and tried desperately to figure out how everything went so terribly wrong and also, what to do next. But something drew his thoughts back to the Ring. He stooped down and looked at it thoughtfully. Then he picked it up. It shone brightly, even in the dim light. Looking closely, he could see his reflection in the small golden mirror.

"This would not have happened, Samwise Gamgee, if you would have just given the Ring back to him!" he scolded himself as the threatening tears spilled out.

A soft voice filled his head. "This wouldn't have happened if he didn't try to steal it from you!"

He jumped and looked around. "Who was that?" All was quiet. I didn't say that, did I? Well, maybe I did, he thought. He looked at Frodo. "What I meant, Mr. Frodo, was that when you came at me, well, it startled me is all..." His voice trailed off. He turned around and found himself considering this new thought. Well, he shouldn't have come at me. "Why did you come at me?" he asked out loud. He held the Ring up by its chain and watched it spin lazily. The smoothness of the metal fascinated him. Absentmindedly he told the Ring, "It's because of you that we're in this mess."

It just turned slowly one way, then the other. "I didn't belong to him anyway."

Sam jerked his hand and almost dropped the chain. Was he loosing his mind? He must have been letting his imagination run away with him. He took the Ring into his hand and stared at it. The gold was quite unremarkable, nothing to take notice of, and yet the beauty of it smote his heart. A strong desire to put it on came over him. "Why shouldn't I? Frodo used to..."

Sam froze as he realized what was happening. The Ring was luring him. Was this what his master had to bear for so long? He looked with pity at Frodo. He was lying there as if he were asleep. Sam set the Ring on the floor. He imagined he saw a faint movement in Frodo but took it for a trick of the light or maybe just the longing in his heart. He sighed as he carefully folded his master's arms across his chest and covered him with his own elven cloak, since Frodo's was lost to the orcs. "I doubt I'll be needing mine out there, Mr. Frodo, what with the hotter weather and all. I wish the elvish magic in it was strong enough to undo the wrongs that I did to you." A lone tear made its way slowly down Sam's cheek, then decidedly he picked up the Ring and stood up. "Somehow," he told himself, mustering up what fleeting courage he could hang on to, "somehow you have to finish this horrible Quest once and for all, and not mess it up worse than it already is!" He put the chain around his neck. It weighed heavily on Sam, once more dragging him down toward the floor, but it again eased and he stood straight. He looked at Frodo. "I'm sorry Mr. Frodo. If I can at least do this to set things right, I'll do it, although nothing can fix what I done." Sam wiped his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered, and turning slowly, he left.


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Frodo's eyes flew wide open and he painfully gulped in deep draughts of air. His throat felt like it was on fire. He broke into a fit of coughing, which didn't help the pain, and when at last it subsided he was exhausted. He tried to swallow, but it felt like he was swallowing broken glass. Then suddenly he felt for the Ring and remembered what Sam had done. His eyes narrowed. He threw Sam's cloak aside and struggled to his feet, but he went much too quickly and he fell to his hands and knees, his head swimming. He closed his eyes and held onto the floor as the room spun around him. When at last the dizziness passed, he opened his eyes again and slowly looked around. Sam was gone.

He stood up, more slowly this time and got his bearings. But it didn't take more than a moment to decide what he needed to do. Find the Ring. He angrily recalled how Sam kept it from him and how blank his face looked when Frodo demanded it back. But then Sam's face twisted into a rage that Frodo had never seen before and it confused him. Before he could react, Sam was on him. Frodo fought desperately to release Sam's tight hold around his neck but lack of air quickly did its job and before Frodo could do anything else, all went dark.

He fixed his attention back to the present. At least I am still alive. This thought didn't comfort Frodo much. Sam was gone, and he took the Ring. He looked around the room. Spying his pack flung in the corner amongst the filth, he went and picked it up. Searching through it, he found only a few pieces of lembas. "It seems the orcs don't care for elvish food," he said to himself. "I suppose that is some good news if there is any to be had." He looked at the waybread. He swallowed carefully and winced at the pain. Putting it back into his pack, he hoped to himself he could hold off a while before having to eat again. He walked back to where Sam's cloak lay on the floor, and bent down to pick it up. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with grief. Poor Sam he thought bitterly. You know it was the Ring that took him. It almost took you! Frodo closed his eyes as he let the tears flow.

Quickly he grabbed up his pack, put Sam's cloak within, and made his way cautiously down the ladder. There were dead orcs lying everywhere. It didn't take him too long to find a small orc about his size. He took the foul clothing and put it on himself. "No use traveling in this country looking anything other than an orc," he convinced himself. Once he felt properly disguised, pack hidden neatly under the black orc cloak, he headed out into Mordor.


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For eight days Sam had marched through the rugged, barren wasteland of Mordor toward Orodruin, which grew larger and more terrible each day, and now his journey was nearing its end as the mountain loomed up before him. Only twice did he encounter any orcs on the way, but he was able to scramble under the brush or behind rocks to hide and somehow he avoided being seen. He could not, however, shake the feeling he was being followed.

"It's that sneak Gollum, I'll warrant," he had thought after hearing something not too far behind him, "I had better keep a sharp eye."

He was amazed at the fair pace he had been able to keep so far...that is, until today. The closer he got to the fiery mountain, the heavier the Ring became. And the more he thought about the Ring, the more he realized that with Frodo carrying it, they would have traveled much slower and would still have had several days to march. He suddenly stopped. Memories of the attack came flooding back to him. A sick feeling rose inside and united with the lump that formed in the back of his throat. Days to march together. This was the first time he really thought about what he had done since he set off by himself. Sam missed his master desperately but somehow he kept the image of Frodo's dead body from his mind. He sat down heavily on a rock and put his head in his hands. He barely felt the hot tears on his parched skin. "Why did I do it? Why..." he moaned. He was exhausted and as he sat there reliving the scene in that tower now miles away, he let his emotions have their way and sobbed until his tears were spent.

He woke up, realizing he had fallen asleep, and rubbed his swollen eyes.

"Why do you worry about it so?"

"Because I love him, and I miss him."

He recalled the odd conversations he had been having with himself these past several days. He also noticed that these conversations increased in length as the days went by. Now they turned to the fight in the Tower. Was it the Ring, or just Common Sense, he had once asked himself. It was getting more difficult to tell. Maybe he was just going mad.

"You need not go on like that," the voice interrupted.

Sam still had the vision in his mind from the tower. "But why did I do it, I don't understand! I saw Gollum. I killed Gollum! Not Mr. Frodo! Not my dear master..."

"You did what was necessary."

"Necessary?" Sam couldn't believe he was having these thoughts, but he continued with the debate. "How was it necessary?" he asked indignantly.

"You could not have gotten this far with him crawling along. You would have starved, or died of thirst."

Sam considered this thoughtfully. The food would not have lasted, not for both of them. Neither would the water. "But I would have given him the most of it and gladly!" he said stubbornly.

"But you would still be far from your destination," the argument went on. "You would never have made it to the end."

"It was the Ring," he said quietly to himself, "I should have just given it to him." He couldn't shake that thought, and every time he considered it, the returning answer was always the same.

"I did not belong to him."

Sam growled. If this was the Ring speaking to him, it did belong to Frodo, so to speak. The Council said so. And now he carried it. His thoughts trailed back to the instructions that Elrond gave. He reminded himself, "You are the last of all the Company. The errand should not fail." And it will not fail! I must finish it, after what I have done, he thought bitterly. He took half a sip from his near empty water skin, remembering the last oily spring he had filled it from. No other water had been found and from the back of his mind he wondered if he could make this last long enough to complete his task and head for home. "Well," he said aloud, "all that aside, I've made it this far, which is saying a lot." He was at the foot of the mountain. He looked up and sighed. It looked awfully steep, with no apparent path. "I might as well get on with it." He adjusted his pack and let his hand momentarily pause at the place where the Ring lay beneath his shirt, as if to make sure it was causing no mischief, then went on.

The climb drained him. Sam's strength was quickly waning with the lack of food and water. He slipped twice; the first time his ankle turned but he kept going. The second time he fell and his leg caught a sharp rock, which cut into his skin and left an ugly gash. He cursed the rock as he sat and looked at his leg. It wasn't deep, but it was bleeding. Sam quickly bound his leg the best he could and continued his climb. Slowly and steadily he stumbled along making his way higher and higher. As he climbed, the debate veered to a different subject.

"Look at it, just once more," the voice tempted.

"I don't want to," Sam mumbled as he struggled on. Whether this was his own voice of reason or that of the Ring, he couldn't tell. The voice sounded like Samwise Gamgee, but then again it didn't. It was somehow more expressive, more educated; not the simple speech of a country gardener in the service of another. He didn't like it at all.

"Of course you do. It is so smooth. Have you ever seen anything so smooth? Do you not want to touch it?"

Sam paused and brought his hand up to his breast. There was the Ring under his shirt. He shook his head, dropped his hand and struggled on.

"Just one look."

Sam stopped again and looked up. He was halfway up the mountain. He sat down on a rock and took another small sip of water. The heavy air made it difficult to breathe and the wound on his leg throbbed. His heart was pounding in his chest. He looked up at the dismal sky. Oh if I was back in the Shire, how nice it would be to be able to lay in the grass under the trees and let my troubles be carried off with the clouds, he thought, slowly catching his breath. But Sam didn't take out the Ring. He ran his fingers through his hair and rubbed his aching head.

The voice went on, "You have it now, it is yours. Just pull it out and have a look."

Sam tried to keep hold of his vision of the Shire but the thought of the Ring grew stronger. "I've already had a look at it, and that's more than enough," he told himself but slowly, without knowing why, Sam reached up and pulled the chain from under his shirt. As he drew it from around his head, the emerging Ring caught the light of the pale sun, and the intensity was so fierce that he had to shield his eyes. It faded after a moment, and Sam was able to get a better look at the Ring.

He was amazed that such a small bit of gold could hold so much power. It was small, yet it was such a burden. "Poor Mr. Frodo should not have had to bear this by himself!" He looked intently at the Ring. Oh, but how it shines...he thought to himself. He held it in the palm of his left hand and cautiously touched it. And yes, it was smooth, very smooth.

"Frodo was weak," the voice whispered.

Sam softly drew his finger around the gold band.

"He did not have the strength to control it." The voice was mocking now.

Sam lifted the Ring from his palm and traced the circle with his left forefinger.

"You could handle it. Put it on."

Could I handle it? Sam bit his upper lip until he tasted blood.

"Put it on."

"NO!" he heard himself scream. Desperately he clasped the Ring in his hand and started climbing again, his breathing coming in gasps.

"It is yours now, it is in your grasp!"

"No..." he was sobbing now, although he didn't know it.

"You have the strength that Frodo didn't. You could use it. You could bring Frodo back."

Sam stopped dead in his tracks. Bring Frodo back? How he longed to have his master with him again. He could almost feel Frodo's presence somewhere near. He looked at his clenched hand, the Ring safe inside. Once more wild fantasies swelled in his mind. But no longer was it Samwise the Strong with armies flocking to his call that he pictured, or in the command of the great flowering gardens of Gorgoroth. He now saw Samwise the Great Healer, able to bring back the dead! Folk from far and wide would come to him to beg his mercy and bring their loved ones back to life.

"The Ring gives you that power. All you have to do is put it on."

Sam's hobbit-sense struggled to regain control. "But it has to be destroyed!" he moaned. He knew very well that the Ring had to be destroyed if the Shire was to be saved, and he believed that with all his heart.

"You can save your master and the Shire! Put it on."

"I can't, it's not right!"

"Yes, you can. You will. It is right and it is the only thing that will save your master. Put it on."

Sam was tired and ready to give up. Maybe it was right. And he wanted desperately to make things the way they were. "Mr. Frodo?" He squeezed the Ring so tight it cut into his hand. "If only I could make things right! What do I do, Mr. Frodo?"

"Put it on."

"Put it on? But how can I..." Sam gazed at the oppressive clouds as if they would somehow reveal the answer. He lowered his head and ground his fists into his eyes but he couldn't rub away his misery. With an agonizing sigh he dropped his hands, still clutching the Ring.

"Put it on."

"If I only gave it back to him," he said to the air.

"I did not belong to him."

Angrily he yelled, "You don't belong to me neither!"

And with that he wearily pushed on. Before long, he came to a path that continued to climb up and around the cone of the mountain. So glad he was to find it that he would have shouted for joy, if his throat wasn't so parched. "This path must have been put here a-purpose!" he said to himself, not realizing this was the very road Sauron made from Barad-dûr to the Sammath Naur, the Chambers of Fire. On he went, the Ring held firmly in his grasp. Higher and higher he went following the rocky path as it wound to and fro up the cone. Soon the path bent on a final eastward course and there it was; the door of the Sammath Naur. There was an ominous glow spilling out. He paused a moment, then with his fist clenched tight, he went in.

The air was stifling and smelt of sulfur. He choked and found it hard to breathe, then somehow the air seemed to clear a bit and he went on. The cave was long but a short way in the walls and floor on either side opened up into a great fissure, ablaze with a burning light. Looking into one of these, he saw a lake of fire, boiling and churning, spewing acrid fumes that made him sick. He gathered what little strength he had left in him.

"Now for it!" He raised his hand to throw the Ring far into the fire, but something stopped him. It was the voice again.

"What about Frodo?" it questioned firmly.

Sam hesitated.

The voice grew impatient and became more commanding. "Without the Ring, you will never see him again. Do you really want that?"

Setting his jaw he shook his head, but raised his hand again to throw.

"Do you not want to see him again?" the voice pleaded more softly.

Sam dropped his hands to his side in despair. "I do!" he moaned.

"Do you not understand," the voice pressed on, "you can see him again. Just put it on, claim the Ring as your own and you will have the power to do whatever you want!"

"But how could I bring back Mr. Frodo?"

"Put it on."

"But what would he say?"

"He would thank you."

"But I killed him." Sam opened his and hand looked through his tears at the Ring.

"Put it on. Call your master back."

The struggle in Sam's mind was growing unbearable. "But it's evil! I have to destroy it," he said through clenched teeth.

"Then you will never see your beloved Frodo again."

"Why are you torturing me!" Sam yelled. He closed his fist tightly over the Ring.

Quietly, the voice continued. "If you claim it, you will have the power to undo the evil that you have committed. Give back the life you stole from your master."

"Frodo...Frodo..." he sobbed. He looked at his clenched hand and slowly opened it. There was the Ring. If he just put it on, all his troubles would be over...but what would happen to the Shire? He sniffled. But maybe I could save the Shire too, and have Mr. Frodo back and all. Why, I could, couldn't I? He looked in his hand but he no longer saw the gold object there. Instead he saw fields of grain, rolling hills, acres of trees of all types. He saw children playing chase, farmers in their garden. "There! There's my old Gaffer!" He found himself grinning through tear-swollen eyes. This was the Shire! Peace rolled over him like a warm blanket.

"You can ensure that peace, and all the people would sing your praises. Put it on."

"I could make sure the harvests were always aplenty!" His eyes grew wide with pleasure as he thought of all the good he could do.

"Put it on," it whispered.

"And maybe...maybe see to it that the Gaffer has enough to keep `im warm and full in the wintertime!" Sam smiled as he saw his Gaffer sitting content in his chair by the fire, a thick blanket wrapped snuggly around him. His sisters were preparing supper, and oh what a supper it was! There was a great roast with carrots and potatoes, stew, hot biscuits and cream, beets, green beans with bacon...and on and on. And there were almost as many desserts and pastries as there were meats and vegetables. And of course there was the best beer in all the Shire to wash it all down...

"Put it on," the voice repeated.

"And...could I really...really bring him back? Could I bring back Mr. Frodo?" Sam knew the Ring was terribly powerful, but he just could not see how it could make someone alive. He then envisioned Frodo sitting on the banks of the Brandywine. He was laughing...he had just caught a fish. Sam smiled.

"You can do that and more. Put it on."

He held the Ring up. Slowly he drew it to his finger. He caressed the side and thrilled at the touch. "I will do it. I will put it on and bring him back..."

"NO SAM!"

Sam startled and almost dropped the Ring as the spell was broken and the vision disappeared like the flame of a snuffed out candle. He spun around to find the owner of the voice. His mouth dropped open. There, worn and weary, was Frodo, holding his hand out and half walking, half stumbling, toward Sam. "Don't do it Sam!" he cried hoarsely.

Completely forgetting the Ring, Sam stared unbelieving at the person before him. "You...I...Mr. Frodo! Oh my dear Mr. Frodo! How did you..." he finally managed to whisper as he started to run toward Frodo but the hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he stopped and looked silently into his master's face. It was full of pain and torture, and his eyes were focused not on Sam but on his hand that held the Ring.

"You must give it to me, Sam, you must!" Frodo pleaded with his hand outstretched, continuing toward Sam.

Sam took a step backward. "But Mr. Frodo, we're here to destroy it!"

"Don't you understand Sam, if you destroy the Ring, you'll destroy me! GIVE IT TO ME!" he growled, and hurled himself at Sam.

The sudden attack stoked the flame of Sam's desire to keep the Ring for himself, and at the same time, doused his astonishment at seeing his master alive. Once more, a great struggle broke out between the two hobbits. Frodo's lunge knocked Sam off balance and they both fell to the ground fighting madly for the Ring. Dust burned their eyes and they were bloody and bruised, yet on they struggled. Ever closer to the edge of the chasm they tussled, but sensible reason abandoned itself to reckless disregard of where they were. Frodo finally got hold of Sam's arm and hammered it into the ground until Sam's grip loosened. The Ring slipped out and Frodo and Sam both scrambled to get it, but Frodo was quicker. He snatched up the Ring and pushing Sam away from him, he scrambled to his feet. He stumbled back with a crazed look on his face and glared at Sam.

"It does not belong to you. The Ring is mine!" he yelled, and with that, he set the Ring on his finger and disappeared.

Sam stood up in shock, but before he could cry out, something struck him violently on the back of his head, knocking him back to the ground. He lay still and for a moment all went black.

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Sam got up. He was dazed, and blood streaming from his head dripped in his eyes. He groped forward, and then he saw a strange and terrible thing. Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the wile he hissed but spoke no words.

The fires below awoke in anger, the red light blazed, and all the cavern was filled with a great glare and heat. Suddenly Sam saw Gollum's long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as the bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm's edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.

`Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. `My Precious! O my Precious!' And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.


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"Well Sam, it looks like this is the end."

Sam blinked and turned to the voice next to him. There was Frodo, worn and tired, but he was himself again. Tears filled his eyes. "Master! How did you do it, how did you get here? I...I thought I killed you!"

"You almost did," he laughed dryly, "but I think I fainted and you let go." He rubbed the front of his neck in painful memory. He remembered waking up gasping for breath, amazed to be alive, and that his throat was on fire. Even now, he felt it hard to get food and water down. He knew that Sam was under the influence of the Ring when he attacked him. Frodo also recalled picturing Sam with the Ring, and he just had to get it back. It was all he could think about and nothing would tear its image from his mind. But he would not burden Sam with this knowledge; hhad been through enough himself. "You were gone when I came to myself," Frodo continued, "but I knew you had the Ring and I was determined to get it back. I found my pack which only had a small amount of lembas bread and an empty water bottle." Frodo swallowed thickly as he spoke. "I filled it at the same spring you had found, and that kept me alive." Frodo saw Sam's questioning look. "I found your footprints in the dust on the ground," he said smiling, then when Sam nodded in understanding he gravely continued. "Sam, with you carrying the Ring I was light on my feet, although it almost killed me knowing you were carrying It...It drew me..." his voice trailed off.

"It almost killed me, knowing what I did, or what I thought I did to you, Mr. Frodo. How can you ever forgive me?"

"Sam," Frodo said earnestly, "When you had the Ring, you were only trying to help me. I shouldn't have tried to force it from you, because I know..." his voice lowered, "no, I don't know what I would have done."

Sam blushed with shame. "But Mr. Frodo, I attacked you, and I don't understand how it all happened, it went so fast! I didn't even know it was you! I swear I thought it was that stinker Gollum! He was standing there looking at me with such hate as I have never seen. It made my skin crawl, he was that horrid! And how it happened I just can't figure!" Sam was now pacing and wringing his hands worriedly. "And here he was the whole time, right behind us!"

Frodo lowered his eyes and spoke softly, "It was the Ring, Sam. It played tricks like that many times." He looked earnestly at Sam. "You are rightly forgiven." He wrapped his arms around Sam and hugged him. Then Sam remembered Frodo's wounded hand.

"Your poor hand!" he cried as he backed away. He tended it as best he could, wrapping it carefully but firmly to stop the bleeding. "That Gollum! Well, at least it's finally gone, the Ring that is."

Frodo looked at Sam with a tired but warm smile. "Yes, Sam...it's gone. But don't feel any ill against Gollum. If it wasn't for Gollum, we may still have fought over the Ring and maybe found ourselves in the fire. "

`So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam'

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