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Backwards in Time | Forwards in Time

'Caged' - Part 1

Title: Caged
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Rating: PG-13
Summary: ‘I’m sorry, Sam. I can’t do this. The closer I get to Mount Doom, the weaker my will becomes. He has me, Sam. He has all of me and I can’t ever escape!’ Frodo’s strength is failing, and Sam fears the Ring's Burden will be the death of his best friend. (Movie)
Disclaimer: I don’t own Lord of the Rings, neither book nor film versions. Love them, though.
Author’s Notes: Set in the ‘Movie’verse, during ‘Return of the King’. Told from two different points of view – hence the combination of normal text (Frodo) and italics (Sam).

This is my first LotR story, so constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated!

OoOoOoOoOoO

Part 1

The Land of Shadows stretches out for miles in all directions, as far as my aching eyes can see - before us, beside us, behind us. Everywhere I turn, everywhere I look, all I can picture in my mind is ash and dust and flames, and I sense the lingering threat of War and Death hanging over Gorgoroth like a smothering veil.

Sam is troubled; I can see it in his eyes. He has been since the very beginning, just as we all have, I think. But now … something has changed inside of him, and changed him for the worse.

Ever since he carried It, he has been different, but my pained and exhausted mind can’t figure out just what is different about him. All I know for certain is that he has changed, and I wish more than anything that it were not so.

This was my Burden to bear. My own. Sam was never supposed to carry it, not even for a second. And thanks to my weakness and reluctance to fight, it was forced upon him before either of us knew what was happening. I should never have trusted Gollum … none of this would have happened if I’d believed Sam in the first place! The responsibility and guilt is overwhelming, now, but I won’t rid myself of it. I deserve it. I’ve put Sam through something he should never have had to face, and he’s no longer the hobbit I once knew because of it.

But … there’s still a chance, isn’t there? Surely there must still be a chance! Maybe – just maybe - it isn’t too late for him. He didn’t hold It for very long … Yes, he has changed a little, but I must cling to the hope that I took the Ring back before he was changed beyond repair... It’s the only hope I have left, but its feeble light is diminishing second by second.

And where hope abandons me, insanity settles in.

Oh, Sam. You were the one person I didn’t want to force my Burden upon. You were never supposed to see what It was doing to me. You were never supposed to know!

But there is no way to undo what has been done, no matter how much I wish for the return of your blissful ignorance.

O---O---O---O---O

We’ve stopped. I’ve been stumbling along for so long, now, and my thoughts are drifting and clumsy. Stopping doesn’t seem to be an option for me, anymore …

No, I must warn him. We can’t stop here! I’m afraid to rest! If I rest now, I fear I won’t be able to get up again, and then I’ll never be rid of It! I can’t stop, not now, not yet!

So I don’t.

I want to warn him but I can’t, so instead I keep walking, and though Sam is gazing longingly at the giant boulder he was hoping to call refuge for a few hours, he takes the hint and follows me straight passed it, not once looking back.

Brave, loyal Sam. He understands that much, at least. He knows that I can’t rest. Not now, not ever.

I’m sorry, Sam. It’s selfish of me, I know … and I know that you need to rest too, but I just can’t do it. If I stop, I won’t start again, and I can’t let that happen!

I want to speak those words to him, if only to ease my own guilt, but my throat isn’t working and I must settle for speaking them inside my own head. A clear sign of insanity, when one talks to oneself, but I can do nothing about it. My mind is not my own, anymore...

No, I don’t want to be insane. I don’t want to lose what is left of my soul to the darkness that is bleeding me dry! I can’t let it win! So I try to speak. Try to say the very words that I want Sam to hear, knowing that they will mean more to him if I do say them than if I say nothing at all…

But I can’t. The words simply refuse to come. It must be weeks now, at least, since I’ve had anything to say aloud, and I fear that, after so long, speech will never ever pass my lips again.

-----------------------------------------------------------

The days are getting darker, as we get closer to Mount Doom. The sky above our heads is almost black as night, save for the streak of blood-red that illuminates the horizon, where the make-shift ‘Sun’ is nesting. Sun, indeed. Perhaps by name, but not by nature. No Sun have I ever seen that could dishearten my spirit so easily than the pale, weak little ball of fire that hangs like a looming hourglass over the deadened lands of Mordor.

But its presence is useful, all the same.

It tells me that rest is near. We’ve been walking non-stop for hours, and I can see the strain it has put on Mister Frodo as clear as spring water.

I thought we were going to stop, a few moments ago. We passed a reasonable spot, not exactly like home, but a boulder large enough to both hide and protect us for at least a few hours. I was all for unpacking, but Mister Frodo wasn’t. He walked straight passed it.

Which is most peculiar.

For the first time in a long while, he is the one to keep me going! How strange!

For so many weeks, our travels have been shortened, simply to allow him chance to rest. Two hours’ walking was, at one point, enough to weaken him for nye on a day.

Which is why I’m immensely surprised that we have managed to travel so far today without having to stop once. Not that that is a bad thing, o’course. In fact, I am so incredibly proud of Mister Frodo for persevering, where usually we would have given up and called it a day. I’d like to think that he realises how close we are to the end of the journey, and so is pushing himself in the hopes of finally being able to rid the world of Sauron’s evil darkness… but something deep down is telling me otherwise.

A strange something that feels – most peculiarly - a lot like the Ring.

It whispers to me. It has been ever since we left the Tower of Cirith Ungol, ever since I returned It to Mister Frodo. On and on It calls to me, poisoning my thoughts until I’m thinking the most horriblest of things. But I at least have blessed relief when It is too focussed on another young hobbit to bother me: I know for a fact that It never leaves Frodo, not even for a second.

I know It speaks nothing but lies and deceit, but at the same time, something about Its incessant whispering is maddeningly convincing. It claims that Mister Frodo fears to stop, teases that his will might just break if he has to cease walking for even the tiniest of moments.

And though I hate to admit it, I can’t help but believe It might just be right. Frodo has been draining himself of a strength he no longer possesses for days now, walking in a daze, step after painful step to a tuneless, endless rhythm that only he can hear …

For what other reason would he do such a thing but through fear of his own failure?

Oh, if only I could ignore the Ring’s persistent mutterings. I want to believe my own theory, dearly I do… but the evidence points so relentlessly towards Its own…

I know Its game, though. I know what It really wants, and why it is trying so hard to convince me that Master Frodo is falling.

The Ring wants me to take It from him. It fears his strength of will, even though I can see that that is failing - and failing rapidly - the closer we get to Mount Doom. It thinks that I would be an easier host to corrupt, that I would abandon our quest immediately and take It straight back to Its master.

I can’t deny that, sometimes, I’m awfully close to obeying It.

For the majority of today’s journey, I’ve tried to distance myself from Mister Frodo as far as I could without arousing suspicion … but I get the sinking feeling he is too trapped inside his own mind to have truly noticed, anyway.

And that is a most upsetting thought.

O---O---O---O---O

We’ve made it a little further while I’ve been brooding, it seems. The rocks around us are getting bigger, the closer we get to the great Tower. And to reward us, the sky seems all the more darker for it.

I shoot Mister Frodo a side-long glance, but his expression hasn’t changed at all. His eyes are still sightless, glazed and pain-racked, gazing not at our path, but at some unseen, tormenting force. His steps are shaky and feeble, but the eerie beating rhythm he has taken to obeying – the one that I can’t hear - is keeping one foot shuffling in front of the other in an endless, zombie-like fashion. That worries me, but I dare not dwell upon it. Though I can’t see It, I see his hand wrapped weakly amidst the tattered, dirty remnants of his shirt, grasping the Ring so tightly that I fear it will leave marks. As if he hasn’t collected enough scars during this journey …

I have to look away. If I keep looking, my soul might just shatter. I can’t bare to see the darkness shadowing his face! It kills me to see his expression completely devoid of life: absent, broken, hopeless. It’s almost as if the only emotions he can feel are pain and torment and anger and hatred and … oh, who knows what else? The darkest and most unforgiving of all possible emotions are waging a silent war amidst his bloodshot, dimmed blue orbs, and the despair at the very heart of them is almost enough to cause hope to abandon my own heart, too.

And I can’t have that.

As long as I have hope, there is hope that Frodo can be saved, as well…

Deep in my heart, I know that’s not true. The circumstances are so very different for Mister Frodo, so much more complicated. The scars of this quest have pierced him deeper than they have me, and the rational part of me fears the damage may be irreversible.

But I can’t think like that. I have to believe, for my own sanity, that we will get through this.

So I am going to ignore the Ring. I’m going to believe what my heart is telling me, and do whatever I can to make sure that my best friend makes it through this.

He will. He has to. Because I don’t know what I would do if he didn’t …

-----------------------------------------------------------

Darkness … it’s all around me. It’s inside my very soul, shredding it,devouring it!

Everywhere I look, blackness and ashes, destruction and suffering. So, so much pain.

I want to fall. So desperately I want to abandon what tiny shred of hope I’m struggling to cling on to and simply let it all end. I’m tired of fighting, and the overwhelming power of the Ring is making it harder and harder to see just what it is that I was fighting for in the first place.

There is only darkness before my eyes, now. Darkness and flame, all consuming and all powerful, ensnaring me, luring me in, deeper and deeper into its inescapable prison…

There’s a sharp, stinging pain shooting up from my knees, but I can’t make sense of anything, anymore. Everything is swaying around me, everything moves… and the little bit of reality I could make out through the looming blackness a moment ago is suddenly blurred and indistinguishable.

Oh, help! It’s doing it again! It wants me to put It on, but I can’t! He’ll find me if I do! And if He finds me, it’s all over!

But the longing … the burning, aching desire is looming again. If I just hold It for a while … just for a moment, then it might leave me alone …

Sam … Sam will help me … he’s done it before … dearest Sam, he always knows what to do, always knows how to pull me back …

But … where is he? I can’t see him, I can’t see anything. Anything except … the Ring.

-----------------------------------------------------------

No … Frodo …

It’s happening again! Is there no end to my dear friend’s torment?

I stumble to a halt just as a tiny, almost indistinguishable moan of pain escapes his chapped and bleeding lips. He lifts a trembling hand to his head and sways on the spot, feet suddenly abandoning the noiseless beat that has kept them moving for so many hours. His legs give out from beneath him and I rush to his side, his name dying on my lips as his knees hit the scorching ground, hard, his hands gripping painfully tightly to his head.

Mister Frodo?” I call desperately, my voice betraying my fear, but he makes no sign he even hears me. I drop to my knees in front of him just in time to see him reaching for the Ring, once again. His eyes are jammed shut, his breathing ragged and uneven, his fingers shaking as they loop through the chain about his neck, pulling it clear of his shirt collar.

Frodo, no!” I yell, reaching out on instinct to knock his hand aside, grabbing both of them with my own and pulling them close into my chest. “You mustn’t put it on, Sir, you mustn’t!”

He doesn’t fight me, this time.

So many times before, he has struggled, tried again and again to reach for It, even after I have intervened. He’s even gone so far as to threaten me at sword point! So, the fact that he gave in so easily to my command is unfathomably worrying.

After a few silent but tense moments, his eyes slide open, and my heart stops.

Those eyes, once so full of life, once so eager for adventure, are no longer recognisable as his own. Their tortured, tormented depths now beg me for a relief that I cannot give. It grieves me so to watch him struggle to focus upon me, his gaze flickering onto his hands, still clasped firmly within my own to stop him from reaching for the Ring. He blinks slowly, then carefully lifts his faltering gaze to my face. And I feel my heart shatter.

His look is one of exhausted confusion.

Which can mean only one thing: He doesn’t recognise me.

-----------------------------------------------------------

I can’t reach the Ring! I can’t reach it and I can’t understand why!

But I need it! I need to know that it’s safe! It’s calling for me to help it, but how can I help it when I can’t reach it ?!

Wait …

Something has bound my hands, is gripping them so tightly that I can’t so much as move a finger…

The blackness fades ever so slightly, giving reality a chance to seep into my vision. I can vaguely make out the outline of someone crouching before me, but the shape is so blurred that naming it is impossible. Turning to where my hands should be, I see the muted colours of whatever our captor is wearing encircling the area where my own skin should be visible, blocking my hands from view … whatever it is, it’s gripping my wrists, keeping me from touching the Ring again …

And I no longer have the will to fight them.

The Ring is whispering in my ear, telling me to pull free, to claim It for myself. It says I have the strength to protect It, that It needs me to keep It safe from our captor, but I can’t.

I yearn to help It, as It moans and pleads piteously, but the creature’s grip is strong, and my body is refusing to obey me.

The Ring shrieks in annoyance and fury as the world fogs around me, the blackness at the edges of my vision slowly, teasingly slowly consuming everything else. The world shifts and tilts, and all I can hear are Its protesting, threatening whispers, before the blackness devours all traces of sound, as well.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Blessed Be!
Hugsies,
xXx MissHaun†ed-MoonLigh† xXx

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