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Backwards in Time | Forwards in Time

Caged - Part 3

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 3

The skies want to weep, I can sense their distress, but no rain will ever fall upon these desolate lands.

The air is humid and thick, the ground scorching my bare feet as we press ever on towards the Mountain of Fire. Dark, dismal clouds litter a grey, miserable sky, and I know that if they could, those clouds would cry for us. But that isn’t going to happen, or not, at least, any time soon.

Instead, we are left bone dry, struggling for needed breaths, but inhaling ash and fumes that should realistically be killing us. What was it that Boromir said, all those months ago? ‘It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, where the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.’

Oh, how right he was.

One wonders why one never bothered to heed his warning… but at the time - when we were dining and drinking with the finest and most honourable of all creatures, sleeping in quarters that were as beautiful as the landscapes they looked out over - it never occurred to me that there could be a place as dark and disturbing as the one he so truthfully described, as evil as the one we find ourselves in today.

Perhaps, after seeing Rivendell in all its splendour, I hoped that the world would be beautiful no matter where we went. Or perhaps I simply but foolishly refused to think about the darker side of it.

But then, I would never have let Frodo face that darkness alone, not even if every single member of the council had thrown in their own admonitions against coming to this place. We would have undertaken the quest, anyway. We’d have been even more apprehensive than we are now, and we’d have been even more reluctant, but we’d have come here, none-the-less. There was too much at stake, too many lives hanging in the balance for us to even consider turning away.

But I do wish I’d understood - back at the beginning - just how much this was going to cost us. The prospect of falling in these forsaken lands wouldn’t seem so terrifying, right now, had I better prepared myself for what is fast becoming a very likely eventuality.

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

I’m dying.

I hate to admit it, but I can feel it – feel it more and more every day. And though he dare not admit to it, I know that Sam can see it, too.

The seconds are ticking by, abandoning me one by one. I cannot decide if they are purposefully dragging on, if time itself wants me to believe that every single second is lasting a millennium. It feels like it, sometimes, when the days seem painstakingly slow … but then there are days when I fear my time is rapidly running out. Those proverbial grains of sand are ever slipping through the looming hourglass above my head, and I can feel the icy chill of death creeping up on me despite the blazing, scorching heat of the blackened lands around me.

Once … a long time ago – a lifetime ago – the thought would have terrified me. Back when I was oblivious to the pain and suffering, back when my world wasn’t constantly shrouded in a relentless darkness, I would have fought for life with every fibre of my being.

But now … now that I’ve seen the real world, now that the truth is laid bare and barren before my eyes, stretching out for miles in all directions so as to block off any chance of escape, I can only wish for death to claim me quickly.

Through the hazy, colourless mist that has all but swallowed my vision, I can make out Sam gesturing vaguely to a point far beyond my scope. I can barely distinguish the rocks that are right in front of my face, let alone our destination, way out over the ash-ridden lands of Mordor.

But forcing my eyes to focus as best they can, I watch in silence as he gazes out almost wistfully at the towering expanse of rock; the mountain continuously spits skyward its scarlet and orange life-blood, and Sam seems quite entranced by it. He ponders its distance, and I manage to catch just a few of the words that escape his parched throat – few enough to make sense of his thoughts:

“ … Close now, Mister Frodo… three day’s walking…”

I can tell from the relief blossoming deep in his eyes that he is both relieved and comforted by our nearness to Mount Doom.

But I’m not.

I can just make out his wide-eyed expression, and the despondency of an hour ago has been replaced by a look of raging hope – he foresees the end of our journey, I’m sure of it. I’m sure he is thinking about how close we are to our goal, and the hope he thought he’d lost is returning tenfold. He is eager to see the darkness around us destroyed, and he is hopeful that we are going to accomplish our quest.

But I’m not.

And I have not the strength nor the heart to remind him that we don’t have enough food or water to last one day, let alone three.

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

Mount Doom seems so close, all of a sudden. For the first time in what feels like an age, the end to our torment is finally within our grasp. Just a little bit further, just a few more days, and the Ring will be gone forever.

Mister Frodo will be free.

Look!” I hear myself call, unable to hide the delight quite as well as I’d hoped to. “Look, Sir! It’s the mountain! We’re so close now, Mister Frodo, so very close! Give it a few days and we’ll be done! Maybe three day’s walking, and this horrible experience will be nought but a fading memory.”

He says nothing, but I'm not really surprised. I didn't expect him to, but I do have to wonder if I would even recognise his voice if he ever did speak again.

I soon notice I’m staring a little too aptly at the spitting mass of volcanic rock, and hurriedly tear my eyes away from the spewing mountain top to stare wildly at our surrounding landscape, instead.

The Tower is close, now, too. Every step we take towards the Mountain of Fire means a step closer to Sauron’s Tower … and that’s one place I hope we will never have to enter, regardless of where else this journey takes us. I wouldn’t step a single foot inside that place even if my life depended on it. So avoiding it completely is probably the wisest option available to us…

But aside from that ever-present threat, our luck seems to be holding. The Great Eye occasionally sweeps over us, its baleful, unblinking gaze speaking volumes more than words ever could, but otherwise, we’re making good progress. Our fears about avoiding the enemy are proving fruitless, and we can only thank our lucky stars, and thank our friends, for that minor miracle, for it must be down to them. Aragorn is wise. He must have known that Sauron’s armies would have to regroup after the War against Gondor. He must have known that we would never make it through those masses.

And his risky distraction will be rewarded. The Ring will be destroyed, and with nobody here to defend him, - after over 3’000 years of torment - Sauron will fall.

I will make sure of it.

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

The silence is deafening. I don’t understand why we are the only two creatures around. Tens of thousands of Orc warriors should stand between us and Mount Doom… and it has taken me days to notice their absence.

I cannot deny that I’m relieved, nor that the Ring’s burden is big enough alone without us having to fight our way through an endless sea of blood-thirsty beasts… but their absence is worrying, all the same. The wasted lands seem all the more unnatural, all of a sudden. And I come to wonder how safe our friends are – it must be because of them that the Orcs moved away. Something captured their attention, and a sickening feeling deep in my heart tells me with a sneer that their sacrifice will be in vain.

And loathe as I am to admit it, I know why I’m feeling like this.

I’m falling, again. My eyes immediately seek the comforting presence that has so often pulled me back, but I can barely see him, now. The flames consume him, blurring the outline, devouring the features that should be engraved deep within my mind, the features of my companion and friend. I blink, trying to focus again, but He is the only one I can see clearly, now. Shrouded by fire and a destruction of his own creation, with the Ring pulling me in ever closer, He leers at me, whispers to me, wills me to take It to him…

But I can’t. I mustn’t. No matter what He says, no matter how much It teases or pleads, I can’t give in to them. I can’t fall…

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

‘Can’t’.

Can’t is right.

I can’t do this, Sam.

My mind is torn and broken, the threads of a past life interwoven with thoughts no creature should ever have to think. Dark, evil, hurtful thoughts…

It’s the Ring. I know it is, but I can’t stop it. And that makes it all the harder - to know that I’m shattering beyond repair, and to know why I’m breaking but at the same time to be helpless and unable to save what’s left of my soul … no, it’s too hard. I can’t do this. I can’t.

I can’t do it but I can’t ask for help, either. There’s nobody to ask.

Just me.

Just me and my burden…

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

The ground shifts, the whispering voices grow in intensity and the blackness engulfs what little I could make out a moment ago. I’m stumbling, embarrassingly so, but at this particular moment I don’t think I could care even if I wanted to. Detached and broken, but at the same time unwilling to fix what little remains of my soul, I find myself torn once again between the desire to pull myself back from the edge and the desire to slide the Ring onto my finger and end it all for good. That one, simple movement would mean my suffering ends.

One movement… and it’s all over…

My soul is split, and the darker half, the part that the Ring is controlling, is slowly but surely consuming the rest of me. I can feel it happening, but I can’t fight it.

There’s screaming in my mind now, but it isn’t coming from the strange, ghostly voices, this time. Oh, they’re still there, of course they are… but I can no longer clearly make out the incessant whispers over the anguished yell of anger, remorse and despair that’s now thudding relentlessly around my head.

It’s me.

I’m screaming at myself as my hand moves to the chain about my neck…

It takes me a while to realise anything through the hazy fog that’s slowing my mind as the seconds tick by, but when I finally do realise it, the hit is enough to stop my stumbling feet in their tracks.

Everything halts for but a moment while my chest aches with the shame of dawning comprehension.

The Ring has finally accomplished Its goal. I’m doing the very thing It’s wanted me to do from the very beginning.

I’m fighting myself.

I’m fighting myself, and I’m losing.

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

A despondent wail pierces the silence, the shock of it sending me jumping six feet into the air, near enough, and it takes me a few moments to realise where it’s coming from. The shrill, broken cry of utter agony is gut-wrenchingly painful to hear, and as my eyes sweep the landscape, I feel tears prick at the corners of my eyes.

But I should have known where it was coming from, really. There’s only one other person in this vast, desolate wasteland aside from myself who could make such a sound. And that’s when the horror finally sets in.

I’m at Frodo’s side in a heartbeat, an arm around his shoulders as he sways dangerously, one hand clawing at his temple while the other grabs hungrily for the chain. His eyes are jammed tight shut, and sweat glistens against his far-too-pale skin, but I can think of nothing to do except reach for his hand, yet again. I may not be able to help him with the evil thoughts that plague him, but I can at least make sure he doesn’t fall beyond recovery. He mustn’t put it on. He mustn’t

Mindlessly pulling him to the ground, his trembling hand enclosed within my own for the second time in as many days, I can only think that I spoke too soon when I said our luck was holding.

And the violent, forceful shove I receive a second later, - a push strong enough to send me toppling backwards over the boulder behind us, our interlocked fingers wrenched apart as a pair of infuriated eyes watch my descent into oblivion without even the slightest hint of remorse amidst their swirling, tormented depths – is proof enough that luck is no longer on our side.

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

Blessed Be!

Hugsies,
xXx MissHaun†ed-MoonLigh† xXx


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