It had been three days since Frodo, Sam and Eadgyth had left the fellowship behind and went on to Mordor. At least they had been trying to get to Mordor but it seemed none of them had any idea where the accursed place was. For the time being they had stopped to rest for the night. Chris had stayed awake watching over the hobbits as they slept. She couldn’t have slept if she had wanted to. These hobbits, basically children, were in her care and that terrified her.
The sound of Frodo fidgeting in his sleep roused Chris from her sleepless daze. The poor hobbit had been having nightmares, some concerning the death of Gandalf, others were about the darkness of their quest and horrific scenes of a great blazing eye watching his every move.
“Gandalf!” His sudden exclamation made Chris jump and woke Sam from his sleep.
“What is it, Mr Frodo?” Sam asked placing a concerned hand upon his friend’s shoulder. Chris felt a little uncomfortable watching them, they had a lot of these touching moments that seemed a little too clichéd for her taste. She felt a little like she was watching a children’s movie about the magic of friendship. Lollypops and rainbows included, except maybe a little heartbreak and sorrow thrown in too.
“Nothing.” He replied lying back down on the bedroll. “Just a dream.”
After a moment the hobbits had drifted back to sleep and Chris settled back wrapping her blanket around her. Pulling her legs up under the material she leaned back on the rock behind her. It occurred to her that the pair had started to be more open with her over the past couple of days and that it may have been because she watched over them as they slept. She thought it best not to tell them it was because she couldn’t sleep due to worry.
The trio had come across a deep gorge and could find no way around it so they used the elven rope to lower themselves down in hopes of finding a better path. By her best judgment Chris reckoned they were about half way down, she had made sure to properly secure her pack by strapping her shield to her back with her sword tucked away safely, but the heavy fog made it difficult to tell. Chris had been the last down the rope as she had doubts about Sam’s master knot tying skills
“Can you see the bottom?” Sam called down to the ring bearer.
“No! Don’t look down, Sam! Just keep going.” He replied whilst trying to concentrate on not slipping on the rock face as it was slick with moss.
“I hope we aren’t lowering ourselves into an orc encampment or something.” Chris reflected out loud.
“What? Argh!” Sam suddenly slipped causing a small carved wooden box to fall from his pack. “Catch it. Grab it Mr Frodo!” The hobbit yelled frantically. Frodo looked up a little surprised and managed to catch the box before he too lost his grip and fell into the mist below. “Mr Frodo?” Sam called cautiously.
“Frodo you ok?” Chris asked trying to lower herself quicker but having to wait for Sam to do so first.
“I think I’ve found the bottom.” He called up to them with a faint smile as Sam and Chris eventually climbed the remainder of the way down.
“Bogs and rope and goodness knows what. It’s not natural. None of it.” The gardener grumbled to himself. As he did Frodo inspected the small box that he had saved, out of curiosity Chris wandered over to have a closer look too. It was small enough to fit snugly in the hobbits palm, the wood was smooth and varnished and hand carved with pretty little curves. It was kinda feminine. A smirk reached her lips as she moved away from the pair, no wonder there was such a fanbase for the pairing. She stopped listening to them for a moment to try and get some sense of where the hell they were. Damn elves. It’s not like they couldn’t have supplied them with a magical map that told them the way, Chris figured they were just really stingy with their hocus pocusing.
“It’s very special, that. It’s the best salt in all the Shire.” Sam justified as Chris began to listen to them again.
“It is special. It’s a little bit of home.” Frodo said with a faraway tone. This made Chris pause. Home. It had been so long since she had actually thought about it. She supposed it might have been strange that she hadn’t thought about it until now but things had been too hectic for them to take a moment and consider what they had lost. Varda had said that as far as their world was considered, they were dead. She wondered how her family had taken it, they weren’t particularly close but she still cared deeply for them. And with Elle with her in Middle-Earth she wondered how many of their old friends knew about their ‘fate’. After they had finished college Elle was one of the few she had kept in contact with. It hadn’t really occurred to her before how sad their story really was.
Shaking her head resolutely Chris put those thoughts to the back of her mind. There would be time for that when they had destroyed the ring and Morgoth was imprisoned, hopefully more securely this time.
A light thump caught her attention as she turned to look at what the hobbits were doing.
“Real elvish rope.”
That night, after trekking in circles in Emyn Muil, the three had once again settled down for sleep but the soft snores of one could only be heard. Heavy rainfall had them sat together with their elvish cloaks wrapped tight in an effort to keep them dry. Chris sat opposite the two hobbits and watched as Frodo’s tired eyes darted around, constantly looking for danger that could spring upon them.
“When did you notice?” Chris asked in a hushed tone just above the thundering rain making the poor hobbit jump. His eyes glanced up at the cliffs above them.
“First in Moria, then on the river Anduin but I thought we had lost him.” He said a little hesitantly, he didn’t want the creature to know his presence had been discovered, yet.
“I have a feeling he’ll be difficult to shake.” Chris said with a shiver from the cold rain. The soaked hobbit nodded as a look of pain shot through his face and his small hand groped for the chain the ring hung upon. She only saw a mere glint of the golden ring but it was enough to remind her of the vision Galadriel had inflicted upon her. She would not give in to its sirens call. Blinking, Chris realised she had begun to lean towards the hobbit who looked like a frightened rabbit. “Have you tried not having it directly on your skin?” She asked gently. “It might make it easier for you.” As she leaned back she noticed he visibly relaxed.
“I am not sure if it will help but I will try, Eadgyth.” He said softly as he fiddled with the chain and had it hang between his tunic and his mythril chainmail. With a pleased nod Chris locked eyes with Frodo.
“Now, what do you propose we do about our stalker?” She asked with a glint in her eye.
As the rain fell harder still the two conversed in low murmurs about the fate of the creature that followed them.
“This looks strangely familiar.” Sam suddenly said in a puzzled tone. The three had continued onward as if oblivious to their shadow but the frustration of being lost was beginning to fray the ring bearer’s nerves.
“It’s because we’ve been here before! We’re going in circles.” He cried exasperated.
“Damn it. I was sure we were going in a straight line.” Chris muttered, annoyed with their lack of progress.
“Ah! What’s that ‘orrid stink? I warrant there’s a nasty bog nearby. Can you smell it?” The gardener exclaimed with a wrinkled nose. Chris glanced over at Frodo and with the slightest of nods she headed for a suitable place to camp, for the night was drawing in once again.
“Yes. I can smell it.” His voice lowered to just above a whisper. “We’re not alone.” With a look the two hurried after Eadgyth.
Darkness had once again set in, the hobbits laid asleep at the base of a large rocky precipice and Chis sat opposite to them, with her shield propped up beside her, her head drooped and soft snores drifted from her hooded form. Dust and small rocks pattered down as the twisted form of Gollum descended from the top of the cliff. Hisses and curses echoed as the creature climbed closer to the slumbering hobbits.
“The thieves! The thieves! The filthy little thieves! Where is it? Where issss it? They stole it from us. My precioussss.” The closer the being crept the more venom seeped into his curses. “Curse them! We hates them! It’s ours, it is… and we wantsss it!” With one final hiss he reached out for the hobbits but before he knew what was happening they had risen and grabbed his arms. They pulled him down onto the ground on which he struggled violently until he wriggled loose, threw the hobbits down and began to tear through their bedrolls in search of his precious ring. The clink of metal caught his attention as the ring exposed itself when Frodo fell. He was about to leap at the hobbit when he was suddenly struck with the thick heavy wood of Chris’ shield and with it she pinned Gollum to the ground. Frodo hurried to the creature’s throat and drew his elven dagger.
“This is Sting. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you…Gollum!” Frodo said in a menacing tone. Gollum’s eyes grew wide in fear and defeat as Sam hurried over with elven rope in hand.
“Make it a good knot this time Sam.” Chris teased as she held Gollum still under her shield.
Piercing strangled screams echoed throughout the chasms as the trio attempted to quiet their prisoner.
“It’s hopeless! Every orc in Mordor’s going to hear this racket! Let’s just tie him up and leave him.” Sam pleaded, clear in his hatred of the creature.
“No! That would kill us! Kill usss!” Gollum hissed pathetically.
“It’s no more than you deserve!” Sam snapped sharply.
“Maybe he does deserve to die, but now that I see him, I do pity him.” Frodo lamented as he watched the struggles of their prisoner.
“Honestly… so do I…” Chris admitted. This Gollum was not the same as in the films; he was frailer and far more pathetic, if it was possible. In all fairness she had always felt bad for him. Make no mistake, she would not trust him but she hoped that in showing him kindness he would… well, she wasn’t sure but she felt no desire to torture the creature as Sam seemed to want to.
“We be nice to them if they be nice to us. Take it off uss. We swears to do what you wants. We swears.” He begged looking to both Frodo and Chris for sympathy. She actually remembered reading somewhere that the elvish rope did actually hurt him, so she was more inclined to remove it.
“There’s no promise you can make that I can trust.” Frodo said with warning in his words.
“We swears to serve the master of the preciouss. We will swear on… on the precious. Gollum. Gollum.” He floundered before retching and making a strange gurgling noise.
“The ring is treacherous. It will hold you to your word?” Frodo pressed, unsure whether he could trust the word of such a twisted thing.
“Yes… on the preciouss. On the preciousssss.” He whimpered.
“I don’t believe you!” Sam shouted as Gollum scuttled up a boulder in fright. “Get down! I said, down!” With a rough yank Sam pulled Gollum off the rock where he landed on the ground with a painful thud whilst choking on the tightened rope.
“Sam!” His companions yelled together.
“A little extreme don’t you think? Jeez.” Chris continued.
“He’s trying to trick us! We let him go, he’ll throttle us in our sleep!” The gardener implored them to see his reasoning but Frodo just brushed past him as he went over to the crippled gasping creature.
“You know the way to Mordor?” Frodo asked a little uncertainly at first.
“Yes…” Gollum croaked, seemingly a little afraid of where this line of conversation was going.
“You’ve been there before?” Frodo continued gently.
“Yes…” He nodded again still warily. With that the hobbit reached out and to Gollum’s surprise lifted the rope noose from his neck.
“You will lead us to the black gate.”
Quickly Gollum scrambled to his feet and hurried off in the assumed direction of Mordor, the trio move quickly to follow in his wake. As they rushed through the rocky maze the echo of Gollum and Sméagol’s argument seemed to surround them. His fear of Mordor momentarily got the better of him as he hissed and ran from his captors.
“Hey! Come back now! Come back! There! What did I tell you? He’s run off, the old villan. So much for his promises.” Sam spoke tiredly looking around where Gollum had disappeared.
“This way, Hobbits, Lady.” Sméagol called popping up from behind a rock. “Follow me!” He encouraged before disappearing again.
After following Gollum for several hours they finally reached the end of Emyn Muil and Mordor was visibly closer. After his promise was made Gollum seemed to have receded allowing the much more pleasant Sméagol to be their guide.
“See? See? We’ve led you out! Hurry hobbitises. Hurry lady! Very lucky we find you.” He said gleefully hopping onto a rock. Chris noticed that as the hobbits passed him he shrank back from Sam. “Nice hobbit.” He murmured before leaping away to catch up with Frodo. A sharp look gleamed in Sam’s eye as he watch the pair before he felt a warm hand on his shoulder.
“Come on Sam.” Chris encouraged gently. Before he had taken two steps he had slipped into the wet stink of marsh water.
“Whoa, it’s a bog! He’s led us into a swamp!” He exclaimed looking to his friends to back him.
“A swamp, yes, yess. Come, master. We will take you on safe paths through the mist. Come, hobbits, lady, come! We go quickly.” Sméagol padded through the misty path followed by Frodo and gestured for the others to follow.
“I’m pretty sure Aragorn said something about crossing a swamp.” Chris reminded the gardener before she followed the two figures into the misty fog.
“I found it, I did. The way through the marshes. Orcs don’t use it. Orcs don’t know it. They go round for miles and miles. Come quickly. Swift and quick as shadows we must be.” Gollum continued as they trekked through the marshland.
After miles of carefully staying to Sméagol’s path the group gingerly make their way through the marshes, the fog had lightened up to reveal the dead and rotting faces of warriors and travellers alike in the clearer waters.
“There are dead things! Dead faces in the water!” Sam exclaimed as if the others had not noticed this before.
“All dead. All rotten. Elves and men and orcses. A great battle long ago.” Gollum paused and looked back at the three. “The dead marshes. Yes, yesss that is their name. This way. Don’t follow the lights.” He warned before finally starting up the path once again. With this in mind Chris made sure to keep her eyes on where their guide had stepped.
‘Don’t follow the lights. Don’t follow the lights. Don’t follow the lights.’ She repeated to herself over and over again until she heard a sudden splash.
“Frodo!” Sam cried.
“Damn it, Frodo!” Chris groaned before she turned and looked in the waters he had fallen into. It was difficult to see him clearly; the water had darkened as if it was hiding the events below. Before she could even think of acting Sméagol had already plucked the ring bearer from the water.
“Gollum?” He asked clearly confused by his rescuer.
“Don’t follow the lights!” He snapped before crawling down the pathway once again. Chris offered him a hand up, which he took, and Sam began to fuss over him. Frodo’s eyes were glued to the retreating form of Gollum.
“Well, he did say.” Chris shrugged before following their guide as careful as ever; still repeating the mantra in her head.
‘Don’t follow the lights. Don’t follow the lights. Don’t follow the lights.’
The early morning rays of sun were just creeping over the horizon, hidden by dark whips of cloud overhead. They had settled in a relatively dray patch of marsh for the night but Chris had found little sleep in the night. The hobbits had fallen asleep soon after they had camped but Gollum was crouched at the edge of their camp, muttering and coddling nought but air in his twisted hands. She watched him quietly for some time before she realised the night had passed.
“Lady has not slept. Lady never sleepssss.” He hissed without looking up from his imaginary trinket.
“It’s not like you sleep either.” She spoke softly so she wouldn’t wake the slumbering hobbits.
“She watches us, preciousss. Yes. But she does not hates us.” He said as he glanced over at her. “Lady is not cruel to uss. Not like the fat one.” Gollum spat venomously when he thought of Sam who slept soundly but a few feet away. They became silent then, Gollum returned to fawning over his precious and Chris studied the creature. It was true she did not hate him. She had never hated him, he had been twisted and shaped by evil but there still was a little light left in him.
After a moment or two she glanced over at the hobbits and noticed that Frodo was awake. She wondered what he was doing for a moment and then realised, by the subtle movement of his arm, that he was stroking the golden band of evilness. It was then that Gollum began to audibly obsess over the beauty of his precious. Frodo seemed shocked and repulsed that he had been doing the same thing but a moment before. Quietly the two conversed about what Frodo knew of Gollum and his life as Sméagol. Then suddenly a piercing scream shot through the air, waking Sam with a fright and causing the others to scramble about in fear.
“Black riders!” Sam exclaimed as he frantically looked for a place to hide.
“Damn it.” Chris cursed as she grabbed their few things and threw them under some bushes. The sound of Frodo groaning caused her to turn and see him clutching his chest. Assuming it was where the Witch King had stabbed him she grabbed his shoulders and shoved him into the bushes where the other two hid; leaving little room for her. Chris got under cover as best as she could but had to rely on the elvish cloak to hide her from view.
“Wraiths! Wraiths on wings! They are calling for it. They are calling for the preciousssss!” Sméagol cowered as the Nazgûl flew past. But it was not the call of the wraith that worried her. For dark whispers surrounded her, their meaning was impossible to make out but it felt just like the time the Balrog turned from his prey and Chris was finding it difficult to resist taking the ring from Frodo and using it to hide herself. Sam reached out and held Frodo’s tiny hand and she tightened her grip on her shield. She would not give in to its temptation! After a little time had passed the Nazgûl flew away towards Mordor and the whispers stopped immediately. Slowly they crawled from beneath the bush. The whispers were clearly a sign of Morgoth’s meddling influence but they had been so much stronger and louder than they had been in Moria. Was it because her mind had been linked with Elle’s then? Had been their minds together been too strong for him to overcome?
“Hurry, hobbits. Lady. The Black Gate is very close.”