West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
At His Side
Sam faces a painful truth on the Plains of Gorgoroth.
Author: Mallorn Gamgee
"Look, Hamfast, little Samwise fell asleep. Doesn't he look so sweet, all curled up on the hearth?"
"If you ask me, he plum tuckered himself out runnin' at Mr. Frodo's side all day long. It's a wonder he and Mr. Bilbo don't turn that lad out the smial for good, what with his askin' questions all day long."
I'm just half asleep and at the sound of those words I rouse up and listen more closely. The heat of the Yule log is almost too much; it feels like it's burning my skin all over but I'm not stirring from here.
"He's young, dear, and children ask questions. And I think that Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo enjoy having him visit. Let him sleep for now. Come to the kitchen and I'll fix you some tea to soothe your nerves."
I can hear their footsteps as they head towards the kitchen but I keep my eyes shut. I've learned that there's too many hobbits living in this hole and it's best to keep quiet and still if I want to be left alone.
Mayhap I am lying too close to the fire because it feels like the Sun is beating down on me something fierce. Feels like I'm a coney roasting on a spit. My throat is so dry, feels like I ain't had nothing to drink in days. I try to wet my throat but it's so dry I just hear a hollow click.
The air tastes strange. My Gaffer must have picked out a bad log this year, and that ain't like him to do so. Every time I inhale I smell something bitter in the air. It smells like evil. It smells familiar somehow...I should know what it is.
I decide to open my eyes. Things ain't right, and I'm scared. My Gaffer will know what to do to make it right. He may not be book smart like Mr. Bilbo but he's just as wise.
I open my eyes and find myself staring up at the grey skies of the Black Lands. I close my eyes again, wishing Mr. Frodo and I hadn't come to this evil place. My hands cover my face as I think of my mam's voice in my dream. What would she say to me if she knew I had left her best pots and pans in Mordor? My chest tightens and my breath hitches but no tears come. I can't cry for myself or nobody else, leastways not with tears. There's no water left inside me, I'm as dried up as the ash that serves as soil in this cursed land. Mr. Frodo and I are covered in it, seemingly turning to mounds of ash ourselves.
I curl up tight as I can, trying not to disturb Mr. Frodo with the awful noises I'm making. I'm whimpering and sobbing as shameless as a bairn and can't seem to stop once I start. Every time I take in a deep breath it tastes bitter because the nasty dust of this place gets in my mouth. There's nothing green and growing here. It's all grey and black - even the sky - everywhere I look. I close my eyes again and remember the Shire, with all its bright and colorful gardens, plentiful fields, good, clean air and fresh, pure water.
A calming hand strokes my back. Mr. Frodo is awake. I woke him up with my foolishness and carrying on, and he needs his sleep more now than ever before.
We sit up, and lean against the jagged rocks. Their sharp edges cut into my shoulders so I find no ease or comfort there. Even though we've slept, we are both done in. I feel like I've got nothing left to give and I can only imagine how Mr. Frodo must feel.
Finally, I turn to face him, to see how much of my Frodo still lives inside of the hobbit that sits beside me. I am afraid of what I might see this time when I look into his eyes. He is staring ahead, into the grey/black nothingness that surrounds us, probably thinking of It. He thinks of It all the time now, I know. If he's not thinking about It then he's touching It. Right now he's doing both as his right hand clutches It, twisting and turning the horrible Thing as the chain cuts into the wounds on his neck. I wince as I see a drop of dark red blood roll down from his neck to his chest. He don't feel it - he feels nothing except that Thing in his hands.
Used to be the only marks I ever saw on that neck were made by me, and Mr. Frodo bore them marks proudly. His skin was pure and perfect, just as he was pure and perfect inside and out. He's been stained by the evil that lives in this place, but Marigold showed me how to get stains out of anything. I'd do whatever it takes to get those evil stains off him so that he could be happy again. I know if we can just be rid of It once and for all, he can rest up until he's himself again. Then he'll remember his Sam.
I take his hand in mine, in hopes he might remember his Sam now. I don't have much hope left in me as it seems like hours before he drags his eyes from that spot far off in the distance and gazes back at me. But he never drops his other hand from worrying at It.
"Sam," his voice is barely a whisper. I've managed to steal his mind away from It, if only for a short while, but I feel as proud as I did the day I first wrote my own name. "I'm thirsty, Sam."
I give him his water skin, and he takes it with both hands and tips his head back greedily. His eyes close as if in bliss as he drinks the drops that are left in the skin, and I watch his throat pulse. I know it ain't right but I can't help remembering the nights we spent together before It claimed him. I would see that greedy look on his face and it was a prize meant for me alone.
He leans back against the rocks again, and closes his eyes. It almost looks like he might never open them again. Every muscle in my body tenses, as I understand something. I should have known all along, but I was too afraid to admit it to myself.
Frodo's lips are cracked and dry, and he's licking them, trying to dampen them. His breathing is shallow and his head is lolling against his chest.
I offer him the rest of my water. "Take mine. There's a few drops left."
He takes it gratefully, drinking it as greedily as he did the last. He finishes the water, and looks at me sadly. His eyes that once sparkled like morning dew on a rose were now as dull and lifeless as a stone.
"There will be none left for the return journey," he says to me.
I reply as gently as I can, "I don't think there will be a return journey, Mr. Frodo."
We look into each other's eyes. I'm not sure what Mr. Frodo is thinking of, but I'm thinking I will never see the Shire again, and of all the hobbits I will miss. But if I hadn't gone with Mr. Frodo, I would miss him more than any of those others and that's a fact.
Then I stand and offer my hand to him, and he rises, seemingly with a newfound strength. His Sam will be there for him, and I think he knows that even though It tells lies to him. I will make sure Mr. Frodo completes his task, and as long as I'm at his side nothing else matters to me.
We begin our long walk towards Mount Doom.
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