Written 1995.08.06, just after starting "Book IV"
This is a muse at how the series might end, having not actually read it yet. Given that Frodo has used the Ring several times, and is bound to again, and since he was unable to cast it in the fire before he set out from The Shire, it seems plausible that, with repeated use of the Ring, he will be even less likely to be able to cast it away. Indeed, it may even fast itself to him, perhaps on its own, or under the will of Sauron.
This, then, seemed a logical outcome:
Frodo stood at the mouth of the Crack of Doom, unable to move, fasted there by a power he knew not. The flames of the pit, fueled by forces that shaped the world when it was young, leaped up, licking at the edge of the precipice at which Frodo's back now faced. Indeed, it seemed as if they would consume him, but they appeared to be held at bay. Or perhaps they had other concerns at which one could only guess.
Sauron stood before him, black and hideous. Fury seared from his eyes, but a chilling mockery played at the corners of his mouth. His visage froze Frodo to the spot, and Sauron eyed him with a casual contempt, as if the most blindingly horrible torture imaginable were but of passing interest to Him. This notion, and Sauron's gaze drove Frodo to near panic, and yet he remained stock still.
Behind Sauron, and to one side, dear Sam Gangee was held captive, anchored to the very living rock by metal bands wrought by forces too terrible to comprehend. Not simply iron, they reshaped themselves under the will of Him, and His interest was currently held by the One. He had pursued Frodo in his flight, and now, caught at the brink of the Crack, It would soon be His again, and no other thought entered His mind. Sam's agony was, at best, an irritating distraction.
"Come now, little one," Sauron said, his voice like thunder, shaking ground at Frodo's feet. "Do you hope to oppose me? How can you succeed? Your flight from Me has proved your undoing. You are beset on all sides with barriers you could never surmount, even with the aid of the One."
Frodo said naught, remaining still. His mind raced, trying to cast aside his panic so that he might find the will to complete the task he took up long ago. He thought. He concentrated. He reeled. He fought within himself to remove the Ring so that he might cast it into the abyss. Yet even as these thoughts formed in his mind, the Ring fasted itself more firmly to his hand. He would never remove It, save by cutting off his own finger. Frodo recalled the legends of the first war fought so long ago, and looked upon Sauron's right hand where were only four fingers. Was he fated to suffer the same? Was he now to sacrifice his limbs to complete his work? A finger? A hand? These did not seem enough.
"I would strike you down where you stand," Sauron continued, "but your courage and resourcefulness have impressed Me, and I would have you as one of my closest colleagues. For to have travelled so long and so far to deliver the One to Me should not go unrewarded. Intellect and loyalty such as yours are rare indeed, and I know whereof I speak. Indeed, I am terrible to behold, but I am not without benevolence. I should not cast aside such talents as yours; they are useful, and it would be foolhardy to waste them, and I am not, as you see plainly, a fool. Come now, give It to Me. Give Me the One. Transfer your burden to Me, and find rest and peace at last."
Sauron's voice was almost soft and soothing, though the ground still trembled as He spoke. Frodo was transfixed. A desire awoke within him to yield up the Ring and be free of It at last. It had been a terrible thing and a terrible burden for more months than he had counted, a thing he never wanted, a thing thrust upon him by Gandalf in a moment of Frodo's ignorance. An anger surged within him, a rage at having travelled so far from his safe, warm hole, at having endured a perilous journey through lands wholly unknown to him, at having kept company with the most revolting creatures he had the misfortune to meet, and finally at having, against all rights, to face the Dark Lord himself. Before long a fury boiled within him, a fury at Sam for being so careless and getting caught like a fly in a clearly marked web, at Bilbo for having the cheek to take the Ring in the first place, and finally at Gandalf for having sent him on this fool's errand, an errand better left to warriors and wizards, and not to quiet peaceful Hobbits with no hand for such tasks.
He drew forth an image of Gandalf from his memory, and in his mind Gandalf stood before him. He rose his arm, sword in hand, and made to strike him. Gandalf made no move. He gazed at Frodo with a quiet, almost sad expression, and Frodo hesitated. He tensed his arm again and made to strike, but Gandalf continued to gaze, calmly, making no attempt to defend himself, and Frodo hesitated again. In his mind, he lowered his arm, but was still filled with rage. Gandalf remained quiet, his dark eyes quietly and methodically piercing Frodo's anger, and soon it fell away. For a moment, Frodo stood and gazed at the image of Gandalf in his mind, and for an instant glimpsed the depths of his knowledge and wisdom, and though what Frodo perceived was but a glimmer of the true nature of the totality of things, it was a far far deeper understanding that Frodo had ever held before, and at once his path was clear. He shuddered. He looked at Gandalf, searching his face for another way, but Gandalf's expression remained unchanged, peaceful and sad. Frodo's stomach knotted at the thought, and he felt as if he would be sick. Panic welled again within him, but it was a different form of panic. However, from this panic he knew there was no escape.
"Come now, dear halfling," Sauron said, and Frodo's mind was again in the chamber. His renewed awareness of Sauron filled him with fear, but it was tempered with the knowledge of what he now had to do. "See how I am merciful," He added. A thought passed distantly through His mind, and Sam's bonds were slackened. Though still held fast to the rock wall, he was no longer painfully gripped by the metal servants of Sauron. "Behold! Your friend is relieved of his anguish. Give Me the Ring, and I shall set both you and he free, to attend me, or to leave Mordor, as you each shall wish. For I have won at last, and in victory I am generous. With the One again upon My hand, my power shall be unquenchable, and all who would oppose me will be cast asunder as easily as you might brush aside a fly. Come, Frodo son of Drogo of The Shire. Give me The Ring, and receive your just reward."
Frodo looked at Sam, and saw truly that he was relieved, but still powerless. He had listened to Sauron, and his words still echoed of a distant music of peace and tranquility. But Frodo's glimpse of clarity through Gandalf's eyes let him see those words for what they were, and they now rang less of pure crystal and more of battered tin. Sauron truly could destroy him with but a single thought. But swift death was never to Sauron's liking, preferring instead prolonged torment and agony. The evidence of the truth of this was all around him. Were Frodo to yield up the Ring, Sauron would betray him instantly, and Frodo would remain with the anguish of having misplaced his trust until his dying day, if ever Sauron permitted him to die. Frodo would contribute to his own everlasting torture if he faltered. His newfound sureness of purpose guided him forward, as did his care and love for all who aided him. Their faces flashed through his mind, and they all beheld him and Gandalf did, silent and sad, as if bidding farewell to a dear friend they did not wish to depart. Through this, Frodo found the will to move, straightened himself up, and though still terrified of the Dark Lord, at length began to speak.
"Your words are sweet and lulling, Lord," Frodo began. "As sweet as the nectar of a Tithindal flower, which is illing to all who ingest it. Or as lulling as the old willow in Tom Bombadil's forest, which nearly consumed my friend. Yes, Lord, I have heard your words, and seen them as they are. And to a word, they are lies. For if I gave you the Ring, you would laugh and thereafter keep me close at hand to ever remind you of the fool who put aside all he held dear for the hope of promises, promises that the merest child would see to be empty. And it would amuse you for a time, perhaps for all time. No, Lord, this I shall not do, not for the sweetest words you may know," Frodo finished, and his whole body trembled.
Sauron's eyes flared, and Frodo felt the heat of them. He drew to the fullest height allowed by the cavern. "Then perhaps for your friend!" He proclaimed, and the bands around Sam redoubled their tightness, and he shrieked in pain. Frodo winced, but held his resolve. He knew Sam's relief would come not from giving up the Ring. He thought briefly of using It to command Sam's release, but he knew he was already teetering on the edge of his own will; to use the Ring would weaken his strength, and all he had fought for would be lost. Though he could not bear to see Sam suffer, it was less terrible a thing than the alternative Sauron offered.
Frodo was silent for a time. "No, Lord, not even for him," he said. At hearing this, Sam shut his eyes. He had stood by his master for these many months, thinking little for his own cares, and now at the moment of his greatest need, Frodo was abandoning him. He thought to denounce him and call him an ingrate and a scoundrel, but he immediately thought better of it. The disposal of the Ring was all that mattered, even above his own searing pain.
"FOOL!" Sauron bellowed, and the cavern shook mightily. Shards of rock from the cavern roof fell to the floor at the sound of His mighty voice. Frodo's outward disregard for Sam's welfare reinforced Sauron's thought that the One had corrupted Frodo, and he now meant to use It to oppose Him and seize his throne. "What can you, a mere halfling do to oppose Me? Saruman was a great and powerful wizard, a student of the subtle arts for many of your lifetimes. And yet even he with the aid of the Ring would not have been a match for Me. What have you studied? What arts have you mastered? Cooking a paltry meal? Smoking of pipeweed? Skills of little use here, Hobbit! Come, you try My patience. Give It to Me, and quickly, or torments such as you cannot imagine shall be yours beyond the counting of years."
Though quaking to his very toes, Frodo stood firm. "By Elbereth and Elendil, you shall have neither the Ring nor me."
Sauron hissed at the mention of the names, and the flame in his eyes grew until it glowed brighter than a summer sun. He had abandoned all pretense of charitablity. "What notion can you possibly hold that gives you cause to believe you can defeat me?" Sauron demanded, his voice echoing through the unmeasured depths of the caverns.
A curious turn of phrase entered Frodo's mind, its source he knew not. He guessed it might have come from Gandalf, or possibly Aragorn. Whatever its origin, Frodo spoke it:
"Defeat knows many faces."
This riddle caught Sauron, and he hesitated. His brow, such as it could be described, furrowed in puzzlement. It was evident that this small Hobbit thought he could defeat Him. A ridiculous idea; a simple flick of His finger, and he would be shattered to pieces too small to to be seen and too numerous to count. Yet Frodo's mind held a secret, and with this Sauron reasoned that Frodo believed His undoing was within his power. And yet it still seemed beyond ridicule. He had half a mind to destroy Frodo right then. But not so hasty, he thought. Not while It was in jeopardy of falling into the fires of the Crack of Doom. An ill-fated tremor from the spell could jostle the ring from Frodo's remains, and all would be lost. Curious, He thought, that, in the uncharted vastness of Mordor's caverns, Frodo should just happen to be standing before the one place in His stronghold where the Ring was in jeopardy. Surely Frodo knew this, for the history of the Ring could not be wholly unknown to him. Why not withdraw to a place of greater safety? If one were set on taking His place, why place the One in such peril? Frodo was clearly not a complete fool. Had he intended to find his way here? Perhaps, surely to find and release his friend. And yet, perhaps another reason...
The new possibility touched Sauron's mind for the first time. A look of dawning comprehension filled his face, and the light in his eyes changed from burning sunlight to a deep piercing red. Sauron's face grew to horror at the thought, and utter astonishment and disbelief consumed his mind. Frodo saw this, and felt Sauron's will upon him fail as He grappled with the gravity of what Frodo intended. The end of the mission was at hand, and Frodo knew his chance would not come again. The flames from the Crack leaped up to receive him. He took one step backward, and fell from sight.
For a moment, Frodo shuddered as his weight left him, but just as quickly, a sense of deep peace and startling clarity washed over him. He was dimly aware of the inferno he was about to enter. Though his clothes and hair were in flames, he felt no pain, or simply did not care to acknowledge it, he wasn't certain which.
Sauron shrieked. "NO!" he cried, and the sound rent at Sam's entire body; only his bonds prevented him from being flung about and smashed to a pulp against the walls of the cavern, which now shook beyond description at the horror of Sauron. The whole of Mordor quaked violently at the cry, and indeed His wail was heard clearly in Minas Tirith and far beyond. In an instant, all fighting stopped and Enemy and defender alike turned toward the east to face the source of the chilling cry. Those in the service of Mordor perceived some terrible fate had befallen their Master, though its nature they could not guess. The Men of the Mark and the warriors of Minas Tirith also beheld the horrified scream, which at once seemed distant and irrelevant, and yet deeply troubling, as if some unspeakable fate had taken place.
Frodo continued to fall, and the Ring seared his hand, not from the flames of Doom, but from the wrath of Sauron. It was trying to release Itself from Frodo and return to its Master, its creator. With a will whose source he could not place, he closed his hand, trapping the Ring, which burned even hotter. Through the blinding heat, Frodo saw a form leap into the Crack above. Odd, he thought, as the form descended toward him, loud and fierce. As it drew nearer, he saw it to be Sauron, eyes burning bright, face filled with madness. "No!" he cried, "The Ring!" He met Frodo, Sauron's body many times his size, and Frodo marvelled at the force of the impact. Frodo was certain that he should be in mortal agony as his flesh burned and Sauron tore at his hand for the Ring. Yet he was puzzled and delighted to discover that he was marvelling at all that was happening. Sauron ripped the flesh of Frodo's hand, and he looked on in wonder, thinking it a curious sensation.
His hand was torn free, and Sauron forced open the fingers to retrieve It. But the flames were taking their toll even upon the mighty Sauron, and He fumbled, the Ring tumbling free. With no thought, Frodo stabbed out with his other arm, half-consumed from the fire, and knocked the Ring away. Sauron shrieked again and hurled Frodo aside lunging after the Ring, His deafening cry being perceived only as a distant whisper by him. Frodo slammed into the side of the pit, and felt nothing. He caught a final look at Sauron. The Ring glanced off the opposite side of the pit and tumbled through Sauron's arms. He cried in frustration and lunged after It again. Thrice more did this happen before Frodo's vision left him. Or had it left him much earlier? He couldn't tell. Together they fell into the bowels of the inferno, Sauron and the Ring, His cries slowly fading as he lunged this way and that, and soon after flailing madly as the Ring began to deform from the heat and return to the forms from which it was wrought. Soon, the echos of Sauron's wrath died away, and all that was heard was the roar of the flames.
Sam was dazed, but still conscious. He struggled for clear thought, and noted that he was now alone in the cavern. Neither his master nor the Dark Lord were in sight. He also felt his bonds loosen. He looked, and saw as the cruel metal that had pinned him to the rock dissolve and become a faint wisp of smoke. Sam recalled the sword that nearly took Master Frodo's life at Weathertop, how it evaporated in the sunlight. Soon, all his bonds had vanished, and Sam collapsed on the floor. Without a care for himself, he stumbled toward the opening to the Crack. A lick of flame drove him back, but he pressed forward.
"Master!" he cried. "Master Frodo!" He peered into the pit beyond, but saw nothing but flames. Another leaped up and singed his hair, but Sam kept calling. "Master Frodo! Master!"
Suddenly, Sam thought he heard a voice. He turned, but no one was there. Then he heard it again. It was as if someone were very close, whispering softly. "Who's there?" Sam shouted.
Then Sam heard it again. "Fly," it said. "Fly quickly, or be ruined."
"Master Frodo?" Sam called. "Who's there?"
"Fly!" the voice said urgently. "Fly as you have never flown before! Fly now, Samwise Gangee, as swift as you can! Fly! Fly!"
Sam suddenly felt the ground beneath him shift, as if the whole Earth were a cat standing up to stretch after a long nap. Long had it been held under the will of Sauron. Was his will now broken? Sam did not remain to puzzle it out. He bolted for the cave entrance and ran as fast as his pained legs could carry him.
Based on The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. Written by:Leo L. Schwab / Digital Spellweaver / firstname.lastname@example.org