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Section XLVI-Weathertop

As we approach the massive outcropping of rock, Strider announces our arrival at the watch-tower of Amon Sūl, on Weathertop. An inexplicable shiver runs down my spine. The day suddenly seems colder.

Evening overtakes us; the dimming light gratefully hides my disappointment in learning Gandalf is not here. Strider advises we keep our swords close, to what purpose I cannot imagine, since not one of us knows how to use such a weapon. Wrapped in the deepening dark, I try to settle more comfortably while our Ranger explores the area.

Weary, so weary, I cannot keep my eyes open. The lack of sleep and strenuous struggle of the last few days of travel seems to have caught up with me. I force back memories of the comfortable Shire, sharply reminding myself, I have no home now, no safe place... I roll myself in my cloak, immediately lost in sleep.

Dreaming, I sniff the air. Dreaming deliciously of Bag End, and Sam cooking breakfast -- sausages and bacon... Why is the bed so hard? Struggling to solve the riddle, my eyes slowly open. Consciousness dawns. I turn over quickly. No fanciful flight of wistful thought is the smell wafting in my direction nor is the cheerful fire flickering treacherously, giving away our location to any and all in search of us.

I cannot refrain from bursting out, "What are you doing?!" My dear friends attempt to explain, but I barely hear a word, ignoring the plate offered me. One thing only races through my mind: "Put it out, you fools! Put it out!!" Vaguely, I realize I voiced my despairing thought as I frantically stamp into the dirt the betraying flames. Too late.

Glancing down to the valley floor, terror touches my heart at the sight of the dark approaching figures. Sword quickly drawn, I must not panic in my effort to save us all. Save us? As if I could. I command my friends to go, up the stairway close by; the only path open to us. In fleeing up the steps, I in part hope to buy some little time until Strider returns. Please, Strider, come swiftly.

Our flight is brought to an abrupt halt once at the top, all that is left to us is to wait, trapped. Fear courses through me like liquid fire, except that it is cold, ice cold. I hold my sword up in front of me, knowing that truly it is only good to me as comfort and little else. Bilbo allowed me to handle Sting from time to time, but what was the use of learning serious swordplay in the Shire? How I wish I'd given more heed. The Shire. Oh to be there now instead of this accursed place.

Memories of the past take hold. I remember the snuffling, the torn and tattered beds and bolsters in Bree, the shrieks... Where is Strider? My imaginings pale in comparison, as one black cloaked form and then another and another and still more crest the tower rim in their relentless pursuit. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to turn, nowhere...

First Sam and then Merry and Pippin are tossed aside, like so many sacs of potatoes. My heart screams out to strike at the apparition before me; my mind assures me it is useless, or is the last thought from somewhere else? It seems strange and yet familiar...

I wish nothing more than to escape. The Ring can make me disappear, then they won't see me. I want that more than anything. But Gandalf said to never put It on, but I must disappear. It's my only hope...or is it in truth only my overwhelming desire to put It on? Is the voice that bids me slip It on really my own? How do I know? Oh, Gandalf, what do I do? With no other option before me, I shove the band of gold on my finger... and find myself in a horrific waking nightmare...

What I see...! What I see...!! He -- he is reaching for me... for the Ring... My hand -- my hand... I can feel him pulling at me, though he has not touched me, or... is the Ring seeking him? I am almost overwhelmed... With all my strength, I wrench my hand away...

Who? Who is crying out? with unspeakable agony... it is me. The piercing, searing pain...!

A shadow leaps over me brandishing torches, Strider, keeping the hunters at bay. Trembling, I reach for the Ring. I must get it off. Why did I put it on? What was I thinking? The pain washes over me in waves. My thoughts scatter... Is someone calling me?

"Oh, Sam."