We seem to move forward, but in truth, who can tell in this never ending dark? Forward, back, or in circles, up and down and then up again. To save my life, I can no longer tell which direction is which.
How I long for a breath of fresh air, Shire air, and for the light of day, to be kissed once again by the sun, her wondrous warmth... There are occasional shafts, reaching from far above, but I cannot help but wonder if they are more curse than blessing, for they only remind us of what is still unattainable, and only tease of the open sky we cannot see.
Some pathways are broad but most are not. More often than not, they are narrow, and we must pass single file. Even then, there are occasional stretches, albeit short spans, when the ground beneath our feet falls completely away to black nothingness. Such spots require only to be stepped over, but how far and how long, I wonder, would one fall if lost to a single misstep?
A whisper is heard with ease, for there are no other sounds at all, not the wind, not a bird, not a cricket, nothing. Never before did I realize what beautiful noises fill the world outside this place, and my ears ache to hear them. Our quiet steps betimes seem like shouts echoing across the walls.
We pass the time in silence, almost afraid to speak, but now and then a tale is told to lift the oppressive dark. Mostly they are tales of times long past. Gandalf decided we should know the true worth of Moria. Mithril. He speaks offhandedly of Bilbo’s Mithril shirt. Gimli is duly impressed. I carefully do not reach to touch it beneath my tunic. For the first time, I am grateful for the dark; it hides my surprise upon learning the value of the gift Bilbo conspired with me to wear.
An impasse is reached of three tunnels, and Gandalf is unsure of our direction. It offers a moment to rest. Several of the Fellowship light their pipes for a smoke. I endeavor to clear my mind, and hear -- what? I turn. There, there in the shadows, a darker shadow moves.
I whisper my discovery to Gandalf.
“Gollum?” Bilbo’s Gollum?
“He’s been following us for three days.” Three days?
“He escaped the dungeons of Barad-dűr.” How?
“Escaped? Or was set loose? And now the Ring has drawn him here. He will never be rid of his need for it. He hates and loves the Ring, as he hates and loves himself. Smeagol’s life is a sad story. Yes, Smeagol, he was called, before the Ring found him, before it drove him mad.” The wretched creature.
“It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him when he had the chance.” It would have saved a lot of trouble.
“Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.” There is so much I do not know or understand.
“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Why me?
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was ‘meant’ to find the Ring. In which case, you also were ‘meant’ to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” Is it?
Gandalf tells me the Ring was meant to come to me. He finds comfort in it, and I search for comfort in the knowing as well, but find none. Never has evil touched my life as it does now. I thought when I lost my parents ‘that’ was evil, because it left me alone, bereft. But now, now I realize; it was a tragic accident, not evil. I was saddened by the loss, but it did not bring the icy cold terrifying darkness as does this unadorned band of gold weighing heavy on Its chain about my neck.