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Section LXXXVIII-Lake Side

A lake opens before us, vast in its expanse, unlike anything Iíve ever seen... except mayhap in my dreams... of the Sea...

The smooth water is unrevealing of its own turmoil, behind or before us. I hear the roar of the falls at the far end of the lake, marked by a towering island of grey and green. The deceptively tranquil waters reflect my journey, echoing the calm I share with my companions, while out of sight is the deafening roar of my silent indecision.

Our boats glide across the water, nearer and nearer to the falls, until guided safely aground on the western shore. And so we arrive at the sticking point: Continue on to Minas Tirith or to Mordor.

My weariness grows heavier to bear. Oh, to be free of this burden, but such a wish is not mine to indulge. It is mine, and I must bear It forward, to Mordor.

Glancing about, I gather my pack and scramble out of the boat. I struggle not to shudder as an uneasiness sweeps over me -- a deepening chill.

I beg for time alone to think. My companions believe it is to decide whether to go to Minas Tirith or to Mordor. How do I tell them the truth? There is no decision to be made. I seek only the words to explain I must continue on alone.

Traversing the bed of leaves covering the ground, I concentrate on the unexpected quiet. I am well aware I do not make a sound. One would think slipping away would be easy, but I am watched by one or another. Sam at least suspects. The thought of using the Ring to help me escape flashes briefly through my mind, before I swiftly dismiss it. I cannot use It.

The Ring...

I push the thought away. I must or go mad. The questions invade my thoughts anyway. What if Bilbo never found the Ring? What if Gollum reclaimed It? My heart stops. All would be lost, even now. Even if the creature stayed buried in the depths of his mountain; sooner or later, the Eye would have sought him out, found him, and claimed the Ring once more...

A deep shudder ripples through me, and I allow my surroundings to capture my scattered thoughts. A wide stair leading up a hillside stretches before me. Step by step, I ascend. The climb offers a bit of unexpected relief, for a moment.

I reach the top to find the massive head of a statue lying on the ground. So weary, I cannot resist curling up on the cold stone for a rest. If only I could stay here, never moving again, swallowed up in time, akin to the statues scattered in this place, lost and forgotten.

Alas, such is not my fate. I unfold my limbs slowly and slip to the ground. For a moment I wonder, what king is this? When did he reign? What weighty matters were laid before him? Did he judge fairly? What battles did he fight? Did he know of the Ring?

I suppose it matters not at all now; his battles are long over, whereas mine lie before me. Still, I am no nearer to finding the words to tell my friends I am continuing on alone and leaving them all behind.