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The Gardener's Tale

I Need You On My Side

‘I need you on my side, Sam….’

Frodo’s words washed away all the anger in Sam’s heart. He hated and mistrusted Gollum, and bitterly resented his master’s tolerance of the miserable creature. But he could not mistake the desperation in Frodo’s voice. He felt ashamed because he was jealous of Gollum and Frodo’s desire to save him. He was angry at himself that he had dealt harshly with such a pitiful creature.

‘I am on your side, Mr.Frodo….’ he said in a hoarse whisper…

I’ll always be on your side, even in death, thought Sam. He gripped Sting firmly in one hand and in the other he held up the Phial of Galadriel, raising it high above his head, allowing its light to spread over the bleak burned landscape outside Shelob’s lair…

He had found Sting on the ground inside the cave, and the Phial not far from it. He at once knew Frodo was in great danger, for only so would he have parted with things so dear to him, Bilbo’s sword and the Lady Galadriel’s gift…. Sam swept up Sting and the Starglass and ran for his life, towards the light, what light there was in this dark land. On, on, and out into the fresh air...

But he was too late.

Below the entrance to the cave Sam saw Shelob for the first time in the open, at a glance taking in her vast size and the black arches of her armoured legs. But what he heeded more than all that was that she held Frodo’s body in her front claws, turning him carefully, almost lovingly, binding him in strong cords of spidersilk, preparing him for a feast later, when she could take her time and feed on prey not only alive but awake….

He had to stop her…he ran forward to halt just in front of her, and shouted as loud as he could;

‘Let him go, you filth!’

He thrust the Starglass towards Shelob’s blue-black clusters of eyes. As if activated by his anger and courage, the crystal blazed forth suddenly, and the light stabbed into the monster’s eyes and she dropped her burden and retreated a few paces.

Frodo’s body fell on the ground with a dull thump. Sam’s heart leaped in fright, and he almost forgot Shelob and ran to aid his master. But a voice in his head said;

‘Steady, do not go to him yet, you must defeat his attacker first….’

Swallowing on a dry throat, Sam kept the Phial held high and started forward. Shelob was temporarily blinded by the Elven light but waved her front claws in warning. Sam shouted again;

‘Come on then, finish it….’

…or me, he thought, for I won’t go on without Frodo.

And with that he brought Sting down with all his might on one of Shelob’s forelegs. It was a lucky stroke; one hooked claw fell to the ground and green slime sprayed Sam’s face. He spat in disgust and pressed forward again.

But Shelob had overcome her surprise and was on her guard and in pain. She retreated out of the range of this keen Elvish blade and Sam had to take a risk to make another attack, thrusting Sting at Shelob’s great clusters of eyes.

Once again the blade seemed to have a will and a mind of its own, and to guide its owner to his target; the tip pierced one great eye and it went dark. Shelob felt a blinding flash of pain, and leaped backwards. She emitted a hissing noise and her clusters of eyes briefly glowed amber. Sam ignored it all and braced himself for another lunge, but then in a lightning movement, Shelob swept a talon sideways and knocked the Starglass out of Sam’s hand and darted forward on the hobbit, meaning to crush and rend him with her hooked front claws….

Sam was knocked backwards and looking up saw the great black and green bulk of the spider’s underbelly looming above him. He tried to scramble away but Shelob pounced on him with her front claws and he dropped his sword and grasped her talons, desperately trying to keep them from tearing him to pieces. A dreadful stench assailed him and made him weak. He was aware of the Phial and Sting lying out of his reach and he thought desperately;

‘Lady Galadriel, help me!’

Just then Shelob, tiring of the duel with this troublesome prey, pushed Sam back with her claws, trying to pin him against the rock wall and crush him with her bulk. But Sam used his feet and got above her and giving her head a few hard kicks he turned and tried to climb up out of her reach.

But Sam was a slow climber and he had not gone far before a claw raked his leg and fiery pain shot up his back. He gave a yell and let go his grip.

Had he fallen on the ground he might have been killed or crippled, but as luck would have it, Sam fell on the rounded carapace of Shelob’s head, then rolled on down her back and fell almost softly onto the ground.

He lay for a moment stunned. Then he turned and seeing Sting near to his hand he picked it up but before he could get to his feet Shelob, by now enraged and anxious to finish off this annoying opponent and get back to the warm darkness of her lair, rushed upon Sam and stamped a talon on the blade of the sword, whipping it out of his hand….

The Elven blade stung Shelob’s foot, and she withdrew it with a hiss of anger. Turning to Sam, prone below her now, she drew up her bulk and angled her long sharp curved sting, ready to end this troublesome quarry once and for all….

Sam saw a flash of something black and shining and flung himself to one side. He felt more than saw the sting dig deep into the rocky ground. Shelob let out a squeal and thrust again; again Sam rolled away. Then the monster rained dart after dart, rage getting the better of her, intent now on only one thing; to kill….

Sam threw himself to one side then another, knowing this deadly duel could only end one way. In the corner of his eye he saw a blue glow; Sting! If he could only reach it…another poisoned jab close to his head and Sam took a chance, rolled over and over and put out his hand and the sword seemed to jump into his grip. His fingers closed on it and as Shelob raised her vast blotched belly to bring it down and smother him he held up the sword with both hands and the monster heaved her weight down on the sharp tip, and pierced her own bulk through to the backbone.

With an almost human scream Shelob sprang backwards, flailing at her body with her long, armoured claws. Sam scrambled to his feet, holding out Sting, its blue blade streaked with yellow venom from Shelob’s belly. But he did not need to fear; Shelob was no longer a danger. Crippled, she hissed and quivered, and clawed at the spot from which waves of pain emanated.

Nothing, short of death itself, had ever given Shelob such grief in all the ages she had hunted and slain the greatest warriors of men and Elves. Now a blade of the Elves had seared her being forever. Back and back she hauled herself, laying a trail of yellow-green slime for blood, as Sam picked up the Starglass and held it up to blind her wounded eyes.

‘Back!’ he shouted ‘Back!’

But Shelob needed no threats. Wounded and in agony, she dragged herself till she reached a rift in the cliff face and with the awful pain of the Elven light in her scored eyes she squeezed herself into the crack and vanished, never to be seen again by any living being in Middle Earth.

For a few moments Sam still hewed and slashed at her disappearing talons, trailing out of the crack. Then like a thunderbolt striking him he remembered Frodo and he turned and ran to where he had seen his master thrown down by Shelob. He dropped Sting and the Starglass and falling to his knees he turned Frodo over and holding him in his arms he looked in his master’s face.

‘Mr. Frodo!’ he called desperately. ‘Mr. Frodo!’

But Frodo did not answer. The spider’s cords had dried and hardened round him and were now as tough as wire. Sam took up Sting and slashed at them and they parted and he pulled with all his might, and at last they gave way and he freed Frodo from the webs.

Then Sam stopped. Frodo gazed at him, calmly and steadily, but did not see him. A wind stirred his dark hair and Sam put up a grimy hand and gently wiped away a trickle of venom from his master’s pale cheek. But Frodo still did not move, or show any sign that he knew Sam was there….

‘Mr. Frodo?’ said Sam again, and his voice echoed round the ravine.

‘Mr. Frodo! Wake up!’

He shook his master gently, then less gently, but the face remained still and impassive. A greenish hue began to invade Frodo’s skin, like that of someone long dead. It was Shelob’s venom, slowly invading all the hobbit’s thin, wounded frame. Sam shook his head in disbelief. It could not be! He could not die!

‘Mr. Frodo!’ he cried in anguish, tears starting into his own eyes.

‘Wake up! Wake up…please wake up. Don’t leave me here all alone. Don’t go where I can’t follow….’

Sam began to cry, dry painful sobs that echoed emptily round the rocks. He held Frodo’s limp body to him as if to warm it then began to rock it gently as one would rock a hobbit child who had woken from a nightmare. ‘My dear, my dear!’ he cried. ‘Don’t leave your Sam here all alone….’

But still Frodo did not answer and now Sam felt him begin to grow cold in his arms. He bent close over him and gazed at his master’s face, worn and starved and grey, and in Sam’s heart there rose a great anger; why had this happened to Frodo, the wisest, most gentle and kindest of hobbits? It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair! Sam’s loyal heart nearly broke; with all those great and wise ones, why had it been Frodo who had to carry the burden? Why had it been Frodo who had to die?

Sam felt crushed by grief and injustice. He bent his head and fell into darkness, no longer caring where he was or whether or not he was in great danger....