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The Gardener's Tale


'The Gaffer always said I'd come to a bad end, well this looks like it!' Sam thought to himself.

Peering between Aragorn and Legolas he could see the door of the burial chamber splintering and cracking under a rain of savage blows. Over the crash of breaking wood Sam could hear a rising cacophony of fierce yells and screams coming from the other side of the door. He took another step back but he was at the back of the group of hobbits as it was and behind him were only stone walls.

He took a better grip on his sword but the handle was slippery with sweat. Sam was terrified. He wished he was back in the Shire, he wished now he had never come. He was going to die; they were all going to die. Bits of grey rotten wood flew far out into the chamber. Sam raised his sword. His hand brushed Frodo's. He looked at him. A blue light flickered along the edge of Sting's blade and reflected up on Frodo's face, making him look like a ghost. Sam realised that Frodo was terrified as well. He remembered what Frodo had said; 'Everything hunts me, Sam!'

Now it sounded like every fiend on the earth or below it was indeed trying to smash its way through to Frodo. Sam felt a rush of guilt, worried about himself he had forgotten Frodo's fear. He grasped Frodo's arm trying to reassure him. 'Don't worry, Mr Frodo! I'm here!'

Frodo looked at Sam with bemusement but before he could speak half the door fell in and Aragorn and Legolas loosed their arrows and they heard orcs outside fall back squealing. But before even the Elf could string another arrow the whole door burst off its massive rusty hinges and crashed down onto the stone floor and across it poured an army of orcs.

For a moment Sam's fear was beaten down by his curiosity; he had heard so much about these he saw them, although little more than blurs, and standing behind Boromir he could not see much around the big black shield. Some of the orcs seemed not much taller than himself, encased wholly in black armour like giant beetles, a crest of spikes on their helmets. But others wore almost no armour and were as tall as Aragorn, only running at a crouch. They had guards on their arms and legs but their skin was grey and leathery in the bleached light of the chamber. Sam thought of things that ran this way and that when he tipped up a stone in the garden and he shuddered but before he could think any more one vaulted over Aragorn's guard and crashed onto the hobbits and they scattered. Sam saw Merry and Pippin put up their swords in the way they had been taught by Boromir and wished he had taken a few lessons too but he probably looked dangerous enough holding his sword in front of him with both hands.

Aragorn had shot off his last arrow and lowered his bow but not fast enough for the orcs who were on him before he could draw his sword. Boromir threw his shield in front of Aragorn and bringing the rim down caught an orc on the snout and the creature squealed and shot out of the chamber. Boromir shoved the boss into the chest of another and it sprawled backwards on the ground. Aragorn took his sword in both hands and sweeping it around struck off the head of the orc behind him. Black blood sprayed Sam and he stepped back in disgust, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

Then there was a thunder and a crash of falling stones. Sam rubbed his eyes and when he could see again right in front of him stood a Troll. Sam stared unable to move. Just like the ones Bilbo had described in his story! In some stratum of Sam's mind laid down in a time of peace he was leaning over Bilbo's table in the sunlit parlour while the old hobbit showed him the place on the map where....

A roar, deafening in the confines of the chamber, brought Sam back to reality. Boromir flattened himself against the wall. Legolas shot an arrow at the Troll. It struck it in the shoulder but only enraged it. Legolas skipped backwards out of range but then it saw Sam and raised a club almost as large as it was and Sam saw it coming towards him. He threw himself onto the ground between the Troll's giant splayed feet and scrabbled frantically away from the blow. He felt more than heard it land and shatter the stone floor. Looking around he saw the Troll stomp away after Legolas. He felt a hand on his shoulder and Boromir shouted at him; 'Get behind me!'

Sam was now against the far wall from the other hobbits. He could not see Frodo. He was protected by Boromir's sword. Across the chamber he saw the Troll pick up its lead chain and swing it around above its head and lash at Legolas. The Elf avoided it but down it came again, striking great chunks of stone out of the pillars on either side. Sam did not wait to see, he wanted to get to Frodo. He dashed across the chamber with Boromir calling after him. An orc ran out of nowhere and grazed Sam's head with its sword. Sam fell onto the ground, his nose and mouth full of gritty dust. His sword shot out of his hand. The orc darted in for the kill. Sam saw his small pan had fallen out of his pack. He snatched it up and whacked the orc in the face with it, flattening its snout. It sprang away with a yelp.

Sam crawled after his sword and took it up and got to his feet. He turned around, noticing a sudden silence. His horrified eyes fell on the Troll towering over Frodo, pinned against the wall by a long black orc lance.

Sam gave a wail and ran forward but at that moment the Troll turned away from Frodo with a bellow and lurched past Sam with Pippin and Merry hanging on to it and striking at it with their small swords.

Sam ignored them, and it. He could see only Frodo, slide down onto the broken stones of the floor, a small still figure in the dust, dwarfed by the great lance that had struck him down. Sam could not approach him. His legs would not obey. After all they had suffered and achieved together, after all his care when Frodo had been sick, this was the end. His sword slipped out of his hand. He felt tears sting his eyes.

In his head, from a long time ago, came a voice, and Sam knew it was his; 'Well if you don't come home, Mr. Frodo, neither will I.' So here he would stay, another dusty skeleton, and Balin's tomb would be theirs too.

Then Aragorn crawled across to Frodo and pulled him over. At once he sat up and started coughing. As if released from a spell Sam ran over and knelt down beside him. He put his hand on the rent the spear had made in his jacket and shirt, as if not believing, then saw the bright glint of silver. From behind him came Gimli's voice; 'A mithril coat! I have never heard tell of one so fair.'

Under his shirt Frodo wore a coat of mithril mail. In the gloom of the dark recess where the Troll had cornered Frodo it seemed not to reflect the cold light of the shaft but give off its own sparkling glow, a treasure of Elves made by dwarves. Sam fingered it, overcome with joy and relief, then looked at Frodo. He was winded and bruised but smiled at Sam. 'I'm all right. I'm not hurt.'

Sam wanted to speak but had not the words. All that mattered was that Frodo was alive. Legolas came up, his eyes shining at the sight of the mithril. Behind him the Troll lay dead, killed by the Elf's arrow. Merry was helping Pippin up from the ground. For a moment they stood silent, looking about the chamber at the carnage of orcs. Then to their ears came the distant sound of war cries.

'To the Bridge of Khazad-Dum!' said Gandalf, turning in haste to lead the way.

Sam put his arms around Frodo and got him to his feet. He saw Frodo wince and knew he was badly bruised. He kept his arm around him to help him across the broken ground. Aragorn ran over and went to pick him up. Frodo shook his head. 'No! I can walk!' and holding onto Sam he ran after Gandalf out of Balin's burial chamber.