Chapter Four

They had been so close to their goal when a voice had broken the silence of the wastelands. Sam could see the door that led to the fiery pits where the Ring had been created.

"If thou shalt not halt, it shall be thy doom." Gandalf stopped and the group turned towards the man clad in black. There was a legion of Orcs behind him, all of them brandishing their swords and spears. "My Lord bids thee welcome, and offers thou a chance to treat with him.

"The only doom that awaits anyone here today is for your master. We did not come here to waste words in treating with Sauron, faithless and accursed; still less with one of his slaves. Begone!" Gandalf replied. With a scream of rage, Sauron's Messenger charged.

"Run, Sam! We shall hold them off!" Aragorn shouted, Andúril flashing in the red light pouring out of the volcano. Sam could only watch as his friends fought against the odds to protect him, fought to give him the chance to destroy the Ring, once and for all.

Dread filled him as the Nazgûl descended atop winged creatures, their black wings stirring up dust. The same light Sam had seen in Shelob's Lair flared up once more as the wizard dealt with the wraiths.

Gandalf's words returned to him once more. They would end this, one way or another. He hesitated only a moment longer. Gandalf's limp body fell to the ground, the twisted laughter of the Witch King echoing around them all. He turned and ran, stumbling on rocks as he made his way towards the door in the side of the cliff.

Fire flared around him as heat enveloped his body. He stood alone, bathed in the angry red glow emanating from the deadly pit in front of him. The sulfurous fumes caused his eyes to water and his vision blurred. He coughed as he tried to catch his breath after running into the heart of the volcano.

In his hand he held the Ring. It was heavier than he ever remembered it being. Words burned forth from the gold, imprinting them into his memory, into his very soul. It whispered to him of power and everlasting life. Its voice was sweet, but its irresistible lure was broken as a shrill cry echoed through the chamber. Dread filled the hobbit. He was no longer alone.

The wraith that had entered the Crack of Doom was smaller than the others that had been pursuing him, and Sam could feel the despair settling upon him like a blanket. Blue eyes bore into him through shadow, and an icy hand gripped his heart. The Ring's hold over him was completely broken now as he stared at the creature that had once been his friend.

"Help me, Sam," the voice called out, more a throaty whisper than anything Sam had ever heard come from the man whose garden he had once tended. "Use the Ring and help me! Together we can win!"

"No," Sam's voice seemed weak even to his own ears, but it didn't waver, and for that at least he was thankful. "There ain't nothing left I can do for you, Mr. Frodo, aside from destroy this Ring once and for all. And I'll do it for sure, because that's what I promised Master Elrond I'd do. Finish what you started, Mr. Frodo." He was sure the tears in his eyes weren't from the heat any longer. The wraith let out a long, angry hiss directed at the trembling hobbit.

"Give me the Ring!" it demanded. "You will destroy me if you destroy it!"

"The Ring destroyed you, Mr. Frodo, and this is the only way I can go about to make things anywhere near right again. This is the only way. I won't let it hurt no one else. I'm doing this for you as much as for everyone else. For Gandalf and for Strider, and for Boromir and Legolas and Gimli, and for Merry and Pippin and all the rest of the Shire too. So maybe there will be someplace good and nice for everyone to keep on living. But mostly I'm doing this for you, Mr. Frodo," Sam replied.

"You're a fool, Sam. There is no redemption for me." It was Frodo's voice then, and Sam knew he had done the right thing. But before he could react, the wraith had thrown itself forward, colliding with Sam. They rolled across the rocks as Sam tried to keep the Ring away from the creature.

"You cannot win. Your friends are dead and soon you will be too. Then I shall take the Ring from you," the wraith croaked out. Sam pulled himself to his feet, but the creature wrapped its arms tightly around the hobbit's neck.

"If I die, at least I did my best in trying to help you," Sam managed to respond despite the small hands trying to squeeze the life out of him. He stumbled backwards under the added weight, and his foot slipped on the edge, sending them both falling, falling into darkness, the Ring still clutched in his hand…

A soft hand on his shoulder startled him as he opened his eyes to find himself in Rivendell once more. There were tears in his eyes, and he scrubbed them away self-consciously with one hand as the other gripped the Ring tightly.

"Isn't there another way? One where we wouldn't all die in the end?" Sam asked hopefully.

Lady Galadriel gave him a sad, mysterious smile and gestured once again to the silver basin. "There may yet be a way where you would not die, but neither would you truly live. Look if you wish, Samwise Gamgee, but be warned that you might not like what you see. The Ring must go to Mordor. What you see will not change that. Now it is up to you to decide, whether it be for good or ill."

The End

Author's Note: Well, that's it folks. The end. I hope you all enjoyed it. Please let me know what you thought of it. Thanks to everyone who has left me a review.