Disclaimer: Tolkien wrote LOTR, and I used it to write this.
Sum: In a dungeon a friendship forms.Compassion
"Hurts!" The little being sniffed accusingly from the floor of the deep dungeon he was in. It sounded so sad and so true that it almost broke the heart of the guard, but he did not release the creature. He was trained never to let his emotions get in the way of his orders, always to do as he was told…
But the guard was young, and he had a big heart.
"I brought you dinner." He spoke to the trembling figure on the floor. "Not bread like last time.. but food… real food. It.. it has fish…in it. See?"
The guard knelt down to the small being, wishing he had more courage. Wishing he dared to place an arm over those small shaking shoulders.
"Hurts…" the being complained again, but this time it sounded weaker and the heart of the guard cringed. "I can't help it.." he whispered. "It is just who I am…"
"Too bright.." the being added, shielding his eyes. "Too bright… too bright.."
The guard got up from the floor, leaving the plate behind.
"I am sorry." He whispered. "I am sorry my presence hurts you.. I.. I'll leave you now. Just.. promise you'll eat?"
The guard did not know why the small prisoner didn't just eat. He looked so starved already, and still…
"Just eat the fish, alright." he said as he left. "You like fish. You told me.."
He eyed the creature one more time before he closed the door. From time to time… the creature looked just like a little child. The guard knew he should not be fooled by that. He knew, being what it was, the prisoner might very well be older than he was… but still…
"Eat it, little one. There is no reason for you to starve."
The guard had stood in the corner for a long time now, watching the small shivering being, wishing there was something… something more he could do…
Something to wash away the deep pain behind the creature's eyes, something to remove the months-old wounds on its back.
"You must have a name." the guard said. "That… what they call you, that is not your name right? No mother would call her child that."
The creature looked up, but didn't answer, and again the guard wished there would be something more he could do…something…
"Water…." The creature spoke softly, and the guarded poured him a drink "want to see water…."
The guard sighed. He shared the prisoner's wish. To go out and see the river again… to enjoy the trees and feel the wind. He too longed for freedom. He too was doomed to stay in this dungeon.
As the prisoner looked up though the window, his keeper knew how he looked at the same stars, thought the same barred window.
The little one's being here had made a prisoner of the both of them.
He brought games down, just to be able to do something, to ease the creature's suffering. They spent nights sharing silly riddles.
"It is green and it smells nice for a change." The guard spoke softly and laughed silently to himself at all the answers the small being came up with.
When it finally gave up he smiled. "An Orc with a breath mint." He said smiling, and he watched how the being giggled as well.
"Your turn" the guard said, and smiled at the riddle the other made.
He knew that one, it was an old riddle he had heard before, and he could easily give the answer. And yet he did not.
He enjoyed the merriment in the other's eyes whenever he gave a wrong answer.
"Is it….. A Frog?"
"A FISH! It's a fish!"
The guard smiled lightly. "Of course." He said. "I should have known."
He moved down the dungeons smiling brightly, feeling better than he had in weeks.
"I have permission!" he said as he entered the small creature's cell. "Permission to let you out for a walk!"
The creature looked up, and the guard thought he could see hope in its eyes.
"I talked about your case with the king, and he agreed. We'll feel the summer's breeze again, my friend! Come on, I'll take you to the river. Or….would you rather climb some trees?
"Not rope." The creature said, and the young guard smiled.
"I promise I shall not tie you. Just be good alright?
And do not try to get away, the woods are dangerous. As long as you are with me you'll be safe though. Coming?"
The guard longed for fresh air himself and he would not hide it.
"Come on!" he said, laughingly leading the way out of the stone walls.
They played games, hunted each other down. The young guard had never met anyone that was such a match for him when it came to climbing trees like this creature was.
It felt good to be out of the stone walls, for both of them. Somehow the guard believed it healed them.
It was easy to forget the darkness.
"I have something to tell you." The young guard spoke one day. "I can't be here tomorrow. I have to be away, on business. My father demands it. "
The small creature looked up, fear in his eyes.
"I can't help it." The guard apologized softly. "You can't blame me.
I have arranged a kind replacement though. The one watching you tomorrow will know the tree you like to climb. I made him promise he would take you there…"
The prisoner refused to look at him, making the guard feel bad.
"Really. No one will hurt you. I promise. I told the others you do not like ropes. They will not tie you…"
The creature moved up in the tree, without a word.
"Please!" the young guard spoke. "They will not hurt you! I promise!"
The guard left the following morning, looking back at the dungeons, hoping that somehow things would be all right. He had a feeling he should have stayed there, watched over the prisoner, made sure he was all right… But his duties weighted heavier than his heart, and he walked away.
When he came back he learned guards had been killed the day he was away. Killed under the tree he had pointed out to them.
In some way, it was making him responsible for it all.
The prisoner had escaped.
"Not through lack of watchfulness," the young guard later explained to others the way the creature had escaped. Absentmindedly he brushed his long blond hair out of his face. "But perhaps through over-kindliness. And we fear that the prisoner had aid from others, and that more is known of our doings than we could wish. We guarded this creature day and night, at Gandalf's bidding, much though we..."
'I' He thought 'I',
"...wearied of the task. But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts."
He paused for a while to think about the lives of his friends, guards he had trusted enough to take his place when he had left to do his duty, now lost forever.
As he continued his story he thought of the small creature in the darkness, playing games of riddles with him, and how they had laughed together.
"Gollum is cunning." he said, as he told the others on how they -he- had failed to recapture him.
Gandalf placed a hand on the young prince's shoulder.
"Well, he is gone," the wizard said. "We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron have foreseen."
As the council moved along the wizard bend closer and whispered something in the young elf's ear.
"Only in the end will you know, Legolas, what difference your offer of friendship has made."