Footsteps of Doom

His breath came in shallow gasps, but his mind was clear now. He had been in a fog since he woke this morning, but now it had come into focus. This was the end, the last steps of a journey he could no longer recall. But with only a short way to go, he knew he could make it – knew he could go to the end on his own. This was it. He had said farewell to Sam. Now he would meet his fate.

He could not mistake his destination. The road led into the dark entrance; there was no other way to go. As he stepped up in front of it, he was surprised by the sharp blast of hot air. A wall of heat met him, so that he automatically raised a hand to shield his face. He could still breathe; this parched air could not stop him now. He took a step forward, and entered.

Somehow, he kept walking. His body protested, but he had cowed it to his will, and it obeyed. He had thought it would be like entering a cave, where all was dark – but here the darkness was broken by fire. Molten flames leapt up, casting the walls around him into sharp relief, dark shadows on dark rocks. He could feel the power of this place, pulling him like a magnet, beating down on him, making him so vulnerably exposed and small. This place belonged to Him, and so he hated it more than any place he had ever been.

He was so close, so near the edge now. A few more steps. It seemed impossibly far; the air in here was stifling, choking, warning him away. His feet slowed, dragged, but kept moving until he was at the brink. He stopped.

Now, now, now, the voice was demanding. The mantra beat in time with his heart, and would only stop when his heart did. His hand reached for his neck, and a tendril of fear took the place of the dogged endurance that had brought him here. What would happen now? He touched the chain, surprised to find it cool when even the air scorched his skin. His fingers lingered for a moment, but he did not let them stray from their purpose. They tugged it up and over his head, OFF for the first time in…so long.

He took a shaky breath – it was odd to not feel the weight against his chest, almost as if his lungs were fluttering. He coughed, but made himself stop. He looked down and saw what he knew was in his hand. His heart seized up.

He wanted to weep. He had not seen anything as simple and beautiful as gold ever before in his life. It was perfect, when everything else in this place was so horrible. Convulsively, his hand reached for it. Then, he froze.

He could not move. He would not let his hand clutch around the Ring. He would NOT. And yet he could not withdraw it, not at all. The sweat poured down his face, but still he stood, poised on the brink of the abyss. He was caught between a will he could not oppose, and the small fading voice saying now.

Master! A voice called behind him, and the spell was broken. The heat of the Fire roiled through him, and he was painfully, achingly aware of the Ring. Suddenly, he heard the sounds that had been dead in his ears before. He was part of this place, and there was only one thing to do. His fist closed, and he turned.

He opened his mouth, and the voice with which he spoke had all the power of the Fire behind it now, so it echoed, resounding perfectly in this stone chamber designed for him.

I have come. But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!

He had no recollection of moving his hand, but he knew the moment it slipped onto his finger. He must have gasped. It was water, and he wanted more. NOW.

Then it crashed into him and, confused, he again tried to beat off scrawny limbs with pincher grips. Again? Had he done this before? Even as he tried to wrench his wrist out of a relentless grip, he thought, But we have always been here; there is nowhere else. There was a crunch which he heard clearly, and then nothing.

Written: August 22, 2006

Author's Note: Written after reading several other fanfics of this scene. I don't think it is possible for me to understand what Frodo was going through at the time, but this is my best guess.