Frodo heard them first. The swish of a black cloak. The clink of an armoured boot. He turned with dread, and saw the menacing Ringwraith slowly advancing on him. Now Sam, Merry and Pippin turned too, and their eyes opened wide. All of the Hobbits backed away as one, automatically forming a shield to protect the Ringbearer and brandishing their short but sharp swords at the approaching figures. Sam ran forward yelling and attacked the closest wraith, but his blows were parried and he was thrown aside. Merry and Pippin pressed themselves next to each other in the vain hope that perhaps Frodo would not be seen, but alas! the power of the One Ring could not be concealed by mere flesh, and the Ringwraiths were drawn to it like a mosquito is to blood.

Frodo stared in horror as his friends were thrust out of the way, and the lead Ringwraith strode unhindered towards him. Backing away, his foot slipped on the wet stone and his sword slithered out of his grasp. Still, the once-human fiend came at him and, his eyes still locked upon the shadowy hood of the wraith, he wriggled backwards, hoping to find something with which to defend himself. And then at last, as he knew he must, he reached the ruined wall.

Suddenly, a strange and powerful compulsion came over him.

Put it on!

It was like before, when the Black Rider had tried to make him reveal himself by wearing the Ring. Frodo knew now that he could not resist it without help, and surrendering his will, he let his finger slip into the smooth golden centre of the Ring.

Immediately, everything was put into a new perspective. Colours were dim and shadowy, flickering in some unknown wind. The five cloaked forms of the Ringwraiths were suddenly transformed into the ghosts of the once-noble men. They were tall, with jewelled crowns and shining swords, and the nearest wraith beckoned to Frodo.

"The Ring!" A deadly voice in his head seemed to cry. "The Ring!"

But though Frodo had put the ring on, the wraiths had not the power to make him hand it over of his own volition. With a groan of effort, he pulled his hand away from the ancient king's.

The wraith hissed in fury, and stabbed Frodo.

The blade felt like a needle-sharp sliver of white-hot ice, and as it plunged into his shoulder, he uttered an agonised scream. But while the corrupt king was gloating over his victim, a bright light came into view ahead of him. It was Strider, wielding a flaming torch and his sword, attacking the wraiths with burning fire. The Ringwraiths drew back from him, and Frodo took the opportunity to remove the Ring. At once, as if the Wraith world had held it in check, the pain came flooding back with a renewed onslaught.

Gasping, clouds of blackness swirled inside his head, and he slumped to the ground. He heard his name being called, but it was as if he was underwater; sounds were muffled beneath a heavy blanket. Strider seemed to move impossibly quickly, yet jerkily, as if he was stopping and starting constantly. One wraith defeated. Two wraiths. Three. Frodo knew that he was losing consciousness, and he feared that he would die. The wound burned to his very core, yet with freezing tendrils of ice instead of fire. He gazed at the small twinkling lights of the stars in the night sky above.

Then Sam was by his side. He held Frodo's hands and the fear went away. It was replaced by blessed nothingness. And pain.


The others were there too now. Pippin stroked his forehead.


Strider as well. Hands pried and poked at his shoulder, and then he felt himself being lifted. Up, up into the diamond sky.