"Mr Frodo!" Sam cried, holding his hands to his breast. The supernatural wind rose and rose, until Sam had to throw himself towards a nearby tree, finally relinquishing his master's cold grasp. He hugged himself close to the dark trunk, and awkwardly twisted his head so he could look back.
To his astonishment, he saw his beloved friend hanging a few feet above the earth, his dark curls twirling around him like a black halo. Sam blinked a few times, even risking letting go one hand to rub at his eyes. He couldn't be seeing this! Absolute nonsense. It defied all hobbit-sense he'd ever heard of!
But he was seeing it.
Tears squeezed from his eyes as the wind reached fever pitch; leaves, stones and other objects caught in the black maelstrom lashing at his body. Reluctantly, he turned his scratched and battered face back to the tree. He was eternally grateful ever afterwards that he did not see what happened next.
Aragorn clung grimly on to an overhanging branch. Next to him, Merry had grabbed another. Poor Bill had hunkered down against a tree, his tether preventing him from fleeing. Glorfindel was giving a large rock a hug. Pippin however was hanging with a terrified expression onto Strider's boot.
"Merry!" he cried, flailing for the branch but missing.
"Hold on Pip! I'm coming!" Merry shouted back. He carefully inched his way along, one hand at a time.
"Merrrry! Hurry up!" Pippin screamed in exasperation. His hands were slipping on the Ranger's shiny boots.
Merry had almost reached him. He took a deep breath, swallowed, then reached out a hand towards his cousin.
The youngest hobbit looked up. His face was strained and scared. He made a grab for Merry's hand. He missed. Now he was only holding on with his left hand, and he almost let go. But he refused to fall.
"Come on!" urged Merry.
Pippin set his jaw, and put all his energy into reaching up against the powerful storm. His arm wavered, buffeted and blown about, but his Tookish determination steadied it again.
His fingers brushed Merry's hand.
Suddenly, there was an enormous explosion of sound. It sounded like the crash of a waterfall, the falling of a tree, the roar of a fire, a harsh clashing of steel swords. It was accompanied by a blast of air, carrying stones and debris.
A rock flew towards Pippin and struck him soundly on the forehead.
He let go.
"Pippin!" Merry howled.
His cousin seemed to fly away from him. Until he smashed into the trunk of a large oak tree. His limp body appeared stuck to the obstacle, the immense force of the wind holding him in place.
Too late, Merry realised he himself had stopped holding on. He closed his eyes as the tempest took him.
Strider's hand shot out and grabbed the hobbit's shoulder.
"I won't let you fall too!" He snarled hoarsely, tears in his eyes. Merry nodded, his eyes still shut and sobbed.
Trying his best both to keep his one-handed grip on the branch and give Merry a comforting squeeze, Aragorn manoeuvred his legs so that he was braced against the tree. With some of the pressure taken off his arm, he pulled himself up and rested his head upon his hand.
And so it was that it was only he that saw Frodo's transformation.
Roaring and screaming and howls lost in the endless night.
A whirling, spinning, spiralling black cloud of cold merciless evil.
It was coming for him.
He could not stop it. His strength had been sapped over the past days. What little he had had.
And the Ring was gone.
He screeched his anguish and pain to the world. It exploded out of him in a wave of hatred and anger. It was not so! But yes, the tall one had taken it from him, and given it to the small one.
The small one.
That childish buffoon who had plagued him with his idiotic questions, pathetic little voice and snivelling complaints.
Who now had his Precious.
He made a promise to himself. A promise to hunt down and kill this Pippin. But before he killed him, he would make him suffer. Torture and torment, for weeks, months, maybe even years.
And then kill him.
He laughed in his new voice. It was a much better voice than his old one. How weak he had been. So innocent and fragile. There was a word for it, but he no longer needed to use it.
Good? He screeched in distaste. What was that intolerable word doing in his head? He hunted for the owner of the strange voice. Who was it? It certainly wasn't him.
Frodo. You used to be me.
It could not be. His past self was dead, over taken by this swift evolution.
Yet I remain.
Because we used to be good.
Yes. We were good. We used to talk, play, laugh under the sun. We used to read, and write stories and pick flowers and fruit from the trees. We used to love, and be loved. Do you not remember these happy things?
It was not all good.
True. There was sorrow and pain also.
That is why this form is superior. Better to inflict pain than to bear it. And that is what we shall do, you and I, in this magnificent shape. Together, we shall return the world to darkness and delicious despair. We shall serve the Great Eye and await his glorious return!
I will not let you!
You will not let me? Hah! What drivel. Good, good, good. Love, love, love. What use are they in the new world?
How can you think these things?
Like you said, you used to be me.
He laughed , and flew away.