The Taming of Sméagol
‘Well, master, we’re in a fix and no mistake,’ said Sam Gamgee. He stood despondently with hunched shoulders beside Frodo, and peered out with puckered eyes into the gloom.
It was the third evening since they had fled from the Company, as far as they could tell: they had almost lost count of the hours during which they had climbed and laboured among the barren slopes and stones of the Emyn Muil, sometimes retracing their steps because they could find no way forward, sometimes discovering that they had wandered in a circle back to where they had been hours before. Yet on the whole they had worked steadily eastward, keeping as near as they could find a way to the outer edge of this strange twisted knot of hills. But always they found its outward faces sheer, high and impassable, frowning over the plain below; beyond its tumbled skirts lay livid festering marshes where nothing moved and not even a bird was to be seen.
The hobbits stood now on the brink of a tall cliff, bare and bleak, its feet wrapped in mist; and behind them rose the broken highlands crowned with drifting cloud. A chill wind` blew from the East. Night was gathering over the shapeless lands before them; the sickly green of them was fading to a sullen brown. Far away to the right the Anduin, that had gleamed fitfully in sun-breaks during the day, was now hidden in shadow. But their eyes did not look beyond the River, back to Gondor, to their friends, to the lands of Men. South and east they stared to where, at the edge of the oncoming night, a dark line hung, like distant mountains of motionless smoke. Every now and again a tiny red gleam far away flickered upwards on the rim of earth and sky.
`What a fix! ‘ said Sam. `That’s the one place in all the lands we’ve ever heard of that we don’t want to see any closer; and that’s the one place we’re trying to get to! And
that’s just where we can’t get, nohow. We’ve come the wrong way altogether, seemingly. We can’t get down; and if we did get down, we’d find all that green land a nasty bog, I’ll warrant. Phew! Can you smell it?’ He sniffed at the wind.
‘Yes, I can smell it,’ said Frodo, but he did not move, and his eyes remained fixed, staring out towards the dark line and the flickering flame. `Mordor! ‘ he muttered under his breath. ‘If I must go there I wish I could come there quickly and make an end! ‘ He shuddered. The wind was chilly and yet heavy with an odour of cold decay. `Well,’ he said, at last withdrawing his eyes, `we cannot stay here all night, fix or no fix. We must find a more sheltered spot, and camp once more; and perhaps another day will show us a path.’
‘Or another and another and another,’ muttered Sam. `Or maybe no day. We’ve come the wrong way.’
‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘It’s my doom, I think, to go to that Shadow yonder, so that a way will be found. But will good or evil show it to me? What hope we had was in speed. Delay plays into the Enemy’s hands-and here I am: delayed. Is it the will of the Dark Tower that steers us? All my choices have proved ill. I should have left the Company long before, and come down from the North, east of the River and of the Emyn Muil, and so over the hard of Battle Plain to the passes of Mordor. But now it isn’t possible for you and me alone to find a way back, and the Orcs are prowling on the east bank. Every day that passes is a precious day lost. I am tired, Sam. I don’t know what is to be done. What food have we got left?’
‘Only those, what d’you call ’em, lembas, Mr. Frodo. A fair supply.