Ashgaz' Farewell to the Shire

The Bitter End

Peter pulls aside his hood and peers downward. Between sweeps of the fell beast's wings, he can see the ground speeding past. He glimpses farms and hobbit holes, then patches of forest and open plains. The beast makes a sharp turn and he lurches precariously to the side. He has been sitting silently, every muscle tensed and every thought blocked out of his mind, but now the full horror of the situation washes over him. He has just taken his last look at the Shire! After months of captivity without hope of escape, of feeling his memories and identity slowly drain from him, he had thought he was finally free. For weeks he had run without rest towards the Shire. But almost as soon as he arrived, he was dragged away from his home, away from his Mary, whose love for him had endured beyond hope. He tries to recapture the feeling of her arms around him, of her head on his shoulder, but the memory only makes the pain of their separation worse. Her sobs grow loud in his mind, her voice pleading, "Fight it, Peter! Don't go back to them!"

Peter's heart thuds painfully. He looks again over the side of the beast. A thought comes to him-suppose he fell off! Since he is a wraith, the fall would not really hurt him. He could take cover under the trees and run back to Mary! Surely he would be safe with her. She would even hide him underground. They would never find him! For a glorious moment he is filled with hope.

Then he remembers the voices of the Nine in his head: "We see you! We know where you are!" He remembers that they can track him wherever he goes. Anyone who tries to hide him is doomed. Besides, Angmar would find him in the trees before he even reached the Shire, or perhaps strike him with a lightning bolt as he fell. He looks with deep hatred at the towering figure before him, more terrible than Peter has ever seen him. He reels with fear as Angmar's malice envelops him. Peter knows that the torments that now await him will be worse than anything he has endured before, worse than anything he can imagine.

He begins to tremble in a panic. "I cannot bear this!" he thinks. "I am not strong enough!" But then his eye catches a star glistening through the clouds. He remembers the Elvish song that Sam used to sing:

Though here at journey's end I lie, in darkness buried deep,

Beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep,

Above all shadows rides the sun and stars forever dwell;

I will not say the day is done, nor bid the stars farewell.

A smile creeps onto Peter's face. This is not like his first trip to Mordor. He is not traveling into inescapable darkness. He is only passing through it in order to rise above it. He hears his own voice, steady and calm, comforting Mary: "I go to the dark lands, but not for long, and you will see me again."

With an effort he quiets the shaking in his small frame. No more of the weak, cowering Ashgaz they knew in Mordor! Peter Bracegirdle will meet his death standing erect and unflinching.

The fell beast swoops closer to earth. Peter hears a satisfied sneer from Angmar. The hobbit wraithling leans to look beyond Angmar's towering figure, and sees the glowing towers of Minas Morgul looming ever larger. All the courage he has struggled to maintain suddenly leaves him. He trembles violently, trying to keep his sobs inaudible as tears run unchecked down his face. His thought reaches out again to Mary, reaches out over the great distance between them, so strongly that her heart responds and she dreams of him as she sleeps.

In her dream, she relives the moment of her farewell to Peter. "You are dear, so dear to me," he says, and kisses her passionately. But as he pulls away, she sees not an empty hood, but his face as he used to be, much sadder, but still her Peter. He smiles at her through his tears. Touching her face, he whispers, "It is time, Mary. I cannot come back. Pray for me to the Lady, for my torment is now upon me. But never despair! I will see you again."

Mary weeps and begs him not to leave her. He enfolds her in a comforting embrace. "We will not say goodbye," he says, and his old smile is in his voice. He kisses her hair, and the dream fades as she falls asleep against his shoulder.

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