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1
Shadows of the Past, Shades of the Future

By: Vistula


~~~

“…and then I saw them, thirteen dwarves hanging from
the trees all trussed up like turkeys ready to roast
for supper. And supper they were going to be, mind you
for sitting right there in the shadows as nice as you
please…” here the storyteller forced a shiver and
squinted his eyes at his audience of one, “…were the
largest…hairiest…and most dangerous looking spiders
you could ever imagine….”

Eyes round with excitement, young Samwise Gamgee
stared intently at the Master of Bag End, hanging on
every word of the all too familiar tale. Behind him,
lights twinkled to life in the homey windows down the
row. Around them, the deepening shadows of early
evening swallowed the Shire in what promised to be a
clear and cool night.

“…closer and closer I crept until I could see their
glittering eyes, smell the stink of their…”

“SAAAAMWIIIIISE!”

Startled, the small lad jumped at the howling of his
name from down the row. Looking over his shoulder and
into the gathering dark, he frowned at how late it had
suddenly become.

“Uh oh…that’d be Daisy a lookin’ for me. B..beggin’
yer pardon, Mister Bilbo sir,” he stammered, bounding
to his feet and brushing tufts of grass from the back
of his britches. “I reckon I done overstayed
m’welcome…”

“Nonsense lad,” the elder hobbit assured with a
dismissive wave of his hand. “Still…best be on your
way, before she comes and drags you off by your ear.
That one’s a regular terror when her back gets up.” He
winked at the lad with a knowing twinkle in his eyes.
“We’ll finish the story another time Sam my lad, not
like you need that at all…I suspect you could tell it
almost as well as I do by now.”

“Oh no, Master Bilbo,” he whispered, shaking his head
earnestly, “…ain’t no one what tells it like you sir.”

Bilbo ruffled the lad’s hair affectionately and shoo’d
him on his way. “Best run along now, before your
gaffer has to call.”

“Oh yes sir! G’nite!”

Suitably motivated and nodding his head respectfully
to the elder hobbit, the lad turned away. With a wave
of his chubby hand, he sped through the gate at Bag
End and raced off down the lane towards home.

Chuckling contentedly, Bilbo drew deeply on his pipe
stem and blew a lazy smoke ring into the still night
air. The Gamgee lad never tired of listening to the
tales of his master’s burgling days and Bilbo had to
admit that he really never tired of telling them.

‘Spiders and Elves,’ Bilbo thought as he smoked
through the last remnants of his tobacco, and listened
for the slamming of a smial door that heralded the
lad’s safe arrival at home. Sam never seemed to mind
the spider part, knowing that soon enough there’d be
tales of Thranduil’s hall and the Elves of Mirkwood.
Sam loved to hear anything about Elves. ‘Mirkwood
Elves. Hrrrumph…a bother, the whole lot of them, if
you ask me…’

***

Sam’s sister met him at the doorway, hands on her hips
and lips pursed in a way that the younger hobbit knew
meant trouble. She clucked at him angrily and the
sound reminded Sam of a wet hen.

“And just where were you?” she questioned, glaring him
into the room. “Don’t you know how late it be getting?
You’re s’pose to be home afore dark. Your lucky da
ain’t home.”

Daisy was alternately bossing him around and mothering
him – though she was only eight years his senior. Sam
frowned at his hands. He knew she’d likely tell their
gaffer about his tardiness, especially if he couldn’t
come up with a good excuse for his lateness, and the
lad didn’t relish the tongue-lashing he’d receive with
his first breakfast in the morning.

“I were just finishing up at Mister Bilbo’s,” he
grumbled vaguely.

He pulled off his coat and settled it and his cap on a
peg by the door before turning defiantly to face his
sister’s reproving gaze. He wasn’t exactly telling a
falsehood, but Sam felt a tightening in his chest at
the fib just the same. It was wrong to tell a lie,
even a little one, and he knew it.

Daisy stood silently, reading her younger brother’s
face for a long moment before sighing in an all too
adult fashion. “Well, you’d best wash yer face and
hands real quick then, and be off to bed – afore da
gets home an’ dusts yer britches for you.”

Satisfied that her authority would not be questioned,
Daisy moved away from him and swiveled to tend the
fire that still blazed under the kettle in the kitchen
hearth. Behind her, Sam screwed his face up into a
grimace, poked his thumbs in his ears, flapped his
fingers and stuck his tongue out at her back. Then
finished with his moment of childish defiance, he
turned to skip down the long hallway, heading to the
far end of the smial and the little cubbyhole he
called his own. Shutting the door with more vigor than
necessary, he jumped onto his bed to the echoing of
his sister’s irritated voice down the hall.

A half full pitcher and washbasin rested on a stand
next to the bed, and without leaving his perch, Sam
splashed some of the pitcher’s cold water into the
bowl. Wetting a scrap of cloth, he scrubbed at his
face, neck and ears to remove the day’s collection of
grime then ran wet fingers through his tangled hair.
Satisfied he’d pass his sister’s inspection should she
choose to bother with him, he draped the wet rag over
its peg. Sliding from the bed where he’d been
kneeling, he took the basin to the room’s small window
and dumped the contents outside onto the ground below.

The gentle breath of a breeze hinted at a chilly night
to come, and for a moment the young hobbit considered
closing the shutters. He hesitated, caught all at once
by the glow of the moon as it peeked through a thin
covering of clouds, and watched – mesmerized – as it
painted the leaves on the trees with a silvery sheen.
Sighing, his heart filled with dreamy thoughts of
Elven homes like Rivendell he turned wistfully away
from the portal leaving the wooden barriers open.

“‘Tis too pretty a night to be shuttin’ it out,” he
whispered to no one in particular. “Near magical it
is…”

He shucked his clothes and pulled a fresh laundered
nightshirt over his tousled head. Then adding another
woolen blanket to the pile upon his bed, he crawled
into the comfortable nest. Tired from a hard day at
play, his head full of fanciful stories, Sam settled
in with hopes of adventurous dreams.

***

In a darkness broken only by the glowing of the near
full moon, Sam startled awake. Silvered light danced
across his bed covers and painted pictures on the
earthen floor. He wasn’t sure of what exactly had
disturbed him, but a sudden crawling of icy gooseflesh
dotted his arms and sent shivers trembling up his
back.

The smial was silent, the residents all likely long in
bed, and the lad snuggled the blankets up under his
chin. Glancing warily around the room his no longer
sleepy eyes caught movement in the far corner. Fear
pawed at him and his heart leapt into his throat and
seemed to lodge there as he quickly shut his eyes.

‘I be seein’ things,’ he rationalized, covering his
face with his hands. ‘Taint nothin’ there.’

He scrunched down in the blankets until only his
hand-covered face peered out from the folds of fabric.
Peeking through splayed fingers, he glanced once more
toward the corner of the room – the one near the door,
the one that lay opposite the window.

For a moment he saw nothing, only the familiar scarred
textures of woodwork that had always been part of a
room he’d slept in all his life. But then he saw it
again, what his first glance had only hinted at.

Long, hairy black legs and a huge bulbous body
scuttled across the wall, making quick patterns on the
aging boards as the mammoth creature spun the strands
of a web that nearly covered the whole surface.

‘Spider!’

The word screamed in Sam’s young mind, causing a
nervous sweat to break out on his face and at the nape
of his neck.

‘Big…BIG spider!’

Frozen, heart pounding, Sam thought of Mister Bilbo’s
stories and the giant spiders of Mirkwood Forest.

Mind whirling in fear, he could almost feel the
tickling brush of the creatures’ hairy legs against
his cheek, crawling on his arm, skittering down his
back. Horrified, he imagined the clinging touch of web
as the beast wrapped him up in a sticky cocoon before
devouring him.

And where there was one big spider, could others be
far behind? Mister Bilbo’s tale had spoken of many…

A scream welled up in Sam’s chest as the creature
hesitated in her work, poised in the corner as if
ready to pounce on the hapless hobbit lad. He squealed
in terror, throwing the blankets over his head to
guard against the imminent attack. Tearful and
trembling, he covered his face with shaking hands and
awaited the end.

“Sam-lad?” The voice from behind the door was sleepy
but held a hint of concern. The hinges creaked,
footsteps scuffled into the room and a weight pressed
down into the soft rushes of the bed. “What is it
lad?”

“Da!” Sam threw back the covers and fell into his
father’s waiting embrace, burying his face into the
worn material of the elder Gamgee’s nightshirt.

“What be wrong, Samwise?”

“Don’ let it get you!!” the frightened child squeaked,
clinging to his father even tighter.

“Let what get me lad?”

“There da, don’ you see’t?” Sam waved a shaky finger
toward the corner by the door, his face still buried
in his father’s shoulder.

Glancing to where his son was pointing, Hamfast
chuckled gently and squeezed his son’s trembling body.
“Oh m’lad…”

“Don’ you see it da? The spider! ‘Tis the biggest one
you ever seen…big as even ‘em in Mister Bilbo’s
stories!”

“Is that what this be all ‘bout?” Hamfast asked,
frowning over his shoulder at the apparition that
still scuttled about on the far wall. “Now lad, you
got nothin’ to be ‘fraid of. Look here…”

The elder Gamgee released his son, and rising from the
bed he crossed to the window. Pointing with a
weathered hand, he revealed the shadow’s culprit – a
normal garden spider, spinning her web in the opening.
Back lit by moon light, the spider and web had been
projected onto the opposite wall, creating a larger
than life-sized shadow.

“‘Tain’t nothing here what can hurt you lad. ‘Tis just
a trick of the moon…”

***

Bathed in nervous sweat, Sam startled to a sudden
wakefulness and shook off the last remnants of a dream
not quite remembered. For a moment he was disoriented,
unsure of where he’d come to be sleeping and where his
master was.

‘Ah yes,’ he breathed, clarity returning as he glanced
around the dark grove. ‘’Tweren’t Henneth Annun no
more…they’d done left Capt’n Faramir and the rangers
earlier that day…or were it yesterday now, he couldn’t
tell and they had come some seven or so leagues along
since then.’

He wasn’t sure what sound or movement had driven him
from his uneasy sleep, but icy gooseflesh still dotted
his arms and sent shivers down his back. Well, it
certainly hadn’t been Gollum pawing about; the
creature had gone off not long after they’d stopped
for the night and a quick glance about proved he
hadn’t yet returned.

But what then?

Sam sighed, uncurling the folds of his cloak, and
eased to sit with his shoulders sagging against the
cold bole of a sheltering tree. At his side, Frodo lay
motionless still immersed in deep slumber. Sam watched
him in silence, counting his master’s breaths in the
stillness of the night. A small smile turned up the
corners of his mouth.

‘Good,’ he thought, ‘you sleep on, m’dear Mister
Frodo, with no dreamin’ to disturb you. ‘Tis enough of
darkness yet to be faced without it haunting your
sleepin’ too.’

Remembering the vestiges of his own dream, he rested
for a moment, contemplating it in silence.

Spiders…now what had dredged up that old memory.

Sam had nearly forgotten that night so long ago. He
smiled, remembering the gentle way his father had
shown him the small visitor to his bedroom window and
the way the moon’s light though the opening had
swelled her into a foreboding shadow. His da had even
shared with him a whimsical spate of hand shadows –
rabbits and birds and other silhouette creatures – to
help ease the fear that the moon’s illusion had
created.

And though he’d been reassured by the explanation,
some anxiety had remained even as his gaffer had
tucked him back under the covers.

‘Tain’t no need to be afeared, lad,’ his da had
soothed, smoothing back his unruly curls and caressing
his cheek. ‘Long as you be under my roof I sure as
won’t be letting nothin’ hurt you.’

He’d not known until much later that the Gaffer had
spoken with Mister Bilbo that next morning, asking him
to leave off with tales of spiders and such until his
lad were a bit older. In his fatherly way, he’d sought
to protect his gentle son, to shelter him just a
little longer.

Now here that same son was, so far from family and
home, off with his Mister Frodo on some frightful
adventure of his own.

‘Already we’ve face so many horrors more fantastical
than Old Mister Bilbo’s stories,’ Sam thought,
remembering the Black Riders and all the dark
happenings in the bowels of Moria. He reached out a
hand to touch Frodo with a feather light touch, trying
to reassuring himself with the gentle contact that he
wasn’t alone there in the wilderness. ‘I reckon now
Frodo that I’ll never see them great spiders of my
childhood dreams with quite the same fear as I once
did.’

Lying back down, head pillowed on his dwindling pack,
Sam shifted about trying to find a comfortable
position on the lumpy ground. Though weary to the bone
he still found sleep elusive. He knew that all too
soon they’d have to be on their way once more,
following that creature Gollum toward who knows what
new horrors.

Sam relaxed, forcing his eyes shut and his anxious
mind to silence. Whatever their path may be, he’d deal
with it tomorrow – when the morning’s light would
chase away the shadows of the past – just like his
Gaffer had, that night so long ago.

~~~

Two Towers – Chapter 7: Journey to the Cross-roads

“Darkness came early to the silent woods, and before
the fall of night they halted, weary, for they had
walked seven leagues or more from Henneth Annun. Frodo
lay and slept away the night on the deep mould beneath
an ancient tree. Sam beside him was more uneasy: he
woke many times, but there was never a sign of Gollum,
who had slipped off as soon as the others had settled
to rest.”

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