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10
The New Master of the Hill

For Aliana for her birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.


~~~

The New Master of the Hill


He lay back in the fresh new grass and took a deep breath of the clean Spring air. Ah, but it was a beautiful night! The stars shone brightly enough, not having to compete with the light of any other bodies, and other than the glow of candles and lamps from the Hobbit holes and houses below the height of the Hill all was dark and still. He’d not even had to draw on the power of the Ring he wore to veil the sky tonight!

He didn’t mind the stars, for they were small, distant, and polite—and remarkably discreet. They did not seek to make public what was done under their light, not like the White Face or the Yellow Face. They didn’t peer too closely into doings that plainly weren’t any of their business.

He was glad that he had managed to find the new Baggins east of the Great River, the new Baggins and his companion. Master had been kind in his fashion, after all, and had managed to help Sméagol to recover much of his former self. Too bad he’d had to kill him in the end. But, then, how else was he to have recovered the Precious? He couldn’t allow the Baggins to complete his quest to destroy the Precious, after all! So, there on the slopes of the Mountain he’d lain in wait, and he’d managed to break Master’s neck instantly. He’d not suffered, not sweet Master! And he’d been sweet, Master had….

The Fat One had tried to avenge Master, of course, and it had taken the power of the Precious to teach him his proper place. Sméagol had had to force the Fat One to bring him back here, and now Sméagol was successfully taking the place of Master, back here in the Master’s Shire. He lived now in Master’s hole and wore Master’s clothing and reveled in Master’s gardens and enjoyed eating Master’s former enemies….

*


Sam Gamgee peered upwards toward the roof tree for the Hill, making certain that Stinker and Slinker were busy with their joint contemplation of the Stars. From the tool shed he fetched the small file he’d managed to keep hidden from Gollum, and worked once more at filing off the chains with which he’d been fitted while still in Mordor. How exactly Gollum had made himself the Lord of the Ring rather than Sauron Sam wasn’t quite certain. But the Nazgûl and orcs had groveled at Gollum’s feet and their smiths had seen Sam manacled, and Sam had returned not as Frodo’s friend but as Gollum’s slave. But he didn’t intend to remain a slave to anybody, and particularly not to the ruined creature who’d murdered his beloved Master. No, Sam Gamgee intended to free himself, and then hopefully all of Middle Earth, from the clutches of the one once known as Sméagol….

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