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The Time of Probing
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“Where is It?”

Frodo’s cry woke Sam instantly. The gardener sat up, finding his heart racing. “What’s wrong?” he demanded of the Wizard, who was leaning over his Master with concern in his eyes. Strider was already on his feet, and was reaching to place a hand on the pulse point on Frodo’s throat. As for Frodo himself, he was struggling to sit up, his hand scrabbling at his hip. His eyes were open, but didn’t appear to be seeing what was in the room.

“It’s lost!” he gasped, and there was a good deal of pain and fear in that utterance.

“What’s lost?” asked Sam.

Gandalf waved a hand at Sam distractedly. “It is here, Frodo, but you are in a nightshirt and don’t have a pocket to keep It in. It’s here on the table beside the fireplace.”

Sam realized Frodo was searching for the Ring. “Gandalf’s right, Master,” he called. “It’s on the table here near me.”

“I can’t find it!”

“It’s on the table.” Sam rose and went to the table, and fetched from it the tray on which the Ring sat amidst swaths of silk. He moved the fabric aside and set the tray down beside his Master’s searching hand. “Here It is, Mr. Frodo, sir,” he said, guiding the older Hobbit’s hand to touch the Ring. “It’s stayin’ safe, right here by you.”

Frodo went limp, and Sam saw traces of tears still visible on his face. “It’s not lost? Oh, but good! Who knows what It might try were It left unwatched?” His voice was barely a whisper. He left his hand lying over the Ring, and closed his eyes. “It’s tricksy,” he whispered, and Sam felt a chill at the change in Frodo’s voice.

Gandalf and Strider were exchanging worried glances. “That last sounded like…” began the Ranger.

“Yes, I agree,” said the Wizard. He shuddered. “It would appear that the Ring wishes to remake Frodo as it did Gollum.”

Now it was Sam’s turn to shudder. Frodo, on the other hand, had apparently returned to a state of deep slumber.


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