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March 12, S.R. 1419 (T.A. 3019)

The Tale of Years lists an event today whose date we would not otherwise have known—the Ent attack on the Orcs who have invaded the Wold:

  1. Gollum leads Frodo into Shelob’s lair. Faramir retreats to the Causeway Forts. Théoden camps under Minrimmon. Aragorn drives the enemy towards Pelargir. The Ents defeat the invaders of Rohan.

To these events, let’s add one more: the moment when Gollum returns from Shelob to Frodo and Sam, finds them asleep, and reaches out to touch Frodo before Sam wakes and calls him a ‘villain’.

It’s true that the Tale of Years assigns that event to yesterday, March 11th. But the narrative clearly suggests that they wake this morning, not yesterday evening, to find that Gollum has returned:

‘What’s the time? Is it today or tomorrow?’ [asked Sam.]

‘It’s tomorrow,’ said Gollum, ‘or this was tomorrow when hobbits went to sleep…’

It may indeed have been daytime now, as Gollum said, but the hobbits could see little difference, unless, perhaps, the heavy sky above was less utterly black, more like a great roof of smoke; while instead of the darkness of deep night, which lingered still in cracks and holes, a grey blurring shadow shrouded the stony world about them.

So Frodo and Sam have slept through the night of the 11th-12th after climbing the Straight Stair and the Winding Stair yesterday, and are prepared this morning to finish the climb to the cleft.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 6:20 am

For a third morning, Minas Tirith is in darkness. A messenger arrives to report the fall of Osgiliath: the forces of Mordor now hold both banks of the Anduin, and Faramir has retreated to the Causeway Forts. Gandalf rides out to oppose the terror wielded by the Witch-king.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 7:10 am

Gollum returns to the hobbits, finds them asleep in their hiding place, and reaches out to touch Frodo’s knee. Sam wakes, sees Gollum ‘pawing at master’, and speaks sharply. ‘Hey you! What are you up to?’

Gollum leads the hobbits uphill towards the entrance to Shelob’s cave.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 2:40 pm

The Orc-army that invaded the Wold yesterday meets an unexpected obstacle to their further conquest of Rohan: a force of Ents and Huorn. They have never even heard of Ents.

A few Orcs survive long enough to reach the banks of the Anduin. Most of those drown as they try to cross.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 4:05 pm

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into the cave that slopes up toward the pass of Cirith Ungol. In the utter darkness, the hobbits can only move forward slowly, by groping their way along the walls. Soon they can’t hear Gollum ahead of them any more.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 4:38 pm

Shelob plays with her food: as Frodo and Sam pass her chamber, she forces them to stumble and reel slowly across its entrance, then releases them so they can flee. Only as they reach a fork in the tunnel and need a guide do they realize that Gollum has abandoned them.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 4:49 pm

Frodo and Sam hear gurgling behind them. The Phial’s light reveals Shelob. They run but she is faster. Frodo turns, cries ‘Galadriel!’ and advances on her with the blazing Phial in one hand and Sting in the other. She has never faced Elven star-light and for the moment withdraws.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 4:58 pm

Frodo and Sam reach the cave’s mouth. Only Sting’s blade is able to cut the webs across it. As Frodo runs wildly for the pass, Sam sees Shelob emerge from a hole—but before he can yell a warning he is tackled from behind by Gollum. Shelob stings Frodo and starts trussing him.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 4:59 pm

After fighting off Gollum, Sam attacks Shelob, shearing off a claw and wounding an eye. She then brings her full weight down on top of him—stabbing herself on Sting. She faces him again, but Elven poetry springs to Sam’s lips and the Phial blazes forth. Shelob turns and flees.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 5:04 pm

Sam has cut Frodo free of Shelob’s cords, but can’t wake him. Frodo was stung on the neck.

‘Don’t leave me here alone! It’s your Sam calling. Don’t go where I can’t follow!’

Sam remembers this scene—from Galadriel’s Mirror. He is crushed with grief: his master must be dead.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 11:25 pm

Sam recovers enough from his grief to think through what will happen if the Ring is found on Frodo’s body. ‘The Enemy will get it. And that’s the end of all of us, of Lórien, and Rivendell, and the Shire and all.’

So he must attempt the Quest on his own. He takes the One Ring.

The Shire-Reckoning · Mar 12 · 11:34 pm

Sam walks to the high cleft. Before he can cross into Mordor, he hears Orcs running toward him, and barely puts on the Ring in time. He finds himself able to understand their Orc-speech as they find Frodo’s body and carry him into a tunnel. Sam follows, invisible.

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