The Lord Of The Rings by William Gibson
The sky above the Shire was the colour of a dead channel, the grey and stagnant sprawl of water Frodo found the Ring in. The Elves of Rivendell had already forgotten more magic than the Men of Gondor had ever known.
At the Prancing Pony he dreamed of Arwen. He would see Elrond, Agent Smith from the matrix, bright lattices of logic unfolding across the colourless void... Mordor. He was just a hobbit trying to make it through.
On Weathertop the dreams came through like voodoo, ringwraiths bearing cursed steel, and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, wake alone in the dark, curled between boulders, lembas bread crumbling in his hands reaching for The Ring that was not there.
He had been trained by the best, Bilbo and Gandalf. He had operated on an almost permanent high of youth and proficiency, projecting his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was Mordor. He was a thief who worked for other, wealthier thieves, but he made the mistake he'd sworn to never make. He'd stolen the Ring, kept something for himself and tried to move it through Rivendell. He wasn't sure how he'd been discovered, not that it mattered now. Before the Ringwraiths he'd expected to die, but they only smiled. Of course he was welcome, they told him, welcome to the Ring. And he was going to need it. Because - still smiling - they were going to make sure he never worked again.
They damaged his nervous system with a wartime Morghul blade.
He'd found her, one night, in Rivendell.
Under bright ghosts burning through the blue haze of the river's skyline. He'd remembered her that way, face bathed in restless light, cheekbones flaring scarlet as Wizard's Castle burned, forehead drenched with azure as the Ringwraiths drowned. He saw her glance up, grey eyes rimmed with smudged black paintstick. Their night together stretching into a morning. She'd stood with him in the
midnight clatter of Rivendell and held his hand like a child.
It took a month for the tension to turn those perpetually startled eyes into wells of
Closed his eyes. Found the ridged Ring Of Power.
And in the bloodlit dark, silver runes
boiling in from the edge of space, symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information.
Please, he prayed, now -
A gray ring, the color of Shire sky.
Ring beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a Palantir.com
of paler grey.
Expanding - And flowed, flowered for him. Fluid unfolding of his distanceless home, his land, transparent and extending to infinity. Inner eye of Sauron opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Haradrim burning beyond the green grasslands of Rohan, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of warlike Orthanc, forever beyond his reach.
And somewhere he was laughing, in white-painted Gondor, distant fingers caressing the Ring, tears of release streaking his face.
He never saw Arwen again.