Gollum tugs at Frodo's cloak in his impatience to get a move on.
This motley trio creeps along the road to the mountains, until finally Frodo sees "the city of the Ringwraiths" (4.8.3): Minas Morgul. Dun dun dun.
The walls of Minas Morgul glow with light, but it is a sickly, corpse-like light. Plus, it's really stinky. It smells just plain rotten.
Gollum pulls them away, and they crawl into the gloom alongside the city.
Poor Frodo feels the weight of the Ring very heavily now.
It's time to climb a steep staircase up into the mountains, right?
But it is too late. The gates of Minas Morgul fall open and an army comes out, all dressed in black.
It is led by one of the Black Riders, the Lord of the Nazgûl: the "haggard king whose cold hand had smitten down the Ring-bearer with his deadly knife" (4.8.21) in The Fellowship of the Ring Book 1, Chapter 11.
Frodo's shoulder aches in memory of the wound, and he feels an immense pressure beating him from the outside.
His hand creeps towards the Ring on its chain. Uh oh. Not good. Not good.
He has to exert his will to stop his hand from touching the Ring.
Instead, his hand goes to the jewel Galadriel gave him in Lothlórien (see The Fellowship of the RingBook 2, Chapter 8), and Frodo clutches that instead. Good move, buddy.
The Lord of the Nazgûl turns away and passes with his army, while Frodo wonders if Faramir got away from Osgiliath in time. We hope so.
Once the gate closes behind this army, they continue on their way.
Filled with ten kinds of despair, Frodo realizes that he has to go on nevertheless.
So he holds Galadriel's jewel against his heart and his staff in his hand, and they keep on marching, right up those colossal stairs.
Gollum, meanwhile, nice fellow that he is, tells them to hurry up.
The hobbits are exhausted after climbing the Straight Stair, but next is the Winding Stair, which is a bit easier.
The passage goes on for miles, until they are high above Morgul Valley. At the far end, they can see a black tower.
Sam and Frodo decide to rest before going on. They crouch together with Gollum nearby, sharing food and drinking a little water.
They both agree that the whole place seems cursed. Folks, it ain't called Mordor for nothing.
Good ol' Sam tries to lift Frodo's spirits by reminding him that all the heroes in the great tales went on even when they had the chance to turning back.
Frodo laughs, and the two hobbits lighten up for a time.
That is, until Sam notices that Gollum has disappeared yet once more.
Frodo thinks that, if Gollum is up to something, it must be some private trick of his own.
After all, if Gollum had wanted to alert the orcs or Sauron, he would have done it by now.
Plus, Gollum is confused about what he wants to achieve. He certainly doesn't want to give the Ring to Sauron, for example, because that would mean giving it up for himself.
Then, Frodo falls asleep with his head in Sam's lap.
Gollum finds them curled up a couple of hours later. The sight makes him tired and wistful, so he creeps close and touches Frodo's knee.
Sam snaps awake: "Hey you! [...] What are you up to?" (4.8.84).
Gollum retreats back, clearly offended that Sam thinks he is sneaking around (which, we'd like to point out, he is). Plus, the dude looks strangely spider-like, with his long, skinny limbs.
Sam wakes Frodo gently, and Frodo can see that something has put Gollum in an evil mood.
So he kindly offers Gollum the chance to go free.
Gollum has shown them the way into Mordor, and now Gollum can go do whatever he wants—find food and rest, or whatever.
Gollum says no, no, they still need him to guide them.
What gives, Gollum? Why don't you want your freedom?