Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

Chapter 38: Lindir's Story

Aldamir awoke when it was morning, feeling a great deal more rested than he had the previous evening. Shadows danced across the sides of the tent he lay in; a few sleepy figures of men and horses moving about in the early hours. He glancing over toward where Lindir had slept, but the Elf was gone.

Rising slowly, Aldamir tried to stand, and found that though his ankle still jabbed sharply with pain, it could bear him a little ways. As he sat up, he felt a dull aching pain in his wounded shoulder, and his side still ached slightly, reminiscent of the deep, painful knife wound he had received in Helm’s Deep. But it was improving. He reached for his water-flask and drank deeply of its contents. Pushing aside the tent flap, he limped into the young sunlight and looked around him.

The camp was still quiet, but for some few moving about; most were still resting from wounds sustained during yesterday’s battle, or simply because they were tired from the long journey to Gondor. Out on the Pelennor field, many men and women of the city were taking away the dead and burning the carcasses of the orcs at the far end of the field.

Lindir found him there a few minutes later. At his step Aldamir turned. “Mára cálë, Lindir!” he greeted him. “Where have you been?”

“Good to see you up!” responded Lindir. “I have been speaking with Elladan, but he is in council now with Aragorn, Gandalf, Éomer, and the Lord Imrahil.”

“What of the Steward of the city, Boromir’s father?” asked Aldamir, turning back to gaze across the Pelennor, bathed in the morning light. “Is he not also speaking with them?”

A shadow crossed Lindir’s face. “He is dead.”

Aldamir wheeled on him. “Dead? Was he slain in battle?”

Lindir shook his head. “He burned himself on a pyre, and nearly burned his son Faramir as well. Gandalf saved him,” he added at Aldamir’s stricken look. “He had a palantír; it seems he has been gazing into it for many months and mind was ensnared and darkened by Sauron. He thought there was no hope left; he slew himself in the fire yesterday, before we came.”

Aldamir felt a deep revulsion. “To burn oneself!” he said. “Truly the ways of men are strange. I have heard that sometimes they burn their dead, but I did not know they could become so full of despair to burn their own body, alive.” He shivered.

“It is terrible,” agreed Lindir quietly. “We can only be grateful that Gandalf could save Faramir in time. He lies now in the House of Healing; Aragorn has tended to him.”

“And what of this council?” questioned Aldamir.

“They are debating on what course of action to take next,” replied Lindir. “All we can do now is to wait......”

Aldamir and Lindir did not hear the results of the debate until later that day. Aldamir spent most of his time in or near the tent, kept there by his wounded ankle. Lindir went into the city briefly, but returned after a short while. Aldamir was curious about Minas Tirith; he wanted to walk in the streets and look upon the stone city Boromir had spoken so eagerly of while staying in Lórien, but his ankle prevented him.

It drew towards evening, and still Aragorn was in council.

Lindir went outside the tent to clean the arrows he and Aldamir had gleaned from the battlefield earlier that day. Aldamir himself remained the tent, resting and binding the linen about his ankle tighter. Behind the tent Mornilë and Fearán stood peacefully, dozing; Fearán had been found wandering upon the battlefield, restless and irritated by the pain in his flank. Now the wound had been treated, and he had calmed down.

Aldamir tied the linen, leaned back, and closed his eyes with a sigh. He was still weary and worn from the battle of yesterday; his ankle had hurt constantly throughout the day and his wounded shoulder made it difficult to lift or move his arm without pain or the risk of opening the wound. The deep sleep he had put himself in during the night had helped slightly, but his body was worn from the stress he had put it through. He needed rest, he needed to sleep...

After a few moments he got up and limped to the tent’s entrance, the pain in his ankle keeping him from rest. He stepped quietly outside, expecting to find Lindir cleaning the arrows -- and stopped.

Lindir was sitting cross-legged on the ground, gazing at something in his hand. He was very still and silent. Aldamir sensed that Lindir wished to be alone, and was about to draw back when Lindir looked up and saw him.

“No, it’s all right,” he said, reading Aldamir’s thoughts. “Come out here and sit down. I’ll tell you.”

Aldamir was mystified. “Tell me what?” he asked as he sat down next to Lindir.

“About this.” Lindir extended his hand. In it lay a single, slender string, worn and old, yet beautiful, interwoven with a strand of light hair.

“A harp-string!” exclaimed Aldamir. “But why....?”

Lindir smiled quietly, and then sighed. “It’s a long story,” he said, and stopped. He looked sad.

“Long ago, I was a harpist,” he said finally. “In Rivendell, during its golden days when there was no worry of Mordor. I loved music, and I loved my harp; I sat often among the trees of Rivendell or next to one of the waterfalls and wrote songs, testing them on my harp.

“I was good at it, too. Other Elves praised my playing highly, and I was happy. Then I met an Elf-maiden; she was a Mirkwood Elf visiting Rivendell with some of her kin. Her name was Linwë. We met in the Hall of Fire, one evening when the fires were lit and songs were being sung. We began to talk together after she - rather shyly, I must admit - complimented me on my playing. I thanked her, and she expressed a wish to learn to play the harp. I offered to teach her.”

Lindir smiled softly. “We spent many hours together, talking much, and we found that we shared many interests. She had wanted to learn the harp for a long time, and she learned well. I began making a harp for her -- in secret: it was to be a surprise. But then, several months after we met, her kin were returning to Mirkwood and she, of course, was to go with them. Neither of us wished to part, but loth as we were to say farewell, we had to. She went back to Mirkwood, and I was left in Rivendell.

“After she left, I realized that I loved her. I spent some weeks debating over it, but finally I decided I had to see her again. I rode to Mirkwood, and there we met again, under the eaves of her forest. She was overjoyed to see me again, and I found that what I had hoped for was true: she returned my love.

“I spent several months there in Mirkwood. Her family were very gracious and welcomed me as a guest. We were hardly apart, and finally I asked her to marry me. She accepted, and we decided that we would settle in Imladris. With some of her kin, we set out for Rivendell to marry there.”

Lindir sighed. “Those days, riding to Rivendell, were some of our last together. One day’s ride from Rivendell, high in the Misty Mountains, we were waylaid and attacked by a pack of orcs. None knew where they came from, and none know where they went afterwards. But there were many of them and we were hard put to stave them off. I went down partway through the battle; I can’t remember anything of what happened after that, until I woke up days later in Rivendell. Those who had tended to me told me that I had been seriously wounded by a poisoned orc-blade and had wandered in and out of a dangerous fever for days.

“My first thought was for Linwë, but she was gone, to my great grief. None could tell me what had become of her. She and two of her kin had disappeared during the battle; it could only be supposed that they had been carried away and later slain by the orcs.”

Lindir sighed and ran the harp-string through his fingers; Aldamir was silent, stunned.

“Since that loss, I have not had the heart to play the harp again,” finished Lindir softly.

Aldamir was at a loss for words. “Lindir....I never knew....I’m sorry...”

Lindir shook his head. “Don’t, Aldamir, it’s not your fault. I thought I would die of grief at first, but I have overcome the pain and I have banished it from her memory. She was my beloved, and always will be so. I remember her now only with love, not pain.” He smiled softly.

Aldamir opened his mouth to speak, and closed it again. Instead, he gripped Lindir’s shoulder comfortingly.

Later that evening, as the sun was sinking behind the great mountains, Legolas found Aldamir and Lindir sitting outside their tent, cleaning the arrows. They looked up as he came toward them.

“Mae govannen, mellon!” Aldamir greeted him. “What news from the council?”

Legolas smiled a greeting, but he looked serious. “Greetings, mellyn. Yes, the council is ended.”

He paused, and Aldamir leaned forward. “What was their decision?”

“We are riding to the Morannon. We have come to the decision that we do not have a great chance of defeating Mordor; Sauron’s strength will only grow. But we will place our hope in Frodo, and distract Sauron to give him a chance. If Sauron thinks we have the Ring, and are riding now to defeat him with it, his mind will be drawn away from Frodo; it is our only chance to defeat him once and for all. But riding to battle with Mordor is no small thing.... it is likely that it will be our last ride, and that we will not survive to see victory if it comes......”

Chapter 39: Ride of Doom

Three days later, all the armies of the West were assembled in a great mass on the Pelennor Fields. All that had survived the battle three days earlier and were not seriously wounded were there, armoured for battle. Aragorn was there, and Gandalf, with Imrahil, Prince of Amroth, Éomer, and the sons of Elrond.

Above the army the walls of Minas Tirith, white and shining in the dawn’s light, rose upwards, peaking in Tower of Ecthelion. The lower level was black and burned, ruined and stained with blood and soot, but a grey rain had put out the fires and now the men who were to stay and hold the city were working to fortify it again. The Gate still lay in ruins; but the massive battering-ram used by the orcs, a grim, snarling, fire-tongued wolf fashioned of iron in Mordor’s depths, had been hauled away and destroyed.

Aldamir and Lindir were there as well, alongside the Dúnedain. Both wore their chain-mail, their swords were girt at their sides, their quivers were filled, and their bows were ready in their hands. They were prepared.

Aldamir’s wounded ankle was still bound tightly in linen; it was not fully healed yet. He could put weight on it and it had stopped seeping blood, but it was still painful and it was far easier for him to ride than to walk. So he and Lindir rode with the cavalry.

He glanced sideways toward Lindir. His companion was quiet and thoughtful, his fingers stroking the wood of his bow. A strip of linen was still bound about the cut on his head. His dark hair lifted slightly in the subdued breeze which whispered among the army’s ranks. For a moment he seemed lost in thought, far away, but then he turned to Aldamir.

"They say we ride to our doom," he said, but he was strangely peaceful.

Aldamir nodded. One part of him was in fearful dread of what lay ahead, and the other part was calm and resolved. He had been urged to stay behind because of his wound, but he had refused. "I have ridden this far with the Dúnedain and Elrond’s sons; I have fought in Helm’s Deep and on the Pelennor fields; and I have walked the Paths of the Dead. I am a part of this now, and I cannot turn back. I will not stay behind!"

And so he now sat upon Fearán among the ranks of the West, waiting.

Silver trumpets sounded, a call to the ride of doom. The army moved forward, across the expanse of the Pelennor, and rode away from the White City.

That journey, taken in a brooding atmosphere of doom waiting to strike, was an experience none ever forgot, but all remembered it as a strange kind of dream. When they had left Minas Tirith, clouds drew over them as if chasing them, a heavy black mass of stormy fog, blotting out the light. The clanking of swords in scabbards, the soft rustling of chain mail, the clop of horses’ hooves against the ground and the sound of quiet, broken conversation were deadened and dulled under the overhang. All the air seemed to be grey; the world seemed to holding its breath.

Before noon they came into Osgiliath. The city lay in ruins from the repeated attacks and ravaging of orcs, but men were busily at work repairing it. It would be many years before it was fully restored, but workers were hauling away rubble and broken stone, clearing the streets, strengthening the broken bridges, and throwing up hasty defenses on the East side of the city.

They did not tarry but passed through Osgiliath, and rode through the ruins of Old Gondor, over the wide River, and on up to a long, straight road which in old days had led from the Tower of the Sun to the Tower of the Moon. But now the latter had become the dreadful Tower of Minas Morgul, lying black and feared in its terrible vale, and few indeed ever took this road, infested as it was with orcs and such, and far worse, the threat of ever-watchful Nazgûl. Still they pressed on through the gloom, and at nightfall they reached the Crossroads, lying silent and brooding in a great ring of trees. They heard no sound, and there was no sign of the enemy; not a shadow had moved throughout that day nor any blade that gleamed furtively. Yet they felt as they went on that the land was watching them, and that the watchfulness increased with every step they took. It was an eerie feeling, enough to make any living man or Elf shiver.

Near the Crossroads stood the statue of a sitting King, carved of white stone. Close to it on the ground lay the severed head, chipped and disfigured by orcs; where the head had sat a hideous, crude eye of stone had been placed. This was thrown down and broken, and instead the king’s head was replaced, crowned by a golden vine of flowers.

That night they stayed there, lighting fires and setting watchmen all about; yet no sign of the enemy did they see or hear.

Before the dawn they set out again, riding north toward the Gate of Mordor. Aragorn had left many Rangers of Ithilien and other skilled bowmen to hold the Crossroads if Mordor should send out forces from Minas Morgul, and they lay hidden now in the woods about the crossing of ways. Then Gandalf and Aragorn rode with the vanguard of the army and looked upon the dreadful dark city of Minas Morgul.

Aldamir could not repress a shudder of dread as he gazed down at it. It was dark, and no life stirred, for the orcs and other lesser creatures of Mordor which had lived there long ago had been slain or driven away in battle, and the Nazgul were abroad, hunting their prey. The city itself, built mainly of sharply-pointed, menacing towers in black stone, lay silent, bathed in a hideous, sickly green light, but it seemed to glower at them in deep hostility. Here and there a torch still flickered, burning the last of its pitch; to Aldamir they seemed to be small, red, evil eyes.

Though nothing stirred, he could feel the air around him to be heavy with malice and hostility; it was as if the very wind which sighed through the dark buildings was a hiss of hate. Fumes, noisome and poisonous, rose from the hideous fields around the city and made Aldamir’s head reel; he felt sick. Such pure evil dwelt here, in a place that had once been so beautiful and good......he turned away in sorrow and horror.

Aragorn ordered the bridge broken and fire set to the fields, and then they departed.

The next day, the third since they had set out from Minas Tirith, they had yet a hundred miles to go. Aldamir wondered if indeed they would come so far, or what would happen if they didn’t. The army rode openly but warily and watchfully; scouts were sent a little ways ahead and rode on all sides of the army. at intervals the heralds would blow the trumpets and shout a challenge to the empty lands about them, but never was there a reply.

Near the end of that day they were warned by their scouts of an approaching force of Easterlings and Orcs, coming from the north and attempting to ambush them. Aragorn laid a plan with his captains and sent Mablung and his Ithilien Rangers ahead. The rest of the army waited for them to come, drawing their swords and stringing their bows.

It was not a large battle, and Aragorn’s army won easily. Mablung had done his work well, and the ambush itself had been trapped.

But it did little to encourage Aldamir. "It is only a small taste," he sighed, slipping his sword back into his scabbard. "A foretaste of Sauron’s might. It will be far worse than this if we reach the Black Gate....."

Time wore away, and the outwardly hopeless journey with it. On the sixth day away from Minas Tirith, there were some of the amry who became unnerved and overcome with terror, and they were unwilling to go further. Aragorn was not angry, but rather, he pitied them, seeing the deadly fear in their eyes. They were only young men, to whom Mordor had only been an old legend of fear, not something real and terrible, looming before them. He bid them turn south-west to Cair Andros, and retake it to hold it for Gondor and Rohan to the last. Some were enheartened by this and went; others were shamed by his mercy and rode onwards with him.

So it was that having started out with a great army, Aragorn and the Captains of the West and the Elves came with less than six thousands to the dreaded Black Gate of Mordor.....