Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

Chapter 40: The End of All Things

Aldamir gazed up in mingled horror and astonishment at the Morannon as it rose up before them. Wrought completely of black iron, vast and impenetrable, it formed a sold gateway across the mouth of Mordor, ending in sharp, teeth-like spikes and towers. It frowned down upon them almost as if gloating at their foolishness to attempt to take it. Aldamir knew that no machine of war nor any number of men could hope to take the terrible Gate, even if Mordor had only enough forces to man the Gate alone.

Nothing and no one stood upon the Gate; nothing stirred in the black hills and rocks around them; no sound could be heard. Yet Aldamir knew that behind the Morannon the plains were teeming with orcs and evil men and all manner of vile creature were watching them; he felt the malice in the air as clearly as if it were something tangible.

A chill spread over him, worse than the coldness of the early, grey morning he stood in, and he looked upwards. High above the Black Gate the Nazgûl hovered on their foul beasts, wheeling back and forth, keeping a deadly watch upon the army. Aldamir shuddered and tore his eyes away; Nazgûl were to him worse than a hundred red-eyed orcs. His mind flew back to a dreadful memory from long ago, but he pushed it away; it was enough to face the terror of right now than to dwell also on the terror of years past......

Lindir stirred beside him, and Aldamir glanced toward him. He was white and his eyes were filled with dread; Aldamir knew that he must look the same himself. “We can never take this Gate,” murmured Lindir, and turned toward Aldamir. “It is over, Aldamir; how can it be otherwise? We have no chance.”

“No, no chance,” answered Aldamir in a low voice. “I do not see how..... yet if we are lost, I only hope that we give Frodo a last chance....”

Trumpets blew at that moment; Aragorn was setting the army in the best array that could best be contrived. They were drawn up on two great hills of blasted stone and earth that orcs had piled in years of labour. Facing Mordor, they stood silent and ready now, filled with dread, but with no choice but to play their part out to the bitter end.

When all was ordered, the Captains rode forward toward the Gate with a great guard of horsemen; all the banners and heralds and trumpets rode with them. Aragorn as king and Gandalf as chief herald were there, as were Éomer of Rohan, Prince Imrahil, the sons of Elrond and Aldamir and Lindir; and Legolas and Gimli and Peregrin of the Shire were there as well.

They drew up before the Morannon, and halted. Aragorn unfurled his standard, the shining Tree and Stars upon jet-black which Arwen had wrought for him. The trumpeters blew loudly, and the heralds called out, challenging the Black Lord to come forth.

Silence fell; no answer was heard. They stood before the massive, ominous gate, and nothing stirred to threaten them.

But just as they were about to turn away, the silence was shattered suddenly by a great beating of drums and sounding of harsh horns which stunned their ears; the great Gate slowly swung open, grating upon the ground, and an embassy of Mordor rode out.

At its head strode a huge horse, if indeed it was a horse, for it resembled more a hideous, black skeleton; fire gleamed in its eyes. On it sat a dreadful form; a man, clad all in black with a twisted, spiked, evil crown upon his head. Where his face should have been was what seemed to be a skull, as black as his mount, with red eyes burning evilly. He halted before the Captains of the West, and Aldamir felt an intense loathing and horror come over him.

The dreadful rider, who called himself the Mouth of Sauron, halted before them, and laughed harshly. “Is there anyone in this rout with authority to treat with me? Or indeed wit to understand me?” he mocked, and turned toward Aragorn. “Not thou at least! It needs more than a piece of elvish glass, or rabble such as this. Why, any brigand of the hills can show as good a following!”

Aragorn did not speak, but he held the other’s eye for a moment. Fear struck at the Mouth of Sauron, and he faltered, backing away. Angrily he shouted that he could not be hurt because of his office of messenger. Gandalf retorted that it was also the custom for ambassadors to use less insolence, but that none had threatened him.

Aldamir listened to the two battle words, suppressing a desire to draw his sword and leap forward to smite the foul Messenger to the earth. The red eyes flickered over him at one point, and Aldamir felt the hate in them. Unflinchingly he gazed straight back into those eyes, and they flickered away again.

Now the Messenger was waving his hand, and Aldamir felt a lurch of uneasiness. What did this foul being now have in store?

Nothing could have prepared Aldamir for what happened next.

One of the Messenger’s guards rode forward and lifted up a few worn items for all to see: Frodo’s cloak and shirt of mithril, Sam’s small sword, and their own tattered hobbit-garments, worn and stained from long travel.

Aldamir felt as if he had been struck a blinding blow in the face. His mind reeled, protesting, screaming against what he knew was horribly true.

Frodo had been taken.....!

“No... oh, no...” he murmured in anguish, his Elvish heart breaking. He could not bear to think of what torture Frodo was enduring in the Black Tower.....what Sauron would do to him.....

And if Frodo was taken, there was indeed no hope. It was over....

He looked toward Lindir; there were silent tears falling from his eyes. Aldamir felt something wet trickle down his own cheeks, and found that he too was weeping. He made no move to dash away the tears; he was too stricken to move.

Through a haze he heard Gandalf speaking with the Mouth of Sauron. His eyes were aching with grief, but he maintained his composure and refused Sauron’s terms; namely, that they retreat without further adieu and surrender all up to Sauron, thus condemning themselves to a life of slavery and torture, if not worse. Hot anger rose up in Aldamir’s heart, fired by his grief. Never!

It seemed that Gandalf felt the same way, for at that moment he rode forward, eyes flashing, and snatched the hobbit-garments and arms from the hands of the Messenger’s guard.

“These we will keep, in memory of our friend!” he cried. “But your terms we utterly refuse. Go, begone, foul messenger!”

The Mouth of Sauron was no longer gloating; his hideous face was now twisted with rage and hate. Without a word he wheeled about and rode back to the Gate. Aragorn called to his army to prepare themselves.

Tears still streaking his cheeks, Aldamir drew his sword and vowed to fight to the bitter end, striking every blow for Frodo and Lórien. At his side, Lindir set an arrow to his bow, and turned to his companion.

“Aldamir, if this is the end....farewell.” He could find no other words, but held out his hand.

Aldamir grasped his hand tightly, and all that they needed to say was said. Readying their blades, they stood side by side and awaited the final stroke of doom.

Now the Gates swung outwards, a gaping, yawning opening through which the full strength of Mordor poured. It was an army far greater than that of the West; they were vastly outnumbered. Orcs of all sizes were there, evil men of the South, Haradrim and Easterling, Mumakil, and great numbers of hideous cave-trolls.

Aldamir expected the black host to fall upon them immediately, but they did not. Marching heavily, their iron-shod feet beating ominously against the earth, the lead company parted in the center and began to march to the side. Behind them, another company did the same, and another, and another. So it went on, orcs pouring out endlessly, until the entire army of the West was encircled by the foul armies of Mordor.

And behind them, like an evil beacon, the Eye of Sauron shone red from the top of Barad-dûr.

Aragorn, the White Tree of Gondor shining on his breast, drew his sword Anduril and turned to his army. Riding along the ranks of Rohirrim, Ranger and Gondorian standing side by side with Elves, Hobbits, and a Dwarf, he spoke, his voice ringing out into the heavy, shadowed air. “Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brethren. My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship.

“But that is not this day!

“An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down may come, but it is not this day! This day, we fight!

“By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”

The last words swelled like a great trumpet-call and merged with the shouts of the West’s army as they drew their swords as one. Aragorn wheeled about on his horse, and raised his sword aloft.

Then, for a moment, silence fell again. Aragorn’s hand faltered almost imperceptibly; Sauron’s Eye of Fire lighted upon him and looked directly into his eyes. Aldamir seemed to hear a whispered word....

Aragorn.... Elessar....

Aragorn turned to his friends. There were tears in his eyes, glistening against the blue. Both of his hands gripped Anduril’s hilt. One last time, he spoke. “For Frodo...”

Then he turned, raised Anduril, and charged toward the army. Barely a second later, he was followed by two small hobbits, and then the rest of the West’s army, their many voices mingling into one great cry, one last battle cry to stand against Mordor.

The army of Mordor surged toward them, a foul wave of evil. They plunged into battle, dust springing up about their feet as the fought the last great battle of the Ring-war. Aldamir was never to forget it, yet he never remembered it clearly. To him it remained a memory of sword against sword, steel clashing with steel as all about him orcs raised their weapons and brought them down. He fought, but his mind was only half there. He fought as possessed, but with a strange detachment. He did not fight for revenge, or to kill; as he parried and returned the strokes, he saw images before his eyes, and fought for them. He fought for Lothlórien and for his dear, sweet Uruviel, for his kinsmen, the Elven kind, for Halbarad who had fallen on the Pelennor, for Haldir who had fallen on the cold stones of Helm’s Deep, and for two small, weary hobbits who he believed lost.

It was a cry of pain beside him that brought him sharply back to the battle at hand. Whirling, he saw to his horror Lindir falling beneath the great battle-axe of a unnaturally large orc. Cut across the chest, Lindir collapsed, blood staining his tunic and armor rapidly. His cry tore Aldamir’s heart like the last stroke of the terror and grief this war had brought.

“No!” Aldamir threw himself through the strife to Lindir’s side, sending his knife winging toward the orc. Not stopping to see if it had met its mark, he dropped to Lindir’s side, letting his sword fall. Something sharp and heavy struck his shoulder but he did not heed it, nor did he feel any pain. Gripping his companion gently by the shoulders, he pleaded inwardly. Please, not this, not Lindir... sweet Elbereth, not this...

Lindir lay quiet in his arms, limp and covered with blood.

Aldamir bowed his head, believing that this was indeed the end.

Yet as his head fell toward Lindir’s, something strange happened. The very air seemed to pause; all the orcs and all the foul creatures of Mordor hesitated suddenly, weapons raised. The Men of the West paused, uncertain, startled. The great Eye tore itself from the gate, speeding toward the Mountain, Orodruin.

Aldamir watched it. And as it sped Northwards, a great thundering shook the earth, and the Mountain trembled. Then without warning it burst into fire, lava springing high into the air and falling as a rain of fire. Barad-dûr itself shook, and then, unbelievably, it began to crumble. The base gave way, and slowly, with gaining speed, it crashed downwards. The Morannon, too, trembled and broke, the very ground collapsing in on itself as all of Mordor fell.

The orcs fled; their wicked, curved weapons fell from their hands as they ran. Mordor was falling. Then, as the last stroke, Orodruin itself gave in and exploded in a last astounding display of fire and ruin, ash and lava.

Aldamir saw all of it through a haze. Fleetingly he thought of Frodo and Sam, who must even now be perishing in the ruin, and grief again gripped his heart. But his strength was failing, and even as the Mountain fell, he too fell forward over Lindir, and knew no more.

Chapter 41: A New Dawn

Aldamir drifted in and out of troubled, misty dreams. Two red eyes flickered before him, full of malice and hate, and poisonous fire from them burned into his shoulder.......fumes choked him, he could not breathe.....Uruviel hovered before him, but she was falling into something, away from him, and she vanished.....he reached for her, but it was no use.....then Lindir was lying before him, covered with shadows, terrifying shapes were looming over him; coldness gripped him, but then he was burning, burning, an agonizing fire was consuming him......anxious voices cut through the fog, calling for something, asking for the King.....who was the king?

Something touched his shoulder, and the fire heightened to an unbearable pitch, he could not take it any longer, he would die of pain........then suddenly, it cooled, and he fell into clouds...or was it a river? It was mist, grey, soft, comforting............

Slowly he awoke, slipping ever so quietly from darkness to greyness, from grey to light... shadows danced across his face. Was it leaves? Green and gold, swaying above him.....

He realized suddenly that he was fully awake, lying on his back and gazing up at a canopy of gold-edged leaves dancing gently above him. Dappled sunlight fell through them onto his face.

Stirring, he found that his right arm had been tightly bound across his chest. It ached sharply when he moved. Without rising, he looked about him, wondering where he was.

He found himself in a small, tent-enclosed glade, though the tent had no roof, only four walls. It was bound to four, slender, white tree-trunks, forming an enclosed space. He was lying on a bed, covered by white blankets. His armor and weapons lay by his bedside. The shirt of mail was torn on the right shoulder and blood-stained, but someone had cleaned his sword and knives and unstrung his bow for him.

Carefully, slowly he sat up, pushing the covers back slightly. A slight wave of dizziness swept over him, but vanished as quickly as it had come. He took a deep breath and rested for a moment, leaning on his arm.

The flap that made a door for the tent moved suddenly, and to Aldamir’s surprise, none other than Mithrandir entered. Clad in his customary white robes, he paused when he saw Aldamir sitting up, and then a smile broke over his face. Aldamir noticed many thin lines around his eyes, as of worry.

Aldamir placed his hand on his heart and bowed his head briefly. “Mithrandir,” he acknowledged.

“Never mind the greetings,” said Mithrandir, a bit gruffly, and then he smiled again. “It’s good to see you up again. You’ve been sleeping for five days, you know.”

“Five days?” Aldamir was startled.

“It seems your whole trip from Lórien and onwards quite wore you out,” the wizard responded. “Don’t go doing that again, now.”

“I’m not likely to get the chance,” answered Aldamir. “Not now that the War is ended!”

“Ended... yes, it has,” said Mithrandir. “Ended because of two young hobbits which need tending. I must be off now.”

“Two young... you mean Frodo and Sam?” asked Aldamir, hardly daring to believe it.

Mithrandir, on his way out, paused and glanced backwards. “Yes, I quite certainly do mean them,” he said. “They were rescued from Mordor thanks to the Eagles, but they’re in worse shape than you or any others from the battlefield and need tending. Take care of yourself, and your friend is in the tent beside you,” he said, and was gone.

Aldamir had opened his mouth to ask about Lindir, but shut it again. For a moment he sat in silence, marveling. Frodo and Sam had been rescued... they had not perished in Mordor’s downfall after all! Suddenly he grinned to himself. He ought to have known that Mithrandir wouldn’t have let them die there without trying to prevent it.

Then his mind turned to Lindir, who he last remembered lying senseless and wounded on the battle-field. Dread gripped his heart, and he got to his feet. Taking his cloak from where it lay neatly folded by his bed, he wrapped it about himself and stepped outside the tent. In a moment he had entered the tent beside his own. A woman was bending over Lindir, seemingly just finished with bandaging his chest. Aldamir hesitated in the doorway, but when she saw him, she smiled, a trifle breathlessly. “Oh... hello. You must be Aldamir, Lindir’s friend?”

Aldamir was slightly confused. “I... yes... but how did you know?”

“Oh, Gandalf knows everything and everyone, he does, and I’ve been tendin’ more than one wounded man, I have – I mean Elf,” she added hastily.

Aldamir nodded. “How is he? Is he...”

“No, he’s quite alive,” she assured him. “He took a nasty cut, that’s for sure, and it was poisoned, too. It’s been an anxious few days tending his wound, I tell you. If it weren’t for the King there’s many that wouldn’t be livin’ still, and him too. Though it’s still not to tell if he’ll live through it or not. Not that I know anything about Elves, beggin’ your pardon, for all I know they might be stronger’n us mortals. Here, I’ll be leaving now. Goodness knows I’ve got a great many others to tend to,” she chattered busily as she left the tent.

Aldamir would have chuckled had he not been worried for his friend. Stepping swiftly to the bedside, he bent over him. Lindir lay still and unmoving, his chest swathed in a tight white bandage. His face was drawn and pale, but his shallow breaths were regular. Aldamir laid his hand on his brow, which was slightly warm but not overly so.

Exhaling in relief, Aldamir slid to the ground beside Lindir’s bed. For the moment at least, he was not dying. From what he had gathered of the woman’s swift chatter, Lindir was over the worst but not through it yet. But Gandalf was here, and the King – belatedly Aldamir realized that she must have meant Aragorn.

Leaning back against Lindir’s bed, Aldamir let his mind wander. Suddenly the thought hit him like a wave of cold water – the War of the Ring was over. Finished. Sauron had fallen, the Ring had been destroyed, and the West had won. Against all odds, they had defeated the darkness. There would be no more desperate battles, no more hopeless, dark nights when rain poured down and orcs marched by the thousands; Middle-earth could return to peace and a new age.

Aldamir marveled.