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
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
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
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
“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 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
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
blood.....black 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
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.