The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 99:  I Wish I Wasn't Here

The Mouth of Sauron inclined his black-crowned head and studied the assembled lords of the West in silence. Aragorn returned him a look of cold contempt and Gandalf’s face was inscrutable as stone. The other Captains appeared unsettled and wary. Pippin, clinging to Gandalf’s robes, felt that the eyes of the Mouth of Sauron, hidden behind his black iron visor, were fixed on him alone and were boring into his very soul like red hot needles.

The hobbit shrank back out of sight behind Gandalf, wishing that he had been allowed to stay with the body of the army when the Captains had ridden forward to the parlay. But Gandalf had insisted that Pippin accompany the leaders.
‘Why? ‘ thought Pippin. ‘I am just a hobbit and a hobbit not even out of his tweens at that. Oh I wish I wasn’t here! But then I suppose most folk who end up in great tales wish they weren't the time. Later on, over a flagon of ale in the Green Dragon, it might all seem like quite an adventure. But first I have to live to see the Green Dragon!'

Just then The Mouth of Sauron demanded with a sneer;
‘Is there anyone in this rabble with authority to treat with me?’*

Back in the ranks of the army the Black Company watched the meeting with the Mouth of Sauron from the top of the hill where they had drawn up in battle array. Out of the hearing of the others, Callanach said to Liofa;
‘You are saying that is Marfach? That mounted figure behind the Mouth of Sauron? Are you sure that is him, Liofa? It is a long way away and the rider is wearing his visor down....’

‘It is he, Callanach...’ replied Liofa in a dull voice. ‘I would know him in the land of the dead, and I know him now at the Gates of Death. We Elves have long sight, and see what mortals do not see. And even with the visor down, there is no hiding his red hair.....’

Callanach looked again and even he could see the flame-coloured dreadlocks escaping from under the helmet of the tall mounted figure behind the Mouth of Sauron. Callanach’s heart sank. He had hoped that distance was deceiving them and could not believe that Marfach was riding at the head of Sauron’s army. Callanach bowed his head.

‘I see it indeed; truly it is Marfach. He has betrayed us.’

Liofa was gazing down at the small crowd of figures as they conducted the parlay.
‘Do not say that yet, Callanach’ he replied quietly. We do not know how he came to be there, or why. I would wait till this day of battle is over before you judge Marfach...’

Callanach did not reply, but merely gazed down at the two groups assembled below them at the Gates. Overhead the sky was still stained with the fumes pouring from Mount Doom. But a cold, clean wind had arisen in the West and it was stubbornly pushing the poisoned clouds back towards Mordor. A shaft of morning sunlight, pale as the gold threads in an old tapestry, moved fitfully across the barren plain and lit up the emissaries of West and East. Above one group flew the white and blue swan ensign of Dol Amroth, the silver and black flag of Gondor and the green, red and gold banners of Rohan. They made a brave splash of colour against the ominous black of the ranks of Mordor, where the only hue was the red of the Great Eye scrawled on shield and pennant, and the dull gold of the Easterlings' armour.

Meanwhile the parlay was not going well. The Mouth of Sauron had quailed under the stern gaze of Aragorn and had accused the Captains of the West of threatening him.

Gandalf laughed, although in truth there was little mirth in the hearts of his companions. ‘You have naught to fear from us!’ he said to the Mouth ‘Not yet, at any rate. But if your master has not come to new wisdom, you and the rest of his servants will be in great peril!’*

At these words The Mouth regained his courage, and his insolence. He turned his attention to Gandalf.  ‘So, you are the spokesman, old greybeard!’*

For some moments, while Gandalf looked bored and the Captains looked angry and Gimli fingered his axe, the Mouth poured insults on the wizard’s white head. Then, tiring of this game, the Mouth sat up straight and tall and menacing on his black steed and said in a voice full of venom;

‘I have tokens that I was bidden to show to thee – thee in especial....’*

And the Mouth of Sauron turned in his saddle and beckoned Marfach to come forward.

For a moment Marfach stared dumbly at the Mouth. Then in a flash he realised that The Mouth intended to show the Captains of the West the ragged garments of Frodo, in order to crush their hope and courage just before the battle. Marfach hung back, gripping the bundle so tightly in his one hand that the knuckles went white. The Mouth once again beckoned to him, this time with an impatient jerk of his black-gauntleted hand. Marfach set his teeth and would have stayed where he was but at that moment he felt the sharp tip of a sword prod him under his mailed shirt. He turned his head and looked into the yellow eyes of Uafas.
‘Obey the Master, or I’ll gut you here and now. I’ve waited long enough to do it!’ the Uruk growled.

Marfach shifted his grip on the bundle of clothes and glaring dangerously at Uafas as he moved away from the blade, dismounted and walked slowly forward to hand the bundle to the Mouth. Then he stepped back quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid Aragorn’s keen gaze. Marfach bowed his head and turned away in shame.

He was afraid that Aragorn and the other Captains would recognise him. But his fears were needless. The eyes of all were now fixed on the bundle, a look of horror coming over the Captains’ faces as they realised what they were looking at. Behind Prince Imrhail, Pippin could not restrain himself at the sight of Frodo’s tattered clothes and sprang forward with a cry of grief.

‘Silence!’ cried Gandalf, but it was too late; the Mouth had seen Pippin and the young hobbit’s reaction had given him all the confirmation he needed that the tokens were indeed what Sauron thought they were. He turned his black helm towards Pippin and gave a cold, hollow laugh.

‘So you have another of these imps with you! What use you find in them I cannot guess, but to send them as spies into Mordor is beyond even your folly...’*

Pippin felt a gentle restraining hand on his shoulder; it was Gimli.
‘Step back, little hobbit...’ the Dwarf said gently. But Pippin did not hear him; he heard only the Mouth of Sauron demand that in return for the life of the one who had worn these clothes the army of the West should retreat and Gondor should cede all power to Mordor.

‘Surely Gandalf will not condemn Frodo to death?’ thought Pippin, but just then Gandalf threw aside his cloak and a sudden white light shone forth and blinded the Mouth of Sauron. While he staggered back with one hand raised to shield himself from the brightness, Gandalf sprang forward and seized the bundle from his grasp.

‘We reject your terms utterly!’ he cried. ‘But these we will take in memory of our friend...’*

The Mouth, foaming with rage, turned and spurred his black steed to a mad gallop back towards the Gates of Mordor, his Easterling troops parting to let him through. As he retreated, great horns began to blow on all sides. It was the signal for the trap to be sprung. As the echoes rolled along the Morannon, legions of orcs and uruk-hai sprang from their hiding places in hollows and caves in the barren land, and rushed towards the army of the West.

The Captains mounted their horses and galloped back towards the army. Eomer lifted Pippin onto the cantle of his saddle and as they raced along the bare stony ground the hobbit looked back and saw the Gates of Mordor flung open and a host of orcs pour out as swiftly as a swarm of bees leaving a great evil hive. At the same time another legion of Easterlings came into view from behind Ered Lithui. The hobbit gasped at the sheer numbers of Sauron's army, but instead of banishing his hope, the sight seemed to rouse in the hobbit a desperate courage. He put his hand on the hilt of his small Westernesse blade and said to himself;
‘If I could get in one stab at that foul Mouth I would die happy, and even the odds a bit with old Merry....’

The unfolding of these events took Marfach by as much surprise as it did Pippin. He had seen the horror of the Captains to think that Frodo was dead with dismay and anger for he knew it was not true. But he had little time to ponder it; all around him battle ranks were being quickly drawn up by orc and Easterling. And then the Mouth bolted past on his great black horse, fleeing into Mordor.

At the sight of the tall black skeletal figure Marfach’s heart filled with rage. Not just anger at how the Mouth had tormented and taunted him, but a red, killing rage against all the servants of Sauron who had caused him suffering through so many ages. Marfach was freed now from his allegiance to Aragorn, for he had carried out his promise. Now, he would take his revenge....

Marfach drew his long curved Mordor scimitar. Beside him stood Uafas, not looking at Marfach but at the orcs he was about to lead into battle. Marfach raised the sword and said to him;
‘This is your punishment for slaying Dearfa, Elf of Lorien...’

Uafas looked round at Marfach's words but before he could defend himself the sword swung down with a faint hiss and the Uruk’s head flew off his shoulders and hit the ground with a dull thump. It rolled away under the feet of the advancing Easterlings, who did not even break their stride. Before the other orcs realised what had happened, Marfach had turned his black steed and was galloping after the Mouth, who was almost at the Gates of Mordor.

But now the retreating figure was hindered by the great army pouring out of the Gates. The Mouth checked his ghostly steed and glanced back. In that moment he saw Marfach approaching him at a fierce gallop, black drops of orc blood scattering from his sword drawn.

At once the Mouth was filled with terror. He turned his horse and urged it through the packed ranks of orcs, even trampling some in his haste to enter Mordor and find safety. But he had barely made any headway when Marfach reached him.

Before Marfach’s eyes was a red mist, and in his heart only rage. He wanted to do nothing now but kill. The Mouth drew his own sword, but Marfach laughed; there was none who could stand before him in battle. He raised his sword.....

At that moment, a voice spoke inside Marfach’s head. It was a quiet, clear voice sweet as music on a summer evening. Marfach heard it even over the din of marching orcs and the shouts of their commanders. He dropped his arm. His tall black steed, unguided, snorted and shook its head. Gradually it was pushed back by the crush of troops pouring out of the Gates. The Mouth, seeing his opportunity, spurred frantically away into Mordor and was never seen again.

Marfach did not notice. His eyes saw nothing. He could only hear, and what he heard was the voice of Melian....
‘Marfach...’ it said. ‘Croga, bravest of all the Elves who protected Doriath, hearken unto my words now, on the field of battle...’

The roar and turmoil around Marfach faded and he said into the sudden silence;
‘Lady, speak, for I hear only you....’

The voice spoke again, and now, whether in his imagination or in some vision, Marfach believed he saw the Lady Melian, clad in shining white, a girdle of diamonds round her slender waist and her hair crowned with stars as she beckoned him towards her.
‘Marfach!’ she said ‘Do not seek the blood of the messenger of Sauron. Search no more for revenge, for in seeking that you will find only death. Let go your hatred, and turn to the light. Look around you! Your friends have need of you. I will always be near you, even in battle....’

And then the vision and the voice were gone and Marfach found himself and his black horse being steadily borne forward on a dark tide of orcs. He shook his head as if to recall the dream, but it was gone and he saw around him only the foul hosts of Mordor.

For a moment his spirit failed.
'Would that I wasn't here!' he thought bitterly. 'Would that I had perished with Doriath, long ago!'
But then Melian's words echoed in his head.
'Your friends have need of you....'

Marfach looked towards the two low hills where the army of the West had taken its last stand. With his keen eyes Marfach could see that Aragorn and Gandalf and the other leaders were arraying their forces as best they could.
But even as their forces drew their swords, nocked their arrows and set foot to their pikes, the trap long prepared for them by Sauron was sprung.

From hidden pits and underground passages great hordes of orcs poured forth to the upper air, as if the earth itself was vomiting forth what sickened it. These were no ordinary orcs but giant goblins and mountain uruks and in their wake, wielding huge stone hammers, strode mighty cave trolls. This great wave of Mordor broke on the army of the West like a black tide, bearing down man and shield, turning aside spear and sword, and threatening to overwhelm all that was left of the Captains and their men.

Melian’s words still in his head, Marfach set his spurs to his gaunt black steed, forcing a way through the close packed ranks of orcs and Easterlings and galloping wildly towards the thick of battle, intending to do what he could to save his friends.

* I have quoted some of the actual words from the book, in order to be true to the original story.