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In the year S.R. 1418
Gandalf breakfasts at Bag End, having arrived yesterday after an absence of more than nine years. He explains to Frodo that the magic ring Bilbo left him is in fact the Ruling Ring of Sauron, forged long ago so that through it his will could dominate the Three Rings of the Elves and, eventually, all of Middle-earth. Frodo accepts that he will have to leave the Shire with the Ring, and when Sam is caught eavesdropping Gandalf designates him as Frodo's travelling companion.
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In the year S.R. 1419
First Frodo and then Sam wake on beds in Ithilien, where they have lain for almost two weeks after being rescued from the eruption of Orodruin that followed the destruction of the Ring. Gandalf leads them to the Field of Cormallen where Aragorn honors them in front of all the gathered hosts of Gondor, Rohan, and Arnor. At dinner they see their old companions Legalas and Gimli, and discover that both Merry and Pippin are now soldiers of Gondor and of the Mark.
On this day of the Elven new-year, the Lord Celeborn, whose forces have been destroying the fortress of Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood, meets the Elven-King Thrandul who is leading his army south after successfully defeating the Orcs who assaulted his realm. Having cleased Mirkwood of its evil, they will rename it the Wood of Greenleaves.
Having withstood three assaults upon Lórien from the fortress of Dol Guldur, the Lord Celeborn leads his Elves across the Anduin into southern Mirkwood and beings the destruction of the fortress.
The Dwarves of Erebor and the Men of Dale, who ten days ago were forced to take refuge in the halls of the Dwarves under the mountain after an army of Easterlings drove them from their town by the lake, counter-attack and are able to re-capture Dale. Leading the assault are the new kings Bard II of Dale and Thorin III “Stonehelm”, whose fathers were killed defending the mountain ten days ago.
The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings. The armies of the West have spent the night camped in the haunted darkness just north of the Black Gate, while Sam and Frodo rested briefly near the foot of Orodruin. After sunrise the King brings his army within sight of the Black Gate, and rides forth in challenge joined by Prince Imrahil, the King Éomer, and Gandalf, and with Legolas, Gimli, and Pippin representing their kindreds. Their surrender is demanded, and they are shown Frodo's mithril-coat, his elven cloak, and Sam's sword as evidence that both Hobbits have been captured — though in fact all three items were taken from Frodo eleven days ago in Cirith Ungol. Gandalf perceives that they hold no prisoner, and scorns their terms. The parley ends and the hosts of the West are surrounded and attacked by armies of Orcs and Easterlings.
By this time Sam, by alternately carrying and crawling alongside Frodo, has brought the two Hobbits up the northern slope of Orodruin to the road that leads to the Sammath Naur on the eastern face. Gollum assaults them near the door and Frodo, his pity finally exhausted, grasps the Ring and curses Gollum. But at this moment, Sam chooses pity, and by not slaying Gollum accomplishes the Quest — for moments later, as Frodo in the Sammath Naur claims the Ring as his own, Gollum seizes the Ring and then in accordance with Frodo's curse falls backward into the volcano and the Ring is melted and destroyed.
Thus the Ring survived more than forty-eight hundred years since its forging, and more than three thousand years since Isildur cut it, still warm, from the hand of Sauron after the victory of the Last Alliance.
The Dark Tower and its works fall into ruin as the Dark Lord passes away. While the hosts of the West press upon their enemies before the Morannon, Gandalf, knowing that the Ring-bearer will be trapped if he survived his errand, summons the great eagle Thorondor. At his direction the eagles Landroval and Meneldor rescue the Ring-bearer and his servant, fallen at the feet of Orodruin, and bear them to the healing hands of their King.
The army lead from Minas Tirith by Aragorn moves cautiously towards the Black Gate, camping north of the road in the blasted lands thereabout. They find little sleep amidst the long night, through which wolves and other enemies are heard or glimpsed, prowling beyond their camp.
By the last evening of the Ring's existence, Frodo and Sam have carried it across one last dry and tortured march to the feet of Mount Doom. Sam is now so dehydrated that he cannot eat.
The host of the West are lead by Aragorn out of Ithilien and into the desolate lands through which the road passes before coming to the Black Gate. They can see the southern reaches of the Dead Marshes to their north. Those soldiers who are unable to bear the horror of the poisoned land, and the harassment of the Nazgûl, are sent southwest by Aragorn to retake Cair Andros.
Frodo and Sam cast away their orc disguises and all of their gear, keeping only simple garments, Sam's sword, and the phial and box which the Lady of the Wood gave them. They march southward from the road they abandoned yesterday, covering more than half of the distance remaining to the Mountain of Fire. They drink their last mouthfulls of water and sleep, thirsty and exhausted, upon the broken plain of Gorgoroth.
Frodo now becomes silent, speaking not at all as he and Sam struggle east upon the road toward Barad-dûr. They finally abandon the road once the smoldering cone of Orodruin stands directly to their south, and begin moving across the shattered plain towards its feet. They drink most of the water they collected yesterday and Sam, who has been drinking less than his share, becomes very thirsty.
The lieutenants of Sauron who govern Dol Guldur make a third and final assault across the Anduin upon the forest of Lórien. Like their first efforts, made eleven and then five days ago, this assault is pushed back into the Anduin, accomplishing only fires and damages to the forest where it borders the River.