March of S.R. 1419
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Merry and Pippin spend an entire day with Quickbeam near his rowan-grove while the Entmoot continues in the distance, the rumbling voices of the Ents continuing steadily beneath grey clouds and a cold wind.
In the light of morning Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn search the field across which the Riders charged and destroyed the Orc-band two mornings ago. Scattered hobbit-prints lead them into the forest and, on the very ledge where Merry and Pippin met Treebeard two days ago, they meet Gandalf, now returned to life as the White wizard and head of the Order. The wizard explains that Merry and Pippin are safe, and that the news they brought is arousing the ancient wrath and power of the Ents against Saruman. Gandalf calls his horse Shadowfax, and with him come the two horses that bolted last night; so all four are able to set out on horseback for Edoras and the King of the Golden Hall. After riding for several hours into the night, they stop for a few brief hours of rest.
By dawn Gollum has lead Frodo and Sam to the end of the ravine they have followed overnight. They find themselves on the northern edge of the Dead Marshes, where lie the graves of those killed in the battle between the West and the forces of Sauron at the beginning of the Age. Gollum continues to lead them beneath the overcast sky, and after an afternoon rest they continue marching through the night amongst the bewildering lights that flicker above the pools of the marsh.
The Steward Denethor of Gondor orders his son Faramir to lead a contingent deep into Ithilien, where Southron forces are moving north along the road towards the Black Gate.
After another day of debate the Entmoot concludes with the march of the Ents and many Huorn westward toward the setting sun and the ring of Isengard, with Merry and Pippin borne in their midst; at nightfall they crest the final ridge and descend upon the fortress. After quietly watching Saruman's army pour south from the gates, nearly ten thousand strong, the Ents divide into two forces, some following the armies southwards while the others attack the fortress. Saruman is almost caught amid the assault but escapes into Orthanc.
With immortal sight Legolas peers across fields lit with the slanting shafts of the rising sun, and describes to Aragorn and Gimli the fortress of Edoras and the golden roof of Meduseld shining upon its hill-crest. They and Gandalf negotiate entrance into both fortress and hall, where the wizard wakes King Théoden from the stupor woven by his traitorous counsellor Gríma — who flees when the wizard reveals him as an agent of Saruman. The Eorlingas is mustered and Théoden himself leads the host westward, leaving his niece Éowyn to govern the flight of the people into the hills. King and host make camp for the night after five hours' ride.
In the early hours Gollum leads Frodo and Sam out of the Dead Marshes and on to firm land again, where they cower as a winged Nazgûl passes overhead and into the west. After hiding through the day they continued marching south into the desolation lying between the marshes and the fences of Mordor. Frodo begins to flag under the weight of the Ring.
By dawn the far destruction of the Ring of Isengard is far advanced, but fires from beneath the plain are endangering the Ents; so they retreat and spend day and evening preparing to divert the Isen. In the late evening Merry and Pippin observe more Huorns pouring south to reinforce those who are already pursuing the armies of Saruman.
King Théoden and the Eorlingas break camp at dawn and ride for a second day toward the Fords of Isen, accompanied by Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. In the morning-light Legolas discerns, far to their north, the distant shadow of the Huorn-wood which is attacking Isengard. At sunset they meet a refugee from yesterday's Second Battle of the Fords of Isen, who reports Erkenbrand's defeat; at this news Gandalf sends the King and his companions flying south to the Hornburg before it is besieged, while the wizard himself sets out across the fields.
Gandalf searches the Westfold south of the Fords. He determines that Saruman has defeated and scattered the western éored with a force of roughly ten thousand orcs, and that his forces are now all moving south toward the Hornburg. Gandalf organizes several responses by directing the fugitives he encounters: those who still have hope of reaching the Hornburg he sends there to buttress its defense; some others under Elfhelm he sends east towards Edoras, to protect it from any plundering party Saruman may have spared from his main force; and the majority, including a force under Grimbold of Westfold, he sends southwest to join Erkenbrand, who survived the disaster of the Fords. In the early night Gandalf interrupts this work to visit Isengard itself, where he negotiates with Treebeard who deploys a force of Huorns against the Orc-army.
Frodo and Sam trudge wearily after their guide, Gollum, through the blasted waste lying north of the gates of Mordor, in growing fear, and with the weight of the Ring dragging ever heavier upon Frodo.
Hours before dawn, the Ents complete the dams they have been building, and send the Isen pouring into the Ring of Isengard to drown its pits and fires. Merry and Pippin watch the flood from atop the walls, and sleep there while the waters recede.
By dawn the forces of King Théoden have fought and died through many grueling hours to defend Helm's Deep from the army of Orcs that Saruman has deployed against them. Despite their valor, despite the leadership of Aragorn, and, yes, despite even the forty-one Orcs killed by Legolas and the forty-two by Gimli, all but the last defenses have been lost. The Dike fell very quickly; the Deeping Wall repelled an initial assault with ladders, but then was breached with explosives; and after standing for several hours against repeated explosions, the outer wall of the Hornburg is breached just before dawn, leaving the inner citadel as the last defense. Éomer, Gimli, and many other defenders who are not able to reach the Hornburg retreat to caves further up the Deep.
The battle dismays King Théoden. Had he lead his éored into action on the fields, his men could have enjoyed the strength and mobility of their horses, instead of fighting dismounted as common foot soldiers; and the King's own horsemanship would have allowed him a role in the contest. After the Deeping Wall is breached, the King resolves to make the horses of his guard ready for a final charge out of the citadel should the wall of the Hornburg also succumb. Aragorn agrees to join him.
And so the foremost Orc-companies, who at the moment of dawn stand atop the causeway peering through the dust and rubble that a moment before had been the gates of the Hornburg, see not a citadel closed and barred and awaiting their assault, but hear the bright Horn of Helm ringing from the tower as through open doors the King himself leads the charge against them. Fighting from horseback, the King and his guard not only clear the causeway but drive as far as the Dike, where they see that a forest of trees — the force of Huorn that Gandalf requested from Treebeard last night — now stands across the mouth of the Deep behind the Orc-army, where before swept only the grasses of the Westfold. With their horns blowing in echo to the Horn of Helm, Erkenbrand and a thousand foot soldiers follow Gandalf over the western ridge of the Coomb and attack the flank of the enemy. And, summoned by further blasts upon the Horn of Helm, the defenders in the citadel and in the caves pour forth to join in the assult. Assaulted from two sides, and particularly terrified at the charge of the Wizard, most of the Orcs attempt a retreat through the forest of Huorn; none emerge from the wood's far side.
After resting through the day, the King and his guard ride with Gandalf for Isengard, accompanied by Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Four hours after sunset, they reach the Fords of Isen. It was there, nine days ago, that Théoden's son fell in the First Battle of the Fords of Isen, and there Erkenbrand was defeated in the Second Battle the day before yesterday. They find the Isen no longer flowing, its riverbed bare and silent. They find a burial mound already built, under which the Riders fallen in the battle lie safe from scavengers — another labor to which Gandalf assigned some men during his rides last night.
They continue riding, and by midnight are five leagues past the Fords. There they stop to rest for the remainder of the night.
By dawn and the end of their weary nighttime march, Gollum has lead Frodo and Sam to the reeking desolation lying north of Mordor. They sleep through the day in an oily pit. In the afternoon, Sam awakes and overhears Gollum debating about whether to seize the Ring — and hears, but does not understand, Gollum's decision to lure the Hobbits into the lair of Shelob. Frodo wakes, refreshed, from a pleasant but forgotten dream, and the three set out again at dusk. Late in the evening, another Ringwraith passes overhead on his winged steed.
By dawn, the Ents dismantle the last of the dams with which they had diverted the Isen yesterday to flood Isengard. As the waters subside, Merry and Pippin descend from the walls and have breakfast. Wormtongue arrives on horseback, and Treebeard — faithful to the instructions of Gandalf — forces the traitor into the tower of Orthanc.
The hours before dawn are less restful for those camped beside the Isen with King Théoden. The few who sleep are startled awake when a rustling darkness moves toward them from the south and surrounds the camp. The Huorn, the herds of wild trees, are passing back north toward Fangorn Forest after avenging themselves upon the Orcs yesterday at Helm's Deep. Closer to dawn, water suddenly returns to the dry riverbed of the Isen.
King Théoden and the others ride at daybreak, reaching Isengard just after noon. They find Merry and Pippin waiting at the gate, whom Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli have not seen since the two Hobbits were captured ten days ago. While Gandalf and the King go to speak with Treebeard, the Hobbits provide their companions with food, pipeweed, and an account of how they survived both their capture and the seige of Isengard.
In the afternoon, Gandalf leads them to the foot of Orthanc to speak with Saruman. The cunning wizard fails to bring either King Théoden or Gandalf under the control of his voice. When he refuses to repent or leave Orthanc, Gandalf reveals that, upon his return from death four weeks ago, he became Gandalf the White — leaving Saruman without his own color, without a place among the order of Wizards. Gandalf breaks Saruman's staff and dismisses him.
The party then rides back south and camps at Dol Baran, where Pippin looks in the palantír which Wormtongue hurled at them from the tower as they finished speaking with Saruman. Realizing that Saruman has been using the palantír to inform Sauron of the events of the western war, Gandalf orders King Théoden to ride immediately south, while the wizard himself rides for Minas Tirith with Pippin.
By dawn, Gollum has finally lead Frodo and Sam within sight of the entrance to Mordor itself, the dreadful Gates of Morannon. Only now does Frodo announce openly to Gollum that he plans simply to march toward the gate and attempt entrance. When Gollum pleads that Frodo should instead let Gollum lead them to a secret entrance, where capture would be less likely, Frodo accepts the offer. At dusk they set out westward along the road to Ithilien, with the red eye of the Towers of the Teeth twinkling in the distance behind them.
The sun is rising upon the golden eaves of Meduseld as Shadowfax brings Gandalf and Pippin to Edoras, only a few hours after setting out from Dol Baran, north of the Fords of Isen. Pippin and Shadowfax rest while Gandalf persuades the captains of Rohan to hasten their muster. After a winged Nazgûl passes low over the hall, the wizard makes a further amendment to their plans, counseling that Rohan should gather secretly at Dunharrow instead of openly here at Edoras. He and Pippin set off upon Shadowfax in the evening, racing toward Minas Tirith before it falls under siege.
Back north of the Fords, Aragorn, Théoden, and their companions abandon the camp at Dol Baran before dawn. After crossing the Fords of Isen, they are overtaken by thirty Dúnedain, who have ridden from the North in the belief that their captain Aragorn has summoned them. He confesses that he has not, but guesses that Galadriel sent a message after discerning in his mind an unspoken need for his kinsmen. With the company of Dúnedain ride the two sons of Elrond, who wish to employ their own swords in the defense of the West, and Aragorn's own horse, Roheryn.
When they reach the Hornberg, Aragorn does not rest with the others, but closets himself alone with the Palantír of Orthanc. He reveals himself and his ancient sword Andúril as a challenge to Sauron, then wrests control of the the stone from his Enemy, claiming it for himself as a prerogative of the ancient Kings. With the palantír he sees a fleet from Umbar approaching southern Gondor, where thousands of men remain to meet the invasion who would otherwise have joined the defense of Minas Tirith.
After noon, Théoden sets off with his bodyguard and Merry to travel well-concealed mountain paths toward Dunharrow. But Aragorn, having finally resolved to take the Paths of the Dead, and desperate for speed lest he arrive too late to defend southern Gondor, sets out at twilight directly across the plain. With Aragorn ride the Dúnedain, Legolas and Gimli, and the two Sons of Elrond.
By morning Gollum has lead Frodo and Sam out of sight of the gates of Mordor and along the south road towards Ithilien. They rest in deep heather during the day, glad to be among growing plants again. At night they set out south along the road.
After riding through the night, Gandalf and Pippin spend most of the day resting under cover, having completed one-third of their journey from Edoras to Minas Tirith. They set off again upon Shadowfax in the evening, leaving the setting sun behind them as they speed eastward.
Théoden rides the mountain-roads toward Dunharrow for a second day, having set out from the Hornburg yesterday at noon.
The ride of Aragorn and his companions across the plains brings them to Edoras in the afternoon, and Dunharrow at twilight; there they eat and rest before taking the Paths of the Dead tomorrow.
By dawn, Gollum has lead Sam and Frodo into the rich woodland of Ithilien. Sam stews a breakfast of rabbits. The smoke attracts Rangers of Gondor patrolling the area, who detain the Hobbits while they execute an ambush against forces from Harad that are marching along the road to Mordor. Sam gets his only glimpse of an Oliphant during the successful engagement. Afterwards, the Hobbits are interrogated at length by Faramir, the leader of the Rangers. They convince him that, while they did march south with his brother Boromir, they are not responsible for — and, in fact, had not even learned of — his death.
At sunset, the Rangers return to their secret refuge behind the waterfall of Henneth Annûn. There Frodo and Sam enjoy hearty dinner and wine for the first time since leaving Lórien almost three weeks ago. In private conversation afterwards, the Hobbits inadvertently reveal that Frodo bears the Ruling Ring and intends to destroy it. In response, Faramir promises as much aid to their quest as he can give.
Messengers reach Minas Tirith from Lebannin, reporting that a large fleet of corsairs from Umbar are approaching the mouths of Anduin from the south. The men of Lebinnin and Belfalas will have to reserve much strength of arms to meet this invasion, leaving Minas Tirith with far less strength than she expected. The Steward Denethor orders the beacons along the White Mountains lighted.
At dawn Gandalf and Pippin rest from their overnight ride upon Shadowfax, the second of the three nights of riding that the wizards hopes will bring them to Minas Tirith before war overwhelms its approaches. After resting through the day they set off upon this last stage, and as darkness gathers they see the ancient war-beacons upon the White Mountains come alight — the Steward Denethor summoning Rohan to his aid according to the ancient covenant.
For a third day Théoden rides secretly through the Mountains, leading his forces from their victory at Helm's Deep. By evening they are only one day away from their mountain stronghold of Dunharrow.
Aragorn leaves Dunharrow in the morning and, against the earnest wish of Éowyn, walks the Paths of the Dead. With him walk Dúnedain, the Sons of Elrond, and Legolas, each leading their horse; and finally Gimli aghast with with terror. They emerge from the dark Paths onto the southern slopes of the White Mountains about two hours before dark, and after hard riding reach the Stone of Erech at midnight where Aragorn calls the ghosts of the Oathbreakers to his allegiance.
Faramir wakes Frodo in the early hours and they catch Gollum fishing in the pool below Henneth Annûn, who grudges this treatment despite the fact that Frodo has saved his life. They depart from the hidden retreat in the morning and begin marching southward through the woods; by dark they are seven leagues to the south. Frodo and Sam camp but Gollum disappears.
Having long prepared to invade Gondor, and spurred by the sight of Aragorn in the palantír of Orthanc three days ago, the Lord of the Rings ignites Orodruin. From Minas Tirith they see the smoke and ash that billows from its cone as a darkness standing up above Mordor, stained red from underneath by Orodruin's fire. At sunset, the wind begins carrying the darkness westward from Mordor, and by the middle of the night, Ithilien lies wholly under shadow.
It has taken only three nights for Shadowfax to carry Gandalf and Pippin nearly to Minas Tirith. Before dawn they pass within the Rammas Echor, the walls which Gondor has built as a defense around the fields of the Pelennor, and with the rising of the sun they come at last to Minas Tirith. The Steward of Gondor, Denethor, questions Pippin sharply about the death of his son Boromir, suspicious that a Hobbit should survive when a strong warrior was killed. The young Hobbit in repsonse credits Boromir with saving his life, and in return offers fealty to the Steward. In the afternoon, three thousand reinforcements from southern Gondor enter the city — far fewer than the defenders had hoped.
Théoden comes to Dunharrow in the evening and finds most of his army already gathered, thanks to Gandalf's unauthorized instructions given at Edoras three days ago. From Éowyn he learns that Aragorn has travelled the Paths of the Dead. Late in the evening a messenger of Gondor arrives with the Red Arrow, summoning Rohan to the aid of his realm, and is dismayed when Théoden cannot promise that his Riders will reach Minas Tirith at the earliest in one week. Merry, as royal esquire, rests in a small tent beside that of Théoden.
At dawn, Aragorn and his companions set out from the Hill of Erech with the ghost-army of the Oathbreakers. The ghosts try to sweep past Aragorn, but he commands them instead to follow. By dusk they cross the river Ciril and reach the town of Calembel, whose people flee before them. The sun, setting behind them, stands beneath racks of dark smoke that are passing overhead.
Gollum rejoins Frodo and Sam as they wake beneath the trees of Ithilien, and they continue marching south beneath the tense airs above them. They reach the ravine in which the Morgulduin flows from the Mountains of Shadow toward the Anduin to the west; beside it runs the road from Minas Morgul to the ruins of Osgiliath. They remain on the north side of the valley and, urged on by Gollum, hike on after nightfall, then take a few hours of rest in the branches of a tree.
Faramir leaves the secret refuge at Henneth Annûn and reaches Cair Andros. As darkness covers Ithilien, he sends his forces south to Osgiliath, while with three men he himself rides for Minas Tirith.
The Dawnless Day. The east wind has continued overnight. By morning, all of eastern Gondor lies under the ceiling of dark cloud — presumably composed of smoke and volcanic ash — which stretches westward from Mordor. In Minas Tirith, only a dim grey light indicates that it is daytime.
Gandalf rouses Pippin in the dark morning and the two go to Denethor, who has ordered Pippin arrayed as a Guard of the Tower and employs him as an esquire. The wizard attends the Steward's councils through the morning, then leaves the city upon Shadowfax to gather news in the dark outside. He returns in the evening, and drives off five Nazgûl that harry Faramir and his men as they retreat from Osgiliath toward the city.
The ghostly Oathbreakers march through a second swift day alongside Aragorn and his companions. By evening they have passed the river Ringló and entered Lebennin, largest of the lands of southern Gondor.
The dawn brings only dim light to Dunharrow that, like Minas Tirith, now lies beneath the shadows of Sauron. Théoden decides, under the cover of this darkness, to abandon secrecy and race across the plains to Minas Tirith, bringing only supply enough to feed them until their arrival. By noon he and his army has reached Edoras. There, Théoden intends to leave Meriadoc behind; but Éowyn, who has accompanied the riders in disguise under the name Dernhelm, takes him on her horse. The army continues east and camps at the junction of the Snowbourn and Entwash.
Gollum wakes just after midnight and leads Sam and Frodo, who have not slept, eastward beside the Morgulduin. When they again rest, beneath brambles, Gollum disappears. Before dawn, the eastern sky glows red above the Mountains of Ash, as Orodruin begins to billow forth black vapor; the darkness upon the land is thick when Gollum returns in the afternoon and they again march — south to the great crossroads where the sun, falling beneath the rack of vapor, gives them a last sunset.
The east road brings them in sight of the white bridge before the fortress of Minas Morgul, but Gollum leads them off the highway to the left and up the path leading to Cirith Ungol. There, above the valley, they watch the Witch-king lead out the armies that will soon besiege Minas Tirith. For a moment the Witch-king seems to dimly perceive the Ring, but his sense is frustrated when Frodo grasps instead the phial of Galadriel.
An army recently issued from the Black Gate reaches Cair Andros and begins to cross into Anórien.
Gondor lies in darkness for a second day beneath the black clouds flowing west from Mordor.
Denethor calls his council early in the day, then sends Faramir to command the defense of the fords at Osgiliath. At night the news reaches Minas Tirith that the Witch-king himself is leading an army through Ithilien toward Osgiliath, and that Haradrim marching from the south have joined him.
King Théoden and his army rides east toward Minas Tirith through a second day. Though they encounter fugitives who report that Orcs have invaded the Wold, to their north, they ignore the threat and continue riding straight for Minas Tirith. By evening the king has reached the eastern borders of Rohan, where he and his army camp overnight.
Aragorn leads the ghost-army of Oathbreakers across western Lebennin to Linhir, the great fords across the river Gilrain. There they come upon men of southern Gondor already fighting the invaders who sailed from Umbar; but both friend and foe flee from the dreadful approach of the dead. The only man brave enough to meet them is the Lord of Lamedon, whom Aragorn orders to assemble his forces and follow.
They halt briefly, and Aragorn determines that Minas Tirith is in increasing danger — probably by using again the palantír of Orthanc that he carries. He presses his company to ride through the night; fear of the dead drives the allies of Mordor before them.
Frodo and Sam spend hours clambering after Gollum up the stony stairs leading to Cirith Ungol, a pass between the peaks of the mountains ringing Mordor. The darkness prevents them from easily determining daytime and nighttime; they know only periods of great exertion followed by rest or brief sleep.
Farther up the Anduin from Gondor, forces from Dol Guldur cross the river and assault Lórien.
Gondor endures a third day of darkness as the sky remains overcast by the dense fumes pouring from Orodruin and blowing west from Mordor.
The Morgul-army under the command of the Witch-king assaults Osgiliath, forcing the garrison under Faramir to abandon the ruins and retreat to the Rammas. Gandalf rides from the city to their aid. The army that attacked Cair Andros yesterday succeeds today in taking the island, whose garrison retreats toward Minas Tirith.
The Riders of Rohan, hastening toward Minas Tirith, now pass out of their own land and into Gondor. In the evening they make camp under the peaks of Min-Rimmon, whose war-beacon was lighted to summon them only four nights ago.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli sweep across the plains of southern Gondor, leading the armies of the dead against the allies of Mordor that have landed and attacked the coast. Little combat occurs, as fear of the dead itself sweeps the enemy along before them; their opponents seek the safety of the ships in which they had just lately landed.
Frodo and Sam sleep before Shelob's lair while Gollum prostrates himself within and promises to deliver the two Hobbits as victims. Upon returning and seeing them peacefully asleep, he actually hesitates for a moment, but his resolve to betray them returns when his only welcome is sharp rebuke from Samwise. He leads them into Shelob's lair and she attacks them. Though Sam drives off both Gollum and the great spider, Frodo is left paralyzed by her venom.
The orc-host which passed into the Wold two days ago, crossing the Anduin in order to ravage Rohan while its king and army are away in Gondor, is destroyed in an unforeseen assault by the Ents and their herds from Fangorn.
The darkness of Sauron lies heavy in the upper airs; four days have now passed since daylight last fell upon Gondor.
Through the night the army under the chief Nazgûl continues to pour across the Anduin, and its van reaches the Rammas and breaches it with blasting fire. In the morning Gandalf returns to Minas Tirith with the wounded from the garrison that with Faramir is slowly retreating toward the city. They are overtaken before reaching the gates, but Denethor sents a mounted sortie to their aid with Gandalf at their head. Faramir, struck by a Southron arrow and overcome by the Black Breath, is carried off the field unconscious. This drives Denethor to again consult his palantír, with which Sauron shows him the might of Mordor and drives his mind into black despair.
Part of the army from the Black Gate that yesterday took Cair Andros sets out westward into Anórien to meet the Riders of Rohan and prevent their ever reaching Minas Tirith.
King Théoden and his host penetrate another day's ride into Gondor and come beneath the peaks of Eilenach; five nights have now passed since it and the other beacons were alight. The Riders make camp in the Drúadan Forest that lies about Eilenach.
The army of Oathbreakers, lead by Aragorn, reach finally the port of Pelargir upon the Anduin, where they find the great ships of the invasion from Umbar. To the final terror of their enemies, the ghosts reach even those ships already fleeing by running and riding across the water itself to overwhelm their enemies. The Dúnedain under Aragorn take command of the principal ships and spend the night bringing aboard thousands of warriors of southern Gondor who, with their homes now safe, prepare to sail north to the rescue of Minas Tirith.
Sam, believing that Frodo is dead, takes the burden of the Ring upon himself. He then puts it on to avoid being captured by the Orcs that arrive and capture Frodo. As he follows them beneath their fortress he learns that Frodo is not dead, but is unable to enter after them once they have barred their lower gates.
Gondor and its lands lie under darkness for a fifth and final day.
Through the dark day beyond the walls of Minas Tirith, the armies of Mordor continue to pour across the Anduin through Osgiliath. They establish their siege and begin bombarding the city, kindling fire within its first and lowest circle. Denethor sees the might of Mordor in his palantír and, despairing of victory, sits heedless by the wounded Faramir. Command of the city falls to Gandalf, who walks about with the Prince of Dol Amroth, rallying men against the despair cast by the lurking Nazgûl.
In the dark morning Aragorn sets forth with his fleet from Pelargir, bringing thousands of men from southern Gondor to challenge the seige of Minas Tirith. They row through the day and into the night, and see the reek above stained red by the burning city.
Around mid-day Samwise recovers, awakening upon the threshold of the under-doors of Cirith Ungol. He enters the fortress through the gates only to find dead Orcs, who have been fighting over Frodo's precious mithril-coat; and one indeed escapes with this and his master's other treasures. By night Sam finds Frodo in the tower's top chamber, returns the Ring to him, and begins searching for clothing in which they can conceal themselves.
Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Denethor in madness takes his unconscious son Faramir to Rath Dínen, intending to burn together upon a pyre there in the tombs; Pippin flees to seek Gandalf. The lowest circle of Minas Tirith is aflame when, at dawn, the great ram Grond shatters the gates and the Nazgûl Lord passes within. There he is challenged by Gandalf upon Shadowfax, but they are interrupted by the horn-calls of the Rohirrim who, after riding overnight and fighting their way within the Rammas, charge the fields of Pelennor to the aid of their allies.
The Nazgûl Lord withdraws. Gandalf follows Pippin to the tombs and rescues Faramir from the flames which consume Denethor. But the wizard had hoped in the battle to balance the power of the Nazgûl Lord, whom prophesies say will not fall at the hands of man.
Yet when the Nazgûl Lord assaults the van of Rohan and kills King Théoden, he is himself killed by the blades of Meriadoc and the Lady Éowyn. Prince Imrahil leads out the men of the city in support of the Rohirrim, but their enemies are reinforced from Osgiliath. Three hours past dawn — the first sunrise since the darkness began five days ago — Aragorn decides the battle by bringing the armies of Lebennin to the field in the corsairs he captured two days ago. By nightfall Gondor controls the entire area within the Rammas.
In the evening Aragorn enters the city secretly to tend the gravely wounded; but the people remember healing as an ancient manifestation of royalty, and his work fills the city with rumor. He wakes Faramir, Éowyn, and Meriadoc from their darkness, then spends the night tending others wounded alongside the sons of Elrond.
After clothing themselves in Orc-gear, Frodo and Sam escape the tower fortress of Cirith Ungol. They soon abandon the road to avoid Orcs, and instead travel north through the ravine between the towering Ephel Dúath and the sharp inner ridge of the Morgai. Frodo casts away his orc-mail as too great a burden. They see the darkness in tatters above the mountain peaks to the west, and are heartened both by glimpses of sky and stars and by finding water and relieving their thirst.
After failing four days ago, the forces of Dol Guldur again strike against Lórien while simultaneously assaulting the kingdom of Thranduil in northern Mirkwood. Both elven-realms withstand the attacks.
Before dawn Nazgûl pass over Minas Tirith. In the morning Aragorn holds council with Gandalf, King Éomer, and Prince Imrahil; they decide to march against Mordor to hold the attention of the Eye while the Ring-bearer, whom they hope is still free, seeks the destruction of the ring. They begin mustering an army of seven thousand, while three thousand Riders set out north-westward against the army that entered Anórien to waylay their ride to Minas Tirith.
Frodo and Sam continue north through the ravine between the Ephel Dúath and the sharp Morgai, whose precipice they visit. They see Mount Doom still more than a dozen leagues distant, and the camps of soldiers southward along the mountain-feet where Sauron has gathered them to meet the Lords of the West whom he expects will assail Mordor through the Morgul Vale. After moving on again the hobbits pass an orc outpost, and overhear that Gollum still lives and is sought by the Dark Tower — from whom the Enemy would learn of their Quest if he were captured.
Final preparations are made for six thousand foot and a thousand mounted soldiers to march tomorrow toward Mordor from Minas Tirith. The three thousand riders that set out yesterday under Elfhelm assault and drive across Cair Andros the orc-army that four days ago entered Anórien to check the ride of the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith.
After marching through the night and into morning, Frodo and Sam rest, then set out again in the evening, moving northward through the valley between the Ephel Dúath and the Morgai. This increases their distance from Mount Doom, but they must come to the Isenmouthe before they can descend on to the plain.
The orc-chieftain Shagrat, having fled from his command of Cirith Ungol, arrives at Barad-dûr bearing the items recovered from Frodo — his elven-cloak, marvelous mail-shirt, and Sam's sword.
The Battle of Dale. The Easterlings who several days ago crossed the river Carnen drive the forces of King Brand back to Dale, where they are forced to abandon the defense of their town and retreat into the dwarven-halls beneath Erebor. Both King Brand and King Dáin Ironfoot fall defending the gates.
The lords of the West march from Minas Tirith eastward towards Mordor to assault the Dark Lord and keep his attention from the Ring-bearer. They pass through Osgiliath and camp on the highway leading to Minas Morgul. Aragorn reaches the crossroads and claims possession of Ithilien; the statue there of the king is repaired.
Merry watches Aragorn and the armies depart from Minas Tirith, then must return to the Houses of Healing to recuperate from his wounds — received when he stabbed the Lord of Morgul in the great battle upon the Pelennor three days ago.
Frodo and Sam rest within sight of the fortress of Durthang, where the road finally emerges from behind the Morgai and descends to the plains below. Sam finds water but glimpses Gollum near his master as he returns. After eating, drinking, and again filling their water-bottle, they set out down the road, only to be overtaken by Orcs who mistake them for small goblins and force them to run with them down the long road.
While the hosts of the West arrayed at the crossroads, their vanguard with Aragorn comes within sight of Minas Morgul and casts down the bridge.
Before dawn the orc-company in which Frodo and Sam have been forced to run reaches the road-meeting at the Isenmouthe and Sam in the confusion leads his exhausted master off the road. After sleeping they move east across the broken plain then take the high road which they leave only to rest. They are wary but meet no traffic, for Sauron has completed the movement of his forces to meet any attempt at invasion through the Morannon.
Leaving great force of archers to guard the crossroads, Aragorn leads his hosts and princes northward through Ithilien. Imrahil insists that he be heralded as `the King Elessar.'
During the day Frodo and Sam struggle eastward along the road towards Barad-dûr, now several leagues from the Isenmouthe which they left yesterday. They spend the night in hiding off of the road.
The army lead by Aragorn passes northward through Ithilien, where in the afternoon Orcs and Easterlings attempt to waylay them; but the ambush is detected and destroyed. In the evening Nazgûl observe their forces from above.
For another day Frodo bears the ring eastward along the road from the Isenmouthe toward Barad-dûr, which draws them also nearer the fire-mountain Orodruin. Sam finds some muddy water in one of the cisterns along the road which they drink and fill their water bottle. At night they creep off the road to sleep.
The armies of the West remain on the march today — their fifth since setting forth from Minas Tirith — hoping to challenge the might of Mordor before its very gates, and thus draw the Eye of the enemy from the Ring and its bearer. Having defeated a small ambush yesterday, they meet no further opposition today as their march carries them nearly to the borders of northern Ithilien; this is the last evening they will camp among thickets and trees before passing into the wastes that extend around the Black Gate. The heralds continue to proclaim Aragorn openly as the King Elessar, and the Nazgûl now shadow the march of the army, their oppressive presence faintly palpable despite their great altitude.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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