A Tale of the Fourth Age - Chapter Five
"Look! The Dagorlad!"
Morgiel and Legolas had at last reached the end of the Brown Lands and were approaching the renowned Battle Plain. It was still a long way to Mordor, but Morgiel was in high spirits, for she knew that they were almost finished with their journey. They still had not encountered anybody in the 120 leagues or so they had travelled from Rivendell, but as always they were on guard for danger.
As they came out of the Brown Lands, Legolas pointed to the remaining plains they would cross to reach Mordor.
"It is now almost a straight course south from where we stand," he said. They continued to walk and Morgiel looked around her. The vast Battle Plain was sad and desolate. She could not think of a more dismal place, and she suddenly felt a cloud come over her heart.
"Why is it such a wasteland, Legolas?" she asked. "I know it is called the Battle Plain, but I did not have time to learn why it is called so."
Legolas stopped and spread his arms out. "This is where the Battle of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves was fought against Sauron at the end of the Second Age. It is a hallowed place now, but nothing grows here for the ruin that was caused in battle." He pointed south-west of where they stood. "Over in that direction are the Dead Marshes. It is also part of where the battle was fought. Frodo and Sam were led through those marshes by the creature Gollum in order to reach Mordor. I am glad we did not have to travel through such a place."
They resumed walking, again with little or no conversation. Morgiel felt as if an ominous spirit hung over the Plain, and she did not want to disturb it. A chill went through her and she shivered. She pulled her cloak close around her and felt her sword to make sure it was ready for sudden use. She looked over at Legolas and knew that he felt the same as she, for he too had his bow ready as before, and he frequently scanned the Plain.
Now as they headed further across Dagorlad the sun began to set, and they were soon covered by the darkness of night. The moon had begun to wan, but it still shone enough light for them to see by. They continued walking close together, and Morgiel felt tense with anticipation of what she did not know. She felt that the sameness of their journey would stifle her spirit, and she suddenly wanted to scream. Instead, she clenched her fists and walked faster. Soon she was ahead of Legolas, who sped up to catch her.
"Is something wrong, Morgiel?" Legolas asked. "What is your need to pass me?"
Morgiel sighed loudly and turned to face him. "I feel that if I did not change my pace I would scream. Nothing has happened, Legolas. I would gladly welcome anything if it would end this monotony--"
"Thwip!" The sound and feeling of an arrow flew past Morgiel's ear. She whipped out an arrow and fitted it into her bow in almost less than a second. Legolas did the same and soon they were shooting arrow after arrow at an unseen enemy that kept sending thick, black arrows their way. They continued to shoot and ran forward until Morgiel spotted a small, dark group of something she had never seen.
"What are they, Legolas?"
"Yrch!" he said, slipping into Elvish. "They must have been sent out from Mordor; but who bred them I do not know."
Morgiel tried to count how many orcs there were, but it was too dark to tell. She fitted another arrow into her bow and let it go just in time, for a tall, swarthy orc suddenly rushed at her with a yell. The golden-shafted arrow pierced his heart and he fell with a cry soon cut short.
Now the orcs began to close in around Morgiel and Legolas. As far as Morgiel could tell, there were already about twenty orcs that had fallen, but still more came. She slung her bow onto her shoulder and pulled out her sword. Legolas whipped out his long, twin daggers and they began to fight. Morgiel wove in and out of the battle, dealing blows left and right with whatever crossed her path. She felt a little scared, for this was the first actual test of her strength, but as she fought on her fear faded and she was secretly enjoying herself. She was thinking about this when a broad, mean-looking orc stepped in front of her. She did not even have time to think, for the orc charged her. She swung her sword around and lopped off the orc's head where he stood. She did not look back, and as she turned to check on Legolas, who was fighting splendidly, she almost ran into another massively built orc. She stepped back to gain her balance and with the same motion she drove her sword almost to the hilt into the orc's stomach. She pulled her sword out to deal the final blow, and the orc swept his sword around to meet Morgiel's neck. She took a step forward and ducked, but as she did the hilt of the orc's sword smashed into her forehead and searing pain shot through her head. Everything began to swim around her, and she staggered back a couple of steps. The huge orc leered over her, enjoying what he thought was victory. Suddenly Morgiel felt a fire leap up inside her and her head cleared. She rose up with a shout of "Elbereth!", and plunged her sword through the orc's heart. He started forward, and as the black blood gushed from his mouth he fell with a heavy thud.
Morgiel dizzily surveyed the scene around her. All the orcs were dead and lying around her and Legolas. He was standing a few feet from her, cleaning his daggers. Morgiel now felt the pain and blood streaming from her wound, and everything began to go grey. As she reeled forward the last thing she saw was Legolas running to catch her before she fell.
Everything was fallen into silence and darkness.
* * * * *
Morgiel faintly heard the sound of singing. She opened her eyes to find out where the voice was coming from, and was met with a bright light. She quickly closed them again, for a sharp pain shot through her head. Again she opened her eyes, but slowly so as not to receive more pain. This time the light was not so bright, and she now saw Legolas sitting over her, applying something cool to her forehead. She tried to sit up, but found that she could not without becoming faint. Legolas continued to doctor her wound, and greeted her when he saw that she was awake.
"Good morning, Morgiel. I am glad to see that you have finally come to. I was not sure when you would regain consciousness, for you have received a terrible blow to your head."
Morgiel slowly recalled everything that had happened. The last thing she remembered was killing the huge orc, and nothing else. She looked at Legolas, who had a concerned face.
"What do you mean?" she said. She looked around her. They were still on the Dagorlad, but there was no sign of the battle they had fought. She questioned Legolas again. "Where are the orcs from last night? Did any more come? Are you all right?"
Legolas gently helped her to sit up. "The battle was three nights ago, Morgiel. You have been unconscious since then, and I have carried you while I travelled, for I did not want to stay where the battle had been. You were fortunate to have moved so quickly, for if the orc had hit you an inch lower on your head it would have killed you instantly," he paused and looked into her eyes. "I was very worried; I was afraid you would not pull through."
Morgiel smiled faintly and reached her hand up to Legolas. "Will you help me to stand, Legolas? I am feeling better every minute, and I do not want to waste much time in travelling."
Legolas took her hand and helped her to her feet. She stood there for a moment, for she was rather unsteady. When she gained her ground she picked up her sack and slung it over her shoulder. She put her sword around her waist and strapped her quiver to her back along with her bow. She turned to Legolas and smiled defiantly. "Shall we start?"
He stepped in stride next to her and they continued to head towards Mordor. Legolas kept near Morgiel, for she was still a little unsteady on her feet, but she slowly became sure of herself. She could see the outline of the Ered Lithui in the distance, so she knew that their goal was not too far ahead.
As they travelled, Morgiel contemplated where the orcs could have come from. She remembered Elrond telling her that at the end of the War of the Ring and the following months the King in Gondor and his fellow Rangers in the South extinguished all the organised groups of orcs and the rest of the stragglers as well. She knew that the orcs they fought were from Mordor, for they came from that direction, but she did not know whether they ambushed her and Legolas or whether they were just out on a lengthy patrol. She and Legolas took turns comparing thoughts and ideas.
"I think perhaps they stumbled upon us by accident," said Morgiel. "They were not a very large group; I think I counted about twenty or thirty altogether. But what I want to know is why they were so far from Mordor, for we are still about twenty leagues or so from the Morannon."
Legolas shook his head. "That is exactly why I feel we were ambushed, for why else would they patrol this far from Mordor? I believe now we must be more careful than ever, Morgiel, for I sense that Túrthalion is now aware of our presence. His power may be fading, but he has still had the strength to breed and send these orcs after us. Be on your guard, my lady, for you will be the center of his attentions and hate."
Morgiel took in all that Legolas said, and she continued to ponder it as they walked. They hurried now, for they did not know what would lie ahead. Morgiel felt better, but she also felt a sense of clarity and perception of her mind more than she had ever before. She focused all her thoughts on what lay before them, and the Ered Lithui continued to loom greater before them as they travelled. As they travelled Morgiel remembered that they had not truly stopped to rest for a long time. She was amazed at the fact that she did not need to take sustenance often, as she did in the Chetwood. The waybread of the elves and a little water now and then was all she needed.
Suddenly Morgiel felt something she had never felt before. She could sense Túrthalion's presence and his thoughts. She now knew without a shadow of a doubt that he knew they were coming, and he was waiting for them. She felt him summoning the power and strength to defeat her, but she was not daunted. She strove to keep her mind clear and protected from the weight and stress of her task. She looked over at Legolas, and he appeared to be carefree in his manner. She knew that his mind was not on that plain, but perhaps somewhere in the forests of his people in another age. What she did not know was that he was keeping his mind guarded as much as she; and he was thinking of her all the while.
As they walked the sun climbed high into the sky. They did not stop to eat or rest, for they were too intent on their journey. They were so focused that they did not notice a mist that closed in around them in the late afternoon. Morgiel was the first to react when she suddenly could not see twenty feet in front of her.
"Legolas, what is this? Has he resorted to such measures as attempting to lose us in a fog?"
Legolas came close to Morgiel. He stood still and looked out into the haze. He was silent for a few minutes, then he turned to Morgiel. "His tricks will not work this time. I know that the Ered Lithui are directly south of us, so we will continue to head in a fairly straight course. The Morannon will not be hard to find once we reach the eaves of the mountains," he paused; the mist was thicker now. He grabbed Morgiel's hand. "We cannot not risk becoming lost, Morgiel. I know that your perception and sight is getting better as the spell fades, but there is still a chance one of us might lose the other, and I could not live with that."
Morgiel nodded, and they started again slowly. The fog swirled around them as they passed through it, but it did not let up. Every so often Morgiel thought she heard something or someone move close to them, but she could not see anything. The little light from the sun that came through was now leaving, for above the cloud She was setting. It was now dark and foggy, which slowed the two travellers even more. Soon they had to stop, for although they knew they were headed in the right direction, it was too dangerously uncertain to continue in the dark. Morgiel and Legolas decided to wait until the sun rose the next morning to start up again. They sat down on the plain, which was wet now from the fog, and waited. Neither slept, for they were tense with anticipation. Morgiel tried resting her mind in a dream of Rivendell, but she found she could not. She felt the weight of Túrthalion's thoughts bent solely on her, and she felt he was trying to unnerve her completely. She clenched her fists and tried to shut him out of her mind. She spent the whole night wrestling with his mind, and in the still-dark places of the morning she won. The fog suddenly lifted and the sunlight poured over the distant horizon. Legolas stood up and stretched his hands to the sky. He turned to Morgiel, who was still sitting on the ground.
"It appears that Túrthalion has given up for now, Morgiel. Come, let us go." He turned to face their destination, but halted when he noticed that Morgiel was slow in coming. He turned back toward her. She was standing, but Legolas noticed that she was suddenly very pale. He reached for her hand and took it into his own. He looked into her eyes and saw exhaustion.
"Morgiel, was is wrong? What has caused this weariness I see in you?"
Morgiel looked up at him. "He tried to attack my mind," she whispered. "It was all I could do to keep him out. This is going to be much harder, I fear. But that time is not come yet, for I have staved off his attacks for at least the remainder of this part of our journey. But now we must make haste, for I fear there is little time left."
The two travellers now sped across the plain. They travelled all day, and reached the eaves of the Ered Lithui by dusk. The plains near the mountain range were black and barren. The dust rose around Morgiel's feet as she and Legolas came upon the end of the plains. The ruins of the Black Gate loomed up before them. They had reached the Morannon.
* * * * *
The black ruins of the Morannon reached still to the immense heights of the Ered Lithui. Morgiel and Legolas were now standing before them surrounded by the choking dust and ash of the plain. They stood there in silence for what seemed an eternity before Morgiel realized that crossing the ruined Gate would be harder than she thought, for she had almost forgotten that the Black Gate had been thrown down.
"I suppose there is no other way into Mordor;" she said. "But this should be no harder a task than the ones we have already accomplished."
Legolas stepped up to the ruins and lightly jumped onto the closest pile of stone. He turned to Morgiel. "I suppose not," he replied. He reached down his hand to Morgiel and she took it. He helped her to the next heap of rock and they began to climb the ruins. Sure-footed elves as they were, they had a difficult time gaining ground and maintaining their pace, for the ruins were not solid. Many places that appeared stable were really rocks that were tentatively perched on top of the ruins and hid deep pockets of loose rubble and debris. Morgiel and Legolas lost their footing many times, so they were very careful and deliberate in choosing a foothold. Every step had to be tested thoroughly before taking it.
The sun was low and red in the western sky by the time the two travellers were about two-thirds of the way to the top of the Morannon. They stopped for a moment to survey their surroundings. Morgiel sat down in a large cracked piece of what used to be part of the Gate's parapet, and looked to the East.
"I do not like being here, where every eye in Mordor can see," she sighed. "I feel as if we are being watched."
"It is very likely that we are, Morgiel," Legolas said. "But we are not stopped yet."
Morgiel stood up. "And we shall continue until we are;" she paused and looked up into the sky. "It shall be night soon. We shall be slowed coming down this rubble."
Legolas nodded in agreement, and they began the climb over the top of the ruined gate. The waxing moon rose over them, but gave them barely enough light to see by. They were hindered by the instability of the ruins and the lack of proper light, but they were halfway to the bottom by the time the sky became light in the East.
As they trekked down the wreckage Morgiel was very quiet. She was beginning to feel weary again, so she attempted to rest her mind in her elvish dreams. Suddenly she felt a great power force its way into her mind. She staggered underneath its weight and almost fell down. Legolas caught her arm and held her steady. He looked into her face and found that it was very pallid.
"My lady, what is this new affliction? For you are paler than the winter frost."
Morgiel passed her hand over her eyes. She looked up into Legolas' eyes and suddenly felt that if she let go of him she would surely fall to her death. She opened her mouth to speak and found that no words would come. She struggled and finally spoke. "He is trying my mind again," she whispered faintly. "He is putting forth all the power he has left in him against me." She clutched Legolas' arm tighter. "I heard his voice inside my mind. He told me that I have no power against him, and that he would defeat me for the last time in body and mind.
"All our devices are now laid bare to him, Legolas. He is only waiting for us to reach him now. He is in the tower of Durthang." She pointed southwest of where they were.
"Then we shall meet him," Legolas said quietly. Still supporting Morgiel, he started forward. Morgiel allowed him to lead her as they made their way down the ruined gate into Mordor.
* * * * *
The sun rose bright over all the lands in Middle Earth except Mordor. The forever-accursed place of the greatest evils was a barren wasteland. Nothing grew there, and the land was covered in ashen dust. What light came through was paled by the desolation of it all. The wind whistled low and stirred up eddies of dust that would eventually die away into nothingness.
Now the two elves stood in that place; the emptiness surrounding them like a hollow cloud of poison. Even Legolas could feel the evil pressing down upon his spirit, and Morgiel was now oppressed to the fullest. She slowly turned to the south, where the dusty outline of Durthang stood crumbling at the feet of the Ephel Duath.
They were in the realm of Udûn, just before the Isenmouthe, which led to the tower of Barad-dûr. As the two travellers walked towards the western Mountains of Shadow they came upon a great road that headed towards Durthang. They reached it and began walking its great lengths. As they walked Morgiel noticed traces of recent repair to the stones of the road, and she loosened her sword in its scabbard. She knew now that there was no turning back, for it seemed as if the way had been paved solely for them. She could almost feel Túrthalion beckoning them to enter what was left of his fortress and face him. She did not feel so weary now, and she marvelled at that. She looked back at Legolas, who was following warily. He had his bow strung and ready to shoot at any moment, but she somehow knew that no one would harm them as they made their way to Durthang.
Now the tower loomed in front of them. There was a great black door at the top of a wide staircase. No one was guarding the door; in fact, there was not one living thing to be seen anywhere beside the two elves. The air hung with an strange stillness that closed in around them as Morgiel slowly walked up to the first step. She took two more steps then turned to Legolas.
"This is it, Legolas," she said grimly. "Yet somehow, I do not feel the gloom that is all around us. Perhaps he does not have the power he led us to believe."
Legolas was quickly at her side. He had a very serious look on his face; more serious than Morgiel had ever seen in him. He started up the remainder of the staircase and Morgiel followed him.
"I would not doubt Túrthalion's power now, Morgiel. He is not defeated yet." With that he and Morgiel quickly reached the great door of Durthang. It was massive and foreboding in appearance to Morgiel, and she shivered in spite of herself. She now stood directly in front of it with Cirúnya in her hand, ready for anything. Legolas was just behind her with his long bow and a golden-shafted arrow, poised for action. They stood there for a moment; an unnatural silence filled the air.
Morgiel stepped up to the door and pushed. She and Legolas had to lean heavily on the door before it loudly creaked open. They entered the tower, and the door closed behind them with an echoing boom. They were now in a large corridor. It had high vaulted ceilings, and every few feet a torch was dimly burning from its post on the wall. The corridor led to another long staircase; to which Morgiel and Legolas now headed.
The two elves carefully walked up the stairs. The staircase wound up to the left, and the torches burned so low now that it was hard to see what was around the next bend. The deep red fire cast long shadows on the stone walls, and as the elves went on their shadows danced eerily behind them.
Suddenly from somewhere in the heights of the tower a harsh cry echoed down to the two travellers. Morgiel quickly halted, and Legolas pointed his bow towards the top of the stairs. They kept still and quiet, but nothing more came. Legolas now took the lead and motioned to Morgiel to keep silent and ready. She gripped her sword, and as she looked down at it she thought she saw a red flame creeping along the edge of her sword. She blinked and looked at her sword again, but the flame was gone. She thought no more of it and kept close behind Legolas. The top of the stairs could be seen now, and the faint outline of a door came into view. A red light shone from underneath the door, and every so often Morgiel could see a shadow pass by from the other side. She and Legolas now stopped at the door and checked their weapons. Legolas fitted an arrow into his bow and Morgiel held her sword ready. Now Legolas turned to her.
"There is something, or someone on the other side of this door," he whispered. Another cry came from just beyond the door and Morgiel held her breath. When all was silent again Legolas continued. "We must stay together at all costs. I do not think we have reached Túrthalion yet, for those sounds are too harsh. Are you ready, my lady?"
Morgiel nodded. She put her hand on Legolas' shoulder. "Please, Legolas; call me Morgiel."
He smiled and reached for the doorknob. He flung open the door and in one swift motion they stepped out together into the next corridor. There were three broad orcs at the end of the corridor, and they were arguing. They did not notice the elves until the tallest one fell to the ground with a long arrow of the Greenwood in his heart. The other orcs turned to face their assailants, but were quickly stopped by Cirúnya. One orc fell without his head and the other with a pierced heart.
This only took a few seconds for the elves, and they reached the end of the corridor without even a scratch. They stopped so Morgiel could clean her sword, and then they headed for the next door. No sound came form the other side, so Legolas pushed it open. It led to another short corridor with another staircase at the end. This corridor was completely dark, for no torches lit the way. Morgiel took a torch from the wall of the last passageway and they started forward. Their steps echoed as they walked, but no other sounds came from anywhere. When they reached the next flight of steps Morgiel halted. She turned to Legolas and pointed upward.
"He is in there," she whispered quietly. "This is the last leg of our journey."
"We shall meet him together, then," Legolas replied. He began to go up the steps, but Morgiel stopped him with her hand on his chest. "No, Legolas. I need to do this alone. I have prepared a long time for this moment, and it is something that only I can do.
"I am not ungrateful of your help; indeed, I could never have come this far if not for you. But I cannot risk anything happening to you because of me this time. So I ask that you wait for me here, please. I do not fear him, Legolas. He will be destroyed."
Legolas looked into Morgiel's eyes, then took her hand. "Morgiel, I will honour your request, but only because I know that you are strong enough to handle this task. In truth, my heart is torn in two by this, for I would not see you harmed in any way. I have grown to care for you even to the point of my death, if it would save you;" here he bowed and gently kissed her hand. He looked back up into her eyes, and suddenly Morgiel felt her heart jump inside her.
"Now go," he said quietly. "I will be waiting for you."
Morgiel turned and slowly headed up the stairs. Her mind was filled with thoughts of her journey, but it was also strangely calm. She thought of the way Legolas had looked at her. She knew what she saw in his eyes, though no one had ever felt that way about her before. As she reached the top of the stairs and approached the door, she suddenly felt a rush of feelings to her whole spirit. `I love him,' she thought. She touched the necklace around her throat and stood tall. She held Cirúnya high and stepped up to the door. She pushed it open and stepped through.
"You have finally come," said a tired, yet powerful voice. "Now your doom is at hand."
* * * * *