See here for the playthrough report.
Frodo turned from the mountains to face the elf who had introduced himself as Celeborn. Each of the companions he greeted courteously in turn. “Welcome Aragorn son of Arathorn!” he said. “It is eight and thirty years of the world outside Caras Galadhon since we have met; and those years lie heavy on you. But the end is near, for good or ill. Welcome soan of Elrond! Too seldom do my kindred journey hither from the West. Welcome Faramir son of Denethor! It is long indeed since we saw one of Gondor’s sons in Caras Galadhon. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples.” Faramir did not know what to say and bowed low. “Welcome to you also, Meriadoc and Samwise of the Shire. Frodo is blessed indeed to have such valiant people as you are to call as his kin and friends. And welcome to you Glorfindel. It does my heart good to know The Fellowship have you as a guide in such evil times.”
“I fear you would not say such a thing if you would know what has befallen us as a result of my guidance,” said Glorfindel. “I have erred, and the Company has paid the price of my folly.”
Celeborn looked at them again. “Here there are eight,” he said. “Nine were to set out: so said the messages. But maybe there has been some change of counsel that we have not heard. Elrond is far away, and darkness gathers between us, and all this year the shadows have grown longer. Where is Gimli, son of Gloin. I had wished to welcome him also, as a friend and a son of Durin. Enmity has grown too long between our folk, and needs must be forgiven in these dark days.”
“Alas,” said Aragorn, “Gimli fell into shadow and did not escape Moria.”
Celeborn bowed his head. “But he is of the line of Durin, a hardy people. How did this come to be, for surely he would not readily let himself fall while in the land of his fathers.”
Then Aragorn recounted all that had happened before the pass of Caradhras, and in the days that followed; and he spoke of Balin and his book, and the fight in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and the fire, and the narrow bridge, and the coming of the Terror. “An evil of the Ancient World it seemed, such as I have never seen before,” said Aragorn. “It was both a shadow and a flame, strong and terrible.”
“It was a Balrog of Morgoth,” said Glorfindel; “of all elf-banes the most deadly left in this world, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower. I was able to stand against it for a moment, but my strength is now diminished.”
“Alas!” said Celeborn. “We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. And now I know that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria I must do what lies heavily on my heart. I must forbid you passage through our borders.” Aragorn’s protests were cut short by a raised hand. “It would have been perilous to allow you to enter even as you are, bearing the Ruling Ring. And to learn that such a demon of the ancient world has awoken and been drawn to it, no. We will not allow you to enter the Golden Wood.”
“We are saddened to hear this,” said Aragorn. “We had wished to seek shelter and rest in your haven, and time to mourn our friend and ally.”
“I can offer you none of those I fear. But what I can provide, I shall,” Celeborn apologised. “You shall be provisioned and equipped as best as we are able, and I myself shall accompany you a little while with my own bodyguard. Which route did you intend to take.”
Glorfindel answered, “We had thought to go on to the borders of Faramir’s land, to the Falls of Rauros, and see from there which path would be most prudent.”
“Then to the Seat of Seeing shall I join you. You shall have boats also, to speed your journey down the river and avoid the eyes of the Enemy as best you can. Come now, we have made camp just an hour or so south of here, near the banks of the Nimrodel. There we shall break bread together and take some rest this night. Our watchers will alert us of any host approaching too large for their handling, but we should leave at daybreak rather than risk the wrath of Moria too long.”
In the morning, as they were beginning to pack their slender goods, Elves that could speak their tongue came to them and brought them many gifts of food and clothing for the journey. The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of a meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream. Merry took up one of the cakes and looked at it with a doubtful eye. He broke off a crisp corner and nibbled at it. His expression quickly changed, and he ate all the rest of the cake with relish.
“No more, no more!” cried the Elves laughing. “You have eaten enough already for a long day’s march.”
“I thought it was only a kind of honey-biscuit, such as we make in our home on winter’s nights in the Shire,” said the hobbit.
“So it may be,” they answered. “But we call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men or Halflings, and more pleasant we would wager.”
“Indeed it is,” said Merry. “Why it is better than the honey-cakes of the Bolgers, and that is great praise, for the Bolgers are the best bakers that I know of; but they are none too willing to deal out their cakes to strangers in these days. You are generous hosts!”
“All the same, we bid you spare the food,” they said. “Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveller on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall Men of Minas Tirith.”
Three small grey boats had been made ready for the travellers, and in these the Elves stowed their goods. And they added also coils of rope, three to each boat. Slender they looked, but strong, silken to the touch, grey of hue like the elven-cloaks.
“These boats are light-built,” said Celeborn, “and they are crafty and unlike the boats of other folk. They will not sink, lade them as you will; but they are wayward if mishandled.”
The Company was arranged in this way: Aragorn, Frodo, and Elladan were in one boat; Faramir, Sam and Elrohir in another; and in the third were Celeborn, Glorfindel and Merry. The boats were moved and steered with short-handled paddles that had broad leaf-shaped blades. When all was ready Aragorn led them on a trial up the Silverlode. The current was swift and they went forward slowly. Sam sat in the bows, clutching the sides, and looking back wistfully to the shore. The sunlight glittering on the water dazzled his eyes.
Satisfied with how the boats handled, Aragorn, Faramir and Celeborn steered the boats into the middle of the waters and let the current take them down river. Before long the river bore them into the great mallorn trees bordering Lorien. “Do not come into the shore,” warned Celeborn. “I have sent word of our passage, but you may not step foot on the land or risk our arrows.” The river sped them along and soon the Silverlode passed out into the currents of the Great River, and their boats turned and began to speed southwards and their only glimpse of Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.
They went on their long way, down the wide hurrying waters, borne ever southwards. Bare woods stalked along either bank, and they could not see any glimpse of the lands behind. The breeze died away and the River flowed without a sound. No voice of bird broke the silence. The sun grew misty as the day grew old, until it gleamed in a pale sky like a high white pearl. Then it faded into the West, and dusk came early, followed by a grey and starless night. Far into the dark quiet hours they floated on, guiding their boats under the overhanging shadows of the western woods. Great trees passed by like ghosts, thrusting their twisted thirsty roots through the mist down into the water. It was dreary and cold. Frodo sat and listened to the faint lap and gurgle of the River fretting among the tree-roots and driftwood near the shore, until his head nodded and he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Frodo was roused by Sam. He found that he was lying, well wrapped, under tall grey-skinned trees in a quiet corner of the woodlands on the west bank of the Great River, Anduin. He had slept the night away, and the grey of morning was dim among the bare branches. Faramir was busy with a small fire near at hand.
They started again before the day was broad. Not that most of the Company were eager to hurry southwards: they were content that the decision, which they must make at latest when they came to Rauros and the Tindrock Isle, still lay some days ahead; and they let the River bear them on at its own pace, having no desire to hasten towards the perils that lay beyond, whichever course they took in the end. Aragorn let them drift with the stream as they wished, husbanding their strength against weariness to come. But he insisted that at least they should start early each day and journey on far into the evening; for he felt in his heart that time was pressing, and he feared that the Dark Lord had not been idle while they made their journey.
Nonetheless they saw no sign of an enemy that day, nor the next. The dull grey hours passed without event. As the third day of their voyage wore on the lands changed slowly: the trees thinned and then failed altogether. On the eastern bank to their left they saw long formless slopes stretching up and away toward the sky; brown and withered they looked, as if fire had passed over them, leaving no living blade of green: an unfriendly waste without even a broken tree or a bold stone to relieve the emptiness. They had come to the Brown Lands that lay, vast and desolate, between Southern Mirkwood and the hills of the Emyn Muil. What pestilence or war or evil deed of the Enemy had so blasted all that region even Aragorn could not tell.
In the next day or two, as they went on, borne steadily southwards, this feeling of insecurity grew on all the Company. As dusk drew down on the fourth day, Sam was looking back over the bowed heads of Faramir and Elrohir and the following boats; he was drowsy and longed for camp and the feel of earth under his toes. Suddenly something caught his sight: at first he stared at it listlessly, then he sat up and rubbed his eyes; but when he looked again he could not see it any more.
That night they camped on a small eyot close to the western bank. Sam lay rolled in blankets beside Frodo. “I had a funny dream an hour or two before we stopped, Mr. Frodo,” he said. “Or maybe it wasn’t a dream. Funny it was anyway.”
“Well, what was it?” said Frodo, knowing that Sam would not settle down until he had told his tale, whatever it was. “I haven’t seen or thought of anything to make me smile since we left Rivendell.”
“It wasn’t funny that way, Mr. Frodo. It was queer. All wrong, if it wasn’t a dream. And you had best hear it. It was like this: I saw a log with eyes!”
“The log’s all right,” said Frodo. “There are many in the River. But leave out the eyes!”
“That I won’t,” said Sam. “’Twas the eyes as made me sit up, so to speak. I saw what I took to be a log floating along in the half-light behind that Celeborn’s boat; but I didn’t give much heed to it. Then it seemed as if the log was slowly catching us up. And that was peculiar, as you might say, seeing as we were all floating on the stream together. Just then I saw the eyes: two pale sort of points, shiny-like, on a hump at the near end of the log. What’s more, it wasn’t a log, for it had paddle-feet, like a swan’s almost, only they seemed bigger, and kept dipping in and out of the water.
“That’s when I sat right up and rubbed my eyes, meaning to give a shout, if it was still there when I had rubbed the drowse out of my head. For the whatever-it-was was coming along fast now and getting close behind Celeborn. But whether those two lamps spotted me moving and staring, or whether I came to my senses, I don’t know. When I looked again, it wasn’t there. Yet I think I caught a glimpse with the tail of-my eye, as the saying is, of something dark shooting under the shadow of the bank. I couldn’t see no more eyes though.
“I said to myself: ‘dreaming again, Sam Gamgee,’ I said: and I said no more just then. But I’ve been thinking since. and now I’m not so sure. What do you make of it, Mr. Frodo?”
“I should make nothing of it but a log and the dusk and sleep in your eyes Sam, said Frodo, if this was the first time that those eyes had been seen. But it isn’t. I saw them away back in Moria, that night Gimli told us of the quest for the Lonely Mountain, do you remember?”
“Ah,” said Sam. “I do; and I remember more too. I don’t like my thoughts; but thinking of one thing and another, and of Gimli’’s stories and all, I fancy I could put a name on the creature, at a guess. A nasty name. Gollum, maybe?”
“Yes, that is what I have feared for some time,” said Frodo. “I suppose he was lurking in Moria, and picked up our trail then; but I hoped that our journey on the river would throw him off the scent again.”
“That’s about it,” said Sam. “And we’d better be a bit more watchful ourselves, or we’ll feel some nasty fingers round our necks one of these nights, if we ever wake up to feel anything. And that’s what I was leading up to. No need to trouble Aragorn or the others tonight. I’ll keep watch. I can sleep tomorrow, being no more than luggage in a boat, as you might say.”
“I might,” said Frodo, “and I might say ‘luggage with eyes’. You shall watch; but only if you promise to wake me halfway towards morning, if nothing happens before then.”
The night passed without Gollum showing so much as a shadow again. After that the Company kept a sharp look-out, but they saw no more of Gollum while the voyage lasted. If he was still following, he was very wary and cunning. At Aragorn’s bidding they paddled now for long spells, and the banks went swiftly by. But they saw little of the country, for they journeyed mostly by night and twilight, resting by day, and lying as hidden as the land allowed. In this way the time passed without event until the seventh day.
That day the country on either side began to change rapidly. The banks began to rise and grow stony. Soon they were passing through a hilly rocky land, and on both shores there were steep slopes buried in deep brakes of thorn and sloe, tangled with brambles and creepers. Behind them stood low crumbling cliffs, and chimneys of grey weathered stone dark with ivy; and beyond these again there rose high ridges crowned with wind-writhen firs. They were drawing near to the grey hill-country of the Emyn Muil, the southern march of Wilderland. Merry peered up at the cliff-face towering over him and started.
“What’s that up there?” he called, pointing up to the top of the cliff. The Company looked but could not see anything out of the ordinary. Elladan asked Merry what it was that he had seen. “It was like a tall man bearing a large black shield with a white hand on it.”
“That is no token of any house of men, be it of Arnor, Gondor, Rohan or even Harad and Umbar to the south,” said Aragorn.
“And there are no elves or dwarves that take that symbol either,” Glorfindel replied. “And the servants of Sauron use a red eye as their badge.”
“Whomever it may be, it would not be good to be seen again by them. Let us make camp. We should not start again until it is fully dark,” said Aragorn.
The eighth night of their journey came. It was silent and windless; the grey east wind had passed away. The thin crescent of the Moon had fallen early into the pale sunset, but the sky was clear above, and though far away in the South there were great ranges of cloud that still shone faintly, in the West stars glinted bright. There was a swift current which swung left, towards the eastern shore where the channel was clear. As they were swept aside the travellers could see, now very close, the pale foam of the River lashing against sharp rocks that were thrust out far into the stream like a ridge of teeth. The boats were all huddled together.
“Hoy there, Aragorn!” shouted Faramir, as his boat bumped into the leader. “This is madness! We cannot dare the Rapids by night! But no boat can live in Sarn Gebir, be it night or day.”
“Back, back!” cried Aragorn. “Turn! Turn if you can!” He drove his paddle into the water, trying to hold the boat and bring it round.
With great efforts they checked the boats and slowly brought them about; but at first they could make only small headway against the current, and all the time they were carried nearer and nearer to the eastern bank. Now dark and ominous it loomed up in the night.
“All together, paddle!” shouted Faramir. “Paddle! Or we shall be driven on the shoals.” Even as he spoke Frodo felt the keel beneath him grate upon stone.
At that moment there was a twang of bowstrings: several arrows whistled over them, and some fell among them. One smote Frodo between the shoulders and he lurched forward with a cry, letting go his paddle: but the arrow fell back. foiled by his hidden coat of mail. Another passed through Aragorn’s hood; and a third stood fast in the gunwale of the second boat, close by Merry’s hand. Sam thought he could glimpse black figures running to and fro upon the long shingle-banks that lay under the eastern shore. They seemed very near.
“Yrch!” said Celeborn, falling into his own tongue.
“Orcs!” cried Faramir
“Gollum’s doing, I’ll be bound.” called Sam to Frodo. “And a nice place to choose, too. The River seems set on taking us right into their arms!”
They all leaned forward straining at the paddles: even Sam took a hand. Every moment they expected to feel the bite of black-feathered arrows. Many whined overhead or struck the water nearby; but there were no more hits. It was dark, but not too dark for the night-eyes of Orcs, and in the star-glimmer they must have offered their cunning foes some mark, unless it was that the grey timber of the elf-wrought boats defeated the malice of the archers of Mordor.
Stroke by stroke they laboured on. In the darkness it was hard to be sure that they were indeed moving at all; but slowly the swirl of the water grew less, and the shadow of the eastern bank faded back into the night. At last, as far as they could judge, they had reached the middle of the stream again and had driven their boats back some distance above the jutting rocks. Then half turning they thrust them with all their strength towards the western shore. Under the shadow of bushes leaning out over the water they halted and drew breath.
After a while Aragorn led the boats back upstream. They felt their way along the water’s edge for some distance, until they found a small shallow bay. A few low trees grew there close to the water, and behind them rose a steep rocky bank. Here the Company decided to stay and await the dawn: it was useless to attempt to move further by night. They made no camp and lit no fire, but lay huddled in the boats, moored close together.
The night passed silently. No voice or call was heard again across the water. The travellers huddled in their boats felt the changing of the weather. The air grew warm and very still under the great moist clouds that had floated up from the South and the distant seas. The rushing of the River over the rocks of the rapids seemed to grow louder and closer. The twigs of the trees above them began to drip.
When the day came the mood of the world about them had become soft and sad. Slowly the dawn grew to a pale light, diffused and shadowless. There was mist on the River, and white fog swathed the shore; the far bank could not be seen.
“I can’t abide fog,” said Sam; “but this seems to be a lucky one. Now perhaps we can get away without those cursed goblins seeing us.”
“Perhaps so,” said Aragorn. “But it will be hard to find the path unless the fog lifts a little later on. And we must find the path, if we are to pass Sarn Gebir and come to the Emyn Muil.”
“I do not see why we should pass the Rapids or follow the River any further,” said Faramir. “If the Emyn Muil lie before us, then we can abandon these cockle-boats, and strike westward and southward, until we come to the Entwash and cross into my own land.”
“We can, if we are making for Minas Tirith,” said Aragorn, “but that is not yet agreed. And such a course may be more perilous than it sounds. The vale of Entwash is flat and fenny, and fog is a deadly peril there for those on foot and laden. I would not abandon our boats until we must. The River is at least a path that cannot be missed. And do you not know, Faramir, or do you choose to forget the North Stair, and the high seat upon Amon Hen, that were made in the days of the great kings? I at least have a mind to stand in that high place again, before I decide my further course. There, maybe, we shall see some sign that will Guide our path.”
The day was now growing, and the fog had lifted a little. It was decided that Aragorn and Celeborn should at once go forward along the shore, while the others remained by the boats. Aragorn hoped to find some way by which they could carry both their boats and their baggage to the smoother water beyond the Rapids.
It was with a heavy heart that Frodo saw Aragorn and Celeborn climb the steep bank and vanish into the mists; but his fears proved groundless. Only two or three hours had passed, and it was barely mid-day, when the shadowy shapes of the explorers appeared again.
“All is well,” said Aragorn, as he clambered down the bank. “There is a track, and it leads to a good landing that is still serviceable. The distance is not great: the head of the Rapids is but half a mile below us, and they are little more than a mile long. Not far beyond them the stream becomes clear and smooth again, though it runs swiftly. Our hardest task will be to get our boats and baggage to the old portage-way. We have found it, but it lies well back from the water-side here, and runs under the lee of a rock-wall, a furlong or more from the shore. We did not find where the northward landing lies. If it still remains, we must have passed it yesterday night. We might labour far upstream and yet miss it in the fog. I fear we must leave the River now, and make for the portage-way as best we can from here.”
The task proved hard indeed, yet in the end it was done. The goods were taken out of the boats and brought to the top of the bank, where there was a level space. Then the boats were drawn out of the water and carried up. They were far less heavy than any had expected. Of what tree growing in the elvish country they were made not even Celeborn knew; but the wood was tough and yet strangely light. Merry and Sam alone could carry their boat with ease along the flat. Nonetheless it needed the strength of the two Men to lift and haul them over the ground that the Company now had to cross. It sloped up away from the River, a tumbled waste of grey limestone-boulders, with many hidden holes shrouded with weeds and bushes; there were thickets of brambles, and sheer dells; and here and there boggy pools fed by waters trickling from the terraces further inland.
One by one Faramir and Aragorn carried the boats, while the others toiled and scrambled after them with the baggage. At last all was removed and laid on the portage-way. Then with little further hindrance, save from sprawling briars and many fallen stones, they moved forward all together. Fog still hung in veils upon the crumbling rock-wall, and to their left mist shrouded the River: they could hear it rushing and foaming over the sharp shelves and stony teeth of Sarn Gebir, but they could not see it. Twice they made the journey, before all was brought safe to the southern landing.
Already the short afternoon was past, and a dim cloudy dusk was closing in. They sat beside the water listening to the confused rush and roar of the Rapids hidden in the mist; they were tired and sleepy, and their hearts were as gloomy as the dying day.
“Well, here we are, and here we must pass another night,” said Faramir. “We need sleep, and even if Aragorn had a mind to pass the Gates of Argonath by night, we are all too tired.”
“Let us rest as much as we can now,” said Aragorn. “Tomorrow we must journey by day again. Unless the weather changes once more and cheats us, we shall have a good chance of slipping through, unseen by any eyes on the eastern shore. But tonight two must watch together in turns: three hours off and one on guard.”
Nothing happened that night worse than a brief drizzle of rain an hour before dawn. As soon as it was fully light they started. Already the fog was thinning. They kept as close as they could to the western side, and they could see the dim shapes of the low cliffs rising ever higher, shadowy walls with their feet in the hurrying river. In the mid-morning the clouds drew down lower, and it began to rain heavily. They drew the skin-covers over their boats to prevent them from being flooded, and drifted on: little could be seen before them or about them through the grey falling curtains.
The rain, however, did not last long. Slowly the sky above grew lighter, and then suddenly the clouds broke, and their draggled fringes trailed away northward up the River. The fogs and mists were gone. Before the travellers lay a wide ravine, with great rocky sides to which clung, upon shelves and in narrow crevices, a few thrawn trees. The channel grew narrower and the River swifter. Now they were speeding along with little hope of stopping or turning, whatever they might meet ahead. Over them was a lane of pale-blue sky, around them the dark overshadowed River, and before them black, shutting out the sun, the hills of Emyn Muil, in which no opening could be seen.
Frodo peering forward saw in the distance two great rocks approaching: like great pinnacles or pillars of stone they seemed. Tall and sheer and ominous they stood upon either side of the stream. A narrow gap appeared between them, and the River swept the boats towards it.
“Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!” cried Aragorn. “We shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold the middle of the stream!”
As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening. Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and still they preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn. Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. So they passed through the dark chasm of the Gates.
The sun, already long fallen from the noon, was shining in a windy sky. The pent waters spread out into a long oval lake, pale Nen Hithoel, fenced by steep grey hills whose sides were clad with trees, but their heads were bare, cold-gleaming in the sunlight. At the far southern end rose three peaks. The midmost stood somewhat forward from the others and sundered from them, an island in the waters, about which the flowing River flung pale shimmering arms. Distant but deep there came up on the wind a roaring sound like the roll of thunder heard far away.
Aragorn led them to the right arm of the River. Here upon its western side under the shadow of Tol Brandir a green lawn ran down to the water from the feet of Amon Hen. Behind it rose the first gentle slopes of the hill clad with trees, and trees marched away westward along the curving shores of the lake. A little spring fell tumbling down and fed the grass.
‘Here we will rest tonight,’ said Aragorn. `This is the lawn of Parth Galen: a fair place in the summer days of old. Let us hope that no evil has yet come here.’
They drew up their boats on the green banks, and beside them they made their camp. They set a watch, but had no sight nor sound of their enemies. If Gollum had contrived to follow them, he remained unseen and unheard. Nonetheless as the night wore on Aragorn grew uneasy, tossing often in his sleep and waking. In the small hours he got up and came to Frodo, whose turn it was to watch. As he arose however, to his dismay Frodo could not be seen.
“Awake, awake!” Aragorn shouted, rousing the Fellowship from their sleep with a start. “The Ringbearer has gone!”
“Gone, or taken?” Elladan asked.
“Begging your pardon Mr Elladan, but his pack is gone,” said Sam. “He’s not so foolish as to leave without food nor supplies. Now Mr. Frodo, he knows he’s got to find the Cracks of Doom, if he can. But he’s afraid. Now it’s come to the point, he’s just plain terrified. That’s what his trouble is. Of course he’s had a bit of schooling, so to speak -we all have- since we left home, or he’d be so terrified he’d just fling the Ring in the River and bolt. But he’s still too frightened to start. And he isn’t worrying about us either: whether we’ll go along with him or no. He knows we mean to. That’s another thing that’s bothering him. He’s screwn himself up to go, and he wants to go alone. Mark my words!”
“I believe you speak more wisely than any of us, Sam,” said Aragorn. “And what shall we do, if you prove right?”
“Stop him! Don’t let him go!” cried Merry.
“I wonder?” said Aragorn. “He is the Bearer, and the fate of the Burden is on him. I do not think that it is our part to drive him one way or the other. Nor do I think that we should succeed, if we tried. There are other powers at work far stronger.”
“Well, I wish Frodo would ‘screw himself up’ and come back!” Merry said.
As the hobbit spoke, there came a great crashing from the trees and a bellowing as two large Orcs, broader than the Uruks they had encountered in Moria, charged out of the thicket toward them.
The Fellowship leapt to their feet, Elrohir barely managing to draw his twin knives and catch the lead Uruk’s sword. Faramir sent an arrow into the second, sending it sprawling into the grass where it moved no more. Before the first Uruk could swing a second time, Anduril had parted its head from its shoulders with one swing.
“Orcs on the West Bank of the Anduin! I fear for my people if more have managed to cross,” Faramir set another arrow to his bow.
“And what about Frodo? What if they capture him?” shouted Sam. `We must try and find him at once. Come on!”
“Wait a moment! ‘ cried Aragorn. `We must divide up into pairs, and arrange-here, hold on! Wait!”
It was no good. They took no notice of him. Sam had dashed off first. Merry had followed, and they were already disappearing westward into the trees by the shore, shouting: Frodo! Frodo! in their clear, high hobbit-voices. Elladan and Elrohir were running. A sudden panic or madness seemed to have fallen on the Company.
“We shall all be scattered and lost,” groaned Aragorn. “Celeborn, take to the trees around this area. We shall need your bow ere this night is down. Glorfindel, find Merry, and guard him at the least, even if you cannot find Frodo. Come back to this spot, if you find him, or any traces of him. Faramir, come with me. We shall return soon.”
Aragorn sprang swiftly away with Faramir following and went in pursuit of Sam. Just as he reached the little lawn among the rowans he overtook him, toiling uphill, panting and calling, Frodo!
“Come with us, Sam!”’ he said. “None of us should be alone. There is mischief about. I feel it. I am going to the top, to the Seat of Amon Hen, to see what may be seen. And look! It is as my heart guessed, Frodo went this way. Follow me, and keep your eyes open!” He sped up the path.
Sam did his best, but he could not keep up with Aragorn or Faramir the Rangers, and soon fell behind. He had not gone far before they were was out of sight ahead. Sam stopped and puffed. Suddenly he clapped his hand to his head.
“Whoa, Sam Gamgee!” he said aloud. “Your legs are too short, so use your head! Let me see now! Something scared Mr. Frodo badly. He screwed himself up to the point, sudden. He made up his mind at last to go. Where to? Off East. Not without Sam? Yes, without even his Sam. That’s hard, cruel hard.”
Sam passed his hand over his eyes, brushing away the tears. “Steady, Gamgee!” he said. “Think, if you can! He can’t fly across rivers, and he can’t jump waterfalls. He’s got no gear. So he’s got to get back to the boats. Back to the boats! Back to the boats, Sam, like lightning!”
Aragorn and Faramir sped on up the hill. Every now and again one of them would bend to the ground. Hobbits go light, and their footprints are not easy even for a Ranger to read, but not far from the top a spring crossed the path, and in the wet earth he saw what he was seeking.
“I read the signs aright,” Aragorn said to Faramir. “Frodo ran to the hill-top. I wonder what he saw there? But he returned by the same way, and went down the hill again.”
Aragorn hesitated. He desired to go to the high seat himself, hoping to see there something that would guide him in his perplexities; but time was pressing. Suddenly he leaped forward, calling for the son of Gondor to follow, and ran to the summit, across the great flag-stones, and up the steps. Then sitting in the high seat he looked out. But the sky was darkened, and the world dim and remote. He turned from the North back again to North, and saw nothing save the distant hills, unless it were that the eastern sky was grey with the oncoming dawn and far away he could see again a great bird like an eagle high in the air, descending slowly in wide circles down towards the earth.
Even as he gazed his ears caught sounds in the woodlands below, on the west side of the River. He stiffened. There were cries, and among them, to his horror, he could distinguish the harsh voices of Orcs. “We have delayed too long!” called Faramir. “We must seek out the Ringbearer!”
Aragorn sprang down the steps and away, leaping down the path. “Alas! An ill fate is on me this day, and all that I do goes amiss. Where is Sam?”
“He did not follow. My hope is that he has returned to the boats, and there met with Celeborn.”
“We can only hope. But our love for Sam must be outweighed by the urgency of our need. Frodo must be found above all else.”
“Then let us go now, and if we cannot find him ourselves let us at the least prevent these Orcs from doing so,” Faramir pulled an arrow from his quiver as they ran.
Fierce and shrill rose the yells of the Orcs, and suddenly through them, the sharp cries of a hobbit was heard. The Rangers raced down the last slope, but before they could reach the hill’s foot, the sounds died away; and as they turned to the left and ran towards them, the noises retreated, until at last they could be heard no more. Drawing his bright sword and crying “Elendil! Elendil!” Aragorn crashed through the trees.
Celeborn sat in his tree-top perch, bow nocked and ready. He did not stay there a full half-hour when the calls of a hobbit pricked his ears. Celeborn listened. Did that come from the north, or the south. The cry came again, followed by a guttural roar of orc-growls: the north! The elf stowed his bow, and with a feline leap, he jumped to the bows of the next tree by him and thus he quickly traversed the slopes of Amon Hen, with only the birds noting his passing.
Before long, he saw a sight that chilled his blood, for on the forest floor below him, lying as though sleeping, was a prone figure wrapped in the grey cloak of Lorien. A black-feathered arrow protruding from his chest was the only hint that the elf’s pose was not one of rest. Descending from the canopy, Celeborn knelt by his fallen kinsman and whispered a hymn to the Valar. His eyes piercing through the gloom, Celeborn could see there were others lying among the fallen leaves, a half-dozen or so great Uruks with shafts riddling their bodies and scattered all across the hillside.
Bird-song reached his ears from above, the dawn was coming. As Celeborn scaled the trees once again, the high-pitched call of a thrush came to him. The elf paused; thrushes have not come south of Mirkwood since the fortress at Amon Lanc was taken by the Necromancer. Celeborn looked up and saw a pair of smiling bright eyes staring back.
“Hail and well met, Celeborn of Lothlorien. I was afraid in your dotage you would not notice me!” the younger elf called down.
“And also you, Legolas Greenleaf. I was afraid that in your idleness you would not be able to keep pace!” Celeborn smiled he took the younger elf’s arm. “You have been busy I see. The time in the Galadhon Guard has not been wasted I see. What happened here?”
“A large party of Orcs has been following you since you left Sarn Gebir, we have tracked them since, picking off any we came within bowshot of,” Legolas explained. “Then tonight they disappeared, aided by some enchantment that shielded them from our senses. They were on us before we knew of their approach. Three of our number were killed, but as you can see they have paid for every member of our company slain. Haldir leads the rest of the rest of the Guard hunting the Ocrs from the treetops.”
“And what of the Ring-bearer, or any of the halflings?” Celeborn asked urgently.
“Forgive me, but I have not seen nor heard any trace of the halflings since we have arrived,” said Legolas.
As he spoke, the Orc-cries Celeborn had heard sounded again, but now further away and retreating. He and Legolas started after them, leaping from bough to branch high above the forest floor, following the sound as best they could. Celeborn stopped, coiled on the perch he had just achieved, straining to listen. Through the howls and yells of the Orcs, he could make out a hobbit’s cry. But it did not come from the same direction, rather it came to him from where he had left. The hobbit was calling out from the shoreline, from the boats.
Silently, Frodo ran up the path to the hill-top. He had slipped on the Ring as soon as Aragorn had gone back to sleep and stole away from the camp as quietly as he could. The burden was his to bear, the task was his alone. He shook with grief as he remembered the look of desperation in Gimli’s eyes on the Bridge of Khazad Dum, the desire and shame mingled together. Frodo could not risk any more of his friends falling under its influence again, and so he ran.
Soon he came out alone on the summit of Amon Hen, and halted, gasping for breath. He saw as through a mist a wide flat circle, paved with mighty flags, and surrounded with a crumbling battlement; and in the middle, set upon four carven pillars, was a high seat, reached by a stair of many steps. Up he went and sat upon the ancient chair, feeling like a lost child that had clambered upon the throne of mountain-kings.
At first he could see little. He seemed to be in a world of mist in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him. Then here and there the mist gave way and he saw many visions: small and clear as if they were under his eyes upon a table in broad daylight, and yet remote. There was no sound, only bright living images. The world seemed to have shrunk and fallen silent. He was sitting upon the Seat of Seeing, on Amon Hen, the Hill of the Eye of the Men of Númenor. Eastward he looked into wide uncharted lands, nameless plains, and forests unexplored. Northward he looked, and the Great River lay like a ribbon beneath him, and the Misty Mountains stood small and hard as broken teeth. Westward he looked and saw the broad pastures of Rohan; and Orthanc, the pinnacle of Isengard, like a black spike. Southward he looked, and below his very feet the Great River curled like a toppling wave and plunged over the falls of Rauros into a foaming pit; a glimmering rainbow played upon the fume. And Ethir Anduin he saw, the mighty delta of the River, and myriads of sea-birds whirling like a white dust in the sun, and beneath them a green and silver sea, rippling in endless lines.
But everywhere he looked he saw the signs of war. The Misty Mountains were crawling like anthills: orcs were issuing out of a thousand holes. Under the boughs of Mirkwood there was deadly strife of Elves and Men and fell beasts. The land of the Beornings was aflame; a cloud was over Moria; smoke rose on the borders of Lórien.
Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion. Then turning south again he beheld Minas Tirith. Far away it seemed. and beautiful: white-walled, many-towered, proud and fair upon its mountain-seat; its battlements glittered with steel, and its turrets were bright with many banners. Hope leaped in his heart. But against Minas Tirith was set another fortress, greater and more strong. Thither, eastward, unwilling his eye was drawn. It passed the ruined bridges of Osgiliath, the grinning gates of Minas Morgul. and the haunted Mountains, and it looked upon Gorgoroth, the valley of terror in the Land of Mordor. Darkness lay there under the Sun. Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising. Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him.
And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him. Very soon it would nail him down, know just exactly where he was. Amon Lhaw it touched. It glanced upon Tol Brandir he threw himself from the seat, crouching, covering his head with his grey hood.
He heard himself crying out: Never, never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell. Then as a flash from some other point of power unknown to him there came to his mind another thought: Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it off! Take off the Ring!
The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger. He was kneeling in clear moonlight before the high seat. A black shadow seemed to pass like an arm above him; it missed Amon Hen and groped out west, and faded. Then all the sky was clear and the stars shone above him.
Frodo rose to his feet. A great weariness was on him, but his will was firm and his heart lighter. He spoke aloud to himself. “I will do now what I must,” he said. “This at least is plain: the evil of the Ring is already at work even in the Company, and the Ring must leave them before it does more harm. I will go alone. Some I cannot trust, and those I can trust are too dear to me: poor old Sam and Merry. Aragorn too: his heart yearns for Minas Tirith, and he will be needed there. No, I will go alone. At once.”
He went quickly down the path and came suddenly to a halt, listening. He thought he could hear cries and calls from the woods near the shore below.
“They’ll be hunting for me,” he said. “I wonder how long I have been away. Hours, I should think.” He hesitated. “What can I do?” he muttered. “I must go now or I shall never go. I shan’t get a chance again. I hate leaving them, and like this without any explanation. But surely they will understand. Sam will. And what else can I do?”
Slowly he drew out the Ring and put it on once more. He vanished and passed down the hill, less than a rustle of the wind.
Sam back down the path. He fell and cut his knees. Up he got and ran on. He came to the edge of the lawn of Parth Galen by the shore, where the boats were drawn up out of the water. No one was there. There seemed to be cries in the woods behind, but he did not heed them. He stood gazing for a moment. stock-still, gaping. A boat was sliding down the bank all by itself. With a shout Sam raced across the grass. The boat slipped into the water.
“Coming, Mr. Frodo! Coming!” called Sam, and flung himself from the bank, clutching at the departing boat. He missed it by a yard. With a cry and a splash he fell face downward into deep swift water. Gurgling he went under, and the River closed over his curly head.
An exclamation of dismay came from the empty boat. A paddle swirled and the boat put about. Frodo was just in time to grasp Sam by the hair as he came up, bubbling and struggling. Fear was staring in his round brown eyes.
“Up you come, Sam my lad!” said Frodo. “Now take my hand!”
“Save me, Mr. Frodo!” gasped Sam. “I’m drownded. I can’t see your hand.”
“Here it is. Don’t pinch, lad! I won’t let you go. Tread water and don’t flounder, or you’ll upset the boat. There now, get hold of the side, and let me use the paddle!”
With a few strokes Frodo brought the boat back to the bank. and Sam was able to scramble out, wet as a water-rat. Frodo took off the Ring and stepped ashore again.
“Of all the confounded nuisances you are the worst, Sam!” he said.
“Oh, Mr. Frodo, that’s hard!” said Sam shivering. “That’s hard, trying to go without me and all. If I hadn’t a guessed right, where would you be now?”
“Safely on my way.”
“Safely!” said Sam. “All alone and without me to help you? I couldn’t have a borne it, it’d have been the death of me.”
“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”
“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.
“But I am going to Mordor.”
“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”
“Now, Sam,” said Frodo, “don’t hinder me! The others will be coming back at any minute. If they catch me here. I shall have to argue and explain, and I shall never have the heart or the chance to get off. But I must go at once. It’s the only way.”
“Of course it is,” answered Sam. “But not alone. I’m coming too, or neither of us isn’t going. I’ll knock holes in all the boats first.”
Frodo actually laughed. A sudden warmth and gladness touched his heart. “Leave one!” he said. “We’ll need it. But you can’t come like this without your gear or food or anything.”
“Just hold on a moment, and I’ll get my stuff!” cried Sam eagerly. “It’s all ready. I thought we should be off today.” He rushed to the camping place, fished out his pack from the pile where Frodo had laid it when he emptied the boat of his companions’ goods grabbed a spare blanket, and some extra packages of food, and ran back.
“So all my plan is spoilt!” said Frodo. “It is no good trying to escape you. But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain that we were meant to go together.”
As he spoke, a great Uruk rose from the lawn before the shoreline, an arrow protruding from his shoulder. Sam let out a cry as the Orc began to close the distance between them, a great sword in its hand. The two hobbits ran to the boat and threw themselves against it, sliding it into the water. So rapid was its speed that Frodo fell forward into the shallows, scrambling at Sam’s shoulder for balance. Seeing his master fall, Sam drew his sword and stood between Frodo and the charging Uruk. “You will not touch him!” yelled the hobbit as he swung his sword in front of him, but the Uruk swatted it away and a quick punch to the head left Sam dazed on the ground. The last he saw as his sight dimmed was the Uruk reaching down and seizing the back of Frodo’s cloak.
The day came like fire and smoke. Low in the East there were black bars of cloud like the fumes of a great burning. The rising sun lit them from beneath with flames of murky red; but soon it climbed above them into a clear sky. The summit of Tol Brandir was tipped with gold. Glorfindel looked out eastward and gazed at the tall island. Its sides sprang sheer out of the running water. High up above the tall cliffs were steep slopes upon which trees climbed, mounting one head above another; and above them again were grey faces of inaccessible rock, crowned by a great spire of stone. Many birds were circling about it, but no sign of other living things could be seen. On the beach before him lay a cloak, small and dark green as the one worn by Frodo. But of the Ring-bearer himself the only sign were the footprints of hobbits confused with those of a pair of great hobnail boots. To add to the intrigue, one of the elven boats was nowhere to be seen.
Aragorn surveyed the green lawn behind him, quickly but thoroughly, stooping often to the earth. “The Orcs have been on this ground,” he said. “Otherwise nothing can be made out for certain. All our footprints are here, crossing and re-crossing. I cannot tell which of the hobbits have come back since the search for Frodo began.” He returned to the bank, close to where the rill from the spring trickled out into the River.
“How then do you read this riddle?” asked Faramir. The two rangers had not located any of the Orcs, nor any trace of the hobbits in the woods, but had been found by Celeborn and a strange elf from out of the north, bidding them return to the shoreline. There they found Glorfindel standing by the shallows gazing at the footprints before him, Glamdring by his side dripping with black blood.
Aragorn did not answer at once, but went back to the camping-place and looked at the baggage. “Two packs are moved.” he said, “and one is certainly Sam’s: it was rather large and heavy. And there,” Aragorn walked to the southern border of the lawn where two packs could be made out,” there they lie. With Sting too it seems. This then is the answer: Frodo had tried to be gone by boat, and his servant would have gone with him. Frodo must have returned while we were all away. I met Sam going up the hill and told him to follow me; but plainly he did not do so. He guessed his master’s mind and came back here before Frodo had gone. He did not find it easy to leave Sam behind!”
“But why should he attempt to leave us behind, and without a word?” said Faramir. “And what do you suppose has happened to him, that his attempt failed.”
Just then, Elladan and Elrohir crept from the trees on the western slopes, as though hunting. When they saw the scene before them, they stopped for it seemed to them plain what had happened.
“We have hunted and slain many Orcs in the woods, but we should have been of more use here,” said Elrohir as they approached.
“We heard the cries of Merry in the woods and pursued, but could not find him,” Elladan said with his head bowed. “I fear he has been taken.”
“And I fear the Ringbearer also. There lie his pack and sword, along with Sam’s, doubtless discarded by the Orcs as extra weight,” said Aragorn. At these words Glorfindel’s stillness broke as he turned to face the others.
“We have failed,” he said. “The Ring has been captured, the Fellowship is broken.”
“Say not that the Ring is captured,” Aragorn said. “Say rather that the Ring-bearer is captured. For if the Orcs knew of the Ring’s whereabouts, Frodo would surely be lying here and we would be mourning him as we speak.”
Celeborn and the elf known as Legolas emerged from the trees to the south of them. “They have gone to Isengard!” called Celeborn. “We have found a straggler and questioned him, these Uruks were sent from Isengard in search of the halflings. They were under orders to take them alive, and unspoiled. They know nothing of the Ring.”
“Whose orders? The Nazgul’s servants do not take a White Hand as their badge, but the Red Eye,” asked Faramir. “Unless it is not the Black Riders who send these Orcs.”
“There my news is truly grave, for these Orcs serve not the Dark Lord but the White Wizard Saruman. He is not slain as we previously thought, but rather turned against us.”
Glorfindel’s eyes flashed dark as he heard this. “But, what of Mithrandir? Surely he too cannot have turned against us?”
“That I cannot say,” Celeborn shook his head. “The Uruk did not speak any more than this.”
“Regardless of these Orc’s master, they have Frodo. Sam and Merry too, but our first concern must be with Frodo’s rescue, and we must recover them before they reach Orthanc.” Aragorn said. “With hope or without hope we will follow the trail of our enemies. And woe to them, if we prove the swifter! We will make such a chase as shall be accounted a marvel among the Free Peoples. Leave all that can be spared behind, bring one of the boats into the trees and leave our packs under it. Mayhaps we may return this way and retrieve them. I shall take Sting, that Frodo might see it returned to him.”
Once all that was accomplished, Aragorn led them following the Uruk’s trail. Like a deer he sprang away. Through the trees he sped. On and on he led them, tireless and swift, now that his mind was at last made up. The woods about the lake they left behind. Long slopes they climbed, dark, hard-edged against the sky already red with sunset. Dusk came. They passed away, grey shadows in a stony land.