Chapter XXIII: The Tower Of Cirith Ungol

See here for playthrough report.

Chapter XXII: The Choices of Master Samwise

Set up

Sam roused himself painfully from the ground. For a moment he wondered where he was, and then all the misery and despair returned to him. He was in the deep dark outside the under-gate of the orcs’ stronghold; its brazen doors were shut. He must have fallen stunned when he hurled himself against them; but how long he had lain there he did not know. Then he had been on fire, desperate and furious; now he was shivering and cold. He crept to the doors and pressed his ears against them. Far within he could hear faintly the voices of ores clamouring, but soon they stopped or passed out of hearing, and all was still. His head ached and his eyes saw phantom lights in the darkness, but he struggled to steady himself and think. It was clear at any rate that he had no hope of getting into the orc-hold by that gate; he might wait there for days before it was opened, and he could not wait: time was desperately precious. He no longer had any doubt about his duty: he must rescue his master or perish in the attempt. 

Council of Elrond » LotR News & Information » 4.10. The Choices of ...Slowly he groped his way back in the dark along the tunnel, wondering what time it was, whether the rest of the Company yet lived, and if he would ever see them again. He came back at last to the stone door of the orc-passage, and still unable to discover the catch or bolt that held it, he scrambled over as before and dropped softly to the ground. Then he made his way stealthily to the outlet of Shelob’s tunnel, where the rags of her great web were still blowing and swaying in the cold airs. For cold they seemed to Sam after the noisome darkness behind; but the breath of them revived him. He crept cautiously out. All was ominously quiet. The light was no more than that of dusk at a dark day’s end. The vast vapours that arose in Mordor and went streaming westward passed low overhead, a great welter of cloud and smoke now lit again beneath with a sullen glow of red. Sam looked up towards the orc-tower, and suddenly from its narrow windows lights stared out like small red eyes. He wondered if they were some signal. His fear of the orcs, forgotten for a while in his wrath and desperation, now returned. As far as he could see, there was only one possible course for him to take: he must go on and try to find the main entrance to the dreadful tower; but his knees felt weak, and he found that he was trembling. Drawing his eyes down from the tower and the horns of the Cleft before him, he forced his unwilling feet to obey him, and slowly, listening with all his ears, peering into the dense shadows of the rocks beside the way, he retraced his steps, past the place where Frodo fell, and still the stench of Shelob lingered, and then on and up, until he stood again in the very cleft where he had put on the Ring and seen Shagrat’s company go by. There to his delight and amazement, Sam found sitting Faramir of Gondor, seated on the ground with his head in his hands but alive and unharmed.

Great was the joy of their meeting, for each had thought the other dead and taken by the clutches of Shelob deep into her tunnels never to see the sky again. But sorrow there was also as Sam told Faramir all that he had seen and heard: of Gollum’s betrayal and Shelob’s trap; Frodo’s fall and Sam’s decision; and finally of the orc patrol and where they had taken his master.

“But we cannot stay here,” said Sam. “Mr Frodo is trapped in that tower suffering goodness knows what torments. We must rescue him.” 

“Then I am with you Master Gamgee. We have come too far and through too many dangers to abandon our friend to torment and death.” Faramir placed his hand on Samwise’s shoulder. “Take heart, for we shall recover him.”

Sam gave a faint smile, and set his face toward the tower. Together they went up climbing path, and over it. At once the road turned left and plunged steeply down. Sam and Faramir had crossed into Mordor.

 

Turn One

Hard and cruel and bitter was the land that met their gaze. Before their feet the highest ridge of the Ephel Duath fell steeply in great cliffs down into a dark trough, on the further side of which there rose another ridge, much lower, its edge notched and jagged with crags like fangs that stood out black against the red light behind them. Far beyond it, but almost straight ahead, across a wide lake of darkness dotted with tiny fires, there was a great burning glow; and from it rose in huge columns a swirling smoke, dusty red at the roots, black above where it merged into the billowing canopy that roofed in all the accursed land. They were looking at Orodruin, the Mountain of Fire. Ever and anon the furnaces far below its ashen cone would grow hot and with a great surging and throbbing pour forth rivers of molten rock from chasms in its sides.

Alan Lee - Cirith Ungol.jpgIn such an hour of labour Sam and Faramir beheld Mount Doom, and the light of it now glared against the stark rock faces, so that they seemed to be drenched with blood. In that dreadful light Sam stood aghast, for now, looking to his left, he could see the Tower of Cirith Ungol in all its strength. The horn that he had seen from the other side was only its topmost turret. Its eastern face stood up in three great tiers from a shelf in the mountain-wall far below; its back was to a great cliff behind, from which it jutted out in pointed bastions, one above the other, diminishing as they rose, with sheer sides of cunning masonry that looked north-east and south-east. About the lowest tier, two hundred feet below where the two now stood, there was a battlemented wall enclosing a narrow court. Its gate, upon the near south-eastern side, opened on a broad road, the outer parapet of which ran upon the brink of a precipice, until it turned southward and went winding down into the darkness to join the road that came over the Morgul Pass. The narrow upper way on which Sam stood leapt swiftly down by stair and steep path to meet the main road under the frowning walls close to the Tower-gate. 

Only too clearly Sam saw how hopeless it would be for him to creep down under those many eyed walls and pass the watchful gate. And even if he did so, he could not go far on the guarded road beyond: not even the black shadows, lying deep where the red glow could not reach, would shield him long from the night-eyed orcs. But desperate as that road might be, his task was now far worse: not to avoid the gate and escape, but to enter it. His thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. 

Sam said half to himself and half to Faramir, “Well just when being invisible would be really useful I can’t use the Ring, not that way at least. He’d spot me and cow me, before I could so much as shout out. Well, all I can say is: things look as hopeless as a frost in spring.” 

“So what then is to be done?” Faramir knew the answer of course, but asked the question of Sam to bolster the hobbit’s courage by lending voice to his heart.

“We must go down,” he replied. “We must enter that gate and not linger any longer.”

CIRITH UNGOL BY GREG AND TIM HILDEBRANDT | Tolkien artwork ...As they went down to the Tower, Sam and Faramir said nothing to one another. They were now passing under the very walls of the Tower, and the cries and sounds of fighting could be heard within them. At the moment the noise seemed to be coming from the court behind the outer wall. Sam was about half way down the path when out of the dark gateway into the red glow there came two orcs running. They did not turn towards him. They were making for the main road; but even as they ran they stumbled and fell to the ground and lay still. Sam had seen no arrows, but he guessed that the orcs had been shot down by others on the battlements or hidden in the shadow of the gate. 

He went on, hugging the wall on his left. One look upward had shown him that there was no hope of climbing it. The stone-work rose thirty feet, without a crack or ledge, to overhanging courses like inverted steps. The gate was the only way. He crept on; and as he went he wondered how many orcs lived in the Tower with Shagrat, and how many Gorbag had, and what they were quarreling about, if that was what was happening. Shagrat’s company had seemed to be about forty, and Gorbag’s more than twice as large; but of course Shagrat’s patrol had only been a part of his garrison. Almost certainly they were quarrelling about Frodo, and the spoil. For a second Sam halted, for suddenly things seemed clear to him, almost as if he had seen them with his eyes. “The mithril coat!” he exclaimed to Faramir. “Of course, Frodo was wearing it, and they would find it.” Then without waiting for an answer Sam drew Sting and cried aloud. “Come on, you miserable sluggard!” and he ran towards the open gate. 

But just as he was about to pass under its great arch he felt a shock: as if he had run into some web like Shelob’s, only invisible. He could see no obstacle, but something too strong for his will to overcome barred the way. He looked about, and then within the shadow of the gate he saw the Two Watchers. They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid claw-like hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape. Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head.

Then Faramir came alongside him and, muttering under his breath a tongue Sam did not sound recognise, he took Sam by the shoulder and together they walked through the gates, moving slowly as though through a hundred strands of rope were pulling them back.

Suddenly they were through and the two sprang forward, but even as they did so they were aware as plainly as if a bar of steel had snapped to behind them, that the vigilance of the Watchers was renewed. And from those evil heads there came a high shrill cry that echoed in the towering walls before him. Far up above, like an answering signal, a harsh bell clanged a single stroke. “That’s done it!” said Sam. “Now we’ve rung the front-door bell!”

But there was no answer. Sam strode forward, Sting glittered blue in his hand, and behind came Faramir with bent bow and vigilant eyes.

 

Turn Two

FFG- Moon OrcThe courtyard lay in deep shadow, but he could see that the pavement was strewn with bodies. Right at his feet were two orc-archers with knives sticking in their backs. Beyond lay many more shapes; some singly as they had been hewn down or shot; others in pairs, still grappling one another, dead in the very throes of stabbing, throttling, biting. The stones were slippery with dark blood. Even as they looked a great Uruk wearing the livery of the Moon and wielding a wicked glaive emerged from the shadows before them on the far side of the courtyard. It did not seem to notice them, intent as it was on scanning the bodies that lay there upon the ground. But its vigilance was lacking, for the Uruk had barely gone three steps into the courtyard when another creature wearing the sigil of the Red Eye stabbed up from the ground where he lay. Issuing a scream of pain the Uruk of the Moon fell upon his foe and they thrashed and stabbed and tore at one another.

Unseen by the combatants, Sam and Faramir slowly entered a doorway on the near wall of the courtyard, stepping over a large dead orc that lay upon the threshold. A wide and echoing passage led back from the door towards the mountain-side. It was dimly lit with torches flaring in brackets on the walls, but its distant end was lost in gloom. Many doors and openings could be seen on this side and that; but it was empty save for two or three more bodies sprawling on the floor. From what he had heard of the captains’ talk Sam knew that, dead or alive, Frodo would most likely be found in a chamber high up in the turret far above; but they might search for a day before he found the way. 

“It’ll be near the back, I guess,” Sam whispered to Faramir. “The whole Tower climbs backwards-like. And anyway we’d better follow these lights. If we were to run into trouble I’d much rather see it coming than have it sneak up on us.” 

Faramir was silent but nodded his assent. The horrific night of Shelob’s tunnels was too fresh in his mind’s eye to face the darkness of an unlit Orc-hold. They advanced down the passage, but slowly now, each step more reluctant. Terror was beginning to grip them again. There was no sound save the rap of his feet, which seemed to grow to an echoing noise, like the slapping of great hands upon the stones. The dead bodies: the emptiness; the dank black walls that in the torchlight seemed to drip with blood; the fear of sudden death lurking in doorway or shadow; and behind all Sam’s mind the waiting watchful malice at the gate: it was almost more than he could screw himself to face. He would have welcomed a fight – with not too many enemies at a time – rather than this hideous brooding uncertainty. 

Forcing himself to speak so as to keep him mind from running wild, Sam asked Faramir of the statues they had passed and the words the Ranger had uttered to allow them passage through the gates.

“This place was not always a tower of darkness or evil,” Faramir explained. “The tower was built by the men of Numenor in the aftermath of Sauron’s Fall. His servants were still numerous and malevolent, and this tower was constructed to protect Ithilien from incursions out of Mordor. But the power of Gondor waned, and this place was abandoned to the Enemy. And yet the stones here have not forgotten, and the tongue of Numenor still has power in this place.”

FFG- Fire OrcFaramir stopped short, for running feet was heard coming down the passage toward them. Sam readied Sting before him while Faramir put an arrow to his bow. And even as he drew back the string, an orc came clattering down the passage toward them bearing a torch before him. Leaping out of a dark opening at the right, it ran towards him. It was no more than six paces from him when, lifting its head, it saw him; and Sam could hear its gasping breath and see the glare in its bloodshot eyes. It stopped short aghast, but before it could react Faramir let fly and the creature was thrown backward onto the floor, stricken in the throat by the Gondorian dart.

 

Turn Three

As they drew level with the dark opening out of which the orc had sprung, Sam and Faramir saw it was in fact a door back out into the bloodied courtyard they had seen from the gate. They had come round to the side of the courtyard shrouded in shadow and saw that there was now no movement. Still shapes lay on the ground, black blood polling the floor around them and glowing an evil crimson in the glare cast off by far Orodruin that bathed everything in its fiery light.  

Before them the passage stretched forward, lit intermittently by guttering torches casting a flickering glow in the darkness. Briefly conferring, the two companions decided that the openness to be found in the courtyard here was safer than the enclosed space of the passage. Taking a deep breath, together Faramir and Sam stepped out of the doorway but remained in the safety of the shadows close to the wall as they crept forward.

Fallen Fantasy – The Orcs Of Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor (With ...Now having entered into the courtyard they could see that here the fighting had been fiercest. All the court was choked with dead orcs or their severed and scattered heads and limbs. The place stank of death. Across the courtyard a door stood ajar at the base of the tower, wedged open by the fallen corpse of a small orc wearing the Morgul Moon on his livery. He had fallen with several black fletched arrows in his chest and his sword was beneath him. Beyond the doorway could be seen a narrow stairway winding up the tower to its summit.

Slowly they crept through the shadows, stepping over bodies and blades as they went, fearful that the clattering of any armour or weapon on the cold, hard flagstones might reveal their position. Sam sheathed Sting so as to hide the glitter that even now came faintly from the ancient blade lest some watchful eye from the tower above spy them amid the shadows and so rally what Orcs that remained against them.

As Sam stepped over the cloven body of a large Uruk with a Red Eye on his broad round shield, a hot gust of wind rolled into the courtyard from the blasted landscape beyond. With it swept a great stench of smoke and sulphur mingled together, issuing forth from a hundred dens, pits and vents, that caused his eyes to smart and his stomach to retch. Blinded and fighting a gag reflex, Sam did not see where his foot was descending, and down he stepped upon the shield with the Red Eye. Losing his footing, the halfling tripped and fell onto the cold flagstones. The cold steel of Sting clattered on the stone as clearly as a bell pealing in a tower.

Before he could recover, Sam heard a dull thud and the Uruk body he was now laying on quivered. Protruding from its side not six inches from his hand was a black-feathered shaft that had not been there a moment ago. Faramir darted forward, seized Sam by the arm and hauled him back against the courtyard wall, scanning the battlements and towers for any sign of their assailant.

They were not a moment too soon, for a second arrow thumped into the fallen Uruk and a third clinked off the stone where Faramir had stood. Casting his gaze about, Sam spotted above the gateway they had not long entered a pair of Orcs silhouetted against the blood red sky. The halfling grasped Faramir’s forearm and pointed them out to the ranger. In one breath Faramir raised his bow, drew back his arrow and let fly. Sam did not see where the Orc was struck, but the force of the arrow was such that it was flung backward over the parapet behind him. As he fell, the Orc gave a sharp shriek that was cut abruptly short by the dull thump of his body hitting the ground below.

“Go Sam,” whispered Faramir. “Make for the door, I shall follow when I can.” Without waiting for the hobbit to answer Faramir stepped forward and bent his bow toward the remaining orc. Sam did not look back, but fixing his eyes on the door ahead he ran.

 

Turn Four

Through the door ran the hobbit, ducking against any darts the orcs behind him might send. He found himself at the foot of a stairway, winding up and up into the tower above. Sam stood for a moment, took a deep breath, and began to climb. Up, up he went. It was dark save for an occasional torch flaring at a turn, or beside some opening that led into the higher levels of the Tower. Sam tried to count the steps, but after two hundred he lost his reckoning. He was moving quietly now: for he thought that he could hear the sound of voices talking, still some way above. More than one rat remained alive up here, it seemed. All at once, when he felt that he could pump out no more breath, nor force his knees to bend again, the stair ended. 

FFG- GorbagHe stood still. The voices were now loud and near. Sam peered about. He had climbed right to the flat roof of the third and highest tier of the Tower: an open space, about twenty yards across, with a low parapet. There the stair was covered by a small domed chamber in the midst of the roof, with low doors facing east and west. Eastward Sam could see the plain of Mordor vast and dark below, and the burning mountain far away. A fresh turmoil was surging in its deep wells, and the rivers of fire blazed so fiercely that even at this distance of many miles the light of them lit the tower-top with a red glare. Westward the view was blocked by the base of the great turret that stood at the back of this upper court and reared its horn high above the crest of the encircling hills. Light gleamed in a window-slit. Its door was not ten yards from where Sam stood. It was open but dark, and from just within its shadow the voices came. At first Sam did not listen; he took a pace out of the eastward door and looked about. 

A snarl followed by a blow and a cry sent him darting back into hiding. Out of the turret-door the smaller orc came flying. Behind him came a large orc with long arms that, as he ran crouching, reached to the ground. But one arm hung limp and seemed to be bleeding; the other hugged a large black bundle. In the red glare Sam, cowering behind the stair door, caught a glimpse of his evil face as it passed: it was scored as if by rending claws and smeared with blood; slaver dripped from its protruding fangs; the mouth snarled like an animal. Its rose in anger, and Sam knew it again at once, harsh, brutal, cold. It was Gorbag speaking, the Captain out of the Minas Morgul. “You won’t go again, you say? Curse you, Snaga, you little maggot! If you think I’m so damaged that it’s safe to flout me, you’re mistaken. Come here, and I’ll squeeze your eyes out, like I did to Radbug just now. And when some new lads come, I’ll deal with you: I’ll send you to Shelob.”

“They won’t come, not before you’re dead anyway,” answered Snaga surlily as he picked himself up. “I’ve told you twice that Shagrat’s swine got to the gate first, and none of ours got out. Lagduf and Muzgash ran through, but they were shot. I saw it from a window, I tell you. And they were the last.”

“Then you must go. I must stay here anyway. But I’m hurt. The Black Pits take that filthy scum Shagrat!” Gorbag’s voice trailed off into a string of foul names and curses. “I gave him better than I got, but he knifed me, the dung, before I throttled him. You must go, or I’ll eat you. News must get through to Lugburz, or we’ll both be for the Black Pits. Yes, you too. You won’t escape by skulking here.”

“I’m not going down those stairs again,” growled Snaga, “be you captain or no. Nar! Keep your hands off your knife, or I’ll put an arrow in your guts. You won’t be a captain long when They hear about all these goings-on. I’ve fought for Morgul against those stinking Tower-rats, but a nice mess you two precious captains have made of things, fighting over the swag.”

“That’s enough from you,” snarled Gorbag. “I had my orders. It was Shagrat what started it, saying I couldn’t have that pretty shirt.”

Out of the eastward door Sam could see him now by the parapet, panting, his left claw clenching and unclenching feebly. He put the bundle on the floor and with his right claw drew out a long red knife and spat on it. Going to the parapet he leaned over, looking down into the outer court far below. Suddenly several things happened at once, for as Gorbag was stooped over the battlement, his back arched as a black feathered arrow struck his throat. The smaller orc with a yelp darted back into the turret and disappeared.Then before Sam could do or say anything, Gorbag toppled forward over the parapet and the halfling never saw him again. And even as the uruk fell, a cutting shriek stabbed through the sky. A new wave of dread washed over the Tower that Sam was all too familiar with. It seemed that a Nazgul had come to Cirith Ungol.

 

Turn Five

FFG- Orc ArcherFaramir did not wait for Sam to respond and run through the door leading out of the courtyard, but turned his bow to the remaining orc. However before he could loose his arrow, the orc ducked down below the parapet and his target was lost. All was still in the courtyard, and all that could be heard was the whispering wind coming off the blasted plain of Gorgoroth, and the fading patter of Sam’s feet climbing the stairs.

The ranger kept to the shadows as he scanned the battlements above him, keeping careful watch for any sign that might betray the orc’s position. Faramir knew his enemy and, despite what was commonly believed on the streets of Minas Tirith, the Orc was not an unintelligent creature, especially when on the hunt, and more so in haunts it knows well. Too many of his men and friends had fallen to unseen arrows and hidden blades for that lesson to go unlearned. But he was a man of patience, a hunter after his own fashion, and his arrows always found their mark.

His arrows. With a start Faramir saw the fletching on his arrow catch the light of a nearby torch, flickering green as the flames kept and danced. This will not do, he thought. If there is anything that might stop these Orcs fighting amongst themselves, it would be the presence of an intruder in their midst.

Frantic in sudden desperation, Faramir cast his gaze about the place. There he saw in the midst of the courtyard a fallen uruk with a quiver of black fletched arrows, and in his clenched hand was a tall bow of dark wood. With a bound the ranger leapt across the courtyard, prying the bow out of the uruk’s talons just as a dart thumped into a fallen corpse to his side. Faramir took a dark arrow and let it fly at the orc that had nearly struck him while he yet set his own arrow to string. Silently the orc fell heavily behind the rampart and did not stir again. Slinging the uruk’s quiver over this shoulder, the ranger crept back to the shadows of the courtyard and fitted another arrow to the dark bow. 

Silently the ranger began to make his way toward the open door Sam had disappeared through. Faramir’s keen eyes were vigilant as they were scanning the battlements for any movement. He was just passing under the doorway when from above came guttural voices and curses. Faramir stilled his breath, set a black-feathered arrow to string and leaned out into the courtyard. Squinting against the dark, red sky above, the ranger strained to see any movement giving away what caused the noise above.

Suddenly a dark shape appeared, silhouetted against the sky, leaning over the parapet and looking down to the courtyard below. Faramir drew back the dark yew bow, which resisted his pull harder than his own heartwood bow, which sprang back as he loosed the dart. The steel arrowhead gleamed in the light of Orodriun as it sped up. There came a low grunt, and then forward the dark shape toppled, over the battlement and down, down to the courtyard before Faramir it fell, landing with a heavy thud and a crack.

The Nazgul Times: Cirith Ungol Themed ListAnd even as the orc fell a cry reached Faramir’s ears that cut through his bones, and a shadow passed over the Tower even as a blast of fear passed over his heart. He looked up, and saw high above a dark shape wheeling as it slowly descended. And so Faramir ran, bounding up two or three steps with each stride. In one hand he bore the bow of dark yew, and in the other his blade was borne bare and bright. Fear and terror moved within his heart, but determination and resolve also.

 

Turn Six

Sam was frozen momentarily by the shriek of the Nazgul, but soon the thought of Frodo returned to him, and he remembered that the other orc had gone back into the turret. He came cautiously to the turret-door and stepped inside. It opened into darkness. But soon his staring eyes were aware of a dim light at his right hand. It came from an opening that led to another stairway, dark and narrow: it appeared to go winding up the turret along the inside of its round outer wall. A torch was glimmering from somewhere up above. Softly Sam began to climb. He came to the guttering torch, fixed above a door on his left that faced a window-slit looking out westward: one of the red eyes that he and Frodo had seen from down below by the tunnel’s mouth. Quickly Sam passed the door and hurried on to the second storey, dreading at any moment to he attacked and to feel throttling fingers seize his throat from behind. He came next to a window looking east and another torch above the door to a passage through the middle of the turret. The door was open, the passage dark save for the glimmer of the torch and the red glare from outside filtering through the window-slit. But here the stair stopped and climbed no further.

Sam crept into the passage. On either side there was a low door; both were closed and locked. There was no sound at all. “A dead end,” muttered Sam; “and after all my climb! This can’t be the top of the tower. But what can I do now?” He ran back to the lower storey and tried the door. It would not move. He ran up again, and sweat began to trickle down his face. He felt that even minutes were precious, but one by one they escaped; and he could do nothing. At last, weary and feeling finally defeated, he sat on a step below the level of the passage-floor and bowed his head into his hands. It was quiet, horribly quiet. The torch, that was already burning low when he arrived, sputtered and went out; and he felt the darkness cover him like a tide. And then softly, to his own surprise, there at the vain end of his long journey and his grief, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing and words of his own came unbidden to fit the simple tune. 

FFG- Song of Hope“In western lands beneath the Sun the flowers may rise in Spring, the trees may bud, the waters run, the merry finches sing. Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night and swaying beeches bear the Elven-stars as jewels white amid their branching hair. Though here at journey’s end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun and Stars for ever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.”

Sam stopped short. He thought that he had heard a faint voice answering him. But now he could hear nothing. Yes, he could hear something, but not a voice. Footsteps were approaching. Now a door was being opened quietly in the passage above; the hinges creaked. Sam crouched down listening. The door closed with a dull thud; and then a snarling orc-voice rang out. “You up there, you dunghill rat! Stop your squeaking, or I’ll come and deal with you. D’you hear?” There was no answer. “All right,” growled Snaga. “But I’ll come and have a look at you all the same, and see what you’re up to.” The hinges creaked again, and Sam, now peering over the corner of the passage-threshold, saw a flicker of light in an open doorway, and the dim shape of an orc coming out. He seemed to be carrying a ladder. 

Randy Gallegos and Quinton Hoover - Gallegos.jpgSuddenly the answer dawned on Sam: the topmost chamber was reached by a trap-door in the roof of the passage. Snaga thrust the ladder upwards, steadied it, and then clambered out of sight. Sam heard a bolt drawn back. Then he heard the hideous voice speaking again. “You lie quiet, or you’ll pay for it! You’ve not got long to live in peace, I guess; but if you don’t want the fun to begin right now, keep your trap shut, see? There’s a reminder for you!” There was a sound like the crack of a whip. At that rage blazed in Sam’s heart to a sudden fury. He sprang up, ran, and went up the ladder like a cat. 

His head came out in the middle of the floor of a large round chamber. A red lamp hung from its roof; the westward window-slit was high and dark. Something was lying on the floor by the wall under the window, but over it a black orc-shape was straddled. It raised a whip a second time, but the blow never fell. With a cry Sam leapt across the floor, Sting in hand. The orc wheeled round, but before it could make a move Sam slashed its whip-hand from its arm. Howling with pain and fear but desperate the orc charged head-down at him. Sam’s next blow went wide, and thrown off his balance he fell backwards, clutching at the orc as it stumbled over him. Before he could scramble up he heard a cry and a thud. The orc in its wild haste had tripped on the ladder-head and fallen through the open trap-door. Sam gave no more thought to it.

 

Turn Seven

He ran to the figure huddled on the floor. It was Frodo. He was naked, lying as if in a swoon on a heap of filthy rags: his arm was flung up, shielding his head, and across his side there ran an ugly whip-weal. “Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!” cried Sam, tears almost blinding him. “It’s Sam, I’ve come!” He half lifted his master and hugged him to his breast. 

Frodo opened his eyes. “Am I still dreaming?” he muttered. “But the other dreams were horrible.” 

“You’re not dreaming at all, Master,” said Sam. “It’s real. It’s me. I’ve come.”

“I can hardly believe it,” said Frodo, clutching him. “There was an orc with a whip, and then it turns into Sam! Then I wasn’t dreaming after all when I heard that singing down below, and I tried to answer? Was it you?”

“It was indeed, Mr. Frodo. I’d given up hope, almost. I couldn’t find you.”

“Well, you have now, Sam, dear Sam,” said Frodo, and he lay back in Sam’s gentle arms, closing his eyes, like a child at rest when night-fears are driven away by some loved voice or hand. 

Sam felt that he could sit like that in endless happiness; but it was not allowed. It was not enough for him to find his master, he had still to try and save him. He kissed Frodo’s forehead. “Come! Wake up Mr. Frodo!” he said, trying to sound as cheerful as he had when he drew back the curtains at Bag End on a summer’s morning. 

Frodo sighed and sat up. “Where are we? How did I get here?” he asked. 

“There’s no time for tales till we get somewhere else, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam. “But you’re in the top of that tower you and me saw from away down by the tunnel before the orcs got you. How long ago that was I don’t know. More than a day, I guess.But we needs must be getting on now sir. Can you walk?”

“Yes, I can walk,” said Frodo, getting up slowly. “I am not hurt Sam. Only I feel very tired, and I’ve a pain here.” He put his hand to the back of his neck above his left shoulder. He stood up, and it looked to Sam as if he was clothed in flame: his naked skin was scarlet in the light of the lamp above. Twice he paced across the floor. “That’s better!” he said, his spirits rising a little. “I didn’t dare to move when I was left alone, or one of the guards came. Until the yelling and fighting began. The two big brutes: they quarrelled, I think. Over me and my things. I lay here terrified. And then all went deadly quiet, and that was worse. But they’ve taken everything, Sam,” said Frodo. “Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything!” He cowered on the floor again with bowed head, as his own words brought home to him the fullness of the disaster, and despair overwhelmed him. “The quest has failed Sam. Even if we get out of here, we can’t escape. Only Elves can escape. Away, away out of Middle-earth, far away over the Sea. If even that is wide enough to keep the Shadow out.”

Alan Lee's Hands | Lord of the rings, One ring, The hobbit“No, not everything, Mr. Frodo. And it hasn’t failed, not yet. I took it, Mr. Frodo, begging your pardon. And I’ve kept it safe. It’s round my neck now, and a terrible burden it is, too.” Sam fumbled for the Ring and its chain. “But I suppose you must take it back.” Now it had come to it, Sam felt reluctant to give up the Ring and burden his master with it again. 

“You’ve got it?” gasped Frodo. “You’ve got it here? Sam, you’re a marvel!” Then quickly and strangely his tone changed. “Give it to me!” he cried, standing up, holding out a trembling hand. “Give it me at once! You can’t have it!” 

“All right, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, rather startled. “Here it is!” Slowly he drew the Ring out and passed the chain over his head. Frodo snatched the Ring and chain from Sam’s hands. `No you can’t have it, you thief!’ He panted, staring at Sam with eyes wide with fear and enmity. Then suddenly, clasping the Ring in one clenched fist, he stood aghast. A mist seemed to clear from his eyes, and he passed a hand over his aching brow. The hideous vision had seemed so real to him, half bemused as he was still with wound and fear. Sam had changed before his very eyes into an orc again, leering and pawing at his treasure, a foul little creature with greedy eyes and slobbering mouth. But now the vision had passed. There was Sam kneeling before him, his face wrung with pain, as if he had been stabbed in the heart; tears welled from his eyes. “O Sam!” cried Frodo. “What have I said? What have I done? Forgive me! After all you have done. It is the horrible power of the Ring. I wish it had never, never, been found. But you can’t come between me and this doom.” 

“That’s all right, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, rubbing his sleeve across his eyes. “I understand. But I can still help, can’t I? I’ve got to get you out of here. At once, see! But first you want some clothes and then some food once we’re gone. The clothes will be the easiest part. As we’re in Mordor, we’d best dress up Mordor-fashion; and anyway there isn’t no choice. It’ll have to be orc-stuff for you, Mr. Frodo, I’m afraid. And for me too. If we go together, we’d best match. Now put this round you!” Sam unclasped his grey cloak and cast it about Frodo’s shoulders. Then he stepped to the trap-door and slipped down the ladder. 

 

Turn Eight

It seemed as though an age passed before Sam’s head reappeared, though in actuality it had only been a dozen or so minutes. He threw a long knife on the floor. “There’s something that might be useful,” he said. “He’s dead: the one that whipped you. Broke his neck, it seems, in his hurry. And there’s some clothes down here as might fit you.” Sam came up again, tossing a bundle onto the ground.

Frodo looked in disgust at the contents, but there was nothing for it: he had to put the things on, or go naked. There were long hairy breeches of some unclean beast-fell, and a tunic of dirty leather. He drew them on. Over the tunic went a coat of stout ring-mail, short for a full-sized orc, too long for Frodo and heavy. About it he clasped a belt, at which there hung a short sheath holding a broad-bladed stabbing-sword. Sam had brought several orc-helmets. One of them fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nose-guard. 

Orc Disguise by Borja Pindado (With images) | Fantasy artwork ...“The Morgul-stuff was a better fit and better made,” said Sam; “but it wouldn’t do, I guess, to go carrying those tokens into Mordor, not after this business here. Well, there you are, Mr. Frodo. A perfect little orc, if I may make so bold-at least you would be, if we could cover your face with a mask, give you longer arms, and make you bow-legged. This will hide some of the tell-tales.” He put a large black cloak round Frodo’s shoulders. “Now you’re ready! You can pick up a shield as we go.”

 “What about you, Sam?” said Frodo. “Aren’t we going to match?” “Well, Mr. Frodo, I’ve been thinking,” said Sam. “I’d best not leave any of my stuff behind, and we can’t destroy it. And I can’t wear orc-mail over all my clothes, can I? I’ll just have to cover up.” He knelt down and carefully folded his elven-cloak. It went into a surprisingly small roll. This he put into his pack that lay on the floor. Standing up, he slung it behind his back, put an orc-helm on his head, and cast another black cloak about his shoulders. “There!” he said. “Now we match, near enough. And now we must be off! Faramir’s just downstairs, or so he was when I left him, and he’ll be waiting for us.” 

A faint smile passed Frodo’s face and at last they started. Down the ladder they climbed, and then Sam took it and laid it in the passage beside the huddled body of the fallen orc. The stair was dark, but on the roof-top the glare of the Mountain could still be seen, though it was dying down now to a sullen red. They picked up two shields to complete their disguise and then went on. Down the great stairway they plodded. The high chamber of the turret behind, where they had met again, seemed almost homely: they were out in the open again now, and terror ran along the walls. Had either of them looked behind, on a parapet high above, a solitary figure stood watching silently, in his clawed hand a coat of silver rings.

But they did not, and so they went on. Wordlessly a shadow stepped out of the darkness of the walls and Frodo smiled to see the familiar face of Faramir. All else might be dead in the Tower of Cirith Ungol for all they heard, but it was steeped in fear and evil still. At length they came to the door upon the outer court, and they halted. Even from where they stood they felt the malice of the Watchers beating on them, black silent shapes on either side of the gate through which the glare of Mordor dimly showed. As they threaded their way among the hideous bodies of the ores each step became more difficult. Before they even reached the archway they were brought to a stand. To move an inch further was a pain and weariness to will and limb. Frodo had no strength for such a battle. But now Faramir spoke once again the words of ancient Numenor and the will of the Watchers was broken with a suddenness like the snapping of a cord, and they stumbled forward. Then they ran. Through the gate and past the great seated figures with their glittering eyes. 

There was a crack. The keystone of the arch crashed almost on their heels, and the wall above crumbled, and fell in ruin. Only by a hair did they escape. A bell clanged; and from the Watchers there went up a high and dreadful wail. Far up above in the darkness it was answered. Out of the black sky there came dropping like a bolt a winged shape, rending the clouds with a ghastly shriek. 

The Wizard's Quest - Fantasy Flight GamesDown the road from the gate they fled. In fifty paces, with a swift bend round a jutting bastion of the cliff, it took them out of sight from the Tower. They had escaped for the moment. Cowering back against the rock they drew breath, and then they clutched at their hearts. Perching now on the wall beside the ruined gate the Nazgûl sent out its deadly cries. All the cliffs echoed. In terror they stumbled on. Soon the road bent sharply eastward again and exposed them for a dreadful moment to view from the Tower. As they flitted across they glanced back and saw the great black shape upon the battlement; then they plunged down between high rock-walls in a cutting that fell steeply to join the Morgul-road. They came to the way-meeting. There was still no sign of orcs, nor of an answer to the cry of the Nazgûl; but they knew that the silence would not last long. At any moment now the hunt would begin.

Chapter XXIV: The Black Gate Opens