Before the next day dawned their journey to Mordor was over. The marshes and the desert were behind them. Before them, darkling against a pallid sky, the great mountains reared their threatening heads.
Upon the west of Mordor marched the gloomy range of Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and upon the north the broken peaks and barren ridges of Ered Lithui, grey as ash. But as these ranges approached one another, being indeed but parts of one great wall about the mournful plains of Lithlad and of Gorgoroth, and the bitter inland sea of Núrnen amidmost, they Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed swung out long arms northward; and between these arms there was a deep defile. This was Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass, the entrance to the land of the Enemy. High cliffs lowered upon either side, and thrust forward from its mouth were two sheer hills, black-boned and bare. Upon them stood the Teeth of Mordor, two towers strong and tall. In days long past they were built by the Men of Gondor in their pride and power, after the overthrow of Sauron and his flight, lest he should seek to return to his old realm. But the strength Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed of Gondor failed, and men slept, and for long years the towers stood empty. Then Sauron returned. Now the watch-towers, which had fallen into decay, were repaired, and filled with arms, and garrisoned with ceaseless vigilance. Stony-faced they were, with dark window-holes staring north and east and west, and each window was full of sleepless eyes.
Across the mouth of the pass, from cliff to cliff, the Dark Lord had built a rampart of stone. In it there was a single gate of iron, and upon its battlement sentinels paced unceasingly. Beneath the hills on either Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed side the rock was bored into a hundred caves and maggot-holes: there a host of orcs lurked, ready at a signal to issue forth like black ants going to war. None could pass the Teeth of Mordor and not feel their bite, unless they were summoned by Sauron, or knew the secret passwords that would open the Morannon, the black gate of his land.
The two hobbits gazed at the towers and the wall in despair. Even from a distance they could see in the dim light the movement of the black guards upon the wall, and Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the patrols before the gate. They lay now peering over the edge of a rocky hollow beneath the out-stretched shadow of the northmost buttress of Ephel Dúath. Winging the heavy air in a straight flight a crow, maybe, would have flown but a furlong from their hiding-place to the black summit of the nearer tower. A faint smoke curled above it, as if fire smouldered in the hill beneath.
Day came, and the fallow sun blinked over the lifeless ridges of Ered Lithui. Then suddenly the cry of brazen-throated trumpets was heard: from the watch-towers they blared Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed, and far away from hidden holds and outposts in the hills came answering calls; and further still, remote but deep and ominous, there echoed in the hollow land beyond the mighty horns and drums of Barad-dûr. Another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor; and the night-guards were summoned to their dungeons and deep halls, and the day-guards, evil-eyed and fell, were marching to their posts. Steel gleamed dimly on the battlement.
`Well, here we are! ' said Sam. `Here's the Gate, and it looks to me as if that's Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed about as far as we are ever going to get. My word, but the Gaffer would have a thing or two to say, if he saw me now! Often said I'd come to a bad end, if I didn't watch my step, he did. But now I don't suppose I'll ever see the old fellow again. He'll miss his chance of I told'ee so, Sam: more's the pity. He could go on telling me as long as he'd got breath, if only I could see his old face Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed again. But I'd have to get a wash first, or he wouldn't know me.
`I suppose it's no good asking "what way do we go now?" We can't go no further-unless we want to ask the orcs for a lift.'
`No, no! ' said Gollum. `No use. We can't go further. Sméagol said so. He said: we'll go to the Gate, and then we'll see. And we do see. O yes. my precious, we do see. Sméagol knew hobbits could not go this way. O yes. Sméagol knew '
'Then what Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the plague did you bring us here for? ' said Sam, not feeling in the mood to be just or reasonable.
`Master said so. Master says: Bring us to the Gate. So good Sméagol does so. Master said so, wise master.'
'I did,' said Frodo. His face was grim and set. but resolute. He was filthy, haggard, and pinched with weariness, but he cowered no longer, and his eyes were clear. `I said so, because I purpose to enter Mordor, and I know no other way. Therefore I shall go this way. I do not ask anyone to go with me Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed.'
`No, no, master! ' wailed Gollum; pawing at him, and seeming in great distress. `No use that way! No use! Don't take the Precious to Him! He'll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world. Keep it, nice master, and be kind to Sméagol. Don't let Him have it. Or go away. go to nice places, and give it back to little Sméagol. Yes, yes, master: give it back, eh? Sméagol will keep it safe; he will do lots of good, especially to nice hobbits. Hobbits go home. Don Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed't go to the Gate! '
'I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go,' said Frodo. 'If there is only one way, then I must take it. What comes after must come.'
Sam said nothing. The look on Frodo's face was enough for him he knew that words of his were useless. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed. Now they were come to the bitter end Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. But he had stuck to his master all the way; that was what he had chiefly come for, and he would still stick to him. His master would not go to Mordor alone. Sam would go with him-and at any rate they would get rid of Gollum.
Gollum, however, did not intend to be got rid of, yet. He knelt at Frodo's feet, wringing his hands and squeaking. 'Not this way, master! ' he pleaded, 'There is another way. O yes indeed there is. Another way. darker, more difficult to find, more secret. But Sméagol knows it Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. Let Sméagol show you! '
'Another way! ' said Frodo doubtfully, looking down at Gollum with searching eyes.
'Yess! Yess indeed! There was another way. Sméagol found it. Let's go and see if it's still there! '
`You have not spoken of this before.'
`No. Master did not ask. Master did not say what he meant to do. He does not tell poor Sméagol. He says: Sméagol, take me to the Gate – and then good bye! Sméagol can run away and be good. But now he says: I purpose to enter Mordor this way. So Sméagol Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed is very afraid. He does not want to lose nice master. And he promised, master made him promise, to save the Precious. But master is going to take it to Him, straight to the Black Hand, if master will go this way. So Sméagol must save them both, and he thinks of another way that there was, once upon a time. Nice master. Sméagol very good, always helps.'
Sam frowned. If he could have bored holes in Gollum with his eyes, he would have done. His mind was full of doubt. To all appearances Gollum was genuinely Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed distressed and anxious to help Frodo. But Sam, remembering the overheard debate, found it hard to believe that the long submerged Sméagol had come out on top: that voice at any rate had not had the last word in the debate. Sam's guess was that the Sméagol and Gollum halves (or what in his own mind he called Slinker and Stinker) had made a truce and a temporary alliance: neither wanted the Enemy to get the Ring; both wished to keep Frodo from capture, and under their eye, as long as possible – at any Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed rate as long as Stinker still had a chance of laying hands on his 'Precious'. Whether there really was another way into Mordor Sam doubted.
`And it's a good thing neither half of the old villain don't know what master means to do,' he thought. `If he knew that Mr. Frodo is trying to put an end to his Precious for good and all, there'd be trouble pretty quick, I bet. Anyhow old Stinker is so frightened of the Enemy – and he's under orders of some kind from him, or was – that he'd give Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed us away rather than be caught helping us; and rather than let his Precious be melted, maybe. At least that's my idea. And I hope the master will think it out carefully. He's as wise as any, but he's soft-hearted, that's what he is. It's beyond any Gamgee to guess what he'll do next.'
Frodo did not answer Gollum at once. While these doubts were passing through Sam's slow but shrewd mind, he stood gazing out towards the dark cliff of Cirith Gorgor. The hollow in which they had taken refuge Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed was delved in the side of a low hill, at some little height above a long trenchlike valley that lay between it and the outer buttresses of the mountains. In the midst of the valley stood the black foundations of the western watch-tower. By morning-light the roads that converged upon the Gate of Mordor could now be clearly seen, pale and dusty; one winding back northwards; another dwindling eastwards into the mists that clung about the feet of Ered Lithui; and a third that ran towards him. As it bent sharply round the tower, it entered a narrow Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed defile and passed not far below the hollow where he stood. Westward, to his right, it turned, skirting the shoulders of the mountains, and went off southwards into the deep shadows that mantled all the western sides of Ephel Dúath; beyond his sight it journeyed on into the narrow land between the mountains and the Great River.
As he gazed Frodo became aware that there was a great stir and movement on the plain. It seemed as if whole armies were on the march, though for the most part they were hidden by the reeks and fumes drifting from Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the fens and wastes beyond. But here and there he caught the gleam of spears and helmets; and over the levels beside the roads horsemen could be seen riding in many companies. He remembered his vision from afar upon Amon Hen, so few days before, though now it seemed many years ago. Then he knew that the hope that had for one wild moment stirred in his heart was vain. The trumpets had not rung in challenge but in greeting. This was no assault upon the Dark Lord by the men of Gondor, risen like avenging ghosts from the Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed graves of valour long passed away. These were Men of other race, out of the wide Eastlands, gathering to the summons of their Overlord; armies that had encamped before his Gate by night and now marched in to swell his mounting power. As if suddenly made fully aware of the peril of their position, alone, in the growing light of day, so near to this vast menace, Frodo quickly drew his frail grey hood close upon his head, and stepped down into the dell. Then he turned to Gollum.
`Sméagol,' he said, `I will trust you once more Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. lndeed it seems that I must do so, and that it is my fate to receive help from you. where I least looked for it, and your fate to help me whom you long pursued with evil purpose. So far you have deserved well of me and have kept your promise truly. Truly, I say and mean,' he added with a glance at Sam, 'for twice now we have been in your power, and you have done no harm to us. Nor have you tried to take from me what you once sought. May the third Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed time prove the best! But I warn you, Sméagol, you are in danger.'
`Yes, yes, master! ' said Gollum. `Dreadful danger! Sméagol's bones shake to think of it. but he doesn't run away. He must help nice master.'
'I did not mean the danger that we all share,' said Frodo. 'I mean a danger to yourself alone. You swore a promise by what you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it; but it will seek a way to twist it to your own undoing. Already you are being twisted. You revealed yourself to Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed me just now, foolishly. Give it back to Sméagol you said. Do not say that again! Do not let that thought grow in you! You will never get it back. But the desire of it may betray you to a bitter end. You will never get it back. In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. So have a care, Sméagol!'
Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness. Of course, he also firmly held the incompatible belief that Mr. Frodo was the wisest person in the world (with the possible exception of Old Mr. Bilbo and of Gandalf). Gollum in his Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed own way, and with much more excuse as his acquaintance was much briefer, may have _made a similar mistake, confusing kindness and blindness. At any rate this speech abashed and terrified him. He grovelled on the ground and could speak no clear words but nice master.
Frodo waited patiently for a while, then he spoke again less sternly. `Come now, Gollum or Sméagol if you wish, tell me of this other way, and show me, if you can, what hope there is in it, enough to justify me in turning aside from my plain path. I am Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed in haste.'
But Gollum was in a pitiable state, and Frodo's threat had quite unnerved him. It was not easy to get any clear account out of him, amid his mumblings and squeakings, and the frequent interruptions in which he crawled on the floor and begged them both to be kind to `poor little Sméagol'. After a while he grew a little calmer, and Frodo gathered bit by bit that, if a traveller followed the road that turned west of Ephel Dúath, he would come in time to a crossing in a circle of Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed dark trees. On the right a road went down to Osgiliath and the bridges of the Anduin; in the middle the road went on southwards.
`On, on, on,' said Gollum. `We never went that way, but they say it goes a hundred leagues, until you can see the Great Water that is never still. There are lots of fishes there, and big birds eat fishes: nice birds: but we never went there, alas no! we never had a chance. And further still there are more lands, they say, but the Yellow Face is very hot there, and there are Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed seldom any clouds, and the men are fierce and have dark faces. We do not want to see that land.'
`No! ' said Frodo. `But do not wander from your road. What of the third turning? '
`O yes, O yes, there is a third way,' said Gollum. `That is the road to the left. At once it begins to climb up, up, winding and climbing back towards the tall shadows. When it turns round the black rock, you'll see it. suddenly you'll see it above you, and you'll want to hide.'
`See it, see it? What will you Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed see? '
`The old fortress, very old, very horrible now. We used to hear tales from the South, when Sméagol was young, long ago. O yes. we used to tell lots of tales in the evening, sitting by the banks of the Great River, in the willow-lands, when the River was younger too, gollum, gollum.' He began to weep and mutter. The hobbits waited patiently.
`Tales out of the South,' Gollum went on again, `about the tall Men with the shining eyes, and their houses like hills of stone, and the silver crown of their King and Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed his White Tree: wonderful tales. They built very tall towers, and one they raised was silver-white, and in it there was a stone like the Moon, and round it were great white walls. O yes, there were many tales about the Tower of the Moon.'
`That would be Minas Ithil that Isildur the son of Elendil built ' said Frodo. `It was Isildur who cut off the finger of the Enemy.'
`Yes, He has only four on the Black Hand, but they are enough,' said Gollum shuddering. 'And He hated Isildur's city.'
'What does he not hate? ' said Frodo Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. 'But what has the Tower of the Moon to do with us? '
'Well, master, there it was and there it is: the tall tower and the white houses and the wall; but not nice now, not beautiful. He conquered it long ago. It is a very terrible place now. Travellers shiver when they see it, they creep out of sight, they avoid its shadow. But master will have to go that way. That is the only other way, For the mountains are lower there, and the old road goes up and up, until it reaches a dark pass at the Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed top, and then it goes down, down, again – to Gorgoroth.' His voice sank to a whisper and he shuddered.
`But how will that help us? ' asked Sam. `Surely the Enemy knows all about his own mountains, and that road will be guarded as close as this? The tower isn't empty, is it? '
`O no, not empty! ' whispered Gollum. `It seems empty, but it isn't, O no! Very dreadful things live there. Orcs. yes always Orcs; but worse things, worse things live there too. The road climbs right under the shadow of the walls and passes the Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed gate. Nothing moves on the road that they don't know about. The things inside know: the Silent Watchers.'
`So that's your advice is it,' said Sam, 'that we should go another long march south, to find ourselves in the same fix or a worse one, when we get there, if we ever do? '
`No, no indeed,' said Gollum. `Hobbits must see, must try to understand. He does not expect attack that way. His Eye is all round, but it attends more to some places than to others. He can't see everything all at once, not yet Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. You see, He has conquered all the country west of the Shadowy Mountains down to the River, and He holds the bridges now. He thinks no one can come to the Moontower without fighting big battle at the bridges, or getting lots of boats which they cannot hide and He will know about.'
'You seem to know a lot about what He's doing and thinking,' said Sam. `Have you been talking to Him lately? Or just hobnobbing with Orcs? '
'Not nice hobbit, not sensible,' said Gollum, giving Sam an angry glance and turning to Frodo. 'Sméagol has Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed talked to Orcs, yes of course, before he met master, and to many peoples: he has walked very far. And what he says now many peoples are saying. It's here in the North that the big danger is for Him, and for us. He will come out of the Black Gate one day, one day soon. That is the only way big armies can come. But away down west He is not afraid, and there are the Silent Watchers.'
`Just so! ' said Sam, not to be put off. `And so we are to walk up and knock at their Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed gate and ask if we're on the right road for Mordor? Or are they too silent to answer? It's not. sense. We might as well do it here, and save ourselves a long tramp.'
'Don't make jokes about it,' hissed Gollum. `It isn't funny, O no! Not amusing. It's nut sense to try and get into Mordor at all. But if master says I must go or I will go, then he must try some way. But he must not go to the terrible city, O no, of course not. That is where Sméagol Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed helps. nice Sméagol. though no one tells him what it is all about. Sméagol helps again. He found it. He knows it.'
'What did you find? ' asked Frodo.
Gollum crouched down and his voice sank to a whisper again. 'A little path leading up into the mountains: and then a stair, a narrow stair, O yes, very long and narrow. And then more stairs. And then' – his voice sank even lower – `a tunnel, a dark tunnel; and at last a little cleft, and a path high above the main pass. It was that way that Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed Sméagol got out of the darkness. But it was years ago. The path may have vanished now; but perhaps not, perhaps not.'
`I don't like the sound of it at all,' said Sam. `Sounds too easy at any rate in the telling. If that path is still there, it'll be guarded too. Wasn't it guarded, Gollum? ' As he said this, he caught or fancied he caught a green gleam in Gollum's eye. Gollum muttered but did not reply.
'Is it not guarded? ' asked Frodo sternly. `And did you escape out of the darkness, Sméagol? Were Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed you not rather permitted to depart upon an errand? That at least is w hat Aragorn thought, who found you by the Dead Marshes some years ago.'
'It's a lie! ' hissed Gollum, and an evil light came into his eyes at the naming of Aragorn. `He lied on me, yes he did. I did escape, all by my poor self. Indeed I was told to seek for the Precious; and I have searched and searched, of course I have. But not for the Black One. The Precious was ours, it was mine I tell you. I did Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed escape.'
Frodo felt a strange certainty that in this matter Gollum was for once not so far from the truth as might be suspected; that he had somehow found a way out of Mordor, and at least believed that it was by his own cunning. For one thing, he noted that Gollum used I, and that seemed usually to be a sign, on its rare appearances. thatclass=WordSection8>
Orks his will. You have been caught in a net of warring duties that you did not weave. But think, you servants of the Lord, blind in your obedience, that but for Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the treason of Beregond Faramir, Captain of the White Tower, would now also be burned.
‘Bear away from this unhappy place your comrades who have fallen. And we will bear Faramir, Steward of Gondor, to a place where he can sleep in peace, or die if that be his doom.’
Then Gandalf and Beregond taking up the bier bore it away towards the Houses of Healing, while behind them walked Pippin with downcast head. But the servants of the Lord stood gazing as stricken men at the house of the dead; and even as Gandalf came to the end Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed of Rath Dínen there was a great noise. Looking back they saw the dome of the house crack and smokes issue forth; and then with a rush and rumble of stone it fell in a flurry of fire; but still unabated the flames danced and flickered among the ruins. Then in terror the servants fled and followed Gandalf.
At length they came back to the Steward’s Door, and Beregond looked with grief at the porter. ‘This deed I shall ever rue,’ he said; ‘but a madness of haste was on me, and he would not Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed listen, but drew sword against me.’ Then taking the key that he had wrested from the slain man he closed the door and locked it. ‘This should now be given to the Lord Faramir,’ he said.
‘The Prince of Dol Amroth is in command in the absence of the Lord,’ said Gandalf; ‘but since he is not here, I must take this on myself. I bid you keep the key and guard it, until the City is set in order again.’
Now at last they passed into the high circles of the City, and in the light of Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed morning they went their way towards the Houses of Healing; and these were fair houses set apart, for the care of those who were grievously sick, but now they were prepared for the tending of men hurt in battle or dying. They stood not far from the Citadel-gate, in the sixth circle, nigh to its southward wall, and about them was a garden and a greensward with trees, the only such place in the City. There dwelt the few women that had been permitted to remain in Minas Tirith, since they were skilled in healing or in the service of Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the healers.
But even as Gandalf and his companions came carrying the bier to the main door of the Houses, they heard a great cry that went up from the field before the Gate and rising shrill and piercing into the sky passed, and died away on the wind. So terrible was the cry that for a moment all stood still, and yet when it had passed, suddenly their hearts were lifted up in such a hope as they had not known since the darkness came out of the East; and it seemed to them that the light grew clear Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed and the sun broke through the clouds.
But Gandalf’s face was grave and sad, and bidding Beregond and Pippin to take Faramir into the Houses of Healing, he went up on to the walls nearby; and there like a figure carven in white he stood in the new sun and looked out. And he beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen; and when Éomer rode out from the forefront of his battle and stood beside those who lay upon the field, he sighed, and he cast his cloak about him Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed again, and went from the walls. And Beregond and Pippin found him standing in thought before the door of the Houses when they came out.
They looked at him, and for a while he was silent. At last he spoke. ‘My friends,’ he said, ‘and all you people of this city and of the Western lands! Things of great sorrow and renown have come to pass. Shall we weep or be glad? Beyond hope the Captain of our foes has been destroyed, and you have heard the echo of his last despair. But he has not gone without woe Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed and bitter loss. And that I might have averted but for the madness of Denethor. So long has the reach of our Enemy become! Alas! but now I perceive how his will was able to enter into the very heart of the City.
‘Though the Stewards deemed that it was a secret kept only by themselves, long ago I guessed that here in the White Tower, one at least of the Seven Seeing Stones was preserved. In the days of his wisdom Denethor did not presume to use it, nor to challenge Sauron, knowing the limits of his own strength Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed. But his wisdom failed; and I fear that as the peril of his realm grew he looked in the Stone and was deceived: far too often, I guess, since Boromir departed. He was too great to be subdued to the will of the Dark Power, he saw nonetheless only those things which that Power permitted him to see. The knowledge which he obtained was, doubtless, often of service to him; yet the vision of the great might of Mordor that was shown to him fed the despair of his heart until it overthrew his mind.’
‘Now I understand what Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed seemed so strange to me!’ said Pippin shuddering at his memories as he spoke. ‘The Lord went away from the room where Faramir lay; and it was only when he returned that I first thought he was changed, old and broken.’
‘It was in the very hour that Faramir was brought to the Tower that many of us saw a strange light in the topmost chamber,’ said Beregond. ‘But we have seen that light before, and it has long been rumoured in the City, that the Lord would at times wrestle in thought with his Enemy.’
‘Alas! then Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed I have guessed rightly,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thus the will of Sauron entered into Minas Tirith; and thus I have been delayed here. And here I shall still be forced to remain, for I shall soon have other charges, not Faramir only.
‘Now I must go down to meet those who come. I have seen a sight upon the field that is very grievous to my heart, and greater sorrow may yet come to pass. Come with me, Pippin! But you, Beregond, should return to the Citadel and tell the chief of the Guard there what has befallen. It Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed will be his duty, I fear, to withdraw you from the Guard; but say to him that, if I may give him counsel, you should be sent to the Houses of Healing, to be the guard and servant of your captain, and to be at his side when he awakes - if that shall ever be again. For by you he was saved from the fire. Go now! I shall return soon.’
With that he turned away and went with Pippin down towards the lower city. And even as they hastened on their way the wind brought a grey rain, and all Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed the fires sank, and there arose a great smoke before them.