Welcome to March 23rd. We’re so close now.
Sam and Frodo
(“Such daylight as followed was dim…” Book Six, Chapter 3 – Mount Doom)
Sam and Frodo had left the road to Barad-dûr the previous day, and now walked and crawled and picked their way across a blacked, scorched lava field.
Frodo was beyond exhausted. Sam offered to carry the Ring for him, but Frodo reacted in the very Gollumy way one might expect. He quickly simmered and was his old self again. He explained that it was too late for that. “I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.”
Sam then turned to the strictly practical, suggesting that they lighten their load as much as possible. They through off the Orc armor, tossed away the shields, the cloak, the heavy belts, the cooking gear. Almost everything was gone. Sam tossed it all into a fissure so that Gollum might not get it.
Sam, however, kept Sting, some rope, a bit of lembis, and what was left of their water, as well as the phial of Galadriel and the box she gave him.
Sam tried to reminisce about days not too long ago, but Frodo couldn’t really remember any of it.
And so they continued their walk. Frodo seemed to have regained some energy. But as the sun drew lower, so did he. At the end of the day, Sam gave Frodo the second to last mouthful of water, going without for himself.
As Frodo dozed or zoned out, Sam took up a conversation with himself. He thought of the Shire, of his friends. Of Rosie Cotton again. He wanted to go home. But the way home was through Mount Doom.
He argued with himself, in a way that Sméagol and Gollum might. One side told him it was useless, that death was all that awaited them no matter what they did. And the task? Sam didn’t even know what it was. Somehow get the Ring into the Cracks of Doom, wherever they are. Frodo was nearly useless.
But of course, our Sam won out.
‘I’ll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind,’ said Sam. ‘And I’ll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!’
There was a small tremor, and the volcano began to stir.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, and the warriors of Gondor
(“Upon the fourth day from the Cross-roads and the sixth from Minas Tirith…” Book Five, Chapter 10 – The Black Gate Opens)
The march north for Aragorn and his army was about to change. For four days they had passed through the more or less lush lands known as Ithilien. With the Ephel Dúath mountain range on the right, and the forests on their left, they strove towards the Black Gate.
On this day, however, “they came at last to the end of the living lands.” All the ground for miles from the Pass of Cirith Gorgor was a vast desert. It was a terrifying sight for those used to Rohan.
Some in Aragorn’s column couldn’t handle this. He understood. For the most part, these were young men, and this was probably their first long journey away from home.
Instead of continuing with the main column, Aragorn allowed them to go home, but wished them to do one thing on the way there. Cair Andros, the island in the Anduin used by the Enemy as a crossing to take Minas Tirith from the north, was still held by their foes. The Enemy had been defeated at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, but likely left a contingent back at Cair Andros to guard the crossing. These men sent back were to retake it and rout the Enemy.
This dwindled Aragorn’s forces to 6,000. They were 7,000 strong when they departed Minas Tirith, but with the men left behind at the Cross-roads, and the men leaving now, his numbers were greatly reduced.
Still, they would continue forward.