5. The Black Gate Opens
Though he could see no sign of movement upon the battlements or the hills and rocks around the Morannon Pippin felt evil eyes upon them and knew they were being watched. He looked nervously at Aragorn. “Where are they?”
The King didn’t answer in words but it seemed to Pippin’s incredulous eye that he almost smiled before spurring forward towards the Gates, Queen Arwen‘s banner flapping at his side. They all went with him; King Eomer with Merry behind him, the four Lords of Gondor ; Legolas and Gimli, and the Northern Rangers with the sons of Elrond and Beregond riding among them.
Strider looked up at the iron wall towering over him, no more impressed than if it had been a withy fence. “Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth! That justice shall be done upon him for the wrongs he has done! Come forth!”
For a long moment nothing happened and Pippin could hear his heart thudding in the heavy silence. Then, slowly, the gigantic gates swung open - a little more that a crack - just enough for one horseman to pass through. The horse, if it was a horse, was covered with sharp edged plates of black iron and its eyes shone red through the holes of its mask and flames breathed from its dilated nostrils. The rider was equally fearsome; manlike in form, cloaked and hooded in black with a strange helm that covered all his face save for the mouth.
This moved, showing long yellow teeth stained with what might have been blood. “My master, Sauron the Great, bids thee welcome.” there was mockery in his voice, but both mockery and contempt in the look Aragorn returned him. The Mouth didn’t like that one bit, his voice took on an edge - meant to bite - as he demanded: “Is there any in this rout with authority to treat with me?”
It was Gandalf who replied, speaking as herald for all the Peoples of the West: “We do not come to treat with Sauron, faithless and accursed. Tell your master this: The armies of Mordor must disband. He is to depart these lands, never to return.”
Of course Sauron wasn’t about to do any such thing and they all knew it but apparently it was necessary - for some mysterious Man reason - to put the demand to him.
The Mouth swung his helmed head to look blindly and Gandalf and sneered. “Old Greybeard. I have a token I was bidden to show thee.” then, to Pippin’s inexpressible horror, Sauron’s messenger pulled out Frodo’s mithril coat and threw it at Gandalf.
“Frodo!“ he cried, or rather moaned. “Frodo.”
“Silence!” Gandalf snapped.
But Merry, peering around Eomer’s back for a look, cried; “No!”
“Silence!” the wizard repeated angrily, and the two Hobbits struggled to control themselves. But the Mouth made it difficult.
“The Halfling was dear to thee, I see.” he mocked. “Know that he suffered greatly at the hands of his host.” evil wonder tinged his voice. “Who would’ve thought one so small could endure so much pain?” then he spoke directly to Gandalf. “And he did, Incanus. He did.”
Pippin, clutching desperately at the fine mail shirt, felt the wizard tremble and knew Gandalf was as shaken and heartbroken as he. At least poor Frodo was dead and beyond pain, Pippin told himself desperately, whatever he had suffered it was finished now - as were they all with the Ring back on Sauron’s hand. The last hope had failed. It was over.
Then Aragorn moved past them, to confront the Mouth. The evil one laughed scornfully. “And who is this? Isildur’s heir? It takes more to make a king than a broken Elvish blade or a rabble such as this.”
Strider said nothing just sat his horse and gave the Mouth a dark terrible look, the like of which Pippin had never before seen on his face, with the Elendilmir burning like a white flame upon his brow - and the Dark Lord’s messenger quailed before him. “What terms does Sauron offer?” the King said at last. His voice was soft, almost gentle, yet Pippin shuddered at the sound.
The Mouth recovered himself. “Hear the terms of Sauron the Great, my master.” he proclaimed. “This rabble must withdraw at once beyond the Anduin and its leaders surrender themselves to Sauron’s judgement. All lands east of the Anduin will be Sauron’s forever and those west of the River his vassals and tributaries. These are my master’s terms if you desire his clemency.”
“And this is my answer.” said Aragorn, and Anduril flashed from its scabbard severing the Mouth’s head from his shoulders.
“I guess that concludes negotiations.” Gimli said with grim satisfaction.
The King wheeled to face his companions. “I do not believe Frodo is dead.” he told them, eyes blazing with that eerie silver brightness - echoing the light of the Elendilmir. “I will not!”
Hope warmed Pippin’s chilled heart despite the mithril shirt he held in his hands. He felt Gandalf make a movement of some kind behind him and Aragorn’s gaze softened as he looked over the Hobbit’s head. “Think, Gandalf. If Sauron had the Ring he would not have sent a minion to taunt us but come himself to enjoy his triumph.”
A sigh went out of the wizard. “That is true.
The Mouth’s headless body chose that moment to topple from the back of its mount. Pippin started nervously as it smashed to dust - armor and all - at their feet. The horse-thing reared, clawing at the air with its hooves, and gave an eldritch cry no equine throat could produce then it too crumbled to powder and the dust of both master and mount went skirling away, blown by the chill north wind.
“I do not blame you for your anger, King Elessar,” Eomer said heavily, with troubled face, “but the person of a herald is sacrosanct.”
Aragorn‘s eyes were kind as they rested on the younger King, but his voice was grim and unyielding: “I do not treat with the Enemy, nor waste honor and courtesy upon those who have none.”
“Elessar has done no wrong, Eomer King.“ Imrahil said quietly. “This is the same herald who falsely promised safe conduct to Earnur and betrayed him to his doom. Finally, after many long years, the Last King has been avenged.”
Eomer nodded, but by his face still harbored reservations.
Aragorn’s head turned sharply an instant before the great Black Gates began to grind open. “Pull back!” he ordered “Pull back!”
Craning his neck around Gandalf as they galloped back to the army Pippin saw the huge doors slowly swing wide and an uncountable host of black Orcs and Easterlings in their outlandish trappings pour forth. Behind them in the distance he could see a spike of black rock tipped by a sphere of red balefire that shed a lurid light over the marching host, and beyond that a dark mountain belching fire and smoke - the Mount Doom Frodo was trying to reach. As they neared their own army Pippin saw the Men were pale and fearful, twitching on the verge of panic - not that he blamed them!
“Hold your ground!” Aragorn shouted, “Hold your ground.” All eyes, including Pippin’s turned to him as he rode across the army‘s front.
“Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers.” he cried. “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.” then his voice changed, ringing hard and clear, striking Pippin’s nerves like bucketful of icy water. “A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the world of Men comes crashing down. But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
The army of Mordor marched on, encircling the tiny host of the West, yet Pippin saw and heard nothing but his King as Aragorn reined to halt in the exact center of the line and pointed Anduril, still unsheathed in his hand, at the ground. “By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand - Men of the West!” and he wheeled to face the oncoming enemy, a light like the sun and the moon mingled flashing from his sword as he held it aloft.
Behind him every Man - and Hobbit too - drew their own blades and raised them high in salute. Fear for himself and grief for Frodo vanished, Pippin felt light, almost hollow, as if he were a naught but a bubble of skin around a fierce, almost joyous, resolve to uphold the honor of the Shire and - of Gondor - to the death.
There was a brief confusion as they all dismounted and the horses were led away. Pippin stared in wonder at Aragorn, giving his last orders to the Captains. “He did it to me too,” he said in some bewilderment to Merry beside him, “Now more than anything I want a chance at those Orcs!“
“Just like King Theoden.“ his cousin agreed nodding.
“How do they do it?”
A little fear crept back as the iron shod feet of Mordor’s host pounded the barren earth, surrounding them. Pippin looked at his sword, at the intertwining shapes of red and gold and the flowing characters of Numenor glinting like fire on the blade. *’This was made for just such an hour.’* he told himself. *’And I’ll smite some of this beastly brood with it before the end, but I wish I could have seen cool sunlight and green grass again!’*
Then he remembered an order Aragorn had given him way back before they’d left the City and looked round for Beregond. The Man was right where he belonged, at Pippin’s shoulder. “Remember, whatever happens stay close to me so we can guard each other’s backs.” the Hobbit said seriously. “I don’t want to have to tell Mistress Hiril I let you get yourself killed!”
“I would never inflict such a dire fate upon you, Peregrin.” Beregond replied with a straight face but a hint of a twinkle in his eye.
Suddenly the tramp of marching feet stopped. The black host had ringed them entirely but instead of attacking they just stood there, looking at the tiny army of Men. And the host of the West stood in their defensive circle staring back at the enemy for what seemed like a very long time.
“Strider,” Pippin said suddenly into the dead silence. “Do you really think Frodo is alive?”
“I am sure of it.” the King answered firmly. “How Frodo’s mithril mail came into Sauron’s hands I do not know but Frodo himself surely did not or Sauron would have had a far greater prize to show - and spoken not of one but of two.”
“Sam.” said Merry. “Of course! I can’t believe I forgot about Sam.”
“And one thing more,” Aragorn spoke now over Pippin’s head, directly to Gandalf. “Sauron’s Eye had strayed from us to something within his own lands.”
“Frodo!” Pippin breathed, and his last doubt vanished.
“By slaying his messenger I fixed the Eye upon us.” Aragorn continued.
“Upon you.” Gandalf corrected quietly.
Pippin looked over the heads of the Enemy’s army at the bale light atop the dark tower and shivered in recognition. He had seen the Eye before, glaring at him from the depths of a palantir, he could not mistake it now, small with distance as it was, between the horns of Barad-dur. He could feel its gaze upon them, like heat from a fire, and especially on Aragorn.
Suddenly Strider took a step forward, then another, the hand holding Anduril falling to his side. He was staring back at the Eye and a chill of fear passed over Pippin - if the King fell under the Enemy’s power they were lost - but then Aragorn turned to look back at them and his eyes were clear and there was a slight, almost gentle smile upon his face. “For Frodo.” he said, too soft for any save those closest him to hear. Then he turned and raising Anduril high charged towards the enemy.
For an instant Pippin - like everybody else - was frozen in his place with surprise, but only for an instant. In the next heartbeat he lifted his voice in a shout of “Elessar!” and pounded after his King.
“Elessar!” Merry echoed, running right beside him, and then the King’s name rose in a great roar of from six thousand throats as all the host followed after, soon overtaking and passing the Hobbits with their longer legs.
Unlike the Pelannor Fields the battle of the Black Gates was a dreadful scrum with friend and foe all jumbled together in a dense mass of struggling bodies. Pippin discovered his small size was an advantage rather than otherwise, most enemies looked right over his head and aimed their blows at Beregond, letting Pippin get in under their guard. The two of them managed to stay together but Merry vanished almost at once into the maelstrom and Pippin caught only fitful glimpses of the others; of Gandalf’s white cloak or Legolas’ uncovered golden head, Gimli of course was as invisible as Merry but no doubt staying close to Legolas as usual. From time to time Pippin saw Eomer’s horsehair crest bobbing above the Orcish helms and hoped Merry was with him. And sometimes the dark grey of a Ranger cloak would catch his eye.
They were, all of them, trying to cut their way to Aragorn. The light of the Elendilmir made the King easy to spot but he always seemed to be just a few yards ahead, slicing through the enemy ranks like a scythe through wheat with his burning sword. Strider didn’t look like he needed any help but Pippin was the King’s squire and he knew his place was by him - if only he could get there!
Then, chillingly, Pippin heard an eerie, all to familiar cry. “Oh no, please no.” he whispered to himself looking upward. But it was - four or five Nazgul on their hideous bat-winged beasts bearing down upon them. His heart contracted with dread as Beregond’s hand closed tightly on his shoulder. Instinctively he looked around for Gandalf - but what could the wizard do with his staff broken?
Then another cry, fierce and free, clove the smoky air like a lighting bolt. Looking upward again Pippin saw a quintet of great winged shaped swoop down upon the Nazgul. “The Eagles! The Eagles are coming!”
“Eagles?” Beregond echoed in some bewilderment.
“The Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains,” Pippin explained happily. “They’re friends of Gandalf’s. They saved Uncle Bilbo years ago at the Battle of Five Armies and now they’re saving us!” At least from attack from the air - no small favor. But on the ground things took a turn for the worse.
Through the ranks of Orcs there came striding, roaring like beasts, a great company of Hill-Trolls with helmets on their heads and bucklers on their arms sweeping Men away with great swings of their battle hammers - and one was heading directly for Aragorn.
Strider didn’t seem to see it at first - having plenty to occupy him nearer at hand. Pippin, desperately struggling forward against the tide Orc bodies, saw a Rider of Rohan, a Guardsman and two Rangers try to block the Troll’s path to the King only to be wiped out its way. Aragorn finally became aware of his danger and turned to face the Troll - which fortunately had lost its hammer as it fought its way to him. Anduril rang like a deep toned bell as it met the massive Orc-forged Troll blade but the Elf wrought steel held. The force of the blows drove the King backward until one lifted him right off his feet and flung him into the air to crash into the ground several yards closer to Pippin.
“Strider!” frantic now he ducked under the arm of an advancing Orc then dodged between two more. Aragorn managed somehow to stagger upright only to be knocked on his back by a great Troll foot planted in the middle of his chest.
The Troll bent over him, raising its sword, and Pippin saw a gap between the edge of its helm and its scaled corselet. He remembered Legolas balanced on the back of the Cave Troll in Moria, firing his arrows directly into the neck, and he remembered Merry and himself hewing bootlessly away at the same target and realized what they’d done wrong. *‘Don’t cut - stab!’*
He jumped onto the Troll’s stooped back and ran up it to thrust the point of his sword with all his strength into the gap between helm and armor. It gave a funny cough - just like the one in Moria - tottered and fell flat on its face, but fortunately not on top of poor Strider who managed to roll aside just in time.
Pippin pulled his sword, sunk to the hilt in Troll flesh, free with an effort and wiped the black blood off on his black cloak as Aragorn climbed shakily to his feet. He looked at the King in concern. “Are you all right?”
Old Strider stared at him for a moment in forgivable disbelief then broke into one of those rare grins of his. “Yes. Thanks to you - Sir Peregrin.”
Pippin grinned back in relief, not noticing the ’sir’.
They were standing like that, grinning at each other like fools while the battle raged around them, when suddenly the air was rent by a horrible scream - like a million Barrow Wights all dying at once - that went on and on. The ground quivered under their feet and Orcs and Trolls and even Men who made up the enemy army were all running, shoving the Men of the West out of their way as they fled.
Looking towards the Gate Pippin saw the great tower of Barad-dur collapsing in on itself with the Eye between the horns falling as it screamed. Suddenly, it winked out, and the rubble of the Dark Tower blasted outward in a great shockwave. Then the Black Gates began to fall and the very ground of Mordor to give way beneath the feet of Sauron’s fleeing minions.
It wasn’t until he heard Merry shouting; “Frodo! Frodo!” that Pippin realized what had happened. The Ringbearer had fulfilled his quest: the One Ring was destroyed and Sauron and all his works with it. Frodo had done it - just Strider had said he would.
Then the top of Mount Doom blew up - blasting fire and rock far and wide - an explosion nobody could possibly survive. Frodo....Sam.... Pippin collapsed on the ground and sobbed aloud in grief and despair. It wasn’t fair that they should die now - after saving them all - it wasn’t right!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.