2. 2. Amon Sûl
°°°°° Chapter 2: Amon Sûl
Finally, after another day of walking, the five companions had reached the top of a small hill, and before them lay the ancient tower of Amon Sûl, Weathertop. The ruins of the old watchtower rested on the peak of a round hill; the broken stones and cracked pillars adorned the hill like a crown and it rose so high and dark before them, that the Hobbits had to crane their necks to see it.
"The ancient tower of Amon Sûl. There we will rest tonight." Aragorn told them and then made his way down the hill they were all standing on. The Hobbits followed, their cloak billowing behind them in the cold wind, and their eyes never leaving the ruins on top of Amon Sûl.
It took them an hour to reach the base of the hill, and there they stopped. Shrubbery and bushes grew there, and the base had many holes and crevices. Aragorn tilted his head and looked towards the ruins, his face unreadable. The wind caught in his dark hair and wiped it around his face, but he seemed not to notice.
Suddenly, the meek voice of Pippin reached his ears, "Merry?" His cousin already knew what Pippin wanted to say, but he responded nevertheless, "Yes, Pip?" "Merry, I am hungry."
Inwardly, Strider grinned. It seemed not even the ancient ruins or the cold weather could discourage the young Hobbit. Turning, he said, "We will set up camp someway up the hillside. There we will be protected from the wind." And perhaps even from the enemy, he added in his thoughts.
It took them half an hour to climb up the steep hillside, but once Aragorn told them to stop, the exhausted and hungry Hobbits flopped down on the hard ground, relieved to finally be able to rest.
While Sam searched through his pack for the dry branches he had collected during the day, Merry and Pippin rolled out their blankets and talked vividly over their supper. But Frodo did not join their talk; he stood near the edge of the little camp and gazed out at the lands below him. Darkness was beginning to settle, and the shadows grew in the dimming light.
Just as he was beginning to ask himself whether it was a good place to rest, Strider came back to the camp. He had climbed to the top of Amon Sûl to see whether there was any sign of Gandalf. His face looked worried as he kneeled down and beckoned them all to his side.
He opened a grey blanket and presented to them four shining swords. They were small and thin, but they looked sharp and well cared for. "These are for you. Their blades are sharp and their tips deadly. Use them wisely, the darkness around us had many eyes and I want you to be safe while I am gone."
With that he stood to his feet and turned into the direction of the steep path that led down the hill.
"Gone?" Frodo asked. "But where do you go? Have you found any sign of Gandalf?"
Aragorn turned and gazed at Frodo for a moment before he answered, "Indeed, I found some sign that Gandalf was here only three days ago. But he was in haste and was probably attacked. I will go down and search for other signs. Stay here and stay quiet; I feel that we are not alone."
And with that he vanished into the darkness, leaving a worried Frodo and three very hungry Hobbits behind. Sam, Merry and Pippin had not heard Aragorn's words, as they had gazed at their swords and marvelled at their simple beauty.
With Strider gone, Frodo felt all hunger leave him and be replaced by a gnawing feeling inside his stomach. The darkness seemed suddenly much darker and the shadows hid dangerous form. The air seemed to be filled with voices and the wind sharp and icy. He shuddered.
Without a word to his companions, he wrapped himself inside his blanket, lay down on his bedroll and closed his eyes. Another shudder raced through his body, but whether from the cold night or the fear that grew inside his heart, he could not tell. And before he drifted off into an uneasy sleep, he wished that Aragorn would be back soon.
Aragorn made it down the hill side and then paused to let his gaze pierce the darkness. The plains before him were covered in low hanging fog, and the grey waves seemed to dim the sounds of night.
Or, he thought, there simply are no sounds. And indeed, the starless night was eerily quiet, as if the world held its breath. But why, Aragorn could not tell. But he could feel the icy coldness that lingered in the air and seemed to freeze his lungs inside his body. It was a coldness he had only rarely felt in his life, and hoped to never feel again.
Letting his sharp eyes scan the darkness and his ears listen for every sound, he sighed inwardly. He neither saw nor heard anything, and that probably meant that the Black Riders had not yet found them.
Letting his hand stray to the hilt of his sword on his side, he noiselessly made his way through the dried bushes and shrubs, following the baseline of Amon Sûl. He felt slightly guilty for letting the Hobbits alone and without his protection, but he just needed to make sure that they were alone.
And, he thought bitterly, I have to make sure that Gandalf's body is not lying here among the dead branches and shrubbery. For I could never forgive myself if it were so. Gandalf, old friend, he thought not for the first time, where are you my friend? Where are you now when I need you the most? How am I to protect four innocent Hobbits?
But he got no answer, and so continued on around the base. From time to time he would crouch down to inspect the ground, letting his fingers slide over an imprint or feel the break of a branch. Indeed, he thought as he straightened from his crouched position after examining a very deep imprint in the soft soil, Gandalf was here not long ago. And he was being followed, but by what or whom I cannot tell.
The fog swivelled around his legs, reaching up to his knees, and he tightened his cloak around his shoulders as a gust of wind made him shiver. Amon Sûl towered above him, and when his eyes scanned the ruins, he felt a pang of gentle pain inside his chest.
Amon Sûl, the great Watchtower from ancient times. It is said that a Palantir had been held in Amon Sûl, one of the seven seeing stones that were now lost to the world. A fierce battle had been fought here, and rumour had it that in the darkest of night, a lonely traveller could still hear the screams of the falling men and see the burning flames of the fire that had devoured the tower.
Aragorn took a deep breath of the cold night air, and continued on his way around the base of the hill. Just as he had rounded the bend and was again facing the side where the path led up to the top, he heard it.
His heart beat wildly in his chest and his breath froze in his lungs. The Nazgul! Here!
Snapping his gaze upwards, he saw the glow of a fire and its reflection form the stones. The Hobbits must have lit a fire to keep them warm. Or to cook food, he thought dryly. Foolish Hobbits! Did they not know that the fire could be seen for leagues?
Cursing under his breath and feeling guilt gnaw at his heart, he unsheathed his sword and without hesitation he charged up the small path to the top. He could see that the fire was being put out, but he knew it was already too late. Five black horses stood at the base of Amon Sûl and more likely than not more waited in the darkness.
He had not seen the riders, which could only mean one thing: The Nazgul had already gone up the hill! And the Hobbits were all alone, and they had neither the means nor the experience to fight them.
Aragorn did not feel the pebbles that rolled down from under his feet, not the sharp rocks that scraped his arms and elbows as he ruthlessly charged up the hill. His thoughts were directed at only one thing: Frodo!
By Elbereth, if Frodo was hurt or even killed, and the ring would fall into the hands of the Nazgul, and all because he had been too careless, oh, Aragorn knew that he would never forgive himself. A foolish thought he knew, as all the world would be dipped in darkness and pain, and he would die before he had even the chance to feel remorse.
No, he thought as he rushed to help the Halflings, I will do all I can to protect Frodo and the ring. Come what may.
"Up the path! Go up!" Frodo was yelling at his friends. Why had they lit the fire? Had they not even thought about the dangers? But being angry at his friends helped nobody, and so the put his anger to the back of his head and followed his friends up the path.
And truly, his anger was soon replaced by fear. Pure and breathtaking fear. He thought he could feel the Black Riders approach and his heart beat so wildly in his chest that he feared it would shatter his ribs.
Panting, Frodo stood beside Sam, Merry and Pippin, forming a circle. They faced outwards and waited. Waited for the inevitable. Here, up the hill and standing among the ruins of Amon Sûl, they were trapped. They could not go down, as the had heard the enemy come up the hill, and they could go no further upwards.
Frodo trembled slightly as a gust of wind rushed past him. Where was Strider, he thought desperately? Is he already dead, slain by these black ghosts? But inside he felt that the ranger was still alive, although he did not know why he knew that. But where was he then, when they needed him?
Frodo felt Sam tense beside him, and hear the hitched breath of Pippin and Merry. And in that moment, he wished that he had not taken them with him, but that they had stayed in The Shire, where they would have been safe and secure. Not here, in this wilderness, with these Black Riders. He had lead them to their very death.
Suddenly, he heard a rustle of robes, and his heart skipped a beat. They had come…they were here. A black shadow appeared over the rim of the top, then a second and a third. Five tall figures clad in midnight black approached them, all armed.
They drew their broad swords and held them before them as they approached menacingly. The blades seemed to be dull and old, but they looked sharp and deadly. Heavy booted feet crunched the stones under them, and gloved hands held the hilts of the sword.
Pippin squealed lowly in fear and Merry gulped. Sam tightened his grip on his sword and shoved Frodo out of the way. If these monsters wanted his Master, then they would have to kill him first.
But Frodo did not notice all of this. Fear had gripped his heart, and an icy hand clenched it so hard that he thought it had stopped beating. A coldness raced through his body and numbed him; he could not flee, he could not fight. This was the end, and he knew it.
Dimly he was aware that one of the robed figures approached them, and that Sam, Merry and Pippin were shoved out of the way. Suddenly, there was only he and the Nazgul. A screech reached his ears, so unearthly as if it came from the dead itself. Horrified, he let go of his sword and it clattered to the ground, useless.
On numb legs he stumbled back, fell to the ground and stared scarred at the Nazgul towering above him. He could not hear the yells of his friends, or his own terrified scream. No, all he could hear was…a whisper.
The ring, no, not the ring, its master. He was calling him. Or was it, was it the Nazgul? Frodo did not know it, but suddenly his thoughts seemed to go blank and he gripped for the ring. The ring, aye, the ring. He had to use it, yes, use it. Put it on.
His finger fumbled for the ring and in a fluent motion he slipped it onto his finger. And the world as he knew it came to an end. Where the ruins of Amon Sûl had been, white light was. Edges had lost their sharpness, there were no colours anymore. A chill claimed his body and he lifted his gaze and saw…him.
Tall and white and scary. A King of old, long dead but still alive. The Ringwraith stretched out his hand towards him; he wanted it, needed it, asked for it. And Frodo, he could not help it, but he reached out his hand towards the dead King!
His heart yelled for him to pull his hand away, to take the ring back, but he could not! What devilry was this? He trembled and wanted to scream, but he had no breath left in his lungs to do so. Help me! He thought, please, someone help me!
His hand nearly touched the outstretched fingers of the Nazgul. Almost…
Suddenly, something distracted the Nazgul, and Frodo saw the dead King look to his side. And then a tall shadow, nearly as tall as the ghost himself placed itself between Frodo and the Nazgul. The form held a sword in the one hand and a burning log in the other.
Frodo snapped his hand back and as if a spell had been broken, he returned to reality. Panicked, he took the ring of his finger and took a deep breath into his starving lungs. He looked at the figure and his heart leapt in sudden hope.
Strider had come!
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.