62. The Last Crowned With Flowers
Some ten years or so later, Gandalf the Grey made his first appearance in the great histories of the world by nosing around Dol Guldor and scaring off Sauron. With the flight of the Dark Lord and the stalemate between Minas Tirith, led by its ruling house of stewards, and Minas Morgul, a long period of time known as the Watchful Peace began. Still, curiously, in the north, as those Dunedain who had survived the fall of Arthedain regrouped as the Rangers of the North, they noticed a dark shadow haunting them. They were used to orcs and wildmen, but this new horror was strong, cunning and intelligent. It spilled much blood of Numenor but never seemed satisfied with itself. It was always looking for the ultimate prize, the head of the last heir of Isildur.
And far away above the abandoned mines of Moria where shadow and flame stalked the empty halls, Caradhras loomed tall, seeming taller than its higher neighbors. It had the air of one who was waiting. Elves claimed that it was waiting for the vanquisher of the Nameless Horror beneath it. Dwarves said it was waiting for the return of Sauron. Men said it was a damn cruel mountain and was waiting for more travelers to slaughter.
Strangely enough, the Men were closest.
Sixteen small shrines, no taller than a foot, lined the way to the Redhorn Gate. Sixteen shrines, the last crowned with flowers.
One by one the shrines collapsed. The first crumbled under the weight of ice and snow. Years later, the second followed it. And then the third went.
Ten small shrines, no taller than a foot, lined the way to the Redhorn Gate. Ten shrines, the last crowned with flowers.