82. By No Hand of Man
"Is Grond ready?" he asked, despising the name. Damn Sauron for that jibe. He would have his former apprentice on his knees, begging for mercy, yet.
"Aye," Vorea said, nodding. "When you call, it shall come."
"Is it protected from archers? I trust Gondor will have its walls lined with them."
"Trolls operate it. Their hides are notoriously impervious to arrows."
Melkor nodded. "Good. I would not like to have to use orcs to break open the gate."
"They would not be able to. There goes a saying among the people of Gondor that no enemy has ever stepped beyond the gates."
"How unfortunate that this is the day it will proved untrue."
The army crept out of Osgiliath like a spreading cancer, stretching its tendrils out over the pristine Pelennor Fields. The orcs trampled flowers and grass under their marching feet, their eyes fixed on the city.
"This will be a great victory," Vorea said.
"Indeed," Melkor said. "Is there any word out of Rohan? Will Theoden come to Gondor's aid?"
Vorea shook her head. "The messenger bearing the Red Arrow was slain ere he reached Rohan. Without that, Theoden will not know to come."
"But what of the beacons?"
"Rohan has troubles enough of its own without adding the wars of Gondor. Even if they do come, their numbers are insignificant. Besides, we have the Corsairs."
"Ah yes, the famous Corsairs of Umbar. And how are they doing?"
"We…" Vorea hesitated, "lost contact with them two days back, but we assume that is due to their penchant for ignoring orders when they are in battle."
"They are raiding the lands as they travel up the river."
Melkor nodded. "Just so long as they do not take forever to come here. I have no desire to need allies suddenly and find myself alone."
"Our forces are far superior to anything the Gondorians could muster."
Melkor smiled. "Of course."
"There is, though, Gandalf to consider."
"Do not worry about the Maia. A Power he may be, but I am a greater one."
The siege was laid on Minas Tirith. The defenders fought back as best they could, but the city was shivering. If rock could tremble, Minas Tirith would have shaken itself to rubble from terror. The orcs saw it and laughed.
Darkness fell, covering the land with a night so complete a man could not see his hand if he held it in front of his face. The torches were pinpricks of light, illuminating the defenders' fearful faces. The orcs needed no torches. Darkness was their element.
"The gates have held too long," Melkor said lazily, observing the sturdy doors that had held up for millennia. "Bring out Grond."
The orcs screamed and cheered, nearly dancing in their glee to see the city fall. Minas Tirith could tell its doom was nigh. A shudder seemed to go through the city as the massive battering ram was brought forward by grunting trolls.
Melkor made a dismissive gesture and the trolls slammed the great ram, its iron head in the shape of a wolf with fangs bared and ears pulled back, at the gate.
He could feel the force of the blow, as could his horse, which stepped back from the shockwave. "Again," Melkor said calmly. Dreadful words in the mouth of the Dark Lord. Never for something trivial or pleasing, always for pain and suffering. Again the whip falls, again the rack turns, again the ram slams against the invincible gates of Minas Tirith, and this time cracks appear.
He could hear the murmurs of the defenders. Their last shield was crumbling. It could have only kept them safe for so long. It would break, as all shields did, when the stakes were the highest, when it was needed the most.
It splintered upon the third blow, and fell apart on the fourth. And so the last shield of Minas Tirith fell and its forces and people lay open to the ravaging army of Sauron.
His head held high, a savage smile on his lips, Melkor rode toward the gate. He would cross the threshold, first of all enemies – if the tale was true – to do so.
His horse trod upon the cobblestones of Minas Tirith. And suddenly there was a white horse before him, and an aged rider upon the horse.
"Gandalf," Melkor whispered.
"You shall go no further," Gandalf said.
"You said as much to the balrog, and you died for your trouble. Against me there can be no resurrection."
"You shall not enter this city!"
"I already have," Melkor laughed. He was about to draw his sword and cut down the Maia where he stood when he heard something. Just on the edge of his hearing. It sounded in his mind as the horns of the Valar had sounded at the dawning of the War of Wrath. A death knell.
Gandalf seemed as startled as he was, and so Melkor whipped around to find the source of this noise. Had some people come to the aid of the beleaguered folk of Minas Tirith?
Hissing, Melkor spotted them. There, upon a hill. A great host of riders, surrounded by a halo of dawn's light. The orcs were already whining as the darkness fell away.
"We will settle this later," Melkor hissed, turning his horse from the gate and riding through his army.
Vorea was keeping the orcs together, for they were starting to fall back, frightened by the unexpected army, but more by the light.
"Stand your ground, you maggots!" Melkor snarled. He called to the Fell Beasts that whirled in the sky high above. The horsemen thought they had the advantage, but wings and talons would beat horses every time.
With a wild cry, the horsemen charged, thundering down into the plains, their long hair flowing in the wind, their shining swords reflecting the dawn's rays.
It was a massacre when they met the orcs. The horsemen slaughtered them, cutting through their ranks as though they were wheat.
But no matter how many the horsemen killed, there were ten to take the fallen's place. The army of the Dark Lord was inexhaustible, and the horsemen were already starting to grind to a halt, their wild charge stopped and gradually turned back.
Peering down at his enemies, Melkor gasped. It was the Rohirrim! So, they had come to Gondor's aid after all. They had to be stopped. They had to be crushed, disheartened, and swiftly.
Spotting a snow-white horse, Melkor flew lower. The rider's armor was finer than his fellows'. He was also shouting orders as the Haradrim and their Mumakil came charging in, slaughtering and stomping, crushing friend and foe alike under their huge feet.
The rider looked up and shouted a challenge as the Fell Beast came swooping down, gouging deep rents in the snow-white horse's sides and sending it to the ground, crushing the rider beneath it.
Melkor chuckled to himself, seeing the despair evident in the other riders' faces. They kept their distance as the Fell Beast hissed and flapped its wings, snapping viciously at anyone nearby.
The man was probably already dead, killed by the weight and impact of his horse. Still, Melkor wanted to make sure. He was about to dismount and cut off the man's head when a man stepped in front of him.
"Do not stand before the Lord of the Nazgul and his prey," he said, almost pitying the poor fool.
The man did not respond but raised his sword and brought it down on the Fell Beast's neck. The thing writhed and snapped, but the sword fell again and again until the head and neck were severed.
The Fell Beast's body writhed and jerked. Melkor jumped off before he could be crushed like the fallen rider beneath his steed.
So, he was to ride by horse into Minas Tirith at the end of this battle. Ah well, he had never liked Fell Beasts anyway. Now, the Haradrim were making quick work of the Rohirrim. The horsemen seemed to have faltered when Melkor had killed or injured the rider. He was their king then. Theoden. Excellent.
The man raised his sword, standing between Melkor and the fallen Theoden. Trying to defend their beloved king, or perhaps a closer bond? Was this an heir to the throne of Rohan? All the better to kill then.
The man's mettle had not left him since killing the Fell Beast. He stood straight and tall, no shaking wracking his body. There was no tremble in his sword.
Melkor smiled nastily. I'll reduce you to a quivering wreck before I kill you, he promised. No one gains even a single victory against me without suffering horribly for it. "Stand aside," he said, "or else I shall bear you away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where your flesh shall be devoured, and your shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
The man snorted and stood all the more proudly. He thought he could win against the Witch-King of Angmar. Perhaps he would have thought he could win against Melkor if he had known just who it was that he faced.
Cursing, Melkor struck at the man with his mace, but his shield caught the worst of the blow. It shattered into pieces and the man cursed under his breath, wringing his arm and wincing.
Melkor laughed. "No living man can hinder me," he said. Much less slay me.
The man drew himself up to his full height and cast off his helmet, releasing a cascade of golden hair. "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and king. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
Melkor was momentarily stunned and paused in his attack. A woman then. Like Luthien, only with golden hair instead of midnight dark.
Yes. Very like unto Luthien.
But Luthien died and so would this woman, who could not claim the blood of a Maia nor even a single drop of elven blood.
Something struck him below the knee and Melkor fell to his knees. A stab of agony. No matter, he would soon be on his feet again. A momentary inconvenience.
And there was the woman before him, wrath bright in her eyes. Eyes as bright as the Valar. Hate as strong as Tulkas's, wrath as powerful as Orome's.
Melkor raised a hand weakly, trying in vain to fend off oblivion.
The sword struck him right between the eyes. It tore through his skull, wrenching apart all the magic that bound him to this world. In a horrible moment it was all torn away, and the Void came howling upon him. The Door of Night slammed shut with a finality that shook him to his core.
It was over. The prophecy had been fulfilled. The first Dark Lord had been vanquished.