3. The Nazgul Return
Once more into the breach dear friends, once more...
When Frodo woke in the early morning, Legolas, who had been last on watch, greeted him warmly. Evidently, the light-heartedness from the night before was still in the hearts and minds of the companions. Frodo, for his part, had slept the untroubled sleep of the content; being lulled to sleep through Elvish words. He only hoped that the nightmares would keep away for a little while yet; and enable him some measure of peace.
The sun shone warmly, and seemed to touch the traveller's hearts. The hours of horse riding were far easier, set at a slightly slower pace and filled with what little conversation could be achieved over the rushing wind. The horses seemed revived of spirit too, as the companions covered more ground than they expected to, riding eastward. They met little company on the roads, such as they were, and what few people they did see were surprised, to say the least, with the impressive display of running horses and laughing heroes.
Passing one such entranced man, Frodo considered what the eight of them must look like. Clad in a variety of garb – from light armour, to wizard robes, to conventional clothing – astride four great and galloping horses, and of different races. They must seem right out of a storybook to those of the sheltered western regions of Middle Earth.
The afternoon wore on, and soon the sun began to sink towards the horizon. Gandalf called a halt, gently leading Shadowfax from the road and to a nearby clearing alongside a small wooded thicket.
"We will be in sight of Weathertop tomorrow," said Gandalf, "and reach it in the early afternoon. The eagles will meet us there and take us on to Rivendell."
"What of the horses?" said Merry, from where he was giving an apple to Arod.
"Shadowfax will guide them to Rivendell. He knows the way," Gandalf replied with a gentle pat of his friend's mane.
The travellers busied themselves with setting up a camp for the oncoming night. As he was about to enter the small wood to gather more fuel for the fire, Frodo was suddenly struck with pain. It lanced through his shoulder, seeming to set alight his very flesh through to the bone; a red-hot spike that sent him to his knees, reeling. Involuntarily, he cried out as he pressed the heel of his right hand to the wound, trying desperately to not let it overwhelm him.
Aragorn was at his side in an instant. "Frodo?" He could see Frodo's pale hand was rubbing at the location of the Morgul-blade wound, and even as he watched Frodo grasped at something around his neck. Aragorn recognised the glint of silver and diamond – the Evenstar, the gift his own wife had bestowed on the Ringbearer to ease his suffering and ongoing torment from the shadows.
Frodo was murmering in elvish to himself, not noticing his concerned friends. "Elbereth ortannya sulelonya nwalme…" His eyes were tightly closed, teeth gritted as sweat formed on his brow.
"Mithrandir! There are dark shapes on the wind!" called Faramir, who had been scanning the skies.
"Nazgul," said Merry and Pippin in unison. They shared a look and each drew their swords, as did Gandalf.
"Aragorn! Take the Hobbits undercover. Protect Frodo." The White Wizard turned, towards the oncoming Nazgul, Glamdring shining in one hand and his staff upraised in the other. "Legolas! Make them turn! Don't make them fall, or we'll have more trouble on our hands."
Spurred into action, Aragorn moved to pick Frodo up, but the hobbit opened his eyes and stopped him. "I'm all right, it's gone."
Aragorn pulled Frodo to his feet, before running to his bow and quiver to aid Legolas. Breathing calmly once again, Frodo drew his sword and stood with his friends, watching the dark shapes on the horizon come ever closer.
As soon as the lead Nazgul was in range, Legolas released his first arrow. It struck its intended target; but was a glancing blow. Regardless, it was enough to rent the skin of the great beast in a gash, causing the fell beast to screech in pain and anger. His second arrow did much the same damage, causing a second tear beneath the first that bled red over the beast's grey skin.
"Don't hit the wings!" Gandalf called back. He held up his staff as a pure white light flared from it, driving the wraiths back and causing their mounts to shriek in agony. "Don't let them land!"
Both armed with their bows, Faramir and Aragorn were having less luck than Legolas – although their arrows sometimes found their mark, the small injuries were not helping enough; until Pippin was struck with an idea.
"Aragorn! Faramir! Aim for their legs – if they are injured enough, the beasts can't land or take off – they'll have no choice but to fly back to Mordor!"
"He's right." Aragorn said hurriedly to Faramir. "Aim for their legs and talons to prevent their landing. Make them turn."
Faramir nodded, and together the Gondorian men lined up their arrows. Three arrows were fired. Three arrows found their mark: grazing and embedding themselves within the upper thigh of the fell beast. One wraith turned to fly back East, his mount screeching in pain.
"They can't handle both the light and the arrows!" Faramir yelled triumphantly, bending his bow again. "We can rid ourselves of them one by one!"
Three more arrows were fired. Another wraith turned East. The other two screeched in fury, becoming bolder in their attack. One swooped, and Gandalf caught it on the lower leg with Glamdring, the sword biting deep and coming away dripping red. The wraith screeched and wheeled away East.
Outnumbered, half-blinded, and without backup, the final Nazgul did not care to take his chances. It followed the others of its own accord, and soon all four of the black shapes had disappeared in the quickly failing daylight.
Relief flooded the camp as the companions were able to sheathe and lay down their weapons. The good feeling gained the previous night had fled with the wraiths – danger and fear had returned to the camp, the threat of the east and the worry about the future. The close battle with the wraiths had bought everyone back to reality with a unkind effect; danger and darkness could be upon them at any time.
"What was it you said in Elvish, Frodo?" Merry asked his cousin a while later. The four 'big' people were taking council with one another, standing together just out of the ring of firelight, talking quietly enough for the hobbits not to hear. The hobbits themselves were sitting close together by the warmth of the campfire, their hands never far from their sword-hilts.
"I'm entirely not sure. My Elvish is a little unused as of late. I recall I mentioned Elbereth… it means 'star-queen' in our speech. She's an Elven goddess. But as for the rest, I cannot say with any certainty. Roughly translated, from what I remember, it was something akin to 'Elbereth uplift my spirit from my torment'."
Pippin shrugged. "How appropriate…"
"I don't know why I said it. It just seemed like the best thing – as if someone had told me to speak it, almost as if I said it without knowing what I was going to say." It felt to Frodo like the words had come from nowhere, or someone else had spoken though him. He couldn't explain it; but was grateful nonetheless.
Pippin shifted slightly, one finger tapping the end of his sword. "Frodo? Do you think it will come to another war, and more darkness like last time?" He asked his elder cousin, his eyes filled with thought.
Frodo sighed quietly. "In honesty? I think it will. The threat, the fear… it feels like it did the last time. And the Nazgul…the Nazgul were destroyed with the Ring. Yet, they come at us again. How could they have returned?"
"Gandalf said evil was again in Mordor," said Sam quietly. "That must be why they're back."
"I suppose so. But what is this evil?" replied Frodo, finally voicing a question that had been weighing heavily on his mind. "What could have bought them back? They are the corrupted spirits of nine great kings of men, bound into service of the Ring, which has been destroyed. What power could have reached deep enough to bring them back?"
"And what does it have to do with us, is what I'd like to know," said Sam. "Gandalf said it concerns us personally. Because of the Fellowship?"
Merry nodded in agreement. "They obviously don't want to discuss it fully outside of Rivendell. That, at least, is some indication of the situation – or at least, how worried they are over it."
Frodo sighed heavily. "What I am going to say will seem like a disproportionate reaction out of fear and dark memory. But I think the Nazgul are looking for me."
"What makes you say that?" Pippin asked softly.
"In the Shire, Merry was beside me out in the open – it would have been just as easy to go for him, or target us both. Yet the wraith came directly for me. I know how that must sound, and I do not mean to make myself seem important – but I do wonder if it has any connection to my being the former Ringbearer…and to my actions in recent history."
"Frodo, if what you say is true and you find yourself in danger once more, we'll help you." Merry smiled reassuringly at his cousin, but Frodo shook his head slowly.
"I cannot ask that of you, nor will I accept it. You all nearly died last time. If I am right in my feeling, then this time – like last time – danger will come to everyone around me. I cannot put you all in that position again. I cannot pull you from your homes into the threat of death – or, from your families," Frodo added with a meaningful look at Sam, who smiled sadly and stared into the fire.
"Frodo, you can't stop us. There's three of us, and one of you – and Sam counts for two when you're involved," said Pippin, placing a hand on Frodo's shoulder. "We will stick by you, like last time, no matter the danger that comes for us. You're not doing anything alone this time."
Frodo sighed. "I will concede for now. But this won't be the last you hear of it. I am blessed to have you all."
Sam smiled back. He alone had been witness to the suffering and hardships the Ring had placed on Frodo, and had watched as his best friend was tortured and tormented with nothing that could aid him. He alone could see the imperceptible scars that had changed Frodo forever. He knew what this brave hobbit had been through to save his friends and his Shire, and knew the price he had paid – and even now, continued to pay. "Here now, we're blessed to have you, too."
After his companions had settled themselves for the night's rest and Faramir had made himself comfortable for the watch, Frodo lay awake.
His mind would not quiet. What was all this about? What new evil could be in Mordor? And why, why was he involved again? I've had enough danger to last a lifetime, he couldn't help but think. Surely I have paid the price by now. Time will not erase my wounds, I am afflicted forever. And why did he get the feeling there was something Gandalf wasn't telling them?
Frodo had caught Gandalf watching him closely over the past few days. There was always a hidden emotion in those twinkling eyes – one of sadness, of…regret? Something was troubling Gandalf, that involved him, but still Gandalf had not told him.
He couldn't help but feel this was all connected to him, and his part in the War of the Ring. He had borne the Ring back to Mordor, through suffering, Shelob, starvation and dehydration – and then faltered at the very end. True, the Ring had been destroyed and he had carried it, but few knew what really happened at the very end. Few knew he had claimed it, momentarily, before Gollum had, ironically, saved them all. Even with his own personal failure, he was still the Ringbearer, and had been the main target of the enemy camp. What was in store for him now?
These thoughts were still troubling Frodo as he fell asleep.
The next morning, the companions were saddled and riding before the sun had truly risen. They left no trace, or as little as possible, of where they had been, and spurned the horses eastward, to Weathertop. The ride was once again travelled in silence; all companions were on edge after the wraiths attack the pervious night.
Aragorn glanced down at Frodo, a great sadness welling in his heart. What Frodo might have to go through before the end…what more he may have to endure…Aragorn resumed watching the road, remembering sadly what Gandalf had told Legolas, Faramir, and himself. What was happening in Mordor. How the hobbits were involved. And why the wraiths were after Frodo.
Aragorn knew the other three hobbits – especially Sam – would never let anything happen to Frodo; as soon as they knew the truth they would refuse to be parted from him, and accompany him wherever his journey would take him. However, if Aragorn knew anything of Frodo, he knew the hobbit would be loathe to put his friends in the way of danger, and the possibility of death and suffering.
Weathertop loomed in the distance, and the companions reached it a few hours past midday. The only thing left to do was wait for the mighty Wind-Lords, the eagles, to come and take them to Rivendell.
Frodo slipped away when no one was watching. He went quietly up the stairs to the ruins of Amon Sul, and sat atop the same ruin he had been stabbed beside. Memories of the wraiths' attack came back to Frodo with unfortunate clarity; the feeling of being trapped, the pain, how ill he had felt…how close he had come to becoming one of them. As Gandalf had warned; the wound had never truly healed. It now served as a painful and sickening reminder of what had transpired, and all that had come after.
He felt forever branded by darkness. Forever changed.
Absorbed in memories and considerations of the trials others and himself had passed through, Frodo closed his eyes, letting himself think more deeply about things than he had previously let himself. That was how Sam, Merry and Pippin found him, sitting motionless, almost meditative.
"Are you all right?"
Frodo opened his eyes, smiling a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm fine, just…remembering."
"The attack?" asked Merry, casting an uneasy glace around the ruins.
"And everything that followed." Frodo looked down at his mauled right hand. The skin had long since healed over, and all that was left was a stump, a few twisted scars. He closed the hand into a tight fist, hiding his damaged finger. "I do not wish anything like that to happen to any of us again."
"Nor I. But whatever comes of it, let's stick together this time. Frodo, don't get any ideas to run off alone, and Pip? Let's try to not to be caught by orcs." Merry said, a sad smile pulling at his lips. "We are not the same as we once were. This time, we're more prepared."
"Where are the hobbits?" Faramir asked suddenly, glancing around. "I haven't seen Frodo since we stopped, and I saw the others only briefly."
"They are above us, in the ruins," Legolas replied, setting down his bow next to the pile of supplies to take to Rivendell. "They are, it seems, in conference with one another."
"In conference? What are they talking about?" Faramir asked, stopping for a moment.
"I do not wish to pry, but they're speaking about the War of the Ring, and their roles within it."
Gandalf smiled at the elf. "Let them be. The War of the Ring was hard for all of us; them most of all. More was asked of Shirefolk than ever before, and they saved us all, but not without cost. Let them voice any concerns they have to each other."
Thus the hobbits continued to speak their minds and concerns to one another, uninterrupted, until they heard a voice from below call the words that had been heard by many in different places, always carrying with them a wave of hope.
"The eagles are coming."
Rivendell is up next… By the way, this story is a combination of the book and movie universes: I'm using details from both, but hopefully those details will be clear enough so it's easy to identify which is from which universe.
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.