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Dalthalion

Frodo Suffered Under A Heavy Burden ...

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As drawn from Other Minds Magazine Issue 9. Article by Padraig Timmins.

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The Age of Sauron

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye—piercing all shadows—looked across the plain to the door that he had made; the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him, for he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

The fires below awoke in anger, the red light blazed and all the cavern was filled with a great glare and heat. Suddenly Gollum was lifted into the air; his tight lips stretched wide; his teeth flashing like fangs of blood in the red light as he cried in dismay. Then, an invisible force launched Gollum over the edge of the abyss and a pitiful, hopeless shriek of despair ripped from the wretched creature’s throat as he plunged to a fiery death.

Sam’s heart leapt. Despite having earlier spared Gollum’s life, he knew the vile creature’s heart was black and capable of great evil. Choking back sobs of relief and fear Sam dragged himself to his feet and stumbled towards the chasm to where he had last seen Frodo. Before he had taken more than a few paces an unseen force knocked him on to his back and then crushed down upon his chest. A dreadful voice above him uttered words that brought despair to his heart.

“On your back and stay there, Halfwit! A new power is now Lord of these lands, and none will stand in its presence unless given leave!” Frodo’s once pleasant tenor was now filled with vitriol and loathing for his former servant and friend.

A second blow to his head caused Sam to lapse into unconsciousness. Frodo, denied his audience, snorted in disgust and passed from Sammath Naur back out onto the mountainside. He scrutinised the realm of Mordor with newfound acuity and clearly discerned events that were far away. To the west, Frodo could see the realm of Gondor and the shining city of Minas Tirith, nursing its wounds and slowly recovering; looking north he saw the massed armies of the western lands embroiled in battle with the forces of Sauron, but Mordor’s generals were now in turmoil and Frodo knew why. The lords of war Sauron commanded were now cut free from the Dark Lord’s mind and purpose. Bereft of his control and having to take command without the surety that the will of Sauron gave them, they quailed and were flooded with fear.

For a moment silence fell upon the battlefield, and the Captains of the West, sensing an opportunity to strike at the heart of the enemy’s military leadership, changed their purpose and drove home their advantage. The forces of Mordor were pushed back, despite their superior numbers, as the forces of the West drove into their ranks, slaying their captains and their lords, and routing the remainder of their forces. But the victory of the West would be short lived if Frodo had the chance to deal with them properly!

And finally, turning to the east, Frodo looked upon the mighty tower of Barad-dûr and met the gaze of the Dark Lord, high in his tower.

Frodo issued the challenge and the Dark Lord responded. Across the vast expanse of ash and ruin the very air pulsated with power as the contest of wills began. But Frodo had no comprehension of the power of the Dark Lord. For even without his Ring, Sauron, among the mightiest of the Maiar to dwell within the confines of Eä, was more powerful and more terrible than any being in Middle-earth could conceive, except perhaps the Wise. Even over such a distance, Sauron’s will was vast. Using such command as he could, he locked Frodo in a battle of minds which could have only one ending.

Soon the Nazgûl arrived on their winged steeds, circling Frodo’s position like vultures over a wounded beast of the plains. They descended in haste and took up positions encircling the halfling. Sensing the presence of the Nazgûl, Frodo tore free from his mental battle with the Dark Lord, seeking to bring his will to bear on the Black Riders and bend them to his purpose. They stood like statues surrounding him, black shadows against a dark, grey, and broken land.

“Kneel before me! I am your Lord! I command the One Ring! The Master Ring!” Frodo cried as he put forth his will and battled for command of the Nazgûl.

But too little did the young hobbit know of the lore of the Rings of Power. Perhaps one of the Wise could have temporarily mastered the Nazgûl; perhaps Saruman with his knowledge of Ringlore could have achieved that for which Frodo strove. But Sauron still held the Nine Rings for Mortal Men, and through those Rings he held the Nazgûl to his purpose. Sauron knew the power of the Rings all too well, and counted on his servant’s loyalty to ensure that the pretender did not escape and to hold him until the arrival of Sauron himself to the slopes of Orodruin.

Frodo stretched out his power and grasped at the minds of the Nazgûl. A moment of uncertainty hovered in the air between them, but then the Nazgûl bowed before the hafling and in hollow voices they bade Frodo look out upon his new domain. With mounting confidence and exhilaration Frodo strode down the mountainside as the Nazgûl spoke to him of the great victories hewould achieve and the mighty domains he would rule. But the Nazgûl suddenly withdrew in haste. Frodo, sensing some new reluctance within them, was filled with fury and commanded them to obey. They refused, and the real reason for the Nazgûl’s withdrawal became clear.

Frodo, discerning the approach of a Power, looked back east. Moving as swiftly as an arrow propelled from the mightiest of elven bows, a dark and terrifying form approached in wrath, leaving a storm of ash in its wake. The figure slowed as it achieved the lower slopes of the mountain, and the Nazgûl scattered in terror as the dread shape drew near. Frodo cackled, for now he knew his chance for complete victory had come. He would throw down the Dark Lord on his own mountain and assume the Throne of Mordor. He would achieve what even the mighty Lords of the Eldar and the Exiles of Númenor could not. All manner of victories and triumphs boiled in his head, all he had to do was...

Sauron, the Lord of the Rings, the Lord of Mordor and self-proclaimed Master of Middle-earth finally arrived. Frodo put forth his power, more power than any halfling could have dreamed, to enslave the Dark Lord and crush his will. The command was sent and shattered on the wall of indomitable will that was Sauron’s mind.

How preposterous; how absurd; how laughable the efforts of this contemptible and tiny-minded mortal seemed. How could anyone in Middle-earth hope to withhold the One Ring from its true master? Only one of the Wise, one of the great among Wizards and Eldar could have hoped to withhold from the Ringmaker his rightful property. With a thought Sauron struck down the halfling, crippling Frodo’s mind and body. With another thought the Ring itself, now burning with a white-hot intensity in response to the approach of its true Master, was torn from Frodo’s hand and shot like a burning meteorite into the grasp of Sauron.

Losing the Ring, Frodo fell to his knees, momentarily oblivious to all else that happened.

Sauron raised his periapt of power in triumph, for a fatal, ultimate disaster had been avoided through the weakness of the pathetic creature in front of him. For a moment, everything around the Dark Lord stopped. Orodruin’s anger seemed to fade, and the great winds of Gorgoroth died. For Frodo and the Nazgûl (now prostrate before their Master), nothing existed except the sight of the towering figure of Sauron, now seemingly grown to an unimaginable height, holding up his mighty Ring, the One Ring.

As he slid the Ring onto his finger, a dreadful cry of victory erupted from Sauron, and an invisible wave of power and authority issued forth from the Dark Lord’s being. Frodo’s physical form was thrown back and down, crushed against the unforgiving volcanic rock of Mount Doom. The Dark Lord stepped over the halfling, seeing that the tiny hobbit was about to expire.

“Stay thy mortal soul!” Sauron commanded, stretching out his black hand.

Frodo’s broken body, lifted by unseen hands from the ash-covered rock, was made whole again; cuts sealed and bones knitted.

“The perverse release of death shall not be thine!” the Dark Lord said. “Thou shalt now be taken to my dungeons, and there thou shalt burn for an eternity for thy insolence. But even in those hallowed depths thou shalt understand the true measure of my victory over thee and thine allies. Thou shalt see all that I see; feel all that I feel; and thou shalt curse the moment that thou had not the strength to finish thy quest!”

With a mental command, Sauron ordered one of the Nazgûl to fly Frodo to Barad-dûr, there to await the Dark Lord’s pleasure. Next, Sauron cast his gaze northward, to the battle before the gates of Morannon. In the time since Sauron had realised the true purpose of his enemies, the battle had swung in favour of the Lords of the West. They had carved their way through Sauron’s forces; orcs fled and trolls swung in a frenzy at anything that came near, killing friend and foe alike. The only forces that maintained any semblance of discipline and control were the Haradrim and Easterlings, but even they fought from positions of relative safety, trying to spread the enemy front as thinly and as widely as possible.

Sauron’s power, now nearly absolute, stretched forth and all his minions were brought back under his invincible will and purpose. Slowly the onslaught of the West was stayed; slowly the superior numbers of Mordor began to impose their mastery on the battlefield, and slowly they cut into the ranks of the West. Then, with gathering speed, the forces of Mordor began to crush the forces of Rohan and Gondor. Before long the West was routed, and there on the plains before the Black Gates many great and fair folk fell in ruin. Indeed, few of the West escaped that day.

On the eastern hill the riders of Rohan and Dol Amroth fared better than those on the western hill, but the numbers of Mordor could not be held back. Éomer, King of Rohan, fell while leading a charge to save the noble Prince Imrahil; Beregond and Pippin were slain, their mortal remains consumed by the hill-trolls of Gorgoroth. Only Prince Imrahil and a few of his household, pushed north and cut off from all other friends by the forces of Mordor, escaped the battlefield that day.

Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf were felled on the western hill, defending each other as no two of the oldest of kindreds of Middle-earth ever had before. Nearby fell the fair sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, finally brought low by foul orcs, in payment for the tortures suffered by their mother, Celebrían. Almost all the Dúnedain folk of the north who had ridden to battle fell and among them the last of the line of Isildur, Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar the Elfstone, finally succumbed to the forces of Mordor, who long had hunted him.

Last of all, with all friends about him slain, dying, or in the hands of the enemy, Gandalf the White, last of the Istari to remain true to his duty, was beset by the darkness. He stood alone, surrounded by his enemies and pierced by many blades. About him the air seethed and crackled with the energies he released in his defence. Orcs could not approach him but were pushed forward by the pressure of numbers at their rear. Those forced near his body burned, and their screams filled the enemy forces with terror. Trolls were flooded with fear, despite the mastery Sauron held over their every thought, and they fell to the mighty wizard’s blade, their black blood soaking the hillside. But the sheer volume of Mordor’s forces could not be overcome. Finally, Gandalf the White fell. His robes were stripped from him, his blade taken, his staff shattered and Narya the Red, recovered by The Mouth for safekeeping and delivery to his Dark Lord. No songs were sung by any who witnessed or heard of his fall, in either sorrow or triumph, so profound was the loss and so costly was the victory.

With victory at Morannon secured, Sauron’s mind stretched forth, farther afield. Sauron saw and commanded all. The West was broken, and whilst there would be many battles still to fight, many victories to be won, Sauron knew his enemies were crushed and defeated. The Dark Lord’s triumph was almost complete and as Gondor’s power shattered on the plains of Morannon, on the slopes of Mount Doom, Sauron laughed. All his dark servants felt the force of the Dark Lord’s terrible ecstasy, but they did not join in their Master’s celebration. Sauron’s delight was not theirs, for now Sauron’s power was absolute. After thousands of years of effort and toil, The Age of Sauron had truly arrived.

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