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Adraefan: 17. Chorus Silent (Barad-dûr)
The Easterlings tramped along the dusty ground, edgy. Their eyes strayed, glancing constantly to the north, where the previous attacks had come from. Many of the Wild Men remembered bitterly their brothers and sons lost on the way to Mordor, killed by the Man-ghoul and his elf slaves. These Wild Men, who were the last to part from their homes, clutched their spears tightly, for each harbored one thought: If I see him, he shall die. The Man-ghoul is mine.
But for now, all was quiet. The Wild Men’s leader – a grey-haired barbarian with a beard to his belt, tall and broad-shouldered, rumored to be descended from an Eastern Giant – led the way with sure, long strides. Every so often, he would rattle the spears of his soldiers with his own, beckoning them to make haste, and give no credence to wild claims of ghosts or elves. They were under the watchful Eye of Barad-dûr, and no harm could come to them.
A cry was sounded. Someone had spotted the Man-ghoul. Everyone turned to their right, facing north. With renewed vigor, they gripped their shields, swords, spears. A wave of terror passed through the group of Wild Men. They were nearly a hundred, surely they could fight off a single evil spirit? But doubt crept into their limbs, made their knees tremble, their guts tighten. Wild whispers were passed down the line. Where? Where is the Man-ghoul? Where is the ghost of Gondor? Keep steady, keep steady!
They could see four figures approaching on the horizon, all evenly spaced. Off to the right, the brown figure of an old man – the wizard, the conjurer of spells – was raising his arms, shaking his staff. They were far, it was hard to hear, but his voice was booming and growing, acquiring an inhuman quality. Next to him stood a Man - there, the ghost of Gondor, the Man-ghoul with a gut weakness! - swinging his sword around, keeping his shield at the ready. On the left, almost identical in their garments and look, the two elves.
Thunder. Noise from afar. The Easterlings could see something in the distance, something moving toward them from the northern part of Dagorlad. It appeared only a cloud of dust, yet with it came the noise of a hundred hooves beating against the rigid earth. Horses. Horses were galloping forward in a chaotic stampede, neighing fiercely. The Wild Men let loose a wave of arrows, but this did not forestall them. It seemed to only further infuriate the already wild steeds.
Soaring through the clouds, a mighty call was heard as an Eagle swooped by overhead. Four more Eagles passed. They began to circle around the Wild Men, with each turn descending towards the group. The Easterlings trembled.
But Mordor had sent reinforcements, and, coming from the west, a battalion of orcs was hurrying forward, chanting. The orc-song gave the Wild Men courage, and the leader stepped forward to bellow a war cry. All of his soldiers joined in the cry, and for a moment, their own yelling drowned out even the oncoming horses. Orders were hurled down the line, archers stepped forward, this time aiming for the four combatants.
Arrows in the sky, clattering against each other.
But not a single arrow struck. The elves stepped aside with speed and elegance, and the distant Easterlings saw the elf on the far left simply twist his torso, so that an arrow grazed his garments and fell innocently to the ground. The Man-ghoul of Gondor raised his shield and caught any arrows that neared him, filling the round shield as a pincushion with pins. On the right, the wizard was by now so consumed within a whirlwind of birds and insects that the arrows were but caught in this tornado and flung aside.
The orcs arrived, joined the Easterlings. An orc captain cried out to the Easterling leader in the common tongue: "Do not advance! Stay your course! If these devils are foolish enough to attack when they are outnumbered, then let them come to us. We move to the Black - "
But the order was never finished, since in that moment, an Eagle dived down and bowled through the company of orcs, sending the orc captain flying. To the Enemy's right, the horses had arrived, and the dust they kicked up enveloped everyone’s vision. A few frantic arrows were sent into the cloud, but nothing could suppress the horses' charge.
Just so, the battle began. At first, it was only a battle between the beast and the Enemy, as if all the creatures of Middle-earth were unleashing their collective anger at Mordor. For every tree felled in Fangorn Forest, for every river suffocated, for every creature killed, the animals avenged it in this attack.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the barren field, the group of four stood. Boromir swiveled his shield around, looked at the arrows, looked down at the Enemy who was now victim to Radagast's army of beasts. His hair stood on end, and he smiled maniacally. The elves at his side cast him serious, expressionless glances. But Boromir's perverse glee could not be stifled.
"See that, elf brothers? See that?" he cried over the roar of fighting and Radagast's spells. "Our honor lies there, at the tips of those Easterling swords!"
He inhaled deeply, sucking in all the foul Mordor air, and smiled again.
"Today is a good day for fighting. I feel it in my bones."
Second One, who stood several paces from Boromir, shook his head as he readied his bow and arrow. "How can Men revel in such violence? My only desire is to see this finished. Boromir, this is our last fight. After this, we return to Mirkwood."
Boromir laughed. But it was not hollow or strange, as his laughter during the past few days had been. It was loud and energetic and frenzied. "Indeed! My friends, after this you will be heroes among your people! My heart only grieves that none will travel East with me."
Third One’s brow creased. He was standing at the far end of their line, his daggers drawn. "Still East, then? Not to Gondor?"
"Nay, I fight for the White City,” Boromir’s voice fell slightly, “but she will not accept me so soon."
Third One quirked an eyebrow, dodged a stray arrow that fell towards him. "Are you sure you do not simply fear returning?"
Boromir's smile faded. He looked at the elf, offended. "What mean you?"
"Boromir, you have compensated more than enough for whatever past betrayal you committed. I say it is only fear which keeps you from Gondor now."
The battle below was spreading out, swelling like a wound. The Eagles swooped, the horses stampeded, the insects dug their way into orc and Easterling eyes, nose, mouth. On the far side, Boromir swung his blade around. He stared at the battle, and then spoke in a low voice: "Do not presume so much, Third One.”
The elves cast each other a quick, knowing glance. But now was not the time for heartfelt discussions. The battle was moving, moving towards them, and it was their cue to enter. Without a word, the elves burst forward and ran towards the fighting. They quickly disappeared into the cloud of dust.
To Boromir’s left, Radagast shook his staff and summoned a rage in the animals, so that all the beasts on the field let out a cry of anger.
"Fight for your land!" Radagast cried, now in the common tongue. "Knock down the damnéd Enemy and free your people of fear!"
Boromir roared with the animals, let the thunderous noise fuel his fury and his strength, allowed the bloodlust in him to bubble forth and consume him. He thrust his sword high in the air, piercing the sky with it, and cried: "GONDOR!" And then, with the violent recklessness borne out of suicidal warriors, Boromir charged forward into the innumerable Wild Men waiting at the foot of Mordor’s mountains. He fell upon them in a blur of frenetic movement, moving into the Enemy without thought or plan or strategy. For this was meant to be his final assault, his last defiant stand, the ultimate roar of flame before the fire flickers out completely.
He did not know where the others were, but he could still hear Radagast’s voice, sinister and loud as it bellowed unknown spells behind him. All manner of beasts and insects were conjured up. Snakes twisted into view, emerging from the bare ground itself, to wrap around Easterling legs. A wave of stampeding horses plowed through. Boromir glanced back: he saw the wizard’s distant form, arms outstretched, and a whirlwind of insects and birds swirling around him, over his head, spanning wide. The animals could not discern between Wild Man and other, and Boromir nearly received a pair of hooves to the chest before he dodged out of the way.
And as he fought, as he swung his sword around, pushed with his shield, bit back gorge and surged forward, he had but one thought in mind, droning on like a chant.
The final fight
the final fight
the final fight
hasten my end
Hear me Valar,
see me fight now
this is my last stand
this is my finish
honor my courage
and respond to my prayer.
Kill me if you are merciful!
He caught flashes of his companions in the heaving mass of bodies. Dust, dust, blood black and red, followed by a glimpse of dark hair and piercing blue eyes. The Wild Men were confused, frightened. They flung themselves towards the animals with rusted swords and alien curses. Boromir stumbled, felt his feet find soft flesh, and saw that the ground was alive and moving at his feet. A sea of snakes, all writhing around, sinking their fangs into Wild Men’s legs, pulling orcs down, suffocating them. They slithered past Boromir's legs without threat, for Radagast had instructed them in which Man was to be left untouched.
An Easterling slammed into Boromir, knocking the breath from him. Both warriors tumbled to the ground, scrambled about, retrieved their weapons. Snakes squirmed past Boromir’s face. He sputtered, pushed himself to his feet, ready to strike. A moment of examination – the Wild Man was taller, brown-haired, tangled beard and black eyes. He charged forward without hesitation, and Boromir, misjudging his opponent’s move, swung his sword around. The Man collided again, this time ramming his shoulder into Boromir’s stomach. It had the desired effect. Boromir, blinded and crippled by the pain, fell back. He was still dealing with the burning agony in his stomach when the Wild Man, seeing his opportunity, brought his sword forward.
A flash. An arrow sticking from the Wild Man’s chest. He fell backward. Boromir did not have time to thank his ally, or even see who it was. In an instant, he had forced himself back onto his feet. Back, back into the struggle. His sword flashed – a head fell to the ground, decapitated. He danced with the Enemy, surged forward, feigned back, struck, slashed, dodged. His garments were black and red, his face caked in dried blood and mud.
Fight for Gondor, my son. Denethor had once said. You are our sword.
The fighting continued. Easterlings, orcs, animals, a Gondorian and two elves. All tearing at each other, ripping each other apart. Vicious snarls and brutal roars. Saliva and sweat and blood, all sprayed, soaking into the dirt and turning it to mud. Muscles and flesh bursting from heavy blows, bones being shattered. Limbs became entangled, visions blurred, screams confused, so that all the combatants seemed to pulse and breathe with the same breath, an entire entity heaving and pushing against itself, straining to destroy itself.
And looming above it all, goading the battle on and soaking up the violence, the Ash Mountains, Ered Lithui. The northern wall of Mordor.
Boromir pushed forward through the mass of heaving bodies, the whirlwind of locust insects, the stampeding of wild, maddened horses. He cut and slashed at whatever he could, taking off arms, legs, heads, hands of Wild Men. There was a cry and five Eagles soared overhead, their great wings blocking the silver sun in a stream of passing shadows. Boromir felt something brush his cheek. An arrow flew by, hit a Wild Men behind him. Another arrow, this time passing through his hair, flinging the greased strands aside, burning his temple. Then Boromir saw: Second One – nocking one arrow, pulling, loose, nocking another, pulling, loose. The Wild Men fell about him in erupting spurts of blood. The boom of horses, the cry of human voices and the wail of inhuman ones. Boromir pushed forward, it was all he could do amid the chaos and rage and constant meeting-releasing of blows.
Something struck Boromir in the neck. He staggered forward, stunned, nearly fell, but turned in time to slice open the chest of an Easterling. He reached back, felt blood on his bare neck, but the wound was not deep. He could yet continue. He would yet live. And in that moment, the land shook beneath their feet, the beasts cried out in anticipated fear and Boromir looked up, to the Mountains of Ash, to the borders of Mordor, and saw this:
The sky darkens, light fades. What little sun fell about Dagorlad disappears and is replaced by a roaring vacuum. There! There! Up there! Hovering over the mountain edge, the jagged peaks like a throne, black-ripped wings outspread, wide jaw cawing, and the wind carrying the voices of all its victims, all the voices in the wind are warning Boromir, telling him to run if he can, because look, there it is:
Flee, because there is no defense!
The fight turns to chaos, disorder, panic, hysteria. Now all fight for themselves, there are no more boundaries or allegiances or sides. All are enemies, and all desire only to flee from the Fell Beast’s jaws claws wings Rider. Even the Wild Men fear him, they know he brings evil with him, the evil of Mordor itself. The battle falls apart and everyone is scrambling wildly, this way, that way, screaming, crying out, clawing at the earth.
But the nazgûl knows his target, he sights his target, and the beast roars. It is you, Boromir, you!
A great billowing of its wings, foul air pushed down and the Nazgûl-Fell Beast shadow rises further up into the dark clouds before spiraling down, straight down, straight to you.
Boromir stumbles backwards, turns, runs forwards, sees the animals of Radagast neighing-roaring-buzzing with intensity, all fleeing as well. Up above, the Eagles attack! But they are beaten away by Fell Beast jaws claws wings Rider. They cannot stop this evil. An Eagle falls to the ground – wings torn, lifeless. Another, another, and soon all the mighty birds surrender and retreat.
Down, down, the Nazgûl-Fell Beast swoops, opening its claws. Up, go the wild horses of Radagast’s army. Up, go snakes and earth and Wild Men, too. The Winged Creature snarls, rips away anything that moves, tosses it aside, continues forward, its claws now grazing the earth. And Boromir runs, pointlessly, desperately, anywhere. He catches a glimpse of his allies: Second and Third One, aiming arrows and releasing them. The Fell Beast staggers, falls, its wings flap, but still it falls. Before it hits the ground, its Rider screams – a shrieking call, answered by more mind-numbing howls coming from within Mordor.
The Beast collapses under more arrows, but these were the last. Now Second One and Third One run forth, long elvish blades drawn. The Rider dismounts, stands tall in empty black cloak, spiked armor. Boromir can already feel the Black Breath pushing against his neck – his eyes are dimming and he cannot see.
Meanwhile: Second One, Third One, courageous, defiant, blades drawn and raised, running forward to meet the nazgûl. They whirl past Boromir, who is still stumbling away. The Rider raises his sword, salutes them, waits for them to come to him. They scream. They charge.
“No! Stop, it is folly!” Boromir cries at their fleeting forms. His words are mangled. He drags his sword up, guts a passing Easterling, cries: “Flee!”
“Utúlie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lomë!"
An ancient war-cry, Second and Third One both yell it and their voices grow large and bring light, a piercing, blinding light that burns holes in the shadows. A light from the sky, from their blades, from their eyes. A white and holy light. Running, their swords raised high, glinting in the light, and the nazgûl cries out – again, a shriek of help, and the answers are closer now. Boromir’s eyes are dim, they are blurry, he cannot see, but he looks up nonetheless, there, there, up there:
More nazgûl! Nazgûl! Three, four!
Whirling down – one, two, three, four – cascading through the mess of Wild Men, beasts, confusing shafts of light and shadow. The Eagles regain their vigor, try to hold them off. One of the Fell Beasts flies low – its left wing passes over Boromir’s head – its claws reach out, reach out, reach out: and grasp Third One, knock him aside, pull him up by his hair. He loses his sword and half of the holy light fades.
Second One continues forward, and there is a sound of swords, vibrating steel, and then – and then – and then – an alien howl, a mix of noise, sucking in, exploding outwards! Boromir hears the chorus of victim’s voices rush past him, he sees the nazgûl crumple in, a light burning through his black torso, crumpling in with Second One’s fiery sword in his chest, and again the sound of past warriors, past souls, fleeing out into the sky and away. A crash! And he disappears.
Behold! A nazgûl is fell! There is more light in the land!
The surviving nazgûl cry out in anger, fury, rage. They bend over, turn aside, dive down.
A hand in the clouds of dust and blood; Second One has found a horse, mounted it, he rides up to Boromir and holds out his hand. Boromir reaches out, stretches his arm, not knowing how or why, but seeing only escape, seeing only a faint image… and suddenly something clamps around him, crushes his ribs, rips him away from Second One’s grasp. And he is going up, up, up, the ground is shrinking beneath him, Second One and the horse are disappearing, growing ever smaller, tiny spots amid a chaos of movement. The air pulls Boromir’s hair, he cannot breathe, his ribs are crushed, his lungs emptied of life. NO! NO! NO! He hears the cries – and they bring blood to his ears! – of the Fell Beast above him. He feels the Black Breath enveloping him. Another cry, another wail of nazgûl. Over Ered Lithui, the highest ashy peaks brush past Boromir’s fingers, and the Beast turns around to give him a better view of:
Barad-dûr! The Eye of Sauron!
Laughing jeering goading roaring bursting with red-flame-rage!
Come, son of Denethor! Come!
Barad-dûr getting closer, closer, until the fires fill Boromir’s nostrils and his throat and he chokes and chokes. Closer, closer, the Eye is here, it is laughing jeering rewarding its nazgûl servants. The Beast roars, the fires widen crackle snap like sideways lightening, and Boromir’s eyes have seen too much, they cannot accept these sights, his mind is spinning madly: Barad-dûr! Barad-dûr! His eyes ears mouth nose are all bleeding, all crying, all life pouring from him and the Beast tightens its grip:
Welcome to Barad-dûr!
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