30. The Long Wait on Weathertop
The army of Gondor surged across the narrow bridge, pushed open the ruined gates, and streamed into Minas Ithil, bristling for a fight.
The rubble and bodies from the taking of the city still lay in the streets. But nothing else. There were no orcs, no ogres, no trolls. There was nothing. Everything was still.
"Well, this is a fine sight indeed," Aratan muttered, glancing into buildings and muttering curses.
"I see nothing fine about it," Ciryon said bitterly.
"What I meant is that we bring the entire army of Gondor here to deal Sauron a devastating blow, and he's abandoned it! Can you believe that?"
Aratan snorted. "I expected nothing less," he sneered. "Low treachery, I'm thinking." He gasped. "What if Sauron is meaning to strike at Minas Anor, or Osgiliath?"
"That's impossible," Ciryon said. "The only way to take either city is to cross the Anduin, and the only place that's possible for miles around is Osgiliath, which can only be accessed from Minas Ithil. We saw no great army, and so the cities are perfectly safe."
Aratan shrugged. "Some cunning sorcery may be involved."
"I doubt it," Ciryon said. "Sauron has no need to hold onto this place. He has started the war, but now we must finish it."
Aratan sighed. "To Dagorlad then we send the army. Most of it anyway. And not us alongside it."
"There are plenty of chances for glory and renown defending Minas Ithil against another attack," Ciryon said.
"But not as many as fighting alongside Lord Elendil and Gil-galad ," Aratan said.
"If Minas Ithil falls, then disaster awaits our victorious army," Ciryon said. "Presuming, of course, that they are victorious. If not, then it won't matter anyway."
Aratan sighed again and started giving orders for the bulk of the army to move to Dagorlad.
"Do you think the elves will come?" he asked.
"I think the question is not if they will come," Ciryon said, "but if they will come in time."
Carrier pigeons kept Elendil abreast of the developments in southern Middle-Earth. They were clever little things, he thought. Ingenious how they could go from one place to another, and then back again.
"What news?" he asked, staring out across the bleak land of Arnor. It was bleak, he thought. What was I thinking, building a realm here? It is so gloomy and depressing. The clouds hang in the sky all day. The rain is like streams of tears. Lindon. Now that is a place of happiness. Light and laughter and green leaves. Not like this. Not like this at all.
"Sauron has abandoned Minas Ithil," the messenger said, reading the small scroll. "The army of Gondor is moving towards Dagorlad, leaving a portion behind to guard Minas Ithil, including two of Lord Isildur's sons. Lord Anarion and Lord Isildur, along with the rest of the Gondorian army, will clear Dagorlad of any orcs there, and will await the arrival of Arnor's army as well as the elves."
Elendil nodded. "And of my army?"
"Three-quarters are marching south to Dagorlad," the messenger said. "They should arrive within the month. And as for the rest, they ring the land around Amon Sul."
"I can see them," Elendil said. He stood up and walked to the window, looking out. "Where is Gil-galad? He should be here by now."
"I do not know that, my king."
"Send a message to Isildur. Tell him to be cautious. Sauron's apparent abandonment of the lands outside Mordor may be a deception. It would not do well for me to arrive to burned lands and a dead army."
"Yes, my king," the messenger said, bowing and hurrying away.
"Where are you?" Elendil muttered, staring out into the west. "Gil-galad! You swore to me that together we would make an end to Sauron forever. And yet where are you?"
The days passed, and Elendil got word that Gondor's army had destroyed two small orc bands and encamped on the plains of Dagorlad, only a few miles from the Morannon. They reported no raids, or indeed even seeing anyone patrolling the fearsome battlements of the Black Gate.
One morning as he strode the top of the fortress, pacing nervously, Elendil stopped suddenly, and whirled around.
"What is it, my king?" one of his advisors asked, following the king's gaze.
"Do you hear that?" Elendil asked, smiling.
"No, sire. What is it?"
"Horns," Elendil said, hurrying to the edge of the battlements. "From the west!"
"They have come at last then," the advisor said.
"Rally the army. We will march within hours."
Elendil grinned, a rare expression on the normally serious man. "Gil-galad!" he whispered. "At last!"