Chapter 24 – Beginning of the End
I placed a hand on Pippin's shoulder as he stared at the body of Faramir. Denethor was raving, consumed by grief. Suddenly, Pippin ran forward, dropping to his knees beside Faramir. I strode over to him, ready to pull him away when he looked up, his eyes shining with hope.
He shouted out, and I crouched beside him. I studied Faramir for a moment, and detected the tiniest movement of his chest; his breathing was shallow and laboured, but he was alive.
"Pippin speaks true, Denethor. Your son needs medicine urgently!"
Denethor didn't seem to hear me as he walked to the edge of the Citadel and gazed out over the Pelennor Fields. I didn't need to look to know that Sauron's vast forces were gathering on the fields, ready for battle. Suddenly, resounding cracks filled the air and the terrified screams of citizens floated up to us. I stood in one fluid movement and looked to Denethor. He was ranting again, seemingly unaware of the boulders being catapulted at his city.
"Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!"
Denethor's voice, magnified by his despair and madness, carried. I saw the soldiers exchange looks of confusion. Denethor turned around, his eyes hollow. Suddenly, Gandalf stepped in front of him. Acting quickly, he struck the Steward over the head with his staff, and the man fell to the floor, unconscious. Gandalf whirled around, eyes blazing. He met my eyes and I nodded, already hurrying towards the stables. Gandalf's voice rang out as I ran.
"Prepare for battle!"
Legolas touched his necklace as they entered the Haunted Mountain. A shock ran through his fingertips, sending trails of fire down his every nerve. The battle at Gondor had begun. Seraphina was fighting to defend it, and the Prince of Mirkwood wondered if his beloved would be able to survive yet another battle. His father's words rang through his head:
"She is no good for you. She is tainted, and will remain so. You give your heart to someone who would break it without a second thought. Give up this hopeless dream; she will never belong to you."
He shook his head, the words fading from his mind. Seraphina loved him; she was carrying his child. He would see her again...he just didn't know if it would be on Middle Earth or in the Halls of Mandos.
Fëa whinnied, skittering to the side as rubble rained on us from above. Boulders slammed in to the walls of Minis Tirith as our own soldiers returned fire, desperately aiming for the enemy catapults.
"Send these foul beasts in to the abyss!"
Gandalf roared out his words, raising his staff. It seemed to rally the men, as a great cheer went up and they went about with more fervour. I laid a comforting hand on my loyal horse's neck as she spooked again. She was brave but this was far worse than anything she had encountered before. The air was filled with screams and shouts; the stomping of thousands of feet below us; the very air vibrating with fear. I turned Fëa to the left, and urged her on. We cantered down, flying past soldiers and dodging bits of flying debris. I pulled her up, and we faced outwards. The plains below us were a sea of writhing, black Orcs, stretching back as far as the eye could see. If they breached the walls, we would never survive such an onslaught.
I looked up as my palm tingled and drew in a breath. The Nazgûl were closing on, and the Witchking of Angmar flew with them. I could sense him from miles away. The beasts swooped low, circling the city. I watched in horror as they grabbed citizens and soldiers, smashing them against the walls and dropping them from great heights. Fëa screamed in fear, rearing up as a body slammed in to the ground next to us. She shot off, heading back towards Shadowfax. I desperately held on, feeling her terror coursing through me. As we reached Gandalf, I glanced back and almost fell off. Pippin was running along, his face a mask of fright and bewilderment. I turned Fëa towards him when the Nazgûl screamed. He dropped to the ground, hands on his ears. All around me, men cowered, hands scrabbling at their ears to try and block out the noise. I winced as it sliced through my mind, but I forced myself to focus. I noticed archers lining up and starting to fire. Hope flicked within in me, but it was crushed almost immediately; hope was not a good companion here.
"Not to the towers! Aim for the trolls! Kill the trolls! Bring them down!"
I yelled out orders, and the soldiers complied. Arrows rained down on the trolls pulling the siege towers. They stumbled, roars of pain echoing out but they continued on, drawing over closer to the crumbling walls of Minis Tirith. Suddenly, the ground dropped away from us. I yelled out as Fëa and I were lifted in to the air. She flailed around, striking out with her hooves. The beast holding us opened its claws and she dropped. I fell too, but its claws closed round me again.
I screamed as I watched my faithful horse crash in to the wall, before tumbling over, her broken body falling in to the swarming masses below. The beast circled back around as I struggled in its grip. It flew towards the city and I realised what it was going to do. It was going to throw me in to the wall. I reached for my dagger, pulling it out. I shot my arm straight up, plunging the dagger in to the beast's leg as we flew low over the wall. It screamed out, releasing me. The ground rushed up to meet me, and I smashed in to it, hissing in pain as pain shuddered through me. Instinctively, I had curled my arms around my stomach, protecting it. I wobbled to my fight, quickly assessing the damage; it wasn't too bad. I could still fight. I whirled around as thuds echoed against the walls. The siege towers had got close enough. I drew my blades, adopting a fighting stance.
"Fight them back!"
Gandalf's commanding voice rang out amidst the chaos. Soldiers lined up, clearly terrified, but determination showing through. I felt a surge of pride as I ran towards Gandalf; the race of Men was evolving. A familiar presence hit me and I turned my head, seeing Pippin stumbling towards Gandalf and I. I rushed towards him, steadying him with my hands on his shoulders.
"Peregrin Took! Go back to the Citadel!"
Gandalf spoke before I could, his voice angry. Pippin glanced at him, eyes still dazed.
"They called us out to fight."
Pippin's voice faltered as he looked over my shoulder. I spun around as Orcs swarmed over the wall in a great wave of black. A spike of fire surged within me as I clashed swords with an Orc captain before slicing his head off. I stayed close to Pippin, as did Gandalf; I would stop at nothing to protect this little Hobbit who had become so dear to me.
As more and more Orcs charged towards us, Gandalf and I fell in to a rhythm. Our moves matched as we slashed and hacked at the Orcs, all the while keeping Pippin from harm. My blades were slick with blood, and I could feel my grip slipping on one. I ducked as an axe whooshed through the air. I kicked out, sweeping the Orc's feet out from under him. I plunged my blades down, spearing it through the stomach, watching as it's struggle became weaker. I pulled them out, turning in time to see another rushing towards Gandalf, who's back was turned. My way to him was blocked, and I swung my blades faster, trying to cut through. I had lost Gandalf once; I would not do so again. Suddenly, the Orc stopped, it's face twisted in pain and shock. It crumpled to the ground as I reached it, revealing a stunned Pippin, staring at his blood-soaked sword. Gandalf and I glanced at each other, and back at Pippin. A trace of pride creased Gandalf's brow, and I flashed Pippin a small smile.
"Guard of the Citadel indeed."
Gandalf praised Pippin, before striking an incoming Orc with his staff, plunging back in to battle. I tightened my grip on my blades, and spoke to Pippin.
"Now back, up the hill! Quickly! Quick!"
I shoved Pippin slightly and he nodded, grim determination written over his face, before he turned and sprinted up the hill. I watched him go for a moment and then spun around, blocking a blow from an Orc. I quickly dispatched it, and another took its place. Around me, the soldiers were fighting them off, the glare of many blades reflecting the carnage. I noticed that no more Orcs were crawling over the walls, and the ones remaining were being slaughtered.
The ground shuddered, and I wobbled, steadying myself. I only had a second to wonder what could have caused it when I heard the chant.
"Grond! Grond! Grond! Grond!"
I looked to Gandalf, who sat astride Shadowfax once more. A sharp pain sliced through my chest as I remembered Fëa; my beautiful horse who had died in a place I had taken her to. The ground shuddered once more as the soldiers began to fall back.
"Back to the gate! Hurry!"
Gandalf shouted orders, and I ran along behind him as he cantered towards the gate. The pounding continued and the gate shuddered. Realisation hit me as I watched the gate. They were trying to break in to Minis Tirith.
I stood beside Gandalf, blades in my hands. The main gate began to splinter, and I saw worry on many of the men's faces.
Gandalf spoke low, but his voice carried to the men. They braced themselves as one final hit fell on the gate and the fiery jaws of the battering ram broke through, making the men withdraw.
"You are soldiers of Gondor! No matter what comes through that gate, you will stand your ground!"
I shouted my words, making sure every man heard me. They needed encouragement; they needed reminding that they belonged to the race that were experts at survival. The gates burst open wide and huge trolls of Mordor stepped through, swinging giant, spiky hammers. I threw myself sideways as the trolls advanced, narrowly missing being squashed. I skidded across the ground on my front, curling in to a ball as I slammed against the wall. My hands flew to my stomach as I checked for scraped or cuts. Miraculously, there were none there.
I sent a quick prayer before jumping up, weaving between the troll's steps, killing as I went. Adrenaline surged through me as I cut down any Orc in my path. My blades vibrated in my hands as they cut through Orc flesh; they were singing.
Arrows flew towards the trolls on Gandalf's command. A sense of dread settled in my chest as the arrows failed to make a difference. I joined the men as they retreated, still fighting. Blood ran in rivers down the streets, and the ground shook as the trolls advanced. The stench of death was heavy in the air, and I swallowed against the lump in my throat. The city of Minis Tirith had been breached, but I would not give in to my fear. I had to stay alive; keep fighting. Not for me, but for the men battling valiantly beside me; for those already lost, for my friends, for my unborn children, and, as always, for Legolas.
This chapter made me cry. A lot. I always hated this part. Even though I knew it would turn out okay, it's always so tense!Thank you all for staying with me! And hello to new readers! I love you all!