The Black Gate Opens

TwodayslaterthearmyoftheWestwasallassembledonthePelennor.ThehostofOrcsandEasterlingshadturnedbackoutofAnórien,butharriedandscatteredbytheRohirrimtheyhadbrokenandfledwithlittlefightingtowardsCairAndros;andwiththatthreatdestroyedandnewstrengtharrivingoutoftheSouththeCitywasaswellmannedasmightbe.ScoutsreportedthatnoenemiesremainedupontheroadseastasfarastheCross-roadsoftheFallenKing.Allnowwasreadyforthelastthrow.

LegolasandGimliweretorideagaintogetherinthecompanyofAragornandGandalf,whowentinthevanwiththeDúnedainandthesonsofElrond.ButMerrytohisshamewasnottogowiththem.

‘Youarenotfitforsuchajourney,’saidAragorn.‘Butdonotbeashamed.Ifyoudonomoreinthiswar,youhavealreadyearnedgreathonour.PeregrinshallgoandrepresenttheShirefolk;anddonotgrudgehimhischanceofperil,forthoughhehasdoneaswellashisfortuneallowedhim,hehasyettomatchyourdeed.Butintruthallnowareinlikedanger.ThoughitmaybeourparttofindbitterendbeforetheGateofMordor,ifwedoso,thenyouwillcomealsotoalaststand,eitherhereorwherevertheblacktideovertakesyou.Farewell!’

AndsodespondentlyMerrynowstoodandwatchedthemusteringofthearmy.Bergilwaswithhim,andhealsowasdowncast;forhisfatherwastomarchleadingacompanyoftheMenoftheCity:hecouldnotrejointheGuarduntilhiscasewasjudged.InthatsamecompanyPippinwasalsotogo,asasoldierofGondor.

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