The battle of the Pelennor fields has come to an end. The wounded have been healed. The city of Minas Tirith is resuming its normal pattern of life as much as possible. Grief and sorrow still permeate the consciences of the inhabitants and it will take time to accept the deaths of their loved ones. However, peace has returned to their homes, thanks to the sacrifices of the same people. There is a feeling of elation as well as that of remembrance.
The newly-established council consisting of Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Éomer is gathered to discuss Gondor’s next move. The King of Gondor has not yet been crowned, so a council provides guidance and help in these times of need.
Aragorn himself has come into the habit of seeking advice and counsel, so a gathering such as this is the most natural of settings for him. As opposed to Théoden who initially rejected all advice that had been offered, and Denethor who almost despised their offerings, Aragorn is pleased to have different opinions and possible options presented in a forum. They can brainstorm ideas on how to best handle the situation.
For this to happen, they need information that only a wizard can provide.
Frodo has passed beyond my sight. The darkness is deepening.Gandalf
The fact that Gandalf cannot sense Frodo’s presence while he is inside the enemy’s camp, does not mean that Frodo has come to harm. It does, however, elicit uncertainty and fear for Frodo’s life. Gandalf can sense the darkness rising to power once more. The defeat at Minas Tirith did not halt Sauron in his plans to destroy the world of Men. It has only halted so as to regain its ground and restrategize.
Aragorn: “If Sauron had the Ring we would know it.”
Gandalf: “It’s only a matter of time. He has suffered a defeat, yes, but behind the walls of Mordor our enemy is regrouping.”
Aragorn tries to remain positive whilst Gandalf’s vision is being blurred by dark thoughts. He knows the enemy has not given up on his masterplan. But he also seems to have given up hope of the Men ever ultimately defeating Sauron. As objective and as reasonable as his thinking might be, the feeling of a futile effort is palpable.
Gimli is still the one who one can count on for a light and easy solution, with a hint of sarcasm. He has taken his place on Steward’s throne, enjoying a smoke of his pipe.
Gimli: “Let him stay there. Let him rot! Why should we care?”
Gandalf: “Because ten thousand Orcs now stand between Frodo and Mount Doom. I’ve sent him to his death.”
Aragorn: “No. There’s still hope for Frodo. He needs time and safe passage across the Plains of Gorgoroth. We can give him that.”
Gimli hasn’t given much thought to the lives of the two Hobbits that now walk within the walls of Mordor. His attention is focused on Minas Tirith, their victory and peace-keeping. Gandalf, however, knows what awaits Frodo and Sam and is anxious because of that.
As Gandalf explains his predicament to Gimli, his enjoyment of the pipe lessens automatically. He appears to also be a little ashamed of not having thought about that part of the problem.
Aragorn does not give in to the hopelessness and insignificance that seems to be spreading within the council. And there the plan is formed.
Gandalf has been carrying the guilt of Frodo’s involvement in the quest ever since they left Rivendell. That is his heavy burden to bear. He knew the risk the Hobbit was taking upon himself. Gandalf finds himself regretting the decision of letting him leave with the Ring. Elrond, whose wise advice Gandalf sought whilst Frodo was recovering in Rivendell, had strong reasons for making Frodo the bearer of the Ring.
Frodo had shown the most resilience to its power at that point in time and was already aware of the danger it summons. For Elrond, there was no one else who would have been more suited for the task at hand.
Gandalf tried his best to find arguments against Frodo’s involvement. All of which came from a place of love and concern for his safety. Ever since then, the love for the Hobbit and the concern had not left his heart. It only expanded his worries to guilt, regret, and resentment, feelings with which he now has to come to terms. However, even Gandalf cannot help his emotions influence his worldview any more than any of the rest of the council can.
A bold plan
Aragorn: “Draw out Sauron’s armies. Empty his lands. Then we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gate.”
Éomer: “We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms.”
Aragorn: “Not for ourselves, but we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron’s Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.”
Legolas: “A diversion.”
Gimli: “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?”
A simple plan in its structure but a bold one in its magnitude. Éomer reminds the group of the impossibility of the plan having any effect, given the small number of soldiers they still have left to spare. However, Aragorn would only use the number left at his disposal to lure the enemy out of its land, focusing all their strength onto them.
Naturally, when they see this small group of Men gathered outside the Black Gate, they will think it laughable and easy to conquer. They will have to leave their stations to address the issue of the Gondorian soldiers. In a way, it would be the easiest path to the glory they have had. The last remaining Men of Middle-Earth, led by the only heir to Isildur, all gathered on their doorstep. It would be almost as simple as shooting fish in a barrel.
Aragorn on his part would sacrifice his life for Frodo, as he had already sworn in front of the council in Rivendell. So this idea comes as no surprise. However, the fate of their own lives lies in this decision. All the remaining soldiers of Gondor will be risking their lives again.
To have Aragorn in their midst is a blessing without a disguise. They lost their Steward to madness and suicide, so there is a palpable need for a firm hand at the tiller. For them to have the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor leading the way is a welcoming development, one that for ages only passed as legends.
Gandalf: “Sauron will suspect a trap. He will not take the bait.”
Aragorn: “Oh, I think he will.”
Gandalf has his legitimate suspicions about how this ruse will go. Sauron is cunning, and as such, a diversion like this, where the last Gondorians present themselves on a platter will not be taken at face value. He himself once perpetrated a deception by fashioning the One Ring without anyone knowing, which ultimately led to this day. Aragorn’s plan is on the same playing field as was his enemy’s plan once.
A look into the Palantír
There still lacks enough motivation for Sauron to even take the bait. Which is precisely what Aragorn plans to do. Place himself as the ultimate bait. He enters the throne room under the cover of night and uncovers the Palantír, the same one that subjectively informed Denethor. As the Eyes of Sauron blazes at him, his first instinct is to flinch away from it.
Everyone who came into contact with a Palantír knows the power it possesses and the interpretation of information through images that influence the user in most harmful ways. However, this time Aragorn’s goal is to gain control over those images.
Long have you hunted me. Long have I eluded you. No more. Behold the sword of Elendil.Aragorn
Aragorn presents himself with confidence, confidence he gained through his quest. He can now face the enemy that had not only searched for him but held himself at a distance at the same time, for fear of the stories of the long lost heir of Gondor’s return. For all Sauron’s might and will to destroy the world of Men, Aragorn was the one he was most afraid of.
It would seem that all the legends circling around his character were true. And the worst had already happened, different realms of Men have gathered under one banner for the heir of Isildur.
Now that Aragorn is ready to face his most dangerous foe, he does it with a vengeance. He needs to taunt him so as to focus his full attention on himself. He dares him to a kind of a face-off, one that out of fear neither one wants nevertheless one that is inevitable.
Sauron presents himself in his most malicious, in the armor in which he faced the War of the Last Alliance. Then a depiction of Arwen lying dead appears before Aragorn’s eyes.
Two can play at this game. Aragorn used the Andúril to show an advantage over his enemy. He simply wanted to scare him, showing him the sword that hurt him once, and would hurt him again if it comes to a confrontation.
Sauron, for his part, uses the one thing he knows would hurt Aragorn. To see Arwen dead like this shakes him to his core at which point he releases the Palantír. At the same time, the Evenstar pendant that Arwen gave him falls to the floor and shatters. The worst that could have happened has. The dream or rather nightmare he had before setting off for the Paths of the Dead had come true apparently. Arwen is dead.
Duty and grief
What Aragorn sees as being the truth is simply a deception of Sauron. Sauron knew presenting Aragorn with an image of dead Arwen would bring him grief and possibly shake his confidence. If he didn’t have her, the love of his life, then he might lose the will of ever confronting him.
The image of Arwen definitely shook Aragorn. Nevertheless, he took to his duties responsibly. His people are counting on him now and his role of becoming King is now his only foreseeable future. Therefore, the day after, Aragorn prepares the army and leads them from Minas Tirith. His newly appointed council rides with him, together with Pippin and Merry.
Faramir and Éowyn
Éowyn: “The city has fallen silent. There is no warmth left in the sun. It grows so cold.”
Faramir: “It’s just the damp of the first spring rain. I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
The darkness that still plagues her, leaves her senses dull and her worldview impaired. For all the negativity and death she had witnesses along with her injury, it is hard for her to look at anything positively at the moment. She feels her surroundings growing dark and cold.
Faramir offers her a simple and reasonable explanation for what she perceives. Their surroundings are dictated by the weather patterns. The darkness within will not take her, and she will overcome it. Faramir may not know her history, but the events that shaped them both will unite them.
Éowyn turns to look at Faramir, as someone who will lead her into the new phase of her life. A happier one. His inner strength will be her safe haven. With a smile and the holding of hands, they welcome the love that is beginning to unfold.
Frodo and Sam are now deep in the enemy’s camp, taking one step at a time. Follow me to my next post.