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13
The Taste of the Enemy

The Taste of the Enemy


The Mouth of Sauron sat in the small chamber in Dol Guldur where he accepted audiences for his Master, and spoke with the Dunlendings who had been summoned to his presence. “And thou sayest that the White Wizard carries the plans for the water systems of Minas Anor and Osgiliath with him, and will show them as examples of what he will do for others?”

“Yes, my lord,” the hillman called Glaurag agreed. “He has shown them to our chieftains, for they seek to build cities in the hills to the north of Isengard, west of the Misty Mountains where we can best build fortresses for the safety of our folk and where we have good supplies of water. Such lands are in the end easier to defend than the lower grasslands we ever seem to war over with the folk of Gondor.”

The Mouth of Sauron gave his twisted, pleased smile. It appeared that his Master’s goals would be more easily gained than all had hoped. “And how easy dost thou think it would be to gain possession of these?”

Glaurag looked to his fellow, then sideways at his dread host’s spokesman. He swallowed and licked his lips before answering--he was sorry he’d agreed to come in answer to the summons, for this--creature--with whom he treated made him feel deeply sickened. It may have once been a Man--perhaps even an Elf, although the rounded nature of its ears supported the former probability. What it was now was questionable, for it was as if its blood had congealed in its veins, but the body apparently had not as yet realized it was dead. A straightening of the sickly shape, however, drew him back to the realization the question asked was yet to be answered. He licked his lips again. “I believe it could be done, lord,” he managed to say. “He dwells yet among us and indicated he would remain until the spring opens the passes again. He was not much favored by King Eldacar of Gondor, and so he prefers not to pass through those lands that were once his if it can be avoided.”

“Take them and send them to the hands of the lord who brought thee here--at the very least the one of the mountain showing the location of the reservoirs for the cities, and much gold will come to thee.”

Glaurag’s companion finally spoke, his eyes now alight. “How much?” he asked.

The Mouth raised his hand to his mouth, and a ring whose very shape made the spokesman feel even more distressed could be seen on his long fingers. Eyes hidden behind the mask the creature wore examined the Man who questioned about the gold. “And what wouldst thou do with the promised gold?” it asked.

“Buy swords--swords and horses. We could take the grasslands of Calenardhon from the Sea Kings--take them fully for our own. Your folk are not the only ones who wish ill on Gondor.”

The Mouth laughed, and Glaurag’s stomach clenched at the sound. “Oh, I am certain we are not the only ones who desire an end to the realms of the heirs of Elendil, friend.”

Glaurag vowed to himself never to use that word again--being called a friend by this one was intolerable.

“Many horses and swords will thy people be able to purchase with what we will send. How much thou mayest require them or be able to use them is the question.”

At the expressed threat in those words both Glaurag and his fellow rose. More sorry than ever he’d agreed to come, but knowing there was now no other choice for his people, Glaurag promised, “We will get the plans and see them into Lord Regil’s hands. I only hope he does not betray you.”

The Mouth waved a negligent hand. “Regil would not dare do so, and he hates the heirs of Valacar. Merely to deliver the plans into his hands is all that is asked of thee.”

Only when they were let out into the relatively free air outside the fortress of Dol Guldur did Glaurag begin to breathe freely again; and the whole time they rode back to the escort provided by Regil that waited near the crossing at Cair Andros he felt the malice focused on his back. He wondered if he would ever feel free of the taint of that visit.

*******


Meanwhile the Mouth of Sauron met with Khamûl to report the success of the meeting, and together they walked deeper into the fortress where one of their Master’s experiments was being readied for release on the World of Men.

A larger workroom had been cleared of all else save for foul bedding, a couple of cooking hearths, a few low tables, and large basins of stagnant water. The sconces around the room held torches of burning gases, gases emitted from lower dungeons where unspeakable things happened.

Here about fifty people had been brought at their Master’s command, people from an teeming land far to the east and south where overcrowding and heat seemed to breed diseases intended to slay all of Mankind.

These fifty were what remained of the seven score and one originally taken by Sauron’s agents. The one was an individual who had become very ill of a plague that had first been seen in those living about the fetid swamps that filled much of one great river valley of that land. Sauron had ordered groups of people from about the country in question gathered and brought west to Dol Guldur, and there he sought to find out how the disease was transmitted from one to another. This last group of a hundred forty and one had given him the answer--biting insects, and mostly midges and mosquitoes. All in the group were now deathly sick with it; all that remained was for them to loose it upon the folk of Gondor. Well, the means to do that was at hand. These fifty, only recently bitten by infected mosquitoes, would be taken from the fortress tomorrow and transferred south to the beginnings of the marshes that stood north of the Black Gate; and the wriggling contents of the basins would be dumped into the waters there. These pitiful ones would be there for the mosquitoes that would grow from the wriggling larvae to bite once again before they laid their eggs; and still more would be brought and kept in captivity about the northern reaches of the marshes until the Dark Lord felt he had enough insects prepared to set loose on Gondor and its allies.

In a second great workroom the seven left of the twenty-five women brought from still another eastern land were kept, women all ill with another disease that the Dark Lord had learned caused not only great black pustules to build on the bodies of those infected, but also caused pregnant women to lose their children untimely. The idea that he could perhaps lessen the numbers of the Dúnedain through the loss of almost an entire generation of children was pleasing to Sauron the Great. No, he would not yet openly declare himself, but Sauron intended that his enemies be in no condition to stop the retaking of Mordor in the near future. This disease was spread by the biting of fleas, and so rats and wolves covered with the pestilential insects were brought into the room next to that in which the infected women were kept on mats of rotting rushes, and even more creatures who were relatively free of fleas were brought into rooms on the other side; it didn’t take long for the fleas to find their way from their overburdened original hosts to their new ones by way of the sick women. Even now orcs of one breed that had been found to be resistant to the disease were busy crating numbers of rats into great boxes with bedding, food, and supplies of liquid sufficient to get them to their destinations, and in a few days time would be carried north and set loose on Eriador, and south to Umbar where ships would carry them upriver into Gondor’s harbors, particularly the harbors of Pelargir and the Harlond.

And in a third room waters filled with the life of the most fetid swamps of the east were being decanted into vials, vials that were destined to be carried west into Gondor....

*******


Saruman was not certain how it was he had earned the ire of Eldacar. It seemed that particular King of Gondor somehow had blamed him for the invasion of Osgiliath through the sewer system he’d designed for Gondor’s capital. Castamir’s army had, at the Usurper’s command, burned and razed much of the city, using tools and materials Saruman had created for the sole purpose of making it easier to install the sewers. How the Wizard was to be seen as responsible for such actions Saruman had no idea; but as Eldacar’s descendants appeared fully willing to continue their grandfather’s prejudices indefinitely, or so it seemed, he’d found it wise over the past two hundred years to avoid both Minas Anor and Osgiliath themselves as well as much of Rhovanion. His one attempt to sound out Telemnar certainly hadn’t met with positive results.

Now Telemnar’s nephew Tarondor, who dwelt more in Lossarnach than in either the White City or the Capitol, was probably more forgiving in his nature--was at least more open to hearing what Curunír was likely to say in his own defense.

Saruman had been spending much of the last few months among the Dunlendings. An interesting people, the hillmen of the Dunlands--interesting and stubborn past belief. They wished to rule the land of Calenardhon for themselves; yet although the lords of Gondor would have given them the freedom to settle much of the emptier lands of the northwest solely in return for their guard on the borders against orcs and those who’d taken southern Rhudaur, the folk of Dunland refused, claiming kinship with those who harried the lands of Arnor.

Then there was the fact they claimed they wanted to rule Calenardhon, and yet would never move far from their familiar hills southwest of the Misty Mountains where they felt safe. They would plant fields and set herds of cattle in the grasslands beyond their hills, but at any appearance of orcs or Gondor’s folk they would withdraw into the highlands, fields and flocks forgotten until the interlopers withdrew--at which time they blamed those who came through their lands rather than themselves when their crops were choked out by weeds or their cattle stolen away.

But one of their leaders, Moran son of Marat, at least had appeared to display vision and ambition, and had said he wished to build a city and draw to himself others with vision. And so he had asked to see the plans Saruman had drawn of Osgiliath and Minas Anor and the water and sewer systems Saruman had created for them; then he had commissioned the design of a city with water and sewage lines built into it to be constructed near the feet of the Misty Mountains.

In the last two weeks Saruman and Moran had been to the proposed site of Moran’s city, examining it and its lie, its proximity to water sources and means of taking care also of the drainage. However, after the last week of the survey the Wizard was no longer certain of Moran’s true dedication to the project.

“These pumps and privies you build into each building--are they truly necessary? Cannot water be brought into homes from central fountains and wells where the women and girls can meet and gossip?” he’d asked just today. “It appears to be an activity my own wife and older daughters enjoy. And how it is I am to see the water system and devices and pumps crafted I cannot say, much less the piping. We are rich in stone, but not in metals or the finer clays you have indicated are necessary to make the pipes and privies.”

“Why not simply admit,” the Wizard grumbled to himself as he entered the quarters given him and closed the door behind him, “that he merely wishes a grander village than is the norm for these hills rather than a true city? It would be more honest in the long run and would not have wasted....”

His rooms had been entered while he was away with Moran, and his things gone through. He hurried forward to examine the disarray that had been wrought on his rooms, and quickly sought out the specially sealed coffers that contained those items he’d collected that had the most value to him, and found that although someone had obviously attempted to open them the spells worked on them to keep them inviolate had held. Swiftly he opened and briefly searched through each of them. He was relieved to find each document, scroll, codex, and fragment was still there, as well as the few esoteric items and models he’d collected and crafted. Well, if these had not been opened, much less rifled through, then what had the thief or thieves been seeking?

It was not, however, until he finally gave up and took the rolled up plans he’d drawn for Moran and went to place them with those he’d done for Osgiliath and Minas Anor that he realized that they were gone from the great wooden tube in which he kept such designs, along with the mixed coins he kept in a small wooden chest. Now, why would any seek to take such things? It certainly wasn’t because they were worth anything to anyone besides himself. He could easily enough reproduce them, of course.

He supposed it might be easy enough to locate the ends of the sewer lines using those plans; but he knew that first Castamir and later Eldacar had done several layers of grates inside the openings, and that between himself and Gandalf there were now a number of other protections as well that made it unlikely an enemy seeking to enter them would get past the first two hundred feet--and those protections by the various parties were not indicated in those plans. As for the one who stole his coins--well, they were spelled to find their way back to him, so he wasn’t particularly concerned about that loss for the moment--it was little enough that had actually been taken. The thefts were inconvenient, not disastrous, he realized; and the thief or thieves at least a week gone from what he could tell.

He thought for a moment for a proper punishment he might work on the thief from a distance, and decided to place a spell of laming on the thief or thieves’ horses. He focused on the parchment on which he’d drawn the diagrams, noted it was some days east of himself, although he could not tell precisely where; he sent the spell down the tenuous thread that tied the diagrams to himself, felt it sliding well on its way...finally felt it hit home with a feeling of vindictive triumph. Well, such would do well enough, and wherever the plans went lame horses would follow. He certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for those who’d taken them.

*******


When both his own horse and that of his companion went lame a two-days’ ride from Lord Regil’s keep Glaurag was dismayed. He was certain this must be due to the theft having been discovered by the White Wizard. When the horses they stole also went lame within a twenty-minute ride of the farm from which they were taken he was certain of it. His companion insisted they steal another pair, an act Glaurag felt was both dangerous and doomed to failure; they managed just to ride away from the keep from which they stole the beasts, an arrow embedded in his companion’s left leg, and the horses both went lame well within a quarter mark of one another.

Glaurag managed to remove the arrow and to see it properly bound; but it was obvious the rest of the journey would have to be undertaken on foot and alone. He left his companion in a rough cave he located with the coin he learned the fool had also stolen from the Wizard and sufficient food and water to last him three days, although he knew he would not be able to return in less than a se’ennight, and went on.

Four days later he finally spotted Regil’s keep in the distance, although it took him most of the day to approach it. There had been patrols on the road seeking him, most likely sent out by the minor lordling from whom they’d stolen the last horses. He rather thought they ought to be done with the hunt by tonight, but at this point he didn’t much care.

“Get these cursed things to Regil and be done with it,” he muttered as he worked his way through the twilit estate lands toward Lord Regil’s fortress dwelling. “Until they’re out of my hands I won’t be able to do aught else.”

He stood in the shadow of a tree within the fortress walls watching the doors to the house for quite some time before they opened and Regil himself came out to cross the keep toward his stables. Glaurag waited until the traitorous Gondorian lord came even with him before stepping out of the shadows, his unsheathed sword in one hand and the plans in the other. “You will take these now,” he said in a low and dangerous voice and he pressed the tip of his blade to the lord’s throat, “and give me the gold promised minus the price of two horses, give me those two horses, and I will leave. Do you understand?”

Something in the Dunlending’s voice convinced Regil he ought to simply comply; an hour later Glaurag was astride a horse he rightfully owned, leading a second laden with saddlebags filled with gold pieces, and he was headed once again west. Once he was certain he’d left whatever curse was attached to those plans behind him now in Regil’s hands he kicked his horse into a canter until he found a game trail through the forest north of the road that hopefully would help him evade any further patrols or followers. He did so none too soon, he realized as three mounted men-at-arms in Regil’s livery, two of them armed with bows, rode past the almost hidden trail head. So, Regil had decided to have the gold he’d given him recovered, had he?

Glaurag considered going back and taking his fury out on the treacherous lord’s hide, but decided against it. Let Regil experience the curse himself--he’d soon rue the day he agreed to deal with his dark patrons, he would! Glaurag worked his way westward screened by the forest, carefully keeping his own steed and that carrying the gold out of sight.

A week after leaving Regil’s keep he found the cave where he’d left his companion and found it apparently empty. As he finally entered it, however, he smelled a stench that told him both horses and the treasure the second one carried were now his. The bloated leg, all uncovered, told its own story--his companion’s wound had putrefied, eventually killing him. There were skins of water and food the fool had somehow managed to obtain, but Glaurag decided against taking it although his own supplies were spent. No, he’d hunt along the way home. He carefully skirted around the lands of the lordling from whom they’d stolen the second pair of horses, and finally found the farm where they’d stolen the first pair. Here he approached the farmer and his wife, offering to give them the two fine steeds he now had for one sturdy beast the farmer kept in a back pasture. An hour later he rode the cob out the farmstead’s gate and resumed his ride west, amused at having heard the farmer tell of having had his two riding beasts stolen and then finding them the next day some miles east of the farm, both lame. They appeared to be recovering, the farmer told him, but he found himself wondering just what curse was following the thieves who’d taken them.

Glaurag’s smile was grim enough. He only hoped Regil and his folk were having their own set of problems due to that cursed set of plans.

*******


It took three days longer than it ought to for Regil to reach the place where he was to meet his contact, and the cloaked figure had been most impatient as it reached for the rolled parchment.

“What happened?” came the impatient question. “Did all your horses go lame or something?”

“Or something,” Regil answered bitterly. “Actually, all our horses went lame three times!”

The cloaked Man--if, of course, it was a Man--peered closely at him past its hood, then considered the rolled parchments it had accepted with a look of cautious respect. This was likely to be a difficult mission. “Your reward awaits you in Osgiliath,” it told Regil. So saying the figure turned away and disappeared into the growing dusk.

Regil watched after the way the creature had gone suspiciously, then turned with his Men and headed south--on foot. He looked up with concern after about a quarter mark--it was really far too early for it to be this dark, then slapped at his wrist where a mosquito had lit. Then another landed on his face and was biting at his cheek. The man-at-arms ahead of him was struggling to scratch the center of his back where it had apparently begun itching unbearably, and as Regil watched a mosquito landed on the Man’s neck above his gorget. Soon the entire party was writhing with discomfort as more and more mosquitoes lit on them all, biting them unmercifully.

In a few days all were ill with chills and fever, and the surgeon attached to the company guarding Cair Andros was scratching his head with trying to understand what was wrong with them--and with the growing number of welts he was amassing due to this absolute plague of mosquitoes that was darkening the sky.

*******


Two weeks after that, when all within Osgiliath and a good number of those in Minas Anor were ill with chills and fevers the likes of which none had ever seen before, two orcs labored up the side of Mount Mindolluin, guided by directions given them by the cloaked figure who’d received the scrolled plans, studied them, and then burned them to rid all of the curse they apparently carried. No guards were being kept on the approaches to the reservoirs for either Osgiliath or Minas Anor, for too many of those who’d taken ill with the current plague were Guardsmen. And so it was that none was there to see as the orcs reached the water supply for the capital and carefully emptied into it half the vials they carried. As they turned down the path toward the second water supply, however, the orc carrying the remaining vials tripped and fell flat, the vials he carried smashing against the rocks of the mountainside and the foul liquid it carried rolling back toward the small Man-made lake they’d just left.

“If they know we didn’t poison both...” began the one who carried the vials as he cautiously raised to his feet.

“Fool of a snaga!” the second one exclaimed. “Do you think they’d let the likes of us live if they knew? No--best say nothing if you want to see next week. The poison went into the water, and that’s all they have to know. They’ll be happy enough when they see it strike the foul place over the river.”

They carefully made their way down the mountainside, the one who’d carried the vials sucking at a cut on its arm as they went. Within an hour it was dead and its companion was abandoning the body as quickly as it could, hoping that just breathing the stench of the foul liquid as it oozed down the bank into the reservoir wasn’t enough to do similarly to itself.

*******


Within two days the last of King Telemnar’s family was dead, and the White Tree of Minas Anor had failed. Tarondor arrived from Lossarnach a week later to find almost all within Osgiliath dead or fled, and half of Minas Anor dead or critically ill with chills and fevers. There was much talk by those who could say anything of dark clouds having risen in the east and been blown westward over Anduin, and of having been repeatedly bitten by flying insects the numbers of which had never been seen before, and then of great loosening of the bowels by most of those left within the capital followed almost universally by death.

Tarondor looked at what was left of Osgiliath. The water in the fountain outside the Dome of Stars seemed fouled and smelled horrid. He immediately gave the order none of his Men were to drink any water from within the city; and the two who’d done so before the order was passed to them became violently ill within an hour and were both dead two days later.

The rest worked at gathering bodies and seeing them burned, there seeming to be no other means of disposing of them.

The Grey Wizard arrived on the third day after Tarondor’s own arrival and began to help as he could, ordering the building of great pyres so that the bodies of the dead could be burned as swiftly as possible and hopefully the contagion contained. On being told of the apparent contamination of the water supply for the city, however, he advised the new King to send Men up Mindolluin to see if there was any sign an enemy might have somehow poisoned the water supply.

A day later those who’d gone returned to find Mithrandir starting three funeral pyres burning just outside the walls to Osgiliath, Tarondor by his side.

“We found the body of an orc halfway down the mountainside, below the lake that feeds water to this city,” one reported. “On the rocks over the reservoir we found shards of glass inside a cloth bag, although we touched it not with our hands and breathed as we have done here through folds of cloth over our faces. It appears at least two of the cursed beasts were involved in contaminating the water supply, and that this one infected himself with the disease he carried in the vials, for the fouling around the body was the same as what has been seen here.”

Tears slipped from the eyes of both King and Wizard at the news. They turned to look again at the burning pyres. “The water is not likely to be safe to drink again for at least a year then, my Lord King,” Mithrandir said, shaking his head. He looked back at the King’s Men who had been into Minas Anor. “How about within the White City--is it, too, filled with such disease as here?”

“No, Lord Mithrandir--the chills and fevers, yes; but not the loosening of the bowels that apparently killed our Lord Telemnar, his wife, and his four children.”

“Then they did not make it to the second reservoir,” the Wizard sighed, breathing a prayer of relief.

Tarondor did not enjoy the full gift of healing common to the rightful King, but with Mithrandir’s aid they began to fight the continuing chills and fevers. Eight years previous one of the ship traders who indulged as much in exploration as in trading had brought back several plants from a land far to the west, plants he had been assured by those he managed to communicate with there would prove useful in dealing with many diseases. The leaves of one were chewed by the natives of that land to fight chills and fevers, and the healers in Osgiliath and the White City both had become interested in it and the other plants and the descriptions of how they were used, and had planted them in herb gardens in both cities. Now much harvesting was being done, and within a month’s time many who’d survived the first tortures of the illness were finding relief after first chewing the leaves of the one plant, then drinking the bitter draught made by steeping the leaves in water for a time.

But now more illnesses were breaking out, mostly first in the harbors and then in farmyards around the nation. Dead rats and dogs and cats were found in the wake of the disease. It seemed to spread fastest where rushes were spread on house floors and allowed to remain too long or where many animals were kept together or in poorer inns where several folk might share a bedplace, and where sheets and blankets weren’t changed often.

By analyzing the spread of the illness, orders went out from the new capital of Minas Anor that all were to clean themselves and their animals and their homes and especially their bedding regularly; that inns were to be closed until all bedding was boiled and aired and mattresses restuffed with clean materials; and that bedding must be changed at the very least once every three days; that all thresh in homes was to be burned along with the bodies of all who died of the plague and the bodies of any infected animals; and (at Mithrandir’s suggestion) all households that kept cats or such dogs as regularly killed rats and mice were to be relieved of a portion of their taxes for each such animal they kept, up to three for a household and ten for a farm or business. Within three months this third plague appeared contained, and within five no more cases were being reported anywhere within the realm.

Tarondor had the White Tree of Minas Anor removed and replanted a seedling found in the King’s Hallow above the city in its place. But now Osgiliath was fully abandoned. When no one could drink the water there for another several months at the earliest, what was the point?

After the planting of the new White Tree Tarondor stood upon the keel of rock looking out eastward toward Osgiliath and Minas Ithil, his handsome face set. “This has the taste of Sauron to it,” he said, his voice tight with a mixture of grief and fury. “How else would three different plagues hit us, one confined only to Osgiliath and carried by orcs, one coming in a dark cloud from the regions of the Black Gate, and the third apparently from animals infected with the disease and spread somehow through filth?”

He gazed at the abandoned city on the river. “And now none may live in Osgiliath unless they will brave the water of the river or still have access to the ancient wells that once served it. The tower that stood over the Dome of Stars was destroyed by Castamir along with so much of the city’s beauty and majesty, and its Palantír is lost in the depths of the Anduin. The thrones of the Dome of Stars have been destroyed, and the Dome itself cracked. Even the tombs have been razed for the most part. Fortunately most of its libraries had already been carried here, and Castamir never entered Minas Anor to loot and burn and otherwise destroy here as he did there.”

Mithrandir’s gaze as he looked down at the ruins was full of grief. “I agree about this having to it the taste of Sauron. I will call a council of the Free Peoples to consider the situation. Will you come yourself, or at least send one to speak for what has been done here in Gondor? As for what might have happened in the past few months north in Eriador, Rhovanion, Eotheod, and the Elven lands or Dwarf kingdoms I have no idea. I was traveling southward along the valley of the Anduin when word reached me that plagues had struck Gondor like a hammer and I came here as swiftly as I might.”

“All would definitely have gone the worse for all the land had you not,” Tarondor said. He turned to search the Grey Wizard’s face. “I was never intended to be King. Yes, part of the gifts of Elros Tar-Minyatur have come down to me, but only a lesser son’s portion. How long I will live who can say? I doubt I will know the full term of my ancestors who wore the Winged Crown. I curse the memory of Castamir and how he set in motion so much that in the end led to this great loss.”

“You would blame him for the plague of mosquitoes and the disease they brought, or the other diseases Gondor has known?”

“I can rightly blame so much of the lessening of our land on him, Mithrandir. How such a one as he, proud past bearing, small-minded and cruel, could have sprung from the lineage of Tar-Minyatur and Elendil I cannot imagine. He destroyed so much and so many. He could not bear criticism or what he saw as defiance, and so must punish not only those who questioned him but the homes and land they loved as well. Look what he did to Osgiliath and its people merely for having supported the presence of Eldacar and his family! And now the last dignity of the city of Elendil, Isildur, and Anárion together is stripped from it.

“Tell me, Mithrandir, that Castamir was not merely the pawn and tool of the Enemy!”

The Wizard sighed as he again turned east, one hand clutching his staff, the other the wall before him. “I cannot disagree, Tarondor,” he said quietly. “And certainly, as both of us have said, these waves of plagues have Sauron’s feel to them, particularly the black clouds of mosquitoes coming from what I must assume are the marshes that have covered so much of what was Dagorlad. Between the evil let loose in the days of the Kin-strife and what has happened now so much of Gondor’s might has been lost.” He looked suddenly again into the King’s eyes. “However, you must not give up hope, my Lord King. Far less was destroyed either by Castamir or by these plagues than had been intended--of that I am certain. And, by acting in hope, good will be brought out of the evil all have seen here. Will you send one north to attend a meeting of the proposed council?”

“I do not believe I could attend myself, but I am willing to send one to it. Merely tell me when and where, and I will have one come. Let the Wise know why we of Gondor believe Sauron was not totally defeated when Isildur took the Enemy’s weapon from his hand, and why we think he seeks now to return.” The King again turned eastward. “And how long, do you think, that Isildur’s own city will stand, there on the walls of Mordor itself, now that Osgiliath is abandoned?”

Gandalf looked eastward again himself, troubled mightily, for he was certain that in this Tarondor had the right of it.

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