DescriptionA reposting. A tribute to J. R. R. Tolkien. Set 1000 years after the destruction of the Ring.
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3 - Minas Morgul and the Road to UmbarMichael slept well that night. He slept the deep, dreamless sleep of the exhausted. The journey was slowly wearing him out. He needed a rest. Besides a rest, a hot bath and good, hot meal, eaten at a table, would work wonders. With no dreams occupying his mind, Michael's energies went fully to restoring his body. Michael awakened with the sun, sipped some water, and continued on his journey. He followed the well-built road over the mountaintop. The journey was long and the road was steep, but his legs and back were still strong. He followed the road over the crest of the mountain, and midday found him working downhill in a southwesterly direction. While the mountain peaks were barren, there were trees, grasses, and game on the slopes. He continued moving slowly down the road. He decided he would travel until nightfall, eat one of his preserved rabbits, and rest. But there was a surprise in store for him. Around mid-afternoon, the road, which had been gradually turning in a westerly direction, straightened out. When Michael emerged from the deep pinewoods around him, he gasped and his eyes opened in awe. In front of him was a huge tower, made all of white stone. There was a wall surrounding it, with an opening in the center. There had once been a gate there, but it had rotted away with the passage of time. Michael collected himself, and slowly walked to the wall, examining the stonework. This was fine, fine work. Michael was certain that it had to be built by the men of Gondor. Michael passed through the gate and entered the courtyard. The courtyard had grasses growing, and there were low, circular stone structures that had evidently supported something or other. Whatever the structures supported was long gone. Michael looked up at the towers, and saw that the roofs had either rotted away or collapsed. But the basic stone of the walls and foundation were intact. Michael dropped his packs and examined the courtyard closely. This was evidently training or camping area of some sort. Stone walkways, still in excellent shape, ran from the central keep to the gate and then to the road, as well as to certain areas of the yard itself. There probably were structures here at one time or another. If they were made of wood, they were long gone. Michael smiled. He knew he was getting closer and closer to Gondor. Michael decided to camp here for the night. He would gather some wood, build a fire, and have a relaxing evening meal. There was a stone shed over in one corner; Michael would sleep there. In the morning, he would examine the keep proper. After a fine meal, Michael found a small pool in the southern corner near the keep. He disrobed and took a quick and brisk bath in the very fresh and icy water. The bath felt excellent. Michael quickly dried and built a fire to ward off a chill. Then he went hunting, killing and gutting a small deer. He had some fine steaks, watched the stars come out, and fell asleep. He had dreams of the valiant knights of Gondor storming this tower while foul orcs defended it. The next morning, he found a bird's nest, stole the eggs, and cooked them for breakfast. He hadn't had an egg in a long time, and it tasted delicious. Then he entered the keep proper. Anything wooden or metal had rotted to dust. The stonework, however, was another matter. Michael was curious as to why no one had tried to inhabit the keep. The stonework would easily stand for one thousand more years. The building had been built with unbelievable soundness. Michael made himself a torch, lit it, and went investigating. Most of the rooms were empty. In one room, Michael found a well and could hear water on the bottom. In another, he found several skeletons. The bone structure did not look human. Michael, however, could not be sure. He had never seen a human skeleton. As Michael continued through the keep, he discovered that he was on a floor that was roughly at the middle of the tower. The mountain had a steep drop here, and the tower was constructed to fit. He found a stone stairwell that wound up to the top, and down two levels to the bottom. He gingerly walked down the steps, treading carefully. But, much to his delight, the steps were sound and gave firm footing. Michael explored the second floor for a bit, finding pretty much the same situation as the previous. But there was one exception. One room had a large stone chest with no lid. There were some half-rotted sacks in the chest. Michael opened one, and found it filled with gold coins. The gold was real. On one side the coin was stamped with a large, open eye ringed with flames. On the other were some runes Michael could not read. He smiled, and decided to take a bag of the coins. The money may come in handy. He found a decent bag that would not fall apart and secreted it in one of his packs. Michael left the treasury, as he called it, and headed down the stairwell to the ground floor. It was much the same as the other floors, but there were fewer rooms. They appeared to be storerooms of some sort or another. The main room was like a huge dining hall, and the walls appeared to be cut out of the living rock of the mountain. Michael was in awe of the engineering. He wished his two teachers were with him, as well as his father and uncle to see this. This would most certainly convince Master Robin of the truth in the histories. He slowly walked out of the keep, but he did not walk into a courtyard. There was a wide ledge in front of the keep. In front of the ledge was a deep and wide ravine. The walls of the keep were smooth stone and extended from the bottom of the ravine to the top floor. Bridging the ravine was a wide and immaculate bridge. Michael was beyond awe looking at the construction. He had to be in Gondor. No one from Mordor would ever build anything like this. This tower had been constructed right out of the living rock of the mountain. He did not realize that he was looking at Minas Morgul. He crossed the bridge, heading directly west on the fine road, and passed into another deep pine forest. He felt, deep in his heart, that he would find Gondor before long. Michael followed the road, which headed directly west. By late afternoon, he had left the forest and come to a crossroads. The road he was on continued directly west. The road on his right headed roughly northeast, while the one on his left headed southwest. The three roads showed a great deal of use, and were not as in good shape as the stone highway he had just left. He was not really sure where he was. He consulted the rough map he had made based on the histories he had studied. He decided to camp for the day and then take the southwestern path. He felt that would be the road he needed to take to Gondor. If it didn't, he could always bactrack. He would explore south first. He felt that he would find a town or a city soon. He would look for an inn, and spend a few days, or maybe even a week, to regain his strength. Then he would continue. After a night's sleep, Michael continued southwest. There was plenty of game and fresh water, so Michael did not worry for food. He had worn out his boots, and started using his spare set. He needed to find a town soon. He needed to get another pair of boots. A week's travel, at a steady pace, brought Michael to some small villages. The folk living in the villages spoke the same language as Michael, but with a bit of an accent. They informed Michael that he had entered the land of Umbar. Michael smiled to himself, realizing he had made a wrong choice. Now Michael knew that when he turned north and reached the crossroads, he would turn west to travel to Gondor and Minas Tirith. He decided to head south and spend some time in Umbar. After a day's travel, Michael arrived at a hilltop overlooking the port city. During the time of the War of the Ring, the peoples of Gondor and Umbar had been enemies. As he observed the harbor, he could not make out the designs on the sails or on the flags. But he suspected that Umbar was probably not at war with anyone. There were too many ships in the harbor, and that meant a great deal of trade. Besides, the city had spread outside of its walls and appeared to be prosperous. He headed down the road to the gate to the city; head high and walking at a brisk pace. As Michael headed down the road, he saw seven men on horseback heading directly toward him. They were dressed in light armor and wore some sort of uniform. When they reached him, they pulled up. Michael stopped, smiled, and held up both hands in the universal gesture of greeting. He spoke to one man with a black beard who appeared to be in command, telling him that he was just a traveler and was hoping to find lodging, boots, and a pack animal. The commander, who was a sergeant in the local guard of Umbar, looked at Michael. Michael was not aware of the changes in his appearance that nearly two months of traveling on foot had made. The sergeant saw a lean and wiry man, with a body as tough as prime leather. The skin on the face was bronzed. The eyes were deep and bottomless. They were the eyes of a man who had spent a long time staring into the distance. And something told the sergeant that this man was deadly with the bow. He and his squad could probably overpower and rob the man, but he would probably lose three of four of his men in the bargain. He would speak with the stranger, and find out what was his business in Umbar. "Ho! Stranger!" said the sergeant. "How are you called, and what is your business in Umbar?" "I am called Michael," answered Michael, trying to be as amiable as possible. "I have travelled a long distance, exploring the world. I seek Gondor. I would like to find an inn and rest for a few days. I also need to buy spare boots, replenish supplies, and purchase a small pony for a pack animal." "Well," said the sergeant, grinning, "you are a bit off course. Head north, and then west, if you wish to visit Gondor. You are, however, welcome in Umbar. I have a friend who owns an inn. It is clean, the food is good, and you will be warm and comfortable. As to the other things, you will have to shop for yourself. Fair enough?" Michael answered with a bold "Yes" and continued smiling. "When you enter the city," said the sergeant, "stay on the main road until you come to a fountain. Then turn left. You will come to an inn called "The Black Sand.' A man named Samel and his wife, Deborah, own it. There you will find lodging and comfort. Tell them Sergeant Javid sent you." Michael nodded, bowed, and thanked Sergeant Javid. He then parted the mounted troopers as he continued on his way. He would check in at the inn, relax and explore Umbar for a few days, replenish his supplies, and then head back to Gondor. And he would have a proper bath.