They stab at me from the ground, as I assail them from the diminished safety of Blaze's back. I had picked him to bear me on this last mission because he had been Boromir's warhorse. He is the final outpost of safety amidst a horde of Orcs. But he cannot protect me from this fell day's doom. My sword-arm, wearied by the arrow in my shoulder, is nearly useless now. I am the last man fighting. The rest of my men were killed or taken. The horse and I are surrounded now, lost in a sea of spears and pikes. Let me at least take a few more of the beasts with me ere I fall!

I knew we had no chance to win this day. I hoped to sell our lives dearly, take a host of Orcs' lives in trade for ours and cause the rest of their troops some hours' delay. Those hours could bring the Rohirrim closer to our imperiled City. I had thought that a daylight assault might prove best, since Orcs see far better in darkness than under the sun. Yet their eyes have proven sharp enough. I had never known of such an abundance of archers among their ranks; rarely had I seen Orcs draw bow at all. They felled my men with massed bows, curse them; there were too many arrows, too many of the foul creatures wielding them! Now, another one pays my price; but still they come.

They finally pull me down and seize Blaze's reins. I pray for a swift death. There seem to be a dozen Orcs atop me, punching, hitting me, wrestling my weapons from my hands. I am bound, beaten and borne into the ruined citadel that had once been ours. There, where Boromir had proclaimed our triumph, I am forced to watch as those of the men who survived the charge are cruelly tortured, then slaughtered. One by one; I die with them. The Orcs hoot and laugh as I try to shout out words of comfort to my knights. My heart is breaking, and then my voice fails. Why am I still spared? Father! You have said that the eyes of the White Tower see far; did you watch us as we rode? You doubted my worth, but be proud this day of the men I led! They died with courage and honor.

My men are all slain. The Orcs hack at their necks with sword and halberd. I can watch no more. Their valiant spirits are sped; they are no longer my charge. I am alone now, a captive amidst hundreds, nay, thousands, of the Enemy's dark creatures. I will do no less than my brave men and uphold the honor of Gondor until my last breath.

I thirst; but I would not ask them for water. And there is no rain. My ribs hurt, perhaps broken, though my shoulder grows numb. The ropes that fetter my hands are well-tied; I cannot escape them. I seem to feel a cold shadow creep through me. Two Orcs advance towards poor Blaze, who is tethered to a post, their pikes lifted. I cry out in anger, though the sound that comes out of me is more like a squawk. I would not see my brother's horse killed painfully, yet why should they be kinder to an animal than to Gondor's sons? The big, one-eyed leader shouts at them. The creatures stop in their tracks. Then their commander comes, leans over me and seizes my chin with one brutal hand. It must be my turn to die.

I can barely breathe. It is all I can do to look the Orc-captain in his eye. If I gathered my strength, I might be able to wound an Orc by snatching his weapon when he least expects it and then quickly striking him; but not with my hands tied behind me. I am glad that my father knows not what a miserable death will soon befall me. The last heir of Mardil the Steadfast bound and brought to slaughter like a helpless lamb! The Lord Denethor would find me wanting in the manner of my death as he has found me wanting most of my life. I must rise from the ground, stand up…something. Too late! He grabs my throat in his hands and begins to squeeze, enough to slow my breath but not yet stop it. He wants to drag out my death, perhaps hear me beg. Must not show fear. I am a son of Gondor, the last of a brave company…Think of happy times, the beauty of the City I die to defend, the City of the Men of Númenor…racing Boromir across the Pelennor, on foot and later on horse. Brother, I come to you now, and the silver trumpets will call us home one final time.

One-eye laughs at me, and says something. I cannot hear him well; my own heart seems to pound so loudly. He lifts me up and shoves me against the wall hard enough to make tears well up unbidden in my eyes. Releasing me, he pulls off my helmet and studies it. He turns my captured sword and scabbard over in claws stained with my soldiers' blood. He seems to know that it is not the sword of a common soldier nor even a captain's well-forged blade. Then he spits in my face and speaks again in heavily accented Westron: something about sending a gift to the Lord of the City. I try to spit back at him, but my mouth is too dry and I cannot do it. Instead, I manage a kick to his ankle. His surprised grunt is somehow heartening. He turns and slaps my face with bruising strength. I lose what balance I had, and topple back down to the ground. Why did he not kill me?

The sky darkens. The Orcs scurry about making preparations for assault. It grows harder to see. Occasionally one approaches and strikes or kicks me, just hard enough to hurt but not enough to break more bones. I hear Blaze snort in alarm several times as the Orcs growl at him. Poor beast, they will kill him too. I wish I had the breath to call out to him, for he knows my voice and might take some small solace from it.

The one-eyed leader returns and shouts orders in the Black Speech. The ropes are cut; I am hauled to my feet. My arms ache as the blood flows through them again. They drag me over to Blaze and bark orders in my ears. What do they want? I collapse; and try to stand up once more, but fail. I am so weary. At least it will all be over soon.

Enormous grey-scaled hands haul me up by my right arm. The monster that grips me is huge, twice my height; I think it is a troll. I cannot help but cry out at the agony as he lifts me high and holds me before him. It is hard to breathe. My weight tugs at the arrow that still pierces my side. I kick out to find purchase somewhere, but my feet cannot reach the ground, nor even the cursed troll! The creature throws me across Blaze's back like a sack of flour.

They lead Blaze out across the bridge as I struggle to sit. I manage to get my right foot in the stirrup, and cling to his mane to stay upright. If they are taking me to my death, then I will face it tall in the saddle. One-eye, striding ahead of me, sees my efforts and grins, unimpressed. Behind me rises the roar of thousands of Orcs and the clatter of their engines of war. Do they seek to use me as a shield? Fools! My lord has arrows of his own, and catapults, and will not fail to defend Minas Tirith. May the first stones strike down the one-eyed leader along with me! I feel dazed. The arrow pains me more and more…We are led along in this vanguard of shame. At least Boromir cannot watch his horse and his brother made to serve the Orcs' purpose. The cold shadow grows around me; I know not from whence it comes.

When we near the White City, the one-eyed monster bids the Orcs who lead us to halt. He looks up at me with a distinctly merry grin. It all seems quite absurd. I am so close to the City, less than a quarter of a league. I can almost hear a swell of crying voices from the walls. Then he brings up his bow and nocks an arrow. Now? After all this time? The arrow hits below the ribs on my right side. It hurts, how it hurts! And I fall off the horse, the pitiless sky blurring above me.

My right foot catches in the stirrup. Blaze and I are entrapped in this last nightmare. I lie helpless on the ground. The Orcs cackle and point at me. I must look like a tortoise rolled on its back, feet flailing out from beneath its armored shell. What a fine sight for the watchers on the City walls! I reach vainly for the stirrup. It is too far away; I cannot lift my chest off the ground. I am kicked in the knee and then in the ribs. I try to be brave, for I know I shall die soon. But the pain brings unwanted tears to my eyes. I think of Father. We did not part well, my lord and I...Oh, Father; I wanted to die achieving one good thing! I so wanted your blessing…The shadow rises behind my eyes and I fight for a few more minutes yet of light, of time.

The one-eyed Orc looks down at me. He holds a whip now. He shouts loudly and slaps Blaze's rump. The horse startles slightly. I close my eyes, too weak to scream with the agony the motion causes me. One-eye slashes the whip against Blaze's flanks and the horse surges forward.

Blaze drags me along behind him as he trots a few agonizing paces, then walks again. It is good that I cannot scream, for the pain stabs harder with every bump and curve on our path. I hear the creaking of large wheels behind us, the deep cadence of the Enemy's war-drums. I can glimpse the Great Gate come closer and closer. It is less than a furlong away! I feel the last of my strength fade along with my sight. And I cling to the only thing left to me...hope: Hope that my brother's horse at least might come home unscathed. Hope that I can die behind the walls of my City. Hope that my lord and Mithrandir will hold the City until the Rohirrim come to our aid.

And then all hope is gone, as the shadow takes me fully into its grasp and down into the darkness.