Once again, Tolkien belongs to Tolkien. The Twilight Zone belongs to the Twilight Zone.


I did not know exactly when it all changed. It had begun to drizzle in the gardens, and both of us had been too tired to move in to shelter on that day. Slowly, I lifted my head from the bench, unmindful of the water running down my face and the attendants that scrambled to shoo us inside.

"Look." My companion pointed towards something beyond the walls. His voice seemed hoarse from disuse and exposure to such foul weather. He, too, seemed unmoved by his keepers' pleadings. I raised a hand to block the rain, trying to make out a cloud of dust against the fog. Nothing moved along the ground. I attempted to roll the stiffness out of my bad shoulder and turned to face him. His dark head moved a fraction to the left, then centered, and then his gray eyes turned upwards towards the clouded sky. I pushed my hair away from my face, following his gaze.

Crying mournfully against the drizzle, a solitary eagle wheeled above us. "A foul omen," a nursemaid said, shuddering, and then threw a spare cloak over my shoulders, leading me away. I turned away from the bird to see that he was acquiescing to his worried healers at last. He gave me a grave look, and then bowed his head, as if we were making our formal farewells. Beyond him, the fires had disappeared into the fog and smoke.

I spent days, months, years staring out my window, waiting for the rain to end. It never came down hard, but it never stopped, either, and the healers would not have a wounded lady out in such weather. I could have asked to meet him, I know, or at least sook the company of my fellow Rohirrim, but the gardens had been where it had begun and would be the place where it would end. But the rain fell, and fell, and fell, wiping clean the ashes of the field, turning the pryes to smoldering, soggy coals. It continued until long after I had given up hope of returning to the outside, until after Merry, my brave fellow secret soldier, at last convinced me to make rounds of my own.

They were not always Rohirrim, nor had they always suffered from Black Breath. Not all were happy to see me, and a part of me preferred the company of those who were not. Those whose pain put them beyond our reach required nothing of me save my presence; my mind was free to roam restlessly as it willed. Those who distrusted my motives forced me to actually find such things, to wonder once more how my strange fancies had brought me to this place. And as ever, I prayed for the rain to release me from it.

It was not a swift process, but even the black clouds of Mordor can be exhausted, coming back down to the earth as rain. The healers assured me that it had barely been a week, though it had seemed decades to me. At last I walked out, into the watered-down sunshine, to find not a single fire burned beyond the gates of Minas Tirith.

He was already there, returned to his watchpost, leaning against his staff. "Gone," he whispered. "They're all gone." I knew he was not talking about the orcs, gone though they might be, too. Suddenly needing the aid of a staff myself, I slumped against him.

I woke to the feel of rain on my face, unmindful of the attendants' cries. Off in the distance, an eagle screamed its shrill call. Mordor had fallen.