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Author's note: "...they came at last to the end of the living lands, and began to pass into the desolation that lay before the gates of the Pass of Cirith Gorgor; and they could descry the marshes and the desert that stretched north and west to the Emyn Muil. So desolate were those places and so deep the horror that lay on them that some of the host were unmanned, and they could neither walk nor ride further north." (Return of the King, Chapter 10 – The Black Gate Opens)
Hmmm... Desolate. Deep the horror. Let's see how it might have been...
Ithilien was now behind them.
He observed the landscape. That which disappeared the first were the trees.
Step by step, they became more and more scarce. And not just that. Even those that sprang withered. Sickened. Died. And then all of them disappeared.
The next thing he noticed was the change in colors. Yes, the sky was clear. But it was not blue. Nor was the sun its usual yellow. Everything looked pale and gloomy.
Then the bushes disappeared.
Just like the trees, the bushes withered. Barren, shrunken, black branches meant that life was losing battle with the force that ruled this area. A sign that almost nothing could survive here.
The air became denser. Breathing grew harder.
It was still clear, without clouds. But the sun completely lost its brightness. And warmth. And color. It was only a pale grey circle in the sky... in the grey sky.
It was cold. And it was difficult to stop the shiver.
And then even the grass vanished. Even the last, most tenacious weed had to surrender.
The world turned into cold, barren desert. Above them there was grey sky – without sun, without light. On one side of the road, as long as the eye could see, there was nothing but grey rocks. And on the other side there were high mountains – higher and darker than any he had ever seen – and above them the black, heavy clouds that looked as if any moment they'd pour down the slopes towards them and swallow them.
Nobody around him spoke. But it wasn't silence. There was a whisper in the air. Barely audible, but creepy. The words were of the black speech of Mordor. He couldn't understand them. But he felt, he understood their meaning – with utmost certainty. They were about death. About their death. He knew that. Just like everyone else around him.
He also knew who spoke. He looked above. Huge black silhouettes flew above them. High enough to be safe from arrows. And low enough for everybody to feel the black breath of the undead riders.
And then there was a piercing sound – so loud and so unexpected that everyone jumped – laughter. Howling, shrieking, mocking laughter. The Nazgul laughed. Because they knew that none of them would come back.
Wisps of cloud walked around. Ghosts of the dead? Poisonous vapours? Apparitions? All of that together? He had no answer, and he didn't even want it.
There was no wind. But it was freezing.
There were no clouds. But it was dark.
It was the day. But there was no sun.
The mountains seemed to grow. And became even more black.
Ominous voices of Ringwraiths became louder. Their laughter even fouler.
The fog was getting thicker. The view was closing. The world was disappearing.
He stopped. He couldn't breathe. He choked. The sky collapsed around him. And upon him.
He couldn't take a single step more.
Thanks to Cairistiona for beta reading. * hugs *
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