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Cirith Ungol: A Fragment

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Up the winding secret stair                 hewn from mountains in lost ages
the kudukin had climbed with labor                  led by Trahald, called the gulper.
Now despite their deadly guide's                  call to lead them into blackness
Banazir Galpsi stopped their journey                  to ease his loved master's burden.
Maura took a sip of water                           from his servant's gentle hands;
side by side they shared a wafer              white as moonglow, Aelfen gifted.
Made they on that dismal watchpoint                  a gentle warmth, in conversation
storytelling and reflection                       this the way of all kudukin
to ease their fear with home-like laughter                  in the most unkind of places.
Spider Pass that place was named                  from it all men shied, and shuddered
for its deadly way was legend                  in the mighty Tower of Guard.
The kudukin, though, did not think on                  the danger waiting, they did not know
while they softly spoke and rested                  Trahald crept into the tunnel
to set the trap and to betray them                  thus the Ring he hoped to gain.
Banazir, who loved his master                  said he would be sung forever:
Maura, bravest kuduk hero,                  his story told in many pages.
Maura, tired beneath his burden,                  cut by sorrows, wisdom fading
could even here be drawn to laughter                  by Banazir, his much beloved.
Ban the Bold, he called his servant;                  he too would be in songs remembered,
staunch, and true and gentlehearted                  wit within his common speech.
They told each other their own story;                  even Trahald, old kin-killer
called the gulper, Ring-ensnared                  was remembered in their words.
He had gone now to betray them                  untrusted, and yet over-trusted
they would follow where he led them                  though they knew him for a villain.
Now young Ban embraced his master                  begged him take a moment's resting
lay his head in Banazir's lap,                  let Ban watch over his sleeping.
There lay Maura, much beloved                  worn beyond his years, and burdened;
the hope of all who fought the shadow                  from Anduin to the sea-coast.
Banazir's tears -- silent weeping --                  fell on his master's tired brow
faithful Ban, in grief and love                  softly kissed his master's mouth.
Long he watched or seemed it long                  but Banazir had pushed his strength
far beyond the frame that bore him;                  with Maura's hand enclapsed in his
his eyes shut and his breath grew slower;                  he too was sleeping on the mountain.

Far from there the mighty Aelfstane                  drove his foes toward the royal harbor
Aelf and Dwarrow rode hard beside him                  and behind them came the dead.
Razanur, young Tuk, looked out                  from the lofty Tower of Guard
while thither rode his hearty cousin                  Kalimac the Brandagamba,
in the company of horselords.                  Dear the cousins of brave Maura
reckless Razar, joyful Kali,                  though they saw the battle nearing
still their hearts went ever to him                  who bore the Ring to save them all
Greyaelf, wise, the Fire Ring wielder                  waited too, he knew ere long
the Witch King, strongest of the Ring-ghouls                  would come, and they would try their strength.
All their eyes were looking eastward.

                                                               Trahald then, despised traitor
called the gulper, old kin-killer                  returned from the accursed lair
where he meant to doom his victims                   and regain the Ring of Power.
He came upon them still in slumber,                   peace there was on both their faces;
beautiful they seemed to Trahald                  and for a moment he repented.
Of the kuduk-kind he had been                  long ago beside the river,
before the Ring came to ensnare him                  and his hands shaped their first murder.
Had Banazir seen Trahald's face then                  sorrow would have killed his heart;
old he was, beyond all knowing,                  shrunken, bent beneath long trouble
pain was in his eyes, and lonely                  more than mortal soul can bear;
and at that moment on the mountain                  Maura, bearing long the burden,
too was bent, and too was shrunken                  and their faces were the same.
But Banazir woke, his own eyes cursing                  that had closed and his watch broken;
guilty counted he his weakness --                  he had failed his dear master:
betrayed the trust that love demanded,                  left Maura unwatched, unguarded
prey to any who came nigh him,                  naked to an enemy hand.
It seemed to Ban he saw a vision                  of this evil hand of murder
stealing toward his master's knee                  and with a hiss he knocked aside
Trahald, and the spell of grace                  that had been on him then was broken.
Sneaking villain, Ban had called him                  and this he had become again.
Maura woke then; he spoke kindly                  to Trahald, but it was too late,
the gulper's mind was full of murder                  and nearby the spider waited.

 

 

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