The Last Debate
The Last Debate is the nineth chapter of the fifth book in The Return of the King.
Gimli and Legolas find Merry and Pippin in the Houses of Healing. The Hobbits eagerly ask questions about the Paths of the Dead. Gimli refuses to speak of the experience, but Legolas describes it. According to Legolas, after setting out from the Paths of the Dead, Aragorn led the Company and the army of the Dead to the Great River, Anduin. Invading fleets of Sauron’s allies prevented thousands of potential defenders from reaching Minas Tirith. At Aragorn’s command, the legion of Dead swept over the Enemy’s ships, causing the terrified sailors to throw themselves overboard. Aragorn released the Dead from their curse and then, gathering the local Men of Lamedon, set sail for Minas Tirith. At the end of the tale, Gimli and Legolas express their wonder that Mordor’s allies were overthrown by darkness and fear.
While the four companions share their stories, Aragorn holds a meeting of the lords in his tent outside the city. Gandalf tells the assembled captains that Mordor has not yet unleashed the greater part of its army. Though Minas Tirith has fought back the first assault, the next will be much stronger. In addition, the Ring of Power is now somewhere within the borders of Mordor. Should Sauron seize the Ring, all hope would be lost. Gandalf suggests an assault on the Black Gate of Mordor, reasoning that it is impossible to defeat Mordor without destroying the Ring, and that the Eye of Sauron must be diverted from the Ring-bearer as long as possible. Gandalf predicts that Sauron will think that Aragorn has taken possession of the Ring and, rash with pride, has chosen to attack Mordor. Gandalf believes that while attacking Mordor may prove fatal, it is their duty to defend against evil while it remains in their power to do so. The Captains agree to this plan.