In the morning, Frodo and Sam prepare to leave Faramir’s company, following Gollum toward the Cross-Roads and the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. As they leave, Faramir gifts them with walking sticks and food, bidding them “go with the good will of all men!”
Frodo remarks to Faramir, “It was said to me by Elrond Halfelven that I should find friendship upon the way, secret and unlooked for. Certainly I looked for no such friendship as you have shown. To have found it turns evil to great good.”
From there, they journey for days into sickening darkness towards the Cross-Roads. Gollum urges them to make haste, saying, “We’re not in decent places. Time’s running short, yes, running fast. No time to lose. We must go.”
At last, they draw near to the Cross-Roads where Frodo is filled with dread. However, despite all fear, the hobbits experience a few glimmers of hope amidst the darkness. The setting of the sun reveals to them a head of carven stone, toppled from a statue of a king. Upon its head, “a trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king.”
“The king has got a crown again… They cannot conquer for ever!” - Frodo
Together, they near the base of the stair where they are horrified to see the city of Ringwraiths, Minas Morgul. They watch as a great army marches from the gates, and Frodo finds his hand moving toward the ring against his will. They are deadly tired, but begin to climb the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
As they come to a place of rest, they begin to wonder about what sort of tale they’ve fallen into, thinking back to the tale of Beren and Luthien.
“Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on.
Don’t the great tales never end?’
‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo.
‘But the people in them come, and go when
their part’s ended. Our part will end later—or sooner.’”
In the last moments of this chapter, we encounter a glimpse of the humanity of Smeagol. Perhaps his last. “For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, and old starved pitiable thing.”