Faramir bids farewell to Frodo and Sam as the hobbits continue their journey into Mordor. He warns them to beware of the territory nearby, and never to drink from any of the waters flowing out of Imlad Morgul, the Valley of Living Death. Faramir presents Frodo and Sam with packed food for their journey, as well as staves to support them in their fatigue. Gollum is brought out of captivity, and all three are blindfolded as they are taken out of Faramir’s hideaway.
As the journey continues, Gollum reports that the area is dangerous and full of watching eyes. Frodo asks whether a dark shape in the distance is the valley of Morgul. Gollum answers that it is indeed the valley, and says that they must move quickly to a place called the Cross-roads.
One night, Frodo and Sam awaken to find Gollum gone. Sam expresses relief that they are finally free of him, but Frodo reminds him of the help Gollum has given them in the past. Sam is suspicious, believing Gollum to be capable of tricks. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is changing; the daylight is somewhat dark and the air feels heavy and warm. One afternoon, Gollum wakes Frodo and Sam with an urgent entreaty to get moving as soon as possible. He directs them eastward, up a slope to the Southward Road, which leads to the place he calls the Cross-roads. Gollum asserts that this is the only way to go. As they proceed toward the Southward Road, they spot a headless statue of one of the ancient kings of Gondor, now desecrated with graffiti. Sam finds the head lying nearby, a crown of golden flowers growing on it. Frodo comments that the forces of the evil Sauron cannot hold sway forever in the realm.
Gollum draws Sam and Frodo away from their rapt contemplation of the statue, telling them that time is short. He guides them along the Southward Road until they reach the valley of Minas Morgul. All three are momentarily transfixed by the sight of the Tower of the Moon rising in the distance, but Gollum finally urges them onward again. The way is hard, and the land is full of a horrid stench that makes it hard for the hobbits to breathe. Frodo begs for a moment’s rest, but Gollum and Sam insist on continuing. As they start moving again, Minas Morgul erupts in a deafening thunder, and troops appear. Frodo sees a great mass of cavalrymen all dressed in sable, guided by a horseman whom Frodo identifies as the Lord of the Nazgûl.
Suddenly, the horseman stops, and Frodo fears that he has spotted them. Frodo stands still, but almost against his will his hand moves toward the Ring hanging on his neck, which would give him the strength needed to confront the Lord of the Nazgûl. Frodo also touches the phial of Galadriel, which he had forgotten. Luckily, the Ringwraith ends his watchful pause and continues on his way.
Frodo remains extremely distressed, however. He fears that he has taken too long to reach Mordor and that it is too late to fulfill his mission of destroying the Ring. Gollum, however, urges the hobbits steadily onward, up an interminable set of stairs. Frodo becomes dizzy and feels that he cannot go on, but Gollum forces them to continue. Frodo looks down and sees that they are above Minas Morgul.