Talion, a ranger captain, is part of a Gondor garrison stationed at the Black Gate. The garrison is attacked by Sauron's Uruk forces led by 3 Black Númenórean captains; the Hammer of Sauron, the Tower of Sauron, and their leader the Black Hand of Sauron. Talion, his wife Ioreth, and his son Dirhael are captured and ritually sacrificed by the Black Hand in an attempt to summon the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor. However, Celebrimbor (who suffers from amnesia due to his status as a wraith) instead ends up merging with Talion, saving him from death. The two of them set out to uncover Celebrimbor's identity as well as to avenge the death of Talion's family.

Over the course of their travels, Talion and Celebrimbor have multiple encounters with Gollum, who has the ability to see and speak with Celebrimbor due to his prior contact with the One Ring. Hoping that Celebrimbor will lead him to the One Ring, Gollum leads Celebrimbor to relics of his past, each of which restore parts of his lost memories. Celebrimbor gradually recalls how he was deceived by Sauron, in his guise as Annatar the Lord of Gifts, into forging the rings of power. Celebrimbor ultimately assisted Sauron in forging the One Ring, but was able to steal it from him and use its power to raise an army of Orcs to fight Sauron. However, the Ring ultimately betrayed Celebrimbor and returned to Sauron. Sauron then punished Celebrimbor by executing his wife and daughter, then killing him.
In his search for the Black Hand, Talion allies himself with Hirgon, a ranger deserter who leads a community of Gondorian outcasts who have settled in Mordor, and Ratbag the Coward, an Orc who offers to bring Talion closer to the Black Hand in exchange for his assistance in ascending the Orc military hierarchy. Talion helps Ratbag ascend the ranks to the level of warchief by killing each of his immediate superiors so Ratbag can take their position, while also assisting Hirgon in saving outcasts who have been enslaved by Sauron's forces, including Hirgon's wife Eryn. Talion ultimately leads the outcasts in destroying a monument to Sauron, a public act of defiance intended to draw out the Black Hand. However, the Hammer of Sauron is sent instead; he executes Ratbag, battles Talion, and is ultimately killed by the ranger.
Talion is then sought out by the warrior Lithariel, the daughter of Queen Marwen, who claims to be able to assist Celebrimbor with his mission. Marwen is the ruler of Núrn, a kingdom of sea raiders located in the south of Mordor. She uses prophetic powers to guide Talion and Celebrimbor to another of Celebrimbor's relics. Later on, she advises them to use Celebrimbor's powers to take control of an army of Orcs, and use them to lead an assault against Sauron. Talion realizes that Marwen is being possessed by the wizard Saruman, and assists Lithariel in freeing her from his control. However, Talion still carries out Saruman's plan, and leads his army of mind-controlled orcs in an assault against the Black Hand's stronghold at Ered Glamhoth. However, instead of the Black Hand, Talion finds the Tower of Sauron waiting for him. The two do battle with Talion emerging the victor.
Talion travels to the Black Gate for a final confrontation with the Black Hand. However, the Black Hand incapacitates him with a spell that also restores the last of Celebrimbor's memories, then kills himself as part of a ritual that pulls Celebrimbor from Talion's body and forces him to merge with the Black Hand. This allows Sauron to possess the Black Hand's body and incarnate in physical form. However, Celebrimbor is able to briefly paralyze Sauron from within, allowing Talion to destroy his physical form. With the Black Hand dead, Celebrimbor wishes to depart for Valinor, but Talion convinces him to stay and attempt to overthrow Sauron. Gazing at Mount Doom, Talion declares his intention to forge a new Ring of Power.
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