The Circles: Book 1: The Triumph of The Shadow: 29. Treachery Rewarded

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29. Treachery Rewarded

Chapter Written by Angmar

As Maugoth Tahmtan and his escort rode back towards their lines, a great shadow from the west descended over their path. A cold chill, like a sudden frost heralding an early winter, rippled up and down their spines. Circling above them and then, sweeping down, a great beast landed some paces away from them. The Morgul Lord threw his leg over the pommel and slid to the ground.

"Hail Maugoth Tahmtan! I am surprised that you stopped. I thought once you had started, you would run all the way back to Khand!" Angmar greeted sociably. "Surely," he remarked, mock concern in his voice, "you did not stop for me."

"My lord, hail," the Maugoth sputtered nervously as he bowed. His staff, sensing instinctively what was to happen, moved away. Tahmtan was left alone, facing the one whom no man could kill.

"Maugoth, you look well today. I trust you are in good health?"

"Aye, my lord," he answered, his voice sounding muffled as he took a step backwards.

"And no doubt you had wished to remain so?" laughed the Captain of Despair.

"Aye, my lord," he replied, trembling.

"The hopes of mortals are foolish. You hoped in vain."

"My lord," Maugoth Tahmtan tried to steady his voice, "we did all we could. We were bested, outnumbered. All fought valiantly!"

"Except you, my lord," Angmar hissed, his words falling like cold, chilling daggers, cutting into the man's heart and mind.

"He will kill me," he thought. Involuntarily he shuddered and then fell to his knees, raising his hands in supplication. "I did my best, Great One! Surely you cannot hold defeat against me!" his voice was pleading.

"Was it your best to leave the army leaderless while I was away? And was it your best to  relinquish the standards of the Great Eye and abandon them upon the field? The enemy has claimed them as great symbols of victory, trophies. They laugh at us in their arrogance." He looked down at the quavering man as he towered above him, an obsidian column, a spectral standing stone. "The Master was not pleased."

"My lord, I can explain..."

"Doubtless your mind will cloak your tongue with guile. On your feet, Maugoth!" the Morgul Lord snarled. "Do not beg like a cringing dog!"

Tahmtan rose on shaky feet and bowed his head. "My lord, the... the... relinquishing of the standards can be explained. A great force came upon us and slew the standard bearers and drove us back," he lied. "We had not the time to retrieve them."

"False-tongued fool! How do you wish to die?" Angmar asked, a low chuckle forming in his throat.

"Do I have a choice?" he stammered, his body trembling.

"Ahh," Angmar said, tapping his forefinger on his lips, "there are many ways. What would be appropriate for one such as you?" he inquired, his voice imperturbable.

"A quick one then!" the Maugoth cried.

"Do not disturb me while I think," Angmar returned affably. The officers behind the Maugoth drew even farther back. "You trouble yourself unduly." Still tapping his forefinger on his lips, he slowly circled around the terrified man.

Maugoth Tahmtan tried to control his shaking and stifle his impulse to twist his head and watch. At last the King of the Nine finished his circuit of him and stood once again before him. "I have not yet decided," he said in a wearied tone and exhaled.

"You bait me, Morgul Lord!" the Maugoth exclaimed. "Could I at least say a word in my favor?"

"Whatever words you have to offer, say them. I am patient." His hand rested upon the hilt of his sword.

"Great One, I have a long record of service..."

"And destroyed it all in one day!"

"I have had many victories!"

"It was the army that had the victory! You only had the privilege of leading. It is the soldiers who do the fighting."

Once again, the Maugoth fell to his knees, begging. "Please, please!"

"On your feet! Do not soil yourself and the livery that you wear! Leave yourself some degree of honor! Now draw your sword, craven dog, if you can muster the courage. Or will your heart fail you in your fear?"

"I cannot fight you! No man can best you!"

"So it is said," the Morgul Lord replied with a lack of interest.

Total abject terror seized the Maugoth.

"Are you deaf? Why do you hesitate? I said draw your sword! I am giving you a chance!"

With a glance at the dark hood, the Maugoth rose unsteadily to his feet. He drew his sword from the sheath, the steel swishing against the enclosing metal, and stood gazing at the weapon, unbelieving that this was befalling him.

"Why do you stand there like an ox struck dumb?" the Morgul Lord taunted. "Will you make me wait all evening?" He tapped his foot on the ground and drummed his fingers on his sword pommel.

The Maugoth ground his teeth, bearing down on them with all of his might, hearing them as they gnashed together. Then there was but one sound in his mind, the sound of the Morgul Lord's drawing his own long blade, a sickening, sliding noise.

Angmar smiled to himself, aimlessly twisting his sword in a circle. "General, why did you run and abandon the standard? Had you grown complacent, lethargic, because you had been long in good standing? What you have done today cannot be ignored! You abandoned the standards in your flight so that you would not call attention to yourself, so you would not be so easy to find! Surely, you did not think this would be excused?"

The Maugoth looked about him from left to right. All those who had once sought to gain his esteem had turned away now when he needed them. No one would aid him, not now. Gone were his hopes, lost in a single act of cowardice.

Replying with only a curse, the Maugoth charged at him, driving for his heart. The Morgul Lord quickly moved aside and slapped the man across his shoulders with the flat of the sword, a resounding thump on his armor. The Maugoth was driven forward with the force of the blow, sending his sword flying.

"Too slow," Angmar remarked casually. "Get up and pick up your sword."

On his hands and knees, the Maugoth looked up, certain that he was about to die and speculated where the first blow might fall.

"Up, up," Angmar gestured, holding his left palm out and moving his fingers back and forth.

After taking the hilt of his sword, the Maugoth struggled to his feet.

"Did you ever consider that your technique is wrong, and that perhaps you should have practiced more to retain your skill? You have spent too much time watching battles without participating in them. I do not have time to instruct you today, and for this, I give you my sincere apologies."

"Damn you!" the man exclaimed and came at Angmar again, his arm swinging high, but he found his blade was blocked by the Morgul Lord's own. The Maugoth looked into the reddening eyes, and they were smiling.

"I tire of wasting time with a swordsman as poor as you, but if I must..." he hissed, and the great strength of his arm drove the other's sword towards the ground.

Moving slightly to the side, Tahmtan suddenly lowered his sword arm. Quickly with his other hand, he pulled a dagger from his belt, slashing at Angmar's arm.

"That was totally unwarranted," Angmar laughed as he quickly moved to the side. His sword, sweeping towards the ground, curved slightly inward, cutting through the other's mail. The Maugoth winced as a sharp pain caught him in the side, drawing blood. Then Angmar stepped back, assuming a defensive position, his sword thrust towards the middle of Tahmtan's chest.

"Do you need to rest, perhaps?" he laughed.

"No!" Tahmtan shouted, and began to circle Angmar, watching for his next move.

Angmar shrugged his shoulders as he turned, facing the Maugoth. "I am standing right here in front of you. Why do you hesitate?"

Then the Maugoth charged him again. Fiercely sword met sword and the Morgul Lord was slowly driven back. A downward stroke swiftly wielded by the Maugoth tore a black strip of material from the Dark King's sleeve.

"That is a definite improvement!"

Bringing his blade up, the Variag slashed at the Nazgûl's chest but found his blade caught once again by the swifter sword. Then Angmar stepped to the side and brought his blade down low, catching the other off guard, his sword biting into his thigh. The Dark Captain stepped aside and then moved quickly to face him again.

Up came the Maugoth's blade, and he found his once again locked with that of the other. The two stood face to face, their blades locked together. Before his eyes, he could see the grinning face of death take shape out of a mist. A fist clad in leather and rings of metal lashed out and smashed the general in the face, causing him to reel back. Then Angmar was upon him, driving him ever back, his rapid strokes impossible to parry, until once again they stood face to face, swords crossed.

Tiring, the hold on his sword loosening, Tahmtan felt the relentless hand drive his wrist towards the ground once again. Shaking, he stood, bewitched by his own fear. A final quick thrust upon the blade forced the hilt out of the Maugoth's hand and the sword fell, slipping to the ground. A hand shot out and twisted his arm in a cold grasp of iron, forcing him to his knees.

"You tire me, mortal, and still I must decide how you die!"

Stark terror in his eyes, Tahmtan's sweating face looked up at him, staring at the sword which Angmar held pointing downward at him. Blood oozed down from his side and his wounded leg pained him.

"Were you aware of the fact that you reek of fear, Maugoth?"

Tahmtan was silent, waiting for death.

From inside the sheath at his side, the Morgul Lord drew out a long, thin knife, its surface glowing with a pale light. The hooded head bowed as he stood studying the blade intently.

"Not THAT!" screamed Maugoth Tahmtan. "In the Name of Melkor the Holy! Not THAT! No, please!" he shrieked. "Mercy!"

"But does it not gleam with a lovely glow?" the Witch-king asked, his voice filled with reverence. The bowed face looked down at the man. "You do not wish to join us and share our company?" the voice asked questioningly.

"NO!" the man screamed. "NO!"

"That is perhaps the best decision for all of us. Though you deny yourself the privilege of being with a crew as merry as ours, we would not have you anyway. Cowards such as you are undeserving of such gifts. I show this to you only so that you shall see what you will have missed! You are not fit to appear in our presence! Besides," he chuckled, "you take yourself far too seriously. Your lack of wit and humor would not wear well, and you would abide with us a long time, a very long time."

"I am not afraid to die," the man stammered, "but let it not be by sorcery. I know of your ways!"

Angmar shrugged his shoulders. "Your death will be by the sword, for I find little sport in killing by sorcery, though it does have its uses," he grinned. "Had you been brave, perhaps I would have slain you quickly and set your spirit free. But such beasts as you can be of use. Yet though I will slay you, you shall not find escape in death. Exist to torment others as craven as you!"

Tahmtan tried to shut his ears to the sound of the Morgul Lord's voice, but he could not deny the Nazgûl's ominous chant which rose and fell in deep monophony.

Snaga bûrzum-ob, yonk nar ûsum-lab ghashnat
Ûs sigûrz shum nar drâgh-lab-ob, ziru-lat,
Mâduruz darûkûrz-lab-ob, olkûrz-lab sat-u agh nariinuz
Pardahûn lab kulub praush-tab-ishi
Ufum-lab kulat radbûrz, fulaknar dorozg-lab-ishi
Kulûk iistuz, kulûk nariistuz kul lab fiithat
Ukhurk dûmp shara, shakrop krimpuz izish-u
Unr-izg frûm-lab naakh-izub-izish!
Tabz-izg lat, Tahmtan Khand-ob, nokh Maugoth, rad snaga,
Rad ghashn-izg. Frûm-lab kul izub agh obâshub-lat ghashanu-izub
Rad agh ûkil-ûr

With that spell of binding intoned softly, a welcoming bidding, the Morgul Lord slipped the short blade back into its sheath. Then holding his long sword in both hands, he tapped on the back of the Maugoth's neck. The general had been reduced to incoherent babblings and whimpering pleas. Angmar drew the blade back, and with a powerful swing, lopped the kneeling man's head off in a single stroke. The officers gasped and some looked away. The head fell and rolled to the side, the body toppling over. Raising his sword to his mouth, Angmar licked the blood from the blade and then, wiping the remainder off on his cloak, returned it to its sheath.

"Your soul, though, I will claim, for it already belongs to Mordor, and has for long years. Go back to the City," he hissed softly to a presence unseen by mortal eyes, "and wait for me. I shall return and you will join the others like you whom I command."

He turned to the men of Tahmtan's staff and bodyguard. "He was an exceedingly dull man and had no mirth about him! Throw the carrion to the orcs!" he ordered. "He is not fit to be burned or buried!"

Angmar stepped over the body and stood in front of the men, who fell to their knees before him. "Come, come," he said impatiently, "do none of you have the courage to face me?"

"You will kill us, lord, whether we are on our knees or standing," Tahmtan's second-in-command, Mautor Vivana, said bitterly. "But I will stand before you!"

"Then do! I would see a man of courage. They are rare."

The man rose to his feet and held his head up, facing his commander.

"At least one of you is brave," Angmar said appreciatively. "Tell me now, what did the Uncrowned King and his followers want?"

"He came on a parley to ask a truce, my lord."

"That is absurd!" Angmar said disdainfully. "It could be merely a ruse, a stalling for time until they make their true intentions known, but then again... a truce for how long and for what purpose?"

"Twelve hours to retrieve and bury the dead."

"Unbelievable. They become more foolish every day. This act of good will, as they would call it, will keep them occupied whilst the army retreats to safety. This truce I will grant that, but for that reason alone. What else?"

"An exchange of prisoners, my lord."

"Most unusual. The world is changing," Angmar said, reflectively. "Can I assume that they wish to exchange soldiers for soldiers? Have we taken many of theirs?"

"Few, my lord," the man said regretfully. "They want the Rohirric women and children that have been sent east."

Angmar sighed. "They are of no concern of mine, and I care nothing for them. The foe wanted the same thing in the spring when they sent forth emissaries to bargain after Dol Amroth. No exchange was granted in the spring and it is not in my power to grant one now."

"But, my lord," the officer implored, "is that good policy? In the spring, after the offer of exchange was declined, none of our men were ever seen or heard of again. The thought is, my lord, that after that refusal the enemy slaughtered them, every last one, in vengeance."

"I doubt that. It is not their way. More likely our troops were taken as prisoners of war to be put to labor. But no matter," Angmar said, "we deal with now."

"But Great One," the officer persisted, "one of the sons of the king of Khand is thought to be among the number of those captured! King Shapsusharru will be greatly grieved and wroth if his son is not freed after an exchange is offered!"

"I would agree to their offer for, perhaps, there is more to be lost than to be gained by denying it," Angmar thought to himself, "but it is not in my hands!"

"I will take it in counsel with our Master," he said, his voice final, and he walked away from Mautor Vivana, his head bowed as though in deep thought.

"No exchange," he heard in his mind. "I care naught for the Prince of Khand! But speak to Me, My little king; do not be afrighted. I would hear your words," came the soothing Voice.

"Master, is it politic to ignore this request? One of the sons of the King of Khand is among the captives. His father has been a faithful vassal. To permit this indignity will sow hatred among Thy vassals and breed contempt!"

"You have always been so astute, little kinglet, and I have always put great store upon your words." Before him the Witch-king could see a dark Figure upon a dark throne, a kindly look upon His face. The Voice he heard was patient, kind, longsuffering, overindulgent; everything the Morgul Lord had learned to dread.

"The Master is wroth with me, exceedingly so!" he thought, knowing even his thoughts were being read as he thought them, but the Master had asked for his opinion.

"But, unfortunately, granting an exchange would be a loss of face, and we do not want to do that now, do we? Weakness before an enemy can be a fatal flaw," the Voice said patronizingly. "Besides, rich gifts will make the King of Khand forget all about his lost son. He will not protest unduly." The face of the Figure on the throne smiled beneficently.

"Some are not bought easily and some cannot be bought at all, Master. Mere riches can never bring back that which was lost."

"You ought to know, My most loyal thrall."

The Morgul Lord knew with a grim certainty what awaited him when he returned to Lugbûrz.

"Great Lord, Thou askest for the thoughts of Thy servant, and I would be amiss if I did not offer them."

"You have always been honest, Witch-king, and I have valued that, as I have prized all of your notable abilities. Your candid advice is always considered." The Voice was taking on a taunting tone now. "Your loyalty is... unquestionable... is it not?" The Dark Lord paused, letting His words sink in. "But now, most regrettably, our discussion must come to an end. Go back to your officers, My devoted one," the Voice said sarcastically, "and tell them what I said."

"But Master, I do not think it wise. Thy decision will gender strife, and if I be forthright, it must be said that I do not think we need such discord at this time. It would not be in Your best interests for another rebellion to beset You at this time."

He saw the face in his mind smile and then he saw it no more.

"He is displeased. It will not go well for any of us when we get back. He is turning ways over in His mind right now as to how He will punish us. Perhaps it shall be fire this time, but it is always fire. Seldom does He vary it. Sometimes there are stripes with the fire, sometimes without," he thought wryly. "Perhaps this time He will kill one of us. He has threatened it before. There are few things He enjoys more than holding one of our Rings over the Crack of Doom and then tossing It up and down in His hand. The Master prides Himself on His consistency," he reflected humorlessly.

Suddenly, he felt impelled that he should praise his Master for His unwavering consistency. Against his will, Angmar began to compose a pean of praise and lauded his Master in his mind. "Fire," he thought, "it will be fire. Perhaps it would be better if He ended the whole farce for all of us and carried through on His threats."

Then Angmar turned back and spoke with the officers, who met his words with dark looks.

"No exchange! This will not bode well for the future," groaned Vivana. "But I did not expect that He would."

"You heard my words. When the emissaries come back to you, asking for the decision, tell them that their truce is granted. The answer to the question of exchange will be given an hour after dawn. General, thus we will buy time so that part of the army at least can escape."

"Your order will be obeyed, lord," said the man.

"You, Mautor Vivana, are brave and forthright with little guile and deceit. I can only hope that you have a better sense of humor than your predecessor. I appreciate wit. You and Tahmtan's staff and bodyguard will live!"

"My lord," Mautor Vivana said, "we are grateful!"

"And since you are both valiant and honest and are a good commander, I grant your predecessor's rank and position to you. My next orders to you, my new Maugoth, are to have the men build campfires, as is usual in the evening. Then, after an hour has elapsed, order them to make a great show of noise as though the camp has grown drunken and riotous.

"When the tumult is at its greatest, withdraw the greater part of your forces quietly, keeping some back to tend the fires. Set a rear guard to protect your flanks when the bulk of the troops has gone. After the camp has grown quiet, the enemy will think the revelry sated. Wait a time and send the rest of the men to join the rear guard. Thus, by stealth, many can be saved. We fall back to Edoras, and if my orders have been carried out, we shall find the city burnt. You have heard what l wish done. Now be about it."

"It will be done as you said, my lord."

But the Morgul Lord did not listen to the reply, for he was already striding away. He mounted the beast, and the group of officers watched as the huge creature rose up in flight into the air, carrying the master and steed away.

At the appointed time for the truce, parties of men were sent out to ride across the field, taking with them wagons pulled by teams of horses. When they reached the quiet, bloody field, the men dismounted and walked quietly amid the screams and moans of the injured. Holding torches as they searched for their dead and wounded, ahead of them they could see the lights of the Rohirrim, Gondorians and Elves searching for their own. They passed each other wordlessly as they went about their grim work.

Seeking his own dead, an Elf chanced by, and stopped when he saw one man holding a torch while another knelt upon the ground. The kneeling man, who was cradling a blood-soaked body to his chest, looked up at the Elf.

"Go away, Elf-demon! I see your devil's ears! I want to see none of your kind!"

"Who was he who sleeps now in your arms?" the Elf asked compassionately.

"It is no business of yours, you bastard, but he was my brother. His name was Tooraj."

"Then I grieve for him," said the Elf. "What is the name of the brother of the dead man that I may mourn for him, too?"

"Daungha!" the man said defiantly. "And, Elf, save your tears for yourself! I do not need your grief!"

"I grieve for all those who walk in darkness," the Elf murmured and walked away.

"Supercilious, arrogant ass!" Daungha called out to him but the Elf gave no reply and continued on his course. "Go back and haunt your trees! May they all rot and you and your kind with them!"

Going to their broken catapults, wains and ruined engines of war, the Easterlings and Southrons used axes to rend the frames into smaller pieces. Chanting songs of lament in their own tongues, they heaped the wood into pyres and set them alight with their torches. Sergeant Daungha watched as his brother's body was consumed in the flames and wailed a chant of farewell.

Sergeant Daungha looked down at his brother's amulets which he held in his hand. "Farewell, Tooraj, little brother. We shall meet again on the banks of the Great River, where the shade of the willows' soft tresses will shelter us and give us succor. There we will drink the cup of sorrow and rejoicing and curse all the Gods together!"

***
NOTES

SPELL OF BINDING
Translated by Angmar
Shadowlandian (LOS) Black Speech Dialect unless stated otherwise

Snaga bûrzum-ob, yonk nar ûsum-lab ghashnat / Thrall of darkness, no more your will to command
Ûs sigûrz shum nar drâgh-lab-ob, ziru-lat, / Think no longer of your designs, your desires,
(drâgh = design; Horngoth. Zir = desire; Tolkien's Adûnaic, LOS plural)
Mâduruz darûkûrz-lab-ob, olkûrz-lab sat-u agh nariinuz / Freed of your weakness, your body to dust and forgotten
Pardahûn lab kulub praush-tab-ishi / Power you will have in its exchange
(Pardahûn = power; MERP)
Ufum-lab kulat radbûrz, fulaknar dorozg-lab-ishi / Your fear is gone, secure in your surrender
(radbûrz = gone; Horngoth)
Kulûk iistuz, kulûk nariistuz kul lab fiithat / All things known, all things unknown are yours to behold
Ukhurk dûmp shara, shakrop krimpuz izish-u / Shun the doom of men, stay bound to me
Unr-izg frûm-lab naakh-izub-izish! / I hold your soul in my hand!
Tabz-izg lat, Tahmtan Khand-ob, nokh Maugoth, rad snaga, / I claim you, Tahmtan of Khand, once a general, now a slave,
Rad ghashn-izg. Frûm-lab kul izub agh obâshub-lat ghashanu-izub / Now I command. Your will is mine and you will obey my commands
(Obâsh = obey; unknown origin)
Rad agh ûkil-ûr / Now and for eternity


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Angmar and Elfhild

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/24/09

Original Post: 10/29/06

Go to The Circles: Book 1: The Triumph of The Shadow overview

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