37. Those Doomed to Die
Chapter Written by Angmar
The Morgul Lord had sent Krakfakhthal to find Zagbolg, whose beast had gone down near the Thrihyrne during the battle. When Zagbolg was found after dark, his fine black garments were in tatters.
"Zag, what have you been doing so long upon this mountain? I would not have guessed that you could find a maiden so far up upon the slopes of the Thrihyrne. She must have been a fiery one and quite unwilling by the looks of your clothing," Krakfakhthal laughed good-naturedly. "Are those the scratches of long fingernails upon your face?"
"Save your jesting, Krak," Zagbolg hissed. "I am in no mood for it."
"I see you are limping, and quite badly. Where are you injured?"
"My dignity first and the other place is none of your damned business!"
"Oh?" inquired Krakfakhthal impishly. "That Rohirric girl must have worked you well. Why did you not wait? I would have joined you. These wild wenches of Rohan are much like the women of my old kingdom. You would have liked them. They wore nothing but an animal skin tied about their waists and their long golden hair covering their breasts."
"Why must you tell me these stories at a time like this? I am so sore I can barely walk!"
"They would have caused you to be much more sore, my friend!" laughed Krak. "I tell you these stories to make you feel better, nothing more."
Zagbolg laughed weakly as he painfully limped towards Krak's beast and winced as Krak helped him climb behind the saddle. Soon the winged creature had lifted into the air and was speeding its way back towards their own lines.
"Do you have to moan so much?" Krak asked innocently. "The ride is quite smooth."
"The beast's spine is like a jagged mountain spur and I am sitting atop it," Zagbolg groaned.
"Shhh," Krak whispered. "Your wailings shall quicken the dead!"
Zag only groaned again.
"Udukhatûrz! You are drunk!" Rutfîmûrz the Sixth exclaimed as his beast settled to the ground near the carcass of Udu's mount.
"Not drunk, merely pleasantly inebriated," Udu said, suppressing a hiccup. Sprawled upon the ground, he picked up the wineskin that lay beside him. Shaking the skin, he said, his voice thick, "There is some left if you would care to partake of it with me."
"No, I care for naught right now. I am supposed to retrieve you and take you back quickly. We should not tarry... How many wineskins did you drink?" the Sixth asked, alighting from his beast.
"Four, I think, but I am not sure at present. They are moving along the ground too rapidly for me to tell."
"Let me smell your breath," Rut said, walking over to him and bending down. "I smell wormwood, honey, charnel flowers, distilled water from the Morgulduin and hmmm... what is that potion? Ahh yes, you have been drinking Dushûrz-Gabhîk, and one skin of Nurnian wine."
"It was the Nurnian wine that did it," Udu said, sighing happily.
"You know better than that! The Dushûrz-Gabhîk is an enspelled draught, while that of Nurn is merely a simple brew. Why, why?" he asked. "Why did you drink this bewitching wine when the other would never had so great an effect? For that matter, when you saw you were approaching drunkenness, why did you not say the spells that would have brought about sobriety?"
"Because of this," Udu said mournfully, pulling a medallion upon a silver chain from beneath his halberk. Its design was of a stylized, mystical flying creature somewhat resembling a moth with glowing red eyes. Its two large black wings were each adorned with a single row of tiny red eyes, and below and above each wing was a white plume tipped in black. The white underside of the creature was marked with red and green scales, and the tiny feet of a rider wearing pale boots could be seen peeking out from the juncture of the body and the wings.
"I see no problem with it," Rut said, squatting down and resting on his heels. He held out his hand and, after taking the medallion, he peered at it intently. "Perhaps a small mark here," he said, tapping on the image's abdomen, "but nothing more." He handed the medallion back to Udukhatûrz.
"That is what I mean. That mark there. It was much worse before I turned my attention to mending it by a spell. The chain also was rent, but I have joined the links on it together once more. This is as much as I could do to heal the damage. Before, though, the stomach of the emblem was rendered asunder!"
"How did this occur?" Rut asked, puzzled concern in his voice.
"When the beast fell to the earth, I was thrown far from it and landed upon my chest." He rubbed his hand across his mail. "This, too, was rent, and my body sustained some damage. Nothing major, I assure you, nothing that will not heal quickly, considering our nature." He shuddered. "Had I been yet a mortal man, I would have perished. If not from the fall alone, then the piercing blow from the rocks upon which I landed! You know," he said, looking into Rut's grey eyes, "this emblem is of great symbolic and esoteric significance. In theory, it is impossible to damage, but yet it was! A bad omen!"
"You read too much into it, Udu, far too much. Next," he laughed, "you will once again be consulting the entrails of goats, cattle and birds to determine the meaning of both omens and what the future holds."
"Nay, I think not. That was a point in my seeking that I passed long ago. We all did, and we shall never go back, having the knowledge that we now do. But can you not see the meaning of the arrow in my beast's middle, the rend in my armor and medallion, and the bruise upon my chest over my heart? I am doomed to die. Perhaps very soon. Can you not see it, my friend?" he sighed and a soft wail escaped his lips as a tear started down his cheek.
"I see that you are very drunk! This is unlike you, Udu. You never cry when you are besotted. You seldom cry at all. It was too much of the Dushûrz-Gabhîk. You never should have drunk it. Here, I am going to get you up," Rutfîmûrz said as he rose to his feet. He held out his hand to his brother to help him up. Udu grabbed his hand and held upon it like a drowning man holds onto a spar. Unsteadily, he rose to his feet, but then started to crumple to the ground. Rut grabbed him and Udu swayed in his arms, unable to hold himself aright.
"Take control of yourself! Never have I seen you like this!"
Udu looked into the eyes of his brother. "Doomed to die," he mumbled. "It is an evil portent, but it is not surprising. Consider, my brother, all that has befallen us. Another storm like unto Pelennor. The sudden appearance of the Elves, led by Glorfindel, who challenged us with spells not heard in many a long year, and as potent almost as our own. Then our strength steadily lessening, first with the lost of Krith, then Zag and then me. I tell you it is an omen! We will lose this battle! We have already lost it!"
"You have lost your courage, Udu! You are worse now than the King was after that wench challenged him! You have lost all confidence in yourself, in us, in everything!"
"I lost confidence long ago in all except the King and you! I know how Gothmog and Skri have wavered."
"They were captured and did what they did against their wills. They were forced by a greater Power... and the Things that bind us. They did what they had to do. Their hearts are no less loyal even unto this day."
"Doomed!" wailed the Seventh Nazgûl.
"We cannot die!"
"How do you... know? Once the power existed to slay us all... the Bane of Mordor... Once, we thought they were all hidden safely beyond the sight of man, protected by our own folk... but of late, two have have been seen, one upon Amon Sûl last year, the other upon the fields of Pelennor in the spring. Should more be found, who can say, in truth, that the ancient knowledge cannot be learned again? It was once..."
Rut looked at him a long moment. "Did you say there was some wine left?"
"Then let us drink it."
Udu smiled, a foolish expression upon his face, as Rut eased him to the ground. Then Rut sat cross-legged beside him, the wineskin between the two men.
"There is more in my saddlebags... I was prepared," Udu said happily.
"But He will see. He will know," Rut said as he reached down and took the wineskin. Taking the cork between his teeth, he opened the bottle and drank deeply.
"He does not watch all the time. His attention is drawn to other things. Have you felt His presence, His attention upon you, all this time that we have been here talking? Do you feel it now?"
"Nay, nay! Perhaps He has sympathy towards us... for a time."
Udu laughed and slapped him on the back.
"I am glad I swallowed before you did that," Rut laughed, handing the wineskin to Udu.
It was not until the wineskin had been drained that Rut rose to his feet and looked down at Udu, who sat upon the ground, singing, keeping time with the song by waving the wineskin back and forth.
"We must leave."
"I cannot," Udu mumbled.
"Yes, you can, with my help."
Giving him his hand, Rut helped Udu to his feet. Soon Udu was leaning against him, smiling into his eyes, his arm slung across the other's shoulders.
"You know you are drunk, do you not?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Can you even get on the beast?"
"Drunk," he said, and shook his head. Rutfîmûrz sighed. "You know I do not want to do this. You know I would never do this, were you not besotted, bawling like a babe."
"Do what you must." He attempted to shrug his shoulders and then stumbled. "Perhaps next time, I will not drink so much Dushûrz-Gabhîk... at least not so much at one time," he laughed.
Rutfîmûrz, who was quite strong and broad of chest, a mighty man when he had been a great lord in the Númenórean colonies and now stronger by far than any mortal upon the earth, picked his brother up in his arms and slung him behind the saddle. Rut bound him there with some rope from his saddlebag so that Udu would not slide off, either while the beast still remained on the ground or when it was in flight.
"Sorry," he apologized.
"Quite all right. I do not mind at all." Udu launched into a bawdy tavern song which had once been popular long ago on the docks in the south.
Opening Udu's saddlebags, Rutfîmûrz took out a small packet of military dispatches and tucked them into the saddlebag on his own beast. Then he took the remaining two wineskins, one containing Dushûrz-Gabhîk and the other Nurnian wine, and tossed their straps over the pommel of his saddle.
As Rut swung into the saddle, Udu said, "I see you brought the wine."
"Indeed! One must be prepared for all eventualities. Here," he said, passing the wineskin back to Udu, "drink! I am sure you will turn sober as soon as you see the ire of our Captain."
"The omen is true, no matter what you might think. I am doomed to die. I do not need a soothsayer to read the signs of swans that fly from north to south, nor the divining of seers as they swirl potions in liquid. The livers and entrails of beasts could yield no hidden knowledge of my future to the haruspices. Neither by the sun nor by the moon nor by the stars in the sky do I seek presages. All is written in the emblem. I know," he said, taking out the medallion and staring at it intently, "and I am resigned, for what can I do? Fate, it is said, was decided long ere we were born, and when destiny falls upon us, we know its sure signs, its meanings."
"You are wrong, we cannot die! So it is said and you must believe!"
"I believe in nothing but the King and you." Udu drank again greedily and then passed the wineskin up to Rut. "Drink, drink! We must be prepared for all eventualities."
"Indeed," Rutfîmûrz confirmed as he drank and the beast began to rise into the air.
"It will ease the grief," Udukhatûrz encouraged.
"I am not grieved," Rut said. "There is naught to be grieved about."
Tapping his amulet, Udu reaffirmed, "This, the rent, the omen, the harbinger of certain doom. I am not sad, and have no fear. From the beginning to the ending, I have no sorrow, remorse or regrets, save one. I am glad for my long space of years, which some would say were ill-gained. I have lived them to the fullest even as I lived those before. I remember the comradeship... with some of you at least, and the women, always the women, and the drinks and the dancing, and the wealth. No regrets save that one thing, and you know what it is."
"There are others of us who have that regret, but, Udu, you talk as though you were on your deathbed, preparing to relinquish your life, give it up willingly almost. You are hopelessly drunk!" He passed the wineskin back to Udu. "You might as well get even more besotted, if that is possible."
"I have enjoyed it all," he said after taking a mouthful of wine. "Every last moment! Wherever I go, after I am dead, and I do not know where that may be, I will miss our lord and you, Skri, Gothmog and even Krak," he reflected after draining out the wineskin, and once again took to waving it in his hand, a silly look upon his face as he swayed back and forth.
"It is a good thing indeed that I bound you to this beast by ropes, or in your drunken stupor, you would have surely fallen off!"
Udukhatûrz then turned his full attention to another humorous bawdy ballad which he had learned so long ago.
In a town of cobbled street with many a winding way,
The night was dark, the gates were barred, a'waiting for the day
A wandering minstrel, lute in hand, in a tavern played
His tune was done, his song was sung, and then he saw a maid
A tavern wench was she and she paid him scarce a glance
Until the minstrel hopped upon a tabletop and there began to dance
The crowd cheered and stamped their feet, eager to see more
And then across the room he spied, clad all in red, a buxom tavern whore
He danced faster, singing now a tune so fair and sweet
The crowd screamed so loud and rose upon their feet
Then upon mincing step, the slattern strolled across the floor
The fair maid, jealous, stomped her foot and rushed out through the door
"Nay, fair lass!" the minstrel cried. "I would not have it so!"
He took one look at willing bawd and said, "Alas, I must now go."
The maid ran on, offended she, and did not look behind
On racing step, now panting breath, a circuitous course did wind
"Come back! Come back!" the minstrel cried. "I will not do you ill!
"Come back, come back!" he said and raced her up a hill.
Upon its top, he caught her fast and dragged her 'neath a tree
"Lie with me," he pled, he gasped, "and I will then love thee!"
"You are a wanderer, low and vile, and my treasures will be shut
"Go, villain, far from me, and take to you the slut!"
She slapped his face and clawed and squirmed, but all to no avail
He pushed her to the ground as she began to wail
"No! No!" cried she. Beneath him pinned, she looked him in the eye
"Villain foul, before I would yield to you, I would surely die!"
In the tavern, the whore heard about her the laughing of the men
She flipped her skirts above her rump and then stalked out the den
The patrons roared as she turned up the fair face of the moon
"Stay, O stay," the men called out, "and give us this fine boon!"
"Nay," cried she. "I hear you not; you have cut me to the core!"
She held up her nose and cursed and moved out through the door
The tavern knaves followed her up the hill, but she outpaced them all
The maiden screamed, the minstrel cried 'neath the tree so tall
The whore stumbled in the dark and fell upon her knees
And landed upon the minstrel lad who gave a strangled wheeze
The maid clasped her gown to her bosom now so bare
And turned and fled, her steps so quick, like a fearful hare
The minstrel jumped to his feet and tried to catch her shawl
The tavern louts pulled down their trews and tumbled in the brawl
The red gown was undone, the whore's flesh was pink and plump
As all the men wrestled to be the first to cleave her comely rump
The night was dark, the moon was dim, the minstrel heard a rip
And then to his great dismay he felt his trousers slip
The maiden raced, followed by the minstrel swift and fleet
Until his trousers fell and tangled about his feet
The tavern knaves passed him by and chased after the tavern maid
The louts charged up, their lust unspent, and she was quickly laid
The minstrel sat, face in hands, and cried, "My heart is torn in twain!
"I have sung and played a score, but all my labors are in vain!"
His ruined breeches held him fast, twisted about his knees
His heart was broken, his love was lost, and he sighed into the breeze
The knaves came swaggering back and with them proudly brought
The winsome lass, the one so fair, the one for whom he sought
The moon peeked down, white and bright, o'er top the hill
And Tilion watched and gawked and stared until he'd had his fill
The minstrel gathered up his pants, a scowl upon his face
Then taking up a fallen branch, he left the woeful place
And upon finding the crowd, the maid and the loutish swains
He lashed at them with the branch, and so the race began again
Then back into the tavern, all of them did dash
And fell in a heap upon the floor with great resounding crash
"Stop!" yelled the tavern-keeper, and picking up a lout
With hands on neck and seat, he quickly threw him out
His fellows followed him and thought their friend was dead
Then they cried, all alarmed, and bore him to his bed
The whore wrung her hands, and feared her trade was lost
Then she walked to a table close and tallied up the cost
The maid once so pure was now a maid no more
In disgust, the minstrel took up his lute, striding to the door
And as he walked, he boldly sang as on his lute he played
The Song of the Whore, the Minstrel and the Lusty Tavern Maid
Udukhatûrz was singing the song again for the second time when at last in the darkness of evening they came upon their Captain, his Second-in-Command, Khamûl, and Gothmog the Third and Lieutenant of Minas Morgul. The Captain gave them both a stern, dour look.
"I suggest you try to sober up, Udu," Rutfîmûrz entreated.
"I think I am sober," he said.
"I think you are not," Rut chuckled.
"I was able to sing the entire ballad," he retorted, taking offense.
"Aye, and doubtless you curdled the blood of all below! There is one thing you will never be, and that is a bard!"
"Possibly not, but in any event, should I indeed be doomed to die, may death find me with a song on my lips, a goblet in my hand and a fine wench on my lap!"
"Drunken fool!" Rut laughed and shook his head.
"Haruspices" - The art of haruspicy dates to the dim reaches of the past. In this practice, animals were sacrificed and their organs examined by those trained in the art. It was thought that the future could be divined by observing certain signs shown in the entrails, especially the liver.
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