39. Those Doomed to Love
Chapter Written by Angmar
After they had taken the city that would be renamed Minas Morgul, the Nazgûl dwelt there with little interference or conflict. They had enjoyed their relative solitude, drinking and feasting throughout the idle days and nights. Serenaded by troubadours who sang of wars and battles and brave deeds and loves and trysts of joining and dividing, of sundering and tears, they were surrounded by servants and sycophants, lovers and mistresses. Upon occasion, they would call for the dancers, the maids of sultry fire and beauty whose only desire was to please them and whose reward was entangling arms and legs and the sweetness of willing seduction.
Maids, mistresses and lovers were won and lost on a single throw of the bones, and they reveled and great were their appetites. The Nine, sated in every conceivable desire, mixed their sorceries with their cravings for the flesh. Sometimes, when the moon was at its darkest, the dancers, amidst swirling veils, yielded their flesh to the bite of the sword as they performed the Dance of Blood and Death and other such dances of pain and pleasure. It was at those times that the carnal passions of the Úlairi were at their height. The blood flowed freely and each one of the Nine licked sweet drops from the bodies of the dancers, and both passions and power rose and swelled. The maids would plead for the attentive hands and lips of the Nine and often swooned in religious ecstasy as they were held in the arms of their sorcerer lovers. The maids considered this merely as an act of love, and they were loved in return. Though no one really knew the full reality of what went on in Minas Morgul, the rumor would grow up in later years that the city was as wicked indeed as ever was Bablon of the East.
Then upon the time of the longest night when their power was at its height, a procession of Nine would chant as they wound their way up the stairs of the Tower of the Moon. A steel crown upon his head, a medallion of mithril about his neck and clad in a stately robe of darkest blue embroidered with arcane symbols in glittering threads of silver, white and icy azure, their King would lead his brethren to the topmost level of the Tower. There, whilst the shimmering turret slowly rotated in its splendor of beauty, the blood would be combined with potions in secret rituals. They would weave great spells using the combined power of all their Rings, commanding the weather in the Morgul Vale and the growth of the strange plants which flowered in the meads and grew upon the sides of the hills. Until the sun called a halt to the night, the brothers would grow in power and increase in might, rejoicing in the darkness which was their strength.
Secret peace treaties with the enemy across the River guaranteed their security. Seldom was there a peep of complaint from the Númenórean descendants, for there was peace and plenty and all was deemed as well. The Steward who was known as "The Good" had judged it wise to sue for peace quietly and covertly. After all, he was rid of a brash and arrogant king whose policies had never proved wise, the man himself being reckless and impetuous. Most importantly there was no war, and who would not give all for peace? Those who occupied the city of Minas Morgul were quiet and never troublesome, as long as the tribute money made its way across the river on time. This pact was a closely guarded secret among the Stewards for many years.
Little would the Gondorians in Ithilien and across the River, slumbering in their beds, ever know what those deathly quiet halls held. Indeed, as they said, the place was one of wickedness, lechery, drinking, and sins pleasurable and sensuous. If the stodgy Gondorians had known, their senses would have boiled with righteous indignation, but perhaps in the very darkest part of their hearts, they would have felt a pang of envy.
Often the Nine would steal quietly out of their valley and meet with the women of Ithilien, or venture farther south into Harad on surreptitious quests of romantic errantry. Sometimes they would even secretly cross the Anduin in disguise, seeking winsome females who could provide pleasant companionship for a while. Even invisibility could be hidden by a show of will, and the Nine were masters at deceiving the senses.
Perhaps it was dangerous to venture so far, but all had gone well except for a few misadventures. Once, Udu and Rut, who were always becoming besmitten with one comely lass or another, had been surprised by a returning husband when they had both been dallying with his wife. Startled at the angry husband's approach, they had been forced to leave suddenly. Barely gathering up his sword, boots, breeches and tunic in time, Rut had gone out the window while Udu had the lesser of good fortune. He had been forced to flee out the window wearing nothing but his sword, belt and boots.
Besotted and staggering, Udu was not able to control the spells that would deceive mortals' minds and make him appear visible. Rut had tried to persuade him to be quiet, but Udu insisted upon singing an outrageous song about an inept young lord's wedding night. While Udu collapsed under the roof of a shed, Rut had stolen enough garments from a clothesline so that Udu could hide his unclad form. Tales of a "ghost of a drunken sailor" were told by the people of Southern Gondor for many years after that.
Many were the stories that were told of their exploits and misadventures. Udu always seemed to have all the bad luck. Partly this was true because he had a great fondness both for a pretty face and partly because of his tendency to carry a few flasks of Dushûrz-Gabhîk everywhere he went.
Rut had been occupied on one side of a haystack with a sprightly Gondorian wench, while Udu had been romancing her rambunctious sister on the other side. Rut had been barely able to suppress his exclamations of joy and grunts of pleasure while riding his lusty companion.
Udu had just been grasping the nipples of the buxom wench under him, and, in between gasps, telling her about the great beauty of her eyes. Her name was Nóruien, but Udu was besotted upon too much Dushûrz. He made the mistake of calling her "Galuwen," the name of her sister with whom Rut was currently frolicking. Udu was surprised when she had exhibited the effrontery to slap his face and struggle out from under his weight. The embarrassment bothered him but little for he passed out, unable to fight the influence of the wine any longer. He could not remember if he had chanted the spell necessary for her protection, but he thought that it was of little consequence in any event.
Though there was little physical peril in these ventures, there was great peril to the heart. Unfortunately, Udu fell in love. When he was sure that his interests had passed from those merely of lust to genuine affection, the rest of his brethren had to bear with his sighings and moanings. He kept complaining that he was "dying of unrequited love," and that the woman was the "great love of his life." His wailings were magnified by the great quantities of wine which he drank to help him "forget his pain," as he called it.
He had asked permission of the Captain that he might go forth once again across the River and bring her back to dwell with him in the City of Minas Morgul. At first, he was denied his boon, but when he fell into a fit of mourning and weeping for the wench, the Morgul Lord had at last relented and gave him leave to go. All felt relieved, however, that at least she was neither the wife nor the kinswoman of the Steward. There was, after all, the secret peace treaty to remember.
Udu had been jubilant when he brought her back. He was happy with her for a long while until he became too drunk upon Dushûrz-Gabhîk and made the mistake of wagering her in a game of chance. To his grief, he lost her to Krakfakhthal. Krak soon grown tired of her, saying that while she was lusty in bed, she was quite a shrew the rest of the time. Then he had traded her to Krith for a new steed. Krak had joked with Khamûl that he had "traded a nag for a nag" but that he had gotten the better part of the deal.
The Morgul Lord himself had not been immune to such cravings. Though he claimed that the tale was untrue, totally false, it was even said that he had bedded the famously beautiful and delicious wife of a Gondorian noble, "right under his nose." The others, though, never knew even a fraction of the truth, for it was not merely the wife of one nobleman, but the wives of many.
Eventually, the woman upon whom he frequently called had been found out by her husband. Discovery was inevitable. After her husband had returned home unexpectedly from a trip and summoned her to his chambers, she had been reluctant to part her garments for him. One look at the bruises and marks of love upon her body told him all he needed to know.
"You have taken a lover!" he had bellowed. "Who is he so that I may slay him, for he has insulted my honor and violated the sanctity of the marriage bed!" She claimed, tearful and pleading, that she had "been seduced in her sleep by a demon who came to her in her dreams."
This seemed to be a reoccurring problem in Gondor, the land where the men spent their days reading old genealogies, searching for ways to live forever, and instructing architects upon the construction of magnificent tombs, while the women spent lonely hours pining for love and affection from husbands who seldom called them to their chambers. It was little wonder that the birthrate kept constantly declining, though the dearth of population could never be blamed upon the Nine black knights from across the River, for they inadvertently did all in their power to ensure fertility.
The lady's husband, a stern lord, refused to believe her. He vowed to punish her and denied her his company. He made certain, however, that the episode would never be repeated when he locked a chastity belt about her waist and betwixt her thighs.
That, however, was no problem for Angmar, for he knew all the spells of unlocking and locking. Then after the iron belt was removed from her body, the Morgul Lord bedded and bucked her and was gone before the light of day. Ever after when her lord was away on long journeys, the woman would leave three candles burning in her window, a signal that her husband was gone.
Some months had passed when Angmar, riding by, saw the pre-arranged signal and stopped at the keep. The lady had been distraught, for she had pined many lonely hours for him. After only a short while, the belt locked about her middle was unbound and she was comforted, as only the Morgul Lord could comfort her.
The next morning, she had begged him to take her with him and free her from her stern husband's rule. Great was her distress, for she had determined that she was with child and was sure it was Angmar's. He told her that he thought that such a circumstance was highly unlikely, though he did not bother to tell her that the same thing had been claimed endless times before by other women.
In his mind, though, the King never quite ruled out the possibility that all those numerous bastards were indeed his, but whatever the case, he would never claim them. When daylight was close, he felt perhaps it would be best for him to leave. After kissing her lips and disentangling her arms and legs from about his body, he had placed the chastity belt back around her body, left her bed chambers and quickly rode away.
He did not return across the Anduin until some months later, and chancing by her bower, he saw the telltale glow of three lights in her window. Although he had rather enjoyed the challenge of unlocking her belt through the power of his mind, he found that she was no longer weighted down with its burden. She had rushed to greet him, and in delight told him that just the month before she had been delivered of a fine son.
The Morgul Lord had been using potent spells to deceive the woman by casting images into her mind that he was a handsome Gondorian. He was pleasantly amused when the lady told him that the child "looks exactly like you, even unto your eyes." He extracted herself from her imploring arms, and told her there was nothing unusual in that, for did her husband not have the same features?
"No, the babe is yours; he is yours!" the woman had exclaimed. When she explained to him that she had not lain with her husband in months, he had to agree, somewhat abashed, that perhaps there was some veracity in what she had said. He could never take her and the child with him, though, he said, not untruthfully, that "my family has fallen upon lean times." Then, after explaining that she and her son would be much better off to remain in Gondor with her husband - and certainly he would come back to see her as often as he could - he had made love to her again and then went quietly into the night.
For years, he visited the woman frequently and without detection by her husband. As time passed, Angmar began to take note of her two young daughters as they grew and flourished into lovely young maidens. Then, unknown to their mother or to the other sister, there was oft waiting in the windows of all three of them, the woman and her two daughters, the burning glow of three candles.
In time, the mother became suspicious at the nocturnal gasps and squeals of delight which she first heard coming from the younger daughter's room one night and then from the elder's the next. The dame guessed what was afoot and vowed vengeance.
Then came the night when she heard once again the passionate sighings and moanings emanating from her younger daughter's room. Since the mother had the keys to all rooms in the house on the large ring at her belt, she unlocked the door to the room of her daughter. Angmar had both sensed and smelled her approach, but he had little time before she barged through the door and caught them in the very act. Such a fit of hissing and screaming he had seldom heard in all his days. He had quickly and discreetly gathered up his clothes and left while mother and daughter were screeching and screaming at each other, trying to pull out the other's hair and claw out her eyes.
He considered that, perhaps, it would be best never to test the romantic waters again, but one night when he was returning from the home of another lord's wife, he saw the fondly remembered three candles burning in the mother's window. He had smiled to himself as he entered the house.
When he opened the door to the lady's room, he found a trap waiting for him, for the woman's husband and a number of his friends sprang out upon him, brandishing clubs, axes, knives, spears, swords and daggers. They attempted to slay him, but it was a simple matter for him to fight them all off. And so, just as he had at Fornost, the Witch-king of Angmar made a speedy retreat once again into the darkness.
The lord had become alerted to what was going on when the older sister, jealous of her mother and younger sister, had betrayed the whole thing to her father, falling tearfully to his feet and vowing to reform. The nobleman felt compelled to mention to some of his friends with marriageable sons that he would not be adverse to marriages with his daughters. After they were wed, he graciously forgave both daughters. His wife, though, he never quite forgave, and he was never really certain of the paternity of his only son.
Angmar, of course, was not overly concerned about the woman or her daughters. By the time of the ambush, he had already found another far more comely and certainly more pleasant than any of them. Over the years, there were amorous adventures aplenty, and many were the women who were eager to share their company with the Nazgûl.
Skri had taken little note of the others' amorous pursuits until at last Udu and Rut persuaded him to go with them on a sortie into Gondor, "just for the scenery," they had told Skri. It had all been very secretive and they thought they were taking little risk. They were faulty in their judgment, though, for the risk was far greater than they had thought.
They had met three young women, quite fair, pleasing, charming and graceful, walking near Pelargir in the twilight of a mild summer's day. Hailing the blithe young ladies, they found that two of the females succumbed quickly to their advances, for the Nazgûl had disguised themselves by spells and magicks as handsome young men. One lass, though, resisted and flounced away, disgusted at her friends.
Skri, impressed by her beauty, had followed her quietly, but she had tried to ignore him and walked faster. At first, he had merely sought to talk with her, not having the company of females for so long. Soon he found, though, that his heart filled with desire for her. She rejected him and he, deciding that he must have her there and then, put upon her a spell that made her vulnerable to his wooing.
While Udu and Rut were occupied with the other willing maids who would soon be maids no longer, Skri entertained his chosen one first with his flute and then with the tender touches of his long fingers. Skri was surprised with himself, for he had never considered himself as a lover. He found he was soon amazing himself when the girl looked up at him with begging eyes. What else was he to do? He had her beneath the cedars and then he felt his heart "pierced with the very arrow of love." It was indeed fitting that even after the spell was removed from her, the girl felt the same way. He promised her that as soon he could, he would come back, even promising marriage, which he felt in his mind that he had a right to do.
A week later, she fled in the night with him, leaving a note behind that she had eloped with a sailor whom she had met. Her father and mother were both in tears, but since the girl swore she was going to be wed, they felt perhaps she would be back someday. She never returned, though, and lived with Skri for many years, happy and content.
When at last his spells could no longer preserve her, she had died and he was left forlorn. He had carried her body to the heart of the mountain, where she lay locked in the eternal preservation of death, sleeping forever upon a slab of pale marble. There she lay, timelessly beautiful, her stone near to the slabs of the other women who were dear to the Nazgûl, lovely in life, forever lovely in death.
Ever Skri mourned for her and ever he made pilgrimages up the mountain. Thus grew up the tales among his brethren that Skri would serenade his love with his flute and then lie with her cold, dead, enchanted body.
And so the Nine abided, knowing all too soon that the end grew close and bitter with each passing day. They knew that death would not touch them, for each one wore his Ring upon his finger, but there were far worse things than death. They knew that somewhere the Dark Power still lurked, biding His time, growing in power, and seeking to devour them all. Still they made merry and loved and were loved, thinking only of the moment and living in dread of the future.
Much thanks and gratitude to Aganuzîr for the invaluable assistance on Chapters 36 to 40. Many of the concepts in these chapters are based on ideas originally formulated by Aganuzîr. Thanks again for your help on this challenging project.
All of the material in these chapters fit in with Tolkien's Tale of Years in Appendix B of The Return of the King.