41. The Conquest of the Ninth Ring
Chapter Written by Angmar
"Hail, Number Two, Number Four and Number Nine! Thy return to the protective circle of My care is most wise, My three wayward sons! Far too long have ye wandered homeless and masterless, far away from My love and guidance." Gorthaur, His eyes burning with deep and deadly embers and with His arms folded across His great mailed chest, leaned against a great column of black rock.
His bodyguard - those grave and grim spirits of darkness, their faces hidden behind masked helms of sable - stared down at the three wraiths. Their eyes sparkled and glittered with open malice. A chill went up Khamûl's spine, and Zagbolg turned and looked at the Black Easterling with undisguised fear. Krith frowned.
"Greet the penitent ones, My minions."
"Hail, Lords of the Night! Ye have been missed!" the guards spoke with one scornful voice.
"Master!" Khamûl, the spokesman of the three, stepped forward. "We have answered Thy summons..."
"...A little late," Sauron interjected.
"Forgive us, Lord! Thou wert gone so long and we could not hear Thy Voice!"
"Perhaps because ye were not listening!" the Voice sounded hurt.
"We were deceived!"
"Willingly," the Dark Lord responded sadly.
The three hung their heads. "We did not know. We were far away."
"And not seeking Me with any true conviction or desire of ever finding Me. I dwelt at Dol Guldur for over a thousand years, and then after being absent for four centuries, I returned and remained there until this year! In all those many years, did ye ever seek Me out? I was not too difficult to find, if ye had really wanted! What pain ye have brought to My heart, faithless sons!"
"We were not sure that he who dwelt in Dol Guldur was Thee!"
"Who did ye think it might be?" Sauron laughed sarcastically and turned to His bodyguards. "Do they jest?" He asked in feigned bewilderment.
"Nay, they lie!" the bodyguards chortled.
"Would My own sons lie to Me?" He murmured in that cloying way that commanded complete honesty.
"Yessss!" the bodyguards hissed. "They would and they did!"
The Dark Lord turned back to His three trembling sons. "I have dwelt in this knowledge of thy rejection and betrayal for all these many long, aching years! Ye have driven a spear through My loving heart! I am crushed!" The cry was wrenched out of His throat and He fell back against the rock, clutching His hand to His chest.
The three Nazgûl bowed their heads in shame. "Forgive us, Master! We have erred!"
"Now ye have come back to Me at last, but are ye truly repentant?" His voice began to grow in magnitude and, brooding, He began to pace back and forth before the black pillar of rock. "I have a question for ye, My impious sons! Shalt ye, rebels all, now promise total loyalty to Me?
"Yes, Master, yes!" Khamûl cried, and the others echoed his assertions.
"I wonder... should ye betray Me as ye did thy Captain?" He paused to turn his blazing eyes at Khamûl and his two comrades.
The three looked at their fellows in dismay.
"How I had wished that thy loyalty had been given to Me because of love and worship," He bemoaned. "But ye cannot be loyal to anyone, can ye?" His accusing voice slithered through their ears.
"We wanted to be loyal, Master, but we did not know how to find Thee!"
"Can ye not devise with any new lies, or must ye constantly fall back to the same one? Why did I ever pick such weak fools as servants! Ye are not even skillful at deceit! Incompetent asses!"
The three felt their souls shrivel as though scorched with a hot iron.
"Treacherous betrayers of thy Master and thy fellows, base-hearted villains, the three of ye!" Sauron railed on. "Honor is a stranger to ye! Not only are ye disloyal to Me, ye are disloyal to thine own King and thine own fellows! Now ye have come, selling thyselves to Me like harlots! Were thy lives worth so much to ye that ye would strip thyselves of all dignity? Wretches craven, despicable and low!"
"But, Lord," Khamûl tried to explain, "we were promised mercy if we came to Thee!"
"Mercy?" the Dark Lord laughed. "Do they deserve mercy?" He turned to His bodyguards.
"Nay, Master, nay! They deserve nothing but death!"
Krith began trembling uncontrollably. Khamûl looked at him in disgust and Zagbolg was by this time too dazed to speak.
"I will give ye mercy," the Dark Lord hissed as He picked up His mace from the ground and walked towards the three. They were down on their bellies in an instant, arms spread forward, begging mercy. Krith's teeth chattered as he buried his face against the stony ground. Zagbolg muttered incomprehensible gibberish as he reached out a hand towards that of Khamûl, hoping for the comfort of his hand, and wept when he found it. Khamûl looked up and saw the great mace poised above them, ready to strike them at any moment.
"Mercy! Mercy!" they wailed in terror.
"Death is too good a punishment for ye," Gorthaur said coldly as He slowly lowered the mace to rest in front of Khamûl's face. "Perhaps Eru might show ye clemency."
"But, Master, we did return," Khamûl said feebly.
"Yes, Master, we came back," Krith echoed.
Zagbolg could no longer speak at all, but lay on the ground singing a children's song about fishing on the Two Rivers.
"This is true," Sauron said slowly and calculatingly. "But ye came back out of fear and not out of love. Still, I am beneficent and will reward ye, though ye do not deserve it. I am a loving Father, though, ever forgiving and kind. Ye will have thy rewards, thy cities, thy treasures, thy power, but I do not think that ye shall ever enjoy them," He said darkly.
"Master, we thank Thee for Thy mercy and generosity!" the three Nazgûl gasped.
"Now give Me thy Rings to show thy fealty!" Sauron demanded harshly.
"Our Rings?" Khamûl asked in astonishment.
"Master, no!" Khamûl wailed. "Without our Rings, our powers are lessened!"
"I know," Sauron smiled in satisfaction.
"But, Master," Krith lamented, "we can serve Thee better if Thou let us keep our Rings!"
"I need them far more than ye do! Give them back! They are Mine!" The Dark Lord's face lit up with an impish malice. "Look into My Eyes," He whispered compassionately, and they were compelled to look. Each, one by one, held out his Ring, and they fell once again to their Master's power as they once had done so many years before. The Master of Treachery roared with laughter as Khamûl and his comrades were dragged out of His presence by His bodyguards.
At last after long years Sauron had been able to assume a shape again and now with the power of Three of the Dwarven Rings and Six of the Nine Rings of Men, He would grow ever stronger. His energy and strength renewing, He absorbed the vitality of the strength He had stored in the Rings, the creations of His primal energy.
Thus, in the ninth month of the siege, He gathered His forces and commanded them to renew the assault upon the fortress of Minas Morgul with new strength and zeal. This time, though, the Dark Lord Himself would be amongst them, and no power upon Arda save that of one of like or greater divinity, could ever hope to stand against Him.
The warfare changed in tone. Before, men and orcs had hurled themselves upon the walls in great assaults, but now the battle was to be a different war of magic and sorcery. Great power of sorcery and might, blinding lightnings, spells of great power, lethal in their intent, were unleashed against the walls of Minas Morgul.
The most fortunate of the Morgul King's soldiers died quickly during the first manifestation of power. Others less fortunate had fled screaming, running, their garments in flames, and joined others whose flesh was peeling off in oozing pustules. The still-living human torches plunged, unknowing of aught except their own agony, into the Morgulduin. There they perished, if not of their wounds, then of the steaming waters which had been enchanted tenfold with dark spells for the defense of Minas Morgul. Sauron found it particuarlly amusing that the Witch-king's soldiers were victims of his own ensorcelled defenses.
Pandemonium raged and the city fell yet again. The host of Sauron rushed forward in a maelstrom of destruction and fury, slaying all whom they found. In the chaos, Udukhatûrz and Rutfîmûrz were separated from their king and ringed about by Sauron's fierce bodyguards. Taken captive back to the Master, they, too, staunch though they were, had been humbled and forced to bow, to kneel, and to give.
Then the Witch-king stood alone as the Dark Lord manifested Himself, encircling about the very Tower of the Moon as a cloud of darkness and dread. A thunderstorm of evil portent, fire and brimstone, lightnings and thunder, He loomed above the battlements, appearing greater even than the mountains themselves, and spewed out His wrath upon those who dared try to withstand Him.
"Hear Me now, My careless little kinglet! Thy keep, thy armories, thy towers, turrets and tunnels, and even thy secret gardens of pleasure and those of thy brethren have been taken! Thou has lost all!"
The great booming Voice droned on, assailing the Morgul Lord's senses and his will. "Outside the gates of thy city, those of thy men who were captured shall be thrust into cauldrons filled with the waters from the Morgulduin and thy own deep wells. The rich wood from thy private chambers - where thou hast lounged slothfully all these many years - shall be used to kindle the fires. Slow will be their torment and bitter will be their deaths.
"But better still, My kinglet. Even now at this moment, the women of all thy brethren are being raped before the eyes of their wailing spawn. Then, after My men and orcs have had their way with them and tired of ravishing and torturing them, they shall slay the wenches and their broods in the cruelest of ways.
"The worst of the torments are reserved for thine own women and thy children, O kinglet. Thou shalt be bound in spell-enchanted chains and wilt watch as thy women and thy daughters are stripped. Listen well to their pleas and screams as they are ravished by My men and orcs. Thy sons will know torments unimaginable and all that thou carest for shall die in agony with screams upon their parched and bloody lips.
"And then thou shalt see thy favorite mistress, her arms and legs spread wide and strapped to timbers taken from thy bed-chambers. Wilt thou weep and plead and beg as thou seeth her body riven with steel spikes? When she cries out in torment as she is raped over and over again? When the blood runs down her thighs? When she sobs in pain? And what wilt thou do, frail mortal, when she dies in shrieking agony as a steel sword is sunk betwixt her thighs?"
"Thou hast grown mad, as did Melkor Thy Regent!" Angmar bellowed in rage and disbelief. "Fiend of Hell and craven murderer of innocent women and children, I curse Thee!" he shrieked, bitter anguish ripping his heart asunder. He held all his women and children dear, as well as those of his brethren, and they had all been under the protection of his sword. "Damn Thy soul for all eternity!"
"Thou shouldst have slain them all yourself; there were nine months in which to do this," Sauron taunted."Thou couldst have given them a peaceful death, a slumbering spell which would have ushered them into gentle oblivion. Didst thou thinkest that thou could have preserved their lives by sending them to escape through thy secret tunnels? Fool! The openings to all of thy holes have been found and sealed by My minions. Ever hath thou been vain and thought to prevail against Me! No one can, not even thee!"
The words were bitter gall to Angmar's ears, for they were true. He could not deny them. He had grown too confident over the past thousand years. Had his defenses not been strong ones? Had he not planned well? But had he not been a fool all along, deceiving himself by listening to his own counsel? Now everything was lost to him!
How his heart convulsed in rage at this cruel Tormentor who would rob him of all whom he cherished! "Damn jealous bastard! He begrudges me any affection for any other than Him!" He thought of the women of his household - some now aged but still beautiful, preserved by spells to retain their loveliness until he could no longer forestall their deaths - all of them had loved him and loved him well.
The young damsels who clung him, trusted him and looked to him as both lover and father, they, too, would die at the hands of this unholy fiend! Gentle creatures - who could flame into passion at his embrace, at his tongue and his lips - would soon be shrieking out their death agonies. Arms which had held him through musk-scented nights would never cleave to him again! Sweet faces who looked to him in adoration, tender lips that he caressed - all would now be no more, crushed because of their love for him! They would die for nothing more than to appease the envy and jealousy of a mad God!
"I LOVE THEM AND NEVER THEE!" he screamed in his mind, mad now himself in his rage.
Angmar shook as he concentrated all of his might and will into a spell of death and destruction. If it were in his power, he would strip the mortal form from the Dark Lord and send Him staggering, His body dying and his soul fleeing into the wilderness of Arda and into the murk of His own black soul.
"Why dost thou tremble, Lord of Morgul? Hast fear come into thine heart? There is naught that thou canst do about it except babble from thy tower like a drunken fool! None of mortal birth can prevail against Me!" Sauron gloated.
"Thou art not he, fool!"
Seething with anger and fury, the Dark Lord thought at first to slay the Morgul King, but it was a far sweeter reprisal to let him live, squirming like a filth-covered worm under His finger. Gorthaur's eyes went to fiery slits as He surveyed the Númenórean before Him and roared in laughter.
Angmar had called forth all of his will, his power and his energy and turned his strength into a mighty spell of wrath and revenge. He raised both hands and unleashed a blazing bolt of hissing, sizzling lightning and the blue fire of fury and rage at the Base Master of Treachery. The explosion rocked the buildings to their foundations. The earth shook and the thunderous noise resounded off the mountains. Black acrid smoke burst out and then trailed away in ghostly vapors around the structures, which now glowed with an angry green sheen of hatred.
The brilliant diamond of the Ring on Angmar's hand flashed in a myriad of blinding sparks and the gold of the band began to cut into his finger, searing his flesh. His Ring was fighting him, turning against him when he needed its power the most. He stove to command the Ring's magick as he sensed through its powers that its true Master was in pain.
A flash of blind fear and panic filled the Dark Lord's eyes as He felt His helm crack, the mail curtain which hung about His cheeks tearing. A mighty blow smote his chest as His breastplate was rent. As He felt the black blood running into His eyes and His chest stinging from the gash, He knew that His body was far too weak yet to endure such such power. Perhaps He should have bade His time and waited, but did He not have the Three Dwarven Rings and now Eight of the Nine Rings of Power? He had miscalculated Angmar's strength and determination though, and now He found the Witch-king far stronger than He had expected.
"Let the fool dissipate his powers and sap his strength against My minions. He shall face Me alone later," the Dark Lord plotted darkly. The fiery eyes flashed spitefully and a slow, cunning smile curled across His lips.
"Canst thou do no better, pawn?" Sauron taunted, laughing as He retreated silently into the shadows.
Then at a command, Sauron's vanguard of orcs and men rushed at the Morgul Lord. His strength weakened now, still the Morgul Lord was a formidable opponent. He held his hands up and a cruel light played about his foes' faces and bodies, arcing from one of his hands to the other in a glow of brilliant white light. Then the rippling bolt of energy crashed into the cursing, screaming horde which poured towards him. When the light struck the first ranks, their bodies erupted in a spew of blood and gore, scattering bits of flesh and bone against the bodies of those behind them.
Stark, unreasoning terror engulfed the following ranks, but the horror of the One who commanded them drove them forward. Their fear was fed as they heard the Witch-king intoning spells of protection, hatred and power. Angmar traced a circle about him with his sword as he intoned the words of the spells.
His Ring struggled against him, burning his finger, searing it to the bone, as the diamond flamed in sparks of white fire and the gold gleamed with a raw intensity. Angered now, his Ring strove against his will and gripped his finger in a vise of searing heat. Flaming pain coursed from his hand to every fibre of his body and culminated in spiraling, swirling agony in the pit of his stomach. Still he set his defenses in his circle and faced those who would destroy him. He bared his teeth as he snarled the words of this curse:
Akûl agh bor, ghaash agh dushtala
Khûr latub agh shakgriig asht-latu
With all his resolve, he directed his will against his enemies and trembled as he felt his powers depleting with the force of the curse. The onrushing ranks charged towards him. A concussion wave struck the ground beneath them and they were rocked by the tremor of the earth. Some toppled over soundlessly, while others found a freezing cold surround them as their bones began to crumble and their bodies sag. The blood froze in their capillaries, veins and arteries, expanding with the freezing liquids as their bodies were torn asunder by the internal torment.
The Witch-king knew that such a great concentration of will and strength sapped his life-force, weakening him even more as he spent himself in his hatred and rage. He stood panting in the center of the circle as he felt the blood oozing from his pores and his heart close to bursting. Weariness assailed his body and his Ring renewed its efforts to force him to halt.
Waiting for this moment, the Dark Lord strode forward, His great cat-eyes narrowed to slits. He carried no weapons for He needed none. The Witch-king eyed him warily and stood his ground in the circle of power.
"Dost thou think that thou canst hide from Me in thy pathetic little fortress of spell-wrought defense?" the Dark Lord smirked. "I can destroy thee wherever thou shalt goest. There is no hiding from thy Master. I can see thee, body and soul!"
Together they had faced each other in the smoking, eerie glow of a tower that Gorthaur's might had destroyed. Then with howling, sizzling supernatural bolts and flames, Angmar strove against his Master yet again. Buildings and walls crumpled in catastrophic explosions as hissing red fire engulfed them. The Dark Lord's eyes had flashed and flamed with the dark power of hell. Then Sauron hurled the accumulated malice of His soul upon the Witch-king as a furious glowing orb of fire which struck Angmar's body like a withering tempest of knives.
The sky was ablaze with the fire and lightning of their fury which could be seen glowing eerily for miles. The people of Gondor trembled in fear and closed fast their shutters and bolted tight their doors, fearing that war was coming to them from out of the Valley of Living Death and the Nameless Land of Horror beyond.
Still, the Morgul Lord struggled against Him. With the last of his strength, he hurled a bolt of crackling blue lightning which struck and reverberated off the breastplate of the Dark Lord. Still He stood, laughing, for not one ring of His mail was even scorched this time.
"Thou weaken now, Lord of Morgul! Thou hast wasted thyself!" Gorthaur had shouted, and spewed forth His venom in a howling fury, a dark glowing cloud of might and sorcery that rolled over the Witch-king in waves of blinding pain. The Morgul Lord felt that his very soul was being torn from him and his body was being shredded with claws of iron. His own breath strangled him, suffocating him, as a rush of blood spewed out of his mouth and his entrails convulsed. His soul was being wrenched from him as his blighted body bent and reeled in pain.
Putrid, reeking morbidity, his own mortality swaying, giving away to corruption, he felt himself crushed in a vile, rank darkness of falling towers and swirling, crumbling shards which penetrated his body. He gasped as another bolt nearly toppled him.
At last his magic and strength drained and spent, Angmar stood on trembling legs as he reviled himself for his vanity and corporal weakness. Wild, primal crystals of ancient power and faceted jewels of exquisite beauty swirled about him as he retched, spewing blood from his mouth. He saw a tall mountain with three eagles soaring above its rising slopes. He heard in the distance the sound of the waves beating upon a shore that was covered in the midst of time. There was the strumming of a lute as a nightingale sang somewhere in a garden. Then the voice of Sauron boomed in his mind.
"Try one last time, fool! Hurl thy pathetic little fireballs at Me! I will twist them and turn them and unleash them against thee! Thou art beaten! Thou hast lost!"
Then at last giving into the weakness and pain, trembling and quivering, the Morgul Lord fell to his knees, his body ripped and mangled, his flesh seared, blood gushing from numberless gashes. He swayed and struggled to hold his head up but it was heavy and drooped with its own weight. Then he was walking across an emerald green field and watching as the sheep grazed peacefullyin the pastures of Emerië. Twilight had fallen and he needed to rest upon the green grass. He smiled and closed his eyes.
Then a great Voice called him back to sorrow and pain.
"Thy life is fragile, My weak, pathetic little kinglet. I hold it in My hand. Thy life hovers on the threshold of death. One more blow and thou shalt die and thy fëa flee wailing in terror. It shall not go far but wilt only come back to Me... Shall we explore this further?" Sauron's fiery eyes glinted in malevolence upon His blackened face.
"Why dost Thou prolong this farce? Let me die," Angmar whispered.
"Silence, thou fool! When thy spirit is drawn to Me, shall I cast thee away casually, uncaring, into the darkness of cold, everlasting night? It is but a simple matter to be rid of thee by casting thy Ring back into the cauldron of its creation." He chortled maliciously, towering before Angmar as an apparition of fury.
"Then do it," he laughed weakly and closed his eyes again. Gorthaur's words seemed trivial, petty, nothing more than a minor inconvenience that he brushed away with the wave of a hand. He sighed and wished for death.
"That would be too simple, little kinglet. Beg, My poppet, beg Me for thy wretched, miserable existence! Consider facing the judgment of Eru, the Remorseless One, and His penalty for all eternity! Fear THAT if thou dost not fear Me! I will show thee mercy, whereas He shall show thee none!"
"I do not give a damn now. The mercy of one Tyrant is as good as the mercy of another!" he laughed almost giddily.
"Let us see what thou sayest when the fate of thy soul hinges upon the fate of thy Ring!"
"The face of Mandos is far fairer than Thine," Angmar chuckled sarcastically before a blinding bolt of fierce power struck him down. His crown rolled from his head, clinking forlornly against the blistering cobblestones.
Ice and snow, fire and rain
Akûl agh bor, ghaash agh dushtala
Rend you and melt your bones
Khûr latub agh shakgriig asht-latu
Words in Shadowlandian (LOS) Black Speech dialect.
Canonical evidence of Nazgûl battles of flame and magic:
"I galloped to Weathertop like a gale, and I reached it before sundown on my second day from Bree - and they [the Nazgûl] were there before me. They drew away from me, for they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky. But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sûl. I was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame have not been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old." - Gandalf, "The Council of Elrond," The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 277
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