16. 16 - Death
Prince Imrahil and his son Elphir stood by Mithrandir and Éomer of Rohan upon the battlefield, looking down at a hideous yet still kingly helm. "They tell me he named himself to you as Death," the Prince commented.
"So he did," admitted the Wizard grimly.
"It would appear," Elphir said with forced lightness, "that in this case he was mistaken. Rather than wreaking your death, he found his own."
"And so he did indeed." With a sigh, the Wizard turned his attention to the black pool of fabric that had given the wraith what form he'd known, stirring and shifting it with the butt of his staff. "A noble he was once in Númenor, and a descendant of Elros Tar-Minyatur. But he desired to be powerful and a King in his own right, so he sailed east, returning to Middle Earth and founding the nation of Angmar. He came to fear death. When one calling himself Annatar came to him bearing a gift that promised immortality, he accepted it."
"And what did that profit him?" Éomer asked as Mithrandir uncovered a spiked gauntlet over a flattened glove of black leather. "He did not remain a Man. Nay, he became instead a wraith, no better than a barrow-wight or those who haunted the Paths of the Dead."
The White Wizard twisted his left hand into the fabric of his robe, lifted the gauntlet and glove, and shook them over his protected palm. All looked with revulsion at the blasted metal that fell out, all that remained of what had been the Nazgûl's Ring of Power. "I fear you are wiser than he was. Sauron's gift transformed him not into the godling he sought to become, but instead into the very form he'd feared most, trapping within the plane of mortality a spirit intended to eventually go free while allowing the body to lose its integrity." He shook his head. "Not all transformations are for the good, or so he found, but too late. Trying to cheat death, all he did was to enter into it without the benefits of being freed from the Circles of Arda." He lifted what remained of the ring and examined it. "Mayhap, now that your sister's blade has freed him at last from the spell of this, he will be able to find himself once again."
And outside the Bounds of Arda a belatedly released spirit sought to remember the name it had once borne.
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