In An Age Before – Part 44

Chapter Forty-four

The Caging of the Nine – The Second Age of the Sun

Note: hath any readers of the extant accounts of the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age wondered whither were engaged those most fearsome of Sauron's servants?  In none of JRR Tolkien's reports hath aught been told of their whereabouts during the Siege of the Barad-dúr and the fall of their master.  They appeared not during the war, nor hindered the final combat and the taking of Sauron's Ring.  Surely such fell allies would hath wrought terror upon the mortal Hosts of the Alliance, and 'naught but a few of the great amongst the Eldar of Lindon might hath withstood them.  T’would hath been a disaster.  Therefore such accounts as name their acts and place their whereabouts must surely be lost, for such a master of cunning and lover of despair as the Abhorred woulds’t not hath withheld their aid from his cause, save for some great reason.  Herein lies the account of their fate.

  Now spring had come in the year 3434, and upon the Ephel Duath farsighted eyes watched the march of the Host of Mordor commence.  ‘Twas 10 Gwirith.  From Gorgoroth the unruly columns of Yrch and Easterling Men followed the dusty roads through the Black Land to the Isenmouthe.  Amongst them strode dull-witted Tor, duller still for the enchantment Sauron had laid upon them that they could withstand the day, obliviously crushing underfoot any unlucky enough to get in their way.  Thence into Udûn they passed ere they issued from the Cirith Gorgor in a barely ordered mass, the last upon 13 Gwirith.  In the morn would Helluin and Beinvír take up again the war.

  “And now at last the time hath come, meldanya,” Helluin had said as she rose from their place of concealment with Anor’s first light.

  Beinvír had nodded, saying nothing, but she moved forward and wrapped the dark Noldo in her arms, crushing her with deceptive strength in a desperate hug. 

  “As ‘twas aforetime when I left Imladris, I shalt rejoin thee after all is done, whether upon the Hither Shores or the Blessed,” Helluin promised.

  “And I shalt await thee as aforetime, my love,” the Green Elf said, leaning up to kiss her lips, “even were it for a score of Ages.”  She could not help but recall the doom spoken by the Eagle.

  For long both held each other’s gaze, committing to memory for their comfort every striation in their beloved’s eyes and each nuance of expression in the soul behind them.  But finally they parted, letting their finger linger in contact yet a moment longer ere they separated at last.  Helluin thought her partner’s face would be the last fair thing she would see for many long days.  Instead, t’would be many years. 

  Immediately Helluin strode o’er the pinnacle of the Mountains of Shadow ere she could think better of it, while’st Beinvír hunkered down and watched her until she was’t but a distant speck traversing the Morgai.  Then she turned and made her way down the outer slope of the Ephel Duath, heading west towards Anduin.  At the foot of the mountains she knew a company of rangers awaited her, invisible, but felt.  The Green Elf would take up again her role as Chief Guardian, but this time serving as a battle commander in time of war.

  Now when Helluin topped the Morgai she took up the full measure of her stealth and not a wisp of dust did her feet raise as she descended that steep slope.  Ever her eyes flicked ‘cross the landscape, doing her best to contain the nausea its horrible ugliness brought to her stomach.  ‘Twas not a growing thing to be seen, nor visible water either, and ‘naught but black rock, frost-splintered and chipped to talus so sharp that a misstep would cut the soles of one’s boots.

  Finally Helluin reached the bottom and there struck the road leading to the Isenmouthe.  She swore she could still smell the stench of the Yrch in the air and clinging to the rocks.  Such miserly breezes as tried to alleviate it assailed the nostrils with a tang of flint, sharp, bitter, and dry.  ‘Twas now 14 Gwirith and Mordor lay emptied.

  Towards the south did Helluin made her way, and for a dozen miles she proceeded, watching as the Barad-dúr was’t eclipsed by Orodruin.  At the twelfth mile she came to a joining whereat the west road met a spur leading due east.  ‘Twas Sauron’s Road, the direct way to the Black Tower, which passed ‘nigh the Mountain of Fire and from whence branched the winding spur that climbed to the Sammath Naur¹¹(Sammath Naur, Chambers of Fire, the cavern inside of Orodruin which gave access to the magma core in the Cracks of Doom.  Here Sauron had forged the One Ring and performed other acts of dark sorcery.  Sindarin)

  A score of miles to her southwest, well up in the heights of the Ephel Duath, Helluin marked the narrow cleft of the Pass of Cirith Ungol.  It appeared as a notch, backlit with the ruddy light of the westering sun.  Almost it appeared engulfed in flame.  Thither had passed the forces which had assailed Minas Ithil five years aforetime, but now that way appeared disserted.  Still she went forward with stealth, slipping from harsh shadow to harsh shadow along the roadside.  She made but another two leagues ere she stopped for a rest in the last of the daylight.  A gulp of water and some waybread did she consume.

  Night was’t Helluin’s ally, wherein blessed shadows hid much, and she intended to use the dark to her advantage.  She welcomed the cooler air and the diminishing of detail in that abhorrent landscape which lay all about her.  The peaceful stillness was’t even gifted with starlight, but when she looked up she thought those twinkling points had never seemed so distant or so cold.  Still she breathed easier and her nausea abated.  Thence through the hours of darkness she traveled, adding the black shadows to her stealth, and passing another nine leagues.

  Dawn found the Noldo at the branch where her way met the road coming down from the High Pass.  But now both roads lay empty.  Sauron had truly emptied his lands.

  Now for some time the Barad-dúr had lain straight ahead, rising due east upon its black spur of rock.  Sunrise had shown it much nearer than it had been when it had faded into the previous evening’s gloaming.  Yet with each step Helluin took it seemed to loom closer.  Slowly it grew, yet not slowly enough, for no destination in Middle Earth could one consider less welcome.  ‘Twas an inescapable and threatening presence, felt as much as seen; a perfect symbol of the hopelessness and despair that lay upon that land..

  The Dark Tower rose 250 fathoms, the spur it stood upon another 80, bringing the pinnacle of its topmost battlement to almost 2,000 feet above the Plateau of Gorgoroth.  It dwarfed Angrenost, standing to four times its height.  Ever it seemed to loom taller, and the illusion of being naked to all eyes within it grew well ‘nigh unbearable.  The sole consolation was’t that it still lay yet two score miles ahead.

  Much closer now stood Orodruin.  Indeed that reeking cindercone ‘twas a scant five leagues away, and the foot of the climbing track to the Sammath Naur lay but eight leagues distant.  Surely, Helluin thought, no other place in all of Mordor would the Dark Lord watch so closely, if indeed he watched anything other than the progress of his armies.  At the very least, a disturbance thither t’would be most likely to draw attention should one desire it.  When she took up again her march, Helluin went forward with complete Laiquendi stealth, as though she were approaching a nearby corps of foes.

  At noon Helluin set her first foot upon the climbing road to the Sammath Naur, knowing that from here on there could be no turning back.  Indeed stealth had served her well thus far, but ‘twas a cloak she would soon shed.  Thence up that curving path she tread, the scent of brimstone and ammonia growing ever stronger, and it seemed a weak breeze contrived to deliver a choking dust of crushed rock and alkali to her throat.  Harsh glared Anor above and the rock heated ‘neath her boots and reflected back into her face.  Ever it seemed there was’t a scree underfoot threatening to cause a slip and betray her progress with a puff of dust.  Helluin had walked in many places, hot, cold, bright, dark, wet and dry.  In all her years no less hospitable journey could she recall since crossing the Helcaraxe well ‘nigh 4,000 years before.  Thus did Helluin trudge thither up Orodruin, sharing her way with ill memories, dust devils, and fumaroles.

  Now the fiery mountain stood in all 4,500 feet tall, having a base of cinders and ejected blocks rising 3,000 feet to a shoulder whereupon stood a cone of slags and hardened lava rivulets 1,500 feet tall.  The threshold of the Sammath Naur lay roughly halfway up the inner cone to the summit, placing it 3,750 feet above Gorgoroth.  Thence adding the curve of the road as it wound its doesil¹ circuit from east to west, made the climbing track in all 18 miles.  ¹(doesil, clockwise or sun’s way)

  Anor hung low above the Ephel Duath and the shadow of Orodruin reached east so that its tip lay at the feet of the Barad-dúr when Helluin came at last before the door of the Sammath Naur.  For long moments she stood looking out through the reek of fumes to Gorgoroth below.  Then she cast her eyes on Sauron’s Road, following it east, tracing it to the rising causeway that delivered it across the more broken lands a score miles on. There it passed ‘twixt fuming chasms founded upon beds of lava, and finally to the great iron bridge, a full mile in length, that carried the way o’er the abyss where the two chasms met.

  The bridge wavered in the shimmering heat from the magma far below that cast up a ruddy glow upon its undersides while leaving the road bed above dark as a ramp of night.  Helluin’s Elven sight followed the way across that last bridge to the western gate of the Barad-dúr, flanked by towers of iron, and barred with banded door and spiked portcullis.  In the shadows and the wavering glare moved tiny specks, sentries of the Black Tower dwarfed by their surroundings, for the gate rose twenty fathoms high and stood twenty fathoms wide.

  Helluin let her eyes travel upwards.  Battlements crowned massive walls, arches conveyed walkways wide as city avenues, and tower built upon tower upwards to the bleak sky.  Crowning all was’t the shaft of the Black Tower itself, like a jagged spike of jet, pierced by windows like dead eyes, and crowned with cruel paired horns like a Valaraukar.  What inconceivable weight bore down upon the tortured stone of its foundations, she wondered, what crushing, grinding, ceaseless pressure exerted o’er pits and dungeons delved to hopeless depths that never saw light of day?  She had seen its foundation and knew those massive walls rested on courses twenty yards thick.  She had seen the prisons beneath o’er 2,000 years before ere they were roofed forever in granite and steel.  ‘Twas a city built vertically within a shell of walls, and all was’t capped with an eye unsleeping.  Helluin blinked and turned her sight away to gaze behind her at the door leading into the mountain.

  The entrance was’t marked by ‘naught but a lintel supported upon fluted posts, devoid of any writing or image, yet clearly the work of its master, for ‘twas black and conveyed an impression of gnashing teeth.  ‘Twas wholly fitting, Helluin thought as she strode towards it, for a place that was ‘naught but the mouth of hell. 

  Darkness crept from the Sammath Naur, yet within its depths lay a wavering ruddy light just to be perceived.  From the maw of the mountain came also a whispered groan of tortured halls where magma moved in ceaseless rivers flowing out towards the Black Tower.  Here lay the heart of the fires of Sauron’s sorceries, the well spring of dark energy for his fell power.  He had tapped that infernal heat to shape his One Ring ere he bound it to his will.  With that heat he had tempered his creation such that no lesser heat would affect it or suffice to unmake it.

  Upon the threshold of the Sammath Naur Helluin stopped and turned again to face the Black Land.  She watched as the light faded above the Ephel Duath, casting the eastern slopes into darkness.  Quickly that shade spread across the blasted and tumbled landscape, swallowing boulder, fissure, and crag.  Night fell upon Mordor like a blight upon a field of crops, or the spread of gangrene in a septic wound.  To her eyes, it fairly leapt toward her across the leagues of Gorgoroth.  

  In a flash Orodruin was’t enveloped in darkness as though Anor had winked out.  The blackness surged across the tumbled wasteland to the feet of the Barad-dúr.  And then slowly at first it climbed the Black Tower, enveloping wall and battlement and arch.  Windows winked with torchlight from bottom to top; fires cast ruddy glows upon the walls of inner courtyards.  Roiling lava again under-lit the great iron bridge as night returned to the Black Land.  Still the darkness climbed.

  Nightfall reached the Ered Lithui that backs the Barad-dúr, and the distance between the mountains and the tower gave the illusion that its pace there lagged behind the ascent upon the Sauron’s fortress, yet immediately it seemed to accelerate in a bid to catch up.  Helluin watched in silence as with a final effort the shadow crested the mountains and the tower in the same heartbeat.  Mordor lay under night.  ‘Twas 15 Gwirith.  She waited yet another heartbeat.

  From the very doorstep of the Sammath Naur a radiance lit the night, stabbing out like a beam from the Chambers of Fire to the topmost chamber of the Barad-dúr.  But this was’t not the ruddy light of Sauron’s fires.  Instead ‘twas as if a star had fallen to that high place above the Plateau of Gorgoroth, twinkling like a fair diamond in that accursed land.  Its color blended silver and gold in a ril preserved from another Age of the world.  The Light of the Two Trees that his master had snuffed out came now again to haunt the counsels of Sauron Gorthaur.  It flared within his land, his realm, and upon the very threshold of the heart of his power.  While he had sent forth his armies and hosts to lay waste the lands of Rhovanion, one had come in unhindered defiance to wrest from him a prize he would suffer none other to hold.  And he knew who it was’t!  Oh yes, he knew who would dare such an impertinence.  Only one would invade his land in stealth and then proclaim herself thus in challenge. 

  In a blind rage the Lord of the Black Tower projected his Maia sight.  Upon the doorstep leading to the Cracks of Doom stood Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, a sneer upon her face, and the Sarchram held aloft, glowing so that the cirth upon it shone like fire.  She stared him directly in the eyes ‘cross the miles between and drew her black sword.

  I shalt hath thy head, thou craven slave of a fallen master!  Face me now as thou dared not aforetime!  To the power my Ring shalt I add the power of thine, for of my darkness dids’t thy inspiration come, thou lowly plagiarist.  Ever hath thou been the follower.  He heard her derisive mockery ringing clearly in his ears.

  With a savage snarl he blinked and slammed shut the connection.  In the chamber behind him, Shadows paced and their count was’t Nine.

  “Get thee hence unto Orodruin!”  He shrieked.  “Bring the Mórgolodh to me alive!”

  The nine Úlairi fled to do his bidding.  When he again looked out the window the star’s light was’t extinguished and the night returned to black.  No trace of his enemy could he see.  Yet his skin crawled and his heart seethed with hatred and a tinge of fear.  Could he actually lose his power to her?  Even a Maia such as he knew not all that was’t in the Song, and his master, far mightier than he, had twice fallen and was’t now trapped in the Void whither Helluin’s weapon also consigned her vanquished.  The symmetry he perceived therein reeked of doom.  Sauron felt fear and he hated it.  He fixed his Eye on the Fiery Mountain and ‘twas long ere his gaze returned to the march of his host.

  Now in the darkness within the doorway upon Orodruin, Helluin sought the deepest shadows, and with her Elven cloak wrapped about her, she preserved her invisibility even from the Eye of Sauron, for though his sight could pierce distance, stone, and flesh, never since 1600 had he been able to pierce the cordon of fire Helluin had surrounded herself with.  Thither she stood and watched the Black Land, and thither she waited. 

  A half hour after her display she noted the raising of the portcullis of the Black Tower’s western gate.  She marked the swift ride of the Nine upon their black steeds whose shoes threw sparks as they charged across the iron bridge.  The Úlairi were dressed in rags it seemed, swathed in black cloaks so shabby as to make her own travel worn garb seem the height of fashion.  Without pause they passed onto the causeway between the chasms of fire.  They spared not their horses all that night.  Hour after hour they raced towards her.  ‘Twas forty miles to the ascending road ‘round Orodruin and another six leagues upwards ere they came to the Sammath Naur.  Helluin figured she had a good four hours to wait.

  Two hours past midnight she heard the faltering clop of hooves upon the climbing road.  The gait of the black horses told of exhaustion; staggering feet, hocks shaking with effort, and breathing that came in labored gasps and snorts.  The Úlairi had ridden their horses to death to fulfill their master’s demands.  Indeed the first steed collapsed two furlongs shy of the doorway and a squealing of frustration rent the air.  Ere the Nine stood before the door, four more mounts had fallen, their hearts burst from the cruelly sustained effort.

  And finally the Nine Ringwraiths gathered before the entrance to the Sammath Naur.  Warily they probed the darkness within, sniffling, shifting their heads, seeking for scent or sound, their hoods tilting to and fro.  All they perceived was’t the stench of brimstone, the foul exhalations of the mountain, and the roaring from its molten core.  Helluin watched them from where she knelt, halfway down the ramp that ended in Sauron’s workplace high above the lake of fire.  With uncertain tread they advanced, swords drawn, moving in a rough line across the breadth of walkway that precluded any escape. 

  Now Helluin had enjoyed ample time to explore while’st she awaited the ride of the Nine.  Through the thickness of the volcano’s wall a causeway led inward until it passed o’er a lake of lava.  She had walked that ramp to its end.  Thither in the heart of the Chamber of Fire stood a pier of stone, its top sheared off flat, whereupon Sauron conducted his dark sorceries and craft.

  Thither accoutrements and paraphernalia of a great forge stood incongruously ‘nigh the trappings of an altar.  Many were the ceremonies and incantations to Morgoth that the Dark Lord had held in this place, and hither too he had forged his Ring.  Hither had he formed himself a suit of armor and a black mace fashioned after Grond, his master’s Hammer of the Underworld with which Morgoth had smote down the High King Fingolfin.  Hither as well he had cemented the corruption of Celebrimbor’s Nine and six of the Seven which he had captured, infusing them with his evil will and the dark fire he’d discovered in the mountain’s heart.  Many offerings of living victims had he made in this place, and though their bodies had long since been cast into the lava below, the manacles and chains of their captivity hung ever down from the far off heights of the volcano’s summit.

  In that place the heat had been stifling, the reek of fumes had burnt Helluin’s throat, and the lingering aura of Darkness that lay o’er all had beat upon her fëa like an o’erwhelming wave.  She could fairly hear the pounding of Sauron’s hammer upon tortured steel, lain like an enemy to be broken upon an anvil in the shape of a Tor bent upon all fours, and her ears were assailed by the screams of sacrificed victims and the echoes of Sauron’s incantations.  With a great effort she had blocked it all out, reinforcing the spiritual barricade about her fëa.  Helluin had retreated halfway back down the ramp towards the door, very near to where the wall’s inner face rose up to the mountain’s vent, and there set herself to make her opening stand.

  Now the Úlairi advanced, still oblivious to her presence, but ever wary.  They had remained in formation, blocking the width of the passage through the mountain’s wall.  Helluin had long since resheathed Anguirél and set the Sarchram upon her belt.  She had doffed her cloak and her travel bag, and for the first time in centuries she had donned her mithril hauberk.  Now she took up her bow, and from her quiver knocked the first three of her white arrows, carefully keeping their mithril heads concealed behind her armored knee.  She watched the Ringwraiths advance step by uncertain step, and she willed them closer.

  Deliver thyselves unto me, O thou who art damned and doomed, for in this place shalt I constrain thee ere I send hence thy wretched spirits unto the Void. 

  Perhaps ‘twas some residual familiarity ‘twixt the wraith who had once been Tindomul and Helluin that allowed the Lord of the Nazgûl to first sense Helluin’s figure upon the ramp.  Perhaps ‘twas simply the fortune of his central position in their line and some flare of incandescence from the magma below.  Yet for whatever reason, when the Nine were halfway ‘twixt the door and where Helluin knelt he was’t aware of her.  In that moment he stiffened, rose full from his crouch, and let forth a shriek of warning and hate.  The other eight started and cast their senses hence, and before them Helluin rose to her feet.

  Yet the Nine see not with mortal vision, but rather with vision attuned to the world of shadows and the realm of the spirit.  What they beheld arising before them was’t not an Elven warrior in black armor, but rather a figure of terrible light, mighty in its power and blinding in its wrath.  It loomed up, flaring bright with the hated Light of Aman that they could not withstand, and the sudden onset of that Holy Brilliance made them flinch back and cower.  In the moment of their blindness none of them marked the three lesser points of light upon the arrowheads, or the bow that Helluin drew to give them flight.

  Now later tales tell much of the fading wrought by the spells of mórgúl¹ wounds and the accursed weapons that deliver them.  Much too hath been said of Elven magic and the powers of the Eldar.  In the flight of Helluin’s arrows the two forces came against each other, and the dark powers of their master availed the Nazgûl ‘naught, for the power that came of the Light of the Two Trees, the work of the Blessed Valier Yavanna, was’t more potent than that of any fallen Maia.  ¹(mórgúl, black magic = mór(black) + gúl(magic)  Sindarin)

  Helluin’s three arrows found their marks in the shrouded forms of the leftmost three of the Ringwraiths and the wounds they wrought were bitter.  The Light of Aman was’t as the most toxic venom of asp or viper to these damned who had once been Men.  The Silmarils had suffered not the touch of any unclean spirit, and so the arrowheads forged of mithril, purest of metals, that had been illuminated by the ril cast through the palantír of Elostirion, burned the undead substance of the three Nazgûl.  They fell as they would hath fallen had they been struck with Elven arrows while they were still living Men, and the touch of those arrows burned in their wounds with fire as it were a poison in their veins.  Upon the rough stone of the causeway they shrieked and thrashed, rending their cloaks and crying out in anguish.  Indeed Helluin hoped they would die forever, but rather they vanished, their naked spirits fled back to the Black Tower of their master, there to endure his scorn through long years of recuperation, and leaving behind but empty rags and withered arrows.

  In a moment the remaining six wraiths recovered, and in a rage they charged.  In the moments it took them to cross the distance ‘twixt Helluin and themselves, she knocked and fired again, striking the phantasmal three upon the right.  Ere Helluin could fire a third time, Tindomul and the two wraiths flanking him were upon her and she dropped her bow and drew the Sarchram and her sword.

  Now oft aforetime had Helluin faced many enemies together, wielding her weapons against them in a fury; facing the three remaining Nazgûl was’t no different.  She had no time to enjoy the anguished throes of her fallen enemies or to rue their disappearance.  She had not even a moment to count the loss of her bow and quiver when one of the last three kicked them off the ramp and onto the rocks above the lava below.  All she could do was let her battle fury take her to that place of infinite determination and thoughtless courage, and she screamed “Beltho Huiniath” as she hewed at them with Anguirél and the Grave Wing.

  The Chambers of Fire rang with the clash of steel, Helluin’s battle cry, and the shrieks of the Nazgûl.  Despite being one fighting alone against three, Helluin drove them back step by step.  The Ringwraiths could barely withstand the blinding flare of Light that marked her rage, and the Sarchram they feared as did their master.  In their original lives, none had even come close to matching her prowess with weapons.  Tindomul their lord had fallen easily by her hand.  Ever the black blade Anguirél cried out for their lives and cursed them in its fell voice as it clove the air and met their own steel with shocking force.  And no fear could their sorcery lay upon the spirit of so powerful an Amanya; not then, nor upon any day thereafter.  They had already lost six of their company in the opening moments of combat.  Indeed they realized that though they were the three most powerful of their kind, they would be fortunate to survive this contest at all.

  Now Helluin indeed drove back her foes into the tunnel through the volcano’s wall, and they, thinking now to flee and regroup, and thence to return upon some later day, turned to make for the door of the Sammath Naur.  But Helluin had no intention of abetting their flight.  Their master had fled her and she had chaffed ever after at his cowardice through half the years of the Second Age.  Nay, she would accept not the withdrawal of the Nazgûl from this battlefield.

  With a shout she flung the deadly Sarchram.  The wraiths leapt aside at its passing, flinging themselves to the ground, while’st the Grave Wing ricocheted from wall to wall o’erhead.  It flew on to shatter the roof of the passageway just inside the door with a cascade of sparks.  Without conscious thought Helluin raised her hand to recapture the returning Ring, while’st the threshold collapsed in a ground shaking fall of boulders and a blinding cloud of dust.  The way from the Sammath Naur was’t sealed shut.

  “Come’th thou in search of thy second fall, O Tindomul, accursed son of Númenor?”  Helluin cried out, taunting the Lord of the Nazgûl as he reclaimed his feet.  “And what of thee?’  She chided, eyeing the other two, “Hath thou forfeited thy names in thy haste to serve thy craven lord as slaves?”  She offered them a sneer.

  “We hath come to take and bind thee, mórgolodh,” said one of the two unknown to Helluin.  “So say I, Khamûl, King of Samar’Khand!”

  “An Easterling king of Khand thou may hath been upon a time, Khamûl, yet now thou art fallen into thralldom,” Helluin spat.  “Come thou hither and I shalt release thee from thy disgrace.  And what of thou?”  She demanded, turning her gaze upon the third of the Úlairi.  Her eyes were kindled with blue fire.

  The remaining Nazgûl said ‘naught and merely watched her with sword held ready.  So, a shred of wisdom this one retains, Helluin thought, offering nothing and partaking not of banter.  And thereafter she held a more equal regard for her third enemy.

  And now Helluin stalked her foes, mocking and cursing them, fully intending to send their corrupted fëar to the Void.  Their combat continued and Helluin hewed mercilessly at her enemies, but the three wraiths spread out and fought defensively, one attacking and two relieving in turns, pressing only enough to remain engaged, and ever they shied from the Sarchram and the sizzling blue fire in her eyes.  For her part, Helluin fought on tirelessly, lust of battle sustaining her more readily than food, drink, or rest.  She locked completely her focus; her will directing her body without thought.  ‘Twas a place foreign to the Eldar, for no other amongst them had so closely embraced their wrath and then applied it to war craft.  Here indeed was’t the Helluin that the other Noldor feared.

  Soon the count of time lost its meaning.  Within the Fiery Mountain ‘twas neither sun nor moon, nor day or night, no passing seasons nor cycling of years.  All that mattered was’t the clashing of steel and the sharpening of the senses.  Helluin would fight until the End of Days or her own Fading should her enemies still face her.  So long as they stood, she would seek to destroy them.  And Tindomul/Murazor, Lord of the Nazgûl most of all did she seek to slay, to set thus at last to rights forever the birth of his service ‘neath Sauron which had been accomplished at Pelargir by her hand.

  Slowly, with the prolonging of the combat, all parties came to delve the souls of the others as only lovers and deadly enemies can, and Helluin, in some corner of her mind, marked the heightened grace and lesser power of the third Nazgûl, the one who had said ‘naught to her, and on some level she came to a realization.  The third in charge of the Úlairi had once been a woman!  Whether a dark sorceress, pitiless queen, or fearsome warrior, Helluin might never know, yet already she had learnt more of her enemies than any amongst the Wise.  As it were in another world far removed from Arda’s trials and tribulations, the battle within Mt. Doom continued, while’st outside in the lands of Gondor, Rhovanion, and Mordor, the War of the Last Alliance raged on.

To be continued

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