The Circles - Book One - Chapter Twenty-two - Riders of the Winds

The Circles - Book One - The Triumph of the Shadow
Chapter Twenty-two
Riders of the Winds
Written by Angmar

Their Lieutenant leading, the rows of cavalry moved on towards the road. With his turbaned helm, sable robes, and prancing stallion beneath him, he would have cut a dashing sight this day. However, the rain that poured from the swollen skies had drenched him. Now the folds of the crimson and white striped turban had slid down upon his brow, and the long ends of the scarf were plastered to his back. He realized bitterly that both he and his cavalry resembled the bedraggled survivors of a flood, but he solaced himself with the knowledge that the enemy looked no better.

The men knew well enough what the sound of the distant horns portended. They had heard them enough on the fields in the South and had learned to dread them, for the Riders of Rohan were every bit as fierce as any of the Easterlings and Southrons.

"Halt!" came the Lieutenant's command as he held up his right arm. His order was repeated many times through the rows behind him.

Captain Kourosh, the kohl upon his eyelids smudging in downpour, was momentarily blinded by the sheets of driving rain. Blinking the water out of his eyes, he gave his men the order to halt. In the west, the jagged forks of lightning knifed through the dark, billowing clouds. Turning to Tooraj, the Captain saw the look of apprehension upon the youth's face.

"'Twould appear that we have unexpected guests upon the field. They are as noisome as crowing cocks proclaiming their lusty mounting of a hen!" the Captain said with grim humor. "We shall give them a warm welcome, and perhaps we will hew the spurs off their shanks."

"Captain," Tooraj asked nervously, "what will this storm do to the clouds that protect us?"

"If we are fortunate, all we will have is an unexpected bath. If fate is ill-disposed, we could have something quite different," replied the Captain.

"I would prefer the bath and naught else," Tooraj attempted a laugh.

"Should the clouds continue to unleash their torrents, the field will soon be a great muck. Let us hope it will not cast down a morass for our steeds and us."

A great clap of thunder sounded from the west and lightning again cut the fabric of the sky into ribbons. The Captain looked up at the perilous heavens and began to feel doubt for the first time. He did not want Tooraj or any of the men to see his darkening reflections.

"Tooraj, remember this army is invincible, but," the Captain said wryly, "things may get a little rough."

"Aye, Captain, there are none like us," Tooraj answered. "We are invincible and will take the worst they can send us!"

"Ask the Righteous Gods for protection against the Gods of Wrath!" Captain Kourosh's hand went to his neck and he pulled a leather cord from beneath his tunic. "See?" he said, holding an object in his palm. "The sign of the Hammer," he looked at Tooraj, "for protection."

"Aye, Captain," Tooraj replied eagerly as he fetched a like amulet from his own tunic. "I have one wrought in the same design! And," he added, looking slightly flustered, "just for luck, there is another. This," he said as he pulled a second charm from out of his tunic, "came from the Darkness of the Sky and is dedicated, solely for good fortune, you understand, to the Unknown Gods. One can never be too sure." He smiled nervously as he held the heavy black stone in his hand.

"No," the Captain smiled slightly, "you never can be too sure." May the souls of our ancestors, he thought to himself, protect us, if they even yet endure!

"If I should fall," Tooraj smiled bravely, "and you are able, take these to my brother and tell him that when he looks at them, to remember me."

"Trooper, do not speak in such words. You are afraid, are you not?"

"Aye, I would be a damned fool not to be!"

"Wise lad!"

The rain slackened and a mighty noise was heard high in the heavens to the west. Those Riders who lived to tell the tale say that the ghostly Horn of Helm was sounded far off. Others - doubters and skeptics - say that the noise was merely an echoing rumble of thunder.

Across their field of vision, the men manning the Deep watched in awe as strange bluish fire arced across the tops of two of the great catapults. The orcs and men beneath the stone throwers quailed in fear. Looking above them, they saw the spectral flames, glowing orbs of light dancing like fire from the hand of a wrathful avenger.

"The Two Dark Gods!" came up the cry from those manning the catapults. "Dread Melkor and the Great Eye! They demand blood sacrifice and only then will They be satiated! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!" Seeing some of their comrades, the men laid hold of them. In their maddened fear, they hurled the struggling, screaming men to the ground, plunging their daggers over and over into twitching and quivering bodies.

The strange light vanished as quickly as it had come. A great shout went up - "The Gods are appeased!" But the men who had wielded the daggers stared about them in befuddlement, their glazed eyes not fully comprehending what they had just done. "Kapurdri, battle madness," murmured others who had beheld the bloody spectacle.

Other eyes were watching the battle unfold. In His tower, the Dark Lord frowned as He gazed into the Ithil Stone, His Heart troubled. Far away in Valinor beyond the Circles of the World, the Valar and their host studied the field, just as they gazed upon the doings of all battles and noble quests. Manwë, Lord of the Breath of Arda, grieved at how the Men of Darkness had misread his storm, while Yavanna, Giver of Fruits, wept in sorrow at their abuse of her gifts.

The wolf-riders had begun the day confident that before night fell there would be man's-flesh in their stomachs. Now they watched in terror as a dark flock of birds arose in the northeastern skies and sang. The plumed shafts plummeted downward, many of their songs challenged by orcish shields. Yet many arrows bored into the bodies of the forward riders and sent wolf and orc screaming to the ground. After a fierce little fight, both rider and beast came howling back, seeking safety.

The raindrops slowed in their downward descent and pattered gently on the cloak of Captain Kourosh, a soft touch, the fingers of destiny. The winds from the West played with the edges of the dark clouds above and, laughing, tossed them aside. Shuddering, the great cloud of darkness burst asunder and the golden bloom of the sun grew upon the eastern sky. Somewhere in the vastness of Helm's Deep, a gong struck a quarter past the hour of nine.

Then the Easterling cavalrymen saw them on the horizon, shields with white horses on green fields, mail and spear-points gleaming brightly in the sun. With them rode others bearing strange heraldry, the likes of which had not been seen for many ages of Men. Indeed, it was the Elvish host from the North who had answered the desperate message for help that had been sent to Rivendell by Aragorn ere the siege of Dol Amroth.

"The damned Riders!" the men cried.

The Lieutenant shouted above the clamor. "Turn and meet them! Do not let them flank us! Right wheel!"

He thought to himself, "Doom comes upon the rain!"

"Right wheel! Right wheel! Turn and face them or they will destroy us!" the Lieutenant screamed again, and his panicked words were echoed up and down the line.

The Mordorian line swung to the right and turned to face their old enemies from the South as their ancestors had faced them long ago. The memories of those disastrous engagements still lived in the folklore of the Easterlings.

"This will not be another Field of Celebrant!" the cavalry Lieutenant told the aides who rode near him.

The Rohirrim were singing their songs of slaying, and the Elves were softly chanting words in their own language, the deep, sonorous voices of the Eorlings mixing with the fair voices of the Elves. The Easterlings and Southrons heard a tongue such as they had never heard before, raised with the Rohirrim in a terrifying song of death.

The two great forces of cavalry faced each other, searching for weakness in the other. To the southwest loomed the Fortress of Helm's Deep. The buckets of the great, towering catapults hurled strange fire darts which no water could quench. Even from this distance, the men could hear the sound of the rams as they swung ceaselessly against the Great Gate.

The Mordor army in front of the walls of the fortress waited apprehensively, on alert now for an attack from the rear. At the sight of the sun, the orcs who could not bear the light took whatever cover they could find. Others looked around with wide, panicked eyes, ready to bolt if their officers did not hold them in check. Even the great Black Uruks, who defied the light, did not laugh this time at their weaker comrades' fear. Silent words of prayer were mouthed to Melkor and Sauron, pleading that their cavalry would hold strong.

The whole field appeared transfixed as men, orcs and animals seemed caught, as though in a tapestry, the threads already woven. A great silence came over all, and the sound of the battering rams seemed to mute. Then like the clear horn of Oromë came a strong, melodic voice.

"Utúlie'n aurë!" an Elf riding on a white horse cried. The gems upon the horse's headstall reflected the light of the glowing sun, the glittering stones flashing in the new sunlight.

Another clear voice echoed his words. "Auta i lómë!"

"Captain," Tooraj hissed, "there, the force advancing! What are those folk and what are they saying?!"

"Elves... and Men with them! I do not know what they say, only that the words sound like Elvish mumblings! They are witches and practice dark magick!"

Captain Kourosh's men murmured. "Elves do not fight as allies of Men!"

Over the din, Sergeant Daungha shouted, "The bastards are Elves! Elves with fierce, glowing, bright eyes! Fell shades upon the field!"

Corporal Babak, riding beside Sergeant Daungha, exclaimed, "Wood witches! They are evil and fey!" The corporal looked at them intently. "Sergeant, can they be killed? It is said they cannot die and they live forever!"

"We shall see if the demons have blood," the sergeant replied.

The hated, feared word, "Elves! Elves!" swept all across the field like a raging wildfire. Many men and orcs were sorely afraid, trembling and quailing in fear.

When the Lieutenant looked out upon the enemy cavalry host, his eyes widened in dismay. He turned and said to one of his bodyguards, "Elves and Rohirrim! This cannot be! Elves do not fight with Men!"

The Lieutenant's heart seemed to constrict in his chest. Fear such as he had never felt in all his days assailed him. At the sight of the Elvish host, an evil seed of doubt had sprouted in his mind, had taken root, and was beginning to grow. Sweat added to the moisture under his turbaned helm, soaked his back, and poured from his armpits. He fought for control over his emotions.

Many in the army to their left had turned and looked towards the enemy. No orders were given for them to unleash a hail of arrows towards the approaching enemy. The range was too great for their bows. If their arrows fell short, they might strike the backs of their own cavalry.

The cavalry commander looked at the cloud of enemy horsemen ahead of them. "Halt! Bowmen at the ready!" he screamed. "Choose every target with care! Drive them back! Let them taste the nectar of death!"

"Unleash arrows!"

The mounted archers poured forth a volley of fearsome, venom-dipped arrows into the approaching foe. Many a clear voice was forever stilled as both men and elves slumped in their saddles.

Then like a clarion call they heard across the field, "Forth Eorlingas!"

"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!" the Elves cried again.

The host of Men and Elves began to surge forward, going slowly at first, and then gaining speed, their horses thundering across the field. The lances held by the men and elves were thrust forward, a sharp, gleaming force of moving death.

"Look up! Look up!" the Lieutenant screamed. "Take heart! Help comes from the sky!"

And then he bellowed, "Charge!"

High above them came the screams of the Nazgûl sounding once again as the Nine rode the air, offering protection to the Easterling and Southron host below. Flying over the fortress, then turning to the Deeping Coomb, they passed over the galloping host of Elves and Men, their presence bringing fear to many enemy horsemen and chargers. They raised their voices and began to chant the Song of Black Shadow.

Lash-izgu, Shakh Matum-ob, iis-ûk Laush Bûrgul-ob Mor
Bugd-izgu pardahûn Bûrzum-ob Motsham
Tiimor agh bûf ish-izubu-u, ûk-u mirz mazauk-izibu kau
Gaakh tuglu-ulub bhadûrat hîsht-u agh ashtu
Agh kraibagum agh matum norkatulûk!

Naan narish-izubu-u lash-izgu Laush Hûr-ob
Naakh-ob gundûrz quiin-tala, shapat-tala
Mau-ob hûr agh rûku narufuz
Narbûf-ob agh pardahûn-ob

Khlaar-izishu, ûk shaishi mogu-izubu
Skaiugu ish-izubu-tala
Bhoghâtugu ûk-tala mirz obâsh Mog Shakh-ob

Nine dark shadows traveled across the ground and the host of the foe, bringing the chill cold of death with them. Some horses, a frenzy of fear upon them, could not be controlled by their riders and plunged headlong in all directions. Some men, caught in a trance of dread, toppled soundlessly from their mounts. Yet the men of the East and South were heartened, and their steeds were steadied.

The Nazgûl wheeled around, swooping low, and sought targets among the leaders of the advancing enemy, aiming for their backs. Nine arrows were sent from bowstrings and nine bodies below toppled from their saddles. By fate or by fortune, the darts fell astray in the chaos, missing their intended victims but striking others in their stead.

The Elf horseman of the clear sweet voice still rode his horse and chanted as the beast gathered momentum.

"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!"

A touch on the reins and the fell beasts soared suddenly upward.

"Urk!" the Witch-king of Angmar screamed. "Are your arms so weak today? Why do your arrows not fall true?"

"The damned Elves!" Rutfîmûrz, the Sixth, shrieked. "They have cast spells of magick about their accursed armies!"

As his beast soared high into the air, Angmar retorted, "Superstitious nonsense! They are not all-powerful!"

The Elven archers retaliated and sent a hail of arrows streaming after the riders in the sky. Arrows whistled about them as the Nine guided their beasts back towards the Deep, urging the powerful creatures to greater speeds.

"Close!" cried Rutfîmûrz as an arrow lightly skimmed over one of his thighs, scraping against the mail halberk which hung to his knee.

"Too damned close!" Gothmog, the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul, screamed as an arrow came perilously close to his head.

"By the Hammer of the Underworld!" shrieked the Witch-king. "That damned Glorfindel! Ever does he plague my steps! He is with the Horse-lords now! Did you not see him as we swooped down upon them?!"

"Akh, I saw him!" the shrill cry of Udukhatûrz, the Seventh Nazgûl, rose above the others. "Which one of us would not? He shines like the phosphorescent glow of a corpse-light!" Udu remarked sarcastically and then turned back in his saddle to look on the field behind them.

The two hosts of cavalry clashed against each other with great fury, men and horses screaming as spears plunged into their bodies. Down below them, the Nazgûl could see the field, a writhing, twisting orgy of carnage.

At a ferocious gallop, Éomer King, his countenance terrible to behold, drove his spear straight away through the shield of the charging Easterling Lieutenant. The spear penetrated the shield and tore into the man's halberk, piercing his chest and smashing his ribs, tearing away his whole spine through his back. The lance of the Lord of the Mark thrust well home, causing the Variag's body to topple backwards from his saddle. Then the Khandian was hurled dead, blood gurgling from his mouth, a full spear-length away. Those of his men who saw the Lieutenant's fall were in dismay, leaderless, their courage battered. Still they fought on, but tried to stay a goodly distance from the King of Rohan.

Even at this height, the sensitive nostrils of the Nazgûl could pick up a hint of blood upon the breeze. Zagbolg, the Bloodthirsty, the Fourth Nazgûl and the Messenger of Dol Guldur, licked his lips at the smell.

"Ahhhh," he sighed, his eyes closing as he thought of the taste of the pleasant, warm liquid in his mouth.

The fell beasts carried their riders far over their own lines near the fortress. The Dark Captain gave the order, "Turn, my lords, back over the field of battle! Come upon them from the rear again! Have your arrows nocked in readiness! Let our enemies feel the rending foreshadowing of death in their hearts! Let their marrow turn to ice!"

"I cannot see!" cried Khamûl as the Nine Kings soared. "The sun is blinding me, and we are riding back into the full, glaring face of the light! Which way? Which way?!" he shrieked in consternation, putting his hand over his eyes.

Khamûl the Black Easterling was Second to the Chief and the Lord of Dol Guldur. He was the most devout of all the Nine save for the Black Captain himself, but Khamûl's power was the most confused and diminished by the light of the sun.

"Blind fool," Krakfakhthal, the Fifth Nazgûl, muttered. "He will be lost again soon. Blind men should never be sent to wage war!"

"I do not feel exactly comforted by the brightness either," Zagbolg hissed. "The fell sun hampers my vision greatly, almost as much as it does our brother Khamûl!"

"Discipline your wills, for you no longer seem to have control over them! We have fought before in the day and we shall do so again! Let the eyes of your beasts guide you!" the Morgul Lord screamed in anger.

Skrishau, the Eighth Nazgûl, said in his usual dry fashion, "The beasts cannot fire arrows, my lord..."

"Gaakh ghru-lab grazadhat-bo!" Angmar snarled in irritation.

"Bolkub-izg nar ghru-izub ruz-ishi gund Mandos-ob!" Skri laughed drolly.

Ignoring Skrishau, Angmar commanded, "My lords, the enemy is directly below us now, striving with our men! Let us weave our Songs of Deep Magick, of Death, Desolation and Destruction! Overcome our foes with our Songs of Might! The men are far more frightened of us than we are of them!"

"My king," Skrishau said almost superciliously as he rode close to his captain, "the Elves do not fear us." Angmar saw Skri's mouth turning up in a smirking smile.

Angmar bared his teeth at him and hissed. "Gaakh pu-lab grazadhat-bo!"

"Agh orsk Mandos ghashanu-izub?" Skri remarked. "Shakh-izub, kul-lat skrithûrz!"

"Pushbaur miburrûrz!" he exclaimed with contempt. "It is a day of blood and war, not foolish banter!"

"Unleash arrows!" the Dark Captain shrieked.

Down plunged nine dark barbs, venom on their tips.

As they fought, the Elves below them sang of Elbereth and diamond glowing shores. The voices of the Nazgûl rose higher in their Songs of Sorcery. Both songs were fair, melodious in their way, but one was shade and meres and the other was beech trees streaked with light. The two strove against the other, vying for the mastery of the field.

"By Melkor! That name!" cried Zagbolg. "The screaming Witch of the Heavens seeks to gnaw out my brains!"

The Nazgûl turned and flew back towards the fortress. The besieged men on the walls below them cursed them and shook their fists. Calm and unafraid, Gandalf and Aragorn beheld them and watched as the Nine wheeled over the fortress.

The Morgul Lord slowed his mount and looked down.

"Damn them both, the Wizard and his poppet king," Angmar cursed as he reined his fell beast to the right and flew to join his brothers. There was no time to deal with the two wretches.

Rushing into the view of the Nazgûl was the tumultuous battlefield, a scene of wrecked men and horses. In the midst of the sea of death, man and elf still struggled to kill each other, ignoring those falling all about them. The wounded, shrieking and rambling in their pain, clasped blood-covered hands around spears and arrows, trying in their desperate struggle to pull them from their bodies. Other wounded tottered in their saddles, trying to keep their balance and not fall under the undulating mass of fighting men and rearing and plunging horses. Drowned out by the cacophony of overpowering sound were the moans of the wounded on the ground as an iron-shod hoof came down unwillingly and crushed a face, an arm, a leg.

At the loss of their Lieutenant and the staggering number of casualties, the Easterlings and Southron cavalrymen had borne all they could. Their lines slowly crumbled and broke. Their officers tried to rally them, but defeat had filled their hearts. They slashed wildly at their enemy, and then, breaking free of their foe, they turned in disorder and disarray, forced to leave their wounded and dead. As the Easterlings and Southrons muttered imprecations and fled for their lives, they could hear wild cheers and mocking taunts coming from the walls of the fortress. A great groan wailed from the throats of their own army.

"Men, do not follow the retreating enemy. We must return and replenish our supplies of spears. The enemy will summon their courage and come at us again. We shall regroup," Éomer told his captains, "and reorganize. Gather first our wounded. Sound the signal to draw back!"

Glorfindel rode up to Éomer. "We shall stay here as rear guard whilst your forces regroup. Let the enemy behold the faces of the Elves and fear us!"

The Rohirrim force turned and rode back to where lads waited with spears. In only a matter of minutes, they would be back upon the field to challenge the enemy once again.

Out of arrow range of the Mordor army and cavalry, the Elves formed a line and stayed their ground. They chanted songs of ancient days, of power and might, of magick and light, of seen and unseen and things that once were, and great heroes of old. Somewhere from an old song, they drew the name of Lúthien Tinúviel, of nightingales and shining stars, of changing and shifting shape, the Battle for the Tower, of spells light and black, of the Silmaril stolen from a Dark Crown. And as they chanted and sang their songs of power, their ethereal essence pulsed and glowed like the Elves of Yesterday and their fading was halted... for a time.

The men waited as they watched the cords of destiny draw tighter.


Second Battle of Helm's Deep, June 14, 3019 - 9:30 to around 10:30 AM

Accompanying map charting troop movements by Angmar. Easterling and Southron cavalry wheels to the right to face the approaching Rohirrim and Elves. The main branch of Western forces move towards the Mordorian cavalry while small groups are dispatched to capture and/or destroy supply wagons.

The battle begins - the first charge of the Mordorian cavalry against the Rohirrim. The Nazgûl provide cover from the air.

The Mordorian Cavalry retreats towards the Deep while the Rohirrim ride northeast to reorganize. The Elves stay their ground and move forward.

Black Speech:
"Mazauk" - War
"Matum" - Death
"Grish" - Blood
"Gaakh ghru-lab grazadhat-bo!" - May your manhood rot off!
"Bolk-izg nar ghru-izub ruz-ishi gund Mandos-ob!" - I will not need it in stone halls of Mandos!
"Gaakh pu-lab grazadhat-bo!" - May your mouth rot off!
"Agh orsk Mandos ghashanu-izub? Shakh-izub, kul-lat skrithûrz!" - And rob Mandos my words? My lord, you are cruel!
"Pushbaur miburrûrz!" - Arrogant asshole! (Lit. prideful dunghole. "Baur" = "hole" and "miburr" = "pride" taken from Colloquial Black Speech Dialect.)

Translated and Written by Angmar

Lash-izgu, Shakh Matum-ob, iis-ûk Laush Bûrgul-ob Mor / We, the Lords of Death, sing before all the Song of Black Shadow (Laush = song; Horngoth)
Bugd-izgu pardahûn Bûrzum-ob Motsham / We proclaim the power of the Ancient Darkness (Pardahûn = power; Horngoth. Motsham = ancient; MERP)
Tiimor agh bûf ish-izubu-u, ûk-u mirz mazauk-izibu kau / Terror and despair to our enemies, to all who war against us
Gaakh tuglu-ulub bhadûrat hîsht-u agh ashtu / May their efforts turn to ash and bones
Agh kraibagum agh matum norkatulûk! / And sorrow and death take them all!
Naan narish-izubu-u lash-izgu Laush Hûr-ob / But to our friends we sing a Song of Courage
Naakh-ob gundûrz quiin-tala, shapat-tala / Of steady hand upon the bow, upon the sword hilt (Gundûrz = stone; Horngoth)
Mau-ob hûr agh rûku narufuz / Of brave warriors and steeds unafraid
Narbûf-ob agh pardahûn-ob / Of victory and of power
Khlaar-izishu, ûk shaishi mogu-izubu / Hear us, all within our voices
Skaiugu ish-izubu-tala / Cursings on our foes
Bhoghâtugu ûk-tala mirz obâsh Mog Shakh-ob / Blessings upon all who heed our Master's Voice (bhoghât = bless; Horngoth. Obâsh = obey; unknown orgin)

Nazgûl Names:
The only Nazgûl that Tolkien named was Khamûl. The others were given no names, and so names were created for them in The Circles. Whether Gothmog, the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul, was a Nazgûl, a man or an orc is unknown. In this alternative universe, however, he is a Nazgûl.
Here is a list of titles for Nazgûl #4 - 9 as used in the Circles.
Zagbolg - Meaning "Four" and "Bloodthirsty"
Krakfakhthal - Meaning "Five" and "Butcher"
Rutfîmûrz - Meaning "Six" and "Young"
Udukhatûrz - Meaning "Seven" and "Intelligent"
Skrishau - Meaning "Eight" and "Quiet"
Krithnarînuz - Meaning "Nine" and "Forgotten"

Quenya Elvish:
"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!" - The day has come; the night is passing (Taken from "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad," The Silmarillion, p. 190)

Painting "Ride of the Rohirrim" by Peter Xavier Price.