The Circles - Book Six - Chapter 25

The Circles - Book Six - Across the Wide Hamada
Chapter Twenty-five
Vision of Defeat
Written by Angmar and Elfhild

The long, taloned fingers slowly moved the sphere in a half circle. The chamber was dark, the only light coming from the smoking torches in their sconces and the gleaming golden band which pulsed upon the left forefinger of the black hand. All was in ruin, His hopes for a better world crushed against the will and spirit of a dauntless foe. Why did the men of the West fight Him so, He who was the Lord of the Earth and the King of Men in the absence of the Rightful Ruler of Arda? They should worship Him, honor Him with temples, blood sacrifices, and songs of praise! But, no, they hated, feared and despised Him! With a great, heaving sigh, Sauron turned away from the palantír and stalked to a nearby table where an ebony cloaked minion waited, his hooded head bowed in reverence.

Sauron's indomitable mind – a power which, if rightly directed, could create realms of incredible beauty – turned instead to that ancient morass of eternal villainy, the mind of Melkor. Silence so intense that it was felt rather than heard descended over the chamber. The Dark One summoned all the vast energy of His thought and will and directed it toward the infinite mind of His Master, but His probing tentacles of thought found nothing, nothing! Just the Void, and the starless emptiness of space without end. The Master of Fate must be displeased with His servant! There could be no solace in the face of such bitter rejection! Sauron was alone, friendless, in a bleak and unforgiving universe, and there was no one to whom He could turn, save Himself. His whole being screamed in frustration, and the very foundations of Barad-dûr trembled.

Though His armies had gained vast territory in eastern Gondor, the campaign in Rohan had been a miserable failure. With the bulk of Gondor's forces soundly trounced and the greater half of the Riders of Rohan trapped in the south, the Dark Lord had thought that His powerful hordes would be triumphant against the backward defenders of Rohan. The initial forays into Rohan had been quite successful, with the uruks and Easterlings taking much territory in the Wold and Eastfold. It seemed that the armies of Mordor would be able to accomplish what that traitor Saruman had failed to do back in the spring. But then a combined army of Gondorians and Rohirrim coming up from the south from the passes in the White Mountains joined with the defenders of Rohan at Helm's Deep. The numbers of the foe were further swollen by the arrival of a host of Elves from Imladris. Much to Sauron's dismay, history repeated itself, and the hosts of Mordor were defeated at Helm's Deep, meeting the same ignoble fate as those of Isengard.

Heartened by this victory, the Rohirrim pushed back against the invaders with a renewed fury, fighting alongside Gondorians and Elves against their shared enemy. This powerful coalition of Elves and Men had consistently thwarted Sauron's forces, relentlessly driving them back to the Mering Stream, the border of Gondor and Rohan. An alliance between Elves and Men... it was painfully familiar, yet another unpleasant repetition of history. The stump of Sauron's severed finger began to throb at the thought of that fateful battle with Isildur. The memories of the War of the Last Alliance still troubled the Dark Lord, and He suffered from phantom pains where His finger once had been. He clenched His fist to stifle the sensation.

It was obvious that there was rampant incompetency in the ranks, and those responsible for the defeats in the North would pay, and pay dearly. There would be a complete reorganization of the high command, with those who had so abysmally failed Him purged, their names expunged forever from all records, as though they had never existed! They did not deserve to be remembered by history. There was no place for failure in Mordor!

How the burden of rule weighed heavily upon Sauron's shoulders, and no one could ever comprehend how He suffered for the good of the world! He wished sometimes in His more depressed moments that there were someone – Elf, Man, Dwarf, Maia or Vala – who really understood Him, and could sympathize with His great, maligned spirit. At one time He had believed that a Númenórean prince of the blood, one cheated of his kingship by destiny, could be that boon companion that He had so earnestly craved. They had much in common, for their dreams had been crushed by forces beyond their control. The prince, though, had eventually rebelled against his own Master in a foolish attempt to throw off the ties which bound him.

"Oh, My little kinglet," Sauron thought sadly, fighting back the golden tears which welled up in His eyes, "why hast thou not returned the love and affection which I have shown thee? Long hast thou tortured Me by thy rejection, while I have boundlessly rewarded thee, increasing thy already vast power, making thee a ruler over men, and elevating thee to immortality, a state which is so desired by all of pathetic humanity!" He felt as though His mighty heart would burst with sorrow at the indifference shown to Him by His favorite servant, and then He began to feel the embers of rage starting to glow deep within its core.

It was at times like these that Sauron entertained the possibility of replacing His chosen one with one more suitable for this high privilege. The Lord of the Nazgûl was, after all, replaceable. It would take years for a mortal to transcend the bonds of the physical world and reach that forbidden state of liminality which was denied unto the race of Men, and even longer still to master the arts of sorcery and all of the accompanying powers which came as a result of this transmutation, but Sauron could be patient. But who could replace the Morgul Lord? A possible candidate was the Mouth, head of diplomacy for Mordor. Although he was quite adept in sorcery, and could surpass even orcs in cruelty and cunning, the Mouth had never demonstrated a great aptitude for warfare, however. Besides, even though Sauron knew that His spokesman was unceasingly loyal, He never quite trusted the Mouth, for the Black Númenórean was too much like his Master for Sauron to grant him His whole confidence. Perhaps the crownless king Aragorn would make a more suitable choice for the high position of His most favored servant…

These were vain fancies born of anger and hurt, however. Though the Morgul Lord's flaws and failures were considerable, they were not enough to warrant his destruction. Even when the Nazgûl King had raised his sword against his Master in battle, Sauron had bestowed mercy upon His rebellious servant. The punishments had been quite severe, but sometimes a father had to be harsh with his children, to show them the error of their ways.

Still, Sauron's calculating mind often turned to Aragorn, even if He did not plan to replace the Morgul Lord with his distant kinsman. Sauron had seen the grim face of His enemy revealed to Him in the palantír, his countenance shining with kingly majesty, revealing his ancient heritage. Cruel and pitiless he was, taunting Sauron with the blade that Elendil had used to deal the mortal blow as they fell together upon the slopes of Orodruin. It was with the shards of that perilous blade that Isildur had cut the Ring from Sauron's hand whilst He lay dying upon the rocky ground. Although the accursed sword had been reforged and made new again, Sauron recognized the blade that had taken so much from Him, and it filled Him with dread. It was a reminder of death and defeat, of the many long years that His spirit had hidden in fear and shame, wandering houseless and bereft.

If only He could lure Aragorn into His clutches! As the heir of Isildur and a fierce foe of great strength and might, Aragorn would be a stupendous prize. So far, the son of Arathorn had fought Him with all the power of his will, leading armies to battle against Him and never once showing weakness of mind or spirit. But Sauron had broken great men before. Ar-Pharazôn had brought with him the military might of Númenor, filling Sauron's armies with such dread that they hid from him rather than wage battle. Yet Sauron was able to use His considerable powers of charm and flattery to win the heart and mind of the last king of Númenor, thus bringing about the downfall of the king… and the island as well.

How Sauron longed to have all the captains of the West standing naked and chained before His throne! His cruel, dark mind would devise such deliciously fiendish tortures to inflict upon them that His enemies would beg for mercy. As their bodies burned and their minds shriveled, they would grovel at His feet. Then before death overtook them, He would hold out hope – life everlasting, incredible power and riches – and they would all crumble, bending to His will. When they had acknowledged Him as Lord of the Earth and King of Men, He would reward them with Rings of Power, and they would be His servants for all time. As Sauron anticipated His great triumph, a slow smile spread over His dark features. Stroking His Ring with tender fondness, He felt an almost orgasmic ecstasy coursing through His being, and He sighed in pleasure.

Such delightful fantasies had made Sauron forget for a few moments the worthless wretch before Him. When the pleasant sensations had finally receded, He felt a painful contraction of His very spirit. His blazing eyes turned to focus on His pathetic messenger.

The minion had patiently waited for his Master's orders, his body as still as one of the Silent Watchers. As he stared trance-like into nothingness, he sensed that his Master was on the verge of turning His vast fury against him, and his fëa recoiled, almost shrinking into nonexistence. The thrall felt the searing strength of his Master's mind invading his brain, raping and desecrating it as He so often did. The Great One's eyes bored into his soul, stripping away all pretense, ripping every last shred of dignity from his mind and flinging it upon the dung heap of eternity.

The huge black shape seemed to ooze across the floor like ink spreading out from an overturned inkwell. The thrall knew that this nebulous shadow form of his Master never boded well, and he felt a quiver of fear tug at his soul. The Shadow spread and expanded, shifting between a visible cloud of dark smoky matter and a tangible form. Towering over the table, the brooding essence of evil pulsed and throbbed, as though indecisive upon which shape was best suited for the grim occasion. A great, ethereal hand formed out of the sooty smoke and clenched a brilliant white feathered pen, which some said had been plucked from the tail feathers of Gwaihir the Wind Lord. The Eighth Nazgûl doubted the tale, considering it only one of the many legends which had grown up about his Master over the many long years.

The Great Being swirled around Skri in a vortex of spinning ebony murk. "Thou art to deliver this message to the Witch-king, the once King of Angmar, thy worthless captain."

"Yes, my Lord," the Eighth humbly bowed his head. He dared not look up at the huge Being which now towered high above him, His immense form almost filling the Chamber of the Seeing Stone.

"Canst thou divine the grim tidings that this missive contains?" The great Voice was mocking, baiting the Eighth into some droll retort. He knew that Skri possessed a morbid wit which he used to soften the grimness of his life. The Dark Lord allowed this harmless bit of personality to remain, for sometimes even He grew weary of His endless fawning slaves and courtiers who told Him nothing except what they thought He wanted to hear.

"Not exactly, Most High, for my mind is but a little thing compared to Thy great intellect." Skri prided himself on being able to respond to his master automatically, without any thought. Thinking would only get one in the direst of trouble.

"Thou hast witnessed the defeats in Rohan. Thou hast seen the great casualties that My Northern army has taken. Thou knowest quite well the matter of which I write," Sauron stated accusingly, His eyes glowing red.

"My Lord, a mere servant such as I dares not to guess at his Master's intentions." Skri surmised that the missive contained some dire tidings for his captain, but he was afraid to answer one way or another.

"My simpering little strumpet!" Sauron boomed, displeased at the weak answer. "Do not play coy with Me! Thou art fawning and groveling like a tavern whore who hikes up her skirts and offers herself to any who would give her a coin!"

"My Lord, what have I done?" Skri's pallid countenance became even more ashen and deathlike.

"Thou whore!" Sauron shrieked. "I had wished for thee to play the jester and amuse Me in this accursed hour, but thou art like all the others! Prattling like a sycophant, eager to flatter Me with honeyed words! I expected better of thee!" The great fury which consumed Sauron's soul threatened to burst forth in destructive energy, consuming everything in the chamber. No longer was the great Voice audible, but Skri could hear each word reverberating inside his skull as though they were being chiseled onto his brain.

"O King of the Earth, I am only a humble messenger in Thy service, going where Thou tellest me, and I know nothing of Thy plans in this matter!" Skri fell upon his face, kissing the cold marble floor. He knew that the pain would come soon, and he braced himself for whatever it would be.

"Impudent scoundrel! After all I have done for thee and thy fellows, still thou mockest Me to My face!" the Voice boomed out, causing the chamber to vibrate. "I do not even see why I keep thee in My service. The Halfling who is chained under My throne would serve Me far better than thee!"

"Great One," Skri offered innocently, "I do not believe that the stirrups of my beast's saddle could be raised high enough to reach the Halfling's feet, so I doubt he would be a suitable messenger..."

Suddenly the Eighth Nazgûl felt himself hurled from the floor, his body shooting towards the great, vaulted ceiling. A terrible, high-pitched shriek tore from Skri's mouth as he was catapulted into the center of a large colony of bats which hung suspended from the ceiling. The small creatures screamed out their protest as Skri groped for a handhold on the stone, the musty smell of guano stinging his sensitive nostrils. He felt a wrenching sense of panic when his hands slid from the stone. As he plunged back towards the floor, his hood shot back over his head. The bats fluttered about him, tangling in his lank hair, their little claws scratching his scalp, their high-pitched squeals hurting his ears. He landed on the floor with a crash, a few broken shards of the ceiling raining down upon him.

Struggling to his feet, Skri felt a frantic scratching at his chest. He reached inside his tunic and pulled out a complaining bat which had been caught in the cloth. He held it in his hands before releasing the creature, watching as the bat and his fellows fled from the sanctuary and into the gloomy twilight of Mordor's dismal morning. He considered himself quite fortunate. At least he had not been thrown from the tower again to crash against the rocks below. It was such a long climb back to the top...

Walking back to his Master, Skri again prostrated himself upon the floor. He caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of a hooded servant who soundlessly entered the chamber and swept the debris from the floor.

His mood slightly improved by Skri's discomfiture, Sauron was ready to be more generous. "Since thou art incapable of divining the contents of the message, I shall tell thee plainly. The dispatch for the Morgul Lord directs him to order General Vivana to pull all forces back to the Mering Stream, where his engineers are to build entrenchments and fortifications. They will remain there until reinforcements arrive, and then General Vivana will return to the Tower, where he will receive his just rewards."

"Aye, Gracious Majesty," Skri replied affably, quickly recovering his composure after his sudden ascent and subsequent descent. It would take considerably longer to heal from his injuries, but the correct spells would soon have him back in good form. "Thou art kind to Thy servant." He did not envy General Vivana. Usually when a disgraced officer was summoned to the Tower, he was never seen again.

"Now take thy message and be gone!" For a moment, the huge monstrosity, a vast black shadow of undefinable shape, peered down at the groveling Nazgûl. Skri felt his brain searing from the uncompromising maliciousness emanating from the mind of his Master. Then Sauron was gone, the foul odor of brimstone lingering in the chamber.


This chapter refers to events that took place in Chapter 42 of Book One of The Circles, The Triumph of the Shadow.

"As the month of June waned and July arrived with all its heat and dust, the Army of Mordor limped back towards the eastern border of Rohan. Its numbers had been greatly reduced, and the cohesion of its infantry and cavalry had been virtually destroyed. Many of the orcs in the host, dizzy and sunburnt from the light, staggered back in a painful stupor and only the darkness of the night brought them relief. The mighty trolls and the great mûmakil now were only a memory, felled during the final days of fighting in the Deep." --Chapter 42, "Requiem for Heroes"

"When the defeated army of Mordor crossed the Mering Stream on the fifth day of July - the border between Rohan and Gondor - Maugoth Vivana issued orders that his diminished troops were to assume defensive positions. After they had prepared temporary breastworks, the exhausted troops were ordered to dig great pits in front of their fortified positions. Logs were cut and sharpened to fierce points, then were driven into the ground, bristling outward to halt charging cavalry forces. Behind these lines, archers' posts were hastily built from the very wood of the revered forest." --Chapter 42, "Requiem for Heroes"

It is unclear how exactly Sauron perished during the Battle of the Last Alliance. Gil-galad fell first, followed by Elendil, and then Sauron. I would imagine that by that time, Sauron had received many wounds from both Narsil and Aeglos (the spear of Gil-galad), and was suffering from exhaustion and blood loss. It seems logical that Elendil could have dealt his enemy one final blow before collapsing and falling on his sword. At that point, Sauron would have also collapsed upon the ground, dying from the wounds dealt to his body. Isildur took advantage of Sauron's helpless state to cut the Ring from his finger, and the shock caused his spirit to flee from his body. If Sauron blamed Elendil for the final blow which sealed his end, it would give him even more reason to fear Andúril.

"But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own. Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years." --Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, The Silmarillion, 294.

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