The Circles - Book Eight - A Mordorian Bestiary
Chapter Twenty-five
The Battle of Sudden Flame
Written by Angmar

"My most devoted servants, have ye learned anything from your three-week stay in the Houses of Lamentation?"

Seated upon His throne of darkest crystal, Sauron the Great raked His gaze over the nine hooded figures standing before Him. They stood as silent and grim as nine black pillars. With so many powerful beings assembled in one place, the force of their combined magical energies charged the chamber with unseen turbulence, infusing the very air with a faint blue aura.

When His query brought no response, the Dark Lord gave the Nine some encouragement. "A wise man pauses and reflects upon his words ere he ever voices them, and so I, valuing your candor, gladly bestow upon you all the time that you need."

None of the nine lords assembled there had any illusions. They all were quite well aware that Gorthaur the Cruel was demanding that they confess their many transgressions and grovel before Him in a desperate plea for His forgiveness. If their performances were not convincing or pleasing enough, those who had proved themselves inadequate would feel the Dark Lord's rage boiling from His mind like a maelstrom of black fury. Were they to be released from prison, or did their Master wish for them to continue atoning for their misdeeds? They yearned for the return of the Dark Lord's approval, for without it, they were only the empty husks of men, as hollow as their ebony cloaks appeared to mortal eyes. Even the Morgul Lord, the eternal rebel, was doomed by his Ring – whether he wished it or not – to worship Sauron and crave His love and acceptance.

"Most Exalted One," spoke up the Ninth Nazgûl, "during my stay here, I received exactly what I deserved." Krith felt his Master's fiery gaze boring into him, and it took all of his courage to keep his voice from trembling. "Not only did I fail Thee when Thou set us to find Thy Ring, but I compounded my grievous transgressions by proving unworthy upon the field of battle. While I deserved death, Thou in Thy infinite mercy saw meet only to chastise me, hoping to drive out my weaknesses. For this second chance, my Master, I do most humbly thank Thee and vow upon my life and honor that I shall not fail Thee again."

"Ah, Krith, My wise servant," the Dark Lord's voice was a velvety purr, "thou wert never the greatest of the offenders. There were others." The fiery slits of Sauron's eyes flicked to the Witch-king and the two other Númenóreans, tarrying there for an uncomfortable moment before turning back to the Ninth. "Thou merely needest leadership, a quality which was woefully lacking during the Rohan campaign, for thy commander sorely failed thee and thy brethren."

"My Lord, Thy will is my command." Krith bowed his head until his chin rested upon his chest. Though his punishment had been comparatively light – tormented with delusions that he was a rotting corpse buried in a worm-infested coffin – it had struck at his weakest point. The Ninth Nazgûl was an incredibly vain man, taking pride in his handsome, even elegant, appearance and his fastidious ways.

When at last the nightmarish phantasmagoria had been lifted from his mind, Krith had bathed himself repeatedly. Still he was unable to rid himself completely of the sensation that the worms were crawling over his body, boring tunnels into the reeking putrefaction of his flesh. At that very moment, he was certain that all those present in the hall knew that a large maggot was crawling through his brain and was about to wriggle out through his right eyeball. He tried to shake off the loathsome feeling, but he could not resist the urge to rub at his stinging eye. Surely if his Master were ever pleased with him, this troublesome plague would vanish.

Sauron had been disappointed that none of the more powerful wraiths had been the first to confess their manifold faults and sins. "Krith!" He mused with a snort of derision. "One disapproving word and he crumbles. He will confess when he is not even guilty! Why could not one of My three Númenóreans be the first to realize how they have grieved Me, how I have suffered for the wrongs they have done Me! Can they not recompense My grief!"

His once divinely handsome visage hardened by cruelty and marred by the black deeds of His heart, Sauron was a stately and foreboding figure upon His ebony throne. Before making His appearance in the council chambers, He had spent much time in deciding upon the form that He would assume. Condemned never to take His original fair form again, He always labored to make His appearance intimidating but not grotesque. He mourned for His flowing auburn mane and porcelain skin, which had charmed both male and female alike. His eyes had kept their amber color, but now they resembled those of a feral cat. Still, in spite of all of His limitations, He knew that He still exuded a certain charm that, when applied with some magic, could beguile and deceive those with weaker wills. Where reality failed, sorcery always prevailed, and He could always rely upon the collection of ornate masks He had crafted for Himself over the years.

Khamûl was the next to speak up, but Sauron had been expecting him to confess quickly. The Black Easterling was a devoted servant, dutiful as befitted a true son, and he confessed every failure, every sin, every weakness, every misdeed, every error in judgment. When the Easterling had at last finished his lengthy, heart-rending account, he begged for his Master's forgiveness.

"My lord Khamûl, I know thy heart and mind already. Thou canst keep nothing secret from me." Sauron smiled indulgently, dark lips pulling up to reveal pearly fangs. "When thou confesseth, it is for thine own benefit. Thy soul will be much lighter after it is relieved of the burden of guilt. Now, Khamûl, my beloved second son, go forward from this day, pledging ever to serve Me as an instrument of My will."

Khamûl bowed his head, glowing with joy. "My Lord, I am awed by Thy benevolent mercies, grateful for Thy forgiveness."

"My Master," the Morgul Lord spoke up, unable to keep silent any longer, "do not put blame upon any of my brethren for the failure of the recent Rohan campaign." His gaze roamed over the table, resting on each Nazgûl in turn. "All of these men are guiltless. They only carried out the orders which I gave, and should bear no blame. Many of them were involved in other campaigns and only assembled under my command during the larger battles in Gondor and Rohan. I pray that Thou wilt vent Thy wrath upon me and spare them."

"My fine Númenórean lord, I see that thou hast reflected upon thy many failings during thy imprisonment. I wonder, though, if thou art truly repentant of thy transgressions." Sauron's fiery eyes bored into the proud lord of Westernesse until he was forced to avert his gaze in submission. "Too often thou hast attempted to defy Me, even though the only will that thou possesseth is that which I allow thee."

The Morgul Lord bowed his head. "Many are the mistakes I have made over the course of my long life, but I strive always to overcome my weakness. To Thee have I sworn fealty, and am bound to serve Thee forever, my Lord. I will attempt to do whatever Thou asketh of me."

"I deem thy apology to be sincere, and I grant unto thee mercy," Sauron stated magnanimously.

After their king had confessed his guilt, the remaining wraiths begged Sauron for His forgiveness. The Dark Lord listened to each piteous confession in turn and then extended mercy to the penitent supplicants who knelt and groveled before Him.

"My children, your past sins are forgiven, and I accept ye fully. I have tried your hearts and souls, the very essence of your being, under the fierce scrutiny of My omnipotent mind, and I find ye all sincerely repentant." Sauron turned to a waiting servant and ordered that golden chalices be brought so that He and the Nazgûl could raise up a ceremonial toast of restoration.

"Drink, My lords," He commanded them. "Drink a toast to a new beginning, for there is honor to be won, enemies to be conquered, and new lands to be claimed." Sauron raised His chalice high, and watched the others follow suit. "There have been minor disappointments, but our armies have not been vanquished!" His eyes flickered over the goblet, which glowed red with the imprint of His hand, and then He drained the large golden vessel in one mighty swallow.

"All hail Sauron the Great, Lord of the Earth and King of Men!" came the spontaneous cry of the Nazgûl. "Hail to tomorrow! Hail to victory! Hail to the conquest of the world!"

Pleased with their loud exclamations of praise, Sauron rewarded them with a benevolent smile before holding up His hand for silence, the Ring gleaming upon His finger. "Though the first forays into Rohan have been repulsed, we have had many victories in Gondor. Soon all of Middle-earth shall come under My rule." This pronouncement brought a fresh burst of cheering from the wraiths, their strident voices echoing in the hall. The Dark Lord let them cheer until they were almost hoarse before He again signaled for silence.

"Alas, although our successes have been great, our enemies continue to strive against us." Glowering menacingly, Sauron tapped the tips of His fingers together and looked with suspicion at all the retainers and servants in the hall. For many long years, He had worried that one of His enemies might find His missing Ring and attempt to wield It against Him. Now He also had to worry about fools trying to destroy It as well. Ever since that incident back in March, He had been filled with fear and doubt, and fretted that behind the face of every last wretched thrall lay a hero who was deranged enough to attempt what the Halfling had done. "My lords, let us retire to the map room, where we may discuss these matters in private."

The Dark Lord rose to His feet and regally descended from the dais, the hem of His long sable robes flowing over the steps like a waterfall of black velvet. With their king leading the way, the Nazgûl formed into two rows and followed along behind their Master. The Mouth of Sauron came behind, making up the rear of the column. Servants of the Tower, Men and Orcs alike, bowed low in reverence and fear as the grim procession passed through the torchlit halls of Barad-dûr.

The room where Sauron led them was seldom used except during times of war. Designed to afford the greatest possible range of viewing, the room had been built in the shape of a raised semi-circular amphitheater. The highest tier was reserved for the thrones of Sauron, the Nazgûl, the Lieutenant of the Tower, and any of Sauron's bodyguards whom He had chosen to invite. The other two tiers provided seating for those representatives of Sauron's allies who had been called for strategic planning. That day, the lower two tiers were vacant, for this council was reserved for only Sauron, the Nazgûl, and the Lieutenant of the Tower.

A huge map of Middle-earth occupied the area in front of the amphitheater. The map itself was a wonder, its like known nowhere else, save perhaps in Valinor. Crafted of hundreds of thousands of small tesserae, the map depicted the whole of Middle-earth, each country and landform shown in amazingly brilliant colors. Sauron Himself had supplied knowledge of the hindermost parts of Middle-earth, places not even reached by the ancient Númenóreans on their voyages of exploration. Years had been spent upon its planning and construction, and numerous geographers, cartographers, historians, artists, and craftsmen had been impressed into service for the great work. After the map had been finished, Sauron added an infinitesimally small amount of His own blood to the glaze which was spread over the floor. The result was a glazed coating impervious to wear, stronger than steel and endued with powerful dark magic.

"Though My armies have achieved great victories in Gondor, the war is far from being won." Sauron gestured to Gondor on the map, and the runes which spelled out the name of that land lit up with a glittering golden light. "Our forces currently occupy the region from Minas Tirith to the River Gilrain, and we continue to fortify our position and strengthen our defenses. Even though we hold much of eastern Gondor, our forces are plagued by accursed bands of rebels, who strike swiftly and then run back to their holes in the White Mountains. The fiefdoms of Dor-en-Ernil, Lamedon, and Pinnath Gelin also remain thorns in our side." As the Dark Lord listed each name, the corresponding regions on the map became illuminated and then faded out when the name of the next fiefdom was spoken. "The defeat at Dol Amroth back in May disheartened our allies and brought hope to our enemies. The Gondorians fought back with a renewed strength, taking back territory that our men had previously won, and our army was forced to withdraw from Tarnost to the eastern shores of the River Gilrain. Given the attack on the Corsair fleet and the theft of their ships back in March, it will be quite some time ere we can expect any assistance from Umbar. Despite these losses, however, My armies have made deep encroachments into enemy territory, and My banners fly from the walls of many a Gondorian city and town."

A murmur of approval went up from the nine lords and the Lieutenant, and Sauron waited until all present had quieted before continuing His report of the war. "In northern Gondor, our forces continue to hold the line at the Mering Stream, defying any attempt of the Rohirrim and their Gondorian allies to retake Anórien. Although there have been multiple skirmishes along the border, neither the Gondorians nor the Rohirrim have made any attempt to cross the Mering Stream with their full might, and so Anórien still remains under Mordorian control. Our enemies were dealt many harsh blows in the northern campaign, and their victory at Helm's Deep was won with many dead Rohirrim and Gondorians. While Mordor's northern host did indeed incur significant losses in Rohan, it was mostly due to the incompetence of certain commanders that My army was forced to withdraw to the Mering Stream. But that is the past, and I prefer to look ever onward towards the future — and victory. As our position in the south grows stronger, we can begin preparations to launch another assault upon Rohan from the east."

The Dark Lord turned His fiery gaze upon the King of the Nazgûl. "Morgul Lord, it is My desire that thou resume once again thy position at the head of My armies in the south. Perhaps if thou achieve great victories, I shall reward thee with the throne of Gondor, and thou shalt rule in My name from the King's House in Minas Tirith. I know how thou yearnest for the land beneath the waves and the kingship that was stolen from thee as the consequence of Tar-Aldarion's meddling with the laws of succession. Because of thy esteemed bloodline, noble scion of Elros Tar-Minyatur, thou art more fit to rule over Gondor than any upstart descendant of Isildur."

The Nazgûl bowed his head with regal humility. "My Lord, I am honored by Thy trust in me. I shall do all in my power to ensure a Mordorian victory in the south."

Although his expression showed little of his internal thoughts, the Morgul Lord thrilled at the words of his Master. In ages past, he had desired to be King of Númenor, but the land which was rightfully his under the old laws was now part of the domain of Ulmo, the dwelling-place of fish and other denizens of the Sea. Perhaps Gondor – and Arnor, too, for that matter – would be a fitting substitute for Númenor, his beloved home beneath the waves… and maybe, just maybe, he could forgive Sauron for some of the miseries that He had inflicted upon him over the long years… Of course, it was probably Sauron Himself who had planted that thought in his head, but the Morgul Lord cared naught. He was born to be a King.

The Morgul Lord became aware that the Mouth of Sauron was glaring at him, and he felt a smug sense of satisfaction at the other man's chagrin. No doubt the Lieutenant of the Tower felt slighted by his Master's proposal, for he would have been named overlord of a conquered Gondor had the Morgul Lord perished at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. After being severely wounded by a vengeance-seeking shieldmaiden and a halfling wielding a cursed blade, the Morgul Lord's body had almost succumbed to the grievous injuries which had been dealt to him, but his Master had healed him with songs of sorcery. Not everyone in the Tower had been pleased by the Morgul Lord's recovery, however. While the Mouth of Sauron held great power as the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, he longed for his own kingdom to rule, and the wraith lord's continued existence vexed him to no end.

"Lord Gothmog will be thy second-in-command, and Lord Krakfhathal shall accompany thee as well," Sauron continued speaking. "Upon the morrow, the three of you shall journey to Minas Tirith and take council with the commanders who will be serving under you. Continue strengthening our hold in Gondor and do all in your power to undermine the rebels who are causing so much mischief. We must begin pushing westward again lest our enemies, refreshed by this brief period of peace, launch an assault upon our strongholds in eastern Gondor."

"Master, after centuries of misrule by the Stewards, soon Gondor will be under Thy control," the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul replied, pressing his hand against his heart. "Thou wilt not regret conferring this honor upon us!"

An enthusiastic Krak added, "Master, it shall not be long ere all peoples of Middle-earth bow their heads in submission to Thy will!"

Sauron nodded with approval upon the Morgul Lord and his two fellows and then turned back to the map. "While the armies under My command may have been driven from Rohan, still we maintain a presence there through spies and informants," the Dark Lord continued. "My vast legion of agents needs a spymaster, someone with intelligence and charisma, and a penchant for intrigue." His gaze went to Udukhatûrz and Rutfîmûrz. "In addition to overseeing My troops in the north, Lord Rut will be head of intelligence in Rohan, with Lord Udu as his second. Make contact with our chief agents in Rohan so that they may keep ye informed of all that happens with King Éomer's court and the exiled pretender to the Gondorian throne."

"My Lord," spoke Rut, "I am sure I can speak for Lord Udu when I say that we are both extremely honored by this appointment. We will do all in our power to accomplish whatever tasks our great Master asks of us." As he spoke, he had the sensation of well-being, and sensed that the Great One had been pleased with his words, something that had seldom happened of late.

"Your second duty is to seek out the leaders of the Dunlendings," Sauron continued, gesturing to the region of Dunland upon the map. "Though Dunland served the traitor Saruman, their defeat left them even more embittered and querulous than ever. At this time, there is peace between Dunland and Rohan, but it is the resentful peace of a conquered nation that is forced to be subservient to the oppressor. Should the Dunlendings turn their resentment into action, they could be a constant galling irritation to King Éomer. Do not press them to a full-scale rebellion, but encourage them to engage in clandestine ventures such as thieving, stealing horses, and kidnapping. My desire is for the Dunlendings to harass the horse lords, keeping the Rohirrim so occupied with their own troubles that they cannot afford to offer aid to Gondor. If the Dunlendings need any encouragement, offer their leaders gold. An adequate amount, but not too generous."

"Of course," Rut smiled. "We want to nurture their greed, feeding them breadcrumbs at first so that they may anticipate the feast to come."

"My lord, we have both acted as spies before, and so we both feel confident with these new responsibilities." Udu remembered with fondness the early years of that age, in which he and several of his fellows took on the disguise of mortals and infiltrated the bustling city of Tharbad. They involved themselves in the same sort of mischief nearly two thousand years later, venturing out from Minas Morgul and passing secretly into Gondor, their countenances masked by illusion. True, the primary purpose of these missions had been to visit taverns and brothels, but those sorts of establishments were also excellent sources of intelligence.

"One more task I give unto ye." Sauron's demeanor seemed to change, and the dark aura which surrounded Him deepened as though it were a terrible thundercloud about to burst. "If ye hear tell of Saruman, inform Me at once, for I wish to have words with him." Suppressed wrath flickered in the Dark Lord's fiery eyes, and a shiver of dread went down the spine of each Nazgûl. "You will leave upon the morrow, and may the wisdom of Melkor guide each of you upon this perilous undertaking."

His instructions to Udu and Rut having come to an end, Sauron returned His gaze to the map. "Now we come to the war in Rhovanion. The city of Dale fell to the forces of My Easterling allies in the latter days of March, and those who fled from the city took shelter with the Dwarves of Erebor. A great and terrible battle at the feet of the Lonely Mountain ensued, and both King Dáin Ironfoot of the Dwarves and King Brand of Dale were slain. So began the Siege of Erebor, which now approaches its fifth month."

"Mayhap treachery shall ultimately break the siege," the Mouth of Sauron spoke up, a cunning expression upon his face. "Whilst Dwarves are content to live beneath stone, Men were made to walk beneath the Sun. It would only take one traitor to open the gates."

"Indeed, My Lieutenant, thou speakest truth," Sauron nodded sagely. "However, I am in no hurry to lay claim to Erebor. With the Dwarves and Dalelings locked securely within the Mountain, they cannot come to the aid of Thranduil and his people. The Elves of Mirkwood are formidable foes enough as it is, with their proficiency in forest warfare and their skills in glamoury. Though several assaults have been launched into the forest, none have reached the great gates of the Elvenking's halls. Yet as long as Thranduil must defend his own territory, he can afford to send few reinforcements to the Galadhrim. It is a delicate balance we must keep in Rhovanion, so that none of the factions may come to the aid of their allies. Unfortunately, this strategy comes at a cost: with My forces spread hither and thither across the landscape, I cannot focus My full attention upon obtaining the objective I desire most."

Scowling, the Dark Lord gestured towards the forest of Lothlórien. "In the month of March, thrice the host of Dol Guldur assailed the Golden Wood, and thrice they were repulsed. There have been many other smaller assaults since then, but try though they might, My forces have not yet been able to overcome the enchantments of the Galadhrim. As I had long suspected, and only recently been able to verify, Galadriel is one of the keepers of the Three Rings. Unfortunately, the moment the One returned to My hand, the accursed witch removed the Ring from hers, and I can neither command her nor divine her thoughts. In the meantime, the Galadhrim continue to harass the forces of Dol Guldur with impunity, and all we can do is fell the trees that grow on the outskirts of their wretched forest!"

As Khamûl, Zagbolg, and Krith expressed their anger and frustration at the Lady of the Golden Wood and her minions, as well as their profound regret for being unable to achieve a victory for Mordor, the Dark Lord's thoughts turned to a kingdom long fallen in years long past.

In days of old, the elvensmiths of Eregion, lamenting the progression of Time and the inevitability of decay, began to dabble in magics that were designed to preserve and protect the beauty of the lands which they held dear. It is the nature of all things to wear down over time: just as a tiny seedling grows into a mighty tree and then falls down to rot upon the forest floor, so too do mighty kingdoms rise and then fall, and works wrought by even the most skilled hands eventually crumble and turn to dust. The elves who had survived the fall of Beleriand began to feel, for the first time, the weight of their immortality, the doom of watching everything around them change, whilst they themselves remained the same. Facing a crisis of existence, they turned their immense skills and talents to find ways to stave off the unpredictability of change and halt the creeping blight of decay. They sought to create a state which did not exist in the natural world: a place where the Laws of Time and Entropy no longer applied, where beauty never faded, and change did not occur unless it was a desired thing. They wanted an idyllic world that was reminiscent of the bliss and splendor of the Uttermost West, immutable and constant, part of Middle-earth but yet removed from the stream of Time and immune to the slow, gradual erosion of that constant, never-ceasing flow.

The elves sought to control Time itself; Sauron sought to control the elves. And so began the unholy collaboration between Annatar the Fair and the Elven-smiths of Eregion. Being a necromancer of great skill, Sauron knew how to preserve life, albeit in a different state from what nature had intended. He gladly imparted His great wealth of knowledge upon His eager students, but carefully hid from them the true nature of the arts in which they so innocently dabbled. Many were the Rings that they created, some greater and some lesser. And then there were the Three that Celebrimbor crafted with his own hands. Even though these Three were created using the same arts as the others, they were untainted by the forbidden alchemy that preserved the spirit but caused transmutation of the body, and bound one forever to the Lord of the Rings.

And now Sauron found Himself striving against the defenses of a Ring that had been designed to preserve and protect in continuity. As long as Nenya remained unworn and in the possession of the Galadhrim, it would be nigh impossible to break the protective spells that were woven about the heart of Lórien. The Dark Lord feared that He would be forced to journey to the Golden Wood Himself and use the power of the One Ring to unmake all that Galadriel had wrought using the potent combination of her own native strength and the defensive powers of Nenya. Otherwise, it was theoretically possible that Lórien could continue existing in perpetuity, even after all other lands had fallen under His rule. An eternal machine, set into perpetual motion, defying the laws of the universe… He wondered if Celebrimbor were laughing at Him from the Halls of Mandos. "Even beyond the grave, My former student continues to defy Me," Sauron fumed to Himself.

The Dark Lord's thoughts roamed to Galadriel and her ethereal elven beauty, her hair of gold and silver which captured the light of the Two Trees in their luminous strands. What a formidable foe she was! He was filled with admiration – and desire – for the Lady of the Galadhrim. How He had lusted for her body and mind since the days of Eregion, but she was always beyond His grasp. He imagined taking her prisoner and bringing her to Mordor in golden chains, locked securely within a gilded, bejeweled cage which He would forge Himself. He would force her to wear the Ring of Adamant once more; how it would gleam and pulse as it recognized its master, the One Ring, to which all the Rings of Power were bound! With Galadriel as His thrall, the plan to dominate the Elves that He had set into motion in the Second Age would be almost complete. Victory was sometimes a long and weary road, but triumph was the ultimate reward and well worth the wait.

When the three Nazgûl of Dol Guldur had finished speaking, Sauron turned His glittering catlike eyes to Khamûl. "I believe that thou hast learned from thy mistakes and are fit once more to resume thy position at Dol Guldur. Therefore, Lord Khamûl, I hereby commute thy sentence and once again bestow upon thee the command of My forces in Rhovanion. Thou art to maintain the siege upon the Lonely Mountain for as long as possible, until the defenders either capitulate to My demands or emerge from the mountain to make a final stand. Keep up the raids upon the Woodland Realm, pushing deeper into the forest until the forces under thy command reach the gates of the Elvenking's Hall. Use thy great powers of sorcery to cause the trees to wither, and put the orcs and Easterlings to burning all in their path."

"Master, it is with great eagerness that I anticipate returning to the battlefield." A fierce gleam was in Khamul's eyes as he imagined the carnage that would be forthcoming; he could almost taste the blood of fallen foes that he would lick from his blade in the heat of battle. "I will rain down destruction upon all Thine enemies. They will rue the day that they ever defied Thee!"

"I have no doubt that thou shalt make them suffer, My loyal servant." A cruel smile spread over the Dark Lord's face, and He nodded with approval. "As for the realm of Lórien… I foresee that this fight will be a long and arduous one, lasting the course of many years. For as long as a Ring of Power remains in the keeping of the Lady of the Golden Wood, the protective enchantments woven by it shall endure until the day that the Ruling Ring destroys them utterly." Sauron snatched at the air with an upraised hand and then closed His fingers in a tight fist. The golden band upon His finger glowed like fire from the forge. "However, the time has not yet come that I should leave the fastness of Mordor to wreak ruin upon Lórien and claim both the Ring of Adamant and its Keeper as My own. Therefore, it is My command that the forces of Dol Guldur set a leaguer about the boundaries of the forest kingdom. Both by strength of arms and power of sorcery shall this leaguer be maintained. Lord Zagbolg and Lord Krith are to serve once again as thy subordinates, and the three of you shall weave your magics about the realm. Summon forth shadows and phantoms to fill My foes with misery and dread. Make the Galadhrim beg to be allowed to pass into the Uttermost West impaled upon the spears of Dol Guldur! Show no mercy to the fools who dare defy Me!"

"Master, I am overcome by Thy trust in me!" Khamûl exclaimed with a loud sigh. Rising from his seat, he fell at the feet of Sauron. "Thou hast honored me greatly, far beyond what I deserve! I vow upon the mace of the Great One in the Void that I will not fail Thee again!"

"See that thou dost not, Khamûl, son of the East," Sauron replied menacingly.

Almost overcome by his Master's forgiveness, Khamûl was humbled to the core and scarcely dared to raise his head. His hands gripped the hem of Sauron's robe as his lips kissed the leather of the Dark Lord's black boots. "It will be as Thou hast commanded, my Lord, and I shall not fail!"

After Khamûl had returned to his seat, the Dark Lord looked pointedly at the Eighth Nazgûl. "Lord Skri, thou wilt resume thy position as My messenger. Another task I give unto thee: Whilst thou art flying over the wide reaches of Gorgoroth, I wish for thee to be especially observant for the creature known as Gollum. It has come to My understanding that he has been sighted lurking about Stazmûlkrak, pilfering through the garbage heap outside the village in search of food. I grant thee the authority to use any means necessary to apprehend this villain, so that he might be brought before Me and receive My judgment."

"Any means necessary, my Lord?" Skri's eyes blazed like twin flames in the gloom, and his shoulders quivered with anticipation that he could barely contain.

"Yes, Skri, thou may use thy blade to claim the creature's life and bring him into the realm of shadows, for long would I punish him for his defilement of My precious Ring." Sauron reached His left hand over to stroke the smooth surface of the golden band, as though He were comforting one who had gone through great trials and suffering.

"It will be as Thou commandest, my Lord." Skri bowed his hooded head. He was ecstatic that once again he had been given leave to wield the ensorcelled weapons in his armory, those dark and deadly blades which could transform the living into the undead. Long ago, the Black Captain had forbidden him from using the sacred knives, for Skri could often be indiscriminate when it came to those whom he chose to become immortal servants.

Sauron looked down into the faces of the Nazgûl seated below Him. "For these tasks which I have assigned you, ye wilt need the power of your Rings." A hush of exhilaration fell over the Nazgûl. "Step forward in order of your numbers, My repentant children, and receive your rings." He drew a box of solid gold from the inside of His robe. The box was heavily enspelled with a curse that would kill anyone other than Sauron who so much as touched the box. As the nine wraiths knelt in turn, the Dark Lord distributed their Rings to them. Overcome with emotion, they cried out with joy and flung themselves at His feet, worshiping their dark Master.

"You may kiss My Ring," Sauron told them as He extended His hand. Each wraith in his turn from the highest to the lowest pressed his lips to the Ring of Power, and felt Its might course through him. The experience was almost overpowering, filling each one with rapturous ecstasy as they trembled at the feet of their Master. "My sons, with these Rings, I have given ye great power, the kind of power of which men can only dream. They will lie, kill, cheat, steal and betray in order to obtain what I give to you freely from My own generous heart. Now rise, so that I may bless ye." The Dark Lord's voice was filled with magnanimity as He blessed His servants.


In the published version of Lord of the Rings, it is strongly implied that the Mouth of Sauron would become the overlord of Gondor and Rohan, should Sauron be victorious. However, Tolkien originally intended for the role of Sauron's emissary – and the prospective overlord of a conquered West – to go to the Witch-king. In early drafts of The Return of the King, the Witch-king survives the Battle of Pelennor Fields and later reappears as Sauron's ambassador who negotiates with the Army of the West at the Black Gate. The brief moment of tension between the Witch-king and the Mouth of Sauron in this chapter attempts to reconcile the published version of Lord of the Rings as well as Tolkien's discarded drafts with the storyline of The Circles.

"Aragorn and Eomer wind horns before the Morannon, and summon Sauron to come forth. There is no answer at first, but Sauron had already laid his plans and an embassy was already coming to the Black Gate. The Wizard King? He bears the Mithril coat and says that Sauron has already captured the messenger - a hobbit."
–"The Story Foreseen From Forannest," The War of the Ring, 36

"The ambassador laughs, and gives a dreadful cry. Flinging off his garments he vanishes; but at that cry the host prepared in ambush sally from the mountains on either side, and from the Teeth, and pour out of the Gate. The host of Gondor taken at unawares wavers, and the leaders are surrounded. [Added in pencil: All the Nine Nazgul remounted swoop down; but the Eagles come to give battle."
–“The Story Foreseen From Forannest,” The War of the Ring, 362

"Earlier in this outline my father had questioned whether the ambassador was not in fact the Wizard King himself, and he appears again at the end, dispatched by Sauron to Orodruin (his fate on the fields of the Pelennor was therefore not yet finally decided). Since at the end of the parley the ambassador casts off his garments and vanishes, he was certainly a Ringwraith; is this the meaning of ‘All the Nine Nazgul remounted'?"
–"The Story Foreseen From Forannest," The War of the Ring, 364

It is an established fact that Nenya, Vilya, and Narya cannot be worn when Sauron is in possession of the One Ring, for to do so would enable Sauron to rule over the bearers through the link that the Ruling Ring has to the Three Rings. Sauron would also be able to undo any of the works that had been accomplished by the Three Rings. "Do you see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy," Galadriel told Frodo in the "Mirror of Galadriel" chapter of Fellowship of the Ring.

Obviously, with the One Ring on Sauron’s hand, Galadriel cannot use Nenya. But would all of the enchantments and protections that she laid upon Lothlorien with the power of this Ring immediately be deactivated, as though someone turned off a light switch? It seems unlikely that Sauron would be able to control the subservient Rings from afar unless someone was wearing them. After all, Sauron could not even control his own Ring when it was not on his finger.

Perhaps Nenya's enchantments would continue to remain active, even though Galadriel could not wear her ring anymore. Remember, Frodo stopped aging the moment that the One Ring came into his possession. Even though he never wore it, the passive powers of the Ring caused him to stop aging for seventeen years. Protected by the passive powers of Nenya, the elves of Lothlorien might be able to hold out against the forces of Dol Guldur for quite a while. However, Elrond warned that, in a scenario in which Sauron regains the One Ring, "[...] all that has been wrought by those who wield the Three will turn to their undoing [...]" ("The Council of Elrond," The Fellowship of the Ring, 301). What exactly this entails is up to interpretation, but it sounds quite ominous.

Of course, if Sauron himself came to Lórien, all of the defenses that had been put in place through the power of Nenya would crumble before the might of the Dark Lord and his Ruling Ring.

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