25. Battle of Fire
Chapter Written by Angmar
Young Oslaf watched his older brother Osric. Lads, little more than children, rode up with more spears, replacements for those which had been left in the bodies of enemy riders. Osric balanced a spear in his hand, testing its weight. Grunting, he accepted it as worthy of his great strength and skill. Turning to his younger brother, Osric looked him up and down from his head to the toes of his boots.
"You killed your share today, little brother! I am proud of you. Father will be proud of you." Lowering his voice, he declared, "And our ancestors will be proud of you. Even Eorl the Young in the halls of our fathers would raise a tankard in toast to your bravery!"
"Brother," Oslaf said as he pushed his helm back and ran his fingers through the tangled mane of his blond hair, "I killed scarcely as many as you did."
"The day is not yet over, lad."
A group of Riders sat atop their sweating horses a little to the rear of the others, an unsmiling group of commanders discussing what lay before them. Their hair was long and wild, unkempt, and their tunics were soiled with the dirt of the trail. Blood stains - both fresh red which had been spilled that day, and deep brown from corpses which had long turned to bony memories - mottled the cloth of their garments, and a fell light burned in their blue eyes.
"My lord, the enemy's cavalry has given away once, and their wolf-riders have fled the field in disarray," declared Prince Imrahil. "I do not judge them able to withstand another such charge, though they will make one anyway, deluded fools that they are."
"Fools though they be, they are still brave ones," remarked Éomer as he stretched his large frame in the saddle.
"Aye, lord, but usually the bravest are the first to fall," Elfhelm observed dryly.
"Not always. Sometimes those most reckless and daring can ride through the thickest of the fray and return untouched. Occasionally, such men live to grow long, white mantles of hair and die peacefully in their beds as they drool and mutter about old battles. Some men seem charmed, or lucky, whatever you might call it," commented Prince Imrahil.
Though time had seemed to suspend itself while the two groups of cavalry were reorganizing, only the space of a few minutes had elapsed. Blood was still fresh and bright upon spears and swords, with the men not taking time to clean them on their cloaks.
Wounded men twitched and moaned on the field, keeping their last company with the dead. Some men in the depths of their death struggles plowed blood-stained furrows through the mud with their fingers, inching themselves forward as though they were eager to arrive at some ghastly destination. Some lay upon their stomachs, twisting their necks and struggling to keep their mouths out of the mud which threatened to suffocate them, should they become too weak to support themselves. Other unfortunates, disemboweled, bloody viscera stringing out behind them, joined the others in the clawing race through the bloodied mud to their dark appointments. Still other wretches, covered with many wounds, lay silently bleeding to death and would be dead ere the hour had passed.
Horses, those piteous creatures which neither knew nor cared what their masters' political sentiments were, fell with their riders. One great sable beast, who had once neighed and pranced and shook its head proudly, now lay in agony, trembling on the ground. Its fore and hind legs jerked spasmodically, pounding out the Reaper's Rhythm, eager to join the struggling race to nowhere. Another valiant charger of a different hue seemed willing to join its fellow in the same writhing match of doom and destiny. And so they all, beast and man, crawled and moaned in the mud or screamed out in anguish, victims, contestants in some grim contest of suffering. Death was not yet satisfied with the harvest though, and swung back his scythe, dipping it low in its sweeping arc.
Though there were many from their own side who were lying bleeding upon the field, the Úlairi grew in power, for they gathered pain and distress about themselves like a dark cloak and regarded Death as an ally. Above the Easterling and Southron cavalry, as though to bring them a benediction, the Nazgûl swooped low over them and then swung out over the field ahead of them. Below the Nine now, shining brightly as one of Varda's stars, an Elf-lord, his chest heaving from the struggle and excitement of battle, held a blood-stained sword and looked up.
"Aiya, Úlaire! Mae govannen! Le suilon, Angmar o Carn Dûm!" the Elf taunted, challenging.
"Broshan, Honal! Garmadh aarsh-lab-ir!" Angmar answered, and then translated his words into Common Speech.
"Nai haryuvalyë melwa rë!" the Elf laughed.
"Aim for the bright one!" Angmar screamed, infuriated. The beasts descended as nine arrows flew from the bows of the Nazgûl.
"Leithio i philinn!" the Elf-lord commanded. "Ya línna ambanna tulinuva nan!"
The Elves were waiting for them. When the Nazgûl drew closer, the Elves unleashed a hale of flaming arrows into the sky.
"Flames! The bastards use fire!" shrieked Udukhatûrz.
"It appears now we find ourselves in the midst of the Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame," Skrishau, the Eighth Nazgûl, commented humorlessly as an arrow sped by his bow arm, "and it grows increasingly warm."
"Ghaash! Ghaash!" bellowed Rutfîmûrz as a flaming arrow struck the pommel of his saddle. His arms trembled and his arrow fell short. Momentarily dismayed by the fire, his will wavered from wielding the Black Shadow. Paralyzed by fear, he gazed in abject terror at the burning arrow as it charred his saddle. Rut felt his being caught in the center of the flames, spellbound. Unable to move, he thought only of leaping from the saddle and plunging to the earth.
"Fool! Stop staring at the fire!" Angmar ordered, urgency in his voice. "The spell of the flames will only catch you deeper and pull you into its power! Smother it out!"
"I cannot!" he screamed.
"Look away from the fire!"
The spot around the burning arrow tip began to glow brighter and then caught flame. By thought, Angmar called to his brother and began to intone a calming chant, words of soothing in an ancient tongue.
The dark is stronger than the light;
The night is quicker than the day.
Take comfort in ice and sorrow,
Safety in a cloak of shadow.
"My Captain for all time!" Rutfîmûrz groaned in relief as Angmar's words took hold in his mind, and he began to feel calmed. A scene flashed in his thoughts for a brief instant. Two men led their horses in the twilight and talked quietly as they walked along a shore. One man was taller than the other, and his dark hair tinged with silver blew about his shoulders in the sea breeze. The younger man spoke earnestly but the elder, taller man only smiled, his gray eyes twinkling in mirth.
"Who was this man?" Rut wondered, and then he knew. It was his Captain, once a great lord among men, and they had they paused and looked at the sea as the waves rolled in and the gulls called overhead. "Where was this and when?" Rut mused, but he did not know, and the image fled before his mind like the waves receding back into the sea.
The Sixth felt strength flow into him from his king. He summoned his will and chanted a spell of cold, oozing ice and smothering darkness, surrounding and quenching the flames until nothing was left of them but a tiny mist that was blown back in the wind.
"Back! Back!" Angmar shouted. "Towards the fortress and away! Put distance between us! Then we will come back and dive upon the Elven bastards and give them unyielding hell and fury!"
As the beasts of the Nine flew effortlessly back towards the West, Number Eight asked with feigned innocence, "Rutfîmûrz, a little careless today, are you not?"
"I have listened to your base attempts of humor far too long, Skri, and it has finally taken its toil," Rutfîmûrz snarled angrily. Then he added as an insulting afterthought, "I am glad our quarters in the City are far apart, and I do not have to hear your accursed music or your raspy voice as it croaks out discordant melodies, more resembling the moaning of some dying animal than singing!"
"You have always been envious of my singing and have not the strength of character to admit it, Rut," Skri said smugly, always self-confident and assured.
"I am in no mood to hear your humor today. Look at my saddle! Nearly ruined! There was fine workmanship here!"
The Black Captain, angry at the argument which he considered nonsensical, shrieked, "There is a damned battle going on! Did you forget? You are both so puffed up and enamored at the sound of your own words that you become careless! Pay heed, lest your beasts go astray because of your inattention!"
"My lord, Skri becomes too much after so many years. It was better in the old days when we dwelt further apart. After this is over, perhaps," he said, glancing over to Skrishau, who looked back with a self-satisfied smile upon his lips, "Skri could be sent to Dol Guldur to vex Khamûl and Zagbolg. I would not miss you, fiend!"
"Your mood is foul because you have been thinking too much about the Rohirric wenches, and how you would rather be riding them than your beast right now. Saddle rubbing your crotch and making you randy?" smirked Skri.
"Detestable scum! At least I do think about them!" hissed Rutfîmûrz. "Your only thoughts are of corpses and the wife of the False Judge!"
"I strive for both the obtainable and the unobtainable; the Dead and the Undying," Skri replied with cool apathy.
Irritated, Rutfîmûrz snapped, "Then sate your lusts upon your corpses! I shall spend my nights between warm, living thighs and not among the cold dead in the tombs!"
"Have you forgotten again that we are fighting a battle? Let us wage war and not dwell upon the pleasures and eccentricities of either of you!" Angmar hissed with disgust. "Any more of this talk and I shall send the both of you to the Room of Reflecting Shadows back in the City! Or, perhaps, if you prefer, the Room of Inverted Light!"
"Not that!" they both wailed.
The Nazgûl guided their beasts upward and then swooped down low. "Ready arrows again!" Angmar screamed as they flew closer. "Pierce the hearts of the sorcerous Elves! Let them die, vomiting up their own blood! Aim your arrows!" he cried as he reached his hand back into his quiver. Nocking an arrow, he let it fly towards the bright Elf-lord. The other Nazgûl chose their targets and set their deadly barbs rushing towards their victims.
The Witch-king's aim was true, but the Elf raised his shield and the arrow tore through it, splintering the surface. The Elf-lord swayed in the saddle at the arrow's impact, but he did not fall.
"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!" he shouted, looking up in triumph.
"Glorfindel!" Angmar screamed as his beast flew over the Elf's head. "Fornost is not forgotten, but this will not be not your day!"
Glorfindel smiled as he watched the Nazgûl soar over his head.
"Captain!" Khamûl wailed. "Let us turn back! The power of the Elves is too great! They cannot be stopped! Who knows what dark magick they will turn upon us next!"
"Cowards!" Angmar thundered.
"I cannot see!" Khamûl wailed again. "I cannot see! I am blinded!"
"At them once more!" the Morgul Lord roared. "Once more! And then, damn you all, we will turn back!"
They wheeled again and fell upon the impudent cavalry of Elves, unleashing arrows of hatred and vengeance, despair and destruction. Now only six arrows struck true. The wounded Elves and their mounts plunged to the ground.
"Pull up!" Angmar cried, but his order was too late, for the Elvish host had prepared their flaming arrows once more.
The beast of Krithnarînuz, the Ninth Nazgûl, screamed as an arrow drove deep into its underside, driving through viscera, black blood streaming out behind it. The beast struggled and then began plunging downward at a dizzying rate. Krith shrieked and held onto the pommel of his saddle as his beast hurtled towards the east until it passed beyond the vision of the others.
"Namárië, Úlaire!" Glorfindel laughed as he heard the Ninth Nazgûl's screams echoing away into the distance.
The Morgul Lord heard the dull thud as a flaming arrow hit his back. The barb caught in the riveted rings of his halberk, coming short of hitting his flesh, for the momentum of the arrow was weakened by the distance of the flight. The Black Captain caught the stench of smoldering cloth and then his surcoat caught fire, turning him into a flaming ebony candle burning in the sky.
"Damn!" his piercing shriek rent the air as he tore at the surcoat, but he was hampered by both belt and quiver. His bow fell from his hand as he struggled with his quiver and then, tearing the strap away, he flung the quiver aside. After loosening his belt, his fingers fumbled to pull his surcoat out from under the restraining girdle. His face contorted in horror as he felt the fire licking at his gloved hands. The Nazgûl Lord screamed, a long, keening wail. He fought to keep control of his will and his senses. Though all his instincts filled him with unreasoning panic, he fought to master himself, shrieking a loud, piercing wail as his beast caught his fear and began to tremble.
The Wraith Lord would use no sorcery as did his brother, for he did not wish to redirect his will from creating fear in the hearts of the riders and their horses. He calmly reasoned to himself - "You do not fear the fire. What could it do to you, really? You cannot die. After all, you are a Lord of Immortality." - but a deep primeval dread filled his heart. He could simply cast a cloud of shadows about himself and withdraw back to the Deep, but he felt that to do so would be a show of weakness to his enemies. So the Witch-king of Angmar fought his own battle with the fire and his pride.
His steel crown flickered red in the reflected light from his burning surcoat. "Skai," he moaned as he finally wrenched the flaming surcoat over the top of his head. Thrown far to the side, the garment fell, burning, towards the ground. Cursing, he noticed his crown was knocked askew on his head. With a twist of his hand, he set it right.
Glorfindel and the other elves laughed in glee as they watched the burning surcoat in its fall to the earth. "We have displeased the Úlairi today and they do not find mirth in our jest," Glorfindel chortled.
His face a grimace of rage, Angmar clenched his fists around the high pommel of his saddle. "You will look as a fool when word of this reaches Lugbûrz," he told himself. He shuddered when he thought of the displeasure of his Master when this news reached Him. "The battle goes ill for us," he chided himself. "What more can we do? We have given our all."
Then a voice, cold and deadly, spoke in his mind. "More, My little king! You can do more!"
Angmar considered the powers that his Master wielded and he wailed even louder.
"My lord," the voice of Udukhatûrz spoke, "we should not forget the plight of our comrade, Krith. His beast has gone down somewhere far ahead of us. Should we not go to his aid?"
Skri, his voice sardonic, answered, "Is the Ninth not easily forgotten?" He mused with all the humor of an embalmer, "Mayhaps the walk will do him good."
The Witch-king turned his head slowly. Skri caught the look in his blazing eyes and fell silent.
"Then go out and find him!" Angmar hissed.
Skri bowed his head to his lord. Then he turned his beast and they flew away towards the east.
"Where is the path? I am lost again! Guide me, brothers!" Khamûl cried in an unsteady voice.
Angmar thought, "Folly! All is folly! Disgraced, shamed! Whips, chains and fire - the fate of all those who fail, and we have failed!"
He thought of past punishments and trembled. Then, striving again to control his will, he commanded himself to give the order to the seven remaining Nazgûl to return to the fortress.
Glorfindel rode forth from the group of Elves and stopped beside an object ahead of them. Then, dismounting, he bent over and picked it up. "The Witch-king's bow," he exclaimed, musing as he looked down at the black bow. "His own hand has touched it and there are evil things written here. He will not be pleased at losing this."
Glorfindel rose to his feet, holding the bow. "We will look now for his quiver and perhaps some of the arrows that he unleashed upon us. When they are gathered, do not touch the tips of the barbs, for they harbor great evil. When we have time to study the bow, quiver and arrows, perhaps our skills can devise some remedy to their spells."
"Or some defense," another Elf suggested.
"Or perhaps even a device for their destruction," a younger Elf ventured. "In ancient days, so the the lore goes, there were blades bound with spells that could destroy the Úlairi. Though the secret to the making has been long lost, perhaps it might be regained."
Glorfindel looked at the Elf as a slow smile spread over his face, lighting up his eyes.
"Indeed, these things could prove quite useful someday."
Then he saw the enemy cavalry ride down the Dike. Within the half hour, the sun would ride the height of her zenith.
"They wish another taste," Glorfindel announced, "and we shall give them a whole meal!"
Second Battle of Helm's Deep, June 14, 3019 - Around 11:00 - 11:30 AM
Accompanying map charting troop movements by Angmar. While the Rohirrim regroup and the Easterlings recover from their retreat, the wounded lie upon the field. The Nazgûl circle overhead and battle with the Elvish archers. Chapter 24 takes place at the exact same time as Chapter 23 - "Promotions."
"Broshan, Honal! Garmadh aarsh-lab-ir!" - Hail Seer! Ruin upon your day!
Elvish (mostly Quenya):
"Aiya, Úlairi! Mae govannen! Le suilon, Angmar o Carn Dûm!" - Hail, Nazgûl! Well met! I greet thee, Angmar of Carn Dum!
"Nai haryuvalyë melwa rë!" - May you have a lovely day!
"Leithio i philinn! Ya línna ambanna tulinuva nan!" - Fire the arrows! What goes up must come down!
"Namárië, Úlaire!" - Farewell, Nazgûl!
"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!" - The day has come; the night is passing
"Úlairi" - The Nazgûl (plural); "Úlaire" - A Nazgûl (singular). (Literal meaning: Wraith)
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.