5. Fytte the Last
During the starless night, while bats tracked across the sky and trees groaned beyond the fortress walls, Úlairiel and #5 laid a simple stone marker for her steed and comrade Teri, believed barbecued by Elves of Lórien.
Tears pricked Úlairiel's eyes and issued forth in a silver stream, turning her cerulean orbs yet more iridescent. She leaned back against her husband, who wrapped her in the deathless strength of his steel-clad arms. #5 stroked the pale hair that flowed over his gauntlets like melting ice-cream. "Weep not," he murmured. "Elvesss all die. Treeesss burn. Sssnookums promissess."
Úlairiel nodded, accepting his comfort and taking hold of her wayward feminine emotions. After all, the ignoble end of Teri was only a minor blot on her flourishing happiness. Each night, when dusk descended, she awoke to her perfect lover, clutching at one or other of his more accessible body parts. For fomenting charges of Kinslaying between Lórien and Rivendell, she had been praised in a memo signed by Lord Sauron himself. And she was beginning to enjoy the state that #5 called 'abrupt devivification' or, in his most tender and soothing moods, 'being animationally challenged'. Once Úlairiel had grasped the nettle of being dead, she could truly appreciate why mortals were envied this particular adventure. She was as beautiful as ever, if not more so, and as a side benefit, had seemingly become more or less invincible. Her already abundant skills and strength were enhanced to megalomaniac proportions. She had spent happy hours trying them out, she and #5 clashing morgul blades in the courtyard, or holding a mirthful contest to see who could ululate the louder. She enjoyed popping into the Wraith-world – there was a superb view of Barad-dûr from there. So yes, she was more than content, although she had loved unlucky Teri as if he were her own child.
At that thought, Úlairiel realized that there was a gap in her happiness, and she turned in #5's embrace. "Beloved," she began huskily, folding her slender arms about his powerful neck, "do you wish for the greatest gift of my love? Have you wondered whether we might have a child?"
Those words released a dam within her spirit, and she knew then that she desired nothing more in Arda than to hear the patter of tiny sabatons within the fortress' halls. "Ah, beloved," she cried, "how I do crave to nourish your seed in me!"
#5 looked thoughtful, and stroked her hair a while. He told her then that such matters could be difficult amongst the living dead. "Not impossssible, dearessst," he said, "asss my lord learned from hisss own Massster. Now you have ssspoken, I do yearn to sssee the offssspring of your beautiful flesssh. My lord will give good advyssse to ussss."
Úlairiel was overcome with delight, which she could express no better than by leading #5 to their chambers in order to begin their quest forthwith. Six hours later, they left the fortress and embarked for Barad-dûr.
Riding pillion with her husband on his soaring mount, Úlairiel sang as the wind toyed with her hair, all vestiges of woe dispersed like morning mist before the midday sun. She thrilled with the anticipation of seeing Lord Sauron's greatest fortress, currently being rebuilt (after some incident involving a volcano) on a design that she had suggested. As they drew nearer, rags of smoke and vapour made her sensitive Wraith-nose tingle. It was not long before she saw the rising edifice, wreathed in gauzy fumes; a ring of black stone on foundations of solid rock, over which scuttled the tiny forms of Orc labourers. A Nazgûl – #3, thought Úlairiel – circled the site on graceful pterodactyl wings, overseeing the diligence of the Orcs. It was a magnificent vista, and Úlairiel could yet scarcely believe that she, an unfortunate orphan of the Woodland Realm, was come to dwell in such a place.
They touched down on a temporary airstrip just outside the walls, near a cluster of prefabricated huts currently housing the less vital administrative departments. The smallest Nazgûl, chosen for unavoidable tasks of civilian diplomacy, was in the visitors' office, coldly explaining to a representative from Emyn Arnen Windows that the new building did not require double glazing, and there was a reason why its windows were of spectral green glass and a friable Gothic shape, thank you very much.
Úlairiel hugged the smallest Nazgûl, and then she and #5 swept quickly through the gates and into the fortress. Within, Barad-dûr seemed no less fair than without. Its walls were of marble, black and finely cut, that seemed to swallow the light of the occasional guttering torch; its ironwork was likewise black, and wrought in divers shapes as of a wondrous bestiary; and about the halls there hung a green shade. Úlairiel gazed about her in frank appreciation, twisting her cowled head this way and that in order to see properly. "The lights…" she said. "The people… the things… er, other people…"
#5 tucked her gauntlet possessively under his vambraces. "Dearesst," he murmured. "Be ssso happy here."
Úlairiel nodded. She felt almost giddy, and if not already beyond the weaknesses of the flesh, might have thought that the pervasive volcanic gases had something to do with it. Her new home was stunning. She could imagine no better place in which to live out an eternity of political reorganization, hard riding in groves and valleys, and nursing small Wraithlings.
That reminder of her urgent errand caused Úlairiel to stride faster along the corridors, and within a short space they arrived at Lord Sauron's council chamber. The Dark Lord of Mordor looked well indeed; using the power of the Ring, he had enhanced his physique still further, and was now most… manly. He acknowledged Úlairiel and #5 briskly, and gave them a belated wedding present – some morgul spoons.
The lovers had arrived in the middle of an important planning meeting, and thus Úlairiel waited patiently for an hour, suggesting wisely how the captains might take advantage of the incipient Kinslaying, before she was able to seek audience with Lord Sauron for her private needs. He seemed to halt at her gentle request, but gathered himself. He pointed her to his corner office (past the Orc secretary, the one with the palantír) and they sat down. Then he squirmed a little, got up, called for coffee, and downed a large swig. Finally, he signed for Úlairiel to speak.
Swiftly, she explained her cause: that she longed to bear the sweet fruit of #5's fair loins, not only for the love she bore her husband, but for the increase of their kind. She saw Lord Sauron's face grow thoughtful for a time as she spoke; then as she continued he seemed vexed, and eventually he cut off her flow of eloquence.
"Please," he said, making feeble motions with his fingers. "Faithful #10, you still have things to learn of beings like ourselves." Sauron felt tongue-tied by a strange compulsion not to hurt his newest captain's feelings, and was quite unable to utter the phrases topmost in his mind. He approached the subject at an angle. "Know you the science of genetics?"
"Not really," said Úlairiel. She had heard, however, that Lord Sauron was learned in various arcane disciplines, having inherited a lab and specimens from his former boss. "Why?"
Sauron tried to explain that for beings that existed simply as spirit, without corporeal forms other than those which they made or borrowed to walk in the outer world, breeding was considered a headache. "We may house ourselves in these forms," he said, warming to the lecture, "but we have no blood that is uniquely ours to pass on to our children. Hence the fondness of my race for crafting our pets out of extant materials. The one time it was attempted otherwise, the consequences were disastrous. I presume you know the legend of Lúthion?"
"Lúthien?" said Úlairiel.
"Lúthion," he said. "A failed experiment. The mother – one of the Ainur, like myself – carried the child, but as her body was merely a magical simulacrum of flesh, the said infant when born looked disturbingly like its father. The family staged a ludicrous cover-up – locking young Lúthion in a treehouse, making him wear a Hallowe'en mask in public, and finally having him marooned on an island, all the while paying minstrels to spread tales about his extraordinary loveliness."
Úlairiel flushed a little, remembering how she had heedlessly sung the Lay of Leithian in the halls of Dol Guldur. "Is there then no hope?" she said plaintively, looking down at her smoky Wraith-form. She could hardly bear to be frustrated in this one goal. She had found her love, and was wed to him for all eternity; she had helped sway the tide of war, and was sure to get at least a continent of her own once the dust had settled. Was it too much to expect the one thing that would complete her joy?
Lord Sauron sighed, and wandered through one of the green, Gothic windows on to a balcony outside the office. Temporary battlements had been erected there, so that while the fortress' towers were yet unfinished, he might still survey his dominions and let his glowing Eye hang out. He heard a feather-light footstep as Úlairiel followed him. Wincing, he kicked a small potted plant.
"There is one possibility," he muttered. Standing at the rail, his roving gaze took in the spread of plains and mountains that was his domain; even veiled as it was in smoke, and echoing with the wails of the man from Emyn Arnen Windows, the fair treeless landscape was somehow less satisfying than it had been even the day before. Not even his buff physique reflected in the windows made his immortal spirit race much. "My Master – imprisoned by the Lords of the West. I had been hoping to engineer his return in savage and terrible glory." Sauron felt remarkably tired, considering the newness of his body. "He created the Dragons, and re-sculpted the fabric of Arda, and... might be able to suggest a solution to your problem."
"Really?" said Úlairiel. Her downcast eyes were suddenly lit with excitement. Not only was she consumed by the longing to replicate her beloved, but she was intrigued at the thought of meeting Melkor; she had heard that he was close to being her equal in the art of avant-garde singing. "Will engineering his return be difficult?"
Sauron took a long, hard look at Úlairiel's set jaw and vibrant gaze. "Probably not," he said. He sighed once more. Úlairiel's expression grew brighter still; roses effloresced in her cheeks, and a sound like a cheery kettle emanated from her fair throat. Sauron almost stepped back because he thought she was about to kiss and embrace him.
"My lord," she cried, "I shall do all that is in my power to fulfil our twain long-cherished dreams!" Dancing and laughing in her now unalloyed happiness, Úlairiel sprang over the doorsill and flew away to seek out #5. The walls rang with a concert of silvery echoes behind her.
For some considerable time thereafter, as shadows thickened and spread, the Dark Lord of Mordor remained on his balcony, occasionally spitting gum on to Gorgoroth below.
Tolkien described the winged steeds of the Nazgûl as being inspired by dinosaur lore and
'pterodactylic' (Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, London: Allen & Unwin, 1981, p. 282). In this story, they are simply called 'pterodactyls' because a) it's hard to think of another single-word title, and b) it sounds amusing.
Sabatons are armour pieces worn on the feet.
One line was respectfully borrowed from Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
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.