Swiftly the lands surrounding Izilba and Zhera’ fell under the shadow, and in haste they fled northward along the coast, riding upon the sea wains, or hauling them as may be; all the while in gladness, fearing no darkness nor threat of annihilation, for souls are such that may not be ever destroyed, being of the substance unmade, that your kind calls “spirit.” Knowing this, what fear but loss of time with kin and beloved friends doth death threaten?
Well, in that day the wandering dead spirits oft were captured, ensnared, or mislead into the deep places, Lower Airs of confusing orientation; whereby light itself may be held in awe, fear, reverence, for the faces it brings to memory, or the searing recall of one’s deeds to those trusting; or beyond our knowledge, as strangers needless brought to grieve. So death by the sinister gunwudu, the fearful dread of a dark dragon form, disbanding and scattering its fumes across a town-settlement by night while sleeping: Death indeed for all folk in those lands a terror beheld; and elves were little spoken of, and often in disregard; weak things, incapable of delivering even themselves from Sauron’s thralling reach. Even so, northward by circuitous ways, the wain-throng moved under cover of night, silent and watchful. Refuge they hoped to find with Elendil’s folk, far north upon lands pulled out from the covering ice by the God’s War of Wrath upon Meleko.
The Nazgul themselves were not so unified in purpose as may be feared, for thinking their master settled on kingship upon Numenor Westernesse, subservience turned to disobedience, and deception ran through all their thoughts: how to give and to pick out from one another. Three indeed of their cult had been carried to Sauron’s land in preparation for his great war returning back to the gods their many “unjust” deeds; what he foretold, or planned to undertake, none can tell; but it is supposed among the wise that these three were to lead an embassy of dead spirits upon Eressëa, offering terms of surrender; to the keeping of their little islands upon the sea, in return they would no longer withhold their kindred dead in thrall, under Udûn. But would release them, by oaths never to wreck or take up rebellion against Thû-Melko-Returned. Such the wise suppose, but worse, farther of evil greatest the likelier was in his heart-blackest; and mid-most the poison of his spirit.
Indeed, not [even] the three could, it is said, know or trust their master’s purpose, whatever the debates and evil-wisdom – his one ring, the bond that held them all to suffering his every whim and command, demeaning, great wickedness, or mere to stand and wait, beholding the weight of his will mightiest in dominance of souls bodied or no.
Yet many remained to serve this lord Nazgul bond-wraith, or some other; for men held in those days that one being indeed was found in all places, overwatching, directing his will; so none were by men named, though the Eldar gave Angmar as title to Khamûl, earliest in service taken by Sauron.
It was by men in other days gentle, concerned with the catches of their nets, or the game upon the spear’s end-tip, that our friends’ sea wains were on a night, heading early into daylight, surrounded; being espied by watchers three days previous, and the plans made to capture the folk unknown, and of seeming fantastic power. Had other men, with strains of wickedness more durably set through their souls taken them surrounding, likely it is that all of their party would have taken up arms, in the defense of their kin and liberty. But seeing these folk, rude, benighted, cozened in fear to service of bond- wraiths extraordinary in might and dread; seeing their captors’ evil plight, the company of Izilba and Zhera’ went almost willingly into the stockades, there to wait judgment, being trespassing strangers in a land where all passage was banned save by parties registered as friends of the Cult.
Here they sat until being fearful of the weapons, witch-skill, and seeing eyes of their captives, the chieftain of this people commanded they be drawn to the Holding Place, their weapons kept in store. So again they consented, fearing rather to shed the blood of this people, than their own demise; having found lasting joy, under the grace of Eru and of his keepers of Arda; but loath they were to part with the sword, and yet more so to treat its parting as a matter of great concern, trusting in the promise of Thingol’s blessing upon the head of Dyacôm, an inheritance of the work of his hands, be it sword, crystal, gem, or cavern.
So to the Holding Place were they drawn, or rather, carried; being also unwilling to suffer separation, one from another. And from the Holding Place they were taken, in time, without foreknowledge to the Tower Barad-dur, the gatehouse of Hell-Udûn, and there kept in chains, all bound as one until the Keeper of the Tower returned, or gave word whether to torment each unto death, for pleasure, spite, or seeking whatever knowledge each had hidden up; or to keep them, working as thralls in whatever task suited their craftskill or lore-learning; for loath were even the wicked to murder slaves or captives who may be of use in the building up of the Devil’s Kingdom, and to spread its wings across all the lands; for they were also lazy, given to pleasure-seeking, and for the most part, little devoted to the daily regimen of that kingdom’s expanding; save under the lash, or threat of execution; and long it had been neglected, this tower, while the Underworld was rooted about, catacombs for spirits amazed wreathed in endless confusion; the ordering of the domain of flesh neither the bond-wraiths gave, nor would they absent the power of Thû to foresee the minds of men, and to prepare for their assaults or idleness.
In the night sky, Izilba and others would through bars opening thereup, the twirling stars ^pick out; and by lore of the sons of Emmer, told them out of books very old, it was guessed that no more than four years remained upon which the world as it was then might stand; and that with the sun’s consuming, and the rising of shadows atop high flames, so saith Rumil, two parts would be made of one.
Little had the throng reckoned how evil their enchaining would be, when those rude folk asked them to surrender; and be stockaded. Yet often it is so, that had one known the end – as it seems, when plight be darkest under shadow – gracious deeds may have been less so; more urgent, and often evil makes a man regret his good works. Yet not so for Zhera’, whose soul was never again emptied of the joy found at the meeting upon the shores. Nor also for his beloved Izilba, for whom no dread was found whatsoever, for she had come to restoration, and now was with those she loved, and more deeply honored as the days in the common dungeon lingered; yet least troubled was his brother: to look upon Miriam sufficient to feed his heart; to hold the child, and give him bread when no abundance was given, enlivened his flesh.
By day the party was separated into smaller working strands, set to labor on road-building; or stocking brick; or harvesting. For though the lord was evil and a sickness abounded, none of the foreman nor jailers would do them harm, and often kept them from the worst tasks.
Then one of the Nazgul was heard to return, and the kingdom again returned to strain, labor, suffering, and awful sounds filled the night, of torment and long slow death. On a dark field where Zilpharon labored – he having concealed his smithying – though it would have given him privileges and honor in that land, but at the price of separation from Pagag and Miriam – when stooped over, peering into the soil, to see a sprout growing, his being was overshadowed, and nearly despaired unto death. For this wraith had seen from a distance some glimmer, and nosing his way thither, was now riding hard upon Zilpharon, upon his dire beast; and as before, Miriam quailed, and would flee, or run to her beloved; but for the fear of her son, should she do so – trusting the man’s light to withstand, she fell upon her face, and covered the lad until the wraith rose up before Zilpharon, and spoke:
Man, what is your name and history? Lie not to the Nazgul, for we see through stone, and the sound of your heart is before my ears.
Thus Zilpharon gazed upward, and smiling (!), laughed, and said,
Wraith most pitiable, I knew you upon a time, for as a child was I taken into the service of the Blue Mountain Dwarf- folk, and there learned much; and in passing, you and I spoke friendly, and I made for you – before so plaguing a sickness befell your people – a cup, for drinking and gave it freely. You were the last to take the ring, I surmise, doing so with false-promise to heal your lands, and now they are all perished or imprisoned, are they not?
And staggered by the recall of his days walking free of bonds upon Middle Earth, the wraith quailed and shuddered; drawing a wicked blade, it set to strike down the man, being ashamed of receiving his gift, and angered by his knowing. Yet as he did so, it was as if the man became lit by a golden flame, and his spirit shone forth, and drove down the wraith upon its knees (as it were); fearing its consuming by his fire of spirit, and his laughter ringing about its ears, the wraith became as a stone.
And Zhera’ came rushing into the field to aid his kin, and seeing him, Zilpharon signaled for him to stay, and remain silent. Then Zilpharon extended his hand, and lifted the wraith, dusting his robes with his hand, and smoothing them; saying to him,
To Eru Iluvatar I will pray, and seek for some release of your bonds, son of Fëanor; forget not your father, in Mandos’ Halls awaiting the return of his light preserved; to Eru Iluvatar I will speak, and trust his words, old friend.
So the wraith, stripped of anger, and in humility departed, its beast having fled, crying.
In after days it was told by Zilpharon that often he was threatened with some torment, and dragged enchained to a table or casket, only to find alone, being dismissed of guard, this wraith. To him Zilpharon told many tales, and learned much of the ancient knowledge; and though no friendship was offered by the wraith, honor remained to be given, as he listened to Zilpharon; ever on his mind was the word of Eru concerning his bonds, and of this matter, Zilpharon had naught to say; for speaking to Eru is not also hearing from Him.
Yet also Zilpharon was weakening in this land, and growing suddenly sicklier as the days waned. Three weeks and more he remained, in the company of this wraith, brought daily to some end, only to return in the eve to Miriam, and the company of Lovers most Faithful to one another, and ever listening for Eru’s light-word:
You shall give unto the son of Fëanor, hope – yet in this thing alone: that a restoration of his spirit to flesh may yet be, and without the burning brand of that ring, in a day to behold his father, as before; to sit with him, and to rest in his house. Yet nothing shall be of restoration, save this wraith serves every command of his master, being full wrought evil; only service to another may cleanse him sufficient to be handled by the music of the Ainur.
So the words of Eru were delivered, and the wraith departed that land of his master, and returned whither to organize some effort, far away. But word he gave, that the man and his kindred, friends, and babies should not be harmed, but being sources of power, preserved until the Thû returns to take them, unto the restoration of his flesh.
Yet in thralldom they remained and nothing more of Eru was any word given, to Zilpharon nor to any other. Yet hope grew among them, daily; and their spirits were enlarged, grown into swords of light amidmost the steps of Hell; none would dismay them, though often driven to work in fields, or hauling stuffs, or whatever labor may be contrived to remove them from the darkness of the tower’s dungeons; where none abiding desired to look upon their bliss, being touched by Eru, each one.
They went about doing good, and healing slaves, or aiding their passage from the living; when free in the fields or in the rounds, they sang of the Valar, and of the Elves; and many were drawn from despair thereby. They were, everyone of the company, favored of Eru, who often was among them: as a banner of light passing across the dark sky; or an arched rainbow, revealed only briefly, to Dyacôm or another, in their day’s work; or as a music come in the night, when after many hours of labor he would sing to them, and bring instruments to ease their slumber; dreams also he sent of Future Days. Yet in prison bonds they remained for months, never despairing.
And memory of the days before, each one was given as it is unto the Elves: enchanting, tangible, and summoned by will. To Zhera’ also came such love, that seven others he named in those cells unto kin, befriending each; raising them to the light of the songs of Zilpharon, sung out while he hammered for them better chains, more fit to their person, but in likeness of the old; so that they may be set aside, or taken up, at need. These seven were of the host of the people whose fathers had surrounded the sea wains, demanding their consent to be taken ashore and stockaded. They were in age little more than children, youth sent to labor-camps in tribute to the Dark Lords. So kindly was Zhera’ to each, dressing their wounds, giving them aid and food, and teaching them stories to make laughter ring about the halls of black, mossy stones; such as he learned often from Emmer, though that man was growing older by the day, and seemed to be failing, save the sharpness of his wit grew keener, but without – as ever – any bitterness or being directed at foolish mortals. He was generous in praise, and when he passed, as later he did – in the night of sleep all heard his voicing, lifting their spirits to receive his golden laughter.
And the serving women – nursemaid to the twins, and the helper of Emmer – these also came to love one another, and to see in their isolation, aging, and yet strengthening of spirit, the knitting work of Eru, as they praised; in preparation for a great sailing trip to a far off land, golden, abundant in golden rivers overhung by ripe fruit, and run upon by the softer turf, most fragrant ever a man slept upon; those women also nursed their cellmates, fellow slaves, being useful to the captors for prolonging their bodies, and easing the hard and difficult task of replacing docile men.
The children mostly they tended, and the children were a wonder to many in that land, in Mordor (!); but wary were their mothers and fathers, to lead the children about, as though flaunting their liberties and thus to bring upon many minds the question, “What deed most wicked to serve our masters must such have completed, to give so little constraint to their wandering?”
When the voice of Eru came upon the dungeon, not all perceived his words, but every soul not utterly rejecting his realm and glory partook in some measure apt to their making. Then did the voice come unto Zilpharon, and it warned that all tongues in every land would be by his mercy become confounded; meaning, uncertain, and less carrying to the mind the thought of its speaker. For in those days, thought could be borne by words into the heart and mind, deceiving greatly, or revealing oneself; yet in after days, as has been seen and shown, dead words – confounded tongues no longer connected to heart, connecting to mind – reigned.
And also Zhera’ was warned to prepare his house for escape, all that might be brought out; and Izilba given vision of the place her sword [was], and seeing that never again would she bear it, but her house would indeed sheath it, at last, when the kingdoms of this world are all subdued and become as one under Eru, for the benefit of his children who serve therein beast, man, bird, plant, tree, and so on, all his works, flourished.
So they waited through a night, and day came bringing with it on the wind, liberators: Tal Elmar ^u-Hazad, Thingol his new friend, and the axe-man Ki-Abroam. Though none of the keepers were slain, in the charge many buildings and roads were thrown down or put in disarray; and fountains burst forth, and swamps drained of their stink, as the three rode on to Barad-dur, to discover therein the star- stone. And it was found upon a child, Dyacôm shining in the darkness, and he was led forth out from that tower, and behind him, singing songs, laughing, weeping, and embracing, were all the slaves; among them, the Company of Zhera’, who thereafter following a cloud of Eru, and his voice leading, came to the valley of Nimrod[el], and there set forth to wander amid the wastes and wilderness eastward; then bending south, returning westward, came again to that shore, whence they started a year previous. And there they rested awhile, and a child was also born to Izilba, and he was called Pahoran-Orihah; being blind, yet seeing much that conducted afar off, and into the hearts he also peered, seeing all traps and snares, and laughing at the wiles of wicked persons.
So we bring an end to these tales, and already it has been told that the brother of Zhera’ sought Eru in the caves of Azanulbizar, where long before he mined the Mithril; yet refusing to make of it weapon or armor; here he gathered the matter to make for the ships then ^
being built, sixteen glasses; each one to hold some portion of the light of Creation, and all assembled to sing forth the hymns of the Ainur unto Eru, when before the making of Arda all things were yet under his good dominion, and none sought, nor conceived as yet, dominion over any other spirit.
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