Writer's Notes - ok, back to LOTR for a bit. I wanted to show the Witch King some more and put forth a bit of his backstory. Also, a little tie into the Silmarillion. The setting is courtesy ICE's Empire of the Witch King.
Other malarkey - Happy birthday to two good friends. Being acting CO isn't too tough yet. Practiced some light tameshigiri - cutting with shinken. 3/4" bamboo stalks.
Carn Dûm, Fall, 1408
Heavy flakes of snow whirled around the stone balcony that jutted out from the mighty fortress of the Witch King of Angmar. A cold wind blew against the cliff face, which would have frozen any mortal. However, the Lord of the Nazgûl stood near the metal railing, unfazed, gazing off into the northern wastelands with cold, unflinching eyes. The glint of silver armor reflected the dim sunlight beneath layers of dark clouds – just the way he liked it.
In his unholy mind, he thought back to a time when he felt the sun on his face…and he enjoyed it. An image flashed in his dark consciousness of a grand ship with full sails and the banners of mighty Númenór full and fluttering in the wind under a bright sun. Waves of blue water crashed on the prow of the vessel and it creaked and groaned, but the man on the forecastle worried not. His ship was a fortress of timber and an indomitable symbol of Westernesse. Tindomul, the Twilight Son, he was called in the language of the High Elves and Er-Mûrazôr, the Black Prince, to his kinsmen. The prince looked off over the roiling sea, smelling the brine in the air and feeling the cool spray on his face. The ships of his fleet sailed beside him, like castles dotting the land of a kingdom. How appropriate, he thought. When he reached Umbar, it would be the birth of a new kingdom.
The young man's face darkened beneath his raven hair, which whipped in the breeze. He had lived in the shadow of his brother, Atanamir, whose ambitions were as large as his ego. Both were sons of the king, Tar-Ciryatan, and both were descended from the legendary Elros Tar-Minyatur. Why should he, the Black Prince, have to grovel at the feet of another man?
The sound of gulls broke the spell of self-pity and Er-Mûrazôr looked up into the bright sky. The white birds flocked overhead and a few landed on the giant masts of his ship. He shielded his eyes momentarily until a fluttering sail blocked the sun. He could smell it now…land. He stretched his hand out and a sailor placed a spyglass in his palm. The prince peered ahead and the great port was now visible – Umbar. There, he would now be king…and beyond, Middle-Earth, a land to exploit.
The Witch King's mind broke away from the memory and the image of young Er-Mûrazôr faded, but the smell of the sea remained in his undead nostrils. The wraith snorted, trying to clear the scent and looked down at a heavy, golden ring that encircled his index finger, one of nine that were all very similar. He cocked his head, thinking about how long that ring had been there. He tried to entertain the thought of taking it off, maybe just for a moment, but a pit formed in his undead stomach and he put the idea out of his mind – he was a slave to the ring and nothing would ever change that. No man could ever slay him and he would exist for all eternity, neither dead nor alive.
He turned, his mind now focused in its singular obsession – to destroy the kingdoms of the North. His master had spoken eons ago and he would carry out this task if it took centuries. His priest, the Angûlion, awaited him. Chief of the Mor-sereg, the Cult of the Black Blood, the Angûlion was the Witch King's right hand. He too, had seen the unfolding of the centuries since proud Númenór and was granted near eternal life by none other than Sauron. In millennia past, he could claim kinship with Er-Mûrazôr and another ringwraith, Herudil, also known as Akhorahil the Blind or Morgomir.
"Come, Angûlion, we must return to Lughilsarik. The storm needs more fury," he said in his hollow, whisper. But the message was clear – they would use the Zaugthrakas. The Angûlion paused for a moment, seeming to fear such an event. Er-Mûrazôr sensed the trepidation. "You may wait in the Propylaeum," he added, indicating the entry chamber to the great tower of Lughilsarik.
"You go to visit Zaugthrakash again?"
The Witch King smiled inwardly, knowing the visit was beyond the capability of any mortal or elf. He imagined being bathed in frigid light, the ecstasy of it one of the few real pleasures left to his wraith form. "Yes."
"The Zaugthrakash, what is it, exactly?" the priest asked, curiosity written on his face.
Er-Mûrazôr turned his ghostly face toward his cousin, his cold eyes glowing with frigid glee. "It is…the Awful Fragment," he said cryptically as he walked past and toward the narrow bridge across an endless chasm. They journeyed through the red mountain to the southern face where fell beasts awaited them. The foul, winged reptiles took wing with their riders, casting dark shadows across the land. They flew through the swirling snow as ice and frost coated the shouts and bat-like wings of the beasts. Then, through the shroud of fog, he saw it – Lughilsarik.
It was a monstrous spike of obsidian, build on a small plateau 7,500 feet up in the Misty Mountains. The Witch King guided his beast downward toward a snow-covered clearing where the reptile dug its claws into the ground. Dismounting as the Angûlion landed, he looked up at the tower, shaped like a five-pointed star, its black walls gleaming coldly. He patted the beast on its snout and tethered it to one of the black pillars leading up to the doors of the tower. He ran his fingers along the silver Tengwar inscriptions along one pillar – ancient sigils of magic to keep away the unwary and the unwanted. The power of the wards worried him not, however, as he had written them himself. He stepped over the frozen body of a curious orc, unconcerned that one of his minions had fallen. After all, he had thousands more.
At the doors to the tower, the Witch King passed his ghostly hand over deadly sigils and seams appeared along the black, stone portals. They opened with a deep, grinding sound and pushed the fallen snow away from the entrance. He took a step in and could feel the power within and even his icy heart was chilled. His heavy boots clunked on the dull slate floor as his priest followed him in. He walked to one wall, where a black statue with ruby eyes stood. Only the Angûlion's breath misted in this frozen hall.
"Angûlion, you must wait here. Your flesh cannot bear what lies beyond," he said in a voice growing in strength and volume. He looked back to see the priest bow and take a seat. At the statue, he first placed his helm and crown upon its head. Then, he removed his ancient sword and flail and placed them in the hands of the statue, which took hold of the items. Unarmed, he strode from the Propylæum forward into the tower, his boots ringing in the cold air.
There, he took a moment to admire the construction of the tower – 150 feet tall and crafted of interlocked blocks of obsidian, polished smooth and covered in a layer of frost. Only a slender cleft in the north wall marred its perfection. He walked on, across the floor of polished slate to an iron ladder and, hand over hand, he climbed up the icy rungs to a ramp that wound around the central pillar. He pulled himself onto the ramp and began the final walk to the summit, his fists balled in anticipation. He felt the ring, hard and cold on his finger and his cruel intellect flashed back to a memory – a being of infinite beauty and grace holding out a ring to him, promising eternal life. Annatar, the being was called, a creature of infinite might. Er-Mûrazôr, the dark-haired prince, took the gift of life without end and swore a dark oath to Annatar…the Lord of the Rings.
One ring to rule them all, he later discovered. But, by then, it was too late.
At the rounded pedestal at the summit, the Witch King stopped and stretched out his hands. Frost covered his form, giving him an inhuman look, but his body felt no cold. He looked down into the pedestal, made of the volcanic glass known as laen to the great smiths. There, suspended in the translucent glass was a large blue fragment. Despite its broken state, it was beautiful to behold. With icy hands, the ringwraith grasped the edges of the pedestal and the fragment began to glow. It bathed him in an eerie blue light and he felt warm, a feeling that had almost been forgotten in his frozen heart. Then, he began to smell the fragrance of a mountain stream, chill and pure. He grit his teeth, trying to fight the sensations, but the power of it was overwhelming. Again, an image and sound tore through his mind – a mischievous laugh and the twirl of a woman's dark hair. The scent of flowers was now thick in his nostrils and he could see the Bay of Rómenna from his tower and the sound of pounding waves now filled his ears. The woman rounded a corner and he followed to a balcony where he could see groves of yavannamírë growing outside. The woman turned with a smile on her glowing face and she put her hands on the prince's chest.
The Witch King wobbled and fell to one knee as the vision jolted his psyche. He howled, a terrible soul-chilling shriek and grasped the pedestal with all his might. With singular focus in his cruel mind he forced the vision away and brought his power to bear. The Zaugthrakash, radiated intense light, drowing the Witch King in its magnificence. Icicles formed and shattered on his face and limbs until the power of the fragment was tamed and its light diminished. Outside, the howl of a storm could now be heard – the Zaugthrakash had done its work. The storm would soon descend upon hapless Rhudaur, Cardolan, and Arthédain. Shaking and weak now, the Witch King stepped back and coldly admired the fragment, a piece of the fallen lamp of Illuin.
He could not believe his luck when it was found seven years ago. In the time before time, the Valar placed the two lamps to light the world of Arda, but Melkor threw them down and the shape of Arda was bent forever – seas boiled and the stuff of the earth liquefied and leapt up in torment. Mountains were formed and the land was split as the falling lamps tore the world asunder. For eons, the fragment lay, buried beneath the mountains until now. The Black Prince smiled inwardly as the memory of warmth faded, knowing that he alone controlled the destiny of the North.