Author notes: In my story "Holding Back the Flood", the Nazgûl sorcerer attempted to penetrate Rivendell's defenses through its unguarded "back door". But was there another way? I just had to explore one more idea...

This story will probably consist of short chapters, but I'm happy to finally be writing it. I am grateful to Lilybaggins for inspiring this story, and to Lynda for contributing ideas.

DISCLAIMER: The Professor's wonderful characters don't belong to me; I just get to think about them day and night.

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** "And more deadly to Frodo was this!" He stooped again and lifted up a long thin knife. There was a cold gleam in it. As Strider raised it they saw that near the end its edge was notched and the point was broken off. But even as he held it up in the growing light, they gazed in astonishment, for the blade seemed to melt, and vanished like a smoke in the air, leaving only the hilt in Strider's hand. "Alas!" he cried. "It was this accursed knife that gave the wound. Few now have the skill in healing to match such evil weapons. But I will do what I can."

He sat down on the ground, and taking the dagger-hilt laid it on his knees, and he sang over it a slow song in a strange tongue.

** Briefly Strider told of the attack on their camp under Weathertop, and of the deadly knife. He drew out the hilt, which he had kept, and handed it to the Elf. Glorfindel shuddered as he took it, but he looked intently at it.

"There are evil things written on this hilt," he said; "though maybe your eyes cannot see them. Keep it, Aragorn, till we reach the house of Elrond! But be wary, and handle it as little as you may!"

'Flight to the Ford', The Fellowship of the Ring

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IN THE MIND'S EYE

Chapter 1: Left Behind

The sorcerer watched impassively as his Captain rode into the Bruinen along with two others of the deathless ones. Three were more than enough to retrieve Baggins, who was so close to succumbing to the enspelled shard that they could all now see the Halfling clearly.

It was he who had enspelled his Captain's knife, investing fragments of his own essence and will into blade and hilt. He had learned the process from the Dark Lord Himself, who had unwisely poured such a large measure of Himself into the One Ring that His powers had been greatly limited by its loss. But the Ring was lost no longer. Baggins was now raising his pitiful weapon, and his Captain shattered it with a single, focused intent channeled through the ring on his finger. At last they could...

There was a thunderous roar, and to his horror, the river suddenly exploded into torrential fury. His Captain and the others were swept away before his eyes. He frantically turned his horse about, only to discover that Baggins' companions had come up behind them wielding fire. The cruel, burning light of an Elf-lord seared his eyes. The horses, caught between two dangers, neighed in terror and no longer obeyed their Riders' commands.

But even while desperately attempting to bring his frenzied mount under control, the sorcerer felt an echo of his own dark magic emanating from one of the shadowy shapes before him. It was coming from the knife-hilt that had been left behind at Amon Sûl! So... one of the foolish mortals had brought it all this way on his person, unknowingly allowing the enspelled hilt time to subtly entwine its energies with his own. The powerful spells he had laid on the hilt had been weakened by some Elvish magic, but it would still be possible to influence this mortal in a limited way.

All of this he realized even as his horse bucked and wheeled in fear, and he felt himself being brought closer to the river which crashed and roared in a deafening flood. One by one, the mounts of his remaining deathless brethren stumbled into the flood and were gone, until only he was left. With scant seconds left to act, he marshalled all of his concentration and pointed the withered finger bearing his ring of power directly toward the mortal. Crying out words in the Dark Speech, he focused on the fragment of himself that inhabited the enspelled hilt, and merged with it. The mortal - he sensed a Man of ancient lineage - staggered and fell, and there was a cry of fear from one of the Halflings.

Using dangerous and subtle craft long-practiced, and honed on unfortunate Men and Elves who had crossed his path, he quickly sought the mortal's mind and cast himself into it, prepared to probe for information to bring to his Captain when next they were together.

But time had run out. The wraith's focus was pulled abruptly back to his own body as he, too, was hurled into the river. His horse was no longer beneath him, and he tried futilely to mount one of the water-horses formed by a magic such that he had never before encountered; but his hands fell through the foamy mane, and he was crushed beneath icy talons, crashing boulders, and pounding hooves. But even as he was swept far from Baggins, he experienced a grim satisfaction. Their pursuit of the Master's Ring had temporarily been thwarted, but into the hidden valley of the Elves would travel the fragment of dagger which even now sought the Halfling's heart. And now, a fragment of his own consciousness had been planted - deeply, and virtually undetectable - into the Man's mind. It, too, would be carried into Imladris, where another utterance of the Black Speech would rouse its dark purpose. The Halfling himself would surely cry out in the tongue of Mordor when the Ring claimed him and he entered the shadow realm. The moment the Black Speech cleft the air within the borders of Imladris, the dormant essence within the Man would awaken, transforming him into an unknowing spy in service to the Dark Lord. All that he saw and heard would be gathered and stored in his mind... for Him.

The Elf lords will surely destroy the knife hilt, and feel themselves safe, but they will never guess that its power lies now within a mortal who walks among them as a friend. When next I find this Man, I will drain him of every memory, leaving an empty shell ripe for enslavement. I will then return with my brethren to this Elvish valley, armed with the secrets to breaching its border. That day will be sweet.

** TBC **