On and on the drums roll.
The very earth shakes, as if the final Silmaril has kindled a great flame, and all the world is moved. The feet of marching companies beat against the ground, a roaring echo of the call.
I can hear the orcs around me: “Gnash!” they scream, crying for fire as they drive forward to assault the walls.
I have forgotten my mortal days; forgotten the shape and heft of fire without this shadow world. These eyes are veiled now, darkened by what I have become, until all it seems are blended into one, torn apart and rebuilt upon itself. Fire is power here.
It has spread all across the battlefield, now, a flaming red in a world of grey shadows. Even the lowest circle of this white city of stone is burning. Only the light of elves shines brighter, and there are no elves here.
Far above me in the sky I can feel my brethren, the only brothers I have now, and they wheel and turn and wait.
The Ring of Power burns as a fiery brand upon my finger, and silently I call to them; We will not wait forever. The night has come.
The orcs about me fall to dark and arrow, but they are nothing, so long as the Hammer of the Underworld rolls on, they are nothing. Grond they named that snarling wolf’s head. A fitting name for ruin.
It was time, but what is that to me? How many years had I, once mortal, been bound to my Master by this one Ring of Nine, this burning chain no bigger round than my finger? But no, that is a lie. There are so many lies. ‘King’ they called me once, but it was no more truth than the name I bear now. The Witchking of Angmar; let all flee before his fury and the power of his ! What king falls to his own trap, laid waste by the power that is his? I am no more than a wraith now, a faint whisper on the winds of time, a pindrop against the glory of the Song of the Ainur.
This Ring alone does not bind me.
I know how I must appear to those soldiers still brave enough to man the walls; a great shadow, a fell horseman, the signature of their doom.
The sword in my hand gleamed pale and cold and strong in this wraith world of mine, a thing substantial in the mist of circumstance. But no; that was only the silver of the Tower of Ecthelion, fading now. My sword is only another pale blur in this world of shadows. But still I remember. There are no coincidences.
The whine and skip of arrows ceases. Fear has joined the soldiers on the walls, and she outnumbers them threefold.
To this, the drums were the clack of two rocks to an avalanche. Had I looked up to see the streaks of falling stars I should not have been suprised. But I am beyond the reach of any stars; beyond all darkness, where only nothingness awaits.
I stood then, crying out in rage and fury, and the earth roared in answer. Again, and again; and on the final call the Hammer of the Underworld hurled the gates in ruin.
There was nothing, now, between me and the white city. I moved on, a black shape darker than the night about, a wraith in human form. Was that form all that is left to me; am I truely bereft of any sense of my mortality? Oh Mandos, Mandos, do you yet cast out from your Halls one more wandering soul? Where is that they say I am, that greatest of the gifts of the One?
Thus I thought as I passed under the archway that no thing of darkness had ever crossed before. Where is the light of the last failing star before the clouds?
But I was not alone.
They had fled before me, even those stout men of Gondor, as I had known they must. What man defies the power of the night? Yet I was not alone.
There they stood as one; horse and rider, silver and white. It was no mere mortal who stood against me; yet in that hour I could have welcomed .
“You cannot enter here,” he called out, stern and unmoving. I halted; I, that darkest of all things once mortal, who could not be killed by living man, the Lord of the Nazgul, the Greatest of the Nine; I, the Witchking of Angmar, halted.
“Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back!”
Back? Behind me stretched endless years of darkness, but beyond them the light of a mortal life beneath sun and stars gleamed, faint echo though it was.
“Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your master. Go!”
I flung back my hood, the nothingness of my being displayed, surmounted by this mockery of a crown. “Old fool!” I said to him. I am nothing but a shadow already. I have no need of turning back. “Old fool!”
Were I to lose that shadow as well, the vestige of my nothingness, what then? He was no man who confronted me; but neither was he the One. We are none of us strong enough for the end. I laughed then, harsh and cold.
“This is my hour.”
The time had come. The night was complete. Whatever hope of light, it could not reach us, enthroned in my emptiness. I lifted my sword, its silver echoing the silver of the Tower so far above. “Do you not know Death when you see it?” For here I am. Bend before me, Mortal. I alone have cheated myself.
Bound by nothing so small as a ring.
“Die now and curse in vain!” Fire; fire and silver as one on my blade, power and cruelty, each defining the other.
That should have been the end of it. The gate was mine. But the tide had already turned.
Far away and beyond all thoughts of emptiness a rooster crowed.
That sound, that I had heard so often in my mortal life…
It was then that the horns began to wind.
It was not the end of the night. Lord of the Nazgul, I had other servants, other weapons. Other hours. The darkness would only be postponed for the day. With that I turned and was gone. Let the city stand proud in its defense before it was broken. I was bound to the night.
But even as I turned, even as the darkness broke beneath the sun, I wondered; how far can a single ray of light reach into realms of darkness?
Far enough to return one’s own?