Part III Chapter 1
At The Dark: Quest Day 3
Piercing Spear Ù7
It loomed as an immense ominous void, made of blocks of bleak black basalt. This was the Great Hall of the Dark Lord.
Vastly this Hall extended, and for this and its blackness, its end could not be seen from the other. It presented to all-those summoned within as malicious and merciless.
A row of windows had been incised from the northern and north-eastern walls, dark portals to a darker world outside. Those in the north were not discernible, as hulking ebony wood and iron shutters stood guard to oppose all intrusion. Unopened for years, these huge shields, hinges rusted and rigid, permitted no light to enter or escape. A solitary eastern shutter lingered barely ajar, and from this, a blaze of early morning stabbed the darkness, but immediately was consumed by the murk.
The walls, somber and severe, were unadorned, save for some mounted candle-lights, which were sheathed by metal bars. Where these had been lit, they threw threatening, flickering shadows across the Hall. The candles spluttered as if trying to resist the oppression of the chilling gloom. Grey streaks of smoke trailed high, and draped the expanse in a shadowy pall. The stench of dying wax and wick was infused with that of ancient dread. For here, many had witnessed the wrath of the Dark Lord.
A cavernous cold pervaded the Hall. The Dark Lord wished no hearth installed, as was common in halls as this; he wished all who were admitted to feel the chill of his presence. His intention was not missed by any who were so arraigned.
On the western wall, rose towering double-doors; sentinels soaring upwards almost father than sight. These were made of massive wooden pillars that seemed to have been ravaged by fire, so scorched and scoured were they. They carried no ornamentation except a beaten bronze handle, forged into the shape of a spear, sealing the Hall off from what lay beyond.
The Hall reached up through the shroud of smoldering smoke, its height stretching further than two-rods. Spanning the entire length of its vaulted ceiling were mammoth beams. These had been hewn from giant blackwood trees, which had once reigned mighty and proud in the primeval forest of Mordor; here they looked downward, as forlorn captives of The Dark. From these beams were suspended patined candelabra, pitted by the hammering of orc smiths of Angmar. These hovered unlit, but those on the wall, cast their breath towards the grim tarnished frames, making them quiver and grimace.
At the southern end of the Hall, running along its whole length and to its crest, emerged a colossal cabinet. Hidden behind the paneled-doors of etched and inlayed bronze were amassed the tools and manuscripts of The Dark; this façade of stunning splendor obscuring the terror of that which dwelt inside. At the western end of this southern wall, undetectable, was a hinged stone-block scored out of the wall. Guarded by this block was a chamber, in which was secreted the seeing-stone of the Dark Lord. Very few were aware of this chamber; virtually none were allowed to venture near.
In the middle of the Hall, towered a throne, hewed out of a single slab of basanite from the fiery midst of Mount Doom. Cleaved deeply into its flesh were the symbols of The Dark: the dragon’s eye, the serpent, the wolf and the eight pointed star of chaos. Upon this seat Sauron sat when he granted an audience; this menacingly accentuating his mastery.
Not far from this, a titanic table took command of the Hall. Wrought from the hull of the Minastir, the flag-ship of Tar-Ciryatan, which was shipwrecked when carrying plunder to Númenor. Parts of the Minastir and the treasures were salvaged, and a piece of the hull came into the possession of the Dark Lord.
He had the planks of red oak, grayed and purged by the sea, severed into a table-top, the supports of which were fashioned from the petrified trunks of goliath redwoods that had fallen in a forgotten Age. Along the centre, the emblems of The Dark from the throne had been replicated, carved with the intent of threat by a craftsman of Carach Angren. Over this table reared high-backed chairs, constructed out of remnants of the hull, and laid with the skins of Anduin bears. Two chairs had been pulled out, marking the recent discussion of The Two.
The Two were no longer seated, but poised close to the open portal on the north-eastern wall. So they remained still in shadow, whispering lowly, as if fearful of being overheard; their voices devoured by the stone-wall. A sinister silence hung heavily; scowling, savage, suspicious.
A pair of figures, of different caste, yet the same spirit. One, tall, much taller than Númenóreans and Elves, with a large and broad stature. In this, he appeared akin to the White Wizard, Gandalf, but this figure was not that of a wizard. It was that of the Dark Lord; once a Maia, but imbued with the apocalyptic aura of Morgoth, he was of an awesomely more powerful and formidable being. A frame supported by monstrous shoulders, trunk and legs. Straight thick sable-coloured hair fell loosely down his back, like the solemn drapes covering a coffin. His face was of strong and homeric proportions. Eyes, the colour of the deep-moonless-night; piercing as a blade into soft-flesh. These dismembered the guise of those who came before him, but in themselves they had no depth, no life, no clue to an inner thinking; merely controlled nothingness flowed from these orbs. The nose, Grecian and aloof; the skin, sallow and seemingly sculptured from stone; the lips, cruel, thin and taut, framed by a full beard clipped short and austere. From those lips projected a sonorous and forceful voice, always persuasive and menacing, resonating as a baroque contra-violone; fierce and fathomless. An Ares-like warrior clad in onyx suede and leather. Three golden bands adorned his gloved right hand, on which the index-finger was missing; a legacy of a bygone time and battle. Here was Sauron, Maiar of Aulë, Lord of Mordor, the Necromancer; capable of changing into many forms. With scorn, he was amused when told that there were those who thought that denied The One he could not take a physical form. For he prevailed; a form that instilled fear and menace even in those closest to him. Not closeness in a relationship that man craved or understood, because the Dark Lord needed no such affinity, in fact, he repelled from such bonds. He was certain of the loyalty from his Nazgûl, indeed from his Dark Captain, but that this loyalty was based on a desperate need, the strive for survival. There was no feeling between him and them apart from this need, which suited him and The Dark well.
Beside this definiteness of form, was his amorphous Dark Captain. Leviathan in size, towering-above his Master; a body enveloped in a hooded cloak of coarse-spun jet fabric. Mountainous and macabre; a structure with no substance of being, as though the contour of a subterranean abyss. From this chasm at this moment, all-else concealed, came the booming bass sound of the Captain’s utterances and gargantuan hands which protruded from the cloak. These now were clasped tightly together as the Captain leaned over, listening intently to his Master’s discourse.
As The Two were immersed in conference, there was a knock on the door. Both figures looked up, resenting the interruption. The Captain took leave from the Master, and strode to the doors, each tread making a thumping, quivering noise on the timber floor.
The Captain partly opened the door, and conversed in hushed tones:
‘Hold; wait the Master’s wishes.
The Captain shut the door with a resounding thud, and returned to Sauron, announcing:
‘The Lieutenant of the Tower brings news. The Light is infiltrated; Saruman is at the cusp of the essence of Light’s powers. What is your will?’
Momentarily, Sauron’s eyes blazed with anticipation, then knowing The Light’s resilience to submission and the previous false-steps, his pupils contracted, drawing-back and holding secret any sense of sentiment.
‘I will hear the Lieutenant, but am weary of these dealings. I will leave this to you.’
With that Sauron, crossed the Hall to his throne, ascended and waited.
The Captain retraced the steps to the door, and muttering instructions, ushered in the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant stopped at the threshold, getting accustom to the shadowiness of the Hall. A silhouette filled the illuminated doorway; more than six foot five high, though dwarfed by the Captain standing alongside.
The Lieutenant in ‘old lore’ and ensuing depictions, was an enigma; sorely misunderstood and misrepresented. The Lieutenant’s ancestry and name were shrouded in mystery, but Sauron had uncovered the union of mixed blood, of a Black Númenórean and a Haradrim shaman. This explained the Lieutenant’s swarthy complexion, raven irises, coarse piceous mane and mystic abilities. False were the tellings that the Lieutenant was blind, but not by these globes alone did the Lieutenant perceive the order of things. The Lieutenant served Sauron first as a soldier, with a courage and stoicism which were legendary.
The story was recounted that, in the midst of a frenzied foray which was turning against The Dark, the Lieutenant was speared through the thigh, but was not dismounted. The Lieutenant rode through the barrage, fighting a way to the forest edge where Dark’s army had retreated; the lance still lodged, the wound bleeding profusively. Dismissing those offering aid, the Lieutenant cut off the lance’s shaft with a sword, and without a murmur, ripped out the remaining barb, took a fire-stick and cauterized the wound, covered this with a mud-dressing, and in minutes was leading Sauron’s army once more into combat. Furiously he flew into the fray, asking and giving no quarter. Not until hours later, the wound rent and festering, but the conflict won, did the Lieutenant return to the encampment. Seeking no balm, the injury caused a permanent marked limp, of which the Lieutenant never complained, viewing this as a badge of honour.
However, Sauron recognised the special gifts: the quick wit, persuasiveness and insightfulness, and choose the Lieutenant as his emissary. There were those that said the Lieutenant was telepathic, which Sauron would have been jealous and wary of, save for his confidence in the Lieutenant’s complete fealty, which he fostered and manipulated to his own ends.
So it was at this juncture that the Lieutenant sought out the Dark Lord. Robed in a surcotte made of the pelt of the black-wolves of Angband and knee-high botew from the hide of Firien Wood boars, the Lieutenant limped across and bowed low to the Master of The Dark.
The Captain had moved to Sauron’s side, and directly facing the Lieutenant, questioned:
‘What Lieutenant do you have to report?’
The Lieutenant looked at Sauron. Receiving no response bar a glaring gaze, the Lieutenant was about to reply to the Captain, when there was an urgent knocking on the doors. These burst open and a small stout creature, anxiously panting, breathless, squirmed at the opening, not daring to proceed, but frantic to deliver a message.
The Captain rushed to the door and screeched at the intruder, whose pronouncement was beset by pitiful and blubbering apologies.
The Captain impatiently heard out the communiqué, and pushing the creature aside slammed-shut the door, and in pounding strides hurried back to Sauron, who had risen to his feet, livid, and in a rumbling snarl exclaimed:
‘What Captain? Why must we be interrupted!’
‘The Wizard Saruman seeks crucial counsel, my Lord. There is a problem with the palantir and the visions…there appears an insidious force which blocks the transmission,’ the Captain replied heedfully, conscious of the consequences of bad tidings being delivered to the Dark Lord, and continuing with measured words, proclaimed:
‘An interference growing ever stronger. The Wizard cannot locate the source, and is concerned that vision will be lost.’
Sauron hissed in fuming frustration:
‘Go Lieutenant; assist the Wizard, for I suspect that the Ancient One has rallied others to Light’s cause. If we lose the connection, we may lose this forever. Is there no-one that can be trusted?!’
Not interested in their answer, Sauron stormily stalked off to his chamber; leaving the Captain to escort the Lieutenant from the Hall.
As they walked nothing was spoken, for they knew what was demanded. As the Captain arrived at the doors, he uttered gravely:
‘No failure will be tolerated – no excuse acceptable, the connection is to be maintained! Contact me instantly the palantir’s images have been totally restored.’
The doors slammed, shuddering with foreboding.
The Lieutenant raced to join the Wizard.
The Captain returned to the Dark Lord.