Reflections of a Ring Wraith

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© 2017 Michael L. Clark

He knew damned good and well that Sauron would never let him lay a finger on the Ring once it was recovered, even if he were the one who actually recovered it. And the Ring’s recovery was getting more and more doubtful. That idiot Angmar had the bloody Ring within his reach on Weathertop, and he let it slither out of his grasp. A mere hobbit! Sticking him with the morgul blade was simple and useless pique – once the hobbit was stuck and unable to function, of course someone with a fast horse would just spirit him away. Carried to that den of self-important and supercilious elves in Rivendell by a she-elf. And then Angmar had let them be lured into crossing that river – the danger had been clear (who can trust an elf?), and the Witch-king should have seen it.

He reflected upon the incident with the she-elf and the river as he raised the tankard to his invisible lips. It had been a clear invitation to battle, and he had drawn his sword with the others to meet it. At last an honest confrontation unmarred by that sometimes annoying aura of terror he just couldn’t stop himself from emitting! Devil take the elves, give them their due: at least they weren’t turned into quivering blobs of jelly when confronted with pure evil. But it was a deceit. Jackson made it look like it was the she-elf who had done it, but Tolkien had it right – it was that goody-twoshoes interfering Greyhame who was at the root of all their troubles, after all, and it was he who had flash-flooded the river. Bloody wizards. Even that double-dealing oaf Saruman. Some ally! He wanted the Ring as bad as Angmar, and Sauron was just toying with him, too – his likelihood of getting the Ring was about as good as that meddler Aragorn’s, who couldn’t even make himself so much as touch it. Wimp.

Relationships. They were the crux of the matter. All nine of them had been lords of Numenor once, before they became wraiths. And as lords of Numenor they were all related in some degree to each other and to Aragorn. He himself was a fifteenth cousin seven times removed to Aragorn. But Angmar was his great-uncle, and each of the others were his brothers and first- or second-degree cousins. Sauron was nothing. Sauron hadn’t even been human. But he was master. And Sauron had a name, as did Angmar: the Witch-king of Angmar. But what was his own? He was sure he had one, once, but he couldn’t remember any more. Since he seemed to rank seven in what might be loosely called their pecking order, he supposed that he might as well call himself Seven of Nine. Had a certain ring to it. But he might as well call himself Jeri Ryan as well, for all the good it did him.

The dregs of the tankard being drained, he set it upon the table. The beauty of the aura of terror he dragged around with him everywhere he went was that he could walk into any random drinking establishment and all the weaker souls would run away, the more stalwart would break out into cold sweat and clear away from the table in which he chose to sit, and the tavernkeeper would approach in abject fear to take his order. He always asked for the best brew in the house, but it was more for the status of the thing than anything else. He couldn’t taste a thing any more; that sense had vanished along with his body. Nor could he actually drink anything, either. He’d lift it to his “lips” and pour, but for all his supernatural power he couldn’t make it pour into whatever it was his stomach had become. He supposed that it was an odd thing to see for those tavern denizens with the courage to stay and watch. He was wearing threadbare, black clothing, just for the sake of giving some shape to the terror that he was, and now it was soaked with ale where he had sat upon the bench. And the floor underneath the seat was swimming with the three ales he had “knocked back.”

Well, that was it, then. He always had three. He couldn’t get drunk anymore, either, but habit was habit. His habit from back when he had had a physical form that could handle three but became slobbering drunk at four. Was it five or six thousand years ago now? He couldn’t remember, not that it mattered.

On the way out, he whispered to the tavernkeep “It’s on the house. Floor!” and cackled at the joke. The ‘keep quailed in terror and wasn’t about to ask him for any amount of whatever it was they used for money in this century, anyway. How many times had he made that particular witticism?

His fell beast sat restlessly in the field near the tavern, visible primarily by the faint glow from the moon. It was similar to a lizard in some ways, but was warm-blooded, so it could easily deal with the oncoming winter. Fell beasts were generally easy to manage for a ring-wraith, because the aura of terror penetrated only so far to its simple brain as to cause it to be obedient and respectful. But his fell beast hadn’t eaten in a few days, and its hunger was causing it to get a bit twitchy. He really shouldn’t have stopped at the tavern until after he had fed the creature, which was even now giving him a resentful glare. He knew that if the beast were not inhibited by his terror, it would have snapped him up like a canapé already; not that it would have harmed him, or gained the beast any nutrition.

There was a herd of sheep near the village just to the west. They would fly there first, then it would be on to the Dead Marshes, the next stop on his patrol route.

He paused briefly in resignation at the mockery his so-called life had become, then mounted.

“Up!” He commanded.