The Nazgul:Part One of Two

As I was making my way down the road one evening, through what may have been the worst storm of my life, I came upon a small cabin by the side of the road. An old man dressed in rags regarding me as I approached.

Come in with me and sit by the fire; I'll tell you a tale of things past. A tale of this Middle-earth, and of things that have roamed upon it.

What could I say? I was tired and it was beginning to get cold. I knew that the old man was probably a lunatic but in the same moment decided it was all right. After all, what could an old man do to someone like me? I'd seen dangers aplenty and I would be more than happy to listen to an old man's chattering as I ate his food and warmed myself by his fire, so I followed.

We sat without words and he poked at the fire for a time. He looked me in the eyes for a moment, sizing me up. Then he spoke.

You've seen many troubles these days, haven't you? definitely seen a hard day's hike at the least. You have the look of a man that has spent many a day doing such, as though you have seen much of this world. But when I was young...

Spendid! I thought. He continued on, ignoring my obvious discontent.

...there were few travelers if any. It was a different world altogether at that time. It was in the end of the Third Age of the Sun, and the Ring War was at hand; there were strange folk about and battles with the Orcs of the Suaron raged all about this border.

The old man had taken a break, breathing in deeply and fussing over the fire again. I took it as an opportunity to take off my cloak and hang it on a rack next to the mantle. I took special care to let him see my sword before removing it and then sat back down next to the fire.

Think you'll need that bit of shine for me? Ehh, it is the way of you young men I suppose, weapons and such. Good idea to get comfortable though; I've much to say and with this storm you'll likely be staying the night. He looked up from the coals. So what would a young man like yourself be interested in talking about?He asked. He looked at me with more than a question in his voice as he reached over to his shabby little table and carefully lifted a bowl and began to spoon out some of the stew hanging over the fire.You should eat this, he started, extending the bowl.I made it for you anyway. He finished, waiting for me to take it.

So a young man like yourself is sure to want a tale of much action and fury and perhaps even battle,he suggested, looking into the fire,and to your fortune I know much about such things.The old man sighed and looked up at me from the fire.So, what's it to be young man? Shall I tell you of the darkness or the light?, he asked with surprising volume, the flames shining brightly in his stark blue eyes.

Of the darkness old man, for no light shall we see this night, not through this storm, I said, now taking my turn to look into the flames.

You think so boy? he said looking at me as though I were no more than a child.Fair enough then, I'd hate to disappoint one with such an understanding of things; I'll tell you a story of the darkness and then prove to you that the light will penetrate even the deepest black, he said with a finality that made me feel the fool.

You know of the ring lord Sauron I'm sure, he began,as the story has been spread as pollen is in the wind. He looked through the fire, as if he was going somewhere in his mind, somewhere far away. Naturally therefore you know about the rings of power and about how they were used to ensnare nine of the greatest of the race of men, and turn these men into horribly powerful abominations that served only the dark lord? he asked me, still staring into the flames.

I knew of the dark lord but of no other ring than his own, I managed, looking only at this now slightly-amazing old man before me.

Well then I shall tell you all I have heard of them, and of those that wore them through the second and third ages of this world, he said as he looked me in the eyes. For that moment time froze as he drew on his pipe, the orange glow hitting his eyes, mixing with the brown already contained therein to make them look as if they were smoldering coals themselves. It seemed for just that moment that the whole of the world was encased in those eyes; I felt as though they could hold me for the rest of my life, but then he blinked and the spell was broken.

What are you old man? I asked, feeling that I could contain the question no longer. Understand that I am not paranoid by nature but that this man was very strange indeed and I could no longer believe that he was some simple old fellow in front of the fire puffing on his pipe.

That is not for tonight, he said simply, leaving not even the slightest room for comment or reprieve. Though you shall not leave here empty-handed young man, you certainly shan't dictate what I shall tell, at least not this night. He held my gaze, giving not even a moment. Finally, I broke gaze with the man, looking into the fire.

What, I asked, shall we talk about then?I finished, then just as soon began again, Shall we talk about these nine then? These great men who all had rings? I asked eagerly.

Yes, I shall tell you of the Nine, the Nazgul as I knew them. He looked into the fire with me before he continued.The Nazgul were once of the race of men on this middle earth. They were the darkest and most powerful creations of the dark lord Sauron.As he finished I drew my breath in fear of the name itself, as it was considered unwise to say it since the ring war.Fear that name not, young man. I promise you that the dark lord is no more; I know this on reliable authority as I am almost to return home, and such a thing wouldn't be possible were it otherwise.

You are a strange old man, I said, looking away from those eyes. Were I your age, I would hope to already be at home.The man looked around his little cottage, and then back at me. Well I suppose this is home, after a fashion. It has served me for a long time, longer than you would dream possible. I should perhaps say that I need to return to where I came from, but again, that is not for tonight. Tonight is for the nine. Now where was I?

You had said that they were men, and that they were of Sauron, the Deceiver.As I said the title Deceiver, his eyes shot up to meet mine.

Where did you learn that name boy? he asked, excitedly, without the slightest trace of anger in his voice. Don't worry, boy, I'm not going to kill you for it; I just wanted to congratulate you on knowing your history, its not many that know that name, only the wise. I said nothing, and he looked back at the fire in his disappointment, giving it a prod with the fire poker and watching as the logs broke to embers and as the sparks jumped to the chimney. So yes, they were the servants of the Deceiver, and they were fierce indeed.

The man knocked out his pipe into the fire then snatched up a second pipe off the mantle place, filled it with pipe-weed, and lit it, puffing thick smoke out into the air between us. They were the most powerful of the Deceiver's aides. He gave them the powers to call fire and to beckon with their voice, boy. He also gave them many normal weapons with which to kill; he gave them swords and maces and poisoned daggers that would forever change a person into a wraith, like them. Another puff of smoke crossed over those eyes and filled the space between us once more. I would have sworn that for just a moment those eyes glowed with a bluish, otherworldly light. I must be going crazy I thought.

Their very breath would freeze any man in his tracks and make him give in to despair, and if you could manage to strike them you'd best hope you're lucky in your friends and that your blade was blessed by Elves, for if it wasn't it would rust right there in your hands. He dumped the ashes out of his pipe and put it back up on the mantle, I sat there a little dumbfounded as I tried to take in all that he had told me. Some I had known, some I had not, and only one thing was I certain of. I needed to know more.

What more can you tell me of these wraiths, old man?