Speak Again

fanfiction by Wild Iris

The Groupie of Dol Guldur

Fytte the Second

Úlairiel bounded up the spiral stairs, leaping over crumbled steps and discarded bones with an agility born of her determined love. At the head of the flight was an iron-studded door. She tried the gargoyle knocker once, and then threw her slight but strong weight against the wood. It yielded instantly in a shriek of splinters.

Within was a shadowy chamber of strange proportions. Scattered thickly around the walls, and dangling from the ceiling, was an array of jars, retorts and crucibles, giving off malodorous smoke of various hues. There were also an ostentatious number of arcane books, lined up on shelves and piled on a rickety desk. Curiously, Úlairiel tugged open a drawer of the desk, and found a neat stack of headed writing paper:

The Necromancer
Flat 1a, The Fortress
Dol Guldur
Mirkwood (South)

Then she heard a sound behind her; a shuffling of wind, as though the air were trying to hurry out of something's way. She turned. There stood a figure wearing purple robes, a tall hat stuck all over with silver stars, a beard that covered his face, neck and most of his chest, and little wire-rimmed spectacles. In his hand he carried a wand. Pinned to his collar was a badge that read, in curly script, "The Necromancer".

"Lord Sauron!" said Úlairiel.

The Necromancer's crimson eyes flared hotly (melting the lenses of his spectacles), and his garments collapsed in on themselves and tumbled to the floor. He stood revealed in his true colours: as a disembodied manifestation of pure evil.

"Curses!" he said, reverting tellingly to the Black Speech of Mordor. "How have I fallen so, to be unmasked by a mere Elf-maid?"

Úlairiel didn't understand the Black Speech, but, staring at the single eye that now floated amid a dissipating cloud of smoke, she was impressed by what she had accomplished with a simple greeting. It seemed she might possess hitherto unknown abilities.

"Lord Sauron," she began again, staring him straight in the eye, "I am Úlairiel, a warrior-maiden. I crave leave to travel with your Riders, and aid them in their duty, for my heart is bounden to the fair #5, and I have vowed that no fate shall sunder us."

And the great Eye flickered, for the shimmering hair and snowy gown of Úlairiel did abrade it, so accustomed to darkness, and its owner was beginning to appreciate the purpose of eyelids. His bodiless Voice performed the seemingly impossible feat of spluttering.

"Travel with my Riders?" he said finally. "Never! My Riders are fell warriors, not fair wenches."

"Oh, Lord Sauron! That is so last Age," said Úlairiel. "In my land, maidens may do anything they wish. They study the arts of weaponry, and – well, they don't go to fight exactly, but still – "

"Peace!" said the Voice, attempting to thunder echoingly, but quavering a little. "None passes here against my will. Therefore, you shall justify yourself or die. Servant! Summon the Nine."

A screen in the corner toppled over, revealing the Dark Lord's secret workspace. Úlairiel gazed in wonder at a high throne carved of blackest ebony. On a coffee table by the throne stood a perfectly spherical rock and a ring tree laden with golden rings. The Eye floated over and hovered above the throne. Strange coils of colour, red and violet and ultramarine, began to swirl within the spherical rock. The sounds of breath hissing and armour clanking came from the stairs. In smooth formation, the nine black-robed figures of the Nazgûl passed into the room and ranged themselves about their lord.

Úlairiel's eyes sought her beloved and found him easily; the others were handsome enough, but none possessed his graceful poise or magnificent physique. His hood was bowed in deference to Sauron, but, as she watched, it lifted slightly and his bottomless gaze devoured her own. She flushed and trembled.

"Servants," said the Voice, "we have a great task at hand, a labour on which rests the fate of Middle-earth." The Eye twitched involuntarily towards the ring tree. "The slightest error may be crucial. You are the Nine – " here he began to sound a little uncertain – "my foremost and eternal servants. You have ever numbered Nine, and the reason thereof needs no telling – " here he wavered, the Eye glancing in a confused manner between the Nazgûl and the rings – "but now, in these times of stirring, another wishes to join your ranks. She is Úlairiel, a warrior-maiden."

Úlairiel stood fair and proud as the Wraiths appraised her, brandishing her bow and only smiling as one or other hissed in evident disapproval. Her eyes met #5 once more, and she drew strength from their unspoken communion of love.

"Maidensss?" spoke the tallest of the Nazgûl, who wore a helm with a crown of iron. "We are Nasssgûl. What need have we of maidensss?"

"I am slender, but strong," declared Úlairiel. "I can ride, I can shoot, and I don't need a five-foot long sword to bolster my ego," she concluded, eyeing the weapon of her interlocutor.

The Witch-King stared at the floor and shuffled his feet. Úlairiel mentally marked him down as a troublemaker and likely oppressor of femalekind.

"Thisss ssservant vouchesss for her," said #5, bowing to the Eye. "Ssshe knowsss much… has ssspirit and ssskillsss."

Úlairiel's heart sang to hear her love defend her, and she threw him a long look of adoration and gratitude. Another Nazgûl, the smallest of the company, nodded as if agreeing with #5, and she warmed to him also. The others simply breathed and looked uncomfortable.

There was a pause thick with battling wills. Úlairiel fixed her gaze steadfastly on the Eye. "Right," said the Dark Lord eventually. "As it seems… fitting, then, I decree that the warrior-maiden Úlairiel shall ride with the Nine Riders, and be known as an honorary Ringwraith…"

"I don't have to be dead, do I?" said Úlairiel, suddenly nervous. Nevertheless, she was set to face staunchly whatever might be needful in the service of love.

The Voice muttered something inaudible in the Black Speech, and then said, "Not really… can waive that part. Do you have a Ring?"

"A ring? Sure," said Úlairiel. She took off a ring that she wore on her right hand. It was decorated with a big glass heart, the colour of which changed according to her prevailing mood.

"Place it on the tree," said the Dark Lord.

Úlairiel hung her ring on the ring tree, next to a group of nine gold rings that flickered with a strange light. A murmur rippled through the Wraiths. She turned and saluted the Eye. "Lord Sauron," she said, "you will not regret admitting me to your company."

The Voice made a strangled noise. The Eye jerked helplessly from side to side.