Dark Waters

The witch-king of Angmar

A Lord of the Rings Fan Fiction

by Murasaki99

Any LOTR character you recognise belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs. I don't own 'em, I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit fun.

Rated somewhere between R and a rather steamy PG-13. Also a warning for m/m slash.

Caution! Contains cussin' (in Adunaic), rowdiness, and generally grumpy Nazgul behaving badly... the fact that they're missing their clothing may explain the previous behaviors.

This was written in answer to the 'naked Nazgul cross the Anduin' challenge posted to the Morgul-Steel group by Telukh. She requested a fic based upon the following passage from The Hunt for the Ring:

"The Lord of Morgul therefore led his companions over Anduin, unclad and unmounted, and invisible to eyes, and yet a terror to all living things that passed near..[16 days later]..They reached the west shores of Anduin a little north of Sarn Gebir, as they had trysted; and there received horses and raiment and were secretly ferried over the river."

This particular story also plays off a thread I started in Windwalker - that the Morgul-Lord and former King of Angmar has had a long-running 'project' in progress which involves the descendents of Númenor and some very old magic. Reading Windwalker will give you more information as to what is going on in the prologue, but is not absolutely necessary.

Do enjoy the ride, but check your girth, first!


The Witch-King of Angmar stood motionless, a statue carved of obsidian and frost as the sun set blood red in the western forest. Although the urgency of Sauron's will gnawed at his nerves like a thousand starving rats, the spell held him in place against the bole of a great tree. The magic he had helped ages ago to disseminate lay like a fine silver net over his body – light as gossamer and stronger than mithril. Before him stood the spell-caster; no wizard, but a woman of the Dunedain, desperate and bold.

"You know of course, if you dare to cast forth that spell into the wind you must take whatever you are given in turn?" His voice laid frost on the grass at her feet.

The woman's jaw firmed up and she answered him clearly. "I do, Lord of dark and storm. And I will."

He nodded, baring his teeth in a wolfish grin she could not see with her mortal vision. Tossing his head he shifted within the bounds of the spell. "Very well. For tonight, you have me. Use the opportunity wisely." His eyes glittered from the depths of his hooded robe like pieces of icy diamond.

"Yes, my Lord," she murmured, reaching out to unfasten the buckle of his sword belt. "A child… a strong child." Her fingers were hesitant at first, but quickly gained speed and surety as he made no resistance, working loose the catches of his armor, pulling at the fabric beneath, her breath coming smoky from her nostrils.

"As you will," he purred softly. "As you will." The touch of her warm flesh burned against his cold un-living skin. His eyes glazed over as the rising tide of spell-enhanced lust drove the taint of Sauron from his mind, providing in those eternal moments of no-thought some blessed relief.

Crossing the River

"The Anduin is running high, Captain." Herumor stated the obvious as he peered through a heavy screen of trees and brush down to where the river rushed like a torrent of foaming milk toward the sea many leagues away. The sound of the water filled the air with steady noise. The weak sun of winter was nearly at the noon hour this day late in the month of Súlimë.

His captain, the once-king of Angmar, snorted a soft affirmative, causing his black stallion to flick an ear at the being who held his reins. "An early winter with heavy snows - much of that Saruman's doing, and now an early thaw. We should not be surprised at the result." He turned to look at his eight fellows gathered in a loose knot nearby. "Yet we must cross. As it has been planned, we will leave our horses, cache our equipment on this shore, and ford the river. We will split up now and take the various crossings in case the enemy has spies in wait. On the other side we will rendezvous with our warriors, who will be bringing fresh horses, clothing, and weapons."

"I mislike abandoning my horse," said Coros, the youngest of the nine. "I have spent a long time training him." He eyed the river dubiously. "The last time we forded the river we could ride over."

"This time is different. We need to cross in absolute secrecy. Once out in the river, the horses will be all too easy to see. Unclad we are invisible to mortal eyes. The river is also higher now. While we need not fear drowning, our mounts are mortal and will come to grief if they lose their footing in the torrent." The Witch-King dismounted. "Unsaddle and loose your horse, Lord Coros. If you have schooled the animal well, he will find his own way to our soldiers of Minas Morgul quickly. They will keep him safe for you."

With a put-upon hiss, Coros dismounted with a clash of armor and began to unsaddle his mount.

"I do not swim." Khamul the Easterling glared at the river as if it were a deadly enemy. He made no move to get down from his horse.

Angmar nodded. "I have not forgotten. Take Coros and Nólimon and cross at this ford, it is the shallowest. Our brothers can swim, they will assist you if you require it." Quickly, before any further arguments could be made, the Lord of Angmar split the rest of his comrades into three groups. The second squad he sent off with Fuinor upstream to the next ford. That left him with Herumor and Gobardon, both born of Númenor. "You two are with me. Come, we will cross downstream." Leading his horse, he strode away down a narrow deer trail along the river's bank. Herumor looked at Gobardon, shrugged silently, and followed his captain.

Twenty minutes of hiking found them looking at the crossing their captain had selected. Great rocks poked their edges from the river, marking a stretch of supposedly shallower water through which people could ride or wade.

"This is a ford, Captain?" Gobardon eyed the wide Anduin and shook his robed head slowly in a negative.

"It was in the late fall." The dark captain scowled at the white water as it rushed by, overwhelming the rocky barricade in places. Without further explanation he dismounted and began to strip the harness from his horse. "If we encounter Saruman the next time we journey past Isengard, we may express our displeasure to him for interfering with our movements."

Herumor and Gobardon chuckled at that statement and joined their leader on the ground. Soon the horses were free. The black stallions did not run away but instead milled around nearby, watching their riders anxiously. The mental ties that held them to their masters were strong and rarely were they out of sight of the Nazgûl when they were abroad in the world. During the day, the bond they shared enabled their riders to see through their eyes, supplementing their altered vision.

"They are reluctant to leave, Captain," said Gobardon, indicating the horses, which were trying to edge closer to them on the narrow bit of trail.

Angmar turned back, passing his two subordinates to face the animals. Opening his armored hands he chanted in the lost tongue of Númenor. "Go now, I release you. Follow us no further! Return to Minas Morgul." As the horses lingered, listening attentively, he added. "Go, steal any mares you can find and make more like yourself, swift and strong!" At that command the stallions moved away at last, first walking, then breaking into a swift gallop. Soon the glow of equine life energy was gone from their sight and the world became a greyer place without the augmentation of their mortal vision.

"Hmp. It would be the thought of reproducing themselves that finally got them moving!" said Herumor wryly.

"Do not find fault with a power older than the oldest magic. That power still works, no matter which Dark Lord claims the world." With quick movements Angmar shed his ebony outer robes, letting them fall at his feet. Following them with his sword and dagger, he began to remove the protective layers of his armor and the padded clothing underneath. Partway through the process he stopped and looked at Herumor and Gobardon, both of whom were watching the proceedings with identical expressions of dismay. "Why do you hesitate? Remove your clothing and armor. We leave it here."

"We are crossing the river naked?" Gobardon stared at the ford as if seeing it for the first time.

"I believe that is the final result of removing one's raiment, armor, and weapons, Gobardon Agnen." Angmar's soft whisper was dry as Mordor-dust. "We cache our gear on this side. The troops that have marched in secret from Minas Morgul will bring replacements. All we need do is reach the hither shore and rendezvous with them in time."

"I like this even less than freeing our horses," Gobardon muttered as he unfastened his sword belt. "I do not want to leave my good blade for the Rohirrim or any man to find."

The captain released an exasperated hissing sigh. "Then make a proper cache for it. When it is finished, we will lay protective spells upon it. It will be safe enough."

"I simply do not wish to go unclad beneath the sun," said Herumor, making no attempt to remove his robes.

"The daystar will not slay thee, Herumor," Angmar replied in the language of Númenor.

"So you say, my Captain. How long has it been since you exposed your bare flesh to the light?"

"Long enough." Handing the bundle of his gear to Gobardon, Angmar walked out of the forest clad only in a thin under-shirt. Once in the sunlight, he removed it and stretched out his pallid arms. "I seem to be still alive," he shouted. Flinging his shirt to Gobardon, he began the short descent to the verge of the river, calling over his shoulder as he went. "Now cease this nonsense and hurry. I will wait for you here, but not overlong."

Cursing in Adûnaic, Herumor disrobed while Gobardon prepared a cache for their arms and clothing. Piece by piece Gobardon folded and laid Herumor's robes into a neat pile beside his own gear and that of the lord of Angmar. "You should know better than to challenge his judgment," he said, clicking his tongue. Deftly he caught the heavy sword as Herumor threw it to him none too gently. His only answer was another spate of colorful language followed by a shower of armor pieces. Gobardon grinned and forbore to say anything further, simply gathering up the items as they flew in his direction.

At last, dressed in nothing more than his own skin, Herumor helped Gobardon close and seal the cache with spells and followed him down the trail to the river's edge. "Where did you learn that language, Lord Herumor?" Gobardon asked as they walked. "It is not the sort of genteel speech one was wont to hear in the court of Armenelos."

Herumor finally cracked a slight smile at the question. "From the grooms and stablehands. I always did like horses more than ships and spent much time in the mews of the nobility."

"I would wager they did not intend you to learn that vocabulary."

"Doubtless, but I had excellent hearing and words echo well when one is concealed in the hay loft." He chuckled. "The chief groom never found out."

Gobardon peered at his companion as they stood at the forest's edge. Beyond, lit by the sun, the world was a somewhat lighter shade of grey, the river a rushing torrent of mercury. Drawing a hand through his hair he frowned. "Speaking of grooms - we could both use one. Our horses are better kept than we."

Herumor tugged a hand at the matted mass on his head that hung more than halfway down his back in a tangled mare's nest. Like Gobardon he had once been grey-eyed and dark of hair. Looking at his companion he could see his own condition mirrored. The magic rings, which prolonged their existence, had drained both hair and skin of life and color. To his vision, Gobardon was nearly snow-white, his hair a shaggy fall in shades of pale grey, much of it hanging past his forehead and obscuring his eyes like the forelock of an unkempt pony. He grunted. "You are correct, but what would be the point? Mortal eyes cannot see us - the effort would be wasted."

"I can see you," Gobardon pointed out as they approached the river's edge.

Herumor flung back his own hair and arched an eyebrow at Gobardon. "I do not need to impress you."

"Are you quite finished?" Their captain growled. His own long grey mane streamed out in the wind like an ancient battle-banner faded by time and conflict. Standing ankle deep in the river, he awaited them with hands on hips, looking for all the world like an exasperated parent - a parent with enough sorcerous power to shrivel the both of them. Looking properly chastened, they nodded.

"We await your command, my Captain," said Herumor, keeping his tone respectful.

The lord of Angmar's face relaxed slightly. "Excellent. Follow me then. Watch your footing, the river is swift and you do not want to be swept downstream."

"Yes, Captain," they replied. Obediently they walked in single file behind him, Herumor next in line and Gobardon last.

Herumor stepped into the water and found it not at all chill. He knew it was ice melt from the mountains and hence frigid enough to stop his heart were he mortal, but the long fading from the cursed ring he wore had rendered him incapable of feeling hot or cold in the same way as living men. Now things like the river were simply impediments to go around… or through.

He looked up to discover his captain was more than halfway across the ford. Frowning he stretched his legs to catch up, the water rising above his waist. It was hard work. He had to lean against the strong current, which was insistently seeking to push him downstream to the sea. Now that the water was deeper, resisting the current took great effort and his progress slowed. To his bare feet the rocks were rough in places and slick in others. Carefully he placed one foot before taking another stride. Looking back over his shoulder he called to Gobardon.

"Have a care, the rock is slippery here! You do not want to fall-" Under his feet the stony shelf he had chosen tilted. Herumor clutched with his toes but an instant later the water of the river closed over his head as he was tipped into a deep pool. The roiling current pulled him under as if he were a child's toy. He knew he did not need to fear drowning and yet he found himself utterly unprepared for the visceral panic that clutched his heart as the visible world fell away into a deep void, filled with the muted roar of the water. Herumor snatched at the rocks that pressed against his back, turning himself, trying to climb them upward to the surface. He stopped in confusion, his panic deepening. Which way was up? All around him was blue-grey Nothing. He could not see the surface of the river. As he hesitated, the voice of the water became less of a formless murmur, speaking words he could understand.

Here you are at last… join us, be One with us… The slow whisper caressed his nerves, sending a fresh shock of terror into the Nazgûl. Wildly he pulled himself along the rocks, no longer caring if he was making progress toward the surface or not. His thinned blood pounded in his ears, but did nothing to drown out the voice of the river.

Come, dissolve… away to the Sea… the drop merging into the All… cloud and rain, freshet and river, all rolling down to the Sea, the eternal Sea…

He sobbed in fright as he felt his mind begin to unravel to the urging of that siren song. Whether it was a working of Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, that of his many brothers and sisters who gave spirit to all the streams of Middle-Earth, or some deeper magic, Herumor neither knew nor cared. More than anything he wished to preserve that which he could feel slipping away into the water - his Self.

Clawing fingers scraped against stone and sand. Herumor pushed against the barrier without comprehension for a moment, unable to see anything beyond the infinite grey vastness that surrounded him in all directions. Wait, this is the bottom of the river! I have been going in the wrong direction! He sobbed again, and water trickled into his lungs, invading his already too-porous being. His mind expanded outward, feeling the river in its entirety, from the mountains to the ocean, rolling and sinuous, sucking at his consciousness. In terror he gripped the rock, unable to move.

A strong hand found his bare shoulder, fingernails scraping painfully against his skin, jolting him back into awareness of his body. The hand slid down to encircle his arm, another hand tangling in his hair. A moment later he was pulled free of his limpet-perch and upward. His head broke the surface. Instantly the world was redefined into up and down, air and river. Herumor found himself staring into the face of the lord of Angmar.

He didn't need to breathe, he knew that. And yet he gasped uncontrollably, sucking air into atrophied lungs used for little save speech with the living. His hands clutched like iron claws into the chill flesh of his captain.

"Stop, make it stop," he groaned when he could at last form words.

"Then come out of the water, you fool!" Angmar waded grimly toward the shore, hauling him along as best he could. Herumor's muscles had locked into traumatic rigor. He knew dragging his body was like trying to pull an uncooperative horse, and yet he could not persuade his limbs to move with their usual skill or ease, not even to help a little. The crystal fluid of the river still tugged at him, drawing silken fingers around his belly, legs, and loins, through his substance. Stay with us, join with us, it whispered.

"No, get away!" he cried in panicky defiance.

The water sighed and pulled at him, insistent, longing. Forever, it murmured. Forever and ever.

"Cease fighting me!" His captain's face was set in a rigid mask of self-control, but Herumor could feel the same terror of the bottomless Void coursing through him. How can he keep moving when he suffers the same pain and fear? he wondered and in that instant of understanding found himself at last able to make some effort, however feeble, to wade toward the still-distant shore. Finally the water receded to shoulder height, falling slowly away till it was only waist deep. Freed from the water's grip, Herumor opened his mouth to scream, the need for secrecy entirely forgotten in the overwhelming desire to give vent to his terror. Angmar silenced him by the simple technique of placing his mouth over Herumor's, forcing his tongue between the other's slightly opened teeth. Fire jolted along his overstretched nerves, a sweet burn running straight down his spine. Astonished, he pushed hard against his captain, Angmar's lean body meeting that force like spring steel. Angmar released his mouth and Herumor dragged in a slow breath. "You…" he hissed softly.

"Come to the shore," his captain replied. Did his voice quiver a little? Herumor let himself be helped the last few strides. The river fell away and the sand of the riverbank grated between his toes. Trying to control knees that felt as wobbly as a newborn foal's he staggered up the bank, doing his best to shake every bit of water from his body. That task completed, he turned and followed Angmar back to the river's edge, helping him pull Gobardon to shore. His fellow Númenorean looked every bit as grim as he felt, water dripping from his hair, his jaw clenched.

"Did you hear it, too?" he asked before he could stop himself.

Gobardon jerked his head in a stiff nod. "The voices calling? Yes, I heard them." He shuddered all over, sagging slowly down onto the sand as his legs gave way. "Forgive my weakness," he croaked.

"There is nothing to forgive," replied their captain. "I also heard them." Kneeling for a moment, he caught Gobardon under the right arm and pulled him to his feet, drawing him up the riverbank and into the forest. In a small clearing he released his comrade and allowed him to sit. Herumor decided that looked like a good idea and sank down beside him, shivering and shivering.

"What was that? Some trick of Saruman?" Herumor found he still couldn't quite control his voice.

The lord of Angmar shook his head. "No. It had nothing to do with him, nor with Sauron, nor even with any of the Powers of Arda. There is magic in running water - magic beyond the control of any being."

"But… why did we hear it?" Herumor stared at his captain, who had joined them on the ground, sitting cross-legged and upright as if this clearing in the wild woods were merely an extension of the noble hall in his lost castle at Angmar. Only his eyes gave some indication of what he had felt - they looked away toward the river and had taken on the same mercurous color.

"I… suspect it is due to our nature. We are neither alive nor dead. Our physical substance has faded to the point that mortal men can no longer see us without our robes. Perhaps that which is the essence of Water found in us some kinship?"

Herumor glared at him, once again fighting down a surge of panic. "I am not like water! And I am most certainly not dead!"

Angmar looked at him with something almost like pity in his pale eyes. "Herumor…"

Herumor flung himself across the small distance to catch Angmar around the middle, rolling him over on the soft duff of the forest floor. He came to a stop on top of his captain, breathing hard, teeth bared. "I am alive!" His blood, or some other wild energy, surged in his veins, giving him strength. He became vaguely aware that his loins ached.

To his surprise, Angmar laughed. "Some part of you certainly is."

"It is from being in the river, perhaps," said Gobardon, edging up to the two of them and beginning to run his hands along their bodies. "I too, feel… awake."

"We should be finding the others, you fools." Angmar's voice held a growl but no real force. Catching Gobardon by the back of the neck he drew him close. Herumor reached out to welcome him.

"Have you forgotten so soon, my Captain?" Herumor murmured. "If we join, the others will sense it. They will find us quickly enough." He set his teeth in the other's corded shoulder, sliding around behind him while Gobardon took his place in front. He could feel Angmar's warring thoughts - torn between duty and pleasure. He bit higher on Angmar's neck, ran his hands up through the tangled mane that smelled of river water.

"It has been a very long time since our last bonding, my Captain," said Gobardon, moving against him slowly, his tone low and warm.

Herumor felt Angmar surrender to their caresses. "A long time indeed," Angmar muttered softly. "Very well, my brothers. Draw them nigh."

"As you command."

It was dancing; a slow and deliberate building of touch on touch, pleasure on pleasure, soothing nerves overstretched and raw from the terror of the river crossing. Their minds were open to one another through the bonds forged by their rings, sharing sensation and thought freely, drawing comfort from each other. Angmar felt them as three, at first. The sun westering as they moved leisurely, then six as their comrades joined them. For a time they rested, as the sun sank and the moon began to rise. Then they were nine, sparking another upward spiraling of need, nine - pulling close, merging. Their rings banished weariness. Pain and fear dropped away, as did any conflict between them, nothing could survive that closeness while they were one, body, mind, and spirit. At last, after a timeless climb, they reached the peak together and from that height made the sweet slide into sleep.

"Do you hear that?" Barahir drew rein sharply, trying to control his horse, which wanted to run up the dark trail away from the noise. The animal jigged in place, shuddering and tossing his head, pulling on the reins. The sun had nearly set and the shadows were long on the trail they followed along the Anduin.

"Fell voices on the wind tonight," Araval agreed. "What could it be? It is unlike any cry of beast or bird I know."

The sound came again, borne on the night breeze - high and wild. Like the song of wolves it rose and fell, chilling the marrow of the two men.

"Wargs?" Araval finally hazarded a guess. "It might be wargs on the hunt."

"Or the shades of men doomed to wander." Barahir cursed as his horse shied, leaping at least six feet to one side as the uncanny ululation rose to a keener pitch.

"Whatever or whoever it is, I deem it unwise to linger here. Let us be off, Gondor can only hear our report if we arrive alive to tell it."

The two men let their mounts spring away. The horses needed no urging, leaping into a mad gallop. Only when they were miles away from the source of the noise were they finally able to moderate their pace.

Angmar awoke with his head pillowed on Gobardon's stomach, his left arm flung over Coros. Herumor was spooned behind him, one hand gripping his hip possessively. The rest of his ring-brothers were an anonymous tangle of bodies, curled around each other like sleeping puppies piled on one another for warmth and comfort. He knew they did not really need warmth, but comfort was another matter entirely. Sleep was a rarity now and much prized when taken. Likewise he treasured the times when they could merge, reinforcing their both their magic and their mind-speech. It had been more than fifty years since they had been thus together. Already he felt the deeper contact such bonding generated.

The sun had set and the crescent moon had risen, shining softly down through the screen of bare branches into their nest. Angmar waited for them to wake without stirring from his own position. He had decided not to tell his comrades earlier that their warriors would be at least a week or more in arriving, leaving them to perform their tasks unclad and unhorsed. Khamul, at the very least, would be outraged. Angmar smiled.

Beyond the river the woods thinned quickly into the rolling land of the Wold. Soon enough they would walk abroad, to spy and spread fear among those who could still claim to be living. Beyond that task, he refused to see any further. Let tomorrow bring what it will, he thought. All I truly have is this moment and nothing more. There is neither hope nor dreams; all wither in the glare of the Eye. But I do have Now and that is enough.


Authors notes: Many thank-yous to A. Vulgarweed, Khazar, and Ozma for beta-reading, feedback and encouragement! Photo credit and thank-yous to Kathi for her shot of the Oregon coast.