There can be no escape on my feet from here. Below me is the endless ashen plain, rivers of molten rock writhe across that bleak expanse. Up on these heights I am safe from the fire, but since I have no water to drink and the storehouses are destroyed, will I not die anyway, slower not quicker? Drying up not burning up. Shrinking, falling in upon myself.
Below me in the stables I hear them, they call out to me. The wretched Orcs are silent, I suppose my pretties have eaten them. Small loss, to me. And no loss to our Master who is lost, vanished with the wind from the West.
They are innocent in their savagery, not evil but untamed, the beasts below. Did I not bring them into being? Centuries of patient care, an age of husbandry in the service of Sauron. I tended them, I fed them, though some fodder came from the Black Tower, Orcs and prisoners. Some drank water, but some were nursed upon blood. My charges are precious to me, I did not recoil from their necessities. They came to my call and fed from my hand, and then were taken, called up to serve the Dark Lord, given by his empty hands to the Nine. Given over to those creatures, who understood nothing of the marvels they rode. Who put cruel bits into their mouths and nailed iron shoes to their feet…or who rode the Winged ones uncaring, not knowing that they rose upon wonders into the skies.
Black horses, ever black horses. Tall, clean-limbed, swift, deserving of more than the whip and the barbed bit. Lost, lost, taken beyond their depth by blind arrogance, at the mercy of white water and white fire. I hear them in my dreams, their hooves pounding, their lungs labouring as they are ridden past endurance. And yet they endured, my beauties, my black nightshade beauties. What sound is more heart-stirring than the thunder of horses coming close, powering past in a cloud of breathsteam and dust?
She waits below, the dam of the damned, the winged beasts that bore the shapeless Nazgul. She who brooded over her brood, her leathery pinions curled close above them as they squabbled and snarled, her hatchlings, lovely in her eyes if in no other. I see those cold golden eyes, she needs not the speech of men to curse me, to curse the master. She pulls upon her chains, and looks skyward.
How much time has passed since the red blooming death-flower of Mt. Doom lit the skies, and the towers fell? (All but those towers here, built not by Sauron but by the others. Maybe even the Eldar, curse their bright eyes.) How many days lit by the yellow sun, how many nights? Enough, maybe.
I can loose the beasts that pace, howling and roaring, the stone floors of their pens. Maybe one or more might find a road up over the sheer rocks behind, and then down into some unknown country. There might they savage their way into territories of their own, free to live or die as fate wills? Griffins and Basilisks and many more, clawed and armed with saw-edged teeth, I will let them loose! What comes of that, I care not. They are too fine and rare to die in cages, no matter that their master died in his.
I can open the barred doors of the aviary and the birds of prey that yet live can fly free. Where they might go, I know not. The birds might find some land that is empty of raptors, they might turn their tastes from Orc-flesh to scurrying mice….
And then, when the cages are empty and the walls echo no more to their voices, I will go to where she waits. She will turn her great head and stretch her wings, pulling, pulling on her chains. She will hiss, and twist herself about, and the scream of her grief and rage will shiver all the walls.
How long ago was it, that last mating? The foolish male, careless in his heat and power, the deed done and the precious eggs glowing like nine moons, and she struck! But he was the last, there can be no more, and this she knows, too. Her brood gone, burned in the lightnings of the fall of the Dark Lord, and she left alone, to brood upon her fate and batter herself to death upon piled-up stones.
No. No, this cannot be. I will speak to her, she will hear my voice as before. I can mount that scaly neck and then, reaching down with the black blade of Numenor, that which I brought here from that other wreck……..I can reach down and sunder her chains. We will rise into the skies and go beyond all that is in ruins below. She will bear me away, whither she will…………………….