January 25, TA 3019/AD 1200
THE DARK TOWER
The Burning Eye watched as much of the rest of Mordor, especially the rest of the Plateau of Gorgoroth, proved to be designed and build to a much lower standard than the Tower that served as its pedestal. Not even orcs willingly chose to spend any more than the absolute bare minimum amount of time in the hellscape that is northwestern Mordor. When inevitably forced into the burning plains by their masters, they tended to move through the blasted lands as quickly as possible on their ways to the relatively nicer pastures of the Ash Plains around the Sea of Nurnen or the outer fortifications at the Morgul Vale or the Morannon. The few and scattered buildings of the Plateau of Gorgoroth, as a result, were built to be no more than temporary hovels, and rarely repaired ones at that.
When an earthquake powerful enough to make the unbreakable tower of Orthanc shake like a leaf hit said structures, they did very good imitations of of delicate pottery being smashed against a stone floor. The storm took care of the rest, churning up dark storms of dust and ash that scoured the Plateau of Gorgoroth near as clean as the day that Sauron had first chosen Mordor to be his fortress.
The keep of that fortress, Barad-Dur, remained intact. In fact, it was all but untouched. The Black Tower was strong, quite likely more so than any of the other structures of Middle-earth. The foundation and black walls and shadowy ramparts had been designed by the Dark Lord himself, and the greatest master of the forge and hammer in all Middle-earth had built it well indeed. The original tower, on the roots of which the new had been built, had withstood the total might of the Last Alliance, a force second in all of history only the army that fought against Morgoth in the War of Wrath, for all of seven years. Even after the walls of the tower had been thrown down by the vengeful elves and men, the foundations had remained as solid as ever, unable to be made bare while the One Ring remained intact.
The new Tower, rebuilt on those same foundations, had been designed to be even greater. It had been drawn up by the Dark Lord himself, and it was built to his exact specifications. His design was beyond sound: such was the architecture of Barad-Dur that it could be easily and reasonably believed that if even if Sauron had decided to make his Tower entirely out of sand and then had allowed it to be rained on for a solid week, the impression was that it could have still held out against the entirety of the Gondorian Army for well over a month. The building materials, though, rather than mud, were the black stones of original structure, mined from the deepest pits of the Mountains of Shadow and Ash and as solid as the bedrock upon which those peaks were built, now reinforced with great bars of wrought iron buried in their hearts, and every single block and bar was imbued with the dark will of Sauron, his hatred and malice hardening them beyond anything in the natural world.
As a result, when the earthquake struck the dark land as it had all the pieces of Middle-earth torn out of Arda like carrots out of the soft earth, Barad-Dur was near-completely unaffected, the total of all structural damage done to the entirety of the Tower amounting to exactly nil. The affects of the storm were much the same: lightning strikes did not even scorch the stones, wind did nothing to rattle the walls, rain and snow melted away and became steam as they came anywhere close to the Tower of the Burning Eye.
The Eye watched all of this, silent and unmoved. It swept around its lands, taking note of the damages done. Mount Doom had burst into flame, being awoken by the quaking earth. It spewed fire and smoke and choking ash into the sky, blotting out the little light that came from the weak winter sun and plunging the land into darkness, finish off the little upon the Plateau of Gorgoroth that the tremors and storms had missed.
The burning gaze was then turned to the rest of Mordor, scanning for any locations in need of repair. But even as the Dark Lord did so, he felt...not fear, certainly, but perhaps unease. Something, he knew, had happened, besides a freak storm and a particularly strong tremor from Mount Doom. What he felt was all-too similar to what he had felt twice before, when the Valar had shattered Beleriand and also when they had sundered Numenor. Something had changed, something unforeseen.
And Sauron hated the unforeseen, more than all else in the world (excepting perhaps the malice he directed towards the heirs of Isildur). It had been his downfall before, more than once: against that elven bitch Luthien, who he would have captured without the unexpected strength of the wolfhound Huan; against the bastard elf Celebrimbor, who had forged the Three outside of his knowledge; against Eru himself had unexpectedly intervened against his conquest of Numenor. All else could be plan against, come up with counters and other ways to twist things to his advantage.
But the unforeseen...the unforeseen left him unable to do so, stuck stumbling around like some blind fool in the dark. And the Dark Lord hated such feelings. Unease, confusion, fear...such things were far beneath him, of course, but the current circumstances allowed them to ever so slightly creep in regardless. Now, then, he needed to peel back the unknown before him, tear it apart and turn it into weapons for his own use. The Morgul stone would serve well enough to do so, but it would lack fine details. Reconnaissance in force should be done as well
And for that, he needed his eyes.
Ash fell upon the Plateau of Gorgoroth, choking the few living things that still stirred there. The skies were pitch dark: even if the sun had yet risen above the horizon, the clouds of smoke and ash were far too thick and black for any light to pierce. Fell winds blew across the plains, carrying rolling storms of dust and dirt that swallowed all in their path. With the exception of those that dwelt within the Tower of Barad-Dur, everything from Isenmouthe in the northwest to the spur of the Ered Lithui to the southeast was either dead or dying.
The Nine were affected by none of this. By all rights, they should have fallen into the former category. They were men by birth, with all the frailties that came with such lineages. In their lives, lived long ago, they had desired above all else to hold at bay the Doom of Men. Their wish had been granted to them by the Dark Lord, but with the words twisted and turned against them. They did not live, having instead a cursed undeath: a ‘life’ without anything that would have allowed them to be alive. They had no love, no laughter, no songs or stories. Only their wrath remained. Wrath, and their loyalty to Sauron.
This loyalty (enthrallment, perhaps, would have been a better word), now drew them to the Dark Tower to answer their Master’s call. They rode for Barad-Dur from the Morgul Vale, passing without comment or even notice the blasted remains the remains of the encampments along the roads. With the rising of the sun, feeble and week behind the darkened skies, they crossed over the flaming moat of the Tower and passed through its barred gates, entering into the black halls of Barad-Dur.
There within the Mouth of Sauron, Lieutenant of the Tower, met them, and had their shadowy horses taken to be be stabled and fed. Then he led the Nazgul into the Tower, up the winding stairs to the room that held the Dark Throne. The corporeal body of Sauron, shadow and fire and hatred given form, gave them no greeting. The Dark Lord sat only in silence, he Dark Lord sat only in silence, his black helm barely acknowledging them. He then beckoned them to kneel. He began to speak, his voice echoing deep within the minds of his servants, telling them of his new plans.
The Great Eye had seen much. The fortifications of Mordor were largely intact: the Black Gate was near untouched, only losing a few fodder thrown from its ramparts as the earth below had shaken and trembled. Minas Morgul had seen only a few building collapses, which the slaves would have repaired in a matter of days. The main damages within the Dark Lord’s realm were to the road and irrigation systems, slowing down troop movements and food production.
Outside the borders was a far different story. His slaves in Harad, Khand and Dorwinion had all vanished, as well as his armies in Ithilien. Only two lands, the Mountains of Mist and the Forest of Mirkwood, were recognizable, and both were in the completely wrong places. Saruman was still in his fold, but he reported being cut off from his puppet Theoden and having a not-ignorable part of his pits collapse.
But there was reason to believe that his foes, those damnable descendents of Numenor and the Eldar, had taken even worse losses. Gondor, that largest thorn in his side, was simply gone, vanished into thin air. Saruman said the same of the annoyance known as Rohan. There were elves and dwarves here, but they were in as much disarray as his own thralls, if not more. And the new world that they all found themselves in was one of men. Weak men. Divided men. Greedy men. Men that were already terrified by the mere appearance of his lands.
This chance could not be wasted. The men before him were scared and weak, but Sauron would not allow them to form effective resistance against him. He had learned the lesson of the Last Alliance: this time, he would strike first. The Mouth would remain in Mordor, enacting repairs, preparing the main body of his armies to march. Angmar would assemble all available forces in the Udun to march out and make an example of the city of men that now sat before the Black Gate. Khamul would issue forth from the Morgul Vale, laying waste to all in his path. The borders of Mordor would be made secure before any of these new men could raise a finger against him.
His other forces, those of Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, would have to be raised out against his new foes. He would send two wraiths to Dol Gurdur to prepare it for war. Two others would go to Goblin-town and Gundabad to do the same. Saruman would have to move as well, gaining a new puppet if possible.
They would unleash further terror in time, sowing the seeds of fear and doubt throughout these lesser men. And in their terror, it was all the more likely that they would throw themselves down before them to save their own pathetic lives, and in so doing would become his servants in this new world. And perhaps, seeing their neighbors falling around them, some would be much more accepting of his gifts: peace, his forces guarding their lands, maybe even a few small rings...
But there was one reason above all others to believe that his victory would come. The One was here in this world, somewhere within his reach. He could feel it, deep within the black fire that was his soul. It called to him, and he called to it. His three remaining wraiths would be sent out to hunt it, wherever it tried to hide. He would find it, despite all the efforts of his enemies.
And then he would rule them all.