Fëalhûn: The Blue Wraith
A/N: This is pretty much a quick two-shot. It's been sitting in my hard-drive for a while, and while I enjoy it, I lack the motivation to take it much further. If I get enough reviews (let's say ten or so) I may choose to continue it, but that depends on how much time I find to do it. Anyway, I bounced this off of Hitokiri Onib, so I better give him his dues.
Fëalhûn (Elvish Translation: Spirit-blue)
Archon are soul-eating spirits
Saruman the White surveyed the banks of the river Isen; impatiently waiting for those he expected to make the crossing. If what he had seen in the Palantir was accurate, he could expect their arrival very soon. The fading light of a midsummer day still held sway over the landscape, turning the waters of the ford to rushing liquid fire. But the Istari was blind to the keen beauty of the waning day. In the East, a flock of Crebain shouted and cawed in excitement, calling the alarm to their Master. The Nine Riders were approaching.
The Maia steeled his spine and tightened his white-knuckled grip on his staff as he prepared to intercept the contingent of Fallen Ring-bearers. He was not looking forward to this meeting with the Witch-king, but it was necessary. If he wanted to compete on the Dark Lord's level, he needed the Ring, and he did not doubt that, in all likelihood, these powerful servants of Sauron would be the ones to lead him right to it. The only way to secure this valued possession on behalf of his personal campaign for power would be to send out his own agent, preferably one capable of competing with these fearsome un-dead creatures. And he did possess one such servant, only one. While the creature was not attuned to the presence of the Ring as most dark creatures of Middle-Earth were, he knew that it was more than adept enough to track the Wraiths. All he had to do now was either set it on their trail, or if this encounter succeeded, to convince the Witch-King of Angmar to include its presence among the Riders. That was unlikely, but he would try anyway.
Saruman heard the Nazgûl before he saw them, though they rode in a leaden silence only the dead could truly master. The forest of Fangorn became quiet, as if the trees themselves would defy the wind to recoil in terror. Then the urgent screams of wildlife sounded as they scurried to escape the oppressive fear that hung over the fell servants of Mordor. The steady cadence of iron-shod hooves was the last warning before the Nine Riders emerged from the cover of the forest and crossed the short expanse of grass towards the river, grinding to a halt before the crossing as they regarded the wizard from the darkness of their cowls.
"What is your business here, Istari?" the hissing and yet resonant voice called across the river. Despite the un-earthly origins, there was no mistaking the accusation in those words.
"Peace between us, my lords," Saruman held up one hand in a calming motion. "I have not come to impede your search. I merely wish to lend you one of my servants to aide in your task, if you would allow it."
"We do not require your assistance, Istari," the wraith growled. "Remove yourself from our path or, the Master's orders or not, we will run you down!"
A wash of dark energy rolled over the wizard, but he held his ground. Chancing the Rider's fury was a risk he would have to take. "With you or not, my creature will be following behind, and I assure you, he will have no trouble keeping up. You might consider employing the abilities of my servant, instead of escorting his way around Arda. I should also think that you would enjoy studying a being so similar to yourself and your compatriots. Such a close inspection might give insights into your own nature and how to strengthen your bodies and your magick. Surely you would see the advantage in that."
An outraged shriek came in response to those words from eight of the wraith creatures, but the ninth, the Witch-king, was silent. It was impossible to judge its reaction without a face to read, but Saruman was wise enough to assume it wished him to continue.
"Even I am not sure exactly what manner of entity my servant is, but I suspect he is a higher form of Archon, a species of undead creature I'm sure you were already aware of," Saruman bowed his head in deference. "He is capable of taking and abandoning physical form at will, so long as he is well fed. He has many abilities besides, to manipulate shadows and shield his presence within them, to drift on the wind, climb to great heights, plumb the depths of waterways, to manipulate various magical forces, to shred his enemies with his bare claws, and to walk fully in the realm of the spirit, beyond the detection of even the Valar, outside both time and space. He is a true immortal; he does not sleep, does not feel fear and cannot die. And all of these advantages are natural, gleaned entirely without aide from an outside source."
"I find that hard to countenance." The Witch-king's statement did not forbid a response.
"It is true," Saruman persisted, knowing for certain now that he held the Nazgûl's undivided attention. "You know well enough that I would not dare to lie to you, my lord."
"And where did you acquire such a servant?"
"I was seeking a way to imbue ordinary weapons with magical properties. Archons are useful in this endeavour," Saruman explained carefully. The Wraiths seemed to share a startled glance. "While making a sampling of that particular breed of spirit, I came across a mutation I thought was interesting. I drew it into Arda, where it revealed its rather unique ability to take corporeal form, and ever since I have been endeavouring to tame it. It is still half-mad, but by balancing its sanity and its freewill in small, manageable portions, my servant is expressly obedient to me, while still retaining enough autonomy to act of its own accord. You must agree; it is truly an accomplishment that will compliment the forces of Sauron's dark horde if I can but find more like spirits."
"Very well," the Witch-King bowed his head in acknowledgement. "You have my attention. We will not take your creature with us, but when our task is done, I shall return here personally to examine your discovery. You will await my return."
That was not the answer Saruman had hoped for, but he abased his head. "Yes, my lord." If the Witch-King wished to believe that all Saruman wanted was a stamp of approval on this new breed of dark creature, the wizard would not contradict him.
"You will stand aside now, Istari," another of the Nazgûl warned.
"Yes, my lords." Saruman swept his robes around him and moved out of their path. The Nine Riders thundered past, foam gathering about the horses' hooves as they forded the river and emerged from the shallow waters. The wizard kept his face lowered as they rode by, careful not to meet the place their faces should exist. They might glimpse the sinister scheme gleaming behind his eyes.
Once the Riders were well out of sight and away along their chosen road, the wizened Istari turned to the shadows of a nearby blasted tree, its branches withered and twisting and its shadow black as pitch.
"Fëalhûn," Saruman called into the shadows beneath the dead tree. "Emerge at the beckoning of your master."
Black mist swirled and fell away, revealing a ghastly ominous figure. It stood a few inches shorter than he, but that did not make it any less intimidating. The creature resembled nothing more than the desiccated corpse of a long departed elf. Its skin was a faded shade of sapphire that traced the contours of all of its wiry muscles and jutting bones. The internal organs were virtually nonexistent. The creature's skin, if it could be called that, outlined every knob of its vertebrae, the hollow of its pelvis, and half of its ribs were clearly visible. Instead of feet, its legs were supported by large, cloven hooves shod with corroded brass ankle-braces, and its hands were three massive talons bound with strips of decayed leather. As gruesome as the body was, the face was even more grisly. The only recognizable aspects of the entity's features were its pointed ears and ragged black hair. Hollowed cheeks were stained with black marking like tears of crude oil, but the eyes were the most unpleasant trait of all. The sockets were lifeless dark holes, as empty as the void the spirit had been drawn from. No light could touch them, no heat melt the ice that had gripped the entity within it. A worn brown cowl with white abstract markings was wrapped around its lower face, and the blank ghost eyes smouldered from above the material. Long torn scraps of azure skin trailed from its back like a gruesome cape, the stumps of ruined wings.
There were two things Saruman the Wise could never fathom about this creature. The first was why the entity chose to manifest its presence in such a ruined form. It could choose any likeness it wished, no matter how fair or how foul in appearance, but it always took this one. The second thing he did not understand was why it never allowed him to see beyond its cowl. The creature was completely under his command in all but this aspect. It would impale itself, walk into a fiery chasm, exterminate an entire Elven delegation, remove a child's still-beating heart, but it would not lower its cowl under any amount of persuasion. It did not make sense; there was no sentience within it to contend with, and if there ever had been, it was long dead or dormant by now.
"Did you perform your task, Fëalhûn?" the wizard asked his creature. 'Fëalhûn' he had named it, 'the blue spirit'.
The spirit wraith did not reply. It couldn't speak, or at least hadn't ever shown that particular gift. All it did in response was nod curtly.
"Good, now that you have the scent you should be able to track them without much trouble," Saruman ordered the creature, "Bring back a worthy prize for your master."
The creature known as Fëalhûn bent its head once more before dissolving into a fog of radiant blue flecks, and from thence into nothingness.
Saruman reviewed the work he'd done with satisfaction. This was a close game he had to play, the board was set, and he was not about to loose.