If you've never had a weasel hack your hand off, steal your jewelry, and condemn you to spend thousands of years roaming as an impotent, disembodied spirit, let me clue you in: it doesn't beat torturing your enemies, their families, and their neighbors slowly to death in terms of entertainment value. I should have known better than to back the little weasels in a corner and then go toe-to-toe with them.
I could have just had the damn mountain flip upside down on Isildur for crying out loud, but no, I had to get down in the mud with them. There's nothing that beats the spray of blood in your own personal face--really getting their veins between your teeth -- but next time I'll be working from a bit more of a distance. No point in making it easy for the weasels, that's my new motto.
Excuse me while I brood hatefully for a moment.
Coming back from that sort of thing isn't easy, believe me. It takes time, and a lot more patience than comes naturally to me, although you wouldn't believe it to listen to Saruman lounge around expensively on my payroll and lick my boots and tell me my preternatural shit smells like roses.
You start slow, no way around it. You manifest yourself once, scare a few travelers in Mirkwood, feed on their fear, maybe get lucky and run one into a swamp or a river and have yourself a snack that way. Next time you're just ever so painfully tiny a toe-nail sliver of power greater. Maybe you get a picnicker and his dog. Maybe two elves humping in the woods. And so the long years wear on, as it were. Imagine picking your scabs for several thousand years, and you'll have the general idea.
It's a long row to hoe, and no mistake, and the whole time you're seething inside over the freaking injustice of it all. Here you are, commanded whole armies, shaped the very matter of chaos and evil and freaking creation into the palm of your hand, crushed souls between your teeth like peanut brittle, and now you're back to having to start the whole long climb to absolute power again, like some kid of a ten thousand years. I seriously thought about just throwing in the towel and retiring, I really did.
But you know, you hate to let the weasels (elf, human, or otherwise) win. It's just bad business and maybe a little professional pride. So I went back to work, days and weekends too, and put it all back together one piece at a time.
I settled in to the ass end of Mirkwood, since the pickings were so easy there. It's easier to knock an elf out of a tree than a squirrel, believe me (and they're mighty fine eating if you fillet them to get rid of the bones and ears). There's also those nasty little singing-and-dancing orgies they liked to stage out in the middle of the woods. Wiping those out was both a tasty treat and an aesthetic favor to the world at large.
There were the usual problems with spying wizards wandering the roads like traveling salesmen or poxy whores, but I kept a low profile. They just chewed their beards and muttered to themselves and went and smoked their pipes and then lay around their campfires giggling to themselves. Dangerous when sober, of course; fortunately they rarely are. I could have just had a party of orcs wipe them out any number of times, but I had plans for them. Nothing beats a wizard for middle management, if you can keep them from smoking too much.
I was still royally pissed over that little weasel that stole my Ring, if you really want to know. I planned to retrieve it (it was a masterpiece of simplicity in design, and you just know the weasels had no appreciation for the art of it all) and pay them all back for the colossal pain in the ass they had caused me.
I had to rebuild the organization to do it with, of course.
So, there I was, growing in power very nicely, thank you. Centuries of mindlessly boring petty maiming and butchery always does the trick. I had the dungeons nicely stocked with elves, and dwarves, I was manifesting myself whenever I wanted to. Yes, not having the Ring around slowed that sort of thing down considerably, damn all thieving weasels, but in general everything was running sweet as a nut.
Then out of nowhere, the weasels and the wizards seem to get a freaking clue, and they stumble down and evict me. Turns out one of those damn weed-toking SOBs put down the pipe long enough to burrow into my dungeons like a tick and found one particular damn dwarf that he knew. They had some tearful reunion, cue the violins, and the dwarf ratted me out like the damn dwarf he was. The upshot was that it was time to move on considerably sooner than I had anticipated. Of course I had weasels nipping at my heels almost the whole way.
I was not happy at this turn of events. For one thing, I had to leave a lot of perfectly serviceable prisoners behind. It also takes me a while to get a torture chamber equipped the way I like it. Most of that stuff had to be left behind, and I just knew it would all go to waste. The weasels have some sort of weasel objections to keeping my sort of tools in working order. As a craftsman--no, as an artist, dammit--it was an unpleasant thing, abandoning years of hard work.
On the plus side, most of the movable furnishings looked out for themselves. You can't keep orcs out of one of my places. They're like cockroaches that can't stop talking: grunt, grunt, nose-pick, ass-scratch, "Me kill him now, boss?" etc., etc. A short wait, a few decades at most, and they started showing up down at the old homestead. I missed the convenience of those elf picnickers, but there were certainly advantages to being back home: residual evil, obscuring smoke, active volcano, that kind of thing. The key to the whole dark lord enterprise is location, location, location. Believe me.
It WAS nice not having stoned wizards wandering around the front yard trying to stare in through the windows.
So everything was more or less back on schedule and under budget. Still, something just didn't feel quite right. Like a nasty itch you can't quite scratch, or a headache that lasts a few centuries longer than you want it to, or a spying wizard just out of your reach where you can't get hold and pop his slack-jawed skull like a grape.
It was the Ring, of course.
Here let me stop to offer you a bit of neighborly advice: if you ever plan to pour your ineffable life essence into a piece of jewelry, put it in the sort of Ring that a weasel isn't likely to see (if you follow me). If you leave it out in the open, sure as shit one of them will take it in their heads to hack off your finger or toe so he can steal it like the thieving weasel he is. Trust me, hide the thing. It may make you walk a little funny, but that's a small price to pay for that sense of inner peace knowing that your ineffable life essence isn't prone to random weasel attack. Especially if you use a good steel codpiece.
Anyway, there it was. I had to get the Ring back, and that was that. Like every other half-assed decision you make, forging it had seemed like a good idea at the time. Owning the Nazgul and a few odd dwarves made for entertaining parties, not to mention the work-related benefits, but in retrospect, I should have suspected it was a bad idea when the elf-weasels managed to slip out of the grip of the Ring. Oh, they were bound up with it sure enough, but outside my control, more's the pity.
I have to admit I regret the whole rooting around in the fires of chaos and creation thing. It had been a slow century, what can I tell you? There was no sense in beating myself up over it, though. I've always prided myself on being a problem-solver, not a problem-maker. Getting the Ring back was a problem, but every problem has a solution. Project-management on something like this was all about coming up with a plan and sticking to it.
So I dug up the Nazgul again. It had been quite a while, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I hadn't felt quite up to par enough to deal with them until now. You don't want to keep them around during the slow periods since they're not exactly the world's greatest conversationalists, and that's coming from someone who works with orcs and cave trolls, mind you.
With the Nine Nazty Wonders, it's always "Ash nazg" this and "Gimbatul" that. Then they tend to sprint into whichever corner of the room is closest to wherever that damned Ring is hiding and get stuck in a tangle and start hacking away at each other, yammering like the weasels they used to be. Not to mention the fact that they're expensive to feed, unless high elves are a lot cheaper in your neck of the woods than they are in mine.
Even buried, they keep mumbling away about some damn thing or other. Of course then they're buried, so it's no skin off my Ring finger, if you follow me. They sure don't bore you nearly so much. I've always said that there's damned few awkward social or business occasions that can't be improved by a live burial.
So like I said, I dug up the Nazgul, shoveled a nutritious breakfast of high elves into the feeding trough and waited until they were down to gnawing on the bones and ready to listen.
Talking to them worked about as well as it always does, so I cracked some heads together, crammed the general idea as deeply into their rotting brains as I could, and finally (just to be sure), pinned notes to their clothes and reminded them that if they opened their eyes they could see to read the notes if they got confused. Nazgul aren't known for their self-initiative and decision-making skills, so I figured I'd help my chances with the notes.
.... There is more of this story ...