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To Rule Them All: A Tale of Middle-earth and the Middle Ages.

Chapter Text

Letter Sent by Pope Innocent III to the Christian Kings of Europe, Dated January 25, TA 3019/AD 1200.

To the Kings of Europe:

Greetings.

I, the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, and Servant of the Servants of God, call all the Lords of Europe to a great council in Rome. For a Great Shadow now descends upon us, plunging all our lands into darkness. If we do not face it as one, we are all doomed.

Doubtless, many of you are aware of the calamity that has come to us, having seen your lands be changed by the great storm that descended on the 25th of January, Year of Our Lord Twelve-Hundred. Perhaps you have heard rumors of Demons and Monsters, descending from the new mountains, devouring all in their path. I tell you now that all these tales are true. The Mouth of Hell has been opened upon the Earth, and all must gather to stand against it.

I know this because on the night that the storm descended, as I lay resting in my chambers, I heard a great voice calling out to me, asking for me by the name of my birth. I awoke at once, going to my door. Upon opening it, I asked my guards who had called for me. They replied that none come to my door. Returning to my bed, I returned to rest, only to be awoken again by the same voice, calling my name.

Again I rose and went to my door, and again my guards said that none had called for me. Now I recalled the tale of Samuel, who the LORD called by name. Returning again to my chamber, I knelt in prayer, saying “Here I am, LORD. Command me.” And then the great voice called out again, saying “Behold my messenger. Listen to him well.” And then my chamber was filled with light.

When the light faded and I could again see, there before me stood an angel, who rode a great steed and carried a great horn, and who said his name was both Orome and Michael. He said to me: “The One has willed that you ride with me, and for you record all that you see, so you may know of what is to come. For the tale you now find yourself a part of is dark and full of danger: if you are to survive, you will need to know of all that has come upon you” And in my hands I found a scroll and a pen, and so I mounted the steed with Michael who is also called Orome and rode out with him.

We rode above the clouds, with the world standing still around us. The steed carried us north and east, over Italy and the Adriatic, passing Croatia and Slavonia along the way. As we rode, I looked out to the east, and saw great mountains, cloaked in shadow, that had risen out of the ground. As I looked upon them, I knew they were not of this world. I asked Orome who is also called Michael: “What devilry is this, that these great peaks come from nothing? What power of Earth or Heaven could have thrown them up?”

The Angel looked to me and said: “Nothing in the memory of this world. In a far distant place, there were two, a servant of the One and a monster of the Enemy. They clashed against each other, and in their wrath and desperation part of their world was unmade. What remained has come here, as debris from the sinking of a ship. But woe unto you! What has washed up upon your shores is not mere ruins and wreckage, but something far more vile. Beyond those mountains lies the realm of Sauron, who is the Enemy of All the World.”

When the angel spoke that name, a dark chill came upon me, and I knew in my heart that he spoke of a great evil. Soon afterwards, the steed stopped, and the Angel said to me: “Look to the southeast! See with your own eyes the works of the Enemy!” And I turned my eyes as the Angel told me, and there I beheld for the first time the works of the Dark Lord.

There before me was a great black wall, standing between the mountains of shadow and ash. It was as high as any in the world, as tall as ten men, and forged of solid iron and black stone and steel. It’s tower’s were like great teeth anchored upon the dark peaks, their roots set deep into the unyielding stone.

Manning this wall were what could only be demons. Their stances were bent and their eyes full of malice; their faces were like wild boars, and their teeth like knives. A great multitude there were, all in arms with bows and swords and spears. Behind the wall were two great ramparts of stone, and upon them stood giants, chained to the wall. As I watched, a great horn was blown, and the giants marched forth along the ramparts, and the walls parted, like the opening of a gate.

Said the Angel: “This is the Morannon, door of Udun. Beyond lies the dark land of Mordor, where the shadow lies. Come, while the gate is open! There is much that must be seen. Do not be afraid, for none within may yet touch you, for they can not see, nor hear, no feel your passing. I am with you; I will light the way.” And so we rode on, through the black gate, into the land of shadow.

I can describe that place only as Hell. All was covered in ash and dust, and searing heat was present in all places and times. No green grass grew, no breezes cooled the air, no springs or streams cut through the ashen ground. Smoke and fire filled the sky, and the air itself was poison; I saw even the demons choking on the fell winds. And many demons there were; most small, with twisted faces and limbs and claws; some giant, as much as three men, crushing the lesser ones underfoot; some were twisted mockeries of beasts of burden.

But all this terror, all this horror, paled when compared against the Flaming Eye. Above all the horrors of that Hell it was perched, watching all that passed below. It turned and looked over all the lands of Hell, and when its gaze passed over me it felt like the burning of a great fire, fueled by hatred. In appearance it seemed like the sun at its most terrible, searing all that it shone upon. I looked upon it for but moments before I was forced in terror to turn, for seeing into its depths is to court madness.

Then I asked the Angel: “To whom does that great Eye belong? It must be that of the Devil himself!” And they in turn said to me: “Not the Devil, but near enough. That is the Eye of Sauron, from where he watches all the world, waiting to strike. It sees near all, be it in past or present. This sight is a strong weapon, and one he will wield against you. But come! Now is the time that I shall give you the same sight as he. I warn you, though: you will see this all through the eye of madness, and I can not guarantee that you will understand.”

The Angel lead us to the place where the Eye is perched, which he called Barad-Dur. It was cast from Iron and Steel and Black Stone, and rose higher than all the towers of the world. A great army of Demons stood upon its ramparts, of all breeds and shapes and sizes, and they spoke in a black tongue, whose very sound hurt my soul. We ascended the tower, and there at last I beheld him: The Dark Lord, who sat on a Dark Throne within the Dark Tower. His name is Sauron, and he is the Enemy of All the World.

Not yet is he of flesh, being as yet made of shadow and fire, but even as I watched his shape became more solid, his form becoming whole. But the small portion of him that has become tangible is a thing of terror. His helm is burned and black and harder than iron. His hands are like claws, sharper than steel and stronger than stone (I saw that he had only nine fingers, though. The tale of the lost digit I will tell later in this writing). The rest remains a dark spirit on a bad wind, shadows made from fear and hatred and rage, swirling around what has formed like a whirlwind of malice.

I asked the Angel: “How came this to pass? Does not the Devil have a fair form that he wears as a mask, to tempt the hearts of men? Why are only the head and hands made real, and the rest like smoke from a fire?” And the Angel replied to me: “For the same reason that he has only nine fingers. The tale is one of triumph against the dark, and the knowledge it will give you will be needed in the times ahead. Come, and I shall show you.”

We ascended high into the Dark Tower, passing many legions of Demons before coming finally to the uppermost chamber. Here, the Angel said to me: “Behold, The Palantir of Minas Ithil!” and indicated to me the stone in the center of the room. It was black, but could be seen through like glass, and was perfectly smooth. In it’s heart, I saw a great storm swirling around.

The Angel spoke again, saying: “By the use of this stone, Sauron’s sight and reach has grown long. It sees far, through mountains and across seas, and by its sight he has ensnared many.” Then, the Angel took the stone in his hands and presented it to me, saying: “Take the stone in your hands. I will guide its gaze, and show you all that you need to know.” And so I took up the stone, and within it the Angel showed me all things, past, present and future.

I was shown first the beginnings of the tale. In the beginning was the darkness, an endless darkness stretching on to infinity: Nothing was there. But then I heard the word, saying: “Let there be light!” and I heard a Great Music, like ten thousand choirs singing in unison, and the tune was perfect. From the tune itself I beheld the start of all of creation: I watched the building of all the world, the birth of all the creatures and the making of all the mountains and seas.

Then I saw there the Garden of Eden in all its glory, peaceful and beautiful and perfect, with all things living in harmony in the light of the Lord. Two great trees stood in the center of the Garden, and the grace of God flowed from them, lighting all the world in splendor, and all was good. All the creatures of the world praised the Lord, and the Lord walked among the creatures, demanding only that they not harm the great trees.

But then I saw a great Leviathan, who arose in might to challenge the Lord, and it poisoned the trees and made itself a King of all living things. It deceived all the world, and destroyed the trees and plunged the garden into darkness and chaos. The Leviathan turned many to his cause, and under its feet it crushed all that dared stand against it.

Now among those that bowed down to the Leviathan was one called Mairon. They were of a fairer complexion than most that served the Leviathan, being tall and well-shaped and possessing a handsome face. He was a master craftsman, greater than any other in the world, and their crafts were as near to perfection as could be found outside of Heaven itself. But still Mairon seeked improvement, seeked perfection, but he could not find it. Always in his works he found flaws, imperceivable to nearly all but existent nonetheless. In this was did the Leviathan enthrall them, saying: “Bow to me, and I shall give you the perfection that you seek,” and Mairon became the Leviathan’s right hand. Those that defied them cursed his name, and called him Sauron, the Abhorred.

For many years and generations war was waged between the Leviathan and his servants and the Lord and his servants, with much valor and horror on all sides and in all places. Finally, the Lord decreed that the world would suffer no more, and He Himself descended, and all the world was shattered and the Leviathan was thrown down into the pit, where it will be imprisoned until the end of time. Many of the Leviathan’s servants were captured, and taken up above the clouds to stand trial. But Sauron escaped, and went to hide in the far reaches of the broken world.

Now a long time passed, and the Leviathan and his servants faded away from memory, turning from history to legend and from legend to myth and from myth to nothingness. That which should have never been allowed to fade was lost to the ages. But although the world chose to forget the Leviathan and all his servants, Sauron did not forget the world. He went about to the blackest crags at the edge of creation, drawing out to him all the dark shadows of the world. In this way did he become ruler of all that spurned the light.

But his fair form he kept, and many a time he would go out into the light and give great gift to those that dwelled there, seeking to ensnare the Children of the One. He appeared at their gates as he had before his fall, and those that saw him said: “Here is a servant of the One! Come, let us go out and welcome him, for surely he is here for our betterment!” They called him Annatar, and it was in this way that Sauron deceived the world. Few among the Children of the One turned him away, and against those that did he swore terrible vengeance.

And so it was that in that time his power was ever on the rise. To the banner of the Flaming Eye rallied all the scattered servants of the Leviathan, who were seeking to unleash horrible revenge for their master’s fall. Under his thrall fell many kings of men, looking to go out as conquerors and conquered. To his side came all manner of dark beast, hungary and wild. But to those in the light he showed only his fair face, and in this way was his army kept in the shadows.

Now Sauron came to the height of his power. He looked over towards those that remained to defy him, planning their unmaking. Seeking not to risk his power, he went out to those in the light wearing his fair face Annatar, giving them great praise and gifting them great treasures. And so the Children of the one became ever more ensnared, for Sauron in this time forged great weapons, which could make and unmake the world.

20 of these great weapons I saw in all, and they were divided into groups of one and three and seven and nine. The Nine he gave to those that would serve him and now serve him still, for their hearts were weak and wills weaker yet, and they will be his thralls until the end of time, smiting all that oppose him. The Seven he gave to the earth itself, and the soil where they were planted became sick so nothing would grow but greed and fear, and then fire consumed them all, so that nothing remained. The Three were kept from his hands, and taken up by the Skies and the Waters and the heavens, and ever after were they defiant against him, holding back his black tide.

But the One stood greater than all the others. It was forged in secret, in the hottest and deepest pits of Hell, and its power was beyond all the others together. With it in his hand, Sauron would rule them all, all the people of the world. He would find all that dared stand against him, and bring them under his power and bind them in darkness. I saw it wielded against his foes: it makes nations crumble and Kings weep, and none could stand against it. With it he turned even the mightiest against the light, corrupting their hearts and souls and making them bow before the image of the Leviathan. All that would dare face him were thrown down or driven into the dark places, and tribute was paid to him by all the world. And so it was that the shadow ruled, and it fell over all the earth, and Sauron named himself Lord of the World.

And so it was that all of creation bowed before Sauron, and now he looked to overthrow the One Himself, and to conquer even the Heavens. It was at this time that he raised up a Great Armament from all the nations and kings that knelt at his feet, and he compelled them to build a great navy for him, to sail against the angels themselves. The number of slaves and soldiers and beasts of burden that gathered to sail in his name is beyond reckoning. When they set out a great cry went up, and their voices and horns and drums outsounded the thunder. For 39 days and nights the slaves rowed hard on the oars (for there was no wind), and on the 40th day they arrived at the Door to Heaven, and prepared to storm it.

But the One in Heaven looked down upon the vast navy, and, seeing that the only inclination of their thoughts was to evil, he swore that he would wipe them from the face of the earth, every pack animal and chained servant and weapon bearer, so that the world may be made pure again. But to those that remained true to the light he gave favor, and he said to one called Elendil (who is also called Noah): “I am about to destroy the great navy, but I fear that with it will fall much of creation. So I say to you this: Build for yourself and your wife and your sons and their wives a great Ark, so that you may ride out the storm and come through safe, while the shadow is thrown down.”

So on the 40th day after the Great Armament set sail, the One Himself came down and wrecked the entire fleet in a great storm, and threw down the lands from which they had sailed, and much of the earth was drowned under the sea. This included all the monuments built to the Leviathan and the all the great lands that had bowed to the Dark Lord and even the fair form of Sauron; all were lost under the waves. But Noah called Elendil and all his children and servants survived in their great Ark, and came out of the sea onto solid ground, and rallied that had stood in the light to their banners.

Now all those that had opposed the shadow rose as one, seeking to throw down Sauron, who’s strength was now much diminished. In a final and desperate alliance, they marched together to the great gates of Hell, where Sauron had now fled to regain his strength. It was there before the Black Gates that they waged ferocious battle against all the legions of shadow for days and weeks and months before their entry was finally secured. For seven years, then, did they lay horrible siege to the Dark Tower that holds the Dark Throne, and many great men fell to rise no more before it's black ramparts.

And then, finally, with the victory of the light near, Sauron himself came forth. He was now a twisted thing of shadow and steel and fire, his fair form forever lost; his new shape was like that of a Dragon in the form of a Man. His touch burned like a hundred suns, warping armor and swords like paper in a hearth. His own armor was harder than the hardest stone, and no blade could bite him. He wielded in his hands the One, the great weapon which can uproot the mountains, and terrible was the wrath he visited on all that dared challenge his might.

But the time had come that he would be unmade. His armies were broken and scattered to the four winds, and were pursued and cut down as they fled; has lands were trampled and overthrown, so that no more would rise to his aid; even the power of the One which makes the earth tremble could not overcome the vengeful light that now came down to cleanse the world. Even then, with all fortune having abandoned him, Sauron defied the alliance, smiting many princes and kings of the nations of the light, until finally the One that rules all the shadows was cut from his hand, and Sauron was finally himself thrown down.

Despite all of this, however, Sauron survived. So great was the malice and hatred that he had poured into making the One the cuts down kings that he endured even with his body reduced to dust. And the One, the great weapon, was not destroyed: the man that cut it from Sauron’s grasp, who’s name I will not speak (for they deserve no honor here), took it for themselves, for it whispered to them and made them love it, and upon their death it was lost in the waters of time. The Dark Tower was destroyed, but its foundations were not laid bare and remained intact. The black legions of hell were not pursued to the final end and so hid, seeking to regain their strength. And so, although the victory of the light was great, it was incomplete.

It was here that my visions of the past ended, and I began to see both what is now and what is to come. I warn you now: I was shown much of both what will be and what is at once, and not always could I tell one from the other. Thus, little that I saw is straight forwards. Much is out of order: I know not what was the beginning and what was the end, and there was little of anything that was familiar to me. Some, however, I recognized, for I had read of it before, and I had read it the Holy Scripture itself, in the Book of Revelations.

This is a cause for great terror, for that which I recognized from the writings of St. John of Patmos are writings of woe and pain and persecution. They foretell of great suffering for all that follow Christ. Many parts did I recognize, all of them telling of disaster and calamity to come. That which I noted as being told again are as follows:

I beheld The Great Dragon which has ten horns and stands at the shore of the sea, which I am now sure is Sauron, come to devour the world. In a likewise way, I saw one like the First Beast prophesied in John’s Revelation, rising out of the water. They had their own power and throne, and was granted great authority by the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne in his Dark Tower. Their mouth uttered proud boasts and blasphemies and stole the hearts of men, turning them into servants of shadow. They waged war, and conquered the people of God, and they were worshiped by many. I saw too arise the Second Beast, who will show great signs and make all the world serve the Darkness, who calls down fire from the sky and speaks like a dragon. All that did not worship them, the Dragon and the Two Beasts, I saw put to the sword.

I watched as God’s wrath was poured out on the throne of the Dragon, and his land was covered in darkness. I saw the three unclean spirits that are like frogs, that come from the mouths of the Dragon and the Beasts and deceive nations so that they may turn against the Lord, God Almighty. I saw the great earthquake, that throws down cities and kingdoms.

I watched the great star Wormwood fall burning from the heavens, trailing behind it fire and gold. It fell upon the rivers, and then poisoned all the waters. Those that drank the poisoned waters became cursed to be like Wormwood had been, and in this way many died. I saw the Dragon’s ten horns become like 10 Kings, who received authority from him and will wage war on all creation. I saw the darkening of the sun and the stars and the moon, and the moon turned as red as blood.

I saw all of these things come to pass, and I recognized them from the writings of St. John the Divine. This fact filled my heart with woe, for I realized that if this is what to come, then Revelation is being fulfilled, and the End Times are well and truly upon us. The rest of what was shown to me is less clear and contained no solid pieces of scripture, but all the same they indicate that these are indeed the times of Armageddon.

These visions contained many reasons for both horror and hope. The horror I will tell of first; I will preserve the hope for the end of this writing, so that it will not end in despair. I beheld the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne in his Dark Tower, and before him knelt 12 Forsaken Kings of Men, dead but yet unable to die. And then the Dark Lord said to them: “Rise, and come forwards to be armed.” To nine of them he gave swords, and sent them out to spread his shadow across the whole world. And they rode out on horrible fell beasts, whose wings were like those of bats and faces were like those of snakes and bodies were like those of elephants.

To the other three he gave daggers, and he sent them out in silence on the black wind, to strike from darkness against the light. The first I saw go to a great city, guarded by a two-headed eagle, who held a sword in one talon and orb-and-cross in the other. One half of its body had feathers of regal purple, while the other half was pure gold, and it wore a great crown on both heads. The bearer of the dagger entered the city in silence and struck the eagle in one of it’s heads. The eagle went mad, and the two halves began to strike at each other in a mad rage.

The second I saw go into the frozen wild. I saw it strike the fertile ground, and all around it withered and died and turned black. Then the one that the Dark Lord had sent there unleashed a great cry, and as I watched a great horde of wild men and beasts emerged out of the blackened land, gathering to the one that had born the dagger. They kneeled before the servant of the Dark One and worshipped the shadow. Then they rose as one and rode out like a swarm of locusts, going forwards to consume all in their path.

The third I saw enter into the wide desert. They went to an oasis, and there I saw a herd of camels, coming out of the east with the rising of the moon. When they came to drink of the waters, the one that Sauron had sent out plunged their dagger into the spring, and the water turned to shadow and poisoned many in the herd, and they began to stampede and trample those that had not been poisoned.

Then I heard a great roar of thunder above me, like ten thousand lions. I looked up to the heavens, and I saw the sky itself split apart, spitting lighting in all directions. From the seam that formed I saw came a great gust of wind, frozen like ice, and snowfall so thick that I could not see my own hands when I put them in front of me. And when the sky calmed, I saw before a multitude of mountains, rising like dark towers above the good earth.

Out from these new mountains which had fallen from the sky I saw come a great horde of demons and monsters. I watched as they descended upon the world, and none could stand against them. They are lead by a monster of fire and shadow and smoke, who served the Leviathan and now will march against all of creation in service of Sauron. It is wounded and scarred: twice has it fallen, only to rise again.

Finally, I saw a great tree which the Lord had planted in the world of man. It radiated His glory, and it’s roots spread out to all the corners of the world, and its branches and leaves were as numerous as sand on the seashore. It had four trunks which reached as high as the heavens, and to each the heavens gave a mark. One, the first and oldest, was given the stars. Two others, twined together and yet growing apart, were given the sun, one for its rising and the other for its setting. The last and youngest had been given the moon.

But Sauron came up to the great tree which the Almighty had planted, and he began to whisper to it with his silver tongue. And I saw the shadow on his breath, and it poisoned the tree so that many of the branches withered away and many of the leaves fell to the ground, where Sauron and his servants crushed them underfoot. And as I watched, the four great trunks turned dark, and began to strike at each other, each scarring the other’s bark.

All this I saw, and it caused me great despair. But so it is written: “Do Not Be Afraid.” I say the same to you now, that fear and terror do not overtake you, despite all that is coming to pass. For know this: the Lord, God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and of Earth, has not abandoned us; Not alone do we stand against this storm. The Maker of All of Creation has given to us great gifts, that we may face down this foe. I saw much that stands against the growing tide, that we may not be drowned in shadow.

I saw the light of seven stars shine down from the hand of the Lord upon the two-headed eagle. One head I saw the grace of God return to, and that half of the body I saw begin to heal. So to healed did I see those that had drunk the water poisoned by the burning fall of Wormwood: I saw a clean hand thrust into the dark waters, and they were made pure, and up from their depths the hand pulled those had fallen in, so that they did not drown. And I saw the heavens open up, and an army of angels descended into the world of men to take up the battle.

Then I heard a great cry from the skies, and from there I saw descend the Archangel, who will lead the Lords of Men through the dark times. He is cloaked in purest white, and is given power by the Lord, God Almighty: in their right hand they wield His sword, that he may smite those that would betray His children; in his left hand they wield his sceptre, that the Archangel may have authority over all that would defend the light. He carries with him the fire of the Holy Spirit, that he may give great courage and hope to all, so the hearts of men should not fail. He comes on the wings of Eagles, and all that serve the Dark shall rightly fear him.

Finally, I beheld the four elements themselves taking up arms and defying the shadows. I saw beings of unyielding earth standing against Sauron’s thralls; they have bones of steel, and skin made of iron, and his tongue cannot touch their souls. I saw a place of fire, and it burned away the darkness that surrounded it, and I saw it give hope to the hearts of men so that they could stand. I saw a great river coming out of the dark mountains, and it’s waters stood ready to cleanse all that the shadow had twisted into darkness. And I saw a great whirlwind descend from the heavens, blowing down all the legions of hell, and in its heart I saw our greatest hope.

For in the eye of that storm I saw the One, the weapon which reaps the stars, and I saw the way of its unmaking. A lamb has been prepared for the slaughter, and through their sacrifice the One that shatters the heaven shall be finally and totally destroyed. They do not bear this weight alone: with them I saw three shepherds, who will guard the lamb until the time that it is to be offered up, and the four corners of the world have sent forth the four elements to guide the way.

Up from the south has come a heart of burning fire that has been sworn to protect the lamb and the shepherds, and their oaths shall not be forsaken. Down from the north came the waters that washed away the one that failed and took the One that cuts down the sun and moon for themselves; they have come to redeem the line that was broken. Out of the west came a green leaf on the winds, cutting down all in its path. The east gave a golem of stone and steel, strong and brave and resilient.

This was all that I saw, and I hold that all of it is true. It was here that my visions did end, and Michael who is called Orome returned me to the Holy City, lest the Flaming Eye behold me, and see that I have walked in his tower and been given Revelation. As I dismounted the great stallion, Orome who is called Michael said to me: “My duty is unfinished, as is yours. Go, now, and call out all those that would stand with the Lord! Tell them all that you have been shown, and that the Angels of the Lord walk always with them. Remember this, from now until the ending of the Age: The One is always with you, and will never leave your side. So do not despair, even at the fall of the world, for you shall never walk alone!” And so the Angel rode away on their steed, blowing their horn so that all who heard would answer the call.

And so it has fallen to me to say to all those that would call themselves Christian: send your lords, your kings and your princes to me, so that we may stand as one against this tide. The Lord, God Almighty has called upon all of you; His messenger has come before me, and shown me all that is to come. Let every nation heed the call, for these are indeed the times of Armageddon: let your names be written in the book of life, so that you may live forever. If any shall not answer, their name is to be struck out, and for all eternity shall damnation take them.

May Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, be with you all.
Signed,
Pope Innocent the Third, Witness to the Lord.