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“Now that I have your attention,” said Sauron, his glowing eye piercing the attendants, “let us try to stay focused from here on out. We do not have the luxury of time.” He turned to one of the few humans in the room who had not fled or fainted at the Nazgûl’s screech. “Mouth, kindly open the slides?”
The room darkened, and the projector lit up the screen descending from the ceiling. “Our situation looks very good, at least on paper,” said the Mouth. “We have superior numbers, supernatural assistance, and we have co-opted Saruman.”
“I’m not so sure that last is a positive,” said a cave troll. Despite their brutish reputation, carefully cultivated, cave trolls were intelligent and usually well-educated. “He is turning our own weapons against us. If he manages to seize the One Ring, he could push both Gondor and Mordor aside.”
“Your concerns are noted,” said Sauron. “But Saruman is no longer a player. The forest rose up against him, and undid all his work.” He paused to let that sink in. “But even without that detail, my Ring is difficult to locate. The Nazgûl are scouring the countryside, especially in those rare moments when it’s used. If they cannot find it, then only a great stroke of luck will put the Ring in his hands.” He gave the Nazgûl king a dark look. “Your failures so far have not been encouraging.”
The Ringwraith bowed his head. “It is only a matter of time, my lord.”
“But time, as I mentioned, is not on our side!” Sauron’s eye blazed in the darkened room. “The King in exile revealed himself in the captured Palantir, and I believe the Ring is already in his possession!”
Murmurs rippled through the room. “My lord,” the cave troll opined, “if he has the Ring already, why has he not worn it?”
“I—” The Dark Lord came very close to blurting I don’t know, and that would not do. “But even that is not the greatest threat we face.”
More murmurs. “But what threat could be greater?” the Nazgûl asked.
“The greatest of all.” Sauron’s voice grew hushed. “The writer.”
“I thought he was a myth,” one of the balrogs blurted.
“He lives,” the Dark Lord said, in a near-whisper. “I have seen him. He’s some kind of goody two-shoes, despite having given us all the advantages. I fear he’s going to pull a deus ex machina out of his ass.”
“But what can we do, my lord?” the Mouth asked, looking even more pale than usual.
“We must talk to him,” said Sauron. “Convince him that the King must take up my Ring, fall under my power, and allow us to prevail. His story thus becomes a cautionary tale, and certainly a more realistic one.”
“There is certainly a market for dark fiction,” the cave troll added. “We can not only conquer, but be a commercial success!”
“Hear, hear!” the orcs chanted.
The Dark Lord smiled. “Then let us begin, without further delay.”