Greatest among the horrors visited upon the Ystävät Talven at the Witch-king's bidding were the cursed "spell-beads" he had cast into their midst. Tainted with the Lord of the Nazgûl's inhuman sorceries, these seemingly harmless trinkets infected their victims with a malady for which there was no cure within Middle-earth: the "hell of sleepless death". By drawing upon the magical energies of these loitsuhelmet, their wielders unknowingly bound their souls to serve the Witch-king in death—utterly enslaved, unless he himself should be destroyed and his spirit vanquished from Arda. The spell-bead blight had taken many sinister forms since its inception. Over the course of time, the spirit-namers and wise ones among the Ystävät Talven had devised protective enchantments to counter the plague and hold it in check; but ever and anon the Witch-king devised new and cunning ploys to thwart such efforts, reaping a harvest of undeath where none had thought possible. Such was now the fate of one of the hautauskummut, the sacred burial bergs of the Merimetsästäjät.
Not long after the loitsuhelmi blight began, a woman from among the Merimetsästäjät of Berg Cradle Bay sought the aid of the Spirit World for the preservation of her people. This viisas, Elämänantaja by name, undertook a long and perilous journey into the frozen wilderness of Forochel, seeking for some power that would defend the Merimetsästäjät against the undead horror that now plagued them. Elämänantaja achieved her quest, returning to her ancestral berg-delving with a strange and wondrous artifact: a solid, resinous mass. In truth, this was one of the yavanníri, the Tears of Yavanna, whose tale the Noldor of Evermist were soon to learn from the wizard Radagast. Elämänantaja would reveal to no one how she had come across the translucent mass, which she called the Meripihka ( La. "Sea-resin"); but she bade them set it within their burial berg, maintaining that its sanctifying influence would constrain the spirits of the unquiet dead interred there and prevent other wicked spirits from infesting the corpses of the deceased. Though no cure for the affliction could be discovered by their spirit-namers and wise ones (for few yet perceived its true source), the Merimetsästäjät were spared the worst evils of the blight. Drawing upon the power of Meripihka, Elämänantaja developed protective rituals to ward off the undead, or to set binding enchantments upon their sarcophagi so that they might not break the bonds of their imprisonment to trouble the living. In time, Elämänantaja's fame carried the tale of his foiled plot to the ears of the Witch-king. Incensed at the thwarting of his designs by a mere mortal, the Nazgûl pondered how he might be fittingly avenged on Elämänantaja and how he might rob the Merimetsästäjät of their magical protection. In the end, the Morgul-lord resolved to deal out this vengeance by his own hand. The Ringwraith purposed to bring Elämänantaja under his evil influence through loitsuhelmet specially tainted for that purpose. Once under their power, these spell-beads would compel the enslaved viisas to enter the protected berg and destroy all of the wards confining the undead to their tombs. Then, with a veritable army of walking corpses to assist her, Elämänantaja would perform a ritual, summoning the wind-horde to drive the hautauskumpu away from Berg Cradle Bay. Aware that the Meripihka would not suffer the touch of any undead, the cunning Witch- king hoped through this stratagem to rid the Merimetsästäjät of their talisman by simply luring the entire berg out onto the open sea, where it would eventually melt and be lost forever. The Witch-king's design has thus far gone almost entirely according to plan—almost, for when the Ringwraith came secretly to the shores of Berg Cradle Bay to bestow the beads upon Elämänantaja, he found only her servant Sinipilvi. Unwilling to await the return of the viisas, lest in the presence of many eyes his disguise be penetrated, the Morgul-lord contented himself with a lesser vessel for the fruition of his evil purpose. As a consequence, many more years would pass before the slow-working loitsuhelmet would take effect; for Sinipilvi was young and hale, unlike her aging mentor, and any spell-beads whose taint was less subtly hidden would risk discovery by the increasingly wary and vigilant spirit-namers and wise ones of the Ystävät Talven.
Sinipilvi's encounter with the Lord of the Nazgûl was well- known among the Merimetsästäjät of Berg Cradle Bay, for she recounted it often, and after she succumbed to the blight many perceived its ominous significance for the first time.
Sinipilvi and the Cloaked Visitor:
- Some twenty winters ago on a night such as this, a traveler from the
- South, so heavily cloaked in black robes that his face could not be seen, :cameto the house of Elämänantaja the viisas. But Elämänantaja was not there;
- she had gone to the Feast of the New Moon in the jäätalo, having :Sinipilvi her servant to tend to her affairs alone.It was a cold winter's night :and none should have been out wandering. Sinipilvi heard footsteps outside the
- pyöreä talo—crunch, crunch, crunching, like the sound of a dog eating
- a bone. Sinipilvi was afraid, fearing that something of Ulkopuolesta was
- lurking outside.Then came a soft call,like the hissing of spindrift on the :rocks of thebayshore in summer: "Viisas.'"
- Sinipilvi's fear did not let her answer.
- "Viisas.'" came the call, louder and clearer. In crept a large man. He
- filled the entrance, and Sinipilvi thought he would not get through without
- damaging the house. Sinipilvi snatched up her riimuveitsi and stood ready.
- "Where is the viisas called Elämänantaja?" came the voice from the
- black robes.Sinipilvi was still but a foolish girl at the time, and answered :primly:"Gone to the Feast of the New Moon."
- Then came a long hiss, like the sizzle of fat that is cast into the fire.
- Sinipilvi shivered all over, but was not cold.
- "I need mustasormen lääke," said the stranger. Sinipilvi feared
- Elämänantaja would say if she handed out her mistress' small supply of that
- herb to a stranger, so she claimed to have none; but the stranger seemed to
- sniff the air like a dog.
- "There" came his voice as he pointed to the very pouch that held the herb.
- How he knew such a thing Sinipilvi never learned. Suddenly, the stranger
- reached into his black robes and drew out a small pouch of his own. "I will
- pay with these," he said. Into Sinipilvi's hand the cloaked stranger placed
- several loitsuhelmet; and Sinipilvi took them, for the wise did not yet
- perceive them as the source of the blight. The stranger took the herb-pouch
- and left—crunch, crunch, crunch, the footsteps disappeared into the night.
- When Elämänantaja returned she was sorry she had missed the visitor,
- but was not angry with Sinipilvi for giving away the mustasormen
- lääke, and allowed her to keep the beads as her rightful payment. Soon after,
- Sinipilvi discovered that the loitsuhelmet contained lääke tarmo—
- healing energy—as well as other powers of foresight and dream-trance, and
- with them she gained a reputation to rival that of Elämänantaja, who died
- in peace two years later.
- But alas for Sinipilvi! Her end was very evil. If only she had not
- perceived the signs sooner! For with the coming of spring after her meeting
- with the cloaked stranger, the pouch of mustasormen lääke that Sinipilvi
- had traded the spell-beads for was found only a hundred strides from
- Elämänantaja's pyöreä talo. "The man must have dropped it," thought
- Sinipilvi, scarcely imagining the evils that exchange would bring to her and
- to all of us.''
Thus, while Sinipilvi drew upon the power of the loitsuhelmet to heal her neighbors of their injuries, predict the weather and seek knowledge through dream-lore, her heart was slowly darkened and her mind clouded with despair. To Sinipilvi, the healing of hurts seemed a useless effort to stave off the inevitability of death, bitter storms were the only weather to be predicted, and the dark, brooding dreamscapes she wandered offered no knowledge that she desired to learn. In the end, in unbearable despair, she walked out onto the ice-floes, taking her two daughters and son with her, ending her life and theirs. Alas, this dark deed of forlorn hopelessness served only to bring the Witch-king's plans closer to fruition. Unable to find respite for her weary spirit, Sinipilvi's corpse stirred again to horrible Unlife, performing only the Nazgûl's will. Together with her brood Sinipilvi entered the hautauskumpu of her people, and commenced her foul labors for the arousing of all creatures of Ulkopuolesta from their warded tombs, and summoning others from beyond. Soon she transformed the burial berg into a guarded citadel of terror, preparing the summoning ritual that would propel the Merpihka into oblivion.