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Old 08-09-2004, 06:04 PM   #121
CaptainofDespair
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The Elf watched from his secluded segment within the ragtag company, as Grash had pointed to the pillars which stood as a last testament to the Dark Lord’s Will. They were ancient, former guardians of Minas Ithil, and now they had become twisted by the arcane forces that Sauron commanded. They were monuments now, to his power over the orcs, who were but poorly crafted mimics of the Elves of Eldar Days. They had weak minds, the orcs, and were easily driven to the master’s orders, and whether or not their tortured husks craved to wage war under the command of the Eye or not, they were forced on, by the beating drums and driving whips of the Uruks. And now, the Elf himself had come before these columns of dread and despair, and he gazed into their surface, feeling the warning they once held, and the dire power they now contained. The darkness, and cruelty, of the Eye emanated from within them now, and the Elf readied his mind for a war of willpower, one that might prove fatal, in both physical realm, and the plane of thought in which his own grand schemes resided.

Watching the man Grash begin to move towards them, he could already sense the deepening reverberations from the tremors that stormed forth from the pillars, as a new, seemingly fresh soul made its way within their grasp. They began to hum steadily, but the tortuous noise was inaudible to all but the most acute of ears. Knowing the power of Sauron of old, the Immortal knew this would be a trial like any other he had faced. Even the stinging fangs and sharpened claws of Shelob would pale in comparison with the Dark Lord’s Will, for he was the ultimate power within this blackened, scorched land. Without hesitation, Morgoroth strode silently towards the ominous pillars, calm and relaxed, and ready for the onslaught he was to face, alone, within the deepest, most hidden recesses of his dark, calculating mind.

His light foot steps kicked up little of the ashen dust as he moved towards the pillars, and he breathed little, so as to delay the shock that would course through the very veins of his body, in that instant he would cross into the Dark Lord’s astral realm, where he would tempt those not under his control, and imprint his will on those he commanded. Time itself seemed to halt when he made his way into the fold, where the pillars stood, as mechanisms of maintaining the will over the subjects in Mordor. The very crags of the Elf’s mind, where the carefully prepared thoughts that would assail Sauron’s will, went silent. Not a single grain of thought spoke to the Elf, and he was truly alone for the first time. And then, a great echoing voice spoke into his mind. The Will of Sauron now spoke to him, tempting him. “You dare to flee the realm of your Lord and Master, child? It is futile, for none can,” came a hissing, wrath-filled voice. “Ah, you come at last Sauron. I had feared you would disappoint me,” replied the haughty, streamlined inner voice of the Elf. His mind went quiet, and for a moment it seemed as if the trial was over. But soon, a hideous cackling began to build up, one filled with an anger and hatred, that had collected over many an age. And the voice spoke again. “You have no power here paltry Elf. Your immortality and heritage cannot save you, and nor can those you might consider allies. There are none who can contest with the Will of Sauron,” boomed the mighty, and ageless voice. “Ha! I may not have power here, there you are right. But you are wrong in the assumption that your power will go uncontested. I seem to recall the Last Alliance, for it was they who overthrew you, even with the power of your Ring,” sneered the Immortal. No reply verbal reply came from the void that had now filled ever crag of the Elf’s tortured and dark mind. Instead, a great wrath could be felt, building up, for it sent tremors of immeasurable power and distress through the Elf. And now, the voice returned, but this time, the image of the Great Eye came as well, not the mere void of dark emptiness. Pain and despair prevailed now, the Elf felt his will diminish before the onslaught that came. And within the well of the Eye, came an image, a scene from the Last Alliance. Morgoroth peered into this, wondering what new devilry Sauron was concocting. As he examined closer, he spied the face of his own father, who was slain in that final battle with Sauron. “So, you must resort to the persistence of memory to destroy me eh? You are weaker than I thought Sauron,” the Elf bluntly stated. Now Sauron was filled with spite and anger, for he tolerated not the use of his name. “You miss my point Elf, as all your kind have. You see, your kind gave their lives to destroy me, but yet, here I am. I have survived, where many have not. There are none who can defeat me, for my power is inconquerable!” The voice of the Dark Lord cackled in a most menacing way. The Elf began to feel weaker than before, even more so than he had physically felt when imprisoned in Cirith Ungol and Cirith Gorgor. But he retreated not, for his doom would be sealed should he perform that final act. “You may smite my heart with the lost emotion I once felt, but you will not break my mind!” the Elf retaliated. On those words, the Dark Lord’s voice grew, invading not only the mind of the Elf, but his very soul, seeking to break his will, and corrupt his heart. But Morgoroth resisted, and he summoned forth all the remnants of his shattered mind, and he came in a great wave, crashing down upon Sauron’s manifested void. “You Sauron, are weak! From what I have seen of your so called glory, you wield terror and fear alone, and those are easily overcome. You may have power within Mordor, but I am the lord of my own heart and mind, and you no longer hold sway here. Begone, or suffer my divine retribution! From these hallowed, and wrath filled statements, the Dark Lord reeled back in great pain, as is he had been struck physically. In great haste, the void Sauron had woven around him, collapsed into a frail, delicate facade, and he fled from the Elf’s mind, defeated.

With his mind clear of the Dark Lord, the Elf returned to the realm of the physical. His mind now saw clearly, without the fog that had once clouded his perception. He finally left the limits of the stones, refreshed, with the Fire of Life now burning hot within him. He pivoted on his right heel, and spun round, to glance at his comrades, who were just preparing to enter the tortuous realm which he had now passed. “Good luck, my comrades in arms, for you will need it,” he murmured to himself. “Your trial will soon begin...” his voiced trailed off, into the bleak heavens of Mordor.

Last edited by CaptainofDespair; 08-11-2004 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 08-11-2004, 02:04 PM   #122
Himaran
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As the somber party neared the looming forms of Sauron's stones, Dwali felt little change in the state of his mental being. Unlike the elf next to him, no voice forced its deceitful words upon him. The Dark Lord was far more cunning than that, and he had chosen a far more effective manner with which to turn him astray. The dwarf looked over at Morgoroth, who was sweating and struggling. [I]What's his problem? Scared? He continued staring for several moments, eventually reaching the conclusion that his previous guess was acurate.

The dwarf's thoughts, however, soon turned from interest to scorn. [i]Elves -- they are rather stern and commanding around those less esteemed than they, but seem to have trouble when it comes to walking by to old stones.[i] Then he caught himself, momentarily realizing his follow. Morgoroth had fought bravely in the tunnels, and had saved Bror's life. Then the darkness returned. [i]Bror! That turncoat, questioning Grash and forming pacts with the elves. The dwarves have to hang together... but he wants friendship with those that would care little if we toppled over and died in this forsaken land. Curse him![i]

"Curse them all!"

The words exploded from his parched mouth, ringing through the silent landscape. But the entire company seemed to be struggling with their own inner demons, and none seemed to even notice the outburst. Then Dwali moved away from the stones, and the spell was lifted; leaving behind a mark that would not easily disappear.

Last edited by Himaran; 08-13-2004 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:28 PM   #123
Sarin Mithrilanger
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The stones of the Dark Lord loomed ahead. Their gaze was like that of a serpents, cold as ice and as piercing as a dagger. It hit the heart fast and left a cold numb feeling in the soul. The hair on the back of Zuromor's neck stood on end and he felt as though he was being watched, by something.....odd. Zuromor stopped and looked at these large works of stone. Something stirred in him, and he felt his head grow light and his mind fogged over. He felt as though lost and could not feel anything around him.

In his haze he heard a dark, hissing voice speak to him. Do you know me? I know you. I know everything you hold in your mind. Tell me, where are you going? You can not escape. He will bring you to me. Can't you see? He hates you. He cannot be trusted. Didn't he call you a barbarian? Yes, he did. You must kill him and insure your safety. No you're lying.....Sauron. I know that evil lurks in these parts, and it shall not sway me. The dwarf may not like his present company but he likes you even less. He would never take us back to you. You would lock him away just as you would us. Stay out of my mind, foul beast.

Oh, come now. You are more intelligent than most, aren't you. But I did not lie entirely. I assure you, one of these....creatures will return you. Do you know who? Why not kill them all? Except of course the one you love. Surely the two of you could have a happy life....if only the elf-man would not stand in your way. He does not and none shall betray us. Leave Sauron. Go back to your keep and stay there. Or take shape once more a fight me. You're not a coward are you?

Fool! Feel what resistance brings upon you! Zuromor head felt as if it would burst, and he fell to his knees holding his head. My minions will destroy you and capture the rest. They will have pleasure in making your friends suffer! Perhaps they will torture her before your very eyes before they slay you! Zuromor's head was forced to face Raeis. His eyes were forced open, and he saw her in all her beauty. He would not let them hurt her. He would find this betrayer, if there was one. And he would slay him. He would save her. The pain went away and his head righted itself, but the sudden change was overwhelming to the man's simple mind and he fainted at her feet.
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Old 08-15-2004, 10:43 AM   #124
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Boots The Plan

"Rhând . ." A whispering sound made him wake up. He looked around. Ever since the dream of his, when the company had rested, he couldn't stop thinking about it. It had been like a vision, a vision showing the true path of the future. Nevertheless, he could not make himself believe that it was a vision at all. Now, hearing a voice speaking his real name, he shuddered. Looking around once more, he saw the others being completely in their own thoughts. Had it been one of them? How could they know that he wasn’t named Aldor? Had he talked in his sleep, just earlier? Surprised, and scared, he tried to hide the sudden fear that arose inside of him.

"Are you surprised I know your name; your true name?" Suddenly, the Haradrim realised that it was probably no one from the company. It was the gentlest voice he had ever heard, and it was coming from an unknown source. Standing quietly for a moment, listening attentively, he realised that it probably wasn't him only, who heard voices. The others, too, seemed to be in some kind of a trance, fighting an inner force, as they all looked rather pale and an uncertainty seemed to be bothering them.

"I know you. I know who you are, where you come from, what you have done, what you have been through and now what goal you struggle to achieve." Rhând could do nothing but walk quietly along the path, pretending that nothing was happening. What was this? Was it Him, communicating with him? Shaking his head, trying to gather his thoughts, thinking about his dream, he heard the gentle voice again: "I know what you dreamt. Give them to me, all of them, and you will be amongst the faithfuls . . ."

And you will be amongst the faithfuls . . Rhând thought to himself, still not realising what this meant.

"Faithful . . ." he repeated silently. A sudden feeling of bewilderment made him shake with joy!

This approval was a victory to him. It was clear now; he could return to Him, and he would again be His servant. It was the most facinating feeling that he had ever felt. It was like a mild summer breeze, touching his face, filling him with excitement. It was like the sun, shining only upon him. It was the feeling of being approved, the feeling of being accepted and the feeling of being Rhând and not Aldor; all at the same time. He breathed heavily, taking in the air of the Dark Land. It hit him that he was so close to achieving his goal now. It was only a matter of time, before he was free and back to Him again. Yes, tonight, when everyone is asleep . . he thought, walking slowly after one of the dwarves. He thought of the suverah, knowing that if he were to succeed, he would have to have some kind of a plan. First, he thought, smiling, I will have to ask Grash about the exact route, which he is planning to take. He swallowed as he reproached himself for falling asleep, when they had discussed this matter. Then, tonight, I will use the suverah. I will have to make sure no one is able to wake up before dawn. Yes, I think I can make it, run from this scum, find one who serves Him, tell him about the prisoners and run back.

Agreeing with himself, that this would have to be the plan, he grinned with satisfaction.
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Old 08-15-2004, 07:41 PM   #125
Aylwen Dreamsong
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Stones did not scare Jeren. Or, they had never scared him before. Rocks never brought forth fear or terror. Inanimate objects, no matter how tall or looming, did not harbor horror or doubt. What could be so different about the two columns rising before him? Did they see things from invisible eyes? Perhaps they heard things through ears that no one else could fathom. Maybe the rock and stone could feel in a way no human could imagine. It did not frighten Jeren. Only the past haunted the aimless Southron. But then, he had not yet passed through the entryway the pillars created. Jeren’s steps were not taken tentatively, his eyes did not falter and hesitate downward to his own feet as he saw others do.

At least, not until he had taken that one step through the gateway.

Suddenly Jeren’s head ached, dull and distant, but present all the same. The ache did not feel painful, more of a gentle reminder of where he stood and where his feet had begun to tread. Jeren ran his calloused, deeply tanned hands through his tousled brown curls. He let short and dirt-caked nails dig into his scalp, longing to be rid of the thumping within his mind. The Southron hoped that the feeling would soon pass, but he found that the roaming ache was only a small matter before what was to come.

I can see what is in your heart. I can see what no one else can see.

Jeren whipped his head around, and he heard a crack as he turned his neck one degree too many. Wincing, the Southron let his feet fumble along the trail as he returned his focus on the way ahead. Jeren quickly gave up his search for the voice, consoling himself and thinking that it was only one of his reluctant companions.

No. You cannot see me. But if you wish, you can hear me. Hear my words…

The voice again! Jeren masked the look of sudden terror in his face, not wanting anyone to see the fear in his eyes.

You can hide those feelings from them, but not from me. I know what you want, I know what you fear, I know what your heart says and your mind rejects.

The voice sounded silky…smooth and oily. It felt like grease lying dormant, maliciously covering some desired drink of water. Jeren had heard and spoken with men whose voices held this spiteful cover-up. Somehow the depth of the words far surpassed any human’s tenor or bass vocals. The brevity and concise manner of the words struck deep within Jeren’s heart, though his mind indeed rejected every syllable. Jeren wondered if anyone else could hear…

Only you can hear my words, Jeren. These words were meant for you. I speak warning, against your leader and the others of your company. Turn back now! Leave them. They are not to be trusted. Not the Elves, nor the Dwarves…not even your fellow Humans. Leave them far behind. They don’t know you!

It was true and Jeren knew it. None of his companions knew Jeren. They did not know what he had done, the reason why he had been captive. They did not know…

They do not know about your past, Jeren. Those you supervised called you a deserter; those who were your supervisors called you a traitor. They do not know of your failure in battle, the loss of that battle, and the slaughter of those you led. If they did, what would they say? They would not understand. You are better off on your own, anyway. Stay with these fools, and one of them will betray you. One of your own will leave you to the minions of this land. Turn away, and perhaps you might make it out alive.

"I would rather perish at the sting of another Man's sword than at the bite of your heartless, mindless minions," Jeren murmured aloud, not quite caring if any could hear his words. At Jeren's mumbling, the dull ache in his head intensified for just a moment, bringing nearly unbearable pain to his forehead. When the sting left him, Jeren could hear a distant cackle.

You will perish, one way or another.
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Old 08-19-2004, 07:31 PM   #126
Fordim Hedgethistle
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As he moved between the stones, Grash was plunged into a howling blindness that left him alone and staggering in the void of the Dark Lord’s malice. It came upon him like a cold wave from the East, rushing through him as though his flesh were but fragile cloth and the terror of Sauron coursed about his naked and shivering bones. He reeled and might have fallen, but his hand in reaching out in desperation came upon the warm flesh of Darash who strode beside him. What she was feeling or thinking he did not know, but unlike every other time that she had been touched, she did not flinch away. Her arm remained impassive and unresponsive in Grash’s trembling hand, but it did not shirk his touch.

He clung to that lone point of human contact like a drowning man, but though his feet moved it was a nightmare in which he made no forward progress. In the distance he heard a low keening wind and time froze. The darkness about him lessened and he felt a tearing force at his back. He did not want to turn. The very thought of coming about to face what he knew was there filled his very spirit with loathing, but he could not prevent his body from slowly turning about until he faced back the way they had come. Through the black shapes of the Morgul Vale he could see clearly outlined in the far distance, as though it had been drawn with diamonds’ points, a single fiery, lidless eye, its pupil a black slit into nothingness. The malice of the Eye assailed Grash like the whips of the orcs that had marshalled him into the world and forced him through its weary ways. It leered at him across the leagues, and even from this distance it felt as though it were peeling away his physical form leaving only his spirit – naked, cold and gibbering upon the harsh stone of the Dark Lord’s throne chamber.

Grash gazed at the Eye, and slowly began to feel himself being drawn forward. It seemed to grow in size and intensity, and slowly, it began to move toward the Vale, as though it were sensing Grash. In an instant he realised that the Eye was becoming aware of Grash’s presence. The stones his sentinels contained within them the memory of their torture by Sauron and they resonated still with his implacable will. Any that tried to pass that way in resistance to the will of their tormentor would cause them to call out to their master across the desert wastes of his realm.

The Eye flickered toward him, but Grash – who had lived his life beneath its gaze – could feel the distraction within it. Something had happened that had disturbed the counsels of the Dark Lord, and his attention was flitting about his land. For a moment in time that was less than a heartbeat, the Eye flashed across Grash and his companions, and in that moment the lifelong slave of the Dark Lord felt the command on his master. All of his servants were being summoned north, to the very mouths of this land, to the Morannon. He caught a fleeting, fragmentary glimpse of the Dark Lord’s own view, and saw vast armies in motion all over the dark land, all of them gathering toward the Gate where the ragtag remnants of the upstart Gondorian King were to be destroyed.

Upon the edge of the vision, Grash caught sight of a lone figure upon a horse. He rode beneath a banner that was black, with seven stars woven upon it circling a crown, and there was a light about him that called to the shattered spirit of the slave. He felt his heart swell at the sight of this unknown man, and for a second he felt almost as though he could hear the call of distant trumpets. But then the Eye was nearly upon him, and there was only a veil of thinnest gossamer between him and It. Grash felt an unwholesome longing come upon him to call out to the Eye, to run forward into its light and reveal himself. But the image of the distant Man came before his gaze once more, and holding onto that vision he was able to wrench his gaze from the East.

With a cry he fell to the ground at Darash’s feet. He was past the Stones.

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Something had deranged the various members of the group. Darash could feel muscles hardening in the air, tendons snapping into tightness, rates of breathing either slow or quicken. The odour of fear exuded from bodies as they moved towards these carvings which Grash had called the Dark Lord's Stones. But who was this Dark Lord? She looked over at Grash and would have asked, but she saw that he was in no mood to converse, wrapped up in some strange dream of his own, his hand reaching out and touching her arm. She could not understand what this power was, but she did not repulse the touch of the former slave. Instead, she watched all the others as they went into dream raptures as they confronted these pillars. She did not understand who or what this Dark Lord was, but she sensed abject fear and horror in those around her. Their bodies were almost becoming grass before the wind. She could feel herself melting into passivity.

Then she faced the Stones herself, hearing her called by the name of "Darash" in a sonorous voice, low and melodious but she caught a vague sense of sneering in its patronising plea. She shook from her head the sound and spoke to herself a name none had ever heard her mention, Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re, Kashia Ma'at-Ka-Re. Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re. Grash looked at her for a moment, but she did not think he heard. Especially did He who knew every way to appeal to those whose servitude he wanted not hear, but she did, savouring the click of the consonants. Then she raised her eyes against this man-god who called to her in the name of her pain, Kwenye darasha. She felt a soft cooing go through her, as if an arm were placed around her shoulders relieving her of her responsibility so she could rest.

Come to me and I will show you the way home, I will bring you back to your tribe, I will give them the strength to resist their enemies. In me you will find the weapon to fulfil yourself as warrior.

Kashtia remained silent, listening to his words.

Your silence already shows you have decided for me, the voice continued. Join me and I will raise your people high. I will call upon them to join me here in my victory.

Words teetored on the tip of her tongue, and her cracked lips she held still. He knew not the words of her people but spoke in this tongue that the slaves did here, not the foul speech of the orcs but that of the northern men. She fought against the dream he was placing in her head, for she realised he was trying to grab her story, to write her into his story and bend her to his way, to twist her into a mere handmaiden to power. Kashtia would not relinquish her voice; she refused to speak to this man-god who perverted people's stories to his own narrative. For the first time she began to understand the depravity of these northern men who were slaves even in the open air, and she began to feel compassion for them rather than hauteur or disgust. She understood as she had not previously what were the chains which held Grash even as he was free of the prison. They were not and had never been agents of their own lives.

Aloud she spoke one word, Kontu!, that is to say, "Story". "Herstory", with its warning not to speak to the Trickster man-god. Then, to herself, in her head so none could hear, particularly this Dark Lord, she repeated the old stories of courage and cooperation. Unaenda wapi, nyumbo yetu. Kurro. "Run," she translated, "Run," she said to all near her and began to move her springing feet forward, beyond the stones.

To her side, she suddenly heard Grash call out. He grasped her arm tighter and then rushed with her through the stones. He stumbled, almost falling at her feet, but she grabbed his arm this time and steadied him so he would not fall upon the black earth and bruise himself upon the cruel edges of its rocks. She saw in his eyes he had seen a dream of his own, a frightening dream, but a hope he had never known before in his life. Then she looked away at the road which lay before them.

Last edited by piosenniel; 08-29-2004 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 08-19-2004, 10:27 PM   #127
Sarin Mithrilanger
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As Zuromor walked onward he noticed that he was not the only one to have had such a strange encounter at the stones. Grash had fallen due to what seemed to be nothing at all. But Zuromor knew what had happened. Sauron, the "Dark Lord" himself. Zuromor scoffed at the mere thought of anyone who might call him their Lord. He is a force of evil that would be destroyed.

It was soon after his encounter that Zuromor noticed Grash had finally arisen, he seemed to be the worst off, and began to walk on. As he did Zuromor couldn't help but think, Who is the traitor, if there even is one? He stopped and looked behind him, and he saw everyone trying to recover. Except one. Aldor.

He walked as if nothing had happened. He had a strange smile and he seemed to have a new "air" of confidence. Was it him? Why did he seem to have been revitalized when everyone else was drained and staggering?
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Old 08-21-2004, 04:11 PM   #128
Novnarwen
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Boots Rhând

He looked up, seeing Zuromor looking at him. Rhând gave a somewhat evil stare, grinned and hurried after Grash. He couldn't think of anything else; the voice that had spoken to him so clearly. It was Him! This task would be his great triumph! Finally, he would be reunited with his Master and return home and all of this would be over.

"Grash," he started, throwing himself at the man's side.

The other prisoner looked up, as if surprised that someone had mentioned his name. Rhând restrained himself for asking about the route at once, as it would be stupid and maybe even it woud make him suspicious. Waiting for a moment, hesitating, wondering whether he should ask someone else instead, he looked gravely into the man's eyes. This was a mistake. Grash would see through him. Looking desperately into another direction, avoiding Grash's piercing look, his eyes fell upon one of the dwarves. They were stupid. They were probably stupid enough to not even question him, or suspect him of anything when asking about the route. On the other hand, Rhând did not know any of the others too well. Approaching them and starting a conversation, just out of the blur, would surely seem odd. Deciding upon asking Grash, he turned his gaze at the newly escaped prisoner again and started over. "Grash . ." Getting his attention, Rhând bit his lip and said rather hurriedly.

"I was asleep when you were talking about the route, and I wondered where exactly we are going." Seeing Grash's face expression when talking, Rhând's voice turned milder and he added. "I'm tired . . and still weak from the poison from the rat bite. Yes, for even though you managed to turn my swollen neck normal again, I can feel that it is still there. Something is making me tired, and ill, I'm afraid. In fact, I do not know how much further I can walk."

Grash nodded, and gave what seemed like a comforting look. "We follow this road, the Morgul Road for a few miles. There is a path, a narrow one. It goes far up, high and into the mountains and far south, above the Morgul city. Then we head down, into a green land." Finishing, he gave a weak smile. Satisfied by this answer and the accomplishment, Rhând, or Aldor as the others knew him by, slowed down his pace. The other man noticed this, and slowed down too.

"You know we talked about route when you were asleep?" Grash asked curiously.

For the first time in a very long while, he found himself unable to answer a question. Remembering that he had fallen asleep, and dreamt that he was approaching the Black Gate, he had awakened after a while to find the others talking about what they were going to do. Not wanting to disturb them at that point, he had just closed his eyes again, but in secret staid awake. However, at the time, he had been too busy interpreting his dream and had therefore not been able to catch a word about what the others were saying. Rhând hesitated. He looked at Grash, frowned and pretended he hadn't heard Grash's question.

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Old 08-23-2004, 11:54 AM   #129
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The Voice of Sauron

With a hesitant slowness, Brór Stormhand moved, dragging weary legs, towards the “Dark Lord’s Stones” as they’d been named by a seemingly over-superstitious Grash. Stones were naught to be afraid of, or cowed by. The dwarf, though, felt at least some foreboding, as the blood in his veins chilled slightly. He was moving towards the stones, nearer and nearer. Soon, he was within their vicinity, and he felt nothing and saw nothing. He neared them more, drawing closer and closer, resolved unintentionally to take his time moving through them. Almost the whole rest of the party was through and past save Brór, who had exiled himself willingly to the back of the train after his argument with Grash. It was his fault that he’d ostracized himself, it was his outburst that had made them uneasy or angered, but he didn’t care. He didn’t even want to catch up. He just wanted to keep on walking…and walk he did, through the threshold of the stones.

It was strange. He heard a voice, a hollow but echoing voice, the kind that comes from neither throat nor chest nor mouth. It was a voice that spilled like acidic water into every orifice of his mind, slowly corroding the foundations that held his psyche together. Brór had never been fragile, in mind or body, but he suddenly felt unprotected, stripped of everything that held him together. He was alone in an abyss, alone in a void blacker than night, and yet, brighter than the sun a stone’s throw away. A searing, monstrous heat filled him and surrounded him, tongues of fire wrapping around him as chains would, but the touch of the nonexistent bonds was equally cold as it was hot, cold as the ice of Helcaraxe. His blood froze and bones burned, the tempering of each feeling tore into him, nearly rending his heart from him. He couldn’t see. His eyes were filled with that bright blackness that accosted him without relent or waver.

The voice in his mind was not speaking, but Brór was sure it was there. He heard its distant rumble, booming like claps of mighty heavenly thunder and shrieking like the most terrible of the four winds. It was whispering, perhaps, but the shattered dwarf couldn’t tell. It was not whispering to him. It was speaking to itself, or to some other creature in its dominion. Brór wished he could take this opportunity to challenge the voice and its owner, to call it out and cast it down with words or blows, but neither his mouth nor his mind could find purchase on sense enough to speak. The Eye was waiting for its chance, waiting for the broken form that lay, helpless and wordless before it, to be completely demoralized and totally vulnerable to any assault. There would be no counter-attack if he chose the right instant. Brór’s thoughts could not help but quake and tremble, anticipating the imminent incursion. Nothing was safe; nothing was sacred…not from Sauron.

It was preparing to speak, as best as he could tell. The rumble of the voice held him in animate suspense, a painful and drawn out suspense that leeched life from his being. The guttural thunder grew louder in his mind as the whispers in the background became clearer, more distinct. Now those whispers, formerly soft and ominous but now strong and terrible, formed into words, slurred together subtly to create speech and language. It was a dark speech, the Black Speech of Mordor, a tongue which Brór did not know. He got the impression, despite the resounding words, ringing like tremendous bells and echoing through his mind’s empty halls, that the speaker was not speaking to him, or at least not directly. He heard it preparing, readying itself to speak to him. He steeled himself feebly against the voice but, like a maddened hurricane he could not prevent or even hinder its coming. At last, the stormy rumbling bellowed and shrieked in his head, ready to speak at last, and he heard the voice of Sauron.

Nothing

There was nothing. The voice faded like a snuffed-out candle, diminishing in an instant. Brór staggered, dazed, past the looming stones which cast their veiling shadow down, making the one that stretched behind him greater with their bulk. He managed to step out of the stones’ vicinity, feeling only dazed. His feet moved faster, unconsciously, and he found himself caught up with the remainder of the company, barely dawdling now. His mind fell from pain into reflection, contemplating what had just happened. He had expected agony, mental torture, something to overcome, but there was nothing. The Dark Lord had said nothing to sway him, nothing to cause him any pain. He was unscathed…But why?

Had Sauron said nothing because nothing needed to be said? Was he so far gone? Was his distrust, his hatred, already so great that the Dark Lord himself had nothing to say? Was he already, unwittingly, a servant of the Lidless Eye? No! He could not be deaf to the words of Sauron! He was not so haughty as to think that Sauron’s manipulations would not try to work on him. Did Sauron have no need of his services or did he already control them? The simple thought drove Brór’s mind into heedless ramblings as he considered the horrible truths he had contemplated a moment ago. The dwarf realized now that he had wanted Sauron to speak to him, wanted to confirm that he was still a being of light, despite his pessimism and his prejudice. He had hoped to be corroborated in the fact that Sauron needed him, or at least did not have him as a willing pawn. Could it be true? Was he, by conveying his prejudicial attitude towards the company and alienating the races, conducting the will of Sauron? If so…why couldn’t he just stop?

That was his job, his purpose. He had thought himself to be the voice of reason, but now he thought he might only be the voice of the shadow. His solid, unemotional negativity, which he had set out from Cirith Ungol with, had turned to unbridled darkness, a cloud that overshadowed him. Silently, still contemplating his unspoken duty, Brór Stormhand picked up the pace to approach his ‘companions,’ thinking and speaking to himself. That voice had, in fact, told him something, though it said nothing. It told him something that he had hoped was not true, but, in retrospect, probably was…
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Old 08-23-2004, 12:08 PM   #130
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The stones were behind the company and they pressed ahead into the darkness of the Morgul Vale almost with relief at having passed through them. The Road ran almost straight up the gentle rise that lay between the mountains that loomed above them upon either hand. There was no sound but the wind amongst the rocks, and no sight save the bleak grey and black of Mordor. They walked in silence for several hours and the night passed in uncomfortable labour. The Road’s ascent, while gentle, was steady and they had to toil up the long and unrelenting path. As they neared the top of the pass, the mountains on either side came closer, looming over them like walls that rose upon either hand hundreds of feet into the roiling air. Their throats became parched as they breathed in the ashy air of the land, and soon their few remaining water skins were hanging limply from their hands and waists. As they moved forward, the weariness of their limbs seemed to grow and it was as though they had to walk through deep sand, so reluctant were their feet to follow that path they had chosen, for with every step the Dead City got closer, and while it was yet hidden by the mountains, they could feel its presence beating upon their brows.

Throughout the night they crept along the Road with increasing terror at the thought of discovery. At first, there had been rough stone and shattered rock on either side of the way that could have provided cover, but soon the walls of the mountains were so close about them that any hope of hiding was lost. Their ears strained for the sound of foot or hoof, but there had fallen upon the Road an unnatural stillness. Grash’s mind went back to the brief glimpse he had of the Dark Lord’s commands to his slaves, and he knew that all about them were vast armies, all of them hurrying north to the Black Gate. This Road, normally so well traveled and patrolled, seemed to have been neglected – for a time – in the turmoil that gripped the land, and he almost allowed himself to feel lucky.

But luck is a fickle thing, particularly in the life of a slave. They had traveled five leagues and the sun was beginning to rise beyond the shadows, when they came to the top of the pass. It was a sight that none of them had dared hope for: of the way beyond this land. But in place of hope there was only despair, and rather than rejoice, Grash had to stifle an agonizing lament. In the far distance below them, small but yet ghastly, rose Minas Ithil. Its walls glowed with a corpse light that shed no illumination, and even from this distance they could taste the air of its rot upon the backs of their tongues. But it was not this that had plunged Grash’s heart into the depths, for he had been expecting the City. What he had not expected to see was the army, vast and terrible, that marched toward them from the City. Whether it was by some trick of the Vale, or whether the army was cloaked in the magic of its Captain, none of the party had heard the army’s approach, and it was now about a mile distant. It was encamped upon the Road, whether in defense of it or as part of a rest in a longer march, none could tell.

“Where path?” It was Darash who spoke at Grash’s elbow. Grash looked at her stupidly, still reeling from the shock of their danger. “Where path?” she said again.

Grash pointed down the Road to a point in the southern wall of the mountains about midway through the mass of the army. “There,” he said quietly. “Path is there. Goes up into mountains.”

“Well, we won’t get there by looking at it,” Brór growled. This spurred the party into action, and they began moving once more down the Road. They fought the urge to run, for to do so would only call attention to themselves. Their only hope was to trust in their orc disguises. They all adopted the shambling gait of orcs and lowered their heads into their armour, or pulled their tattered cloaks about their faces. They had all spent too much time in close proximity to the orcs and were able to mimic their tormenters easily. The small path was now visible to them all, and it drew them like a magnet, but very quickly they came to within hailing distance of the army.

Just as the outer sentries sighted them and let out a cry, there was a general braying of horns and harsh screams of commanders, and the entire army began to mobilize and move up the slope toward the pass that the company had come through. In the sudden chaos of the orc army’s movement, the company found themselves suddenly surrounded by thousands of the brutes. There were flares of torches and a flurry of limbs and soon the company had been separated from one another in a sea of enemies.
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Old 08-23-2004, 12:51 PM   #131
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Not even the horde of orcs swarming around (and occasionally overtop) the young dwarf could outnumber the thoughts rushing through Dwali's brain. Just moments earlier, the company had been headed straight towards the mountain path. Now they were scattered, lost in a raging sea of enemy. Would their disguises hold? The orc armor might not conceal the elves or men, who had completely different builds. And of what of the passage that was rapidly passing out of sight? Perhaps this was how it would all end.

Such thoughts were becoming increasingly unimportant, however, as the fugitives were forced to join the orc army's steady march. Dwali found himself next to a captain, if that was the brute's actual title. "Keep it moving, you maggots," he roared. "We march for the gate." Snarling an unintelligible phrase in a crude orcish tongue, he savagely turned on a straggler with his whip. The violent display ultimately kept the dwarf's stout legs moving, but exhaustion was slowly setting in.

The chain of orcs kept moving, darkening the already blackened earth. Dwali had lost any sense of time or distance. Collapse was imminent, as was presumed death (in his mind, at least). And topple he did, right off the edge of the wide path and into a tiny crater; one that neatly hid his prostrate form from the millions of unfriendly eyes passing by above him. The dwarf had slowly moved towards the edge of the column and, when his last reserves of energy were gone, had fallen into a relatively concealed positon.

But Dwali had little time to reflect on his good fortune, for after reviving from unconciousness several hours later, he was still hopelessly lost. And the orc army continued by, an endless yet unnatural cycle.

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Old 08-29-2004, 12:42 PM   #132
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Boots Meeting with the Orcs..

He was thinking about his latest conversation with Grash, as it was quite obvious that Grash was suspicious towards Rhând and his behaviour, and he would be lying if he denied the fact that he had grown fairly annoyed about this. The more he thought about it, the more it bothered him. What if everything would be ruined because of some twit named Grash? It was if he had already failed. He had been overly convinced that he would manage to get out and away from these prisoners alive, and to thereafter return to his master, but if he was taken for a liar by the other prisoners, his plan would be ruined.

It was an odd feeling that made the him wake up from the troubled thoughts that lingered in the Haradrim's head. Being disturbed by a one of the prisoners nudging him, he looked up. Who dared disturb him, when he was thinking of serious matters? He wanted to yell it out. It was too much. All of this, it was too much. Why couldn't he just return to his Lord? Why was it so difficult? Not at all aware of the transition; first being a part of a small company of prisoners, and now being surrounded by Orcs, he nudged back.

"What do you think you're doing, you filthy little piece of dirt!"

Suddenly, just before his very eyes, the escaped prisoner had turned into an Orc, who had drawn his gigantic blade. Wondering about what sick little trick this was, he looked desperately into every direction; searching for a familiar face. "I'm talking to you!" This rough voice seemed to attract some of the other orcs too, who all looked at him as if hungry. Rhând, who realised that he would be dead within seconds if he didn't say something, opened his mouth to speak. "I thought I saw something," he said quietly, thinking as he went on. "Do you not smell it?" He used the common tongue, as he knew that Orcs spoke it well and usually used it when talking to each other, as they had different accents depending on where they had their origins.

"Smell what?"

Being very careful about his manner of speaking, he tried formulating his speech in his head. Orcs cannot be trusted with this. I will have to wait for another opportunity to get away. All I can do now, is save myself, he thought, standing completely still. Seeing that the Orcs surrounding him were getting inpatient, he got a grip of himself, hoping that orcs were as stupid as the dwarves.

"There are strangers here. There are Enemies of the One. There are three small ones, I think... Ahhh," he said and sighed: "Yes, three. The smell of poison in this very air… Do you wish to breathe in such air?" he asked. The orcs broke into a rough laughter, all of them being bewildered by what Rhând told them. He didn't quite understand, however, and looked questioningly at them under his helmet.

"Are you saying there will be fresh flesh tonight?" It came from one of the biggest orcs, who was standing beside the one Rhând had nudged.

"Not only fresh flesh. Would you like to taste the flesh of a firstborn, maybe?" Rhând asked, giggling. He knew that he had them, all of them. It was only a matter of time before he would suggest that they were to split up and go looking for these strangers. It would all be perfect; he would escape from the Orcs, and the dwarves and the elves would be in great danger. Perhaps he would finally get even on Morogoth.

"What?!" The leader of the little band of orcs jumped forwards. "Firstborn flesh?!"

"Or elves, if you prefer" Rhând hissed.

Again all of them broke into a hysteric laughter. "You have an odd way with words, little Miss!" one of the orcs said, and the laughter returned.

The Haradrim, who was anxious to get away before being caught, started to doubt whether this was possible after all. They were too many. In fact, as he looked around, there were Orcs everywhere. Not knowing what to do, but being absolutely certain that he would have to do something, he tried once more.

"Shut up! I want some meat, you want some meat; we all want some meat! Let split up and find them, take them, torture them and eat them before it's too late; before they are gone!" Growing red with anger and helplessness, Rhând glanced at them.

"Let's find them. None are to take the tiniest bit of ‘em before everyone is gathered. I think it would be fun to play a game first, before they die."

Rhând sighed with relief.

"You!" The orc, who seemed to have a higher rank than the others, turned his gaze to Rhând, as the others were about to run into different directions looking for the enemies of the One. "You! Never tell me to shut up again! If you have lied about this, I will kill you myself. Never promise a hungry Orc fresh meat. Now, go!!"

He ran as fast as he could, not knowing what to do next.

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Old 08-30-2004, 09:20 AM   #133
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Grash was swept up in the sway and grunt of the dark army, caught by the stench and heat of orc bodies pressed beyond the endurance of mortals to fulfill their captains’ commands. The torchlight glared in his eyes and swirled oily smoke at him. Grash coughed and reeled in the press, clutching for some familiar hand or support, but he was alone in a sea of enemies. That was the most dangerous time for him, for he was surprised and unthinking, wavering with shock and terror. A sudden blow from behind sent him flailing to one side, and a rough voice roared at him in the Black Speech to be more careful. A hairy hand with ragged yellowing claws seized his shoulder and spun him about. Grash just had the presence of mind to duck his head and pull his hood over his eyes. He could not see the face of the orc but he could feel the creature’s foul breath upon his face. “Watch where you’re going, maggot, or I’ll lick your heels with a whip!”

Grash had spent his life taking such abuse from these creatures and knew well how to deal with it. He shuffled as though cowed, and casting his voice into the rough register of an orc replied, “We’ve been marching for days, and I’m tired. Still, what the Eye demands we must give it, mustn’t we? Always the poor orcs are the ones as must pad it all out, while the captains and the higher ups get to wing it to the Gate. I’ll make it there, and be in time to skin a few rebels before you ever arrive!” He followed this with an ugly laugh. The orc slapped him on the back hard, in approval, and moved off.

The movement of the army was carrying Grash in the wrong direction, so he began trying to work his way back toward the path. He could not head there directly, for that would have been to march in the wrong direction, but by slowing his pace and slipping between the hulking forms of the orcs, he was able to make slow progress. The sky was lightening more and more as he went, and soon the protective cloak of night would be gone. He could pass for an orc in the dark, but in the dawn – even such as only came here – he was sure he could be found out.

He was nearing the beginning of the path, when a feeling of chilling terror came over him. His heart seized and he felt his breath come up short as he stumbled against the wall of the ravine. There was a pounding in his head like the beating of vast wings, and there came through it a cry of such malice and horror that for a time his mind and eyes went blind. Grash felt the army about him shudder as the flesh will at the touch of something dark and unknown, and without looking up he knew that one of the Dark Lord’s screechers had come upon his winged mount. There was a blast of foul air as the great beast passed over head, and the ravine echoed with the croak of the monster. Grash cowered against the wall, waiting for the Nazgûl to leave, but the blast of the beast’s wings grew and there was a murmur of dismay from the army. Grash looked about and watched as the vast form of the beast settled onto the ground in the midst of the army, which parted like insects fleeing a predator to allow it passage. A towering, nightmare form detached itself from the beast and moved forward toward a small group of orcs who moved forward to speak with their captain.

Grash was turning to go, when he caught sight of a pale and terrified face upon the fringes of the crowd. It was the Man, Jordo. He was locked in position, unable to look away from the Nazgûl lord, and in his abject fascination, he had allowed his cloak to slip away from his face somewhat, thus revealing him for who and what he was.

For a moment that lasted less than a heartbeat, Grash stood torn between two competing desires. The path to freedom lay an easy dash behind him. The coming of the Nazgûl had drawn the army’s attention and he could easily make it to the path unobserved. But before him was Jordo; it was only by the slimmest of luck that Grash had seen him before the orcs, who were more concerned with avoiding their dread lord, but the terrified youth had only seconds before he would be revealed. When he did act, it was without thought, and had he been asked to explain his decision, Grash could not have been able to put it into words. Forsaking the path, he rushed toward Jordo. He reached the youth easily, and putting his arm upon his shoulder sought to turn him about and bring him away, but at his touch the Man cried out and spun as though struck. Grash hushed him quickly, but at the same moment he felt a cold wave come over him and without looking he knew that the Nazgûl had noticed them both, and pierced their disguises.

Grash seized Jordo’s arm and whispered to him desperately. “No speaking. Be quiet. I talk with Screecher. You must pretend to be slave. Do not look at it!” They felt the presence of the Nazgûl come upon them like a bad dream, and Grash turned to face it. The cloaked figure loomed over them, filling them with dread and loathing of their very lives, but steeling himself Grash advanced to meet it. When he got to within an arm’s length of the form he fell to the ground and prostrated himself before it, crying out in the Black Speech, “Forgive me, forgive me, my Master! We have been slow in coming, do not take us to the Tower! Please, please, let us go on and serve the Lord as we might!” He kept up in this manner, crying as though he were in agony, pleading with the dread captain of the army.

A thin voice that cut like a blade came from within the folds of the cloak. “What are you doing here?” it demanded. “You are not part of my army. Speak now.”

Grash forced himself to look up into the void of darkness where a face should be. He could feel the creature’s formless eyes upon him as he responded. “We were sent to serve the garrison upon the high path. We were sent by the guard at Cirith Ungol. The orcs, they are needed at the Gate, and we are being sent to watch the paths. We will watch them well. We are loyal slaves to the Lord, loyal and good. We will help the orcs. Bring water, cook food." He kept talking, using his words as a mask to shield him from the will of the Nazgul, which he could feel pressing into him like a spear, slowly but surely penetrating his flesh and twitching about in his innards, looknig for the truth. Grash knew better than to pretend to be someone he was not; he could not lie to the Dark Lord's most powerful servants. But he did not have to lie. He had spent his life as a slave of Mordor, and it was as a slave of Mordor that he now spoke. He buried deep within him the new ideas and dreams of freedom, and companionship. He kept away from thy prying, torturing will of the dark one the image he had glimpsed of the tall Man with the star at his brow. Grash kept talking as he had been taught to speak, as the orcs had forced him to speak. He knew the part he was expected to play, knew it so well that it had almost become not a part in the Dark Lord's malicious play, but his own identity. He slipped into the persona of the pathetic slave as though it were a second skin, and he wore it about him, proudly displaying his servility to the Wraith.

The pressure being exerted on his will grew as his listener felt the presence of the areas in Grash's mind that he sought to keep hidden. Rather than fight the Nazgul, Grash gave way even more, filling his mind with the empty babble that now fell from his mouth like vomit. He cringed and squirmed upon the ground, pretending to be the animal-thing that his slavery had almost made him. But through it all he held on to two ideas: two images, really, so carefully concealed in the core of his will that to reach them the Black One would have to break his spirit. This was in its power, easily, but Grash hoped that he could forestall his opponent's interest long enough to survive. The first image he clung to was of the brief glimpse he had received of that far green land, beyond the walls of this country. He held on to the picture of leaves and sun, and felt upon his withered cheeks the gentle caress of a distant wind. The other image surprised him in its clarity and power, but he did not have the time or energy to wonder at it. In his mind's eye he beheld the face and mein of Darash. Her stern eyes and slightly crooked mouth lent him the strength he lacked.

“Enough,” the voice cut through his thoughts like a razor, and Grash felt his innards shrink away. There was a silence as the Nazgûl regarded the slaves before him. They were insignificant worms like all his Lords slaves, and yet there was something about them that had sent a warning into him. But he was distracted by other matters. There were reports about of spies having breached the mountains and descended into Mordor. The garrison of Cirith Ungol had been destroyed. An army marched toward the Black Gate beneath the banner of the West. And, the unthinkable, his own King had fallen before the walls of the Gondorians, brought down by the insulting hand of a woman, and Halfling. The gibbering of the slave upon the ground had grown wearisome to him, and without a word he turned his back upon the sniveling form and moved back to his captains.

Before the orcs could recover from their own terror, Grash sprang to his feet and taking Jordo by the arm, urgently pulled him toward the path. As they reached its beginning there was a clamor of horns and the army began to move onward once more. Grash pushed and pulled the youth up the first flights of the path, hoping that the others had made it through safely.

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Old 08-31-2004, 02:58 PM   #134
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Silmaril Raeis's visions

Raeis felt herself pulled down, a hand wrenching fiercely at her arm, and numbly she fell to her knees in the churned, dusty road of the path, her head bowed. But her eyes remained open, staring at the path, and as the dark prescence moved closer, she froze completely, fists clenched so that her ragged nails dug into her palms, the pain a distraction from the fear that she felt welling up.

Fear.

No.


It was not the voice that Raeis heard in her head: she had not heard it since they had come away from the stones, and she felt the space where it should be like a gaping hole, a space where as dear companion - no, more than that, where a part of herself - had fallen away. Fallen into the shadow of the stones... She jolted as she heard this new prescence. It was not herself, Raeis, who spoke, it was something more. Greater. Some half memory floated up from her past life, a mention of beings greater than any man, greater even than the first born themselves. Fourteen great spirits, powerful and wonderful, and more beautiful in the awe they inspired than Arda itself. The Lords of the West, the Valar, filled Raeis's mind, and they were so beautiful that the very world itself seemed to stop; it was they who had sustained her through the stones, and her eyes filled with tears in gratitude and wonder.

Until a dark shadow fell over her mind.

As the black, cloaked shape of the Nazgul passed in front of Raeis, casting a shadow on both her mind and her crouching body, fear struck the elf once more, and with it there came a powerful, gripping sensation, as if her mind was held in some ice-cold set of talons, dangled by the tail on the claw of a lazy, cruel cat. And the cat wanted to play. She closed her eyes tightly, willing it away. Despite her Haradrim disguise, Raeis felt suddenly naked in the harsh, sere prescence of the Nazgul. Blindly, beyond reason or logic, she flailed inwardly, struggling for an escape, random words and sequences throwing themselves through her mind as if to try to confuse the Nazgul...until it settled on one word.

"Yavanna." Her whisper was barely audible, little more than mouthing the word.

A sudden, terrible hiss emitted from the space above Raeis, like a sharp indraw of breath into long-dry lungs, and the dark shape stopped dead in front of her. Raeis stiffened but did not move. In her mind she held the image which had come with the word, a fair, tall woman, the sun seeming to shine from behind her body, making her glow radiantly and lighting her cascading blonde hair. She smiled gently at the elf in her mind's eye, and her hands spread wide, as if ready to pour forth all many of wonders...

"Nienna; Mandos..."

The vision faded as Raeis whispered the next two words, and two more impossible beings presented themselves: one a male, cloaked and wise, hard, but not unkind, lines set into his face. Around his waist was a thick rope, as on a scribe's habit, and from this hung a keychain, with one giant key. Shadows seemed to move around his body as if there were others near him, just on the edge of sight. Beside him stood a woman, also cloaked, but her hood pulled up over her head, stark against her pale face, wavy lengths of hair falling to her waist from under the hood on either side of her face. Her dark garb and drawn features spoke of a widow in deep mourning, but as Raeis saw her, her lips were lifted into a melancholy smile, as reassuring in it's soft gentleness as Yavanna's bright radiance.

The Nazgul turned from it's path and stalked slowly towards her, but this time Raeis didn't even flinch: the cloaked pair in her mind now moved aside to be replace with a smith, rustic and bearded, a hammer clasped in one giant hand and a metal chain in the other, and a man garbed in fine, rich clothing but whose stern eyes moved like the sea itself. Why it seemed there were even creatures moving in the grey depths... Raeis smiled to herself in a sort of childish simplicity, unaware of all that was around her as she recognised the pair, and named them in a whisper that was now growing in strength. "Aule, and Ulmo..."

From in the depths of his cloak the Nazgul's clawlike fist shot out with lightning quick speed, the great metal gauntlet seizing her throat in it's inescapable grip. Raeis went limp as it wrenched her from her kneeling position until she was a few inches above the ground, held in the asphixiatingly tight deathgrip, the cold void of nothingness staring down at her. Raeis's eyes didn't open, and she stayed completely still - save her lips. Once more they moved as she struggled to speak again, the words springing to her lips as if she was possessed.

"Varda...Elentari..." It was a dry croak but it was enough for the Nazgul to hear, and the image, along with the others, strong and clear enough in her mind to incriminate her. The creaking hiss of the Nazgul and the sliding, silver sound of it unsheathing it's sword was suddenly louder than anything around it: orcs froze, cowering away from it as the hiss rose in a wordless curse. Raeis's companions froze in their tracks. But Raeis did nothing, her rack thin body limp as she opened her one tawny eye to look straight into the soulless void of the creature's eyes as she struggled against the harsh grip to complete the list of the Aratar with the name it would hate the most in an almost silent whisper: the Lord of the Breath of Arda, Master of the Winds and fiercest enemy of Melkor...

"Manwë."

The Nazgul screamed, throwing back it's helmetted head to give a fierce, outraged screech as Raeis felt herself slipping away into unciousness - and felt a pair of hands gripping her ankles.
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Old 08-31-2004, 11:18 PM   #135
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As the Nazgul shrieked so did Zuromor's hands grab the fair Elf's feet. Wgen she rested on the ground Zuromor sttos in front of her with his blade drawn, pointing at the Nazgul. He knew he could not speak Orc so he whispered as to only be heard by the dark creature.

"You will leave this one be, and go back to your path."

In a hissing voice it replied. "Only one do I listen to, only one do I obey. And it is not you! No one can stop my wrath, save for Him!" As he said "Him" Zuromor saw clearly in his mind a lidless eye.

"Maybe so, but this one won't be overcome by you."

"Fool! Move along Orcs....I will deal with this one!"

Zuromor held his blade in front of him and waited.
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Old 09-01-2004, 05:07 AM   #136
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A Diversion!

Brór was walking unusually slowly. Even though the orcs around him moved in a maelstrom, at an unsteady and uneven pace, drifting back and forth, Brór was not carried by their movement or borne one the host, he simply drifted like a log in water, aimless and going nowhere. He only wished to join the throng, rabid and dark as it might be. He was a part of it, in his opinion, and deserved no more than the company of Mordor scum. As he waded into the orc host, he could not help but be severed from the rest of the escapee party, all separated on the plain and wide road. And, to Brór’s unwholesome dismay, the orcs were not leaderless, but commanded by a Ringwraith, one of the Nine, a seemingly immortal being of darkness and doom. Looking upon the black figure with shadows whirling as tornadoes about him, Bror’s heart fell to the earth and he wished to sink to his knees and tear his mind from his skull, though he did not. His pessimism was so overwhelming that the madness did not take him. He was just one, a brick in the walls of Mordor, not one to be trifled with by Nazgûl mighty. There was a very minor vein of light, a worm of golden sun in his shaded, frozen heart that yearned for freedom and release, but Bror had no reason to grant this wish. Turning his head from the Wraith as it swept over its armies and alighted on the earth, Bror continued on, trying to move through the host…but soon enough, shrill sounds and commotion were the Wraith had landed swayed Brór’s eyes and heart.

Something was happening. The Nazgûl’s cry and dark aura could be heard and seen through the horde of orcs. Many cowered and moved back, forcing Brór away from the happenstance. He cursed his shortness, cursed it with all his power, and eagerly leapt to see the commotion. Some orcs were hurriedly scattering, allowing some bare glances of what lay before the Nazgûl. With horror and pain in him, Bror realized what figure it was with his sword raised towards the Ringwraith. It was Zurumor! A million thoughts, rivers of jolting thunder rippling through him, coursed into his mind in a second and faster. The dwarf knew that this was his companion, his comrade, though he had condemned the man. Brór owed him something, if at all, and that was life. A fatherly instinct took hold when Bror saw Zurumor doing something so foolhardy, but how could he, a dwarf separated from the lad and his attacker, save anyone from anything? He could not charge the wraith. Zurumor would be dead before he came close and he himself would be cut down by orcs…

Then it hit him! It was the orcs who would be his salvation. A distraction! Separate Zurumor from the Nazgûl; cause commotion, distraction, diversion, and plant seeds of chaos in the host. If this did not serve to fully distract the Nazgûl, it would at least serve to inconvenience him for a long enough period. Not thinking, no thought in his emptied head, Brór’s leg unconsciously shot out, right in front of an orc beside him. The orc, walking overly fast through the crowd, tripped and fell face first into the mud below. Growling in anger and dark annoyance, he shot up, drawing some strange looks from his kindred, and spun on the short ‘orc’ who had sent him on his journey to the ground. Bror got a good look at the unnamed orc’s face, taking in the disheartening sight of his glistening, sharpened teeth.

“You! You bloody tripped me!” He said, not even trying to conceal a throaty grunt of hatred.

Brór called upon every ounce of extraneous knowledge crammed into his skull. He had spent nineteen long years in the damnable Tower of Cirith Ungol, a slave to the wretched spawn of orc-kind. He must’ve picked something up of their tongue, of their nature, of anything. Where was Grash? Why was that infernal man not where he was needed? It didn’t matter, though, where Grash and the others were. What mattered was now. Now words of kindness or gentility would simply allow Brór to slip away unnoticed now that he’d made his move. Sauron’s lack of command to him proved that he already had the seed of darkness in him, so could he not use it for a better purpose. Mustering a theatrical flourish, Brór screwed up his hidden face, clenched his fists so tightly that his iron-clad digits dug into the flesh of his palm and bled, and took on the vile persona of the creatures he’d learned to hate even more on each day of his life. In a cold, raspy, dank voice he said, “What’s it to you, pushdug?”

The orc’s yellow-tinged eyes seemed to undulate with rage suddenly, his two pointed ears quivering involuntarily, and he raised his one hand unclad in a gauntlet or metal armament, extending the forefinger and pressing it menacingly against Brór’s puffed out chest. “What’d you call me, runt?” He growled, a low and murderous snarl trying to escape his thin throat. Brór growled, delicately though, as he was not suited to orcish nature, but managed to continue his ill-tempered mood, fueled by anger and the lack of time, which abraded him even now as his left eye continually flitted to the unseen place where Zurumor and Raeis were. He had to hurry, or both their lives were forfeit, whether he cared or not about them.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” He spat sarcastically, causing the orc to flinch, “I thought that was your name. It goes well with your face.”

That did it, just as Brór assumed it would. The orc’s eyes bulged from his misshapen skull, his nostrils flared furiously, and his curled fist shot out. Brór, expecting the rage-induced maneuver, nimbly ducked. He was short enough to simply squat down and waddle madly past the orc as his fist found the wrong target: another orc. As soon as the second beast had recovered from the blow, his syrupy black blood oozing from one corner of his mouth, he pounced on the offender and assailant, sending them both to the ground just behind Bror. Another orc was pulled into the accidentally and Bror barely managed to dodge his groping fingers as he fell. The dwarf scurried onward, pushing other orcs forcefully aside but moving quickly enough for them not to notice who was committing the act. Most of the enraged beasts turned, falling on each other with the current brawl as incentive enough to go mad. Soon, a small, central portion of the grand host had been enveloped in anarchic chaos. Brór dodged with all the agility he bore past the orcs and their primitive fisticuffs, working his way towards the Nazgul and his prey as the small commotion became a large and eye-drawing distraction.

At last he saw them. The Elf female, Raeis, lay sprawled on her chest in the dirt, half-pulled up (presumably by Zurumor, who stood before her with his sword extended. The Nazgûl was before them both, but Zurumor’s intervention had separated. All heads turned to see the wild fray of orcs, including the hooded blackness of the Ringwraith. That was all that was needed. The orcish hordes in combat soon began to fight back and forth across the plain, diving, lunging, and falling. Several tackled beast collapsed before Zurumor, cutting off the Nazgûl. Soon, more were in the way. Seeing his opportunity, Bror launched himself up and forward, wrapping his bulky arms around Zurumor. He made a feeble grab for Raeis on the ground, but could not latch on. Orc were in the way, everywhere around them, the masses pushing Brór and Zurumor away from Raeis. The dwarf, grasping the only alternative, tugged Zurumor in the opposite direction, away from Raeis and the confused Nazgûl. Soon, there was considerable distance between them, though they were still in the thick of the fray.

“C’mon.” he bellowed into the lads ear as he pulled him along, “We need to find a safer spot.”

Suddenly, Zurumor began to bat madly at his savior, yanking his arm from Brór’s fumbling grip, he stumbled back and spun on his heel. Brore had no idea what the mortal had in mind, but knew that it was an ill plan when Zurumor suddenly set off in a dead sprint towards in the direction of Raeis and the Nazgûl. Brore, not thinking but only resolving not to let the boy he’d extricated from the jaws of death dive back into them, leapt forward, into the fray of brawling orcs, and tackled Zurumor to the ground, holding him there with his weight (augmented by much armor). Zurumor twisted and turned to free himself beneath the dwarf, trying to free himself with all his might. “No! Get off.” He cried, anger and sadness in his voice.

“Do you have a death wish, lad?” Bror roared; his voice still almost overwhelmed by the shrieking, grunting madness of the raging Mordor uruks. Zurumor tore one arm free of Brór and thrust the elbow at the dwarf. It struck the nose of Brór’s helmet, causing the rusty contraption to reverberate like a bell. The man freed his second arm a moment later, his legs and balled fists flailing madly as he grasped his sword again, which lay unattended in the mud. Soon, he was on his knees, struggling to his feet, with Brór stumbling about behind.

“Raeis will die!” He cried, his eyes widened and wet with either rage or some dominion of misery, “We must help her!” An orc with a knife through his bloody throat fell in front of the man just then, separating him from Bror. Seconds later, two orcs, locked in a death-grip, staggered past them, their flying weapons and arms slashing the air close to Brór’s face. Doggedly, the dwarf snaked his way past them, his hand stretching to its utmost length and closing on Zurumor’s wrist. “She will die with or without your help.” He cried, pulling the man’s sweat-soaked face to his own. The man’s breath, usually heated, was as cold as ice, though the air around them both was as warm as Orodruin’s fires, if one were to play with metaphor on the matter. Brór’s other hand, now clutching the second ax in his belt, latched onto Zurumor’s other arm. “If the orcs do not trample her into the ground,” he said sternly, holding the man firmly, “the Nazgûl will slay her in his wroth. His breath has probably slain her already. Look to your legs now, boy, it is too late for her.”

“I can’t let her die!” He nearly shrieked at Bror, pushing him back again. Bror’s ax went to his throat, if only to draw him back, though the blade cut a very narrow gash in his cheek by accident. The man did not even notice the bead of blood drawn on his face. “Then you will die with her! The light you seek is nowhere to be found, use darkness as your cover and flee!” Brór roared, unconsciously shaking Zurumor, hoping to free the poor fool from his delusion, his stupor, and his hope. If he wanted to live, he had to lose hope, just as Brór had lost hope. He had to abandon light and love and goodly things if he wanted to survive the day, nay, the next moments. The orc army fell into further chaos around them, but Zurumor’s eyes, fierce and empowered, never moved from Brór’s. His arm, sword in hand, fell away from Brór’s and he threw himself backward, away from the hindering dwarf. Strangely stupefied, Brór did not try to stop again as he turned away.

“I don’t care.” He whispered, only loud enough for Brór to hear, “If I must die, it will be in the light…with her.” And he disappeared into the crowd.

That was it…He didn’t care…He didn’t care if he died for an Elf, an Elf who he couldn’t save and couldn’t save him…What was this then, righteousness? Honor? It was folly as Brór saw it, but not as the mortal man saw it. They looked through different eyes, but, for a moment in time the noise of battle and death was overruled the steady thump of Brór’s cold heart in his ears. Could he, a wretched dwarf and pawn of Sauron die for an Elf? Should he? Would he? Could he? What was he to do, here and now, in this time of pain, strife, and war? Challenge Sauron…or join him without question. He had been given the chance to save one of his companions, and that foolhardy youth had squandered his chance at life. But, perhaps this was not the end, for Zurumor, for Raeis, or for Brór. Raeis was doomed without help, and perhaps even with it…but there was always a chance…and Brór, the dwarf mastered by darkness, would not die in darkness. His feet moved, his ax flew up, and his eyes caught sight of Zurumor, hurrying onward.

“Wait up, lad.” He cried, alerting Zurumor to his presence. “You won’t far without the strength of a good Dwarf to aid you.”

Neither had time to do more than interchange looks, for Zurumor was occupied now by the visage of Raeis, crumpled on the ground, her limbs foully contorted. Her chest heaved up and down reassuringly, but her face was pale white, her eyes shut, and a horrible black mark on her throat that looked to be a handprint. Zurumor knelt in mid-stride, scooping her up, but the orcs had clumped together in this area, still battling each other, and crowded over Raeis. Many came near to stepping on the fragile, injured form. Brór, seeing naught else to do, swung his ax in mad arcs; cutting down an uruk that ventured to near Zurumor and his charge. In the chaos, no one noticed. Zurumor, once he had the limp Elf in his arms, struggled back again, thanking all that he held dear that the Nazgul was not near. The Wraith had gone from view…or so it seemed…

A horrendous screech alerted Brór and Zurumor to the true whereabouts of the Nazgûl. Brór’s eyes, overshadowed by a spiky orcish helm, looked up into the red-rimmed sky, ripe with lightning blades. Silhouetted, like Morgoth incarnate, against the heavens was the Nazgûl, again on his steed. The night-black wings of the murderous fellbeast were spread and the Ringwraith’s armored arm was extended, a sable sword in hand. The claws of the wraith’s mount grabbed at the air as its wings flapped, bearing it down. The nonexistent eyes of the Nazgûl must have been directed at the two primary offenders, the man and the dwarf, since Brór could feel the unadulterated pain of its look piercing his mind. The other orcs still fought around them, but silence seemed to be surrounding them as well, a terrible silence that chilled Brór to the bone.

The Nazgûl was descending…only the grace of the Valar could stand in its way.

Last edited by Kransha; 09-01-2004 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 09-01-2004, 07:26 PM   #137
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The vast army of the Orc plodded forth, sweeping the heavy, ashen dust of the wasteland earth into Mordor’s hot, dense air. This rancid, near poisonous fume that rose in great clouds, was enough to weaken even the strongest creature. Even the orcs, who had become accustomed to the harsh realm of Mordor, had to beware the dust, and those who were not regarded as somewhat well off within the circles of orc leadership, were subjected to choking and hacking on the lung-searing ash that swirled through the atmosphere.

The Elf himself, though he had spent seventeen years in the captivity of Cirith Ungol, was still weighed down by the horrid, smokey fog that surrounded him, and burned at his lips, seizing entry to his lungs, and slowly killing him from within. The Morgul Vale was a relief for him however, as the ashen clouds from Orodruin were not as concentrated in this region. But the high mountains, that encircled the locale, forbid the release of those particles that were heaved towards the burning, red sky that hung over Mordor like a heavy, omnipresent shadow, by the ironshod feet of the Snaga, and Uruks. His Haradrim scarf had provided some benefit through this whole ordeal, filtering some of the abhorred fumes from the air, but now it was wearing thin, and the dirt and grime began to seep its way into the fabric of the cloth, choking it, and sending its filthy messengers into the lungs of the Elf.

As he slowly progressed past the ranks of the oncoming orc army, the dust that was churned up, began to grasp for his lungs, clenching them with putrid hands, tightening like a vice, and forcing the Elf to emit a horrid cough from his lips. At first it was almost uncontrollable, as he hacked and wheezed at an incessant pace. But ever so gradually, he began to retake the reins from the air that obstructed his breathing. Yet, he was vulnerable in this time, for he was expending a great deal of his energies to ‘put out the fire’ that was burning within his chest. To even attempt to recover from the spasmodic contortions of his muscles, as they vainly tried to withstand the assault the air was pressing upon him, he was forced to halt his movement. This made him all the more noticeable. As he clenched his chest, still gasping for a fresh breath, out of the thousands of minuscule particles that hung in the air around him, a wisp of cloth fell from his face, revealing the elf behind the mask. It was only that singular, solitary moment in which he was uncovered, that spoiled his disguise, as a hapless orc wandered into his path.

This orc was not the smartest of orcs, and he was not particularly good at following orders. Having been set upon the outremer of the throng that carried him in the army, he managed to disorient himself, and stumbled upon the weakened elf, who was caught staring into the dirt. The Orc, seeing that this Haradrim was in fact, not a Haradrim, drew his sword, hoping for a quick kill, and a meal, of whatever this creature was. But as he bumbled his way towards the Elf, a great commotion erupted to his rear, as several orcs began to stir about, finally boiling over the cauldron of emotion, and letting loose into a fierce skirmish. This distraction allowed the Immortal to compose himself, and regain his unraveling disguise.

As Morgoroth rose from the dirt, caked in its dark earthen matter, he saw the most terrible of beings. Hooded, and masked in endless fear, sat a Nazgul upon his vile Fell Beast. Standing defiant below the evil steed, stood a man, who Morgoroth could not recognize in his dimmed vision. Emotion stirred in his heart, as he felt compassion, and pity for the man. He swiftly rose, empowered with new vigor, and sought to drive himself between the man and the Nazgul. The orcs continued to battle, distracting the Wraith for the time. The Dark Elf hoped this would provide him time to save the man from death. But as he made his way to the line, he saw him go down into the dirt. He thought death had struck, but it was not so. His sensitive ears managed to gather a few words, the names Raeis and Zurumor, and the tone of a certain dwarf. But his comrades’ plight was not yet through, for Zurumor cast himself back into the fray, seeking to protect Raeis, whom he had come to have a deepening affection for. The Elf began to mutter to himself, debating his course of action.“Death this child seeks, to save one from feeling a wrath unending...” He let his head sink, and a familiar voice entered his mind. The memories of his father, long since buried in the chasm of his mind. The last time he saw his father, he left behind a single message, a reason to as why he was to go off to fight in land so far off, and eventually fall victim to the horrors of war. “We elves are long-lived, and we do not suffer that which men do, and I go to fight, to ensure their lives are lived well.” The Elf lifted his head at this memory, and glared at the Nazgul, who was now coming down from the burning heavens, preparing to deliver its hellish wrath unto the man Zurumor, and the elf woman he was protecting.

Hissing and snarling came the Fell Beast, as it descended, lashing its disgusting tongue about, and exhaling a carrion reek onto those who were in its path. Mounted upon this most horrifying steed, was a being of hate and death, one of the most terrifying servants of the Dark Lord. They slowly came to renewed hover, as the wings of the beast flapped calmly in the sea of chaos that stirred about it, blowing up the ash that was caked in layers upon the earth. Hope was lost for those who stood before the Winged Death, as they awaited his judgement, which would come swiftly and terribly. For a few moments, it sat silent, scanning its victims. This was all the time the Elf needed to prepare himself. As the Wraith raised the weapon of its choice, a pale sword, which gleamed with a hate gathered over many centuries, Morgoroth made his own choice, and loosed a single feathered shaft into the neck of the Nazgul’s mount. The hideous creatures reeled from this unexpected pain, and it thrashed about in the air. But its master was soon to recover, and it took notice of he who had defied the command of death.

Standing alone, the Elf waited for his enemy to come forth. The Nazgul was in the midst of killing a defiant man, who had deserved his death, but this Haradrim had done worse, and he ordered his mount higher into the sky, preparing to descend upon this new rebellious foe. Little time passed between the striking of the shot, and the Wraith’s coming. Fury was in its mind, and it wished to do quick justice upon this fiend, for he other, more important business to attend to. As he lowered himself from the sky, and came to a hover above the Elf, a strange sensation overcame it, one it had only recently felt. Yet, the Nazgul did not dwell on this, for it had not the time for such trivial matters. Now, it spoke to the Haradrim who stood before. “You dare defy the will of your master?!” The Wraith hissed at this, hoping to strike a nerve of fear, so as it could at least enjoy the kill. “You are a mere mortal, and your trifling in these matters that do not concern you, will cost you your life.” The Elf gazed up at his foe, defying the creature yet again. “I am no mortal, scum of Sauron...” Vehement hissing erupted from within the hooded mask of the being, as it was confounded at this second showing of defiance. With a flash of his hand, the Elf pulled away a bit of the scarf that covered his face, and he spoke a second time. “I am an Elf, and on my honor, you shall not take my comrades lives, without first slaying me.” A final volley of hissing rolled forth from within the cloaked demon, as it drew its glimmering blade.

Morgoroth had forfeited his life, exchanging the fates of Zurumor and Raeis for his own. As he prepared to suffer the wrath of his enemy, he caught a glimpse of his allies, as the man pulled his elf friend to her feet, and pulled her to the side, where Bror was now hidden, as best he could. The Elf now sang a silent prayer, hoping that his doom would come quickly. With sword poised to strike, the Wraith let forth one more hiss, nearly inaudible, and then it drove its blade home, searing the Elf’s flesh, as it slashed through the skin just above his heart. Chance had saved his life, as the blade narrowly missed piercing his heart, as it glanced of the bone in his shoulder. The pain was great, but the Elf knew not to cry out, and instead silently slumped against a small rock, bleeding profusely, and near death. The Nazgul knew it had not finished him, but a sudden burst of flame, and the silent call of its master, who was now in great peril, summoned the Wraith elsewhere, and it rose quickly, soaring into the heaves, only to come swooping back down over the army, letting out a vicious cry, one to summon the host to greater haste. And it left Morgoroth there, clinging to his now bloodied rock, as he slowly slipped into unconsciousness...
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Old 09-03-2004, 07:54 PM   #138
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Darash swore at the never-ending onslaught of struggles and battles. There was no respite, no safe house, where they could recover their strength after each successive event of castasclismic turmoil. They lurched on; she lurched on, inexpressably tired and weary. She had been swept up by the oppressive, marching rhythm of the orc army and could not keep step with either Grash, who had been beside her, or Lyshka, who had followed them through the Stones. Nor had she been able to keep track of any of the prisoners. Her head hung low, she assumed the lumbering tread of the orcs, the vile creatures she had come to know and despise in her captivity. She was as tall as they, although more slender and lithe, but at least the layers of pilfered orcish coverings lent her some bulk. The stink of offending flesh was almost overwhelming; whatever meats these creatures ate, it sullied their being, mingling acrid odour with the foul stench of rancid decay. Darash shook her head violently, shoving an orc away from her and incurring a curse which rained on her with spittle. She was nearly tempted to reply in the degraded speech of the orcs, but she overcame the desire and merely gave the creature a shrug and frowning stare. Her skin was not as dark as his, but enough, given her clothing and demeanour, to benefit her disguise.

She had been a hunter, never the hunted, and now she was learning the tricks and feints of the pursued to save herself. Slowly, as she stumbled forward in that surly mob, she began to apprise the situation. She looked around desperately for the others, feeling the unsettledness and fear of the unknown. Things were happening, the meaning of which she did not understand. She felt as if she were the sedges at the side of lakes, thrown violently here and yon by both wind and wave and not knowing what to expect. The Dark Lord's Stones had shaken her, had taught her that this new world was unlike her old, had meaning and values and dangers she could not expect or anticipate. She could only sway and hope to find a direction. And look to the knowledge and ways of others.

A wild melee caught her attention, as orcs began battling orcs. She edged her way around the chaos, eyes darting to survey the perimeter, if indeed it could be said to have a perimeter. She could make out the pygmy Brór flailing about, trying, trying to pull a reluctant Zurumor away from a creature, the like of which she had never seen or imagined. A crinkling itch of torment picked at her, as if needles penetrated her entire body, as she watched a winged creature with a hollow cloak cruise over them. It sucked the air out of the sky and Darash nearly fainted.

As she regained her sense, the creature was climbing up and away, higher in the sky and she saw Raeis--Raeis!--collapsed. There was another, she was not sure who--the other one, Morgoroth! Something had happened. She saw two who needed her aid, but no one was around her. Holding her hood over her face, she lumbered through the crowd towards the others, wishing somehow she could give a sign, any sign, to Lyshka or Grash to find her, to help the others.

Last edited by Bêthberry; 09-04-2004 at 10:32 AM. Reason: drated typos
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Old 09-03-2004, 09:12 PM   #139
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Lyshka

The terrible winged beast soared up and to the north, leaving the Easterling woman to exhale the putrid air she had held in her lungs by the trembling fear the Nazgul forced upon all those in his presence. Raising her head to the sky, Lyshka quickly pulled her hood tighter around her face to cover her features. The Orcs ahead of her were still brawling, although the captains were working to bring what order could be accomplished by the filthy creatures.

She would have to think and move quickly to escape this mess she had found herself amidst. Keeping her hood tight, she darted between the soldiers moving toward and around the chaos. The path Grash had pointed toward earlier lay to their left…all she needed to do was make her way over and out of the ranks as they passed the brawlers. Ducking between bodies, Lyshka could see the road split and she glanced toward the head of the army. Her eyes landed on a surprising scene. Her companions had been revealed. Brór struggled with Zurumor. It appeared the man was reaching toward the ground, but Lyshka was unable from her position to see at what he lunged.

The woman’s dark eyes darted from the scene to the path and back. As she considered continuing her departure and making her way up the path, she caught sight of another figure moving between the she and the Dwarf. This being crouched like the Orc but did not move with such crudeness. Maybe sensing Lyshka’s attention, the hooded head rose and turned from side to side as though searching. Craning her neck, the Easterling caught a glimpse of the dark skin beneath the layers. This was not the rough and beaten flesh of the Orc men. Then an eye flashed from under the disguise, and Lyshka was filled with the only kind of joy or happiness she had felt since being released. It was Darash! Immediately, the woman plowed back into the mix and move as quickly as she could between the soldiers.

As she tried to bypass the fighting, she was jostled and shoved several times, but the woman kept moving with hardened resolve. Keeping her body hunched, only her eyes could be seen under her hood, but she looked at no one and growled deeply in her throat whenever she was manhandled. Within moments she found herself within arm’s reach of the exotic woman. Lyshka’s hand shot out and took hold of Darash’s right elbow. The woman pulled her arm roughly away without turning to meet the gaze of the one who touched her. Lyshka tried again and this time she gently squeezed Darash’s long limb and slowly pulled her own hood to one side so that the taller woman might see her identity.
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Old 09-04-2004, 10:20 AM   #140
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"Ah, Ly--" Darash nealy called out in her joy and relief at finding one of her companions. She was knocked to the side by an orc trying to get away from the brawling, but luckily she was knocked right into Lyshka's path. It would look natural and normal for them to have words together.

Feinting irritation, the two engaged in a pantomime of threats and taunts and raised fists at each other, which enabled them to try, as best they could given their lack of knowledge of the Common Tongue, to explain their position. Lyshka still had her sense of direction; she knew where Grash's path was and unobstrusively pointed it out to Darash. For her part, the Amazon whispered Raeis's name and nodded towards the spot where Morgoroth had made his sacrifice. Luckily, the arrival of the hissing, terrifying, flying creature had confused all the orcs and some hidden command had drawn their attention elsewhere, so the threat of discovery was overcome for the most part.

The two women, hunched over with hoods covering their heads, encumbered by the thick, heavy, crudely-worked leather of their orcish jerkins, moved in a zigzag fashion over towards the now still body of the elf. They could not risk a call to either Raeis or Morgoroth but they saw out of the corner of their eyes Brór's success with Zuromor. Jeren, where Jeren?, thought Darash to herself as they neared Morgoroth. She suddenly caught sight of Aldor and froze for a moment as the sensation of needles pricking her body was revived, the same sensation she felt when this thing called a Wraith came overhead. She risked a glance at Lyshka, who had seen Aldor also, but she could not tell if the Easterling woman felt the same sensation. Slowly they were making their way towards the striken elf.
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Old 09-04-2004, 11:24 AM   #141
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Lyshka

Lyshka met the dark woman’s concerned gaze. Narrowing her eyes, the Easterling looked back to the man, Aldor. He did not see Lyshka or Darash. As she studied his face momentarily, Lyshka thought she caught a look of…could it be?...satisfaction? cross his face. She shook the idea from her mind as the women had more pressing matters to attend.

The elves could easily be seen now. Raeis lay pale on the ground…her body limp. Morgoroth was close, unconscious and still. Could he be dead? Lyshka felt her heart pull at the thought of the only beauty in this horrible land being destroyed like a candle’s flame snuffed by the Dark Lord’s fingers. The Easterling was unable to determine whether life still reigned in their bodies from her distance, but she knew the women must move them either way. If they still lived, they would be trampled soon, yet if death had found them, they would need to be honored in what ways the company could in this dark land.
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Old 09-04-2004, 12:24 PM   #142
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Zuromor and Bror moved in unison with the orcs. Zuromor feared for Raeis and wanted to go back to her but the sea of orcs permitted no such acts. Over head the Nazgul moved forward at great pace, rushing to the will of his Master. Zuromor waited patiently and marched forward.

When he saw an opening he positioned himself behind Bror and marched faster, forcing himself to trip over him. The orc army walked past and over them, and Zuromor used his body as a shield for Bror. When they all had passed Zuromor had been stepped on several times. After a long pause he forced himself up and ran back to Raeis.

He held her in his arms and prayed she would still be alive, that he had not failed.

"Zuromor?"

As she weakly spoke his name his eyes filled with tears and they held each other in the burning heat that resembled the heat of their hearts.
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Old 09-05-2004, 04:45 AM   #143
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Boots A vicious plan . .

Rhând

All in all, he was happy about his accomplishments thus far: he'd managed to sneak off, still very alive, and he had made some of the Orcs aware of strangers in the army. He grinned evilly, as he walked hurriedly around and about, trying to figure out what he was to do next. He knew he would have to find the others eventually, and return to them, but something was keeping him. The thought of being so close to his goal, such as now, but still return to he prisoners, where he would have to find another opportunity to return to his master, annoyed him. It was strange how there seemed to be obstacles constantly, and how that hindered him from getting away. It was rather unfair, Rhând thought. However, realising that returning with nothing, in this case; no escaped prisoners, would not aid him in accomplishing his intention; becoming once more accepted as a loyal and devoted servant, he convinced himself that this was not it. He would have to prove it. That's why I can't leave them now. I must return and pretend as nothing. Just for a little while more...

He slowed down his pace. He thought he'd seen one of the prisoners. He turned away, grinning. Here, right before him, another opportunity, which was also extremely tempting, was presented to him. In few seconds he could shout, and it would be over; he would win. But he restrained himself; he could not, and would not return to his master in this state. Who would want a single Haradrim, who in reality was believed to be a traitor? Who would believe him now, if he couldn't convince them?

Returning his gaze to the familiar face, he discovered to his surprise that it wasn't only one. The women! He tried looking beyond, wanting to see if everyone was there and had found each other. Letting his gaze wander, he swore he could see something or someone was lying on the ground. He grinned, hoping it was Morogoth.

"YOU!" Rhând turned away from the women, as the rough voice coming from behind made him jump in surprise.

"He's over here, fellas!" Rhând heard an orc say.

All of a sudden, he found himself facing the same orcs he'd faced just earlier. By the look of them, something told the Haradrim that they weren't exactly happy. Shaking with fear, as he had not taken this possible event into consideration, he stepped backwards. He cursed. Why hadn't he thought of this, this 'reunion'?

"You! You promised us fresh meat!" the orc in front of him, the same as he had nudged, growled.

Think fast, think fast.

"Aye, Sir! I leave them to you, and yours," he said slowly, cursing yet again under his breath. He pointed towards the women. "There! There is your flesh, under the little costumes!" Grinning maliciously, he watched the orcs and their reaction towards the discovery of food. They nudged each other, pointing.

"Come on! We don't want the meat to be spilled!" The other orcs, surrounding what seemed like the leader, grew wild by this announcement, and without offering Rhând another look, or thought, they charged forwards. Feeling the ground tremble under his very feet, he watched the orcs, seven of them, run towards the defenceless women. What a pleasure .. I'm finally going to witness them die, Rhând thought, being satisfied. He only hoped none of the women, or any of the other prisoners, had seen what he had done.

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Old 09-05-2004, 07:47 AM   #144
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Raeis

Every ragged breath, though dustfilled and half stifled, was like the first Raeis had ever taken. Zurumor held the limp elf in his strong grip as he staggered away from the fray, and she let her head rest against his chest, her fingers lacing behind his neck, and every inch of his body which pressed against hers was precious and she relished it, trying to dispell the cold, cold sensation around her neck where the Nazgul's hand had gripped so tightly. This warmth...it was different to the warmth of that merciless, burning sun: it was more like the inward strength and light which she had felt when the Valar came to her, but weaker - precious but fragile. She needed it, and clung hungrily to Zurumor. Suddenly a cry came from nearby and he looked around, and stumbled as he did so. Raeis fell but recovered herself surprisingly quickly, rolling lithely and coming up on one knee. But immediately she did so, she winced and her hand came to her throat: a black mark, shaped like a hand, was still seared into her flesh, and burnt with cold fire. As the Nazgul screamed above, she felt it suddenly intensify for a split second and gasped. Zurumor came to her side, concerned. "What is wrong?"

Raeis did not speak, her lips moving in vain to form words that her sore and crushed throat refused to provide. But she felt also the strength inside her, the strength she had felt from those strange beings who she had seen in her mind so very clearly, and felt them buoy her up: how, she knew not, nor why they should come to one so pitiful as her, but the images gave her strength. Pulling the sword long knives from her throat, she rose slowly, her good eye staring steadily at the scene. She nodded slowly, then, with a yell, threw herself into the melee.
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Old 09-05-2004, 10:15 PM   #145
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It was not to be. The two women, Lyshka and Darash, had been delayed in their attempts to reach the elves, but they saw that, at least, Zuromor and Raeis were together. Still, they had to reach Morgoroth. The surging, chaotic melee swirled about them, orc rushing after orc, orc breaking rank, orc falling behind, and orc shifting ground and direction, almost fearful of the winged creature now high over head. Darash put her hand on her knife, not the one Grash exchanged with her, but the one hidden under her jerkin, and grabbed tightly the hilt. She looked over at Lyshka and wished they had been able to say more to each other.

Lyshka, did she feel what I felt? Did her skin itche with a thousand pricks of distress and warning as mine does? Darash asked herself. Then she saw something which confirmed her suspicions. She saw in a huddle this man Aldor with orcs, seven of them. They seemed to surround him, but then broke away and, yes, began to tromp over towards her and Lyshka!

Quickly, without thinking, Darash began to pull Lyshka towards her, pushing her head down, and then to duck in and out of several of the marching, swarming orcs near them. Lyshka held back at first, but then caught sight of a deep frown on Darash's face. Something was extremely troubling to the dark-skinned woman and Lyshka decided to follow her direction for the time being.

Then, without warning, Darash pushed Lyshka violently away from her, into two orcs who had been struggling to keep up, but not so violently that the Easterling lost her footing. Then Darash moved back, behind another group of orcs, who, with a bit of indirect nudging, she was able to maneuver towards the orcs who had left this man Aldor and come towards her and Lyshka. The pursuing orcs were confused, for they had lost sight of the two hooded figures the Haradrim had sent them towards. They began to look around, spreading out, but the crunch of the entire orcish swarm made their movements difficult. They lost their quarry and each other.

Darash pretended to stumble and let herself fall even farther behind. With a lurching stealth she came up behind one of the orcs who Aldor had sent, she was sure, out to her and Lyshka. With a sure, quiet movement, her dagger made contact with a small part of the orc's back, small, but devastating. She severed his spinal chord and he fell, silently, with a push from her, which made his fall appear to be just a trip. For good measure, Darash feinged a stumble also. None of his companions nor those around him marked his disappearance with concern.

Darash then changed her demeanour. Rather than shrinking and bending low, she stood erect, even tall, and walked with long, deliberate strides so as to make her look very different. She put her left arm up and around the shoulders of another orc, one she was sure belonged to the seven of Aldor, and directly caught his attention. He was surprised and at first turned to greet this touch as that of one of his companions, showing him the direction. He turned his gaze towards the tall, slender orc and her face was the last thing he saw. Spittle burbled out of his face as his eyes rolled backwards into his head. Darash had slit his throat. Then, she grabbed his body, as if she were helping him along. Orcs parted to let them by and soon forgot about them. When a new group had overtaken them, she swooped down low and let go of the dead orc, moving sideways into the press of stinking bodies. She had lost sight of the other five who had marched towards her and Lyshka, but with lumbering movement she attached herself to a new group. Half screeching and half blustering as if out of breathe, she tired to disguise herself even further as she sought her bearings.

To her left, she caught sight of Lyshka engaged in her own battles. Darash made an oath upon her ancestors that Grash would be told of this. She would not march again with Aldor, she knew that, if she had her way. Yet she knew not if Grash would listen to her. How to make him, she wondered.
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Old 09-06-2004, 06:22 PM   #146
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After watching the Nazgul descend from the sky onto the plateau roughly a mile from his current positon, Dwali had expected the worst. Listening to shouts, snarls and the occasional sound of ringing-metal were not encouraging. For all he knew, the entire company had been caught further back, and was even now being exterminated. How could they not be, with the great beast and the dark one among them? There was no hope for them, and thus none for himself, but at least he was presently alive and undiscovered. The dwarf knew that he had to act quickly, or else risk being spotted. Stranded, with thousands of orcs between himself and his companions, even their possible survival would not aide him. And thus the old pessimism slowly returned, creeping up on his mind like a demonic apparation. Alone again... as usual.

But from his past experiences, Dwali had gained something invaluable: the ability to continue on when there is no hope. It had saved him from despair when his parents were slain, and had kept the dwarf from starving in the caverns of Cirith Ungol. Now, perhaps, this gift would be the key to his escape form Mordor. And so he started crawling.

***

Hours passed. The sounds conflict had long since receeded, and Dwali tried to banish images of Bror and Grash lying slain with the others; their bodies soon to be devoured raw by the savages who had killed them. Or perhaps it had nothing to do with them, and in the darkness the dwarf could not tell. All he could focus on was crawling slowly, keeping his head down and staying parallel to the endless line of torches on his left. Time passes slowly when you have no sense of it, and merely repeat a single exercise for a long period. Dwali's situation fit both of these criteria, and to him it seemed that days came and went when only an hour had actually gone by.

More importantly, the dwarf was tired. It had been a full day since he last rested at the small camp in the mountains, and he had been walking, marching or crawling ever since. Pushing exhaustion from his mind, Dwali continued on until his hands slipped and he tumbled into another ditch. Struggling over to the side, he pushed up against the side closest to the road and collapsed.
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Old 09-06-2004, 08:34 PM   #147
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Within the dark unconscious of his mind, the Elf despaired. He had not cried out when the pale light of the Nazgul’s blade had entered his flesh, but his mind shrieked in agony, writhing about, terrified by this turn of events. Memories of a fading past glistened in the dark, shimmering with an eerie, green light, dancing within the confines of his mind’s eye. But he was consoled not. An agonizing pain lingered on the outer rim of his thoughts, whispering in heretical voices, painting a visage of unimaginable horror in his unconscious sight.

As he lingered there, his body paralyzed in shock, from the profuse bleeding that poured forth in sheets from the maw of his gaping wound, a familiar voice reentered his mind. Flickering in the blackness of his decaying thoughts, came the fell voice of the Dark Lord. Only a monotonous drone at first, its hate and grandeur soon amplified, infecting the Elf’s thoughts in all corners of his smitten inner self. Fear gripped the heart of the Immortal, draining his being as he fought futilely against the fiery tide of dominion that engulfed him. The Dark Lord had returned, and with him came the vast hordes of terror and despair that accompanied his coming. “I warned you Elf! You could not possibly hope to escape from my domain. Your effort has only weakened you, and your self-sacrifice only speeds the demise I would surely give you.” The Dark Lord’s omnipresent voice scoured the Elf’s thoughts, searing them with cruel words, and laying waste to any hope he might have of living past this tragedy. Yet, for all his tact and guile, the Elf could not conjure a reply that would hand him victory over his seemingly unbeatable foe. His weakened, and fragile body, having been sapped of strength, had drained his mind, and he could no longer save himself from any oppressive advances of Sauron’s grotesque evil.

The onslaught continued for the Elf, but now, his body was slowly regaining strength, having survived the terrible blood loss of his wound. Now, all his will was being summoned forth to breach the terrible power of the Dark Lord, and drive him one last time from his mind. But yet again, he could not rally his thoughts into one great charge, to eviscerate the horrid power that drove the malicious voice in his head. He was alone, and helpless to the will of Sauron. Now, he would be left as a wraith, such as that which had smote him, with his soul shredded into a twisted shadow of malice, Mandos would not be his fate. Yet, a fleeting glimmer of light within the chasm of the abyss, which had consumed his very thoughts, and had twisted his mind into a dungeon of torture, rekindled some of the fire of his shattered will. Yet, the grasp of evil is not easily broken, and a force of equal wrath is needed to vanquish such a seemingly indomitable foe. And that force came. Like the Noldor hosts of old, it came in great wrath, to smite the will of Sauron, and break the hand of oppression. The force that came, was not some last, hidden remnant of Morgoroth’s being, but the voices that had accompanied him in the Tunnel, and saved him from death. Now, they came back, as one last gesture of thanks for giving them the gift of freedom from the torturous ways of Shelob. The voices came, hissing and shrieking in unison, and they battered the will of Sauron, whose attentions had been drawn away.

And just as quickly as the host of voices of the long since dead had come, it departed, leaving the Elf in perfect solitude, to gather himself. And that he did. Slowly, having regained control of his mind, which still lay in ruin, he sought to regain his body. Broken it was still, with a devastating wound still seething with a fresh burning sensation, from the blade of the Morgul Wraith. Consciousness came to him, as the hideous light of Mordor that lingered about him, swept into his eyes. Yet, his body was still weak, and movement was difficult. The orc host had nearly ceased its fighting, and had begun to move on, to the Morannon. Looking about him, he found a scimitar from a dead orc, and used it to prop up the numbed left side of his body. Slowly working in this fashion, he managed to stand himself upright. He scanned the area around him, and noticed his comrades, slinking off to the path into the mountains, hoping to hide themselves from the vicious orcs once more. The Elf, wielding the scimitar as a walking stick of sorts, slowly plodded towards his fleeing companions, to seek the safety of the realms beyond Mordor.
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Old 09-06-2004, 10:05 PM   #148
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Lyshka

Lyshka quickly regained her footing after the dark woman shoved her into two passing orcs. “Watch it!” She heard one of them growl, but she ignored him, pulling her hood tighter with one hand and sliding her knife from her vest with the other. The look on Darash’s face was enough warning that the two were in trouble, yet the Easterling woman was unsure what the nature of it was.

Keeping low, Lyshka stole a quick glance over her shoulder, but could not place her companion in the sea of bodies. She could, however, see the end of the current company and the beginning of the next army to pass. The soldiers were still a mess from the dark rider, no one keeping their ranks, but there was enough of a break between the groups, Lyshka thought she could slip out and onto the path.

Immediately, she fumbled, catching herself with her empty hand on the blackened road. Rising, she began to feign a limp that slowed her movement tremendously, so that she quickly fell behind the others. All the while, her eyes darted around her looking for Darash or her other companions…anyone other than Aldor. She did not know why, but she did not trust him. She would not go to him if he was alone on the path.

The break in the orcs was almost upon her, when she caught sight of Darash! The dark-skinned woman was holding an orc in her arms, and Lyshka watched with a surprised interest that took her mind from her plans. At that moment, several things happened. Lyshka’s hooded disguise slipped from her face, and before she was aware of it, three orcs coming from just ahead of Darash and the strange orc in her grasp noticed her, pointed and began to quickly move her way.

Lyshka had to think quickly…the orc trio was almost upon her. Suddenly the break between the armies reached her. Looking rapidly side to side, she saw no escape and the orcs were just a few feet away. “There she is!” One of the enemies motioned to the others. As the second army overcame her, Lyshka dropped to the ground and rolled into a ball, and then she reached forward and grabbed the ankles of the soldier in front of her, pulling him down and into the threesome.

Taking advantage of the moment of distraction, the woman secured her hood, jumped to her feet, and began running toward the path. She felt a rush of energy that pushed her on. Her sprint was short-lived, however, as a massive black hand grabbed the back of her neck and raised her entire body from the ground. Lyshka wriggled and writhed, kicking her legs violently in the air. The orc, who had caught his prey, reached around and took hold of the front of her vest, turning her around to face him in the air.

“You’ll make a tasty bite.” Spittle sprayed from his crooked mouth as he licked at his lips.

Lyshka continued to struggle, but was no match to his strength. He had caught her off her guard, and she forgot about her weapon. She now felt the handle of the crude knife she had taken from the corpse hand in the tower. That seemed an age ago, but she raised the knife quickly and stabbed at the malformed face in front of her. Her aim was good and she landed the blade directly into her attacker’s left eye. Black blood oozed and dripped as the orc dropped the woman to tend his wound. He cried out like a wild animal, and Lyshka ran, dodging bodies toward the path that was now just feet away.

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Old 09-08-2004, 04:49 AM   #149
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Aldor was the least of Darash's worries at the moment. With horror, she watched Lyshka grabbed by one of the stinking beasts, Lyshka, one of the few here with whom she felt some connection! She tried to move towards the woman without drawing attention to herself, but the pull of the new orc line dragged her farther away. Then, suddenly, Darash saw the orc roar and drop the woman, his arms flailing. Two orcs seemed interested in him; they moved towards him, but knocked into other orcs, who turned and sneered at them. A general pellmell of pushing and shoving broke out, and Darash feared that the Easterling would be trampled, but she was lost to Darash's sight.

Yet this diversion gave safety and security to the amazon warrior of the tribe of Amazigh. Continuing to lumber alongside the new dispatch of orcs, Darash was able to grunt her way over towards the disruption, pointing towards it with her hand, her hood nodding also. The orcs around her leered as they figured she was simply anxious to join the brawl and they actually moved to make way for her to join, one of them gurglling in his throat, stopping her, and handing her another knife, his tongue hanging out his mouth in voyeurish display. Darash made some gutteral sounds and grabbed the blade, jesturing with it in the air crudely and waddling over towards the disturbance with what she hoped was some semblance of orcish lust for the brawl.

But the melee was not her real destination. Crouching low, she scanned the ground, hoping to find Lyshka. When she could not, she almost dispaired and began to falter. Why go more? Why go more? she whispered to herself. The words jolted her. They were not the words of her people. They were the words of the language of Grash. She shook her head and choaked slightly on the dust the orcs' feet was raising The newness of the language seemed to give her hope and washed away her despair.

She began to watch the ground as she made way towards where she hope Lyshka would be. She saw no clear tracks, just the stamp of the confused tread of the orcs. Then she saw a buckle, a buckle she recognised as one from the orc's tunic Lyshka had worn. It must have been ripped off when she was grabbed. Moved towards it, caught it, and caught the scent of Lyshka from it. With her head down even more, she caught the scent of the woman's trail. There was hope!

~ ~ ~

Following the scent had brought Darash up to the path, ignored by the orcs who were still struggling over the one Lyshka had wounded. She ran up and saw the woman who had made it somehow out of the beastial mob. With a burst of energy which joy gave her, she reached out and hugged the Easterling, her head resting on the woman's shoulder and cuddled against her neck. Lushka put out her arms around Darash and the two would have remained rooted there had not the noises around them reminded them of the urgency yet of their escape. The two ran further up the path and, turning, came upon Grash wrestling with Jerdo. More joy at victory surged through Darash's veins and she gazed triumpantly at the slave who had so far succeeded in bringing them out of emprisonment. She ran faster towards him, recalling how she wished to tell him of Aldor's treachery.

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Old 09-09-2004, 12:06 PM   #150
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Lurg

Lurg trembled in his chains as he was led before the Screecher, and thrown to where its feet would be, if it actually had feet. He cowered upon the ground like a worm, not daring to look up at his master. A terrible black hand seized the back of his throat and its touch was like fire and ice as it pulled him aloft like a rat. Lurg tried to look away from the awful emptiness of the Screecher’s hood, but his eyes were dragged into the void of night which lay there, and from whence issued a thin voice that hurt him.

“You survived the slaughter at Cirith Ungol,” it hissed. “You allowed the prisoners to escape.”

“No no!” Lurg squealed like a stuck rodent. “I didn’t! It was the captains. . .they got to fighting over something and one thing led to another. I tried to recapture the prisoners, but there were too many of them, and the other orcs ran away. . .”

“Silence!” the Screecher warned, shaking him mercilessly so that he flopped about in the mighty hand like a dirty rag. “You ran from your post and let them escape. You deserve to be roasted over coals for that and served to my mount.” Lurg cringed in the knowledge that just such a fate had befallen several of his mates. Since the defeat in the West the Screechers had all been more than usually cruel and short-tempered: before it had happened, Lurg would not have believed that such a thing were even possible. “But I have a better use for you. The prisoners have made it to the High Path. They have caused chaos in my army and even dared to assault me” and there came from the darkness a hiss of such hatred and malice that the orcs who stood about watching fell back in terror. “I have not the time to deal with the scum as they deserve,” the Screecher continued when he recovered from his rage. “So you shall deal with them for me. Take two score of your companions and search the High Pass for the prisoners. When you find them, kill them and bring their skins to me personally. If you do this, I will allow you to be tortured by your fellow orc-maggots. Fail me, and I will have you taken before the dark throne where my Master will gaze upon you with the Eye.”

Lurg collapsed in the Screecher’s hand. Seeing his triumph, Khamûl, the new King of the Nazgûl let him drop to the hard stone of the Morgul Vale. “Choose the maggots you will need for this from the forward ranks – I will not waste my good troops on that filth in the High Pass.”

Lurg raised himself to his feet as the Screecher passed on. He shook himself roughly trying to regain his composure. He had been taken by the outriders of the army just at the Dark Lord’s Stones and when they had brought him before their Master he was sure he was doomed, so he grasped this one last chance eagerly. He looked to the sky and saw that the day was already passing into afternoon – he would have to run his maggots hard if they were to reach the path before nightfall…


Grash

Grash watched in horror as the Nazgûl discovered Raies and then Morgoroth in the army. From where he and Jordo had concealed themselves it was difficult to see clearly all that was happening, but he saw enough to know that Morgoroth had been slain, and that most of the company would soon join him in the melee that broke out amongst the orcs. Such fights were common with orc-kind and Grash knew that it would be a bloody, vicious affair in which anyone not careful and quick would be struck down. He ducked his head behind the rock that he and Jordo had selected as their hiding place, his mind racing. What were they to do? There was no hope that any of the company could possibly escape to the path now – the only reasonable thing to do would be to go on without them. Grash looked at Jordo, not sure how the boy would react to this. He had seen how the youth had taken to the Elves, and how he had been almost incapable of responding to any other member of the party. Leaning forward, he put his hand on Jordo’s shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting fashion. “No hope for others,” he said gently. “All dead now. We go on alone. Come.” He stood up, pulling on the youth’s hand. “Come, come!” he urged, pulling at him.

“No!” Jordo cried, pulling his hand away and leaping upright. “We cannot go on without Raies and Morgoroth! He spun and made to run back down the path. Grash grabbed him about the shoulders, trying to stay him in his madness and scuffle ensued. They fell upon the ground. Jordo was young and strong, but Grash’s natural caginess soon gave him the upper hand. He straddled the form of Jordo, pinning his shoulders with his knees.

“No!” he barked in a hoarse whisper. “We go on. Others are dead, others are gone. No hope, no…” His words caught in his throat as he say two shapes upon the path. He struggled to his feet, his hand reaching for the dagger at his waist, but as he drew the weapon the foremost of the two stepped forward and in the morning light Grash saw the noble features of Darash emerge. He nearly dropped the dagger with surprise as she and Lyshka came forward. They were battered and bloodied, but the blood was not all theirs, and they bore an air of triumph about them. “How?” Grash staggered, “What?” But his amazement was stopped by the more staggering sight of the others on the path immediately behind them. Coming up the path was the Dwarf Brór with Zuromor and Raies behind him. The man and the Elf kept close together, and something about the manner in which Zuromor helped Raies along caught Grash’s attention. But this was soon stricken from his mind by the most amazing sight of all. The last pair coming along the path was Morgoroth, not dead at all but terribly wounded, on the supportive arm of Jeren.

The company yet lacked Dwali and Aldor but there was no longer time to wait for them. The sun was climbing behind the clouds and the pitch of night in Mordor was giving way to a grey dawn. The company was upon the path to freedom, but it was still largely open to the view of any in the Vale. They were tired beyond the strength of mortal beings, but they forced themselves to climb. The path wound its way up the steep shoulder of the mountain, slowly circling around to the south until the oppressive sight of the Dead City disappeared behind it. There was a palpable sense of relief in the group as they moved beyond the view of that place.

They pressed ahead for a few hours until they reached the summit of the path at midday. Without any words being spoken, they halted and fell to the ground.

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Old 09-10-2004, 01:04 PM   #151
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Silmaril Raeis

As the dead city faded out of sight behind them, Raeis turned to walk backwards, shading her eyes against the fierce, merciless sun as she watched the Dead City leaving their sight. The dark, fierce towers stabbed viciously into the sky, unnatural and cruel looking, tormenting all around by the way they twisted the landscape, but the elf forced herself to keep watching, walking backwards, until the very last tip of the very last spire of the very last dark, mutilated tower had dipped out of sight. Dropping her head backwards, Raeis closed her eyes and smiled blissfully: it was gone.

"Gone." She breathed the word reverently as she opened her eyes and turned around to the rest. The motley assortion of escapees didn't even comment or raise an eyebrow as to her strange behaviour: none of them could have been called normal exactly, and the erratic behaviour of other's was nothing to such a strange group. But several of them did turn back to squint against the sun to where the Dead City wasn't; and seeing that it was so, they smiled, very slightly, a sense of relief coming over them, a sense of release that they had not felt since they first got out of the dark, damp holes which had been their cells, their prisons and nightmares, for so long. Of course, they were not yet safe - but to get that unsightly, twisted silhouette out of view...it seemed like an achievement.

Zurumor looked across at Raeis and she smiled back at him thoughtlessly. The man looked surprised and smiled gently back, reaching out towards her and, very gently, touched her shoulder gingerly, tenderly, then withdrew. The elf cocked her head onto one side, looking across at him, then smiled again. She loved the feeling it gave her, the way her muscles moved so naturally into the position, her lips pulling out so that she could feel the creases even up to her eyes. It seemed to make Zurumor happy as well, for her did the same again; but his smile seemed slightly different, seeming to use his eyes more than his actual lips. Raeis was fairly sure she wasn't doing the same with her eyes: was that how she looked, soulful, deep, kind - welcoming? Surely not: if she had managed to inject all those things into her eyes while smiling, she probably would have noticed at some point along the way. Looking around, she surveyed the others in the group, battle stained and torn, limping and scarred - but proud and victorious with it. Such a motley assortment of ragged beings you would not find elsewhere in Middle Earth if you scoured every inch for one hundred years: but a strange group of precious stones have different strengths and different facets, and no matter how shattered one seems, it will always add to the impression, the many sided pile that protects itself at all levels, no matter how odd it seems. Every one counts.

Except one.

Raeis glanced over at Darash where she walked side by side with Lyshka, the two women as thick as thieves. But the noble slavewoman seemed to feel some gaze on her, and turned her smouldering gaze back to Raeis suspiciously, then relaxed. Raeis mouthed a word to her: Aldor?

The woman's eyes narrowed dangerously and she shrugged, somehow conveying great depth in that one gesture. Raeis frowned slightly: if there is a sickly animal, you should keep it in sight, lest there is something infectious that could kill them all. She blinked at the metaphor formed in her mind, vaguely unsure of where it had come from, before drifting away from Zurumor towards Morgoroth, not noticing the brief slide of shock and hurt that flitted across the man's good natured face momentarily, a cloud passing over the sun.

The dark elf was limping terribly, head down and breathing deeply, supported by Jeren, but his pace was steady and his shoulders shook with determination. He flailed suddenly as he stumbled on a stone and Raeis caught him: weaker than she had been she was, but Morgoroth had been prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice of blood for her. Awkwardly slipping her head under his other arm, she supported him with Jeren as best as she could, allowing him to walk more easily and with less effort. Still breathing heavily, the dark elf turned to her, strands of wet, black hair streaking his forehead. Raeis nodded deeply to him from beath her burden and tried out her smile again, this time more moderately, as she placed her free hand on her kinsman's chest, a silent gesture of thanks saying more than words could for what he had been prepared to give simply for the life of a broken elfwoman.

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Old 09-11-2004, 07:22 AM   #152
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Rhând

He cursed loudly, using the foulest words he could pronounce. Seven Orcs against two women: how could the outcome - both the women had escaped from the incident alive and unharmed, - be possible, Rhând asked himself. He cursed again. "Stupid twits! Useless idiots!" He groaned, shaking with rage. In order to escape himself, he had jeopardised everything he longed for. Now, he couldn’t possibly return to the prisoners. If Darash and Lyshka found Grash, they would certainly tell him about the attack, and if they had seen Rhând, they would tell Grash about that too. It was too risky, way too risky.

He was alone now. There was no one, except the Orcs, swarming around. How long could he manage to stay in this costume and avoid revealing himself? Knowing that at some point, the lousy costume would cause suspicion and his true self would be revealed, he hurried out of the crowd, cursing again. For how long could he go on like this? If Rhând was to find an ally amongst the Orcs, how could he be able to convince them anyway? Shaking his head, cursing his misfortune, he realised the facts: he didn’t look like a Haradrim, and would certainly be taken as a Gondorian spy and they would kill him instantly, unless... Yes, of course. He knew where the others were heading. He knew their route. Grinning to himself, he remembered the conversation with Grash, where he had asked specifically about the route. The route will be the key to my freedom, the key to Him. It will grant me my wish, my desire. I will finally again be His faithful servant. He frowned. If he was to carry out this plan, he would havr wait for the right moment to strike, even though it would take some time.

*

The day grew older. Slowly, the minutes and hours passed by. Rhând had wandered around and about, choosing his own path. He knew where the others were heading, but he needed allies. He couldn't do this alone, not now if his cover was blown. The situation he found himself in, reminded him of the cell in the Tower, where he had been held for many months. He'd been alone there too, except when some of the Orcs had paid him a visit now and then. He didn't speak to anyone, and none spoke to him; a strange silence, just like it had been in the Tower. There were only sounds, such as the hissing from the breeze coming in from his window, the Orcs jabbering and the rats squeaking; sounds he didn't really listen to. All in all, he was completely alone.

Wandering slowly, his feet aching, he tried figuring where he was supposed to go. The prisoners were heading for Ithilien. He knew that much. But where was Ithilien? Which direction? Being a person with little sense of locality, he again reminded himself of that he needed allies. He couldn't wait long either; he needed someone now.

"Come on, you lazy and useless apes! Move!"

He turned. A voice, here? Shaking with fear, he threw himself behind a group of stones and made himself as small as possible.

"Move it, I said!"

The ground trembled. Heavy feet were about. Rhând didn't move. He didn't dare. Who was heading this way, his way, whichever way it was? The sound of the armours, made Rhând drop dead. Orcs probably, he thought. I have to get moving myself, he thought, knowing that Orcs in general had a very good sense of smell. Crawling, hearing that whoever it was approached quickly, he became aware of his own Orcish armour and how much sound it made. Scared stiff now, he listened to the Orcs stop.

"Did you hear that?!" The voice reflected a brutality that scared the poor Haradrim so much that he actually wished he was back in his cell. At least, he had been somewhat safe there. He always knew what would happen to him at all times. If there were footsteps approaching his cell, he knew someone would come in, he would be beaten. Now, on the other hand, there were footsteps too, but he didn't know exactly who it was, and what would happen to him if he was caught.

"That ain't no rate or mouse, Lurg! That's something far bigger. Fresh flesh. Human maybe?"

"I second that! Maybe, it's them; those petty prisoners. I'll give 'em in. I've my blade ready! Find 'em now!"

Hearing this, Rhând panicked. He began to crawl in the sandy ground as fast as he could, wanting to escape this horrible Lurg. He breathed heavily, crawling. He was shaking, breathing and sweating at the same time. The Haradrim just wanted to get away and crawled on, but something stopped him however.

"Where do ya think you're going." Rhând stared into a pair of eyes, reflecting pure evil. "Can't find yer way? Lost, maybe?"

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Old 09-12-2004, 02:51 PM   #153
Aylwen Dreamsong
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Jeren gave his strength to helping the Elf, who remained silent within his own wounds and thoughts as they followed the path. Morgoroth was too tall for Jeren to aid with ease or comfort, but somehow and in some unspeakable way the Southron put aside his own comforts and his own pains for someone who felt deeper pain. Jeren's own scratches and cuts and wounds seemed to stop throbbing or seemed to become dull poundings against his skin when he thought of the Elf's spilled blood and weary body. He had never thought much for the majesty of the Elven kind, until he came to know two of them up close. They seemed somehow more human than Jeren had once thought...

No!

It is folly to think that this changes things... Jeren thought bitterly, shifting his weight as he struggled to hold up Morgoroth. The dark Elf did indeed try his best to hold as much of his own weight as he could, but Jeren also did his best to ensure that Morgoroth did not fall. The other Elf, Raeis, ducked under Morgoroth's other arm to help, and Jeren thanked her with a slight nod that she may or may not have noticed. This changes nothing...it does not change the things I have done.

The Southron remembered how he had gotten himself imprisoned to begin with. A failed mission to attack one of the Elven lands had cost him his freedom. He had once planned to fight and kill the beings he now helped and called companions. Fighting blindly the people that his superiors told him to fight, leading soldiers into battle and to their deaths for a cause he never really believed in. A cause he never really even knew much about. It would be far too sentimental for Jeren to say that now he realized the beauty of the Elves, or their history or their ways...because the only thing he realized during his journey was that Elves were not so different from himself in their will to survive and their desire for freedom.

"Raeis?" Jeren murmured, not wanting to be lost once more within his own thoughts. The Southron had rarely, if ever, spoken to the female Elf, but he yearned to hear the voice of another instead of the voice that reigned within his own head.

"Yes?"

"Where will you go? When this is all over, I mean..."
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Old 09-13-2004, 04:53 AM   #154
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The prisoner was brought to Lurg, who stood over the man as the Nazgûl had stood over him. The orc tried to mimic the menace and terror of the Wraith, but it was useless, for he was not filled with the will of his lord – he was only a maggot-servant obeying the commands of his dread master. Still, in this situation life was his to give or deny…

“Well, well, well…” he drawled. “What have we here, then? A rat? It looks like we’ve caught a rat, boys! And from the looks of ‘im, he’s a rat that’s escaped from the cellars of Cirith Ungol. Why, I remember this rat – used to play with him myself, from time to time. Always carrying on he was, claiming to ‘love the Dark Lord’” he adopted a high falsetto voice and minced about in mockery of Rhând, “‘Don’t hurt me, please please. I want to serve the Lord. I was betrayed by nasty Gondorians. I am a good servant of the Master.’” A rough chorus of orc laughter spread over the prisoner like a carpet of whips.

Laughing himself, Lurg drew his ragged knife from his belt. Taking the prisoner by the hair, he pulled back his head and made to slice his throat.

“No, wait!” the man cried out. “I am a loyal servant of the Dark Lord! Do not slay me!” His words, so close in tone and manner to the mocking of Lurg, brought the ors to their knees with hilarity. Many of them took up the cry themselves, “I am a loyal servant! I am a loyal servant!” until the rocks rang with their screams.

“Enough of this!” Lurg bellowed, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “We’ve not the time. If we’re going to capture the rest of these maggots, we need to be on that blasted Path by nightfall.” He advanced on Rhând once more.

When the man spoke this time, it was with greater caution and thought. Lurg, a quick witted and wicked creature, could see the plans evolving in the slave’s mind. “If you want to capture the other prisoners,” Rhând started, desperately, “I can help you.”

Lurg paused. Cocking his head to one side he growled, “How?”

“I know where they are going,” the man said, gaining confidence, “and I have won their trust, they think I am one of them. If you take me with you, I can lead you to them and help you take them all. All I ask is that you spare me now, and let our masters know of my loyalty later.”

Lurg turned this over in his mind for few moments. If the slave were telling the truth, then the orc knew that he and his companions should torture the information out of the slave, but that might take time and the sun as fast setting. Soon it would be full dark, and even for their eyes the way would be hard to find, and travelling slow… “All right,” he said to the man (to the general dismay of the orcs), “we’ll take you with us. But if you lead us wrong, or if you’re lying…”

“I’m not lying,” the man said, relief overspreading his hideous features. “You won’t regret this. Come on!” And like a spurned puppy, eager to receive its new master’s praise, Rhând sprang ahead, beckoning the orc party after him.
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Old 09-13-2004, 01:37 PM   #155
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Rhând

He was dragged forth by horror. The horror the orcs represented, and partly the horror from this unknown territory; this strange land. He marched in the front, having the orcs behind him.

Except from the sound of their feet treading the hard ground, it was dead silent. It was this odd sort of silence that made the Haradrim nervous. Was there no other living thing in this land? Was there no one except them, who were breathing this very air? He slowed down, feeling his legs aching. He was not used at walking for ages at a time. After being locked up for several months, this type of gymnastics was terribly heavy on him.

"Rat! Slow down once more, and you'll be meat tonigh'!" It was Lurg speaking. The gigantic figure trotted up to Rhând's side and gave him an evil look. The Orc drew his blade, holding it in his right hand, pointing threateningly at Rhând. He realised his mistake, but why should he be bossed around? He was a Haradrim! He was a faithful servant! If ever this came out when he turned home, that he had been under command of some stupid Orcs, he would never be respected again! Orcs were stupid! Rhând was not.

"I will be no one's meat!" he said sternly, his first vision of Lurg coming to mind; Lurg had been running out of the courtyard like a desperate ape, afraid that the scary prisoners would kill him. He grinned to himself, looking at Lurg who gave him yet another of his evil looks.

With a deep breathe, scared that all of this could lead to a wrong end, he spoke again: "You listen to me! I know where these prisoners are. You don't! Neither of you do! Tell me, what happens to you if you come back with no prisoners? Do you think your master will reward you with a grand prize?" He looked at them, noticing them paying attention. "You know what I think? If you don't find these prisoners, and come back with nothing . . . all of you will be fed to the dogs... or the other orcs.. All this will happen before either of you can even say the word meat!!. Now, imagine that!"

There was a loud gasp. This speech seemed to have put a fright into some of them. Rhând gazed about, not yet satisfied however. He would have to make it perfectly clear. He was their master; without him they would be lost.

Without a warning, Lurg grabbed a hold of Rhând. "He's fooling you! I say, let's kill him now! We don't need him!" A loud chorus of rough voices surprised the Haradrim, who had almost been certain that all of this was going his way. Rhând looked alarmingly around. If he didn't say something now to save himself, Lurg's blade would be the last thing he would ever see.

"Shut up, Lurg!” he said, without thinking. He cursed in his native tongue. “I have seen you before. Only, last time you weren't that tough. You ran out of the courtyard surrounding the Tower, like a frightened child. You couldn't catch any of us that time. What makes you think you can catch any of the prisoners now? You caught me, because I wanted to. I'm a Haradrim, I'm a servant. The others, who are most definitely not servants of Him, will be impossible to catch ... unless, you keep me alive. They are smart. But we are too. Let's catch these dirty beings. You'll get your reward," Rhând said, looking at each and every, "and I'll get mine."

The orc released his grip around Rhând's neck. Lurg frowned. He is probably angry about me telling the others he ran away, Rhând thought. Even though it hadn't gained popularity with Lurg, it had to some extent with the others. Finally, a pathetic side of their always so dangerous superior orc, Lurg, had been revealed to them. I guess they feel relieved, just as I do.

Looking around once more, he realised that there was no way out of this; he would have to lead the way. He was surrounded by these stupid creatures, which were aware of his existence. If he didn't keep his promise and tried tricking them, they would certainly kill him, and without hesitation. Yes, he would have to accept this; the orcs were the allies he had longed for. They would help him to success; to Him.

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Old 09-13-2004, 02:29 PM   #156
Amanaduial the archer
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Silmaril An Unexpected Understanding

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Raeis glanced up, slightly surprised by the question, but was not able to look far enough up to catch the man’s eyes, her neck bent as it was beneath Morgoroth’s weight. She shrugged without thinking.

“Where will I go…” she repeated the question, slowly, then trailed away. Where? She had always assumed that she would simply go home; indeed, she and Voice had discussed it often, the latter conjuring up from their mind images of a faraway land to keep the elf hopeful. Raeis remembered them, in part: slashes of light which ripped across the darkness of that cell ruthlessly, wielding weapons of peace, warmth…

...dappled sunlight across the forest floor through the canopy of leaves overhead; an elf, crouched in the trees, her golden blue and beautiful, unscarred, unburnt…unmarred face turned outwards across the boughs to the far-off lands to the South where she longed to roam…nearby another sat, leaning precariously across with the ease of one used to agility and balance through these heady perches….a flash of intense light grey eyes, golden hair… Smiling up at her, she turning to him… “Just think, Rae,” he whispered excitedly. “One day…one day we shall travel over those plains, we shall cross the great Anduin, see Ithilien, Gondor, Harad: and you and I shall dance beneath the golden, blessèd branches of Lorien…”

Raeis stumbled on a stone and her good eye flew open – and she was astonished to feel it moist despite the heat around them, a burning, dusty heat so different from the humid calm of that summer forest, conjured from her own memories… She had not revelled in them for a long time, so many timeless days in her cells having passed since she had long since given up hope and the Voice had ceased it’s comforting murmurs of hope and freedom. Jeren took the strain from her as she regained her balance dazedly, still awakening from the vivid dream, and she nodded to him gratefully as she resumed her position: without his help she would have fallen under Morgoroth’s weight.

A kind act…but he cannot keep us company as the Voice did…it could help, could keep us alive in the dark prison-hours… Raeis blinked sharply and looked away physically, as if she could look away from the thoughts. She had lost the voice, had found companions in return, but she worried about the strange truth about her friend and tormentor in the dark: she missed it.

Raeis spoke abruptly, wanting to hear another voice in place of the emptiness of her thoughts, unaware of how alike this reasoning was to Jeren’s. “I…I will return home, I suppose. Mirkwood was…”

Home? You ran from the place that you called home, remember? Ran from your parents, your life, your name… home was not a place to you in that blissful space before your imprisonment, after you left Mirkwood: it was a person. One person. Caromanieth. The one person you can never return to.

The Southrons killed him.


Raeis shot a fierce look across at Jeren and was surprised when he returned it calmly, his eyes utterly emotionless. From inside her mind, Aman saw and understood wordlessly more from that exchange of looks than she maybe could have seen in conversation with this man in his whole lifetime: underneath his cool dark exterior, some bad memory brewed fitfully – some anger to do with the elves, to do with her, as her anger was to do with him. Raeis held his gaze then looked away, at the same time that he did, but a second later couldn’t resist peeking back at him through her shattered eye. The hurt at loss of the Voice seemed to dull a little: it had been wrong about these Men, both Grash, the one who had let her free, Zurumor, who had saved her life…and Jeren, whose thoughts seemed to mirror hers. The tips of Raeis’s ears twitched slightly as she thought she heard something with her keen senses from the way they had come but, lost as she was in thought as she was, and because the others hadn’t shown any sign of hearing it, she ignored it. Shifting Morgoroth’s weight heavily across her shoulders and pulling them both into a more upright position, she plucked up her courage and glanced openly across at the brooding Southron to return his question. “Jeren, home was never exactly a place to me, not once I left: home was encompassed in…in one elf. I left Mirkwood with him, and when I did...I changed, my home changed, my world changed - and then it was brought crashing down around me.” She paused, not looking at Jeren, then continued. “What about you, Jeren: where will you go, now you are free?”

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Bethberry's post for Darash

Darash sat confused and frustrated. After the near-deadly encounter with the bestial orcs--no better than charging, stupid rinombos-rhinoceros--iit had been with a relief amounting to joy that she had first seen Lyshka safe and then spied Grash. The two women had sprung on rejuvenated feet towards him, eagerness lightening their tired faces, ready to tell what they had seen.

Now Darash sat trying to make sense of it. She had run to him and taken his arm, pulling it almost, pointing back to the melee. She had gesticulated wildly almost, running on in her native tongue, describing the struggle and their near-escape, only to be put back under greater assault by Aldor's treachery with the orcs.

"Ahdor. Ahdor. Machumba nuwalla, esumba relege isbatu. Ngeme ebulu," she had told him excitedly. "Dtcekma." It meant carrion bird of prey, vulture, feasting off the dead, without honour of the kill. But Grash had looked at her with strangely glowing eyes. She had taken his arm again, drawing him towards the small bend in the path, so he could look back and perhaps see the traitor in the orcs' midst.

Grash had smiled at her as if humouring her. It was maddening! Darash had never before experienced such failure to be taken seriously. She had turned to Lyshka, pleadingly, her frustration clearly visible in the tight knot of her muscles around her shoulders. Lyshka had nodded yes, but shrugged, as if to say she wasn't sure. Darash had turned back to Grash, the fire of being thwarted and misunderstood shining in her eyes. The man had almost chuckled. He had not looked at her eyes; his own gaze had not met hers and staid there, but wandered off elsewhere. With a snort at this hare who did not recognise the vulture, she had stormed off, exasperated with him who seemed not to listen.

And so she had sat in semi-isolation, her eyes wandering from time to time around the group of her companions who were licking their wounds like animals who had escaped the trap. Lyshka had come over to her, hunched over as if to say "Maybe. I don't know. I couldn't see for sure. It was a blur like the whipping rain." Then Raeis had mouthed the name. The elf understood! The women knew. Why were the men so obtuse? Darash sat there, trying to rest, her eyes closed in the soft afternoon light, aware that Grash was watching her from time to time, but utterly without comprehension.

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Old 09-13-2004, 03:41 PM   #157
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The climb through the mountain pass had taken its toll on the Elf. His near execution at the pale blade of the Nazgul, had sapped him of most of the strength he needed. Yet, there was hope, and he clung to it as a child grasps for its mother. The freedom he craved, after seventeen years of desolate captivity, was drawing nigh. As his tense, ridged muscle were forced into near spasmodic contractions just to crawl and hobble their way over the rocks of the High Pass, he thought only one simple phrase, “Just beyond this mountain...” He had muttered this almost incessantly as he climbed. Being only able to use one arm, for the other was still paralyzed by the evil stroke the Nazgul had delivered, which now hindered his mobility, he struggled in his motions, often stumbling, or nearly falling from the Pass. Yet, he continued on...

The ever watchful eyes of the Elf could see more than any of the others around him, and he often gazed into the sky, looking for a sun that had long since been buried by the bleak darkness of the Mordorian sky above. But his wound still harried him, pursuing him as he climbed higher and higher, draining his will to trudge forward, beyond the craggy, jagged facade of the Ephel Duath. When he was not busying himself with keeping his legs on the path, he would drift into a near trance, thinking of the past. His mind was still uneasy from the wound he was suffering the burden of. He had been led out of that dreadful fray, helped along by the Southron, Jeren. He winced at this thought. He had shown weakness, though it was well earned, and it was his right to be weak, but it did not sit well with him. Yet, he hid these thoughts, burying them in the deep abyss of his mind. A new sensation had interrupted this reminiscing, a slight pain. But this was no ordinary pain, not like that of the wound he bore. It was new, and it echoed from within him. At first he tried to cast the thought aside, as a child does to an old and forgotten toy. But it kept returning, and it swarmed about in his veins, giving him a very sickly feeling. Ancient lore was his answer. He was poisoned, by the very foe that had nearly killed him. He had come so very far, hoping to find freedom. But now, he would die of a black poison. As his mind gurgled at this dread thought, he tripped upon a stone, and fell forward. Something deep within his mind stirred then, muttering to him, forcing its voice out from his lips. "The wound is too great. Death will come soon.” The Elf managed to catch himself before anyone heard his foreboding words. Sympathy was not something he desired, and he would not allow others to feel anything for his plight, for that would make him feel all the more weak.

Instead of dwelling upon his new, dreadful thoughts, he decided it best to occupy his time with more pleasant memories. Yet time was his enemy, and the cobwebs that held back many of his earliest, more playful memories, were not easily shaken loose. So, he turned his attention to his most recent, and began to twist the words that came to him to his own devices. Something that the man Jeren had said intrigued him, “Where will you go?”. He drifted, yet was able to maintain control over his body’s jerking motions, just enough to keep him on the path. He began to wonder what he might do, now that his freedom was drawing so close. "To Mirkwood perhaps, to see my mother. Or maybe I shall travel into the West, and explore the lands beyond the haven of Imladris.” He slowed his thought to a trickle, and allowed his inborn pessimism to set in. "The West...Yes, I shall go West, to the Halls of Mandos, for I will not survive this journey into Ithilien.”

The Sun had now risen to its unseen pinnacle, and the company had stumbled upon a clearing in the midst of the vacant, ghostly mountains. Here they would rest until the time was nigh to leave, and head out for the final leg of the journey. Many of the old habits were still alive within the motley group. Initially they settled into mingling amongst their own kind, resting, and chatting a bit, even sharing stories of their pasts, for those who had one to tell of. Even the Elf, who had inadvertently shattered the racial barriers between himself and the dwarves, was not eager to sit alongside his comrades. Instead, he sought out a more secluded region of the clearing, and there he laid down in the grass, to refresh his weary mind, and broken body as much as he could.

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Aylwen's Post

“What about you, Jeren: where will you go, now you are free?”

Jeren thought on this, and at first nothing came to him. It was a question that he did not know the answer to. How many times had this happened to him? Too many for his liking, especially since he had been made prisoner by the power that he had once served. Too many questions had been left unanswered.

Where will I go?

The Southron had never actually thought about where he would go, for he never knew any home other than the one as captain of an army. He was always the leader, and he never needed a home as long as there were loyal soldiers behind him… following and listening to him. He hardly recalled the land his family once roamed, or if family would be there and remember him at all. It had been far too long for him to return to that home. There was nowhere for him to go.

“It hardly matters if I am free, for I have no where to return to. There is no where for me to bask in new-earned freedom,” Jeren finally replied to the question posed by Raeis. His voice remained steady and level, as Jeren refused to show his uncertainty and sorrow at his own words. “The things I have done make me undeserving of such freedom. I have no place to return to and that is how it must be,” The Southron added as an afterthought, the volume of his voice lowered so it came out just above a whisper.

Surely that is how it will be in the end…

“Yes. We rest. But only for two, three hours.” Jeren looked up as Grash began to speak in his usual choppy manner. “Then we must go – the path goes down soon, down to green land. Green land with trees and cool breezes, and waters. Freedom. Freedom at the end of the path.”

Turning back to Raeis, Jeren sighed, letting out all his self-pity in the exhale. What about everyone else? Raeis had hardly answered his question in a manner that satisfied his curiosity. Something about the group, though, and the way they came together in a most unusual way made Jeren hopeful for all of them. “I have certainly learned the value of comfort, on this journey. Not just being comfortable, or not being comfortable…but being able to live and go on and appreciate it anyway. I do not know you very well at all, Raeis, but somehow I know that you will be able to make home encompass one more elf…you will learn to make home within your own heart and strength, and not let it depend on someone else…”

Jeren paused, looking around at the rest of the group for a moment.

“Hopefully we will all be able to do the same. Maybe we will all find home.”

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Old 09-13-2004, 09:07 PM   #158
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Crawling... crawling...

Dwali awoke like he would have on any other day. The dwarf rolled over on the hard ground, stretched, yawned and rubbed his eyes idly. Perhaps it was a burst from Mount Doom that brought him back to reality, or maybe rows of torches shining before him in the darkness. The army. The company! The mountain passage! Pulling himself out of the ditch, he scrambled on as best he could. His eyes were slowly adjusting to the dark, and Dwali realized that he must have slept for only a few hours. It was probably close to midnight, and the company might have already made off without him. But wait - they were all dead, so what did it matter? He could stay and rest... and then pangs of hunger pushed him forward, hoping dearly that a friendly face would be waiting at the passage.

The dwarf reckoned that he had travelled over a mile earlier in the day, which left about the same distance before him. He mentally beraided for being so slow to get off the path, but he knew it was foolishness. At least he was alive, more than could be said for some of the company. Memories of Dorim brought a wave of anger over him again. Why does everyone die? My family! My friends! Why not others...

Suddenly, a heavy boot landed on Dwali's back, slamming his face into the dusty ground. An orc had slipped off the edge. Trying to stay calm, the dwarf waiting, hoping that he would pull himself back up. Then deciding that in the darkness no one would notice, he heaved himself backwards. The orc toppled down on top of him. The dwarf's hand siezed his mouth, and the other dispatched the brute with a swift thrust of his dagger.

He waited a few moments, and left the body and crawled on. He knew that by dawn, the corpse would be discovered; but it would probably be attributed to an argument amongst the ranks of the enemy. Hoping that this would be the case, Dwali continued pulling himself along, heading for the mountain passage.

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Old 09-14-2004, 12:11 PM   #159
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Boots Rhând

The day grew old as they walked along an unknown path, which hopefully would lead them to the prisoners. When the company at last took a break, after hours with walking, Rhând feel exhausted to the ground. He breathed heavily, ignoring the orcs' wild laughter. He was hungry and thirsty, but did not dare ask for anything. Looking up at the sky, which had already been coloured black by the sun's lack of appearance. A dim moon could be spotted now, but only just, as grey-looking clouds covered it. Rhând wondered if one could ever see the sun in all its splendour in this land, or if it was always hidden behind the heavy grey clouds.

Two of the orcs were sent ahead to see if they were getting close, meanwhile the others rested. The Haradrim sat up, heaving after his breath. He was dead tired, but tried to push it aside, thinking of the reward awaiting him when he would return to his Master.

Rhând's gaze fell on Lurg. The orc looked at him with hungry eyes, and the Haradrim turned away in fear. He'd always heard that these orcs were simple-minded, and ate whatever they could get hold of. The Haradrim knew that his chances of escaping all of this alive were slim. Even though the orcs left him alone now, he had not the faintest idea what they would do after they had found the prisoners. The thought of being eaten by these monsters, made him shiver with fright. They were his allies now, but he doubted they would be in the end. Shrugging, the Haradrim rose slowly. He felt weak and petty where he stood, feeling the stiffness in his body growing.

Not long had passed before he two orcs came trudging towards the company, waving their hands. Grinning wildly, Rhând heard them say to Lurg:

"They are here . .

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Old 09-15-2004, 07:49 AM   #160
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When Dwali finally reached the mountain passage, words could not describe his attitude - it was less pessimistic than suicidal. The orc army was gone at last, but so were his companions. There was nothing for him now. It was over. The dwarf sat down on the dusty earth, trying to ponder how he had been the last to survive. He, who had seemed the weakest, the smallest, the lest likely to make it out of Mordor. It was that sense of accomplishment that pulled him to his feet and walked steadily up the path. I made it! And may yet escape from this land of darkness...

Upon cresting the hill, however, a different sight met his eyes. The company, sitting in a tight circle, resting and chatting. Not all of them, though, the dwarf was sure of it. Some must have died in the battle. And then, at the height of his addreniline, it all gave way to utter exhaustion. Dwali collapsed, his throat as parched as the rocky grouond beneath him. A cry so weak it was but a murmur barely left his flaking lips: "Help..."


Grash

When night was fully upon the company they roused themselves from their rest and made ready to go on. Morgoroth was still weak, but with the help of Raies and Jeren he was able to walk. The prisoners took a quick meal with what meagre provisions they had left. They ate the last scraps of the bread and dried meat that they had managed to bring with them through the horrors of Shelob’s Lair and the Morgul Vale. It was hideous orc food, but after the trials they had endured in the last five days it was welcome. More troubling was the lack of water, for only one skin had managed to come with them through their encounter with the orc army. They shared it around and if any there thought how strange it was that they were all drinking from the same vessel, none said it.

Grash sat upon the stones of the mountains and mulled over their position. They were still a long march from the green land, but if they pressed hard all night then by dawn their feet would be upon grass, and their tired limbs could take comfort in the cool shade of trees. After that… Grash’s imagination failed him. Where could he go and what could he do in the world outside the land of darkness that had been his home his whole life? He supposed that he could find a small piece of fertile land somewhere to call his own, where he could raise crops and perhaps a few animals and live free of the whip and the terror. But would not such an existence be lonely? Maybe there would be others who would be willing to come with him… His eyes drifted to where Darash sat, proud, noble and – for the first time he noticed it – beautiful. His hand wandered to the dagger that she had exchanged with him and he stroked it thoughtfully. Perhaps there would be some way for him to convince her to come with him.

A noise from the path behind them brought Grash to his feet, along with the rest of the company. They stood, not speaking, tense and nervous in the gathering night, as a form lurched along the path toward them. It was Brór who cried out, “Dwali!” and rushed forward to catch his kinsman as he fell. They all gathered around the exhausted Dwarf seeking to revive him. He was hungry and thirsty, so they gave him the last of their food and water and watched unstintingly as he swallowed it down. When he had finished he closed his eyes and fell back on the stone unconscious.

Grash’s face became a frown as he looked upon the Dwarf. He was, strangely, happy to see the fellow back with the group, but he was obviously in no condition to travel quite yet. Morgoroth, too, while standing, appeared too weak to go far without more rest. It was Darash who spoke what was in Grash’s mind. “No travel now. Must rest. Little man and spirit man hurt and tired.” Her tone was final and commanding, and if any there thought that she were wrong, none said so. Sighing at the inevitable, Grash settled upon the ground. As eager as he was to press ahead to freedom, he could not bring himself to leave his injured…comrades…the word was an odd one, but it was the only word that was right. “Yes. We rest. But only for two, three hours. Then we must go – the path goes down soon, down to green land. Green land with trees and cool breezes, and waters. Freedom,” his voice drifted into the night, as though it were speaking only to itself. “Freedom at the end of the path.”

Zuromor

Two hours later Zuromor awoke from a troubling dream and sat up. He managed to stifle the cry that sprang to his lips but he was shaken still. Pulling himself upright he walked about their makeshift camp, carefully moving amongst the sleeping forms of his companions. A slow movement in the dark stayed him in his wanderings and he melted into the shadows about the rocks. A stealthy form was working its way toward the prisoners, and in its hand there was a vessel of some kind with a burning smoke pouring from it. Zuruomor recognized that smell: suverah! The same substance that Darash had used to subdue the spider creatures.

The figure came close to the company and Zuromor saw Aldor’s features emerge from the night. The man gently stooped and placed the vessel on the ground near to the company and turned to go. With a cry that rang amongst the stones Zuromor sprang forward, drawing his blade. With one swift motion of his foot he sent the burning vessel skittering away amongst the stones, and he whirled upon Aldor.

Many things happened at once then. The prisoners sprang to their feet, drawing their weapons and fumbling about in the dark. Aldor cried out and there were answering screams from the path beyond him – screams that filled the night with bestial fury. Zuromor swung his blade at Aldor, but the man was quick to parry the blow. Zuromor prepared to strike again, but his hand faltered at the sight of the pathway filling with orcs, all of them ravening toward the prisoners with their eyes and tongues rolling viciously at the thought of some easy sport.

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