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Old 09-18-2004, 07:39 AM   #161
Bêthberry
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"Whatimbo unsala. Kill the viper," spoke Darash in a voice firm with fury but calm with resolution. Zuromor was ahead of them all and swung his sword but the treacherous Aldor was as nimble in body as in morals. Yet her spirit sank as she saw what came up the path behind him. More of them! More, more, ever more. There was no end to evil in this northern land. And she was tired, tired beyond any knowing of this struggle. And this time there could be no resorting to disguise.

Quickly, Darash looked around at their weapons. She had given Lyshka the small knife the salivating orc had passed on to her as she feigned bloodlust during the last fight. Neither woman had a sword. Darash looked around for branch, sturdy bush or thorn with which to fashion some kind of defense. There were none. She shook her head in dismay, feeling discouragement rise in her throat like sour bile. At her side, she felt for her small dagger, the one Grash had exchanged when she had given him hers in ritual token of her allegiance. It gave her courage. If all else failed, it was sharp enough. She would use it upon herself and deny the orcs their filthy desire.

But Grash held back her hand, as if sensing her thoughts. He pointed around the narrow path, at the small stones and rocks and larger boulders they had kicked around to make a resting place. She understood at once. Calling to Lyshka, she ran with him to one of the larger boulders positioned to the side of the path. Pushing, shoving, grunting and rocking it, they succeeded in loosening it from its rooted spot in the earth. The path was narrow but well worn. The boulder, once pushed on its way, moved slowly at first but then tumbled with the speed of flooding water. Grash ran to another large boulder, Lyshka and Darash to two others. Three more followed the first to crash into the orc horde.

Yet her strength was limited; where her arms had been broken, she could feel the bones protest at being forced to push so hard against the rocks. She could not risk breaking them again. She moved back, signalling to her two comrades that she was moving to a second strategy. Let others with healthier arms keep at the boulders.

Instead, she sought out the smaller stones and rocks and quickly collected them into a pile, calling on the weaker ones to gather them, those still ill and wounded from the last assault. They could not fight but they could help gather their last, natural weapons. Then she moved off, filling her pouch, now emptied of food, with stones. She had a good eye and, calming herself, began to choose her targets. The orcs' skulls were thick, but the ground was covered with stones.
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Old 09-18-2004, 07:51 AM   #162
Kransha
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The Last Battle

Chaos filled the air around him. The Dwarf in the midst of it all was, as most others were, confused and half in a daze. From a mostly fitful sleep, the whole ‘camp’ had been forcefully aroused from slumber to see orcish faces and rusty blades bearing down on them. Zuromor, energetic and first awoken, alerted the company, and all sprang into action, to some degree. Some were grievously hurt, and required more defense when in combat, so the company was caught at a full disadvantage. And, to the chagrin of some, it became apparent that traitorous Aldor was somewhere within the clump of orcs that had spread and scattered over the rocky plane, assaulting the disillusioned troop of escaped prisoners. Brór, his head and wild beard twisting to and fro to look to every side, removed from each hip a looted weapon and brandished each at the shadows before him, looking for an opening to attack as battle sprung up all around. He looked to his companions, for steadying and reassurance. As he looked across the field at the bounding orcs, he saw Zuromor first.

As he looked at Zuromor, trying in vain to delve into orcish ranks, he was comforted by the fire in his eyes. The memory of the conversation he had had with him earlier filled his mind for but a moment, passing over his thoughts and focus just before he struck the unkempt uruk vanguard. It had been earlier, before all companions drifted off into their soon-to-be-interrupted sleep, when Brór had last spoken with the youthful man. The conversation, for one reason or another, sat upon a seeming podium inside Brór, flowing back to him in the form of a speechmaker's oratory recorded.

Everything felt cold…very cold.

Through the veins of Brór Stormhand ran icy fluid in place of warm blood. Despite the sweltering heat radiating in the air, chills reverberated up and down the dwarf’s spine. As his glassed-over eyes darted back and forth, circumspect, he noted that others seemed colder as well. Something about the whole experience had left an unsavory numbness in the company, like a dark cloud that had settled just overhead, focused on the escaped prisoners, which refused to budge from above their down turned heads. Thankfully, there seemed some consolation in that they had all survived a seemingly suicidal situation. Brór himself, though, had only managed to realize that Dwali was now lost, and his alertness and moderate charisma was further dimmed. Only when he looked up to the man beside him did he feel a sliver of light on his face.

At his right, standing and wringing his hands concernedly, was Zuromor. Although his anxious nature was for good cause, it diverted Brór’s mind from lingering on dark thoughts. The lad’s eyes were affixed, without movement, on Raeis as she spoke with Jeren, not far off. Brór, his mouth trying to manipulate itself into a smile, or at least a self-serving grin, lifted himself up from his melancholy seat and meandered towards Zuromor, drumming upon the youth’s lowered arm, the dwarf spoke coyly. Even if he could not escape his ever-present ill humor, he could still think on the diversions of others. As he had resolved after observing and speaking with Zuromor, his diversion was Raeis.

“How is she holding up, Elf-friend?” Brore murmured with wry smirk.

“She seems well. She’s still got fire in her, that’s certain.” He looked on smiling, and a narrow grin unmarred half of the miserable dwarf’s cold face. “What of the Nazgûl’s Black Breath?” He said then, an air of concern returned to him at a weak but moving pace, “Has the mark of the Wraith not affected her?” Zuromor turned back, seemingly snapped from a swaying trance, and looked to Bror, weighing the options of response. “It is hard to tell.” He said after some time, nodding to himself as he settled upon this reply, “Her countenance has lessened of late, but otherwise, she is no different. Now that we are on the road to greener lands, she will heal in time, as will Morgoroth. All of us will be healed when the scraggly mountains are behind us, as small as lumps of dirt and mounds of putrid earth. Think upon that, at least, and we’ll be healed in due time.

“The road to greener land, eh?” Brór queried, obvious, but politely reserved skepticism written all over his aged face, “What of the mountains, the orcs, and the Nazgûl? Are they going to spread apart like water and let us pass?”

“Why must we think of parting waters when we can pass over them? We may have suffered great losses, but we have come to the last stretch of night before the day!”

“Don’t you see, lad?” he said, his strong voice cracked miserably as he spoke with less than his usual bellicosity or irritation, “We’re more doomed now than ever we were before.” He looked down upon the blood-stained ax in his hand, blackish orc blood now dried onto the jagged fringe of its blade. Slowly, he slid a gloved finger along the flat of the ax, tracing the digit over crude orcish designs and pictographs etched into the rusted metal. “Dwali is lost to us,” he said then, “the fiend Aldor has betrayed us, Morgoroth has been gravely injured by the Wraith, many of us now bear injury and wound that will hinder us further, and the Nazgûl himself has seen us. One does not see a Nazgûl face to face and live to tell the tale. It shall send after us more armies, more orcs, and we have no might left to resist them.” He shook his head sadly and pushed the staff of his ax back through the leather belt drawn loosely around his waist. Quietly thinking, he laid his metal-plated elbows on his knees and clasped his hands in together. His eye looked to Zuromor, though, as the man beside him spoke.

“The Nazgûl does not know enough to seek us out before the sun has set.” He said, unsmiling, but apparently hopeful, “If our pace quickens, we can outrun those he sends after us.” Brór looked at him incredulously, an almost contemptuous look on his face, but that dank expression turned to a sudden gust of caustic laughter, which caused Zuromor to flinch, unsure of Bror’s motives for the sudden outburst. “Outrun them, you say?” cried Bror, through tearful guffaws, “Your optimism may be refreshing, Zuromor, but it is deluded. We cannot outrun orcs with the whip of the Nazgûl at their backs. They will not rest nor eat nor sleep until they have found us all and torn the flesh from our bones.” He said all of this with a smile on his face, a smile very disconcerting to those who looked upon it, because it was not a smile of happiness or of sadness. It was a ghastly false grin that only reflected the imminent doom and acceptance thereof. At last, the surfeit of laughter halted, and, shaking his head again as the grin withered and died on his face, Bror let his head fall again.

“You were wrong before, dwarf.” chided Zuromor, ever the optimist despite Brór’s adverse comments. The one thing he was not, though, was terse, as he continued preaching with some small scraping of zeal to the dwarf beside him, who could not help but revel in the ironic comedy of it all. “We have escaped Cirith Ungol,” said Zuromor next, waving a hand dramatically, “escaped the wrath of Shelob, escaped the armies of Gorgoroth, and even escaped the Dark Wraith himself. We can escape this accursed land, even with the beasts of Mordor and the Mountain of Fire’s flames at our backs. Have you given up even now, now that we are so close to freedom light? Are you so far gone?” Brór winced openly. He’d heard those same words a day ago when he passed the Dark Lord’s Stones and Sauron’s monstrous voice had overlooked him as a needless pawn. He had asked himself that question, heard it echoing in his mind over and over. Now, coming from young Zuromor, it sounded strange. The voice from the day prior had been his own, cold and subjugated to the glacial winter that Sauron’s breath had lulled him into. Today, the voice was young and warm, ablaze with a fire cool and refreshing, a much desired substitute for the dogged flames of Orodruin. At last, the youth concluded, leaving unhappy silence in the wake of verbosity.

Brór did not respond at first, stroking his grayed beard in deep thought and contemplation. Zuromor looked down warmly, but his glinting eyes dimmed as Brór spoke, melancholy and dank. “Both my kindred are lost now.” He said, sighing deeply, “I am the last of my kind in this terrible place. If my words hold true, I will never see another Dwarven face living. I…I am alone now.” Zuromor’s hand, hesitantly, went out to him, and was laid upon the spiked pauldron bound to his bruised shoulder.

“Not alone, Brór Stormhand, among friends.”

“No…alone. Even if I see my kin again in my life, I shall still be alone. Mordor leaves that mark upon you. For two decades, I was alone, and until the day I am dust in the earth…next to Dorim, and now Dwali, I shall. You, my friend, are not. You all are not doomed to my fate, so revel in your freedom. You have the light that I have lost in your heart, good Zuromor, and fire to. You are a brave and a fine fellow, and I hope to Aulë that you may leave this wretched place before your time…And your friend as well.” Zuromor shot him a curious, inquisitive glance. “You mean ‘friends,’ master dwarf, do you not?” he queried. Brór perked up ever so slightly, having expected the question from the inexperienced mouth of the lad. He shook his head again, but this time in a joking, admonishing fashion, which elicited another confused look from Zuromor.

“Nay…You know who I speak of…You’ve got that Elf on your mind, and she’s in your eyes as well. Lest you want the world to know you’d to best to purge her image now, or make your intentions known… “Zuromor, why, then, does the sight of yonder Elf gleam in your eyes? I have told you of the shadows that lay over me. It is only fair that you tell me of the light that has filled you…”


He never answered, as far as Brór remembered.

Now all had changed, though not in the mind of the dwarf. To Brór’s great relief and thankfulness, Dwali was found; or rather found the company, nearly in dire straits. Brór had rejoiced most, though he was still empty, his mind a weak void in the wake of the happenings. Even as his face brightened and smiled, he felt nothing. It did not matter whether or not his kinsman was alive, he would still perish before the light. Brór’s eyes could only flit to his companion in passing. Dwali lay, lurching about in unconsciousness. Thankfully, he had been laid in a safe crevice in the rocky outcroppings that dotted the areas as trees might (for want of real trees). The settling darkness that paled the fiery light of distant Amon Amarth was refreshing to Brór, who was accustomed to the dark, almost nocturnal from his years spent in it. Feeling secure in his own defense and eager to defend his fallen comrade and those who fought alongside him, Brór plowed into the anarchic ranks of Mordor beasts.

He tore forward, moving gracefully, uncharacteristic for any Dwarf. Something new fueled him, distinctly new. He realized, at this point, that even if he no longer believed he could escape Mordor, he was not fighting for himself. He was fighting for those, like Zuromor, who still saw the sunlight through the sky’s dark clouds. He was fighting so that they could survive this final skirmish and escape the icy grasp of this land and slip the bonds of Mordor, finding, at long last, some kind of freedom, however small.

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Old 09-18-2004, 08:21 AM   #163
Novnarwen
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Boots Entering the Land of Darkness..

Rhând

He broke out of the orc's ranks, having called for them as he'd been surprised by Zuromor. The desperate Haradrim pressed himself forwards, trying to avoid both the fighting prisoners and the attacking orcs. Holding the little suverah he had left carefully in his hand, he decided to do what he came here to do, regardless of everything else. This came first. He did this for his Master, the Master who would embrace him as an equal when this was over. Giggling just slightly to himself, still running, he watched the prisoners defend themselves. Yes, he could still do this; actually, he ought to do it. He knew that by leaving the suverah in the prisoner's camp, problems would probably arise. Hopefully, they would have great difficulties seeing due to the smoke. Some of them might faint too, as they had not realised that the smoke was poisonous. With these thoughts it mind, he carried on.

For a second he stopped, being rather surprised by the orc's attack. It seemed like they were increasing in number; their attack was so violent. They were fighting like mad. All of them had this look in their eyes, the same look Lurg had given Rhând just earlier. The look reflected their hunger and their longing for fresh meat and blood. Even though he enjoyed watching this, he froze. Standing still as if paralysed with fear, he looked admirably at the. They were some fantastic creatures after all, he thought to himself. It was rather incredible how they could scare a living creature to death only by staring at it. The prisoners wouldn't stand a chance. Yes, he knew how this would end. Still standing quietly, watching the battle take place, he imagined the moment the victory was a fact. He imagined the prisoners lying on the ground; pale as the moon. How beautiful. The task of conquering this world, wiping away all life that was jeopardising His realm, would be a bit easier. Ten down, that was a start.

He wasn't paying attention to the events taking place that particular moment. Caught up in his dream, his fantasy, he didn't see some of the orcs heading straight towards him. Unfortunately, the young Haradrim was not able to react on the short notice and was run over by the massive creatures. Feeling the pain their heavy boots left him, he sank helplessly to the ground. He heaved for air, feeling as he was gong to vomit. "Ugh," he sighed, shaking with pain. "Brutes!" he screamed and cursed in the Haradrim tongue. "You blind idiots! Didn't you see I was standing here?" he screamed after the orcs, knowing that they didn't hear him. And if they did, they didn't care. "Outrageous!" he screamed again. He was their superior. At least, he was almost their superior. They should thank him. They should be grateful. It was after all he who had led them to the prisoners. It was he who had planned the attack. It was he who had secured their victory over the prisoners. It was therefore he who had saved all of them from the fate that awaited them, if they hadn't killed and brought back the bodies of the prisoners.

He coughed.

His throat went dry.

He coughed again.

He tried getting to his feet, but in vain. Being surprised by this intense coughing, he discovered that the air in front of him was turning yellow. Where does this come from? he asked himself, lifting his head up from the ground and turning into every direction. He felt his throat going drier, and his eyes were burning. What is this, and where is the suverah? Trying not to panic as he understood that this yellow smoke was making him cough and his eyes burn, he tried again to lift himself from the ground. "Where is it?" he said, letting out a cry. Not being able to see much, partly because of the dark and partly because of the smoke, which was making his eyes smart, he shook with fright. Desperately, he tried to crawl away, thinking that he had dropped the suverah on the ground when falling. The suverah was probably somewhere near.. "Probably somewhere near.." he muttered to himself, afraid that he was correct in this assumption.

Flashbacks from the cell room were presented to him. The smell of rot streaming into his nostrils, made him shiver with disgust. The rats were squeaking, the volume rising. The sound of them made him twitch where he lay. He tried to ignore it, but the sound was growing more intense. It was piercing through him, like an arrow made of solid material. He kicked in thin air, hearing a sound as he hit something. Yellow smoke arose before him. The Suverah, he thought, while feeling the pain. It was spreading. The pain was spreading, making its way from his head to his arms, chest and legs. His throat was too dry to let him swallow. He coughed again, his body trembling. Suddenly, his head exploded. The squeaking was gone. Everything was. There was nothing, except the sound of what seemed like a wind; a whispering wind close to his ear. He lay motionless on the ground, having his eyes open. He could still eye the yellow smoke surrounding him, swirling elegantly around.

He was there again. He was standing before the Gate. It was the Gate he had seen in dream when the others had been discussing the route. He dragged himself forth and knocked solemnly on the Door. No sound could be heard from within the Gate, but there was this magical atmosphere which attracted him and made him stand still. There was a certain tension in the air, as if something was about to happen. Taking everything into account, he started doubting whether this was the vision he had had in his dream, or whether it was something else; a new dream. How could he tell the difference? he wondered.

There was a loud crack and the door opened. Did he dare approach it? Did he dare go inside? What was in there, anyway? Was He waiting for him? But the task he had been set to do was not yet completed. It was still to be done. Was He satisfied yet? He took a few steps forwards, hearing the door slam shut behind him. He looked around. There was nothing there, or rather, it was just black.


Suddenly he found himself lying on the ground, yellow smoke surrounding him.

He heaved after his breath.

It was just black. It was all black.

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Old 09-18-2004, 09:29 AM   #164
CaptainofDespair
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Mirkwood...that is where the Elf’s distraught mind took him, flooding every sense with what memories he could scrape from the bowels of his soul. Memory was a portal for him, to a time long past, where he could live in quiet solitude, free from the confines of a world that only showed him hate, and fed him torment. His heart began to throb, and pound against the inner wall of his chest, he felt alive, but if for a brief, fleeting moment. His memories were happiness for him, a polar opposite of his current state. He could see his one-time home, and he relished it, grasping to hold on to it, longing for it. Various smells rushed into the void within his nostrils, replacing the acrid, caustic scent of Mordor. He could even feel the wind, blowing through the canopy of the forest, wafting many new smells about. What had once been a dream, had now become a physical aura, a gateway of an old life for him.

This is what kept him alive, those long years in Cirith Ungol, and Cirith Gorgor. When he had first been taken captive, he had tried to resist his tormentors. Yet, that was to no avail, even for one as strong willed as he was, and more so, how he had been. The tantalizing thought that he could escape lingered for a few years. It had been rekindled when he was transferred from Gorgor, and he thought it possible, to an extent. But those thoughts soon drove him to madness, as he realized there was no escape from the fortress-prison of Cirith Ungol. And soon, he began to despair, and death lurked in every corner of his cell, slowly creeping in upon him, waiting for the perfect moment to take him. Only the all-important visage of his mother’s caring and loving face kept him alive. And he soon discovered the power of his memory. Since he was not used as a slave, he had a great amount of free time on his hands, and so he put it to good use. At first, he would spend a few minutes, then hours, drifting into his past, delving into something long gone. Eventually, he mastered this peculiar version of hindsight, and he could spend days on end reliving his past, without being forced to consume the meager portions divvied out by the orcs. The orcs had not liked this change in him, for they could not taunt him any longer. And thus, they started beating him again, using any form of torture they could to break his spirit again. His memories saved him, and the orcs soon ended their bloody experiments. He held his memories ever tighter after that, keeping them close, to save him when he needed a reminder of what life he could have, should Fate intervene, and free him.

And Fate did save him, he sent to him the man Grash, to open his cell door, and set him free. But even with that pseudo-freedom, he was not totally over-joyed, for he was still in the realm of Mordor. His journey in the Tunnel provided him with a new ally in his desire to free himself from the Black Land. The voices that had spoken to him, and given him the tools to fight off Shelob’s ravenous, salivating jaws. They had left him for a time, alone, with only glimmers of memory to hold him above the raging waters that sought to drown him in their vehement undercurrent. He had seen Barad-dur, and shuddered at the horrors within, and only faint fading thoughts of hope kept his sanity then. The Stone of Sauron nearly broke him. The Dark Lord’s unquenchable thirst for domination was able to drive the weakened thoughts of hope from the Elf’s mind, like beasts flee before the tides of a dark storm. Then, when he thought he passed the last trial that the forsaken land could send out to harry him, the orc army of Morgul came marching, which a Nazgul at its helm.

His mind continued to wander, he had lost the memories that he had yearned for, of Mirkwood, of his mother, and they were twisted into visions of malice, and hate, of the Nazgul. He had been struck down, not by any blade, nor by just any of the Nazgul, but by the commander of Minas Morgul. Fate was not kind that day. Death had its clutches upon his neck, ready to drag him to the dark abyss that awaited him. He had given his live for one who, in time, would not remember his sacrifice. But it was for the best, for he was nothing now, if he ever was something beside a simple Elf. Yet he was saved, not by some memory of the distant past, but the ghosts of that past. His ancient saviors from the Tunnel came back to him, to repay their debt, for one final stand against the cruelty of Sauron. Like a disciplined legion they came, to face the hordes of the Dark Lord which slithered through his mind, infecting it with their scum. And those spirits of the dead came with wrath, and drove back the Enemy, scattering his power like dust caught in the wind. They saved him, and his hope was partially restored, just enough to carry him into the High Pass of the Mountains of Shadow...

Now, he was here, sprawled out upon the withered, rocky surface of this clearing in the desolate crags of a gloomy mountain spire. His trance had reminded him of a myriad of things, and he felt alone, with no one there for support, comfort far off in the distance. He awoke from his mediation, to see his...friends...scattered about, sleeping, if not with one eye open. He scoured their faces, seeing what he could see within them. He smiled wryly. Hope is what he found in their placid faces, but not a hope for him, for them. Yet, he questioned his motives, and thus he searched his heart, hoping against a dying glimmer of life, that there would be an answer for him.

In the midst of this, there came a shout. The man Zurumor had awoken to the sight of Orcs, and the Traitor. He yelled out, sounding a call to arms, and readying himself for a defense that would determine life and death for the company. Morgoroth arose as quickly as he could, ignoring the biting pain that coursed through his shoulder. He drew a small, glistening blade, the last remnant of his father’s memory, and prepared for his last battle with the soldiers of the Enemy.

The Orcs were of a good number, but they were not the Uruks, the pride of Mordor’s Orc commanders. They were mere Snaga. Under normal circumstance, they would be easy foes, and would be dealt with quickly. But the company was weak, and bore many injures, and thus the defense was made quite difficult. The Elf struggled to find a comfortable mode of attack, and he was forced to watch his allies face the strength of many fresh orc troops. The dwarves Bror and Dwali fought hard, for endurance was of their race, and their short stature awarded a certain advantage. Yet even that was not enough, for exhaustion and grievous wounds make for horrid companions. But the company was not as divided as it had been, and aid came from the race of Men, who, fighting side by side with their new friends, pushed the orcs back, if but for a moment. Within this short span of time, the Elf had gathered his strength, and caring not for the afflictions that pained him, he drove himself forward, to bring the justice of the Elves to the unholy, heathen orcs.

Grunting and brandishing their crudely manufactured scimitars, the orcs assaulted the company, which had now swelled to full force, as every member of the party rose to meet their attackers. After the orcs’ first attack, they were driven back to the Pass, where the company held its staggered line. Many times the orc came, but each time they were driven back, but with lessening force. Already the defenders began to tire, for their sleep was not a restful one. Yet still, there were a few fresh orc marauders ready to strike at the deteriorating front line. These soldiers began to mass, preparing for an attack that could penetrate the line, and allow for the rogue prisoners to be killed, or to be captured, and feasted upon for a hearty orc meal.

Finally, that charge came, as the orcs, uncaring for any harm to that might come them, ceaselessly crawled upon the defenders, hacking and slashing with axe and blade, hoping to cause chaos, and force the rebels to turn to flee, and thus be cut down. For a few moments, time seemed to slow, and all motion was made difficult, but yet, it seemed like the attack might be repulsed. Yet, it was not so, and the orcs broke the line, and surged through, forced on by curses and the ironshod fist of Lurg. And who was there to block the gap? The weakened Elf himself, alone. The orc saw the weakness in his arm, and thought to exploit, for they were eager to spill Elven blood. But the Elf had hoped for this, and he allowed them to exploit his injury. They tried to strike him upon his wound, and force him to plead for mercy just before they would deal his death blow. But it was to no avail, as the elven blade smote two of the attacking Snaga, leaving their helms dripping in blackened blood.

But the Elf quickly tired, and he had to force himself into weaker and weaker positions, so that he could exploit the orcs’ bloodlust. Soon, they overwhelmed him, surrounding him, shaking fist and blade at him, trying to corner him against the dark soiled walls of the mountain. Yet, his allies, having been beaten back themselves, were now regaining the upper hand. It was in this moment, he realized what he must do. “Hope is beyond me, only Death is my comfort. I must fight for the mortal kind, so that they may have a chance at life, for their lives are short, and must be spent in happiness, not sorrow and despair.”

The Orcs that had surrounded him were quickly growing tired of his game, as he rotated around a small section of the clearing, and they wanted to kill him, and be done with it. And when he leapt upon a rock, they grew all the more agitated, and attacked. The first went reeling back from a boot to the face and a dagger to chain-covered gut. The second was dispatched with a quick jab of his blade to the throat, spilling black blood across the dirt, staining the soil a dark color. Hopping down from his pedestal, he rushed as quickly as he could, limping slightly, to where he could do the most damage to the fiendish orc kind. Standing in the center of what was once the defenders’ last line of hope, he made his stand. There, he rallied the orc to him, hoping to draw their attention away from the others, to provide some manner of relief. His cries in the Sindar tongue awoke an ageless hate, one brooding over many centuries, passed down from generation to generation.

Many of the Orcs were already dead, or were fleeing back to Lurg, to regroup for another assault, and they caught the Elf. Standing alone, his would-be oppressors came on, swinging their rusty blades. A few managed to strike the Elf, but only gave minor wounds. He still danced doggedly, avoiding his enemies blows, and infuriating them further. But finally, the Elf’s end had come. With many foes circling about him now, he could no longer defend himself adequately, and he fell beneath a fury of blades, one landing upon his wound, leaving him crying out in agony and distress, and the final death blow, dealt by lust-filled snaga, a piercing blow to the stomach, which left him bleeding out, yet again. He could fight no more, but the Orc had lost him in the fray, and he managed to pull himself away, with his last ounce of strength, to a desolate, bloodless sect of the clearing, to die. And as he lay there, chest heaving spasmodically, and blood dripping from his many wounds, he laid out his blade upon his breast, and fell into Death, a wry smirk upon his visage.

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Old 09-20-2004, 11:59 AM   #165
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Exhaustion overwhelmed the Easterling woman. Her muscles ached, her eyes drooped, yet she continued to fight. She would not survive if the battle came to hand-to-hand combat. Luck, if she believed in luck, had saved her from the orc army. It would not happen again. Darash had begun gathering smaller stones, but Lyshka continued to work on the larger boulders. Her chest heaved as tried to rock the massive stone. The rock’s surface was cool against her sweating back as she pushed with her long legs against the worn path. Finally, the boulder budged beneath her, and she was able to get it moving down the path toward the enemy.

The enemy was getting smaller. Many had been crushed by the falling stones, but several had escaped by dodging the debris. Lyshka saw the dark elf fighting fiercely, surrounded by the beasts. As she watched from high on the path, time seemed to slow. A rusty blade thrust forward, piercing the immortal’s stomach. The Easterling woman cried out in despair as his body slumped onto the ground. “Dad-esh!” Lyshka shouted the Amazon woman’s name and pointed to the fallen. Darash paused and lines creased her brow as she met the Easterling’s saddened gaze.

Another noise took Lyshka’s attention immediately. It was the sound of dozens of more feet stamping against the cold earth. New shouts of war were lifted up, and the woman slowly turned to see the new Orc-arrivals streaming onto the path. They came from all directions, up the path and descending the walls on either side. The foul beasts were surrounding them and forcing them away from their destination of freedom. Lyshka pulled the small knife Darash had provided her from her vest and prepared herself to what she thought would be her final battle.

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Old 09-20-2004, 12:00 PM   #166
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The orcs poured over the company as a consuming wave of heated flesh. Their breaths fouled the air, and their cries echoed amongst the rocks like the crash of dreadful machines of destruction. Morgoroth had fallen, and Aldor, their supposed companion, had betrayed them to their doom. Grash fought off the blades of the orcs as best he could, but he was no warrior, and had it not been for Darash and her slender blade, he would have fallen many times before now. Their bag full of stones was now empty, and though they had felled many of the beasts, more and more orcs were appearing from all directions, driving them down, and away, from the path that lead to the green land.

Grash felt a hand upon his arm, and he swung about to slash and rend his attacker, but his hand faltered, and his heart fell, when he saw the ragged and bloodied visage of Zuromor clutching him for support. Grash tried to hold the man upright, but it was hopeless, for the orc spear that had passed through his heart was quivering with the last beats of life in the Man. Grash’s hand slipped in the blood that came from the man, whose lifeless body fell into a heap at Grash’s feet without a word or sound.

There was no time to mourn. No time for Zuromor or Morgoroth, or for himself. Another orc threw itself as Grash, and for a split second in time, Grash did nothing to defend himself. He was tired beyond the bearing of moratility, in spirit as well as in body. The horrors that he had undergone to escape his captivity seemed now to have been hardly worth it. Three of his companions had fallen on the road that he had found for them, and soon all would follow. He did not lift his hand to defend himself, welcoming the death that came to him in the raging form of the orc. But a blur in the corner of his eye became Darash’s arm, and the orc fell with her blade buried in its neck. She scrabbled, trying to grab the weapon once more, but the monster twisted in its death throes and staggered backward amongst the rocks. More orcs sprang upon them, and they were forced back another step into the ever narrowing gully that would be their tomb. Darash, to his amazement, fought on with on only her hands.

The sight of her and the others, still so valiantly fighting and struggling on for their freedom, despite their failure to escape, and in the teeth of despair, shamed him, and once more raising his weapon, he turned to face his attackers. But this time, it was no faceless orc who came upon him, but the beast that had come to torture Grash and the others so many times, and who was now the leader of their enemies. He recognised the creature instantly as the one who had escaped them in the tower – so long ago now, that it seemed almost like another lifetime, one in which there had been at least the dream of green things and air. Snarling, the beast leapt at Grash, but this time Darash was too busy protecting her own life to defend him. Raising his blade, Grash sought to strike down the orc, but the creature merely swatted the dagger aside contemptuously. Sticking his blade into Grash’s side and twisting it, he leaned his hideous face in to the slave’s so close that Grash could make out the veins in its eyes, pulsing with malice. “Wretched worm,” the orc rasped, “you’ve cost me a difficult journey and the hard will of the Screechers. Well I’ve paid you.” It twisted the knife once more, rasping the metal against Grash’s ribs and grinding the bone, drawing from him a cry of agony. With a vicious motion the orc withdrew the knife and prepared to deliver the death blow, but it never fell for from out of nowhere there sprang the female Elf, Raies, her eye filled with a hatred that blazed and smote the orc with terror.

She was wounded, and broken, and as near death as the rest of the companions, but she was of the Elder race, and there was in her yet that which could quail even the most powerful orc. The beast fell back with a cry, but he soon recovered. He lunged at her with his blade, and aided by his maggot servants, he soon had her pressed against a rock. Again, his blade went high, but the man Jordo, all but forgotten by them all in the fighting, always strangely silent, leapt forward, throwing himself across the body of the Elf. The sword fell, piercing the man’s heart, who cried out and spun away, carrying with him the orc’s blade. Raies rose to her feet, but was immediately beset by the orc’s two followers. Grash had seen enough – too many of those he had lead from their cells had fallen; too many had he killed. With a scream unlike any he had made, or had thought possible for him to make, he sprang upon the orc who had slain Jordo, and with his bare hands he took the creature by the throat and wheeled it about so that its head was crushed against the side of the gully.

Seeing their captain fall, the other orcs seemed to falter and give way, allowing the companions a moment to cease their struggles, and breathe. There were only seven of them now: the Dwarves Brór and Dwali, Raies, the Elf, the women Lyshka and Darash, and Jeren and Grash. The others were gone. But they were not to die alone, for soon the orcs would come once more and the remaining companions would fall beneath them. The orcs had hemmed them in and forced them into a gully from which there could be no escape. The walls of stone on either hand rose up straight as walls, and angling in they met not ten paces behind them. They stood, their breath coming in great heaving gasps, their blood dripping onto the rock and mingling, becoming a single pool of red. But instead of attacking, the foremost rank of orcs began to gave way, parting to allow someone through. And then Grash’s heart gave way and he saw with bitter resignation their doom approach. In the hands of an orc there lay the vessel with the burning suverah with which Aldor had sought to overcome them. He was dead, but the orcs had decided to proceed with his plan. Whether the fumes of the substance had no effect on orcs, or whether it was just that the prisoners were so much more tired and weakened than their enemies, the smoke began to bring them low while the orcs remained impassive.

Grash fought to stay awake, but it was hopeless. The orc who bore the vessel placed it upon the ground close to where they stood, but they dared not venture forth to retrieve it for it was clear that they would be cut down should they try. The orcs clearly intended to take them alive…for their sport. Grash felt a touch upon his shoulder and he turned to see Darash motioning to his blade. He did not understand at first what she wanted with it – what use in fighting now? But she made it clear through her gestures that she wanted the blade so that she could use it on herself. Grash understood; he too, would rather die than be taken alive by the orcs. She could have the blade, but only after he had used it on himself. Putting the dagger to his throat me made to press it into his flesh, but at that moment, high above the raucous cries of the orcs, barely visible against the grey sky, he saw a bird soaring above their heads. At first he feared it was one of the Nazgûl upon their winged mounts, but he realised that it was a real bird, a bird of prey, not one of the carrion fowl of Mordor. The bird cried out then, and its call was clear and keen.

Grash moved the blade away from his neck, and shook his head. “No,” he said firmly. “Not kill myself. I am free. Free. If I die, let orcs destroy me. Until then, I am free – I will stay with life. I will not leave.” He handed the blade toward Darash…

A sudden cry from the orcs drew his attention toward them. His eyes were swimming and his head was growing light from the fumes of the suverah but through the reek he could make out that the orcs were turning away from the companions and gesturing down the path at something. Swimming up from the abyss, Grash looked through the haze that was steadily falling before his eyes and dreamt that he saw dozens of green clad forms flitting amongst the rocks. There were cries of terror and of death amongst the orcs, and Grash dreamed that they fell and fled. His head swam and the earth spun and the rock of the mountain rose up to smack him in the head. He lay there, panting and gasping for breath, and he dreamt of strong hands lifting him, and bearing him away…

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

He awoke to the sound of birdsong, and to the feel wind upon his cheeks. He opened his eyes, but had to close them again immediately for the force of sunlight that bore upon him. There was a comforting voice nearby, and a cool hand pressed upon his brown, shading his eyes from the light. “It is all right,” the voice was saying, and it was noble and clear like the fall of water. “You are safe, and alive, although you are lucky to be both. You can open your eyes now, I have shaded them.”

Grash did as the voice bid and he looked up into two deep brown eyes that twinkled at him from a face that shone with health and vigour. Rising up, Grash sought to scamper away from the tall Man, but he was held by gentle hands. “Quiet,” a familiar voice said in his ear. “Friends. Safe. Free.” Grash turned and beheld Darash. She was clad as Grash now saw he had been, in simple garments of green that were clean and soft. They were the most comfortable things he had ever worn, and he could not believe that they were real.

“Where…?” was all he could manage.

“You are in Ithilien,” the Man said. “We are Rangers of Gondor, and we found you upon the path. The King has come again and we have reclaimed this land. We were scouting along the high path, looking for spies of Mordor, when my bird spotted something. We went to see what she had found and were surprised to see a mob of orcs besetting the strangest collection of folk we could have imagined.” He smiled. Grash stared at the man in amazement. “You save us?” he blurted out. “Save us? Bring us out of Mordor, and into green land?” And he felt the tears upon his cheeks as he laughed, the first genuine laugh of his existence. He fell back upon the ground and felt the gentle touch of grass upon his skin. He rose up, and the other companions were gathered about, all of them with the wounds bound and resting. The Man explained that they had all of them been on the brink of death from the smoke when they had been taken up by the Rangers, and that they had all lain unconscious for four days and nights but that the first of them had begun to awake this morning.

As the Man spoke, Grash felt a tremor in the ground, as though some great upheaval were taking place in the earth. The birds and the animals fell silent about them, and even the wind seemed to still. All talking ceased, and everyone held their breath in expectation, although of what, none knew. There came then a wind from the East, that raged through the trees, and it cried about them like a voice. Looking up, Grash watched in horror as a vast cloud rose above the looming form of the mountains, a great shadowy form, crowned with lightning, but it was dissolved in the wind and when it passed there came upon the heart of the slave a lightness that he could never have imagined. The land began to stir, and the Rangers gathered about stared at one another in amazement. The Man who had saved Grash looked about in awe. “What has happened?” he asked. “I feel as though some great change has been wrought, but what it is, I do not know.”

But Grash knew. Grash, who had lived his entire life beneath the shadow knew with his heart of hearts, that the shadow had been defeated. How it had been accomplished was beyond his imagination, but that it was so, he was sure. Sauron, the dark lord, was no more.

Grash was free.
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Old 09-20-2004, 02:58 PM   #167
Amanaduial the archer
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Silmaril Raeis

Raeis was alert in a moment and simply rolled sidewards behind one of the large boulders nearby as the sounds of the orcs filled the air. She sword viciously as she squeezed her eyes tight shut and her fists clenched furiously. They were so close, so close! Feeling sadness well up, the elf opened her eyes and blinked furiously. They would have no satisfaction from her, none of the satisfaction they had taken from her in the long dark years... Raeis touched the handle of the long, jagged knife that hung at her side: her sword had been lost but the twin of this knife was with Zurumor. She twisted around to peek out from behind the rock, unseen from where the battle raged...and saw no sign of Zurumor. Something inside her heart seemed to pluck at one of the strings like a harp, and Raeis was surprised at it's unexpectedly strong resonations of anxiety for the Man.

But she knew what they meant. Her lithe fingers wound around the handle and she stood slowly, coming out from behind the rock as if in slow motion and drawing the knife from her ragged belt as if it was the finest of swords pulled from the sheath of a Noldorian warrior, raising it slowly straight up in front of her. The orcs nearby noticed, and some sneered at the elf, laughing their vile corruption at the silent elf; but others were not so cocky, for there was something about the elf's silent confidence that was terrifying, and that resonated deep within some ancestral memory: a memory of the screams of orcs and the bright light surrounding almost celestial hosts of bright elves....

In this dark place, there was no light surrounding Raeis.
But within, the Light of the Valar burned like wildfire.

Ignited, the elf swung suddenly into action, her knife coming around in a blur towards the first of the orcs nearby and slicing cleanly through his throat. Head hanging off from a string of gristle, the orc's eyes bulged in the sudden shock rather than pain, and died, the sneer still half affixed to his gaping lips. Raeis paused, as if confused at the swift, expert motion: but it was coming back to her now.

She had been an expert...

...the blades glittered dangerously in the afternoon sun as the two figures circled one another, utterly focused on the other, their hands held at 45 degree angles to their bodies and feet silent as they padded on the soft fallen leaves of the forest floor. With a sudden movement, one spun around, the blade flashing forward towards the other as her long hair spun behind her...


Like one in a trance, Raeis spun suddenly, the long knife slicing like a shadow through the air towards the orc who rushed towards her...

...and met her partner's blade with a metallic ring that resounded throughout the still of the forest. The latter laughed as he withdrew, winking at her cheekily. "You'll-

Her blade slashed at the orc's stomach and her bent double, falling to the dust in front of Raeis. There was no laughter, no winks, just the still calm of the elf as she thrust her blade downwards into her fallen victim's back.

"-have to do better than that for me, Raeis."

"Better? Against you?" The beautiful elf laughed, tossing her many shaded hair outwards as she repositioned once again, her eyes levelling with her oponents. "Don't make me laugh: I may love you, but to let you win? Well, my-"


Love. Zurumor. Where was he? Raeis looked around, unblinking, her eyes unheeding of the dust that filled them. There. There he was, falling, bloodstained. Nearby, another, Morgoroth, self sacrificing, finally self sacrificed, dust stained lamb broken on the floor of the path. Eyes jerking open, limbs jerking towards him, knife jerking lazily down from it's position...

Pain.
Pain in her side.

Who?

Raeis jerked awake from her reverie, and saw Zurumor fall, mirroring her own knees buckling as she clutched her side. The orc's blade had sliced through an old whip wound and the whole wound seemed alight now. Raeis gave a small cry and in the still of her mind, it was all she heard...almost. There was another noise now, like laughter, quiet and easy, a sound to make the rippling of the most refreshing and beautiful waterfall seem less than a single drop of water. Raeis smiled softly as she recognised the voice that laughed and murmured in her mind, her face almost childlike where she knelt on the floor, unaware of anything outside of her mind: the Gods had returned to her.

Strength surged back into Raeis's limbs and the her hands tightened on the knife. In a flash second, she whipped to the left onto one knee, sword scything around at thigh level - it was her blind side, but no accuracy was required for this vicious motion. The orc gave a hideous cry of agony as his legs were cut from beneath him and he fell beside her, only to be dispatched in a moment. The elf rose once more and spun around viciously, arcing around blindly to remove any limbs in the near vicinity. Her limbs were on fire with action as the old skills and motions returned to her, but her mind was aflame with thoughts of her companions. Aldor, Dorim, Morgoroth... her companions had fallen one by one, freed from their prisons but never to escape. Now they had gone, fallen to treachery or the dust of the plains, and how many remained?

Seven.

Raeis smiled absently despite herself, her lips forming the now almost familiar shape without her noticing.

Lyshka, Darash, Grash, Bror, Zurumor, Jeren, Dwali...
Yavanna, Nienna, Mandos, Aule, Ulmo, Manwe, Varda.

The mirror was perfect: a Lord or a Lady for each of her fine companions. But no...no, they were in danger. The perfection - it would be broken!

"No!" The elf's scream was the first sound she had made in several fierce minutes and it ripped from her throat like a jagged claw. Rolling underneath the attacking club of her nearest enemy, the bruised and battered elf came up agily in front of the orc who assaulted Grash, her blade crashing into his with power that belied her size. The orc stumbled back from his prey, and the fierce light of hate in the elf's eyes for a moment quelled him, before he came again forwards. Raeis gave a bellow of anger and the light burned bright in her eyes as she fought them off, standing over Grash's body.

"No! Seven of us there are, and seven of us there will be," she cried, every inch the Noldor of her ancestors, held strong and true by the Seven. "As long as I draw breath, not one of them shall fall, upon the Lords, I swear this!"

The elf was beset upon from all sides, but even as she fought hopelessly against all odds, the power of her vow and the faraway West all that were holding her up, a blade identical to hers joined her fight on the left hand side. Raeis did not need to turn her head to see who it was, but instead she felt a warmth of a different kind inside her. Bloodied and almost wounded beyond repair though he was, he had come once more to defend her blind side, as he had in the caves of the Spider: ever kind and understanding, thoughtful...and self sacrificing.

Raeis clashed her blade momentarily against his and raised her free hand to the handle of his blade as she flattened herself against Zurumor's warm back to fight the other side. Leaning her shorn head against his, she whispered softly, "If you go now, we go together."

When the rangers came, horns blowing fear into the twisted black souls deep in the bodies of the orcs, they found a strange sight when they saw the fair, scarred elf and green eyed Man, back to back over the body of another and fiercely defending this, all they had, with anything they had, and more. The elf would even have fought the men of Ithilien, the light in her eyes so fierce as if was, had Zurumor not stopped her, laying his hands against her and resting her head against his shoulder as she calmed down: lending her a gentle touch that would hold her to him forever until she fell in a bloodied heap onto her knees.

The broken of Mordor who have been betrayed by all who ever knew them know nothing of distinction. They care little, in the end, for the outside casings that make a being: elf, man, dwarf, scarred or beautiful, there is no definition between these things when the captured are cornered in battle. Their world is a mass of greys and blacks in this, this Land of Darkness.

So when true light shines, all see it's true beauty.

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Old 09-23-2004, 09:21 AM   #168
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Boots The bird sings, uncaged.

The blade never reached the hand of Darash, for, ironically, the orcs had destroyed any chance she had to use it again. In fighting with her bare hands, her arms had once again been broken. Her hands hung uselessly at the ends of her forearms, which were covered with bloody gashes where the orcs had slashed her flesh. Through immense effort, with salt biting her brow, and hot pain roiling through her body, she could tighten her muscles and try to will her hands to grasp and hold off assailants, but the sharp edges of her broken bones tormented her flesh as much as did he external cuts to her arms. And the smoke of the sulverah smote her nostrils, burning them, and spread through her head, confusing her senses. She thought she saw the orcs retreating, but her rational mind told her that was impossible. Suddenly, she sensed more around her, not orcs, but men nonetheless reaching out to her body, catching her in her fall. She would have fought them off; she tried to, but she swooned under the combined effects of blood loss, fatigue, pain, the drugged smoke which she herself had used on the spider's spawn.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How long she had slept she did not know. She knew only that when she awoke, it was with a headache and thirst she had never known before. And then a surging fear as she saw a tall Man standing over her, clad in green and brown, placing his hands on her shoulders to keep her down. She would have struggled had she not hear his calming voice.

"It is not an orcs' hovel we have brought you to. You are safe here. The Rangers of Gondor do not harm the weak or the disabled. And Ithilien is not Mordor."

Darash lay back, remembering the pain in her arms and feeling them now spread with cooling ointments and held in place by splints and swaddled with clean cloths. The excruciating pain was gone, replaced by a numbed soreness which felt strangely like sleep. The Man reached over her once again and gently lifted her by the shoulders, holding a cup of mildly sweet liquid to her lips. At first, her cracked lips could not manage the lip of the cup and the fluid spilt down her chin, but as it flowed over her parched mouth she found she could drink more ably. The Man let her lay back to recover some strength and then lifted her again to allow her to drink. Her eyes thanked him and courtesy and respect in his shone back at her.

"Others,?" she panted. "Safe too? Where?"

"We count seven of your companions, although a stranger group of comrades I have not set my eyes upon."

She nodded, and sleep, precious balm, overcame her again.

~ ~ ~ ~
Yet when next she woke, she was able to rise and even, tentatively with arms still wrapped in splints and bandages, take advantage of the basin of warm water near her bed, and the fragrant soap embedded with herbs. Clean new clothes lay on her bed. She struggled to pull on the leggings and lift the tunic over her head but the softness of the garments seemed to fall over her easily. At her door, she was met by the Man again, who beckoned to her to follow him. He brought her to Grash, who lay still but breathing regularly on a pallet of straw. When he awoke, she comforted him with the news of help and listened while the Ranger explained to both of them how his bird had spied them in their need. Darash chuckled to herself, thinking of the old Amizgh story of the trapped animal who changed into a bird to escape. Stories have a way of coming true, she thought to herself.

Then the ground trembled and a great shudder went through the world. She swayed, and held onto the pallet for support. She might even have touched Grash's shoulder. The wind wrapped around them and the oppressive weight she had felt when she had been brought to this Northern land suddenly and at last lifted. She breathed deeply and freely for the first time since she had been kidnapped.

Grash looked at her. "Darash,?" he began. "We are free."

She lifted awkwardly her bandaged arm to stop him.

"Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re," she said, her throat muscles relaxing in saying her true name aloud for the first time in his presence. As she pointed to herself, he nodded and repeated her name and lay back upon his bed, his face showing a mixture of light and apprehension and joy he had never known before. What is freedom? he wondered aloud. She smiled. "See now," she said, briefly, with a hint of discipline and sternness in her voice.

One of the Rangers spoke up. "He needs his rest, the wound in his side is deep, and I promised to teach you how to read our sky. Will you come now, Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re?" She nodded and followed the Ranger out, full of curiosity to know what this man who read the earth and sky as she did would show her. "Show me Lyshka too," she asked.
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Old 09-23-2004, 12:55 PM   #169
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A new beginning...

A sweet fragrance fill Lyshka’s nostrils, and she breathed it in deeply as she ran her fingers through the grass, relishing the way the blades pricked the soft flesh of her palms. Many years she had dreamed of the greenness of the grass, unmarred by the evil that had always surrounded her. The Evil was gone now. She had felt the tremor, and had first been afraid, but as the fresh breeze came and the heaviness of her heart lifted, she knew. The darkness that had controlled her every waking moment would never hurt her again. She was free.

The Easterling had awoken early that morning to find herself in the most beautiful place she had ever seen. “Ith-il-ee-un,” she treasured the way the word tasted in her mouth. She had decided she would not utter the words of the Dark Lord again. This new language, the language of freedom, would only leave her lips now. A smile crept across her face. Such a simple thing, a smile, yet she had not experienced this pleasure since she had been taken from her people. Pushing the memory from her head, Lyshka broadened her smile, letting the corners of her mouth push up to their extremities. If she had seen herself, she would have thought she was ridiculous, but this feeling of joy was so nature here.

“Lyshka!” The sound of her name pulled her from her thoughts. Darash! The Amazon woman stood a few feet from her, dressed in the same garments as she. Lyshka pushed her weight up and met the woman who had been much of her strength through that last many days. The women looked at one another without saying a word. Their experience reflected in their dark eyes. Lyshka felt hot tears rise beneath her lashes, and she stepped forward and embraced the dark woman tightly. The tears fell gingerly down her cheeks. “Thay-nnk yoo, Darash,” Lyshka whispered.

Darash pulled back from her and shook her head negatively. “Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re.” Lyshka tipped her head to the side, not understanding the meaning of these words. The taller woman took the Easterling’s hand and placed it on her shoulder. “I am Kashtia Ma'at-Ka-Re.”

Lyshka’s eyes widened with surprise, yet she understood. This new name was her name of freedom. Lyshka tried to pronounce it with Darash, no, Kashtia’s aid. It was a poor attempt, and caused both women to laugh freely.

One of the ranger men stood behind the women, and he now made himself known by clearing his throat and speaking to Kashtia. Lyshka was surprised that she was not frightened by his presence. Until now, any man’s presence unnerved the Easterling, and put her completely on guard. Now, she smiled at the young man and walked confidently alongside him and Kashtia as they walked to the peak of a grassy knoll. The man pointed to the sky and spoke to the women. Lyshka did not understand his words, but she hung onto the sound of it.

The sky was clearing and the sun shown down upon them, warm and strong. Lyshka took in its strength and knew that she was free to walk wherever the sun touched the brown of the soil or the green of the grass. Once more, but not for the last time, Lyshka smiled.
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Old 09-23-2004, 06:49 PM   #170
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Of battle and fairwell

When the uruks had attacked, Dwali was right in the middle of them. Rage had taken hold, like nothing he had ever felt before. His axe cleaved through them, winding its way on path of destruction. No longer would he flee, and leave it to others to protect him! No longer would he fall off to the side, and listen as his friends battled for their lives! Those that charged him were instantly slain, for the young warrior was in his element. No longer will I let you live!

Addreneline, however, does not come in endless supply. Soon the dwarf was exhausted, and making mistakes which could prove deadly. His guard was often down, going for a kill when he should have defended. Then a club crashed into the side of his head, and Dwali stumbled forward. He turned and slew his assailant, but was immediately attacked by another. And at last he fell to his knees and collapsed... for to him, the sound of the Rangers' horns were trumpets announcing that his time in this world had ended.

But it was not to be.

***

The grass under his feet... the fresh, crisp air... the songs of nearby birds... all had been distant memories. As if living in a dream, Dwali lay on his back and took in everything. His world had literally changed overnight, from the land of darkness to the land of light. It was all so peaceful, without guards and whips, cruel blades and filthy cells. Cirith Ungol was a thing of the past, and the dwarf hoped that it would remain so, along with his escape from it. How the rangers defeated the remaining orcs and saved the surviving company meant little to him; many uruks were felled by his blade, and that was of sole importance.

Surrounded with such peaceful beauty, it was hard for the dwarf to feel pessimistic or at odds with a particular party. But there was still a deep sadness for the dear friend he had left behind. Dorim would never be able to hear the sounds of the woods again, or enjoy the cool taste of fresh water from a running brook. No, he would remain forever in Mordor... but not in the clutches of the orcs.

Dwali stood and walked around the clearing slowly, once again admiring Ithillien's beauty. Now he was free, to live and decide what his future would be. Excitement pulsed through him; there was so much left to see! The land of darkness was gone, and it would never return.

Goodbye, Dorim. You cannot traverse the rest of this great world, but I will do it for you. And we shall meet again, somewhere... in a happier and brighter place than this.

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Old 09-23-2004, 07:39 PM   #171
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The eyelids of sound sleepers flying open, the shouting of distraught escapees, the fumbling for some sort of weaponry; the movements seemed so effortless and graceful, as if they were meant to happen and that the actions had already been planned out for play. The fading scent of suverah floated gently through the thick air as the company fought their enemy. Beings became blurred figures in Jeren's foggy vision; shouts of defiance and rage morphed into simple sounds of restlessness in his ears; events and occurrances became slight replays in his weary mind.

The scene moved too quickly almost, and Jeren basked in the glory of a battle that felt like the last. The Southron learned more than he wanted from the little group, more than he thought he would, and more than he cared to admit. Lessons had been indirectly taught to him by the actions and the strange ways of the former prisoners that he had escaped with. Trustworthiness, caring, responsibility...all traits that Jeren knew existed in the depths of his mind and soul, but never needed in battle until now. For now, he finally had a cause worth dying for, and a company worth caring for, and a reason that he understood all too well.

Jeren would have been content to die where he stood as he fought those that would impede on his freedom and the freedom of his companions. They had all gone so far, faced so many dangers, and grieved so many losses. The Southron man did not know where he would go if...when he got his freedom, but freedom most certainly was the only ideal and hope that Jeren would not mind dying for. Perhaps that is what kept him alive so long, fighting the battles of others and not wishing to die for that which he did not believe in. Perhaps that is why Jeren never fought harder than during that one battle.

--

It was not until he felt the grass beneath his feet and the air brush against his face that he began to truly remember what he had lost. Though his days in Cirith Ungol were fewer than the others', Jeren had long forgotten the smell and sight of freedom. The hope seemed akin to flame within a closed space: quick to flicker, die out, and be forgotten. Jeren had never felt so wonderful.

Colors shone brighter, scents seemed sharper, and sounds came clearer than they ever had before. Cirith Ungol, or more specifically, getting out of Cirith Ungol had at the very least taught Jeren to appreciate what he had always taken for granted before his imprisonment.

Still unsure of where he would go and what he would do with his newly reacquired freedom, Jeren pushed such thoughts to the back of his mind and chose instead to revel in the simple beauty of Ithilien. The lovely atmosphere kept his mind off of the future, but there was nothing that could erase his mind of the past.

Jeren refused to erase the events of the company's escape.

Erasing meant forgetting, and Jeren did not want to forget all that he had learned from his new companions.

From my new friends...Jeren corrected himself.
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Old 09-23-2004, 07:48 PM   #172
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The Battle-Cry of the Dwarves

Brór was one of the few who did not succumb to the enigmatic veil of slumber that had settled above the company when Rangers from the West descended upon the black shadows as they were at last driven back and routed. His eyes remained fully open, lids refusing to lower even as tears welled up beneath each watery sphere. He could not blink, or shut his gaping eyes as the horn-calls filled his closed ears. He heard the echoes of sunny sound, like light upon his shadow. The orcs, shrieking in terror, took no time to flee and scatter, limbs and armaments akimbo, and madly dashed away from the sudden uproar of righteous power. The fight, as fast at it had sprung up, evaporated and concluded, its resonating chords and clangs washed away by a single, joyous sound from the Rangers’ horns, men who had appeared out of thin air, apparently. The bright, sylvan colors of their garb as they flooded over the battlefield sharply contrasted the red and black of Mordor and the Vale on Anduin. They visages of every companion, Dwarf, Man, and Elf, were suddenly altered drastically as the Ranger swept onto the edge of the rocky road, firing swift bolts at retreating uruks, leaderless and impotent. The weight was lifted, the threat was ended, and the gates to freedom lay within their reach. The final stretch had come, and the last step would be tread upon, the last river forded…at last.

They all collapsed, even those not overcome. Many tears were shed, even those of Bror. He looked across the jagged, rocky plain of battle as men filled the air around him, hurrying to either aid or hinder him. Eyes peered at him in passing, curious and bewildered, but he did not feel nor care about their presence. They were mannish eyes, but not those of Zuromor, Grash, or the others. They were natural and full of color, tempered with both belligerence and justness, as a warrior’s should look. Brór’s head could barely turn in response to the Rangers as they began to realize what had occurred, and who were the ones who needed saving. As darkness was lifted, the Morgul Road served as a place of rest for many of the companions. Grash and Darash lay upon the scraggly stones, succumbed to the vile stench of suverah. Morgoroth, the dark-humored Elf, was dead upon the field, a fact which did not register in Bror until he saw the blood beneath him, which had spawned crimson rivers in the orifices of the black rock. Zuromor, though injured grievously still, yet stood, clasping Raeis to him, like a vision of sunrise that crested Brór’s icy horizon. Dwali fell not far off, unconscious and bloodied, but not slain. Aldor the traitor to was dead where he lay, in a sleep he would never wake from. Lyshka and Jeren stood as well, panting mightily to recover from the strange stupor now upon them. They felt freedom as the Rangers helped them to their feet and took them from their pain and suffering, into light…

…Now, as he thought of all this as if it were happening, he was bathed in true sunlight, not the falsified light of Mordor fire, or the flash of foul substance borne in the dark lands that had been used against Shelob. The great, terrible eight legs of the Spider clawed at Brór’s withered mind, the whispering breaths of Sauron boomed in his hollowed skull, the cries of orcs and comrades created a near-fatal cacophony that pounded like drumbeats upon him. But, moments before, the drumbeat had gone. Now, as he stood in greenery and woodland, he felt the presence that infected him wither and disintegrate, moaning in agony as its power was severed from it. With Sauron’s wroth Eye gone from its perch and his form gone from Arda, the pain that leeched from Brór’s countenance left wordlessly, leaving him to his own devices, to his own fate. He felt the jets of flame that had poured through him, from wounds inflicted by the Mistress of Cirith Ungol, disappear as if they were no more than pestering gnats. Feeling renewed, but still in the misty shadow, he turned around and around again, looking to the rangers as they attended his brethren, many of whom were healing from near-mortal hurts. The Dwarf, though, turned first and foremost to Zuromor, who was outside, in the midst of rangers, on a bed of straw near that which bore Grash like a bier. As Brore tore his way past two discoursing rangers, Zuromor’s deep eyes looked up at the Dwarf and he spoke.

“Brór…” he whispered, “My comrade…Did I not tell you we would be free?”

Brór looked to his compatriot sadly. Thankfully, for him, the boy’s wound was not mortal. He would live, which consoled Brór’s unhappy temperament to no end. He nodded, drawing his gauntleted hand along a bruised cheek to extinguish a solitary tear from existence, the first of several that had set a record number for the battle-hardened Dwarf. His nodding head moved vigorously, with youth flowing in his poisoned veins again. “Aye, lad,” he said, choking on the relieved words as they rose up in his throat, “you did…you did.” He could barely bring himself to continue and lay his hand upon Zuromor’s sagging shoulder where he lay on the pallet. “And now you are.” Zurumor looked up at him, still weakened and awestruck by all the happenings. His chipped eyebrow rose slowly, arching over a wide orb, and his wry grin became a perplexed frown. “We both are, friend, remember?”

Now, Brór shook his head from side to side, the madly dispersed hairs of his great beard still as unkempt and untamable as they had been on that day when the door to his two-decade prison swung open with the slightest of ease. “No, Zuromor,” he said, and let his hand slide dejectedly off Zuromor’s shoulder, “you are free. My freedom will not come for many years yet. The light may be just over the horizon, but the sun is still a mountain away. The mountain can be scaled, but I do not intend to ford the obstacle…not yet. Be happy, Zuromor, and revel in your freedom.” Zuromor still looked confused, and his back arched as he rose from the bed, swiftly assisted by one of his saviors who helped him to his feet at last. Again he looked down on Brór, but Brór did not look up at him. A call from Dwali, who had awaken from his state moments ago, stirred Brór to turn around.

“Come, Brór.” said Dwali, materializing behind his fellow dwarf, “We must engineer a way back to our lands. I am told by these men that there is a dwarf in the company of the Gondorians. Perhaps we can seek a route to our homeland with him. Now, Brór, that we are free of the accursed Black Lands, we must go home.” His voice gained energy and excitement, though all words were delivered with a serious notation, like a merry dirge, contradictory as it was. Brór, hesitating greatly, turned at last and walked back, away from the straw bed, the rangers, and Zuromor behind him. “Indeed…” his nod and pause was painfully solemn. “We must.”

Finally, wholly removing his gaze from Zuromor, Brór Stormhand dragged the two tired feet beneath him forward, as Dwali looked concernedly at him. But, though melancholic in his gait, he smiled at long last and clasped the other Dwarf’s hand, shaking it powerfully. Dwali’s face lit up at the change, and the two dwarves looked, with stern but satisfied seriousness, at each other and Brór continued to move past, at a brisker, jauntier pace. Suddenly, though, Zuromor moved rapidly towards the back of his Dwarf kinsman. He clapped him upon the back, halting him in his tracks. “Brór,” He said, with more genuine serenity than ever had been present in his voice before, “You will not say so, but I know the darkness is gone from you.” Brór turned again, his head tilting up and his eyes peering into Zurumor’s, each eye holding all the memories, all the emotions, all the feelings that had been secreted there during his stay in Mordor. “Yes, Zuromor,” he said quietly, “the darkness is gone, but only the darkness of Sauron. Some shadows still linger, shadows that do not fade with time, or heed the passage of years. I will keep my shadows, Zuromor, and you may keep yours, but you may shed those that lie in you, for you have a light to extinguish the darkness. Keep your light, my friend, and live in peace and happiness. Knowing you, and all your kindred, has been an unmatched honor. I will e’er remember the lad who befriended me in the land of darkness.”

And he turned for the last time and, with Dwali just behind, headed off to consider options yet again. Behind him, Raeis, the Elf, rushed to Zuromor, though the young man’s eyes lingered on Brór for just a moment longer. Their pact made many days ago had not been for naught, as Brór had said. He watched as Brór sat, just as he always did, but he had no prison wall at his back, or bars before him, casting shadows on his face. He heard one last sound come from the dwarf in the distance, words that carried over the small camp. “Baruk Khazâd. Khazâd aimênu.” The battle-cry of the Dwarves…and of Brór Stormhand.
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Old 09-24-2004, 06:53 PM   #173
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Ergon shifted nervously from foot to foot, awaiting the arrival of the Heroes. He had heard so much about the Ring-bearers, the two little Halflings from the distant reaches of the North and the mists of myth, that he hardly expected to see them in the flesh. The men of his command were gathered about, all of them dressed in their usual green and brown by the particular order of the Lord Elessar, who wished to see the Rangers of Ithilien in the robes that they had worn for so long in defense – and defiance – of the shadow now departed. Upon either hand and gathered about in all corners of the Field of Cormallen were the Men of the West, resplendent in glory, and glowing in the joy of a victory unhoped and unlooked for.

Ergon and his men had spent the day before preparing the grounds, including the throne of turfs, fashioned after the old Ranger method. Beside the throne stood the Lord Elessar, taking counsel with his captains, for while the shadow was past, there yet remained many servants of the now departed dark lord, and there was much still to do. At the thought, Ergon’s eye moved to where the strange party stood near the fringes of the crowd. Since the day he had rescued them, almost two weeks before, they had not ceased to amaze him. Their story had been told hesitantly at first, for their Road had been a hard one – darker and more dangerous than most. But as the details of their struggles had emerged and word had spread of their deeds, more and more men of Gondor had come to meet with the companions and hear of their exploits. The attention had unnerved them, and by the command of Elessar they had been given privacy. The Lord Elessar, however, had not been able to restrain his curiosity, particularly with regard to the passing of Shelob, and yesterday he and Mithrandir had called the companions to them and spoken with them of all that they had seen and experienced in their terrible road. None among the host knew precisely what had passed in the interview, but when the companions had emerged from the pavilion at the end of the day, they had looked changed and oddly tired. Of what they had learned, Mithrandir and Elessar would say little, only that there had been deeds of such renown performed by this odd collection of beings, as to make them among the honoured of the age that was now passing.

A cry went up from the far side of the field, and Ergon strained with the rest to see the Halflings as they were led to Elessar by Mithrandir. The Heroes were abashed by the cries and seemed to shrink toward one another, casting about with nervous smiles. Something in their manner reminded Ergon of the companions. Elessar took them by the hands and bade them sit upon the throne. There then stepped forth a bard, and soon Ergon was lost in the music.

When the song was over and the crowd was dispersing, Ergon saw the companions once more. This time they were being led by Mithrandir to meet with the Halflings. Like the Heroes, they had passed through the darkness to the light, and it seemed only fitting to the Ranger that they should be presented to those who had destroyed the Dark Lord.

Later that night as the host settled themselves about the fires that had been lit for the celebration, Ergon was pacing back to his tent. He paused by the small fire that had been lit near his own, around which were gathered the companions. They did not see him upon the fringe of the small circle cast by their fire, and he did not call out to them. They did not speak, but stared instead singly into the flames, each of them lost in their own thoughts or dreams. There was a peace to the scene that spread out to Ergon and he felt, for the first time, what had been gained by their victory. Lightness settled upon his heart, and quiet grew in his soul.

The companions stirred and moved their hands toward one another. Ergon could not tell if the act was begun by one of them, or if some instinct had seized them as a group, but reaching out, they took hands forming a ring about the flame.

Turning away so as not to disturb them, Ergon left, and sought his bed.
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Old 09-24-2004, 08:06 PM   #174
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Old 09-25-2004, 10:07 AM   #175
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