Full of Wisdom and Perfect in Beauty: 39. The Heart of Darkness, Part I

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39. The Heart of Darkness, Part I

Abdashtart wasn´t pleased.

Amandil could feel dismay radiating through his features as Pharazôn galloped towards the column and fell in between them. For a moment, he even thought he saw him exchange glances with the leader of the soldiers, but it was just a brief flicker of a second and he couldn´t tell whether he had imagined it.

As they came to the gate, however, and the chief guard finished examining the official paper that was handed to him, he set a heavy frown on the richly attired rider.

"The prince shouldn´t be leaving."

Abdashtart nodded, and was about to open his mouth, but Pharazôn spoke first.

"I didn´t come all the way from Armenelos to stay cooped in a camp while other people fight and risk themselves."

The priest of Ashtarte-Uinen insisted.

"That´s a noble sentiment, my lord, but..."

"We are just going to a trading post", Amandil intervened, wondering why he felt so daring. His friend´s presence had disquieted his superior for some reason, and that had given him a new courage. "It must be safe enough, or the merchants wouldn´t be able to conduct their business..."

"Nobody asked for your opinion", Abdashtart dismissed him with a long, cold stare. Beside him, Eshmounazer was looking agitated again.

Pharazôn, oblivious to them, answered the chief guard´s frown with his own.

"Open that door. I´m going with them."

The man looked reluctant, but there was nothing he could do. He gave the orders, and turned away muttering something between his teeth.

As they crossed the Second Wall of Umbar, Pharazôn finally manouevred his horse to ride beside Amandil´s.

"You were trying to sneak away and earn all the glory first, weren´t you?" he accused. Amandil should have glared at him for forgetting that he should keep a distance, but he found that he couldn´t. He felt lightheaded.

"Sorry. But, as you see, our superior doesn´t think that consecrating a temple ground in a trade settlement is glorious enough for the Lord of Battles´s Chosen One", he muttered, before tugging at the reins to fall prudently behind. The disgruntled Abdashtart took his place at once, and though the clatter of hooves prevented him from hearing their conversation, he guessed that the priest was trying to convince him to go back and think of his responsibilities.

Around them, the landscape provided a sharp contrast to the green fields and farmlands they had seen at the other side of the wall. This was hard land, where a few trees with gnarled trunks and small, hard leaves grew sparsely over large extensions of scorched-looking grass. The sun was rising over the horizon, and just two hours after dawn its rays were already making them sweat under their mail. It would get much worse, one of the soldiers warned them with a darkly satisfied grin.

And it did. By midday, Amandil was boiling, and he could barely see in front of him from the sweat that covered his face. Abdashtart´s face was as red as a tomato, while Eshmounazer began swaying alarmingly on his mount. Pharazôn had taken away his cloak and put it over his head the way he had seen the Umbarites do, but it didn´t seem to work because he tore it away after a while.

"How can they breathe like that?" he asked angrily. One of the soldiers, who seemed to be taking the onslaught of heat much better than any of them, laughed.

"They don´t. They don´t need it."

"And they don´t sweat, either", another chimed in. "That´s why they only need to drink one drop of water a day."

"Speaking about water, who has any?"

The soldier who rode in the back produced a waterskin from his bag, and passed it over. Amandil hadn´t been complaining, but he was so grateful at the liquid that he almost choked with it.

"Easy, easy!" They were all laughing now, while Amandil coughed and wiped his eyes. As he handed it to Eshmounazer -who was too dizzy to notice until it was shaken under his nose- something in the distance attracted his attention. It looked like a black stain, set against the horizon.

"What´s that?" he asked. His voice came hoarse, and barely recognizable.

"That was a barbarian town. That´s what they call a few huts surrounded by sticks, you see", the soldier of the waterskin explained. "It was burned in the wars thirty-five years ago."

"That was quite a spot of trouble." The leader, who seemed old enough to be a veteran, knitted his brow in a grim frown. "And they weren´t allied with the Orcs yet."

"I remember about that!" Pharazôn exclaimed. "When I was a child, their leaders were brought to Númenor. I was there, and it was the first time I saw a barbarian!"

"Why did they fight?" Amandil was curious to know what would make such a wretched people stand against the might of Númenor. Again, it was the veteran who answered.

"I don´t know. I just know why we fought them, and that´s because they started ambushing caravans and killing Númenoreans. They put their heads on spikes, and threw them over the wall. I saw one with the eyes ripped away." Eshmounazer, who had been revived by the water, let go of a smothered groan. " Now we do not allow their towns to be so close to Umbar anymore."

"Are you sure... are you sure those weren´t Orcs?" In all the tales that Amandil had heard, only dark creatures would do such things. But the veteran laughed, more unpleasantly than ever.

"Men can be worse than Orcs."

That night they camped at the side of the road, under a gnarled tree. The soldiers established the watches, and one of them warned Amandil not to take his mail away.

"All sorts of creatures roam the place at night. You wouldn´t want to lower your guard against them", he declared, with a solemn look. The young priest nodded, though now he could feel the metal freezing against his skin as much as it had boiled during the day.

It was difficult to sleep like this, lying in mail over the hard earth while the night chill dried his sweat and wrung shivers from his limbs. Amandil tossed and turned, uncomfortableness alternating with violent dreams that he couldn´t remember as soon as he opened his eyes to roll to the other side.

One of those times, he almost didn´t know if awake or asleep, he saw a figure standing under the moonlight. It was Abdashtart, wrapped in his cloak, as blue as the Lady´s mantle. He was pacing nervously, as if trying to shake away a persistent chill. Amandil tried to look at his face, but when he saw him come his way, instinct made him close his eyes and lie still.

His temples were throbbing with a growing headache as the light of dawn fell on them. He could see nobody at first; then he heard voices coming from the distance and struggled up. He rubbed his forehead, trying to ride the pain, and stood on his feet.

"What´s the matter?" he asked Eshmounazer, who was trying to catch bits of the conversation while he rolled his cloak. The young man´s hands froze.

"Something was heard tonight", he whispered. "I... think they´re worried that we may be followed."

"Followed? By whom?"

Eshmounazer gave him an ominous look.

"Just keep your sword close then, priest." Pharazôn approached them; apparently he also felt excluded from the discussion. His purple cloak was wrinkled and full of dust. "Orcs won´t bother us by daylight, but maybe those eye-gouging natives will pay us a visit."

"And you think that bull gore will protect you." It was useless to pretend in front of Eshmounazer, who was having trouble enough digesting all these alarming news.

Pharazôn patted the scabbard that hung from his waist.

"I will protect myself", he declared - maybe a little too confidently for Amandil´s liking. At that moment, the leader of the soldiers broke from the group and approached them. Abdashtart came behind him.

"Maybe you should think of going back, my lord", he told Pharazôn bluntly. The prince withstood his glance with ease.

"No."

"If you stay, and something happens..."

"If I go, how many of your soldiers would have to go with me? Our numbers would be halved, and that would serve nobody except our enemies. It´s better if we stick together."

The older man stared at him -and so, several steps behind and pretending to be busy with his things, did Amandil. Pharazôn did not sound confrontational; he also didn´t sound boasting or anything but calm and reasonable. This was so unlike him that he could not help feeling impressed.

So, apparently, did the soldier.

"Very well. I was telling the others that I had half a mind to send Lord Abdashtart with you, and leave the consecration of the temple to one of the young priests. But it´s true our numbers can´t bear much stretching..."

"The... ah, the prince is right", Abdashtart nodded. "His wisdom must come from his noble blood. And in any case, the consecrating should be done by a senior priest."

Abdashtart was doing his best to keep his dignity, but Amandil could perceive that he would have wanted to go back with Pharazôn. In the midst of the tension, his lips curved in a brief grin.

"Then it is decided. Now grab something to eat and let´s go before the sun falls on us!"

It was a curious sort of remark, but it applied perfectly to the sun of Umbar, which didn´t offer them any respite that day either. The road soon started meandering upwards, slowing their advance, and two of the soldiers kept falling back continuously, though it didn´t seem to Amandil that anyone could hide in such a dreary place.

An hour after midday, they reached the foot of a mountain pass. That land had no mountains like those in Númenor, with green slopes and trees, but ones entirely made of ragged, sand-coloured rock. A road had been excavated there too, wide enough for the caravans that came from the Númenórean city.

"Will it get much higher?" Eshmounazer asked, peering nervously at the widening ravine. It had been excavated by a river which might have been great once, but now it didn´t even deserve the name of stream. Amandil barely heard the current as it ran beneath them.

"Don´t look down, young man", a soldier warned. Their voices had an eerie echo. "You may lose your head and fall."

Eshmounazer jerked away abruptly, and someone chuckled. Still, Amandil noticed that nobody laughed as openly as the previous day. He looked up, at the crags of bare rock that hung above their heads like a silent threat. All of a sudden, the idea of enemy eyes following their steps seemed much more believable than before.

"I hope we don´t have to spend the night in this cursed ravine", someone muttered, when the shadows started to fall towards the East. One of the other soldiers started making an answer, but suddenly a terrible noise echoed through the pass, making their hairs stand on end. It did not sound human...

"A mountain goat", the leader explained. Amandil´s grip on the reins relaxed, and he felt his chest throb with suppressed laughter.

Darkness had already fallen by the time they came to the other side. It was a sharp descent, and Amandil found himself praying that the horses´s eyesight was better than his own, for he had great difficulties to see the path under their feet. When they finally left it, it seemed to him as if the ground had sprung up to meet them.

They were now at the foot of a large cliff, and the leader of the soldiers didn´t seem happy at the prospect of halting the march there. He tried to make the group advance under the moonlight, but the bulk of the mountain stood between it and them, allowing only a dim radiance to reach their side. One of the horses, the one that carried the sacred objects of the Goddess, tripped over a rock, causing them to rattle and fall from the bag.

In the end, Amandil did not know if out of common sense or superstition, he gave up and ordered them to make camp. Eshmounazer and him were not exempted from the watches that night, and the veteran even accepted Pharazôn´s offer to help. He seemed quite on edge as he gave them the instructions, repeating that any sound, no matter how inoffensive it seemed to them, should be immediately reported, and everybody roused. Each should be holding their watch far away from the others, so all sides of the camp would be equally covered and they wouldn´t fall to the temptation of distracting their companions. Amandil found himself sitting right under the cliff, pressing the sword hilt to his chest and feeling like something was bound to happen.

"There!" someone cried, when the moon was already about to rise from the crags. Amandil stood up as if impelled by a resort, sword in hand, and he heard the clang of metal all around him.

It was Eshmounazer. He stood twenty feet away from him, his sword-hand frozen in mid-wave, and staring in dazed astonishment at something that stood before him. Amandil and the others arrived just in time to see a hare bolt off in fright.

"I..." He looked down. "I am sorry... I thought..."

One of the soldiers, the same who had teased him earlier in the day about the cliff, clapped his shoulder.

"You heard a sound and reported it. You did well."

Slowly, the camp seemed to go back to normal. The sentries walked back to their posts, and those who were sleeping huddled under their cloaks again.

Amandil laid the sword over his crossed legs, and looked up with a frown. If Orcs were like he had imagined them, they would raise such a ruckus coming down the cliff that even a sleeping man would hear it. In this strange land, however, not much was like he had imagined it. Maybe anything was possible... maybe Orcs were as stealthy as the natives, and the natives were as cruel as the Orcs...

He fixed his stare so hard, that soon he began to see undulating shapes that faded as soon as he turned towards them. Weariness was starting to prey on him, and he fought it by standing up and forcing his aching legs to walk in circles. Now and then, he turned sharply towards the side of the cliff, but he saw nothing there.

When someone approached him from behind, his sword was out if its sheath before he realized it was one of his companions.

"It´s my turn now. You try to rest for a while, tomorrow you´ll need it", he grumbled, shaking his head to banish the last traces of sleep away. Amandil nodded gravely, and was about to leave when he heard a scream.

It had come from within the camp. Everybody was awake, as the change of guard had just taken place, and there was considerable confusion as they turned towards the campfire. The flickering glow of the flames fell upon a feverish face.

"Lord Abdashtart?" Confused, Eshmounazer approached him, but the priest jerked back. The scream had come from his lips, which were now trembling and muttering things that nobody could make out clearly. His eyes had a deranged look.

"Lord Abdashtart, what...?"

"Go back!" he shouted, in a shrill voice that did not seem to belong to Amandil´s dignified superior. "She is furious. She will kill us! You must go back now!"

"Who is...?"The eyes of the leader fell upon the bag of the sacred objects, which had been carefully wrapped again by Eshmounazer after the earlier mishap. He fell silent, and Amandil could perceive fear gathering in the depths of the veteran´s eyes.

"We are going to die!" Abdashtart continued, oblivious to Eshmounazer and the soldiers who told him to calm down. "We are all going to die!"

"You must have had a dream. Yes." The leader walked towards the priest, nodding as if to himself. "A dream, not..."

Suddenly, as he watched him, Amandil experienced something terrible, more terrible than all the visions and hthe dreams. It was a dark premonition, that took his breath away as if a boulder of rock had collided against his chest. For a moment, he could do nothing but reel from the impact. Then, as he saw the black spear hanging from the man´s neck, his hand went to his sword, and he rose to meet the enemy with a deep cry.

Behind him, he heard the others struggle with their shock and grab their weapons, but he was a step ahead of them. Over and over again, he thrust and parried, and his sword cut through armour and flesh. A horrible face twisted in agony under the moonlight, and he looked at it in dark fascination, so this was what an Orc looked like.

Many of the people who had taught him moves in Númenor had warned him that killing was different from pretending; that he needed great presence of mind and nerves of steel to be able to do it. But this was completely different. He was standing at the edge of life and death, and everything he had ever learned came to him as a second nature. Behind him, Abdashtart´s screams stopped abruptly.

One of the Orcs charged at him with an axe; Amandil stepped aside and went for his raised arm, which he severed with his blade. The Orc fell to the ground with a grating shriek, and a jet of dark blood stained his clothes. He felt no nausea, no revulsion; it felt unreal, like one of his violent dreams that he couldn´t remember afterwards. Still, this gave him a brief respite, and he took the chance to look around him. The foul creatures of Mordor were everywhere, and the ground was full of bodies.

Fear crept inside him, fraying his battle frenzy at the edges. Was this how he was meant to die, a world away from his island and his heritage? And Pharazôn... where was he?

One of the creatures spoke words, in a language that he couldn´t understand. Still, he could see that he was gesturing towards him. At least three Orcs advanced towards where he was.

Desperately, he unsheathed his dagger with his left hand, and wielded both blades. His son Halideyid´s lesson about distracting enemies by preying on their insecurities came now to his mind like a flash of irony. He wanted to laugh at the uselessness of it all -Orcs had no insecurities. They had been born and bred with one single purpose, to kill.

I am glad you are not here, he thought, wondering how long it would take for Halideyid and Amalket to hear of his death. But of course, you weren´t meant to be here -you were meant to live.

The Orcs began spreading, intending to surround him. If he let them achieve their manouevre, he was dead, he realized with the certainty of a much more experienced warrior. Taking breath and steeling himself against the fear that threatened to overwhelm him, he charged.

His sword sank on the Orc that stood to the right, who growled in shock at the unexpected attack. The other two threw themselves on him, and he barely had the time to think before he stabbed one in the face with his dagger. The scream was terrible as the creature clawed at it blindly, trying to staunch the flow of blood and the pain, but it tripped on his comrade´s body and fell over it. Amandil groaned; his sword was trapped now under them, and the third Orc was upon him.

"Die!" he growled in the tongue of Men. Amandil threw himself on the ground, just in time before the powerful sweep of the creature´s axe found his neck. From that position, he kicked at his legs, trying to make him trip and lose his advantage. The manouevre did not work, and he stretched the dagger in front of him, knowing that it would be useless to stop the next attack. If only he had the time to struggle to his feet... or even draw closer, so he could stab at the leg...

All of a sudden, the Orc stopped, his monstruous features contorted by something other than triumph. A blade protruded from his chest, cutting even his mouldy armour plate. Amandil tried to see who had saved him, but this brief distraction proved fatal, as the body fell heavily upon him.

Darkness came upon him then, and he saw nothing more.

o-o-o-o-o-o

The throbbing in the side of his head was worse than ever. It kept intruding in his dreams, where a woman with honey eyes and a tall young man welcomed him home. He tried to ride the pain, to make it disappear and return to them, but it wouldn´t let go, prodding him slowly but surely towards awakening.

He heard grisly voices, addressing someone in broken Adûnaic. Orcs. The full horror of that night came upon him for the first time, as he relived their monstruous faces and the horrifying frenzy of battle. It threatened to overpower him, but as he started shaking in his bonds -his hands had been tied to his back-, a new voice gave him pause.

"Of course he is someone important. He is my kinsman!"

Pharazôn! He was alive...

"He has no shiny things on him!" the Orc barked accusingly. "Just like others!"

"That´s because he´s a priest ", the prince replied without skipping a beat. "But of course you would be too stupid to know what that means, wouldn´t you?"

Amandil heard the sound of an impact, accompanied by a groan, and winced. Pharazôn had never learned when to keep his mouth shut.

At least, he thought, he seemed to have given the creatures something to think about. He opened his eyes slightly, and saw that they were inside a cave. He and Pharazôn were lying side by side, but their captors had retreated to the vicinity of a fire, where they kept talking in that raspy language of theirs while examining the weapons, mailshirts and objects they had looted.

"So you are awake." The whisper tickled his ear. He tried to nod as discreetly as he could, but nobody was paying attention to them anymore.

"The others?" he asked. Pharazôn´s hair was matted with dried blood, and his face was dirty. One of his eyes was dark and swollen; the Orc must have hit him there.

"Dead." he replied. Amandil was shocked.

"All?" He thought of that veteran soldier, survivor of many battles. He thought of Eshmounazer, brought this far against his will.

"They´re going to deliver us to some "man chief". I suppose he´s from the folk that´s so fond of playing ball with Númenórean heads, after ripping off their eyes."

That did not sound reassuring, indeed. Amandil felt his bonds, trying to gauge how strong and tight they were.

"They know how to make knots, if not much else. But you could try tricking that one into setting you free." Pharazôn´s chin pointed towards an especially gruesome Orc who was carrying sticks to fuel the fire. He had only one eye, and no nose. "I think it may be female."

Amandil did not laugh.

"How can you make jokes? Aren´t you afraid?"

Aren´t you afraid? Someone had asked him that in the Forbidden Bay, in another world. There had been need in his voice, a need that Amandil had never acknowledged. And now, he was dead.

Not if I have my sword, he had answered back then, arrogantly. Now he didn´t even have a knife, and his hands were tied.

"How can I be afraid of them? They´re worms with legs!"

He was either a fool, Amandil thought, or the bravest man in Númenor. Probably the first, but he still retained that ability to give him heart when no reasonable words would.

The conversation between the Orcs had turned into an argument, or so it seemed by the way they raised their voices and one of them threw another against the wall. Amandil struggled harder.

"That´s not the way", Pharazôn told him. " I have something on me that can cut it, they didn´t take it off. It´s hanging on a chain, but I can open it with my teeth. Then, you will pick it up with your fingers and try to cut my bonds. After I´m free, I´ll free you. Agreed?"

Amandil nodded. He thought how difficult it would be to pull all those manouevres without giving themselves away, but at least it was a plan.

"Agreed", he replied, and stretched his neck a little to stand watch on his captors while his friend busied himself with the chain. For now, they seemed too busy to notice.

It took Pharazôn quite a long while to find the clasp, and even longer to work how to open it. As it finally flew open with a click, a glowing object slid over his chest. Amandil saw it was a jewel... a large sea-green stone, wrought in a silver engraving of magnificent beauty.

"There´s no cutting edges in this!" he hissed.

"There is. Chip on the lower edge, from the battle earlier." For a moment, he looked pensive, even as he lowered himself on his left flank so the jewel would slide to Amandil´s side. "It does seem to be an amulet of some sort..."

"Quiet out there!" one of the Orcs growled in their direction. Amandil froze, afraid that they would be coming anytime now, see the jewel and guess their intentions. But after a moment, the Orc just turned away, thumping another who had seized the chance to steal something from his bag of spoils. The ensuing struggle almost became a full-fledged fight, with the other Orcs urging them on with vicious shouts, until the biggest of the bunch -probably the leader- jumped in the middle and pulled them apart. One of them fell to the ground, and the big Orc kicked him on the gut.

"What are you doing?" Pharazôn hissed. Suddenly, Amandil realized that he had been watching the creatures in revolted fascination instead of focusing on the task at hand. He crawled on the ground, stretching his arms as much as the ropes allowed him. The jewel was still out of his reach, and he clenched his teeth.

"Again", he grunted, sliding a bit further under the impulse of his feet on the cave floor. This time, he could reach the jewel. Pharazôn whispered the instructions until his fingers finally touched the hard edge, and closed upon it. The chipped part was small, but it would have to do.

Just as he was having that thought, he felt a sharp pain, and something wet trickled down his finger. He cursed.

"It cut me!" The turmoil near the fire quietened abruptly. His heart started beating loudly against his chest, had the Orcs heard him?

It wasn´t until much later that he dared resume his task. As he lay limp on the ground, he could feel the blood oozing from his finger to the floor. At least it is sharp, he thought, forcing himself to calm down.

And slippery,he added in his mind when he realized the effects of the liquid on his palm. He tried to hold it with his clean hand, but after some clumsy manouevres it was all smeared. Cursing again, this time soundlessly, he set to doing his work as well as he could.

It was no easy thing, between the blood and the uncomfortableness of his position, and the fact that he couldn´t see what he was doing as he lay with his back to Pharazôn. Still, somehow he managed to make the jewel connect with the rope, and pressed there with rhythmic sawing movements. They were now so close that he could perceive the tension in his friend´s body as he, too, tried to stretch his arms backwards.

The ropes didn´t start giving way under Amandil´s awkward sawing until a while later. When he noticed his progress, he redoubled his efforts. Soon, they would be free. And then...

He frowned, pausing a moment in his work as he wondered what they were going to do next. The Orcs still outnumbered them, they couldn´t run away in the dead of the night through an unfamiliar country, and the first to check on them would notice that they were not tied anymore. And then they could take some of them by surprise... but all?

"What are we going to do next?" he whispered to Pharazôn. The answer was almost too distant to hear, though they were so close. A bitter smell of blood was reaching his nostrils in waves.

"We create a diversion."

A diversion of what? Amandil wondered. He resumed his work in growing frustration. What kind of harebrained plan was his friend hatching? Pharazôn had never been the calculating type, and if he was just acting on impulses this time they would both die because of it. Even his lack of fear was starting to exasperate him. If only he could be sure he understood how serious their situation was...

The last rope gave way unexpectedly, and Amandil could not keep the improvised saw from slipping and falling to the ground with a loud clang. His eyes widened in horror. This time, the Orcs must have heard it, no matter how they pretended to lie still.

His eyes were closed, so he could only hear the heavy footsteps and the clang of metal approaching him. He opened a very narrow slit, to be prepared for what would happen, and saw the biggest Orc -the one he had assumed to be the leader-, walking towards them. Fear paralyzed him for a moment.

He was still tied.

"What´s that noise, you bloody Númenor curs?" he growled, hovering over them. His malicious eyes immediately found the jewel. "That´s shiny."

The last words were spoken less in anger, and more in a low voice which could almost have been called reverential. Now, he would want to claim the shiny thing... and maybe he would be too busy to notice the severed ropes, and too stupid to wonder what they had been doing with the cutting edge.

A black hand darted towards the jewel, greedily picking it up. Just as it did so, a horrible, keening scream rent the thick air of the cave. Amandil opened his eyes, astonished. The Orc was writhing in pain right before his eyes.

Pharazôn did not hesitate a second. He seized the dropped jewel, jumped to his feet and pressed it against the Orc´s face. A sizzling noise followed, and a smell of charred meat that made Amandil nauseous, as vivid remembrances of childhood nightmares flashed through his mind. Blind and mad with agony, the creature couldn´t prevent Pharazôn from pulling the axe from his side and striking him with it.

A dreadful noise of clanging and banging echoed across the cave, as the other Orcs realized what was happening and rushed from their seats to charge at them. Amandil heard their battle screams, and tried desperately to free himself from his bonds. Before him, Pharazôn had adopted a battle stance, the axe in one hand and the jewel in the other.

It was obvious that the creatures were more afraid of the latter, that magic devilry that would burn their flesh as soon as it touched them. For a moment, which seemed to stretch for the length of an age, they watched it warily, not daring to approach. Then, one of them let go of a low growl, and charged.

Amandil crawled on all fours, just in time to prevent the Orc´s body from falling on top of him like before. Dark blood oozed from the severed arm, but he was more interested in the battle axe that protruded from beneath the corpse. Trying not to look at the battle, or allow himself to be distracted, he turned his back to it, put the ropes against the blade and started sawing again. Curses, more screams and the burning smells assailed his senses as he worked.

When the ropes gave way, it wasn´t a moment too soon. He barely had time to pick up the axe in his own, numbed fingers and struggle to his feet before two Orcs hurled themselves at him. He hacked at them, losing himself in the instinctive frenzy of battle. As he did so, the change came upon him again, and he did not feel cornered and hopeless anymore.

He could fight now.

There was no way to keep count of how many Orcs came at him, or how many he killed. For a moment, Pharazôn´s staggering figure flashed into view, and Amandil realized that he had lost his weapon. He wanted to help him, but another growling Orc came between them, and he was forced to fight for his own life.

This time, rage overthrew instinct, turning his deadly, measured moves into desperate thrusts. That caused the curtain to fall open for a moment, baring his mind, and he became aware of the carnage -the dark blood flowing everywhere and the bodies that lay strewn around him, wounded, hacked, maimed. The axe he was holding sank on the creature´s throat, which let go of a sharp whistling sound as he fell to the ground, twitching. When Amandil pulled it away, another jet of blood burst through. No other Orc remained in his vicinity, and he stood still, pale and shaken to the core.

"Fuck!"

The expletive yanked him from his daze. Pharazôn, as a last resort, had thrown the jewel at his pursuer´s eyes like a rock. His aim had been true, and it was a terrible sight as the creature tried in vain to pull it away before it burned his face. Men can be worse than Orcs, the thought came unbidden to his mind.

Then, Pharazôn fell to his knees, and the thought became distant and strange, as if other person had thought it. Amandil pulled a rusty sword from the corpse´s fingers, and with a weapon in each hand, gave a battle yell and ran with all his might towards the two Orcs who were about to spear his friend. They were not expecting him: the first died with a look of shock etched upon his eyes, and the second with a curse.

They were the last.

The axe and the sword fell to the ground with a sharp clang. Amandil´s hands trembled; nothing seemed real to him. He turned towards Pharazôn, and saw his bloody lips curve in a smile.

Anger and frustration coursed through him, though they could find no target. The target is dead now, he thought, they are all dead now.

"Good diversion." Pharazôn mumbled, before falling unconscious to the floor.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Maeve Riannon

Status: General

Completion: Ongoing Serial

Era: Akallabêth/Last Alliance

Genre: General

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/02/12

Original Post: 02/23/07

Go to Full of Wisdom and Perfect in Beauty overview

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