41. The Heart of Darkness, Part II
The Heart of Darkness, Part II
The silence after the battle was heavy, and full of echoes in his mind. Forcing himself to keep his turmoil under check, he explored the place searching for their things, which he found in the bags of Orcs together with the spoils of their dead companions. The discovery of Eshmounazer´s sword brought a pang to his stomach, but there was no time for grief now. He retrieved Pharazôn´s things, and threw the rest to the floor so he could later choose among them.
The Orc fire was the only light in the cave, which became dimmer and dimmer as he went deep inside it. It didn´t seem to have an end that he could see, which made him remember stories about Orcs and underground tunnels. Maybe, he thought, that passage could lead them to the other side of the mountains, where Umbar was. But it was just as possible that they would run into more Orcs in the darkness.
At last, he found what looked like the warehouse of the place. Kneeling, he sought among maggoty animal carcasses, knives and dusty armour plates until he stumbled upon a row of wooden casks. He opened one of them and sniffed inside; the smell told him that the substance was strong. Close by, he found jars, and he filled one of them with the contents of the cask.
There was no sign of anything that could be used for medicinal purposes. Maybe Orcs did not treat their wounds, and just let their companions die like dogs. That wouldn´t be at odds with what Amandil had seen and heard of them so far. Whether they had been the servants of Morgoth in the dark pits of his fortress, as his mother used to tell him, or created out of divine wrath against the Elves, as the lore of the Four Temples taught, they were foul beasts.
He stood up. Alcohol and cloth bandages would have to do. There were two large wounds, one on the right leg and the other on the flank, right under the arm. He had quenched the flow of blood as he could, tying it with the first, makeshift bandages he could lay hands on, which had been torn from the clothes worn by the nearest corpse. Disinfecting and healing would be much harder, though. He had never done it before, by himself, but he couldn´t afford to be less than decisive now.
Returning to Pharazôn´s side, he tore the bandages from the leg, and recoiled when the blood started flowing again. He tied it back hurriedly, and set himself to prepare new bandages from Abdashtart´s finery, dabbing them in the Orc beverage. His friend stirred, mumbling words that Amandil couldn´t understand. Panic was there, festering in his stomach and ready to take control at any moment, but once again he didn´t allow it to. He would patch him, get both of them to a safe place.
He turned away, and his glance stopped at the corpses that lay strewn around them. The jewel. He had to find the jewel. It was Pharazôn´s amulet, and it protected him. If he got it back, superstitious as he was, he would feel much better and stop muttering.
That jewel had really burned the Orc´s flesh.
This was another of the many things he had been trying to keep locked away in a corner of his mind, but as he walked among the rows of dead Orcs looking for the familiar green and silver gleam, it came back. What kind of power had that been ...had it been the power of Melkor or Ashtarte-Uinen? He couldn´t imagine Pharazôn wearing anything that belonged to any other god, and yet it had worked as he had never seen divine might work before his eyes. It was disturbing to think -so much that, for a moment, he longed to turn away and abandon his search.
As he stood there, however, pulled by contradictory impulses, he spotted it at last. It was still where he had last seen it, stuck to the Orc face it had ravaged. The flesh was burned all around it, swelling into a terrible shape, and the eyes were gone. Mastering his repugnance, he stretched a careful hand, almost expecting to be burned himself, but it felt as cool as before. He lifted it easily, as if it had never adhered to the creature´s face with a vicelike and invisible grip.
Unnerved, he began moving away, when suddenly something made him freeze in his tracks. A strange smell reached his nostrils, not of blood and filth and charred meat, but of something sweet and invigorating that reminded him of stolen hours under the trees of the Bay. Quickly, he sought for the source, and lifted the dead limb to pull a bough of green leaves that lay underneath.
It was a plant he had never seen before, with deep green leaves that did not seem spoiled or stained by the battle that had taken place right over them. As he held it over his palm, and though he did not know very well why, Amandil was certain that it was a medicine, destined to bring healing. But how could Orcs keep something like this, they who hated trees and plants as much as the sun that nourished them?
Maybe it had been brought by one of his own group as part of a survival kit. They had been experienced warriors, who knew what was needed in the wilderness. He took another, deep smell, and he was convinced of this theory. Determination seemed to ooze from that plant like magic.
Everything seemed easier now. When Amandil knelt before Pharazôn´s unconscious form, it was as if someone was whispering in his ear what to do. He undid the bandages again, and checked that the flow of blood had almost stemmed. He took the new ones, dripping with alcohol, tied them around the wound and put the leaves inside them. Then, he repeated the same operation with the other wound.
Pharazôn did not even stir, but he stopped mumbling and fell into a deep sleep.
* * * * *
Under the dim light, he saw that the mouth of the cave was very close to their encampment. This must have been how the creatures had been able to take them by surprise, then. Anger grew inside him as he discovered the trampled fireside and the gutted horses. The corpses had been lined in a row, stripped of their valuables, and beheaded. It was a terrible sight, but at least he couldn´t recognize their dead features anymore, which helped him retain a measure of detachment. He had no time to give them a proper burial, or a Prince of Númenor might join them.
This if all the jolting didn´t make his wounds bleed again, he thought in worry as they slowly made it back to the Númenórean road under the cliff, the unconscious prince leaning against his shoulder. It looked so much wider now that he was on foot – wider and longer. And more than anything, it looked empty, of the caravans and parties that should have been travelling back and forth from Umbar to carry their merchandise to the outposts. One of those would be their salvation, and yet they hadn´t met a soul since they set forth from the Second Wall.
The sun rose in the sky, its rays falling pitilessly on Amandil´s head and shoulders. He felt himself boil under the mail, and the ache in his muscles had dulled until he couldn´t even feel them anymore. There was no food, no water to be had in that ghastly land, which became more and more barren as they progressed. At some point, Pharazôn started mumbling things again, and Amandil´s teeth clenched.
He had lost all notion of time and distance when they came to a place where the road gave an abrupt turn and left the side of the cliff. In the distance, he could distinguish a strange red shape under a row of trees. Blinking his sweat away, he tried to focus his glance on it, and the shape started to shake until it became a red blur. If it had been in any other circumstances, he might have been wary, but now he felt there was little to lose anymore -and nothing if he let the night fall on them, or collapsed from lack of water and exhaustion. He gave Pharazôn´s body a painful heave, and set towards it.
It was a house, but very unlike those of the Númenóreans. Something between a hut and a tent, it stood low and draped in red cloth. As he drew even closer, he could distinguish the silhouettes of two people sitting before the entrance, wrapped in white fabrics. Judging by the difference in their build, they had to be a woman and a man, dark-skinned and small like the barbarians he had seen in Umbar. The man was sharpening a knife, which slipped from his hands as he became aware of their presence. Quickly, the woman stood up and ran towards the safety of their home.
Just a small peasant household. And, by the looks of it, more afraid of him than he was of them, he thought, picking up the courage to approach the place.
"I come in peace. We need help", he announced in a cracked voice, wondering if they would understand him. Or believe him, seeing that he was fully armed. "My friend is hurt."
The man, who had picked up the knife again and was fingering it nervously, levelled them with an anxious look. He said something in a language that Amandil couldn´t understand.
"Can we go in?" he insisted. "We just need some food and rest... and something for the wounds, if you would be so kind?" Useless. "Food. Rest. Medicine." he repeated slowly, trying to mimick the motions with his free hand.
"Right. In", the man nodded, in accented Adûnaic. He stepped away from the entrance, bowing in sudden obsequiousness, but Amandil could perceive that he didn´t want to stand anywhere near the reach of his sword. "Mighty sea lords."
Before Amandil could thank him, the man shouted more words in his language. Two women immediately came out of the shelter, hiding their faces behind the cloth they wore and peering at them in trepidation.
"There´s beds inside, to the right. I will bring food and everything", one of them said in Adûnaic. She had the voice of a younger woman, but without seeing her face, Amandil couldn´t be sure.
Heartened by the prospect of rest, however, he dragged Pharazôn inside and blinked the gleam of the sun away from his eyes. The structure of the building was sustained by a skeleton of wooden poles tied with ropes, but there was cloth everywhere, forming the ceiling, the walls and even the floor. There was no furniture to be seen, though as he lifted one of those heavy red fabrics to enter the secluded space to the right, he found three heaps of blankets which he assumed to be beds. He put Pharazôn on one of those, and pulled away his clothes to look at the bandages.
To his surprise, there was barely any blood in them. The scent of the leaves he had found on the cave floor reached his nostrils, and for a moment, in spite of his sore throat, the hurt in his muscles and his parched lips, he felt rested.
"Here." A plate was pulled in his direction, but as he turned towards the woman he could only see a blur of white fabric disappearing behind the red. They would not be in the same room as them, Amandil realized. He wondered what made them so scared. They seemed peaceful folk, a peasant family who lived from the land and minded their own business.
They´ve always hated us, call us usurpers, tyrants and thieves. The words of that old sailor came back to his mind as he grabbed a jar of dark liquid that smelled strongly of herbs. He winced, and not only because it was tepid.
The soldiers had spoken of wars, of fierce natives and a relentless rivalry. They would even go as far as to establish alliances with Mordor, to welcome Orcs into their homes and fight alongside them. They would do all that, and yet flee from him, who was a man like them. What had prompted that attitude, that emmity and mistrust?
Carefully, he dabbed some of the liquid over his friend´s forehead. Pharazôn had begun stirring again, but to Amandil´s relief, he wasn´t burning.
"Is there...?" He felt ridiculous shouting in that empty place, without knowing if his hosts were there or a mile away. "Are there any clean bandages around here?"
Nobody answered him. He sighed, and crawled out of the place.
The rest of the house was also empty, so he had to step outside. The sunlight blinded him and forced him to rub his eyes with his hands. As he let them fall back to his side, a figure emerged before him.
It was one of the women, the one who had spoken before. Now she had thrown the veil back on her forehead, and her features were those of a young woman, pretty enough in spite of the hue and hardness of her skin. Her eyes were large and coal black.
"Excuse me..." he began carefully, afraid that she would run away. But she didn´t seem scared any longer. She stared at him in an appraising way, standing her ground as he approached her. "I need bandages. For my friend."
"Bandages", she nodded. Then, she motioned towards the entrance. "Inside."
Amandil was heartened at her daring, and still a little uncomfortable as he followed her. Where had the others gone?
The young woman -the girl?- held a red cloth open for him. It wasn´t the piece to the right where Pharazôn was resting, however, but the one on the opposite side of the entrance. That shelter barely deserved to be called a house, and yet it was bigger than it seemed at first sight.
He picked up the cloth with his own hand, going in after her. Just as he released it behind him, she stopped in her tracks abruptly, and he bumped against her back.
The question remained unspoken, for all of a sudden she turned back and kissed him. Amandil felt her lips connect forcefully with his, and a sweet taste of warm cinnamon as her tongue entered his mouth. For a moment, the frightening strength of those sensations kept him rooted to the spot.
Then, he remembered himself, and pulled away.
"What are you doing?" he hissed.
She looked taken aback, but only for a brief moment. Her parted lips curved in a lusty smile, and she yanked the cloth from her head completely. A thick mass of dark, braided hair came in sight. One of her hands started playing with the strands that had broken out of the cord.
"You are tall", she said. "And handsome."
It may have been the experiences of the last days, or the exhaustion, or the lack of nourishment, but Amandil could not think of anything to say to this. He stood there, watching in shock as she yanked the white fabrics from her body next. Underneath them, her limbs were rolled in what looked like coarse bandages, from chest to knee. Maybe because they were pulled tight, she seemed very thin.
"The other people... aren´t they your parents?" He finally seemed to have found his voice back. "What would they think if...?"
"They know. Of course they know. You are a Númenórean", she sang, more than said, in a crooning voice. He swallowed.
This was madness. He had a wife in Armenelos... and a son... a son who was probably, surely! older than this girl was. She was a barbarian, too... and his friend was lying sick in the other room, how could he even be thinking of this?
The bandage that covered her chest burst open, and two small but round breasts came into view. Amandil looked away at once, though not before he could feel an uncomfortable heat in his groin.
"Stop that!" he shouted. "I only need clean bandages. Get dressed."
She did not speak for a while. When she did so, her tone was even, as if she didn´t feel defeated by his rejection. Amandil did not know whether to feel relieved by this.
"Back when I brought you food and drink, I smelled something", she said. Not sure if she had covered her breasts, but also unwilling to give his back to such a woman, he turned towards her again, determined to keep his glance religiously fixed to the floor. The sight gave him a jolt, but he forced himself to pay no mind.
"What kind of smell?"
"A sweet fragrance. Like..." She paused for a while. "Like the heart of the desert in bloom."
Her voice wasn´t singsong or lusty anymore; it was full of an emotion that Amandil couldn´t quite lay a finger on.
"I used a fresh-smelling leaf for my friend´s bandages", he explained. "Do you know it?"
For a moment, he couldn´t prevent himself from looking up, at her face. Her eyes had narrowed as if in pain, and slowly she started to tie her breasts again.
"Is your friend a king?" she asked.
"What?" Shocked, he wondered how could she have made that guess. The purple had stayed in the cave of the Orcs, and the silver steel armour was dirty. Nobody could have imagined that a prince of Númenor would be wandering the wild lands of Middle-Earth with just one companion, and need the hospitality of a barbarian. Nobody... "No. Why that question?"
"The leaf can be used by the Sea King alone. The King owns it", she replied, in a tone that was laced with a now unmistakeable bitterness. Amandil did not understand, though the words tugged at something in the back of his mind. He sat down in front of her.
"Do you know it? The leaf?"
She nodded somberly.
"There is a place, far away, in the middle of the desert. When El made the sky go up and the earth go down, He made a garden there, and it was a place of great wonder, with all the plants and animals useful for Men."
"Do you mean Eru?" Amandil ventured, surprised. In Númenor, he had heard that the religion of the barbarians was nothing at all like theirs; that they worshipped animals and gruesome statues.
Irritation flashed in the girl´s eyes.
"I mean El!" She paused for a moment, then continued with the same, somber voice as before. "The First Men lived in the garden, but they lost it. They rebelled, and El exiled them." Like the Elves in his mother´s tales. Amandil´s curiosity was turning into fascination. "For many long years our people lived miserably and died early, because the land was barren and we didn´t have anything of what was needed. No plants, no animals, no medicines... no wool to weave clothes for us and walls for our houses."
It was her use of Adûnaic what made the girl talk of weaving walls; a Númenórean wouldn´t know how to put those strange dwellings into words.
"One day, Haradu left his village, and his hearth, and his mother, and entered the Great Desert. It was a terrible place, where there was no water or trees and the sun burned like a fire, but he entered it alone and without fear. Forty years he wandered, until everybody thought he had died. But one day, he came back, and nobody recognised him because his skin had turned as dark as smoked wood. He had found the garden at the heart of the desert, and brought back a seed for each plant, a male and a female of each animal. The most precious of all the seeds was this, the Leaf of Haradu." For a while, as she told the story, her voice had become lighter, and full of a bubbling pride that Amandil found hard to reconcile with this poor landscape and humble abode, and with a girl who would give herself to strangers. Now, however, it was darkened again. "Since then, we honoured the hero by burning it in his altar. The smoke reached his spirit, and he smiled upon us, but the Sea Lords..." Her forehead creased in a scowl. "They claimed it for themselves. They stole it. They burned our fields and smoked our seeds and said it belonged to the Sea King alone. Liars!"
Her gaze was so intense that Amandil withdrew an inch. Usurpers and thieves. He felt defensive, as if his mind needed to find a way of lashing back at an accusation that was directed also towards him. Grabbing at this and that, he suddenly put the pieces together, and the truth stood in front of him, as naked as she had been minutes before. His eyes grew wide.
"Thirty five years ago. The attacks on the outposts and the caravans. It... it was your people, wasn´t it? Because of the leaf?"
She looked down; a strange light was in her eyes.
"They ambushed them in the mountains, and cut off their heads. Each was sent to one of the tribes, except the head of the leader. That one they sent to the Númenóreans," she mumbled. Amandil looked at her, so small, so incongrously young. He could find no words.
Slowly, she turned away from him, and started tinkering with the clay pots as if looking for something. He gazed at her, mesmerized. The white cloth had remained on the floor, forgotten, and her hair moved together with her shoulders in brief, undulating jerks.
And then he heard it. A clash that vibrated too loudly to be the chime of clay against clay in her practiced hands. A groan, coming from the neighbouring room.
"What was that?" he asked, tensing in alert. A pot fell to the floor, and broke in two. She turned back, and he barely had the time to see the anguished pallor in her face before she was on him, kissing his forehead, his mouth, his neck.
"It´s... nothing." she said between kisses. "Shh." Her mouth left a trail of fire in his body.
"No." He shook his head, grabbing her hand to pull her away. It wasn´t right, his every limb was screaming at him. And not because of Amalket, or because of his son, or because of Pharazôn, but because she was his enemy. As he felt her lips claiming his, he knew, and his hand darted towards her wrist before she could stab him with the knife.
She wrenched herself free with a snarl.
"You Sea-devil!" she cursed, raising it to strike again. Amandil sought around him frantically, but he was weaponless. The idea that a young girl could kill him where a horde of Orcs had failed was as ironic as it was terrible.
He rolled over to avoid the second strike, which cut a large, tearing gash into the cloth hanging behind him. Before he rolled back, however, she had already retrieved it, quick as a panther. She gave a battle yell, and without thinking, his knee jerked up to prevent her from landing in top of him. It connected against something hard, and he heard a cry.
He looked up. She was kneeling on the floor, struggling to stand up in spite of the pain. The knife was still on her hand, but now the broken clay was within his reach. Instinct told him what he had to do, like it had done back on the cave: grab it, smash it in her face before she could recover.
This time, however, his body didn´t obey. Helpless, he stared at the tears of rage that trickled down her cheeks as she nursed her stomach, staggering back to her feet. He remembered the pride in her voice as she told him the tale. She was so young....
"Die!" she hissed. Still in a daze, he watched her loom over him, an Orc in the body of a girl. Something inside him rebelled. It wasn´t supposed to be like this.
The blade froze in the air, before it slipped from her fingers. Her eyes widened, and for a small fraction of a second, Amandil thought that she, like him, had remembered that they were both children of Eru.
Then, he saw the blood gushing from her chest, and staining the bandages that tied her body as she fell, dead, to the floor.
"Hurry up. They´ll be here in no time," Pharazôn urged, kicking her body away and helping him to his feet.
* * * * *
Amandil couldn´t remember ever having lost control of himself in that way. He was only vaguely aware of being dragged out of the place, through red cloth and darkness and the dead body of the man who had been sitting on the doorstep ages ago. The afternoon sun hurt his eyes.
"He tried to kill me in my sleep. But not the hag. She fled. She has probably gone to call the others, and they will be here in no time. What were you thinking, getting us into...?"
"Why did you kill her?" he asked, interrupting Pharazôn´s tirade. He could not think of anything else; all had become a blur and fled before the look in those dark eyes as her body crumbled. They had become holes, threatening to engulf his mind.
"Why did I...? Are you mad? She was going to stab you!"
"She..." His voice trailed away. Worse than Orcs, worse than Orcs, someone laughed in his face. Despite the heat, he was shivering.
"Here. Put this back on." Pharazôn threw his mail at him. Amandil tried to catch it, but it slipped from his fingers, like that knife... "What is wrong with you?"
Blinking away tears from the radiance of the sun, he knelt to pick it up. It felt cold in his hand, and suddenly, he remembered something.
"You were wounded. I had to carry you all the way here", he said, staring at the prince in newfound shock. Pharazôn shrugged.
"It wasn´t serious. I am fine now."
Amandil had seen the gaping wounds, in the leg and in the side, but now the prince was barely limping. Anyway, he thought, it didn´t matter. In this world, in the mainland of the Great Sea, everything was wrong.
"Are you... sure they will be coming after us?" he ventured, as he put his gear on. The landscape was as silent and desolate as ever.
"Then we won´t get far." There was a strange detachment in his voice as he said it. "We don´t have horses. We will be hunted like deer."
"You´re right." Pharazôn´s forehead creased into a frown as he stared at the horizon, then turned thoughtfully towards the frail structure the barbarians had called a house. Weaving walls. "Wait. I have a plan."
He made Amandil follow him behind the place, where two large trees provided support for the building with their trunks. A second, even smaller structure had been erected there, little else than two sticks with a goat skin propped between them. There were jars of water there, kept like a precious treasure, herbs and sacks of food, and three goats that bleated mournfully inside the fold. Behind them, a small vegetable patch stretched for about twenty paces, but the plants looked dead.
"We will hide here," Pharazôn declared. "When they come, we wait for them to dismount, steal their horses and leave."
In other times, Amandil would have argued that the plan was too risky. Now, he merely shook his head.
"There could be a hundred of them."
"They live scattered, miles away from each other. They will prefer speed to numbers," Pharazôn answered confidently.
Maybe confidence was the key to being always right. Or maybe he was protected by all the gods and amulets of the people of Númenor, but hours later, after Amandil had slept, eaten as much food and drank as much water as he was able, they heard hooves coming from the distance and counted only five horse.
"We can deal with that", the prince said, throwing the remains of the water jar over his head and grabbing his sword.
Amandil´s mind was clearer now, as the struggle for survival had lifted the haze from his thoughts. Or at least where he allowed it to, which was the part that dealt with their immediate concerns. Other things remained veiled, and he was afraid of pulling the veil away and facing them. Like the fire of his childhood, and the water of his dreams, he had to banish them where they could not drag him down. He simply had to.
"I hope they do dismount," he observed. As the riders came nearer, jabbering in a language that neither of them could understand, he saw that the escaped woman was riding one of the horses, clutching at the reins clumsily. After they stopped, they helped her down, and she bolted towards the door. Amandil swallowed, but one of the men grabbed her by her clothes and forced her to stop. An argument broke between them.
"They are wary of us. As they should be", Pharazôn whispered. A man was chosen to stand guard over the mounts, while the rest unsheathed swords and knives and prepared to enter the house. The woman was placed behind.
"At the count of three", Pharazôn announced, and began mouthing the numbers. Amandil felt a jolt of trepidation as they tiptoed carefully until they were several steps away from the man´s back. The others had entered the shelter; it was a matter of seconds before they found the bodies.
"Now!" the prince hissed, leading the charge. The desert warrior hadn´t expected this sudden attack, and it was all he could do to interpose his sword before he was skewered. Steel clashed against steel with a resounding clatter, but the parry was clumsy and the angle wrong. His arm trembled, too weak to resist the onslaught as Pharazôn pushed him against his horse and decapitated him. Then, with an equally fast move, he rammed the blade inside the agitated beast´s neck. Amandil winced as it neighed in the throes of agony, but there was no time for this. He jumped on one of the horses as Pharazôn jumped on another, and the men ran out of the house cursing at them and the woman´s keening wails rose above them all.
"Kill the horses!" Pharazôn shouted. Amandil´s sword was unsheathed as he rode past the mounts that reared on their hind legs and kicking, but the wails had pierced his determination. His hand shook, remembering the dead girl inside. A knife whistled past his ear.
"You idiot!" Pharazôn yelled at him, as both rode down the slope towards the road. Uttering sharp cries that sounded like curses, the barbarians mounted the two remaining horses and bolted after them. "Now we have them at our heels!"
Amandil did not argue, even though the plan had been foolish and desperate from the beginning. Awakening from his turmoil, and for the first time since he had embarked on this nightmarish adventure, he felt the burning heat of shame.
He had caused all this himself. First, by wanting Pharazôn to come with them, by feeling guiltily relieved at his presence. Then, he had led him into a trap, became paralyzed by his own emotions when those people tried to kill them. And now...
He barely had the time to duck before a second knife flew over his head. That girl had been an enemy. That man, that woman, had both been enemies, like those warriors who were hunting them. They hated them, they were in league with the Orcs. Usurpers, tyrants and thieves. They wanted to kill them, him and Pharazôn too, and that was all that should matter now.
"Go on!" he shouted, tugging sharply at the reins. "I will deal with them!"
"What?" Pharazôn turned back. "What are you doing? Run!"
To his dismay, Pharazôn stopped in his tracks. The Haradrim were approaching, their yells becoming louder and clearer in the late afternoon.
"Maybe it´s a good idea. Better fight them head on than offer our backs to their knives."
Amandil knew that he wasn´t a prince, or a commander, or a warrior even. But all the authority he could muster, all the determination he had, he put it in his voice as he gazed at his friend now.
"It´s my fault that they are behind us. It´s me who has to stop them. Leave."
He didn´t have the time to check if his words had been heeded or not. The barbarians were on him, and he wielded his sword threateningly. They answered by throwing another knife, deadly and aimed for his throat. He parried it with his blade.
"Sea dog flees no more", one of them spat. The other laughed, a laugh that exposed a row of white teeth that shone against his dark face. But he was not amused. "You fight other than women and old men?"
"We do", Amandil said, fumbling to get his dagger out. It had worked with the Orcs, before.
The warriors unsheathed their swords as well, which they carried upon their backs. They were looking at him as if calculating their next move, and for a brief flicker of a second, Amandil detected a wary kind of fear in their eyes. He was only one, but he was bigger than them, and his steel was better. And now he wasn´t fleeing anymore.
Slowly, he held the dagger on his left hand, and the sword on his right. His legs pressed against the horse´s flanks, and he shouted a battle yell. The Haradrim warriors charged.
He turned to the left, ramming against the horse of the warrior who had taken that flank. The man had not expected that manouevre, and he had to lower his blade to hold on to his mount. Amandil slashed at him, watching him fall to the ground. Behind him, he heard another battle yell, and tried to turn back, but found that he couldn´t. The reins had become entangled with the dead man´s saddle.
His grip on his weapon tightened, until the knuckles became white. The plan had almost worked.
"Die, sea dog!" the barbarian yelled. He was right behind him now.
He dropped the sword to the ground, put the dagger between his teeth, and jumped.
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.