1. Open Minds - by Gwynnyd
Prompt – S like sordid Sauron (and 666 words as counted by MSWord, not including title or notes)
"It is time you made the sacrifice." The dry hulk of a man who spoke watched Aragorn with narrowed, inscrutable eyes, and scratched runes in the sand at his feet with a fingertip.
Aragorn ceased butchering their dinner, and laid down the knife near the small fire of dried camel dung. He had known this would come from the moment he accepted the Satrap's offer to be initiated in the ways of the desert people. He liked the old priest, who had spent the last months trying to explain the proper way of doing things to 'the northern barbarian' and he suspected that the priest found him unexpectedly likable as well.
"You have said to make the most pleasing sacrifices a man will willingly strip himself of his best. I am to content myself with the bones and gristle and gall of my hunt, and give the choicest parts always to the god." Over the fading gold and grey of the sunset, Aragorn saw the comforting gleam of the Silmarill in the darkening sky. He knew the most important sacrifices were not steeped in blood. "I know you expected this week in the high desert to change my decision, still, I cannot."
Aragorn saw surprise and concern flare in the priest's eyes. "You are strong man and a good fighter, but the Satrap will have no heretics in his guard." His voice turned cajoling. "You are high in the Satrap's esteem, but his patience is not infinite. Sacrifice is a right and proper way to show your thanks. I made the highest sacrifice four times, once for each of my wives, and it brought me much prosperity and favor." He gestured to the skinned and gutted carcass waiting at the edge of the fire. "This is but the first step. Why do you hesitate?"
The highest sacrifice. Aragorn had not known, had not wanted to know, his mentor capable of such acts. Visions of four babies murdered by their father's hand rose into Aragorn's mind and his gorge rose. Turning his head he spat sour bile into the sand. "What gifts has Annatar given that deserve so great a return?"
The priest shook his head sorrowfully. "That was the first lesson I taught you. All flows from Annatar, Giver of Gifts: the food you eat, the water that makes life possible, life itself. You admitted that even in your barbaric north, he has a mighty presence."
"So he does." Aragorn leaned forward and, at last, allowed his deep disgust to show in his face and his voice. "We call him Sauron the Deceiver and Gorthaur the Cruel. We remember he was but a servant of Morgoth, who marred the shaping when the Valar would have made even this desert a paradise, without death or stain. But even the Valar - mighty though they are and more powerful by far than your gift-giver - cannot give life. That is reserved to Ilúvatar, the One, greatest of all, who, distaining blood, desires only our thanks and praise for the gifts he bestows."
Aragorn stood and towered over the priest who seemed to shrink under his scrutiny. "You tell me you hear the will of the god clamoring in your mind. Listen underneath to hear the truth, for Ilúvatar is in us all waiting to be heard. Ilúvatar will forgive even the heinous things you have done, if you hear and accept Him."
The priest met his concern with assurance and remonstrance in his eyes, then, drawing in a sibilant breath, he dropped his gaze to the ground. Aragorn waited, but the priest did not look up.
"It is never too late." Aragorn bent to squeeze the priest's bony shoulder.
The priest flinched away from his hand, and stared up at him with reproach. "Go. Run. You have failed. The Satrap will not be pleased, and you will not escape Annatar's vengeance."
Gathering his things, Aragorn left the priest sitting at the dying fire, and strode into the darkness.
"No mind can, however, be closed against Eru, either against His inspection or against His message. The latter it may not heed, but it cannot say it did not receive it".
Ósanwe-kenta - JRR Tolkien
Satrap - a subordinate ruler, often a despotic one.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary
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.