2. Ch. 1: The Fiery Verse
Chapter 1: The Fiery Verse
"Eruain," Alatar called to her daughter, who was busy washing clothes in the bubbling oasis just outside their house. "Haraduien seeks your company."
"Coming, Ammë," she spoke mother in Quenya, her mother's preferred language. When she was alone with Alatar, they spoke Quenya, but when her father was around, they spoke Haradaic. Her father was Malikun, king of their tribe. Their tribe bore a flag with a winding serpent on a blood red background, labeling them as the Af'aa clan. It was unusual for her father to be around during the day for he was always planning their next battles. The Af'aa was the best warring clan in all of Harad. They had the most skillful warriors and the best strategies. It was a good choice in Eruain's mind that her mother had married into the Af'aa clan.
She knew of her mother's mission and never tried to jeopardize her. Her father was unaware and so were the rest of the Af'aa clan. They never suspected that she was an enemy of Sauron when all of the Harad were wary of the Dark One. From time to time Eruain would help her mother send letters to the Grey one via the Nasraat, the eagles. It was expected of Eruain from a young age to never tell her father and she intended to keep her promise to her mother. Even then, it nearly broke her heart, constantly lying to her beloved Ab.
"Hurry, Eruain, or your Haraduien will lose his patience!" Ha! Who is losing their patience, Ammë? Her mother found it funny but appropriate that Haraduien fancied her. His mother, Pallando, was Alatar's oldest and deepest friend, who had been through everything with her. After Eruain's conception, Alatar and Pallando had dreamed Eruain would marry Haraduien when she was of age. To their disappointment, Eruain only saw Haraduien as an older brother and quickly avoided his advances any time he made them.
Gathering the clothes at her feet, she ran up the sloping dune, slipping slightly in the sand. "I am coming, Ammë!" She really could not understand her mother's impatience at every little thing. She was impatient when her Ab arrived home, hurrying to make dinner for him. And when she was cleaning: everything had to be perfect but it had to be perfect in the shortest amount of time. Eruain was much more like her Ab in that way; she was cautious to make an unthought-of move and did everything deliberately not on impulse. It was something her Ab praised her for, and she was grateful for her Ab's favor.
Haraduien was waiting at the back door for her, dressed in the heir attire of her sister clan, Asad clan. He wore a sleeveless maroon tunic embellished with the best golden thread and dark brown pants. Upon his shoulder plates and on his boots were the manes of two Asad, lions. He was as dark as his Ab, but held the silver-blue eyes of his mother. His black hair was a long, coarse and was knotted, tied and braided in a sporadic fashion. He was darkly handsome; would make a fine husband, just not Eruain's husband. "Sadeeqa!" He greeted her with Haradaic 'friend'.
"Akh!" She never called him anything other than brother. "Akhi!"
"How are you?" He fell in step with her, content. He disliked talking in Quenya and favored Haradaic. Whenever he was near her all they spoke was Haradaic.
"I am fine, Akhi." She led him over to the clothesline and asked him to help her hang up the clothes. Her undergarments were not an embarrassment to her as he pinned them on the line. "Tell me of your day, Akhi." She did not wish for silence when she had had no visitors in a long time.
"Abi had me settle a disagreement between farmers. That took all day. Nevertheless, I am here now and so I shall be refreshed by your presence." Haraduien always used that tone with her. He was a hopeless romantic and could not hide it in his speech. "Never mind me. What have you been doing all day?"
"Chores." She groaned at the thought. She was the only princess, a term used lightly, in Harad to have to do her own chores. Most of the nobles and high-ranking military families had slaves and it bewildered her why both of her parents forbade servants and slaves in their household.
As they finished hanging the clothes, Haraduien offered her his arm and led her out into the dunes. Even though the winds changed the sands, every child in their village could find their way through the desert. They were taught to look to the sun and the wind for council if lost and they would surely bring them back. At night, they should look for the Evenstar. It was not a perilous venture unless they happened upon wild Mûmakil.
They came to an area where ruins of a small, ancient temple sat buried beneath the sand. They had often come there when they were children, playing made up games and climbing the ruins. It was where Haraduien first kissed her. Remembering that moment, she said, "Do you remember when you kissed me here?" It was a dangerous move for her, but she loved to torment Haraduien.
He grinned sheepishly at the thought. "I asked you if I could be the Ab of your tiflaat. And you told me you could not be a mother just yet. Although," he shifted closer to her, taking her hand, "I still think you would be an excellent mother."
"I cannot marry you, Haraduien. You know this. I have made it clear more than once." She shied away from him. She would have plenty of time to think about marriage. She was still a tifla and he was only five years her senior.
"You have not made it clear why you can't marry me."
"I am sworn to a bond that I can never break. In telling you the reason, I would be breaking that bond."
"Is it that important? You call me 'Akhi', but you do not act upon it. You do not treat me as a brother." He was ashamed with himself that this conversation had gotten out of hand already. Lately it seemed most of their conversations did. Is it that I push her too much for marriage? Or is it something else?
"If I treated you like an Akhi, would you question me so? Would you want to know everything about me? If you were my true Akhi, there would still be things you cannot and must not know." She scaled a part of the old building, sitting atop the stone, dusting the sand off with her hand. "The only things that are private to us are our emotions, thoughts, and sacred duties. You know my status; do not question me, Akhi."
"You know my status and I have the right to question you, milady," He hopped up next to her, towering above her. He paced back and forth on the ruin behind her, causing her to sigh in exasperation.
"You may be the Qamar, but I am the Shamsa, and I have power over you." She was the Sun of her people, the one the tribes of Harad loved the most, where he was the Moon, her advisor and protector. She was the one the Haradrim prayed to, so in turn she could consult with the Sun god, Shams, the ruler of their gods. She had other worldly powers that came with being half-Istari. Haraduien, as the son of Pallando, had powers as well, but Eruain's proved to be more potent. "I will not hear another word of this useless conversation."
"As you wish, Mu'allima." He called her mistress in a sarcastic tone, annoyed that she had pulled rank on him. "What do you wish to talk about then?"
"What news from the Asad tribe?"
"Other than the petty squabble amongst the peasantry?"
"Yes, other than that."
"Dhe'b clan has moved farther north towards Mordor." She knew of the wolf clan, an unnecessarily dangerous clan of poisoners and traitors from the other tribes. For many years before her conception, her Ab kept them under close watch, knowing that they would be the first to strike out against the other tribes first before any others.
"What do they wish from gaining an alliance with the Dark One?" This information perturbed her endlessly. As her mother's confidant, she knew the dangers Sauron posed to the entirety of Middle Earth. She did not understand why any Haradrim, even those of the Dhe'b clan, would wish to join Sauron. All Haradrim knew of his evil and saw the effects upon nature that He had upon them. Many of their rainforest had dried and withered under his shadow and the deserts grew harsher every day. Many of the tribes had also been subject to Orc attacks in the past and some much more recent. She could not protect her people for long if Sauron became their new master. It was a thought more terrible than having the Sun go dark.
"Power. They want power so they can be the ruling clan."
"Does Abi know of this?"
"I do not know, but it began as a rumor from the merchants. I find that there is little about the world the merchants do not know."
Standing up, she looked him in the eyes. "Please tell me this rumor has not spread like fire." The last thing she needed as Shamsa was her people in a panic.
"I do not know." He jumped down, feeling her urgency and offered his hand to her. She took it and landed gently in his arms. He set her down, not wanting to, but he knew she would chastise him if he held on. "So I am guessing you will talk with Malikun."
"I must," she replied, gathering up her skirts, preparing for the hasty run back home as the Shams was setting.
They arrived back as Qamar was starting to rise. Her mother held the light outside her house precariously. Alatar did not like when she was not back before dark. She did not trust the desert nor did she trust the Haradrim. She had lived amongst them since the turn of the Age, but she knew how traitorous they could be. Her first husband had almost sold her into slavery after he found out she was delivering messages to the West and her son by him had gone to Sauron to tell him she was a spy, but by some mournful irony, he was murdered by a nomadic Harad tribe. She wanted to protect her daughter at all costs. She knew Eruain would be in safe hands with Haraduien, but she did not trust her friend's son as much as she should for he was under his father's influence.
As she spotted them, she lowered the light, blowing it out. Quenya flowed out of her mouth, rushed and with a sense of relief. "My child. My love, you have returned safely." Her mother hugged her panting form, caressing her softly on her cheeks. "I have worried about you. I did not think you would come. I could not…"
"Yes, Ammë. I am sorry I have caused you worry, but I am safe now. Please, lead me to Atar." It was the same speech her mother always gave her. She did not want to bother with her concern now.
"Of course, Eruain." Her mother frowned, knowing something was amiss with her daughter. After twenty years with her, she knew everything about her. She switched to Haradaic as she showed them into the living room where her Ab sat patiently, chewing on a piece of bread Eruain had made earlier. "Za'ogi, Shamsa and Qamar request your presence." Alatar knew she could not be present at a Haradaic clan meeting since she was considered an outsider. She moved into the kitchen, finishing dinner.
"Abi," Eruain called lovingly to her father.
"Ah, my Shamsa," he hugged her with powerful arms. She loved her Ab.
"You are the Shams of my heart, Abi," she kissed him upon his tattooed forehead.
"Just as you are the Shams of mine, little one." He returned the kiss and then turned to greet Haraduien. "Mu'allim Asad, I hope your Ab does well." He settled Eruain down in his lap, stroking her hair fondly.
"Abi does well, Malikun. Thank you for asking." Haraduien sat himself down on the chair opposite of his Malikun.
"Abi…" Eruain hesitated. She was suddenly regretting telling her Ab first and not Alatar. But with Haraduien with her, she could only tell her Ab.
"What is it, little Shamsa?"
"Haraduien informed me that the Dhe'b clan has moved north…towards Mordor." She felt the hand in her hair stop.
Flicking his dark eyes over to Haraduien, he asked with ire, "Where did you learn this, Qamar?"
"From the merchants. They said they were travelling south from the Dhe'b camp when they heard their Mu'allim order the move to the north borders." Haraduien was careful under the watchful eye of his Malikun. He had heard stories about how awful and terrifying his gentle Malikun could be. It was told that their Malikun had ancestry with the Olog-hai, the deadliest of the troll races, created by Sauron himself.
"I see. Eruain, can you go help your Om in the kitchen? I fear she might burn the kharoof I brought home from the market." Kharoof, sheep, were not easy to find in the area around her village. It was a delicacy he did not want to waste on his Za'oga's poor cooking skills.
Relieved to get out of the now tense room, she kissed her Ab and left. Coming to her Ammë's side, she whispered softly in Quenya. "The Dark One is gathering a Haradrim army. The Dhe'b have already made the move north. He must have seen something to make him want to enlist our help."
Her mother nodded, knowing she must call for a Nasr to send the message to the Grey one. "Thank you Eruain. You have aided our cause."
A knock sounded at the door and everyone grew dead silent. Alatar paled, knowing that she might have been heard. Eruain moved to the wall beside the opening of the kitchen and watched her Ab open the door for a stranger wrapped in black. The stranger did not move into the light but into the shadows behind the closed door. It made a screeching noise before uttering something in the darkest language she had ever heard, the Black Speech. She knew enough Black Speech to understand what the creature had said.
Craning her neck, she listened from behind the stone wall. She motioned to Alatar to knead the bread so that it looked as if they were still unaware of the guest beneath their roof.
"Suladân, the Black Serpent, chieftain of the Af'aa clan, my Master sends his well wishes to you, your family, and your people." The creature spoke in the Black Speech with a hiss.
Her Ab, not one to waste time on pleasantries, asked in the same tongue as the stranger, "What does your master want with the Haradrim?"
"An army." Its answer was quick and delivered with a smile in its voice.
"For what, creature?" Suladân did not wish to take part in a foolish war driven by the desires of the Dark One. He knew of the dangers just like Eruain.
"He has been found."
"Gollum." With this Alatar almost dropped the knife she was cutting the dough with. Eruain caught her with a frightened look and closed her eyes in fear. If Sauron had found Gollum, Gollum would tell him where the ring was. Her Ab was thinking the same thing.
"Sauron thinks he has found Isildur's bane?"
"The creature Gollum has given us delicious information." Eruain shivered with his words, feeling them crawl upon her skin.
"Where is it then?"
"I cannot tell you, but my Master needs an army to destroy the world of Men."
"How do I know Sauron will not turn on us?"
"Nothing is for certain, chieftain." Eruain could feel his eye upon the wall she hid behind. "Nothing is certain but the spoiling of the Sun." Eruain grasped at her heart as she felt his words take hold. Sliding to the ground, she cried a silent scream of pain. She shook her head as Alatar made to move towards her. She did not want to be found out.
"The Sun will never spoil, dark creature of Mordor, nor shall the Af'aa ever serve Sauron. Ask other clans, but I assure you: none will come." He could not help but feel the threat towards his culture and his daughter. He would not risk them.
Moving towards the door, the creature spoke once more, "He will spoil the Sun. He has seen it. He will spoil the Sun when you learn the truth hidden from you. That is when you will join." The stranger fled quickly out the door and into the night.
Alatar rushed to Eruain's side, who was now moaning audibly in anguish. "Suladân! Suladân!" She called to her husband, fear flooding her voice. Soon her Ab was in front of her, carrying her into her bedroom, Alatar and Haraduien following with a hastened pace.
"Abi! Abi! My heart! It burns!" Suladân ripped the gossamer-like gown his daughter wore, examining her bare chest. Nothing appeared to be wrong on the outside. He pressed his ear against the place where her heart was, listening for a quickened or uneven pulse. Again, he found no problems. Turning her over, he studied her back.
Alatar let a scream of horror out as she saw Tengwar beginning to etch itself on her daughter's back.
"What does it say?" Suladân demanded. He would not risk losing his Shamsa.
Alatar gulped and did not speak the Black Speech but instead translated it into Haradaic. "'A bloody road has been paved, the sacred war begun; no one shall be saved, when He spoils the Sun.'" Alatar watched her daughter writhe under her husband as he held her down and gently massaged her back. Tears slipped from her mother's eyes as she watched her.
"What does it mean?" Haraduien asked anxiously.
Suladân did not move an inch as he spoke. "It means Sauron means to win the coming war and Eruain will be his prize... No, his bride."
He asked Haraduien to step out with him as Alatar removed Eruain's ruined dress and replaced it with a far more beautiful dress: a pure white one made from gossamer and silk. As she finished Alatar asked Haraduien to stay with Eruain as she gently cried herself to sleep. Haraduien sat by her, stroking her hair while Alatar and Suladân excused themselves. He could hear them argue in the hallway.
"I will not jeopardize Eruain by keeping her here," Alatar said in a hushed voice.
"What else are we supposed to do, love? There is no other safe haven in Harad."
"Sauron can reach her here, Suladân. I know of a safe haven in the West. We can send her there."
"We have never been allies with the West. How do we know she will be safe?"
"I have friends there, Suladân. It is the last safe haven in the world. Let us send her there. Sauron cannot reach her there."
"He will stop at nothing to get her, that I am sure of. But I am afraid to know the answer to why he wants her." He pondered for a second, remembering the words of the stranger: He will spoil the Sun when you learn the truth hidden from you. "Why is it that he seeks her, my wife?" Suladân had gained a dangerous tone in his voice. Now, he suspected something.
"Because I am her mother."
"And what does that have to do with it?" Haraduien heard Suladân slam the wall next to where he guessed Alatar was pressed against.
She said something in Quenya that Haraduien could barely make out. All he heard was "Take her. Run." He could hear Suladân growl in fury. "I am Istari and Eruain shall be saved." She screamed another word in Quenya and Haraduien picked Eruain as he heard terror in Alatar's voice.
Haraduien leapt down from Eruain's window to find a pair of giant eagles sitting delicately under the oasis tree. Scrambling away from the house with Eruain in his arms, he approached the eagles with trepidation.
He heard a clear voice in his head. He almost dropped Eruain as it pierced him. "Do not fear half-Istari. We will take you to safety as Alatar and Pallando have requested. No harm shall fall upon you or the other half-Istari." Haraduien put Eruain on the back on the first eagle. "I shall carry her for I fear she might fall off." Haraduien gently laid her on the ground in front of the first eagle and climbed on the back of the second. He watched the first grasp his love tightly in its foot, careful of its talons, and take off. A moment later, his eagle took off. He could still hear Suladân's bellows as they took off and Alatar's cries of pain as her husband struck her.