The Lands of Shadow - Free RP

"Going to Mordor!" Cried Pippin. "I hope it won’t come to that!"
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Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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Four score and seventy years.. oh wait, different story.. A long long time ago in a g- nope.. Ok loads of years ago, this thread was made for free rp, so here it is again, revived from the depths of some pit in Mordor. I was going to say to keep it in Sauron influenced area, but what the heck, No Rules! Go for it! Just RP!
Obviously don't butt in on someone elses unless there is permission, we aren't completely uncivilized here, are we?

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Layna
Several months ago - on an early mission for the Vras


'Travel to the Brown Lands, until you reach the borders of the Sea of Rhûn. Once there, seek out the Merkilesh tribe. Their leader, Uftar, has proven reluctant to turn in the levies demanded by Lugbúrz for the last time. We cannot have the Wainriders waver in their commitment, nor does the Dark Lord want to directly intervene lest he lose their willing support. He will not be an easy target, and it will not do to have to send a column to deal with him. Their home grew around a remarkably isolated source of water. Make sure the Merkilesh drink from this.'

As he instructed her, he went to his desk and to the cupboard beyond it, his back blocking the storage of unmentionable concoctions that he kept at all times, all of them having perfectly suitable needs for a myriad of grim ends. Coming back to the girl, his sleeved arm extended and pressed the phial of dark glass, which made the liquid inside perfectly impossible to discern, against her hand and as he did, his voice had only the slightest hint of a stressing hiss as he finished. 'All of them.'
~ The Lord of the Shadows


Monkshod, giant hogweed, buttercup, destroying angel, lathyrus, desert rose, nightshade, hemlock, cerberin, daphne, laburnum, black snakeroot ... Herbs for causing immediate death, herbs for causing slow and painful death, herbs for causing brief, violent illnesses, herbs for causing minor illnesses, herbs for causing specific symptoms, herbs for treating them ... The assassin had checked, re-checked, and triple-checked her supplies, ensuring that she had not left anything out. Her first mission for the Shadows was not the time to become slack. Though the Shadow Lord had provided her with a vial of what she assumed was an effective poison, she was not about to proceed without a back-up plan – preferably, several. Hence her own collection of assorted herbs and mixtures, a simple selection of which would have caused a swift death for anyone who cared to test them. Nor was she reliant solely on materials stored in her saddlebags; a small, well-organized pouch of the most essential herbs was tucked securely in her bosom. Primarily as a last resort – she rarely resorted to open combat if there was a more efficient way to dispatch her victims – she also carried seven daggers, each of which had been coated in a slightly different concoction, most of her own invention; which one she would use would depend not only on which was most convenient, but also on how badly – or how permanently – she wanted her victim injured. Regrettable as it might be, not all of Sauron’s minions possessed the ability to use their brains, and she had occasionally had to take strict measures with those – either the overly bloodthirsty, the overly flirtatious, or the overly idiotic – who thought that she was easy prey. Though Sauron was likely to be displeased if she permanently damaged any of his valuable servants.

The young woman had inherited most of her looks from her mother, a Black Numenorean. Lush, pitch-black hair fell just past her shoulders, framing steel-grey eyes. She had not inherited her mother’s height; Layna was quite short, though she had learned to use that trait to her advantage. Layna’s father had been a daring Variag warrior of Khand, who had taught his daughter to ride almost since before she could walk. Her current mount, a fiery, resistive black stallion, was wickedly intelligent and bad-tempered; but his stamina and speed were unmatched, hence the reason she had selected him for this assignment. She was not going under cover in the lands of the so-called “Free Peoples”, so she had no need for a docile, more tempered animal. This mission would require grit, determination, speed, and endurance, and the stallion had all four in abundance. He was her most recent favourite; she had been riding him for about three years now. Though she tried to avoid becoming emotionally attached to any of the animals, the stallion’s temper and capacity for wry humour matched her own. His fiery spirit made him an impractical choice on many assignments, but on this, the mustang’s speed and endurance would be a great asset – it was over two hundred and fifty miles from the Morannon to the Brown Lands, and she did not intend for the journey to take a leisurely month and a half. She had packed provisions for two weeks, though she did not expect the trip to take anywhere near that long. This being her first assignment in her new position as an elite member of the Shadows, she was determined to complete it in a timely manner, and that did not involve dawdling en route. Nevertheless, she was experienced to know that unexpected complications could arise, none of which would be an excuse for failure, either by her own unwavering standard of perfection that she set for herself, or by the merciless Dark Lord who controlled her allegiance. Checking her bags for one last time, she vaulted lightly into the saddle. She held the stallion to a steady trot initially, as they crossed the broken plains, passing the Black Gate without incident, and altered her course slightly to the east. They would skirt the Dead Marshes, heading north and east to the sea of Rhûn.

***

The sun had already begun to dip below the horizon, its last rays streaking across the sky as though the horizon was weeping blood, the light streaming harsh and cruel across the tumbled plains. To her left, rose the distinctive scent of the marshes – a stinking, boggy, general offence and inconvenience, that made it necessary for any travellers into or out of Mordor to detour for miles to evade them. It was rumoured that there might be a way through the ghastly quagmire, but of those foolish orcs who had dared to test it, none had returned. Layna detested the Marshes and was not about to follow their example – and fortunately for her on this occasion, they would require only a small detour, since she was headed east in any case.

She picketed the stallion, ensuring he got some water, then retrieved a tightly-wrapped bundle of canvas from one of the saddlebags, and swiftly rigged a small shelter, before proceeding to liberally cover herself with a foul-smelling ointment that would keep the bugs away – for bugs there were in aplenty. There were even more soon enough, when she lit a small fire, and while she was cooking, she constantly had to swipe at the flies and small insects that seemed determined to buzz about her food, attracted by the smell and by the light from the fire. Most of them avoided her, but some of the larger flies were not determined, and she had to continually swat them away. One got lucky, leaving a bleeding red mark on her arm, before she flattened him into a mushed paste with her other hand, wiping it on her pants in disgust before returning to her cooking. Possibly as a result of her long acquaintance with herblore (though, most often used in the context of assassinating people!), Layna was a capable cook with an excellent instinct for spices, which could make even the most bland meal suddenly appear much more appetizing. Tonight the menu was a simple stew, with a few vegetables and some dried meat, but she contrived to make it palatable. She would not have the luxury of eating meat for her entire journey – not unless she managed to hunt something up enroute, which was unlikely, given that she had no long range weapon and little hunting knowledge in any case. Not to mention that there were few animals suited for hunting that even lived in the vast and barren wastelands that stretched between the Morannon and the sea of Rhûn.

She ate quickly, in silence, then covered the fire with dirt. She did not have enough water to waste it on trifles – the oases would be few and far between once she reached the Brown Lands. After making sure the stallion was bedded down for the night, she crawled into her shelter and tried to get to sleep. It was nearly impossible. Layna had rarely travelled so close to the marshes, and she strongly suspected that the abundance of the irritating insect population had a good deal to do with the dampness of the ground and the humidity. At least a couple bugs – in the dark, she couldn’t see what kind – had managed to find their way inside her tent, and she listened in frustration as they continually buzzed around and around and around, evading her futile attempts to swat them by following their racket. She could feel them landing on her every once and awhile, at which point she would attempt again to swat them, failing miserably. There was no escape from the buzzing outside the tent, either, and she knew that the stallion would be frantically flicking his tail and mane, neither horse nor rider immune to the voracious insects. It was also intolerably humid – and the pungent stench of the marshes rose from the west. She finally managed to squish at least one of of the louder flies that had made its way inside the tent, then turned over on her side, wrapped her arms around her head, effectively covering her ears, and refused to open her eyes.

***

Layna was up before the sun the next day, quickly packing up her things, grabbing a small snack from her saddlebags to serve as breakfast. The stallion was as eager to be away as she – riding swiftly, away from the marshes, where the tormenting insects could not and would not follow them. The land to the east was predominantly black and brown, the plains still tumbled and broken. To any lover of greenery, peace, or serenity, it would have been a disturbing and depressing landscape. Layna merely accepted it as part of the journey, and a far more appealing part than the previous night spent on the edge of the marshes. She urged her horse on, riding carefully where the plain was particularly broken or difficult to navigate, allowing the stallion to leap forward when the ground was more level. The Ash Mountains stretched away for miles on her right, and she would use them as a rough guide on her trip east across the Dagorlad. The sharp, jagged peaks that defined the boundaries of Mordor dominated the southern skyline, even though she was now miles to the north.

The sun rose higher and higher in the sky, and Layna quickly pulled a wide-brimmed hat out of one of her saddlebags. Frankly she thought the hat looked ridiculous, but she did not care to have her face burned by the scorching rays. She could and did burn in the hot sun, an unpleasant experience that she had experienced but thrice, and was determined to prevent. She rode on throughout the day, drinking small sips of water frequently to prevent herself from becoming dehydrated, and stopping only for a short break around noon to eat lunch.

She spent most of her time contemplating different options for how to approach Uftar. The Merkilesh leader would be undoubtedly suspicious of any outsiders, and doubly so of any who stated openly that they came from Lord Sauron and were sworn to his allegiance. He must know that Sauron would be displeased with his continued failure to pay the levies that the Dark Lord demanded. Privately, Layna considered him a fool. One did not cross the Dark Lord and live to brag about it, nor could one hope to back out of such an alliance without incurring repercussions. Ideally, she would never have to interact with the Merkilesh at all – but that would depend not only on her own abilities, but on the quality and diligence of the wainriders’ scouts. Getting to their water supply without being noticed would not be simple. She wished, privately, that the Shadow Lord had given her a bit more information about this supposed poison that she was to dump in the water. Was it a fast-acting agent, bringing immediate results, or would it do its work over a longer period of time, say four or five hours or more? She hoped it was the latter; if men began dropping like flies after drinking the water, the Merkilesh would quickly identify the cause, even before all of them had drunk from the contaminated oasis. That would put them on their guard and nearly obliterate her chances at single-handedly destroying them. It was unlikely that she would have a second chance, and she did not intend to fail the first time.

That meant she needed an airtight plan; an airtight back-up plan; and a good idea of what to do if all chaos broke loose, including a satisfactory alibi if for some reason she were discovered by the Merkilesh as she entered their lands, and needed to justify her presence to their chief without mentioning the Lord Sauron and immediately arousing Uftar’s suspicions. It was a daunting task, but one to which Layna felt she was well equal, and she spent the afternoon contemplating, evaluating, and discarding different stories and plots. Layna did not believe in improvising plans at the last minute, particularly not when her life, her career, and the execution of Lord Sauron’s commands were all at stake.

***

She pitched her tent that night on what was essentially the flattest heap of rocks she could find in the broken and wasted landscape. But compared to the bugs of the night before, sleeping on rocky ground was merely a minor inconvenience. She prepared a quick supper, then turned in at once, eager to wake up early the next morning in order to make the best time possible. She slept soundly until a little after midnight, when a sudden noise awoke her. She lay still, not even knowing why she had awoken, but heard nothing more,. The stallion did not seem to be alarmed; there was nothing unusual other than the ordinary sounds of the night, and so she gradually drifted back into uneasy dreams.

Layna woke with the first rays of the sun slicing across the eastern horizon, and rolled over, before getting up and stretching. She was not as accustomed to sleeping on mere rock as perhaps she should have been; her body ached and, as she inspected herself, she noted several colourful bruises from the rocks. It was the work of a few minutes to apply a salve that would help them heal more quickly, and after packing up, she mounted the stallion with her usual grace, though her bearing was more weary than usual. She had not slept well for the latter portion of the night – her rest had been plagued by vague, ominous dreams, that she could barely remember. The feelings of unease lingered, however, distracting her.

It was almost noon before she recalled that she had not bothered to eat that morning, an oversight she quickly rectified by producing a handful of nuts from a pocket of her saddlebags. The tumbled, broken plains of the Dagorlad were gradually giving way to endless tracts of brown and black sand. Once green and beautiful (and as rumours and legends in Gondor would have it, home to a group of tree-like beings called the Entwives), the Brown Lands were a place of utter desolation, where no life could survive. There were no herds of animals to be seen; only a few spiders and snakes that could endure the heat and cope with the lack of vegetation. Far to the east, the distant mountains that lay just to the west of the sea of Rhûn were barely visible.

It was brutally hot. Layna was used to heat; growing up in Khand and later spending a significant amount of time in Umbar, it was impossible not to be accustomed to heat, but she was not used to the dryness – the deadness – of these deserts, and anytime a breeze blew, it lifted the sand and flung it at her, stinging her eyes and face. She eventually improvised a small bandana, covering her face as best she could so that only her eyes were visible. She did not like impairing her visibility, but she liked getting sand in her face even less, so the decision was a simple one, and she was grateful for the relief. She continued to ration her water carefully, drinking enough to prevent her from falling prey to heat exhaustion or becoming dangerously dehydrated, but not allowing herself to overindulge.

Shortly after noon, as the sun approached its zenith, she and the stallion stopped to rest in the meagre shade of a twisted, withered tree, that would have once stood beside an oasis that had long since dried up. Layna produced some bread and a couple of apples from one of her saddle-bags, biting into one of the apples herself and holding out the other to the stallion, who munched it eagerly. They had ridden swiftly, with few breaks, and it had begun to take its toll on both of them. She hoped to reach a small oasis that evening that she knew of; she had never travelled this way before, but she had researched the area as best she might before leaving, and there was a water hole located just north of the Ash Mountains, several miles yet to the east.

Late that afternoon, they approached the oasis – a perhaps deceptive name for what was merely a muddy hole filled with dirty water. The stallion nonetheless drank gratefully; Layna was careful to treat the water with several herbs before filling her flasks with it. Orcs might drink foul water without thinking about the consequences; she would not. She pitched her tent quickly, and since they had stopped earlier in the day than usual, took the time to prepare a proper meal, making sure the stallion was also properly fed and watered. The horse had become irritable – more so than normal – over the last few miles, undoubtedly due to weariness. She had no intention of letting him get away with it; but there was no point in running the animal into the ground, either: they had made marvellous time thus far, due in no small part to the stallion’s swiftness, and she did not begrudge him his rest. As the sky darkened – the sun setting behind a haze of clouds on the western horizon – the air cooled noticeably, and by the time she turned in there was even a faint breeze, sweeping down from the distant mountains.

***

It was late in the afternoon of the next day when she spotted the cloud of dust on the horizon. She looked around, considering. There was nowhere she could easily hide out in the desert, and she would need to speak with someone in order to confirm directions to the oasis where the Merkilesh usually camped. Explicit the Shadow Lord’s instructions might have been; precise and detailed they were not. As the cloud came closer, she could make out figures; horsemen, a band of wainriders undoubtedly, riding on some business or other. As they came closer, she reined in the stallion and waiting, noting that many of the riders were injured. Several of the horses carried more than one rider; one man had a bloody strip of cloth wrapped around his forehead; another was unconscious and – she could tell at a glance - feverish, held upright only by the support of the man riding behind him. All in all, it was a rather ragged band of just under a score of men, their apparent leader a short man with a black beard and dark eyes. He appeared, at least to Layna, to be uninjured, and wore openly the symbol of the Eye.

They had seen her as well, and they came to halt at their leader’s command. The man spurred his horse forward a few paces, looking her over appraisingly and raising an eyebrow, his hand relaxing from where it had been wrapped around the hilt of a curved blade. She remained silent, letting him make the first move. He would undoubtedly be skeptical, wondering why a young woman such as herself was travelling alone. She would undoubtedly have to satisfy his curiosity, at least somehow, if she was to obtain any useful information from him. Not that he necessarily held any useful information – she had at this point no idea if these riders were in any way connected with the Merkilesh tribe – they could have been from the Merkilesh tribe, in point of fact, and she would have been none the wiser. Though she did not expect a direct connection – she was as yet several days from the general area where the Merkilesh usually camped, assuming that Lord Azryîazîn’s information was correct.

“I am Lord Gerzhan. What business do you have in the territory of the Wainriders?” He had obviously determined from her attire that she was no native; a traveller; and there were few travellers in the Brown Lands. A wasted, devastated land was not exactly a popular tourist destination.

Layna played her assumed role with delight, meeting the man’s eyes, and giving him no reason to believe that she was being insincere. “Greetings, Lord Gerzhan. I am Vella – of Umbar, a traveller and a healer.” She flicked her eyes to the side, towards the obviously wounded riders. “It appears as though your men could use some assistance.”

When Gerzhan spoke, his voice was tinged with bitterness and anger. “A tribe of our people has forsaken obedience to the Lord Sauron. They inflicted severe casualties on us.” He was obviously not particularly impressed by her statement. “You have not given me the reason for your trespassing. And what would you want from us?” He knew as well as she did that no one ever did anything for nothing in the Brown Lands.

A smile touched the corners of her lips, as she acknowledged him. “Merely some information, lord, if you have it. Nothing that will inconvenience you. I am looking for a kinsman of mine, who several years ago was adopted into the Merkilesh clan.” At the name Merkilesh, Gerzhan’s eyes narrowed. The back of Layna’s neck tingled, her instincts warning her to be on her guard. “He – has taken possession of certain family artefacts that I desire to retrieve, and is need of chastisement.” The insinuation, and her evident dislike of her ‘kinsman’ was evident in Layna’s voice. She strongly suspected that the tribe Gerzhan was referring to was none other than the Merkilesh. “If you could provide me with the location of the Merkilesh camp, I would call that a fair trade for some medical assistance.” There were some who would have said that she should have bargained more subtly; Layna preferred to think that by appearing to lack the experience not to lay all one’s cards on the table at once, she would enhance others’ low opinions of her. And as long as she was underestimated, she was dangerous.

Gerzhan paused, looking her over again. then nodded. “There is a hidden oasis some two miles from here. Ride with us.” It was a command, not a question, and Layna was well aware that he would want to keep her under close supervision until he was absolutely sure of her intentions – not that he ever would be. But with luck and some skillful maneuvering, she would get the information she needed.

It was a short ride to the spring, a small patch of life in an otherwise bleak and barren landscape. Layna dismounted, retrieving a packet of the more benign herbs in her saddlebags, and walked over to where the one unconscious rider was being lifted from the saddle. As she began to work, she continually kept a close eye on the stallion’s location. If she needed to leave quickly, she was quite certain that he could outrun any of the Wainriders’ horses, tired as they were at the moment.

She worked promptly and efficiently. To say that she was a skilled healer was a bit of a stretch – extensive training she had not, and she was far better at poisoning people then at curing them – but one did not become an expert in herblore without knowing something about which herbs were used for healing. The only minor incident that afternoon was when one of the uninjured riders attempted to lay hands on her. He had been watching her for some time previously, though she had ignored it, so as to seem completely oblivious, though she knew well enough what he wanted. But when he attempted to reach out and grasp her shoulder, after a very brief conversation later that afternoon, her right hand moved in an instant. The man reeled back, clutching his bleeding arm. Layna looked on coolly, meeting his eyes without flinching, a small dagger tinged with blood unmoving in her hand. She gestured to his arm with a single, brusque motion of her left hand. Her voice was not loud, simply deliberate, perfectly controlled. “Next time I’ll remove it entirely.” His eyes flashed with rage, but without another word, she turned away, pulling out a cloth and wiping the dagger clean, then replacing it in its sheath – nonchalantly appearing to ignore the man entirely. In actual fact, she was tracking his every move, by sound and through her peripheral vision. If he was to attack her, it would be now. But her confidence was unnerving, and after a moment he shuffled away, cursing under his breath. She let him go, and calmly walked over to the nearest patient and continued her work. She had made her point.

***

She left the Wainriders’ camp that evening, riding for several hours into the night until she was sure that the shifting sands and her circuitous route would have prevented any of the riders from following her. She did not strike straight north, as Ezher had recommended; but headed slightly further east, then north, then doubled back west, before heading north again. Better for all concerned that she should be invisible, incapable of being found even if the Reshim should decide to try. She had no fear that they would seek out the Merkilesh to warn them; the hatred between the two was too strong, and she did not believe that any of the band, save perhaps Ezher, even suspected her true purpose in visiting the Brown Lands.

It was late evening, and the moon had already risen – a thin silver crescent above the darkness of the eastern horizon – when she reached the foothills of the mountains. This untamed, unnamed, wild range stretched from north to south, just west of the sea of Rhûn. They were not entirely desolate; some rain did reach the area, moisture rising in clouds over the sea of Rhûn, blown eastward, never able to cross the mountain range to ameliorate the harsh desert that was the Brown Lands, lying on the other side of the range, but here some life could – if only barely – survive. Groves of stunted, twisted trees became a more and more common sight. In the morning she would once again turn east, back into the wastelands between the mountain range and the sea of Rhûn, but for now she was looking for a good place to camp, and – though she would not have admitted it aloud – she was tired of the endless sand. And, on a more practical note, according to Ezher’s directions, she had no business being anywhere near the mountains. In point of fact, he had specifically warned her against travelling near the mountains, a warning Layna had taken note of, then discarded unperturbed. None of the Wainrider tribes normally travelled here; no one had any reason to believe that she would be there. A good solution. She set up her tent in a small, darkened clearing, relying on the light of the moon and stars, and eventually, the light of a small fire she kindled. Picketing the stallion, she went to sleep at once.

It could not have been any more than four hours later when she woke, startled from slumber by the high-pitched whinny of an animal that rarely ever showed fright – the stallion. She sat upright, listening, drawing two of her daggers. A howl sounded in the darkness, and the stallion neighed. She pushed open the flap of her tent and glanced at the fire. It had burned down, was almost entirely dead, only faint embers glowing. Rising, she seized a small amount of kindling and tried to coax a flame to life, ready to draw daggers at a second’s notice. Another howl, this time from the hills on the other side, sent a shiver down her spine. Out in the desert, there were few wild animals that she had needed to be concerned about. Here, in the rough and deserted hills, it was a different story. It sounded to her as though a pack of wolves was gathering. Unlike many travellers, Layna was perfectly aware that ordinary wolves did not normally attack or harm humans. However, given the lack of food, water, and sustenance in general ... she began to realize why Ezher had recommended that she avoid the mountains. As the fire finally came alive, the orange flame flickering dimly in the darkness, she could make out shadows, moving about, staying just out of the light. She put more wood on the fire and spoke soothingly to the stallion, picketed beside her, then settled herself down by the fire, and resigned herself to a sleepless night.
She/her. Almarëa - Rivendell / Jaena - Lone Lands (T.A.) and Gondor (F.A.) / Layna - Mordor

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Snak and her raven, Vit
Grey Mountains. About a hundred miles out from the Withered Heath

She wore boots of mountain goat hide, a wide brimmed hat, and a shawl of wild sheeps wool.
Snak sat an outcrop of the Northern mountain range overlooking the Greylin. Under her boots, the majestic green of Mirkwood sprawl unfolded to the West, while the Anduin stretched out as far as far as the eye could see. It would be another week before Snak made to the old birthplace of dragonkind, to the Heath. Overhead, Vit soared on the air currents as Snak sucked the last chunk of the raw rabbit flesh down her vile throat.
The orc had 20 years on these mountain ranges and the ones to the south. She was able to live quite comfortably on her own up here on the roof of the world. Small game was easy to come by. And the water was crisp. Indeed, these mountains held a special place in her sooty heart. She would camp up here tonight in clouds. And if she kept good pace tomorrow, she would camp the next night in the ancient dwarf temple of Wat Qhienta. But tonight, Aule would visit her in her dreams.
Proprietor of Pakon Stazim
He/him

Newborn of Imladris
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Image Im col-i-eneth Eglan

FA 465
A journey from Beleriand to Cuiviénen


Verily a knife did pierce his heart as he heard of her elopement, for twas in despite of all he did to safeguard her. Love it was that bade him constrain her, yet twas not love that broadcast her folly abroad and reported her estrangement; that truly was fear and vile jealousy, and it ate at him as a canker doth, biting fierce, until he had sundered her goodwill forever, or so he had thought...

In stillness and quietness, she had forgiven him his foolishness, for her stark imprisonment was not of his desiring and in repairment, he greatly relieved her loneliness and sorrow. Yet though in sweet strains did he endeavour to inscribe upon her thought his ardent tenderness toward her, her heart was given to another, and in all his rememberings, she had never given him cause to hope.

Twas no ill-advised gesture that made him pursue her, but fear for her life. Gladly would he have aided her quest, if he had discovered her, but he found her not. Whatever fate or fortune befell her, he could not affect it further and he could only be glad in that she was her mother's daughter in truth, to weave such enchantments, for her path was surely only darkness hereafter.

He tracked her north, but found no safe path onward for if she had come to Angband, then truly there was no hope. In heaviness of soul, he wandered perillously near the gates, blinded by grief and sorrow for the part he had played in dooming the most beautiful of the Children of Ilúvatar. If he had but known it, twas only her living presence that saved his life, for she proved a worthy distraction to the minions of the Dark Lord and their watch was not as it ought. Thus, in ignorance, he passed eastward in the weeks that followed, across the Ered Engrin and over the Ered Luin, past the ruins of Utumno where no green thing grew. He learned cold and hunger, and of tiredness he knew intimately. He knew loss, and it was all-encompassing, for he had sparked her ill-fated flight into darkness.

Melancholy ate his thoughts, for he began to comprehend the devastation that his own desires had wrought as the seasons changed from winter to summer. If Thingol had received gentler council, how much different things could be! Why had he encouraged the King in his intransigence? To send a Man after a Silmaril in Morgoth's hands was madness, with the Doom upon them or no. Surely it would have been a nobler position to have allowed the lady her choice? But his lack of chivalry was not nobly done, and the remembrance of it brought hot tears of shame to his eyes and down his face which he could not bear to wipe away. The Doom of Mandos was a painful truth which, he now knew, came not of chance, but the unhappy acts of covetous Elves.

He could not think to go among others, for who was he to go among the Wise? He was a fool, and condemned in his own eyes. How could he trust his own council? He surely could not countenance giving any to others. He was alone, and he could not go back. He would go on, until cold and hunger consumed him, lost in the uttermost east. It would not pay for all, but how could anything? What redemption could there be for one who drove away the one he loved to her death?

In the ensuing months, he blindly followed the line of Iron Mountains east until he came to the Orocarni, the tops still glowing red at every sunrise, just as he remembered. Stumbling onward, driven on by some unknown force, he knew himself a shattered Elf, bereft of life and of hope, and nearing his end.

He followed the Orocarni south, leaving the harsh frozen wastelands of the north until finally, on the western slopes he came to the Wild Wood, and in deep weariness of soul, he lay down on a bed of moss under the eaves and chose not to wake again.
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~ * ~
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It felt like an age later that he heard the rushing of waterfall, but muffled as if by great distance. He opened his eyes and found himself in a verdant glade, with such sunlight as to be encased in the brightness, colours bright as if within a rainbow. He blinked slowly, for surely he dreamed.

A deep voice spoke in the soft green light of the woodland, and it seemed to him a shining man clothed in white raiment smiled but continued to speak, though he did not know the language. A lady came into his vision then, her soft grey apparel making no sound as she glided toward him, and as she touched his cheek he understood their speech.

"Rise and drink," she murmured, and he felt a goblet of fine crystal pressed to his lips. The first touch was as liquid sunlight, and he gasped, but the lady held it there until he had drained it. Curiously, it warmed him through, and he knew within himself that he could go on, and that they wanted him to.

All of a sudden, he was overcome by the great weight of his own remorse and recrimination, and to his horror, his eyes welled, and scrambling to his feet, he made to get away from them, to relieve them of his unworthy presence, for he did not deserve their kindness.

"I'm sorry. I cannot-" he faltered, already blind with tears, stumbling backwards.

"Nay," a voice he had not heard said from behind him. "Thou canst."

Another lady, wisdom-crowned and weary in grief, stood before him. "Thou hast injured thyself more than all the hurts of Arda in thy flight. Didst thou forget that thou wast forgiven? The lady thou lovedst did not wish upon thee this terrible plight!"

"And I did not wish upon her her terrible plight!" he said angrily, swiping his face. "But it was my action that ruined her! And not for one moment have I not regretted it!"

"Ai, you have learned much in your exile," the lady smiled, her eyes shining with empathy. "Much that others cannot know, Daeron greatly beloved."

"Call me not by that name," he cried in anguish, turning away from her. "I bear the name Forsaken."

"Nay," she replied implacably. "Thou art greatly beloved, and Daeron is thy name."

He stood, chest heaving, staring unseeing at the floor. "A shadow," he whispered. "Darkness."

"Nay, indeed," the man said. "That name is not thine to hold. Come and see!"

In a shaft of Anor's light, myriad colours spread, until he could see the fair princess of Doriath, a man-child running at her feet, and the man Beren working in the room behind her. She was happy, and alive, and so so beautiful, though age rested on her brow where once it had not.

"How can this be?" he asked.

"His name is Dior," the man said, not answering. "First of the Peredhil and a line to bring hope to Elves and Men. Look well, O Daeron. When at last thou seest the light of the Simaril from afar, thou wilt know the truth."

Into the vision, then came Beren, holding a great necklace with a shining jewel, with which he adorned the neck of the fair Lúthien.

"He has but one hand," Daeron noticed, for to him nothing could have made Lúthien fairer. What had happened that left them so marred, and yet so happy? He smiled, for she laughed in the vision, and he would not have wanted anything else for her but to be glad, and content and safe.

He felt seen, and it was uncomfortable and a relief all at once.

"Thingol brought great doom upon Doriath," murmured the lady sorrowfully. "The choices of Men and Elves are ever made in haste and ignorance. And yet-" here she smiled suddenly, and he felt a weight lift momentarily from his shoulders, "great good will come of it, or the Weaver is belied! One mistake is not enough to alter the course of Ilúvatar's thought, and neither are they all together, for we too are not perfect in all things. Though great woe will come, and must come, the hearts of the wise are edified by the mistakes made upon the road, and love - love covers a multitude of wrongs. Take heart, Daeron greatly beloved, thy heart is not broken, as thou feared, but bruised. Let it rest, and heal, and be forgiven."

"I will ... try," Daeron answered. "You ask more than I can give, at present."

The three shining persons laughed, and exchanged knowing glances.

"It is enough," the man said with a smile.

The lady in grey danced forward again, and he noticed how calm and quietly peaceful she was. She reached out to touch his hands, sitting down and drawing him with her to the lush grass.

"Sleep again now. We will meet again in the deeps of time, beloved Daeron," she laughed, moving to touch his cheek, and then he knew no more.
.
.
~ * ~
.
.

He awoke again to the rushing of great water, the vast waterfall of that river which flowed into the Inland Sea of Helcar. He had reached Cuiviénen, where the first Elves woke.
The Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon, but loved best the stars.

Newborn of Imladris
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Image Man i eneth nín?

FA 467
Cuiviénen


The seasons in the place of awakening were mild; long summer days gradually shortened with little actual loss of warmth throughout the autumnal months, and as winter crept in it was even unusual to see a frost touch the ground. The mountains stood guard over the valley as if warding off unpleasant weather, and the coldness that had eaten away at him as he travelled had no purchase on him now. He had built a shelter, a small house in the trees, although as spring came again he was ever out under the stars, for he had not been idle in his exile, and had perfected an instrument of wooden construction upon which his compositions floated as if played by the Ainur themselves.

The first he made had a low sound, as if the wind herself were to take up music, melodic and beautiful, but somehow melancholy and reflective of his own heart. Long, lonely nights he spent under the Meneltarma, playing sorrowfully to the silent stars above, a lament for all that he had lost, for his own part played in selfish covetousness, for the dreadful end his dreams would play out, for the hope of the visions he had seen, which he could not quite believe. His music was effortlessly, haunting, songs to make the heart stop and witness the solemn dignity of joy laid slain, the unblooming of the best hope ever sown. And, doubting the vision he had seen, many seasons went by in denial and self-loathing.

Twas not until he finished the construction of another instrument that his compositions began to change, for the new instrument had a greater range, and its tone was at once piquant and robust, able to handle the peaks and troughs of his disordered emotions and allow him to gain control. The bright insistent sound that he was able to coax from its depths filled him with such a passion that his music almost composed itself, taking him on a journey of self-discovery until he understood that what she felt for the Man was no idle fancy, but indeed love so complete as to take the whole of her heart.

It was thus that he began to understand her. With new eyes he revisited the events anew, and his music accompanied him, providing a living soundscape to the spectres of the past and giving him wisdom where once there had only been anger and fear. He began to see that in the story of her life, he was but a footnote. A friend once, then truly not so; though she had never called him enemy, he had been, and it grieved him that he could not make amends. Could not speak to the man and ... what would he have said? What could he have said? His music spoke more eloquently than he ever might have, and into what he would later call The Lay of Lúthien, he poured his love and sorrow, fear and yearning. Highs and lows he wound into its dark refrains, sprinkling it with thin reedy notes which spoke of sparked conflict, and delicate warbles that echoed their shattered dreams, and yet always returning to the base notes underneath it all, a rich layer of enduring love which altered not. The fire of her personality rang out in the music; she was beautiful within, and not to be measured by outward appearance.

Long years went by, and in his heart he knew the beginnings of peace; nevertheless, he travelled not again, seeking not the company of others, for their sakes as well as his own. Yet he kept record of the times and seasons, for he had been Loremaster, and such things were second nature. Books, he made, and other things. Musical instruments went through multiplicities of design and he taught himself any number of things he had not had time for before.

It was some seventy years later when he saw the great evening star's first assay into the night sky and to his wonderment and delight, he realised that it was indeed a Silmaril and that the vision had been real. He rejoiced then, that Lúthien had lived and had a child with the Man she so loved, for here indeed was proof.

His music then took on a joyous mien, and he might have stayed in that place, living alone and making melody to the stars, if he had not once been Thingol's Loremaster - for he desired then to discover the full history of those things which the man had mentioned, and to see the fulfillment of them with his own eyes. He was in no hurry, but as these things occupied his mind more and more, he began to prepare for a return journey.
The Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon, but loved best the stars.

Black Númenórean
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Carníheniel
Somewhere in the Ered Mithrin
“Cast My Name in Salt and Stone”


Thrum…

Thrum…

Thrum, thrum, thrum


A single, great, red eye opened.

Thrum, thrum

Then another, and another. Twelve eyes slowly opened, all gleaming with an incandescent light.

Thrum…

Something was calling her. Calling to her. She uncurled her great bulk, each of her eight legs reaching from wall to wall, nearly a hundred spans across. She had lain motionless for so long, here within her crevice, that movement felt alien to her. Yet the call of her web was too great to ignore. She had snared something. Greasily, she slid over the rocky outcropping, scattering bones and sending them down in the abyssal gulf below her. Slowly, she began climbing down. She was not so large yet as her mother, who could crush mountains in her wake, yet she was vast. Six thousand years ago she had claimed this mountain as hers, and none dared challenge her. She was not the last child of Ungoliant, but she was the greatest. She was Carníheniel, the Red-Eyed Lady, fed from the hand of Mairon himself in the long days of yore. And she was hungry.

Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrum

Her meal was trapped. Her mandibles clicked together with greedy anticipation. Clickclickclickclik She had not had company in so long, but she knew it would not be him that arrived. He never touched her web. He knew that if he did, he would be prey just like all the rest of the would be claimants to her peak. Silently, she moved, her eight legs almost daintily skittering across the connective silk strands the bridged the yawning gap.

Shadows clung to her, patches of midnight oblivion that glided along her massive form. She had learned the technique of her mother, the progenitor of the unlight. Patches of the substance dripped off her form like water, forming pools of shadow so deep it drank up all the light and sound that came near it.

Thrum…

She could almost feel the frantic heartbeat of her meal. She could feel the hum and beat along thousands of leagues of web that she had placed through the pathways, crawl spaces, and holes. It was a frantic, faint thing. Far, far away from here. She roosted at the top of her peak, much like she remembered Thuringwethil when she knew her. Her caverns were far more vast though, an infinite expanse of darkness and unlight. And were the Lady of Secret Shadows and held court with bats of all manner, Carníheniel held court with herself alone. She was the utter master of her domain. Mates she had had aplenty, yet each of them she devoured as she had devoured her father before Mairon had found her. Her children too, she did not allow to live, each of them fed the great ravenous hunger that Mairon had put within her. She could no longer sense Mairon, either he was gone or he was too far away. Over the years their partnership had lessened, each of them having designs and wills of their own. Would she come at his call, should he ever come to her? The Red-Eyed Lady did not know. The hunger he had put in her with the power of his voice was as strong now as it was the day he called her, yet her own power has waxed until nigh an entire mountain could not contain her massive bulk.

Thrum… Thrum

The vibrations were getting weaker, fainter. Again her mandibles clacked in gory anticipation. She could smell them now. It was an elf. It was not him. His scent would have been far muskier, more heat, this creature was cold.

Thrum, thrum, thrum, thrum

Ah, desperation now. The last gasp toward the light of a creature fated to live in darkness for the rest of its existence. Sometimes, she wondered what happened to the souls of those she consumed. Did they feed her form as much as the bodies? Did they escape into the illimitable nothingness that awaited them? Or did she trap them within her?

For now, though, she did not question what happened. She was far too hungry for that. She danced along threads of silk barely thicker than a finger, moving silently through caverns and tunnels and bolt holes until…

There it was. It was an elf. A lone, desperate looking creature, haggard and thin. Yet he would do.

As silent as a whisper, she descended.
So what if it's evil?

Captain of Tower
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Captain Salukatar Halsad, with his brother, Pharak Halsad
The House of Halsad, City of Umbar. FLASHBACK POST - Set 2980 TA



Candles wept a coat of smoky wax to glaze the large, wooden, scarred chandelier. Was a time as the goliath wheel had adorned a ship's helm but, much like the now scant residents who yet bore the name of legacy, now it hung long in idle suspension, in the dining room. Chains strung from the ceiling tethered it in a cumbersome bridle, that it should not fall and yet, whenever the great double doors were pummelled open or slammed shut by a pining wind, the entire frame was roused and swung against it's bonds. As yet the dancing heads of flame had persevered, if but to veil some raucous cast below in an umbrageous light. Salukatar Halsad ignored the melted tears that dove into his already congealed dinner. Food had never truly been the motive behind his location, but the chamber was most suited and equipped to cater for so many guests at once. And the convention of wine being served had been met with a round of approval.

The alcohol had flavoured conversation as much as it had utterly usurped the lavish meals. Several of the house's servants stood, with hands clasped dolefully behind their backs, at irregular intervals along the wall. As though they were an ill-planned decoration. All focused their eyes downcast, in equal measures of terror at the cutlery which had been brandished rather indiscriminately, and a wretched hunger for the wasted feast that festered within reach. They could expect, none of them, anything but scraps tonight. And those they would have to fight off the dogs in order to secure.

Pharak swirled the heavy quota of cardinal merlot that still weighted his chipped goblet, in one hand. There was scarce an implement within the household entire which had not been hurled or flung at some point; chipped and marked and dented were all treasures which had lost their lustre despite all the wretches expected to dust and polish. The younger gentleman of Umbar eyed his elder brother silently, all the while burying his own frustration and condemnation in a shallow grave of discontent. Their father, Captain Korre Halsad had been dead less than a moon's passage through the starless sky, and it was rather customary to make celebration that the heir and prince of their empire had only this week rose from his sick bed. Still it sat uneasy with Pharak that in that one, meagre week, Salukatar had seen fit to all but ravage all sources of the substenance left to them.

Wine and wenches and food and gambling ... all had sunk teeth into the fortunes they were left to forge survival from. What was further gauling was that such behaviour demonstrated no sign of abating any time soon. Given the destruction of their father and, worse still, the loss of even that humble flotilla of ships which had surmised their whole livelihood, there were decisions that required now be made.

Umbar, as a city, did not grow or else produce much of great worth. It was renowned for slaving and pillaging and piracy. The most popular of guilds and professions, outside of their notorious navy, were thieves and assassins. So with the harbour despoiled, a vast percentage of their ships and their boldest sailors suddenly erased, the city was culled from much if not all of those trade-worthy goods which were typically imported (by force more frequently than by wiles and cunning) from afar.

In short, soon the depleted coffers of House Halsad would see them ranked parsimonious. All efforts that Pharak himself had undertaken to master this affliction, his brother, his elder, and now his apparent master was prepared to utterly overlook.

In the traditional fashion of their forefathers, the younger sibling gave rise to his feet, clambered upon the immense deck of the dining/meeting table, and dashed his wine to the cracked floor with dramatic flourish. This was the only recognised means of gaining attention, although the customs of greed and ego frequently saw more than one man taking turn at once. Pharak had to throw a pair of drunken houseguests from the impromptu stage before he obtained his brother's interest, and a crow of displeasure and protest from the more wine-fuelled party-goers.
Still he was not dissuaded. It was difficult to survive an upbringing in Umbar without learning to fight for your own corner. To allow that Pharak was the milder of the two tempers his mother had spawned, was not to assume that he was meek in any understanding of that word. Even pitted against such a riotous audience, he found their ear.

"I have scored a vessel for our interests," he pronounced, calmly editing all details that might take from the significant point. As anticipated, all those not yet passed from conscious state about the room surrendered to startled intrigue. "Though our armada entire now lies in splinters and ash about the dock, and our allies have been severed from their usual delivery, rendered almost to the point of ruin by delays that now impede their efforts to restock, and to replace all that was lost .."

"What manner of a vessel do you mean ?" the cries began, as variants upon the same question were conceived about every corner of the table. Interest had waned from the man's showcasing his own vainglorious achievement, back to just what their own mercenary judgement craved. After Pharak had made several ineffective efforts to appease them, Salukatar found firm feet to the ground and propelled his half-filled dinner plate across the room.

It struck a most unfortunate slave point-blank in his face, and dripped in cloying chunks of luke-warm gravy down the miserable man's contuised features. The appalled cries of his fellows raged against the act until the stoney gaze of their oppugnant master stilled all rebellion. Save one.
Jenahda strode boldly from her assigned place along the far wall, and gathered the smeared plate from where it still clattered by the victim's feet. Employing her eager tongue, she licked her fellow thrall's face clean as all gathered found themselves rooted in shock. Somewhat unashamedly, she cast half-focused eye aside to Pharak and raised a lone dark brow, her unspoken dare. The room froze to awkwardly exchange looks and a fidgeting around the table. Done, Jenahda sashayed over toward Salukatar, threw her head back and one hip wide, as she asked

"Second helpings be my lord's desire ?" she made question, and her master's lips part in confusion. But the first son of Korre Halsad was not lost for words, for long. Snatching the plate out of the undaunted woman's hands, he threw it against the doors, and spat the words

"Go fetch" out of one corner of his twisted smile.

Jenahda spun devilishly unaffected by the scornful gesture, and all present swallowed mirth and bit upon their lower lips. Pharak swiftly retrieved all the audience he might, as his secret lover flaunted her disregard for humbled rank. Jenahda might believe that playing up to Salukatar was her best means of staying out of trouble. But even her efforts to play docile wore a clear undercurrent of courage. The woman was utterly beyond all hope of proper submission. As her own father had lamented, as he bade Pharak take her into servile employ.

"A caravel fit for some two dozen men at the least .. " Pharak resumed, to invoke a distraction.

"We shall take it !" Salukatar broadcasted his intention, without pause for thought of further intervention. "We shall with all speed to Gondor and abuse her most accursed shore ! We shall plunder her resources to replace those of ours they took, and more besides ! We shall ..[/I}"

"You have not the men to achieve such a feat," interjected his brother. "And furthermore the enemy shall be on their guard .."

"They shall be fat upon their victory with no suspicion that we could come back at them with such a speed and .."

"You can not take the entire Gondorian navy down to depths with one ship," Pharak mentioned, teetering about the brink of patience. "If you will but wait and think .."

"I am Captain Salukatar Halsad" was the best retort that man might offer. "Dare you to speak to me of what I can not do with a ship full of willing men ?! You who never gave command in your entire life !!"


The guests still able threw their glance from one brother to the other, as the verbal riposte supplanted all else in the room. Even Jenahda's attempt to lead all slaves toward departure almost garnered no regard. Almost.

"Need I make you now a moving target, girl ?" the Captain demanded, aflush with colour and indignity for all that recently had harrassed him.

"A slave that does not hear her master's schemes can not have such important secrets forcibly extracted of her by a rival to this house," Pharak put in, sensibly. "Think not that fear would keep a dog from barking, if enough pressure were applied. This I know, O Captain. For I sneak and slip and steal. All these things come under the wise category of discretion. And it is that underdog I propose we manipulate, brother."

Salukatar narrowed his eyes and considered reason beyond all the alcohol he had seen him rise toward fervour. Pharak stood apparently divorced from emotion, though he subtly acknowledged the howl of the wind catch the great doors to closed behind his secret lover. And behind all those thralls to this house, already more scared to refuse her than to risk the wrath of their volatile master.

"Speak sense or refrain from interrupting sense" groaned Salukatar, wearily. "We are in need. But you have secured the method by which we can take what we are more than owed. I know ships, and I know sailing. I am grateful if your little contacts have garnered us this vessel, but do not imagine for one moment brother that you are qualified to make grand suggestions where it comes to slavery and conquest. I am expert on a far more grand scale than you shall ever .."


"The caravel was succoured by way of Lord Khabudolgur," Pharak's confession had the required, awed, effect. He glanced about the well-soused collective of sailors that propped themselves up about the table of his own illustrious ancestors.

"How did .. ?" one bewildered witness formed the words of intrigue.

"He is the ambassador to Mordor, to the shadow," Pharak reminded all present, and basked in the ensuing hushed silence which spoke volumes of their understanding. "He has the ways and means."

"And the price to be paid ?" Salukatar was not quite so inebrieted to forget the peril of such an alliance. "The old man is of the ancient cults, the arcane and the spectral arts of the Black Numernoreans .. "

"We have come to an accordance as to what he shall expect in return," Pharak scratched his beard, nervous all of a sudden. His bravado shot through by a storm of reality, as though a man who makes valiant speech, and only after realises that they are undressed for the occasion. The old mystic was a dark force to be reckoned with, and no mistake.

"I have secured items for the temple before this day, and always fulfilled both task and mood of the High Priest," Pharak privately bolstered his haphazard career in abduction and infiltration as though he were any more than a pawn in the vast game of far more powerful players. "shall take the ship that Lord Khabudolger supplies, with a crew of his choosing, and I shall, as ever, satisfy this direct order from the Shadow."



A curtain of disquiet descended to smother all vouting boast and assumption. The vast gloom that belched from the smogs of Mordor was as reverant as it was feared.

"What can He expect .. that you, you out of us all can possibly accomplish ?" Salukatar masked his concern for his young brother behind a cold wall of sneering disdain. Another family custom. "If it takes a ship ... you are no sailor, brother .."

Pharak swallowed and raised his chin, in vain mimicry of his late father, who had ever inspired a sense of dignity in the young man. "If it is believed I can achieve this, who am I to argue ?" he shrugged, acting as nonchalent. "You must remain here meantime, Salukatar. Conspire with our friends and allies. Rebuild and recover what you can while I ... "

"What errand does he ask ?!" the corsair made repeated effort to gain intel; grasping at the table which shook violently from the impact. "I would know .."

"You are not in any position to insist," Pharak retorted, matter of fact. "It is a mission upon a need to know basis. And your only role at all is to remove yourself from all thought of it save that I plan to bring honour and great recognition to this house. It shall be worth it. So long as you are not hasty in answering the insult done unto our people all entire. I am asking you to put your house in order, brother, for it is your house now."

The two brothers strove about an uneasy relationship the length of this latest steely-eyed stare.

"You would rush ill-equipped into the thick of enemy territory, dressed for war, but undermanned, with vain hope of ransacking a few neighbourhoods ?" Pharak dark eyes compelled his only brother, his elder, and apparently his master, to realise the folly of such a reactionary risk. "I can tell you only that I shall instead be complicent in leveling a nation," he concluded, grave but determined. "Mordor does not require a man renowned of sailing for this particular venture. Mordor requires a man experienced in guile. A man who shall not be immediately recognised for the legend that you are already, in your brief age, become .." he added compliment to sweeten his brother's clear disappointment.

"Well, you have placed us all in peril now, by merely undertaking promise to that ... to the Shadow," the Captain resolved, albeit reluctantly, to let be what must be. "If you fail ..."

"I shall not fail," was the promise spoke.

NPF edit: Wow..
The board is set. The pieces are moving.

Thain of The Mark
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Private RP with @Frostbite

Lomiel
Six years ago...

The Streets of Umbar, between the harbor and the market

Everything about Umbar sent her instincts to high alert. The drizzling rain and low-lying, undulating clouds in every shade of gray, along with the sea-salt that clung to the air, was enough to remind her that she was nowhere near home and that this was crazy.

But Lomiel really wanted her own source of Haradrim silk. One where she could get it at a decent price, without having to beg and plead for barely enough yardage for a gown or shift from the Gondorian tailors who really hadn't liked her sudden appearance on the scene. It wasn't like she'd meant to steal clients, but she felt that skill would always speak strongest, and she'd attracted some clients of a certain wealth and caliber with ease.

And that was what brought her to Umbar, and why she persisted on her perhaps foolhardy mission despite the way she could sense a strange power--magic? she'd not had much experience with it before, but the instincts that had made her one of Rohan's best pæthfindians told her that it certainly wasn't natural--pulsing and winding through the air, and the underlying coppery scent of blood, whispered danger. turn back. in her mind. But Bema damn it all, she wanted that silk.

Lomiel still wasn't quite sure how she'd ended up with this particular translator. His voice was shrill and jarring, and his accent quite thick. Her Westron wasn't nearly as good as her Rohir, but she didn't think it would be a good idea to reveal quite that much of who she was in a place like this.

The translator would not shut up as he led her through twisting streets, though she refused to follow him down shortcuts through alleys. Every time he tried, she just stopped in her tracks and waited until he realized she wasn't behind him anymore.

It happened no less than five times.

On the final time, though, as she waited at the entrance to the alley for the sniveling annoyance to return, Lomiel found herself shoved to the ground as a cluster of children swarmed the street around her. She knew she'd made herself a target with her garments--an overgown of fine, deep blue linen, a cream-colored chemise of some of the coveted Haradrim silk with a higher neckline than she usually cared to wear, and a lightweight wool cloak in dark gray with fine silver embroidery along the edges and hem--but she needed to be able to convince a buyer that she had the funds to put into what she was going to propose.

She knew the children were pickpockets. But she'd expected pickpockets, and had carefully placed small amounts of coin in easily-pilfered locations, but the majority of what she carried was in a spot no one would be able to get to without her noticing. She was not unarmed either, but she wasn't going to draw a knife on children and so she waited until they moved on before slowly rising from the cobbled street to dust off her skirts. As she stood, though, the medallion she wore around her neck slipped out from beneath her chemise.

Image

Lomiel didn't even glance down as she reached to tuck the medallion back inside her chemise. Instead, she looked around for her translator. He was only just scurrying back up the alley toward her, and she was relieved that he hadn't been near enough to notice the medallion. She looked around the street one more time. It was bustling, but no one seemed to be paying her any particular mind, and she sighed with relief.

The translator returned to her side then, and Lomiel's mouth set into a firm line as she spun to face him. "Enough," she spat. "Take me to the person you promised. No more stalling."

With a sullen grimace, the weaselly translator nodded and gestured down the street. It was just a couple more blocks down when he directed her to an open-air stall not too far from what she could now see what the Umbar marketplace. A man sat on a cushioned chair inside, but he rose as the interpreter let out a slew of words, and Lomiel caught her name among them.

She found this new man to be... unimpressive. He was not fat or thin, handsome or particularly ugly, but he had dark, shaggy hair, and a cruel glint in his gray eyes. He was clean shaven, with a jagged scar across his chin, far too many gaudy rings on his hand as he reached out to snatch her own hand up in his and bring it to his mouth to kiss the back of it.

"Lady Lomiel," he spoke in very broken Westron. "Carroc Dhevish. Am I. You, please sit." He gestured to the same chair he had occupied.

Lomiel pulled her hand back and barely resisted wiping the back of it clean on her skirt as she shook her head. "I will stand, thank you. I have heard you have a source for Haradrim silk. Is this true?" Subtly, she shifted her stance, hiding it behind a the motion of flipping her loose hair back over her shoulder, so as to have at least some semblance of a view of both men and the street. The back of her neck was tightening and prickling, alerting her to some impending danger, she just didn't know where it might be coming from. There were too many options.

The translator rattled off another string of words in Adûnaic, and it seemed to be far too many for what she'd asked. Carroc Dhevish replied, watching her closely, and her eyes narrowed as she waited on the translator's response.
Last edited by Taeth-on-Hiatus on Thu Sep 03, 2020 1:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Black Númenórean
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Frost
6 years ago
Umbar

It was dawn. He had been up all night. Correction, he had been up several nights now. His eyes felt heavy as the greyish pinks and reds filtered through the heavy clouds. Somewhere in the city, a cock crowed to welcome the sun. A bell tolled in the city center, marking the hour. He yawned and moved from his seated position at the edge of the room. The stars, those still peeking through the holes in the clouds, began to slowly fade. He had no idea if the night’s ritual had been a success or not. He would not be able to tell for several weeks at the earliest if the ritual’s power had been directed to right person. He was exhausted now, beyond exhausted. He climbed down from the roof of his manse at a pace that suggested he was eager to climb into bed. After three days of wakefulness, Frost felt as though he had earned at least a day’s rest. His crew were going to be unhappy, they were always unhappy when they had to be in port for too long, but their happiness wasn’t the first thing on his mind. The smell of saltwater assailed him. Despite his home being far inland, he could still smell the sea all around him. It was not a bad smell, no a bad smell would be the charred corpses of crew members that displeased or disobeyed Krakzun. The sea was the smell of the unknown, the mists that obscured, the future. The salt smell clung to him as he reached the ground. He wiped his brow, it came away sticky. It had been a very hot night, and the ritual had been taxing. Rituals that took place during a black moon often were by their very nature. He was confident though that he had succeeded. There had been a feeling of release, of completion, as the sun’s first rays appeared against the underbelly of the clouds. He inhaled deeply, his lungs expanding and popping his ribs. He leaned against the stone edifice of his family home. The stone was cool to the touch, he sighed with relief, closing his eyes with a contented smile. It was an effort to open his eyes again. If he had allowed himself, he could have fallen asleep right there. It would not matter that he was still standing upright.

Darkness began to close in around him, wrap him up with the comforting arms of an old lover. He safe and secure in that familiar darkness. The sounds of the sea, the whistling of the wind, it all melted away as the abyss of sleep began to wash over him. For a heartbeat, in that briefest of moments between consciousness and unconsciousness, he could feel himself floating, weightless and free.

The harsh, raking sound of crunching gravel tore him back into the world of the waking. He half opened his deep blue eyes and glared at the manservant that approached. His vision was blurred so he couldn’t tell right away who it was. The harder he looked the more like a blob of candlewax the man looked. Once he was within a pace of Frost the man stopped. His voice was nasally and his accent was affected. Instantly, Frost knew who it was, and groaned irritably.

“Master Nûlukhô, I bear a message from your mother,” the voice was reedy and thin, papery with age but loaded with pride.

Frost’s eyes snapped open wide, the exhaustion and velvety darkness vanished. “My mother? Is here? In Umbar?” Frost’s stomach turned in knots. Normally she was far in the east this time of year. What was she doing back? “What message does the Mistress of House Nûlukhô give to me?” He kept the apprehension from his voice. He was not going to give this particular servant the satisfaction of seeing him unnerved.

His name was Kalagir, he had been ancient when Frost was a child. His face was covered in wrinkles and liver spots, his hair was the color of bleached bones; he wore it long as was the fashion, tied back in a thick, intricate braid. He was the oldest of his mother’s personal attendants, coming with her when she left House Castamir and joined House Nûlukhô, the house of Frost’s father. There was a light in the man’s pale purple eyes that made Frost uneasy. He seemed to know things about Frost, about his inner thoughts the man had no business knowing. One of these days, he was going to be rid of Kalagir and he was going to revel in it.

“Mistress Zôrzimril Nûlukhô wishes to speak to her son,” he said, though Frost did not miss the hesitant distaste when the word “son” was spoken.

Pulling himself off the stone wall, Frost approached. “What does my mother need to speak to me of?”

That light in the manservant’s eyes darkened ever so slightly. “Does she need a reason to speak to her son? She is the head of the House, you will see her. She is not a woman to be denied.”

If he had not been suffering from exhaustion from three days without sleep, Frost would have had time to think before he acted. With reflexes as quick as a snake, his hand shot out and backhanded the ancient man across the face. The edges of Frost’s vision blurred and reddened, he clenched his jaw hard, hard enough to hear the bones creaking. “And I am not a man to ordered about by the help, you slimy eel.” He spat at the man’s feet.

“Your mother will hear of this,” the old man wheezed violently. “I am sacrosanct.”

Frost back handed him again, then grabbed the cuff of his shirt and lifted him bodily into the air to look him in the eyes. “Until my mother occupies this house, I am the master. And when I am the master, you are far, far from sacrosanct. You continue to exist now only because of my benevolence. Should I change my mind, should you outgrow your usefulness to my mother in my eyes, I will have to tied to the prow of my ship in place of the figurehead and I will ride your corpse until you are nothing but sea torn bones.” He released the man and pushed him away. “Tell my mother that, if you are so bold.”

Kalagir wiped a thin line of spittle and blood from his chin, made a horrifyingly sour face at Frost and turned to go. He was halfway gone through the courtyard when he turned back. “She will be at The House of the Cat and will expect you to make obeisance to her in a timely manner.”

Frost did not have a chance to respond before the man disappeared around the corner. His stomach was still wrapped up in knots. What was his mother doing here? Today of all days? She normally housed herself in the far east this time of years, spending time with supposedly distant relations, relations Frost had never met. When he was a child once, he asked about this far eastern members of the family. He received a very clear message that he was not to ask after them. Absently, he rubbed the white, faded scar on his elbow where the glass had cut him.

The world around him began to come to life. The faded, muted blues and greens woke as the sun climbed higher in the rim of the sky. Golden sunbeams cast strange purple shadows, things that twisted and groaned and stretched out ghostly fingers to grasp at passersby. Frost entered his house. He so dearly wanted to sleep, to fall into an oblivion and allow himself to rest. He entered his bed chambers with a snarl, slamming the doors before any of his own servants had a chance to see him. He stared at his bed, an ancient canopied thing his father had insisted upon. It was the only thing left of his father in the entire house, including his father’s remains, which he and his mother had dumped into the harbor as a curse upon his memory. Frost kept the bed purely for nostalgic reasons.

He would need to change. He had been in these clothes for three days and they were beginning to ripen. He picked out a clean pair of trousers, black dyed wool inlaid with raven feather motifs. The cool fabric felt good on his skin. He selected a similarly patterned tunic, pulling it on over his head. Finally, he removed the silk dalmatica from his closet and pulled it on. He only wore the ornately austere thing when he was with his mother. She required the formality of it, even when their visits were of a familiar nature. On the breast was stitched the ancient symbol of the house, though updated and transformed by his mother: a raven, rampant against a deep red background, a silver chevron behind it. Dark, blood red rubies had been stitched with silver fabric into the great cuffs of the sleeves and collar, catching the glinting light or the rising sun. As he pulled it on, he could feel the weight not only of the fabric, but of the familial responsibility pulling him down. He rubbed his forearms, absently looking at the runic tattoos that ran up and down his arms in geometric patterns.

The journey to The House of the Cat, one of the more luxuriant inns of Umbar was one made in silence. Frost paid little heed to the world around him as he brooded and vexed. The carriage came to a halt in front of the massive building, a graven image of Queen Berúthiel (formerly of Gondor) stood in the courtyard. Supposedly the place had housed the one time queen of Gondor in the days of her youth but Frost thought that unlikely. It was far more probable that the statue of the cat queen had been stolen or rediscovered and brought here. Still, place was massive, larger then the manse they lived in. His mother often stayed here, preferring the large meeting halls that she could hold court in over the plebian riffraff.

“Master Nûlukhô?”

The voice was as quiet as a mouse, but in the great empty silence that was the entry way it could have been thunder. He turned and a saw a skinny, youthful serving girl, dressed in finery that almost seemed comical. He nodded to her.

“This way,” she dared not look him in the eyes, rather she seemed to look just passed him at a spot on the dark, rich wood that made up the interior.

She turned quickly and began scurrying across the foyer, her shoes making a “clickclickclick” sound that echoed ominously.

His mother, in all her rapacious glory, sat at the end of a massive dining table, resplendent in scarlet, black, and silver. Though she had passed into her second century of life, she looked as vivacious and cruelly keen as a woman half her age. She, like Frost, was of nearly pure Númenórean stock and that meant their lives were much longer than the commoner make their way on the streets outside. Her, despite not yet being of a great age, her hair was white, but it was not the same dull, bleached white of Kalagir, but a magnificent, shining, almost iridescent, shimmering white. Even from a distance away, Frost could see the snowy white sparkle of diamonds in her hair net.

“Mother,” he genuflected and bowed. “To what do I owe this unexpected visit? I had not expected you back until the turning of the leaves.”

Dôlguzagar, come give your mother a kiss,” her voice was strong, there was iron there, old, strong, and hard.

Frost did as he was bid, wincing at the sound of his name. It was a pretentious, overly showy name that he had long since discarded for his less luxuriant, but still formidable pseudonym. He kissed his mother on the cheek and took a seat next to her.

“It is good to see you, my Lady.”

She scoffed. “Is it? The way you treated Kalagir might suggest otherwise, my darling black sword. He is quite upset with you.” There was a hint, just a hint, of a mocking smile at the corners of her lips. “You really shouldn’t treat him so roughly. He is very delicate.”

Frost sneered. “I think it’s time for you to get another attendant. That one is well passed his due date.”

Servants, mute and silent, brought out plates of food and goblets filled with a dark, ruby colored wine.

“You ought not to tell me what to do with my affairs, dear son,” Zôrzimril said, sipping at the glass of wine. “You’ve made a mess of your own so much it’s shocking you’re still alive to carry on the Nûlukhô name at all. Really, Dôlguzagr, you must be more careful.”

Frost’s stomach lurched.

“I’m only going to be in Umbar for a fortnight, then I will be returning back East. I came to speak to you, darling boy. I need you to do a few things for me,” she began to cut daintily into the fish on her plate. “And before you even think it, yes I could have merely sent you a letter and told you what I needed but I wanted to see you. You’re so often away these past few years that I’ve hardly seen you at all. I’ve had to resort to more extreme methods of checking in on you.

“When is this corsairing of yours going to end? It’s beneath you, my son. It is time you took your place within the power structure of Umbar and began living up to your name.”

Taking a slow sip of the overly dry wine, Frost sighed. “I do good work on The Grand Conjuration. I’ve brought vast amounts of business for the family and increased our wealth and standing. You would just prefer I used a human crew.”

“Do not interrupt me, son. You may seventy years old now but I will not hesitate to discipline you,” the hard edge in her voice turned sharp. Frost closed his eyes, wishing for sleep. “As I was saying, it’s time for you to get involved in the political structure of Umbar. Your father was a failure in such matters, I blame him for your incessant need to galivant across the world. If he had taught you the importance of the political structure of Umbar, you wouldn’t have taken up such dangerous, foolhardy endeavors.”

Frost remained silent. He took another sip of the wine (which had begun to go to his head already) and cut into his fish. It was juicy, aromatic, and flavorful, but he could hardly taste it. This was not the first time his mother had tried to dissuade him from his seaborne lifestyle. It would not be the last. There was something more though, something more pressing, he could sense it.

“Did you complete it?”

The question threw him off guard. He coughed. “What?”

“Don’t play coy with me Dôlguzagar, I am very well aware of what has been going on the last few nights. I’m painfully aware of the astrological significance of the black moon, especially with your mystery cult.”

Frost reddened, at a loss for words. “Yes…” he said after a moment’s recovery. “I did.”

“And?” she took a sip of wine.

“I believe I succeeded. I won’t know for certain for a few weeks but –”

“I do wish you would cease this dangerous tomfoolery of yours with the Iron folk.”

His mother did not often cut him off. She considered very rude and improper. Frost was stunned. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Tomfoolery?”

“I don’t care what you call it, Frost” she said that name with such disdain he thought she might actually spit. “They are dangerous and I love you.”

“The people in the East are dangerous as well mother,” he pointed out.

“Not in the same sense as your folk. Dark and cruel the East maybe, but they are nothing compared to horrors I know of the North.”

“I am careful, Mother,” he reached across the table and put his hand on hers.

“I can count nearly a dozen times you have not been careful,” she retorted.

“Only a dozen? Well then I think I’ve played it quite safe. I’ve only come away with a few scraps and bruises.” He smiled, genuinely, for the first time since he heard his mother was here. “What can I do for you mother?”
- - - -

Armed with his mother’s “shopping list”, Frost made his way through the busy streets of Umbar. The morning had burned away and in its wake was the turbulent, sometimes violent, often unscrupulous workings of Umbar. Frost felt more at ease here, in the rough streets where cutpurses and assassin children scuttled in the alleys than the ivory halls of leadership. He had returned home to change, gladly peeling off the formal wear and garbing himself in the normal black and browns and greys of his day to day life. His first stop was The Grand Conjuration, making sure Rök, his hulking uruk first mate, had everything in order and ready to depart again.

“Aye, we’re loaded up and ready to sail at your command. Any idea when that’ll be?” The uruk’s voice was thick and rough, like ancient millstones grinding against one another. “The crew is getting restless.”

“Any particular crew members?” Frost smiled snidely. Rök dwarfed most of the people on the dock, but Frost was able to look him nearly in the eye.

Eldûrien is raising a storm and Tagane.”

“Those two are always eager to be out of here,” he mused, watching the nameless crew crawling over his ship like ants. “Not that I blame them. And at least it’s Eldûrien, she’s better at keeping her temper in check than Krakzun.” As if summoned by the mentioning of his name, the burn scar on Frost’s arm pulsated and sent a bolt of pain of up his arm. “How long as she been around?”

“Nigh on a week now, the grew has been fortunate. Most of them anyway.”

“See that it stays that way, Rök. I have a few things I need to do for my mother and we’ll be off again.”

Zôrzimril’s here?” the uruk spoke her name with worshipful reverence. “It’s too early for her return from the East.”

Frost shot his first mate a hard glance. “She is. You can try to get into The House of the Cat if you want. That’s where she’s staying. I’m sure she’d enjoy a chat with you. I need to visit the slave markets.”
Last edited by The King in Yellow on Thu Dec 31, 2020 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
So what if it's evil?

Thain of The Mark
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Private RP with @Frostbite

Lomiel
Six years ago...

"The silk traders await us in the market," the translator said. Carroc Dhevish was watching her closely, and Lomiel worked to keep her breaths steady and measured. She was slowly becoming furious, feeling more and more foolish as the morning passed.

"Then what are we waiting here for?" she inquired through gritted teeth with a placating smile. She spun on her heel, and turned to face the street again, and as she did so, she caught sight of burly men skulking in the shadowy entrances of nearby alleys. Lomiel wouldn't have thought anything of it if they hadn't ducked back further as her gaze swept up and down the street.

They wouldn't be hiding, though, if they didn't want her to go with this Carroc Dhevish willingly. And perhaps... perhaps there was still a chance that he really did know a silk merchant, though her faith in that was dwindling quickly. But honestly, she didn't know what the customs here were for setting up a bargain of this sort, and so she had to take a risk.

Dhevish moved past her and exited the covered stall, gesturing for her to follow. "Lady Lomiel, come," he said, with a grin that was just a touch lecherous, and scowled but complied. The translator followed behind her, and then the next several minutes were spent leading her through winding streets with shortcuts through alleys, and she knew--she knew--that it was an attempt to disorient her. She'd caught sight of the same burly men following behind them, when they came around corners a little too quickly, and she would twist on her feet, attempting to actually look disoriented.

If they wanted a weak, helpless, foolish woman--though she would admit that they were right about the foolish part at the moment--then that was the appearance she would give them.

They didn't need to know they had a skilled pæthfindian under their noses, nay, even a former Marshal of the Mark. If it came down to it, she would at least have a chance to fight her way free. Not a guaranteed win... but at least a chance.

At least they were leading her to a populated area. She could hear the noise of chatter and footsteps, even creaking wagon wheels and the telltale clop-clop of horses hooves on cobbled streets. The clouds overhead had ceased their rain, at least for the time being, and a gentle, if warm and humid, breeze was picking up. The scent of aromatic spices wafted through the air, and she sighed with relief as she realized that they really were headed into the market.

As they came to the point where the alley fed into the main street, Dhevish and the translator stepped in front of her. Lomiel looked back over her shoulder, and spotted the three other men rounding the final corner. They didn't bother to hide this time, and her fingers twitched, itching to go for her hidden blade. She turned to one side, so that the nearest building was to her back, where she could see all five men.

"Come now," she smiled, speaking in Westron. "You promised me silks. I am prepared to make a generous offer. There's no need for the strongarms."

And she waited on the translator once more.

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Frost
Six Years
Umbar

No matter where they were, slave markets were unsavory, dirty, and cramped. Umbar was no exception to this rule. In fact, it could be said that Umbar was in fact the codifier of this rule. Frost hated moving through here. The entire plaza was a mass of sweating, stinking bodies of all colors and shapes, then there were the slaves themselves. The air was damp and humid, every breath Frost drew in tasted of sea salt and fish. After about twenty minutes, he wanted to gag. The smell of sweat, piss, salt, and overpowering perfumes were only adding to his anxiety. His muscles and bones ached to be away from this place. The sea was calling him. But his mother's voice was far too loud, and far too powerful. Ignoring something like this from her could result untold misery. He might be the heir of House Nûlukhô but that did not mean she, Zôrzimril Nûlukhô, could not make his life hellish if he disobeyed. So, he trudged on. He dodged a pickpocket, clapping the young waif hard about the ears before sending him off. Had he seen that boy before? Impossible to tell, and when the dirty blonde-haired boy disappeared, Frost shrugged.

The sky overhead was bright and blue now, like a reflection of the sea. The crystal blue sky stretched in and on. Not a cloud marred this perfect blue within his sight, an Umbarian rarity. The sun, by mid-morning, was blazing ball of wild yellow and gold. Frost thought he could almost see the spirit that supposedly piloted the great celestial body. He could feel the heat, he could see the heat, the shimmer, dancing air that rose off the stone streets.

“Fresh fish! Caught this morning! Fresh fish!”

“Fresh off the boat! New stock from Far Harad! Big and strong!”

“Cheap labor! Easy to train!”

“Exotic meats, straight from the herds of Rhûn.”

“Furs! We have the best furs, a fur scarf for the pretty lady?”

Frost passed them all without a hint of interest. He kept his eyes, and ears, focused forward. There was never good stock on the fringes, neither of meat nor of human. Buildings loomed up high on either side as he moved through the throng of people. They impressive stone works, if not old and out of style. There was scaffolding resting precariously on the western side, the façade of the building had crumbled away during a storm some years back, Frost remembered, but the owners ran out of money halfway through the reconstruction so the guild members abandoned them wholesale or worse tore down what they had managed to build. Frost only knew this because he had not only managed to pull off the robbery that bereft the House of funds, but also spread the rumors amongst the guilds about the House's vulnerability. The ghost of a smile passed his lips.

The Slavers' Square was massive. It had been designed so that from the stage at the center any voice would echo and boom. Frost heard at least half a dozen distinct languages as he pushed his way into crowd. Not for the first time, he wished he’d brought Rök with him, or Tagane. In this press of idiots, it would be hard to react to a blade, the uruk’s very presence would create space and the woman barely needed an inch of space to stab someone half a hundred times. His mother had told him to go alone though, so alone he went. This sale was meant to look like it was his idea.

On the stage now was a sickly pale man with a bald head and sunken eyes. Frost cringed inwardly. He knew who this man was. He captured young girls along the coastal villages in Near Harad and sold them to the pleasure houses. This was who his mother told him to buy from though. His gorge rose. The closer Frost came to the center of the plaza, the more could smell the sickly sweet, fruity perfume the man wore to cover the rotting scent of his soul. There was a crowd of lecherous looking men with wan faces and crooked grins staring at the girls. Frost shoved his way passed them and dared them to object with a raging storm in his ocean blue eyes. None of them said a word as he strode to the front. The girls were all in various states of undress, the pale man’s way of showing off their attractiveness. His stomach curdled.

“Ahh, sir, you have a good eye,” the pale man’s broken toothed grin was wide as he approached Frost. He pointed a bony finger to the woman Frost had been looked at, a thin girl with tangled black hair, brown skin, and deep green eyes. “She was given to me by her village chief, apparently her mother and father could not afford to feed her and her siblings, so they gave them to me to give them better lives.” Frost knew this was a lie. The man was a slaver after all, he likely killed everyone in the village except the girls and boys he thought he could sell.

Frost took a deep breath and spoke in his mother tongue. “What is her name?”

There was a glimmer of understand in the sunken eyes. “Her name is Tanela. Would you like a closer look?”

Frost nodded and the man waved her forward. She scurried over and whimpered as the pale man struck her. Frost had to resist striking the man himself. There was a reason Frost hated the slave markets and it wasn’t the smell or the cramped space.

“She’ll do,” he said giving Tanela, likely name this man had decided to give her because he couldn’t pronounce her real name, a quick once over.

The man smiled again and rubbed his hands together. “Excellent my lord. I am sure she will do nicely. Perhaps I can interest you in a companion to this one. You looked to like a man with voracious appetites. I could offer you a special price for a pair of beauties.”

“No,” Frost said, not taking his gaze off Tanela’s. “I will only need one.” He kept his voice level and his tone neutral. Slavers were a jumpy sort and a hue and cry from one of them could bring down the city guard. This required prudence.

He produced a note with the address of his estate a bag of gold equating the price the pale man had set. “Oh that is most generous of you, Lord Nûlukhô. I shall have her delivered for you post haste. I am pleased to have made such a friend as…”

Frost’s attention was suddenly drawn away from the pale slaver’s mewling compliments to a voice he recognized.

Dhevish? He’s daring to show his face here again? His expression soured. He left the slaver he was with and began following the sound of Dhevish’s voice. He was speaking someone in a strange, grandiose way, and using a dialect of Adûnaic only used in slave quarters. Frost only knew a smattering, but he did not like what he was hearing. He was accompanied by two others, a weaselly looking man and a noble woman, at least she looked like a noble woman. Frost squinted in suspicion. He began following the trio, heedless of his previous engagements.

“She will fetch a fine price…” he caught as he moved closer. Where they discussing a serving girl for noble woman? The wheels in Frost’s mind began to turn. Whoever this woman was, she was foreigner. She had been given some bad advice if she was taking up with Dhevish for anything. The man was a horrid ferret of a man. Whatever he had promised her, she was going to end up with nothing. Perhaps…

He moved closer, maneuvering around a pair of old men arguing loudly over the price of an overturned apple cart.

“… Pleasures houses down south… broken…”

Frost’s eyes narrowed. They weren’t planning on selling this woman anything. A cold feeling burst in his chest, the chance of a missed opportunity. Without thinking, he sprang forward and jostled the translator, pushing him aside. All progress stopped as both Dhevish and the woman stared at him. Dhevish had a look of shock and extreme discomfort but the woman’s expression was unreadable. She really was foreigner, Frost decided. She did not have the look of someone used to the environs of Umbar. She was a noble, or at least wealthy, but she had no guards with her, no servants. This translator was Dhevish’s man, not hers. What in the roiling hells was she doing? Either way, a noble with a debt to pay could be useful, and she was surely about to be in his debt.

“Up to your old tricks Dhevish? Still trying to kidnap pretty maidens and sell them for cheap down in the southern markets?” His tone was sarcastic, almost jovial, his expression was one of amusement.

Then his expression turned sour, the storm in his eyes flared again. “I told you what would happen if I caught you here again. Do you remember?” His tone lowered to a growl and he stood over the man, a full head and a half taller than the slaver and would be merchant. “fredegar off before I string you up here in the square and watch as not one of your fellows lifts a finger to stop me.”
Last edited by The King in Yellow on Thu Dec 31, 2020 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
So what if it's evil?

Tilion
Tilion
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Helcë etta Anga
Minas Morgul
(Private with Frost)

High in one of Morgul’s towers, Sombelenë paced the carpeted stone of her chambers, lit by the candles and braziers that also warmed it, seeping the chill from its cold walls and reflecting in luminous fractals of light off the golden threads of her gown before disappearing into the dark corners. Her sun-slippered feet trod the soft-piled carpets and smooth-worn stones as they had since the Witch-king has installed her there, those long centuries ago- her footfalls, indeed, bringing the smoothness of the stones to a mirrored sheen. Here, within the dark fortress, was warmth, comfort, and indulgence; the carpets deep, the candles bright, the fire high, the furnishings soft and deep, with warm dark wood and polished glass; dark enough to evoke the sense of the den of some wild creature, curled up in repose, yet light enough to not impede work or study. Though every inch of Minas Morgul belonged to Sombelenë as though she had sprung from its stones, this was the Avar’s private sanctuary, and no fraction of her wishes and whims went unindulged. She paused at the window which overlooked the causeway that led to Morgul’s gates, lounging against the stones beside it. Soon enough, her guest would pass over it and through those gates. And into what? That was for him to find out, if he dared.

Sombelenë’s lips curled up into a wicked smile and she turned from the window, tossing the scroll she whose contents she had been reviewing onto the heavy desk nearby. It was a missive of news and introduction to her counterpart in the north, the prodigy she had helped to nurture to the heights in which she now found herself. Sombelenë would not exactly call the Delgaran her protégée, but was quite proud of her involvement with the corsair’s development, and had to admit that her name was well earned. And beyond that, she liked Amarthel much more than either of her orcish cousins, Ziltang’s sons though they might be. Swiltang, at least, was a worthy sparring partner, but his brother… the brute was beneath her care, unless he caused problems that reached her notice. Pushing all these musings aside, Sombelenë retrieved a dark and dusty bottle from the large drinks cabinet against the wall, and two cut-crystal goblets. These she set onto a sidetable by a long, low chaise, and into one of the goblets poured a healthy measure of deep maroon liquid. The shade of the wine precisely matched the color of the chaise, an aesthetic coincidence that pleased Sombelenë deeply, and with a contented sign, she lowered herself to stretch out on the chaise. Her eldritch yellow eyes lingered on the bolted door as she sipped, awaiting his arrival.
Evil is a lifestyle | she/her

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Helcë etta Anga
(Private with Moriel)


Nan Morlith

He read the letter again. She wanted to meet him, in private. He sat back in his chair while his eyes clung to each word she wrote. He took a deep breath, inhaling the mysterious scent of anise. A smile slowly crept over his face, partially lit by the roaring fire in his hearth. He stood from his chair and looked out over the vast plains from the large window. He couldn’t see the dread tower of Minas Morgûl from here, but he could see it in his mind’s eye. He’d only ever been to that city once before, on business. Now he’d be going back for something far more, pleasurable. He looked at the letter again. Reading it had become almost like a drug. He heard the flutter of corvid wings and the telltale GWAH! of a raven nearly an hour ago. He broke the seal and read the letter, read it again, read it over and over. Frost was pleased his soiree, for lack of a better word, in the Black Pits had gone as well as it had. Now, he needed to prepare.

Minas Morgûl

The climb was long, but the anticipation within Frost’s heart made the journey much lighter. He’d worn his best outfit for this meeting, something specially made for him in Umbar: a charcoal grey frock coat made from angora wool and matching trousers, a burgundy four buttoned vest, a silk high collared button down shirt, lace up riding boots, and a black silk caveat with a raven tie pin. To match Sombelenë’s signature anise scent, Frost made a point to oil his hair with an extract of balsam pine, cedar, and juniper berries.

The higher he climbed, the more nervous he became. He’d never been so nervous for a private audience and he’d met with kings! He chided himself over his nerves. She was without a doubt the most ancient being he’d ever met. Normally Frost disdained the most ancient of the elves, claiming they lived off a reputation, but not her. No. She was something far greater, something far darker and more insidious. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why she fascinated him so, she was a mystery, a dreadful enigma that begged to be solved; a riddle to whom the wrong answer demanded death. She was a challenge. Yet, at the same time, Frost knew she was far, far out of his realm. He was a mere spider in her presence. But that increased his fascination, determination, and anxiety even more.

On and on he climbed. The Númenórean began to believe he was in the midst of a spell, endlessly looping him around and around and around the same stretch of tower. There were no markings indicating he’d even moved beyond the first step. Finally, after what felt like an hour’s worth of climbing, he caught the faintest trace of anise. A quick sense of relief flooded him, and he inhaled that scent deeply. A few more steps and he arrived at a heavy, carven door. A guard stood by, hooded and cloaked in ashen grey. Frost stepped forward.

“I’ve come to the see the Lady Sombelenë,” he said in his rich baritone voice.

The guard, though, made no move, either to intercept him or stand aside. Frost furrowed his brow and took a step forward. The guard was on him in a second, a silvery blade flying out from nowhere to point at his heart. Not panicking, Frost took a slow step back, reached into his breast pocket and produced the invitation.

“My name is Frost; I believe she is expecting me.”

The guard, again, made no move. The Númenórean pursed his lips. Was this guard deaf? He extended his hand, invitation clutched betwixt ring and forefinger.

With lightning fast reflexes, the guard shot out a hand, snatched the invitation, and pulled close to the hood. A tense moment followed. Frost had brought no weapons with him (though he had debated the point with himself at length) but in this moment believed that decision had been unwise. Then, as quickly as the guard had snatched it from him, they returned to parchment, sending it flying like a dart right back to Frost’s waiting hand. They turned, their face still wrapped in inky shadow, and unbolted the door. The door swung up and Frost, with a final lingering glance at the guard, stepped through.

The scent of anise overwhelmed him, pervading every sense he had. He saw her, lounging on a chaise, her eyes yellow and aflame with arcane majesty. He bowed low with a flourish.

“I am honored to have received your invitation, my Lady. May the Ice be cold and the Iron be cruel.”
Last edited by The King in Yellow on Thu Dec 31, 2020 5:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
So what if it's evil?

Tilion
Tilion
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Minas Morgul
(Private with Frost)

The heavy door closed behind her guest with the resounding knell of stone, and at a murmured word from Somebelenë, its bolt slid home with finality. She studied him, unmoving, as he entered: his exchange the guard had been largely as she expected, and she raked his form with analysis. Frost had obviously taken extreme care with his toilette in preparation for this meeting: the fine clothes, the grooming, and the scent applied to his hair; quite a different picture from their first meeting in the bowels of Dhâd Bûrz. Rich, earthy smells came from him, their individual components easily identified but best perceived together, their strategy clearly evident. And beneath the façade, a hint of the salt-tang of sweat from his long climb, here and there a loose strand of hair from the same, and his well-suppressed apprehension. Yes. All this Sombelenë observed in the moment he entered and made his obeisance, yet she remained silent a moment longer. The polite character he currently inhabited would require a response her before it was permitted to exit its reverence, and she indulged herself in a brief spell of gloating, before speaking to release him.

“Your punctuality pleases me, Nixë. Come,” Through the musicality of her voice, the invitation was a command as Sombelenë moved for the first time, turning her head to look at the table beside her, from which she lifted the bottle and languidly poured a generous measure of the deep, dark wine into the second glass. This she held out to Frost, not rising from her chaise. Her fingers brushed his as she released the glass, offering a ripple of sensory information, and its conclusions. Warm. Hard. Calloused. Not rough. Sailor. Vain. Versatile. A tingle of Talent. “You are an interesting man, I have found,” Sombelenë said as she receded into her former position. She did not offer him a seat, though there were two deep, comfortable chairs in close proximity: one, with a high, winged back, angled towards the chaise opposite her sidetable, designed for a person of considerable height, and almost within reaching distance of her for such a person. The other was directly across from the chaise, across the round carpet at the centre of the room. Close enough for companionship, but with its own side table, and far enough away that even Frost would have to take thee strides to reach it. This chair was lower to the ground, its back further removed, and would require a man such as he to stretch out his legs to sit in it. His behavior was of utmost interest to her.

“Tell me,” her voice gaining the edge of a purr as she fixed him with her gaze again, “how you came to issue me with your invitation, and speak to me the words.”
Evil is a lifestyle | she/her

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Minas Morgul
(Private with Moriel)

When she took her time in greeting him, barely even moving as she poured him a cup of rich, dark wine, Frost realized that everything that was happening was a test, a game. He took a moment to examine her form, it was only fair after she had perused his figure, he thought. Making no outward signs of interest (though as an elf she might have been able to see some of his micro expressions), his eyes travelled slowly and methodically over her shapely form, taking note of every curve and bend and hollow. She was indeed beautiful, like a jaguar at rest. She was gorgeous beyond mortal understanding, but she was also the most dangerous thing in this city. She was well suited to a life of luxury, this one. Most elves that he had met were, but Sombelenë was different. While most elves tried to hide their decadence behind the façade of art and culture, she reveled in it. He tore his eyes away from her form, lingering a final time over her hips, and looked about the room. No royalty or nobility of mortal kind could have created such a sanctum. This was a room separate from the entire world around it. Frost, despite himself, was impressed with it almost half as much as he was by the Avar herself.

… Nixë.”

There was that name again. It could be a coincidence, or it could mean something. She had called him that deep in the bowels of the Black Pits, but he’d been too focused on his artistry to truly take note of it. Now, though, he had nothing but time. She was only the second person to call him that, the other had surely sailed west by now, but elves were strange creatures, perhaps there had been a correspondence? Perhaps she had pulled it from his thoughts? Or she had simply chosen the name for him from her knowledge of the language? Too many questions, all of equal possibility. He smiled genially, with a hint of something more sinister beneath it, he licked the bottom corner of his lip.

He looked at the two chairs, neither of which had she offered. Another test. There were three options. The first, the far chair with its own table looked inviting, but it was too far from her; it could be seen as an insult to move so far from her (though in truth only three paces was not very far). The second option was the high-backed chair within reach, but that presented its own problem of over familiarity, it was within touching distance. The third was to stand, which upon second thought, was no real option. He took the seat closest to her. Familiarity was not such a bad thing, it was bold and if Frost was anything, it was bold.

“I came to invite you to that little dinner party,” he said as he took a sip of dark, dry wine, “because I am nothing if not forward and ambitious. The least that could have happened was you would not attend, and I would be out a guest. I considered it worth the risk, a bold move, to stake my claim as it were. I’ve spent so many years slinking through the shadows, only getting bits and pieces of what I want. It’s time I took the ram by the horn, as it were. I am only Mortal after all… for now.” He let the last phrase linger in the air a bit before continuing. “As to that phrase, well… that’s a longer story. I was a young man, sent by my toad of a father to live amongst my great grandmother’s people the Snowmen of the Forodwaith. Sent there to harden my resolve and learn their magics.” He pushed the sleeves of his coat up to reveal a dozen binding runes tattooed along his forearms. “I think, in that, my time was successful.

“While also there, I met a man. I don’t know if he was a Snowman, or an Elf, or something in between perhaps. His name was Gætir, he called himself the Mountainkeeper. He was part of the tribe, but he was also not part of the tribe. He came and went of his own volition. When I asked the elders who he was, they said he was a seiðr, a witch. He knew magics that none of them dared touch. Blood magic, divination, looking to things Mortals and Firstborn alike should not be looking into. Necromancy. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. I followed him one day, I watched him enter a tomb, a dolmen. I watched him destroy it, desecrate it. He spoke words in a voice I had never heard before, invoked shadows far darker than anything I had ever seen suggested in my life until then. He called upon the Witch-King. He used those words ‘May the Ice be cold, and the Iron be cruel’. I reveled myself to him then, and demanded to know what he was doing, and how I could do the same. On that night, a full moon rose, and we made it bloody. We fell on a caravan of people come to trade with our tribe and slaughtered them all. We drank their blood and arranged their bones to match his ancient symbol. I was born anew, made colder and crueler, but more powerful as well.

“He taught me many rites and rituals; many more ceremonies did we invoke. We grew in strength, he and I, until one day he vanished utterly. Despite my best efforts I could not find him. The tribe denied any knowledge that he existed at all. Perhaps he didn’t, maybe he was a phantom, a ghost, a figment of the past, or perhaps they killed him. Either way, my apprenticeship was at an end. I have been seeking to gain strength and favor from that day forward.”

Frost took another sip of the wine and leaned back into the chair, watching her through heavy lidded eyes.
Last edited by The King in Yellow on Thu Dec 31, 2020 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
So what if it's evil?

Tilion
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Minas Morgul
(Private with Frost)

His eyes raked her. His face was impressively impassive, but the depths of his distracted eyes held all sorts of revelations. Sombelenë rubbed the fingers of her free hand together as she watched him calculate the choices before him, the whisper of magic she had used to examine him in their instant of contact still ebbing from their tips. She was well used to such attention, and frequently took advantage of the vulnerabilities it provided. Appreciation and flattery were all well and good, of course, but misdirection was valuable. His decision made, her guest seated himself in the chair closest to her, and the Avar’s eyes darted back to his as Frost began to speak. His audacity was front and center, and completely unabashed. Subtle as was her specialty, Sombelenë appreciated a bit of naked ambition. His assertion that he was but mortal for now drew the quietest of hums from her chest, like satisfied rumble of a well-stroked cat. Audacious and hasty. A dangerous combination, but its potential uses were broad. Then, he began the story in which she was most acutely interested. “An insult to toads,” she interjected softly at the mention of his father, but interrupted no further. Sombelenë took in the runes inked into his flesh at a glance, their shapes flitting into the relevant pages of the encyclopedia that was her mind, then allowed her eyes to wander.

As Frost recited his tale, she surveyed her sanctuary bit by bit with a careless gaze, to the ignorant eye paying no attention to his words. This could not, of course, have been further from the truth. Every syllable slipped into place, building upon the foundations of her perception of the man, his abilities and usefulness. The sweet coincidences that had led him to this point were a beautiful episode in the fugue of her plans, and it were time, perhaps, that he knew a bit more about the realms into which he had pushed so blithely. When his voice ceased, hers filled the silence. “A thrilling tale, to be sure. And to be sure, your boldness began early, to demand such things of someone with fell power of that nature with no provocation. Bold, indeed.” Sombelenë took a long drink from her goblet, relishing the flavor as it slipped down her throat. So many indulgences this evening. “And feckless. Reckless, too. It is a wonder you were not slain on the spot. But as you were not, and instead were reborn, I will offer you kind advice.” The Avar took another sip, rolling the wine about her mouth. “You clearly have some ability, and if you continue down this path, you will find greater power. But you must be careful, along this road, where, and how, and to whom you speak the words. You spoke them in Dhâd Bûrz and even here tonight with no effect whatsoever, as is expected of one at your stage of development. Your Gætir may have had an inkling of its uses.”

As she continued, the faintest of whispers began to permeate the room. At first they would be unnoticeable to Frost, but it would not be long before he began to perceive them, slowly, slowly building beneath music that was Sombelenë’s voice. Inaudible, but nevertheless heard within the mind, or perhaps the stones of the room, like an untenable itch. “The study of these arcanities has been the pursuit of Ages for some, as has the development of words which hold power, and channel Talent. When you begin to move beyond apprenticeship of the words, their power will reveal itself to you. And only in mastery will you be able to control it, suppressing and releasing it at your will upon speaking. Though he was not the creator of the phrase, he is its ultimate master, and from the moment you first spoke them, you entered the service of he for whom it was made.” At last, Sombelenë’s eyes flicked back to Frost piercing him with a yet-unseen sharpness, and her glittering gaze seemed to enflame as she spoke. “The Witch-king, Lord of the Nazgûl, and King of this city, is a wraith of terrible might. Over thousands of years he has grown to be the most fearsome and powerful of Lord Sauron’s servants, through the influence of his ring; his study, his many battles, and gifts bestowed by the Dark Lord’s hand. All this is true. But,” here she paused briefly, and for the first time since her smile had first graced his sight, her teeth were bared in that expression, “he is a child, compared to me. Did you know, Nixë, that you fed me wine from my place of birth, yestereve?” The whispers, which had built to a repressed fever pitch, were abruptly silenced, and she spoke the words.

“May the Ice be cold, and the Iron be cruel.”

A tremor ran through the room, as the very foundations of the city trembled. Minas Morgul shook in the grip of the power unleashed by the Avar’s soft and shattering voice, and her tower, the room in which they sat, seem to rattle and roar as though the earth beneath it were being ripped asunder by titanic forces; no stone cracked or delicate object fell, but it would seem to Frost as if the solid floor beneath him might crumble at any moment, as though the air about him were compressed by some invisible force, and as if the whispers had become screams; every rune inked into his skin began to glow, its glow accompanied by the touch of the hot iron whose light it resembled. The light of every candle guttered, and the fire dipped low in its grate, and throughout the shaking of the seeming cataclysm Sombelenë sat, her vulpine eyes alight with cruel pleasure. Then, as quickly as the cataclysm had come, it died: the scorching and screaming ceased, the voices fell silent, the air and light returned to normal, and the tangible tremble of the city beneath them gradually died. Sombelenë took another sip of her wine.

“If you wish to flee, now is the time.”
Evil is a lifestyle | she/her

Thain of The Mark
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Private RP with @King Bull Sparra

Lomiel
Six years ago...

Lomiel was used to men talking around her. Over her. Without any regard to her. But this was different, and she was kicking herself right now because it felt like this was mostly her own fault. Words were flying around her, shooting back and forth between Dhevish and the interpreter, and she didn't understand any of them. Sometimes she almost caught a word here and there--Westron was descended from Adûnaic after all--but it wasn't enough to figure out what was actually going on.

That was when he intruded. Just as she'd been about to open her mouth again and demand a straight answer--though she was beginning to doubt she would get any straight answers, and the three men still approaching up the alley made her very, very nervous--another man, with long black hair and dressed in dark garments, jumped into the group and shoved the interpreter aside. Silence fell for a moment, and as the stranger straightened, she caught sight of his vivid blue eyes.

After a cursory glance over her, the stranger turned his attention to Dhevish, and the Adûnaic that rolled off his tongue--clearly a different dialect than Dhevish and the translator had been speaking--was almost cheerful, amusement glittering in his eyes, and Lomiel couldn't help but flinch and step back from the Dhevish, feeling like the brunt of some joke. She glanced back down the alley, and noticed that the three strongarms had halted, their faces pale.

Lomiel looked back to the new man. His expression and tone changed, and he stepped forward, drawing to his full height to tower over Dhevish. Whatever he said, it was clearly a threat, and even she could see Dhevish beginning to squirm.

As much as she was growing to dislike Dhevish, right now he was her only hope--albeit a very slim one, it seemed--at finding a source of Haradrim silk. Her mouth tightened into a scowl, and she stepped forward again, her eyes shifting between Dhevish, the translator, and the new man. Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Dhevish seemed to find some sort of spine--or spite, perhaps, was a better description--and he turned to her with his leering smile again.

"Lady Lomiel, come," Dhevish demanded in his broken Westron. His hand latched onto her arm and he began to--rather forcefully--lead her away. "Merchant waits."

"You should let go of me," Lomiel hissed at Dhevish, planting her feet firmly where she stood. "I would prefer to accompany you freely, especially after all the detours you've come up with so far."

Even if he didn't understand every word, she was certain he would understand what she meant.

Black Númenórean
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Minas Morgul
(Private with Moriel)

The more the Avar spoke, the more Frost became aware that there was another sound rising. It was barely noticeable at first, enough to make him wonder how long the sound had actually been growing before he heard it, but the whispers grew in power until he had to fight to keep his attention focused on Lady Sombelenë’s words. A voice in the back of his mind told him that she was responsible for the whispers, another show of power on her part. The sounds, almost audible enough now to distinguish words but not quite, started an itch in the back of his mind. A warning bell was going off but he ignored it. She confirmed what he had always suspected though, that those words of power, and speaking them aloud, had inexorably and intractably tied him to the Lord of the Nine. While he did not want to be the Witch-King, he did want to build himself up in his service, become powerful, exert control, and rule in the same way he did. He would gladly offer his service and his soul to learn. “Feckless, reckless, and dangerous to know. I would not disagree with your assessment my Lady. Would that caution were one of the principles my mother was able to teach me. Alas, I am slave to my mortal whims. Impatience is a virtue. I mean no disrespect, but you have lived long enough to watch the stars rotate and change, you can afford to wait, my mayfly life cannot.”

He was about to respond to her inquiry about the wine, a self-satisfied smile already curving on his lips when something happened, the air in the chamber changed. The whispers in the back of his head disappeared and silence rushed in to fill the void. There was a pregnant pause, then she spoke the words. They were the same words as before, but there was power in them now, a terrible power. The entire earth seemed to shake and move around him. Frost gripped the edges of the chair in anticipation of something cracking up.

Something did crack open, but it was not the floor. Pain. Searing, tearing, burning, ripping, shredding pain. Through gritted teeth, he managed to look down at his arms, at his tattoos. They were the source of this nearly unbearable pain. His breath caught. The tattoos looked like they were glowing, burning with a pulsing orange light.

Involuntarily, his mind flung him backward in time, saving him temporarily form the holocaustic agony of the present. He was brought to the moment he received those tattoos. Gætir, his muscles taut and quivering, stood over him. Frost was laying on a cold stone slab, arms outstretched. The old man held a wicked knife in his hand. He went to carving the Númenórean’s arms. He would make a cut, say some words, then exchange the knife for a quill. The pain lasted hours. The ritual burned on and on from the setting of the sun to its rising the next day. The young man had never felt such pain before. When it was over, Gætir vanished into his mountain, fading away like morning fog. Before he left, he said he was surprised Frost had survived. Most that try to undergo this particular ritual die of blood loss and trauma. Frost was made of strong stuff, he assured the wizard. The old man simply grinned, his feral grin exposing the madness behind his eyes. “You are marked,” he said. “Only the greatest sorcerers will be able to unlock those runes.”

Frost’s mind came roaring back to the present, the torment was alive and wriggling within him like a serpent. He wanted to scream, but he didn’t. He wanted to bite down on his tongue, but he didn’t. His jaw clamped down. He could feel his teeth about to crack when the pain subsided finally. The shaking too, died away until it was as if nothing had ever happened.

His breath was ragged. He took several moments regathering himself. He’d barely heard her “offer” to flee. Had he had the inclination to do something so foolish and cowardly, she’d have killed him before he was out of the room, he knew that as a certainty. Instead, a weak but confident smile came to his lips. He forced out a chuckle.

“I have no plans to go anywhere, Lady Sombelenë. I did not get these markings simply because I like the design. I may only have an inkling of his, and your, power, but I know what I’m doing, what I have been doing.” He stopped and took a deep breath, his hand digging into the chair once more. “I did guess,” he said finally, his gaze moving between the wine and the Avar’s face, “that the wine would strike a chord. There are too many stories about you, too many legends, for you to be any less than one of the oldest creatures to walk this fractured shell. My mother has been there often. I myself have only been once. I walked in the twilight grove and looked at the stars as they trundled above. There is still power in those lands, a vestige of the birth of the firstborn. I could feel it in my blood.”

He stood, flexing the muscles in his forearms, stretching out his fingers to their limit. Then, he looked the ancient being the deep wells that were her eyes. “Would you teach me, Lady? Would you help me unlock the Power to rupture the earth and bring down the heavens?”
Last edited by The King in Yellow on Thu Dec 31, 2020 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
So what if it's evil?

Tilion
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Minas Morgul
(Private with Frost)

To his credit, he did not scream. Sombelenë had been looking forward to hearing what that would sound like, but perhaps she would have to discover other methods of teasing such dulcet sounds from his throat. The echoes of what he had seen and the pain he felt –past and present- swirled about her as the room returned to normal, its air settling into warm, satisfied stillness. Still and silent, but for the sound of Frost’s labored breathing. Her eyes remained fixed upon him as she waited, the bottom of her face obscured by the glass of wine as she took another thoughtful sip. The sheen of sweat that stood out on his brow glistened faintly in the room’s umber light, a few dark strands of hair that had become dislodged in the throes of his agony sticking there. Delightful. At length, his breathing calmed, and his face contorted into a smile. His first sound was the façade of a laugh. You know nothing, the Avar thought, but allowed him to speak his piece uninterrupted, studying the ripple of his forearm as he gripped the chair hard. He had removed his frock coat before taking his seat- a most forward gesture for one come under so formal of circumstances, but it had allowed Sombelenë to further observe his inky markings when the warmth, the wine, or perhaps both had caused her guest to push up his sleeves. Her gaze followed his arm as he stood, its reaching, flexing, stretching fingers betraying his continued discomfit. And yet the request came, baldly.

“The stars as they trundled above,” she repeated his words, running the pad of one finger around the rim of her glass. Before setting it to the edge she had dipped it into the wine, and from this moisture and the pressure of her skin, the glass began to sing, one hollow, wavering note that seemed to wrap itself around her voice. “When many of those stars were young, so was I. The stars in their ceaseless tread of the sky’s vastness look down upon your mayfly life, and mine. But if you listen, sometimes they speak.” Sombelenë’s gaze flicked up to his, and her finger lifted from the glass. “Come,” she commanded, and turned slightly in her artful pose to settle her wine on the table next to the chaise. Her left hand fell to that same thigh, and she leaned upon her right elbow on the arm of the chaise as Frost crossed to stand in front of her. The Avar crooked one finger downward, before bending her right arm to cup the side of her own face and chin with its palm. “You wish to learn,” she said as he knelt before her, “the power to rupture the earth and bring down the heavens? Lofty goals for one so young and so very,” Sombelenë removed the hand from her face and reached out with it -he was close enough that she need not reach far or move from her position of comfort to touch him- until the pointed tips of her shapely nails touched the left side of his throat, “mortal, Nixë.” The blood rushed within him, pulsating beneath her touch, vital and alive

Men. Their vitality seemed to sit so much closer to the surface than that of her own race. Perhaps it was because their lives were so fleeting; their very blood was bursting to get out, to spill wetly and hot over her alabaster flesh as its former host shuffled off his mortal coil. Sombelenë shifted on the chaise to bring herself into a sitting position; just slightly offset from Frost, her gold-slippered feet falling to the floor, and legs beneath their gown tucking in front the chaise with feline grace. As she did so her nails had remained in exactly the same place, but once this new position was gained, they began to move. Sombelenë traced them slowly up her supplicant’s throat as she spoke; not hard enough to draw blood, bur firmly enough to leave light, trailing marks of red. “I have tutored many in these secrets over the years. Some have gone on to greatness. Some have been consumed by that which they sought to control.” Her pointed nails bumped over his jawbone. Frost was a a man of no mean stature but in this pose, kneeling upon the floor, with she seated above, Sombelenë rose tall above him, and the angle of his head as he looked up at her presented a most inviting mandible. Her tracery continued, up the side of his face, over his cheekbone, until at last the nails broke contact with flesh, peeling away a stray strand of hair from his face to settle it back behind his ear. “Only a few have truly mastered the art, the words, and the power.”

As she had shifted position, so too has Sombelenë drawn with her left hand the same slim, sharp knife from its unnoticeable slit on her left thigh that she had used upon their victim in the pits, its hilt patterned with exactly the same golden design as her gown. This had lain concealed against her forearm until now, when she flicked it forward to her fingertips with the utmost precision. Its needle-keen point touched the right side of his jaw with the lightness of a gnat’s wing at the peak of its flick. The index finger of her right hand resumed its course, the nail’s point travelling back down over Frost’s cheekbone, but this time diverting towards the center of his face. It tugged at his lower lip as it travelled across the soft flesh, and down beneath his chin. With an upward pressure of her nail, Sombelenë caused his head to tilt further back, revealing the tiny cut upon his jaw, which had finally split with a beading drop of blood. Using the blunt back edge of the knife, the Avar scraped the bead of blood away. It shone upon the steel, and she rolled her wrist lazily, watching the patterns his blood formed. “Mmmm,” she mused. The with a slow, languid movement of hand and mouth, she licked the blood from the knife. “You show a certain degree of promise, Nixë,” she addressed him again, and her free hand moved from beneath his chin to the back of his head, where her long fingers laces themselves through his hair. She leaned forward, looming over him in golden elegance, her gaze fixed on his, “If you are willing to give yourself to this study, and to the chance- the probability, even- that it may consume you,” her fingers tightened, forming a fist and pulling at the the hair it contained, as with the softest of sniks her knife sliced the topmost button from his high-collared shirt, “I may teach you so many things.” The dark blazed in her eldritch yellow eyes.
Evil is a lifestyle | she/her

Ancalagon
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The sky above was littered with beautiful gleaming stars. Millions upon millions of them twinkled above like tiny little fireflies. However the beauty of them went unseen by the lone figure who was staggering across the open expanse between Minas Tirith and Mordor.

Just one more step. One more minute. One more mile. She pushed on, despite having reached her limit. It seemed the stars above had joined her here on the ground as they filled her vision making it even harder for her to see where she was going. She blinked furiously, trying to clear them from her vision, a shaky hand moving up in an attempt to wipe them away.

So close. Even through her hazy star-filled vision, she could see the opening, Minas Morgul. So very close. She let out a small sound as the ground suddenly came rushing up towards her, not having seen the rock she tripped over. She hit the ground hard, grunting as her hands and knees were scraped on the uneven sharp rocks. Her head drooped forward, inbetween her trembling arms. How long had it been since she killed the madman? Days? Weeks?

The thick foggy darkness pushed at the edges of her vision, replacing the twinkling stars. It addled her feverish mind, though at least it filled the void left behind since He disappeared. With a small whimper she crawled forward a few paces, unaware of the sharp rocks cutting into her hands and knees. It was just more pain, in a world already filled with it.

'Get up.'

She paused for a long moment, drawing in quick panting breaths that barely filled her lungs. My Lord?

'GET UP.'

She managed another few paces before her stomach twisted and tried to purge itself, the dry heaves so painful that it made her groan. As the last wrench of her stomach twisted her insides, the darkness filled her vision and she plummeted into the void without a fight, wanting it all to end.

She felt like she was drowning, like the darkness was pushing down on her chest and making it impossible to breathe. Gasping she clawed at her throat, struggling to open her eyes. One eye managed, the other peeling itself open with difficulty, unaware that it had been sealed shut by the blood that had run from the cut on her forehead where she had hit it against a rock.

How long had she been out? The fog still pushed at the corners of her vision, the nausea still roiling in her stomach and it was still dark. Not long then she mused, unable to stop herself from giggling.

'GET UP!!'

With a long groan, she fought her way back onto her feet, swaying dangerously for a long moment before she found her balance, her eyes filled with sparkling stars. Blinking furiously, her hand moved up to push against the wound in her side as she slowly and carefully took a step forward.

Stumbling, crawling and with impossible determination, she made it across the vast opening between Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. She had lost all track of time, not stopping unless she fell unconsious, continuing as soon as she woke. She should have known something was wrong the moment she reached the gate, the many rotting corpses and the destruction alone should have given away what she would find. But still she did not stop, she kept walking, stumbling over skeletons and rotting corpses ridden with maggots and crows.

She had taken several steps before her mind finally realised that she had already entered Mordor, her eyes darting all around at the destruction before her. She shook her head, refusing to accept what she was seeing. The Tower. There was no Tower. He was gone. He lost. Tears pooled in her eyes, falling down her dirty face as she staggered a few steps forward. He was gone. Gone. He had left her behind.

With a desperate sob she fell to her knees, barely able to stay upright. "Why.. why did you leave me.." she whispered out hoarsely, her lips cracked and dry.

Black Númenórean
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Helcë etta Anga
Minas Morgul
(Private with Moriel)

The specter of the pain lingered as he knelt, the memory clawing at his arms with razor thin talons. He closed his eyes as she began to trace his jaw and pushed the phantom aside. Pain was temporary, pride was forever. The default belief of the elves, Frost had come to suspect, was that Men were frail, wispy things, less precious that vibrant flowers and more annoying than pond scum. Only a few had come to rise above that assumption, and then, only just. He allowed himself to breath, taking in the anise scented air into his lungs. The air was warm and inviting, but there was something sinister and malignant in the air as well.

A leyline of ‘evil’ this place had been called in the past, even before the Ringwraiths conquered and corrupted it. Whenever his people rose against the tyranny of Gondor, they stayed far from this place. Now that he was here, he could understand why. Lady Sombelenë’s tower pierced the sky, rising like a vulture from the scattered and decaying buildings below, yet the climb he had taken to get here took a much shorter time than he would have expected. This room even, the Númenórean’s eyes rolled around and reaffirmed its size and scope, felt off. The floor at first looked tilted and sloped, but when he tried to focus, to see the exact angle, the floor appeared perfectly even. There were shadows that flittered about the room, disappearing and reappearing in places that didn’t make sense. He was certain there were hidden passages all throughout the city, that was standard construction as far as he was concerned. But there was something behind the walls of this room that extended far, far beyond the boundaries of reality. The prospect of peering into that abyss both exhilarated and terrified him. To gaze upon an infinite nothing and see nothing, or even worse, to see something, was the apex of knowledge.

The music of the wine glass, subtle and soft, filled the space. He was certain there was some sort of subtle magic involved, amplified and irresistible. In his present state, Frost could almost see the waves of sound as they rolled off the glass and danced and leapt into the air. It was mesmerizing. Too late, Frost realized if there was something magical in the music, it was manipulating and deceiving him. He closed his eyes again, reaching into the blackness of his mind, the outer void within his race where the limits of possibility stretched beyond something an Eldar could comprehend. There he found peace and strength. He opened his eyes again, and the subtle ringing chimes were gone.

He remained as motionless as he could while her nail traced his skin. It was neither a pleasant sensation, nor an unpleasant one. It simply felt, for a lacking a better term. Despite the precariousness of his physical position (being on one’s knees too long had more than just a moral consequence), he remained fixed on her words. The disdain for mortals was very clear, but there was a hint of envy, unless Frost mistook her words. The Witch-King himself had been mortal once. What was now was anyone’s guess. Alive? Dead? Undead? They called him a wraith, but was that accurate? Was he truly just a slave to the will of Zigúr? Or was he more than that? Questions wrapped in philosophy and mystery, an enigma buried in contradictions, lies, and forgotten legends. Whatever he was, he was and Frost aspired to be in a similar way. His life was long compared to the rest of the rabble, a gift of his bloodlines, but even that was not enough. He had lived more than seventy years now and still felt as if he were seated at the children’s table, looking enviously at the king’s table, bedecked in foods and treasures and wines that his palate could not even imagine. He would sit at that table. He would dethrone the king and kill everyone in the all if he had to, but he would sit there and reshape the hall to his own designs, by whatever means necessary.

“A mortal cannot wait for the secrets to come to him, we must touch the fire to know that it burns, but in doing so, we control it and shape it in ways more infinite than those that fled beyond the spheres of the world could ever comprehend,” he said quietly, but with the unerring confidence that had become his trademark. His ocean blue eyes stared undaunted into the eldritch, ancient fastness of her yellow ones, a challenge as much as it was an admission of her superiority. She was putting on a show, a blood sport meant for an audience of one. A chuckle slipped out between his lips just as her nail dragged across it, sharp enough to finally draw blood. Having never witnessed or experienced anything akin to a blood contract, he assumed this ritualistic ceremony was something like that; or perhaps it wasn’t, he was beginning to understand the precipice he was teetering on and how deep the great chasm below him was. Was he scared? Nervous? Terrified? No. He looked confidently into the great pit and waved a challenge to it. Only one of them would be master, and Frost intended to rip out all the secrets this place had, even if he had to go stone by stone to get it. Back in the physical world, he could feel his tattoos pulsing, whether that was still and aftereffect of her magic or his own waking up and stretching he did not know. Whatever it was, it felt good, intoxicating.

“Everything will die,” he said, his eyes darkening, “time and entropy will consume everything. Do you believe I fear being consumed? I have been consumed in mediocrity and banality, a curse of the creator. If I feared being consumed by knowledge and lore and power, I would still be hiding behind my mother’s skirts and cautioning her not to delve too deeply into the ancient groves. We will all die, Lady Sombelenë. Even you. It may be soon, it may be in another ten thousand years. Yet I can tell you this, you will not be ready for it, Obliviana is a mistress cold and inexorable, she is horror and unknowing personified. She is the end, and she is fear. We mortals learned that a long time ago, we saw through the lies the Powers told, the promises they made through their slaves, the Eldar. We mortals know the truth. They lied to you. There is nothing within the Halls of Mandos, naught but an endless graveyard filled with the dreadful weight of realization.”

He stood to his full height and with deft fingers removed the rest of the buttons from his shirt. “There are things I could teach you, Elenhína
(Q, Starchild). Mortality has it’s advantages.”
So what if it's evil?

Black Númenórean
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Pazuzu

He had been watching her for a very long time. High in his decaying, shadow ensconced eyries, he had seen her capture and imprisonment and found himself amused by sending her a human whose mad devotion to imaginary beings nearly matched hers. Yes, he had helped send the boy over the edge, sending him visions of horrifying monsters living so deep within the earth that not even Mairon had known about them or had a contingency plan regarding them. He knew about them. But he was more vigilant and resourceful than the Dark Lord, a being who, in his last days, was so focused on his own ideas of power and strength he missed the most obvious ruse. The boy was a dribbling mess, but he served his purpose. The elfling had disposed of him, showing him more kindness and mercy than anyone in that city would have had the heart to do.

He watched her cross the great expanse of open land between the White City and the abandoned city in the Morgul Valley. He had circled above her, soaring higher than an eagle could manage, those pestilent cousins of his. He knew exactly where she was going, and he knew exactly what she would see once she arrived. She was broken, frail, half dead from infected wounds. For a long moment, as she crossed over the mountains, he considered giving her a gift of mercy as well, appearing and shoving her off the edge of the mountain paths to fall to her death on the blade-like stone below. But he was not a being given over to mercy. She was suffering and she would continue to suffer as long as he deemed fit. When she lost consciousness, he landed and sat with her, enrobing himself in shadows so deep that not even her eyes, accustomed and acclimated to the blackest pits, could see anything but the harsh yellow eyes. He considered what he would do with her for a very long time. He had seen her work, and heard report of her savagery and cruelty. She could be of use to him. But in what capacity? He was a being of long patience, schemes within schemes and plots that would take hundreds and hundreds of years to come to fruition, he was not worried that he could break, nor how long it might take. But once she was broken, what could she do for him? Aspirations of world conquest and control were not his. He did not want to rule, or even ruin, the world around him. His goals were far more subtle. Could she be persuaded or tormented into following him? Being on the other side of the table would be something new for her. She would not be easy, or rather she would not have been easy if Mairon were still in power. However, his old friend had fled to parts unknown and was likely never coming back. He smiled wickedly, his beak clicking avariciously.

When she woke again, he was nowhere to be seen, though he did leave a deliberate hint that she was being followed. He floated behind her, his sharp eyes catching every broken movement, his ear catching every anguished sound. The Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms swooped in as she crumbled, the sight of the broken tower dominating the skyline. Even he had to admit, the sight was a disheartening one. He had seen Mairon within grasping reach of the entire world, only to be brought so low as this. His beak clicked again, angrily. They had not been friends in the end, but the people of Gondor, of Rohan would feel a terrible wrath, a slow acting poison they could see but never cleanse, a wasting plague of lies and deceptions to hollow their “victory”. He would see it so, if only for the memory of the Dark Lord.

“Stand up,” he commanded her, finally revealing himself in his full, demonic glory. He hovered several feet off the ground, both pairs of wings flapping slowly. His eyes burning holes into the elf as she lay broken and crying. “If he could see you now, so broken and pathetic, he’d slay you without a thought. You are the reason he lost,” his voice was sweet and melodic, dripping with poison honey, “you and the rest of them failed him when he needed you most. You were the greatest of his Eldar servants, a maelstrom of death, and yet you failed him. His defeat lies with your weakness. You are the reason he is gone. What have you to say for yourself?” Pazuzu could feel the rage rising within him. “You squandered the gifts of chaos and darkness that he bestowed upon you. WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?!”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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Her head had slumped to her chest, unable to keep it up. Her dirty, greasy, tangled hair hung like a ragged curtain, blissfully obscuring the view of the desctruction before her. Slow shallow breaths were the only sound that filled the quietness. The quietness. It had now been weeks since she last heard his voice in her mind. He had been with her for almost as long as she lived, the brief time with her family in Lothlorien now a distant and often unreachable dream. He would make sure she never lingered long on those memories, twisting her away from them with practised ease. Though He would feed her need to save her brother, knowing she needed a reason. A purpose. But even that had become something unattainable, but it was the only hope that He allowed her to nurture and she had greedily poured all of it into the search for her younger brother, even after all these years.

Her dirty bloodstained hand gripped weakly at the wound in her side, likely the most serious one as it still seemed to be bleeding. The other hand hung loosely at her side, fingers brushing the ashstrewn rubble. Gone.. He was gone. She was alone. Even the thought of her brother being alive could not fill her aching heart as the last grains of hope that he was alive died in her heart, like a candle burning itself out. She slid, almost as if in slow motion, down onto the rough stones unaware of the pain it caused as several jabbed into her skin. It was all she had left now. The pain. Pulling her legs in towards her chest, as best she could, she let the tears flow freely not having the strength to hold them back.

At first she thought the sound was blood rushing in her ears. Whoosh. Whoosh. A slow steady, almost hypnotic sound. Was she dying? Bleeding to death? She hoped so. At the thought she let out a sobbed giggle as He did not respond. Of course he didn't. He had left her behind. Whoosh. Whoosh.

Eyes half closed, her tangled mess of black hair lying across her face, she heard the voice way before she saw him. "My Lord?" she croaked weakly, shifting just a fraction as she tried to move into a kneeling position, though failed.

Wait, no. That was not His voice. His voice did not sound.. sweet, almost melodic. Had she gone mad? Like the guard? Or was this a hallucination? Blinking furiously to clear the fog from her eyes, she tried to focus on the direction of the voice, only then realising what what being said.

“You are the reason he lost.”

She gasped as the pain of the words drove through her heart, weakly croaking out a pitiful "No.."

She tried to move away from the voice, from the horrible pain, from the horrific accusations. No, it wasn't her fault!

“.. you failed him.”

Those three words felt like a burning poker was stabbed through her chest and she cried out in agony, scrambling weakly to get away from the accusations.

“You are the reason he is gone.”


Nooo! She had tried! She had given Him everything! "Nooo!" she croaked again, finally making it into a sitting position, her hair falling back and allowing her to see the creature before her.

She had gone mad. It was the only logical explanation for what she was seeing. She started giggling, what else could she do? She had been the reason behind thousands upon thousands losing their minds. How fitting was it that she would now lose hers?

“WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?!”


The giggles caught in her throat and she flinched back with a sob. What did she have to say for herself? She was alive and He wasn't. The winged creature was right, she had failed.

"Kill me.." she whispered, her voice cracking. "Please.. kill me.." Sorry Lenthir.. I tried..

Black Númenórean
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Pazuzu

He laughed. The sound was shrill and cruel, echoing off the sheer cliffs around them until it died in a feral growl. “Kill you?” His eyes narrowed, the pale sickly light emanating from them dimming only slightly. He landed, his monstrous taloned feet crunched in the dust and ash beneath him; the wind gusted, surrounding him in a whirlwind of dust. The shadow he cast within the maelstrom was large and terrible. The wind died suddenly and he stepped through the dust as he showered down. “Kill you?” He asked again, his tone sardonic and mocking. “What makes you think you deserve that mercy? You’ve killed so many people in your time; a very, very impressive count. Would you lower yourself to the level of victim?” He bent low and placed a hooked finger under the elf’s chin and inexorably lifted her face up to stare into his visage. “If you wanted to be killed, you should have stayed in Minas Tirith.” His beak clicked angrily around the Sindarin words. He spat a black glob of phlegm, it sizzled as it struck the ground. “I have far, far too many plans for you.” He gripped her tunic and yanked her upward, forcing the elf to her feet. She was very close to death, he could see her teetering on the edge of that abyss. He chuckled and clicked his beak. “You are going to suffer, and you are going to suffer for a very long time.” His wings flapped suddenly, blowing a blast of hot, volcanic air full into the face of the elf. “Tell me, Winddancer,” he used her name with mocking tenderness, his voice sweet and melodic, almost reasonable and sincere. “If one of your torture victims asked you to kill them, begged you, pleaded with you, blubbered and cried like a newborn human, what would you do? Would you kill them? Would you give them mercy?” His eyes bore into her, his beak clicked hungrily. “You are not nearly broken enough elfling. Misery and despair have only just begun to lay their feathers upon you. Soon you will understand the true weight of your failure, and then you will stop begging to die.”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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The giggle bubbled out of her, unbidden. But instead of dying out when the creature grabbed her and pulled her to her feet, it grew to a croaky laugh. For all she knew, she was hallucinating. But if she was, she sure had a lively imagination as she had never before seen a creature such as this. As the hot volcanic air hit her face as it flapped it's massive wings, she reflexively shut her eyes and laughed even more. But even as she laughed, the words drilled into the very core of her black soul, wounding it further and leaving it to fester. That the creature knew of her innermost fears only solidified in her deranged mind that he was a hallucination. How else could he know. How else would he know her name!? Granted it was the Westron name she had used since joining her new Master, but still, this incredulous creature knew of it.

Prying her eyes open, she looked at him, her skin crawling from the way he had spoken her name, as if he was trying to ingratiate himself with her. Acrid bile rose to the back of her throat and she had to cough to rid herself of the taste. The creature, or hallucination, had a point. She would never be moved by anyone's begging or pleading for death. It was only right that she should not be given the same mercy. Mercy was for the weak.

Again a bubble of giggles built in her chest as she thought of the dagger stuffed in the waistline of her trousers. The very idea of trying to kill this massive creature with a dagger was ludicrous and apparently highly amusing. However, it could be used to force him to kill her..

"I am an elf.." she suddenly said in a mumbled whisper, barely able to hold her head up to look at him. "I can die any time I want to.."

As the darkness pushed in from all sides a thought grew in her mind, the very same that had kept her alive through all these years, coming back to ensure she never gave in. "You deserve to suffer. You have to find Lenthir."

She was dying. Even as the darkness pushed in, she knew. Nothing mattered anymore. She was a failure. She had failed to get revenge on her older brother and she had failed to find her younger brother. And now she had failed her Master. That she would be leaving Middle-Earth as a failure burned at her soul and she let out an anguished scream in an attempt to drown out the accusing words, though in reality all she managed was a small croaked groan before the darkness claimed her.

Black Númenórean
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Pazuzu

The great winged creature watched impassively, almost bored as the elf protested, saying she could die whenever she felt like it. He flapped his wings and rolled his eyes. Even as frail and fragile as elves had always been, he was always surprised by the utter arrogance every single one of them clung to. “If you think you can just… die, then do it. Kill yourself and rid the Darkness of your putrid weakness.” She was beginning to fade, he could see. Still, he was in no hurry to rush to keep her alive. She would live. She would live if he had to rip her fëa out of that shell and stuff it into another, less worthy shell. How long could she live in torment trapped in the body of a pigeon? He laughed at the notion, the most terrifying elf assassin to ever walk until the sky forced to live for all eternity on the body of a thing no better than a winged rat. His beak clicked savagely. She was muttering all sorts of nonsense as her delirium began to take control of her. The name Lenthir caught his attention, but only because it was a word, a name, he didn’t recognize.

He watched the darkness take her again, letting her crumble onto the desolate rocky ground. She looked like a mewling kitten, curled up on herself, trying to fend off the inevitable. The more he watched her, the more he wanted to rip the little kitten open and see what wretchedness lay inside. He took a step closer to her, his great taloned feet clicking pensively on the ashy rubble. He tilted his head to the side, considering her. Elves were weak, they always had been. This one had been stronger than most, buoyed by her reputation. She was more feared than the wraiths Mairon had employed to coordinate his efforts. She was a rising black star, a champion of the void, servitor of the great nothingness. And yet, and yet, even she was brought low. A monstrous hooked finger brushed the black hair from her face as he crouched beside her. She was no better than the snaga now. Sniveling, weeping, scared of every sound. Could he remake her? His beak clicked thoughtfully. Could he recreate her and repurpose her? Her devotion to Mairon had had been absolute, fanatical and psychotic. She was a knife he could thrust in the heart of his enemies; she could also be a viper ready strike the hand the fed her.

“Risks, risks,” he whispered, the sound of his voice blowing like a pestilent wind over the gasping plains.

“What new worlds I could show you,” he hissed to her, his beak mere inches from her unconscious form. “And all you would need to do, is ask. Ask Pazuzu to open this wretched, insincere world up and show you where to strike at it.” Effortlessly, he scooped up the feeble body of the elf; she was so insubstantial, she was wasting away. The light in his hideous eyes gleamed with a hungry, rapacious light. At the very least, she would provide him a decent meal.

His wings began to beat at the wind, birthing a cyclone of dust, ash, and smoke that he used to cover his departure. He carried her body, slung brutally over his shoulder to his eyrie, high in the Ered Lithui, and placed her at the edge of the precipice. “We’ll see how much you really want to die,” he said with calloused indifference. Within reach, but requiring her to move away from the abyss, he placed the remains of a crow and a skin of water. His beak clicked and he chuckled. “We shall, see.”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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Gratefully she fell into the embrace of the darkness, desperate to get away from the accusing hallucination. But even here where there should be nothing, she could hear the click of it's beak chittering away, gnawing at her mind. Though unable to see her hands, she raised them to her ears in an attempt to drown out the horrific sound, but it just got louder and louder.

Noo! This was not how it was supposed to be! It was supposed to be peaceful, a place of calm, a place of nothingness. Where nothing existed, no pain, no regrets and NO GUILT! She screamed, pouring out her rage and sadness. Screamed until she thought her lungs would burst and then screamed even more. Though as soon as she stopped, there it was again, the chittering.

Sobbing, she sank to her knees, although she could not even see anything. Arms wrapped around her own body, she rocked back and forth as the sound grew louder.

"Stop.. please.. stop.." she begged, over and over like a mantra. But the sound was incessant, needling it's way into her mind. Gripping at her head, she rocked more furiously, her begging growing louder as well. Why wouldn't it stop!?

Jumping to her feet she started running. At first she stumbled and fell, unable to see anything threw off her balance and caused her to fall more than once. But soon she ran, not caring which direction, she just ran in an attempt to get away from the sound. But it did not matter which way she went, whichever direction she turned, the sound seemed to be coming from right in front of her.

Once more she dropped to her knees, feeling the sweat pour down her face, unaware that in reality the fever from the infected wound was at it's highest. Blinking furiously as she wiped at her face, she began to see a small light, that slowly grew in front of her. Holding her ears to dampen the sound, she watched as it grew bigger, Mordor opening up in front of her.

High in the mountains, she stood on a precipice, the long drop down ending with sharp ragged rocks at the bottom. All she had to do to stop the sound was to take a single step. A single step and it would all be over. The horric sound, the pain, the guilt, the regret.

"You are a failure, Súrëliltë."

Startled she turned towards the voice and let out a sobbed cry when she saw her younger brother. He looked like he had on the day he was taken, so long ago. He would be a grown man now, but there he was, six years old again.

"Noo.. it cannot be!" Crying she took a step back, balancing precariously on the edge, several small rocks skittering off into the abyss. "You are not him", she said with a shaky voice, unable to believe her eyes. "He never called me that!"

"You mean Súri?" He said questioningly as he shook his head sadly. "You are not my Súri anymore.. You are a failure."

The words rammed through her heart and with a sob she fell to her knees, clutching at her chest as if that could lessen the anguish. "I'm sorry.."

"No you are not!"
He screamed at her, the sadness replaced by rage. "You are not sorry! You didn't even try! YOU ARE A FAILURE!!"

They were level now that she was on her knees, though her head bent towards her chest in shame as he leaned in to scream at her.

"You are going to give up! Look at you!! You are dying and you are not even fighting to save yourself! YOU ARE A FAILURE!"


Her brother paused, leaning back out to look at her, disgust written on his face.

"Do it. Go on then, do it."


"Do what?? She asked through the tears.

"You know what!! Kill yourself, just do it then! Leave me! Like you left me before!"


"Noo! That is not true!!" She screamed back at him. "I never stopped looking for you! Never!"

"You mean until now?" He asked as tears ran down his face.

"No! I mean.." Sobbing her hands fell limply down beside her. He was right, she was going to leave him, to stop looking for him. She had wanted it all to end. To give up. That thought niggled at her, growing with every second. Thousands of years of torment, of anguish, of unbridled servitude. She had fought her way out of those pits of despair and had become the despair, as the only means of surviving. But she had survived. She had looked. At least for the first thousand years.

"You have endured the worst anyone can possibly endure, and survived."
He said as he lifted her head to meet his eyes. "You are not a quitter." His hand moved to hold her throat. "YOU. ARE. NOT. A. QUITTER!!" He screamed into her face, the hold around her throat tightening.

Gurgling for air, she raised her hands to pry away his fingers, but the grip was too strong.

"You will only be a true failure if you give up now, after all you have been through!"

Gasping and flailing to get air, she woke from the fever dream. Coughing and spluttering she almost rolled over the precipice, gasping and pushing back just before she slid off. Panting heavily she looked down at the sharp rock far below, her brother's words still ringing in her ears. She could end it. One little step forward and it would all be over. She could choose not to come back.

Long moments passed as her coughing and heavy breathing subsided. No, she couldn't just push off. She couldn't just end it. She had vowed to find him and she would. She was NOT a quitter. Scrambling back before the lure of the abyss pulled her over regardless, she bumped into the skin of water. She eyed it suspiciously for a moment, but then grabbed it and drank as much as she could without throwing up. Spluttering she saw there was a dead crow and quickly grabbed it, tearing at the tiny carcass to get to the meat. "I am not a quitter.." she mumbled over and over as she tore into the crow.

Black Númenórean
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Pazuzu

"I am not a quitter…"

He was beginning to grow restless as the elf mumbled and rocked back and forth in her unconscious state. He had set her at the edge of the precipice then faded back to the shadows of a nearby cave, enrobing himself in layers upon layers of impenetrable shadows. He could see vague, shadowy images in her mind as he probed her. She was disciplined, even in her utterly weakened state so full access to her memories and dreams was denied him, but he saw enough. Within her dreams he set forth the clicking if his beak, a maddening repetition that she could not escape. He heard her screaming and crying, heard her sobbing and blubbering. It was like the sweetest of wines to his palate. He sighed with pleasure in both her dreams and in the waking world. While she was distracted and occupied with the phantoms of her own conscience, he began to probe deeper, inside locked room stained with cobwebs. He found naught but shadows, pits, and traps. Until he came to the last room. The lock here was the most intricate, most delicate. Still, it was no match for his gluttonous tenacity. He opened it. Inside was merely the image of a young boy, an elf. He touched the ethereal image with a hooked finger, tracing the line of the boy’s jaw. Lenthir? Brown hair tumbled down in soft ringlets, the picture of elven immaculacy. A sneer of disdain traced his beaked face, a growl echoed within his throat.

Pulling himself out of the elf’s fragile mind, Pazuzu began to summon the energy to put a masque over his from, a glamour trading out his hideous demonic form with one more fair. He held the image of the boy in his mind and began to sculpt his new visage in that form. His wings evaporated into the air, his taloned feet and claw like hands reformed out of mist into the hands and feet of an elf. The face he sculpted from the image, aging it to the point of elven maturity. As she stirred, he finished, stretching newly formed muscles and bones.

Greedily, she tore into the raw flesh of the crow. He chuckled.

“Consider that a free gift,” he proclaimed as he stepped out of the shadows. He looked the spitting image of what this Lenthir would have looked like now. While Pazuzu had not yet gleaned who or what he was to the elf, he knew that the visage would keep her on edge. “If you are not a quitter, what do you plan on doing now, Súri?” He moved next to her, a happy expression on his face as he sat on the edge and dangled his feet over the edge. Small rocks and a line of sand fell over edge, flung into the wide, yawning abyss. They fell into shadow and vanished, the telltale sound of their alighting to the ground never reaching the two. “What do you want to do now? What can you do? You’ve failed so much, I’m afraid for you. I’m afraid for you Súri.” His voice sounded pleading, forlorn. His eyes though, remained to iridescent, pale yellow. “Are you sure I’m gone?”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
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There was no thought given to decorum as she ripped into the crow. Blood and slimey guts dribbled down her chin as her teeth ripped the raw flesh from the bones, swallowing the chunks whole. While her mantra of "I am not a quitter.." continued, it became less and less feverish, ending in it being a whisper that was muttered out between bites.

She had just filled her mouth with a stringy bloody chunk when a sudden movement to her side caught her attention. Swiveling in her crouched position she turned towards the voice, her jaw dropping open with disbelief when she saw who stepped out of the shadows. No.. it couldn't be. Letting the remains of the crow drop to the dusty ground, she wiped her sleeve across her mouth, her eyes never leaving the man before her. A choked sound burbled out of her, head slowly shaking from side to side with disbelief. No.. it can't be.

His use of the name her brother used to use for her made her skin crawl, the small hairs at the back of her neck standing on end. She could not manage anything more than a squeak, unable to find her voice, unable to believe her eyes. She had to be dreaming still. Yes, that was it, it was a dream. The relieved chuckle died in her throat as the man continued to speak, bringing up the guilt and regret in full force. The few chunks of meat she had devoured started to churn unpleasantly in her stomach, forcing her to swallow hard.

Her mouth opened and closed as she tried to speak, struggling to say his name in case it would make him disappear. With a desperate sob, she reached out with a shaking hand, fingertips barely touching him before they were retracted like she had burned herself. No.. it can't be. It's a dream..

"Le-Lenthir?" She said with a ragged sob. "Am I dreaming?"

Part of her was desperate for him to say no, to tell her he was really there. But the other part wished fervently that it was a dream, not wanting him to see her like this. Broken, battered, wounded. A failure. He had looked up to her. He would have expected her to come for him, to never stop looking.

"Oh, Lenthir.. I am so sorry.." She said, tears streaming down her dirty face.

As the man sat himself on the edge of the precipice she cried out, reaching out to stop him, only then realising he was just sitting down. Heart thumping hard in her throat, she swallowed hard, wanting to pull him back to safety.

His words dug deep wounds in her already fragile soul, her eyes dropping to the ground before her. So many had called her a failure, but hearing it from him was almost enough to destroy her. Again the lure of the abyss called to her, pulled at her. It was such an easy solution to ending the torment, the anguish. All she had to do was step off the ledge and it would be all over, for good. No more suffering, no more pain.

“Are you sure I’m gone?”

Another sob escaped, the tears renewing as she slowly shook her head. "No.." she whispered. She had never stop believing that he was out there, somewhere. But she had stopped looking. "I'm so sorry.." she muttered, unable to look up at him.

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Pazuzu

There was another name Pazuzu had been known by in his aeon long manipulation of Middle-Earth, a name that few people ever learned the true extent of: The Distortion. He thrived on manipulation, deception, and the rupturing of a person’s reality. A being old as time itself, he knew how to manipulate the real and the unreal until his victims did not know what was illusion and what was real. Pazuzu reveled in the torment and fear he created, fed on it. He had not mastered the art of illusion and shape shifting in the way Mairon had, who shifted effortlessly from one form to another with ease, but his illusions and hallucinations were no less effective. Pazuzu’s followers, those broken and mad enough to follow a creature of such malevolence and psychosis, were often gifted with the ability to create illusions of their own, but they were only gifted this power after proving their loyalty to him with a series of escalating evil acts.

“Dreaming?” Pazuzu asked, using the form of Lenthir. “Dreaming, Súri? You’ve been in a nightmare for so, so long. Look what you’ve done. You’ve stopped having nightmares only to become a nightmare. You broke yourself to save me and look now, look at the ruin it’s brought you. And you failed to save me. You never really looked for me. I would have known if you had. Tell me the truth.” Pazuzu’s face turned cruel and angry. “Tell me the truth, Súri. You never even bothered to search for me. You wanted to be free of me. You hated me because I was a burden on you. You would have left soon or later, you just used me as an excuse.”

He squeezed his fists around the stone, cracking and rupturing the precipice upon which they both sat precariously. He leaned forward and touched the elf’s shoulder, then brushed a grimy, oily lock of hair from her face with a finger that seemed impossibly long with too many joints. His visage shifted, moving slowly from the form of Lenthir to something else. He laughed, a strange sound that felt as though the sound was barely above a whisper but still threatened to deafen. His cupped her chin and forced her to look at him, pale eyes gazing hungrily at eldritch red. He exuded his power, a subtle magic that would induce her to look at him, but also kept forcing her gaze away like oil sliding over water, unable to hold it.

“Do you want to be dreaming, sister? What do you think you’ll find if you wake up? Will all of this,” he waved in the direction of the ruined tower, “was part of the dream? Or will I?”

He stood then, looming over the edge of the abyss. Rocks and pebbles skittered over the edge and flung themselves into the yawning chasm into primordial darkness.

“If you are truly sorry,” he said returning to his form as Lenthir, “then come walk with me.” With another word, he stepped over the edge, vanishing from sight.

Yet, he did not fall. He sat crouched on the wall of the sheer cliff, volcanic, blackened rock smooth around him with no hand holds in sight. Lazily, the prince of the lower aerial kingdoms stretched himself out, laying down so that his head appeared to point toward the bottom of the cliff. Impossibly though, he didn’t move. He didn’t skitter, fall, or slip down into the abyssal darkness. “Come with me, Winddancer.” With that a gust of pestilent wind roared up from the bottomless pit, straight up, cracking the foundations of the precipice until it broke, snapped and began to slide downward.
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
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She tried to tell him that she had never seen him as a burden. That she loved her family and had wished she could return to them. But the words stuck painfully in her throat, refusing to be spoken. It was true that she was once happy, that once she had loved her family, her life in the Golden Woods and that she would at one point have done anything to return to them. But it was also true that that feeling had quickly faded. With each despicable deed, each unimaginable cruel torture she had put someone through that the feeling of wanting to go home had diminished. How could she ever go home? Not with what she had done. Not with what she herself had been through and endured. They would never understand. They would never forgive either.

As she crumbled in on herself, hugging her knees, she leaned her forhead on them and sobbed. Yes, she had looked for him. For centuries she used every spare moment to try and find any clue of his whereabouts, roaming all of Mordor and past the borders into every possible area he could have been taken. But as the years slowly passed, the searching had become less and less frequent, always excusing it with being too busy. Her heart broke as she finally admitted to herself that she had stopped because she did not want to find him. She did not want him to see what she had become, she could not stand the thought of him condemning her and she could not handle the thought of him not forgiving her. So she had let him go.

"I'm so sorry.. I'm so sorry" she mumbled over and over as she hid her shame behind her knees, too afraid to look at him. Too afraid to see the contempt and disgust in his eyes.

She jumped, her head instinctively jerking up as she felt him touch her, shaking when his fingers brushed aside her hair. Eyes wide and full of fear and tears she looked at him, not wanting to see his disappointment. Her face twisted with shock as she saw anything but disappointment, his face shifting into something completely different. His laugh made her flinch again, her stomach threatning to purge itself even as her mouth dropped open in unhidden surprise at what she was seeing. Blinking furiously as if to clear her vision, she tensed as he moved to cup her chin. A small strangled sound escaped her as she tried to look away, to close her eyes, yet found that she couldn't.

She felt as if her eyes were going to split open, that her mind was being torn apart and she screamed in agony, or so she thought. Eyes wide with horror and fear, mouth opened to scream, it remained silent as she looked at her "brother."

When he finally released her she fell back with a sobbed cry, fingers digging into the dirt. His words resonated in her mind, building in cadence until she was forced to turn to one side and throw up. The cruel wracking heaves left her shaking, drool running from her mouth that she quickly swiped away with a shaking hand before falling back onto her backside.

Breathing raggedly and coughing several times to clear her throat, she watched in horror as Lenthir suddenly stepped off the edge.

"NOOO!" She screamed as she sprang forward, one hand trying to grip him. For one horrendously long second, her whole world came crashing down. How was it possible to feel so much pain, sadness, regret and despair in such a short amount of time? Her heart and her mind shattered in that split second where she thought she lost him for good.

With unbelieving eyes she watched as he stayed aloft, perched on a cliff in an impossible position. I am mad.. she thought, a small bubble of laughter brewing in her empty gut. The gust of wind rushed past her, flicking her dirty hair all over the place and forcing her to lift a hand to protect her eyes. She felt the precipice crack before she saw it, felt how she began to slide forward, eyes blinking against the dust as she looked up to see that she was going to fall into the abyss.

I deserve this, she thought as she fought back the panic. I deserve to die for what I have done. Shielding her eyes still, she swallowed hard and said "Forgive me, Lenthir.." And then closed her eyes, accepting the fate of falling to her death.

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Mauren and Uthurg
Minas Morgul
Up on the banister above the gate, the young boy Mauren slouched upon the rook, surveying the vale across the gate, and the sky. Uthurg, his orc assistant is nearby, taking in the scenery with him. The two stood upon the banister, not saying anything at first, then Mauren broke silence, first with a snicker, then a snide remark. "Me thinks a couple of fools among our fair city have endured a slight mishap."

"Eh?" Uthurg asks. "What makes you say that?"

"Maybe the mist and the damp air of the vale are playing tricks with me, but for a moment I thought someone... or something... but definitely someone hit a stroke of bad luck, trying to seek passage past our gates." Mauren exclaims "Though I can't quite tell where it's coming from. Is it from the vale over yonder, or up in the sky?"

"You want to check it out?" Uthurg asks.

"Just to be sure." Mauren replies

"Well I'm sure there's no commotion goin' on." Says Uthurg. "You're just looking for excuse get out of this city aren't you?"

"Is that wrong?" Mauren asks.

"Not on it's own." Uthurg replies "But you can't just keep expecting someone to open the gate for you at a whim."

"Sure I could." Mauren exlaims "I do it all the time"

"You still need a reason to go out." Uthurg says "The point of being a scout is to report to the big bosses, so suppose you go out and you find nothing? Then you'd report to one of the higher ups... well nothing to report."

Mauren groans "Then I won't report anything!"

Then Uthurg says "Even then, what's the point of going out if there's nothing there?"

Mauren shakes his head and replies "Well what if there is?!"

Uthurg "What if there isn't?"

Mauren "Could be!"

Uthurg "Could not!"

Then Mauren grunts "Garn! Uthurg, you're a coward sometimes, you know that?!"

Uthurg answers "Cowardice is hardly the issue my boy, survival is."

"I can fend for myself just fine!" Mauren exclaims "If I happen on a brigand, or any spying tark I'll..."

"It's not the tarks you should be worried about, lad!" Uthurg adds.

Mauren stood silent, then suddenly adds "Ah, I think I know who you mean!" Mauren fixes his gaze to the tower of the moon, then the skies yonder, that lead to Mordor itself.

"Anyway, we should be getting our next order soon." Says Uthurg. "Who knows, maybe your next mission will be a mary adventure. Who knows where you'll go, and what you'll find..."

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Pazuzu

"I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry…"

He smiled, the corners of his lips curling into a cruel smile. His fingers twitched with abhorrent joy. Elves were so weak. They could be moved to tears at the drop of a stone. How was it that they were the favorite child? He sneered and scoffed, a strange barking cough sound that didn't echo despite how loud it was. They were nothing more than children left eternally unsupervised, unable to feed themselves or change themselves. Mortals were hardly any better, but at least they were interesting. Elves, this one in particular, were weakness given corporeal form. Even in the Elder Days, when they were so full of light and life, he found it almost too easy to twist and bend that light until they were so turned around there was nothing for them to do but give up their spirits and run away. He relished breaking elves. This one, with a reputation for being as cold as ice and hard as steel, was a farce. "What Mairon ever see in you?" He whispered, making sure she heard every word.

Winddancer’s scream of horror was sweet music to his ears. He inhaled the sound and felt it burrow into his chest. The anguish of others, their fear, their horror, was honeyed wine. Pazuzu’s beak clicked with rapacious glee, gluttonous for more. His eyes watched her as she was flung over the edge of the precipice. She flailed about, a kitten suddenly without its security blanket. Before this conversation was over, that kitten was going to bleed herself dry for him. He let the illusion stand, let the elf hang suspended over the edge of nothingness until he had reached a point of satisfaction. She would be completely unaware of the passage of time, and completely unaware that she was nowhere near the edge of the cliff at all, until he decided it was time for the game to end.

Suddenly, the Distortion was standing over her, closing the gulp between them with alacrity and swiftness. His wings thrummed the air, stirring up the hot, putrid winds about them. A cloud of dust rushed down for the heights, swirling bits of brown, grey, and black. It covered them, the winds beating against their bodies like locusts in heat. The air around them roared at his command, drowning out all other sounds. She would find no peace in that wind as it buffeted her. She would still believe she was in the midst of falling, falling, falling. The joys of his illusions meant that he could see everything she did, he knew the heart seizing, gut clenching fear that she was experiencing. At points the ground seemed to rush up at her, threatening to snatch her form the sky, then it would flee, racing so far away that not even the light of Arien at noon could find it. What she would hear in that sickening wind of pestilence was anyone’s guess. Although he could control the wind and use it as a weapon against her, he had no control of what she heard. Did she hear the pleadings of her brother? The admonitions of her family? The rage of the Dark Lord? Whatever she heard, the poisoning of her psyche was just the first step. He wanted her more desperate.

The illusion dropped, melting away like afternoon frost. Pazuzu cast a long, black shadow over the elf, her red eyes dim. She hadn’t moved. She was still there, laying on the precipice, though in her throes of fear had pushed herself further from the edge.

“Tell me,” he said his dæmonical form also returning to its natural state with four sets of blood red wings unfurled and horrific majesty. “Winddancer,” he knew the sound of her name coming from him would grate her, or at least he hoped it would. “What do you desire? What is it you want more than anything now?”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
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What did she want more than anything?

She wanted to die. Didn't she? She wanted it to be over. To slide into the darkness where there were no regrets, no suffering, no pain or fear. No despair.

"Why don't you just die then?" A familiar voice snarled hatefully at her in her mind, full of loathing and disdain.

Her stomach threatened to lurch, to empty itself though there was nothing left to empty but bile. It bit with a nasty acid burn at the back of her throat, causing her to cough weakly.

Why hadn't she died? She had slipped off the cliff as it crumbled beneath her feet. Winds whipping at her face as she screamed with terror as she saw the ground rushing up towards her with such maddening speed. Her life had flashed before her eyes, just like people claimed it did. She had never believed them, there was not enough time for something like that to play out. But she was proven wrong.

Flashes of her young childhood, seeing her younger brother Lenthir when he was born, the overwhelming feeling of love filling her black heart for a fleeting moment. But long enough for it to be torturously painful. The jokes made of how she almost loved him more than their mother, tormenting her as she continued to fall.

Flashes of her playing with him and her older brother were replaced with the memory of the day when Lenthir was taken. The utter despair as her older brother held her back to save their lives. Even the feeling of hatred for her older brother returned in force, it exploded in her chest and left her screaming out her anguish as she continued to fall.

The flashes of their numerous missions where they had set out to find Lenthir, were quickly replaced by the memory of being caught. The horrific pain of the torture was nothing compared to the pain she had felt when Lenthir had been taken, though still it had seared into her brain much like when she had been branded on the upper arm. The moment Sauron had invaded her mind, had claimed her, had made her his and ripped apart her reality, prologing the terror as she continued to fall.

Her incredibly slow climb to the position she had held, with pride. The taunts and mistreatment from everyone and everywhere, fighting daily for her life and her sanity as she slowly made a name for herself. She had murdered, killed, slaughtered and maimed her way to the top. Slaves, prisoners and other minions alike. She had let nothing come in her way as she served her Lord with an almost zealous fanaticism. One that she could not fully justify as being His fault as she continued to fall.

Flashes of the searches she had continued with, to find Lenthir. Stealing moments whenever she could, often without permission and always punished for it as He would always know. Yet she had done it. For a while. Flashes of her deciding not to go out when she could have, of how few times she had even thought of him these past hundreds of years. How she had started to resent her family, knowing they would reject her if she ever went home, knowing they would never understand. But even more so, how the memory of him had faded as she continued to fall.

As she fell, every emotion barraged her mind in quick successions, one after the other. It tore at her resolve, her sanity, leaving her unable to tell what was what and which way was up, despite still falling into the abyss. It seemed the torment would never end and then just like that it did.

Shaking, her lanky dirty hair covering most of her face, she lay on her stomach with her hands up by her head. Eyes stared unseeingly out past the cliff, out towards the now shattered Barad-dur, like a symbol of her broken spirit. The cough the bile had caused barely stirred her, dirty fingers digging into the dirt she lay on as if afraid to fall again.

Why wasn't she dead? She wanted to die. Didn't she? Of course she did, she just had to let go, right? Yet there she lay, breathing shallowly, her dirty hair shifting slightly at her breaths. What did she want? More than anything?

"To live.." she whispered softly.

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The Distortion

“You want to live?” The mocking tone of his voice changed from sweet and melodic to vile and cacophonous. “You? The very elfling that told me she could choose to die at any given moment? You want to live?” He laughed, the sound was loud but no echo of it bounced off the jagged, ashen peaks. “Why do you want to live young one? What point is there to your existence now? Your master is gone, and because of your failures may never be able to come back. Your family is very likely sailing to the Valar’s hidey hole as we speak. You’ve no friends, you made sure of that in your rise to prominence. What exactly do you have to live for?”

He moved a step closer to her, his taloned feet kicking up small whirlwinds of dust as they clicked against the hard stone. “You sowed death and destruction for so long, what hope do you have of every doing anything else? Would you reap the tempest now?” His wings bristled, a single, red pinion feather fell at the elf’s feet, drifting with aching slowness on the air. It seemed to have a mind of its own. It swirled in the air brushing against the elf’s bare, raw skin. It moved up and down as if it were tracing some arcane symbol in the air. Pazuzu smiled wickedly and clicked his beak. He watched the feather as he flittered and danced and teased, an extension of his will and form. The feather landed finally, piercing the stone as it stood on edge.

“What will you do, Winddancer?” Again, he spoke her name with mocking tenderness. “Which life will you pick up again? You are a being ripped in two by your allegiances. At least,” the wind spirit squatted next to her, his wings blotting out what little light there was here, “at least now no one can die from your indecision. Or is that what you want? Do you want to watch the world torn apart by your indecision? The same way you tore through that boy in Minas Tirith? How much blood will be enough for you? I have seen the pools of blood you have created, and they are vast, oceans of oblivion, you have created.”

He stood up again, spreading his four wings and began to levitate off the ground. The picture of an arcane fallen angel, he covered his feet with the bottom pair of wings and shielded his face with the upper pair. “He lives…” he whispers, making the sound echo all around the elf. “He… lives…”

The winds howled, bringing with them the fetid smell of decay from deep within the heart of Mordor. “I can tell you where he is, if you but ask me.”
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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The mocking tone ripped at her tortured mind, all the doubts resurfacing in full force. The bile rose again, burning her throat and making her cough, the air expelled barely strong enough to disturb the dirt by her face. She was weakening, the wound in her side had started bleeding again, the dirt she was lying on greedily drinking her life's blood.

He was right, what was the point of living? He was gone, she knew He was gone. She could feel the void her Lord had left behind, the gaping chasm in her heart and her mind. The emptiness weighed on her, kept her face down in the dirt as the creature continued to mock her. If she lived now, then what? Everything she had worked so hard for, was gone. The Pit's would have crumbled under the Tower, the remaining minions who might have survived, would be scattered and broken, spread to the winds and rendered useless.

She had long ago come to turns with not being able to go home. There was no way she could find redemption or forgiveness there. She would not be allowed to sail to Valinor, where her family now likely were. So why? Why did she want to live? What was there to live for?

Friends? She let out what sounded like a mix between a chuckle and being choked, the dirt moving slightly by her lips. Her body tensed as she felt something touch her skin, a sense of dread, of being touched against her will and she grunted with annoyance, yet still did not move.

The vile voice continued, hammering the nails of doubt in further and further, feeling the red hot spikes driving deep into her soul. Every time he spoke her Westron name she wanted to scream, though there was no strength to push it out. Just die already.

A weak sob spilled from her parted lips, her eyes closing. Just die. Just die. Give the chaos you left behind their vengence and just die.

She could feel her body going slack, barely drawing in breaths now. Her mind slowly and weakly chanting Just Die, over and over. She almost did not hear his words. She thought he had said "he lives..", she could have sworn he had. No, it was just her mind playing tricks on her. Just Die.

“He… lives…”

Her breath caught, the chanting in her mind coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the words. No. He is lying. He is playing with me. He just want's to torment me. Nobody knows where he is. She looked everywhere!

“I can tell you where he is, if you but ask me.”

A small whimper escaped her parched lips, drawing in a deep ragged breath. Just D- NO! NO! I don't want to die! I need to know. I need to.. get his forgiveness.

She drew in several more ragged breaths, each of them deeper and stronger than the one before. A strength she did not know was there filled her limbs and made them move. Slowly, weakly, she stirred. She managed to lift her head slightly, one hand moving up and then the other as she pushed with all her might, her body shaking at the effort. Swaying dangerously, she managed to push back enough to sit on her lower legs, her head drooping forward. Lifting it was a massive feat, though finally she looked up at the creature before her as the putrid winds blew her dirty tangled hair from her face.

"Where is he?" She snarled, her red eyes alight with hatred for the creature before her.

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The Distortion

Through his foul pinions, the Distortion watched his victim squirm and scuttle. A cruel, knowing smile tweaked the corners of his beak. Such pitiful little things, these creatures. As far below him as they were above the worms of the earth, yet they shared more characteristics with the worms than they did with beings like him. This dance, while repetitive and circular, was something he never tired of. For thousands and thousands of years he had bent, bowed, and broken the world around him, both the physical and the metaphysical, the living, the dead, and the inanimate. He was a spider whose web was vast and terrible, the flies he caught often danced and leapt headfirst into his traps. They craved madness like a healthy man craves meat. Yet they were not the one’s doing the consuming.

The daemon extended his wings again, stretching them to their full span. As a shapeshifter and deceiver, his forms were vast and varied. He could appear as a man, dapper and charming. He could appear as the wind itself, an unstoppable, invisible force of destruction. He could appear as a raven, inky black as the shadows that birthed him at the beginning of creation. His form shimmered like a heat mirage then dissipated until he melded into the mist. From this vantage point, he could see in all directions at once, he could hear, smell, taste, and feel everything. In this form he could control the wind to an even greater degree, calling down to the foul vapors of the volcano and whisking them away so that they choked the air the efling would breath. She wanted to live. He scoffed. If she did, it would be by his design and his alone.

It was like watching an angry kitten hiss and appear as frightening as it could, this elf. “Winddancer…” he said in a disembodied voice, the sound of the winds of fever and plague. “Winddancer…” in his state he could project the sound of his voice to come from anywhere, the sound now came from all around her, sinister whispers like buzzing flies. “Winddancer…”

Slowly, the Distortion reformed himself, convalescing into his favorite shape, the vulturine angel. “Snarl for me some more, little Elfling. I want to see how fierce you really are.” He laughed and began to circle her, his taloned feet barely disturbing the surface of the rock as he moved in a counterclockwise motion. “If you’re going to find your darling brother, you’re going to need to be more than angry.” His voice was soothing again, the aged counselor, a trustworthy source of information and reassurance. “Out in the wide world now, you are a rare creature. Elves are dying out. Careful someone doesn’t decide to add you to a menagerie other grotesque and dying beings. You are beautiful, but you would be wasted with a chain around your neck.” Clawed fingers traced a line from one shoulder to the other as he moved around to face her. Red eyes meeting pale white. “If you want to find your brother, if I tell you where he is, you are going to have to give me something in return. Are you willing to do that?”

Now was coming his favorite part of the dance. He dangled what she wanted in front of her, tantalized and traumatized her with it, then offered it to her, with a single string attached.

Pazuzu smiled. The winds groaned in agony.
So what if it's evil?

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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Posts: 2084
Joined: Thu May 14, 2020 11:22 am
For more than two thousand years, she had served Sauron. He had raped her mind and claimed her soul, making her his most effective tool. She knew everything there was to know about torment and torture. She had experienced most of it on her own body, by foul creatures far beneath her station and by Sauron himself. She had endured it daily from her Master, forced to serve him. He had moulded and shaped her. The epitome of evil, he struck fear in the hearts of even the bravest. And yet there had been something out there that far exceeded him.

The snarl was ripped from her dirty face as she watched the creature before her morph and meld into something else, her name spoken like an eerie dirge that echoed all around her. She blinked furiously, blaming it on them and then on losing her mind. She was going crazy. A frantic laughter began to bubble in her gut, but she silenced it before it was birthed, flinching as a claw dragged across her upper back. It pulled her long dirty hair aside with it, most of it falling over one shoulder as he stopped.

His voice softened to that of a wisened old man, his words digging and poking at her defenses, search for the cracks and holes it could abuse. She wanted to lift her hands to her ears, to cover them so that she could not hear his obscene voice. Luring her with the promise of finding her brother, he tormented her resolve, her mind close to breaking.

Of course he wanted something from her. There was always a price. Nothing in this world was free. But she literally had nothing. All she had was the useless dagger in her belt and the clothes she had stolen off of a corpse. Every other worldly possession she had had, now lay buried in the carnage of the crumbled tower out in the distance. But she knew he was not after gold. A creature like him likely had no need for it and if he did, he was more than capable of getting what he wanted.

She slowly slid her left hand across her stomach to her right side, pushing in against the wound there in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Soon it would not even matter if she did agree to whatever he wanted, as she would be dead, even if she did not want to die. She had run out of time. And he had all the advantages. She had absolutely nothing to bargain or haggle with. It was now do what he wanted, or die.

Her red eyes flicked to the destruction below and back to the red stain in the dirt before her, a tragic testament to her current situation. She knew it would be no small price, thinking that he would likely have her kill someone, though surely he could do that himself, or that she serve him for a time. She doubted she would be lucky enough for it to be the former.

Her head drooped forward. She could feel herself weakening. Soon it would not matter what she chose as she would be dead.

"What do you want?" She finally asked, her words slightly slurring. "I have nothing to give.."

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