What the East Wind Brings
"…And from the southward fields came foot men of Harad with horsemen before them, and behind them rose the huge backs of the mumakil with war towers upon them."
March 15th: The battle of Pelennor Fields
The business of war is nasty and cruel, and no one knew its work better than Asano of Near Harad. War came like the sandstorms to her land; quick, fierce, and ultimately destructive. The land of many tribes was in a constant state of civil war, but now for the sake of a final unity the tribes of Harad brought war to the pale men of the west. Their end would mean a new beginning and a hope that their strife and deterioration would stop or so said the lord of Barad-dur. Fight under the one eye and her people would have plenty, she would no longer have to watch her people once proud fade into the sand.
So, like any dutiful daughter of a mighty war chief Asano screwed herself up to go battle and win honor for her father and herself. That was why at the moment she stood upon a war tower strapped to the large back of a raging mumak. In one hand she held a bow the other was quickly pulling and releasing one arrow after another. Tense and release, tense and release. It was during the bloody fury that she was able to quell her constant nausea caused by the tree-sized back bone rolling underneath them. It was during battle she was able to forget her niggling doubts about their venture that had been pestering her like gnats; stinging and biting.
Asano watched the horsemen swarm about them they looked like ants covered in the dull glow of burnished armor. If she stood still long enough, she feel acrid air move as each arrow flew up, or by her, whizzing loudly in her ear.
She released five more arrows before a sudden shudder ran through the mumak that sent many other soldiers sprawling.
Asano grabbed the tower's ledge that kept her from toppling to her death like many others. There seemed to be a hush that descended from inside the war tower as well as from the horsemen below. Then, finally the whole horrible thing happened; before she knew it Asano was upside down then hanging suspended in the air her stomach lurching in panic. The support lines had been snapped when the great beast had reared up after being stabbed in the eye and was now toppling to the ground.
Asano's scream was swallowed up by the bellow of the mumak and the crashing roar of the wooden tower. Darkness took her and she knew no more.
The blackness slowly receded like the morning fog from her eyes. Immediately the throbbing began in her head, reaching up to touch where the pain radiated the most; it was her temple and the blood she felt was congealed and sticky. Groaning Asano got to her knees and then slowly to her feet, taking a step her ankle flared up in fiery pain. Growling, annoyed by each separate injury she leaned against the now dead mumak for balance as she walked.
It was completely silent with the exception of the wind blowing or the distant snap of a flag. Asano could not believe her eyes; the wide field of Pelennor was no longer green, but instead strewn with the dead of many factions and races. The long ditches that were once ablaze were now smoking in gray clouds, yellow vapors floated like ghosts over the ground and the air was filled with the acrid stench of burning flesh and blood. In the distance she could see figures moving about, Asano was unsure as to whom they might be. They didn't move the despicable orcs so they must be men, but which side? The west men or her haradrim? Which side had won the day?
Making her way around the fallen Mumak she could see the numerous bodies of her dead brothers-in-arms. Asano choked back many cries of grief stricken shock as she recognized one man after another. Temon, Dordan, Bane, and sadly young Karis a banner bearer and only 19 years.
At the sight of his body empty of his light caused painful tears to spring to her eyes. Asano wondered what would be done with the fallen if they did not win the day. She feared this was so, because she could not hear the familiar cries of victory only the worrisome breeze and the buzzing of flies.
Asano had heard through rumor that the pale men buried their dead trapping the soul in the dual prison of flesh and dirt mound. She was horrified and shuddered at the torture of leaving one's spirit encased in the decaying remnants of flesh.
Were these people barbaric? She thought. Did they not know that to free the soul one must burn the body? Did they know? But decide to torture the souls of their enemies owning their suffering forever!
The thought made Asano weak and dizzy she fell to her knees trying to gather herself to think clearly.
A moan of distinct pain caught her attention it didn't sound too far off, so she crawled towards the sound. It was a man, a man she knew quite personally. It was Karn, Asano recognized the broad nose, full mouth, and beard his deep set eyes were shut in pain. She saw that he was lying on his back pinned up to the chest by what remained of the upper portion of a war tower. Asano squeezed her eyes shut this was an ultimately fatal injury and yet he stilled lived….
"Is…that the face…of my Asano," came his deep voice, fighting his laboring breath.
Asano's body trembled in grief, but she fought to keep her voice steady," yes, it is I."
Karn smiled," that is…good, I fear I cannot see your…face."
Her heart wept at the sight of him, Karn was a great warrior and a good man. It pained her to see him so weakened, to see with her eyes his own end.
"Then hear me and feel my touch Karn. I'm here for you," Asano replied touching his face. Slowly a tear welled up and rolled down.
"Tell me, my Asano….did we do right?" Karn asked, his voice beginning to fail.
Her mouth trembled and Asano could no longer keep the sorrow out," yes, you did well….green lands are waiting."
With that Asano's tears rolled down her face and dropped upon Karn's withering face. He said and smiled," I had hoped a good woman……….would……weep for me……."
Asano's strong heart tore in two and she wept bitterly for Karn. Once, she had been betrothed to him, but her father had broke it off, so that she could go to war and still he had loved her. Still she also loved him and felt the agony of her insides twisting, wrenching in grief. The bitter pain of her heartbreaking and the loss of dreams never to be.
Asano cried for him, but not for long she couldn't stay there, kissing his still warm lips she rose to her feet and stumbled away. She debated on where to go she was very far from home in an unfamiliar, hostile land. It also wasn't helpful that she didn't know the direction in which home was or even who won the battle today.
It was late afternoon when she was captured and when it came it was with a great sense of relief. Now she didn't have to wonder where home was or how to get there because she was not going home. And she was not worried about who won; it was obvious. It had been two soldiers from the stone city that caught her as she walked across the field in a daze from the combined grief and head wound.
The sword was heavy on the juncture of shoulder and neck, and then a quick grab to the wrist from behind had her on her knees.
"Do not move. If you desire life," came the voice from behind.
So, Asano remained immobile upon her knees hands on her thighs. The sword went away slowly when the soldier realized that she was not going to fight him.
"Mardil! Bring the rope!" The soldier called to the other before him.
Another man in shining armor splattered with blood of black and red color came walking up to the two of them.
"You found a live one Beoren, I thought the rhohirrim routed or scattered the rest," said the one called Mardil.
"Well, here is one and I'm not sure what to do with him," Beoren stated taking the rope from his companion, mardil.
Asano could have laughed if her mood was not decidedly dreary, they think I'm a man, she thought. Asano assumed it was quite obvious that she was a woman; it had never been disguised to the men of her troop, whether or not they approved. So now it seemed laughable that they could not tell, how well they delude themselves, their women must not fight, she thought.
Beoren tied her wrists together behind her back and pulled Asano up on her feet.
"Wait a moment, he won't need that on his head," said Mardil yanking the turban and scarf from her face, so instead it hung around about her neck.
"We'll take him to the city and show him to the captain he'll know what to do with him," Beoren said taking Asano's arm and began the trek towards the white city.
Asano did not imagine in her mind that she would live much longer, when it came to her own people their own enemies were swiftly dealt an axe blow at sunset. She could only assume her death would be some what the same. During the walk she saw no other prisoners.
Could it have been what one of her captor's said? Did her brothers retreat? Run from battle when they had sworn to die before cowardly fleeing into the fields. It was crushing, the thought and wounding to her haradrim pride her warriors were better than that or so she thought.
Asano thought further on her fate after turning away from disgraceful retreats and discovered she did not want to die! She was surprised. During battle she was not worried or even afraid. Asano wasn't afraid now, but se still didn't want to die, perhaps, just perhaps mercy could be found for a warrior like herself.
The city was a giant now before them the great black gates were twisted and thrown down; the levels she could see were burnt and broken. What was once gleaming alabaster was blackened and smoked out like the darkened eye sockets of a skull, Asano could not imagine the kind of destructive power needed to make this level of damage. She thought of her overlord in the far away land of mordor and understood quickly that such terrible power was possible. That because her people had sided with him had saved them from annihilation, she shuddered, and the whole thing was such a horrible mess.
They passed through the gate and into the city of the West Men. She looked about in awe, the place was built out of the side of the mountain, and even in ruin its construction was inspiring. Asano never knew of cities built of stone, her village was made up of 150 tents that could be put up and taken down in less than two hours. Her clan moved between oasis's depending on the season. Something as solid as stone was as foreign to her as everything else about this strange, temperate, land.
The streets were silent, as Mardil and Beoren took her up into the city. To either death or imprisonment, or both and none of which she was not looking forward to. They said nothing to her, and she didn't speak to either. Asano did know the common tongue, her father for a time owned a slave from Umbar and he had taught her family his language. She spoke it moderately well, but could only speak it slowly, stumbling mostly over her words, but still picked it up better over her father, brothers, and sisters. Her father had always said a little ruefully, that of all his six children she was the one with the quicker mind. So, Asano hoped that with her understanding of her enemy's tongue she could plead for mercy, she frowned at that suddenly for that thought conflicted with all she had been told.
It seemed at that moment that mercy was a fickle thing, the citizenry that had managed to survive the frightful event began to show their faces. At first they had the nervous air of weary rabbits, which then turned to curiosity at the darker skinned soldier being lead up the street. There came the quiet squeak of a door opening and a person stepping out to take a look.
"Go back inside! For your own safety go back!" Mardil yelled sternly at the man by the door.
At that it seemed to start a reaction, at the sound of another human's voice from the road others began to appear, men and some women alike stepped out of several stone houses and watched her and her captors go by. Then the whispers began they filled up the silence around her, Asano could see her guards start to get edgy as they moved faster, pulling her along. With her hands bound behind her back she found balance difficult and stumbled giving those around her a perfect view of exactly who she was.
The crowd that followed was not large, no more than 15 people, but the atmosphere was intimidating. The noise about her was growing in intensity the air itself was becoming aggressive.
"It's one of them."
"It's one of those wicked haradrim."
"Why does he still live?"
At that, at s stone the size of a man's fist or maybe it was a man's fist was flung and connected harshly with the back of her head. Asano stunned fell forward onto to the ground her skull was pulsing in pain it rippled across her head and for a moment blinded her.
The crowd fell upon her like carrion birds; wanting flesh for flesh and blood for blood and hers would do. Feet slammed into her stomach and stomped on her legs she cried out, but her voice was hoarse from the air being forced out. Fists like fleshy stones pounded into her upper body as well as her head. Asano covered her face with her arms so that they took the brunt of her punishment. Soon she could no longer feel the blows even though they came down. The vibration of the force of each kick and punch rocked her body back and forth. Of all the many deaths she envisioned for herself, be they terrible or merciful, being beaten to death was not one of them.
Asano began to wonder if maybe it might have been better if she had stayed home in relative peace in the quiet of the desert than to travel so far away from all she knew to die.
Legolas walked he cracked marble roadway humming a tune to relax himself, while his dear friend, Gimli grumbled about the architecture and it's faults. He was glad for the time that at least one battle was over, and that none of his young friends had been killed. But he was also aware that this one was not the final one, no, that still waited ahead of them.
"Well elf, in all your wisdom," he began with a bit of sarcasm, "what do you say? Do any of us have a chance?"
"Of what awaits us, reason would say unlikely. But might heart tells me that there is hope and remember our deal master dwarf, if that is an incentive to survive for I haven't forgotten." He replied in a teasing tone with the effort of lightening the dark mood.
"Yes, yes. You elves and your tree's, just give me solid earth and…." He trailed off when Legolas suddenly turned his head as if listening.
To Legolas the shouts and cries were all quite clear, he could even distinguish some voices from others and they were filled with rage. He went quickly in the direction of the ruckus with Gimli beside him holding his axe haft just in case of real trouble. Legolas moved quickly down a short lane till he entered one of the lower circles. There he came upon a small crowd of maybe 15 people all yelling and shouting a once, so great was the clamor that their words were indistinguishable.
Legolas saw that two soldiers were trying in vain to stop the group without using force, but it was of little use against these people. These survivors who had seen much already were not feeding off each other's anger and fear, he could feel it like the waves of the sea.
Legolas stepped up to one of the soldiers and touched him on the shoulder plate of his armor. The man turned suddenly and realizing who had touched him, stared at him in complete and utter shock.
"What is happening here," Legolas asked gesturing to the yelling crowd.
"There is an enemy soldier in that group, I believe they will beat him death!" The soldier explained almost shouting over the cries.
Legolas frowned deeply, " the killing should end, at least for today."
He stepped forward into the jostling crowd as he passed through people stopped their cursing and shouting and stared in amazement as the elf passed by. Then in surprise as Gimli followed in his wake growling and holding out his axe for them all to see. Reaching the center, Legolas found the figure of the soldier laying on his side in a curled position. He looked like he had taken a good eating on top of possible battle wounds, the soldier realized his assault had stopped uncovered his face and looked towards Legolas.
The eyes that focused on him were sharp with defiance even after such a beating and were the finest pale jade he had ever seen. Then taking in the face below him; the pointed chin, full lips, straight nose and smooth forehead. Legolas realized, Ai! This was no man! This was a woman!
"Apparently, the Lady of Rohan is not the only woman in want of battle," Legolas said in a clear voice.
"So she is," Gimli replied in surprise, "well, we cannot leave her here."
"No, I was not planning on it friend Gimli," then turning to crowd he said, "who knew this soldier to be a woman."
The shocked faces around them gave no answer and Legolas felt that they would be of little help anyway. Man or woman, this soldier was still a willful enemy and servant to the dark lord and that was a point that could not be overlooked.
Bending down Legolas picked up the woman she was unconscious now and a dead weight in his arms, but nothing which he could not handle.
"What exactly are we going to do with her," Gimli asked as they departed and the gaurds were able to take control of the stunned crowd again.
"I am taking her to be healed. What else would you expect me to do with her," Legolas answered as they headed for the higher levels.
"I do not think that the people of this city will be willing to heal this one," gimli said, pointing to the unconscious woman.
"The healers if they are in anyway like ours, will heal her despite her role in this fray," Legolas replied shifting so that her head was cradled more firmly.
The dwarve's response was a gruff non-commital noise akin to a snort. He pushed his axe back into the holster and walked along side his strange elvish friend.
Legolas for himself was not too worried about the woman soldier, her eyes burned with life and the will to survive and fear in hard pools of pale jade. No this one was a born survivor and someone who swore herself to Sauron would surely need that instinct. He would inform Aragorn of the woman and her capture, as well as her condition. Surely, he surmised Aragorn would be judicious in dealing with her or so he hoped. For he knew tonight his wandering reverie would colored green and filled with stubborn defiance.