AN: New story, everyone! And it's LOTR (which is another evidence why you should NEVER believe what I say on my profile). This one is going to be a multi-parter, roughly 10 chapters, I would say. I will try to update twice every week. Of course I always have different things to do nowaday, so allow me some wiggle room. And by the way, the first chapter is a prologue of sort, that's why it's shorter. General chapter length is around 2000 words, like most of my works. Okay, enough rant. Hope you enjoy the story! Don't forget to review.
Disclaimer: I don't own. Blah.
Bregol was not a young soldier. He had served under many great generals, the wise Ecthelion, the mysterious Thorongil, and now the stern but shrewd Denethor. It was not that he never tasted defeat. That would be nearly impossible for a seasoned soldier like him. There were times when his company was dearly outnumbered; there were ambushes; and there were times when fortune itself was against them. Yet he had never been defeated thus, out-maneuvered, out-strategized, and plainly out-smarted by a small band of Haradrim led by a young man barely seventeen summers old.
There was something fantastical about the whole situation that even now, bound and on his knees before the young Haradrim general, he could not bring himself to believe the validity of it all. He stole a look of his companions that were also the unfortunate captives, and saw that they were just as dumbfounded as he himself. Sighing inaudibly, he turned his eyes back the young general of Harad. The young man before him was dusky as rich ember, like all those people from the southern deserts. He was slender and small, with delicate features rivaling that of a girl in beauty, and his wide dark eyes were like that of a child. Bregol could not and would not believe that such a boy could defeat him on the field.
"You do not believe it, do you?" Presently the youth spoke in fluent Westron, and Bregol looked up with shock. It was uncanny to hear his own thoughts echoed in the clear voice of this youth of Harad.
"You do not believe that I, an unlearned, uncouth barbarian from the south could out-maneuver you so easily on the battlefield. Even now you scorn me in your mind." The boy's voice was even and calm, with a faint detachment and disdain.
Bregol straightened his back as much as his bonds allow and answered stiffly, "It was merely an unfair stroke of luck that aided you."
"Unfair stroke of luck?" The youth whirled around, a sudden glint of steel now in his dark eyes. "And is it indeed very fair when you attack my people unprovoked and slaughter defenseless children and women?"
Bregol stayed silent then, but his fellow captive, a young, brash soldier named Aelfnin cried out loudly, "It is you barbarians who first invaded our country, and allied with the enemies of Mordor."
"Preposterous lies!" The young Haradrim's eye blazed. For a moment his delicate features were set in such hardened carven lines that they no longer seemed so beautiful. But that was a moment only, a second later he seemed calm once more, and the sharpness in his features vanished.
"You arrogant northerners are drowning with your self-proclaimed superiority." He said lightly and evenly, though the contempt was still apparent in his voice. "Long have you drove my people into the ground, never allowing us to set even a step beyond the desert. Long have you harassed us into slave-like obedience. Long have you wrested out hard-earned riches from us. But no longer. Harad will not bow her head to anyone, least of all the proud but rotting corpse that is Gondor. You had great generals and elvish wights with eagle eyes, but Harad also has her captain and teacher. Harad has her Taluya."
That was the last word Bregol heard from the young Haradrim, and that word troubled him. He had heard that word before. Taluya, a great bird of the desert, white-winged and silver eyed, with moonlight upon its plumes; beautiful, fierce, and deadly, the moon-hunter. He had seen such a creature but once, suddenly sweeping into the night sky and stealing his breath away. The name of such a creature did not frighten him then, for it was a beautiful name even by Gondorian standard.
Yet he had learned to fear the name should the people of Harad say it. They say the name with such fierce pride, warm affection and awed reverence; they say the name with the deepest respect and gratitude. It could not be simply about those hunting birds of the desert, Bregol had decided a long time ago.
He had no time to ponder out the meaning of such things. The next morning he and the other captives were forced to march south, following their merciless captors. The time was a blur. From sunrise to sundown there was only endless marching. Gradually, the familiar landscape of trees and water fell away to display endless plain of tall grass of a crisp yellow colour, then desert.
In the desert the ground was gold and the sky silver. The rare tall plants decked with black thorns were a startling green. The colours were so bright and sharp that they stung the eyes. In the desert there were cities. The cities of Harad were not built of stones, but decked with canvas. Around the occasional oasis in the desert, there would be tents, sometimes merely one or two dozens, sometimes exceeding hundreds. The city that marked their final terminus was beside a sapphire lake the size of half of Minas Tirith, with at least a thousand tents, and between the tents ran streets, alleys and roads. Despite of his bitter resentment, Bregol was amazed.
Slowly they approached the city. The young general rode at the head, followed by the captives, and tailed by more Haradrim soldiers. Bregol half expected the Haradrims to be flanking the road into the city, welcoming the victorious soldiers like they would do in Minas Tirith. But no such procession was there, and he was relieved that no such humiliation would further torment him.
When they were almost upon the first row of tents, they saw a lone rider there. It was far still, and Bregol could see nothing save a great black stallion and a lean figure upon it cloaked in grey. Yet the young general of Harad had no doubt to the identity of the rider.
"Taluya!" He gave a great call of joy, and galloped towards the lone figure.
"Taluya! Taluya!" Other Haradrim called as well, and a moment later their cries blended into excited speech in their native tongue, none of which Bregol understood.
So Taluya was indeed a man, a man greatly loved and revered here. Bregol thought. His dragging footsteps brought him nearer and nearer to the luminous grey- cloaked figure, and he found his heart growing heavier with a fascinated fear. At last the company halted before the rider upon the black stallion. He looked up and saw a tall and slender-framed man, taller than all he had seen save one. He was not of Harad, for he was pale like the moon. His face was stern and hard as if carven from white stone, and his hair was dark and flecked with faint grey. His eyes were grey also, clear and keen like those of an eagle. They were a very familiar pair of eyes. Bregol found he could not breath.
"Behold the great captain and teacher of Harad!" The young Haradrim said in Westron, his clear voice ringing with pride. "Behold him well, proud soldiers of the White City! How does the Taluya of the desert compare to your illustrious Thorongil, the Eagle of the North?"
A half smile was on the raven-haired man's face as he looked down at Bregol, his keen grey eyes holding the Gondorian soldier's gaze firmly. Bregol could not speak. He could not possibly answer the young Haradrim general's question. How does one compare two that are the same? Taluya and Thorongil were one indeed.