Prologue

There was a quiet trepidation that day. The tribal council was gathering in anticipation of the visitor, and the king of the Engoli tribe seated himself on the large throne of his fathers. To his right were his co-heirs, the twins. Dingane looked like his father. He had his father's eyes, wisdom, and towered over most people in the tribe. His hair was cropped nearly to the scalp, as was the tradition for males. Years of war with neighboring tribes on behalf of his father had created a very intimidating figure and this was only emphasized by the tribe's visitor. His sister, Ghadelyna also inherited her father's height and had traveled to war on behalf of her father, but was a bit more outspoken than her brother.

To the king's left were the other members of the tribal council and his youngest daughter Asana. Asana was small and quiet with eyes that seemed to see through to a person's soul. She seemed to be more similar in appearance to the dearly loved queen who had died ten years ago than the king. Though the king loved all three of his children, Asana was the one that stole his heart.

Before them stood an emissary of Sauron. He was dressed all in black and wore a helmet that covered his eyes. This made his mouth seem much larger than possible on a normal man. He left his horse and walked toward the king's throne, taking a moment to bow respectfully. He and his attendants reeked of death and his lips bled as he sneered, revealing large, slender, sharp teeth.

"My master, Sauron the Great, greets thee."

Ghasaan, King of the Engoli, stood and walked up to the emissary. "Welcome, Emissary." He could feel the murmurs of his council rather than hear them, but he ignored them. He must appear loyal. He smiled a bit. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"

"It is time for the Reaping, Lord Ghasaan. We are here to collect your tributes."

Ghasaan felt his countenance falter and quickly turned away, motioning to his throne, to conceal it. Since the days of the tribes ancestors, after the wars with the men of the West, and the treaty with Sauron, the great Eye, various tribes of Harad paid tribute to "honor" the Lord for his continued protection. Each tribe "offered" the Lord portions of their bounty, be it animals, food, weapons, or anything of interest to Sauron.

But Ghasaan knew the Emissary did not come for food. Every 50 years, the Great Eye demanded something more. To bolster the ranks of the Mordorian Army, as well as ensure loyalty, Sauron demanded that one person from each family be offered as a soldier. Typically, the members chosen were the eldest children, but there had been times where families could only offer the elderly or even children to Sauron because no one else was left. It was a saddening fate to send those too weak and unprepared for battle, but it was considered a great honor to be called to the Eye's army. But Ghasaan felt differently.

Sumayyaa, Ghasaan's queen and the original heir to the throne, was sent when she was a maid of 16. Her father had no sons and she was the eldest daughter. She was allowed to return to her tribe 10 years later, as was the tradition for royalty, but she returned a different woman. He had known her all of their lives and found her to be only a shadow of the person she was before her service to the Eye. Ghasaan shuddered thinking about the horrors she told him late at night at they watched their children sleep. He simply could not allow this to befall their children.

"Is it the day of the Reaping already? So soon?"

"It is, my Lord. Lord Sauron awaits your offering and the offering of your people." Even though the Emissary couldn't see though his helmet, Ghasaan felt his children shift near him, as if they could feel his "eyes" upon them. The little princess is too young for the art of war, but thy eldest children bear the strength of the tribe in their eyes." The Emissary walked slowly to Dingane, as if learning everything about him in a "glance". "Thy carry the strength of thy grandfathers in thy veins . . . thou hast already killed . . . . an excellent tribute." He turned his face to Ghadelyna. "Thou. . . thou art different. . . . . thy carry the strength of thy mother . . . . . It has been a long time since a maid of the royal line joined us. Thou would be an . . . . . . . honored and most precious gift." He shifted to the king and smiled. "The Eye is honored with your tributes, Great Ghasaan." Tributes. He intended to take both of them.

"Emissary," Ghasaan called, "We have granted the Eye tribute unfaltering now for generations. The Year of Reaping will not arrive for 12 years. My people must plan must prepare-"

"Thy people must only follow the will of the Eye!" Everyone became still. "The Eye commands early tribute and reaping of all houses. In three days we will return for thy tributes. And if thy children and thy people's children are not ready, the Eye will come for thee . . . . . . and thy people . . . . and take them all."


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