It is a hobbit tradition to give gifts on your birthday, and I decided to honour it and gift you with a story today. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to write a new story, but I found an old one which I haven't posted yet.
This story was written for last year's October Teitho Contest "Devil's Advocate" and placed second. The challenge was to write a story from a bad guy's point of view.
The story will be posted in 5 parts and will be updated weekly.
Summary: Sauron is afraid of his greatest enemy and is willing to use all resources to stop him.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the recognizable characters or places. The story is written only for enjoyment.
A/N: I tried to fit this inside the book canon, but I am not sure if I succeeded. Feel free to consider the story AU if you wish.
A/N 2: Some habits and ideas among the Haradrim are my own creation. You are welcome to use them in your own stories, but be aware that they are not canonical.
March 8, 3019 T.A.
Mus'ab stopped in his tracks and whirled around, glaring at the newcomer. His frown only deepened as he recognized the man. "Why are you following me?" he asked, rather curtly.
Not a muscle moved on the younger man's face. "I did not follow you," he replied calmly. "Lord Bakr summoned me and I come."
Mus'ab stared at the man, silently absorbing the information. Lord Bakr had summoned Adnan too? Adnan was the best spy under his lord's command; apart from himself, of course. If they were both needed, then the matter was of unmatched importance.
The two men walked forward, both unwilling to speak more. It was likely that they would be sent on different missions, and each would be forbidden to talk to the other about his task.
The large door opened and Lord Bakr stood before them in all his magnificence. Dressed in fine purple silk and gold, the prince shone like a monument of the old glory, before the times when their honour and prosperity had been ripped away from them. Both Mus'ab and Adnan fell to their knees and bowed low, until their foreheads touched the thick carpet.
"I am pleased that you answered my summons so soon," Bakr said, and his voice was grave. "I fear I heard troubling news this day, my loyal servants. I spoke to the Lord Sauron." Both men, who had now partly risen, bowed their heads in respect at the name. "He has been contacted through the Seeing Stone," Bakr continued.
"Saruman?" Mus'ab whispered knowingly. Very few of the Haradrim serving Lord Sauron were familiar with the strange connection between the two Maiar, but Mus'ab knew of the affairs of state better than any of his kinsmen.
Bakr shook his head. "It seems the other Seeing Stone is no longer in possession of the wizard. Our Lord has been contacted by the Enemy."
"The Enemy?" Mus'ab murmured, confused. The Enemy could only mean Gondor. And Gondor was represented by Denethor, but the Steward had been in possession of a Seeing Stone for a long time. He had been influenced by Sauron, without realizing it, and Mus'ab could not imagine that Denethor was strong enough to stand up to his Lord and call him. No, Lord Bakr was speaking of something else. Or someone else.
"The Enemy," Bakr repeated, this time strangely stressing the words. "Isildur's heir. Long has our Lord suspected that the last of the line of Kings had survived and would one day face him, and now this day has come. The man has revealed himself and openly challenged Sauron."
"Then he must be a fool!" Adnan spat.
Bakr looked at him sternly. "A fool he may be, but the true fools will be us if we do not heed the warning and act quickly."
The words were passing by Mus'ab's mind as if they were mere whispers in the wind. The blood was rushing through his head, leaving him dizzy. Isildur's heir! He knew history well. A long time ago his people had lived in peace of prosperity under the service and protection of Lord Sauron. But one day the peace had been broken. Men of the West had allied themselves with the Elves and had marched to the Black Gate, attacking their master. Unprovoked. They had been the ones who had broken the peace first. They had been the ones who had been unhappy with what they had, and had lusted after more lands and property.
The Lord Sauron had been wise and powerful, and those pitiful fools had had no chance of opposing him. Surely, the battle would have been won easily and the absurd war would have been quickly forgotten, if not for Isildur. Isildur had stolen their master's most powerful weapon, and thus the scales of power had turned.
Harad was never again restored to its former glory. His people were forced to stay in the deserts, and were refused many goods that had been freely accessible to them before. He himself could hardly complain – as one of his lord's best spies, he was given wealth and privileges, but most of his people were not as fortunate. One could survive in the desert, but one could hardly live well. They were not self-sufficient, and there were many goods their own land could never give them. They needed to trade, but their relations with the western lands were poor.
But, worst of all, they were stripped of their dignity. Once it had been an honour to serve under Sauron, and now they were scorned and condemned. And it was all because of one man. A man, whose heir still lived, and just like his ancestor, was planning to come and shatter their peace.
"What do you mean to do?" he asked, stunned.
"There is only one thing that we can do," said Bakr. "Our Lord is powerful, and our victory is indisputable. And yet, we cannot take any unnecessary risks. Isildur's heir cannot be left alive."
Mus'ab felt his heart fill up with pride. His master was planning to assassinate Isildur's heir, and it seemed that he had been chosen for the task. This was an event of historical importance; an event, that could very well decide the victor in this war; an event, that would be portrayed in bards' songs for centuries to come. And he, Mus'ab, was chosen to deal the final blow, to put an end to a line of men, who had caused his people so much suffering. For a moment, he felt all powerful, as if the whole world was in his hands, and all men, orcs and elves were mere pawns for him to play with.
This would bring such unimaginable honour to his house! He would be given a noble's title, and May could one day marry a prince! For a moment, an image of his little girl, grown up and dressed in finest gowns, sitting on a high throne and surrounded by bowing servants, came to his mind, and a great warmth spread through his heart. He had fought for his home for many years, and had accomplished great deeds, deeds that were above most men's abilities. And it would finally all pay back. His skills were recognized, and he was now chosen to accomplish a task, that would change the world and the balance of power forever.
"He was in Rohan, in the Hornburg, when he challenged our master," Bakr continued. "But Lord Sauron believes that Isildur's heir is aware of our plans to attack Minas Tirith, and is now heading there. We cannot know for sure, and this is why I have summoned you both. One of you will travel to Rohan, and the other to Gondor. One of you must find him and kill him."
"Then may I be the one to go to Minas Tirith, my lord?" Mus'ab said quickly.
"Why would you request that?" Bakr asked.
Mus'ab tried to calm himself, fearful that he had shown too much of his excitement. "Because I believe that he will more likely be there."
Bakr smiled at his man's obvious eagerness to complete the task. "Very well. You must leave soon. The road will take you less than a week. If you prepare swiftly and take a horse, you might arrive even before Lord Sauron's troops. But remember one thing – if you arrive before the battle has finished, do not join the fight. Stay aside. You are needed alive for a greater purpose. Our forces are strong and will most likely win, and then they will capture and kill our enemy, but we cannot take any chances. If anything goes wrong, you have to find Isildur's heir after the battle and finish him yourself."
Mixed feelings fought in Mus'ab's heart. Of course, he wanted their forces to achieve an easy victory and to leave no one get away. And yet, in a secret corner of his heart, he hoped that somehow they would fail, and that it would be up to him to destroy their enemy and decide the end of the war. He did not want anyone to steal this duty from him. It was his by all rights. "You do not want him alive, my lord?" he asked. Truth be told, he wished his enemy to suffer and pay for his ancestor's deeds, but if his lord wanted a quick kill, he could do that.
Bakr shook his head. "There is no time for this. Our master wishes to win this war as soon as we can, and he cannot afford himself the luxury to play games. Kill him swiftly and return. There will be great rewards waiting for you when you come back."
Mus'ab smiled. He had been given many missions like this one in the past, and he had never failed.
The door burst open before him, and a little girl rushed forward. Mus'ab knelt and allowed the child to wrap her arms around his neck. "Papa, you are back!" the girl squealed in delight. "What did lord Bakr say?"
The man pulled back and regarded his daughter in amazement. May was growing more beautiful every day. Her hair was long, smooth, and shining like a raven's wing, and her eyes were large and round, and darker than an olive, bathed in sunrays. She was only nine years of age, but she would grow and blossom into a flower, worthy of any prince's court.
Mus'ab sighed, gently caressing the child's hair. His daughter could never marry a prince; not with their family's status. But that would all change after he returned. Nobility in Harad was determined not only by blood ties, but also by great deeds. And after he accomplished the greatest deed of all, May and he would be counted among the noblest ones.
"I fear I have to leave you again, my little princess," he said, and the girl smiled, like every time when he called her that. "But when I return, I will bring us great renown."
"Then go, papa," May said. "Go and make me proud."
The man smiled. His frequent absences saddened the girl, but she never showed it. She always understood the need to go. May was his only family, after his wife had died in childbirth. He had feared that it would be hard for a lone man to raise a child, but lord Bakr had not left his loyal servant fight this battle alone. His good prince had sent maids to help him throughout the years, and even sometimes took the child in his own court when Mus'ab was away on a mission. This was one of the many things that strengthened Mus'ab's love and loyalty to his lord.
The man stood up and walked into the room to prepare his things. He opened a large wardrobe and rummaged inside. The first thing he took out was a wig with long, blond hair. Mus'ab caressed it reverently. It had been made years ago, from the hairs of three unfortunate Rohirrim, who had met an untimely end. If he remembered correctly, one of them had been a woman. Next, he took out two narrow strands of very short, blond hair, each as long as a thumb. A shaving knife, a mirror, a bar of soap, two jars. Then Mus'ab opened the other wing of the wardrobe. Strange clothes lay there, neatly folded and placed on wooden shelves. Mus'ab selected several sets and then moved to the most important part.
On the top shelf stood two rather small bags. One was made of silk, and one of cotton. His fingers traced the silken one almost lovingly. He knew very well each of the items inside.
A dagger. But not any dagger. The blade was masterfully made, and the handle was golden, richly decorated with bright gems, and ornaments made of a Mûmak's trunk. No king deserved to die as a beggar. This was why whenever Mus'ab was sent to slit the throat of someone of noble blood, he used this blade. Many leaders of men had fallen under it. It was a blade worthy to kill a king.
A long string, made of finest, blood-red silk. In spite of what those who knew him believed, Mus'ab did not like to stain his hands with blood. He much preferred to surprise his target from behind, to wind the string around his throat, and to pull it tightly until the victim would slide lifeless to the ground. Clean and quiet, no blood, no sound. Mus'ab imagined the smooth texture of the string under his fingertips. Indeed, a murder that would fit the greatest of leaders.
A small crystal vial. It contained a poison, transparent and odorless, that worked swiftly and painlessly. The victim would die before realizing that something was wrong. Mus'ab smiled. This was surely his preferred way to end one's life.
Which item of the three he would use would depend on the situation. He was a practical man and would always choose one that would work the best. But not every target deserved such an honourable death. In fact, very few did.
In the other bag, Mus'ab carried the same three items, and yet not quite. Again there was a dagger, but it was simple and undecorated, secured in a plain scabbard. There was a string, but it was made of a rough cord. There was a vial, but it was made of glass, and the poison inside killed slowly and painfully, leaving the poor victim no dignity before the end.
Only after meeting Isildur's heir, Mus'ab would decide which of the two bags he would need.
March 14, 3019 T.A.
Mus'ab knew that he would reach the Pelennor fields tonight if he rode hard, but there was no need to hurry. Perhaps Sauron's main forces had not reached Minas Tirith yet, and there was no point in arriving before or even during the battle. He had plenty of time and he would use it well.
The man commanded his horse to stop and dismounted. They had reached a small clearing in the forest, next to a narrow spring. The place was as good as any. Mus'ab tied his steed to a tree and started preparing for the days to come.
First, he took out his dagger and soon strands of long, dark hair started falling on the fresh grass. After he had cut as much as he could, Mus'ab walked to the spring and splashed water onto his head. Then he soaped it carefully and shaved off whatever was left. This was his least liked part of his work, but his hair would grow back, and in this way the wig would fit better.
Oh no, this was not his least liked part. The worst part was only coming. With a groan, Mus'ab took out a small, evil-looking metal device and started carefully plucking out every single hair of his eyebrows. As much as he hated it, it would do him no good to have blond hair and dark eyebrows. His eyes were filled with tears and he sneezed several times before he was done, but soon the last hair was out and he sighed in relief.
Mus'ab looked at his reflection in the mirror and resisted the urge to wince. Every time he did this, he was grateful that there was no one around. He looked ridiculous with no hair at all on his face. Then he opened one of the jars he had brought and started applying pale powder evenly to his face and neck. Thankfully, his complexion was not very dark and could even pass for suntan, but some powder here and there could never hurt. He was from the northern part of his land, or what Gondor liked to call "Near Harad". His lips twisted in contempt as he considered the arrogance of the men of the west. Those fools liked to name everything according to where it was in respect to their own lands, as if they were the very center of Middle-earth! He doubted that any of the man living in the southern parts of his country would call their homes "Far Harad". But it matter not, soon Gondor would pay for all their arrogance.
After he was done with the powder, Mus'ab closed the jar and opened the other one. It contained a strange substance that he had discovered years ago. He applied it to where his eyebrows had been, and then placed on top of it the two strips of short blond hair that he had brought along. They stuck to his face as if they belonged there. After he put on his wig, Mus'ab looked like a true Rohirrim, and he proceeded to dressing as one. As a final touch, he put on his leather gloves to hide the darker skin of his hands. Applying the powder would do no good there since he used his hands a lot, and it was likely to fall off.
And then, the metamorphosis was complete. He was Mus'ab no longer. Now he was Dernwine, son of Fulgrim. Now he was the man, who would assassinate Isildur's heir.
Thanks for reading so far! Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Elladan, Elrohir, and Gandalf will make an appearance in the next chapter. Reviews are greatly appreciated!