AN: I have had a few reviews and PMs saying that this fic is going too quickly and I am afraid to say that was always going to be the case. The main part of this story was always going to be in the period following the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
For those wondering what chapters are new, I have this and the interlude chapter up now in the place of two author notes I had. Thankfully this should be the last of that, from now on updates will be entirely new chapters which should ensure everyone is notified properly.
The fortress of Minas Morgul stood high above them as they approached, its eerie green light spilling around the dark valley which had had its name imparted upon it for the fortress which dominated it. It was not for nothing that men feared the Morgul Vale. Down in a gully by its base were gathered a hundred beings, cramped down close in the cover for fear of being spotted by any of the sentries on the walls above them.
"Captain," one whispered to the man next to him, "we have five minutes before the signal."
The captain nodded, "go prepare the men then, have them make not a sound or else we are all dead!"
The captain turned his eyes in the direction of his commander, or rather where he knew his commander was coming. The plan was simple the captain with his forces would make their way into the fortress by secret via a back gate which the captain had been told about whilst the commander would approach with the majority of their forces from the front. The original plan suggested by the king which would have everyone approaching the main gate and turning on the defenders once they were in had been rejected. Both Castamir and Esus feared that there was too much which could go wrong with such a plan and so Valacar was here as the fall back option.
Valacar was nervous, this was one of his first commands and certainly the biggest. Both Castamir and Harry were considered to be too vital to get the majority of their forces through the gate for either of them to have the command whilst neither of them fully trusted the Easterlings. So it had come that the command would go it Valacar and he was nervous.
He was only a young man, having been in the service of Mordor for less than half a decade and now it was his responsibility to betray it. Should they fail, he thought shivering, his death would be painful and long.
This was not how he had pictured his life going when he was younger. Even at a young age he had not been much of a warrior, not like his brothers, which had served only to earn his father's disgust. Banished to the libraries to practice as a clerk he had found his true talent and been welcomed back into the family fold as a valuable asset, a magic user. His father had instructed him upon his loyalties, to respect the royal family and not those who sought to use them for their own goals, to make it his life's work as his ancestors had before him to see the family restored and to work from within the forces of Mordor to see the demise of Gondor.
That had been more than six years ago and now he found himself in a ditch. His father was dead, executed by the Council of Umbar on minor charges of tax evasion but more importantly for being a servant of the Queen. His two brothers too were gone, one had rebelled following their father's execution and had turned bandit, hunting out those who he deemed as responsible and attacking their trade caravans, looting their country houses and generally terrorising them. It would not be much longer before he was caught and executed for his crimes. His eldest brother had predeceased their father, dying with scores of comrades in a ranger ambush in Ithilien. Finally there was their baby sister, Taradiel, who would now be eighteen although Valacar had not seen her for years.
It was for Taradiel that he had made his decision to stand with Potter on that field outside Osgiliath. Her father and brother's politics had made her a social pariah, her friends had deserted her and her life had been hard. With their family's name tarnished by the actions of his brother and father, Valacar had struggled to find a suitable husband for her, none would take a traitor's daughter. Some had offered purely out of spite to take her as a second wife or even as a concubine, but Valacar knew that Taradiel deserved better than. She was the most perfect lady he knew and deserved to the woman of her own house. Then at Minas Morgul he had met Mincalar and finally he had thought he had met the man who deserved her.
He had introduced the two and watched with pride and love as his sister and his best friend had fallen in love before his eyes. Valacar had watched from his horse as Taradiel gave Mincalar a parting gift of a locket with some of her hair in it and he had pulled some from his own head to give to her. Mincalar still had that locket, Valacar had considered taking it from his body to return to her but saw that even in death he clutched it tightly in his fist. He had left it, thinking that she would want some of her to be buried with him.
The vast majority of their enemies on the side of the men of the West, Valacar thought as he waited for the signal, did they not understand that their enemies lived, loved and lost as they did. The civilians in Minas Tirith and further beyond to the elves told stories of Haradrium ripping new born babes from their mothers' arms and throwing them into the air to be caught on pikes. They threatened their children with tales of Easterlings hiding beneath their bed, who would come out in the night and take them if they were naughty.
There were no such tales told on the front lines. The soldiers of Gondor, Harad and Rhun understood each other too well; they had bled and died together in the same field too many times not too. Captives were treated as well as possible because it was what both sides wished for their own who were unfortunate enough to be captured. Too many times after searching bodies of Gondorians had Valacar found lockets or other such tokens from loved ones, seen the pictures inside and been reminded of his sister.
He was tired of war now, so tired that he almost did not care whether it was the Stewards or the exiled Queen who sat on the throne of Gondor when it finished. So tired that he was willing to forget his vows so his sister and others like her would no longer have to endure this endless war of attrition that was seeing their loved ones no longer returning to them. He wanted it to end, and so he waited for the signal.
Harry was equally nervous as his ragged column approached the gates of Minas Morgul. What would happen if the Eye had been watching when he had made his decision? What if they had a spy among their ranks? Was he leading his men into a trap? Leading them to their deaths?
All through the march he had been plagued with indecision. Deep in his heart he was certain that the Free Peoples had a plan that they themselves believed they would be able to defeat Sauron once and for all, but what if they were wrong? Castamir and the others were not worrying as much about this, they seemed certain that should this occur the Dark Lord would just accept the reissuing of their allegiance and count the issue as little more than a leadership fight within his own ranks. But what if they were wrong, what would they do if he were to take it more seriously?
The armies of Mordor were defeated but by no means vanquished. The contingents of Haradrium, Variags and Easterlings in the Grand Army might have been mostly destroyed but only tens of thousands of orcs were slain when the Dark Lord could call on hundreds of thousands. With their population being as numerous as the grains of sand then no matter how many of the Men of the West survived the forces of Mordor would still outnumber them.
There must be a plan, there was no other reason for them to be advancing on the Black Gate as they were without one. The Ring, that most precious item, must be nearing Mount Doom and final destruction of Sauron.
Unsurprisingly the gate remained shut as Harry and his men approached, there was too much danger of a Gondorian counterattack for the guards not to be alert. It was not until they were almost at the base of those mighty gates that there came a hailing shout from above.
"Who comes to the gates of the City of Sorcery?" a human voice sounded from a portal above.
Harry craned his neck to look up in the direction of the slightly hostile greeting. There was a slight shadowy figure in one of the high windows but Harry could make out no more sign of habitation than that.
"It is I, Harry Lieutenant of Dol Guldur," he shouted, "open the gates, I have returned and brought what men I could from the ruin in Gondor!"
The shadow disappeared and moments later the great gates started to open ponderously, smoke issuing from the mouth that was revealed like some sort of cheap muggle play. Kicking his horse forward Harry and his company began to make their way through the long passageway that marked the entrance to the fortress.
Around half way in they came to the guard post and Harry called a halt and waited for the guard to appear. He hoped the man would be able to provide him the information he needed. It took a moment longer for the man to appear and Harry was unsurprised to see that the state of the guards who had remained behind was being effected by the news from the West. The guard himself was unshaven and his armour had clearly not been punished as in days previously they would have been. A poor state of morale effected the defenders he supposed.
"More stragglers from Minas Tirith?" the guard half asked.
Harry nodded, "how many have come through already?"
"We've had thousands of orcs," the guard grunted, "but they've all headed back to Cirith Ungol. Apart from that Murad brought back a few hundred Easterlings and a few Haradrium, but precious few. Most now lie on the fields of Pelennor."
"Murad's survived?" Harry said alarmed.
"Yeah," the guard nodded, "came in around a day or so ago, had ridden like hell straight from across the river. He's up in the citadel now, I will send word that you have returned."
"No need," Harry said quickly, "I will go straight to him and report as soon as I get in!"
The guard shrugged, "as you wish!"
Things had just got a whole lot harder. Murad presented a problem as he would rally the defenders around him. Harry had hoped that he would be able to waltz in and take control of the fortress as the most senior surviving remaining member of the garrison but Murad outranked him and now that was no likely to happen.
Fortunately Harry and Castamir had planned for this eventuality that someone of rank had already taken up residence and was unwilling to let go of their newfound position. This was where Valacar came in. Waiting until the guard was not focused on him Harry gave Castamir a distinct nod, a signal that was passed right the way down the line to the back which was still outside the outer gate. Harry watched until he saw the sign that it had reached the back as the tail man dismounted and made his way over to the edge of the road, seemingly to empty his bladder but instead giving a signal to Valacar and his men.
The signal had been given and Valacar had motioned his men forward. The twenty men scampered up the slope at as quick pace as they could manage. It took them only a matter of seconds before they were all flush against the wall, Valacar breathed a sigh of relief that was them out of sight from any sentries on the wall top.
All fortresses tended to have small sally ports, gates from which the defenders could go forth to surprise any besiegers. It was this gate that Valacar had placed in charge of taking. Tapping each man in the shoulder Valacar nodded in the direction of the gate and the small group crept along the wall to the gate. As they crowded around the gate, Valacar knelt down and putting his eye to the gap between the huge oak doors, looking the locking mechanism. Sure enough Harry spotted it, a huge piece of wood that acting as a bar.
He motioned forward one of his company who took his place kneeling down in front of the door. Haltron had been among the best thieves and pickpockets in Umbar before he had been caught and now he was using his talents for a very different purpose. Using a small thin lever which he slipped between the gap in the wooden boards that made up the door, the ex-convict slowly eased it up.
The heavy wooden bar inched upwards, freeing itself from its brackets. Valacar had a bit of a fright when the block seemed to disappear from his sight and for a moment he thought it might have fallen to the floor but Haltron never really had any difficulty.
"Carefully does it," the captain murmured to the thief.
Sweat trickled down Haltron's brow despite the cool night's air as he fought hard to maintain control of an object which he could not see and set it down noiselessly on the ground. The slightest noise and the defenders would be able to turn the gate area into a massacre. Therefore the whole company let out the smallest sighs of relief that they could when the thief allowed the block to slide down to the ground with the quietest of thuds.
Valacar nodded and two more of the company produced oil, which was poured on the hinges to quieten them before the door was inched open wide enough to allow the infiltrators in enter. Once inside they hurried in the direction of the inner gatehouse, the one that led into the citadel itself. Castamir had been afraid that should they be forced to use force to gain entry through the first gate then the defenders could just easily shut the second.
Stopping again near the edge of the tunnel Valacar glanced around the courtyard and was relieved to see that there were nobody in sight, indeed the whole city itself seemed deserted which was perhaps not surprising considering the vast majority of its inhabitants now lay dead on Pelonner Field. Glancing in the direction of the main gate the Black Númenórean was relieved to see that there was no sign of a fight which would hopefully mean that there would no need for them to intervene. He had no wish to hurt let alone kill any of his former colleagues who were still here. Breaking out into a run, he led his men through the city in the direction of the second gates.
As they reached this the inner gate he sent more men into the gatehouse itself to raise the portcullis and incapacitate any defenders they found. Within moments the massive grid of iron and wood begun to lift and the infiltrators ducked underneath it. There was no need to use magic to lift this bar and the gate was thrown open allowing Valacar to step outside and throw the signal, a torch with added chemicals so that it burnt with a large purple flame.
Almost immediately he could see a more discreet signal involving the dipping of banners from those still at the main gate. He breathed a sigh of relief as this was his work done now, the inner gate was secured which meant there was nothing in between Harry and controlling the fortress. Or at least nothing that he was aware of.
The purple light attracted Harry's attention and he breathed a sigh of relief. Though he had not been forced to fight his way through this first gate, the guards on the gate had told him that their orders were that any stragglers from the defeat before the walls of the white city should return to their billets without the inner wall. In other words if Castamir had not foreseen to advise Harry on the capture of the Inner Gate then Harry would have been without the vast majority of his men for the assault on the Inner Keep.
This order of Murad's did have its advantages though, for if the vast majority of the garrison were outside the Inner Gates then Harry could just march his men through them and then shut them behind him, thereby locking out most of the city's defenders.
Harry led his men up the road towards the Inner Gate, hoping his own apprehension would not infect his men. He needed them at their best. The young wizard was met by Valacar, who hurried out from the gate to come level with him.
"The Inner Gate is yours, my lord," he said, "but I have news Murad is….."
"Yes alive, I know," Harry interrupted.
Valacar nodded and made his way back to the gate, he would have to hold it no matter what came. Looking back Harry could already see movement around the outer gate, no doubt they had seen that he clearly had no plan of leaving his army in the outer courtyard and so had an idea what his plan was. That added time pressure, he had no idea what measures Murad might have introduced to give himself advance warning of a coup such as this.
"Everyone through the gates now!" Harry ordered, "Move!"
His men broke into a run covering the last ten metres to the gate at a run and spilling through them, racing in the direction of the Keep. Securing the Keep would secure the fortress for Harry and the quicker he got there than the less time Murad would have to rally the defence.
Spurring their horses forward, Harry and those who possessed them made broke into a canter making for the base of the Keep. Now it would be room to room fighting to secure the place. Harry and his cavalry dismounted at the bottom, hurtling themselves up the steps and burst open the door. They fell on the defenders with spear handles and sword pommels, aiming to stun as opposed to kill. Those however who offered still opposition were quickly dispatched by the steel of their blades. Harry used his new staff as a spear, alternating between smashing his opponents with it and blasting them against the walls.
By now those on foot had caught up and the surge of friendly bodies pushed them deeper and deeper into the keep.
*******The Kingdom's Rising**********
The keep was his, the few defenders that there were offered little resistance. Most surrendered in bewilderment as those that had been their friends and allies now attacked them. Harry, keen not to cause any more future tension that was necessary, ordered that any who offered to surrender be allowed to. Nevertheless there were some that fought to the bitter end.
In all the fights however there was no sign of Murad and that worried Harry. He did not underestimate his opponent and knew that his appearance could be enough to turn the course of the attack. As they neared the upper levels of the keep Harry made his decision. If Murad would not come to him, Harry would have to go to him. Though he was not going to go alone.
Tapping two Easterling warriors on the shoulder Harry ordered them to follow him, it was always good to have a couple of melee soldiers present to support the spellcasters. After around five minutes of looking Harry eventually found Shagur fighting a handful of Black Númenórean sorcerers alongside one of his countrymen. With the arrival of Harry and his contingent they were quickly overwhelmed and Harry beckoned the grim looking Shagar to follow him, the Haradrium knew exactly what needed to be done and was pleased at the prospect. Harry leading, the five of them headed in the direction of Murad's quarters.
The group came to the massive iron wrought door when a degree of hesitancy hit them, stalling their approach. Behind this door they knew was one of the most powerful and cunning sorcerers that Mordor had at its service. The massive door knob, shaped in the image of a curled serpent, seemed to mock them and their cowardice with its forked tongue protruding from its mouth in a scornful smile.
Harry knew he should be leading these men of his through that door to whatever fate lay for them beyond, but his muscles seem to freeze even as his subconscious screamed at him to turn and run. He did not know what it was whether some alien magic tied to the door itself or rather his own fear that was preventing him from doing what he knew he must.
"By the spirits," Shagar cursed.
The sorcerer marched forward, seemingly unaffected by the same terror that gripped his companions, though if his hands could be seen to shake with something that was not excitement as they touched the cold iron of the snake's head. With a push he opened the door and the five slowly made their way into the room, looking around cautiously for any sign of an impending ambush.
It was the old reception room with its large windows that let very little light in and its jet black walls. All the furniture however had been pushed to the edges, leaving a large killing area in the centre of the room. The cold marble floor with its large black and white tiles seem to sap all the heat from the room and for Harry and his companions it seemed as if their breath was freezing upon leaving their mouths. They formed a circle in the centre of this cleared area, all of them with their backs to the centre of the circle to look out for any impending attack.
"I wondered when you would be here!" a voice said mildly from above, startling them.
They spun around to see Murad himself standing above them on a balcony overlooking their little party below him. He was, as was his custom, clad entirely in black; the gold twirled snake clasp that held on his thick black cloak was the only form of decoration that he wore.
"So this is how the Haradrium react to defeat," Murad said coolly, "like a pack of rabid dogs they turn on each other and rip themselves apart."
"And how do you react to defeat?" Shagar said, trying to aggravate the Lieutenant, "after all you've just been outwitted and outplayed by those 'rapid dogs'. Are you going to through a strop, a little tantrum?"
Murad just casually raised an eyebrow at this attempt to get a rise out of him, before stepping up onto the stone edge of the balcony and letting himself fall forwards. The Black Númenórean's body twisted forward as he executed a perfect roll, his robes and cloak billowing around him as he dropped that ten metres from the balcony. There was the barest sound as his leather boots hit the ground, his knees bending to absorb the impact. This casual use of magic further unnerved those facing him.
Nobody had ever seen Murad fight. It had always been a topic of discussion among those in the service of the Dark Tower about how good a fighter he was. It was remarkable that in a society where the strongest ruled and hierarchy was decided by a man's fighting reputation, Murad had managed to position himself at the top without so much as a single person having witnessed the Black Númenórean fight one of his own fights.
Some declared this to be a mark of his own cowardice, they believed that Murad never got his own hands dirty preferring instead to use someone else's or else a more subtle approach of eliminating his opponents. Most however did not underestimate the Black Sorcerer so badly, fearing his anger and knowing that if nobody had ever seen him fight that was because he had never allowed anyone who had seen survive to tell the tale.
"So whose first?"
The coolness of his voice was succeeding in unnerving everyone, for even though Harry and his forces were in control of almost of the entire city it made them feel as if it was actually Murad who was in control of the situation and that he had got them exactly where he wanted them.
"Ahhh!" the Haradrium released his warcry as he charged his former superior.
He got within ten paces of the Black Númenórean before he lowered his staff and released a jet of red hot flame over his target. The heat was unbearable so much so that the man was forced to raise a hand to shield his eyes. The flames that were engulfing their target but not burning it, for Murad had dropped behind his cloak raising it as a shield. Clearly the cloak had been enchanted to provide protection against such magic.
Seeing his approach was not working the Haradrium spellcaster immediately ended his spell and prepared for another but before he could do anything Murad had moved. As soon as he had sensed the last of the flames flicker out the Lieutenant had smoothly uncurled himself from his protective ball and as he twisted himself up into a standing position he threw his arm out wide.
The slight glistening was all the warning there was before Murad's dagger buried itself into the throat of the Haradrium. Silence reigned as the man dropped his staff which fell to the floor with a barely noticeable clatter and raised his hands to his ruined neck, desperately against hope trying to stem the flow of blood that spurted from around the weapon buried there. Harry and Shagar stood with their own staffs pointing at their former commander but not moving, the Easterlings too that had accompanied them stood stock still, the pale light reflecting of their own blades.
The dying man issued a slight gurgle before he dropped to his knees, his face a picture of confusion as if he was unable to understand what was happening to him. Calmly as could be Murad walked forward and drew the knife out, slicing the Haradrium's throat further open. With a thump the body finally slumped sideways to the floor, leaving his killer standing over his body bearing the bloody knife.
The noise, or perhaps the sight, of the body hitting the floor seemed to stir the fallen man's companions. Harry raised his staff, reading to unleash a blast of energy at Murad but before he could his line of fire was blocked as the two Easterlings charged forward. The one armed with the halberd stabbed at the Lieutenant while his friend launched a vicious simultaneous hack with his sword. Murad's movements were as water as he first avoided the pike thrust, before twirling in past its blade avoiding the other Easterling's sword as he did so by bending back until his back was almost horizontal.
A sharp snap followed as Murad broke the first Easterling's pike in two, catching the broken end before it hit the ground and reversing it, drove the point straight through the gap between its owner's breastplate and his helmet so that the tip came out the back of his neck. Then almost with the same movement, a causal flick of his hand send such a beam of energy at the remaining Easterling that it caved in his breastplate, crushing the chest beneath and sending the instantly dead body flying across the room.
Once more silence rained as Harry and Shagar looked on in shock at the ease with which Murad had disposed of their companions. Their shock was quickly replaced by alertness and they once more raised their staffs, carefully circling them awaiting for the Black Númenórean to make his move. Their enemy made to sign that he was aware they were there as he casually cleaned his dagger before slipping it back under his robes. Harry meanwhile had switched to his still broken wand, deciding that if he was going to survive this he would need the greater varieties of attack his wand offered him instead of Saruman's staff, the use of which he had yet to fully master.
Murad made his way into the centre of the room, Harry and Shagar circling him looking for an opening. Quietly and carefully the Black Númenórean drew a long thin blade and shrugged off his heavy cloak, allowing it to fall to the ground. Beneath he wore his usual black, but even Harry could see that this was no ordinary clothes. Black leather, scaled in areas from some beast that haunted some of the remote parts of Mordor no doubt, but nevertheless provided good protection whilst not compromising mobility and agility. In other words the perfect set of armour for someone such as Murad.
Harry moved first sending a stream of lesser spells, cutting and stunning spells mainly, at his former commander as he tested his defences. Murad brushed those away with impunity, either blocking them or avoiding them entirely. Shagar meanwhile had fallen back slightly and was muttering under his breath, clasping a spirit broach in his hands, obvious deep in a great summoning whilst using Harry as a shield and distraction against their opponent.
Harry and Murad spent a couple of minutes exchanging flurries of spells, causing only minor damage such as lesser cuts, concussions and bruises. Already Harry was coming worse off, he was being stretched to his limits to even effect his opponent whereas the Black Númenórean seemed at total ease. It was not for nothing that this man had dominated the forces of Mordor for years.
Then quick as a snake Murad unleashed a bolt of black fire which leapt at Shagar, causing Harry to curse himself as he realised that Murad's attacks had been specifically aimed at forcing Harry away for his companion, separating the two of them. The young wizard moving quickly to form a protective shield for the sorcerer, realised his mistake. Murad's aim had not just been to force them apart, but to force Harry to open his own guard when he moved to defend Shagar.
For a moment that guard was open but Murad caught it, blasting Harry off his feet and sending him flying through the air, finally crashing hard against the hard granite wall. He fell hard down on the furniture that had been pushed against the wall, his check opened by the ragged edge of a table. Winded he was unable to get back up to his feet, forced instead to watch the scene before him.
Shagar was obviously nearing the end of his spell, as dark, horribly black smoke poured from the locket and begun to condense into a cloud hovering a couple of foot in the air, swirling round and round like a small tornado. However when Shagar opened his eyes they widened with horror, something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.
He was not the only one who was worried, Murad had reacted to this storm of black mist by launching everything he could at it but to no avail as it just swallowed everything up or else spat it out at speeds far faster than it had gone in at. Spells just seemed to dissipate in the cloud of black smoke whilst Murad's knife just rebounded and flew across the room.
No spells were flying now as both Harry and Murad had stopped their own fight and were watching the summoning with extreme caution, as for all its power there was something extremely unpredictable about sorcery. Unpredictability that was soon realised as all three of the watchers, the summoner included, took in the sight of the suit of black armour beginning to form in the mist.
A spirit warrior.
To all but the most widely read, these apparitions were considered to be all but a legend, a myth to scare the young and inexperienced to keep them from doing something a summoning more powerful than they were able to control, but forming there in front of them was living proof. Spirit warriors, some said they came from the souls of cursed warriors, men fated to walk the earth until the day of final judgement, others said they were the spirit of the world, coming to judge mankind for its sins.
Their summonings were almost always mistakes, for none truly wished to summon a spirit warrior, a creature that was infamous for being impossible to control and almost always turned on its summoner, thereby claiming the first of its victims. Rampages and slaughters were the hallmarks of a spirit warrior summoning, almost none were without them. The few that were ever called on purposefully were by those sorcerers about to die or who had nothing left to live for and wanted to take down as many of their enemies had possible. More often however it was a mistake as either the summoner tried a spell too difficult for him or he failed to pay proper respect and attention to the spirits he was summoning.
Beside Harry Murad was desperately building up a huge ball of something that looked extremely dark. The younger wizard did not get what his commander was planning to do, a mere spell would not be enough to kill the spirit warrior. Then he saw, it a spell would not be enough, but the death of the summoner would weaken it enough so that it could be easily finished off.
Harry desperately tried to make the decision, should he leap in and save his friend from being blown apart or else should be not and so allow the defeat of the hellish creation that had been summoned. Harry made his decision, rolling down from the pile of furniture, hobbling to his feet and lurching across the floor.
Leaning down he grasped Murad's knife from where it had fallen after Murad had attempted to throw it at the spirit warrior, and leaping on his commander's back he stabbed it once, twice and then thrice into the Black Númenórean's back. Blood gushed from the wounds, soaking into Harry's clothing and staining his hands with the dark red liquid. Murad gargled as the blood filled his mouth.
"The prophecy," he moaned, "the prophecy!"
An agonised scream caught Harry's attention and brought it back from his hands as he saw the spirit warrior wrench its dark black blade from out of Shagar's stomach, the man's intestines already visible as they began to fall out.
"NOOOO!" Harry screamed as he dashed forward, desperate to do something, anything that would stop what was happening.
A cold iron fist smashed into his face almost before he moved as the heavily armoured figure covered the ten metres between them in almost a blink of an eye. Harry felt pain spreading through his body as his body collapsed under him from the strength of the blow. His head reeling, it was all Harry was able to do to keep himself upright for a couple of seconds before he fell, his head hitting the ground with a sickening crunch.
Then as he lay there trying to recover he felt a cold armoured hand grip him by the throat and haul him up into the air. The young wizard found himself looking through the visor of a helmet of cold steel into red eyes that seemed to burn of ice and fire at the same time. Their eyes met only for a moment before Harry was raised up and then slammed back down onto the hard stone floor with speed, every bone in his body seemed to ache with the impact.
Harry felt himself going as the cold iron fist slowly squeezed the life out of him. His own fists beat useless on his attackers back, their blows going unheeded by the red eyes that glared through their visor into Harry's.
Then he accepted it, Harry accepted that he was going to die. There was nothing he could do about it and now he had accepted it there was nothing he wanted to do about, he was not going to go down flailing his arms around like a windmill instead he would die with dignity. His blows stopped and Harry glared back with all the effort he had been putting into defending himself. Red eyes met emerald green, as the two began a battle of will as Harry had his life choked out of him.
Suddenly everything went black except for the two eyes in front of him. Something seemed to hit Harry in the face, something that felt like a flood. But it was no water that was engulfing him, but emotions, that flood of emotions that only those who were mad were truly able to endure all at the same time. Anger, rage, hatred, pain and self-loathing all hit Harry as the flood poured out from behind those red eyes.
He felt the beings anger and rage at being trapped in this frail body, he felt its pain as it bonds bound the spirit to the armour and as it was forced to do what its summoner commanded. The young wizard felt the spirit's anger at the world for allowing its creation and its envy at their freedom for even a captive in the deepest, most secure prisons still owned its soul. Then there was the self-loathing, the ultimate insecurity and hatred at the its own perceived weakness as it proved too weak to resist the summoner's call, too weak to be able to prevent its imprisonment and too weak to escape now it was trapped.
Then there came the memories, memories of a time before it had been trapped in this metal cage when it had been free to do the things it had wanted to, when it had floated through the air as free as it was possible to be. Those memories only served to increase the spirit's misery and suffering as it remembered what it had once had.
Harry knew he was quickly becoming endorsed and ensnared by the memories of the spirit, as he experienced things that no human had ever seen or done. But he had to get away, already the young wizard could feel the icy grip of something on his mind that seemed to signal his end. Before he was going though he made one last attempt to escape, to get himself away from the mind of the spirit so that he could die with his conscience in his own body. He pushed away as hard as he could, pushing his conscience against that of the one that dwelt behind the red eyes, desperate to free himself so that he could rescue his body from having the life torn from it.
The cold fingers of the spirit warrior were still closed around Harry's neck but the wizard had some strength which before he felt that he was lacking. He seized his opponent's arms, pulling them away from his throat. There was little resistance from the spirit and Harry watched as it collapsed onto the ground, unmoving and utterly motionless, defeated not through strength of body but rather by strength of mind and will.
Harry sat up, rubbing his red neck where bruises were almost certain to show and looked around the ornate room. Furniture was scattered around the room which was showing spell damage from the magical duel that had been fought over the last hour. Around the room were scattered the various bodies of the participants; Murad lying with his own knife still protruding from his back and beyond lay the bodies of the three of Harry's men the Black Numenorean had so causally slaughtered. Eventually Harry's fading sight fell on the body of Shagar and he began to crawl over to where it lay, unable to muster the strength to pull himself to his feet. Touching the body he felt the warm from it and the old sorcerer stirred slightly and opened his eyes.
"Harry," he croaked, "I am sorry. I didn't mean to summon one, something took control and created the spirit warrior. You must believe me, I know better than to summon one of them."
The other wizard smiled sadly, "I believe you, little good though it will do be."
"Murad?" Shagar asked questioningly.
"I killed him," Harry admitted, "stabbed him in the back with his own dagger."
Shagar sighed, "it was only going to end that way, as soon as we found out he had survived the massacre at Minas Tirith. We were lucky I suppose, lucky to beat him. There were times there I thought we were doomed…." He coughed hacking, blood splattering Harry's face, "please tell nobody I failed, it is not the last thing I wish to be remembered for."
"Arrogant as ever," Harry said, attempting the humour, "always concerned about your ever so important reputation."
Shagar tried to smile but only grimaced, "our reputation is all we leave behind on the earth, for those of us without children it is our legacy. I always try to maintain my legacy. But before I go I require one more favour…"
The sorcerer left what he was saying unfinished, not that he had any need to as Harry knew what that favour was, one often imparted to those who were badly wounded on the battlefield. The mercy of a clean death. A clean and quick death was what Shagar got as Harry slid his knife between his ribs, thrusting straight into his mentor's heart, killing him instantly. Harry held Shagur and wept, crying at his own failure. The Haradrium sorcerer had only followed because he dreamt of a home he would never see again.
"Farewell, Shagar the Mighty," Harry said sadly, mourning the loss of one of the few friends he had in this world.
*******The Kingdom's Rising**********
What seemed like hours later Harry got to his feet, his joints aching and his limbs stiff from the time he had been on his knees. He needed to get down the stairs and see what was happening. His disappearance would worry those that remained, as leaderless they would be dreading Murad's survival and his inevitable revenge. Revenge that thankfully now would no longer come.
Suddenly there was a clanking sound and Harry's eyes widen in terror as the unholy contraption of iron and spirit rose unsteadily to its feet, standing in between Harry and the only exit from the platform. There was little chance that Harry would be able to beat the spirit warrior on his own in his current state, especially not without any support from a sorcerer. He needed to get down the stairs and rally as many of them as possible before they moved to counter the spirit warrior. The iron clad figure clenched and then unclenched his fingers as if feeling something new.
"What is this?" it hissed, raising its arms up to its head, "me feels!"
Harry froze, wondering whether it had just been his imagination or whether the thing had actually spoken.
"You speak?" Harry asked, cautiously, "what is your name?"
"I am Harry James Potter of Privet Drive, Surrey," the spirit warrior said, before hissing confused, "no's me is Athyanal, spirit of the ash plains."
The spirit warrior looked up and Harry gasped in shock as he looked into the previously red eyes, now flecked with sparks of a familiar emerald green. The young wizard unconsciously took half a step back in shock, he knew what this was of course, it had been one of Snape's favourite ways of torturing him during their occlumency lessons. Imprinting; a danger when legilimency was preformed by a careless or poor practitioner of the art, where the practitioner leaves an imprint of his conscious on that of his victim. Such an imprint can act as a total or partial overwrite of the brain and thus the person, which could be used to get rid of a particular trait or characteristic. Snape had threatened to be purposefully careless with him and thus wipe out everything of James Potter from his mind.
Now he had done it, accidentally through his lack of knowledge imprinted on the spirit. To make matters worse was he had not done it properly either, only replacing part of the spirit leaving the more thing confused, not knowing whether it was human or spirit. Harry knew that slowly its control over the language would improve as Harry's memories began to soak in. Yet as he thought about this Harry knew that he shouldn't kill the spirit, that he should try to help it. Not because of some moral but rather because to all extents and purposes the spirit was him; it had all his memories, all his darkest fears had become its own, the only thing it was lacking was its body and even then it had one of its own.
"I can help you," Harry said softly, pitying the wretched figure before him, "I can help you understand, if you give me the chance."
Harry wanted to help, he too had come to a place where he was totally and utterly lost only to have someone take him under their wing and teach him. For him that person had been Shagar. Now the spirit was experiencing emotions that none of its kind had ever felt before and it needed someone to help, and that person was going to be Harry. He could not help but feel responsible for what had happened to it, he remembered how much he had feared Snape doing the same to him and so he knew that he should help.
"I wants to understand," the spirit said seeming to be arguing with the two personalities inside its head, before nodding, "I's will give you the chance!
AN: I might seem to be pushing this a little but the idea of the men on both sides hating each other was never one I could understand. The best way of thinking of it in my mind was like WW1 where propaganda on both sides demonising each other to those at home, but for those at the front they were all too aware how human the other side was.
I was very close to axing the spirit warrior, but remembering how much people liked him last time round and how much I liked him as a potential fun character I decided to keep him. So as we leave it, Harry has taken Minas Morgul but