Hostage of Hate
A/N--Ok, everyone, new story here. This is a sequel to Dark Horizons, although I believe you will be able to read it whether or not you have ever read my other story before. I will, of course, be using some characters that were introduced in Dark Horizons, but the plot line is COMPLETELY different, and I believe it will be rather easy to figure out who everyone is. And yes, Malek is dead, so don't worry about him coming back into the story! (thank goodness) The only reason this is a sequel is because I wanted to use some of the original characters in Dark Horizons. So, keep an eye out for Shandarell, Kenson, Dar, and maybe a couple of other new characters! And for those of you who haven't read my other stories, I will place a cast of unknown characters at the beginning of any chapter they make an appearance. Hope that makes things easier. Enjoy
Summary: A man full of hatred and bent on revenge is after Aragorn, and will stop at nothing to see the king of Gondor completely destroyed. Features Legolas, Gimli, and of course, Aragorn. Takes place six years after Dark Horizons, approximately seven years after ROTK.
Disclaimer: All of Middle Earth and the characters therein belong to J.R.R. Tolkien, and I am using them only for my own warped sense of amusement.
Chapter 1 Messages in the night
Night lay deep and heavy over the jagged peaks of the Ephel Duath, and the mountains seemed to absorb the darkness, cloaked mysteriously in the black shadows that gave them their name. Even the moon's bright glow seemed unable to cut through the foreboding blanket surrounding them, and an unnatural silence hung heavy in the air.
The long chain of the Ephal Duath ran for many miles, skirting the boundaries between Mordor and Gondor, before turning a nearly ninety degree angle and running almost directly east, their shadows now lying heavily across lands that were less inhabited and much less hospitable.
A narrow and winding trail cut through this land, running east parallel to the mountains, its dusty path nearly overgrown in many areas. It was obvious that this trail was not heavily used by man or beast, and in several places it threatened to completely disappear, with no creatures to mourn or even notice its loss. None looking at its desolate ruins would believe that it had once been a great road leading from the country of Gondor to that of Khand. Yet all of its glory had faded centuries before, and now it stood only as a quickly vanishing reminder of times long past.
However, this dark night the road was finding use once again as a heavily cloaked figure on a tall horse moved down the dusty trail. The muted fall of horse's hooves on the overgrown path echoed in a steady rhythm that, instead of subtracting from the eerie silence of the night, seemed only to magnify it. The horse's gait was steady, but slow, the creature's proud neck hanging low with weariness. Likewise, the rider sat hunched and bent over the horse's withers, his stooped shoulders portraying his weariness, and the dust staining his cloak telling of several long days of travel.
In truth, Fenton Orb had been traveling for several long weeks, not merely days, and he was more than anxious to reach his destination. He had left the borders of Gondor many days back, and expected to reach the Khand city of Norvil this very night. He was drawing close, and this knowledge combined with the importance of his mission urged him on when other travelers would have opted--for safety reasons--to pull over and camp the night through. The wild lands around Norvil were anything but safe, and a lone traveler at night was open prey to brigands or any number of the wild, predatory animals that marked this region. Still, he pressed onward, his eyes straining forward to catch the first glimpse of lights in the distance that would mark the city and the end to his long road.
His horse suddenly snorted, tossing his head and laying back his ears, his wide nostrils flaring. Fenton unconsciously tensed, his right hand closing tightly around the hilt of his sword. A long and mournful howl suddenly sounded somewhere to the right of the road, the sound rising into the night and echoing eerily from the surrounding hills. He let out a low and nervous chuckle, releasing his grip on his sword hilt and scanning the brush on either side of the road.
"Just a lone wolf out on a hunt," he whispered softly to himself.
As if in answer, another howl split through the night, this time coming from his left and followed quickly by two more somewhere behind him on the path. His horse let out a shrill whinny, shying to the side and tossing his head in fear.
Glancing all around him nervously, he quickly kicked his horse into a trot. The frightened animal complied easily enough and would have gone faster, despite his weariness, if Fenton hadn't kept a firm check on the reigns. Many times before had he come across half devoured carcasses of horse and rider brought down by a pack of hungry wolves, and he had no bow with which to fight the beasts if they should attack.
They sped around a slight bend in the road, breaking free of the dense copse of trees, and suddenly the bright lights of Norvil shone before them atop a small rise. He released a deep sigh of relief and allowed his horse to slow its pace, listening as the howls of the wolves slowly dropped away behind them.
Lather covered his horses neck and sides, and the animal's flanks heaved with the force of his breaths, but at least they were alive. And Norvil was only a few hundred yards before them.
The city lay sprawled lazily over the crest of the small rise, its motley collection of houses and haphazard streets giving it the appearance of any other normal city of its size. Yet Norvil was not normal by any definition of the word. It presence within the shadows of the Ephal Duath lent it a dark and somewhat ominous atmosphere. It was a city of rogues, a home for the homeless, and a place where thieves and cutthroats found themselves in positions of power. During the day, the city lay quiet and subdued, appearing even peaceful. Yet come night, everything changed, for it was the activities that went on in the dark hours that truly shaped and defined Norvil. During the night, the city was a writhing pit of corruption and depravity. It was when the streets truly came alive, ringing with the noise of many taverns, the shouts of drunken men, the cheers coming from the pit fights, and the occasional scream as a dagger in the dark found its mark. It was a time when laws were made for the sole purpose of breaking them, and the only rule was to not get caught.
Strangely enough, Fenton felt himself relaxing as he entered the narrow streets of the city. Norvil was his home, and he had actually missed the place quite fiercely during his several months away. He knew each street, each tavern, and every dark alley within the city, as well as the places to avoid at all cost. He had survived within this city for over a decade, and there was no other place in all of Middle Earth that he preferred.
He made his way down the narrow streets, his cloak pulled close and his eyes carefully observing all his surroundings. He thought the streets strangely deserted, yet quickly understood the reason when loud shouts and yells echoed up to him from further within the city.
'There must be a pit fight tonight,' He thought idly, tilting his head to one side and listening carefully. 'I wonder what new champions have arisen in Norvil since my departure?'
He was half tempted to turn his horse from his present course and go and find out, but he quickly reminded himself of his task and the reason behind his long absence from Norvil. He had a job to complete, and already he was running late. His employer was not a patient man, and he had no desire to keep him waiting any longer than necessary.
A sudden movement to his left caught the corner of his eye, and he turned quickly in the saddle just as a small group of young boys wandered out of a nearby alley. They gathered at the entrance, watching him with narrowed eyes, and whispering back and forth amongst themselves. Fenton let his right hand stray to the hilt of his sword, while his left moved up to pull the iron-head pendant identifying him as a prominent member of the second thieves guild free from his tunic. The pendant was stolen, taken from the body of a young and cocky brat who had dared to challenge him several months earlier, but he knew that it offered him even more protection than the sword currently strapped to his hip.
The group of boys continued to watch him as he rode by, but they made no move toward him, and he could see the slight glimmer of respect on their faces. He smiled slightly and slipped the pendant back under his tunic. Normally, upon first entering the city, he would have left his horse hidden somewhere and made his way through Norvil on foot, using the back streets and alleys to mask his passage and thus avoid any unwanted attention. However, that would take time, and time was not something he had in abundance. He was anxious to get this task over and done with. Already it had occupied far too much of his time.
Moving quickly and silently through the narrow maze of streets, it did not take him long to reach his destination; a small alley cutting between two high buildings. He slipped from his horse, pulling his gear from the animals' back before loosely looping the reigns around a nearby post, then made his cautious way forward into the dark and narrow passageway. He had little doubt that the horse would be gone when he returned, yet it mattered little to him. With the payment he was about to receive, he could buy ten new horses to replace the beast.
He moved forward swiftly, yet cautiously, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light and carefully studying each shadow he passed. He could feel eyes on him as he moved forward, yet he strode onward with the confidence of one who knew he was in safe territory. At the end of the alley, the dark shadow of a squat building loomed before him, the windows boarded and no light escaping from within. This building looked like any other of the numerous abandoned buildings throughout the city, but he never paused nor wavered in his course as he approached the large structure. Two beggars lay sprawled out on either side of the heavy iron door, piles of trash and refuse littered around them. They glanced casually toward him, then looked away, paying him no more heed. For his part, Fenton ignored them just as much, striding between them and up to the large door. He raised his fist and then tapped out the signal, three light taps, followed by two heavy, pause, then five more light taps. The metal door swung inward soundlessly, and he quickly and quietly slipped inside.
He found himself standing at the end of a long, dimly lit corridor, many doors branching off on either side of him and a single stairway leading up at the far end of the hall. Moving forward with the confidence of one who was familiar with his surroundings, he strode down the corridor and up the stairs, following their winding flight until he came to a single, unadorned door. There, he stopped and sucked in a deep breath, preparing himself for the meeting ahead. Slowly, he raised his fist and knocked gently.
"Come," a deep voice commanded from within, and with a final steadying breath, he pushed the door open and entered the room.
He had to blink his eyes several times to adjust them to the sudden bright light within the room, but when his vision at last returned to him, his gaze immediately went to the large, ornate desk situated at the far end of the room, or more particularly, to the large man sitting behind the desk. Unconsciously, he found himself straightening and furtively brushing at the travel stains that had accumulated on his cloak and tunic.
"You are late."
The man spoke in a calm voice, but with a cold edge to it that caused Fenton to shift nervously where he stood.
"It could not be helped, master Servius," he replied quickly, trying to keep his voice steady and confident. He hated these meetings with his employer, hated even more the week and helpless feeling he got whenever he was in the man's presence. Servius was not even a true Variag, a native of Khand, originating instead from some place far to the west, in Gondor. Yet none would dispute the power the man had gained within Norvil. "I am late, and yet I carry with me the information you desire."
Servius leaned forward, a sudden gleam entering his eyes, and Fenton could not stop himself from taking a wary step back. It was a common rumor within Norvil that Servius was mad, and he suddenly found himself willing to believe that assessment. There was something definitely insane in the look Servius was now leveling at him, and he felt a slow chill crawling up and down his spine. He suddenly wanted nothing more than to be finished with his business and be gone from this place.
"Tell me what you know," Servius commanded, the mad light still brightening his eyes. "Tell me the information that I desire. Tell me all that you have learned of King Elessar."
He was more than willing to comply. He had spent two months within the city of Minas Tirith, capitol of Gondor, and in his time there, he had gained much information. He told of all he had learned, leaving nothing out, and when he had finally finished, his voice was hoarse.
Servius leaned back in his chair, his eyes distant, a faint smile playing at the corners of his lips. Many minutes of silence passed, and Fenton began to shift nervously. At last, Servius spoke, still not looking at him and still wearing the ghost of a smile.
"You have done well, my friend, and you shall be amply rewarded. Garish at the door has your money and will pay you on the way out. Perhaps I will use you in the future for any other missions I might have."
Fenton nodded wordlessly, having no intentions of ever working for this mad man again. He turned and moved toward the door, pausing for a brief moment to glance over his shoulder at the man behind the desk. He shuddered at what he saw. Servius was laughing, silent chuckles of mirth that sent his skin crawling.
He turned and fled from the room.
Servius swung around in his chair, still chuckling quietly to himself as his two advisors stepped from the shadows of a hidden doorway behind his desk. The two men were eying him expectantly, their faces hopeful, and Servius found himself laughing even harder. A strange glee had taken over him, an excitement stemming from the arrival of a moment long awaited.
"What have you learned, sire?" one of the men asked, his voice anxious.
Servius leaned back in his chair, stilling his mirth for the time being and turning his mind back to the meeting he had just had with his messenger. "Our time of waiting is over," he replied quietly, his eyes distant. "Tonight I have learned many things concerning King Elessar. Many things," He repeated before pausing and glancing up to the catch the gaze of the two men standing before him. With an evil grin, he finished his statement. "Many things that can be used to destroy him!"
"What do you want us to do, sire?" the second man asked, his voice filled with eager anticipation.
Servius pursed his lips and thought on the question, then leaned forward in his chair. "Find me the assassin," he ordered calmly, "and bring him to me. I want him here before morning!"
The two men exchanged worried glances, and Servius could quite easily read their expressions. Finding the assassin would be no easy task. Impossible, in fact, if the assassin did not wish to be found.
The first man opened his mouth to speak, but Servius did not give him the chance. "Go!" he ordered, pointing his finger at the door, his tone of voice warning against any argument. The two men bowed, then quickly left to complete their task.
Servius sighed, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. It had been a long and exciting night for him, and yet he knew that it was far from over. There was still much to be done if the plan he had been forming for years was to actually work.
"Soon, King Elessar," he muttered softly to himself. "Soon you will be mine, and you shall pay dearly for all you have done to me." Lost within dreams of the future, Servius soon found himself drifting toward sleep. He roused himself with a jerk, then rose and began pacing around the small room, determined to stay awake until his men returned with the assassin.
The desk and chair were the only pieces of furniture within the room, giving the place a bare and hollow feeling, and Servius shook his head in disgust as he scanned his surroundings. There had been a time, long ago, when everything around him had been rich and vibrant, and grand to an almost absurd scale. He had had servants at his beck and call, money to buy what he wanted, and power to steal whatever he might need.
With a firm shake of his head, Servius dispelled that image. That time was long gone, just as the person he had once been was no more. Several years of struggling for survival had changed him, transformed him into something completely different from what he used to be, opening doors within his mind that he had not even been aware were there. The hate and rage within had twisted and formed him into the man he now had become, and looking back at his old self, he felt the change only an improvement. Just as everything he had once owned was gone, torn from him, everything he had once been was also gone. He had even changed his name when he had found this small city within Khand, the perfect place for his new self to make a new start. The transformation was all but complete, and only one thing stood in the way of him actually settling down and enjoying this new life. Only one more task that he had to complete, for until he did, he would never be free to revel in his newfound glory. His name, Servius, in the tongue of Khand, meant prisoner, and truly he was his own prisoner. Of hate. Yet finally, the key to his release was near at hand.
Servius allowed his mind to wander back over the discussion he had had with the messenger, memorizing each piece of information he had learned and categorizing it within his mind.
'The elf and dwarf visit him on a regular basis, and it is a rumor within the castle that they are expected at the end of next month…'
"Perfect," Servius whispered out loud, grinning in anticipation. It seemed as if everything was playing to his favor. "Let's see how faithful your friends truly are, and then perhaps learn how much of a man you are without them!"
He chuckled softly, returning to the chair and sinking back down with a sigh, allowing his eyes to drift shut once more, and his mind to wander through all the wonderful things he had planned for his hated enemy.
"Why do you send your men out looking for me?"
The simple question, spoken in a soft yet deadly voice, jerked Servius from his thoughts, and he bolted upright in his chair so violently that he almost toppled over. His eyes bulged in surprise, and his heart beat a frantic tempo within his chest as he stared at the black clad figure leaning casually against the door in front of him.
"Tervanis," he gasped, unable to hide his shock and sudden fear. "How did you…" He began, then stopped, realizing that he would receive no answer even if he should finish the question. It should have been impossible for anyone to reach this room without his prior knowledge, for the number of guards posted should have prevented it. Yet Servius realized that there were few things that were impossible for Tervanis, black shadow and assassin of Norvil, to accomplish.
Quickly attempting to gain his composure, Servius rose from his chair and inclined his head slightly toward the assassin. "Welcome Tervanis," he greeted softly.
The assassin made no response, merely continued to study Servius with narrowed eyes.
Servius felt a sudden flash of irritation. This was not how he had hoped to start out his meeting with the assassin. Already the man had gained the upper hand in the conversation, and he was not happy.
"My men search you out because I have an offer to make you," he finally replied when the silence in the room grew too much to bear.
The assassin arched a cool eyebrow. "An offer?" he asked, his voice slightly mocking as he ran a critical eye over the barren room. His eyes flickered back to Servius, and the man suddenly had the urge to run and hide, so cold was the assassin's gaze. "My services are not cheap," he stated quietly. "Nor do I like my time wasted."
"I assure you that your time shall not be wasted, Tervanis," Servius answered, attempting to sound calm and in control. "In fact, I believe you shall find what I have to offer quite interesting."
"How can anything you have to offer interest me?" Tervanis asked, his voice incredulous and mocking as he once more ran his gaze around the room.
Servius gritted his teeth and for the second time ignored the assassin's obvious insult. "Because you are the best," he answered simply, sinking back down into his chair and peering at Tervanis over his steepled fingers. "And your skills and talents are vastly underused within Norvil. I have a task that will actually challenge those skills and talents." Servius smiled and then shrugged. "Who knows, you may even fail."
Tervanis shifted his position, his eyes hardening, and Servius wondered if perhaps he had been wise in flinging in that last insult. Still, he had managed to get the assassin's attention.
"I do not fail," Tervanis whispered softly into the following silence. "Ever."
"That is what I have heard," Servius answered quietly. "Yet the job I have for you will be much more difficult than a quick knife in a dark alley, or the simple assassination of a guild master. Of course, I have also heard that Tervanis, shadow of death, is not one to back away from a challenge."
"My services are not cheep," Tervanis repeated, yet Servius noted that a hint of interest had entered the assassin's tone.
Servius calmly reached into the top drawer of the desk and pulled free a large pouch, which he casually tossed to the center of the desk. Gold coins and bright gems spilt from the pouch's open mouth, scattering across the desk to lie glittering in the lamplight.
The assassin slowly straightened, then walked across the room, his movements graceful and smooth, and completely controlled. He stopped before the desk, then glanced down, running his eyes over the pouch.
"And another one of those once the mission is completed," Servius said calmly, watching the assassin with a grin, confident that he had won the man over.
Tervanis glanced up at him, his eyes narrowed and suspicious, but then he suddenly let out a low laugh. "Who do you want me to kill," he asked with a chuckle, "a king?"
Servius also laughed, watching the assassin closely. "Surely you have heard of King Elessar?" he questioned. "Ruler of Gondor?"
Tervanis stopped laughing, his eyes widening slightly as he studied Servius closely. "Of course I have heard of him," he at last answered, his eyes narrowed and suspicious once more. "All know of him after his defeat of the Dark Lord's armies."
Servius merely nodded and said nothing, his gaze locked with that of the assassin's.
After several minutes of uncomfortable silence had passed, Tervanis at last shook his head, a small smile once again gracing his features. "So," he whispered softly, "you wish me to kill this king Elessar? You were not joking when you claimed you had a challenge for me."
"No!" Servius snapped, causing the assassin to glance at him and raise a questioning eyebrow. "Your task is not to kill the king, for that privilege is mine and mine alone!"
Tervanis shrugged his shoulders casually. "Then why did you bring him up?" he asked simply.
Servius smiled grimly in response. "Let us just say that King Elessar has much pain and suffering due to him before I at last allow him to die. It is in this that I will need your assistance."
Tervanis cocked his head to one side, an answering smile flittering across his features. "What do you want me to do?" he asked simply.
Thee hours later, exhausted and defeated, Servius' two advisors stumbled back to the squat building at the end of the alley, their hearts filled with fear of what their master would say about their failure. To their surprise, they found that he had already retired and left the message for them to both get some rest of their own.
Outside of Norvil, along the dusty and forgotten road, Tervanis and a small band of thugs thundered east toward Gondor, and Minas Tirith, and their mission beyond.
Ok, time for a few explanations. First, Khand is a realm southeast of Mordor, and the home of the Variags, a race of man. Because if its location, Khand was always strongly influenced by Sauron, and during the War of the Rings, its men were allied with him and served in his army. As far as I know, there is not a lot of information concerning Khand or its people, but if there are any Tolkien scholars out there that can give me more information, I would greatly appreciate it! Just send what you can to my hotmail account! Thanks, and I hope that might help clear up any questions you may have.
Please don't forget to review!!!