50. Defeat and Victory
"A quiet day on the southern front, eh?" a soldier remarked as he looked out over the endless sand dunes.
"Yeah. Nothing's moving," his friend said. "I haven't seen anything move in days. Just a trader every now and then. Not very often."
"What's that there?" The soldier nodded in the direction of a cloud of sand.
"Oh, damn. It's another damn sandstorm. Been having a lot of those lately." The other soldier sighed. "Better go inside. Don't want to get caught in one of those."
"Hang on," his friend muttered. "Look! It's not a storm!"
"What is it?"
"It looks like…it looks like…" The soldier's jaw fell open and he stared in horror.
"What are those?" his friend muttered as gray behemoths as tall as buildings stalked toward them, horses and men darting around their legs.
Harwan's great-grandson – also named Harwan – let loose a wild warcry as he and his people swept through the small garrison, slaughtering the soldiers.
"No more will you steal our land!" he screamed. "No more will you take our women! No more!"
The huge mumakil rumbled slowly but surely across the land, trampling friend and foe alike. These enormous engines of destruction would ensure victory for the Haradrim people. Victory they had been too long denied.
"To the north!" Harwan shouted over the din of the moving army. "To Southern Ithilien!"
There was a roar of support. Invading Gondor! They would destroy Ithilien as easily as they had destroyed the garrison! Easier, perhaps, for the Easterlings would be attacking from the north. And they would be aided by Harwan's mysterious benefactor. No matter how many years passed, it seemed, this strange woman never seemed to age. Curious, but Harwan wasn't about to question the woman who had given him his chance for vengeance. The Haradrim had been kept as slaves in Umbar and Southern Gondor. They had been driven from their land and killed. They were about to take a stand.
More garrisons fell, more soldiers were killed, and then the beautiful trees of Ithilien came into sight. Harwan felt a pang in his heart at seeing such fairness that was to be destroyed.
The mumakil are not discriminating in whom they kill or what they crush, he reminded himself. They are necessary, so you can't very well go choosing what they destroy and what they don't.
The army had to narrow to enter the Poros Road and Harwan doubled the watches. There was no telling who knew they were here and might try to ambush them. It was doubtful it would work with an army over forty thousand strong, but they might try.
It was on the third day that they found someone. Or rather, someone found them.
A man of Gondor stood in the road. He was dressed in armor and he had a sheathed sword at his side. He didn't move, not even when an arrow whizzed right over his head. Harwan was impressed.
"Sir, move aside!" he ordered, spurring his horse toward the man.
"You have invaded my land and I cannot stand aside," he said, staring Harwan straight in the eye. There was power and authority in the man's gaze and Harwan wondered who he was. The captain of one of the destroyed garrisons probably.
"I fear I will have to kill you then," Harwan said. "I don't like destroying such courage, but in the name of justice for my people, I will."
"And I don't like destroying such noble sentiments," the man said. "But for the sake of my people, I will." He raised a hand.
Arrows shot from the trees like rain, peppering the Haradrim with steel-tipped sticks. The mumakil roared and went wild, trampling the Haradrim in a frenzy of pain and fear that their handlers couldn't control.
Harwan stared in anguish as his friends and countrymen were slaughtered. A single thought ran through his mind continuously, never-ending. Where is Khamul? Where is she? She said we would win…
"Forgive me, brave warrior," the man in the road said. He drew his sword. "I do not think your proud spirit would like captivity."
Harwan did nothing to prevent the fall of the sword.
"The Wainriders have returned, have they?" Ondoher commented, glancing around the land. "I don't see them."
"Father, they'll be in the hills somewhere," his son, Artamir, said.
"We'll catch them unawares," Faramir, the younger son, said with a grin. "We'll slaughter the beasts."
Ondoher frowned. "I don't like fighting so close to That." He nodded at the Black Gate, only a mile or so away. "It's bad luck."
Artamir snorted. "Bad luck. Father, we are trained warriors. The Easterlings are nothing."
"Rumor has it that the Black Easterling leads them. Narmacil fell to the Black Easterling."
"Rumor is all it is. Some renegade Haradrim, no doubt."
"The Haradrim are in on this," Faramir spat. "They think they can take Gondor together, and likely they'd squabble over the land if they won. But they won't. For we are of the blood of Numenor!"
Ondoher smiled. His sons were, of course, right. They were of Numenorean descent and these people were simply nothing.
"Ah, here they come," Artamir said, fitting an arrow to his bow.
"Good. I'm ready for a fight." Faramir drew his sword.
"Men! The enemy approaches!" Ondoher shouted, drawing his own sword.
"From all sides," a soldier muttered.
Ondoher's heart skipped a beat and he looked around in horror as Wainriders poured out of the land. The army of Gondor was surrounded on all sides by screaming barbarians. The charge was led by a black horse.
"The Black Easterling," Faramir said as the horse approached.
It is Narmacil's slayer, Ondoher thought. I know it.
His vision narrowed, and the king could only watch in helpless horror as the Easterling advanced upon him. No, it wasn't an Easterling. It was a Haradrim woman, proud and cold. And beautiful. Death, he thought. Black, cold, beautiful.
Artamir and Faramir launched themselves at the woman, but she was Death. She could not be stopped. It was as if a Maia had descended to walk the battlefield. Nothing could stand against her. She fought like a wild animal, but with the skill of a master. Her white teeth were bared as she fought. Ondoher felt twin pangs of pain as his sons toppled off their horses.
"I don't believe you have an heir now," Death said, raising her bloody sword.
I don't, Ondoher thought. For some reason this didn't seem to concern him. Nothing concerned him anymore.
The sword fell, and there was nothing more for Ondoher to be concerned about.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.