1. A Peculiar Noise
You didn't see much of the Easterlings in the land anymore. Old Primela could remember seeing one once, just once. The orcs were still plentiful, but they stayed out of her lands. Goblins, on the other hand, would sometimes steal livestock, but they were more of a nuisance than a threat. The close proximity of the river kept most of the dangers away. It also created some. Or so she strongly suspected.
Gathering her courage, Primela walked into the middle of the road and stood there, right in front of the horse.
"Get out of my way," the woman snapped. Primela, having never ventured outside her village, had never seen a Haradrim and so guessed the woman to be a dark Easterling. Her hair was mostly braided and hung to a little below her shoulders. Her eyes were dark as pitch and her teeth were white. She seemed at once more and less…real, than everything else around her. It was a feeling to which Primela was familiar. Unfortunately.
"I want to talk with you," Primela said.
"Go away, Halfling," the woman snarled. "I've never been in this village before. I'm just passing through."
"I want your expert advice."
The woman rolled her eyes. What advice could a Haradrim warrior possibly give a Halfling farmer? "All right," she muttered. She didn't feel like spilling blood today. Besides, there was a peculiar feeling in the village. It made her hair stand up on edge. There was this faint tinge of something…brimstone, maybe. It was on the edge of her smell and whenever she tried to locate it, it would slip away.
"I'll make a pot of tea," Primela offered as the woman dismounted and led her horse towards Primela's small home.
The house didn't look much different than a human's, although it was much smaller. The chairs made the Haradrim's legs cramp. As she sat, Primela went through the house, opening all the windows and looking around, as if checking for something. It was very strange. But who knew with Halflings? Maybe this was something they always did.
"I want to get straight to the point," Primela said, pouring a cup of steaming hot tea.
"Fine by me," the Haradrim said, sipping the tea. It tasted like tree bark.
"I've heard about a Black Easterling that haunts these lands, killing and maiming. That's you, isn't it?"
The Haradrim raised an eyebrow.
Primela twisted her dress in her hand. "I have a favor to ask you. I'll pay, of course."
"So it's not a favor."
"Well no. It's more of a contract."
"You want me to kill someone?" The Haradrim laughed. She would never have guessed that the peace-loving Halflings would ever desire to hire a hitman.
"Yes," Primela said.
The Haradrim laughed again. Primela was on the heavy side with large watery eyes and a bulbous nose. She had an air of stupid innocence. And to think that she wanted someone killed.
"It's not funny," Primela said. "And be quiet! He mustn't know." She looked fearfully in the corners, eyes flicking across the floor, searching for some sign.
"Who is it then?" the Haradrim asked. She was curious now. Who would a Halfling want dead, and why?
"My nephew," Primela whispered, leaning close. "He's gone mad."
"Can he turn himself invisible as well?" the Haradrim asked. "You keep looking around like he's going to jump out of thin air."
"He can!" Primela exclaimed. "He sneaks into neighbors' yards and strangles their chickens! But he's invisible so no one can see him!"
"So how do you know it's him?"
"He's invisible, but he casts a shadow. I saw something killing the chickens, and I saw his shadow!"
"You're imagining things," the Haradrim said. "People – especially Halflings – don't turn invisible."
"No, he doesn't. You're the one who's mad."
Primela was close to tears. "He's going to kill us all! He's gone completely mad! Please, you have to help us!"
"Drive him out of the village then. This isn't my problem." The Haradrim stood up, nearly bumping her head on the ceiling. "I've got bigger problems than this."
"He makes this peculiar noise," Primela said. "In the back of his throat. It sounds like…" She tried to do an imitation and only managed to sound like a dying frog.
The Haradrim snorted. "Sounds like the problem'll take care of itself if that's the sound he's making." She walked out the door, leaving Primela to sob quietly in the house.
As the Haradrim continued down the road, she noticed an increase in the brimstone stench. Or was it brimstone? It might've been something else. Something hot. If molten metal had a smell, this was it.
Glancing around, she spied a gaunt and gangly Halfling lurching down the road, almost on all fours.
"Are you Primela's mad nephew?" she called.
The thing jerked its head up and looked at the Haradrim. There was madness in those eyes, definitely. He was filthy, his clothes were torn, and his hair was greasy and lank. He bared his teeth, which were little more than jagged bits of yellow bone.
"What doessss it wantsss?" he hissed, a hand going to a small pocket.
"Nothing," the Haradrim said. "Can you really turn yourself invisible?"
"Maybe." The eyes looked shifty.
"You should probably leave. Your villager friends want you out of their land."
"Nasssty villagersss," he snarled. "Hatesss them. Hatess them, precioussss." He made a horrible noise in the back of his throat. It sounded like, "Gollum! Gollum!"
"Disgusting creature," the Haradrim muttered. Casting the mad creature a glance of disgust, she nudged her horse along the road, eager to be away from this village and its mad inhabitant. The strange smell faded, but it was still there, on the very edges of her senses. No matter how far she went, it was always there.
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.