Puppet Strings - Chapter 3

"Your home? What do you mean?" Aragorn sternly questioned. Aragorn's companions listened intently for the man's response, though they never got an answer. Instead he leaned forward ever so slightly towards the elven brothers and spoke in a low voice, "I suggest you think on it while you build your fire." While he was still very weak and weary, there was an air of defiance in the man's tone.

Aragorn quickly stood up and drew his sword. The man, still sitting on the ground, did not as much as flinch when Aragorn placed the tip of his blade firmly against his throat. Before Aragorn had the chance to utter any words, the man then interjected quickly. "Strike your majesty, strike if you can." This only angered Aragorn more than he already he was, though it was only when he saw the man at the end of his sword smirk when his anger broke through its barriers. Without thinking and blinded by anger, anger perhaps fueled by fear, he plunged his sword forward.

Eldarion gasped as he saw his father thrust his sword into the stranger's throat. He then gasped louder when he realized the sword had not pierced the man's skin at all and that the sword had not moved in its slightest measure. Confusion washed over Aragorn's face, as bewilderment did the same on Elladan and Elrohir's faces. A groan slipped from his lips and Aragorn once again attempted to deliver his fatal blow but try as he might, the sword would not move. He then moved to withdraw his sword and it moved easily and unhindered.

The man then turned back to Elrohir and Elladan, and as he struggled to lie down once more he said, "I trust now it will not be difficult for ones with such vast knowledge of Arda." As he spoke it was as if a veil has been lifted and the twin's eyes widened in disbelief and horror. Both began frantically backing away from the man next to them. Elladan shouted to Eldarion and Aragorn to get back as he grasped his brother's sleeve and dragged him, not so gracefully, backwards. Elrohir gasped and repeated over and over again, "The Black Hand, the Black Hand. It is the Black Hand."

During the panic that ensued, the man remained completely still. He lay on his back staring up into the night sky. Without so much as a twitch of a muscle he replied, "Yes elf, the Black Hand. You need not fear; I have no strength to harm anything. I warn you, do not touch me or no force on this earth will save you." Now all four had retreated to a great distance and had drawn their weapons. Without lowering his sword, Eldarion leaned closer to Elladan and whispered, "Elladan, who is this man?"

Without taking his eyes off his target, he replied softly, "This is no man, this...is a demon. A servant of Morgoth. For thousands of years he savagely murdered many an elf, man and dwarf. He is protected by a prophecy, much like the one that surrounded the Nazgul. It is said that no foe that would raise his sword to the Black Hand would vanquish him."

Eldarion was very frightened, as was his father and the elves. He was also filled with strange curiosity. As he tried to comprehend what his uncle had told him, the "man" startled them when he spoke loudly to them. "You know who I am and you know that you cannot harm me, yet your weapons are still raised." He then turned his head and the four pairs of frantic eyes met his emotionless black ones. He then spoke softly, though they could hear him. "Come closer gentlemen, I will not move from this very place I lay, I swear it. It will be much easier to speak to one another if you are closer." His voice was low and gravelly, sweet by no means but it was coaxing. As he listened to him, Aragorn thought at how similar his voice resembled that of Saruman's. It had a certain of element of disarming charm.

"You swear, but tell me why I or any of my companions should trust the word of Morgoth's vile henchman?" Aragorn shouted over to the dark and weak form on the ground. Again, without even a blink of the eyes, he replied, "Trust? You shouldn't. I do not ask that you trust me, merely to indulge me and venture a bit closer so that we may cease from shouting back and forth. For I am sure you have many things to ask of me." He was right; he wanted answers from the villain that lay before him.

Careful and cautiously Aragorn, Eldarion, Elrohir and Elladan crept closer to their gear they had abandoned and the creature that lay near it. As they drew nearer, the man kept his word and did not move a muscle. Still well out of arm's reach, the four sat quietly on the ground they had previously cleared. As they did so the man muttered wearily, "That was not so difficult and observe, I have not moved." Eldarion's fearful curiosity could no longer be contained; he shifted with nervousness as he asked, "Are you truly this Black Hand that they speak of?" The man closed his eyes and an almost pained look came across his blacken face.

"I was and shall be again." Elrohir had started building a fire when they had sat down; he then glanced upwards and asked clearly, "What happened?" He was aware of this thing's history, he knew that during the War of Wrath that he had mysteriously disappeared and its reign of terror had come to a close. Soon after the Valar defeated Morgoth and cast him into The Great Void. The man opened his eyes and managed to roll over on his side, so that he now faced his inquisitors. He then slowly began to speak. "My father knew what was to come and he called me from my murder and chaos to Angband to take the necessary precautions. The spider Ungoliant wrapped me in her Unlight and buried me deep in Angband. I have wandered in the same nightmarish dream until now."

The four sat in a macabre state of awe, their heads spinning. No one knew what question to ask next or if they really want to know his answer to it. All grace of body and mind that the elven brothers had over the two mortals seemed to vanish, they were just as scared, confused and curious as the other two were. The man, sensing their flustered manner and state of mind, once again rolled over to lie on his back. He then spoke in a low whisper, "I imagine you are trying to decide which is worse: that such a creature was ever allowed into existence...or that now it is awake."

To be continued...

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