The Assassin King - (Part II in the Banner of Doom quadrilogy)
The Dark Lord stood amid the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil, the once fair capital of Eregion. But no more. Eregion was destroyed and its people scattered or dead. Its lord, Celebrimbor, was now no more than a decaying corpse with a pike struck through him. Yet not all had gone to plan for Sauron. The Dwarves and Elves led by King Durin III and Prince Amroth that had harassed him so had escaped, and Elrond had still not been found. Yet the Lord of Mordor was content with the rings of power he had captured, and as he held them in his gauntleted hand, he felt stronger. The One Ring glowed brightly on his finger. He imagined what power he could wield if he had all of the rings . . .
Sauron grimly smiled at the prospect. He would march on Lindon, take the three, and destroy what little resistance was left in Middle-earth.
And then he would be power incarnate.
It had been weeks since the Battle of Ost-in-Edhil, and Elrond stood with Celeborn as numerous Elves darted around them, holding tools and long pieces of wood. A new Elf haven was being constructed in a magnificent valley, under the directions of Elrond himself. The survivors of Eregion needed a place to live away from the threat of Sauron, and the sanctuary of this valley was ideal. Then maybe they could have peace.
"When do you think we shall finish?" wondered Celeborn.
"I suspect another week or two," answered Elrond. "Why do you ask?"
Celeborn turned southeast and sighed.
"I long to see my beloved again."
Elrond looked at him, understanding his pain.
"Fear not, my friend. In the protection of Lord Amdir she is safe. You will see her again, on a fair starlight night where the moon will be at its full and no evil will be witnessed. You shall see Galadriel again."
Celeborn smiled. "Thankyou," he spoke.
Khamul walked between the lines of disciplined and well-armoured Easterlings. Unlike the Orcs and other evil creatures that served the Dark Lord, the peoples of Rhun were utterly devoted to his cause, not being ruled by terror, but being ruled willingly. Sauron was a noble deity to be worshippped and praised above all others. Such is what all Easterlings believe. General Khamul was addressed by one of his captains.
"Why do you confront me, Yakul?" asked Khamul.
"My lord," spoke Yakul, "All our forces are in place and ready to march. Why do we wait? What reason do we have to stand around and do nothing whilst the defences of Lindon mobilise?"
Khamul smirked at Yakul's eagerness.
"Good question. I have been beginning to wonder that myself. Indeed Yakul, your desire for battle impresses me. I shall not underestimate you again. As for your question, I shall go and speak to the Lord Sauron personally. I am sure he has good reason. Now get back in line."
Khamul walked into the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil to find his master. The Khandish general, Haitamu, marched past Khamul with his banner bearer and several of his guard.
"Why do you walk with such protection around you, Haitamu, when there are no foes and you are as skilled in combat as I have heard?" sneered Khamul.
The Khandish King was angered by this, and several of his men raised their axes.
"You shouldn't be so sensitive, my good king. It may be your undoing."
The words slid off the Easterling's mouth like poison. Before Haitamu could reply, Khamul continued walking to Sauron's position. Before the Dark Lord had mustered his followers for war, Khamul had made an invasion upon some of Haitamu's land. Because of this, the Khandish king held vengeance upon Khamul, and he was sure Haitamu would try and enact it upon him before they reached Lindon.
He would have to be dealt with swiftly.
King Durin III sat upon his carven throne of stone with Farin at his side. Three days had passed since the host of Prince Amroth had gone through Khazad-dum, and it got the people talking. Durin was studying a map of the Misty Mountains to Lindon, with marks to represent where different forces where stationed. He decided that he could not sit idle with Sauron just below his doorstep, and he would act before this war was finished.
"My lord, you have been studying that map for hours," said Farin. "Are you alright?"
Durin looked up to meet his eyes with Farin's.
"Of course I am, lad. You can't decide war stratagems in a few seconds."
"War stratagems? I thought you told me that our part in this war was over, that Sauron's forces outnumbered us too much to do anything?"
"Yes, Farin, but that was then! We have to act, or His hordes will be marching on us when they've done with Lindon! I'll be cursed if I don't do something to help!"
Farin fell silent.
A company of survivors from Eregion had found the valley where Elrond was creating his settlement. Two armoured Elf warriors led a line of villagers into the haven, some no more than a few years old. The two Elves ran to meet Elrond.
"My lord, our village was razed to the ground by Orcs. We are all that remain."
"What is your name, warrior?" asked Elrond.
"I am Erestor. This is Linhir."
"Greetings, Erestor. Tell me, how many Orcs were there?"
"At least one-hundred strong," answered Erestor.
This startled Elrond greatly.
"Then it seems Sauron has many minions at his disposal. On average, only about twenty Orcs will attack a village in normal circumstances. He must be growing strong."
Khamul stood next to his master in the fires of Eregion. Khamul was naturally a tall Easterling, but next to Sauron he looked like an imp.
"We shall march when my scouts return," said Sauron. "I fell your lust for battle as well, Easterling, but you must contain it a little longer. But, I have a task for you before we leave."
"Anything, my lord," declared Khamul.
"People speak of a band of assassins that lurk in these parts. They are mercenaries, I believe. Give them a good amount of gold and tell them that if they find and exterminate Elrond I shall pay them double when they return."
"Of course, my lord."
"And there was another thing, Khamul," said Sauron. "If you succeed in the task I have set, I will give you one of the nine rings."
At this Khamul's eyes glittered with lust.
"When my lord says 'do this', it is already done," stated Khamul.
It was nightfall when Khamul reached the woods of Eryn Vorn in Minhiriath. With information obtained from the nearby villages, the band of assassins' lair was in these woods. Two of the best archers in the Easterling army walked beside Khamul, their bows at the ready. One of them suddenly spun to the left, an arrow ready to fire in his hand.
"What is it?" whispered Khamul.
"I saw something move over there," he answered.
His companion chuckled.
"You fool, it's probably just a beast or somethi-"
He dropped dead, a blade sticking through his helm. Khamul unsheathed his blade and the surviving archer aimed at the position the blade came from.
"Assassin!" cried Khamul, "I have a prospect for you and your companions!"
A dark form emerged from the bushes, a man clothed completely in black bearing two twin blades.
"I have no companions," he spoke. "They were killed by Númenoreans. I am all that remains. I am the Assassin King. Now, you said you had a job for me?"
Years ago, the Assassin King was a young and ambitious sailor from Númenor. Back then, in more joyous times, he was known as Zyanar. He was born into a noble household, his father being a renowned captain of Westernesse. Wishing to follow in his father's footsteps, Zyanar took some warriors from his father's army under his leave. Using the coin of his heritage, he sailed to Middle-earth, wishing to explore new land for Numenor. But soon after he arrived his men were ambushed by unfriendly wildmen who slew many and burnt down their vessel. Zyanar and the survivors escaped into the wilderness, reassured by the hope his father would come looking for them. But after months of waiting, no one came. Zyanar's father had forsaken his son. Turning to dark madness, the former soldiers of Numenor turned into mercenaries, hired by powerful men from Eriador and Dunland to exterminate their foes - including Numenorean settlers. Soon, the assassins became a threat to the men of Westernesse, and a contingent of Numenoreans came hunting them. All but Zyanar fell to their wrath, and the dark assassin that was once Zyanar exerted his vengeance upon all he came across ever after.
"I do indeed have a job for you, Assassin King," said Khamul.
"I am no longer a mercenary," he answered. "I hunt for vengeance, not for gold."
"Maybe this will change your mind."
Khamul snatched the bag of gold from the Easterling archer and threw it at Zyanar's feet, revealing the wealth inside.
"Hmmm," considered the Assassin King. "Intriguing."
"And you'll get triple what you see here if you complete the job."
"Very well, stranger, you have yourself a deal. So who do I have to kill?"
"Hunt down and destroy the Elf Lord Elrond," commanded Khamul.