The Nine - Chapter Four: Dawndeath

<p><em>One to the Outcast shunned by all,<br /> The reaper and Shadow of the South.</em><br /> <br /> 13th July, 2001 S.A, Mumakan, Harad<br /> <br /> The merciless dunes of the Haradwaith held no regard for the living. Venomous beasts of all hue and manner roamed in search of shelter and prey; endless sand waited to consume those above and spiral into razor storms; and the Sun, relentless in her heat, continued to punish the earth. Permeating the horizon of this arid waste was a single figure, bearing the garments of a noble and the armour of champions, rising and dipping in fatigue, panting with sweat and exhaustion. <br /> <br /> Despite the unendurable temperature, he had refused to remove his ornate gear. A heavy sheath at his side studded with gems from all the corners of the South; a fearsome helm of a rare metal obtained from the Northlands known as mithril, ordained with images and carvings of a mighty hawk&rsquo;s wings and a battle aspect of the terrifying Mumakil; and in his defeated spirit the magical golden ring on his finger seemed to be more of a burden than previously...<br /> <br /> It had begun in the territory held by the six cities that made up the Kiran Republic, a wealthy and advanced independent state of Harad. Born into a high family, this man held substantial authority as a superior, but also a cunning and proud spirit that advanced him to quickly become the youngest representative governor for his city of Korlan. For years he sustained his city and role as one of the six leaders of the Kiran Republic, until the activity of the Numenoreans became more apparent upon the inland reaches of the South. The disparate tribes and regions of Harad had not the will nor the allegiance to combat the pillaging bullies from across the sea, and like all the peoples of the Haradwaith the Kiran Republic shied away and bowed its head. Yet, this man, the governor of Korlan, had pride and a self-belief in his people, outraged by the unchecked destruction caused by the Numenoreans. Against the will of his peers in the republic, he began to forge an army, drawn from the soldiery of his city Korlan and mercenaries from Khand and the deep south, sending the other governors into uproar by using tax money to pay for their upkeep. Yet, further north, a much more ancient power than Westernesse heard word of this gathering, and was utterly intrigued.<br /> <br /> A strange individual came to the court of Korlan, hooded, clothed in shadow and carrying the strangest of auras. The governor bid him tell of why he had come, and the ambassador cast back his hood, revealing a pale, otherworldly face, older than the spheres of the sky &ndash; he was an Elf, a creature whose existence was but now rumoured of in Harad. He said that his name in the common tongue was Dardarian, and he came with an offer of alliance and support against forces whom would be pleased to see Numenor defied and destroyed. Ultimately naive in the knowledge of what this pact truly meant to his fate, the governor agreed. Eerily pleased, Dardarian presented to him tokens of the new allegiance &ndash; training in the arcane arts, and a magical ring of immortality.<br /> <br /> Very soon, the governor of Korlan made his attack, aiming his army towards the Numenorean haven of Ciryatandor, confident in the vast array of followers he had obtained. However, news of his gathering army had not only reached the ears of those who wished to join him, and the captains of the West had turned the mercenaries in the army&rsquo;s employ with promises of wealth exceeding the governor&rsquo;s. As the battalions of Ciryatandor and Korlan made battle, the bribed soldiers turned and the lines of Korlan were cut down from the inside. Utterly outnumbered and hopeless, the governor made retreat and the Prince Akhoarahil of Ciryatandor had won the day.<br /> <br /> Returning exhausted and in grievous loss to Korlan, the governors of the Kiran Republic cast their upstart brother aside, turning his entire nation against him. Ashamed and condemned by the very people he had fought to sustain, he was cast away into the harsh sands of the desert, never to return to his home.<br /> <br /> And so he had wandered. All that remained in his possession were three things; his pride, which beat so strongly in his heart that he had refused to remove his royal battle armour in the desert sun; his hatred, which had spawned and grew like a plague through his soul, hatred for the Numenoreans, hatred for the ally who never came to his aid, hatred for those whom he had once loved; and his title - Ji Indur, son of the Dawndeath family and outcast lord of the Kiran Republic.<br /> <br /> Yet his titles would not preserve him out here. He dropped into the ground, sand filling the gaps of his armour and into his dry mouth, yet he barely had the strength to breathe the grains from his throat. And then, impossibly, he heard the strangest and most desperate of sounds, although at first he had thought it was his own fatigued mind taunting himself &ndash; the sound of boot upon sand, moving closer towards him. Making one last weary effort, he tilted his head and opened his eyes to behold the figure, although in the blinding rays of the sun he could only see a black silhouette towering above him.<br /> <br /> &lsquo;Governor Indur Dawndeath. I must remark that I am surprised you travelled so far. I presume you are taking a short respite before continuing on your journey?&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Who....are....?&rsquo; Indur had no breath to finish his sentence, although the voice and the aura of the figure seemed familiar to him somehow.<br /> &lsquo;It must be hard to recognise me from down there. Get up, you worm, or I will keep this water for my own consumption.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Water?&rsquo; the ex-governor found new energy in his body, and hauled himself from the dry earth with much effort. Snatching the canteen from the figure&rsquo;s hand, he gulped in gluttony before shaking the sand from his garments.<br /> <br /> &lsquo;I am struck by how you managed to retain your armour for the journey, although I should have expected no less from a man of your pride and stature.&rsquo;<br /> Ji Indur, delirious in the heat, focused his blurring vision on the man before him. &lsquo;Dardarian?&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Ah, at last,&rsquo; smirked the mysterious Elf. &lsquo;I have been watching you since you left Korlan.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Then why did you not choose to aid me until now?&rsquo; Dawndeath asked, slightly enraged.<br /> &lsquo;Your ally, my master, was very...unsatisfied about your defeat against Ciryatandor. He thought you capable of greater glories.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;No thanks to him,&rsquo; spat Indur. &lsquo;The ally who dared not show his hand in my time of need!&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;You must remember that Numenor&rsquo;s power is vast &ndash; he has been busy combating it, also. But, consider both his lack of aid, and mine up until this point, a test of your resolve.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;You call the fate of my people a mere test?&rsquo;<br /> Dardarian chuckled, &lsquo;Truly, young Dawndeath, if you knew the power that he holds you would not be so outraged at the prospect. Besides, your people have spat in your face and turned their back on you &ndash; what do you owe them now?&rsquo;<br /> Ji Indur was silent, and bowed his head.<br /> &lsquo;As I thought,&rsquo; hissed Dardarian. &lsquo;However, due to the willpower you have displayed my master has decided to give you one last chance to impress him, and retain both the honour of that magical ring you now wear and your very life. I hope you have not forgotten what I have taught you?&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;The duelling skills? The sorcery? No. No, I have not forgotten.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Excellent. Now, let us find us somewhere for you to fully recover...&rsquo;<br /> <br /> The easterly town of Gadirkarn was rife with inns, sins and scum. A settlement bordering on the bounds of Khand and the dunes of the infamous Nafarat &ndash; the Great Desert of Harad &ndash; Gadirkarn found itself at a perfect position for unlawful deals and bandit hire. Indur had experienced its sodomy before &ndash; here he had searched for the mercenaries that later turned on him in the battle against Numenor. He now no longer held much love for the town.<br /> <br /> Dardarian and he had found a reclusive, shrouded inn called The Sand Wyrm, where they sipped on exotic ales in the darkest corner of the refuge. Indur now had a black cloak thrown over him &ndash; his ornate coat of armour would have been a magnet for robbers.<br /> His Elven companion coughed as he drank his concoction, &lsquo;I have tasted the fine wines of Dorwinion and supped from the kegs of Durin&rsquo;s children, and yet I am stuck with drinking this vile poision.&rsquo;<br /> Indur made no response, gazing disparately into his drink, before, after a few minutes, raising his head to Dardarian. <br /> &lsquo;I have spent much time with you, friend, yet I still know nothing of you or your history. Tell me, which land do you hail from?&rsquo;<br /> Dardarian&rsquo;s lighter demeanour dropped. His eyes turned from Indur&rsquo;s. Some time passed before he spoke again, now barely above a whisper.<br /> &lsquo;I...I come from a land which I am now no longer certain exists,&rsquo; he slowly spoke. &lsquo;I was born, many, many centuries ago &ndash; too long ago, I would say. You see, I was one of the first of my people. I was simply created &ndash; I had no mother or father. I awoke by the shores of the most...beautiful lake. The birthplace of Elvenkind. But that is no longer my concern. Something happened, and now I am what you see before you. That is all.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> Indur was astonished. It was like he had somehow opened a closed chapter in Dardarian&rsquo;s life, exposed a side to his character not displayed in millennia. He attempted to keep his face neutral and took another gulp from his ale.<br /> &lsquo;Yet, I did not bring you here to discuss the past,&rsquo; the sly, dark tone of Dardarian that Ji Indur was all too familiar with returned. &lsquo;I presume you have heard of the great kingdom of Mumakan?&rsquo;<br /> Dawndeath broke from his contemplative silence. &lsquo;Yes, yes of course. It is considered the grandest of Harad&rsquo;s nations &ndash; where the war Mumaks are trained.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Marvellous. You are soon to be its new king.&rsquo;<br /> The young outcast of Korlan froze, dumbfounded by what his companion had said. &lsquo;Pardon?&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;You see,&rsquo; explained Dardarian, &lsquo;My master has found that the current High King could become a great threat to him. The Numenoreans have come to recognize the impact they could have with the nation under their control, and alliances are starting to be drawn up between them. We must prevent this.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;And so, how does that mean that I will be its next king?&rsquo; asked Indur, baffled.<br /> &lsquo;In a fortnight&rsquo;s time, the nation of Mumakan celebrates an annual festival in which the gods are called down to imbue renewed might into the High King, once again making him the rightful leader for another year. It will be our task to slay him before the ceremony, where you will be disguised in his armour. After the nation imbues the rights of the gods upon you, they have no choice but to submit to your rule.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> Something swelled within Indur, and its taste was both painful and addictive &ndash; a lust for power. &lsquo;A flawless plan.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Indeed,&rsquo; retorted Dardarian. &lsquo;However, the High King is at all times protected by his retinue, the Aamya Guard &ndash;&lsquo;<br /> &lsquo;The mightiest fighting force in the South, always holding one hundred warriors.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;Precisely. And, we must kill them all in a locked chamber in order for them to not call for reinforcements.&rsquo;<br /> &lsquo;This plan sounds more difficult than I originally thought,&rsquo; mused Ji Indur.<br /> &lsquo;But of course,&rsquo; said Dardarian. &lsquo;This is your final test.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> The royal corridors and sanctums of the inner palace of Mumakan&rsquo;s capital were bedecked in ornate tapestries and golden treasures. Mistresses of the Harlem guilds beguiled those who passed them, and senior officers and soldiers wielded an air of command and authority as keenly as their scimitars. Dardarian and Dawndeath moved in the shadows of the palace, kept in the shrouds of the ancient Elf&rsquo;s magic &ndash; an Unlight, a weaving of impenetrable nothingness about them that could not be perceived by mortal eyes. After hours of frantic search, the assassins found the rear of the mighty Aamya Guard, moving about the chambers with a single mind. Following them eagerly and hungrily, they eventually found that the Aamya Guard had gathered into an inner, regal barracks, where they prepared themselves for the ceremony of their overlord. <br /> <br /> At the centre of the room was a bedecked, raised dais, where a suit of armour that could only be the High King&rsquo;s hung proudly. A single beam of light ran from a gap in the roof above, smothering the suit in dazzling rays and brightening the entire room. As Dardarian and Dawndeath stood patiently in the shadows of the corner of the barracks chamber, a single, noble figure mounted the platform, followed by two Aamya Guardians who began to carefully and respectfully adorn the man with the suit of armour.<br /> &lsquo;That has to be him,&rsquo; whispered Indur excitedly. &lsquo;The High King!&rsquo;<br /> Dardarian concentrated his gaze, &lsquo;Then it is time for us to strike.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> Easily submitting to the iron will of the Elf, the entrances of the barracks slammed shut, holding themselves in place with mental barriers of steel. The shadows of Dawndeath&rsquo;s sorcery reached upwards, blocking the beam of light in the roof and plunging the chamber into total darkness. The surprised roars of the Aamya Guard bounced from the impenetrable stone walls, echoing into a symphony of shock. Then, all was silent in the gloom. Suddenly, the ring of a drawn blade cut through the soundlessness, followed by the cries of a guardian in his death throes. As one, the twin scimitars of the Aamya Guard were drawn, and all was quiet once more. Another guard moaned in mortal agony, then another, and another. Close to the central dais of the room, a guard struck together tinder and managed to spark a torch into life. Slowly, the flame was passed forwards until a guard on the outer rim of the High King&rsquo;s protective circle was left holding it, moving it to and fro in the darkness. For a brief second, the guard believed the attackers to have gone, for the nightmare to have ended &ndash; and then, out of the shadow, swift and terrifying, a pale face as horrifying as the scythe of death itself roared forwards and cut the guard in two, sending the torch flailing onto the floor and catching flame to the exotic carpet. Bouts of flames caught up in places, scattering the guards and burning many. As the chaos reigned, the twin assassins resumed the attack.</p> <p>Blue and green witch-fire flickered, consuming the Aamya Guard in horrendous fire. Quick as a serpent Dardarian leapt in and out of the blackness, severing soldiers and casting spells of abhorrent effect. His resplendent mithril armour now adorned once more, Dawndeath brought a powerful two-handed sword across the ranks of the Aamya Guard, slaying handfuls of his foes in one mighty swoop. Summoning the dark crafts taught to him by Dardarian, he cried forgotten words against an onrush of guardians, sending a flurry of arcane darts into their throats. The brimming hatred inside of him roared aloud, causing the famously resolute Guard to cower in fear. For his defeat at the hands of the Numenoreans, for the warriors who betrayed him, for the abandonment of his people, the vengeance of the Outcast would reap the souls of his enemies.</p> <p><br /> A dozen Aamya Guardians formed a tight circle around the dais where the High King stood, observing the battle around him with scorn and fear. The assassins had again retreated into the shadows, leaving the surviving guards to witness their fellows and comrades burn and bleed on the carpet, as flames spread unchecked across the room. A keen blade lanced from the dark and into the forehead of another guard &ndash; the attack began again. From either side, Dardarian and Dawndeath crept slowly towards the dais, their gored weapons firmly gripped, the wolves savouring their meal to come. Desperate in their last stand, the Aamya Guard charged the intruders, scimitars raised. And then a single word was spoken, and the rampant flames devouring the carpet went out instantly. Silence and darkness again gripped the room. Yet, the beam of light from above broke through, washing the dais where the High King crouched in light. Steadily and in disbelief, the figure rose up, peering about the chamber only to find himself alone. Well, not quite...<br /> <br /> In one swift motion, the two-handed sword of Indur Dawndeath pierced through the torso of the High King and a blade of Dardarian forced through his head. Emitting one last groan of defeat, the king toppled to the ground as his slayers pulled their tools free. <br /> &lsquo;Time to get dressed, your majesty,&rsquo; sneered Dardarian in victory.<br /> Indur made no retort. Instead, he acknowledged the power that would soon be in his grasp, and surveyed the carnage around him. Ashes and blood intermingled in a gored testament of his ability. This is what he wanted to do forever, he thought. To sate his vengeance, his hatred, his lost honour on the blood of the enemy &ndash; it was glorious. With his life now empty, he now had only this primary purpose, the desire and the drive for bloodshed. Nothing else would matter.<br /> <br /> And so, four millennia after the coronation of High King Indur, the fourth among the Nine now known only as the Outcast spilt the blood of the foe across the combat of the Pelennor Fields. And though the vaunted Witch-King now lay crumpled in the earth, the Outcast reminded himself that only one thing mattered as he drove his sword into the chest of another son of Rohan.</p>
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