The Nine - Chapter Three: Howl of the Damned

<p><em>The third will be granted to the lord,<br /> Whose vengeance will misguide him.</em><br /> <br /> <br /> 16th March, 3019 T.A, Dale/Erebor<br /> <br /> <br /> Slaughter, noise, chaos; the calamity of warfare in all its glorious gore. Mangled and destroyed bodies lay entwined upon the ground, a carpet of corpses. A sea of furious warriors trampled them, their iron boots crushing broken helm and skull without ceremony or sanctity, the sun glaring off their golden, spiked armour, and their crimson uniform blending with their blood-stained scimitars. The wrath of the East, of Rhun and Mordor, of Sauron, had come to Dale.<br /> From the brutal masses one figure emerged. Black was his garm and steel his weapons. He wore a great mask, not unlike that of a ferocious hound, but tormented and twisted into an utter visage of evil, outlined by a huge spiked jaw that rimmed the sides of where the figure&rsquo;s face should have been. He strode upon a jutting outcrop of stone amidst the riotous field, raising a long, splattered sword. From his cold mask emanated an unearthly sound &ndash; as chilling as the scream of any Nazgul&rsquo;s, but amplified tenfold. The sound made bones shake violently, objects fall from hands, hope quenched and souls devoured. It was the Howl of the Damned, and it was the heralding weapon of the army&rsquo;s commander. Third amongst the Nine, the Dog King, Dendra Dwar had come, and masochism gleamed red in his vision.<br /> <br /> <br /> As the last horrendous reverbs of his cry emanated across Dale, his captains pressed their soldiers on. Brutal Orcs bred from the pits of Mordor scrambled onwards and the stoic, ordered force of the Easterlings moved to the sound of their infamous masters, their exotic helms hiding the savage smiles they expressed at the bloodshed of their foes. <br /> Bested upon their own ground, the united allies of the Dwarves of Erebor and the Men of Dale retreated against the tide, now in heated pursuit from the Dog King&rsquo;s forces. Preventing their warriors from descending into a desperate rout were the valiant efforts of King Brand and Dain Ironfoot, and though the Eastern swarm had come to fear the taste of his mighty axe Barazantathul, it alone could not keep back the dark tide. <br /> <br /> <br /> Alone upon his elevated stone, the Nazgul commander watched the last of his followers hunt the fleeing, hoping to exert a costly tithe amongst the Men and Dwarves before they reached the relative safety of the Lonely Mountain. In their wake, imposing engines from the far reaches of Rhun and the schemes of Barad-Dur trundled intently, ready to begin the siege of Erebor. Sheathing his sword, Dendra Dwar called down his winged steed from the shadowing skies. It landed close to him, sending a gust of foul wind in its wake. Like a farmer would pat his obeying dog, Dwar brought his gauntleted hand against the creature&rsquo;s serpentine neck. Suddenly, he was reminded of centuries long past, when he was a mortal. Such memories came to the Nazgul very rarely, for they had in the most part forgotten their pasts since coming into the grasp of Sauron. Yet still Dwar remembered crouching in the woods close to his village, training his hound companion and hunting for food to feed his family. Nowadays the meat of rabbits and young deer did not satisfy his master &ndash; the Dark Lord had more of a taste for the consumption of cities and nations. Dwar attempted to shake away such irritable thoughts as he masterfully mounted his fell steed and rose into the heavens.<br /> <br /> <br /> The onrush of the wind no longer exhilarated the Dog King, for if he had any remaining emotions they were bent upon the destruction of his foes. Or where they but his master&rsquo;s foes? Dwar concentrated on the slaughter ahead. But the memories came back. Ah! The onrush of wind on his face as he ran through the plains of his island home, battling imaginary dragons and tyrants with his keen branch. Across the shores he chased them &ndash; it was good to feel the afternoon sun on his skin and the sound of the ocean in his ears. But he was rid of such mortal trappings now, he was released. Or deprived?<br /> <br /> <br /> The fell beast swooped downwards, across the heads of his men and then above the retreating allies. Again he screamed the Howl of the Damned and many of those below fell upon their faces in fear, giving his following army a chance to catch many of them. The winged creature came even further down, and the Dog King scythed across the ranks of Man and Dwarf with tooth, talon and sword, before gliding upwards again, an omnipresent threat in the clouds. When Dwar was a child an omnipresent threat was &ndash; no! He rattled his head again, keeping thoughts of the past away from him... When he was a child there was always the threat of invasion, for across the sea the vicious K&rsquo;prur raided the island tribes daily, and Dwar&rsquo;s tribe had few warriors. One day, that which he feared the worst came true. As he battled his invisible enemies upon the craggy rocks upon the beach, he saw them &ndash; the ships of the K&rsquo;prur, hung with bones and possessions of those who resisted them. For a moment he hoped they were as imaginary as his dragons, but it became soon known they were not. All but a few of his tribe were murdered, burnt, raped and tortured &ndash; his family and his friends massacred &ndash; no! No! The thoughts again vanished from the Nazgul&rsquo;s mind. It was long since past. History should remain history.<br /> <br /> <br /> Below him, he espied a Dwarf captain, waving his axe in the air and shouting guttural words of authority. Soon, Dwar realised what he was doing &ndash; he was ordering a rearguard to shield his retreating fellows. The winged beast was maliciously controlled downwards again, flying bluntly into the lines of the allies, breaking Dwarven shield and Dale bow. His putrid steed grasped the Dwarf captain and flew from the battlelines. As he let the energy of battle take over him, the thoughts of his past crept back.<br /> <br /> <br /> His family and friends massacred. His home in ashes. The young Dendra Dwar looked upon the carnage and every ounce of his body hated the K&rsquo;prur, hated them for what they were, hated them for what they had done to his people and his life. The only cold comfort in his soul was the desire for revenge, and he let it fill him. Revenge came, for he rebuilt his tribe. Revenge came, for he trained himself and his people to fight. Revenge came, for he murdered every man, woman and child of the K&rsquo;prur and ordered that no word of them ever be spoken again, so that even their legacy was annihilated. But then the flower of revenge opened into something more, something much darker and self-consuming. Power. And through wielding power he crushed the disparate island tribes and forged an empire for himself upon their bones. And people called him the Dog King, for his old village worshipped canine-like deities, yet they called him King nonetheless. He still remembered the day, as he sat upon an over-decorated throne, the fair-looking figure that came to him with an offer of even more power.<br /> <br /> <br /> Dwar glared down at the Dwarf captain struggling desperately in the talons of his steed. Once he was that Dwarf &ndash; a child caught in the grasp of a tyrant. And now he was the tyrant. Only now did he realise where the path of power had led him. The grim irony of fate.<br /> Without care, the Dog King let his mount open its claw. Almost...sadly, he watched the stout Dwarf fall, and fall, and fall to his death. Upon an open battlefield, surrounded by his brothers-in-arms he had wished to die, not like this. Exhaustively, Dwar swooped down onto a series of crags away from the two enemy hosts. He dismounted his steed and stood amongst the threatening grey stones, watching the scene on the plains with a disassociation. The fell beast, almost feeling the renegade thoughts of his master, cried out and salivated for the slaughter of battle. Turning quickly, Dwar smacked the beast&rsquo;s face with a strong, gauntleted hand, sending it grovelling backwards. Dwar knew no better; this is what he had become &ndash; the overlord, the figure with the whip, driving the meagre forwards in order to possess them with his own ambition. And through this he had become a slave, not only to Sauron, but to himself and his goals. For the first time in over four-thousand years, he felt regret at his decisions. He had overthrown kings and generals, razed civilisations to the ground, but now Dwar could not even best his own thoughts.<br /> <br /> <br /> What did it matter? This revelation had come far too late. He was in complete thrall to the Dark Lord, and if his bidding was not done he would not sustain. Yet, perhaps even death would be better than his phantom state.<br /> Once again Dwar heard the clamour of battle in his ears, and he let his duty override his conscience for the time being. Once again mounting his obedient fell beast, he rode high into the air &ndash; and this time, he swore he felt the tiniest sense of exhilaration in him as he soared through the wind.</p>
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