Having sent the bird calls over to the two other Scouts off to the west, Annunril looks to Deludin and continues walking. The three satchels of freshly carved arrows still sit astride his back, strapped well along with his bow and quiver.
Blocked from Osgiliath by nature and choice, the pair circles round to the east, with silent steps and stiller voices. Onward, through a faint trail, Annunril walks.
Walking ever behind the leading scout, Deludin starts to idley examine the satchel that is resting on Annunril's back. Nothing more than leather covering arrows, he sees. His attention is glued to the packs. Thinking of his own bow, he realizes that the restock may also be necessary for him if his arrows do not get restocked. Looking up, he still follows.
Hooded and masked, Annunril's eyes peer about the land here. The cloth about him rustles in the strong gushes of air, and before them the wooded bank rises. Here, he stops and motions toward Deludin to come near. On his own, he approaches his fellow Scout. "We have passed Osgiliath," Annunril says quietly. "Come. We now cut past the road. Quickly. Mordor claims these lands today."
Then, Annunril lets loose with another bird whistle, a pitch again familiar to Deludin, for it signals the other Scouts to their west should turn southward soon. In kind, Annunril moves, motioning that Deludin should follow. He walks swiftly yet evenly to the ground, no ups and downs, lest he shake the arrows in his satchels and inform all of Mordor he's here.
Northwest of the Crossroads
Large trees stand here, perfect for hinding behind. The sky is grey and overcast. The only sound is a crow cawing in the trees above. You peer through the trees, at the cross roads to the southeast.
Time passes. The Scouts move on, keeping their cargo as silent as possible. They draw near the road, large trees blocking their route, and as they move among this area of the forest, Annunril begins moving in a more darting pattern, using the trees for what cover he can. Reaching some way in, he kneels beside one and looks throughout the area, as if checking the tracks and disturbance of the ground.
Large trees stand guard at the edge of the road, shelter to a wary traveller and the few forest creatures who dare to walk these troubled lands. A clicking sound comes from afar, barely raising above the whispers of the wind. It sounds like a squirrel chirping at first. The sound approaches, it 's somewhere at the distance coming along the road, a clicking rattle. The crow takes off from the branch above, and screams at the top of its lungs, "Carrr! Carrr!" before dashing away, Then silence creeps in. The wind is hushed, the quiet whisperings of the forest seem muted, and only the rattle of steel-shoed hooves on the road, unmistakeable now, still approaches.
Then, Annunril moves his open hand parallel to the ground, from right to left, as if wiping clean a floor.
Then, suddenly, his expression changes. His eyes widen, and his head swivels toward the road. He lifts his right hand, as if to hold Deludin in place. Panic nears but does not overcome him. He stays; he knos not this feeling. Then a crow screams, and his form shakes suddenly, startled. Fear seeps inward.
Hearing the sound, Deludin bolts his eyes upward towards the sound of the crow, having the breath scared out of him by the sudden cry. And suddenly, as the silence once again comes, this time much deeper, he starts to shiver. He silently shifts his burden so he can reach for his sword freely, his hand already on it's hilt. The overcoming dread, though, overpowers his will to fight, oddly, and he glances back and forth, frightfully.
The rattle of the hooves halts. Choking, sticky silence hangs in the air, and the sunlight sudeenly seems distant and detached, like a nostalgic memory of the happy past which is gone forever. At the crossroads, a huge black horse stands in the middle of the road, a great stallion with rippling muscles. Silently it stands, obeying a slight gesture of its rider, s figure of a tall man whose black mantle seems to blot out the light.
Annunril's eyes go back toward Deludin, and when he sees him moving to his sword, Annunril shakes his head. His lips purse, and he points to his own arrows, then to his head. How fully the fear seeps is unclear by looking at his face; what is clear is that his eyes have hardened with intensity. He presses his back against this wide tree, his eyes still on Deludin. He does not look toward the road.
Meanwhile, from the west, two other Scouts walk, each with three satchels of arrows as well. Perhaps the fear has not reached them yet. It will.
Not heeding Annunril's shake of head, Deludin leaves his hand on his sword, but does not draw it forth. His own fear seems too great to do so in the first place. He nods back about the arrows, and his thoughts flee to the other two, walking unawares into a possible trap. He starts, rustling his load of arrows, but stops himself. Though the sound is unmistaken, and his eyes widen in terror.
A tiny squirrel jumps out of the shadow under a low branch, and madly dashes across the road, as if its mind is seared by the choking fear. In its blind run it circles the black horse and almost runs into its leg, when the rider lowers his hooded head to look down, and a venomous hiss, less than a word, escapes his lips, invisible under the dark shadow. The little squirrel halts, frozen. The great black horse shifts from leg to leg, and a heavy steel-rimmed hoof crushes the little animal, which never even attempts to run away.
The rider raises his head, and peers about. He leans forward slightly in his saddle, the shadowed face turns this way and that, like he is sniffing something out, guided more by scent than by sight.
Annunril's eyes widen when Deludin's arrows stir. His left hand clenches tight, while his right hand instinctively crosses his body to his sword. He does not grab it. Exhales slip from his nose only barely.
The sound of steel hoof clattering sends a faint shake through his form. His eyes shift to his left and his head begins to crane that way, as if tempted to peek around the tree. He stops just short of sticking out the right side of hooded head.
A barely noticeable gesture of the black-gloved hand sends a wave running along the reigns, and the black stallion makes several steps sideways, toward the edge of the forest. Even with his head turned toward the trees, only the black void under the hood stares at the forest, and no light can penetrate the shadow and reveal the rider's face.
Then, from the west, to near, a whistle cuts through the thick air -- the sound of a bird in song, perhaps but a phrase or refrain. The code within is clear -- danger.
Yet still, those Scouts approach in the distance.
Slowly, hesitantly, wishing he had any other alternative in the world, Annunril peeks his right eye out from behind a large tree in this forested border to the road. And what he sees...
The head of the black stallion jerks and its ears spring and turn at the sound. The black rider lets loose the reigns, and the horse slowly walks to the very edge of the road and probes the moss beyond it with its hoof. The rider again leans forward in his saddle, then raises in the stirrups. And with it raises an icy swamp of queasy fears, an aura of cold terror stretching forward from him. Another hiss escapes the invisible lips, a sound full of malice and hatred.
The sound is so light that the ears of Annunril and Deludin might not hear it. But to supernatural ears...
One of the Scouts to the west, Dinarsin, steps in a soft spot, muddy from the rains. He was not expecting it, with the ground having grown dryer the further southeast they have gone. He freezes a moment, as does his comrade, Iorelion. The two look at each other, then move. Each moves to their own tree, perhaps 40 or 50 meters from Annunril and Deludin.
They are close enough now that fear has found them.
Meanwhile, nearer the Nazgul, Annunril and Deludin stir not at all, but indeed, the too curious eye of Annunril seeks the answer to a question he'd rather not ask. When he sees what's out there, he cannot look away, drawn to this which he has never before seen. Fear flows in his blood; he might run.
And so might Deludin.
Slowly, the black rider dismounts. Dark shadows stretch down to the ground, shadows that seem woven into his black robes. He is like a cloud of dark fog, floating from the horse down to the ground. The hand in a black glove stretches forward, and, with fingers outstretched, he turns his palm this way and that, as if feeling something out through the air.
Annunril erratically waves his right hand to Deludin and then springs up and outward. The arrows in his satchels clatter, making his noiseless steps meaningless. Breaking out into a full run, Annunril darts onto the road, breaking into a full run toward the other side. Deludin follows in his wake.
The blood-red sun sinks below the dark, cinder-ridden, and cloud-filled horizon, leaving the night pitch black.
A mind-searing shriek tears through the air, the terrible sound which freezes birds in mid-air and binds forest animals with invisible ropes of terror. As if in response, the sun falls into the clouds, right on the cue, and the darkness envelops the forest. But even against the pitch-black night, the rider stands out as an even darker void.
The scream nearly freezes Annunril to the core, chilling his nerves and stilling his blood. As his head turns toward the sound, his eyes hold only a moment. He moves.
Annunril's cry echoes, and his legs pump. His movement is swift and pure, strong and hard. He runs now in search of the life he wishes to live on the other side of this road. There is no looking back.
Deludin moves elsewhere, further off to the left, but still seeking the other side of the road, for their destination and perhaps safety lies southward. His feet pound the ground, louder than Annunril's, as horror chases him.
The rider does not give chase, only the terrible shriek rolls over the tops of the trees, until it's finally scattered by echoes which bounce it around like menacing laughter. The black shadow roils and floats up, above the ground. The rider is back in the saddle, and the hooves rattle away as the black stallion carries him into the night, leaving behind a sickly aura of dread and fear until the light of the next day comes to wash it away.
And the Scouts keep running.
Running, running, running...