Western Slopes of Amon Lanc
The dark and stiflingly thick mass of Mirkwood's trees end here at the edge of a broad, rapidly rising plain of black stone. Tortured whorls of lava, hardened into unnatural eddies and crested peaks surround you, deep fissures and gaping crevices splitting down the plain's face like gigantic axe rents in the earth's blackened face. The plain rises rapidly into a series of tumbled stone piles and mounds of smooth ash dotted with glittering mica chips, climbing quickly to the incredibly steep and fire-hardened walls of Amon Lanc's central volcanic vent. The main peak thrusts into the sky in a series of needle-thin spires, piercing through the shawl of Ever-present dark clouds that wrap around the mountain's heights like a dark wreath.
The mountain is surrounded on all sides by the dark and steamy reaches of ancient Mirkwood, though to the west a split in the trees shows a dark and narrow valley leading away into a haze of misty silence. To the southeast a footpath winds up the mountain's bleak and blasted face, threading across Amon Lanc's slopes in a series of rugged switchbacks which apparently lead to one of the darkest holds in all of Middle-earth...the fortress of Dol Guldur.
A tent has been set up for the human agent, separate from the orc camp but close enough for the man to observe and be observed. Orcs come and go to his tent, some grovelling, some arrogant. The man looks them over and watches them with their weapons, sometimes having the orcs fight amongst themselves as he watches. He nods at the orcs occasionally, but says little.
A tall and thin Uruk figure walks from behind a large tent at the border of Uruk camp and stops in its shadow, looking up at the summer sky and spitting black saliva on the ground, mummling for himself some curses. After a while Uruk starts to scan the area and his gaze stops atop a human figure standing also in a shadow of a tent and observing passing Orcs.
Algumath grins for himself and slowly walks closer until he stops just few yards away. There he stops and inspects the human without saying a word.
Ilmen stands with his arms crossed as the orcs approach and one by one, he sends them away. Finally there is only one orc near him. "You there," he says to Algumath. "What have you to say for yourself? Come you here for the Raiders of Ithilien?"
Algumath does not react to question, but raises his hand and pointing at massive greatsword speaks without any initial greeting..'Can you really handle that weapon, human? Can you even fight? With this nice face, I bet you have never been to a real battle.'. There is some irony in Algumath's voice and he even has a wide grin on his face, clearly convinced that the weapon cannot be used effectively. Not by this thin and handsome looking man....
Ilmen blinks at the orc, then snorts in reply. "What do you know of me and my prowess with a blade, orc? I wouldst be happy to separate your head from your body as a demonstration if you'd like." His grey eyes glint and he uncrosses his arms.
The terribly wounded Dog Ashgrakh watches the Algumath as he speaks to the man Ilmen. "I thought I was in the fortress....." he mutters for himself and starts walking toward Ilmen's tent. As he draws closer to the tent and i just a few yards away, he calls to the man: "Is it the man of the east? I've been looking for you all morning, ever since you attempt to heal me", the dog grunts and looks at Algumath, who seems busy taunting the man...
Algumath just grins in response and slowly shaking his head changes theme by repeating after Ilmen..'Raiders of Ithilien? What is that? You raid that laughable piece of land down there close to Mordor? Next by the great river? Bah, been there many times and never found anything worth of raid there. No villages, no population...but always some of those foolish Gondorians.
Algumath spits on the ground few times and points at an old, yet deep scar on his left arm..'Gondorian arrow. They cannot fight in melee, but they are good at hidding and shooting from ambush! White skins! Skai!'
After a small pause, Algumath looks at Ilmen still with an interest and asks..'So tell me, what makes you so interested in there? Why should we go with you there?'
A quick-paced rattling sound carries from the road below. Faint at first, it could be bird noise, but, as the sound approaches and becomes louder, the birds in the trees fall silent. It is the sound of a horse galloping along the Dol Guldur road at a brisk pace, and it's getting closer. Sickly haze seems to approach with it and dim the bright afternoon sun.
"It is precisely the men who ambuse us in small groups, these Rangers, that the Dark Lord wishes to slay or drive away," Ilmen says tersely. "They hinder our travel, harass our army, and, when the time comes, will delay our drive into the heart of Gondor, Minas Tirith." As the snaga addresses him, Ilmen curls his lip in distaste. "Nay, I am no man of the East," he says. "Does my skin look brown to you? Do I wear the clothes of the Easterlings? Nay, and nay again."
Hearing another approaching Orc, Algumath takes a quick look to the side and showing his black teeth in a ugly grimace, barks loudly at wounded Ashgrakh..'You shut up worm! When I talk, you will remain silent. The only thing you can do is to lick your wounds and seek a damn healer, or you will die soon!'.
Just when turning his attention back to Ilmen, Algumath raised his head high and sniffing the air and hearing rattling of horse hoofs remained frozen for a moment..'Damn, something is coming!'.
In a group of six, snagas are crowed sitting near a tent grunting to each other with excitied eyes ever watchful of the two Uruk talk to the man. Fear has become over there faces as the sound of a horse is herd in the distance.
"A horse," says Ilmen, hearing it at the same time. "Odd, I did not know that orc rode horses, only the Easterlings," he muses. "And others..."
A horse appears at the turn of the road, and gallops on without a sign of slowing down, straight for the orc camp. A formidable stallion it is, black as night, with muscles rippling under its skin on every step. But even darker than the horse is its rider, cloaked in a mantle of darkest black, with shadows whipping about him like loose folds in the wind.
Algumath takes a quick look at Ilmen and grins..'That aint Orc...that is something else..I can sense something strange and I trust my senses. And I have experienced this feeling some times in past. We better watch out!'. With those words Algumath makes a step to the side to have a better view on road leading to Dol Guldur.
It is not so much the sight of the rider as the feel of the rider that drives the man to step back--far back--from the rider's path, even as orcs all around begin to wail and drop to their knees. Ilmen too, drops to a knee, his head bowed, face more ashen than usual.
snagas around the tent are know showing a great deal of alertness in their postures. Silence has overcome them for they wait with rapid heart beats and some cower into the woods.
Ashgrakh starts to shake and he, as everyone else falls to his knees. But then he turns his eyes towards the Black Rider and he bows, though more out of fear than of pride. The air is still and the camp is silent, as if a shadow of Death had come to the camp...
The horse rides on, stright into the camp, into the midst of the swarming orcs. Just as it is seems to be about to trample a group of orcs, a single shout from the rider makes it halt, like it hit an invisible wall. The cry, less than a word, just a shrill shout, echoes in the trees, then bounces off the walls of the fortress before fading into the now silent forest. The horse, and its rider, are motionless, standing in the middle of the camp. The black hood covering the rider's head turns left, then right, as the rider scans the camp, and the scampering orcs around him. At last, the dark void under the hood stares at the kneeling man. The hand in a black glove tugs on the reigns, and the horse slowly sidesteps, carrying its rider toward the one he focused at.
Just when making the sidestep to look at the road, a large black stallion rides closer and stops in the centre of the camp, saddled by a dark figure that bears fear and terror within. Following others, Algumath lowers his head and falls on the ground just next to Ilmen, but noticing that Dark Rider is slowly approaching closer toward.
Algumath silently swallows and tries to fight his insticts that are telling him to stand up and flee away. What does the Dark Raider want?
Ilmen makes no move as the Rider nears. Only the shaking of his body reveals his terror. A single bead of sweat rolls down his forehead and drops onto the ground.
Know seen clearly around the the tent of snagas. The remaining sit in frozen terror.
Dark shadows condense around the rider, but darker than any shadow is his own form, like a black void which even the sunlight is powerless to enter. The hooded head bows to look down, but there is no face visible under the hood, only the dark abyss stares at the trembling man. Hoarse raspong voice comes from the abyss, "The Dark Lord demands to know your progress. Have you assembled the force to scourge Ithilien and rout the infesting Rangers?" Dark shadow from the rider falls onto Ilmen.
Pearls of sweat runs across Ashgrakh's forehead and a great fear fills his whole body. His lids suddenly falls down and suddenly, he is floating in a black, endless void... He manages to open his eyes and realizes that he still exists. He breathes heavily and on a sudden, for some unknown reason, the Dog makes a symbol in the mudded ground; The Eye and he looks upon the Rider, who is fucosed on Ilmen. A cold shrill goes through Ashgrakh's spine and he looks into the ground again...
Another drop of sweat rolls down his nose and falls. Still unable to even look up from the ground, Ilmen replies, his voice trembling and higher-pitched than normal. "It...it proceeds apace," he says. "The orcs have been most...accomodating," he says with a swallow. "We shall proceed from here with all due haste to Rhun and the Easterling city. I...fear they shall need more persuasion there," he croaks.
Algumath tugs his head at words of Dark Rider and dares to take a quick gaze at Ilmen kneeled just next to him. Algumath is clearly suprised by fact, that the Dark Rider himself takes care about what he himself though of unimportant piece of land.
Listening to the response of Ilmen and sensing potential danger, Algumath takes a deep breath few times and raising his head little bit speaks in a trembling voice without being invited..'Lord! There is urgent need for as many Uruk patrols as possible here in this area...but...but I have just approached here to offer my services to this human and to help to bring Ithilien back under rule of The Eye!'. Barking his words quickly, Algumath goes silently and visibly shakes in fear from potential consequences.
"Persuasion? Do they?" The voice chances to a hiss, every word whips through the air and falls on the ears like lashes. "Has their allegiance to the Dark Lord wavered then?" The voice raises to a shrill, and the cloud of shadows around the rider darkens.
Taking all his remaining will, Algumath forces himself to shake head from side to side quickly and to mummle in front of angered Dark Rider few times silently ..'No...no..no! We serve..'. Then he fells silent again, being aware that there is a smell of death in the air...
Ilmen swallows again. "I cannot speak for what is in their hearts," he stammers, "But there is a mistaken belief there that their King is their lord and commander, not the Dark Lord." Enboldened, he looks up--briefly--then looks down again immediately, the sight of the Nazgul too much to bear so close. "Long has it been since they have felt the power of the Dark Lord and his servants. Perhaps a...reminder...is in order."
Four of the snagas know crawl with haste into the woods nearly knocking down everything in their path with terror binded to them. Two still remain frozen like statues, daring not to move at all.
Ashgrakh attempts to open his mouth, an unknown power seems to force him to. He breathes and every seconds feels like an eternity. He slowly moves his eyes towards the Black Rider and begins to speak; "....Ther...are....lots of cow...ards...here...but..som..e...", the Dog pauses to catch a breathe, "...are...still.....loyal..towards...Him...", the Dog faints and falls to the ground.....
The rider remains silent at Ilmen's report. With his head suddenly bowed, and his shoulders hunched, he appears listening, even after Ilmen is done speaking and falls silent. At last, he raises tall in the saddle, and nods once in the direction of Barad-Dur. "Then they will be reminded. That is the wish of the Dark Lord." At last he turns his attention to the orc at Ilmen's side, "You will show me how you serve. Gather the orcs you bring with you to the banner of the scourge of Ithilien, and follow the human to the lands of Easterlings. There, they shall be shown the power of Dark Lord".
The two remaining snagas heads are almost barried in the ground. For the slightest look upon the dark rider would surely cost them there lives.
A silent growl echoes from throat of Algumath and he once again raises head toward Dark Rider for a moment and lowering it again prepares to speak, but is interruped by words of nearby seriously wounded Dog (Ashgrakh).
Just when trying to follow after Ashgrakh, Algumath gets interrupted again but this time by Dark Rider himself. Listening quietly and sensing aura of danger and hate surrouding this deadly creature, Algumath only manages to smack his face against the ground and responding murmurously...'I will do as you command Lord! We serve to The Eye and will be obey his will and your orders at every instant!'
The raider wraps himself tighter in his mantle, pulling the shadows inwards into the black folds. "Yes, you will. Be ready soon" he drops in the same hoarse voice, before steering his horse toward the road, and onwards to the gates of Dol Guldur.
Relieved the two snagas relax a little as the dark rider fades from the road. IThe rest of the cowered snagas return back to the party and look at each other with silence.
Life comes back to Ashgrakh and he lifts his head and he seems confused at first. But his memory returns to him fast and he starts to shake for a brief moment, he looks around to see if the Dark Rider is still around.....
Algumath remains shivering on the ground and a stream of dark blood flows from beneath his face hidden in a mud. After hearing slow rattling of horseshoes, Algumath slowly raises his head revealing badly broken nose as he smashed the ground too quickly just few moments ago. Closing his eyes and opening it again, Rakarg wipes off blood from his face and not taking a single look at Ilmen, barks loudly at wounded Ashgrakh and small group of uruks around (Sharwush)..'You snagas!! Go and get me a first Logaz you will find, orders need to be given! And you yourself, pack your things and we will meet here by the evening. You and some others will accompany me - we will join this human and we will fight in the name of The Eye for the Ithilien! Understood?'.
Algumath barks his last words and with an angry growl kicks a small stone away and hurries toward his own tent.
Ashgrakh rises and hits his chest with his fist. "We shall fight for the Eye!", the wounded Dog says with pride and walks away to his tent to gather his things. On his way, he sees Sharwush, "Snaga, tell you comrades to make themselves ready". The camp is living again, and rumors are spreading fast, now when the Dark Rider is gone...