The Stars of Harad

Chapter 18

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Seeing his death, Aragorn’s fingers grasped the hilt of his sword and he brought the blade up in front of him. At the same time two arrows cut the air over his head, embedding themselves in Seobryn’s chest. The trader fell forward onto Aragorn’s upheld blade, a look of sheer surprise etched on his face.

Aragorn pushed the dead trader off of him and scooted out from under his bulk. He sat on the ground, staring at the body of the man he had at one time thought was his owner and a flood of emotions caught him.

Legolas ran to his side and knelt next to him. Turning Seobryn over, he retrieved his arrows and concentrated on the young human.

"Are you alright?" The elf gently moved Aragorn’s hand away from where he held his abdomen; the cut from the oliphaunt was bleeding. When the ranger didn’t speak Legolas leaned down and stared into the haunted eyes, tenderly touching the welting bruise on the side of his friend’s face. "Aragorn?"

Slowly the human nodded, his gaze coming to rest on the elf kneeling in front of him. "Yes, I am all right." He moved unsteadily to his feet with Legolas’ help. "And you? Are you in one piece?" He asked with a slight smile; the cut to his lip smarted and he touched it gingerly with his hand. He looked over the wood-elf, checking for cuts or damage. The fair being’s face was bruised and dirtied but he appeared to be in no worse shape.

Legolas nodded and looked back towards where Chadoc lay fallen in the dirt.

Aragorn glanced down at Seobryn once more; "He never said who his employer was."

"Did you think he would?"

"I had hoped." Aragorn laughed lightly, brushing himself off and cleaning his sword on his pant-leg. He looked around them slowly. The bodies of the dead wargs and half-wargs were everywhere. One of the taergs had not made it out alive but none of the Oliphaunts or the Olybryn had been hurt or killed, much to his relief. "We must burn this place. It can never be found."

Legolas nodded, "It is an evil place. I will fetch Sircyn and the others, we can gather the bodies in the center of the camp and set it all on fire, all that has not already burned that is."

The skitter of small rocks above their heads made the two companions look up to the edge of the rift on their left. A large male taerg was watching quietly from the high vantage-point. Its bright eyes scanned the small valley below it, coming to rest on the two living beings that stood in the middle of the carnage.

"I released that one." Legolas whispered.

"And it has come back to thank you by eating you." Aragorn replied sarcastically.

The elf glanced at the ranger and laughed, "I doubt that very highly Strider."

"Oh really?" Aragorn gazed back to the edge of the cliff over their heads once more.

The taerg was gone, as silently as it had come it was gone.

"Really," Legolas leaned against him, whispering in his ear. He gave the ranger a gentle pat on the shoulder before walking back towards where the oliphaunts waited, "Come, Aragorn," he called to the young human who still stood staring at the cliff edge, "let us finish this and go home." 


The Olybryn stood on the edge of the ravine with Legolas and Aragorn. They silently watched as the campsite below them smoldered and burned down to heap of darkened ash. Even the cages had been thrown into the fire, their beams sticking at odd angles from the smoking pile like the bones of some long dead creature.

It had been easy enough to contain the blaze within the walls of the gulch and the lack of breeze had kept the fire from jumping its perimeter. It barely sparked now as the ashes began to blow away on the easterly wind that had just picked up, cooling the lone figures that watched over the canyon silently.

"It is done." Legolas clasped Aragorn’s shoulder gently and walked the human away from the edge of the valley. "Let us go home." He glanced at the impromptu bandage that wrapped the ranger’s midsection, it had at least done its job for now and stopped the bleeding but he would want to see it tended to better when they got back to the house.

Aragorn caught his inquisitive glance and smiled, patting the bandage gently, "Its all right."

They walked in silence back to the main house and those who waited for them. 


Commotion at the front of the house brought Aragorn and Legolas running from the Oliphaunt fields. They had been seeing to the herd animals before coming in for breakfast but the loud trumpeting and crying of the Haradrim had interrupted the Simbani’s morning chores.

Legolas rounded the corner of the house first. Taking in the situation he turned and shouted for Strider to hurry, before cautiously approaching the large oliphaunt that stood in the courtyard thrashing its head against the manga trees and trumpeting loudly. It was the beast that Aragorn had grown found of, the large patriarch that Rhuddryn had ridden out on several days ago. A long gash cut down the length of his front left leg and the broken end of a spear jutted from the wound. Scratches and cuts marred the thick skin and the large ornate tented saddle that adorned the oliphaunt’s back was broken and shredded.

One of the male household servants that the master had taken with him was holding the creature’s lead line, trying to calm the distressed oliphaunt. The man was in no better shape than the animal he was standing next to and his attempts to calm the creature were not working.

Legolas swiftly ran to the man’s side and pulled him from harms way as the oliphaunt turned on the handler, swatting at the man with his trunk. Rolling them both beneath the intended strike, the elf dragged the man away from the animal and passed him off into the hands of the waiting Haradrim that had formed a ring around the oliphaunt and were trying to calmly bracket the creature in and move it away from the house.

Rounding the corner with Sircyn close on his heels, it took Aragorn only seconds to recognize the beast that had caused the riot of commotion. He pushed his way through the small crowd that had gathered and ran up to the animal talking loudly to it in broken Haradrim. Frenzied from pain the animal did not recognize the human at first. Dipping his head down in a defensive posture he aimed his left tusk at the man.

"Get the people back!" Aragorn shouted at Legolas who immediately began clearing the area.

Seeing the danger the oliphaunt presented to his friend, Legolas called out a warning to the ranger and ran back to assist him. Aragorn ducked at the last possible moment, and the huge tusks brushed the air above his head. He stood up swiftly, positioning himself in front of the animal between its long tusks, and wrapped his arms around the oliphaunt’s trunk talking softly to it.

The familiar smell of the northerner stopped the animal and it slowly stilled its thrashings until it stood swaying slightly, uttering small growls and grunts.

Legolas approached the beast’s injured leg. His hands held out before him, speaking in Elvish. The small, dark eyes of the oliphaunt watched his movements but the animal did not resist when the elf gently touched the bleeding gash. Keeping his tone soft and continuing to speak in his native tongue, Legolas called Aragorn to him.

"Aragorn, he is wounded and the spear tip is still in his foreleg." The elf glanced around the animal’s large tree like leg trying to catch his friend’s eye.

With a small nod Aragorn moved slowly to join his friend. The oliphaunts huge head turned to follow the Olybryn it had come to trust and watched patiently as the man inspected the cut.

"What happened here?" Aragorn twisted on his boot heels and glanced back into the crowd of faces that had pressed close once again now that the animal had been calmed. His eyes lighted easily on the servant that had attended Rhuddryn and he asked once more, "What happened?"

The Haradrim nodded; knowing the question was intended for him, "We were attacked on the way home. It was unprovoked. We did nothing! There was no haggling in the auction yards, the master met with no one for business, he was simply in town for pleasure!"

"Who did this? Did you recognize them?" Legolas pressed the man for answers.

Looking to the stone walkway beneath his feet the man replied softly, "It was the warlord Asynic. The one who continually wants to purchase the master’s oliphaunts. He asked again this time, as he always does, for his clan had gathered for the celebration as well. But as always Master Rhuddryn declined. There were no harsh words between them and Asynic seemed humored by his response as usual. They ate together the night before we left." Shaking his head in confusion he continued, "I do not understand. They did not ask us for anything, they simply killed the master and anyone who tried to stop them."

Aragorn frowned at the Haradrim, thinking through what he had been told. "They did not try to take the oliphaunt?"

"No." the slave shook his head, "That is what I do not understand. Asynic has wanted this one for many years. But when the opportunity came he did take him."

"Did they take anything?" Legolas questioned further, as confused as the ranger.

The slave was silent for several moments thinking back through the attack, "It all happened so fast." His words were soft and he reverted to Haradrim. Aragorn translated quietly for the elf. "But wait! They did take something. The master’s migar clip." The slave turned to the head of his clan, imploring the man to remember with him, "The silver one. The one in the shape of an oliphaunt?" When the others nodded in agreement he glanced at the elf again; "Master Rhuddryn always kept it with him, in his shirt pocket. He prized it greatly and had his name inscribed on it. But that was all they took."

Aragorn and Legolas glanced at each other knowingly. Rhuddryn’s death hadn’t been an accident nor had it been a rivalry argument or a robbery, it had been a murder at the hands of his benefactor for the failure of the warg facility that they had destroyed two days ago. Obviously, even before their actions, whomever it was Rhuddryn was working for had run out of patience.

The Oliphaunt that the ranger was crouched near stomped his wounded leg gently, drawing the man’s attention back to the beast.

"Very well. Get inside and get cleaned up, Sircyn will see to your wounds." Aragorn dismissed the wearied man. Catching Cabed’s eye, he motioned the older Haradrim over.

"Can you get some of the numbing weed that Rhuddryn kept in his pantry, we have to get this spear tip out of our friend here. He is getting impatient." Aragorn smiled up at the beady dark eye of the animal that watched him intently, as the man nodded quickly and ran into the house.

"With Rhuddryn gone the Simbani and all the Haradrim that served him are now free." Legolas observed quietly. "Without the threat of retribution."

"Yes." Aragorn glanced up at his friend, "Cabed said that Rhuddryn had no family, no one to inherit his lands and whatever so-called friends he had will not put themselves out fighting for it. After the manner in which its previous owner died, no one will come near this place. It is the sweat and blood of Cabed and his people that has run and worked this ground these many years, I think they’ve earned the right to them if that’s what they want. They are their own masters now and may leave or stay as they like and work the earth. This place will house and feed all of them if they keep it up as they have."

"Only now they would be doing so for themselves and for another man’s profit." Legolas nodded.

A huge smile broke across Aragorn’s face; "Yes and the taergs will bother them no more now that Seobryn’s operation is gone. They are truly free."

"I wonder if they realize it yet?" Legolas asked curiously. But Aragorn never had a chance to answer as a loud cheer went up inside the house and the sounds of celebration rang out into the courtyard. The oliphaunt jerked slightly at the sudden noise and Aragorn stood gently patting the creature’s underbelly to keep it calm.

Cabed descended the steps in moments a huge smile on his rounded face as he approached the two friends, the bag of herbs cradled in the crook of one arm and a pot of cool water balanced in the other.

"Adrar, we are free!" His cry boomed through the manga grove and the joy in his voice was contagious. He sat nearby talking incessantly about their new found freedom and the plans they were already making to keep the grounds up as the ranger and the elf removed the spear and slathered ointment on the scarred tough hide of the oliphaunt.

With a gentle pat to the great beast, Aragorn stood and smiled once again at the leader of the Simbani. "Well my friend, you have only to decide if you will stay here or not. You are not bound to this fate any longer, you may go where you like." He watched the older man carefully.

Cabed tilted his head slightly weighing the northerner’s words. It was true, they were free, but he knew that in their hearts the Olybryn belonged to the herds and they could not have left if they wanted to. Already in the past half hour, they had seen some of the household servants and those that had worked the fields traipse out the front door provisions on their backs, as they headed out returning to families they had left behind in other regions. But that was not for them.

"No." the older Haradrim finally spoke as they walked the oliphaunt back behind the house to rejoin the herd, "The Simbani will stay. All our family is here now. We belong here. We belong to the herds and with them is our heart. This is our home and it was bought with the blood of our kin long ago. We will make a good life here for ourselves and all who wish to stay."

Aragorn nodded, smiling softly to himself, he had figured as much. Reaching the low stone fence he opened the gates to the herd’s field and led the large oliphaunt out onto the meadow, giving the animal a fond pat as it lumbered slowly away to join the others.

"I still wish we had found out who funded Seobryn and Rhuddryn and requested the creation of those foul creatures." Legolas latched the gate behind them once more and followed Aragorn back towards the house; "It is obvious by the means of his death that Rhuddryn’s benefactor grew tired with their failures."

"True enough." The ranger walking next to him agreed. A lopsided smile spread across the young man’s face, "Well then he ought to be really happy when he finds out about what happened to Seobryn."

He laughed as Legolas shook his head, the elf wondered darkly to himself if they had truly done Seobryn a favor. Whomever the man had worked for, the hint of evil had hung in the air and the crossbreeding, though a failure, had been achieved in part at least through foul craft and not purely natural means. Few were capable of such a feat and neither Seobryn nor Rhuddryn had possessed such knowledge on their own. He would need to remember to speak to Mithrandir about it when he saw him next; it would be interesting to see what the Maiar thought. But now there was not the time for such dark ponderings as the happy sounds of the Haradrim’s celebrating rang in his ears. Mounting the steps of the house the trio was immediately wrapped up in the cheer that exuded from it. The elf could not stop himself from smiling as he followed Aragorn into the main room. There would be time for talking later. 


Saruman stood on the shallow balcony high above Isengard, his gaze searching the far horizons. The lush green gardens below had long ago lost their enchantment for him and he found them more of a nuisance than a pleasure. So much was changing in his world of late. He was dissatisfied with the progress in southern Harad and had decided to the end the project. It was too far away to control properly and he was beginning to suspect that the men he was dealing with would double cross him if they could. Besides, the crossbreeding of the wargs and taergs had obviously failed and in his opinion, Rhuddryn had failed him for the last time.

The Wizard would continue with his own secret breeding. And the outcome of that conjoined new race would be more terrifying, loyal and unstoppable than the failed warg breeding could ever have been. Imagine orcs crossed with goblins... more fierce, able to travel in daylight without problem... idly he wondered what he would call his new race when the time came. Of course, that day was still a long way off for the experimentation was just beginning, but he was confident that he would have far more success than had come out of the Harad debacle. With a disgusted sigh, he let his thoughts wander, pondering the race of men.

To the wizard, they seemed weak. They were fallible, greedy and they never followed through. Failure seemed to dog their very shadow and he wondered what their purpose in Middle Earth could possibly be. Although they were good for breeding armies and creating dissension and strife, he agreed with himself idly, a thin smile spreading his lips. The southern warring tribes wasted no amount of time coming to his call to attack the northern men at want. They delighted in it in fact, a small snort of laughter escaped him and he shook his head at the idiocy.

A black spec on the horizon was moving steadily towards him and it caught his straying attention. It grew in size as it closed in on his position and within moments he could distinctly make out the shape of a large black crow.

When the bird had drawn sufficiently closer Saruman extended his hand up over the edge of the black stone balustrade. A silver object fell through the air, dropped for him by the crow, and he caught it easily in his upturned palm.

His interest peaked as he turned the slim cutting device over in his fingers. It was a silver migar cutter in the shape of an oliphaunt. The piece was delicately intricate but the artistry of the tiny blade did not interest the wizard as much as the name that was carved into the smooth backside of the tool and the dark crimson stain that covered most of the cutters surface; human blood.

"So you have accomplished your task I see Asinyc. Good, now I can proceed with my own experimentations without the bother of maintaining them both." He spoke softly to himself, pleased with the day’s outcome. A small, dark hunched-over shadow behind him caught at the corner of his eye and he turned towards the orc that limped into the chamber.

"What is it Skarmazh?" The tall white wizard glanced at the orc that approached him.

"There is progress below. Your presence is required." The gravely low voice of the dark creature purred.

The smile that stretched the Maiar’s lips would have frightened any normal being but the orc before him smiled back and followed his master into the bowels of Orthanc, his laughter echoing that of the Istari. As they descended, a name crossed Saruman’s mind and he thought he rather fancied it. Perhaps that was what he would call his new breed someday.


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