The Stars of Harad

Chapter 6

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Two days ago they had crossed into property owned by someone that Aragorn's master knew and their long journey seemed to be drawing to an end. The compound the man lived on was a great sprawling expansive of wide open flat land, sparsely populated by large trees whose canopies provided the only shade in the hot arid days and from which they gathered bark and broken tree limbs to light their fires at night. For the small group was now deep into that little known part of Middle Earth known as Far Harad.

Master Seobryn had told him they would reach the main house tomorrow and the young ranger’s thoughts were filled with questions about who they would see and what would happen there. The indifference and lethargy of the men traveling with Seobryn had been dropped as an air of readiness and anticipation charged the small traveling party.

Aragorn watched the men around the fire that he had come to associate as being his people and smiled as they laughed at some joke or sarcastic comment that Chadoc had spoken. An aching lonely feeling tugging at his heart broke anew through his thoughts. He often felt a deep sadness, like the touches of a distant memory trying to surface and on clear nights like tonight he would search the sky wondering what he was truly looking for.

"Adrar!" His master’s voice broke through his mental wanderings and he glanced quickly back to camp, making his way towards the fire with the armload full of wood he had scavenged by the light of the full white moon.

Chadoc's dark eyes followed his employer’s new slave and his brows furrowed in thought. Leaning over towards Seobryn, he caught the man's attention and diverted him away from the talk of the others.

"What is it Chadoc?"

"You new pet." The hunter glanced up as Aragorn set the wood down and quietly withdrew to begin cleaning the pots and utensils that had been used in the evening’s meal.

"What of it?" Seobryn smiled a small lopsided grin as he watched the ranger clean up after them, "I have already told you not to worry about him."

"It’s not that. If we were simply going back to base camp it wouldn’t be a problem but we are headed to the warg pens. His memory hasn’t returned because there has been nothing familiar nor anything from his past to surface it, but if he and that other ranger really did over hear as much as I fear they did, then when we reach the breeding center it is very likely that he will remember and you will have to kill him. Besides, it’s just not smart to take someone we can’t trust around things that shouldn’t be talked about if you get my meaning."

Seobryn glanced back at the young man again. He had no love for rangers, in fact he despised them as outcasts and trouble makers but over the long trek back to southern Harad he had enjoyed having his own personal slave. Aragorn, unaware of the scrutiny, worked over the pans, diligently cleaning them. The approval of the men who ‘owned’ him was important to him.

"Adrar." Seobryn’s rough, quiet voice carried easily to the young man and he glanced up quickly, his bright silver dark eyes locked onto the one he believed owned him.

Seobryn watched Aragorn for a few moments. No, he wasn’t ready yet to get rid of his new acquisition. It had brought him great pleasure to recreate the young man’s past and present life and the sense of power over another was something he relished, a flaw in his own character.

When his master nodded slowly, Aragorn smiled slightly and went back to his tasks. Chadoc watched the whole exchange and shook his head darkly.

"You are enjoying keeping that ranger like a pet too much."

Seobryn turned swiftly, startling the other hunter and grabbed the man by his tunic pulling him close and whispering fiercely, "What I do with him is none of your business."

With a strong shove Chadoc pushed his employer away, not backing down to the man he continued, their quiet conversation covered over by their drunken companions’ loud talking and laughter. "It concerns me when it puts our contract in jeopardy. If he remembers who he is, you will never be able to control him or out live his wrath. From what we saw that night in camp he is twice the fighter you are and you know it." He whispered darkly. "We should have killed him back north and been done with him. I don’t think you could kill him now if you had to."

"That’s where you’d be wrong then." Seobryn smiled coldly at the man next to him, the slight turn of his thin lips caused Chadoc to move back imperceptibly. Something about the man’s intensity frightened him. "I could feed that whelp to the taergs in a heartbeat, but I am not going to because I don’t want to." His words were quiet and he matched Chadoc’s fierceness punctuating each syllable slowly to get his point across.

Chadoc sat back and appraised the grizzled trader. "So then what *are* you going to do with him?"

The dark eyes that held Chadoc’s glanced out into the night sweeping across the moonlit plains, not noticing the beauty of the cooling night but thinking far ahead of them.

The silence between the two was broken when Seobryn glanced back towards Aragorn as the young man stood and began to store the provisions away for the night. Looping a thick cord of rope into one of the closest branches of the tree they had camped beneath, the young man hefted the packs that held their food high into the canopy of the outstretched branches away from the wandering scents of any large predators that might be attracted to them.

Nodding slowly, Seobryn turned to the man on his right and finally answered him. "I’m going to leave him with Rhuddryn while we are in the compound. He makes a good slave and Rhuddryn can put him to work with the others until we head out again."

"What makes you think Rhuddryn will take him?"

The dead serious stare that Seobryn laid on Chadoc caused the man to flinch slightly, reminding him yet again that he did not want to get on the old traders bad side, "Because he owes me that’s why." Without another word Seobryn stood and order his men to bed down for the night, tomorrow they would make the main house and he wasn’t about to go traipsing in there dragging a bunch of half drunk trackers with him.

Aragorn quickly moved to set up Seobryn’s bed and stepped out of the way as the hunter approached him.

"Good job tonight Adrar. Now get some sleep." His master mumbled as he dropped down onto the readied pallet and fell into a light sleep.

Aragorn sat for sometime behind his master, thinking through the day and the ache in his own heart. He reached out for the memories that seemed to always be just out of grasp and touched them slightly pulling back when the pain shut him out of his own thoughts once more. For some reason a deep dread had settled in his heart as he had watched his master talking with Chadoc at the campfire. He knew the other hunter did not like him, but he did not know why and the unknown prospect of his future frightened him, frightened him a lot if he were honest, especially at night when the dreams haunted him and his own heart cried for what was lost. With a sigh he lay down behind his master and tried to get comfortable on the thin blanket he had been given. Tomorrow would come as it may and he would face it then.

Traveling during the day was uncomfortable in the southern reaches, but by the time the sun was setting once more they had reached the main house of Rhuddryn’s compound and the cool light breezes of evening where just beginning to stir across the grassy plains bringing with them the rich scents of pasture lands and evening fires cooking. Aragorn smiled as he took in the sight of the large house seated in the midst of a grove of manga trees awash in the glow of the setting sun. The last rays of light painted the white washed house in warm golds and reds.

Seobryn called a halt and the men dropped wearily to the ground on the outskirts of the trees that bracketed the large home. Aragorn went about seeing to the animals, unstrapping their heavy packs and fetching them water from the supplies. He jumped slightly as his master laid a large hand on his shoulder and turned him around.

"You come with me." Seobryn instructed the ranger as they walked away from the makeshift camp.

Aragorn glanced back quickly and noted that Chadoc stood watching them walk away his arms crossed across his chest, shaking his head slowly. For a brief moment their eyes locked before Aragorn obediently dropped his gaze as Seobryn had instructed him to. It had been another lesson that he had learned the hard way and he never forgot what he was taught. He never made Seobryn repeat a punishment on him if he could help it.

Within moments they had reached the front door to the mansion and were allowed into the palatial entry way. A dark skinned man led them through the ornately decorated hallways and knocked softly on a huge wooden door. When a muffled voice called to them, the servant let them into the study and stepped away, melting into the background quietly and disappearing before Aragorn could see where he had gone.

Aragorn stood by as Seobryn spoke with the man who sat behind the large desk in the opulent study. His owner had addressed the other as Rhuddryn. The ranger kept his eyes down as he had been instructed and wondered idly where they were. Surely he should remember something of this place if he had been here before. The quiet conversation between the two men in the room could not be overheard by the young ranger but he could tell that his master was adamantly arguing about something with the well dressed man behind the desk. Finally after a few moments of silent thought the tall dark haired man that was speaking with his master stood and called calmly for the captain of his guard with a sigh.

Aragorn attempted to step aside so the guard and his men could pass by and enter but instead they surrounded him, taking him roughly by the arms and dragging him farther into the room. Unsure of what was happening the ranger looked to Seobryn.


Seobryn smirked as he held Rhuddryn’s gaze, "I told you. He remembers nothing."

Rhuddryn nodded, not at all comfortable with the situation, but he had been backed into a corner and there was nothing else to do but take on the ranger, Seobryn was adamant on this and crossing his business associate would only cause bad blood between them. He himself was in favor of killing the young man, but then perhaps it would be worse if they did and word ever got back... however unlikely that was. This had already gone too far for Rhuddryn’s liking, but perhaps the work alone would take the ranger’s demise for them.

He turned, addressing his guards, "Take him out to Cabed’s clan. Leave him with them. He can work the oliphaunt fields with the others."

"Wait..." Fear spiked sharply through Aragorn and he struggled slightly with the men that tried to remove him from the room, "Wait! Master, what I have done?" He remembered very well Seobryn’s constant threat to sell him if he didn’t behave.

"Nothing Adrar. I have simply given you to Rhuddryn. He is your owner for now. I’ll come back for you later." Seobryn laughed at the confusion in the ranger’s eyes.

Rhuddryn watched as they dragged the slave out of his house; he inclined his head slightly as Aragorn’s frightened gaze landed on him. "Adrar? Very funny Seobryn." Rhuddryn turned humorless eyes on his colleague. "Now down to business I need to know how our benefactor took the news that his pet project is failing."

Seobryn nodded and sobered immediately seating himself opposite the desk in a plush chair. They had a lot to discuss.

Aragorn did not try to speak to the guards as they walked him out of the house and to the back of the property. He couldn’t help the fear that chased through his heart, turning his stomach inside out. The people here were not like any he had ever seen, tall, dark skinned and muscular. They spoke a language amongst themselves that he did not understand. Surely these were not his people, he would remember if they were.

The guards that flanked him stopped outside a large tented building. The canvas sides of the structure were held down about a bamboo frame by ropes that had been staked into the hard, dry dirt. The top of the tent was vented in a circular pattern, allowing smoke to escape easily into the night.

The captain of the guard grabbed the cloth flap that covered the entry into the building and tossed it back against the canvas side. Stepping in he pulled Aragorn after him and shoved the ranger forward, giving him a good smack on the head as he did so. The sounds of laughter and talking inside the room stopped suddenly as the foreigner was pushed into their midst.

The young man stumbled and fell hard to the ground, his dark hair obscuring his features and for the moment he was afraid to look up at all.

"Master Rhuddryn said he’s yours. Put him to use if you can, if not feed him to the taergs." The captain laughed as Aragorn glanced back quickly at him. The guard stepped out into the night and pulled the flap down on the tent. Slowly Aragorn looked around at the people who stared back at him. He swallowed hard, seeing no friendly or familiar faces in the small gathering.

The occupants of the sleeping room began to whisper amongst themselves in the same language Aragorn had heard earlier, but none of it made any sense to him. A large older man with a dark mahogany complexion and strong build spoke up on his right and the ranger flinched and turned quickly towards him. The slave repeated himself slower and softer when he noted the fear and confusion in the man that had just been thrown into his tent.

A woman to the left of the man cuffed the dark skinned elder gently and leaned towards Aragorn, speaking softly. The ranger shook his head, "I’m sorry I don’t understand." He whispered back.

"Adrar." A younger slave spoke up nodding at the stranger.

"Yes." Aragorn touched his chest nodding slowly, "I am Adrar." At his admission the people pressed around him erupted in laughter, which only confused him more. Slowly he sat up and shifted closer to the side of the tent trying to draw away from the slaves. He was frightened, and he realized that he was alone. He had no idea why Seobryn had sold him or given him away and he was half afraid it was because he could remember nothing. Perhaps his old master was right and he was simply slow witted and of no value anymore.

The older slave that addressed him first quieted the room and slowly stood from his seat. He stepped around the others seated near the fire and approached his new charge crouching down in front of the dark haired, fair skinned stranger.

Pointing to himself he spoke slowly, "Cabed. My name is Cabed."

"You speak the common tongue?" Aragorn questioned haltingly, his voice barely a whisper.

"Yes, the masters will not learn our language so we are taught theirs from childhood. We speak the northerners tongue, and that of the Haradrim."

"Haradrim?" The ranger repeated the strange word. Somehow he knew he should know it but the memory eluded him as did they all.

Cabed nodded his head. "That is what we are. This is my clan, most by birth some by adoption, some because they had no where else to go, like you." He laughed as he swept his hand behind him. "Where are you from Adrar?"

Aragorn opened his mouth to answer but did not speak, he didn’t know. He shook his head slowly glancing to the dirt floor beneath him.

The slave reached out and touched the barely visible scar on the man’s temple. When Aragorn flinched and moved away, Cabed changed tactics and simply pointed to the man’s bared arm and held his own forearm next to the ranger’s. "You are not from Harad." He smiled warmly at Aragorn as the man noted the very distinct color differences in their skin. The ranger’s skin was fair and white compared to the dark coppery tone of the other.

"No. I am not."

"That is why they call you Adrar. It means ‘white one’ in our language."

Aragorn smiled slightly as he caught the others gaze, "Oh, I see."

"You have no other name?"

"Not that I remember." The ranger touched his head gingerly where he had been wounded. "I was injured on our way here. My master said that I nearly died. I cannot remember anything anymore because of it. I do not know my name for myself, only that which I have been told."

"I see." Cabed’s eyes narrowed. He reached out fingering Aragorn’s dark unruly hair. The ranger did not move away this time but allowed the other to draw nearer. "I have only seen your likes when the northerners pass through. But it is no matter. You have been given to me; I am the elder under this tent. You are one of us now Adrar. We will teach you the ways of the Olybryn." The dark skinned man tapped his chest again indicating himself, "That is what we are. Olybryn, Oliphaunt shepherds. We have the honor of tending the master’s herds."

He could tell that the young man in front of him did not understand.

"In time you will know and you will work the herds side by side with us." He smiled gently at Aragorn.

"But now he needs fattening up." A female voice called to the two.

Cabed turned and frowned at the woman who had spoken before turning back to Aragorn, "That is Mambre, she is my wife. It is best to do what she says."

"Yes and I say he is too skinny." The woman shook her head in a motherly fashion.

"He has a lot to prove, let him sleep with the taergs tonight. If he is still there in the morning we can feed him then." The challenge came from an angry youth that sat opposite Mambre at the fire. He glared at Aragorn when the ranger glanced his way. The young slave was no older than the northerner but he was muscular and well built like his people. A life in the sun had tanned his already tawny skin darkly and his deep brown eyes were hard as they returned the stranger’s open stare.

"Behave Sircyn." A small female slave beside the angry youth cautioned, cuffing the boy upside the head slightly.

"Thank you Syna." Mambre glared over the sparking flames, "You listen to your sister and mind you manners. All slaves are our brother. It don’t matter none if they look like us or not. You should know that full well. If your father accepts Adrar then he is as good as your blood brother."

"I want another brother!" A small child jumped up from behind Mambre and leaned over her shoulder staring wide eyed at Aragorn.

The ranger had watched the whole discussion in silence. He couldn’t remember ever being in quite such a situation. A fact that didn’t surprise him much, he thought to himself sarcastically, since he couldn’t remember anything. However being adopted by this family, a family that was very different from himself in many respects, somehow felt right and he found himself smiling softly as they spoke and argued amongst themselves about him, mindful to speak common for his sake.

"I will work hard. I may not know much but I know I am capable of working hard and I will do anything you ask of me. I do not mind." He spoke up softly, desperately wanting to be accepted.

Cabed glanced back at him and smiled, "I believe you will at that. Fine then. It is my choice, and I take him as part of this clan. Adrar you are a member now of the Simbani clan. We will be your family and you will work with us."

Aragorn gripped Cabed’s upper arm with his hand and nodded in agreement.

"Then you must come and eat. You canna go out and work with the oliphaunts all skinny like you are. They will bowl you over." Mambre pushed aside the younger slaves seated around her, making room for Aragorn and served him up a bowl of the stew she was slowly stirring.

Sircyn frowned at their newest family member, he was not at all sure of this one and he spoke quietly to Cabed about it, covering their conversation in the Haradrim tongue as his father sat down next to him.

"He will be a danger to us father. He isn’t one of us, he’s one of *them*! How do we know he is not a plant from the master to watch us even in our own dwellings?"

"We don’t. But neither do we know that he is. So you will keep your eyes on him and make sure that he is not a danger. You must also make sure that comes to no harm until we can decide if he is truly who he says he and not a test from the master. Do you understand me Sircyn?" Cabed leaned back against his son watching Adrar from his seated position. The young white slave seemed to truly be lost. "It could be that the masters have abused this one and he cannot remember as he says. Give him a chance before you judge him."

Sircyn’s gaze softened slightly as he watched his youngest brother, Kidrin, crawl into the stranger’s lap asking a million questions and touching the pale skin of Adrar’s cheek. The new slave smiled and allowed the child to touch him and run his fingers through the ranger’s long dark tresses, a novelty among a race of people who kept their hair short or drawn up away from their necks in a thick braided pony tail as Sircyn wore his. The style was incorporated mostly for the heat of the days they endured in their work. Adrar would learn, Sircyn thought to himself, he would learn quickly or he would die as the others had.

Cabed knew the thoughts of his eldest son and the sorrow that chased fleetingly across the young man’s face. "He will need you to see to it that he does pass away like the others." This new slave was not the first to come to them in such a way, lost, alone, although he was the first who appeared to be a northerner himself. The others - some had lived some had died, but each one that was lost left an ache in the hearts of the clan that had accepted them. It was becoming increasingly hard to take on new members only to have them die or removed and sold by the master. It was hard to keep ones heart open in the situation Cabed and his family found themselves.

Sircyn nodded and stood from his seat moving away to bed down for the night. He had a lot to think through. 


Soft sounds of distress woke Sircyn late in the night and he opened his eyes to find that his father had placed Adrar next to him. The slave lay with his face inches from Adrar’s. It was necessary in the small tent for the large clan to lie sleeping side by side as much for the warmth as for the human touch, to know that one wasn’t alone in a world where a slave was no more important than one of the master’s pet harpians. Life on the plains was short and often hard but knowing that one was not alone kept the heart from giving up. Cabed had placed Adrar between himself and Sircyn for just that reason and now the stranger was caught in the midst of a nightmare.

Unwilling to have the new slave wake up the whole tent, Sircyn shook Aragorn roughly to wake him. The ranger jerked awake, rocking back into Cabed and accidentally waking the older man. Tears rimmed his eyes and to Sircyn’s surprise they spilled over the edges. Aragorn sniffed quietly, trying to stop his ragged breathing, his bright silver eyes locked desperately onto the dark ones that watched him curiously.

The young, dark-skinned slave removed his hand from Aragorn’s shoulder but the ranger caught his wrist and held it tightly. Sircyn didn’t move out of the desperate grip, not quite sure if the new slave was fully awake.

"Are you awake now? You will stir them all, what is wrong?" He asked softly. He did not notice that his father had woken, shifting silently to gaze over Aragorn’s shoulder and watch what was going on.

"Yes. I am awake." Aragorn whispered quietly. "I’m sorry, I was dreaming."

"About what?" Sircyn rested his arm back on the mat beneath him; Aragorn’s hand still locked about his wrist.

"I do not know but they were..." Aragorn stopped speaking, "They..." He closed his eyes tightly shut and shook his head, the images of his dream fading into the darkness of the reality around him, beyond his grasp of recall.

"They hurt you didn’t they?"

The ranger’s eyes flew open and he stared at the young man who had so openly opposed his entry into this new family.

"I think so." The answer was soft and uncertain, but laced with pain. Sometimes he saw horrible things in his dreams and it made him hurt.

"Where is your family?" Sircyn whispered.

"I do not know."

"Maybe the masters killed them. They often do. Was that what you remembered?" He pressed the new slave.

"I don’t know. I really don’t know anything. When I try it hurts very badly. It’s like everything is gone. I know you don’t believe me. But I tell you the truth." His eyes begged the young man to believe him. He needed all the friends he could get and something deep in his heart mourned the emptiness that he knew somewhere there were people to fill it, if only he could remember them.

Sircyn nodded slowly, gently removing Aragorn’s fingers from his wrist. With his freed hand he placed his palm against the ranger’s face causing the other to blink and close his eyes, "I do believe you Adrar, just sleep, you will need your strength for tomorrow."

The way the young slave had touched him seemed vaguely familiar to Aragorn and smiled underneath the gentle touch, nodding slightly. "Thank you," he whispered.

Sircyn just nodded as he gazed at the other, his glance caught on the sight of his father leaning over the new slave and smiling at his eldest son. With a rueful grin the youth shook his head at his elder and closed his eyes.

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