Walking the Dark Road
Book 1 of the "Walking" Trilogy
Authors - Bill Gopher & Iceflame55
Disclaimers - The Characters of Buffy and company are owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Characters and places of the Middle-Earth are owned by the Tolkien estate. We're just borrowing them all for some fun, we promise to put them back when we're finished :D.
Author's Note - For those of you wondering, this story has absolutely nothing to do with the "Changing Futures" trilogy. This was just a matter of 'oooh! That sounds cool! I wonder' and was inspired by "His Dark Queen" by Altryna which got the whole thing started in the first place. Enjoy!
Gap of Nurza-Shûk
Buffy tucked the spyglass away back in her pocket, the massive amounts of death and destruction among Sauron's forces clinched what she and Faith already knew. That Sauron had been defeated, for when he'd somehow lost the Ring they'd both felt pain enough to drive them to their knees. Walking back Buffy saw Faith waiting for her.
"So he's gone?" Faith asked already knowing the answer.
"Yes. They're busy tearing down Barad-dûr as we speak, but it won't take them long to get reorganized and start hunting the survivors down. I doubt 1 in 12 Orcs lived and those that did are still running if they weren't killed. There's not much of the rest of the others either; Southron, Easterlings, the whole bunch are running with their tails between their legs after that."
Faith was thoughtful at that bit of information, digesting it and considering their options that were left. "How many men do you have left?"
"Seven thousand foot, another five hundred heavy cavalry. I lost most of the rest when Sauron 'requested' reinforcements to break the Siege with that 'big' attack of his. What about you?"
"Five thousand foot, maybe a hundred cavalry." Was Faith instant reply. "Even combined that's not going to hold them off and if we tried they'll just slaughter everyone as they tear through Nurn."
"So what are you suggesting then? You know we can't just surrender...'to them'." Buffy said disdainfully.
Faith thought about it for several minutes as searching her brain for 'something...anything' that might help them. "Parley." Faith said finally. "Not us, they hate us as much as we do them. But one of the minor Easterling Lords'll do for a start."
Sighing, "You're right, but you know where this is going to go... My only reason for going along is Stonehelm and the other citadels we have, otherwise I'd say we just fall back and fade away. Leave them to their *victory*."
1 Week Later...
The two brightly dressed Easterlings sat in the shade beneath their Gold and Blue pavilion as they waited for their counterparts from the Elves and Gondor to arrive. After another hour a cloud of dust could be seen on the far horizon and Hazrahel, pulled out his *eye-tube*, putting it to his eye he saw a large group of Gondorians and Elves heading this way. Putting the *eye-tube* away Hazrahel signaled his captain to come over. "It is them. Your men cannot jeopardize this by over-reacting..."
Nodding, "We understand. It will not be *our* men who cause this to fail. All of them are volunteers and understood the risk when they agreed to come on this mission." Captain al-Fazhir answered.
"Very good, Captain. One last thing, we may be attempting a parley but I don't want this to be a slaughterhouse if it comes to that either....understood?"
A hard glint appeared in Captain al-Fazhir's eye, "Aye Sir."
Hazrahel had waited in the shade for another quarter candlemark watching the group of riders grow in count as they neared him and smiled coldly. The Bone Queens had been shrewd in their choice of warriors to greet the Gondorians. The sun and heat would have crippled almost anyone else, but Hazrahel and his guards were used to this type of heat. But the Gondorians ahead he could see were not so well used to it and Hazrahel picked up his tulwar before attaching it to the wide sash on his hip and stepping out with the white flag on the pike staff. "HOLD!" Hazrahel called out loudly, "I call Parley!". Now that the dust cloud was no more, Hazrahel could see that the band of riders before him numbered at least 250, with perhaps an additional 50 Elves among them.
A tall, bearded man rode forward, his surcoat dusty, "Who is it that calls parley with Gondor?"
"I, Karim Hazrahel of Rhun, Amir-i-Nuyan (Lieutenant General) call Parley. Who am I speaking with and what is your claim?" Hazrahel said proudly.
"Karim Hazrahel, I am Lord Elric. Nobleman to King Isildur of Gondor. What is it that you want?" Elric said haughtily. "If this is an attempt to delay or attack us we will crush you like the insignificant insects that you are. King Isildur has already killed your master Sauron during the siege of his tower at Barad-dûr."
"We do not seek Parley for ourselves, but for our Amir ul-Umara (Commander of Commanders), they seek parley for their forces and those they protect."
Elric's eyes narrowed as the Easterling's use of titles. "You serve the Bone Queens!" Spitting into the dirt before him as if to remove the foul taint of that title from his mouth.
"Yes, it is with great pride that we have served them, as did my father, his father and his fathers's father."
"We will have nothing to do with them or those that serve them!" Elric swore angrily, his hand fell on the hilt of the sword at his side.
"Draw that blade and you will be dead before it clears the scabbard." Hazrahel's voice cracked out loud. "Did you think that we were fools waiting to be slaughtered by you? What typical Gondorian arrogance! My people have lived in the desert since time began, it is our home. Do you think that *this*," Hazrahel gestured to the sunny sky above, "bothers us? Long before we served here we made combat in the desert an art, so think you well that all you see before you is all that is here."
Lifting his hand slowly from his sword, "I see." Lord Elric gritted out. "What is it that you and your *masters* want?"
"Safe passage to and from a meeting with Lord Elrond of Rivendell and your King Isildur. They agree that they will go unarmed to this parley with Lord Elrond and Prince...I mean *King* Isildur to discuss their terms for surrender."
"*Our* surrender?" Elric said in shock at the audacity, his hand once again resting on the hilt of his sword.
"You seem eager to fight this day Lord Elric, we can accommodate you if that is your wish. You may even *win* today, but know this. If we do not return or have injured or dead from our ranks when we do return the Bone Queens will consider that your answer to them. The Men that serve them will not surrender, will not yield, only death itself will stop them, not out of fear of them, but of failing our Amir ul-Umara. They who have led us to victory again and again over you and yours and protected those under their care...."
Lord Elric was prepared to deny their outrageous claim when he saw the grey stallion and its rider move past him.
Glorfindel had heard and seen enough, now it was time to put a stop to this. "Amir Hazrahel, I am Glorfindel. What is it that you are asking today?"
Hiding his smile behind the full beard on his face, "I have heard of you Glorfindel. You have won much glory for your House. What we ask is simple, as I told Lord Elric, safe passage for our Queens to and from the parley with your Lord Elrond and King Isildur."
"And the purpose of the parley they wish?"
"Discuss terms of surrender. They have no wish to see those under their charge brought to harm."
"What are you speaking of Amir Hazrahel? The Men under their banner?" Glorfindel asked.
Shaking his head, "No. The Northern Nurn is home to those captured by Sauron, there he sends most of those to our Queens. Those innocents and the children are the ones under the Bone Queens protection. They have one restriction, there are to be no more than 10 Elven Guards within 100 yards of the parley."
Glorfindel raised one eyebrow at that one 'restriction'. "How many slaves are under the control of the Bone Queens?"
Ignoring Glorfindel the Elf's question, "If your lords agree to this, send a rider with a broken spear and a blue pennant on it to this spot in 2 days." Hazrahel answered instead.
"I will relay your message for Parley to Lord Elrond. You will have your answer Amir Hazrahel." Glorfindel turned his horse around and signaled his men to do so as well.
Lord Elric fumed at Glorfindel's arrogant assumption of command, but finally felt there was no other choice, turning his men around to tell King Isildur of this. He only wished he was not there to be in his King's vicinity when he heard the news.
Glorfindel entered Lord Elrond's pavilion with his report on the parley, something he wasn't looking forward to. Not many Elves held the Bone Queens in much beyond a distinct dislike, while it didn't border on hatred, it neatly danced close to that line at times. All knew of the enmity between the Bone Queens and the entire Elven population of Middle-Earth, much less the fate of any Elf they were able to lay their hands on. Be that as it was, Glorfindel knew as much as it galled the Elven commanders, even they had to admit that the Bone Queens were highly skilled warriors and leaders. One thing that had stuck out about them other than their abilities was the loyalty of those who served them. Glorfindel realized that if the soldiers under Amir Hazrhahel were an example of the devotion their men felt to them then the fight to take back Nurn would be a bloody one indeed. Finally Glorfindel saw the signal for him to enter Lord Elrond's tent...
"Glorfindel, I know you just arrived only a few candlemarks ago, but I am interested to hear more of the Easterlings you encountered today."
"Yes Lord Elrond. As you know, it was no fleeing band of defeated Easterlings under Sauron that we encountered today."
"Indeed not. I have heard that they served the Bone Queens themselves, yes?"
"Yes. It was on their behalf that they were seeking a parley. They, the Bone Queens, wish to discuss their surrender, but they had specific terms. One was that they meet with you and King Isildur and Two, there were to be no more than 10 Elven Guards within 100 yards of the parley itself."
"Is that *all*?" Elrond asked with a hint of disbelief in his voice.
"That and if we chose to fight them it will cost us dearly."
"They said that?" Elrond demanded.
Shaking his head, "No my Lord. Rather it was implied in their conversation with Lord Elric. That they 'would not surrender, would not yield and only Death would stop them,' I think it was plain what they meant."
Letting out a sharp breath from his nose, "Indeed. And what did you think of this threat Glorfindel?"
"I believe that they were utterly serious. One other thing was mentioned Lord Elrond. There are captives...slaves; women and children being held in the Northern Nurn and who have been under the thumb of the Bone Queens for only the Valar knows how long."
Turning and pacing at this last bit of news, "Thank you Glorfindel." Elrond said dismissing him as he began to consider the possibilities of his answer...
Two Days Later...
Buffy saw the spear with the blue pennant on it with her spyglass and put it away. Turning around Buffy signaled the men below to send the prisoners out, she hoped Faith had the right idea by letting the 50 Elves out and sending them to the meeting spot. Well, too late now to change our minds that's for sure Buffy thought mirthlessly and headed back towards their camp just South of here, about 40 minutes away of where she now stood.
Some part of him told him that this had to be a trap, that he and the 50 other Elves were going to die or at least be sacrificial lambs, but as it turned out that was not the case. Instead they were actually safe and behind the earthworks of an Elven War Camp. After getting his first hot bath in years, Galdor reveled in the feeling of it. But now he had to meet with Lord Elrond who had more than a few questions for him about his stay with the Bone Queens...
"So Galdor, tell me of your prison stay in Mordor with the Bone Queens." Elrond began the conversation.
"Well, it was a lot different than what I had expected to be honest. I'd been knocked out during the battle at the Morannon in the second year of the War and woke up to find myself in chains and surrounded by a lot of very 'hungry-looking' Orcs. They wanted to know who I was with, how many of us were there and where we were. After a while of that they stopped the questions and I figured they had no use for me anymore which was turning my chances of surviving really slim. Then one day I found myself being shipped off South with 20 other Elves who'd also been captured. A few weeks later we met them for the first time...the Bone Queens." Galdor paused to take a moment to organize his thoughts, he wasn't sure how much of this Lord Elrond was going to be willing to believe, even though it was the truth...
"Take your time Galdor, I understand that this is difficult for you." Elrond said, having been warned that this would be a traumatic experience to recount.
"Thank you, but it is not that. When we met them I was sure we were going to all die and quite horribly at that because *everyone* knows of their cruelty and hatred of Elves." Pausing a beat, "Lord Elrond, have you ever met them?"
"Well as I was saying, they aren't what you'd expect really. They are like night and day, Heleg Naur is short, fair-haired and a beauty to be honest. Where as Amlug Ruth was tall with hair like the black of midnight, but just as beautiful." Galdor saw the dark look from Lord Elrond and hurried on. "Well the day we met them they explained the rules they had in their lands. No rape, murder, assault or theft would be tolerated from the slaves there. Any infraction of the first three had only one penalty...death, followed by having your body cut up and sent with a sign for your crime. Theft only lost you the hand you used to steal with." Galdor added. "If we wanted anything from the people under their protection we had to barter for it, after that we were given another set of clothes to replace the ones falling or rotting off of us before we were led to a small lake, given some soap and told to 'clean the stink off'."
"Are you saying that you were treated 'kindly' by them?" Elrond asked suspiciously.
"Kindly isn't a word I'd use, Lord Elrond. They claimed they didn't want us bringing any diseases with us and destroying their lands, but we weren't exactly tortured either. Every day at sunrise we got up, worked till noon on the fields of corn and such, given 30 minutes for lunch and then went back to work until before sunset and got our dinner and then slept. The work was hard and brutal at times and those that watched over us were not gentle, but neither was there any deliberate cruelty inflicted on any of us."
"And what if you tried to escape? I'm sure they didn't reward you."
"No, their rule was try and escape if we wanted, but past their lands Sauron's orders were we were fair game for food for any of his legions. After a few tried and were never heard or seen again, that pretty much ended that. The idea of being eaten wasn't one many of us were happy to willingly seek." Galdor explained.
"So you're saying they didn't torture you, starve you, or kill you off for their amusement. Nothing like that at all?" Elrond asked incredulously.
With a nod, "No they didn't. Not at least as long as I was there. Just work and more work. It wasn't a pleasant stay during my time with them, but they were scrupulously fair and even-handed. Those rules were applied to everyone, even the warriors under their command and especially to any Orc allowed through their lands."
Elrond frowned, "What do you mean by 'any Orc allowed through their lands', Galdor? That *is* Mordor is it not? The breeding ground and home of Orcs, they wander where they wish or are ordered to go."
Shaking his head, "No, my Lord. That is not correct, at least not the lands under the Bone Queens protection it was not. I don't know what their rules were, but I do know that in five years of captivity there I did not see Orcs tramping through the lands of the Bone Queens and when I did they were controlled, quiet and passed through as quickly as possible." Galdor could see the conflicting looks coming from Lord Elrond at this information. "I know it seems impossibly strange, but I've seen what was done to those Orcs who did not keep to themselves in Nurn." Galdor shuddered at this memory, "A small group of Orcs broke off from their unit and went out foraging for food, shortly after they found a small farm and grabbed the family there. They raped the mother and daughter and killed the husband, after which they stole everything of value from the farm before returning to their unit. When the Bone Queens found out what had happened Heleg Naur rode out with 100 of her personal Guard after them and didn't return until after dark so no-one saw them return. The next week I was sent with 20 others North-West and we found what Heleg Naur had exacted from the Orcs for their crime..."
Elrond saw the fear in Galdor's eyes at the memory, "Whatever they did, you do not have to recount it to me Galdor..." Elrond suggested, not wanting to traumatize the young Elf any further.
"No, my Lord. I do. We found the torso's of seven Orcs staked to 10' foot high crosses, their heads and limbs were missing. Behind them was a forest of dead Orc heads, I stopped counting when after 110, but there were at least 400 total. A large wooden sign had been erected in the middle of the stakes, in Orc and Common it said; 'This is the fate of those who break the laws of the Bone Queens. Harm any on our lands and *all* will suffer the consequences.' My Lord, they wiped out every last Orc, not just the ones who'd committed those atrocities."
"I see. Is there anything else you feel that I should know about them Galdor?" Elrond asked.
"No my Lord."
"Thank you for speaking with me. You have given me much to consider." Elrond said before having one of his aide's lead Galdor out. "Much, much to consider indeed and perhaps it is time to meet with the Bone Queens...
Continued in Chapter One