AN.: Sorry, I know I promised to get this done sooner, but it just didn't work.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Middle Earth.
The Dark Wizard and the Curse of Immortality
Chapter 16 – The Orc Chieftain
The cloth was itching, Harry noted as he slipped into the garments with practised ease.
When the robes had been brought to him by a stony-faced Boromir, the wizard had felt an immediate dislike for the thing. Deep down he knew that it had nothing to do with the quality of the fabric though; after all he had worn rags and armour with little discomfort. Rather it was the reason why he had to wear it. They were a signal, a symbol.
The only reason why the orcs were following him was that he intimidated them and the only reason why those creatures feared a little runt like him was because he was a wizard. The robes were something that they associated with magic-users and - in order to signify his position - they had to be worn. At least this was the gist of the elves' message that Boromir had relayed to him in a sober voice.
Frowning darkly Harry remembered that - for the very same reason - he could no longer interact freely with the dwarf and the elves either. Boromir was sent running up to the keep and down to the orc-encampment like a mere messenger, which did nothing to improve the man's already foul mood. There was nothing he could do about it though. Being a rather fearsome vampire himself and respected by their master Boromir was grudgingly acknowledged as second in command by the orcs. It was fairly unlikely that they would dare attack him behind their leader's back. Elves and dwarves on the other hand would most likely be anything but safe.
Harry picked up the long, slender knife Haldir had given his friend before he departed to check on the slumbering men and hiding women and children. The reflective surface of the blade was the only thing remotely mirror-like he had. Grimacing Harry tried to flatten his hair, but as always it was a lost cause, as every single hair seemed to have a mind of its own. In his opinion this destroyed any effect the robes could possibly have. After all, had there ever been a dark lord who had a hair that looked like a bird's nest? Harry doubted it.
It was then that an orc all but barged into his tent and looked like it would have started reporting something immediately if it weren't for the wand Harry was now pointing straight into the intruders face. It was an ordinary, living orc; one of the kind whose lack of intelligence was written all over its scarred face. It seemed this breed of orc was mainly brought along to be a food supply for their vampiric comrades.
Cocking his head and raising an eyebrow, the black-haired wizard thought idly that the beast in front of him bore a strange resemblance to a bull dog, as the beast looked at him dumbly and fearfully from where it was cowering. Resisting the urge to roll his eyes the undead prompted in a growling voice, "What?" The wizard felt rather proud of how this came out. It sounded more like a threat than a question.
Eyes flitting nervously everywhere but at Harry or the wand pointed at its face, the greenish-skinned monster seemed to wonder how he could get out of this without being hurt or worse. It looked rather painful, as though old rusty gears were trying to turn after years of disuse. As the creature trembled, opening and closing its mouth in a fruitless attempt to articulate itself in his presence, the older vampire wondered whether he should punish it or stop imitating Voldemort. It was a little frightening to him how fast this behaviour became natural.
Losing his patience, Harry finally lowered his wand a fraction and asked again, letting his impatience show, "What is it? Your entrance suggested that it must have been important." The 'or else' hung silently in the air.
Remembering that it indeed was a matter of urgency, the creature began gesticulating wildly in its agitation and hopped from its left normal foot to its right somewhat flattened deformed one. It squeaked in a voice that was too high-pitched and choked to fit its plump owner, "Riders coming. Sent to get you, master." A war cry drifted to him and Harry felt the uncharacteristic need to harm the creature for the mere reason of wasting so much precious time. He wasn't sure whether his minions would continue to listen to his command if they were attacked themselves.
He had been expecting Gandalf's return for a while now and was starting to get agitated since the men of Rohan were due to wake up in a few hours at most. By that time he wanted to be gone. Running from a confrontation was not usually his style, but he didn't want to face Aragorn. He had discovered - if truly irked - Aragorn could be far worse than Legolas, Boromir and Haldir combined, who were all down in his books as rather foul-tempered at times. Initially Harry had considered not even waiting for Gandalf, but he needed some advice on what he should do with his newly-acquired army. Although neither Legolas nor Haldir lacked wisdom, Boromir didn't lack an overview of the war going on in Gondor and none of them lacked an education in the art of warfare, Harry thought it best to ask the almost omniscient wizard for council – it was probably due to the force of habit.
Leaving his tent without further ado he was assaulted by the smells and noises of the orc camp. Excrements, sweat and blood, clanging of metal, creaking of hardened leather and the shouting of thousands of unpleasant voices all came crushing down on him in such a sudden rush that the vampire had to take a moment to regain his bearings. When he opened the eyes, having not realised he had closed in the first place, he noticed that a group of muscled orc chieftains had surrounded him. It took him a moment to understand that their actions weren't meant to be hostile, but rather respectful. Refraining from snorting in a rather undignified manner, Harry realised that the dumb, living orc had probably stumbled into his tent the way it had, because it had been tossed in there by one of the big, scary chieftains. It seemed like they didn't have the guts to disturb him themselves.
Hastily they made their way through the parting crowd. The Rohirric war cries had faded away, which the wizard hoped wouldn't turn out to be cause for worry. He had seen enough massacres for the several lifetimes he had lived.
Harry had a feeling that they would soon reach their destination, since the orcs up ahead seemed to be increasingly occupied with what was happening in front of them. Some were roughly shouldered out of the way because they didn't notice the crowd they were in was making way for their leader. Suddenly the vampire had a good view of the thankfully unharmed, if very confused Rohirrim on top of their agitated war horses.
Looking straight ahead Harry strode forward, trying to regain that certain commanding aura that used to come so naturally to him, when he was young and not surrounded by people who looked like they could easily be his parents. Hopefully, the fact that he was given an ever increasing berth and the Rohirrim were unconsciously forcing their already nervous horses to back up meant that he was doing just that. It was then that he became aware of the shining white sage on his beautiful stallion, looking like the incarnation of some war god of old. If the younger one hadn't been keeping such a tight grip on himself he would have averted his eyes like the child the ancient being always managed to make him feel like.
"We have to negotiate," Harry said without preamble, hoping nobody had noticed the slight hitch in his voice. Gandalf was looking at him in a way that didn't bode well at all. The vampire was everything but easy to scare. He was actually known to be fearless to the point of stupidity at times, yet the other wizard was all but cloaking himself in an aura of power and anger.
To the younger magic-users immense relief the elder nodded curtly and dismounted. A handful of the men of Rohan meant to follow suite and act as an escort, but he waved them off.
Sensing the other's well-hidden concern for the wellbeing of his men, Harry barked out, "I told you what would happen to anyone who raised their weapons, didn't I?"
The orcs shuddered and shrank away from the dark-cloaked man, but gave collective sounds of affirmation.
Ignoring the intensive look of shock his friend was giving him and the nagging thought that Hermione and many others that had known him in his own world would be appalled by his treatment of the orcs, Harry strode back the way he came. He knew himself that no matter what kind of creatures those things were, it was neither healthy nor good by any means that he was deep down enjoying hurting those creatures - supremely sinister or not.
Sparing a more conscious look at his surroundings he realised that he had gotten quite lost. It was no real surprise as each of the leather-made tents looked pretty much the same. With an annoyed gesture he ordered a passing orc to take the lead, which it did, shaking like a leaf. The other wizard observed all of this with an unreadable expression, raising a curious eyebrow when it became apparent that the beast wouldn't stop trembling until it was dismissed. Out of the corner of his eyes Harry observed how the ancient man paid a lot of attention to the reaction they were getting from the crowd. Wincing slightly Harry remembered a rather wise statement he had heard in his youth. It went along the lines of estimating a man's character by observing how he treats those beneath him. But whoever had said that had surely never commanded one of those dark creatures, Harry thought passing one which had decorated the shoulder pads of its armour with human skulls.
Feeling eyes on him the black-haired man noticed that the older wizard's deep eyes had been watching him from under the shade of his wide-rimmed hat. Somewhat bemused Harry couldn't help but think that the elder might have used clever tactics or mind magic to make him at least reflect his actions. Well, killing them quickly probably was a whole different thing than torturing them to insanity with the darkest of magic. Not to mention the fact that this kind of magic was said to poison the mind of the user. As the other man gave him a very discrete nod and the hint of a smile the younger one could hardly refrain from groaning out loud. He truly wondered whether all wise old wizards were manipulative old coots at least to a certain degree, but he had to fight a smile at the thought as it was accompanied with a strange kind of fondness.
When they finally made it back to the leader's tent, Boromir was already there waiting for them. The soot-blackened armour Gimli hoped would make him fit into this army actually made him stand out as one of the most imposing looking individuals in the encampment. The warrior looked very much like one would picture the black knight from the stories. Especially the horned helmet which helped to turn the - if hot-headed - still at core good-hearted man into someone who could pass for a demon.
With a wry smile, he walked past the man motioning for him to follow and thinking that this was a little like a theatre play - with the two of them playing the antagonists. With a flick of his wand he closed the tent, sighing with relief as the enchantments he had placed on his tent kicked in muffling the noises and smells to a more bearable degree. Muttering low under his breath he walked around the tent once adding a ward against eavesdropping to the enchantments.
"So," a voice spoke up from behind him. "If I may ask so boldly, what has transpired here?"
Turning around, Harry fished for his prearranged words, as he motioned for the other two to sit down on the furs, which he suspected once belonged to a warg. Gandalf immediately sat down seemingly immune to any discomfort. While Boromir seemed to prefer to remain standing as he wordlessly leant against one of the roughly-hewn pillars. The warrior had taken off the grotesque helmet and seemed unaware of the slight crunch of his nose, as he watched the furs with distaste. The young vampire probably thought there might be lice in them, which wasn't all that far off, as Harry had previously discovered some and immediately thrown whatever critter-killing spell that came to mind at it. That such little pests weren't interested in him, didn't mean he had to like them.
Hesitating for but a moment longer, Harry sat down opposite of the sage and began to relay what had happened to Boromir and him, since they had parted ways in the marches. The other man listened with an unreadable, grave expression on his wizened face, nodding every now and again. Finally at the end of his tale, Harry said with a hint of the stress he was feeling creeping into his voice, "So now I have a few thousand men and orcs – many of which are vampires – on my hands and I just cannot think of a way how to keep them from harming anyone eventually."
Rubbing his chin in deep thought the wiser being muttered, "Well, they certainly cannot remain here any longer. You must move out immediately, but where and on which paths..?"
Keeping his mouth from betraying the fact that that was rather obvious Harry sat back waiting patiently.
Leaving his previous post by the pillar, Boromir began rummaging through some of the papers the other vampire had strewn about in a rather youthful display of untidiness. With a low grunt of victory the strong man picked up the map, he and Harry had been studying a few hours before. Spreading the crackling old material on the floor, he bowed over it his index-finger tracing a few incomprehensible words, as it finally settled on a single small reddish dot, pretty much in the middle of the map. For Harry's sake he supplied, "This is where we are. The Hornburg." His finger moved a tiny bit upwards on the map. "Isengard." Following a faded brownish path eastward (If it was on the right, just like in maps of his world that is) along the stylised mountains, he muttered a faintly familiar word, "Minas Tirith…" Looking at Gandalf in a more challenging way than Harry had ever seen before the man said in a deceptively neutral voice, "Two choices. I dare say between the three of us we will be able to make a decision."
Knitting his brow, the other vampire tried to figure out what had gotten into the man. His eyes were stormy and if Harry didn't know him better than that he'd have shifted a little so he could intercept the taller one in case the old man's response ripped the thin string currently keeping the other vampire's emotions in check.
And indeed for a second it looked like Boromir might lose his composure, when the wizard shook his head gravely saying, "Neither is actually a choice." Obviously trying to placate the irate undead, the wizard calmly explained, "You must not think of these creatures as a normal army. Sooner or later Harry may not be able to control them any more, if he doesn't indulge their lust for blood and battle, so leading them to Minas Tirith would be a decidedly foolish move to make and Isengard would be nothing more than a great detour."
"But I have a score to settle with Saruman!" Harry cried out, realising that now he might never get the chance to get some answers.
"So have many others, but this is not the time for such childish desires, young wizard," the sage rebuked sharply. "Need I remind you of all people what we are dealing with? Imagine these creatures descending upon a city like a swarm of locusts and tell me again that your desires for vengeance are of dire importance."
Biting his lip the vampire remained silent, feeling angry at being scolded like this, but unwilling to start a fight.
Accepting the other's silence as an answer, Gandalf continued as though he had never been interrupted in the first place, "There is really only one location you may turn to." His weathered but strong hand ran over several names on the map all the way east and then south, Boromir gasped sharply when it finally came to rest on a piece of land that must have been truly gigantic, if Harry's estimation of the map's scale was even remotely correct. The map didn't even seem to display all of it, but a minuscule part. "Harad, or The South. At least the northern parts have allied themselves with Sauron, but rumour travels fast and they say that the Haradrim have all been unified under one banner." At this Boromir gave a small cry and Harry too looked worriedly down at the map, comparing what he thought was Gondor and Rohan with what clearly belonged to their enemy. The current situation looked bad and their small victory suddenly very unimportant.
"For obvious reasons you should avoid human cities for their safety as much as yours. They would assume you are an enemy and it would be everything but easy to negotiate with an army of hungry orcs breathing down your neck." Harry easily refrained from pointing out that they didn't breathe; he was in no mood to joke.
Tracing the map with a hand covering his mouth, Gandalf was obviously trying to think of a clever route to take, which bypassed most villages. "You should make your way through the caves first, then over this mountain." He showed him the minuscule trade route leading south over the mountain, or maybe it was a valley that was too small to be shown on the map. Helm's Deep was only a tiny dot on it after all.
Sighing Gandalf wiped away the sweat on his brow. "Your troops are needed most in South Ithilien and beyond and only there will you find enough food for them. But the distance is too great…" He traced the journey on the map and even Harry - who understood little of what the map was trying to tell him - could see that. "At least 150 leagues lie between you and any reasonable destination you may have. If you do not move fast you will have problems on your hands."
"The war machines will be left behind and – I know you will not like to hear this – those among your troops that are alive should be eliminated or in the case of the Wildmen you may consider sending them back north. This way you will be able to move all day and night and will probably be able to cross 6 leagues with every hour." He smiled grimly. "I will be very grateful if Mordor does not have vampires at its disposal. This journey should take an army weeks." He presented Harry with one of his smiles which was a very rare sight these days. "Commanding this army might not be the wisest thing, but it is seldom the wise that win the wars for their people."
The old wizard gripped the vampire's shoulder and Harry felt strength flood through him. He didn't know whether it was the relief of knowing that the mighty being was on his side and would probably defend his actions or whether it was part of the subtle but powerful magic the wizards of Middle Earth wielded.
It was a short while later, that found Boromir and Harry supervising the decampment. It was going smoothly, as there weren't many tents and provision around to begin with. For the most part the orcs were already finished, after storing a great assortment of weapons on their bodies and putting on their crudely made armour.
"Gondor is your home isn't it?" Harry asked out of the blue in a neutral voice, knowing full well that it indeed was so; the other had talked about it a lot. "You should go there." As the other turned to him wide-eyed and about to retort, the older of the two continued, "It is obvious that you would much rather go home and defend it directly, instead of going south." The other opened his mouth to object, but he was given no chance, as Harry turned around giving the command to move out. The army fell into step behind him.
For a while the oldest vampire had hoped that his friends would follow him after all and fall into step behind him. He didn't really want to go alone. There was not a single trustworthy individual among the hundreds of creatures, he was leading. Especially since every last living creature had been sucked dry by his command. Steeling himself he entered the caves and watched the frightened mothers and children that futilely tried to hide themselves and the bodies of their men in the darkest corners. His sharp red eyes searched hundreds of tiny terrified faces, until it finally found the dirty one he had been looking for. Not pausing in his step he took out Eowyn and activated the charm on her so she would hurry back to her owner – after the exercise he got the previous day, he had reached a great level of proficiency when it came to that handy charm. Risking but one careful glance over his shoulder to make sure it worked, he was rewarded with a toothless smile, as the girl hugged the rag doll.
Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli and Haldir were waiting by the tunnel that would lead them deeper into the mines. He gave them one last discrete nod, before he passed and tried to convey that he wished them all good luck. He allowed one of the orc chieftains that had been familiarised with the caves layout to come up close behind, before the whole army broke into a brisk jog.
A few hours later the Hornburg resembled a bee hive some silly child had poked a stick into, humming with activity, angry soldiers running this way and that with no real purpose to speak of. In the valley below Boromir could see a few of the more level-headed ones who were searching for surviving Wildmen, orcs or armour. If they did find a piece of armour twitching with the remainder of the Dark Wizard's magic the soldiers usually ran away, which was quite amusing to see and the reason why many kids had snuck outside to watch the spectacle.
Wishing he was in an as elated mood as they were Boromir had found a secluded spot away from the cheering children. He felt worse than those many times, when he had to let his little brother sneak into enemy territory with no more than a small group of others. At least he didn't ever leave his younger sibling alone in the care of the very beasts they usually hunted. At least he had never sent his brother right into the middle of the enemy's territory in order to weaken their troops. At least he had never abandoned his brother, when he had really wanted and needed his help. The High Warden of the White Tower had no delusions that the vampires - for all their strength and stamina - could take on the whole might of the Harad. Not after he had grown up with stories about their walking fortresses and sheer numbers. He sighed hollowly. There would be a moment when Harry's only chance of survival would be to flee and he had a feeling that this was something the older vampire just wouldn't do.
He almost jumped, when a hand suddenly came to rest on his shoulder and turning he glared at the fair elven face of Haldir, who despite the worry shining in his eyes smiled at him a little mischievously. Going back to staring into the distance Boromir decided to ignore the nuisance, hoping he would take the hint and leave. Of course he wasn't that lucky. "I am sorry to have startled you, but it seems you didn't hear me when I called your name."
Although he was convinced the other had in fact not bothered to rouse him from his brooding verbally, he just grunted in response. The elf still didn't take offence and got lost.
Chuckling slightly the blond said, "My, what courtly eloquence you flaunt." It seemed that he tired of his own game though, because his laughter soon subsided. "He does have a way of growing on people, doesn't he?"
It came out more like a statement than a question and Boromir knew very well who the other was talking about, so he just kept on acting as though the troublesome elf wasn't there. He broke after a few minutes of silence though, "You left your home and have yet to return to your people, even though you know they are in danger; why?" The answer was fairly obvious, but he felt it was something worth admitting even if it was just this once.
That annoying little smile returned to the blond's face as he mock-wondered, "My ruler ordered me to?" When he received a wilting glance in return, the smile slipped and he looked around discretely as though making sure nobody was spying on them and might later use this knowledge against him. "He may be beyond the age of a child by any reckoning be it men or even elven, but I find it hard to view him as anything but a child… A child I have grown quite attached to."
Knowing this was as close to admitting the truth, as the elf would get, Boromir decided to relieve the tension, "A very dead child."
Quirking a graceful eyebrow, the Marchwarden asked, "Do excuse me for I am not as well-versed with Westron as you are, Lord of Men, but I am quite sure that 'dead' is ungradable...in any language really."
It felt strange joking around with the elf like that. A few months ago elves had been seldom more than a foot note in the battles he had read about and now he was friends with two of them. One, the dark-haired archer, Legolas, he could somehow understand, as it was hard to spend so many days in the company of someone and not become friends at some point, but when exactly had the unapproachable elven soldier Haldir become someone he could stand next to in these dark times and exchange silly, flat jokes with? The only real link he saw was the fact that they were both close friends with the green-eyed wizard - who was gone; somewhere on Gondorian soil with his unpredictable army of undead soldiers.
"Would you do it, too?" the elf asked out of the blue. When the other just gave him a questioning look, he elaborated, "Would you be able to trust others to keep your country safe if you knew another person needed you more?"
"Gondor needs me. So does my father," the Captain-General stated coldly, his tone leaving no room for argument. "Minas Tirith will face one of its most horrible wars soon. The city must not fall." Sensing a flaw in his reasoning, since he could have helped in the war effort if he helped the wizard, he stated, "I have to be there!" He refrained from groaning, since that had sounded like the argument of a little child.
Humming in reply, the blond cocked his head and just wondered aloud, "Is there none you can truly trust?" There was not a single hint of rebuke or even pity in his voice; if anything he sounded a bit curious.
Blinking Boromir let this question digest. Of course he trusted his men. To him, despite the fact that some said his beloved city was dying with its tree, Minas Tirith was the strongest and most beautiful place on earth, which was the reason why he had to keep it safe in the first place. But the elf was right of course. He could contribute more in Harad with Harry than as a single individual in the White City. His problem wasn't quite as simple as the elf's had been though. The elf had been a soldier of high rank, but not the commander of the troops, not the Lord's right hand.
Raking a hand through his knotted hair, the man tried to think of a person who could lead Gondor against Mordor in his stead. Being no fool, he knew that his father's better days had long passed with their mother and Faramir, while willing to do anything to please him or his father, would much rather read about heroic acts in books than carry them out himself. There were others friends and comrades in the city, who he trusted with his life… but most definitely not his city.
Then it suddenly hit him like the club of a troll. Aragorn. By the Valar! The king had returned and with all that had happened he had forgotten. No matter how he felt about it, it would be the king, who led the men of Gondor from now on. And strangely enough he found he didn't mind at all. It was as though a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
Gripping the elves shoulders with joy he couldn't quite understand, he almost yelled, "Yes! Yes, there is someone."
Bewildered by the sudden change in mood and more than a little embarrassed, the blond didn't break the other's hold for a moment, but when he finally had had enough he coughed politely. "So now that we have finally established that you are actually free to go where you wish, what are you going to do?"
The happiness dissipated as the man considered his options for a moment and he was about to answer, when he heard a shout from below.