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This story...has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for years. Decades, I believe. It has nothing at all to do with any of the projects I've been working on. "Why are you doing this now?" I asked myself, as I typed it out.

The only answer is, it came to me again two days ago, in nearly finished form. Now that I wrote it down, I may hope that it will let me be, and I can write my own stuff again. Anyway, here it is:

A short story by A.M. Brosius

Heru labored across the waste; his armor weighed upon him.

His dented helm rode uneasily upon the sweat-stained coif that kept his hair in check. Dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin: not even the King of Umbar had so embodied the Numenorean race as did he, and his fathers before him.

His mail was rent in a dozen places, and blood stained the gashes in the grey heavy linen tunic he wore beneath. By that mail, by his helm and scimitar, by the dark device upon his shield, by all these things the Lords of the West would know him their enemy.

The gibbous moon rose into the unnaturally clear sky. It illuminated the broken lands all about, showing him his doom: ‘There is nowhere for me to go; east from here are the lands of our erstwhile allies, Easterlings all, who now will surely be our foes...’

“Our foes?” he asked aloud. “Who besides me survived? The King died, that I know...and all his men beside and around him, save my own self.”

Blood from the wound on his calf had soaked through the bandage, again. He had no more cloth to spare for a fresh dressing, so he let it be. He looked around, shivering: “Curse the tarks, and curse the orcs, and curses a thousand times more dire upon the Eye.”

He shuddered to say such a thing. Only a day before, his very thought might have reached the ears of the Dark Lord and his soul been forfeit. Then he laughed: “What matters that, now? Sauron, what has become of thee? Blown by the wind of Aman into the dark of Ilmen? Chained and bound, in some dungeon deep, beside thy lord the Dark God Melkor?” He spat, then continued his limping progress.

There stood, in the distance, one crackéd rocky tor. That prominence had become his only goal, promising a place where he could put his back to a solid wall of rock and sell his life dearly, when the army of new King of Gondor caught him up.
He stopped again, and turned to look back: the fires of their encampment were still visible to him. “I’d best make it to that shelter ere dawn...they will not cease their seeking with the sunrise. I’ve left them a trail of blood to follow, and their hounds can scent a fleeing man a day after his trail is cold.”
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September 2017



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