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Too long a Sacrifice - part 3

Too Long a Sacrifice

Rating: T, for adult themes and mild violence and battle scenes.

Disclaimer: These characters (apart from my original characters) all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

With thanks to Raksha and Deandra.

Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threat’ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven. – Milton – Paradise Lost

Faramir was awakened by the cart juddering to a halt. He had been lost in dark dreams of his father lighting a pyre on which he was lying. Denethor had cried out, “Sauron, take the son that is left to me as a gift!”

He could hear his captors talking about unharnessing the horses. Faramir realised they had reached their destination. The reality was even worse than the nightmare from which he had awakened. This time there could be no last minute reprieve from the flames.

A few moments later, some men whom he had not seen before, started unloading the logs from the cart. Faramir shuddered. They were building his pyre!

A few moments later, Fikri and Zafir dragged him out of the cart and laid him on the grass beside it. Faramir blinked in the bright sunlight. A grim sight met his eyes. A group of about twenty men were gathered. Most of them appeared to be Haradrim, but one or two had paler skin and grey eyes. Faramir assumed these were Black Númenoreans from Umbar.

A rough cart track formed a part of the long border between Ithilien and Mordor. On the Mordor side of the border, several of the men were occupied piling up logs on a makeshift stone altar. One pale- skinned man stood apart from the rest. He wore flowing robes of black and scarlet embroidered with images of a gigantic eye. He caught sight of Faramir and strode over to where he was lying. He stared at the Steward for some time with cold grey eyes devoid of any expression. At last, he addressed Zafir. “So this is the tark who caused our glorious lord’s defeat?”

Zafir bowed low. “Yes, master. He is the son of Denethor, snatched from the flames by the cursed white wizard.”

“He shall not escape this time. Our glorious lord will be reborn in splendour from the flames in which this tark burns. A pity he is so scrawny, the fat ones burn better, but he will have to do. Mark him with the sign of the Lord of Gifts.” He turned away again and called out more instructions to his followers.

“You heard the high priest, do as he says!” Zafir told Fikri. “Do not incur his wrath.”

The boy knelt beside Faramir. One of the others handed him a brush and a jar of blood coloured liquid, with which he began to paint on Faramir’s forehead. It burned like fire. The Steward said not a word, but his eyes searched out Fikri’s. The boy faltered slightly in his task.

“Hurry up, boy!” Zafir snapped impatiently.

“I’m sorry,” Fikri muttered. He tore open Faramir’s shirt and daubed more of the substance across Faramir’s chest. The burning was worse than ever against the more tender skin. Faramir glanced downwards and shuddered to see that the symbol of the eye now adorned his skin together with runes, the meaning of which he could only guess.

The pyre was now complete and one of the Haradrim poured oil from a jar over the wood.

“Place the sacrifice upon the altar,” ordered the high priest.

“Shouldn’t we knock him out first?” asked Fikri.

“Foolish boy! Do you wish to join him!” snapped the high priest. “The louder the tark screams, the more powerful the magic! His cries will be as music to the ears of the lord of Gifts.”

Fikri looked decidedly queasy but made no further protest. Together with Zafir and two of the other men, they picked up Faramir and lifted him on to the pyre. They then piled more logs around him to enclose him like a cage.

The Steward vainly tried to struggle, but his bonds and the grip of his captors rendered his struggles futile. He could not even roll off the pyre to attempt to break his bonds or even try to stun himself into a merciful oblivion He could only watch as the followers of Sauron gathered around him in a circle. A small fire had been kindled. One of the men took up a torch and stood waiting to kindle the pyre.

The high priest raised his arms and intoned. “Lord of Gifts, mighty ruler, Lord of Arda, hear us and harken unto us! We offer you this sacrifice, the tark that rightfully is yours that you might return to us and rule resplendent for eternity!”

“So be it!” cried the others. “Let it be!”

Faramir’s stomach churned violently. He was about to die in the most horrible manner, sacrificed to a false god. “Valar, give me courage!” he muttered, more to himself than in any hope of his prayer being answered. He doubted he would be able to bite back his cries of agony for long, cries that would delight his captors. He could only hope that Éowyn and his little ones never learned of the manner of his death. He had wanted to grow old with her and see his children grow and thrive. He had wanted to help rebuild Gondor at the side of the man he had come to love and admire so much. Alas, his dreams were in ashes. He could not even bid his loved ones farewell and tell them how much he loved them one last time. Faramir laughed bitterly at the choice of word. All he could hope for now was that his death would not take too long.

The high priest began to chant in the Black Speech of Mordor. His followers took up the chant. When it reached a crescendo, the man holding the now lighted torch approached the pyre.

Faramir closed his eyes and prayed for a speedy death.

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