Only rumors preserved in Gondor archives speak of the lands beyond the Sea of Rhûn, a land of unknown size and borders, a place of vast plains and unexplored forests, unnamed rivers and inner seas. A place elves and dunedain might have known once but that now lies under the shadow of the one who took hold of it, called it his own and has ruled it since before ships came from Numenor.
During the Dark years, Sauron chained the east to his will and those who bowed were shown favor. Many towns and walls of stone were built, and those under his influence became numerous, strong and well-armed. To these men, Sauron was worshipped as a king and god, a dark god who demanded human sacrifices and promised great rewards to the loyal and the cruel. This cruelty, the Dark Lord sharpened it with the tools of his malice and used it for the darkest of all his works: to drive a wedge between men, urging the easterlings to go to the west for loot and conquest. So the strength of Sauron’s enemies is eroded by their brothers, who in their blindness would rather march with the orc than abandon their hatred of the elves and their friends.
Under the authority of the Dark Lord, easterlings live under a rule most of them have lost the capacity to even question. In a cold, uncaring world, Sauron is the only constant, a presence that pervades their entire lives, sometimes waxing sometimes waning but never leaving; a rule so ancient many see it as the rising sun, an inescapable reality only the mad and the elves could deny.
Such is life in the east.
Then came the day easterlings by the shores of the Sea of Rhûn saw someone coming from the west.
He walked at a steady pace with no sign of tiring. Dressed in blue and carrying a staff; grey of hair yet strong like an oak, he had the look of an old, unassuming man, but would prove to be much more.
He was Darkness Slayer, and he spoke words no one had heard east of the Rhûn in ages.
He spoke against the rule of Sauron and the terror of his servants. He spoke of war and resistance against the shadow. He spoke of the free spirit of man which no one, not even the Dark Lord, can completely dominate. To whoever dared to listen, he said something inconceivable: Sauron fears men. No matter their loyalty he fears them for he will never truly own them.
His arrival would herald the beginning of a new reality in the forgotten east of the world.
Darkness Slayer is an irascible lover of wild spaces. He is feared for his terrible anger yet knows no cruelty, rules no man and dispenses wisdom gladly. Much has changed since that first day when those who heard him fled in fear. Old yet ageless, he comes and goes but is always there, an eternal beacon for those who hate the shadow and dare to hope for a better fate. Sometimes he walks among the hordes of Sauron, challenging their loyalty and daring them to break their chains. Sometimes he vanishes for years, heading for unknown places to “consult with his kin”. Sometimes he can be seen running under the moon, hunting orcs and other fell creatures, spelling doom for those who do not flee to their caves when the one they call the Huntsman stalks the steppes.
When overseers sleep, when brave souls dare to speak their minds, more and more call him an emissary of the lost gods of whom the east remembers little. In time, his words and actions led to rebellions against the kings of the east and to wars that saw the birth of the Blue Host. Blue like the sea where it all started, like the coat of he who carries the hope that one day darkness can be beaten back.
The Host is in reality an alliance of many people, many languages and many memories. A few are enemies of Sauron who have never fallen; many are survivors of wars waged to curry favor with the Dark Lord, a favor he does not dispense to the vanquished. Others, the most, are ancient followers of the Shadow, turned by the work of the blue wizard. It is an unstable alliance with grudges between tribes, warlike people quick to take offense and ambitious captains eager for conquest, for such is life in the east.
But worst of all, there is always the Shadow they seek to escape hanging over their heads, seeking to sap away at their courage with the fear of death, to tempt them with the promise of power and immortality if they just bow again to the Dark Lord.
In the edges of the maps, where Sauron’s influence wanes, the faithful rove, evading the hordes seeking favor with their destruction. Sometimes stability allows small kingdoms to grow, sometimes attacks from orcs and fallen men wipe them out. Always Darkness Slayer returns, gathers survivors and rebuilds with eternal patience. For centuries Sauron’s captains have offered a king’s ransom to whoever brings them the Huntsman’s head and silence his voice. The reward has yet to be collected.
It might still happen. Rumors abound of vast armies gathering for the long march to Mordor, in preparation for a long expected war against the west. And Darkness Slayer has returned. From camp to camp he goes, rallying the people, announcing great upheaval and the need for the Blue Host to gather once again, this time not for mere survival but to march against the legions of Mordor. He announces there will be no survival for anyone if Sauron’s followers are allowed to march west.
By his side stands the lord of chariots, last descendant of the wainriders, the last remnant of a powerful people who rose to greatness only to be destroyed in wars against Sauron’s enemies and cast away once they lost their use. They shattered and those who were not absorbed by Sauron fled to remote places, nursing their hatred against the world until they were rescued by the voice of Darkness Slayer.
Now the lord of chariots rides to war and the outskirts disgorge an army for him at the call of the Huntsman. Wainriders, war maidens, steppe horsemen and people from a dozen origins kill orcs to free a land they call theirs, free slaves and offer the gift of vengeance to those who will take it. All march for the first time in living memory, eager to shake off the fear by killing their tormentors. The fog of resistance to the Dark has become an arrow aimed at lands Sauron thought secure but are now ravaged by war and rebellion.
The Blue Host grows, but so do its enemies. Armies of men and orcs have stopped the march west, and obeying new orders close in on the faithful.
The answer is coming, all know it, but only Darkness Slayer knows it cannot be defeated.
Only Darkness Slayer knows the true nature of the game being played and the scale of the board. He knows the true war is been waged against the last of the Valar’s sons. He knows nothing the Blue Host can do will amount to anything if the west is defeated.
But he knows every army marching against him is an army that will not be there to tear down the walls of the White City. And although he strived for millennia to preserve the lives of the faithful, he knows he will sacrifice them all, and himself, to deny Sauron a single pawn in the closing movements.