"THE HARROWDALE VALLEY"
June 9; all day to the wee hours of June
Troops from the eoreds left to guard Dunharrow patrol the Harrowdale valley, riders traveling back and forth alongside the road, archers hiding in trees. Should any of the vermin that now infests Edoras venture into the valley, they will be met with resistance. An ever vigilant watch is kept on the north.
NO TROOPS FOR DUNHARROW
11:30 at night, June 9
Garrison Post at Edoras
The courier has delivered the urgent request from Mautor Ufang to Maugoth Lomin. After waiting for his response, he rides back to Edoras. When he presents the message to Ufang, commanding officer of the garrison force at Edoras, he quails when he sees the look upon Ufang's face. "NO TROOPS!" he says. The courier's face blanches in fear as Ufang raises his clenched fist into the air. "NO TROOPS!" he again exclaims. The courier hopes how soon this unpleasant task will be over and he can get to sleep at last for the night. Looking to the courier as though he can solve all his problems, Ulfang shouts, "THEY HAVE OTHER PLANS FOR THOSE AT DUNHARROW AND THAT WE CAN CONTAIN THEM WITH WHAT FORCES WE HAVE HERE?"
The courier waits in hopes that at last he will be dismissed. Always pleased at taking his fury out on underlings and seeing them intimidated, Ufang says, "You are dismissed, Pizgal."
"Narnulublat, Great One," he bows and leaves, grateful that the Mautor's wrath was not directed at him.
After the courier leaves, Ufang sighs in resignation and orders three more companies out to guard the roads between Edoras and Dunharrow.
A FOOL'S JOURNEY
June 10, after midnight
It had been a mad thing to do, to leave in the night on the errand of a fool, but Bearn had known that when he started. The southern ten miles of the Harrowdale Valley Road had been unchallenged, for those were grounds safely held by the eoreds. The next ten miles of the main road, however, would be heavily patrolled by the forces of the Enemy.
Bearn was glad for the warmth of his dark green cloak as the night was chilly and the wind blew from the East. He listened to the hoofbeats of his horse as it trotted down the road. Near the abandoned village of Upbourn, Bearn's ears detected a faint sound in front of them. "Enemy patrols!" the thought flashed through his mind.
Turning the bay horse to the left, he urged it to the banks of the Snowbourn. Bearn could feel the horse trembling at the sound of the water. He held the horse there briefly, speaking gentle words of encouragement and stroking the beast's neck. "Now! On!" he says, and the horse plunges down the bank and into the river. "Good fellow!" Bearn says as the animal makes its way up the western bank.
"An absurd idea," he thought, "to try to find Gandalf in this darkness, but the victims of the Enemy's curse need help now." The way on the western side of the river was slow and there were many small streams that he had to cross, but Bearn thought that there might be fewer patrols there. His estimations are correct on the next five miles of contested ground, but still the last five miles of enemy-held valley were yet to be crossed.
He heard them before he saw them by their snarls and growls. He halted his bay horse and stroked its neck, hoping to calm his skittish beast. "Do they argue among themselves?" he wondered. He drew his sword from its sheath and cursed his folly of not having donned his mail halberk and helm and brought his shield before he left Dunharrow. Giving the horse a last encouraging pat, Bearn touched the sides of his horse with his heels. "BY EORL THE YOUNG! MOVE OR DIE!" he bellowed at the top of his voice in Rohirric and leaned over, slashing with his sword as he went. He felt the blade as it bit into orc necks and faces and severed heads from bodies.
Caught totally by surprise and hearing the strange roaring voice, the orcs panicked and bolted, screaming, "Gûl ulkûrz! Gûl ulkûrz! Irz slaiumu-lat-ûr!"
Trusting the steed to see better than he could, he galloped the horse onward. Not hearing any pursuit behind him, he slowed the horse to a trot and then a walk. He wiped the blade of his sword and dagger on his leg to clean them. Then, making his way on down the valley, he strained to see through the darkness. He knew that his horse could sense things that no human ever could. The horse began to tense and its ears moved forward and backward as it listened to the sounds all around him.
Suddenly the horse veered to the left. "Orcs!" he thought, and realized he had been detected. The horse reared suddenly and stood on its back legs as the orcs tried to tear at rider and beast. Bearn felt himself sliding, falling sideways to the ground, as he was pulled from his horse. Landing hard on the ground with his sword arm under him, Bearn struggled to his feet. They were all over him now, their long arms seeking to pull him down. His sword was wrestled from his hand, and he felt the raking talons of an orc's hands about his neck. Bearn kneed the orc in the groin and the orc fell back groaning. Bearn's left hand reached inside his cloak and he pulled out his dagger. Another orc rushed at him and tried to grab Bearn by the throat, but Bearn was quicker and he drove his dagger through the orc's leather jerkin, deep into his belly.
They backed away from him then, and he could see nothing of them, except their eyes, which seemed to glitter. Bearn took the opportunity to reach over quickly and grasp the hilt of his sword. Gathering their courage, they rushed at him again, but Bearn swung his sword and an orc's arm was torn from him.
Bearn knew that he must keep upon his feet, for if they pulled him down, their sheer weight would hold him as their knives drew the life from his body. Slashing with his sword and holding his dagger close to him, Bearn hewed off two more orc heads, but another plowed into him, slashing at him with a knife. Bearn heard the ripping noise as his tunic was cut and felt the searing pain as the orc's knife cut into his ribs. Bearn thrust his dagger into the back of the orc's neck and it sagged against him with a groan. He stepped back as it fell and he saw that his attackers once again drew away from him. Panting now for breath, Bearn rushed into them this time, swinging viciously with his sword, and the orcs fled in terror before him.
Exhausted, Bearn braced himself with legs spread wide apart, his hands slowly falling to his sides, and panted and felt that the air would never come back to his lungs. He could feel the blood flowing from the wound in his side, and he knew he must somehow bind the wound. With weakening strength, he sheathed his sword. He thought of the cloaks which some of the orcs were wearing and he walked over to a corpse. He sagged to the ground and with his dagger, he cut strips of the orc's cloak. Then Bearn took off his tunic, and cut a section from it. He wadded the cloth into a pad, and tied it tightly about his side.
"I cannot stay here long," he thought, "for I am weak and more of their patrols are about." He resisted his body's plea to rest and put his tunic back on, returning the dagger to its place under his cloak. Then he rose unsteadily to his feet. He decided to inspect the orc corpses to see if any might have something to aid him. He found a jug of orc draught, and took the stopper from it, for he was very thirsty. Tentatively taking a drink, he quickly spat most of it out. "Rotgut!" he said with disgust, but still the drops that had gone down his throat and into his stomach seemed to make him feel warmer, and somehow better. He took another drink and this time, he did not spit any of it out.
His horse approached him now, as it had been trained to do since it was a colt. Bearn stooped down, gathered the several orc cloaks into a bundle, and wrapped three jugs of orc draught inside. He tied the bundle onto the back of his saddle. He slowly mounted his horse, as it waited patiently for him to get into the saddle. He signaled to the horse to go ahead, and with the first step it made, his body lurched forward. "I cannot fight again tonight," he said to himself. "I will have to trust to luck to lead me safely through this valley."
Before morning came, there was another patrol of orcs, but by this time his horse had come to hate them, for he had been wounded by their knives during the night. When Bearn once again shouted a challenge to the orcs, his voice was not as strong as it had been, but still the orcs fell back at the sight of his horse as its eyes flashed and it struck at them with its forelegs. Bearn yelled and slashed at them again, and felt his sword as it lopped off arms and heads. They ran away in great terror, shouting, "Gûlu ulkûrz rûku-ir gûl! Irz slaiumu-lat-ûr!"
When he had last reached the open country past Edoras, he realized that his temples no longer throbbed, nor had the blackness which the pain had always brought returned to his head. His body, however, was exhausted, and he ached all over. He halted his horse, and thought to himself, "By Eorl the Young, I still live. What strange chance of fate has made this so?" He knew that his chances of going back up the valley to Dunharrow were slim indeed. What was he to do? He thought, "Wolfhelm can no longer fight, for he is older than I, and long since maimed in one leg; however, he is a capable administrator and can lead the people." Not knowing if he were right or if he were wrong and feeling that either to go forward or to go backward were inviting death, he decided to go forward, north, and see if he could find Eomer King.
He rested his horse a bit before moving on, and for the first time, he realized that his left leg was paining him. He dismounted his horse, and inspected his leg by touch. There, above his boot, he felt a wicked gash with the blood still flowing. He tore a piece from his tunic, and bound it and tied it about his leg. He then inspected his horse, and found one long gash, but the blood had clotted and matted upon the horse's side. Other smaller cuts and talon marks were there too, but Bearn knew that nothing so bad that his good, steady horse's life was threatened. Bearn's body ached all over, from minor cuts and scrapes on his arms and legs. He took the bridle from his horse's mouth so that he could graze upon the grass. Bearn unfastened the bundle from the back of the saddle, found a jug of the orc draught and drank deeply. He dozed there for a few minutes, before he felt the faint light of dawn seem to kiss his cheek with a brief kiss.
"Another fool's journey," he thought, "for I have no food, no mail, no helm, nothing but my horse, my sword and the orc draught." He laughed wildly.... but at least the pain in his head was gone.
"Gûl ulkûrz! Gûl ulkûrz! Irz slaiumu-lat-ûr!"
"Evil wraith! Evil wraith! Run for your lives!"
"Gûlu ulkûrz rûku-ir gûl! Irz slaiumu-lat-ûr!"
"Evil wraiths on ghost horses! Run for your lives!"
Morning of June 10
Mautor Ufang could not believe his eyes when he read the reports from the valley patrols. The expression on his face was enough to scorch the orc pizgal (corporal) who brought him the report. "Fifteen killed by a legion of gûlu ulkûrz rûku-ir gûl!" His hands trembled in fury as he read the report, and then he threw it down on the table. "The captains who sent these reports have gone mad!" he screams.
Ufang turned to the underling who was his scribe. "Write this to the captains in the valley. This will go on your records! Gûlu ulkûrz!" he screams. "The next captain who sends me such a report will find his hands cut from his arms and his head severed from his neck!" The scribe quickly wrote the message and handed it to Ufang. "Pizgal, take this back to the captains." The Mordor orc, his eyes filled with confusion and fear, bowed to the mautor and quickly left. When the orc is well out of hearing range, Ufang said to his secretary, "I hate them!" and the secretary was never sure if Ufang meant the Rohirrim or the Mordor orcs.
Edoras, the Golden Hall
June 11, 10 o'clock in the morning
There is no doubt that Mautor Ufang is highly agitated this morning, for the news from Maugoth Lomin was not to Ulfang's liking. "No more troops!" he thinks. "How do they expect us to patrol the Harrowdale valley adequately with only a force of 1000! Now, with more troops," he thinks, "we could end the problem of the eoreds that continuously harass our patrols."
By the time of the announced meeting of his staff, Ufang's irritability has somewhat subsided. He sits at the head of a large table in the Mead Hall. The green and white banners and standards of the Rohirrim have been gone from the walls for days, and in their places hang banners of black, emblazened with the image of the Great Eye.
Ufang looks to the faces of his staff members, who are seated around the table. His staff is composed of several races; with Umbar and Khand being represented. One or two tall ones have sea-grey eyes and a proud bearing. Gondorians in truth are they, descendants of the sea-kings of old, and these tall ones would be called by many with the name of "traitor" and "thralls" and worse, "black Numenorians" by those with whom they hold kin.
"Gentlemen, our patrols control the upper five miles of the Harrowdale Valley, with the next five miles still in contest with the Rohirrim. What is not good is that the eoreds' control the lower ten miles. Our troops must penetrate the five mile zone under contest, and then at last break through the last ten miles to Dunharrow. Yes, it would be far easier if we had been granted more troops, but the wisdom of our leaders say nay. Step up the attacks. Take no prisoners, save only, if by chance and good fortune, you take any of their captains. They will have useful information which we would wish to know, and we have the means by which to extract it."
THE HARROWDALE VALLEY
June 11, dusk
The heavy brownish haze mingles with the falling dusk as they move silently through the pine forest. Darkness holds no impediment for their eyes, and the leader raises his right hand signaling them to halt. He points to a pine tree up ahead, and his men knock their arrows in their bows. They watch as the body, pierced with five arrows, falls soundlessly down into the brown pine needles below. When the first, the pizgal (corporal; commander of a troop; 10 men), rushes to the body, he severs the head from his prey. He holds his trophy aloft as his lips draw back in a bizarre leer of triumph. He jerks the helm from the blonde head and tosses the helm aside. Taking a cord from his tunic, he ties the cord to the long, blonde mane, and then hangs the gruesome reminder of this ambush upon the nearest low tree limb. The men quickly loot the corpse of what few valuables he had, saving the best for the pizgal, and then they fall to tearing and rending the first manflesh they have tasted in several weeks.
"Finish quickly!" the pizgal whispers harshly to the others. "We 'ave much work to do tonight, for there are many of their archers in the trees." Their work finished there, they follow the scent of the next Rohirrim unlucky enough to be perched in a tree this twilight.
The next victim falls as easily as did the first, and then the orcs move silently where their sense of smell tells them another archer lies in wait. But overconfident now, one of their numbers steps upon a twig, alerting the archer. Still though, he falls, as did the other two, but this one is heavier and as his body crashes through the pine bows, the branches, too, seem to scream in pain. "Retreat, lads!" the pizgal hisses, and they run back in the direction of Edoras, but not before three of them fall, pierced by arrows of the Rohirrim. Two others scream out in pain with wounds, but escape into the darkness with the others.
"SORROW AND GRIEF"
June 12, morning
Though it is morning, Dunharrow is covered by a thick blanket of darkness, a foul, sulfuric smelling fog lying upon the Firien-field. The sounds of weeping and wailing cut through the heavy air, and strains of a funeral dirge waft up towards the darkened heavens. A small crowd is gathered in a spot off to the southern edge of the valley. Their faces are somber, their expressions grim; tears stream down the cheeks of some.
One woman in the crowd stands there silently, looking down at her shoes, unaware of the people around her. She is lost in a sea of grief, slowly drowning as unrelenting waves of sorrow rush over her.
"He is gone."
Ten years, ten years come autumn, when the green leaves turned to shades of gold and red. Ten years they had spent together, through happiness, sorrow and strife. Ten years in the little house with its thatched roof of gold and sweet- smelling straw upon the floor; tending to the garden and planting things in the newly turned dirt in the spring, watching it grow throughout the summers, the autumn harvest with all its bounties and the reminder of their love, the chilly winters spent ever in the hope of spring; riding their horses together in the grassy fields of the Westfold. But now...
"He is gone."
Brave rider was he, though he never rode with the army when they went to Pelennor. Instead, he was one of the men who were left behind to guard Edoras. Many long days passed, and before long it was summer. There had been little time to plant the crops, but they had tried. However, their efforts came to naught, for all the civilians of the Westfold were sent to Dunharrow as the evil hordes of Mordor came ever closer to Edoras. At least he was in one of the eoreds guarding Dunharrow, and they could still see each other.... spend a few hours in each other's company and try to pretend life was as peaceful and idilic as it was before. Yet they ever lived with the knowledge that as each day passed, death and destruction crept closer and closer to them, worry ever plaguing their minds, though they tried to hide it behind a smile, a kiss, an embrace. But now....
"He is gone."
There would be no hiding from the presence of war, nor from death. For death had claimed him, he who now had no body, only a head. The orcs had eaten his body! Eaten it! Like carrion birds they descended on the fallen body of her husband, rending it with their claws and fangs, his blood smearing their faces as they devoured chunks of his flesh. His body was gone, as was he. Yet his head now shared the same mound as his fallen men. She knows, as do all in the crowd, that there will be many more mounds ere the summer turns to autumn. Her tears softly splash upon her shoes.
A young girl, almost eight years of age, with pale blonde hair hanging down her back in a long braid, looks up with large blue eyes at her mother. The little girl wishes she could comfort her mother someway, but being only a child, she has little experience in the art of comforting someone with words of sympathy; that gift, if it could be called such, comes with time. The girl's mind is still in shock, for she first heard the news earlier this morning.... riders from her father's eored had told her mother the sad news the night before, but the little girl had been sleeping, and her mother had let her continue. The girl wonders about her lack of tears and wonders if the adults think ill of her for her apparent inability to cry. She worries if she has lost the ability and fears she can never cry for her beloved father; but her worries are heedless, for the tears will come...Indeed, the tears will come, in the long, lonely hours of the night, when the grief and loss is the worst, and she will cling to her mother desperately, sobbing into her shoulder, her tears soaking her nightgown.
The woman raises her head, her face red and tear-stained.
"Leofwen. Oh, Leofwen!"
The little girl takes her mother's hand and squeezes it gently, looking up to her with sad blue eyes.
"Leofwen," swallows the mother, "your father has.... he...." she pauses, looking up to the sky and sniffling slightly, "has gone to be with his fathers....in honor. And," she continues, "he is in peace now."
"I know," mumurs the little girl.
They both fall silent, lost in thoughts and memories, as they look to the newly made mound before them.
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