The Circles - Book One - Chapter Twenty-three - Promotions

The Circles - Book One - The Triumph of the Shadow
Chapter Twenty-three
Written by Angmar

When the host of Mordor saw the Rohirrim ride from the field, many of the men began to feel a fresh wave of kapurdri elation, and they were filled with false hope. Some began to rave like wild men as they beheld false visions of the Riders of the Mark retreating in a mad rush. Only a few moments had passed since Éomer and his Riders had ridden away in an orderly fashion, leaving only to replenish their supply of spears and reorganize after their losses.

"The Rohirrim retreat!" shouted the besiegers at the foot of the Hornrock. "Our cavalry has bested them! See them run like dogs whose tails have been set afire!"

"You are mistaken. No Rohir horns sounded the retreat. The Elves yet remain, and the enemy cavalry has not been routed. It has only withdrawn for a time. They will be back. Let us hope our cavalry rallies and goes back to face them," advised others, battle-wise and knowing.

Some Easterling and Southron cavalry commanders had been separated from their companies. Other officers had been able to maintain some cohesion among their ranks during their retreat. Though they had fallen back towards the fortress, they now gave the orders to their men to gather round them and regroup. Soon horns began to sound, summoning the horsemen, and all those who were not unhorsed or too wounded to heed it, prepared once again to answer the call for a charge.

Maugoth Tahmtan, commanding general of the army, now surveyed the battle from afar, looking at maps and charts. His aides clustered about him, giving him their best advice and pointing out things on maps and charts that perhaps he had overlooked. A constant stream of messengers arrived at his tent with dispatches, keeping him apprised as to the progress of the battle. Two secretaries were kept constantly at work writing his responses as couriers awaited his orders.

At times such as this, Maugoth Tahmtan, a vain man, secretly wished that he was standing high atop a lofty observation tower and watching as the battle unfolded before him. He had even considered employing a high-raised litter, where he could sit in ease, perhaps drinking a goblet of wine given to him from the hand of a servant who stood waiting upon him. There from his high perch, he could both see and be seen by his officers and remain in comfort and relative safety. After all, he weened, it would inspire his men to look back and see their general, the embodiment of a demigod upon a throne.

"Send the wolf-riders to drive the Elves from the field!" Maugoth Tahmtan shouted.

"The wolf-riders are nowhere to be seen, sir."

"Then let them all be sawed in two when they are found! The damned cowards! I will cut their livers out myself! Torture every last one and rape the women! There will be grim payment for failure and desertion!"

The Maugoth's face was a livid mask, ruddy and swollen from the draught he had drunk. His bodyguards and aides looked at him in alarm, concluding that he must have drunk too much of the kapurdri brew. The command from on High was clear: "Neither those above the rank of Pizdur nor Tûzantar manning the catapults may drink of the Sacred Draught of Battle Madness. Those who do risk the penalty of severe censure." The Lieutenant had thought, though, that he would never be found out. After all, many times before, he had strengthened his resolve by imbibing the draught.

"Sir," one of the aides dared venture, "there are no women here among the wolf-riders, unless their females ride hidden beneath the helms."

"Only a drunkard or a madman would desire to rape a she-orc," another man thought with a shudder.

Obviously besotted, the Maugoth looked at the men as though he could not see them. His senses were reeling with delusions that the battle had already been won and that his men were now cheering him. Then he gazed across the field at the line of Elvish cavalry, sitting atop their horses proudly. "Arrogantly," he thought. His once drill field order perfect cavalry had scattered or raced wildly back towards the fortress, impervious to their officers' commands. "Surely they will rally," he thought to himself. Leaderless and demoralized, many were unwilling to encounter the foe once again. Tahmtan shook his head from side to side, trying to clear his addled mind.

"Sir, are you all right?" asked an aide.

"Akh, you damn fool, why? Did you think I was not!"

"Nar, nar, certainly not, sir," he replied awkwardly.

News had been just been brought to them of the death by impalement of the Lieutenant of Cavalry.

"Who is a worthy successor for the Lieutenant?" Tahmtan asked his advisors.

"Yourself, sir?" ventured one who was always eager to earn the General's favor.

The prospects of an active field command frightened the Maugoth, but he thought to hide his trepidation under bluster. Arrogantly he replied, "And who would lead the army should I fall!"

The subordinate, frightened at the look on the Maugoth's face, said meekly, "No one, sir."

"The Commander," Tahmtan said haughtily with a quick twist of his head towards the air, " occupied, and all is in my hands until he returns."

Another advisor said, "Might I suggest Captain Kourosh then, sir? He is wise, sage in his counsel, brilliant of mind, very valiant, and the men will follow him unquestioningly."

"A field promotion! The Captain is now Lieutenant of all Cavalry! Send him word of this now! Tell him my orders are to regroup and ride forth once more against the enemy when they present themselves upon the field! Though it is readily apparent that there is no infantry behind them, it would be inadvisable to allow the foe to break through our cavalry screen! Tell him it is an order most imperative to hold to the last man and... remind him... that if he does not succeed, he does not need to come back!"

The Maugoth thought, "If he is successful, the field promotion will be his, but if he fails, his name will be marked down in disgrace. He will be stripped of all honor and rank, and I shall personally supervise his torture! Let him bear the blame for all mistakes while my name remains without stain!"

"And whom, sir," the advisor asked, "will you name to replace Kourosh as captain of his regiment?"

General Tahmtan replied, "The man most fit for the position! I must rely now upon my own judgment as to who is the best man to name as commander of the Second Regiment, Third Brigade, Khandrim Cavalry. There is no time to get word to the high command to verify my appointment."

"Sir," the adjutant said, "if I may, I would like to recommend a most brave and honorable man for the position."

"Who is he?" asked the Maugoth, his mind free of the mushroom delusions for the time.

"Sergeant Daungha."

Maugoth Tahmtan shook his head and put his hand to his forehead, shrugging his shoulders. "That is quite impossible. The man is unreliable, an incorrigible independent, and is now facing courts-marital for his blatant indiscretions. I could never name him as captain of a regiment! Instead I name Sergeant Abtin to lead the Second Regiment. Victory today will ensure his promotion, the same as it will all other field promotions."

The advisor spoke up again. "Sir, I defer to your judgment, and while I realize that sometimes Daungha is difficult to handle, he is a brave and exceptional officer. The judgment is yours to make, sir, however."

"And my word is final," Maugoth Tahntam replied. "Let Sergeant Daungha redeem himself today in victory, or may the carrion-birds argue over his bloating corpse by nightfall."

"As you say, sir," said the adjutant, quietly and diffidently.

Shortly before the rout of his regiment, Captain Kourosh had taken the standard from the dead hands of the bearer and now held the banner aloft. "Rally around me and the flag of Khand! Let it not fall again unless it is soaked with our blood!"

"We hear our captain!" exclaimed the survivors of his regiment as they rode up to him upon the greensward before the Hornrock.

"Gather to me, men, and let us face the enemy! The Gods in the Sky will aid us!" Captain Kourosh shouted with the fervor of a zealot.

"Aye, sir," Sergeant Daungha encouraged. "Hope is not lost!"

A courier rode up to Captain Kourosh and handed him a dispatch. Breaking the seal with his forefinger, he opened the document and read of his promotion.

"What is it, sir? Good news or ill, if I might ask?" inquired Sergeant Daungha.

"A command far above my worth," Captain Kourosh answered. "It appears I have been named commander of all cavalry by Maugoth Tahmtan."

"Congratulations, sir! You have earned it. Might I ask who will replace you as captain of our regiment?"

"To replace me as captain of the Second Regiment, the Maugoth has named Sergeant Abtin in my stead and awards him a field promotion to captain."

Lieutenant Kourosh caught the look of disappointment in Sergeant Daungha's eyes and looked away.

"He is a good man, sir, and will serve well."

Nothing could hide Daungha's frustration, and he knew why he must have been rejected for the appointment. The trembling maiden with the blue eyes, the stolen kisses, a few rapturous moments, and hopes that might never be fulfilled.

"Gentle Blue Eyes," he thought, "my time with you has not served either one of us well, and I think it has served me worst of all. What strange fates must protect you and spare me not!" He felt once again his lips upon her soft, delicate ones and the feel of her warm, unwilling body held tightly against his. "Perhaps someday," he mused. Closing his eyes, he thought of her for another moment, and then left his bittersweet thoughts to dwell within the secret recesses of his heart. Wretched are the musings of those sick with love, and more wretched still are the ones afflicted with the malady who are far away on a field of battle.

The new Lieutenant cleared his throat.

"Sir, sorry," Sergeant Daungha said, feeling abashed.

"It is quite all right, Sergeant. Now to the matters at hand," the Lieutenant said. "Spread the word of my promotion to all officers," Kourosh told a courier.

The men were elated when they received news of the promotion. "To Lieutenant Kourosh!" they screamed when they heard the words. "Rally behind him! To victory or to death!"

Soon a group of field commanders had gathered around the Lieutenant. "My first order," he said to them, "is form column and ride down the road. Spread out in battle formation in the Deeping Coomb beyond the Dike and prepare to drive the enemy from the field! The First Brigade will take the left and the Second the right. I shall be riding with the Third Brigade in the center."

The Lieutenant still carried the regiment's battle flag.

"Sir," Tooraj, upon his horse by the Lieutenant's side, asked, "may I have the honor of carrying the battle standard?"

"It is very dangerous, Tooraj, to be a standard bearer. Often it is a quick road to death, for the enemy considers all standards and flags as trophies, just as we do. Many will die for the glory of killing a standard bearer and taking the flag."

Sergeant Daungha exclaimed, "Do not do it, Tooraj. It is an ill-omened thing!"

Corporal Babak, who had been bruised when an arrow had struck his chest, believed now that he could not die. "Sir, let me have the distinction of carrying the battle flag of the cavalry of Khand! I have found favor among the Gods!"

The Lieutenant looked straight ahead. "Tooraj has asked to carry the flag many times before. Today he will bear the standard."

"Sir, thank you! This flag is sacred to us, and I will strive to my utmost to protect it from the enemy!"

"Carry it into glory!" the Lieutenant shouted.

"Tooraj, you fool!" Sergeant Daungha thought as he cursed to himself.

"Sir, there is one thing that troubles me," said Tooraj. "Our dead and wounded are still upon the field. Could we not...?"

Lieutenant Kourosh looked into Tooraj's brown eyes rimmed in kohl and sighed. "No time. The enemy would kill us anyway if we tried." He reached out and put his hand on Tooraj's shoulder. "'Tis the wicked way of war, but I vow to you that after this battle, if I yet live, we will find every last one and give them aid... or mercy."

"Mercy: a strange word to call it," Tooraj thought. He had seen this mercy shown on the fields of the South after a battle had been waged. He supposed it was kindness, but yet the thought troubled him to see men wounded beyond saving shown pity by a comrade's sword through his heart.

"Tooraj," the philosopher-soldier looked at him with sympathetic eyes and said quietly, "would you rather see them fall into the hands of the enemy and be tortured?"

"No," he said, "I would rather see them live."

"Maybe someday in the future, in another time," he sighed, "there will be no more war, but not today. Now we need to move."

Lieutenant Kourosh turned to his company commanders, and said quietly, "This meeting is over! Give the orders to your men to ride out."

"Mautor Kourosh! Mautor Kourosh!" the men screamed out his name as he rode by them, his spear gleaming proudly before him.

Tooraj, carrying the standard, rode close to his side, his chest swelling with pride at the sight of his superior. At that moment, he worshiped and loved the Lieutenant with all his heart. The youth would follow him anywhere, even to fight the terrible Were-worms of the Last Desert, if the creatures of tales did indeed exist.

Lieutenant Kourosh trotted his horse among the lines before they rode out. "For our Master!" he shouted. "For Khand! For Harad! For Umbar! For Rhûn! For our homes! For our families! For all we hold dear! For our honor! Kill the damned Elves! Follow me!"

Then he set his heels to his horse's sides and led the cavalry eastward on the road. He looked back behind him for a second at his men and wondered how many of them would live through this day to see the light of the next.


Black Speech:
"Tûzantar" - Engineer

"Were-worms of the Last Desert" indeed comes from Tolkien. The word "were" probably comes from Old English word "wír" meaning "man." The word "worm" refers to dragon in this case. Little more is known of these creatures than what is quoted in The Hobbit:

"Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert." - Bilbo Baggins, "An Unexpected Party," The Hobbit, p. 27

Tolkien does not tell them any more about them than this, so quite possibly they were shapeshifters, like werewolves, if they did truly exist outside of myth and legend. Possibly they were maiar or some sort of spirits who could change form.