"My lord," Rutfîmûrz called to the Black Captain, "the Rohirrim and the Elves set forth once more. Are we to have another go at them? With both Krith and Skri gone, our powers are lessened. And look, the sun ascends towards her zenith!"
The two Nazgûl flew side by side, Rutfîmûrz on the left of his Captain as they swooped in the air above the fortress.
"You state the obvious, Sixth. Do you now try to rival the wit of Skri? We all feel the force of the accursed light, but we are not cowards, any of us, and we are still strong!"
Udukhatûrz guided his beast into a position on the right of Angmar. "You know me to be as steadfast as any man among us. Yet, if I might be so bold, I would venture to suggest that at times discretion is to be preferred. The sun is most cruel at her apex and the Elves wield fire against us."
"Let them, damn it!" the Morgul Lord cried. "We attack again! Let your voices be heard!"
With that, the Black Captain threw back his head, his teeth barred in a fierce grimace. He wailed, a sound which seemed to come from the depths of hell, as though the iron vaults of Angband were writhing against each other in a tumult of torment. His brothers joined him, and all who heard them shuddered and flinched in dread.
"Cut north! Swing in a wide arc and strike them from behind!"
The Seven flew high over the northern cliffs of the Thrihyrne. Then they wheeled their beasts, and like seven graceful black swans, they glided southward and then turned west.
The Mordorian cavalry, greatly diminished in number, set forth from the Dike and trotted eastward on the road. All cursed the advancing Rohirrim. The Riders of the Mark felt the warm sun beating down and were heartened. Though there was much grim work yet to do, the Riders were eager to be about it. The officers had done a hasty count of their casualties and were relieved that the number had been so low and equally relieved that all those wounded had been taken back beyond the line to safety. All recoiled at the thought of trampling the wounded and dying beneath the hooves of their horses. The beasts themselves were loath to tread upon bodies, for both the writhing wounded and still-warm dead provided unsteady footing.
His marshals gathered around him, Éomer gave the orders: he and the knights of his house would take the center, his marshals on either side; and the Elvish host divided would take the far left and right. There was little left to plan, for they all knew what they must do; the only fear was that the initial effects of surprise had dwindled away.
"Advance," Éomer commanded as he saw the enemy cavalry ride down the Dike. The Riders set their horses to a trot and soon joined with their allies, the Elves, all falling into position as previously commanded.
"Advance," ordered Lieutenant Kourosh, newly risen in rank, and they rode out into the sun to face the enemy.
Tooraj was in a cheerful mood as was his wont, laughing as they set out. "'Tis indeed a lovely day," he said to Lieutenant Kourosh, "to ride forth so gaily to meet death. We are doomed, you know, sir. Our chances for victory died when the sun rose this morning. We will not come back from this battle." His eyes were directed across the field to the approaching Rohirric cavalry.
"Aye, Tooraj, many of us will not return alive," the stoic philosopher Kourosh replied calmly, "but some will. Should we fall, we can hope to face death like men, unflinching, unyielding, and do our duty to the last." He looked at the enemy, a wry smile on his face. "Who knows? Maybe across that field the Strawheads tell each other the same thing. Men say great things when they attempt to inspire courage in hearts which verge on faltering. All that really matters, whichever the side, is to have it said that one died bravely as a man. Who wants to die a doddering old man in bed?"
"I had rather fancied doing that, sir," Tooraj smiled widely, pearls meeting the sun.
"There is every chance that neither one of us will live beyond the day," said the Lieutenant resolutely as he tightened his grip upon his spear. He moved his shield to a better position.
"Charge!" he shouted.
Across the field from the Rohirric side came the echoing command. "Forth Eorlingas!"
The horses picked up their speed and soon both sides of the field were streaming in a headlong dash, steady hands grasping spears extended before them.
As the Rohirrim charged towards their foes, they once again heard the shrieking wails of the Nazgûl as the riders of death swooped down upon them.
"Sing for them, my lords!" the Black Captain commanded.
"Sing, my lord?" Udukhatûrz threw back his head and laughed. "The enemy has no ear for our music and would say that our refrain was sour to their senses."
"Sour indeed! Our music is not appreciated by the ears of the ignorant," chuckled Rut, "but they will hear it anyway!"
"Sing, brothers!" laughed Angmar.
Focusing their wills wholly upon their enemies, the Seven Nazgûl raised their voices and began to sing a chant of strange beauty, of harmonies hidden deep and buried within hearts and minds, of darkness undeniable, of questing and striving, and the sweet allure of eternal sleep in death.
As the dark chanting melody of the Nazgûl joined together, the horses of the Rohirrim fought against their bits, the beasts' eyes rolling back in their heads as they panicked. Riders tried to master their own fear as their horses plunged and bucked under them and many lost control of their mounts. Yet the Elvish host, unafraid, spoke gently to their steeds, and with their masters' voices and touch, the animals steadied beneath them and raced on.
As the two hosts met, the wails of the Nazgûl intensified until it seemed that the strange chanting penetrated to the very souls of the Rohirrim. Those who had been able before to maintain control over their chargers again tried to summon all their strength and will against the magnitude of the crushing waves of despair which crashed down upon them. The Mordor cavalry mounts raced on though, calm and unheeding of the music of the Riders above. Indeed, some of the Southrons and Easterlings vowed that the animals were charmed by the haunting song of the Nazgûl.
The Seven swooped down, coming in low behind the Rohirrim and the Elves.
"Ready your arrows!" Angmar commanded. "Aim for the King of Rohan and the Prince of Dol Amroth! Destroy those two and the enemy will falter and yield!"
Bows twanged and six arrows streaked out. One striking in swift descent impaled the hide and muscle near the spine of Prince Imrahil's mount. The horse screamed and thrashed and then lunged on until at last its weakening steps brought it crashing down. The Prince was hurled to the ground and landed upon his stomach. By some stroke of luck, the opportunity for a sure kill was lost, but at least the Prince was unhorsed, and the Nazgûl hoped mortally injured.
Angmar laughed as he turned in the saddle and looked back at the work of the others, but his vision was clouded by the power of the sun. Prince Imrahil was lost to his dim sight somewhere down below in the milling swirl of men and horses.
Only six arrows had set off on their flights of death, for the bow of the First was lost. The sun was now glaring full above. The sorcerous power of the wielders of the six barbs was at its ebb, and the men below them were as echoes in their thoughts. Though their minds could no longer fully sense the striving mass of opposing presences below them, there were other strengths that the Six possessed, such as scent and hearing. Though they were at their wane, some of their aims were close, for they had divined the sights that their beasts saw upon the field.
Khamûl, the most hampered by the light, had come the closest of the Six to hitting the King of the Mark. However, his barb struck only the back of Éomer's saddle, embedding deeply in the leather and wood, its poisonous tip rendered useless. Though he had failed, Khamûl sensed that he had been close, and he smiled.
"Go back," the Morgul Lord cried, "or you will kill our own cavalry! The two hosts are locked in mortal combat! It is enough! We can do no more!"
While the Nazgûl's vision and strength faltered in the light of noon, Elvish archers with keen eyesight unleashed a hail of arrows after them. Two found their marks in the wings and bellies of the beasts of both Udukhatûrz and Zagbolg.
"Urkuz! The Elves are getting to be better marksmen!" Udu screamed as an arrow hit him in the back, jolting him but doing no harm other than ripping his cloak and damaging his pride. Mortally wounded, his beast turned its head and bit frantically at the arrow. When his teeth finally connected with the shaft, he twisted the missile in his teeth and broke off the end. Maddened in its pain, the beast snarled and tried to sink its teeth in Udu's thigh. The Nazgûl quickly tried to raise his leg out of harm's way, but he was too slow and soon felt the crushing pressure of the beast's teeth around his leg. As he heard the sound of fangs rending his halberk, Udu grabbed the pommel of his saddle with both hands, held on and screamed.
The creature thrashed in the air and then shrieked hideously, trying instinctively in its pain to turn and head east to shelter, to home, to sanctuary. As it flew, a rain of black blood spilled down on those below.
Zagbolg hissed, "My beast has been wounded! These accursed elves are dropping us down like flies! And damn them to the pits of Angband! Our full powers will not be restored to us until the sun begins to descend into the west!"
Zagbolg's beast, hit in its right wing, began to list towards the base of the Thrihyrne. Soon the beast toppled to the side. He bellowed his rage as he fell to the slopes below.
"Nasty fall," Angmar remarked, looking down into the depths where Zagbolg had descended. "Go back!" he screamed, and the remaining Five trusted their beasts to lead them back to safety.
The beasts flew in graceful flight back towards the fortress. Circling in the air above Helm's Deep, Rutfîmûrz guided his beast within easy talking distance of Krakfakhthal.
"Do you know what I want when this damn thing is over?"
"Probably the same thing I want," said Krakfakhthal. "A woman?" he asked.
"To be back in my hall in the East and enjoy a week in bed with the best Rohirric wenches in the land. Not just any, mind you," he said, "but those with hair of spun gold and whose breasts are as large as melons! These wondrous globes will be so heavy that they almost bend the women's bodies double! And hips, ahhh, hips, broad, with some meat on them. No bony ones for me; I like something with substance to hang onto. And endless bottles of the best wine. I need much cheer after this!"
"I do not care if they are bony or fat,” laughed Krak. “I fancy them all - save Dwarves! I cannot tolerate a bearded female, no matter how good she may be in bed! But, sadly to say, I have no women to share my bed. Might I ask if I may borrow a few of yours?"
"Ask Skri for a few of his when he gets back," Rutfîmûrz laughed and urged his beast ahead.
"I do not lie with corpses!" Krak spat out in disgust. "Nor Dwarves... or Halflings, for that matter," he added as an afterthought.
Sergeant Daungha, his eyes squinting against the glare of the sun, held his spear firm and braced his arm and body to withstand the sudden impact which he knew was coming. It was a heady, exhilarating sensation to feel the cutting thrust of a spear as it penetrated through the armor and sank into the deep flesh of the foe's body. Then there was the overwhelming exhilaration, a primal satisfaction, to behold the enemy's face convulse in a ghastly look of horror and disbelief.
Spurring his horse fiercely, Daungha leaned forward over the saddle and braced himself as he saw his target thundering towards him. The sergeant grunted as he drove his spear through the chest of a tall, gangling Rohirric rider. The strong muscles of his arm felt a solid strike as the spear point penetrated through the man's armor. Then, as his enemy's padding and tunic ripped, the spear drove into the man's chest, striking and breaking rib bones and then piercing the strawhead's heart. Skewered like a bloody piece of meat upon a spit, the man's mouth gaped open as he spewed out a stream of gore.
Relinquishing his hold upon the spear as the dead man toppled from his horse, Daungha kicked his own steed forward and it leapt over the writhing form of his fallen enemy. Then Daungha smiled as he drew his sword and heard the slick ring of metal as it left the scabbard.
Sergeant Daungha's mount snorted and veered from the still, black mound of a fallen horse, just one of the many lifeless forms in the jagged, bloody line of dead and wounded men and beasts. A tall Rohir, broad of chest and strong of stature, had turned his dappled gray horse after the initial jolt of the charge and now came thundering towards Daungha. From out of the eyepiece of the intricately wrought helm, a set of clear blue eyes flashed vengeance above a face reddened in wrath. Braided hair of burnished gold streamed out beneath the curtain of mail which protected the back and sides of the Rider's neck.
"Min nama is Osric Isensmithson!" Osric of Grenefeld bellowed, looking at the foes before him. "Ic grete éow, Éastléode! Métanath sweordcwealm!"
The man screamed at the Easterling in what the Sergeant knew was Rohirric, but Daungha could not understand any of the words in the angry cry. He did not need to have comprehension, however; he knew the look of battle fury in his foe's eyes all too well. With a roar, the man was upon him, wielding a great, shining sword.
Daungha's horse, still wary of the living and dying flesh upon the ground around him, shied again. As the other's blade came perilously close, Daungha was quick and parried with his shield. As quick as Daungha was, though, the huge man's strike hit his shield dead center, splintering it in the Khandian's grip. Daungha's hand and arm stung and throbbed from the impact of the mighty blow. He winced from the pain and swung at the Rohir, but with a laugh, the giant caught his blade in mid-swing.
"Melkor," he thought frantically, "this man is a monster!"
Sergeant Daungha urged his horse close to the large man's steed and struck out with his blade, aiming for his neck. Quickly, the big man turned his head, and Daungha's blade struck only the curtain of interwoven rings which hung around his helm. The Rohirric knight drew back his sword and metal met metal as his blade clashed against Daungha's. The Rohir's grip was like iron, and as they wrestled for control, Sergeant Daungha knew he was no match for the great giant before him. The Rohir sent Daungha's sword hurling from his hand and brought his blade back to strike at Daungha's neck.
Seeing his move, Daungha ducked as he sawed his horse's reins back and forth, pulling upward on the beast, the signal for his mount to rear. Daungha's horse gave a long, high-pitched whinny and lashed the air with his front legs. Daungha kicked the rearing beast in the sides and the horse snorted, bursting forward with a great plunging leap, carrying him out of the Rohir's reach.
Daungha cast a worried look back over his shoulder and saw that his opponent was not in pursuit. His great sword gleaming in the sun, the Rohir had turned his attentions to other Easterlings and Southrons. The Rohir giant rode amongst them, hacking and hewing them down like ripened wheat before the scythe. He fought like some fell golden god who had descended upon the earth to wreak his vengeance. When his enemies had fled, the great Rohir bellowed a lusty battle cry and beat his sword across his mail-clad chest. The men of Mordor had withered in his fearsome presence and none had been able to prevail against him.
The Mordor cavalry was faltering desperately all across the Deeping Coomb. The sun caught patches of blood on the muddy ground. The field was strewn with the bodies of dead and dying horses and men. Horses shrieked in their pain and suffering as those they had served joined them in their dirge of death. Spears, driven deep into bodies, stood aloft as though a small fleet of ship masts sailed upon the field.
Unbelieving eyes stared from severed heads as though the head was dismayed that it could no longer find its body. When the one line met the other, the initial contact had been an explosion of fury as spears did their deadly work. Then after they were spent, swords cut through the ranks of the living and turned them into the ranks of the dead. Those of the Easterling cavalry who had survived the first charge had almost totally vanished from the field, but here and there the battle still pulsed and raged.
His sword stricken from his hand, Sergeant Daungha looked for a clear patch of ground. After finding it, he dropped lightly from the saddle and took a sword from the quivering, dying hand of an unknown long-maned blond warrior. Springing back upon his horse, he went to aid his nearest embattled comrades.
He espied Lieutenant Kourosh to the edge of the field. The Lieutenant was missing his shield. Blood dripped from the fingers of his left hand. Alone now, he fought for his life against three emboldened Riders of the Mark.
With a bellowing scream, Sergeant Daungha dug his spurs deep into his horse's sides, drawing blood. He rushed his horse forward and drove into the nearest attacker. With a mighty swing, he brought his sword slashing down and severed the man's head in a single stroke.
Lieutenant Kourosh swung his sword at his attacker on the right. His stroke fell awry, and did nothing but crash against metal. Kourosh rammed his horse into the attacker's mount, the force and momentum causing the man's horse to stumble and move away. Caught off guard, the Rohirric warrior showed confusion in his eyes. A swing with his blade and Kourosh neatly sliced the man's sword arm off. The blood spewed from the severed arteries, and the hewed bone peered awkwardly from the great, rending gash, the muscles and tendons shred. The man screamed as Sergeant Daungha quickly drew the blade back and rammed the weapon through the man's armor into his stomach. As Daungha twisted the sword back, the man grabbed frantically at the blade with one hand, sheering his own fingers in his death agonies, before plunging sideways over the horse. The third attacker, disbelieving all that he had seen, thrust his sword toward Kourosh, who moved slightly aside and plunged his sword into his attacker's throat.
"Daungha! The death shadow was upon me! I was near to singing my last lay! Courageous, brave man, you saved me!"
"Nay, I am not a brave man! I am a bloody butcher, and I am skilled at it! I was in a damn good mood for killing and I still am! Let us cut their hearts out! Peel their scalps with their long manes and tie them to our horses' bridles! Bathe ourselves and our horses in their blood! Drink it in great gulps!" he screamed, filled with the battle fury and caught in another spasm of kapurdri. His eyes flashed madly and drops of spittle edged the corners of his lips and trailed down to his beard.
Lieutenant Kourosh looked at him with alarm. "Daungha!" he cried. "Stop this sort of talking! We will not descend into blood-drinking savagery! Do not give the men of the West that satisfaction!"
"Descend, sir? The drop shall not be a long one. We already are savages!"
"Sheath your sword, Sergeant! It is a command!"
Still clutching his sword, fresh blood streaking the sides, he glared at the Lieutenant. The air seemed to crackle with tension, the battle receding away from them as their own private struggle took precedence.
"Man!" he shouted as he moved his horse closer until he was side by side with Daungha. While Daungha raged and stormed madly, Kourosh took the reins of his horse. "The battle has left us! Come to your senses! Our men are in retreat and we remain here like statues!"
Daungha only stared at him, the wild look still upon his face. He had been caught up in a vision brought on by the battle rage. Fiercely he batted his eyelids, chasing away an image of a fist holding a great pitcher. The hand bent its wrist and the vessel tipped on its edge, blood pouring out over the field, bathing the men in its red blessing.
"Listen to me, Sergeant! We cannot hold them any longer," Lieutenant Kourosh said, his voice bitter. "They have bested us! And look now, even with no trumpet to sound the call to retreat, they have given in and melt now like butter in the heat of the sun!"
Daungha's eyes gleamed like those of a madman's as he felt the hallucination's imaginary blood raining down over his shoulders. The Lieutenant wondered if Daungha might kill him in his battle rage.
"Take your hands off my horse's reins or I swear I will slay you!" Daungha screamed again. He lifted his sword higher into the air. Shaking his head from side to side, he growled like an animal as his braids flew about his head and his mouth sent strands of spittle streaming.
"Then go ahead! Add more blood to the ground. It is but a short path to my heart and I will not raise my sword against you!"
The Sergeant trembled and swayed unsteadily in his saddle. His left hand came down and clutched the pommel of his saddle. He could hear the Lieutenant talking to him, calling to him from someplace far away, but to his mind, the Lieutenant was bathed in blood like everything else. The whole field was covered by a flood. The blood rose slowly, coming to the hocks of his horse. He heard a rushing roar in his ears, like water pouring over a falls. He bit his lips, clenching them, chewing them, until the blood mingled with his spit and oozed onto his beard.
"The blood," he mumbled. "It rages about us and covers the field! There is nothing but blood!"
Lieutenant Kourosh feared that the Sergeant would never come back from the place where his mind had wandered. Some did not, their minds withered and blighted by the powerful mushroom brew.
"Sergeant Daungha, come to your senses! There is no blood covering the field! You are bewitched by the draught!"
"Aye," he said and grinned madly. "I have drunk deeply of the cup of blood, and it will be drained dry and empty ere I am finished!" He looked into the sun as he raised his left hand and clasped his sword, slicing his palm as he dragged it along the edge. Then he roared in laughter and licked the blood from his hand, smearing his face as he swallowed the metallic taste of his own blood.
"Then let us go to the aid of our men and share the cup together!" the Lieutenant tried to reason with him.
Daungha's chest heaved in and out as he panted, taking in great gasps of air. A wave of shuddering began to wrack his frame. His sword arm sagged as the blade slowly began to sink and point to the ground. "Yes," he gasped, the madness lessening.
"We will all drink deeply together," Lieutenant Kourosh said calmly, knowing that the siege of kapurdri delusion was passing. He slowly released his grasp on the reins of Daungha's horse.
"Aye," Daungha muttered and sheathed his sword. He shook his head again, his eyes and mind clearing of the draught. The madness spent for the time, the Sergeant felt a sudden sense of doom fall over him. "Sir, Tooraj... where is he? He was with you," he said, his voice full of alarm.
"I think you already know," Kourosh replied sadly. "He lies over there somewhere, amidst the carnage. He died bravely, they will all say. He fell in the last charge, pierced through the entrails with a Rohirric spear." Lieutenant Kourosh looked up at the sky and repeated his most common phrases. "He did all the things that are expected of a soldier: to obey his officers, to follow orders, carry out all his duties faithfully. Now he has fallen valiantly. He was a good soldier." He turned his gaze from the heavens and looked to Sergeant Daungha. "Tooraj was smiling last I saw him. A good, brave lad!"
Sergeant Daungha felt his throat tighten, his mouth dry. "I killed a Rohir in much the same fashion. May Tooraj's death be avenged in what I did. I hate them! I hate them all!" he began to sob. "Every last one of them! Curses upon all their houses! Let pestilence and famine haunt their footsteps, let them see their sons die before their eyes! And when they are old and all is lost to them, may they all die and rot unmourned forever!"
The battle had passed them. Both men, panting, blood flowing from their arms, bruises on face and hands, mail rent in places, sat upon their horses and looked about the grim field. The Easterling cavalry forces were depleted and scattered. The Rohirrim and Elves were in command of the battle and had charged off towards the keep.
"Look," Lieutenant Kourosh cried, casting his gaze about, "the Rohirrim are driving the few survivors of our cavalry before them. Soon they will pound into our forces below the walls of the fortress. May Melkor help us!"
"Aye," Sergeant Daungha muttered bitterly. "Let Melkor help us and all the other accursed Gods join Him! Damn Them all and damn us, too!"
"You know my philosophy: to revere the Two Gods, to do my duty as best I can, to be loyal to those who rule, to be resolved to face whatever may come proudly and bravely," he intoned the familiar words.
"To hell with philosophy!" Daungha cried, his voice filled with emotion.
"Sometimes that is all there is, Sergeant," Lieutenant Kourosh replied flatly.
"I do not wish to speak any more of philosophy, Lieutenant. Did you talk to Tooraj ere he died?"
"Nay, I only saw him fall. He told me before the battle that he wanted me to give you his amulets should he perish. Forgive me. I could not reach him!"
"I will take them from his neck as I kiss his cold lips for the last time, and they shall rest over my heart for ever!"
"There is comfort that he died bravely," his commander repeated the familiar chant.
"That is little comfort for my sorrow! For all your philosophy and high thoughts, the only truth in this world is the law of the sword! The weak will die and the strong shall survive! A wise man lives life to the fullest while he has it and is ready to protect himself and all that he has by his wits and the power of his blade! There is no other verity!"
"Then let us die by the sword!" Kourosh rambled. "And let us drain the cup of sorrow!"
Daungha wondered if Kourosh still believed his own words or if he only repeated them as a mantra to strengthen himself.
"We will drink to the dregs! I go now to avenge the slain. Live by your noble standards if you wish! When that proves futile, die by your own sword! But," Sergeant Daungha said, choking away the last sobs and wiping his eyes with his hand, "as for me, I think I shall live. My luck still holds! Someone needs to survive to bury them all with honor."
Both men, fell and grim, touched their heels to their horses' sides and rode to the west - one man living by honor; the other by might and luck. The sun looked down in uncaring tranquility from the heavens.
Second Battle of Helm's Deep, June 14, 3019 - 11:30 AM - 1 PM
Accompanying maps charting troop movements by Angmar.
The concept of bearded Dwarf women is straight out of Tolkien, though the actual statement was omitted from The Lord of the Rings. See the "Making of Appendix A," The Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 285.
"Min nama is Osric Isensmithson! Ic grete éow, Éastléode! Métanath sweordcwealm!" - My name is Osric the Isensmith's son. I greet you, people of the East. Meet violent death by the sword!
All Black Speech phrases are in Land of Shadows (Shadowlandian) Black Speech Dialect and follow the grammatical rules created by Scatha, though some words have been borrowed from other sources (ie. Horngoth, MERP).
WINDS OF DEATH
Translated by Angmar
Matum rûkat mubi oraz / Death rides
upon the winds
(Mubi = upon; MERP. Ora = wind; unknown origin.)
Nûrl aandar-tab / Learn its mystery
Gimb ta agh krai rok-tab / Seek it and feel its embrace
Badz pu-latub agh nork puzîr / Open your mouth and receive the kiss
(Pu = mouth; LOS. Zîr = love; Tolkien's Adûnaic)
Amubnar zungat-ta frûm-labu / As it pierces your soul
Broshn naakhu akûlûrz / Welcome the icy hands
Amubnar zaat-ulu hûn-labu / As they clench your heart
Agh thrakat labu bukot-u matum-ob / And bring you into the peace of death
Gothûrz Skakhu Burzûm-ob / Great Lords of Darkness
Bhûl za fli grish-ob / Accept this blood sacrifice
(Fli = sacrifice; Horngoth/MERP)
Sharbturu-Labu-ghaara / From Your servants
(Sharbtur = servant; MERP)
Agh gimb ta turkûrz / And find it worthy
AGÂN! / Death!
(Agân = death (personified); Tolkien's Adûnaic)