The Circles - Book Five - The Valley of Death
Chapter Fifty
Cirith Ungol

Chapter Written by Angmar and Elfhild

Bellowing cries of battle as obscene as they were fearsome, the troop of ten black uruks charged towards those closest to them - the Shakh and the Captain. The two girls screamed in terror, adding their shrill voices to the rising cacophony. Leering like a battle-crazed ifrit, an orc grabbed for the reins of Ubri's horse. The Captain swung his scimitar, the blade slicing through emptiness as the agile uruk ducked beneath the sword's arc. Infuriated by his own ineptitude, the Captain did not notice the stealthy approach of a massive, lumbering uruk whose appearance was as exceptional for the many piercings of his lips, ears, nose and mouth as it was for the bulging muscles of his battle-fit body. As Ubri raised his sword to dash out the brains of his smaller attacker, he found his blow deflected by the upraised haft of a warrior's spear.

Splintering the orc's spear, Ubri brought up his sword again, but the blade never fell, for the pierced monstrosity on his left had wrenched the Southron's reins from his fingers. Jerking the mare's head sharply to the side, the huge uruk hurled his full weight against the mare's shoulder, throwing her off balance. The mare crashed to the ground, screaming and thrashing, sending her rider hurtling from her back. Before the animal could ever rise to her feet, the massive uruk had disemboweled her with a twisting jab of his spear in her belly. Landing heavily on his right shoulder, Ubri fought against the pain as he struggled to rise to his feet. A crashing blow to the back of his head rendered him senseless, and the Captain was quickly trussed up like a roast, tied and ready for the feast.

The twins watched in horror as the gruesome scene unfolded. It was all too similar to the ambush which had claimed the life of poor old Tarlanc the miller, and the sisters feared that this fight would have the same tragic outcome. Sick, dizzy, close to fainting, Elffled brought her hands to her face and screamed.

"Go back! Go back!" Ganbar commanded the girls, his voice urgent. "Elfhild, take your sister and escape! If you stay here, you will be killed!"

"Yes... yes, Master Ganbar, you are right, of course. We must leave," Elfhild forced the unwelcome words out of her mouth. "Come, Elffled," she pleaded as calmly as she could, reaching over and touching her sister's shoulder. "We must ride back to Moskala!"

"Yes, yes," Elffled mumbled obediently before bursting into loud, wailing sobs. Tears flooded her eyes, and she could barely see what she was doing as she and her sister galloped their horses back in the direction of Moskala.

Screaming insults, three uruks danced wildly around Esarhaddon, jabbing viciously with their spears but jumping just out of reach. Esarhaddon slashed out with his scimitar, trying to keep the fiends at bay. He soon realized that had the uruks wanted to kill him, he would already be lying dead with a spear through his guts. He knew their game; they were planning to butcher his mare and hurl him to the ground, and he was damned if he would let them! While two of the uruks attempted to distract him with their darting spear thrusts, another grabbed for his mare's reins, but the slaver had other plans.

"Up, Ka'adara, my sweet!" he commanded in Haradric, pulling back on the mare's reins. The chestnut shot up on her hind legs, her hooves raking the air. The orc screamed out in terror, but he was not quick enough to escape or defend himself. His eyes rolling in fear, a scream frozen in his throat, the uruk looked up just in time to see the enraged chestnut's flailing hooves come plunging down upon him. Skull and spine crushed, he fell in a mangled wreckage at her feet. Esarhaddon jumped the mare over the still-twitching body and then wheeled her around to face his two remaining assailants. Death was in her flashing eyes, and, bellowing out her fury, the mare charged after the uruks. They had lost their appetite for combat, and fled away.

"Stop him, you cowards! He is escaping!" Corporal Bekir commanded, his whiny voice pleading like a woman. "This should have been so easy," he upbraided himself. "If that idiot captain had not gone berserk, we would have them in the tower by now!" Beneath his black livery, he could feel the sweat streaming from his armpits and running down his sides, soaking the material of his tunic. He felt disgusted at his weakness and knew that the uruks would laugh behind his back when they smelled the stench of his reeking fear.

Even though they cursed Bekir under their breath, enough of the uruks rallied to make another attack on Esarhaddon. Screaming out their newly kindled courage, they swarmed around the Southron like hornets protesting their fallen hive. With a cry like the cold sound of death, they hurled their spears at Esarhaddon. Now he and the mare would die, he thought, but the barbs thudded harmlessly into the dark breast of the earth, circling around him like a ring. The slaver shrugged, unimpressed by their attempts to intimidate him.

"Surrender!" the uruks cried in unison as they drew their weapons. The slaver was silent, almost nonchalant, his sleepy eyes distant beneath heavy lids. Chanting, the five uruks circled around the slaver, awaiting only the opportunity to strike. Though he was uneasy, the slaver hid his feelings behind a studied detachment and waited quietly for them, keeping a short rein on Ka'dara.

Angered, suddenly all five orcs lunged at him from every direction, their strong, muscular hands grabbing for his arms and legs. The slaver swung his upraised scimitar at the assailant on his right side, narrowly missing the uruk's neck by a few inches when the beast ducked. Then, sweat beading on his forehead, his heart hammering in his chest, the Shakh turned in his saddle, bringing the sickle-like weapon down to bite into the shoulder of an orc on the left. Dazed with pain, the uruk looked up unbelievingly as Esarhaddon reversed the deadly scimitar and swung the weapon around in a wide arc. The brutal blade bit deeply, cleaving the collarbone and unleashing an explosion of black blood. Howling in pain, the uruk tumbled to the ground. Esarhaddon felt a strong tug at his right ankle and turned to meet this latest assailant. As he raised his scimitar, the slaver felt something sharp cut into his left calf, searing his flesh. The weapon wavered in his trembling hand, and the orc leaped just out of reach.

Then realization dawned upon Esarhaddon, sharp and bitter as the tang of lemon juice. His eyes quickly took in Ubri, trussed up on the ground, and Ganbar and Inbir, fighting their own battles against the swarthy monsters. Horses ran to and fro, terrified out of their wits. The twins - his costly investments - were nowhere in sight. Two soldiers of Mordor lay cold, their blood congealing, and their lives were on Esarhaddon's head. The slaver knew that the penalty for such a crime was death. All this chaos and carnage, this senseless killing, for what? For what! his brain demanded. The damned papers! An error in computation! He was in the midst of a festival of fools, and he was its chief jester. The laughter rumbled deep in his throat, and the irony proved a soothing balm to his raw nerves.

Howling like a rabid hyena, he felt neither the pain nor the wetness of the blood coursing down his leg to puddle in his riding boot. Another one of the uruks closed in upon him, and, smiling wickedly, Esarhaddon swung the deadly scimitar in a wide arc. Before the curving steel could taste its quarry, though, rough hands had grabbed the slaver's wounded leg, twisting it painfully. He was being dragged from his horse and he was powerless to regain his balance! Still laughing, he fell with a heavy thud upon the hard ground. His laughter stopped suddenly when he felt the first sharp jab to his ribs as the uruks began kicking and plummeting him.

Twinkling lights like stars danced before his eyes. Esarhaddon tried to struggle to his knees, but he was slammed to the ground by the great pierced fiend. Grunting, his enemy straddled his back, and the slaver felt repugnance at the closeness of their sweating, struggling bodies, like two lovers writhing in the clasp of desire. Esarhaddon felt the turban being torn from his head and the uruk's thick, beefy fingers dig through his hair, grasping a chunk of it and pulling his head back.

"Baalak and Naakhûrz," the uruk rasped to his two fellows, "don't stand there scratching your arses with your eyes all agape! The two of you go 'elp the other lads, who seem to be in some trouble. I can 'andle this oily Southern pig!"

"Zung, you sure you're not biting off more than you can chew?" the one called Naakhûrz asked cautiously. "'E 'as killed two of us already!"

"Nar! I can 'andle 'im! I know what I'm doing!" Zung laughed as he gave Esarhaddon's hair a vicious twist.

"If you are sure--"

"Shut up and along down the road with ye!"

"Don't get yourself all hot and bothered, Zung! We're going! We're going!" Naakhûrz muttered as he and his companion lumbered down the road.

Ramming his elbow back in the uruk's face, the slaver felt it connect with tight muscle over hard bone. The orc grunted in pain but did not relinquish his hold, only strengthening his position by gripping the slaver's body with his strong thighs. The beast was unimpressed when Esarhaddon managed to land a sharp kick to his buttocks.

"Fool!" the uruk snarled as he thrust his right arm beneath the Southron's armpit, curling it around his gasping opponent's neck. Clasping his right hand over his left wrist, the uruk exerted agonizing pressure to the back of the slaver's neck. "You're not going anywhere, my fine fat merchant!" Zung bent down and hissed in Esarhaddon's ear. "Keep it up, and I might just break your neck! Har har har!"

The thought of submitting crossed the slaver's mind, but he was still far too angry to give in without more of a fight. The orc had made the mistake of letting the slaver's right hand remain free. Flinging his hand around like the injured wing of a bird, his arm suddenly stiffened. Pushing between Zung's legs, Esarhaddon's hand grasped the orc's cullion sack and twisted it mercilessly. Convulsed with the sudden, excruciating pain, the uruk howled in agony, releasing his hold on Esarhaddon's neck as though it were a hissing serpent.

As the slaver shoved the writhing orc from his back, he reached for the dagger hidden in his boot and staggered to his feet. He looked down. The orc was bent double in pain, his hands clutching his wounded genitals. Esarhaddon drew his foot back and slammed it in Zung's face, gloating as he felt the crunch of breaking teeth. The booted foot shot forward again, and the orc sagged into unconsciousness.

Esarhaddon glanced around and saw that Ubri's unmoving form had been dragged to the side of the road. From the number of dead uruks nearby, Ganbar had put up a splendid fight. Now, though, wounded and weaponless, his tunic saturated with blood, he was held fast by two uruks. Inbir, reckless and brave, was still fighting; his trophy, a severed orc's head, lying nearby. Soon he, too, was toppled. Poor swordsman though he was, still fate had favored Esarhaddon to be the last one standing.

Seeing his scimitar lying a few feet away, the Southron reached down and picked it up. When he had straightened, he looked above and saw the gates of the tower swinging open and a wave of orcs streaming out like a black tide. Weary, his fine robes stained and torn, his turban trampled and covered with dirt and blood, the slaver waited. Then through the blurred gaze of exhaustion, he saw more uruks coming up the road, pulling along the protesting twins behind them. Resigned to the dictates of fate, Esarhaddon waited stoically until the Khandian colonel stood in front of him.

"My, my, you are injured!" Corporal Bekir's fleshy lips twisted in a mockery of a smile. "Your stubbornness has cost you, my lord Esarhaddon. In the name of Mordor, you are under arrest. Your sword now, please. You will not be needing it anymore." The Khandian's smile broadened. He was going to enjoy this very much.

Here ends the fifth book of THE CIRCLES.

The sixth book in the series is called CROSSING THE WIDE HAMADA.


Discuss this Chapter on The Circles Forum

Back to Book Five of The Circles

Back to The Circles Homepage