The Siege Part 2
The first wave of Orcs smashed into the barricades and poison-tipped caltrops with a crash, causing the soldiers of Trestlebridge to jump back quickly. The group of Rangers of the West, more experienced with battle called out quick orders. “Use your spears, push them off those spikes!” said Mordroskerk, the dwarf as he slammed his mace into a twitching orc. Thorsul thrust his sword through the body of another orc, knocking it back from the barricade. An arrow flew past his ear, too close for comfort, yet he didn’t turn around. Leandir would never hit him. He took comfort in that. The arrow in question buried itself in an Orcs eye, dropping it instantly. The bowstring hummed three more times in quick succession and three more Orcs dropped. Gilthiras, her voice rising and falling, sang a wordless tune, its melody twisting like an unseen thing around her companions and the small group of soldiers who guarded the bridge. When they heard the tune, they stood straighter; they fought harder and did not give in to fatigue. Hersery, cursing, saw more Orcs approaching the barricade at full speed. Four dropped instantly to arrows, yet more took their place. Her hand dipped towards the small horn at her belt, yet she hesitated, frowning. Near the top of the hill, many Orcs had not charged. Instead, they stood back and watched the first wave push the defenders back.
Hersery knew that they would lose this end of the bridge. They simply could not hold this end against that many Orcs. With such a small force, they couldn’t afford to lose many soldiers. As if by thought, she saw a soldier fall, his chest pierced by an Orc arrow. “Archers! Leandir they have archers to the north west! Take them out!”
Leandir’s eyes narrowed as he took sight. His mind raged at the Orcs, the pain of his family’s death an internal fire that raged always. Drawing his bow back, he dropped the first archer. As he took sight of the next, he dropped sight and parried the arrow with his bow just before it struck him. Coldly, he felled the remainder of the Orc archers in quick order. Suddenly, his eyes saw a goblin hand grasping the side of the bridge. The smaller, quicker goblins had used the battle as distraction and climbed the side of the Trestlespan, hoping to take the defenders by surprise. Slinging his bow across his back, he drew his twin swords. Curved elven steel sang as he waited. Without warning, five goblins dropped behind Gilthiras and rushed. They skidded to a stop when they found the elf waiting. “Argggh…get him?” the lead goblin said just before his head flew from his body. The remaining goblins had little time to decide as Leandir’s blades dispatched the rest. As he sheathed his swords, Hersery barked back at him. “Leandir what the…oh…never mind.” She indeed had noticed the fallen goblins. With a final groan, the last of the first wave of Orcs dropped to the ground and the defenders cheered. “Mordro, quick! Do what you can to even up these barricades! Thor, help me here!” She grabbed the body of a soldier and dragged it back down the span a ways. Thorsul grabbed a second and pulled, his tired muscles straining.
“You know we can’t do that again Hers. We can’t hold this end of the bridge. That wasn’t even a quarter of them and we lost five soldiers.”
“I know Thor, I know.”
“Why didn’t you blow the horn? Rathbairn would have been able to help there.”
“Thor, you don’t understand. If we send him in too soon, yes he’ll wipe out the orcs, but then when they’re all dead, he’ll go looking for more. If he charges that hill, they’ll kill him.”
Thorsul nodded reluctantly. “Okay Hers, we’ll do it your way.”
As the orc horn sounded again, both Rangers of the West steeled themselves and returned to the line.
. . . .
Rathbairn watched the battle from the shelter of pine trees a short distance away. Every instinct in his body was urging him to charge the Orcs. Yet he held his place, trusting his new friends. As he knelt to keep out of sight, a soft sound caused him to turn. A small fox stood off to his left, frozen in fear. Smiling, Rathbairn held up his empty hands and yipped quietly to the fox. <Friend. Danger. Run away. Hide>. The fox slunk cautiously toward the Beorning and yipped in return <friend? No kill?> Rathbairn replied in return <No kill. Danger near. Hide>. The fox approached slowly until it stood inches away. Rathbairn extended his hand and the small creature sniffed carefully. Slowly, Rathbairn’s hand twisted until it rested gently on the foxes small head. Closing its eyes in pleasure as the Beorning petted, the fox stood for a few moments, enjoying the affection. Without warning, it turned away and began to trot off to the north. It turned back and yipped a short farewell before vanishing off. Rathbairn noticed the fox had an unusually large white spot on the tail of the fox as the animal disappeared. He smiled to himself. In the Vales, foxes ran openly and without fear of harm.
Turning back to the battle, Rathbairn watched the defenders defeat the first wave. He saw the dead pulled back from the line to make room. He heard the horns and saw most of the Orcs charge. He readied himself. This wave of Orcs would swarm through the defenses and would push the defenders across the bridge. The call would come. He waited, eager for battle, the excitement making his heart race. A snap of a twig behind him caused him to jerk his head around. Nothing was in the copse of pines. He sniffed and caught a whiff of decayed meat. Orcs were nearby. He slunk through the pines but froze when a yelp of pain echoed through the trees. Down the far side of the hill, he caught sight of an orc bending towards the ground and picking up a small form. It was a fox, its side pierced and bloody. The Orc held it in one fist while carrying a crude sword in the other. Looking up, the orc saw the Huge Beorning and tossed the still form at him. A large white spot on the tail made Rathbairn’s heart sink. It was the fox he spoke to only a few moments earlier. The orc had killed it for nothing more than entertainment.
White hot rage blossomed inside as Rathbairn roared at the Orc. It stupidly charged up the hill at him only to stop suddenly when two axes buried themselves into and through its chest. It looked up at the massive figure in front of it and dropped dead. Rathbairn carefully knelt and scooped up the small furry body and held it gently. “I’m so sorry” he whispered as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I’m so sorry my little friend. Those monsters…. I’ll make them pay. They will all PAY!” The last word came out with a roar as Rathbairn howled in anger. Rage gave way to wrath as Rathbairn let the anger wash over him. He gently set the dead fox down next to a tree. “I’ll return for you little one” was all he could say as he began to run. He ran towards the battle as he heard a sudden call. A long, high, clear call of a horn reached his ears. His steps became longer as the wrath inside brought out the change. He let his other form roll over him. Limbs lengthened, fur sprouted and bones and muscles shifted and snapped. When the change finished, the massive pale brown bear charge through the copse of trees and headed for battle. It let out a long, loud roar that shook the earth itself. Then, it headed towards the Orcs to deal death.
. . . .
Hersery knew it was time to summon Rathbairn. The second wave of Orcs hit the line and the barricades were barely holding. More soldiers lay dead as the defenders were pushed back. She stepped back and was about to blow her horn when an orcish arrow knocked it from her grip, slicing her hand. She cursed and before she could grab it, a large Orc rushed her. She parried a cut and thrust her blade through the Orcs belly. Kicking the body off, she looked for the horn.
Mordroskerk, his mace stuck in the skull of a dead orc, slammed his shield into the face of another orc and swiped its head off with a cry. “Baruk Khazad!” he called as he rushed more orcs.
Thorsul, standing over a fallen soldier, slammed his shield, knocking an orc into the poisoned barricade and beheading it. He glanced quickly back at Gilthiras and Leandir, the two elves standing firm and dealing death. They would not hold, he thought.
Hersery saw the horn lying partially concealed under the body of a dead goblin. As she grabbed it, she looked around her. The Rangers of the West still stood firm, but only a few soldiers remained. It was time. She inhaled and sounded the call. It was a long, clear note that rattled through the air.
Suddenly her call was answered by a roar that shook the earth itself. It rattled the Trestlespan and the orcs that attacked stopped, confused. Suddenly, a huge pale, brown bear burst from the trees, roaring with rage. It charged the Orcs and slammed into them like a wave, claws rending and tearing. Orcs and Goblins alike died by the scores. The bear tore through them without mercy. Claws tore apart throats and limbs alike. Those that tried to escape its wrath were rent asunder. The beast reared to its hind legs and let out a bellowing roar to the remaining Orcs that waited at the top of the hills to the east. With dozens upon dozens of dead orcs at its feet, the bear charged again. The defenders could only stare in awe as this beast turned into a frenzied force of nature, killing everything in its path.
Hersery, her eyes wide, shook herself and recovered her wits. “Come on!” she shouted. “That’s one of us out there! We leave no one alone!” She turned to the four remaining soldiers. “Stay here and guard the Trestlespan. If the Orcs try to cross, light the fires and run! No matter what!” The soldiers turned and ran.
Mordroskerk shook his axes and shield and shouted the Dwarven battle cry. “Khazad ai Menu!”
Thorsul, his bloody blade raised high called “Rangers! CHARGE!”
Gilthiras, tears streaming down her cheeks at the sight of the great bear, followed and began to sing. It was a song of war.
Leandir, his face impassive, could only watch in awe for a moment as the bear tore the Orcs and Goblins apart. Grabbing his bow and a few remaining arrows, he ran to join his companions.
The five Rangers, charging up the hill behind the great bear, formed a wedge behind it, the now six of them becoming a wedge of death that destroyed everything in its path. Arrows, blades, song and claws tore the Orcs to pieces as they advanced. At the top of the hill, they saw the Orcs in retreat, crossing a wooden rope bridge that spanned a massive gorge. Across the way, the Orc camp lay sprawling through the gorge. Siege engines and great rams were in various stages of construction. The bear stopped at the bridge, rearing on its hind legs and letting loose a roar. The five Rangers could only cover their ears as it echoed throughout the nearby hills. Dropping to its fours it turned and regarded the five humans. Snarling, it slowly began to advance.
“Rathbairn, it’s us, your companions. Stop!” Hersery warned.
Gilthiras, her face lined with worry regarded the great bear stalking them. “He cannot see us as a man. The bear has taken over him fully. It will only change when its rage is sated.”
“Sing Gil!” Thorsul called, his sword held low towards the bear. “Lily was able to put him to sleep in Bree”.
Gilthiras closed her eyes and a low, soothing melody came from her lips. The bear cocked its head curiously and it stopped its advance. As the song went on, the beast grumbled and its form began to shudder. Soon, only Rathbairn remained, his human form regained. He shook his head softly. “I am sorry my friends, the beast itself cannot be reasoned with. When its rage takes hold, nothing stops it.”
The rest of the Rangers sighed in relief and came to join their new friend. “That was incredible Rath” Hersery said. The Beorning raised an eyebrow at the shortened name, but said nothing. Mordroskerk and Thorsul both congratulated Rathbairn on his timely arrival, describing the number of dead Orcs felled by the beast as nearly uncountable. Leandir, standing off to one side, was staring intently at the bridge spanning the gorge, his gaze on the Orc camp across. Gilthiras, her face curious, stepped to his side. “What troubles you my friend?” She asked.
“The Orcs returned to their camp. We can destroy the bridge on this side, but what next. The Orcs will simply build another one in time. What about the Elves at Meluinen on the far side of these hills? We need to warn them.” Leandir’s eyes continued their scrutiny of the Orc camp.
Hersery stepped to his side. “We will destroy the bridge, but you are right. The orcs will rebuild. Perhaps the people of Trestlebridge need to leave. The town isn’t safe. But we’ve removed the threat of the Orcs for some time.”
“Leandir’s right though Hers” Thorsul said. “The Elves need to be warned and so do the Rangers in Esteldin.”
“Then we need to split up and take care of this. Let’s take care of this bridge first, then return to Trestlebridge and decide our course.”
Mordroskerk had begun to cut the posts and with his companions help and soon the bridge clattered down, falling to the far side of the cliff face. Leandir, a lit arrow strung, took aim at the ropes at the far side and released. His fiery arrow catching the timber as the bridge burned through. Soon, all that was left were the posts on the far side.
The six Rangers of the West turned and descended the hill towards the Trestlespan, weary but triumphant. As they reached the far side of the bridge, some of the residents of Trestlebridge came to greet them. There were no cheers or victory celebrations. Many of the defenders lay dead and some few wounded. Of the nearly thirty that had joined the Rangers, only four remained able to fight. Nellie Boskins, an older woman who led the people of Trestlebridge listened intently as Hersery described the surrounding Orc camp. “We will have to leave here. We will go to Bree perhaps. But thanks to you, we survive to lead our people out.” She turned and joined the people of Trestlebridge to begin their exodus.
The six heroes rested a few hours that afternoon. Fatigue robbed them of any chance of celebration. Rathbairn rose after only a few hours’ sleep and left the house quietly. He crossed to a nearby grocer, an idea coming to mind. He spoke with the vendor, who handed him a small parcel of items and pointed to a nearby mess hall. The Beorning smiled while he worked alone in the kitchen for several hours, the hot oven and smells of the baking reminding him of home. His friends would indeed enjoy the surprise he was preparing.
When he finished, the warm Honey Cakes cooled on a large steel tray. He carried the tray out of the mess hall and crossed the courtyard to the nearby abandoned house where the five Rangers of the West slept. The residents of Trestlebridge had given the house to the Rangers, theirs to store their gear and to rest. Entering the house quietly, he left the pan on the table in the dining area and scribbled a note. He left the house and headed to the bridge. He had one final errand in mind. Crossing the Trestlespan, he turned west and headed to the copse of trees. In the shelter of the pine, he found a small mound of dirt where he had left the small body of the fox. Curious, he examined the makeshift grave. A quiet voice spoke from behind him.
“I came to retrieve these for you, and when I found the dead Orc and the slain fox, I knew what you had in mind. I took the liberty of laying him to rest for you.” Holding the twin axes, Leandir stepped to Rathbairn’s shoulder as the Beorning regarded the grave. The Elf handed them to Rathbairn.
“Thank for this. For these too.” The Beorning slipped the axes into his belt loop and knelt down to the grave. “Life in the Vale of Anduin differs much from this place. There, we do not slay creatures unless they are evil or threaten life. My family has learned to communicate with many of them. They become friends and allies to us. To lose them brings pain.”
“Such is the way of things my friend. As a Hunter, I have killed only in need. The Elven way teaches us this. Come; let us return to the town. Our sleepy companions will wake soon. There are decisions to make.”
The two returned to the house just in time to join their companions in a small feast. The Honey Cakes were popular, their recipe a closely guarded secret the Beorning would not reveal. As they feasted, a knock on the door sounded suddenly. Gilthiras, closest to the door answered and a weary-looking man in brown travelling clothes entered. “I was told I could find you here.”
“Grimrahl!” Hersery exclaimed. “I thought you were in Gath Forthnir in Angmar! What are you doing here? You look like you’ve been riding for days! Sit down. What brings you here?”
The exhausted man, his dark hair covering his eyes sat in a nearby chair. “I have been riding for days to bring tidings. Have you any water? I’m parched.” Mordroskerk handed him a full water skin, which he drank greedily. He paused and began to speak.
“I have been in Angmar for months now. We’ve been watching the activity of Mordirith, the steward. There’s been trouble but something just happened a week ago. You know Laerdan has died?” Shock covered the faces of some of the Rangers. “Well he died two weeks ago. Someone we don’t know led Narmeleth, Laerdan’s daughter back into Angmar. She and this mystery wandering hero have done the unthinkable. Though it did cost Narmeleth her life, Mordirith is dead. The threat of Angmar is gone. The Orcs, Goblins and Wargs have fled Carn Dum. The Agmarrim have no leader and no army to fight with. They are done.”
The Rangers of the West sat staring openly at one another. With Mordirith dead and Angmar no longer a threat, the lands of the north kingdom were free at last.
I have decided to do away with screens for the time being. It’s become too difficult and time consuming when I’m working on this and handling life as well. Thank you for reading and Rathbairn’s adventures will continue next week!