Part 62 – To Help Our Own
Boisterous sounds of grunting and snarling were all about the four hunters. A hoard of orcs were surrounding them as they stood, each person facing out with their back facing each other. Taidir had collapsed by an arrow shot from an orc on the rooftop of the old Arnorian building of the ancient ruin on the hill of Parth Aduial.
The sounds were not just coming from the immediate surroundings of the court where the four hunters fought to stay alive, but they could also be heard outside the ruins. A thundering loudness poured in from all sides. So much so that the ground was vibrating with the sound. Thumping could be felt too. Between the vibrating from the loud noise of the orcs, the thumping and pounding of their feet were making the ground rumble. After a while, the small pool in the center of the courtyard sloshed around from the constant quaking of the orcs.
Theomin knew he had some arrows. He yelled to Eleswith, “Cover my side!” as he whirled around and Eleswith took his place. His aim was much to be improved upon. All of his memories of aiming his arrows at deer while hunting came back to him. So many times he tried to shoot at deer and missing, but it was never something that upset him. Not until this day. He had to shoot the orc atop the building while in the heat of battle. He needed to, for the sake of his life and the lives of all his friends. Within the span of two seconds he breathed in reached back, pulled an arrow out and placed it in the bowstring. He pulled it back as far as it could go and in less than a second he released it. It sailed up past the orcs, past the side of the building and hit the orc on the shoulder.
A sudden realization came over Theomin that he just hit the orc but did not kill it. A second later, without thought or fear, he grabbed another arrow, placed it in the string pulled back and released it. It sailed up to the orc and hit it dead between the eyes before the orc could aim its arrow at the four hunters. Even though the orc did not aim, before it died it still shot an arrow which dug in right next to Theomin’s foot. Thoemin picked up the arrow and shot another orc within the span of two seconds.
“What do we do?” Herion yelled to the other three hunters.
“Make for the ruined wall!” Theomin yelled. “We have no chance going out the way we came!”
The four sliced and hacked their way slowly northward, toward the ruined wall. As there were less orcs near the ruined wall, Eleswith aided Teidir as they fought their way forward while Theomin and Herion covered their backs. The streams of orcs lessened the closer they were to the wall and soon Taidir helped cover the rear as Eleswith fought through the orcs on the other side. She made quick work of the few orcs on the other side and yelled out, “We’re clear. Come!”
Eleswith lead the group of four with Taidir following behind along with Theomin and then Herion last, fighting off the few orcs behind. Every so often she would have to fight through a few orcs but they lessened the further to the road they were. Soon, they were out of the mess of orcs and only battled the last remaining orcs on the road. The horde of close to a hundred orcs had taken the hill, cutting off the pass between them and Annuminus.
By midafternoon they had reached the Canadiach and stopped, exhausted, weak, and confused. Taidir collapsed at the foot of the statue at the crossroads while Harion stood on watch, looking south ready for the horde to come back.
Theomin, still tired but fearful the orcs were following behind, told them, “We need to keep moving.”
Theomin, equally tired, placed his hands on his knees as he bowed searching for breath. “And how do you propose we do that?” he tried to say panting for breath. “Our only route to the city is cut off.”
“We can take the boats at Tinnudir. Some may still be there,” suggested Eleswith.
“And what of the orcs?” Taidir said, clearly in pain. “Have the orcs taken the island?”
Theomin and Eleswith looked at each other, not sure what they would find there. “I am not sure,” Eleswith finally said, “but we need to warn them before they reach the city. The guard, I am afraid to say, are ill prepared for an orc horde that size. At least not without proper defense.”
“And what of Taidir?” Theomin asked. “He is looking ill.” Theomin looked at his wound. It was clearly infected with some type of poison. “If he receives no treatment he could die.” Theomin had a brief memory of Kaymel in Rohan. “He will not make it to Annuminus nor will he make it to Tinnudir. We must try for Ost Forod.”
“And risk losing the city? I know we must save Taidir but they must be warned,” Eleswith said loudly with frustration pouring through.
Theomin thought for a moment. She was right but Taidir needed aid. He had no poison draughts left to give to Taidir and he doubted there were any ingredients on the road. “You must go, Eleswith. Take Herion. Warn the city. If there are any orcs on the island you both can make quick work of them. I will take Taidir and make for Ost Forod.”
Eleswith thought for only a moment. She looked down as if thinking hard and then looked up and gave Theomin a nod. “If we must. Take care out there. That massive horde is not far from the town. If you can, warn Ost Forod of the orcs, if they are unaware.”
“Take good care of her, Herion,” Theomin yelled to him as he was still in search of orcs. He just looked back and nodded. “And make sure Helerhu is a good dog.” Herion gave Theomin a quick smile and nodded again.
“Come, Herion,” Eleswith said to Herion. The two ran westward toward the lake. They jogged as fast as they could but exhausted as they were, they were jogging very slowly.
“Come, Taidir,” Theomin said as he hoisted Taidir up and held his arm over his shoulder. “We must make it to Ost Forod before dusk.”
Dusk was coming fast. The light of the sun had started to fade into the hills on the western shore of the lake. Things all around them were becoming louder and every so often, a noise was made from the bushes. The road up the hills was difficult for Theomin and Taidir. The burden of needing to walk Taidir up the slope of the hill drove Theomin to a quick exhaustion. Multiple times he needed to stop but he quickly got the strength to drive on soon after stopping. He was not going to let Taidir die while he was in Theomin’s charge.
Finally, almost approaching gloaming, they reached the outskirts of the town. The light and the bustle of the town made it feel warm and inviting. But the welcoming ended when a town guard stopped the two, holding out his hand and speaking, “None shall pass into the town except by leave of the Arbiter.”
“Please,” Theomin started, “my friend is sick. He is in need of aid or he will surly die.”
The guard looked at the two queerly. He furrowed his brow and shook his head slightly. All the signs told he would not treat with the two desperate hunters pleading for aid. He finally spoke, “You may pass but know that your stay is not welcome. Our healer is up the stairs on the left. Leave him there and immediately speak with the Arbiter.” He made a gesture in and said, “Follow the path up the stairs. He usually stays left of the gate next to a large metal door. If you do not speak with the Arbiter you will be forced to leave.”
As Theomin continued in, he looked around at the men and women of the city. Most of them worked on random things; just the normal bustle of a small city. Some were cleaning, others were selling or buying goods from venders. Amongst all the men and women, there was also a small person that reminded him of Toby of Tuckburrow, the small hobbit that aided him in the prison of Bree. For a moment, his thoughts escaped him and the pain of his capture forced horrible memories and the torture into his being. As difficult as it was, he had to force them away and concentrate on the task at hand. Sweat had gathered on his brow as he aided Taidir up the stairs and to the healer.
Every now and again, men leaning up against the walls looked at the two dragging themselves into the town. They had an unsavory look while tracking the two, moving their heads, intimidating Theomin and Taidir as they slowly moved past. Theomin glanced at them every few seconds, stared away, and then back at the men again, each time looking down feeling the unwelcoming nature of the town. All of the welcome feeling had dashed away with those men of the town.
Exhausted, Theomin just dropped Taidir before the healer. “What is this?” she asked, amazed, “How could you drop such an injured person like this?”
“I am sorry but we were waylaid by orcs. He was injured and needs poison draughts to heal him. Please, help him.” Theomin turned to leave.
“And where do you think you’re off to?” the healer asked.
“The guard at the gate told me I needed to speak with the Arbiter. He says that if I do not do so we will be forced to leave.”
Theomin nodded, not knowing what she meant. He continued down the stairs and turned left up the path up the next set of stairs. To the left, a man stood watching the people walk about the town, busy doing their own jobs. His cloth was rich with a design of a shield, holding chainmail beneath. He looked aged but not old. His hair was auburn and groomed nicely, along with his mustache. The sight of his mustache drew memories of Bree, as the mayor of that city had the same. His breathing quickened with the memory but he soon stifled it. “So, you’re the one,” he said to Theomin.
“What do you mean?”
“Two reasons I said that. One, I noticed the busy nature of my town disrupted by someone. Two, you must be from the city on the lake.”
“Yes, I am.” Theomin said. “My friend needed aid. We came upon a horde of orcs on our way through Parth Aduial. My friend was injured and is being tended to by your healer. The guard at the front ordered me to speak with you.”
“That is not the only reason you have come,” he looked Theomin up and down, “is it, stranger?” Theomin shook his head. “Then what is it, man of Annuminus?”
“I have come needing to forge an alliance with you and your town. Once we stood together for mutual aid…”
“I know what we did.” He looked around thoughtfully before he continued, “It was a great struggle to allow your people to ally with us. We had no trust in the rangers. Dangerous they were to us. And dangerous they are. They have no care for our struggles nor have they ever had any care for us. Only when it benefits them to ally with us they did it. And now look. You come before me and ask for our aid once more? We offer no aid to you. No men, no food, no help. Now be gone with you.”
Theomin, not wanting to feel one more defeat, stayed and spoke up, “We are starving. We need your help. What my brother did was unspeakable but…”
“But you need to find food or aid or whatever it is someplace else,” the Arbiter said. “And now that I know that man was your brother, I also dislike you. You and your family are a blight on society. May you rot in your high walls.”
The anger of the man before Theomin was astounding. He never knew the extent at which Teryndir upset the people of Ost Forod. He started to turn but stayed in his place as he had to tell the Arbiter of the buildup of orcs. “Before coming here we were beset by more than a hundred orcs on the road just before the Cardaniach. From the high hills of Parth Aduial we saw hundreds more at the pass between here and the North Downs. I know there is no friendship between our people but just know my brother does not speak for all of us. I guess he has always had a temper. Even more now that father has passed,” Theomin thought for a moment about his father passing before he continued, “You are a good man and I understand why you would not allow your men to be driven off to battle with the wardens to retake the city. We will aid you in destroying the orc presence if you will at least aid us in some rations. Just some to help us.”
“I was not raised by him. Though I am Athegdir’s son, I was did not grow in his care. I was raised in Rohan on a little farm in the Wold. There, I spent almost all of my life.” Theomin looked away, feeling a slight tug at his heart that he had to quickly subdue. “My job here is to care of my people. I am not here for my ego but for my people’s wellbeing. If we had food, we would have the strength to defend our city and in turn, stave off this impending battle with the orcs. Please, for the sake of all our people, do not turn a blind eye to this invasion.”
The Arbiter looked long at Theomin. He breathed in long as a look of concern was on his face. He seemed like a thoughtful man and that was what Theomin was betting on. The long consideration he had stretched on for, it felt like, ten minutes. He just stood there, like a tree, looking around at one thing, then at another thing, then at the people who passed by. Finally, he looked at Theomin. He sighed yet again and shook his head. Before Theomin could give a rebuttal, the Arbiter spoke, “Your promises are intriguing, man from Rohan. You seem well intentioned and I respect that about you. I do not like the utter disregard for decency that your brother showed in our last meeting. I know now, though, that you are not the brash offensive man that he is. If I could continue dealing with you, then I will extend our friendship and our aid to you once more.”