Part 65 – To Stand
The sound of morning filled Theomin’s senses. The birds, high above in trees, sang their melodic tunes, happily chirping away the morning. Few clouds had gathered in the sky and the sun had already risen above the eastern hills, already giving warmth to the cool chill of the morning. The dew of the grass and the leaves of the trees had already gone away by the time Theomin had awoken.
But where was he. He was no longer in Ost Forod. As he picked himself up he felt a strong headache as well as the ache of fatigued muscles all throughout his body. Not just fatigued from the fight in the ruins, but more so from the night before. Apparently, through the night, he had been lying in the dirt amongst a circle of stones. Not much could he remember except the slaying of his good friend, Taidir. He looked about him, no tracks led there and no one was seen around, save a few animals. Fear sank in as he truly tried to figure out how he got there and why he was at the center of the strange circle of stones.
“Theomin!” a voice came from behind. He turned and saw a figure dressed in a ranger outfit not far from the road. Bald he was with the slight hint of a mustache and a hair leading up his chin to his lower lip. The man was waving as he came closer but Theomin was unsure about the man. He reached for his weapon but found he had none. His bow and sword were taken. He had no arms with which to defend himself.
Two Days Prior
The hour was late. Air around the lake was cool and calm. The singing of the birds had ceased long ago, before the sun had even descended down below the western hills. Over in the distance, the looming tower of Ost Elendil rose up from the isle of Tyl Annun. A dark and lonely tower it was. Alone on the isle, abandoned and left to rot by the people of the north long ago.
Rowing with all speed toward the docks, Eleswith and Herion had already vanquished the few orcs that had settled around the island of Tinnudir and had set themselves on one of the last remaining boats toward the city of Annuminus. Though their tired bodies were hurting, the anticipation they felt if they did not warn their city kept them from stopping. So Herion rowed hard, hoping not to find the city besieged by the orcs.
As they approached the docks, the two leapt off the boat and headed into the city. The city was busy, just like normal. All were about carrying things or busy cleaning up the city. Because it was so late, the repairs of the city had stopped for the night. After the two made it to the main path of the lower level, she ordered Herion, “Run to the front gate. Rally the guard while I inform Teryndir.”
Herion ran toward the front gate while Eleswith continued up the hill, yelling out as she went, “Orcs! Orcs have been spotted. Rally yourselves to the front gate!” She continued along the road over the Arient and up to Tyl Annun where Teryndir was looking down on the city.
“What is the meaning of this disturbance?” he asked, visibly upset.
“A large group of orcs have been spotted north of the city. We encountered them in Parth Aduial,” she said as quickly as possible.
“What difference does it make? A group of orcs are coming. We must defend the city,” she angrily said to Teryndir, shocked at his complacency toward the orc threat.
“All the difference. Did they follow you?”
She stared at Teryndir for a moment before answering, “No, we took a boat from Tinnudir across the lake.”
“And where is Enedion? Why is he not telling me this?” he coldly asked.
“Enedion, or Theomin, is finding aid for Taidir. He was wounded by an orc arrow.”
“And where did Enedion bring Taidir?” he continued.
“I have not the time for this,” she said as she left his presence, “You’re missing the true threat here, Teryndir. Your people are waiting for you to…”
“My men,” he cut her off, “are loyal to me and know I will protect them.” He stared at Eleswith, “guards,” he said as two men came out to meet Teryndir. “Make sure she leaves the island.”
One of the guards grabbed her arm but she forced it away from him, “I know my own way,” she angrily said, “You will regret not keeping your people safe.” She stormed off, half angry and half offended. Tears began welling up in her eyes as she was completely beside herself with amazement that a man such as Teryndir would show so little emotion for his men and his brother.
On the way down, Sergee came from the planning table further west of the path. “Eleswith!” he called out. “I heard there may be an orc presence. What can we do to help?”
“Will do.” He left and she could hear Sergee yell out to his men, “Gather your weapons. An orc presence may try to push in through the western gate. Dannasel, gather your horn. If we need aid, you will call for it.”
Eleswith continued down the path toward the lower level. She ran toward the eastern gate as Herion came up to her. “I have gathered a small force for the eastern gate. Some care not to defend the city, and I know not why.”
Amanthwyn came up to Eleswith, “Herion told me Enedion is still out there. When your horses returned rider less we feared the worst.”
“Relax,” Eleswith said. “He is aiding Taidir who was wounded in battle.”
“Are there not orcs out there?” she asked, concern pouring through her eyes.
“There are but he took Taidir to Ost Forod. He should be fine there.”
Eleswith shook her head in disappointment, “It is, but Ost Forod was his only hope. He needed to find aid for Taidir. In addition to that,” she took Amathwyn to the side and lowered her voice, “he is asking for food aid from Ost Forod.” Amathwyn’s eyes widened. “Tell no one.”
“I shall not,” she said, still stunned at the news. As Eleswith left her to attend to other things, she stood there as she looked down, surprised as the business around her increased at the fear of orcs. She then gathered her wits and aided in preparing for the fight.
The group of close to fifteen, including Eleswith, Herion, and Amathwyn, stood at the west gate, waiting for the call from the spotters to sound out about the orc threat. They stood there, waiting for anything. No sounds came. No horns were blown. No men called out. It was quiet. Not only where there no sounds of men calling out, the sounds, like the crickets and nearby frogs, were still making their typical noises. If an orc presence was making its way through Men Erain, the crickets and the frogs would have stopped. There was no orc presence and they waited through the rest of the night.
Nothing approached the city for the remainder of the night. Eventually, each person dropped off the guard until it was only Eleswith and Herion. Even Amathwyn had left to sleep. As dawn started to approach, and the rays of the sun began piercing the blackness of night, Eleswith sat next to a wall as she leaned up against it looking puzzled. “I cannot understand,” she finally said to Herion. “The orcs were there. We saw them. We fought them. If not for the city, why else were they here? It was a whole horde of orcs just waiting there. Why were they there?”
“I know not,” Herion said. “I cannot guess why such a presence of orcs would be standing there.”
“There has to an answer to this riddle. Why would an orc presence that large be stalking the paths of Evendim and The North Downs? If it was only a small number, I would understand. But a number like that was only intended for one thing. That is for conquest. Where did they all go?”
Herion looked suddenly at Eleswith, “Could they have gone to Ost Forod?”
With sudden fear, she stood, “You’re right. We need to leave. We have to help Theomin.” She started to leave from the gate when Herion called her back.
“Wait,” he said. “We need more people if we were to combat the orcs.”
“It will take too long to gather a force large enough to combat those things,” she said. “We need to leave now.”
“We can be ne no good to him dead. We need at least a few more!” he said.
“Then you get them,” Eleswith said. “I need to get to that town. I need to help Theomin before he is killed.”
Herion stood by, not sure what to do. He was torn as he was unsure if he should do as she said. “Fine, but know we may be far behind. Don’t get yourself into anything you cannot get yourself out of.”
“Fine,” she said. She started off but stopped at the sudden call out from one of the watchers.
“A man approaches,” the guard yelled out.
“Is he followed by orcs?” Eleswith asked.
“He is alone.” A few more moments and the watcher yelled out, “It looks to be Saeradan.”
The ranger, Saeradan came up quickly toward the front gate. He was not stopped as he galloped to the front gate of Annuminus. “Hail, Eleswith,” he said to her. “Any news of the city?”
“Orcs?” Saeredan asked as if shocked. “Not one. Not even in Bree-land.”
“What path did you take,” she quickly asked him, “Did you come by the road from the Shire or from the North Downs?”
“I took the North Downs path. Why are you asking these questions?”
“Could you see if Ost Forod was attacked?”
“I could not see any attack,” Saeredan answered. “But from where I was, it looked fine to me. What is this about?”
Eleswith looked confused but continued. “There was a whole host of orcs roaming around outside the city. Theomin, Taidir, Herion, and we were waylaid by them. In the attack, Taidir was hurt by one of them and Theomin took him to Ost Forod for help while Herion and I came here to warn Annuminus of the impending threat. That threat never came.”
“I see,” Saeredan exclaimed. “I saw not one orc on my way here nor did I see any laying siege to Ost Forod. A few were on the road but they had already been slain. Now if you will excuse me,” he said as he started to pass Eleswith, “I need food and rest. I’ve come from Bree and am extremely tired.”
“Bree?” Eleswith said as her interest was peaked, “What news from Bree?”
Saeradan paused. His look did not bode well for the news he was about to tell. “It does not go well in Bree. My good friend, Thanncen, has passed.”
“Thanncen?” Eleswith said with shock. “Tell me he was not the elf who aided me and Theomin in our escape.”
“He was the same. The son of the mayor, in his rage, beat him too mercilessly, asking night after night where Theomin was. He could only take so much and eventually succumbed. That man has many demons driving him and I am afraid of what he will do to that city.” He continued. “In my possession I have a journal that Theomin might find quite interesting.” He looked at Eleswith with knowing eyes. “It is the journal Thanncen kept to record his findings on the mayor’s son’s death.”
Eleswith nodded, almost saddened, “I see.”
“The truth of the death of the mayor’s son might be interesting to Theomin. Now if you will excuse me, I am in need of rest. I feel you are bound to this city but I may move about freely. Come midday, I shall search for Theomin.” Saeredan left as Eleswith watched him leave.
Herion looked at Eleswith, noticing a change in her demeanor, “Are you okay, Eleswith?” All she could do was nod her head, “Did Thanncen mean a lot to you and Theomin?”
She looked at Herion and then down, “He did. He saved us from that horrible man, Gerald. I knew not how horrible he could be until we were imprisoned by him. He beat Theomin terribly each night for four nights. Each time he was beaten for nothing. There was no information he wanted from Theomin. No knowledge he could gain from what he was doing. It was not even over vengeance. All Theomin could do was take it.”
“And now Theomin is in Ost Forod,” Teryndir said, approaching Eleswith and Herion with a group of his men. “Did I not tell you that was a forbidden place?”
“What is one man’s life? Hm?” Teryndir asked. “It was treason for Theomin to have stepped foot out of Annuminus to go to Ost Forod. That place is nothing but thieves and deceivers. They care not for the struggles of ours. They just sit atop their hill and laugh at our every whim. If you helped Theomin in going to Ost Forod, I deem you no better than those thieves and deceivers in Ost Forod. Therefore you must be punished.”
“What for?” Herion asked as he and Eleswith had ropes tied around their hands.
“You are being arrested for aiding a felon in treason. You and all the other conspirators in your little group. And I will ask each and every one of your men who stands with me and who stands with Theomin. I will not allow the unity of this city’s people be broken. We will unite under one banner. Whether forced or not.” Teryndir looked at his men who bound the hands of Herion and Eleswith, “Take them to the brig.” He then looked at the other men of his, “Search Ost Forod for the traitor, Enedion. He will be brought before me.”
Onto an empty cell, Eleswith and Herion were pushed down as the door behind was shut. The room was small and damp. Cracks in the dark grey rock walls made the cell look old and ready to crumble. Soon, another group were thrown into the cell including Amathwyn. After a few beats, she started to break down. She shook her head and cried. “Don’t cry,” Eleswith assured her.
“Don’t cry?” she said. “Are you insane? We have been in prisoned for treason. Now I am guilty just for being close to Enedion or Theomin. I have plenty to be angry about.” She looked down and shook her head in disbelief. “Why did he do it? Why did he go to Ost Forod when he knew it was treasonous to go?”
Eleswith looked down as she gave a long look at the floor before she began to speak,
“Because sometimes you need to do what needs to be done.”
“Sometimes we need to look outside of ourselves, at our own safety, outside the limits put on us and to make correct those things that need correcting.”
“We need to do this not because we want to, but because we have to.”
“Even the darkest time will end and when it does we will come out of this stronger,”
“Because at the end of this, it will not be those who chose the easy road who end up enduring,”
“It is those who did what was right and went through the darkness,”
“who will ultimately be the ones who stand.”