Part 128 – The Cold Wind Arrives
A strong wind blew in from the north. Its gusts raged through the hills all about as strange sounds began to fill the night air. Far off, a horn blew out in the blackness of the night. Many horns from far away and with every horn blow, the gusts of wind blew stronger. Nearby tents were ripped from their stakes as the wind wipped up some of the pebbles near the shore of the lake. Some of it blew into Herion’s eyes. Not only Herion’s but the other’s eyes were blinded by the onslaught of pebbles.
Herion turned away and rubbed his eyes as they watered then heard a thud. He looked down next to him to see a warden was down on the ground. An arrow as black as night stuck in his chest. Two more arrows flew in from the dark of night, hitting their targets next to Herion. Two more wardens were felled by the arrows. Herion and the other guards took to their bows and pointed them into the night. There was nothing visible. It was still dark as pitch as another volley of arrows rained down on the gaurds. One guard was hit in the head as anoher was hit in the shoulder.
“Take shelter!” one warden said.
The remaining guards ran toward either side of the path, the walls above conceling them from the oncoming volley of arrows. It was then that a large group of orcs ran into the empty gap the warden guards had just left in the middle of the pathway.
“It’s a trick!” Herion yelled to his fellow guards.
By the time the guards engaged the orcs, at least twenty orcs had already run into the gates of Annuminas. They had compromised their position. But other wardens from inside the city had already engaged the orcs inside the compound as another volley of arrows rained down on the guards. Many orcs fell to the arrows but other wardens had already fell from the arrows.
It was futal to stay at the eastern gate. Herion had to run into the compound and fight as many of the orcs he could. He wanted to find his friend Ferion and Ariel. He ran into the city and faught as many orcs as he could. The battling took him toward the docks. The orcs had already invaded from the water! They were already fighting with the other wardens, felling them left and right. Herion slew as many of the orcs as he could to try and free up the other wardens.
They ran up the way to the second level. It seemed as though the second level was safe from orcs. “Hault,” Herion commanded. “Protect this way from the orcs. I’ll find a group of archers and fire down on the orc archers sending the volleys of arrows.”
Herion ran further into the compound. Many of the wardens had been woken up by the clanging of the swords. One of the ones awakened was Ferion. “What is happening?” Ferion asked.
“Grab your weapons. We are being attacked by orcs,” Herion said. “They came while I was on guard. I’m collecting as many archers as I can to fire down on the archers sending volleys of arrows.”
“I’ll help,” Ferion said. “But where is Ariel?”
“I know not. I’m hoping she is safe,” Herion said.
The two gathered another seven archers and ran to an overhang above that held a view of the local hills. From above, they could see a few orc archers firing on the wardens. “There they are,” Herion said. “Target them so we don’t need to worry about them any longer.”
The wardens drew back their bows and all fired on the orc archers from above and one by one, each of the fifteen orc archers on the local hills fell before they even knew who was firing on them. The group of archers cheered but not for long. A squad of orcs came up behind them. The wardens quickly threw down their bows, drew their swords and slew the ambushing orcs.
“These orcs means that either the wardens I left at the pathway were slain or they were coming from the western approach,” Herion said.
Herion and his archers ran toward the men that he left. Some had been slain but others were still fighting. Herion and his archers shot the orcs that their fellow wardens were fighting. Each of the orcs were killed off but a warden came to Herion.
“We have been compromised from the western gate,” the warden said. “We’ve lost the western court to Angmarim and a group of trolls.”
Another horn was sounding in the air. With the sound of the horn, a flapping, like the flapping of leather, flew overhead. The men looked up but saw nothing in the night sky. It was still cloudy and baren of any light from the stars or the moon. But soon, the flapping came again and the group looked up. There, flying up in the air, was a giant flying lizard.
“Dragon!” one of the wardens yelled at the top of his voice.
“We must retreat up to the court Clorhir,” Farion said. “Maybe we can shoot as may of these things as we can. We’ll have a wide area to fire from, instead of a narrow route and waste our arrows on the same orcs.”
“Okay, Herion said. “We’ll do that.”
The small group of wardens ran up the path toward the court of Clorhir. A few orcs came up behind them but the group fired on the orcs, making short work of them. The dragon swooped down on the few remaining wardens and as it did that, Herion flashed back to his dream that he had. It was as if the dream was coming to fruishion and they were being attacked like his dream. He had to stop the group. “This will do no good,” Herion said. “That dragon will swoop down on and kill us all.”
“Then what do you propose we do?” Ferion asked.
Herion had not an alternative plan. He just knew he did not want to be in that court when the dragon came. “We’ll hold the bridge. I at least hope there are wardens enough to stop the orcs and Angmarim from crossing it.”
“I want not to hold the bridge. Too close to the summit of the city that is. By then the orcs would have already taken most of the city. A fool’s errond that is,” Ferion said. “I’ll hold the court here.” He looked to the men. “How many want to hold the court with me?” Little less than half of the men stepped forward to volunteer. “Then come with me. We’ll hold this court together.”
Herion watched as his friend ran off with the other wardens. He felt pity for his friend as he almost knew they would meet their death from the wrath of the dragon. Never-the-less, he turned and ran with his men to the Ariant, the bridge before Tyl Annun. He battled what small contingent of orcs there were and eventually ran down the slope toward the bridge.
There, Nethdir and at least thirty wardens were holding the bridge. Fighters were in the front with their swords at the ready. Archers, at least twelve of them, were at the back, ready to fire.
“This is all we have left,” Herion apologetically said. “The others have gone off to fight in the court of Clorhir.”
“A dragon I’ve seen flying over,” Nethdir said. “Are you sure that is a wise idea?”
“I did not think so,” Herion said. “That’s why we’re here.”
“I see,” Nethdir said. “Then I hope the best for them.”
“You haven’t seen Ariel, have you?” Herion had to ask.
Nethdir shook his head, “No, I have not. I am sorry.”
A swarm of orcs came running down the slope toward the bridge. Fast they were and the archers were only able to slay a few before they came running toward the wardens. The line, though under a steady stream of orcs for a while, held with only two wardens falling to the orcs. But soon, thumping was heard from above. A great number of thumping was heard.
There, coming from up above, were three trolls. They ran down the pathway as the archers tried desperately to kill them. One fell halfway down the slope but still two were bounding down the pathway toward the bridge. With them, at least two dozen orcs were spilling forth from behind the trolls. The trolls stopped and smashed their great clubs down on the fighting wardens. Half of the sword baring wardens were crushed as the archers concentrated their arrows on the other troll that had not engaged the wardens yet. The other troll fell but the troll that engaged the wardens had already killed most of the wardens.
“Fall back!” Nethdir yelled.
They fell back toward the midpoint across the bridge where another contingent of wardens were standing, waiting for the survivers of the other end of the bridge. The fighters soon turned and began firing down stairs. Soon, a giant winged creature made its way up the stairs and blew its fire on the wardens, setting them ablaze. Another group of wardens from the other side of the bridge fired their arrows on the creature as it flew away up into the sky.
“Not while we still have men left to defend it,” Herion said. “We must keep this city.”
It was then that from the other end of the bridge, another four trolls came rumbling down the way. Behind, more than thirty orcs came running up with them and a single man baring a long and broad axe. They came within a few yards of the last group of rangers and Nethdir just quietly said, “It was an honor to fight along side you.”
The last thing Herion saw was a swing from one of the large trolls and then a sudden impact that flung him against the nearest wall. He felt the impact on his back, then he hit the ground. Not knocked out yet, he could not see anything. He thought he had already blacked out, but within that blackness he heard swords clashing, men crying as they screamed their last desperate screams. A few moments later, it all ended and he could hear no more.
Herion woke to terrible pain in his chest and his stomach. The back of his head was aching and he could taste blood in his mouth. He looked up and around. He was tied up in a room. Crates were here and there in the room. One man was in the room. He looked on Herion with a sick smile.
“I’ve been waiting for you to awaken,” the man said. He was dressed in a white cloth that looked like that of Angmar. “My master has tasked me to get information from you.” Herion waited for the man to speak again and he finally did. “I trust you are of sound mind to tell me. My master is searching for a man named Theomin from a place called Rohan. Tell me where he is and I’ll allow you to die quickly. You have my word.”
Herion said nothing. He stayed quiet. He was not even sure he could speak. He was short of breath as it felt as if a broken rib had punctured a lung. He was weezing as he breathed in and out. All he could do was painfully cough. As he coughed, he tasted the metallic taste of blood in his mouth and the pain shot throughout his body. He spit out the blood and looked again at the man.
“You will not tell me?” he said. “Pity.” The man punched Herion in the cheek. Considering how much pain he was in, that punch almost felt like nothing. “Tell me, where is Theomin.” Herion stayed quiet again. “Tell me!” he yelled at Herion. He then kicked Herion in the face which whipped his head back to hit the wall in back of him. “Where is he!”
The door behind the man from Angmar opened. Another came in, dressed all in black leather. Hooded in a black hood he was and under that he had a scoul. He was larger than the other and had a rough look about him. He went to the Angmarim and asked, “Has he said anything?”
“Nothing, Kronog,” the Angmarim said.
“I thought as much,” the man in black, who was Kronog, said. “He won’t yield any information to pain. This one requires other means.”
Kronog grabbed Herion by the shoulder wrap and dragged him to the door. The pain of the movement sent pulses of gasps for air as he knew then that his lung was punctured, just as he suspected. The man dragged Herion outside. It was cold and rainy. They were apparently just outside Ost Elindil on the island of Tyl Annun. All around were men from Angmar and a few trolls just watching. Kronog flung Herion up against the wall of the nearby building
“Bring them up!” Kronog said.
From down below, Herion could hear an angry voice yell out, “Onword,” and then the clap of a whip. Moments later, from below the hill a prison wagon was carried up by Herion’s former wardens. There were three wagons in total carried each by four wardens. Each of them sounded completely exhausted as Herion could see clearly that one of them was Ferion.
“It has been hours…” Farion said in agony. “I can barely carry anymore,” Ferion grunted, hardly able to keep his arms up.
“Can barely carry anymore, you say?” one of the Angmarim said lightheartedly. “I’ll do something about that.” The Angmarim pulled his crossbow and shot a bolt into another warden’s head, killing that warden. Ferion attempted to compensate for the change in weight as another bolt was shot into another warden’s head. There were then only Farion who complained about the weight and another warden, both clearly in terrible distress. “Don’t complain next time.”
The other warden could no longer carry the wagon and collapsed under its weight, as one of the wagon wheels fell on his the warden’s chest, crushing it, and the wheel landed on Ferion’s leg. He screamed in terrible pain. Herion could not see his close friend suffer so much and he turned away.
“Enough!” Kronog yelled to his men. “We need them.”
“Yes sir,” the Angmarim said. “Sorry sir.”
Kronog pulled Herion’s hair to look at the situation his kinsmen were in. “Look at this. Look at what you are doing to your kinsmen. I will let them go if you tell me where your friend, Theomin, is.”
With all he could muster, Herion could only say, “I…know…not.”
“Oh, please,” Kronog said disgusted. “Yes, you do. You just don’t care to tell. My scouts have told me that you, the woman from Dale and another were seen up in the local hills, killing my orcs. They said you are a close friend to him. But if you care not to tell me…” He commanded to the wardens, “Drop ‘em!”
“Drop them, scum,” one of the Angmarim to the wardens as they dropped the wagons. The wardens fell to the ground, their arms burning in pain of the heavy burden they were carrying.
“Get in!” Kronog yelled to the wardens. They all obeyed and went slowly into the wagons. Kronog personally went to Ferion and picked him up as his leg was broken. He pushed Ferion into the wagon and shut the door. All the other prison wagons were also filled and then shut. Kronog then went to Herion and flashed a key in front of him. “This key will open those wagons. Tell me where Theomin is, and I’ll give you this key.”
Herion shook his head. Again, all he could say was, “I don’t know.”
Kronog looked to a troll, “Push ‘em off.”
The troll placed its large hands on the top of the prison cart and pushed it towards the lip of the ledge and then off the cliff. Herion could hear the screams of the wardens as they fell to their watery graves. He looked terrified with fright at what had just happened. The other wardens yelled to Herion, “Tell him!” and screamed in terror.
“Where is he!” Kronog yelled.
“I don’t know!” Herion said louder as he was writhing in dispare.
“Push ‘em!” Kronog yelled again.
Another cart was pushed off the cliff as another group of wardens fell down the cliff and to their deaths. The wardens in the last cart cried even louder to “Tell him,” they begged and pleaded with Herion. Kronog went personally to the last cart and began to push up to the cliff. “Tell me!” he said as he hit the lip of the ledge. He then waited for Herion to talk.
Herion just looked as if he was in a trance as he looked back in his mind what Theomin had said before he left. He tried desperately to remember the last encounter with him, What did he say? What did he tell me? Where did he go?” The last group of wardens was then pushed off the ledge of Tyl Annun. Herion looked in horror. His lack of ability to say anything just killed all of his fellow wardens, and his friend.
Kronog went to the other Angmarim and said, “Bring her up.” The Angmarim ran down the steps. Soon, the stomping of a troll was heard as another cart was being brought up the steps. Thump, thump it made as it came slowly up the steps. Soon, inside the cart was Ariel. She struggled with the bars as she then looked at Herion. She stared at him as she could not figure what he was doing there.
“Now,” Kronog said. “We caught this little one escaping up the hill to the east of the city. Why she was doing that I know not but I also don’t care.”
“Don’t!” Herion yelled out, cried and writhed in agony.
“Tell me, one last time,” Kronog said. “Where is Theomin?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you,” Herion said. He knew he had nothing but tried to fake it just for a few more days of life for Ariel. He stalled as he tried to come up with a lie to tell Kronog. He quickly looked in his mind of all the places he could be. Where would he go? What would he do? Why did he leave? He finally blurted out the only place he could think of, “BREE!”
“Bree,” Kronog repeated. “Push her over.”
“Wait!” Herion yelled, “You said you wouldn’t.”
“I have control of Bree. Everyone else in Bree is looking for Theomin. Do you think he would be that stupid to go there?”
“Of course not,” Herion sputtered. “He would not be, except he wanted to find you.” He tried desperately to reinforce his lie as best he could. “He knew the only way to confront you was in Bree. That’s why he there.”
Kronog looked at Herion. He seemed convinced as he nodded. He then took the key out of his pocket and handed it to Herion. “Push it over anyway,” he told his troll.
The troll pushed the wagon and in a panic Herion ran to the wagon that was rolling off the cliff. As fast as he had ever run before, he caught up with the wagon and tried to stop it. But it began to already topple of the cliff. Herion grabbed the bar and held on to the lip of the ledge, desperately holding on to it as long as he could. He frantically tried to bring it up but the cart was too heavy. It began to fall and Ariel fell to the other side of it. Herion fell to his stomach and tried to hold on to the rock and the wagon as he looked at Ariel. His arms were ripping apart as he looked at Ariel. The bar began to bend slightly and Herion could only say, “I’m sorry,” as his arm shook with the failing of his muscles.
A troll came to Herion and swung back a great club of his. He then swung it as it hit Herion. The impact almost made him lose his grip but he still held on. At last, he finally gasped, “I…love…” another impact from the troll’s club pushed the wind out of Herion as it was then that he finally died.
His grip loosened and Ariel felt herself plummet. She hung in the air only moments as she stared at Herion’s lifeless stare grow futher and further away until the cart impacted the water and she slammed back onto the bars. She was being carried down the water into the watery grave and as she was being dragged down into the lake, she was forced up to the bars Herion was holding on to. They had bent to the point where a small body could fit through. She pushed her way through the bars as the wagon continued down the lake. The pressure was pounding her head as only ringing and bubbles were all she could hear.
Finally, she fit through the bars and she pushed her way up to the surface of the water. At last, with the last bit of breath she had left, she emerged to the surface of the water. She was just at the bottom of the cliff at Tyl Annun. The city was taken and with it, her love was dead. She had no strength left and just floated atop the water. She could not think nor could she speak.
Day broke and she drifted to the shore of Tinnudir. There, she lied half feeling conscious, half not. She layed there, wet, starving, and alone. What felt like days had slowly drifted by. Daylight gave way to darkness of night. She could have sworn she saw flying creatures away up in the moonlight. The looked as though they were the shape of man, but flew like birds. She believed she was hallucinating, slowly losing her grasp of reality as she was slowly dying.
Day brok again and sounds were heard nearby. She hoped it was a wolf or a warg as she wanted her life to finally end. She had not the strength to even pull herself to the water and die. She did not know why she pulled herself from the water. She cursed herself for saving her own life. Now, she just hoped the nearby noise was a creature that would end her life. She just looked at the nearby bushes and waited for death’s cold grip to take her. It was then that a girl emerged. Dark skinned and in some sort of leathery coat. She bore a hat on her head.
“Aggy, come quick!” she yelled to another.
“What is it, Eleswith?” a woman came.
“I think this is a surviver,” Eleswith said.