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Leafblade

The Good, The Evil, and The Orcish (Part 4)

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The Good, The Evil, and The Orcish

“Here they come!” Leafblade shouted. The others hardly needed the warning. From atop the walls of the ancient fortress, Thangulhad of Mirkwood, they could plainly see the glint of spears and weapons in the moonlight amongst the trees. Dark figures flowed down the hills toward the stronghold as rivers of shadow threatening to flow through the gates and drown the camp of the Golden Host.

Leaf sounded his Captain's horn in challenge to the approaching darkness as well as to alert the rest of the fortress that an assault was come on the south wall. None nearby thought help would come. The heroes of Gankari had been busy repelling grapplers all along the north wall. The main enemy force with archers, trolls and a siege tower had rolled up against the west wall and gate. The Golden Host was hard pressed in holding the line and the fires of battle were burning brightly when a flying drake had swooped in over the wall with an ear-splitting screech and crashed down into the elf tents on the north side of the fortress. The leader of the remnants of the Hidden Guard had bid the Order of the Tower Guard to hold the south wall and gate while he led the elven spearmen into camp to slay the drake. No sooner had they left than Scout Laeglang had come rushing through the trees and in the south gate with warning that Yrch in great numbers were coming.

Scattering the Lorien elves and allies about Mirkwood to assault the Dourstocks, Ashenslades, and lands about Ost Galadh had seemed a logical risk: keep the forces of Dol Gulder busy and harassed on many fronts and unable to gather for a focused strike upon an elusive enemy. But if enough of them gathered and caught one of the Free People's forces in camp, the smaller group could be overwhelmed before aid could arrive.

It was that possibility that looked to become a grim reality as the enemy came pouring out of the trees and across the open ground toward the undermanned south wall. Eldiraen, an elven huntress from the Blood of Numenor, began rapidly loosing arrows into the night. The Order's Gwynnie and Belimawr stood beside her firing their own deadly rain of arrows. With the elves drawn away fighting the drake in camp, the three were too few and the orcs that fell but a small part of the oncoming host.

Leafblade felt a hand clap on his shoulder. Andwuld, husband to Eldiraen and champion of the Blood of Numenor, spoke in his businesslike tone: “Time to play lightning rod for this little storm, Leaf.”
They turned, the two of them, and hustled down the steps of the stone stairway from the top of the wall to the ground level. There Edinellion, a tall and grim warden of the Order awaited them. His exquisitely crafted teal armor gleamed in the dim glow of the torches and fires of battle. Distinctive shield in one hand and tall spear in the other, he only nodded at them and they in turn as they joined up and marched abreast one another into the dark corridor beneath the wall that would lead out of the south gate.

“Go get them, mighty ones!” cheered Sandegast with upraised hobbit arms from the wall above them. “Be careful!” called down Faenel from her spot on the wall opposite Sand. The two minstrels were all that were left to man the ballistae when battle was joined. A dramatic dirge of menacing strings sounded from the lute of Sandegast, punctuated by occasional whistles, as he performed his version of a well-known melody taken from a favorite at the Bree theatre: The Good, The Evil and The Orcish.

“A battle minstrel with a sense of humor,” Edinellion sighed as they disappeared into the dark corridor.

The arched gateway was without gates. All of the outer gates of the fortress had been ruined long ago. The elves had attempted no repairs to them since fortifying and defending stone structures had not been part of their plan of quick strikes and evasion of larger forces. Gates tended to attract trolls with battering rams. Such a lightning rod was not desired. Just now, as Leafblade emerged out into the moonlight flanked by Andwuld and Edinellion, with a seething host of dark creatures before them, a gate seemed like not such a bad idea after all. Instead, he and his companions standing by his red banner of war would be the lightning rod. They lit bonfires to either side of the gate as they emerged from the opening in the wall. Ten paces out from the gate they stopped. Leaf slammed the sharp, iron-shod tip of his banner into the earth and took up his horn. His companions held aloft burning torches to either side. He blew into the horn. Light, sound and red banner beckoned to the oncoming forces. From all along the forest edge the enemy burst out of the trees as if the sluice gates had been opened.

“Andwuld?”
“Yes, Leaf?”
“I forgot to visit the privy.”
Andwuld deadpanned, “Want me to ask them to hold off the attack until you've had a chance?”

Edinellion shifted the torch to his shield hand, reached over his shoulder to unholster a javelin, and readied to throw. “Piss on some orcs, Leafblade. They'll be close enough shortly.” With that, he flung a javelin down the slope to skewer a large Uruk leading the charge. The creature pitched forward onto the ground and was engulfed by the oncoming mass behind him. On the orcs came, converging on the focal point as hoped. Many with grappling hooks or ladders dropped their equipment, drew weapons and crowded toward the three. Having been whipped into a blood frenzy by their battle leaders, exhorted to fire and ruin, threatened with torture and painful death if they returned defeated, the uruks and orcs forgot their assigned tasks in their blind fury at the sight of the brazen few free peoples standing before them. All wanted to take down the foe, claim the banner, and carry it through the gate.

When they were within twenty paces of the three, Andwuld and Edinellion raised torches and waved them in an arc above their heads. Time slowed down to an endless agony. The red eyes and yellow snarls of the enemy coursed up the slope at them. Edinellion raised his shield and dropped into the warden crouch. Andwuld dropped his torch and drew blades. Leafblade took a deep breath and squeezed his halberd tightly in front of him. He felt a child again, trying to stop the pigs from escaping the pen after forgetting to latch the gate. There were too many. There was no way.

Up on the walls, the signal was received. Sandegast and Faenel pulled on levers, triggering the triple-loaded ballistae.

To Be Continued...

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As with most kinships and raid groups, the number of characters involved is many.  Too many to use in a story without simply creating a list of names so long that it takes away from the story and the individuality of the characters.  As I moved through different parts of the story, I dropped different names here and there as a salute to my friends while keeping some of the main character names a constant.  Occasional mention of or reference to some other kinships from Landroval will be seen in this or upcoming chapters.  It was an attempt to give breadth to the wide struggle against the shadow, marking many of the different groups that were involved.  Of course, in Tolkien, the variety was not often so great unless you were reading about one of the great battles in the Silmarillion or in the War of the Last Alliance or even Battle of the Five Armies.

 

This 'chapter' revolves around the Protectors of Thangulhad skirmish setting in Mirkwood.

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"His exquisitely crafted teal armor gleamed in the dim glow of the torches and fires of battle." :-)

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