With One Voice

King Comes Home, The

9. The Forest of Evendim


The Enchanted Forest began on the other side of the
Gate of Night. The ground had been cleared for a bow's
length, (a Numenorean bow's length) on either side of
the road which was further protected by two rows of
tall taniquelasse trees with silvery bark and clouds
of large hand shaped leaves, pale green above and
white below. Centuries of leaf-fall lay in drifts
beneath the trees and on the white stone of the road;
rose red, primrose, ivory and fire orange.

Gil had stationed Dan and Beomann on either side of
the gate to repeat the same warning over and over
again to each party that passed through; "Don't leave
the road for any reason. There are things in the wood
left over from the Dark Years, and some from the Great
Dark before the Sun and Moon. But don't be afraid, as
long as you stay on the road you are safe."

"But will they listen?" Beomann had wondered
pessimistically when Gil assigned them the task.

"I think so." he'd answered grimly. "They have
spent their lives on the border of the Land of Shadow
and know only too well the tricks and deceptions of
the Enemy."

Certainly Beomann saw no doubt or question in any
of the Gondorim's suddenly paling faces, eyes darting
nervously to the dark verges of the forest behind the
protective screen of the Elven trees.

They moved faster than had been their wont as well,
and the midday break was shortened from three hours to
one without Gil needing to ask.

"Even so we will not make Annuminas before
nightfall." he told the Captains of the Guard
Companies as the rest of the train ate their uneasy
meal. The Men exchanged worried glances. "But we will
reach one of the protected wayhouses with time to
spare," Gil continued reassuringly, added ruefully,
"though we have a far larger company than it was built
to hold. Still there should be room enough for the
Women and children, and we Men will keep a careful
watch." smiled suddenly. "We are, all of us, only too
accustomed to bad nights in dark places."

Beomann saw uneasiness give way to determined
answering smiles from the Guardsmen and turned away to
hide his own grin. Good old Gil. Hadn't he once
inspired a huddle of Breelanders to stand their ground
against Barrow Wights? Putting heart into experienced
soldiers was child's play in comparison.
***

The big stone wayhouse had more the look of a
fortress than an inn with its narrow, high set windows
and corner towers. The ground for a bow's shot all
round was enclosed by a ditch and earthen rampart with
the dark forest trees crowded right up against them.

As Prince Elemmacar had feared the house was barely
large enough for the Women and children, even with the
stables, storehouses, yard and enclosed garden all
pressed into service. The animals were picketed on the
side nearest the road with the bulk of the wayhouse
between them and the forest and the tents of the Men
filled the remaining ground.

The Prince stationed three sentries every fifty
feet on the rampart itself and behind it had kindled a
ring of bonfires, also fifty feet apart each with a
watch of twenty men around it.

Siriondil, Captain of the First Company, observed
these preparations with some alarm. "My Lord, you seem
to expect an attack in force."

"I fear it," the Prince answered grimly, "so many
Men will be a sore temptation to the Houseless."

Siriondil exchanged a stunned look with Hirgon,
then said cautiously. "Houseless, my Lord, you mean
the spirits of dead Elves?"

The Prince nodded. "Dark souls who serve the
Shadow. There are many of them caught in the trammels
of the Forest. Unbodied they have little might, not
even the power of terror that our own Dead wield, at
least not against Men. But not all are bodiless, and
they have their allies among the Forest's other
prisoners, the beasts and even the trees."

"That's encouraging." Hirgon muttered, a little to
loudly.

The Prince heard and gave him a smile like the
King's in its sudden radiance. "Fear is their chief
weapon, and a blunt one against Men who survived the
Pelennor Field and the Black Gate."
***

It was the seventh hour of the night when a sentry
on the rampart caught a glimpse of light moving
through the woods. "Hist, look there!"

All three Gondorim peered into the dark under the
tangled trees. The light came closer, emerged from the
wood and three breaths caught.

A tall figure, luminous with his own light, pale
hair shining on his shoulders, clad in glimmering
white, stood on the far side of the ditch with a small
band of other Elves, every one fair as the moon and
stars on a cloudless night, at his back. Bright eyes
looked up at the Men on the rampart as their owners
smiled and beckoned.

But these were soldiers of Gondor. Strongly as the
desire to obey that summons was they remembered their
orders and stood fast. The senior of them, Hirgon's
sergeant, fumbled for the horn at his belt with leaden
fingers.

Then a black arrow clove the air beside his head
and buried itself in the broad breast of the lead Elf.
But instead of falling he changed suddenly, horribly;
withering into a gangling near skeleton with dead
white hair, clad in dirty rags.

The thing uttered a shriek of rage, or
disappointment echoed by his followers, now as
hideously changed as he, and all turned and fled into
the shadows under the trees.

The sergeant blew his horn, then turned to see who
had fired the arrow. The stocky, brown haired Ranger
stood there, a second arrow nocked on his short black
bow, eyeing the Gondor Men with approval.

"Gil was right about you folk," he said, "you do
know all the tricks."

Before the sergeant could scrape up an answer to
that Captain Hirgon had arrived, and the Northern
Prince with him.

"They just cast their lure." the Ranger reported
crisply. "I put an arrow in one. They know they've
been found out."

Elemmacar nodded, eyes on the trees. "Call your Men
up, Captain."

The sergeant blew another call on his horn, and this
time it was taken up by others down the rampart. A few
moments later the Men who had been watching by the
fire below, joined them on the flat top of the grassy
bank and the quarter of the company who were awake
assembled below and behind them. Torches were lit and
hung from iron posts spaced along the rampart, dyeing
the Gondor Men's armor and the blades of sword and
spear red-golden.

There was a breathless pause - then things came out
of the Forest, surging across the ditch and up the
outer slope of the rampart: small, knarled, wood
goblins with huge, palely glowing eyes; great black
cats, bristling and snarling; and tall, cadaverous
undead in the decaying remains of ancient armor
wielding jagged, broken blades.

The archers had time for only one volley before the
enemy was upon them and then it was cold steel against
the grasping arms and gnashing teeth of the goblins,
the swift razor sharp claws of the cats, and broken,
time blackened swords wielded by skeletal hands. But
swords proved of all too little use against the
mummified flesh of the revenants.

Hirgon was but one who found himself locked in
seemingly hopeless combat against an undead foe who
took killing wounds without a flinch. The Man gave
ground reluctantly, trying to hew the sword arm from
his enemy's body but his strokes blocked by a riven
shield.

Then, unexpectedly, the undead stiffened and fell
forward, body disintigrating into dust as it hit the
ground, and *something* fled shrieking into the night
under the trees.

At that same moment the entire enemy force,
goblins, cats and undead, suddenly turned and fled
leaving the Men battered and breathless, but
victorious. And Hirgon found himself looking over the
crumbling, empty armor of his erstwhile foe at the
Ranger Beomann calmly resheathing his sword.

"How?" He panted.

"Magic." the other replied with a quick grin. Then
more seriously. "Ranger swords are spelled to slay
such things. I take it you don't get many undead in
the South?"

Hirgon shook his head. "Is it otherwise here in the
North?"

"Oh yes." Beomann said grimly. "What with Wights
and Swamp Walkers and Houseless we're just crawling
with the things."

"That makes good hearing." the Gondor Man said
drily.

The Ranger's eyebrows lifted slightly. "From what I
hear your part of the world isn't exactly clover and
cream either."

"True enough." Hirgon conceeded. But he was
begining to wonder what sort of place this Lost Realm
truly was with its shining white cities, and its
ruinous ones. Its haunted forests and its silent
guarded folk.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: Beta

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/07/04

Original Post: 11/25/03

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