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Rangers of the North: 17. Battle By Night

There wasn't just one trail across the High Pass
but several crossing and recrossing each other as they
wound their way between the mountains. Alerted to
their danger the Rangers led their companions off the
track they'd been following onto one that climbed
steeply up to a narrow col, dusted with snow, in the
notch between two peaks.

A shallow cave had been cut into the mountainside
beneath a pointed overhang. The smooth floor, hearth
built into the back wall and cache of firewood
indicated it had been made by Men not nature. It was
also an eminently defensible position commanding the
steep, narrow trail with good solid stone to guard
their backs.

As the sun vanished behind the western peaks and a
cold wind smelling of snow began to blow from the east
Ereinion laid and lit a fire in the hearth providing a
welcome warmth and light.

The Lady Beruthiel stationed herself at the front
of the shelter setting her long steel hafted arrows in
neat rows point downward in the earthen floor. Her
head lifted as a wolf's howl warbled across the
mountains. "Summoning reinforcements."

Elladan, standing beside her, nodded grimly. "I
fear we will be facing an attack in force.

"We have definitely been recognized." Ellenion
observed coolly as answering howls floated over the
col.

"And Wargs would not attack a party of Rangers with
Mother at its head of their own free will." Ereinion
pointed out coming to stand beside his twin.

"Some one has constrained them to do so." Elrohir
agreed. "Not their Orcish allies, some other they fear
more than they fear Beruthiel."

"Khamul at Dol Guldur perhaps?" suggested the Lady.

"I can think of no one else." said Elladan. "And
that worries me. If he has guessed what the Rangers
truly are, or worse yet who leads them -"

"As your father is always telling us, we cannot
hide forever." Beruthiel answered calmly still lining
up her arrows. "But it seems to me more likely Khamul
is snatching at an opportunity to rid himself of those
infamous Orc killing sons of Elrond Half-Elven."

"Let us hope so." said Elrohir.

The party, including Cemendur and Rumil, had
without orders or consultation formed themselves into
a wedge beneath the spear shaped overhang with
Beruthiel at point, the Elven twins to her right and
her sons and the Gondor Men guarding the longer left
flank. Both sets of twins were armed with the short
black Ranger bows, less powerful then the Lady's seven
foot great bow but still effective. The howls were
closer now, warbling calls and responses.

"Working up their courage." Beruthiel said, with
another of her steely smiles.

"Wish I'd thought to bring some wolf spears." Rumil
murmured to Cemendur.

Ereinion shook his head. "To heavy and unwieldy for
travel," flashed a sudden smile, "why do you think we
Rangers don't carry them?"

"Not that a few wouldn't come in handy now." Ellenion
said ruefully

Dusk deepened into true night. The stars came out,
flickering fitfully between wisps of the mist that
gave the mountains their name. The wofish chorus
continued, fearsome and menacing. Their intended prey,
battle veterans all and well hardened against horrors,
listened calmly. The horses huddled together at the
back of the shelter were somewhat less stoic, the
Ranger's steeds seemed to be trying to comfort the
trembling Gondor horses with soft wickers and gentle
nuzzling.

Cemendur caught Rumil throwing unhappy glances over
his shoulder, clearly longing to go and reassure his
frightened charges. "Not now, Rumil."

"Yes, m'Lord." the Man answered. the brief exchange
causing both to miss the first seconds of the Warg's
charge.

The great bow sang and the lead animal fell with a
steel shaft through its brain. the Lady's second arrow
ripped through the throat of the next Warg to transfix
the heart of a third. The smaller bows born by the Men
showered the oncoming beasts with short black arrows
piercing throats and eyes. Cemendur didn't see a
single shaft miss its target and no Warg got within a
dozen feet of the defenders.

"It can't be this easy."

"Oh it won't be." Ereinion assured him wryly.
"Wargs are too bright for that, but what they've got
in mind -"

At that moment a horse sized grey beast with red
eyes and slavering jaws dropped from the stone
overhang above their heads directly in front of the
Lady. Beruthiel drove the arrow in her hand through
its eye and into the brain. Then wielding her steel
bow like a quarterstaff fended off two more.

Cemendur thrust his own blade into the gaping jaws
of yet another Warg giving Ereinion time to cast aside
his bow and draw his sword. After that all was a whirl
of bright steel, dripping red maws and and burning
eyes.

Driven backwards by a nearly black Warg Cemendur's
right foot landed in a pool of blood and slid from
under him. He fell hard, knocking the breath out of
his body, saw the Warg loom above him then a wild
neigh sounded in his ears and the great wolfish face
was mashed to bloody ruin by the steel shod hooves of
a rearing warhorse.

Rumil pulled him clear. "It's Culuros, m'Lord!" he
shouted, "Good boy! Brave boy!"

Looking rather dazedly around Cemendur saw all
seven horses had joined in the battle. The two grey
Elven horses were trampling three Wargs underfoot
tearing at them with their teeth as their masters
peppered the oncoming beasts with arrows. His own
chesnut Culuros had positioned himself in front of him
rearing up and striking at a snarling Warg, keeping it
at bay. Suddenly Rumil pushed Cemendur behind him,
swinging his blade to half decapitate a second Warg
trying to pull down Culuros from the side. And Rumil's
own white gelding charged forward to guard the chesnut
warhorse's other side. The three Ranger horses, like
the Elven mounts, were defending their masters and
mistress with teeth and hooves, allowing them the
space they needed to use their bows.

Yet even with the animals' help Cemendur's
experienced commander's eye saw they were indeed in
dire straits, and likely to be overcome by sheer
numbers. Then a flicker of movement above the heaving
sea of brindled grey pelts caught his eye as something
large and winged dropped from the sky to tear at the
screaming Wargs.

Other winged forms joined it and the Wargs
scattered howling. Within moments the trampled
red-dyed snow of the col was empty of living enemies.
Cemendur heard Rumil swallow hard beside him. "M'Lord
those - those are -"

"Griffons. And hippogriffs and wyverns." the
Councillor finished for him, staring wonderingly at
the beasts facing the seven Dunedain over heaps of
Warg carcases. He had seen such creatures carved in
stone or cast in metal decorating street and court in
Minas Tirith and more recently the halls and chambers
of Cristhoron. He had always assumed they were no more
than a sculpter's fantasy. Yet again he'd been proven
wrong.

All the half dozen or so beasts had the head and
powerful wings of Eagles but some had catlike bodies
with lashing tails and great padded paws. Others were
horselike in form but with the delicate cloven hooves
of mountain goats. And there were two with the scaled
sides and clawed feet and long serpentine tails of
dragons.

The largest of the griffons picked its way with
catlike delicacy over the dead Wargs to dip its head
in a sort of bow before the Lady Beruthiel. She bowed
back. "Elen sila lumenn omentielvo." she said, adding
to the formal greeting also in Quenya, "You have our
thanks, Children of Manwe, for your most timely aid."

And the creature replied, but between its harsh
voice and antique dialect Cemendur was quite unable to
make out its meaning.

The Lady also seemed somewhat uncertain. "Elladan,
I think he just offered to show us a safe path over
the pass."

"That's how I interpret it." the Half-Elf agreed.

The griffon backed several steps away, half turned
and looked questioningly at the Lady.

"Clearly he wants us to follow him." said Ellenion.

"Let us do so by all means." his mother decided.
"If we cannot trust the Children of the Lord of the
Skies then no one can be trusted." to the creature in
Quenya: "Lead on, my friend, we follow."



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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 28 Jul 05
Stories: 24
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elemmire


An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition.

(C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.

Why This Story?

Ecthelion sends men forth in search of "Thorongil"'s secrets. (by Morwen Tindomerel) (C)

 

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: Beta

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/04

Original Post: 03/22/03

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Politics of Arda: Stories that go into the details of the politics behind many of the events of the various Ages.