Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Laughing Oliphaunt, The: 4. The First Across (Eomund)
When he had found a clear space, free of the fighting, filled only with dead bodies, he had turned his horse around, looked back. He was in a tiny piazza. Corpses here and there. Rubble. And further on, over the ruined buildings, he saw smoke billowing forth and fire licking away at the ever-darkening sky. Screams. The harsh twang of loosened catapults – followed by explosions – more screams. Eomund saw that he was alone; the small company of Men who fought with him were gone. When he trotted back, away from the piazza and back into an ancient street leading to the bridge – the cries growing ever louder as he returned to the battle’s center – he saw one of his Men, on his back, staring up, dead. Arrows in the chest. And then further on, another, another, and another.
And as he began to despair, thinking his entire company lost, Eomund had caught sight of a bloodied Man stumbling forward. The Man had been covered from top to bottom in filth, and he had been barely recognizable as a Man rather than an orc. He had been clutching his face, where blood streamed from an injured eye. And Eomund had called to him:
“Ho! Where are the others? What of the eastern bank?”
And in that moment, just as the soldier had looked up, confused and delirious, a great cry went up. But such a cry! Tearing through the sky with all the malice and hate that threatened to swallow Gondor – and the human screams had grown louder then, terrified – and Eomund had heard a great horn being blown. The Horn of Gondor. Urgent.
He had urged his horse forward and gone barreling back towards the bridge, yelling, Gondor! Gondor!, pushing through the tide of arriving soldiers. And he had arrived just in time to see the rain of arrows descending from the eastern bank, and the final boulder smashing into the very middle of the bridge, and Eomund had caught a glimpse of Lord Boromir pushing young Iorlas out into the water before he himself dived and all the souls fell with the crumbling bridge – trapped and screaming as they tumbled – chaos in the water…
Enough of that now.
Eomund sipped his mead, inhaled the scent of Ragnor’s pipe. Hours ago, and Eomund had sworn half these Men had been killed, and yet, here now, Iorlas and Beregond sat across from him, speaking quietly, while the Lord Boromir drank and old Amlaith watched the crowd. And it was too loud in The Laughing Oliphaunt to hear each other properly, so Eomund contented himself with letting the memories slip away – letting the ale perform its duty and rid him of that sight – that sight of young Iorlas slamming into the water – that sight of the half-blinded Man – that sight of the bridge, and all the eastern bank of Osgiliath, caving in, overtaken. And how the river water ran red, while bodies thrashed in it, choking it…
He took another swallow of mead, finishing it, looked back over his shoulder. The Laughing Oliphaunt was full of merriment. Laughter, singing, jigs. Feeling the buzz of alcohol in his ears, Eomund pushed back from the table and stood.
“Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I go to find a willing wench.”
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