Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Laughing Oliphaunt, The: 6. The Second-in-Command (Beregond)
And Beregond had hesitated, as they ran through the streets, their armor clanging, sprinting, with the sound of heavy feet – a thousand, more than a thousand, Eru, how many – the fast, booted tread of a thousand orcs flooding in from the East. And the darkness – the blue light – Beregond remembered seeing Lord Boromir grow pale when he heard the first runners’ news, when he saw the first flash of a shadowy figure, far off, flying through the inky sky. The shadowy figure – illuminated from behind by a crack of red Mordor lightening.
The Lord Faramir had intercepted them then, dodging Men as they ran, weaving through the crowd, and the two brothers had not had time enough to hold but the most furious of conversations –
“They come in from the King’s Street and further south – thousands, I could not say – I’ve set the archers – but too many, brother, too many – pull back…!”
And then the first catapults had started firing. Beregond recalled the sudden explosion above him, as the tower not two streets over crumbled, shattered, and he remembered how his chest swelled with a sudden fire, with a sudden fear, as he remembered Iorlas had gone off in that direction not ten minutes ago.
Beregond and Boromir had lingered by the back, urging all the others forward, sometimes running backwards, stumbling, swords raised, as they caught quick blurs of orcs arriving. Orcs, orcs, orcs everywhere – suddenly they appeared – streaming in through every alley and skeletal building – swarming over the low walls which divided the streets – uttering their bestial cries, calling to each other, hissing. And Beregond remembered how he and Boromir had held their free hands behind them, shouting at the others to run, to get to the bridge! Go! Run!
And then, and then, and then…
Sword sticking rusted against orc neck black blood spurting acidic stains and split-second glimpses of his Captain screaming in defiance hacking against the splitting heads while Beregond had pulled his sword away from an orc only to push it through another and then…
The high-pitched wail, the high-pitched fear – and all the blood in his veins and in his heart had turned icy – while, for just a moment, his body went rigid and he nearly lost himself to terror – and he had despaired then, wondering where his own brother was, where Iorlas was and…
“Beregond – hic – would you kindly move so that I – mmph – may go… eh… relieve myself?”
Beregond turned to his brother, Iorlas, who sat red-faced and grinning beside him. The younger Man had twisted his torso, gripping the table with one hand and the bench with the other, clearly intent on leaving the booth. With a slight smile, Beregond obliged, squeezing himself out of the booth and allowing Iorlas room to leave. His younger brother clapped him on the shoulder as he left.
“Try the King’s Brandy…” Iorlas slurred. “’Tis quite strong.”
And then he was gone, disappeared into the crowd. Beregond turned back to the table. How long had they been here? Enough, it seemed, for some to be visibly drunk – Ragnor, Eomund, even the Lord Boromir – while the others who had been rigidly taciturn during the journey from Osgiliath – Faramir, Amlaith, himself – allowed themselves to chat lightly and laugh.
Beregond shifted in his seat, edged towards Amlaith. The heavy Guardsman was laughing at something Eomund was saying.
“…and Folcwine knew nothing of this!” Eomund blurted, slamming the table with his bare palm.
Amlaith roared with laughter.
From further off, from somewhere within the crowd gathered in the tavern’s main room, a cry went up: “A song! A song! The Laughing Oliphaunt song!”
And Beregond smiled wide, glanced at the others, who were also laughing and grabbing their mugs, preparing, and so all stood, goblets raised high, to sing the ancient song:
Let them run! Let them charge!
Hear them laugh, “Free the barge!”
Burn them high! Burn them wide!
Hear them laugh, “Ol’phaunt hide!”…
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