25. Main Attack
The enemy, rather mysteriously, chose yet a third alternative. Formed into a narrow wedge by the the deep cut road they dashed themselves against Aragorn's center. A rain of steel shafts decimated the vanguard but those who won through, stumbling over their own dead, were strong and fierce and the hand to hand fighting grew hot and deadly, especially around Aragorn himself for the enemy knew right well who he was.
But able to concentrate all their strength upon a single point the Dunedain repulsed the attack without undue difficulty sending the Hill Men into stumbling retreat down the rough slope to churn in confusion at its foot as the broken forward ranks fell back into unblooded corps still seeking to advance.
"Are they always this -" Boromir hesitated hunting for a word.
"Inept?" King Gilvagor supplied with a small, grim smile. "Fortunately yes. That's all that saved us twenty years ago during the Wars of the Ring."
Boromir nodded thoughtfully. He'd noticed a similar reliance on sheer strength of numbers in his own opponents in the East, and a near identical tendency to throw away that advantage through poor tactics.
"I don't understand." Arandil panted. "Where are the wolves?"
His uncle gave him an approving glance. "Where indeed."
Distant shouts of 'Elessar!' and 'Rhudaur!' drew their attention back to the enemy below. To see a small mounted force, flying the black banners of the High Kingdom and Arthedain, crash into the right flank of the confused mass of Hill Men. Some turned to face this new threat but many others broke and ran.
"Our reserve, and right on time." Aragorn said approvingly. "Forward, gentlemen!" and the line surged downward with a great cry of "Elessar!"
Attack from two sides proved to much for the Hill Men. Soon their entire army, some number of which had never even come in contact with the foe, was in full flight back northward, harried by Ranger skirmishers.
"Ah, there you are young Hobbits." Gimli beamed as they met Merry and Pippin leading their tired ponies across the abandoned field.
"Did I not tell you the King had plans for his reserve?" Faramir smiled.
"My word but that was something!" Pippin panted. "I've never been in a cavalry charge before."
"I have." said Merry. "But this time I didn't fall off!"
"Are we forgiven then?" Legolas wanted to know.
"I guess so." Pippin conceeded, looked around. "Where are Strider and Boromir?"
"There, under the Banner of the High Kingdom." a passing Ranger volunteered, pointing.
Sure enough the companions found the King beneath the stars and white tree, talking to Boromir of Caur Amrun, surrounded by the white cloaked knights from Amon Sul and black liveried Guardsmen. But no sign of their other companion.
"Strider!" Merry broke in urgently. "Where's Boromir."
The King looked down at him startled, then frowned at the Men surrounding them. "He was here a moment ago."
"Perhaps he is with King Gilvagor." the Warden suggested.
"Right, where's Gil?" Pippin demanded.
The King of Arthedain was discovered directing the marshalling of enemy wounded and other prisoners. Boromir was not with him nor could he remember seeing him since the charge.
"Scarpered!" Merry said, appalled. "Right under our noses!"
"He'll be heading north," Aragorn agreed grimly, "with an entire army to cover his tracks."
"We've got to follow him!" Pippin cried desperately.
"Pippin, I can't." Aragorn knelt down before the distraught Hobbit. "My kingdom is at war, I cannot go running off on some private errand of my own. Nor can you, Thain of the Shire."
Tears running down his face Pippin looked desperately at Merry. "Strider's right, Pip," his cousin said miserably, "we've already ignored our duty once and look what's come of it. We've got to get home and see what's happening."
"Boromir knows what he is doing." Aragorn said quietly, enfolding the sobbing Hobbits in his arms. "We have no choice now but to let him follow his fate."
The other companions stood, heads bowed down by their own grief. Suddenly Faramir raised his. "Where is Arandil?" ******************************************* * I would like to thank my technical adivsor, Edward the Black Prince of Wales, for Aragorn's battle plan which is based on his Battle of Poictiers. Except for the giants of course.
Come to think of it, I should also give credit (?) to King John II of France for the tactics used by the Hill Men.
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