6. Chapter Five: Siege
The word slashed through the air with more fury then the arrows shot few seconds earlier. The Uruk Hai were already pushing forward, their own battle cry urging them on despite the death of arrows that had had left many of the forward line dying or dead in the mud. The enemy line was uneven but moved swiftly, like a foaming wave riding the tide to shore. The army of Rohan was more than equal to the task of meeting the onslaught, if not in number then certainly in spirit. For each side, there was nothing else between them, nothing beyond the desire to win the day. As the rally cry of Rohan crushed the teeming hiss of rain, the army of men rushed forward to meet their foe in open battle.
Aragorn led the charge, refusing to do anything less when the line he commanded broke ranks to face the approaching enemy. With Anduril secure in his grip, he raised it high above his head, like a banner for the others to follow as he ran through the rain, leading those with him towards the Uruk Hai lines. The world drained of all noise, save the furious music of conflict that was as old as time as bodies tore through the rain, weapons glistening with moisture and faces contorted in the euphoric purity of the one moment in all battles where anything could happen. Before the first blade struck, there was always hope of victory on either side. Only when blood began to run red rivers in the ground did that perception change.
Like two great mountains smashing into each other, the army of Rohan and the army of the Uruk Hai met in the middle of the battlefield. They overlapped one another as enemies penetrated swiftly into each other’s ranks until there was no way to discern where the line was drawn between them. For a singular instance, they were almost one and some might argue that conflicts should be resolved when both stood together in this place of common ground before the spilling of blood made it impossible for anything to come forth but more destruction. However, those arguments seemed very far away now. Not when the convergence ended the battle cry, silencing that sound of orchestrated camaraderie with the shattering sound of steel against steel as the first weapon struck its corresponding counterpart in the field.
Aragorn saw an Uruk Hai running towards him, his large mace held high in the air, preparing to take a powerful swing at him. Without wasting any time, the king of Gondor prepared himself and by the time he was close enough to the enemy, he was more than ready to counter such an attack. Swinging neatly in a wide arc, he tore open the Uruk Hai’s belly. Black blood spilled down blacker skin already slicked with rain. The Uruk Hai roared, bearing fangs but not quite ready to die. He brought down the mace even though he was already dead, preparing to take his enemy but Aragorn slipped past its deadly aim and spun Anduril’s hilt in his hand and speared the Uruk Hai through the ribs.
Through the confusion of fighting bodies around him, Aragorn saw something coming at him from his rear vision and wasted no time bracing his foot against the dead Uruk Hai and pulling out the sword that impaled the enemy from rib to rib. Anduril came free with a splatter of blood following the abrupt route through flesh and Aragorn spun around just in time to see another Uruk Hai, just as large as the first, taking a purposeful swing with a heavy blade. Aragorn blocked the blow and used his momentum to throw a foot into the Uruk Hai enemy’s chest, forcing the large warrior to stumble. Without further deliberation, Aragorn sliced Anduril through in a neat arc in front of him. The Uruk Hai had managed to elude the blade from sinking into deep but his chest suffered the sting of the weapon that had once taken Sauron’s ring from his finger.
The Uruk Hai roared in defiance at the injury and rushed at Aragorn unwisely in his fury. The king of Gondor performed another neat slice and this time there was no further resistance as the enemy dropped to the ground, his knees sinking deep into the dirt, next to where his head had fallen. Aragorn had little chance to relish his victory, for he was tackled into the dirt a fraction of a second later by another Uruk Hai warrior. Both slammed hard into the mud, Anduril almost becoming dislodged from his hand. As Aragorn felt his head create muddy indents in the grass, he saw the Uruk Hai above him about to strike. He rolled across the muddy terrain just as the blade sunk into the grass where his head had been. As he tried to move away, the Uruk Hai brought down one mighty arm and a fist impacted solidly against his ribs with such force, the air was driven from his lungs.
The pain distracted him enough for the Uruk Hai to pull his weapon free of the mud where it had sunk to strike again. Aragorn forced himself painfully to his knees and blocked the strike that would have almost speared like a stuck pig. The Uruk Hai had managed to get upright first and was in a clear advantage as Aragorn struggled to get to his feet to meet the enemy’s strikes with the power and control needed to survive. The Uruk Hai struck again and this time Aragorn was driven backwards by the fury behind the slash of the enemy blade. He scrambled backwards as he tried to gain time to stand up when he saw the point of a blade being thrust at him. He turned sharply to avoid being impaled but the margin was too narrow and he felt the blade cut into his skin, slashing his back open with a cut that was not deep but caused considerable pain.
Without thinking he lashed out wildly, pain and fury giving him unexpected accuracy and struck flesh with a lucky blow.
The Uruk Hai before him bellowed in agony as Aragorn saw its hand fall in the mud, still clutching the sword that would never again used in battle. The enemy staggered backwards, blood spurting from severed veins when Aragorn leapt to his feet, remembering how hard it was to kill an Uruk Hai and how strong they were even after one of their limbs were severed, hurried to finish what he had began. However, it would seem as if the Uruk Hai had the same thoughts as a fist from the creature’s good hand lashed out and struck Aragorn across the jaw with enough force to stop the king’s advance. Blood filled his mouth as Aragorn shook off the blow and kicked out a foot, landing the ball of his foot in the center of the Uruk Hai’s chest.
The Uruk Hai staggered back in pain before suddenly stopping short where he stood. The expression of fury had withered away into something else as the creature dropped to his knees. Blood trickled past sharp teeth as he fell faced down. Standing behind him was Gimli. The Uruk Hai had stumbled right into the sharp curve of the dwarf blade and as Aragorn wiped the blood from his mouth; he gave the lord of the Glittering Caves a nod of thanks before they joined the battle once more.
He watched for an instant as Gimli hurried forward to the aid of a soldier of Rohan beset upon by an Uruk Hai that was about to kill him. The dwarf heaved his axe over his shoulder with expert precision and brought the blade down against the handle of the mace, snapping it in two before it would have surely killed the man of Rohan. The Uruk Hai whose weapon it was turned to Gimli and lashed out, making the fatal mistake of underestimating the dwarf. Gimli dropped to his haunches and avoided the swing of his powerful arm all together. Lowering his helmeted head, Gimli barreled into his opponent with such force that he knocked the evil creature right off his feet. Landing hard against the ground on his back, the last thing that the Uruk Hai saw was a glint of a dwarf blade an instant before it split his skull open.
As Gimli finished the Uruk Hai at his feet, he looked over his shoulder and saw the man of Rohan who was unable to offer thank because he was already launching himself at the next Uruk Hai. The dwarf sought out his friends in the midst of all the carnage and saw Aragorn battle the Uruk Hai as if he were a dark vengeful god. The king of Gondor was fearless and he was releasing the fury of his abducted queen upon the Uruk Hai offering themselves for the killing. Gimli turned away as he saw an Uruk Hai coming toward him, sword slashing through the air, coming straight for his head and no helmet was going to protect him.
Lunging in between the Uruk Hai’s legs, the mud carried him past the enemy who bellowed in outrage at the unexpected maneuver by the dwarf and spun around to meet him. Gimli was already on his feet and crumpled the Uruk Hai with one powerful whack. He pulled back straight; ensuring what had not been sliced away from the initial strike was done when he retrieved his weapon. The Uruk Hai’s powerful arm lashed out, grabbing a fist full of Gimli’s beard and yanking the dwarf towards him. Gimli was inches away from teeth that was quite capable of tearing out his throat when he slammed his helmet against the enemy’s face and felt bone shattered under the impact. The Uruk Hai dropped like a stone, his body splattering mud in all directions.
Blood ran down Gimli’s forehead and he took a moment to examine the wound made when the helmet dug into his skin and drew blood from the encounter with the Uruk Hai. Across the gray battlefield, he could see bodies of both Uruk Hai and men becoming trampled into as losses on both sides mounted. His fingers knotted tightly around his axe and he hurried towards the thickest part of the fighting, where Legolas and Aragorn were presently battling. The elf was showing the Uruk Hai that he was just as deadly with the two daggers as he was with a bow.
Legolas Greenleaf wiped the water from his eyes as he saw the Uruk Hai coming at him. He thrust one of the blades into the creature’s body as another attempted to rush him. A fist thrown at an opportune time, connected with bone and he pulled his dagger out of the first, spinning around neatly to impale both into the second Uruk Hai. He could not see the others but he sensed that they were near. The enemy was all around them, like swarming flies with a rage that was propelling them to attack with near beserker fury. Legolas had fought Uruk Hai before but there was urgency in the attack that was new. He would have pondered the reason for this more deeply if not for the fact that he was far too busy keeping his head attached to his body.
A low, menacing growl preempted the arrival of another Uruk Hai warrior. Legolas looked up and saw himself staring at the creature that regarded him for a second as if there were time in this battle to size up an enemy. There was a brief pause as both stared at each other before the Uruk Hai took the offensive, his mace flying over his shoulder as he hurled it at Legolas. Legolas avoided being struck by slipping past the weapon in mid air, bringing him closer to the Uruk Hai then he would have liked. He slammed his elbow into the creature’s rib, causing it to stumble forward. The Uruk Hai recovered quickly though, spinning around almost and stabbing the mace at Legolas, connecting with the prince’s chest. The pain of it shuddered through him as he fell into the mud, sending shockwaves through his body. He could feel the saturation of his tunic as blood began to seep through torn skin.
Unfortunately there was little time to debate the matter as the Uruk Hai prepared to finish him off by taking a step towards him. Legolas flipped onto his feet, no easy task when the ground was so wet but he was upright when the Uruk Hai reached him. The warrior had abandoned his mace, producing his sword and he brought it down on Legolas with all the strength he could muster. Legolas caught the blade with his daggers, a sharp clang of iron broke through the rumble of fighting around them. He kicked out his foot and pushed the Uruk Hai back to free his weapons but the enemy retreated only a little. The warrior’s arm swung out powerfully in a neat arc as Legolas moved to finish him. The fist caught Legolas squarely in the jaw, causing the prince to loose his footing and tumble unceremoniously to the ground.
The Uruk Hai moved in for the kill when suddenly, his blood splattered across Legolas when an elven blade appeared out of the darkness and took the creature’s head from its body. As the dead body fell to its knees, Legolas let out a relieved breath as Haldir appeared before him, his blade dripping with blood as he offered Legolas a hand. Not too proud to be grateful, Legolas took it and got to his feet.
"Thank you," he said briefly.
"I promise your lady," Haldir replied softly and that was all the explanation needed.
The march warden did not appear smug or superior as he often did but sincere in his words. For the first time, Legolas understood the relationship between Haldir and Melia although in this place he could say little about it for soon enemies were crowding in on them again and the moment to speak, if there was ever one to begin with, was lost.
Haldir drew away from Legolas, glad that they did not have the time to speak. His feelings regarding the Ranger Melia, now the Lady of Eden Ardhon, was something he spoke of to no one, even his brother Rumil. Instead, he sought the battlefield for Aragorn, having not forgotten his secret oath to keep the king in his sights. If the Hunter were going to strike at anyone during this battle, it would be the King of Gondor. Aragorn was not merely pivotal to the battle but also the main obstacle to its master’s desire to keep the Evenstar for his own. However, at the moment the Hunter did not deign to make an appearance and Aragorn was laying waste to almost every Uruk Hai he encountered, driven by rage they could not understand but his company recognized all too well.
Suddenly, he felt the body of an Uruk Hai slam into him. The elf tumbled into mud, unable to regain any balance from the unexpected assault. His hands dug into wet mud, as his weapon was lost. The Uruk Hai who had placed him in this vulnerable position was on his feet first and appeared just as disarmed. However, that did not stop the warrior from slamming his boot into Haldir’s ribs, spinning him around in mid air as the elf attempted to stand. Haldir could feel the sharp pain of bones snapping but he grit his teeth and forced away the pain as he looked up and saw the Uruk Hai reaching for him. Thinking quickly, he barely slipped out of the creature’s grip as it attempted to snag a fist full of hair. Haldir got to his feet as the Uruk Hai threw another clenched fist.
The elf caught the wrist before it could touch his face and slammed his elbow into the enemy’s forearm, snapping the bone cleanly and forcing an agonized cry of pain from the Uruk Hai. Wasting no time while the enemy was disadvantaged, Haldir threw a series of punches at the Uruk Hai, putting all the strength he could into each effort because the Uruk Hai were notoriously resistant to injury. Haldir made every strike count, until the Uruk Hai was struggling to remain on his feet. During this disorientation, Haldir sighted his elven blade and hurried to it. Picking it up with a deft flick of his foot, he caught the blade at the hilt and smoothly impaled the Uruk Hai upon its point in one fluid stroke.
Investigating because he had no time earlier, Haldir saw the Uruk Hai had been hurled his way because Pallando was using his magic to swat aside the enemy like they were flies. The power of wizards was never taken lightly and as Uruk Hai came at the Istar in a united assault, Pallando send them flying through the air with ease. Although Pallando could have done worse to them, he was trying not to exhaust his powers. The wizard could sense the presence of the beast that frightened Elladan so much worried Legolas and was so despised by Haldir. It was close, on the periphery of the battle, Pallando was certain, watching and waiting for the opportunity to strike.
Pallando wondered if the Hunter’s absence to date was due to the battle raging furiously about him. The army of Rohan was barely managing to hold its ground and at too great a cost in casualties. Though they were battling valiantly against large numbers, the bodies of the fallen were covering the field, their blood seeping into the drenched ground. The wizard estimated that it would not be long before Aragorn was forced to give the order to retreat. Although the men of Rohan fought bravely, their courage fired by the determination not to fail their kings and their loved ones, Pallando could sense the reasoning of the Uruk Hai in this battle, being of one last act of defiance, was almost as powerful. While Pallando did not believe defeat was eminent, the carnage that he saw as he swept his gaze across the battlefield indicated that the price of victory if it came would be inadvertently high.
"Istar?" Elladan’s voice reached him through the fighting.
The prince had proven continuously throughout the battle that while the Hunter had bested him during its relentless pursuit from Imladris, it was not to say that Elladan was not a formidable warrior. The Uruk Hai who had come up against him had learnt how much he effort he had put into perfecting the art of killing orcs. It was a craft honed over six centuries of blood and revenge, driven by the memory of what their foul kind had done to the mother he and Elrohir had adored. When Elladan reached Pallando, his tunic and his face bore smatterings of blood and the sword he carried in his hand was still dripping with it, the drops become thin as it mingled with water on the wet ground.
"I sense the Hunter near," Elladan spoke, trying to be heard over the noise of clanging steel, of voice crying out in pain or in bloodlust. "Why does it not appear?"
"I do not know," Pallando replied shaking his head as both their eyes moved over the scene of blood, of men and Uruk Hai doing their best to destroy each other.
"Look out!" Elladan’s eyes widened as he pushed Pallando out of the way.
An Uruk Hai had almost speared the wizard with his sword and Elladan smashed the blade away with his own sword. The Uruk Hai reacted by throwing his fist following the arc his sword had taken. Large and bruising knuckles connected with Elladan’s jaw and sent the prince staggering as the taste of blood filled his mouth. The Uruk Hai stabbed the air in front of him with the point of his sword and Elladan shook off his disorientation in time to see it coming and once again parried to escape unscathed. The Uruk Hai’s blade bounced off the edge of his stronger elven blade and the recoil gave him valuable time to counterattack.
Using his elven speed to the fullest advantage, Elladan closed the distance between himself and the Uruk Hai before thrusting the sword into the enemy’s chest. His blade did not sink deep, but it was more than enough to split open the flesh and causing the Uruk Hai to cry out in pain. Lashing out in pain, Elladan retreated as the Uruk Hai’s sword cut a path through the air towards him. The elven prince stopped the blow before it sliced through his throat but his Uruk Hai nemesis was far from defeated and immediately struck again, fury behind its next effort. The rage behind the sword when it clashed against Elladan’s forced the elven prince to take a step backward. However, he sensed something a miss and there was a split second of perfect clarity when all things came together in a mosaic and he turned, almost in slow motion to see another Uruk Hai having come up behind him, whilst he had been battling the warrior’s comrade.
"ELLADAN!" He heard Faramir shout loudly through this discovery "DROP!"
Without question, the prince dropped into the mud and saw an arrow slicing through the air. The point speared the second Uruk Hai in the throat, forcing the sword that would have almost certainly taken Elladan’s life to drop from his hand. Elladan’s shock at almost seeing his three thousand year existence end was brief and the prince scrambled to his feet as the first Uruk Hai started to retreat now that the odds had shifted out of his favor. Elladan wasted no time as he brought his sword down against the Uruk Hai’s own weapon, his own anger inspired by how close he had come to death. The Uruk Hai retreated while Elladan kept after the creature until the Uruk Hai blade snapped beneath his sword. Blood splattered across Elladan’s face when his blade, having broken the enemy’s sunk into the Uruk Hai’s face, almost cleaving it in two.
Elladan wiped the dark blood from his face and turned to thank Faramir who had lowered the bow he had picked up to help the elven prince. Pallando had been ambushed by a group of Uruk Hai after Elladan had pushed him out of the way and had just dispatched them with ease. Faramir was unsheathing his sword again when suddenly without warning an arrow streaked through the air and impaled him in the shoulder. The Prince of Ithilien did not cry as he was struck out and the expression that moved across his face as he looked down upon the shaft protruding through his shoulder was one of surprise. His brow knotted in confusion as the pain had yet to register in his mind.
For Aragorn, time had ceased to be when he saw that arrow strike its mark in Faramir’s shoulder. Suddenly, he was transported far away from the battlefields of Edoras and left within that clearing in Parth Galen where he had found Boromir, riddled with arrows while his heart was crushed with the weight of sorrow at knowing he had arrived too late. Seeing Faramir, who looked so much younger than the brother who had meant so much to Aragorn and in part his kingship, with an arrow protruding from his shoulder was more than the king could stand and it was not just he who was polarized by this image. Legolas and Gimli were also similarly affected for they too remembered what it was like to arrive and find the man of Gondor dying.
"Legolas!" Aragorn shouted loudly enough for the elf with his superior senses to hear him. "Clear me a path!"
Legolas nodded quickly, his gaze searching the muddy ground for what he needed and he found it almost immediately. The bow was covered in mud but undamaged. The elf immediately armed it with what arrows he had remaining and took aim as Aragorn cut his way through the Uruk Hai warriors to reach Faramir who had dropped to his knees attempting to extract the arrow embedded in his body. None of the enemy appeared before Faramir and as the king brandished his sword upon approach, with such ferocity that any Uruk Hai that Legolas did not strike down with his arrows were met a grisly end at Anduril’s blade.
Aragorn skidded next to Faramir, who was still attempting to remove the arrow from his shoulder. His lack of success increased his pain and his pallor showed the effects of his efforts. Aragorn gazed across the field from where the arrow had come and saw Gimli taking his axe to the archer whom had inflicted the wound upon the younger son of Denethor.
"Faramir, be still!" Aragorn ordered, his role as a healer suddenly becoming more important then that of king.
"It is alright," Faramir replied as he tried again to extract the arrow and could not because it was too deeply imbedded in his shoulder. "I am not grievously wounded."
"You cannot know what it is to see you like this," Aragorn declared with a clear torment in his voice. "I will not fail you as I failed your brother."
"What foolishness is this?" Faramir stared at him, shocked by the statement. "My brother died because of this scum and he died bravely. You did not fail him."
Aragorn would not listen. He gazed across the battlefield and saw too many bodies being trampled into the mud by those still standing and not enough were Uruk Hai. The men of Rohan were fighting valiantly but they were outnumbered. It was time for Aragorn to act while there was still enough warriors to make an effective stand against the Uruk Hai in the city. He reached for the horn that was lashed to his belt and freed it with a swift pull.
"What are you doing?" Faramir asked, having given up trying to remove the accursed arrow from his shoulder. He suspected the point was trapped between bone and it required more resolve and endurance than he had to remove it by simply pulling it out.
Aragorn did not answer and held the horn to his lips. He blew once into it, producing a loud blaring sound that rose above the sound of battle to reach all those who knew what the signal meant. Aragorn blew again, letting the sound move through the length of the battlefield, capturing the attention of not merely his own but also that of the Uruk Hai who wondered what this would mean for them. There was a moment when everyone seemed to pause, waiting in anticipation at what this signal was meant to bring.
Suddenly, the song of the horn ended when Aragorn lowered it from his lips and a new sound filled the air, the thundering beat of horses galloping through the mud. Leading the Rohirrim was Eomer, his sword held high as he and his riders charged towards the Uruk Hai in grim determination. They had lingered at the edge of the battle, waiting for the call that would give them leave to advance, trying to ignore the screams of friend and family who were dying on the field, trying to stay their patience and not rush in impulsively to held. Now there were like a dam that had burst free and there was nothing to stop them as they swept across the plains with horses surging ahead with powerful strides.
"FALL BACK TO THE CITY!" Aragorn shouted for those who did not fully comprehend what the signal had meant. The word moved through the army of Rohan like wildfire and Aragorn saw them starting to break off their battles with the Uruk Hai to return to the city walls. As the Uruk Hai attempted to pursue them, Eomer and the Rohirrim gave them reason to pause as the riders tore through the Uruk Hai forces and did their worst.
"Come," Aragorn turned to Faramir and helped the Prince of Ithilien to his feet. "We must return to the safety of Edoras. Can you walk?"
"I will walk off this field, that is for certain," Faramir declared as Aragorn pulled him upright.
They made what pace they could as the fighting continued behind them, though more and more of Rohan’s men were falling back to the city walls. The small contingent of Rohirrim led by Eomer were keeping the Uruk Hai at bay as they made their escape however, the retreat was not easy and the Uruk Hai were difficult to deter. Archers positioned on the wall were now firing at the Uruk Hai, adding to the obstacle in the enemy advance.
"How is he?" Legolas asked as the elf reached Aragorn and Faramir.
"I live," Faramir declared, starting to become a little annoyed by all this. "I am not dead nor am I to be protected like some child."
"Fine then," Aragorn replied releasing him. "Walk on your own."
The Prince of Ithilien sank to his knees once more before gazing up at his king and muttered, "point taken."
"I am glad," Aragorn harrumphed and motioned Legolas to aid him. "Now let us continue without argument."
"You are nothing if subtle," Legolas retorted wryly as they reached the gates of Edoras were archers were standing on either side of the entrance, making short work of any Uruk Hai who attempted to enter the city in pursuit of the city’s defenders.
Aragorn had no time to dwell on the moment for the battle was far from won and the campaign on the plains had merely shifted behind the walls of the city. From this point onwards, the city of Edoras would be under siege as the Uruk Hai army beyond its wall assailed it. The warriors of Rohan who were not injured were scrambling up ladders against the wall while those who were, took the longer route through the gates.
"Legolas, once inside, we must get to the wall again. We will need to shorten the numbers before they forced their way into the city," Aragorn stated firmly.
"That may not be as easy as previously thought," Legolas said grimly as they passed through the gates. "Many Uruk Hai fell in battle on the plain but they fight as if they have nothing to lose."
"Of course!" Faramir grunted in pain. "We have driven them to the wilderness, we have destroyed their master. What are they but purposeless and outcast? Their very creation was for the waging of war and destruction. What do they have now that Sauron is gone? They may very well be fighting in this manner because there is nothing else."
"You may be right," Aragorn declared and silently thought that Faramir was right, his observation did seem astute.
Unfortunately, there was little time to give the matter further thought because the night was far from over.
After leaving Faramir to the healers that were waiting on hand to tend the casualties come off the line; Aragorn and Legolas hurried to the wall perimeter of the city. As they did so, they saw the casualties filing past them as soldiers carried comrades through the gates, with a multitude of injuries ranging from broken bones to severed limbs. Some of those being carried in, Aragorn observed were already dead; the friends who had ferried this far were driven by desperate hope. The king felt his heart aching from their pain, grateful that so far none of his friends had fallen in battle, although seeing Faramir hit by an arrow had driven the sense from his mind. The scene appeared too much like how Aragorn had found Boromir.
The rain had abated much to Aragorn’s dismay. He knew what form the attack upon the city would take and what they needed most was a downpour. Reaching the wall, he saw that most of the surviving soldiers from the battle of the plains were still climbing over it. Among these, were Gimli, Elladan, Haldir and Pallando. The rain had not washed away the blood streaking down Gimli’s face from the helmet and Elladan’s lip appeared split. Haldir was moving gingerly, indicating that he was injured in a place none could see. Pallando seemed in one piece though Aragorn did not think the same of the Uruk Hai who had attempted to assault a wizard. Even Legolas was sporting a nasty bruise on the pale skin of his face. Aragorn had his own injuries but he ignored it.
When he reached the wall, he saw that Rohirrim were riding through the Uruk Hai, like a shepherd herding his flock, keeping the Uruk Hai from pursuing their own towards the wall. Some of the horses were riderless and leaving the battlefield. He could not see which was Eomer but he hoped that one of these horses would not be his. He had no wish to report to Eowyn that her brother had fallen in battle like her father. The last of Rohan’s army were clambering up the wall and Aragorn saw no reason to delay giving the signal for the Rohirrim to withdraw, having done all they could to see to it that their comrades were able to retreat safely behind the wall. Holding his lips to the horn again, he blew loudly, issuing the signal that sliced through the air and gave an unspoken order for the Rohirrim to withdraw into the city.
The effect of the sound could be seen across the battlefield as the riders of Rohan began pulling away from the Uruk Hai hordes. Aragorn watched them for a moment but he could not waste any more time and in anticipation of what would soon follow, they had to prepare for the next phase of battle.
"Wizard," Aragorn spoke first to Pallando, "when the order for the Rohirrim to withdraw is heard, those Uruk Hai are going to come for us and the most effective weapon at their disposal; fire. We need rain. We need it heavy before they burn us to the ground."
"Aragorn, the rain will make it exceedingly hard to fight them," Elladan pointed out.
"We need to hold the city," Aragorn turned on him sharply. "If we do not hold the city, then this battle is lost already. They will try burn us out from behind these walls if they cannot breach it!"
"He is right, " Legolas declared grimly. "They will come in waves, one to breach the wall and the others who will act as archers."
"I will do what I can," Pallando answered, understanding the urgency of the situation. "However, I dare not risk exerting too much power because I must keep a vigil for this Hunter. He still has not shown his face."
"He does not need to," Aragorn retorted. "There are still enough Uruk Hai to kill us all without his requiring to take a direct hand in the matter."
"We cannot allow it to come after you," Legolas stated with enough determination in his voice to indicate that on this matter, Aragorn’s kingship was going to sway him little. "Your fate is bound with that of Middle earth and of the Evenstar, you know that."
Aragorn swallowed thickly, remembering Arwen and feeling exceedingly ashamed that in all this carnage he had forgotten her. More than anything he wanted to ride away from here and get to Imladris so that he could retrieve her from her fate but he was king and his people needed him. He had to stay here until this was all done and he needed to ensure that his life, no matter how unimportant he thought it to be, was guarded as fiercely as the city he was trying to save.
"Do what you can without taxing yourself too much wizard," Aragorn said finally, conceding defeat and swearing a silent oath to kill the Hunter for forcing him into this position.
"I will do what I can to protect you and Edoras," Pallando replied gently, knowing that it was not easy for Aragorn to place himself before his people. The genuine torment on his face at the decision told Pallando that while Aragorn lived, the wizard would pledge his service to this good king.
Aragorn nodded and turned to the others once more, "the rest of us to the edge of the wall. Gimli, you should aid the soldiers to defend the wall when the Uruk Hai attempt to climb it. The rest of us will use our archery skills to stop as many of them as we can before they actually reach the wall."
All were in agreement of this and they hurried to the wall overlooking the plains where their battle had begun and saw the Uruk Hai already crossing the distance between them, with ladders, long spears and rope. Aragorn, Legolas, Haldir and Elladan immediately found themselves each a bow and loaded themselves with as many arrows as they could carry, all the while their eyes watching the enemy advancing beneath them. In the distance, he saw a thin line of Uruk Hai forming and he knew precisely what was happening. The Uruk Hai archers were lining up to begin an aerial assault of the city, their arrows heads coated with swaddling laden with oil to ensure that not even rain was going to douse the flame that would soon ignite it.
The archers of Rohan were already forming a line of their own, standing tall as they held their bows and prepared to take aim at the approaching Uruk Hai. Once again, they looked to Aragorn’s signal to act in unison as the archers took up position with Legolas and Elladan flanking him, Aragorn gave the same battle cry as the Uruk Hai closed in.
"FIRE!" His voice escaped him like a mighty roar, with more demand than even the horn was capable of producing.
A wall of arrows flew through the air, coming down upon the enemy like a deadly rain. Some dropped in their tracks into the mud, others hurt forged on nonetheless, their battle cry was defiant as unyielding. Those who fell with ladders were quickly replaced and the dark swarm continued its deadly advance.
"AT WILL!" Aragorn called out again and instigated an unending barrage of arrows to fly through the air from the fortress walls.
Across the battlefield, a similar order was being given and Aragorn and the company stood firm as they saw the arrows coming towards them from the Uruk Hai’s archers. He did not flinch, as the sharp point rushed to meet them in retaliation for this was a game of whom would run first and Aragorn did not intend it to be him. Instead, he continued as the others did, firing their arrows for as long as they were able. Enemy arrows struck some of the defending line and Aragorn could not ignore the bodies that toppled to the ground or backwards in death. He himself was forced to duck and avoid arrows flying at him. Some were enflamed and some were not. The ones that were inflamed sailed over their heads for they were not the intended targets. Aragorn looked over his shoulder to see a roof covered with hay burst into flames. The oil and peat use for sealing igniting easily.
His distraction cost him.
The arrow spearing through his thigh caught him by surprise and he let out a soft groan of pain as he staggered and almost fell.
"Aragorn!" Legolas caught him before he could fall.
"I am alright!" He groaned as the elf dragged him away from the edge.
"You are wounded!" Legolas returned in exasperation as they took refuge behind the beacon.
"I cannot be!" Aragorn snapped, his face grimacing in pain as he saw the arrow protruding from his leg.
"Shall I let you drop as well?" The elf retorted in exasperation.
Aragorn gave him a look and sucked in his breath. "Pull it out."
Legolas’ face showed his shock. "No, not like this!"
"I do not care! I order you to do it!" He fairly snarled at the prince.
"You have no power to order me King of Gondor," Legolas declared firmly. "I follow your lead because you are my friend."
"Then be my friend," Aragorn stared at him. "Do as I ask. I have to be on that line. You know as well as I do that there must be a leader on the field of battle and until Eomer is able to do so, it must be me."
Legolas’ shoulder sagged, as he understood that Aragorn was right. He had to lead this battle because he was king and while the king could fight so would the rest of his people be compelled to do so.
"Alright," the Prince of Mirkwood said quietly, his face clearly unhappy at being forced into this position. "I will do as you ask."
"Thank you," Aragorn replied gratefully, his hand clenching around Legolas’ arm as the elf laid his hands upon the shaft of the arrow.
"Prepare yourself," Legolas replied, aware of how painful this was going to be.
Aragorn nodded and closed his eyes, steeling himself for the pain that was going to come. Legolas’ breath became shallow as if he needed to brace himself for this as much as Aragorn. He took a firm hold of the shaft and with a great heave, tore it from Aragorn’s leg. No amount of resolve was going to keep the scream from escaping Aragorn when the arrow was forced from his leg and the sound made Legolas flinched as if the elf was suffering the same agony. Aragorn’s fingers dug into Legolas’ skin so hard that blood but might have been drawn but neither seemed to notice.
No sooner then Aragorn’s body had relaxed as the worst of the pain subsided; Legolas was finding something to bind the wound. A strip of fabric torn from clothing was soon being wrapped around Aragorn’s leg. The king’s body was limp and his breathing soft as he recovered from the ordeal. When he opened his eyes, he stayed Legolas’ hand a moment and examined the wound briefly. It was as Aragorn suspected, not as severe as the one that had impaled Faramir when it had lodged itself between bone.
"It is a flesh wound," Aragorn replied as he let his hand drop away and allow Legolas to tend him. "I will live."
"I will take your word for it," Legolas replied as he resumed binding the wound.
Rain started to come down even more heavily and both man and elf shifted their gaze at the fire burning across some of the roof. Pallando was in the courtyard below, his arms outstretched towards the heavens while his staff held high over his head as he uttered incomprehensible words that none recognized but was having clear effect upon the weather. Blue white steaks of lightning flashed across the sky, provoking the charged air to respond with rumbling thunder that impacted upon all their ears. The raindrops that had been teeming without any vigor were now rushing down to earth with robust momentum.
Relief flooded through Aragorn as he saw the fires being extinguished and knew that for a moment at least he could rest a little.
Across the field, something large was moving through the mud.
Its pace was large and powerful, leaving indents in the ground as it surged across the battlefield, shirking off arrows that was killing its army around it. It crossed the bodies on the plain without a second glance for its purpose was clear. It moved in a world of shadows far darker than any that might have been cast on this night and even the Uruk Hai who fought for it was unable to see it moving past them, beyond feeling his dark presence.
At first he had been contented to wait out the battle to see if the men of Rohan and the King of Gondor would prevail against the Uruk Hai hordes that had besieged the city. If the city was not burnt to the ground with everyone in it, the Hunter would have intervened and finished the King of Gondor and all his companions. The destruction would appear to all as if it were the work of the Uruk Hai and no suspicion would fall upon his master Eol who be able to take his queen to his city and be forgotten. If word of it reached the other kingdoms, it would serve just as equally to remind them of what power they faced. However, the complication in all this had been the presence of the Maiar spirit named Pallando.
The coming of the rain ensured that the siege would be hampered and the Hunter could not have that. The destruction of Edoras was no matter for debate, it simply had to be and the interference of the Maiar was complicating matters greatly. This could not be allowed and the Hunter found that it was time to make his move and deal with the Istar himself.
Elladan lowered his bow.
Haldir beside him felt it too.
Below them, they could see something moving through the bodies of Uruk Hai, shunting them aside as it made its way to the base of the wall. The Uruk Hai had reached the fortress walls and were now attempting to climb to the top with their ladders and ropes. Gimli and the soldiers of Edoras was making this a most difficult attempt what with the dwarf’s axes biting at the ropes that attempted to secure themselves to the edge, or hacking apart the ladders and the Uruk Hai who managed to reach the top. Ladders were being toppled over, sending the construct and the Uruk Hai crashing to the muddy ground. Hot oil splashed onto the others as converged at the base of the wall, eliciting screams of agony and dying.
However, what was ploughing through the Uruk Hai had no need of any of this. It scaled the wall easily, needing neither rope nor ladder and had no fear of oil or arrows.
"It is here!" Elladan left the line of archers and hurried along the wall, seeking out the Hunter whose journey through the shadow world allowed him to remain unseen.
"Where is Aragorn?" Haldir demanded, searching for the king and seeing him taking refuge not far away while Legolas tended him.
"He needs to be warned!" Elladan declared.
"You go!" Haldir grabbed his arm and halted his progress. "I will face this creature that killed my brother."
"This is not the time vengeance!" Elladan glared at the march warden with all the fury that was afforded an heir of Eärendil. "Go and protect the king NOW!"
Haldir was taken back by the force of that order and found that he could not disobey. For when it was all said and done, this was the son of Elrond, a prince of Imladris and by right of rank, Haldir was to conditioned to obey to refuse him. Without saying a word, the captain of Celeborn’s guard hurried to carry out Elladan’s order.
Once he was gone, Elladan sought out Gimli. He was not so foolish as to believe that he could take this beast alone, if he could take it at all. However, he was not going to let the Hunter murder his sister’s husband the way it had done Orophin Aragorn was not merely Evenstar’s mate, he was Elladan’s friend. With Elrohir, they had rode together for more years than some had lived, killing orcs and preparing for the day when prophecy would see Sauron’s destruction fulfilled.
"Master Dwarf!" Elladan grabbed Gimli as he brought his axe down on yet another length of rope.
"I am a little busy!" Gimli retorted as he ran along the wall a little way and slammed his axe through the neck of a Uruk Hai reaching the edge before shoving the dead body and the ladder away from the stone.
"The Hunter is here!" Elladan declared and captured Gimli’s undivided attention.
"Where?" Gimli demanded as he followed Elladan past the line of warriors defending the wall.
Elladan did not need to answer for suddenly, a great force swept up the wall, knocking over a ladder full of Uruk Hai as it scaled the wall. Th walkway along the wall seemed to shudder as something heavy landed against it. The soldiers standing close by were flung through the air by something unseen. They uttered a cry as the landed in the courtyard, their bodies impacting hard against the stone. The force of their landing killed them instantly and Gimli’s stomach hollowed as he saw blood pooling under the fallen.
"I cannot see him!" Gimli exclaimed, wanting badly to attack the beast that had sent their comrades to such a terrible end.
"He walks in the shadow world," Elladan explained as his senses gave him a clear sense of where the Hunter was. "He cannot be seen unless he chooses it."
"But the rain does not hide him!" Gimli said excitedly, "look!"
A shimmer of water that did not appear to be rain was moving across the walkway. The moisture allowed Elladan and Gimli to see a creature of great stature and speed leaping off the edge of the wall onto the courtyard below. While the Hunter might have been able to remain invisible, he could not conceal the mass of his body. The rain Pallando had brought down upon them had robbed the beast of his cloak of invisibility and the disadvantage was one Gimli was not going to squander. Knowing that it would not take long for him to find Aragorn, Gimli threw caution to the winds and ran forward, leaping from the edge to figure shrouded in water.
"GIMLI!" Elladan shouted in horror as he saw the dwarf surging towards the beast.
Gimli was not listening. With his axe in his hand, he intended to do as much damage as he could before the creature cast him off. He could feel its skin beneath him as he landed on the Hunter’s back even though it looked as if he were being suspended in mid air. Wasting no time for the Hunter was already moving to remove him, Gimli swung the axe in his hand and struck flesh. The Hunter tensed beneath him, as if registering the pain but unhindered by it. Gimli pulled the axe from the beast’s body, more than prepared to bury the blade in the creature’s skull when he felt something grasping its thick fingers around his back.
The dwarf was lifted over the Hunter’s head and dangled in front of the beast as it regarded him after Gimli’s attack.
"What do you think I should do with you, Aule’s little dirt digger?" A menacing voice hissed as the rain slick face stared at him.
"Let me have at you again so I can split your skull apart!" Gimli growled in typical dwarf defiance.
The Hunter began to shudder with laughter but what amusement he found in the dwarf was soon ended when an arrow sliced through the air and embedded itself where the beast’s hand would have been. The surprise of the attack forced the Hunter to relinquish his hold on Gimli and the dwarf tumbled unceremoniously into the mud as the beast turned around to face the archer who had struck him with the arrow. Yanking the projectile from its hand, it tossed the arrow aside as he faced Elladan who had reached the ground and was facing the Hunter boldly.
"I told you beast I would kill you," Elladan said coldly.
"Little prince," the hunter’s rain covered form appeared before Elladan. "You do not have the Golden Wood to protect you now."
"I do not need the Golden Wood to protect me," Elladan declared bolder than he thought himself possible after the fear this creature inspired in him during his flight from Imladris and even at this moment. "Nor will I allow you to harm my kinsmen."
"You will not allow?" The Hunter stared at him, his eyes narrowing malevolently. "Do not mistake courage for ability little prince."
Elladan raised his bow to shoot again. "Withdraw or suffer the consequences."
"You are priceless," the Hunter laughed menacingly as he approached Elladan, his sword brandished in preparation to attack. "Spine is something so rare in your kind. I suppose it must have grown while I was away."
The Hunter raised his weapon to strike when Elladan heard Gimli voice.
"Prince, catch!" the dwarf called out and Elladan saw and axe being thrown at him. Elladan caught it with one hand and used the weapon to block the mighty sword that would have killed him where he stood as it had done Orophin. As it was, it shattered the axe in his hand as the force of the blow sent him to the ground.
Elladan struggled to get to his feet when suddenly, the Hunter was no longer interested in him. The beast was looking beyond him and for an instant, Elladan thought that the wretched creature had spotted Aragorn. However, it was not Aragorn that had captured the Hunter’s attention so completely. Elladan scrambled to his feet and saw Pallando approaching them slowly. The wizard’s expression was as stone and the Hunter moved stealthily towards him. The arrogance of his earlier advance was gone and Elladan suspected that the Hunter actually considered the Istar a threat.
"You do not belong in this time," Pallando said as he and the Hunter stood before each other.
"I am here nonetheless," the beast responded. "You interfere with matters that do not concern you. Leave now and I will not harm you."
"You cannot harm me either way," Pallando declared. "If you could, I would already be dead. You are not a creature that barters with its victims. You offer me escape because you cannot harm me. I reiterate the offer made by the prince, withdraw or suffer the consequences."
The Hunter’s response was to swing his heavy sword against the wizard. Pallando was ready for the attack and raised his own sword to counter the attack. The hunter’s strength should have destroyed the sword but there was more in the steel of Pallando’s weapon then just the wizard’s resolve, there was also the latent power of all Istari that was concealed in the benign guise of the old men that they appeared. The large blade struck the wizard’s sword and recoiled as if it had no power over the Istar. The Hunter bellowed in rage and slipped into its shadow form again. Disappearing completely, Pallando searched quickly for its shape in the rain but this was difficult to do because his attention to the Hunter had taken his concentration from ensuring a downpour. The light teeming rain was not enough for Pallando to see where the beast was.
"Where is he?" Aragorn demanded as the king of Gondor hobbled onto the scene.
"Get away from here!" Pallando hissed. "It is not safe!"
"I will not allow you to face this threat alone!" Aragorn declared, brandishing Anduril and showing Pallando that he would not budge. Beside him was Legolas, who bow was strung with an arrow, awaiting only the appearance of a target before it would fly. Haldir was standing by the king but the elf was having a good deal of difficulty keeping himself restrained from rushing into battle with the murderer of his brother.
"Nor will you," Elladan and Gimli joined the king and the four warriors stood before Pallando determined to aid the wizard, even if their help was merely the strength of their support.
"How touching, you can die with him then, " a voice spoke that was none of theirs and suddenly Pallando was flying through the air.
"Wizard!" Aragorn shouted, trying to see where the attack had come but the Hunter remained cloak and hidden from their eyes.
Pallando landed hard on the ground, his hand still clutching his sword. His body ached in pain but there was a moment of clarity when he could sense great danger coming towards him. Instinctively, he raised his sword once more and the clanging of steel could be heard even if the enemy could not be seen. Pallando’s stand immediately gave Haldir something to aim at. His arrow flew through the air and struck at something he could not see but knew to be there because the arrow appeared floating above the ground as it became lodged within the Hunter’s flesh. The injury hardly registered and suddenly Pallando was lifted off the ground as the beast discarded the battle with the sword and chose a more direct method of assault.
Aragorn rushed forward, preparing to sink Anduril in the creature’s flesh as the wizard was pulled upwards, his hands clutching his throat. Although his leg burned with pain, Aragorn would let no one stop him as he slashed at the space beneath Pallando, knowing full well that something had to be holding him. Whether or not he struck flesh remained a mystery but he was soon struck by a powerful fist and sent sprawling. He landed hard on the rock, feeling something snap beneath him as his skin touched the ground and knew it to be one of his ribs.
Haldir had grabbed a spear and was rushing to the beast when it snapped in half just as Haldir reached it. There was a second of confusion on the elf’s face as his senses warned him of impending danger and he realized that the Hunter had turned his attention briefly from Pallando. He stepped away just in time to feel a blade slice down his arm. Haldir let out a groan of pain as his shoulder was torn open, his tunic soaked in blood in a matter of second. His arm felt useless at his side and he could no longer hold what was left of the spear. The beast chose to appear before the march warden at that moment, still clutching Pallando with one hand like a doll.
"You look like your brother," the Hunter sneered as he stared at Haldir who was struggling to find another weapon.
"Do not speak of my brother, you foul beast!" Haldir hissed.
"He was weak," the Hunter hissed, wishing to torment the elf before his death. "I tore him apart with one flick of my blade. Tell me, do you think your body will rupture as his did?"
"Will yours?" Pallando suddenly spoke despite his position of disadvantage. A dark shadow seemed to fall over the wizard at that instant and froze all of them with fear as they saw something in him that they had only seen once before. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas recognized the glint in Pallando’s eyes all too clearly. It was the same look of fury that Gandalf had worn just before the Balrog of Moria discovered what it was to inspire the wrath of an Istar.
There was a split second of silence when suddenly the Hunter was flung away from the wizard like a child’s toy. Pallando dropped to the ground upon being released as the beast smashed into a wall with such force, his body broke away some of the rock from which it was made. The Hunter struggled to its feet, its misshapen face contorting with bald rage as it shook its disorientation away. Aragorn surmised that it was probably the first time the beast had received pain instead of dispensing it. It ran towards Pallando, brandishing it blade and threatening to strike at the wizard again.
"I will destroy you wizard!" the Hunter growled like the animal it was
"You will destroy nothing!" Pallando returned sharply, "and you will leave now!"
Without further adieu, Pallando held up his staff and uttered words that none could hear but the effect was immediate. A bolt of lightning cackled perilously above their heads as Pallando aimed the staff at the beast approaching him rapidly and directed the charge of energy towards the Hunter. The explosion of white heat caused the Hunter to howl in pain, like an animal braying at the moon in the dead of night. Its body contorted in pain as the power of the lightning strike surged through him and hearing its scream brought surprising comfort to those who were present for that meant it could be hurt. In the midst of its pain, the Hunter turned to Aragorn and flung his sword at the high king.
"ARAGORN!" Legolas cried out as the weapon speared through the air towards him.
Pallando saw the Hunter’s blade about to take the king’s life and immediately ceased his attack upon the beast. With less than a split second to act between the time the Hunter had hurled his weapon and it reaching Aragorn who was diving out of the way, Pallando directed his power at the flying blade, sending it immediately off course. The large sword struck the ground harmlessly short of where Aragorn had been standing before he wisely chose to get clear. Pallando let out a breath of relief at having prevented a tragedy before turning his quarry once more.
However, when he did so, the Hunter was gone.
"Where is he?" Gimli demanded.
"It left," Elladan spoke in a voice full of astonishment. "It retreated."
"It did not have a choice," Legolas looked at the wizard with admiration. "It was beaten."
"I surprised it," Pallando replied, not eager to claim triumph. "It will not remain that way."
"You saved my life wizard," Aragorn said gratefully, "but this night is over yet."
And as he spoke those words, his eyes moved to the wall where the Uruk Hai was still fighting to breach the walls and the dawn to all of them, seemed very far away.
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.