Field of Battle, The: 4. Chapter Three: The Harvest of Disinformation

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4. Chapter Three: The Harvest of Disinformation

THE FIELD OF BATTLEChapter Three:
The Harvest of Disinformation

The sombre business of burying the dead of Lebethron was a deed done when
Aragorn and Faramir arrived finally in the ruined village some days later. They
found Legolas’ camp a short distance away from the town proper, surrounded by
the trees that would now remain unharvested since those who cared for them had
met tragic ends. When the men of Gondor joined the lord of Eden Ardhon at his
encampment, their mood was no better than his. The devastation they were forced
to witness as they took the road through Lebethron had left as deep an
impression in their minds as it had upon Legolas. Fortunately they could claim
that they had not seen the worst of it since they had been spared the horror of
burying bodies.

The mark of it was left clearly upon Legolas. When Aragorn cast eyes upon his
old friend with the campsite where he and the rest of his company from Eden
Ardhon awaited Aragorn’s arrival, the king could see the deaths of Lebethron’s
people preyed heavily upon the heart of the elf. It was easy to mistake
Legolas as being aloof and dispassionate to the plight of others because he kept
his emotions hidden beneath the enigmatic façade worn by all elves. However,
Aragorn and those who knew him well knew just how deeply he felt things and how
outraged the destruction of Lebethron must have left him.

After journeying through Lebethron and seeing for himself, the savage brutality
of the Easterlings who had committed the terrible act of murder upon its
innocents, Aragorn confessed to similar outrage. All the things that had
inspired Legolas’ animosity and fierce desire to fight had also stoked a
white-hot flame within Aragorn’s heart as he saw the remnants of the village in
the wake of the enemy’s barbarism. It would have been close to harvest he had
thought during the silent odyssey through the ruined village. It should have
been a time of plenty and joy, not the terrible events that followed. They were
his people! They looked to Gondor to protect them but Gondor and its king had
failed them.

Under different circumstances, their greeting would have been joyous but this
was not the occasion for such levity. The old companions greeted each other with
warm salutations as was their custom upon seeing each other but their mood was
heavy with unspoken despair at Lebethron’s fate. The question of what was to be
done could wait for a time as Legolas showed Aragorn and Faramir the final
resting place of Lebethron’s folk. They had been unable to do anything except
place the bodies in one grave since neither the elves nor Gimli knew the names
of all that had perished.

After the sombre duty was done, they returned to the campsite as the sun was
beginning to disappear beneath the wood. The other elves in Legolas’ party had
prepared a meal and the old friends gathered around the campfire as the daylight
dwindled around them to break bread. Pregnant in all their minds was how this
situation was to be dealt with. As Aragorn looked across the fire at Legolas,
the elf’s pale skin was bathed in the amber light of flame that seemed to fit
his mood. The king could tell what was on Legolas’ mind as he met the elf’s dark
eyes.

“This must be answered for Aragorn,” Legolas broke the silence at last.

“Not by you or Eden Ardhon,” Aragorn returned firmly.

“You cannot expect to let them get away with this!” Gimli burst forth with less
restraint. “You did not see the dead Aragorn, you did not the savagery of what
was done to them. If this is allowed to go unanswered, the enemy will take it
as leave to commit this brutality again!”

“There will be justice,” Faramir spoke in a far calmer voice because he could
see that Aragorn was barely able to contain his own outrage at what had
happened, the wound salted further by their own witness of the destruction.
“However, vengeance will accomplish us nothing.”

“Aragorn,” Legolas returned. “They did this to warn away my involvement. These
people are dead because of Eden Ardhon!.”

“No,” Aragorn broke in sharply. “These people are dead because we are at war,
not because of you or your people. What I asked of you in Gondor when the first
declaration of war was made still holds, you cannot become embroiled in this
affair.”

“Eden Ardhon can protect itself, we have the lay of the forest to hide us.”
Legolas retorted. “They will not dare attack an elven colony without fear of
inciting the anger of the rest of my people.”

Aragorn stared at Legolas in some measure of shock, “did you not understand the
content of their warning? It was to show you that they would attack Eden Ardhon
in the same manner if you interfere. Legolas please,” Aragorn calmed himself.
“Lord Elrond once told Gandalf that the time of elves in this land is done. He
was right Legolas, one day you and your people will sail over the sea and not
look back upon Middle earth. It will be up to men to determine the course of the
future and for us to be able to do that we must fight our own battles. I do not
wish Eden Ardhon harmed because of this conflict but neither do I want the
situation worsened. It pains me to say this but your involvement in our war
could make you a liability we cannot afford to have.”

His words inspired pain. Aragorn could see the hurt surface briefly in the elf’s
eyes before quickly being crushed into oblivion once again. Aragorn felt a stab
of regret in his heart knowing his words had hurt the elf but he could see no
other way of making Legolas understand. However, even as he achieved his desired
goal, the king of Gondor had seen that it had come with a price.

“As you will,” Legolas said quietly, rising to his feet, “King of Gondor.”

With that he walked away, leaving the three alone.

Aragorn was tempted to go after Legolas, to explain himself a little better but
he sensed that the elf wanted to be alone and would remain so if he did not wish
to be found. He met Faramir’s gaze and knew immediately that the Steward was not
in complete agreement with what he had just said to the lord of Eden Ardhon.
However, Faramir had become accustomed to holding his tongue and making his
objections to any policy that Aragorn made in private. It was the conditioning
of being the second of Denethor’s sons. Unfortunately, Gimli was not so capable
of masking his feelings.

“How could you say that to him?” Gimli demanded with unhidden anger.

“It was necessary,” Aragorn replied. “I did it for his own good.”

“How dare you be so presumptuous as to tell an elf what is for his own good?”
Gimli glowered. “He has lived longer than all of us put together and I do
believe that makes him qualified to judge what is and isn’t good for him! He
remains here in Middle earth because he cares about his friends and you just
threw that loyalty back his face!”

“He cannot protect Eden Ardhon the way Elrond protected Imlardis Master Gimli,”
Aragorn barked back feeling his own temper inspired by the guilt of Legolas’
reaction. “While he is at our side, fighting our war, who protects his people? I
rather have his feelings hurt now that have him return from a campaign fighting
the Confederacy to find his city in ruins and his people dead!”

“That is his choice to make,” the dwarf argued. “Not yours. You have known him
the longest, do you think he would sit by idly and allow his friends do battle
while he remains safely hidden. Do not be too certain that this war of yours
will be as easily won as you imagine. You may yet need Legolas’ aid.”

“It is precisely because I do not think this war easily won that I wish Legolas
to maintain his neutrality in all this. The Haradrim have been rallying allies
from all quarters. I believe they are amassing an army equal to the size of what
we faced during the war with Sauron. When the attack comes, I cannot waste
valuable resources attempting to protect Eden Ardhon should Legolas allow it to
become a target.”

“Enough,” Faramir finally spoke up before tempers flared beyond either to
control, “this matter is not to be resolve tonight. We are all tired. I think we
should let alone this issue until our wits are not so frayed.”

Aragorn was no longer listening. His gaze had shifted into the darkness for he
had heard the approach of a rider on horseback. Years of living in the wild
had sharpened his hearing and though Faramir and Gimli had yet to hear the new
arrival, Aragorn was certain they were about to have a visitor. The former
Ranger rose to his feet, ensnaring the attention of his companions.

“Someone is here,” he announced as he drew away from the fire.

The elves with Legolas returned from their patrol, probably sensing the approach
as well. Legolas emerged from the trees where Aragorn had no doubt the elf’s
keen hearing had heard the discussion between Gimli and himself. There was no
trace of the pain he had caused Legolas earlier but Aragorn was certain that it
was not far from the elf’s mind, despite Legolas’ impassive mask.

“Who is it?” Aragorn asked as the shape of the rider appeared through the trees.

“It is Endornórë,” Nunaur announced first.

“Endornórë?” Legolas declared with surprise. “We left him at Eden Ardhon. What
could bring him here?”

Those who were present did not venture a guess but surmised that it must have
been a matter of great importance for the elf to undertake such a journey to
reach his lord. Aragorn however, feared that they had made a fatal
miscalculation and that the Easterlings had attacked Eden Ardhon, despite the
warning it had issued to Legolas. As the elf dismounted his horse and hurried
towards them, Aragorn prayed that his suspicions were wrong because if Endornórë
was here with such news then it was already too late for Eden Ardhon.

“Endornórë!” Legolas called out as the elf reached them. “What are you doing
here?”

“My lord!” Endornórë bowed his head slightly as he greeted Legolas, “I come
bearing grave news from home.”

“What has happened?” The prince demanded fearful that the possibility that
preyed so heavily upon Aragorn’s mind had come to pass. Instinctively, he
thought of Melia and the elves that had become like family to him since the
establishment of his colony in South Ithilien. The very idea that some terrible
harm might have befallen them tightened the heart in his chest and threatened to
force the air from his lungs in sheer panic.

“We found a Ranger attempting to reach Eden Ardhon,” Endornórë explained,
sensing that his lord was fearing the worst. Even though his news would provide
Legolas no comfort, Endornórë wanted to allay his fears that Eden Ardhon was not
in danger.

The mention of a Ranger produced an immediate reaction from Aragorn, whose
concerns were already spiralling out of control. Like everyone present, Aragorn
knew that only a matter of utmost urgency could force any elf to make the long
journey from Eden Ardhon to reach them.

“A Ranger?” Aragorn stepped forward. He could not imagine why a Ranger with
important news would make for Eden Ardhon instead of Gondor and was eager to
hear more.

“Explain yourself!” he barked even though the only one present with leave to
command Endornórë was Legolas. However, the Lord of Eden Ardhon understood
Aragorn’s concerns and took no offence since he knew Aragorn had good reason for
demanding a speedy answer.

“He arrived the day after you had departed Lord Legolas,” Endornórë began
addressing Legolas instead of Aragorn, despite the king’s demand. “We found him
attempting to enter our borders and brought him to the colony. He revealed to us
that his name is Handor.”

“I know Handor,” Aragorn replied, the memory of the man in question surfacing in
his mind. He was one of the more seasoned Rangers in the king’s service. “He was
once of Angmar I believe. Was Melia was able to confirm this?”

“Yes,” Endornórë nodded. “She did say that she knew him.”

“So what is it that brought him to Eden Ardhon?” Faramir asked abruptly, more
interested in knowing the content of the Ranger’s news rather than the
confirmation of his identity.

“The Ranger claims to have seen a convoy of ships moving up the River Sirith,”
Endornórë answered promptly. “He thinks that they are Haradrim and their
destination may be the lands of Lossarnach. Lady Melia thought it was best that
it best that the king be told immediately. She insisted that both Aloin and I
set out from Eden Ardhon at once to find you. We parted company when he took
the road to Emyn Arnen.”

For an instant, no one spoke. Words were difficult to form when such an
impossible situation faced them. However, the momentary pause was brief and soon
their voices were cascading over one another, struggling to be heard.

“That’s impossible,” Faramir exclaimed first, his voice revealing his disbelief.
“The Sirith is not a deep river, ships large enough to carry an army cannot sail
through its waters.”

Aragorn was nowhere that sceptical. His mind was already searching the ways in
which the impossible might very well be the truth. There were many types of
sailing vessels and though Gondor had access to the sea, it was not really a
seafaring nation. The same could not be said for the Haradrim and the
Easterlings who relied greatly on the sea for their trade with each other as
well as the distant Sunlands. It was very possible that they might possess
sailing craft capable of navigating the waters of the Sirith.


“Handor claims that the enemy were sailing on ships he had never seen before.
They appeared to need oarsmen and resembled barges or large rafts.”

“Oarsmen,” Aragorn nodded, having heard of ships that did not rely upon the wind
to move. If this were the case, then the crafts presently making its way up the
Sirith did not need sails or a long keel to direct itself. “Did they stop
frequently?” He asked quickly, hoping that Endornórë had the answers he needed.

“Yes,” the elf nodded quickly. “The Ranger claims they journeyed by night and
rested by day.”

It was as Aragorn feared. The king turned immediately to Faramir, no longer any
doubt in his mind that they were faced with an impending crisis. He had the
utmost faith in his Rangers and if one of them had taken the swifter route from
the Sirith to Eden Ardhon in order to save valuable time in delivering the news
to his king, then Aragorn was not about to dismiss his efforts “We do not have a
great deal of time,” Aragorn said to his Steward. “Faramir, you are to ride
immediately to our armies at Ithilien and have them march to Lossarnach. Melia’s
foresight will ensure that they will be ready to march when you arrive. How long
ago did Handor see these Haradrim?”

“Five days,” Endornórë replied grimly. “They were almost nearing the end of the
Sirith when he left them to reach us.”

“Then they could already be marching towards Lossarnach,” Aragorn determined. “I
will ride to Lossarnach to warn its people of what is coming and prepare the
fortifications for the city. You will bring the army from Ithilien.”

“You should not be going to Ithilien,” Faramir pointed out. “We do not know for
certain how close the enemy is to Lossarnach, if we are late, you may find
yourself trapped behind enemy lines.”

“Lossarnach will not become enemy lines,” Aragorn retorted, his jaw clenching in
anger at the mere possibility. “I will die before I allow that to happen.”

”With all due respect, that is precisely what I do not wish,” Faramir returned
with just as much determination. As Steward, his duty was not merely to Gondor
but also to his king. “Our war effort will be crippled severely if any harm were
to befall you. I must insist that you allow me to go to Lossarnach.”

“Faramir, I do not have time to debate this with you,” Aragorn declared,
starting to get increasingly annoyed at the younger man’s insistence.

“We will go with him,” Legolas interrupted before the discussion became any
more heated than it already was.

Aragorn turned sharply to Legolas, “Legolas, you cannot. If you ride to
Lossarnach at my side, you will be committing your people to war.”

“Aragorn,” Legolas looked at him with equal impatience. “You know as well as I
that most of Lossarnach’s warriors perished during the War of the Ring. They
have at best a scant military presence and the Haradrim legions that will be
falling upon the vale are seasoned veterans. Local militia cannot stand up to
them. You will need to hold Lossarnach until Faramir arrives with Gondor’s
forces and you will need to do so with what few veterans are at your disposal
there. I will not allow you to face such peril alone. As Lord of Eden Ardhon, I
can do little to aid your conflict but as your friend, I can keep you from
getting yourself killed. I do not think I would be committing the elves to war
if I stood at your side on this one occasion.”

Aragorn was not so certain but he knew that there was very little he could do to
change Legolas’ mind when the elf was so determined. Legolas’ stubborn
countenance told Aragorn that he would have better chance moving the Argonath
single-handedly then he would of convincing Legolas to withdraw.

“Please listen to him,” Faramir pleaded, satisfied with that much if he could
not convince Aragorn to turn from this ill advised course. “If you intend on
doing this thing then at least use what advantage you have.”

“Especially when you have no choice in the matter,” Gimli added his voice in and
he was even more intractable on the issue than Legolas. “You need us Aragorn,
admit it.”

He did need them. Aragon could not deny that fact despite his reservations about
Legolas accompanying him to Lossarnach. As things stood, it would be a race
against time to reach Lossarnach before the arrival of the Haradrim and Legolas
was absolutely correct. During the War of the Ring, Lossarnach had lost many of
its soldiers in the defence of Minas Tirith. With the defeat of Sauron, there
had be little need to rebuild a sizeable army when the fiefdom could look to
Gondor for protection. Unfortunately, no one had anticipated the Haradrim
attacking Lossarnach from the direction of the Sirith and this lack of foresight
had left the fief wide open to its enemies.

“I do need you,” Aragorn confessed, “I cannot deny that. If the Haradrim take
Lossarnach, they will have a formidable base from which to wage a prolonged war
against us. I have no choice but to accept your aid to ensure this does not
happen. However, I fear the consequences that will result from this.”

Legolas stared at Nunaur and Endornórë, aware that the consequences that worried
Aragorn so would be suffered by the elves should it come to pass. He saw the
understanding in their eyes and knew that they did not wish to cower in fear of
what could happen when they were needed now.

“We know the choice we make Aragorn and we stand with you,” Legolas replied
finally, “this time at least.”

“As do we with you my lord,” Nunuar added returning Legolas’ gaze. “We will not
abandon the Elfstone in his hour of need.”

Aragorn took a deep breath, grateful for their desire to help and realising at
that moment that what would happen would do so because it was Fate’s decision to
allow it, not his. At the moment, he had more immediate concerns to occupy his
mind and that was to reach Lossarnach before it suffered the same destruction as
Lebethron.

**********

The bleak landscape that skirted the fringes of the White Mountains stared back
at Eomer with complete indifference, even though hidden its thick canopy of
trees and grey mists were tribes of men whose feelings were anything but
impartial. For Eomer, this was just another chapter in the continuing enmity
between the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings. While most of the tribes were now
supplicant to Rohan following the War of the Ring, Eomer knew that he would gain
very little assistance from the Dunlendings in hunting down their rogue brothers
who were thought to have formed an alliance with the Easterling Confederacy.

The dislike between the two nations had continued for centuries, the most recent
show of aggression being the Dunlendings alliance with the traitor of Isengard.
Held by the sway of Saruman the White, the Dunlendings had allied themselves
with the Istar’s Uruk-Hai army to launch an all out assault upon Rohan. At the
battle of Helm’s Deep, the Rohirrim would have been defeated if not for the
unexpected assistance of the Huorns of Fangborn. Fighting alongside of one of
Middle earth’s oldest races, they had destroyed the Dunlending threat once and
for all and retook Isengard from Saruman.

Since the War of the Ring, all had been peaceful. Despite their capitulation,
Eomer had sought not to lord the Rohirrim victory over the Dunlendings, hoping
to engender some kind of friendship between the old rivals. While this was far
from being achieved, Eomer had hoped that they were no longer the blood enemies
of old. Unfortunately, the recent declaration of war with the Easterling
Confederacy had proved that he had been wrong about a great many things.

Eomer had been aware that some Dunlending tribes were distasteful of the notion
of any kind of peace with the Rohirrim and had disappeared into the wilds of the
Misty Mountains rather than to live under the yoke of Rohan. While they
remained in the wilderness causing little mischief to the people of Rohan, Eomer
was content to leave them be. Unfortunately, the advent of war had given these
tribes an new ally. Agents of the Easterling Confederacy had spread throughout
the region and had apparently given the rogue tribes a reason to emerge from
their self imposed exile.

With the possibility that Edoras was under threat, Eomer was not about to wait
for the enemy to strike. Leaving the Golden Hall behind, the King of the
Mark led the Rohirrim towards the Gap of Rohan where a sighting of Dunlendings
was reported in the mountains of Ered Nimrais. The Dunlendings preferred to
remain in their own territories or in the foothills of the Misty Mountain, that
they were within the borders of Rohan convinced Eomer they were about to make a
move against the Rohirrim. If the Dunlendings wanted war then Eomer would be
happy to oblige them but he was not going to give the pleasure of choosing the
field of battle.

For almost a week, Bowen, Eomer’s trusted Marshall of the Mark had been tracking
a group of rogue Dunlendings on the fringes of the White Mountains, waiting
patiently in secret as more tribes arrived from Dunland and joined their outcast
brethren. Bowen suspected and Eomer agreed, that the Dunlendings would make for
Edoras to strike at the heart of Rohan once their ranks were at their full
complement. Their actions seemed sensible despite their dangerous plan of
attack when one considered the Dunlendings larger goal. An assault upon the
Golden Hall would result in the recall of the Rohirrim presently at Ithilien.
The removal of the cavalry would fracture the military alliance between Gondor
and Rohan and weaken the defences at Ithilien.

Night was falling fast and Eomer hoped to reach the rendezvous point he and
Bowen had agreed upon when the marshal had first sent him the message in Edoras
that he had located the Dunlendings camp. The crescent moon had risen high in
the night sky and he knew that many of his men were uneasy about moving through
such unfamiliar landscape in the darkness. The Rohirrim preferred open terrain
instead of the cloistered confinement of the mountain foothills they found
themselves traversing on this occasion. Outcrops of large boulders and rocks,
coupled with looming trees made it difficult to gauge distance or enemies
approaching.

The horses too were becoming increasingly unsettled. Eomer’s own steed,
Rochallor, named after the great steed that had belonging to Fingolfin, had
ridden with him through many battles. As one of the legendary breed of horses
called the mearas, Rochallor was not easily frightened. Yet on this occasion,
Eomer could sense an almost human reluctance in the animal to continue their
journey any further. Glancing at the other riders at his side, Eomer noticed
that the anxiety was not exclusive to his mount. Other horses were becoming
increasingly agitated and Eomer knew that if the horses were anxious, then there
was good reason to fear.

“Sire, something is a foot,” Carleon, Third Marshall of the Mark and holder of
the title that was once Eomer’s, nudged his horse alongside his king and
remarked with eyes scouring the darkness. He studied it with such depth that
Eomer could have been mistaken for believing he was capable of seeing in the
darkness like an elf.

“I know,” Eomer nodded in agreement. “However I do not wish to turn away before
we find Bowen and the others. If something is wrong, they may be in need of our
assistance.”

“It may already be too late,” Carleon pointed out.

Eomer said nothing but continued to lead his men deeper into the foothills.
However, the Rohirrim moved with caution, keeping as close an eye upon their
swords as they did upon the uncertain road ahead. Eomer was starting to fear the
worst about Bowen as the agitation of the animals increased with the shadow of
the mountain looming higher over their heads. As they neared their rendezvous
point, Eomer searched for evidence of Bowen’s army in the distance and saw
nothing that would indicate their presence. There were no voices being carried
upon the wind, no smell of food cooking or glowing fires. Where there should
have been signs of life there was only overwhelming darkness.

Something was wrong.

Eomer could feel it in his bones and it was far worse than any of them
suspected. With each second that passed, producing no sign of their comrades,
Eomer grew more convinced that something terrible had befallen the Marshall of
Riddermark and his men. When the horses began neighing in protest at their
continued advancement towards the appointed meeting place, Eomer had decided
that he could no longer ignore the animals’ keen sense that trouble was near.

“We will go no further,” Eomer told Carleon who nodded in agreement with his
king that the air was so thick with sinister possibility that it could be sliced
through with the blade. “We will withdraw into open country and begin our search
for Bowen at dawn’s light.”

“I will give our men the order,” Carleon replied somewhat relieved. Like his
king, the third marshal had serious doubts about their rendezvous with Bowen
since they ought to have sighted his encampment by now. Bowen’s absence,
particularly after the curious reaction of the horses, was met with grave
concerns for their own well being as those present feared that they may be
riding into the same misfortune that befallen their missing brethren.

When Carleon noticed the worried expression on his king’s face, the marshal made
some effort to allay Eomer’s fears. “Perhaps they were delayed,” he offered,
aware that it was a foolish hope at best.

“Perhaps,” Eomer returned shortly, “however I do not believe so. Such
possibilities are too improbable these days. However I will not assume the worst
just yet. When the sun rises tomorrow, we will seek them out and if they are
alive still, we find them. If they are harmed then not even Ered Nimrais will be
able to hide the Dunlendings from my wrath.”
The order was issued through the ranks of the Rohirrim who did not much like the
notion of retreating when in all likelihood that the Rohirrim under the command
of Bowen had come to hard at the hands of the Dunlendings. However, the
prevailing darkness was almost a pitch black curtain around them and while they
could see the faint outline of the mountains and the crescent moon in the sky,
there was very little of their immediate surroundings they could make out except
to discern that they were at a disadvantage. The riders halted in their advance
to begin the journey back to safer terrain when suddenly, the silence was broken
by the sound of drums beating with slow resonance. The percussive sound was more
eerie then it was deafening but it was not that which Eomer noticed so much.

It was the realisation that the drums were all around them.

Eomer tensed, remembering the stories told by Gimli during the dwarf’s visits to
Edoras on route to his home of Aglarond, in particular the tale of the
Fellowship’s journey through the mines of Moria.

“Goblins!” Eomer shouted before he could even think to consider if what he was
claiming was possible.

Whether or not it was possible, no sooner than he uttered the word, a phalanx of
arrows escaped their bows and sailed through the air. Their flight through the
air was audible above the steady beat of the goblin drums but the sound lingered
for only as long as the arrows took to reach their mark. Very soon a different
sound filled their ears as the enemy emerged from the darkness and attacked.
Arrows met flesh, drawing out screams of pain amidst the war cry made in Black
Speech. He could hear the alarm moving swiftly through the ranks of his men as
he tried desperately to be heard over the chaos.

The goblins were emerging from the darkness amidst the pounding of drums and
Eomer heard the unsheathing of swords and the voice of his men as they defended
themselves. His concerns for his men were forgotten momentarily when across the
rocks, a dark shape moved swiftly towards him. Eomer removed his sword from its
scabbard; trying to still Rochallor’s excitement while at the same time swining
his weapon at the approaching enemy. The blade struck flesh as the goblin
lunged at the king, its cry like the sound of screeching birds when Eomer sunk
his sword deep into the creature.

Blood spurted across Eomer’s armour as the horse pulled away from the grisly
scene and the would be assassin tumbled away into the dirt beneath the steed’s
feet Eomer turned to his men and found that they too were locked in a life and
death struggle with the goblins who had obviously lain in wait for them. As the
king battled more attackers, a fleeting thought crossed his mind at what had
become of Bowen and the Rohirrim with him. Had they fallen prey to the same
ruse?

Eomer staved away another attack when suddenly, an arrow shrouded in darkness
and silenced by the pandemonium around him, slammed into the king’s shoulder,
invading the crack between his breast plate and his shoulder guard to pierce his
skin and toppled him from the saddle. The king landed heavily on the cold
ground, uttering a cry of pain when he landed upon his wounded shoulder, the
arrow driving deeper into his flesh. His sword fell away from his grip and its
loss sent panic through Eomer as he scrambled to retrieve it. However, the enemy
could smell his injury in the same manner that hyenas know one of their own is
wounded. Eomer saw the misshapen silhouette of three goblin men closing in on
him, their bared teeth gleaming in the faint glimmer of the moon.

Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, Eomer forced himself to his knees and flung
his dagger at the nearest enemy. A scream of pain told the king that his blade
had met its mark and he could see the hilt lodge deeply in the goblin’s thigh.
He growled in pain at Eomer as one of his companions swung an axe at the King of
the Mark. Eomer leapt out of the way as the heavy blade sunk into the ground.
His escape however did not save him from the attack of the third goblin that
kicked him hard. Eomer spun as he felt ribs crack as he landed hard on the
ground, the pain searing through him. However, it was never wise to enrage a
Rohirrim and in his anger, the king was capable of proving how deadly he was.

Tearing the arrow from his shoulder and producing a surge of pain that would
have made even the strongest flinch, Eomer cried out as the bloodied projectile
escaped his flesh. The goblin advanced to attack but Eomer’s pain and adrenalin
had made him fast. The king stopped the advanced, spearing the bloodied arrow
through the goblin’s eye, as the sharp point ended the threat of him with
chilling finality.

The other two had recovered from his aggressive defence and were now rushing
towards him. Eomer took a step back and suddenly felt his heel of his foot brush
against hard metal. Realization dawned upon him instantly and the king dropped
immediately, wrapping his fist around the hilt of his fallen sword. Swinging
hard, he tore open the belly of the first, causing a spray of black blood in all
directions. The goblin screeched in a pain and Eomer rose to his full height
with sword in hand as the last member of the ill fated triumvirate made its bid
for a king’s head. Unfortunately, it was a bid that cost him his own as Eomer’s
blade made sliced cleanly though his neck.

The battle was by no means over but the king still lived and while he lived,
there was no defeat.

************



There was no time to spare.

They did not even wait until sunrise to begin the journey to Lossarnach once
Endornórë had brought his grave news to the camp at Lebethron. Lingering long
enough to gather their belongings and discard what was not needed since the
horses needed to travel fast and could not be burdened by too much weight, the
king and his companions set out for Lossarnach in what was literally a race
against time. Faramir rode with them for as long as he could but he needed to
make for Ithilien with just as much haste for there would be no victory for
anyone if Gondor’s armies were unable to reach Lossarnach in time to defend her
against the impending Haradrim attack.

Although Aragorn would have preferred to ride until there was not a breath in
his body, he was forced to concede that pauses in their journey was necessary
for the sake of the horses. Riding hard with the Anduin on one side of them and
the mountains of Ephel Duath on the other, the riders could feel the weight of
urgency pursuing them with unrelenting persistence. Aragorn wished he had
Gandalf’s wisdom for he needed the sensibilities of a wizard in the game his
enemy was playing with him. Although he did not speak of it to his friends of
Fellowship or even Faramir before the Steward continued towards Emyn Arnen, it
was a game that Aragorn was losing. He had measured his enemies by the
contemporaries he had faced in previous battles and it was proving to be a fatal
mistake.

His enemy knew him.

Perhaps not in the way his friends or loved ones knew him but the leader of the
Easterling Confederacy knew with whom he had to match his wits while Aragorn did
not have that advantage. He knew nothing of this elusive man that none of his
Rangers had been able to see and unfortunately, Aragorn could not claim similar
anonymity. His deeds and his fame was spread far and wide, to almost mythic
proportions. Certainly it was so in the Reunified Kingdom and while the enemy
lands may not view his accomplishments as acts of heroism, they knew enough to
discern what sort of warrior he was and what kind of commander he was on the
battlefield. He was a captain that relied heavily upon intelligence to plan his
strategy. In being too cautious and learning all that he could of his enemy by
using his Rangers, Aragorn saw the flaw in his methods. Intelligence could be
falsified and it appeared that was exactly what the enemy had done. He had been
fed disinformation and thus allowed himself to be bent like a reed in the wind
by the clever lies his opponent was able to leave in his way.

Lies had been planted for his benefit and Aragorn had foolishly harvested all of
it.

The truth was, he had been tricked into believing that the Easterlings were
about to attack one way when in fact what they were doing was scattering
themselves across the length and breath of the kingdom, using old enemies whose
enmity for the Reunified was still fresh after the War of the Ring. Hatred
simmering under the humiliation of defeat was easy to provoke, especially when
enlisted with promises of glory that had been stolen when a hobbit with more
courage than anyone could possibly believe, destroyed Sauron far more
effectively than any army in Middle earth.

Aragorn could see how it was managed. Sauron had resided in his dark tower of
Baradur, issuing orders of the lesser beings under his command, demanding that
they help him with promises of spoils beyond the dreams of avarice in return for
victory. The Easterling leader did not have to demand, he merely had to ask and
remind them of their earlier defeats. Wisely, he had used to his advantage there
were some things of greater value to a people, than the spoils of war.

There was pride.

These were the times when Aragorn wished Boromir was here because Boromir had
the ability to say with words what no one could manage, not even Legolas or
Arwen. The man of Gondor had a way of looking at things that often stripped away
pretensions and trivialities, leaving only the truth in all its naked reality.
For eighty years Aragorn had wandered the wilds, taken many names to build the
knowledge and experience that would make him king and none of it had been as
worthwhile to the cause as knowing Denethor’s oldest son. Knowing Boromir had
taught Aragorn what it was to be burdened by responsibility, to wear it like a
chain around the neck in an ever-tightening noose that would only become more
weighted as time went by.

Pride himself as he might that the sway of the ring never ensnared him as it did
Boromir, he could not say that he was a better man than Boromir. Even as
Isildur’s heir, Aragorn never felt the crushing weight of responsibility that
had been bred into Boromir by his father to make Gondor prosperous. It would
have broken lesser men and had it been him, Aragorn could not say he would have
acted any differently than Boromir when faced with the possibility that the One
Ring could save everything he held dear.

If Boromir were here now, Aragorn could imagine what he would say.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it, Gondor needs you to be king
not because you are Isildur’s heir but because you are the only one who can save
her!

He had to stop thinking like a king. He had to start thinking like the man who
had led the Nine Walkers to Mordor, the wanderer who bade the dead to keep their
oaths and the heir who had shown Sauron the sword that had taken his ring.
Aragorn had underestimated his enemy just as Sauron had underestimated a hobbit.
He had been slow to move, a king playing with his toy soldiers across the floor,
with no understanding of the battle other than the one he played in his head. No
more.

The Easterling Confederacy had their chance at peace and wasted it as they had
laid waste to Lebethron.

Even if a king had to die to prevent it, no enemy army was going to claim
Lossarnach as their prize.

*************


Aragorn’s first duty upon arriving in Lossarnach was to sent scouts away from
the vale to find the exact whereabouts of the Haradrim force that could not be
more than a few days away from Lossarnach by this point in time. Owing to the
secrecy of the invasion force reported by Haldor, Aragorn surmised that the army
was moving by night and taking shelter during the day. Fortunately, travel
across the river ensured that the Haradrim were unable to bring their fearsome
mumakils. Unfortunately, Aragorn could not discount the possibility that the
threat existed. The beasts had destroyed Lebethron. While it did not seem
possible that the Easterling army could have journeyed across land swiftly
enough to join their Haradrim allies, Aragorn was not about to take such a
gamble when the stakes were so high.

Messengers were also sent to Minas Tirith, ordering the remaining troops in the
city to make immediately for Lossarnach. Though the complement remaining in the
White City was not nearly enough to defeat the invasion force that Handor had
described, the reinforcements to Lossarnach meagre defences would aid in keeping
the Haradrim at bay until Faramir arrived with the rest of Gondor’s army. After
the death of Forlong the Fat, a lesser relative had been given stewardship of
the city. The young man, named Fernreg, had been more than equal to the task but
his interest had been in rebuilding the city rather than replenishing the ranks
of militia that had been lost during the defence of Minas Tirith and the Battle
of Pelennor Fields.

Lossarnach had always been a place for vacationing nobles. Situated in a valley
surrounded by the White Mountains, Lossarnach was known for its breathtaking
landscapes. Its countryside was filled with the castles and summer residences of
Gondor’s high born and it was even claimed that Denethor and his young bride
Finduilas had spent their honeymoon in Lossarnach. However, aside from its
aesthetic beauty, the protection of the White Mountains around Lossarnach
ensured that it was protected from turbulent weather, an advantage that brought
great harvests of wheat and corn to the region. Lossarnach was responsible for
the production of much of the grain that was exported to Minas Tirith.

Aragorn sensed that it was for this reason that the Haradrim wanted to take the
city. If they succeeded in conquering Lossarnach, the enemy would not only have
a suitable platform to launch an assault upon the White City and the rest of
Gondor but also enough food to feed its army for an indefinite occupation. With
this in mind, there was a desperate measure he could resort to if they were
unable to hold Lossarnach and Aragorn prayed it would not come to that. In fact,
he meant to see that they did everything possible to keep from being driven to
that course of action.

Once the scouts and messengers were sent on their way, Aragorn ordered the
immediate evacuation of women and children out of the city. A handful of armed
soldiers ensured that their exodus to Minas Tirith where they would remain until
the danger had passed. After seeing what the Haradrim had done to the women and
children of Lebethron, the king of Gondor was taking no chances with his
people’s lives. Despite the lack of a fully trained army, Lossarnach did possess
some local militia and though these men spent most of their time as farmers,
when the call to arms came, they did not hesitate to step forward in the defence
of king and country.

Fortifying the city became the work of Lossarnach as every conceivable way of
protecting itself was found and exploited. Walls were quickly built, traps were
laid, and moats and trenches were dug. Every man who could carry a weapon and
who knew some battle was enlisted into the cause, not even Fenreg would be
spared being blooded in the coming conflict. No more than three days had passed
before the first of the scouts returned and brought the inevitable news.

The Haradrim army was less than two days away.

Gondor’s army at Ithilien would not be able to reach Lossarnach in that time and
Aragorn was faced with the grim prospect that Lossarnach would some how have to
prevail until Faramir arrived. It appeared that a siege was inevitable.

Worse news soon arrived from Rohan as such things often did when times were
particularly trying. King Eomer was facing difficulties of his own and would not
be able to assist them any further than what he had already provided in the way
of Rohirrim cavalry that were coming from Ithilien with Faramir. It appeared the
King of Rohan was missing after travelling to rendezvous with Bowen, the
Marshall of Riddermark. Edoras had not heard anything of him since he left and
there were fears that he might have come to harm.

As much as Aragorn wanted to help find his friend, he could not leave Lossarnach
and prayed that Eomer was capable of extricating himself from his difficulties
on his own.

*************

As Aragorn continued the labour of preparing Lossarnach for the coming conflict
with the aid of his friends, the final member of his company who was riding hard
towards Emyn Arnen with his own task to fulfil. Faramir was painfully aware of
vital it was for him to bring Gondor’s army to Lossarnach with as much haste as
humanly possible. Being a son of Denethor, Faramir was possibly in a better
position to appreciate the danger that a Haradrim invasion could present to
Gondor. Lossnarch’s position near the heart of Gondor, Minas Tirith, had the
potential to be a large a morale disaster as well as military one if the
Haradrim were allowed to take it.

Like Aragorn, he had only paused in his journey to give his horse rest because
he could not afford to waste any time in reaching Emyn Arnen. There would not
even be enough time for him to see Eowyn but Faramir knew she would understand.
Faramir wondered as he rode home whether or not they had come to rely too much
on the Rangers. He had always admired Aragorn because the king was not merely a
warrior but a thinker who valued intelligence above his instincts. It was easy
how that asset could be circumvented into a weakness because they had no idea
what the enemy intended to do. The Haradrim was making its approach from the
west, not the east as previously thought and the Easterling who had brought
about Lebethron’s ruin was nowhere to be found. He knew that during the journey
to Lossarnach, this had concerned Aragorn greatly.

There were reports of so many enemies joining the Easterling Confederacy and
Faramir suspected they were facing a war that may not end in a matter of weeks
but months. The Corsairs were undoubtedly responsible for the Haradrim
incursion up the Sirith and there were so many other disaffected voices beyond
the borders of the Reunified Kingdom and the lands of its allies who gladly see
Gondor fall. Faramir was almost two days away from Emyn Arnen when he saw in the
distance a sight that filled with his heart with gratitude that they had left
Prince Imrahil at Ithilien when Aragorn and he had chosen to inspect the
destruction of Lebethron.

The Lord of Dol Amroth was leading the march with the Rohirrim cavalry provided
by Eomer and the bulk of Gondor’s forces stationed at Ithilien, no doubt having
received the same message that had sent Aragorn and the rest of the company
riding to Lossarnach. Imrahil was not one to wait until orders arrived, he knew
his king well enough to act on his behalf and that knowledge told him that time
was of the essence. Once Aragorn received the message delivered to him by the
elves of Eden Ardhon, the king would be making his way to claim his army.
Imrahil knew that he would be saving valuable time if he could meet Aragorn part
of the way.

“Where is the king?” Imrahil asked once Faramir had returned to their ranks.

“On his way to Lossarnach,” Faramir explained, “he has gone to fortify the city
before our arrival.”

“Was that wise?” The lord of Dol Amroth stared at Faramir, unable to hide his
anxiousness at this.

“Wise has little to do with the king’s actions,” Faramir retorted scowling,
“someone has to warn Lossarnach and you know him, he will not ask of anyone what
he is unwilling to do himself.”

Imrahil frowned unhappily, “there are times when I wished he was not so damned
mindful of his people and take precautions against his own life.”

“I think that accounts for why the people love him so,” Faramir replied and
though he did not mention that those people included himself and Imrahil, it was
without question the truth for both of them.

“I do not know how much he will be able to do at Lossarnach, that boy Fenreg has
little in the way of military experience and has spent scant time protecting the
city,” Imrahil returned.

“There was no need,” Faramir shrugged, seeing no fault in Fenreg who was a
likeable enough ruler. “He assumed as did most of the smaller fiefdoms that
Gondor would be able to protect them. No one suspected that the enemy would come
from the Sirith.”

“I suppose,” Imrahil looked away and Faramir knew his distant relative enough to
see that there was something more than their current situation preying upon his
thoughts.

“Imrahil,” Faramir urged. “What is it?”

“I have heard troubling news from Rohan,” Imrahil confessed after a brief pause.
The older man looked annoyed that his fears showed. “It appears that Eomer has
gone missing in battle.”

“Missing?” The Prince of Ithilien exclaimed, fearful for his brother in law’s
life and how his wife would take the news if he were lost. “Does Eowyn know?”

“No,” Imrahil shook his head. “The intelligence came to me first and I saw no
reason to trouble her until we were certain that missing meant dead. Also if I
were to let it known that their king was in difficulty, the Rohirrim cavalry
might choose to ride home and we cannot afford their loss at this time.”

Faramir did not know if that was the most ethical thing to do but he kept
counsel to himself because he could not deny that they needed the cavalry’s
speed in reaching Lossarnach. Faramir was planning to lead the cavalry ahead to
Lossarnach, leaving the foot soldiers to Imrahil who would follow behind them.
Aragorn needed all the support that was available to hold Lossarnach before the
arrival of those troops. Even if the Rohirrim were to return to Rohan now, they
would never reach their king in enough time to be of any use to him and Faramir
had faith in Eomer’s ability to survive.

“I should have brought Lothiriel home,” Imrahil said worriedly. “I was so
pleased that she had actually taken a liking to Eomer that I did not consider
the risk to her life.”

“Imrahil,” Faramir placed a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder, “Lothiriel is far
more capable than you know as she has proved during that business with the shape
shifters and I doubt the Dunlendings tribes even with Easterling aid is capable
of taking the Golden Hall”

“I hope you are right,” Imrahil replied, “I do not want to lose my child when
her life is just beginning.”

As much as Faramir tried to sympathize with Imrahil, he was more concerned over
Eomer’s fate and how Eowyn would endure it if she learnt that her brother was
dead.

*************

Legolas stared across the plain.

Behind him was Lossarnach. The sun was setting and while it would seem prudent
that the enemy wait for morning to attack, there was going to be no such delay.
They had been waiting for this inevitable approach for the last hour, ensuring
that all was in readiness. Next to him Aragorn stood with Anduril unsheathed
like a banner to be carried into battle. Gimli stood on the other side, axe
brandished. The initial line of defence would fall to the archers and Legolas
felt the weight of many arrows upon his back. His gaze shifted briefly to Nunaur
who also poised to attack, as was Endornórë and the other elves that had
journeyed with him to Eden Ardhon.

If he fell tonight, he hoped Melia would understand that he could not sit by and
watch Aragorn face this conflict alone. Whether or not this action brought the
elven nation to war, he could not say for certain. He had brought no army to
Lossarnach so it could not be seen as ending his neutrality if only a handful of
elves stood with Aragorn during this battle. In either case, he was not leaving
until this battle reached its end, no matter how terrible those consequences
must be. It was good that his wife was a warrior in herself for she understood
the realities of war and the battles that must be fought for the good of all.
If he fell today, she would mourn his loss not berate his sacrifice.

There was only silence but the elves could hear the approach, Aragorn was
certain of it. The scouts had returned a short time ago; bringing the news that
Haradrim army had paused long enough to establish their encampment but appeared
hungry for battle. He had estimated correctly that the enemy would not wait
until sunrise and had issued the call to arms. The militia were perched on
Lossarnach’s high walls. The reinforcements that had come to the king’s aid from
Gondor took the field with him before the city. All across Lossarnach, people
awaited with abated breath for the attack to come.

Aragorn saw Legolas tensing his grip around his bow, the one given to him by
Galadriel during the quest of the Ring. Further along, Nunaur’s eyes narrowed
and the posture of the other elves seemed to straighten instinctively, their
gazes’ fixed front without wavering. Their disposition was noted by the men
standing with them and taken as a prelude to the enemy’s appearance. Aragorn
stared ahead at the plain and saw nothing but dark horizon flanked by the jagged
teeth of the White Mountains.

“This game you two play,” Aragorn found himself asking, breaking the silence,
“is it only orcs or all races that make up the count?”

“We are not indiscriminate,” Legolas remarked still facing front but his lips
curled into a little smile as he spoke.

“If I am to play, I must insist that we keep the count confined to this battle,”
Aragorn retorted. “Otherwise I will not be able to match you or Gimli’s tally.”

“Match mine I think,” Gimli snorted with just as much amusement. “I believe at
last count, I was winning.”

“I beg to differ,” Legolas returned.

“Gentlemen,” Aragorn said as the Haradrim appeared over the horizon for the
first time. “The game has begun.”

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.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Field of Battle, The overview

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