Field of Battle, The: 5. Chapter Four: The Siege of Lossarnach

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5. Chapter Four: The Siege of Lossarnach


Across the walls of Lossarnach, torches breathed in flame burned liked beacons
through the night. The crescent moon long since become a full orb, stared down
across the plain with its starry glow. With the twilight sky filled with stars,
it could have been considered a beautiful night if not for the rumble of armies
preparing to converge in the inevitable slaughter of battle. The militia stared
and watched, their hearts pounding with fear for these were men, until a matter
of days ago, were concerned largely with ordinary things like harvests, crops
and family. The notion of war and battles were as distant as the stars
themselves.

And yet now they stood on the walls of the city, each with they own tasks, each
terrified beyond their ability to express it despite their willingness to
participate in the defence of Lossarnach. A man could not be a man if he walked
away when his king asked his help, especially when that king was Aragorn
Elessar. The men who stood ready to fight this night were so committed to the
cause as if Aragorn had spoken to each of them personally and begged their aid
in holding Lossarnach from their enemies. The spirit of a warrior had been drawn
reluctantly from deep inside of them and now the hour in which they would either
live a long life or die tonight was finally at hand.

The Haradrim covered the plain like a swarm of insects. Their advance across the
plain was slow at first, as if the delay would allow them to gauge the strength
of the defenders until it was time to charge. The plain before them was almost
completely covered and it chilled the blood when one could not discern if it was
so because of the darkness or because the enemy’s numbers were so great where
one ended and the other began. From the walls surrounding Lossarnach, the army
of the defenders seemed almost paltry in comparison to the invaders moving
across the field like a great tide.

Archers stood poised and ready, both on the walls of the city as well as the
battle field below. When the time came for the latter to retreat, it was the
former that would cover their withdrawal safely, if such a thing were possible
in circumstances such as this. That Lossarnach was mostly enclosed by the White
Mountains was its greatest defence. There was but only one direction, which the
Haradrim could invade, which was another reason why their march to Lossarnach
was made with utmost secrecy. Despite the loss of this advantage at the
knowledge of their impending arrival, their numbers were great enough to
overcome it.

Beneath the faint glimmer of moonlight, Aragorn could see the tall red banners
of the Haradrim flying in the slight breeze. The black serpent appeared briefly
under this light and it was a sight that returned Aragorn immediately to the
battlefields of Pelennor, where he had last beheld the sight. The Haradrim were
fierce warriors and like the Orcs, gave no quarter to their enemies in battle.
They swept forward like a scourge, warriors dressed in bronzed plates of armour,
their black hair plaited in gold and their faces smeared with paint, almost like
blood. Their helmets were spiked, much like the spears and the pikes they
carried. The sharp points of these weapons were like a bed of nails moving
across the land, flying high with banners of the black of serpent.

The defenders of Lossarnach showed no fear but none were foolish enough to deny
feeling it. Fear was a healthy thing, it would provide them with enough edge to
stay alive and at all costs, they had to live for as long as they could, until
Faramir arrived with Gondor’s army. Aragorn saw the distance between the two
enemies narrowing and knew that any moment now, the order to charge would be
given and this interlude where the two forces were given leave to scrutinize
each other would end.

“Archers!” Aragorn cried out, his gaze never leaving the nearing enemy. “Make
ready!”
The Haradrim were so close that Aragorn could now see their faces and the dark
eyes filled with so much black hatred and cruelty fixing upon the defenders with
hungry demand. Aragorn held Anduril before him, the sword that cut the ring from
Sauron’s hand acting as his own banner and one that held more meaning to his men
than any banner could ever manage.

The Haradrim were also preparing for the onslaught of arrows as their front line
warriors angled their spears into a deadly phalanx of steel to protect
themselves. The only way through them, Aragorn realised, as the wall of pikes
and spears approached, was to attack when they were very close. Unfortunately,
Aragorn could not count all the archers of having the skill of Legolas and the
elves, but this course left them very little room to manoeuvre if not enough of
the front line was killed.

“Aragorn!” Legolas barked as the distance became savagely close. “It must be
now!”

Aragorn knew that but he had hoped to give the archers a little more advantage.
Unfortunately, Legolas was right. They had allowed the Haradrim as much distance
as they dared. Any closer and it may not be possibly to escape when the time
came for the inevitable retreat. Aragorn did not answer the lord of Eden Ardhon
but instead continued to stare ahead at the juggernaut rumbling towards them. It
was a sight that would make men or break them and he felt a swell of pride
knowing that those fighting with him were holding their ground despite their
fear.

“NOW!” He gave the order at last.

A wall of arrows almost as deadly as the approaching phalanx flew through the
air with the release of bowstrings from every archer in the line. The phalanx
began to waver as the arrows cut down a good number of Haradrim who were leading
the charge, their spears quivering in their grip and some tumbling into the dirt
along with their dead masters. The bodies that felt to the ground provided
suitable obstruction for the warriors following closely behind. Some trampled
over their dead and others were brought down by the obstacles as another barrage
of arrows was released and rained death upon them.

The phalanx crumbled effectively enough for the defenders to attack without fear
of being unable to escape the wall of sharp steel. The archers were firing at
will now that the space between the two armies had narrowed so much that very
soon they would be meeting each other. However, as even that narrow margin
disappeared, the archers were giving up their bows for swords and daggers.
Legolas had produced his twin blades, while Gimli’s axe awaited the first taste
of blood. Aragorn held Anduril’s point to the sky in an almost reverential
gesture to the enemy before the fighting truly began.

The two armies slammed into each other like the smashing of waves against the
rocks. The earth beneath them seemed to shudder as each roared with their own
war cry and the sound of voices was drowned in the harsher noise of steel
meeting steel. From the walls of Lossarnach, the militia watched in rising
anxiety, as their comrades appeared overwhelmed by the Haradrim horde that was
swirling around them.

Aragorn lost sight of Legolas and Gimli almost immediately after the two armies
had converged on the field. There was little time to seek them out because he
was soon fighting to stay alive. He had not dispensed with the garments he had
worn when he rode to meet Legolas at Lebethron and was rightly mistaken for
being just another warrior, not the king of Gondor. The only thing that could
give away his identity was Anduril but Aragorn knew that in the heat of battle,
no one would be paying close attention to his sword, only how he wielded it.

How he wielded it was to fight as if he were a Ranger of the wilds, not a king.
He swung his blade at Haradrim warrior swinging a curved sword at him,
scimitars, he believed they were called and sent the enemy staggering backward.
The Haradrim fought with brute force, this much Aragorn had remembered about his
enemy from his experiences at Pelennor, there was very little finesse to their
combat.

His present opponent recovered quickly and used the curve of the blade to swing
a powerful blow at Aragorn. Anduril took the brunt of the strike easily and
parried skilfully before executing a sharp riposte. As the Haradrim stumbled
backwards, Aragorn saw another approaching behind him to aid his comrade.
Aragorn turned his body long enough to spear the man in the dead centre, halting
his progress in one deadly strike. The warrior fell as Aragorn extracted his
weapon and swung to meet his other opponent’s attack. As their blades met once
more, Aragorn forced the enemy backward in a powerful shove and took advantages
of his loss of balance to strike. Aragorn slashed Anduril across his chest and
then across tore out his throat in quick succession. The Haradrim sank to his
knees but Aragorn did not need to see to know he was done for.

From the corner of his vision, he could see another rushing at him. The king
turned around in time to avoid being speared by a vicious looking spike. The
Haradrim that would have impaled him was determined to have him however and
Aragorn knew it would take more than swordplay to stop him. While trying to
evade the sharp stabs the warrior was attempting to pin him with, Aragorn
reached for the dagger at secreted in his booth and swung it as the Haradrim
came at him again. The weapon buried itself deep in the enemy’s skull and
Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief as the pike fell away from his grip. What
respite he gained from this victory was temporary because he had only to look up
to see more waiting to take his opponent’s place.

Searching for Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn could see nothing of his friends though
he caught sight Eden Ardhon’s captain, Nunaur who was moving with the grace only
the Eldar were capable. The elf was apparently a good deal better with a sword
than he was with an arrow and it was evident in the bodies at his feet as he
battled the Haradrim with something almost akin to relish. As Aragorn found
himself facing another combatant, the king supposed that the elves were not that
different from men in that even they were affected by the heat of battle.

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

The enemy apparently considered elves a great threat for Legolas found himself
surrounded as the two armies met and the more personal business of combat
superseded the indifference of arrows and pikes. A trio of Haradrim converged
upon the elf armed with spears, scimitars and daggers glared at the elf in open
hatred, preparing to rush him at once. Legolas allowed them to make the first
move, unwilling to engage in haste. He had faced far more terrifying beasts of
evil in his time so it took a great deal to unnerve him and he had also learned
the virtue of patience and allowing the enemy to strike first

He did not have long to wait.

The first, carrying a spike rushed at Legolas and as he stepped out of its cruel
path, the second swung his scimitar at the prince. Legolas used both of his
short swords to deflect the blow and kicked out with one foot, forcing the
Haradrim swordsman back. The third lashed at him with his dagger, his blade
tearing elven skin across Legolas bicep. The intent was to injure but succeeded
only in provoking the elf’s anger who swung out one of his swords in a sharp
swing that sliced open the man’s throat. Legolas used the momentum of the swing
to spin around as the Haradrim swordsman, recovered from the initial attack
attempted another strike.

Legolas halted the path of the curved blade with one of his swords, made of
elven craft and forged steel far denser than anything men could produce. The
heavy scimitar, requiring two hands to wield it, was stayed in mid air as
Legolas, who only needed one hand to hold each of his swords, used the other to
spear the Haradrim soldier through the chest. Blood spurted out of his mouth,
forced there by his ruined heart. Legolas pulled back, confident that he
provided no danger and having the last of the trio to deal with. As the thought
formed into an action, the prince saw the Haradrim running at him, his spear
jutting ahead. Legolas put away both his sword because it was not swordplay that
was needed now.

“I will wear your pretty hair on my scalp, elf,” the Haradrim troop hissed. He
spoke in his native tongue but Legolas had lived long enough to understand some
of it.

He jab the spear at Legolas in a sharp thrust, which the elf was able to side
step easily before clenching his fist around the wood as his opponent pulled
back the weapon for another attempt. Legolas tore the spear out of the
Haradrim’s grip with both hands and kicked out his foot, first against the back
of his knee to bring him down and then against the chest to land him flat on his
back. No sooner than the enemy had landed, Legolas swung the spear in his hands
with a neat arc and impaled the soldier through the chest with his own weapon.
The body beneath him jerked spasmodically as a spray of blood splattered across
Legolas’ tunic.

“Pretty indeed,” Legolas muttered under his breath as he retrieved his swords
and prepared to face more enemies.

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

While he had fought them before, Gimli wondered why these Haradrim could not
channel their aggressive strength with some precision. Though they were fierce
warriors, they relied too heavily upon brute force and knew nothing about
skilful battle. It was far different for warriors of Gondor, as he had learnt
from Boromir and later Faramir. In Gondor, skill was as important as strength.
Boromir who had been a formidable man physically had used his size to enhance
his skill on the battlefield and had been a most fearsome opponent on the field.
Even when he had fallen at Parth Galen, he had done so ensuring that numerous
Uruk Hai had died first.

The skill of the Gondorian warriors showed as the pitched battle around Gimli
continued with more and more bodies littering the ground. Fortunately, he was
relieved to say that most of these fallen appeared to be Haradrim although this
might simply be because there were more of the enemy then there were of the
defenders. Gimli himself had been responsible for more than a few of the corpses
being trampled underfoot by those who continued to fight. The blade of the
dwarf’s axe was stained with blood as once again, size proved to be little
hindrance to his ability to hold his own in any battle.

A Haradrim warrior came at him, once again Gimli saw the same look of derision
as if a dwarf was a lesser opponent. Gimli shirked off the insult because he
knew that it would be to his advantage and was proven correct when the enemy
came at him recklessly, swinging his blade over his head towards the dwarf,
leaving himself wide open for attack. Gimli rushed forward, swinging his axe
with just as much power only his hastened pace allowed him to escape the reach
of the sword bearing down on him. Before the blade could be lowered any further,
Gimli had planted his axe firmly in the stomach of the enemy. The sword fell
harmlessly to the ground as the Haradrim warrior doubled over in agony, blood
gushing from the fatal found.

Gimli pulled his weapon out of his opponent and saw another eager to finish what
his soon to be dead comrade had been unable to accomplish. Unfortunately, this
enemy was not as presumptuous as the other and when he attacked, he did so with
care because he had seen how swiftly Gimli had dealt with his predecessor. The
long pike he carried came rushing at Gimli who had to drop to his fours to avoid
being speared. The dwarf scrambled across the dirt for a short distance and
quickly leapt to his feet as the Haradrim warrior spun around to resume his
attack. Gimli stood his ground with his axe bared, waiting for the right moment
to strike. The enemy, angered by his audacity to hold his position, hastened his
pace and as Gimli saw the sharp spike coming towards him, prayed that his gamble
would succeed.

Within inches of the sharp point, Gimli moved out of the way enough to ensure
the Haradrim enemy could not turn around with coming to an abrupt halt that
would throw him off balance. As the length of wood moved past him, Gimli brought
down his axe upon the weapon and snapped it cleanly in half. Haradrim weapons
were no match for a dwarf axe and the spike gave way easily. As its master tried
to regain control of the situation, Gimli swept his axe in a mighty blow that
drove the air from the enemy’s lungs as well as the life from his body. Letting
out a breath as the Hardrim died at his feet, Gimli looked across the
battlefield and saw the endless sea of Haradrim and knew that it would not be
long before Aragorn would have to call the retreat to the city walls.

As it was, he could not see any of his comrades amidst the fighting but knew
that all were too hardy to do anything as inconvenient as getting themselves
killed after surviving enemies such as Saruman, the dark elf Eol and especially
Sauron. Suddenly his senses came alive with alarm and Gimli turned around to
see a towering shadow above him. Appearing to Gimli almost as tall as a troll,
the warrior of the Sunlands looked down upon the dwarf with his dark eyes and
his even darker skin. There was a split second of time when Gimli felt for the
first time in his life, terribly small. However, a split second was all the time
he had before the great hand of the enemy swatted him aside like a fly.

Not since he was running for his life at the hands of the cave troll had he been
flung away like a child. He landed hard on the ground, shoulder first. The side
of his body ached in pain but he was allowed no time to dwell on the pain when
he saw that towering shape before him again. He saw against the sky, the enemy’s
sword preparing to strike and rolled out of the way as it came down with a
swoosh of air in the place where he had just been. The blade embedded itself in
the dirt as Gimli struggled to his feet and struck out wildly, his axe slicing
into the dark warrior’s thigh. The enemy cried out in pain and then brought down
his fist against the dwarf’s back, forcing Gimli into the dirt once more.

Gimli felt the pain flare throughout his spine and made his legs difficult to
move, however, knowing his life depended on it, he rolled over once more and saw
the enemy preparing to bring down his sword again. This time, there was no time
to move and all Gimli could do was block the blade against his axe and hoped
that his underestimation of Haradrim’s weaponry was not mistaken. The axe did
not yield under the steel of the sword but the power behind it almost made Gimli
come undone. The warrior grinned at him, pulling back a revelation of white
teeth, a contrast of colour against the dark lips.

“You fight well little one,” the Haradrim spoke Westron in a soft hiss of a
voice. “But this contest is done. I had hoped to meet my equal but one of his
companions will do as well.”

“Little one!” Gimli brought up his foot and kicked hard in the one place that no
man could call himself truly protected, thought it was an unspoken thing among
men that it was not a place to assault in civilised combat. Unfortunately, Gimli
had a greater affection for his skin then anyone rules of chivalry.

The warrior of the Sunlands groaned painfully as he doubled over in pain and
Gimli pushed him off forcefully. Fired by anger and the sensation of his
mortality, Gimli prepared to cleave the enemy’s skull apart. However, the dark
warrior seemed to recover quickly, more so then Gimli would have given him
credit and raised his sword to block the strike, albeit rather weakly.
Unfortunately, it did not appear as if he would have the chance to deliver
another for suddenly he heard the cry of another warrior rushing blindly into
the path of his weapon and taking the blow meant for the enemy on the ground.
In surprise, Gimli saw the man’s chest as the blade met skin and turned blood
and bone into pulp under the crushing power of a dwarf axe.

For a moment, Gimli was stunned at the sacrifice the other had made and when he
looked again for the dark warrior that had almost taken his life, the dwarf saw
that he had disappeared.

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

Aragorn looked around him and saw more and more Haradrim troops crossing over
the lines, spilling towards the walls of Lossarnach. The battle was going to
invade the city, there was no doubt of that but Aragorn could control how many
were left by the time they had to quit the walls. Reaching for the horn at his
belt, he knew the remaining forces that still lived had t retreat into the city.
He did not know how many of their number had been lost because the ground was
covered with bodies and death granted men a certain anonymity, however, he knew
that they could not linger here to be overrun by the Haradrim who had brought
with them a sizeable force.

Lifting the horn to his lips, he blew loudly into it. The sound moving across
the air like a banshee’s wail as a signal to those who had been waiting with
anticipation as they battled for their lives, to quit the combat currently
engaged and make for the Lossarnach’s walls. The signal was not just to those
on the battlefield with him but also to those who were presently manning the
walls, who had their own tasks to fulfil once the call for retreat came.
Aragorn sounded the signal again, to ensure everyone heard it before he turned
on his heels and began running towards the wall where some Haradrim were already
going. The retreating defenders, ensuring that they would be the only ones
scaling the walls of Lossarnach, were cutting them down.

As he was running towards the wall, Aragorn saw Fenreg’s body in the ground and
felt a surge of grief for the young man who had worked so hard to defend his
city the past few days. There was not even enough time to retrieve the body
since there was only a narrow margin of time to reach the wall before the
archers waiting there did their work. If anyone of them survived the night then
there would be plenty of time for burials, however, the business at hand was to
ensure that they saw sunrise when it finally arrived. Aragorn searched the faces
sweeping past him and saw Nunaur making his way across the field with Legolas.
Both elves were clearly marked by battle but did not appear seriously injured.

Aragorn saw the ladders leading to the top of the wall and the Haradrim that
were being assaulted with arrows and spears by those who guarding it. Even if
the signal for the archer’s next wave had yet to be given, a number of them had
taken the initiative to ensure that none of the Haradrim who penetrated the
defenders lines could reach the ladders. Those who were not struck down were
retracing their steps, trying to reach their brethren to take comfort in the
strength of numbers. One of them swept towards Aragorn, swinging their scimitar
as they ran forward.

Aragorn met the blade with his own and made swift work of the enemy when he tore
the sword from his opponent’s hand and ran him through with Anduril. He did not
even pause in his advance to the wall and saw Gimli not far away. The dwarf was
clutching his arm and Aragorn averted his course to join his friend.

“You are hurt,” Aragorn declared upon reaching Gimli who had reached the base of
the wall.

“I will live,” the dwarf grunted. “It is good to see that you are in one piece.”

“There are those wished I was not, that is for sure.” Aragorn said quickly as he
looked over his shoulder and saw the Haradrim in close pursuit. The defenders
would not be able to make good their escape unless the Haradrim were delayed and
with that realisation, Aragorn took to the horn once again and delivered the
second signal that was meant entirely for the archers perched on the wall. No
sooner than the baying noise filled everyone’s ears, did the sky become filled
with arrows flying towards the Haradrim forces rushing against the wall like an
ocean swell.

“You first my friend,” Aragorn ushered Gimli up the ladder as he looked behind
him and saw the arrows raining death upon the Haradrim in pursuit.

“You are king,” Gimli grumbled, never one to make any discussion simple. “It
should be you.”

“I do not have time to argue with you Master Dwarf,” Aragorn retorted and pushed
Gimli up the rung. “Get moving!”

Gimli muttered something in his native tongue, which Aragorn was certain he
should not repeat in polite company. However, the proud dwarf had nevertheless
succumbed to his insistence and had begun scaling the ladder. His progress soon
indicated to the former Ranger that Aragorn had been right to insist that Gimli
went first. He was struggling hard to maintain a grip and Aragorn suspected that
the injury to his shoulder was worse than Gimli would admit too. Unfortunately,
Aragorn’s healer’s instincts would have to wait for the moment. He sheathed
Anduril and began his own journey up the ladder, glancing anxiously over his
shoulder to gauge the progress of the Haradrim advance.

Finally Aragorn reached the top and found that there were others soldiers behind
him and was grateful that the barrage of arrows was giving them precious time
reach the top. Unfortunately, the Haradrim were quickly proving that
Lossarnach’s defenders were not the only ones who knew how to make good use of
their archers. As Aragorn saw a battle line form in the distance, he was
suddenly shouting on top of his lungs for anyone on the ground to hasten their
pace because time was swiftly running out.

“Archers!” Aragorn shouted, trying to capture their attention through the
pandemonium. “Direct yourselves at the enemy line. They are preparing to shoot
down our warriors.”

By now Legolas and Nunuar were already on the wall and the elves’ first duty had
been to acquire more arrows in order to join the throng of bowmen firing with
all the skill they could muster at the enemy below. Aragorn was uncertain as to
what had become of the other elves that had chosen to join Legolas in the
business of protecting Lossarnach but hoped they had not come to harm for this
was never their fight to begin with. It was their loyalty to Legolas and
Legolas’ loyalty to him that had placed the elves in this dangerous position.

“Let see your arm?” Aragorn asked Gimli once they were on top of the wall.

Gimli was trying hard to hide the pain of his injury but Aragorn could see by
the way his arm was hanging limply at his side and the grip that was barely
managing to keep a hold of his axe that it was overwhelming him.
“You do not have time to nursemaid me Aragorn,” Gimli replied, loathing his
weakness.

“No I do not,” Aragorn said abruptly and relieved him of his axe, “but I do not
need to lose another warrior when we have so few to spare, so let me look at
your arm and that consider that a command instead of a request.”

“You do not have leave to command me Aragorn,” Gimli retorted but his will to
argue was half hearted.

“Fine, consider it a threat then,” Aragorn declared and grabbed Gimli’s shoulder
before snapping it into place and extracting a loud curse from the dwarf.
Gimli’s teeth were gnashing by the time Aragorn was finished with him but the
initial pain and the unpleasant sensation of bone against bone soon subsided
into a dull throb that was somewhat manageable.

“Better?” Aragorn stared at him as Gimli moved his shoulder and was surprised by
how much less it hurt.

“Considerably,” Gimli said still becoming accustomed to the fact that he was no
longer in excruciating pain. “What did you do?”

“Dislocated shoulder,” Aragorn remarked. “I merely slipped it back into place.”

“Thank you,” Gimli nodded, retrieving his sword before he stared sharply at
Aragorn. “The one who did this to me, he called you his equal. At the time, I
thought he meant swordsmen but whilst I battled him, there was a moment when I
almost had him. He escaped when another threw himself before my axe to prevent
it. Aragorn, I think he might have been their leader.”

Aragorn thought quickly and looked down into the Haradrim being cut down by the
arrows although there were not enough bowmen to prevent all of them from
advancing towards the wall. He thought of the elusive leader of the Easterling
Confederacy whose identity was a closely guarded secret that none of his Rangers
had been able to learn. Was his nemesis down there, commanding this army as he
was commanding the defenders of Lossarnach?

“Would you recognise him if you saw him again?” Aragorn asked quickly.

“I would but only because he is difficult to miss. He is not a man of Harad or
Far Harad. I think he comes from the Sunlands.”

“The Sunlands?” Aragorn exclaimed. “You mean like Melia?”

“Melia is not pure blooded,” the dwarf answered shaking his head. “This warrior
was. He was tall and big. His skin was much darker than Melia’s almost black
like his eyes. He swept me aside as if I were a child and he was disappointed
that he was not fighting you, Aragorn.”

“That moment will come soon enough,” Aragorn said coldly, trying to find his
nemesis in the invaders below and knew that their confrontation would have to
wait. At present, the game this unseen commander had set in motion was still in
play and Lossarnach still had a long night ahead of it.

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

Legolas armed his bow and struck down a Haradrim clambering up the ladder,
attempting to reach the walls of Lossarnach with the rest of his comrades. The
arrow speared him through the chest and Legolas barely noticed his fall because
the elven lord was already reaching for another arrow. As another Haradrim
hurried up the ladder to take his place, Legolas removed him just as swiftly and
continued to do so until there were no more. The other archers were also doing
the same though they were not blessed his speed and some of the Haradrim
warriors were managing to reach the top of the wall. Fortunately, the militia
by way of swords, spears and even boiling oil quickly vanquished these.

It continued for hours, this business of keeping the wall clear of the enemy.
Bowmen fired an inexhaustible supply of arrows into the advancing enemy while
others employed more direct methods. The bodies of Haradrim were beginning to
pile the base of the walls for as far as the eyes could see but they continued
to come, relentless and possessed. Legolas could feel his own limbs become heavy
as he saw the dogged determination of Lossarnach’s defenders, forcing themselves
to keep fighting despite their exhaustion and lack of sleep. Through sheer
force of will, they continued to hold the wall against the invaders and Legolas
could not help but admire the beauty of all that proud determination.

Leading this display of triumph despite their adverse situation was the king of
Gondor, who himself stood on the front line, who did not leave the wall and
fought just as hard, even harder some might say, to ensure that they were not
overcome by the Haradrim. It was Aragorn’s voice that kept up the morale of his
people and it reminded Legolas of the days after the Battle of Pelennor when the
word had swept through Minas Tirith that the king had returned. It was a
marvellous thing to see hope come alive on the faces of those who had been
without it for so long. It was that faith in their king that kept the defenders
of Lossarnach fighting even though it seemed like the Haradrim’s numbers were
endless.

Suddenly, with the first rays of sunlight filtering through the night sky, the
advance along the wall ceased and suddenly the enemy was retreating. For a
moment, Legolas considered that this could be a ruse designed to trick them but
then a cry swept through the enemy ranks and the warriors that had been so
determined to take the city began to withdraw. They left their dead where they
were and moved slowly off the battlefield as if they were in little hurry to
escape. The warriors of Lossnarch looked upon the withdrawal in silence,
uncertain that what they had achieved was a victory. In fact as they saw how
many Haradrim were withdrawing, they were certain of it.

“This departure means nothing,” Nunaur who was a seasoned veteran of numerous
wars remarked confidently as he watched the enemy disappear.

“I agree,” Legolas nodded. “I think this is a strategic withdrawal, not an
admission of defeat.”

Aragorn had made his way across the length of the wall, his eyes still fixed
ahead at the withdrawing enemy although he held no illusions as to why the
Haradrim were departing. For the first time since the onset of the battle,
Aragorn was able to approach Legolas since the fighting had kept them apart.
Although they captured glimpses of each other during the night, neither had been
able to exchange words and the abrupt cessation of hostilities made Aragorn seek
out the elves counsel.

“They are leaving to reconsider their strategy,” Aragorn announced when he
reached Legolas and Nunaur.

“I believe so,” Legolas met Aragorn’s gaze and showed his agreement with the
king’s assessment of the situation. “They have probably discerned that they are
wasting too many of their men in this attempt to scale the wall.”

“They will be back and most likely with some other plan to invade the city,”
Nunaur added.

“We do not have much time,” Aragorn replied. “At best perhaps a few hours before
they resume their assault and I am uncertain of what form it will come.”

“We managed to hold them off this long,” Legolas declared, hearing the weariness
in Aragorn’s voice. Sometimes it was easy to forget that even someone who was
capable of bolstering the spirit of others in times of crisis could need the
same words of hope. Aragorn was forcing himself to keep faith for the sake of
his people but Legolas could see his doubts and fear of failing them was a great
weight upon his shoulders.

“Gimli believes that the leader of the Easterling Confederacy may be leading
this attack,” Aragorn announced, his gaze sweeping across the ranks of the
departing Haradrim as if will alone could reveal the identify of his nemesis to
him.

“Are you certain?” Legolas exclaimed, aware of how elusive that piece of
information had been these past months since the declaration of war was made.

“The man he fought said that he wished to fight with his equal, but a companion
of mine would do. He almost killed Gimli and when our friend almost took his
life, one of the Haradrim soldiers sacrificed himself to prevent it.”

“Definitely a person of some importance,” Nunaur agreed. As the march warden of
Eden Ardhon and the captain of Legolas’ warriors, he knew that it was a
soldier’s duty to protect his lord and there was no question of his willingness
to sacrifice his life if it meant achieving that end. “I think Master Gimli may
be correct. It sounds like the behaviour of a soldier protecting his king.”

“He has proven himself to be a shrewd opponent,” Aragorn replied, still staring
beyond the walls. “I fear what he may level at us when the Haradrim return.”

“And you have managed to hold Lossarnach when by all rights it should have
fallen with the first wave of attacks,” Legolas reminded Aragorn. “Your words
have turned farmers into warriors, willing to lay down their lives to protect
their homes. Do not underestimate yourself.”

“Thank you my friend,” Aragorn offered Legolas a smile. “As stubborn as you are,
I am glad that you are here. We could not have done this without your aid.”

“It is an honour to serve the Elfstone,” Nunaur replied without hesitation.

“And someone needs to see to it that your skin remains attached to your body,”
Legolas replied with a smirk.

“Likewise,” Aragorn retorted. “I hope you do not have cause to regret this,
Legolas.”

“I would regret it more if I did not aid you in your time of need Aragorn and my
presence here is not any avocation of war. I am here as your friend and nothing
more,” Legolas answered sincerely.

Aragorn did not answer but feared the Haradrim would not be able to make that
distinction.

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

The dawn came with no sign of the Haradrim making their return. While some in
Lossarnach were ready to leap to the conclusion that the enemy, discouraged by
their vehement defence of the city, had left for good. However, the majority of
Lossarnach’s defenders were grounded in reality and anticipated that an even
more vicious attack was eminent. In between catching a few hours rest before
the arrival of the next onslaught, Aragorn ensured that they prepared as best
they could for the coming melee. While their comrades slept or worked, guards
patrolled the walls, keeping a vigil at the first sight of danger. The dawn
should have been a time of hope but for those inside the city, it was a limbo
where they knew not what the twilight would bring.

Aragorn ensured that no one dwelt too heavily on the coming battle, occupying
their thoughts instead with preparations to survive it. He tried to think of
what the enemy would do, having failed the initial incursion and was almost
certain that a siege would soon follow. He did not doubt that they would again
try to storm the city walls but they would do so ensuring that those within it
were too preoccupied with other matters to stop them. Thus the business of
protecting Lossarnach from these efforts became the main occupation of its
defenders during the hours before the second attack.

The interlude between battles was also time for them to tend to their injured.
Though it was dangerous to emerge from the safety of Lossarnach’s walls, the
sight of their fallen brethren lying in the field was too much for many to
endure and that kind of demoralising prior to any engagement was a dangerous
thing. A small band of militia was given the task of retrieving Lossarnach’s
dead. Among these, was Fenreg, Steward of Lossarnach, who had fought valiantly
until he was set upon a five Haradrim who assailed him with multiple injuries.
His flesh was so mutilated that he was returned to his city walls with his body
covered and as they were unaware of how long this siege would last, no proper
burial could be afforded other than one in fire.

It was a grim duty but no more terrible than anything that awaited them when the
Haradrim returned.

“You need to take some rest,” Legolas said to Aragorn after seeking him out in
the house of healing. Legolas was certain that Aragorn was the only one who had
yet to take some time to replenish his strength. The king had been busily
directing the fortification efforts, ensuring that his men were not demoralized
by making himself accessible to them and then aiding the healers in the healing
room set aside for the injured.

“I am fine,” Aragorn said as he put the finishing touches on a wounded man’s
bandage.

“You are not fine and this self flagellation does not aid your people,” the elf
said firmly. “Even they worry for you. They came to me when they realised how
thick headed you were about listening to good advice.”

“ I always take your counsel,” Aragorn retorted straightening up from his seat
next to his patient’s bed.

“Except when it pertains to your own well-being,” Legolas frowned. “Now you can
come with me willingly or I will lay you flat now and you can sleep here.”

“You would not dare,” Aragorn challenged even though he knew that Legolas was
serious. “I am king you know.”

“And this matters to me how?” Legolas gave him a look.

“Good point,” Aragorn conceded defeat. “I will take your advice.”

“That is fortunate,” Legolas said satisfied. “It is good to know that I am able
to move you with the proper amount of inducement.”

“Do not get ahead of yourself,” Aragorn remarked as they started out of the
room. “The only elf I am afraid of is my wife and you are not as pretty as she,
though I have heard it said…” he started so say with an expression of boyish
mischief upon his face.

“Conclude that sentence and I will hurt you,” Legolas growled shortly.

Aragorn laughed shortly, glad that there was opportunity to do so despite their
present circumstances. It was a good distraction from how much the odds were
against them. Even as they spoke, he was certain that the enemy was somewhere,
plotting a means to break through their defences and could succeed if
reinforcements from Ithilien were delayed for any reason. They left the house of
healing behind and stepped onto the walkway along the wall. Beyond the bodies of
the dead Haradrim, the vale of Lossarnach still remained beautiful despite the
violence that had been wrought within its confines only hours before.

“Strange how it remains so untouched,” Aragorn stared into the landscape.

“The land is the one constant in all things, Aragorn,” the Prince of Mirkwood
remarked as he followed the man’s gaze. “It outlives everything, even the
elves. I have no doubt that in the past this vale has seen much bloodshed, wars
that have been robbed their due in the histories and long after we are gone,
there will be many to follow but the land will remain the same, unchanged and
indifferent.”

“I wish they would stop for a little while,” Aragorn said softly, feeling deeply
sad at the situation he now found himself with the people he cared for. “Is it
so much to ask for Legolas, to have some peace?”

“For you I fear not,” the elf said with most honesty than Aragorn would prefer
to hear. “You are the one to bring peace Aragorn. It will not come about without
you and it is perfectly willing to wait for you. That is your fate and the hope
of your people.”

“My mother often said that to me though she never had hope in her eyes when she
spoke,” Aragorn replied. “I wonder what she would think of all this.”

“I think Gilraen would have been proud,” Legolas said gently, even though he was
surprised to hear Aragorn speak of the lady.

Legolas himself had known Gilraen and she was a woman to be admired. Perhaps
that is why Aragorn loved Arwen so for she possessed Gilraen’s nurturing
strength. Aragorn had been a young man when she died but Legolas remembered the
day well. The youth he was, had stood there at the place where they had chosen
to rest his mother’s worn body, staring at the monument of stone built to mark
her passing. Legolas had remembered staring at this boy, destined to be a king
and knew that he would be because he had kept his grief under control by sheer
will. Will like that could move mountains or more precisely win a kingdom.

His face had been an impassive mask but the eyes, oh the eyes spoke such sorrow.


“I will never know,” Aragorn answered, his gaze lost in the descending curtain
of night.

Legolas waited for Aragorn to speak but the king remained silent, his eyes
staring at the horizon with unflinching attention. The elf thought for a moment
that this was a subject to difficult for the man to discuss and had decided to
leave the subject alone when he followed Aragorn’s gaze and realised that the
king’s preoccupation had little to do with the painful memories of his mother’s
demise and everything to do with the arm that was making its way over the
horizon to the walls of Lossarnach.

“They have returned,” he said softly, meeting Legolas’ eyes.

“You knew they would,” Legolas reminded, inwardly bracing himself for more
bloodshed.

“I did,” Aragorn answered, “though I must confess, it took longer than I
thought.”

An amazing transformation came over Aragorn then, one that Legolas never ceased
to marvel at. The silent, introspective man he knew disappeared with a sudden
straightening of posture and the release of a held breath. Legolas had seen it
numerous times and had never seemed to lose the fascination of the
metamorphosis, that first moment that he had dared to announce his lineage to
Eomer on the trail of the Uruk Hai who had stolen away Merry and Pippin. All
traces of Strider vanished in place was Aragorn Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan
and the High King of the Reunified Kingdom.

“Come my friend,” Aragorn said firmly, very much in character now. “We will see
what else they can throw at us.”

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


On the opposite corner of the White Mountains, the Rohirrim were also licking
their wounds after being ambushed in the dark by the goblins of Moria. Eomer
supposed that in the scheme of things, it was only logical that the Easterlings
would approach the foul inhabitants of Moria to aid them in the war against
their enemies. The Easterling Confederacy was slowly pulling together all the
races with some grievance against Gondor and its allies and the goblins stood as
much to lose as the rest of them in the continued prosperity of the Reunified
Kingdom.

It was well known that Gimli had made several incursions into Moria, attempting
to purge it of the influence that had seen the destruction of Balin and his
people. There had been rumblings for some time that the northern kingdom of
Arnor might be wiling to commit troops to reach that end in order to exploit the
rich mithrail deposits beneath the Misty Mountains. As if it was not enough
that the dwarfs had invaded Moria numerous time to exact vengeance for their
dead kin at the hands of goblins who allied themselves with the Balrog.

However, with Gimli a member of the fellowship and close friend to the king, the
day when men and elves united to rid Moria of its unholy occupants did not seem
so distant and it was in the best interests of the goblins that they threw in
their lot with the Easterlings. Even with the mithrail fortune existing in the
mountains, the Easterlings had no interest in the realm of the goblins since the
conquest of Gondor and Rohan would yield riches in itself. Eomer wondered what
promises they had made to the goblins about dividing the spoils between
themselves, the Dunlendings and the goblins. How far did this alliance truly
delve.

These were questions Eomer could not answer immediately, though he had no doubt
in his mind that the goblins had waylaid Bowen and the Rohirrim the way they had
intended to ambush Eomer and his men. Eomer was not even certain that the
message from Bowen was truly legitimate but another part of the plan to draw
them from Edoras into the foothills where they were vulnerable. Had the plan
been to take the king’s head and leave the Rohirrim leaderless? Eomer could not
answer but the architect of all this scheming was proving to be as shrewd an
enemy as Saruman himself.

During their twilight ambush at the hands of the goblin, Eomer and the Rohirrim
had manage to fight their way into the open plains where they were in a better
position to defend themselves. The King of the Mark did not want to think of how
had lost during the initial skirmish but in the cold light of day, he was forced
to concede a loss of almost a quarter of his men. If it were not for the
prescience of the animals they rode, that number would have been far worse.
Once in open country, the Rohirrim were in their element, night or not and they
only had to prevail until morning before the goblins were driven back to their
hiding places. This was done easily enough for the Rohirrim were not warriors to
provoke.

Still, they did not emerge from the battle unscathed and when they found a place
to shelter after the fighting was done, they were still reluctant to rest easy
until the sun had rose over the horizon once again. Goblins were notorious for
their weakness to the sunlight and only during the day could the Rohirrim be
truly confident that they were safe. Thus after the breaking of dawn, Eomer
allowed his men to rest while taking a small scouting party with him to search
for what remained of Marshall of Riddermark and his riders. Despite Carleon’s
protests that he stay with the main party and rested his injuries, Eomer was
determined to go and in the end, the Third Marshall of Riddermark ensured that
the only way to keep the king safe was to remain at his side.

It did not take long to return to the place where the Rohirrim had been attacked
and in the daylight, it was hard to picture the gloomy, grey rock filled slope
as being the scene for a life and death struggle. However, there was ample
evidence of it in the bloodied weapons and armour that lay on the ground. Litter
for the aftermath of battle. There were no bodies and that fact alone sent a
streak of outrage through the search party for there could be only one reason
for it. Goblins were man eaters. Pressing on, Eomer and his men continued their
search and it was not long before they found the site where Bowen had fallen.

It was as terrible as they feared.

Once again, the refuse of a great battle or in this case, an ambush was
evidenced all around them. It had taken Eomer many days to reach this place so
the goblins had more time to deal with his Rohirrim brothers. Bowen had not
fared as well as his king mostly because Eomer had more experienced dealing in
foul kind such as goblins and Uruk Hai after being on the front lines of Helm’s
Deep and then Pelennor. In any case, Bowen and his army had never left the place
where the trap had been sprung and the goblins saw no reason to hide their
victory when they knew no one would be arriving for many days to make them
account for their terrible deeds.

Here there were bodies or more accurately, bones.

Eomer tried not to imagine what horrors had been faced by the injured that were
to helpless to defend themselves or fortunate enough to have been killed
outright. He found their bones, skeletons that had been dismembered and then
gnarled clean. There was meat on many of them and the sight was so much like a
slaughterhouse than many of his search party had been forced on their knees to
retch in disgust. Eomer did not blame them for the Rohirrim were not men who
were possessed of weak constitutions but what they found was enough to reduce
the strongest man to horror.
It occurred to Eomer that it was not the goblins that had frightened the horses
so but rather the stench of blood that he and his human companions had been
unable to detect without the beasts’ superior sense of smell. There was blood
everywhere. It was caked on rocks, on the leaves of scant bushes. It was by far
the most horrific thing that Eomer had seen and the discards of helmets, armour
and weapons bathed in the same inflamed Eomer’s outrage to a white-hot fury.

Unfortunately, all that could be done in the wake of such carnage was to give
burial to what dismembered remains there could be found. None of the skeletons
remained intact, leading Eomer to the assumption that the goblins had days to
satisfy their taste of man flesh. The burial was a grim task that many of the
less seasoned men of the Rohirrim were unable to manage. Only veterans of war
who had seen similar scenes of carnage were capable of performing the task.
Eomer himself had taken part in this duty and there was a prevailing silence of
seething anger as they gave their dead comrades the burial they deserved
following the death that they had not.

It was traditional that the weapons of a fallen warrior should be buried with
him and such was the case here, even if they could not discern who owned what
weapon they found. As they gathered the weapons that would join its masters in
their final resting place, Eomer noticed something that had not occurred to him
before. In the wake of what they had seen, he could not deny that he was in the
same stupor of shock as his men. However, the realisation leapt at him and led
quickly to darker possibilities.

“Carleon,” he addressed the Third Marshal of Riddermark in the midst of the
collection as he held a goblin arrow in his hand. “Have we found any weapons
other than those belonging to our people and the goblins?”

Carleon, a veteran of Pelennor who had risen through the ranks of the Rohirrim
quickly since, straightened up immediately and stared at his king with
suspicion. “No,” he shook his head. “We have not.”

Eomer absorbed this and in doing so become decidedly more anxious because he as
being forced to an unpleasant location. “We received intelligence from the
Rangers that the Dunlendings were moving towards this area. The Rangers were
certain of it and that is why Bowen and his men set off to engage them.”

“Yes,” Carleon nodded wondering why Eomer was telling him things he already
knew. “However, their intelligence should have included the movement of the
goblins as well.”

There was more than a hint of bitterness in his voice that Eomer could not blame
him for. The king was similarly enflamed by what they had seen today. However,
outrage had to be set aside when looming in the distance was an even greater
peril, one that Carleon could yet see.

“Not if it were a trap to lure us here,” Eomer replied, remembering how they had
been caught in a similar trick not long ago. “Think of it Carleon, they allow
themselves to be detected by the Rangers so that the Rohirrim would investigate.
The word of the Rangers is not enough to bring forth a greater Rohirrim force
but if a message were sent from the Marshal of the Mark, summoning the king,
that is another matter entirely.”

“Then this was all an effort to bring you here to murder you?” Carleon
exclaimed, furious at the subterfuge. The Rohirrim preferred to face their
enemies without schemes. They believed in the purity of face-to-face
confrontations and had little patience with deceptive strategies designed to
weaken the enemy before that moment. This business of luring a king away from
his people to assassinate him stabbed at the heart of the Rohirrim code of
conduct.

“No,” Eomer replied, feeling his breath quiver as he released it to answer.
“This was about ensuring that the bulk of our forces would be away from the
Golden Hall when the Dunlendings move to take Edoras. That is why they are not
here. The goblins were to either kill us or delay us so that the Dunleandings
could make their way to the heart of Rohan without interference.”

Carleon could not speak but his face registered his shock. Eomer could not blame
him because only one word filled his thoughts with this terrible deduction.

Lothiriel.










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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