Finding Courage: 2. Chapter Two

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2. Chapter Two

It had been a full night and day of terror. The writhing shapes of fire that slid down from the hills near the shattered North Gate were, in fact, serpents, of bronze and iron, cunningly crafted siege engines to batter at the walls of the city. And with them came true fire-serpents, the urulóki, and Orcs and Balrogs with their cruel whips of flame. By the time the northern sentries rode into the city, harried and wounded, half their number taken by surprise in their guard-towers and lost, all the sky to the north was lit with flame, and the blood-red light played ominously about the courts where the silvered lanterns and jeweled lamps still hung for a forgotten festival. Glorfindel remembered the council, called in haste by the king, but the arguments that passed between Tuor and Maeglin were a blur. Tuor urged Turgon to evacuate the women and children while there was yet time, and in that moment revealed the existence of Idril’s secret passage to any who did not already know. Glorfindel watched Maeglin’s face change at this information, eyes narrowing, becoming crafty. You should not have spoken, Tuor. There is evil in this. He listened while Maeglin persuaded the king to stay and defend the city, claiming that it was impregnable. Do you not hear the urulóki already shrieking overhead? If the North Gate is fallen—that they have found that hidden way—then it is already too late. He wanted to say all this and more, but his tongue had turned to wool in his mouth and he sat frozen. Turgon will think me craven for all that I cannot trust my voice not to break. And he will be right, for I am afraid. His eyes slid over to Maeglin, and to Salgant who even now was hanging upon his every word, and he understood in that moment why Idril had not entrusted the work to her cousin. Across the table, he met Tuor’s eyes and the mortal nodded. We have been betrayed. Then Egalmoth was nudging him. “Come, otorno, the time for talk is over.” All he remembered of the trip back to his house were the distant wails and sobbing of the women and the way his limbs trembled, threatening to undo him. Ondollo met him at the door with his sword, and Artamir and Hallas, their festival finery set aside for gleaming mail, were ready with his armor. He let them array him in the chain mail shirt and buckle on his greaves and breastplate, over which went the green surcoat with its rayed golden flower. Last of all, Ondollo wrapped the baldric around his waist and gave him his sword. Now that surcoat was torn, little more than a bloodied, smoke-stained rag by which the other defenders of the city could identify him, and he was stifling in his armor as he fought a retreat from the Great Market northward to the King’s Square. The flaming siege engines had not been able to scale the sheer face of Amon Gwareth, where the spring-fed torrents of water that cascaded down its sides turned the heights to glass. But when fire met water, steam began to pour from all the fountains and reservoirs of the city. Stifling heat and smoke billowed into the streets like a fog, and people swooned. Glorfindel was tempted to shed his breastplate as he ran, anything to catch a breath of cool air, but he dared not. The last messenger brought tidings that the city’s north gate had been broken and the wall breached somewhere on the east. Orcs and Balrogs poured into the city from seemingly every direction, and flaming arrows arced through the air, landing on rooftops and in gardens. The barriers Glorfindel and the other defenders had thrown up along the streets would only hold for so long. And then the urulókë swooped in low, barreling along the road that connected the Lesser Market with the Great, and its flame ripped through the barriers and ignited the storehouses that fronted the marketplace. Glass windows shattered in the heat and walls blew outward; the concussion knocked over most of the defenders and pinned those nearest the blast under the debris. Glorfindel heard Hallas scream as a chunk of burning masonry struck him, but then Artamir and Ondollo were urging him along, reminding him that he had ordered the retreat, and the heat and press of Orcs pouring over the shattered barricade kept him from going to Hallas. Where were the reinforcements I sent for? An Orc snarled into view, disappearing in a spray of gore as his sword clove its head in two; he kicked the body aside without ever breaking his stride. Bodies he saw splayed in the streets, some Orcs but mostly Elves, hewn down or overcome by the heat and fumes and trampled. His messenger probably had not made it to Turgon; the last had been bleeding from half a dozen shallow wounds and could barely stay upright. The warrior running beside him took a flaming arrow between the eyes and went down, grunting as he fell. Glorfindel did not see who it was, could not stop for him. The Orcs were on his heels, tearing at the corpses of those who fell behind. When he got to the King’s Square, if it was not already overrun by Orcs, he did not know what he would find. All he had were the bits of information gathered by runners; he knew Duilin was dead, shot through the chest by a flaming bolt on the northern wall, and had a rumor that Penlod of the House of the Pillar had died, pinned to a wall by Orc spears, in the Alley of Roses. Of the king and Ecthelion, whose House Turgon kept back to defend the palace, Glorfindel knew nothing. Nor of Tuor’s White Wing or the Rog’s Hammer of Wrath, sent to hold the North Gate. If they got through, he’s dead. Rog never would have retreated. Turning a corner, the second-to-last before the square, he saw warriors running toward him. A flash of gold and silver on sable told his weary mind they were Salgant’s men of the Harp. Their leader, Manveru, caught Glorfindel by the arm and held him for an instant. “Salgant told us not that we…were needed,” he panted. “He…he held us back. We came anyway.” More treachery this day. It is even as Idril said, he is Maeglin’s coward. “The Great Market is lost,” answered Glorfindel. He gasped for breath before adding, “Urulóki, do not go that way.” “Where is the rest of your troop?” asked Manveru. “This is my troop.” All that had escaped with him had since passed him by and gone ahead to the King’s Square; they were perhaps half the number he had set out with. Tuor met him near one of the fountains. His blue surcoat was torn and bloodied, the swan’s wings on his helm charred from the heat. In one hand he clutched his great axe Dramborleg, while supporting a swooning Ecthelion in the crook of his other arm. The lord of the Fountain was ashen, long gashes rent across his face by claws or some cruel whip, and slashed deeply in the arm. “Balrog got me,” he gasped when he saw Glorfindel. “Least you are…still intact.” “Barely, otorno.” Mindful of Ecthelion’s wound, Glorfindel caught him up on his other side to help him walk. “The Great Market…gone.” “Rog took it worst at the north gate…he and his warriors, they were surrounded.” Ecthelion winced as the movement jarred his wound, but continued, “They set an urulókë on him.” Tuor shouted for Ecthelion’s lieutenant Elemmakil to help his lord to one of the fountains. “Get him some cool water and bind up that wound. We’re going to need every man ere this is ended.” Barricades were going up across all points of entry to the King’s Square. Tuor supervised the work, going from one team to the next. “We’ll hold them back for as long as we can.” “But the south,” said Glorfindel, “the Road of Pomps, you did not—” “Egalmoth’s coming up with everyone he can gather.” Tuor turned, shouting at the warriors of the Harp to pile the debris higher and thicker. “We’re going to try for Idril’s passage, if it isn’t too late.” “Who else is left? I heard Duilin was dead, and Penlod.” “There are still Galdor’s people, and some survivors of Duilin’s House. Salgant’s cowering somewhere in his house by the Lesser Market, but we have his warriors. The House of the Mole, they are lost.” “Maeglin--?” “He’s dead,” growled Tuor. “His warriors are dead with him. Look around you.” Glorfindel noticed then how many warriors of the Mole sprawled dead in the square, and the enemy had not yet won through. Feathered shafts sprouted from some of the bodies, the fletching bearing the colors of the Swallow, the Tree and the White Wing. There is no creature more accursed than the kinslayer. “This is not the work of—” The Man turned and grasped him by the shreds of his surcoat, his eyes wild with fury. “He tried to kill my son! He betrayed us all! I threw him from the walls like the animal he was!” Tuor’s breath was as hot in his face as his words, and Glorfindel did not resist. “Now go to the south side with your warriors and be ready to throw up the barricade once Eglamoth gets through.” Up the Road of Pomps came the men of the Heavenly Arch, driving before them a throng of terrified women and children. Egalmoth ran in front, sword drawn. He reached the edge of the square before the others and turned, urging the survivors on. Some were laden with treasures; he wrenched jewel-caskets and illuminated tomes from unwilling hands and flung them aside, shouting for the people to leave everything but the food and water they would need to sustain them. As the last of Egalmoth’s warriors flew past, Glorfindel urged his people to start piling sandbags and fallen masonry across the road. “Hurry!” He grabbed a chunk of stone and hefted it into place. “There is not much time!” And this road, unlike the alley up which he had come, was wide. It might take an hour or more to erect anything resembling an effective barricade. They needed more warriors. “Go!” he shouted to Ondollo. “Get whoever Tuor or Ecthelion can spare.” “My lord!” cried Artamir. “They are coming!” A swarm of onrushing twisted limbs and cruel weapons, led by the biggest Balrog Glorfindel had ever seen, bore down on them. “Gothmog!” cried Egalmoth. “Hold the barricade!” As Tuor’s command echoed through the square, warriors of the Harp and the Heavenly Arch ran in to supplement the ranks. The wave struck the barrier with the force of a battering ram; it wavered, crumbling, but held. Orcs came first, jabbing over the wall with spears and cruel hooks, clambering over even as the defenders flung them back. Glorfindel felt something sharp graze his cheek, thought he felt a trickle of blood. His shield reflexively came up; he did not stop to see how badly he was hurt or mark who had struck him. The Balrogs came in the second wave, leaping to the top of the barricade and lashing the air with their whips. A lash of fire passed dangerously close to Glorfindel’s head; he felt the heat sting his face as the thong struck the warrior next to him. He shrieked as he fell, clutching at a spray of gore that used to be his face. “Urulóki!” Peering up above the rim of his shield, Glorfindel saw the black shapes winging downward toward the barricade. Six or seven of them, smoke trailing from their nostrils, and it was the Great Market all over again. “Scatter!” he cried. Turning, he caught Egalmoth by the arm and shoved. Both of them stumbled, spilling over the corpses of Orc and Elf alike, even as Gothmog leapt to the top of the barrier and crushed it under him as he plowed over. Other Balrogs and Orcs, swarms of them, poured howling through the gap. Egalmoth disappeared into the maelstrom of the fray, but Glorfindel saw Artamir fending off a pair of Orcs, and Tuor, who put himself directly in Gothmog’s path. Are you mad, mortal? Dramboleg came up, hewing at the Balrog’s armored limbs, glancing off the iron plates. Gothmog snarled at Tuor’s insolence and drove the Man back toward the fountain where Ecthelion and the other wounded lay. Glorfindel could see little of Tuor past Gothmog’s bulk, but knew the Man was tiring, wilting under his own exhaustion and the creature’s heat. Warriors of the Fountain came rushing up even as Tuor faltered and stumbled. Gothmog snapped his whip; Glorfindel saw one of its many thongs tear off Elemmakil’s head; the captain’s torso fell twitching in a rush of blood and half a dozen or more of his comrades fell with him. Tuor rolled away from a second snap of the whip, but his axe lay now beyond reach. Glorfindel saw him grope toward a broken spear; the whip snapped down and sent it flying from Tuor’s reach. Gothmog inched closer, toying with his prey. Suddenly the Lord of the Balrogs seemed to lurch. He stumbled backward half a step, and as he shifted Glorfindel saw Ecthelion, gray-faced, his shield-arm hanging limp at his side, standing on the rim of the fountain, wrath shining in his eyes. He leaned against the haft of a spear, pressing all his weight upon it as he screamed something at the Balrog. Glorfindel could not make out quite what it was, but it might have been “Heca, ulundo!” Glorfindel turned and, pointing his sword toward the fountain, shouted, “Roqueni Laurëalotëo Nénen i ortal!” Few of the Golden Flower were able to rally to his call, little more than a dozen, but it might be enough to bring Gothmog down if they took him from behind. Between them and Gothmog swarmed a pack of smaller Balrogs. Glorfindel roared his frustration, thrusting his blade into the eye of one Balrog and hewing off the arm of another. His foot slipped in a slick of gore and he suddenly slipped to one knee. Pain reverberated through his left leg; he could not hold himself upright and slumped down, even as a Balrog’s flaming sword sliced the air where his head had been. Gothmog lunged and so did Ecthelion, driving the spike of his helm into the Balrog’s belly. Pinned against the bellowing, writhing creature, Ecthelion wrapped both legs around Gothmog’s limbs and wrenched him back with him into the fountain. There was a shout from Gothmog, drowned by a great splash and sizzle of water, and both combatants vanished in the steam that poured out of the fountain. Tuor was shouting, rallying the warriors of the White Wing to save Ecthelion from drowning, for the lord of the Fountain had not surfaced. But the water was steaming, boiling, and began to run red with blood. Dismayed by the demise of their leader, the Balrogs wavered, and in that moment the survivors of the House of the Fountain surged down upon them, screaming in their fury. And behind them, led by a figure gleaming in silver and white and blood-red, the warriors of the King thundered down the way leading to the palace and swarmed the enemy. Turgon had held his House in reserve, but no longer. Shrieks and flame poured down from above. One of the urulóki was descending, trampling Orc and Elf alike, and blackening the white stones of the courtyard as it alit. I have to get up if I want to live. I have to move. Glorfindel swallowed the pain in his leg and let one of his warriors pull him to his feet. The entire square seemed to be rushing in one direction, like the dragging of the tide, and he was caught up in the surge. Yet they were not fleeing the urulókë. Urged on by Turgon and Tuor, they were mobbing it, driving it toward one of the fountains. Flames belched forth from an angry maw, ripping into the leading edge, but as those warriors fell others swiftly took their place. Scalding steam filled the air, and the sizzle of burnt flesh. Glorfindel’s eyes stung. He could barely see; what little vision he had left was blurred by tears. There was only the smoke now, and the high-pitched shrieks of a dying urulókë. * * * Notes: Urulókë: fire-drake, or dragon. otorno: (Quenya) sworn brother, associate. Elemmakil: In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien does not specify which House Elemmakil belongs to, but since Ecthelion is the first lord who comes out to greet Tuor, I took the liberty of assigning Elemmakil to the House of the Fountain. House of the Mole: These warriors, dressed all in sable with moleskin caps, were utterly loyal to Maeglin and attacked Tuor by the walls where Tuor flung Maeglin to his death. For the purposes of the story, I moved some of the corpses to the King’s Square. Egalmoth urging the women to leave their valuables behind is actually done later by Tuor, but there is no reason why both could not have done this at separate times. “Roqueni Laurëalotë Nénen i ortal!” “Knights of the Golden Flower to the Water [=Lord of the Fountain] that sustains you!" Big thanks to Aerlinnel for the translation of Glorfindel’s battle cry! “Heca ulundo!” (Quenya) “Begone, foul creature!” laurëalóti: (Quenya) golden flowers.

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: Zimraphel

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 07/13/04

Original Post: 06/21/03

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