15. Plans and Preparations
Dawn, gray and cold, was just beginning to lighten the skies above Calembel. The high dark storm clouds choked off most of the light of the rising sun and the rain continued to fall in steady sheets. Far to the west, however, the clouds thinned and eventually faded, promising that this day would ultimately be dryer and brighter than the previous.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli had joined with Gandalf, Faramir, and the hobbits, and the small company now stood huddled together up on the wall, viewing the damage of the evening’s attack. The small company had managed to escape the night, for the most part, unscathed. Arwen had already left, intending to join the healers of the city in tending to the wounded defenders.
“I do not like this,” Aragorn said softly, gazing in the direction in which the large orc army had just disappeared moments before. “If I had but known that Malek had managed to gather so many orcs to himself, I never would have separated the army and continued on without the main force.” Aragorn shook his head, and it was obvious that he was placing the blame upon himself.
Gimli looked at him and sighed tiredly. “You did not know,” he said in support. “None of us knew.”
“Yet I should have been prepared nonetheless,” Aragorn responded. “It was foolish of me to assume anything when dealing with this creature.”
“What is done, is done,” Gandalf broke in. “Fretting upon the mistakes of the past will not help the future. We must dwell now upon what must be done to prepare for the next attack. I do not expect the rest of the army to reach us for another day yet, which means we must fight at least one more battle without their aide.”
“There is much to do,” Aragorn agreed, looking up and down the wall. “If Malek had attacked last night, we surely would have fallen, for we were unprepared. As it is, he only intended on scaring us. We must take the reprieve he foolishly gave us and use it wisely.”
“If his only intentions were to scare us,” Frodo said quietly, repressing a shudder, “he most certainly succeeded.” Beside him, Merry and Sam both nodded, their faces still trying to regain some color.
Aragorn smiled down at them gently. “This is true, yet the day will bring new courage to all. We shall stand ready when night falls upon us once more, and we shall endure, even if Malek sets all the orcs of Middle Earth to the task of defeating us.”
“I think we saw all the orcs of Middle Earth last night,” Sam pointed out gloomily.
“What do we do in the meantime?” Merry asked. “How do we prepare to fight such a large group of orcs?”
“There is much we can do, my small friend,” Faramir answered. “Traps can be set, defenses made, and strategies determined. Malek shall find that he made a mistake in not defeating us when he had the chance, for the next time he attacks, he shall not find us so completely defenseless.” Faramir paused, and there was a strange light in his eyes. “My father always told me that when you are outnumbered, you must find a way to outsmart your enemies.”
“Your father was a wise man,” Aragorn responded, “And indeed, we must find a way to outsmart Malek at his own game.”
“I have a suggestion,” Legolas spoke up for the first time. All eyes turned to him and he smiled grimly. “I am speaking of a tactic that is used often in my home when driving away large bands of wargs or spiders.”
“What is this tactic?” Aragorn asked.
“Instead of waiting for the orcs to attack the wall and trying to push them back here, I suggest that we build defense lines before the city and meet the enemy on the field. This way, we have more than one position to fall back to, and we may slow them enough to protect the city.”
Aragorn nodded. “I was thinking of this strategy myself,” he admitted, “and I think it is a good idea.”
“Then I will get started on it right away,” Farmir stated, stretching sore muscles. “We cannot afford to waste a single minute.”
Aragorn smiled at him, “ You may begin to see to this, but I also expect you to find a couple of hours to rest this day and regain your strength for tonight.”
Farmir nodded at this, knowing the importance of facing a battle, especially one in which you are outnumbered, rested and prepared. He turned to leave, but Aragorn called out to him once more.
“I also need you to send a messenger to the main army bidding them to hasten with all speed to the city. They must not waste any time in coming to our aide.”
Once more, Faramir nodded, then turned and quickly strode from the wall, calling men to him as he went.
Aragorn watched him go, his thoughts distant until he heard a
hesitant voice call out quietly to him. He turned and found Kenson Brantz
standing uncomfortably a few feet away. The man's armor was stained with
blood, and a small stream of red worked its way down his face from a cut above
his left eye, contrasting sharply to his pale features. He looked awkward
and self-conscious, so Aragorn smiled lightly at him, trying to put the man at
"Kenson Brantz," he said quietly, nodding his head at the man. "Your help was greatly appreciated both before the attack and during and if there is anything that I can do to repay you, just ask."
"You are very gracious, my lord," Kenson replied, bowing low. "However, it is not with hope of repayment that I come to you, but more with hope of survival."
Aragorn arched a questioning eyebrow and Kenson continued.
"I can see that our enemy greatly outnumbers us, and I would ask permission to ride from the city to the trading base of Thruburk. It is several miles away, but I know that at this time of year, the base is filled with soldiers such as myself. I believe I could ride back with over a hundred more swords to aid in our fight."
"Over a hundred swords," Aragorn repeated softly, shaking his head slowly.
"I know it is not much, my lord," Kenson said quietly, shrugging his shoulders, "but any help would be welcome at such a time as this."
"Very welcome," Aragorn said emphatically. "You have my permission, captain, and my best wishes for a speedy and safe journey."
Kenson bowed. "If I leave now and ride hard, I can reach the base shortly after noon. With any luck, we can be back at Calembel before the battle tonight."
"Then I wish you all the luck in the world," Aragorn replied softly.
Kenson turned to leave, but hesitated. He turned back to Aragorn, looking slightly embarrassed. "My lord," he said quietly, then hesitated. At last he continued. "If I am to leave right away, I have no time to find my son, Dar, and tell him of my departure..." he trailed off once more.
Aragorn smiled at him. "Have no fear, captain. I will make sure your son is notified that you have gone."
Kenson returned Aragorn's smile gratefully and then turned and left.
"So what do we do?" Frodo asked from beside Gandalf.
Aragorn looked at the hobbits, running an expert eye over all three of them. The strain of the battle could easily be seen etched on their faces, and they were clearly exhausted. Aragorn was reminded that although these hobbits were extremely brave, they were not warriors at heart. They were much more suited for eating and merry conversation than fighting, and his heart grieved for them.
"Go and rest now," he said gently, his voice filled with compassion. "There will be plenty of opportunity for you to help later, after you have refreshed your mind and spirit."
Frodo nodded gratefully, but his sharp eyes found Aragorn, and he did not yet turn to leave. "What will you all be doing?" he asked curiously and with a hint of determination.
Aragorn could feel the eyes of all his companions upon him, waiting for his response. He lifted his head and met Gandalf's sharp gaze, his own eyes shining with determination. "I think," he said quietly, his eyes still locked on Gandalf’s, "that it is time for the plan that we discussed earlier."
Gandalf immediately frowned, while at the same time nodding slightly as if in agreement. "I see no other option," the wizard stated finally, his voice filled with resignation.
"Nor do I," Aragorn replied, his voice much firmer.
"What plan?" Gimli questioned, watching the exchange between wizard and king with a critical eye.
"If we are to make plans to destroy Malek, then we must learn more about him. We must discover where it is that he hides and anything else that can aid us in our fight against him. This is even more important now that I know how many orcs he has. If we merely sit here and wait for him to attack, we will eventually be overrun. However, if we manage to destroy Malek, the orc army will be easy enough to overcome. They are nothing without a leader!"
"So how do you intend on doing this?" Legolas spoke up again.
"First," Aragorn replied, "We must discover where it is that Malek is hiding. From there, we can use the information in formulating a plan. Gandalf and I have discussed this and decided the only way to learn of Malek's hiding place is to track his army back to where they came from."
Silence filled the air as Aragorn's companions merely stared at him, their faces incredulous.
"So," Gimli finally broke the silence, "you want us to track an army of well over five thousand orcs, in the rain, up a mountain, and escaping the notice of any rear guard they may have posted?"
Aragorn nodded and smiled. "Right on all points except one, my friend. Me, not us. The rest of you will be needed here in the city to help prepare for tonight."
Once again there was a brief silence, and once again, it was Gimli who broke it. "You mean to tell me that you intend to track those beasts all by yourself! Their trail will be nearly impossible to follow once they reach the mountain, and any trail they do leave will most likely be swept away by the rain."
"Do not worry, Gimli," Aragorn said. "I was taught how to track a rabbit in a snowstorm from the time I was barely old enough to walk, and my teachers were the best in the land. Have no fear, I will be able to follow the orcs.”
"And anything that he misses will not escape the eye of an elf," Legolas broke in, giving Aragorn a sharp look.
Aragorn shook his head and opened his mouth to argue, but Gandalf spoke before he was able to, "I think it is a good idea for you to accompany him, Legolas.”
"Then it is settled," Legolas stated, crossing his arms
and glancing toward Aragorn. "I am going.”
Aragorn looked at the resolute look upon his friend's face and realized that there would be no dissuading the elf short of an outright order. Even then, he was not sure Legolas would obey. "Very well," he sighed, secretly glad of the company.
"I, too, will go," Gimli stated, placing his hand determinedly upon his axe.
"Nay, friend," Aragorn said firmly, before anyone could interrupt. "As I said before, you will be needed here. Legolas and I have hunted together before on many occasions, and we will be able to move much more swiftly on our own."
Gimli looked as if he was going to argue, but Aragorn did not give him a chance. Turning to Legolas, he addressed the elf. "We must leave as soon as possible if we wish to be back before nightfall."
"I must fill my quiver, and then I will be ready," Legolas stated quietly, throwing the distressed Gimli a sympathetic look.
"Very well, we leave within the hour."
"Merry!" Pippin called out excitedly as his friend rounded the corner of the hall. He jumped up from his stool and raced forward as first Frodo, and then Sam joined Merry. He reached the trio and began dancing excited circles about them, hurling questions about the battle, hardly noticing their exhausted state or blood stained armor.
Frodo and Sam exchanged tired, but amused expressions at the younger hobbit’s enthusiasm. However, they did not hesitate to quickly retire to their rooms and leave Merry to deal with the excited Pippin.
"Easy, Pip," Merry said, somewhat exasperated and pushing forward toward their room, wishing for nothing more than to strip from his filthy armor and fall into an immediate sleep.
"What happened? Where are the others? Did Malek show up?" Pippin continued firing questions at his friend as they entered the small room.
Merry sighed, rubbing his tired eyes. Suddenly he froze, staring at one of the beds in the corner of the room.
Pippin followed his gaze, and then laughed softly. "Don't worry, Merry. It's just the little boy, Dar. He was helping me guard the hall, but I sent him in here when he got too tired to keep his eyes open."
Merry nodded, then began wearily stripping off his armor. Pippin lent him a hand, never stopping his barrage of questions. Merry answered in monosyllables and grunts, and Pippin was quickly becoming exasperated.
"Please, Merry," he whined, "it was bad enough being stuck here all night, you can at least tell me what happened."
"I'll tell you when I get up," Merry offered sleepily as he slipped beneath the covers of his bed.
Pippin frowned, disappointment filling his face. "At least tell me if the others are alright," he begged.
"They’re fine," Merry answered drowsily, already slipping toward sleep.
Pippin looked at his friend disgustedly, shaking his head. "Where are they?" he asked, hoping to go and find someone more willing to answer his questions. He was already fairly sure that Frodo and Sam, next door, would already be asleep.
"Faramir is preparing defense lines, Arwen is helping with the wounded, and Gimli and Gandalf are working on reinforcing the wall and gate," Merry murmured, hoping to stop Pippin's insistent questions so that he could sleep.
"What about Aragorn and Legolas?" Pippin asked, curious that his friend had not mentioned them.
"They have probably already gone," Merry sighed, his words almost lost as he buried his head beneath his pillow.
Pippin moved over to the bed and lifted the pillow off Merry's head. "Gone? Gone were?" he questioned.
Merry glared up at him from a single bloodshot eye, before answering. "They left to find where Malek is hiding. Now will you leave me alone so I can sleep?"
Pippin dropped the pillow back over Merry's head, then stood and stared down at the bed. In a matter of minutes, the sound of Merry's heavy breathing filled the air and Pippin knew he was asleep.
A series of expression's crossed his face, one right after the other, and if Merry had been awake to see them, he would have immediately been alerted that all was not well with the younger hobbit. As it were, Merry did not see the expressions flitting across Pippin's face, nor was he aware when the hobbit left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
"Take care, my friend," Gimli said quietly, gripping Legolas's shoulder as the elf knelt and filled his quiver. Legolas glanced at him and smiled slightly.
"Of course," he answered with a forced cheerfulness.
"I must admit that I do not like this," Gimli said, frowning deeply. "There are too many things that could go wrong."
"I do not like it either," Legolas answered with a sigh, rising gracefully and swinging the full quiver onto his back. "However, I agree with Aragorn and Gandalf that it is the only option. We must learn all that we can about Malek if we are to defeat him."
"All the same," Gimli answered reluctantly, "I wish I was going with you. You need me to watch your back."
"I will be fine," Legolas grinned down at him encouragingly. "I was watching my own back before you were even born, my friend."
"Just be careful," Gimli grunted, not meeting his friend’s eyes.
Legolas looked down at the dwarf and was about to reply, but Aragorn called out to him, the man already heading toward the northern gate. Legolas reached down and gripped Gimli's shoulder in a silent farewell before turning and joining Aragorn at the edge of the city.
Gimli watched them as they talked briefly with the guard and then turned and began walking swiftly toward the distant mountain. As he watched them go, he got the strangest feeling that he would never see either one of them again. Emotion welled deep within him, and he found it impossible to swallow the lump that formed in his throat. He fought off the feeling, telling himself that he was merely tired and thus overreacting to every thing that had happened the previous evening. Aragorn and Legolas would be fine. They knew how to take care of themselves and had been doing so for years before Gimli had met them.
Still, Gimli stood staring after his two friends long after they had disappeared into the shadow of the mountain. At last he gave himself a hard shake and turned away from the gate to go see to his day’s duty.
If Gimli had remained where he was for just a minute longer, he would have seen the small shape that broke away from the wall and quickly began following the path the elf and ex-ranger had just taken.
Far above the small city, a lone orc stood on a rock ledge, his eyes taking in the activity around the city. He huddled against the rock face, trying to hide as much as possible in the darkness offered by its shadow. He was restless, shifting back and forth and often eyeing the sky that was still blanketed by high clouds. The rain was lessening once more, and the clouds looked as if they were beginning to break up and drift away.
The orc growled low and returned his eyes to the city, stiffening as he spotted the two figures crossing the short plain and heading toward the mountains. He remained where he was, frozen against the rock face, watching and waiting. After several long minutes had passed, he at last spotted what he had been waiting for.
Concealing a wicked grin, the orc turned and scampered from his high perch, his job finished. The only thing left to do was report to his master all that he had seen.
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.