The Circles: Book 1: The Triumph of The Shadow: 28. Field of Defeat

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28. Field of Defeat

Chapter Written by Angmar

Defeat was upon the dark host, crushing in its inevitability. Only those lost to the fits of kapurdri madness could not see its approach. They, unknowing, were oblivious to all save their battle rage. None cared when some man, laughing or snarling, caught in the full force of the passion, gouged out one of his own eyes and hurled the bleeding orb far from himself.

The disaster was a bitter one for the Nazgûl, and the caustic taste of defeat was a corrosive one, infuriating them, humiliating them, casting them into dark and somber ire. The embers of old grievances were kindled anew. Memories better left unsummoned were dredged up and brought to the fronts of their minds. As their tempers flared, their moods grew more fiery, and soon they would begin to lash out at one another openly.

Slowly, the Five Nazgûl swooped down to their own lines. No sooner than the Morgul Lord had dismounted his beast and turned charge of the creature over to his beast keepers than he was beset by dismayed staff members and numerous couriers. He was informed that his headquarters tent had been captured by the Rohirrim early on and then torched. All his possessions inside, and even the standards outside, had either been captured or destroyed. Upon inquiring why the very headquarters of the Morgul Lord had not been better protected, none seemed to have an adequate answer.

"Where is Maugoth Tahmtan?" he demanded. "Why does he not appear before me and tell me these things himself?"

"My lord, the last word that was received from him was a message that he was 'surveying the field from a forward position,'" an aide cautiously informed him.

"Then I assume that means that he is seeking the safest place that he can find. Let the fat fool run! I will deal with him in time."

Then he was issuing orders to his aides to take messages to his other generals with advice on how best to conduct the rest of the battle. Then he turned to another aide and ordered that a bow and quiver of arrows be found for him. He waited, drinking the goblet of wine that an orc had fetched for him, while the the other Nazgûl ordered their own servants to fetch them drink and replenish their supply of arrows. The other four seemed quite content to sit upon their beasts and drink their wine, simmering with unspoken words, while the Morgul Lord attended to his dispatches and his aides. The unpleasantness started out innocently enough.

"You know," said Rutfîmûrz, gesturing with his wine goblet in the direction of the Thrihyrne where Zagbolg had gone down, "that was a good beast that he lost."

"And what about Zagbolg himself?" Khamûl challenged. Zagbolg was a close friend of Khamûl's, and dwelt with him in Dol Guldur.

"As I said, 'twas a fine beast."

"And, of course, you always had something against those from Khand... You always resembled Númenórean scum, self-righteous crusaders! At least I, not like you, can remember from whence I came!" Khamûl spat on the ground.

Both Khamûl and Zagbolg had once been of Khand, the Black Easterling dwelling to the north near the border of Rhûn, and the Fourth farther south along the second of the Two Great Rivers nigh on the city of Ninwi.

Rut studied the Thrihyrne more intently as he took another sip from his goblet. "Not Khand itself, but some of those who come from there... seem lacking in certain qualities."

"You never let that bother you in the least when it came to choosing women during many of your capturing raids," Khamûl said irritably.

"Not everything in Khand is... corrupted," laughed Rut after finishing his goblet of wine.

Khamûl bared his teeth and hissed at Rutfîmûrz. "Númenórean filth!"

At last, Angmar was finished with the dispatches and his orders to his aides. "Why must I always remind you that a battlefield is no place to bring up past grievances? Attend to that in private when we return to the City. Concentrate now upon salvaging what we might. We set forth again," he said quietly, and the two hushed their bickering like chastised servants.

Once again in the air, the Five flew back towards the field.

"I see," Angmar said, irritably tapping the fingers of his left hand upon the pommel of his saddle, "that the Lords Krith, Skri, Zagbolg and Udu have not returned to us. Their presence is missed." He looked about him at the other four riders, two on either side. "'Twould be pointless to send any of you to seek for them, or I mayhap would find myself here all alone."

"My lord..." Rut began to speak.

"Words are not necessary. I am not angry. What is there to say? There are only five of our number now. Never before has such a thing befallen us! Some might say we have performed as though befuddled, robbed of our senses and powerless, and to a certain extent, that is true."

"My lord, if I may speak with your permission," ventured Khamûl.

"It is not necessary, Shakh Krul. As I have already said, we," he turned to Khamûl, "not you, but... we... have failed!"

"Akh, you are right. We have failed." Wailing mournfully, Khamûl hung his head.

"Damn!" the Morgul Lord exclaimed. "I could use some of Skri's biting wit now!"

"My lord, I would prefer something not quite so dry and brittle as bone... I could use a bottle of wine right now," Rut remarked, attempting to break the grim mood. "But in truth, none could match his humor."

Reflecting upon his words for a while, the Morgul Lord smiled wryly and a chuckle escaped his lips. "We could all use a drink."

Gothmog thought to himself, looking to Krakfakhthal and scowling at him, "And I had a wager with Krak that the battle would go well for us. The battle and the bet - both are lost!"

Krak had been silent, and then noticing the gaze of the Third upon him, he was surprised. "What!" he exclaimed. "Lord of Harad, what exactly have I done?"

"Very little," he snarled. "At least nothing of value!" Never would the Third let the other know how angry he was that he had been bested in gambling.

"But, my lord," he exclaimed, a puzzled expression on his face, "I have done my best!"

"Do not make matters worse by quarreling," Angmar spoke. "We are doing naught except rendering each other miserable!"

Cloudy gloom had settled over his thoughts as the Morgul Lord remembered the lackadaisical performance of the Nine in their search for the Ring. He knew the Master was looking upon all of them right now and suspected them. Angmar sensed His fiery gaze upon him and felt His ire.

"Failure again," he thought. "We were always doomed to fail." He hunched his shoulders. Even now with their Rings returned and the renewed power that it brought, Angmar felt impotent, all his plans working for naught.

The sun had crested and the Five circled above the horsemen below them. Their beasts, peering down at the carnage below, smelled the essence of blood. They tugged and jerked against the restraining bits in their mouths, excited by the sights and smells. The Nazgûl knew what the creatures wanted - to sink their ripping teeth deeply into the bleeding masses of flesh. The Five grew irritated and jerked the reins back up as they kicked the beasts in the sides.

Relying on their resources for their vision had dimmed, the Nazgûl flew in low behind the racing lines of horses, launched their five deadly arrows and screamed, cursing the daylight. None were certain whether their marks fell true or not. Then they drew their beasts upwards and turned, swooping and falling upon their enemy over and over again, unleashing darts into their backs.

Far below, riding across the Deeping Coomb, racing in clustered formation, the Elves and the Riders of the Mark galloped on horses fleet and sure of foot. Although the relentless work at the gates with the battering rams had continued throughout the cavalry battles, the forces of Mordor had not yet been able to pound down the doors of the Deep. Although their nerves had been set on edge throughout the cavalry charges and countercharges, those manning the catapults and stone throwers had still gone about their business with grim resolve. Now their cavalry had failed and all that lay between them and the enemy were the wavering forces of Mordor. Many of that number had eroded away in the light like ploughed hill land swept before a flood of rain.

The Mordorian infantry had formed in lines and faced the enemy. Their cruel halberds with their wicked, sharp points and curving knight-grabbing hooks were extended before them, making a defensive wall of daunting, bristling metal.

"Come on, you yellow-haired bastards! Kiss our iron and steel!" the orcs and men screamed at them. "And then kiss our arses!"

Horns blowing, songs of war upon their lips, the Rohirrim came charging at them. When the two lines clashed with a roar, the ground vibrated and the line of men and orcs wavered. The Elves and Rohirrim hit the Mordorians with fell savagery, their spears doing their deadly work. Red and black blood flowed freely over the field as men and orcs fell to pikes, halberds or spears.

Atop the fortress, the defenders looked across the Deeping Coomb and cheered at the sight of the friendly cavalry host. Their foes' attention now was captured by the fierce screams and battle songs of the horsemen as they hacked and slashed their way through. The attention of the besiegers was fully locked upon their attackers and they fought for command of the small bit of ground.

Their exposed backs could not ignore, however, the galling fire of the archers who unleashed volley after volley of arrows. The Mordorians steadily gave ground before the Rohirrim and backed towards the fortress, caught beasts in a trap. Scaling ladders were forgotten, falling to the ground, as the attackers turned to face the advancing Rohirrim and Elves.

"To the Postern Door!" Aragorn cried. The hair suddenly prickled on his neck as he felt the eerie sensation that he was trapped in time. The man felt perhaps he was destined to repeat over and over what had happened before in the early days of March.

Quietly they crept along the Postern Path and then rushed at the enemy blocking the Great Gates. Safe from the arrows and spears from above by the protective canopy of skins, the orcs who manned the rams had been confident of their success, but the unexpected taste of steel soon turned their plans to blood. In dismay, the survivors tried to flee, but they were cut down before they could make their escape.

Soon others with axes joined Aragorn and his party of men, hacking the orcs asunder. After destroying the frames upon which the rams rested, they hurled them and the dying orcs from the ramp and causeway. A great, tumultuous cheer of triumph burst from their lips, a signal for those inside to open the Great Gates.

"My lord," shrieked Rutfîmûrz, "once again we cannot tell who is friend or foe!"

"Hold your arrows," the Morgul Lord hissed bitterly. "Circle above the fray and chant a lament, for victory is stolen away!"

Finally with sword and spear, the first line of Rohirric cavalry cut a deep swath through the defensive line. Now with a great shout, the besieged Gondorians and Rohirrim rushed at their enemy's flanks and rear, hewing and slashing with sword and with axe all who would not give them ground. Mordorian officers frantically shouted orders and those ranks closest to the fortress faced once again towards the walls, but relentless blows chopped and hewed them to bits. With victory so recently in their grasp, thoughts of capitulation were a doubly bitter draught to taste.

"Hold steady, men!" the Mordorian officers cajoled. "Do not break rank!" But words of encouragement went unheeded on minds that had turned only to thoughts of fleeing. Pandemonium, confusion and chaos now ruled the ranks of Mordor.

***

At his command post a safe distance from the fighting, Maugoth Tahmtan told his adjutants, "I will not give the order to sound the retreat. Never will it be said that I left the field unchallenged!"

"But, sir," was the reply, "our men are being cut down, slaughtered! The enemy cannot be stopped! They come at us both from the back and the front! You must order the call to retreat! We must retire to another position!"

"Nar!" Maugoth Tahmtan shouted. "They are to hold to the last! Give the order that if any tries to run that he is to slain like the coward he is!"

"Sir," Mautor Vivana, his second-in-command, suggested, "look there upon the map," the small, dark man pointed at a place upon a parchment map in his hands, "let us fall back here... to this place and establish a defensive line. There perhaps we can draw them out into an attack and blight them with arrow fire."

"Nar!" Tahmtan shouted again. "Let no more be said of this. The man who has the word 'Retreat!' on his lips will be arrested for insubordination and faltering under fire!"

"Aye, Maugoth," Vivana said with resignation. "Then you wish a fight to the death! So it shall be."

***

Crouched under the protection of a ruined wain, two orcs of the Dushgoi host hid from the sun and the battle. Peering out from between the wheels, they watched the fighting that raged nearby.

"Garn, mate! It's going badly for them!"

"Lugag, it will go badly for us, too, if we're found by any of these damned strawheads or tarks! Things will go even worse for us if we are caught by our own officers! Maybe we should not have run."

"Be quiet, Bashrash!" hissed Lugag. "It was your idea to run, not mine! You always get us in trouble! I never should have thrown in my lot with you, brainless fool! It was your idea to pinch that swag from those burial mounds near the City of the Horse-lords, and that was against the orders of the Higher Ups! Pizbûr Ruzkû had us both whipped for that trick, he did. He made the lash dance around our legs and we stepped to a merry little tune! I still remember their laughter!"

"And you were just as eager to go for it as I was! Don't start acting all high and mighty on me, now!" Bashrash growled. "I'm sick of your whining voice! Shut up or I'll slit your belly and run your legs through the hole! If you can keep quiet, when it's night, we'll take off running, but you go one way, because you dirty sucker, I'm going the other!"

"My pleasure," said Lugag. "I'm sick of you and this place and this army! If I ever live to get back to my den, I'm just thinking of me, nobody else!"

"That's all you ever think about anyway! Save your own hide, Lugag," snarled Bashrash. "Nobody cares about it but you!" A sudden gleam in his eyes, he slipped a dagger from his belt and, snarling, lunged forward at Lugag.

"I expected that from a bloody coward like you!" hissed Lugag as he quickly darted out of the way. Then drawing his own dagger, he sprang upon Bashrash, cutting a bloody gash across his face.

"You piece of dung!" screamed Bashrash, shaking his head, streaming blood. A quick fist caught Lugag full in the mouth and then Bashrash tried to move away. Spewing out bloody spittle and broken shards of teeth, he flung himself at Bashrash, his dagger slashing.

They grappled with one another, wrestling upon the ground until Lugag pinned Bashrash to the dirt with his weight. Then his dagger went down, down into the other's throat, severing his windpipe, bloody bubbles gurgling out and popping in his last breaths.

"That's the last time you'll call me dung!"

Lugag lay panting atop the dead body of the other orc, looking down into his vacant eyes. "Dirty piece of filth," he snarled. "Coward and traitor to the end!"

Bending his head down, his nostrils twitching at the smell of blood, he thrust his mouth upon the gaping wounds and drew out more of the black liquid. "The only thing good about you is your blood," he mumbled as he licked his lips.

Lugag rolled up onto his knees and he set to work rifling his comrade's clothing for valuables. "Ah, I knew it!" he said when he found two silver coins in a pouch on Bashrash's belt. "You were holding out on me all along! I knew you had sneaked out something from that Horse-master's barrow and Pizbûr Ruzkû never caught you! Wouldn't share with your old comrade, would you? Ha!" he laughed. "Now I have it all and you're nothing but maggot food!"

***

Upon the field, hemmed in between the advancing Gondorians to the rear and the Rohirrim cavalry to their front, the Mordorian line sagged, swayed and then crumbled, melting before the onslaught. There was no horn to herald the call to retreat for all pandemonium had broken out and both orcs and men fled panic-crazed down the Dike. In their fear, some cast themselves from atop the high bank to their deaths below, while others sought for safer paths among the rocks.

The Rohirrim cavalry and their Elvish comrades set upon their foe as they fled, driving them before them like cattle to the slaughter. Behind, the Gondorians in the fortress slew the orcs there to a man.

"Mercy!" cried some of the Easterlings caught alone away from their host.

"Mercy! Mercy!" were the Gondorians' angry shouts. "You would give us none! Yield then and show us proof!"

"We surrender! Have mercy!" they cried as they dropped their swords, some falling to the ground on their hands and knees in supplication.

"Round them up and take them back to the fortress," ordered Aragorn. "Guard them well but let no harm come to them. We will not have it said that the men of the West kill surrendering foes! Give them water and see to their wounds. We are not heartless conquerors!"

"Thank you, kind Master!" many of them said in gratitude, bowing and doing obeisance.

"I am not the master of men," said Aragorn, and set back to the work at hand.

A group of Easterling cavalry had been cut off from its retreat and was hopelessly outnumbered. Many of them wounded and hemmed in by a ring of ash spears, they glared at their conquerors.

"It is hopeless, men of the East!" cried a great Tulkas of a man in Common Speech. "Do not die uselessly! Surrender and no harm shall come to you! But talk among yourselves first. We will give you time."

Corporal Babak, highest ranking surviving officer present of the company, wounded in the side by a sword thrust from the enemy, thought, "It would be far more honorable to fall upon our swords than to surrender to these dogs. But on this day, all honor died."

He talked to his men in their own language. "Men, let us choose life today rather than death."

"Sir, it is shame to die in dishonor! We should not surrender to them!" urged one, adamant and obstinate.

Looking around at his comrades, Corporal Babak said, "There is no dishonor in surrender when you are bested, but there is madness and folly in dying for naught. Men, what say you? Surrender and mayhap live to see our families again someday? Or die and see only Darkness?"

"You speak for us now, sir," the others said. "It will be as you say. This field is lost; our deaths cannot make it different. We will surrender."

Riding forward towards the blonde giant, Corporal Babak extended his sword, hilt first. "I am Pizgal Babak, commander of this troop. Accept our surrender. As is the custom in our country, we concede that we are now your slaves," he said bitterly.

Riding towards him, the other man roared in anger, his face becoming red, "Slaves! What sort of foolishness is this? You are prisoners, not slaves!" Taking the hilt of the sword, he said, "I am Osric, a Rider of the Mark. Tell your men to drop their swords! Have them dismount and lead their horses. We will be behind you."

"Perhaps it would have been more merciful to have slain us, Rider of the Mark," Pizgal Babak said, reflecting, as he looked into his eyes. "Only disgrace awaits us back in our homelands."

Osric shrugged his shoulders. "Was it not disgrace enough to fall upon a people who never once did yours harm save in defense of their own land and the land of their friends?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not," Pizgal Babak said quietly and shrugged.

Then after few orders spoken in their own language, the Easterling cavalrymen, heads bowed low, led their horses towards the fortress.

***

"Maugoth Tahmtan, the day is lost. We advise you to forsake this field," urged his staff. The hour was around 3 o'clock that afternoon.

"Leave it uncontested in the hands of the enemy?" Tahmtan said warily.

"It is already there, sir," said his adjutant.

The Maugoth was sorely frightened, but no hint in his eyes belied his fear. "Then there is only one thing to do for the good of the army. None have ever said that Tahmtan has forsaken the field of battle when there was still a chance for victory." He looked back towards the fortress where the fighting still waged. "Though I am loath to do it and do so only because of the insistence of my staff, I shall call for the withdrawal of my headquarters staff and myself."

"Then, sir, it must be now, for it will be too late if you tarry longer."

He looked at the man with irritation. "Though I do this with great reluctance and much grieving of my heart, I will withdraw against my better judgment. However," he stroked his dark beard, his eyes cunning and quick, "there is no need to take my standards with us. It would be foolish to alert the enemy to the retreat of the commander of this army."

"What about the standards of the army, my lord?" the adjutant cried in alarm. "Surely we cannot leave them behind to fall in the hands of the enemy! Sir, is this wise?"

"What is more valuable? The commander of the army or its standards? Without the commander, the morale of the army crumbles," muttered Maugoth Tahmtan.

"Sir," the adjutant's eyes flashed sparks, "without the standards to show our pride, there is no army!" He turned to the others. "With you as my witnesses, I will protest when we get back!"

"If we delay much longer, Captain, the only thing that any of us will protest is the rapid approach of death. We move out now! Give out the order," the general commanded, fear in his voice.

"He is a cowardly dog," was the one thought of his staff, "and a traitor to boot!"

Quietly the general, casting glances over his shoulder, rode with his staff from the field, his bodyguard and an escort of cavalry with him.

***

When Lieutenant Kourosh and Sergeant Daungha reached the festering mass of battle, the Easterling and Southron cavalries were faltering, driven back towards the Dike. Dismounting quickly and turning their horses loose, the Easterlings and Southrons rushed to join their comrades. Wielding their swords against their foes, their steel met that of the enemy. For a while, it appeared that they would drive the foe back, but at last, the entire line broke, and the Lieutenant and the Sergeant were driven back with their fellows. The Mordorian host was in dismay, many running blindly hither and thither, trying to escape their foemen.

"Sir, it is useless," exclaimed Sergeant Daungha. "Let us retreat with the rest unless we wish to die at the hands of the enemy."

"All hope is gone," said Lieutenant Kourosh stoically, and they turned upon their heels and joined the others in the headlong dash towards the east.

Like a giant, wounded beast, goaded and provoked by those who tormented it, the Mordorian host fell growling back towards the east. They were daunted only in their flight by a stalwart rear guard who tried to hold them at bay. At last around 5 o'clock in the evening, those officers who were brave and strong of will rallied the men and they formed a line, and this time it did not yield, for to yield now would be sure death.

"Dig trenches!" came the grim order, and swords and spear points, spoons, knives and hands and fingers turned into spades as they dug themselves protective pits, kept low, and waited for the enemy.

Around 6 o'clock they heard a trumpet sound a loud, clear blast. Soon a small party of horsemen, standard bearers of Rohan and Gondor with them, rode into view. One of the men held a white flag on a long staff, signaling a parley was being requested.

"Send forth a spokesman!" a strong voice commanded. "We would talk!"

Forth rode Maugoth Tahmtan and his bodyguard. Before them they saw a lean, haggard man, kingly of bearing; an old man in a gray cloak; an Elf of wise and noble countenance; a Gondorian upon whose blue surcoat was a silver swan; and a yellow-maned warrior with a white horse tail atop his helm. Behind them rode a great host of Rohirrim and Elvish cavalry.

"I am Tahmtan, commanding general of his army under command of the Black Captain. I am the spokesman for him. By what authority do you offer talk?"

"I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor." Turning to Gandalf, he said, "This is Mithrandir and to my left is Éomer, King of the Mark. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and Glorfindel of Rivendell are with me as well. I speak for all of us and those they represent."

"Ah, so we meet, heir of the thief! What crooked words do you have to speak?"

Ignoring the man's taunt, Aragorn went on. "We wish to offer you a truce until dawn to allow you to retrieve your wounded to safety and bury your dead as you see fit. More importantly, you have something very precious in your keeping, the captives, those women and children that your men took and have marched off into slavery. We wish to offer an exchange: all those we have captured to be exchanged for those innocent women and children. General, can you speak upon this matter for your Captain?"

"Nay, I cannot," said Maugoth Tahmtan contemptuously. "He has not returned yet. When he is back, I will give him word of what you have offered, but I can make no promises."

"Then I shall be back ere dark for his answer."

Both parties turned their horses and rode across the field back to their lines.

***
NOTES

Second Battle of Helm's Deep, June 14, 3019 - 1:30 PM and Beyond

As the Rohirrim drive the Mordorians towards the Deep, the besieged Gondorians rush out and attack the rear of the Mordor host.

Caught between the pinchers of the men of the West, the Black Host retreats in great panic and disarray towards the east.

This map charts the movements of the Riders of Rohan, the Army of Gondor, and the Elvish Host on their journey to Helm's Deep.

Accompanying maps charting troop movements by Angmar.

For the purposes of this AU, it should be taken as a given that some of the Nazgûl, for purposes that Sauron found advantageous to Him, have not been allowed to retain the memory of their lives as kings and lords. He gives them memory as a gift or withholds it as a punishment, or just to have better control over them. Even those who are allowed to remember cannot recall many of the details of their lives, just a general idea of their past. Those who still have some portion of memory are Khamûl, Gothmog, Zagbolg, Krakfhatal, Skrishau and Krithnarînuz. Those who have little or no memory are Angmar, Rutfîmûrz and Udukhatûrz. Incidentally, those are the three lords of Númenor.


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: Angmar and Elfhild

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/24/09

Original Post: 10/29/06

Go to The Circles: Book 1: The Triumph of The Shadow overview

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