1. Eärnur’s Pride
Tormbiril looked up at the massive trees that ringed the junction of the Southward and East-west Roads and soared skyward. He felt a twinge of regret and anger as he scanned their destroyed canopies that now left the junction open to the morning sky. His gaze then passed to the large stone statue, which sat in the solitude of the Cross-roads. Its head had been smashed off and replaced with a large stone. He scowled at the stupid grin and the single eye that had been painted on the stone and spat. Less than fifty years before, this land was controlled by Gondor, but after the capture of Minas Ithel, Orc raiders had driven his people westward into the shadow of Osgiliath.
The knight 's attention was drawn away from the ruined statue when Eärnur, King of Gondor spoke. "Yes my friends. Look upon the evil that seeps out of Mordor and remember it well. Ride proudly as we go to meet our enemy. For too long, the presence of the Witch-king of Angmar has plagued Middle Earth. It is time to bring his vile reign to an end, and return honour to Gondor."
Though some of the knights nodded and uttered oaths of their own, Tormbiril remained silent. Facing the Witch-king alone before the gates of Minas Morgul seemed, to Tormbiril, to have nothing to do with honour. Rather, he saw it as nothing more than a means to save face after rejecting the Witch-king's earlier attempt to lure him into single combat at the Battle of Fornost. His king had been ridiculed by a few of his own soldiers when he had swallowed his pride and heeded to the wisdom of his steward, Mardil Voronwë.
Now that, Tormbiril thought, had taken courage. This is just insanity.
His musings were interrupted as Eärnur continued. "I will face the Witch-king alone. None of you are to interfere in our struggle. Your task is to ensure I meet the Witch-king in single combat," he said, looking at each Man in turn.
Tormbiril held the king's gaze for a brief moment, as Eärnur smiled proudly at his men. The feverish gleam in his liege's blue eyes caused a dull ache in the knight's stomach. Eärnur's broad smile and confident pose did little to assuage Tormbiril's uncertainty as to the outcome of today's confrontation.
Before them, the east-west road stretched to the valley of Imlad Morgul on the western slopes of the Ephel Dúath, and eventually to the fallen city of Minas Ithel. The sun's light, though welcome, did little to warm the early morning air, and he shivered as he and the other knights urged their mounts after the king.
They rode at a steady pace until they reached the rim of the Morgul Vale, where Eärnur gave the command to slow. As they entered the valley, the black churning mass of clouds that hung permanently above Minas Morgul swallowed the sun's light.
Tormbiril's mount whinnied and shied as it stepped near the hideous sentinels on either side of the head of the white bridge that spanned the Morgulduin. The knight patted his mount's flank and spoke quietly to it as the group moved forward. His eyes could have been drawn to many things at this point: the Tower of Sorcery, the Orc archers standing along parapet of the tower's outer wall, or the ten Olog-hai waiting some fifty paces before the gates of Minas Morgul.
Instead, the knight's attention was fixed on the Lord of the Nazgûl. He watched, transfixed, as the Witch-king swept up out of the city atop his serpentine Fell Beast and screamed his terrifying battle cry. Tormbiril and the other knights shrunk down on their horses and covered their ears as the Ring-wraith landed just behind the line of trolls.
It took Tormbiril a few moments to regain control of his mount, and he noted that two of the knights had been unhorsed.
"I see the Men of Gondor share your propensity for cowardice," the Witch-king hissed. "You will soon regret accepting my challenge."
Eärnur drew his sword and nudged his mount forward. "Gondor has always stood against the darkness, and we shall drive you from here as we drove you from Angmar."
"So you are afraid to meet me in single combat." The Witch-king laughed.
"My knights will not to interfere in our battle," Eärnur replied and pointed his blade at the trolls. "I see you yet stoop to cower behind your horde."
"Kill them!" the Witch-king hissed and pointed toward Tormbiril and the other knights.
Tormbiril saw some of the knights hesitate as the trolls rushed at them. He raised his sword and urged his horse forward. "For Gondor!" he shouted shrilly. A clamour rose on the bridge as he and the other knights met the charging rank of trolls. Just as he raised his sword to attack the nearest troll, Tormbiril caught sight of the Witch-king's mount soaring upward and beyond where the two forces had clashed, to where Eärnur waited.
He stabbed at a troll's chest, but was flung from his mount as the troll brought its hammer down on the horse's head. Tormbiril landed hard on the edge of the white bridge, but managed to keep his weapon in hand. The knight rose and ducked beneath the Olag-hai's savage blow. He drove his sword up into the creature's exposed neck and then, as the troll's legs buckled and it fell to its knees, Tormbiril grunted and slashed open its throat.
He ignored the troll's howl and surveyed the melee - though four knights lay dead, Eärnur's men had killed half of the Olag-hai. Tormbiril raced to the side of one of his fellow knights and slashed at one of the remaining trolls, but the creature deflected the blow. The knight beside him took advantage of the distraction and slew the troll.
Exhilaration rushed through Tormbiril. Victory is ours! he dared to hope.
Tormbiril looked back and saw Eärnur fall beneath the Witch-king's blade, and dropped his weapon so he could cover his ears as the Nazgûl shrieked again. He tried to stand, to fight off the fear that overwhelmed him, but he fell to one knee.
What of the Line of Anarion? he despaired.
Tormbiril looked up just before another troll swung its hammer at him, and the knight rolled aside. He grabbed his sword from off the stonework and surged to his feet. The knight struck again, this time tearing a massive rent in the Olag-hai's plate armour and cutting deep into its chest. He pulled on the sword for a second strike, but he could not extract the blade.
He pulled back from the troll as it roared and swung wildly at him. The knight glanced around for another weapon, and saw a blade laying on the bridge. He rushed to it, but fell as an arrow pierced the back of his knee. All around him, arrows lanced into the ranks of the combatants, striking both Olag-hai and Gondorian knight. Tormbiril staggered toward the weapon that lay on the bridge, amidst the desperate cries of his fellow knights.
A few arrows skipped off the stonework at his feet, others even deflected off his cuirass, but several pierced his armour, and Tormbiril cried out as he fell to the ground.
What will Gondor do without her King?
The last arrow struck the back of his neck, ending his life.
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.