12. Mirror, mirror
- Murphys Law of Combat Operations
The hazy afternoon was beginning to draw to a close; their third afternoon in the wild of the willow wood and food was now non-existent, although the water from the river ran clear, cold and refreshing. Still, both Gary and Chief knew that whilst they could survive on just water for a few days, eventually they would suffer from lack of food. Kim already looked weary and overstretched although she said nothing to anyone and never complained.
Jim was the one who worried Gary the most now. He had been uncharacteristically silent since they had sat down and discussed their situation. In the discussion they had all finally admitted that none of them believed they were still in the Forest of Dean, but as to where they actually were, this was still a complete mystery. Gary believed that it was this admission that finally pushed the young policeman over the edge and it was only Gary’s and Chief’s assurance that wherever they were, it was so far away from Coleford and Jim’s home that there was likely no damage done by the earth tremors had stopped him from having a complete breakdown. Although Gary would have been hard put to justify that opinion with any hard facts. Jim seemed calmer after that, but had not spoken since unless directly spoken to.
The truth was that they were stuck in the middle of ‘god only knew’ where with no food and nothing to keep them warm. After the prehistoric creatures had left with the weapons and dragging the Elf man behind them, Gary and the others had cautiously left their hiding place. The Chief had volunteered to cross the river and fetch the SA80 and to their delight it was still in reasonable working order. They now had one weapon and a magazine with twenty rounds in it, although Gary had decided that they needed this for protection rather than to hunt with it.
The thing that had unnerved them all the most was the Chief’s report that he had no idea how those things hadn’t seen them. The reeds had looked thick and concealing from their side of the river, but once over the other side anyone hiding among them was in fairly plain view.
“Perhaps they’re naturally short-sighted.” Kim suggested, slapping at a couple of midges that had landed on her arm. “No food, but plenty of insect life.” She mourned. “They’re going to eat me alive.”
The Chief gave a snort of laughter. “Better the midges than those creatures.”
“That’s true.” She slipped her combat jacket back on to try and deter them from feeding on her.
“I don’t think their leader is short-sighted.” Gary said quietly. “Quite the contrary. Still I suppose we’d better just thank our lucky stars that they didn’t spot us. Perhaps the sun was in their eyes or something. Our camouflage clothing would have helped too.” He took a sip of water from Chief’s hip flask and handed it to Jim who drank but said nothing other than offering his thanks. “We need to find some food and tonight we need to make a fire. It’s still warm here now despite it being late afternoon, but the temperature drops considerably at night and I think we need to take the risk.”
“I agree.” Chief stretched his left leg out and massaged the knee, wincing slightly as he did so. “As for food, I would normally suggest hunting some small game, except there isn’t any.” He looked at Gary. “Did you ever do any survival training Sir?”
Gary nodded. “On the Brecon Beacons (1) . I did it with two SAS (2) blokes and they nearly killed me. It was a toss up which I hated more, them or the weather. I think the weather won by a hair’s breadth. It pissed down the entire time, when it wasn’t blowing a gale. Why do you ask?”
“I was just thinking that between us we might be able to detect which plants and fruits around here are edible and which aren’t. I remember that my survival instructor was quite well versed in herbal lore and there are some things you never forget. Being lectured until your brains spill out of your ears is one of them. Somewhere along the line some of that infernal stuff must have sunk in.”
“Good idea.” Gary gave him an approving look. “What I suggest is that we continue heading along the river and look for likely food items as we go. Judging by where the sun is beginning to go down, we should be heading north.”
“North-west.” Jim suddenly interrupted. “My watch has a compass on it and if things aren’t too screwed up or different here, then we’re heading north-west.”
Gary smiled at him. “Welcome back, north-west it is. My reasons for heading along the river are because as I said before, settlements and villages are generally built near water. We need a town or some sort of civilisation, however basic it is, to try and get some sort of help. I think we should camp up tonight, make a small fire and find whatever we can to eat; roots, berries, whatever. Tomorrow we start out bright and early and we head along the banks in search of ‘friendlies’. We have one weapon, so we’re not completely defenceless, but we must assume that those creatures are doing the same as we are so we will probably cross paths again at some stage. We all need to keep our eyes peeled for hostiles.”
Kim put her hand up tentatively and Gary raised an eyebrow at her. “Could we…is it possible that we…I could swim in the river Sir? I feel so scruffy and my feet are still a bit sore.”
Garry nodded. “Good idea. It’s important for us to stay as clean as we can in case of blisters, small cuts or whatever. Infection can set in pretty quickly and we have no first aid kit, no antiseptic and no access to modern medical facilities. We’ll have three bathing parties. Ladies first, of course.” He gave Kim a little bow and she grinned at him. “Sgt Freeman, you can have the first party and we’ll all turn our backs to preserve your maidenly modesty, but we do need to stand guard on those bathing. Chief and Jim will go next and I will go last.”
“Segregated bathing for officers and ladies?” Chief remarked with a wicked gleam in his eye. “Kim’s maidenly modesty I can understand, but what do you have that’s different to the rest of us sir?”
They all laughed, including Jim. Gary had the grace to blush. “I have no defence to make other than I’m perfectly normal in all respects and have nothing different to any other bloke. Unless we’re talking about size of course, then we all know that officers have much more in that area, the extra length and girth comes from the brains they remove from us at Sandhurst (3) . It’s generally considered among the ranks that most officers keep their brains in their balls anyway.”
Chief nodded sagely. “That’s what I said sir, no brains and big bollocks.” He turned to Kim who was giggling furiously. “You just keep your gaze averted Miss Freeman, especially when Major Balls…er Matthews, is cavorting naked in the water. We don’t want any eyes being poked out.”
Kim collapsed in hysterics; Gary and Jim chuckled.
“I’m sure it wouldn’t be her eyes I’d be aiming for.” Gary said sotto voce with a sly grin. Everyone howled with laughter and Kim blushed even more at the inference. “So it’s settled then. We find a likely place to camp, see what food items we can scrape up from the land and while Kim is bathing we can make a fire so that at least we have somewhere to warm up once we’re all clean. We have no towels remember and I would suggest we try to avoid putting dry clothes over wet bodies.”
“And we’ll just ignore the fact that we’re putting filthy clothes on clean bodies.” Chief quipped.
Gary shook his head. “I didn’t say it was ideal Chief.” He said mildly. “But until we can locate some alternative clothing and get this stuff clean, it’s all we can manage.”
“We could wash the stuff.” Kim suggested. “But we’d need a nice warm sunny day and we’d have to just wait around until they dried. In olden times they used to beat laundry against the rocks, they didn’t have laundry detergent or soap.”
Gary sighed. “Another good idea, but I think we’ll go a bit further on tomorrow and see if we hit a village of some kind. If not, then we take a day and do as Kim suggests.”
Chief cast a glance at Kim. She was busy picking a scab off her arm and he slapped her hand away making her look up in indignation. “Leave it alone young lady or I’ll tie your fucking hands up.” He threatened. “If you make that raw and get it infected I’ll be bloody annoyed.”
“As will I.” Gary said sternly and Kim blushed furiously at being caught out. “Let’s head further along and find somewhere to camp before the light goes. Chief, would you take Tail-end Charlie again?”
Chief nodded. “On the understanding that should our disgusting friends double back on us and stab me from behind I reserve the right to haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“Consider it understood Chief.” Gary grinned. He hefted the SA80 onto his arm, snapped the magazine in place and they resumed their path along the river.
The Chief caught at Kim’s arm as they walked and she gave him a querying look. “What’s up sir?”
Now it was the Chief’s turn to blush. “Well, I don’t know how to put this except directly. When was the date of your last period?”
Kim looked outraged. “Chief! That’s very personal.”
“Yes I know, but since I haven’t seen a Boots the Chemist (4) anywhere for the last few willow trees and bends in the river, I’m assuming that sanitary towels or tampons will be in pretty short supply around here. We need to think ahead.”
Her face fell as the stark realisation of her predicament hit her. “Oh fuck.”
“Precisely.” Agreed the Chief with a small smile. “But I don’t think fucking will help our situation, although getting pregnant would certainly put paid to the monthly bleeding! Not that I am offering you understand, happily married man and all that.”
“I remember seeing some programme where they said that women in olden days used special cloths which they washed and re-used.” She shuddered slightly. “It all sounds so disgusting and primitive.”
“Primitive, but practical. We need to get some cloth from somewhere to rip up then. Let’s give it some thought and see what we come up with. Now, when was your last period?”
She thought for a moment, counted off on her fingers and her face lightened a bit. “Unless the shock of all this brings it on early, then I have another six days before I’m due again.”
A feeling of relief spread over the Chief. “Good, at least that gives us a bit of breathing space before we need to worry. As for the shock bringing it on, it might be just as likely to stop them altogether. Just keep an eye on things and come to me if there’s a problem. I’ve got daughters and I’m more likely to understand than those two buggers ahead of us.”
Kim nodded. “I will.” On impulse she reached up and kissed Chief on the cheek. “Thank you Chief, you’re a doll.”
Now it was his turn to blush.
The throne room of Morgoth, Thangorodrim....
Even from as far north as the Iron Mountain where Morgoth had created Thangorodrim, the shadow cast forth by his evil intent crept with eldritch fingers and insinuated itself into the places of light.
The Host of the Valar had driven much of this evil before them it was true, yet what was left behind was not cleansed of all of it. Pockets of the shadow still lay over the land, causing a fell air and oppressive atmosphere in places that had been previously been filled with growth, cleanliness and luminance.
The tramp of iron-clad feet and the animal-like cruelty and lust of his Orcs did not help matters and there were still parties of them roaming around where Eonwe and his warriors had swept through. They were just not as numerous as before.
Thadak and his minions were one of these parties. They had concealed themselves from the fierce and unbearably fair Elven warriors with their long shining spears, bows and curved knives. Morgoth, whilst seeking some weakness in the armour of the host, came upon them by chance and sent an emissary with new orders for them. An emissary who could shed his flesh like the Maiar of Aman quite simply because he was a Maiar.
At the same time the changes in the very essence of Ea became crystal clear to Morgoth. As he observed the fabric that divided the worlds begin to grow transparent, certain aspects of the other world also became crystal clear and he saw his opportunity to act. He saw the group of soldiers, he saw that one was female, he also saw their weapons and was amazed at the power and simplicity of the concept. His orders to Sauron, his Lieutenant, were clear and the orders passed down to Thadak were equally clear.
They were to pass through the fabric where two worlds collided, seek out the weapons of that world and bring them back. They were also to capture one of the Elven warriors with golden hair, one of the Vanyar, and bring him back also for the purpose of breeding and experiment. They could do as they wished with the mortals from the other world and use the female as they wished.
Clearly, things had gone very wrong. The female had avoided capture, albeit unknowingly, and had sought assistance from the rest of her kind. Instead of leaving immediately before the tremors which had subsequently sealed the split in the fabric between worlds rent the earth in the other world, the fools had lingered, still seeking the prize of the female. She had brought back others in pursuit of the weapons and all had been thrown together, with the mortals now on the wrong side of the barrier. As a result of this series of events, Thadak and his people were now confused and lost. Almost as confused and lost as Gary and his tiny group were.
A veil which not even Morgoth had been able to penetrate or dissipate, had been thrown around the woods and was preventing them from leaving with their booty. It also had the effect of preventing the mortals from leaving, but that was neither here nor there. Morgoth had no interest in them beyond the fact that they knew how to make the weapons work and he was assured that there were those among his followers who could soon find that out. He assumed that, puny as they undoubtedly were, the mortals would soon fall prey to the cruelty of what he felt was the superior group or even just inability to survive without resources.
He had been wrong. They had proved unreasonably resilient and resourceful and Morgoth saw his advantage slipping away like so much sand through his fingers.
The Dark One’s rage could be both heard and felt throughout Thangorodrim. Orcs, prisoners and Maiar alike cringed and tried to make themselves small and unnoticeable. He summoned Sauron immediately and they went into conference.
“We must seek a way to break through the veil thrown around the woods so that Thadak can bring the weapons and the Elf to you.” Sauron said. “There may be those near whose darker thoughts can be used to carry your intent, create a channel for your…ah…suggestions. We must seek them out. Perhaps the younger mortal male. His thoughts are black indeed. The grief he carries has settled around him like a dark mantle.”
Morgoth sat back on his throne, the remaining Silmarils still glowed in the crown on his head but the light had a reddish look to it, as though his deep evil had contaminated the pure white light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, which Feanor had encapsulated in the gems. A gaping indentation in the Iron Crown showed where the Silmaril recovered by Beren and Luthien had once rested.
His laugh was not a pleasant sound. “Indeed you are right. Perhaps the young mortal would serve as an appropriate channel.
However now, as he watched the spirits of the Maiar Eonwe and Curunir approach the place where the mortals had camped, the discontent and ambition of the one called Curunir shone as clearly to Morgoth as did Eonwe’s inherent purity.
A hiss of satisfaction escaped through the mask of a face that Morgoth wore. Using the Maia of Aule, sent by that puling fool Manwe from that accursed isle, as a channel would be so much more successful than using a mere mortal. The core of blackness that ran through the one who accompanied the Herald ran fathoms deep and, as Morgoth’s rage had swept through his stronghold and caused fear, his laughter now echoed and that fear became unspeakable and too hideous to contemplate.
Sauron saw all and made obeisance to his dark master. Ambition and a lust for great power sat like a black spider in his heart also, however if he had nothing else, he had time and immense patience.
His chance for greatness and power would come. Perhaps not as soon as he would have wished, but it would come.
The tent of Eonwe, North Beleriand....
Eonwe sat alone in his darkened tent. Only the soft blue glow from one of the special lamps invented by the Noldor illuminated the immediate area where he was seated and for that he was grateful. It meant that if anyone did seek entrance they would not see the expression of dull shock he was sure still lurked in the back of his eyes.
The trip to see the ‘wandering mortals’ as he had come to think of them had been relatively uneventful at first, although Curunir had been a sullen companion. The trouble had arisen when Eonwe had caught a glimpse of one of the mortals as he stepped out of the shadow briefly from his position as guard.
At first Eonwe only had the impression of a tall man dressed in strange clothing. Even as he moved into a slim beam of light cast down through the trees by a high yellow moon, his face was illuminated only for a moment and the facial features were hidden in shadow again almost immediately.
The mortal had turned with an expression of concern, as though he had heard something suspicious.
“Who’s there?” His voice was deep and quite melodious especially for one of the secondborn. His speech was strangely accented yet Eonwe found he could understand most of what he was saying. “Step forward and identify yourself.” He demanded and for a moment Eonwe wondered what the mortal would do if he clad himself in flesh and suddenly appeared before him.
Then he noticed that he had something cradled in his arms. A something that he lifted to his shoulder and pointed into the darkness in the general direction of where Eonwe hovered.
“Identify yourself or I’ll open fire.” He said softly but in an unmistakable tone of command.
Eonwe cast around hastily for Curunir, but he had moved over to look at the others who were asleep. He felt slightly bewildered, surely the mortal could not see him?
Then the man stepped fully into the moonlight that flooded through a gap in the canopy of trees above and if Eonwe had possessed lungs and vocal chords at that moment he wouldn’t have been able to prevent a hiss of surprise and shock from escaping.
The man’s face was plain to see in the moonlight and it was like looking into a mirror image of himself in fleshly form.
Brecon Beacons, North Wales. An area used as a training ground by the British Military. Known for its inhospitable and very inclement weather in winter.
SAS – Special Air Services, British Army special forces unit
Sandhurst – Royal Military Academy in Camberley, Surrey, England. A training school for officers.
Boots the Chemist, a well known chain of pharmacists in the United Kingdom.
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.