24. Lorien besieged
The heavy dub-dub-dub of the battle drums thrummed through the ground even before they reached the northern borders. The tramp of marching feet and the baleful rhythm of axe-shafts and war-hammers beating on wood and hide shields jarred the very air. The orcs were confident, they were many; they would crush the White-faces – drink their blood and smash their bones to dust. They would torch their precious trees and piss on the hot ashes! They lurched forward in a dark flood of rage and bile, eager for slashing, stabbing, skewering, tearing, ripping asunder with their bare hands…
The pale arrows whistled through the air, falling like rods of white rain from the black night sky. Many looked up instinctively and paid for it with shafts in eyes and throats and gaping mouths. Harsh screams sounded louder than banging axes; the drums beat louder and re-doubled the rhythm as the commanders urged the slavering snarling mass forward towards the trees.
Another fusillade of arrows filled the sky. This time the canny put up their shields to ward off death, but death came straight at them, arrows fired straight and low from the base of the trees. The mob howled as they writhed, some falling dead, others dragging the agonising pale steel from their flesh. Maddened, enraged beyond thought, the nearest orcs screamed and charged through the hail of deadly arrows towards the trees. Many of them fell, their bodies becoming obstacles to those behind, who either leaped over or slumped across them, pierced by elven arrows, soaking the ground with black blood. The heaped bodies became barriers to shelter behind from the assault of whistling, death-dealing arrows.
A second wave of orcs driven forward by whips and screamed curses ran at the bleeding, twitching piles of bodies. Some paused to gather booty along the way: a better axe, a shinier helmet, a piece of armour tugged from a not quite life-less body that could be swiftly dispatched with the thrust and twist of a jagged blade… or a head taken in hand and wrenched round till the spine snapped… Still the hated grey-feathered arrows flew – but they must have less now… surely?
Behind the second wave, the third were archers; they had plenty of shelter to hide behind now. They could kneel behind the dead and dying and shoot again and again into the trees – shoot enough and something will be hit, accuracy was a bonus because the poisons would kill if they found a vein, or suppurate to weaken and kill later if they merely grazed the victim. But even then, they were not safe. The white-fiends had climbed into the trees and rained arrows down onto them. Those that survived, fled; but when they reached the main body of the army they were beaten and whipped to force them back to the attack. Many sloped back, but slowly and drifting westwards away from the main body of the defending elves, hoping to find easier pickings where the lines of the battling host must be thinner.
The reserve of orcs, held back with difficulty, stamped and roared defiance, clashing their weapons and shields, poisoning the night with foul curses and threats. Squads of archers were again sent forward. These had tarred arrows bound with cloth and pitch that they ignited from flaming torches and sent hurtling into the trees. Some concentrated their fire together and shrieked with delight to hear cries of pain as trees caught fire and burned the elves trapped among the branches.
The will to press forward their advantage was strong, for malice pushed them on as much as the whips and flails of their captains. Those out of arrows stood and loped forward, yelling as they drew knives and great, jagged blades to take the hated elves at close-quarters. As they surged towards the trees, a silver trumpet sounded, and a double line of mail-clad elves stood, stepped out and whirled long shafted halberds into position. The stumbling orcs fell before them, mown down by sweeping silver blades that rapidly shone black with bloody wetness. More orcs poured forward and the line of elves wavered but did not break, even though some of them fell beneath the cruel blades of the orcs.
The hail of elven arrows was sparser now; some elves darted forward in an attempt to reclaim arrows from the ground and the nearest bodies. Lurking archers targeted them and not a few were shot before another trumpet call signalled them to withdraw. The orcs attacking the line of armoured elves was faltering; the Pale-fiends were grim and tireless, sweeping, thrusting with their long swords and slender, curved-bladed lances. They gleamed with white light and dazzled orc eyes more accustomed to darkness. The orcs began to fall-back before them.
Haldir's arm swung and parried almost mechanically; he ached from neck to wrist, his fingers stiff from gripping, his muscles burning with the effort of clashing against shields and splitting bodies. Again and again – sight the target, thrust and slash, on to the next… and the next kept appearing, howling faces, ferocious screaming maws with evil fangs and slavering jaws… kill it, dispatch it, look for another…
He barely felt a blade slide down his shield-arm until moments afterwards when its owner fell beneath his feet causing him to stumble, then the scalding throb of a wound in his left shoulder made him hiss with pain – it had pierced him and the slide was the withdrawal. He gritted his teeth, controlled his rage and used the anger to fend off exhaustion. He couldn't see Celeborn and the centre brigade of elves, an outcrop of burning trees masked his view. He tried to block out their screaming as the bark blazed and flames licked along their branches, turning the scene before him into a lurid nightmare of flickering orange light over ravening, howling faces. Time had stopped having meaning, its passage only measured by the swinging arc of his blade.
Boromir pulled his bowstring, aimed at the massed orcs, loosed; pulled another arrow from the ground in front of him, pulled, aimed, loosed… he felt like he had been doing this forever. His shoulder was numb, and the scars and muscles of his chest protested each movement that sent stabbing, scalding pain through him. Tasarion, standing at his side sent arrows soaring into the screaming horde far more swiftly than he did. The elf kept up a low growl of foul curses that would have withered the flesh off an orc in their own right. He darted forward and pulled the quiver free from a fallen elf, dead with a black arrow through his throat. Tasarion renewed his low, spectacular curses, making each of the dead elf's arrows count.
The orc force to their right was engaged hand to hand with a force of mailed elves led by Haldir. Beyond them trees burned and writhed before they fell, crashing to the ground amid enormous showers of livid sparks. To their left, the live orcs were fewer in numbers, but the dead ones piled high gave them places to shelter and loose off thick-shafted arrows. An elf on Boromir's other side cried out and stumbled to the ground, an ugly arrow in his thigh. He tried to stagger up but failed, his breath coming in strangled gasps and choking grunts as the pain ran through him. Tasarion leapt behind Boromir and stooped to the elf now shuddering on the ground.
"Poison!" he hissed.
Tasarion broke off the feathered shaft and pushed the dart out through the elf's leg, ignoring his guttural scream. A healer dashed forward, slapped a pad of cloth on the wound and tied it quickly before hooking his arm under the injured elf's shoulder and hauling him up. Tasarion clapped him on the arm and the elf nodded his thanks though his face was twisted with pain and hobbled back from the line aided by the healer. Boromir had moved forward and had sent as many arrows as he could into the nearest concentration of orcs to prevent them drawing their bows against them.
A crude horn blew a several short blasts and the orcs fell back, slowly to begin with, but with increasing speed they as they ran back into the night, until only the dead and near-dead littered the blood-stained ground in front of the trees. Boromir swayed a little, then sank to his knees, dropping forward to support himself on his hands, his head drooping, his breathing hard. He was utterly spent.
It was several minutes before Tasarion came to him, patting his shoulder and urging him to stand, then helping him back some yards and leaving him leaning against a tree. Boromir found his legs wouldn't hold him and he sank slowly to the ground, his hands shaking as he tried to unbuckle the leather hand guard. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the groans and guttural curses, cut short by the elves finishing off the night's work with dispassionate knives. When the area around him was quiet he opened his eyes to the green dawn that began to lighten the sky before the sun rose. Tasarion came back to his side and dropped down to sit beside him. They sat in silence for a few moments.
"Are you well?" asked the elf.
"Good." said Tasarion.
Elves walked by them, some helping injured comrades.
"We should go," said Tasarion.
Boromir nodded slowly.
"Give me your hand." Tasarion was on his feet, hand outstretched. Boromir gripped it and pulled himself up, grimacing with the pain of doing so.
"Are you sure you are well?"
Boromir nodded again, too tired to speak.
"Come," said the elf, "the healers will not be far away"
He led Boromir deeper in to the sheltering woods of Lorien. They past carnage and burning, averting their eyes from the bloody carcasses of orcs. Tasarion paused, obviously torn between wanting to help the injured elves and his duty to his charge. His indecision was halted, Haldir appeared, black-stained sword still naked in his hand, eyes still hot with rage, though he carefully schooled his face to neutrality as he directed the wardens.
"Tasarion – take Lord Boromir…"
He was interrupted by a knife lunging upwards, the last desperate thrust of a wounded orc. With one swinging slash and a snarl he decapitated the orc, its blade skimming harmlessly across his leather buff-coat.
"My lord… you are injured…"
"As are many! You have your charge to care for – do your duty!"
The Marchwarden turned on his heel, radiating controlled fury '…that Lorien itself was besieged.' His rage against the attackers was palpable, audible in the cracking of his voice as he snapped orders and instructions, his eyes everywhere.
"I feel we are dismissed," murmured Boromir ruefully with a wan smile.
Tasarion inclined his head, grabbing Boromir by the waist as the man stumbled. He bit his lip as a stab of pain lanced through his chest. Tasrion saw his face.
"Perhaps we should go… I do not think I choose to gainsay the Marchwarden while he's in this mood."
"No – he reminds me of my father on a bad… day…" Boromir's voice trailed away.
The thought had almost been clear, almost… but the face he conjured in memory floated and fused until he could not recognise the angry figure – and now he was too tired to try… As Tasarion turned their backs to the smouldering fires and guided him towards the healer's tents.
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.