Chapter Written by Angmar
The western slopes of the Mountains of Shadow lay brooding in darkness and mist as the dawn touched the clouds far above them and then cascaded across the summits. His mood a jumble of fragmented thoughts, Fródwine watched as the land gradually grew lighter. His gut knotted in tension and he felt the burning taste of bile rising in his throat. Too much had happened in the past twenty-four hours for his brain to comprehend all that had befallen them.
When his family was captured, it marked the end of everything that they had ever known. Perhaps some little hope had still lingered when the four of them remained together. Now that was gone, turned into the taste of soot and ashes. The responsibilities cast upon him were far more than his young shoulders could bear, and his spirit bowed under the heavy load.
The torturing thoughts which had plagued his mind during the night returned with a fury. Fródwine could not rid himself of the brutal scene that kept intruding into his brain... The slaver had recaptured his mother and he was doing horrible, vile things to her. The greasy swine held her by her hair as he backhanded her repeatedly, bringing a bloody smear to her nose and lips. Throwing her to the floor, the bastard pulled off his trousers... Fródwine could hear his mother whimper in pain as the slaver crouched over her, his fat haunches pumping up and down as he ravished her... Fródwine was powerless to do anything to help her!
His emotions seared raw and his brain feeling as though it were on the verge of bursting, Fródwine sat up and dug his fingers into his arm. He wanted to feel pain... the pain would drive away these thoughts. He wanted to smash something, to pound it into dust. The tension had magnified in him so intensely that he felt like screaming, the way Fritha did when he was angry. But he was too old and he could not allow himself to find an outlet in childish tears.
Fródwine's consuming hatred for the Southron raged within him and filled him with such restlessness that sleep refused him. He yearned for rest, but it only played at the edges of his mind, eluding and mocking him. Slumber was impossible! The desire for vengeance had grown into a living, consuming force that lashed his brain with all the fury of poisonous, biting serpents. He would never know peace again!
Groaning in frustration, he slammed his fist repeatedly on the ground until his hand hurt. He felt tears creeping into his eyes. "Like a baby, a crybaby!" he berated himself in disgust, rubbing his fists fiercely in his eye sockets to ground out the tears. He would not let himself cry! Closing his eyes tightly, he forced himself to hold back the tears. How Frumgár would smirk if he saw him weeping! He would never let his brothers know he was such a weakling!
He must find slumber! Though his mind was painfully awake, his body desperately needed sleep. He could not hope to struggle through the day without it! He lay back on the unyielding ground and wiggled his body until at last he found a comfortable position facing the Anduin. He was exhausted. Finally slept crept up upon him, and he drew into its embrace like a lost child seeking his mother.
Riding upon the hazy currents of his dreams, a large fleet of ships with fifty oarsmen on each side made its way down the current of the Anduin and anchored mid-river. High atop the single mast of each ship, the green and white flag of Rohan snapped smartly in the breeze. How could this be? Were these the ghosts of the fallen warriors? Rising to his feet to view them better, he hailed the men on the ships, but they seemed unable either to see or hear him.
Fearsome Rohirric warriors, all armed to the teeth, clustered on the decks before boarding the rowboats. To the cheers of those on board, the boats were quickly lowered down the sides of the ships and onto the surface of the water. Fródwine leaned forward to see them better. To his horror, he caught the sight of a great host of the enemy which stealthily moved forward row after row towards the river.
He screamed a warning, but the men in the boats seemed unable to hear. He tried to run down the bank to give them a warning, but he found his legs were foundering in quicksand. He could only watch in dread as the enemy archers nocked their arrows, pulled the strings back to their cheeks, and sent the barbs sailing skyward. His mouth opened in a scream, he gaped as the arrows plummeted down into the men in the boats. One after another of the Rohirric warriors was cut down soundlessly as Fródwine screamed in agony.
In spite of this galling fire from the enemy on the shore, the blond-haired warriors, their muscles straining, leaned back towards the bow as they rhythmically pulled the oars. Their blades swept out over the water, then dipped down like birds rising and falling as they soared through the skies. Curses on their lips, sorrow on their faces as their comrades were cruelly cut down by the darts, still the hardy men drove ever closer to the shore. Tremendous relief flooded over Fródwine and he heard his voice join their lusty shouts as the men splashed into the water and stormed up the beach.
The fierce Southrons' curved swords caught the gleam of the sun as they crashed into the vanguard of the grim-faced Northern warriors. The mass of struggling bodies was packed so closely together that Fródwine was unable to see what was happening in the confusion. Then as bodies of wounded and dying fell to the ground, he saw a clearing appear in the melee.
Thrusting his sword into the chest of a tawny Haradric warrior, one lanky blond stalwart's blade mired itself in his enemy's ribcage. Bracing the bottom of his boot on the man's privy parts, the Rohir viciously kicked his dying enemy backwards as the sword slid out of the wound with a sickening slosh. His armor rent with a great gash, the Southron lay on the bloody ground, heaving out his last breaths in torrents of gurgling bloody foam. The Rohir turned away from his fallen foe and looked straight into Fródwine's eyes. It was his father! Fródwine grinned as he watched Fasthelm plunge his bloody sword into the Southern slaver's belly over and over again.
Cheering them onward, saluting them with his upraised fist, Fródwine was spellbound as his father and the other men raced up the beach. His heart swelled with pride and he thrilled as the Rohirrim slew more enemies, doing the good work of cleansing the land of the vile pollution of the Southrons. The Rohirrim hacked their way through masses of the foe until the bodies of the slain were stacked up like firewood. Fasthelm raised his bloody sword in triumph and disappeared from Fródwine's fervent imagination.
His mind skimming the surface of consciousness, Fródwine tried to recapture the dream, but a loud snuffling snore from Frumgár tore the hopes of that away from him. Sitting up, Fródwine looked over to his sleeping brothers in irritation. Frumgár's arm was carelessly draped over Fritha's stomach and the muscles of his hand twitched and jerked spasmodically. Fritha's face wore a ridiculous expression as he breathed in a whistling wheeze from his open mouth.
"Babies," Fródwine hissed out in disdain. How could he ever hope to lead such children homeward to the North? "An impossible task. They will bleat like sheep and piss their breeches in fear every step of the way," he reflected grimly. He estimated that they had traveled only a little over two leagues from the ruins of Osgiliath. "Not nearly good enough!" A frown puckered his brow as he tormented himself. "We must make better time tonight, or the orcs will surely overtake us! But how can we?"
An imp of a thought struck him. What if his brothers were not with him? One could go much faster than could three. What if he just left them and went back alone? He could simply slip away from his brothers while they were sleeping. He looked back at them and saw Fritha's mouth twitching in that repulsive way that he had. Just leave them behind... When he reached the Mark, Fródwine would tell everyone that they had become separated and he had been unable to find them again. His kinsmen - if any of them remained alive - would mourn their loss, tell him how brave he was, and congratulate him on making the journey home in spite of impossible odds. Perhaps the King would honor him in some way for his courage and resolve.
Fródwine's expression hardened, his mouth a tight line. It would be so easy. They would not wake up until he was far away, and then it would be too late. They could never catch up with him, and no longer would he have to bear their whining and complaining! Frumgár was a babyish coward, weak and simpering, and Fritha was a nuisance, always ready to burst into tears over nothing. They would only hold him back. Everything boiled down to self-preservation, and anyone in his position would do the same, would they not?
An uncomfortable feeling of guilt crawled its way into his mind like a worm. How could he think such thoughts! No, no! He could never betray his brothers and leave them alone and stranded on the riverbank to starve or die of exposure! Instead, he would do the right thing by them! He would take them to the Great West Road and leave them there. It was for their own good, was it not? He would give them all the food, and they would have enough to eat until a military patrol found them. The soldiers would surely turn them over to the slaver's men, and then Frumgár and Fritha would be reunited with their mother. They would be safe and no longer Fródwine's responsibility. Was that not the wisest and most prudent thing to do? That was what they wanted, was it not?
After he was rid of them, he was certain that, alone, he could travel the long journey back to Rohan. His lean, lanky body was well-muscled and strong from his labors on the farm. He was swift of foot and well-versed in woodcraft. Loping on his long legs for hours at a time, he would travel swiftly. He would exist on what fat his sparse body had stored. When necessary, he would set traps for wild animals and build fish traps in streams, and the bounty of nature would be his for the taking.
Fródwine frowned at his sleeping brothers. With the noise of Frumgár's snoring and Fritha's wheezing assaulting his ears, there was no way that he could escape back into sleep. Rising to his feet, he walked away from them until he found a spot closer to the riverbank. There, their irritating racket dulled to soft whispers, and, with the quiet, he felt himself drifting back into sleep.
He was dressed in furs that he had tanned himself from the game that he had trapped. Arising before dawn, he consumed a hasty breakfast and departed from his small camp. The sun had barely risen when he arrived at his first trap - a trail trap, an ingenious device which he had designed himself. This product of his resourceful and creative mind had been constructed from a few pieces of wood, sinew and several thin strips of leather. Unfortunately, he had been overconfident the evening before and had not smeared enough dirt and animal droppings upon the string to mask his scent. Any game that had come upon the snare during the night had been far too wily to touch a trap that reeked of the foreign scent of man.
About a quarter of a mile farther down the trail, he had far more success. He smiled in satisfaction as he beheld a large fat hare trapped in a noose. One hind foot caught in the leather, the animal dangled from the branch of a sapling. Gloating, he congratulated himself upon the high degree of mastery and resourcefulness that had gone into making these traps from only a few simple materials. "This merely proves my exceptional talents in woodcraft," he applauded himself on his considerable skill.
Taking no chances that the hare would escape, he stunned the terrified creature with a blow from a large, blunt club. Tying its legs and then freeing it from the trap, he held the struggling, terrified animal on the ground. Beating the small body until it ceased moving, he watched the creature's carcass twitch as the blood seeped from its eyes, nose and mouth.
Taking a sharp piece of rock that he used for this purpose, he removed the head and legs. Slitting the rabbit from the rear to the breastbone, he removed the scent glands and guts, tossing the severed pieces aside. He worked his fingers along the membrane under the skin to free the furry pelt in one piece. Finishing with his hurried skinning, he spread the pelt, blood side up, on the ground. He would take it back to his camp and prepare it later for curing. Then, tearing the flesh from sinew and bone, he became even more excited as he smelled the fresh scent of blood. He felt a surge of power infuse his body as he held the dripping meat high into the air as an offering to the spirits of the forest.
Growling softly, he bit into the meat, licking his lips as the animal's blood oozed from the sides of his mouth and down his chin to drip onto his leather tunic. He finished the remains of the small creature and rubbed his filled stomach contentedly. He sucked the marrow from a bone and beheld a vast procession coming from the nearby woods. A host of creatures flew, marched, crawled, slithered and swam through his bizarre dream. Hares and other game; birds of all varieties; fish, water turtles; shellfish; snakes; the wiggling larvae of insects; grasshoppers and locusts; even masses of writhing maggots all made their way into his outstretched hands.
Fródwine woke up in horror and pulled himself into a sitting position, wiped his hand across his mouth and then spat repeatedly. He could still taste the blood in his mouth! An urgent craving for water overwhelmed him. "What strange and revolting dreams have plagued me! If I continue musing over such rot, I will drive myself mad within a few days!"
Once again, he felt close to crying. "I am tormented by my thoughts when I am awake and by my dreams when I am asleep." Disgusted at himself, he rushed to the river and plunged his head into the water. Rising to the surface, he shook his long sandy hair fiercely like a dog, slinging water from his drenched hair. Pushing the tangled, wet mane out of his eyes, he lay down on his stomach at the edge of the water and drank until he felt that his insides would burst. There was still the metallic taste in his mouth, like blood! When he gazed down into the water, he was startled by his reflection. Looking back at him were the bloodshot eyes and haggard face of a frightened youth.
He raised his eyes up and gazed across the river but saw no movement, no sign of life anywhere. After cursing the lifeless land towards the east, he rose to his feet and started back up the bank. Frumgár and Fritha were still asleep where he left them, snoring and wheezing, almost as though they were performing an absurd song.
Could he actually abandon them? No, not today! He would wait and decide later. In the meantime, there had to be changes. He could not allow them to whine and wail and wet their breeches all the way back. "All they want is to be safe and secure and playing their children's games as Mother patiently looks on... A game... I will give them a game to entertain them," he thought sarcastically as he kicked a clod of dirt ahead of him with his foot. With a savage little laugh, he smashed the chunk of dirt to pieces, watching as the dry particles flew out before his foot.
"What sort of game should I give my dear little brothers? Something that would appeal to them. What will it be? Maybe if I made the journey seem like some great adventure... Yes, it will be all a big game... Perhaps that is all life is, a game. The Mark will be the prize! A game for the feeble-minded, and what is there to lose?" He laughed at the absurdity of it, a dull, hollow noise that was not his own.
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.