21. Chapter 20
Nordir handed over the reins of his mount to one of his men and ordered one of the sergeants who had been standing nearby to direct him to Lord Angon's chambers, and he strode away through our ranks as we stood there in shocked silence. Before anyone could speak, one of Nordir's captains, a tall man named Berenion, addressed Arahael, and demanded to know what was taking place in the courtyard. After some discussion he deemed it would be of value for some of us new northern soldiers to be sent to the companies that had come north, so the rosters were quickly reorganised. As a result Radulf and I found ourselves with orders to report to a Captain Daeron in the camp out on the east fields. We groaned inwardly at this as this almost certainly meant that we would be spending the approaching winter under canvas rather than inside the thick walls of the Keep. The East Fields were a large flat area of meadow by the river on the east side of the town. They had been kept clear of cultivation and had previously been used for grazing herds brought down from the hills to market as well as a site for various gatherings and festivals. However when the war began and the Keep and town were too small all the soldiers a camp had been set up there. The older part did now include many permanent buildings, mostly of timber along with some paved roads and paths but it was still a rough and rather squalid place.
We went back up to our dormitory for the last time to collect our things and met Efred there. He had been lucky enough to be posted to a northern company who were billeted in the Keep and he told us that he hoped we'd enjoy the rats and mud and latrines. We cursed him heartily in return and then embraced warmly in parting, wishing each other the best of fortune. After that we struggled through the throng in the main hall and across the courtyard, burdened with our gear and weapons. Word of what had happened had spread and the place was like an anthill that had been poked with a stick. As we went under the arch of the main gatehouse I glanced back and upward for a moment to the windows of Lord Angon's chambers and wondered just how he must be feeling. And then I turned back and cursed Radulf for getting in my way and cuffed him playfully on the helm and we set off downhill through the winding streets.
It seemed word was spreading in the town too as those streets were much busier than usual, but we eventually made it through the market place and east gate and out onto the old north road heading towards the camp and looking out for signs of our new companions. The road had been built in the early days of the north kingdom, winding up the valley of the Hoarwell towards another guard tower, similar to the one at the heart of our own keep. However that tower had long fallen into disuse and ruin and the road had only been paved for a short distance. It was busy here too with wagons and soldiers going to and fro but as we passed through the older part of the camp the traffic began to thin out and we eventually found what we were looking for. A row of wains were being unloaded and we hailed the men working there and got instructions from the men there as to where Captain Daeron could be found. I noticed they spoke with an accent I hadn't heard before and when I questioned them about it it turned out they were mostly from the area around Watersmeet in the very southernmost part of the country. It was a pretty town that lay at the confluence of the Hoarwell and Loudwater rivers seventy or more leagues to the south at the very tip of the Kingdom, and I remember thinking how different a place Northford must have seemed to them.
We made our way through the noisy chaos of the new camp and were reassured to find that these soldiers appeared to be exactly the same as we were despite what Nordir had had to say on the matter. Eventually we found Daeron's quarters and introduced ourselves to the bored looking sentry at the entrance. We were quicky ushered in and found ourselves in front of a small group of soldiers seated round a table covered in maps and the remains of a meal. A handsome, fresh faced young man who didn't look that much older than us stood up and greeted us in a friendly fashion, and I thought I liked the look of him straight away. "Berenion has sent us some northern boys", he said addressing his colleagues, "anyone got room for them? What are your names?" He looked at me quizzically when I replied, hearing something in my accent or manner. "It will be useful to us to have some local knowledge in the ranks. Túon, add them to your squad, I'm sure you'll be able to squeeze them in somewhere. Look after them!" Túon, a balding heavy set man nodded and rose to his feet asking us to follow him. He seeemed taciturn, apparently of great strength but I thought I detected a twinkle in his eye when he spoke to us. I thought I liked him too, though he would not be a sort that you would wish to find yourself at odds with.
We followed him a short distance to where a large group of soldiers were sat around a fire eating their evening meal of dry bread and sausage. "At ease boys" Túon called out with relaxed authority "got a couple of northern boys joining us, squeeze 'em in somewhere and find them something to eat". We found an unexpectedly warm welcome there that evening, the soldiers made room for us by the fire and were full of questions, wanting to know about us, Northford, and the situation in the north in general. For our part we learned that Nordir was a brutal disciplinarian and one of Barachon's faction at court, that the south was much warmer and flatter and that a soldier's lot was the same wherever you came from. Few of our new comrades had actually seen any real fighting save a few of the older men who had served in the campaigns against Cardolan. Most of their recent service had been as sentries in Lastbridge, before which they had both patrolled and spent time repairing the Great East Road in the area between Greenwood and Elfford. They spoke of the elves and dwarves too that they had seen, which greatly interested us, but apparently these unusual travellers were few and far between and did not usually show any great desire to speak to men, and certainly not soldiers of Rhudaur.
The night drew in and the fire burned low. The men drew lots for sentry duty but we were excused this first time and shown to a crowded tent where we settled down as best we could and waited for sleep to take us. I confess that I did not have a good night, a combination of the canvas over our heads flapping in the breeze, the noise of my sleeping comrades close by and the cold hard ground meant my sleep was fitful at best. It would not take me long to get used to such privations however, a seasoned soldier soon learns how to get a good night's sleep anywhere.
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.