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Eldarion
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Post 'Darkest of Days' - (See OOC to join)
on: September 28, 2014 11:14
T.A. 1974

Fornost Erain, capital of Arnor

____________________

"Davian!" came the croaking of one nearly paralyzed with fear as a dozen gnarled orcs bounded over the lip of the dike, that hoary and frozen earth providing them no resistance in their crusade of death. Cold steel was wrenched from it's housing and the sound echoed beneath the lifeless elm branches as if to answer the pitiful cry. It was matched by the gruff guffaws of the largest and thus highest ranking of the orc party from his position atop the dike.

"Kill them both!" It came with a tone of finality in stark contrast to the boisterous laugh only moments before at the prospect of resistance. Those deep, crimson eyes had narrowed in on a cloaked figure grasping a single-edged falchion with white knuckled grip. The blade flashed in the pale sunlight and was quickly dulled by black, oozing orc blood. One of the wretched creatures closest to the Ranger had toppled over with a gash across the torso. "Argh!" Their leader succumbed to his bloodlust and frustration, bounding down the dike and pulling his crudely crafted scimitar from the leather belt at his waist. The orc brought the weapon up to swing in a wide arc towards the Ranger. Blades clashed with a deafening clang. The Ranger gritted his teeth and shoved with every ounce of force he could muster, throwing his opponent off guard and allowing a swift counter-attack in the form of a deft jab of the blade; a fatal blow.

Davian swiveled on the ball of his foot, blade raised defensively, to see the orc party stooping over his comrade in what was clearly an act of revenge for their own fallen; another one of Arthedain dead at the hands of orcs. His reaction came soundlessly and he dashed forward to engage the dozen in what was sure to be a fight he could not possibly win. The nearest orc swung boldly and was met with a quick parry and riposte, rendering him lifeless. Two more joined the melee, putting the Ranger on the defensive. His reflexes worked at full capacity to repel the notched blades vying for his head. With every parry he was forced backwards. The others circled around to surround him and he could feel darkness closing in.

A sharp whistle blew and startled him, as well as his foes. At this signal a party of armed men sprinted from behind dense thickets and tree lines much to the orcs' chagrin. The battle lasted seconds before that charnel earth was littered with the twisted forms of those corrupted by Evil. Surprise had won them the day.

"A shame to see Eradan has fallen. It was his own folly, as it was yours. Foolish to have left the party," one of the Rangers chided as Eradan's corpse was heaved onto a few broad shoulders for the march back to camp. Orc bodies were promptly piled and burnt.

"We came but to scout, not engage the entire force. Our encounter was purely chance." Davian's retort was concise and his face stoic.

Neither spared a word more before following the corpse bearers through densely clustered elms to a makeshift camp, flanked by hastily constructed watchtowers built atop a pair of ancient, colossal trees. Thirty or more tents were propped up against the chill northern winds with a number of campfires flickering behind them. Beside one of these Davian had threw himself to consider the day's events...

His company was meant to secure a large swath of land between the North Downs and the Weather Hills just upon the border of Rhudaur, a portion of their kingdom already fallen to orc control. For the past week their company had met only setback with every potential victory ruined by overwhelming numbers. Defeat had come once again with another death and so the company waited the afternoon out for reinforcements as well as much needed healers and tradesmen to arrive for resupply. Even with the promise of fresh warriors, the idea that thousands of orcs could be bested in order to take back the area was becoming more and more implausible.

Davian was pulled form his reverie as two more joined him at the campfire, nursing fresh wounds from the day prior. He glanced up from underneath his weather-stained hood as the pair sat down gingerly and began murmuring amongst themselves before addressing him. It was often that way when one's father was Castellan Crowe, trusted adviser to King Arvedui of Arnor.

"You know, Foltest has been saying that King Arvedui himself is coming with the reinforcements. Quite a show that will be, aye. I'm sure it will be enough to rally the men and take back Rhudaur from the orc invaders, lest Fornost itself falls and we all move south to Gondor."

Silence.

[Edited on 09/29/2014 by Eldarion]
Cenor
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on: September 30, 2014 03:51
Pain. Darkness.
That’s all Quintin could feel when he opened his eyes. Fear gripped at his heart crushing it slowly. Cold crept through his bones and defeat weakened his knees. He was standing amidst a burning ruin; he could see bodies strewn across shattered rocks. Blood pooled at his feet and broken swords peered up from the carnage. His left arm was crooked and covered with sticky, wet blood and in his hand he held a broken shutter of some sort. In his right hand was a stained sword. There was an evil presence lurking in the shadows, he could feel it but he couldn’t see it.
“Come out!” He heard himself scream.
There was a blinding flash of white light and a terrible, terrible screech. The shutter and sword clattered as they struck the ground and Quintin collapsed clutching his ears. Even though the screech had ended it reverberated in his ears torturing his already pain-racked mind. A fell, sable-clad figure approached wielding a flaming sword. The figure raised its sword to behead him. Quintin watched helplessly as the sword descended in a fiery arc towards his head.
=========================
Quintin woke with a start; cold sweat ran down his forehead and into his stinging eyes. A dream, only a dream, go back to sleep he told himself. Yet no matter how many times he repeated this sleep would not come back to him. Slowly, he rose from the bed he shared with his three younger brothers and crept out of his family’s hut. Several huts surrounded a small fire that was burning low, glaring with orange eyes at the darkness around it. The Arnor village was deep in the woods, providing a safe haven for women and children in time of war or a peaceful retreat for those who wanted away from the busy cities of Arthedain. Quintin stared up at the sky blanketed by a myriad of twinkling stars. Why am I so scared by a dream he mused Father would be disappointed, his son scared by a nightmare. If only I could please him. Despairingly he sat down on a stump think about tomorrow. Slowly weariness overtook him and his eyelids closed in a dreamless slumber.
===========================
“Wake up or papa said I can throw water on you!”
Quintin woke up to the sound of his brother, Groth, threatening him with a bucket of cold water. He jumped up and grabbed Groth’s wrists forcing him backwards.
“You do and I’ll….”
“Boys!”
The two turned guiltily towards their mother who stood at the doorway of their hut.
“Quintin get inside and eat your father’s waiting, Groth go do your chores.”
“Yes mother,” both boys said quickly before running off to do their appointed tasks.
Quintin hurried inside, ate a quick breakfast, the leapt into his saddle. They were going somewhere his father wouldn’t reveal the destination only that he needed to pack for a long journey. Off they rode into the morning sun. Quintin hardly dared to look at his father’s face, he knew what he would find there, disappointment. For two days they rode stopping only to rest the horses and eat. It was towards the end of the second day that they saw a large fire in the distance.
“That is our journey's end son,” his father said gruffly.
They cantered closer and closer to the fire.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eldarion
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on: October 01, 2014 04:57
"Your sword arm is practically limp, Eradan! Stiffen up! Not so much! Poised and ready to deal a blow or parry one!" came Davian's harsh criticisms of a less than spectacular pupil who had hardly made any progress during the three weeks prior. "You'll get it some day," he lied with a facetious grin before allowing one of his peers to take over the instruction, allowing Davian a few moments to consume his now cold lunch.

It had been a long afternoon of swordplay and archery for the weathered ranger of 28, passing along his skills to the younger generations. Fathers whose sons were to be molded for combat in the name of the North Kingdom sent from Fornost to an environment they could not be prepared for. No man was ever truly prepared for an encounter with orcs and other, more gruesome evils employed by the Witch-King. Davian, however, made his best attempt at tempering these young men for such situations.

As evening came and the younger recruits dozed off in their tents after an exhausting day, many of the older Rangers had gathered 'round the firepit and shared stories, sung songs, and drank stale beer shipped in from breweries in Bree. Davian found himself particularly contemplative that evening as he sat, withdrawn from most of the company in a dark alcove created by a few adjoining tents, mug clasped tightly in his hands. One of these calloused hands dipped into the pouch at his belt and produced a carefully folded parchment to read once more:

'...so I have recommended you for young Quintin's training. His father has high expectations and I know of no one more suitable for the task. I suggest submitting him to the same harsh training you received years ago, even if many of the captains frown upon such measures now. He is your apprentice and I leave the judgement in your hands, Davian. War is coming, as you know. King Arvedui has begun mobilizing most of our forces and is drafting a letter to send to King Earnil in Gondor for aid. Scouts are reporting increased activity in Ruhdaur, across the Hoarwell. They are massing their strength. Even the Elves in Rivendell have sent words of warning. Be careful, be mindful. Return my letter when you have opportunity.

-Your father,
Castellan Crowe'


Davian's emerald hues lingered on the signature at the end before returning the parchment to his satchel and rising to his feet as the sound of hooves echoed through the trees. A guardsmen midway through his shift came bounding up, quite winded. "Davian, sir, a company has arrived and are asking for you." The Ranger acknowledged and strode out to meet what he expected to be his father's colleague and his son, Quintin.

[Edited on 10/01/2014 by Eldarion]
Cenor
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on: October 03, 2014 03:05
For the first time in the two days they had traveled Quintin's father really looked at him.
"Sit up straight," he barked softly.
Quintin obeyed flushing slightly.
"Why did you bring that useless weapon?"
He was talking about his bow. His father found it a clumsy tool. From the time he could draw one, Quintin had used it to hunt squirrels that had evaded his traps more than once
"I'm more familiar with it than the sword," Quintin answered shortly.
His father snorted then turned again to face the camp. Quintin looked down, he hoped that someone in this camp used a bow, that way he would not be alone. It was evident that they were staying a while, at least he was, his father hadn't brought much.His thoughts strayed back to last night's dream. He had had such dreams before, ones that came true. At first they had been small, such as dreaming of a flood before it happened. But as the years went by they grew larger and larger often scaring him at times. His father's voice broke the silence.
"You must wonder why we are here," he started then without waiting for an answer, "I am leaving you here in the hands of a well known swordmaster who will teach you. I expect good reports and an excellant swordsman when I get back. Do you hear?"
"Yes father," Quintin answered.
"And sit up!"
"Yes sir."
He had never been good with the sword it was the bow and his knife that he excelled with. Well this is why your here he thought. Just then the guard returned with another man.
"Davian Crowe' good to see you again," his father said politely.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eldarion
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on: October 12, 2014 12:28
"And you too, sir," came Davian's customary reply as the two men shook hands, the older doing so quite forcefully perhaps in effort to maintain superiority over the two relative 'youths' in his presence. "It has been a few years since we last met. My father speaks highly of your work in Fornost." He paused, glancing at Quintin. "I had no idea you had a son. Not until I received a letter from my father concerning your worries for his lack of swordsmanship. Do not fret over that; we are more than capable of instructing him." Davian extended a hand towards Quintin in greeting with a warm smile. "Greetings to you, Quintin. I see you come equipped with bow already; that is a noble weapon and quite useful if you're accurate and swift. However, here we will ensure that you're not helpless in close combat. Perhaps we may hone your archery as well. For now, I recommend a good night's rest. We will begin at first light."
Cenor
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on: October 13, 2014 04:05
Quintin watched as his father and the man, Davian, conversed. He relaxed when Davian called his bow a noble weapon. The thought of honing his abilities brought a faint smile that lightened his stern expression. Davian withdrew for a moment leaving Quintin alone with his father.
“I am going back to your mother and then on to Fornost. We may meet again for an evil is stirring and it will not be long before it reveals itself. Obey, keep out of trouble, and mind your manners. Goodbye son.”
“Goodbye father.”
The formalities over his father turned his horse and disappeared on the path. Quintin dismounted Striker and led him over to Davian. After securing his horse in the stables Davian led Quintin to a tent. Four boys lay sleeping, so Quintin did his best not to disturb them. It was a peaceful night, no dreams.
======================
“A new boy. Probably came in last night while we were sleeping. What do you think Eredan?”
“Your right, we didn’t hear him because of Forean’s snoring.”
“I don’t snore!”
Quintin woke suddenly, the four boys from last night stood close by.
“Oh look he’s awake!”
“We can see that. Greetings stranger. I am Eredan, son of Ereth.”
“Quintin, son of Ranion.”
With the formalities over Quintin dressed, sheathing his two knives and slinging his bow into place. Nervously he excited the tent. What would today bring?

Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eldarion
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on: October 14, 2014 01:34
The dawn came red and fierce with the thick haze of humidity drifting across the Northlands. A sickly heat lay across the landscape already as every hillock and rock outcropping facing East was cast with a crimson glow. Deep within the forests, however, all was cool and dark as Davian, an earlier riser, rekindled their fire from the night before and began the long process of waking the others.

When he arrived at one of the few tents housing their trainees there was a short commotion before one of them stumbled out, still groggy with sleep and disheveled. "Eradan, how uncharacteristic of you; I usually have to splash you with ice water to awake in the morning," Davian had greeted jovially with a warm smile before continuing onward. "Wake the others, would you?"

Not fifteen minutes later, Davian found himself seated a long, oaken table weathered by various elements underneath a hastily constructed awning wishing very much for the slumber he had roused everyone from. Multiple Dunedain stood or sat round this table, discussing multiple matters ranging from retreat to attack. The problem was clear, however: orcs were gathering in increasing numbers at their borders. Not idle bands united by a particularly strong orc, but full mobilization and unification as if a darker force willed their cooperation. "We cannot outrun it, whatever it may be! It shall follow us back to Fornost if we retreat!" Davian had advised with a forceful shout over multiple speakers. He was railed against in return.

"You are a fool, Davian, like your father! There can be no victory here on the plains and in the forests! They are too many and we must return to Fornost to bolster the defense!" A sharp reply from one of the older members of their council, marked by gray hair slowly receding from too many years of stress.

"Bolster what defenses? We are the defense!" Davian had smashed his fist into the table with his final statement before turning to leave the deliberations. No one stopped him, perhaps out respect or perhaps out of acceptance of his final retort.

Still fuming, Davian had returned to their makeshift training area and forced himself to take a seat. After a few deep breaths and a few minutes of contemplation, his tensions had eased just as Eradan and his fellows came into sight.

________________

"Eradan, how uncharacteristic of you; I usually have to splash you with ice water to awake in the morning...wake the others, would you?"

Eradan had no time to formulate a reply before Davian had disappeared beyond a few more poorly pitched tents. What could he have said? Long had he felt the intimidation from the older man, often from the harsh criticisms concerning his own lack of skill. He found it best to maintain as passive an attitude as possible to avoid any more confrontation.

His peers began to awake themselves. "Come, come. Davian will be expecting us soon!" His voice faltered in it's attempt at authority and he quickly went silent before slinging his dulled sword over his shoulder and exiting the tent to thick, humid atmosphere and a rapidly warming sun. No one seemed to have noticed his absence.

A short walk through camp left him at a natural sand pit and crudely erected obstacle course with a number of training dummies mounted for various purposes. Davian stood amidst these, head bowed with hand stroking the thick hair of his beard in a contemplative position. "Sir, the others are on their way."
Cenor
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on: October 14, 2014 04:34
Quintin strapped his sword belt around his waist. Gingerly he touched the cool hilt. Sword masters often referred to their swords as part of themselves, another limb. But to him, the sword was a nuisance. He had grown accustom to his knives and bow that this sword was almost forgotten, until now. Buckling his quiver across his back, he exited the tent. He followed the other boys to a training area. Davian stood there already with Eredan waiting close by. Just as his father had instructed him to stand in front of his elders, Quintin straightened and his face grew expressionless. The wind caught his dark, brown hair and swept it in front of his focused blue eyes.
“I am ready for training sir.”

Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Arveleg
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on: October 15, 2014 04:40
Fornost-

Dauwna was tired after the full day of work, but there was still much she had to do. She retired to her small room and sat at the writing desk. After adding some words to the end of a full parchment, she smiled slightly. She reached for a small bottle and dripped a small drop on the back of the parchment before rolling it and tying it.

The din of excited voices started to rise out in the streets. Dauwna hurried out and was soon a part of the gathering crowd.

”What is happening?’

She asked.

The 2nd Company has returned from the Weather Hills!”[/i]

A woman replied. Dauwna was surprised and said excitedly as she strained to look in the direction of the gate,

”My husband is with the 2nd!”

She was filled with the joy of this unlooked for news! Yet this feeling was soon overwhelmed. Marcadil had not said anything in his last letter that he would be coming to Fornost. But then it has been over a month since it had arrived.

The gates were opening! Dauwna held her breath for a moment before letting out a cheer with the crowd.


Malassuil had halted the men outside the city to allow them a moment to rest and stretch. He yelled out so the nearly 100 men could hear him.

”Men of the 2nd! It has been a long and tiring march these last 100 miles! We left a cadre of our comrades behind to watch that which we at our full strength could not give adequate watch. May we keep them in thought, and hope we meet again. For you, I wish I could say we would have days of rest with some leave, but it will not be so. You will have this night to visit families and loved ones. The inns are off limits, but I will allow you to sleep to the mid-morning. But then we form up, and we move out. We head North. I hear the 1st are training recruits up there somewhere. The King wants to put us up there to anchor the western end of the North Downs. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today we arrive. Now, clean yourselves up as best you can, and form ranks. The horses will rest here in the fields. We march into the city.”

The men slowly shuffled away to their gear. Most were too tired to do much. Marcadil splashed some water on his face and wiped away the layer of trail dust and sweat. He pulled out the last letter he received, and the one he started to write. Dauwna would have liked to of had word from him that they were coming, but he didn’t get a chance to finish it. But surely she would of heard. Thinking of her gave him a bit of energy, and he brushed his cloak off. He couldn’t do much. He smiled, and remembered the week they had before he had left so long ago. It worried him some. His mind started to worry. How would she feel? What if …

”Lets go! Form up! We move now!”

Malassuil barked his gravelly yell. The men formed up, and though they looked worn, they started in step. The were the 2nd, at least most of it. They set out for the gates of Fornost and it seemed only a few steps before they started to open before them. They could hear cheers. Why? Who cares! They would enjoy the moment.

Coming into the city fortress, the crowds that lined the street would shed loose people here and there as they spotted their loved ones. A quick hug and kiss was all that was afforded, and if the men wanted to break ranks and loiter with them, they resisted. They would wait until they had come to the parade grounds and were dismissed.

Marcadil looked hard for his beloved Dauwna, but he couldn’t see her. He finally turned his eyes forward and walked forth. He would be dismissed shortly, and he would go to where she worked when he had left.

Dauwna tried to push her way through the crowd, but she could not see. She had come too late to get in front. So she fell back out of the crowd, and she walked along as the men went, hoping for a glimpse of Marcadil. But they all looked rough, bearded, and dirty. Still, they were not coming in wounded. She looked at herself, still in her maids work dress. She wasn’t the jewel he would want to see either. She straightened her dress as best as she could, and picked up a dropped rose that had avoided most of the feet pushing by. She watched as the men came to a halt, and listened to the voice of their commander. He only had a few words. The men wanted to go to find their loved ones. She managed to find a place close to the grounds to wait. She squinted at the men as they shuffled about. She could see him, and he was heading straight out. She smiled and stepped out before him, twirling the rose in her hand. He looked at her and paused, and said softly,

”My beloved!”

Dauwna did not say anything. She just launched herself to him as he dropped his gear and held her tight. He kissed her cheek as she whispered,

’I didn’t know you were coming today! I’m still in my work clothes…”

“…as am I my love. Worry not of it, for you are so beautiful!”


They kissed as the other men and loved ones crowded around them. Marcadil then said as his hand let her hair down and cradled her head and he looked deep in her eyes.

”I only have tonight to the morning. Then we move out again.”

“Then let us go! I know just the place! You can clean up and have a bath. Come! Follow me!”


Dauwna took his hand even as his other hand grabbed his gear. They were off to her aunt’s home.

[Edited on 10/19/2014 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Eruwestiel_Evensong
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on: October 18, 2014 01:52

- Fornost

“Another person has fallen ill.” Aliana, one of Meriam's closest friends said, poking her head in at the doorway of the tiny house.

Meriam sighed inwardly and beckoned Aliana inside. So many were sick. “Who is it?” she asked from her place by a patient's bed.

“Tillna Maywater.”

“Is she showing all of the characteristic symptoms?” As much as Meriam hated to do it, people had to be tended according to the severity of the illness.

Her friend began to list off on her fingers. “Fever, cough, clammy and ashen skin..." She trailed off, but Meriam's eyes told her to go on. "And she's vomiting blood.”

“Vomiting blood?” Worry lines creased Meriam's face as she rose hurriedly and grabbed her shawl from the back of her chair. “Aliana, please tend to Liddy here while I am gone." She began to go through the door, but stopped and turned back to her friend. "And try to get her to drink this,” she said, pressing a small vial into the younger woman's hand. "I don't know if it will help, but at this point almost anything is worth trying."

She stepped out into the side street and headed in the direction of her home. A few more herbal preparations would need to be retrieved before seeing to Tillna. There seemed to be a commotion coming from the city's entrance, but there was no time to see what it was about.

Because Meriam was so preoccupied, she didn't notice the man staring at her from the street corner. She had just reached her front porch when strong arms grabbed her from behind and a hand clamped over her mouth. Terror rose within her. The rough hands spun her about and she found herself staring up at a tall man. He removed his hand from her mouth and broke into a hearty laughter.

"Richard!" Meriam gasped, flying into his arms.

Richard kissed his wife then held her tightly. "Meriam, my sweet Meriam," he whispered against her hair.

After several moments Meriam pulled back and looked up at her husband. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming? I haven't heard from you in months!"

"I was injured in a raid six months ago, and was taken to Rivendell to be treated by the elves. When finally I recovered, I was sent to the Weather Hills with the rest of the 2nd."

"So my worrying was not unjustified then. I'm so glad you are safe!" Meriam leaned her head on his shoulder. It felt good to be in the arms of her strong husband again. She had been carrying so many burdens alone lately.

"We have to leave again tomorrow morning." Richard could see the disappointment in his wife's eyes at this, but knew she understood as well as anyone that duty to the kingdom came before time spent with loved ones.

"Where are Freeda and my new son?" Richard glanced around, expecting to see them close by their mother.

Meriam stepped back and took his hand. "A dreadful illness has been sweeping through the city. Those of us who know herbs have been doing all we can, but to little avail. I sent our children to North Slope to stay with my sister. I didn't want to lose them to this sickness like so many others."

This reminded her of the reason she had gone back to her house. "I need to see to one last patient today. We can talk more over supper."

* * *

- North Slope

"Here Freeda, take this water bag with you. I wouldn't want you to dry up out there." Her aunt said, smiling. Freeda took the proffered bag and went outside, holding her baby brother. At first she sat down on the steps, but the baby started to cry so she rose and began walking. The nearly deserted streets of the tiny village were a far cry from the crowded streets of Fornost.

Freeda's thought back to when her mother had told her that she and her little brother would be staying with her aunt and uncle in another town. She didn't want to go, but knew that protesting wouldn't change her mother's mind. The next day they started on the two day trip to North Slope, where her mother had grown up. They arrived without incident, and Freeda and her tiny brother had now been here for three weeks.

The girl continued her aimless walking until she came to the rubble of an old home. It was a depressing sight; the ruins of a life, crushed dreams. And it may be for this reason that the small figure in worn clothes was drawn to it. It looked the way that she felt.

Freeda began picking her way over the crumbled stones, and sat down on the broken hearth of the fireplace. Her blue eyes traveled over the desolate scene about her. Then they came to rest on a bright yellow flower, its brilliant petals provided stark contrast to the dullness around it. She wouldn't have expected to see something so beautiful in a place like this.

Somehow this picture gave her hope.


* * *
Several hours later, screams rang out from the side of the village closest to the road. "Orcs! They're breaking through!" There was a sound of metal on metal as people tried to defend themselves with anything they could find; hoes, rakes, rusted swords. But they were no match for the cruel weapons of the orcs, and any person that stood up to them was quickly cut down without mercy.

Freeda stood transfixed in horrified fascination as the orcs swarmed into the street where her uncle and aunt lived.

In a valiant effort to protect his wife and niece, Freeda's uncle grabbed a hoe that was leaning on the wall and leaped in front of the orcs, swinging it wildly. The fight lasted only a few seconds.

“Go, Freeda! Run!”

The screamed command from her aunt crashed through the paralysis that engulfed Freeda's mind. Her feet unfroze from the ground, and she raced for a hole in the crumbling wall. Ducking through, she made for the forest, the thudding of her feet on the hard ground keeping rhythm with her pounding heart. A few more paces and she reached the woods, terrified screams echoing in her ears.

Once glance back was enough to see what had become of the remaining townsfolk. The village was in flames, smoke rising to the heavens in billowing clouds.

A great wave of shock, anger and sadness crashed over the small girl. Hot tears stung her eyes as she turned away from the horrific scene and ran blindly into the forest, heedless of the branches whipping her face and scratching her arms.

The babe in Freeda's arms wailed. After some while her pace began to slow, and she paused to catch her breath.

It was then that she heard it... a crashing and stomping sound coming from behind her. Not close, but definitely there. And Freeda knew instinctively what it was. Orcs.

The realization of pursuit sent her running again, and gave new speed to the small girl's tired legs. Farther and farther she ran into the forest, dodging low branches and weaving around trees. The baby cried.

On and on she ran, her breath coming in short ragged gasps and her side aching fiercely.

The afternoon sun began to set, filling the woods with even darker shadows then before. The girl could see shapes in the trees, but they disappeared when she looked right at them. Whenever Freeda stopped for breath she could hear the sounds of pursuit growing closer and closer.

The constricting hand of fear closed over Freeda's heart. What would happen when the sun was gone? There was no way she could find her way in the dark, and even if she could, all her energy was already spent. She came to a halt and leaned against a tree, panting.

“What is the use? I will eventually be caught anyway.” She sank to the ground in despair.

Suddenly her mother's words came to her mind: “Freeda, there is always hope, even in the darkest of times. Look for it, and you will find it.”

New courage found its way into the little girl's quaking heart. There would be no giving up.

She looked up into the branches of the tree she was leaning on, and an idea came to her. Quickly she unwound the shawl from her shoulders and used it to firmly bind the baby to her chest. Then she began to climb. There was a sickening moment when the branch Freeda was standing on gave way beneath her, and she hung in midair, clutching the the limb above her head with both hands. Finally she found a foothold, and let her heart rate slow a bit before continuing. A warm and sticky substance oozed down the girl's leg where the splintered branch had cut a deep gash.

After climbing for a few more moments, Freeda came to a place where two branches grew close together. Here she wedged herself securely. She pulled the leather water pouch from her aunt from around her waist, and gave to her infant brother before drinking a swallow of it herself. Soon the little boy fell asleep, without a care in the world.

“When was the last time I felt like that?” Freeda thought, even as her own eyes drifted closed.

* * *

At daybreak Freeda scrambled down from the tree and looked around, decided which way to go. Continuing straight ahead was the best option that presented itself to the girl.

Shape pain stabbed through her leg where she had received the gash. The scrap of fabric that had been hastily wrapped around it was stiff with dried blood. The girl didn't dare remove it for fear of re-opening the wound. If only her mother were here. Surely she would know just what to do; but her mother was many miles away.

After straightening, Freeda listened intently for any sign of pursuit. There was none, the slim girl realized. But then her relief turned to doubt. "The orcs followed me for the better part of the afternoon. Why would they stop now?" Her eyes traveled around the forest, trying to see into the shadows. There was nothing to there, but she still felt uneasy.


* * *

Late afternoon found Freeda and her little brother several miles from the tree they had slept in the night before. The gash in the small girl's leg had opened up again despite her efforts. It throbbed painfully, and she was beginning to grow lightheaded from loss of blood and lack of sustenance. The baby was too weak even to cry, though Freeda had given him most of the remaining water from her canteen.

The world dimmed and blurred, and she stumbled. Dazed, she lay where she had fallen, unable to rise. A sound of voices came to her ears, and a form bent over her. "Papa?" she asked weakly. His blue eyes smiled down at her, and Freeda knew she was safe.

Then everything faded into blessed nothingness.
"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
Cenor
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on: October 18, 2014 04:36
They had barely escaped alive. Jabeth slumped in his saddle, the red stain on the bandage wrapped around his side was growing rapidly. Barad looked sadly at his pale companion. They had been attacked by orcs not to long ago and had defeated them at great cost. His face was covered with fresh bruises and his lip was covered with dried blood. His shoulder was wrapped in a makeshift bandage that was already soaked with blood. Suddenly, his horse snorted. Dazed he stared at the ground in front of him, and gasped. A small girl lay with a child. He dismounted and leaned over the girl. A long cut ran down her little leg.
"Papa?"
Barad started to shake his head but before he could the girl fainted. Running back to his horse he retrieved a bandage. After cleaning the wound he wrapped it tightly. Then he looked painfully at the two children, he would have to pick them up. Carefully he picked up the baby and placed him on Jabeth's saddle.
"You shouldn't be lifting anything, let me help," Jabeth said weakly.
"No Jabeth your wound is worse than mine besides if you got down I would have to lift you as well as the children."
Jabeth opened his mouth to protest but snapped it shut quickly. Now all he had to do was pick the girl up and place her in his own saddle. Groaning softly he picked her up and balanced her on the saddle. Delia snorted softly as her master mounted painfully. The hours went by slowly. The horses did their best to ease their master's pain but each step was agonizing torture. Finally the camp appeared at the horizon. Barad made sure that the girl was secure, he saw that it was all Jabeth could do to keep the baby safe. The horses padded into the camp. The sentries gasped at the two badly wounded men and two children.
"Scouts of the 1st reporting," Barad said weakly his voice cracking.
One of the sentries picked the girl up off the saddle. Barad dismounted then collapsed.
"I need to see the captains." he murmured.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Arveleg
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on: October 19, 2014 07:27
Marcadil's eyes were closed as the steam rose up around him. The water was hot and it made every aching muscle in his body cry out. He couldn't remember when the last time it was since he had a bath. Yes he could... his wedding day. That was 6 months ago and he had such a terrible headache that day. Yet it was the best day he could remember in life. He squinted open his eye to see Dauwna, her gentle rubbing trying to work the months-old dirt from his pores. She was meticulous as she was gentle. The water wasted no time turning a deep grey. She washed his face and inspected his scar.

"Much better than when I saw you last. You have healed well."

"It healed so well due to your hand, my dear."


She stopped as he opened his other eye as far as it would. The silence of that moment only broken by a few drips of water falling from his chin. Her fingers caressed his temple, and he drew her close to give her a kiss. She slipped and fell in the bath, sending water over the side. She gasped, then finished the kiss. Time was too dear, and this night would be the memories they would hold to until the next time the met. One day, they would have time together, uninterrupted by the service. But now was not that time... She cuddled in to Marcadil and he ran his fingers through her wet hair. Both were silent, a moment of bliss even as they both considered the next day.

The next morning

The late morning still came too quick. Marcadil and the rest of the 2nd gathered and soon stood ready. Some fresh provision was given them, but they didn't have time to get clothing and boots cleaned and repaired.They all did appear somewhat cleaner than the evening before, but they were still weather-worn. A mix of emotions showed on each of their faces as they parted from their loved ones. The look of relaxation from their brief rest mixed with the resignation of having to march north. They would all move by foot at a quick pace, for the horses were to be held back to rest completely. They wouldn't be needed so much in the rough terrain of the North Downs as they would be for swift reinforcement to the west should they be required.

The trouble was, rumours had it that something was afoot. As they set out, they tried to shake the gloom that seemed to linger in the air. This was only lifted some by the rumour that the King and his Royal Guards would ride out soon. But why would he have too? Yes, something was afoot, and Marcadil's gut told him it wasn't going to be good. Some of the men were also talking of some of their loved ones being sick. Dauwna had made mention of something going around, but he didn't pay it any mind at the moment. He knew she and her aunt would go help if needed, but he Hoped it will pass quickly. And he hoped it did not spread to the men at the front, for it is no place to be sick....

Marcadil broke his runaway thoughts when Malassuil called out,

2nd, form up! We move shortly!"

He was an old coot that has seen too much. But he had yet to lose his heart, for he then said,

"Equipment check, and once passed, take a few to say farewell. We likely won't be back anytime soon."

It was good to go once again and give Dauwna a long hug and kiss. We said nothing to each other, just held each other. We weren't going to stop, but Malassuil knew that the moment of chaotic rustling would have to come to an end. He finally yelled out,

"Let’s move! Now!”

The embraces broke apart and a few took a quick return. Marcadil put his hands on each side of Dauwna's face and took in her teary eyes. he kissed her forehead and smiled before turning away to form up ranks. He caught sight of the fair haired soldier say goodbye to his wife. He remembered the man come recently to them in the Weather Hills. He too had been wounded. Richard was his name. Marcadil would try and make it a point to get to know him better. Its good to know the men who has your back while you have theirs.

No sooner than they were in ranks, Malassuil called out,

"2nd, let's go. I hear the 1st has gotten into a jam, so we'll be taking little rest. Forward!"

In cadence they went forth. Marcadil was on the last rank on the corner. Dauwna, looking beautiful in the morning light, stepped slightly forward of the others and waved as he went by. She threw a flower toward him and he smiled and blew her a kiss as they marched for the city gate. Marcadil turned to take in the last glimpse of his wife before he could not turn his head any more without breaking ranks. Dauwna watched him until the men disappeared out the gate and they started to close. Even after they were shut and people started to drift back to their lives, she stood there looking at the gate, glad for the time they had, but missing him already and longing to see him again. When that would be she could not guess. She slowly turned and started to walk to the palace to start her day of work. She hadn't gotten ten steps when she overheard a rather frantic whisper about needing help with some who had fallen ill. Dauwna paused and turned, She said,

"I can help. I will be able to help if you need me."

She smiled slightly as the woman looked over at her.

[Edited on 10/21/2014 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Eldarion
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on: October 20, 2014 01:08
Eradan's first training session had turned into a series of clumsy mistakes. His thrusts were either too stiff or too lax for their insatiable captain pacing between the training dummies. Every parry he attempted from one of his peers' wooden training blades failed miserably. It seemed as if the sword was entirely foreign to his grasp.

The captain was none too kind in his criticism. Sharp reprimands came for each blunder followed by a quick critique and not a single word of encouragement. "Fool! Your balance is pitiful! Adjust your feet!" Harsh words befit their perilous situation and the captain's training reflected that. "You dolt! Do not attack at the sake of your own defense! You are leaving an opening every time!" Eradan found himself quickly disenchanted with his own training only hours into day one; no archery was in sight.

_____________
"Captain," came the hurried gasp of a man who had clearly sprinted across much of camp, "we have wounded at the perimeter: Barad and Jabeth, along with a young girl and infant. They have been ushered into the care of our medics, but Barad is asking to see the captains to deliver his report."

"No doubt he has pressing news; the two of them were stationed near our border with Angmar. Fetch the other captains and we shall convene at Barad's tent." All the while, the students stood attentively. Davian dismissed them with a curt wave of his hand. "I suggest you take the afternoon to practice," he had advised before taking off in a quick jog alongside the sentry towards the northern end of the camp where several tents had been erected for their healers.

Foltest, grizzled and scarred as Orodruin itself, was waiting outside the pavilion tent. "The girl is in the adjoining tent with the infant she bore. No one has gotten a word out of her...yet." His gravely tone grated on Davian's nerves. "You and I both know what news he delivers."

"Yes, Foltest. But let us hear it straight from the horse's mouth. The others should be coming. Are we ready for mobilization so soon?"

"Of course not. The 1st company has only left Fornost this morning, so no fresh bodies anytime soon. Hopefully your kiddies are coming along." He laughed harshly, a croaking cacophony that could only be produced by a madman. It was a wonder they still kept him around; far too many men had died under his orders and just as many deserted. Foltest had quite the reputation for a complete lack of sanity.

"Soon," was all Davian had to spare as he stepped through the folds of the tent and into burgeoning warmth tainted by the smell of healing solution he was unfamiliar with.

Barad was prone with bandages removed as a wizened apothecary applied his medicines to an ugly wound. There was a practiced ease with which these remedies were enacted. The healer, however, was eerily silent in his work. Davian attributed it to the same madness which took many older men in the North; too many winters and far too much death.

"What have you to report, Barad? Your injuries are indicative of orc weapons. It would seem a mighty doom hangs over our heads." Several voices erupted him from behind him, soon manifesting into a few of the captains eagerly entering the tent. Foltest was not among them.

"What news from the border?" Fear was evident in their eyes at the grim sight of Barad's shoulder wound that had been freshly treated by the skilled healer not moments before whose crooked form now lingered over his mortar and pestle. From outside came one of Foltest's wracking coughs.

Foltest, a man of many oddities, was always sickly preceding battle. It was always an ill omen.

[Edited on 10/20/2014 by Eldarion]
Arveleg
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on: October 20, 2014 10:44
The woman who Dauwna had heard paused and looked her up and down. She looked back to the woman whom she was trying to get attention, and said,

”Do you know anything about healing? We need the help.”

Dauwna could see that she was trying to get the attention of another woman lost in thought. Her husband had also left with the 2nd, and Dauwna for a moment looked toward the gate, hoping for a brief moment it would again open and they soldiers would return… No, it would not. They were gone.


Dauwna turned back to the woman and nodded slightly, answering her,

”I know some. I was pressed into service in the infirmary when many wounded were brought in last year. I know the common herbs and compresses…”

“We need help treating illnesses, not triage battle wounds….”


Sarefi interrupted, but then said,

”We can use someone to boil water and wash linens. Are you willing to do that?”

Dauwna nodded,

”Yes, I will do that. It is what I do now really… cleaning and …. I would rather do it and maybe learn something more of healing.”

“You are willing to learn more of the healing ways?”


Sarefi asked. Dauwna noticed the woman whose loved one marched out with the 2nd Company took notice of what Sarefi was saying. Dauwna nodded to Sarefi and said,

”Yes”

Sarefi then said,

”There is something going around and we are in need. Come with me to the healing house miss…”

“Dauwna, is my name.”


Dauwna answered. Sarefi nodded and said,

”Dauwna. I am Sarefi. Do you know where the 3rd house of healing is?”

“Yes, it was used for casualties a year ago.”


Dauna answered,

Sarefi nodded and said,

”Then you know where to go. We had to open it up again this morning as there is something going around and many came down ill overnight. There will be plenty of work to do there to get the place on order. I will meet you there later. I need to see if Meriam will come and help us there.”

Dauwna walked away swiftly and silently, and headed to the healing house. Dauwna was curious about who the woman Sarefi called Meriam had said farewell to, and wondered if Marcadil knew him. She said a prayer to Varda that she would watch over the men of the 2nd, and quickened her step.

Coming to the healing house, Dauwna guessed that more people had come since Sarefi had left to find Meriam. Some seemed only mildly sick, but other could not stop coughing. It looked enough like triage of the wounded, only without the blood. Both Sarefi and Meriam went straight to looking after people. Dauwna was taken aback at what she saw. She said as she saw the pile of used linens,

”I’ll get started on the water.”

She stepped outside, and saw there were three fire-pits. Only one was alight. She sought help and soon had some boys gathering wood to get another alight. If she was any judge, she would be hard at work today. She checked the first fire and saw that the pot was near empty. She would have to get water. She looked back toward the road… more people were coming. Pausing, she almost fell into panic. She remembered the day all those soldiers were brought in. They lay everywhere, and they could only save some. She comforted so many only to watch them die. When she was told to help the man with a severe face wound, she vowed that this one would live. Marcadil did live, and maybe it was why she loved him so. She nearly lost it then, but gathered herself. She looked at her hands, and down at the hem of her crème silken dress she wore to see Marcadil off. She thought of Marcadil and some of their talks when he first awakened. She remembered him saying,

’In the field, you can’t get sick. You try and keep the air you breath and the water you drink as clean as you are able. You make sacrifices and do what you can.’

She could hear his voice, so raspy and weak then, saying those words.

He had given her this dress. Had it made for her. She cried as she lifted the hem and tore some of it away, shortening to to her knees. She then tore off some of that and tied it around her face. She made a headscarf with the rest. With the numbers of the sick that was starting to come to the healing house, there was no time to go and change. He would understand that she made a sacrifice, that she would do what she could. She felt something on her head, and she looked up toward the sky. The morning sun had gone, and the day suddenly became gloomy. It was the first of the rain drops. Hopefully it would hold off, but the waning days of the season only spoke of darker, colder, times ahead. Winter was coming.She turned to go into the house to gather the used linens as the pots started to hiss, both from the building fires, and from the falling rain.

Coming in, she gathered the large pile of linens and turned and went out. The two pots would be filled with them. As the rain started to fall slightly harder than the spits it had been doing, she called out to two boys, maybe 9 years old.

"Boys, find whatever you can and catch the rain-water. We will need it here. I will pay you what I can for each bucket."

The boys thought this would be great fun, playing in the rain and getting paid for it. They went about setting up catchments to try and bring the lady as much fresh rain water as they could. Dauwna thought about what she could pay them, for she did not have much money. No matter, she would be good for her word. Right now, she needed to stir the linens.

[Edited on 10/21/2014 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Cenor
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on: October 21, 2014 04:03
Quintin was too impulsive. His battering at the dummy, a series of cuts, thrusts, and slices, was too predictable and unsteady. Davian's constant commands didn't help, it only made it worst. Stubbornly, he tried to think, think about the sword.
"I suggest you take the afternoon to practice."
Quintin let his sword down and stared wearily at the dummy. Here was no different than at home. He still felt like a failure. Then he remembered. When his father practiced with him it was, different, than when he practiced alone. Something was different.
"Maybe we could practice together," he suggested.
=========================
Barad grimaced as the Healer spread his mixture of herbs on his shoulder. The questions of the captains were blurring in his mind.
"Orcs," he rasped, "On the edge of the North Downs. Thousands and thousands. All heavily armed. Also trolls, unlike any that we've seen before."
He sat up suddenly and grasped the nearest commanders' hand.
"They will destroy us all."
Then moaning, he sank back down on the bed. Pain racked his body.
"They will destroy us all," he coughed.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eldarion
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on: October 23, 2014 12:07
"Practice together?" Eradan had asked in bewilderment. "Are we ready for that? Maybe so..."

At the proposition the boy felt all the more pressured to perform well; the loser would receive more than his fair share of bruises.

Despite his apprehensions, Eradan's reflexes seemed to wax in the prospect of competition and his skills flexed by the challenge. Each blow delivered from Quintin that he managed to parry strengthened his resolve just as every missed opportunity that landed him a firm smack across the forearm of shoulder. His brow sweat profusely at the exertion; long minutes of sparring taxed his musculature.

Nearly an hour passed before he dropped his wooden blade and raised two hands in surrender. "No more, Quintin. I am exhausted," he explained, raising a bruised forearm up to wipe the sweat dripping into his eyes. "Some food would be nice. Let's find the mess tents." The suggestion went over quite well.

At this point, activity in the camp had spiked incredibly; to and fro men raced to accomplish small tasks, none of which were little of importance. Eradan brashly stopped one man amidst a purposeful stride. "Sir, what is rousing so many from their rest?"

"War, boy. You two ought to make ready as well," came a gruff reply before the man sidestepped them and continued onward.

"Vague, to say the least," Eradan muttered underneath his breath. Before he could complain further, one of their fellows came sprinting up to a quick halt before them.

"You guys haven't heard have you? Orcs are coming!"

Hours later they found themselves summoned once more by Captain Davian Crowe.

________________________
"They will destroy us all."

The words seemed to resonate deeply with Davian as his hand, desperately grasped by Barad a moment prior, fell limply at his side. There was naught but an eerie silence throughout the tent interrupted only by the labored breathing of the injured scout sprawled across a makeshift bed. None of the captains made eye contact for many long minutes; what could be said of impending doom?

"Our deaths are nigh, comrades," came Davian's fierce tone. "But we mustn't give our lives needlessly. Quickly, a scout must be sent to the 2nd urging them back to Fornost. The North Downs are simply not defensible enough with Fornost lying naked at our backs. Too many orcs lie before us. We can funnel their forces into one of the many valleys to eliminate any open ground while slowing their progress and preventing a third flank at which they can attack our capital. But we can only hope to outlast their numbers in Fornost."

"I will have one of our swiftest sent south to warn the 2nd." A sturdy, broad-shouldered captain provided a brief nod before exiting the tent to send the message.

"We shall position the bulk of our archers on opposite hilltops to create disarray in the orc ranks while our hardiest men shall bear the brunt in the valley. If we maintain a strong line and coordinate our tactical withdrawals, rotating our front lines and keeping our archers on the move, perhaps we can fell a great many of them; even enough to allow our retreat back to Fornost would suffice."

Davian had quick produced a leaf of parchment and, using the apothecary's ink, drew a rough sketch of his plans for their confrontation: just beyond the small forested area they camped within had lain, according do his drawing, several prominent hilltops wide at the north end and narrowing down toward the easily accessible south end. Archers of the greatest skill would be positioned here to thin the enemy ranks with carefully placed arrows while those of less skill would remain behind the main front for the purpose of barrage. He supplemented his own hand-drawn map with an actual map of the region to outline their path of retreat through his chosen valley and southeastward across gently sloping hills to Fornost.

The plan, while hastily conceived, was sound enough on paper.

With his peers in agreement, preparations were made throughout much of the afternoon. Multiple parties were sent lightly armed to serve as advanced warning for the incoming ranks of orcs. The swiftest of scouts were soon barreling across the countryside southeastward to spread word of imminent attack. Davian found himself at the helm of their operations for much of the daylight hours, though as twilight approached he found the time to gather, once more, his trainees.

"If you haven't heard already, their is a great battle to ensue in the coming days. We know not when our foes will arrive, but we know they shall. I need provide no greater incentive to you to double your efforts in training than that."
Arveleg
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on: October 23, 2014 04:44
The smoke would be hard to hide, but that didn't seem to bother Ghorg. He was pleased they had somehow managed to evade detection and was able to infiltrate the defences of the North Downs. Even better, they were able to move in to a village that had very few defenders. Many fled, but many were killed, and the band of orcs enjoyed the loot and destruction. Ghorg would have to get his mob back in order before long though.

”Good kill! Yet you scum be alert! We may have come farther than we expected, and we are ahead of schedule, but don't think this will go un-noticed! We are in place, and we will be rewarded for being first!” But stay alert!”

The grumbling and lethargy didn't pause, with many complaining about the light. At least it was cloudy and raining. It could be worse. Yet with the longer nights and short days, with the sun obscured, it would be a glorious war! The days of raiding here would soon come to an end, and they would be able to find new lands to pillage. They knew it, and were filled with glee. Ghorg yelled out,

”I smell men! They are coming. From the northeast and the southwest! Be ready you lot. Take nothing, and let us melt into the shadows of the woods!”

The band quickly returned to order, and they slipped away, leaving smouldering houses, death, and destruction in their wake.

Ghorg's was one of the few raiding bands that managed to find their way into the North Downs from the northwest. Most of the others were either discovered and stopped, or continued to flank. Ghorg wished more of them would find their way in, for he had done it, and put his orcs between the main Arthedain defence of the 1st Company to the northeast and the fortress city. But he sensed the approach of the 2nd from the southeast, and had to try and hide. It wouldn’t be easy. But he took pride in landing an early blow against Arthedain. This village was destroyed.

[Edited on 10/24/2014 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Cenor
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on: October 24, 2014 12:07
The rest of the morning passed quickly. Urged by the desire not to receive more bruises than necessary Quintin found himself exerting himself focusing on his opponents sword. Eradan was a worthwhile opponent; although slow he was unpredictable, whereas Quintin was quick but predictable. Often his impulse resulted in a number of soon-to-be bruises. Relief flooded him when Eradan suggested food. Until now, he hadn’t noticed his stomachs urgent requests for food. During the meal, the boys talked about the prospect of fighting orcs. The afternoon passed liken to the morning except they took time to practice archery. Quintin smiled when each arrow thumped loudly against the target. That evening, just as they were heading for their tent, Davian intercepted them.
“If you haven't heard already, there is a great battle to ensue in the coming days. We know not when our foes will arrive, but we know they shall. I need provide no greater incentive to you to double your efforts in training than that."
Conversation buzzed through the boy’s tent till the horn signaled lights out.
=================
A valley covered in blood. Men running in all directions, their officers trying to regain orderly retreat. Orcs and trolls slaughtering wounded men leaving none alive. Quintin was running, trying to get away from the awful carnage. Then he came face to face with a large orc. His quiver was empty, both knives were gone, all he had left was his sword. Yelling he attacked the orc. They locked in a deadly competition of life and death. In the end, Quintin’s sword was flung far from his reach. Instinctively, he grabbed the orc’s sword arm struggling to keep the sword away from his throat. They rolled on the ground grappling with each other. Quintin gained the upper hand and raised his fist to punch the orc.
=================
“What are you doing?!”
Eradan’s voice broke through the swirling confusion of the slowly retreating dream. Quintin’s vision cleared and he saw that he holding one of his fellow trainees to the ground, one hand raised to strike him. He blinked and lowered his hand.
“I’m sorry I…”
He was cut off when the other boy, significantly older and stronger, twisted his legs and kicked throwing Quintin across the tent. While struggling to get up the older boy crossed the tent and ploughed into him. The two boys struggled rolling out into the open air. The sentry, startled at the sudden appearance and breech of curfew, ran to Davian’s tent. A few moments later both of them were torn apart and standing in front of Davian. Quintin was troubled; he had never reacted to the dreams like this. Davian stood, arms crossed in front of him, waiting for one or the other to blame each other.
==================
Barad slept restlessly that afternoon. His shoulder burned and ached relentlessly. Late that evening one of the Healer’s assistants discussed in low tones about the little girl. She wasn’t letting them near her.
“Maybe I could help,” he said weakly remembering how she had called him Papa.

Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eruwestiel_Evensong
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on: October 24, 2014 02:09
((Joint post with Aveleg))

-Fornost

Meriam stared wistfully at the gates her husband and the rest of the 2nd had just passed through. It was so hard to say goodbye again. She could see the long and lonely days stretching endlessly out before her, and single tear traced down her soft cheek. "What am I doing? I have people to care for, and her I am, blubbering like a child.”

Hastily she wiped the tear away with the back of her hand. Turning, Meriam found two women holding conversation behind her.

Sarefi, keeper of the infirmary, was speaking to a younger woman Meriam didn't recognize.

”There is something going around and we are in need. Come with me to the healing house miss…”

“Dauwna, is my name.”

Dauwna answered, and Sarefi gave a brief nod.

”Dauwna. I am Sarefi. Do you know where the 3rd house of healing is?”

“Yes, it was used for casualties a year ago.”
Dauwna answered.

Sarefi nodded and said,
”Then you know where to go. We had to open it up again this morning as there is something going around and many came down ill overnight. There will be plenty of work to do there to get the place on order. I will meet you there later. I need to see if Meriam will come and help us there.”

Dauwna left, and Meriam spoke up. “I will come.”

Sarefi looked relieved as she said,
“Then come along quickly. Many more people fell ill overnight, and your skill is needed in treating them.”

The two women set off for the 3rd house of healing, reaching it just after Dauwna. They stepped into the dimly lighted interior, and Meriam took a deep breath as she surveyed the grim scene around her.

It was going to be a long day.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As the 2nd marched out of the gate, they almost immediately turned to the left. They would circumvent the walls and take the southern track up through the hills. It wasn’t long before clouds, blowing in from the north, obscured the sun. The men of the 2nd had just broken into single file and started to climb the steep track when the rain started to fall. Marcadil gave the man in front of him a steadying hand, and this caused him to slip on the muddy ground. A firm hand of the man behind him steadied him, but nearly slipped himself.

Marcadil said to him as he worked to regain his footing,
”It would have to rain… thought the morning sun would be a good omen. But it has gone, like the joys of being with my love”

“It usually rains in late autumn”
Richard said as he pushed his foot in to take the next step.

Marcadil was anchored and helped pull him up. He said,
”Yes it does… and in spring, and even in summer with those thunderstorms. Still, the rain came today, just like the last time I marched away from my wife.…. it is just so hard saying goodbye to my beloved Dauwna yet again.”

“I have a feeling we’ll have plenty of rain up here this Winter, unless it gets cold and it snows.”
Richard said before he took in a breath and pushed himself up another step.

“Have you been married long?”
Richard asked as they managed to climb a couple more steps into the grey mists. Marcadil shook his head and said,

”Married in Spring… 1 Víressë after my wounds were deemed healed. I marched out to the Weather Hills on the 7th. I had not seen my wife again until yesterday. Now I leave again. I been married for over half a year, and I have spent less than eight days with her. Are you married?”

Richard stepped up to where the ground levelled some, and said,
”Yes, I have been married for fifteen years. I have two children, a girl and a boy. My wife sent them to stay with her sister in another town, so I didn’t get to see them when we stopped in Fornost. But our trek should lead us right past the village where they are, so perhaps I will get to see them after all.”

He went silent, concentrating on keeping his footing in the slippery earth. Richard could not wait to finally see his children. It had certainly been a very long year. He thought fondly of little Freeda, with her blue eyes that mirrored his own. She had always been his pride and joy, so full of life. And what of his new son? “He will follow in my steps one day, like as not.” Richard mused with a smile.

“So, where are you from originally?”
Marcadil asked. But just as Richard was about to answer, Malassuil came running back through the mist signalling with his hand that silence was needed. The signal quickly went back down the line and soon the only thing that could be heard was the rain dripping through the trees. Malassuil waved everyone who was atop of the track to move forward.

Marcadil and Richard moved quietly forward with the others, ready. The scent of smoke soon reached the men, putting them even more on edge. Malassuil silently signalled for five men go to the left, and to the right through the misty woods to flank each side of the village.

“What village is this?”
Richard asked, anxiety building within him. Marcadil shrugged.

“North Slope I think.”
One of the soldiers answered, coming up from behind him. Richard felt his heart rend in two as the man said the words.

“No. Please no!”
he cried out as he dashed toward the smoldering remains of the village.

Malassuil turned and said forcefully,
“No! Don’t go in! We don’t know what awaits us!”

Marcadil, having just learned this was where Richard’s children were, silently motioned to Malassuil that he would go in and have his back. He was moving forth about five paces behind the grief-stricken man, watching the tree line carefully.

Inside the village there were men, women and children lying about, bloodied and lifeless. Desperately Richard began digging through the rubble and turning over bodies, hoping against hope that his children were not numbered with the dead.

As he turned over yet another body, he recognized this one! It was his brother-in-law, Thomas. Tears streamed down Richard’s weather beaten face as he looked down at the glassy eyes, which he remembered being so cheerful and kind. Not two feet away, a broken hoe was embedded in the carcass of a stinking orc; the handle was still clutched by the man’s cold hand. Richard knew he had died defending his family.

But was that sacrifice in vain?

”Come Richard, we have a duty!”
Marcadil said as he looked about warily.

“We have to bury them!”
Richard said painfully. Marcadil nodded as he rested his hand on the man’s shoulder, saying,

“Yes! Yes! We will… but we have to secure the perimeter! Once Malassuil is assured it’s clear, we’ll take care of the dead, with honor!”

Marcadil took the hoe from the dead man and used it to drag the dead orc away from the man. Richard stood up and with his boot, he rolled the orc into the remains of the nearby fire that was once the man’s house.

“He ended you, now Burn in his house, you filth!”
Richard said as he spat on the corpse.

One of the men who flanked the village called out,
“Movement to the east!”

Everyone had their weapons ready, but the voice said,
“All good, he’s from the 1st!”

The runner was out of breath and the man who had stopped him gave him some water from his bag. He walked with him to Malassuil, who had been taking brief reports from some who had scouted around the village. The scout from the 1st said between breaths…

“News from the 1st. Commander Davian sent me to find you!. Attack in force is imminent!”

Malassuil put is hand on the man’s shoulder and said,
“Davian? He’s been attacked in force?”

The man shook his head and said,
“No, at least not when I had left. We had sent scouts to the north and east. Only two returned. Barad, who had gone north, barely made it back alive. He reported the enemy moving in force, in numbers unseen before!”

Malassuil tapped a man standing near him to run the word back to Fornost with speed.

“Tell command that orcs have raided deep into the villages of the Downs. North Slope is destroyed. Unsure about others. The 1st reports massive movement of enemy numbers coming from the north toward their positions. Situation is uncertain.”

He nodded as he dropped most of his gear. He was off swiftly. Malassuil then turned and said to the runner of the 1st,
”You rest up. We’ll send forth another runner to Davian telling that you have arrived with word. He has likely assessed the situation and is working his way toward us with most of his men by now. But he may not know that orcs have managed to get in behind him, here, and possibly elsewhere along the front range.”

“No sir, I’ll go back to the 1st with your runner. Best to send two in case we run into trouble”
The runner from the 1st said. Malassuil nodded in agreement. He understood wanting to get back to his comrades. Right now, they would hold in place and care for the dead. He should talk to Richard about his momentary lapse in military discipline, but Malassuil reckoned they were no longer going to reinforce the 1st on the front of the North Downs. Instead, the 1st was falling back toward them.

He had a gut feeling they were on the cusp of a major attack the likes of which they had never seen.
"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
Arveleg
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Post The 2nd's Messengers - Finding the 1st Company
on: October 30, 2014 04:28
The two men ran hard down the track to the northeast, wanting to bring word to the 1st company that the 2nd was nearby. They were somewhat wary of movement in the misty grey of the low clouds at night. Yet it was these same mists that gave them cover from the few Orcs that were about. They did not know that only Ghorg’s squad were the only ones in the area. With the village of North Slope destroyed and the approach of the 2nd company, Ghorg had moved northeast up the tracks, looking for other orc-squads. Fortunately for Arthedain, no more were found. Ghorg only had maybe a dozen orcs left, so he kept a tight rein on them and would emerge when their comrades attacked. The messengers, being wary, moved with stealth in the dark. They managed to evade a blind arrow or two shot in their direction when they skirted around where Ghorg was hidden. Since the orcs were not in great numbers, the messengers managed to find their way between the sentries. It was nearing morning when a well-aimed arrow embedded into a tree next to them. A second arrow caught the messenger from the 2nd in the thigh. The messenger from the 1st saw the arrow and knew it was their own. They had run right into the advance men of the retreating 1st . Out of breath, the man from the 1st called out,

”Hold! We’ve come from the 2nd!”

He recognised one of the men who approached. Another man handed a water bag for the exhausted men to drink, and a third looked at the wound.

”You’ll live.”

he said as he eased the arrow out and wrapped the wound.

Finally the messenger from the 1st got his breath and said,

”Tell Davian… orcs are in the Downs. Not many, but they got behind us. The 2nd has set up a defence on the southwestern part of the North Downs and are covering the approaches to Fornost.”

The young archer that skewered the 2nd’s messenger came up apologising. The messenger said to him,

”I’m glad you tried to stay your hand, or this would have been much worse.’

The archer helped the messenger up, saying,

”I wasn’t sure. But we slew a couple orcs in the dark already.”

The sound of thunder rumbled across the downs after bright flashed to the north. It had an unnerving effect. One of the men of the 1st said,

”This is an ill omen! Storms in the morning, soldier’s warning!”

Some of the others grumbled. Short of men and supplies, morale was strained. Yet the brave soldiers of Arthedain remained stout. Davian’s withdrawal plan seemed to be working so far. But the pressure of the attack had not yet hit in force. Only the scouting bands trying to find weaknesses have pushed in to them. With the rain falling harder and a cold storm front pushing south, the gut feeling was the armies that Barad had seen were nearly upon them.
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Arveleg
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Post The 2nd’s Messenger - Arriving at Fornost
on: October 30, 2014 05:10
The messenger pressed on in full run. Having come down quickly from the highlands, he kept on until he saw the gates before him. Sentries and horsemen ride about and as soon as one called out to him,

”Hold! Who runs swift to Fornost>”

He stopped, falling to his knees. He gasped as the mounted man dropped to the ground.

”Word from the 2nd, Malassuil, and word from the 1st, Davian…”

The runner coughed and fell forward. The soldier sat him up and gave him some water as he spoke,

”Word? From them both?”

“Yes”.


The runner said. He gasped as he caught his breath and said,

”A messenger from the 1st came to us with speed as we were seeing to the village… scouts reported that an army was coming towards their positions. They are likely under attack by now. We held up around North Slope after we found the village destroyed. Orcs have infiltrated the Downs.”

Another rider, one with a helm, had ridden up and listened. He said,

”It is as the King feared. He sent riders out north, and there we found a wayward band of orcs and slew them. Two of our own fell wounded, but they were brought back to Fornost. The orcs were raiders, but they were too well equipped to be just a wayward band. We suspected more to be about, so we sent some swift riders to range out farther. They have yet to return. Now you say they are in the Downs? How many?”

The runner stood, he was a bit rested now, and said,

[i]”We don’t know, not many we suspect. There were two dead in the village, but there were many of our people slain, including women and children. Commander Malassuil estimated a dozen, maybe twenty at the most.”

“Come, ride with me. We’ll get you to see the King. Give him your full report.”


The runner mounted up behind the guardsman, and they rode to the city. The first thing the runner noted was the smell. Also, they were busy fortifying the ramparts. But there were too few men.

They found the King looking at the walls of Fornost. His advisors were talking tensely, and when the Guardsman rode up, he called out,

”Hail King Arvedui. Urgent word from the Companies on the North Downs!”

The runner slid off the horse as did the guardsman. He repeated his reports from the 1st and the 2nd to the King, who seemed to grow evermore tense. He then said,

”Continue to make ready for a siege. Get word back to the companies to withdraw with haste. They could get trapped up there. And we’ll need everyone we can get here to either man the walls or work with the sick. Any remaining supplies we have in the palace are to be given to the healers. The day has come.”

The advisors nodded and a couple walked with him, but most went to carry out the King’s will. The runner from the 2nd was dismissed and ordered to rest. He went to where a cook fire was burning, and sat down. A voice said somewhat hoarsely,

”You could use some tea.”

He looked up to see a woman in a nice, yet torn and somewhat dirty dress, handing him a hot cup. He nodded and took it. She pulled the veil down from her face as she sat next to him, asking,

”You are from the 2nd, yes?”

He nodded and sipped his tea. A sense if relief came over him, while a sense of dread came over her. She thought she recognised him from their recent march out of the gate. What of the others? She wanted to ask him…
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Cenor
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on: October 30, 2014 07:51
Balancing on his crooked leg and left stick Mathias rumaged through a pile of rubbish with his right stick.
"Not much today but good enough," he mumbled to himself.
He scoped up a small chicken bone and placed it in an old tattered bag. Then akwardly, he hobbled down the narrow alley. A sharp cold wind blew down the path tossing his dirty blonde hair into his blue eyes. Pain destroyed his pleasant expression. He stopped to rub his mangled left leg. It was twisted and scarred, the result of a maddened plow horse. Pulling his tattered, muddy clothes around him, Mathias continued down the street. He found his "corner" in no time and boiled an assorted handful of bones over a small fire. After drinking the thin broth he resumed his hunt for food. The pickings were small nevertheless this did not shatter his good mood. He was about to return to his "corner" when a young rat scurried boldly out to nab a rotten fruit. Mathias clicked his tongue hoping to coax the rodent towards him. The rat sniffed then hurried away squeaking. Mathias grinned and started to turn a corner when he bumped into a bigger boy standing with his arms crossed.
"Well, well look here fellas its the Cripple," the boy sneered.
"Nice to see you again Bolyt," Mathias said with a lop-sided grin.
Bolyt rammed his finger into Mathias' chest making the latter swing backwards.
"You're tresspassing on our alley," Bolyt jeered motioning towards five older boys. "And you'll have to pay."
Mathias shrugged, "Okay."
He reached into his bag and produced a rock that he hurled at Bolyt's face. Turning quickly he swung out into the busy streets and hobbled as fast as he could. The other boys, after staring stupidly at thier leader, gave chase. Mathias shuffled quickly by some houses now being used as hospitals. He nearly tripped and fell but a kind faced woman grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Thanks ma'am," he said looking over his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Please ma'am let me go," he pleaded.
Just then Bolyt came up with his gang.
"Don't let them hurt me ma'am he said hurridly.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eldarion
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on: November 07, 2014 02:03
A cool mist accompanied the morning twilight.

The tension was palpable as sleep-deprived soldiers sporting soaked cloaks and blood-shot eyes were rotated out of northeasterly defensive perimeter and into warm tents; their replacements look no more rested than they.

"Watch the tree lines...the orcs emerge every so often to test our patience and the bows of our archers. A few corpses'll attest to that." The man was particularly grizzled and unshaven. He smelled unwashed. His eyes could hardly muster their focus.

"Yessir," came Eradan's groggy reply. His eyes immediately darted to the distant thick pine tree line some two hundred yards down the steep slope of the hill-top. Despite his paranoia, it was still shrouded in darkness with not rustle of movement to be seen by his mortal eyes. He sighed heavily in relief, though his hands still trembled in their grip of his longbow.

The company had hastily constructed makeshift barricades of dirt and sand filled burlap sacks to create a defensible line around the crest's edge. Here the bulk of their forces stood in watch while the archers, Eradan included, slipped into the lightly forested areas flanking the valley before their hilltop camp. An unsettling quiet descended onto the area as storm clouds roiled overhead, heralding an advance unbeknownst to them.

"It never bodes well when the day begins with a storm. This looks to be a mighty one at that! On top of that, we're beginning to run low on dry firewood. I do not like this day at all," one of the men bemoaned Davian as the captain strode behind the ranks towards the main entrance to their dwindling camp.

"I've sent men to gather what kindling they can; we shall make do." His reply was met with only more grumbling.

A few yards down the grass-less, beaten path that lead down into the particarly bleak valley two figures emerged from their descent up into camp. One was visibly weary beyond normal circumstances while the other was clearly one of Davian's stouthearted men.

"Captain, news from the 2nd! Commander Malassuil sends word that orcs have infiltrated the North Downs between the 1st and the 2nd! They are preparing to defend the southwesterly edge of the hills and bolster Fornost against possible attack!" The messenger was almost delirious from exhaustion but was able to recite his communication without delay or error.

"Rest. Do so thoroughly." Davian's concise demands were met with a sigh of relief as the messenger wearily carried himself towards one of the larger tents withholding their diminishing stores of food.

A crack of thunder rent the atmosphere asunder, startling many of the tense soldiers manning the perimeter. Eerie silence followed for a few minutes before several hideous horns were blown in the distance. Their sound rang uncomfortably in the ear and seemed quite unwholesome. Eradan gulped hard and steeled himself as the tree-line he had been incessantly scanning began to shuffle and reveal hundreds of grim orcs pouring from it's depths.



"ORCS! ORCS!" A sergeant shouted shrilly, his voice resonating through the valley.

Davian fully dropped the bowl of soup he had been nursing and sprinted to the perimeter, eying the sharp slope down to where a host of foul orcs began to pool. Storm clouds rolled onward to cover their approach with a sickly shadow intermittently pierced by bright flashes of lightning. "Fire at will!" the captain cried, arms crossed tightly over his chest. His men soon loosed a torrent of heavy arrows down upon the advancing orcs. Many fell and more hurried to replace their ranks. The few stragglers that had initially sprinted the distance were quickly dispatched by capable spearmen awaiting them. Davian too stepped to the barricade, sword drawn, and piercing hues watching their oncoming doom.

The clashing and clanging of steel was deafening. Orcs fell upon Arnorian blades with alarming frequency. Only a handful of men were lost in the initial sortie before the higher ranks and remainder of the assault force regrouped under cover of foliage and trees.

In the lull of the battle, Davian quickly sped the packing of their camps and had his men made ready for retreat, should the need arise. Given their success with the first wave of the assault, he held the line for the time being.
Arveleg
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on: November 07, 2014 06:01
Dauwna hadn’t worked this hard in some time. Every time she brought in freshly cleaned linens to hang to dry, there were more to be boiled. Too many people were coming in sick, and a few soldiers that rode out had come back with minor wounds. Dauwna was concerned having them in the same place, for whatever this sickness was, it could not be allowed to spread to the fighting men. So after she put more linens in the boiling pots, she went to look at the houses nearby. One was empty. If wounded started to come, she would send them there and hope for the best. She went back to the fires and poured herself some tea.

It was then she noted the King and his commanders passing by. They talked to a rough soldier who was with them. After he was dismissed, he came and sat down on a stone bench in front of the house. Dauwna recognised him as being one who had left with the 2nd with Marcadil. She brought him a cup of tea and asked,

”You are from the 2nd, yes?”

He thanked him for the tea, and he could see even without her asking, she wanted news of a loved one.

”Tell me sir, if you can… my husband… Marcadil. How is he?”

“I cannot say if my comrades are well at this time m’lady. We came to North Slope, and it was a terrible sight to behold. One of the guys knew some of the dead. When I left, Malassuil was making contingency plans, but he had this look in his eye. He doesn’t know it, but we know he does not like what he sees and feels when he gets it. But know, m’lady, your husband Marcadil was well when I left them.”


He took a few sips of the tea and nodded with a slight smile. It was then that one of the commanders that was with the King came running back.

”You are needed!”

And he turned. The messenger handed back the tea cup and nodded to Dauwna, saying,

”Thank you m’lady.”

Dauwna watched as he ran off behind the commander, pondering his words. A village wiped out, but he was safe. She would go and worry not, for she knew it would be like this when they married. She missed him so.

She walked back to where the fires were and stirred the linens, day dreaming of a time when there would be peace and she and Marcadil can rest in each other’s arms.

Her thoughts were interrupted when a boy came stumbling by. Dauwna grabbed him to keep him from falling. He seemed panicked and tried to get away when she asked if he was all right.

"Please ma'am let me go,"

he pleaded, then said,

"Don't let them hurt me ma'am.”

Some rough boys came running up, slowing when they saw the crippled boy talking to the woman. Dauwna called out to them,

”You boys come looking for jobs? This here boy has.”

The rough boys held up, not to sure what to think. Dauwna could tell they were out to do the boy harm. She motioned to a passing guard that the boys were idle. He took notice, so the boys started to retreat. The leader pointed at the crippled boy with a look that they would be looking for him later. He heaved a sigh of relief, and Dauwna asked him,

”Are you well? And if so, would you care to do some work for me?”
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Arveleg
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on: November 07, 2014 06:34
To the southeast…

The young officer who Malassuil left in command of the two dozen men that were to man the Weather Hills swallowed hard when he was given the scouting report. A sizable army of orcs, flanked by lighter Hillmen of Rhuadur were moving fast between them and the North Downs. It appeared they had not been detected staying in their old positions when the rest of the 2nd had pulled out. There was no flank probe, or even a watch. They were moving to surround the North Downs and assault Fornost. He had to act fast. Would the men follow him? He had to take that chance. He had given orders for the men to move north. There wasn’t enough of them to stop any pressed assault on their positions anyway. The old line of defence that had seen so much battle and skirmish for well nigh 500 years were this day going to be abandoned. It was up to them to try and protect Fornost from this daring move by the enemy.

Their faces were solomn, but they listened to the young commander speak. He was truthful in his words…

”Men, we have come so far to walk away from these hills now. But it appears that it is left to us to move and try and stop this invasion force that is moving on Fornost. These hills are nothing if they succeed. We are nothing if they succeed. I am not Malassuil, but he left me here to command, and my one order is this! Let us march to battle!”

There was no need to say they were massively outnumbered. They all knew it. One young soldier, new and scared, was the fastest runner they had. The commander gave him orders to make for Fornost if things started to go ill for them. They would certainly do so, but the question was how soon. They lined up and set out across the open field in double time, hoping to block the way.

They were too late. But the time they gained the last knoll to see the wade valley, the armies of the witch king were already passed them. The commander had the men catch their breath and drink up their water. They were going to attack their flank. Undetected, they crested the knoll and moved down as quick as they could. It was not long before some of the Hillmen on the outside saw them and turned to do battle, but the Dunedain slew them with fury. The orc commander soon had word of the attack, and there was confusion. There had to be many more Dunedain for them to attack, and his line of march was soon disrupted.

Slowly, one by one the brave Dunedain soldiers fell, but not before taking down ten times their number. With a thrown spear, the commander fell back. The young soldier fell down beside him, but the young commander said with his last breaths,

”Red means run boy, numbers add up to nothing…”

With a push he gurgled his last before blood spilled from his mouth. The young soldier looked about. Maybe 4 Dunedain were left, forming a box a few yeard s away, the intent of the enemy was on them, so he slid out along the dead and escaped notice. He would get word back to Fornost. He had to. There was nowhere to hide, so he got up and ran. Startled enemy did not have time to react. He had made a solid break for it and made for a dip in the hills. By now several swift Hillmen ran after him. He was about to dive down the embankment when he felt a burning in his side. Blood burst before him and he fell and rolled down the embankment. The young soldier was the last to die in this battle. No word would come to Fornost of the fate Weather Hills cadre of the 2nd Company.

But they had bought Fornost precious time. Instead of a steadily moving, somewhat orderly army, the orc commander now had a rabble. They wanted the spoils and they were tired. It would be some time before he was able to get them moving again.
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Cenor
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on: November 10, 2014 11:10
The night passed slowly for the regiment. An ominous mist crept through the air depriving the soldiers of the only comfort they had left, being dry. Now shivering in the cold trying to protect his bowstring Quintin stood waiting tensely staring at the line of trees. A messenger from the 2nd stumbled into the clearing along with another. Just as they passed through the barricade and deafening peal of thunder sounded and then the panicked cry of a soldier. Orcs! Peering into the darkness he raised his bow and shot. The arrow pierced the shadowy form and a low grunt sounded. Then a myriad of orcs poured down from the trees. Arrows flew like rain but still they pressed on. He missed several times due to the trembling in his hand. Quintin could feel his heart pounding as they reached the makeshift wall. But they were soon repelled and driven back to the trees. Davian, covered with orc blood, ran off to secure the retreat. A white flash of searing lightning struck the ground not far off. Quintin eyes widened as in that flash he saw the back of the camp and men retreating. But he wasn’t there this wasn’t happening, then he realized, it was a dream, more real and vivid than any before. The men were running out of the narrow opening while other’s defended the barricade. Then, from out of nowhere, trolls and more orcs poured out of the woods flanking the retreaters and attacking them from front and behind. Trolls swung massive clubs studded and tipped with iron. Orcs came behind them and slew any who remained alive. Then there was something that caught his attention, one side of the camp, the east side, was abandoned by men and fell beast alike. This only took a few moments but it seemed like eternity for Quintin. Then it ended. He fell, a cry escaping his lips, headlong onto the blood soaked ground. Weakly he turned over but remembering sprang up and ran after Davian. He caught up with his trainer, who had been organizing the retreat. Quickly he glanced around making sure that he remembered the correct side of the camp.
“Sir!” he panted, “we can’t go that way! There’s an ambush waiting! We must go this way!”
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eruwestiel_Evensong
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on: November 10, 2014 04:20
((Joint post with Cenor))

1st Company, North Downs

Barad stared at the roof of the tent. He hadn’t noticed before, but there was a small tear to the right… he was bored. The Healer and the other man had moved away. Nothing but the strong scent of crushed herbs remained. A commotion outside caught his attention. The tent flap moved aside to reveal two men bringing in a bed.

“My papa found me and brought me here. Where is he?” Freeda asked again as her cot was set down.

The taller of the two men gestured to the other side of the tent.
“There’s the one who brought you back.”

Freeda raised herself up on one arm and looked at the bandaged man lying on a cot a few feet away. His blue eyes smiled at her, though it was obvious he was in pain. His hair was fair, and Freeda realized it would have been very easy to confuse this man with her father in the gloom of the forest. “That’s not my papa,” she said, turning back to the taller man.

Then hope sparked in her large blue eyes. “Is there a man in this camp by the name of Richard?” The man shook his head, and Freeda sank back down on the rough cot, hope gone like a candle snuffed out. The tall man looked at the small girl with sympathy and shrugged apologetically. “I’m sorry. I know you must miss your papa terribly.”

A shout came from outside and the two men hurried away.

“I’m sorry I’m not your Papa,” Barad apologized quietly. “My name is Barad. Is your father in the army? I have done work, mostly for the First, but for the Third as well.”
He shifted painfully, trying to turn where he could see the girl.

“Yes, he’s a Ranger. I haven’t seen him in a year.” A tear slipped down the side of her face, but she didn’t bother to brush it away. “I wish he was here.”

A loud clap of thunder boomed overhead, nearly deafening in its intensity. Over the sound of her tiny brother’s screaming, Freeda heard a blast of horns and the cry of “ORCS!” The word itself was enough to chill her blood, but it was soon followed by a clash of weapons. Terrifying images began crowding into her mind. Foul creatures slashing their way through a barely defended town. The screams of dying villagers as they were cut down. Her uncle murdered before her eyes.

Freeda’s throat and chest clenched, making her gasp for air. The roof of the tent roiled and lurched, and she screwed her eyes shut. This only made the feeling worse. The scenes flashed by even faster, becoming a tornado that threatened to suck her in. She was screaming and covering her ears now, trying to block out the sounds that echoed all around.

A firm hand grabbed her own, pulling her away from the raging storm in her mind. Freeda opened her eyes and found herself looking into the calm and reassuring face of Barad. Somehow he had dragged himself from the blood stained cot and was now kneeling beside her.

“I know,” he said grasping her hand, “I know what you see.”
Horrific images had flashed through his mind at the first cry of “ORCS!” His two companions, Faolan and Glastalion, being mangled and torn to pieces. Jabeth, hardly alive, swinging into his saddle and galloping off with him. But the little girl’s screams had brought him back and painfully he had drug himself over to her cot. With his good arm he cradled her gazing into her blue eyes seeking and giving comfort.

“We have both share that which should not have been seen,” he whispered. “What is your name? Whom did you lose?”

At that moment two men burst through the tent flap.
“Can you ride?” one asked.

Bitting his lip Barad answered, “Yes I think so.”
While one of the Rangers helped him onto a chestnut horse the other lifted the little girl from her cot and placed her in front of Barad.

“Where is the baby?” he queried.

“Ahead of you in the retreat,” came the short answer.
Grimacing, he nudged the horse forward towards the line. Sounds of death and destruction sounded behind them and he pulled the girl closer.

[Edited on 11/10/2014 by Eruwestiel_Evensong]
"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
Cenor
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on: November 11, 2014 12:03
Sorry for the short post. I will try to include some background in his next posts.

Mathias grinned at the lady. "Thank you ma'am."
He shuffled awkwardly, no one had asked for his help before. He was the Cripple, seen by others as clumsy, dumb, and worth no more than the trash on the streets. Guards had on more than one occasion stopped him, but as soon as they saw the quality of his work, which was slow, they pushed him back out on the streets again.
"Well ma'am..." he stammered, "what could I do? I mean not to many people want me around. They say I'm not very smart and can mess things up."
Then he realized that he was trailing off the point.
"I want to work ma'am," he started again his voice cracking slightly, "just that I'm not very fast."
He shifted his ragged bag with the side of his crutch. The wind whistled down the street, its icy breath chilling all in its path. Mathias shivered and tried to keep his bad leg out of the cold.
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Arveleg
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Post The Attack from the North on the 2nd...
on: November 13, 2014 10:04
The darkness of the day was very much a shield for the vast armies of orcs moving westward along the northern ridge of the the North Downs. The rain and thunder drowned out much of the noise of the battle that had erupted as the orcs tried to force their way into the highlands. For some time, the men of the 2nd held them off, but the numerical advantage of the orcs was beginning to take their toll. Along one of the creviced valleys that ran up to the highlands, Commander Selwar put up a brave fight, holding the hordes off. It wasn’t until they were attacked from behind by Ghorg’s remaining orcs that things started to turn. Selwar was slain, and only a few of his men managed to fight their way out of the trap. They slew Ghorg and his remaining orcs, but by then, they had disrupted the defenders and put them in a very bad situation. The few remaining men were able to get to the highlands, but the numbers of orcs coming up now appeared unstoppable. The remaining men of the 2nd watching the north had to withdraw and regroup. One of the sergeants sent a runner to find Malassuil with the dire news.

”Selwar is dead? How?”

"They had some infiltrators. Likely the same who burned North Slope. They attacked us from behind”


The runner said as he tried to catch his breath. Malassuil hit him with another question.

”How many dead?”

“Seven including Selwar. Only four of us managed to get back to the highlands. Other squads are trying to hold the top, but there are so many coming!"


The runner said. Malassuil took a brief moment before he said,

”Marcadil, you get over there and take command, now!”

Marcadil jumped and nodded. He was about to set out when a wounded man came in from the wood from the east. His report was much of the same. The 2nd was holding, but it wouldn’t last. Malassuil called out to all,

”Men, things are deteriorating faster than we can react. I think they will be here soon! Be Ready!”

With that he drew his sword as did the other men. Marcadil headed to the north with the runner and a couple others, but it wasn’t too far before they ran into their guys falling back with their wounded. Marcadil had his men assist the tired men who had been fighting, and they came back to the defensive perimeter that Malassuil was holding. The sounds of steel was drawing closer even as the rain and thunder grew louder. The flash of lightning showed that the orcs were coming through. Malassuil shouted out,

”Things will become terminal really quick, so be aware. You with bows, shoot carfully! We don’t want to hit any of our guys!”

The sound of steel and the yells and screams of men and orc filled the quiet moments between the crush of thunder. Arrows were flying from bows of orc and men, and the outcome was for some time uncertain. But the press of orcs seemed to wane as they seemed to suddenly get confused. The first few men of 1st Company retreating west ran into the flank of the orcs! The orcs must have thought it was an attack in force coming from the east! The orcs seemed to have withdrawn north, but they didn't retreat too far. Once their commanders got them sorted, they would come again. But the lull was welcome as was the arrival of some of the 1st Company. Malassuil re-ordered his healthy men the best he could and the wounded were seen to. Soon they, along with the civilian refugees that were streaming west, were sent out toward Fornost.

”May they arrive there safely without troubles…”

he said to nobody in particular. He hoped they had not been surrounded. Little did Malassuil know that the way was still open due to the sacrifice of the cadre of men he had left in the Weather Hills. He looked east into the trees and said again to nobody in particular,

”May the rest of the 1st get here soon, for we’ll be hard-pressed to hold the gate back to Fornost open for much longer!”

The rain fell hard even if the lightning and thunder seemed to lessen. It was going to be a miserable rest of the day.

[Edited on 11/14/2014 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Arveleg
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Post The Collapse of the North Downs Defence
on: December 15, 2014 03:51
That day ended with little rest for the 2nd. The night they had to be vigilant, and all the time watch for movement of their own. Refugees and the wounded of the 1st came steadily from the northeast, with bands of orcs infiltrating and charging in. Malassuil was able to hold with his waning strength, and some of the less wounded of the 1st helped hold the line.

The light of the morning came with a hope that the clouds and rain would pass, but just as things were about to light with the rising sun, a heavy cloud pushed in from the north and the rains started again. The only good thing about the daylight is it seemed to lessen the pressure the orcs were putting on them.

As the morning went on, the flow of refugees had lessened, and the men of the 1st had less wounded come in. But word was not good. The 1st had been set upon by huge numbers of orcs, and though their numbers were lessened much by the valiant defence, they could not hold. In the end, their orderly retreat was becoming more of a rout.

There was no sign of Davian, nor any who had taken arms as rearguard. Malassuil stood up and looked about as the men stopped coming. The rain and the thunder made the echo of the drums of the orcs seem louder, and Malassuil squinted in several directions. He could see that their losses, and that of the 1st, that he had maybe two thirds of a company of fit men combined. Some of the lesser wounded added to the numbers, and most of the badly wounded had been sent with haste toward Fornost. It was not enough, but they had to make the best of what they had. When the drumming lessened, Malassuil called out,

”This is going to get terminal really quick! Be ready!”

The sound of arrows whizzing through the air was quickly broken by the sound of steel and cursing. They were making their push, and it was naught the noon hour as yet. Malassuil hoped Davian could pull off some wizardry and appear with a strong company of fit men, but it was doubtful. Soon the gurgling of dying orcs and the cries of wounded and dying men filled the air. The battle raged on. With his men slowly giving way, they had managed to get most of their wounded back. Those few who they could not suffered dearly before dying. Malassuil called to his men, saying,

”Get back now, before the way is cut!”

“Come Malassuil, this fight is lost!”


cried Marcadil. Just then an orc made for Malassuil, and Richard jumped forth and slew him with his sword. He too called for Malassuil to fall back with them. Malassuil said,

”You two, go! Now! You have wives in Fornost!”

Marcadil yelled back,

”Arthedain needs its commanders! With Darian missing, you are needed more than ever!”

Orcs charged but Marcadil, Richard, and Malassuil took them down. Malassuil then pushed Marcadil, then Richard, yelling,

”You two are now the commanders! This is the last fight I have in me!”

with that Malassuil jumped forth and took on a rather large orc, who had to be a commander. They started to battle, and Marcadil started to move to aid him, but Richard grabbed his arm. He motioned to two of their wounded comrades laying nearby, and with some hesitation, Marcadil turned. Both Richard and Marcadil helped a wounded man to his feet, and with him between them, they made off as quick as they could to the track to Fornost. Only a few men stood as rearguard, most of them wounded in some way. A quick look back to sparks from blade clashing was the last sight Marcadil had of Malassuil. The sound of his sword clashing with the mighty orc was the last he heard.

They stumbled along the muddy track, and with the push of men making for Fornost, it was obvious that the North Downs were lost. Marcadil did not know if Malassuil fell, nor was the whereabouts of Davian known either. It was a hard day for Arthedain on the battlefield, a grim day, one that would haunt the Kingdom in these dark days.

They were for a moment heartened by the sight of the King’s Guardsmen riding out toward them. But they swiftly passed them by, for they would relieve the beleaguered rearguard and secure their way back. Some had come with carts to take the wounded men they were carrying, but they could not rest until they had come to Fornost. Marcadil and Richard, days without sleep, stumbled along holding each other up as they mad their way to the gates of the city. There, they would be safe for a time, but the city would soon be under siege. The horsemen could only screen their retreat. Too many of the 1st and 2nd were still unaccounted for.

[Edited on 01/03/2015 by Arveleg]
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
Eruwestiel_Evensong
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on: December 30, 2014 07:02
Meriam worked tirelessly, trying everything she knew to alleviate the suffering all around her. The air in the room was stifling. Too many bodies crowded into the comparatively small building. Sweating as they were with fever produced a very unpleasant odor. But even worse than this was the other smell...that of death.

I need fresh air. Meriam pulled Aliana aside. "Can you take care of things for a few minutes? I need to step outside for a little while."

Her friend nodded, eyes filled with concern. "You do not think...you may be falling ill?"

Meriam shook her head. "No, I just need some air." Walking the short distance to the door, she stepped outside. The sky was dark and a cold wind blew in from the north. She wrapped her shawl tighter around herself and took the steps to the wall of the city.

Back and forth along the wall her feet lead her. It began to drizzle, but she paid no mind. I have tried everything I know, and still I can not save them. Meriam was shaken from her despondent thoughts but a sound. Hoofbeats and shouts. What can this mean? Her eyes strained through the darkness, and eventually made out the shapes of men and horses coming toward the city.

"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
Cenor
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on: January 02, 2015 09:50
Barad reeled listlessly on the horse; the only thing his mind could focus on was the pain and the little girl depending on him.
“Fornost!”
They had made it.
------------------------------
Fear was all that drove the 1st onward. The archers circled the retreating army helping to beat back the orc’s incessant attacks. Quintin, dazed with fear and dread, fingered his bow nervously and glanced at Eradan whose face was as pale and haggard as his own was. The commanders were either dead or wounded; Davian had been lost in the wood.
“Fornost! Fornost!” raised the weary cry as the walls loomed into sight. But immediately the cry was changed, “Ware! Ware! Orcs!”
Wearily, Quintin raised his bow, sighting, then released an arrow that slammed into an orc’s chest. They retreated behind the swords men after releasing several more arrows. There was a cry and Quintin looked back, Eradan had collapsed, a crude spear sticking out of his leg an orc bearing down on the wounded boy. A scream rent the air as the orc’s sword sliced Eradan’s arm open. Quintin ran forward, slashing wildly with his sword. Blood ran down into his eyes as the orc’s sword grazed his forehead. The next thing he knew was that He was standing alone and that Eradan was moaning beside him. Hastily, Quintin picked the wounded boy up and ran to catch up with the retreating army.
---------------------------------
[i]Joint post with Arveleg[i/]
Mathias rejoiced inwardly to be working again, although the chores the lady sent him on were small, it felt too to be working again. His legs, although throbbing from the cold, did not hinder him in drawing water from a nearby well or delivering bandages. Some illness seemed to be running rampant through the city. People dropped dead in the streets or died in their beds. The lady was running to and fro among the sick, wrapping a sore and giving water to pale men, women, and even children. A night passed, worry hung in the air, the 1st and the 2nd had not returned from the Downs yet. The sun rose blinding the sentries walking sleepy-eyed to their beds, having been replaced by others. It was midday when a horn was blown and a cry rose in the still air, “The wounded! The wounded of the 1st! Open the gates!”
Dauwna was hard pressed to keep up. Yes, at this time, she was only a chambermaid of the Palace, but her duty in the infirmary a year ago had done much to fill her with knowledge of basic healing. Cleanliness was key, and this boy Mathias, impaired as he was, proved worthy in his dedication. The sickness was spreading, and she did not know what all they were doing inside the house. She did the best she could to see to those who had to be laid outside.
The cry froze Dauwna’s heart. ‘Wounded’! Would she find Marcadil on one of the travois? The 1st! They are retreating! Coming in from the North Downs! She started to go forth to see to the wounded. This was what she knew. She turned and said to Mathias,
“Come with me! Bring clean linens! We have work to do!”
She waited for the boy to gather what he could and come forth. They went toward the gate to see to the wounded. The gate was open and the first of the wounded soldier and civilians started to enter.
Mathias hobbled around gathering bandages and stuffing them into his bag then limped after the lady. Soldiers pushed the crowd back as horses poured in dragging stretchers and carrying men on their backs. A wailing baby was strapped to horse’s neck, what is a baby doing in the army? Mathias thought. Women screamed as they recognized wounded husbands, sons, or brothers, the lady was rushing here and there pouring water into the parched soldier’s throats. A man, barely conscious, rode in, a small girl riding in front of him, her eyes wide with terror. Blood covered the man’s shoulder and a rough bandage was wound round the girl’s leg.
“Freeda!” came a cry and a woman rushed from the crowd then a whisper of dread, “Richard?”
But the man shook his head feebly, nearly collapsing from his horse. The lady rushed forward keeping him from falling, the woman taking the child from the saddle. Hours passed of ceaseless work, washing wounds, binding them, and watching some men die and other survive. Two young men came through the gates, one with a nasty cut across his forehead was carrying a boy whose leg still had a partial spear sticking out of it and whose forearm’s flesh was shredded and bloody. More wounded kept pouring in and a shout from the wall drew Mathias’ attention.

“The rest of the 1st and the wounded and rest of the 2nd are coming in!”
Dauwna heard the watchman say. She froze as she heard the grief of the cries. She took a breath as she looked at the grim faces. It was only for a moment that she let the fear of finding Marcadil among them hold her. At first, she didn’t see anyone who had marched out that day. But their faces were so grim. She had to hold it together! She watched as the battered soldiers entered the gates. Some marched still with pride, but with wounds that were dirty and bandaged with whatever could be found. Some came in by twos, holding each other up as they painfully stepped forth. Then the carts came. The seriously wounded were on them. But, it was the civilians that were suffering the most.


[Edited on 01/03/2015 by Cenor]
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Eruwestiel_Evensong
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on: January 10, 2015 07:31
(Post with Cenor)

Richard stumbled along, supporting and being supported by Marcadil. His vision alternated between blurred and cleared as the pain, the intense pain, gripped his side. Though not nearly as wounded as some, he had sustained a sizable sword wound on his left side. Blood soaked through his tunic and ran down his leg. Complete exhaustion clouded his mind. All he wanted to do was collapse and let the blackness take him. But then a beautiful face appeared before him, framed by sunlight streaked hair. He smiled. “My Meriam!” Her kind eyes seemed to say, “Hope. Keep courage. You are almost here.”

Then the image disappeared, and the fog cleared from Richard’s mind. He looked around at the men who had fought so bravely with him. All hope had left their eyes, and some held fear. ”You two are now the commanders! This is the last fight I have in me!” The words of Malassuil echoed in his ears. “Come Marcadil! We are now the leaders. Let us lead!” Though the pain was extreme, he straightened his back and stood upright.

“Courage, men! We will live to defend our families and homes! We have not long until we reach the gates of Fornost. But let us not scurry for it as rats to the shadows! We are men of the North, not frightened old women!”
Something flickered to life in the men around him. Broken and exhausted as they were, pride stirred within their hearts. They formed ranks and marched quickly towards the city, heads held high.

~*~*~*~

Meriam descended the steps from the wall in great haste. Would Richard be numbered with the wounded? Or even dead? Another sickening thought struck her. If the Downs had fallen, what had become of her sister and children in North Slope?

She reached the bottom of the steps and steadied herself against the wall. All these dreadful thoughts were making her dizzy. The sun had risen without her knowledge, and now bright shafts were breaking through the gloom.
The sun is encouraging in these dark times.

Several moments later the gates opened and the wounded soldiers stumbled through. They looked horrible – bloody and exhausted. Meriam search the faces. Some she had seen before, others were new. But her husband was not there. Wait! A blond headed man was riding in now. His shoulder was a grotesque sight; it appeared to be a wound some days old and recently re-opened. A small figure sat in front of him. “Freeda!” Meriam found her legs and rushed forward, struggling to push through the crowd.

Eventually she reached the horse and looked with dread at the wounded man. “Richard?” she whispered. But the man shook his head. She started lifting her daughter down from the horse. “No!” Barad screamed in desperation as he felt the little girl slipping from him.

The fever began to take over. No longer could he focus on anything except his young charge. He saw neither friend nor foe. “Don’t take her!”
“I am her mother. She is in good hands,” Meriam told him, though it was obvious he could not understand her words at this point.

He began to slip from the saddle. “Grab him!” came a woman’s cry.
Strong hands pulled him out of the saddle and laid him on the ground.
“I need to see her safely to her father! Barad yelled deliriously.
More hands held him down. A searching hand probed his wounded shoulder.
“He is in bad shape. Get him to a Healing House. You! Boy! Run ahead and put this blade into the fire.”
Barad’s head tossed feverishly, but for a moment his vision cleared and he saw a woman holding the little girl.

“Safe,” he murmured.

Meriam watched this display with wide eyes, then looked down at her daughter. “Oh, Freeda! I am so glad you are safe! But where is your brother? Did…did he die?”
As if in answer to her question, a piercing wail came from a short distance away. She took Freeda’s hand and hurried toward the sound. Her son was strapped to the neck of a horse, screaming for all he was worth.
The horse’s rider was slumped forward in the saddle, dead. Meriam's eyes clouded with tears. “Thank you,” she whispered to him. “Thank you for saving my son.”

Then she took her son into her arms. It is amazing how a heart could be so sad and so happy at the same time.
A shout came from the direction of the gates. “The last of the 2nd! Close the gates! They are in!”

~*~*~*~

“Safe.” Richard thought at the same time Barad was saying the same thing.
The blackness at the edge of his vision grew until Richard felt like he was staring down a very long tunnel. He leaned heavily on a wall, looking around in a daze. The shapes of people and animals grew fuzzy and melted together. Richard tried to shake his head to clear the image, but found he lacked the strength even for that simple action. The world was spinning now. “Meriam.” he croaked through cracked and bleeding lips. “I guess that wound was worse than I thought.”

Then he slumped against the stone wall, unconscious.

~*~*~*~

“Get him onto a stretcher! I want the critical men in my house! Dauwna, take the uncritical men!” the Healer ordered.
“Sir, here is a man unconscious against the wall! His side is torn up!”
“Well get him on a stretcher! Get them all on stretchers!”

Barad felt hands lifting him onto a stretcher and the stretcher jerking as it was picked up. His fevered madness had faded to dull listlessness; already he felt himself fading away. The journey was long for the wounded men. Up into the city they climbed until they reached the Healing Houses. Barad moaned as he was lifted, then placed on a bed. The Healer had followed his stretcher up.

“Boy! Hand me that knife now!”
“Yes sir! Here it is!”
“You four hold this man down.”
The men obeyed and the Healer ripped the flimsy bandage off. After pressing the cut with two fingers he grabbed the knife and placed the red, glowing blade onto the wound. Barad screamed and tried to pull away, giving the four men a difficult time.
“Hold him!” the Healer yelled.

The nauseating smell of burnt flesh filled the room but the Healer only pressed down more. Sweat beaded on Barad’s forehead and his eyes rolled back into his head. Briefly he saw a man being lowered into a bed next to his, then all went black.

~*~*~*~

Richard groggily opened his eyes. He looked up at the rough wood ceiling. How had he ended up here? Wherever here was. The last thing he remembered was marching through the gates of the city. The city! He was in Fornost! But where was Meriam? Feeling a twinge in his left side, he gingerly touched the area and found it neatly bound. The air smelled of herbs and ointments. He must be in one of the Healing Houses.

Turning his head as much as his protesting neck would allow, Richard looked at the man in the cot beside his own. The man looked younger than Richard, but not by much. His hair was also of a fairer shade than many of the Dunedain. Something was very familiar about him…

A memory tugged at the back of his consciousness, but Richard was still too worn out to try to identity it.

~*~*~*~

Ithilwen spurred her horse to greater speeds. We must reach Fornost before the enemy regroups! The hooves of her house pounded a steady rhythm on the frozen earth. There were five others with her, all healers from Rivendell by Lord Elrond. Their quest was to help stop the sickness that had been sweeping through Fornost. She set her lips in a hard line. But we had no idea about the greater threat – the entire force of Angband.

There had been seven in this company of elves, but one had been sent back to Rivendell to bring word of the approaching doom of the North.
They had ridden hard, stopping only when absolutely necessary. During these brief intermissions, the small group talked over the possibilities. Was this sickness something they had dealt with before? What had treatment had been used successfully in similar cases? The group decided they would just have to wait and see what lay behind those walls.

~*~*~*~

Meriam had been temporarily excused from the sick house so she could tend to her children. She took care of Freeda’s leg while the girl reluctantly related all that had happened in the time they had been apart. It frightened Meriam how close her children had come to death. “Thank Eru you are safe,” she said for the tenth time since Freeda had told her the tale.

It was now the morning after the 1st and 2nd had made it back to Fornost. Meriam got up to prepare the morning meal before going back to the healing house. The fire was blazing, but she wrapped her shawl on anyway. The house seemed to be getting colder, not warmer. It must be all the cracks around the windows.

The food was soon prepared and she set the last plate on the table before going to awaken her children in the next room. Suddenly she felt extremely warm, and laid aside her shawl. That was a little better.

The little family sat down and had their meal. When they were finished, Meriam stood up to gather the dishes. Black spots floated before her eyes, but vanished a moment later.

“I am dreadfully sorry to be leaving you again, but they need my help at the Healing Houses,” she said, wrapping her shawl around herself before hugging Freeda. “I should be back by nightfall at the latest.” Then she was gone, off to spend another tiring day with the sick.

~*~*~*~

It was nearing noon. Freeda warmed up the food her mother had prepared for her before she left. Her brother was sleeping, so Freeda sat at the table alone. The food was good, and she was hungry. It had been so long since she had last tasted her mother’s cooking. But Freeda sighed. Her mother had still looked worn down even after a full night's sleep. And she didn’t seem…right.

These thoughts were interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. Heart pounding, she went to see who it was.

“Aliana?” The woman looked very worried. “Freeda…your mother is…sick.” The small girl looked at the older woman, not wanting to believe it. “Sick?” The fear was evident in her voice and large eyes. This sickness was bad enough that her mother had sent her away. And now she herself was ill.

Freeda stepped aside to allow Aliana to enter. “No child, we must speak out here. I have been with the sick and do not want to expose your brother to it.” Instead she motioned for Freeda to sit on the stoop with her.

“I could tell your mother was not right. Meriam claimed she was fine, as usual, but she wasn’t. We all set about the same tasks as yesterday, wiping brows and administering what medicine we could, when your mama just collapsed. We managed to find… an empty bed for her, and have been doing what we can.” Aliana finished. She did not say why the bed was empty, but it was easy enough for Freeda to guess.

Even here she could not escape the death that loomed all around her.

[Edited on 01/20/2015 by Eruwestiel_Evensong]
"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
Cenor
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on: January 15, 2015 07:49
Joint Post with Song

Caladwen reigned in her horse, who was once again trying to bolt. She had never ridden a horse before and her horse was not used to it’s uneasy rider. She didn’t know why the Healers had chosen her for this long, horseback journey. She did have a knowledge of herbs and gentle hands but so far she was the youngest of the group. She was usually quiet when the company discussed the strange illness. The horse fretted again and started for the head of the group. Pressing her lips together in aggravation she pulled the horse back clumsily.

===========

It had been a long time since he had had this nightmare, not since his childhood where it had plagued him almost every night. There was fire he was in a house. Two people lay on the ground. Their faces were indistinguishable, but he knew who they were.
“Father! Mother! Wake up! Wake up!
But they wouldn’t wake up. Rough hands grabbed him and then…
Barad shifted restlessly, a flap of his torn shirt fell off of his upper arm. The bandage, though it covered his shoulder, did not hide the faint white scar shaped like a twisted R.

Richard was restless. He should be up preparing defenses or training with his men! Not stuck in a bed in a healer’s house. But there was nothing for it. Even if his side didn’t feel like it was being slashed open again very time he moved and he somehow managed to get out of bed, he would be stopped before he even made it out of the room. No, there was nothing for it. He let out a deep breath and decided to turn his attention to other things.
What was it about the man in the next cot over that was so familiar? Richard stared at the sleeping face, trying to unlock the mystery. But it was the other man who solved the problem for him. He shifted in his sleep, and the scrap of fabric covering his upper arm fell off. Richard nearly fell off his cot. That scar! His mind raced back in time.

===========

“Richard, bring me that cattle brand!” The young boy obliged, picking up the handle of the searing hot iron and carrying it to his father. He watched with interest as the much older man stamped the hot metal into the struggling cow’s flesh. “But papa, doesn’t it hurt the cow terribly?” The big man wiped a hand across his sweaty forehead. “Yes my boy, it does. But the pain doesn’t last too long. We just do this to make sure everyone knows that these animals belong to us.” Richard nodded.
“This brand’s getting cool. Go put it back in the fire and bring it back here when it’s good and hot.” The boy did as he was told. When the iron again glowed red he removed it from the flames. Behind him, a door opened and slammed shut. “Richard, sword fight with me!” The little boy ran up behind Richard and smacked his back with a wooden sword.
Forgetting he was wielding a hot brand instead of a play sword, Richard whirled around to parry the blows…and caught the boy on the upper arm with the hot iron. The little boy dropped his sword and fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Snapping out of his shock, Richard picked the boy up and ran the healer.

==========

“He will be fine,” the elderly man said. “But it will leave a scar he will carry for the rest of his life.”
Richard came back to the present. Yes, it was the same mark in the same place. The hair color was only slightly darker than he remembered it being, and the face was basically the same. Just older. Yes, he was sure of it now.
“It is good to see you again Barad. My long lost brother.”

Everywhere he looked there were dead faces, lifeless bodies, haunting eyes. Then suddenly the faces changed to those of his two companions who had been slain scouting. Orc screams filled his ears, their ugly laughter signalling triumph as he rode away. Then, the little girl, being tortured by the same screams. The pain…The darkness…
…The wooden ceiling? Barad blinked making sure this was not a dream in a dream. But no, the throbbing of his shoulder assured him that he was awake…but where? Herbs…now he remembered. But the little girl! Where was she? A Healer passed by.
“Sir,” he croaked realizing his lack of water, “where is she? The little girl that was with me? She had long brown hair…and blue eyes…why did I not learn her name?”
“I know not of this girl,” the Healer replied. “get your rest.”
“But!”
Barad fell back on his bed despondently as the Healer moved on.

Richard had been almost asleep when he heard the man next to him speak. He struggled back to reality, trying to make sense of what the other man was saying. “Where is she? The little girl that was with me? A little girl? What was a little girl doing in a battle? “She had long brown hair…and blue eyes…why did I not learn her name?” Brown hair and blue eyes?
Suddenly he was wide awake. As soon as the healer had passed by, Richard fairly tumbled out of his cot to kneel beside his brother’s bed…and instantly regretted the movement. The pain nearly knocked him out. He took several deep breaths and the pain subsided just enough to allow him to speak. “Barad, what were saying about a little girl? Did her eyes look like mine?”

Despair turned to hope when a man nearly slammed into his cot. The voice seemed familiar…how did this man know his name? Barad twisted his head to view the man better.
“Yes,” he breathed. “We found her and a baby…outside North Downs…retreating from orcs…came here…have you seen her? They took her away….a woman took her…I can’t remember more.”

Richard tried to process what the man was saying. So his children had survived! And his brother had taken care of them. The woman who took the children must have been Meriam. But why did she not come for him? Maybe she had come when he was still unconscious.
Barad turned his head further grimacing as he did.
“How do you know my name? If you were in the 3rd I might not have met you…I know every man in the 1st.”
“I didn’t who you were until a short time ago. It was when I saw that scar on your arm that I knew you were the brother I had lost so long ago. Do you…remember that fire? You would have only been about six years old. I had been out hunting, and came back to find the house gone…along with Papa and Mama. I was sure you had been taken from me as well. So I left, and wandered alone until I was taken in by the Rangers.”

He did remember the fire. The faces. But other memories flooded back, wooden swords, laughter, a face, then a name.
“Richard.”
A faint smile dissolved the many years that had passed.
“I knew that you would come back. They wouldn’t let me stay. Too many orcs. They said you were dead.”

Richard smiled in return. Barad had always been so trusting of him.
His smile faded at his brother’s next words. That was another reason why the scene at North Slope had been so upsetting. It was too similar to when he had lost his family as a boy. “No, not dead. But I might as well have been.” He paused, thinking back. “Or at least I thought so at the time. Those were dark days for me, Barad. But I was given another chance at life by the Rangers. Some time later I met and married a wonderful woman and we had two children, Freeda and…” He realized he did not know his son’s name. “And a son. He looked away and cleared his throat. “Thank you for saving them.”

“So that is her name,” Barad sighed, “they were the ones that saved us. If they weren’t depending on us, my companion and I would have let the horses drag our dead bodies back to camp. I scout for the 1st mostly but some for the 3rd, we saw the armies of Angband. We have no chance Richard, no chance.”
Footsteps sounded on the floor as the Healer returned.
“Aye, the situation is grim. But we will not go down without a fight.”
The healer approached. “Feeling well enough to be out of bed?”
“Not exactly, but some things can’t wait. I have just found a brother I thought dead long ago, and have found out my children are alive as well. Now I have even more reason to hurry up and get out of here…so I can finally see them again. And Meriam.”
The healer’s smile turned to a look of concern. “Meriam? The herbalist?”
Richard sensed something was wrong. “Yes. Has something happened to her?”
“A sickness has been spreading through the city. Meriam knows the most about treating such things, so she spent a great deal of time in the healing houses. Aliana tells me Meriam collapsed earlier today and is exhibiting the same symptoms as the other patients. Someone is caring for your children.”
“No. Not my Meriam. She always took care of me when I was sick. Now I can do nothing for her. Nothing.” Richard slumped back, tears pricking his eyes. He looked outside. The dark clouds had completely blocked out the light that had been shining so brightly just a moment before.

Barad watched helplessly as his brother slumped backwards, the news and his wound taking effect on him. The Healer shouted at his assistant and together they lifted Richard into his bed. After examining the wound and giving the Ranger firm orders not to get out of bed again, the Healer moved to Barad.
“When can I get up sir?” Barad asked.
“A week’s time, the fever did not last long so the shoulder is mending, but no fighting for a fortnight or longer,” the Healer said poking here and there. “The burning closed up the wound good.”
The Healer moved to the next bed, then sighing, shook his head. The next moment there was an empty bed, soon to be filled. A shout could be heard from the gates. Where the armies of Angband already there?

============

There is was. The city of Fornost. A gloom hung over the entire place. Sickness, sorrow and death. In Ithilwen’s entire life she had never been in a place that felt so hopeless. Perhaps our arrival will be the beacon that these people need.
The leader of the company, an older elf named Nestedir, spoke up. “Prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. It will not be easy.”
Ithilwen looked to her right and caught Caladwen’s eye. She saw fear, but also courage. Is there any courage in me?
Image "Every good pirate has an alias" Felix glanced down, looking at contraption around the stump of his wrist. "Hook," he answered. "My name will be Hook."
Arveleg
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Post The Dunedain Beseiged
on: January 20, 2015 06:21
Dauwna wiped her brow with her arm. Hours upon hours she had worked to comfort and relieve the wounded men. And the wounded kept coming. She worked triage and cared for the ones who could return to duty after being tended to, the ones who had wounds that were deemed not critical. But the call as to what was not critical was a hard one. Along with these were the ones who could not be saved no matter what skill of healing could be brought to them. They were afforded no time. They were left to pass away. Dauwna, working also to comfort them, felt the strain building in her. Yet even as the night passed to the next day, Dauwna kept at it. She gave the boy leave, but he too stayed and worked as hard as he could. With every new casualty laid down where room could be found, she held her breath to see the face of the man. Marcadil was not one. Yet some of the men appeared familiar. They had been with Marcadil the day they marched out. Yet none who were conscience could tell her if he had returned. She could only hope that he was well.

She pushed the fatigue away and looked at the next man. His head wound didn’t look too severe, but he was delirious. His comrade who helped him in tried to keep him calm, but the man thought he was left with the dead. He was struggling when Dauwna stepped into his view. She stared into his eyes and saw how frightened he was. Too much did it remind her of that day she first saw Marcadil. He tensed, but she brushed her fingers over his wounded temple. She smiled at him and said,

”You rest my friend. I will ease your pain.”

The man lay down and let out a heavy breath. Dauwna looked at his wound and could see it was likely terminal. She looked about for some clean linen, but there was none. She pulled yet another strip from her dress, which by now was little more than a soiled rag that hung upon her. She looked at the cloth and could see it would not be enough. But she dipped it in the pot of warm water and wrapped it about his head.

”Will he be alright?”

his comrade asked, seeing that he was resting. Dauwna looked at the man and said,

”I cannot say.”

She let her hand slide over his forehead before continuing,

”He is not feverish, and it seems that he took a glancing blow. But I think his wounds are deeper than the flesh. You go and rest. Soak your hand if you can, and come back in the afternoon and see how he is doing.”

“Thank you m’lady.”


he said as he turned to go. Dauwna asked suddenly,

”You are of the 2nd?”

“Yes m’lady.”


Dauwna stepped over to him and asked,

”Do you have word of Marcadil?”

“Yes m’lady. He came in with Richard, who was wounded. They both stood firm until Malassuil ordered them away. They both tried to help a wounded man back, but he died descending the highlands. Then they helped each other.”


Dauwna froze. He was here? She looked about and saw so many. She looked back at the man and asked,

”Was Marcadil wounded? I have to see him!”

“Not any more than I am.”


he said. She nodded and let the man go. She stood for a moment, dizziness taking her. She sat down in the grass, now muddy with trodden feet. Marcadil was safe and in the city. She wanted to see him so bad! But the weight of her fears were lifted by the man’s words, and she fell into a restless sleep.

~ ~ ~

Marcadil had seen to it that Richard would be seen to, but he turned and went to find the commander of the city. He would have to report all that he knew. He wandered toward the City Watch house, and there found himself counted among the commanders. King Arvedui stood there looking at a map on the table, and the scouts he had sent out had come back. Counted also were the reports of the able men of the 1st and 2nd that had come, and the King was somber. He said,

”I don’t have to tell you that we are in it deep. For now, we trust in the strength of these walls and you men inside them. But our losses have been severe. We have prepared the best we can for a siege, but this illness that has been spreading weakens us even more. If there is any consolation, it is that this illness seems to have affected the Hillmen of Rhuadur just as severely, and has even slowed down some of the orcs. So… some of you I know, some of you are familiar and have risen to command due to ill circumstance. As we are all here in this city of our fathers, and there is too few who have returned of the field companies, you will be considered as one Dunedain Company of Fornost. Form your remaining men into units, and you will be assigned places to man. We will try and get as many of the wounded to man the ramparts, and I will keep the horsemen in reserve. Now you who have fought valiantly on the North Downs! After you are settled and know your positions, you will take rest. Be ready at morning’s light, for my gut tells me that the day will be long and hard. That is all.”

Marcadil wished the news was better. He hoped that many who have gone missing would return before the city was besieged. But the time grew short. He was a commander now, of a non-existant company. He had 5 healthy men, and four who have managed their wounds. Hopefully more would return from the healing houses. But the air was foul. It smelled like death.

He walked his men behind a city guardsman who placed them near the gate. Some of the remnant of 1st company was also set there. The gate was the place where the attack would be heaviest. They would be ready.

The men were settled in their watch points, and they tried to get as comfortable as they could. Marcadil only rested for a moment. At least it seemed that way. As soon as he woke up from his nod, he went in search of his beloved Dauwna. She would be at the infirmary. He walked into the courtyard where so many lay. There, he saw her, curled up on a small patch of grass, sound asleep. He sat down by her and brushed her tangled hair with his fingers. She stirred, but did not awaken. He then lay beside her, throwing his cloak over her, and he too went to sleep. Morning would come too soon.
Eighth King of Arthedain - It was in battle that I come into this Kingship, and it will be in Battle when I leave it. There is no peace for the Realm of Arnor. Read the last stand of Arthedain in the Darkest of Days.
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