A Morning Star ~ Chapter 7 of 18 - The Battle of Ridden
Chapter 2: The Road West
Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Chapter 4: The End of a Quest
Chapter 5: A New Home
Chapter 6: Decisions
Chapter 7: The Battle of Ridden
Recap: Ariya has now convinced King Renya to attack Ridden in hopes of gaining back their homes. Several nearby cities have lent men and supplies to the refugees of Ridden. Ariya and a man named Kalen will lead bands of archers and soldiers to the forest south of Ridden, while the rest of the refugees attack the city from the plains in the east.
Ariya lay on the ground with her bow in her hand, waiting for the sun to rise and the attack to begin. She could see a few other archers and soldiers nearby, but many were hidden in the trees and bushes out of her sight. The march to the forest had thankfully been uneventful. They had walked in a wide arc around the city, hiding in the hills and valleys to the west. When they arrived in the forest, they halted before reaching the hilltops in order to remain out of sight of Ridden. When the sun rose, the rest of the resistance soldiers would attack from the east, and the hidden soldiers would soon join them from the south.
It had been a long, restless night. Ariya did not allow herself to think of either Lein or Duran; rather, she focused on remaining hidden from the city and listening for signs of tribesmen scouts. One of their own scouts had reported that the tribes' women and children had not yet arrived in Ridden. Ariya was relieved at the news, for she would never forgive herself if such innocents died in the battle she had advocated. Of course many of the soldiers on both sides could also be considered innocent, she reminded herself. Few wanted to fight, yet fate had brought them here to do just that.
As she lay there thinking, she began to hear shouts from the city. The tribesmen had seen the resistance marching across the plains and turn toward the broken eastern wall, and they scrambled to gather their men and weapons for battle. Ariya motioned for the soldiers around her to slowly walk to the top of the hill in order to reach firing range.
As they reached the top of the hill, they could see the tribesmen gathering near the eastern wall of the city. They had already partially fortified the wall since the invasion, and the large number of tribesmen would make it difficult for the resistance to enter the city quickly. Ariya was relieved that the tribesmen did not intend to meet the resistance fighters on the plains, for most of the plains were out of reach of their bows. She saw Kalen not too far away; their eyes met and she nodded. They both fit arrows to their bows, and their men did likewise. The tribesmen below were still oblivious to the threat at their back.
Just before the men on the plains reached the city wall, the archers fired down into the city. Chaos quickly broke out among the tribesman; some ran toward the hill, some tried to fire arrows into the forest, and others remained near the wall to meet the men who had nearly reached the city. Many of the archers hid behind trees, and the tribesmen could not tell how many soldiers were hidden in the forest. They cursed themselves for not sending scouts into the forest; but they had never anticipated that the people of Ridden would fight back, not after they had been run out of the city so easily.
Some of the men on the plains were mounted and they reached the city walls first. Many more soldiers on foot quickly joined them. Most of the tribesmen stayed near the wall to meet this force, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to defend the wall while dodging the arrows from the hill. A large group of tribesmen broke away and ran up the hill.
The archers then stopped their storm of arrows for just a moment, and the other soldiers hidden in the trees ran out to meet the tribesmen on the hill. The two groups collided on the side of the hill, knives and swords clashing in the early morning sun. The archers then continued the storm of arrows into the city; they were reluctant to fire into the melee on the hillside for fear of hitting one of their own men.
Many of the Northern Tribes' archers then decided to focus their attention on the hillside; it was clear that they could not win the battle in the east with a constant stream of arrows at their backs. They hid behind walls, buildings, carts, anything to protect themselves, and began firing toward the top of the hill.
Ariya and her archers ducked behind the trees to avoid the arrows. Fortunately, many of the tribesmen's arrows fell short--the distance between the top of the hill and the city was very long, and the resistance clearly had the advantage by firing downhill.
As Ariya reached for a spent tribesman's arrow to replenish her own quiver, she quickly looked around to see how the other archers were fairing. This early in the battle, she could see only one archer who had been hit; however, he was still able to continue firing. "Focus your attention on the archers!" she yelled. Dodging the tribesmen's arrows made it more difficult for the inexperienced archers to concentrate and shoot accurately.
"Kalen's men, continue to fire into the battle at the wall!" Kalen added. Enough of the wall still remained that few resistance fighters had actually been able to enter the city; thus, the two armies were still separated enough that the archers could fire into the battle with little fear of hitting their own men.
The resistance fighters on the hillside slowly began to push the tribesmen back into the city. However, Ariya's men had hit relatively few tribesmen archers, and the battle at the eastern wall seemed to be in a stalemate. Several of Ariya's archers were out of arrows, and Ariya frantically tried to think of something that would turn the course of the battle to their favor. She was hesitant to send her archers into the battle; they could not afford to lose many archers if there were to be future battles. Her elven insight seemed to be of no help in this situation. Kalen glanced her way, and she could see that he was thinking similar thoughts.
Suddenly, they heard a horn blow from west of the city. Many tribesmen turned to see the source of the sound, and the archers took the opportunity to fire another round of arrows at the distracted enemy. Then Ariya began to hear hoof beats, and a band of mounted soldiers rode out of the valleys west of the city. Most of the tribesmen stayed at the eastern wall, trying to hold back the resistance, and thus the riders from the west soon broke through the wall and entered the city. Many of the new arrivals were brandishing swords or spears, and they quickly began to attack the tribesmen in the city.
Ariya was surprised at the turn of events--King Renya had said nothing about a three-pronged attack! However, she did not dwell on the thought long, and she and the other archers fired their last arrows into the battle. She could see that the mounted soldiers had indeed turned the course of the battle; they had already taken out many of the tribesmen, including several archers. While the tribesmen were focusing on attacking the mounted soldiers inside the city walls, the soldiers on the plains were able to enter the city as well.
Suddenly she heard Kalen yell. She saw him wave his sword in the air and yell for the archers, now nearly completely out of arrows, to attack. She couldn't allow her own archers to stand on the hill while Kalen's ran into battle, so she unsheathed Cul-Rômen and shouted for her own men to follow suit. The archers, most armed with knives, ran toward the remaining tribesmen on the hillside. The tribesmen quickly retreated to the city, through the southern gate, with the resistance fighters close behind them.
Ariya stayed along the edge of the battle, with most of her archers at her side. They fought valiantly, and only a few were felled. Ariya's sword gave her an advantage over many of her men, and she tried to protect those less skilled with the knife. The archers were soon joined by other resistance fighters who had broken through the eastern and western walls. Some tribesmen began to flee the city, but others remained, refusing to give up even though defeat was imminent. The tribesmen were surrounded on three sides, and it appeared to Ariya as if the tribesmen were also outnumbered. Perhaps there were more resistance fighters--or fewer tribesmen--than she had realized.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Duran, swinging his sword, fighting against two tribesmen at once. He must have been one of the first through the wall to have already reached the southern side of the city, Ariya thought. Suddenly she saw a third tribesman run up behind Duran, waving a jagged sword.
"Duran!" she yelled. She quickly drew her knife, the one given to her by Lord Elrond, and threw it at the third tribesman. It spun through the air and the blade entered the tribesman's skull, killing him just before he reached Duran. Ariya grimaced, still unaccustomed to such bloodshed. Duran spun around and saw her knife in the body.
"Thank you!" he yelled, spinning around again and felling one of the two tribesmen he had been fighting. The other quickly ran away before Duran's sword reached him.
"Retreat!" Ariya heard a tribesman yell nearby. "Retreat!" With that, the tribesmen stopped their fighting and began to flee the city. Some of the resistance followed them, but Ariya yelled for them to show mercy as their enemy retreated. Finally, all the tribesmen reached the city walls, and at the direction of several captains, the resistance allowed them to flee.
Once the tribesmen had left, Ariya walked over and retrieved her knife, then called for her archers to see how many had survived the battle. Fifteen of the twenty men answered her call; she later learned that two had been separated from the group and were uninjured while the remaining three had been killed. Kalen's men had experienced similar losses.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ariya saw Duran run off to join the king. She was surprised that he had not remained by the king's side throughout the battle, but she also realized it was easy to get separated during the fighting.
As she silently sheathed Cul-Rômen, she slowly turned around. There were bodies in every direction, and Ariya's heart was incredibly heavy, knowing that this battle had occurred because of her urging. However, even in the midst of such devastation, she recalled the visions of the tribesmen attacking other city-kingdoms. She hoped that this would be the first and the last battle against the Northern Tribes.
By nightfall, the resistance had moved the camp to the city of Ridden and the surrounding land. There was little left of the city--houses had been burned and gardens destroyed, and the stench of death was everywhere. The bodies had been taken outside the city and burned not long ago, and a few men still stood by the smoldering fires mourning. Ariya had found a secluded corner of the city and lay down, gazing at the stars and trying to forget the events of the day. She closed her eyes, remembering her days in Rivendell, wondering why she had ever left the fair valley.
"Ariya." She opened her eyes to see Duran standing over her. He sat down beside her. "Are you all right?"
She sat up and leaned against the wall of a crumbling house. She did not want to talk about the many thoughts going through her mind, so instead she asked, "Who were the mounted soldiers that came from the west? I do not recall King Renya ordering a third attack."
Duran could see that she did not want to discuss the pain she so clearly felt in her heart. He worried about her, but did not pry; not yet. "They came from Del, the westernmost city-kingdom. Their king had originally denied us help--the only king to do so--feeling that the Northern Tribes would never come so far as Del. After our messenger left, the king must have had a change of heart, for the mounted soldiers arrived during this morning's battle. We had no idea that they were coming." At least that explains why the two sides seemed more evenly numbered, Ariya thought.
"Ariya," said Duran after a pause, now taking on his role as the king's advisor, "the king is forever grateful for your help in planning the battle. If you are willing, he would like to take counsel with you tonight to determine the next course of action."
"I am not sure what I would tell him," she replied. "I have foreseen nothing about the events to come."
"Then at least offer your advice on his suggestions," he answered. "We would both appreciate it."
Ariya consented, realizing that advising the king would be much more productive than star-gazing. She sighed and stood to her feet.
"You don't have to come," Duran said.
"No, it's all right. I have a gift unknown among mortal men, and I should put it to good use." Suddenly her thoughts returned to that day in Rivendell so long ago. Was this the reason she had been born a half-elf? To live in the world of men and to use her elven gifts to help them? The thought lifted her spirits some, but her heart was still too heavy to dwell on it much more. She thought she saw a hint of a smile on Duran's face at her reply, but he quickly turned and she followed him to the king's council.
Ariya spent the next several days with the king and Duran. She had little advice to give, but the king insisted that she stay in his company and listen to his plans. After their defeat at Ridden, the Northern Tribes had retreated to Eomas. Renya sent negotiators to Eomas, but the tribes refused to leave the city peacefully. If the Eomas refugees were to regain their homes, another battle would have to take place. While some of the men of Ridden wished to stop fighting now that they had reclaimed their city, the king was able to convince most of the people to fight for Eomas since the Eomas refugees had helped win the battle for Ridden. Once again the people prepared for war, and Ariya began to divide her time between advising the king and training her archers.
The stories of Ariya's role in the battle quickly spread through the camp. Soon everyone knew that she had devised the successful battle plan and that she had fought bravely and saved Duran's life in battle. The stories were soon exaggerated, and by the end of the week Ariya had killed a hundred men and had saved King Renya's life as well. Several more men joined Ariya's troop of archers, and soon her band outnumbered Kalen's.
As these rumors spread, Ariya could sense Denya growing increasing angry at her. While Duran had never admitted it, Ariya knew that he believed the king's son to be slightly mad. One night, her suspicions were confirmed. She was outside the city walls, gathering spent arrows from the archery practice. Most the archers had already left and she was alone. She suddenly sensed someone coming near and turned to see Denya walking toward her.
"So you think that you can steal the favor of the people away from the king?" he asked menacingly, standing as close to her as he could without actually touching her. Ariya could see the madness in his eyes.
"I do not know what you are talking about," she replied, calm but guarded.
"You know very well what I am talking about," said he. "The people favor you more than their own king! Indeed, the king favors you more than his own son!" he hissed. So that is what this is about, Ariya thought to herself as she slowly took a step backward. She did not agree with either of his two claims, but she remained silent and allowed him to continue his rant.
"I'm sure it will not be long until you try to overthrow the king, kill him maybe, and take all the glory for yourself. You will lead the people into battle and become a fearless, powerful queen." He grinned sinisterly and a chill ran down Ariya's spine. She was not exceptionally frightened, but rather was disturbed by the evil and madness evident in the prince's heart.
Denya suddenly put his hands on her shoulders and shoved her against a tree. Startled, she dropped her arrows and prepared to grab her knife if it became necessary. "I will not let you succeed!" he snarled into her face. She tried to turn away but he held her shoulders tighter. Her eyes met his glare, and for a tense moment they were silent. Suddenly, his grip lightened and the fire in his eyes dimmed. "Do not worry," he said softly. "I will not kill you. That was only a warning." With that, he let go and quickly walked away.
Ariya leaned against the tree, stunned by his actions. He was clearly delusional and she knew that there would be no reasoning with him. She could hear footsteps coming toward her, quickly, and turned to see Duran jogging toward her. "Ariya, what happened?" he asked. He had walked up just in time to see Denya release her and leave. Ariya told Duran what had happened but made him swear to tell no one, not even the king. The people of Ridden, and especially King Renya, already had enough to worry about.
List of Names and Places through Chapter 7
- Ambilë: Ariya's mortal father. Chapter 1.
- Arelen: "Morning Star"; Ariya's Elvish name. Chapter 1.
- Ariya Alayah: Translated as "Morning Star" in an ancient tongue of men; the heroine of our story. Chapter 1.
- Beredhel: "Bold Elf"; Ariya's maternal grandfather. Chapter 1.
- Cul-Rômen: "Golden-Red Sunrise"; the name of Ariya's sword. Chapter 5.
- Deilen: Duran's brother. Chapter 5.
- Denya: Renya's only son; heir to the King of Ridden. Chapter 6.
- Dunneth: The city-kingdom to which the refugees of Ridden fled. Chapter 6.
- Duran: Advisor to the king of Ridden. Chapter 3.
- Eomas: The first city to be attacked by the Northern Tribes. Chapter 5.
- Isilmë: "Moonlight"; Ariya's maternal grandmother. Chapter 1.
- Kalen: A man from Dunneth; leader of a group of archers in the resistance against the Northern Tribes. Chapter 6.
- Land of the City-Kingdoms: A land northwest of Rivendell, consisting of several small cities of men, each ruled by their own king. Chapter 2.
- Lein: Ariya's half-brother, son of Ambilë; a smith in Ridden; killed in the Northern Tribe's invasion. Chapter 2.
- Lómion: "Descendant of Dark"; maker of Ambilë's ring. Chapter 4.
- Melwen: "Kind Maiden"; Ariya's elven mother. Chapter 1.
- Peramac "Perry" Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Tanagrim. Chapter 2.
- Renya: King of Ridden. Chapter 5.
- Ridden: A city in the land of the city-kingdoms. Chapter 2.
- Tanagrim Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Peramac. Chapter 2.
This was one of the most challenging chapters for me to write, so I would love some feedback on it! Was the battle scene easy to follow, or was the west/east/south stuff too confusing? How about the confrontation with Denya at the end--did I acurately portray him as mentally ill, or was the scene just silly? Thank you all for the comments you have made so far--as I said earlier, I do revise each chapter one last time before I post it, and I keep your comments in mind when I revise! So let me know about any areas I can improve on!