The Banner of Doom
"Durin! To your left!"
The King of Moria swerved just in time to land his legendary axe in the shoulder of a broad bodied Orc.
"Watch your own back, Farin, I can handle myself!"
Durin replied as he battered his gleaming Mithril shield into the golden mask of an Easterling.
After spotting the flames coming from Eregion, King Durin III and his army had marched to the aid of their Elven allies. Long had Moria and Eregion traded, becoming stout allies and great friends.
And Dwarves remember who their friends are.
Durin stood firm under the banner of his line, surrounded by the fearsome Khazad Guard. As Farin led a force of Dwarves wielding mighty two-handed axes deeper into the city of Ost-in-Edhil, the king surveyed the battlefield, looking for where his aid was most needed. Lord Elrond and the survivors of Eregion fought on bravely, but they were on the other side of the city. Instead, he began running to the House of the Mirdain, the place where all of Eregion's greatest treasures were kept, as Celebrimbor - the lord of Eregion - would probably be making his stand there. It was also the place where Sauron would most likely go to first.
King Durin knew that Sauron would plan an assault upon Eregion, but he did not expect it to be this soon and be so unpredictable. The Dark Lord had lusted for the seventeen rings of power that Celebrimbor had forged, one of which the Elves had given to Durin. The three Elven rings had been given to Galadriel, Gil-Galad and Cirdan, but the other fifteen rings were still to be given and so they would be found at the House of Mirdain.
As the guard of Durin pressed onwards, the Elves of Lothlorien were sighted, fighting the rearguard of Sauron's army with Prince Amroth at their head. Dwarves were unfriendly with the Wood Elves of that realm, but in this battle all help was gladly accepted. Grunting, the king charged down another Orc and struck the creature's companion through the chest. Amid the fires and heaps of the dead, Amroth sighted Durin, and cutting down the last of the rearguard, he ran to meet him.
"We shall try to get through to Elrond's company. What will you do in the meantime?"
"My Dwarves are already scouring the city and searching for survivors," replied Durin, "I myself shall find Celebrimbor at the House of the Mirdain."
"Very well, but beware, I sense a dark force is already there."
"Sauron. I thought as much. Then I must hasten. Farewell, master Elf!"
And with that Durin doubled the pace to his destination.
Before Durin's Dwarves and Amroth's Elves reached Eregion, Lord Celeborn, who was present at Ost-in-Edhil, led a sortie of many armoured soldiers from the gates. But when they had cut a path to the other side of the army they could not get back to the city, for Sauron's host was to numerous and blocked their path. Elrond led a small force from Lindon, but it was not nearly enough to save Eregion. And so Celebrimbor stood alone - until Durin came.
A block of Variag footmen moved to block the Dwarves' advance through the burning city. Their captain cried a sharp command and the Khandish raised their broad axes to strike as a volley of arrows flew over them. But the missiles could hardly pierce the tough armour of the Khazad Guard. Only one Dwarf fell to the floor - a crimson arrow piercing through his eye. Durin's guard crashed into the Variag lines, axes flurrying on both sides. The Khandish captain cut down a trio of guardsmen, his steel axe gleaming with blood. Fighting his way into the centre of the Dwarf ranks, he smote down the Dwarf standard bearer and roared a challenge at Durin. The King responded by bellowing a war cry and brought his mighty axe towards the captain. The Variag struck first, his inferior weapon rebounding off Durin's axe. He struck again, landing a blow on Durin's helm. Grunting in rage, the mighty Dwarf cut strait through the captain's torso, and, dealing with the last few Khandish warriors, urged his guard onwards, picking up the banner from its fallen bearer and holding it aloft in the sky.
Celebrimbor stood on the steps of the House of the Mirdain, his expertly crafted shield, blade and armour shining with splendour. His fair face was almost completely hidden by the golden helm he wore, and what could be seen looked grim and desperate. His most loyal warriors fought against the Orcs just below him, as they had been for what seemed like hours. Then, a homestead nearby fell down in a smoking heap, stricken through the middle by an enormous weapon. A Troll perhaps? Celebrimbor made himself ready for whatever would rise from the black smoke. But nothing could prepare him for what would appear.
The royal guard of Khazad-Dum trampled on, cutting down Orcs, Easterlings and all other things that stood in their way. A company of Dwarf archers were sighted ahead, sending shots from their sturdy short-bows into a great Mountain Troll sighted ahead. Durin knew as soon as the beast's bludgeoning hammer reached the archers they were done for. So he ran head on into the Troll, chopping away it's leg in one swift stroke of Durin's axe. The creature cried in pain, blindly swinging it's weapon into the air as it collapsed into a heap.
The Dark Lord swung his mace again, batting away the last of Celebrimbor's guard. Taking a keen spear from one of his fallen comrades, the Lord of Eregion thrust it in desperation at the evil entity. But the Lord of Mordor merely caught it in a plated hand and skewered a fallen Elf body. Crying a call of strength, Celebrimbor charged into the Dark Lord, shield raised to block his mace and sword ready to strike. The Elven blade bounced off the metal plates and the mace of Sauron hammered into his shield. The first stroke could not penetrate the enchanted shield, but the second cracked it in two. Throwing his useless weapon down, Celebrimbor took his blade two-handed and struck again and again at Sauron's iron torso. At last the armour gave way and the Lord of Eregion clove straight through his dark flesh. Yet Celebrimbor's arms went completely numb and his shining blade clanged on the stone steps. And to the Elf Lord's horror, the wounds he had caused began to heal, Sauron mockingly laughing. And then Celebrimbor saw the ring on the Dark Lord's finger.
The ring that he had helped to create.
Prince Amroth of Lothlorien, son of Amdir, cut through the Easterling lines with the host of the Golden Wood behind him. Every captain that had stood against him had fallen, every warrior brave enough to face his cold fury had fallen. Yet he kept on, his blade reaping the harvest of gold and crimson bodies. And in his wrath he sang, singing tunes of vengeance and doom.
The Prince of Lorien in all his glory.
In the midst of battle he found a fair warrior and what remained of his company surrounded by an Easterling sea, their blades weary and armour battered to submission. Yet the fair warrior gave his followers hope, lifting high the standard of Eregion. Amroth moved to aid them, cutting a path through the golden warriors as his bowmen expertly shot down many of the attackers. When their captain finally fell, the Easterlings turned and fled, hoping to be reinforced by the Orc lines. The Elves had time to catch their breath, and as Amroth went to talk to the warrior the Elf archers fired on the fleeing soldiers.
"What is your name, son of Eregion?" asked Amroth.
"Glorfindel is my name, fair prince," answered the warrior. "I was part of Celeborn's force, but we got separated and my party was surrounded by these golden brutes."
"March with me, Glorfindel. We go to aid Lord Elrond. Will you join us?"
"Of course, my prince. I would be happy to reap the hordes of Sauron with you."
"Where are the three?'
The malignant voice of Sauron echoed through the House of the Mirdain. Celebrimbor had already given up the nine mortal rings and six of the seven Dwarf rings, but even on the edge of death he still had not surrendered the three.
"They...are...not...here!" answered the Lord of Eregion, gasping for air as the iron gauntlet of Sauron closed around his throat.
"Then where are they?"
"You lie! Pathetic fool. Your meagre civilisations shall burn to the ground unless you reveal them to me!"
"And why...should I...believe you?"
"Is this not proof enough? One by one all the Elf cities shall fall like yours."
"And if...I...surrendered...the three...you would still...destroy them!"
The whole house shook as the Dark Lord shouted out in anger. He threw Celebrimbor across the room, landing him on a weapon rack, which shattered under his weight. And then, with one chilling stare, the soul of the Lord of Eregion turned cold and was absorbed by the Dark Lord. Taking a long pole from an Orc, he skewered Celebrimbor's body through it and burst through the House of Mirdain, which collapsed behind him, and began marching towards Elrond's host, bearing the Lord of Eregion's body as a standard.
The companies of Orcs seemed to be innumerable, yet the sharpness of Durin's axe did not waver. Calling the Khazad Guard, he rampaged through the evil lines, sending severed Orc parts into piles around him. Like flames through a field, the Dwarves easily finished the beasts off and continued forwards.
"The House of Mirdain awaits!" Durin cried. His destination lay just around the corner.
But there was no house, and no Celebrimbor for that matter. Only many Easterlings, Variags and Orcs remained, standing around the rubble that was the House of Mirdain.
"Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!"
Taking up the cry, the Dwarves hit the servants of Sauron like a ram, all their might and determination sending the enemy into a shock. Scattering before the axes of the Dwarves, Durin was left to search the ruins of the house.
"I cannot find Celebrimbor's body, he said to his men. "He may yet be alive."
"Hold the lines! Orc archers on the left flank! Stand fast!"
Elrond's warriors had been hit harder than they first anticipated. Unable to reach the city or Celeborn's forces, they had been forced north of Ost-in-Edhil by constant attack and the line was beginning to waver. But Elrond kept them firm, and his blade kept the Orcs at bay. The initial impact of an Elf warrior is legendary, but that was beginning to wear off and the forces of Mordor now had the initiative. Elrond's forces had scarce few bows, and so were forced to close combat in order to whittle down the enemy numbers.
"For Gil-Galad!" shouted Elrond as his blade cut through an Orc's armour. And then he halted for a moment, sensing something dark. Peering above the tide of evil, he saw a great pike held aloft. Elrond was stunned by what he saw. The body of an Elf was stuck straight through it. But it was not just any Elf warrior.
Holding it aloft was a sinister, yet eye-catching form, an entity of death and darkness.
Sauron made his way towards the ranks of Elrond. With the defenders of Eregion scattered or slain, the forces of Lindon were his chief concern now. They were almost in his iron grasp . . .
Pained by the cry of those words, the Dark Lord turned and beheld the army of Lothlorien cutting into his warriors. The speaker of the words was indeed Amroth, with Glorfindel at his side. But to Sauron they appeared as two shining forms of potency and wrath. Snarling, he ordered his army to turn on the Wood Elves. But then Celeborn and his soldiers crashed into the Mordor armada's flanks, trying to relieve Elrond. Everything was falling out of plan for the Dark Lord. And so his mace would answer for it.
Durin ordered the reformation of his army. Ost-in-Edhil was retaken, though in ruins. Farin hurried to speak with the king.
"The Elves are assaulting Sauron to the north, but his numbers are to great. What is your command?"
"Do we have any choice? No. We must aid the Elves," answered Durin. "Our army will split into two - I shall lead the Khazad Guard and a host of shields against the left flank, you shall take what remains and attack the right. To arms!"
With his command, the Dwarves mobilised and stormed from the city, running as fast as their legs would allow. Three volleys were shot by the Dwarf bowmen, sending many Orcs to the ground. This would be a bitter fight.
Celeborn wiped the blood from his face as he decapitated the head of an overconfident Easterling. Hitting the enemy with renewed vigour, his Elves continued northwards, slaying as they went. Their attempt was to reach Elrond and retreat, for Sauron could be contained no longer. Another Variag fell to Celeborn's feet, a broad blade mark through his shoulder.
"Valinor give us strength," muttered the Elven Lord, jabbing into another warrior of Rhun. He briefly gazed upwards, sighting the dark silhouette carrying the fell standard. The sight of Celebrimbor's pierced body still haunted him. But he remembered his task and continued towards Elrond. He was but a few yards from the Halfelven's contingent when a fierce Easterling - dressed in black and wearing a golden mask unlike any he had seen before - intercepted Lord Celeborn. Little did he know that this was indeed Khamul, the Easterling general, who was later to receive one of the nine mortal rings. Celeborn readied his blade . . .
Durin's host swept past the back of Amroth's Elves, readying their charge. The Orcs had little chance to ready themselves for the impact. Not one of the beasts that a Dwarf targeted survived their first attack, such was their ferocity and inspiration from Durin. Fighting at the side of the Wood Elves, the Khazad Guard continued to make their presence felt by Sauron's host. As Durin held his banner high, he espied another banner in the midst of the battle.
Celebrimbor's body. The banner of doom.
Crying in shock, Durin briefly remembered the friendship he had with the noble Elf, of the kinship his people had with Khazad-dum. But no more.
Yet this only doubled Durin's rage. Cutting down enemies in the dozens, he broke through the rearguard of the army and continued through it's core, to where Sauron was. The other Dwarves and Wood Elves could only stand in awe of the king's ferocity - even Amroth gave pause. And Sauron moved to face him.
Elrond continued the fight, though his men were given chance to breathe after the Dwarves' charge. Not far away, Celeborn continued his fight against Khamul. It seemed neither of them could best their opponent, their blades whirring to block, strike and parry as fast as wind. The remorseless mask of Khamul seemed malignant and defiant, as the cold determination of Celeborn could be seen in his face. The Easterling jabbed, but his sword bounced off the solid shield that Celeborn sported. The Elf made a cleaving strike, but it was quickly evaded by his enemy.
A shout came up from the midst of battle. The voice sounded Elvish, but seemingly desperate. Then a high looking soldier emerged from the crowd of golden plates.
"Lord Elrond, I am a messenger from Prince Amroth. Glorfindel is my name."
"Speak, Glorfindel," commanded Elrond.
"Prince Amroth and Durin's armies can keep Sauron's forces at bay long enough for you to escape and warn Lindon."
"Very well, but I shall wait for Celeborn to meet with me."
Little did Elrond know that one day this messenger would become his second in command.
Khamul and Celeborn still exchanged blades. The general of Rhun made another thrust, which hit the Elf Lord's armour but could not pierce it. Gathering his might for a strong stroke, Celeborn crashed his blade onto Khamul's sword, which shattered the Easterling's weapon across the ground. Snarling like a wounded animal, he took the halberd from a nearby companion, slamming it into Celeborn's shield, which cracked, but did not break. Then a shout came up from Elrond's ranks.
"Celeborn! Retreat! Gather you men and retreat!"
Heeding the call, the Elven Lord called upon his magic and held the Easterling in place. Making a sharp command to his men, Celeborn turned and ran. Both Khamul and his opponent were ashamed for their failure.
Durin and Amroth knew that with Elrond and Celeborn gone their odds were bad. Prince Amroth quickly ordered his Elves to retreat and Durin quickly followed. Abandoning his banner, Sauron turned to eliminate the allies before they reached the safety of Khazad-dum and Lothlorien. But he was far behind when his forces finally mobilised and he advanced southwards.
After hours of retreating, the Dwarves and Wood Elves reached the final paths up to Khazad-dum.
"I apologise that my army must pass through your realm, Lord Durin," stated Amroth.
"Nay, it is I who should be apologising, master Elf. For I have been told Wood Elves find the underground quite uncomfortable."
The allies went up the final ramps, passing the Silverlode and entering Durin's kingdom. And so the Hollin Gate closed upon a ruined and burning Eregion.