The Undying Lands - (chapter 49)

When she was ready, Ariengil took a deep breath and mounted her white horse. Nimtheryn was already mounted and sat with a strong look on his face, yet his breathing was faltered and out of time. Dînhith sat astride a black stallion, with moist cheeks and glistening eyes. Mereth and Nieninque were beginning to mount. The ranks were formed, with Tiuka, Beleg, Thaliondil and Nárfin standing with their swords and bows, their faces set in blank expressions.
A horn rang out, sounding the advance, and the troops set off. They marched in silence for an hour, by which time they had left the sight of the camps behind. They halted after the hour, on top of a hill. Ariengil looked back, from the front, and saw the resilient warriors who were ready to fight for their lives and the lives of every good being in Middle Earth.
It was past midday when the first cry was sounded that the enemy had been seen, as a black cloud pushing its way across the ground towards them. They were a league away and gaining quickly. The orders were given to stand their ground for they were at an advantage, being on a hill.
Another hour passed and the army was growing restless. Yet soon the army of Tarma were so close that their cries could be heard. They had few archers, but there were some, and they had many soldiers- fewer on horses. The King breathed a sigh of relief- there were not many, only about five thousand and the army had fifteen thousand. They approached and were flanked on either side by trees- there was only one way for them to go: towards the army.
`Men,' shouted the King to his troops, as he stood up tall in his stirrups. `We march. We march to our enemy and we will strive to strike them down and destroy them all, for as you do this, think of your friends and families. And think of all the helpless beings in this Middle Earth. You will fight for them and for one another.
`Do not fear the enemy for they are worthless beings and you are great; do not fear the enemy for they are weak and you are strong; do not fear the enemy for they are few and we are many.
`Believe in yourselves and fight from your heart.' The King turned to face the enemy and spat to the ground. He raised his sword as the enemy stopped at the bottom of the hill. The front ranks knelt and held spears in front of themselves and laughed in their cruel voices. King Eldarion brought his sword down to his side and shouted at the top of his voice: `Charge.' He cantered down the hill with his commanders following, all shouting their war cry. Ariengil thought of nothing but hatred for the beings below them. A cry issued from her lips as she kicked her horse to move.
Together, the horse and elf flew down upon the enemy as one, sword raised, teeth bared and a cry echoing from the elf's throat. Nimtheryn watched his love leave him and spurred his horse on too. Dînhith was at Ariengil's side after a second and the two best friends matched each other in every way as they sped towards the vile orcs.
Every other man, woman and horse ran forwards, down the hill, towards the malodorous opposition. If any person thought that the enemy would be daunted by this attack, they were wrong, for the orcs and elves stood their ground and drove their spears into flesh and animal if they could. The King and his chestnut stallion leapt over the front rank of orcs and landed in the midst of many more. His sword swung swiftly from side to side, with a skill unmatched by any other being there.
Every elf and man was eager to cut an orc down, yet by the time that half of the army had reached the lower ground, there were only a few hundred orcs left. A groan went up and Ariengil, who had been afraid of killing, joined in as she had only slain ten or so orcs. Yet a horn sounded from the top of the hill and another five thousand, or so, orcs appeared. They now had the upper hand as they could descend on the army. The armies were fairly evenly matched, but the elves had a few hundred more, though with the orcs and dark elves on top of the hill, they had less chance.
The King turned his horse around and it reared up in the air as he looked at the orcs in distaste. With a quick word with Mereth, the King called for retreat, though away from the hill. The army looked up with puzzled expressions on their faces, but the King was set to carry out this order. Everyone shouted: `Retreat, the King calls for retreat. Pull back quickly,' and they all turned and ran.
The orcs looked down with a look of dismay and a loss of what to do next. A strong, clear voice sounded out from their midst. `Attack them before they all leave. We can take them all- they are scared of you. Attack.'
The orcs took up a distorted cry of `attack' that turned into a deep cry as they began to run towards the fleeing elves. One orc set loose an arrow and it struck one orc in the back; he fell with a small gasp and lay crumpled as the orcs began to trudge over him, after the elves.
When all of the orcs were on the lower ground, the King shouted for a halt and turned everyone around. He rode to the front of the army and watched the orcs running closer. When they were within two hundred metres, the King shouted again. `Charge! Cut them all down.'
Ariengil smiled in delight- they had forged a retreat that was not a retreat at all. It was a decoy and it had worked- the orcs were level with the army and they were evenly matched again. There was many disgruntled snorts from a few hundred orcs as they realised they had made a mistake. Some tried to run back up the hill, but the King had positioned archers to shoot at those with their backs turned. Many orcs slipped and fell as they found arrows pierced into their backs; the advance cut down the front orcs, and the orcs left in the middle knew not what to do.
The elves pushed through the ranks of orcs and dark elves, cutting, stabbing and destroying as they went. They met resistance from the dark elves more than from the orcs, but for the moment the army was in power.
Ariengil met with an elf and they clashed swords with each other, the man attacking and jabbing his sword, and Ariengil blocking and parrying each strike. His dark hair was held back by a bright orange piece of cloth, wrapped around his forehead with blood marks smeared over it. The tall, dark elf snarled at Ariengil, but she continued her resistance with strength and anger. The man fought with his sword in his right hand and when they had been fighting for a few minutes, the elf grabbed Ariengil's helmet and wrenched it off. Her blonde hair tumbled down to her shoulders and she gasped in shock, at the force of the man. He grabbed her hair and wrenched her neck backwards, placing his cold sword against her neck.
`Goodbye,' he whispered cruelly and Ariengil felt the cold bite of steel as he cut her slowly and gently. Ariengil coughed and gasped as a little blood dripped down her neck. The elf was torturing her by making her death slow. The young maiden wished that this cruel being would hurry her death, rather than make her suffer.
Suddenly the man jerked his head upwards and his hand tightened on Ariengil's hair. The man's sword arm fell to his side, the sword dropping to the floor. Ariengil looked down and saw an arrow protruding from his chest as he toppled over and fell to the ground. With such a strong grip on her hair, Ariengil fell to the soil with him. She grasped his now cold hand and wrenched his fingers open, pulling her hair out of his palm.
Ariengil looked up just in time, for a tall, vile orc swung his sword at her head as she looked up, and she ducked immediately. Grabbing the dead elf's sword, Ariengil pushed it into the orc's chest and he fell onto her with the blade drawn through him violently. Ariengil choked from the horrible smell and pushed the orc sideways, hauling the sword out again.
The wound on her neck was bleeding quite heavily now, so Ariengil wrenched the orange rag from around the elf's head beside her, and undid it. She gently, but fairly tightly, wrapped it around her neck and tied the ends in a knot.
Ariengil lay down between the orc and the elf, so as to be inconspicuous, and looked around. There were still around six thousand elves; their number had at least halved. There were about five thousand orcs, though perhaps more, and as Ariengil watched, she saw another thousand step out of one of the forests. Turning around completely, she saw the same amount come from the other forest. Looking around, she realised that no one else had noticed that the amount of orcs had almost doubled. Grabbing the deceased orc's horn, she blew it three times; this was the normal call for elves, though it sounded different, as it was not an elven horn.
The remaining elves looked around and saw that they were outnumbered. The King had no plan ready, and there was nowhere to run. The only thing to do was to fight to theirs, or the enemy's, deaths. Ariengil watched as the orcs fitted arrows to their bows and were ready to fire. She leapt up and ran towards the King, who was about five metres away. She jumped up to him, on his horse, and pushed him down. His legs slipped from their stirrups and he fell, with Ariengil on top of him, to the floor just as five arrows pierced his horse, and five arrows passed through the air that had been him just a second ago.
King Eldarion looked at Ariengil gratefully and smiled sadly. `We have little hope now,' he said regretfully. `Thank you for saving my life, but there was no need as we are defeated anyway.' As he said this, another volley of arrows were fired and many more elves fell. Mereth and Nieninque were fighting side by side and Mereth was struck. He fell to the floor, with the arrow stuck in his chest, seemingly beside his heart. Ariengil knew that Mereth did not have long.
`No,' she screamed, clearly distressed. Although the King objected, and tried to stop Ariengil from leaving, she jumped up and ran with all her might to the two elves who were lying on the floor- Mereth screaming in agony, and Nieninque crying for him. Ariengil threw herself to the ground beside them, but not after another volley of arrows had been released. She felt someone come into contact with her, grabbing her around the waist and throwing her to the floor. She landed on the ground with no injury other than a single arrow that had shot straight through her hand.
Ariengil screamed in agony and looked to her friends. Mereth was better- Nieninque's tears had healed him and the arrow had disappeared. Yet Nieninque was still crying, for she had feared that she would have lost Mereth. Ariengil rolled around on the floor in pain, clutching her hand to her chest. The person who had thrown her to the ground was ripping his shirt, and turned to Ariengil with a piece of cloth in his hand. Through her tear filled eyes, Ariengil saw the King. He had saved her as she had saved him.
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