Two Sides of a Coin - Chapter 2: Between a Log and a Hard Place
author's note: This is a story in which an Ithilien ranger and a Southron must learn to get along. Reading chapter 1 is advised in order to better understand the odd circumstances in this chapter.
"Peace cannot be built on exclusivism, absolutism, and intolerance." -Gandhi
Ladril's eyes slowly fluttered open. The sun, now passing its zenith, glared down at the ranger as he lay sprawled in the grass. He squinted and turned away from the light, then with a jolt he remembered all that happened that morning: the ambush, the Southrons, the mumak...
Now it was deathly silent, and Ladril's stomach churned and throbbed. He needed to get out of the glade, perhaps the other rangers were not too far...
When Ladril tried to move, the pain in his stomach suddenly doubled. Looking down, Ladril's heart leapt to his throat at the sight before him: the ruins of mumak's massive war-tower tottered dangerously above, and the horn of the tower was crunching into his ribs.
Ladril cautiously gripped the black wood with his hands, and tried to lift the beam off his stomach, but even with all his strength it wouldn't budge. After a few vain attempts, the ranger dropped his head back to the ground and moaned. From the looks of things, the Ithilien troops and even the Southron army had deserted the highway long ago. Ladril was no doubt mistaken for dead, and here he would remain: locked beneath a ton of wood until he rotted away.
While Ladril reflected with disgust the prospect of rotting, he suddenly heard a sound. It was a groan......right next to him.
Ladril slowly turned his head, and would have jumped if the wood hadn't held him down. There, not five feet away and also pinned by the beam, was a Southron who was just regaining consciousness.
Ladril could only watch as the Southron shook his aching head and opened his eyes. He jolted at the sight of the war-tower looming above, and then gave an even bigger jolt when he saw the Ithilien ranger lying right next to him.
They stared at one another blankly. A moment passed....then on cue they lunged at each other.
The combat was little more than the flailing of arms followed by grunts and curses. Despite the great attempts on either side, neither Ladril nor the Southron could budge from their positions.
Their vain attempts to swipe each other stopped immediately when they heard the war-tower crack and groan. The two men looked up with terror to see the tons of wood balanced above totter dangerously forward. The pressure of the beam on the men's stomachs sharply increased.
Ladril hissed a long string of curses as he felt his ribs bend in. The Southron meanwhile whispered a quick prayer. The war-tower finally rocked back with a heavy sigh, and all was still.
Stark silence followed. Ladril and the Southron let out a long breath and glanced at each other.
The ranger knew there was only one option.
"...Listen," He said to the Southron. "I think there is a way we can both escape," Ladril gritted his teeth at the next part. "Regretfully, it will require us to work together."
His adversary gave him a blank stare.
"This is marvelous." Ladril muttered. "Look, put your hands under the wood like this."
The Southron mimicked Ladril's motion, but looked at him as if he was crazy.
"Now, if we both push, it might be enough to lift the beam," The ranger explained. "Ready? Now push!"
Ladril squeezed his eyes shut and pushed using every muscle, but it was no use. Even with the strength of two people, the beam still wouldn't...
Ladril turned to the Southron, and found an amused smirk on his dark face.
He never pushed.
"You---must---push!" Ladril emphasized the words heatedly. "Before---I---kill --you."
The Southron gripped the beam and readied himself, but he still wore a wide smile.
"He thinks this is funny," Ladril muttered. "We are about to be crushed under the ruins of a war-tower, and he thinks this is funny."
The two men gave a sharp glance at one another and pushed at the beam with all their might. With a groan the wood slowly lifted up, but already the arms of both men were quivering under the weight.
The Southron followed Ladril's action, and holding up the wood they scooted through the grass down the length of the beam, until at last they came to its stubbed end.
The two men gave the beam one last push and rolled past the stub before it came back down with a thud.
Folding his arms over his chest, Ladril rocked himself up and gasped for air; he was sure his lungs had been crushed.
The Southron meanwhile had gotten to his feet: his lungs filled with all the air they needed. Warily he drew his knife in front of Ladril and prepared for combat. The Southron was surprised to find his adversary bowing, with arms folded across his chest. The Southron finally shrugged and moved to the back of the ranger.
The last thing Ladril remembered was hearing a hard *THWACK* across the base of his skull.