author’s note:This is a story in which an Ithilien ranger, a Southron (referred to as “Swerting” due to Shastan’s preference) and a lady must learn how to get along. The battle now begins to liberate wagons of Gondor women and children from thieving Wildmen.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face…you must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
All combatants for Gondor sprang into action. Each had long ago positioned himself behind an unsuspecting wildman and now they revealed their knives and quickly disposed a great number before the enemy could make a move. Ladril looked about and saw exactly what kind of an army he had. His face nearly went white at the sight of so many young lads that had been drafted for the fight. Many elderly, nearly dotty, were also put in Ladril’s service. The ranger realized that this was all the wains had to offer when it came to an army. Only a swift execution of their plan could save them now.
The enemy had been caught off balance, but only for a moment. The remaining wildmen now unsheathed their blades in hot fury and charged at the small adversary. But in unison each combatant young and old took up the sword of the wild man he had just knifed. The outfit now properly armed, Ladril braced himself and led the charge. If only Belegorn was here, was his last thought before taking down his first foe and crying “Charge, men! For the peace and freedom of Gondor!”
He found no coward in his assembled troop. Though lads strained to lift the blades and the elderly struggled to be swift, all had a fire and thirst for freedom in their eyes. This virtuous strength surprised their over-confident adversary and the wild men found themselves being driven against the wagons.
When Ladril saw this he raised his sword and cried “Volley!”
Everyone echoed his order until the whole train heard. The flaps of the wagons were drawn back and the women and children began hurling rocks at the brutes; rocks which had been secretly collected and stored the better half of the day. Now the wildmen found themselves assailed on both sides, being either stoned by women or cut down by bold lads.
Ladril smiled and resumed tirelessly to his combat. Only a few moments had passed and the wains were steadily gaining the victory.
A sunny grove on a hill’s crest found a very frustrated Elen pacing back and forth, and a very relaxed Shastan stretched on the low branch of a tree. Here they commanded a perfect view of the battle ensuing below, and Elen was growing more restless by the minute.
“Look at that,” She said heatedly, her hand squeezing her sword hilt. “Look at all the action!”
“Look at all the blood,” Shastan retorted.
“This isn’t right for me. I look like a coward standing here doing nothing,” The maid glanced back at Shastan. “And it isn’t right for you, either.”
“It’s nothing I can do,” He replied, feeling her comment prick. “Despite my better judgment, I had promised Laaderil I would stay out of the battle.”
“But I haven’t promised anything!” Elen cried. “Why should I be forced to pace to and fro with my hands in my pockets?”
“Because I took a great amount of trouble ensuring you would.”
Elen stopped her pacing and looked quietly into the green eyes of Shastan.
“…I understand that you are worried about my safety, and I appreciate the great lengths you have taken to keep me out of harm’s way. But you will respect my wishes and let me fight if you really do love me.”
There was a moment of shocked silence, followed by a WHUMP as Shastan fell out of the tree.
“Wh…wha…what?” He sputtered as he quickly picked himself back up.
“It’s all right,” Elen said assuringly. “I already know about your secret affection. Ladril told me about it last night.”
Shastan blinked a few times, then suddenly he understood….Why that sorry, no-good son of a-
But Elen was still standing there, waiting for a response. Shastan found himself at a loss for words (well, he had a full stock of very choice words, but he was at a loss for appropriate ones).
“Why, well…you……listen, I am only keeping you out of the battle because you are a woman and you do not belong there. Is that clear?”
Elen glared at him as fiercely as a lady could. “You think of me as a mere maid who should be kept away when fights arise?”
“…Yes,” Was the reply.
Ice cold silence followed, then Elen said “…You do not have my love.”
Shastan turned on his heel. “Excuse me?“
“If at any time you have been trying to obtain my love, your efforts have been in vain. You shall not have it!”
The Swerting threw his hands up. “That is fine with me!“
“Fine,” Elen replied and turned her back on him.
Shastan heaved a sigh of relief. Finally she will stop looking at him longingly for hours at a time. Finallyhe won’t have to worry about every single gesture sending her the wrong impression. Finallyhe will be left alone.
…But to Shastan’s surprise, he did not feel so much relieved as he felt………deprived.
He looked up and realized Elen had gathered her skirts and began walking down the slope. He quickly jumped in front of her.
“What are you doing?”
He raised his spear and barred the way. “You are not going down there.”
Elen looked at his weapon incredulously. “What are you going to do? Challenge me? Then I will only be too happy to oblige you.”
Shastan was annoyed enough to carry out the challenge, but then he realized that he would be fighting Elen to keep her from going down the slope and fighting. Seeing the irony, he now began to boil with frustration.
“Wh…Why?” He cried.
“Why must you…..why do always have to act like a…why do you insist on running around with a sword like a…a…”
“…Man?” Elen ventured.
“Exactly,” He snapped his fingers at the word. “Why do you do that? There’s enough men causing terror and bloodshed in the world. We don’t need the women joining in.”
“What, are we supposed to stay at home then? Watch over the house and cook while men go out and have adventures?” She sat down on a rock and sulked. “You think that’s the way of things, but you’re wrong. It’s not fair.”
Shastan was silent and looked at her with growing sympathy. Now he understood. Elen felt cut off from what seemed a good and promising life. She felt left out of what appeared to be “fun” and “adventurous”. If only she knew the real way of things…
“Elen,” He said, getting on one knee to look her in the eye. “You are missing nothing. These “adventures” you think you are deprived of are really the suffering and devouring of people’s lives. These �adventures� are the carving out of territories in blood, the plundering of homes to satiate greed, the misery of the world. Men are not elevated above women in glory and triumph, rather they are brought down with guilt…with blood on their hands.”
Elen saw a moment of hurt in Shastan’s eyes, as if he knew all too well what he spoke of.
“Do not try to wield a tool of death, thinking you are missing some higher glory. You are missing nothing, only destruction…only blood. When the men ride to battle and the women remain at home, it is the men that are missing a better life. Women are not tarnished by the guilt that haunts men of war. They live for peace and happiness, creating life instead of destroying it. …Don’t you see, Elen? You shouldn’t try to be like men….we should try to be like you.”
In tears Elen looked up at him. For a moment her face was unreadable, but then a small smile formed on her lips, and her face warmed with peace, then joy.
Then a sound, a terrible sound, erupted from down the slope. Shastan and Elen scrambled to their feet and the noise erupted again. It was a horn, the blaring horn of a wildman.
Ladril blocked a wildman’s blade and punched him in the jaw. Another brute tried to tackle him but he dodged out of the way. When the wildman spun to make another charge Ladril ran his sword through his chest.
He hated this. Every man did. Of course they grew up battling with toys and wooden swords, and they boasted about war and victories over pints of ale, but deep down they felt something was terribly wrong with sliding steel into another man’s heart. Good or evil, right or wrong, every soldier had terrible nightmares about men they killed…
A sound blasted through the valley. It was the shrill note of a horn. The sound was wrought by a wounded wildman, slumped beside a wagon. Balar quickly came and cut him down, but the deed had been done. The call for aid echoed throughout the valley, and in a matter of moments the larger force of wildmen which had been sent away quickly returned, dotting the summit of the faraway hill.
They saw their own men being cut down by the Gondorrim and they roared and beat their chests in defiance. Ladril and Balar stood side by side, blood dripping from their swords and terror on their exhausted faces. They could only watch as the great army of wildmen came rushing down the slope, mad for revenge.
“What do you see?”
Elen squinted at the distant wains while Shastan, whose eyesight was not as good as hers, waited for a response.
“It’s terrible…more wildmen are crossing the fields…now they are engaging the wains.”
“Can you see Laaderil?”
“My eyesight isn’t that good.”
There was silence again as Elen strained to see the battle. She suddenly cried out “The children! The poor children are being beaten back! But no one is deserting the fight…they’re standing strong. They’re being rallied now, people are falling–“
Then something black and thick loomed into the air that even Shastan could see.
“…Is that smoke?”
“A wagon!” Elen gasped. “They’ve set a wagon on fire!”
Orange light licked the top of a wagon and filled it with smoke, bringing desperate cries from the women and children inside.
“That’s it,” Shastan muttered. He picked up his spear and made to march down the slope.
“There will not be much you can do,” said Elen.
“As long as I can do something, that’s enough.”
“…I’m coming too,” She decided.
“Please don’t, Elen. Remember what I told you-“
“I am not seeking adventures. I am not even seeking to fight. But I must help the people in that wagon before the fire claims them.”
Shastan paused to consider this, and in that moment a loud thumping sound approached them. It was the hoof beats of a black horse, free from its yoke in the wains. Without a master it fled from the fighting and slowed its pace as it neared the border of the woods.
Shastan eyed the horse and turned to Elen.
“Do you know how to ride?” he asked.
The smoke was everywhere. Ladril couldn’t tell exactly which wagon had caught fire, but even if he could tell it wouldn’t have mattered. So many wildmen were pressing in, so many came from every direction, he was having trouble just staying alive.
“Retreat! Flee!” He tried to call out to his men. But few could hear him and his voice was hoarse and exhausted. It seemed for every wildman he slew three more took its place. He received a deep gash in his arm from the last man he cut down, and now the loss of blood was causing his head to spin.
Keep fighting,a voice inside ordered.
“…I can’t…” He panted.
Then it is only a matter of time…
Just then cries of terror rose behind him. At first he thought they came from Gondorrim being slain, but then he realized the cries came from wildmen. The ranger span about and was nearly knocked back by the surprise.
It was a horse. A strong, black horse charging into the cluster of foes. Driving the horse was Elen, clear eyed and determined as the steed crashed its way through the enemy. Behind her was Shastan, hanging on for his life and obviously wondering why he chose to let Elen drive. Before Ladril could blink they rushed past him, heading for an unseen destination, and before Ladril could make another move he was assailed once again by more wildmen. For now, he was forced to push the question of what Shastan and Elen were doing aside.
“There it is!” Elen cried. The wagon directly ahead of them was wreathed in smoke, its roof now fully ablaze. All of the wagon’s occupants had panicked and pressed together, trying to squeeze through the wagon’s only exit at the same time. Elen quickly leapt off the horse and ran to the front board of the wagon. “Do not push!” She ordered the occupants. “Wait your turn, I’ll get you all out!” The crowd drew back a little as Elen grabbed frantic arms and pulled people out one by one.
“Can you handle this?” Shastan shouted over the fire and frightened cries.
“Yes, I think so,” Elen called back as she pulled two more children from the throng.
Shastan grabbed the reins and steered the horse back the way they came, kicking it into a gallop.
“Shastan!” He could hear Elen cry. “Where are you going?“
But he was too pressed to give a reply. On the way to the fire he had caught a glimpse of Ladril being overwhelmed by wildmen. If he hurried, he could reach him in time…
The ranger threw a wildman off his back and ran his sword through another. But they kept coming, and his strength was almost spent. He had given this battle all he had, and now, overwhelmed by the odds, he found he had nothing left.
A wildman drove Ladril’s sword down and he was too weak to lift it back up. The wildman jeered at his frailty. “Ye aint so tough now! I reckon the only thing tough ’bout ye will be yer meat when it’s cooked on a spit!”
The brute raised his blade for the final blow.
Out of nowhere the point of a ceremonial spear shot into the wildman’s throat. On the other end was a thoroughly disgusted Swerting.
“You, my friend,” Shastan said to the dead man. “Are barbaric.”
Ladril rapidly blinked and quickly staggered up. “What are you doing? I made it clear that it’s too dangerous for you to be here.”
“And I made it clear that you couldn’t fight without me.” Shastan replied.
�But we are sorely outnumbered…� Ladril looked at the masses of wildmen hopelessly. “I should have seen this coming. I should have planned ahead…but it’s too late now. The battle is lost.”
“Nonsense. It’s nothing a miracle couldn’t fix,” Shastan reasoned. “Perhaps the Maker will give us one.”
Ladril did not believe in a Maker, or in miracles. But the way the battle was going, a miracle was all that could save them now.
Her arms were about to give out, but Elen managed to pull the last few people out of the wagon. The last fellow she helped was an old man with his arms full of the wagon’s contents.
“Leave those!” She cried, and yanked him out just in time. The frame of the wagon cracked and its canvas roof collapsed with a sigh, spilling fire everywhere. The women and children leapt back from the flames and watched as the wagon fell apart.
“Was anyone left in there?” A woman asked worriedly.
“No,” another said. “We are all safe, thanks to this brave lady.”
But Elen wasn’t listening. Her focus turned from the fire to the battle at hand: in the distance Shastan and Ladril were fighting superbly, but everyone else was being pressed back and some began to lay down their weapons in surrender.
“We lost,” A child next to Elen said. “Are the wildmen going to kill us?”
“We did our best,” His mother quickly replied. “And that’s enough.”
But it wasn’t enough. They were innocent people, fighting for their freedom. It shouldn’t have to end this way. It simply was not fair.
But no battle had ever been fair; while one side won one side always lost. Perhaps life was not meant to be fair. Perhaps it was composed of cruel imbalances and your only hope was to land on the right side of the coin.
It did not matter if it was right or wrong. They were now going to die.
A small boy began tugging on Elen’s skirt. “Lady, is there another wagon train on fire?”
“Don’t be silly,” She was far too tired for games. “We’re the only wagon train here.”
“Then where is that smoke over the hill coming from?”
Elen looked to where the boy pointed. Far away, beyond the hill, a thin line of smoke was streaming into the sky.
“What is it?” The boy asked persistently.
What was it indeed. Aside from the wildmen and the wains, these valleys were barren. Yet there was smoke rising beyond the hill all the same.
It could be anything, and anything was a chance the wains could take.
Elen spun about and ran back to the burning wagon. She reached the remains of the front board and next to it was the cluster of items she had ordered the old man to drop. Quickly she rummaged through them. I saw him carrying it,she thought. It has to be here.
Her hand ran into a long shape made of gleaming ivory and silver. She grabbed it and scrambled back from the growing flames. Taking a deep breath, she picked up her skirts and started running.
“What are you doing?” A lady called as she rushed past. She didn’t answer. She ran and ran, away from the wains and the battle, heading towards the thin smoke in the distance. In her hand was a white horn.
The wildmen had sounded for aid, now it was Gondor’s turn.
The surge of energy one feels when fighting alone is nothing compared to fighting alongside a friend. Ladril felt his head clear and his strength renew knowing Shastan was watching his back. The two men took down one wildman after another, Ladril with his longsword and Shastan with his bloody ceremonial spear.
“Tired yet?” Shastan called.
“Beyond tired,” Ladril replied as he took on another foe. “Did you and Elen have some sort of plan?”
“Not really,” Shastan brought a man down. “She wanted to help the burning wagon and I wanted to help you.”
Ladril managed to scare his adversary off. He then pointed to the hillside beyond the wains. “Then where is Elen going?”
Shastan finished his last man and looked where Ladril pointed. The white figure of Elen could be seen racing for the hill. Two wildmen, thinking she was fleeing from battle, followed after her in hot pursuit.
Somehow, the fact that Elen put herself in danger did not surprise Shastan and Ladril.
“She could be killed,” Ladril commented.
“Most likely,” Shastan replied. Just then more wildmen charged towards them and they had to brace themselves once again for battle.
“…I’ve given up trying to tell her what to do,” The Swerting said.
Elen was well aware she was being chased. She could hear their panting and cursing a mile away. She began to wear out and the wildmen were quickly catching up to her.
I’m close enough, she assessed. Taking a moment to catch her breath, she put her lips to the horn and gave a long blast. The horn sounded throughout the valley in a clear, strong note. Some men even stopped fighting to see where the blast came from. She sounded it one more time before running out of breath, then she tore the horn from her lips with a gasp. Her head felt dizzy, and the wildmen were swiftly coming upon her.
Remembering her sword, she awkwardly unsheathed it and pointed it towards her foes. The men laughed contemptuously.
“Careful, you could poke an eye out wit that,” one jeered.
“You will not touch me,” Elen said, barely above a frighted mutter. Challenging a foe with a blade in your imagination was one thing, but to actually do it, heart pounding, blood trembling, and death staring you in the face, was another.
Elen did not feel like having adventures anymore.
“I’ll take her,” one man said to the other and jumped forward. Over confident, he gave a dramatic swing, and Elen, without thinking, shoved him back with her hands. She suddenly screamed. The tip of a sword was jutting out of the man’s chest; Elen had pushed him into the other wildman’s blade.
“Why you-” The other brute hissed and ripped his sword out of his comrade without a second thought.
It was him and her now. Elen looked desperately behind her shoulder for the distant smoke she had put so much hope in.
The smoke was gone.
The wildman swung and Elen sprang back. He swung again and nicked her sword as she avoided the blow. He raised his blade a third time, then the ground began to tremble.
Both Elen and the wildman lowered their swords and looked about as the earth shook beneath their feet. The ground was trembling and there was a pounding sound steadily growing louder and louder.
“Wha…?” The wildman started. The noise came from behind the hill and as the sound grew the ground shook even more. Now the noise reached the crest of the slope. Elen instinctively dropped down and covered her head.
From the crest sprang horses, armored horses, driven by armored men with long swords. They spilled down the slope like a silver river and surged across the field. Trumpets rang and a banner bearing a white swan on blue cloth flew in the air. The organized cavalry raised their lances and gave cries of war as they raced to the aid of the distressed wains.
Elen looked up as they finished passing by. The wildman she had been contending with now laid on his back with a shining lance protruding from his stomach.
“Are you well, lady?”
Elen jumped when she heard the voice behind her. It came from the last horseman trotting down the hill. His armor, like the others, was strange yet finely crafted. And with his rich lance and white stallion he looked like something out of a fairytale. Now he stopped before Elen as she looked up at him in bafflement.
“You are not from Gondor,” She said.
“No, we are not,” The man laughed. “Our home is Dol Amroth, the swan city in the South, and Imrahil is our prince.”
“But…how…?” She started.
“All will be answered in good time. But first climb upon my horse, lady. Many deeds must be done before this battle is over.”
The soldiers of Dol Amroth swept through the wains like a storm. Although the wildmen doubled them in number, their strength meant nothing against the skilled and fully armored horsemen. Already the wildmen began to flee and the white stallions weaved through the wagons in hot pursuit. The barbarians who were such a fear to the wains were now being swept away like mere locus by a high wind. Swiftly and surely the wains were being purged of their threat.
Shastan and Ladril looked on as the shining knights cut down their foes and sent the throng of brutes scurrying.
“Can you believe this, Shastan?” Ladril said breathlessly. “This is…this is impossible!”
“I mean, what are the odds? And where did they all come from?”
“Look how they’re driving the fiends back! We’re actually winning!”
Straight ahead was a small space between two wagons, causing a horde of fleeing wildmen to bottleneck in their escape from the soldiers. In pressed numbers of twos and threes they were running, mad with fear and fury, straight towards Shastan and Ladril.
“Not again,” Ladril muttered.
“We’re better off than we were,” Shastan reasoned. “At least we now have a probability of seeing tomorrow.”
“…For some reason that doesn’t sound comforting.”
With that they charged into the wildmen, cutting off their escape.
The soldiers of Dol Amroth were welcomed with cheers from the women and children. Wildmen fled before the knights while their comrades were cut down like blades of grass. Soldiers pursued them and cut off their retreat, while others secured the wagons and tended the injured.
One knight saw a strange sight and quickly called his captain. “Sir! Come see! There remains a pack of wildmen!”
The Captain joined him and peered at the horde. It seemed they were battling against an unseen adversary.
“Summon Lothmir and Valorn. Fetch the horses also,” The Captain ordered.
“Look there!” The other pointed. “It is a man of Gondor that contends with them…a ranger of Ithilien, he appears to be.”
“One ranger against twenty wildmen?” The Captain snorted. “That is impossible.”
“Wait…another fights with him,” The soldier squinted at the distant figures. “They stand back to back. The ranger wields a sword but the other carries an odd staff…he looks like a…” Suddenly the soldier’s eyes grew large. “I think my eyes deceive me, sir.”
“They do not deceive you,” The Captain replied. “I see it also. It is a Gondorrim and a Southron who fight together.”
“Shastan, I can’t fight anymore.”
“Yes you can. Just one more wildman.”
“You said that three wildmen ago.”
The fiends were now surrounding them, forcing the two men to stand back to back. Six wildmen lay at their feet, but there were still many more to go and Ladril was so weary that his vision was dimming.
“Laaderil don’t give up! Fight!
“You have to.”
Shastan turned. “What?”
“Insult me. Make me angry.”
The Swerting thought a moment, then cried “You chew on gurgava nuts!“
Ladril blinked. “…That’s an insult?”
“It’s what men do for luck when they cannot get a girlfriend.”
The ranger’s eyes lit with rage and he bowled over his enemies. Sword whipping this way and that, he cried out �I–can–too!�
Shastan was hard pressed just to keep up as the ranger became a new terror to the wildmen. Mad with anger and exhaustion, he was hacking everyone in sight. His newfound fury was great but not enough, and the Swerting wondered what would happen once Ladril ran out of steam. Fortunately the answer came with four armored horsemen tearing into the horde. One charge through the pack sent the brutes scurrying with fear for the distant woods.
“After them!” The Captain ordered his three knights and they quickly obeyed. After they were gone the Captain dismounted and approached Ladril, who was still positively seething.
“Peace sir,” The Captain said. “There will be no more battle today.”
“Did we…win?” Ladril panted.
“Yes, we did.” The older man laughed. “A sound victory it was, and you fought with exceedingly great valor.”
“Who are you?” Ladril was far too tired for pleasantries.
“I am Lindor, Herald to Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth. My company rides a day ahead of the Prince’s army to inform Minas Tirith that Dol Amroth has heard their call for aid. We were preparing camp beyond that hill,” Lindor pointed to where Elen had seen the distant smoke. “But we heard a horn blast and knew it to be a horn of Gondor. We guessed it was a call of distress, and it seems we guessed right. Now, from whence had these wains come?”
Ladril moved to reply, but was interrupted by a man coming from behind.
“Captain Lindor! I have caught one of the enemy!”
Both Ladril and the Captain turned. To Ladril’s surprise the soldier was holding Shastan at sword point.
“I think it’s a Southron, sir. Most likely he was leading the wildmen’s forces. Shall I kill him now or would you like to interrogate him first?”
“Lieutenant Narien!” The Captain bellowed. “You will unhand that man this instant!”
Everyone jumped. Silence fell on the entire train at the Captain’s sudden roar. Lieutenant Narien rather reluctantly released his grip on the Swerting and slowly backed away. Shastan now found the Captain approaching him, with Ladril close behind.
“Can I assume you speak the Common Tongue?” The Captain spoke slow and clearly.
“You can,” Shastan delivered a courteous bow which caused the people watching to murmur with wonder.
“I am Shastan of Western Kisha’rut.”
“I saw you fight alongside this fellow,” He gestured to Ladril. “Your unique skills of combat are quite unparalleled.�
“Thank you, sir.”
“But sir,” A soldier said to the Captain. “Isn’t this Southron supposed to be fighting against the wains?”
“My people treat warfare with honor,” Shastan replied. “We believe anyone who willingly attacks women and children has no business living.”
“Indeed,” Lindor said, quite impressed.
At that moment a knight rode by bearing a lady before him. The lady saw Shastan and Ladril and quickly leapt off the horse and ran to them. Before the two men could blink they found themselves wrapped in a tight embrace.
“I though I’d never see you again!” Elen sobbed. “I was sure you two were dead!”
As Shastan and Ladril tried to pat Elen consolingly the Captain smiled. “…An acquaintance, I assume?”
Shastan gave a look which said �Yes, and only an acquaintance.�
Then a child from the crowd recognized Elen and cried “It’s her! She’s the one who blew the horn!”
“Are you?” The Captain asked the lady.
“Yes,” Elen said as she withdrew from the embrace. “But I couldn’t have done it if Shastan did not bear me into battle.”
“-And I could not have done that if the battle wasn’t started in the first place,” Shastan interjected before he could receive any praise.
“I see,” Lindor said. “Then who was it that rallied the wains together and started this whole affair?”
Shastan’s eyes shifted to Ladril, but the ranger said “It was really Balar who brought this about, sir.”
Suddenly a gruff voice rose from the crowd. “If you dare give me the credit, Ladril, then you shall receive bruises of a very permanent sort!”
The crowd withdrew around the crier of this declaration. It was an old, grizzly veteran with a bloody arm in a sling.
“Balar!” Ladril cried. “Are you all right?”
“I have seen worse days,” The old man said lightly, then he turned to the Captain. “This boy designed the whole scheme, Captain. From supplying the weaponry to arranging volleys to drawing off the enemy’s numbers. And considering the valuable roles these two have played,” He gestured to Shastan and Elen. “They were undoubtedly in close collaboration with him.�
The Captain turned to the three in wonder. “In all my days in this profession, I have never come across such a thing as this. I have not seen such intelligence-” He nodded to Ladril. “-such valor-” He nodded to Shastan. Then he nodded to Elen. �-And such cunning possessed by so young individuals. Your bold efforts have saved these wains and these people. They are in debt to the three of you.”
With that the Captain bowed and then, to the surprise of the two young men and lady, the crowed cheered. They clapped and hollered and while Shastan, Ladril, and Elen were
very embarrassed, they were also very touched. Despite all odds, doubts, and fears the day was won.
When the cheering died, Balar gave out an order. “Let us hold a feast tonight: a feast in honor of these three, our own brave lads, and the knights of Dol Amroth.”
“It will be an honor indeed,” The Captain said, and so he withdrew with a number of his men. Everyone else bustled about at the prospect of feasting that evening. Wagons were pulled about and already cooking gear was being fetched. Caught up in the new excitement, Elen also left to help. Ladril himself took about three steps before giving up and collapsed in the grass.
“The day isn’t even over yet,” Shastan speculated as he looked down at the ranger.
“I don’t care what time it is,” He replied. “I’m sure I won’t be able to lift another muscle ever again.”
“I can’t believe you’re so exhausted,” Shastan said briskly. “This is just another day for me.”
Ladril raised his head. “Really?”
“…No.” With that the Swerting collapsed into the grass next to the ranger and the two men fell promptly asleep.