The Black Orchid - Chapter VII. Ironspan's Demise
((Please note, that the chapters may contain graphic descriptions of violence and might come to offend some readers. The genre of this story is Dark Fantasy and hence darkly and in said atmosphere written.))
It is ever-being and forth-coming like the four winds,
and it even met the Alben-kind.
It's form lay not clear even to the Siblings Inásdhe,
for it's forms differed in any moment like the prismatic glinter
of a gem.
Sometimes it is the arrow of a foe that brings the finity.
Sometimes it is the kiss of a loved one that one receives after long endeavors.
And sometimes it is those who return and were forgotten.
- Apocrypha of the Maker, hidden chapter
Book of the Unending Circle
Sârth'Unen (Middle-Earth), Forochel, Stone-Gateway of the Ironspan, 4371. Part of the Infinity (Third Age 3018)
The attack began at afternoon.
From the backs of their horses, Nevyn'Iral and Minyelaírë send forth the Gauredain and the Orcs to the front. The grotesque creatures roamed forward over the thirty steps broad path, carried ladders and anchors on thick ropes that they intended to use in order to climb the high walls of the fortress. Drums were making an urging and mindless tact, trumpets rang up to get the host into movement.
The Albs and the barbarians of the Lossoth that had joined them under the chieftain Farron held themselves in the background. The two Nosdh'arôi wanted to see first what the Angmarim had to offer against the storm that was about to strike them.
Grunting and roaring were the Kraggash-orcs and the Gauredain marching right towards the gate. The weak spot in the tactic of the Albs. It was said that Ironspan was once a keep held by the dwarves and that the massive gate could only be opened from the inside. Minyelaírë and Nevyn'Iral had set all their hopes into Vir'agôn.
The mountain sides threw back the sound of the animalistic voices, the echo increased the confidential bawling for victory.
I hope that these distorted sounds might break the spirits of the defenders, thought Minyelaírë. The raving crowd bore so much confidence, so much will for victory that she could almost grasp it from the mere air.
"They are doing well", said Nevyn'Iral on her side. "And our assault is coming just to the right time."
Minyelaírë felt the same certainty as the attack formations and yet something remained still in her heart and she worried. Something what she could not quite name was spooking through her thinking, even now, as she observed how the Orcs laid dozens of ladders against the walls and balustrades and without further hesitation, began to climb up the not very stabile looking rungs; archers provided with constant salves a small amount of cover.
The second troop, made of barbarians began to build up the small catapults that the dwarves from the cold mountains had made for the Albs. They were to support the storm of soldiers with burning ammunition against the enemies on the walls. The entirely filled round vessels of leather were hurled through the air and splashed open as soon as they hit any resistance. Everything in the near was drowned in a stinking oil and set ablaze.
For Minyelaírë the screams of the dying ones sounded like an orchestra, the arrows cutting air, the trumpets and everything that issued a sound appeared to form a mighty and dark chorus.
"These imbeciles!", muttered Nevyn'Iral. "We have shown them a dozen times. But learned they have nothing." The first salves from the catapults flew too low so that the first row of orcs vanished in the burning flames. But neither the falling stones nor the hot dross coming from above was decreasing the ambition of those who followed the slain ones.
"Look at these creatures", he said enthusiastic to Minyelaírë. "Toborigash's soldiers are perfect for this task." He brought his horse to move. "I will ride to our eastern flank. The catapult companies need help or they burn us our own warriors."
The red haired Alb however followed the efforts of the Orcs and Gauredain, how they swung themselves over the balustrade and fought against the Angmarim. But the mortals defended the keep, that was risen so that only a handful of warriors could hold it, quite well.
The Nosdh'arôi let the orcs attack the walls until the sun began to lower itself on the horizon in order to weaken the defenders, but as the dark began to cover the sky, they let sound the trumpets for retreat. Horns signalized the creatures to let go off the balustrades. Obedient they followed the order.
Nevyn'Iral appeared again next to her and also Toborigash was marching up to them. "What is the meaning of this?", he growled. "My Orcs stood already on the walkways! The kettles with the hot dross are empty and they have no more stones to throw. We are so close!" Through his shouting he displayed his ugly rotting teeth.
"Close to what? What are we supposed to do with conquered walkways?" Nevyn'Iral interrupted him harsh.
But Toborigash did not budge. "There are only few men left and we are ..."
"I want to let them think they are save", Minyelaírë responded this time, who did not think about giving an Orc any right to complain or to mingle in their plans. "They shall think that we retreat, that they have won. We will wait a bit and then attack again with the same eagerness and together with the barbarians that they have not seen. Tell thy troops to remain at the ready and that it is a feint," she said to the Orc. "We do not really retreat."
Toborigash nodded and hurried back to his soldiers as quick as his armor was making it possible for him.
"We should not wait too long", Nevyn'Iral looked at the corpses and the destroyed ladders before the walls of the keep. "Otherwise the defenders will recover too well and Vir'agôn will run chance to be discovered."
"Thou hast heard what Toborigash's scum saw. They have hardly any warriors left, no more ammunition." She breathed in the disgusting smell of the battlefield: laving blood, open laying intestines, dust, the odor of the burning oil, mixed with fear, hatred and confidence. "Before the sun has returned to the sky we will ride into the keep as victors." Then she turned her own horse. "I ride to the Lossoth and explain them once more what they will have to do."
The cold wind flew into Cnuta's room and blew several candles out, robbed the expensive carpets on the walls all their color.
Quickly she closed the windows, that offered her a quick look down into the courtyard of Ironspan, where the man prepared themselves for a possible next assault from the orcs.
Orcs! The mistress of Ironspan was used to work together with these abhorred creatures but that they would be attacked by them, she would have never pictured. And not only Orcs had been assaulting their walls, she heard from the men. Gauredain, men and dwarves had been sighted too. Cnuta wondered what madness was going on down there.
For hours she had heard the sound of combat and battle, but now, that the night came over the land it had ceased. But there was no time to relax or to sleep. She had dispatched already a messenger into the lands to the east and to the main encampments, to the fallen city of Carn Dûm in order to inform her superiors of the attack.
"At least the reinforcements will be here shortly", she spoke out loudly into the empty room. The more shocked she was as the mistress heard a voice that answered her: "Thou shouldest mistrust thy messenger and his competencies", said the blackness softly to her and quenched every candle that the wind had not blown out.
An Alb! Cnuta laughed. "Do you try to scare me? That may work by children, but not by one who serves the Dark One."
"Thou deemest wrong. I do not try to scare thee."
By the sound of the voice in which were both a strange friendliness and a fine note of death to be perceived, the fear came up in Cnuta. Dread crawled into her, let her heart begin to race. Sweat emerged on her skin, ran her cold over her back, pearled down her forehead. Groaning her knees denied her service and she had to seek support on the table. Where is he? Quickly she sought for a torch, found it and lit it. The room was lightened immediately.
Next to the large cupboard stood an Alb, whose with rivets adorned armor appeared to absorb the light from the torch. As if the darkness did not want the being to be discovered.
"Thou knowst how to open the dwarven gate?" he asked.
Instead of answering him, Cnuta took the crossbow from the table and fired into his direction. The bolt shot from the weapon and had almost reached the Alb, there the dark figure rescued himself with an agile jump to the side. The bolt hit the stone wall and landed on the ground.
But the fear finally took it's suffocating fingers from her soul and from her heart. Good! Cnuta reloaded her weapon, made sure her sword was on her side and then turned about. She could not see him.
"It seems thou art as weak as that fool Khalomein", said the Alb from his hiding spot. The flame of the torch with which she began to search the room was flickering.
"Why are you here?" Cnuta stood wearily in the middle of the room. maybe plain in sight of the Alb, but from here she had the best possibility to evade a possible attack.
"I had the task to kill every lieutenant, every so called sorcerer of the Angmarim, to weaken the lines of Angmar, to cause havoc in ye own ranks", he spoke calm as warm rain as if he would be her best friend who told her a fairy tale. "Khalomein made the beginning, another one of ye was killed in Urugarth as I heard and thou hast been standing with one foot already in the finity. Thy death carried already my name, but then my superiors got the knowledge of a gate that could not be opened with levers. A gate made once by dwarves with a password to utter."
He suddenly appeared by the table, holding a piece of paper. He began to fold the parchment and then placed into one of the small leather bags that he wore on his belt. "During the time thou werest down in the courtyard, ordering the defence, I took the opportunity to seek through thy rooms. Didst thou know that secret passwords should not be titled with for what they are and laid so plainly?"
Cnuta repressed the curse that dared to come over her lips. How could she have been so foolish. On the other hand, she was never good with remembering the words to open the gate, that were to it hard to pronounce. And neither did she expect someone to attack them. Now she had to stop the Alb at all costs.
But that one had suddenly disappeared, the door to the hallway however was opened. You won't succeed! She ran after him and shot another bolt from her crossbow. In the light of the moon she saw the figure jump through one of the window and escaping her once again. The others will catch you. As soon as I give alarm and -
Cnuta hurried down the hallway - and felt first in her right then in her left foot painful stings, from her toes to her heel, followed by a burning pain and a metallic clinging.
She looked down: The Alb had placed, small, finger long iron triangles out of wires on the entire floor. The sharpened tips screwed themselves through the thin sole of her boots. Wherever she stepped, she stepped every time into more of them.
That ... Groaning she sat down by one of the windows and called for aid. As nothing moved or responded to her she tried to pull out the tips from her flesh - and could not feel her legs anymore!
The paralysis spread at a terrifying pace over her entire body, let her arms become useless and made her tongue, her lips and lower jaw completely numb.
As if she would be fainting, did Cnuta fall forward, without being able to help herself with her hands, and descended with her face right into the vicious metal triangles. Her limbs might have been paralyzed, but the pain she felt! Everywhere were the tips breaking through her clothes and through the flesh of her exposed face, the cheeks, the nose ...
Cnuta wanted to scream, but could only issue a faint whimpering.
The triangles were kicked away. A pair of black boots appeared infront of her right eye.
"Thou deemest thyself for so smart and cunning, to be able to trick us", said the Alb almost indulgent and fatherly reprehending. "And the great mistress of Ironspan runs into her own demise. Literally." He kneeled next to her, laid his head on the ground so that he could look at her eyes. "I have never seen before what happens when the tips enter the face of a victim. Most of them stepped, not laid into them", he said, his voice full of sadism.
"I will wait with thee, Cnuta, Mistress of the Ironspan and see thy death approaching slowly that carries my name: Vir'agôn!"
Cnuta wished for herself to faint. That would have been better as to see the Alb drawing a vicious knife. But that mercy was not granted.
Instead she felt pain over and over again that almost robbed her of her mind. The pain that issued from the blade cutting through skin, flesh and bone.
Nevyn'Iral ordered the second wave to attack. The crowd of the Orcs surged forward and formed a passage way. The barbarians came now forth, together with the dwarves. Especially the dwarves sung of victory and battle as they prepared the hooks on the end of strong ropes.
Stop the growling and fight, he thought impatiently. Ye voices are terrible but they do not kill foes. "Up to the front", he called.
Barbarians took the heavy looking anchors and weight them in their hands, then they hurled them with as much power as they could offer, let them fly through the night. In the meanwhile the dwarves took up the ropes.
Nevyn'Iral was pleased. The hooks were snagged on three dozen spots on the balustrade over the gate.
On his shouted order, the dwarves, orcs and barbarians began to pull on the ropes and chains of the hooks. The of flax woven wires snapped and the chains tensed up but nothing more happened.
"Drive them on!", Nevyn'Iral shouted again and moved his mount in between the lines of the soldiers. Orcish captains began to whip their soldiers. It must work. I do not want to wait any longer!
The links of the chains were now tensed to their final extend and the creatures moaned under the effort that was asked of them.
Nevyn'Iral then heard a faint crunching: The keep struggled desperately with the power of several hundred arms that drew with raw power on its facades. "Further!", he shouted excited. "Bring it down!"
A merlon surrendered under the powers. Hook and stones rushed down and killed an Orc and some of the last Gauredain. Other warriors were hit or buried beneath the heavy falling stones.
"Do not hesitate!", Nevyn'Iral ordered. "Hurl them up once more!"
The soldiers followed the order. A few moments later the hooks came flying again and took grasp of different spots.
They retreat, he thought grim. On the walkway they could see how the helmets of the Angmarim moved quickly to the sides or were leaving the wall entirely. Some took shelter on the corners. "The first victory is near! Pull! Pull, ye creatures!"
Then the balustrade too surrendered and fell down on the gateway. Dust blurred all vision. The ground shook under the immense impact and the howling of joy was indescribable loud.
"It would have been nice if it would have destroyed the gate", said Minyelaírë.
"It could have worked." Nevyn'Iral shrugged and looked at the rubble. "We need to get rid of the debris. It hinders our advancement." They rode to the front and gave the explicit orders to their thoughts.
But this time the murmuring became louder. The Orcs wanted to attack again and did not want to do any quarry work, that after their opinion was not worthy for a warrior. Even the whips of their captains could not quite erase all the complains. Stone for stone was removed far too slowly in order to re-establish the way towards the gate.
The Angmarim seemed to wait and remained behind their covers. Then the orcs were hit again by stones from above. The defenders had gotten themselves new ammunition.
"Continue! And be quicker!", called Minyelaírë out to the Orcs. First doubts began to raise up in her.
"I will show them with what consequences they have to expect if they refuse to the will of the Nosdh'arôi." Nevyn'Iral took the bow from his saddle-bag and placed a long, reinforced arrow unto the tendon; the fingers lay loose on the feathered end of the shaft.
As soon as several Orcs turned to take flight from both the hail of stones and the task, the bow was lifted. Three arrows left the tendon in rapid sequence and three targets were struck to the ground. The other creatures understood the deadly warning and returned to their work. No one dared to rebel against the Albs and even the captains together with Toborigash were remaining silent. Of fear.
Suddenly the gate was struck by a sudden jolt, the stone quivered.
Minyelaírë looked up and could not believe her eyes. Vir'agôn! He did it! Rumbling sounded up, squeaking and grinding filled the air and could not be outdone in volume by the voices of Orcs, barbarians and Dwarves.
The enormous doors of the gate moved very slowly. Rattling, resisting they swung back.
"Make ready!", shouted Nevyn'Iral in euphoria. "Take in formations!"
Marble was grinding on rock, the small gap became a wide opening that became larger and larger with every moment that passed. A dark figure ran out of the fortress and vanished beneath the walls into the shadows. Vir'agôn's task was completed.
"Enjoy this sight, Nevyn'Iral", whispered Minyelaírë to her brother. "A greater success no one will accomplish in the next parts of the Infinity."
"It is one great success of many to come, sister. We will be mentioned once again within the legends of our people and Man of Sârth'Unen will utter our names in fear." Nevyn'Iral's eyes were glowing. "We bring a new age." He filled his lungs with air and shouted: "Attack!"
Horns and trumpets rang up, the melodies were mingled into one another into a single loud sound. The Orcs, the barbarians, the dwarves and the remaining Gauredain roared up, raised their weapons into the air. As if being held by invisible strings they leaned forward, shields and swords, clubs and spears tightly grabbed. The tension that was building up between the soldiers was almost graspable.
With the first sound of the drums they fell into a swift trot, the heavy boots were causing a loud trampling, that became louder and louder, soon reminded of a thunderstorm roaring against the fortress of Ironspan.
On the gateway appeared the Angmarim. They threw themselves like mad against the storm, without consideration of their own lives. Forty against hundreds.
Minyelaírë could not but regard them with a splinter of respect for that, although she did not understand them. "It makes no sense to sacrifice themselves like this", she said to Nevyn'Iral. "They would be better off fleeing into their ..."
The gate began to close itself again!
"Attack!", shouted Nevyn'Iral. "Attack, ye abortions!" The orcs grunted and hurried to the front. "The dwarves shall hold the gate open! Take the hooks and chains! Throw ye worthless bodies between the gate-wings, ye hear?"
The first Orcs had reached the Angmarim - and died through precisely aimed strikes. The greed made the monstrosities careless, they let themselves be tricked by the small number of the defenders and did not count with the brutal power of the Angmarim's arms. Their swords destroyed shields and arms that held them, helmets with skulls, armors with flesh and bones beneath.
Even though Minyelaírë had not held it for possible: The first wave of Orcs had been crushed by the defenders. "Bring the message to the entire host: The gate is open. All divisions are to be expected at the battlefront", she called out to a messenger. "Our warriors too." Then she rushed together with Nevyn'Iral between the lines of Orcs and barbarians towards the gate.
While they came closer, the tough defenders began to fall one by one. The attackers were too many and the endurance of men knew its end. But their steadfastness had paid off. Many orcs were able to enter the fortress but the actual storm was almost stopped and the gate had almost closed itself again. Twenty barbarians and thirty dwarves pressed against the gate in desperation to hold it open. Their feet grinded over the ground.
Minyelaírë was surprised. Not even their power can stand against the old craft of the Underearthlings.
"Nevyn'Iral! Let us retreat for the moment. We will open the gate soon again, Vir'agôn will bring us the password." She dismounted and began to look over the gateway for survivors, in her right hand she held her spear: Her curiosity to witness how an Angmarim died through her doing began to increase.
Minyelaírë discovered a man in the armor of Angmar whose legs were crushed by a club or something similar. Thou wilst not be able to run. She readied the spear and began to sneak up on him from behind. Death should overcome him in surprise.
The man raised just his hand in order to protect his eyes from the rays of the rising sun. He appeared to watch in relief how the gate closed itself again.
Thou wilt have nothing of it. Minyelaírë thrust the slim tip of her weapon through the rings of his chainmail, saw, how the body of the man tensed up of pain and looked disbelieving on the tip that had penetrated his back and now had broken through his chest; his breath stopped for a moment.
Minyelaírë left the spear-blade for a moment in place, then drew it back and walked around the man, crouched infront of him. She looked into a weathered, crude face that was covered on cheeks and chin with a black beard. In his brown eyes lay pain, resistance and a glimpse of fear.
"Look at me", she said in albish. "Thy death is Minyelaírë. I take thy life, my weapon thy existence." She knew that he did not understand. Nevyn'Iral who had stepped behind the man translated it into the common tongue.
The man coughed dark blood, it ran over his lips and disappeared in his beard. "Out of my sight, malicious knife-ear! I want to see how the gate closes again", he demanded with a heavy voice.
Minyelaírë found it fascinating how the man denied to die. The wound I caused would have let faint most of the mortals. But instead the man tried even to scare her away with attempted strikes of his bloodied sword. He would have almost lost the grasp of it. His powers were ending.
"Away, or I cleave you in two, damned Elf!" he ranted on.
Minyelaírë smiled coldly. So weak in life, but strong in will. She raised the spear and began to weave the tip carefully between the rings of his armor. She wanted to see how he died. To see how a mortal died, that she killed for the cause of her people after so long time. The first of so many to come.
"Thou art mistaken. We are the Albs. We have come to erase thy kind for good", said Nevyn'Iral softly to torture the man with words.
"Never!", responded the Angmarim and appeared to be blessed with new powers. "You ..."
"No, for thy existence ends now and the gate will open for us, for we know the words of passage."
Minyelaírë intended to kill the man exactly now, while the last reserves of his powers and the rest of his life was running through his veins. The sharpened end of her weapon dove into the flesh of the Angmarim. The pain let him become silent.
With soft pressure she pressed the spear a second time through his body. Minyelaírë did it reverently, affectionately, full of rapture. Then she waited for his dying and observed the from death throes distorted face. She did not miss a single detail. I will make thee undying, mortal. At the end of battle I will immortalize thee in a painting. Blood for color there would be enough.
As Minyelaírë was certain that all life had gone from the last warden of the gateway, she stood up.