The day of reckoning had finally come. The journey had been long. The blood of Westernesse had spilt the soil and sons were lost.
The lust for vengeance wrung Thorontir's heart as he led the force he had assembled. A vengeance forged in the blood of his kinsfolk and friends. He wore a second rayed star on his chest, unlike his own not burdened with the years of grime, but with the blood of a young man that lingered in his mind though it had long since been washed away.
A solemn oath had been sworn when it was retrieved, that it would not be lifted from his cloak until vengeance had been taken on his foe. It had been several moons ago when they learnt of their foe's lair but they were too few and their enemy too entrenched.
And so Thorontir mustered allies. He had spent many seasons wandering the mountains alone and seeking shelter with kinsfolk and elves only when the winters grew too harsh, his only company the great eagles and the beasts of the wild. It was with great reluctance he had taken the initiative to begin his investigation, his search, and gather others for the case.
Now he had risen to become a leader of men, guiding the strength of others. His little band had joined with many, both of his own kinsmen and now others that rallied together against this common foe. Today he was captain of this little host.
And a strange gathering they were.
From his own kin, a smattering of young but proven men denied the chance to join the hardened warriors of the Grey Company and in greater number grim-faced woman of elder years as capable as any man in hard times.
There beside him rode the elves, a colourful band of noble souls and defenders against the shadow honed by immortal years of experience. Each of them would count for many a foeman.
On foot in a staggered line wandered the Men of the Eglain, through trial and patience they had been made to agree the threat extended to them also. Hardened men with gray in their beards and giddy boys hefting broad-arched crossbows with power unlike they had ever witnessed, crafted for them by a Dalish toy-maker.
A dwarf by the name of Belodin had been met by Celonlinn, a noble dwarf whom had sworn to us his assistance in our war. But they would do battle without them this day, for no word had arrived.
And at his front, of course, his steadfast companions. Ceregadan, level-headed and silent, his vision unclouded.
Arostir, his eyes glad at the promise of battle, Silehenya longed for vengeance.
Garram the dwarf, loyal and resolute, determined to see this war through to the last.
Celonlinn, with a smile on her lips and unafraid, she held no fear in her heart for what awaited ahead.
Ulfey, with sorrow in her heart for the death that would follow, she walked with them ready to give herself into the battle for life as those in the front would battle for death.
They did not approach unseen. Goblin kind scurried over the cliffs and the hills, met with the bite of arrows and bolts. It was a waste of arrows but Thorontir did not stop them. The Eglain whooped in anger and glee as the goblins fell, but many more escaped to give word of their every move. Most would miss but those few that do brought cheers. They needed every shred of confidence, so he allowed it.
The captain and his kinsfolk took the front, forming lines of shields and spears and swords. The toughest of the Eglain added their numbers, with picks and axes. The elves joined beside the Dúnedain, their fair arms glittered beside grim swords and rugged axes.
A plan had been formed from their costly scouting attempts on the stronghold ahead. It was an ancient castle which had eroded with age and pockmarked with gaps but its walls held and it would withstand a frontal assault.
Weapons were forged there with iron drawn from a mine dug by slaves, among these weapons were queer thunder wands that spat fire and smoke, launching leaden balls with ferocious force. Thorontir and his band had encountered this weapon before and studied it, they knew it was fed by a sorcerous black powder that reacted with rage and thunder to flame. But rendered wet it would be useless.
And so it was kept far from the cooking fires of the castle and in an alcove among the cliffs above, far out of reach from clumsy hands or accident. But in its placement there was a glaring weakness, if the position were seized the stores of the powder could be unleashed from above.
"Fools!" A young Dúnadan remarked, but Thorontir disagreed. It was a fatal flaw, indeed. But to keep it in the castle, among the hands of orc who burn and touch all they touch? Below in the mines, among the dwarves where a single candle could spark a catastrophic rebellion.
One party would strike with speed and stealth and claim the black powder from the enemy.
A dwarven caravan had been struck along the road and at great cost they had been taken alive, the tireless dwarves pressed into servitude, but awaiting only the first opportunity for revenge. "My people will fight," Garram reaffirmed, and they knew it to be true.
Another party would lead an assault into the mines and set free the slaves to swell our numbers.
Captain Thorontir led his force forward, marching as one man.
The battle lines awaited them, several ranks deep. Orcs, men, and the twisted half-breeds in the fore. Their armaments were crude but uniform, their faces were hard and patient, carried by the one mind and one will that united them beyond question.
Neither side stirred. The free people held the high ground, they were not keen to lose it. The hesitation cost them dearly. Long shafts of iron appeared above the cracked battlements of the old castle. The orc kind that wielded them vanished behind a sheet of lightning and smoke.
Men screamed, thunder cracked, shields shattered, flesh was rent.
Thorontir rose again in a stagger, he had escaped the thunder's fury. Those around him were not so fortunate. Many collapsed screaming and groaning, groping upon the leaden balls as hot coals embedded into their flesh. The shield of the elf-lord beside him, Finnehas, had been torn open and blood seeped from his side. His stance was bent, but not broken.
Only now they charged. The laughter rattled his heart deeper than did the thunder, their foe laughed at their agony, at the might of their master's sorcery, and at the doom that awaited all who opposed them. Thorontir sensed the stench of fear in the lines around him. It filled him with a white-hot fury, blood of Westernesse again stained the star on his breast.
"Hold!" He cried, raised his shield and banged his sword. "Hold them, men of the north! Hold! Hold!" Others cried with him; in agony; in defiance; in anger!
It was their turn. Weapons of Dalescraft held by Men of the Eglain hurled a deadly volley of iron-tipped bolts and the first fell, trampled down by the eagerness of those behind them. It changed little.
Their lines buckled deeper, the deep holes in their ranks made by the thunderstaves widened, cracked, and then were filled again by the furious defiance of the attackers. Thorontir's sword kissed orc flesh, split in twain the foul visage of the half-breeds, tasted the flesh of fellow Men on the other side of his lines.
His guard rose to parry an axe and a spear lunged from the second lines and pierced his gut. Ceregadan made it that his stumble would not become a fall, he was not dragged into the hands of the enemy. The captain drew back and surveyed the battle.
They were too many, too fierce in their defense. Everywhere their ranks were collapsing and frantically filled with others. The wounded tore themselves from the healers to rejoin the battle as friends fell, as the lines threatened to break. Somewhere in the midst he saw Ulfey weep bitterly. His own tears would have to wait.
"The left flank!" Arostir screamed somewhere amidst the roar of the battle and was gone into a sea of goblin kind, Silherenya reaped goblins as a scythe did grain, and then he was gone into their midst. Their advance halted, but Thorontir did not expect to ever see his hotheaded friend again.
The deep note of a bold horn bellowed at their rear. More of them, Thorontir thought grimly, his face contorted in fury as he whirled in the rear of the ranks to face their new foe. It would be the end of them, they could no longer hold. But he would claim every life he could - save every life that he could.
BARUK KHAZÂD! KHAZÂD AI-MÊNU!
The dwarves had come, at their front, the great grey beard of Belodin!
Their new allies descended upon the ranks of the enemy as a landslide, accomplishing the impossible in driving them backwards, refreshing both the shattered ranks and the sundered hearts. Their roars droned on, the same battle cry. Thorontir would have joined them had he the voice for it still.
They held the line. But it could not continue for much longer. They had been bought time, nothing more. The volume of the roars faded, the acceleration of the dwarven wedge halted. Sons of Durin fell as the others did, joining their bodies and their lives into the bitter attrition Thorontir knew they would not win. Man, elf, dwarf bled together.
"Hold! A little longer! Hold!"
It was all that they needed. Surging from the mines running with black blood the party of rescuers reemerged and not alone. Though worn ragged and fed poorly the prisoners fell first upon the battle lines from the flank, armed with stolen weapons, hammers, and picks, their fury burned hot enough that the limitation of their numbers and strength seized to matter. The battle turned, the ranks were broken from the inside. Garram rushed at their front, pausing only to blow the horn. It was time for the black powder to be lit.
Yet no answer came. No thunder rained from the cliffs. The elves had been discovered and pressed by the goblins guarding the stores of the infernal powder. A charge was led up the cliffs, driven with the promise of victory Garram and his elven companions drove through the opposition and reinforced their allies. The goblins were driven from the cliffs, whether chased down the slopes or hurled from the edges. Broken bodies littered the bottom.
Thorontir ignored the pain searing through his midsection where the spear had struck him and lunged himself into the front again, leading the renewed charge. "Now is the time! Strike, warriors of the north! The day shall be ours!"
It was madness. Those that remained fit for fight were too few but they pressed them backwards, on till their backs were upon the withered castle walls.
Ancient, stacked stones that had been wrought in defense of the Men of the fallen kingdom. Now these stacked stones fell, taking vengeance upon the enemy that had perverted their purpose.
The blasts were deafening. Set aflame and tipped into the castle below the great black barrels exploded with devastating force. Those caught within perished in flames and the very walls collapsed upon them. The gates crashed outwards and swallowed the rear of the battle lines, debris rained out over them like arrows and spears. They shattered with a tremendous final blow, by the work of their own sorcery at the rear and by the courage of the free people at the front.
There were no cries of triumph, no sighs of relief. Only fury and chaos. Thorontir led his men as discipline and unity collapsed in a moment of anger as they descended on those still fighting, those that rushed to flee, they who still had the sense to regroup. In those haunted, bloody moments the captain forgot mercy.
"Halt!" Boomed a voice, a single command that was heard by every ear and pierced every heart.
They did so, every one of them. In their bloody fury the Men stayed their hands, the elves turned their eyes toward the voice even they could not deny, the indomitable dwarves were spellbound.
Sharkey, the Old Man, had appeared.
Immensely tall yet bent now over an oaken staff stood a figure once noble, his long face held the wisdom of the ages but now the shadow of defeat; eyes deep and dark burned only with fury and madness, his flowing white hair and beard was scraggly, tousled with age that did not befit him.
He was dressed in white robes that had greyed and withered from hardship and neglect, a cloak draped around his shoulders that might have held all the colours of Arda as it shifted on his quivering shoulders but were too murky with soot.
"You fools!" He boomed, fingers twisted and writhed as snakes into the gnarled surface of the oaken staff unworthy of him. "You destroyed it! You destroyed it, all that I have built. You destroyed it!" The malice and hatred seeped from his lips, and was felt keenly by all who were made to hear him without protest or interruption.
Sharkey spoke again. "This realm was to be mine. I would have forged here a force that could contend with the shadow, under my lordship it could withstand the coming tides! Do you believe that you have won for yourselves peace? That this battle shall secure the north?"
Thorontir mustered himself to speech. Somewhere in the midst of the battle he had fallen to the ground again, unable to rise. "Your reign here will never be! Surrender now, there is no more to be had! No more death! We will show you mercy." His tongue felt leaden at the word, that virtue he held high felt disgusting in his mouth as he watched his hated foe.
"Mercy?!" Boomed Sharkey, his voice echoed higher than the thunder, the butt of his staff slammed down upon the broken stumps of the battlements he stood upon. Debris tumbled down around his feet. "There will be no mercy! The Eye is upon you! By my rule, the north could have been spared! You have won nothing this day! The shadow will come." He spat, his voice boomed higher but its presence flickered. For a moment he sputtered, fury muddled his mighty tongue. "Mercy?! I will continue my work! And you will perish!"
Scattered voice rose as the spell waned, but soon silence was restored.
"All of you! All of you shall perish, whether it is by my hand or that of Sauron!" Sharkey hissed and hunched forward on his staff, his hands trembled as they seized tight. He recomposed himself, then spoke again. This time it was low, but the echo carried far. "I will leave this place now. And none shall rise to stop me. No sword shall sing! No arrow shall whistle!"
And so he did. With a cold, screaming fury Thorontir watched him as he did. He could not will his hand to reach for his sword. The old man departed into the hills with what little remained hale of his once proud force.
No feet obeyed the call for pursuit. No weapon stirred in anger. They could but watch.
Yet he knew that they had truly won. It were not the last sorrow the white one would cause. But Sharkey's bid for the north was ended. He had come a broken man, but not without a vision and a remnant of his former strength. Even this was shattered now.
A petty criminal only remained.
Minutes later Thorontir's will was his own again. There were little time to speak. His wounds were tended to, the injured of both their own and the Men of the enemy were cared for. The black bloods received no mercy.
The shining rayed star on his chest was wiped of blood truly now. His oath fulfilled, vengeance claimed. He parted with it gladly.
The cheers and boasts that followed were muted and were bitter to his ears, no less genuine. Today the north had come together.
The little war was over.
The Dúnedain, Men of the Eglain, Elves of the Golden Woods, Dwarves of Erebor together marched to face the enemy known as Sharkey.
The Little Battle of the Five Armies concluded the War in the North.
So shall it be told by Captain Thorontir, whom will never forget this day, nor all those whom fought, bled, and died beside him. So shall it be remembered.
Never again shall the North be divided.
(( This turned out much longer in the writing than I had expected. Thank you, anyone who reads this far, and I would doubly like to thank the amazing roleplayers that took part in this event and the storyline in which this culminated. It has been a privilege to see so many take part in this story, and I hope to enjoy many more on Laurelin. Thank you. ))