They arrived at the gates bruised and battered but determined yet. As they neared the Angmarrim Troll Pens, they could make out a figure waiting for them.
Cedmon stood there, arms crossed, leaning against a wall. The ground around him was littered with the bodies of fallen enemies, a stark contrast to his attitude of nonchalant impatience.
Envandame risked a look at Galtharian, who was once again staring in shock at his old friend. If friend he can truly be called, after all he has done.
But perhaps in aiding us here he may redeem himself.
“Keep your head down and follow me.” The Silvan gestured impatiently, and as they moved forward, he gave them a terse summary of the situation. “I caught wind of a pack of twenty Gundabad Orcs making the rounds down in the pens. Be swift and silent.”
Cedmon stayed several paces ahead as they passed through the gates, slipping quickly forward and gesturing instructions for them to follow.
He stopped and they regrouped for a moment.
“I last caught them on the north side, feasting with the wargs.” He scouted ahead again, signing back for them to move with caution.
Backs to the walls, they crept along as quietly as they could, wary of making any noise that could draw the enemy’s attention.
But their quiet wasn’t good enough.
A few jingles of chain armor.
A few missteps.
The Orcs heard them.
“I smell elf-scum!” A foul voice cried.
They hid as best they could, but all knew it would not be enough to save them. Even Cedmon, up ahead on a ledge out of reach of the orcs could not fell them all with his bow.
“Ye won’t make it.” Dalbran’s voice.
Envandame and the others turned to look at him.
He looked to Mallossel. “Get them out, find Amathlan. I’ll see ye on the other side.”
Then the Dwarf leapt out from cover before anyone could stop him, yelling at the top of his lungs.
“A mighty doom! Dalbran Gurnisson! Remember the name, wretches!” He plowed into the orcs, axes flashing. “Baruk Khazad! Khazad-ai-menu! For the Fallen! For the Burned!”
Cedmon sent a volley of arrows to aid Dalbran but then turned away.
Away from Dalbran.
Mallossel held Galtharian back. Dragged him along. “Stay with me! We must press this opportunity!”
Envandame froze. To leave a friend behind…
To go on and leave him to die…
To live on and lose a friend again...
But we must.
It is his choice.
He chose to save us.
It cannot be in vain.
Valar, protect him.
Don’t let him die in vain.
Don’t let him die.
Her feet moved almost of their own accord, following the others. Running silently while the foes that would have felled them all instead battled the Dwarven whirlwind.
They escaped through the north exit, through a short tunnel out of the hold.
They left Dalbran behind.
Her heart pounded in her ears.
As if from a great distance, they could still hear the echo of Dwarven battle songs and the ringing of clashing blades.
Galtharian’s face was covered in tears and shock.
Cedmon offered the young Wood Elf comfort with an uncharacteristic embrace.
The Daleswoman’s face was grim.
Mallossel’s was set, determined.
Ithilwe’s expression was blank.
Envandame closed her eyes, shutting them all out.
The wind and rain roared in her ears, shock and weather muting the voices of those around her.
We left him.
We must go forward.
But we left him.
Even if we succeed, how will we live with ourselves if he is not victorious?
Will we live?