13 – Small light, then dark clouds
The next days at Tinnudir were flowing like honey. Slow and sweet.
Kor had reached deep into his music memory and taught Plusheila some more songs on the flute. They had an eager listener – Nirthathar, who shared a few of his melodies and happily learned some of theirs. The silent girl was doing great, obviously replacing what she was now missing elsewhere.
Apart from this, lot of time was spent at the pier with fishing rod. Mostly not very successfully. Neither of them had enough skill. But Tarnon was teasing Kor to a competition, so they both put all their effort in it. In the end, it was a draw – Tarnon had won regarding total count and Kor had won regarding bigger catches. The result decently contributed to the common dinners.
It seemed, that the robbers were already scattered and chasen away. Kor started planning to return back to Bree region. Also he yet owed wise Seregrían a report about frozen northlands. Tarnon was planning to go his own way back to Esteldín.
But every good time must end.
Kor and his maid-in-arms had already packed their few belongings. They were ready to tie them on Brownie and depart. Suddenly something started to happen. There was a fuss in the main camp in the ruins.
It wasn’t a loud disorder. But the typical ambient buzz of camp life changed.
“Are you sure?” they recognized Calenglad’s sharp, commanding voice. Its tone was echoing with worry.
Kor immediately walked to the center of the disturbance, seeking the tall dunedain’s stature. When approaching, he could hear nearly all the rest of the conversation.
„… maybe hundreds. Our people had to retreat to southwestern part, where they could defend themselves.“
Finally Kor spotted Calenglad, pale in the face and fists clenched. He was facing a dunedain scout.
„Iron Crown invaded Annuminas,“ replied Calenglad.
There was no need of more words.
Kor looked at Plusheila. She gave him a „what-can-we-do“ look.
Meanwhile Tarnon arrived too, silently observing and listening.
“I see you three are already departing. I cannot hold you. But the situation is serious,” said Calenglad.
Kor sadly smiled. “Of course we stay.” He told his loyal henchwoman to take their rucksacks back. Then he automatically started to think about the possibilities, with a wrinkle appearing on his forehead.
“We need most precise tidings. How many of us are there in the city? How many can come from King’s Crossing?“ Kor started to draw in the sand.
Calenglad interrupted him: “This will be better to decide at proper maps within the keep.”
At first they wanted to set everything quickly, to rescue the barricaded comrades in the city ruins. But with fluttering of grey winged crow came a message.
The hastily written parchment explained, that the temporary sanctuary of fellow group seems safe. The Angmarim set up large camps mainly in the lower parts of the city at the big buildings that used to be most important. So there was enough time to think about strategy.
Kor was no formal commander, but his opinion was considered gravely, and lot of ideas were accepted.
“They have terrifying predominance,” summarized Kor. “Our only way is flash surprise attacks, small commandos raids. To harass them. To not let them sleep. To keep our actual count secret to them. To spy on them. And when we find some important leader, assassinate him.”
The Rangers were mostly silent but nodding in agreement.
“Do you have some traps?” continued Kor. “Igniting arrows? Caltrops?”
Commandos war was Rangers’ speciality. But they had no big experience in traps and hesitantly told him.
“Nevermind. We should start preparations immediately. First I will find us some trees rich on resin.”
He looked in Calenglad’s eyes. He wasn’t sure what he saw in his look. So he shrugged and spoke again to justify his former words, if there was yet need to:
„You know the enemy longer and better than me… and what is at stake. From my short-time experience I can say only that we need to be rock solid. More ruthless than ‘em. We might fail and die. But whilst we do, we’ll be cutting, kicking and biting. Anything is allowed against such dark shadow.”
Finally a recognizable grimace on Calenglad’s face. A light, bitter smile.
“One hawk shoos many crows,” spoke Orchalwë.
For the rest of the day, the camp drowned in the mixed sounds of smithed metal and chopped wood.
The next morning they started before dawn. First attack was at eastern gate and simultaneously at the port. They have formed several three to four person commandos. Kor and Sheila were forming a trio with Orchalwë, Tarnon joined Tadan and Gurhebnir.
Everything went well. They caused a turmoil, killed about a dozen iron cro(w)nies and escaped on same boats they came on.
Whole action didn’t last more than half an hour, so another assault was planned for late afternoon.
Considering the Ranger ability to move in hiding, they were able to reach Annuminas unseen even in daylight. The ruined city borders also offered them many hiding points.
Calenglad knew his job well. They attacked from different directions this time, and in greater strength. Arrows found fifteen targets this time, and close combat gained them seven more notches. Two of those were done by Kor. Only one Ranger was slightly hurt. The angmarian tents in the areas on the edge of town were burned to the ground by fire arrows.
The Rangers troops split into half. One part was always patrolling, attacking, harassing the enemy. The other was guarding Tinnudir, resting and getting supplies. The next day they changed.
The servants of Iron crown tried to retaliate, but it is not easy to attack open, empty landscape. The Rangers disappeared after each raid, leaving none or very confusing trails behind.
After four days of this guerilla war, Ranger troops were able to reclaim the eastern part of the city – Minathranc, and the next day the port.
Iron crown warriors were furious and it was even worse for their fight concentration. Furthermore, the unexpected Ranger traps and hidden caltrops prevented the invaders to reclaim the lost areas as quickly as first intended.
And now, in the narrow places between the walls on ruined streets, the predominance of the enemy started to play gradually lesser role.
After two days, the Rangers could press on to the city. They crossed the water channel splitting the city into two and headed for another strong point, Gwaelband.
The enemy was prepared. So were the Rangers.
But the angmarians had a bad surprise.
Kor was on the front line, cutting his way through both reddish garbs and chain mail of the enemy. Four units were now attacking at once: Kor’s, Tarnon’s and other two Rangers’ commandos. They reached middle of a small square and the enemy seemed to be pushed back.
Suddenly loud thundering, like enormous drums hit their ears.
From behind the corner, a massive troll-like creature emerged. It was fat, angry and wielded boulder-sized maces in each hand.
“Gorthorog! Pull back!” shouted Tadan.
Kor’s memory was brough alive with the look on the abomination. He remembered trolls from southern mountains and how they nearly squashed him. It was a terrifying experience, he escaped He shuddered a bit. But then stood still.
If we pull back, we will have to retreat soon again. And then again. A small part of his mind was still persuading him to flee, but it was useless.
No. We resist! Kicking, cutting, biting!
The small, at first hidden thing inside him, finally woke up. It was slowly opening eyes already long time, but now, a strange, silvery light exploded within Kor and filled his limbs with mysterious strength and determination. The light was rather small, but big enough to fill his eyes with something new.
Kor reciprocated the evil look of the gorthorog and felt no more fear. Only anger and resolution.
We will chase away these evil shadows.
He throwed a quick glance on Plusheila. She looked back at him. Kor was suddenly different… Bigger? Older? Younger? She couldn’t tell. It was something unbreakable. But she understood.
Yes. We will save Rohan from here. We will START here.
“Arrow support! Kill the cronies!” shouted Kor and looked around for best spot to stand. Others, who already started retreating, stopped with astonishment. But then they pulled behind ruins and started to snipe on crossbow-armed enemies. Orchalwë and Torogethir returned to Kor’s side.
It is a living thing. It has flesh. It has veins and sinews to cut, was considering Kor, measuring the enemy.
In the meantime, the gorthorog approached and swinged the maces in front of his body, just to boast with his might. Kor stood and watched, evaluating every move of the enemy.
Urcarag rose up in his hand, pointing upwards and glittering.
His chant was surprising, even for him. But the enemies paused for an eye blink.
Then the huge troll replied with a terrible roar and backswinged for attack.
Two-foot iron ball hummed through the air, but Kortheod was already one step aside. He quickly cut askew on the near leg and rushed to side, before the gorthorog could swing back. Next horizontal attack was aimed on calf. By corner of the eye Kor spotted grey hood behind an angmarim crossbowman, who suddenly coughed up blood. Nice job, Tarnon.
He finished turning around and avoided another mace attack. The two supporting Rangers quickly copied his tactics. Only they were keeping a bit distance, so most of the damage was done by Kor.
The gorthorog stepped back and swinged in front of him, rather defensively. Like to chase away unpleasant hornets.
“Bad ‘uman, stings, hurts!”
This prey was trouble. But as he, or it, realized this, it was already too late.
Kor was surprised by himself. He moved like a lightning but with a feeling of easiness. He was sweating due to effort and strain, stretching his skills and might to the top, but it was somehow… natural.
He finished the double cut on the second leg, causing the monster a severe bleeding.
The gorthorog stumbled. It roared again with same intensity, but the sound was different. There was pain echoing in it. The troll made three thundering, limping steps back. He was chaotically swinging the maces around him, until he slipped on his own blood. He landed on his back. The following enormous thud caused to tremble everything around.
Kor jumped on his ugly belly and lifted his sword.
Sudden victorious yelling from all the Rangers governed the moment and the place. The remaining few angmarim ran away after the defeat of their most promising ally.
But it was a bitter victory.
Kor turned looked around to see many faces with mixed feelings. He immediately found the cause.
Plusheila was lying on the ground with a crossbow bolt in her belly.
(to be continued...)