A Sword in the Dark
The Ranger Celebaur, known as Patch-Cloak to some, traveled the woods around Lake Evendim to learn more of the increased orc activity. As evening drew on, he came across a smoldering house in the woods. Orc prints crisscrossed the area around the homestead, and the scattered splashes of human blood seemed fairly recent. Although the simple home had been burnt, he found no signs of looting. There were, however, indications that the inhabitants had been dragged off by orcs. Celebaur noticed a solitary doll cast aside in the corner. With a grim look, the Ranger pursued the tracks north.
Meanwhile, coming from the west, Galenion heard movement through the forest and investigated. Getting to a high point, he surveyed the area and judged that a large band of orcs would be crossing his intended path. He moved into position to observe but first concealed the palantír he bore in the woods so that it would not fall into the wrong hands.
Celebaur drew closer to the orcs and saw that there were about a score and a half and that they had at least a couple captives towards the middle of the band. He started to pepper the back of the column with arrows, moving as he did so through the trees and evening fog so that the orcs could not tell where he was. Galenion, noticing a disruption in the orc column—as those in front turned to find out why orcs in the back were shouting—took advantage of the situation. He drew his sword and charged down the hill at the front of the force. Seeing a light on the hill and hearing an elvish war cry, Celebaur found a position near the clearing where he had seen the captives and switched to laying cover fire. Some orcs fled the arrows; some fled the glowing sword. Galenion cut a swath through them as he headed toward the center. From where he was hidden, Celebaur saw a senseless man and a little girl across the clearing. However, as he moved around to get in a few more shots, he realized that a woman and a young boy were huddled at the base of a tree right near him, on his side of the clearing.
Celebaur threw back his hood and circled the tree, telling the woman to rise and secure her family. Many orcs had fled; there were few in the immediate area, for an orc captain was organizing and encouraging a small group to charge at Galenion. Celebaur drew his sword and scooped up the little boy as the woman rose. An orc saw this happening and broke ranks to come charging at them. Celebaur stepped between the woman and the orc, keeping the arm with the boy in it behind him. He parried desperately against the orc’s attacks, urging the woman to cross the clearing to her husband. She ran that way, and on a particularly forceful parry that pushed Celebaur back, the Ranger moved with the blow to lower the boy to the ground. With both arms now free, he went on the offensive, chopping at the orc, shouting to the woman to get her family hidden in the woods.
Further up the hill, Galenion now had four orcs on him with the orc captain watching and encouraging them. Celebaur was forcing his orc towards that battle with each blow. When the orc captain saw this and how so many orcs had fled or fallen to Galenion’s blade and Celebaur’s arrows, he himself ran. An orc facing Galenion took exception to that, screaming with anger at his captain; the elf took advantage of the distraction to run him through. With sweeps of bright Galacharn, Galenion knocked back the swords of the orcs around him. He got in a thrust at one of them, reducing his opponents to two, and then again so that only one orc stood before him. Celebaur batted his orc’s sword aside and then swept his blade around to decapitate him. The corpse crashed into Galenion’s last orc, who was quickly spitted by the elf. That body hit the ground, and Galenion and Celebaur looked at each other over it. “I will see to them,” Celebaur said of the family. “Go!” Galenion took off after the orc captain.
Celebaur returned to the woman at the edge of the clearing. Her daughter had run off into the woods at her urging, but she had been unable to rouse her husband. Celebaur moved them to a spot of concealment and then headed off to locate the girl, who the mother had told him was named Maizy. He followed her movements through the woods, staying on the alert because there might still be orcs about. Then he heard a scream ahead and took off at a run, drawing his sword. Such was his speed that he was unable to stop in time when the ground dropped away under him. He managed to catch onto a tree at the edge with his left arm and dangled precariously over the edge. Below him, Maizy clutched tightly to a small tree on the steep slope. Celebaur swung his sword up onto the level ground and carefully removed his bow and pack. He called out to Maizy by name, telling her he was there to take her back to her family, to her mother and father and brother. She was a bit nervous at first, but when he told her he would help her father get better, she calmed down some. He carefully climbed lower down the moist slope so that she could transfer from the sapling to his neck. She clamped on very tightly, so much so that when Celebaur slipped some and then caught a hold, he had to ask her to loosen up so he could breathe. Very slowly and very deliberately, he climbed back up the incline. When they were near the edge, he encouraged Maizy to climb off him. She did so but got in a solid, albeit accidental, kick to his head, and he had to scramble to keep his hold. Finally, though, they both made solid ground again. Celebaur scooped up his gear and the girl and returned to the family.
Meanwhile, Galenion chased down the orc captain. When he got close enough, he launched himself in a tackle at his quarry. The orc turned it aside, so that Galenion fell past him, but the elf rolled lightly to his feet into a position blocking the orc’s way. Galenion drew Galacharn and held the glowing sword in front of him. “You may not know Burner,” he said to the orc, “but Burner knows you.” The orc growled. Galenion demanded to know what different orc tribes were doing together now that Mordor was defeated, for he had seen at least three different tribal markings in that band, one of which he remembered from the fighting east of Mirkwood during the War of the Ring. The orc growled back that they did not serve Mordor. Galenion learned that the orcs served a “she” but not much beyond that. They scuffled, and the elf sliced off the orc’s right arm and held him at swordpoint. However, to the demand to name his mistress, the orc simply replied, “All in these lands will soon know her name, but you shall not learn it from me!” He took off running, and Galenion let him go.
Stopping only to pick up the palantír on his way back to the clearing, Galenion arrived to find the space empty. He looked around and found some sign of where Celebaur had taken the family. Galenion followed the tracks carefully. Even though his sword was no longer glowing, still he wished to be cautious. When he found the family, Celebaur was bandaging their injuries, but the father, Bill, was still unconscious from a solid blow to the temple. Rising to face Galenion, Celebaur greeted him and said it was good to see him again, then gestured for him to take a look at Bill. Galenion did what he could for the man while his wife, Beth, sat by his side holding his hand. The little boy stared in wonder at the elf. Meanwhile, Celebaur set about constructing a travois to transport Bill, offering to Maizy that she could help if she liked. She seized upon the distraction and gathered the materials he needed alongside him. Galenion gave the man some miruvor, which roused him a little. To the boy, young Sid, he handed a piece of lembas bread. Galenion and Celebaur discussed their options for sheltering in a cave or a dwelling. Celebaur could guide them toward either, and Galenion suggested a house for company and security, as well as because he sensed rain on the way.
Celebaur led them to another homestead and, with Maizy still riding on his back, knocked on the door with Beth alongside him. It opened a crack, and they could see lantern light. Celebaur gave a concise summary of what they wanted: shelter for a family suffering after an orc attack. Behind the man, they heard a woman urge him to open their home to the needy. And so they entered the home of Ted and Margery. While the women took care of the children and Bill, Celebaur and Galenion had a talk with Ted to tell him what had occurred and to advise him that if he or Margery had family in one of the towns he should consider taking himself and his pregnant wife there for a while. They asked if he had any weapons, and he hefted his wood axe. It looked sturdy enough to take down an orc, though they hoped it would not come to that. Celebaur and Galenion kept watch throughout the night, but fortunately no disturbances came their way.
In the morning, Bill was doing a lot better, and Galenion and Celebaur questioned him and Beth about the attack. The orcs had not looted their home nor even intentionally burned it. It had caught fire during the scuffle, which is when Bill had been injured trying to protect the family. Galenion asked them about their heritage; the husband was from Buckland, and the wife’s people were from Bree. This did not seem to provide the answers the elf was hoping for. Maizy’s family and the young couple who had sheltered them decided they would travel together to nearby Hilldowns, there to stay with Ted’s sister. It was located in the direction of Annúminas, where Galenion was bound . The elf told Celebaur that he was bearing an artifact of the House of Elendil to present to the King, and Celebaur informed him that the King was a week or two away probably. They accompanied the families to Hilldowns to ensure their safe arrival. Before they parted ways, Celebaur gave them some money to get themselves real weapons, better than just a wood axe.
With the folk settled, Celebaur and Galenion ran off into the Evendim Hills to return to the site where Galenion had let the injured orc captain go. They hoped to find his trail despite the passage of a day and the overnight rain. It took some careful searching, but they picked it up and followed him for a few days, traveling all the while closer and closer to Annúminas. A couple days from the city, they came across the orc’s corpse; he had not made it to his destination. From what they had so far observed, they concluded he had likely been heading to the ruins, which Celebaur already suspected to be a center of orc activity.
“The King is days or even a week away?” Galenion asked.
“Yes,” Celebaur replied.
“Then it seems to me we have some time,” Galenion smiled. The two headed off towards the ruins….