Flotsam and Jetsam
At the fourth dawning in the strange village of the Lossoth, the King’s messengers gathered their gear and emerged from their icy hut. Saradoc shivered but happily strapped his new snowcircles to his bare feet. Hobbits were not really keen on footwear, but Sara was looking forward to moving across the top of the snow as smoothly as Galenion. He took a few tentative steps, pleased that his stiffness was due more to the cold than his healing shoulder. Indeed, he felt he could carry his own pack without complaint, for the Ranger’s attention and the days of rest had greatly improved the wolf bite.
Saradoc looked up, just in time to catch the tail end of a grimace passing across Galenion’s north-turned face. His taller companions exchanged looks, and Sara was sure he was not imagining silent communication passing between the Ranger and the elf. The hobbit, too, looked north and saw their guides approach the village center. Though Feredin was not coming, still the man that they had come to learn was chieftain would bid the group farewell. Behind Feredin, Sara saw some Snowmen new to his eyes… and also Ragda, the leader of the scouts who had first found them.
Feredin hailed the companions. “Well does the sun hide on this day, that her glare may not blind your eyes to the foe. These men, hunters all, shall guide you to the sea-monster’s skeleton. I hope you find there what you seek, and not the death that the faneffa deal indiscriminately. Akwaith has fought these creatures, and though none of us have been within sight of the great skeleton in many a long season, he shall lead you thither as safe as may be in these hard days.”
One of the new men, brandishing a bone spear, stepped forward and nodded to the companions. “This I shall do. And now we must leave, ere the day is spent in speeches. Come, into the wind!”
Before departing the Lossoth village, the Snowmen made sure everyone had what they needed. Celebaur and Saradoc already had snowcircles, and Galenion declined the offer, citing no need for the strange footwear. He did, however, ask for a spear. Feredin offered his own well-worn spear, wishing the elf good use of it. The group set out for what would be seven days of hard travel to the north and west.
After many days of hiking across the rolling, snow-covered terrain, Galenion spied something dark upon a snowdrift in the distance. He called a hold to their progress and told Akwaith that he could see something beyond the limits of their vision. He suggested a cautious approach. They proceeded onwards, but the hobbit tripped, landing with his hands deep in the snow before him. Celebaur reached down to help Sara back to his feet, and the hobbit, having felt something, turned to the Ranger and said, “There’s something down there that’s not snow.”
Celebaur brushed the snow back and discovered a dead faneffa. Galenion looked on, noting that it had been killed by a sword. The elf inspected the creature more closely. It appeared to be an Uruk-hai, only its skin was white, its hair pale blond, its eyes pink. It wore armor composed of snow-wolf skin and metal painted white. Under a flap of the armor, Galenion saw a lightning bolt painted with blood. He marveled at all this, for the Uruk-hai were bred by Saruman far to the south. The mention of Saruman piqued Sara’s interest, and he agreed that Pippin had never spoken of anything like this. Galenion’s comments drew Regda’s attention. He asked how the elf knew so much about the faneffa, when he had previously claimed not to know what they were. Galenion explained that he had encountered similar creatures in the south but never with this coloring.
While Galenion was inspecting the Uruk-hai, Celebaur moved away and pushed aside more snow, seeing if there was another nearby. Indeed, he found a second corpse. At the oath he released, Galenion looked up. Celebaur was holding an arrow, crafted in the manner of the Dúnedain.
“A Ranger, this far north?” Galenion asked, puzzled.
“I am a Ranger this far north,” Celebaur replied tellingly. When that comment sank in, Galenion jumped to his feet and rushed to the snowdrift he had first noticed. As he approached, he saw that it was an arm sticking out of the snow. Smaller than a man’s, it proved to belong to a dwarf. Pushing aside the snow, Galenion saw that it was the body of Floin, a dwarf who had traveled north in the column with them. Floin’s group had also included a Ranger and a Knight of Gondor. As Celebaur and Saradoc dug through the snow by the first drift, Galenion, under Regda’s watchful eye, looked through the snow near Floin.
Akwaith stepped up to the elf. “What will you gain by this?” the leader asked. Galenion replied that they deserved to be laid to rest. “The snow purifies us all. You must leave them,” the Snowman replied. Seeing the wisdom in the words, Galenion nodded. This displeased Celebaur, but since they probably could not dig in the frozen ground, and a pyre would alert enemies, he also nodded his consent to move on. Galenion pulled Floin’s necklace from around the dwarf’s neck and wrapped it several times around his own bracer, by which to remember the fallen warrior. Then Akwaith snapped his hand up in the air, drawing the attention of the Snowmen standing guard, and they continued on their way.
Soon the terrain changed, and Akwaith warned the King’s messengers that they would be passing now over the ice itself, buried under snow as it was. They should tread carefully, and if they heard a noise below them, they were to stop immediately and signal the others. Saradoc seemed rather nervous, and Galenion approached him with the elvish rope, suggesting that if it would make him feel better, they could tie together, in case the ice broke. Sara could see wisdom in this idea. “Just don’t tell Pippin,” he begged. Galenion played the rope out loosely between them so that they were not obviously strung together.
On they trekked towards the wreck. As the day grew later, Regda, who had been staying on Galenion’s side of the party, approached the elf. “What is that about?” he demanded, pointing at Galenion’s waist.
The elf glanced down, and seeing Galacharn glowing brightly, he immediately flicked his wrist on the rope to release Saradoc and himself from it so that they would be free to move independently. He hissed over to Sara and Celebaur, “They’re coming!” The Ranger immediately nocked two arrows. Sara drew his blade of Westernesse and readied a throwing knife.
Regda demanded, “Explain yourself.” Galenion told him that faneffa were near. He drew Galacharn, now a bright beacon. Regda swatted the elf’s hand down saying, “You will draw them to us with that,” but also snapping his fingers in the air to alert the Snowmen at the edge of their group. They all stopped. Galenion explained the faneffa were close, probably just over a rise. He stuck Galacharn in the ground before him and readied a spear. The Snowmen also readied their spears, forming a circle facing outwards.
The band was ready just in time because at that moment an uruk crested one of the hills nearby. Immediately, it fell back, an arrow in its eye. The next uruk met the same fate. However, the subsequent uruk-hai were given cover fire by some crouching down behind the hill launching crossbow bolts. The Snowmen closed ranks some, and Celebaur urged Saradoc to join him in the center, where they could provide their own cover fire for their companions. The battle raged on, and the fighting was intense. Crossbow bolts killed one Snowman early on. Some fought with spears; some launched their spears and then drew swords. Galenion pegged the first uruk to approach him with the chieftain’s spear and then drew blazing Galacharn. The uruk-hai attacked the elf with much anger. Celebaur placed his shots carefully, trying to pin down or hit the uruk archers, as well as hit the uruks attacking the Snowmen. Unfortunately, arrows tended to merely wound, not drop, the creatures.
Sara carefully chose his targets. One uruk went down with a knife to the eye. Another uruk, this one near Galenion, dropped with a knife in its throat, just above the neckpiece of its armor. A third uruk took a knife in the leg. Sara’s last knife hit an uruk in the arm, but it just pulled the weapon free, licked the blade, and fought on with it in its offhand. “Hey, that’s my knife!” Saradoc muttered. He switched the blade of Westernesse to his right hand and turned to see what he should do. Two more Snowmen had fallen to the uruk-hai, and the circle was broken. Uruk-hai poured in toward Celebaur, who switched bow for sword, raising the blade to his forehead in a salute before engaging the enemy.
Saradoc stayed behind the Ranger, harassing the uruks’ legs while keeping out of their reach. An uruk got past Celebaur and chopped down at Sara, but the hobbit found himself yanked out of the way and pushed down into the snow. When he looked up, he saw that Regda had engaged the uruk. A bolt hit Regda, but he fought on. Sara got to his feet and stabbed at the uruk around Regda’s legs. “Stay down!” the Snowman shouted, battling on. Sara crouched low and made himself as small a target as he could. He surveyed the battle, trying to see how he could make himself useful.
Another bolt hit Regda. Celebaur finished off the uruk-hai before him and ran to the hill to engage the archers. As he got to the top and saw the forces on the other side, he called for aid from Akwaith and another stout warrior, Dunwulf. The Snowmen began shifting their fights so that they could move toward the Ranger. Sara also carefully made his way in that direction when he saw an opening.
Galenion was beset on all sides by uruk-hai. It was a very difficult fight. He took the flat of a blade to his side with such force that he thought ribs probably cracked. But still he fought on valiantly, with war cries and oaths. As fast as uruks fell to Galacharn, others took their place. A blow was coming in right at him, but it fell to the side when a bone sword protruded from the creature’s throat. The uruk fell, and Galenion saw Regda had come to his aid. They battled on, flanking the uruk-hai between them. Galenion suffered another slash, as did Regda. Regda took a hit to the ribs with the edge of a sword and fell to his knees. Galenion kicked the uruk in front of him and stepped up to stab the uruk looming over the Snowman so Regda could regain his feet.
Still they fought on. A thrust took Regda in the right side of his chest, and he again fell, blood coming from his mouth. There were now just two uruks left near them. Galenion thrust his sword into his opponent at the same moment that the other uruk pulled his sword from Regda’s lung. The Snowman fell over, as did the uruk, and Galenion spun Galacharn around in time to parry a blow that would have killed Regda. The swords clanged against each other, the uruk-hai and the elf pushing at each other. The creature growled at Galenion, who angrily swore, “This day you shall breathe your last, and your mistress shall suffer the same soon.” They fought on in a flurry of parries, until Galenion lobbed off first one arm, then another, then slashed back around, taking off the uruk’s legs. It fell to the ground and Galenion stepped in, his sword poised. “When your mistress returns to the Shadow, give her my greetings,” he said, then slew the creature.
Saradoc crested the hill and took in the situation before him. Akwaith and Dunwulf, both bloodied, were fighting several uruk-hai. There were two on Celebaur, and another moving in. The Ranger had a cut high on one cheek, and when he spun, Sara could see a nasty bruise spreading across the other side of his face. On the ground near the hobbit was a still uruk-hai, slashed up, with a loaded crossbow near its out-flung hand. Sara grabbed it, bracing it on the ground, and, uncertain of his skill, tried his best to target the chest of the uruk farthest from the Ranger. The bolt hit the uruk in the face… the uruk closer to Celebaur. That foe fell, and the Ranger turned to Saradoc, nodding his head in thanks, before returning his attention fully to his remaining enemy.
Feeling more confident, Sara moved to grab from its sheath a knife on the body of the uruk-hai near him. He got a hand on the hilt, when suddenly a hand grabbed the front of his shirt, dragging him toward the uruk-hai’s face, where it stuck out its tongue and growled at him. Fortunately, the knife was in the hobbit’s hand. Sara brought it down into the uruk’s eye, and it released him, twitching. He then pulled the knife free and checked its balance, surveying the field before him. Akwaith and Dunwulf each had a foe, but two uruks were still on Celebaur once again. Saradoc threw the knife at one of Celebaur’s foes. The already wounded creature fell, but it clearly was not slain. Full of confidence and blade of Westernesse in hand, Sara headed over to finish it off. He was partway there when Celebaur fell backwards across his path. The Ranger had taken a vicious hit to the right leg, and it had buckled under him. He was holding himself off the ground with his right hand, while, with his left, he parried another blow from the uruk. The creature leaned in hard, growling. Sara swung up at its nearby face, slashing it across the eyes. It stumbled back, and Celebaur attempted to stand, but when his leg would not support his weight, he simply cast his sword aside, drew his bow, and shot the uruk point-blank. Then he nocked another arrow and placed a well-aimed shot in Dunwulf’s opponent. Akwaith dispatched his uruk as Sara moved over to the one that had his new knife embedded in it. He slew it with his blade and reclaimed the knife.
When Galenion took down his last uruk, the field of battle was quiet, since the fighting over the hillock had also ended. The elf crouched down beside Regda, whose breath was raspy as blood bubbled from his mouth. Galenion rolled him over to see if anything could be done. “Stop her,” the Snowman breathed, and then his eyes lost focus and he was no more for this world.
Galenion moved Regda’s sword back into his hand and positioned it along his chest, intoning, “The snow purifies us all.” Then he wiped Galacharn, checked the three other fallen Snowmen to confirm that they were dead, and went to see what was transpiring beyond the hillock.
When Sara slew the last uruk, he noticed something dark below the ice on the other side of the corpse. He waved over his shoulder for Celebaur, but then turned, remembering the Ranger was wounded. The hobbit rushed over to him and found Celebaur tying a cloth tightly around his leg. Seeing the worried look on Sara’s face, the Ranger reassured him, saying, “It looks like I’ll be needing another patch.” Sara smiled a little at that, then reported that there was something in the ice. Celebaur grabbed the end of a Lossoth spear and twisted it to free it from an uruk corpse. He used it to push himself to his feet and leaned on it as he carefully moved over to the spot Sara had indicated. Not much could be seen because of the snow, so he asked Saradoc to clear it away. A face stared up at Sara. The hobbit leapt backwards, bumping into Celebaur. Sara turned to apologize, but Celebaur dropped to his knees and pushed more snow away, staring in wonder at what he saw, a kinsman of old. Galenion came up to them and looked down, too. “He is a Dúnedain, but no blade slew him,” Celebaur said.
“Then we are near,” the elf agreed, suggesting that they continue on away from the carnage in what little light was left.
Before they departed the field of battle, though, the four fallen Snowmen were laid out and covered with snow, Akwaith saying some words over them and concluding with, “The snow purifies us all.”
As they marched on toward the ship, slower due to their wounds, Celebaur traveled in front with Akwaith to keep an eye on the tracks of the uruk-hai who had attacked them. They indicated that the creatures had come from the direction of the wreckage. When it grew dark, they called a halt. The injured were bandaged more thoroughly. Galenion wrapped his ribs, and Celebaur stitched both his leg and his breeches. After Galenion meditated for a little while, Celebaur asked him to stand watch the whole night so the injured men and Saradoc could rest. The elf readily agreed. Although the men were soon asleep, worn from the battle, Sara was a ball of energy. He had out his new knife and was slashing at the air with it. Then he had a thought, that it could make a good offhand weapon to complement his Dúnedain blade. He tentatively asked Galenion if the elf would spar with him. They moved away from the others so as not to disturb them, and Galenion drew his knife to go through some maneuvers with the hobbit. After pausing for a circuit of the camp, Galenion drew Galacharn so that Sara could get some practice against a larger weapon. Around midnight, Sara finally decided he was exhausted and collapsed in his bedroll. Galenion spent the night watching over his companions, but no howls sounded, nor did Galacharn indicate any dangers.