Rangers of the North

S02E20 - Northward Bound

Wherein our heroes move towards Angmar and is set upon by marauding Orcs

Eregion, spring T.A. 3012. The Huorn has the advantage. Swords and arrows cannot harm it, nor Jack’s futile martial attacks. Beoraborn appears from foraging, quickly determines what is transpiring, and with a roar hurls a giant bee hive into the canopy. Hunter and Eadyth share a glance, and Eadyth hurls her oilskin after the hive. Hunter expertly pierces it with an arrow, and then kicks up the logs from the fire, sending them flying into the canopy. The beeswax and oil is enough to blaze mightily up, setting the monster afire. Jack and Salabon are freed, and the Companions retreat from the dying Huorn.
Gandalf sheaths his sword, and smiles cunningly. He approaches the exhausted adventurers, who are busy helping each other up and checking the damages. “I see I was not wrong in believing in you,” he tells Hunter. “I have faith in your quest, and may others,” he gestures ambiguously, “too, have the same.” Gandalf stoops to pick up a burning branch, considers it, and throws it into the blaze. “Friends, I believe we’d be well advised to make our respite elsewhere. This place is tainted by darkness.”

The Companions ride on. Outside Rivendell Gandalf bids them goodbye and good luck. “May your Quest be a successful one,” he says. “There is much hanging in the balance.” He suddenly looks stern; “Should you fail, there is no telling the consequences.” Then his scowl turns into a knowing grin. “Though I am inclined to suggest that fail you will not.” Feredir has no way of knowing, but he believes that Gandalf’s words carry more than mere hope. Some part of him accepts Gandalf’s prediction as true.

Ever on, they fare, through the vales and through the forests, across the rivers and around craggy mountain peaks. Salabon cries out, pointing to the east above the Misty Mountains, having espied great eagles, he says. Whatever he has seen is lost in clouds, but Jack, calm and expressionless, only nods discretely. Hunter feels his heart lift: They are not alone.

They skirt the Eastwood and enter the Cold Fells. They have held a decent pace, but never forced their mounts, nor themselves, but now they grow increasingly uneasy. The Cold Fells is a dark place, there could be marauding Orcs from Gundabad afoot.

And indeed, it is in one of the secluded, flat valleys between the Fells and the Misty Mountains, that they see afar a great band of Orcs bearing down upon a herd of great deer. They immediately determine the danger, and begin a long evasive maneuver, hoping to remain unseen altogether. But that hope is in vain: They are spotted, and a grisly Orc screeches out alarm. They ride on, in a wide arch away from the Orcs, towards the pass out of the valley, but they see that it will be a close call. They press their horses all they can, and the Warg Riders close on them, but they slip through the pass! WIth the Orcs hot on their heels they begin a long escape through unfamiliar terrain – rocky, grim vales where the sun barely shines, the blessed sky-vessel at any rate obscured from them beyond a thick layer of clouds, negating the Orcs’ disadvantage in day time. The gain ground! But just as they begin to have their confidence raised, another group of Orcs emerge from a second pass, mere yards from having cut them off! On they ride, on and on, until they can feel their mounts beginning to tire. Feredir grits his teeth. “Herbs! My closest and most trusted friend!” he cries. “You must finish this Quest. It is down to you now!” Salabon, shocked, is about to protest, but must scrabble to not lose his reins and at the same time catch Hunter’s dragon-spear, tossed towards him. He only has enough time to realise that Hunter has abruptly stopped, turned about and raised his sword, Grey Cloak snarling at his horse’s flank. He wants to stop. Every fiber of his being wants to stop. But instead he yells out, urging on the rest of the Companions, still ahead of them and oblivious to Hunter’s actions.

Hunter waits until the Orcs are close enough to focus only on him, and his friends disappeared around the bend. He cries out in taunt towards the Orcs, making the foremost halt in their surprise, almost causing them to be knocked over by their numbers pressing on from behind. They recover in time to see the damned bastard slip away down a crevasse, and drive their grotesque riding-beasts after him, howling and gnashing their teeth.

Hunter flies! His trusted mount races along the narrow corridors of stone and gravel, and Hunter prays that his horse not slip or drop a shoe. Then he will surely be done for. The slavering hordes fall a little behind again, and he slows to let them catch. He does not want them to lose him and backtrack to the previous pass, following the others! Again he stops and taunts them, again they almost falter, and he notices that they snap and snarl at each other: These are two different clans, not one and the same! He snaps his reins, and is off again. This time he notices that there are two parallell vales randomly intersecting, and risks all in a gambit: He shouts for Grey Cloak to press on, but drives his mount into the parallell pass, and drives it up onto the banks above the pass. Here, he sees that it is a labyrinth of interconnecting paths, and that choosing the right path will let him control the egress. He holds back, lets the Orcs pass, and rides up behind them. He rides up next to the last Orc, who rides on oblivious for a little while before finding first surprise in the fact that their quarry is next to him, and then to the fact of being dead. Feredir loses no time in snatching up the Orc’s vicious bow, and takes off down a side path again. At the next intersection, he shoots one of the foremost Orcs’s Dire Wolf, causing a great commotion among the monsters. The Orc whose mount fell snatches the arrow from the dead Warg, and screams in pure hatred towards others of the Orcs. A great argument erupts, which soon leads to all-out mêlée as the Orcs fall on each other. Feredir uses the tumults to slip away, and though some of the Orcs cry out in alarm, he and Grey Cloak are soon beyond reach, as the vicious brutes slaughter each other.

The second party of Orcs have almost overtaken Salabon, Beoraborn, Eadyth and Jack, as they arrive at an old stone bridge, only wide enough for two horses. They decide to take their stand.
“Where is the Huntsman?” bellows Beoraborn.
Salabon looks at him sadly. “He didn’t make it.”
WHAT?!” roars the Bejibar. He leaps from his horse, grabs his enormous blade, and strides towards the oncoming horde. Salabon nocks an arrow onto his bow string, and Eadyth readies her spear. Jack closes his eyes, and seems to breathe out, growing calmer still.

And then they fight.

Hunter follows the river north-east, finding a crossing a day’s ride from his altercation with the Orcs. He carefully wades across the treacherous stream, leading his horse with tenderness. On the far side he builds a fire and dries his hose and boots, letting the horse warm under his blanket. It is growing colder. He looks up at the now-visible stars. Is he imagining a dark, winged shape up there against the stars? Is it an Eagle friend, or is it in fact their intended quarry, the Wyrm Colargon? He dwells on this in the late, lonely night-hours, stirring every so often, fearing that the Orcs are back on his trail. But they never come.

Salabon is finding leadership tedious. The battle is won, but his Companions will not budge. Beoraborn has taken a stand, saying he will wait here for Hunter, even though Salabon promised to carry on. Jack, also, will not go, saying that he is coming. How the Hobbit knows is beyond Salabon, but only Eadyth is willing to go on with him. He finally relents, and they strike camp, Beoraborn remaining standing in the middle of the bridge, like some ancient, stone-hewn bridge keeper. It sends shiver down Salabon’s spine. They never see him return, and he surely did not come across the bridge, but suddenly he is there, beside them, eating from their stew. Salabon nearly jumps up, Jack only smiles. Eadyth rolls her eyes, and Beoraborn laughs like an avalanche and lifts the Ranger off the ground in a great embrace.

They ride on.

Soon they reach outskirts of the Ettenmoors, and before them runs the Angrenost river.

And along the horizon they see them: The mountains of Angmar, the most unholy and dreadful realm in all of Eriador.

Their destination.


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