(Nach dem Fall von Sauron – Aufräumen während andere noch auf dem Feld von Cormallen sind)
Tired as he was Hamnath almost stumbled several times on the staircase that led up to the upper floors of the tower. After the fall of the Dark Lord and the shattering of his main host some groups had been send on to finish routing the bastions in the northern regions of the Dark Land. Of course neither Hrimholt nor Lorron had resigned from that. They had gathered those of their men that hadn’t been wounded too badly and had taken in some of other groups to fill their ranks.
In the days to follow the mixed groups of Rohirric and Gondorian warriors had gone from bastion to outpost to bastion breaking the last resistance where some groups from the enemy host had hidden. This was one of the last keeps they had reached, the last before they would return to their people on the Field of Cormallen.
They had found it almost empty, obviously orcs and those guarding it had abandoned the course of their fallen master as soon as possible.
Some warriors out of the southern lands had made a last stand before they had been able to breach the gate but that battle had ended soon enough as if their foes had been as tired as themselves and had finally resigned to the defeat of all the promises the Dark Lord had made to them.
Hamnath hoped it to be over soon. In some of the keeps they had come about slaves and prisoners and by now he was as heartsore as he could be about what he had seen. More than one time all his skill simply wasn’t enough to help those poor things they had found down in some forgotten dungeon…
He tried to call upon the image of his young nieces how they had stood with Normere on the moment of their parting from Helm’s Deep and that he would return to them to get to know the last surviving members of his family whenever his duties with his company would admit it.
Some vage movement in the corner of his eye woke him from his moment of revery. Another small door he had already encountered on his way up but that had already been broken open and nothing of further interest in the dark room behind it. Nothing left alive for certain save rats…
„Here’s …“ ‚Something‘ he had wanted to say to warn the man coming up behind him since the movement couldn’t possible belong to one of that scavenger kind. But he was cut short when the said something hit him straight in the face. Pain shot through his nose and blinded him, causing him to stumble back involuntarly.
But the steps were small and steep and so his feet met nothing but thin air. Flaying around trying desparately to regain his balance his hands grapped hold on the something that had emerged from the dark hole he had stopped to investigate.
With a yelp both of them lost their footing and fell down to the groundfloor below…
After regaining some kind of detached consciousness Hamnath’s mind registered distant shouts and the sounds of boots of running men approaching. His face hurt and his eyes streaked tears blurring his sight.
‚Nose broken‘, his mind made the conclusion as if he was inspecting himself as just another patient. He almost made the mistake to try to touch it but before he could finish that nonsense, he felt himself grabbed by the collar and pulled upwards to a kind of kneeling position. A stuttered protest was on his lips as his body reminded him painfully that the floor had been quite some feet below that damned doorway. But he was silenced with the feel of cold sharp steel at his throat. His ears were still ringing so he couldn’t make out what the unknown hoarse voice near his head hissed but the message seemed clear. He froze…
„Up… move!“ Barely understandably were the words the man behind him repeated twice growing even more sharply and the steel on his throat reminded Hamnath to force himself on his aching legs. He heard the man who had come up the stair with him shout something from above and an arrow narrowly missed both him and his captor. A dull thud resounded as it struck one of the wooden beams. The other shouts around grew angrier, but the man behind him yanked him to one side out of the direct line for the archer and more than dragged him in one passage connecting the tower to another building nearly causing the young healer to loose his precarious footing.
‚He’ll be stopped by someone of our men that are searching that building…‘ Hamnath’s feeble hope dissolved when the man didn’t follow that passage all way through but stopped and after fumbling around at one of the walls in the dim gloom dragged him in another room. The small door was locked and barred behind them as soon as they were through.
Crates and barrels spoke of one the storage rooms but Hamnath didn’t have the time to think about it. There was but a handful of men in that room who greeted his captor with low angry voices. For a moment the group exchanged some harsh words in that unintelligible language some of the southerners they had encountered at previous keeps had used. Seemingly they disagreed on what to do with the current situation as one made a rather unmistakable gesture at Hamnath.
The dispute went on hotheaded for a brief moment. Suddenly the one who seemed to have wanted to kill the captive on the spot snarled something and went back to the door.
His captor seemed to gotten his way since he shoved Hamnath in the arms of another large men which shackled him with practised ease and brought him to one corner of the room ignoring his feeble attempt to hinder him. He all but held him upright for Hamnath’s legs were ready to give way underneath him, his battered and confused mind racing to find a solution…
…. Einschub draußen
Hrimholt looked at Lorron and then moved forward to meet with the leader of the small group who held the young healer captive. His leg was in pain again but he forced himself to move as unerringly as possible without showing any sign of weakness.
His lean face was grim. He didn’t like to deal with scoundrels like them one bit. Obviously they had turned from the battle to hide or plunder. Thus they hadn’t shared the fate of their former comrades so far. If he had been free to decide they would join them soon enough in death.
But any attack would lead to the certain death of their own man. Since they had been proven that he was still alive they had finally agreed to hear out the demands of the captors.
Three of them stood at the end of the small room. He judged them battleworn and tired warriors to be taking in their equipment and posture. To the side he could make out the shapes of another two standing with a smaller third man between them. The young healer looked worse to wear and barely able to stand on his own. A glint in the dim light told of naked steel at his throat. Hrimholt gritted his teeth. He would be damned to lose that youngster in such a way.
Barely out of reach of their weapons both Lorron and him stopped. The leader watched them. Then he adressed Hrimholt probably thinking of the older man as the one in command and the towering man at his side as a guard.
„We go from here, no fight, then he go free. No fight, no death. When fight, he dies first.“ The voice of the other man was hard but weary, too.
Hrimholt kept his face dispassionate. It was as they had assumed. They wanted to be free to leave this place. If they hadn’t been ready to grant it they wouldn’t have agreed to this meeting. But could they trust them to keep their side of the bargain?
„Do you swear to let him go without killing him or harming him further? Neither you nor any of your men?“
The other held his own at Hrimholts hard stare. „On my honour! He free when we are at black rock outside.“
Hrimholt remembered the tall black rock outside the keep a short distance down from the gate. It wasn’t that far but far enough to get cover in the cliffs. The horses wouldn’t be able to follow them that way. Not that he considered going back on his word if he gave it here.
Lorron pointed at the halberd that the man held. „You leave those behind in this room when you go.“
One of the men with Hamnath made a noise but the leader made a sharp gesture watching the tall blond man beside Hrimholt with new interest.
„How we defend against attackers without?“ „You can keep those daggers of yours.“ Lorron nodded to the curved blades that all of them carried. „We will not attack you if you let him go. And you shouldn’t have to fear your own people where you go, now should you?“
The other man grimaced looking around at his men. All but one had tensed at the proposal but neither looked openly rebellious. Hrimholt observed the last of them wearing an open frown.
„Your choice! On the named conditions you are free to go.“ Hrimholt confronted the leader. The other man shared another quick glance with his group.
Then he nodded: „Aggreed!“
The sun was setting over the western mountains when the small procession made their slow way through the gate. Warriors from both Hrimholt’s and Lorron’s groups had taken up positions nearby. None spoke as the small group of southerners passed them. Faces were grim but none of them would go against the word of their captains.
Vilheith hid in cover beside the gate with Haram beside her. She watched the young healer hobble by. The eyes closed he seemed concentrated on staying on his feet and moving. The blade at his throat never wavered as the man with him matched his strides.
It took them quite a while to reach the tall black rock where they stopped for a moment. Then all but the one holding Hamnath ran up to the scattered rock formation. This last waited till his comrades found shelter, then he let go of the young man and bolted after them.
Hamnath collapsed at the spot.
While riders rode up to the fallen healer Vilheith and Haram took aim at the rocks looking for signs if one of the men tried to turn on them.
Only then the riders returned to the safety of the keep with a much battered but alive Hamnath did the archers lower their bows and withdrew to the keep.
Hrimholt stood with Lorron and his own men letting Anwine and one of the Gondorians help Hamnath.
He looked around. „We put it to the torch in the morrow and make camp here tonight. Let Wulthred see to it, Cynefrith, and finish the round through the keep. Torvun takes up the guard at camp. I want no more surprises.“ His second-in-command nodded, quickly issuing the orders and taking his men back to work again.
Hrimholt turned to Lorron while a few began to set up camp within the walls.
„You have the perimeter, Captain Reen. I do not think there is a lot more of that scum nearby but at least one of those wasn’t too fond of the deal. I somehow doubt we have seen the last of him.“
He watched Vilheith and Haram as they came over