Turning back on his horse Daerolt waved to them, then he was gone around the bend, swallowed by the trees of the forest like those who’d ridden in front of him. As they turned to get each back to his tasks, Lorron caught the expression on the face of the man who’d been standing a little to the side behind him. Stern it was, full of thoughts unspoken. He was one of the peasants they’d gotten added to their company at Dunharrow. Middle-aged, blond hair, blue eyes and a face without any distinguishing features. Lorron made to say something, but hesitated. „Ormund“, he remembered then. „Everything allright?“ He felt a little embarassed that the man’s name had escaped him at first.
„They’re all leaving for home now“, Ormund said softly, still looking in the direction where the group had disappeared.
„I’m glad they are“, answered Lorron. „The war is over… and they should never have had to face the things we saw. They’re all farmers. At least it’s spring now, and not too late to sow the fields. They can go to join their families, to find out what happened to them or their neighbours. I just hope they find them allright. And then they can relieve them from fearing for their loved ones.“ He sighed. He himself had a lot of catching up to do when he got… home. Would Cliving feel like home? He’d been away so long. Had the watch at Bree ever been ‚home‘? His friends there had made him feel like he belonged for some time, but… his heart had been in Rohan always and now it belonged to the King. The King who sat in Meduseld. ‚No‘, he thought. ‚The others might return home, but for me… I will have to find out first where that place is.‘ Those months since Helm’s Deep seemed like an eternity ago. „Not long now, and then we’ll all be able to do the same,“ he told Ormund. „As soon as the king has safely reached Edoras the remainder of our company will have leave to return home, too.“
Ormund was still looking in the direction where the others had disappeared.
„To be honest, I thought you’d go with them, for I think you arrived with them“, said Lorron. „I always took you for a man of Daerolt’s village.“
Ormund studied the mud on his feet. „Well, I wasn’t. They overtook me on their way to the muster and swept me with them.“ He sounded bitter, so Lorron turned to him and searched his face. „You do not have a home to return to“, he concluded.
Ormund nodded. „But it wasn’t the war’s fault. My family had all died before that.“ He hung his head. „Weaponsmaster Haldagard is right in shouting at me, Captain. I’m no good for anything. I went from farm to farm, helping out where help was needed, never staying anywhere for long. The last place where I’d been had been burnt by the orks and the family had fled to their relatives‘ village. There was no room nor willingness to take me along.“
„So you’re wondering where to go next.“
„Y… yes. You’re right though. It is May. I will be needed on some field somewhere.“
„You don’t like to work on fields.“
„I hate it.“
„I thought you didn’t like fighting, either.“
„So what do you like?“
Ormund was quiet for a while and his answer came out hardly intelligible, mumbled into his beard. „Somewhere to stay. I’m fed up with being about alone. And I don’t care if it involves fields or fighting.“
Lorron shook his head. „Why didn’t you leave with Daerolt then? He’s a fine chap, he’d have found you work. Did you ask him?“
Ormund turned his face away. „Yes, I asked him. But he said ’no‘. Said I wasn’t born to be a farmer. Said I should try something else. – – But I didn’t want to bother you with that, Captain.“
„Come, follow me.“
„?“ Ormund looked at him uncomprehendingly.
Lorron gave him no further explanation but walked straight back to their camp. The men had already packed most of their belongings and made ready to depart with the escort of King Eomer. But for now they were still waiting for the host to move.
„Hey Tjoren!“ Lorron called out cheerily. His tone drew a snort from the other one, followed by an eyebrow raised in anticipation. „What’s up, Cap? I’m not in the mood for your kind of humor, I’m telling you.“
„Nay, don’t worry. But there’s little you got to do on the way, so I thought you could train swordfighting with Ormund here every time we make a stop on our way to Edoras.“
Tjoren’s eyes darted from one to the other. „Are you kidding me? I told you not to!“
„I meant it, Tjoren. It was an order.“
Now those dark red eyebrows furrowed in anger. Tjoren balled a fist and his eyes shot darts against Lorron. „As you wish“, he snarled and rounded on Ormund, who’d kept very silent. „But you, you will have to work, you understand? Some people got talent. Do not delude yourself you’re one of them. For you, it will be hard, tiring, painful work. Are you sure you want that?“ Ormund was taken aback. „I…“ He hadn’t asked for this. He would never have asked for this, he feared their weaponsmaster. He looked accusingly at Lorron. „Captain, I think you misunderstood“, he began. „Swords and me… that isn’t a good combination…“
„And what is a good combination?“
„Well… certainly not swords… spears maybe…“
Tjoren interrupted him with a mean laugh. „Dodging and running, that’s more like it. He’s quick as a hare before the fox, Lorron.“
„Ah. So that’s why you agreed to train him: agility. – Don’t worry, Ormund. You’re not hopeless, or else Tjoren Haldagard would have sent us both away by now. I don’t captain him as I do other men, you know. He likes to judge for himself.“
Tjoren had crossed his arms in front of his chest. „But sometimes he’s too sleepy to smell a trap in advance… you tricked me.“
„I did – what?“ Lorron was all innocence. „All I wanted was an accurate evaluation of what we could work with. So, Ormund, you haven’t answered your weaponsmaster’s question yet. Are you willing to work real hard to become one of us permanently or would you rather heed Daerolt’s advice? Or do you wish to postpone that decision until we’ve reached Edoras? For then all that are not to remain in my company will leave us.“
Ormund and Tjoren eyed one another.
„Does it have to be swords?“ Ormund wanted to know. „I believe I’d do better with almost anything else.“
Lorron laughed. „Oh, come on, Ormund. Haven’t you understood by now that I only said that to confront Tjoren with the worst possible scenario? And still he agreed. No, it doesn’t have to be swords. He’s your teacher. It’s his decision entirely what he thinks will be most appropriate for you.“ Ormund shivered ever so slightly. „Then I’d like to try, but you’d better ask him again once we reach Edoras, not me“, he said.
Tjoren nodded at that. „Well, we’ll see. But not now, we’re moving soon. Go get to your horse, Ormund. I’ll find you next time we stop.“
„Yes, weaponsmaster. Thank you.“ Having said this hastily, Ormund fled.
Tjoren shook his head. „You’re a beast, Lorron. That chap was real frightened just now, and rightly so if he intends to pull this through. Why don’t you let him go with the other peasants? I’ve spent half my life hunting orcs before I joined you, but he didn’t. He’s no fighter.“
„I know. But he did have the guts to go to the Black Gate, and he survived. He is reluctant to leave us. No, he’s no fighter like you, but like you back then, he’s got no place left to go. I thought we might give him a chance.“
Tjoren snorted. „Is that a crude attempt to evoke my pity? Forget it. Either he trains hard or he’s out. I cannot turn him into what he’s not, but I can see to it he does his job well enough for us and him to get along. I won’t like it a bit, he isn’t fun to work with. You owe me one, Cap.“
„Noted.“ Lorron slapped him on the back and went to oversee their departure.
It was the last evening before they would reach Edoras. Lorron knew that Ormund had to tend to the horses tonight and strode over to have a talk with him. But when he saw the man standing with his face buried in his horse’s mane he abandoned that notion and went to Tjoren instead.
His weaponsmaster was just bandaging a deep cut in his forearm and turned to Lorron growling as he heard him approach. „Only foes around him he might hit? Great, give him a sword! But otherwise if you value the health of your men: No Blades! Blades of any kind just don’t agree with Ormund.“ Lorron stared fascinated as Tjoren pulled down a torn sleeve over the bandage. „He got through your guard?“ Tjoren shot him an angry glance. „We were busy packing away the exercise weapons at the time. Even spears have blades, you know? That pointy end you keep away from yourself when you try handling a bunch of them…“ Lorron almost had to laugh as he imagined it, but stifled his mirth. Tjoren was hurt and Ormund was sad now. He sighed. „Well. There went his chance then. I will tell him that tomorrow we part ways. You’ve seen the last of him.“
Tjoren sucked at his bleeding lip and there was an unusual thoughtful expression in his eyes. „I didn’t say that you’ve got to dismiss him.“
Lorron frowned. „But if…“
„He carried that spear Trevvis made for him to the Pelennor and the Black Gate until it broke in the fight for the last mine. It was just a sharpened stick, but he was comfortable with it. Holding that thing he moved quite differently from when he holds another weapon. I believe that maybe it is his fear that stands in his way. Not fear of the enemy, of course, but he clearly fears to hurt one of us, and the more he fears it the likelier it is to happen. He fears he will have to leave us and he fears me, most of all. All those fears almost paralyse him. So what we got to do once we get home is ask Deryk to make a good, sturdy spear completely from wood to replace the one that was lost and set Ormund to train with Trevvis or Hereward or anyone else who is friendly and very, very patient. Maybe his abilities will improve then. Actually, I’m quite sure they will. But I will not try and teach him to handle different weapons any longer. He’ll be training stealth and agility and that’s it till Cliving.“
Lorron was surprised. „I thought you’d be happy to be rid of him. What changed your mind?“
„I’d still be happy to be rid of him“, answered Tjoren with a snort. „But it wouldn’t be fair. He tried to do everything I asked of him and more. Did you watch him? He used every free minute to practise what I showed him. Not that it helped, but he tried. Wouldn’t be fair to send him away just because I might not be the right person to teach him.“
„Allright then,“ nodded Lorron and smiled at his friend.
Ormund was still standing next to his horse when Lorron got back, but now he was brushing it. „Sorry it’s taking me so long here with Blue-eyes, Captain. I just had to say ‚good-bye‘ to him. Will you please tell his next master how much he loves dandelion?“ Blue-eyes was one of the horses Lorron had found at Helm’s deep and which had been declared his company’s property later. He frowned. „Why would I need to? Are you planning to leave us?“ Ormund stopped brushing the animal. „No, but…“ he stammered, “ but… I thought… Weaponsmaster Haldagard did not like me, and today I first cut him in the arm and then almost knocked him unconscious when I recoiled and hit him on the head… he outright hates me now… I was sure he’d want me gone… I was sure you came to tell me…“ „He doesn’t hate you. He just doesn’t like to be on the receiving end of your mistakes, that’s all. He told me to keep you as one of our spearmen and to have a new weapon made for you in Cliving. You’ll be riding this horse as long as you choose to stay with us, Ormund.“
With that he turned and left the man to his surprise.