In An Age Before – Part 45


Chapter Forty-five

The Battle of Dagorlad - The Second Age of the Sun


Now as hast been told aforetime, by 14 Gwirith, (April 14th), Mordor lay emptied and the last of the Host of Sauron had marched from the Cirith Gorgor, quitting Udûn and issuing from the Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor. Thence they marched due north ten leagues ere they broke into companies to execute their orders; lay waste to the farmlands and homesteads east of Anduin and slay all thou find south of Greenwood.

For forty days and forty nights the minions of the Dark Lord wrought destruction in those lands, and field and orchard, pasture and vineyard withered 'neath their evil. Any unlucky enough to be caught were put to death cruelly for the sport of the Yrch and the Southrons and the Easterlings. No few became meals afterwards. Little treasure did the invaders find, and knowing there would be no satisfactory pillage, Sauron had unfettered his troops to rampage, thereby to satisfy their malice and frustration. The green fields thither were soaked soon in blood and neither beast nor plant was't spared. Fires raged 'cross field and orchard, killing every growing thing down to seeds and roots. Though worsted more than once aforetime, that once fair country was't forever blighted in those days and earned afterwards the name, the Brown Lands. 'Twas 25 Lothron, (May 25th) ere the Host of Sauron regrouped and prepared to march upon Greenwood.

During that same time the Host of Eriador had met the last of their allies upon 16 Lothron, when upon Anduin 'nigh Celebrant the Host of Khazad-dûm marched south. Thereafter the allies marched another 40 leagues, having turned east-southeast to skirt the southern border of Calenglad i'Dhaer.

Upon 25 Lothron the Allied Hosts met, for the Naugrim and the armies of Eriador awaited the Nandor of Greenwood and Lórinand north of the folded lands of the downs. Thither for the first time were all gathered together; 27,000 Noldor and Sindar, 100,000 Dúnedain, 26,000 Nandor of Calenglad, 6,000 more from Lórinand, and 65,000 Khazâd; all told, a combined host of 224,000 warriors.

Now ere their first day they had marked the flight of many terrified refugees who had escaped the destruction of the enemy to the south. Many tidings were spoken and much information gathered. Scouts were sent forth amongst the downs and 'nigh the river to spy out the movements of the enemy. When they reported, it became known that the Glamhoth and their allies were closer than expected, still somewhat scattered, and preparing to move north en mass. It appeared that an invasion of Greenwood was't only days away.

Now these tidings filled King Oropher with wrath, and indeed the people of King Amdír too were seized with hatred of the enemy so that they joined their Nandor brethren and prepared to march upon their foes whether the rest of the allies followed or not. They placed themselves with the rough lands on their right flank, intending to drive their foes away from Anduin and into the desolation they had wrought in the south. Thereafter, the Nandor held the western flank.

Seeing the wrath of the Nandor and agreeing with their intent for tactical rather than emotional reasons, the Kings Gil-galad and Elendil and Durin chose to array themselves in support of Amdír and Oropher. They too had a plan, though 'twas wrought with calmer heads and an eye for the coming battles.

"O Kings of Men and Elves, I pray thee accept my intent to march upon thy eastern flank," Durin IV said, "for 'tis my suspicion that from that quarter shalt come enemies from other mansions of the Khazâd. I hath of thy subject Helluin, learnt fell tidings concerning the possible service of two houses of the Naugrim to Sauron, for we suspect he hast gifted them with two of the Seven of Lord Celebrimbor."

At this, Gil-galad groaned. Of course some fell tidings had come of Helluin. He shook his head at the predictability of it. Elendil shuddered at the thought of other Dwarves enthralled by the Dark Lord and subject to the power of his Ring. Both kings readily agreed with Durin's desire. Besides, t'would provide the greatest separation 'twixt the Naugrim and the Nandor, for though they were allies of Lórinand, there had ever been cool relations 'twixt them and those in Greenwood.

"I deem t'would indeed be best for thou to face such of thy folk as hath cloven unto the Dark Lord, for we intend nothing less than to face the many Men he hast drawn to his service," Elendil told Durin. He had no desire to face Dwarves fallen under the sorceries of Sauron. Indeed he hoped rather to lay low the host of the "Black Númenóreans", that remnant of the King's Men of yore who still sought to serve Sauron.

"Hold then the eastern flank, O Durin, for t'would seem the Nandor hath claimed the west leaving to the Host of Eriador the center. Greatly shalt thy stalwart presence upon my left reassure me," Gil-galad said. He looked out and surveyed the assembled armies. "Let us now order ourselves for the march to battle on the morrow."

Upon 27 Lothron the Host of the Alliance marched south into the devastated lands, and 'cross a distance of but six leagues, marked the rising dust of a host marching north. The sight of the enemy at last hastened the feet of the allied armies, but wrought the opposite effect upon the Host of Sauron. Indeed toward midday, when the distance betwixt them had fallen to but three leagues, the Glamhoth and the Tor, the Wargs and the Haradrim, the Easterlings and the Black Númenóreans, all ceased their forward march. Their banners halted their progress and the cloud of dust behind them settled. For the space of well 'nigh an hour they held their position. The Alliance continued forward to meet them, their many banners waving, the flashes of light upon their armor twinkling as upon gems 'neath the sun. And then the Host of Sauron moved.

From the Allied Armies a great shout went up, for it had become apparent that their enemies were fleeing them! They were marching south in haste, seeking the safety of the Black Land for to cower behind their mountains and their master's Black Gate. Faster did the Men and Elves and Dwarves march, seeking to catch them upon the open lands and avoid a long and deadly siege of a position heavily fortified against them. And as they passed through the ruined lands their wrath grew. The destruction their enemies had wrought kindled their hatred and anger. They marched faster. But heavily armed and laden Dwarves can march only so fast, and compared to the longer legs of Elves and Men, the Host of Durin began to fall behind. Still all continued, grimly and with determination, to catch and corner their foes, and to force them to battle. As the day's light waned, Elendil and Gil-galad deemed their position but two and a half leagues behind their foes; they were closing, but only slowly.

By nightfall both armies had marched almost nine leagues in one day. 'Twas tiring, and slow was't their gain upon their enemies. The kings feared their soldiers would catch the rearguard of the Glamhoth and arrive too spent to fight. T'would never do to continue thus, for at the present rate, t'would take another four or five days to close the gap.

"How close should we seek to march ere we halt them?" Elendil asked Gil-galad at that night's planning session.

"How long can'st thy troops march post haste yet retain strength to fight?" The Elven King asked in response. The King of Arnor thought for a moment.

"Already many art weary from this day's march, and though they shalt strive to maintain the pace, it shalt wear upon them, leaving them the less ready for battle," Elendil said. "It shalt do us little enough good to catch yonder vermin, if when we do, we art not fit to exterminate them. Either we continue thus but rest ere offering battle, or slack somewhat our pace. What of thy soldiers, Lord Durin?"

"I tell thou both that my people shalt march until death takes them, yet they shalt fall yet further behind thy troops on the morrow," Durin IV unhappily confessed. "Our strength is wasted cross country. We cannot maintain this pace, but our engineers and miners can assail to good results the Morannon of Sauron. Rather would we undertake a siege than hath our enemies turn upon us when we art already exhausted by the march. Rather would we save our strength for battle."

To this Gil-glad and Elendil nodded. They had watched the progress of the Naugrim through the day and had marked the flagging of the Host of Khazad-dûm.

"Allow the Hosts of the Eldar and the Edain to pursue hence the enemy through another two days. When upon the third day their host lies but one league ahead, then shalt we send forth our cavalry to flank and stay their march. We shalt hold them an hour or two until our infantry arrives, taking up our positions for battle, but commencing it not until thy forces arrive and all art rested," Elendil said. "In so doing also shalt our own supply train rejoin the warriors."

"Aye, we shalt attack with all our parties and all our strength together," Gil-galad added. "Thou shalt hath thy battle in thy time, O Durin, and let Sauron's thralls learn to fear the axes of the Khazâd."

To the words of the High King of the Eldar, the King of Khazad-dûm bowed his head in thanks.

"Greatly shalt they come to fear our axes indeed, and yet too, I suspect the tactics of the fallen of our own kindred," Durin said. "I feel they shalt reveal themselves only when battle comes. We hath seen 'naught of any Gonnhirrim in that host, yet I expect them still. When they show hence their forces, we shalt avenge all to whom they hath done ill in the Dark Lord's service. My warriors feel it their duty unto Mahal."

To this sentiment both the high kings nodded in agreement. For Ereinion especially, the final defeat of Sauron would bring the final completion of the War of Wrath waged by the Valar an Age before.

'Twas 'nigh noon upon 30 Lothron when the order went forth from Gil-galad and Elendil that the retreat of the Host of Sauron should be stayed. The allies were now but 65 miles north of the Morannon with the enemy two miles ahead. In response, 16,000 horsemen of the Eldar and the Edain charged forward, thundering past their own infantry and plunging towards the soldiers of Mordor. The cloud of dust from their hooves rose to the heavens and hid all ahead from the sight of the kings

Sauron's troops reacted almost instantly. They picked up their pace and fled in a rout, their figures diminishing rapidly before the footmen of the alliance. Yet they could not outpace the cavalry.

Barely an hour passed from the start of their charge ere the flanks of the enemy host were bracketed by riders of Lindon and Arnor. Riding just beyond bowshot, the knights of Eriador galloped past the ranks of running foes, and finally, at just past the second hour, they began to pull in their files ahead of them. Even beyond the reach of the arrows of the Yrch and evil Men, the riders could hear the yelling and cursing and their guttural Black Speech. They could see the pushing and shoving amidst the fleeing ranks. The enemy ran as if the whips of slave drivers lashed their backs and their master's fires sprang up 'neath their feet, yet their flight was't for 'naught. In the third hour of their charge, the cavalry completed their dangerous cordon about the host of their enemies, and although they kept moving forward, now they slowed and gradually brought the flight to a halt. By nightfall of 30Lothron the Host of Sauron stood still upon the flatlands east of the great swamps, and there they could proceed no further. Any movement south now brought a hail of arrows from the bows of the Eldar or the Edain.

The most forward of the Glamhoth were still 55 miles from the Black Gate. The remainder of their allies, Tor and Easterling, the Haradrim, and the armies of the Black Númenóreans, Herumor and Fuinur, all collected and assembled behind them. They would not win home to Udûn this day.

Now night fell and the cavalry set many watch fires about their perimeter, and 'twas a strange duty, for they sought to guard not against any coming upon them from without, but rather to contain from escape, any within their leaguer. As they waited they counted their foes and deemed their strength great, yet not so great as their own. When the battle opened, perhaps 145,000 would oppose them.

Thus they awaited the marshalling of the allied hosts to their north, and these had arrived through the afternoon and evening hours, arraying themselves as they had agreed aforetime, Nandor to the west, Noldor, Sindar, and Edain in the center, and as the last light of evening fell, huffing and puffing and well 'nigh ready to collapse, the Naugrim encamped upon the eastern flank.

Elendil and Gil-galad and Durin set about making ready for battle. They rested their forces from the march and ordered their companies, and they discussed the tactics for their attack. For two days they waited while letting their enemies wait on them, unable to break the cordon of the cavalry and yet unwilling to offer battle on their own part.

Upon the western flank Kings Oropher and Amroth arrayed their forces such that no enemy could pass them save by venturing into the vast swamps south of the Emyn Muil, and thus relieved the cavalry from that duty. Likewise to the east, the Khazâd held positions denying the enemy flight thither, yet their watch was't as much upon the barren flatlands to their east as well as to the enemy host to their south and west. Ever did they searched the horizon for some telltale rising of dust that would signify the march of the Naugrim of the Ered Lithui.

When Arien carried Anor aloft on 3 Nórui, (June 3rd), a fanfare of silver trumpets greeted the brightening light of dawn and the cavalry of Arnor and Lindon let fly volleys of arrows into Sauron's Host, driving them to tighten their massed ranks and draw closer to the Allied Host arrayed before them. For two full days the enemy had offered no combat. Now the signal had come and they would be driven to war. The hard, dry ground thundered 'neath the hooves of the riders. Great clouds of dust rose from that milling throng out of which came flight after flight of deadly shafts. And when that cloud lay so thick upon the battle plain that 'naught could be seen to the south, the horsemen of Lindon and Arnor galloped east and then north to rejoin their hosts for the opening charge to come.

Now when the riders returned to their hosts they took their places in the vanguards of their respective armies, spearheading the massed ranks of infantry. Across but a furlong of desolate land stood the jostling and disordered lines of the enemy. They constituted more of a mob than an ordered host, for little more than the promise of plunder and mayhem and the fear of their lord held most of them together.

Most numerous were the Yrch, for many had come into Sauron's service after his return from the wreck of Númenor and yet more had he bred to his service. They congregated primarily in the western part of the host, choosing thus to face the Nandor rather than the Sindar and Noldor, for amongst the Elves of Light and the Grey Elves were many fell fighters, veterans of Beleriand and Eriador, and many who were mantled in the Light of Aman. There too stood the Dúnedain by whom they had been worsted in the last great war.

Never would an Orch willingly face such foes, for in their hearts lay a hereditary cowardice that made them seek for the weakest opposition. Amongst them stood bands of Tor, also hereditary servants of the Dark Lord, having little will of their own but an immense capacity for violence. Their native stature and strength made them dangerous adversaries. Yet both these cadres, while still held thrall by their master's power, felt not the direction of his will; his eye and presence had been absent from them for some time. They felt a nagging sense of uncertainty and abandonment in his lack of attention to their plight. And wherefore had gone his Nazgûl? Though they chilled the bones of all the host, they were the most fell enemies of their enemies. Their presence would hath been welcome now, facing thus the Host of the Alliance.

Toward the center and on the eastern flank of the enemy host congregated the Men of the East and the Men of the South, soldiers from the tributary lands of Rhûn, Khand, and Harad, who worshipped Sauron as a god as much as served him as a lord. Countless generations of their kind had knelt before Sauron, and in the dimmest memories of their cultures, recalled their service to the mythical Great Master, Morgoth, Lord of Creation and Lord of Shadows, to whom their own god offered blood sacrifices.

In the centermost ranks of the Host of Sauron stood the two armies of the Black Númenóreans, Herumor and Fuinur, the generals who had marched from the Realm of Umbar. Together their forces numbered 30,000, and they were the finest warriors in the service of the Black Land. These soldiers, scions of the King's Men of Númenor, descended from those who had ruled and served at the Haven of Umbar 'neath Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. They recalled their lost glory and chaffed ever at their diminished status in Middle Earth. They despised the Eldar as they long had, and hated the Men of Gondor and Arnor even more, and they had willingly sought the chance to slay them in the name of the Dark Lord who had commanded the reverence of their lost king. These fighters would face the Hosts of Arnor and Lindon, and all amongst them prayed for the chance to slay some lord or captain of those peoples, or perchance even their kings. Their grievance came across time and the sea, and they hated their brothers from their fallen island homeland more vehemently than any Orch. And unlike the Glamhoth, they were filled with courage and feared to face none.

"Too long hath we abided the rabble of Lindon and Andunië," cried Herumor to his troops, "too long hath we awaited the day when we would take back our place as rulers of Men. Let us now to battle! Death to the usurpers! When Arnor and Gondor lie ruined in the dust, then shalt we be as kings upon these Hither Shores. With counsel and support of our Lord Sauron shalt we rule as did Ar-Pharazôn aforetime. Though Númenor is fallen by the deceits of the Valar, hither might we reclaim by our own hands our former glory!"

A great cheer rose from the Black Númenóreans of Umbar, while some grumbling of resentment rose amidst the Men of Harad, Khand, and Rhûn.

Then Fuinur eyed the Yrch, milling uncertainly and uncomfortable in the growing light, and a dark glint came into his eyes, for he ever suspected these of cowardice.

"If thou think to betray us and thy master's cause for to save thine own lives, then think again and hard," Fuinur said, looking the commander of the Glamhoth directly in the eyes so that he shivered. "If thou or those 'neath thy command should betray us or flee, pray then for our deaths, for only thus shalt thou win thy freedom from our blades to face the wrath of thy lord, Sauron. Thou can'st either fight, die by our vengeance, or die by the wrath of thy master. Thou art mortal as art we; choose to die with such honor as thou art capable of, for die thou shalt, either quickly and with glory or in slow torment."

Again a great shout of agreement came from the Black Númenóreans and it chilled the Yrch to the bones. Though they cared 'naught for honor or glory, they feared most the wrath of those closest to them, it being the quickest to fall. They would fight this day.

Now the battle long awaited commenced with a sounding of trumpets and horns, and with a great shout, the Allied Host advanced. Against them came the Host of Sauron, fearing to face their master's wrath should they turn tail. O'er head Anor shone down bright as with a blessing, heating the air on that morning and lighting the drawing of swords with scintillating highlights as of sunlight sparkling upon sea waves 'cross that barren land. Hooves beat like thunder. Feet tramped as a tremor in the very earth. Dust rose like the smoke of a fire taking to heaven in its flames all the trees of a great forest. And when the lines clashed, 'twas like a cataclysm in which the earth shakes and splits asunder. Yet o'er all else was't heard the battle cries, the cheers, and the screams of the wounded and dying.

The battle raged all through the day and into the night. Fierce was't the fighting on all quarters. When the cavalry of Lindon and Arnor charged, the Men of Umbar met them and many fell in those first moments, yet enough remained standing to offer vicious battle as the infantry of the west came up behind their horsemen.

Upon the eastern flank, Oropher and Amdír assailed their foes first with showers of arrows uncounted, and the Glam quailed 'neath their shields. Yet most indeed survived the volleys unscathed, and when the horns of the Nandor sounded the charge, they were met by a great many Yrch goaded to bloodlust by the fear of their allies and the whips of their commanders.

Now the Host of Greenwood numbered 26,000, and the army of Lórinand 6,000 more, mostly archers lightly armed, while the Glamhoth counted o'er 52,000 Yrch long at war and trained in grueling hardship upon the Plain of Gorgoroth, and ever had they hated all of Elven kind. Therefore when the Nandor charged them, they pretended to give way at first, shying somewhat to the east and allowing a hollow to form in the center of their line. Thither the Nandor of Greenwood concentrated their assault, wielding their pikes and spears and their few swords. Upon the rightmost flank stood the warriors of Lórinand, still firing into the Glamhoth. Indeed they did much damage to those who faced them, yet they were vastly outnumbered. Then a bugle brayed harsh in the afternoon air and the Yrch counterattacked with fury.

The centermost wing of the Glamhoth advanced, driving a wedge betwixt the Host of Greenwood and the armies of Lindon and Arnor, and these were fully engaged against the Men of the south and east and the Black Númenóreans of Umbar. The Yrch pressed forward, isolating the Nandor upon the western flank. Worse, the western wing of the Glamhoth drove forward too, separating the army of Lórinand from that of Greenwood.

With them came many Tor, swinging great maces that rent bodies and sent their corpses to flight. None could withstand their onslaught. In the closer press of fighting, the Nandor of the Golden Wood could but give way. They were 6,000 against almost 20,000, fighting with knives and a few short swords against the blood crazed rabble of Mordor who carried everything from pikes to clubs to swords. In close combat the Yrch held a massive advantage, and outnumbered, the warriors of Lórinand could only retreat. Back they were forced, desperate and alone, watching as far to their left, King Oropher's standard was hewn down and his household engulfed amidst a press of enemies.

Now behind the retreating Eldar lay 'naught but the swamps, and into these they were driven by the late afternoon. Then the Yrch hunted them down as they fought, mired in mud and tangled in weeds, and always the Elves were pitted one against three of their enemies. Soon arrows were few, and their long knives or few swords were no match for the spears and scimitars of the Yrch. There fell well 'nigh half the archers of the Golden Wood, and their king not the last. Ere the Yrch gave up the chase, they had broken the power of the Nandor and worsted their hosts.

Like too fared the Host of Greenwood, well nigh encircled by the Glam and Tor. There 26,000 faced 32,000 foes, but as with their brethren of the Golden Wood, they were ill equipped for close quarters battle. Too, they had, for all their drilling aforetime, no practical battle hardening as did the Host of Mordor. They were not fighters at heart. Inferior numbers and inferior tactics and inferior weapons combined to leave them worsted by their enemies. Slowly but surely the Glamhoth pared away at their numbers, hewed down their captains, and slew their soldiers. And when, early in the battle, they managed to surround and engulf the king's standard and household, the morale of the Silvan Elves broke and horror reigned amongst them.

Seeing the fall of Oropher's standard broke the heart of the Nandor. Thereafter they fought with desperation but little inspiration, and none remaining to command them knew 'aught of tactics. None called a retreat, none called to regroup, and none called to stand fast and hold the line. Instead they crowded together without order, pike men sometimes trapped in the center, archers at the fore, and the relentless foe slew them in droves. By nightfall, o'er 13,000 lay slain upon the Battle Plain.

Yet strange was't the fate of the King of Greenwood that day, for in the aftermath of the battle he was't discovered, blooded, wounded, and unconscious 'neath a heap of his own slain warriors. He was't returned to the healers and awoke the next day fey and wroth, fairly foaming at the mouth for vengeance. But his seeming resurrection from the dead emboldened his remaining forces, though little good did it achieved in the end.

Better went the battle in the center and upon the western flank. There the Hosts of Lindon and Arnor crushed the Men of Harad and Khand and Rhûn. But the grimmest hatred amongst the Dúnedain was't reserved for their fallen brethren of Númenor. Long had the King's Men of old disrespected the Faithful. Long had they oppressed those of Andunië and Romenna, for in their continued reverence for the West the King's Men saw treason against their king. That the Faithful held the king a blasphemer against the Valar only proved their point and justified the actions taken against them. With the mutual antipathy present upon the Isle of Kings, 'twas a wonder that greater violence and mortal persecution was't for the most part avoided, yet even at the end, Kinslaying had been held a taboo broken most oft only in selecting the sacrifices for Sauron's altar.

When the lines clashed, the Black Númenóreans sought ever to engage those of the House of Andunië, their chief enemies from o'er the sea. Yet in the years ere the fall of Númenor, and even more so in the years thereafter, the remnant of the King's Men had forgotten how great a captain of ships and Men had been Amandil. Perhaps too, they had forgotten that even at the end, Ar-Pharazôn had not executed the Man who had been his childhood friend and closest advisor ere the coming of Sauron. That nobility and courage had passed on in full measure to his son, Elendil. At Dagorlad, many of the warriors of Umbar fell 'neath the deadly sword of the High King of Arnor, for Narsil's bright steel, wrought well 'nigh two Ages aforetime by Telchar of Nogrod, flashed with a light all its own, and in his mighty hand it hewed flesh and mail with equal ease.

So too did the Men of Umbar underestimate the courage and battle prowess of Isildur the High King's elder son. None knew of his sojourn to the Court of the King before the Citadel of Elros in Armenelos, where the Heir of the last Lord of Andunië had taken the fruit of Nimloth and thus preserved the White Tree of Númenor. Bitter was't his swordplay; and many were they who fell, blooded by the point of his sword.

All about the King fought many of noble birth, gallant sons of noble houses from o'er the sea. But for the avarice and lust of those whom they faced that day, their blessed home across the waves would still hath been fair and green. Such Men as these arrayed against them had followed and by their following emboldened their king upon his path to damnation. And even after all that, still they chose to follow Sauron!

And ill-advised as was't the waging of war against the Host of Arnor, even worse was't their opposition of the Host of Lindon. Indeed it had been generations since any of the King's Men had met any of the Elder Kindred. Elves had been long banned from Númenor and had come not to their havens upon the Hither Shores. Nor had the King's Men come to Lindon or Edhellond in Belfalas. For centuries they had regarded the Elves as little more than the spies of the Valar and few gave credence to the old tales of their prowess in the prior war. Indeed if any thought of those days at all, they reveled in self-congratulation, for by the might of Númenor had the tide of Sauron been turned back and defeated. Yet now they came again to battle with the Noldor and Sindar, but this time opposing them rather than as allies.

Little time did it take for the Younger Children of the One to rue their stance. Matching swords against warriors who had lived for millennia was't a monumental disadvantage. What mastery or prowess a Man might gain in a mortal life was't as nothing before the skills learnt o'er Ages. Both Sindar and Noldor were supernaturally proficient with the bow, yet they had no lack of arms or willingness to close ranks with their mortal foes.

The Sindar smote them with long, curved blades, wielded with an inhuman grace and appalling speed, and ever they seemed able to predict the next move a foe would make. Worse yet were the Noldor, whom long ago in lore and lay had been called the Valiant and the Sword-Elves¹. Though fewer in numbers, these held a terrifying and unnatural light in their eyes which flared in their passion as they hewed down their enemies with flashing blades both straight and curved. In speed and grace they were much like the Sindar but even more deadly. Many of their blades held enchantments and spells. Their mail and lamellar armor and the helms upon their heads were forged of the hardest steel, tempered to adamant, and yet flexible as silk. And many bore strangely shaped shields, light in weight but with wicked points and edges that they used as auxiliary weapons. ¹(Valiant and the Sword-Elves, additional epithets for the Noldor. HoME, Vol 5, QS, Footnote, pg 236)

Now though later tales tell little of the Host of Khazad-dûm, no little renown did that host win upon that day, for at first they fought fiercely against Sauron's western flank, and their cries of Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!¹ rang o'er the clash of their axes and the thud of battered flesh. More so than any other host, the warriors of Durin fought as a disciplined group, maintaining their ranks and files, and advancing relentlessly into their opposition.Their blows fell like those of a smith, ceaseless at his anvil, shaping hot metal with endless hammer strokes. Before them the Men of Harad fell back, too poorly organized to take advantage of their greater strength or size, or to break in amongst the lines of the Dwarves though they stood spaced open to allow swinging room for their two-handed axes. Few Men guarded well their legs or wore greaves stout enough to turn an axe stroke, and many had their legs hewn out from under them. ¹(Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!, Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you! Traditional battle cry of the Naugrim. Khuzdul)

Now at the third hour of the battle, a cloud of dust rose in the east, and 'twas quickly noticed for it had been expected. Durin's folk gauged the distance no more than a league, and so they accounted an hour until the warriors of some mansion in the Ered Lithui came 'nigh to offer battle. Some made derisive remarks about 'wet boots' and 'night walkers' for only by soaking their footwear and marching at night they could hath approached so close without raising dust or being marked.

"Slay all thou can in an hour of the sun," Durin IV commanded, "for thereafter half our host shalt turn to face these laggards."

The Dwarves chuckled and swung faster their axes. More Southrons fell. The battle cry of the Dwarves rang out and heartened their allies, and soon they knew, t'would carry to their oncoming foe as swell.

Now when indeed those foes came 'nigh and engaged the Naugrim of Khazad-dûm, Durin and many of his captains had contrived to place themselves foremost to meet them. A Ringwearer of our kindred, Durin IV had thought, by the likes of him doth our people garner the distrust of strangers. I should smite him with joy for siding with our enemy who was a servant of Melkor, the great enemy of our creator. A traitor to Mahal he is! Many of his officers thought likewise and their hatred was't kindled anew.

Now the clashing of axes hast a distinctive sound, a heavier and duller thud than the ringing of blades or the ping of a spear point piercing plate. That sound carried across the field at a furious pace as host contested with host, for in such a matching of arms, the speed of the strikes and the number of blows struck can oft determine supremacy.

For some time it appeared that there was't no movement upon that front. The lines held firm and both hosts planted their feet and swung. But slowly as the battle dragged on, as the front line retired and was't replaced by fresh troops from the ranks behind, the superior numbers of the Host of Khazad-dûm began to tell. By the third rotation at the front, the Dwarves of the Ered Lithui began to fall. They had simply been tired out by the relentless fighting and having to return to the front line more oft than their foes. And at last the battle line began to move.

Now step by step the line moved east. The 'wet boots' fell in increasing numbers, and as their numbers fell, all the more frequently were the survivors forced into the front line. 'Twas an accelerating war of attrition. By the third hour the retreat of the Host of the Ered Lithui was't hastening, and then at the next change of lines, the Host of Durin gave a great shout and charged forward. A rank fresh and unfought took the battle line against foes who had battled for three hours in the afternoon heat. They swung their axes well 'nigh twice as fast as their foes, and with the quick decimation of that front line, hewed their way into the even more tired ranks behind. Thus the slaughter began. Soon the Khazâd of the Hithaeglir were trotting after winded foes and hewing their legs as they fled. But at the scene where the lines had broken, a duel was't being fought, and 'twas soon encircled amidst the fighters of Khazad-dûm.

There Durin IV fought and o'ercame his enemy in single combat, his mastery of his weapon far outstripping any strength given his foe by Sauron's Ring, for the virtue it provided to the King of the Ered Lithui garnered him not battle prowess, but a hoard of gold, and upon the Plain of Dagorlad, gold availed him 'naught. With a great cry, Durin swung his double-bladed axe and hewed off his enemy's hands, and they fell betwixt the combatants still clutching his axe. Then Durin cursed his defeated foe as a traitor and slew him, hewing off his head in a single mighty stroke. His Ring, one of the Seven of Celebrimbor, was't taken to a forge and heated in the fire of the armoror, and though the enchanted gold melted not, neither was't it invulnerable, for indeed it had been forged by Celebrimbor in Eregion, not by Sauron in Mt. Doom. Thus its gem was't shattered and the shards ground to powder, and the gold of its band was't beaten into a planchet, and thence into flakes, and these the Lord of Khazad-dûm flung to the desiccating winds of Dagorlad with curses.


To Be Continued

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