In An Age Before – Part 48

Now Helluin indeed had no intention of entering the camp of the Elven Host. Rather her plan was't now to come eventually to the Black Tower, for thither had the Úlairi fled and thither too skulked her great enemy. Despite the heroism some saw in her battle within Mt. Doom, but one of the Úlairi had fallen, and that result Helluin deemed 'naught but a great disappointment. So now she reckoned her worthiest contribution to the efforts of the Host of the Alliance would come, not from wielding her sword upon Gorgoroth, but rather by infiltrating and promoting chaos within the bastion of the Dark Lord. 'Twas a continuation of the daring strategy she had begun using the palantír in the Tower of Orthanc. Upon this day Helluin resolved to bring such distractions as she could contrive to the counsels and heart of her foe. And as ever, 'twas the thinking of one given to fearless solo actions taken against an o'erwhelmingly superior antagonist; Helluin had never been the greatest example of a team player.

Let the great bilge rat be confounded within his very lair just as he hast been within the borders of his land, she thought. All the better to draw hence his eye from the combat to come, and who but the Valar know if perhaps too I shalt hath a chance to bring down that abhorrent wretch once and for all.

In latter days many of the Wise hath questioned the wisdom of her design, deeming such a course both foolhardy and vain. Indeed many more believed not a word of it at all, while'st the vast majority remained wholly ignorant of her campaign. Perhaps 'tis true that by turns Helluin indulged herself then in the fancy that destroying Sauron was't her fate. While'st such was't surely grandiose, 'twas not without precedent.

More than once aforetime in her moments of wrath, facing the Dark Lord had been Helluin's goal. All too easily could she hath come to believe that the dark hosts, the years of war, the conflict that had come down to the present from long in the past, and the future threat to her beloved, all these could be swept away with a single cast of the Sarchram. Nay, she had not forgotten the vision that had tormented Beinvír upon Amon Hen, nor the gloating manner of Sauron in its wake. Merely thinking of it made Helluin grind her teeth. T'would not it be logical for her to ask herself whyfore had she wrought the Sarchram so long aforetime if not to lay low he who had brought so much contention unto Arda? Such 'twas surely her inspiration for the Grave Wing, she would then hath reasoned, and its spell no less than the manifestation foreshadowed by her strain in the First Song. Indeed Helluin could hath easily persuade herself that all she had achieved and endured was't but the preparation, the forging of her being, for this one act; the destruction of the Enemy. Perhaps upon this day she already deemed in her thought that indeed 'twas her destiny to next slay Sauron.

Now after taking her leave of the mess tent of the Naugrim, Helluin made her way southeast, walking away from the road. She recalled with the accuracy of Elven memory the placement of the opposing hosts. The enemy camps clove to the road 'nigh the chasm of lava and the iron bridge, the better to halt any seeking to come against the gate of Barad-dúr. Directly before them stood the various Elves upon the north of the road and the Dúnedain upon the south. Behind them, spaced in a wide arc, were the Naugrim.

Passing through both hosts and coming thence 'cross the bridge to Sauron's gate was't obviously folly. Even were she to win through to the Barad-dúr, entering by its most guarded portal would be well 'nigh impossible. Yet Helluin knew this about many a fortress and citadel she had seen; that in the building of such strong places, oft is there some hidden way or bolt hole, a postern door or tunnel deep, cunningly camouflaged or buried, set about with runes and spells of enchantment, and thence forgotten by all save the lord and perhaps some few of his most trusted retainers.

Upon a boulder beyond the cordon of Dwarvish sentries, Helluin sat in the dark and examined her memories. She saw in her mind's eye every vision she had ever gained of the Dark Tower. From her first visit to Mordor in 1125 as it stood abuilding, to the view earlier on this very night, all such she reviewed. And in none did she sense 'aught of that for which she sought; a secret way to enter Sauron's bastion.

So then, she would be forced to search. And wherefore would she be most likely to discover that hidden way? 'Nigh the slopes of the Ered Lithui that backed the Barad-dúr, she reasoned, facing that compass point least likely to be assailed. Behind the spur upon which Sauron's fortress rested there stood but a narrow valley ere the steep, barren slopes climbed to the bitter peaks of the Mountains of Ash. Thither, away from opposing armies, hidden from their view by the bulk of the walls and towers, and thus closest to the refuge of the eastern lands, would Sauron most likely hath placed his escape route. With a nod to herself, Helluin stood and began her march into the east.

Now of course she first had to go southeast, skirting the encampments of the armies and the fissure of lava, and remaining out of sight to all, including the sleepless eye in the tower. A glance at the sky revealed the westering moon, and thither sailed Eärendil, hinting of the coming dawn. An hour of darkness perhaps remained in this night. Helluin slipped away between the boulders in the tumbled land of Gorgoroth and gained such distance as would keep her separated from the Host of Arnor that stood closest to her. Finally, as the east grew dim at the rumor of Anor's rising, Helluin found shelter from sight in a narrow crevice, and there settled down to pass the hours of daylight.

For two nights Helluin made her way southeast, carefully covering 'nigh on 35 miles. A good reason she had for taking such a precaution ere she turned north. Not only the eyes of the allies did she seek to pass in stealth, nor even the sentries of the enemies gathered outside the Barad-dúr. Rather she sought to approach the tower from such an angle that no watchers upon the walls would seek for her, focusing rather their attention upon the massed forces maintaining the siege. The dark Noldo's circuitous way indeed took her further east than the Barad-dúr itself, well beyond the sightline from the tower that encompassed the arc of allies arrayed before it. When at last, upon 25 Gwirith, Helluin dared turn to approach the Dark Tower, she did so by marching due north, making for a place two leagues east of her objective at the foot of the spur protruding from the Ered Lithui.

'Twas another two nights of walking ere she stood upon the talus slope 'neath the steep incline of the spur. Knowing then that the night was't old, Helluin hunkered down out of sight behind a boulder to pass the day. So far she had encountered not a soul since meeting the Naugrim for supper. No scouts of the allied host, nor sorties of the enemy venturing thither had she spied. The land seemed vacant and dead, with all attention fixated upon the siege. A few bites of stale Dwarvish bread and a couple sips of flat ale made up her meal. With a last quick glance up at the Dark Tower she drew herself down 'neath her cloak and passed into a dreamscape of pleasant memories.

Meanwhile in the green lands of Ithilien stood a cordon of the soldiers of Gondor and the Rangers of Ithilien, and they held constrained within their leaguer the narrow valley of Imlad Ithil and King Isildur's City of the Rising Moon. Thither had the army of the southern kingdom forced all of Sauron's troops the autumn before, and they had kept a careful watch of great strength about that place all through the months of winter. Yet now spring had come again to the southlands and 'twas time to resume the war.

Chapter Forty-seven

The Barad-dúr and Minas Ithil – The Second Age of the Sun

'Twas perhaps now 5 Lothron, Helluin reckoned, for she had spent a week inspecting the tumbled heights of the spur for a hidden entrance to Sauron's fortress. Searching thither only in the dark of night had not made the task any quicker. Yet for one who had crossed the world by starlight on the westward march, fair Ithil's glow was't illumination enough. 'Nigh dawn the night before she had found what she sought at last; a boulder hewn by the coarse strokes of the Yrch and ludicrously set, out of place against a cliff face midway down a slope. The species of stone matched not that at its back! Had it separated naturally from on high, 't'would hath rolled free and clear of the cliff, yet thither it stood like an apple upon the branch of an orange tree. 'Twas as obvious a 'hidden' door as any Helluin had ever seen.

If any spell had lingered about it from the days of yore when it had been built, t'was not to be discerned now. Indeed, Helluin sensed nothing supernatural 'nigh it at all. Perhaps this place had been forgotten in the long years when the Barad-dúr had lain empty after Sauron's flight from the armies of Tar-Calmacil. She had shrugged and entered, finding the door surprisingly well balanced upon its iron hinges.

Within lay a tunnel, rough hewn and narrow, and dark as a tomb. It seemed to proceed due west towards the tower at a slight downward angle, and Helluin followed it thither warily. No sounds did she hear within, nor any scent save the faint odor of dry stone. Not even cobwebs laced the passage, as if any spiders once in residence there had long ago forsaken the tunnel for lack of prey. For a place hewn by Yrch, 'twas well 'nigh sterile. For this, Helluin was't thankful. Indeed since passing the door, the ever present stench of brimstone, that signature scent of Mordor, was't absent from her nostrils for the first time in o'er year.

Helluin paced along in that narrow way with footsteps so light as to forestall even an echo, searching the darkness by the reflected blue light of her own glowing eyes. Hour after hour no side passages or junctures did she discover. No deviation in direction or incline either did she detect, neither right nor left, up or down. The tunnel led straight on to the west, and Helluin wagered that o'er the course of the league ere she reached the foundation of the Barad-dúr, t'would dive to a subterranean level 'neath the Plain of Gorgoroth. Somewhere in the bowels and vast warrens of dungeons that she had once seen unroofed in 1125, she would come into the occupied spaces of her enemy's fortress.

Well what did thou expect, she asked herself, safe passage unseen to Sauron's sanctum high in the tower? Nay, thou must needs start at the bottom and work thy way up.

Yet the prospect of confronting the prisons and deep chambers of this most vast and foul fortress was't highly distasteful. No sun, no moon, no stars, no fresh breeze, no clean water, only the stench of brimstone restored, augmented by rot, mildew, putrid scraps, infected wounds, and punctuated by the screams of the tormented and the harsh voices of the Yrch. For an Elf, 'twas Udûn sure. Almost was't Helluin glad of the present blackness, for 'twas a respite from visions of torment and degradation, malignant as such sights were to the spirits of the Eldar. For a moment she was't reminded of that tunnel delved 'neath Amon Gwareth, the hill of Gondolin, through which she had walked in pursuit of Tuor and Idril and the escaping survivors of the Hidden City so long before.

And now rather than in flight from the armies of Morgoth, I go thither in search of his lieutenant for to challenge him in a contest of wits and tactics. Whoever would hath bethought such aforetime, or lain odds upon the chance t'would come to pass?

Ere she reckoned noon had come and gone, Helluin was't sure she had passed a league within that tunnel. She deemed herself well within the ramparts of the Barad-dúr. Perhaps she had even come 'neath the tower itself and not just within the perimeter of its outer wall. Yet the tunnel went forward unchanged, dark, silent, and deserted, and so she had no choice but to press on.

When, by her reckoning, evening fell, Helluin was't indeed perplexed. The way had deviated not right or left, up or down, and yet onward it led. Indeed she thought she should hath come out a hole in the wall of the chasm of fire and fallen into the river of lava 'neath Sauron's iron bridge long before now. She wagered she had walked no less than eight leagues.

Then suddenly ahead of her the way was't blocked. A plain surface stood sealing the tunnel before her. She came 'nigh and listened carefully, yet no sounds did she hear. A hand gingerly lifted and lain upon the stone resulted in motion and she recoiled back, drawing her weapons and waiting. The door swung smoothly open, revealing a vista of night fallen upon the Ered Lithui. Before her the spur rose to the heights of the range proper. Her own footprints of that morning she saw before her in the dust. For a day she had walked, and in the end she had come full circle, back to where she had started out.

A groan escaped her. Indeed some enchantment lay upon the tunnel! All through her walk she would hath sworn that never had it deviated, and yet in 24 miles it had made a full circle back to its start. 'Twas remarkably subtle magick, she realized. Without any expenditure of guard or confrontation, an invader or spy would be foiled as had she. It seemed Sauron had an unexpected trick of two built into his fortress after all. Yet why build such a thing? Whyfore to such an effort had he consigned his laborers? T'would still leave need for a bolt hole and an escape route. She sat pondering this for some time in the silent darkness.

Where 'tis one spell evidenced, surely there could be two, she finally thought, and why not yet more? Had the floor been riddled with trap-doors and pits, then she would hath accepted that the tunnel was't merely a passive aggression. Yet 'twas not so. But a simple spell could hide wholly any already camouflaged side entrance, and suspecting it not, she had easily passed it by at unawares.

Helluin sighed. Only one solution did she know. She must venture back into the tunnel, and by examining each yard of the walls with care, sooner or later discover what she sought. No doubt later than sooner it shalt be, yet perhaps I can ignore at first the league of distance ere the tunnel dives 'neath the outer wall and concentrate thence my search upon the tunnel further within. Being a circuit, she halved the distance of her walk. Eight leagues became four. Then she subtracted a league at the end which she now knew to be the same league coming and going. And now she was't left three leagues to search. 'Twas nine miles of tunnel, and the side entrance she sought might be not even a yard in width. She sighed yet again and strove to accept the slow and tedious nature of her upcoming labor. And then she realized that since there were two sides of the tunnel to be searched, three leagues must become six. 'Twas eighteen miles of walls in which an entrance might be hid. With a groan she shook her head and sat down in the doorway.

Now upon 29 Gwirith, (April 29th), Beinvír stood with King Anárion, the King's Heir, Prince Meneldil, Lord Aerandir, a Captain of Gondor named for one of Eärendil's three fellow mariners, and Ragnor, Deputy-Chief Guardian of Lebennin. Beside them the Ithilduin¹ vigorously gurgled in its course down to Anduin, running swift with spring snowmelt. Three miles to their west stood the crossroad where the way coming south intersected the road leading from Minas Ithil to Osgiliath. Two miles ahead stood the walls of Isildur's city. ¹(Ithilduin, Moon River, = Ithil(the moon) + duin(long river) Sindarin)

"My King, all stands now in readiness for the assault upon the city," Lord Aerandir reported.

Anárion nodded. O'er the winter the army's engineers had built many engines of war in Ithilien and Osgiliath, and now these had been drawn to the battle zone and awaited deployment to the forward positions just beyond bowshot of the walls.

About those walls stood the first division of the Army of Gondor, 25,000 knights and footmen, half the strength of that realm, and the Rangers of Ithilien, 35,000 bowmen and infantry from Lebennin. These 60,000 opposed, by their best reckoning, a mixed force of Yrch and Southrons numbering up to 30,000, though these might well hath been reinforced or reduced by traffic o'er the Ephel Duath. What their condition now was't and how they had fared o'erwintering within the city's walls, none could be sure.

"Beinvír, can'st thy Rangers take and hold the lower reaches of the way o'er yonder Mountains of Shadow?" the king asked. With a mailed finger he indicated the sickening vertical of the Straight Stair that climbed the northern arm enclosing the Imlad Ithil. 'Twas but the first leg of the ascent to the pass o'er the Ephel Duath into Mordor.

"Aye, Lord Anárion, that way already we doth hold," the Green Elf told him. Indeed they had already made exploratory forays upon the treacherous climbing height, and she herself had come beyond it, to the narrow, inclined passage above that led thence to the Winding Stair upon whose treads she had not set foot. The passage could be held long by few Men. Thither she had already placed a small company to waylay the route against any coming o'er the pass from the east. Now she would send reinforcements.

"From those heights t'would be possible to espy movements within the city, prevent any movements against us from o'er the mountains, and rain down arrows of fire while'st yet remaining outside the reach of the enemy's bows. In any case I should prefer to command the high ground rather than hath it held against us."

"I agree, O King," Beinvír said. Though such mass deployments of troops was't foreign to her, she could see easily the wisdom of it.

"Make it so then," Anárion said, and Beinvír nodded, turning thence to speak softly with Ragnor. "Lord Aerandir, order the engines forward and spread the word amongst the troops," the king told his captain, "we attack at dawn on the morrow."

A smile lit the face of the Captain. He had awaited this order since the first snowmelt.

"I shalt make it so, my Lord King."

Immediately he gestured a lieutenant over and spoke briefly to him, conveying the order. Beinvír noted that the Man's shoulders straightened and when he hurried away 'twas a spring in his step.

Eager art they indeed to end this siege, she thought to herself, and I too, truth be told, though the prospect of the fighting doth chill my blood. 'Tis a strange mode of warfare to me. My people would simply wait and watch, shooting any who ventured forth and maintaining the leaguer until all within yielded or starved. I suppose being mortal though, such a tactic would take too much time ere it bore the fruit of victory. Ahhh well.

Upon the morrow when the light of Anor softly brightened the sky o'erhead, but that blazing disc had yet to top the Mountains of Shadow, a fanfare of trumpets rang upon the stone of the valley, echoing off the high walls behind the city and shivering the hearts of those within. Ballistae and catapults were uncovered. Beasts labored in the chill morn to draw them forward. Men stood in ranks and files ready to advance to the battle lines.

High upon the Straight Stair, the first volley of arrows streaked from the bows of the many archers who had climbed thither during the night. They trailed thin streams of smoke from their flaming heads, and as their energy waned, they nosed down and fell, hundreds of them, like a scalding hail, to land within the outer walls of Minas Ithil. Volley after volley the Rangers loosed and their shooting was't swiftly rewarded by the smoke of fires. Then flames were spotted below and a cheer went up from the Men all along the stair. Those within the walls didn't even bother trying to shoot back.

Beyond the walls, the Army of Gondor advanced. Row upon row of armored soldiers marched forward, some bearing torches, some spears, others bows. Beside them rumbled forward the catapults and their wagons of shot, stationing themselves just beyond bowshot of the walls, while'st 'neath a canopy of timbers the great battering ram was't drawn hence by many oxen draped with rawhides.

When the catapults reached their designated firing positions, their booms were winched back by crews whose labor lowered the long pivoting arms against the massive weights that swung from their shorter ends. Shot was't loaded. Then the batteries waited on the order to fire, while'st beside some, Men stood ready with torches to ignite the shot. Swiftly the order came and the artillery began its bombardment; solid shot directed at the walls, burning shot directed o'er it. Flaming balls of oil soaked straw, wrapped tight about a heavy stone, flew in high arcs, leaving trails of black smoke in their wake. From within Minas Ithil's walls where fires already blazed, now rose billowing clouds as yet more buildings caught flame. Within the city t'would be a choking and eye searing atmosphere to torment the defenders.

But Minas Ithil answered their barrage. From within the city, crews of Yrch returned fire with catapults of their own. Not so quickly nor so accurately did they shoot as the Men of the West, yet from the heights of the walls their shot carried further and fell amongst the ranks with devastating effect. Indeed it seemed that, guided by malice and desire to cause suffering, the Yrch targeted the infantry ranks rather than the opposing catapults.

For an hour and more the duel continued and then the weapons within the walls slowed and fell still. The Yrch had expended their available shot and were then forced to haul rubble from collapsed buildings and break it down to proper size. Outside the walls the batteries continued firing. Now came the time for the assault upon the gate.

With a great cry companies of Men charged forward, led by bowmen, and swordsmen who bore broad shields and spare quivers, and these moved up the causeway o'er Ithilduin to within 50 feet of the walls. They concentrated their fire against those above the gate loosing deadly volleys and deadlier sharp shooting by Rangers, as all strove to clear the battlement of defenders. Yet the Yrch replaced their dead as they fell, their new archers taking up the bows and quivers of the slain, firing upon the Men below until their shields were as pincushions, thick with black fletched shafts. Many of these indeed found their marks and many Men fell, yet like the Yrch upon the walls, ever more bowmen of Gondor and Lebennin took their places and the rain of arrows from both sides fell thick as raindrops in a deluge.

Now at the third hour of the battle a clear note rang forth upon the trumpets. Then the leading bowmen advanced while'st those upon the causeway behind parted, and thence through their midst, a team of two score oxen drew forward the battering ram against the gate. Now archers covered for those who came behind to haul upon the ropes that swung the great iron ram which the Men of Gondor had named the "Fist of Tulkas".

None knew better than the engineers of the southern kingdom what was't the true strength of Minas Ithil's gate. And no gate of wood, or stone, though banded and bound in forged iron, can withstand forever a ram of mass sufficient to shiver it. So thus had the "Fist" been created, in length five fathoms, in diameter a fathom, its head tapered and rounded, and it weighed twenty-five tons. Upon a great carriage was't it driven, elevated and suspended upon heavy chains, to swing in an arc of thirty feet to a point of impact four fathoms above the ground. A crew of three-hundred sturdy Men of Gondor stood ready to haul on the lines that would set it in motion.

Now arrows flew thick as ocean spray but they bit not upon the thick rawhide that draped the great oxen as they hauled the "Fist" into position. The nose of the ram was't then two fathoms from the gate and aligned with the meeting seam of the two doors, and thither the wheels were chocked. Then 'neath a roof of thick, wooden planks, 150 Men upon either side set about heaving upon the lines, setting the ram in motion. Small was't its swing at the start, yet with each completion of its arc, ever greater did its travel become. As the Men pulled they broke into an ancient sea chanty, giving unity and rhythm to their efforts, and like the sailors of old upon the heaving decks of the tall ships of Westernesse, they sang out proud as they labored.

The Men of Gondor and Lebennin redoubled their efforts to shoot down any who appeared upon the battlements above. Yet for all their efforts, boulders fell upon the roofing o'er the ram and arrows felled Men hauling upon the lines. Heated oil splashed off the timbers or flared when ignited by torches dropped from the battlements. But for each Man who fell, stricken by a black fletched shaft or scalded or burnt, another would hasten to take his place, and all hauled as had their grandsires at the lines and rigging of the great ships of Númenor. The ram built momentum. Longer grew the arc of its swing. And finally it kissed the iron banded timbers of Minas Ithil's gate with a dull thud.

Upon the next swing the impact came as a great boom that rang 'cross the battlefield and 'twas greeted with a cheer by the armies of Men. Again the "Fist of Tulkas" swung back and then forth. Again came a boom that shook the very ground. Dust rose from the hinges and banding of the doors, and from the very masonry of the parapet above the gate, as the impacts loosened the accumulation of grit.

Stout indeed was't that gate, wrought of oaken timbers in the early decades of the dominion of the Exiled Númenóreans. Strong were the bands of iron that girded it. Massive were its steel hinges, sunk into posts of mountain granite, hard and dark as the mountains of the Ephel Duath from which they had been quarried. Yet all this was't known by the engineers in Osgiliath, for in the archives of the kings were the original designs and drawings for both of the tower cities of Gondor. Yea, the strength of Minas Ithil was't well known and the ram designed to o'ercome that strength, and as the booms of impact rang 'cross the miles, echoing out of the Ithil Vale, they were counted carefully in Osgiliath for the settlement of many wagers.

Now most had said t'would take two score strong hits, but others so few as ten ere the gate failed. Yet for the Men hauling upon the lines each booming impact seemed to sound a life age after the last. All the while arrows flew; boulders were cast and fell. Gouts of flame spouted from the splatter of the oil poured from the parapet and set aflame. Men died and others replaced them. Archers fired, shield men stood their stations beside them, and behind all were the cavalry and infantry, eagerly awaiting the fall of the gate that would signal their charge. At their head pranced the horses of Lord Aerandir and his lieutenants, yet at the center of their ranks sat the King.

Lord Anárion waited to lead his army forth, and he alone was't calm, still, and silent. Unlike many he reveled not in war nor sought the thrill of battle. He knew well his duty and t'would be done, for he was't a noble king, but far more precious to him was't the sight of his lands at peace from the high Hallow upon Mindolluin and the lore of the far off West. Far dearer than the cries of battle and the clash of arms to his ears were the voices of his wife and four children. Beside him sat Prince Meneldil, watching his father and striving in heart for the courage to make him proud. He was't then 117 years of age, yet never before the invasion had he seen battle.

Again the boom of the ram's impact rang forth from the Vale of the Ithilduin, and 'twas counted as the four and twentieth strike by the "Fist of Tulkas", and 'neath that report was't heard the cracking of beams at last. The hearts of all the Men leapt and they grasped more tightly their weapons. Horses sensed the excitement of their riders and had to be reined back. The infantry took an unconscious step forward.

Upon the twenty-fifth swing of the ram the gate was't shivered at last and the doors gave inward with a splintering of timbers ere they rebounded at the ram's back swing. At the point of impact, the reinforcing iron bands stood warped. But upon the very next striking there came a loud report, as of a great bone breaking, and the massive timber that barred the gates from behind buckled and snapped asunder. Then the doors yielded inward and gaped open a yard. Through the gap could be seen the frantically moving figures of Southrons and Yrch, preparing for the coming onslaught.

So 'twas upon the twenty-seventh swing of the ram that the gate of Minas Ithil failed utterly, torn not from its hinges, nor splintered of its planking, but rather slammed open wide, for no longer were those doors barred from within. The great timber securing them closed was't shattered and its pieces flew into the courtyard behind the gate, felling many a foe in their ruin. And then the two massive, iron-banded doors swung unstoppably apart, crushing any who stood in their path.

Now the way stood open, revealing a smoke filled courtyard, hazy, strewn with bodies, and holding a press of foemen standing with swords unsheathed and spears at the ready. The few bowmen left amongst them drew and prepared to fire.

Ere the "Fist of Tulkas" had made full again its back swing, King Anárion spurred forward his horse, signaling the charge. Now all the knights and footmen of Gondor and Lebennin eagerly followed their king, but 'naught passed through the gate of his brother's city ahead of him save only a volley of arrows from the bowmen outside the walls that cut down many of the Yrch and Southrons standing in the court behind the gate.

From the heights of the Straight Stair, Beinvír watched the charge of the Men of Gondor into the city. Those about her gave a great cheer. Looking down through the billowing clouds of smoke into the main courtyard, she spied King Anárion and Prince Meneldil in their bright armor with all their gallant knights about them, swirling amongst their foes, cutting them down with lance and sword, and forcing them ever back. From far below came the screams of Men and Yrch, the clash of arms, and the neighing of horses. Behind the knights surged the infantry, engaging the enemy with furious strokes in a close press of bodies. The Green Elf could see the frontline of the battle moving inexorably inward, through court and passage, down streets and into alleys, and ever further from the gate. The Men of Gondor and Lebennin were driving their foes before them and cutting them down whether they stood or ran. 'Twas now but a matter of time, she thought, ere Minas Ithil was't cleared of enemies and returned to the rule of the kings.

To Be Continued

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