Haleth, Son of Hama, Warrior of Rohan

by Norgen
January 29, 2007

    It was the most beautiful sunrise Haleth, son of Hama, had ever seen. It was full of the hope the Ranger had spoken of the night before the battle. Last night he was sure he would never see the sun again.  His bowels had turned to water as he watched the dark plains grow darker with Orc and other fell folk. If there had been a place to run to Haleth would have, but the darkness trapped them completely. Haleth the farm boy knew he was doomed. The long wait for something, anything to happen did as much to unnerve the him as the yowls and cries from outside the wall. With just a few words, a gentle look and a reassuring tone this stranger helped a scared boy find courage he had never had.
    The boys of Rohan in mismatched and ill-fitted armor stood shoulder to shoulder with riders, soldiers, archers and men from the fields and farms of Rohan. Saruman’s storm dampened their hearts as well as their bodies.   The sword the Ranger had proclaimed a good sword felt heavy and clumsy in Haleth’s grip. His strong calloused hands were accustomed more to the sickle and plow than the sword and battle pike.    
    The Ranger walking up and down the wall caught sight of the boy and smiled at him. That smile gave the frightened boy back his heart. Haleth knew he would not shame himself and his village before such a man as he. He asked the old graybeard next to him if he knew who the Ranger was.
    “That is no ordinary Ranger.  I heard Theoden King call him Lord Aragorn”      
    Haleth thought, that’s a grand name for one who looks like he has not slept under a roof in a very long time. The grizzly old soldier saw Haleth was shaking beneath his over-sized armor.
    “ Its ok to be scared, boy, no shame in that.  I’m 'bout ready to wet meself every time. Just try to keep your back against something tall and solid. Hold tight your wits when it starts to get fast and furious and you’ll do fine”
    Then it all happened at once.
    Haleth was not afraid as much as he was surprised. Surprised at the sickening thump an Orc arrow made as it found its mark. Surprised at how much blood a person held and how fast it ran out. Surprised at how easily men died.  Most surprising was that he was still alive after those showers of black Orc arrows.
    A ladder of iron and wood grabbed and held the wall and Haleth saw his first Orc. It was screaming and howling as it slew men in front of the boy’s unblinking eyes. The blood-spattered Uruk-hai turned toward Haleth; the boy froze. Lifting a crude axe the twisted mockery of an Elf came at the farm boy. The monster stopped not five paces from Haleth, a throwing axe bouncing off its misshaped forehead. The blow stunned the creature long enough for Haleth to start breathing again and swing that good sword with all the fear, hate and strength his body held. The Orc’s head jumped from its mooring and flew over the wall. Haleth remembered thinking, look out below; someone could get hurt with that.
    Haleth killed five more Orcs before being knocked senseless by an explosion. It hit like a fist, gnarled and heavy as an old tree root. Lying in a growing puddle of Man blood, Orc blood and Elf blood, Haleth thought that soon his blood would join the mixture on the gory stones of the wall. He tried to get up but his legs would not obey his orders. He awoke and passed out a few more times. The killing and dying went on around the semi-conscious Haleth.

    With the sunrise came the White Wizard and the tide changed.  Haleth felt the change and found his feet. The old campaigner who stood beside him before that battle lay dying next to him. He held out his sword to the boy. Wordlessly he asked Haleth to fight on with his sword, fight till Rohan was clean again. The old warrior who fought for peace finally found the only real peace a soldier ever finds. He died. Haleth took his helm and shield as well.
    Haleth ran an Isengard Uruk-hai through with his new sword. The helm deflected a blow from a notched iron Orc sword. Haleth went down hard but managed to hew at his assailant, hamstringing the beast and it fell from the wall. His old leather helm would not have protected him and his days would have ended there on the wall. The biggest Uruk-hai Haleth had ever seen was throwing screaming men off the wall into the inner yard. Using one man to kill another down below was an obscenity; Haleth had to stop it somehow. Looking around he found two throwing axes lodged in a dead Orc's chest. Pulling them free the young warrior leapt on to the giant Uruk-hai’s back hacking and chopping as if the monster was an old tree stump in his field back home. It was a long hard and nasty way to kill but Haleth succeeded. The giant Uruk-hai was dead. Haleth stuck the two axes in his belt.
    The rush of invaders over the iron ladders slowed, then stopped all together. After the battle Haleth walked through the tangle of dead and dying on the wall. Healing women were sorting those who could be saved from those who just needed a hand to hold as they left this life. The dead of Isengard were thrown over the outer wall to be piled into mounds and burned. He found a group of men sitting on the wall facing in, their backs to the growing pyre of Orc dead. Haleth sat down heavy on the parapet. Haleth was hungry.
    “ Hope they feeds us before they burn those ugly brutes, though I can’t imagine them smelling any worst burning than they did alive,” someone joked.
    A flask was passed and Haleth drank of it. A sweet burning in his throat and eyes helped to clear his head. The men were dirty and covered in gore and smelled almost as bad as any living Orc. They cleaned their weapons and showed Haleth how to clean his.
    “Take good care of your steel, lad, and it will take care of you. If that Orc filth dries on your blade it will corrode it soon enough”
    A healing woman made them all stand up and reach under their own armor to check for wounds and broken bits of Orc blades or arrowheads. Haleth was disgusted and fascinated to see the things that were being pulled from chinks and creases in their armor.
    A burly soldier sat down next to Haleth and handed him a small square cake. “Here, this will hold you till you can find a proper meal. Lembas bread. It is not too tasty but it will keep your belly from flagging”
    It was a Dwarf. The one Haleth saw with Lord Aragorn the day before. Haleth bit into the cake and felt like he might live after all.
    “Is this your first battle, boy?” the Dwarf asked. Haleth nodded as he chewed.
    “ You did well with that sword, boy. I saw you relieve that Orc of his head when my axe hit him with the wrong end.  I rushed my throw.  Don’t tell the Elf; he can be a bit competitive you know.”
    “You saved my life, Sir Dwarf.  He would have skewered me for sure”
    “Aragorn asked me to keep an eye on you if I wasn’t too busy.  You did some close dirty work with those two throwing axes, I hear.”
    Haleth pulled the two axes from his belt
    “ Are they yours, Master?” He offered them to Gimli
    “Not anymore.  Now they are yours.  If we get a chance, I’ll teach you how they were meant to be used. If you’ve finished with your repast, I know Aragorn would like to see if you're still amongst the living.”
    Haleth blinked stupidly
    “You are still amongst the living aren’t you, boy?  “
    “My name is Haleth, son of Hama, and it feels like a long time since I was a boy”
    “Gimli, son of Gloin, is my name and, aye, I guess you’re no longer a boy. Come, let's find Aragorn. “

    Aragorn was in an inner courtyard sitting with Theoden King and the White Wizard.  An Elf stood off to the side. Haleth wished to wash and make himself presentable. Instead he slumped down in the shade of a statue in honor to some long ago king.  Soon the young warrior fell into a hard sleep. Thankfully no dreams came. Haleth dreaded the dreams to come. He knew he would be seeing that giant Orc beast in his sleep for years.
    It was past midday when the tall Elf shook Haleth awake
    “I see you're learning well the way of campaigners.  Sleep when you can.  I am Legolas. Gimli is with Theoden inspecting the damage to the walls. Come now; Aragorn is asking for you.”
    Haleth struggled to keep up with the tall Elf. Legolas seemed to glide rather than walk across the parapet walls and down to the field below. Haleth had seen Elves before but had never spoken to one
    “Is there someplace for me to wash up before I meet Lord Aragorn?”
    Legolas walked ahead and they came to a pavilion tent that Haleth suspected was Lord Aragorn’s.  They stopped before the flap.
    “Do you know Theoden King so well you would enter his tent unasked or unannounced?” Legolas asked Haleth with a teasing smile. Haleth looked confused as he followed on to a rather worse for wear many times patched field tent.
    Lord Aragorn sat beside a camp table. Wooden bowls of food and beer lay on it, while a basin of water warmed near a brazier. Aragorn offered Haleth the warm water to wash and refresh himself. Haleth washed. Aragorn turned to the former farm boy handing him a flagon of beer
     “I am glad to see you, Haleth, son of Hama. Will you eat something?”
     Haleth bowed and took the flagon of beer and sat behind a wooden bowl of stew.
     “I am honored to be here, Lord Aragorn. ”  
    “And more than a little lucky to be here as well,” added Gimli as he joined Haleth at the table.
    The Elf stepped toward Gimli, handing him a flagon of beer and said one word to the master axeman.
    “Forty-six,” was the Dwarf’s reply
    “Does that include the one the boy finished off for you?”
    Gimli sputtered into his beer and replied with a broad smile, “Why you eagle-eyed know-it-all!”
     The mismatched friends argued as good friends will, without malice but with plenty of passion. Haleth ate the stew and drained the flagon of beer; both were thick and tasty.
    Aragorn sat by the fire and pulled a pipe from his cloak lighting it with a stick from the fire.  He spoke softly. “Haleth, I see you greatly changed since last night. Battle has a way of doing that to a man, but tonight you will be going back to your family, farm and livestock.”
    Aragorn felt protective of this boy from the farmlands. The realm needed farmers as much as it needed soldiers. He knew too many men would not be coming home from this war. The boy did his part and did it well. That was enough. Some young men would discover a talent and a taste for battle. Aragorn knew too many of those men, men who could never enjoy the peace they fought so hard to win. They lived from fight to fight, some doing good, some evil and some not caring which. These men had no homes but inns and taverns. If they were lucky they had loyal and true friends, but too many times they found the man standing next to him this week stood on the other side of the line next week. Aragorn did not want Haleth to be one of them.
    “My farm is burned and my animals killed or stolen, lord, and as for family I am alone now“
    “Well another farm then - you are young yet. Not a boy,” he added quickly, “but young still, with time to have a family to fill that farm.”
    “It's odd, my Lord, but that life seems so removed from me now. I have something to do first.” Haleth pulled the old campaigner's sword from its sheath. “This sword belonged to a man I never met before last night. We stood together and fought side by side like brothers against those who knew us not, yet hated us .He died and I lived.  Before he died, he gave me this sword to keep fighting. Lord Aragorn, I don’t even know his name and he died without knowing mine, but I will not dishonor his sword by turning away from this fight."
    Haleth lay the sword of the warrior at Aragorn’s feet
    “Although he may have better served you with this sword, I am here to pledge it to you along with my arm to wield it. Until all our battles are fought and won I can’t think of farm and family."
    Lord Aragorn took the sword, felt its heft, spun it twice in his hand, then returned it to Haleth.
    “The other sword was a good sword, Haleth, son of Hama, but this is a better one. I name it Oathsword.  It will serve you well and true and may it someday hang above your own door and grow a long beard of cobwebs in peace.”
    Legolas offered an Elvish knife from his belt. “Add this to your armory of bestowed weapons, Haleth, son of Hama.” Haleth was amazed at how light it was. Its leaf-like blade looked both delicate and deadly at the same time.
    Aragorn took a chainmail coif from a cask just inside the field tent. “This will help to keep you in one piece. It should fit under your helm. If not find a smith to fit it for you. Take it, along with my oath to you and your people. One day soon we shall drink wine in the shade of your vines and live in peace”. Aragorn searched Haleth’s eyes for some clue as to the young man of Rohan’s fate. But like so much in Middle-earth his fate was uncertain.
    The three companions stood with the newest warrior, giving him advice and adjusting his gear. Haleth in borrowed armor and donated weapons felt small and out of place. He could only hope that one day he would be worthy of the honor these valiant folk had shown him. He smiled to himself when he thought what a great story this would be to one day tell his children and then his grandchildren on a cold night before a winter fire.
    The one-time farm boy saluted Aragorn, bowed to the tall Elf, and said good-bye to his Dwarf friend. Knowing that peace lay on the far side of this War, he stuck the two blades in his belt. They joined the two throwing axes. Flinging the shield across his back and placing the helm over the chainmail hood, he went to join a company of men forming up to hunt down the remaining invaders. Haleth, son of Hama, was changed that day maybe for the better for having fought, and maybe for the worse having killed, but changed nonetheless.

The End