Chapter 9

by Cassia and Siobhan

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In another moment the battle came into sight as a rolling, dark wave of Corsairs swept up the hill, pushing the thin ring of Gondorian sentries back before them. 

Aragorn swore loudly and his sword was in his hand in an instant.  He was almost positive that all the enemies they had faced earlier had either left with the captives or been scattered enough to be of no threat.  Apparently the Corsairs had a few tricks up their sleeves.  He had no idea where this new wave of the enemy had come from; however, it was probable that they had not even taken part in the first attack, but were waiting in hiding until they could catch their weakened adversaries off-guard.  Although prepared against such tactics earlier, the weakened Gondorians had not expected the attack to come so long after the previous battle and the guard had relaxed.  It was a fatal mistake and a deadly surprise. 

Legolas winced hard as he swung his quiver over one shoulder and it came to rest against his hurting back, but it felt good to get a weapon into his hand again.  

The camp was thrown immediately into chaos as the off-duty soldiers, already plunged in the midst of the broiling fray whether they knew it or not, woke and rushed to the aid of their companions.  

Aragorn spun out of the way only just in time to avoid the swinging plunge of a sword blade.  Whipping around, he caught the attacker’s sword with his own, quickly deflecting the second sweep.  

Another man came up from behind and attempted to cut the ranger’s legs out from under him, but a long, slender arrow directly between his shoulder blades stopped him. 

Legolas grimaced and dropped his arm quickly to his side, shouldering his bow in favor of his knives as one of the Corsairs rushed him.  Drawing a bowstring was too painful in his current condition and the press of the enemy warranted hand-to-hand combat at this point.  

Aragorn tossed a glance over his shoulder to throw his friend a grateful smile in the same moment that he dipped around to counter a new enemy.  

Legolas, locked in his own combat, acknowledged with a small nod.  Right now all motion was extremely difficult for him and he had to keep his attention focused.  In one way fortune was with him at least, the Corsairs seemed initially less interested in him than in the more obviously Gondorian soldiers. 

Aragorn tried to keep an eye on Legolas and stay close, knowing the prince was in seriously weakened condition, but a few moments later the area was swarming with enemy soldiers and it was all the weary captain could do to keep up.  

Wave after wave of the enemy swept them apart.  Fire pits were trampled and tents overturned, creating a smoldering, smoky atmosphere that only added to the confusion. 

Aragorn called to his men, rallying those who were starting to panic.  Across the camp, which had now become a burning battle ground, he could see Denethor mustering the scattered forces nearest to him and Aragorn began angling his line of defense so that they could spearhead across the middle and meet up with the divided contingent.  

Legolas lost sight of Aragorn in the dark tangle of swinging swords and whizzing arrows.  Gondorian soldiers and Corsair raiders were battling all around him.  The prince was not one to walk away from a fight, but he was slowly trying to push himself to the fringes of this one.  He knew his own strength and he knew that he could not long survive in the thick of the fray right now.  

The Corsairs however, seemed to be everywhere.  Soon Legolas found himself fighting almost alone, surrounded by the enemy and cut off from retreat as well as the other soldiers.  

Separate and surround were the tactics that the Corsairs seemed to favor for this battle.  They appeared to know the Gondorian soldiers’ strategies fairly well and thusly had devised the best way to splinter them.  

The elf prince’s head was beginning to spin.  He was too weak for this.  He had not recovered his strength yet from his long privation and the wounds he had only just sustained screamed every time he moved.  

Legolas heard a familiar voice and his hopes rose that help was coming until the words reached his ears.  Quickly thrusting his knife into the belly of the Corsair in front of him, he turned towards the sound of the men who approached from behind him. 

“Well, what have we here?  You look a little worse for the wear, Legolas.  I was searching for others. I didn’t expect to find you.” 

Legolas stared, stunned at the man who led a small Corsair contingent towards him. “You,” he breathed in shock.  “But, how... I thought you-” 

“Take him.  He knows too much.”  Dark eyes stared dispassionately at the elf, ignoring and cutting off the stunned question.  “I’m sorry you didn’t just leave, Legolas.  It would have been better for you.  Now I can’t let you go, knowing what you know.” 

You are the traitor?!”  Disbelief paralyzed Legolas for a fraction of a second.  He found the truth hard to believe, but it stood before him, not denying the accusations.  Suddenly it all made sense and the pieces clicked into place... too late. 

The Corsairs surged forward, surrounding the prince and spurring him to action.  Legolas struggled against the soldiers, unwilling to go without a fight.  The momentary distraction of finally knowing the identity of the real traitor threw him off just enough that he was unprepared for the Corsair’s rush.  He was able to take three of them down before he was overwhelmed, but in the end he was sorely outnumbered.  His arms quickly pinned and bound to his sides, Legolas was roughly forced to kneel on the ground before the man he had once considered an ally.  

“What do we do with him?” a Corsair guard asked. 

The traitor stood now with his back to the small contingent, watching the main battle, feigning disinterest.  His dark eyes scanned the fighting for the true objects of his mission. 

“What do I care?  I have bigger concerns to tend to.  Sell him to the slavers with the other lot...” Slowly the man turned back towards the captive, his dead gaze momentarily lighting on the elf before fixing the guards with a steady stare, “No, give him to them.  I am sure they know how to lose one of his kind in a land this large.”  His gaze flickered back to Legolas for a moment.  A part of him almost did regret this.  The elf had been a pawn, but an innocent one.  A casualty of war.  “You proved useful, elf, and for that I’ll not kill you, but I don’t know whether you should thank me or not.”  With that he walked away and Legolas was left to watch him disappear.  A deep sense of betrayal burned in the elvish heart and it only added to his confusion. 

“Wait...” But the elf was silenced as one of the guards smashed the pommel of his sword against the back of the prince’s skull and he fell unconscious to the ground. 

The retreating figure paused momentarily on the grassy slope.  He really hadn’t meant for the elf to become involved in any of this. Legolas had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time... or actually the right place at the right time, he supposed, depending on whose point of view you were looking from.  Somewhere beneath the layers of deceit and treachery that had hardened his heart the man almost regretted the elf’s fate.  The men of Gondor he would see completely destroyed, but he had borne Legolas no malice.  He had simply been a tool... however, like all tools, there came a time when their usefulness was at an end.  

“Things aren’t always as they seem,” he whispered quietly, finally answering Legolas’ question before melting into the early morning fog.  He had a mission to accomplish.  The sounds of warfare rang more loudly in his ears as he approached the main battlefield.  There were others he needed to dispose of and time was running short. He had no room for regret, his heart had long ago lost all feeling.  That had died with his parents a long, long time ago.   


Aragorn and Denethor managed to rally their forces and form a loosely defensive ring of opposition on the eastern flank of camp, near the canyon wall.  Since the enemy’s purpose was to divide them, staying together as much as possible was essential and seemed to actually throw their attackers off as it was an unexpected shift on the Gondorian’s part.  

The two captains found themselves fighting nearly side by side as the latest enemy rush tried to drive a wedge down the middle of their defenses.  

Aragorn felt as if his sword had become fused to his hand, an extension of his aching arms.  He didn’t think he had ever been so weary. He had only just returned from one long and strenuous battle not even two hours past and had not slept in longer than he could remember.  Adrenaline and willpower alone kept him going now, along with his burning resolve to let no more of their men be slaughtered if he could help it. 

Denethor was nearly as weary and just as determined.  Together the two captains held the field... but their exhausted minds did not notice that the Corsairs were slowly forcing their supporting troops back while keeping the officers neatly pinned where they were.  

A grating rumble above made Aragorn look up sharply.  He dodged only just in time to avoid a large boulder that was hurled down from the darkness of the cliff that loomed over them.  Some of the Corsair soldiers had gained the top of the steep rise and were dislodging stones down upon them. 

The boulders were not very precise weapons and, as Aragorn side-stepped another, it took out the Corsair soldier he was fighting.  An instant later, however, another careening missile grazed Aragorn’s shoulder, making his arm tingle and knocking him sideways.  He pulled himself up again only just in time to see one of the large stones strike Denethor from behind, knocking the captain’s legs out from under him and throwing him to the ground. 

“Denethor!” Aragorn called in alarm as several of the Corsairs moved in to finish the downed man off.  Fighting his way through them, Aragorn reached the other captain’s side.  The future steward was conscious and trying to get up, but his left leg seemed to be giving him great pain and he could not manage it. 

The small avalanche that had been started was still going on under its own impetus and the Corsairs were forced to pull back their attack a little.  This gave Aragorn time to drag Denethor behind one of the larger boulders that had already settled, hopefully securing a little protection for the injured man.  

“I’m all right,” Denethor warded off his counterpart’s worriedly probing hands.  “It’s just my blasted leg,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.  The cold sweat gathering on his brow told Aragorn that it was a lot worse than the other captain wanted to admit.  

“It’s broken,” Aragorn confirmed after a quick examination of the future Steward’s damaged lower leg.  

Denethor swore.  He knew what the life expectancy was for a soldier with a useless leg in the middle of a battle.  Minimal to none. 

A sword chopped the air where Aragorn’s head had been, except the ranger moved too fast for the assailant.  Jumping to his feet he sprung over the boulder to face the new attack, bidding Denethor stay down.  

With the cliff to his back and an injured man to protect, Aragorn realized grimly that his moments were numbered as the Corsairs pressed him harder.  His breathing came short and fast and his weary muscles burned.  Perspiration ran down his face and into his eyes making them sting and blur.  

One of the Corsairs got past him and used the moment to drive his sword down blindly behind the rock.  Denethor gave a pained cry, but even from his compromised position he managed to behead the villain before he got any further.  

Just when Aragorn was beginning to think the end was near, a new figure jumped into the skirmish, followed by others.  Tarcil had fought his way through to his commanders and brought a small group of men with him.  With the odds beginning to even out, Aragorn was able to catch his breath a little.  Hurrying back to Denethor, the ranger found, much to his dismay, that the other captain had taken a nasty gash to his broken leg and it was bleeding profusely.  

Denethor bit back a cry as Aragorn ripped off his own sleeve and quickly pressed the wadded fabric over the wound.  

“I couldn’t get it out of the way in time,” he muttered, angry with himself.   

Aragorn just squeezed his arm and clapped the future Steward’s hand over the make-shift bandage.  “Hold this tightly. Your life depends on it.” 

Denethor fumbled slightly, his bruised fingers numb and shaky.  Aragorn bit his lower lip.  This was no good, without firm pressure the man would die.  

“Tarcil!” Aragorn poked his head up, looking for help.  His second-in-command was too far away to hear, but another soldier was near and came at his call.  “Quickly, I need help with Captain Denethor’s wounds...” Aragorn stopped when he looked up, disturbed to find that the soldier who had come was none other than Castamir. 

Denethor’s eyes narrowed.  “How did you-” 

“I got free when the fighting started,” was the pre-emptive reply.  The soldier must have seen the look of distrust in both his superior’s eyes because he quickly leveled the men with a serious glare.  “I don’t care what you think of me because I don’t like either of you very much either.” The fact that they were probably all about to die gave the soldier total candor.  “But I’ll rot in Mordor before I let these sons of Sauron win.  If you’re going to execute me for disobeying orders again and escaping, do it.  Otherwise hand me that damn bandage.” 

Aragorn grabbed Castamir’s hands somewhat roughly and placed them on the wound, showing him where to press.  “Keep the pressure constant and don’t let go, no matter what,” he instructed in clipped tones.  “If you so much as move to rub your eyes he’ll die.  And if that happens, I’ll kill you myself.”  He could not forget what this man had done to his friend, but now was not the time for personal feelings.  He had to get back into the battle.  The army could not afford to have both of its commanding officers out of action.  

Tarcil led the bulk of the attack away from the two captains, allowing him and his men to be pushed back in order to take the attacking Corsairs with them.  Through the press Tarcil vaguely saw another group of Gondorian soldiers heading for his commander’s position, so he allowed himself to be the decoy to draw the main host away.  

Out of the corner of his eye Aragorn also saw the arriving troops approaching as he crossed weapons with the two swarthy Corsairs fighting him.  One of the Gondorian soldiers moved in to help him... or so he thought.  However an instant later he was flat on his face, half sprawled across the boulder behind him, his head and shoulders buzzing from where he had been viciously clubbed.  The chill, rough surface of the rock scraped his skin and dug into his ribs as a second blow forced the air from his lungs and knocked him to the ground near Denethor and Castamir.  

Castamir started and half began to rise, but the warm, sticky flow of blood, which gushed up around his fingers when he let up even a little pressure, made him stop and re-think his actions, as did the ring of enemy soldiers outfitted in Gondorian armor who now had them completely encircled.  

Dizzily Aragorn rolled onto his back to find himself staring up into the face he had least expected to see.

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