Fires in the Night
Moonday 29 Narbeleth(Grape Harvesting) – (Second Autumn) T.A. 2758
A young Dúnadan kneels in a small valley near a hill just North of Dol Baran to say an evening prayer to Eru before he takes his supper. The smell of cooked rabbit wafts gently away on the breeze but the man takes care that his fire remains low and does not produce any smoke to give away his presence. He removes any sign of his small fire then begins to eat. As he eats, a falcon swoops down and lands next to him and grabs a chunk of raw meat left out of the fire. He pets the bird and whispers to it before it takes to the sky again. The sun begins to set and the cold takes hold. Winter has come early in the Southern foothills of the Misty Mountains. The River Isen runs through the plains a few miles to the East and the Great West Road runs West along the Southern foot of the large hill and bends off to head North and disappears over the horizon.
Gilfalassë has been searching the foothills of Dunland all summer and has reached the edge of the hills with no sign of his lost sister Ivrenmithiel. However, now he has stumbled on something much bigger and maybe something that may lead him to her. He has noticed that the Dunlendings have been very busy during the short summer and have been moving large herds of sheep and goat towards the Southern edge of their lands. There have also been countless rumors of attacks on farmers as far West as Tharbad and the River Greyflood. Gilfalassë had come to expect something was going to happen and when he summits the large hilltop he can see now that it is something big.
All day, columns of thick black smoke have been rising far to the South on the edge of the horizon. And now hundreds of thousands of Dunlendings and darker men unknown to Gilfalassë are pouring into a large camp along the road just west of the river. Hundreds of cooking fires begin to dot the darkening landscape. Gilfalassë looks over the massive horde once more before he retreats back behind the hilltop to a small group of large boulders where he works to disguise his spot for the night. His horse stamps at his return but does not make any other noise before laying down between the two largest boulders. He had camped right under the noses of Dunlending scouts all summer and tonight was going to be no exception. As he sits thinking against one of the boulders the falcon returns silently and lands on top of the rock. He cocks his head to the side, looks at Gilfalassë who pulls another chunk of raw meat from his cloak pocket and tosses it to the bird. The bird stretches its wings while the man lays down and draws his cloak up tight and seems to almost vanish in the night. With only the two glowing eyes of the falcon to mark the site.
Treeday 30 Narbeleth(Grape Harvesting) – (Second Autumn) T.A. 2758
As he starts to follow the horde, Gilfalassë whispers to his falcon who takes flight and heads straight South towards the large columns of smoke. More and more Dunlendings come into the camp each day as a steady stream. By his count, there are a few thousand armed Dunlendings and half as many dark skinned men who joining from the South. Gilfalassë knows that the fords of the Isen are the only major crossing of the large river for miles around and once the army moves across into Rohan, that would certainly mean war if there wasn’t one already. He moves along the hills and from the ruined outpost on the top of Dol Baran he can see the entire extent of the army and there is no doubt that only a matter of days separate the people of Rohan from all out war. He continues East to move in front of the horde in an attempt to warn the small Rohirric villages that lie in the path of destruction.
Heavenday 1 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758
Gilfalassë makes a camp on a smaller hill near the river where he can still see the Eastern edge of the camp. His falcon returns in the evening and Gilfalassë can sense that the falcon is flying with deliberate haste and a great sense of worry. When he lands, the man comforts the bird by whispering to it and feeding it a few more scraps of meat.
Valarday 2 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758
The next morning, the sky is gray and cloudy and a light drizzle is falling with stiff freezing breezes coming down from the high mountain peaks to the North. The man is woken by his falcon quietly pecking at his hand. He draws his knife from his cloak and surveys his surroundings before standing to go to the top of the hill. From there, he can see that the large camp is in chaos as they scramble to pack up and move. about one third of the army moves towards the fords while the rest of the army looks to be moving more Northwards towards the abandoned fortress of Angrenost. Gilfalassë knows that there are not many people living on this side of the river so he would be better suited to cross the fords ahead of the army and try to warn villagers on that side. He packs his gear high on his horse and approaches the fords with unease. The rain starts coming down heavier as he gets near the shelter of the large trees on either side of the river.
As he steps into the deep swift water, a javelin flies just past his horse and splashes harmlessly in the water. He instinctively ducks and avoids two arrows that spring from the trees. Unable to see the attackers, Gilfalassë pushes forward through the cold water as arrows splash down around him. Once on the other side, he turns and does not see any pursuers so he turns North towards a small village in the distance. About halfway to the village the falcon lets out a scream and dives down as two scouts attack Gilfalassë. He makes short work of the two scouts with his bow and sword and continues on to enter the village.
Most of the homes are already abandoned, but Gilfalassë enters one with four young Rohirrim who point bows and spears at him as he cautiously enters. After introducing himself and showing he is not in support of the Dunlending cause, the four men explain that they are all sons of a lesser lord in Western Rohan who did not agree with Wulf and his rebellion. Their father and two uncles fought with the Dunlendings and when they died the four brothers fled from the West. They have been on the run since and continue to work to stifle the efforts of Wulf in what ways they can. They are riding ahead of the army killing any scouts they find in an attempt to keep the army blind to movements in the East. They offer him some of the last wedge of their cheese along with some of their bread and a porridge like gruel and he offers some of his own food to help bind the alliance. Gilfalassë offers his services with a bow and they gladly accept but warn that if he cannot keep up they will not wait for him for time is short. They finish the last of their short meal and prepare to ride North to intercept troops coming down this side of the river from Angrenost.
Skirting the trees Northward, the group encounter and dispatch two individual scouts before the falcon sees a group of eight Dunlendings on foot coming towards the men. The falcon swoops and Gilfalassë senses that there is trouble ahead and he alerts the Rohirrim. Skeptical of how he could know, they act on the safe side and make preparations for a fight. Gilfalassë dismounts and ties his horse to a nearby tree then draws his composite shortbow. He says a few words much like a prayer to the old forest and prepares for a fight.
With the falcon circling high in the air above the approaching scouts, Gilfalassë shoots a high arcing shot over the top of a large oak tree to try and hit the ground below the bird. The arrow lands down on the shoulder of one of the scouts only narrowly missing his skull. He pulls the arrow out as the scouts move around the oak into the view of the young riders. One of the men draws a shortbow of his own while his three brothers spur their horses to meet the threat. Gilfalassë and the mounted archer both hit just before the riders reach their foes. The first rider to reach the scouts thrusts to try and stab a scout with his spear but overextends himself and nearly falls from the saddle, dropping his spear in the process. As he reaches to keep his balance, he is unable to avoid a quick return swing from the dunlending and two of his nearby allies, all three landing blows on the unfortunate young man. As he continues to ride past the scouts, he regains his balance and draws his sword. As he wheels towards the river, the other two riders reach their foes and one lands a nearly fatal spear thrust before the scouts continue to match blow for blow. With the dunlendings closing in on the slowed riders, Gilfalassë draws two arrows, picks his targets, and looses two quick shots. The first shot strikes a dunlending clean in the throat and out the other side, dropping him immediately, the second shot strikes the leg of one of the scouts.
The riders are badly hit in their initial charge and quickly act to turn back towards Gilfalassë and their brother. As they ride back arrows fly past them as their brother shoots to support them. While they are running, the dunlendings draw javelins from their backs and throw them in stride as they chase the riders. One just misses Gilfalassë while another strikes the mounted archer. The rider who is heavily wounded sheaths his sword and draws his bow and shoots one of the tribesmen running after him while continuing to ride away. The other two wheel around run through the dunlendings, lowering their spears for a charge across the line directly towards the river. both of them landing blows with their spears as they run through the enemy. The dunlendings recover from the charge and follow the two towards the river, swinging their battle axes and hitting the two men. Gilfalassë continues to rapidly shoot arrows at the scouts while the other two archers shoot a scout in the back and he drops. Of the remaining six scouts, three continue to chase the two riders with spears while the remaining three run South towards Gilfalassë and the other two archers. Three of them reach the two mounted archers but before they can swing, Gilfalassë shoots one just as the horse rears up kicks him and he is finished by another arrow.
One of the two riders puts his spear away and draws his shortbow, loosing an arrow in to the neck of a trailing dunlending while his companion rides the man down with his spear. As his quiver nears empty, Gilfalassë starts retreating to his horse where more arrows are available while the remaining dunlendings are starting to be routed and drop to only two remaining men. As Gilfalassë nears his horse, one of the brothers rides by bleeding profusely and another tends to his wounds near to the river while the two scouts close on the mounted archer and try to take him with them. They leave a deep gash in the mans leg but the last brother rides up behind them.
Gilfalassë shoots two arrows at one of the scouts and in an attempt to distract the other, shouts
Your mother must have had relations with an ursine troll because there is no other explanation for offspring like yourself.
As he turns to look at Gilfalassë, the man is struck down by two arrows and his last remaining companion is cut down by the rider who approached from the rear. The brothers regroup and approach Gilfalassë who begins untying his horse. He pulls his one missed arrow from the ground near where the last two scouts fell, and pulls some feathers from the remaining arrows nearby. Gilfalassë takes some salted goat from one of the fallen scout’s pouches before mounting up.
We may wish to move with haste in retreat before their friends catch us.
He surveys their injuries and says
You’ll be fine. At least until we can get away from this mess.
The men deliberate and decide to return to the abandonded village where they met to heal and regroup. The falcon flies South at a great pace and the men return to the vilage. When they get there, Gilfalassë offers to look over their wounds and gives them some bitteroot from his bags to help with the pain. Gilfalassë is able to stop the bleeding for now and the men decide to rest the night and break South as early as they can in the morning to find their cousins and retreat to Súthburg. Late in the night when Gilfalassë is watching for enemies, the falcon returns and Gilfalassë can sense a great sense of panic, chaos, and confusion in the bird.
Seaday 3 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758
The next morning, the sun rises deep red. Gilfalassë seems concerned, but says that fires have been burning all night and have discolored the sky, citing his knowledge as an astronomer. They move quickly to break South along the river and try to find their cousins and retreat to the old stone fortress. When they reach the main road, East of the fords, the men find a scene of an ambush where many broken carts left empty and dead dunlendings lay strewn among rohirric squires and baggage handlers. The continue to push South and when they start to reach some hills Gilfalassë finds a set of six ridden horse tracks. They follow the tracks for a while and reach a hilltop where the horses seem to have stopped moving and grazed for a bit. The tracks then break straight West towards the river.
After following the tracks for a while, the group sees the six horses and their riders and they press to them. There are nine riders for the six horses. Three of the riders are severely wounded, one is missing an arm. The men great the approach of their cousins and they tell about how they fought a group of scouts that outnumbered them. One of their brothers and his horse were killed and two three other horses took injuries that they succumbed to the night before. They have been trying to make it to the fortress but saw a large group of dunlendings and fled from the hills towards the river and have been circling back since. Everyone knows that at this point the only safe place is the fortress and with a bigger group, they can afford to move towards it further out in the open. They change around the riders on some of the horses to ease their burdens, and push for the fortress.
Before the evening sun sets, they make it to the fortress and the injured are taken to the house of healing while Gilfalassë follows the oldest brother to speak with the Marshall of the Mark. Háma is away from the fortress helping others flee to safety but he left his favorite horse and would return before dark. The older brother spoke to the lieutenant in charge and discovered that the First and Second muster joined together to take back the West but were ambushed yesterday before they could cross the fords. Many are dead and everyone else is retreating to the fortress and hundreds are pouring in every hour.
Gilfalassë remains in a small camp with the riders and spends most of his time scanning the crowd and watching for anyone suspicious or out of the ordinary.