Pragmaclast - September 2004
Amon Hen - Simon Matthews
(page 3/7)

Amon Hen

As they charged up the slope they could see one of them standing there, sword drawn, almost saluting them in his insolence. Lurtz knew that he couldn't afford to waste time fighting here. His master was impatient and every second counted. One of the Halflings had stolen something of great value from his master and he had been sent to retrieve it. That Gollum creature had told him where to find them, although Lurtz wasn't sure that Gollum was to be trusted; he had a nasty suspicion that 'the precious' that Gollum kept hissing about, and claiming for his own, was the thing that he had been sent to reclaim for Saruman the White, the great wizard of Orthanc.

The man came charging down the hill, attacking his troop. Knowing that the Halflings had probably left this man here to die while they made their escape, a regular Tark trick that, he growled at his troops "Find the Halflings!" Most of his band, well trained as they were, charged on up the hill, spreading out, ignoring the man. Suddenly they were beset by two more, a dwarf and an elf this time. His master had warned him that the Halflings had hired a band of mercenaries to guard them and their stolen plunder, but he hadn't told him what they were. Elves! He knew about them, evil, sadistic creatures that ate their captives and gloried in the slaughter of the race of Orcs, although they weren't as bad as the Dwarves; The Dwarf wars had raged for years after the Dwarves had attacked and sacked the great hall of the Orcs in Mount Gundabad in an unprovoked assault, slaughtering the women and children in their holes. He was worried that his men would lose control of themselves at the sight of a hated Dwarf.

Leaving half of the troop behind to fight the mercenaries he led the rest on, over the brow and down the far side of the hill. His Orcs were dying, but he had to find the Halflings quickly; they could disappear in an instant if you let them, so he had to spot them while they were panicked by his onset. Suddenly he heard a cry, one of his men had sight of them; the chase was on.

As they tore off in pursuit Lurtz caught his second in command, Ugluk. The Halflings were making for the bridge over the stream, knowing a shortcut, he sent Ugluk with his lieutenant around the back to cut them off. He had them now. He watched as the Halflings reached the bridge, then stopped, seeing his troops on the far side. Growling in satisfaction Lurtz set off down the hill. There was a cry, looking round, he saw another Tark come charging in from the side, cutting down the lieutenant. The Tark and the Halflings broke through the cordon on the far side. Lurtz heard the Tark blow his horn. Knowing this would attract all the other mercenaries in the area, he hurled his Orcs down the hill, reckless now, not knowing how many there were.

His men were dying; this Tark was brave, that couldn't be doubted. Taking up his bow, the finest in the armouries, he fired. A good shot, taking the Tark in the side, watching him fall, Lurtz was grateful that no more of his patrol would die today. Snarling in disbelief as the Tark regained his feet, cutting down another Orc as he did so, Lurtz raised his bow for another shot. He couldn't believe that the Tark had been able to get up; the bow was so powerful that he was the only one who could draw it; indeed his men jokingly called it a siege bow, saying it could batter down fortress walls. The second shot took the man in the left breast.

Inconceivable! He was up again! More Orcs were dying. He could see the Halflings standing there, stupidly, on the far side of the bridge, not bothering to come to the aid of the man they had paid to protect them, the man who was dying for them. He felt a surge of anger. Saruman treated men who served him well. A man like this didn't deserve to die here, fighting for the wrong side. But he couldn't allow any more of his men to die either. Taking up his bow, he shot the man again. This time he did not get up.

Realising that they were alone now, the Halflings charged his men, waving their swords. Watching as his troop held their tempers, seizing the Halflings, then carrying on down the hill, taking them back to Isengard. Coming down to the Tark, Lurtz could see that he was dying. Nodding to him, Lurtz drew his bow one more time, wanting to end the suffering of this brave opponent.

Suddenly he was hit in the back as the first Tark came hurtling down upon him. Furious about the number of his brethren that this man must have slain, Lurtz set about him with a flurry of blows, forcing him back and disarming him. Lurtz hurled his shield and pinned the Tark to a tree! Closing in for the kill he was horrified to see the Tark squeeze out from behind the shield. Closing the gap, Lurtz threw the man down to the ground, then snarled in agony as pain shot up from his right leg. Looking down he saw that the Tark had stuck a knife in him. Throwing the man as far away as possible, Lurtz drew the knife from his leg, realising in horror that the man had fallen next to his blade.

Lurtz hurled the knife at the man in desperation, only to see it parried by a wild swing. Seizing his own sword from the ground, Lurtz charged the man, a wild series of strokes ensued. Tiring now, Lurtz felt his guard drop, followed by his arm. Realising that it was all over he felt calm, Ugluk was good, he'd get the troop home. As the blackness took him, he felt pleased that he hadn't failed his master.

Simon Matthews