Beyond the Door
"This is an evil door, and my death lies beyond it. I will dare to pass it nonetheless..."
The crackling fire sent sparks flying every so often with little pops. Around it, four figures sat against fallen stones or against one of the ruined walls. One of the larger figures, a man with a dark hood draped over his face, used a knife to whittle down an arrow. Steadily he scraped the wood, shaving it down. The only other noises consisted of hoots and howls, the creatures of the night that lived around Annuminas, and a gentle, steady washing of waves against the shores nearby.
Far above the rangers, a full moon lit the area softly. It glowed unstained, and no clouds appeared to hide it. It allowed them good visibility, a blessing from Lady Elbereth herself to aid them in their fight.
The ranger that sat in the dark corner of the ruined walls puffed smoke from a pale wooden pipe. The glow of the embers in the pipe lit her feminine facial features under the hood. Still no one spoke, each content in the dark of night to relax ever so slightly.
Suddenly a hooting of an owl sounded and all four figures perked up. The whittling man sprang to his feet, gesturing for the other three to remain hidden. He grabbed his sword off the ground and snuck in the shadows through the ruins of the citadel until he reached the overgrown and crumbling streets.
Still he stuck to the darkness. He kept his sword hidden to stop the moonlight and starlight glinting off of it. When he reached what had once been a side street, he cupped his hands around his mouth and released an identical bird call to the one that had sounded earlier.
Out of the shadows a hundred yards down, a single figure stepped into the moonlight. He threw back his hood and sheathed a sword. The man hiding stepped out as well and waved him over. They met together soon enough and grasped arms in greeting. Two more figures followed him quickly, and the first man instantly recognized them to be elves.
"Halbarad, it is good to see you," said the first. "What brings you here?"
The older man sighed. "It is good to see you as well, Belegund. As for why I am here, I received ill news from the sons of Elrond." He gestured to Elladan and Elrohir as they soon came up.
"Lords," Belegund said quickly. "It is good you are here. We fear orcs might be close by, and hoped to spend the night further into the city where it is safer. Join us!"
Halbarad nodded. "We shall. And once we are at the citadel, there is much to discuss."
Belegund nodded to him and fell into step beside Halbarad, with the twin sons of Elrond behind them. They said nothing as they wove through ruined walls and crumbling buildings. Trees and vines strangled dying rocks in this broken, ancient stronghold. As they reached the citadel, Belegund let out a bird cry once more, assuring his companions that they who approached were friends, not foes. As they went through the still standing archway which had once held great doors of wood, they found the three other rangers sitting at the far end.
They sat near the cliff edge, and that area of the wall which had once backed up against the cliff had crumbled into the lake long ago leaving open space. But the wall along the side stood still about twenty feet high in places, shorter in others. The large bricks were dark grey in color, and appeared black in the night except for those which were lit by the fire. The flames danced and cast shadows of everything it lit.
Belegund, Halbarad, and the twins approached the fire. All three figures stood now and bowed slightly upon seeing the newcomers. The woman from the corner put out her pipe and tucked it into her pocket. She turned to Halbarad.
"What brings you three here?" She glanced at Belegund.
Belegund merely shrugged, but Elrohir answered. "Word reached Rivendell by way of a messenger from Lothlorien. Aragorn has need of our help."
A smirk formed on a middle aged man's face, hair dark but speckled grey. "What are we waiting for then?"
"More men," Halbarad pointed out. "You four are a good start, Brandir. But we need as many as we can find in a few day's time." He looked at the woman. Her face was drawn in pensive thought. "You have an idea, Bregil?"
"Yes, sir." Bregil nodded and gestured to the last of her companions who had yet to speak. "Annungil, you recently came across Calenglad's company, yes?"
The young man nodded. "Indeed. And I know where they are headed."
Halbarad nodded to them. "Then we leave tomorrow. In the meantime, we should prepare in case of orcs. We saw signs of them as we came up the road."
Bregil scowled. "As did we when we came this way. This is why we stopped here tonight."
And so they rested, putting the fire out soon after. As they lay quietly on the broken stone floor, twinkling stars shined above them through the missing roof. Annungil and Belegund took first watch, and it was on the switch from their shift to Bregil and Brandir that the orcs made their move.
Belegund sent a rousing bird call back to camp from where he sat perched in a still standing tower fifty yards down the road to the Citadel. Annungil, stationed at the citadel entrance hurriedly woke the others.
"Orcs," Annungil told them quickly as Belegund came rushing in, bow drawn.
The archer set himself up atop a massive rubble heap out of which stood the remains of a column about ten feet high. Using the column as cover and the pile as height, he readied himself to pick off the enemy from afar in the broken down citadel. Soon Bregil had joined him, while the others drew swords and stood their ground beside the entrance.
When the orcs came, the monsters were not prepared for the ambush on their ambush. Thirty orcs swarmed into the hall only to be set upon by elven warriors and dunedain rangers. Bregil and Belegund slew many from their height above the battle, and picked off the orc archers easily. Annungil, Halbarad, Brandir, Elladan, and Elrohir managed to kill the rest, though Annungil suffered a deep cut across his upper arm. Within ten minutes, the battled had ended and the dunedain prevailed.
As Bregil bound Annungil's arm, the others dragged the orc corpses across the hall to the back where they dumped them from the cliff down into Lake Evendim below. It took an hour of serious effort, for these orcs stood taller than cave goblins. But eventually all settled back to rest.
When morning dawned, Halbarad pushed the others out of the citadel with all their supplies and down the road. As he passed under the archway, he paused and looked back. The rising sun painted the sky many colors and flooded the hall with light. He found himself sad to see it go. Part of him knew deep down that he would never return.
"Aragorn needs our help," Elladan said with a sigh, coming up behind him from the road. "Hopefully we will see this place rebuilt someday, and someday soon."
But Halbarad kept looking at the hall. He frowned to himself. With a last glance and elven blessing to the place, he turned and nodded to his friend. "Indeed. Someday."
And yet in his heart he knew he would not see it. He left the north, and he left it for good. Aragorn called him, his greatest friend and his king. He dared not say no. He did not want to say no. If the south meant death, then so be it.
"Come," Elladan gestured.
And he did.