The Last Charge

In the city of Minas Tirith there is much that is ancient and long standing. And amongst the most ancient and noble of these, is found in the residence of the Oathblade family. There even the door mice could trace their lineage back many generations to the first mice that nibbled on the cities grain stores. Even the most minor piece of furniture had a long story and history and would be recounted to you in minute detail if you were to have the misfortune of asking.

Unfortunately, like the city itself, the manor had fallen into slow decay and dust had settled heavily on most of the furniture and family heirlooms. One such mote of dust fell lightly on one of the oldest heirlooms in the Oathblade house, its current owner and last of the esteemed and respectable family line, Lord Arguson Oathblade. With a loud harrumph that billowed out his large mustache like a sail, the dust mote flew off apologetically before landing some place more appropriate its station.

“Harrumph!!” Lord Arguson exclaimed again in agitated form as he read a parchment with the latest news. “The crossings at Osgiliath in danger? Orcs massing to overtake the city! Completely unacceptable situation, what?”

“Indeed My Lord!” replied a stately but wizened servant by the name of Pellinore.

“Why if Prince Adrahil were still alive, he’d not brook such intrusion by filthy, muck encrusted orcs. Give them a right thrashing and send them back to Mordor with their tails between their legs.” Arguson stated emphatically, referring to the previous Prince of Dol Amroth.

The aged Pellinore only nodded slowly before going back to his dusting, a monumental task in the dilapidated manor-house as he was the last remaining servant of the once thriving Oathblade family. The family holdings east in Ithithen had been slowly lost to the enemy and it was from them that the Oathblade’s derived their wealth.

Not that it mattered much to Arguson who was always far more interested in military exploits and ancient tales of valor and bravery. From the time that he was a boy he reveled in stories of Gondorian heroes like King Earnur, Thorongil and Elendil the Tall. Even as a young knight of Dol Amroth, taking part in adventures of his own, his hunger for the old tales remained unabated. And when he became far too old to ride out himself, the love of those ancient lays captivated a mind wholly unconcerned with anything else.

“Harrumph” Arguson exclaimed once more as if by its utterance he might banish the orc hordes with sheer outrage. “Prince Imrahil is a fool, I’ve always said so” the stodgy Arguson continued. “Someone needs to do something about these confounded abominations before the whole of Gondor is lost.”

The aged knight looked around at the relics in his manor house, particularly his old suit of armor and an ancient blade that had been in the family for generations, and something awoke. The old warrior sprang up (As much as one of Lord Arguson’s advanced age can spring up) and proclaimed resolutely “And by the Gods, that person will be me. Come Pellinore, we ride!”

Pellinore looked dumbfounded at his master, the command rattling around in his brain in an effort to make sense. When it finally did the aged servant’s stuttered protestations filled the manor.

“But. But Lord! At your age you can…cannot really…” Pellinore began.

“Nonsense!” Arguson cut in, “Nothing wrong with me that a little exercise won’t fix. Besides half an Oathblade is still more than enough for any low breed orc scum, what?”

“But My Lord!” his servant protested.

“No time for that!” Arguson replied.

“But…”

“No time for that either” Arguson exclaimed. “Now be a good fellow and help me with this armor. And afterwards we’ll have to find you something suitable if you’re to follow.”

This last proclamation hit Arguson’s servant like a troll hammer. He looked at his master for any sign that this was all a cruel joke but found himself cruelly disappointed. So it was that master and servant found themselves outside the Oathblade Manor, Arguson upon his horse and Pellinore precariously holding the Oathblade banner.

High up in the fifth level of the city they stood and looked out upon the Pelennor Fields below. A gust of wind picked up and Arguson heaved out his chest and sat proudly in the saddle as the wind blew back his hair and mustache in dramatic fashion. Boldly he sat up imagining the heroic figure he must be cutting at that moment before a crash and cry brought him out of his revelry. He looked back to find that the wind had caught in his family banner and toppled poor Pellinore to the ground. It took a good ten minutes to finally untangle banner from servant before the two of them could resume their journey.

Down through the levels Lord Arguson rode. Through the fifth gate and then under the fourth gate (which was actually a tunnel cut into the protrusion of rock that stuck out from Mount Mindolluin like a ship’s prow) he went. Past the third gate he rode with rising confidence and then past the third gate again when he became disoriented and turned around. With a little less confidence than before he rode through the third gate and down through to the second.

It was here that people gathered and stared at the ancient warrior as he rode by, wondering if he was some apparition from     a bygone era with his antiquated armor and blade. This thought lasted only a second of course when they beheld poor Pellinore huffing and puffing behind his master, carrying the Oathblade banner and trying not to fall over again. The two intrepid (or something!) adventurers at last rode through the main gate, past guards too shocked and slack jawed at their appearance to offer any protestations or inquiries.

There is a common misconception by those who have never been to Minas Tirith that the Pelennor Fields are just that, one huge field. On the contrary, the entire area is dotted with little townships, markets, orchards and farms, all crisscrossing and interacting with each other. Three main roads lead off to the northeast, north and south and it was the southern route that Lord Arguson took this day. Procuring a pack animal for Pellinore to ride, the two continued their journey.

On a normal day, traffic on the south road could be busy as merchants and farmers traveled up and down, but today it was practically congested with people. Lord Arguson saw dispiritedly that all the traffic went in one direction as well, north to Minas Tirith as people fled to the safety of the city’s impenetrable walls. Families passed by Arguson’s horse in overburdened carts filled with food and what personal belongings were too precious to leave behind. With their dark clothes and weary heads bent low they walked their slow procession like a mourning party to a funeral not yet come but inevitable under the darkening sky.

“Be of good hope people of Gondor”, Lord Arguson shouted proudly to the masses of travelers. “The flower of Gondor is not yet wilted. We shall drive the minions of darkness back to their holes where they belong then sing victory songs passing good cheer, what?” As he said this he took his sword and lifted it in the air dramatically, hoping to rouse the people with his fair speech.

Some faces lifted up from the crowd but only to look strangely at the two travelers in antiquated armor. A murmur passed like a slight breeze through the crowd then quieted again into melancholy as eyes returned to the long road ahead with sadness.

“What madness is this?” Lord Arguson proclaimed annoyingly. “Is this the spirit of Gondor that I knew in my youth? Defeat before an enemy as yet unfought?”

Lord Arguson looked back towards Pellinore for answers but the poor servant had fallen asleep on his mount. The Oathblade banner lay across the front of the pack animal like an ineffectual lance and the rider snored fitfully, his head lying against the creature’s mane. Arguson shook his head and made a mental note to look into procuring a more attentive servant. An hour later they came to the south gate at Harlond and into the lands beyond the Rammas Echor.

The old knight took a deep breath as he entered the Lossarnach hill country, taking in the smell of bright green grass and roses with gladness. Even under the shadow of what people were calling The Dawnless Day, Lossarnach was a land of unsurpassed beauty and Arguson well remembered pleasant rides through it in his youth. Today was no time for recollections of past days though; Lord Arguson Oathblade was here with a purpose. Spurring his horse on, his servant following sleepily behind, Arguson went looking for signs of Orc mischief.

Dark smoke on the eastern horizon indicated to Arguson that orcs were not far away. He rode towards the smoke undaunted, dragging Pellinore behind him who was feeling daunted enough for the both of them. The smoke drifted over a small rise and Arguson quickened his pace, intent on riding down the small band of orcs he imagined gathered there ripe for the avenging.

“For Gondor!!” Lord Arguson bellowed as he crested the hill and came upon the orcs.

But his count it seems was quite off for instead of a small group of orcs, Arguson was faced with fifty or so of the meanest, vilest, evilest looking orcs ever spawned in Sauron’s pits. Lord Arguson brought up his horse suddenly, nearly falling off in his haste but managed to steady himself just in time. The orcs, at first shocked at the knights’ appearance, soon changed to wicked anticipation at an easy kill when they saw that it was just a lone warrior and not a Gondorian mounted regiment.

“Come Pellinore!” Arguson yelled, his courage returning. “Let us give these minions of darkness what for!” He turned in his saddle but his aged servant was nowhere to be seen. “Agile fellow when he wants to be, what?” Arguson mumbled to himself. The orcs laughed cruelly at the ancient knight, brandishing their weapons and preparing the charge that would be the end of his final adventure.

Arguson though was not about to go down without a fight, he unsheathed his sword and gave a battle shout as his horse reared up majestically. Like a hero of the olden days he looked in that moment, recalling the vigor of his youth and the stories that had captivated him as a child. Heedless of everything around him he focused on the final charge that would likely be his end and the end of what orcs he could take with him.

The orcs faces suddenly turned from malice to fear, many of them dropping their weapons in terror. Chaos broke out as each orc climbed over tents, supplies and fellow orcs in order to be the first to flee the scene. Arguson cheered triumphantly and confidently at the retreating orcs who seemed to want nothing to do with the valiant warrior. He turned to reprimand Pellinore for his unfounded cowardice but stopped short.

There behind him instead was Prince Imrahil and one hundred of his best mounted knights of Dol Amroth. They practically gleamed in their polished armor and newly sharpened blades and Prince Imrahil was the brightest amongst them by far. Arguson smiled proudly to have such a crowd for his freshly won victory.

“No orc rabble is equal to a true knight of Gondor, what?” Arguson proclaimed with his chest puffed out. “Knew all along that old Lord Arguson Oathblade still had it in him.”

Many of the knights’ stifled laughter and one of Prince Imrahil’s Lieutenants started to protest but the lord of Dol Amroth lifted his hand for silence.

“It was a brave act Lord Arguson Oathblade, I am sure the minstrels will sing songs about it for generations.” Imrahil said with a smile on his face. “But the day has grown long and you look weary. Allow us to follow up your victory and chase down yon orcs while you get some rest.”

This pleased Arguson greatly and he graciously acquiesced to Prince Imrahil’s request. As a matter of fact he was quite tired from the day’s activities and longed to get back to his manor house. He bowed low on his horse to the Prince and headed back towards the south gate. On his way there he spotted a shaking rose bush with the Oathblade banner sticking out of it. Not so graciously he plucked his servant out of the bush and headed for home.

“Prince Imrahil is a fine and noble Lord, I’ve always said so” Arguson remarked as they passed through the Rammas Echor. The wind blew merrily and Arguson smiled proudly, paying no attention to the crash and startled yell behind him. It was a good day for heroes.

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