The Battle At the Ships Part One
CHAPTER THREE: THE BATTLE AT THE SHIPS PART ONE
War does not determine who is right, war determines who is left.
Buffy woke to the sounds of screaming, shouting, clashing steel and the familiar crackle of fire. Grabbing her mini-arsenal of weapons, - like she ever went anywhere, including bed, without them, - she charged out of her small little tent dressed in what the men would have considered scandalous, but to her was a pair of something like form-fitting leggings and tunic-style top.
Staring at the scene in front of her, she made a mental note to have a word, no, make that very strong words and an introduction to cold steel, with the sentries on duty. Hordes of Corsairs were not supposed to sweep down on camps without warning.
Buffy had been with Thorongil and Denethor’s company in the south of the kingdom for two weeks now and this was the second time someone had gotten past their sentries. Of course, this was a hell of a lot more someones.
And not people who you would like to see coming. As far as she knew, these pirate guys and Gondorions had this major feud going on. Over what, she didn’t know. But as she was on Gondor’s side, they were the bad guys and therefore not supposed to be disturbing Buffy’s sleep. Were they trying
to get her cranky? Because she was. Very cranky.
She’d already had to listen all the stupid soldiers snicker at her ever since she arrived. Not to mention that Aragorn kept staring at her like she was some sort of lab rat and he was the mad scientist and the lovely old stick in the mud Denethor seemed to fancy her. Euugh. He was so
not her type.
Sighing, even as some dirt-covered Corsair charged her, (weren’t these guys supposed to be pirates? She wasn’t exactly seeing any peg legs.) she raised her sword, squared her shoulders, pasted on an annoying smirk and waded into the battle.
Someone was going to pay for this.
Aragorn was seething. The sentries Denethor had hand-appointed had been remiss in their duties again.
The Corsairs of Umbar had snuck in under the cover of darkness and attacked while most of the company was sleeping. Either the sentries were dead or bought. Either way, if Aragorn saw them, he would personally pitch them over a cliff.
The fight wasn’t going good and he was worried for his men. They were heavily outnumbered and had been taken by surprise. He couldn’t spare too much thought for them though as he was surrounded himself.
For some reason, they seemed to know he held rank amongst the Gondorions and were forcing him into a corner. He considered himself no dullard in the use of the sword or in combat but even an Elvish-trained Númenorean descendant couldn’t hold off a group of twenty converging men at once. Maybe Elrond could with that trademark glare, or the twins with their ability to drive anyone insane or even Legolas, who could have disappeared from anywhere with all that sneaking of his, but not Aragorn.
And so he was slowly being trapped.
His sword moved in flashes of steel, cutting down any who tried to approach him but it wasn’t enough.
As one, they swarmed him and the last thing Aragorn remembered was going down under a rain of blows.
The snatching of Denethor was a little less dignified.
Having insisted on his tent being pitched near the edge of camp so that all reports would come to him first instead of Thorongil, he had the misfortune of being hauled out of his bedding by several Corsairs, who grabbed him and placed naked steel at his throat and chest should he get the idea to run.
A toothy Corsair grinned at him from the opening of the tent, “Ah, the son of the Steward. We meet at last. Ye’ll do admirably as a rower. Terrible thing about the ships, ye know,” he said conversationally, with a thick accent, “The damn slaves never seem to live very long. It’s terribly inconvenient having to replace ‘em all the time. But you should last a while.”
He gestured to the other men even as an indignant Denethor opened his mouth to deliver a tongue lashing. Hauling him roughly, they bound and gagged him like a stuffed pig, muttering jeers and jibes under their breath as they did so.
Denethor was absolutely furious at being trussed up like some wild boar but had to settle for glaring at the man who was obviously in charge. Picked up by two brawny Corsairs like a piece of lumber, he was carted off even as his camp was systematically destroyed by raiding pirates.
Oh wasn’t Thorongil going to have a conniption over this one, he thought darkly, anything for glory was the unspoken motto of that man. And Eru knew he would never miss the chance to have Denethor himself, his future leader, in his debt.
Not to mention that this incident wasn’t going to do any wonders for his reputation. Steward’s heirs simply did not
get into situations like this.
So why was this happening to him?
Worried hazel eyes scanned the terrain for any sign of the only two men that could possibly bring this rabble to order. Unfortunately, Aragorn and Denethor had yet to show up and the men were at a loss. No one group of them following orders of any kind, just fighting to stay alive and doing whatever seemed good at the time.
They were getting slaughtered one by one from lack of direction and Buffy wasn’t seeing many candidates for the job of ordering them about. Which meant that screw Elrond’s ‘By Eru, you’re posing as a healer, not a rabid she-warg!’ admonishment, it was time for some slayerly action.
“Okay, listen up you lot of idiots!” she yelled, trying to gain their attention, “For Eru’s sake, Gondorions rally! Over here before I have you hauled up for insubordination! Rally! To me! To me!” she bellowed in imitation of what she’d heard Aragorn yell during previous attacks.
The men, too engaged in their fights to question the strange voice followed her call. Once she realised she had their attention and they were actually listening to her, she started shouting out commands. “Okay, left flank stop those Corsairs from torching the supplies! You lot form a line, archers to the rear! Wounded get to safety! The rest of you, let’s chase those stinking pirates out of our camp before we completely miss breakfast!”
And amazingly, they did as they were told.
And Buffy the Vampire Slayer relished in being the one giving orders for a change.
And even better, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was winning
Silence reigned in the newly reclaimed Gondorion camp. The Corsairs, having met unexpected resistance, and unknown to the Gondorions, having got what they came for, had skedaddled back to wherever they had come from. So the Gondorion soldiers, had finally seen exactly who was in the middle of the now thoroughly destroyed camp, holding a bloodied sword, looking thoroughly annoyed, and very female.
The soldiers stared.
There was silence.
At least until one loudmouth decided to make his opinion known, “What possessed you?” he roared in incredulous disbelief and highly offended that he hadn‘t found out sooner, “You’re a healer, and judging by your age, a novice one at that! How dare you interfere with a battle! Were you trying
to get us killed?!”
Buffy was cold, blood-covered, tired, miserable and had a pounding headache. She was not
in the mood to be told off by some dumb-ass. “Listen up buddy,” she snapped, slipping back into her native Californian-speak, “I saved your sorry ass, so what you should be saying, is ‘Thanks Eliza, you saved my life.’ not making me mad. In case you didn’t notice, it was not as if anyone else decided to step in!”
“You gambled men’s lives on the words of an over-arrogant untrained healer!” he shouted back, planting his sword in the churned up dirt that was the ground in disgust.
Buffy took a couple of deep calming breaths, mentally counting to ten. It didn’t work. “I’ve done a pretty good job so far and might I say, that you don’t know me, so who the hell are you to judge me? And second of all, I’m going to be in charge around here until our missing captains are dragged out of their bedrolls, where they’d better be, if they wish to live. Now, if anyone has any problems with that, they can come up here and challenge me like a warrior, instead of shouting at me like some moron. Any questions?”
Loudmouth stepped forward and Buffy’s dagger sailed through the air, missing his cheek by an inch and sinking into the dirt, “Next time I don’t miss,” she warned, “Anybody else?” she said with a dangerous smile.
No one moved.
Buffy rubbed her hands together in satisfaction, “Good. Now let’s get down to business.”
“How can they just be gone?!” Buffy exclaimed in disbelief, glaring fiercely at the unfortunate soldier acting as messenger.
“They seem to have been… taken by the Corsairs,” he reiterated, his distaste obvious that the Corsairs had actually gotten one up on the Gondorions, “There were signs of a struggle around Captain Thorongil’s tent. His sword was found there,” he said, showing the weapon to her, “He never goes anywhere without it.”
“And Denethor?” Buffy asked, already feeling a headache coming. Why couldn’t that blasted man stay in one place for once? But nooo, that was too convenient, he just had
to get himself carted off to who knows where!
“Lord Denethor wasn’t found either,” the soldier said uncomfortably, “Not much signs of a struggle but if they were after the captain, they wouldn’t have left the Steward’s son behind.”
“Lovely.” This would usually be the time where Giles went ‘Dear Lord’. How was she supposed to find them now? “Send out half a dozen scouts to look for them, get everybody ready to move. And I’ll be taking a nap so wake me up in a couple of hours and let everyone be warned that if I wake up to find those stupid sentries have let in some more visitors, I will make your lives a living hell!” Flashing the perplexed and intimidated soldier a bright smile, she disappeared into her tent.
“And I never really sleep anymore
And I always get those dangerous dreams
And I never get a minute of peace
And I gotta wonder what it means”
- “It Just Won't Quit -- Meatloaf
In her sleep, Buffy shifted restlessly as images invaded her mind.// There were boats in a harbour, campfires scattered on the grounds away from the dock and the usual ruckus that was men of war letting their hair down. Her gaze focused in one boat in particular and then suddenly she was in a cramped cabin. Jolted a little by the sudden move, she looked around in a mixture of shock and curiosity. There was a dark-haired man sprawled out on the tiny, uncomfortable looking bunk nearest to her. Closer inspection revealed that it was a badly battered Aragorn. Just what had the man gotten himself into now? He had a few nasty cuts, a multitude of bruises in nearly all the colours of the rainbow and was out cold.
She shook her head in a mixture of disgust and annoyance, a man that trouble-prone needed a keeper. But why did it have to be her?
The door was opened roughly, rusty locks scraping together, and another battered man was shoved in and dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Well, at least she knew where Denethor was.
She looked in disgust at the filthy, leering pirate who seemed to be enjoying manhandling Denethor. Taking her chance to look around the room, she saw that there were no portholes and that the stretch of hall she could see through the open door was devoid of movement.
As the door slammed shut, she idly wondered was she seeing the past, present or future. Both men looked in need of medical attention, and in her opinion, a nice good leash to keep them where they were supposed to be. //
The dream went fuzzy and Buffy found herself staring at the ceiling of her tent. These dreams were just freaky. Looking on the bright side though, at least she knew where they were now.
But how in Middle Earth was she supposed to get them out?
Buffy burst into laughter as the twins regaled her with the tale of their latest misadventure (and their subsequent punishment.) Even though they were almost three thousand years old, Elrond still knew where to hit them where it hurt.
“I'm so glad I met you guys. It's entertaining, really.” Buffy said through gales of laughter as they finished telling her how Erestor had chased them right into a waterfall.
They both pasted wounded expressions on their faces, “Oh fair lady, thou hast wounded me with thy cruel words!” Elladan exclaimed, hand on his heart in mock drama.
“To think that all we do is amuse you!” Elrohir continued, “The lady does not swoon as she should when in the company of two such fine Elves.”
Buffy levelled the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look she’d learned from Arwen, combined with the ‘you don’t fool me’ raised eyebrow she’d picked up from Elrond on them, “That might work on tavern maids in Bree but I prefer my boyfriends less.. clownish.”
Elladan swatted her, looking offended, “I’ll have you know that there’s a multitude of maidens who’d kill for the chance to catch us.” he declared.
Buffy smirked, “Oh, there’s plenty who want to catch you. Of course, a fair number of them probably want to kill you in retaliation for some of your mischief.”
Elrohir laughed at his brother’s scowl and congratulated Buffy on getting one up on him, “But to be perfectly serious Buffy, we do have a favour to request of you.”
Buffy was immediately wary, “The last time you asked me to do you a favour, I had two cooks trying to pound me with their rolling pins! Do you really expect me to take the heat for you two rascals again
“Now Buffy,” Elrohir admonished, “Don’t think like that. We’re not trying to get you into trouble, however amusing the cooks’ wrath was.”
“Yes, we want to talk to you about Estel,” Elladan continued. Buffy listened guardedly, it was never good news when they did the twin-speak thing.
“You see, he has this strange ability to get into trouble…”
“And now we know you’re supposed to keep an eye on him so we thought,”
“That we’d fill you in on all the little tricks Estel is capable of.”
“Not to mention his peculiar aversion to baths…” Elladan said, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
Elrohir nodded his agreement as Buffy marvelled at the bizarreness of it all, “Yes, he tends to be very stinky on the trail. One would almost think him an orc. You must take care to ensure he bathes regularly or you won‘t want to be anywhere near him. Take our word for it. Even Ada thinks it, he‘s just too polite to say it.”
“And to move on to more serious matters, we regret to inform you that,”
“However much we like you, which we do, after all ‘tis not often one can take us on like Arwen can, that,”
“If you harm one hair on little Estel’s head, we,”
“Will have to hurt you.”
“He’s our brother after all,”
“Can’t let the slayer beat him bloody.”
“Wouldn’t do well for his reputation at all,”
“So, do you understand?” Elrohir finished, “Hurt Estel and we will have to hurt you. Brotherly honour and all that.”
Buffy just smiled sweetly, “I kicked Glorfindel’s ass, you know, your teacher,
so I’m not really that worried about you two. But because I think that underneath that goofball threatening session I think you sincerely want me to look after Aragorn, I’ll agree. I’ll keep an eye on your baby brother for you.” The smile turned evil, “And when he asks why I’m mother hen-ing, I’ll be sure to tell him that you made me promise. Not to mention repeating the ‘little Estel’ remarks.”
Elladan looked her over, “Are you sure you aren’t evil? Because I swear Arwen’s been teaching you some of her evil, evil ways.”
“You betcha,” Buffy agreed cheerily. “Just think on that the next time you put spiders in my bed. Wouldn’t want to end up at me and
Arwen’s mercy would you?”
Aragorn awoke to a pounding headache and trying to raise his hand to the source of his irritation only caused the rest of his muscles to make their pain very clear. A sharp, annoyed voice cut through his confusion and drew his attention, “Are you awake yet?” Denethor demanded, “By Eru, one would think your head would be hard enough to withstand a landslide but apparently, the oh so great Captain Thorongil acts like a baby when he’s wounded.”
“Be quiet Denethor,” Aragorn growled, cracking his eyes open and wincing as the light made his head pound all the more. “What in the name of Udûn happened?”
“Oh nothing much,” Denethor said, “We’ve just been captured by the Corsairs, who know exactly who we are, our camp was being overrun and destroyed the last time I saw it and apparently the Corsairs have a wish to torture us. What could possibly be wrong at all?”
Acknowledging that he was indeed bound, he had been dumped near an apparently foul tempered glory-seeking lord who was close to hysterics, Aragorn wondered why Eru hated him so. “How badly were the men hit?” he asked.
“They had as much discipline as men engaging in a tavern brawl,” Denethor said dryly, “The Corsairs were trouncing them. I wouldn’t hold out much hope of a rescue. If the Corsairs left any alive, they will be too badly injured and demoralised to be much help and if none are left alive, then Eru knows how long it shall be before my lord father hears of this.”
“Brilliant,” Aragorn muttered, “Have you any idea what they want with us? This wasn’t some random raid.”
“Apparently they want to force information out of us and then either kill us or put us to work on their ships to see how fast we die under the strain,” came Denethor’s answer, whose tone was annoyed, mortified and disgruntled.
“Where were you during the fight anyway?” Aragorn asked, moving his hands in an attempt to restore some circulation.
Denethor started admiring the scenery, “I was in my tent.” he said finally.
Aragorn finally looked at the other man and noticed the heavy night robe, “You slept through that
brawl?!” he exclaimed in disbelief. And this man called himself a warrior?
“Some of us don’t sleep so lightly as to be like a criminal on the run with guards in pursuit,” Denethor sniffed, “The slightest thing startles you. Eru help your wife, if you ever manage to find one.”
“Speaking of women, why did they risk so much to come after us two only? They risked so many men and took only us? Why not take the lady Eliza as well when she was there? You know the Corsairs’ reputation.”
“We are the two highest ranking captains of Gondor and I am the Steward’s heir. Why wouldn’t they be after us?” Denethor scoffed. “They probably want information on my father’s defences and plans or they want some money and will ransom us. Knowing those blasted pirates, they’ll try both, go back on their word and kill us when they’re done.”
“It’s always nice to know I can depend on you for optimism Denethor,” Aragorn said wearily, “I don’t suppose in all your time awake, you’ve found some way to get us out of this mess?”
He took the other man’s silence as a no and found himself getting angry. “By the Valar,” he growled, “Are you good for anything? Or are you too pampered to bother with the spilled blood of battle?”
“Are you questioning my honour to my people?” Denethor said darkly, bristling with anger.
“I’m questioning your skill when it comes to war,” Aragorn sneered softly, “I’m sure you’re fine enough in a room debating the facts but when it comes to the battlefield, you go to pieces whenever you’re in danger.”
“Just because I’m not foolish enough to look for trouble like you Thorongil doesn’t mean my courage is lacking.”
“I didn’t know you had courage,” Aragorn replied, “The only courage I have seen from you is the ordering of other men to their deaths,”
“You call me a coward and a knave?!” Denethor snarled, voice rising.
“I think you’re a pampered boy who thinks too highly of himself!”
“Well, at least I’m not a bastard born and raised so I hear!” Denethor shouted, “Living off the generosity of others! Others may praise you but I know you’re nothing better than a good for nothing lout!”
“You’ve always been foolish!” Aragorn yelled back, “Thinking you were so much better than everyone else. You’re not fit to rule a vegetable garden!”
“At least I was born to it! You just try to usurp my place! With my father, with my people, with everyone! You cannot be me Thorongil!”
“Like I would ever want to be you! Every word out of your mouth is a disgrace to your father!”
“Oi!” shouted one of the Corsairs who’d been listening to the fight with growing interest and some amusement, “What’s goin’ on over ‘ere?!”
The two enraged captains either didn’t notice or didn’t hear so the pirate called for some more of his mates and they all waded in. Two each grabbed one of the captains and hauled them apart, getting their attention.
The ranking Corsair wasn’t pleased. “How are we supposed to have a nice revel if ye two are yelling yer heads off?” he demanded angrily, “Ye two are here to be seen and not heard ‘til we want ye to cough up all ye know or we be wanting answers off ye. But since ye obviously can’t behave, ye’ll have to be taught a lesson.” He gestured to his half-drunk companions, “Have fun m’boys. Ye can have these two runts for the night. See if ye can have some fun with ‘em. No killin’ boys an’ make sure they’re not hurt real bad. We’ll want ‘em on the morrow.”
Aragorn and Denethor traded wide-eyed glances as the bunch of leering pirates closed in. Somehow, Aragorn didn’t think he was going to like what the Corsairs considered ‘fun’.
: Buffy leads the Gondorions to the rescue. Some uncomfortable times for the two captains at the hands of the Corsairs. And the Corsairs find out just what it means to have a slayer mad with you.