The Battle At the Ships Part Two
CHAPTER FOUR: THE BATTLE AT THE SHIPS PART TWO
When Aragorn and Denethor encountered each other again, their circumstances were considerably worse than previously. After their rather vocal argument the previous night, both had been carted off separately to be interrogated.
Needless to say, it hadn’t been a pleasant experience.
Finally, as the light of Arien climbed higher in the sky, the Corsairs grew weary of attempting to get the reticent Gondorions to speak and had abandoned them in favour of leaving the ships to see about getting some food. According to them, torture was hard work.
Their victims would have disagreed if they had been conscious to do so.
Aragorn’s unconscious form had been dumped on a cramped, uncomfortable bunk in a small windowless cabin. Mottling bruises decorated his skin and blood spattered his clothes.
He stirred groggily when a loud scraping sound make the ache in his head pound all the harder and he cracked his eyes open just in time to see Denethor get roughly thrown into the room. The other man looked to be in just as bad a condition as he himself was and seemed incapable of getting up from the floor where the Corsairs had dumped him before leaving and locking the door behind them.
“Denethor?” Aragorn queried, surprised at how hoarse and weak his voice sounded, “How do you fare?”
“I feel as though a troop of mûmakil had walked over me,” Denethor muttered faintly, feebly lifting his head to look at Aragorn’s tightly curled figure. “And if my eyes don’t deceive me, the Corsairs took no heed of your infamous charm. You look as though you have fared as bad as I, if not worse.”
“Aye,” Aragorn said woefully, “The Corsairs have no love of Gondor and even less for her captains. They will not be satisfied until they have us grovelling at their feet.”
“Something that cannot be allowed,” Denethor said, “They are planning something, an attack against us I think, but I know not how to stop them from marshalling their forces or even how to get word to my father.”
“You think none will come for us?” Aragorn asked, “You are Ecthelion’s only heir and you have not yet taken a wife, let alone sired an heir to succeed you. Your father will have no choice but to come else the house of the stewards is ended forever.”
“Gondor does not have the strength to hold all it’s borders and come for us. We are too heavily assailed as it is.” Denethor said in despair.
“Surely someone from our company will have sent word to Minas Tirith. I cannot believe that such a force could be taken down with such ease by this rabble.”
“Even the best men die quickly when they are outnumbered,” Denethor pointed out, “And I know of none who could take such initiative as to take charge of the company. I clearly recall seeing two of our lieutenants getting plied with arrows as the pirates took me. They were targeting the officers. None will come. None can
For a moment, Aragorn felt the far away sensation of foresight and he went rigid as the knowledge flashed through his mind. A startling image of Eliza, blood spattered, wielding a sword with astonishing dexterity came to him and he shook his head to clear it. Surely that couldn’t happen. But his foresight never failed to see true…
As his head cleared, he heard the other man’s disparaging words.
“You might as well stop dreaming Thorongil,” Denethor said dismissively, “No one will come for us.”
But for all that logic lent credence to Denethor’s words, Aragorn couldn’t shake the certainty that someone was
He just hoped they’d be in time.
Deftly slipping the leather jerkin and chain mail over her torso, Buffy fastened the clasps and then securely tied her sword belt around her waist. Normally she wouldn’t bother with such fare, it being completely alien to her due to never having worn it when she was the feared slayer of Sunnydale.
But here in Middle Earth, the Elves had convinced her that it was necessary. She wouldn’t be able to dodge every arrow, every blow of a sword, and even though she healed ten times faster than the average man, on a battlefield, being wounded usually meant a swifter death.
She had issued orders for the soldiers to ready themselves to move out. No matter how weird it felt to command an entire company. The slayer part of her relished being in charge but the Buffy part kept pointing out that she had only ever taken charge with her friends and a bunch of potential slayers.
None of which had the training in arms that these men had. Even the potentials.
Warfare was a way of life in Middle Earth, and it wasn’t the behind the scenes type of thing that slayers were used to.
She’d helped destroy bands of orcs with the Elves of Lórien and Rivendell but they were more open minded about her abilities. And the fact that she-Elves learned to fight as par for the course helped matters too. In most lands of Men, women didn’t. Which really annoyed Buffy, ‘cos she really didn’t feel like waiting around for a few centuries for women’s lib to kick in.
She had to give brownie points to the Rohirrim, they trained their women, called them Shield-maidens and had blonde hair like her. As well as being more to her taste, her colouring could have made her pass for one of them if she knew Rohirric. Which she didn’t.
But the time for deep thoughts was over. It was time for her to go face the soldiers. And though she shuddered at the thought, they would probably be expecting some sort of morale boost.
Why did it always have to happen to her?
Buffy Summers liked banter and witty barbs. She did not do speeches.
Alright, Winston Churchill, Buffy thought as she studied the assembled group of sceptical soldiers, let’s see how those speeches of yours work in Middle Earth. Of course, it remained to be seen if they worked Buffy-style.
Letting the innate strength of will of the slayer take over and completely abandoning the feigned meekness of ‘Eliza’, Buffy surveyed them all with a cool and commanding eye.
“I know you don’t trust what I’m doing,” she began strongly, and she saw several of them eye her in surprise. Even after her display of prowess during the last skirmish, they still didn’t think she was someone worth listening to. They would just have to learn.
“Don’t think I don’t know what you say about me behind my back. And in regards to that stream of insults, let it be known that if I want your opinion on the skills you deny I have, I’ll damn well give it to you! I’m not going to tolerate stupid actions just because of the fact that I’m a woman. Let me make this clear to you, we are not unsuited to battle, no matter how many times you say it. Get that through your thick heads. Anybody who wants to question that, I can cite a dozen examples and personally show you what an ass you’re being. Any questions?”
No one answered. They just stared at her like she had two heads.
“Good! Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you exactly how we’re going to get our two runaway captains back. Obviously the Corsairs have them, so we’re gonna get them back and give the Corsairs a little reminder of who they’re dealing with. We’re not gonna sit back and take it while they stomp all over us.”
“But we will be outnumbered ten to one!” one soldier exclaimed, dark eyes looking her like she’d gone mad.
“That’s what the word ‘ambush’ is for.” Buffy said with a manic little grin and a dangerous glint in her eyes, “Trust me, they’ll never know what hit ‘em.”
The Corsairs weren’t what Buffy expected from pirates. No peg legs. No parrots. No stupid sashes. No hooks. No jolly roger. No Jack Sparrow look-alikes either.
They did have big black ships though, and an obviously much indulged fondness for alcohol. They seemed to be having a nice little party from where Buffy was looking at them. She’d volunteered to do the scouting because all that armour that the Gondorions absolutely insisted on wearing would probably make enough noise to wake the dead, let alone a bunch of drunken pirates.
Curiosity had nothing to do with it, of course.
She’d quickly found the crimson-sailed ship from her vision, slap bang in the middle of the little port. Which meant ‘no sneak in the door, sneak right back out before they caught you’ manoeuvre.
It had taken them a day and a half to catch up with the pirates and she hoped that the captives were still ok. Or at least as ok as a person could be when being held prisoner by brigands.
Slipping back to where she had left her men. She was really getting used to thinking of the company like that. They had so
learned not to mess with the slayer in General Buffy mode.
She almost couldn’t wait to see how Aragorn and Denethor would react to being rescued by her.
Especially when Elladan and Elrohir found out. Aragorn would never live it down. Which left so much room for her to work with….
She could only snicker gleefully when she thought of the future blackmailing opportunities.
“Right!” Buffy said after she had divided the men under her fledgling command into several groups. “I’ve got a nice plan here to ruin those pirates’ party and each of you lot is going to have a different task. Besides the average killing and maiming anyway.” she added as an afterthought.
Over the few days she’d been in charge, the men had started to develop a grudging, (ok, very grudging) respect for her and a hefty respect for her temper. Some of dear ol’ Spike’s insults worked very well on over cock soldiers.
“Now, before I start saying who goes where, I would like to issue this advice. Always remember to pillage before
you burn. It gets so messy when you forget that,” she said with a tone of almost fond remembrance, thinking of burning down the gym and then blowing up the school, and ignoring the men’s somewhat perturbed looks, “We really don’t want to burn captains Thorongil and Denethor to a crisp now, do we? I doubt Lord Ecthelion would be pleased at all.”
“Ok, you lot!” she said pointing at the first group, “You get to sneak sleeping draught into their flagons of ale.”
And so it went as she outlined her very destructive plans for the unsuspecting Corsairs; burning ships, lots of dead people, drunk pirates, arrows, ambushes, the utter annihilation of the Corsairs camp etc.
By the time the Gondorions were ready to depart, they didn’t know whether to be in awe of Eliza’s frightfully destructive imagination or to feel something akin to pity for the pirates about to receive her wrath.
As the Gondorions set to their task, Buffy left the group of men that had been assigned bodyguard duty to the captains once they were freed and crept closer to the enemy camp. The sleeping draught in the great flagons of ale had worked well, and if most of the pirates were not half drunk, they were half-asleep from the drugs.
With her superior slayer eyesight, she could see the rest of her company creep towards their positions with the utmost stealth and caution. An ambush wasn’t an ambush if the enemy knew you were coming.
Making sure the hood of her cloak covered her blonde hair, she stole forward into the night, and on swift feet, she quickly reached her destination, hiding herself in the shadows of the rigging.
Signalling the Gondorions to begin the evening’s entertainment, she eyed the lofty rigging in askance before deftly starting to scale the ship. Even as she reached the deck, the first flaming arrows were finding their mark in the crimson sails and the hulls of the great ships. Soon, the camp was filled with shouting and screaming Corsairs as they abandoned ships too much aflame for them to put the fires out and the outraged and fearful shouts of the half-drunk pirates who were being cut down by an enemy which, to them, had come out of nowhere.
On deck, one swarthy, gaudily dressed fellow looked at her in disbelief, before charging at her with his sword. “Get off my ship ye bloody wench!” he snarled, lunging at her.
Pulling out her own blade, Buffy parried the blow and brought the hilt of her sword down on his head. “Aye, aye captain!” she said to his crumpled form, “Just as soon as I collect some friends of mine.”
Aragorn and Denethor heard the sounds of fighting and the distinct smell of arson. They looked at each other, “I think we may have been overhasty in disparaging our men,” Aragorn said gleefully as he heard a familiar Gondorion war cry. “It seems they have come for us after all!”
Denethor didn’t reply as there was suddenly a shuddering thump on the door and then the thick wood was wrenched from its hinges by some force.
When they saw the cause for this most unexpected entrance, both their eyes boggled in disbelief. Short, blonde, clad in armour and looking too cheerful to be real was Eliza.
Eliza the healer
Who was holding a bloodied sword.
Aragorn started to draw himself to his feet but a stern hazel gaze fixed on him with a startlingly familiar expression and an even more startling tongue.
“Daro!” Buffy chastised, “Havo dad! Havo dad! You even think
of standing up and putting yourself in the line of fire for arrows before I let you out of here and I will kill you myself!” the fiery blonde admonished as she came through the now demolished door.
Aragorn felt his mouth fall open at her use of Sindarin. Not to mention the destroyed door. Who was she? He wondered. Suspicions clogged his thoughts and he swore to himself once they were out of danger that he would find out exactly what this ‘Eliza’, if that was even her name, was hiding from him.
“No need to look so overjoyed to see your rescuer,” Buffy said, slightly peeved, “Come on, time to leave the Jolly Roger.”
Denethor hesitated so Buffy grabbed his arm and hauled him out, sheathing her sword and ignoring Aragorn’s incredulous look at entering a pitched battle with sheathed sword, she grabbed his arm as well and led them to the edge of the deck. Pushing a rope into Denethor’s hands, she ever so helpfully gave the floundering man a little push so that he went sliding down the ship’s side, desperately clutching the rope in his hands.
Aragorn, not wanting the same treatment, gracefully acquiesced to her demands and slid down to the ground, followed shortly after by Buffy.
As soon as Denethor and Aragorn reached the shallow water and clambered onto solid ground, a dozen of their company emerged from the shadows to surround them. Buffy dropped down next to them, and handed over his missing sword to a bewildered Aragorn.
Turning to the men, she issued her orders, “Get them out of here. You let them die, I string you up from one of those lovely big masts up there, got it? Now, I got to run. Try not to get into too much trouble.” she said, directing the last bit at the two shell-shocked captains.
Even as the ring of bodyguards closed in, and started to herd them away, they watched the blonde woman dive into the thick of battle with a skill unparalleled by any other mortal and wondered exactly who and what she was.
Lurching forward with what was left of his men, most half staggering, half running, looking over their shoulder in terror of seeing that fair-haired she-warg, come to have them for dinner. He didn’t know how he was going to explain this disaster to his superiors. Let alone the loss of all their ships, their loot and their slaves.
Whatever the outcome, this only showed that they had underestimated the Gondorions. Or else their new weapon of mass destruction was too newly come to them for Gondor’s enemies not to have word of her coming.
He’d probably die for his failure. His superiors weren’t very forgiving of such things.
Strangely enough he didn’t care very much at this point.
All he could do was run.
And hope that She didn’t catch them.
Buffy couldn’t hold back an elated feeling as she watched the Corsairs turn tail and run. She’d won! It was her first battle with men, not orcs. And her first time being fully in charge. She didn’t think she’d done a bad job of it anyway.
She didn’t like killing humans, it went against everything the Watchers’ Council had tried to drill into her. But her Elven friends had explained the necessity of such a thing in this world, especially when it came to those allied with the Dark Lord Sauron.
She still didn’t like doing it, but she understood the need for it.
Her men hadn’t suffered much losses, their tampering with the pirates’ wine and their tactics of taking down as many as possible with arrows first had spared them any considerable losses or injuries.
They’d also manage to set free some of the slaves the Corsairs used to row their ships. Considering it took two hundred and fifty people to row each ship, it was a rather considerable number.
Of whom she was now in charge of.
Still, first things first, it was time to see to one overindulged steward’s heir and one overly suspicious heir of Isildur.
is in charge here?!” Denethor demanded as soon as they had reached the safety of their own camp. “I thought lieutenants Jared and Feren were dead. I saw them slain.”
“They are, my Lord,” the soldier said, “The Corsairs targeted your seconds.”
“Then who is in charge here?” Denethor repeated. “And what possessed them to send that woman after us?”
The soldier fidgeted as he babbled out his answer, hoping to escape before his captain’s predicted wrath erupted. “Lady Eliza is in charge of the company, sir.”
There was a pregnant pause, then, “WHAT?!” Denethor, son of Ecthelion bellowed loud enough to be heard from the Black Gate. Nearby, Aragorn raised an eyebrow in surprise, though not as shocked as poor Denethor, who had never fathomed such a thing in the entire course of his life.
But Aragorn had been thinking long and hard over all he knew about this puzzle of a woman and knew that she was a lot more than she seemed.
The unwitting bearer of bad news managed to slip away with much relief as the topic of discussion herself arrived back in camp, flush with victory.
Speechless, Denethor gaped at her for several moments before finding his voice, “YOU! What do you think you were doing, you straw-brained wench?!”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed into annoyed slits, “Saving your worthless hide I believe,” she answered coolly, “Be thankful I’m not in the mood to make you regret the day you were born. Now I believe it is time to see to your wounds?”
Aragorn watched with trepidation as a good portion of the company visibly winced at her cold fury or found errands to run somewhere far from her ire. He levelled pleading eyes on some of them, but they only shrugged sympathetically and followed her orders.
What spell had she put them under?
Aragorn had suppressed a wince at the sounds coming from Denethor’s tent. The healer was most certainly not making the procedure as painless as possible for the captain of Gondor. More like the opposite really.
And so when it came to Aragorn’s turn, he was hardly without trepidation. “Are you going to inflict on me the same torture Denethor endured?” he asked with only a hint of sarcasm.
She shot him a bemused look, “He’ll be fine. I just made sure his wounds wouldn’t get infected. It’s not my fault that all guys are cry-babies.”
Aragorn didn’t know what to make of that and so remained silent until she had finished tending to him. “You’re off the active duty roster,” she said while she packed away her supplies, “You’re not fit for any action at the moment.”
“And I suppose that will allow you to remain in charge?” Aragorn said wryly.
“If you wanted me to have let your men get slaughtered and to have left you in the hands of the Corsairs, you only had to say so. I’m sure the pirates wouldn’t mind taking you back. Eru knows that it would make my life easier!”
He bristled at her tone, “Things do not make sense when it comes to you. I do not suppose you will explain these oddities to me?!”
“You're just tired, and all soggy.” Buffy said, brushing off his suspicions, “You need some food and a good night’s rest and maybe then you’ll stop imagining things.”
He grabbed her wrist, forcing her to look at him, “I imagine nothing lady,” he said with chilly civility and a heavy underlying menace and distrust, “You speak Elvish, you wield a blade with such skill and strength that I have not seen in any other of the secondborn, excel at some of our customs and flounder at others, and seem to have the audacity to take charge of a company in which you bear no rank. And I think you hide behind a false name, just as you are here under false pretences!”
She wrenched her hand away from him, and an impassive mask slipped over his face, confirming at least some of his suspicions. She was too much on the defensive for it to be anything else.
“As I said Captain Thorongil,” she said bitingly, brooking no argument, “You are in need of sleep. Don’t make me drug you.”
And then she left, leaving him to wonder over her.
And the unnatural strength with which she had broken his grasp.
To Denethor, she was a glory seeking hound. One who would run roughshod over his reputation thanks to this humiliation of a so called rescue mission. He wondered over her, lusted over her. At times he despised her. At others, there was the faintest trace of awe.
But Denethor brooked no rivals to his skills, reputation or position. Already he had had to endure Thorongil’s encroachment on his territory, his effortless way of winning the affection and loyalty of their forces and the Gondorion people.
Now it seemed that he had another rival for the glory he sought so hard. Yet another who sought to surpass him.
Still, he plotted, if he could but win her, her quickly growing infamy would work for him, not against him. After all, if Thorongil was indeed what he suspected, and what else could he be to be taken under the wing of one of the Istari, that dreaded Gandalf the Grey? He would need all the help he could get to keep what was rightfully his.
Gondor had no king, save it’s stewards.
Gondor needed no king.
And if Denethor had his way, Gondor would never have need for any besides him.
Even thrice-damned Thorongil.
To Aragorn, she was an enigma. Having grown up with the Elves, he had no silly superstitions as did the men of other realms. But even he knew that this Eliza was no ordinary woman. ‘Pirates’ Bane’ the men had christened her. If only he could knew whose bane she might really be he might sleep better at night.
Her familiarity with Elvish reassured him but a little. The servants of the Enemy were many and treacherous. And not one of them would fail to desire the death of the last heir to Gondor’s throne.
Perhaps it was time to write to his adar in Rivendell. And if Elrond failed him, Galadriel’s mirror would beckon.
Until then, all he could do was keep a close watch on her. And hope that his fears were unfounded. He had seen how she handled herself. He meant what he had said to her. No mortal wielded such skills.
The Elves, he knew, possessed such strength but never any of the younger race. And she was no Elf.
Which still left his question unanswered.
Who and what was she?
And so, fresh from victory and amid much speculation, Eliza the Pirates’ Bane led the bewildered and mostly Buffy-whipped troops home to Minas Tirith.
Word would precede their coming.
Exaggeration would make the tales a modern legend.
Gossip would surround the blonde woman like a storm.
And the judgement of Ecthelion awaited…
Ecthelion gives Buffy a little reward for her efforts. And Buffy’s love life gets complicated. Daro
- ‘stop’ in Sindarin Elvish.Havo dad
- ‘sit down’ in Sindarin.