Darkness descended, and with it a silence fell upon the Hornburg. A faint wind hissed about the great stone fortress and threaded its way along the ranks of warriors, a stifled breath of malice that whispered of a coming storm. The black clouds that had lain low in the east throughout the day began to rise and stretch out like a deadly hand, swallowing up the stars. The Men upon the walls shifted restlessly, peering out into the growing blackness. Weathered hands traced the patterns on their sword hilts and ran along the shafts of their long arrows until they met the taught strings of their bows. Along the Deeping wall the ranks of Lorien stood, motionless as carved remembrances of ancient valor. Silver helms rose above the jagged crest of the battlements, and beneath keen eyes burned. Under their midnight cloaks each grasped his curving bow, felt the graceful lines of the deadly weapon at his belt. Every sense was keen as their swan-feathered arrows, precise as a fine tuned Elven harp. At the far right a crimson mantle marked the captain of the immortal host. Haldir’s long hair fell uncovered as he watched and waited, bending his far-reaching sight into the blackness from whence would come his doom. High above, Theoden stood with his guard and looked down upon his deathless allies, and far out into darkness.
The faint wind died, and a foreboding stillness fell. A distant rumble shook the stifling air, the vanguard of the massive thunderclouds. A sudden ragged bolt of brilliant fire tore the shadows, reveling for an instant every crevice of the fortress and gilding the silver helms of the elves with a blinding light. Utter blackness fell. Plink. A single drop of rain struck the armor of the King. He turned his eyes heavenward as the clouds released their fury. Rain fell in torrents, rattling off the armor of the commanders, soaking the garments of the Rohirrim, sliding down the glimmering mithril helms of the Galadhrim, plastering the dark locks of the Ranger who stood among their ranks. Icy gusts of air swept between the lines of fighting men, whipping the driving rain into the eyes that watched the east.
An inky blackness poured into the valley from the east, filling all the land between the mountains. Innumerable red fires burned in the dark, surging toward the Deep like fire ships driven by relentless waves. Rank upon rank the forces of Saruman descended upon the Keep, an unstemable tide of death, a forest of spears, and halted before the wall. A savage cry rang out, and the thunder above was drowned by the thunder below. The butts of ten thousand spears ground into the soil, smiting the rain-washed earth, shaking the silent fortress to its foundation.
The Men upon the walls swept out their arrows, and set them to the strings of their bows. The fingers of the keen-eyed archers of Lorien felt the soft feathers that bristled from each arrow, their fingers upon the bow string like a harper’s upon his harp. The Galadhrim bent their bows, their shining eyes peering along the deadly shafts. Another flaming bolt of lightning split the air. By its light the elves could see each overlapping plate of iron armor, the barred fangs, the thick spears, the broad flat blades of their enemies. A sudden twang sounded, and a loosed arrow sped from the wall and plunged into the neck of an Uruk-hai.
The thunder of spears ceased. With a stifled groan, the Uruk let fall his weapon and crashed to the earth. The orcs looked upon their fallen comrade, drank in the smell of his fresh blood as it mingled with the rain. Roars of blood lust and rage erupted on all sides. The commanding Uruk raised his sword and shouted. They leveled their spears and charged. The rain broke out with fresh fury, thunder shook the fortress, and white light seared the black mass of clouds as the Uruk-hai swept toward the Deeping Wall beneath a hail of Elven arrows.
‘So it begins.’