Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Twenty Six: Simbelmyne At The Fords

The bloodied blade of Grimbold's sword glinted dull red in the moonlight as he swung it high in the air. With sickening force, the sword crashed down, and there was a flash like flame as it clove through the helm of the uruk who assailed him. Fiercely, the captain raised the smoking blade, swinging about in his quest for new foes. All about him, the field was in ruin, slain bodies choked the river, so that it's swollen flood spread out over it's banks, drowning defender and foe alike. Black shells of twisted armour lay strewn about, and the river ran red with blood. Widly, Grimbold twisted in his saddle, seeking his own folk, but all about him, the great black wave writhed and surged, the ghastly hand of death blazoned every helm. with a shout, a great orc chieftan was before him, and their baldes met with a clash of steel. Before he could bring his sword to bear again, the black scimitar was beneath his guard, and caught him a glancing blow to the leg. Grimbold cried out in anger as he felt the metal tear into him. Swiftly, he swung his sword arm up, piercing the orc through it's gut. The soldier gave a convulsive cry, and fell, back, it's black vitals spilling from the gaping wound.
Suddenly, Grimbold felt Ashwind buckle beneath him. The horse screamed, standing high upon his hind legs, his body twisted in an agony of death, overbalanced, and crashed heavily to earth. A great wave of bloodied water fountained up about him as he landed, and Grimbold was thrown from the saddle. He felt the water close over him, felt the swift current of the river beneath him, dragging him under, threatening to claim him.

Gasping for breath, Grimbold broke the surface, sword in hand. A great black figure loomed before him, obscuring his vision. With a yell, he ran it through with his sword, his eyes darted wildly. Where were his riders. Despairing, Grimbold looked Northwards, and saw only the enemy, one great roiling mass, coming ever on. Where was Elfhelm? With a shock, Grimbold realised that he was surrounded, his few remaining riders swiftly falling beneath the faceless soldiers of the white hand. He glanced eastwards to the stony eyot in the midst of the river where Theodred waited. Surely his prince would come to his aid.

A single scream shattered the dark night. From the eyot, Grimbold now heard too late the clash of weapons. Theodred! The cries of the dying came thick and fast. Then in the midst of the tumult Grimbold heard a great voice crying out.
"To me! To me Eorlingas!"
Theodred's voice, and then, ringing loud over the melee of battle, came the clear silver summons of the Prince's horn.
With a cry, Grimbold plunged into the river. Some few of his men who had also heard the call followed swiftly after. The river was not deep, but choked as it was with bodies and discarded weapons, the footing was treacherous. Heedless, Grimbold rushed forward, pushing aside any who withstood him in his anxiety to reach the Prince. With a sickening feeling in the pit of hir stomach, Grimbold remembered that Theodred had but a few men with him. The orcs must have come down both sides of the river at once, engaging Theodred even as Grimbold fought on the West bank. Where was Elfhelm?

Struggling onwards, Grimbold gained the eyot. Too late. Dismayed, he saw that most of Theodred's company were already slain. And where was the Prince?
Again the silver horn rang out, and Grimbold spun about, searching for Theodred. Where was he? Then suddenly, through the midst of the battle came a sound more joyous than any he could name. The pounding of galloping hooves, and the fierce cries of warriors, undaunted and filled with the blood lust. Then suddenly, horses were everywhere, fighting, slaying, driving the hosts of Isenguard back. Elfhelm! Through the darkness, Grimbold caught sight of a white crest, and his few remaining riders gave a ragged cheer. Elfhelm had come! They were saved!
The cheer died in Grimbold's throat, as he caught sight of the Prince.

Theodred wielded his sword left handed, against two great orc cheiftans, and in his shattered right fist was clutched the silver horn of Eorl. All about him, his guard lay dead, but alone and surrounded the Prince fought on, parrying two blades at once as the darkness closed about him. Blood was all about him, drowning his senses, and the bitter, cloying scent of it hung heavy in the night air. Blood was in his eyes, blinding him, and he tasted it upon his lips. Through the red mist of destruction, the black figures loomed all about him, their dark blades shimmered in the air, and the song they sang was one of death.

Even as he hastened forwards, Grimbold saw the Prince fall.

Theodred gave no sign as the blade entered him. His eyes grew wide for a moment, frightened, beseeching, almost appologetic. His mouth opened slightly in surprise, and pain as he felt the shinning ebony blade slice through his chest. Then, slowly, gracefully, swan-like, Theodred's body slid silently to the earth. Crimson blood spilled outwards in an ever widening pool, and the silver horn slipped from Theodred's grasp. The orc who had slain him fell instantly beneath Grimbold's red sword.

As if the Prince's death had been a signal, from the dark eastern bank a single harsh horn call rang out. Silently, their purpose achieved, the hosts of Isenguard faded into the night.

Grimbold cradled Theodred's body in his arms. The dying face was almost beautiful in a strange, bittersweet way. Wearily, Elfhelm dismounted, and knelt in the mud beside his fallen Prince. Grimbold lifted the body in his arms, and the two of them made shift to bear Theodred away. Slowly Theodred raised his head for a final time. His light blue eyes shone with a quiet final knowledge, and he lifted his bloodstained face to the east, where the dawn's first golden shafts pierced the shroud of night. The newborn sun kindled the river to a sparkling fire that was reflected in the Prince's shinning eyes.
His face was calm, and he glanced regretfully at the bloodied corpse of Galmod, the old storyteller who lay beside him.
"Let me lay here." Theodred whispered gently. "To keep the Fords until Eomer comes." His glance fell upon the slender bracelet about his wrist, stained as it was by the blood of his war-torn home. With a bitter sadness he remembered the broken pledge, the old forgotten love entwined within the braided strands.

His eyelids fluttered once, and Theodred lay still, as the sun, breaking free of the dark horizon, enshrined him with an all consuming flame.