The Dragon and the Fox
Chapter 55: The Death of Madril
‘Tear that bright mail shirt off him’ ordered Gothmog, pointing to Marfach's tunic of ancient Numenorean chain mail.
‘Lest our own side take him for a knight of Gondor and slay him.’
As the orcs began to pull off the armour once made in Minas Tirith Gothmog said to Marfach;
‘I do not want you to be killed by mistake, brother…’
Marfach would have resisted the filthy claws of the orcs but he found
to his dismay his strength had begun to ebb, and knew that once again
he had fallen under the power of Sauron. His spirit quailed; he thought
he had won free of evil. But the meeting with Gothmog had reawakened
the power of the spells laid on him by Sauron in his years of captivity…
The orcs clad Marfach in the armour of one of their own which he had
slain. He was taller than any orc but more slender and the black leaf
mail hung loose upon his thin, wiry frame. The orcs laughed and jeered
as they armed him, thinking he was no longer a threat to them.
When they were finished they stood back and Gothmog gestured to something lying on the ground nearby;
‘Put that on, so I can keep you in view during the battle’ he commanded.
Marfach looking round saw a red sash which had been left behind by the
retreating garrison of Osgiliath. It might have marked out the leader
of a squadron. Marfach picked it and wound it about his waist. The orcs
stopped laughing. Even beaten he inspired fear, his long red dreadlocks
hanging down over the blue-black armour, the bright sash pulling the
ill-fitting mail tight to his tall thin frame, and his grey eyes
flickering red as he gazed round at them in hatred and contempt.
At Gothmog’s side there was a stunted, weasel-faced orc with a shaven
head and a topknot. This was his lackey Brocach, named for his
grey-white mottled skin. He bared his long yellow teeth at Marfach, who
itched to seize his scrawny neck and throttle him. Brocach spoke in
orcish to Gothmog and said;
‘We have found one of their captains alive, Lord….’
The ruins of Osgiliath were strewn with the corpses of both orcs and
men. Smoke billowed through the broken arches and fire crackled as the
last buildings which still retained their roofs burned. At Brocach’s
words Marfach looked round at the bodies, and saw many of Faramir’s
Rangers as well as armoured soldiers of the garrison. A dull feeling of
dread came on him.
‘Alive?’ said Gothmog, ‘take me to him….’ And he smiled at Marfach and added;
‘Come, Cróga. It might be one of your old comrades….’
The orcs had slain all in their path as they overran Osgiliath but had
missed this wounded man half hidden in the doorway of a ruined palace.
He lay gasping, near to death, while the orcs stood around staring
curiously at him. Marfach was pushed forward to stand beside Gothmog.
He wished he had the strength to resist them, but when he tried to step
back the orcs shoved him forward again with the butts of their pikes
and he was forced to look…
With a shock Marfach realised he knew the wounded man; it was one of
Faramir’s Rangers, called Madril. He was a captain, grey-haired and
weatherbeaten from years of fighting in the vales of Ithilien. He wore
the Ranger’s habit of a leather tunic and green woollen cloak clasped
with a steel star-shaped brooch. He must have become separated from his
men, and had been wounded then clubbed to the ground. Blood trickled
down his face and welled from his torn tunic. He could not rise, but
looked up at the sound of the approaching orcs. His eyes met Marfach’s
and despite his pain and weakness he recognised him, a familiar face in
the hostile rabble gathered round him.
‘Look at me, Ranger’ willed Marfach who knew what was about to happen.
‘And do not look away…’
‘Do you not remember the first lesson you learned when you were in the
keeping of Sauron?’ Gothmog asked Marfach, who did not reply, but kept
his eyes fixed on Madril’s face. Gothmog lowered his voice.
‘Free your mind from pity and you will be strong, even as Sauron is strong. All that matters is the power he gives you…’
Then Gothmog walked over to Madril and raised his face to the smoky
sky. His features were for a moment contorted, whether he was smiling
in triumph or grimacing in pain Marfach could not tell, but with a
snarl he suddenly seized a spear from Brocach, crouching at his side,
and plunged it into the heart of the defenceless Ranger.
Rage restored Marfach’s strength and he sprang forward and would have
landed on Gothmog like a leopard on a hind had not the orcs seized him
and held him back. As he struggled in their grip Madril’s eyes sought
his one last time and then with a sigh the Ranger breathed his last,
his gaze still fixed on Marfach.
Marfach was stronger than an orc, stronger even than a man, for he was
an Elf. But his strength was bound up with the life Sauron had given
him, and waned when he opposed the dark lord’s will. Had Gothmog been a
mere orc, he could have slain him. But Gothmog was what Marfach had
made him and he could not kill him. He bowed his head and bid a silent
farewell to the departing spirit of the Ranger...
Ignoring Marfach, Gothmog pulled the spear from Madril’s body and cast
it aside. Brocach bared his teeth in a ghastly mockery of a smile and
Gothmog said to the crowd of orcs;
‘The Age of men is over; the age of the orc has begun…’
The orcs bayed in triumph, shaking their weapons. They let Marfach go,
and he staggered to one side, dismay for a moment overcoming him. Then
he noticed something gleaming at his feet and bent down and picked it
up. It was a sword, a Ranger’s sword. It must have belonged to Madril,
for it was lying by his side close to his hand, as if he had dropped it.
Marfach raised the sword and looked at the blade. Madril must have been
of noble lineage, for this was an exquisite weapon for a mere Ranger to
bear in the field. The hilts were wrought with twisted bands of steel
and silver and the blade was inlaid with gold lettering and a row of
tiny stars down the raised fuller. The letters said;
‘Mise maor achrainn déanta I Minas Tirith’
‘I am lord of the fray and Minas Tirith made me’
Marfach closed his fingers on the handle and felt a power run through
him. He sensed the life of the man who had owned the sword and wielded
it for so many years. He sensed his courage and honour. Marfach drew on
it, and felt himself grow calm and his grief grow less as if a rushing
wind was blowing it away….
With a start he came back to the present. The orcs were staring at him. Gothmog saw the sword in Marfach’s hand and said;
‘You are right to arm yourself, Marfach, for soon the battle begins in
earnest and you will fight by my side. Not for a few ruins by the
river, but for Gondor….’
A cold chill ran down Marfach’s spine at his words, but before he could
reply and before Gothmog could say anything else, an orc came bounding
along the rubble-filled street and gabbling in haste and fear, he threw
out an arm towards the city of Minas Tirith and said;
‘The Black Robes, and the horse lords, they are coming….’
Panic broke out among the orcs; they could not see in colour, only in
shades of black and white, so they saw green as black. They called the
Rangers ‘Black Robes’ for their green cloaks. The horse lords were the
Rohirrim, but Gothmog barked at them;
‘Stay your chatter, you cowardly rabble! There are no horselords in the land of Gondor….let me see….’
With Marfach following reluctantly, Gothmog limped through the broken
streets towards the outer walls of Osgiliath. There he climbed up on
the ruined defences and stopped, and looked out across the fields of
Marfach came up behind him and followed his gaze. It was now late
morning, and even in March a heat haze hung over the wide grassy plain.
Wavering in the harsh light Minas Tirith seemed like a dream, grey and
white and peaceful, banners flying from its highest towers. It was a
city on a painted tapestry billowing in a summer breeze.
But what drew Marfach’s gaze was not the city, but the plain below it.
There, stretching from one side to the other, was a line of armoured
knights of Gondor arrayed for attack, their helms and horses’
breastplates glinting fiercely in the sun, their long lances tipped
with pennants bearing the white tree and stars on black velvet....
Marfach felt suddenly cold. The blood thumped in his ears and he could
not hear anything else. No, he thought, it was not possible….
A tumult had broken out among the orcs, but Marfach paid no attention
to them. His gaze, keener than any for it was the gaze of an Elf, was
fixed on the approaching line of horsemen. As they drew closer, at a
swift trot, Marfach could see there was a second line of cavalry behind
the first, composed of men clad in leather tunics and green cloaks.
Faramir’s Rangers! So was Faramir with them….?
Marfach swept the line with his gaze, and there, in the centre of his
men, out front in full view of the enemy, was Faramir. Marfach’s heart
plunged. How it had happened, what madness had possessed the Lord of
the City to send his men and his only living son out to certain death,
Marfach could not guess. All he knew was that Faramir was leading them,
clad in armour and wearing the Raven helm of the Steward’s Son, and
Marfach's promise to Boromir to guard his brother was blown away on a
bitter wind. And now the line of mounted warriors had broken into a
gallop and was bearing down on Osgiliath with no possibility of turning
The orcs might have panicked but Gothmog was in control of them and at
his command they ranged through the fallen columns and broken archways
and disposed themselves on every high point and stair top, crooked
black bows at the ready. Even at this distance they could feel the
ground shaken by the cavalry of Gondor, but Gothmog steadied them;
'Stay at your posts. Take aim, wait for my command....'
Then he turned and stared at the galloping warriors as if he could not believe his luck. He said to Marfach;
‘Sauron makes mad those he wishes to destroy. The Steward of Gondor sends us his warriors and even his son as a sacrifice!’
The line of horsemen filled their sight now, dust from the horses’
hooves rising into the air and giving them the only cover they could
hope for. They were galloping at full speed but the orcs were waiting
for them, drawing their bows and gauging the distance, taking aim.
Marfach could do nothing but watch in horror. On they came, their spear
tips flashing in the sun, their burnished armour reflecting the light.
Gothmog raised his hand, and the orc archers sighted along their black
arrows and waited for the command. Marfach could not breathe. If only
there were something he could do, but he knew all he would achieve was
his own death, and now as before, he knew he did not want to die…..