And so it was that plans were made. The sun had departed from the lands, leaving dwarves and men to make camp in the darkness of night. As the dusk fell deeper, the winds howled a little louder, a little more ominously- only the stars and moon above were gracious enough to shed their little light upon the world.
For fear of alerting any ill-intended passerby, no fires had been raised- meals were made of bread, dry cheese, and salted meats. Water had been gathered from local springs near to the east, and as soon as the food was finished a watch plan was set into motion. Man and Dwarf, Dwarf and Man- all were to keep watch, for the Darkness was deafening this night, and evil things were surely lurking about.
Mablung, the Gondorian spearman who had thrust himself into dwarven legend with the recovery of Durin’s relics, had set off just outside of camp to investigate something he believed he saw in a patch of shrubbery. Bugs chittered and nocturnal foul hooted, but it was a metallic glint that caught his eye- the moon had reflected something, and he intended to see it. Kemlek raised his eyes in time to witness the worst- he grasped his two-handed axe and opened his mouth to give warning, but it all happened too swiftly.
All at once, arrows came in from the north and the south, a deadly dance of death that saw splintered wooden shafts plunge into shields, and off of the nearby bridge. Mablung cried out-
“AMBUSH!! Now for Gondor, and the Iron Hills…”
No sooner had Mablung given his shout than the bushes came alive, golden armored figures revealed themselves and brought down the warrior through weight of number- he stood no chance. Kemlek stared in disbelief as he saw the warrior quickly dispatched, his silver armor quickly disappeared as he was dragged back with a knife to his throat.
Unhelmed, brow busted and bleeding, Mablung attempted one last shout before a sack was roughly shoved over his head, muffling his warnings and fears. The men of Rhun had made their appearance- and with this opening strike, they made a cruel statement.
“Ready up lads!! Shields to the North!” ordered Mhulo.
Kemlek turned to see Duk, Dolvin, and Khain form a shieldwall with a pair of rangers and a warrior- they were facing down a teeming horde of goblins! It was a two-pronged attack, an attempt to neutralize the armored advantage of the Dwarves and Men. Kemlek roared his approval- if battle was to be met, it would be met with vigor! Mablung would be avenged this day, at the edge of his mattock.
“Form up men! Spears behind, support our allies!” shouted Ondoher from his horse behind the front line. He then rode to Mhulo and continued- “These are the Easterlings we faced some time ago! They wish to see my head on a pike!”
Almost by plan, the southern enemy fully revealed their power in time with Ondoher’s words. Out from the tree line, a small host of Rhunish warriors formed a gleaming shieldwall, supported by archers on each flank, spears, and even pikes! Their golden helms bore the very same features as the one that Cooper had laid before them in the Halls of Gold.
Indeed the stories had their truths- Kemlek bore witness as the enemy advanced methodically forward, testing the patience and mettle of the armored alliance before them.
“Aye, they might friend, but tempered Iron bends not so easily! As long as there is one dwarf here who yet draws breath, you’ll have an ally the likes of which they sing of in the halls of Old!” retorted Mhulo, brandishing his gleaming runic mattock. “Nasek! Form up alongside Ondoher, ride them down on the flanks!”
With that, Ondoher fell in line behind Nasek and his bleating war goat, cutting wide to the left flank.
To the north, a warrior named Malbeth had dug in on a ledge adjacent to the shield brothers, defenses up and spear lowered to accept any blows the Goblins might give.
Upon the stairs of Govadmiluin Sarianu, two rangers by the name of Turgon and Hurin returned fire at the enemy, trading precise shafts of fate with the ill-trained minions of Evil. Beside them Thoif and Thalrir, the dwarves own archers, drew level their crossbows, and attempted to bring down the Easterling archers that were intent on ending Ondoher’s existence.
Closer the men of Rhun came, and Kemlek itched for their blood. His ire was up, and after seeing Mablung taken so cruelly, he intended to repay that blow in full.
“Hold brothers, the right moment needs come!” commanded Mhulo as the Easterlings closed on their defenses.
Kemlek glanced to his left and saw an arrow strike true to Ondoher’s mount, sending the Gondorian tumbling from the saddle behind Nasek. The mounted dwarf turned heel to assist Ondoher back onto the ledge defenses, then in the blink of an eye waited no more- Nasek broke full speed toward the Easterling flank. Sensing the tides of battle shifting, the Rhunish leader broke rank and charged forward.
“Come meet the end of Jandol’s blade you stunted Dwarf-child! This is the day you die, little one!” shouted the caped Easterling leader, now known as Jandol, as he brandished a curved blade hilted in gold.
A return insult? Mhulo gave none. Kemlek’s superior gripped his mighty mattock, donned his helm, and let roar the fury of the Iron Hills in one bellow.
And with that, Kemlek leapt forward, swinging his axe with all his mighty strength.
The counter offensive proved successful to an extent. After stagnant melee, the servants of Evil found a way to rid themselves of Ondoher, and knocked him unconscious with an arrow to the shoulder. Like retreating water upon rocks, the Easterlings and Goblins slipped away into the night once their deed was done, taking with them Mablung the Heroic. Despite heavy casualties, the evil alliance snatched victory from the closing jaws of defeat, and the unhurt Dwarves all swore their undying grudges.
Soon after the dust had settled, a Numenorian Ranger happened upon their camp at the stairs and told of a nearby tower housed by the allies of men that needed tending to. Promised medical care and shelter, the Gondorians agreed it was the best course of action to move along- despite missing one of their own.
Mhulo thought it prudent to return to the Iron Hills, if only temporarily, to give the Loremaster Torvim the prize he sought. They would be welcomed as heroes, but Kemlek would tell them all of Mablung of the White City. And so they made their long journey back, stopping along the way, once again, to dine in the Halls of Gold with their kin in the Misty Mountains.
Drinks were on Mhulo, one and all. For victory was had with the recovery of their heritage.
But as in life, the sun sets on every day.
Evil will always take root in the dark, dank places of the world.
It will not rest.