The third squad of the second platoon of High Warden Took’s brigade found themselves on an early morning scouting patrol. Half the squad was bright and alert, while the others were still recovering from the previous night’s festivities. This was a bright and glorious morning: The Army of the Free Peoples was gathering momentum- even more than its previous incarnation some 50 years prior. The whole army was in celebration. Even Vanya’la wouldn’t be able to stop them now!
The green soldiers of second platoon stretched and tried to shake the sleep out of their eyes and limbs as they prepared for the week-long walk they were about to begin. Third squad had the furthest patrol, out to the overlook in the center of Annundir. The journey began as a routine one with little to slow them for the first couple of days. But on the third day, they witnessed something quite strange: some shy phantoms on the road. The oracle was able to detect that there quite a few of them and they were quite powerful, but the shades did not molest the living that night. Soon the sun rose and the squad pressed on toward completion of their task, trying to master their unsettled nerves.
It didn’t take long before the squad found their way to the top of their lookout – to find a terrifying sight: an enormous army stretched before them. But the members of the little band weren’t able to wallow in their fright and shock for long, some of the invader’s scouts had already found them! In a few seconds, the squad of four became a retreat of three, fleeing for their lives from a forest full of battle horns and a horizon full of magical lights, dodging the arrows that fell from the sky all about them.
They hardly stopped running until they reached their outpost at Ost Forod and then continued to the fortress at Annuminas to spread the news of the impending invasion and to begin what meager preparations they could make before the seemingly unstoppable force that was bearing down on them.
Dark and ominous clouds gathered on the eighth day after their arrival at Annuminas. There was an obvious atmosphere of fear among the rag-tag Army of the Free Peoples, but there was courage, too. A courage fostered of people who had no option left to them but to fight, of men and women who had no life to return to if they escaped, men and women who recognized that the world couldn’t go on as it was.
With those dark clouds came the thunderous noise of wheels of war machines, hooves of dark and powerful cavalry, and boots on the feet of a bloodthirsty army. The men atop the walls clung tightly to their few weapons. Some were dispatched to hold the peaks high above their battlements. The enemy could not be allowed to mount their massive weapons upon those mountains. Took’s second platoon was among those climbing the escapement.
They climbed through a deadly rain of arrows and stones, to reach the bristling row of steel that defended the top. The battle was fierce and costly. The trail they had climbed now served as a path for the blood of its travelers and their enemies. As the last defender fell and squad of free men dared to hope they might turn their assailants massive weapons against their own armies far below, disaster struck. The clever engineers destroyed their own weapons.
The disappointed squad’s hopes had been dashed. They were bloody and exhausted, surrounded by the corpses of their friends and foes. Yet, at least they had taken the plateau, maybe they had bought their comrades below a fighting chance. The thought occurred to the mounted cavalry officer first. He spurred his exhausted mount to the precipice to survey they success of the defenders so many feet down the slope. As his vision crested the ridge, he let out a gasp and numbly waved his squad about him. The oracle helped the wounded limp to the overlook, and then dropped to his knees in despair. The scene below was hopeless. The invading force was impossibly large, there seemed to be more soldiers than bricks in the massive pile of stones that had once been a sturdy and massive city wall. The sounds of the horrific battle echoed up to them.
What had they been thinking? Who could stand against the might of Vanya’la? She had the very power of the Valar and commanded the might of an entire enslaved world. There could be no victory this day.