Yule Mathoms 2005 Collected
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December 4 - 21 ornery orcs: 3. Hope Eternal -by Gwynnyd
Faramir turned to Mablung. "How many down there?"
"Twenty-one, Captain, and every one ornery and uncooperative, as always."
"They have been given the opportunity to surrender peacefully?" Aragorn asked.
"Of course, Sire, every day since we trapped them here," Mablung assured him.
Faramir stepped closer to the edge. The orcs had managed to build a fire, but had not dug a latrine. Charred bones lay scattered amongst the piles of excrement and offal that littered the floor of the tiny valley.
He turned an outraged eye on Mablung. "You didn't feed them did you?"
"No, Captain! You know as well as I that they can be easier to handle if they are hungry and weak." He shot a wary glance at the king. "We caught twenty-five."
Faramir swallowed hard. He had never become accustomed to the orcs' cannibalism. If the decision were his, they would be killed.
Aragorn gave a dejected sigh and stepped to where he could see more of the group, still cursing and clashing weapons below.
"I am Elessar, King of Gondor. Throw down your weapons and surrender peacefully or your lives will be forfeit," he called down in a loud, clear voice.
"I'll throw my sword down your gullet, Tark!" One of the largest orcs roared his defiance and cast his sword up towards them.
Faramir did not bother to flinch: it was obvious that the unwieldy, bent weapon would not reach the top of the cliff. As it clattered down, a brief fight broke out over it. The first orc to touch it had his hand sliced off with, Faramir saw, what had once been one of the Gondorian plow blades the orcs had received when they were resettled. It had been beaten into a crude axe. The axe-wielder was stabbed by a scythe, whose owner left it deeply embedded in his victim and triumphantly snatched up the sword.
"I'll ram it up your arse," the new owner of the sword shouted, brandishing it upward and ending the threat with a howl.
"Aragorn," Faramir said quietly, as the king stared bleakly down at the carnage below. "It is not your fault." He put a delicate emphasis on the 'your'.
Aragorn turned a questioning brow to his Steward. "Is it yours, then?"
Faramir made an open-handed gesture of negation. "I am not the king out of legend who vanquished all evil."
Aragorn stared silently at the bloodthirsty mob. Faramir did not interrupt the king's thoughts. At last, Aragorn turned to him. "The official policy is still clemency. All must be given the opportunity to surrender and be resettled. Do here what needs to be done." He turned and strode to his waiting horse.
Faramir gave a nod to Mablung. As he hurried after the king, the bows of Ithilien sang death, until silence fell.
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