1. Prologue: Lebethron
Thanks to Sheyla who has begun betaing for me as well as condolences because the mini-balrogs know me well.
THE FIELD OF BATTLE
The Harvest of Lebethron
What has gone on before:
The proposed alliance between the Reunified Kingdom and the Easterling Confederacy has come to an end during the treaty celebrations in Minas Tirith, following the discovery that the king of the Haradrim, Ulfrain, had entered a dark alliance with the skin changers from the First Age. Ulfrain and his allies had attempted to assassinate the Ruling Council of Middle earth, comprising of Aragorn of Gondor, Eomer of Rohan, Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Faramir of Ithilien, Legolas Greenleaf of the elven colony Eden Ardhon in South Ithilien and Gimli, Lord of the Glittering Caves and ruler of Aglarond. During the subsequent battle, the commander of his armies, Castigliari who like the rest of the Easterling Confederacy knew nothing of this pact, was forced to kill Ulfrain. Unfortunately upon his return home, the general is executed for the murder of his king.
Forces in the Easterling nations, weary of the diplomatic solutions to solve their crisis of impending famine, chose a military alternative and issues a declaration of war against the Reunified Kingdom and all its allies. Hostilities have yet to begin, but it is only a matter of time………
The air was thick with the scent of felled trees and sawdust but none of those gathered in the forest this day seemed to mind terribly. Those who had taken part in the ceremony of harvest were more than accustomed to the characteristics of the day and those who were still novices to the culmination of Lebethron’s toil would soon have time enough to learn. After all, the harvest was an annual ritual and those who were new to it on this occasion would not be in the following year.
Anna and her brother Anton wished they were allowed to participate in the festivities. Unfortunately, their father had unfairly claimed that they were too young to be involved in either the felling of the trees marked ready for harvest or aiding the women in the preparation of the meal that followed the day’s work. Both were very disappointed but took heart in the fact that they were not the only ones who were allotted this curious state of limbo during the harvest. Other children were also lingering unhappily on the outskirts of all the activity being undertaken so religiously by the senior members of the Lebethron.
For each year since Anna was old enough to remember and far longer than her existence she was certain, the harvest had continued in this way. Lebethron was located on the banks of the Anduin and while for much of the year, the town subsisted on the spoils of the great river, on this day each year, the town turned its attention to the one activity for which Lebethron was known throughout Middle earth. Nowhere else was the tree known as Lebethron, after which the town was named, was known to exist. Careful to ensure this precious commodity was not squandered, the people of Lebethron regarded their cultivation of the wood as a sacred trust. Only a select number of trees were allowed to be felled each year and the rest of the forest was left to thrive until the following year.
Once the allotted number of trees fell to the axe, Lebethron’s carpenters would either fashion the wood themselves or send the precious lumber to Gondor or Rohan, to the ministration of craftsman with artistic endeavours of their own. Of late, they had received requests from Ithilien and the elven colony of Eden Ardhon as well. The wood Lebethron was better known throughout the Reunified Kingdom and the lands of Middle earth than the town itself but its folk did not mind for it was the wood that had given life to their community to begin with.
Since the earliest days of this trade, the folk of Lebethron had made the harvest something of a ritual and it was a matter of pride that everyone participated in the process. Men would aid in the felling of trees, while their older counterparts would examine the forest and mark the trees that would be ready for next year’s harvest. Women would set up their cooking pots near by, furnishing meals and providing comfort to the men who would continue this exhausting work for the number of days it required to complete it.
For Anna, this was the seventh harvest of her life.
The others were vague in her memory but her brother who was two harvests older than she, promised that it was a day of surprises looked forward to by everyone. Despite being unable to participate in the actual harvest, the children were having a wonderful time watching their fathers and mothers going about their business while being allowed to play in a part of the forest that was customarily restricted to them for the rest of the year. Being allowed to wander freely in so forbidden a place was exciting and it also made them feel included in the harvest even if they were not allowed to contribute anything to the annual ritual.
Anna was the smallest of the children her age. Even though she was seven, many people often mistook her for being five, a very grave insult as far as she was concerned. However, her small size did have its advantages in that if she had no desire to be found, it was virtually impossible for anyone to do so. This particularly useful when she engaged in games of hide and seek or when she was called to nap by her mother and had no taste for it. Anton often claimed, inspired by jealousy no doubt, that one day she would hide so well that everyone would forget about her.
At seven, this was rather a frightening notion and Anna resolved herself to be careful to not hide herself too well in case she was never found.
Holding a candied apple in her hand rather gingerly, Anna found herself a comfortable place to watch her father helping with the sawing of a fallen tree into manageable lengths for loading into the wagons assembled. Her brother was off with the other boys, running through the trees, while the other children were engaged in their own games. Anna was content to shift her attention between her father working and her mother gossiping happily with the other women at the cooking hearths as she nibbled through the crusted layer of honey surrounding the apple she was holding by the stick impaled through it.
Everyone was working hard and enjoying the sunshine above their heads, even Anna could feel the warmth against the skin there were moments when she wanted to do nothing but stare into the brilliance of the sun above. However, mama said she must not look too closely at Laurelin’s last fruit because it would hurt her eyes but sometimes, Anna wanted to look at the beauty that Yavanna had coaxed from the golden tree of Valinor. Papa said that she was named after Yavanna and Anna often stared at the sky hoping that she might catch out the elusive lady whose name she shared.
Suddenly Anna felt something beneath her. It reached from beneath the soil and moved through her bones like a worm creeping across her skin, sending shudders through her body. Anna looked up in question and saw that no one else had noticed the curious sensation as of yet. This was most likely since they were all rather engaged in what they were doing and had yet to sense it. She placed her palm against the grass and felt the low rumble reach into her skin with even more intensity. Her small face contracted with concern and she wondered if she should tell papa about it.
She needed not have worried.
The strange feeling emanating from the ground became stronger and as if it were sweeping across their faces as it was through the earth, Anna saw the work coming to a gradual halt as people ceased what they were doing, forgetting all about the harvest as they looked about in concern. The sound of laughter and voices speaking had fallen into a dead silence as everyone strained to listen. Anna could tell that there was something terribly wrong. She could see it in the worried way that mama and papa were searching the woods for Anton and her. Mama had started to walk away from the other women, trying to find her. Anna did not like to see mama afraid and started to emerge from her hiding place when suddenly, the tremors became rumbling and that inspired fear in everyone.
"Anna!" Mama called her as everyone started to scatter. Papa had left what he was doing and hurrying towards mama.
Other people were collecting their children in a hurry, stricken expressions of fear on their faces. Anna started to cry because their fear made her scared and though she hated to cry like a baby, she could think of no other way to express her anxiety. The rumbling was so loud now she could hear it everywhere. It was almost as loud as thunder but there were no clouds in the sky or any signs of impending rain.
"Mama!" Anna cried through the frantic voices of folk hurrying away and felt a flood of relief when her mama turned at the sound of her voice.
Anna saw mama coming towards her when suddenly, exploding through the trees in deafening noise was an animal she had never seen before. It was not a horse but much bigger with a nose so long that it looked like snake and curling horns as thick as a branch from a tree. It made a noise like a horn blaring and it thundered forward with such force, that everything beneath it was crushed underfoot. Sitting on top of its back on a harness like a rider on a horse, was a man and he was not alone. As mama screamed, more and more of the strange animals appeared through the trees, moving across the land and trampling everything in sight, until the sound of them drowned out her voice.
Anna scrambled back to her hiding place and watched as the beasts ran down her parents in a cloud of dust and blood. She watched them continue their rampage, driving into the dirt, the hard labour of the harvest, until logs lay strewn across the ground and the cooking pots that contained food were shattered into the dirt. Once they had done their worst where the harvest was meant to be, they continued their thunderous advance towards the village, trailing a cloud of dust and leaving behind mama and papa behind them.
Anna saw her parents where they had fallen on the ground, surrounded by the tracks of the great beasts, their bodies in complete ruin. The image of their broken bones and torn skin wetting the earth with blood was burned into her mind as if it were branded there by flame. Anna closed her eyes and turned away, her body curling into a tight ball. She hugged her knees tight and wept, wishing to hear nothing else but was powerless to escape the terrible image of blood and death that was once her parents.
Anna did not see the destruction of the village as it fell to the onslaught of the mamakus. The beasts rampaged across Lebethron and brought down villagers as easily as it had done to her parents. At first, the menfolk were killed by the riders of the mamakus from atop their harnesses, either impaled by spears or struck by arrows. When all the structures in the village had been trampled into the dirt, the riders dismounted and began sweeping across Lebethron to deliver its destruction in a more precise hunt for prey.
The men and children died quickly but the women unfortunately did not.
Lebethron had no strategic value. Its lumber as precious as it was to the rest of Middle earth, held little interest to the invading army whose primary concern was grain. As the anguished shrieks of the women soared into the evening, the appearance of the full moon in the sky marked the beginning of a sinister silence that left Anna with the terrible realisation that she was now all alone. She really had been forgotten and as her young mind retreated into the dark place it would not emerge from for some time, Anna did not know whether or not she should be grateful for being allowed to live.
The army that swept into Lebethron with the purpose of killing every man, woman and child before the sun set that day on the harvest had a greater purpose in mind.
It was to tell the rulers of the western lands to beware; war was coming.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.