1. The Berserkers
Our army stretches from horizon to horizon- or at least, that is how it seems to me, a scrawny fourteen-year-old boy trudging along behind my lord carrying his banner. Our King has risen in might, and the hated Horse-Lords fly before us like birds before the storm…
…and it is glorious. I am too young to fight myself, of course, but our songs around the fire this night shall be of victory and our feasting shall be glorious. Wulf has burned the palace of the Horse-Lords with his own hand, the tale goes, and finally his father sleeps avenged. Helm the Hammer-handed is now Helm the Ham-headed, the tale goes, and flees our wrath- hides in the Hornberg, nothing more than a craven coward, a bullying boor brought low by our might.
Tonight we rest- tomorrow we continue. This war will wipe the hated Horse-Lords from the pages of history, sing our bards, will blot them out as the storm blots the Sun and night blots out the day. None will sing their sagas- none will remember them- none will lament them.
We are good, and we are right, and we are winning.
I smile and I sigh and I turn upon my side, stomach full of good meat raided from the abandoned farms of the hated Horse-Lords and head swimming with cheap ale. The warriors think me asleep, but I am not- I am too excited. The scent of blood and battle and brutality is in the air- I could not sleep even if the Gods themselves demanded it.
Through hooded eyes dulled by tiredness I watch the warriors as they feast- smile as I hear their songs, though I have heard them a thousand times before. Great words are thrown around- boasts and bravado enough to sink a thousand ships, to storm a thousand castles, to slaughter a thousand armies and still cry out for fresh blood. They exult in the coming bloodshed- they are like hounds baying having caught the scent of their cornered prey, slavering at the taste of blood to come.
I watch as they smear their faces with thick daubs of greasepaint- watch as their eyes dance demented in the firelight. It is a spectacle like nothing else in all the World- finer than the most magnificent tapestry. The colours are so bright, the shrieks and songs so loud, so long…
They are more than Men, I think.
They howl and holler and fall to brawling, incensed by the inhuman lusts their revelries have unleashed. I watch transfixed, horrified by it all- noses are broken, teeth are smashed, eyes are gouged, blood is spilled…
…and yet they do not care.
They do not care.
It is sunrise, and we have our prey in our sight- a village too slow or too stupid or too proud to run from our blades. The weak sun has yet to burn away the mists and they shroud our advance like the finest cloaks
I hold my lord's banner proudly before me, as always- it is the way of the warrior. Always has it been- always shall it be so.
The horns bugle and blare, and our army breaks into a run, the blood-thirst upon them once more, and I see it all.
Yes, they are but villagers, but they are the foe, and so they must pay the ultimate price.
No songs will be sung of them.
Yes, they are but villagers, but we are just, and righteous, and ours shall be the victory.
Great shall be the sagas of this battle.
I cannot comprehend all that I see this day, but I strive to remember it, that one day when- Gods willing- I have children and grandchildren of my own, I might say-
I was there.
I was there when Wulf our king tore the head from a foe with nothing more than his bare hands,
I was there when Thrydan, mightiest of the host, broke a man in two over his knee and howled with joy as his beaten foe's life poured forth upon the field.
I was there when Ymir- my own lord, my own master- ripped a man's throat out with his teeth, snapping and snarling, more fiendish than even great Carcharoth of legend.
In years to come, many shall be the stories that we fought like beasts, that we were more monster than man.
Many shall be the stories, but only I shall know the truth…
Because only I was there.
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.