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The Last Yule in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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8
Day 08 - The One-Handed Warden

For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.

Rating: Teens, for this part. War-induced violence and disturbing images in flashbacks.

Author’s note: Balg is a German word and means a bastard child. I adopted it because it sounded more old-fashioned than bastard.


~~~

Day Eight – The One-Handed Warden

One of the strangest discoveries that Belegorn the Warden had made in the fifty-five years of his existence so far was the fact that an arm that one did not have any longer could still hurt. As if missing a limb would not be bad enough. The unfairness of it still angered him, even after eleven years. So long had it been since he had lost his shield-arm below the elbow. Since he had had to give up the only life he had known, that of a soldier, to begin a new one.

He had been used to a harsh life – what else could the fatherless balg of a street whore have known? Born on the street in the lowest circle of Minas Tirith and forced to take care of himself from the age of nine, he had known little else than hunger, filth, cold – and bitter fights, with nails and teeth for every half-rotten piece of food that might have been thrown away by more fortunate inhabitants.

Small for his age and almost frighteningly thin due to permanent malnourishment, he would probably have died very young, if not for Master Ciryon, the head messenger of the City, who had been looking for new errand boys all the time to replace the ones grown out from service – or killed in the line of duty. For messengers led a dangerous life. They had to follow the captains and knights of the City, riding back and forth between Minas Tirith and whatever battlefield the troops were fighting on, not caring for their own lives or those of their comrades, for the messages needed to get to the Steward and back to the troop leaders.

What Master Ciryon had seen in him Belegorn could not guess to the present day. But he had been – and still was – eternally grateful to get away from the street, to have a roof above his head and a warm meal in his stomach each day, and presentable clothing on his thin body. He could learn to ride and to use a knife – the only weapon the messenger boys carried on their errands.

He had served three years with the messengers, and when he had turned sixteen, his way led straight to the armed troops, for what other choice did he truly have? The troops were the only family he knew, and the barracks his only home, and all the lads he had served with were his friends, comrades and brothers.

As a native to the City, He was sent to the troops in Osgiliath, right after finishing his training. And there he had served faithfully twenty-nine years long. Until that fateful day that changed everything.

The attack did not come unexpected. The Orcs had been testing their defences for several weeks by then, but never before had they managed to break through their lines. Many good men had died in that night. His best friend, Amlath, was nearly one of them. Few hoped that the healers would be able to save his leg, as it was broken on several places when he got buried under his dead horse. But the healers worked true wonders in the Houses of Healing, and after a while Amlath did recover, against all hope.

Belegorn had not thought much of his own wound at first. All knew that Orc arrows were poisoned, but no-one would worry that much about Orc bites. The foul creatures usually did not bite their opponents – not as long as those could still defend themselves, that is. Yet this Orc, cornered and outnumbered and his sword broken, had used the only means remaining to him: his fangs. His jagged and rotten fangs that had been sharp enough to splitter the bones in Belegorn’s forearm.

The healers cleaned the wound and set the bones, placing the broken arm in a sling and sending Belegorn on his way. A broken arm was not a rare thing among soldiers and should have healed on its own if not over-extended.

Yet Belegorn’s arm did not heal properly. It became infested, mayhap from the filth that had got into the wound from the Orc’s teeth and could not be removed, despite the healers’ best efforts. The arm had swollen on thrice its normal size and become shiny, dark red and unbearably hot. Belegorn had been running a high fever by then, wailing deliriously, and was very clearly near to death. Thus the healers saw no other way out than sacrifice the offended arm to save – if he was very fortunate – perhaps his life.

He was very fortunate, after all. The infection had not spread to his upper arm yet, and his blood stream could be purged from the poison. But there he stood, with only one arm, without a chance to earn a living. All he had ever known how to do properly was to fight. And with only one arm, he could not be a soldier any longer.

He was still recovering a year later, desperate about his future and slowly using up his meagre savings, when Henderch’ call reached him. Him and Amlath, that is, who was in a similar situation. Henderch, freshly retired from soldiering, also because of a crippling injury, had been invited to organize the defences of a small fishing town near Cair Andros, and he wanted some of his old, war-probed comrades to come and help him.

Belegorn had never been to Halabor before, but as soon as he had walked through Nurria’s Gate for the first time, he felt as if he had come home. Halabor had a homely, almost serene air about it, something that he who had known naught but the streets of Minas Tirith and the barracks of Osgiliath found most endearing. And Lord Orchald was like a father to his Wardens – something he had not known before, either.

When he found out that Lord Orchald also wanted his Wardens to marry the young widows of the town and help them raising their orphaned children, he was terrified at first. He had never known true family. But as he watched Amlath with his newly-wed wife and his foster children, a quiet yearning began to grow in his heart, too. A yearning for a home, for warmth – for love that was different from the paid service in the cheap pleasure houses in the lowest circle of Minas Tirith.

And one day, when he met Lothhael, her with the gentle hands and the sweet face and quiet strength, he knew he had found the one he had been looking for all his life.

They had been married for almost ten years by now. It had not always been easy, for Belegorn did not know how to treat small children at first, and had had to learn that what worked with young soldiers would not always work with the little rascals. But as time went by, he had slowly learned how to be a father, even though Lothhael and he had no children together, tot heir great regret. The healers blamed an old injury of his for that, but could not help.

Still, life was good to him. He had a home, a family, he could still protect his people, in spite of having only one arm, and the townsfolk respected him and his fellow Wardens.

If only his missing arm would cease causing him any more pain. But again, that was a small price for all that he had gained.

~The End – for now~

~~~

Note: Belegorn died in 3008, defending Halabor against the Orc attack. Lothhael made it out of the town with her children. She never remarried, though.


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