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24
Ways Round, Ways Through

Thanks for RiverOtter for the Beta. For Agape, with thanks.


~~~

And again Drem nodded, and again Talore leaned on his spear and looked down at him. “Listen, cub,” he said at last. “If the thing is worth a fight, fight for it and do not hear the Grandfather too clearly. There are ways--ways round, ways through, and ways over. If you have not two hands for a bow, then learn to use a throw-spear with such skill that your enemies, and your brothers, forget that it is not from choice.”

Rosemary Sutcliff, Warrior Scarlet. Henry Z. Walck, New York. 1958



Ways Round, Ways Through


Denethor watched his nephew donning his mail with the help of the aide assigned to him by the mercenary captain Thorongil with stark disapproval in his eyes. “This is foolish, Húrin,” he admonished. “You will be unbalanced with but one arm. And how will you wield spear or sword and manage a horse at the same time?”

“Thorongil says it can be done, and from what I’ve seen of him, he does not speak lightly of such things.” Húrin looked somewhat defiantly at the Steward’s son. “I will not stand by helplessly if those I love are assaulted by an enemy solely because I’ve lost one arm. Perhaps I won’t be fit for the regular army, but I will be able to help offer a defense.”

It was somehow pleasing to see his uncle stiffen at the rebuke; but what further argument could he offer in the face of Húrin’s words? Húrin turned back to his aide, who’d wisely held his tongue through all Denethor had had to say over the past hour. “Leonid, were you able to find a light buckler such as Captain Thorongil suggested could be suitable?”

“Yes, my lord--and I’ve brought leather straps as well we might use to build the harness for it.”

Denethor asked, one eyebrow raised, “Then you have seen such bucklers prepared for use by those who have but one working arm?”

Leonid gave Ecthelion’s son a quick glance from beneath his brows, then looked deferentially back downwards again. “There was an older Man in my own village who’d lost most of his arm, although admittedly not as much as has Lord Húrin here. He used such a harness to offer support for a buckler, and was a superb swordsman in spite of all.”

“And you face so many enemies in the land from which you come?” The tone of Denethor’s question was frankly disbelieving.

Leonid straightened, obviously stung by the implications of that question. “My lord Denethor,” he said, his voice just short of being judged insubordinate, “all lands face enemies. The great Enemy has ever done his best to see to the destruction of those who will not bow to his desires; and Gondor is not the only land that has defied him. And there are too few in our lands to turn away any willing to raise a weapon in defense of those who cannot defend themselves.”

Soon Húrin and his aide were going down through the city, Leonid plainly still nursing the anger Denethor had raised in him. As they reached the Fifth Circle Húrin gave Leonid a sideways glance and an approving smile. “You stood up well to my uncle’s criticism.”

At first Leonid merely shrugged, then at last answered almost grudgingly, “It galls me to hear anyone speaking of how impossible it is for any to do this thing or another, merely because he has lost a limb or an eye. One of the best instructors I ever had with throwing knives had lost a hand in a fight against orcs. And what he can do with a staff is remarkable! And even our women choose often to learn to wield weapons, in case we Men are from home when the enemy should come a-calling.”

Soon enough they were entering the stables within the First Circle, and found Captain Thorongil within a box, grooming a young gelding that was obviously of Rohirric breeding. He looked up as they entered, and smiled. “You have come. Good, then. I’ve decided, Lord Húrin, to gift you with Arrowswift here. He was given to me by Thengel King ere I left Rohan to come to Gondor. He was trained to respond to pressure from the legs and knees, as is common to Rohirric steeds that carry horse archers. For the times when you must fight from horseback, you will need such a mount, for you cannot expect to properly guide a horse with reins held in one’s teeth.”

And so the lessons began. Often Húrin regretted having to do things with but a single arm and hand, but in time he became sufficiently proficient that he felt he could at least hold his own.

Even after Thorongil left Gondor after the victory in Umbar, still Húrin continued his training; and when at last Arrowswift was turned out to pasture he sought out another mount from Rohan trained to carry archers.

*******


Imrahil looked up, apparently amused, to see Húrin entering the stable in the Sixth Circle, dressed in mail and with his warsword at his side, followed as ever by his aide. “You think to ride out with us, then?” he asked.

“This is my city, and I would help in its defense. And if nothing else, I might serve to direct the recovery of the wounded.”

Leonid led out Húrin’s grey and his own dun, and with the aid of the grooms both were quickly prepared for the planned sortie.

“You use but a hackamore?” Imrahil asked.

“What use have I for more? I won’t be using the reins once we are out upon the Pelennor. Do not worry--Cleanshaft knows his business well enough.”

Then Leonid was helping to fasten the straps that were used to hold the buckler his master wore on his left side, just ere Húrin used the mounting block to set himself astride. Once mounted, the one-armed Man checked the seat of the buckler, and then loosened his sword within its sheath. “I am ready,” he assured the Prince of Dol Amroth.

The rest of the Swan Knights and such mounted warriors as there were within Minas Tirith awaited them just within the barrier that had been raised hastily after the gates had been shattered. They looked out and saw the reeling fight out upon the ravaged fields of the city’s townlands. They could see the Standard of Eorl toward the northeast quarter of the fields, and to the south could be seen black sails approaching the Harlond.

Suddenly they heard glad cries from above, and those cries were quickly echoed on the walls immediately above them. “Yes!” called down a soldier from immediately above them. “The Standard has told the tale truly--those coming off the ships are our own folk! See--there is the standard of the Morthond Vale!”

Imrahil gave a grimace of a smile. “Then, gentlemen, shall we see to it that the enemy’s confusion is added to? Forth!”

Spears were lowered and swords unsheathed; and the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth and the horsemen of Minas Tirith rode out together against the enemy.

Throughout the first flurry of their participation in the battle, near at hand, his blade soon red and black with the mixed blood of orcs and Southrons, tall Húrin of the Keys matched Imrahil stroke for stroke as they broke through the ranks of the enemy to come to the relief of the riders of Rohan and to keep the fallen from being hacked to pieces by Sauron’s folk.

And when Imrahil saw Húrin leading those charged with bearing the bodies of the fallen back into the city he smiled. Much as he honored his late sister’s husband, yet Denethor had always believed those who were disfigured or had lost hands or limbs--or even mere fingers--should not be part of the defenders of the realm. If only he had seen Húrin in action today, he’d have been forced to realize that even those who’d lost a whole limb were possibly as capable of defending what they loved as any whole Man, if they were sufficiently determined and given the chance to hone their skills.

Ah, but now it was time to return to the battle. He signaled his forces, and they turned to face the squadron of Easterlings that was charging from the ruins of Osgiliath....



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