Gondor: Tales From behind the Barracks Doors, by Yirond BANG! BANG! BANG! Gods of Arnor, stop that bleeding racket, you chiselling bastards. Don’t you know when a man has an absolute corker of a hangover? ‘Captain! Captain Yirond, you are late for muster! Sir?!’ Ahhh, what a complete bollocksing mess I was in. Again. Unless I am mistaken, those were the dulcet parade ground tones of Sergeant Gunner, letting me know that I am in for another rodding from Knight Captain Faramir or another officer of exalted rank. BANG! went the door once more, sending glacial spikes of agony into a head that felt like a burst pig’s bladder. ‘Gahh’ was the only initial response I could generate, my mouth coated with indefinable slime. ‘Gunner – be a good fellow, and get it right up you. I’ll be along presently.’
I opened one eye, with utmost caution. Well, I was on my sleeping mat, which just had to be a billy bonus – much better than collapsing in my wardrobe or seated on one of the communal barracks privvies. Ahha, and there were my clothes and coinpurse – result! I swung my legs to the side of the bed, almost toppling over in the process and sending crashing waves of pain somewhere between my eyes and the back of my head. What a jolly fine evening it had turned out to be: a few tankards of ale down at the Smiths’ Anvil, followed by a few more ales and a rather sporty game of dice with some wagon drovers who clearly wished to part with their money. Finally, I think there was some more sport with one of the drover’s wenches as they couldn’t cover the pot for the final round of the night. To be brutally honest, I was completely blootered by then so I can’t be completely sure of the last turn of events, more is the pity. Tearing my thoughts from the previous evening, I proceeded to butcher the simple act of getting dressed into my trail armour, ready for the morning muster and practice session that I was already formidably late for. Head splitting, as I approached the door, ready to be greeted by a perpetually disgusted Gunner, I noticed the pools of urine splashed liberally around the lute in the stand next to the door. Perhaps the evening wasn’t that fine after all...
‘Captain Yirond... ...what a pleasure!’ offered Knight Captain Legonn, as I tramped across the parade square to join the rest of my troops from the 4th Tower Guard. The mighty 4th – terrorisers, one and all, of Gondor’s drinking emporiums, gambling dens and fleshpots – led from the front by the bleeding disgrace that Legonn has just fixed in his sights. ‘Captain, I shall speak with you after this morning’s drills are complete. Perhaps you will attire yourself more appropriately before we continue?’ He made a subtle shrug, and gestured slightly downwards. Ahhh. One of my bootlaces was undone. Trying to dress with 2 gallons of ale in your system can do that to a man. Adjusting myself, I waited for the inevitable demonstration of authority to commence...
‘Yirond, just before you finally elected to arrive, your... rabble were showing me their collective lack of skill and tactics when wielding pikes and halberds against a foe armed with shortswords in open melee. Perhaps you can continue in that vein and confirm that the 4th is completely inept in that area? You can match up with Corporal Andhron,’ he said as he gestured to his resident bully boy sword drill instructor. If Gondor had a son voted most likely to breed outside the race of man, the gnomish yet lightening quick hairy creature known as Andhron was top of the list. Great. A stinking bastard of a hangover and a chance to engage in a futile exercise in humiliation with all the odds for once stacked against me. The only mistake Legonn had made was call my troops a rabble. Accurate, of course, but they were my troops and it was my job to call them that. The chiseller.
Nodding towards the sneering Knight Captain, I went to the rack and picked up a practice halberd. I hefted it, testing its weight. It would suffice. Not that Andhron knew it, but I wouldn’t be using it much anyway. We both went to the centre of the semicircle formed by my expectant troops. The fight should be swift; halberds were a masterful weapon when in formation faced with enemy horse, trolls or slow moving heavy foot, but one-on-one against a skilled swordsman, it was a quick way to the grave. There were moves to use the notched head of the halberd and the momentum of the weapon to disarm an opponent, but timing was crucial and Legonn knew my hangover would impair me, providing a valuable learning opportunity as my troops saw their Captain being given a good rodding.
‘Engage!’ shouted Knight Captain Legonn. ‘Hah!’ exorted Corporal Andhron as he brought his sword to the ready position. ‘Cummmmmaaaauuuuuuuuunn, ya bas!’ was my simple response.
Andhron surged forward, attempting to close the distance, getting inside the reach of the halberd and rendering it useless. As he prepared to deliver a painful strike with the blunt edge of the practice sword, I dropped my halberd and shouted ‘WOOF!’ Momentarily distracted by the bizarre behaviour, Andhron partly checked himself mid-swing which gave me time to leap backwards unhindered by the weight of the halberd. With my opponent off-balance after expecting heavy contact with his sword, I merely stepped forward and delivered a single punishing blow to his chin with my gauntleted fist. He collapsed like a sack of shite, ejecting a tooth in the process.
Struggling to be heard above the throaty cheers of my men, interspersed with a few ardent bellows of ‘4th, ya bas!’ and ‘Get it up you!’, Legonn stridently shouted ‘You cheated! Captain! For shame!’ Flicking a tactical hand sign at my troops, the noise subsided instantly. A rabble, yes, but a bloody fine crew and they were mine. ‘Bollocks! I believe that your chiselling creature needs a healer,’ I offered, gesturing towards the prone and still figure of Corporal Andhron. As the next tirade of abuse started, I tuned it out. I caught sight of Sergeant Gunner. For once, smiling.
‘Bastard! Bloody bastard! Where are you! I’ll rip your bleeding head off!’Well, my fine fellow, at this precise moment in time, I’m hiding beneath the table to your left. In fact, if you glance downwards, you’ll see my right boot, which just wouldn’t do, what with you being quite upset right now.‘Bloody guardsman bastard! I’ll give you a new bastarding bleeding hole to breathe through!’I had to admire his vocabulary, if nothing else. Bloody great hoofing ogre, it’ll be a wonder if he is actually a member of our species, which makes his ability to communicate effectively quite remarkable. My eyes were drawn to a half-gnawed apple just in front of me, nestling in the damp sawdust used to soak up all manner of fluids in this, one of Gondor’s seediest drinking emporiums, ‘The Dog and Ferret’. Counting to three, I took a deep breath and scaled the discarded piece of fruit far to my right, underneath the likely gaze of my hairy friend. It skipped off a brass serving platter, making a pleasant ‘bonging’ sound.‘Bastard!’ said my erstwhile gambling opponent, and surged in that direction with a speed I wouldn’t think possible for something resembling a mountain troll.Upsy daisy. On my feet in a flash, I used a wooden trestle to launch myself out of the window I had spied when entering the bar some hours earlier. A man of my disposition automatically knows to note the available exits upon entering a building. One never knew when one would be attacked by a band of brigands, a fellow officer playing a ‘jolly jape’, or perhaps just a husband returning from his nightshift a few hours earlier than expected.Ducking down beneath the window sill, I silently listened to the sound of carnage inside the bar, as a few tables were angrily thrown aside by the large creature trying to locate and presumably eat me or somesuch ghastly business. As I pressed my back to the wall, I contemplated the evening’s events. In hindsight, I think that the cause of my current predicament was the gallon and a half of Arnor Skullplitter ale currently sloshing around my system. What else could explain the singular lack of judgement in ‘introducing’ a couple of extra cards before my impressively-muscled friend was too blootered to notice them? Essentially, I’d failed to count the cards sufficiently well, and when 2 blue knaves appeared in the same hand, our game of ‘Chase the Lady’ had turned into the equally distracting sport of ‘Chase the Captain’ all the way around the Ferret.Giving it a couple of minutes, I attempted to clear my head using thoughts of the next day’s demanding practice session for inspiration. In particular, I had the challenge of getting one of my troops up to speed on ambush drills before I was forced to use him on patrol.. As things stood he was bloody useless and constituted a danger. It would be a shame to kick him out of the 4th, as he was good social company, but I wasn’t a Captain who courted popularity with the troops. Popularity doesn’t keep you alive when you are hit from all sides on the march by Haradrim spearmen; however, troops well drilled in Anti-ambush procedures just might.With the noise from inside the alehouse now down to the normal steady state, I eased my way to the side of the window and stood, both knees popping angrily in the process. Reversing my cape, I made my way to the side of the Ferret and marched confidently, if a little stiffly down the adjoining street. Congratulating myself on my escape, I mused that, on the frequent occasions when I was drunk, I could rely on two key attributes to get me out of such a scrape: decisiveness and luck. I had decided to push backwards from the table as soon as the second blue knave hit the table from the uncomprehending brute’s hand and missed his grab for my throat, and luck had conspired to hide me from his view when I accidentally slipped on the slick floor paving and disappeared from his view. Decisiveness and luck - my good friends.A broad smile appeared on my face and I strode forward down the side street whistling some random tune. I heard nothing as I rounded the corner and was met with one obscenely large fist to the face. I heard an exultant cry of ‘Bloody bastard!’ which appeared to be muffled by several layers of cotton wool as I slipped into unconsciousness.
Sometimes, of course, your luck just runs out...
From the memoirs of Testamir, Knight Errant and companion of Gondor’s most unpredictable officer...
A fine day descended into a rich festival of embarrassment, as my friend and occasional millstone Captain Yirond showed both sides of his random nature. What should have been cause for celebration and firm bonding between Gondor and Rohan was anything but, and the ramifications are not yet understood, least of all by the tall sack of dung that has finally passed out at my feet as I write. It all started so well...
A dawn foot patrol was mounted by Yirond’s 4th Tower Guard, taking in several picturesque villages and farm-steadings in the eastern sector of the White Plain. Yirond was his usual expansive self, waving casually at the farmhands and free-holders alike whilst presumably considering the chances of limited tactical engagement with their womenfolk. However, on exiting the last steading on the patrol, one of the scouts reported a contact to the south east. A flurry of activity from Yirond and Sergeant Gunner, and we were on our way at pace, with further instructions to be given on the march. As a lone sword for hire, I was strictly a passenger in the group, but I was impressed with Yirond’s capacity for efficiency and clear thought given that he’d woken with a tremendous hangover this very morning, courtesy of some scandalous behaviour in The Ferret last night.
We approached the site identified by the scout, and Yirond had us in formation within seconds of hearing the clash of steel and barks of fierce shouting. Archers ascended the incline on our right, with shield line formation for the foot soldiers in the van and Yirond blazing from the very front. Rounding the lee of the corner, Yirond was into his stride and bellowing orders as soon as he saw the tableau in front of him: Rohirrim, out of the saddle and being set on by a group of renegades bearing the white hand of Saruman. If anything, the horsemen were superior in number, but they looked to have been surprised in their laager, and the horses had been scattered. As Yirond once tried to explain to me through the medium of algebra ‘horseman – horse = dead horseman + glue.’
Well, the highly drilled creatures at Yi’s disposal ripped into the renegades without quarter. Yirond himself was in the thick of it, veritably bursting out with the usual verbal offloads such as ‘Cummaaaaaauun ya bas!’ and ‘Square go, big man!’
Well, the leader of the enemy, a thickset chappie with an evil look about him had the cheek to give the Captain a ‘square go’, but was dispatched summarily by a particularly punishing blow to the midriff that nearly cut the poor bugger in two. Yirond leaping on top of the body and chanting ‘get it up ye!’ whilst jumping up and down on the corpse was a slightly un-nerving touch, but I’ve learned not to disturb the big lad when his blood is high.
And so we returned to Gondor, proud escorts of our charges, with minimal losses all round. Yirond debriefed the patrol in the Tower, and the officers and NCOs were invited to a reception in the Mess where the local Rohan ambassador would present Yirond with his thanks. And that, friends, was where it started to go wrong...
With a couple of hours to spare before heading back to the Mess and Yirond having to don full dress uniform, his suggestion that we ‘donder to The Ferret for a wee nippy sweety’ was not unusual. His downing of 2 yards of Arnor Special was a might risky, but it wasn’t until the silly bastard started attaching small glasses of brandy to himself that it all went downhill. Quite inventive, really; you set light to the brandy and then place the glass against a suitable surface – in Yirond’s case his expansive flat slab of forehead – and the air burns and sucks the glass onto said surface using something our apparently academic Captain refers to as a ‘vacuum’.
The end product of our endeavours was the Rohirrim Ambassador being presented to Yirond whilst I held onto the silly bugger and attempted to keep the drunken fool upright. During the usual platitudes from the Rohan politician, he looked at Yirond carefully, clearly aghast that the rubberised creature in front of him – replete with circular brandy glass branding of the forehead - was the only thing that stood between the horsemen and their god only some 10 hours previously. And then it chose to spoke...
‘Far’s ra burds, horseboy?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ spluttered the politician.
‘I think he’s asking if you’ve seen any good-looking ladies’ I offered good-naturedly, in my role as Yirond’s interpreter.
‘Er, I don’t think I follow, Captain’
And then, it chose to sing:
‘There once were some horsemen from Rohaaaaaan,
Whose arses were kicked by Sarumaaaaaaaaaaan
Along came the 4th Tower Guard
Who proved they were particularly hard
Boning your stablemaids is their next plaaaan’
To be fair; Politicians – they deserve a Yironding every so often…
The evening had begun well, with all officers trumpeted into the Mess Hall after a few glasses of wine to whet the palate. Stood rigidly at attention, I beamed with pride as the Standards were marched in, Sgt Gunner cutting a particularly dashing figure as the Banner of the 4th Tower Guard was slotted gently into its place on the stand behind the Top Table. Even Lord Denethor looked on with a tentative smile, standing next to an effusive Knight Captain Boromir who already seemed to have sampled many of the various wines procured for the feast.
Sitting next to Knight Captain Lugonn was not entirely favourable, given that I detest the chiselling bastard, but I did not let this get to me and concentrated on the matter at hand – getting leathered and enjoying an excellently prepared meal. To start, we had a delicate rabbit mousse with a redcurrant jus. Oh, and a hoofing great goblet of wine. Naturally, the conversation with Lugonn dragged interminably. Next up, a sharp lemon sorbet prepared using some ice flown in on one of that Mithrandir chappie’s tame eagles if the idiot sitting next to me was to be believed. Smashing stuff. More wine. Quite a lot of it, to be fair. To follow, a spiffingly well-spiced rack of lamb in a herb crust accompanied by some jolly incredible potatoes in a cream sauce affair and some vegetables that any self-respecting warrior should ignore, officer or not. By Arnor, the wine was flowing too! The conversation invariably turned – for me at least – to the subject of burds. I was perhaps too forward in approaching Lugonn with the potential benefits of a co-ordinated section manoeuvre on a particularly fine serving wench, who was clearly struggling to restrain the contents of her chemise and would be better for my ministrations. Lugonn, who just looked aghast, bluntly refused to comment. Bah, Angmar take the chiseller if he wasn’t up for some sport!
And lo, after much wine and a few nippie sweeties from a hipflask secreted down the side of one of my impressively polished Mess Dress Uniform boots, we came to the dessert – a crackingly well-crafted individual lemon torte with a dark biscuit base and frothy crème sauce. By now, the evening had livened up somewhat, and I was aware of some jolly japes taking place on the adjacent table leg behind Lugonn and myself. Some wag had had his batman bring in a small upright piano and position it by the end of the table leg and, unsurprisingly, the piano now found itself to be alight and burning merrily away, the serving girls making smooth work of avoiding the obstacle when serving up the tortes. The Top Table looked on with some worry; they were at that delicate tipping point where bollocking the young miscreant openly in front of a bunch of pished officers could cause more trouble than it was worth. Exercising some restraint, Boromir showed enough humour to let the musical pyre continue, but it was clear that the headstrong individual responsible was going to pay handsomely on his next Mess bill. With some relief, we turned back to the very serious issue of the lemon torte. Having barely touched the scrumptious-looking torte with the edge of my fork tines, I felt a heavy impact on my back. Trying to look around in my rather stiff dress uniform, I saw one of the young Lieutenants of the 2nd Tower Guard standing at the table behind with an open mouth and a look like he’d filled his britches. I had my suspicions, but I turned to Lugonn for confirmation. ‘Would you, old boy?’ I asked. Barely glancing momentarily around my shoulder, Lugonn’s response was what I expected: ‘Torte, Yirond. All over your back. I should imagine the gloopy yellow stuff will be an absolute devil to get out. Satisfaction... ...perhaps?’ Too right, bawbag.
‘CUMMMMMAAAAAUUNNN, YA BAS!’ I offered, rising to my feet and grabbing an ashtray to chib the little nyaff with. The wee hoorbag knew what was coming to him, and tried to palm me off with a perfectly rational and understandable ‘but, but, bbbb...... but I was aiming at Lugonn!’ It was a wonder the chiseller wisnae greetin’ his eyes out. ‘Well, you should have hit the bastard then!’ was my quite reasonable response. ‘No offence,’ I said, turning to Lugonn, who for once replied warmly with ‘none taken’. ‘Cummmmaaauunnn, you 2nd Tower Guard chiseller!’ I roared, tossing my chair to the side with my free hand. The President of the Mess Committee, sitting to Lord Denethor’s left tried to interject with a weak shout of ‘Captain! Yirond, please!’ which barely made any impression above the din being created by the assembled mass of Gondor’s finest. To his credit, Denethor looked positively amused – so the old man likes a bit of sport then, does he? A mirror of his old boy, Knight Captain Boromir was sitting with a broad grin on his face, and threw me a quick thumbs up – good man, Boromir – he knows the score.
Nyah! With three massive strides I was in position to administer a good leathering, but the weak-ersed hoor was trying to get under the table in an effort to get away from me. ‘Shame!’ I shouted at the bas. ‘Square go – face me like a man!’ I grabbed one of his flailing Mess boots and pulled him out from under the table. His mates had scattered, the disloyal hoors – I’ll sort them later. The glossy polished boot came free in my hand in the struggle, and I battered the wee bast with it, before kicking the supine idiot right in the pus. ‘Do you want some crème sauce with that?’ I asked before grabbing one of earthen jugs from the table in front of me and pouring the whole lot over the daft wee nyaff’s heid.
Noticing the ashtray in my other hand, I discarded it lazily onto the floor – ashtrays are for the real deal; this lad wisnae worth it.
‘CAPTAIN YIROND!’ shouted the President of the Mess Committee, finally generating enough volume to be heard. ‘Have you anything to say for yourself?’
I straightened up from my current position – namely hunched over poised to punch the young Lieutenant in the coupon if he so much as moved. Turning calmly to the Top Table, I offered the only possible response.
‘What do you want us to do, Captain?’ asked one of the dirty non-commissioned types. Footman Hawkins, if memory serves. Steady chap. A bit thick. Smashing; I prefer it when the troops aren’t capable of independent thought. Tends to be an impediment to getting things done.
‘Fix. The. Wagon. Quicker’ was my deliberate response, gesturing to the supply cart listing on it’s side, with one axle sheared and the wheel lying in the muddy grass off to the left. As if in encouragement, an arrow as thick as a man’s thumb flew past my nose and embedded in the wooden sideboard of the cart, thudding impressively. Nasty piece of work; I could see the sticky black fletching glisten, presumably light catching off some dried blood of a raven or whichever bird the hooring Uruks had harvested it from.
Hawkins had dropped to the ground and was making some pretty annoying sounds. ‘Get up, lad. Not in front of the civvies,’ I said, pointing briefly at the drovers of the knackered cart who were cowering between the front of the wagon and the two draft horses that looked barely capable of dragging the bastard. ‘You’ll make the 4th look like a bunch of bufties – lack of moral fibre and all that.’
The Footman managed to get to his feet before I needed to encourage him with a gentle boot up the erse. ‘What do you need to fix the wagon? Chop, chop!’
‘Er, someone who knows wood and stuff – the axle is er, buggered, beg your pardon, Sir. And a beast or something to lift the wagon. Or maybe a big beam or lever or something. Maybe,’ offered the soft lune.
‘Gunner!’ I shouted, throwing my voice in the approximate direction of my Sergeant. A few moments later I could see a shape emerging from the tall grass. Doubling to my position, without saying a word Gunner’s tactical hand signs told that 2 uruks had been slotted, with light armoured foot attempting to roll back the remainder from the left under cover of suppressive fire from the 4th’s crossbowmen. A simple nod from me was enough reward for Gunner, who knew the men had done well.
‘The boy Anderson – he used to be an apprentice joiner before he mustered, didn’t he?’ I asked the taciturn Gunner.
‘Aye,’ nodded the Sergeant. ‘He whittled a pretty good toy horse for my son.’
‘Yes, yes. Anatomically correct, as I recall. Had an enormous stonner, eh?’
‘Yes, Sir. A stonner. Enormous.’
‘Anyway, get the boy ontae the wagon – get a shake on, there’s a good chap. Hawkins can provide some muscle, but he’ll need some others to help. How about the Leech twins – good, strong Gondor lads. Nae much upstairs - thick as fucking mince, bless ‘em.’
Gunner nodded again, briefly, and popped one up, trotting off at pace to sort things out.
I did what any self-respecting officer would do under the circumstances: checked oot the burds. A pair of young strumpets nestled between the wagoneer – an old chap, and exceptionally lucky to be travelling with such lovely companions – and the limited protection offered by the wheel still attached to the broken axle. ‘Howzitgaun, ladies? We’ll be off in a jiffy. Don’t worry about the Uruks – they’re being banjoed by the lads in super-quick time and we’ll have no more bother from them.’
The baldy wee man looked fairly content at this and replied with a simple ‘Thank you, Sir’
‘Of course, if the trauma of being caught in such circumstances merits it, I could provide some one-to-one counselling on the matter.’ I caught and held the eyes of the smashing brunette on the right. ‘It’s the least I could do under the circumstances. I’m sure I could take your mind off the terrible events of today. Perhaps in The Ferret at sundown?’ I paused in slight embarrassment. ‘But where are my manners, I am Captain Yirond of the 4th Tower Guard. Ah, and here are the fine lads who will fix your wagon; please step aside with me whilst they get to work.’ I offered my hand to Miss Brunette, and gently pulled her upright. ‘Enchanting,’ I said, tipping her a wink.
Glancing back towards the old boy, I could see he wasn’t happy with such an overture, but he had to put up with my pestering nonetheless.
‘Thank you, Captain – er, I don’t know what to say,’ offered the dusky beauty as I ushered her to the side of the Leech boys. Both 16 stone of corded muscle and not a fucking brain cell between them.
‘Simply say “yes”’ I prompted. ‘It would be an honour to escort you to The Ferret’. Hopefully the dozy bint didn’t realise that The Ferret was a complete midden and rife with poor behaviour. Or that I was the ring-leader of much of the activity therein.
This was shouted with some vigour from the direction in which Gunner had scampered off. Shite. Gunner ran into view, followed by a couple of troops with a makeshift litter. The casualty on it was fairly horsing out blood and a heap of bedraggled and bloody sodden field dressings didn’t hide the fact that the poor bastard was missing a leg.
A gasp from Miss Brunette and a barely heard mutter of ‘Gods…’ wasn’t quite enough to break the ‘fuzzy’ feeling that usually comes over me when faced with this kind of thing, but the dreadful keening scream from her blonde friend got me going.
Grabbing the arm of the blond lass, I thrust her at the old boy and her gorgeous mate. ‘Get her to the other side of the wagon and shut her the fuck up’ I calmly instructed the wagon driver. ‘Baldy – I shite you not, I’m not having this lad go to the gods with this screaming nonsense in his ears. Sort her - now…’
Turning back to Gunner, he reported, gasping softly for breath:
‘Flanked them, rolling them back through a defile… …one of the Uruks had cramped up; didn’t know the fuckers were like that…. …stayed behind, bought the rest of them time to get away – he was crouched behind some rocks… …cut Erik’s leg off with an incredible blow. Slotted the Uruk, tourniquet onto the boy’s leg, but he’s fucked – got him back here to see if Randolph can do anything.’
‘Thank you, Sergeant. Randolph?’ I beckoned the newly arrived butcher-cum-field surgeon across from the litter.
‘No’ was the simple response, accompanied by a single shake of the head of the 4th’s battlefield medic.
Nodding, I waited a scant second then approached the litter with purpose. Now is the time for purpose, other stuff can wait until later.
I grabbed the limp hand of the fading man before me. ‘Erik? It’s the Captain.’
I had to lean close to hear him. As he spat the words out, flecks of blood spattered softly on my cheek. ‘Erik, you’re not going to make it. You know that. Randolph is going to give you something.’ I looked across at the medic who already had a small glass phial of a clear blue liquid in his unnervingly steady hand.
As Randolph did his business, I gripped the boy’s hand tighter. ‘You’re a good lad, Erik, and a fine soldier – next turn of the wheel you come back and the 4th will welcome your sword arm again. Hear me, brother – you were one of the best, one of the 4th – tell that to the fucking gods.’
‘The 4th…’ whispered the poor man as he died at my knees.
I dropped his head gently. ‘The 4th?’ I responded to the dead man. I shook my head slightly, pinched my brow and struggled to keep that fuzzy feeling from returning with interest. ‘Fuck the 4th…’
‘Sir?’ questioned the confused medic. Gunner stood to the side, looking at me with a mixture of resignation and disgust. It was a look I was used to.
‘Nothing. Get him decent,’ I said pointing to the 4th’s newest corpse. ‘I want him ready to move in five. Sergeant Gunner, sort the wagon. I’ve got business to attend to.’
I turned back towards Miss Brunette. Maybe I could save something out of this fucking mess.
From the personal diary of Knight Captain Lugonn, Regimental Headquarters, Tower of Ecthelion Guard:
I have stated, with monotonous repetition, that Yirond is no more worthy of his commission than would be a common back-alley scoundrel, and today’s events support my view with some vigour.
Attending the annual Garden Party hosted by The Steward was a fine reason to start the day in good spirits, hoping to spend some time with good Captain Boromir and impress upon him my suitability to serve as Military Attache to Rohan, or perhaps even strive to attend Boromir himself as Personal Staff Officer. Let the cattle serve on the front line, whilst I get what is due someone of my station, what!
It was going swimmingly. Sidling up to the small pavilion where the exalted ranks were enjoying some aperitifs, my wife and I were having a gay time of it, making the most of the opportunity to engage with the great and the good of Gondor. Until Yirond came into view. How on earth the heathen managed to get an invite to the Garden Party is beyond me, but I’m guessing that blackmail or violence may have been involved. In tow, he had not one, but two ‘ladies’. I use the term ‘ladies’, but - and I admit I can’t be sure on this issue – what I actually mean is ‘prostitutes’. Whatever the case, the disgraceful creatures were wearing some skimpy diaphanous garments that certainly shouldn’t be seen at the White Tower in the presence of the Steward. Whether a combination of the brute’s undoubted presence or the less-than-subtle wiles of the enormous-chested young sluts trailing behind him, he actually made a beeline for the central pavilion and the bloody civilians let him get away with it!
Pushing the wife to one side, I made an effort to intercept him, barely managing to get in front of the big bastard and place a hand on his chest.
‘Captain! What is the meaning of this? Get out of here before anyone in the pavilion sees... ...them,’ I said, nudging my head slightly in the direction of the whores.
Yirond seemed to focus on me, but other than that I couldn’t read what the devil was thinking. He was, however, clearly inebriated.
‘Whaaaaaat?’ he replied. ‘Pick up your stuff and get tae fuck, Lugonn. The burds are for the boys Boromir and Faramir. Both fine lads. All bought and paid for – they’ll do the works, won’t you ladies? Endystory.’
Insolent bastard – the height of insubordination!
‘No, it is certainly not the end of the story. The end of the story is you turning around and escorting your lady friends out of the tower, then reporting to my quarters for a bloody good talking to! Scandalous, Yirond – simply scandalous!’
For a second, the big ox looked quite aggrieved. I would have to watch my step – when annoyed, the Captain could be quite a handful.
‘C’mon, Lugonn! Boromir – he’s pure gagging for the burds, man. Look at the fun bags on this pair; they are pure fucking mint, by the way. One look at these hoors and he’ll have a stonner like a panhandle.’
By now I was somewhat exasperated. Placing my arm carefully around Yirond’s shoulders, I said softly ‘I don’t care whether Boromir gets a panhandle; redeploy the ladies – and their ‘mint’ fun bags – to a safe position in whatever hole you picked them up from, and await me in my quarters. Do it now, Captain.’ I left no room for misunderstanding.
After a few moments of resignation, Yirond stiffened slightly to attention, uttered a clipped ‘Yes, Sir’ and marched purposefully whence he came, lady friends following neatly behind him.
Feeling quite chuffed with myself for the way I handled the situation, all was well for some time...
As the day slipped away into early evening, we were readying ourselves to depart, when Yirond burst back into the courtyard. Stark bollock naked except for some ridiculous flower arrangement balanced on his head. His lady friends had followed suit – stripped to the waist with their much-praised funbags bouncing at various jaunty angles.
Aghast, I prepared to stir myself into action and escort the buffoon out – calling for assistance from the Regulators if needed. Moving forwards, I felt a hand purposefully take a firm hold of my arm. Looking to my left, I was surprised to see the unmistakable figure of Knight Captain Faramir.
‘Let him do what he feels he needs to do, Lugonn. No harm.’
‘Sir? Surely this needs immediate action?’
Faramir paused, offering the slightest shake of his head.
‘I think not. Look at him. Not the slightest sense of social conduct or decorum. A prime fool, friend Lugonn. Yet look at the younger officers; they cheer him on – they actually like the idiot. His men? By my awful Father, they worship the blood-sodden ground he walks on. There is a space for creatures like him. Killers...’
He seemed to drift in his thoughts, casting a prolonged glance to the East.
Breaking from his reverie, he clapped my shoulder warmly. ‘Come. Let us share a drink, Lugonn – you wanted to talk to my brother, did you not?’
As we moved towards the pavilion, Faramir glanced towards the scantily clad gatecrashers and quietly confided ‘Say what you like about Yirond, but he knows a fine set of funbags when he sees them – they’re as pert as Rohirrim helmets!
I didn’t disagree.
‘Gentlemen, please place down your quills and place your completed examination sheets on the table at the front of the hall. Thank you, and good luck.’
The last words were offered with a bit of a sneer. Academic chisellers – they’re all the fucking same; quite content to teach you their flawed classroom view of Gondorian Defence Doctrine but the second they are exposed to a real-life Uruk all the theoretical knowledge in Arnor doesn’t stop the pish running down their legs while they wait for the guard to rescue their educated bahoochies.
Well, what a cake and arse party this turned out to be...
An annual ‘Gondorian Force Development’ exam to test officers on their understanding of higher level doctrine, the principles of general warfare, and domestic and regional politics. Great stuff. Aye, great stuff if you are an arse-kissing, pole-sookin’ hoorbag who prefers reading all-too-thick training manuals to getting absolutely steaming and leathering bastards in the coupon. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather smoke my own sausage than stick my head into ‘The Principle Design Features of the Gondorian Ward Tier Defensive System – An Analytical Review’ or, even fucking worse, ‘Logistical Resupply in The 3rd Age’. Fuck my old boots. Sideways.
Anyway, after taking my seat with my brother officers, some of whom were looking around with smug expressions on their faces, we were allowed to open the examination paper. The first question was a piece of pish:
Question 1: Study the Haradrim defensive formation at Figure 1. Outline 4 potential Courses of Action (COAs) to defeat the enemy, explaining how the Principles of General Warfare apply to each COA, identify your preferred COA and timings for launching an assault.
Nae bother, big man. Give it laldy on the left flank of the salient using natural cover for lightly armed foot with suppressing fire from 2 sections of archers, then hose through the poor overlapping fields of fire on the centre right with cavalry, using the wall at quarter right to shield the horseboys until the last minute. By the time they’re finished we can pull back then go back in with any number of options to mop up the residual defence. Principles of warfare? Aye, freedom of movement, freedom to employ all weapons, surprise, natural cover, go in early doors when the sun’s right in their pus-ridden faces – yadda yadda yadda, aye, what it boils down to is the fact that the daft eastern hoors have chosen a shite location to put a poorly constructed defense in place and they’re going to get their erses handed to them big-time. Right fucking up their wazoo, nae bother.
Question 2: Describe how Orthanc intransigence has influenced the wider geo-political outlook of Middle Earth, listing key responses including, but not limited to, state level activities by Gondor, Rohan, Rhun, Rhudaur, Dunland and Imladris.
What? Aye, the examiner boy is taking the pish, eh? Must have missed all that stuff when I was going through the Gondorian Defence Academy - I did tend to sleep through a lot of the lessons. Possibly a by-product of spending too much tumbling wenches out of hours. Well, I can afford to skip a question, can’t I? Let’s see...
Question 3: Is Lady Galadriel the Lothlorien Centre of Gravity? Discuss, in no more than 1500 words.
Eh? What the bleeding fuck has gravity got to do with anything?
Question 4: According to Glorfindel, ‘The road to the great victory passes through thousands of small victories.’ Describe how this principle delivered demonstrable results in the 2nd Fornost Campaign.
Right, right – I know this shite. Maybe. Glorfindel – some Elf champion, eh? Fornost, Fornost – aye, I read about that place once. In a ‘Historical Arnor’ tourism brochure I browsed down at the, ahem, clinic. Small victories? Why not one big hooring victory where you give the enemy a good slapping? What’s wrong with that? Yirond’s Principle of Warfare – ‘He who banjo’s the enemy in the bawbag wins most impressively and gets to nail aw the burds in a frenzy of ale-fuelled boning heroics.’ Aye, Yirond 1 Glorfindel 0 - stick that right up yer hoop, Glorfindel.
Question 5: Which Dunedain leader once stated “Don’t get into a set piece battle – slip away like smoke before the enemy can drive home his advantage?” Outline Ranger Counter-Insurgency doctrine in no more than 1500 words.
Counter-Insurgency? Is that like kicking a shopkeeper in the pus if he sells you a dodgy pie? And what’s wrong with set piece battles? They line up, we line up, everyone knows where they stand, everyone’s happy. Bunch of fucking pikey rangers. If one of them pitches up next door, my advice is “Lock your door, and make sure all your valuables are secure. Especially your palantir – those fuckers will have it away.” You can quote me on that, endystory. They come to the door trying to sell you some ‘lucky athelas,’ you tell them they can shove it right up there and make sure they can’t see round your door to case out the joint.
Final Question: Outline the primary mechanisms by which you, individually, ensure the moral, ethical and spiritual well-being of your non-commissioned ranks, thereby contributing to the efficacy of Gondorian Forces and ensuring that commitments to White Tower Task 1.1 and White Tower Task 1.2 are met fully.
Moral, ethical and spiritual well-being? Hah! I’ll teach them discipline in the ranks, I’ll teach them how to kill, I’ll lead them as they do exactly that. I’ll make them want to kill for each other, or be killed for each other. Don’t ask for more than that, you chisellers; you’re speaking to the wrong officer.
It took me half an hour to complete the first question in detail. That gave me 3 ½ hours to ignore the other 5 and daydream about one of the new serving lassies in the Mess. She had an assuredly cracking pair of bangers.
It’s times like these that make me question why, in the name of all bleeding Arnor, I took a bloody commission. Done up like a prize turkey in my ill-fitting Number 1 Gondorian Officers’ Home Dress Uniform, waiting to get this pish over and done with.
Complete silence descended over the main hall of The Tower of Ecthelion, as the Master of Ceremonies - some puffed up auld hoor dressed to the nines in something that made him look like a bordello window fucking display - got his erse into gear.
‘My Lord Steward, Lords and Ladies of Gondor. The final and most prestigious award today is the award of The Star of Anarion. The Star of Anarion is awarded only under exceptional circumstances, to individuals who have demonstrated steadfast courage in contact with the enemy where, under all conventional expectation, the outcome of such contact would be death to all Gondorian forces on the field of battle. In surviving such contact, the recipient will have shown complete disregard for their own safety, pitting themselves in the vanguard of action and forsaking all thought of personal survival. My Lord Steward, today, The Star of Anarion is awarded to Knight Captain Boromir.’
Marching two paces forward, Gondor’s favourite son stamped smartly to attention. In front of his Dad. Here we fucking go. Old Denethor has already briefed the great and good of Gondor on what an incredibly proud day this is for him. Look at all the civvies, brimming with tears at the thought of The Steward pinning the Star on his oldest son’s chest. Aye, dry yer eyes, ya basts.
‘On the 17th of September 3018, Knight Captain Boromir led the 14th Gondorian Lancers, 2nd and 4th Gondorian Guards and elected combat support elements in an action to retake the village of Forlond from the 5th Host of Mordor. Despite being outnumbered by 3 to 1 and facing a skilled and tactically astute foe, Knight Captain Boromir’s forces achieved a decisive victory. During the battle, Knight Captain Boromir personally led the offensive throughout, individually demonstrating extraordinary courage and outstanding presence of mind when he led a small pocket of the 4th Tower Guard to rescue suppressed elements of the 2nd Tower Guard and break out under heavy enemy contact. Knight Captain Boromir…’
*yawn* Fuck me. Where did this youth dream this shite up? Whoever drafted the citation – some toady erse-kissing aide de camp no doubt – they clearly didn’t have a fucking Scooby.
‘… in the vicinity of the village tavern. Recognising the extreme peril faced by committed forces from the 2nd Tower Guard in the adjacent street, Knight Captain Boromir led these advance elements of the 4th Tower Guard in a rapier-like strike to relieve pressure from the left flank, allowing the 2nd Tower Guard to recover in good order and return to the field of battle.’
Aye, advance forces my erse. I’d led my lads into that pub in a ‘rapier-like strike’ to retrieve a few flagons of Arnor Gold Ale – after slotting a wheen of the enemy I had a massive fucking thirst on, I can tell you. Gunner and I were just a few bevvies in, minding our own business, when Boromir bursts through the door, horses back a whole tankard of Arnie Gold and fucks off outside with orders for us to rescue the daft bufties from the 2nd.
‘…demonstrating presence of mind and clarity despite the chaos of battle, Knight Captain Boromir identified the gravity of the situation and, despite overwhelming and concentrated fire from orc archers on the rooftop adjacent to the courtyard, personally slew numbers of the enemy leading the breakout…’
Aye, he’s having a laugh now. Clarity? I definitely remember Boromir looking at me, shouting ‘Where the fuck are we?’ with Gunner pointing at the orcs and screaming ‘Sirs, with all due respect get your fucking heads down!’ before I contributed with a carefully considered ‘Fuck this. We’re getting the fuck out of here’ and then all three of us battered fuck out of those orcs in the archway to our right with a score of panicking troops behind us.
‘… on arriving at this crossroads, Knight Captain Boromir established an impregnable defensive position from which his forces could control all movement throughout the north sector of the town, and a laager point for the 14th Gondorian Lancers to assemble and prepare for the afternoon offensive.’
Not true. That was all Sergeant Gunner’s work. A wall made from overturned wagons, dead horses and dead men. It was an abomination, but it held.
‘… under a withering hail of fire from remaining ranged forces, Knight Captain Boromir’s shield charge was instrumental to breaking enemy morale and turning the final assault into a decisive rout.
Fair enough, wee man. Boromir’s just plain nasty when he gets going. He’d already slain several enemy troops in the defensive line when a couple of eastern human scum armed with shortbows tried to take him out from a side alley. He’d just leathered an orc square on the chin with that muckle shield of his, but managed to flip it to the side to catch the two arrows as they sped in from the eastern bastards. Standing there, shield down shouting ‘Is that all you’ve got? Fucking Rhun nonces!’ was fairly foolhardy, but he got away with it. I like that – a bit of cheeky Melkor-will-care banter on the field does a lot to stoke the troops up. And stoke them up, it did. I saw Gunner headbutt the orc Captain square in the face before stabbing him in the armpit with that stiletto knife he keeps strapped to the inside of his vambrace. Yards away, Corporal Adhren had vaulted the line using a stupidly convenient pile of crates, and was into the bastards from behind with his shortsword. It was a thing of beauty – it made me laugh outrageously as I set about my own opponent – a broad-featured orc that at least gave me a bit of sport until I took one of it’s arms off at the elbow.
‘My Lord Steward, Knight Captain Boromir.’
Denethor leans forward, and pins the Star of Anarion to Boromir’s breastplate. A seven-pointed star of dwarven Mithril, with a ribbon of white, green and dark blue. Only sixteen such stars have been awarded since the time of the first King, Anarion himself. Boromir turns to face the crowd and, as if the Steward raising his arms behind his son were a hidden sign, everyone goes absolutely fucking tonto. Cries of ‘Gondor!’, ‘Boromir!’ and general shouts of approval all merge in to one. Just as well – from closer quarters, I could make out a few other earthier phrases such as ‘The 4th, bawbags!’ or, suspiciously close to Gunner, ‘Sauron - kiss my bony erse, thrap-mucher!’
Gods of Arnor, get me out of this bloody place. All the hooting and roaring, metal polish and finery – for what, exactly? A bunch of people doing their jobs?
I looked down dismissively at The Nimloth Cross pinned to my own breastplate; for ‘doing my job’ just before we got caught in the tavern. Gunner had been awarded a silver athelas leaf for being Mentioned in Steward’s Dispatches. The good Sergeant would wear his silver leaf with pride. Me? I already had a buyer for the Nimloth Cross on the Gondorian black market. Far better to turn the gong into gold, get completely blootered and buy some hoors. Sometimes it’s better to try and forget what one does in the name of Gondor.