Lord of the Rings: Men of the Desert

Chapter 3: The Gathering Storm

Something felt different about these Easterling forces. They did not seem to be attacking us, but appeared to be on the march to a further destination. I rode back with Zakiya to Zahra to ready our troops, "Zuya! Zuya to arms! To arms!" I called out in the middle of the village near the well. The older women and children huddled for safety in their homes

From Zahra come about fifty 'Zuya'. Quite a large raiding force. Dressed in our traditional armor with robes and turbans of black or dark blue where our enemies will only see the whites of our eyes. I feel like we have a sufficient number. To my surprise, we are getting a few more that want to take part in this coming ambush. The call went another village

"Good to see you, cousin," said a young man in heavier armor

"You too, Yazid," I replied happy for his assistance in this battle

My cousin Yazid, like the Royal or Village Guards, are heavy cavalry called 'Sipahi'. From helmet to armor, they dress and are armed in the same manner as the Guards. Now are numbers swelled to one hundred, "My warriors felt you can use our assistance since the call to arms went to us as well from our scouts," he said holding the reigns of his horse.

"Have you heard news from my brother?" I asked my cousin

"He passed through my village about two days ago, he made it to Namur, I saw to it," he replied armed with a sword in hand. With our increase in number, we are comparable to a first detachment from a larger army. I nodded, touching my forehead to his with a hand on his shoulder. His hand was on mine as a way to give thanks. Now we ride into battle

He put on his helmet, and unsheathed his sword 'Nanu' pointing the tip skyward. I raised my bow by the grip to signal our warriors that we are moving out. Hundreds of hooves thundered in gallop. Our horses are treated with the utmost care. The bridles, halters, and saddles have tassels on them. They also wear fly tassels to protect them from insects.

"Mai, you and your Zuya will act as skirmishers," said my cousin,

"Fly swift, fly well," he added as I pulled up my cloth face veil

By the horse and by the bow, we will engage our enemy. With a nudge in the side of my stallion, I raised my bow and signaled my 'Zuya' to move in. There is one sound that will strike fear into a formidable foe like the Easterlings. I gave a nod to a young warrior named Jun. She readied a trumpet fashioned from a kudu horn, sounding a signal to attack.

She pulled up her veil and I gave the order, "ATTACK!" I roared

Our mounted archers came down from the hills of sand, firing arrows into the dense ranks of the Easterling soldiers. The soldiers stood their ground in their ranks. That metallic sound like rain against armor echoed when an arrow hits a shield. Those who ride in to battle will not always return. One of my warriors was unhorsed, and silenced by a halberd

Amid the sound of galloping steeds, there came the sound of blades cleaving into armor, flesh, and bone. There is no time to weep. A bloodied arrowhead cuts through the neck while another is shot through the eye. A few kills with the bow, and my arrows are but a few in my quiver. I sheathed my bow for a sword, slitting an Easterling throat with ease.

"FALL BACK! FALL BACK!" I called out, raising my sword skyward

As we retreated, I looked back and saw another of my 'Zuya' warriors was pulled off her horse and was killed by three Easterling halberds. I heard orders from their commander in their own tongue. The Easterling kataphrakts are pursuing our retreat. The archers shot back at us, hitting another in the back. Her lifeless body still in the saddle of her horse

Zakiyah was all too kind to respond with a 'parting shot', hitting the archer between the eyes as he was nocking his bow. Jun killed the other one as her last shot before following our retreat. The Easterlings are gaining on us. I nodded to Jun to sound the kudu horn. When it sounded, Yazid and his 'Sipahi' charged in full attack to flank into the kataphrakts

"FORWARD!" He roared, pointing the tip of his sword to a sworn enemy

His sword lopped off the head of the lead horseman. With swords and other manners of traditional weapons, we will gave the Easterlings another surprise, "For honor the sacred dead! ATTACK!" cried out Zakiyah pointing the head of her 'Mizrak' at our foe in defiance. If I am to fall in a battle, I trust her to lead our 'Zuya' in my place. She is a sister to me

"Fly swift! Fly well!" I yelled, slashing a kataphrakt off his horse

We did not leave a single Easterling kataphrakt alive to tell their tale. The infantry ran like rabbits out of our southeastern border, "Something feels strange to me, cousin, where are they going? That leads to 'Ardu Alzilal," I said to my cousin, my blade painted red in Easterling blood. Yazid shook his head lightly. I can only see his eyes through his helmet

"I am not sure myself," he replied, "but I feel that it does not bode well," I nodded to him in understanding. Still I question, what calling are the warriors heeding? There must be something greater at work. With those horses that are riderless, we retrieved the dead, leaving the fallen Easterlings for the vultures. We have a victory. Still, victory has a price.

(Note: 'Ardu Alzilal means 'Land of Shadows' in Arabic. It's the Nazam term for 'Mordor')