Previous chapter: The Magic Gifts.
The march was long and hard and they fought many battles but finally at last they found the Swamps of No Return and the Black Gates. Theôn raised a silver horn to his lips and blew. The golden note echoes across the boggy land. The silence seemed heavy, mingled with uneasy coughs from the men.
Suddenly a figure appeared from the shadows. He was clothed in black and grey robes and a hood drooped over his face. Suddenly he threw back the hood revealing a face, which was really just rags of skin hanging about a shrunken skull. He cackled, then said in a slow, grey voice: "You wish usss to sssurrender?" He hissed. Theôn nodded. "Well, what iff we refuse?" His pale, deathly white hands suddenly turned black, and his bony fingers clawed at the black horn at his side and he cackled.
The men of Gondoras clashed sword upon shield and yelled fierce battle cries but the evil thing was not daunted.
His cackles turned to manic laughter, echoing in Theôn's men's ears. He raised a stained black hand. With a dark clang the black gates swung open, creaking upon their hinges, and from the sheet of darkness a curten of arrows rained down on them. Horses reared and flung their riders into the swamp. The panicking troops scattered, but in the midst of the havoc stood Shadow-Mane and Theôn, calling to his men. The young king seemed to shine with a golden-bronze light, standing alone.
Suddenly the darkness lifted, and courage flowed into the hearts of men as the light grew stronger. But then their courage burst like a bubble, as they saw the army they were facing.
No orcs were these, but wild men, trolls, Xitika and Southrons. Xitixa were an older race of trolls, stronger, swifter, more enduring. These wore crimson cloaks and curved scimitars were at their waists. The head of them had a black serpent on a scarlet background on his chest and wielded an ebony staff carved into the likeness of a twisted, hooded snake with two evil heads.
TO BE CONTINUED.