Awakening of the Wyrms- The First Battle of Gundalok
Two Dragons glide out of the eastern mists immediately behind the Army of the Anduin. There is no warning. The winged drakes Angurth and Bairanax fall upon the two separated divisions and savage them.
On the barren plateau there is nowhere to hide and many men and more than a few Elves quail in terror. The Dwarfish hatred for the Dragons runs deep and they hold fast. Their armour withstands Angurth’s fiery breath and their axes bite deep. Enduring the flames and claws, they drive off the lizard, but at great cost. It is here that Dain’s eldest son, Thorin III Stonehelm, the King under the Mountain, falls amongst scores of Erebor’s finest. The Dwarfish artillery deploys while Angurth incinerates and scatters the men of Esgaroth. Then the Dragon repeatedly swoops through and ravages the Elvish ranks. Arrows bounce off its hide but eventually a Dwarfish ballista wings Angurth. The Dragon ploughs awkwardly into Thranduil’s personal guard. Nimble Elvish spearmen swarm atop the thrashing Wyrm and Thranduil himself ends the beast with a deadly thrust into an ear.
To the south Bairanax smashes like a thunderbolt through the Rohirrim. The horse lords are driven off or torn asunder. The ageing Éomer fleshes his spear deep in a shoulder joint of the roaring Wyrm, before he is roughly unhorsed. The Cold-drake then rips apart the grimly singing ranks of the Gondorian infantry. Sighting his ancient foe, Bairanax pounces upon the kin of Beorn laughing in hideous glee. The blood soaked Drake is soon after grounded, amidst the pack of axe-men, by a huge tenacious bear. A ferocious mauling ensues and Bairanax slays most of the Beornings before being torn apart by half a dozen Great Bears. Allied casualties are horrendous.
Swarms of bats darken the stormy skies and seeing their chance the Orcs issue forth from the Drake Gate. Thranduil moves the Elves south to link up with Éomer’s force but in doing so is separated from the Bardings and Dwarfs by a battalion of Wargs emerging from hidden lairs. Elvish and Barding archery blunts the Wolves’ charge and the Rohirric cavalry break the first wave. But a second Warg pack counter-charges the Northmen causing havoc. The Rohirrim and Elves have to pull back to the south as the Orc hordes close in.
Goblins, Trolls and Wolf-riders slam into the disorganised allies driving the scattered forces apart. The free folk conduct a fighting withdrawal across the Gundalok plateau. The Dwarfs and Bardings are cut off and retreat to the east. Two days later they make a stand along the far eastern edge of the plateau and defeat a major force of Gundabadrim only to be later overwhelmed and nearly annihilated by the arrival of the Cold-drake, Culgor. Barely a handful survive the rout and harrowing trek back to the east.
Thranduil, Éomer, the Beorning chieftains, and scarcely more than 1000 Men and Elves escape to the south. Siege engines are abandoned and the baggage train is hastily stripped of food and fired to speed the escape. Faramir leads a company of elite Gondorian guards of the White Tower that protect the Palantir and provide a solid core to the retreat. The only other major force left relatively intact are 300 Rohirrim who act as rearguard. The irrepressible King Éomer is remounted and leads the riders of the Mark in charge after charge, protecting the bitter retreat. They are hard put to hold off the pursuing Goblins as they reach the difficult Langwell track off the plateau. The choke point dangerously stalls the escape. The exhausted allies turn at bay with their backs to the cliffs while Uruk regiments and Olog Hai come to the fore and move in for the kill.
Then the Great Eagles dive out of the cloudy peaks and scatter the Goblin attack. The assault by the Dragons was too sudden for the Great Eagles to intervene, even if they felt inclined to face such mighty foes, but Goblins they can deal with.
The shattered Army of the Anduin escapes off the plateau, down to the valley floor. Two nights later along the river Langwell the Men and Elves have to fight another action against Hobgoblins from the High Pass. Whilst delayed here the pursuit from Gundabad catches up and things look dire, but again the Eagles strafe the Orcs. The allied force sweeps the High Pass Goblins into the river and turn hard upon the Gundabadrim, driving them off.
The ragged army makes it to the staging post in the walled ruins of Framsburg. Thranduil, recognising the Dragons are changed, urges everyone to keep going south as they are still perilously close to the Grey Mountains. Many argue they are safe behind the old fortifications. Éomer reminds the folk here that Scatha was slain by Fram of old and the worm’s kin will remember. The army shamefully marches south at dawn abandoning the reclaimed northman town. By dusk Framsburg is a ruin once again, save the great hall which becomes home to the Ice Drake Lomaw.
The remains of the Army of the Anduin marches back into Maethelburg a week later. They send out messengers south, east and west with their dire news.
Continued in Part 4