And the winners are...

Once again, the TORn staff would like to thank all of our participants for their patience. All of the entries were very strong and we had a VERY hard time choosing the winners. But that is all behind us now, and without further delay, we present you the winners...

Grand Prize Winner | First Place Winner | Second Place Winner | Third Place Winner | Fourth Place Winner | Fifth Place Winner

First Runner-up Winner | Second Runner-up Winner | Third Runner-up Winner | Fourth Runner-up Winner

R. Stein of Brooklyn, NY - Grand Prize Winner



The Fall of Arathorn

Very little is known about the life and death of Arathorn II son of Arador, fifteenth Chieftain of the Dunedain, and father of Aragorn Elessar. Here then, is a reckoning of Arathorn's final adventure in Middle Earth.

It seemed to Arathorn that his life was moving at a pace he could not account for. In the space of a few years, he had won the hand of Gilraen the Fair in marriage, his father Arador had been slain by trolls in the Coldfells, and he had been witness to the birth of his son Aragorn. The mantle of leadership of the Dunedain was thrust upon Arathorn's shoulders unexpectedly with the passing of his father, and though he was a man of stern countenance and strong spirit, it pained him to have to leave his beloved wife and infant son for any amount of time.

The life of a Ranger was never one of stasis, however, and he decided that he had spent too much time with his family in the hidden fastness of The Angle. He felt it was his duty to investigate the doom of Arador, and avenge him, if he could. Arathorn planned to take a company of Rangers first to Rivendell; he would gain counsel and provisions from Elrond before setting off into the lands of the northern Wild.

Upon the morning of his departure, Arathorn embraced his wife and son, and left his final instructions: "If this mission should go ill, Gilraen, you and Aragorn must travel to Rivendell. These lands shall endure, but they shall not be fit to train a Lord of the Dunedain without me. In the house of Elrond, you shall have the protection and guidance of the Wise, and in that place there are many who are able to teach our son about our people and the ways of this world."

"May light and good fortune shine on your path, my love," Gilraen said. "I will keep hope for your safe return." Arathorn mounted his horse and gazed longingly at his wife and son. "Fairest," he replied, "never forget that hope must survive, even if I do not."

Arathorn's company traveled swiftly to Rivendell, and were greeted warmly by Elrond and his folk. After a bit of rest and refreshment, Arathorn met with Elrond in one of the studies of Rivendell for counsel.

"It seems these days mingle with both joy and despair," Elrond said. "It saddened me deeply to learn of Arador's demise. His reign as Chieftain was far too short. Nevertheless, I foresee a life of great importance for your son. Though my heart forbodes dark days ahead for all, I am gladdened by Aragorn's birth; my grief is much assuaged by the very thought of him."

There was a moment of heavy silence as Elrond seemed to look deeply into his own thoughts. He stared at Arathorn intently and said, "I know why you have left your wife and son, why you have left the security of the strongholds in Eriador; but your vengeance must manifest itself differently. "

Elrond continued. "I heard of your approach even as I prepared to summon you here, for I have received information that concerns all of the free peoples of Middle Earth. As you are now the Chieftain, it is imperative that I relate these tidings to you: I, along with many of the White Council, believe that Sauron has returned."

Arathorn sat in shocked silence for a moment and shook his head in disbelief. "Sauron fell at Dagorlad years ago, " he said.

Elrond nodded and replied, "Though his body was broken, and his power dispersed, his spirit has endured. Mithrandir made certain of this when he discovered the identity of the master of Dol Guldur. Can you not see it for yourself, Dunadan? Sauron's evil is taking shape everywhere. After years of long debate, the White Council has planned to drive the enemy out of Dol Guldur. Arador, and his father Argonui, knew our secret plans, for the Dunedain have ever been allies in the fight against Sauron. They kept news of Sauron secret, for if word spread of this knowledge, surely the enemy would gird himself before we could mount a successful attack. Though he was taken in the Coldfells, Arador was instrumental in dispersing what would have been an attack on the borders of the lands that protect your people as well as mine, and those trolls will never be mobilized."

So Arathorn realized that to seek vengeance in the Coldfells would be folly; but he could fight his enemy elsewhere, thereby continuing his father's work. "How might the Lord of the Dunedain assist you, Master Elrond?" he asked.

It was known that orcs and trolls had been populating the Misty Mountains, and the borders of Eriador were increasingly besieged by Sauron's creatures. From the information he received from Fangorn, Lorien, and Isengard, Elrond perceived that Sauron's minions were creeping out of Dol Guldur and massing on the borders of Fangorn Forest, presumably to begin fortifying that region for a stronghold of Sauron.

Arathorn, his Rangers, and a company of Elves (led by Elrond's sons Elladan and Elrohir) undertook a long and perilous quest to locate the massing forces of the enemy and crush them before they could pose too strong a threat. Galadriel sent a small force of Galadhrim to aid in the journey and the fight.

On a chill night in 2933, the Dunedain and their allies assailed the forces of Sauron in a small clearing in Fangorn, by the borders of the Wold. It was a desperate struggle, but with the aid of the Ents, Sauron's forces were vanquished. However, the Dunedain suffered the most grievous loss. As Arathorn led the rout that forced the orcs' retreat, a surviving orc captain fired an arrow into Arathorn's eye, killing him instantly. So passed Arathorn, son of Arador, and thus did young Aragorn receive the Lordship of the Dunedain.

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S. Blankemeier of Mesa, AZ - First Place Winner


'Battle for Middle-earth II'
Collector's Edition

Cardolan's Blade


"What is this?"

"My son, this is your birthday present. My smith has worked on this your entire life."

"Since the day you were born, young sire," said the smith with pride.

The boy looked again at his gift as it lay in the smith's hands. It was a dagger in a black sheath. The handle was set with many fiery stones and engraved with serpent forms in red and gold.

"Hold it, son, and see how it feels in your hands."

Reluctantly, the boy unsheathed the dagger. Its long, leaf-shaped blade glinted in the sunlight and felt light and strong in his young grip. "But, father, it's so small, like a child's toy. I am 10 years today and ready for a man's weapon."

"This is no toy, my son. Be wise to not make foolhardy judgements on size alone."

"That's right, my lord," replied the smith enthusiastically. "No other blade whether it appeared to be more lordly or wielded by mightier hands could deliver a wound more bitter than yours!"

The boy looked at the dagger suspiciously. To himself alone he admitted the blade did feel comfortable, almost familiar in his hand as if it had always belonged to him.

"Son, these are dark times with darker, I fear, still to come. This blade made lovingly especially for you may one day prove its worth beyond its measure. Keep it always in its sheath and it will remain untouched by time. And always by your side. Do you understand?"

Young Carvedui, Prince of Cardolan, looked from his father to the smith. The smith, who had forged this blade as he had no other before or after it, knew his lord's words were true and hoped the young prince would see it as well.

All this, Carvedui could see in the smith's face. Sighing in resignation, he replaced the blade in its sheath and attached it to his belt, to be forever at his side. "I accept your gift, father, and your advice."

Carvedui's father placed both his large hands tenderly on his son's shoulders. "You have shown wisdom and humility above your years. This is a man's weapon and you've taken your first step toward becoming the man worthy of it."

"I am already a man," the boy thought. "I am a man."

I am a man.

"I am a man who loves you very much. It's my hope that you return this love and accept this gift." On to her fair shoulder, Prince Carvedui pinned a brooch set with glittering blue stones many-shaded like the wings of blue butterflies.

"My beloved, it is a gift most dear," said the young maiden Celarion. The light of the moon reflected off the blue jewels illuminating her already beautiful face. "Where did you find such a treasure?"

"I asked my father's smith. He chose and cut precious stones to complement the ones he used for my gift nearly 10 years ago. See?" He held the dagger, now smaller in his grown hand but no less at home in it, up to her brooch. Indeed, the coolness of its stones balanced the fiery ones in the weapon's handle. It was a marvel to see. "This dagger once saved my life, cutting through the wooden bonds of a young willow tree that had caught me playing in the Old Forest when I was younger. As this dagger has protected me, I now protect you and you shall carry my love always as you keep this brooch near your heart."

"You have both my love and my trust."

"Then let us be married. Soon. Before the war against Angmar separates us as I fear it will and, to defend our kingdom, I must leave you."

I must leave you.

"I must leave you, though it tears my very soul. Now go quickly with Master Tom of the Old Forest before the fighting is upon us." He placed his wife's hands in much smaller but more capable ones than his own. "I cannot thank you enough, Tom Bombadil, for allowing my people the safety of your Forest."

"The Forest may serve many needs before the battle is over," said Tom with a sparkle in his eye. "Come, Fair Celarion, Goldberry is waiting." And though they had more to say, Carvedui and Celarion parted just as the battle descended upon them.

Then Prince Cardevui's world went black.


Black returned to his world, but not the blackness that had begun the flashes of his life's memories. This blackness was empty and evil and lay between the crown and the mantle of his captor - the Witch King of Angmar.

Carvedui remembered. They were losing the battle when the forest came to life, joining their effort and destroying every evil man and foul creature in their attack. Just when victory was theirs, he had been ambushed, stripped of his weapons, save one small and hidden, and brought before his foe. In a last valiant effort, he had lunged for the Witch King but had been swiftly overpowered and his beloved dagger wrested from him.

"Fool! Not by your hand nor the hand of any man shall I fall," said the Witch King as he prepared to use Carvedui's own weapon against him. It was then the memories had began... and ended. Only the merest fraction of time had passed though it had seemed a lifetime.

"If not by my hand, then by the very dagger you hold will you see your end."

"Your line had ended," scowled the Witch King, plunging the dagger deep into Carvedui's heart.

Carvedui, the last prince of Cardolan, fell, but his tale did not end there. The dagger, still at his side in his tomb, found its way into hands not belonging to a man. This dagger, gift to a child, protector of a prince and hope to a world, would one day, in the most unlikely of hands, herald the end of the Witch King of Angmar.

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E. Carvalho of Pune, India - Second Place Winner


'Battle for Middle-earth II'

Voiceover: The year 1634 of the Third Age.

[Dark clouds borne upon a chill wind]
Voiceover: Rumour grows of a darkness...issuing out of the North.

[Aerial view of Carn Dum]
Voice of the Witch-King: "Slay them all...the line of the King has put an end to his Kingdom."

[Legions of Orcs, bearing black banners and led by heavily armed Hill Trolls issue from the gates of Carn Dum]
Voiceover: It is begun.

[Flashes of the army moving South]
Voiceover: The Realm of Angmar is moving.

[The gathering dark fades out to a black screen]
Voiceover: War marches on to Cardolan...


As is told in the Tale of Years, Rhudaur was completely subjugated by Angmar towards the year 1409 of the Third Age. The line of the Kings was ended in Rhudaur and Cardolan; but not so in Arthedain, where the line of Isildur remained still. Rhudaur had joined with Angmar in decades past, for being the northernmost of the three kingdoms, it's borders marched alongside those of Angmar, and it was ravaged by Hill Trolls from the Ettenmoors, where they dwelt under the grey shadows of the mountains. But the Dunedain of Cardolan remained still a free people, for though kingless, they were of noble race, and the blood of Numenor was not yet spent, nor was it yet mingled with that of lesser Men.

Now as the Third Age of Middle Earth wore on, all fates moved towards the one inevitable doom drawing nigh, that would bring an end to that Age, when all things fair must either pass, or fall into Shadow. For though it was not known at the time, the Witch-King of Angmar was but the Lord of the Nazgul, the Leader of the Nine, and he was now preparing the way for the return of his master. For Sauron would rise again, and his emissary moved to put an end to the last remaining North Kingdoms of the Men of Westernese.

The year 1634 was waning, and Autumn was drawing nigh. The chill North wind blew over the lands of Eriador, dreary and grey, hinting at the onset of Winter. But now it brought rumour of war, and a growing darkness, and an army driven in madness by a nameless fear. The Dunedain of Cardolan made haste in preparation for the final blow. The army would cross the borders of Cardolan in less than 3 days. Weathertop had long been destroyed and their only hope was to lure the enemy into the vale between the Barrow-Downs and the South Downs, and there make their last stand. Alone. For they looked not for help from Rivendell, nor from Arthedain.

They began moving at dusk, marching silently along the south-western borders of the Barrow-Downs. Mists curled over the old tombs to their left, and a black darkness hung over the Old Forest, brooding in the shadows on their right. They marched through the night. At dawn they made their camps on the flats south of the Barrow-Downs, resting in the shade of the southernmost hills. A weariness overcame them, and a fear of things to come. At dusk they began their march again, northwards now until they reached the gap between the Barrow-Downs and the South Downs. The Captains of the Dunedain rallied their forces towards the southern end of the South Downs. On the hills to their right, they positioned archers, such few as there were. And thus they stood in the early hours of the morning awaiting the onslaught of Angmar.

It was in the hour before dawn that they saw a brown dust rising along the line of the East Road, rising up to meet the dark clouds, blurring the red light of the rising Sun. Angmar had come.

[Cutscene ends. If the player succeeds in holding at bay the forces of Angmar till dusk, another cutscene appears. Dusk fades to dark]

A deep, rumbling, yet melodious voice speaks: "Hooom...hoom. Good...good...good. Many have come. Old willow...slender beech...come, come...something is about to happen, that has not happened for an Age..."

[Two eyes appear in the darkness. It looks like a tree, bent and brown, with parched golden hair and red cheeks]
Fimbrethil: "...Entmoot..."

[The Old Forest. Ents are seen assembling at the banks of the Withywindle]
Fimbrethil: "...for if the Men fall, who will protect us from the ravages of this war? My heart forebodes a long darkness..."

[A hasty Willow speaks up]
Old Man Willow: "We can't fight. I can't fight. We must wait and hope...just as we have always done."

Fimbrethil: "From the willow-meads of Tasarinan, to the Mountains of Mist, even to the gardens of the East, we have wandered far and found at last that what we long seeked. Would we now make our choice so as to lose all again?"

[The screen fades to black. It is now the hour before dawn. The battle rages between the arms of the Downs. Legions of Orcs still pour into the valley, rank after rank. Hill Trolls can be heard making their way to the forefront. Suddenly, amidst the chaos of war, a single, lone cry is heard. On the shoulder of the Easternmost arm of the Barrow-Downs, a gnarled tree stands still. The Earth shakes. A darkness creeps over the Barrow-Downs. The tree gives out another long, sad, drawn out cry. The war-cry of the Entwives. They join the battle but are too late and no match for the heavily armed trolls, and Fimbrethil, leading the Entwives, is struck down violently by a Troll Captain, and does not get up again. The battle rages on...Cutscene ends]


Thus passed Fimbrethil, last of the Entwives of Eriador. None lived to sing the song of the Last March of the Entwives. One only came back to the Old Forest, Old Man Willow, who had watched the battle from the cover of the hills, alone and afraid. He withdrew to the deeps of the Forest and his heart grew black within him, with a hatred for all things that moved. And none could master him save one.

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L. Williams of Grand Rapids, MI - Third Place Winner


Art of LOTR Set


Like sharks skimming the surface for prey, three Corsairs surged through the uneven waters of the Great Sea. Their black sails snapped like ravens' wings, heralding their journey through obsidian night. Strong winds hastened their pace; their countenance grim with the spray of the volatile waters -- mock tears of mourning for those lost in the recent battle at Umbar. Thorongil, a Ranger of the once proud Northern Kingdom, had dealt the Haradrim a heavy blow at the Havens of Umbar, but they were determined to make him repent the actions of his past well into his future.

Low, sonorous voices rolled along the shores as Dunedain and woodcutters organized the loading of felled timbers. Their efforts were punctuated by the occasional grunt of men and sudden crash of heavy logs as they heaved wood over the edge of each longboat and down into the holds. From the forested region of Minhiriath these timbers had floated down the Greyflood to the shores of the Belfalas. From here, these ships would carry them on to the port city of Dol Amroth and Prince Imrahil -- Middle-earth's Master Shipbuilder -- who would show great appreciation in both gold and silver for such choice timbers.

After the final stack had been loaded, the men gathered around a small fire on shore for a hot meal before sailing out into the setting sun. A skin of hearty wine passed from man to man, already twice around, easing the weariness of their muscles as they expectantly awaited departure. Talk turned to home and family with each man sharing some story of a favored son, a beloved daughter, or a lonesome, beautiful wife. All of them felt a rare sense of camaraderie and peace.

With the quickening wind of sunset, the woodworkers doused their campfire and waded out to the boats. The crews had already raised the midnight blue sails, and were eager to hoist anchor. Seafaring at night in the brisk wind, beneath a star-spotted sky was as intoxicating to these sailors as the wine had been for the woodcutters. Soon, all were aboard, with Rangers dividing themselves among the crews of the boats. On shore, another party of horse-mounted Dunedain sat in their saddles like statues, waiting until the ships were out of sight to finally cease their task of guarding and protecting the woodcutters to return northward and resume their watch over the Shire.

The ships were as sleek as otters in the water, and the lead ship was slipping effortlessly out beyond the shallows when the Dunedain captain on shore saw a great shadow move just beyond the carapace of stone along the northern arm of the bay. At first, he hesitated, uncertain what he had seen, and then was completely blinded as the setting sun radiated its wings of light and color across the horizon. Raising his hand to shield his eyes he realized too late -- "Corsairs!" He yanked the silver-tipped horn off the pommel of his saddle and sounded the alarm just as the first Corsairs' flaming arrows scorched the deepening sky.

The pirates had sailed for four days and nights, well out of view of land, and earlier that day had harbored north of the tree-covered plains of Minhiriath. Rested and bolstered by their rage, they rained down flight after flight of fiery arrows upon the heavy-laden ships.

The Dunedain, as honed for battle as enchanted Elven blades, leaped across the decks of the boats, their swords deflecting arrows into the sea like men swatting flies. But for all their skill, there were only a few on each boat, and the woodworkers had no experience with such battle tactics.

Nonetheless, the sailors made a brave stand to save their ships, but they too were not warriors. Fire budded on the boats like flowers in a field, and men--pierced through--fell among the flickering blossoms. The woodcutters, so eager to see son, daughter, and wife, fell into panic.

The Corsairs' captain watched this conflagration with an unyielding glare, and calculated the devastation as a greedy man might count his wealth. One of the blue-sailed ships was already sinking. A curtain of smoke veiled the thrashing of those disappearing into the smoke and waves. Fear and flames slowly engulfed the second boat. On the shore, the Rangers audaciously held their ground; their arrows, deadly projectiles that rarely failed to miss their mark. One Corsair had ventured too near the shore and bore the brunt of the Dunedain's single-minded bedlam. "Well," the Haradnor captain thought callously, "there were bound to be losses."

As he watched the chaos unfold, a Ranger floated by with the grey-faced pallor of death and blank eyes staring out from beneath smoke stained skin. Waves lapped at his shirt, dyed crimson by the surfeit of arrows embedded in his chest. For a moment, the captain's eyes squinted lustily at the brooch pinned to the dead Ranger's cloak. It looked to be silver and shaped like a rayed star. Ultimately though, he relented and gave it up as an offering to the sea. As the smoke cleared, more Dunedain corpses were seen drifting off toward the Belfalas. Casting his scrutiny to the shore, he counted several bodies lying on the bloodstained sand. Turning north, it was clear that the one remaining blue-sailed ship would fall victim soon, another offering to the icy depths.

"There would be losses," he thought grimly, a mocking smile at the corners of his mouth. Somehow he knew that Thorongil of the Dunedain was not among the dead. But even this small skirmish reduced the numbers of Numenoreans, reduced the race of men that had long threatened the world he knew. The Grey Company were few in number. Today, they were even fewer, and the hope of Numenor had been diminished.

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M. Draveski of Eastpointe, MI - Fourth Place Winner


LOTR Collectors Edition

"A challenge. Hah! That's an understatement if I ever heard one!" Grumbled the dwarf as he plucked pieces off leaf his raggedy beard.

"So we are a little out numbered"

"A little. The last taste of ale I had was a little. This kind of out numbered would keep me in good spirits for months."

"They were more out numbered than this at Minas Tirtih and Helms Deep and if those souls whined like you they may not have seized the victory." Done with his rationalization the Ranger slid back from the cliff and into the shadows he felt so comfortable in.

"If we do not stop the threat here doom will ride across middle earth on swift feet." Said the earthly voice from high atop his perch in the nearby tree.

"whatever Elf, you may have a soft side for the Ents but they have never been friend to the Dwarfs. Never matter though, I shall stand with you. Women like you need the guile and strength of Dwarfs if you want to return to you homes in one piece."

"Ah, you care." Scoffed the Ranger.

Fleet of foot the Elf was already out of the tree and headed for the path to their camp. With a last glance over his shoulder the Ranger followed. The Dwarf, still at odds with the decision blew some lanky hair out of his eyes, grunted his disapproval and followed the pair. A few miles later as the crow fly's the were rounding the turn to their camp.

"Aye, What is the situation?" The captain who met them inquired.

"Grim," Grumbled the Dwarf, "but with my help maybe we shall live another day."

Ignoring the Dwarf the captain looked to the Ranger he had grown to respect.

"Should I ready the men?"

"Aye, post haste. The Ents are vastly out numbered and the situation is dire. Without our help their land will fall."

With a click of his heel the caption became all business and started to rally his men. The Elf was already checking supplies and kept glancing back in the direction they had come from. Within minutes the company was ready and had started on the path back to the battle site followed by a still begrudged Dwarf.

They could hear the battle before it came into view. Sickening pops and cracks that must surely be limbs or trees that were known to some as Ents and others as friends cut through the whizzing of arrows and clamor of metal against metal in a struggle to take the small clearing in the dense forest. The soldiers, young and old wore worried faces as they marched even closer to what could be their last fight. The battle cry of the Uruk-Hai rattled their ears as the weaker men in the party felt their resolve give way in the sureness of their steps. At the top of the hill they could see. The Ents were losing. Only a few of their numbers remained. The Elf, eyes moist with emotion called for the Archers to hasten their steps and took his stance. With a deft flick of the wrist he felled an enraged Orc that was attempting to make its way up the trunk of an elderly Ent. The battlefield became a whisper as the presence of new players was noticed. Confused trolls stumbled in the chaos of the insuring reign of arrows that were launched in an effort to quell the destruction of the last remaining Ents.

Raising his Ax high, the Dwarf ran down the hill into the gauntlet all reservations lost in the heat of the battle. The Ranger kept pace with his longer strides then over took the Dwarf and soon his blade rang true in the hide of an Orc. Young men, friends and allies fell as the company fought justly to save their way of life. Courage begot courage as the remaining Ents took stance in the fact the battle was not lost just yet and renewed their conviction. The ground bled.

A faint flicker of hope filtered through the clearing as most of the larger trolls fell in defeat. A few goblins not strong in nature slithered away when the opportunity presented itself. Numbers dwindled on both sides. Lost in the frenzy of the fight the Ranger did not see the lone Uruk-Hai that had found itself behind him and did not know how close he was to death until the breeze from the Uruk-Hai blade caressed his ear. He turned in time to see his friend the reluctant Dwarf flash him a delighted grin.

"See, I told you I would get you home with all your pieces."

The battle turned and victory was in sight. More friends than foes still stood and those enemy not already flat on their backs wee practicing their death rattles. Medics were attending to fallen soldiers and the Elf spoke a few words to the Ranger before going off to help some of the fallen Ents since he was the only one who could.

The Ranger wiped some blood of his cheek that may or may not have been his and took a few minutes to absorb the atmosphere. The captain, wounded but alive lightly touched his arm.

"Sir, the victory is ours but loses were high"

The Ranger nodded.

"I am afraid one of your own fell." The Captain, without further preamble led the Ranger to a pile of already rotting Troll. His friend the Dwarf lay atop the Troll, his ax buried in the Trolls cleaved skull. His eyes were open but devoid of life. He wore the same smile he had when he saved the Ranger not so long ago. The Ranger turned, wondering how many more friends he would lose before then end. A tear slipped down his cheek.

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P. DiSante of St. Clair Shores, MI - Fifth Place Winner


Hobbit Collectors Edition

Arthamir struggled clumsily to buckle his sword belt as he hastened through the camp. When the guard had awakened him with an insistent shake of his shoulder and a curt "The captain summons you," Arthamir had thought perhaps his father had arrived at last, and that their ships would sail at once for Minas Tirith. But now a quick glance toward the little bay told him it was not so. Even though the sun was just now rising, he saw in the growing light that only the two swan ships rested at anchor. His father's great warship was nowhere to be seen.

Ever since he and his brothers had ridden out of the North in answer to Lord Aragorn's urgent call, Arthamir felt the dread of the coming war like a great stone weighing heavily upon him. Eldor and Tarval had seemed untouched by it, even as their journeys brought them all closer to the day of doom. "Do they fear nothing"" he had thought in wonder as his brothers stoically performing their duties with efficiency and skill. They seemed made more of adamant than of flesh and blood. Arthamir envied their resolve.

The guard beckoned him to hurry. Arthamir's feet felt leaden. "Eldor and Tarval are more like father than I," he muttered, ashamed of his fear. "I am more hindrance than help."

He had yearned for the reassuring presence of Tarmir, but his father and his soldiers had long been delayed, battling the forces of the Nameless One both in Eriador and now in Gondor. Tarmir had arrayed the rest of his forces, such as they were, in defense of the coastlands. Eldor commanded this garrison, having been ordered by Tarmir to repel any assaults that might come. But few had come, and when they did, they were little more than light skirmishes. Each time, Arthamir had barely drawn his sword. And then they were over. That would not be the case at Minas Tirith.

The Enemy now moved more boldly against the West. Tarmir would have to reunite his forces soon. Arthamir chafed at the delay, even though the thought of the battle for the White City filled him with dismay. He was dismayed as well at the little open bay where their ships were now anchored. Too open, too vulnerable, he had argued angrily with Eldor when they first landed, until Tarval sharply rebuked him into silence.

"Your brother is come, my lord," the guard said, and Arthamir stepped into the captain's tent. Eldor, Tarval, and two lieutenants awaited him, their faces sober.

Eldor clutched a dispatch tightly in his hand. Arthamir saluted gravely, his eyes on the tattered message. Tarval quietly dismissed the guard and the lieutenants.

"What news, Captain"" Arthamir asked anxiously when they were gone.

Eldor rested his powerful hand on Arthamir's shoulder. Tarval drew near them.

"Is father dead"" Arthamir asked, looking from one face to the other.

"No," said Tarval, "But he cannot reach us."

"The Corsairs are nigh upon us," said Eldor. "You and I must take the ships and go. Father needs our help."

"Then we will sail immediately!"

Arthamir looked expectantly at Tarval, whose eyes were wet.

"I shall remain here with some men," said Tarval. "You must get to father. I will see to it that nothing stops you."

"You cannot stay, Tarval! If the Corsairs come in force, they will destroy this place. Eldor, reason with him!"

"No, Arthamir. You and I must get the ships through. Tarval has his orders. You have yours. Make ready to sail."

"But it is certain death!" cried Arthamir, tears starting in his eyes.

"I am not dead yet," said Tarval, trying to smile. But then he clutched Arthamir tightly, holding him fast.

"Go now," Tarval whispered, even as a wild cry arose in the camp.

"The Corsairs! They have rounded the headland! The Corsairs are coming!"

Eldor and Tarval raced out of the tent and toward the bay, shouting orders as they went. Arthamir was right behind them, his chest heaving with emotion and dread. Three great ships, their black, webbed sails billowing, bore down on them. Arthamir could already hear the harsh cries of their enemies coming across the water.

Tarval hastily arranged lines of archers into battle formation on the shore. No more than two dozen of them. They couldn't possibly survive, thought Arthamir in despair.

The rest of the men dashed to the ships. Arthamir, cursing his trembling hands, could not draw his sword. Out of nowhere, Eldor's strong hands closed over his.

"Command the lead ship!"

Arthamir protested, but Eldor cut him off. "I will defend the shore as long as possible, then will make a run for it. Don't worry," he said calmly, though his face was streaked with tears, "I will be right behind you."

Then he was gone. When Arthamir reached his ship, there was scarcely time to get underway before the battle was joined.

Fire arrows and acrid smoke filled the air, along with the anguished cries of wounded and dying men. Arthamir shouted commands and his ship edged out into the bay. One Corsair ship flew past them, assailing the shore. Arthamir saw the determined, desperate defense Tarval mounted, and Eldor's ship, coming to his aid with a fiery salvo of its own.

Arthamir turned his eyes to the mouth of the bay. Escape was in sight, even though a Corsair ship continued to unloaded flight after flight of flaming brands upon them.

A huge blast knocked Arthamir to his knees. Staggering to his feet again, he saw to his horror Eldor's ship, wreathed in smoke, rapidly sinking beneath the dark waters. On the shore, Tarval's last defense withered under a blazing barrage.

Then a grim determination filled Arthamir, even as his heart turned to adamant. With a steady hand he swept out his sword, holding it aloft in salute to the fallen.

"My brothers!" he cried, his voice ringing like steel across the bay. "I will avenge thee!"

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M. Birch of Methuen, MA - First Runner-up Winner


Runner Up
LOTR Soundtrack

The tiny fortress of Anglûk lay in a rocky declivity on the edge of the sharp peaks of the Black Mountains. Built long ago as an outpost of Arnor to guard the northern kingdom from the hosts of Morgoth that used the winding paths from Angband to attack the descendants of Numenor who had lived there, it had had a fairer name then, but that was lost in history.

Emnaron gazed down at the fort, now ugly with the designs and workings of the orcs that used it, from his viewpoint on a nearby peak. He and Ganorad, his Ranger companion for the last five years, had made their way silently up the opposite side of the peak during the dim daylight, taking many hours to reach their current vantage point.

As night settled in torches were brought out and placed in crude holders set into the fortress walls. Emnaron made note of the orcs mounted on trained wargs who patrolled the stone bridge leading from the fortress across a deep chasm to the west road. There was always one at the road, one at the fortress end, a third crossed back and forth ceaselessly. To the east a narrow trail led towards the strongholds of the orcs in the far mountains. Dozens of orcs patrolled the walls and milled around fires set in braziers in the fort's courts. There was no way to tell how many more orcs were housed in the fort's rooms carved deep into the rocky mountain's cliff.

"If we could destroy that bridge, we would effectively cut off their only easy access to the northlands," Ganorad said quietly, pointing down at the warg-patrolled bridge.

"Aye, the far end looks uncared for - we could break it with a few hours work with picks and shovels, but would likely be assaulted by wargs and arrow fire the entire time, Emnaron said. "I propose an attack from behind would be the best way - it appears they do not expect that, as there are few orcs guarding the far way." He pointed towards the far eastern end of the fortress, which had few torches or dark figures near it.

"It's a long hard path around to that point," Ganorad said. "It might take many days to reach."

"I am glad I do not have to make the decision," Emnaron said. "Let us move down to that gully we crossed earlier. There was a flat spot where we can rest for the night. In the morning, we will climb back down and inform Hilboran what we have seen.

The two crept down the peak silently, in the way that only well-trained Rangers could. A low dank fog was settling in when they reached the spot they had in mind. They ate a few bites of dried meat, wrapped themselves in their cloaks and slept for a few hours.

When the barely discernable morning light awoke them they proceeded down, careful not to slip on the sharp rocks, damp from the overnight fog. At the bottom of the slope they made their way back through the trail-less wastes to where the band of Rangers waited. They told Hilboran of what they had seen, then helped themselves to some of the meatless stew that simmered over a low smokeless fire.

Hilboran debated with his thoughts for an hour before making a decision. He sent a score of Rangers to find their way to the eastern trail, in order to come at the fortress unawares from that direction. He gave them four days to reach the fort; the attack would start from both sides at sun up on the fifth day. As the assigned Rangers left to find that way, he sent six others to return to the nearest villages to gather the tools needed to take the bridge apart - picks, shovels, axes. Another dozen Rangers were sent out to hunt for game to feed the troop while they waited.

The next four days were miserable for those who sat and waited. The daylight scarcely seemed to penetrate these ugly mountains and each night a stifling fog moved in, dampening the rocks and spirits of the Rangers.

The hunters returned with thin, gamey meats unsuitable to feed a dog, but the Rangers were used to little fare and endured with no complaints. On the fourth day the men returned with tools and everything was prepared in readiness for the next morning. Hours before sunrise, they prepared and set out to the road, a half-league's distance requiring more than an hour to reach by circuitous ways.

Fifty Rangers huddled beneath a sheer damp cliff in the mist, waiting for the signal to start their assault. Ten, including Emnaron and Ganorad, had scaled the cliff and were positioning themselves to rain a fire of arrows down on any orcs near the bridge.

If their comrades had not reached the eastern entrance to the fortress in time, it might all be in vain.

When a bright spot in the grey sky indicated the sun had risen over the eastern peaks Hilboran gave his signal and the Rangers moved out onto the road. As they advanced they could make out the dim shape of the warg-mounted orc at the end of the bridge. As they got closer, thinking surely it would see them now, a sudden cry went up from the fortress, followed by shouts.

"This is it!" Hilboran said to his men, "our comrades must have started their attack from the eastern trail. Go!"

Arrows flew from above, and the orc and warg at the bridge collapsed with barely a sound, multiple arrows protruding from their throats. Rangers surged onto the bridge to meet the onrush of orcs that appeared from the mists as arrows cut half of the orcs down before they had reached the midpoint of the bridge. More shouts from the far side of the fortress could be heard as the Rangers coming from the east cut down orcs unexpectedly from behind.

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T. Beyer of Arlington, TX - Second Runner-up Winner


Runner Up
BFME II Poster

It is near the end of June in the year 3018 by the Shire Reckoning. Gandalf has met with Frodo and determined once-and-for-all that the ring he holds is indeed the One. Frodo has been instructed to leave the Shire quickly and quietly no later than his next birthday in September, and Gandalf, having met with Aragorn and discussed the events at hand, is on his way to Bree for a fateful meeting with Radagast the Brown.

Sauron, having learned of the fate of the Ring from the captured Gollum, has become possessed with the desire to retrieve it from this "Shire." He resolved that only the Nine, his most powerful and loyal servants, would rightly serve the task of seeking out and returning the Ring, but their might was well known to the Wise. Not yet prepared for the posture of open war, he hastily readied two crucial assaults on the West which would make the Ringwraith's sudden activity seem like simply another area of expansion in his "policy of war against Gondor."

These incursions were against Osgiliath in the South (during which he acquired the eastern half of the city) and Thranduil's realm in the North. The orcs from Dol Guldur were commanded to assail the Elvenking's halls with explicit orders to recapture Gollum at all costs. Prior to departing on his Hunt for the Ring with the other Nazgul, Khamul, the Shadow of the East, and commander of Sauron's northern dominions in the Witch-king's absence, called for a small strike force of only four battalions of orcs and a few trolls, whose sole purpose was the recapture of Gollum from the allies of Gondor, to arrive separate from the bulk of the attacking armies.

It was determined that they would set out ahead of the main invasion force, but travel the long route around the western and northern edges of the forest, thus arriving at a pivotal moment in the battle. They would be able, then, with their garrison of Attack Trolls to pound their way through the Elven forces, grab Gollum, and slip out, using the confusion of the situation to their advantage.

In the twilight of the days leading up to the battle for the Woodland Realm, the strike force was nearing their destination, traveling silently under the shadow of the trees and the hills that form the western borders of the Mountains of Mirkwood, into which are delved their enemy's halls. Suddenly they found themselves surrounded by Mirkwood archers and facing a frontal attack by Ents allied with Thranduil. His spies must have seen them cross the road only days before. They had hoped that even in the event of this unlikely occurrence, the Elvenking, anticipating the coming battle, would not have thought their numbers sizeable enough to warrant the loss in forces their dealing-with would require. But thinking of his prisoner, and Aragorn's tidings of his importance, Thranduil had guessed at their plan immediately after hearing of their approach.

Luckily, the Trolls were marching on the periphery of the formation and had provided the orcs within some protection from the ambush, but as they ran at the archers on the fringes of the forest, brandishing their clubs, they left the orcs open to direct assault from the Ents ahead. And with no Fire Archers in their company, they had no hope of felling even one of these creatures without the assistance of the Trolls.

The Ents, stooping down every so often to pick up a boulder and hurl it at someone, made swift work of the orc battalions, who could only hack at their ankles. Likewise, the trolls, swinging their mighty clubs wildly in every which direction, decimated the archers, managing only a few casualties. It came down to a neck-and-neck melee between the Ents and surviving Trolls--a rare meeting of this particular variety of Eru's creation and Morgoth's mockery.

In the end, after a fierce battle, the Ents were the side still standing--a remarkable occurrence given their number of only two. Great harm had been done, however, to the lesser, but he healed, in time. It is not the nature of such beings to report to an Elf as master; they simply returned to their former life of tending to the trees in their particular corner of the forest after doing the Elvenking this favor. Receiving no word of the attack, but neither facing the strike force in the course of the battle, Thranduil reasoned his trap must have been successful.

Thranduil, Legolas, and their forces managed to withstand the onslaught of Dol Guldur, but could not have seen that Sauron's true aim was not to spark the War of the Ring or even to capture the Woodland Realm. It was to provide an excuse for his most lethal and feared servants to embark upon a mission of utmost speed, secrecy, and importance to the tide of war.

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C. Lynn of Grosse Pointe Park, MI - Third Runner-up Winner


Runner Up
LOTR Soundtrack

The wheel on one of the wagons carrying a catapult struck a rock with a shuddering crunch. Amrothos, youngest son of the Prince of Dol Amroth, assessed the ten men assigned to push the recalcitrant transport. None of them looked exhausted; he waved them back into position.


They put their shoulders to the back of the wagon and thrust their full strength against it.

"Gee-up. Steady." The driver plied his whip on the haunches of the great draft horses. The wagon lurched and continued over the trackless ground towards the cliffs overlooking Cobas Bay.

Swiping sweat and grime from his face, Amrothos checked the position of the sun.

Was there still enough time" Would the Corsairs be there when the mismatched group of thirty men-at-arms and twenty enthusiastic townsmen arrived at the cove" Amrothos gulped enough air to spit a curse as he ran to catch up with the two lumbering catapults. It was too late to choose a different course.

They traversed rock-studded, hard-packed dirt and salt-seared scrub that ended abruptly at the ocean's edge. Amrothos looked ahead a half-league, where a cliff reared above the plain. He stifled the urge to turn and scan the horizon for signs of burning Dol Amroth.

If the wind still blew strong and offshore making the turn into the harbor tricky even for Dol Amroth's experienced pilots; if the two ships timed their exit right; if the Corsairs took the bait; if his ships stayed ahead of the pirates; if they could wrestle the catapults into position" Ulmo, Lord of Waters, aid us now.

"Will we be in time, m"lord"" Beleg, captain of the men-at-arms, handed him a water-skin.

I have no idea, Amrothos admitted to himself, but he said, "Yes. This can work!" loudly enough that the men around him cheered. He accepted the water and gulped it gratefully.

As third son of the Prince, Amrothos rarely made these kinds of decisions, but Imrahil, his father, and Elphir, his eldest brother, had answered Denethor's summons to the defense of Minas Tirith taking with them most of the Swan Knights and seven hundred of the men-at-arms. Erchirion, his other brother, had taken most of the fleet and the best of the remaining able-bodied men to block the mouth of Anduin to the Corsairs. The few men-at-arms left in the citadel could not repulse three warships stuffed with ravening pirates. No one spoke against his harebrained idea, and the faces of the men had brightened with hope.

A short time later, the cavalcade stopped as the land rose towards the cliff. Amrothos cursed the delay, but horses and men needed rest.

"Beleg, Urthel," Amrothos named the guard captain and the chief engineer, "come with me."

The climb was not steep enough to wind him, still Amrothos paused, reluctant to reach the top. Coward. If the sea stood empty, it would all have been for nothing. He ran the last distance to the top of the promontory. The bitter, sea-cold wind buffeted his face. His eyes watering, he blinked, squinting against the sun-dazzle, and saw his swan-prowed ships rounding the headland, driving for the scant shelter of the cove, three black-sailed ships close behind them.

Beleg came up beside him, his grin feral as he took in the scene below. "We have them."

Amrothos turned to Urthel. The engineer paced the area, muttering calculations. He straightened, giving a decisive nod.

"Aye." Urthel pointed to two positions about fifty feet apart. "Here and here. They will not know what hit them."

Time was their enemy as much as the Corsairs. The men struggled to get the catapults placed to the engineer's satisfaction. As Urthel and his assistants made the final adjustments, the men rested with sagging heads, awaiting the signal to wind the ropes that would launch flaming balls of pitch down on the unsuspecting Corsairs.

Amrothos stood at the cliff edge, tight-lipped, watching the action below. The lead swan-ship floated too close to the cliff, driven there, floundering for headway and room to tack. A shudder shook the ship from stern to masthead when she struck a rock. Flaming arrows from the Corsairs rained down, and the ship dipped forward as she took on water.

"Take your men," Amrothos said to Beleg, gesturing to the bit of shelving sand that still showed above the tide, "and hold that beach. Give the crews a place to swim ashore."

Beleg looked once from the beach to his tired men. "Aye. It's downhill to get there." He turned, already shouting to his men, and harried them down the hill.

At last the catapults were ready. They had lost one ship, sinking in a froth of escaping air, sails hanging in charred tatters from the masts. Beleg's men held the beach, fiercely assailed with fire from one of the pirates. The other Corsairs had the remaining swan-ship in their crossfire.

Amrothos nodded to Urthel. "Loose them," he commanded.

A snap as the tightly wound rope uncoiled. A thud as the bucket hit the crossbeam. A whistle that faded as the ball of pitch, flame nearly invisible against the slanting sun, arced slowly out over the water. A hit. The pitch plowed through the sail of the nearest Corsair and spattered the ship below. Flames ran along the deck. Burning pirates leapt into the water.

The second catapult thudded, its burden of fire aimed at the farther ship. The men grunted and strained to wind the ropes again as another cargo of pitch was maneuvered into the bucket. When a catapult cast smeared its side with flame, the last Corsair broke off its attack on Beleg's men and tried to jibe, aiming for the open sea. But the tide ran in and the wind turned, fanning the flames, trapping the ships in the narrow confines of the cove.

The men on the cliff redoubled their efforts and huzzaed as the first Corsair sank. Amrothos took a deep breath and smiled for the first time that day.

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T. McCarthy of Lynchburg, VA - Fourth Runner-up Winner


Runner Up
BFME II Poster

Thingol sighed as the blood red sun dissolved slowly into darkness on the western horizon. With the night came the cold; in these Northern lands it went bone deep. Yet it was a feeling that he was used to, that his kin and their fathers were all used to, for the long, sad centuries the Dunedain had known. Thingol looked through the trees on either side of him to his closest friends, Feanor and Erech. All lads in their early twenties, they were assigned in companies of thirty men to guard these Northern roads for marauding bands of Orcs that would pass through from time to time. There were nowhere near enough men to patrol these wilds as they ought to be; the lord commander dispatched them as best as they saw fit. But Thingol and his company had yet to see any action. The glory he longed for seemed so far from his grasp.

The older Rangers back home laughed at them. "So eager to slay an Orc, eh" You"ll get your chance. And then some."

Thingol sighed again, louder this time, voicing his frustration. He leaned back against a tree. The night shift would be coming, soon now, to relieve them, and they would make the miles-long journey back to camp.

And then they were there. Slipping up behind them in the silent manner of the Dunedain, that they were trained in since birth, Thingol spotted friendly, familiar faces and smiled.

The sun was gone. No moon would appear tonight. Stars shone dimly through a thin veil of clouds. And through the tress came the unmistakable sound of drums.

"Orcs! ORCS!" rang the silent yet deafening whispers of men as the word passed from Ranger to Ranger. Thingol's hand ached. He looked down to see it gripping his sword hilt. Suddenly his heart leapt into his throat, his blood pounding through his head. He breathed deep and found strength within himself. This is what he was here to do; this is what he wanted to do. He withdrew back into the cover of the trees with the rest of the men, now over sixty strong. Finding Feanor and Erech once again, they clasped hands. If they were nervous, they didn"t show it.

The Orc band was approaching from the North. The Dunedain took up defensive positions on either side of the road. Thingol waited, and waited. The beating of his heart rose and fell in turns, as he grew nervous, then excited, then scared, then bold over and over again.

The sound drew closer and louder. Even in the failing light Thingol could make out the puzzled looks on the faces of some of his older companions. Something was wrong: he could feel it now.

The Orcs are not alone. No one had said it aloud, but he knew. The marching that fell in time with the foreboding drum was not merely that of the wretched Orc; something larger was moving with the beat as well.

Closer, and closer. Louder. The ground began to vibrate at regular intervals. Thingol looked around for his friends but could not see them. Something moved through the top of a grove of trees not 100 yards away.

TROLLS! Thingol's mind shouted at him. He saw one, two, three as they rounded the corner, quickly closing the distance between them. Several companies of Orcs in formation moved in behind them. The Enemy marched farther and farther in, effectively being surrounded by the Rangers. Thingol counted sixty Orcs in addition to the trolls. To his dismay two more trolls brought up the rear. And these were no dumb, ignorant trolls, but huge beasts from the foulest of places, girded with cold hard armor and wielding massive clubs.

"Fire!" rang out the battle command. It was the first word spoken in what seemed like ages. Thingol let fly the arrow he had fitted to his bowstring, but it flew wide of the foremost troll for which he had aimed. Many of the arrows of his companions hit their mark. A collective roar went up from the enemy, as a dozen Orcs fell and trolls pulled at the razor-sharp arrows embedded in their armor and tough flesh. Enraged, the trolls now saw their attackers and came after them. Horrified, Thingol saw a troll near him smash a Ranger with it immense foot. Turning, he caught sight of his friend Erech making ready to fire another arrow. Above him, another troll raised its club and brought it around in one terrible swoop. Thingol vomited as his childhood friend disappeared in a cloud of blood and mutilated flesh.

His fear turned to anger. "Fly true," he whispered to his arrow as he drew the string back to his cheek. This time his arrow found its target: the hellish beast fell to the earth with a thundering crash, Thingol's arrow half buried in its eye.

Now he was able to look up. Other Rangers felled a second troll, but three remained, as did the majority of the Orcs. Thingol again felt the ground shake beneath him, but it wasn"t from the trolls his saw before him; more trolls must be coming up from behind them. Thingol fought his feelings of panic as he saw his fellow Dunedain perishing before his eyes. There was no hope now. From behind him there came a massive crashing"

" and the trees came alive. Or if they were not trees, they were like nothing he had ever seen before. Standing even higher than the trolls, three tree creatures--beings from the ancient legends--proved more than a match for the trolls, bludgeoning them to death with their massive limbs before the trolls could swing their clubs. Together with the Rangers they were able to make quick work of the surviving Orcs.

Losses were heavy. But the day was won. Thingol wept over the body of his dead friend and cursed. The forces of evil had gained a ferocious enemy.

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