AN: This is the longest chapter to date for Marine In Middle Earth, and by far it is the reason why this fic is rated M and is an Angst fic. You'll see soon enough. The chapter title actually comes from Shakespeare's Henry V, where King Henry discovers all of the boys who aided the army by cooking and carrying baggage and general camp stuff slaughtered by French hands. He shouts out, "I was not angry since I came to France, until this instant!" It's very touching if slightly inaccurate as far as history goes. Anyway, this chapter gets very graphic. You have been warned.
Nonetheless, read, (hopefully) enjoy, and please review!
I WAS NOT ANGRY SINCE I CAME TO ARDA!
The gunfire was almost continuous, and with nearly every shot, an Ugly died or was incapacitated. I knew that getting hit with one of the .30 caliber bullets must have felt like getting hit with a sledgehammer. Aiming again, I squeezed off another shot, watching as the shell solidly connected with the chest of a particularly disgusting looking and large Ugly, and the dust and dirt snapped off of its body, almost like it had been a taut string that had been plucked. Blinking at the odd picture, I shook my head, and fired yet again, dropping another Ugly.
Then I looked up, and nearly bolted in fear. Five monstrously huge things were charging our ranks, just coming around the bend in the ravine. They looked almost like hairless apes, only three times the height of the Uglies around them and easily two tons in weight apiece. They moved surprisingly quickly, knotted muscles rolling under their thick gray hides, and small eyes burned with malevolence as deep breaths as loud as steam engines burst between yellowed fangs and thick jagged teeth. They bore massive hammers and swords, and wore nothing but ratty loincloths that looked more like untreated cow hides than leather. Frankly, they were the most terrifying things that I had ever seen.
Raising my rifle, I sighted and squeezed off a shot, shouting victoriously as the bullet caught the lead monster square in the chest. Yet other than the skin around the wound twitching with the force of the impact and a gout of black blood spurting in the air, the thing didn't even slow down. Swearing desperately, I fired again, with the same end result as the first bullet. I noticed one of the other monsters slowing down as one of the .30 caliber machine guns focused in on it, hails of bullets catching it in the chest. Ignoring that, I aimed high at the lead monster, and fired. The bullet dropped more than I expected, and drilled into its neck, but that seemed to work.
The monster's head jerked back, and it clutched its neck as it twisted and fell, roaring in pain, its legs still trying to run. Soon it was thrashing, crushing nearby Uglies in its death throes. The monster that the .30 had started shooting at had already dropped, yet bullets still snapped into it. We were starting to break, to give into fear. Swearing, I rounded on another monster, seeing that the others were being dealt with as I had dealt with mine. It took another two shots, much to my anger, for the first shot was too far to the right and sank into the thick neck muscles, missing anything vital. My second bullet smacked into its head, just to the left of its nose, and it rag-dolled. By then, the other monsters were dead, but I noticed we had a much more pressing problem. The Uglies had taken advantage of the distraction caused by the large monsters by taking ground. They were now at the base of the hill.
Smacking Jimmy on the shoulder, I jumped out of our hole. "SECOND SQUAD, FOLLOW ME!" I roared at the top of my lungs, and waited until I saw all of the Marines in my squad moving towards me before I took off running towards the fifty yards mark. Noticing figures standing on top of the larger rocks around our command post, I felt slightly relieved. No doubt they had binoculars, and could call in targets for the mortar to fire upon.
As I dropped to the ground and faced where I came from, I still worried. It was simple mathematics. With only twenty-three of our Marines still left alive, the Uglies outnumbered us nearly one hundred-to-one. None of us had one hundred bullets, none of us (except possibly Daniels) could have made those one hundred shots even if we did have the ammo, and the mortar and our grenades couldn't take care of the all Uglies left over from our shooting. Growling at my weak thoughts, I aimed towards where I knew the Uglies would come.
But then came the multiple crashes of grenades going off, and I cursed as I realized that we would be falling back again before we even saw anymore Uglies. "Come on, boys, let's go!" I cried as I leaped to my feet and ran back another fifty yards. Setting up in a loosely packed line, my squad readied to fire once again, and I adjusted my sights to shoot the hundred yards. At least it would be easier to make the shots.
Yet I knew it would make little difference. Where men would be reluctant to go when they knew it would be easy for them to die, the Uglies showed no hesitation. Almost as though they were mind-controlled. Yet I had no more time for thinking, because the Uglies came over the lip of the hill. As Straithairn had suspected, all of the Uglies were heading for the nearest squad, so their flanks were exposed to us. I fired off the remainder of my clip, and paused to check how much ammo I had left. Only three clips. Twenty-four shots. That wouldn't last long at all. Heart heavy, and dry mouth even drier with frustrated fear and anger, I reloaded, and began very carefully shooting, until the tell-tale ping of the empty clip being ejected from the rifle was heard. I didn't reload, for I wanted to save two clips for our final stop before the command post.
Thankfully I didn't have to wait long. Soon the resounding blasts of more grenades going off caught our attention, and I didn't have to say anything as the squad fell back. Within moments we were at our new position, and I fed my second to last clip into my rifle. "Come on, boys, pour it on them!" I shouted as we began firing, once again catching the Uglies in their flank. Noticing a small number of Uglies branching off and heading our way, I smacked Jimmy on the shoulder, and the two of us quickly disposed of the bastards.
Without warning, an explosion landed in the middle of the Uglies, scattering body parts and dust in a large cloud, and screams and roars of pain were heard over the sound of the blast. Several more mortar shells landed amongst the enemy hordes before more grenades were heard going off, and the squad high-tailed it back to the base. I only had three rounds left.
Everything seemed to dim then, I remember. With our backs to the wall, the Uglies came straight at us, and I knew that we simply didn't have enough ammo left. A frigid weight seemed to overtake my soul, and the bitter taste of defeat filled my mouth. I wanted to scream in rage, I wanted to cry in despair, I wanted to fly apart, I wanted to shrink to nothingness. Aiming carefully at the loosely packed wall of flesh that was now charging us and kicking up clouds of sooty dust in their wake, hiding just how many of them there were, I fired once...twice...three times, and my rifle gave its final kick against my shoulder. I did not bother to ask for more ammunition, for the number of shots fired dwindled with every passing second.
I looked around me, seeing nothing but terror and despair in the faces of the twenty-two other Americans that were still left to carry on the fight with me. Rage overtook fear and the desire to simply quit. "FIX BAYONETS!" I fairly roared, voice both quivering with emotion and bell clear. Drawing my own bayonet, I mounted it on the end of my rifle with a click that seemed both simple and profound, a final note for our nightmarish stay in this wretched world.
The Uglies began chanting as they ran forward, almost as though they sensed the demeanor of our wretched band changing. I answered in kind. "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli!" I shouted more than sang, but the Marines around me joined me nonetheless. "We will fight our country's battles, in the air, on land, and sea!" we all belted out, our voices impossibly overtaking the wordless and guttural chanting of the Uglies. "First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean!" we all bellowed as we swelled to the edges of the command post. We all new how this was going to end, but we didn't care. We were Americans, and we would not go down silently! "WE ARE PROUD TO CLAIM THE TITLE OF UNITED STATES MARINE!"
With the last verse ringing clear in our ears, we did the unexpected...the impossible! We jumped out of the uneven trench, formed tight ranks, but by some unspoken command, we charged. No order had been given for us to do this, and even Straithairn with his tommy gun was wedged in our ranks, his eyes wild with anger.
For a moment, I could see it clearly, the fear in our enemies' eyes, and their steps faltered. It was twenty-three versus hundreds...what fool would join in this charge, what right did we have to challenge the inevitable? But then common sense overtook shock in their minds, and crude bows appeared in the hands of a handful of the Uglies. They aimed, and fired.
Most of the shots went wild, yet others didn't. I screamed in pain and rage as one of the arrows sank deep into my thigh, and I tripped hard, landing on my elbow with a sickening crunch as I rolled without control, the arrow breaking under the weight of my body, sending another wave of sickening pain ripping through my body. Yet I forced myself to come around and get to my feet, pausing only to see who else had suffered the same fate as me. Five others, two from my squad. And Straithairn lay on the ground, weakly plucking at the thick, dark arrow that was buried in this neck. "Fuck!" I screamed as I forced my leg to move, bringing me to the fighting. Dimly noticing that I still had two grenades, I armed and threw them as hard as I could into the depth of the Uglies' ranks, the explosions doing little to stop the inevitable.
Even as I ran in a painful limp to my comrades help, I watched helplessly as an Ugly brushed aside the thrust bayonet of one of the Marines with contempt before grabbing him harshly by the shoulder, jagged nails tearing flesh, drawing forth pained screams that rose above the noise of battle before the Ugly lifted its crude sword and slamming it down with a roar of savage joy, the joy of a kill. Shoving the dying Marine away from it, the Ugly only took two steps before three Marines stabbed him with bayoneted rifles, but I payed little attention as I stared at the dying Marine's face in shock. The face of Private Daniels was a mask of fear and pain, and he dropped to his knees, already dead, for the Ugly sword had cleaved him from collar-bone to hip, his insides pouring out onto the sooty ground in a red, glistening, and steaming pile. As Daniels collapsed upon his own intestines, I cried in terrible rage, tears streaming down my face.
I reached the fight, trying to go the the assistance of Sergeant Peterson, but even as I headed towards him, he spun and buried his bayonet in the ribs of an Ugly. His bayonet must have stuck between the ribs of it, for he reached for his ka-bar, but an Ugly stabbed him through the neck, drawing it out and heading for another victim almost before Peterson could register he had been wounded. The doomed sergeant shouted...or tried to, now sound coming out of his mouth. Instead blood spewed out of his mouth, staining his chin and throat as it poured from the two holes in his neck. Then three Uglies converged on him, and the only sight to be seen was their blades rising into the air before descending, only to come up again painted red. I watched helplessly, seeming to run in slow-motion as an Ugly reached down, grabbed something and tore it away, flinging it through the air. It was Peterson's right arm.
Our desperate charge cost the Uglies some of their own, I noted bitterly as I leaped over one of their twisted corpses, and we all knew the outcome of this fight before we even charged. It made it no easier to listen to the screams of pain that my brothers-in-arms made as they were cut down, nor did it make it easier to see their red blood painting the terrain. But then I was in the fight, and I unleashed all of my hatred and anger, my rifle a tool of death and maiming as my bayonet sought tender flesh again and again, finding a throat, or a stomach, or a leg, or a chest within which to bury itself. A sword drew across my back, but I felt no pain as I turned and drove the full weight of the butt of my rifle into the mouth of the Ugly that had struck me, and it squealed in pain as it dropped, jaw broken and teeth shattered, mouth leaking black blood and broken teeth.
A sword pierced my uninjured leg, but even as I fell I slammed back with my rifle, catching another Ugly in the knee with my rifle, driving all ten pounds of metal and wood with crushing force, my strength giving aid to the blow. The Ugly dropped, screaming in bestial pain, and I drew my ka-bar, silencing the inhuman creature with a heavy swipe of the razor sharp blade, splitting open its throat, its blood spraying into the air, some of it landing on my arm, some of it spattering my face, and for a moment I knelt there, watching with fascination as muscles worked and cartilage moved in the ruined neck. But then I was returned to the battle as a Marine moved up to me. "Are you alright, Sarge?" Little Jimmy shouted as he grabbed the back of my field jacket. There was a nasty cut above his eyes, but I noticed he had armed himself with an Ugly sword and an Ugly hand-axe. He dragged me back from the battle, dropping my back into the command post, despite my protests. Everything seemed to be ringing, and I barely noticed as Jimmy jumped over me and headed back to the fight. Momentarily I wondered at the lack of pain I was feeling, and at the knife and rifle I still clutched. I could barely remember what they were for. But then I forced myself to sit up, and watch what remained of the battle.
I could do nothing but watch as the few Marines left were separated and butchered. I gnashed my teeth as one of them was decapitated, blood spurting bright in the gloomy air. I shouted when I saw Jimmy have one of his legs taken off, ending his frenzied whirl-wind of death. The Uglies swarmed over his position, and I was unable to tell what punishment they bestowed upon him. Later I would learn that it was Thompson who was decapitated, and that the Uglies ate Jimmy's heart, liver, and kidneys. No doubt they would have continued, had they not been interrupted.
Even as the last standing Marine was cut down, there was a clamor of horns, sounding fierce battle orders in silvery notes, and I numbly thought that they were far more beautiful than the bugle that had been omnipresent at basic training. Then I watched as every single last Ugly was cut down by arrow and sword, my rescuers clad in golden-green armor, their banners flying free on the wind. I noticed one with dark hair and a blue cloak running towards me, but I was too tired to care if he was going to kill me or save me. My eyes drifted close, and moments later, I felt warm and soothing hands on my brow. The being above my shouted something in an intricate and beautiful tongue, and as I fell into oblivion, I heard many voices rising in song, and I felt as though I would cry, for it was the saddest and the fairest thing that had ever fallen on my ears. And then, there was nothing but darkness.