"Noooo!" he cried, along with other screams that filled the cold night air, voices of the defenders in a unison of agony. "Nooo!" yelled Finn again and resumed his charge. He saw now that he might be running to his death, but he would avenge Borir, and do all he could to save the Inn.
Finn's onslaught was so sudden that the axeman was taken at unawares, and in moments his body was lying next to Borir. Yet though he fought fiercely, Finn too would have been overwhelmed, for several foes had breached the barricade.
In that moment out of the darkness they heard a war cry, and from behind their foes a man bearing a great spear lunged into them. Two were immediately dispatched with a single blow, while those still remaining threw down their arms in fear and confusion, thinking they were surrounded. Agatha was out of the Inn, bearing rope, and the men were tied up and locked in the unfinished cellar.
Then the moon shone it's light through the dark clouds and the face of Finn's rescuer was seen.
"Gerwald!" said Finn, his hope renewed. "Are you come alone?"
"Yes, I am. My path divulged from Glirion's, and I was not with other men of Beorn this day. I am sorry, for I am afraid my help is too little, too late."
"Nonsense! You saved my life. It is not yet over."
The Beorning nodded and smiled, and looked again toward what remained of the army behind the palisade.
That Gerwald was come renewed the hope of the defenders, and for a short while the attacks ceased, for many had fallen at the barricade, and not only did space need to be cleared, but Viduvar needed to regroup and plan.
"How goes it?" Finn asked Dody, as the Hobbit approached them on his rounds.
"It seems Shadrach has disappeared in the confusion. I saw him before Borir . . . well, anyway I was distracted. I turned back and he was gone. I didn't need him to abandon me at this hour."
"Don't worry," replied Gerwald. "He is a faithful hound. He knows more than you think. There is yet hope."
Dody smiled at these words, but his heart soon grew cold, for before them a bonfire began to blaze, and from it many small fires (these they knew were torches) began to spread, which were soon thrown at the palisade.
Varuthil did what she could to stop them, and several men who threw the burning brands were felled by her arrows. But she called down from her perch to the defenders in front, "I am running out of arrows. Not long now."
Finn felt his heart grow cold. Though he and the others had hoped Varuthil could do something, they still realized that even with height and arrows she could not hit every brand-thrower. It felt like Viduvar had finally grown wise, and seeing that the defenders could not be cowed, stopped wasting his men's lives on a frontal assault. If the palisade burned it would take but an hour to have many breaches in the defense. It truly would be the end.
"Not on my watch," yelled Agatha, and running dumped a bucket of water on a near section of stakes that had caught fire. Soon Dody and Agatha were running across the grounds, directed by Varuthil who could more quickly scramble to another part of the roof to report on areas where the fires were growing out of control.
The army began spreading out, well out of arrow range, to the sections that burned. More torches were thrown, though it seemed the bonfire had nearly died out due to the amount of fuel that had been removed from it. Three places along the palisade were burning, and yet Finn and Gerwald could not leave their place to help the Hobbits, for there were no others who could defend the front.
Then Viduvar appeared before them, tall shield guarding his front, and called out, "This is the end!"
With a loud cry, his men rushed the barricade from behind him, and Finn feared that the Captain of Dreymis' army spoke truly, for a wind picked up and chilled him to his bones.
Looking at Gerwald he said, "This wind brings the coldness of the tomb. Let us die fighting. They will overrun us, but we will take what we can with us."
"Ah," the warrior replied, "While there's life, there's hope. For this wind carries hope like a cold river to a parched tongue." With these words Gerwald pointed up at the black clouds, now letting out their winter fury in the form of freezing rain and wet snow. Within moments the fires were doused, the stakes so wet they would not only not burn, but be difficult to climb.
Seeing his plans again foiled, Viduvar's anger grew hot within him. "Charge!" he cried, "or its the dungeons of Dol Guldur!" All at once the men began to scale the barricade. Without the slowing fire from Varuthil, they would soon be over.
With no need to douse fires, Dody had returned to the front and carrying a small dagger, had prepared for a last stand alongside the others. Frier, limping though he was, had also come, carrying his mattock. Varuthil notched her last arrow.
Before the last battle was joined, from afar a dog's bark was heard.
"Well," said Dody, "if that isn't Shadrach I'm as deaf as the Old Took. Seems he's saying goodbye."
"Hmm," said Gerwald, his face showing a bit of uncertainty.
The barks were heard again, followed by a deep growl, and then a roar.
"And that," said Gerwald with a chuckle and a wide smile. "Is a bear."
"Oh! I can't take it," cried Dody, "Even my poor dog has to meet his end."
Finn and Gerwald laughed, at which the Hobbit felt hurt, until Varuthil's voice interrupted them.
"Shadrach is coming up from behind, and though they see him, they are scattering. Wait. There are bears following him! It is Beorn! Beorn and his men!"
And with one voice the hearts of all were rallied,
"BEORN! BEORN! BEORN!"
The roars grew in volume and intensity as men began to scatter and scream. Viduvar, now at the top of the barricade and commanding men into the defenders was distracted. Turning his back to see the source of the chaos, his last sight was that of the largest bear he'd ever seen plowing through the reserves of his army, before an arrow stuck through his unprotected back.
His fall from the top of the barricade to the ground, directly before the men who were surging behind was like that of a great oak. His helm clanged loudly and his men felt their hearts melt. The bears were now tearing through from behind, yet before they could be trampled, the great bear stood on its hind quarters and roared. It's voice shook the ground and rang in every ear. Even the defenders were momentarily stunned by the sound.
With the death of their captain, the voice of Beorn brought an end to the bandits, who could no longer be called an army. Most of them threw down their weapons and fell on the ground, while the rest lay dead or wounded in the wake of the bears' wrath. Unfortunately, no sign of Dreymis was to be found, much to Hild's frustration.
The Battle of the Easterly Inn was over. The Free folk of the Inn and the Vale had won, but had come at a great cost.
The bandits were questioned (those in the cellar were set free) and soon put to work under Beorn's gaze, repairing the Inn, the palisade, and burying men. Agatha, Varuthil, and a few of the Beornings with skill in herb-lore tended to the wounded (save Frier, none of the other companions had serious injuries), while Dody cooked and saw to the needs of his friends, who had saved his life, and that of his family.
On western side of the Inn Borir was buried, and a mound was built up, and a small tree was planted there. Standing there, Dody looked at his friends new and old and spoke,
"You may all stay here free, for life. You'll have to pay for food, since I'd go out of business otherwise, but anytime you need a bed, just show up. Even if there are no vacancies, we'll find space for you. Once a year we will hold a party here in the Inn such as the like the Vale has never seen, and you will feast like kings.
Borir's day, we'll call it," he continued, "to honor our dear friend, who gave his life to save ours. We'll tap a barrel of beer on his day every year, so long as this Inn stands. He'd want it that way - we shall remember him by filling our bellies with ale till we are dizzy and sing songs to remember him."
Then Finn began to strum his lyre and the words of a song came to him, and he sang it, and some others joined in. Over the coming weeks he would write it down, for though it had come to him at Borir's funeral, it was a tribute to the Inn, and it reminded them all of the hope and joy it was to share this place, and how they would forever cherish it all the more because of the things that had passed.
The monies left by the bandits, as well as their weapons and gear, added up to a great amount, and were distributed fairly among the victors. For the next year the Inn and the Brandybucks would enjoy comfort without the strain to keep their rooms full, and Beorn's thanes went home happy.
The company was glad for the spoil, but their grief over Borir was raw, and though it would lessen in time, it would never entirely disappear. Within a week Varuthil returned home, and soon the other members of the Fellowship parted ways, to spend the remainder of the Winter on their own pursuits, promising to meet again in Laketown in the Spring.