DOC STRIDER: RANGER OF BRONZE – THE CZAR OF THE RINGS
(with apologies to Kenneth Robeson/Lester Dent)
It was dark in Rivendell, and only occasionally did the faint light of the moon break through the clouds to illuminate the shadows which lay across the elven city.
One of the shadows seemed to move and detach itself from the others. It moved quickly across a small opening, then gestured. Two other shadows slipped furtively across the opening behind it. One of the occasional glimmers of moonlight appeared and briefly dispelled the shadows, revealing three orcs. The orcs, their short swords at the ready, ducked under the cover of a building and waited for the light to pass.
“I ain’t likin’ this!” hissed one of the orcs, the youngest. “Nobody said nuthin’ about infiltratin’ an elven city!”
“Shut up!” said the leader of the small band. “We’s got a job to do and we’s gonna do it!”
“Do you know what the elves will do to us if we gets caught?” the first began again. “I ain’t likin’ this!”
“Do you know what the boss will do if we don’t succeed?” hissed the larger orc back. “Or, maybe you’d rather face the Eye.”
“The Eye!” exclaimed the orc. “No! No!”
“Then shaddup and do your job.” The moonlight had vanished again and the lead orc slipped off without another word. The second orc turned and gave his partner a disgusted glance then followed.
“I’m just sayin’ I ain’t likin’ this.” said the small orc, to no one in particular. He started to follow his two companions, then stopped. He suddenly heard a strange sound, a strange trilling sound, which had appeared on the slight breeze. The sound unnerved him, as it seemed to come from everywhere at once. With a gulp, he darted forward to catch up with his companions.
Almost immediately he stumbled and nearly fell over something soft lying on the ground in the shadows. Another pale glimmer of moonlight appeared and he gasped in surprise to see one of his companions lying unconscious before him. Glancing about, he saw the leader crumpled just a few steps away.
This was too much for the young orc. He turned to run, then froze with a scream. A man, seemingly the size of a giant, stood before him in the moonlight which reflected with an almost metallic gleam from its skin. A massive arm reached out with a speed almost too great to follow and grasped the orc’s arm with what felt like a vice of steel.
The orc screamed again and swung with its sword. The man’s other arm reached and intercepted the swing, grabbing his wrist. For a moment the two struggled. Then, the man tensed. The fabric of his tunic ripped, revealing corded muscles under perfect skin, tanned by long exposure to the sun to an even bronze hue. A flick of his wrist caused the orc to scream a third time as his sword flew from his useless hand before a massive blow to his jaw dropped him unconscious beside his two companions.
The bronze man stood and looked around. He was the man known as Aragorn, son of Arathorn. But, to the public he was known as Doc Strider, the Ranger of Bronze!