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Enter the Ranger
Prologue - Words of Hope
“My Lord Halbaleg—the sons of Elrond are newly come.”
Halbaleg son of Dírhael looked at the one who’d entered the office where the current Steward of the Northern Dúnedain had been looking over reports of harvests throughout the lands his people inhabited. He’d left word he didn’t wish to be interrupted—he hated going through such reports, and found that any interruption tended to distract him sufficiently that he’d not get back to them for many days, if at all. But certainly the coming of Elrond’s sons was sufficient reason for those who served within his keep to disregard those instructions.
With a feeling of distinct relief he set the report from the region of Lhûn aside atop the other reports he’d not read as yet, and after placing a block of stone from Annúminas atop them so they shouldn’t be caught by any stray drafts and blown about, he headed for the main chamber to the keep, in which he usually met with visitors and those come to consult with him as Steward.
Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris had come amongst the Dúnedain of the Angle rarely enough over the past five years, not since he’d learned that his sister’s son had earned the right to ride out with the patrols from Elrond’s home by managing to disarm one of the twins during a sparring match. Halbaleg was uncertain as to which of the twins had been so treated by young Estel, as the Elves named him, for neither would say as to which had lost his sword to the young Mortal who lived with them as if he were their younger brother. How he wished he’d been there at the time! How appalled they must have been to see one of them disarmed by the boy! Unconsciously he smiled at the images that the idea raised in his imagination. A great swordsman he’d prove, the son of his sister and her husband. Such a one he should prove as Chieftain of their people!
He found the two tall sons of Elrond standing side by side in the main chamber, each with a cup of wine in hand. He rejoiced that his wife had seen to it that they were offered some refreshment after their long ride from Rivendell.
“My lords, I welcome you again to my home. And how is your esteemed father?”
“He does well, Lord Halbaleg,” responded one of them, although he had to admit that, unlike either Arathorn or Gilraen, he’d never learned how to discern which was which. “He sends you word: Now is the time for the Lost to come forth. He bids you to gather together those of your people whom you consider most necessary to receive new-found Hope, and have them meet on the eve of the summer solstice atop Amon Sûl. It is time, Adar believes, for Hope to be restored to your people. Indeed, by restoring Hope to the Dúnedain we believe that it shall be restored to all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, south as well as north, east as well as west.” So saying, he and his brother swallowed down the last of their drinks, and holding out their glasses for their shocked host to accept, they gave profound bows and departed as suddenly and unexpectedly as they’d come.
Hope, hope to be restored to the Dúnedain? Did that mean…? It must mean that—that the boy would be returned to them! But was he ready? Were the Dúnedain ready for the return of Arathorn and Gilraen’s son to their lands? Oh, but they must be!
Clutching the glasses to his chest, Habaleg turned blindly to seek out his wife. She must be the first to know!
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