|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
The morning of the tenth day of the flight of the Dunedain, which on the calendar of the West would read the third day of March, started with a cold, wet mockery of dawn. The camp began stirring at the first fitful light, a handful of fires burning with weak warmth. Even though the clouds still hovered over the land, threatening more rain to come, the morning could still shed some light on the scene.
Wagons and animals were hitched together, the wagons loaded with care in the damp. Horses shivered in the cold, sodden blankets doing little to keep out the chill. Tents were saturated, but still were struck and rolled into the wains. People huddled under cloaks and blankets as carts and wagons lined up to leave the site. The fires were quickly doused, made easier by the mud and water.
Through all of this, Galador sat now at his place in the lead wain, the team of horses standing ready, steam rising off their flanks in the damp and fog. But it was Halrohir and the other Rangers who spurred the folk into motion, loading a wagon here, or calming a pack animal there, or helping to heave a wagon’s wheel out of the thickening mud, or riding the edge of the camp seeing that all was secure,. So it was that, with urgent movement born of haste, the Dunedain took to the Road once more before an hour after dawn.
Galador and Halrohir agreed that, after their strange shared warning dreams of the night before, the guard around the caravan was to be heavily increased. Rather than two rides of six Rangers each during a day’s march, there were now three of ten each. Halrohir, Cormadin and Ercolindo each led a ride of nine others, three Rangers and six Dunedain who were judged war-worthy enough to ride. Galador and Angbrand each drove one of the wains, a Ranger with each acting as guard. Galador ordered Cormadin to act as rearguard, trailing the caravan just out of sight, watching for any signs of pursuit. Ercolindo rode round the edge of the caravan on both north and south sides of the Road, ever watchful for ambush.
But it was Halrohir and his ride who rode hard and fast ahead of the Dunedain a league in advance of the march, scouring the Road for any hint of trouble. With him went Meldor and Cenion, whom he was growing accustomed to have close, and one other young Ranger, whom he did not know. The six other men who rode in company looked at the Rangers in awe and respect, especially Halrohir and the giant black horse he now rode. They would thunder along the Road at a canter, their horses working to keep up with Morindal’s long stride.
For days on, the Dunedain caravan trudged along the Road, their riders out and wide. They marched through a land of no relief, flat and barren, the only progress noted by the mass of the Weather Hills shrinking behind them, and the peaks of the Misty Mountains becoming clearer to sight. Since the rains of the tenth day, the weather had turned colder, though the winds had abated. The nightly bivouacs kept to the south side of the Road, where there was some wood to be found amid the scrub brush; but even so, the folk’s supply of fuel began to run lower.
Spirits began to dim again as the flight went on and the days wore away. There was food and water for time ahead with care, but Galador ever and always looked for places with springs and grass for the animals. The camps were warm enough with the tents set up each night, and small fires to ward off the worst of the chill. On the eighth of March, the seventh day out from Weathertop and the sixteenth of the flight, the rains came once again, a hard deluge from out of the North passing swiftly south; the next day saw the Road had been washed heavily in places, wiping out signs of any recent passage along its length.
The morning of the ninth dawned, and actually dawned bright and clear. The camp awoke to brilliant warm sunshine in the East, warming the lands and drying the soil somewhat. The folk relished the change in the weather, however brief it might be. Once again the wains were hitched, the lines drawn up, and the march continued as before, Halrohir’s party sprinting ahead of the column to scout the Road.
After several hours of a hard ride, Halrohir ordered a halt. He had driven himself for days with minimal rest, watching and scouting for all. The others in his party were weary as well, but were determined not to show it. Only Morindal looked fit and rested, as if his great size and strength begged for more, nowhere near its limits.
“Rest your mounts here for a moment”, Halrohir said. “Take your ease, as well. Water and a little fodder for us all.” All dismounted, walked about and stretched their legs, the horses cropping grass nearby. After a long pull from his water skin, Halrohir motioned to the third Ranger of the party to come closer.
“We have not spoken much before, I think,” he said. What is your name, Ranger?”
The young man’s gaze was one of wounded pride, but he still faced Halrohir’s question. “I am Lainbarad, son of Halbarad. Your father and mine have both left with the Grey Company.”
“Lainbarad”, Halrohir recalled, “you were the one who placed last in the Trials, but still fought and earned the rank of Ranger. Your father bestowed my rank upon me, and I am honored still. I am glad you’re here on this ride. How do you fare?”
“The chill and rain makes for miserable travel,” Lainbarad admitted, “and I would not be surprised if we find no tracks this day. The damp earth should be easy for signs to read.”
“Unless of course, there are no signs to be read,” Halrohir said. “No tracks sometimes mean no quarry to be found. Nonetheless, I do not say, don’t look. Come with me, son of Halbarad, and let us see what the Road will tell us.” He rose, and with Lainbarad following, left the brief camp to search out the Road. After a while of bending to the ground, slowly searching the Road and its edge, the two crouched low over a log at the roadside.
“Did you notice,” Halrohir said, “as I said, no signs to be read? The rains have scrubbed the Road clean of anything that has passed since yesterday…”
“But, Lieutenant, surely you saw those broken branches and those marks that broke them?” Lainbarad asked.
“I did indeed see them,” Halrohir said. “What broke the branches, and when?”
Lainbarad was silent for a moment, then, “It would have been since yesterday, and booted feet were the cause. But where and who do those boots belong?”
A low whistle off in the brambles made both look, and they scrambled to their feet. Moving quickly into the brush, the two Rangers, met up with Meldor, his bow bent, and an arrow knocked. He was standing over a body, clearly slain with an arrow, lying face in the mud.
“I did not shoot him, Halrohir, we found him dead already,” Meldor said as they ran up to him. “Cenion took two men and is scouting nearby.”
Halrohir rolled the body over with a kick. The now-familiar face of one of the renegades of Saruman stared up at them in death, an arrow sticking into its throat. He reached down and yanked the arrow from the body. “Search it”, he said as he turned the arrow over in his hand.
“What is special about this arrow?” Lainbarad asked. Halrohir didn’t answer at first, but then spoke.
“It’s an Elvish arrow”, he said at last. “We are not just hunted by an enemy, we are guarded by friends, or so it seems. Or, this may have nothing to do with us; the Elves hunt Orcs as we would hunt wild dogs. Still, I shall take this as a sign of sorts. Lainbarad, I have a task for you. Take this arrow, and ride as swift as you may back to the column. Find Captain Galador riding in the van. Give him this arrow, and tell him of what we’ve seen. Speak to no one else save him, do you understand? Go now!” And without another word, Lainbarad mounted his horse and rode off as if he were being pursued.
“Halrohir, are there truly Elves about? Can we count on help at last?” Cenion said as he and the other returned.
“No, we did not,” Cenion admitted. “But the archer may have been some distance away from his target, surely?”
“True enough, but if they really were Elves, you’d never find even the slightest print or sign of them, such is their skill,” Halrohir said. “And, I doubt if they are coming, and Galador shares my doubt. And finally, we have sat here too long. Prepare to ride, the day goes on!” He turned to find Morindal and mounted, waiting for the others to saddle up as well. “To the Road again,” he called, and the nine horsemen rode back to the Road and turned east once more.
They hadn’t gone less than a furlong when without warning, Morindal came to a halt and stood still in the middle of the Road. Halrohir tried to urge him on, but the horse’s head pointed to the trees on the south side of the Road, and let out a deep “Whuff!”
The three Rangers knew what this meant. Swords loosened in sheaths, and Meldor’s bow sat ready in his hands. Halrohir stroked Morindal’s neck, and let the horse walk slowly toward the point where he looked. When his hooves left the Road, a voice came from the trees:
“Dartho! Tolo nu-haer! Man eneth lin?” [Stop! Come no further! What are you called?”]
Halrohir could not believe his ears. It took him a moment to wrap his thought around it: an Elf was here? Is it even possible? He called back, “Estannen Halrohir Dunadan, pedithan hi su mellyn?” [Call me Halrohir Westman, may we speak as friends?”]
From under the trees then emerged two figures, clad in green and brown, one with long black hair, the other a gold-silver sheen. Both had incredibly long bows, when compared to the Dunedains’. Bright almost silver eyes surveyed the party, resting most on Halrohir. The darker figure spoke to Halrohir in the Common Tongue, with a clear and musical voice.
“Hail, Halrohir Dunadan! I am Cambeleg of Imladris, and here is Dorwin, my companion. He speaks not your tongue. We are sent from Elrond of Rivendell to provide what service we are able, for you and your folk.”
“Hail, Cambeleg,” Halrohir replied, “you are most welcome to see. I suspect we saw your handiwork not long back…”
“Yes, we dispatched a pair of scouts nearby”, Cambeleg said. “And we heard your approach, but knew not who you were until you drew closer. Your steed knew us sooner than you did – a most splendid animal, surely! But there will be time for greetings later. Half the day is already past, and we have been watching your rhythm of march for several days, now. So has the enemy, and they can guess where you plan to halt tonight. We would counsel you to stop the Dunedain where they are, right now, and make camp to throw off danger for one more day.”
Halrohir considered this news, and after a second said, “Done! We shall all return to the caravan as swift as we may. Have you horses, can you ride?”
“We have no horses, we have made our journey on foot, “Cambeleg said. “It was better that we did, for we have been able to hunt your pursuers with greater stealth.”
“Then, if you will allow, we shall bring you back with us. Meldor shall bear your friend Dorwin with him, and you shall ride Morindal with me; that way we can speak on the way.” The Elves agreed, and soon they were riding steadily back west to meet the Dunedain. Meldor spoke the Elven-tongue better than Halrohir, and soon he and Dorwin were lively talking on the ride. Cambeleg and Halrohir spoke little as they watched for signs of the approaching caravan. Shortly, in the distance came the vanguard of the Dunedain, Ercolindo riding out to meet them, pulling up short at the sight of the Elves in their company. Without a word, Halrohir rode up to Galadon’s wain and halted. Galador was dumbstruck when Halrohir announced Cambeleg and Dorwin to him, as well as their counsel to halt immediately.
“Welcome, good Elves, to what we can offer you”, Galador said. “By all means we should heed your warning, but look around you, there is no place to stop the caravan that would be defensible…”
“We have done that for you”, Cambeleg said. “Half a mile ahead of you is a hidden hollow, far off the Road on the north side; your scouts, looking to the south, would never have seen it. It is not large, but it will shelter all if they stay close together. There is little in the way of water or wood, but the grass is deep for the horses. Come, we must hurry. I judge the camp must be ready before sunset. There, we shall talk further, and share tidings as we can.”
The caravan moved out, and the word passed down the line of folk the halt tonight was guided by Elves, that they had come to help at last. The news of this ran like fire in their veins, and the wains and wagons moved quickly to the hollow, and the camp was established faster than done to date. As the sun set and gave way to a chilly night of clear sky and stars, the Elves sat with the Rangers in council by the fire. Cambeleg gave his report while the Rangers sat and stood nearby, all in rapt attention.
“Word reached us in Rivendell”, he said, “that the Dunedain had heeded Master Elrond’s summons. He judged that while the lands were empty, they were not friendly. He arranged for patrols to come west along the Road, for that is where he judged your path would be, for a host of this size. Once we passed over Mitheithel, our company split into pairs, and began scouring the lands for any enemy, some going north into the Ettenmoors, other south along the Hoarwell, until we found traces of their movements.
“We also learned of the attack on your camp near Amon Sul, and searched for signs of the enemy’s camp nearby. We discovered much: your enemy is indeed the agents of Saruman, but you need fear then hardly at all. Tidings and news has reached Imladris from the south. The Grey Company has found the Lord Aragorn in Rohan, after a terrible battle was fought by the men of that land against the forces of Saruman. It is told that the traitor has been thrown down, his fortress overthrown, his followers destroyed or scattered. They report that Mithrandir has now become the White Wizard and has shown forth great command and power. The Grey Company is now led by Lord Aragorn, and have ridden east to confront the Enemy.”
“Your news, Cembeleg, is all of wonder, and full of hope,” Galador said at last. “With the overthrow of Saruman, perhaps any organized attack upon us is lessened, if not gone. But I would not think that, knowing that there are still his servants here who may not have had your tidings, and continue to obey their last command. We still should not lower out vigilance, nor slacken our pace. It is my counsel that we press on, even so.”
“That is wisdom, Captain Galador,” Cambeleg said. “We have been tasked to assist you as we can. We have scouted farther than you current riders have managed, all the way to the Last Bridge. It is a narrow passage across Mitheithel that your folk must traverse, and a dangerous part of the journey. You are, at your present speed of march, perhaps two days before Mitheithel, then three more days to the Fords of Bruinen and the approach to Rivendell. Your people have done well in these conditions, but you are not safe yet.”
“Cambeleg, you mentioned others of Rivendell are in the Wild,” Halrohir said. “Why have you only chosen to reveal your presence and your actions now, and not earlier?”
“Because we could not have reached you any earlier,” Cambeleg replied. “Those out of Rivendell needed to cross the leagues of Eriador. Others of the Elves were in the Wild, but not under Elrond’s direction. They it was who passed news along to us of your progress, but we had no way to bring aid before.
“We have, however, been able to help once we reached you. Our companions have managed to find the enemy camps, and harass them enough to keep them occupied in pursuing us, and blind to your movements. It has taken them sometimes a day or two before they found you again, and then we would strike them once again. Twice in the last four days, they were massing their numbers for an attack as strong as the attack on your camp. Twice, we thwarted their plans. But they are, as we said, still out there, and in number. We are certain of at least one hundred and fifty left alive and battle-ready, but there are smaller scout groups in the Wild; there may be as many as two hundreds waiting on the moors.”
Galador was thinking as he listened, and decided his course. “Very well. Rangers, pass the word to the folk: we rise at dawn, strike camp and move out. We expect to reach the Bridge over Hoarwell in two days’ time. I want everyone rested. Halrohir, you shall set the watch.”
“If I may offer, Captain Galador, Dorwin and I shall be glad to join your guard”, Cambeleg said.
“We thank you indeed, kindly”, Halrohir said.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|