And so it was that, bedraggled and beaten, Herbs and the Huntsman were brought forth from the hole in the wall where they were kept, and were stood before their liege lord, known to them as Strider, sometimes Aragorn, son of Arathorn, but now King Elessar. After all these years of hardship, growing ever more hardened and bitter, his fists tempered like steel on the jaws and skulls of oppressors and fellow inmates alike, his face never before such a testament of abuse and violence, his back so scarred as to resemble a map of nearby Lebennin, his will more resolute and unbending as never before. And yet never once a smile, never a saddened shine in his eye, never a frustrated sigh. Only cold, pure anger. But now, brought reluctantly before his King, the Huntsman finally wept. He fell trembling to his knees, and so knelt and kissed the royal seal, and asked his King’s pardon. And Elessar laid his hand upon his broken subject’s bowed head and wept tears of grief of his own. He lifted the Huntsman to his feet and kissed his cheeks, and proclaimed him Barhador, son of Tauron, a champion of the Rangers and all peoples of Middle-Earth, and that to have been so abused and ill-kept was a horrendous crime. The prison-master was brought before the King and asked to answer for his sins, but he creature, having turned sides as the prison was taken by the Enemy, and then changed his colours again as the War was over, only hid behind weak excuses. King Elessar in his justice banished the wretch from both Realms, cursing him to walk the wilds until his death.
Then, turning to Barhador, the King spoke, “I believe this belongs to you.” To Barhador he presented a beautiful, ornate sword, clearly of Elvish make, with nary an equal. Aeglin of Gondolin. “I cannot, my lord,” protested Barhador. “I am not worthy”. Then King Elessar laughed, the great, booming laughter of his people, echoing down the corridors and prison walls, and causing fright in many a poor soul already humbled by the presensce of their majesty, no-good miscreants, murderers and criminals of all sorts that they were.
“If not you, then who in all of Middle-Earth?” asked the King. “Did you not clear the Chetwood of bandits, the Midgewater Marshes of goblins and dread ghouls? Was it not you who led the band who ended the threat of Wargs in the Angle, and saved Thuin Boid and Harnalda from invasion, reclaiming the ancient fortress of Minas Brethil? Are you not the hero of Fennás Drúnin? Did you not root out conspiracy within the very ranks of the Rangers, a traitor who had blackened your name to further his own cause? And were you not he who rallied the Rangers of the Hills of Evendim to end a terrible threat brewing in Annúminas, right behind our backs? And was it not you who slew the Werewolf of the South Downs? Did you not lead the quest to slay the Worm Colargon, and reclaim this very blade, for the glory of Men? No, dear fellow, there are none so worthy as you.”
Barhador breaks then, his knees buckling. The men at either side have to hold fast as he shakes uncontrollably.
King Elessar orders Feredir and Salabon brought to better quarters: Isíl Lúna, a nearby villa untouched by the terrible war, with instructions to appear before him in his capital Minas Tirith when they are restored. And so they rest and recuperate, very slowly regaining a modicum of their former vivre, though both men will show their tribulations likely for the rest of their lives. Salabon soon recovers his fine spirits, but finds Feredir keeping to himself, closeted in his quarters, and hardly even accepting the offerings of fine food and drink set before them by the King’s orders. Soon he does not even accept this. Concerned, Salabon eventually makes his way into Feredir’s quarters. Shocked, he finds them vacated. Outside he discovers the paw prints of a large wolf, and nothing more.
His blood-brother Feredir has vanished.
Tharbad. Infested by bandits, the broken city is a gruesome place. But there are parts of that even the worst of the bandit gangs fear to tread. Parts where they say a terrible wolf-monster hunt and rip to shreds those fool-hardy enough to enter.
The South Downs. Bands of maurauding Orcs have plagued the area for years, having no leadership after the war, and the Crown not having the organisation to root out as of yet. But lately the bands of Orcs have started to dispersed. The ripped-up bodies of Orcs with their faces locked in pure terror start showing up on the borders. Rumours have it that the Wererwolf has returned, others say it is a vengeful Wraith… But why does it only prey on Orcs?
Hobbiton. A small remnant of the Great Wargs plague the outskirts near the Old Forest for a short while, but when a band of braves dare the hedgerows to confront them find them all mysteriously skinned and tanned, in convenient bundles. All around the area are large wolf prints, and some say they have seen a mysterious figure in a large hat moving about, someone not wearing yellow boots…
Minas Brethil. Having weathered the War by playing both sides, the Brotherhood have started preparations for abandoning the old keep and returning east. Rumours have it
the ancient citadel is haunted. Some say by a large apparition in tattered cloaks and hat, other say it is a wolf-demon, as evidenced by their leader turning up in pieces scattered all across the master’s suites…
Cillien. The small town near Healer’s Hall was repopulated right after the War, but has since fallen prey to a band of vicious bandits. Cowed and driven into the woods, the locals have begun emerging after rumours of someone or something driving out the bandits. Very few are found alive, and those are scared stupid, muttering about a terrible monster.
There are also other rumours of a mysterious vagabond with a wide-brimmed hat and a large wolf traversing Eriador, some times as far as Ghundabhund and the Númeriador, some times as far north as Angmar, his blade thirsty for the blood of fiends and brigands. But can this person really be Feredir, or is the mysterious stranger simply a rural legend?