Rangers of the North

S02E19 - An Unexpected Visit
Where in our heroes come face to face with one of the legends of Middle-Earth

Halls of Healing, Eregion, spring T.A. 3012. Days and weeks go by as the Companions prepare for their long trek towards the bleak and unforgiving lands of Angmar. It is late one evening, after supper, and the House of Healing that serves as home for the Companions in Cillien, is still. Their departure for Angmar and their Quest draws near. Hunter sits outside in the clear light of the full moon smoking his pipe and feeling for tears in his gear by touch alone. Eldacar Half-Elven emerges from the hut he shares with his consort Mabs and approaches. “Feredir, I must needs have words with you. May we walk, perhaps, and share a pipe of Halfing weed?”
The two friends walk a few yards from the house. In silence Eldacar also lights his pipe, and casts his gaze on the star-filled sky. Hunter’s eye is on their long and pale shadows, ominous portents of shadowy work to be done. Maybe someone is manipulating the shadows, moving the Companions about like pieces on a game board? Surely, too many strange occurences have befallen them in the last score of months. Minutes pass before Eldacar finally speaks.
“I know I gave you my word that I would go with you on your Quest Feredir, and I will keep my oath if you hold me to it. It is not that I wish to abonden the Quest or all of you, but I must admit that things have changed. I am still not the Elf I was, my full strength has yet to return, if ever it will.” He pauses and closes his eyes for a moment or two. Feredir remains still. In truth he had come to be expecting this conversation, in a sense hoping it would finally come. For he has not been certain of his companion’s capabilities to face the dangerous tasks ahead of them. And now there was a child to be considered. Hunter had no wish in playing a part in orphaning an infant. “There is the situation with Mabs and the others… and of course the child…” He is struggling to find the words, Hunter realises. The Ranger lays a heavy hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Speak no more, Eldacar of the Sinda. Your counsel is wise, and your words make sense to me. I have no doubt in my mind that you would keep your word and go with me on this Quest, even with all that has happened. But how can I ask of you such a thing now? Had I been able to forsee these events before this Quest was announced, I would never have accepted your offer. No, fear not that I will think less of you for this, nor will anyone else. I hereby release you from your oath.”
The two shake hands, and the elf gives him a small smile as a way of thanks. The two remain outside, quietly finishing their pipes while watching the stars.
The following day Beoraborn finally returns from his exploits at Ost-in-Edhil. Súlkano, he explains, has left for the Grey Havens, for ever leaving behind Middle-Earth, but before he made his leave, they finished their task. He unrolls a great skin, and reveals two mighty spears, intrically carved with Elvish designs, and other, more animalistic symbols. The spears seem to shimmer translucently, and writhe and swirl with patterns of branches, leaves and moss. They are in all fairness otherworldly, and the Companions marvel at the extraordinary craftsmanship.
Beoraborn is not finished, and unslings a great sack, and from this he pulls a leather armour, fashioned from the scales of the drake Turkulon. This he presents to Hunter as a gift, to help in his Quest. The armour has the same shimmering otherworldliness as the spears, and Hunter intuitively sense that they are not only of nature, but attuned to nature itself. He humbly thanks Beoraborn for the gift.


A few days later. The normal day to day activities of the house are being carried out, while the party is busy perparing themselves for departure. It will not be long now, and there is still much to be done.
Jack is busy looking after the little one, luring smiles from the child with his skylarking. Hunter smiles and shakes his head, returning his focus on his task; fletching arrows with goose-feathers. As he finish one arrow and puts it down, he notices Bragol staring off into the distance. “What is it you see Eldacar?” “Someones coming.” “Who?”, Feridir rises and walks towards the elf, his eyes fixing upon the same area as the elf. “I cannot tell. A cart drawn by a pony, its driver an old man in grey robes.”
Feredir frowns. “Grey robes?”
“It is so. And wearing a very tall, pointy hat.”

Feredir cleans his hands on a piece of cloth, and walks into the courtyard as the cart rolls in. The others are gathering too, and Hunter holds up his hand in salute.
“Greetings, traveler, and welcome to Cillien. I fear there is not much to be found here anymore, the place is mainly deserted.”
“Oh, I believe I have found exactly what I see, , Barhador, son of Tauron,” smiles the old man through his long beard.
All eyes are on Hunter, who stops short and knits his brows. “Forgive me, but you seem to have me at a disadvantage… You know me?”
“Indeed I do, and your Companions too, I wager. There is nimble Jack, fleet of foot and crafty with his fingers. Hither stalwarth Beoraborn, of Beorn’s kin, and therefore my friend by extension. Yonder with the fishy scowl is doubtfully Bragol Thriawath, the cunning vassal of Elrond himself. I believe we may have met? And this, of course is… Salabon, who I have had the pleasure of conversing with before.” He nods and smiles at Salabon, who grins broadly back, and considers Edmund, before moving on to the women. “I know not the ladies, but am charmed, I’m sure.” He bows deeply to Mabs, Jayele, Lominzli and Eadyth. Jayelle bows back, ever so slightly and gracefully. Lominzli giggles and blushes, and Mabs grunts and nudges her. Eadyth, who knows the Stormcrow from Edoras, makes no show of any kind.
“You are Gandalf!” Hunter exclaims, but collects himself. “I beg your pardon, Master Gandalf, I have sought after you.”
Gandalf chuckles. “Indeed you have, young Ranger. And now you have found me. Or rather, I have found you.”


With the master huntsman Feredir among their number, Beoraborn’s newly brewed ale, and with Salabon’s herbalism skills, it is indeed a true feast that they can prepare in Gandalf’s honour with but a moment’s notice. They cheer and carouse, and tell tall tales, none moreso than Gandalf himself, and it is not until the food has been cleared away, the remnants of Minas Brethil brandy has come out, and the men have lit their pipes, driving out the women and children. Lominzli has to drag Eadyth with her, but even she reluctantly leavs the menfolk to their pipes and devices. Salabon delivers an animated account of his visit with Saruman, and Gandalf seems to chew his pipe and beard, muttering under his breath, but smiling and nodding theathrically at Salabon in all the right places. He is more sober and acknowledging of Hunter’s account of sensing something wrong around Calenardhon. He confirms that it was Hunter’s discovery of Elendil’s grave that led to him receiving words of their Quest. It comes as no surprise to the Companions that Gandalf is a friend to the Great Eagles.
“Truth be told, I am no stranger to the tale of your commendable Quest,” admits Gandalf. “I have many friends about the lands of Eriador, not only in Bree or Rivendell.”
“Then pray tell why you waited so long to make contact with us?” asks Hunter.
Gandalf sucks his teeth. “I had to be certain.”
“Certain of what?”
“Certain of your dedication.” He holds up a hand to fend off protests. “Now, now, you must understand that a band of arrant vagabonds with questionable repute, performing deeds that seem unbelievable at best advocates caution. However,” he waves off more protests, “however, I have myself had the opportunity to investigate some of the claims that the folk of Eriador tell of your exploits, and though some of them still seem unbelievable, especially what they say in Bree” he regards an uncomfortable Eldacar from underneath great big bushy eyebrows, “it is without a doubt that your contributions to the Free Peoples are commendable.” The Companions stay silent. “I support your Quest to Angmar.”


Gandalf agrees with the Companions’ decision to bypass Rivendell, fearing Elrond will attempt to stop their Quest. “I have faith you can succeed,” says Gandalf. “Elrond will not be so magnanimous. He will consider letting loose the Wyrm too great a risk, and will not have faith in your ability to succeed. But heed this,” and here Gandalf seems to grow impossibly tall, and the room dim to but a gloom, “you must not fail.”
“Will you come with us, Gandalf, and aid us in our Quest?”
“Alas, I cannot. My presence is required elsewhere. I am only to follow you a ways, and encourage you. Such is the extent I can allow myself to interfere.”


Goodbyes had been said, good fortune wished and promises of reunion as soon as the Quest is fulfilled made. Bragol stands outside and watching as his friends slowly disappear into the horizon. Mabbs walks up to him, taking his hand. “They will return, do not worry. I feel it in my bones. They are as prepared as anyone can be, armed as well as can be and I have never met, nor heard of, anyone more resourceful.”
“I know, but still I worry. And now with Gandalf…”
“The old man? But he seem both friendly and wise? He approves of the quest and their plans, and if he deserves but half the respect and admiration you lot give him, then surely he knows best?”
“Not what I worry about. He is right in fearing what would happen, should the dragon side with the enemy. In the first age they were terrible foes that brought great destruction.”
Mabbs seem confused. “So you agree with your Lord’s sentiments?”
“No, I did not say that…”
“Then all the more reason to kill it, all the more reason for this Gandalf to help…”
“Yes, but that is not what bothers me, it is the timing of it all. As I understand it, at the time that Smaug was killed, Gandalf was part of a group that entered the old fortress of Dol Goldur in Mirkwood and exposed the necromancer there to be no other than the Enemy.”
“That old man? I suppose he must be very old, it has to be what, sixty years ago? But what has that got to do with anything?”
“According to the book the Huntsman read in the Shire, Gandalf was instrumental in arranging the Quest to retake the Lonely Mountain.”
Mabbs is quiet for a little while, before asking: “So what? So you think he ulterior motives for helping the Dwarves? That he used the attack on Smaug as a cover operation, a smoke screen? And that he is doing the same now?” There was anger and uncertainty in her voice.
“I do not know. That is what bothers me.”
“Well if that is the case, I’m glad you are not going. I was glad before, but even more glad I am now! Your place is here with our child, not being killed by some lizard, again. Do not think I have forgiven you for that!” She smiles and gives him an angry look. “No, best you stay here and attend to what is important.” Bragol is about to answer, but bites his tongue just in time. Instead he switches to Quenya and under his breath says: “Personal is not the same as important.”
“Did you say something my dear?” Mabbs ask.
He turns to her, smiles and says: “Just a little good luck wish for them, come let us go inside, there is work to be done.”


Hunter rejoices in feeling the road yet again beneath the hooves of his stout mount. He feels elated and excited, he has purpose and a clear goal. He notices a certain glumness in his Companions, however, only Gandalf seems cheerful, singing songs and smoking his pipe atop his little cart.
Slowly the Companions wind their way along the crumbling roads of Eregion, through the valleys below the Misty Mountains, northward bound.
Barely have they escaped the hollied valleys before disaster strikes. Making camp below a huge, great oak they are set upon by the very tree itself, a fiendish and evil Huorn! The Companions seem powerless against the mighty oak, and soon both Jack and Salabon are caught by its lashing branches, and hurled into the canopy. Gandalf stands back, alarmed and sword in hand, but he bides his time…

TBC

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S02E18D - Jack Fleetfoot: Path to Redemption
Chapter 2: Jack and the Wolf

Eregion. Winter T.A. 3011-3012. Jack leaves the beaten path for the first time, all alone. The last time he did so he followed the tracks left behind by his Companions, travelling from cache to cache where they had left firewood, kindling, and small foods. He soon learns that the harsh wilderness of Eregion is less bountiful, and after only a few days of battling uncleared paths full of weeds, brambles, holly and thistles, he is bloodied, thirsty, hungry and alone. He is afraid of eating from the many growths, remembering Feredir’s stern warnings about deadly fruits and berries, and restricts himself to those plants he knows without doubt. Those are few. He attempts to put up snares, but finds that it is not as easy as his Companions have made it seem – nor is kindling a simple trick, and he is soon down to his last, few matches, keeping them religiously safeguarded in a waterproof pouch about his neck. In addition, he has the nagging feeling that he is being watched, which makes him walk in a constant state of fear. Any small sound is enough to make him jump. And there are many.

One night, when drizzle has ruined his chances of a warm fire, and he is huddled and shivering under a thicket, he feels a presence in the undergrowth. There is something there! Something approaches, and he is elated to realize that it is Feredir’s wolf, Grey Cloak, that is stalking him. Then that elation turns to terror, as the giant wolf bares its fangs, and leaps straight for Jack, who falls to the ground with a wail of terror! There is a terrible sound, and Jack carefully takes his hands from his face, to see the wolf stand victorious over another wolf – a wolf that was about to attack Jack from behind! Grey Cloak has saved him!
As the days pass, Grey Cloak never leaves Jack’s side, keeping him warm at night, and offering his solid frame for support when the Hobbit falters. Grey Cloak is large enough that Jack could ride him, but the wolf doesn’t seem comfortable with it, so Jack doesn’t push it. Some times the wolf will disappear and return with some small game that he shares with Jack, who most of the time simply eats it raw to avoid starvation.

Then one day, Jack is unable to get up. His now very close companion Grey Cloak whines and nudges him with his muzzle, but Jack is too weakened by hunger and fatigue, sickness has taken him over. He has no concept of how long he has lain like this, but at some point he registers faint voices, sees flickering figures about him. Gradually he quickens, under the care of a group of Elves – a Wandering Company. Initially, Jack tries to refuse their help; it goes against his Path of Redemption to accept their help. Unfazed, the Elves withdraw. But the folllowing days, Jack notices that whatever direction he chooses, the Elves seem to have chosen that path before him. They leave small things for him; foods, drink, garments, that he initially refuses, but then grudgingly accepts when he comes across them again the next day. He starts seeing them in the distance, and soon he follows closely enough to watch their motions. He sees that they spend a good portion of every day meditating or doing excersises that seem similar to the katas Jack has learned as a martial artist. Within long he is doing these with them, first at a distance, but as the days grow colder Jack trains and meditates alongside his new friends. They do not speak much – the Elves do not speak Westron and Jack is no wizard at Elvish – but they make themselves understood. They help him reach deep inside himself in meditative techniques and they teach him the fundaments of bushcraft. Jack is starting to feel much better, both in body and in spirit: these Elves have helped him reach a new level of enlightenment. Then one day when he wakes up, the Elves are gone. There are no tracks, no signs of them ever having been there. Were they ever there? Jack considers his new clothes and equipment – proof that the were, but at the same time he can’t shake the feeling that it all happened not in the real world, but in a dream-state. While packing his sack he finds a set of beautiful bracers, clearly of Elvish design and a perfect fit for Jack. Renewed, fortified, and slightly more elfin-looking, Jack Fleetfoot returns to the woods with his friend Grey Cloak, and does not re-emerge from the wilderness until the mountains have thawed and spring is in full force.

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S02E18C - Recovery
Wherein Eldacar spends his days in recovery.

Cillien, Northen Dunland. Autumn T.A. 3011.
Time would pass and seasons change before he would recover, he knew this as he lay in the bed. How long he had been here, or how long since he had crushed under the weight of the dragon he did not know. He only knew that this was the first day since it all happened that he could remember. He knew not where he was, but whererever it was he felt safe. And he been look after, that much was evident. And from the booming voice coming from somewhere outside Beoraborn was here.

“Eldacar! Awake at last I see! How glad I am to see you concious again!” Beoraborn smiled as he continued: “Let me prepare some food for you, you must be starved!”

Days passed and he spoke little and did less, never once even attempting to leave the bed. That was still a long time away. It hurt. His whole body hurt, but no part worse than his head.

Weeks passed. It still hurt, and as before his head was the worsed. His finger trailed the area where Beoraborn told him his head had been opened. Herbs was a gifted healer, one of legend, there could be no disputing that. Never the one most eager to talk, he had become even less talkative than before. He was concious, he ate and answered when asked. But that was also the extent of his activity.

Months. What hurt when he woke up in the morning, still hurt the next. But slowly he could feel his strength return, the pains and aches diminish. The headaches was the worst part. They would come suddenly and deliever blinding pain.

He was luck that he had not died Beoraborn said, and he was right of course. But what he did not say in reply was that he now, one day, would die. Of course living his life he could have been killed anyway, that is true. Death might have been highly probable, but it had never before been a certainty. It was now, though. He had made his choice, and was now forever bound by it. He did not regret or despair over it. It did not frighten him. But it felt…strange and he would muse on it now and then, as one would a question of a philosophical nature. Had he made the right choice?

Meditation was the first step in recovery. From there he started to train his mind. He would gaze about the room, close his eys and ask Beoraborn to move any and as many items as he pleased without him looking. Then open his eyes and spot that which had been changed. He would look out of a windon for a few seconds, then turn away and describe it in detail for the beorning.

Then he began with the physical training. Hands first, simply squeezing objects as hard as he could. Stretching his legs, lifting one and holding it up for as long as he could. Then the other. Soon he’d take short walks, across the rom at first. Then around the house. Then longer walks.

Time passed and sit ups followed, then push ups. He’d lift buckets. Empty at first, then filled a 1/4 with sand, then half full and finally full. He began running.

The thoughts about dying and death faded, so too did his worries about whether or not he had made the right choice. That did not matter now. It was made. Time to heal.

Sword practice followed: Parry, thrust, feint. Rusty at first, but improving on his form for each day that passed.

He’d talk to the big man about nature, asking for names of plants and beasts and insects. He watched him work his craft skill, and asked him about that too. He would help him. Fetch water, gather wood for the forge, whatever was needed.

He read all there was to read. Then read it again. Trying to memorise it all, sharpening his mind. Let his thoughts wander, analyzing problems and challenges. He would invent strategies for any scenario he could think of. He made plans, ways to gather intelligence, to plant false information amongst their enemies. He had a lead now, Herbs represented an opportunity. He analysed all sides of that opportunity.

He wrote too, letters mostly. Messages to his handler, in code. Letters to his mother, also in code.

He had been right. Time would pass and seasons too before he recovered. Seasons would also pass before he once again was reunited with his friends. But when this came to pass, a feeling of happiness came over him unlike any he had ever known before.

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S02E18B - Guard Duty
Wherein a familiar face inhabits a furtive guise.

Minas Brethil. Winter T.A. 3012. Darkness envelops the sodden streets, only dimly lit by sputtering torches, storm lanterns, and flickering reflections of these in the puddles of the prevailing downpour. Erefarad shudders and adjusts his cloak, feeling the mud already soaking through his boots. He realizes that they are more or less ruined. It feels like an age and a half has passed since the day he bought them in Fennas Drúnin. They have served him well, taking him by foot through most of Eriador. To think their fate would be sealed here, in the mud-caked streets of the rotten citadel of Minas Brethil. The figurative stench is as palpable as the literal. His hand closes on his spear as the sound of feet in the mud heralds an approach.

“What ho, brave Erefarad! Are our brickworks safe from prowling thiefs and goblins this eve?”
The accompanying burlesque laughter seems not at all to affect Erefarad, who cheerfully smiles back.
“Nothing stirs in these streets, Corporal Corchon, save your presence, in course. No thief or goblin dare brave these sodden ways on a night like this. In truth, I’m surprised to be graced by your company, what brings you out this way?”
The mocking sneer turns dark as Erefarad continues, “It surely has nothing to do with unpaid debts at a certain house of ill repute, as some wicked tongues will have it?” He leans closer through the rain, “Which, I should add, have been dealt with. The tongues, that be, not the debts, unfortunately. We cannot have that sort of slander blacken our proud Brotherhood’s name, now, can we, Corporal?”
“Mind your own business, private!” sneers corporal Corchon, and strides away, mud splashing about his legs. Erefarad permits himself a little smile. Corchon is indebted to him now, as well he knows, and will display less of his disdain when next they cross paths. Like so many of the Brotherhood, he has his vices, and the right words and the right coins to the right people has a marvellous tendency to alleviate knowledge of these. Erefarad has no haste, he plans to work through winter. It is the only means he has of finding a way into the right circles, wherein to learn the fate of his friend, Baran Sîdoneth, once lord of these lands, now at uncertain mercies. As long as Baran is still alive, the man known as Erefarad will find him. Hopefully, he will have uncovered enough to also find a way out, and the Valar willing, find a way to bring down the Brotherhood.

Ultimately, his probing give few fruits. He learns that Baran is, indeed, alive, but has been removed from his post. With a heavy heart Erefarad chooses to slip away from a graveyard shift guard duty, shedding his disguise and reemerging as Feredir of the Rangers of the North. He walks south with spring approaching him for every step he approaches Cillien in Dunland. He feels helpless for not being able to aid his old friend, but a nagging part of him also feels Baran has brought much of this on himself. At any rate, a greater Quest looms in the horizon, for a greater purpose. He hopes to be able to find a way to help his friend, but if he is unable, he also knows Baran to be a capable fighter, whose prowess with small arms matches Feredir’s own.

In Minas Brethil, no alarms are raised from Erefarad’s absence. Those who owed him a debt or knew he had intelligence on them are only too glad to see him gone.

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S02E18A - The Ranger and the Eagle
Wherein Feredir scales Methedras and finds more than he bargains for.

Cillien, Eregion. Autumn T.A. 3011. The frost has not set in when Feredir leaves for Minas Brethil in the autumn of 3011. His route takes him southwards from Cillien, towards the southern Misty Mountains. Had the Companions seen him go, they would perhaps have questioned his destination, but in truth Feredir set forth in secret, only Beoraborn knowing his true intent: that of scaling Methedras in search of the Great Eagles. The stalwarth Bejibar smith has fashioned for him gloves with scaling hooks and grafts with large claws for his boots. Feredir has brought his warmest garments, and supplies for surviving in the harsh climes of the mountains.

His wandering brings him close to the northern slopes of Methedras; he is not planning on going the easier way near Isengard; a bad feeling linger within his bones about that place after his last skirmish.

It takes him two days to reach the foot of the mountain, and another day to reach the higher altitudes. He finds he must circumvent the top to find his ascent, and on the fourth day he is surprised by an early but heavy snowfall, and must seek shelter in a secluded valley. He is surprised to come across a sapling of a white tree, and below the shallow grave. The ancient armour leaves no doubt; this is the grave of Elendil. In deep reverence, Feredir spends three days meditating and building a cairn over the grave. On the third day, a Great Eagle does indeed descend to him: Noranthír, charged with watching over Isengard and the Nan Cúrunir. Noranthír expresses he is pleased that Feredir has tended to the gravesite, and is willing to talk to the Ranger.

Feredir explains his plight, and is surprised to find Noranthír taking the news of Turkulon’s death with some satisfaction. The Great Eagle says that he can not promise any aid from the Great Eagles in going after Colargon, but that neither will the Eagles be antagonistic to his plight: Feredir can count himself a friend of the Eagles. Noranthír promises one thing, however; that he will investigate the rumours of the lance of Fram. Should he uncover anything of worth, he will find a means of bringing word to Feredir.

On the fourth day on Methedras, Feredir begins his descent. He carries nothing more than what he brought up, but in his breast bats a slightly encouraged heart.

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S02E18 - Permutations
Wherein our heroes reunite, and are joined by some unlikely new Companions, and plans are made for winter.

In the Autumn of 3011 the Companions all reunite in Cillien. Feredir comes North with two wayward Rohirrim, both of with whom he seems to have some animosity. Jack Fleetfoot comes South by boat, and with him comes Jayelle of the Oak Grove, and Salabon’s sister Lominzli. Eldacar is recovering – though slowly, and Salabon is making good use of the libraries and workshops of the Healer’s Hall. Beoraborn is working with their ward, who names himself Súlkano, and who knows the secrets of Enchanting.

The Companions all agree that the best course is to wait for Spring, and then press north towards Angmar and Colargon’s lair. But Jack brings news of Baran: Minas Brethil are now in the hands of a mysterious Brotherhood – the Order Baran belonged to. Baran has been removed, and is nowhere to be found. Feredir thus vows to infiltrate Minas Brethil and find news of Baran. Jack declares that he will leave the Company again, that he needs to do so alone to find his Redemption. The others protest, but Salabon supports Jack, and as such Feredir does too. When the Ranger accepts it, the others follow suit. Beoraborn says that he has a quest of his own: With the help of Súlkano, he will endeavour to make a set of spears with which to kill Colargon. He will use the remains of the dead Dragon Turkulon to do so. Salabon explains that he believes that Eldacar has withrawn into himself, and that only the sight of his lover, Mabs, with help him out of it. He will therefore go North-West to Bree and collect Mabs before Winter. He will hear no complaining, he explains that this is something he must do. Eadyth, Edmund, Jayelle and Lomiñzli will stay at the House of Healing and care for the invalid, as well as preparing for Winter. Eadyth is not pleased with being left with womanly chores, but agrees out of deference to Feredir.

Thus the Companions part ways yet again, all moving towards their own designs. But those are different tales…

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S02E17 - Tales of the Riddermark
Wherein Feredir travels to the the fabled land of the Rohirrim in search of lost tales

When he had travelled through the rock for three miles or more, he came into a fair country. It was as bright as a summer’s day; the land was flat and green and there were no hills and no valleys. In the middle of the plain was a castle, magnificently adorned and wonderfully high.
- Sir Orpheo (Old English poem ca. 1330)

Dunland. Feredir wanders south, towards fabled Rohan and its capital Edoras. He had planned to make the journey with his friends and Companions, but the recent events has left him with only one free and hale Companion, Beoraborn the Beijibar. But due to the Elf Eldacar’s state, and the fact that Salabon remains to care for him and for the mysterious prisoner rescued from the dragon Tulkaron, it is decided that the burly Beorning remain in Cillien to guard them. After all, Feredir has walked many months alone in the wild, with his wolf, stoat and owl as his only company. He is uneasy, however, for the wolf, Grey Cloak, is not with him this time. Feredir has sent his friend to watch over the Hobbit, Jack Fleetfoot, who has rambled alone into the wilderness on a quest for redemption. Thus it is that he walks alone, and he names himself Erefarad, the Lone Ranger, to those few souls he meets.

Dunland is a desolate place. It is clear that the aftermath of the conflict between the Dunlendings and the Rohirrim has left them crushed, and most have abandoned their villages and abodes and gone elsewhere. Some few, stubborn homesteaders he does encounter, and though they are polite and hospitable as is custom, they are clearly only so glad to see the back of the stranger from the North. Feredir is a formidable hiker, and covers much more ground than any lesser man, but he is also a Ranger, and is willing help those who need it. None will accept more than a few split logs as payment for food or shelter. The hardy Dunlanders want nothing that they cannot get or do for themselves. The only tidings he get are warnings; “Beware the Woodwoses”. Not knowing about any such creature, Feredir dismisses these warnings as superstition.

South, south he goes, and soon he passes a large and mysterious forest the locals call the Caerdh Wood. Running along the stream, Feredir thinks he sees figures or shapes flitting between the branches. He stops up, and is sure he sees a strange face, its features unlike any Man, or even other races, he has seen. Is this a Woodwose? The face disappears into the undergrowth in the trees across the stream that separates them, and Feredir continues. He has not the time to go traipsing about unknown forests looking for strange creatures, nor has he reason to follow these beings deep into the woods.

Many fallen mottes and towers does he see along the way. But when he nears the southern peaks of the Misty Mountains, a sight causes him to stop dead in his tracks and gape in astonishment. There, high above him, about the cloud-enshrouded peaks, he spies a Great Eagle.

His mission forgotten, he turns from his path and moved up into the highlands. He climbs for hours before he realizes that it will take him days to reach altitudes high enough for him to communicate with the Eagles. With a sinking heart, he descends onto what is undoubtedly the Vale of Isen. He sees in the far distance the mighty Orthanc, but something in his bones makes him hesitant about the place. An ominous sensation makes him skirt Calenardhon and descend back in Dunland, before he moves towards the Gap of Isen.

He has not come far before he is besieged by the Host of Rohan. They demand his name and his business, and he tells them true – he has come to seek audience with the King of Rohan, and that his business is regarding Dragons. Incredulous, the Host allows him passage, and takes him into the heart of Rohan, towards Edoras.

He is brought before King Theoden, who challenges him to explain why he has come. Thus Feredir tells the tale of Fram of the Eothed, the forefather of the Rohirrim, and how he slew the mighty Scatha the Worm. “You would come into my hall, and tell me the tales of mine own forebears?!” roars Theoden. “No,” counters Erefarad. “I come to hear the tale told true”.
Theoden King stares long at the stranger, before breaking into laughter, the Hall erupting with the same. “You have a nerve about you! Very well, you shall have your tale. Let us feast!”

Long is the night, and luscious is the feast, of all the modest wealth Rohan can afford. It is still extravagant compared to Erefarad’s usual fare, and he relishes in it. There are many tales told that eve, and Erefarad tells a few himself. He knows not how much the old King embellishes his tale, but the Rohirrim are known for their strict oral traditions, and Erefarad believes that the version told to him that night is, indeed, the closest to the actual truth.

In the small hours, most of the Host has fallen asleep where they sit and drink, and apart from the temperate Erefarad finds himself alone, apart from one of the Host in the far corner of the Hall. He moves over. “A drink with you, sir”, says he, and the other agrees. They fall into conversation, the the Rohir introduces himself as Edmund, of minor noble lineage. He asks if Erefarad if he would prefer to sleep in the Hall, or if he has lodgings. Erefarad says he has not, and Edmund invites him to his home, which he shares with his sister. Erefarad thanks him, and stays at Edmund’s modest house.

The following day Edmund shows Erefarad around Edoras, but the Ranger notices there is a certain repuditation associated with Edmund that has now befallen himself. Finding the young man agreeable company, if not particularly knowledgeable or strong-willed, Erefarad nonetheless decides to take his leave, with King Theoden’s blessing. As he is leaving, Edmund comes riding after him.
“Please, I beg you let me join your quest!” pants the consterned Rohir.
“What quest?” asks Erefarad.
“Please, do not bother hiding it; it is writ plane in your actions. You seek to slay a Dragon, and you are here gathering intelligence.”
“If this was indeed so, why would I take you with me?”
Edmund looks downcast. “I will not lie. The honour of my House is broken. The only way I can restore it is by taking part in great deeds. There are none greater than what you seek to do. In payment, I will give you this excellent horse from mine own stables.”
Erefarad hesitates. As Feredir, he has worked for years to restore the honour of his own lineage. The youth’s reasoning is the one thing he cannot deny.
“Very well, I will grant it.”

And so, the two set out. But as they leave Rohan, Edmund changes course to skirt a small farm. He stops outside the abandoned farm house, and begs Erefarad follow. “These are our family’s old farms,” he explains.
There is a curtain across the door, and as they approach, it is opened by a young woman. It is Edmund’s sister from the night before.
“What is this?” asks Erefarad, moving his hand towards the hilt of his sword.
“I beg you not be angered, though you might have ample reason to.” says she. “No, you will not need your blade, this is not an ambush. We are grateful for this opportunity to restore the honour of our House, but I fear we have mislead you. It is not Edmund who will follow you on your Quest. It is I.”
Erefarad is dumbstruck at first, and refuses, but the girl, Eadyth, pleads with him, explaining that Edmund is useless and weak, but that she is a strong fighter. Erefarad resents her words, because he and the young man came along quite well. It is perhaps his disgust with her treachery and patronization along with that part of him that recognizes her plight, that makes him agree, on the condition that she fend for herself. Knowing within him that he is already responsible for Jack Fleetfoot, Eldacar and Salabon, Erefarad does not wish to be guardian to a woman also. He does know very capable female Rangers, but this is no Dúnadan.

Angered at having been duped and taken advantage of for his charity, Feredir leads them north towards Cillien and the Healer’s Hall.

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S02E16 - Partings
Wherein our heroes part ways again, each to his own designs.

Eregion – one week later: The canoe flows jerkingly against a current not so obstinate to require struggle, neither compliant enough to make it pass unnoticed. At any rate, it is a small task for two burly woodsmen as the two who ply the paddles. The Huntsman – Feredir – and the Bear – Beoraborn – the two are journeying up the Cilstrem in search of Cillien the legendary Healer’s Hall.

After having stabilized Eldacar and provided what they could for the ancient Elf who still is unable to give his name, and indeed very little of coherent sense, Salabon speaks of a legendary hall of healers rumoured to lie upon this very stream. Travel to Imladris with patients as unfortified as these is an impossibility, but a house of healing thirteen leagues away on water seems a blessing to the unfortunate Companions.

By river the two reach what is undoubtedly Cillien after one day. Here, a grand and unusual building, quite unlike anything of Dunnish make in Feredir’s experience, its great gate locked fast. In the courtyard stands a small cottage. Within, it is clear that whoever here dwelt left in a great hurry, only taking with them the most important of valuables and belongings. Feredir, thinking a key to the bighouse might be secreted away here, commits himself to a thorough search. He does not locate any key, but he finds a leather-bound tome that closer inspection deals with mystical healing. He packs this away for Salabon. He also finds a set of masterwork leatherworking tools.

Beoraborn declares that he will have the cottage clean, cleared and aired by the time it will take Feredir to venture downstream to fetch Salabon and the two invalids. And this is in truth a fine place for the two to recuperate, even if the bighouse is still closed to the Companions. As Feredir merrily disappears down the stream, Beoraborn whistles a tune only the Beijibar can sound, and from the underbrush, the trees and even from under rocks and hills all manner of beasts flock about the big warrior. A few, simple more enticing whistles and the beasts descend into the cottage. “Warrior great I may be, but I am also great at keeping house!” he rumbles.

When Feredir reaches Salabon it turns out that Jack has left camp in the middle of the night. Feredir kicks up a great fuss, but Salabon calms him with wise words; Jack must do what he feels right in his heart, and his heart tells him to seek redemption alone. Not content with this, Feredir still understands that he cannot go charging after his friend – that would belittle his personal quest. Instead, he bids his most trusted companion, the wolf Greycloak, to go after Jack and keep him safe. Slightly appeased, he returns to freighting Salabon and the invalids down the stream.

**

The following day, Salabon wishes to investigate the Healer’s Hall. Feredir and Beoraborn explain how they have been unable to gain entrance, upon which Salabon asks, “Have you sent your mustelids within?” Feeling slightly foolish, the two unleash their fearsome weasels, and tru enough, they are soon back with a key that fits the lock.

Within, they find abandoned a school for healers. Here they have clearly taught some form of magic healing, much to Salabon’s interest and suspicion. They search the entire house, which is quite large, and upstairs they find an infirmary. Beoraborn once again vows to undertake the cleaning, and sends Feredir and Salabon away in the mean time. The two investigate the town below, where they find much of the same: The town has simply been left, and only the most valuable or necessary items and possessions have been taken. Curiouser and curiouser.

**

After having had the invalids lodged in the infirmary, Feredir declares that he is taking his leave. He will carry on his journey to the heart of Rohan by himself. He asks that Beoraborn stays to aid and protect Salabon and the invalid Elves, vowing to return before autumn. They make their farewells, and Feredir sets out across Dunland towards fabled Rohan.

Follow Jack’s adventures in Jack Fleetfoot: Path to Redemption, only on Obsidian Portal.

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S02E15A - Jack Fleetfoot: Path to Redemption
Chapter 1: Jack's awakening

The dark, but soothing voice speaks… Not really words that jack can understand, but still they tell him what to do…His vision seems somehow clouded, but everywhere he looks, there are riches beyond his imagining, and more still. The voice, and the dream-like reality draws him away… away from the environment.. away from the stench of great predators.. away from the screams of his friends… Suddenly his mind and vision are cleared. The feeling Jack now has, can only be compared to waking up after your most terrible nightmare, and allthough Jack is now fully awake, he has a bad feeling, deep inside of him. Something is terribly wrong. Jack has no idea where he is, it seems to be some kind of dungeon or castle basement, but it does not matter. He cannot shake the feeling that something is off. He starts runnning through the rooms and corridors of the structure. But when Jack suddenly finds his companions, his heart stops for a second. He cannot believe his eyes. On the floor lies the bloody corpse of a massive, pale dragon. Jack takes a step back. And as if the dragon wasnt bad enough, on the floor a few feet aay, amidst screaming companions, lies Eldecar with wide open eyes and a shattered body. Jacks world now stands still. after what seems an eternity, jack studders “what’s happened?!” Only Feredir seems to notice, and only replies “There are times and places, Jack,” says Feredir. “On occasion it is perhaps best to say nothing. This is such a time and place.” Jack feels the black cloud of guilt envelop him, and asks no more. With luck, Salabon manages to bring Eldecar back to life, and temporarily stabilize him with his skills as a healer, so for now, the danger seems to have passed. But for Jack, this is far froma ivctory. He does not know how, or why, but he was caught in a spell, and therefor unable to aid his friends in the battle against such a mighty foe. For that, Eldecar nearly paid the ultimate prize, and Jack is sinking into a pit of self.recentance. Why was he to weak to resist the spell? Why is he so obsessed with wealth and anything that shines with purity and magic, when, in the end, it means so little? Why does he abandon his friends, who now hates him, for the sake of himself only? Jack feels like vomiting when he thinks about what he’s become. He stares into the fire, and makes the final decision to leave the party, he’s not safe to be around anymore. Besides, they probobly wont even notice he’s gone, nobody has talked to him since the incedent. He tricks Salabon into talking him through the path from here to Minas Brethil, whe Jack feels he must start his path to redemption. When his waking shift that night is over, he silently leaves in the direction he’s been told. He walks for days. His feet aches, he’s hungry and tired, but most of all lonely. he misses his friends, but thinking about it, he reassures himself that his action now is for the best for everyone.

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S02E15 - The Fallen
Wherein our heroes must set aside their need for glory and adventure, as a friend's life hangs in the balance.

Ost-in-Edhil: Eldacar lies fallen. Trapped beneath the body of the dragon Tulukuron it takes all of Beoraborn’s might to shift the flaccid corpse enough for Feredir and Salabon to pull the Elf out. There, his blade, thrust so far into the Worm’s breast that only the hilt can be seen. Here, the Elf himself, his head cracked from the weight; no helm did he bear.

“But wait!” cries Salabon, “There is still life!” He can hear the distant beating of the Elven heart, like fading drums. “Brothers, we may save him still, but I need light! There!” He points to Eldacar’s belt, where strands of light testament that the enchanted amulet is still active.
Feredir carefully fishes it out, but drops it in shock, as he recognizes that it is one of the amulets from the entrance. “No!” cries he. “It is a trick, some foul sorcery! These are evil trinkets!” He throws it down the corridor.
“Heed me!” cries Salabon. “I need that light, no matter what you believe it to be. I cannot save him without it!”
“I will fetch it,” says Beoraborn, but Feredir waves him off.
“No, my friend, if anyone should risk the terrible magics, I will pay that price. This is my quest, and I owe it to you all.” The others can only shrug as Feredir recovers the amulet. He truly believes he is sacrificing himself, and although the other two know that there is no danger, his sacrifice is meaningful.

Feredir finds a crevice in the rock where he fastens the amulet with a few strips of leather.
“I must act in haste, I know not how long that light will work,” says Salabon, as he carefully cleans Eldacar’s head of blood, and cuts away what hair he dares. “Wait! Eldacar holds a life preserving mixture, he showed it to me himself. In his belt pouch!” They unstop the tiny vial and carefully pass the contents across the Elf’s lips. Almost immediately, the tincture takes effect, and it is clear that immediate danger has passed. But Eldacar’s head is still crushed.
Salabon swallows. “Have you any remedies that can mend these bones, Feredir?”
“Not in my herbary, alas. But did I not espy Bonehae moss on the banks where we disembarked”
“Bonehae?”
“Aye, you may know it by ”/wikis/edram" class=“wiki-page-link”> Edram, a silvery grey, soft moss that grows in large patches."
“I do know Edram! But listen, brother, for it to be effective it must be used immediately after being picked. You must find some way of transporting it down here. No go, quick! I know not how long he has.”
Feredir is about to get up, when they all three turn to see Jack Fleetfoot standing on top of the dragon looking down at them. He stares with dread at what has befallen Eldacar. He looks up at the others, and is about to speak.
“There are times and places, Jack,” says Feredir. “On occasion it is perhaps best to say nothing. This is such a time and place.”
Jack sags and stares at his feet as Hunter passes him.

“Now, Jack,” says Salabon, “I have use of you, and of you, Beoraborn. There are forges and furnaces, and any number of metals. Can you fashion for me some sort of harness that will hold Eldacar’s head in place while his bones heal? It has to be a perfect fit.”
“That we can do,” says Beoraborn, and nudges Jack. “You’re good with numbers, wee one, measure him.”
Jack almost evacuates his bowels as he is forced to lean close to Eldacar’s broken form, and measure his cracked head in detail, all the while Salabon is meticulously ministering care. All Jack can see is his own greed staring back at him: This is his doing. Eldacar would not be all but dead if he weren’t so greedy and corrupt. It should have been him that lies here, not Eldacar. He stifles a sob, and feels tears on his nose, but he bends his back to the task.

“Now,” says Salabon. “There is one piece of his skull that is pulverized; it will not heal, not even with elexirs. I have performed this exercise before, replacing a piece of fractured skull with a coin beat into the proper shape. But I do not know if I dare, I know not if it would work on an Elf!”
“They’re sensitive to iron, is what I’ve always heard,” says Beoraborn.
“That is my fear. I know not if it is but myth and old wives’ tales, but I dare not take the risk,” he laments. “If I only had some more potent material, a piece of legendary mithril, for example!”
Both Salabon and Beoraborn look in amazement at two pieces of mithril clanging to the floor before them. They are no less astonished when they look up at Jack Fleetfoot with an anguished grimace. “Use them well,” says he.
“Beoraborn, can you work these? They are not ordinary metal.”
The Beijibar grins. “With these works? These works were built to work mithril.”

They then return to the prison chamber. Gently Jack picks up the mask the ancient Elf was trapped in. It will be perfect. Hours, they toil, Beoraborn the smith working the metal, Jack jury-rigging, fine-tuning, perfecting, to create a brace that will hold Eldacar’s head.

In the mean time, Hunter has returned with a large, ornate urn filled with sweet-smelling, silvery moss. Salabon uses some fine crafting tools Beoraborn has found to trepan Eldacar’s skull. Removing the splintered and destroyed pieces of skull, he subsequently places the sliver-thin pieces of Mithril over the exposed parts. Feredir, who is made to hold the Elf’s head, is green and struggling, but he holds fast. Then Salabon gently lays the folds of skin back over the wounds, and stitches his finest needlework ever, closing the Elven head. “Now,” says he, “the pieces of skull lie precariously in place, but they must mend ere he will be dead within long. This is why we need the brace, to hold the pieces in place. No mortal would be up to the task, especially if we did not have these wonderful healing mosses! A few fragments of this gently coerced between his lips, and his bones will begin to mend, and only two hours will it take to rescue him from Death’s door. But beware! He will not be well for mayhaps months, and I will not guarantee that he will ever be himself, bruised and bashed about his brains having been. We must take care that his ribs are also in alignment, ere they, too will suffer and knit falsely, for this outstanding moss will remedy all his broken bones.” They follow Salabon’s instructions to the letter, and over the next few hours it is as if they can see the skull and ribs start to reset themselves: indeed, Eldacar’s very pallor shifts into something more recognizable, but still he does not stir. But one thing is clear: Their companion is saved – for now.

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