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  1. #1

    Total Immersion: The Long Road to Esteldín

    Greetings! When I first began playing Lotro (which was my very first mmo to have played), I selected Crickhollow as my server, mostly due to that I new little of the game and the servers themselves. Over the past three years, I have played on Crickhollow, and enjoyed some very good times, met some wonderful people, and even started my very own kinship, Durin's Folk.

    My greatest enjoyment was the creation and writing of my Total Immersion stories which turned into a labour of love. The stories were well-received over on Crickhollow and was met with wonderful support and some very loyal readers during my adventures. Here are links to the first two Total Immersion stories over on Crickhollow:

    Total-Immersion: The Quest for Moria

    Total-Immersion:The Road Goes Ever On -A Hobbit's Tale

    However, after my third year, I have decided to try a hand at a rp-encouraged server for the first time, and thus I choose Landroval! Of course, the first thing I wished to do is to develop the idea and plot for a new Total Immersion story, a dwarf Minstrel named Brimbur. And thus The Long Road to Esteldín was born...

    For those who are unfamiliar with my Total Immersion stories, following is a list of the rules I adhere to while playing my toon. They are very strict and are intended to fully role play my character during the adventure set before him or her.


    1. Travel: I will only travel on foot or by regular mounts and absolutely no swift travel horses or map recall use. This can be waived when conducting toon upkeep, such as visiting a settlement to level. Except when in a quest, lair, dungeon, combat, etc, I will walk everywhere - I will allow myself to run for short periods of time, however, such as trying to run away from an enemy.

    2. Chat / Speech: I will always stay in rp character at all times during Chat. I will chat in OOC when it is necessary however, since there are times I might want to talk to someone out of game.

    3. Food and Rest: I will follow the LOTRO day/night cycle closely and force myself to rest at a safe location such as an inn or in a town if such an inn is not available. The day/night cycles are:

    Late Watches

    I must rest during the night cycles of Evening, Midnight, Late Watches and Foredawn each day (or at least camp/rest for four cycles each day/evening). I can hang around an inn, for example, and rp a bit with other players, but no going out into town to shop or craft, etc. This is to simulate my character actually resting. During the rest time I must eat a meal of some kind - Brimbur is not unfond of good food and drink, and so he will try to enjoy a morning breakfast and dinner each day.

    If I am away from a town or settlement, things will become more tricky. I will attempt to find a safe spot to camp for the evening - this means halting my journey and actually sit my toon down for rest.

    4. Promoting Realism: This rule is a catch-all for such things as no jumping off high cliffs, swimming with armour on, jumping around while I am moving, jumping every fence I come across, etc.

    5. Level Restrictions: For reasons that will be explained later, my toon, Brimbur, will be equipped with an XP Disabler - he can only gain xp during quests that will be followed for the story. He cannot gain xp by crafting at any time, unless it is a crafting quest. I will also restrict my defeating of mobs to a minimum - so no going after every mob I see. I will only target mobs that are in my path or ambush me. Additionally, Brimbur cannot advance past the level of 14th during his adventure.

    6. Death and Defeat: Since I love a challenge, I will add in a harsh rule for myself. Brimbur cannot be defeated by any means during the story - should this occur, he will be considered truly dead. To track this, I will periodically post screenshots of the Survival titles as I receive them, beginning with "The Wary", which you gain when reaching level 5 without being defeated in battle. This is followed by the Undefeated (level 10th), the Indomitable (level 14th), the Unscathed (level 17th) and finally with the Undying (level 20th).

    7. Arms and Armour: I will begin Brimbur equipped with gear gained during the Intro portion of the game. After that, he may only equip or use equipment gained via mob drops or gained by the completion of quests. So, he may not craft gear for himself, or purchase gear from a vendor or the Auction House.

    8. My Tale: As always, I will keep a log here on this thread of my travels. I will not partake in any quest that is not detailed in the general story line. This will probably limit my level advancement considerably. For sake of the adventure, I will be using the Shire calendar during the story:

    I should be starting the Total Immersion adventure within a week and hopefully will have the first chapter posted soon after that! as in all my Total Immersion stories, I must rely on the good will and aid of other role players in the game, so if anyone is interested in joining the fun, please sent me a TELL or MAIL in game, or send me forum mail. Cheers!
    Last edited by Brucha; May 11 2013 at 04:04 PM.

  2. #2
    Story Chapter List

    Chapter One: The Decision – 11th Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Two: The Road Leads Onwards – 12 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Three: The Bird and Baby – 13 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Four: Worries from Waymeet – 14 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Five: A Friend Indeed – 15 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Six: The Wolf Den – 15 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Seven: A Stroll Through the Shire – 16 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Eight: The Old Scarred Veteran – 16 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Nine: One Trouble after Another – 17 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Ten: The Maggot Farm – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Eleven: At ‘Em Lads! – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twelve: And a Dwarf Makes Five – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirteen: The Battle of Narrowcleeve, Part One – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Fourteen: The Battle of Narrowcleeve, Part Two – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Fifteen: Bree at Last – 19 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Sixteen: The Prancing Pony – 19 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Seventeen: Turtles for the Soup – 20 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Eighteen: Turtle Hunting – 21 to 22 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Nineteen: Twice the Turtles – 22 to 23 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty: Murder Most Foul – 23 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-one: The Surprise – 23 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-two: A Dwarf-made Blade – 26 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-three: The Culprit – 26 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-four: The Broken Blade – 27 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-five: Unlooked-for Aid – 29 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-six: The Brigands’ Camp – 30 Rethe, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-seven: Burying the Dead – 1 to 2 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-eight: The Mad Boar – 3 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Twenty-nine: Thornley’s Farm – 4 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty: Thornley’s Rescue – 4 to 5 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-one: A Forgetful Dwarf – 5 to 6 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-two: Trestlebridge – 7 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-three: One Thing after Another – 8 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-four: One of the Fair Folk – 9 to 10 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-five: A Dwarven Thief – 11 to 12 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-six: The Greenway – 13 to 14 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-seven: Boar-hunting– 14 to 15 Astron, 3016 TA
    Chapter Thirty-eight: The Long Road to Esteldín – 16 to 18 Astron, 3016 TA
    Last edited by Brucha; Feb 04 2014 at 03:09 PM.

  3. #3

    Chapter One: The Decision– 11th Rethe, 3016 TA

    It was late winter in the high reaches of Ered Luin and the uplands and peaks of the Blue Mountains were lain cloaked in a fresh, unexpected fall of snow. As the days drew longer with every passing sunset and the winds loosened their bitter cutting edge, the first of the melt waters swelled the Lune as it flowed from the mountains and rushed to the sea. Soon, the roads down into the Low Lands would be passable with ease and trade would pick up between the dwarves of Ered Luin and Bree-land or beyond.

    Rúnulf, the proprietor of Thorin’s Hall Inn looked forward to the coming months when his tavern would be filled with thirsty drinkers and the rooms host to weary miners and travelers from far afield. The winter is a lean time for all the folk of Ered Luin, and coin is even harder to come by and even less willingly spent. Yet now, the dwarven miners, craftsmen, and traders were running up hefty slates they hope they will be able to clear in the brisk summer months, and the season of travelling markets was about to begin.

    It was a crisp night, with a rising moon, nearly full, outside the halls that shone a silvery light across the bleak mountains. Within the tavern, visitors were welcomed by a warm and cheerful glow of a roaring fire in the great stone hearth. Here or there about the vast hall were seated dwarves, in singles of pairs mostly; they spoke in low voices, of mining and gold and those things most important to their kind. Others spoke in hushed whispers of rumours of distance places and strange happenings in the world beyond the halls of Ered Luin.

    Nearer the back of the hall were seated three dwarves at a long, low table. One dwarf, his fine leather boots propped atop a smaller stool before him and clad in a tunic of crimson, sat back into his chair and reached for a brimming mug of ale on the table beside him.

    '..and many a year has passed since that fateful day…though the memory of it has never wavered in my thoughts,’ said the dwarf as he stroked his reddish beard with one gloved hand. ‘It was at Erebor, with master Gimli, son of Glóin, of course that I speak of.'

    The other dwarves did not speak but listened intensely to their host’s tale with breathless silence. Somewhere near the bar came a hoarse voice and the crash of mugs and plates. ‘Not again!’ cried out a surly miner as a tray of drinks crashed to the floor. The foppish dwarf turned an irritated face towards the interruption, then back to his listeners with a broad smile.

    ‘We had set out that hoary dawn, to deliver bags of ore to the smithies in the Iron Hills,’ he continued. ‘It was a glorious day, and our hearts were filled with such merriment and laughter. No finer company of kinsmen could I hope to travel with on our errand, a task set forth by master Gimli himself.’

    Suddenly, the dwarf’s blithesome demeanor changed and his face grew grim and hard, his voice dim with gravity. ‘Perhaps it was our joy that brought such a calamity that day, for our pride had not turned our eyes to the unseen dangers that lurk, and still lurk, in the lands about the Lonely Mountain. Indeed, it was not until the sun began to set when the first faintest of howls rent the cold darkening air.'

    The other dwarves looked sidelong at one another with worrisome glances. One reached forward a shaking hand to pick up his half-forgotten mug of ale as the story teller continued his engrossing tale. The other sat hypnotized by the spawning tale, his pipe clenched tightly in his teeth.

    'Without warning, I spied several large and menacing shapes of wargs over a rise or ridges out far from our camp. Master Gimli, bless his stout heart, did not see the beasts at swift as my keen eyes did – and when he did, his face paled at their very sight.' The dwarf turned his gaze towards the glittering fire in the hearth and fell silent for some time. The others looked pleadingly at him to go on; when the dwarf did, he now spoke strong and clear, pride filling his bright eyes.

    'Yet I did not blanch,’ he said finally. ‘But threw myself at them even as the others in our camp fell back in alarm and dismay around master Gimli. With no thought for my safety, I threw myself at the beasts with abandon. My blade rose and fell as I hewed at their foul hides with every stroke. Indeed! Terrible fangs they bore and little did the wargs seem to feel the sting of my blade! Yet I did not relent nor waver!’

    One of the listeners wiped foam from his long beard and shuddered nervously, as if he was standing in the snows of the hills surrounded by wargs himself. The speaker winked a gentle eye at the listener and then continued his tale.

    'Gimli held back with the others of our company, not out of fear, but in sheer awe of my prowess in battle that day! I scattered the wargs with mighty strokes and slew them each in turn until none remained! Great was the praise master Gimli put forth that evening when we sat round the crackling fire to toast my victory! All praised the name of Brimbur after that day I assure you!’

    The dwarves raised their mugs in toast with hearty cheers as the tale drew to an end, Brimbur naturally was his name, took a long draw from his foaming mug and smiled. ‘Ah, yes, a wonderful tale!’ cried one of the dwarves as Brimbur set his mug down and carefully dabbed a napkin to his short beard.

    ‘Thank you, my good kinsman,’ replied Brimbur with a smile and a nod of his head. ‘Erebor has returned to us, and great it has become, but it pales to the kingdom of King Thrór of old. Nothing could match the days of its faded glory! And yet our kin must be ever vigilant of the dangers that still threaten our ancient home there!’

    ‘Yes, that takes me back, it does,’ declared the older dwarf solemnly, his beard long and grey as coal-dust. ‘I remember those days well – alas those days will not come again.’

    Brimbur turned a stern gaze at the speaker, his voice stiff and unbending. ‘Perhaps kinsman, but we shall see!’

    ‘A great help was the force sent by Dáin, but too few, too few…,’ added the other dwarf equally grim as his companion.

    'True, but more are coming from the east,’ said Brimbur steely. ‘It was trouble in Erebor that has brought me hither, and I can only believe that others of our folk will follow in these dark times.'

    ‘Stranger, do you carry news from Bree?’ asked the older dwarf as he pushed a fresh mug towards Brimbur. Brimbur took it and thanked his questioner with a bow of his head. He then cupped his long wooden pipe in both hands, and only his sharp nose could be glimpsed in a sudden puff of smoke.

    ‘Bree?’ he quipped and blew out a beautiful ring of grey smoke over the long table. ‘Nay, I cannot give any such news of that town of Men. Why do you ask?’

    ‘My brother is away working in Bree,’ answered the dwarf. ‘I was on the trade-routes not two months ago. Curse the Dourhands and all who deal with them!’

    'No more true word my good friend! It is time that Lord Dwalin turns his attention to their ilk,’ said Brimbur as he grasped the dwarf by the shoulder and smiled broadly. ‘Dark have the days now turned and dangers seem to lurk everywhere.'

    Brimbur swung his boots from the stool and stood, draining his mug before carefully wiping the froth from his beard. ‘Well, I must be off!’ he said cheerfully. ‘I need to speak with master Kyn in the Maker’s Hall. I know not what this summons is for, but I can only imagine word of my past victories have led before me. Perhaps Lord Dwalin has chosen me to join the ranks of his personal guard!’

    He bowed low before the dwarves seated at the table, smoothed out his fine crimson tunic and strode across the bar. He hailed Rúnulf behind the bar as he passed. ‘Good day to you, master Rúnulf! Fear not, I won’t be neglecting my tab…’ he laid a hand upon his belt and smiled broadly at the proprietor. ‘It is my forgetful mind; I seemed to have left my purse back on my pony in the stables. I shall return for supper though, by dusk no doubt, after my conversation with master Kyn of course!’

    With that, Brimbur tramped past the bar with a wink and out into the rough-hewn corridor leading upwards along an uneven slope. The belated breathing of the miners working the tunnel in the flicking and smoky torchlight did little to slow his passing and soon the tunnel came to an end at the steps of a wide stairway that led up.

    As Brimbur ascended the stairs, a great draught of warmer air splashed across his face; suddenly a vast roof flew far above his head, upheld by many mighty pillars of worked stone. The hall stretched to either side, and many a dwarf were passing by on some urgent errand or important business. Brimbur bowed his head to passing guard as he looked over the hall with unbridled pride.

    This, of course, was the Hall of Kings; it easily humbled even the haughtiest of visitors with its magnificent sight, polished marble floors, and unmatched artistry. For a moment, he gazed upwards to the lofty terraces that towered over the hall below, and then Brimbur made his way across to a wide stairway leading downwards.

    He descended the stairs and into a wide crafting hall; at once the sound of ringing hammers, cries of workers, and the drone of countless dwarven craftsmen dutifully at work here. Brimbur’s eyes watched the various dwarven coming to and fro about the hall, until his gaze stopped upon a lone dwarf standing nearer the stairs. The dwarf’s flaxen hair was pulled back in a long single braid down his back, revealing very bright eyes and a long beard flowing down his broad chest.

    Brimbur snapped his fingers and strode over the dwarf with a brisk pace. He halted before the dwarf and spoke in a proud voice at once. ‘You there! Might you be master Kyn?’ he said swiftly. ‘I am master Brimbur at your service,’ he added quickly with a low bow. ‘I have come because of your summons.’

    The dwarf gazed at the newcomer with curious eyes and then spoke in an authoritative manner. 'I see that you have recently gained access to the Jeweller's Guild, friend. That is a great achievement on the path of crafting. The Guild is a faction that can grant eligible crafters advantages in their trade. In the beginning, you can access better recipes than what you normally find in the world. As you increase in reputation, you gain access to yet more recipes. It is never too early to start building your reputation with the Jeweller's Guild. The leader can be found in Esteldín, the North Downs.'

    Brimbur listened with a warm smile until the dwarf came to pause. Then a strange gaze snuck into Brimbur’s eyes and he glanced about uneasily. ‘Esteldín? The North Downs? Those lands hold a forbidding and fell name to them. Many and terrible are the stories that tell of that land…’

    Kyn did not answer, but looked at the younger kinsman with thoughtful eyes. Brimbur swallowed very loudly and then spoke slowly in a hushed voice. ‘Very well, Esteldín it is…’

    Brimbur stood tall with a straight back, and affected a look of determination and confidence that was only slightly believable. ‘I pray only that not foes come upon me unaware on the long road to reach there. Great will be their fright to face me and my trusted blade! I shall prepare this night for my departure and leave with the first dawning of the new sunrise.’

    With a second, low bow, Brimbur turned and made his way out of the Maker’s Hall; yet he was not so jovial with his return to the Hall of Kings, for many thoughts weighed heavily on his otherwise mirthful mind. He paid little to the hails and greets of passing kinsmen as he stalked across the hall and into his private quarters near the Hall of Merchants.

    Brimbur closed the door slowly behind him and sat at once atop the bed, his shoulders sagging as he let out along, mournful sigh. He then climbed to his feet and walked over to the wardrobe. He first slid the small coat of studded leather over his head and laid it atop a chair. He then sat down on the chair and removed his fine crimson boots of leathers and placed them beside the bed with care.

    Standing up once more, Brimbur swung the doors to the wardrobe open and drew from the inside a finely-polished and well-tended blade and matching scabbard. For a moment, he drew the sword from the scabbard, and it glittered in the torchlight of the small room; strangely the fine weapon showed little sign of use or wears as he slid it back into the sheath and hung onto the back of the chair as well.

    Brimbur then reclined atop the bed, clasping his hands behind his head and gazed up at the ceiling. But sleep did not come to Brimbur for some time and for long minutes he simply laid there in silence.

    When at last he began to nod off to sleep, filled with vague unsettling dreams, of visions of a long uncertain and windswept road through a desolate and unwelcome land. The sinister and ill-boding sounds of unseen and menacing creatures wafted from the dark trees along the road. He was sure that the unseen beasts would surely burst from the trees at any moment. He began to sweat profusely and his hand shook as darkness overtook him and slid into a troubling sleep.
    Last edited by Brucha; May 18 2013 at 11:11 AM.

  4. #4
    And so the adventure begins!

    A couple of things to add to help out readers and those players who might wish to join me in the adventure. I always role play with npc's during the game - the rp with the dwarves from the tavern are verbatim bits of things they say when clicked on or may randomly say. I always try to use such banter to flesh out the story, as well as giving me an opportunity to role play even when there are not other players around to do so.

    Likewise, I always rp with when accepting or finishing quests - I do the same with vendors, guards at the gate, passersby in street or halls, etc. I try to treat all npcs/hostile mobs who I pass or must interact with as being no different than players I wish to role play with. It generally lends an air to the believability for myself while I play the game.

    Second, I did not start or complete any quests after leaving/completing the Intro of the game. The reasons for this will be explained later in the story should Brimbur prove successful in his journey.

    So the next part will be the long journey from Ered Luin to The Shire! Please, should any players wish to lend some aid in the long road set out before me, you only have to contact me through the forums or in-game!

  5. #5
    With how much I've enjoyed reading and being a part of your TI stories on Crickhollow, I'm excited to see how being on an RP server affects the interactions you have with other players. This should be great!

    The Éored of the West-Mark ~ Lore-accurate Rohirric Kinship on Landroval

  6. #6

    Chapter Two: The Road Leads Onwards – 12 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur had awoken early the next day and yet, as the morning drew on, he made little effort to prepare for the long journey that waited before him. For some time, he simply sat in his bed, his arms tucked behind his head, and listened to the distance, muffled sounds of the halls outside his room.

    After a time, Brimbur climbed from his bed, only to take a seat at the small table near the door. There he laid out his fine leather tunic and, with deft hands, gently cleaned the garb. When he was finished, Brimbur held up the leather to the flickering torchlight with admiring eyes before donning the tunic. He reached for his crimson boots and slid them onto his feet, then stood and clasped his wide belt round his waist.

    The dwarf strode to the closed door and flung it open; for a moment, he turned his head to the left then right and then barked at a passing runner in the hallway. Brimbur closed the door and turned to the small hearth to throw some fresh logs onto the bright fire. He gazed at the fire until he was certain it was blazing comfortably and only then did he return to sit at the table with a joyous whistle.

    Presently, the runner came bustling into the room, carrying a tray full of plates and mugs. With swift hands, a handsome meal was laid out atop the table. There was a fresh loaf of bread, some wrinkled apples, plenty of butter, some cold meats and cooked bacon, and even a hearty portion of cheese. The dwarf enjoyed a nice, slow breakfast and pushed his chair back from the table only when the last plate was bare of scraps or crumbs and the rest was carefully wrapped in cloth and stored in a small bag.

    It was when noon was fast approaching did Brimbur’s thoughts finally turn to his departure. His enthusiasm was fresh and bold the evening before, but it did not last the night and was altogether gone by the dawn. Now the task ahead seemed more a burdensome distraction than a fine adventure or a test of his famous prowess in battle. He opened the wardrobe and took out his sheathed sword and clasped it to his belt. He then took down a beautiful lute, lovingly wrapped in soft leather and strapped it across his back. The dwarf turned to a small mirror hung on the inside of the door, his face reflecting back at him with a mirthful smile. He turned his head and smoothed his beard with one hand and, finally, Brimbur reached for his small pack, placed the foodstuffs inside and hefted it onto his shoulders.

    The winds were cold and brisk as Brimbur stepped from the halls; although winter was now getting far on, the snows still fell heavily in the highlands, the mountain peaks still wrapped in blankets of white, and the boughs of the trees were still bare and shivered in the chilled air. He glanced up to gaze at the mountains that towered grim and snow-capped above the halls.

    Hitching his pack higher atop his shoulders, Brimbur strode from the doors and down the long flight of stairs leading down into Frerin’s Court. He winked at the proud statue of a dwarf (in fact, it was in the likeness of Frerin, the brother of Thorin Oakenshield) in the court’s center and bowed his head to a passing guard before reaching the point where the road ahead began to tumble downwards towards the lower gates.

    Brimbur hailed the guards in a clear voice as he approached the lower gates. 'Greetings my fine kinsmen. No time for idle chat this day, I am afraid. I have a long journey waiting before me and I cannot dawdle with mindless chat!'

    Without waiting for a response, Brimbur smiled at the dour-looking dwarves and passed through the gate. On the far side, he paused to draw his cloak tight about himself and took in a deep breath of cold mountain air. He then exhales a hoary breath with a sigh.

    ‘Ah, this snowy winter reminds me of the treacherous journey across the Misty Mountains with Lord Gloin...’ he said as he began to make his way down the road with a joyous tune at his lips.

    The land he now passed into was called the Vale of Thrain by the dwarves; through its narrow winding vale ran the main road from the eastern lowlands of Ered Luin and beyond. More than once since arriving at Thorin’s Hall, Brimbur heard tales from many of his kinsmen of bears, wild lynx and wolves that now plagued and worried the dwarves there. More dark and sinister were tales and dire whispers that goblins had slowly and insidiously creep in from the south.

    As the road descended further to the east, the occasional snow-dusted pine tree sprung from the frozen earth here or there beside the road. But soon, the scattered trees grew to stands of thicker woods. More than once, the dwarf’s sharp ears perked up to the sound of distance and unseen birds in the trees. More discomforting was the strange sounds of things moving about in the trees, and the crunch of steps in the snow all about. Brimbur’s eyes darted back and forth as he went and he quickened his pace until at last their calls fell away silent behind him.

    Brimbur muttered quietly as he plodded along in the welcomed silence down the road. 'Hrmph! You young fool, you've grown soft in your days at Thorin's Hall!’ He threw a hasty glance over his shoulder, as if in fear that some lurking unseen foe had overheard his complaining. ‘More like a stripling than a warrior such as yourself - too much food and wine I am afraid!'

    Noon was fast slipping by and the afternoon growing ever long when Brimbur’s bright eyes spied a small but forbidding fortress of stone atop a nearby hillock ahead, shrouded in the shadows of the towering peaks of the vale. This was Noglond; long ago, it was a place of the Elves in the days of Edhelion, but it had fallen into ruin in the long forgotten years after destruction of the refuge. The dwarf-exiles of the Lonely Mountain had rebuilt it and took it for their own; now, in these evil days, the guards of Noglond were ever-vigilant against the return of the treacherous Dourhands and goblins that now threatened ruin and war to their ancient foes.

    For a moment, Brimbur halted to gaze at the ancient fortress; but the passing sun was crossing the sky to the west. He bid farewell to Noglond with a wave of his hand and pushed further down the road with reluctance. The afternoon continued on cold and lonely for the dwarf and it was not long until his high spirits began to falter. His march had become very weary and quiet, and the felling of alarm and dread slowly crept back into his thoughts.

    Beyond Noglond, a stream turned from the south and began to run alongside the road; it flowed strong and swift as it went east, and the waters gleamed cold and clear as it ran. There was little sound for some time, other than the gurgling water, mingled with the harsh croak of birds in the air. More than once, Brimbur shuddered with uncertain glances about and tried not to thing to heavily about it.

    The dwarf now began to approach a narrowing in the vale, where the steep walls closed in on both sides. There stood an ancient wall of stone that spanned the narrow; the road led up and through an arch in the wall and into the land beyond. On the other side, narrowing opened wider and Brimbur grew at once apprehensive as dark trees began to crowd the edges of the road on both sides. The dwarf glanced about with nervous anticipation at the strange sounds emanating from under their deepening shadows.

    ‘Trees!’ he said with much dislike. ‘Never been one for the liking of trees!’

    But, much to his great delight, the rushing, bubbling waters suddenly swung round to the south and disappeared into the trees in a cloud of hoary vapour. The trees too sprang back from the road, though they stood very thick and worrisome to the north. Suddenly, Brimbur’s eyes brightened as a magnificent sight came into view ahead. There, atop a lofty hill could be seen the towering walls and spires of a magnificent fortress.

    This was the ancient stone fortress of Gondamon, the “Hill of Stone”; many ages ago, as Noglond, it was abandoned when the Elves of Edhelion fled to Duillond after the Dourhands’ treacherous war. Like Noglond, Gondamon was reclaimed by the dwarf-exiles from Erebor, under the leadership of Thráin and his son, Thorin, after the War of the Dwarves and Orcs.

    Brimbur turned at the crossroads, along a narrower road and up a steep slope that led towards the gate of the old fortress. Standing in the shadows of the gate were two dwarven guards; they watched Brimbur climb the long hill, their swords, held openly in their hands, gleaming in the sunlight and their eyes were dark, deep and wary.

    Brimbur halted to bow very low and proper before the guards. ‘Well met my good kinsmen! I am Brimbur, of Thorin’s Hall,’ he said with a loud voice and glanced up with admiration at the fortress. ‘What a fine fortress, and a befitting name it is…Hill of Stone as so named by the Elves! But why such arming at the gates? Has war come unlooked for to the lofty walls of Gondamon?’

    The guards looked at one another and lowered their swords, satisfied the stranger was not some loathsome and devious Dourhand or ruffian from the wilds. ‘Some of the mightiest warriors in Thorin's Hall are posted here to stop the goblin threat from the south,’ said one of the guards proudly and stiffly.

    ‘Alas!’ cried Brimbur. ‘The goblin threat has grown much since I first arrived here; perhaps we should turn our attention soon to dealing with their foul stench in our mountains!’

    ‘A few of the guards here were even in the Battle of Five Armies,’ added the other guard.

    ‘Truly?’ exclaimed Brimbur. ‘I myself travelled over the Misty Mountains on my way here with Gimli, son of Glóin. A fine kinsman he is! He was witness to my battle with terrible wargs in the Iron Hills, to which I was given Gimli’s most treasured praise! But that is a tale for another day, I think.’

    Brimbur looked up at the sun as it made its way further west and dusk slowly marched ever closer. ‘Well, I cannot tarry longer, I am afraid,’ he said with a long sigh. ‘I can only stay long enough to enjoy a brief meal and respite from the road before continuing further!’

    The guards motioned Brimbur through the wide gate and he stepped forward with a smile and nod of his head. Beyond lay a wide courtyard, surrounded by tall walls on all sides from where guards paced unceasingly, and the open space shone with many flickering torches.

    To one side of the courtyard stood a small stable for horses and upon the other was a collection of open forges, bellows, ovens and workbenches. All about the courtyard were many steps and ladders that led up to the walls and terraces of the fortress. The open space was filled with the sounds of many voices, mingled with the constant clanking of hammers, hiss of forges and the toiling of many craftsmen, and the courtyard was thronged with many hurrying feet.

    Brimbur looked about with a cheerful laugh and then found a relatively quiet spot near the gates. There he slid his pack to the ground, carefully laid his lute beside it, and then sat down. From his pack, he drew out a wrapped loaf of bread, several apples, a flask of ale, and some strips of bacon. He began his meager meal, watching the constant comings and goings in the courtyard. Only when the last piece of bread was finished, and he had drained the flask of the last drop of ale, did Brimbur begin to stir. He stood up and strode over to a fountain to wash his hands vigourously in the cold water, splashing some onto his face with a sputter.

    The afternoon was getting far on, and the winds more chilled and cold with the fast approaching dusk when Brimbur said farewell to the guards at the gate. He made his way back to the road and, with one last look at the fortress towering high above, he began to march down the road once again.

    As Gondamon slowly fell from view to the west Brimbur could see a change in the lands he now passed through. He had reached the easternmost skirts of the mountains and now the peaks rose snowy and silent over his shoulder behind him. Here the air was less cold and the earth less snow-covered than before. Upon both sides rose low hills and stands of dark pines that swayed in the wind.

    Brimbur had marched for an hour or more when the sound of a harsh croak reached his ears. He froze and glanced about nervously until he spied a dark shape in the boughs of a tall pine tree beside the road. It seemed a kind of eagle of large size, but sinister and dark of colour it was, and a gleam of evil intend shone in its eyes.

    With a croaking cry, the bird sprang from the branch, wheeling and circling above the boughs of the tress and suddenly flew straight at him, its talons spread sharp and menacing beneath it. Brimbur took a hasty step back, then turned and fled down the road, with the evil bird right behind him. The dwarf’s heart began to beat heavy in his chest as he desperately ran, and a fevered shake spread into his legs. His breath came in great gasps of hot air as the bird cried out wickedly and baleful behind him.

    Just when he thought his poor legs could not run another step, the bird cried out a mournful croak and gave up its pursuit. Yet Brimbur did not halt his flight, not until the last croak of the bird faded away and he had run until his legs had nearly given out. The dwarf collapsed to the ground, his shoulders sagging and he took in great gasps of air. He laid there for quite some time, unmoving until he at last lifted his head to look back down the road where the evil bird had returned to. When he was confident that the bird was not returning, Brimbur climbed to his feet, and brushed the dirt from his cloak and tunic with both hands.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Cala_Romello View Post
    With how much I've enjoyed reading and being a part of your TI stories on Crickhollow, I'm excited to see how being on an RP server affects the interactions you have with other players. This should be great!
    Thanks my old friend! And I am very happy to see that you have also created a couple of toons on this server as well!

    Well Brimbur has crossed through Ered Luin, with only one small mishap - to his credit, the hendroval was red-coloured, so it was 5 levels higher than Brimbur. It certainly was not a matter of fear or apprehension for the young dwarf!

    I also have not the chance yet to rp with others in the game - I hope this will change when Brimbur crosses over into the Shire!

  8. #8
    I haven't had the pleasure of reading your other Total Immersion stories yet, but this is great stuff! Feel free to RP with any of my characters if we ever run into each other in-game.
    [center]LANDROVAL: Anarwald, Hunter - Rank 7 ~ Dwinobald, Burglar - Rank 7
    [color=red]Anoarnakh - Rank 7 - Pouncing Pwny[/color]
    (Retired -- currently playing Real Life)[/center]

  9. #9

    Chapter Three: The Bird and Baby – 13 Rethe, 3016 TA

    The Bird and Baby was a lovely and lively inn in Michel Delving, known through the Delving Fields, and perhaps all of the Shire, for its wonderful food and drink. As with the likings of the Shire folk, the inn was of proper hobbit-fashion; one floor only, and build directly into the side of a hill, as hobbits usually preferred, with round, deep-set windows that looked out onto the inn’s front yard. A beautiful round front door opened onto a nice foyer where there were a great many pegs for the frequent guests to the inn to hang their hats and coats.

    Beyond the foyer was a long hall, very comfortable and nicely decorated with a low, paneled ceiling and carpeted wooden floors. Cozy chairs and tables, were placed about the room, with luxurious high-backed chairs seated round the hearth. Soft light flickered from many candles placed about the room, and the hearth was generously and constantly looked after to keep the crackling fire blazing long into the night.

    The Bird and Baby was located in the village of Michel Delving, the chief township of the Shire. It was known for being the seat of the Mayor of the Shire, and was home to the few offices of the Mayor and of the Bounders. In fact, Michel Delving had been the chief village in the Shire for hundreds of years, embracing the Great East Road as wound westwards from the Bree-lands and towards Ered Luin. Naturally, the village saw their share of strangers and queer folk coming and going; however, with the Downs Gate now kept safely and securely shut, the Shire folk seemed to have forgotten all about the outside world and now spent a great deal of their time gossiping and planning for the next breakfast, or remembering the one they just ate.

    On this night, the Bird and baby has a fair number of guests; various local hobbits were seated about the common room, each one enjoying a nice meal or a drink or two of Mister Blagrove’s fine beer and ale. The talk was polite and quiet, as hobbits tend to be, and a general feeling on contentment filled the room. Outside, the shadows had begun to grow very long and thin on the grass and the sun had gone down red behind the hills to the west as evening fast approached.

    Suddenly, the round front door was flung open and all eyes turned to the sound. A hearty laugh could be heard just outside the open doorway and just then a dwarf, clad in a fine tunic of crimson leather, and equally coloured leather boots, stepped across the threshold. At once, the very sight of a dwarf standing there in the foyer brought instant and stunned silence from the hobbits.

    Yet the dwarf did not seem discomforted by the uncomfortable welcome; instead he looked over the room with a bemused stare and tugged at his short, reddish beard. With another bellowing laugh, he turned to hang his pack on a peg and set his lute carefully on the floor below it. The dwarf stepped back to gaze as his belongings, then strode over to the bar with a confident and cheerful whistle.

    Looking about the shocked and dumbfounded hobbits, the dwarf leapt onto a low stool at the bar, carefully removed his crimson gloves and tucked them into his belt round his waist. Beside the dwarf sat a grey-haired hobbit, who tried his best to stare directly down into his mug and pretend that the new arrival was not truly there.

    ‘Well met, my fine hobbit master!’ said the dwarf with a twinkle in his bright eyes. ‘I am Brimbur, of Ered Luin, at your most excellent service!’

    The hobbit peered deep into his mug with further intensity and a strange gurgling sounds rose in his throat. Brimbur cocked his bearded face near one shoulder and gazed at the flustered hobbit with concern, and then glanced down at the hobbit’s foaming hug held tightly in both little hands.

    ‘A fine drink this little tavern has, if the tales my kinsmen have told me! The finest in the Shire, or so they say…’

    The hobbit avoided the deep stares of the dwarf, and instead glanced about with earnest pleas for help from the other hobbits. But they only turned their attention even more closely to their friend of drink, and the proprietor suddenly whisked away down to the pantry as if goblins were nipping at his furry feet. The hobbit let out a long, painful sigh as the dwarf slapped his shoulder with a friendly chuckle.

    ‘Do not fear, my small friend! I am of Durin’s Folk, not some foul Dourhand from out the wilds!’ Brimbur looked down at the small pouch hung on his belt and patted it softly. ‘Alas, I have little coin with me this day, I am afraid. A result, of course, of an ambush by dreadful goblins in the Low lands of the Blue Mountains. Ah, it was a harrowing journey, even for a stout warrior such as myself. All manner of beast and foe lurked behind every rock and tree, and the foul things harried my every step!’

    The hobbit said nothing but slowly nodded his head and then took a hasty sip of his beer in silence. Brimbur turned his head round the room, and the other hobbits quickly turned theirs to their drink or in the other direction of the hall. The hobbit seated beside the dwarf suddenly shifted to stand up, but Brimbur grasped his shoulder and sat him back down.

    ‘So tell me, little master,’ he said. ‘What pressing news might you pass to me, a footsore traveler passing through your wonderful homeland?’

    The hobbit swallowed very hard and his shoulders sagged in resolved defeat. ‘Some fools want to curb the number of dwarves allowed through the Shire,’ he said unwillingly and barely above a whisper. For the briefest of moments, the hobbit seemed almost pleading that were the case, right now and right then.

    ‘Indeed?’ asked Brimbur as he looked at the hobbit’s mug once again and licked his lips. ‘That would truly be a most unsettling thing, my friend! We dwarves are master craftsmen and our work is highly prized; one would be foolish to not accept such grand workmanship of the highest quality!’

    The hobbit did not answer, but nodded politely and turned slightly away from the dwarf. For a moment, Brimbur looked at him and then leapt from the stool. ‘Well, master hobbit, I require a bit of supper and then I must be off! The journey from the Blue Mountains was long and the dangers I faced now has me ravenous. Perhaps we may chat once more upon my next visit, should fate allow me that pleasure!’

    And with that, Brimbur turned to stroll down the long bar in search of the innkeeper. He halted and leaned across the bar just in case the proprietor was perhaps washing the floors, as any good innkeeper would do, and then glanced about with uncertainly. It was at that moment when the proprietor appeared round from the kitchen, carrying a stack of clean mugs laden atop a round tray. The hobbit, upon spotting the dwarf smiling wide at him, stopped right in his tracks, nearly tipping the entire tray of mugs onto the floor.

    ‘Good day, little master!’ said the dwarf with a broad smile and nod of his head. ‘A fine establishment you have here! It is highly regarded in my beloved halls in the Blue Mountains.’

    ‘Welcome to the Bird and Baby,’ answered the hobbit nervously but politely as he set down the tray. ‘How can I help you?’ he added with as much kindness as he could muster.

    ‘Ah, yes. I would be wanting a meal, I think, and then lodging for one for the evening. And make the food your best, nothing of the sort like cram,’ he said with a grimace at the very thought of cram. ‘Good and proper Shire food is what I wish for!’ The dwarf turned and pointed to an empty table near the far wall. ‘Just bring it over there, my good chap!’

    The hobbit nodded and scampered off back into the kitchen. Brimbur turned back to the wide room, smiled at the still-silence throng of hobbits, and then strode over to his new-found table to sit down. He was not waiting long when the innkeeper returned, carrying a tray of food over. As swiftly as he could, the hobbit placed an assortment of plates and mugs down and then looked at the dwarf in silence.

    Brimbur reached for a piece of bacon and took it in a single bite. The hobbit shifted a bit on his feet and cleared his throat; Brimbur looked up as if he had forgotten entirely about the innkeeper. ‘Hmm, oh yes, of course! Where are my manners….I seem to have spent far more than I had anticipated on my long journey here…let me see…oh yes, can I interest you in some fine Ered Luin salves? Only the best for those cold Shire nights when a sniffle comes around!’

    The innkeeper said nothing but only shook his head slowly. Brimbur frowned and the lifted his purse to glance inside with guarded hands. For a moment he poked a finger round the coins that jingled inside then he laughed aloud. ‘No matter my good hobbit!’ he said as he slid a few silver coins across the table. ‘Here you are!’

    The hobbit nodded stiffly and went away as quickly as he had arrived. Brimbur sighed aloud and looked over the overflowing table with delight and relish. There was beer in plenty (much to his jubilation), and a mighty dish of fresh mushrooms, and bacon (of course), besides much other pleasant and solid Shire fare.

    Brimbur munched contentedly and in silence until the last plate was cleared and the remained mug of beer drained. Only then did he push the plates away with a heavy hand and reached for his pipe. With a grey smoke curling from his pipe, the dwarf stood up with a satisfied groan then fetched his pack and lute from the foyer before returning to the bar. The innkeeper sighed long as Brimbur approached and put down his rag onto the bar, not entirely sure what the strange dwarf need now.

    ‘All that is left is for you to show me to my room, my good fellow! I am weary from my long journey and now my belly is content and full!’ Brimbur turned to walk along the bar, the stopped to call over his shoulder ‘Oh, and one last thing…I shall be departing at dawn so if you could have a meal or two prepared and put into a bag, I would forever in your debt!’ He fell silent for a moment.

    ‘Let’s see…I would very much like a couple of apples. Not the sour ones, mind you, but some sweet, juicy ones. And perhaps a loaf of bread, yes bread it is, and some bacon too! Oh, and maybe a hunk of cheese if you would be so kind! Just wrap it all up in some cloth, no good to have your lovely food spoil before I get the chance to enjoy it!’

    The innkeeper nodded politely, almost relieved that the dwarf would be out of sight, even until the morning; more so that he would be departing at first light. The hobbit undid his apron and set it on the bar, then led the dwarf a short way down a narrow hallway towards the back of the inn, and opened a small round door. Inside was a snug and comfortable little room, with a single round window looking out over the road outside. The dwarf glanced about the room with a keen, expert eye as the hobbit muttered something under his breath and nodded politely once more before turning round and fleeing back to the bar with earnest.

    Brimbur stepped into the room, closing the door loudly behind him, unclasped his cloak and hung it on the peg. He then set down his pack and lute on the floor, removed his sheathed sword and laid it atop a small round table beside the bed. Lastly, he sat down in chair, removed his boots, pushed them under the table and drew his tunic over his head and laid out on the bed.

    It was some time before the dwarf had lovingly cleaned and smoothed his clothes and cloak and boots with careful attention; at last as the sounds in the common room were but a whisper, he climbed into bed. Yet Brimbur could not sleep for some time; his stomach was entirely too full from the fine dinner, and his legs ached from the journey that day. Naturally, he was very glad to be returning to his long journey in the morning, but he was feeling a bit homesick, and found his missed the welcoming sounds of the dwarven halls.

    At last, he fell asleep, dreaming a wonderful dream of his triumphant return to Ered Luin and Thorin’s Hall. What glorious tales he would have to tell his kinsmen back in the halls, and how proud and envious would they be once he was made a member of the crafting guild…

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by dniv14 View Post
    I haven't had the pleasure of reading your other Total Immersion stories yet, but this is great stuff! Feel free to RP with any of my characters if we ever run into each other in-game.
    Ah, thank you ever so much for the kind words, dniv14! I am glad you are enjoying the tale! And I would welcome any offers of help in-game so feel free to contact me.

    Well, Brimbur has arrived in the Shire at last - now he is about to set out on his very first quest of the story. The trip from Ered Luin has been so far without any chance meeting with other players, but that soon changes! A task will be set before the dwarf, to take care of a small, worrisome problem; and much to Brimbur's delight, another hero steps forward to lend the steadfast dwarf a helping hand...

    Ah, and here is the first of Brimbur's Survival titles:

    Let us hope nothing unforetold to this dwarf - as always, a single defeat in battle with my Total Immersion rules with represent a death, and so the tale will end and Brimbur will be no more!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    This is very cool. I've been following since a friend of mine, who recently came from Crickhollow as well, drew attention to it.

    I do have a question, however.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    7. Arms and Armour: I will begin Brimbur equipped with gear gained during the Intro portion of the game. After that, he may only equip or use equipment gained via mob drops or gained by the completion of quests. So, he may not craft gear for himself, or purchase gear from a vendor or the Auction House.
    What about if a RP player, who is a craftsman in-game, offers to sell you something and you can afford it? If it is not already made (like, say, a custom made weapon), would you wait out a whole month to let such a weapon be 'forged'?

    Another question- being defeated is death, which is understandable. How do you determine if you are wounded? How do you determine how serious the wounds are? If a cut or puncture of some sort, how do you determine if you avoided infection? (my main is a RP healer, so I am always thinking of such things in stories).

    RIP ELENDILMIR • Jingle Jangle
    : LAERLIN (Bio + Drawings) • LAERWEN • OLORIEL • AETHELIND (Bio + Drawing) • NETHAEL

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Laire View Post
    I do have a question, however.

    What about if a RP player, who is a craftsman in-game, offers to sell you something and you can afford it? If it is not already made (like, say, a custom made weapon), would you wait out a whole month to let such a weapon be 'forged'?
    That is acceptable actually, I only wish to restrict myself from gaining new equipment from my own crafting or buying it from the AH. I would naturally have to rp the transaction would certainly have to 'wait' for the time to craft the item

    Quote Originally Posted by Laire View Post
    Another question- being defeated is death, which is understandable. How do you determine if you are wounded? How do you determine how serious the wounds are? If a cut or puncture of some sort, how do you determine if you avoided infection? (my main is a RP healer, so I am always thinking of such things in stories).
    As far as wounds, I do rp all wound effects suffered - so if I suffered a wound effect that causes bleeding I would have to stop to bind the wound. Or say I suffer a maimed limb, I would have to pause to tend to it; until it disappears, I would have to rp limping around (if it were a leg wound) or not use my arm (if it were an arm wound). Of course, poison and disease has to be rped as well. Basically, what I usually do is rp tending the wound effect and then wait until the effect disappears.

    One another note, someone asked me if I write down everything that i do to use for the stories. I do three things - first, I chat log the entire tie, and use that to be able to use all the rp chat done, as well as info for describing combat, wound effects, etc. Second, I write down hastily scribbled notes to what is happening. And finally, I take screenshot, both to post in a chapter and to use as writing material - for instance, what does the sky look like, etc.

    So effectively, the events of each chapter is verbatim what happens in the game. The only things added are the colorful descriptions of the action
    Last edited by Brucha; May 22 2013 at 02:52 PM.

  13. #13

    Chapter Four: Worries from Waymeet– 14 Rethe, 3016 TA

    With his pack and lute across his back, Brimbur made his way down the lane from the inn, along wooden fences and stone walls that ran to one side or the other. He smiled or bowed his head more than once to passing hobbits along the way, and each turned their heads down or to one side to peruse a flower or sprouting bush to avoid the strange dwarf’s gaze altogether.

    It was a fine morning to be sure; the sky, filled with billowy white clouds, shone bright blue and warm sunshine fell all about. Birmbur sniffed the gentle air and carefully wiped the damp from his brow with a handkerchief as the air warmed ever on. He had made his way round the mayoral offices atop a low hill, and towards the Great East Road when he suddenly halted and turned to glimpse a hobbit up the hill along a narrow lane.

    Brimbur watched with growing interest as the rosy-cheeked and orange-haired hobbit girl turned a letter over and over her tight-fisted hands. She sobbed briefly but quietly, a look of distress washing over her fair-coloured round face. Brimbur glanced down the main road, then shouldered his pack tighter on his shoulder and strode up the lane towards the young hobbit miss.

    ‘Hail and well met!’ he said proudly and bowed low. ‘I am Brimbur, at your illustriously service. I could not help but take notice that you seem discomforted for some inexplicable reason. Whatever is the matter?’

    'I've received a most distressing letter!’ began the young hobbit between frightful sobs. ‘My good friend Dora -- she's a chicken farmer near Waymeet -- has written to say that a pack of wolves has invaded the Shire and driven her from her farm! She's staying in Waymeet for the time being, but the sooner she can get her farm back, the better!’

    ‘Now, now young lass,’ said Brimbur softly and comfortingly. ‘I am sure the Bounders will look after your dear friend!’

    'Can you help?’ answered the hobbit with pleading, tear-filled eyes. ‘Just take the north-east road right to the centre of Waymeet. You just tell Dora Brownlock that I've sent you to help with her wolf problem.’

    Brimbur took a sudden and hasty step back, and then glanced about, his lower lip twitching ever so slightly. ‘Me? Help with some wolves?’ He then stiffened his back and stood straight up.

    'I would be gladdened to lend my sword to you Peony Grubb!’ the dwarf declared with an uncertain voice that was overlooked by the tearful young hobbit. ‘I am, or rather was, a loyal and steadfast companion of none other than master Gimli! My sword is yours and woe to these wolves that would bring tears of fear and not joy to your eyes!’

    'Dora Brownlock is a good friend of mine,’ said Peony as she dabbed the tears from her eyes and looked at the dwarf with some hope. ‘So you'd best hurry to Waymeet. Wolves! I can hardly believe it! In this day and age!'

    'I will go seek this Dora straight away,’ answered the dwarf as he patted the hobbit on her head. ‘And do not fear, these wolves will be nothing more than a distance memory for you.'

    Brimbur smiled an encouraging smile and spun round to walk back down the lane. Once on the road again, he turned back to the frightful hobbit with a wave and a gentle grin. When he had gone a few paces further, and out of sight of poor Peony, the dwarf suddenly shook his head in disbelief and muttered a low whisper.

    ‘Well, you’ve gone and done it! Wolf hunter indeed! What were you thinking? These Shire folk have their Benders…Banderers…Bounders , or whatever they call themselves…let them handle this unfortunate business!’

    The dwarf was still cursing softly as he began to wind gently up and out of the wide vale to the east; soon Michel Delving was lost from sight as the road at once began to quickly roll away down at the top of the slope. It was not long when the tiny village of Waymeet came into view ahead.

    Spread out on all sides of the road was an odd assortment of wagons and camps, carts and cooking fires, gardens and open-air tables. To the dwarf’s eyes, it certainly did not appear to be a village, rather than a campsite of vagabonds, and it definitely did not seem to be very hobbit-like to Brimbur.

    Brimbur slowly strode down the road, a hand on his pouch as he looked about with distrust and suspicion. He presently spotted a hobbit tending to a small garden beside the road ahead. The dwarf called out with a steady voice and waved one hand into the air.

    'Say, you there! I am looking for Dora Brownlock, is she here?'

    The hobbit paused only long enough to look up at the new arrival and then threw a hand over his shoulder. Brimbur followed the finger-pointed and smiled wide.

    'Ah, over there nearer the fence! Very good my helpful friend!'

    The dwarf nodded his head slightly and quickened his pace along the road as the hobbit returned to his gardening. He did not take more than a dozen paces when he noticed a hobbit standing beside a wooden fence that lined a lane that branched off the road to the north. The young lass seemed worried with fright as she wrung her hands, and her misted eyes were only just visible under the dark hair that framed her worried face. He smoothed out his tunic with both hands, then stomped over to the hobbit with an air of authority and confidence.

    ‘Greetings, young miss, might you be Dora Brownlock?’ he said with a low bow.

    The hobbit stifled back a sob and looked up at the dwarf with a slow nod of her head.

    ‘Very good then! I am Brimbur, at your service,’ he said swiftly with another low bow. ‘I was asked to come seeking you by Peony Grubb, of Michel Delving. I was informed of the wolves that have recently taken root at your farm. I offered the lass my considerable skills in dealing with this matter!’

    'Peony sent you to help me, Brimbur?’ said Dora as she wiped the mist from her eyes. ‘She's a sweet lady, and a good friend! I'm glad to have your help. Yes, the wolves came slavering near to Waymeet recently and seemed to head straight for my farm! It was all I could do to escape to Waymeet without them noticing me!'

    Brimbur gave a look of deep concern and placed a gloved hand upon the hobbit’s shoulder for comfort, the other rose to hide a growing yawn. ‘For that, I must offer my deepest condolences, Dora. But do not fear…I have dealt with their foul kind before. Why, it was in the Iron Hills not long ago, with master Gimli…’

    Brimbur was about to continue his speech when the hobbit quickly (and very rudely, thought the dwarf) interrupted with a hasty string of words.

    'When the wolves chased me off my farm, I didn't have enough time to collect my babies! My poor darlings...what was that? My chickens, of course! If those wolves have gotten hold of them, I just don't know what I'll do!’

    The dwarf’s head spun swiftly round and held a hand cupped to his ear as he blinked once or twice. ‘I am sorry…did say you chickens?’

    Dora nodded her head vigorously and began speaking swiftly as earnest pleas welled up in her eyes. 'You can save them for me, Brimbur, I know you can! Follow the road north up the hill and out of Waymeet, then take the first stone path to your right. You'll see a sign for my farm at the correct crossing.’

    The dwarf looked sidelong at the fussing hobbit for a long moment; he in fact was convinced that Dora’s precious chickens, lovely no doubt they may be, had certainly become a meal for the foul wolves. In fact, he was certain that the wolves, having gobbled up all the chickens on Dora’s, had moved on greener pastures in search for more goodies. Or more likely, he thought, they were not wolves at all, but were probably foxes; what do hobbits know of wolves? Yet he did not speak of this and instead only nodded reluctantly.

    ‘I will do that, Miss Dora. I will find your farm and retrieve your beloved chickens by dusk this very day! I only pray there are truly no wolves there to bar my way…else they shall taste the sting of the blade on their miserable hides!’

    Dora looked up at the dwarf, a twinkle of hope growing in her eyes. 'Quickly! You must save my little darlings!'

    With that, Brimbur tightened his pack round his shoulder and turned to begin marching down the lane that lead up to the north. As Waymeet fell out of sight behind him, Brimbur’s quick eyes scanned the road further ahead for any sign of Dora’s farm.

    ‘Hmm, let me see…’ he began to mutter. ‘First stone path on my right…’

    Yet for some time, the dwarf came onto no such path or lane, but rather he passed what seemed like an endless series of fields, each bordered by low stone walls. He was considering turning round to return to Dora, who certainly must have given him incorrect directions to her own farm, when his eyes spotted something ahead.

    Here he halted, just as the lane began to dip down towards the forbidding Rushock Bogs to the north. A dozen paces or so ahead he spied a narrow stone path that branched from the lane to the east and lead up towards a hobbit farm surrounded by fields.

    ‘There is Dora’s farm! Or I am an Orc’ said the dwarf with a wide grin. ‘Now, about these chickens…’

    He turned from the lane and began following the narrow stone path, his eyes sharp and keen for any sign of the elusive chickens. He had taken perhaps only a few, rapid steps when he caught movement ahead and he froze suddenly with apprehension. A furry head poked up from behind a stone wall that bordered the nearest field; for a moment, Brimbur stared at the head with confusion, then a look of realization crept into his pale face. It was the head of a shaggy, dusk-coloured wolf.

    The dwarf took a hesitant step backwards as his eyes caught sight of not one, but two lean, hungry wolves prowling behind the stone wall. At once, and without a briefest hesitation, Brimbur leapt forward to spring towards a tall tree beside the road. Once there, he threw himself against the far side of the tall tree trunk and shuddered as he covered his mouth with one hand.

    ‘Wolves?’ he muttered nervously. ‘Did they really have to be wolves…’

    For some time, the dwarf did not stir or utter a sound; instead he began wrestling with uncertainty and indecision as the soft patter of the wolves flooded his ears from over in the fields on the other side of the tree. Finally, after some time, he placed a shaky hand onto the hilt of his sword, and then poked his head round the trunk of tree ever so carefully.

    ‘Let’s see…’ he whispered as he began counting the dark wolf-shapes pacing around the farm. ‘One…tw..tw..two…no, no, three…four…, oh my, five…’

    When was certain he had counted all the nasty beasts, Brimbur ducked back behind the tree. Slowly, a plan, of sorts, began to formulate in his mind. However, it was several long and tense minutes before he was ready to set his masterful plan into motion.

    With a worrisome look spread across his face, Brimbur suddenly darted from the tree, sprinting low to the ground and around the very edge of the closest field. Once or twice he would drop to the ground when a wolf raised its snout to sniff the air or to let out a mournful howl before running further. It was only when he made his way round to the east side of the field, and close to the small hobbit smial, did he finally stop.

    In an instant, the dwarf threw himself to the ground, and pulled up the short grass round his face in hopes of hiding him from sight. He wipes his sweaty palms onto the ground and glanced ahead. He sighed with relief when he spotted a small white chicken that was cowering beneath a small wooden shed next to the smial. The small space beneath the shed was far too small for a wolf to crawl under, so the chicken seemed safe for now from the predatory and hungry beasts.

    Brimbur lowered his head into the short grass and took in several deep, long breaths. Then he leapt up and sprang forward on very shaky legs, his eyes watching the wolves over in the field with growing alarm and trepidation. Reaching the shed, the dwarf threw himself up against the back wall, and held his breath.

    When he was certain none of the beasts had spotted him, Brimbur swiftly dropped to the ground onto his stomach and began reaching under the shed for the chicken. The chicken began to cluck with fright as he reached vainly for it, and he bit his tongue in pain as the chicken’s claws dug into a finger. Finally, he was able grab the chicken and dragged it from under the shed.

    He looked hastily about as he stood up, tucked the chicken under one arm and ran back out of the farm to hide among the short grass. There he plopped down on his stomach and slid the protesting chicken into his pack. ‘Ok then!’ he said with but a whisper. ‘One down, two more to go…’

    Brimbur raised his head above the grass and looked about; his keen eyes soon spotted another chicken running this way or that in the yard in front of the smial. Each time a wolf came prowling nearby, the poor frightened chicken fled under the porch, only to return a minute or two later out in the open.

    Brimbur set down his pack into the grass and then flew up, sprinting towards the smial as fast as his dwarf legs could carry him. Nearing the back of the home, the dwarf scrambled up onto the roof, his feet very shaky on the uneven turfed roof. Once his legs steadied himself, Brimbur bent down to his knees and looked over the yard.

    Much to the dwarf’s dismay, the wolves had been drawn to the foolish chicken hiding under the porch and now had filled the yard. Brimbur stifled a rising cry in his throat as he watched the wolves prowl back and forth below, biting and fighting with one another, or howling as wolves tend to do.

    Suddenly, the dwarf saw his chance; several of the wolves had trotted back into the fields, snarling and growling at one another over what appeared to be a tiny shrew that desperately was trying to burrow deep under the soil. He jumped up and leapt from the roof just as the chicken scampered from under the porch. He landed right in front of it with a heavy thud, and reached down to grab the chicken with both hands very tightly.

    Without thinking, Brimbur turned to sprint across the yard and past the small wooden shed. Naturally, it was only then that he noticed his terrible mistake. From his vantage point atop the roof, the dwarf had failed to notice that only four of the five wolves were in the yard. The fifth beast had become quite tired in the bright and warm sun and had taken the opportunity to lay down in the shade of the smial. As Brimbur came round the side of the smial, he found himself staring directly into the beady eyes of the slavering, ferocious wolf.

    At once, the wolf snarled and leapt at him; Brimbur cried out with alarm and ran forward, even as the beast snapped its jaws at the hem of his beautiful cloak. He ran straight for his hiding spot in the short grass, and with the wolf right behind him, nipping at his heels and howling in frustration. As he reached the grass, the dwarf did not slow his pace, but rather scooped up his pack with one hand (and the other tucked under his right arm); with fearful determination, Brimbur strained to double his speed as best he could. For long tense moments he ran on, and the wolf chased after him.

    Just when he thought he could not take another step, the wolf halted and lifted its snout to howl mournful with regretful dark eyes as the poor dwarf faded away and out of sight. Brimbur did not pause or look over his shoulder, but continued running until he had made his way back down the path and had reached the lane once more.
    Last edited by Brucha; May 23 2013 at 03:25 PM.

  14. #14

    Chapter Five: A Friend Indeed– 15 Rethe, 3016 TA

    The sun was fast setting and the sky to the east shone in rays of deepening red when Brimbur made his way back to Waymeet. He had one chicken tucked tightly under one arm, and the head of another poked out from the pack on his back. The dwarf frowned slightly as the chickens began to squawk and fuss, but a wide smile warmed his face as he spotted Dora still standing along the side of the fence as before.

    The hobbit lass turned to the sound of squawking as the dwarf approached and bowed low before her. ‘I have returned, Dora Brownlock,’ he announced happily and handed her the chicken under his arm. ‘Here are your beloved chickens, safe and sound as I promised. They are unharmed, despite their trials at the hands of those hungry wolves!’

    Dora cried out loud with joy as she held the chicken tightly in her arms. The laughter grew more as the dwarf removed the other fowl from his pack and set it down onto the ground. The chicken clucked once or twice, and then began to peck at the dry earth at the hobbit’s feet. Dora was so overjoyed that tears welled up in her soft eyes.

    Brimbur’s grinned very wide, and a sense of pride swelled in his heart at the joy and jubilation his great victory had been brought to the precious hobbit. His thoughts drifted off to what wonderful tales he would have to relate to his fawning kinsmen once he returned to his beloved halls of Ered Luin. Suddenly, he frowned and blinked, as if brought back to the present when the hobbit said something.

    'Three chickens you say?’ he said incredulously. ‘Ah, the wolves were fierce and did not take kindly to my intrusion. I was forced to battle them right in your yard. Scattered them I did and when chance came I grabbed these two chickens and returned. I am afraid the last one must certainly be a meal for those beasts!’

    Brimbur eyed the hobbit intensely at her rambled pleadings for a moment and then sighed long and loud. 'Very well, three it is, a dwarf's word is as good as gold, as they say - don't worry; I shall fetch your last one even if I have to slay the lot of them to return it to you!’

    The dwarf bowed low once more to Dora and then turned round to stomp across the grass towards a crackling fire, surrounded by a collection of wagons, tents and crates of many sizes. There beside the fire he plopped down onto the ground, a dark look of dismay filling his face.

    For a long time, he sat there downcast and glum at his misfortune and the thought of having to return to the wolf-infested farm to seek Dora’s last missing chicken. Dusk swiftly passed and a crescent moon soon began to rise into the twinkling sky from the east. Slowly, the dwarf’s eyes grew heavy and his breath lessened until he slipped off into a snoring sleep, his head held gently in both hands atop his bent knees.

    Midnight had long passed when the dwarf’s eyes fluttered open slowly and sleepily; he stretched his numb arms over his head and yawned very loudly. He had been enjoying a wonderful dream of a scrumptious meal back in Thorin’s Hall and the sight of Waymeet that stared back at him was more than he could bear. Brimbur made a weak move to stand, and then quickly sat back down, very despondent.

    After awhile, Brimbur reached for his pack beside him and drew out a wrinkled apple or two and a piece of bread and began to eat in droopy silence. ‘Bumbling hobbits and their love of chickens,’ he grumbled between bites and loud swallows. ‘I am none other than Brimbur, loyal companion of master Gimli – have I been reduced to become a mere farmhand?’

    As he munched on the last slice of apple, a though crept into his mind. ‘Chickens…’ he muttered slowly. ‘Perhaps I could purchase one from one of the many farmers here in Waymeet…I doubt Miss Dora would be able to tell the difference…chickens, after all, look the same, right?’

    Just then, an image of the happy, smiling face of Dora crept unwanted into his mind and his pushed that silly and foolish notion from his thoughts. ‘Confound it!’ he grumbled softly. ‘Maybe the wolves have moved off elsewhere, and I can locate the last chicken for Dora without peril…’

    Suddenly a deep voice called out. ‘Ho there!’

    Brimbur looked up quite startled at the sound of heavy boot steps approaching from out of the darkness round the camp. His instant fear swiftly faded when a brown-bearded dwarf, his shoulders draped with a fine-looking fur stole, strode into the flickering light of the crackling campfire.

    ‘A fellow dwarf!’ exclaimed the newcomer with a wide grin and a hand extended down to Brimbur. ‘Durin smiles on me this night!’

    Brimbur clambered to his feet with astonishment and bowed very deeply to the dwarf. 'Hail and well met my good fellow! I am Brimbur, at your most pleasured and honoured service! And who might you be, if I may be so bold?'

    ‘I am Harkil Hearth-heart, at your service, and your family’s!’ grinned the dwarf heartily with flushed pride.

    ‘And to you and your family,’ answered Brimbur. ‘What a pleasant surprise to find one of my people here of all places!'

    ‘Indeed,’ said Harkil. ‘We are far from NeedleHole where I most commonly see the likes of us! What brings you to the Shire, Master Brimbur?'

    Brimbur did not speak straight away as a dark dejected look of sadness spread across his face. Finally he spoke aloud. ‘I came from Michel Delving to come to the aid of Miss Dora Brownlock – one of the Shire folk of course – her farm near here has been overrun by foul and despicable wolves!’

    Harkil nodded politely but remained courteously silent, waiting for the dwarf to continue.

    ‘I agreed to lend my sword in rescuing her beloved chickens…but I am afraid that I was only able to recover two of the pretty things. I am very weary from my battles with the beasts and there are still many more that still haunt her farm…’

    ‘Wolves you say?’ said Harkil as he rubbed his short beard thoughtfully. ‘Hmm...well we can't very well leave her with a field of denizens can we? I'd be honored if you'd welcome my company to aid you in the reclaiming of the farm!’

    'With a warrior such as you at one's side, master Harkil, no foe could avail against us!’ cried Brimbur aloud with bright eyes and he clapped his hands together. ‘My martial talent with a blade is without equal. As Lord Glóin discovered during our journey across the mountains! And yet against so many wolves even my blade may be spent!’

    Harkil nodded, a look of admiration sweeping across his face as Brimbur continued.

    'Forgive me, my arm is still weak from the blows of the trolls and has not fully recovered,’ Brimbur said finally with a groan and rubbed his arm as if from some old, unforgotten wound. ‘If it were not for my shield that was shattered, my arm would be nothing more than useless now!'

    ‘Fear not!’ declared Harkil boastfully. ‘Though I do not dispute your talent with a blade my axe is enough to cleave many a foe in twain! Cover my hind, kinsman, and I shall deal with the beasts!’

    'And shall I, my good and loyal friend!’ cried Brimbur as he clasped the dwarf upon the shoulder. ‘Ah but what a difference from my journey here from the east this has been! Though it has been weeks since I first arrived in Ered Luin, it seems as if only yesterday when I crossed the mountains. Ah, but a fine journey it was! Perhaps we can sit and I shall relate to you the misfortunes of that fateful trip?'

    Harkil fidgeted with his beard, and then laughed aloud. ‘A tale I shall certainly lend my ear to! Tell me of this journey you have made, Master Brimbur’

    Brimbur motioned for his new friend to sit beside the fire before he too sat down in the warm comforting glow. He stroked his fine beard and then smiled.

    ‘It was a cold, wintry day when we began to climb the pass into the mountains...’ began Brimbur grimly. ‘A bitter, lonely journey it was from Erebor, and yet the dreaded goblin-haunted mountains awaited us ahead even after our long journey through Mirkwood. There were ten of us in all in our company, led by Lord Glóin himself, whom we were escorting to the Elven refuge of Rivendell...'

    Harkil settled himself beside the fire, placed his axe onto the ground and leaned back. His eyes spread wide and intently as he listened to the growing tale with much interest.

    'It was the second day of our journey through the pass when trouble found us,’ continued Brimbur with a shudder as he recalled the day. ‘Trolls they were, terrible beasts looking for little more than wanton bloodshed and violence!'

    ‘Trolls?’ exclaimed Harkil, and his mouth dropped open with disbelief.

    'Indeed! Trolls!’ murmured Brimbur gravely. ‘Five of the beasts! Many of my kinsmen faltered at the very sight of them! But not I! I hefted my blade and came straight the lot of them without hesitation! Ever I hewed at them and ever they came on, heedless of my blows. Alone I stood even as many of my kinsmen turned and fled before the terrible trolls....'

    Harkil furrowed his brow. ‘And what of Glóin, master Brimbur? What did Lord Glóin do?’

    'Only Lord Glóin did not flee...’ answered Brimbur with delight. ‘Rather, he stood in silenced awe of my prowess and skill in battle against the trolls. And when the last troll was felled, Lord Glóin cried out with joyous laughter and praise at my hard-won victory! Lord Glóin would have surely fallen that day if had not been for my skill in battle! Yet little do I crave the praise of that, only that I could serve Lord Glóin as a proper dwarf of Durin ever could!'

    Harkil chuckled as he let out a cheer. ‘A glorious victory to behold I am sure of, master Brimbur! I am humbled by such a kinsman's presence!

    ‘Bah!’ declared Brimbur with a wave of his hand into the air and then blushed slightly. ‘Never such a thing, my good friend! I only aim to serve our people as best I can!'

    ‘Humble too!’ answered Harkil with a grin. ‘A rare quality among such hardened warriors! A true tribute to the virtues of Durin's folk!’

    'Ah, but of course, we true warriors do not crave the thanks or praise of others…only the victory of battle!' replied Brimbur.

    ‘Very true!’ said Harkil.

    Brimbur glanced up into the sky as a dim glow began to slowly grow in the east. ‘But to the business at hand! There is one more of Miss Dora's precious chickens that must be rescued from the foul wolves, lest it become food for the terrible beasts! What say you, master Harkil? Shall we depart for the farm at first light and put our blades to the beasts once and for all?'

    ‘Away then, to deal with the foul creatures!’ cried Harkil as he leapt to his feet and braced his axe across his back. ‘They shall surely rue this dawn!’

    Brimbur climbed to his feet and sniffed the air. ‘Let us enjoy a bit of breakfast and then make our way to the farm...perhaps the dim light shall aid us in battling these pesky wolves!' He then drew out his last apple from his pack and began munching on it.

    Harkil nodded and rummaged through his pack before pulling out a small tuft of salted pork and a piece of cheese. As Brimbur looked longingly at the fine pork in the dwarf’s hands, Harkil finished the meal off with a healthy amount of ale from a wine skin.

    ‘My eyes are as a sharp a hawk, even in this dim light,’ said Brimbur finally. ‘I fear that the wolves stand little chance against two such warriors as us, good Harkil!’

    ‘Aye!’ said Harkil as he raised his wine skin in toast. ‘Especially against the likes of one who protected Lord Glóin from the monstrous trolls!’

    Brimbur turned with a wink in his eyes, and then almost ran right into the pot hanging from a wooden post over the flickering fire. ‘Confound hobbits and their neglected cooking pots!’ he grumbled.

    Harkil laughed and rubbed his now full belly. ‘If they spent more time digging in their homes and less cooking they might be of grander scale!’

    Brimbur grumbled softly and he eyed the hanging pot above the fire with much distrust. He then pointed towards the narrow land than wound slowly north from Waymeet. ‘This way, master Harkil!’

    The dwarves scrambled over the low wooden fence that ran along one side of the camp and made their way through a wide patch of grass towards the lane. Once on the road, Brimbur smiled at his companion, they set off up the slope and towards Dora’s farm.

    For a long while the dwarves did not speak and, as Waymeet fell from view behind them, the soft glow in the east sky grew and the first rays of the sun began to sparkle on the horizon. The lane continued on and rolled gently up and down past the many sleepy fields to either side. Finally they reached the point where the lane began to fall steeply away towards the distant bogs. There Brimbur halted to point towards the stony path to the right.

    ‘There lies the farm we seek,’ he muttered grimly. ‘Yet I must warn you, it is filled with wolves. We best be careful not to alert them to our approach!’

    Harkil took a careful step forward with a dour nod of his head. ‘Aye,’ he said quietly.

    The dwarves cautiously approached the farm and Brimbur turned suddenly to scramble up the embankment towards the tall tree. Harkil looked about bewildered, uncertain what Brimbur had planned, then hurried after him. Brimbur pressed his back against the wide trunk of the tree, glanced about uneasily, and then spoke in a hushed whisper.

    'Ah, here is Miss Dora's farm...’ he said not daring to peek his head round the tree. ‘And it seems the wolves have not decided to depart!'

    Harkil drew his axe from over his shoulder and grasped it tightly in both hands. ‘Looks like we’ve come at just the right time!’ he whispered in return and glanced towards the farm to spy the hulking lean forms of the wolves. ‘Ready when you are, kinsman. Say the word and my axe shall go to work!’

    But Brimbur did not speak. His eyes closed and a slight shiver ran through his chest. He then blinked and looked up at his companion, a paleness gleaming in his eyes. 'Perhaps a measure of caution is in order, he said finally. ‘I spotted the last of the chickens nearer the barn over there. Might you make your way round to it, while I remain here to make sure the beasts do not out-flank you…prudence, after all, is as good as a stout sword or axe arm!’

    ‘Aye, a sound tactic!’ said Harkil thoughtfully with a hearty nod of his head. ‘I will draw them near to me. Guard my flank!’

    ‘If they catch wind of us,’ said Brimbur meekly. ‘Then we shall have them in our trap! I will watch you from this tree…’

    Harkil smiled wide at his companion then hefted his axe. ‘To the barn! Shout should you be in danger.’

    ‘I shall,’ answered Brimbur hesitantly. ‘And you as well!’

    Harkil risked a hurried glance round the tree then took a deep long breath before he began to spring round the side of the farm to the left. Brimbur watched in growing apprehension as Harkil slowly and very stealthily neared the barn. There the dwarf halted, turned and waved at Brimbur from the shadows of the squat building.

    At once, Brimbur’s eyes grew large and his shook his head vigorously in protest. Harkil lowered his arm slowly in puzzlement, then shrugged and began to creep towards the front of the barn. For a moment, Brimbur was content to hide behind the tree and watch Harkil; but a chance glance to his right drew his attention to a pair of wolves that were slowly making their way towards him.

    The dwarf’s eyes darted first to the wolves, then to Harkil on the far side of the fields, and then back again to the wolves. Finally, he pushed off from the tree and began running across the field as fast as his legs could carry him. As he neared the yard of the farm, Brimbur hurled himself over the low stone wall and fell heavily onto the ground on the other side. He shook his head and then looked round; it was then that he spotted the dusk-coloured wolf that was sprawled on the ground beside him.

    The dwarf’s eyes flared with panic as the wolf blinked once or twice at him then raised its jaws with bristling snarls. More to his shocked horror, the beast was not alone, for another wolf was trotting towards the first, evidently liking the look at the ground his friend had found to bed down onto.

    The two foes leapt up as one, Brimbur falling backwards and nearly toppling over onto his back, and the wolf starting right at him with nipping teeth. Almost as quickly, the second wolf turned its snout up towards the movement and joined his companion to leap after the dwarf.

    Just as the wolves closed and were about to bring their considerable weight down upon the dwarf to throw him to the ground, there came a resounding cry of ‘Baruk Khazâd!’ It was Harkil, of course. He had turned round to wave his companion forward (who he thought was still safely behind the tree on the other side of the field), when he spotted what has just transpired.

    Without hesitation, the dwarf howled aloud a challenge and threw himself at the wolves, who soon found themselves facing a very determined, angry, and axe-wielding dwarf. Harkil smashed the snout of the closest wolf with the butt of his axe and drove the other back with a wide swipe.

    Brimbur, meanwhile, scampered under the eaves of a tree to one aide; there he heaved in a deep breath and watched the battle unfold. One wolf lifted its head to howl into the air and leapt at the dwarf; Harkil cried out once again as his axe swept forward and back again. The wolf crashed to the ground, headless, right at the dwarf’s booted feet.

    Brimbur’s eyes grew wide as he watched the second wolf growl and slink round the dwarf, who now raised his long axe high above his head. For several tense moments the two foes danced round and round until the wolf let forth a deep shuddering howl and sprang forward. The dwarf too leapt forward and, with two quick steps and a flash of his glinting axe, cleaved the head of the wolf with a single, mighty blow.

    At once Brimbur cried out a cheer and ran from under the tree boughs to Harkil’s side. ‘Pack of boisterous pups they are!’ laughed Harkil as he gazed down at the unmoving wolves on the ground.

    ‘Indeed!’ cried Brimbur, admiration filling his bright eyes. ‘Very well played! I must say that I found that I could little but stand in awe of your skill in battle my friend!’

    Harkil blushed slightly and shook his head. ‘You flatter me with your words, kinsman! I assure you it was nothing more than lad's play! We showed them the wrath of our mighty blows!’

  15. #15
    Brimbur is such a fine gold bricker.

  16. #16

    Chapter Six: The Wolf Den – 15 Rethe, 3016 TA

    ‘Now let’s find this last lost chicken and return to Miss Dora!’ said Brimbur with a hushed voice. He was certainly unnerved by the two wolves that had been so deftly dealt with by master Harkil, and yet even a swift glance back over the fields showed that many more of the foul beasts still remained very close and uncomfortably nearby.

    ‘Aye!’ answered Harkil. ‘Forward then, before more return! The chicken, master Brimbur!’

    Brimbur stole a glance round the side of the barn, and then under the porch of the smial. ‘Not there,’ thought Brimbur dimly as he then turned to scan the yard for any sign of the fowl. He was about ready to give up, for it seemed certain that the chicken had indeed fallen prey to the hungry wolves, when he gazed over to the nearby low stone wall.

    Chiding his foolishness to step even closer to the fields where the wolves could still be seen, Brimbur crept ever so carefully and warily over to the wall then risked a glance over to the other side. What he spotted almost made him laugh aloud with joy as there, cringing against the stone wall below him, was the last of Dora’s precious chickens.

    Brimbur glanced uneasily at the wolves prowling the fields and then leaned across the wall to grasp the chicken with one hand, muffling its beak with the other. He turned to Harkil with a brimming grin and then spoke suddenly with a low hiss.

    ‘I have it. Run of it!’

    With that Brimbur sprang across the yard and towards the stone path, even before the other dwarf had time to realize what he was doing. For a moment, Harkil watched with blinking and uncomprehending eyes as Brimbur scampered out of the yard and round the fields. Finally when realization crept into his mind, he groaned and began jogging after Brimbur.

    On the two dwarves ran, until their breaths came in haggard wheezes and their chests were as if they had filled with fire. It was not until they ran down the stony path and had reached the lane once more did they halt. Harkil slid his axe to the ground and bend down to rest his arms on his legs, struggling to take in several long breathes of air. Brimbur collapsed altogether onto the ground and leaned back to lie down, still clutching the chicken tightly in both hands. Only when the fire in his throat began to lessen did Brimbur finally stir.

    ‘Dora will be so pleased to her last beloved chicken brought back safe and sound,’ he said sitting up very slowly. Ah, but her praise will speak volumes of our victory this day!’

    ‘Aye!’ said Harkil with a panting winded voice.

    Brimbur nodded and then climbed slowly to his very unsteady feet and glanced at his companion. ‘Back to Waymeet then,’ he said as he tucked the chicken tightly under his arm. ‘And to the awaiting Miss Dora!’ He turned and set off quickly down the lane. Harkil sighed wearily and took up his axe to trot after him.

    ‘Perhaps this calls for a drink of celebration!’ he said calling after Brimbur with delight.

    It was not quite noon-time when the two dwarves found their way back to Waymeet. Brimbur did not slow his space, but quickened his step until he was standing in front of Dora. He bowed very low to the hobbit and held out the chicken with both hands.

    ‘Great news, Dora, I recovered your last fowl! A terrible battle it was though! More worse was it than my first battle with those wolves! But they have been dealt with and I daresay they shall not plague you any further!'

    Dora cried out as she took the last chicken from Brimbur’s hands and she burst suddenly into tears and sobs of relief.

    'You saved my chickens!’ she said, choking back a rise in her throat. ‘Thank you so much! I don't know what I would have done if the wolves had gotten my darling Rosy, or my precious Georgie, or my lovely Dottie!’

    Brimbur’s face washed a deep crimson and waved his hand at the grateful hobbit. ‘Your tears of joy are more than this dwarf requires for such an endeavor, Miss Dora!’

    Dora set her chicken down and began to wipe the tears from her gentle face. 'Someone needs to do something about these wolves,’ she said at last with misted eyes. ‘And I think that someone is you, Brimbur!'

    Brimbur took a hesitant step backwards, not liking where this might be leading to. ‘Me?’ he said incredulously. ‘Whatever do you mean me?’

    ‘I don’t know that I can go home until I know those wolves are gone for good! What if they come for my babies again?’

    That seemed like perfect sense to the dwarf, but he was far more concerned about the reference to him being the source of dealing with this worrisome problem. He feigned a look of concern and tried to quiet the twitching in his hands by stuffing them into his pockets.

    'You were so brave to rescue my little darlings...’ continued the hobbit as she gazed lovingly down at her chickens. ‘I'm sure you could do something about the wolves. The awful beasts that attacked my farm came from the north...there must be a wolf den somewhere among the hills north of my farm!’

    Brimbur’s eyes grew as large and round as saucer and a pale sickly expression washed over his face. ‘An entire den of those beasts,’ he muttered with disbelief and dread.

    At that moment, Harkil stepped forward and placed a steady hand upon Brimbur’s shoulder. ‘Seems our blades have not yet seen the end of their fur cutting!’ he said with a chuckle.

    Brimbur looked sidelong at the dwarf with a dark scowl, then smoothed out his tunic and gave a rather weak smile. ‘Hrmph, but of course!’ he uttered, though not too convincingly. ‘We shall deal with the lot of them! We will journey to this den and rid it of all we find there!'

    'Oh, please do hurry!’ pleaded the hobbit. ‘I really would like to go home soon.'

    ‘How rude of me!’ declared Harkil suddenly. He stepped forward and bowed before the tearful hobbit. ‘I am Harkil Hearth-heart. I will accompany this fine warrior to dispatch your foes.’

    Brimbur turned his head slightly to one side and rolled his eyes. He then cleared his throat loudly and spoke.

    ‘Master Harkil, let us be off,’ he said rather gloomily as he stared into the sky. ‘I fear the pleasantness of the day has worn thin and there seems a turn in the weather fast approaching.’

    Harkil smiled once more at the young hobbit and then turned to his companion. ‘As you wish, kinsman,’ he said with a polite nod of his head. With Brimbur at the lead, the two dwarves turned round and began to make their way up the slope along the lane to search for this elusive wolf den.

    Indeed, the warm, spring morning that had greeted the dwarves upon their departure from Waymeet had taken a nasty turn. The clear skies were now blanketed with dark, forbidding clouds and the wind had become chilled and swept through the trees in great, sudden gusts. Even as Waymeet fell from sight behind them, the first drops of rain began to fall; not persistently, of course, but it was not long until it grew steady and the darkened sky overhead was streaked with flashes of lighting and the clouds rumbled with the sounds of thunder.

    ‘Rain!’ muttered Brimbur as he drew up his cloak round his neck and he splashed along the lane. ‘I dislike rain even more than trees!’

    ‘Or more than wolves even!’ said Harkil with a chuckle, who did not seem all that bothered by the sudden rainstorm.

    Brimbur turned his eyes towards his companion with a heavy glower. ‘Hunting wolves in the rain, is perhaps not the best plan of action, I am afraid.’ The dwarf looked up into the rain-swept and darkened sky with a grimace. ‘Yet I did promise moor Miss Dora we would clear the den near her farm of the foul things,’ he said finally, more as an attempt to bolster his flagging courage than anything else.

    ‘Aye!’ answered Harkil with a boastful tone and wry grin. ‘We will make short workings of these wolves! A little rain will not impede our cleansing of the den!'

    Brimbur nodded and fell silent for a moment before speaking again. ‘But wolves?’ he said slowly as he splashed through a muddy pool of rainwater with disgust. ‘Surely after battling such terrible foes as trolls in the lofty peaks of the Misty Mountains, wolves are no match for talents such as mine!'

    This much is true!’ laughed Harkil. 'I have no doubts these wolves, much like the ones at the hobbit's farm, shall feel the sting of your blade!'

    Brimbur did not answer, but lowered his head, now far too grumpy to speak. And so the dwarves marched on along the lane to the north; the sky drew ever more dark overhead as the afternoon drew longer and the night slowly approached. Brimbur shivered slightly in the cold rain, and his long nose twitched unceasingly with the threat of a sneeze. They had been plodding along for an hour when Brimbur halted, and looked up the stony path to the right.

    'Well, there is her farm,’ he muttered and tried to vainly wipe the rain dripping from his bedraggled hair and into his eyes. ‘Dora mentioned something about the wolf den being further north...'

    ‘Hmm…’ said Harkil as he too glanced up the path to peer through the heavy falling rain. ‘Perhaps we should press from the barn then?’

    ‘Back through the farmyard and fields?’ murmured Brimbur, not liking that idea at all. ‘Maybe it is best to try further along the road a bit more…no reason to alert any more of the beasts lurking round the farm - they may run off to warn the others...'

    ‘Whatever you wish, kinsman,’ said Harkil with a smile. ‘I shall follow!’

    Brimbur smiled meekly and turned to trudge down the road, grumbling softly as his fine boots splashed along the muddy lane. Here the road fell away from the fields, with sheep rocky embankments along both sides. Not far down the sloping lane came a level portion of ground that fell away sharply once more some distance beyond. Here the dwarves halted.

    ‘Well, there seems to be a path of sorts to the right,’ he said quietly, a confused look spreading across his damp face. ‘But another one is over to the left…’

    This was true’ to the right was a rocky pathway than ran up and through a pair of low hillocks and towards vale dotted with trees. On the other side of the lane was a rutted lane that also ran between the shoulders of rocky slopes, dotted with brush and bushes.

    ‘The left path is open to the rain,’ said Harkil as he stroked the long locks of his beard. Then he turned to gaze down the path to the right with distaste. ‘Though I’ve much disdain for the trees there, they would shield us from this blasted rain!’

    Brimbur turned first to the right, and then to the left, pointing in that direction. ‘I think…’ he said slowly. ‘We should go right.’

    Harkil nodded and then grimaced at the rain-choked sky. ‘Perhaps it will lessen as we proceed?’

    ‘Let us hope for such luck,’ growled Brimbur. ‘Before my entire beard becomes waterlogged!’

    The dwarves left the lane and began to crept up the stony path; they had not gone far when they saw the path led into a narrow, long dale, surrounded on all sides by steep and rocky slopes and cliffs. Tall trees rose here or there about the dale, and to one side were piles of large boulders and rocks, some as big as a small house or cottage. The dwarves stood silently for sometime, trying to shield the rain from their eyes as they looked around. Suddenly Brimbur shrank back, his face ashen and pale.

    ‘Ahead, Harkil!’ he hissed and pointed out to the tumbled stack of rocks. There could now be seen a lean, hungry wolf trotting across the dale. It stopped to shake its long mane and head before raising its snout to sniff rain-soaked the air. Much to Brimbur’s rising dread, there could be seen many more shadowy wolf-like forms further on into the dale, dark sinister-looking shapes that filled him with dread.

    Harkil slid the axe from his back and took a step forward, only to be pulled back by Brimbur who suddenly to grasp the dwarf’s arm.

    ‘We should split up,’ said Brimbur very quietly and glanced back over his shoulder. ’You make your way over there on the right, along the rocky slope, to flank the foul beasts. I will stay here to guard the exit to the dale, as if it were my own life - or better - in case any of them try to make a run for it. That way we can catch the beasts like a hammer to an anvil!’

    Harkil at first hesitated, and then relented with a slow nod, seeing the wisdom of his kinsman’s fine plan. ‘Very well then! Hold fast... I shall bring the hammer down!’ The dwarf hefted his axe and sprang forward towards the rock slop ahead, pausing now or then to crouch and glance about with watchful eyes before continuing on.

    Brimbur meanwhile watched with worried eyes as Harkil scampered up and along the slope, ever watchful of the open ground below him. Harkil pace slowed as he scanned the dale ahead for signs of the terrible wolves. Soon the dwarf fell from view and all grew quiet; Brimbur glanced about very uneasily and shivered slightly, now feeling quite exposed and certainly all alone. Despite his better judgment, Brimbur slid his sword from his belt with an unsteady, shaking hand and began to creep towards a tall tree nearer the tumbled rocks for a hiding place.

    He did not take more than a couple of steps when there roared a hoarse cry on the far side of the dale. The sounds of ‘Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!’ rang out loud and clear that was swiftly met with the rising howls and snarls of many wolves. There could be heard the gnashing of many teeth and the ring of an axe.

    At once, Brimbur froze, almost turning to flee back down the path towards the lane. Yet as the sounds of the unseen battle rose and fell, his thoughts turned unwilling to his companion. The dwarf swallowed very deeply and tugged at his beard before forcing his now much resisting legs to take one hesitant and unwilling step, then another, forward. Off in the distance, he could hear the roaring cries of Harkil, mingled with the sudden whimper of a wolf.

    Brimbur made his way ever so carefully and silently round the trunk of the towering tree. As he did the cries of his kinsman slowly fell away and the sounds of battle drew silent in the gloom ahead. All of a sudden, he heard a long shuddering howl – not on the far side of the dale but directly in front of him. Right then a large grey wolf trotted round the tree and the frightened dwarf now found himself staring into the red-rimmed eyes of the foul beast, not more than a couple of steps away from him.

    In an instant, the wolf leapt forward, with eyes blazing and its long tongue hanging out. Brimbur drew back as the wolf came at him with a long horrible snarl; he raised his sword high above his head as the wolf sprang at him, its jaws snapping and slavering to hew the beast. The sword fell just as the jaws of the wolf closed the gap between the two desperate foes, only to come flat-edge down onto the long snout of the beast with a hearty thud.

    For a moment, the two foes looked at one another in stunned silence. Brimbur’s sword-point slipped slowly down until it touched the ground at his feet; then the wolf shook its snout and bared its long fangs with a fearsome snarl. It gathered itself low to the ground to pounce on the hapless dwarf, as a deep howl began to grow in its throat. Desperately, Brimbur looked about for a way out of reach of the deadly wolf but found his legs would not move.

    Just as the wolf snarled and sprang forward, a short dark figure rose up from behind the beast; there came a sudden hoarse shout: ‘Baruk Khazâd!’ An axe suddenly glittered in the darkness as it swept forward; the wolf let out a hideous howl as it thudded to the ground headless at Brimbur’s feet.

    For several long moments, Brimbur stared unblinking down at the unmoving wolf and then took a hesitant step backwards, his sword altogether forgotten in his hand as the dark figure stepped forward. Then the figure gave a hearty chuckle.

    ‘Harkil?’ exclaimed the dwarf nervously, as a bearded face stepped into view from the gloom. It was Harkil of course; Brimbur let out his breath that he had unknowingly been holding tightly in and his shoulders shrugged with a silent relief.
    Last edited by Brucha; May 27 2013 at 01:32 PM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by idlehands79 View Post
    Brimbur is such a fine gold bricker.
    I would rather say that Brimbur is a steadfast and wise dwarf who carefully weighs all his options...

    Often, the inspiration of a particular chapter (or at least how I write it) comes directly from what happens in the game. The foray into the dreaded wolf den is no exception. Brimbur was indeed surprised by a wolf hiding on the other side of the tall tree. And of course, as he went to take his first hew at the beast, it was parried while the wolf's first bite went stray and missed!

    The arrive of Harkil was a complete surprise to me - I thought that he was still on the far side of the dale when Brimbur was attacked, and so he truly did seem to appear out of no where and at such a much-needed time!

    The battle with the wolf marks the first time Brimbur has had to face off against a foe since leaving Ered Luin, not that he did not try more than once! It seems rather that the foes he has faced have not been the most brave in in the face of such a worthy adversary...
    Last edited by Brucha; May 28 2013 at 04:19 PM.

  18. #18

    Chapter Seven: A Stroll Through the Shire – 16 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur was seated beside the crackling fire, looking very distraught and unsettled, and long lines of worry creased his otherwise merry face. To one side could be heard the long, deep snoring of Harkil, who was stretched atop his blanket, blissfully sleeping in comfort.

    Brimbur looked out into the pale grey darkness all about the small camp; the dark wind-stirred trees rustled ominously in the night air and smoky wisps of mist crept along through the sleepy village. Stars swung twinkling overhead and a crescent moon slid slowly across the darkened sky.

    The two dwarves had returned to the camp after speaking with Miss Dora of their triumphant victory over the dreaded wolves. Brimbur certainly looked forward to the kind, generous words of praise from the young hobbit, but what greeted him upon their arrival back in Waymeet was perhaps more than the poor dwarf could now bear.

    ‘Thank you for your efforts, Brimbur!’ she cried out at the tale of the dwarves miraculous defeat of the fearsome wolves. ‘We won't need to fear these wolves now that you've killed their leader!’

    'What? You didn't see their leader at the wolf den?’ she continued despite the incredulous stares of disbelief that glowered from the dwarf’s face. ‘He won't be an ordinary pack-leader, that's for sure. The real leader of the wolves must be in hiding. Until we do something about the chief wolf, no one in the Shire will be safe!'

    At once Brimbur began to refuse any further aid, politely of course but very sternly, explaining that they were desperately needed down in Hobbiton, to help squash a band of ruffians that were even now threatening travelers along the Great East Road. Yet the hobbit lass would not hear of it.

    'There's been rumour of a scarred, old wolf spotted away from the rest of the pack - In fact, across the road from the wolf-den north of my farm.’ Dora quickly explained. ‘I don't know what might have happened, but I think it's fair to say that this old wolf must be their leader, exiled for some reason.’

    Brimbur’s protests grew more loudly and with greater earnest but, as he slowly saw that young Dora had firmly made the decision, he dropped his head in dejected defeat.

    'Now, I think I've done something terribly foolish, Brimbur! My neighbour, Jolly Smallburrow, is a true gentle hobbit, and I suspect he's something of an admirer of mine. Unfortunately, I mentioned this wolf business to him, and he swore to take care of it! If you don't mind, would you please find Jolly before the wolf does? I'll feel terrible if something happens to him!'

    The realization that his dealing with the wolves was not yet fully complete was enough to keep poor Brimbur from his sleep later when evening approached; and the thought that he was now given the duty to go out in search for this foolish Jolly Smallburrow thoroughly soured all his already sagging spirits.

    Naturally all this seemed to have been lost to master Harkil, who had munched quite merrily during their sparse dinner back at the camp site. He almost seemed to look forward to the coming battle with the wolf chieftain and of the rescue of master Smallburrow. Brimbur had said little over dinner and was quite pleased when the dwarf finally laid down to drift off into a deep, snoring sleep.

    Brimbur did try to lie down after dinner as his companion had done; but he found sleep elusive; long into the night the dwarf lay there with open eyes staring into the darkened sky. He turned over and over atop his blanket, as the words of Dora crept unwanted into his thoughts. Worse still was the face of the poor distraught Miss Dora mingled with the image of a dark, menacing and ferocious wolf-shape hovering just beyond view in the inky blackness of his imagination. More than once Brimbur thought of getting up to collect his things and to creep stealthily out of the camp before Harkil was alerted. Yet something stopped him from doing so, and that made the poor dwarf squarely upset at himself.

    Brimbur was still seated still and unmoving beside the fire when the dawn came clear and bright in the eastern sky. He was jostled from his deep thoughts when Harkil stirred and sat up, rubbing his poor back from the hard earth and groaned at the stiff pain in his neck. The dwarf kicked the blanket off his legs and sat up with a long yawn. He sniffed the cool morning air and then glanced about the camp.

    The fire had died several hours ago and now gave off only a hint of heat and wisps of grey smoke under a pile of ash and burnt pieces of wood. Brimbur had thoughtlessly forgotten to toss fresh logs onto the fire during night while he wrestled with the ruminations that drove sleep away over the evening.

    And yet Harkil showed no signs of discomfort or worry that plagued his companion. Instead, the dwarf looked about, fully expecting to see breakfast already laid out and prepared. Brimbur followed the dwarf’s confused gaze and placed a hand to his own growling stomach.

    ‘I fear there is not breakfast this day,’ he said begrudgingly. ‘We had planned on setting out for the Bird and Baby once dawn came, but I am afraid I may not be able to wait until then…’

    ‘I too am quite famished, master Brimbur,’ nodded Harkil in agreement.

    Brimbur sighed and looked up the hill nearby to a patch of fields and stone walls at the top. ‘I bet there are some ripe apples up there,’ he said wearily and with not much hope. ‘Perhaps even some mushroom we might manage to uncover…’

    Harkil tugged at his beard and followed his companion’s gaze towards the hill. ‘I don’t suppose they’d mind if we picked a few for ourselves!’ he said at the mention of Shire apples.

    ‘I am sure the owners of the fields up there would not mind if we helped ourselves to a bit of their produce…’ murmured Brimbur slowly. ‘…after all, we did rid this fine little village of its wolf problem.’

    ‘Ah, you make a fine pint there!’ laughed Harkil with a wide grin. ‘I'm sure they would be happy if we filled our bellies!’ For a moment, the dwarf fidgeted with the belt round the waist of his mail hauberk, and spoke. ‘Shall we?’

    His companion only nodded, the dwarf’s stomach growling even louder than before, and then climbed to his feet to began to slowly climb the gentle slope. The sun gleamed out of ragged clouds as it rose over the horizon to the east and thankfully, thought Brimbur with only the slightest of heartening promise, the rain from the day before had finally passed.

    At the top of the slope, the dwarves halted at a low stone wall under the boughs of a tall rowan tree, the first budding of leaves barely visible along the outstretched branches. Brimbur stole a hasty glance behind them, in hopes that no one spied them, and then turned his gaze to look out over the field.

    What stared back at the dwarves was a wide field, surrounded on all sides by bordering walls; but what was more surprising was the state of the field. The field was not a shimmering carpet of green barley, tall corn stalks, or delicious mushroom patches, but a dry brown empty spit of land. Ruts from the previous year’s planting rows were easily discernible in the hard-packed earth but little else showed signs of this season’s work.

    ‘Hrmph!’ grumbled Brimbur as he looked out over the field with distaste. ‘Shire farmers indeed! Someone forgot it is nearly planting season!'

    ‘If Dwarves were in charge of such things this land would be tenfold in quality!’ answered Harkil with a grimace across his face.

    Of course, none of this was true; dwarves are of the earth, but rather deep within it. Smiths and craftsmen, miners and architects they are, but never farmers. Thorin’s Hall did indeed have a small portion of the halls set aside for the growing of foodstuffs, but it was far too scant to feed even the small population of folk that dwelt there. Much food was brought up via pony and cart from the Low Lands around Gondamon and Duillond, where the land was less snow packed and the earth more vibrant and rich to the growing of produce.

    Just then, Brimbur turned his long nose up and sniffed the air. ‘Mushroom...,’ he said slowly and pointed to the far side of the field. ‘I think I smell mushrooms, coming for over there.’

    The dwarves scrambled hastily over the stone wall and hurried over wide open field to the far side. Beyond that they came upon a long belt of grass dotted with tall rowan trees and patches of dry old leaves. Rising out of the short grass was a narrow patch of capped mushrooms.

    Brimbur leapt over the wall, with Harkil swiftly following; he trotted over the grass and bend down to pluck one short mushroom. ‘Too soon, I am afraid,’ he said mournfully as he sniffed at the mushroom. ‘They are quite small and not ready yet…’

    ‘Hardly any sign of apples either…’ murmured Harkil sadly as he watched Brimbur tossed the mushroom into the grass.

    Brimbur turned to peer down the slope beyond the grass where he now spotted a farm through the trees. Hope returned to the famished dwarf and he smiled. At once he began striding towards it, pulling Harkil by the arm behind him.

    They soon reached the edge of a large sprawling farm, surrounded by fields and hedges; a well-rutted lane ran up from the south along rows of fine trees to the wide yard. There stood a handsome smial, barn, and even what looked like a small mill.

    Yet the sight of the farm did not lighten Brimbur’s foul mood; instead he grimaced, looking very much alarmed as if he was gazing out onto the smoky, stench-filled opening to a dragon’s lair high up in the Misty Mountains. Harkil frowned and looked at his companion with surprise as Brimbur cursed softly.

    ‘I have no desire to tread onto that farm,’ he said slowly. ‘It is not abandoned, that is certain, and I daresay the hobbit farmer that dwells there very well might have a dog or two. See there, chickens all about the yard? There must be at least one hound to protect and guard them, and I don’t think the beasts would take kindly to a pair of trespassing dwarves to show up unannounced and uninvited!’

    Harkil was about to laugh until he saw the look in his companion’s face. His mirthful smile fell from his face and he nodded grimly at Brimbur.

    ‘Well that does it then!’ said Brimbur. ‘I am hungry and parched…there is a pond over there beyond the farm. At the very least we can wet the dust from our mouths before continuing our search.’

    ‘Aye, let it be tasty water at the very least!’ said Harkil with a nod of his head.

    With Brimbur in the lead, the dwarves began to make their way down the hill, mindful to skirt the southern edge of the fields. On the far side of the farm, the ground fell steadily down more and they soon came onto a dusty path that led straight towards the pond. The pleasant sound of a rushing waterfall could be heard ahead.

    At that moment there came a sound like mingled song and laughter. Voices clear and fair rose and fell into the air from nearer the pond. The singing drew nearer as the dwarves descended towards the water’s edge; the dwarves knew nothing of this beautiful language, yet the words seemed to blend with a tune and turned the words into their own listening thoughts. Suddenly the dwarves spotted a pair of tall Elves, the sunlight shimmering in their long hair and in their fair eyes, standing at the very edge of the shallow pond below.

    'Well I'll be a Dourhand!’ exclaimed Brimbur with delight. ‘Look, master Harkil...Elves!'

    ‘Elves, in the Shire?’ said Harkil as he furrowed his brow and peered at the Elves with curiosity. ‘Whatever for?’

    'Perhaps they might have a bit to munch on, and would be willing to share with two weary warriors like us...' said Brimbur hopefully as he nudged his companion and winked brightly.

    Brimbur strode down the slope carefully and then whistled aloud before bowing very low. ‘Hail and well met my fair folk of the Elder Days!’

    The Elves suddenly stopped their singing and turned to look towards the dwarves; the taller Elf spoke softly into the ear of the other who had looked up with surprise and stepped back hesitantly at the new unexpected arrivals.

    ‘Hail and well met, sons of Durin,’ answered the Elf. ‘It has been long since I have spoken with any of your folk.'

    ‘Indeed!’ said Brimbur with a wide smile. ‘I am Brimbur, of Thorin's Hall, at your most welcome service! And you are correct, of Durin's Folk I am, as is my companion here.'

    To that Harkil bowed low to the Elves and spoke proudly. 'I am Harkil of Thorin's Hall as well, of course, at your service just as my kinsman!'

    'I am Gilglir of the House of Finrod, and this is my lady, Tinuves,’ answered the tall Elf politely. ‘We are both of us at your service and your families.’

    'Strange days these are, to find two of the race of Elves walking in the Shire!' said Brimbur as he scratched his beard.

    ‘Strange indeed,’ quipped Harkil swiftly. ‘What brings you from your home lands, Elves?’

    'Our folk often walk in the woods of the Little Land during spring and autumn, though few see us pass,’ said Gilglir with a laugh. ‘It is a lovely place here, is it not?’ added Tinuves softly. ‘And to you, master dwarves, what brings you here this day?’

    'Why are we here? A good question my Elf-friend!’ answered Brimbur with a laugh. ‘We have just come from a glorious battle, to rid this fair Shire of a wolf problem. Only yesterday did we find the foul beasts and slew all who faced us! Ah, a terrible battle it was...we were ringed on all sides by the things, and if it were not for out stout hearts and skill with sword or axe, we would surely have fallen!'

    The Elves smiled and glanced at one another with polite mirth and waited for the dwarf to continue.

    Brimbur’s stomach grumbled quite loudly and he looked up at the Elves with a meek, embarrassed grin before speaking again. ‘One of the wolves even tore a hole in my favorite cloak when it snapped its filthy jaws at me,’ he said, lifting the hem of his cloak in one hand.

    ‘Alas, they were no match for us!’ added Harkil proudly.

    'Ah, yes,’ said Gilglir grimly. ‘The wolves grow ever bolder; some have even begun to pass into fair Lindon.'

    ‘You are very brave, master Brimbur,’ said Tinuves with a smile.

    Ah, true!’ cried Brimbur and shook his head grimly. ‘Yet no praise do we seek, I am afraid, and our task is not yet complete it seems...'

    ‘I can assure you, Durin’s son,’ said the Gilglir, his eyes shining with delight at the two dwarves. ‘A few wolves trouble me not at all! I have faced worse perils than they.'

    At that Brimbur gazed up at the Elves with unbridled disbelief. ‘'What could be more terrible than the trolls that lurk in the passes of the Misty Mountains? Why, it was during my journey into the west with none other than Lord Glóin himself that we faced those terrible foes...’

    ‘Yes!’ cried Harkil with glee and a rousing laugh. ‘A marvelous tale that is! You should hear it!’

    The Elf smiled at Brimbur, a playful shimmer alighting in his eyes. ‘Even trolls, master Brimbur, trouble me but little. I, who fought on the field of Dagorlad and set siege to the Dark Tower.'

    Brimbur frowned, not entirely believing such nonsense. ‘I would gladly tell you of that tale, yet our eyes are focused to a terrible task at hand. The wolves that plagued Waymeet are no more. But now talk speaks of an old, scarred beast, a chieftain I think, still lurks in the hills nearby. Some foolish hobbit has run off with the delusion of dealing with this profound menace alone.'

    'Come, then,’ answered Gilglir. ‘Sit with us and tell us of this wolf which threatens the Halflings.'

  19. #19

    Chapter Eight: The Old Scarred Veteran – 16 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur glanced up at the Elves, his ever-growling stomach very disquieting, and spoke aloud. 'As I began to relate a moment before, poor Dora Brownlock is in a terrible predicament. Her neighbour, Jolly Smallburrow has taken it upon his foolish self to deal with the old, scarred leader of the wolves. It seems he is an admirer of young Dora...’

    'The things one will do for love,’ said Gilglir softly as the tall Elf gazed into Tinuves eyes with a warm smile.

    Brimbur watched the Elves for a moment, and then shook his head and sighed before continuing. 'Poor Dora has pleaded with Harkil and myself to go after the rash hobbit and make sure nothing unforetold happens to him, and to deal with the wolf chieftain ourselves...’

    ‘I hear a growling but it is no wolf!’ said Tinuves with a laugh. ‘Would you care to join our lunch, master dwarves? We can discuss this problem further.’

    ‘What a fine idea!’ declared Brimbur, his eyes widening and sparkling at the mention of a meal, especially an Elven meal.

    Tinuves turned to kneel atop the grass and began to spread of a fine linen cloth; Gilglir too sat down to draw from his pack plates and mugs of the finest wrought metals and set them on the cloth. The dwarves looked on with marveling eyes at the craftsmanship of the dishes.

    Soon there was a feast set out upon the ground; white loafs of bread, fruit, cheeses, and wholesome skins of wine. The food laid out brought the dwarves from their slumbering stares and sat down abruptly with eager, hungry glances.

    ‘Ah, thankfully…no cram!’ laughed Brimbur as he licked his lips. He leaned forward to grasp a large piece of cheese and bit into it heartily. ‘Lovely food, my fine Elven friends!’ he said between mouthfuls.

    Gilglir watched the dwarves with bemused delight for some time. 'I am sorry that the fare is so poor, but this is traveling provisions,’ he said finally.

    ‘Poor?’ said Harkil with a frown as he collected some cheese into one hand and a pinch of bread in the other. ‘My stomach certainly extends its thanks! Of course I do too!’

    This was very true; the wine seemed sweet and fragrant to the dwarves, as warm as a golden autumn afternoon but with the coolness of a clear spring or fountain. The taste of the fruits were wonderful, sweet as wild berries, richer than the tended fruits of hobbit-gardens and the bread was unlike anything the poor dwarves had the pleasure to taste. Sweet it was and light, yet is seemed to warm their bellies and washed all feeling of weariness away.

    ‘Let it never be said that Dwarves are ungracious!’ laughed Gilglir aloud in a fair voice.

    Brimbur smiled between bites of pears and draws from his mug of wine. ‘But of course, master Elf. We are of the Line of Durin! Never let it be said that we are anything other than the most gracious!'

    Finally, Brimbur leaned back contently on the cloth and sighed, his eyes getting very drowsy. ‘A fine meal, my new-found friends!’ he said sleepily at last.

    Harkil chuckled aloud as he drained his mug and lifted the empty glass over his head in toast. ‘A bit late of course but none the less...a toast to our generous hosts!’

    ‘Here, here!’ cried Brimbur in agreement.

    The Elves exchanged warm, smiling glances to each other as Gilglir spoke. 'I have had many dealing with Durin's Folk in my time, Master Dwarf. I have always found your folk to be courteous and kind to friends.' Then his smile fell away and now he spoke in a low voice. ‘Come; tell us more of your tale and of this wolf. I would not have one of the Little Folk harmed by a wild beast.'

    Brimbur sat up and his face too grew grim and dark. ‘Sadly there is little more to tell - young Jolly has run off in search for this wolf chieftain all alone. I fear that we very well may find him in a position that he wished he never wrought!’

    Then the dwarf’s dour demeanor changed and his words now came swift and boastful. 'That will change master Gilglir! We four will march into battle as one, something that has not been seen since the days of Gil-galad!'

    Gilglir smiled softly at the dwarf and then sighed as if remembering a forgotten day very long ago. 'Yes, I remember those days well: the flash of the axes of the Dwarves beside the swords of the Men and Elves. Such was the terror of the hosts of Mordor at our onset.'

    Gilglir stood up tall and proud, his long dark hair and fine raiment shimmering in the golden sunlight. ‘Now that our meal has ended let us go aid this young hobbit. Then my mind will be more at ease and we can speak more.'

    ‘Very well,’ answered Brimbur, trying to sound grave and steadfast as he too climbed very reluctantly to his feet. ‘I suppose we must be off to find this jolly fellow, no humour intended of course...' he added with a sparkling wink in his eye.

    ‘Where is this beast to be found, do you know?’ asked the tall Elf, as he turned to help Tinuves who was already placing the dishes back into their packs and rolling up the fine white linen.

    Brimbur looked about then frowned slightly as he recalled the words of the hobbit in Waymeet. 'Hmm, Dora mentioned to look for Jolly on the far side of the road from the wolves den. To the north and east I think from here...'

    The dwarf turned, dabbing his finger into his mouth and held up his hand into the air. ‘Now let me see…’ he said slowly, gazing at the sun. ‘We should be able to make for the lane north of Waymeet across the fields just over there...'

    When all was ready, they set out, climbing the dusty path that led away up the slope and towards the farm nearby. Harkil slid his long axe onto his back and fell in beside Brimbur; the Elves exchanged glances and soon followed, their soft feet seeming to not even touch the earth. As the farm came into view, Brimbur’s eyes grew at once weary.

    ‘If I never see another Shire chicken...’ he muttered softly as he stomped at the ground when a chicken came scampering past from the farm yard. The dwarf then glanced guardedly over the top of the low stone wall before them before he leapt over clumsily. Harkil swung his legs over and plopped down on the ground on the other side.

    Gilglir held back a rising laugh as he watched the dwarves and then sprang lightly and nimbly over the wall. Tinuves smiled at the tall Elf and made her way quietly through a break in the wall a bit further on to one side.

    The companions made their way through the fields and struck a path over the grass on the far side. They passed through vibrant bushes and whistling rowan trees that shook and trembled in the gentle wind over their heads. It was not long when they came to the lane that led north from Waymeet.

    Brimbur went forward to step onto the lane with stiff boots. He glanced down both directions, and then looked at the others. ‘Ah, here it is at last. To the south lies Waymeet,’ said the dwarf aloud as he pointed off to the south. ‘And further along is Dora's farm. Beyond that is the wolf den...near there is where we hope to find poor young Jolly Smallburrow!'

    Without waiting for the others, the dwarf hurried along down the lane that slowly dipped further to the north. For a long time no one spoke and a disquieted watchfulness fell upon the companions. As they went forward, the fields fell back and the steep slopes of the hills began to crowd the sides of the lane. Here and there upon the heights they caught glimpses of ancient works of ruined stone. Gilglir gazed wistfully at the ruins and began to speak to Tinuves with a soft voice in the Elf tongue.

    So far Brimbur nor his companion had said nothing. He was looking out over the trees and the sound of steady dwarf boots mingled with the soft patter of Elf feet came soft to his ears. At last they came to the crossroads, where the worn stony path led up towards the dreaded wolf den to the east. There Brimbur halted and turned towards the others.

    ‘There lies the wolf den, dreadful place, full of the foul beasts,’ he said quietly and a sudden shiver. He then turned to the faded path on the other side of the lane that wound through two low hillocks towards the west. ‘I believe this is where Dora spoke of…’ he said finally uneasily.

    Tinuves followed the dwarf’s gaze and then down at him. ‘Please, master dwarf, lead the way,’ she said grimly in the Common Tongue.

    ‘Me?’ said Brimbur with a startled glance at the Elf. He began a nervous muttering, and then cleared his throat very loudly. ‘Of course, is what I meant to say!’ He looked timidly down the path and then added. ‘Follow me,’ he said not sounding very convincing.

    The companions grew ever more wary as they strode slowly and watchfully up the faded path. Brimbur had gone perhaps only twenty or so steps when he halted suddenly, his bright eyes glinting in the fading light of the afternoon. At first the dwarf shrank back with alarm as a darkened figure now came into view; but then he sighed and the panic swiftly lifted when he saw that it was a hobbit.

    ‘You there!’ he called out with barely a whisper. ‘Are you Jolly Smallburrow?’

    There at the end of the lane stood a small camp; to one side was a narrow lean-to tent staked beside a crackling campfire. A young hobbit, his face framed by short ginger-coloured hair, was seated at the fire, sharpening a long knife with a whetting stone. Beside him lay a small bow of rowan wood and a sheath of arrows.

    The hobbit climbed to his feet as the companions hurried forward, his eyes wide with disbelief and wonder at the sight of Elves and Dwarves in the Shire so unannounced. Brimbur bowed his head quickly and then spoke rapidly in a low, apprehensive voice.

    ‘Miss Dora Brownlock has asked us to come looking for you,’ said the dwarf. ‘She fears that your desire to hunt for the fearsome wolf chieftain will lead you to harm.’

    'Dora was worried about me? Truly?’ gasped the hobbit with surprise. ‘Perhaps she does have feelings for me! Well, to tell you the truth, I was a little worried myself about what would happen once that wolf showed its muzzle around here.’

    The Elves hid smiles on their lips as they gazed down at the hobbit, who now turned to point at the bucket of rank meats at his furry feet. 'I felt sure my bucket of boar meat would lure the beast out of hiding, too. Ah, well. Maybe I didn't get smelly-enough boar meat...’ The hobbit frowned a bit and then sighed.

    ‘Oh well, I suppose I should clean up this bait, and we can go talk Dora together....'

    Brimbur gazed down at the bucket of smelly boar-meat and pinched his nose with repugnant distaste. ‘Yes, yes, remove that foul stench! Dora will be so pleased that we found you safe upon our return!’

    Jolly looked about, not certain what to exactly do with the bucket of meat. ‘Gracious me, what do I do with it? It smells something awful!’

    Brimbur nodded in agreement as was about to suggest burying in the soft earth, when the hobbit froze and then glanced about fearfully. The dwarf followed his gaze towards the top of the hillock; what he saw brought a sudden stirring of a cry to his throat.

    There stood a fearsome-looking and scarred wolf, its lean flanks scored with many countless old wounds. One ear was wholly missing atop its head and its hide was marked with many patches of missing fur from the terrible scarring.

    ‘Oh no!’ cried the hobbit as he shrank back behind the dwarf, who now looked incredulously down at Jolly, as if he was thinking of doing the same thing. ‘Umm…nice wolf?’ added Jolly with a whimper as he cowered behind Brimbur.

    The great wolf peered down at them with reddish shining eyes; a shuddering howl broke from the beast as it sprang down the hill with a great leap. A rang arose as Gilglir drew his sword with a cry. 'Lacho calad! Drego morn!' Harkil too raised his deep voice with a rousing roar and hefted his axe with both hands.

    Right into their center leapt the beast, turning its head to snap its foul jaws over and over. Harkil roared aloud and lifted his axe high, then cried out in pain as the wolf’s fangs bit into his leg. The dwarf choke back tears of pain and he fell back. Gilglir’s sword flashed in the dim light, its blade glittering bright and white as hot coals, as the scarred old wolf came now at him. The tall Elf stabbed at each nip of the beast, his other hand pressing Tinuves behind him in the face of the snarling wolf.

    Brimbur watched with horror at the battle then glanced nervously at Jolly. His hands trembled as he fought to hold tight his blade and then took an uncertainly step forward. The wolf had now driven the Elves back and suddenly whirled round as the dwarf’s heavy boot crunched down upon a long stick. At once sweat broke over the dwarf’s brow as the beast turned its ugly snout towards him.

    The wolf howled fiercely and gathered itself for a great leap onto the dwarf; Brimbur nearly dropped his sword from his hands and closed his eyes tightly, awaiting the darkness of death to wash over him. But there came instead a hoarse dwarven cry that was met by the fair song of an Elf. There was the sound of a hideous yelp and a great thud as if something heavy fell onto the ground.

    Brimbur carefully opened one nervous eye and looked about. There at the feet of Harkil and the Elf was the unmoving form of the old wolf, its eyes closed and extinguished. The two glanced at one another with solemn respect, their axe and sword red with the blood of the beast.

    ‘Horray!’ cried Jolly with joy as he ran up to shake their hands with great delight. ‘Thank you, my friends! Dora is sure to court me now this beast is dealt with!’

    Harkil laughed aloud and let forth a cheer; the Elves merely smiled and looked down at the hobbit with lidded eyes. Finally, Brimbur wiped the dampness from his brow and stepped forward with a stern-sounding, but very unsteady voice.

    'Well, well! An excellent battle to be sure!’ he declared aloud. ‘I was so concerned about young master Jolly’s safety that I neglected to lay at that foul wolf chieftain with my own blade!' He shrugged slightly as the others looked down at him with broad smiles. 'But I have three stout companions with me that allowed me to guard him as well as I did!'

    ‘It is so lucky that you are so brave to stand your ground in front of the hobbit,’ answered Tinuves with a raise of her eyebrow and a soft chuckle.

    Gilglir smiled at her as he wiped the stain from his blade on the scarred fur of the wolf at his feet. 'Yes, that was quite noble of you,’ he said mirthfully.

    'Ah but of course!’ said Brimbur, the fear now long passed and his chest swelled. ‘How could I not? What fool would wish to return to poor Dora with the terrible news?'

    Gilglir slid his sword into the sheath at his belt and turned to the dwarf. ‘Well, then,’ he said quietly. ‘Where to now, master dwarf?’

    Brimbur frowned thoughtfully and then turned to Jolly. 'Now see here...’ he said sternly, as if he was scolding a foolish stripling back in the halls of Ered Luin. ‘We slew the beast for you, make no mistake in that. But now it is time to forego this foolishness and return home!’

    Harkil laughed aloud and cheered. ‘Well fought comrades! Now we must celebrate!’

    ‘Indeed, master Harkil!’ answered Brimbur with a proud smile. ‘And it will be a wondrous celebration indeed of this glorious day!'

  20. #20

    Chapter Nine: One Trouble after Another – 17 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur awoke slowly and with a muttering grumble; he found that he had laid down his blanket atop some rather irritating pebbles and stones and now his back ached terribly from stiffness and pain. He rubbed at the tenderness in his neck as he pulled the blanket up to his chin and rolled over, refusing for some time to get up from bed.

    Just then he heard a voice; ‘What is so grand about it?’ grumbled Brimbur from under the blanket pulled up over his head. He thought it was Harkil speaking. ‘Sleeping on the open ground is for filthy Dourhands, not Sons of Durin such as ourselves…’

    The dwarf laid there waiting for an answer from Harkil and, when none came, he sat up with an exasperated groan. Much to the dwarf’s surprise, It was nearing dusk, and away westward the sun was slowly dipping red and orange as the day drew to a close.

    Brimbur blinked once and then twice as he glanced about in confusion; he could see no sign of his companion, and even Harkil’s pack, which the dwarf guarded more carefully than even his own life, was missing. Brimbur’s bewilderment grew to a look of abject dismay as the slow realization came slowly into his sleepy mind that Harkil was not in the camp.

    Brimbur threw off the blanket and kicked at a chicken that was pecking at his fine boots beside him. He sat up abruptly, and cupped his hands to his mouth. ‘Harkil!’ he shouted with pleading earnest. ‘Harkil!’ One or two hobbits turned their heads curiously at the dwarf but there came no response to his cries.

    Keeping a watchful and wary eye on the chicken, Brimbur quickly slid his boots on and stood up. ‘That fool of a dwarf!’ he grumbled loudly. ‘Now where could he have run off to?’ He set a hand to his stomach which began to complain bitterly and glanced about for his pack beside him. Only was only then, as he glanced brokenheartedly into the pack that he thought back to their triumphant return to Waymeet.

    It was after the victory over the dreadful old wolf chieftain, that the Elves had announced their parting of ways with the dwarves. ‘Truly?’ Brimbur had declared with shocked disbelief at the news. ‘Do you not desire to share the wondrous news with Dora?’ he exclaimed.

    Gilglir only smiled warmly at the dwarf. 'You must remember, Master Brimbur: the Hobbits have no such dealing with our folk as yours do. They view us as a legend. All save a few, that is.'

    ‘Of course!’ he had replied. ‘Where are my manners…you certainly have much more pressing business elsewhere! But do not fear, we shall relate to the young hobbit of our triumphant battle this day!'

    And so with kind words, the Elves said their goodbyes; Brimbur watched in silence as the Elves slowly melted away through the trees and were lost from view. He squinted to try to get one last glimpse at their fleeting forms through the trees and then called out.

    'I do hope our paths will cross once more my fairest of fair folk! May your journey from here be safe and without the worry of fear!'

    Miss Dora was most jubilant at the news of the wolf chieftain’s defeat upon the dwarves’ return, and more especially of the safe return of Jolly Smallburrow; she clapped her hands and laughed with shining tears as Brimbur proudly related their tale.

    ‘…and there at the end of a dusty path we found his camp; that young fool of a hobbit thought to hunt the beast himself. But it takes more than some smelly boar meat and a hobbit’s bow to face a brute like that! Ah, but what a battle it was...Harkil was steadfast with his axe, and...’

    At that point, Brimbur had turned a hesitant glance over his shoulder towards the tress where the Elves had departed. 'I laid at the beast with my blade and I put my own body between Jolly and the terrible fangs of the loathsome beast!'

    So overjoyed was young Dora that she burst into fresh tears, handing the dwarves a few bent copper coins as a reward for their victory. Brimbur at first waved them away, muttering that, ‘…a small task for the Sons of Durin, Miss Dora, your thanks and tears in all that we require…’

    And yet in the end, he relented and accepted the gift, bowing very low to the hobbit, saying over and over, ‘And to yours and your family’s!’ as his face washed a deep crimson. That evening the dwarves returned to the small camp in Waymeet and sat beside the fire, enjoying the last bit of Elven bread, cheese and wine so generous given to them at their parting.

    As they sat beside the crackling fire, they laughed and boasted of each other’s great prowess in that day’s battle until the sun set. They were still going on as the night drew very long and the dawn sun was fast approaching; only as the first glow in the east grew did Brimbur feel sleep coming upon him. He laid his head down on the blanket and his eyes as he listened to Harkil.

    ‘The wolves will certainly not think of returning now,’ said Harkil as Brimbur slowly began to drift off into sleep. ‘They will grow to fear Waymeet and terrible defeat they suffered here at our hands!’

    But that was last night; somehow Brimbur had slept much of the day away and now he found himself all alone, with no sign of his companion or of the Elves; Brimbur picked very disappointedly at the meager crumbs in his pack, not sure of what to do next. ‘First no breakfast and no drink…’ he muttered painfully. ‘And now no companion…’

    Just then, he leapt up and strode over to the road. For a moment, he looked first in the direction of Michel Delving and then towards Hobbiton to the east. ‘If I were Harkil, where would I have gone?’ he said aloud thoughtfully.

    Brimbur rubbed his bearded chin and glanced back and forth down the road with uncertainty. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers and cried out. ‘Of course, the Golden Perch! We spoke of journeying there only last night...Harkil no doubt left while I slept in hopes of getting the first drink!'

    He hastily returned to the fire and bent to reach for his pack; as he trussed it atop his back, he looked towards the east, ‘He had better not be forgetting me in any tales of our glorious victory against the ferocious Wolf of Waymeet, or I will have his hide!’ he said harshly.

    The dwarf stepped onto the road and, with one final glance at the camp, turned to begin marching up the gentle slope that led away and out of Waymeet. As the road reached the top of the hill, he came to a crossroads; to the right a narrow lane wound up and up towards Tookland. To the left a stony lane fell away towards the Water and to Hobbiton, where the first lights in the distant windows could be seen twinkling dimly in the deepening darkness.

    Ahead the Great East Road went rolling away like a piece of string and down the other side of the hill as it faded into the gathering dark. Brimbur sniffed the cool night air and looked up at the first stars that now began to twinkle softly in the inky black sky. The moon was slowly rising to the east, casting a shimmering silver glow over the peaceful Shire landscape.

    And so he went on as the road tumbled down from the heights and past the sleepy and darkened village of Bywater. On the far side, the road began to climb upwards once more, but more gentle this time between two lazy hillocks on either side.

    Brimbur was marching along quiet quietly, listening to the ominous rustling of the dry leaves in the dark trees along the side of the road. He had been marching along for some time, perhaps a half an hour or more, and had not met anyone along the road. This was to be expected of course; it was night and in the Shire. Hobbits tend to not take to the road at night and few if any travelers venture down its length, preferring to rest before taking up the march again at dawn.

    He had passed over the next rise beyond Bywater, where the land began to fall away towards more level ground to the east. Straight ahead wound the road over more even ground and through grasslands sprinkled with tall trees and shrubs. Suddenly he halted and his ears perked; Brimbur placed an unsteady hand to the hilt of his sword and peered down the road into the gloom.

    What came to his sharp ears was a sound like the flap of bare feet upon stone; the dwarf gripped ever tighter the hilt of his blade with whitened knuckles as the soft patter of footsteps drew nearer. Just then, as the approaching footsteps were nearly upon him, the sound stopped. The dwarf strained his eyes forward and thought he could glimpse a dim and very menacing shape in the darkness.

    The darkened figure halted and then took a step forward, a wicked club held tightly in one hand. The dwarf took a step back, fearing a blow from the murky foe and a wail began to rise in his throat. Then a shimmer of moonlight fell across the road, its light falling first on the shadowy form and the astonished face of the dwarf.

    ‘Why if it isn’t a Bounder!’ cried out Brimbur with much nervous relief. The hobbit lowered the club in his hands, but watched with wariness as the dwarf continued. ‘Hail and well met, master hobbit – fear not, I am no brigand or ruffian!’

    The hobbit looked about and then back to the dwarf with a sternness in his voice. ‘We Bounders keep an eye in the Shire,’ he said. ‘There have been strange folk about in the Shire, no mistake,’ added the Bounder who glances at the dwarf as being one of these strange folk.

    'Strangers?’ asked Brimbur with a furrow on his brow. ‘Indeed, but I am no stranger here, my young Shire friend! Why I only just am coming from a great victory over a dreaded wolf in Waymeet! Ah but the praise Miss Dora will speak of my aid!'

    The hobbit nodded his furry head, not entirely believing the dwarf. ‘There are wolves – and worse – beyond our borders,’ he said. ‘Keeping the peace is an important duty, and the Bounders only accept the stoutest of hobbits.’

    ‘As you should!’ cried Brimbur with a wide smile. He then drew nearer the hobbit with a whisper ‘Tell me master hobbit, have you seen a dwarf along the road this night?'

    The Bounder pulled back slightly and then shook his head in silence. Brimbur looked sternly at the hobbit for a moment, as if the Bounder could possibly be mistaken; he then laughed aloud. 'I thank you - I will not disturb you further from your dutiful and grim task any longer!'

    With that, Brimbur nodded his head and began to stride down the road once again. For long moments, the Bounder watched him in silence until the dwarf halted to turn round to wave a final goodbye and faded away down the road. Finally, when the last glimpse of the dwarf disappeared, the Bounder sighed loudly with a shake of his head and continued on with his nightly rounds.

    Deep twilight was all about as Brimbur marched onwards. There was no living sound, not even the occasional bird-call. The west wind sighed softly in the branches of the trees along the side of the road. He trotted on in silence, passing like a shadow, glancing about with rising apprehension. Brimbur dared not to utter a sound. Yet, after awhile, Brimbur began to feel very sleepy and stumbled once or twice as the wariness left him.

    The trees to one side of the road soon gave way to wide fields bordered by low wooden fences and stands of hazel. Beyond them stood a wide area dim and flat under the shimmering stars; suddenly there came a twinkle of light ahead and the first building of Stock sprang up into view.

    Brimbur’s eyes brightened at the sight ahead and he quickened his step, visions of what splendid meal awaited him ahead. Further along the road he found the road wound to the north, around a low green hedge. A gate stood along the road that passed into a wide courtyard, filled with tables, flickering lights and even a fine gazebo in its center. The dwarf rushed eagerly under the gate and towards the steps of the inn. He took a quick breath and then grasped the knocker on the round door and pulled it open.

    What greeted him was a fine room, though not as fine as the Bird and Baby in Michel Delving. The foyer led into a small hall seated with several long and low wooden tables with plenty of seats and chairs. Nearer the back stood a small bar and a smoky hearth whose fire was slowly dying to an ebbing glow of deep coals.

    The dwarf wiped his feet very carefully on the mat inside as the hobbit innkeeper glanced up with surprise. It was very late, of course, and only the most ardent stranglers were still seated about the room. In fact the innkeeper, Gunderic Grubb was his name, was about to close for the night when this dwarf came stepping through the door. The hobbit sighed as the dwarf gazed round the room with hungry, eager eyes and then strode up to the bar.

    The dwarf collapsed atop a stool and dropped his pack to the floor. ‘A meal, my fine friend!’ he said with a loud gasp. ‘And a drink too, mind you…’ he added muttering as he tossed a few silver coins onto the bar, dispensing with further talk.

    The hobbit looked at the dwarf incredulously and then at the clock hung onto the wall. Then, with a further long but soft sigh, he only nodded his head and walked into the kitchen. The innkeeper returned shortly with several plates and a mug of wine and laid them out on the bar. He collected the coins and turned to begin the last bit of cleaning for the night, when Brimbur spoke up.

    ‘Tell me…’ he began as he reached down at his plate to toss a sausage into his mouth. ‘Can you fetch master Harkil; he if course of my kinsmen.’ He then looked up from his meal. ‘A dwarf such as myself, I mean.’

    The innkeeper said nothing but gazed back at the dwarf with apologetic eyes and shook his head. ‘No dwarves have come calling this night?’ asked Brimbur mournfully as he lifted the mug of Brandy Wine to his lips between hearty mouthfuls of mushrooms. He returned the hobbit’s gaze with a look of skepticism.

    ‘Are you quite certain about that?’ he added.

    The hobbit nodded politely and reached for his broom to make himself as busy as possibly, hoping that the dwarf would grow tired and disappear. The soft whistling of the hobbit filled the room as Brimbur poked at the few remaining crumbs on his plate; he drained his mug then called out to the innkeeper.

    ‘I shall enjoy a bit of pipeweed, I think, before bedtime,’ he said aloud. ‘Prepare me a room, good fellow, and should a wayward dwarf arrive in the night, tell him I am most displeased with him!’

    With that, the dwarf jumped down from his stool and bend down to collect his pipe and pouch of pipeweed. He strode over to the hearth, took up a bit of glowing coal from the fire and soon a grey puff of smoke rose above his head.

    His stomach, and spirits, now much contented, Brimbur walked to the door and stepped out onto the porch. For some time he stood there in silence, blowing out beautiful grey rings of smoke that rose up and floated over the green hedge round the courtyard.

    The dwarf was enjoying the cool quiet night air when suddenly he stood up straight with a start. Unnoticed by the dwarf was a hobbit who had fallen asleep on the lowest step of the porch. The hobbit yawned loudly as he stretched his arms with and blinked around before his eyes rested on the astonished dwarf standing above him. The hobbit muttered an apology and clambered to his feet.

    ‘Now who might you be, young master?’ asked Brimbur with a puff of smoke from his lips.

    ‘Mat Harfoot,’ answered the hobbit meekly as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

    ‘And why do you sleep outdoors with such a fine inn right through this round door?’

    The hobbit shrugged sheepishly as he yawned deeply once more. 'The Bounders haven't been able to keep the peace as well as they used to, no offence intended,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘So we've organized our own little group. We call it, well, the Vigilance Committee.’

    ‘Ah, very good, and a fine name!’ answered the dwarf with a grin. ‘The Bounders are excellent fellows to be sure, but an unlooked for helping hand is something needed in these dark, desperate times.’

    The hobbit nodded his head in agreement then continued. ‘A few of us have been looking into strange doings, like that Black Rider that's been seen roundabout and other Outsiders who've come to the Shire lately. The thing is, one of our members has gone missing.’

    The dwarf choked back a puff of smoke and looked down at the hobbit. ‘Did you say, gone missing?’ he said with a disconcerting stare in his eyes.

    The hobbit nodded his head ever more rapidly. ‘Violet Underhill was going to look into some reports of strangers in the south of the Marish, but she hasn't come back, and I'm getting worried. I wonder if you can go down there and look for her?’

    At first, Brimbur was about to relate to the poor hobbit that he was in need of finding a lost companion of his own, and that he sincerely could not waver from such a dire task. But a thought crept into his mind. ‘All this talk of strangers and such!’ he thought with a chuckle. ‘No doubt a couple of my kinsmen, not accustomed to Shire inns who have decided to find rest in a patch of woods. Or more likely, some willful hobbit lads out for a bit of mischief as youngsters often do!’

    He smoothed out a crease in his tunic with one hands and then cleared his throat. ‘There has been much talk of strangers in your fair Shire since I arrived,’ he said finally. ‘Probably nothing more than a few of my kinsmen who are making their way back to our beloved halls in the Blue Mountains. Certainly not to be concerned about, my friend! This Miss Violet you speak of probably wandered off to pick mushrooms and is even now sleeping away her full and content belly.’

    Mat grasped the dwarf’s hand and shook it thankful, adding. ‘It may be that Farmer Maggot has seen her.’ The hobbit then turned to point off to the south. ‘He knows what's what around there. His farm, Bamfurlong, is south down the river road, in the Marish.'

  21. #21

    Chapter Ten: The Maggot Farm – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur halted along the road and turned to peer curiously towards the summit of a hill overlooking the land about. There stood a tall but ancient and crumbling tower of worked stone that glinted in the growing light. At once it seemed rather out of place for the Shire and yet Brimbur felt no sense of unfriendliness or ill from the ruined stonework. Instead, the dwarf scrambled up the slope until he was standing in the deep shadows of the tower, gazing up at its towering heights with admiration in his eyes.

    ‘Hmm, good stone...’ he muttered as he placed an ear to the stone and tapped very hard. ‘This cannot be of hobbit-make to be sure! No doubt left from when Thráin and Thorin first passed through this land to the Blue Mountains…’

    This of course was pure speculation; few such ruins still stood within the Shire, most having long ago been dismantled by the industrious Shire-folk to use the stones for the construction of their homes over the many years. Yet, Stocktower, as it was properly known for its true name was lost many ages ago, had become something of a local oddity and was spared such a fate. Young and mischievous Shire children would often come to this hill for games and such, despite the admonishment of their parents to the contrary.

    Brimbur has arisen even before the dawn to gather his sword and pack, and paid a visit to the innkeeper for a bit of foodstuffs for his journey that day. To this Gunderic Grubb was all too welcome to provide, so overjoyed he was when he learned that the strange dwarf would be departing. Dawn was only just breaking into the eastern sky when the dwarf set out very quietly down the road from the inn.

    The Stock Road ran first south from the village down the slopes until it swung west to sweep along the bubbling banks of the Stock Brook in more or less a straight line. It passed first into Woody End, a broad and densely wooded upland region of the Eastfarthing that lay between the Green Hill Country on the west and the Marish on the east and south. Through Woody End the road went, across the Green Hill Country and beyond, all the way to Tuckburrow.

    But Brimbur did not follow that path; he set out from the inn and went very quietly down a gentle slope towards the south along the road. At the bottom of the slope, he turned to glimpse the last twinkling of the village behind in the growing light. When he reached the spot where the road turned round to the west, Brimbur came to a small stony but low bridge that crossed the Stock Brook. On the far side ran a narrow lane along the marshy banks of the Brandywine and rolled away into the distance.

    The dwarf had placed one unsteady and distrusting boot upon the bridge before hurrying across. He had not gone far when the hill atop which the Stocktower stood had come into view. Now, as Brimbur rested in the shadows of the tower, the morning arrived swiftly, and the sun shone bright through billowing whitish-blue clouds overhead.

    After his brief rest atop the hill, Brimbur made his way back down to the road; much to his delight, the lane went across level ground lined with stretches of wooden fences and past small coppices of trees whose branches rustled gently in the warm morning breeze. The dwarf marched on, whistling softly, tapping his feet in time with his tune for a mile of more.

    This was the Marish he now passed into; many farmlands could be found here, and the banks of the Brandywine were known for its rich soil. Yet the Marish as equally known for its many bogs, fed chiefly by the Shirebourn, a river that rose in the foothills of the Green Hill Country and ran past Woody End, through the Marish until it at last flowed into the Brandywine to the east.

    After some time, the many stands of trees came to an end; despite this Brimbur was not particularly pleased for the ground began to grow soft and boggy beside the road. Now he found the lane following the edge of a wide field of mushrooms to the right; at the far end of the field the lane reached a fork. A rutted and muddy path continued on to the south but here the lane turned round to sweep west towards a distant clump of trees. There he could see the roof of a house peeping out of the tops of the tall trees.

    The dwarf paused silently to gaze down the muddy path and then towards the farm with wary suspicion. With great reluctance, Brimbur made his way slowly down the lane; presently he could see the thatched roof of a large house in the center of a low stone wall that encircled the farmstead. Other outlying buildings could also be seen as the lane ended at a stout wooden gate in an opening of the stone wall.

    Brimbur went to step through the gate when there came a snarling bark; he nearly leapt from his boots as a large hound came bounding round the farmhouse and dashed towards him from across the yard within. The dwarf shrank back with alarm as the hound sniffed the air suspiciously at him with a bristling back. Just when he was certain the beast would come straight at him to rend him to tatters, the hound merely wagged its tail and trotted back over the yard.

    Brimbur let out a long sigh of relief as the hound disappeared round the house once more and he warily stepped through the gate. He soon found a hobbit standing near the edge of the fields; a large round face framed with short brown hair, turned with surprise to the stranger. Instantly, Brimbur’s eyes drew wide and fearful as he spotted not one but two more large hounds lying sleepily at the farmer’s furry feet.

    Not daring to take one step further, Brimbur halted and called out as the hounds now shook the sleep from their heads and turned to glare and growl menacingly at him. 'Do not fear! I am no scoundrel here for your mushrooms, I can assure you!’ he said as much to the hounds as to the hobbit farmer. ‘I was sent to speak with farmer Maggot by Mat Harfoot in Stock. Might you be he?'

    When the farmer did not answer right away, the dwarf spoke once more, rather hastily as the hounds’ growling grew louder and more threatening. ‘Mr. Harfoot spoke of a hobbit that has gone missing, Violet is her name. And he spoke of unsavourly strangers in these parts. Is this true?'

    The hobbit looked at his with close eyes and then called for his hounds to heel. 'Violet Underhill? Yes, indeed, I told that young lady what I'm going to tell you, and what I'd have told the Bounders days ago, if I had any sense. Some ruffians have come into the Shire not far west of here. Brigands, more than likely. My son Hammy can tell you more about them, too. We'd both like to see them gone from the Shire.'

    'Ruffians you say,' answered Brimbur with a scoff of disbelief. 'More likely meddlesome hobbit lads than brigands!’
    The farmer gazed at the dwarf then shrugged his shoulders. 'I told that young lady that their camp was no place for her to be poking her nose, but I guess from what you can say that she didn't listen. I should have told someone about 'em, but I figured her to have more hobbit-sense.'

    'And you sent her over there?’ gasped the dwarf suddenly. ‘Whatever were you thinking?'

    Farmer Maggot frowned and then lifted his hands in polite apology. ‘Ah, I see it now. That hobbit-lass, Violet, probably went off to see those ruffians on her own. I never thought to warn her properly what might happen, I just figured she'd have the hobbit-sense to head back to Stock with the news so Mat Harfoot, and maybe the Bounders could do something about them. The camp of strangers -- brigands and thieves most likely -- is not far to the west of here. Ford the stream at the head of the waterfall.’

    ‘A camp you say?’ muttered Brimbur as his scratched his bearded chin thoughtfully. He was not convinced of this brigand business, and suspected the strangers to be of his kinsmen than some ill-favoured ruffians. Many dwarves could still be found on the East-West Road that ran through the Shire as they have always done so on their way to the mines high in the Blue Mountains.

    The hobbit nodded. 'It's no good waiting for the Shirriffs to do something now,’ he declared finally. ‘You'd better hurry out there and look around. I only hope she ain't been harmed!'

    ‘What do you mean, I’d better hurry?’ said Brimbur as he looked up at the farmer with a startled glance. ‘Isn't this precisely why you Shire-folk have your precious Bounders and Shirriffs?'

    But the farmer seemed to have forgotten about the dwarf for a moment. He mused to himself quietly and reached down to scratch the ears of one of his hounds. 'The more I think on it, the more sure I am that VIolet Underhill went to that brigand camp.’ He then looked up at the dwarf. ‘Their camp is west of Bamfurlong -- ford a stream at the top of the waterfall and work your way up the slope to the heights of Narrowcleeve.'

    ‘Oh very well,’ said the dwarf with a bemoaning groan and a shake of his head. ‘If they truly be my kinsmen, which I suspect is the case, it will not bode well should a band of armed and suspicious hobbit bounders come upon them unaware. That would not be a pleasant sight to behold...'

    Brimbur looked up into the sky and then bowed very low to the famer. He then strode through the yard, keeping a watchful eye on the wandering hound and towards a low stone wall to the other side of the yard. The dwarf glanced nervously back to the hobbit famer, and then hobbled over the wall into the tall field of corn stalks beyond.

    The dwarf made his way carefully through the field, grumbling with every step as the soft fronds of the early Spring stalks flapped his face incessantly. He was nearing the far edge of the corn field when he froze suddenly and the sound of loud barking could be heard off to his right. The barking was swiftly followed by the deep-throated laughter of a dwarf.

    Brimbur rushed forward and came out of the field, glancing about with nervous uncertainly. Just then, he spun to spy a figure sprinting out of the field some distance to the right, and with one of Farmer Maggot’s hounds nipping at his heels. The strange dwarf did not halt his pace until the hound slowed and finally gave up its pursuit.

    As the hound skulked back through the corn field, the dwarf halted, his breath coming in wheezing pants, and glanced back at the beast with a leer. Brimbur watched with bewildered silence and then spoke aloud.
    'You there! Whatever is the matter?'

    At that the other dwarf turned his head and stared at Brimbur with disbelief and wonder at the sight of another kinsman. 'Yes, yes,’ said Brimbur swiftly as if he were speaking to a stripling. ‘I am speaking to you, master dwarf!'

    The strange dwarf glanced back towards the field and then strode up to Brimbur. 'Oh, nothing. Just paying a little visit to the fields of the farmer,’ said the dwarf sheepishly with a grin and then drew out a large mushroom from his pouch and took it with one bite.

    ‘A visit?’ said Brimbur frowning. ‘I think it seems more like a panicked flight! Now see here, are you the one responsible for these tales of ruffians and scoundrels around here?'

    ‘What’s it to you?’ answered the dwarf with a scowl. ‘I'm just passing through toward Bree. This is the only mischief I've caused…I'm no more a bandit than I am a Hobbit.'

    ‘I hope not,’ said Brimbur dubiously. ‘A Dourhand you certainly are not, but less a Son of Durin to be scaring these Shire-folk with your mischief!’

    ‘Oh, what’s the matter?’ scoffed the strange dwarf. ‘These mud-grubbers could use a bit of excitement. Better me lifting a few mushrooms than a pack of goblins ravening after them.'

    ‘Mud-grubbers?’ answered Brimbur with distaste. ‘Why I ought to....' His voice trailed off to low muttering; He then composed himself a bit and looked sternly at the newcomer. 'What do you know of young Violet Underhill?'

    ‘Who’s’ that?’ quipped the dwarf between bites of a second mushroom.

    Brimbur planted his legs wide and set his clenched hands to his waist. 'She happens to be a very fine hobbit lass that came round here to seek word of a band of ruffians camped nearby. Sadly she has gone missing and I have been asked to look for her!'

    ‘Again with the ruffians...’ muttered the dwarf, his brow furrowed. ‘Come on, tell me another one! Let me guess, you're the heir of King Daín.'

    'I am certainly am not!’ retorted Brimbur with much indignation. ‘I happen to be the one and loyal companion of none other than Lord Glóin himself! But that tale is for another time! Back to these ruffians...'

    The dwarf laughed a hearty chuckle and slapped his leg with one hand. 'Sure you are! And I'm a Daleman.'

    Brimbur gazed sidelong at the dwarf. ‘I will have you know that I am the victorious champion of Waymeet! I alone defeated the dreaded Wolf of Waymeet!'

    ‘Oh, indeed?’ asked the dwarf with some mirth in his voice.

    ‘Yes, indeed!’ answered Brimbur scornfully.

    The dwarf now only shrugged and bit into another mushroom. 'If you say so. Now, what's this about ruffians, Master Wolfsbane?'

    Brimbur sighed long and loud and then lifted his hands up. 'See here, there is better time for such prattling. Surely you are not one of these fellows Farmer Maggot spoke of...you and I are kinsmen, of the truest blood, let us call a truce to this nonsense and speak openly to the task before me.'

    The dwarf eyed Brimbur and then nodded his head. ‘I am Rurir, at your service,’ he said simply.

    Brimbur placed his hand to his breast and bowed very deeply. 'And I am Brimbur, at yours and your family's!' Then his voice grew grim and low as he spoke again. ‘Let us settle this minor fault. I am in need of a kinsman such as you. I must find Miss Violet and uncover this mystery not only of her disappearance but also of these rumours of strangers, brigands or worse. I was told to seek a place called Narrowcleeve, just up the road from here among the tall hills over there.'

    At that Rurir laughed aloud. ‘You must? What are you, a Bounder?’

    Brimbur’s eyes blazed brightly. ‘A Bounder? Me?’ he retorted. ‘I certainly would hope not! I was a companion of master Gimli in our march to the Iron Hills; I journeyed with lord Glóin across the perilous vastness of the Misty Mountains. Bounder indeed!'

    Rurir gazed at the dwarf with questionable eyes then sighed. 'Well, come, then, your Lordship. Let's take a look at these 'ruffians', if one so high and mighty will condescend to travel with my humble self.'

    Yet, much to Rurir’s surprise, Brimbur merely sat down in the grass beside the road. He yawned loudly and his eyes grew sleepy. ‘True, true,’ he muttered slumberly. ‘But the road will not drag me one more step…it has been a very tiring morning already and I think a bit of a nap will suit me fine.’

  22. #22

    Chapter Eleven: At ‘Em Lads! – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur’s eyes fluttered open as he stretched his arms wide and yawned very loudly. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and then glanced up at the sky, which by the position of the sun showed it was well past noon-time. ‘By Durin’s beard,’ he muttered. ‘You fell asleep too long, you fool…’

    The dwarf sat up and looked about. ‘And where the blazes did Rurir run off to?’ he grumbled softly. ‘Gone as swiftly as he arrived.’ Brimbur climbed to his feet and glanced down the road for a sign of the dwarf. 'Cowardly, the lot of kinsmen these days...too timid to stand beside such a stalwart veteran as myself!'

    He relaxed in the grass, reached for a nice apple in his pack, and began taking bites as he pondered what to do next. 'Now let me see...oh yes, Miss Violet...’ he murmured between mouthfuls of the delicious apple. ‘She has gone missing…something about a camp somewhere on the heights of Narrowcleeve...'

    The dwarf tossed the apple core into the grass and began to smooth out the wrinkles on his tunic. ‘Ha!’ he laughed aloud with a sense of certainty and revelation. ‘First rumours and talk of ruffians in the Shire, and then this odd dwarf appears seemingly out of nowhere.’ He snapped his finger and laughed again.

    ‘Oh course! Rurir is not alone; he and some other of his companions are up there in Narrowcleeve. More like a Dourhand that a Son of Durin he seemed when we first met. He is no doubt the cause of all this worry and sorrow!'

    Now, being rather proud of his deductive abilities, Brimbur tightened he wide belt round his waist. He stepped onto the lane with a mighty cheerful whistle and began striding along. It was now afternoon and the sun was shining bright and warm in the sky. The ground began to rise slowly upwards to the west and soon a towering cliff came into view on the far side of a wide and fast-flowing river.

    The dwarf sighed softly as he sniffed the fragrance of flowers in the warm late afternoon air. 'Ah summer in the hills of the Shire! Mountains are my home but so do I love this fair land!' The late afternoon sun was just beginning to set and an orange glow glittered across the sky as the last rays of the day slowly sank in the west.

    As Brimbur neared the crest of the slope ahead, there came the sounds of rushing water over falls. A few steps ahead he spotted a faded path that forked from the lane, leading over a short muddy embankment. There he paused, looking further down the lane with uncertainty, then scrambled up the embankment and looked about. The faded path led over the rise and then sharply down on the other side to the very edge of the river.

    What the dwarf looked down on was a rushing river that suddenly swept over a cascading and clamorous waterfall. He knelt on the bank and peered across the water with some apprehension. The river flowed fast and strong to the waterfall and was very wide; yet it did not appear very deep, at least nearer the edge of the waterfall. On the far bank he saw that the faded path continued onwards as it began to wind up a narrow and steep slope.

    Suddenly, he squinted and stared at the far bank. There he caught sight of several dim and dark figures, their swarthy faces shining in the flickering light of a pair of torches atop tall wooden poles. With a flash, Brimbur leapt behind a large rock at the water’s edge, not daring to breath. After several long moments, he slowly raised his head to peer back across the water.

    ‘Bless me!’ he cursed and sat back down behind the rock. ‘Not dwarves or young hobbits up to mischief, but Men!’

    For several agonizing minutes, Brimbur did not stir; he glanced back towards the lane as he wrestled with the notion of scampering to Stock before the ruffians spotted him. Then he sighed very quietly, took a very uncertain breath, and dared one more glance over the river.

    'It would seem the rumours of ruffians here are true...’ he muttered quietly. Then Brimbur looked down at the sword on his belt. ‘Mannish folk are too tall for my blade to cleave their heads from their shoulders. Yet about this Violet...'

    Brimbur growled ferociously, though not very convincingly, and slowly stood up on rather shaky legs. 'Perhaps caution is wise at this venture. A true warrior knows when stealth can play a proper role in a coming battle!'

    For a tense moment, he watched the ruffians on the far bank, and then took a hesitant step forward. He poked a single finger into the chilled water and nearly turned round to scurry back over the embankment to the lane. Brimbur was not fond of water or rivers very much, and he certainly was no swimmer. Mountains and mines were better suited for dwarves, not boating or playful diversions in streams and lakes.

    And yet, something stirred in the young dwarf’s heart; he suddenly held the desire for true glory and praise, and he so desperately wished to be considered as such. The derisive words of Rurir came into mind and that really made his blood boil.

    The dwarf took in another long deep breath to bolster his sagging courage, and stepped carefully into the water. At once he shivered as water filled his boots; the water was icy cold and Brimbur waded across as best he could, sputtering and cursing as he clenched the hem of his cloak with cold trembling hands.

    When he reached the other side, the dwarf was frightfully cold and doubting the wisdom of his decision to go looking for Miss Violet, or the prospect of facing these Mannish folk. He crouched beside a moss-covered rock and peered over the top at the now much closer ruffians. Three there were, all very unsavory and ill-favoured looking. Each was clad in ragged tunics of leather and cruel swords or stout clubs were hung at their sides.

    Not daring to move, Brimbur looked on with growing fear as the Men began to talk with low voices that was masked by the sounds of the rushing waterfall. Suddenly one of the ruffians let out a hoarse laugh and turned to begin slowly strolling towards the banks of the water, right near where Brimbur was hiding behind the rocks.

    Brimbur almost stopped breathing altogether, and he went very stiff and still. His teeth began to chatter as the ruffian drew ever closer; his eyes darted to the other bank and was about to leap to his feet and dash across the water when the ruffian paused and then turned back to rejoin his companions in the light of the torches.

    In a flash, as if spurred by some new courage and strength, the dwarf leapt up. Brimbur went scuttling up the slope as fast as his legs could carry him, along the very edge of the rising cliff that fell back down towards the water.

    The narrow ledge climbed steeply upwards for some distance before it appeared to level off ahead. Brimbur slowed his pace and blinked; suddenly he spied more ruffians, four in all, descending down the path from the summit ahead. He looked about desperately for a place to hide, and a pang of fear and dread filling his heart. As the ruffians drew nearer, the dwarf threw himself into the grass, buried his head down with both hands, and held his breath.

    At once, the cruel and laughing voices of the ruffians inched closer, and Brimbur’s heart seemed to beat in his chest loud enough for even the ruffians to hear. Then, the voices seemed to grow fainter; he slowly lifted his head and, with much surprise, he saw that the Men had not even spotted him. They were now some distance down the slope and making their way to the others near the banks.

    Brimbur glanced about then leapt to his feet and, with a sudden dash, flew up the slope. After going a dozen steps, he reached the top and halted, peering and listening nervously about. The afternoon had now passed and dusk came, chilled and still in the dark shadows of the tall cliffs overhead. All around the top ahead was gathered the flickering of watch-fires, shining golden-red in the growing darkness.

    Much to his surprise, Brimbur could see shadowy shapes glinting now and then beyond a makeshift palisade of tall wooden poles and ragged skins of animal hides. A narrow gate allowed passage through the palisade and into a wide camp within.

    ‘More ruffians...’ he muttered with paleness in his eyes. Brimbur supposed that the camp was where Violet must be, and yet he was dreadfully fearful. Images of trying to sneak into the camp unaware and without being spotted crept into his thoughts, only to be run through with a sword or taken hostage was too much for the poor young dwarf.

    ‘I must find Violet,’ he muttered over and over, but for a long time he did not move. Now all fierceness had long drained from the dwarf and he wished for nothing more than to be seated in a nice comfortable chair in front of the fireplace back in the Golden Perch. He looked one last time at the palisade and camp beyond, then stood up and began picking his way very carefully back down the long slope.

    He had gone only a few steps when there came a hoarse shout and a cruel laugh. In the growing twilight, Brimbur spotted a tall ruffian, his swarthy face twisted into a vicious sneer, looking right at him with hungry eyes a few feet further down the path. With a snarl, the ruffian sprang forward.

    Brimbur drew his sword just in time as the ruffian smote at him with a wicked wooden club; there came a loud clang as the two weapons met and Brimbur’s hand began to tremble violently. He glanced hastily about for an avenue of escape, but there was none. Then, his distraction proved costly; the ruffian laughed and swung back his club. With a wide arc, the club came down upon the dwarf’s head. His ears suddenly rang like towers bells and his eyes were filled with scintillating motes of stars.

    Brimbur held his sword desperately with both hands, trying to parry the next blow and then stabbed forward with half-closed eyes. There came a groan of pain and the ruffian staggered back, clutching his stomach. The Man gazed down as his tunic began to turn red and then up to the dwarf, who returned an equally surprised look. Then the ruffian’s eyes slowly dimmed and he fell over onto the ground.

    Without a second thought, Brimbur rushed down the slope, his sword clenched forgotten in his hand, and right into the ruffians at the bottom. They were looking up the slope with wary watchful eyes, having heard the cries of their companion and the clash of weapons. Yet the sight of a dwarf with a sword in his hands was not what they had expected to see.

    Brimbur’s heart leapt to his throat and he gave a terrific shout. He did not pause but ran straight down towards the bewildered ruffians, who stood mouths open with surprise at the dwarf who now ran through their very midst. Then, with swords rattling, the ruffians let out cries of delight and rushed after him.

    His heart bursting from his chest, Brimbur splashed into the water, and then up the embankment on the far side. On his heels came the ruffians, who shouted and cursed at him as the dwarf reached the lane and sprinted down the gentle slope.

    On he ran and the ruffians pursued; but soon even the most hardy of the ruffians now began to slow. One by one they gave up their pursuit and turned back grumbling and cursing to make their way back to the ford and cross back over the falls.

    It was a quiet comfortable evening, an hour or more after the setting of the sun, at the Golden Perch. There were several hobbits seated in the back of the room, as well as one or two seated near the fire. All were enjoying a well-needed supper, a refreshing drink or favorite morsel of after-supper dainty, and chatting in polite conversation about the day’s work in field or garden.

    Just then a mournful groan came from the round door; it was swiftly thrown open with a loud bang and in stepped a dwarf, a nasty-looking welt across his sweating brow. His crimson tunic was in disarray and covered in mud. ‘Ruffians…’ he muttered as staggered inside and collapsed to the floor.

    For a long pause of stunned silence, the hobbits looked on with disbelief and alarm and then all leapt to their feet to shout and mutter with wonder and some fear. One or two of the more brave hobbits, the younger ones of course, and then began to creep hesitantly towards the unmoving dwarf, only to spring back as the dwarf stirred suddenly.

    ‘I made it…’ muttered the dwarf with a long painful sigh.

  23. #23
    Well...so Brimbur has now lost two dwarves...

    I did not think there was any possible way of sneaking into the brigand camp atop Narrowcleeve, but I had to try. I am not even sure what I would have done if I did, and then released Violet...he may very well need some help in rescuing poor Violet.

    The battle with the lone ruffian marks the third foe (literally the third mob to have been fought) brave Brimbur has crossed blades with. The first was a lean and hungry wolf in the wolf's den; then of course the dreaded scarred wold chieftain; and now a brigand. Not too shabby! Ah, so tales of his skill in battle grows and precedes him...

    I am very curious of feedback on this latest story, so please feel free to leave a comment, critical or otherwise!

  24. #24

    Chapter Twelve: And a Dwarf Makes Five – 18 Rethe, 3016 TA

    Brimbur reached gratefully for the mug of ale from the innkeeper and sat down very painfully upon a stool. He was still shaking and his head burned with fire from the blows of the ruffian’s club. Slowly, his head cleared a little, and he gingerly rubbed his temple as he turned to look about the tavern.

    Most of the hobbits, following their initial fright and surprise by the dwarf’s sudden and dramatic entrance, had returned to their seats. Yet many kept a watchful, curious eye on the dwarf, from a safe distance, of course. Most surprised (and quite dispirited) over the dwarf’s unexpected return was poor Gunderic Grubb, the innkeeper. He naturally had thought the dwarf was quite mad, with his endless blathering about missing hobbits, and of brigands and thieves. Gunderic had assumed that Brimbur had run off and undoubtedly drowned in a rushing river or became a fine meal of the hungry wolves that now prowled the borders of the shire in greater numbers.

    Now, with the initial excitement gone, Gunderic found he had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with the dwarf once again. The hobbit tried to seem busy as the dwarf prattled on endless, nodding his head politely as to seem interested in Brimbur’s tale.

    ‘A fierce knock to the head it was; thankfully dwarves have hard skulls as I did not have a helm to guard against such things,’ said the dwarf as he neared the end of his tale. Gunderic nodded once more as he began to organize the shelf of mugs for the second time. The hobbit sighed softly when he noticed the dwarf had fallen silent and turned to look over the room, leaving him finally in some semblance of peace.

    For a good while, Brimbur sat gloomy and very despondent upon the stool. He had escaped the clutches of the ruffians, but he was at a loss of what to do next. Harkil had gone missing, and then Rurir too; he was all alone with no plan of what to do next. Violet was still held captive by the unsavoury fellows, he was certain of that, but the very thought of returning to their camp was enough to shiver his bones.

    Just then, the beautiful round door opened and a group of hobbits, three to be exact, stepped inside. The hobbits held staves or clubs in their hands and feathers in their caps, and each looked very important and official. They were clad in matching surcoats of blues, greens and whites.

    They were Bounders of course, a sort of police among the Shire folk. In these days, the Bounders had greatly increased their numbers; of late there came many reports and complaints of strangers and nameless things prowling about the borders and it was the Bounders’ duty to ‘beat the bounds’ as they say, to deal with Outsiders who wished to cause mischief.

    The hobbits set down their staves and clubs below the pegs at the mat and then strode towards the bar. ‘Hiya Ernald!’ said one of them cheerfully to an elderly hobbit standing beside a table strewn with all manner of clothing. They took seats at the bar, and one of them, a hobbit lad not far from his tweens, called out. ‘Hullo Gunderic! I’ll have an ale to wash the road from my throat.’

    ‘Just apple cider ‘fer me, Gunderic,’ added the third Bounder, who had until now remained silent.

    Presently, Brimbur, who had lowered his head to the top of the bar, looked up with astonished eyes. ‘Bounders!’ he exclaimed with joy. ‘What luck!’ He then slid from his stool and bowed very low to the three hobbits with a wave of his arm to his chest.

    One of the Bounders gave a stiff salute, and looked at the dwarf’s cloak with curious eyes. ‘Greetings sir,’ she said as the dwarf bowed still lower.

    'Hail little masters! What a chance to meet a company of you fine folk this evening!' stammered the dwarf.

    'Well, hullo Mr. Dwarf,’ said the young hobbit lad as he sipped his ale. 'We're just in from patrols.'

    Brimbur gazed slowly at the hobbits with a broad smile. ‘Indeed? A patrol, you say? And what are you patrolling against the fine night?'

    'Brigands,’ answered the lad ruefully. 'Big folk what’s been harassing travellers on the East Road and such. 'Didn't see any though…brigands that is.'

    Uummm.... An' the concert,’ added another. ‘No troubles at the concert, I found out.'

    Brmbur’s face paled and his eyes grew large and wide. ‘Brigands you say?’ he muttered ominously and looked back towards the front door of the inn.

    'Yep…all sorts of strange folk coming through the Shire,’ answered the lad. ‘The Bounders have never been so busy.' Then the hobbit set down his mug and bowed apologetically to the dwarf. 'Oh, how rude of me. Bounder Recruit Reisenbread.' He then pointed to one of the lasses and spoke. ‘This is Voluntary Assistant Chief Gennyrose.'

    At that Gennyrose tipped her cap. ‘Gennyrose Greenblossom,’ she added with a glance to Reisenbread. Then the third Bounder took a step forward and bowed deeply before the dwarf. 'Bounder Pandrae, sir,’ she said respectfully.

    Suddenly, the smile fell from the dwarf’s face and he glanced skittishly about the room. 'What a strange coincidence indeed then,’ he said, lowering his voice to but a whisper. ‘I spotted a few rather unsavoury fellows this very day!'

    'Unsavoury fellows?’ said Gennyrose with some surprise. ‘Goodness…right here in Stock?’

    ‘Yes, unsavoury...’ answered Brimbur reluctantly. ‘But not in Stock, though terribly to close for my comfort and no doubt yours as well. It’s all on account of poor young Violet you see…’

    'Ye mean little Violet...lives across the road some?' asked Pandrae with growing curiosity.

    'Indeed…Violet Underhill that is,’ replied the dwarf sadly. ‘It seems she has taken it upon herself to look on some strange mannish folk away south of here. Something to do with the Vigilance Committee or some such thing...'

    Riesenbread removed his cap and scratched his head, 'Violet? The Underhills have always been a sensible family. What got in to her to do something like that for?'

    Brimbur shrugged his shoulders and was about to speak again when the door opened and a fourth unexpected Bounder strode into the inn. The others waved happily at the new arrival. ‘Hullo Winecup!’ they called out with one voice.

    ‘Hail Bounders!’ she said as she stopped and looked at the dwarf with inquisitive eyes. 'Hullo! What's all this?'

    Reisenbread waved his hand at Brimbur. 'We just finished our patrols, Winecup. We were having a drink when this dwarf started talking about unsavory folk.'

    ‘Indeed?’ said Winecup. ‘Then that makes me one drink behind...let me get one and I'll join in the interrogation,’ she added, looking at the dwarf with some suspicion.

    Brimbur stepped forward with a sheepish grin and bowed very low to Winecup. 'I am Brimbur, of the Blue Mountains, at your most honourable service! I was just now explaining to these fine Bounders of a rather terrible business I have discovered here in your lovely Shire!'

    ‘Please go on,’ replied Reisenbread politely.

    ‘Too much terrible business lately, ‘iffen you ask me,’ muttered Gennyrose. Pandrae finished her mug and nodded in agreement. 'We need more cook-offs an' such. Pies…lots an' lots of pies,’ continued Gennyrose with a chuckle yet with some seriousness.

    ‘Everything seems bad business these days,’ said Winecup who began to sip her mug and looked at the dwarf, waiting for him to continue.

    ‘Well…’ sighed the dwarf after a pause. ‘It seems young Violet went off to speak with Famer Maggot in the bogs south from here. That fool of a hobbit told her about some ruffians in the hills near his farm. And she went off all by her lonesome to deal with them!'

    ‘Watch your tongue about hobbits, sirrah!’ glowered Winecup.

    Brimbur muttered a hasty apology as he continued his tale with a grim voice. 'Farmer Maggot pleaded with me to go after her, despite my reservations of doing so - not for the lack of courage mind you...but rather I thought that I shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of your folk. Yet in the end, I relented and set out after poor Violet.’

    ‘Poor little Violet!’ cried Pandrae. 'An' she hasn’t been seen since?'

    Brimbur did not answer but only shook his head grimly. Reisenbread turned his eyes to the mug in his hands, then up to the dwarf. 'Brigands aren't the like one should be taken on alone,’ he said gravely. ‘But brave to be certain.’

    Winecup nodded in agreement and then gazed up at the dwarf. 'That does seem like a foolish thing to do.'

    ‘Too true!’ muttered the dwarf. 'Alas, I found their campsite, atop a high hill beside a river. The path leading up was heavily guarded and I soon found myself surrounded on all sides by the wicked Men!'

    Pandrae gasped aloud as Winecup looked on with wide disbelieving eyes. 'Brigands...here in the Shire?’

    Brimbur nodded slowly. ‘A dozen, perhaps two dozen there were, and they came at me with sword and knife! Many I slew and yet they did not falter! It was only when I threw down a chieftain that the rest fled before me!’

    'And what of Violet?' asked Reisenbread hesitantly, not wishing to hear the inevitable and horrible truth. ‘Yes, what of Violet?’ added Pandrae softly.

    The dwarf only shrugged before speaking. 'I fear the worst for Miss Violet. I believe she has fallen prey to the ruffians... captured at best she is, or worse. But I dared not venture further into the hills for I suspected there lurked many more of their foul ilk deeper within.'

    ‘Wolves are bad enough…but brigands now?’ said Winecup shaking her head. 'Probably these Rangers I've heard that's been hanging on our borders.’

    ‘We can’t just leave here there!’ cried out Pandrae, her voice cracking with sudden emotion. Gennyrose turned a concerned look at her friend and then gazed sternly at the dwarf.

    'It's good that you were able to take down the Chieftain. The others shouldn't put up too much of a fight, I hope.'

    'I hope not master hobbit!’ answered the dwarf hastily and with a rising voice. ‘But now I seek persons to venture back there to finish the rest, find Violet and bring her back safely. And what luck to have a company of Bounder when aid is needed most!'

    'It is what we does, sir dwarf,’ said Pandrae with a warm smile

    Winecup looked slowly at her companions then finally at the dwarf. ‘It’s time to mobilize,’ she said sternly. ‘Is there time to inform the Captain…’er the Chief?’

    ‘Oh, it’d take way too long to get a message to Addernotch,’ answered Reisenbread thoughtfully. 'Miss. Gennyrose . . . you're Senior Bounder. What do we do?'

    Gennyrose fell silent, plucking at the feather in her cap. Finally she looked up. 'Maybe you could send him a report when we've saved Violet. But for now, we bes' go rescue her 'afore she gets into any more trouble then she already is in.'

    ‘Sounds very sensible…’ said Winecup.

    By now, Brimbur had become exasperated by the hobbits’ banter; he glanced to one of the round windows and spoke up. 'It's getting dark,’ he said, interrupting Winecup in mid-sentence. The hobbit turned with a look of irritation on his face.

    'Darkness means nothing to the Bounders,’ he answered with a snoot. ‘It would be our ally in a rescue attempt.’
    'Where is this camp, Mr. Dwarf? Um…Brimbur. How far?’ asked Reisenbread suddenly.

    A hush fell on the hobbits and all eyes turned to the dwarf. Brimbur became very flustered and he shuffled at bit nervously under the silent gaze of the Bounders. He swallowed very loudly and then cleared his throat with a cough.

    'Hmm…let me see,’ he began with a stammer. ‘It was down the road south and then west along the lane...perhaps a mile or more?' He tugged at his beard for a moment, and then nodded as if agreeing with himself. ‘Yes, yes, then across the top of the falls and up a narrow slope to the summit of the towering hill.’

    'Well, iffen you know the way, seems you should lead us there,’ said Riesenbread simply.

    Before Brimbur could speak, Winecup interrupted; she had gazed at the dwarf with some distrust for some time and now his eyes grew wary and shrewd. 'How do we know he's not leading us into a trap?' he asked, still watching the dwarf. 'For all we know, he could be one of them!'

    ‘Me?’ said Brimbur with surprise.

    'Oh, he looks like a respectable enough dwarf,’ said Gennyrose with a smile.

    'Four of us and only one of him? I think the odds are in our favour,’ added Pandrae.

    'That's what makes me most suspicious…’ said Winecup.

    That was about enough of the terrible business for poor Brimbur. He waved a goodbye to the hobbits and smiled wide. 'Well then! You should be off!’ he declared aloud. ‘Take care and mind the hill and of its inhabitants...I shall have drinks ready for all upon your safe and victorious return!'

    'Ah...if anything...that is spoken like a true dwarf I can respect!' said Winecup.

    Yet Reisenbread seemed to not be convinced. ‘Whatever the situation is, it needs investigating, one way or another.' Brimbur nodded his head rapidly in agreement and was about to turn to stride over to hold open the front door for the hobbits, when Reisenbread spoke again.

    'Mr. Brimbur . . . iffen you could show us the way,’ he said.

    Brimbur looked up quite startled. 'What? Me show you the way to that camp?'

    But once again, Winecup intervened swiftly. ‘Miss Genny…’ she said slowly. ‘Iffen we're going...I volunteer to scout ahead, while you gather the troop.’ Pandrae turned to glare at the hobbit and then rolled her eyes. ‘What? He said sheepishly and simply shrugged.

    'Why don't we stop by Farmer Maggots on the way,’ said Gennyrose who quickly intervened. ‘An' we can get his side of the story straight from him.' She turned to Winecup. 'Would that suit ya, Winecup?'

    'That would help to confirm this story, I think,’ conceded Winecup.

    With that, Pandrae sighed softly as she turned to face the dwarf. 'Ready when you are, master dwarf.’

    Again all eyes turned to Brimbur, who was looking quite flustered. 'Well now, let me see...’ he stammered slowly. ‘I suppose I could show you the way to the crossing...yet it is still very dark outside…’

    'I know its dark,’ said Riesenbread apologetically. ‘But it's not like I could sleep till this matter is resolved, one way or another.'

    For a long moment, the dwarf did not speak, and a slight tremor entered his upper lip. ’I think maybe he wants to be paid for his help,’ said Winecup with a whisper to the others. That was enough to rouse the poor dwarf from his sudden bout of lethargy.

    Brimbur turned to look down at Wincecup with dark smouldering eyes and planted his feet very wide. 'Payment? Now see here young master...’ he said very crossly. ‘I am, or rather was, a companion to none other than Lord Glóin himself. I have little need for such things!'

    The dwarf let out a long exasperated breath and then slowly nodded his head as if in abject defeat. ‘Very well…’ he said with a sluggishness that surprised the hobbits. ‘Let us depart…’
    Last edited by Brucha; Jun 25 2013 at 01:15 AM.

  25. #25
    I must add a grateful thank you to the kinship, Shire-bound Bounders, for their aid and support for this part of the adventure. Their announcement of plans for the kinship was the inspiration for creating this story (ie., using an xp disabler to limit level advancements). The initial meeting with the Bounders was quite fun, and the coming battle with the foul ruffians turned out even more so!


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