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Hadrell's Journal

23rd Ringare. And then there were four.

A great deal has happened since I last put pen to parchment; dismay and hard decisions at Larrach Dunnain, flight though dark tunnels, combat, rescue, fear, injuries, gifts from the dead, and the meeting of new friends. The campfire before me is extinguished, growing cold, it would have been seen from some distance. Erethor and Moth lie sleeping, as does Gethin, Moth's brother. The night is clear, the moon bright. In its light I can see our new companion. Her name, as best I can pronounce it is Yawinawin. She is an Elf, slender, and head and shoulders taller than I. I do not know how long she will stay with us, but she appears interested in travelling at least to Tharbad. She is known to Erethor; it seems he has at one time been her guide. But let me start from where I left off, in the cells of Larrach Dunnain, the town turning against us, and the wait for justice to be served on the Dunnish miscreants so that we could continue our journey.

Of the Trial.

The night of the 22nd, lying there in the cell, I heard voices that disturbed me. Some came form the adjoining cell where the Dunnish thieves lay. They were trying to taunt our Rohirric friend, and to cause more mischief. I do not believe Erethor heard them, if he did he took no note of them. I also heard voices from the doorway of the cell where Moth and Delnenn slumbered. Moth's brother had come to talk with him, to plead with him that we leave Larrach Dunnain at once. The trouble that we had been warned about had become more apparent, and talk in an Inn called the Dripping Spear was of a mob intent on lynching Erethor. I did not intend to see the Rider tied like a ribbon to the hanging tree, yet neither was I about to leave the town before the court had made its decision. This was Moth's view also. His brother was sent away and we remained in the hands of the guards. Little did I know at that time that circumstances would change so drastically that I would be forced to reconsider that adamant stand.

I strove to sleep only lightly, the quick naps of the ever-watchful cat, and succeeded to a greater extent. At least when the magistrate came for us in the morning I became wide-awake instantly, and was soon equiped and dressed. The magister from the defendant's home town had arrived, and a decision could be reached. As I have said before, justice must be seen to be done, and to this end a large space had been cleared in the courtyard for the trial to take place. We were asked to leave our weapons in the hall, and did so willingly. As we entered to sit before the bench we were watched by a collection of Elders including Moth's grandmother. We could clearly hear the sound of the crowd at the gate, and there were many guards around the court and the perimeter.

The trial began. This is how I remember it, though I am sure others will have seen things in a different light. I blame them not at all. Truth is often a difficult creature to catch. The defendants gave their story, claiming that they had taken the horses in payment for a gambling debt. If this were so, it would be inconceivable that they would then kill and eat the most notable and valuable of the two horses. They also claimed that they were intending to go back and release Delnenn from the predicament that they had left him in. And yet they were already over an hours ride away when we caught up with them. I did not believe them and discounted their words. Delnenn told his tale, and although I am not altogether sure of this man, his testimony seemed to me to be truthful. He stated that he had never gambled with them. Lastly, after some discussion concerning who would represent us, for which the court gave us ample time, Moth rose and told the truth as we knew it.

But something was not right. At least twice in Moths account Erethor and I looked at each other in dismay, as the events he spoke of did not tally with those we had experienced and witnessed. Firstly he painted Erethor in a very bad light when recounting the details of the battle, and then he spoke of Delnenn admitting to being in debt to the rogues, knowledge that was new to both Erethor and I. The court was thrown into turmoil at this point. Delnenn, who was clearly angered by Moth's accusations, suddenly rose to his feet and launched himself towards our companion. I tried to stop him but failed to connect. Guards became involved, there was a scuffle, and then Delnenn was shouting. He called in a clear voice, to the whole court, and, who knows how many beyond the gates heard. He admitted his guilt, and that the truth was that he had hired US to kill these Dunlanders to whom he was in debt. I was stunned. What lies, what deceit. I could scarce believe the words I had heard. Moth pleaded with us to leave the court for the safety of the hall. At first I refused. It was still a court of law. They would see through such blatant lies. And at first Erethor also remained.

Moth's Grandmother stood tall and began to address the court. Though I cannot recall any of what she said, or even what she intended, though the action succeeded in drawing attention away from us. As I stood there, amidst the chaos, I saw a picture in my head. It was a strange waking dream, a vision. I saw Moth's Grandmother walking with Moth and I toward the hall, toward safety and quiet serenity, away from the noise of the court. And so I entered the hall with Moth. Erethor had used the disturbance as an opportunity to collect his horse from the stable. He led it into the hall and waited with us, waiting until order had been regained. I believe that, had the angry crowd broken the gates and stormed the courtyard, Erethor would have mounted and ridden out to meet them. Fortunately the gates held, the guards did their job, and much death was avoided.

There was one thing more that had been shown to me in that vision, and I knew from the memory of it that it was truth. There was more deceit to be uncovered this day. I had seen Moth clearly in the vision, and now as I looked I could see the signs. Moth was a girl. It struck me hard and I could do little else except blurt it out. There was not then time for explanations; those were to come later. Some of my words to her at that time were cruel, and I regret them now. Discussion would need to wait. At that point the state of the court and its judgement were of utmost import.

Gethin, Moth's brother appeared through a cunningly hidden trapdoor in the floor. It led into natural tunnels that continued for some miles to the north. He begged us to flee from the court. Moth also pleaded with me, but I was blinded by the lie that I had been shown. A court was still a court and I would await its decision. Gethin then informed us that the new magister was the uncle of one of the accused men. Gethin hid as guards and then the two magistrates came to talk with us. We mentioned the family tie, yet they insisted that this would not affect their judgement. Erethor indicated that, had the court been of Gondor, such a situation would not have been allowed.

What should I have done? It was clear that the decision of the court was to go against us, that we were to be accused and convicted of premeditated murder, that we were to be branded as assassins, hired killers. But how could I flee a court of law. Moth asked me "What will you achieve by going out there?" and I remember my words clear, "Honour, and the possibility of justice". But there would have been no justice, I know that now. There was much soul searching, and only when both Erethor and Moth swore to bring this matter before Elessar the King would I agree to go with them.

And so my honour is diminished, my soul is stained. May Mahal forgive me, I fled. And yet there is another element to be considered here. If I had stayed to hear the sentencing of this corrupted court, Erethor would have stayed also. If the decision had been against us, then there is but one punishment. If Erethor and I had been wrongly accused and wrongly executed, tied to the boughs of the gibbet tree, then the retribution taken upon the town and its people by the Rohirrim would have been terrible to behold. There would have been great bloodshed, and maybe even war. This could not be allowed.

Erethor left his steed in Gethin's hands. Gethin swore to meet us at the far end of the tunnels with our gear and mounts. We were to keep straight, and take no turning. We put our trust in him. If he were to fail us, the books of Aule would be lost to me, and Erethor would be without his closest companion.

Of the Caverns

Moth took Gethin's proffered torch and into the tunnels we descended. They are natural, carved by the action of water on the limestone. Once the trapdoor was sealed, the torch our only light source, I should have felt relaxed, having travelled in tunnels like these many, many times. But my heart was heavy, my spirit wracked. And always there was the possibility of swift pursuit. I do not fear combat, or pain, or even death, but many would have died by both axe and shaft had they caught us. I ran on, but I am slow, very slow. Erethor and Moth hardly have to do more than a walk to keep abreast of me, even when I am full running. My rolling, lumbering gate is a worry to me. Had we have been pursued down the corridor, then my lack of speed may have been the cause of much suffering and death. I could see that it was very hard for Erethor to keep to such a slow pace.

Erethor was not himself. Without his mount it was if a part of him had been removed, that he became diminished. He also seemed more wary. He was ever looking behind us, an arrow nocked and drawn. Moth was also not the same, but then I now saw Her rather than Him. She was clearly angry with me, and I felt disappointment and pity for her that she had to keep secrets from us. Now, listening to her moaning in her sleep, troubled by her recent wounds, I understand better. This was not something that she chose, her path was chosen for her, and we all walk a path appointed.

I was so distracted and troubled by the events that had occurred, that when there came a fork in our path, I was unable to ascertain which was the main route. Erethor put us right, and we continued with all the speed I could muster. We had gone some distance further, and had been forced into further choices of direction, when I heard the sound of a foe from my people's past. There was no chance of a mistake; this is a creature well known to the Khazad. We have killed their folk on numerous occasions in the ways beneath the Lonely Mountain, and Thorin II and his party fell foul of them many years ago in the depths of Mirkwood; it was the sound of a spider, a large one. At once I warned the others of what lay ahead, and asked Erethor to put a shaft to his bow, for there is no honour involved in fighting such a creature. I thought of the many dwarves who have died over the years as their prey, and strained my eyes and ears to catch something of its whereabouts. For some time there was no sign. We entered a cavern with three possible exits and started to believe that we had taken a wrong turning. Then, suddenly I heard it again. The spider, behind us, in the corridor we had so recently traversed.

I sprinted back up the tunnel, and saw the beast in front of me. It was large indeed, its legs spanning maybe seven or eight feet across. As I neared, it raised its forelegs high, above my head, in a threatening stance, its fangs bared and glistening with venom. I charged at it, calling upon Aule for aid, swinging my axe, and keeping the creature from my friends with thrusts of my great shield. I caught glimpses of my companions from the corner of my eye as I fought. Moth held her torch high, and I was aware of lights and sparks from her magic surrounding me. As her power struck the spider, so it would withdraw for a moment, pulling in its legs to protect itself. It was effective, slowing the creature, but unfortunately it made it more difficult to find an opening in the spiders defence. Erethor did not aid me. Perhaps he thought that the space available was too limited, and, in the flickering torchlight it would have been risky firing an arrow into the fray. And so, other than the shocks of an occasional bolt of Moth's magics I fought alone. Slowly I wore the beast down, regularly slicing its legs and body with my axe until its ichor began to stain the tunnel floor. A few times it had come close to wounding me, but my armour is strong and I do not harm easily. Towards the end of the battle it clamped its fangs onto the top of my shield. It was only then that I was truly aware of its awesome strength, and the damage it would have done had those fangs connected with me. At the last I slammed it back with a powerful shield thrust, and it lay on its back, beaten and dying, its legs curled protectively over its abdomen. There was to be no mercy and I hewed at it with my axe until I was certain that it would never rise again.

I have heard it say that it is bad luck to kill a spider. Gethin, when told of the fight, was surprised that we had encountered it, as he has always managed to avoid crossing paths with its kind. I was glad that Aule had given me the opportunity to face this foe. To kill such a spider almost single-handed was a deed to feel proud of, and it raised my spirits a little. I thought to take a trophy, but the fangs still weeped their poison onto the floor.

After I had ensured all were well, we returned to the cavern. I was unsure whether we were upon the right course. To check, Moth allowed herself to lapse into a vision, and assured us that she saw the smiling face of her brother. So, either we were travelling upon the correct path, or had made the same mistakes as he. During her vision, Moth had also seen another spider, the mate of the one that I had so recently slain. Although it was foolish, I hoped that we would meet it also, my axe was restless.

We continued on our way and soon came upon another cavern with three possible exits. We were to carry on through the northern tunnel, but as we traversed the cave I once again heard the sound of a spider. The mate was near. I felt it unwise to proceed, leaving a dangerous foe on our tail and so we sallied down the eastern tunnel from which the noise had emanated. Unfortunately, there were further choices of direction to make, and I lost track of the sound. Erethor took us back to the northern route, and I took up the rear, always watchful, awaiting the sudden strike of a spiders fangs.

Of new friends

Erethor led us, bow in hand, his quiver ever ready, and then suddenly he was stopped by a hazard we should have been looking out for. Where there are spiders, so too will there be webs. Erethor was trapped, caught in a web that was strung across the mouth of another cave in this meandering system. Moth started to cut through the web using her knife. I stood guard, knowing that the spider would return to its trap. And then as I strained to see into the darkest corners, I saw something upon the far side of this new cave. There appeared to be a body covered in webbing attached to the north-eastern wall.

I left Erethor in, what I thought were, Moths capable hands and crossed to get a better look. It was an Elf, female, although it can be difficult to tell, tall, and clearly in a predicament. I began to free her. Some of the threads I could tear away from her, others I cut through carefully with the axe blade. I replied to Yawinawin's (for that is who it was) Sindarin enquiry in like form. Throughout there was the need for haste, there was no way of knowing when the attack would come. Suddenly there was a scream from behind me. I turned, expecting to see our arachnid foe, and saw the web on fire, and Moth trying to extinguish the flames that licked around her clothing. She had tried to free Erethor by lighting the web. Spider's web is highly flammable, but unfortunately is also very sticky, and the flaming web had adhered to Moth, and to a lesser extent, to Erethor in the process. Erethor had rolled to try and put out the flames and was now cocooned in web, unable to free himself.

I quickly freed Yawinawin's left arm, helped her draw her sword from its scabbard, and placed it in her hand. I had to hope that she could cut free of the rest of the webbing herself, I needed to attend to my stricken companions. It was the work of but a moment to free Erethor, his strength aiding mine as we tore the cocoon from around him. I was about to turn my attention to the now still form of Moth, when Erethor scanned our surrounds and shouted a warning, "spider". I was torn. I wanted to turn and face my foe, but Moth was visibly wounded, and her need was pressing. Erethor freed Yawinawin, and I tended Moth. If the creature had attacked at that point, things may have gone ill for us, but it was a false alarm, and I had time to call on Aule's power to stop the loss of fluid from Moth's extensive burns.

I feel that Aule may be disappointed with me. I must try and atone for my fleeing Larrach Dunnain. It was necessary to call twice for The Maker's healing power. The first time I called the prayer there was no flood of warmth or golden light, but I was struck as if by a blow to the head, and it took me a few moments to regain my wits. I pray that Aule will give me the opportunity to rededicate myself to the path he has chosen for me.

Our new Elven friend came straight over to see if there was a way in which she could help our stricken wizard. She showed much compassion. Moth's worst burns were upon her body, and, knowing now her true sex, I allowed Yawinawin to bind her wounds. Moth was in shock from both her injuries, and from her miscalculation in applying torch to web.

I had earlier spied a pile of objects in a corner of the chamber, and once Yawinawin had tended to Moth she went to collect her belongings from the spiders horde. I like this Elf; she places people before items. I saw her take up some books, and a fine harp. I hope she has a greater repertoire than Turibor. Erethor also searched through this collection, the property of the dead both ancient and recent. He filled a pouch with copper coins, enough to provide amply for us all upon our journey. Also he took up two weapons. The rest was left, as gifts from the dead, to any that would pass this way.

Moth was able to stand and walk, though was obviously in great pain. She declined my support, yet I feel that she may have appreciated the fact that I remained behind her. There was still the possibility of a spider's wrath. Before making our way onward (Yawinawin knew the way), Erethor held a weapon up for my inspection. He had found for himself a light throwing javelin, but for me he had found a weapon far more to my taste.

Those who handle weapons rarely sometimes, erroneously, call the weapon a Morning star. Truly it is a specialised variety of flail. Flails will usually have a number of chains attached to a strong handle, sometimes with small spiked balls of iron or steel at their tips. This weapon has but one chain, and a single, far heavier ball. I would term it a ball & chain, or simply a single-ball flail. I only had a brief moment to look at the item and assess its quality, which now I believe to be beyond compare. It is of Dwarven make, and if my suspicions are founded then it may turn out to have been made by the great weaponsmith Dwain in the second age of Middle Earth, an age that finished over 3000 years ago. How such a great artefact as this made its way into the horde of a spider beneath Dunnish hills I know not. It is a weapon that would turn the tide of any battle in which it were wielded and its worth is almost immeasurable. I will study it in the morning sunlight before breaking the good news to my companions.

As we made our way through the final stretches of tunnel, both Moth and Yawinawin stumbled. The Elf regained her composure quickly, but Moth in her weakened state fell heavily. I took up the torch, and Erethor lifted her small frame easily, to carry her from the caves. His strength is very great, greater even than mine I believe. But I have the power of the Maker whose strength is greater than all. Finally Yawinawin led us to the mouth of the tunnels. Night had fallen, but the moon was rising and the sky was clear. All but Erethor stayed back in the shadows, and he crept slowly to the margin of the cave mouth, beyond which a fire could be seen, a figure lying beside it.

We worried that our pursuers may have outflanked us, and therefore Erethor crept forward warily and silently to the entrance. He was clearly as taut as the string of his bow, and as a result, when His steed's head popped out in front of him, he reacted instantly. Unfortunately his reaction was to flat on his back. It was an awkward fall, and I hope he did not injure more than his pride. It turned out our fears were unwarranted. Gethin lay dozing by his campfire, a pan of soup cooking over the flames. Horses stood nearby and all was as we had hoped. Apart from the armour, tents and weapons of the defendant's, all our gear was present, as were all our horses. Delnenn's brown horse was also present. Gethin is happy to make his way home on foot, however I am sure that Yawinawin will be glad of a mount. When we bring the injustice of the Dunnish court before King Elessar, we will return the horse, or its equivalent value. There is, as yet, no way we can turn over the beast to its rightful owner. At present there is no way of knowing who that may be, or, indeed, if they still live.

Of a secret life

We ate of the soup that Gethin had made, and Moth, although weak and still in pain, found time to tell us the strange tale of her upbringing. Females in Dunnish society are of a lower status than males. Apparently when Moth was born, her grandmother foresaw great things for the child. Moth's mother, who was close to death, requested that the child be brought up as a boy, in order that she have the opportunity to travel and fulfil her destiny. She was named Ridian, and her true sex was kept from all, including her Father and Brothers. Once her mother died, only her Grandmother was the only one who knew her secret. Ridian's secret has been kept successfully all her life, until her grandmother showed me the truth in the vision at Larrach Dunnain. I asked why the secret of her sex is no longer important. She replied that she believed that the destiny that her grandmother had foreseen, the quest she was to undertake, appears to have begun.

I cannot truly comprehend the struggles Moth must have gone through in her youth, to keep such a secret, even from members of her own family. She must have great strength of will. I have much respect for her now, knowing what she has endured. The path that was laid before her feet as a child she has walked faithfully. She may need our help in the days to come. Her path can be her own now. Ridian is going and only Moth will remain. I wonder if she knows who she will truly be. Yawinawin and I watched, as Moth told the truth, her story, to her brother. Not surprisingly he fainted.

Moth mentioned that her Grandmother had had a vision of hardships to come, and had given her herbs to use later in our journey. She was given four doses. It may be that Yawinawin will travel with us for sometime. I am looking forward to hearing her sing. I know less of Elves than I thought. It is clear that she needs little, or no, sleep. I have kept watch for the last two or three hours, as I wrote this entry. Yawinawin is now going to keep lookout until the dawn. It may be very useful having an Elf in the company. I will sleep now and regain my strength. I must try and call upon Aule in the morning, to further heal Moth or her injuries. She is sorely wounded, but her sleep is quiet now, her breathing even. The situation is exceedingly strange. She is the same person, and yet I see her now in a new light.

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