I write in the pre dawn glow, at the end of a quiet night.
It rained heavily yester morn which slowed our travel, but still we reached Anuminas before noon, by which time the sky had brightened. The city is ruined, only a few walls remaining, and the whole place thickly overgrown with weeds and briars. To eyes that have seen the devastation of war, it was as if the place had been under siege, and the buildings beaten down by the rocks of catapults and trebuchet. But maybe such destruction may be simply the result of ages of decay.
The Khazad are not used to seeing the decay of stone and structure, for we live long, and the care and improvement of our homes is more than a duty, it is a labour of love. It is only when we are driven away by magic, fire and shadow that we would relinquish a site. I refer of course to Khazad-dum, for it still dwells within both my heart and in my thoughts. Relinquished is the wrong term though, for we will return, and soon. I long to walk among the many pillared halls.
In its current condition, any travel through Anuminas must needs be undertaken with great care, for few walls remaining are likely to be stable. First there was a river to cross. Erethor arrived at the bridge first, too eager to wait for the rest of us. I examined the stone structure before we crossed to ensure that it would endure. Erethor must have come to the same decision as I, as he had already crossed, or maybe he did not even consider the danger in his haste to reach the library. Such haste..., and it near cost him his very life.
We caught up with him amongst the ruins. He had put the map of Anuminas away, and would not let the rest of us study it. It seemed he had already noted where the library was situated. It was clear that he neither needed, nor desired advice from his companions. With the library immanent, Moths thoughts had returned to the key, and the visions that she had gained from it. She wished to repeat the process, to garner more information. I was somewhat taken aback when Erethor refused to give her the key, commenting that it was under his protection, and that the last time that it had been given into her care she had dropped it. I felt that the comment was somewhat harsh, and most unjust. More accurately, the last time she had fallen unconscious with the strain, risking the health of mind and body, reaching for the arcane visions that would throw a little light upon this enigmatic quest.
I instructed Erethor to give her the key in no uncertain terms. He grudgingly did so. I do not know whether he came to his senses and recognised that Moth was proposing to undertake a risky endeavour for the good of her companions, or whether he merely felt intimidated and did not have the strength of his convictions to argue with me. He then promptly turned his horse and rode off toward the library alone, leaving the key in our hands. His manners, and his logic were very much lacking and his continuation alone would result in dire consequences.
Moth received a vision from the key, though she had little time to tell me of it. She mentioned something about doors and enchantments and fighting. Whilst Moth and I remounted Yawinawin rode after the errant Erethor. And then she was calling, shouting to Moth and I, about smoke and Erethor and Trolls. I loosed Eluth, the pack pony, from where he was tied to my saddle and we spurred our mounts forward. What new danger had the reckless ranger stirred up for himself and us?
The ground was broken and difficult, and Moth eventually dismounted and led her mount in order to make faster progress. Once we finally crested the rise and took in the scene we saw that there was little we could do to aid our comrades.
The Library building as we believe it to be, as with the rest of Anuminas, is no more than cracked stone and rubble. An avenue of trees leads up to where the outer doors once stood. Within the rubble were a group of three trolls, apparently a mother and two young. Four others could be seen, two standing, and two already downed. Yawinawin, still upon her swift horse, was leading one of the creatures away from Erethor. The ranger also remained upon his steed, but Starfire seemed stunned and unresponsive. As we looked on he loosed more flights, yet finally succumbed and slumped across the horse's neck. If only he had not ridden away alone. He seems to think himself invincible, yet I have seen a single arrow bring down a stout warrior. Moreover, if he were lost then the completion of our quest would become ever more difficult.
He sleeps now, still healing from his grievous wounds. I worry. I have been sent to protect this man. He is important to the quest, and it seems to the third age itself. I would protect him with my very life for it is the task I have been charged with, yet how can I do so if he charges recklessly into battles and ambushes unthinking of his own safety. I will attempt to improve my riding skills and so, perhaps, will have more chance of keeping pace with him, but Jacks legs are almost as short as mine, and neither of us was built with speed in mind. Other than using a thrown weapon I can see no way, at present, of attacking his enemies before they can harm him, and such weapons are not to my liking. Mayhap I can distract his attackers with a throwing axe before closing to melee, yet such is a dangerous ploy, for should I kill an attacker in this way I would have broken the codes and strictures of my life to which I adhere.
As Erethor fell forward across Starfire's neck I dismounted and bearing axe and shield charged toward the fray calling to Aule as I ran. Moth followed slower, wary, though it may be that she readied her bolts of fire and light whilst she did so. Faster than e'er I thought my legs could manage, I ran hard, yet Erethor was some distance away from us and I knew that my axe would not swing the battle. As I neared, the remaining four trolls fled, they have great bulk but move with an uncanny swiftness. There was no need to pursue them, and, with Erethor incapacitated, only Yawinawin would have had the speed and horsemanship to do so.
She and I moved to Erethor to check his wounds. He still lived, yet he was sorely bruised and his thigh seemed torn. He was groggy and weak, yet would not allow us to take him from the saddle. I called on the Makers power, then again, and yet again, pouring healing energies into his broken body, until he could again sit up in the saddle and speak with ease. Once I knew that his spirit was again secured within his mortal coil, I went to check upon the fallen trolls.
One of the creatures stirred, and, although near it's passing, still drew breath. Erethor called to me and asked of its condition, and I spoke true. Knowing my nature he gave an ultimatum, that if it did not die by my hand, then he would accomplish the task himself. With my hand so forced I prepared to dispatch the creature. Killing in battle is honest, yet outside of that arena the act is rarely so. I knelt and prayed to Aule that my stroke be true and my motives pure. I raised my axe and took its head, then knelt again to ask for forgiveness for the deed. To have left the troll alive would have placed the party in greater danger, especially with Erethor so injured.
And so the battle was over. Yawinawin went to collect our frightened beast of burden, and Moth and I moved bodies. The trolls had slaughtered a number of men, as likely for the pot as for sport. In this respect they are little more than beasts, consuming any flesh that is available. We laid these folk to rest, building a cairn of stones to house their bodies. The trolls we piled and covered to dissuade scavengers.
Though Aule's power had mended his flesh, the ranger's spirit needed time to recover; Erethor would need to sleep. Stubborn and self reliant as always, he would not close his eyes until I had agreed to keep watch over the camp and my comrades. He feared, as do I still, that the trolls who fled will return to plunder their larder once more.
Of the Library of Anuminas.
The ruin that we are camped in we took at first to be the remains of the library itself, yet we became aware that there were two flights of steps descending in spirals into the ground. It is possible that these only lead to old cellars, but it seems possible, and Moth thinks it likely, that the library was built at least in part beneath the ground. Eager to discover the truth, Moth and I descended the only safe staircase in the afternoon, leaving Yawinawin to guard our healing, sleeping ranger. Alas, we are slow learners, falling to that same eagerness that nigh caused the fall of Erethor. Evil befell us that may not have occurred if the party had descended together, yet, then again, perhaps it was for the best. We will now be forewarned of the type of peril likely to hide in the darkness beneath our feet.
As I reached the bottom of the staircase, I saw a large door ahead of me, and approaching it unwarily I set off a trap, a cowardly device, yet cunningly hidden. A stone had moved beneath my boots, and my ears caught the sound of a slight click before overwhelming noise and fire engulfed me, burning both my boots and my feet, and throwing me to the floor. The explosion appears to have been magical in nature, and foolishly, as I fell, I lost track of which stone had been the trigger.
Upon my advice Moth retreated a little way up the stairs and, remaining as still as was possible, I began to bind my feet to stop the bleeding. Once I had stemmed the flow, I examined with great care the stones around me seeking to see the nature of the trap. Four paves there were that were triggers, slightly raised in comparison with their neighbours, and yet set with more care. Between us, Moth and I marked the stones with her inks and we retreated back to camp a little wiser, with my ears still ringing..
As we rested this last evening and I tended to my feet, Moth told me of a dream that she had had some nights before. With her ability to gain visions, it seemed prudent to listen close; it may be that it was more than just a night's aimless imaginings. She spoke of meeting a lady, a Maia, the Lady of the Lake, the Lake Nenuial, which lies at the foot of Anuminas. Through talking about the dream, Moth was able to remember, and piece together a little more of the details. One of these, that seemed most odd to me, was that in the dream, Moth had been a man. It seems that Moth was visited with a vision of divinity, a true gift, yet she has still to understand what meaning, if any, it has for her, or for us. I have thought about it this night, and here will put my conclusions. In the dream Moth was introduced to the Lady on a bluff above the lake, then was he drawn into a circle dance in a greenwood, then found himself in the waters of the lake itself. One line from the dream seemed most pertinent. It spoke of lifeblood being mixed with turbulence. It is clear to me that this vision may speak of a sacrifice. For whatever purpose, the victim appears willing, and at the end of the dream did not fear to drown. I do not know whether my reasoning is correct, but it seems to help us little either way.
Moth, Yawinawin and I set the watches, and Erethor slept on. I write this by dawns first light, and I can hear Erethor's breathing now smooth and even. He will wake refreshed and whole thanks to the goodness of Aule. I will pray to the Maker now, and thank him, and ask for his aid as we prepare to go beneath the ground once again; below the ground, surrounded by earth and stone, this is a dwarf's domain, and I eagerly anticipate the adventure.