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Hadrell's Journal

14th Ringare

Alas, my singing voice has failed me. My Grandfather would have wept to hear it. 'Twas yestereve, the 13th, at the Inn of the Far Towers. I had joined Moth and Erethor to sup, and the gathering there were in the midst of a mighty saga, a song that told of the ride of the Rohirrim to the Pelennor Fields to aid in the defence of Minas Tirith during the War of the Ring. I listened close, and picked up the chorus easily, or so I thought. And yet, when I opened my mouth, my skill deserted me. My croaking was akin to that of a toad, nay, an old toad debilitated by infirmity. Erethor was far from impressed. I tried to tell him that my voice is usually far sweeter and melodious. I am certain that he doubts this greatly.

That was only my first mistake of the night. Moth had decided to stay in the warmth and comfort of the hostelry, Erethor chose the cool fresh night air, and a copse nigh to the road, opposite the inn. I decided that it was time that I learnt a little more about camping. Soon our road will lead us North, to barren lands where inns are few. I have slept under the stars many times before, though only singly or in large organised groups. Alone I travel as fast as I can, starting early, and walking into the night, sleeping little, wherever is dry and out of the wind. When in a large group there are others to choose the campsite, to light the fire, to forage and hunt for food. Always I would help as I can and take my turn on watch, but I have few survival skills. I am an armourer and warrior, I am no woodsman.

And so I watched Erethor, how he chose where to stop, the shelter, the closeness to water. I asked a few questions, but I have much to learn. Erethor, it seems, has the skill to hide himself from potential enemies, keeping him safe as he sleeps. I do not hide; subterfuge is alien to me. So this night we set and shared a watch. It was good practice, but to split an 8-hour watch between 2 alas results in a very short night's sleep for both. I believe I may have been quite crotchety today as a result. Still I completed my watch, carefully honing the edge of my axe with Erethor's blackstone and trying to remember all the old songs and saga's that my Grandfather taught me.

Today began with heavy rain and the going was slow in the morning. I was exhausted, as never a dwarf should be. It was only the hearty breakfast that Moth bought us at the inn that has kept me going. Fortunately the horses seemed well rested, having stayed the night in the Inn's warm stables.

Shortly after sun-high we reached the Inn of the Summit, the rain still heavy. The inn was closed, which perplexed us greatly. It appeared to be in good repair, and, indeed had been open when we travelled Eastward. There were a number of travellers there, cold and wet, journeying to Minas Tirith on foot. There was little we could do but wish them luck and travel on in haste, eating sparingly in the saddle to speed our journey.

There are watchtowers on the foothills of the White Mountains. They are the towers that serve the beacon fires that link Rohan and Gondor, Edoras and Minas Tirith in times of strife. We could see one of the towers from the road, some 2-mile across the grasslands. Erethor thought it necessary to ride across to it, to see if there was any information he could garner concerning the whereabouts of the innkeep. He left at great speed, galloping headlong. It was, perhaps, ill advised for us to split up, we have after all an important quest to fulfil, yet, having spoken, both Moth and I felt that he was in need of a gallop. Our speed of travel is a fraction of that which he could achieve were he alone, and there were cobwebs he needed to blow away. Upon his return we discovered that the innkeep was at the tower that Erethor visited, yet he was more interested in gambling with the building labourers than aiding weary travellers.

As we continued along the road, awaiting Erethor's return, Moth and I spoke of many things. There was one matter that was worrying him deeply, indeed, it worries him still. I saw it in his eyes tonight as he watched Erethor struggle to light a fire in this incessant rain. Moth disclosed something to me, something that he will have to also disclose to Erethor, and soon. I have advised him to delay, if possible, until he feels that he has impressed the rider, or clearly shown his worth to our quest.

There is no inn tonight. The Inn of the Greys, and Arleg it's welcoming host, are still four hours travel away, deep in the Firien Wood, and darkness came early, the clouds dark and heavy with more rain. We are camped by the road next to a stream, at the edge of the trees. Moth and I have succeeded in pitching the tent, and Erethor has lit a fire. It took him longer than usual, but to succeed at all in this weather is a feat. We ate of nuts and fresh fish, supplemented a little from our stores. The meal was a very fine end to a dreary day. I must now leave my writing and brave the weather. The fire is burning low and I must search for more wood. Shortly I will wake Erethor to take the second watch through the deep dark of the night. I pray that tomorrow the sky will clear. There has been too much rain of late. I can hear the stream many yards to my left running swift and swollen.

15th Ringare - Battle!

Two days past I honed the edge of my axe. Such was well timed, for today it bit through flesh, sinew and bone. Blood has been spilt and we have tasted victory, though the enemy was cowardly and without honour.

This morning was fine, alas, today rain may have dampened the flames, but it was not to be. The Inn of the Greys was a mere 4 hours leisurely ride from last night's camp, and we looked forward to a lunch of good food, good ale and fine company. Towards sun-high we became aware of woodsmoke in the air, drifting on the breeze from the west. We picked up the pace, hastening forwards. Soon we saw a great pall of smoke, and knew that trouble lay ahead. We rode to the inn with all speed, and upon entering the clearing saw the building wreathed in flames. Even at that stage I think we knew that there was little we could do to save the inn, but we had no time to ponder, for the fire was not the only danger.

A small child, the stable boy I believe, ran from the front of the inn and was struck from behind by a shaft. I was only poorly aware of this however, as another arrow had flown from behind us, barely missing Moth and Erethor and it was evident that bandits lay upon all sides. It was to this cowardly rear attack that I first gave my attention. Dismounting from Jack as rapidly as I could, I ran into the undergrowth from which the arrow had come, soon to discover a man waiting with sword and bow. He was but the first of three to fall to my axe, the final two running at us across the bridge that spans the river east of the inn. I met and dispatched them in open ground, aware of their presence as a result of Moth's shouted warning. They steadfastly ignored my warning, and were struck down. I am certain that at least one of the two bled to death whilst we attended to the victims of the attack. The villains wore little armour and were poorly trained, and I emerged from the battle unharmed but for maybe a slight strain in my right arm. My first swing was foolishly wild and poorly timed, and I over reached myself in the excitement.

My last two foes appeared distracted. I have a suspicion that they had been affected by Moth's magics. I will have to confirm with him what spells and incantations he is likely to wield in such a situation, and thus we may better fight as a team. Erethor's bow sang during the exchange, returning in kind the flights of death that the cowards rained down upon us. His mastery of his steed in battle although only glimpsed through the fray, appeared remarkable. Erethor did suffer injury, a flight struck him in the side of the throat, and after the battle he gave some time to stemming the bloodflow, with, it must be said, much success. It seems he has some skill in healing also. I think that maybe he should consider wearing some armour, possibly a chain shirt, with helm and aventail to protect the neck. I do not believe that the extra weight would slow his horse. He is such a grand beast, he may not even notice.

We were joined in our fight by an ally unlooked for, an elf of Lothlorien. When battle was ended he introduced himself as Turibor. We had little time for pleasantries however as the flames in the inn were high and fierce. I made my lumbering way as swiftly as I could to the stable lad, carried him from the flames, and with Aule's will healed him of the worst of his ill's. He regained consciousness, however the arrow remained embedded in his lower back, far beyond my skill to remove. Turibor, Erethor and Moth sought to enter the inn in order to rescue any that may have been living still. Alas they had no success. We thought Arleg lost to the flames until a disturbance in the bushes was noticed, and he emerged unharmed, and relatively cheerful considering the circumstances.

At the end six bandits lay dead, Erethor alone of we three was wounded but, not, badly, Arleg was unharmed, and the boy, although grievously wounded, would live. We were unaware of any other casualties. Aule had aided me as always, in both healing of friend and smiting of foe. With one hand he gives and with the other he takes away.

Arleg intends to rebuild the inn, and to such end we stripped the bandits of armour, weapons, and any valuables that could be sold for profit. I tried to judge the quality of some of the items as we moved them to the storehouse, unharmed as it was by the flames, but there was too little time to tell if any held any real value. Arleg knew of a healer close by, and assured us that he would take the boy there straight away. We offered both aid and transport, but he is a man of strong will, and I think he felt that we had already aided him amply. We did only what any men of honour would when the need arises, and we were sorry that we had not come earlier, and so maybe have saved the inn.

The bandits appeared to be of local descent, there was no evidence that they had come any distance, from Rohan or Dunland. There was no inclination to bury them or mark their remains after the craven attack, and yet we could not leave their bodies there to be food for carrion eaters for the stench would be great and it would draw wild beasts to the road. It was decided to burn the corpses in the pyre that was the burning inn. A fitting end for those who undoubtedly set the fire.

We travelled in the afternoon to the far edge of the Firien Wood, and set up camp, and it is here that I write this account. Behind me I can hear Turibor's fair voice singing in Sindarin about the beauty of the forest. I can speak enough of the language to get by, learnt from the Elves of Northern Mirkwood. Turibor has also exchanged words in another Elven sounding tongue with Erethor and Moth, though I did not understand the meaning. Most astounding of all, when I addressed him this evening in his native tongue, he replied in mine, in Khuzdul. Never before have I heard of an elf that speaks our tongue, yet it was very fair to hear the words of greeting again. I miss my own folk, and I look forward to spending an evening with the artisans at Helms Deep before braving the Northward journey.

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