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Hadrell's Journal

17th Ringare. Of Secrecy & Suicide

Shortly after noon today we were met once again with steel. If this resistance continues we may even be able to hone Moth into a warrior, though I am yet to see him wield the staff he carries as a weapon. Mayhap he is keeping it safe so that it may act as a prop in his old age.

Once again the attackers were, thank the Maker, few in number and poorly trained. However it seems likely that these were no ordinary bandits randomly waylaying travellers, as you will soon see. First though I must tell of yesterdays events.

Last night was spent in the Sleeping Stallion Inn in Edoras. The city is built around the Rohirrim's love of horses. Anywhere that there are steps for the passage of men there are also bridleways, and the city has, within its boundaries many open paddocks for the animals. It is built upon a high but gently sloping hill with Meduseld, the Golden Hall at its peak. The horses appear very proud, and last night so did the people. Unlike the warm welcome I received in the Golden Hall less than 3 weeks ago, the atmosphere in the bar was icy cold. Both Moth and myself retired early, feeling unwelcome, aware of whispered words beyond our ken. The situation appeared to affect Moth greatly. He will have to overcome his fear soon and tell Erethor his secret, before we leave the lands of the Rohirrim. I fear that it may be all too clear after that.

Turibor did not join us at the Inn, but stayed outside of the city I believe. We met again on the west road. He has left us now, to travel on alone to the Jugglers hall. I will miss hearing khuzdul spoken with such a fine voice, but I was beginning to know his songs too well. Maybe we will meet him again someday, if Aule is willing.

Earlier, at noon yesterday we had stopped in Aldburg, at Erethor's family home. Aldburg is a small town, though to my eyes it appeared in places little more than horse paddocks and lean-to huts. The people were welcoming enough. We spoke none of their language and they none of ours, yet Turibor smiled and waved as if he was their long lost, and recently re-united brother. The children found me most amusing. I hope they will grow to lose their prejudices, though I find it unlikely. It is those prejudices ingrained in the Rohirric people that have brought Moth to his present dilemma.

I said that the people were welcoming. There was an exception. Erethor met with his father, and though we understood none of the words that were spoken, some of the meaning was clear. I saw that resentment and bitterness lay between them. I pray that the years and the fine deeds of Erethor will clean the slate. Erethor also met the Lord, or Thegn, of Aldburg. Here he was received well, and reported the burning and battle of the Inn of the Grey's, or so he told us.

Erethor collected many things from his household, including a heavy wrapped package that I am delighted to be told contains a chain shirt. I do not know yet whether it is a vest or full hauberk, but his steed can undoubtedly cope with the extra weight of his wearing it, and maybe it will be of high enough quality to turn shaft or blade. I am here to protect him. What better way than to convince him to wear some proper protection in battle.

And so our talk comes once again to battle, and I will tell of today. It was a brief encounter and exceeding strange. The first inkling of trouble came when Moth noticed a movement in the bushes that line the road. We were travelling onwards upon the main road that runs North-west to the Gap of Rohan. Three men emerged brandishing swords, and they charged us. They did not make any demands, which surely would be expected of robbers, and though I know little of ambush, it cannot be tactically wise for three men, on foot, lacking any form of missile weapon to charge headlong at three mounted men.

Erethor was soon loosing arrows form his high perch. I dismounted and charged into melee with the nearest foe. Erethor successfully dispatched one, the shaft loosed with such force that it entered the chest and emerged through the opponents back. The rider then ran down and dispatched another out of our sight of Moth and I. My foe was stunned by Moths magics, as I believe was one of Erethor's victims. My enemy stood before me, still wielding his weapon, yet groggy and only able to weakly fend off my blows. I struck him with my shield, trying to unbalance him, and then when he still failed to submit, I dropped my blade and punched him to the ground. Moths magics are effective and timely, though I am beginning to feel that it places my enemy at an unchivalrous disadvantage.

The two dead bodies were thrown unceremoniously into the ditch, they deserved little more of us, the third, lying unconscious, we tied and threw over katrisel so that we could proceed without hindrance, Moth sharing Erethor's mount. We had many questions to ask our captive when he awoke, and then we were to give him to the authorities at Edoras for full trial. Alas it was not to be.

At the next crossroads we met a strange man, of swarthy appearance, who claimed to be taking his empty cart to the Jugglers Hall to conduct some business. One wheel of the cart had come away from the axle, and Erethor and I had little problem in fixing the problem for him. Erethor it was who noted, though a little late, that the horse that pulled the cart was a far finer animal than was usually put before such a vehicle.

As we proceeded the strangeness of the two encounters grew upon us. The captured bandit was clearly of Dunnish origin, and it is rare that they come so far south, just to accost travellers. And the man at the crossing, did he have a connection with the attack?

It was time to wake the bound man and get some answers. It is here that the final twist resides. The man was dead. I felt sure he had not suffered too much damage in the combat. There was no bleeding that could be seen. Eventually I smelt the mans breath, and caught the faintest sickly sweetness of a herb I cannot now name, but recall it was associated with poison. This man had been poisoned or, more likely, had somehow poisoned himself.

The investigation into this odd situation was twofold. Moth sank into one of his visions and then Erethor, who must be a very proficient tracker, attempted to read the signs of movement at the crossroads. Much discussion took place and the day wore on. Two travellers on foot sped southwards after meeting us. We had warned them of bandits, but I believe it was the sight of our dead captive that provided the greater impetus.

I successfully caught Moth when he received his vision, preventing him from falling to the floor as his wits left him. To receive visions is a great gift, yet to fall over unconscious each time does appear to be somewhat of a flaw. I must advise him to lie down first. Moth was immensely shaken by the vision, indeed he appeared to be in some pain, and insisted on eating afterwards to remove the foul taste from his mouth. He stated that the man had ingested poison rather than be taken to Helm's Deep. He had had a tablet in his mouth at the time of the attack in case he was taken alive. Moth knows of the ways of Dunland, as does Erethor to a lesser extent. Poison pills are not common for vagrant thieves. It therefore seems very likely that these men were employed to do a job, and that job was to kill us.

Yet who knows about our quest - we three travellers and Tarquilin. I fear to say too much here. We were told that the King required that which we seek, yet we have no proof that he even knows of its existence, just the word of a seer who himself admitted to keeping some salient facts from his ruler. Tarquilin is, I believe, not to be trusted. And yet, on the other hand I was sent initially by Gimli, my Thain. As true and heroic a dwarf as one could ever hope to fight beside. And Erethor was sent by his King. How then could the quest be false.

Erethor learned little from the tracks as far as I can tell. He was not able to say for certain whether the man who drove the cart had encountered the rogues, though the latter had traversed the cross recently. They certainly had not been waiting for us long.

This subterfuge is beyond me. I have wracked my brains as I write, trying to make head or tail of the things that have happened to us. Tomorrow I hope we will reach Helms Deep. I have some things to collect, not the least of which is my warhammer. I have missed its weight in my hand. It is not good to get too dependent on one weapon, and my axe has been too busy recently.

I have a room to myself tonight in the Inn of the Crossing. We rode a little way south towards the Jugglers Hall in order to find lodging. It did not seem wise to camp tonight. The Inn is fair enough, though empty bar us. The meal was excellent and the innkeep ate with us. I tried to force Moths hand tonight, to force him to tell his secret, but he would not. He has insisted that I be present when Erethor hears his news. I do not feel that the rider will be surprised, yet in Moths mind the obstacle is very great. I believe he will wait now until we sit at peace in the Hornburg. We will leave at dawn. Let us see what tomorrow brings.

Aule, let my sight be clear, show me the truth that lies at the heart of this twisted world.

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