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Hadrell's Journal

19th Ringare. of strong walls & old friends.

I sit now in a busy campsite, listening to the crackle of pine on the fire, and the soft voices of strangers speaking a language beyond my ken. The wood spits and steams, damp from this mornings torrential rain; tonight is fine and cool. I am relaxed. I have sung songs with old friends, I have sipped and supped on fine dwarven fare, and I have received a gift from the land itself. The omens for the days ahead seem very good to me, and the worry and darkness that has lain upon me has lifted, for a while at least.

The morning of he 18th was also fine. I would not have cared if there had been a howling blizzard, we were to reach Helms Deep, and see the Hornburg once again. Although my home is many hundred leagues from the fortress, still its familiarity lent to it a patina of homeliness. The landlord of the Inn muttered under his breath about "a strange kind of dwarf" after I gracefully declined his offer of beer for breakfast. It is these little things that sometimes illustrate the differences between the races. He brewed a fine stout, and a reasonable brown ale, but a crisp wheat beer would always be my choice for breakfast, and he served none.

We had reached the Deeping Coombe by mid afternoon and I rode onwards eagerly. There was still no start on the work to the dike, that was to be expected - when strengthening a defence always begin at the centre and work outwards. As we approached closer, I could see that building work on the curtain wall and the keep itself had progressed admirably.

The two gate sentries I did not recognise, and they treated me with the contempt I receive from many of my race when they see my bare chin. They pointedly addressed Erethor, yet it mattered not. There were others here who would share a mug with me. Erethor left us. He went to report to the non-Dwarven lord in residence, and agreed to meet us on the morrow.

I took Moth under my wing for the evening. We stabled the horses, found food and ale, fine dwarven ale. There, in the food hall, we met with Khelgand and Nirwken and even Huinathin, friends and fellow workers. We drank, and there was even weed for my pipe. We talked of the work, of the mining and the building. They also spoke of caverns that had been discovered beneath the Hornburg itself.

I began to notice that Moth had turned somewhat pale. Even though he did not partake of the pipeweed, it seems his constitution was not able to cope with such a mix of beers. It is true we had introduced him to some of the best brews we had to offer. Even though it was still early I helped him to the dormitory where the Dorm master and I put two cots together to accommodate his height. Whilst I was there, I spoke to the Master concerning the items I had left in his care. They were safe and dry in the wooden chest where I had placed them: my pipes, the remainder of my holy books and, of course, my warhammer. It's weight felt good in my hand. My axe, "Skull Biter" is a fine weapon, and its weight and balance allow me the freedom to attack with both axe and shield, thrusting with the latter to unbalance or stun an opponent. But there are occasions when the sheer brutality of the warhammer is king, smashing bone or piercing tough hide or armour with the backspike Once I knew that they were safe, and Moth was in good hands I made my way back to the food hall. The evening was full of goodwill and we sang many songs of the glory of Khazad-dum in the high days, before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone.

I was reminded that night of a rumour I had heard earlier in the year. It is said that not only are we dwarves here to repair and improve Helms Deep, but also that Gimli has been given the blessings of the Rohirrm to garrison the fortress. It is true, it seems, that the Rohirrm have insufficient warriors to man fully both the keep and the wall, and we would be granting the Horse-lords a boon by remaining. Moreover, in return for offering our fighters and craftsmen, Gimli will be allowed to muster an army at the deep, and employ it as a base from which to retake Khazad-dum. I pray for the day when I may join that battle, and walk, truly, through the streets of the Dwarrowdelf, as I do so often in my dreams.

Dawn today came too early this morn, far too early for Moth it seems. He had suffered more than I had expected from the ale last night, and his skin had a greenish hue. I brought him a tankard, a 'hair of the dog', in order to settle his stomach, but he has seemed fragile throughout the day.

We reached the old bridge over the Isen shortly after lunch. The bridge itself is long perished, and the crossing place is now merely a ford. As our ponies splashed their way through the running waters I spied the glint of gold, much as I had before in the streets of Minas Tirith. This time it was no trinket dropped into a drainage grill, but a nugget, rough and unprocessed, evidently from a rich seam. As I told my companions, it is clearly a good omen, a gift from the river, from the land, and from Aule, the Maker.

We camp not alone tonight. As the evening approached we spied four tents at the side of our road. Dunnish folk they are, ten in all, labourers heading south to find work. We suggested Helm’s Deep, for though there are many dwarven craftsmen there, men have also been brought in from far and wide to aid with the construction. The food we carry is starting to turn, so we willingly shared, and indeed gave them enough extra to feed the whole party for another days travelling at least.

Moth no longer has the quandary of how or when to inform Erethor of his secret. The travellers recognised him as being one of their own, and Erethor was present at the exchange. Moth, it seems, was born in Larrach Dunnain, a large settlement that we will pass through in a few days time. Not surprisingly he speaks Dunnish fluently, though thankfully for my benefit, and I believe for Erethor's, our new friends are happy to use Westron. Erethor did not seem to be unduly troubled by the revelation, though it is hard to be sure. He keeps his feelings close, this rider. He has many layers, and I think it may be that the inner man is so well hidden that he is truly known by no-one.

Occasionally Erethor and Moth will talk together in their unfathomable Elvish dialect. I understand that it is so others may not know all that they speak of, but I also do not know of what they say. I am their companion, and it is hard that they cut me out in this way. If it becomes a habit I may have to mention it, or start to learn the language myself.

And so I think a weight has been lifted from Moth’s shoulders. It is agreeing to know that there are less secrets between us. Sometimes a secret can become a canker, eating at the heart, affecting all you do. Certainly Moth’s secret affected the way he interacted with Erethor. It will be interesting to see whether they now treat each other differently.

During the conversation with our camp mates, we asked whether they had met other travellers on the road. We were fortunate. They had seen the cart, and driver that we had met at the crossroads. The description matched too closely for it to be another. Also they had been passed by riders, two parties of Dunlanders on horseback, a rare sight. There had been a group of five then later three others. If these were the men sent to attack us, then what became of the rest. Lastly the riddle becomes even more twisted. The cart that was passed was fully laden, the one we saw was empty. Was business conducted along the road, or do his wares lie in a ditch? Or maybe the weight in the cart itself was our attackers. I do not yet understand, and that may ever be so. We will simply journey on and take what each day brings.

20th Ringare. of empty plans and horseflesh

It has been an eventful day. I have just fed and watered the captives that are tied to the trees that surround our campsite. It was there’s, now it is ours. They said nothing but glared at me with dark eyes. We should maybe have moved from this site of battle. I can smell the dead, lying at the base of the hill, and also the sweet smell of roasted horseflesh, a reminder that my will is weak, and that today I have both received a great gift from The Maker, and also failed him and my companions. In my opinion Erethor also failed his companions today. One must always try and engage in battle with a clear head, yet today I saw the impatience of youth. I must remember that though he is a grown man, still his years, and experience are short. Still, Moth has even less years yet used powerful magics today to great affect..

It is not the Dunlendings with whom we broke bread and shared camp that are held captive. Nay. They prepared us breakfast in return for the food we had bestowed upon them and then continued their journey south with our good wishes. We broke camp and followed the road ever further North.

There was a brief break in our morning when Erethor found what he believed to be the tracks of the cart. It had been heavily laden indeed. He is of the opinion that it may have lost its load when the wheel came adrift at the crossroads. He is a mighty tracker and woodsman, but I do not believe this knowledge brings us any nearer a solution to the riddle. I think we should let the matter lie and look to the future.

The real excitement of the day began when I spied far ahead of us an upturned cart lying in the road with what looked like a figure trapped beneath it. Erethor galloped on, I ran forward eager to help, unlike my stubborn mule who clearly believed he had gone far enough for one day.

The figure was indeed a trapped man, left for dead beneath his own cart by a band of thieves. They had taken his horses and it seems, his wares also. We righted the vehicle, and I studied the man’s injuries. He is called Delnenn, and I can hear him snoring now beyond the fire. We patched him up, though his major injury was a break to his left leg. This is far beyond my skill to heal, yet not beyond the Makers power. I laid my hands to the leg, and called to Aule. As he is the maker, so he can mend, for he knows the structure of all things, flesh not least. I felt the warmth flood my arms, felt the healing energies flow into this wounded man, and knew that his healing would be swift. By the morning he should be able to walk, though the leg may be sore for most of the day. Wondrous are the Gifts the Maker Bestows.

Erethor looked long at the ground, at the marks that he reads like words on a page. He astounded me with the detail he garnered from the tracks. All agreed with Delnenn’s words. There had been six men, armoured in chain, carrying axe and shield. They had taken the horses and fled north up the road. We learned from Delnenn that one horse was brown, the other a pale cream colour. The latter would be easily recognisable.

Having ensured that Delnenn was as comfortable as we could make him, and leaving our pack pony with him, we rode onwards at great speed, Erethor watching the ground closely and leading us towards the villains. This had been a deed that could not go unopposed. As we went we constructed a plan. However immoral the culprits may be I would not engage them without first airing the grievance and giving them the opportunity to atone for their crimes. I would dismount and walk alone into the camp, when Erethor located it, and confront them. Only if they should turn on me should Erethor and Moth enter battle. Moth would ride behind Erethor, the two on his high horse. This would allow Moth to concentrate on his arcane magics without also having to remember how to ride. Also Erethor could swiftly take him away from trouble should the tide turn against us.

Suddenly we turned a corner in the road, and saw before us the camp. Four tents atop a small rise. At the centre of the camp a fire had been built and lit, a normal situation. Suspended over the flames, which jumped and spat as the fat dripped, was a large part of the cream horse.

It was at this point that Erethor’s good intentions fled with any self-control he may have had. A fine steed, butchered and cooking must be a most abhorrent thing for one of the Rohirrim, the Horse-lords to see. Wielding bow, and drawing his red fletched arrows he rode headlong into the camp intent on merciless destruction. There was to be no chance of atonement.

There had been two men near the tents, where the other four we knew not. I tried to ride after Erethor, but my horsemanship left me, and I became dismounted. I ran forward, and one of the Dunlendings ran out of the bushes to my left intent on my death. I defended efficiently, my warhammer, at first, feeling clumsy in my hand, but I soon started to make headway. By ignoring the plan, and losing his temper Erethor had left Moth undefended and he was about to be besieged by enemies. I tried to incapacitate my foe speedily so that I could come to his aid. Fortunately sparks and lightning flew from Moths hand, and Erethor rode passed dispatching an attacking Dunlending as he went. Moth also cast his magics at the enemy I faced, and this allowed me to more easily disable him without causing death. The remaining foes fled, but Erethor was still mounted and returned two to us. One other was unconscious, and a fourth alas passed away, though we had done what we could to stem the loss of his lifeblood.

Erethor was still enraged and went searching for those who had successfully fled, without it seems any success. Moth began to ask questions of the captives as they came round, and I began a sweep of the camp including removing the deceased horse from its roasting spit. Its partner was found hale and whole. Once Erethor had returned from the hunt he went to fetch Delnenn and the cart. Moth and I made the prisoners comfortable, lashing them to trees with the guys from their own tents.

We will take the cart tomorrow, and make our way to the next large town, where we can hand over these three rogues to the authorities. Had he had his way, Erethor would have already dealt out justice. Erethors justice is quick and lethal. These three may well be hanged if convicted, but it will have been done through the official channels, and by their own laws and courts.

Two things were of note while Erethor was away collecting Delnenn and our equipment. The first is that Moth can be very, very persuasive. I listened to a little of his conversation with the prisoners, and they seemed to be keeping little back. They admitted much, but there was no sign of any wares, and it seems that this part of Delnenn’s tale had been embroidered. Secondly, I acted foolishly and without honour. I was weary and hungry after the battle, and the meat of the horse looked so rich as I moved it from the fire. The smell of the haunch was intense and I cut some and ate it, as I should not have done. The animal was Delnenn’s property, and I had no right to eat any. Also the Rohirrim treat horses better than their kin, and it would have lessened me greatly in Erethor’s eyes. More importantly, men, probably hungry men, had just died for the same deed. It was an unworthy deed. I will carry this knowledge with me, and try to make amends.

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