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
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
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
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
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 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
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.