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  1. #51

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Veredhiel91 View Post
    Wow, I just want to say that this story is very wonderfully done! Great to see a reluctantly adventrous hobbit, and how you've tried to stay close to the lore. Keep up the great work.
    A VERY reluctant hobbit! But not so much adventrous. I am very glad you are enjoying the story!

    Quote Originally Posted by story21 View Post
    Theodoras is showing a knack for making friends and considering his talent for finding adventure it’s probably a good thing. I would think finding a pony would be a simple enough task but we will have to wait and see.
    Of the encounters with other players, I must say that much of it is happenstance....

    1. I asked Hemni to help me with the search for Old Sally, but when we met up was after starting the quest and discovering that the shrews were quite difficult to defeat on my own. Hemni came online after I had fled the fields, leaving Old Sally to retreat back into the bushes. We actually met while I sat along the roadside healing, which made for an excellent intro to both characters.

    2. Meeting with Dyre in-game was completely by chance. She had contacted me about joining the adventure, but our meeting in Buckland was due only to the fact that we ended up being online at that very moment. We then ended up scheduling another time to meet to finish the journey into the Old Forest.

    3. Eoleof: Anther good bit of timing. He had contacted me about lending aid, but it was not until I arrived in Bree that we first met, and of course it was at the same time that Hemni and Dyre were online as well....

    Quote Originally Posted by idlehands79 View Post
    Most adventures start as a simple walk down the road...then things get complicated. Great work, I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter!
    A walk down the Great East Road is never simple...at least for a common hobbit from the Shire!

  2. #52

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    As am I, idlehands79.

  3. #53

    Chapter Eighteen: A Dwarf in Need – 22 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    It was the beginning of a clear fine morning and the first rays of the sun were only now peeking over the distant horizon in the East. Theodoras looked about, sniffing the air contently. ‘What a wonderful morning for a hike!’ he said cheerfully, enjoying the smell of dew and fresh flowers full in the bright air.

    The company had risen much before the dawn and now stood just outside the West-gate of Bree at a crossroads of sorts. The Great East Road swept up from the west, over a narrow stone bridge that spanned a swift-flowing stream, to pass within the gate beyond. But to the north and south there ran a wide but grass-covered road.

    In the days of Elendil, the North Road ran from Fornost down through Andrath, until it joined the South Road at Tharbad. From there it went on all the way to Minas Tirith in Gondor. But now, it had fallen in disuse for many a year and overgrown with grass. The Bree-folk called it the Greenway and it was little traveled except by refuges from the south. Brigands and ruffians now laid in wait along the ancient highway to prey upon the weak and unguarded.

    Theodoras drew a deep breath and then turned back to his companions. ‘My, what a merry company we must look like!’ he said with a grin and a smile. ‘I wonder if this is how old Bilbo began his adventure so many years ago.’

    ‘I am not used to such greenery where I hail from,’ answered Hemni strangely dour. ‘Most unusual.’

    ‘Master Hemni,’ laughed Eoleof. ‘This land’s greenery pales in comparison to that of my home.’

    The dwarf did not answer but simply snorted with irritation. Eloleof laughed again and shook his head at the dwarf.

    ‘Eoleof, how far is the farm from here?’ asked Theodoras aloud after a time.

    The Eorlingas looked down on the smiling hobbit then out over the Greenway for a moment before answering. ‘A fair distance north, Master Took.’

    ‘Then we should be off while the fine day lasts!’ exclaimed Theodoras as he tightened his pack about his shoulders.

    Eoleof smiled at the hobbit amusingly. ‘We will not be able to reach it before sundown, so we should keep alert for a good campsite.’

    ‘What beasts roam these fields?’ asked the dwarf still sounding uncharacteristically glum as he turned to face Eoleof.

    ‘Let us hope none at all!’ said Theodoras loudly.

    ‘Bears, wolves…some boars,’ answered Dyre from the side of the road, her watchful and alert eyes gazing out over the nearby stretches of grass.

    ‘Mostly boars and bears,’ replied Eoleof with a nod.

    ‘Stick to the road,’ added Dyre as she turned to look back at the others. ‘Most beasts fear it.’

    ‘Unfortunately, two-legged beasts have also plagued Bree recently,’ said Eoleof grimly.

    ‘Two-legged beasts?’ squeaked the hobbit, nit liking the sound of that one bit.

    ‘Ah, you mean those filthy brigands!’ growled Hemni.

    ‘Boars and bears are one thing,’ said Theodoras nervously. ‘But brigands? That is another matter completely!’

    For a time, the hobbit stood looking out over the fields beside the road before turning away to trot after his companions who had already begun down the Greenway to the north. From the West-gate and the crossroads, the company went along the Greenway for some time as it wound north along the banks of a muddy stream. Away to the east, beyond scattered standing trees, could be seen towering cliffs that rose into the clear air. Wisps of grey smoke hinted at where the villages of Combe and Archet lay beyond the hills.

    Presently, there came into view ahead a low roofed stone cottage set just back from the road to one side. A thin curl of smoke rose into the air from the stone chimney, giving the only evidence that the building was occupied. The Greenway swept past the cottage and a narrow lane turned away to the east towards the North Gate of Bree.

    Hemni drew his axe from the wide belt round his waist and took a step towards the cottage. But then he froze and peered ahead to the deep shadows beneath the eaves of the cottage roof. There in the gloom could be seen a dark figure standing silent and still.

    Suddenly the dwarf laughed aloud sprang forward. Theodoras reached out for the dwarf and hissed in a barely a whisper. ‘Whatever are you doing, Hemni!’ Dyre stepped forward, fitting an arrow to her bow, as Eoleof drew his sword and turned to glance about nervously. The hobbit took an unsteady step to follow Dyre, half-expecting an attack.

    From the darkened figure there came a deep and low voice that seemed very strange to the young hobbit. Hemni suddenly laughed and then bowed low before answering in the same strange language. Just then, the figure stepped from the deep shadows to reveal the worn but friendly face of a dwarf. He was clad in well-worn leather and a short, reddish and forked beard fell down his wide chest.

    ‘A dwarf!’ exclaimed the hobbit with a sigh of relief, glad that this was not some trick of brigands to waylay unfortunate travelers along the road. Dyre chuckled and relaxed her bow. Hemni nodded to his kinsman and then turned to his companions.

    ‘I am surprised to see one of my kind here in Bree!’ he said with a wide grin.

    ‘What did the dwarf say, Hemni?’ asked the hobbit curiously.

    ‘This is Lofar Ironband, a smith by trade. It seems that a blade he recently forged has been stolen.’

    ‘But stolen by whom, Hemni?’ asked the hobbit.

    ‘He does not know, Master Took, but he suspects that one of the Man-smiths of Bree was involved. Their craft is nothing compared to that of our folk, and likely their jealousy has moved one of them to steal the blade. He has implored me to seek for the missing blade.’

    ‘Indeed, Master Hemni,’ answered Eoleof. ‘I have some small skill in smithing, and I would be most grieved to have any of my work stolen.’

    ‘As I would,’ added Dyre.

    ‘Lofar suggests speaking with the smiths of Bree as well as those at Thornley’s Farm away up the Greenway,’ answered the dwarf.

    ‘Perhaps then Bree is the best place to start,’ replied Eoleof.

    ‘Back to Bree?’ groaned the hobbit loudly. ‘But we just left Bree!’

    ‘I am sorry, Master Took,’ replied Eoleof as he turned to look down on the hobbit. ‘But this is a matter of honour.’
    Theodoras shrugged his shoulders then laughed. ‘Ah, well….you came to my aid twice now, Hemni. I can do little but repay you in kind!’

    It was not long until the company had turned back down the Greenway and once more were standing just inside the West-gate of Bree. The sun had risen high into the bright sky and the empty streets of the dawn were now bustling with activity. Horsemen galloped to and from the stables near the gate and all manner of folk flooded the narrow lane that led up further into the town.

    ‘Watch the horses,’ warned Dyre as she pulled the wide-eyed hobbit back from the throng that clogged the narrow thoroughfare. ‘These folk run through town like it is a racetrack!’

    ‘These fools push their horses too hard,’ growled Eoleof with a scowl.

    ‘Eoleof, are the horses hardier in your land?’ asked Dyre thoughtfully.

    ‘Much,’ answered Eoleof full of pride. ‘They are our pride and joy.’

    ‘Hemni, do you know where we might find these smiths?’ asked the hobbit, still fixing his gaze on the many passersby in wonderment.

    ‘Yes,’ answered the dwarf. ‘There is a small smithing area just up the road from here.’

    With that, the dwarf strode down the lane, pushing through the crowd, and the others fell in behind him. Soon they had come to a large open area along the side of the lane. It was surrounded by a low stone enclosure where several fiery glowing forges stood. The sound of hammers upon anvils rang loudly above the general din of the crowds nearby where several men worked the bellows and forges in the open air.

    Hemni strode up to the nearest smith and bowed low before him. ‘Good sir, we mean no harm in asking questions, but we wish to help a fellow dwarf in need…’

    The smith brought his hammer down upon the anvil with a shower of sparks. ‘If you want to be of any help,’ he answered not looking up from his work. ‘Leave me be. I’m too busy to be bothered!’

    ‘I am sorry for the intrusion, ‘replied the dwarf, bowing low once more. ‘But we seek a blade that has been stolen from the dwarven smith, Lofar Ironband.

    ‘Well, of all the insulting things to say!’ snorted the smith as he lowered his hammer to glare at the companion with distain. ‘Those dwarves think that no one can smith as well as them. Well, if being busy means you do quality work, then mine is quality. Go tell that fool dwarf that I didn't take his sword!'

    Hemni nodded politely and motioned for the others away. ‘He sounds angry, Hemni,’ said the hobbit softly. ‘We should let him be...it does no good to suffer his wrath,’ answered the dwarf.

    ‘Indeed,’ replied Dyre. ‘I doubt this Haywood would know what to do with dwarven-steel anyways…Haywood? What kind of name is that for a smith?’

    Hemni turned and approached another smith who stood admiring his work as it cooled atop a small anvil. The dwarf bowed but before he could speak, the smith glanced up with a scowl.

    ‘Be about your business,’ he said. ‘I’ve no time for distractions!’

    ‘Forgive me, ‘answered the dwarf bowing once more. ‘But we seek a blade that was stolen from Master Lofar Ironband…’

    The smith growled and waved a hand at the dwarf. 'Don't be bothering me with such nonsense. Dwarves always looking down on us, claiming we're jealous. Now they going to start accusing us of stealing? Shoo,’ said the smith with a curse and he waved his hammer at the companions. ‘Off with you. I don't have to take this sort of nuisance! I'll complain to the mayor, I will.'

    The last smith was of no more help than the others, and just as offended by their questions.

    ‘Bah,’ he spat, no bothering to look up from his anvil. ‘I don't be needing to steal some dwarf-blade. people like my work...it's quality! You tell that Lofar that I didn't steal his fool sword and try to pass it off as my own!'

    The companions hastened away from the smithy and gathered in a circle along the side of the busy lane. ‘Where else can we look, Hemni?’ asked Dyre glancing back at the smithy.

    ‘Bah, these Men are no help in this matter!’ growled the dwarf. ‘I believe we should return to the Greenway and make our way to Thornley’s Farm. That is what Lofar mentioned.’

    ‘Then let us make haste,’ said Dyre, looking up into the sky. ‘The sun has already begun to drop in the sky.’

    Indeed, the sun had already begun to sink below the horizon far to the West when the company reached Thornley’s Farm. Here was the beginning of a large sprawling farmstead and already several stout cottages stood alongside a bustling work site of smithies, forges, and great stores of supplies. A large gathering of workers had been assembled here to complete the work but much of the farmstead still stood only partially finished. Half timbered walls of wood, surrounded by scaffolding, stood here or there, and in the center of the largest rose the beginnings of a tall fieldstone chimney.

    Nearer the road, the company found a lone smith, hunched over an anvil, still hard at work despite the lateness of the dying day. Strangely, the smith paused to watch and they approached, setting his hammer down atop the anvil and wiped the grim and soot from his face.

    Hemni stopped a few feet from the smith and bowed low before him. ‘Sir, we search for a stolen blade, of dwarven-steel and dwarven-make. Do you know of such a thing?’

    The Man’s eyes widened with fear as he looked at the hardened faces of the company. ‘What…a stolen sword?’ he said falteringly. ‘Stolen from a dwarf? I don’t know what you’re talking about…’ The Man took an unsteady step backwards. ‘Please, go away, I don’t know anything about it…’

    The dwarf growled a deep snarl and stepped towards the smith menacingly, who raised his hand as if to ward off a blow. Then, his shoulders dropped and his shook his head, sobbing.

    'Yes, yes, I admit it! I took it,’ he cried. ‘Please, don't tell the constable! Please! I did it to save my family! See, a brigand named Nate, he told me that he would hurt my family, unless I made a sword for their captain, Blake. But I didn't have the iron to forge one, and I was desperate to save my family, so I took the dwarf's sword! Nate said that before he gave the sword to Blake, he was going to test the blade against some boars around the abandoned graveyard north of Bree. If you find him there, maybe you can convince him to return Lofar's sword and leave my family alone. What do you say?'

  4. #54

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I'd like to thank you for allowing me to help you on your journey, Theo, and I look forward to continuing the journey soon. I would also like to apologise for my hobo-like appearance and thank Dyre for her kind gift of matching armour.

    The Éored of the West-Mark ~ Lore-accurate Rohirric Kinship on Landroval

  5. #55

    Chapter Nineteen: A Boar's Den – 22 to 23 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    The sun was caught into the deepening clouds and night had come suddenly as the day wore on towards its end. Theodoras gazed out to a dark smudge of tall hills to the east that were soon lost in the growing blackness. Overhead, the night sky was torn and tattered as the moon nearly full rode among the twinkling stars that even now began to glimmer. The hobbit shivered slightly and drew his cloak tighter as a light breeze sprang up from the north and soon grew to a chilled wind.

    Then there came a voice from out of the darkness. ‘I fear we must track this brigand at night, for he may escape before the dawn,’ Theodoras turned to see the outline of the dwarf in the deep gloom. Hemni’s hood was cast about his head and all but his long nose could be seen. ‘But be wary of him,’ he continued softly. ‘He has threatened Master Thistleway’s family.’

    ‘Brigands?’ growled Eoelof beside the dwarf. ‘Let us teach them fear!’

    ‘Stinking bandit,’ added Dyre. ’I’ll have a word with him this time!’

    ‘This fellow Nate is over yonder, beyond that field,’ said the dwarf as he gazed out into the gathering gloom. ‘Shall we set off?’

    ‘Perhaps it would be best to wait until morning?’ asked Eoleof.

    ‘I would go if I were alone,’ answered Dyre grimy. ‘But I would not put Theo in danger.’ The Dale woman turned to gaze down on the hobbit with a smile. ‘Well, Theo, it is up to you. Shall we go or stay?’

    ‘Yes,’ added the dwarf. ‘What thinks you, Master Took?’

    Theodoras turned to find the eyes of the rest of the company upon him. He grew nervous and shuffled slightly under their uncomfortable gaze. ‘Well…’ he murmured then fell silent, casting his eyes downwards. At last he spoke. ‘Let us find this Nate fellow before the night passes. Unless it is not safe to leave the road?’

    ‘It is never safe to wander the wilds at night,’ answered Dyre. ‘But you have a hearty group!’

    ‘Let us move on then,’ said the dwarf grimly.

    Hemni now walked ahead, his bright eyes gleaming dimly in the light of the rising moon. Behind him walked Eoleof and the hobbit, who constantly turned his shaggy head this way or that to gaze nervously into the darkness about them. Last came Dyre, her bow draw and fitted with a fletched arrow.

    For a half-an-hour or more they plodded on through the thick darkness in silence and often they heard scrambling and such around them in the gloom. And yet, however quick they turned no one could catch sight of the source of the noise. Slowly, the distant hills loomed larger and were now caught in the glimmering moonlight ahead.

    Suddenly Hemni, who had pressed a bit ahead, stopped and turned to call back to his companions in a low voice. ‘’What is this ahead?’ Hurrying up, they saw before them a wide clearing among the trees where the half-timbered and unfinished foundation of a cottage stood. A crumbled form could also be seen lying in the dirt nearby.

    ‘It looks abandoned,’ said Dyre cautiously.

    ‘Oh, look!’ exclaimed the hobbit taking a step forward. ‘It’s a body!’

    The companions followed cautiously and drew round the unfortunate soul on the ground. Eoleof loosened his sword and glanced about as Dyre knelt beside the body.

    ‘I wonder who this poor sot is?’ she said softly.

    ‘Slain by wild beasts, most likely,’ answered Eoleof, still watching the darkness with a careful eye.

    ‘These are deep claw marks…bear most likely,’ said Dyre as she turned the body over.

    ‘He certainly seems like one of the unsavory sorts that associates with those brigands,’ replied Eoleof.

    ‘Look here!’ exclaimed the hobbit as he bent to lift something from the dirt beside the corpse. ‘A broken hilt! Perhaps this is from the stolen blade?’

    ‘The blade is broken though,’ said Eoleof as he turned to examine the hilt in the darkness.

    ‘Is is dwarven steel?’ asked Hemni quietly.

    ‘I don’t know dwarf blades from dwarf utensils!’ laughed the hobbit with a shrug.

    ‘We must show this to Thistleway then….’ grumbled the dwarf.

    ‘Yes,’ answered Theodoras, ringing his nose slightly. ‘Let us leave here, it smells something awful here!’

    The moon was sinking west into cloud that lay far above the fields and hills beyond the Greenway when the company made their way back to the work site. The weary companions found a nice patch of grass beneath a tall oak nearer the work site and sat down. But Hemni did not. He glanced over to the camp site of the workers and then sighed.

    ‘I best be off to have a word with this Thistleway,’ he said quietly. He turned and disappeared into the gloom. It was not long when the company spied the dwarf marching back from the distant camp through the darkness. Throwing his axe to the grass, Hemni sat down abruptly.

    ‘That smith is next to useless,’ he said grumbling. ‘He did recognize the hilt as the broken sword…but now he has asked us to return to Lofar to have another blade forged to appease the brigands who are threatening his family!’

    ‘I cannot imagine that Lofar will agree to this…’ said Eoleof hesitantly.

    ‘Most awful predicament…’ murmured the dwarf. ‘Lofar is a dwarf of good stock; we can only ask this of him.’

    ‘Agreed!’ said the hobbit with a loud yawn. ‘But I do not think I could walk another mile before bed…’ With that, Theodoras sighed as he relaxed into the soft grass. Hemni disappeared into the gloom in search for firewood, only to return shortly with a stack of branches piled in his arms. Within moments, there blazed a cheerful fire which the company now sat around. Theodoras curled up beside the fire, his cape pulled tightly about him. Within moments, his head began to droop and it was not long until he had nodded off into a deep sleep.

    ‘I will take the first watch, if you like,’ said Dyre softly as she threw a fresh log onto the fire.

    ‘If you wish,’ answered Eoleof as he choked back a deep yawn and stretched out in the grass. ‘Wake me at midnight and I will take the second.’

    Hemni too laid down at the fire, propping his pack beneath his head. ‘Ah, that would be most appreciated…my eyes are growing heavy with sleep…’ Within moments, the dwarf was fast asleep, a deep snore rising from his deep hood about his head.

    Dyre warmed her hands in the glow of the fire and glanced up at the twinkling of stars that now filled the darkened sky overhead.

    ‘They are beautiful, are they not?’ said Eoleof softly as he too gazed out to the velvet canopy above.

    ‘Yes,’ she answered after a pause. ‘I was just thinking…and remembering how much sharper the starlight is back home. Up in the mountains.’

    ‘The sky is much brighter on the plains of my home,’ answered Eoleof, propping his head slightly with one arm. ‘I hope that I may return soon.’

    ‘There are no mountains in Rohan? I have heard only a little of that place.’

    ‘The White Mountains are the south wall of our lands,’ answered Eoleof still gazing up at the stars. ‘My folk live in the plains to the north. War was brewing even as I left…orcs raiding our herds and attacking outlying homesteads. I came north to seek allies, but it seems this land has troubles of its own.’

    Dyre turned her gaze to look at the Eorlingas. ‘Will you abandon your search and go home?’ she asked.

    ‘No,’ answered Eoleof grimly. ‘My lord Erkenbrand bid me to find allies and I will find them, no matter how long I must search.’

    Both fell silent for a time, broken only by the crackling of the cheerful fire and the deep snoring of the sleeping dwarf. Dyre glanced over to the dwarf with a smile half-hidden in the gloom. ‘I find it comforting to have him with us,’ she said after a moment. ‘The dwarves of Erebor are friends to my kin.’

    ‘My people have not had dealings with Durin’s Folk for many years,’ replied Eoleof. ‘But those that I met bear out the truth of the stories of old about them.’ Without another word, Eoeloef turned over and fell silent, leaving Dyre to return her silent gaze to the starry sky.

    The dawn had not yet come to the darkened skies when Theodoras stirred in his deep sleep. He lazily opened his eyes and looked about. Eoleof was seated beside the fire, munching on a bit of hard biscuit and cold bacon. Dyre was standing nearby, gazing out over the still-darkened fields in silence. The dwarf was nowhere to be seen.

    ‘Wake up, Theo,’ she said softly as the hobbit sat up and yawned with a stretch.

    ‘What time is it?’ he asked looking around. ‘More importantly, what is for breakfast? At least I think it is time for breakfast…’

    The Eorlingas mumbled as he set down a wooden plate on the grass. Theodoras groaned at the sight of the hard biscuits (not butter or even honey he thought miserably) and cold bacon. He reached for a biscuit and began to eat rather dishearteningly.

    Suddenly, Dyre stiffened and sank low to the ground to stare cautiously into the darkness. She fitted a fletched arrow to her bow and held her breath. There was a laugh from the darkness just as the dwarf stepped into the light of the campfire.

    ‘It is only I,’ said Hemni as he took a seat beside the fire.

    ‘Where have you been off to?’ asked the hobbit curiously.

    ‘To speak with Lofar Ironband,’ answered the dwarf as he reached for some bacon. ‘He is willing to forge another blade, but not without a cost. He has asked me to collect some old trinkets that may be found in a boar hollow not far from here. If we can bring them back, Lofar is willing to forge a new blade.’

    ‘Theodoras groaned at the dwarf’s news. ‘Running her or there on endless tasks…I shall never reach this Hengstacer Farm!’

    ‘It is only fair,’ answered the dwarf.

    ‘I suppose, but all this for a blade?’

    ‘A well-forged blade can mean the difference between life and death, Master Took,’ added Eoleof solemnly.

    ‘A hot meal and a warm drink is the difference between life and death to the likes of me!’ snorted the hobbit as he tossed the rest of his biscuit into the fire. ‘And I am getting far too little of both of late!’

    Eoleof laughed and then reached inside his pack. ‘I have something for you, Master Took.’ He drew out a small bronze dagger and held it out to the hobbit. The hilt was overlaid with bronze filigree and crafted in the shape of a rearing horse.

    Theodoras took the dagger and turned it over in his hand. ‘Hmm, a very fine blade, Eoleof! But whatever would I do with this?’

    ‘I brought that dagger with me from Rohan. It was given to me by my captain when I joined the Marshal of Westfold. I would like you to have it.’

    ‘I don’t know what to say,’ said the hobbit blushing red. ‘I thank you, Eoleof!’

    The veil of night soon passed as the company left their camp to cross the Greenway and into the fields beyond to the east. The sun climbed slowly into the sky and the air became warm and pleasant as they went. In was not long until they reached the line of tall hills and were standing at the top of a narrow slope that wound down into a wide undulating hollow, sheltered by tall cliffs on all sides and shaded by scattered trees and bushy thickets along its floor.

    ‘Here is the boar hollow,’ said the dwarf softly as the company gazed down into the hollow. ‘The trinkets we seek can be found down there, but only the best will do.’

    ‘The boars will already be out with the dawn,’ warned Eoleof. ‘They like to feed at this hour.’

    ‘Then let us hunt, answered Dyre grimly as she carefully began to make her way down the path and into the hollow below. The hobbit glanced nervously forward before quickly following the Dale woman, with the dwarf and Eoleof behind him.

    At the bottom of the slope, Dyre paused and held up her hand. Theodoras peered ahead and then gasped aloud. ‘Look!’ he exclaimed. ‘Boars!’

    ‘Indeed,’ answered Dyre warily. ‘A whole nest of boars. We should proceed cautiously. Stay close to Eoleof, Theo. Hemni and I will search the far side of the hollow.’ With that, the Dale woman began to cross the hollow stealthily, with the dwarf close behind her.

    Theodoras watched as the pair passed through a thicket and out of sight. He stood unmoving listening for a moment, and then took a cautious step forward. He had gone only a few steps when suddenly his keen eyes spotted a dark shape moving in and out of the brush near the center of the hollow. A grunt rent the air as an enormous boar stepped through the thickets and into view. It seemed greatly enraged and ploughed the soft earth with its tusks and rubbed its massive body against the bark of a small tree.

    The beast uttered a cry of rage and lowered its head to spring at the now much frightened hobbit. With a thunderous roar, the wild beast bore down on the hobbit, and it was only at the last minute that Theodoras had the sense to leap to one side. The boar passed beyond him, paused for the briefest of moments, and then turned even more furiously against the hobbit.

    The boar eyes were flaming, its whole body bristling, its tusks clashing together as it turned it massive head towards Theodoras and leapt again. With a flurry of rage, the beast bore down onto the small hobbit, its white tusks goring his legs and its great weight throwing Theodoras to the ground.

    But the boar did not fall upon the hapless hobbit, for Eoleof now suddenly appeared, his sword in one hand. Crying aloud, Eoleof hewed at the enraged beast; but his stroke went wide and it glanced harmlessly off the boar’s thick head, sending the beast into an even deeper and maddening frenzy.

    Forgetting all about the hobbit, the wild boar turned to spring at the Eorlingas, driving at him with great force. Theodoras climbed quickly to his feet only to watch on in horror as the Man stumbled and then was thrown back under the beast’s assault. The boar did not pause to allow Eoleof time to steady his feet, but sprang once more, bent upon tearing him to pieces.

    Theodoras choked back a cry as he stumbled forward and stabbed at the beast with his dagger. The hobbit’s arm rang numb from the force of the blow and he nearly let loose his grip by the shock. The boar shuddered and then swung its massive head round to face the trembling hobbit.

    Theodoras now found himself staring into he red maddened eyes of the beast as it gathered itself for a great leap. He frantically scrambled back, thinking this would be his last. But just then, a voice was heard rising above the wild trampling and snorting of the beast. Strange words of song seemed to gather about the boar as it froze, suddenly quitting the hobbit entirely and raised its head nervously.

    From out of the trees came Hemni, his axe gleaming in the sunlight that streamed through the boughs of the trees overhead, and Dyre was behind him. With a rush, the pair fell upon the boar, raining blow after blow upon the beast. From the other side came Eoleof even as the beast turned to leap away to safety. Theodoras too stepped forward but nearly fainted as a sick felling began to wash over him and he nearly collapsed to the ground.

    The hobbit reached out a hand to steady himself as a growing delirium overtook him. H watched as his companions stabbed and hewed at the maddened boar until at least it let out a shuddering cry and crumbled to the ground unmoving.

    ‘Are you alright, Theo?’ asked Dyre turning to gaze worrisome at the hobbit who had now slid to the ground. Hemni strode forward to kneel beside the hobbit, concern spread across his creased face. ‘I fear the wound is diseased,’ he uttered. The wound was not deep, though it ran the length of the hobbit’s thigh, and it was red and ugly.

    The dwarf placed his hands over the ugly wound and began to sing softly a slow song in a strange deep language. Almost immediately, the pain lessened and the delirium was lifted from Theodoras’ eyes like a veil.

  6. #56
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Horse Capital of the World

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I'll have to go back and read the entire story but you spoke to me on Thursday when I was on my alt Peridoc. Perhaps Theodoras would be interested in speaking with Peridoc's father Bugo Dughall. This adventure sounds like fun. :3
    [url=http://furrowhamstudios.mymiddleearth.com/]Furrowham Studios[/url] [url=http://secondbreakfast.guildlaunch.com/]Second Breakfast[/url]

  7. #57

    Chapter Twenty: A Blade for a Life – 23 to 24 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    When Theodoras awoke, he was lying in a bed of grass covered by a thick blanket. A cloudless day, though a bit chilled, stared back from far above. He did not move right away, but laid there for some time, gazing up into the clear sky. After awhile, the sleepiness began to clear from his head, and he sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes. ‘Whatever happened, I wonder,’ he said aloud.

    He found that he was lying next to the smouldering fire at their campsite. On the far side of the fire sat the dwarf Hemni, who looked up from the piece of wood he was carving with a short knife. ‘You have awakened finally!’ laughed the dwarf. ‘I thought perhaps you would sleep the entire day away!’

    ‘Hullo there!’ replied the hobbit in a dry voice. ‘But where are the others? Are they alright?’

    ‘Dyre has gone hunting in the fields and Eoleof is out collecting fire wood’ answered the dwarf. ‘I have dressed and cleaned your wound, and the sickness has left you. The boar that attacked you was sickness by disease, but I think the worst has passed.’

    ‘Bless me, the boar!’ cried the hobbit. ‘Whatever happened? Forgive me but my mind seems to bit muddled still.’

    ‘A close call, indeed,’ said the dwarf solemnly. ‘Retrieving those trinkets was no small task. The hollow was thick with boars, many of them diseased and maddened by sickness. But all is fine now…we found what we were looking for and you have recovered.’

    Theodoras laid back down, thinking back to the battle with the crazed boar. It now seemed only a distant memory, and very hard to remember in more than fragments. He grew silent, as the dwarf returned to his whittling and did not speak for some time. ‘I think I shall sleep a bit more,’ he said at length then fell fast asleep.

    When he awoke, Theodoras found that he slept through the day and all that evening. He sat up beside the campfire and discovered that the dressings binding his wound were fresh and clean. The pain of the wound had passed and he felt altogether much better, hungry even, he chuckled thoughtfully.

    The cloudless day before had given way to masses of deep dark clouds from the north and a strong wind blew steady from the east. Shivering slightly in the chilled air, the hobbit reached for his cape that was laid out in the grass and looked about.

    ‘Wherever did everyone go, I wonder?’ he said quietly as he threw the cape round his shoulders and sat back down next to the fire. It was not long when the first drops began to fall, and Theodoras turned up his hood as he stoked the fire. Theodoras was just finishing his third piece of toasted bacon when Hemni suddenly appeared through the brush near the camp.

    ‘I see your appetite has returned!’ laughed the dwarf as he set down an armful of firewood onto the ground.

    ‘Famished really!’ said the hobbit, licking the grease from his fingers. ‘But I shall soon grow tired of nothing more than cold biscuits and toasted bacon.’ Theodoras nibbled on a hard biscuit and turned inquisitively to the dwarf.
    ‘But where are Dyre and Eoleof? Off hunting again?

    ‘I am here, Master Took’ said a voice from the other side of the camp. Theodoras turned to watch as Dyre strode towards the fire and sat down wearily beside it. The Dale-woman set down her bow and quiver of arrows to warm her chilled hands in the glow of the fire.

    ‘What a day for a battle…’ she murmured glancing up into the darkened skies with displeasure. ‘Limited visibility, slippery footing….what else?’

    ‘It is a fierce rain, Lady Dyre,’ answered the dwarf, the only member of the company who seemed not to mind the rain. ‘Perhaps we should make ready to the bandit camp soon?’

    ‘Yes, we should leave,’ grumbled the hobbit as he peeked out from beneath the hood of his cape. ‘Before I become drowned by all this falling rain!’

    ‘Do we know where theses brigands are hiding out?’ asked Dyre.

    ‘Somewhere ahead near those distance line of tall hills,’ answered the dwarf who now looked out over the rain-swept fields to the west.

    ‘Where is the Rohirrim captain,’ asked Dyre suddenly, and she glanced about in alarm. ‘Did he depart before the dawn?’

    Theodoras shook his head in silence and drew his soaked cape tighter about him. Dyre climbed to her feet and began to search the ground about the camp, quickly but thoroughly, stooping every now or then to the earth. ‘I see no prints,’ she said finally. ‘But then the rain has washed any tracks from the ground around here.’

    Just then, Dyre paused to peer into the distance towards the road. Theodoras poked his head from beneath his hood and watched as a featureless shape appeared in the rain some distance off. Within moments, the familiar face of Eoleof came into view, his cloak and tunic splashed with mud and rain dripping rain-water.

    ‘We were about to leave without you!’ cried Theodoras as he clambered to his feet and shook the rain from his cape.

    ‘My apologizes,’ said the Eorlingas as he strode into the camp. ‘A message came for me from Bree and I rode back there. Again my apologizes.’

    ‘No harm done, then!’ laughed the hobbit. Your return is what matter most. But we must make haste. Maribell Thistelway is being held by those foul bandits.’

    ‘What’s the plan then?’ asked Dyre as she slung her bow over her shoulder. ‘Walk up to the brigand camp and knock on the door?’

    ‘Perhaps we can go and have a look at this camp first?’ answered Theodoras.

    ‘That seems as good a plan as any,’ said Eoleof. ‘We could scout the camp before we make any plans of attack.’

    ‘At least we can use the rain to our advantage, to cover our approach,’ replied Dyre.

    As the afternoon waned, the company set out across the rain-drenched fields. Theodoras and Hemni walked behind, while Dyre and Eoleof went forward to pick out a trail-less path over the fields. They made north-west, round several wide lakes, their banks lined with scattered trees. Soon they were drawing nearer and nearer to the long line of darkened hills that were flung out westwards.

    The hills rose from bare ad rocky cliff walls and on their heights could be glimpsed sturdy palisades of wood. A winding path sloped towards the heights, flanked by the sheer cliffs to one side and a wooden palisade on the outer one.

    Theodoras drew his soaked cape about him and shook the rain from his bedraggled hair. He peered from under his dropping hood and then pointed ahead. ‘There it is!’ he cried. ‘Do you see those walls?’

    ‘And brigands…’ added Dyre as she drew up to the hobbit. ‘I can make out their campfire even from here.’

    ‘I have seen these folk,’ murmured Eoleof. ‘But they these are no Blackwolds. They look like Dunlendings!’

    ‘What are Dunlendings, Eoleof?’ asked Dyre quietly.

    ‘They are ancestral enemies of my people. Their land is far in the south. They are an ill-favoured folk. I know they will like the sight of me as little as I like the sight of them!’

    ‘Well I don’t like the looks of them one bit,’ uttered Theodoras. ‘And I have not even seen one yet!’ Theodoras shivered slightly as he stood unmoving in the cold rain and then sneezed loudly. ‘Oh bother with this rain!’

    ‘Much as I loathe saying this,’ murmured Eoleof gazed out towards the hill. ‘Perhaps a peaceful solution could present itself.’

    ‘They’re holding a girl hostage,’ snorted Dyre with disgust. ‘Peace is not something they deserve.’

    ‘Oh look!’ said Theodoras once more. ‘How strange, it looks as if the entrance is not even guarded!’

    Slowly and quietly as they might, the company crept forward, turning away from the darkening fields and began to climb upwards towards the dim heights of the hill above. They had not gone far when Theodoras stopped suddenly and pointed ahead. ‘Look!’

    There on the darkened path ahead lay the body of a swarthy man, face turned upward, a dark fletched arrow sticking from his back. His tunic and cloak were tattered and darkened with blood and nearby laid a notched sword. Further up the path could be seen more huddled bodies, each hewn with many strokes.

    ‘A battle has happened here,’ murmured the dwarf softly. ‘And quite recently.’

    ‘But a battle between whom, I wonder?’ answered Theodoras nervously. The others fell silent and said nothing, turning their gaze to the fallen forms.

    The companions continued on up the path and they came upon no sight of the enemy but for the occasional corpse lying silent and unmoving upon the darkened ground. But soon, the sound of harsh cries and shouts came to their ears and further ahead could be seen many points of fiery red torches and campfire.

    The winding path now passed into a wide level area flanked by more rising cliffs to one side and the tall palisade overlooking the fields far below. The sun was sinking fast and the first stars began to twinkle in the dying light above.

    Suddenly and at no great distance in the gloom ahead, a clamour broke out. Horns rang out and the sound of blades being drawn could clearly be heard. Without warning, there came louder, closer cries and wilder yells in the darkness ahead. At once, a small group of swarthy and slant-eyed Southrons appeared from the darkness. The largest fellow of the group cried aloud a challenge and leapt forward, while the rest stalked behind him.

    Eoeloef, who was a bit further ahead than the rest of the company, turned to face the attacker, but just then an arrow whined past and the Southron fell sprawling and lay still. It was Dyre, her bow bent even as she fitted another arrow to the string.

    With a great cry, the Southrons surged forward as one; but the short figure of the dwarf leapt past Eoleof and gave a hoarse shout. Hemni’s axe glinted in the torchlight as it swept forward then back again. A brigand choked back a startled cry and fell headless to the ground.

    Another brigand came at the dwarf from one side but stumbled as an arrow passed through his throat and then collapsed to the ground. A clear voice rang out, echoing in the hills as Eoleof sprang forward to stand beside the dwarf. ‘Forth Eorlingas!’ he cried as he swept up his spear.

    The attack came strong and fierce, and the Southrons swarmed round the companions on all sides. Hemni hewed this way and that with his axe as Eoleof struck out over and over with his shining spear. Theodoras stood shaking beside Dyre, his knife held loosely in one hand, as she drew back her bow and let fly an arrow.

    From out of the darkness was hurled a knife; it struck the dwarf on the helm and he stumbled falling to one knee. Before he could recover, a brigand leapt over Hemni and sprang at the hobbit. Dyre swung round, sweeping her hand to the sword at her belt, but the Southron drove his shoulder into her and she fell back with a cry.

    ‘Dyre!’ cried Theodoras as he stumbled forward, stabbing upward with his knife. The blade passed into the brigand, just above his belt and the Man fell back clutching his stomach. He whirled to look at Dyre with fright but the Dale woman only smiled back and winked.

    Theodoras saw immediately that the attack had passed; several Southron had been hewn down or turned and fled, leaving the company in the darkened silence once more. Carefully now, the companions crept forward, past scattered tents and campfires now empty and forgotten by their owners.

    They had gone far when Theodoras called out. ‘Over here!’ The hobbit turned and without waiting for his companions, he darted towards a small wagon where there could be heard muffled sobbing. The hobbit carefully removed the pin on the lock from the single door of the wagon and lifted it slowly. There, on the hay-strewn floor of the wagon, sat a terrified girl and she raised an arm as if expected a blow.

    ‘Do not worry!’ he whispered trying to sound comforting. ‘We are not brigands, but have been sent by your father to rescue you! But you have to be silent or you’ll bring the lot of them down upon our heads!’

    ‘Oh, thank you, thank you!’ cried Maribell choking back tears. ‘I filched the key a while ago, but I was too scared to use it. Now, with you here, I can use it and we can escape.’

    ‘Be quiet,’ whispered Theodoras with a nervous hiss as he reached for the key. ‘Hold still a moment and I will have you free.’

    Maribell leaned on Theodoras’ arm as she emerged from the wagon, stifling back a sob. ‘Hopefully we can get away before Blake notices!’ The girl then shrank back as the others came up from behind, looking to her no more than ruffians themselves in the gloom.

    ‘Fear not,’ offered the hobbit with a smile.’ These are my friends…’ but then his voice died away when there came a chorus of shouts and cries from the darkness. Theodoras whirled round to watch as a band of brigands came into view from the direction of the main camp.

    ‘Stop them!’ cried one of the Southron outlaws as he drew a wicked blade. ‘Get them!’ cried another. They ain’t taking our treasure!’

    ‘Oh no!’ cried the girl with fright. ‘They’ve heard us!’ With surprising strength, Maribell twisted from Theodoras’ grasp and fell back before the sight of the brigands then turned to run. At once the Men leapt forward in pursuit, howling madly as they ran.

    Bu then a darkened figure appeared between the ruffians and the fleeing girl. It was the dwarf Hemni, who flashed out his axe and sprang forward, casting aside his cloak with one hand. The nearest Southron let out a vicious yell and he aimed a savage blow at the dwarf. The axe turned on the dwarf’s stout coat of mail and sprang back with a clang.

    Hemni swept up his axe, driving the brigand back but he was soon pressed on all sides by the others. A blade tore at his breeches and he only just brought up the haft of his axe to turn aside a clumsy stab of a sword. But then a rousing cry erupted from behind as Dyre and Eoleof fell upon the Southrons in fury.

    Eoeleof passed his spear through a brigand even as the Man turned to face the new attack. Dyre bent her bow and let fly an arrow then reached out to steady the shaken dwarf with one hand. So strong and fierce was the attack that is was now brigands that gave ground and fell back, not daring to draw near.

    But a tall Man, a great squint-eyed fellow stepped forward from the crowd, uttering a rallying cry to his men. Holding a long slender blade his both hands, Blake made a rush at the company. Dyre loosened her bow and a man beside the brigand leader fell pierced through the throat. But at once, the company was surrounded on all sides as the brigands threw themselves in desperation into the fray.

    Meanwhile, Theodoras stood not far back, clutching at Maribell in utter fright as they both watched the battle with growing horror. Suddenly Blake turned aside the dwarf’s axe and leapt past him to bear down on the hobbit and girl. At that moment, and rather unexpectedly, Theodoras cried out as his short knife flashed in his hand. Even as the Southron raised his weapon high above his head, the hobbit darted forward and stabbed upwards. Blake cried out in pain as the hobbit’s blade pierced his abdomen.

    Blake stumbled back unsteadily just as Eoleof and Hemni dove at him from behind. With a cry, Eoleof stabbed with his long spear and Hemni raised his axe high then brought it down upon the man’s head with a shout. Blake stumbled then fell.

    The company paused only for the briefest of moments to gaze at the fallen brigands, and then Maribell spoke hurriedly. ‘Quick! With Blake dead, we can make our escape!’ With that the girl began to run doggedly through the camp towards the descending path on the far side.

    ‘Yes, we should go now,’ hissed Dyre as she watched the girl. ‘This mud is thick with blood and I’m sure their friends will hear all the commotion.’

    ‘Then, let us away before the whole camp comes down on us!’ answered Eoleof. With that, the Eorlingas sprang forward to follow the girl, who even now was fast disappearing in the gloom. The others quickly followed behind as the company passed swiftly through the shattered remains of the encampment. They hastened down the path, and paused momentarily to look back for signs of a pursuit. Within minutes, they were free and running through the darkened fields once more.

  8. #58

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Well, that took some time to complete! Trying to organize a company of four players together in different time zones can be very difficult! It almost seemed that I was going to have to continue this part of the story without the entire group. But we were persistant and patient and we were able to finish together.

    As a side note, Theodoras has reached the next survival title!

  9. #59
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Horse Capital of the World

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    Well, that took some time to complete! Trying to organize a company of four players together in different time zones can be very difficult! It almost seemed that I was going to have to continue this part of the story without the entire group. But we were persistant and patient and we were able to finish together.

    As a side note, Theodoras has reached the next survival title!

    Yay! I hope the lad can keep going. :3
    [url=http://furrowhamstudios.mymiddleearth.com/]Furrowham Studios[/url] [url=http://secondbreakfast.guildlaunch.com/]Second Breakfast[/url]

  10. #60

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Goku-san
    Yay! I hope the lad can keep going. :3
    If I and his other friends have anything to say about, he will! Great, as always, Brucha!

    The Éored of the West-Mark ~ Lore-accurate Rohirric Kinship on Landroval

  11. #61

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    And so the tale continues! I have completed formatting and uploading Book II for downloading, which covers Chapters 11 through 20. You can find it here in the story thread:

    PDF Booklist and Download Links

    I would be very interested in any feedback in the pdf versions of the story. Are they readable? Enjoyable? Horrible?


  12. #62
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Horse Capital of the World

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I'll have to check it out. :3

    Just about what time do you guys play in case others might like to join in?
    [url=http://furrowhamstudios.mymiddleearth.com/]Furrowham Studios[/url] [url=http://secondbreakfast.guildlaunch.com/]Second Breakfast[/url]

  13. #63

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Goku-san View Post
    I'll have to check it out. :3

    Just about what time do you guys play in case others might like to join in?
    With the return from the brigand camp, Theodoras is running a few solo quests. However, following that, I will be looking for anther company of friends to join me. I do not know if it will be Eoleof, Hemni and Dyre once more, or if it will be a new group of friends

    I most often play Theodoras during the evening hours.

  14. #64
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Horse Capital of the World

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    With the return from the brigand camp, Theodoras is running a few solo quests. However, following that, I will be looking for anther company of friends to join me. I do not know if it will be Eoleof, Hemni and Dyre once more, or if it will be a new group of friends

    I most often play Theodoras during the evening hours.
    Ahh. If I see you around I'll try to stop by. I did add him to my friendlist. This is quite an interesting thing you have going. :3
    [url=http://furrowhamstudios.mymiddleearth.com/]Furrowham Studios[/url] [url=http://secondbreakfast.guildlaunch.com/]Second Breakfast[/url]

  15. #65
    Join Date
    May 2012

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I do not had time to read all yet but you has gained a Brazilian reader!

  16. #66
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Here and there

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    With the return from the brigand camp, Theodoras is running a few solo quests.
    With his present companions I thought Theodoras was going to have an easy time of it but he's going on a solo quest? That's another ball game! Maybe it's time for that lost pony? I'll keep my eyes open for Theodoras when I'm on Crickhollow but I think I'm in a different time zone than you are. Maybe I'll see you at your dwarf sale this Sunday.
    The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach

  17. #67

    Chapter Twenty-one: A Penny Short – 25 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    'My letter found you then?’ said the tall Man with flowing golden hair in a manner and tone that instantly made Theodoras think of Eoleof. ‘Excellent news, and even more excellent that you are here. I am Éogar, master of horses here at Hengstacer Farms.’

    ‘Your letter arrived nearly a fortnight ago,’ laughed the hobbit. ‘Though it has taken me a week or more to make the journey here from the Shire. But here I am! All that is needed now is to settle my debt to you for the stabling and I can begin the journey home...with Clover of course!’

    Theodoras absentmindedly brushed the dust from his cape and trousers with one hand. He then tilted his head to one side and looked up at Éogar with an inquisitive glance as the tall Man spoke. ‘Forgive me. I must be much more tired from the journey than I thought because I half-imagined you said five hundred silver…’

    Éogar swatted at a large black fly that seemed to swarm over the entire stable area and nodded slightly. For a moment the hobbit was speechless, beside himself with astonishment.

    ‘You can’t be serious!’ cried the hobbit in dismay, his eyes growing as large as saucers. ‘But I do not have that sort of coin. Why, I could purchase a new pony for that sum! Horse trader indeed!’

    No matter how hard the hobbit pleaded, the horse trader only frowned and shook his head at any of the hobbit’s many offers for a smaller amount. Finally, Thodoras turned, now quite crushed by this latest turn of events, and stomped away. Passing the line of stables, the hobbit stopped and sat down dismally in the green grass beside the road.

    There he sat in silence gazing down the road that led away from the farm and back towards the Greenway and, for a brief moment, the thought to set out after his companions came into his mind. But just a swift as the notion sprang into his mind, it was pushed aside by Theodoras’ more hobbit-like sense. For it had been more than an hour since his companions had said their goodbyes and bid the hobbit farewell, leaving him alone at the farm.

    Theodoras bent his legs as he sat and propped his head in his hands, then signed unhappily aloud. ‘Let me see now…no good setting off after them. They have been gone quite awhile already and you have no hope in catching them now.’

    For a time, Theodoras sat there pondering this new predicament as the early morning slowly passed away and noon soon approached. Several times, the hobbit reached to draw out his small purse from his pocket and counted the silver and copper coins within.

    ‘As I see it, I am nearly ninety-five silver short!’ he muttered. ‘These horse-traders are shrewder than a dwarf at market!’

    He had been sitting lost in thought for more than an hour when Theodoras noticed a short man some paces off near the stables was looking at him with interest. The stableman had paused in his work spreading fresh hay into the stables, and now leaned upon the long haft of the pitchfork he held with both hands, keenly watching the hobbit in silence.

    Theodoras rose from the grass and strode over to the man, bowing low with a wave of his cap. ‘Good morning sir! I am Theodoras Took, of the Shire. And a fine morning it is!’ he said, for despite his sour mood, the morning had indeed awoken to a pleasant day. The sun shone from a gently-cloudy sky and the air was warm (but not too hot) and heavy with the scent of flowers.

    The man smiled warmly at the hobbit then wiped the sweat from his damp brow. ‘I am Cam Applewood,’ he replied still smiling down at the hobbit. 'A dwarf came to the farm and requested some horses. Not sure what he intended to do with them, but by the looks of him he needed some pack animals. I told him that our horses weren't for hire, and he left in a huff. Seemed a bit peculiar, he did not seem quite right in the head. If it's not out of your way, can you make sure that old dwarf isn't in trouble? He seemed a bit...queer in the head. I saw him wander off to the ruins south-east of here.'

    Theodoras looked up thoughtfully at the stable-hand as a plan sprang to mind. ‘Perhaps there is a way to help one another out?’ he said finally, a glimmer of hope creeping into his voice. ‘You see, I am in a bit of a bind, so to speak…monetarily, if you understand. I could seek out this dwarf for you, and perhaps he could aid me with my money problem?’

    Cam said nothing but looked down at the hobbit for a moment before turning back to his work. For a moment, Theodoras was at a loss for words. Then he spoke with some hesitation. ‘Well… I shall be off then. I will find this dwarf and return with news!’ he said, trying to sound confident.

    Theodoras began to make his way through the stables to the opposite side from the road. He munched on a handful of juicy blueberries (that last of them he thought miserably) and not a person seemed to take notice of the hobbit as he passed.

    On reaching the eastern side of the farm, he went along a dusty lane that followed a wide field behind the farm buildings and stables. The lane wound to the right, round the east side of the farm, and then run downwards into a gentle rolling meadow surrounded by a low wooden fence.

    On the far side of the meadow, away to the east and south, Theodoras could see ancient and crumbling line of ruined wall and there soon came a break in the fence along the lane. Here, Theodoras turned from the lane and began to cross the meadow towards the ruins, looking about uneasily as he went.

    Suddenly, a voice rang out from the line of crumbling ruins ahead. ‘Who’s that there?’ said a deep voice and Theodoras froze mid-step and looked about nervously. Just then he spotted a very old looking dwarf standing in the shadows of the ruins, his eyes almost slits as he squinted at the hobbit, a long dagger clutched in a gnarled hand.

    ‘Oh, hello,’ said the dwarf apologetically as he lowered his blade. ‘Sorry about that. These old eyes aren't what they used to be. Do you have time to talk? I could use some help.’

    Theodoras laughed despite himself and strode over to the dwarf. ‘I did not mean to frighten you,’ he said with an added chuckle.

    'My name's Oddvarr of the Blue Mountains,’ said the dwarf with a low bow. ‘And I'm here in Bree-land on very important business. The only problem is I misplaced my pack. Now, I'm to investigate the old dwarf-ruins that are rumoured to exist here. I'm sure there are important discoveries to be made, and I'm the one to do it! I'm a famous explorer, you see.’

    ‘I am sure!’ replied Theodoras, trying to hide his wide grin with one hand.

    'But I digress!’ continued the dwarf with an air of importance. ‘If you could help me find that pack, I would be indebted to you. You start looking over yonder north, and I'll search this area and to the south. If you find anything, meet me back here!'

    ‘Sounds simple enough,’ answered Theodoras as he took his cap in one hand and smoothed out his curly brown hair. ‘Possibly you could reward me with a finder’s fee upon my return…’

    Theodoras tipped his cap to the dwarf and turned to cross the field once more. Not far from the dwarf’s camp, the hobbit stumbled upon a faded path, plain to see, along the eastern edge of the field. It wound northwards for some distance, and then began to run upwards.

    Theodoras paused and looked about, first towards the looming hill ahead, and then away to the west where could be seen the Hengstacer Farm, and wisps of rising smoke climbed gently into the calm air. The sun now was shining bright and clear, and the grass was long and full of colour, and all seemed to the young hobbit peaceful, clean and wholesome.

    Soon, the low but wide hill came full into view ahead. It was shaded by several leafy and tall elm trees and the remains of crumbling ruins, much weathered, crowned its height. Dug into the steep slope that led up from the fields he spotted stairs of stone, very cracked and worn, to a floor of broken and pitted stonework. Tall pillars of stone rose from the floor that once held a magnificent stone roof overhead, but many were broken and the roof long ago fallen.

    Theodoras stood for a moment to gaze upon the hill before hurrying along to scramble up the rocky slope until at last he had reached the top. He had only just set one foot upon the stone floor when he blinked in astonishment and then choked back a cry. For standing amidst the ruins were two Orcs, each nearly as tall as a Man, swart and slant-eyed.

    Much to the hobbit’s luck (and yet growing fear), the Orcs did not seem to notice the poor hobbit at first, but instead stood near the center talking loudly to one another in their foul tongue. Theodoras could not understand any of the words, but it sounded very horrible and cruel to him. Nearer to where the hobbit crouched in the shadow of one of the tall crumbling pillars, stood a large section of rock. And atop the rock there was placed a well-worn leather pack.

    For several long moments, Theodoras was overwhelmed with paralyzing fear. He dared not turn to flee back down the hill, lest they Orcs become aware of his presence. And he was more than certain that he had no desire to move closer. He tried to swallow but a lump caught in his throat and Theodoras stifled back a cough with fright and alarm.

    Theodoras knew that he ought to do something at once. Part of himself (a very large part I might add) told him to turn and creep back as carefully as he might back down the hill. Oddvarr had said nothing of Orcs, he thought, and what is Orc-hunting to do with him at all? Better to flee now before the foul creatures spotted him, pack or no pack.

    But another, deeper part of him now began to whisper softly. His thoughts quickly turned to Hemni, Dyre and Eoeleof and the bravery they displayed at the heights against the brigands. Too came the memory of the valiant dwarf as Theodoras fell to the wild boar in the hollow. He suddenly had the great desire to feel heroic in his own right. Before he even had the chance to think about it, Theodoras held his breath and crept forward from the pillar until he was crouching beside the rock and pack.

    For several long and agonizing moments, the hobbit hesitated beside the rock, the desire to turn and run growing stronger in his belly. Then, he swallowed hard and plucked up his courage. Glancing towards the Orcs, he at once snatched up the pack with both hands, and turned to swiftly spring away down the slope. But for the briefest of moments, the pack caught on a spur of the rock, and Theodoras nearly dropped it in surprise as he let out a sharp cry.

    This the Orcs heard, of course, and they turned to the cry and their cruel dark eyes fell upon him. With a horrible cry, they drew forth wicked-looking blades and leapt down towards him. Great fear now swallowed the poor hobbit’s heart, and he strained and pulled at the pack feverishly. No cry came from him now. Theodoras shut his eyes tightly and tugged vainly at the straps of the pack held firm by the rock. He gave a great heave and shout and the straps snapped, nearly sending him sprawling into the dirt.

    For half a moment, he looked with surprise at the pack now in his hands. But the rush of feet across the broken stone came loud and immediate. ‘Run!’ Theodoras said to himself. His heart leapt in his chest and he sprang back, just as one of the Orcs came round the rock, bearing its yellow fangs at him. The Orc drew back his sword and stabbed forward, but Theodoras ducked beneath the clumsy blow with a frightened cry.

    Without another glance, Theodoras turned and fled down the slope, so swiftly that he slid partially downwards nearly falling over several times. The Orcs did not pause, but immediately gave chase, cursing loudly and shouting as they pursued him.

    Theodoras clutched the pack tightly to his chest as he reached the bottom of the hill, and he could feel the hot foetid breath of the Orcs on his back even as he fled across the field. All thoughts were instantly driven from his mind as he sprinted away as fast as his tiny furry feet could carry him. He did not dare chance a look over his shoulder but he envisioned the hideous orc-faces behind and hideous arms grasping for him.

    He ran and ran, until his breath came in great gasps and his chest burned like a hot furnace. All the way across the field and down the lane towards the farm he ran without pause. Only as the outlying farm buildings came into view did Theodoras dared to glance over one shoulder. Much to his surprise, he did not see the Orcs. But he did not stop his head-long rush until he had passed round the main building and into the wide courtyard of the stables.

  18. #68
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Horse Capital of the World

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I wish I had been there to watch. I just imagined Bugo saying "What is that crazy lad doing?" seeing that. lol
    [url=http://furrowhamstudios.mymiddleearth.com/]Furrowham Studios[/url] [url=http://secondbreakfast.guildlaunch.com/]Second Breakfast[/url]

  19. #69

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    I'd have loved to have seen that too

    You know I was thinking about how much it is for a pony at Hengstacer Farms, a whopping 500 silver is insane highway robbery and this Eorling must be stopped! Even mean old Bill Ferny sold the pony Bill to Butterbur for the 'extortionary' rate of 12 silver coins. Inflation is out of control in Middle Earth.

    I can't wait until the next chapter, Brucha, thank you.

  20. #70

    Chapter Twenty-two: A Company of Dwarves – 26 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    With a start, Theodoras sat up in bed, letting out a hoarse cry, and raised his hands as if to ward off a blow. ‘Orcs!’ he shouted frightfully. He threw his head about in confusion until slowly the hideous visions of the orc-faces went distant in his mind and he could no longer imagine their hot, stank breath on his neck.

    The sun was shining through an open window in the room, letting in a warm winter breeze. Theodoras chuckled despite his fright and rolled his legs off the bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was at the Prancing Pony, in Bree, of course, and slowly, the memory of the horse fields came unbidden to his mind. He had found the pack that old Oddvarr had forgetfully left behind. But foul orcs had occupied the ruins by then and it was sheer luck that Theodoras was able to escape their clutches with the pack held tightly in his hands. Even now, the terrible memory of the frightful chase all the way back to the Hengstacer farm echoed back at him and he shuddered slightly.

    The old dwarf was quite thankful for the return of his pack, and much to the hobbit’s delight, offered up a small reward for the task. It was not a princely sum, in fact, added to the meager amount of coins already in his purse, it was barely enough to cover the stabling expenses for Clover. But in the end, Theodoras fared well enough, and he happily counted out the monies, took the pony’s reins and began the long journey back to Bree.

    Theodoras chuckled softly and stretched his arms high above his head. ‘It shall be a slim and slender trip back home,’ he thought aloud. ‘But it will be most pleasant to return there!’ Just then, there came a soft rap upon the door as the hobbit servant, Nob, stuck his head inside.

    ‘A bit of breakfast and perhaps a spot of tea would be quite nice,’ answered Theodoras with a warm smile. ‘But there is one thing I must do before that. I should very much like to pay a visit to see my pony. I have only just recovered her, and it would wonderful news to my aunt if I return Clover home in better shape that when she left!’

    Theodoras stood up and hastily dressed, throwing his cape about his shoulders then setting his cap upon his furry head. He wandered down from his room and out to the stables between the two wings of the inn. There he found a fair enough barn, housing a number of horses, well-tended and cared for.

    From a small stall near the back of the barn there came a familiar whinny as Theodoras entered. He turned his head to spot Clover looking happily at him. ‘Good morning to you too!’ said Theodoras. ‘I see that you are well despite your recent and harrowing ordeal.’

    Clover said nothing but swished her tail and nuzzled her head into the hobbit’s shoulder. ‘But do not worry,’ he added as he stroked her thick mane. ‘We shall be leaving soon for home girl.’ He then glanced down at the feed trough, eying the ample pile of hay and grasses. ‘Farwell for now, Clover I must be off. You have plenty to graze on but I must now turn my attention to some bit of breakfast for myself!’

    Bidding Clover goodbye, Theodoras returned to the inn and took a seat near the fireplace at a small round table with three chairs. The inn was quiet and nearly empty as he sat down; a few hobbits or Bree-Men sat here or there in the large room but none paid Theodoras any mind as the hobbit took a seat. From out of nowhere, the hobbit Nob appeared, hovering over the table. Theodoras flashed an uncomfortable smile, trying to hide his embarrassment, and turned slightly to open his purse to count the few remaining coins inside. Nob nodded and turned round and before Theodoras could scarcely take a dozen breaths, the hobbit returned with a half-loaf of fresh bread and butter, and cheese, and a small flagon of new-drawn beer.

    Theodoras ate and drank in silence, until the plate was (rather regretfully, he thought) cleared and the flagon drained. For a time, he sat quietly, listening to the hushed conversations about the room. Slowly, his eyelids began to droop and he settled into a light sleep.

    Perhaps a half-an-hour had gone by when the door to the inn was flung open and a figure, shadowed by the brilliant light from outside, appeared in the doorway. It was a dwarf, with a short brown beard falling down upon his chest, and clad in green and tan leathers. A bursting pack, crossbow and tools were slung across his back.

    Holding the door open with one hand, the dwarf glanced about the wide room before striding forward. He gazed curiously at the sleeping form of the hobbit and then turned to walk towards the table. There he paused, looking down at the hobbit with a smile and then spoke.

    ‘Hail and well-met, Master Hobbit,’ he said with a bow. Theodoras did not stir, but let out a gentle snore in reply. The dwarf crossed his arms and smiled ever wider, then tapped his foot upon the floor. Finally, he cleared his throat very loud and spoke again.

    ‘Ahem! Young hobbit master!’

    Theodoras’ eyes fluttered open and he stared up at the strange dwarf, at once far too surprised to say anything. He blinked once or twice then stood up from the chair rather abruptly, knocking it over with a crash.

    ‘My word!’

    The dwarf, his armed still crossed over his wide chest, said nothing at first, still smiling down at the surprised and speechless hobbit. ‘Rulf, at your service!” he said finally with another low bow.

    ‘Oh, bless me!’ stuttered the hobbit. ‘You must forgive my manners, but it has been a trying week for a hobbit such as me! And your unexpected appearance caught by surprise.’

    The dwarf slid his heavy pack from his shoulders and set it down beside the table before sitting down upon one the chairs. Theodoras looked about with a flustered stare then reached down to right the fallen chair before he too sat down.

    ‘You have the look that one of my kinsmen described to me, and you fit it well enough, if I may say so,’ said the dwarf cryptically. ‘What is your name, young hobbit?’

    ‘I am Mister Theodoras Took, of Budgeford, if you must know,’ answered the hobbit sharply and suspiciously. ‘But you say kinsman? Do you mean a fellow dwarf?’

    ‘Yes,’ answered Rulf as he reached for a foaming mug of ale before him. ‘His name is Hemni, from the Blue Mountains.

    ‘Hemni!’ cried Theodoras despite himself, now very much relieved. ‘Why did you not say that before? Forgive me but your questioning left me quite uncomfortable…’

    ‘Hobbits all look alike to my folk,’ laughed the dwarf. ‘I could not sure you were the one Hemni spoke of, and there are many hobbits in Bree. So you are the one then…he named you Theodoras Took, and you have said that. A mouthful of a name, if you pardon the expression.’

    ‘Really?’ replied the hobbit. ‘Well, my mother always called me Theo for short, if that is better for you.’

    The dwarf smiled slightly. ‘Much better, and it suits you Master Theo.’

    ‘I have a distant cousin, on my father’s side, of course…’ said Theodoras thoughtfully. ‘His name was Isenbold, but everyone called him Isen, if you know what I mean. But what has brought you here?’

    ‘I have come here for ale…I have out in the wilds about Bree for some time.'

    ‘What do you mean?’ answered the hobbit with interest and curiosity.

    ‘I brought some hides to trade with the merchants of Bree. And I made myself a tidy sum at that. I can tell you, young master, there is always coin to be made doing jobs that no one else wishes to do. Curing hides is not pretty work!’

    ‘I do not doubt that!’ laughed Theodoras.

    ‘But hides alone are not the only reason I have come here to Bree,’ said Rulf in a low ominous voice.

    ‘Then what else?’ asked Theodoras, leaning into the table, not very much liking the sound of Rulf’s tone.

    ‘It would be best to wait for the others to arrive before I answer that, Master Theo,’ said the dwarf slowly.

    ‘The others?’ said Theodoras with a surprised gasp.

    ‘Yes. Some of my kinsmen from Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains, but it seems that I have arrived first.’

    Just then there came the sound of the front door being flung open and a deep voice called out.

    ‘Greetings Master Rulf!’

    Theodoras turned to watch as a second dwarf, with a short forked beard, heavy leather boots and tan cloak and hood, strode up towards the table. He was clad in a long tunic of stout mail and across his back hung a long-hafted axe.

    Rulf stood up from the table to bow low then grasped the other dwarf’s hand firmly. ‘You have arrived Hergof, my friend. Excellent!’

    ‘Rulf, do you know one another?’ asked the hobbit.

    ‘Indeed,’ answered Rulf as he turned back to the hobbit. ‘This is my kinsman, Hergof.’

    With that, the second dwarf bowed low before the hobbit and swept back his hood. ‘Hergof, at your service.’

    ‘And you and your family!’ replied Theodoras flushing brightly. But before the hobbit could say another word, there came a hearty deep-throated laugh from the direction of the door. Theodoras spun round to find Hemni standing just a few feet away, his familiar wide smile beaming brightly.

    ‘Ah, there is out truant minstrel, ‘said Rulf with a grin. ‘How are you brother Hemni!’

    Hemni stopped to bow very low before his companions. ‘Hail kinsmen! And hail to you too Master Theodoras!’ Hemni strode up and sat down heavily upon a chair at the table. ‘Ah, but my throat is parched from riding around in the fields of Bree all day!’

    The other dwarves sat down at the table as well, followed finally by Theodoras, his astonished gaze going from one dwarf to the other in rapid succession. ‘I must say! This is a strange gathering indeed! But whatever would bring three dwarves to gather in Bree!’

    ‘We all have our reasons…’ answered Rulf as he turned to shout for a round of ales to be brought over. ‘For myself, these woods and fields are thick with game, money to be made for the meat and hides, but I have come for another reason.’

    ‘I have come to town to sell some of my crafted weapons, but yes another reason entirely…’ replied Hergof quietly.

    Only Hemni did not speak, but sat back in his chair, and lit his long wooden pipe then let out a gentle cloud of dim smoke.

    For a moment, the dwarves fell silent and then Rulf leaned in close and began to speak in a low whisper. ‘I have had an offer made to me, for a good price, I might add, to gather some relics from a strange and dangerous place.’ Rulf paused to rub his beard thoughtfully. ‘I have asked my kinsmen to offer their assistance in this task.’

    ‘As always, Master Rulf, I am at your service,’ said Hergof with a grin.

    ‘Ho, ho!’ laughed Hemni. ‘Adventure is always profitable and helping a kinsman is even better!’

    The dwarves nodded collectively in agreement, their beards wagging in the dim light of the tavern. Then, Rulf cleared his throat and spoke anew.

    ‘My fellow dwarves,’ he continued in a whispered voice. ‘This place I speak of is rumoured to have much treasure, left over from the men of Cardolan of long ago. I have been asked to seek pillars that are covered with ancient text and make charcoal rubbings of them.’

    The other dwarves murmured quietly, nodding their heads slightly. Then Hemni spoke, his eyes gleaming in the dim light at the thought of gold and lost treasure. ‘I have heard strange tales of forgotten treasure around here as well, most interesting.’

    ‘Indeed, as have I,’ added Hergof. ‘But where would these pillars be found, Rulf? And what would the price be for such a strange treasure, may I ask?’

    Rulf fell silent before answering, and he threw his gaze about the room before answering. ‘They are found in a place called the Barrow Downs. And their return is quite profitable, not to mention anything we may find therein.’

    Hergo’s eyes widened at the mention of the place and set his mug down loudly upon the table. ‘The Barrow Downs? I have heard of such a place and it is rumoured to be haunted by many an evil thing!’

    Rulf nodded. ‘They say it is a haunted and forsaken place that the Men and Hobbits here dare not venture into. But if there is treasure there to be found, I am just the dwarf to see it out!’

    Hemni said nothing but blew a thick some ring into the air that hovered over the table for a moment before floating up the rafters overhead. But his eyes gleamed bright and clear as a wide smile crept across his face. Hergof lowered his head slightly as if in deep thought.

    Just then, Theodoras, who had been listening to everything with alarm and (much to his surprise) growing curiosity, spoke up. ‘You speak of treasure? Dwarves are a peculiar folk. But what would dwarves want with such treasure? And whatever does this have to do with me?’

    ‘Treasure is a valuable thing,’ answered Rulf sharply. ‘We dwarves can make many things of surpassing quality, but we no longer possess the precious metals we once had. Are you so well off, young Master Took, that you have no need of some silver?’

    ‘Me!’ shrieked the hobbit. ‘Dear me no!’ But then his hand came to rest upon his purse on his belt and he frowned and fell silent. Finally he spoke again. ‘Well, if you must know, those horse-traders charged me far more than I had anticipated. And now I am nearly spent! Almost all the monies my aunt and I had is now gone. I would very much not return home nearly bankrupt and penniless…but this sounds dangerous!’

    ‘Well, if it involves treasure,’ said Hergof with a grin. ‘Count me in, brother Rulf!’

    ‘I need little in the way of silver,’ said Hemni, as he drew on his long pipe. ‘But the adventure sounds promising!’

    Rulf clasped his hand upon Hergof’s shoulder and laughed aloud. ‘I hoped that I could count on my kinsmen! And Hemni can pen a dozen songs upon our return!’ Then he turned to gaze at the hobbit. ‘And how about you, Theo? We could use someone like you. Dwarven axes aplenty we have but there might be something that you could offer that may very well come in handy.’

    ‘Whatever could I offer?’ squeaked the hobbit.

    ‘You are a Took, are you not?’ replied Rulf. ‘I have heard several tales of some of your more adventurous Took relatives.’

    ‘Quite so,’ answered Theodoras hastily. ‘But they are not me that I can assure you!’

    ‘It is dangerous,’ said Rulf grimly. ‘I will not mislead you.’

    ‘But do not worry, young Theo,’ added Hergof with a wink. ‘My axe will make sure that no harm befalls you.’

    ‘Indeed,’ replied Rulf. ‘You will have three stout dwarves with you, my friend. I would not ask this of you, but we might very well need someone smaller and, well, sneakier, to get into places we cannot.’

    To this Hemni laughed aloud with a cheer. ‘And my tunes shall lighten our hearts in the deepest recesses of those foul barrows!’

    Rulf smiled at the other dwarves then turned back to Theodoras with a curious gaze. ‘So what do you say, Master Took?’

    Theodoras glanced slowly at each dwarf in turn and swallowed hard. ‘Well, I have begun to trust my luck far more than in the past,’ he said trying to sound confident.

    ‘Then it is settled!’ laughed Rulf.

    ‘Besides,’ said Theodoras in a low uncertain voice. How much trouble can I find with three dwarves?’
    Last edited by Brucha; Jun 16 2012 at 03:52 AM.

  21. #71

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Ah that was great! Poor Theo, getting wrapped up in Dwarven treasure hunts

  22. #72
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    What trouble can you find with dwarfs? ALL KINDS!

    Be careful out there, Theodoras! (And thanks Brucha for another excellent story - I put Theo in my friends list - if baby burg is around I'll see if I can catch you up, but we're in wildly different time zones.)

  23. #73

    Re: Total Immersion: The Road Goes Ever On - A Hobbit's Tale

    Haha! Poor Theo! He has no idea what he's getting himself into. We all know what happened the last time a Hobbit got involved in a Dwarven treasure-quest!

    The Éored of the West-Mark ~ Lore-accurate Rohirric Kinship on Landroval

  24. #74
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Here and there

    Re: Chapter Twenty-two: A Company of Dwarves – 26 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    ‘Besides,’ said Theodoras in a low uncertain voice. How much trouble can I find with three dwarves?’
    How can anyone read this without grinning in anticipation?
    The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach

  25. #75

    Chapter Twenty-three: Barrow-spiders – 27 Blotmath, 1417 SR

    In the dead of night, Theodoras awoke abruptly to the sound of noises outside the small round window of the room. A sudden fear came over him, so that he did not dare to speak but lay there listening breathlessly. He fancied he heard a sound like a strong breeze curling round the house and shaking it, and it filled him with a terrible fright.

    ‘Barrow-wights,’ thought Theodoras fearfully, though he truly did not even know what exactly a barrow-wight was. ‘A great host of them!’ He turned his head to glance about the darkened room just as there came a tap, tap, squeak, at the closed window. It was probably nothing more than branches fretting in the wind, twigs like fingers scraping wall and window; but to the young hobbit it was as if all manner of evil things and beasts were lurking just beyond the confines of the room. Theodoras drew the blanket close to his face and wondered if he would even have the courage in the morning to leave the safety of the inn’s good stone walls.

    Even as the hobbit stared at the window, not daring to scarcely breathe, there came a sharp rap upon the door. Theodoras sat up straight in the bed as the door opened slowly to reveal a darkened figure standing motionless in the gloom. A shrill and uncontrollable shout began to rise in his throat, and Theodoras looked helplessly about for his knife. Just then, and much to the hobbit’s surprise, the darkened figure let forth a merry laugh. A darkened lamp was uncovered, and its light shone on the smiling face of Hemni.

    ‘Good morning, young Master Took, said the dwarf, as he strode inside to open the window wide. A cool night air flowed in, and Theodoras shivered slightly. ‘Or good evening, I should say, for it not yet Late Watches and the sun is still lost somewhere in the East. But it should grow warmer when the day is older.’

    Almost in an instant, the fear fled from the hobbit as he leapt from bed. ‘Hemni, you rascal! You gave me quite a start. It is still dark outside. Whatever is going on?’

    ‘True, there are several hours before dawn. But we dwarves like the dark. Come, the others have gathered downstairs.’

    The dwarf then produced a ripe apple, a biscuit or two, some cheese and a pitcher of water, which the hobbit sat swiftly down and began to feat on.

    When Theodoras was dressed, and had flung his travel-stained blue cloak about his shoulders, he followed the dwarf downstairs to the darkened and silent room of the inn. The innkeeper was still fast asleep in his bed, and the dying coals of last night’s fire cast a reddish-orange hue all around. Nearer the door stood to the other two dwarves, their hoods pulled up over their heads so that, in the dim light, their faces were lost in deep shadow.

    ‘Good morning Master Took,’ said Rulf in a low voice from under his deep hood. His pack and tools were already strapped across his pack, and was even now slinging his crossbow over one shoulder. Hergof stood silent and motionless next to him, his long cloak cast over mail and axe.

    ‘Now my friends,’ continued Rulf as he motioned the others round. ‘This quest must be kept secret…I do not want others to discover we are seeking a treasure. Bree is full of sinister folk lately.’

    ‘Yes, whispered Hemni as he glanced about the darkened room warily. ‘There have been many ears about. Perhaps some of them have overheard our plans?’

    ‘Indeed,’ nodded Rulf in a low voice. ‘That is precisely why I think we should slip out under the cover of darkness, without being seen.’

    ‘Agreed,’ said Hergof, finally breaking his silence. ‘We should leave Bree in the most discreet of ways.’

    ‘Discreet?’ murmured Theodoras.’ Like thieves in the night?’

    ‘Just like a burglar,’ said Rulf with a grin.

    ‘A burglar!’ said Theodoras with indignation. ‘Dear me, no. I don’t like the sound of that one bit.’ Despite himself, Theodoras was eager to at least put forth the semblance of determination, but he was still all rather confused by all of this and a bit shaky inside as well. ‘I believe I shall leave Clover behind, however. I don’t dare risking her safety on such a perilous journey. I just pray nothing unforetold befalls her before our return.’

    Rulf looked down at the hobbit, a smile hidden in the deep folds of his hood. ‘Then, Theo, are you ready? We should be off...and just remember to keep quiet.’

    ‘I still do not know what barrow-treasure and barrow-wights have to do with anything. Or what service I could provide to a trio of dwarves. But yes, I suppose I am as ready as I shall ever be!’

    One by one, the dwarves filed out of the inn and into the courtyard outside, with Theodoras coming up last. Then, with a raised arm, Rulf began to lead them down the narrow and darkened lanes towards the West Gate of Bree. The watchmen barely stirred in his sleep as the company stole quietly trough the gate and down the road until they were standing at the crossroads of the Greenway and Great Road. There the companions paused in the darkness.

    Theodoras stepped towards the crossroads and peered both ways. Visions of brigands and unwholesome things crept into his mind and he shivered slightly. He then glanced anxiously at the dwarves and then far off to the east. The sun was still far below the horizon in the distance and the road ahead looked dark and empty before them.

    'Do you think…' he began hesitatingly. 'Do you think we have been - er, well, spotted?'

    Rulf looked from under his deep hood before answering. ‘I don’t believe so, but we should remain alert.’ The dwarf then turned to look down at the hobbit with a wink. ‘A nice evening for a walk though, eh, Master Took?’

    ‘As much as one could enjoy such a walk into a foul place like the Barrow-downs, if even a small part of the tales are true!’

    With that, the company tramped off down the Great Road in silence and soon the darkened gate and hedge of Bree dwindled in the gloom behind them. Rulf walked in front, one hand resting on his slung crossbow; next came Hemni and the hobbit; and last came Hergof, who threw a glance every now and then over one shoulder.

    After a time, Bree was lost behind them and they passed over the stone bridge spanning the swift-flowing stream and then kept on along the Road for some time. It was not long when they came upon a faded path that bent to the left from the road, curving back in a southerly line as it began to climb up a steep slope. Further up beyond the darkened path they could see the beginnings of tall hills rising out of the curling sea of darkness.

    Here, Rulf paused quietly as his companions gathered round in the gloom. ‘Now, here is where we must leave the road,’ he said in a low voice. ‘This path will lead us into the Downs, if I am not mistake.’

    Theodoras shivered despite himself as his eyes gazed out onto the darkened hills to the south. Rulf turned and began striding down the path, and the others fell in behind silently. Soon, there appeared ahead an opening between steep shoulders through which the path wound through.

    Cautiously and with not a sound, the company climbed the path and passed through the cleft in the ridge into a deep and narrow ravine. At once, it was as if a heavy door shut behind them and an oppressive heaviness choked the dim still air all about them. Suddenly, Rulf paused, casting his hood back to look into the darkness along the path ahead.

    ‘Hmm, it seems someone has met their end,’ he said in a low voice.

    The other dwarves hurried forward to stand to either side of Rulf. Theodoras did not, but instead inched forward, glancing about in a nervous fear. There, lying upon the path at the feet of the dwarves was a man, his cloak and trousers torn to tatters. For a moment, the companions gazed down upon the unfortunate soul and said nothing.

    ‘What has befallen this man?’ said Hemni breaking the silence.

    ‘I believe it was a wolf or barghest,’ answered Rulf grimly.

    ‘What is a barghest, Rulf?’ squeaked the hobbit, as he peeked from behind the dwarves.

    ‘The wild dogs that roam these haunted lands did this poor fellow in,’ replied the dwarf.

    ‘It is a sign then,’ answered Hemni gravely. ‘We should be on our guard or else we shall end up like him.’

    ‘Rulf nodded his head slightly. ‘I once encountered their kind in Ered Luin. These beasts are vicious and do not give warning when they attack.’ Rulf then turned and began to draw the others away and further down the path ahead. ‘Come, we cannot help him now. Let us go.’

    With Rulf leading the way, they wound their way further on, along the floor of the narrow ravine, first west then south once more. Without warning, the sheer walls of the ravine sprang back on both sides and before them lay a wide expanse of undulating land.

    Even in the dim light, neither tree nor brush could be seen, save for a short springy turf growing across shadowy landscape ahead. To the east rose tall ridges that fell away on the far side towards the lower Bree-lands. The ridges ran southwards until they vanished out of sight in the heavy gloom. Far to the west and south lay a glimpse of a deep shadowed forest, nearly lost in a dark haze. And over all there hung an unnatural mist that seemed to ebb and flow in the still air.

    Theodoras stepped forward unwillingly, and then shrank back in fear as the sound of scrapping reached his ears. He stooped and squinted in the dim light to watch with alarm as a hideous, slithering creature, more like an enormous worm that anything else, emerged from behind a nearby rock.

    The hobbit let out an uncontrollable shriek even as Rulf stepped forward, his crossbow held in one hand. The dwarf laid a steady reassuring hand on the hobbit’s shoulder.

    ‘You see that giant crawler?’ he said quietly as he fitted an arrow to his crossbow. ‘Some are passive but others can be quite aggressive, so tread carefully Theo.’

    ‘I see it!’ answered the hobbit nervously. ‘Ugly foul thing is it not?’

    ‘Indeed,’ answered the dwarf softly. ‘They feast on the dead.’

    ‘Whatever do you mean?’ said the hobbit his voice cracking. ‘That does not sound inviting at all!’

    Rulf did not answer, but watched the slimy thing slithered from the rock and off into the darkness. He then turned his gaze skywards to the thick billowing clouds of mist and fog that was even now beginning to roll in from the south.

    ‘This mist is already blocking out moon and star,’ he said quietly.

    ‘True but we are dwarves,’ answered Hemni, his gaze set upon the rolling ground ahead of them, . ‘We often walk in the dark. Besides, there is rich deposits here in the barrows, if the tales be true, a good enough reason to continue.’

    ‘But certainly not a good enough reason to remain, Hemni!’ retorted the hobbit.

    Rulf smiled and clasped his hand upon Hemni’s shoulder. ‘There are riches beyond deposits, my friend, buried deep within the barrows. That is what we seek here.’

    Rulf then turned to his companions. ‘Let us continue, but be wary!’ With Rulf in the lead, the companions made their forward from the ravine and down a gentle slope into the gathering mist. As they went, the air began cold and clammy, and Theodoras instinctively drew his cloak tight about his body.

    Theodoras could not tell how far they had gone, for the blowing mist concealed the land, making it hazy and deceptive to the eye. But soon, the ground began to fall away towards the ridges dimly visible through the tops of the mist to the east. At once a low, shapeless hill loomed from out the mist ahead.

    In the ground before them were placed flat and well-worn flag-stones set deep into the earth. They led forward until the mist seemed to part and a low hill, ringed by strange standing stones like stabbing fingers, came into view. The flag-stones wound up to a pair of standing stones set into the steep slope of the hill, and a third rested upon their top, like some great entrance of sorts. But what lay beyond could only be guessed for it was shrouded in a darkness that no light seemed to penetrate.

    ‘Look!’ sputtered the hobbit as he pointed towards the low hillock ahead.

    ‘What is this foul place, brother Rulf?’ said Hemni cautiously.

    ‘A barrow,’ muttered Rulf softly. ‘The man in Bree said the ancient pillars we seek are in these barrows. We must enter.’

    ‘We must?’ replied Theodoras as an icy chill that froze his bones settled over him. ‘Leave the dead to rest. They have nothing we desire!’

    ‘We must, if we want the treasure,’ answered Rulf glancing back at the hobbit.

    Hergof, who had been unnaturally quiet since entering the Downs spoke up. ‘There better be great riches as you promised, Master Rulf!’ he said with a growl.

    Rulf looked long and silent at Hergof then down at the hobbit. ‘Would you rather wait out here?’

    ‘Wait out here?’ answered the hobbit as he glanced about fearfully.

    ‘Perhaps that is not so safe for our Mr. Took,’ said Hemni.

    Rulf nodded then looked once more in silence at the hobbit. Theodoras shivered then swallowed hard, never taking his eyes off the barrow before them.

    ‘Very well, but this is a fool’s errand, and fools we have become!’ moaned the hobbit with sorrow. But the dwarves were silent and his voice fell to a whisper. With Rulf leading, they passed one by one through the dark doorway gaping like a deep impenetrable shadow before them. As Theodoras passed the archway, what little from outside was swiftly swallowed and he found himself standing in a deep gloom, an utter enveloping darkness; the still and stagnant air felt oppressive and all sounds fell dead away. Theodoras reached out with one hand to an unseen wall; it felt, much to his surprise, smooth and the floor, save for a step or two, was straight and even.

    They had gone far when the hobbit sensed a change in the darkness; ahead it seemed deeper and denser. Here also, the air seemed to move slightly, and there were echoes and a sense of space in the darkness.

    A few paces ahead, Rulf produced a torch from his pack and within moments it sparked to life. The darkness sprang back to reveal a narrow chamber half-shrouded in places of deep shadows. The flickering light danced across the chamber revealing the thick darkness was made, in many places, by sinister-looking spider-webs all tangled with one another.

    Solemn figures of carven stone loomed from the web-festooned and crumbling walls and each bore the likeness of kings of old. Here or there could also be seen strange signs and runes, but they were far too dim and faded to read. But more to Theodoras’s rising fear was the horrible stench, the foulest of reeks, which emanated from the darkened chamber.

    The hobbit’s sense at once began to reel and his mind darkened; despite the torch held high in Rulf’s hand, the darkness within the chamber seemed to close in about the company and the stench smote Theodoras more terribly than any blade.

    Just then a sound unlike the frightened hobbit ever heard now began to creep from out of the shadows all about the chamber. The sound, much like that of rustling dry dead grass, seemed to come from unseen and deep crevices in the darkness. Suddenly, a thing appeared in the darkness ahead. It was a spider, but far larger than any common variety Theodoras had ever seen back in the Shire. The spider’s dark body sat atop spindly legs and ichor dripped from its long mandibles. More to Theodoras’ horror, it was not alone as the shadowy outlines of several more came into view behind the first.

    Rulf let out a rousing shout lifted up his crossbow as the horrible spiders swarmed as one from out of the webs and shadows. The arrow struck the first spider in its many-clustered eyes and it shuddered uncontrollably with maddening jerks before flopping to the ground in a heap.

    Hergof bellowed a curse and sprang past Theodoras and into the press of advancing spiders. ‘Get behind me, little one!’ he shouted as the dwarf laid all about with his axe, cleaving leg and limb with every stroke. Hemni’s voice rang out sonorous and clear in the darkness behind. The words washed over the hobbit and the darkness seemed to melt from his heart.

    Before he could even consider it, Theodoras leapt forward to deal a blow to one of spiders closing all round Hergof. He aimed a blow at the first but it only sprang away on its many legs like lightning. Desperately he whirled to hew at another, but his dagger rang, glancing aside, nearly falling from his shaken hand.

    Choking back a cry, Theodoras stabbed again, sinking his knife into the monster’s belly. The spider convulsed and shivered before collapsing to the stone floor. Black drops of foul ichor dripped from the blade as the hobbit staggered back with surprise. At once, the sound of battle ceased and the chamber went silent but for the heavy gasps of the dwarves. Theodoras lifted his head to look at the faces of his companions.

    ‘Spiders!’ said Rulf as he reached down to retrieve those arrows not broken or bent from the corpses of the spiders.

    ‘Yes!’ laughed Hemni with a wide grin. ‘Not what I would have imagined here.’ Hergof said nothing but glanced back at the hobbit, a smouldering fire gleaming in his bright eyes as he stepped among the unmoving bodies of the spiders.

    Just then, something caught the hobbit’s eye and he turned to inch carefully towards the thick webs along one wall. Rising from out of the webs he found a short and very ancient pillar; indecipherable writing was carved on the front and adorning the slanted top could be seen seven bas-relief stars.

    ‘Rulf! Hemni! Hergof! What is this! Come see what I’ve found!’

    The dwarves hurried to gather round the hobbit and stared down at the strange obelisk. ‘It is covered in strange writing,’ said Theodoras as he glanced at the dwarves.

    ‘Master Rulf, is this the pillar that we seek?’ said Hergof as he knelt down to draw his hand over the stone.

    Rulf stooped to gaze closely at the stone. ‘These are the graves of the royalty of Cardolan,’ he said quietly.

    ‘What does the inscription mean?’ asked Hemni peering over Rulf’s shoulder with keen eyes.

    ‘I do not know,’ answered Rulf. ‘But fetch the charcoal and parchments and rub the text.’

    Hergof nodded silently and bent beside the obelisk, placing a sheet of parchment over its worn surface. ‘Quickly, then,’ muttered Theodoras, glancing about with apprehension. ‘Get what you need and let us leave this place!’

    Just then, Hemni called out with a hearty laugh from the other side of the chamber. Theodoras turned to watch as the dwarf began to cut away at the webbing along one wall. ‘Treasure!’ he said with a merry chuckle. The other dwarves eagerly crowded around Hemni as he lifted up several coins and ancient trinkets of gold and silver to the torchlight with expert eyes. At once the dwarves forgot the fear and darkness as they gazed lovingly at each new item lifted from the dirt.

    For a moment, the dwarves forgot even about the hobbit; Theodoras stood eyeing the far passage leading from the chamber with growing fear and nervousness. Finally he spoke.

    ‘Leave it for the dead,’ he said with barely a whisper. ‘We must leave this place!’

    Rulf glanced about and then back towards the hobbit, as if seeing him for the first time. ‘Indeed,’ he said finally. ‘There may be other of these obelisks further in.’

    ‘We have to go deeper?’ groaned the hobbit with much worry and alarm.

    ‘And perhaps more treasure!’ laughed Hemni.


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