North of the Greenfields in the Shire, beyond a crowd of rising hills and a narrow cleft, lies the Northfarthing. The least populous region of the Shire, it was where much of the hobbit-barley was grown and the only place in that tiny land where heavy snow fell often. Narrow runs Bullroarer’s Throat which offered passage from the gently rolling hills of the Greenfields to the tiny hobbit village of Oatbarton, the only hobbit-settlement in the region.
Oatbarton was typical of many sleepy Shire villages, with small quiet smails and fields where the hobbit children could ran carefree among the gentle trees, hobbit goodwives could take a cup of sweet bilberry tea with their neighbours, and hobbit farmers worked their fields in rhythm of their falling rakes.
In those days before, Oatbarton was a quiet village and no other people settled so far north of the Shire for many a year. It had become a well-ordered village as all were in the Shire, though a bit more rustic than most, and the folk lived in peace and plenty over the years. They cared little for the world outside where dark things were whispered and ceased to even recall much beyond the Shire.
Before the coming of evil to the North, the Hobbits were not alone in Eriador, for they found both Elves and Men there. Indeed, the Dúnedain still dwelt there, the kings of Men from over the Sea out of Westernesse, but they were dwindling fast and their lands falling into waste. And yet the Shire-folk were in name the king’s subjects, but ruled their Shire by their own chieftains.
But word came to cease from the North and the lands of the Dúnedain fell silent. The kings were all but forgotten and the Shire-folk spoke less with the Elves, even becoming afraid and distrustful of dealings with them. The hobbits took the Shire for their own and chose as their chieftain a Thain to hold authority of the king that was no more. The North Kingdom became a forgotten memory and the hobbits turned their faces away from the hills in the west.
And yet there came trouble to the Shire and the Bounders, as they were called, had been greatly increased in number. There were many a tale and complaint of strange persons on the road now and other nameless things prowling about the borders, or over them. All signs that things was not quite as it should be. Few of course heeded the signs and certainly none had any notion of what it portended.
It was early afternoon when Ingion came at last to Oatbarton. Sheets of chill rain fell down from the darkened skies, as it had done for much of the day before. Rain was even now dripping down the Ranger’s grey hood and into his eyes as he strode quietly down the wind-swept lane. The shadows of the trees along the road were long and the thin upon the wet grass as he slowly passed. The Northway leading up from the Greenfields began to fall gently but steadily down into a wide and sheltered valley surrounded by hills and ridges. Nearer there was a twinkle of lights: the village of Oatbarton.
The hobbits of the village were quite understandably taken aback by the arrival of the strange Ranger into their home. But for his part, Ingion spoke hesitantly and softly to the hobbit-folk, not wishing to frighten them further with his mysterious appearance. For their part, the hobbits asked little of him, and held the Ranger in awe after their initial fright had passed.
Yet a dark fear crept into Ingion’s thought as he spoke softly to the hobbits, for they whispered strange tales to him. ‘Hal swears he saw a wolf, a wolf!’ proclaimed a Bounder among the small crowd that had gathered round the Ranger in the center of the village. ‘This business Hal’s telling everyone about the wolves is a sight more likely than his walking tree…’ replied a second with a knowing nod of his head. And a third pressed in closer to offer, ‘Too many of my pigs have disappeared for me to not believe Hal!’
This very hobbit-like conversation went on for some time, but to Ingion’s relief the hobbits seemed to have grown more comfortable with his presence in their midst. He thanked each in turn as they turned to go back to their homes, to tell others of the appearance of a strange grim fellow who spoke little but fairly and without malice.
As dusk drew on, Ingion found a sheltered knoll of trees atop a low knoll overlooking the center of Oatbarton. There he found some level of comfort in the storm that still fell from the darkened skies. But this, he quickly found, was not to be comfort after all for, although the spreading branches above stopped much of the rain from falling upon him, the fierce wind that began to come in shook much of the rain off the leaves right down atop him.
So, the Ranger sat beneath the tress as best he could, glum and wet and very unhappy. Sleep was all but impossible in the storm and he could rest little but for occasional bouts of uncomfortable dozing. Yet as the night worn on, the winds broke up the clouds and a waning moon appeared above the hills between tattered sheets of grey.
Before even the dawn came, Ingion rose. The morning had come rather pale and clammy and cold, but the rain had thankfully passed. He strode from the hillock, passing the outlying smails of the quiet village like a shadow. Much of the village was still and most of its inhabitants having not yet risen from slumber. He struck along a lane on the far side of the center o f the village and strode up a gentle hill from where he saw the grassy roof of a smial peering out from the top.
There he came upon a small farm, surrounded on the far side by unkempt and tall fields of grain and barley. Just under the sheltered porch of the smail appeared a round hobbit-face. Ingion slowed his pace as the hobbit looked up, a worried look spreading across his bright face. Ingion raised a single hand and stopped a few paces, then spoke in a quiet voice.
‘Fear not my friend,’ said the Ranger softly. ‘I am called Halvorn and I am neither villain nor brigand. I come seeking word of wolves or worse that some of your folk have whispered about.’
The hobbit fidgeted and looked uncomfortable under the keen, silent gaze of the Ranger. He fumbled with the wooden broom held tightly in his hands for a moment. Then he began to speak slowly.
‘The North Moors is a dangerous place…’ answered Nibbs Chubb carefully, and looked away from the Ingion’s heavy, silent gaze. ‘Not two days ago, I saw a wolf right on the border of Oatbarton! I haven’t heard naught like it since the Fell Winter, though I Hal over there might tell you one of his stories of stranger creatures.’
‘No,’ replied Ingion quietly. ‘I have not yet to speak with Hal, but wish to know of your troubles.’
‘Well…’ answered the hobbit as if gathering up his courage. ‘My oat farm has been having trouble with locusts, and the Bounders expect me to drive them off! Finding a lost cow or chasing off a fox is my business; but I suspect you might have more of a mind for removing pests…’
‘That is grim news, but I would aid you if you would have me,’ said Ingion with a grim smile as if he guessed Nibb’s thoughts.
Nibbs looked up into the Ranger’s face with a quiet gaze of his own. 'The fields are east and north-east of here,’ he said after a pause. ‘If you can clear those locusts away from my crop, I would offer you a bit of coin. Also, keep on the lookout for anything else amiss in my fields...animals have been turning up dead all over Oatbarton recently.’
‘I shall heed your words,’ answered Ingion quietly. ‘If there is something afoot here I will uncover it.’ Ingion nodded slightly and turned to stride round the hobbit smial. Behind him, Nibbs went back to sweeping his porch. ‘I have never had to worry this much in all days farming oats!’ muttered the hobbit to himself in a low voice. ‘But business has had a turn for the better of late and, "the best crop only comes with the rain" or so my dad always said.'
Round the back of the small farm, Ingion came upon a path edged with small white stones. It led only a short distance from the smial to a swath of once neat and well-kept fields surrounded by low wooden fences. Yet, each was now overgrown with untended barley that had grown to over the head-height of a hobbit.
He climbed a gentle slope to one side of the nearest field which offered a wide view. There Ingion drew low to the ground and peered over the fields below. At first the fields seemed empty, but as he watched, Ingion soon caught glimpses of large swarms of insects among the tall crops. There were hundreds of the abominable things about the farm, no larger than a big bee but hovered in large stinging swarms.
At the foot of the slope Ingion turned his gaze to something below. Forgetting about the swarms, Ingion stood up and made his way down and found that what he had at first taken to be a boulder lying at the bottom of the slope was the crumbled body of an elk.
The Ranger grew at once alert and swung his keen gaze about as he took a silent step forward. He had only managed a few steps when there came the sounds of rustling in the nearby brush. Out of the tall grass and brush trotted a vague shape in the deep shadows of the trees. It was a large wolf, its yellow eyes blazing and a long reddish tongue lapping from its cruel jaws.
For a moment, the wolf paused gazing at the Ranger with bright careful eyes and then let forth a long shuddering howl. Barring its cruel fangs the wolf sprang forward, snapping at his grey cloak as the Ingion stepped back with alarm and drew his blades.
But the wolf did not waver and leapt forward once more. Ingion cried out and his sword fell useless to the ground at his feet as the wolf’s jaws clamped down upon his forearm. He blindly stabbed forward with his dagger and the short blade bit into the shoulder off the beast. The wolf snarled and yelped horribly then sprang back and away from him.
Ingion turned his head in the direction of the hobbit farm some distance off but it was too far off. In an instant, the wolf howled fiercely before rushing at him again. Its jaws came at his throat and taloned limbs tore at his legs. Ingion hewed at the wolf with his dagger then swept up his sword as the wolf lunged again and again.
Seeing the long blade in the Ranger’s hands, the wolf snarled and fell back, never taking its gaze from him. The beast paced a few steps away then shuddered as it crouched low and sprang forward intent upon bearing the Ranger to the ground beneath its weight. Ingion’s sword flashed bright in the sunlight and plunged it into the body of the wolf as it leapt. There was a long, bellowing as the wolf crashed to the ground and shuddered before falling silent.
For a moment Ingion gazed down upon the unmoving form of the wolf. He breathed heavily and winced at the wound on his arm. He bound the wound tightly with fresh linen as best he could. The Ranger then stepped over to the fallen form of the elk and knelt beside it. The poor creature bore large wounds upon its flanks and about its throat and it was evident that this was a fresh kill.
Ingion gazed back over to the wolf lying upon the ground then stood up. He slowly strode past the fields then round the smail where he found Nibs Chubb now tending to the short grass in front of his home.
‘Hail, master hobbit,’ said the Ranger in a low voice as the hobbit whirled round at the sound of his approach. ‘I did as you asked but I came upon a most unwholesome discovery.’
Nibs set down his clippers in the grass and wiped the damp from his brow as the Ranger continued. ‘There are locusts in your fields but what disturbs me are wolves. Only now have I returned after discovering the fallen carcass of an elk and was set upon by a wolf that brought it down. I managed to fell the beast but that is an unsettling thing to behold.’
A look of worry spread across the hobbit’s face as he listened to Ingion’s tale. ‘I am very worried about those wolves you saw prowling my fields,’ said Nibs with a shudder. ‘Insects eating my crops are an easy matter, but wolves on my land are something else!’
‘You spoke of another in Oatbarton and of his tales about strange beasts,’ said the Ranger quietly. ‘What of him?’
‘This whole affair is just like one of the old tales Hal Gamgee tells,’ answered the hobbit as he scratched his head. ‘Most of the hobbits in these parts don’t heed much of what he says. I think he has spent one too many nights under the stars, and that could play queer tricks on any decent hobbit.’
‘Fanciful tales they may be, yet a wolf it was I found in your fields,’ answered Ingion hiding his smile.
For a moment Nibs fell silent. 'All this talk has gotten me to thinking, though...’ he said finally. ‘You should see Hal about these wolves. He might know a thing or two. Not two weeks ago he came to my door with a story of a giant wolf north-east of Oatbarton.’
‘That is unwelcome news,’ replied the Ranger thoughtfully. ‘If there are indeed wolves abroad they must be dealt with swiftly.’
Ingion bowed to the hobbit then turned to make his way down from the farm and into Oatbarton below. It was not long before he found a tall brown-haired hobbit near the market in the center of the village. The hobbit watched the Ranger approach with curious eyes.
‘Might you be Hal Gamgee?’ said Ingion. ‘I am called Halvorn. I have been sent by Nibs Chubb to speak with you about tales of wolves in your land here. Might they be true?’
Hal eyed the Ranger for a long moment before speaking. 'Herds of elk have been coming down from beyond the north Bounds, more and more,’ he answered slowly. ‘They have come to be running from something...many of 'em are spooked to the point I can't even notch my bow before they're deep into the thicket.’
'It's the elk that are bringing the wolves across the Brandywine,’ continued Hal shaking his head after a pause. ‘I saw a big white one stalking the elk in the woods north of here, but he ran off as soon as he spotted me.’
‘That is fell news indeed,’ answered Ingion grimly. ‘I have found a wolf in Chubb’s fields this very day. One wolf is a terrible thing but they do not travel alone. I can hunt for them should you wish for I am skilled in such a task.’
Hal looked up at the Ranger closely. 'I've been hunting the wolves, but they're smarter than most game,’ he said finally. ‘I gather you'll have to take down that big wolf to scatter the pack. If the wolves are hunting elk, I'd reckon a flank of elk-meat could lure the big one out. A herd of young greensward-hind is usually grazing in the old orchard in the north of Oatbarton. You should try hunting there for the elk-meat.'
It seemed plain that the hobbit would speak no more of it, but stood gazing up at the shadowed face of the Ranger. Ingion now fell silent as if in deep thought. Finally he spoke. ‘A wolf chieftain is not good, nor is an entire pack if his kind. I will do as you ask. Look for me before dusk should I discover anything.’
Ingion turned and made his way from the market. When at last he returned to the sheltered knoll he laid down in the soft grass and drew his cloak tight about him. His arm still ached with pain and he did not sleep for some time. Many thoughts came into his mind and the wolves were in the gravest. He gazed silently over the darkening hobbit smials below as the sun sung beyond the hills and night drew on. Finally he laid his head and fell slowly into sleep.
That chapter took me a bit to complete for some reason! After the defeat of Malrod, I was undecided as to where to go next. The only clue Ingion possessed would lead him to Evendim, yet that region was many levels above what he was after Chapter 8. I finally decided to clear up some open quests in the Bree-lands, gain some xp and then depart. However, this meant journeying to Evendim at level 25th - not a difficulty except that the quests there are level 30 to begin with the and mobs quite powerful! The wolf he defeated in Nibs Chugg's fields was a level 31st mob .
Yet the hunt continues! Cheers!
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