There is little glory to be gained as a Ranger of the North, as our valour cannot be rewarded with honour, and our deeds are seldom sung. The memory of our noble heritage is preserved in Rivendell, where our long strife against the Shadow is remembered and recorded. Since the days of our last King, the sons of the chieftains of the Dúnedain have been fostered in the house of Elrond, and it is there, in Imladris, that the heirlooms of their lost kingdom are treasured.
It is the Third Age of men in Middle Earth. I find myself the other side of a duty fulfilled to the north of where I now continue this journal. As I was to make my sojourn west, back to Eridor across the Misty Mountains the Foresight of my Kindred was laid upon me again as it has been not a few times before.
In my vision I saw the Beorning village. I then saw a shadow like a dark feathered thing alight on a figure surrounded by other smaller dark figures. The figure touched one of the onlookers and that one with a handful others bent south towards the Beorning gathering and I sensed malice and greed. I somehow knew I must intervene or there would be much suffering in these lands like a drought or famine.
I have wandered south now a few days and crossed the mighty Anduin by my own means and have arrived mid-day in the village I had seen in my mind. It is called Stoney Ford and it is the first day before their Harvest Festival they celebrate annually in honor of the Death of Samaug.
It is a simple hunting village of huts and lately of tents from visitors from far afield including a well attended group from Esgaroth on the Lake. Those who live here live in the protective shadow of Beorn the Shape Changer and Hero of the Battle of Five Armies. These men are tall, strong, hairy but gregarious with all who come in peace it seems.
As I walked in the lee shadows I manage to overhear a few important details of the event and the course of the next few days. First there is to be games of skill and cunning but not just for sport. There are rewards for winners from out of town, but to the final victor who is also a Beorning they would take ownership of a local artifact of power and of great consequence, a harvesting tool called Beorn’s Sickle. An item blessed with the power said to make fallow fields fertile!
The grand prized would be awarded by the Marshal of the Festival who as is by custom the the previous years winner. In this case I hear it is a man named Tarbold. I also note three other names of importance: The Thain, Ava who is the daughter of Heartwolf the old. And I hear of Wilfred who leads the defense of Stoney Ford.
Finally I hear that Beorn himself would come from his mighty Carrock and pay respect and oversee the awarding of the blessed sickle the last day of the festival. I am then told it would be well to choose a shelter for the night where I can also store my things in case I might wish to join in the challenges. I don’t have time for games but perhaps spending time in the close company of others may shed more light on the coming darkness.
Entering, I see three persons. A wood elf, a dwarf and a Halfling clearly not from the Shire, she’s different, more wild, trim and beaming with an adventurous spirit. I move past the others to the far end in a nice corner where I stow my great bow, quiver and other items out of sight. I then pull out my pipe. It is good to sit.
There are greetings and I am asked for a name, I give my elven name, Edrahil meaning Forest Light for I am used to the custom of my people and rarely give my birth name to travelers. This is done so as to not draw attention or fame where it is not necessary.
I learn the names and a little about each of those I will be trusting while I sleep. The Elf Elryn, is from Mirkwood. Little surprise as he has the look and stature of that of a Wood Elf rather than those who dwell or would come from Rivendell. To protect himself or others he carries with him a bow fitting his culture and a blade. He presents himself as an agreeable sort.
Then there is the Dwarf from the Ered Luin Mountains (Blue Mountains) no less. Mountains I see from my homeland on clear days, rising in the west as a promise to hinder the waters of Great Belegaer from drowning the land as they once did in ages past. At first this is hard to glean for this Dwarf keeps his nose and eyes between old pages in an old and large tome.
I push as to what has brought him here and he tells of a gift he carries for Beorn himself. He tells me he is at my service and that he is Hanar, the son of Veig. He is shorter than typical Dwarves, has a shock of silver from his lower lip that runs through his red beard. He is in mail, helmed and when sitting is dwarfed by the height of his own axe!
Then there is the animated Sassafras as I am told without reservation. Bright eyes gleam from under a tumble of golden curls, barely held at bay by a crown of fresh picked flowers. Her smile is so genuine none could accuse her of ever having had a bad day. She speaks endlessly of her home, her Matriarch, her Papa, corny Folksy Riddles and eating fish in and around the Gladden Fields. Why she is here? Maybe the fish.
Before bed there is fellowship among all the comers and the resident Beorning. The Thain is nowhere to be found but I do find Wilfred whom I tell as little as I may of my vision should he think me odd but make it clear that he and his men should be extra vigilant this eve and over the time of festival. He gives my word some measure but I decide I will watch until midnight anyway. Elryn, who reacted soberly to my words of dread accompanied me.
The night passed without event as did the next day but for the events of the day. I think the Ale was extra strong as I found myself take it part in… every event. I am glad to be far from home. One event at least I did well in. Folks were to coerce the mighty Shurrak, an old beast with great horns and an unsettling demeanor.
I looked into it’s wrinkle shrouded face and I used my cloak to unsteady the creature. It worked after a time and it backed into it’s pen. And no surprise to me was that the only other challenger to rebuff Shurrak was Elryn and the applause was equally thunderous.
Other games included running an obstacle strewn track while keeping a torch lit, singing, riddles and more. We learned unsurprisingly that Sassafras has a lovely voice and a keen knack for riddles!
On the second evening just after one of the events a scream was heard across the village from Torbald’s tent as it turned out. We gather with others to see what looks like a short tussle between a Beorning and a now clearly deceased goblin. Talbor is dazed from a knock on the head and there is a woman present as well, the one who screamed.
After questioning and investigating we believe the fellow named Rathwulf who claimed to have killed the goblin is lying. His story was that a handful of goblins attacked an awake and upright Torbald, knocking him in the head, then taking Beorn’s Sickle and fleeing.
A few clear problems with Rathwulf’s account rendered it clearly unbelievable. First, the body of the wretched goblin was cold when we got there as Sassafras was quick to check for signs of life. She is clearly gifted in the art of healing. Second, The goblin was too short to have clubbed Torbald and there are simply no tracks inside or out. Finally Torbald, who granted, was still dazed from the attack nor the woman, Aethal, had seen one thing to corroborate any of what Rathwulf said.
At this point in the story we were surrounded by the many native Beorning and other guests that were not strangers here. We clearly were and we clearly had no authority or credentials. For these reasons we were careful not to point to damning a finger at what seemed clearly to us to be one of their own. We then suggest waiting for the Thain is the only next best move.
We slip away from the crowd but keep a careful eye on the three, especially Rathwulf and wait for word of the Thain’s return. She does return a few hours later and after a private conversation with each of the witnesses, she sends for Elryn, Hanar, Sassafras and myself.
We listen carefully as she revealed that Rathwulf was not a member of the village and that he had been promised a share of a reward from a fellow working for someone else they both knew of. This other fellow had help and they are the ones who fled now over an hour ago north.
We left immediately to catch up. We moved quickly through that night and the next few days. The stocky Dwarf showed no signs of slowing day after day, and he carries so much! And little Sassafras, her energy was boundless. Even while resting she stays alert and sings to herself, looks at bugs, the sky, counts stars… just happy to be alive.
Elryn, does not surprise me from all I have heard of his people. I feel confident in his abilities and intent so far. He seems careful and thoughtful.
It is on the forth evening that we catch sight of the thieves. We see one who seems to be in charge, this is easy to tell as the other five or so are bound in shackles, chained to one another! We move on them from our vantage point, trying to surprise them. This is not to be.
The Dwarf, even if he stood still his nose whistles past his nose hairs and the same breathing lifts and shifts his clanking mail and tin cups and pots and extra bars of silver or picks and shovels and is that cowbell I heard? I am confident he is a trader without a wagon. It matters little however. The fight got on as they loosed a few arrows.
I cannot remember each tit for tat but I do remember Elryn’s arrows were a great disappointment to those who caught them. I remember the Dwarf having a bit of hard time in the tangle of chained men when swinging his axe wide but for those he hit their struggles ended abruptly. And Sassafras? She sent swarms of happy little arrows singing and landing true. More than a few of these unfortunates were found dead with her halfling ‘needles’ sticking out all over.
For myself, my blade, forged in Arnor by ancestors I never knew struck in truth and sober judgement. This blade in my hands fell half of those we fought and only one required a second address. Before he knew it the man that was leading this miserable lot realized he was beaten, and to live he should give up. We set upon him with pointy swords and pointier questions.
We learned that he a simple sell-sword named Cenric hired by one called Yog the Wicked who serves a noted Viglanding Warlord they call Viglund. Viglund believes himself to be the law unto himself and believes culling weakness in the lands about him is his duty. He uses slaves of any sort, including goblins making them his thralls that kill and die at his whim .
Viglund as strange as it seems is said to be Beorn’s brother! Perhaps just a rumor but many believe it. The two have great enmity for each other and each other’s ways. Their differences and the distaste for each other is said to have risen following the War of the Carrock after Beorn took on some of the Viglanding escapees. Viglund has since declared those liberated as wild beasts.
And so it was that with Yog’s servant, dressed in his own shackles and Beorn’s Sickle expropriated, we found our way back without incident to Stoney Ford. Beorn came and went but we handed his blessed sickle over to the Thane along with some important documents from Hanar, who is the son of Vieg by the way. We each graciously received a special blessing from the Thane who has such authority and power in this region to do so.
As I close this chapter, I am struck with a sense of genuine accomplishment and a solemn feeling of camaraderie that I did not expect to find so far from my homeland. I will miss this region and these companions as I make my way north and west back again to my own land beyond the Misty Mountains.