Part 36 – A Pounce of Trouble
Over the trees in the east, the sky was becoming illuminated. Dark skies gave way to a hue of gold as night gave way to day. Morning birds were chirping in nearby trees as a cool wind blew from the west. The cool of the breeze felt pleasant in an increasingly humid day. The babbling of the flowing river awoke Theomin. He slept in a bed of nearby weeds next to the river under the bridge.
Closeby, Bragga was drinking from the river while Aches, his little lynx friend, was off elsewhere. As Theomin stood up and streatched, ne noticed Aches up the river. He was on all fours, close to the ground. Not far before him was an insect, crawling through the muddy banks of the river. Aches continued to slowly and purposefully stalk the insect. Finally, he stopped. His tail was slowly moving like a snake as it waited for the perfect chance. He suddenly pounced on the insect. Theomin ran over to his little lynx friend. Unfortunatly the insect ran away as Aches continued to pounce and pounce and try to pounce again, each time trying to catch the bug. It never was able to catch that bug.
Theomin refilled his water bladder. He took a long swig of the water and pouring it over his head. The feel of the cool water felt refreshing. He filled up the water bladder once more and mounted his horse. He started up the slight slope, turning around to continue onto the bridge. Aches stopped his pouncing and continued along behind Theomin and Bragga.
They crossed into a much more dry climate, as if the trees cared not to grow, or could not grow in the dry brown land. Boars were eating the grass of the fields of the land, reminding Theomin of home. Though the boars of his land were much bigger. The boar of these lands were small, diminutive in comparison. He did not want to test out their temperament, though.
Off to the north were ruins of some ancient people. They still looked lived in, with some people bustling about here and there. Theomin had very little interest in interacting with the folk of those parts. He was more interested in finding Fornost and discovering who his family was, if they were still alive at all.
The recent revelation that he was apart of some journey to Minus Tirith intrigued Theomin greatly. Though he was more not sure he liked the idea of him being apart of something bigger, the idea that he might be apart of something more important intrigued Theomin. Important enough for Mithrandir to travel to Imladres with him.
Through the morning, Aches, Theomin’s little lynx friend, pounced his way through the lands. He would run up ahead of Theomin and Bragga and then find another insect. He would stalk it and then try and pounce on the insect. He was successful only a handful of times, but it kept Theomin enteretained as he watched his little lynx friend stalk and pounce. Stalk then pounce. Stalk and pounce again. Run past Theomin and Bragga then stalk and pounce.
Watching Aches continue to stalk and pounce distracted Theomin too much. As he looked up he was astounded by an amazing sight. Not too far in the distance a tall lone hill rose up over all other hills and ruins. Ruins sat atop the hill. Theomin remembered back in the lore lessons in Langhold. There was a tower somewhere in Eriador. A tower called Aman Sul. Could this this the tower that held those powerful stones he read so much about?
Thomin stopped. He gazed at the wonder that was the tower of Aman Sul. It looked weathered, as though rain and old age were unkind to it. There were no signs of care, no attempt to restore the tower to its former glory. It was ruined beyond repair. The sad state of the tower drove a tear to Theomin’s eyes. He did not know why but he felt the dying legacy of the north had to be preserved and that the old towers and structures of the north had to stand through the ages. He looked down and shook his head in sadness.
Before he started he looked to Aches to cheer his sad state. He was not there. Theomin looked around but saw no sign of his little lynx friend. He looked behind and ahead. Left and right. The little pouncing ball of fur seemed to have vanished. He climbed off of Bragga and looked down a little slope to the south. Nothing. He looked up a small hill and wondered if the little lynx seemed to have run up the hill. Theomin took a slight jog up the hill. He quickly ducked down behind the hill. Ahead was an old ruined fortress crawling with those filthy half-orcs.
He could not forget the last run in he had with the half-orcs that almost ended the life of Aches. Theomin crawled up to the top of the hill again. He tried to find his little friend and did see him. The lynx was cowering up against the base of the closest ruined structures where two half-orcs stood guard. Theomin was lucky they did not see him as they were turned, perhaps focused on something different. Theomin quickly ducked again, strategizing what he was going to do.
Now he knew what the elf, Sylderan, was talking about. His skills of lore were too great in size and would draw too much attention. He had no skill that would not draw some attention. His final strategy was going to be a daring one. He whispered to himself, hoping none of the half-orcs would hear him, “I’ll just use light of the rising sun…no. I’ll use the lightning…no.” He thought for a couple of moments. “I’ll maybe stun one and hope that is enough. If more come I will just have to use one of the bigger skills, grab Aches, and run off to Bragga.”
He huffed, giving a second, clearing his mind of fear and doubt. He then breathed in rapidly, giving his muscles oxygen to do what he was afraid would be an ill move. Grabbing his staff he finally, he jumped up and before he could stun one half-orc, he saw them distracted. But not by the lynx or even Theomin. A group of four men were engaging the half-orcs. “Huh!” Theomin said as he watched, luck being on his side. He started to stand up to get Aches when a foot pushed him down on the ground.
“Try anything funny and you’re dead.” The voice said. It was a woman’s voice, full of command. “Drop it,” she commanded Theomin. For a moment he thought of turning and hitting the woman with his staff. Another thought told him not to. He dropped his staff to the ground. “Wise choice, stranger. Who are you?”
Theomin knew there was no point in hiding who he really was. “I am Theomin of the Wold.”
There was a pause, as if the woman was thinking. Off in the distance there was clanging of swords and screams as the other men and the half-orcs were still engaging in combat. “And what are you doing here, Theomin of the Wold? Are you a spy of the enemy?”
“I am no spy,” Thoemin tried to sound as innocent as possible. “I am come to seek my birth family.”
“Your birth family is here in the Lone Lands?” The woman said, obviously confused.
“They are not. I am only passing through on the way to Fornost.”
“Fornost is fallen!” the woman pushed Theomin to the ground. “There is not much left but death and the dead risen.” Frustrated, the woman grabbed Theomin’s right shoulder and pulled him round. Theomin gazed at the woman as he had never seen anyone like her. Her skin was dark like the bark off a tree. Her hair was even darker but her skin was clean, clear, and smooth. She had passion in her blazing eyes. “Where are you from, stranger,” she held a sword to Theomin’s throat, “and do not lie to me.”
Starting to quiver with fear, Theomin spoke as fast as possible, “I come from the Wold in Rohan. I have come to search for my real family. I know not who they are nor do I know where I am going. I just know they are near Fornost, that is why I am heading there.”
The woman stood down. She looked in the distance for her comrads. The fighting sounded like it was finished. A quick whistle brought them to her. Two others showed up, “Where is Englad?”
One of the others sadly said, “He fell.” He then looked at Theomin, “Who is this?”
“No time to say. It isn’t safe out here,” the woman said. She looked at Theomin, “Come, we have many questions.” Theomin felt he had no choice. “But not without a blindfold. As of late, we are caucious of outsiders knowning our whereabouts.” He stood up as one of the others placed a dark cloth over Theomin’s eyes. One grabbed his arm and was led with the others. They traveled some distance, feeling like it was away from the ruins and possibly past the road. He tried to hear Bragga but could hear nothing from her nor anything else.
A while they walked up and down hills, past large plants. Theomin stepped on rocks, losing his balance for a moment and then regaining it with the help of the one guiding him. There was a constant murmer about the small company but Theomin could not hear what was being said. They were too quiet about it. There was one phrase that caught Theomin’s attention. “I don’t trust him,” one of the men whispered very slightly. The woman, with as much quiet aggression as she could muster, quelled his tongue.
Not long after, they reached their destination. There was the squeal of a door opening. The one guiding Theomin pushed him toward the sound of the door. There were steps that led down into a chamber. The door closed and the blindfold was taken off.
Inside was cool and damp. The wet smell of humidity filled the air of the chamber. The chamber itself was made of dark stone bricks surrounded and supported on the roof by pillars. Each level lower were supporting stone arches that bore symbols in the rock of a crown. Down the steps and across the way was a small water fall; a drain by the looks of it. It poured down into a lower chamber unseen yet. The woman stood at the bottom of the enterence stairs, looking up, and waiting for Theomin to come down.
He stepped down, unsure what was happening. “Follow me,” the woman commanded as she turned and took the stairs down. They passed a dranage canal and into a dug out tunnel, newly excavated as it had no masonry work. The tunnel continued into another passage that ran perpendicular to the excavated passage. All the while, Theomin was nervously wondering to himself, “Where are they taking me?” Turning left they entered into a larger chamber, filled with pillars and the same type of masonry work from the entrance.
There, before him, was a man clad in warn ragged clothes. He was standing over a table filled with maps, deep in thought, contemplating, and frustrated. The woman stood to the side and gave cleared her throat, getting his attention. The man looked up and saw the group standing at the entrance before him. “Where is Englad?”
The woman looked down. “He has fallen.”
“That is the second this week, Ethelswith,” the man said, disappointedly. “You are a fine captain and you know how to command men. This is not in your character.”
“You know I don’t warrant excuses. This time I have one.” She pulled Theomin up to the man who was obviously in charge. “I found this man sneaking about. I investigated as I was not aware if it was a trap.”
“Are you, boy?” one of the other men blurted out.
“Am I what?”
The leader came close to Theomin. “Are you in service with the enemy?”
“I am not.” Theomin quickly rebutted.
The leader scanned Theomin. He looked in Theomin’s eyes intensly. “If you are not with the enemy then who are you?”
Without pause, Theomin spoke, “I am Theomin of the Wold. I come from Rohan in search of my true birth parents.” Theomin looked down. The wear of the journey weighed him down suddenly. He only wanted to continue on his journey but with every turn he continued to be sidetracked. He shook his head and continued, “I only wish to travel to Fornost to find my family. I started this quest because curiousity burned in me to find who they truly were. In truth, it has been much more difficult than I could have imagined but I am so close. So close to finding my true family.”
The man in charge stood down. His look of sympathy took Theomin by surprised after the intense look the leader gave him. “Some of us know how you feel,” he began. “Magla and I make our living amongst these ruins here. Serkee over there comes from north of Bree in a little hamlet called Archet. The Forsaken Inn is where we met him, drunk, talking to himself, homeless. Briggands and orcs raided his peaceful community and burnt it to ashes a while ago. The one who is probably most like you is Ethelswith. She comes from a city called Dale, far from here. She ventured into these lands to pay homage to the dwarves who helped retake the Lonely Mountain from the dragon, Smaug.”
“He is nothing like me,” she blurted out before storming off down the hall.
“That’s Ethelswith,” the leader admitted. “A fine leader she is but a temper that can melt armor. Pay no attention to her short temper. It takes some getting used to but she is loyal as loyal can be.” He patted Theomin on the shoulder, “I am sorry for the reception, Theomin of the Wold. It is not often we receive visiters.” He thought for a moment. “It is not very often anyone comes to these forsaken lands.”
“Not many at all here?” Theomin questioned.
“We do have the occasional traveler or adventurer blow through here. There was one who was kind enough to clear out this dungeon for us.”
“And what about the wizard?” Magla reminded the leader.
“As yes, but I wouldn’t call him a wizard. More of a naturalist. He calls himself Radagast. Radagast the…oh what color was it?”
“The Brown!” Theomin exclaimed, excited.
“Ah, you’ve heard of him.”
“Only recently. I was told to seek him. Is he still in these lands?”
“I am sorry but your wizard has vanished. He spoke of dealings in the north. He spent some time in Agamaur and then just abruptly left. It was the strangest thing.”
“Is there any knowning where he went?”
“Not in any sense. I can tell you who you may speak with. Fredrik the Elder may know a thing or two about his where abouts. I’ll take you through safe passages to Ost Cyrn, not much more than a stone’s throw away from Ost Guruth, which was where Radagast stayed for a time.” The leader drew his weapon, “But be weary. I know not what spell these orcs are under, but they multiply faster than we can kill them. We may have to fight our way out.” He grinned, “I’m ready for a battle, are you?”