“Why should I go to Moria?” Rathbairn asked, confused, yet still chilled by the name. He had read stories as a young cub in the Vales about the fall of Durin’s folk to a great evil.
“A company of dwarves have begun the task of attempting again to reclaim their ancient homeland” Elrond began, “One of the company of Thorin, the dwarf lord Balin, made an attempt already, but no word has come from them. There is another reason I would have you go, if you would hear it.”
Rathbairn frowned, but nodded for the Elf Lord to continue.
“I spoke of the Fellowship of Nine that left here began their long journey to Mordor. Their route when we last spoke was to cross the land of Hollin, or Eregion as it is now known. From there, they had several choices on how best to reach Mordor. Through Gap of Rohan is the most direct, yet the Gap itself is always watched by the Enemy and would also bring them close to Isengard.”
A curious look crossed the Beorning’s face at the mention of Isengard. “Surely this would be of benefit to the company, for Saruman calls Isengard home, does he not? His help to the company would be of great help!”
Elrond frowned, and a look of worry crossed his ancient eyes. “New tidings these are to you then, for Saruman has betrayed us and has joined forces with Sauron, so we are told.”
Rathbairn growled low at the news. “What wizard is this who would turn his back on the Free People? He has much to answer for” Rathbairn growled angrily.
Elrond held up a hand to still the angry Beorning; “That may be, but you may travel far yet before you come to face Saruman. The second choice and the most ideal was for the company to cross the mountains through the pass of Caradhas, yet this also places them in great peril, for if the mountain snows are heavy, they face death. The final choice is the most perilous of all.”
“Through the Mines of Moria” Rathbairn said shortly.
“Yes, and you seem to understand why this is dangerous” Elrond said. “We know not if Moria is abandoned or if evil still dwells there, but I would assume the latter. If the company is forced to cross Moria, then they are in great peril. But the greater peril is behind them. For though they move with stealth, they may yet leave a trail and if any of Sauron’s forces find their trail or bring word of this to anyone, the company’s errand will fail. This must NOT happen!” He banged his hand on the table for emphasis, his eyes fierce.
“What do you want from me then?” Rathbairn asked testily. “To travel through Hollin and keep the Enemy off the company’s tail? That I can do. But after that, what am I to do? I do not know which route the company has taken more than you do.” He was getting frustrated with the elf’s speech, and with Sterkist and Father waiting at the start of the Misty Mountains, Rathbairn was eager to rejoin his family.
“I will say it plainly then, for it seems that you have your Grandfather’s lack of patience” the Elf Lord said with a smile. “I would ask you to go to Hollin and keep the Orcs and other servants of Sauron off the company’s path. From there, I ask that you go to Moria and lend the dwarves your help to regain their homeland.”
Rathbairn was quiet for a long time then, his eyes lost in thought, the silence of the library oppressive as he weighed his decision. Elrond stood by silently, his sharp eyes on the young Beorning in front of him. He knew that this would not be easy with thoughts of home and family always at the forefront of the young man who had already begun to shake Middle-Earth with his footsteps.
Finally, Rathbairn broke the silence, his deep voice resonating throughout the small alcove where the two stood and echoing into the library. “I will go. But I will speak with my Father and my brother first.”
Elrond smiled, happily rejoicing inside at the Beorning’s agreement. “As you wish, for you must make preparations for the long road ahead of you. Also, I would have asked you to wait a few days before you set out for if you left now, you would catch the company before they left the Trollshaws.”
“I will leave in four days then for that will give me time to see my family and make the necessary preparations” Rathbairn replied.
He turned then and left, his long legs carrying him up the vast stairs to the door, pulling it open gently. As he prepared to leave, Elrond’s voice called out.
“Rathbairn, remember to speak to no one but your Father and I regarding the journey.”
Rathbairn closed the door and left the library, descending the stairs to the main hall of The Last Homely House and turned towards the main exit, lost in thought. An Elf-Maid appeared in front of him and bowed respectfully. “I am Failloth noble child of Beorn; Lord Elrond bade me to attend to you. If you have a need, please seek me out here and I shall assist you with whatever you require.” She bowed again and turned away, he feet silent as she crossed the floor and disappeared down a corridor. Shaking his head, Rathbairn strode towards the main doors of the House of Elrond and left, pulling the door closed with a firm click.
High above the main hall, Elrond stood at the railing looking down as the young Beorning left the house. Moment later, a silver clad figure appeared at his left. Glorfindel, his wheat-coloured hair shining like gold regarded the tall figure leaving, but said nothing. Soon after, a dark haired elf in crimson robes ascended the stairs and awaited his Lord’s attention.
“Yes Lindir, you have news?” Elrond asked.
“My Lord Elrond, he has left the courtyard and appears to be headed towards the North Gate, towards the path to the mountains.”
“His Kin await him there, Lindir. We cannot deny him the chance to see his family now.” When Lindir bowed, but did not leave, Elrond regarded his steward with a raised eyebrow. “You have more to say then? Please, I would have your counsel my friend.”
Lindir took a deep breath and regarded his Lord with a concerned gaze. “You did not tell him everything, Lord Elrond. I would say unto you that this is not altogether wise. His kind are quick to temper and long to forget. I would also remind you that two more of his kin are now at the edge of the valley. Three angry Beornings pose a significant threat to our safety.”
Elrond nodded, understanding the concern. “I understand your fears Lindir, but he and his kin are of the Free Folk. We must show trust if we are to have the help of the Beornings.” Lindir bowed and retreated down the stairs and was soon out of sight.
Glorfindel had remained silent throughout the exchange, but broke the silence when the Steward was out of earshot. “Your steward is right to worry, yet no harm will come to the Beornings from Rivendell or to us from them.”
“You understand more of what is at stake than many, with the exception of Mithrandir himself” Elrond said. “But Rathbairn must go to Moria, as you counseled his Father and the rest of us.”
Glorfindel smiled, his sea-blue eyes deep pools that could see beyond the world itself; eyes that had seen fire and death. “His fate is unseen, yet he will turn the tide against the shadow itself, though at great cost. Sauron fears his line and those that may yet come.”
Elrond nodded “Moria won’t be the only test he faces” and the two said no more.
Rathbairn left Elrond’s house behind and stopped as he reached the courtyard. He took a deep breath as he began to head towards the northern pass to the Misty Mountains. Elrond’s words had resonated throughout him and he knew what it meant. A journey through Moria would mean months away from home or seeing his family. As he crossed a small bridge and turned west, the path began to climb slightly. He heard birds chirping in the trees overheard and smiled despite his mood. He truly did not feel like he was meant for adventuring and questing, yet when Radagast and Father had chosen him they had both agreed he was best suited to travel. Shaking his head, he continued to walk the paths that would lead out of the valley. Shortly after, he reached the northern gate of Rivendell Valley, passed two elf guards who simply nodded at him and began to climb the steep path north that led towards the Misty Mountains. Within minutes he reached a sharp bend in the path that turned east and led upwards. At the halfway point of the path, the smell of a campfire reached his nostrils. Minutes later, he arrived at a small campsite where Sterkist lay asleep, snoring softly and Grimbeorn sat gazing within the flames of the small fire he had built. Grimbeorn smiled and beckoned at his eldest son, who joined his father at the fire. Evening had arrived quickly and the sky began to shine with the light of a million stars.
“Elrond told you what he wants of you?” Grimbeorn asked, his voice low to avoid waking his other son.
“Yes he did, however I do not see how this will allow me to be home anytime soon” Rathbairn said pensively. “Father I do not wish to leave the Vale and my family for such a long period of time. This journey to Moria will take months and after that, who knows what else will come?”
Grimbeorn smiled at his eldest son, pride showing in his eyes as he replied. “You show wisdom for one so young my son, yet you do not truly understand what is being asked of you. You are my eldest and will take my place when I am gone, but this is your task to go out into Middle-Earth and help free it from the Shadow. Of all of us, you are the best hope to show our enemy that our people are to be feared. Do you know why?” he asked suddenly.
“Perhaps that is what I don’t understand most of all Father, why did you choose me?” Rathbairn asked bluntly.
“It is because when you were a child, you were always curious. After your mother died, you began to wander the Vale; sometimes it would be days before you came home. Yet there was never any fear that you would not return to us. But it was your curiosity that made you want to travel. Do you remember?” his father asked.
Rathbairn nodded, indeed remembering wandering the vale as a child. He didn’t fear anything, even as a small boy. His pride in his family and their abilities always made him feel ready for any challenge.
“That is only one of the reasons why you must go, the other is more complicated.” Sterkist stirred suddenly in his sleep, causing Rathbairn to smile.
“He has been busy here, helping the elves while we waited for you. He misses you greatly, but he is proud of you. When I decided to come here, he begged me to bring him, but now he only wants to return home. Langhar can manage without us for a while longer, so when we are done here, he and I will go home.” He said it with a finality that made Rathbairn shudder.
“So what is the other reason Father” Rathbairn asked when Sterkist resumed snoring.
“I told you that as eldest, you will take my place when I am gone. That means you and your children will lead our people in the next ages of this world. Our people are changing son, we are more numerous than before and we cannot hide in the vale forever. The day will come when we will return to the home of our ancestors in the mountains. To do that, we need to better understand Middle-Earth and all of its peoples. I have chosen you because I know that you are the one to do this. You can better learn this and show our people the ways. That is why you must go to Moria and wherever else you are needed. The shadow threatens us all my son, and we won’t know peace until Sauron and his forces are defeated.”
Rathbairn stared into the flames while the night sky shone overhead. He could hear the elves singing from the valley below, their words unknown to him. He looked into his Fathers eyes and saw the wisdom of a lifetime there. Grimbeorn looked back at his son, seeing the weight of the decision his son had now made.
“But despite your travels, we will miss you Rathbairn. All of us will.” Grimbeorn said after a moment of silence.
“I will miss you too and you have to watch Langhar. She is reckless in battle and takes too many chances. Sterkist is too hot headed also.” Rathbairn nodded.
“Spoken like a true leader of our people” Grimbeorn replied happily. “Now then, I have a gift for you, as does your brother” he nudged Sterkist with his boot, the younger Beorning grumbling and sitting up sleepily. “Hello brother” he said, his head still fuzzy from sleep, “You’ve talked to the elves and are leaving again?”
“Yes Sterkist, I must go” Rathbairn said shortly.
“Then go and make us proud” Sterkist said, rising to his feet and crossing to his pack. He rummaged through his belongings and came back with a small bundle wrapped in cloth. He handed it to his brother a grin spreading across his face.
Rathbairn unwrapped the bundle and held up a small wooden carving of a bear standing on its hind legs, its maw open as if roaring. The detail was exquisite, down to the detail of the fur on its hide. Rathbairn was amazed at his brother’s skill. “Sterkist this is incredible, your carving skill is amazing!”
Sterkist grinned as his brother turned the carving over in his hands. “It’s from a fallen oak in the Vale, the one behind the main lodge. A storm blew it over a few months back and I after I had cut up enough firewood, I saved some for some side projects. This was one of them. Now wherever you go, a piece of the vale goes with you.”
Rathbairn crossed the campsite and embraced his brother warmly “Thank you, my brother for this gift. It means more than you know.” The brothers broke the embrace and sat down.
Grimbeorn smiled warmly too as he reached behind him and brought forth a huge two-handed axe. Rathbairn stared in amazement. He hadn’t seen this axe before, but the way his father handled it seemed too familiar. Grimbeorn held the axe in both hands, his eyes looking it up and down. The handle was smooth carved wood, the handle wrapped with leather. The axe head itself was made of kind of steel that seemed to almost shimmer; Dwarven runes along the length of the axe gave it an ancient look. The blade was evil-looking and opposite a small spike balanced the axe head. Grimbeorn’s eyes were distant as he began to speak.
“This axe was given to my father by the dwarves of Erebor after he helped win the battle at Erebor. The axe head itself is made of a metal called Mithril. It will not break, rust or notch in any way. The handle is made of oak and will eventually shatter, but you can replace this. The axe was forged over a thousand years ago before the dragon Smaug came to the mountain. There are strange runes on the axe head that the dwarves cannot read. The axe even has a name, but the dwarves told my father they did not know it as these runes do not say it. Perhaps in your travels, you can discover it or give it a new one. It is yours now.” He handed the axe to Rathbairn who hefted it. The weight was perfect, almost as if it had been made for him. The handle was comfortable and the balance was perfect. He swung it a few times and was amazed at how well it fit him.
“This is an amazing weapon father, I won’t dishonour it. Thank you.” He sat down, the axe across his knees. Grimbeorn nodded and stared at the fire for a long time before he spoke again.
“I can only give you one more gift before we leave Rathbairn, and that is my blessing. You go out now into Middle-Earth into lands you have never known and we don’t know when you will return home. You can show the people of Middle-Earth and the servants of Sauron that the Line of Beorn is strong and to be respected.” He stood and beckoned both of his sons to stand also. When all three stood together, Grimbeorn placed both of his huge, gnarled hands onto his eldest son’s shoulders. “My blessing on you son, your kin and your home await your return. Make us proud. He pulled Rathbairn into an embrace and Sterkist joined also. The trio broke the hug and stood apart. The stars shone brightly as Grimbeorn and Sterkist gathered their belongings and doused the fire. Darkness settled in as the two Beornings looked at Rathbairn one last time before turning and heading up the path. Soon they disappeared from view and Rathbairn stood alone. He had no fear for his brother and father for their journey home. One Beorning was deadly enough, but no creature or foe would cross the two together. Beorn’s line indeed was strong.
Rathbairn gathered the carving and the axe and headed back down the valley towards Rivendell, his thoughts on his Father’s words and the promise of home in his mind. He was ready to go out now, and would show Middle-Earth that Rathbairn of the Beornings would bring war to Sauron and his armies. As he stood at the crest of a hill between the Misty Mountains and the Valley of Rivendell, he let loose a huge roar that echoed across the valley and mountains. Creatures near and far heard it and raced for cover. The Elves below in Rivendell heard it also, some looking on in fear while on a quiet balcony overlooking the waterfall that fed the river of Rivendell; Elrond Halfelven looked to the stars and smiled.
This is the beginning of many more adventures for Rathbairn and I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to come read about it. I hope you continue to enjoy the tale and I will see you down the road. Next week, Rathbairn’s journey south begins with travels in Eregion and eventually, the road to Moria. But first, the axe Rathbairn holds has secrets, but can the elves reveal them?