Part 98 – What Lies in Ruins
It was midday when Theomin and Aches reached a band of orcs inhabited some old ruins that occupied the marshland of the Meluinen. A large fat orc with a long large axe approached Theomin as well as a thinner orc hunched over bearing a bow and the skull of some horned beast resting on his head. They came to within a few yards of him when they stopped.
“And where do you think you’re goin’?” said skinny orc with the skull mask. His nasily grunty voice was odd.
“I would like to pass through the Meluinen on south,” Theomin said with matter-of-fact like. “If you would grant me passage with no trouble I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Oh, but it’s trouble you’re gonna get,” the skull-masked one laughed. “Hands us over the stuff in the bag and you wont have any trouble. Because if it’s safe passage you want, that’s how you get it.”
“That will not happen, friend,” Theomin said, almost mocking the orc.
“Friend?” the orc said, perplexed that he would be called friend by a man. “Who’re you callin friend? I eats man-meat for breakfast,” the orc said. “Blaz here eats man meat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert and he picks his teeth with their broken bones, ain’t that right, Blaz?” The fat one only nodded and laughed a dumb laugh.
“I would like to avoid being on your menu, but I would like to still pass with no quarrals. If you would but show me the easy way out, friend, I will leave you in peace,” Theomin said very calmly.
The orc just looked at Theomin funny. He then looked around with surprise as he was never confronted by one so brash before. “Who is this guy? Should I be worried?”
“He’s no one to me,” another orc said. He was just as fat as Blaz and much more muscular. “In fact, with a mouth like that, he ain’t nobody to no one,” the orc said. “I’ll show him what orcs can do.” The large muscular orc marched over to Theomin with his weapon in hand. He swung it up ready to strike and with a smack on the head, an arrow pearced his forehead. The orc looked more surprised than anything as he dropped the axe on the ground and fell back with a loud thud.
The other two orcs looked shocked as the skull-mask orc said, “How’d you do that?”
Theomin just smiled and said, “Magic,” as he lifted his hands like it was some magic trick. “May I pass now?”
“Magic aye? And no you may not pass.” Blaz readied his axe but was stopped. He fell forward to reveal an arrow in the back of his head.
“Who…” the skull orc stammbered, “…who are you?”
“I am Theomin of the Wold,” Theomin said as Teryndir wrapped his arm around the orc and held a knife to his throat, “and I wanted to go through the easy way. But being orcs, you did not let me; and you will pay the price for that.”
The orc looked with fear but yelled out, “Atta…” when he was finally cut off by Teryndir slitting his throat.
Orc after orc came to attack Theomin but were cut down by arrows. Soon, Magla and Eotheron lept from bushes and ran to the orcs that were not cut down by the arrows. Eotheron made quick work of the orcs running to Theomin with his whirling blades as he cut down each orc with precision and beauty. Magla sped to each orc and smashed them on the head with his hammer Siladam, bluntly killing one after the other very quickly and thoroughly.
The rest of the orcs, seeing as how they were terribly beaten, ran back the other way when they were soon confronted by Eleswith and Sergee. They stopped and saw no other choice. As the rest of the company closed in around them, Theomin, Estonethiel, Magla, Eotheron, Eleswith, Sergee and Helesdir came closer and closer, each holding up their weapons.
“Who are you people?” one of the orcs asked.
Theomin came to the orcs with no weapon drawn but with sheer confidence, “We are the Warriors of Eriador. And that is the last thing you will hear.” He looked at his comrads and gave a nod. Estonethiel, Helesdir, Eleswith and Eotheron fired on the last remaining orcs as some others tried to rush the others but fell to Magla and Sergee’s weapons. That was the last of the orc threat in the Meluinen.
“There is the end to those orcs,” Helesdir happily said.
“The end of these orcs, perhaps,” Estonethiel said, “but they will return. They always do.”
“At least for now they are not a bother to anyone near here, especially the elves of Lin Giliath,” Sergee said. “As for now, we have quite the journey ahead of us.” The company headed to and retrieved their horses and mounted them as Sergee continued to map out their journey. “Our trek will lead past the lake of Nen Harn, under the forest of Far Chetwood and on toward the Weather Hills. The march is a long one with few ruins between here and Weathertop. No villages or towns will be between us.”
“How do you know this?” Eotheron asked.
“When Sergee received the call to head to Esteldin to meet with his father,” Helesdir said, “we took this road from the Lone Lands to the North Downs.” He looked at Theomin, “The day he arrived in Esteldin was the fateful day you came.”
“So this is a proven path,” Eleswith confirmed. “There should be no surprises.”
“Not at all,” Sergee said. “The path has been void of any enemies for there are no places to invade, like I said before.
The eight companions crossed the mirky waters of the Meluinen as they passed the old ruins and large trees. The orc encampment, devoid of orcs, sat at the base of some of the old ruins, just on the threshold of the border between the North Downs and Bree-land. Soon, clear skies and long stretches of grass was before them separated by a lake large and beautiful. Dotted in the lake were small grassy islands baring boulders and trees on them. The lake was calm; smooth as glass like a mirror reflecting the sun and blue sky and clouds above.
“Spectacular,” Theomin said with awe. “Not since Evendim have I seen such a lake of beauty.”
“Yes,” Helesdir said, “I often enjoyed coming here as a child, going off on adventures far from home. This was my enjoyment.”
“Such beauty is not easy to find,” Eleswith said.
“I beg to differ,” Helesdir smiled at Eleswith.
“This is the lake of Nen Harn meaning Southern Waters in Sindaran.,” Sergee said. “It marks the southern border of the North Downs. That means we will be crossing into Breeland very soon.”
Theomin began to worry as his heart fell at the sound of Bree. “This does not mean we enter the town of Bree, does it?”
“We avoid Bree completely,” Sergee assured Theomin. “Far north of Bree we are, a few leagues north in fact. We will not even have a glimpse of Bree from here.”
The eight travelers rode their horses at the very edge of Lake Nen Harn. The humidity the lake emitted felt a little too warm for some but to Theomin and Eotheron, it reminded them of home. So much so that Eotheron rode his horse closer to Theomin.
“We have not had much of a chance to talk,” he said to Theomin who had been feeling the breeze and the humidity much like home. “I have been wondering about something.”
“What is it?” Theomin asked with concern.
“Why the beard?” Eotheron lightheartedly asked.
Theomin chuckled as he crossed his hand over his beard, “I am not sure. When I was Avardin in Dunland it grew over those two weeks. I cared not to shave it off as it felt quite nice. After a while, I just forgot I had it, almost like it has become apart of me.”
“I see,” Eotheron said. “It does give you character, that much is certain. At first I was not sure it was you had it not been for the clothes you were wearing. I almost believed some thief stole the cloth from your back. I then recognized the horse from back on the farm.”
“How were my parents when you left?” Theomin asked.
“Very concerned. Your mother had never seen you this ambitious before. After she told you, it was like you were a new person. Sad she was for herself but proud of you. Proud you were going off to look for your family and hoped you would be okay doing it.”
Theomin fell silent. He thought for a while before he began to speak again, “I got much more than I bargained for. I had believed my parents were some poor people who could not look after me. Never before could I realize I was part of this business of being a Marshal of Annuminus. Never before did I dream of being caught in some battle to take back Annuminus. I had only heard of the place in books from home. I did not even know where it was. Then I was placed in this position to take back and then defend the city of which I had had only heard of in passing. It seemed as though I was in a dream of which I could not wake. I also had no idea I had such skill at sword play.”
“What do you mean?” Eotheron asked. “When we were learning in Langhold we learned from one of King Theoden’s most trusted riders.”
“Are you sure Master Eolof was a Rider of Rohan?” Theomin asked.
“Of course,” Eotheron said, “You were so busy learning lore and reading maps that you cared not to listen of the battles he was in and why he came to the Wold in the first place. Master Eolof rode with King Theoden in many battles as a young rider. As he aged, he was stationed in Harwik and then Langhold. Because the Wold was so remote, the men and women of the Wold had to be tough; much tougher than those of all the other lands of Rohan. If there ever was an invasion, we would have to be able to defend our homeland until help arrived from Edoras. It was not Theoden who decried this but King Thengel. The Wold was much more remote than any of the other lands of Rohan with the exception of the frontier fortress of Stangard.”
“I never knew,” Theomin said.
“You may not have paid attention to the battles and wars he faught in but did alright for yourself. You never beat me at swordplay but you beat much of the others while in training. You were also an excellent tactician. If you can remember, on more than one occation we competed with strategies that you created and Langhold won when we competed against Flodwen and even Harwik. Harwik had some excellent instructors but you created some master tactics. Even some that made the instructors in Harwik impressed.”
“All of the important competitions seemed to be about swordsmanship,” Theomin said. “I was only trying to keep up with it. Master Eolof was always impressed with you.” He thought for a little while longer when he came to an epiphany, “Or maybe it was good he was so tough to us. It drove us to be better. Perhaps without that we would have been content with our own limits.”
Helesdir and Eleswith suddenly bursts ahead of the rest of the company as Eotheron readied his bow. He looked for enemies, any enemies that were approaching. None were, not to the side, in front, or behind. “What are they doing?” Eotheron questioned.
Theomin smiled. He heard the laughter as they rode their horses not in a combative sort of way but in a playful one. They were enjoying being reunited. “They are enjoying each other right now. Let them.”
The two played atop their horses as if they were children playing a game of tag. Soon, they were off their horses and running around the green grassy field of Breeland before the towering trees, zipping and darting past each other as the rest of the company looked on in amazement at the two frolicking as children would in a wide field of grass. They laughed as they ran, chased after each other and hid behind the occational tree.
Eleswith went to hide as Helesdir tried to chase after her. He looked behind a tree but could not find her. Confused, he ran to another one, but could not find her. He looked around and found he was in the middle of a forest. He was not sure how long it took him to get there, but he was completely distracted. He tried to look for Eleswith behind multiple trees but could not find her. He walked to the main path of the forest when he was suddenly tackled from behind. It was Eleswith. She sat on top of him as she pinned him down to the ground. She came in close to him and just as their lips touched Aches licked Eleswith’s face.
The two looked to see Theomin, Eotheron, Magla, Teryndir and Sergee; all were watching what was happening. “Have we come at a bad time?” Eotheron quipped.
“Ha ha,” Helesdir gave a very fake laugh as Eleswith stood up from Helesdir, a little red in the face, “We were…”
“We know what you were doing,” Magla said. “Perhaps it would be wise to wait until we reached our camp for the night. Or at least Weathertop.”
“We brought your horses,” Theomin said. He looked around at the forest in which they found themselves. “Where are we?”
“This would be the forest of the Far Chetwood on the northern border of Bree-land,” Sergee said. “We need to head south still until we reach the Weather Hills and Midgewater Pass. Then we may see, far in the distance, the peak of Weathertop.”
“A fair warning to all of us,” Estonethiel said, “The lands of Northern Breeland and the Weather Hills have little inhabitants, if any. This brings fear into my heart. I have an uneasiness to these places. The further we ride toward Weathertop, the greater the risk becomes. Theomin says he saw a dragon flying near the tower of Weathertop. That may just be part of his dream to go there, but may also be a sign of evil that may lie there.”
“Why have you not said this before?” Helesdir asked.
“I had not such a strong feeling before,” the elf said. “When Eleswith and Helesdir ran off, I felt this strong anxiety that something may happen. What I am trying to say here is to stay together. Do not wander off. We must all remain in earshot of each other. We know not what is behind every corner, every tree, and in every bush. Beware.”
The trees, though somewhat nonthreatening, seemed more so because of Estonethiel’s speech. The company continued through the trees, most of the company were highly vigilant and some had fear. Each of them was as silent as could be. None wanted to make any noises of their own. They looked at every part of the wood, ready for something to pop out. Though Theomin was in the lead, he slowed Bragga down to match Estonethiel.
“Do you feel anything?” Theomin whispered.
“I feel the same as I did before,” the elf quietly said. “A threat is looming before us, but from where I cannot say. I feel it may be outside of these woods but I have felt it since coming close.”
The company continued through the Chetwood, looking for looming threats but alas, none came and they reached the edge of the wood toward a landscape much like the Lone Lands. Dry the grasses covered rolling hills far off into the distance and every now and again a tree stood here and there. Just to the east of them was an old ruin, very close to the types of ruins in the Lone Lands.
“We’re back, Magla,” Helesdir smiled at his friend. Magla only smiled back. “I longed to return to the Lone Lands, my home.”
Seeing as how Helesdir reacted to his home only strengthened Eleswith’s longing for hers. She thought back on the times she sat and looked at the Lonely Mountain from Dale and thought of the beauty of it. She imagined a large dragon flying above it and the trek her people took to Dale from the ruined city of Esgeroth. She finally replied, “This land brings back memories for me as well. I’m glad to return to it.” She rode next to Helesdir and took his hand happily and smiled.
“We have a little further to go before nightfall,” Sergee said. “We will see some ruins coming up that we can rest in for the night. Then, our next trek tomorrow will take a winding road toward Weathertop.”
“I am excited,” Theomin said.
“I can see that,” Eotheron replied. “Much like when you explored that cave where that swamp land was near Harwik. You were quite excited.”
“Yes, I was,” Theomin smiled. “I suppose it is all about rediscovering old things that gets me excited.”
As the eight companions rode south, the grass became greener as the sky became redder and darker. An old ruined fortress loomed up to the left of them. But dead it was not. In the old broken windows there were lights of lamps or torches that illuminated the old ruins.
“Tis occupied?” Sergee said with a surprised tone. “By whom? This was where we stayed before and there was no hint of anyone around.”
“Could it be Eglain?” Eleswith questioned.
“No,” Estonethiel said, “they are not. I feel there are more sinister forces at work in those ruins. And yet I feel there are some that need help.”
“Where?” Teryndir asked.
“Wait a moment,” Helesdir said. “We know nothing about who they are and what they are doing there. Perhaps it’s best if we find another place to rest.”
“Hold a moment,” Theomin said, “If there are people who need aid then we should help them.”
“We know nothing about who is up there and why,” Helesdir answered.
“Where are the people who need help?” Theomin asked Estonethiel.
“I am not sure,” she said. “I feel there are maybe one or two in the ruins. Others may be around but where exactly I am not sure.”
“We should continue on the path,” Theomin said. With some trepidation the others continued along with Theomin until they saw a small camp just south west of the ruins. Amongst the camp were a few men.
“Oh my, it is good that you’ve come,” one of the men said as he ran up to meet the travelers.
“What is happening here?” Theomin asked the man.
“These nasty creatures dragged our good friend from her home. We know not why but we tracked them all the way to these ruins,” the man said with true worry in his voice.
“Where are you from?” Eleswith asked as the company dismounted from their horses.
“We come from Combe, between Bree and the Chetwood. When we tracked them here, we took one of the nasty creatures down but it took all of our efforts to do so. I admit we are not the most skilled warriors. Only hunters and craftsmen we are.”
“We can help,” Theomin said.
“Wait,” Helesdir said as he took Theomin to the side and pointed. Far down a steep path toward a gully was a nearby bridge. “Look, there lies the Weatherway, which is the bridge that leads toward the Lone Lands. After that, there is a winding road that leads through some rough terrain but it is not far from Weathertop. Half a day’s ride if anything.”
“These people need help, Helesdir. Doing nothing when we are more capable than anyone is the same thing as aiding their capters,” Theomin said to Helesdir.
“I vote to aid them,” Teryndir said.
Theomin looked to his all of his companions. He looked at the men in need and then back to his company and said, “Anyone willing to aid these people may come with me. Those who care not, stay here. We will take these ruins before nightfall.”