Lindariel: A Yule Journey

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Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:07 am

After our last Yule contest in 2010, Iolanthe suggested that I should post my 12 chapter story, A Yule Journey, in a separate thread under Members' Art, Prose, and Poetry. I was caught up in getting the story reviewed for publication at Henneth-Annun.net at the time, and later it just slipped my mind. Our Yule contest thread has long been archived, so I'm just now getting around to posting the tale here, where it can be easily enjoyed by our members.

Again, many thanks to everyone for their kind comments and enthusiastic reception for this tale, which grew in the telling, and turned into the longest continuous story I've ever written! -- Lindariel
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:10 am

A Yule Journey
By
Lindariel

Written December 2010-January 2011
For the Middle-earth-Journeys.com 2010 Yule Creative Writing Contest

The 20th of Foreyule

It was a very modest-sized package, really – a specially prepared treasure with a message secreted inside, wrapped with judicious care in a lovely green cloth, and tied with red and gold ribbons. Next came a layer of oil cloth to protect the contents against the weather, and finally a heavy brown paper covering closed with sturdy twine. “There,” the hobbit said, as he patted the package with a satisfied smile, “that should see you safely on your way.”

After carefully stowing the package inside a saddle bag with his traveling clothes, the little fellow quickly cleared away the paper, cloth, shears, twine, ribbons and other detritus from his gift-wrapping project, and set about stocking his other saddle bag with the travel food that had been carefully gathered together on the kitchen table. When most of his neighbors were just sitting down to first breakfast, this hobbit was bundling himself into his fur-lined, hooded winter cloak, bright red scarf, and sturdy gloves and quietly stepping out the kitchen door with his belongings, pocketing the key. Within moments, he had slipped through the back garden gate, down the path, over the hedge, and was making his way quietly to the stables at the foot of the hill.

“Good morning, Clover,” he whispered to his sturdy Shire pony in the third stall, “There’s a good girl. Did you have a nice rest and a lovely breakfast?” The pony whickered a fond greeting and greedily accepted a sweet, withered winter apple from her Master’s hand. It took only a few minutes to spread a warm blanket on Clover’s back, strap on the saddle and bridle, and settle his saddle bags, water- and wineskins, a bedroll (just in case), and a nosebag of oats in place, and soon the hobbit was leading the pretty chestnut pony out into the winter sunshine.

A groggy stablelad stumbled out just as the hobbit was leaving, stammering, “Oh, g-good morning, sir! Wasn’t expectin’ no customers so early!”

“That’s quite all right, Milo-lad,” chuckled the hobbit, “I woke up this morning fancying a visit with some friends over in Frogmorton.”

“Very good, sir,” said the lad, running a practiced hand over the pony’s flanks. “You’ll have no trouble with your Clover, sir. She’s in fine fettle, and I just checked her shoes yestere’en. You’ve fine weather for a ride today.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the hobbit, tossing the lad a silver penny and then mounting the pony with practiced ease. “If anyone inquires, tell them I expect to be back in a week, with plenty of time to spare for Yule preparations. Why don’t you buy that lass of yours a pretty ribbon for the New Year?”

“Oh, yes sir! Thank you, sir!” Milo goggled, as he stared at the generous tip. “I’ll do just that, sir. My Maybelle will be right pleased!”

With a sparkling laugh and a wave, the hobbit urged Clover from a walk to a gentle trot and was soon on his way down the road, taking the fork toward Bywater and the Great East Road, murmuring, “That should take care of any busybodies nosing into my affairs.”

It was indeed a very fine morning. The air was crisp, fresh, and still as Clover warmed from a trot into a smooth canter, and the hobbit dipped a hand into his food bag, fished out a piece of sharp cheese and a roll, and commenced eating a cold second breakfast as he scanned the familiar countryside. The road from Hobbiton to Bywater was well traveled and maintained, and as Clover skimmed along the smooth highway, she and her Master soon began encountering the occasional farmer carting winter foodstuffs for the Hobbiton market, as well as other tradesmen and craftsmen going about their business. There had been a hard frost the night before; the Bywater Pool was partially frozen, and the dry grasses, bushes, and tree branches glistened and sparkled in the morning light.

They passed through Bywater with a cheerful wave to the proprietor of The Green Dragon, sweeping off his porch in preparation for the customers who might decide to drop in for elevenses as they completed their morning shopping, and a nod to the Quick Post runner on his daily rounds. At the Three Farthing Stone, they paused a bit for Clover to have a drink and to let Clover’s Master stretch his legs, sip some of his watered wine, and munch on an apple and some sausages for elevenses, before joining the other travelers on the Great East Road, heading to Frogmorton.

The hobbit relaxed into his pony’s smooth gait, wrapped the fur-lined cloak closer about his body, and contemplated the rise and fall of the Green Hill Country to his right and the continued meanderings of The Water to his left. It was an easy, pleasant ride, in spite of the cold, and the hobbit was happy to be off on a bit of an adventure. He’d been rather restless lately. Even the flurry of preparations leading up to Yule weren’t enough to tire and settle him by the end of the day. This little diversion was just what he needed.

At length, they drew near the intersection with the main road from Greenfields and Oatbarton in the North Farthing and stopped at the broad meadow that served as a popular wayside. There, the hobbit joined a small group of travelers who had also paused on their journey to build a quick fire and have some luncheon. While rummaging around in his saddle bag for a fresh handkerchief to use as a napkin, the hobbit’s package slipped out and slid to the ground.

“Oh sir!” cried a little lass, “Here, you have dropped your package.”

Clover’s Master turned with a smile, “Why thank you, my dear. Goodness, you must really have enjoyed your raspberry tart!’’

“How did you know I had a raspberry tart with my luncheon?” inquired the round-eyed tot.

“Well,” said the hobbit, wetting the corner of his handkerchief from his waterskin and dabbing at the child’s cheeks and chin, “because I see raspberry jam here, and raspberry jam there, and – Goodness me! – raspberry jam on your fingers as well!”

“Oh!” the lass giggled, as the soft cloth skittered around her face, “That tickles!” Then she added, a bit chagrined, “I’m afraid I got some raspberry jam on your package, sir.”

“That’s quite all right,” the hobbit replied, wiping the worst of the stickiness away with the damp cloth, “No harm done. That’s what the brown paper is for, after all – to protect what’s inside from the dust and dirt of travel. Here,” he added, handing the child a piece of toffee from his pocket, “A little something to thank you for helping me.”

And that’s how the package got its first stain on the 20th of Foreyule.

The rest of the hobbit’s trip to Frogmorton was quite uneventful, and he arrived at The Floating Log in plenty of time to see Clover comfortably stabled and enjoy afternoon tea at the fireside before retiring to his room to rest a bit before freshening up for dinner. As he lounged on the comfy bed, he reached into his front pocket to draw out the lovely silvered envelope with the neatly folded letter on thick creamy-white stationery that had appeared on his doorstep a few days ago. The elegant silver Tengwar read:

Greetings Elvellon! You are most cordially invited to join our Company in the hills above Woodhall on the 21st of Foreyule to celebrate the Winter Solstice as is the custom of our people. This year, our celebrations will be particularly blessed, as the Solstice will coincide with a full eclipse of Isil. If you bring your package, I shall be able to advise you at that time of the appropriate contact you should make in Bree to see to its safe delivery. We would rejoice greatly to have the pleasure of your esteemed company. With respect and fondest regards, G

Returning the letter to his pocket with a soft smile, the hobbit ruminated drowsily before succumbing to his nap, “I’ll spend a lazy morning here at the Inn and leave for Woodhall after luncheon. There will be plenty of time to meet the Company up in the hills before the sun sets.”
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:22 am

The 21st of Foreyule

After the promised lazy morning, complete with both breakfasts in bed, a proper elevenses in the common room with a full pipe and pleasant conversion by the roaring fire, and a delicious, robust lunch to start him on his way, the hobbit merrily greeted and resaddled Clover and prepared to set out across the countryside toward Woodhall. Curious inquiries about his destination were kindly returned with vague statements about visiting an old friend there before proceeding to see relatives in Buckland.

It was another lovely, brisk day, and Clover and her Master thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon ride through The Yale, across the road to Stock, and up into the hills above Woodhall. The sun was slowly declining as they entered the quiet forest, and Clover’s Master dismounted to lead her among the silent trees. They had gone perhaps half a mile into the darkening wood, when the hobbit spied a shimmering glow peaking through the trunks of a thick stand of oak trees ahead.

Mae govannen, Elvellon!” called a soft voice from the branches overhead. The hobbit looked up with a broad grin, as a dark-haired elf descended nimbly from his hidden perch in the tall pine.

“Lord Gildor!” cried the hobbit, as the tall elf knelt to embrace and kiss him on both cheeks, “Well met indeed! Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo!

Gildor Inglorion’s silvery grey eyes flashed with pleasure, and he laughed heartily as he stood to take Clover’s reins from the hobbit’s tiny hands and guide them into the elven encampment. “Ah, my Elvellon, indeed you were well-named,” he mused. “My scouts have been looking for you since the lunch hour, but I told them, ‘Nay, he will arrive at dusk, as is appropriate for our celebrations.’ And here you are! Come see our preparations!”

In a lovely glade beneath the tall oaks ahead, Gildor’s wandering company had prepared a sumptuous encampment with small comfortable tents, a roaring bonfire, and even a roofed enclosure for their horses. “Look, my friends! Our long-awaited guest has arrived!” cried Gildor in his bright tenor, and several elves hurried forward to welcome the hobbit, usher him to a soft cushion by the fire, and take charge of settling Clover comfortably.

The evening was spent in quiet merriment, sampling delicious foods and a sparkling wine that warmed the hobbit’s cheeks and loosed his voice to share some of the traditional songs of his people, much to the elves’ enjoyment. When the Evening Star appeared over the clearing on its magical voyage across the night sky, the little fellow rose to his feet, lifted his glass, and gently chanted, “Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!

Gildor blinked at his guest in quiet astonishment, and then rose along with the rest of the company to join the hobbit in his lovely toast to Gil-Estel. “I thank you, Elvellon, for your tribute to our beloved star,” the elf lord murmured, as he helped the hobbit back to his cushion by the fire.

“Ah, my friend,” replied the little fellow, “I have come to take great comfort in watching the Mariner on his nightly voyage during my travels. How I do love the stars!” he exclaimed, spreading his arms wide to encompass the great panoply of the nighttime sky. In his exuberance, the hobbit’s goblet arm accidentally bumped into a young elleth passing by with a tray of sweetmeats. The remaining wine sloshed over the sides and dripped down into the hobbit’s open saddle bag, splashing the brown paper covering his precious package.

“Ooops!” exclaimed the embarrassed halfling, “I do beg your pardon, my dear! I hope I haven’t upset your tray!”

“Think nothing of it, Master Elvellon,” the elleth replied, “My tray and I are quite all right, but I am afraid you have spilt wine into your bag!”

“Oh, no harm done,” sighed the hobbit, as he dabbed at the package with his napkin. “My gift is quite well protected – from the elements and apparently also from me!” and they all laughed merrily.

And that’s how the package got its second stain on the 21st of Foreyule.

As the midnight hour approached, and Arda’s shadow gradually covered the brightness of Isil, Gildor rose to his feet and a young warrior brought forward a large tray containing a great silver flask and many small crystal cups. An elleth, the youngest member of the Company, also brought forth a circlet of holly. Lifting the flask in his hands to the heavens, Gildor softly intoned, “Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier mi oromardi lissë-miruvóreva Andúnë pella, Vadro tellumar ne luini yassen tintilar i eleni óryo airetári-lírien. Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?” and then filled all of the small cups with miruvor from the silver flask.

Gildor lifted the first cup and presented it to the company’s esteemed guest, as the warrior circled the fire, sharing the remaining cups with the company. When the eclipse reached its zenith, and Isil appeared as a darkened sphere encircled by a golden light, Gildor knelt before the young elleth, and she bound the circlet of holly about his brows, singing quietly, “On this darkest and longest of nights, we honor you, our chosen Lord in Exile. May the Lady bless you. May you lead us in Her Wisdom. May we find our path homeward with your leadership. May we once again behold the Light.”

Then Gildor rose, received his cup from the young elleth’s hands, raised it to the heavens, and upon the stroke of midnight, he drained his cup with the rest of the company, and then began singing, the members of the company joining one by one to swell the beautiful chorus, “A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna míriel o menel aglar elenath! Na-chaered palan-díriel o galadremmin ennorath, Fanuilos, le linnathon nef aear, sí nef aearon!

Elvish Translations:

“Well met, Elf-Friend!”

“A star shines on the hour of our meeting,” * from “Three Is Company,” FOTR

“Behold Eärendil Star [of] Long-Light!” * from “Shelob’s Lair,” TTT

“The long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West, beneath the blue vaults of Varda wherein the stars trembled in the song of her voice, holy and queenly. Who now shall refill the cup for me?” * from “Farewell to Lorien,” FOTR

“O Elbereth Star-Kindler (white) glittering slants down sparkling like jewels from [the] firmament [the] glory [of] the star-host! To-remote distance far-having gazed from [the] tree-tangled middle-lands, Fanuilos, to thee I will chant on this side of ocean, here on this side of the Great Ocean!” * from “Many Meetings,” FOTR
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Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:23 am

The 22nd of Foreyule

When Clover’s Master woke the following morning, he couldn’t quite remember how he had gotten into his soft, warm bed inside the guest tent that had been prepared for him. His last memory from the magical night was humming along happily to a lovely tune performed by Lindion, the company’s harpist, and sipping from a mug of hot mulled wine. Oh dear! If his memory was correct, then he was also leaning like a sleepy ‘faunt against Gildor’s elbow at the time! How embarrassing!

Slowly and gently, the hobbit rolled to his side and carefully sat up, fully anticipating the dizzy, pounding head and queasy stomach normally associated with the over-enthusiastic imbibing of unknown spirits. But to his surprise, he felt both quite well and very well-rested. He washed up, using the covered bowl of warm water and the towel someone had kindly provided, and dressed quickly, emerging from his tent to find the wandering company busily breaking camp and tending to their horses in preparation for departure.

“Ah, my friend, you are awake at last!” called Gildor with a broad grin. “Come join me by the fire to break your fast, and let us talk about the safe delivery of your package!”

“Good morning, Lord Gildor,” the hobbit blushed, as he took a seat by the elf lord, who was still wearing the ceremonial holly circlet he would bear until the turn of the New Year. “I hope I didn’t do anything foolish last night. If my last memory is correct, I can only assume I fell asleep practically in your lap! My profoundest apologies for behaving like a drunken ‘tween instead of an honored guest!”

“On the contrary, my dear Elvellon!” Gildor replied, “You were a most charming guest! I am deeply gratified that the wines of the Eldar ushered you so gently into Irmo’s arms for a blessed sleep and sweet dreams and deem it a great pleasure to have had the privilege of seeing my dear friend and guest safely to his bed.”

The hobbit gladly accepted a bowl of porridge and dried currants with a relieved sigh, “Well, I am glad to hear it! I would hate for your folk to think that hobbits are lacking in simple courtesy, and especially after such a splendid night! How honored I am to have been included in your ceremony!”

They exchanged further pleasantries as the hobbit consumed his breakfast, and then Lord Gildor turned to the subject of his guest’s special package. “I have it on good authority that a trusted messenger will be in the village of Bree at least until the 24th of Foreyule. I should think that your Clover could manage such a trip quite well, especially if, as you say, you can travel the distance from Buckland to Bree in the company of one of your cousin’s delivery wagons. If you must stop along the way between Buckland and the Greenway, take care to stay well away from the Barrow-downs; they are most unwholesome and dangerous to travelers.”

“Who is this messenger?” asked the hobbit, “And how shall I know him?”

“He is known to the Breelanders as One-Eye,” replied Gildor, with a wry twist to his mouth, “but his proper name is Bregor, son of Brandir, and you will know him right away by the black patch he wears over his left eye. He is a tall, impressive, and rather grim man, one of the Rangers of Arnor. Why the Bree-folk are so suspicious of the Rangers escapes me, but they are the hardiest and most trustworthy of men, and more importantly, they have the regard and allegiance of Lord Elrond of Imladris. I assure you that your package will be in the best of hands, and that Bregor and his fellow Rangers can be trusted to deliver it safely and secretly.”

“Well, if you and Lord Elrond have confidence in this man and his friends,” the hobbit mused, “then I can hardly ask for a better recommendation. Where should I look for this Bregor One-Eye?”

“At the Inn of the Prancing Pony,” advised Gildor, “and that is also where you should make your lodgings. The men of the Butterbur family have been the proprietors for many years, and they cater most kindly to hobbits of the Shire who come to trade with the folk of Bree and the other villages of the Chetwood. I suspect your cousin will tell you the same. Bregor will be looking for you at the Inn, but he will not approach you. The proprietor is likely to warn him off, out of deference to your safety, unless you ask for him and are seen to be approaching him of your own free will. It is rare but not unheard-of for hobbits to do business with the Rangers from time to time. Your woolens and porcelains are greatly prized by the folk of the Angle, where the Rangers make their homes.”

One of Gildor’s warriors led a well-rested and fully-tacked Clover forward, and the hobbit noticed to his astonishment that his guest tent had already been disassembled and his belongings carefully repacked and stowed in their proper places on the pony’s saddle. “Well, my friend,” said Gildor, “it is time for us to bid you a fond farewell. I regret that I am unable to deliver your package myself, but it is the duty of our wandering company to escort and protect those of our folk who wish to depart for Aman and see them safely to Mithlond and Lord Cirdan’s care at the Havens. Alas, our road takes us in the opposite direction of your package.”

“Think nothing of it,” replied the hobbit as he embraced the elf lord, “I find myself most restless for a bit of travel, and this trip to Bree suits me perfectly. Thank you again for your kind invitation and wonderful hospitality. Namárië.”

“Namárië, my dearest Elvellon,” replied Gildor. He murmured a soft elven blessing into Clover’s ear while stroking her lovely mane, and then he gently lifted the little fellow into his saddle, embracing him a final time. “Safe journey to you, and a blessed Yule!”

With the company’s cries of farewell ringing in his ears, the little hobbit left the forest above Woodhall and wended his way down the gentle slopes to join the road to Stock and from there to the Causeway leading to the Buckleberry Ferry. The elves had kindly restocked his food bag with a number of excellent morsels from their feast the previous eve, and the hobbit enjoyed munching his second breakfast and elevenses from the saddle, washing them down with swigs of the excellent elven wine that had replenished his wineskin. He was humming quite happily by the time he reached the Ferry, and enjoyed a safe and uneventful passage across the Brandywine, arriving at Brandy Hall in the early afternoon.

“You’re early! How delightful!” cried The Brandybuck, as he rushed from the front door of Brandy Hall to greet his cousin. “We were hoping you’d be here by teatime. I don’t like to think of you traveling in the dark this time of year. We’ve already finished luncheon, but I’m sure cook can put together a plate for you. Come in! Come in! The stablelad will see to your pony and bring in your bags!”

“If you don’t mind,” the hobbit said quietly to the stablelad, slipping him a silver penny, “I’d like to take that bag myself.”

“No problem a’tall, sir,” the lad grinned, pocketing the penny and handing over the bag containing the special package.

Over late luncheon, which had a way of turning into afternoon tea, the hobbit regaled his Brandybuck relatives with the story of his trip. “Where is this special package?” asked The Brandybuck, as he handed another cup of tea to the young hobbit lad who had claimed the honor of serving their guest.

“Why, it’s right here in my bag,” said the hobbit, as he drew out the package, just in time for the child to trip and slosh a bit of tea on the brown paper.

“Oh dear,” sobbed the little lad, “I’m so sorry, Cousin!”

“Nonsense!” soothed the hobbit as he dabbed the tea away with his napkin, “no harm done! You see, this paper has already withstood a blob of raspberry jam and spill of wine. I assure you, the gift inside will be just fine!”

And that’s how the package got its third stain on the 22nd of Foreyule.

After tea, The Brandybuck retired to his study for a private conversation with his cousin. “I’ve made all of the arrangements for you to travel along with Wilcombe and the wagonload of trade goods he’s taking to Bree tomorrow. You’ll be leaving right at dawn in order to make the trip all in one day. I don’t advise lingering on the Great East Road, especially after sundown. Make for the Inn of the Prancing Pony and give Butterbur my regards. He’ll give you a pleasant hobbit-size room and see to it that you’re well cared for.”

“That’s just as Lord Gildor advised,” replied the hobbit. “With any luck, I’ll be back here just as my shipment of Yule gifts arrives for the family, and we’ll have an early Yule celebration together before I must go back to Hobbiton to oversee all the final preparations for the holiday.”

“Well, I don’t envy you travelling in this season,” stated The Brandybuck emphatically, “much too cold for my tastes! This friend of yours must be very special to warrant so much trouble over a Yule gift.”

“As long as it stays fair for another two days, I’ll be just fine,” the hobbit soothed. “And yes, indeed, this friend is well worth the effort. Besides, I’ll have Wilcombe’s company, and we can always stay an extra day, or shelter in the wagon if the weather turns against us. I’ve certainly traveled in worse conditions, and on foot! This is a short easy trip by comparison. Don’t worry about me, Cousin.”
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Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:24 am

The 23rd of Foreyule

At the crack of dawn on the 23rd, the hobbit bid farewell to his Brandybuck kin, and he and Clover joined the Buckland trader Wilcombe on the pathway up to join the Great East Road at the Bridge of Stonebows and depart the Shire for their trip to Bree. Once he’d settled his team into a steady pace, Wilcombe proved to be good company, and the two hobbits enjoyed sharing bits of news, family stories, drinking and traveling songs, and other tales to pass the time.

They had a bit of a scare mid-way in their trip, when a wild dog crashed through the brush separating the Road from the Barrow-downs on their right and nearly careened into the wagon. Wilcombe fought to control his frightened team, and the hobbit clenched his teeth and held Clover steady, as the dog flew by them, baying wildly; whether it was in terror or in pursuit of some sort of prey, they never learned. Once the ponies had calmed, they urged them quickly forward. After putting more than a few miles between themselves and the unnerving experience, the hobbits pulled into a meadow to the left of the Road and stopped to praise, rest, water and feed the still skittish animals and share some luncheon and a stiff drink themselves.

As the hobbit was fussing with Clover’s tack and resettling his various bags in preparation to resume their journey, the saddlebag at his feet wobbled and tipped over, spilling some of its contents out on the ground, including the package. “Oh dear, sir,” said Wilcombe, as he helped the hobbit gather his things back into the saddlebag, “looks like you got a bit of mud on your package there.”

“Ah, well,” sighed the hobbit, wiping what he could off on the frozen grass, “no harm done. As you can see, the brown wrapper has already collected its share of dirt. The contents aren’t breakable, so I’m sure it’s just fine.”

And that’s how the package got its fourth stain on the 23rd of Foreyule.

They arrived at the Gate to Bree at dusk, and were shown in by the Gatekeeper without too much fuss. Wilcombe bid the hobbit farewell and drove his team on to the marketplace to unload his goods at the shop owned by the Brandybucks’ hobbit trading contact in the town. Clover’s Master easily spied the sign for The Prancing Pony and made his way eagerly over to the Inn, where he was met by a friendly hobbit named Nibs, who took charge of Clover and promised to deliver the Master’s belongings to his rooms. Taking only the bag containing the package, Clover’s Master tipped Nibs generously and entered the warm, well-lighted inn.

“Greetings, little Master,” beamed the Inn’s proprietor, Mr. Butterbur, “Welcome to The Pony! Always pleased to have visitors from The Shire. Now, how might I serve you?”

“I thank you for your welcome, Mr. Butterbur,” replied the hobbit, as he removed his gloves and doffed his heavy winter cloak and scarf. “Let me first extend to you the regards of my cousin, The Brandybuck of Brandy Hall. He recommended your Inn to me most highly, as did Lord Gildor of the Wandering Company.”

“Did they, indeed? Well, it’s always a fine thing to hear that The Pony has such a good reputation outside of the Chetwood,” Butterbur rumbled pleasantly. “We do pride ourselves on havin’ the best Inn, the best cook, and the finest beer and ale to be found in these parts. Will you be lodgin’ with us, little Master?”

“Most certainly,” stated the hobbit emphatically. “I shall need a hobbit room for the night. I do wish I could stay longer, but I am meeting a business contact here this evening to settle a trade matter, and then I must return to The Shire in the morning. Yule is nearly upon us, and I have preparations to attend to that won’t wait.”

Nibs arrived at that moment with the hobbit’s baggage, and Butterbur quickly showed him to a small comfortable room with hobbit-sized furniture and left him to settle in and wash up for dinner. “I’d be right pleased to send a meal here for you after your long journey today,” said the kindly man, “but I suppose you’ll wish to take dinner in the common room and meet your tradin’ partner. If you give me ‘is name, little Master, I’d be pleased to look out for ‘im.”

“Yes, you’re quite right, Mr. Butterbur,” the hobbit answered, pleased that the Man provided him with a natural opening to inquire about the Ranger. “I am to meet with a man by the name of Bregor One-Eye. I understand he represents the Rangers of the Angle. Do you know him?”

“Oh,” frowned Butterbur, “well . . . yes . . . I do know One-Eye and ‘is Ranger folk. Their coin is good, and they can be handy to have about in a pinch when there’s ruffians and cutthroats to handle. Never known ‘em to cheat a fellow out of ‘is money, either. But they’re a rough lot, all grim and silent. Always arrivin’ all dirty and lookin’ as though they’d spent a month in a ditch. Are you quite sure you wish to have doin’s with such-like, you bein’ so small?”

“That’s quite all right, Mr. Butterbur,” the hobbit replied, patting the kind man on his arm. “That’s why we handle our business dealings with the Rangers in public places, like your Inn. I have a sample of our woolens to share with him, and then we will conclude a new trade agreement with the Angle for both Shire woolens and porcelains.”

“As you wish, little Master,” said the Man, somewhat doubtfully, as he prepared to leave the hobbit to his evening ablutions. “I’ll look out for Ole One-Eye and tell ‘im you’re here.”

The common room was sparsely populated that evening. Most of the regulars were home with their families preparing for Yule, and the Inn was hosting just a few travelers who hadn’t yet reached their holiday destinations. Butterbur spied the hobbit as he entered the dining area and nodded his head toward a table in the corner by the roaring fireplace. A tall man sat at the table with his back to the wall, his uncovered eye warily scanning the room, a smoking pipe cradled in one palm and a tankard of hot spiced cider in the other. His dark hair was streaked with grey and fell in long bedraggled curls about his shoulders. Despite the patched-over scar that spoke eloquently of the injury that had claimed his eye, he was still a good-looking man, hale, broad-shouldered, and powerful. He spotted the hobbit almost immediately and inclined his head briefly as the little fellow made his way across the room.

To the hobbit’s surprise, rather than rising and towering over him, the Man instead slid from his chair to rest one knee on the floor and greet his small guest face-to-face. “Bregor, son of Brandir, at your service, Master Elvellon,” the Man rumbled in a pleasant, cultured baritone. “There is no need to speak openly of your errand; I am aware of the need for secrecy. Shall we instead speak of trade between my people and yours?”

The little hobbit smiled, laying his package casually on the table, and to Bregor’s astonishment, reached out and took the Man’s large hand in both of his small ones and said, “I am very pleased to meet you Bregor, son of Brandir. What do you say to a hearty dinner and a tankard of Butterbur’s finest ale? Could I interest you in some Old Toby perhaps? Or do you prefer Longbottom Leaf?”

Bregor gaped at the hobbit for a moment and then suddenly burst into laughter, a broad grin transforming his grim face into the handsome likeness he had borne in happier days, his sea-grey eye sparkling with rare good humor. The unheard-of merriment brought Butterbur bustling back toward them from his counter, but before the astounded innkeeper could speak, the hobbit called out, “Ah, Mr. Butterbur, there you are! Bring us your finest dinner fit to satisfy the appetite of a very hungry hobbit and an even hungrier man, and two tankards of your best ale! I predict a most satisfactory outcome from our negotiations!” He then gestured back to the table and politely asked Bregor, “Shall we sit, my good sir?”
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:25 am

The 24th of Foreyule

When dawn arrived the following morning, the hobbit was extremely glad that he and Bregor had possessed the good sense to retire early the previous evening, although he would have happily stayed up all night talking with the Ranger about his fascinating heritage and the quiet, noble sacrifices he and his people were making to guard the safety of the Free Folk of Arnor. Much to the little fellow’s surprise, Bregor had also been quite willing to seriously discuss the possibility of setting up an agreement for the people of the Angle to trade for Shire goods directly through the Brandybucks rather than dealing with a middle man in Bree, and not just to playact for the sake of providing a bland explanation for the exchange of the package.

As Lord Gildor had intimated, the Ranger-folk of the Angle were especially interested in Shire-made woolens and porcelains. “And pipeweed,” added Bregor with a sigh, as he took an appreciative pull on his pipe, newly packed with some of the hobbit’s prized Old Toby. Butterbur was rapidly pressed into service to provide them with paper, pen, and ink, and within the space of an hour, over a hearty dinner of roasted goose, venison, carrots and winter squash, a delectable mushroom pie, a large apple-raisin cobbler, and several tankards of ale, the unusual pair quickly hammered out the beginnings of an agreement for the hobbit to take back to The Brandybuck for further development.

As they parted the next morning, Bregor continuing on The Great East Road toward the Weather Hills and the hobbit rejoining Wilcombe for the return trip to Brandy Hall, the Man knelt once again to bid his new friend farewell face-to-face. “When Lord Gildor asked me to undertake the delivery of a special package, Master Elvellon, I never anticipated that I would be treated to such a pleasant dinner companion, nor that I would find myself with a new friend among the little people of the Shire,” Bregor smiled wryly. “We Rangers spend so much of our time as solitary guardians, regarded with suspicion and distrust, if not downright enmity, outside our home in the Angle and our refuge with Lord Elrond in Imladris. Cheerful evenings such as we shared are rare, and I shall carry the memory with me to the end of my days.”

“Well, I certainly hope we shall have more that just the memory of one evening!” stated the little hobbit emphatically. “I shall be looking out for you and your people in my ramblings about the Shire. Perhaps we could share a campfire together on one of your patrols! And if my cousin follows through with this plan for regular trade with your folk, I shall have to accompany Wilcombe on some of his trips to Bree, especially when I find myself restless and in need of a bit of adventure. I would enjoy meeting more of your folk and sharing tales together here at The Pony.”

Just then, Wilcombe’s wagon could be seen clattering down the cobblestone avenue from the marketplace toward the Inn, and the time for farewells was over. “Safe journey to you, Master Elvellon, and have no fear. My people and I will see your package safely and secretly delivered,” Bregor murmured, as he lifted his new friend up onto Clover’s saddle. Then he reached into his pocket and handed the hobbit a small silver pin in the shape of a rayed star. “Take this pin as a symbol of our friendship. It is a smaller copy of the Ranger pin I wear on my cloak; we give them sometimes to special friends. I shall see to it that your name becomes known to the Rangers of Arnor. They will know you, and you will know them, by this pin. I shall be looking for you when my duties take me to Bree or to the borders of your fair country.”

The hobbit turned the beautiful little pin over and over in his hands, then secured it carefully to the collar of his cloak, and reached forward to gently touch the scar on Bregor’s left temple. “I shall wear it with great pride and to honor your courage and devotion,” he replied, his voice quavering under a sudden swell of tender feelings. “Until we meet again, fare well wherever you fare, Bregor, son of Brandir.”

“Farewell, Master Elvellon,” the Ranger replied, his voice a bit gruff with suppressed emotion, as he leapt to the back of his tall dark grey gelding. “Do not tarry on the road,” he added, casting a weather eye to the sky. “Those clouds promise sleet and snow by sundown. It would be best for you to eat in the saddle and pause only once to rest your ponies on the way home.” With that, Bregor turned his horse, and the powerful animal set off for the East village gate and the Great Road into the wild.

“Whatever did that huge, rough-lookin’ man want with you this mornin’, sir?” asked Wilcombe, as Clover and her Master fell in alongside the wagon and its return load of Bree goods.

“He may be rough-looking, Wilcombe,” replied the hobbit gently, “but that Ranger is as good and brave a man as you will ever meet. Come, we should be going. Master Bregor tells me there’s a snowstorm coming through this evening, and it would be well for us to get home quickly. Besides,” he added, patting his breast pocket with a smile, “I have a little surprise for my cousin!”

Once he was clear of the village gate, Bregor gave the gelding his head, and they galloped away down the Great East Road, a swift grey shadow swallowed up in the early morning mists. “Storm’s coming, Hithin, my friend,” the Ranger murmured to his charger. “If we ride hard, we shall have shelter before the snow begins.”

And ride hard they did. Several miles after passing the Forsaken Inn, Bregor eased back in the saddle, bringing Hithin gradually down from a gallop to a smooth canter. As the Midgewater Marshes came into view on their left, the man slowed his horse even further and soon brought him to a halt to dismount. Glancing thoroughly up and down the Road until he was satisfied they were completely alone and unobserved, the Ranger carefully led Hithin through a barely discernable break in the scrubby brush and bent pine trees to the right hand side and used a broken pine bough to erase any sign of their passage off the hard packed surface of the Road.

Once under cover of the bedraggled scrub pines, Bregor led Hithin down a faint track known only to the Rangers into the lonely stretch of country above the South Downs. He ate his lunch while walking, pausing for a while after Hithin had cooled down from his run to allow the horse to drink his fill from a small stream and munch some winter oats from a nosebag. Soon enough, the Ranger remounted and the grey pair made their solitary way over the lonely, abandoned fields of this wild land, roughly paralleling the Road for several hours, until a large stand of bent pines appeared in the distance as the bleary winter sun disappeared completely behind the thick grey storm clouds and a light snow began falling.

“Nearly there,” Bregor whispered to his faithful mount, patting the animal’s strong neck. “We’ll have a fire tonight, and I’ll make you a warm mash.”

After another hour’s ride in the thickening snow, the tired pair entered the shelter of the pine grove and picked their way through the underbrush to find a long-abandoned stone cottage that might once have belonged to the family that had farmed this land in the distant past. Casting a careful eye about the clearing, Bregor rode up to the porch and smiled as he spied the Ranger token – a broken rawhide thong knotted in a special pattern – that had been unobtrusively wedged under the front door to show that the last inhabitant had been a fellow friend and colleague. The cottage was still a safe haven!

Bregor led his tired horse inside the cottage to the corner that the Rangers used as a stall, relieved Hithin of saddlebags, pack, bedroll, weapons, saddle, and bridle, and then left briefly to use another broken pine bough to obscure their tracks across the clearing to the little stone house and up onto the porch. Satisfied that the swiftly falling snow would soon completely camouflage their passage, Bregor stepped inside with a sigh of relief and set about building a fire with the store of wood the Rangers kept by the fireplace.

After giving Hithin a good rub-down and covering him with the saddle blanket, the Ranger opened his food bag and began preparing a hot stew for himself and the promised warm mash for the horse. While waiting for the stew to finish simmering, Bregor searched through his pack for a small book to help pass the time. As he laid the hobbit’s package aside, Bregor noticed that one corner of the brown paper wrapper had somehow become torn during the course of the day’s travels. “Ah well,” he thought. “I’ll just tuck the torn edge back under this fold and secure it with another piece of twine. No harm done.”

And that’s how the package got its fifth mark on the 24th of Foreyule.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:26 am

The 25th of Foreyule

The storm subsided overnight, leaving the ground covered in a half-foot of snow. When Bregor arose at dawn, he smiled at the pristine blanket of white that completely covered any sign of his presence in the cottage. After a cold breakfast for himself and a nosebag of morning oats and a bucket of water for Hithin, he packed up his gear, saddled his horse, and pushed open the back door of the cottage leading directly into the wood that had crept up over the years to consume the backyard. Leading Hithin under the trees, he returned to the cottage to replace the Ranger tokens at the front and back doors, and obliterated the few footprints that led from the back door into the woods. With any luck, the cottage would remain an unknown, isolated safe haven for the Rangers for years to come.

The elusive pair slipped further into the woods following a faint trail down into a hollow and continuing along the side of a small frozen creek. After about an hour, they emerged from the woods well to the east of the cottage and struck out across the barren fields, making their way back to the Great East Road. By lunchtime, the Road was in sight, and Bregor paused for a moment to eat and allow Hithin a much needed rest. Soon, they resumed their journey, picking their way up the steep ditch and onto the Road.

After a few hours, the Weather Hills appeared on the horizon, including their destination for the night – Weathertop, and the watchtower of Amon Sûl. As they drew within a few miles of the ancient Numenorean outpost, Bregor eased back on Hithin’s pace and once again dismounted to scan the Road carefully before leading the horse off the path, this time to the left of the Road. Disappearing into the scrub and making his way around the far edge of the Midgewater Marshes, thankfully insect-free during the cold months of the year, he crossed the shortest stretch of open land between the Marshes and the Weather Hills in order to approach Amon Sûl from the side opposite the Road.

The sun was nearly set and the sky darkening when the tired pair reached the last brief stretch of open land between the Weather Hills and the ruined outpost. Pausing in the shadow of a stand of scrubby pines, Bregor cupped his hands about his mouth to produce three convincing calls of the crested owl. After a few minutes, he repeated the call, and then smiled when he heard five calls in response. Patting Hithin’s neck, Bregor murmured, “Our friend is waiting, old fellow. We’ll have a bit of company this evening.”

Once the sun disappeared below the horizon, Bregor quietly broke cover and quickly crossed the remaining ground to lead Hithin up a faint widing path from the base of Amon Súl to a small recessed cave partially hidden behind a fall of boulders on a ledge mid-way to the summit. “Welcome, brother,” called a soft voice, as a tall, lean shape detached itself from the dark entrance and came forward to greet Bregor and help lead Hithin around the boulders and inside the cave.

“It is good to see you, Halmir,” Bregor replied once they were inside, as he gathered the younger man into a great bear hug. “I trust you have fared well on your own here?”

Halmir sighed as he helped Bregor to unburden and settle Hithin alongside his own horse in a niche further inside the cave, “Yes, it is lucky things have been so quiet this side of the Misty Mountains. We are stretched too thin, especially for this time of year.”

“Aye,” Bregor agreed. “These single patrols are risky, but I don’t know what else we are to do until the younger ones are ready to join the patrols, or some of our wounded are sufficiently recovered for duty. We cannot reduce our numbers at Sarn Ford or further north toward the Ettenmoors and Carn Dûm, nor can we decrease the patrols protecting the Angle or the mountain passes, not to mention the watch on Mount Gundabad. The only possibility was to cut the patrols along the Road to overlapping singles rather than pairs. At least during the winter, there are fewer travelers to watch over, and our enemies are far less willing to brave the elements.”

They finished settling Hithin for the night and ventured further down the passageway until it opened out into a larger chamber that boasted both a small underground rivulet of clean, fresh water, as well as a ventilated shaft for a fireplace. A rough cut stair at the far end of the chamber provided underground access to the ruined watch tower above.

Halmir helped Bregor to spread his bedroll beside the fire and then dished up a bowl of stew for the older Ranger from the pot kept warming by the fire, and took one for himself. Bregor settled wearily by the fire with a long sigh, “Speaking of the younger ones, how fares your son with his training?”

“You would be proud of my Hal,” Halmir grinned. “He’ll be twenty this spring and ready to take his place on the patrols for the Angle. He must be at least three inches taller than when you saw him last and a good deal broader. Idrelle is half crazed with constantly needing to let out his clothes or make him new ones. He already surpasses me with the bow, but you well know that was never my weapon of choice.”

Bregor grunted in amusement, “You hadn’t the patience to find your timing. Besides, you were far too enamored with your sword to give the bow proper consideration.”

“Well, my Hal certainly took your lessons to heart,” Halmir replied. “Give him a few more years, and he just might fight me to a draw with the sword as well.” His fond smile faltered a bit with fatherly concern. “He has visions, Bregor. He has the Sight.”

The older Ranger passed his hand across his face, rubbing his brow and fingering the scar at his left temple. “Aye,” he replied, “I know that well. It runs in the blood and appears to run true in your lad. Were it not for his warning before I left on that patrol five years ago, instead of this scar and a useless eye, I’d be dead, ambushed by orcs in the Trollshaws.” At Halmir’s shocked expression, he continued, “He’s not spoken of this?”

“Nay,” said Halmir, “he speaks only of dreams about fighting in a great battle. Idrelle is certain these dreams spur him to train with even greater vigor to be ready for that battle when the time comes.”

“Well, I would be the last soul to discount the lad’s dreams,” asserted Bregor. “He came to me before I left at dawn with my patrol, still in his nightshirt, all white-faced and trembling, and urged me not to let myself be parted from the rest of my men on the night of the new moon, lest I be overcome by enemies and killed. I was going to just take two scouts with me to investigate news of a troll in the area, but when I noticed that the moon was new, I remembered Hal’s warning and took another eight men with me. We were ambushed by a score of orcs and barely escaped the encounter with our lives. As it was, two of my men were badly wounded, and I lost my eye. Without Hal’s warning, the three of us I’d intended to take would have been dead or worse.”

Halmir stared for a moment at Bregor, and then looked down into his empty bowl as if he might find answers to the mystery of his son’s gift in the scrapings. With a rueful smile, he at last replied, “Perhaps it’s best not to dwell on things we don’t understand, eh, my friend?”

“True enough,” Bregor nodded, and then brightened at a new thought. “Ah! Before I forget, I should give you the package you are to deliver on your way back to the Angle!”

“Yes, indeed,” the younger Ranger replied with a grin, “And how was your meeting with Master Elvellon?”

Bregor laughed as he fished inside his pack for the hobbit’s package, “I have never spent so merry an evening in the village of Bree! The little fellow greeted me just as though we had always been old friends and treated me to the best dinner I’ve had in a long time. And can you imagine? We actually discussed and drew up a potential trade agreement between the Shire and the Angle? Now, where is that package?” he murmured, as he reached deeper inside the pack and then triumphantly drew it out. “Ha, here it is!”

As Bregor handed the package to Halmir, he noticed a long black smear down one side of the brown paper wrapper. “Hmmm,” he murmured, “looks like it must have rubbed up against my spare pair of black boots.” He peered closely at the package before passing it on to Halmir with a shrug, “Oh well, no harm done.”

And that’s how the package got its sixth stain on the 25th of Foreyule.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:26 am

The 26th of Foreyule

Before dawn the following morning, the two Rangers set about stocking the cave with additional wood and kindling to see Bregor through his solitary posting until his relief was due to arrive in another five days. By the time the bleak winter sun had barely begun to crest the horizon, their chores were completed, and Halmir was packed for his journey to the Angle. Embracing his mentor, Halmir murmured, “I shall bring word to your family to expect your arrival the week after Yule. Take care, Bregor!”

“Safe journey, Halmir,” replied the old veteran, “and have a blessed Yule with your wife and son!”

“That I will!” grinned the younger man, “especially with the opportunity to enjoy Lord Elrond’s hospitality on my way home!” He waggled the hobbit’s package in his hand before adding it to the top of his final saddle bag. “This little delivery will earn me the pleasure of a fine supper at the Last Homely House, as well as the chance to retrieve the Yule gift I have ordered for my wife – a new tunic of the softest Elven silk. Mistress Wilwarin and her weavers have promised me it will be ready when I arrive.”

Taking advantage of the deep shadows of early dawn, Halmir led his horse Morodil quietly down the back trail and into the scrub pines at the base of the Weather Hills. After following the base of the Hills for several hours, he scanned the open countryside for any sign that he might be observed, and then struck out across the barren fields, making his way toward the Great East Road several miles to his right.

Dark clouds were once again blowing up from the South, indicating another snowstorm would strike the Northlands by nightfall. Once the travelers rejoined the Road, Halmir urged Morodil to a gallop, keeping a weather eye on the gathering clouds. At the noon hour, he eased back on Morodil’s pace and eventually dismounted, carefully checking to make sure his departure from the Road was unobserved, and led the destrier off the Road to the right, striking a faint path down into the rolling Lone-lands. They soon found a small creek at the bottom of a hollow, nearly frozen but still producing a trickle of cold water for the thirsty pair. There they rested for a bit, while Halmir paced off the stiffness of the morning ride, ate a quick luncheon, and provided Morodil with a nosebag of winter oats.

“I don’t like the look of those clouds at all,” the Ranger murmured to his horse, as he tightened the girth and remounted. “Let’s hope we make camp well before sundown.”

For the rest of the afternoon, the pair picked their way up and down the rolling hills of the Lone-lands, tracking around the base of the hills and under the cover of the intermittent foliage to shield their passage as much as possible. The safety of the Ranger waystations, such as they were, depended upon their secrecy.

As the fast moving stormclouds darkened the winter sky, obscuring whatever light might have been provided by the sunset, Halmir at last pulled Morodil to a halt, and, after scanning the area for any sign of observers, he led the horse into a stand of trees at the base of a long gulley at the foot of the hill they had been traversing. With a sigh of relief, he spotted the brush-covered entrance to a cave, as well as the small, undisturbed cairn of rocks in the middle of the entrance – yet another Ranger token to indicate that the cave had last been occupied by friends. They would at least have decent shelter from the storm!

Halmir led Morodil inside the shelter, quickly unburdened the horse, and then immediately set about finding additional wood, for the meager supply left in the cave would surely be insufficient for their needs, especially if the storm left them stranded for more than the one night. On his third trip for wood, the wind suddenly picked up, and snow began falling heavily. He was covered in white by the time he returned to the cave and arranged the brush to block the entrance as much as possible.

Kindling a fire was his first concern, followed by tending to Morodil’s needs and covering him with a warm blanket. As Halmir moved about the small cave, preparing dinner, spreading out his wet clothing to dry, and arranging his bedroll, he accidentally brushed against the saddle bag containing the hobbit’s package and tipped it over toward the fire. The package rolled out of the top of the bag and up against the circle of stones serving as a fire pit.

“Here now!” shouted Halmir, as he scooped up the package and smothered the corner that had begun to smoke, but had not quite caught fire. Carrying both package and saddle bag over to the far side of his bedroll, Halmir carefully applied a wet cloth to the hot, scorched paper. “Well, it’s a good thing Master Elvellon wrapped his gift so securely,” he murmured, as he spied the oil cloth covering beneath the burnt brown paper wrapper. “No harm done.”

And that’s how the package got its seventh mark on the 26th of Foreyule.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:27 am

The 27th of Foreyule

While the small cave provided Halmir and Morodil with shelter from the storm, desperately needed warmth from the fire, and a welcome opportunity to rest and eat a hot meal, Halmir nonetheless spent a practically sleepless night. The small fire needed frequent tending, as did the ventilation shaft for the smoke, which he diligently cleared of snow with a long, stripped tree branch every hour or so. If he fell asleep, it wouldn’t take long for both Ranger and horse to suffocate if the shaft became blocked. Throughout the long night, every time he poked and twisted the tree branch up and through the shaft as the wind howled and the snow fell in drifts, Halmir thought of Bregor spending a similarly sleepless night all alone in the cavern under Amon Sûl. He didn’t envy Bregor’s hourly task, which involved climbing up and down the rough stair to the watch tower in order to clear the ventilation shaft.

After checking Morodil and rubbing the horse’s tired legs yet again, Halmir stretched out on his bedroll with a sigh. Spring, and the fresh new recruits it would bring, could not possibly come soon enough! They were stretched too thin – much, much too thin! The horrible lung illness ten years ago, with its wasting fevers and dark terrible dreams, had decimated the already dwindling population of the Angle. His heart clenched in anguish as he recalled the nights he and his mother had spent by his wife and son’s bedsides helplessly listening as they struggled to breathe and fought against nameless terrors in their dreams. Just as it had seemed that Idrelle and Hal were well on their way to recovery, his mother had suddenly collapsed with the same illness, and in her sleepless, weakened state from hovering for days over her loved ones’ sick beds, she had quickly succumbed and died within the space of two days.

The disease had killed indiscriminately, claiming old and young, men and women, without mercy. Those who survived or had been spared were worn to the bone with weariness from tending to sick family members and neighbors. Lord Elrond, his sons, and as many of the Rivendell healers as could be spared took up residence in the Angle for nearly two months, desperately fighting the fever. When at last the wretched sickness had passed, it was rare to find a house anywhere in the Angle that wasn’t draped in black, mourning the loss of at least one family member.

In the ensuing years, every birth had been greeted with extra joy, every death with an underlying fear that the people of the Dúnedain would dwindle so drastically that any hope of restoring the North Kingdom would be completely lost. Their valiant, determined women had banded together – some to care for the children so that the others could join the young boys in tending the fields and gardens and animals – making it possible for every able-bodied man not committed to a key craft to train as a Ranger. Indeed, there had been some bold women, including his dear, gentle Idrelle, who had insisted upon improving their skills with bow and sword so they could take up patrol duty within the Angle, thereby releasing more men for the farther flung and more dangerous patrols in the wild. Warriors from Imladris, including the sons of Elrond, had often joined the Dúnedain patrols, especially to help swell their numbers to fight incursions of orcs and wolves from the Misty Mountains, as well as the trolls that crept in from the Ettenmoors and the Trollshaws.

Were it not for that cursed sickness, old veterans like Bregor would have been granted a decent retirement from the endless patrols to continue serving their people honorably within the Angle by training the young recruits and guarding their homesteads. Wounded men would not feel obliged to return to duty before they were fully healed. Their young men would be allowed a few more years to train and season their skills, instead of joining the patrols at the tender age of twenty. Yes, their numbers had gradually increased over the past decade, and things were not so dire anymore, but they were still too few, too few.

When the bleary dawn finally arrived and the storm at last subsided, Halmir dug his way out of the cave to find a frozen landscape buried under another foot of snow, but at least the heavy storm clouds were dispersing. After considering his options, the Ranger decided the best course would be to take advantage of the clearing weather and continue on with his journey. It would be a slow, weary journey leading Morodil across the Lone-lands to the next hidden Ranger outpost, but the store of wood he’d been able to gather before the storm would not see him through another day and night in the cave, and as cold as it was, his traveling conditions would not improve over the course of another day.

After fortifying both himself and Morodil with a hot breakfast, Halmir carefully smothered his fire, preserving as much of the hard-earned wood as possible for the next Ranger who might shelter within the hidden outpost. He packed his dried clothes and other belongings quickly, carefully securing the hobbit’s besmirched package in his pack, and then saddled and tacked Morodil as comfortably as possible and led him out into the snow-covered day. After restoring the stone cairn and covering the entrance to the cave with brush, the pair resumed their journey across the Lone-lands, cutting off a broad curve of the Great East Road and staying out of sight as much as possible.

The next several hours passed in a blur of bitter cold, blinding whiteness, and the tiring, monotonous effort of putting one foot securely in front of the other through snow that sometimes drifted well above the top of Halmir’s boots. He set a slow, steady pace and ate his lunch while walking, pausing only long enough to feed Morodil, knowing that the continuous activity was necessary to keep his blood moving and prevent frostbite.

By early afternoon, both man and horse were completely exhausted, and the Ranger was eagerly scanning the hills ahead for the landmarks leading to the next hidden outpost. As he crested yet another hill, Halmir at last spied a stand of trees in the distance and picked out as direct a route as possible, murmuring soft encouragements to his tired mount. In the middle of the small patch of woods was another ramshackle cabin, long abandoned by its owners as the people of the Northland dwindled and retreated into isolated enclaves like Bree and the settlements of the Angle. The undisturbed Ranger token wedged beneath the front door proclaimed its continued secrecy, as the weary pair stumbled gratefully inside to escape the bitter wind that had arisen during the afternoon.

Trusting the blowing snow to cover their tracks, Halmir set about relieving Morodil of his burdens, and then sank in relief by the fireplace to build a roaring fire from the well-stocked woodbin in the corner. To say that Halmir’s preparations for the evening were perfunctory would be an understatement. As always, he lavished the best of care on his faithful and trusted companion, seeing to Morodil’s every need with the greatest gentleness. But beyond that, Halmir’s efforts extended only so far as to change into dry clothes, hang up the wet ones to dry, spread out his bedroll by the fire, and prepare the simplest possible stew for dinner.

In his weariness, Halmir barely registered the greasy smear he left on the hobbit’s package as he rummaged about in his pack for an extra pair of thick, dry socks for his numb feet. “No harm done,” he grunted, as he made a token swipe at the smear with a wet cloth, and then settled by the fire to eat his dinner and collapse into a hard-earned and well-deserved slumber.

And that’s how the package got its eighth stain on the 27th of Foreyule.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:30 am

The 28th of Foreyule

Late the next morning, Halmir woke to the somewhat gentle ministrations of his horse, as the hungry animal whuffled about his face, nudged his shoulder, and grunted in his ear. Turning a bleary eye to the insistent creature, Halmir groaned, “All right, all right! I’m awake! I’m awake!” He patted Morodil gently on the nose and murmured fondly, “Wretched beast!” as he stretched and rolled out of his bedding to build up the fire and see to their respective morning meals.

It was another blindingly bright, bitterly cold day, and they still had a good long stretch of the Lone-lands to traverse on foot before reaching the next Ranger outpost at the Last Bridge over the River Hoarwell, or Mitheithel, as the elves called it. After that, if the weather held and they encountered no dangers on the Road, Halmir knew they should be able to make the rest of the trip to Rivendell in two more days of hard riding. He packed quickly, smothered the fire, and restored the Ranger token under the door, before striking off on foot once again, leading Morodil across the barren, rolling hills of the Lone-lands toward the intersection of the Great East Road with the River Hoarwell and the Last Bridge leading into the Angle.

Much like the day before, it was a difficult, plodding trip, wading through drifts of knee-high snow and following the curves of the hills to stay out of sight of the Road as much as possible. Since they had gotten a late start, Halmir ate his lunch while walking and paused only to give Morodil some food and water and a bit of rest later in the afternoon, as the undulations of the hills grew less steep, indicating that they were approaching the Hoarwell.

As Halmir was stowing away his waterskin and Morodil’s nosebag, his skin pricked at the sudden howling of an alpha-wolf, followed by the baying response of a large hunting pack. He leapt to Morodil’s back and saw the pack closing in behind him. In the weary monotony of their trek across the endless white hills, Halmir had failed to notice that they were being stalked!

The Ranger urged Morodil to his best effort, despite the heavy snow, knowing that if they remained in their current position, they would be too easily boxed in by the pack. The valiant horse cleared the last of the remaining hills and thundered down onto the broad stretch of meadow leading up to the Road and the Bridge over the Hoarwell.

Looking back, Halmir knew they would be overtaken before they could reach the Bridge, so he selected the best spot to make his stand and turned Morodil to face the pack, quickly loosening his sword Dagoril, stringing his short bow and releasing arrow after arrow upon the closing pack. Several of the large animals fell to his deadly aim, need bringing out the best in his admittedly less than perfect archery skills.

Soon, however, the pack had closed, and he shouldered the bow in favor of his beloved sword and dagger and Morodil’s flashing hooves. “Dagoril!” shouted the Ranger, as he and his sturdy mount engaged with the snarling pack, Morodil quickly teaching the wolves to respect his powerful front legs, while the Ranger defended the horse’s flanks with the long reach of his sword.

They fought valiantly, and soon the carcasses of a number of wolves bloodied the brilliant white snow. But as Halmir’s sword arm began to tire and Morodil was occupied with keeping several wolves at bay, the large alpha took a running leap and knocked Halmir from his saddle as he was pulling his sword free from the body of a pack mate. With an enraged bellow, Morodil turned to knock the alpha away from Halmir and take a protective stance over his rider’s body. Halmir rolled up to his knees, desperately trying to regain his breath after the hard collision with the ground.

With a great howl, the alpha urged his pack to engage the two winded combatants, now that the man had lost the advantage of height from the horse’s back, and soon both horse and man were beset with opponents from every side. “Dagoril!” Halmir shouted again, as he struck down two wolves to his right, but the great alpha managed to close in and drag him down by his left leg. With a shriek of pain as the wolf’s teeth tore through boot, trouser leg, and muscle, Halmir wielded his dagger with his left hand and managed to slash the great wolf’s throat, but another wolf swiftly closed to take his place.

Wildly swinging both sword and dagger to try to keep the wolf at bay, Halmir could feel himself weakening and becoming dizzy from the pain, the loss of blood, and the cold, when he heard a strong baritone voice calling, “Eärendil! Eärendil!” Suddenly an arrow sliced through the air, bringing down the wolf threatening Halmir, and another two arrows claimed the two wolves detaining Morodil, who quickly took his protective place above his wounded master. Thundering hooves announced the arrival of two dark-haired elves, who swiftly and brutally engaged the remaining wolves, fighting them with a fierce and feral grace, their swords flashing blurs of ice-cold steel.

In short order, the remaining wolves gave up the hunt, their prey now protected by the two otherworldly creatures with their bright, fell eyes and deadly swords, as well as two sleek warhorses with their crushing hooves. As the wolves slunk off into the night with mournful howls for their dead alpha and the loss of their intended prey, one of the elves made to spur his horse after the retreating pack, but the other stayed him by grabbing the reins and shouting, “No more, Elrohir! No more! It is DONE!” When Elrohir tried to jerk the reins free, the other elf slapped him smartly across the face and shouted again, “Stop NOW, gwador! NOW! The Ranger needs our help!”

Elrohir turned a crazed face and raised his fist as if to strike the other elf, but the battle-rage quickly melted from his visage as he recognized his own mirror image. “’Dan?” he panted hoarsely, as though just regaining the capacity to speak after losing himself in his berserker madness.

“Yes, gwador,” responded the other twin gently, “It is Elladan. The wolves are gone. The fight is over. Now we must see to the Ranger’s wounds.”

“Elladan? Elrohir?” called Halmir weakly, “By the Valar, am I glad to see you!”

The twin sons of Elrond quickly dismounted, and Elladan brought his pack over to where the wounded Ranger lay beneath Morodil’s protective stance. Elrohir crooned softly to the quivering horse, “Sinlaid, belegron! Im Elrohir Peredhel. Guren linna a chened le, Morodil.” Gradually, the animal relaxed enough to allow Elrohir to lead him away so that Elladan could tend to Halmir’s wounded leg.

“You are lucky, my friend,” said Elladan. “Your boot saved you the loss of your leg from the ankle down. But this is a nasty bite and hardly the place to try to treat it. Let me bind it up to stop the bleeding, and let’s get you to the outpost at Last Bridge as quickly as may be.”

“How came you to be here?” asked Halmir, adding quickly, “Not that I would wish you elsewhere, or I would surely be dead by now!”

Elladan snorted grimly, “We helped the Ranger patrol chase that pack out of the Angle just yesterday and have been following them across the Lone-lands to make sure they don’t return.”

Halmir started, “The Angle? Was anyone hurt?”

“Nay!” Elladan assured him, as he gave the wound a quick cleaning with water and wrapped the bloody bite with a pressure bandage. “The patrol set up an alarm right away when the pack was spotted, and we came as soon as we got word of the danger. The women and children of the Angle are safe. Do you think you can ride to camp?”

With Elladan’s help, Halmir gingerly sat up and tested his equilibrium. After a moment, he nodded, “I can do what I must, but a rest and a hot meal will be welcome.”

The twins quickly restored all of the gear and weapons to their places and then assisted Halmir up onto Morodil’s back. The horse whiffled his concern to his rider, and Halmir reached down to embrace the faithful and courageous animal. “Well done, my brave friend,” he murmured into Morodil’s ear, “You have saved my life yet again.”

The two elves mounted their steeds, drew up along either side of the tired pair, and the small mounted company slowly made their way across the meadow and up the final slope to rejoin the Great East Road and take the final turn down toward the Last Bridge. Just on the other side of the bridge, the twins dismounted, and Elrohir took charge of Elladan’s horse, while his brother led Morodil off the Road to the left and down a faint path that wound into the thick forested hills.

After about a mile, they came upon another well hidden cave with an undisturbed marker cairn, and quickly disappeared inside. Elrohir took charge of all three horses, while Elladan spread out a bedroll and helped Halmir to limp over and lie down. The elf quickly kindled a fire, set a pot of water to boil, and then rummaged through his pack for his healer’s kit to tend to the Ranger’s injury. A frown soon marred the elf’s handsome face, and he turned to Halmir to ask, “Have you any healer’s herbs, especially athelas, in your bags? My supply has been nearly used up tending to the sick and injured in the Angle over the past few weeks.”

Halmir nodded and pointed to his pack. “It should be in there somewhere.”

Elladan retrieved the pack and rummaged through it, setting aside the hobbit’s rather bedraggled package, and drawing out the leather herb pouch with a sigh of relief. Then he noticed that he had left a bloody smear on the package from tending Halmir’s wound. “My apologies, Halmir,” he murmured, “but it appears I have gotten some blood on this package.”

The Ranger smiled, “Well, you’ll notice that it already bears its fair share of stains and scuffs and even a burn. No harm done. As a matter of fact, I am supposed to deliver that package to the small Master residing in Lord Elrond’s home.”

“Ah, I see!” exclaimed Elladan. “Well, let me clean and treat and bind up this nasty wolf bite properly so you can fulfill your duty!”

And that’s how the package got its ninth stain on the 28th of Foreyule.


Elvish translations:

“Greetings, mighty one! I am Elrohir Half-Elven. My heart sings to see you, Morodil.”
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:32 am

The 29th of Foreyule

When Halmir woke the next morning, Elladan was busy by the fire preparing a hot breakfast, but Elrohir was nowhere to be seen. The elder twin noticed Halmir glancing about the cave and commented softly, “He has been gone all night, off dealing with the battle-lust in his blood. It was too short a fight for him, and he would have disturbed your sleep, prowling about the cave all night with his nerves on edge. I sent him out to practice his forms in a nearby clearing and let the cold quench the fire in his veins. His stomach will bring him to his senses, if the cold doesn’t.”

Halmir sighed and nodded. Elrohir was by far the most impressive warrior of the Third Age, and the Dúnedain were forever grateful to have him as a comrade on their patrols. But Elrohir’s battle frenzy was fearsome to behold, and no one but Elladan or his father dared to approach him when he was lost in that feral state. “I’m so sorry to have been responsible for setting him off.”

“Nonsense!” Elladan retorted, approaching Halmir’s pallet with a bowl of porridge, his healer’s bag, and a water skin. “The wolves were responsible, not you.”

“I don’t know how I missed seeing them,” Halmir groaned, as Elladan began unwinding the bandages around his wounded ankle.

“I do,” Elladan replied. “You were practically snow-blind and weary from toiling over the hills and through the drifts. Plus, they approached you from downwind, so Morodil never caught their scent. That big alpha was a very, very crafty leader. The pack will be broken without him, while the younger males battle for supremacy. You and Morodil did very well to have killed him and taken out so many others before being overwhelmed.”

Halmir winced as the healer probed his wound, which was somewhat puffy and red, but not nearly as swollen or inflamed as either the elf or the Ranger had expected. He placed his bowl of porridge aside and laid himself down carefully, trying to let the pain just wash over him as Elladan finished cleaning the wound and applying a thick salve to the ragged bite.

“I’m very encouraged,” Elladan marveled, as he wrapped the ankle in a fresh dressing and bandage. “I was worried about fever and an infection. Animal bites are the worst! But you are not overly warm to the touch, and the wound is tender, but not inflamed. If you can manage to travel today, I would prefer to do so and get you to Imladris and my father as quickly as possible, before any illness sets in and it becomes impossible for you to ride.”

“That is welcome news,” said a deep baritone voice from the other side of the cavern, as Elrohir shrugged off his cape and weapons and dug through his pack for some dry clothes. He was soaking wet from the snow and his night-long exertions, but as he approached the fire to warm up and change, both Halmir and Elladan could see that the formidable warrior had calmed considerably. He peeked into the cookpot by the fire and murmured, “Oh good, you made porridge. I’m starved!”

Elladan laughed lightly and said, “Get yourself into dry clothes, gwador, and I’ll fix a bowl for you after I put my healer’s bag and these herbs away.”

The elder twin lifted the hobbit’s package out of Halmir’s bag to stow away the pouch of healing herbs he had borrowed, and then grinned at the Ranger apologetically, “It looks like I’ve smeared salve on your package, Halmir.”

The Ranger chuckled, “It’s a good thing Master Elvellon wrapped it so well! No harm done. I’m sure one more stain at this point will hardly matter.”

And that’s how the package got its tenth stain on the 29th of Foreyule.

While Elrohir changed into dry clothes and devoured two bowls of porridge, Elladan packed up all of their gear and helped Halmir ready himself for travel. Soon, the twins lifted the Ranger onto Morodil’s back, and Elladan led the horse and his rider out of the cave, Elrohir following with the other two horses. After quickly reconstructing the stone cairn and covering the entrance of the cave, the twins led the horses further down the trail and back onto the Road several miles beyond the Last Bridge, where they mounted their horses and were swiftly on their way down the Great East Road.

After a hard day’s ride with only a few brief stops to allow Elladan to check Halmir’s wound and condition and Elrohir to tend the horses, they rejoiced to hear in the distance the loud rushing sound of the Bruinen as the sun was setting. “We have made good time,” said Elrohir, “and this is a good place to stop for the night.”

Once again, Elladan led Morodil off the Road and into the surrounding forest, and Elrohir followed with the two elven horses. They took shelter in a tall stand of beeches, and the twins swiftly erected a small tent in such a way as to provide a roof for themselves and the Ranger, as well as a windbreak for the horses. Elladan settled the Ranger as comfortably as possible within the tent and began preparing supper, while Elrohir unburdened the horses, rubbed them down, and covered them with warm blankets.

“It’s going to be a cold night,” said Elrohir, as he joined his brother and the Ranger in the small tent for some hot tea and stew, “but at least the sky is clear in all directions. We should reach Imladris by sundown tomorrow.”

The elves and the man huddled together within the tent for warmth, as the horses did similarly outside, and they passed a cold but uneventful night.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Lindariel
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:33 am

The 30th of Foreyule

When Elladan awoke early the next morning, he immediately checked to see how Halmir had fared overnight. The Ranger was a bit warmer than he’d like to the touch, and the wound remained puffy and sore, but the man was still lucid, able to eat a warm breakfast without experiencing any nausea, and could sit upright without dizziness.

“We should make for Imladris as quickly as possible,” he informed both the man and his brother. “Your fever is mild, but I want to get you out of the cold and into my father’s care before sunset.”

The twins efficiently broke camp and packed up their gear, Elrohir attending to the horses, while Elladan helped Halmir prepare for the last leg of their journey. After lifting the man onto Morodil’s back, Elladan swathed Halmir in his cloak and several blankets to help protect the feverish man from the biting cold. They quickly led the horses back onto the Road and set off, riding three abreast with Halmir in the middle so the twins could help shield him from the wind with their bodies and monitor his condition.

For Halmir, the final day of travel was a long, grey nightmare, filled with pain and the constant battle against his growing fatigue. His body ached in every joint, and his foot and ankle throbbed and burned. To maintain his focus on remaining upright and in the saddle, he softly recited to himself over and over the line of the Numenorean Kings from Elros Tar-Minyatur to Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, the Kings of Gondor from Elendil and Anárion to Eärnur, “the Foolish,” he added under his breath, the Stewards of Gondor from Húrin the Faithful to Mardil the Steadfast to the present, and the Kings and Chieftains of Arnor from Elendil and Isildur to Arvedui Last-king to Aranarth to the present.

From the saddle, Elladan kept a close watch on the feverish man, slowing the horses from time to time to give him frequent sips of water and small bits of apple or bread to keep his stomach calm. Elrohir kept a constant watch on the Road and on the horses, selecting good places to pause for them to rest and drink and for Elladan to attend to Halmir’s now swollen ankle.

They passed through the Fords of the Bruinen by mid-afternoon and soon encountered the first of the Rivendell scouts, sending one swiftly ahead to alert Lord Elrond about the Ranger’s condition. As the twilight shadows gathered, they finally began their descent down the long twisting path, across the narrow bridge, and arrived at last in the courtyard of Imladris, where the great elf-lord and his healers were waiting with a stretcher and extra blankets. The exhausted man slid bonelessly from the saddle and was quickly carried into the infirmary with Lord Elrond and his sons following immediately behind, providing their father with all the details about Halmir’s injury and the treatment Elladan had been able to provide during their journey.

As the other healers settled Halmir on an examination table and began removing his travel-stained garments and washing the dirt and sweat from his pale skin, the Master of Imladris immediately removed the bandages from the swollen ankle, while Elladan anxiously watched. “Cover him quickly,” Elrond commanded the healers, as he observed the shivering man and carefully probed the infected bite, “and bring me a bowl of steaming water, athelas, and a flask of miruvor.”

He then turned to his eldest son with an encouraging smile and said proudly, “You did very well under difficult conditions, my son.” Elladan sighed with relief and then assisted his father with instilling the athelas leaves in the steaming water, releasing the fresh sharp fragrance of lavender and pine in the room and easing somewhat the weariness of the twins and the wounded man.

Halmir moaned softly as the elf-lord began washing the infected wound with the athelas-infused water and murmured, “My foot, my Lord. Will you be able to save it?”

Elrond looked up sharply at the feverish Ranger, surprised to find him still lucid, and replied with a reassuring smile, “Most certainly, Halmir. The fact that you are still conscious at all speaks to the strength of your constitution. The ankle is badly inflamed, but there are no long red streaks radiating from the wound. It is good that you were strong enough to ride and get here so quickly. We should be able to reduce the swelling and inflammation significantly by tomorrow morning. With rest and good food, I anticipate that you should make a full recovery within a few weeks time.”

With this good news, the Ranger relaxed back into his pillows with a shivering sigh of relief. “Here,” said Lord Elrond, “let me give you some miruvor. It will help to warm you and restore your strength.”

As the master healer prepared a draught of miruvor for the man, Halmir tugged on Elladan’s sleeve and said, “Before I forget, please give Lord Elrond the package for the small Master.”

Elladan quickly rummaged through Halmir’s pack, drawing out the hobbit’s package and handing it to his father. In the process, Elladan bumped the elf-lord’s elbow as he turned to administer the draught of miruvor to his patient, and a splash of the restorative dripped onto the much abused package. “Ooops!” cried Elladan, as he dabbed at the package with a sponge.

“A rare moment of clumsiness for you, my son,” laughed Elrond gently, as he held the cup of miruvor to Halmir’s lips.

“I can only plead weariness and concern for my patient, Ada,” replied the chagrined elf. “Oh well, no harm done,” he shrugged as he finally placed the package into Elrond’s hands.

And that’s how the package got its eleventh stain on the 30th of Foreyule.

“What is this?” asked Elrond as he examined the besmirched package.

Halmir smiled, “It is a Yule gift for the small Master from the Elvellon of the Shire. Bregor son of Brandir received it from the Elvellon’s hands in the village of Bree, and I received it from Bregor at Amon Sûl.”

The Lord of Imladris smiled broadly at this news and replied, “Well, he will no doubt be asleep by now, but I shall see to it that he receives this gift at breakfast tomorrow morning. You may consider your duty to have been discharged, Halmir son of Haldan. Rest in peace now, and let your body recover from its ordeal.”
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Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:34 am

The First Day of Yule

Although the Master Healer of Imladris had every confidence that Halmir would make a full recovery, nonetheless, it was a tense and watchful night for Elrond and his attendants in the infirmary. After sending his weary sons off to their rooms for a long, hot bath, a good supper, and a well-earned rest, he summoned Lord Glorfindel with orders to take several scouts to the Angle and bring back Halmir’s wife and son to be with him as he recovered.

For the next several hours, they carefully tended the injured Ranger as he tossed fitfully in his fevered sleep, washing him down with cool water and packing his swollen ankle in snow from time to time to help reduce the swelling. Lord Elrond also prepared and applied poultices to draw the infection out of the wound, as well as a special herbal decoction for purifying the blood, which he had mastered during his studies with the Avari healers during the War of Wrath and later on during his time in Lindon.

Throughout this process, Amarthalion, the Chief Bard of Imladris, along with a small chorus of singers from the Hall of Fire, supported the physicians in their efforts with powerful songs of healing and comfort for those in pain. At midnight, the great Bard, who had served Turgon in Gondolin, Idril and Eärendil in Sirion, Gil-Galad in Lindon, and now Lord Elrond in Imladris, raised his bright tenor to the heavens and led the chorus in his beautiful polyphonic setting of the Hymn to Elbereth. Lord Elrond and the other healers and attendants joined them in this familiar setting, sung nightly in the Hall of Fire to honor the Blessed Lady of the Stars.

As the glorious strains wafted through the air, Amarthalion joyfully immersed himself into the Far Plain, and above his raised hands coalesced the mystic apparition of the Vala Elbereth in her guise as Fanuilos, the intercessor. From the slopes of Mount Oiolossë she appeared, a radiant vision veiled in sparkling, snowy white, her arms raised to receive the supplications of the Children of Ilúvatar. About her shining figure, a glistening web appeared as the individual voices from his choir wove their intricate strands of melody in a bright cascade of visible sound. When the lovely hymn ended, the vision slowly faded, and Halmir groaned softly, lapsing into a peaceful sleep. The fever at last had broken.

After making Halmir as comfortable as possible, leaving instructions with his fellow healers, and thanking Amarthalion and his singers for their help, Elrond took the hobbit’s package and retired to his room for a hot bath and a few hours of much needed rest until his duties as Master of the Last Homely House would once again require his complete attention. Before dimming the lamps and taking to his bed, the great elf-lord studied the hobbit’s package and its many spots, scars, and stains with a touch of amusement and murmured, “If a brown paper wrapper could talk, I imagine you would have quite a tale to tell.”

*****

Several hours later, with the sun well above the horizon, the Master arose, feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. He dressed quickly and spent a few minutes conferring with Lord Erestor about the duties before them that morning, and then stopped briefly by the infirmary to check on Halmir’s progress. The man was still sleeping peacefully, and his wound appeared much improved. With a few quiet words to the infirmary attendants, Lord Elrond left the man in their excellent care and went in search of his morning meal and the package’s small recipient.

The dining hall was mostly empty when he arrived. His weary sons no doubt were still asleep, or had requested to have their morning meals in their rooms. But off in a corner window seat, the elf-lord spied a small barefoot figure, wrapped in a blanket, nose pressed against the window, peering out eagerly over the snow-covered landscape, with a mug of hot tea in his little hands and a plate of half-consumed, raspberry jam-besmeared scones beside him on the seat cushion.

With a fond smile, Lord Elrond quietly approached his enraptured target and whispered softly, “Good morning, little one. I have a surprise for you.”

The beloved face with its bright eyes and infectious grin, topped by a mop of curly hair, lit up at the sight of the elf-lord, and then the eyes goggled at the rather bedraggled package. “Good morning!” cried the small Master, offering the elf-lord an enthusiastic hug and causing Elrond to thank his lucky stars that the mug of tea was nearly empty. “Please, come sit with me! Isn’t it a beautiful morning?” gushed the charming creature. “Is that package really mine?”

“It most certainly is!” laughed Elrond, as he carefully moved the plate of scones and accepted a seat beside the little one. “Ranger Halmir brought it with him last night. It has had quite a long journey to get here from the Shire just in time for Yule.”

“Is he all right?” asked the small Master, his expressive face suddenly a mask of concern. “I heard from the attendants this morning that Elladan and Elrohir rescued him from a pack of wolves and that he was badly injured.”

Elrond embraced his tiny companion warmly and murmured, “He will be just fine, otherwise I would be at his side, and I would not be here to wish you a blessed Yule, my dear.”

The little fellow breathed a great sigh of relief and burst out, “Oh, I am so GLAD! Halmir is always so very nice to me whenever he comes here on patrol.” He then sipped down the last swallow of tea and set his mug aside in favor of turning the package over and over with his small hands. “Goodness! Look at all the stains on this wrapper. There’s a tear here, and that’s a burn!”

“Yes, indeed,” laughed Elrond, “And I do believe you have added your own smear of raspberry jam as well.”

“Ooops!” giggled the small Master, as he wiped his sticky hands and the package with a napkin. “Oh well, I’m going to be removing the wrapper now anyway. No harm done!”

And that’s how the package got its last stain on the First Day of Yule, bringing the total number of marks and stains to twelve – raspberry jam, wine, tea, mud, a tear, boot black, a scorch mark, grease, blood, salve, miruvor, and finally another smear of raspberry jam.

The little hands trembled with excitement, as the small Master cut through the twine, removed the valiant and dutiful brown paper wrapper, and unfolded the protective oil cloth to reveal the brightly wrapped Yule gift with its beautiful green brocade cloth and red and gold ribbons. “How lovely!” enthused Master Elrond. “You should save that wonderful cloth. Mistress Wilwarin and her ladies will surely be able to make something marvelous with it.”

“I certainly shall!” the small one replied while gently untying the ribbons and carefully unfolding the pretty green cloth. “Oh, look!” he exclaimed joyously, “It’s a book!”

Indeed, nestled within the brocade wrapping was a small, brand-new book, covered in fine, bright blue leather with the title and decorative scroll-work etched in silver leaf.

“And there’s a letter inside!” he shouted eagerly, as he drew forth a folded piece of creamy-white stationery, fairly quivering with anticipation to read the following message written in a familiar spidery hand:

The 20th of Foreyule
In the Year 1343 of the Shire Reckoning
And the Year 2943 of the Third Age

To my dearest young friend Estel,

Greetings and my best wishes to you and your kind and gentle mother Gilraen for a happy and blessed Yule! I have been thinking of you with great fondness ever since I returned home from my adventures in the Wild.

It has been a tumultuous year for me, to say the least, coming back after my long absence to find that I had been declared dead! Would you believe I actually walked in as my relatives were auctioning off my things in order to take possession of my smial? It took quite some time to convince them I really was back, and not an imposter, and most certainly NOT dead, and several months to acquire and even buy back my own belongings! It’s actually quite funny to look back on it now, but at the time, as you might imagine, it was a tremendous headache!

I cannot begin to express how very much I enjoyed getting to know you during my two visits to Lord Elrond’s wonderful Homely House and learning a bit about your people and their noble efforts to keep the North-lands safe. I was also much honored by the eager curiosity you expressed to learn more about my beautiful home in the Shire and the ways and customs of hobbits. And so, as my gift to you for this Yule season, I have prepared the enclosed little book, Tales of the Shire, containing many of the stories about our folk that we tell our own children, so that we can maintain our ways and remember where we came from and how the Shire was established.

The beautiful illustrations you will find inside were painted for me by my talented young cousin Primula Brandybuck. She is still just a young tween, but I think you will agree that she has a remarkable gift!

I do hope you will like these stories and cherish them in remembrance of our brief but most enjoyable time together. Perhaps, when you grow into the wonderful man I’m sure you will be, your own journeys might bring you one day to my beautiful country. If they do, please know that a warm welcome awaits you at Bag End.

With fondest regards, I am,
Your friend always,

Bilbo Baggins
The Baggins
Master of Bag End
Hobbiton
The Shire


THE END
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Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
Varda
Posts: 3263
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Location: Middle-west

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Merry » Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:49 pm

Thanks, Lindariel, for posting this here. I'm going to read it again this weekend: with my memory the way it is these days, it will seem like new! And congratulations again on the publication. :clapping:
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
Posts: 1062
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Lindariel: A Yule Journey

Postby Lindariel » Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:00 pm

Thanks Merry! I almost forgot to post the Author's Notes I developed for the Henneth-Annun.net publication. Here they are:

Here's a bit of additional background information:

"The Brandybuck" is Rorimac "Old Rory" Brandybuck, Meriadoc's grandfather. In 1343 of the Shire Reckoning, Merry's father Saradoc was only 3 years old.

"Mr. Butterbur" is Barliman's grandfather. Nibs is from the same extended hobbit family as Nob and Bob, who haven't been born yet.

If you guessed that Halmir's son "Hal" will eventually become Aragorn's kinsman Halbarad, you would be correct!

The current Steward of Gondor would be Turgon. Ecthelion II will become Steward in another ten years upon Turgon's death in 2953; his son Denethor II, like Aragorn, would only be a child at the time of this story.

The young Primula Brandybuck who illustrated Bilbo's Tales of the Shire will, of course, grow up to become Frodo's mother; at the time of this story, she is a sweet, talented young "tween" of 23.
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Lindariel Image



“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”


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