Monday, September 4, 2017

The Adventures of Elladan's Outriders -- Episode 31

A Timely Rescue

Sunday, 8th of Solmath, Year 1418 Shire-reckoning
Thorgest's Haven - Hrimbarg, Somewhere in the Misty Mountains
Thorgest the Dwarf
Today was fairly uneventful. The snow kicked up again something fierce in the early morning, so we were forced to hunker down and spend another day among Thorgest and his Dwarves. Normally I would object in the strongest terms to such arrangements -- Dwarves tend to be a rather malodorous lot -- but with everything we've been through since Afteryule I suppose I'm becoming a bit less respectable than I once was. Whether or no, that doesn't mean I still don't find Dwarven table-manners to be nothing short of appalling.

Since there was little else to do while the storm raged outside, we rested. It was time well-spent, I can tell you, for all of us needed the reprieve: I slept right through to the afternoon and felt much better for it. The weather did finally subside later in the day, so our Company decided to make ourselves useful and see what we could do to repay our hosts for their kindness.

To this end, we hunted down and destroyed a good number of the wolves and worms which plagued the mountainside in that area. The wolves were not the malevolent Wargs and so, after we defeated a couple of their foraging packs, the rest retreated and left us in peace. The worms were a different matter: they slithered themselves into the most impossible hiding-places, making it very hard to find them and, once confronted, they would fight with an unbridled ferocity. Nephyn's arrows were useless against their scaly armour, so much of our efforts were fulfilled by sword-work. For my part, I proved rather talented at spotting the devilish brutes and would watch to ensure no uninvited beasts might interrupt our methodical exterminations.

Once a good number of the things had been dealt with we returned to Hrimbarg. We spent another pleasant evening -- cramped though it was -- piled in front of the little fireplace exchanging tales until we all dropped off. Everyone was very anxious for any word from anywhere about the goblin-king and whether his host had reached Rivendell, but the close of the day brought us no news.

Monday, 9th of Solmath, Year 1418 Shire-reckoning
The Last Homely House, Rivendell

Yes, you read that right: we are back in Rivendell! And following a most incredible adventure, too! Allow me to tell you all about it.

We were breaking our fast in Thorgest's Haven when a Dwarf we had not seen before barged into the shelter in a great state of excitement. He and Thorgest immediately stepped aside for what looked to me like a very rushed and very urgent conversation. Shortly thereafter, the newcomer went about his business, but Thorgest returned to us stroking his beard. He looked us over for a moment, then spoke these words:

"Friends, I have received very good news from my Lord Gloin. I am told that, thanks to our watchfulness and your resourcefulness, the goblins of the mountains have been defeated and their intended attack upon Rivendell was brought to nothing.

"Lord Gloin withdrew his meager numbers but, working together with the Elves of Rivendell, they were able to ambush the goblin-king's horde in a narrow pass. Such conflict never completely spares the soldiers of either side, but I am happy to tell you that very few of the Free Folk were wounded and none that we know of were slain.

"Many goblins were destroyed, but most fled the battle at once and are now hiding themselves deep in caves and crannies all throughout the mountains. No doubt it will only be a matter of time before they can re-assemble themselves, but even once they do they will think twice before mounting another assault upon us. This concludes my tidings of the battle in which we all have played our part to help win.

"However, that was not the end of my lord's message. He says that he knows nothing of any band of wandering Dwarves in these parts and was astonished to hear your report that some had been found within the tunnels of Goblin-town. He is deeply concerned, for these were certainly not of his folk and wonders what brought them hither, as only great need would drive any but the most foolish into the high places these days.

"Could it be they were an emissary from Erebor or the Iron Hills bearing some secret message of import to Lord Gloin, or perhaps to Elrond in Rivendell? We must know! Therefore my lord begs you, upon your honour and our great friendship, that you would brave once more the pits of Goblin-town to learn what can be learned of those Dwarves.

"Lord Gloin does not ask this lightly, but his own folk are weary from battle and few in number. Also it may be that, with the greater strength of the goblins currently scattered, your endeavors there will not be as black or as dangerous as they might have otherwise been. Do this, and my lord will surely bestow upon your Company whatever mighty gifts are within his power to give."

We did not debate our next course of action long for it seemed clear what we were meant to do. A very short time later we had assembled ourselves and prepared to make our second foray into Goblin-town. We wished Thorgest and his troop well after thanking them many times for their kindness and hospitality, but we needed to get off quickly to take advantage of the lull in the mountain-storms to say nothing of the goblins themselves. We hoped they would not have had a chance to regroup and that Goblin-town would remain relatively unguarded for a short time.

Our march back to the mountain was a sombre one. It was still quite cold, of course, but now that the wind had died down it was not miserable and biting as it had been before. We found the entrance (or an entrance at any rate, for they all looked alike to me) and once more we lit some torches and crossed the threshold into the goblins' lair.

But this time it was quite different: there were no screams or howls. There were also no solitary torches lighting our way, though we did encounter a few spent torches here and there. Instead it was eerily quiet with only the occasional clatter or thump somewhere off in the blackness. We tried to pick our way as close as we could guess to the path we had taken the last time, but it was not long before it became clear we had not done so for the tunnels were winding, climbing, and falling in a manner I did not recall. Eventually the passages began to fall downward, and at that time our spirits lifted since we had previously followed a descending track. But there were wails and cries echoing up from below us and my nerves began to fray.

Suddenly the walls fell away from either side and, holding our torches aloft, we saw a vast area below us. It was poorly lit by nothing more than a few braziers of charcoal, and it was clearly the source of the cries and screams.

"Is... is this a prison?" I asked in a whisper. The others may not have been able to hear me over the racket for no one answered. Instead we began to creep very carefully down, down, down. I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing: perhaps here we might find one of the captured Dwarves and then we could get out of this dreadful pit.

We soon encountered goblins. They were not many and they were of the small, mean variety so they offered no serious resistance to our skill-at-arms. I wondered how much longer we might have before the larger soldiers began to return from their failed attack on Rivendell. It would not go well for us if we were discovered when they came home! But in short order we reached a series of crude cells, complete with iron bars and locked doors, and behind them we found not Dwarves, but Elves! Two of them!

"Praise to the Elder King!" whispered one in a hoarse voice. He had a terrible, bedraggled look and I wondered just how long the goblins had kept him here. He later told us his name was Aeglas.

"But wait," came the voice of a female Elf in another cell nearby who was called Glorwen. "Gaelira? It cannot be! Have you come back for us after all these years?"

We could all tell there was a story behind these three, but there was no time to hear it just then. We began devising a strategy to help them escape at once. It was Aeglas who had the idea of creating a diversion to keep the goblin guards busy while we would extract ourselves from Goblin-town. First, we obtained a sharp stake of a good size. It was not difficult to find for these types of things were lying around in plenty. Next, we prowled through the tunnels for a bit and slew the largest orc we could find, beheaded it, and placed the head on the stake. Finally, we secretly entered a large chamber and placed the stake in its midst.

As Aeglas had suspected, the other goblins began to get positively furious when they saw it. The message was clear to them: that some upstart goblin was making a move to usurp the Great Goblin's throne in the wake of his crippling loss to the Free Folk, and this gruesome display was meant to cow any resistance. Before long there was a full-blown riot brewing in the tunnels above the prisons, but it was well away from our intended path of escape. We stole back to the Elves and prepared to make a run for it.

Lagodir used his sword to pry apart the locks. While strong enough to resist an unarmed person, they were no match for Gondorian steel and gave way easily. We made a quick check of the other cells, but we found no additional prisoners and we dared not trust our luck any further. We raced up the tunnels, chose the passageways which led more or less in the direction of the way we had come in, and continued on in a swift but silent line of padding feet. We met few goblins on our way and those we did see were quickly dealt with. Either Gaelira's sense of direction was suddenly improved or else Fate guided our footsteps for it seemed that in no time at all we were suddenly outside the mountain! The din from the goblins was growing, not lessening, from behind us even though we were getting further and further away. Such was the fury of those creatures where issues of primacy and control are at stake, but we left them to their bickering as we put as much distance between them and ourselves as we could manage. We then wrapped the two Elves in every spare garment we had and began the trip back to Hrimbarg.

Thorgest was surprised to see us return with two Elves in tow, but he was as hospitable and generous as ever. We thanked him again many times and pledged whatever aid we might give was his for the asking, but he merely shrugged and laughed. The Elves were given some soup and warmed themselves by the fireplace as we discussed our next move, but it was clear everyone wished to return as soon as may be to Rivendell, for we all had much to relay to both Gloin and Elrond.

Glorwen and Aeglas were surprisingly hearty considering their long imprisonment and we were able to start our journey back to Imladris rather sooner than I had expected. But the weather was co-operating (for once) and also the Elves were quite talkative, so their story had me forgetting about the harsh climate. It was a long and sorrowful tale, but here I will shorten it for you and lay it out in straight order as best I can remember it.

It turned out that Glorwen and Aeglas were the only two remaining members of a party of Elves which was travelling over the Misty Mountains toward Rivendell many years ago. Gaelira was part of the escort for that company, and they were ambushed by the goblins in the high passes one stormy night. Everyone was slain or captured, although somehow Gaelira managed to survive and escape. But she did not dare to venture back into those caverns alone and besides she thought herself to be the only survivor. I can just imagine her shock when she discovered those two Elves in the depths of Goblin-town all these years later!

In any event, there were many words, both joyful and painful, exchanged among Gaelira, Glorwen, and Aeglas, but I will not record them here out of respect for those whose tale this is. I finally gathered that this was the past failure of Gaelira's to which Mallacai had referred many days ago when we had met him in Evendim -- something she still quietly refers to only as "not my best moment." I suppose we all have those times in our own lives, too.

But on to other business. As we travelled back to Rivendell, Aeglas revealed to us that the cell next to hers had been populated with a captive Dwarf a few days back. This Dwarf would not speak of his party's purpose (Dwarves can be very secretive like that, if you didn't already know), but he did mention that he was a loyal subject of Dain Ironfoot, King under the Mountain in Erebor, far to the East, and that they were on an important mission to Elrond of Rivendell. Unfortunately, that Dwarf was later taken by the goblins and never seen again, but whatever their quest it must have been important to travel all that distance.

Once our Company had safely returned to Rivendell we received a welcome fit for heroes. Lord Elrond had ordered a feast and music and dancing under the stars to follow, but we lost no time relaying what we had learned about the poor Dwarves to Gloin. He was quite worried and did not long delay before taking some of his people with him and departing for the Lonely Mountain in order to inform King Dain that his embassy to Elrond had never reached its destination. I should point out that, the night before Gloin set out for Erebor, I noticed Nephyn slipping him an envelope and speaking with him in a quiet voice. Considering the city of Dale lies nearly at the gates of the Lonely Mountain, I think I can guess what that was about.

There was at least two days full of food, rest, and merriment -- although it may have been more, I'm not really sure. I can tell you that it gets difficult to keep track of time in Rivendell, if you've never been there. Each of us found ways to recover from our trials. Nephyn could often be seen in the library pouring over books dealing with the tongues of foreigners, especially the Haradrim and the Men of the East. Lagodir was summoned by Elrond at one point for reasons no one seems to know, and the Gondorian has not yet been forthcoming about what was discussed. And I have spent more time walking, breathing, eating, listening, and sitting with Mr. Baggins, which is no more or less than what I could have ever hoped to do and been content. But what has surprised me lately has been Gaelira and Drodie: our Elf and Dwarf have been unusually close the past day or two. Personally, I think it has something to do with the rather nasty thing Drodie had said to Gaelira during our first trip into Goblin-town and perhaps he is feeling guilty about it. Or perhaps he really meant it at the time but now he no longer feels that way? It's hard to know with a Dwarf and Elves are... well, let's just say they can be difficult to read from a distance.

As I write this I am seated on a low bench outside near the Falls of Imladris. There are bees humming in the air and birds chirping all around me while the cool, fresh wind off the mountains stirs the leaves of the trees nearby. I really think I could settle down here in quiet retirement just like old Mr. Bilbo, but I doubt the others have any such ideas. After all, we still have Mallacai's two remaining tasks ahead of us: the other two Angmarim champions back in the ruins of Annuminas and some beast or other in that place called Sarnur (wherever that may be, exactly). I suppose we didn't quite get ahold of the Great Goblin's crown -- we were told he was among the first to flee once battle was joined -- but the destruction of his army and the rescue of Glorwen and Aeglas must count for something. I get the feeling we shall have to be off again and soon, but I hope to make the most of the time we do have here.

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