But a Day From Home – Part Three

But a Day from Home – Part 3

If not sharp of awareness, it could at least be said that Celebarad was sharp of hearing, and the sound of a faint shriek on the early morning breeze had seen him drop every stick of firewood he carried to charge down the slope of the shore to the aid of his young ward. He ran quickly and surely over the dew-soaked ground, to the place where he had last seen Brassica. He would have sworn it was mere moments ago that he had seen the young halfling looking up at the Great Keep of Tinnudir, but elves are not especially aware of the passage of time, and she was nowhere to be found. He called her name, once, then twice, beginning to fear for his friend. As his eyes swept through the underbrush again, he noticed a slight flattening of the shrubs and bushes underfoot, and the faintest trail leading away from the place Brassica had last been.

For whatever else could be said, Celebarad was also an elf who learned from his mistakes, and when cursory observation of the track through the wood seemed to indicate it was not hobbit-made, he paused to think before following it blindly into the wood, unarmed and in unfamiliar country. It was unwise–and Beldrieth had been very firm on this point when scolding him–to assume that every wood was friendly. The Mallorn wood of Lothlorien was a place of peace and safety, by the grace of the Lord and Lady. Perhaps, long ago in ages lost to the world, there had been a time when an elf could wander any wood without fear, but those days were faded and gone. That Celebarad had needed to be set upon by goblins in order to learn this was unfortunate, but Beldrieth had hoped that it at least been a sharp enough lesson for him to remember.

And sharp it had been, and Celebarad would not forget, pressing a hand to the still-healing wound in his side. And so, though the thought of Brassica lost somewhere in the wood caused him no small degree of distress, he turned to run back towards the Ranger’s camp, hoping at least that more eyes might find her more quickly.

The ranger at watch at the camp’s edge hailed him as he approached, with a formal greeting in Elvish, “Hail and well met, friend elf, our captain looks for you at the fireside.”

I look for him myself, Master Ranger, for I have lost the halfling who is my companion,” Celebarad answered gravely. “I heard her cry, but she was gone from where I had seen her, and I fear she is taken by something.”

All the Rangers he had met thus far seemed a grim lot, and this one grew grimmer still on hearing this news. “Take it not to darkly to heart, but there may indeed be cause to fear for your friend. Go now to Calenglad, our chieftain, and tell him as you have told me. I know these woods and what may be found in them, I will go and seek your friend.”

Heartsick, and now with just cause to be fearful, Celebarad did as the Ranger had bidden him, and sought Calenglad near the fireside. He was a tall man, straight of limb, with thinning dark hair, and the dark eyes that marked the men of Westernesse. Celebarad wondered briefly if he had been made their captain on the grounds of looking more severe than any of the others. Still, he spoke and understood Elvish more fluently than his men, and listened intently to Celebarad’s brief tale, sighing deeply at its end.

I know what it is my kinsmen fears has happened, and though I hope he is wrong, I fear it also,” Calenglad concluded gravely. “For some weeks, we have waged a campaign against the tomb robbers in this land, evil men seeking riches in the graves of our fathers and carrying tales of our movements to the agents of Angmar. We have sent spies among them, as they have sent spies among us. Often, their men will creep up the shore and along the edge of the Keep of Tinnudir to spy upon our camp.”

Why were we not warned of this danger?” Celebarad demanded angrily.

Calenglad returned his gaze evenly. “Master Elf, you came here with the fall of darkness, traveling in the company of a known thief and a halfling. I make no impeachment on the honour of your party, but we are a cautious folk. The woman has been of aid to us in the past, certainly, but she loves knowledge and money in equal measure. I cannot say which would sway her more, or whether they would sway her away from our cause entirely. As for the halfling…the small folk mistrust us. We guard the borders of their land, this is true, but there is nothing that could be called friendship between us. We are warriors, and the sons of Numeanor, and there are none like us in hobbitkind. We are not the men of Breeland, we are not farmers, or merchants, or tradesmen. Far more easily might they give their allegiance to men such as these, even if such allegiance is compelled from them. Your young friend seems fair enough, but we guard many secrets here, and have many enemies in this land. Evil deeds can be done by hands of all sizes.”

Were a blade to my hand, it would want for your blood, for it is your words that are evil!” Celebarad blazed angrily. “You know nothing of the honor of my companions, and of the halfling least of all!”

The Ranger seemed unperturbed by the furor he had roused in the elf, and held up his hands in a gesture of conciliation. “Calm yourself, Celebarad, fear and anger are unwise ways to answer your allies. I am sorry we did not warn you of the robbers in these lands–I do not truly believe your friend a spy. But caution serves us well in a place such as this, and we have passed many years here by not acting in haste. We will draw no further conclusions until my man has returned from the wood.”

Haste had been another thing Beldrieth had warned him against, and Celebarad flushed in anger and embarrassment. ‘”Forgive me,” he murmured finally. “I only fear for Brassica’s safety, for I am sworn to guard her life with my own. She is very small, but she is my dear friend.”

Calenglad smiled, though the expression seemed out of place on his grim face. “And a fortunate hobbit she is, to be counted dear to one of the Fair Folk, after only a day in friendship.” He clapped a hand reassuringly on the elf’s shoulder. “On this you have my word–if it is certain that she has been taken, and if it is indeed by the hand of the men of Rantost, then by our hands, it is certain she shall be returned.”

By the time the scout returned, Calenglad had called other Rangers to fire, and they were conversing in their own language in their serious manner. Celebarad caught only a few words here and there, though he was quickly beginning to grasp the Common Tongue, the depth of their discussion escaped him. But he gathered that Rangers had worries that were larger than the safety of his friend. For his part, there could be no worry greater to him than Brassica’s safe return, and in his heart he had lamented, again and again, the foolishness of forgetting for even a moment that he was charged with her protection.

My captain…” the scout began, when he had gotten Calenglad’s attention, only to have the elder Ranger hold up a hand.

In Elvish, please, Astiul, our guest is privy to this report as well. Excuse him, Celebarad.”

 Celebarad waved away the apology impatiently. “It is nothing, I wish only for haste. Please.”

Astiul grimaced, and said, “My report wants for detail, and my Elvish is wanting for more than a simple greeting…” But a look from his captain silenced him, and he continued in halting Elvish, “The track leads away through the wood to the edge of the lake. There are prints…many…four robbers, perhaps. One are as the footprints of a…hobbit. Erm. A Halfing…”

Perian,” Celebarad corrected firmly. “Go on.”

Yes…she was stood on her feet, and there are marks where she struggled, but then was knocked to the ground. She was restrained in some way, and then there are signs of a boat being pushed from the water’s edge. I know not what their intent was on these shores, but they have returned to Rantost.”

What is Rantost?” Celebarad demanded. “Some fort of theirs? Who are these men, what do they seek, and why should they take a halfling? She has no part of your quarrel.”

Rantost a ruin, far north across the lake, on an island. It is where the tomb robbers make their camp. They seek the treasures of the Kingdom of Arnor, long hidden in the tombs of this land,” Calenglad explained.

You have spoken of it at length with your men, and not with me,” Celebarad accused, looking piercingly at Calenglad. “What is this ruin to you?”

Calenglad hesitated, but Celebarad pressed him again. While waiting for the scout, the elf had retrieved his sword from his pack, and now wore it at his hip, where his hand had now strayed. “We sought your camp and your protection, for the honor of the men of ancient Arnor is without question. The caution you swear by has brought one of mine into grievous danger, and I will not now have this caution continue to threaten her safety!”

Master Elf, there is much hidden in this land, and I beg your pardon…” Calenglad began, attempting to pacify Celebarad.

While Brassica is in the hands of your enemies, you shall not have it!” Celebarad retorted hotly, his hand clenching on the hilt of his blade. “I care not for your secrets and your intrigues! I know nothing of this land, only that I have lost a friend to a danger I did not see! You, guardians of the west, what shame is this? That you guard your treasure and your secrets more dearly than the protection of one who has eaten at your fires?” His sword came free of its sheath, and none of the Rangers seemed to know quite what to do about that. Half drew their own blades, knives from boots and sheaths, but made no move to use them, hanging uncertainly and looking to Calenglad for direction.

Lowering the weapon, Celebarad flung it in the sand at Calenglad’s feet and dropped to his knees. “Please,” he cried. “Please, I am no spy. I have given an oath, and already I fear it broken, for I have failed to protect my friend. Dunedain, you beg my pardon, I beg your aid. The Lady Beldrieth has left me, I am alone on this shore. I do not know what I am to do. I was far away and had no part in the wars of your kingdom, and you are the first men of the West that I have known, but please, for any friendship that there has been between our peoples, I must implore your aid.”

The outburst had drawn a small crowd, not just the Rangers of Tinnudir, but the men and women who made up the rest of the camp, watching warily and curiously from the sidelines. Being perhaps one of the only people in camp with a full enough grasp of Sindarin to completely understand the elf’s plea, Calenglad’s features softened, and he fell to one knee in the sand before Celebarad. “We are at your service,” he pledged solemnly. “Forgive us. I will tell you everything that I know of these men. And I will tell you of our plans, for we have plans that have waited–too long, I know now, if spies can creep to our shores and steal what we are sworn to guard. Rantost will fall, and I will hold your oath as dear as if it were my own, and will not see it broken.”

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  1. DarkJackal

     /  February 8, 2012

    Very interesting story!! I’m coming in here, and haven’t read the previous entries, but I will try to catch up. I really liked this line
    “His sword came free of its sheath, and none of the Rangers seemed to know quite what to do about that.”
    Good description of awkward alliances gone wrong.

    • preludeinz

       /  February 9, 2012

      Thank you! That’s pretty much exactly what I was trying to convey. I’m learning a lot about the guard in the process of writing this piece, and gosh, he’s horribly naive. Because, you know, he’s not trying to start a fight. Quite the opposite, he’s trying to express his supplication. He’s got a dramatic gesture in mind and he makes it, but he does it by drawing steel on the leader of a group of armed Rangers. And he just doesn’t understand the way that looked.

      (By the way, I very much enjoy your blog, it’s a fantastic central resource for news concerning the Hobbit, and I love the lotro angle as well! Much obliged to you for stopping by.)

      • DarkJackal

         /  February 10, 2012

        And thank you! I’m happy to pass along news and whatever creative bits that catch my eye. The tricky thing is organizing it so the entries can be a resource to someone 6 months from now. That I’m still learning.

        I will certainly be revisiting your site often for more of the tale!

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