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re: [RP Novel] Book 3: A daring rescue

Prologue

It was still in the middle of the night when he opened his eyes. He had been resting in his tent near the Skirmish Camp in Rivendell, at the same place it had been for so long, or he had been trying to get some rest for some time, to distract himself from the terrible thoughts clouding his mind. But a voice made him open his eyes and sit at the opening of his tent. "Wake up, Tom." He couldn't tell exactly who it belonged to, but it felt so familiar. "Come, follow me." He blinked a couple of times to clear his vision. He could have sworn that the ethereal figure of his betrothed was standing before him extending her arm towards him, inviting him to walk with her. He nodded quietly and stood.

Before he could notice it, he found himself in Chetwood, slightly past the lumber camp beyond the village of Combe, at the entrance of the forest, dressed in a short light blue linen robe, almost as short as a tunic, wearing a circlet of flowers on his head. He began to walk among the trees, without really knowing where he was going. At some point, he saw the figure of a woman dressed in white with flowers on her head too standing in a clearing. He could recognise the place. Once upon a time, there had stood his own family's house. And the woman standing there was none other than his betrothed.
"Liz...", her name barely managed to stumble out of his mouth.

"You came here a groom, Tom", she said and smiled at him, "but none of us can tell if I'm to be your bride." He cocked his head to one side and looked at her face. "I thought we were meant for each other.", he mumbled without giving it much thought. "That we are", she continued, "but I must stay alive for it to come true, mustn't I?" He blinked a couple of times more. "What do you mean?" "You have to find me first, Tom, and find me alive.", she added and cupped his cheek with her hand. "But... you are here, right before me." She shook her head and lowered it a little. "No, Tom", she looked back at his face, while speaking, "I was captured at the Ford of Bruinen, remember?" He nodded and kept looking at her face, trying to understand what was happening before his eyes, but he was unable to. "I remember." was the only thing he managed to say. "Then you know what I'm trying to say to you.", she said and let her hand slide from his cheek to his shoulder. "I see you here", he responded, "but you are not really here..." "No, I'm not, Tom." "Where are you then?", he asked her, worry mixed with hope that he would get a clue about her location, if not a straight answer. "I can't tell you. My eyes are closed." "Can you at least tell me something that can help in my search?", he asked again, his worry becoming increasingly obvious. "Go to the North Gate of Bree. Someone is looking for you there. Someone who might give you answers, if you ask the right questions."

His betrothed faded as soon as she spoke those words and he found himself all alone within Chetwood, pondering her words. He had no other choice, however, than to do as she said. So, he made his way through the woods to Combe and from there he followed the road to Bree. One thing he noticed was that he was more quick-footed than before and that his groom's robe had been replaced by his usual weather beaten leather armour and cloak. He felt he had no time to ponder more about that sudden change and he kept going through the city's streets, trying his best to hide in the shadows and avoid all contact with the Watch.

Once he walked past the North Gate of Bree, he saw a tall figure, clad in navy dyed heavy elven armour, bearing a bow and a great-sword on its back, its features well hidden behind a finely crafted mask and hood. He had a quick look around to see if it was someone else waiting for him, but there was no one else around. So, he approached the figure, but said nothing.
"So, you came, randir.", said the figure. He could tell its voice was equally familiar as the voice of his betrothed, but he couldn't understand who it belonged to. "I was told to find you here.", he simply stated. "If you intend to save her", added the figure and began to walk through the city streets, "then your eyes must be open and your heart true. Your skill will be tested to its limits, /you/ will be brought to your limits. Yet there is one thing that should never happen: You must /not/ fail, randir." He walked beside the figure, looking at it from time to time as it spoke. But when it was done, he stopped, feeling like he was losing the ground under his feet, the word 'failure' weighing heavily upon his shoulders. "I will not fail", he mumbled not really believing his own words, "but I do not know where to begin. I do not know what to do." "You question yourself already, randir.", said the figure and continued its walk, "What kind of Dúnadan Ranger are you, if you give up so easily? With this attitude, you will not go far, I assure you." "I have failed her enough times already...", he added without much thought, as if talking to someone he knew well enough to speak as openly as he did, "I cannot bear the thought of failing her again. I cannot live with such a burden." "Trust your instinct, keep your eyes open and never drop your guard. If you feel that your eyes fail you, turn to your heart and it will show you the way. This is your chance to prove yourself. Not to her. Not to her family. But to yourself." He looked at the figure and remained quiet for some time pondering its words. He had to prove himself to himself. So easy to say it, but so difficult to make it come true. Once they walked past the South Gate of Bree, the figure stopped beside a rock. "Now go to the camp near the Yellow Tree.", said the figure, "An old friend of yours is waiting for you there.", and it faded before he could respond to its words.

So, he made his way to the Yellow Tree and the ruins of Ost Baranor, feeling even more quick-footed than before, lighter, younger even. So young that he found the camp in no time and an old Ranger sitting near the camp fire.
"Greetings, young one.", said the old Ranger. He blinked a couple of times and looked down upon himself, only to realise he was back in his early teens, when he had used to roam Chetwood, hunting imaginary beasts and fighting equally imaginary brigands and bandits with his short bow and wooden arrows. "What brings you to my camp?", asked the old Ranger, before giving him a chance to greet her properly. "I wish to become like you.", he said boldly. "Is that so, young one?", asked the old Ranger. "Yes, I wish to become a Ranger like you!", he repeated. The old Ranger chuckled heartily, "Do you really know what it means to be a Ranger?" He shrugged his shoulders, having no straight answer to give. So, the old Ranger began to relate stories of the Past, tales of the island of Númenor, its people and its downfall, tales of Arnor and its conflict with Angmar, tales of the courage of the Faithful, the Dúnedain. He had heard those tales before, he was a Dúnadan himself after all, but not in as much detail as this old Ranger was narrating them.

"Now you know what task is laid upon the Rangers and how much courage and valour it requires for them to stand up to said task.", she said as soon as she was done relating those tales of old, "Do you still wish to become a Ranger, young one?" "Yes!", he exclaimed, "Yes, I want to become one." The old Ranger smiled at him and ruffled his hair a little. "Then, you shall be known as Alagothrandir among your people from now on; you shall be my apprentice and I shall be your mentor." He looked at her with his grey eyes wide open. "But what is your name?", he asked her. "Here in Bree-land, I am known as Sharpshooter. You are therefore encouraged to call me the same as well..." The old Ranger suddenly stopped and gazed towards the north. "What is it?", he asked and looked the same way. "Someone is looking for you.", she replied, "They are waiting at the Woodsedge Ruins. Go there quickly and do not forget about what you learned today." He was about to thank her for the conversation, but she immediately faded like the other two had.

So, he left the camp behind him and made his way through the Midgewater Marshes to the Woodsedge Ruins. His walk became heavier and he felt once again the burden of the years fall on his back. Once at the ruin, he found another figure, this time dressed in dark grey leather armour, looking like a member of the Grey Company. This figure, however, didn't speak to him. He made several attempts to speak to it and make it speak as well, but to no avail. The figure simply pointed him to a few names carven on the obelisk in the middle of the ruin. He could see several familiar names: his own ancestors, close friends, brothers and sisters in arms he had fought and bled with. Names that made even the word 'failure' feel like a feather on his back when compared to the grief and sorrow for the passing of his brethren. He began to ponder on this.

The figure, however, didn't give him much chance. It began to walk away from the ruin, without uttering a word, and towards Chetwood. Not really knowing what to do, he followed it almost blindly. And they kept walking among the trees in a north-eastern direction, until they reached a passage to the east, leading out of the forest and into the Weather Hills. He stopped for a moment to get his bearings, but with the figure walking without stopping, he had to follow immediately. And so, they reached Ost Alagos. But before he managed to open his mouth to ask the figure what they intended to do there, a band of Orcs stormed out of the ruin, their own crude swords at hand, and ran straight at the two of them. He drew his sword and readied himself to defend against them, hoping that the figure would do the same.

But the figure faded, leaving him all alone to fight those Orcs. And they surrounded him in no time, without a way for him to withdraw, without a chance for him to escape...


_________________

Alagothrandir of Combe, Ranger of the North // Fangor Golchador Istilben of Lindon, former Warden of Imladris (IG name: Golchador) // Faemagor Fangorion of Imladris, survivor of the War of the Last Alliance // Malfain of Imladris, wandering Minstrel // Faelcham Taurandis Fangorien of Imladris, Esteldin friend (IG name: Taurandis)
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re: [RP Novel] Book 3: A daring rescue

To the Ford of Bruinen

"Wake up, Tom, wake up." He could still hear those words for several minutes, even though the voice that spoke them belonged to a man, unlike all the voices he had heard up to that point. He felt a gentle nudge on his shoulder followed by: "Wake up, Tom, it is almost dawn." He opened his eyes and realised all he had seen and heard was nothing more than a dream. He turned around on his bedroll, landing on his back and staring at the figure that stood kneeling before him.

"Master Golchador, has the time come?", the words just fell off his mouth without much thinking, his face visibly half-asleep, giving the impression that he would prefer to stay within the safety of Rivendell longer. A false impression, since he was the one most eager to venture out into the wild to rescue his betrothed. The Elf-sire smiled grimly at him and gave him a few minutes to wake up completely, before saying anything else.

The Ranger stood from his bedroll and approached the nearest water source to wash his face, before returning to his tent to equip his worn armour and battered weapons. But the Elf stopped him before he even touched his old bow and daggers.
"It would be a shame to go into such an important mission with these.", said the Elf and with a quick move of his hands unwrapped three weapons from their fine cloth wrappings: a bow, a sword and a dagger. The weapons looked very new, as if they had been crafted the day before, but there was something familiar in them. "Do you recognise them, Dúnadan?", asked the Elf, before giving the Ranger a chance to speak, "These were yours when you were much younger, but they were lost to you during a fight that marked the rest of your life till now."

"Ram Dúath...", muttered the Ranger, as his fingers traced the fine Elf-craft of the weapons presented to him, "Angmar... Estelbron..." "The time has come to turn a page in the book of your life, Tom.", replied the Elf and presented him with Forodorn the sword, Annúndaith the dagger and Belegros the bow, names that he had given to these weapons himself, since he had been the one to work on their repairs. "Bear them with honour and may your enemies tremble at their sight.", concluded the Elf and waited for him to prepare himself.

A little time later, the two of them, Alagothrandir the Ranger of the North and Golchador the Noldo, were past the gates of Imladris and into the High Moor, carrying only their weapons and a single backpack with food and other necessary provisions for the long journey ahead. No horses not anything else that could make their mission easier, but which could also expose them to the enemy's eyes and ears faster. Their mission laid in secrecy and they secretly made their way to the Ford of Bruinen, at the place where the recent battle against the Orcs had taken place.

Alagothrandir hadn't participated in that battle, therefore he had been completely unaware of what he was about to witness, unlike Golchador who had found his way to the Ford blocked by an Orkish camp and, thanks to his own granddaughter's sacrifice, he had made it safely to the rest of his family on the other side of the Bruinen. So, they began their search at the riverside where the Orkish camp had once stood, searching through the burnt tents and siege engines for any tracks of Eroleth and her horse Feredir.

They scanned every single part of the camp that was now nothing more than ashes, but they could find tracks only after they crossed the whole camp and reached the spot where Golchador and his daughter Faelcham had been trapped during the battle. So, they slowly made their way there, but only after they had made sure there was nothing to find among the ruins of the Orkish camp itself.


_________________

Alagothrandir of Combe, Ranger of the North // Fangor Golchador Istilben of Lindon, former Warden of Imladris (IG name: Golchador) // Faemagor Fangorion of Imladris, survivor of the War of the Last Alliance // Malfain of Imladris, wandering Minstrel // Faelcham Taurandis Fangorien of Imladris, Esteldin friend (IG name: Taurandis)
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re: [RP Novel] Book 3: A daring rescue

The first tracks

The two companions spent a decent amount of time searching for anything that would help them find a way to reach Eroleth or learn something about her fate. As soon as they walked past the ruined Orkish camp, Alagothrandir dropped on his knees and began to search the dirt and grass for any tracks. With the battle fading deeper into the past with each day passing and with the weather and the wildlife in the Trollshaws following their own rhythm, it was hard to find something on the ground even for someone having the sharp vision of the Dúnedain, even for an Elf.

But he kept searching and searching, until he managed to see some horseshoe prints without being able to tell where exactly they were going to. He traced one such print with his fingers and muttered:
"This one is heading east towards the camp and the river. It is deep, as if the horse were heavily encumbered." Golchador knelt next to Alagothrandir and looked at the print. "This was Talathrandir, my trusted steed, Tom.", he said, "You are indeed correct, however, that he was carrying a lot more than he normally does: both myself and my daughter. And it was also thanks to him that both she and I made it to the other side of the Bruinen and Imladris."

Alagothrandir nodded his head solemnly, realising that he was studying the wrong prints, and turned his attention to another set of tracks that seemed to be heading west. "You have a good point, Master Golchador. But what about these tracks here?", he said and grew quiet for a few moments, while Golchador shifted towards the horseshoe prints in question. "This one is more shallow than the other.", he eventually continued, "It could hardly have a rider on its back, if at all." Golchador glanced at Alagothrandir, then looked back at the print. "What are you thinking of this?", asked the Elf-sire, "Should we follow these tracks?"

The Ranger took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment or two. "Do we have another choice?", he asked and grew quiet again before continuing, "These are our only guide..." He stood and turned towards the west, his eyes gazing once at the long road ahead, once at the trees on either side of it, his mind wondering where it would lead him, his heart feeling that there was no other way than follow that road.


_________________

Alagothrandir of Combe, Ranger of the North // Fangor Golchador Istilben of Lindon, former Warden of Imladris (IG name: Golchador) // Faemagor Fangorion of Imladris, survivor of the War of the Last Alliance // Malfain of Imladris, wandering Minstrel // Faelcham Taurandis Fangorien of Imladris, Esteldin friend (IG name: Taurandis)
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re: [RP Novel] Book 3: A daring rescue

Following the tracks

And so the two wanderers followed the horseshoe prints further to the west of the ruins of the Orkish camp. Without realising how time flew by, they left the Orkish camp far behind them and found themselves deeper into the forest of the Trollshaws, right to the north of the Bruinen Gorges. The tracks weren't always clear and it took Alagothrandir and his Elven companion both effort and time to find the next hoof-print. The sun was already shining brightly, although its light could barely sneak through the thick foliage of the trees to reach the ground, making the task of the two companions even harder.

At some point, however, the tracks stopped. Alagothrandir kept searching the ground among the trees for anything that could give him a lead about where that elusive mount may have gone, but to no avail. He took a deep breath and snorted, as soon as his glance fell on the Elf-sire's features.
"The tracks stop here.", he muttered, "And I can see nothing else that betrays the horse's fate." "What do you think of this?", asked the Elf. "There is not much to think of, Master Golchador.", replied the Ranger, "If the horse had been attacked and eaten, there would be blood, hairs, bones, flesh remains, signs of struggle between the beast and its predators. But there is nothing here. This horse looks like it has suddenly vanished..." He sighed and shrugged his shoulders, while trying to figure a way out to continue the search.

The sound of grass rustling snapped him out of his thoughts. It was a sound hard to distinguish from the usual rustling of grass when the wind makes it dance and only the acute hearing of the Elves and those accustomed in the ways of the wild could perceive. Alagothrandir did notice it and turned his gaze towards its direction. Having a bad feeling about it, thinking it would probably be a wolf or another predator of the Trollshaws, or even an Orc that somehow survived the battle at the Ford making that sound, he instinctively laid his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it and engage, if his bad feeling were to come true.

But the sound grew louder with each passing moment and he was ready to unsheathe his weapon to defend himself and his Elven companion, when a horse appeared in front of him limping from behind a tree. The poor animal was a big grey stallion with a light grey, nearly white, mane and tail. The Ranger gasped in surprise, not only because that horse appeared as if out of nowhere, but also because it was very familiar to him. He looked at Golchador straight into his eyes.
"This is Feredir", he stated with certainty, "Elizabeth's steed." The Elf-sire nodded his head lightly, "I think you are correct. I did not have the chance to see this magnificent being in all its splendour, for we were still in the thick of the battle when he suddenly galloped through the burning Orkish camp and past Talathrandir to open a way for me and my daughter to cross the Bruinen."

Feredir fearlessly approached the two travellers and proceeded to greet the Ranger the horse way, by pressuring his muzzle to the Man's face and blow air through his nostrils. "It is good to see you again, my friend.", said Alagothrandir to the horse in Sindarin. He was about to speak some more, when he noticed some markings on the horse's skin, where its reins, saddle and the rest of his gear used to be. It looked like that said gear had been violently removed from the horse. "Whoever it was that did this", continued the Ranger, this time speaking to his Elven companion, "they intended to knock Elizabeth off of Feredir's back. It looks like she and Feredir resisted and so, her captors were forced to remove the horse's equipment along with his rider."

He removed his backpack from his back and began to search its contents for his pouch of dried herbs and a few basic healing ointments he had taken with him from Rivendell. He soon began to tend to Feredir's mouth injury, inflicted during the forceful removal of the horse's own reins. Golchador stood by the Ranger and the stallion to assist in any way he could, but he quickly realised something. "Feredir has sustained serious injuries, however few of them may be visible.", stated the Elf-sire, "We will have to commit a long amount of time to ensure Feredir's recovery and safe return to Imladris, however time is something we cannot afford to lose, Tom."

"I cannot abandon Feredir alone in the wild, Master Golchador.", replied Alagothrandir, "He was the last one to see Elizabeth. He could help us find her." He paused for a moment to bandage the horse's limping leg. "Even if he cannot help us", he continued, "he still deserves to live and return to safety." "I did not suggest we should leave him in the forest to die, Tom.", responded the Elf in a stern, lecturing tone, "However, time is against us and the longer we tend to Feredir, the longer it will take us to find Elizabeth and the slimmer the chances to find her alive." "Why not take him with us? We could tend to him along the way and, if he cannot follow us due to his leg injury, we could leave him to the Elven camp of Thorenhad not far from here."

Golchador glanced at Alagothrandir, then looked at the steed for a long while, before speaking. "Both tasks are important, one no more than the other, and both need to be taken care of without delay. You should continue the search for Elizabeth alone, Tom, and I will take Feredir to Thorenhad to tend to his wounds. Should Feredir be safely tended at the camp of my kindred, I will join you again in your search." The Ranger remained quiet, while listening to the Elf's wise words. Despite his doubts about Golchador's idea, he nodded his head solemnly: "Alright. I might not agree with this plan, since I will miss your company and wisdom on the long road ahead, but I will do as you suggest. Who am I to doubt and question the wise words of the Eldar?"

"Count two sunsets from this moment and you will see me again on your way.", replied the Elf-sire, "If I do not make it in time, do not tarry for my sake. Your task is more important than our meeting." "As you wish, Master Golchador.", said Alagothrandir and bowed lightly to the Elf. "Farewell, Dúnadan. May the Valar watch over you on your mission." With that said, Golchador approached Feredir to talk to him and slowly guide him to the Elven camp of Thorenhad.

Alagothrandir remained behind, watching his Elven companion and the horse of his betrothed walk away and slowly disappear among the trees. He snorted deeply and began to collect his things and store them back into his backpack, his mind wondering how he should proceed with his search from then on.


_________________

Alagothrandir of Combe, Ranger of the North // Fangor Golchador Istilben of Lindon, former Warden of Imladris (IG name: Golchador) // Faemagor Fangorion of Imladris, survivor of the War of the Last Alliance // Malfain of Imladris, wandering Minstrel // Faelcham Taurandis Fangorien of Imladris, Esteldin friend (IG name: Taurandis)
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