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An Unsettling Discovery, Part 2 (by Leafblade)

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An Unsettling Discovery - Part 2

Leafblade and Antwanette walked side by side from the wood and into the sunlit clearing. The Nimrodel ran through the clearing sparkling in reflection of the morning sun. Not far away Leafblade saw a sight that gave him pause. The armored form of the warrior Odencrantz was kneeling at the water’s edge, his head submerged in the river water. Not more than a dozen paces upstream, standing on a rock at the water’s edge, was the stout, hobbit figure of Toolajit. A wisp of smoke rose from the pipe protruding from his mouth. To Leaf’s chagrin, a stream of liquid could be seen leaving the hobbit and splashing into the river as Toolajit relieved himself. Though back to, it was obvious what was happening. Leaf immediately drew up his cloak as a curtain before his daughter beside him.

“Toolajit!” he bellowed. “The hobbit jumped at the sound and hurriedly made to make himself decent once more. “Yes?” he replied.

Hearing the sound of Leafblade’s exclamation, Odencrantz jerked his head out of the water and searched around for danger. So it was that he heard Leafblade continue:

“I hardly think that is appropriate in front of a lady OR to our elf friends that hold this river sacred.”

Toolajit smiled sheepishly around his pipe as he finished fastening his trousers. Understanding dawned on Odencrantz. His face slowly contorted into a rage. In an instant he was racing at the hobbit with bare hands outstretched. Toolajit stepped behind a nearby tree and hid in plain sight. Odencrantz raced around the tree, and then another tree, and then another in a vain search for the hobbit. Antwanette giggled uncontrollably, as did the crow resting on her arm in a series of sharp caws. Leafblade sighed and called out to his friends that it was time to depart.

“So you really think we’ve got no chance against whatever it was that killed whoever that was?” Odencrantz was more curious than concerned as he stumped along the road beside Leafblade. Toolajit had reappeared and was walking a short way behind beside Antwanette, pet bobcat upon one side of her and horse on the other.

“Odie, your willingness to step in harm’s way is beyond compare. But Ruthamar was a Dunadan. He was one of the survivors when the Nazgul attacked the Dunadan camp guarding the Shire last year. He was part of the group with Lady Rose that invaded Carn Dum and slew Mordirith. He was with the dwarves when they drove the Watcher out of the lake and underground. He surrounded himself with the best. Now they’re all dead on that hillside. It’s a heavy blow to the Free Peoples.”

“And you think we’ve got no chance?” Odencrantz continued.

Leafblade sighed as they continued down the road toward Haldir’s flet. “Odie, you’re fearless. But neither you nor I are reminding anyone of the pillars of the Argonath. We’re an undersized pair of Bree men doing stuff we weren’t meant to do. I was last in my group in battle tactics when Dawn Appledore was training Bree militiamen to be captains. I couldn’t best half of my company in a duel.”

Leaf’s voiced lowered to a whisper as he continued. “Toolajit’s never won anything but a pie-eating contest. Never burgled anything bigger than the pie from last summer’s Hobbiton festival. Antwanette is fifteen, Odie. Fifteen. She should still be tending horses at Hengstacer Farm in Bree, not following her dad through the dangers of Moria.”

Odie interrupted, “Yeh, but she’s awesome.”

Antwanette had caught up with them. Odencrantz glanced over both shoulders for sign of the hobbit he still meant to have words with but he was gone again, though nearby he knew.

“How do you know so much about those people back there?” she asked her father.

Leaf glanced to his side at his daughter, her horse a few paces behind, a hawk now resting on her shoulder. “You know animals. I know people. It’s why I carry this clumsy halberd with me,” he said with a glance up to the decorative leaf-shaped blade of enchanted iron. “Not many times where a sword and shield wouldn’t be better, especially in the confines of Moria. But if you’re going to hold something up and shout a battlecry, the bigger the better.”

“Compensating for something?” Toolajit’s voice sounded from somewhere nearby, unseen.

Leaf sighed a longsuffering sigh. “It’s symbolic. Intimidating to some enemies. Inspiring to friends.”

They climbed the ladder of Haldir’s flet and spoke with the elf warden. Lady Rose was there as well to confer with him on the state of things. Leafblade and Antwanette shared what they saw while down below on the forest floor, Odencrantz continued his search for vengeance upon the hobbit.

Leafblade was on edge. His sense of urgency to act was strong. He had little patience for the calm, conversational tone of Lady Rose or the occasional observation from his daughter.

“It looked like the globsnaga fungus-“ she tried to offer before being interrupted.

“We don’t know what it was. Ruthamar’s body was quickly being overcome by it,” Leafblade said. Squeezing the handle of his halberd in anxiousness as it stood beside him, he looked to Lady Rose and Haldir for answers.

Calmly as ever, the elven Lady Rose smiled a benign smile at Leafblade and reviewed the evidence as well as some other information shared by Haldir. She was clearly building toward a conclusion but Leafblade had no guesses.

“When taking into account,” Rose continued, “the nature of the deaths, the death of the Balrog, knowing that nature abhores a vacuum, it can only lead to one conclusion.” She paused, then turned toward Antwanette.

Antwanette, having quieted some after the interruptions from her father, answered: “The Mistress of Pestilence?” Lady Rose nodded. “Well done, Antwanette.”

Leafblade sighed. Haldir glanced to Antwanette for a moment, then to Leaf while attempting to hide a smirk. Rose and Antwanette smiled rather openly. ‘Humility never comes easy,’ Leaf thought to himself.

They moved toward Caras Galadhon now to speak with the Lord and Lady of the Wood. A bear walked beside Antwanette now as she conferred with Lady Rose and Haldir. Odencrantz and Leafblade discussed weaponry and their harrowing battle with a troll in Moria a few days before.

“It’s when they charge and I need to hold my ground that the axe and shield are not much use,” Odencrantz said. “ It’s like trying to hold back a cavalry charge by myself.”

“Sounds like you are envious of Leafblade’s two-hander, Odie!” Toolajit’s voice was tinged with obvious delight and scathing humor. This time, however, he was standing beside a tree not far away when Odie turned to the sound of his voice.

“I HAVE a two-hander,” Odie said with a murderous glare while reaching over his shoulder to pull it from his back where it was slung. Or, where it was supposed to be slung. It was not there. He patted his shoulders a few times.

Toolajit smiled grandly, reached behind the tree he had been leaning on and pulled the oversized sword into view, resting it on one end. Odencrantz growled and reached for his axe at his belt…and found it gone.

Toolajit smiled again as Odencrantz glared at him, only to see the hobbit holding up the pilfered axe with his other hand. “Looking for this?”

Odencrantz charged. Toolajit let go of both weapons and darted away. The weapons fell unsupported to the ground. Odencrantz, intent upon catching the hobbit, had his ankles become entangled in the crossed weapon handles and crashed violently to the ground. Leafblade sighed as he marched on. The others looked back at the commotion. Leafblade waved off their attention with a dismissive hand, letting them know it was nothing and urging them to continue.

At the bridge at the vineyard, the group found two hobbits sitting upon the arch with bottles of wine beside them and fishing poles extended over the water. At the approach of Lady Rose, they hopped to their feet and bowed eagerly (if not very formally). Toolajit appeared beside the Lady Rose, her proximity acting as a guard upon the aggressions of the vengeful Odencrantz.

“Hobbiton! Huzzah!” Toolajit cheered.

“Michel Delving! Huzzah!” Bugglewise the hobbit responded with a raised hand holding a bottle of wine.

“Tuckborough! Huzzah!” Dewey the hobbit followed up. And then all three hobbits cried out in unison, “The Shire! HUZZAH!” This was followed by a brief danced jig. Lady Rose smiled, ever warmed by the sight of her short but doughty companions.

A short time later they passed through the magnificent gates of Caras Galadhon and into the city of the elves. Messengers had been sent ahead by Haldir and the elf warden now led them up the trail to the sitting bench nigh to the waterfall below the great flet of Celeborn and Galadriel. There they found the Lord and Lady. In the high morning sun, the brilliance of Galadriel and grandeur of Celeborn were stunning. Though having met them before, Leafblade still had to force himself to focus on his words when called upon by Haldir to share what he had seen.

Perhaps it was the important discussion taking place or the brilliance of the Lady Galadriel. Toolajit had no longer concealed himself. He felt a crushing grip on his shoulder from behind and was lifted slowly off his feet and pulled backward. The slight commotion was noticed by the group. Odencrantz bowed his head formally, “M’lord. M’lady. I beg your pardon.” With that, Odencrantz continued on up the trail with the hobbit dangling with kicking feet beside him from his upraised hand.

Leafblade flushed with embarrassment at his companions, but the discussion continued. The news of the death of Ruthamar and the renewed presence of the Mistress of Pestilence was disconcerting as the Fellowship was preparing their departure. Investigation was going to be necessary, Galadriel explained to Haldir.

“Lady Rose, Leafblade, Antwanette,” Galadriel addressed them. The three looked to the Queen of the Golden Wood, awaiting her words but distracted, for at the height of the tall waterfall behind the Queen could now be seen the form of the hobbit dangling helplessly, suspended by the strong arm of Odencrantz over a fall of nearly forty feet.

“There may come a time when an expedition will be necessary,” Galadriel continued, perhaps unaware of what transpired not far behind her. But little went unnoticed by the Lady in her own land.

All three nodded and the Lady Rose voiced assurance that they would be ready when the time came. “Indeed, Your Highness,” Leafblade said. “We will be-

At that moment he was unable to avoid pause as far above the form of Toolajit was flung out from the high ledge and over the waterfall. Cartwheeling through the air and screeching in fear the entire way down, he disappeared into the misty pool at the bottom of the fall. Odencrantz, high above, could be heard letting out a gloating cry of triumph that was easily heard over the roar of the falls.

Though Galadriel and Celeborn betrayed no knowledge of the events taking place behind them, clearly they could not have failed to have heard. Haldir was aghast. Lady Rose blushed. Antwanette stifled a giggle. Her pet tiger, having paused in the midst of licking his paw to watch the falling form of the hobbit crash into the water below, returned to licking his paw. Leafblade swallowed.

“We will be ready, M’Lady.”

(And here the story ended.  My intention was to move it on toward a raid into Moria but the future held something different in store.  I will post my further stories tomorrow or the next day.  I consider them more polished and well thought out compared to this early attempt.)

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Great. I like the way you've used locations and characters in Middle Earth which we all know, so you can have economy of writing, but you still fully develop your own characters.

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