A Dark Threat from the North

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Fornad
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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#1 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:54 pm

'My lord, I am Harnol,' said the Ranger nodding respectfully and walking over to the map, surveying it. 'Time is short, and I cannot drink and be merry whilst my captain is in danger.'
The map showed Arnor and Eriador, as well as the Misty Mountains and in the very southeast, Moria. It was, however, around Bree and the North Downs where markers had been placed. One southwest of Bree, representing the Dwarves. One vaguely placed in the North Downs, for Harnol's kin. Finally, there was a large black marker, west of the Ettenmoors. Harnol shuddered. He knew what that meant.
'Our force is camped here, Lord Thorin,' said Harnol, stretching out a hand and shifting the North Downs marker slightly. 'Sir, perhaps it is not my place to judge in this situation, but might it not be wise to somehow reach King Elessar? If anyone can stop this force, it is he and the armies of Gondor.'

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#2 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 12:35 pm

Harnol rode swiftly through the long grass in the valleys of the North Downs, lying low in the saddle to protect himself from the bitter wind. He had said goodbye to his captain only a few hours ago, yet it felt like a few days from the rough conditions. His chestnut-coloured horse, Fastred, relished these long gallops so Harnol expected to be out of the Downs by sunset. After a few hours, Fastred had slowed to a trot and was breathing heavily.
"Come on, Fastred," he whispered in his horse's ear. "Only a few more miles."
The horse could not of course understand, but perhaps it was some elvish charm, echoing out of the long years before any evil had befallen the world, that made Fastred's head stand a little higher and his pace a little faster.
They did indeed reach Fornost before sundown, and Harnol slid gratefully out of the saddle, his thighs aching. He had hardly taken the saddle and packs off his horses’ back before Fastred slid down onto the wet grass and rolled around on his back, making those little neighing noises that horses do when they're content.
Harnol smiled and then took a small axe out of his pack. He then walked into a small wood that they had stopped by for the night. He found several sticks and two dry logs and took them back to his shelter, arranging them and putting a spark to them. His fire was soon burning merrily and he took Fastred to a tree to tie him for the night. After spending an hour or so in front of the fire eating some of the rations he had taken with him, he stamped out the flames and crawled inside the shelter for the night.

He woke early the next morning, breaking his fast with a few pieces of bread and an apple and then saddling Fastred. They rode light and swift for the entire day, riding down the Greenway, and soon Harnol had reached Bree. The north gate of Bree was shut day and night, owing to the belief that dark spirits came out of the North. The guard at the gate knew better than to argue with a Ranger, though, so the gates swung open almost immediately at his coming. Harnol rode slowly through the streets of Bree, ignoring the stares some of the local people gave him. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.
Tying Fastred up outside the Prancing Pony, Harnol walked in and asked for Barliman at the bar.
"'Aven't seen 'im for ages, 'ave we?" said the barman. "Buggered off somewhere, 'asn't he?"
"Barliman? Leave Bree? That dosen't sound like him," said Harnol suspiciously.
"'E's got friends in 'igher places now," said the barman. "'Elped those 'obbits when they passed through 'ere, all those years ago. Now 'e's in the Shire, from what I 'eard tell."
Harnol nodded. He had heard of Butterbur's involvement in the War of the Ring.
"Well, what I really wanted to ask was about the dwarf army, the one from Moria."
"Dwarf army? Moria?" The barman seemed genuinely confused. I 'aven't seen a dwarf in years, leave alone a dwarf army."
"Thank you for the information," said Harnol, tipping him a coin and leaving the inn.
"For what I gave," he heard the man say before the door swung shut.
Harnol walked over to the stables and began to untie Fastred.
"Looks like we have a little more way to go yet," he said. Fastred neighed.
Harnol climbed on and tapped Fastred on his sides.
"Let's go!" he said.
They raced through Bree, avoiding carts and hay bales that were scattered across the road and going through spaces where some very startled people had been a few seconds before. In no time they had reached the south gate of Bree, and had rushed through it out onto the road beyond.
"Where to now?" Harnol wondered aloud.
He knew that the elusive army was somewhere near Bree, since the message they had sent to tell of their coming had been a few days ago and they would have reached Bree by now.
Harnol set Fastred to a trot along the southern road, looking to the left and right for any sign of a camp, hidden as it may have been. Suddenly, his quick eyes spotted something, off the road to the right. A footprint. Small, but with an indentation at the front that spoke of metal, and more distantly a soldier on guard duty. Harnol jumped down from his horse and walked over to it, the grass dewed under his leather boots. As he knelt down, he recognized it unmistakably to be the print of a dwarf. He looked up. A small forest lay ahead of him, thickets crowding around it. He smiled slightly. A perfect place for an army that did not wish to be seen.
He stood up, checked that Fastred was still, and then walked at an easy pace through the long grass, towards the forest. As he grew closer, his ears caught the tiniest of sounds. Someone shuffling, perhaps? They had seen him, that much was sure.
Then suddenly, a harsh voice cried out in a guttural tongue that Harnol recognised a moment later to be Dwarvish. He cried out in relief to them, speaking in the common tongue.
“I am Harnol, one of the Dunedain! I serve King Elessar! I have come to bring you to Fornad and to join our force!”
A few seconds later, dwarves, armed with axes and wearing heavy armour and face masks, began to edge cautiously out of the thickets. One walked more confidently ahead of the rest and beckoned for Harnol to come over.
Harnol stepped over a small bog and quickly made his way over to the dwarf. The dwarf lifted up his iron face-mask and regarded the Ranger, his face looking distrustful.
“I know that you are led by a great captain by the name of Thorin Oakenshield,” said Harnol. “I would speak to him and lead you dwarves to Fornad, my captain.”
“My... my master wait for you,” replied the dwarf, the words unsteady. Harnol judged that he was not used to speaking in Westron. “Come now.”
Harnol gratefully followed the dwarf over the grass towards the thickets, the guards’ kin tightening their holds on their axes when they saw the longbow tied to Harnol’s back. He ducked under a low-hanging branch, even though the dwarf had no need to do so, and suddenly he emerged into a small clearing where the thickets had been hacked away. Small tents were arranged in orderly rows along the raw ground, some having even been erected in the forest beyond.
‘There,’ pointed the dwarf with one stubby finger.
At the head of the line of tents stood one large pavilion, woven of red cloth and with strange, geometric designs woven along the edges. Harnol walked through the camp, ignoring the slightly hostile stares the dwarves around the tents gave him, until he ducked under the flap at the front of the pavilion and walked in.
The air was hot and stuffy inside. Hangings were draped on the walls, depicting scenes of dwarves hacking at goblins with axes in dark caves, smithing at hot anvils, and feasting at long oak tables. A noble and tough-looking suit of armour stood to the left, thick veins of gold twisting over its surface and with an ornate mask under a helm. At a table stood two dwarves, both studying a complex map. One turned round to Harnol. It was Thorin.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#3 » Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:07 pm

The dwarves pulled down their tents, doused their campfires and were geared and ready to march in a surprisingly short space of time. Harnol had gone to collect Fastred from the road some time earlier, and now he sat on the horse amongst the grim warriors, feeling almost like a giant. They waited for Thorin's order.
Suddenly the moon slipped behind a black cloud, and they were all plunged into total darkness.
'Move!' he heard Thorin say from the front.
The army slunk through the thickets and out onto the grassy plain between the forest and the road. Harnol kicked Fastred's sides lightly and he moved through the orderly ranks to the front, where Thorin marched proudly with the rest. They reached the road, and turned towards Bree.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#4 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:54 am

Fornad nodded.
'I agree,' he said, turning to look at the pale sun rising behind dismal cloud. 'The deeper hills and forests within will provide greater cover. We must plan what to do.'
He cast a final glance at the dwindling dot, then went back to his men. Spotting Harnol tending a gash on a man's arm with a poultice, he walked over.
'How many dead?' he asked, swallowing a feeling of dreadful remorse.
Harnol looked up for a moment.
'Eight, my lord,' he said, wrapping a clean bandage over the man's arm and poultice. 'Better than I had feared. We fought well.'
Fornad gripped his hand tightly to his hilt.
'Their funerals will be tonight?'
'Yes, lord. With the proper rites and herbs.'
Fornad nodded again, not trusting himself to say any more, then after a few moments clapped Harnol on the back and walked away.
Eight. Eight souls. Eight families who had to be told, leaving them to their grief. This was the harsh reality of war, Fornad realised, as he looked down at the men and dwarves taking down the tents, stamping out the fires, packing away in silence. He noticed that the dwarves all wore rags of black cloth tied to their right arms, a sign of mourning. He understood that. It was a way of tribute, respect, a gesture to their fallen kin... there would be much more of it in the future.
He inhaled slowly, then shouted to his men.
'We must be out of here in a half-hour!' he ordered. 'Take your weapons, most essential equipment, and food! Take the dead and the injured that cannot walk on stretchers.'
Seeing his orders being followed, the Ranger went to his tent to pack his own belongings.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#5 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:00 am

Fornad nodded grimly.
'I can,' he said. 'But I could have wished for someone less belligerent. This mission is going to take all the luck that we can get, and a loud-mouthed captain will make it all the harder.’
He rubbed his hands and blew into them from the cold.
After a few more minutes of travelling on the winding, broken track, they entered the forests of the North Downs. Birch and elm dominated, their leaves cast everywhere in a thick brown and red blanket, but as they rose higher into the hills the deciduous trees dwindled and were replaced by pines and spruce. The path was little more than single file now, and the greatly increased army had to spread out in a long chain, four men or dwarves across. This would make it far more vulnerable to attack, Fornad knew, and his eyes flicked from side to side constantly, watching the darkening trees.
An hour more passed, and now they had passed through a valley and had almost reached the top of the next rise. The captain held up his hand in a fist, a sign of halt. The tramping behind him stopped. Turning his horse, he came to face the army, the chain of men passing down the hill and out of his sight.
‘We make camp further up the hill!’ he barked. ‘It plateaus there, and the trees will shelter us!’ Before his men made a move, he shouted: ‘And I want a dike around the edge of camp as well!’
He heard grumblings from amongst the men, but he took no notice. They had faced far harder.
The Ranger spurred his horse off the path and into the forest, which rose steeply then abruptly flattened out. He surveyed the area, noting how the trees were well spaced and provided a thick canopy. He nodded to himself in approval, then swung down from his horse and tied him to a nearby pine.
The men and dwarves rushed past, each going to set up their tents or to begin the digging of the dike. Orders were occasionally shouted out by his or dwarven lieutenants, but all in all they were performing quickly and efficiently. The captain allowed himself a brief moment of hope. What chance did any babbling orc horde have against battle-hardened, elite soldiers?
Presently Thorin came to him, his golden-veined armour glittering in a ray of dusk sunlight that had filtered through the canopy.
‘Greetings, Thorin,’ he said. ‘I trust you gave your men the same orders as I?’

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Post#6 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:41 am

‘I thank you, Thorin,’ replied Fornad. ‘Yes, I will send my men out into the surrounding woods and hills. If they spot any enemies, it will be relayed fairly quickly back to me. Then we can make a decision on the course of action.’
‘The funerals of my men and yours will be soon. I shall retire to my tent for the while.’

Half an hour later – Nightfall

Fornad walked slowly out of camp, followed by his silent men in the darkness. As they came closer to the burial site, he could discern fifteen pits, dug hastily in the cold earth. The dwarves already stood there, their ranks disappearing back into the forest all around them. He went to where Thorin stood, stone-faced, at the other side of the graves.
The Rangers and dwarves had formed a long corridor, along which Fornad could see, and he saw torches being struck in the night, and the black-shrouded biers beginning to move forward, each carried by four men or dwarves. Their slow procession seemed to take hours, even though it was but a minute, such was Fornad’s regret and sorrow for his men’s deaths.
The bearers moved around the graves, and gradually lowered their burdens into them. The Rangers took out small sprigs of athelas, lit them from their torches, and cast them down upon the bodies. The dwarves dropped a shard of gemstone into each of the graves, muttered a few words in Dwarvish, and stepped back into the crowd.
It was his time. Fornad stepped forward.
‘Berntar, Genad, Haturin, Baliarn, Itraid, Torblan, Dacan, Lauron,’ he recited, keeping his voice steady. ‘You have all fallen, in a time of peace, to foes unlooked for. Your spirits fly on, to Eldamar and the Halls of Mandos, and to none know where beyond. We remain here, in mourning.’ He paused. ‘But I shall tell you this; something as sure as the sunrise. We shall avenge you! None of the foul creatures whose kin shed your souls shall survive.
You shall be remembered.’
‘Remembered,’ echoed the Rangers.
Fornad stepped back, and waited for Thorin to make his speech.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#7 » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:30 am

Fornad nodded as Thorin spoke, but at the last shook his head.
'I feel that here remains the best place,' he said. 'It seems unlikely to me that the dragon would risk its life so early on for so little gain. We are still well sheltered and defended here, and it seems the real threat are these orcs-' he pointed to the part about scouts in the letter '-whose numbers might overwhelm us if we do not have a strategy and a main outpost.'
An irresistible smell of meaty stew had reached Fornad from outside, and he shook himself to get rid of the temptation to run out and get some. Supper could wait.
'What do you say, lord?' he asked.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#8 » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:19 am

Fornad watched Thorin go, then waited for a while, looking around the dimly lit interior of the dwarven tent. A brooding presence seemed to filter into him as he looked at the dark tapestries, but with a snort he shook himself and went out into the far cooler night air.
The looming, thin silhouettes of the pines stretched out across the camp, the moonlight illuminating tents and shying away from the bright, crackling fires that burned here and there. Men and dwarves sat around them, talking amiably and eating with one other.
At least they're getting along, Fornad thought to himself. That Barhun doesn't seem to have dimmed their spirits.
But the captain felt in no mood to eat. The news of the dragon had shaken him, thrown him even further into the abyss of hopelessness that he now found himself in. Nine hundred. That was all he had against ten thousand.
If only Gondor could come...
It was too late now. Fornad bowed his head, darkness covering his face, and went to his tent.

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#9 » Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:19 am

Posted for Thorin after a long while of no posts.

‘I have thought over it for a while,’ said Thorin, ‘and I think that I do have the beginnings of a plan.’
The other dwarves became attentive.
‘As the captain says, we want to keep casualties to a minimum. So I propose an ambush.’
Some of the dwarves nodded, but one coughed as if to speak.
‘Yes, Rakdûl?’ said Thorin.
‘Lord,’ said the red-bearded dwarf, holding his fist to his breastplate in a sign of respect, ‘not to go against your thoughts, but the advantage of an ambush can only last so long. Even though we will succeed, our losses will still figure above fifty, perhaps more, if we attack a force of three hundred with nine hundred warriors.’
‘Your point is well-made, Rakdûl, and I would be a fool to ignore it,’ said Thorin. ‘However, my plan does not finish there. Once we have made the ambush, and once the beasts begin to reform and to fight back, we retreat back to the camp. Fornad’s rangers and our axe-throwers will keep them at bay, and once we all get back to the camp, they will take down the brutes from a distance, on top of the barricade we are now building.’
There were murmurs of assent from around the tent.
‘Good,’ said Thorin. He looked at Fornad. ‘Do you know how far away the raiding parties are from us now?’

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A Dark Threat from the North

Post#10 » Fri Aug 20, 2010 7:13 am

‘They’re not far,’ said Fornad. ‘It is fortunate that this meeting has been resolved quickly, since I must send scouts out to watch for them. The battle will take place by tommorow evening at the very latest.’
‘Then I must make my men work harder,’ said Nain, captain of the military craftsmen and builders that were creating the fortifications. ‘Though I am confident that they will be finished by then.’
‘Good,’ replied Fornad. ‘Is there any more to be said?’
A few shook their heads.
‘Then I must leave and command my men. Good day.’ Fornad touched his forehead with two fingers and then held it out to the room in a dwarven gesture of parting, and then left the tent. Harnol came after him.
‘The situation was well dealt with, my captain,’ said his second-in-command as they walked through the camp.
‘The dark-bearded dwarf – what was his name? – Barhun,’ said Fornad, ducking under a branch, ‘he must be watched in the future. I am not sure Thorin understands the full effect of what that dwarf could do within the short space of time.’
‘What could he do?’ asked Harnol, lowering his voice so as not to let their conversation be heard by a group of passing dwarves. ‘Full command has passed over to Thorin. Barhun only commands a small force of his own people now, the Blacklocks, from the eastern Iron Hills.’
‘And is that clan not known to be a vicious group?’ he asked. ‘I have heard stories of them tearing the arms of goblins off with their bare hands. We should not underestimate them. And I feel that he alone could quite easily turn the hearts of the soldiers against Thorin.’
Harnol said nothing, but Fornad saw that he was troubled.
‘But we cannot think of these things now,’ he said. ‘Come. Bring the best scouts from amongst our men to me. I have to give them their orders.’
Harnol nodded and went from his captain’s side into the camp. Fornad watched him go, then looked to the fortifications, where a platform was being raised for archers.
Tommorow would be a hard day.

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