The air is cool and honeysuckle-scented as you slip unnoticed from the feast. No sooner have you rounded the doorway than the roar of water deluges your senses. You close your eyes to greet the familiar sound, tilting your head toward the fall.
Alas, for all the water’s white-noise strife, it cannot overcome the sound of revelry from the hall behind you – though the music lilts and eddies on the breeze, you know the song by heart. The song of a great king. Of his great deeds. Of his eventual, inevitable failure.
Sequestered from curious eyes, you unsheath the sword at your side. The sword of songs and legends. Tarnished neither by age nor by the unimaginable evil it has faced. You run your fingers over the strong lines carved into the pommel, the steel ring bisecting royal red leather.
With a sigh you let the unsung truth settle: once more this sword will see battle. Once more it will face the foe that mighty heroes could not withstand. And this time it is you who will wield it.
With your back to a gnarled blackthorn, you wait. You’ve got good at it over the years. Waiting for a rabbit to trip a well-laid trap. Waiting for darker quarry as well. Waiting for news. For her. For history to be made.
While you wait, you slide a weather-worn hand into your pack and retrieve a sliver of lembas bread and a roughspun rag. Setting the former aside, you turn your attention to your sword, tutting at its tarnish, running the rag over stern, swooping lines. Waiting you may be, but idle you are not.
The sword had a name once, you muse. In fact, it had many – the names of great deeds and glories. Out here, alone, you prefer to think of it simply as your sword. A trusted tool. Just as you would shrug off your own weighty appellations.
Your thoughts are interrupted by the unmistakable sound of footsteps beyond the birdsong and bracken-rush. Five pairs of feet and the clamour of conversation.
“Please remember,” an urgent voice breaks through the rest,” that the name Baggins must not be mentioned.”
Another traveller trying to outrun a name. You grin and gather your pack.Continue reading →
Through the gathering mists, you glimpse yet another crumbling causeway, a shadow of its former glory. You sigh. Day ninety-eight.
Were your feet less sore and the outlook less grim, you would laugh. You left your father’s halls to cheers and sounding trumpets, pennants flying in the breeze as hooves clattered across white stone. What would your father think to see you now, clothes soiled by many weeks’ journeying, horse lost to the churning waters of the Greyflood?
By degrees, your pace slows to a dead stop. You stare into the mist a few desolate moments longer before shaking yourself and slowly drawing your sword. Fierce yet finessed, it is unmistakably the weapon of a well-born warrior. The carved quillons form a graceful arc against the unforgiving lines of the blade. A questing sword. A captain’s sword. Your sword.
Returning to yourself, you sheath the blade and glare down the road to Rivendell with renewed purpose.
Kneeling, you brush aside some fallen leaves. The tracks are barely visible in the still-damp earth, but they’re clear enough to confirm your fears.
The lines in your weather-beaten skin grow deeper as you grimly consider your quarry’s certain endpoint. No man would voluntarily go where you are headed. You find yourself reaching for the broad-bladed sword at your hip. Chances are you’ll need to rely on your oldest friend before this hunt meets its end.
The weather is unnaturally cold for early autumn, the chill already creeping under your clothes. You wrap your cloak tightly around you, hiding the ancient blade from unkind eyes, and turn to the North.
You know you are close now, but your instincts still urge you to hurry.