The Board is Being Set...

By Hobbitness

The spring of 3019....

A thing is happening in the Shire that has not been seen for generations. The hobbits are used to living their quiet lives with little change or alarm, so much so that their governing officials' titles are mainly honorary. But today the whole Shire has been ordered
to gather for a Shire-moot, a great gathering of hobbits. They are to discuss the growing threat of Mordor and hear the tidings that Rudigar Bracegirdle brings from Rivendell.

The Mayor quiets down the chatter. "As you all know, Mr. Rudigar Bracegirdle has just returned from Rivendell, where he went to seek news of his son Peter, who disappeared last fall, along with others of our best young lads. But the news Lord Elrond told him affects us all. Indeed, it will change the whole Shire from this day on. Mr. Bracegirdle, if you please." The Mayor motions for Rudigar to rise.

Rudigar stands before the crowd. He is a stout hobbit with a round face that is normally good-natured, but now is intimidating. A hard, angry light shines in his eyes, and every muscle in his body is strained with tension. His deep voice resounds throughout the gathering. "My friends, Lord Elrond is blessed with the gift of foresight. He told me of our future, and of unforeseen dangers that threaten us all. We have imagined that nothing could penetrate the beloved world we have created here, but I tell you that if we do not act now, the forces of Mordor shall soon be upon our doorstep!"

Exclamations erupt from the crowd. The Mayor has difficulty quieting the terrified hobbits.
"Lord Elrond relies not only on his foresight but on information gathered from hundreds of his subjects, the Elves of Rivendell, some of whom travel abroad," Rudigar continues. "He told me that Mordor has a battle plan to conquer the West completely. They will attack Gondor, then Rohan, then Rivendell, and then the Shire. We must send forces to join with Lord Elrond, to defeat Mordor before they reach our homes!"

A chorus of protest greets these words. "But we hobbits are not soldiers! We are not trained for fighting! We hardly ever deal with the Big Folk at all, much less the Elves! And how will we manage our farms without our husbands, fathers, and sons? You ask too much of us! We cannot do this!"

Rudigar's voice rises angrily. "Do you want the kingdoms of Men and Elves to fall then? Do you want the Shire to be the last free land left, and to defend it without any help? Do you want your crops burned, your homes pillaged, and your families attacked? Do you want your children--" He stops suddenly, trembling, struggling against tears.

Silence falls over the crowd. Then a voice asks with trepidation, "What news of your son?"

The commotion grows as all the Bagginses, Gamgees, Brandybucks and Tooks present bombard Rudigar with questions. "Yes, and what news of Frodo? Sam? Merry? Pippin?"

When they are quiet, Rudigar continues. "You all remember the rumors of Black Riders that frightened us last fall," he says. "They were real, and they did invade the Shire. There are nine of them. They are the Ringwraiths, the Dark Lord's most powerful warriors. They were once kings of the Big Folk, but now they are neither living nor dead. Their invisible bodies dwell in two worlds at once, the physical world and the evil, accursed wraith world. They were looking for Frodo, because he carries a weapon the Dark Lord needs, and he is going to Mordor to destroy it. Sam went with him."

Wails burst from the Bagginses and Gamgees. "Did the Ringwraiths find them? Are they all right?"

"The wraiths found them and wounded Frodo, but Elrond healed him. Frodo and Sam are headed for Mordor; that is all I know of them. Merry and Pippin travel with the forces of the West. But my son Peter..." Rudigar takes a deep breath. "The Ringwraiths carry special
poisoned swords. If anyone is stabbed through the heart with one of these blades, he becomes a slave of Mordor. The poison works at his mind to compel him to serve the Dark Lord and the Ringwraiths. His broken body fades to invisibility. He becomes a Ringwraith himself." Rudigar barely manages the next words: "That is what happened to my son Peter."

The hobbits panic. Shouts and weeping fill the air. The terror causes total pandemonium. It is a long time before Rudigar can be heard again.

"If Mordor reaches the Shire," he cries, "your own children will be in danger of this! The Ringwraiths will return, and who is to say how many hobbits will suffer the same fate as Peter? And the others will be killed! We must send archers to help Lord Elrond. We must save the Shire!"

A tense pause ensues as the hobbits ponder this grave decision. Then Saradoc Brandybuck, Merry's father, raises the Horn Call of Buckland.

Awake! Awake! Fear, Fire, Foes! Awake!

Beginning with the Brandybucks, all the hobbits join in a resounding cheer. "The Shire, the Shire!"

Before long, an army of hobbit archers leaves to join forces with the rest of the Free Folk of Middle Earth.

By Hobbitness

May 29, 3019

Rudigar Bracegirdle marched at the head of the makeshift hobbit army. They all carried bows and arrows and bags of stones. Those who had swords had brought them as well. Rudigar tried to keep his face set in a hard glare, but worry crept into it every time he took a good look at himself and his comrades. He had known most of them since childhood. They had been boisterous youths in the Shire, then new husbands with farms to tend, then fathers, and some of them had become the heads of clans. But never had any of them been soldiers. Now here they were, all his boyhood friends with their kinsmen and their sons, going to face the army of Mordor. How would they survive?

Ironically, it was Rudigar's old memories that pulled him out of his doubts. He pictured his family gathered around the dinner table, his wife beside him, his children chattering all at once. Wilcomb and Daisy, the younger ones, were arguing over the last of the mushrooms. He thought their bickering bothersome and was relieved when he finally convinced them to talk about their writing lessons instead. Trading stanzas, they attempted the song of Beren and Luthien, which they were learning from Bilbo. But they couldn't remember the words correctly, and they ended up butchering it until the whole family roared with laughter. Then came the memory he inwardly cringed from, because of the pain it brought--Peter, his oldest, smiling gently, leaning his face on his hand as the laughter died down.

"Father, when can we have Mary over for dinner?" Peter still smiled, but a veiled passion burned in his dark eyes. Rudigar could guess how much his son was moved by the tale of the elf maiden who gave up her immortality for Beren. Now Rudigar felt pain like that of a morgul blade, he was sure, when the realization hit him yet again that Peter was not coming back and would never marry his fiancee now.

It was such a mundane, inconsequential scene, his memory of the dinner table, but he realized that in the end, it was the most important thing in the world. There was no treasure greater than his family gathered around him. And they had taken it from him, Mordor and its Dark Lord. In how many dreams had he seen Peter pinned to the ground with a morgul blade, heard his screams, imagined him wandering unseen just outside the door? And how much had Rudigar's own wife and children wept for him since he left, wondering if he would ever return? That greatest of riches, his family, might never be his again, but he had a chance to fight for it. He felt that he could singlehandedly tear Barad-dur to its foundations.

Exclamations from his friends startled Rudigar out of his thoughts. Eight tall soldiers on horseback were coming towards them. Some of his friends drew their bows, but Rudigar assured them that these must be Elves, since they were nearing the Tharbad Bridge. All the hobbits tried to push aside thoughts of their families and hobbit holes long enough to move forward and greet the Elves.

June 6, 3019
Edoras, Early morning
By Wraith

Arien comes up over the Eastern horizon and touches the landscape with golden fingers. Captain Deor reluctantly leaves his wife and children. Hugging and kissing them, he bids them all farewell. He is glad in his heart that he had that time with them before he must resume the scouting of the Mordor army.

Frealaf, Deor's lieutennant, sits his horse beside him and waits for the captain's orders. After ordering his company to set out, Deor wonders about the strange woman who calls herself "Maltriel." "She is a wight," he says to himself, "a foul spirit, which has posessed the body of the Lady Eowyn! Is there no end of the devilry that the Enemy conjures!" He shudders involuntarily.

In the time to come, many could not remember when the darkness first began, but those who did said that it was driven slowly on a wind from the southeast, a great gathering cloud of darkness. A gasp went over the men when they saw it, "The sun, the sun! Where is it going!"

By afternoon, a strange, dark chill falls over Edoras, as a shadow appears. As though summoned by the darkness that now covers Edoras, a fell voice shrieks...... it is a dark rider upon a fell beast. He flies by, then wheels and returns towards the southeast.


June 6, 3019
Mordor army camp
50 miles from Edoras, early morning

Knowing what was to happen, Lomin gazed at the gathering clouds in satisfaction. "The Great One shows His power yet again. All is going as planned.... I wonder if the woman is dead yet?"

By Maltriel/Eowyn
Date: June 6; noon until night
locations: about 20 mi. From Edoras; then to Edoras; up the hill to the doors of the Golden Hall

The Mordor army was moving slowly but steadily through the Eastfold, creeping up on edoras, destroying everything in sight as they went along. The dark cloud loomed overhead, the air was heavy and oppressive and seemed to choke both breathing and hope. Even the light of the noon-day Sun was filtered, and the brightest part of the day was as dim as the twilight of evening. As the days had passed and the foul host of mordor drew ever nearer, strange things had been happening in the Mark... harbingers and portents of doom, the people whispered in hushed voices...confirming the dark days in which all now lived.

First it was the female rider from Mordor that had been captured on the 2nd...she looked just like Eowyn, but Eowyn was dead.... captured on the fields of pelennor and carried away by the Nazgul to torment and death. No one at first knew that Eowyn had disguised herself as a man and sneaked off to fight, and both this realization and the thought of her suffering in Mordor came as a horrible shock to her people.

The captured rider had claimed vehemently that her name was Maltriel, and she was from Minas Tirith. All marveled at her words, for no one in the White City would serve Mordor, and Gondor had never been a vassal state to Mordor, as she had claimed. Some thought she was fey and a thrall who merely resembled the White Lady; others thought she was a fell spirit inhabiting her body. Whatever she was, she was stricken with illness and was so weak she could barely walk.

And now there was this strange elf in their midst who claimed to be from Dwimordene... the fabled golden wood of the elves that men looked on with suspicion and fear. It was rumored that few who dared venture into the wood ever came out.... and those who did were changed in some way. The wood was beautiful, yet its beauty was regarded as perilous... a place of sorcery and magic. For did not an evil sorceress live there?

The elf's keeper, a young soldier, eyed the elf's every move with suspicion, suspecting him to do some sort of magic. He kept a tight grip on his end of the rope around the elf's neck, and wondered if a mere rope could restrain such a creature who hailed from a place like the enchanted forests of Dwimordene.

The company moved on, heading for edoras... the captain ordered the men to go at a faster pace than previously. Many of the men talked among themselves in Rohirric about the strange elf, who claimed he had an urgent message to tell the King.... each having their own tale about his business in the Mark.

They arrive at edoras by nightfall.... night only marked by a darkening of the foul mist hovering in the sky and upon the deserted villages and endless plains of grass. The hill of Edoras can be vaguely seen as a black mound against slightly darker mountains in the distance. The company rides through the gates of the walled city.... up the long path to the Golden Hall sitting upon the hill.

The company dismounts their horses, and attendants lead their mounts to the stables...the elf needs no assistance getting off his horse, even though his leg is a bit sore from the bad-tempered Rohirric horse. an air of tension and anxiety lies upon the few remaining people in the city, and everyone fears for what might befall in the dark days to come. The elf is led up the broad, wide stairs which pass through a terrace of green grass to the paved platform upon which Medusled stands. The Hall was famous for its thatched roof of gold, but there was no sun now to reflect upon its beauty. Guards sit on stone seats at the top of the steps, and look at the strange prisoner with surprise.

The elf speaks to King Eomer, informing him that elves, of all folk, are coming to the aid of Rohan....

By Maltriel/Eowyn
Night of June 6

Ater pondering the elf's message for a few moments, Eomer turns to him and speaks. "Your message brings hope in such dark days. Stranger still become the times, when elves form armies once again and to go to war alongside men against the dark Power." He thinks upon the three elvish armies.... the small force from Lorien and Mirkwood which wait near the Entwash; the larger force coming from Rivendell; and the possibility of reinforcements from Mithlond and along the coasts.

Eomer summons a servant and tells him to bring a map of Rohan and surrounding lands. Soon the servant returns, and Eomer unfolds the map and spreads it out on the table.

"Lord Glorfindel expressed that he did not know the location of the army of Gondor. messengers from the army of Gondor have been informing me of their doings. After Pelennor, the city of Minas Tirith fell, and the army fled southward to aid the Southern Fiefdoms.... Lebennin, Lamedon, Lossanarch, Dol Amroth... there was great fighting, and it seemed for a while that the enemy retreated and gave up the fight. But Gandalf and Aragorn perceived that this was not so, and suspected some form of devilry from the foul Enemy. They led the army and refugees west and north to the mountains. the army of Gondor will arrive in the Westfold near the Great West Road in a few days, bringing much needed reinforcements... around 9,000 men." As Eomer talks, he points to various places on the map, showing the movements of the Gondor army and the civilian refugees. he looks up to the elf. "No word has come as to what befell these lands."

"As for Mithrandir, Gandalf.... he comes and goes where he will, bringing aid to those he finds." Eomer thinks of how Gandalf brought hope to his uncle Theoden and broke the spell woven by Grima Wormtongue's subtly disparaging words. Maybe, just maybe, he could bring her out of thralldom to Mordor and restore her memories and identity. But there was a war going on, and Gandalf would be needed elsewhere.... at least Eowyn was safe for the time.

"With the Gondor army coming in a few days, Glrofindel's elves coming towards the rear of the Mordor army, and the promise of an army from Imladris, the West has a fighting chance, a small hope." Eomer pauses, and thinks of his sister.... "at least we will die fighting the black horde before the Nameless Enemy enslaves us all..."

"My lord Eomer?" the elf spoke up, "If it would meet with your approval, I would be honored to fight alongside the horse lords of Rohan. My weapons were surrendered to your guard. My own horse is stabled in your hall annex. Once these items are returned to me I will be ready to fight."

"Certainly, you may fight alongside the men of the Riddermark. The captain told me of your weapons.... they will be returned to you, and you will no longer be treated like a prisoner."He pauses, and thinks of the elf's weapons.... the men were impressed with them. "Your bow..... its range is longer than that of our own. you will have need of it... should the Enemy use its Fell Riders on their accursed flying steeds to scout out our positions." The elf notices that Eomer's hand involuntarily clenches into a fist at his own mention of the Nazgul.

Eomer turns back to the map. "The few remaining people in Edoras are heading to Dunharrow, all of the valuables of the Golden Hall that can be taken will be loaded into wains. Tomorrow, the riders of Rohan will cross the ford over the river Snowbourne and head north into the open country. They will stop about 6 miles from the River Snowbourne beyond the road from Edoras to Entwade."

Eomer falls silent, gazing at the map. "We ride to death, but so be it," he thinks to himself. "We will ride into battle singing and crying shouts of war. For wrath... for ruin... for Eowyn."

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