Role Play Log of . . .
A Night's Strole with Mithrandir
(part 2 of 2)
You head eastwards out of the mountains.
The Northern Plains
Standing here in the midst of the plains of norther Gondor, you cannot help but feel the dignity and pride which made Gondor in its day the greatest among the realms of Men. Although the winds fly across these plains and thrash the grass into writhing tiny blades, you feel no need for hurry. The proud city of Minas Tirith rises to the east, and seems formidable from here, although it is yet many leagues distant. To all other sides, the mountains lie, almost curled around you here. Off to the northeast, you can just make out the lines of travellers and wagons along the Great East Road, toiling between Minas Tirith and the far city of Edoras among the realms of Rohan.
West and East
Mithrandir arrives from the west. Mithrandir has arrived.
Rhiforath walks for a while in silence and when they finally approach the outskirts of the Steward's herds, he stops, "Wait... " He turns and looks back to Mithrandir, "Do you want to rest a while and go back in the morning? I have Rest Day tomorrow. I used to stay out here and watch the herds at night with Ravenwyr... unless you want to get back."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] The old man pauses in his trail, and stops, sniffing the air. "I see no reason why not," he replies. With a smile, he casts his eyes about for a place to best take rest, and settles upon a clear spot worn mostly free of bramble over the years by the passing of bovine feet. The wizard settles to earth, and draws out of his robes his pipe and bag of westman's weed, and he begins to pack it. "Tell me," he says to the younger man, "of your days watching the herds."
Rhiforath pauses and looks around, "No.. not here," he begins to walk, looking very carefully in the tall wind blown grasses. At his approach, sleepy cattle watch him but keep their scattered places some distance away. As he wonders farther, his voice rises thinly as he searches for something, "Why you want to know about that? You do ask the strangest questions, sometimes."
Even so the young man looks back and smiles, continuing as he studies the area around him, "We used to come out here on an afternoon... leave the city early in the morning and walk or ride... he liked to walk but by the time I started to go with him he couldn't walk good anymore. Lost part his foot at the Siege of Pel to frost bite when the orcs had him. Anyhow... we'd come up here and spend his Rest Days, watching the herds, or hunting... he'd speak to the herders, give them advice... he used to herd when he was a boy, I guess."
Then Rhif stops and hunches down out of sight in the tall whispering autumn grasses and stands again, "I found it. Come over here... it's fallen down some but I'll fix it." The lad goes about doing something some small distance off, setting his sword down in the grasses without his belt to hold the scabbard at his hip while he works. What he is doing in the darkness isn't very clear... he seems to be moving some long pieces of wood about, trying to set something up that blew over.
[Mithrandir(#27404)] A querilious look passes towards the youth, never ready to settle when the old one finds his spot: but once again, the wizard humors the young man, and pulls himself to his feet to follow. "Tell me," he says, "of this siege you speak of... it has been many years since I was last in Gondor, and things happen quickly in the South. "Too," the old man adds, "you know that my business carries me that way, and not long until it does."
Rhiforath's pale eyes glance up as he finishes resetting the lean-to's frame and then goes about resettling the smaller sticks and bound tufts of old half rotted and stubby grasses to block the wind, "Geesh, two years and it was almost gone... this is the best I can do now. I'll have to rebuild it later and gather more grass. Fire stones are scattered too.."
He wipes his hands on his tabard and then sits down, re-gathering up his long sword. The young man runs his hands over it lightly, almost tenderly as it is both a great pride and a responsibility, "It was..." He screws his face up, remembering, "Hmm... three years ago. The Mordain had been harrying the woodsmen of Ithilien right out of that area on that side of the river and into Osgiliath. There they made their stand but they lost the Fort to the ugly host that plagued them."
As Rhif begins the tale he sits down cross legged in the tramped down grasses, unmindful of the damp, "Ravenwyr was there, with Lord Hurin when they felled the stones of the Fort and fled, but the orcs were not to be put off. If they could not cross the Pelinnor, which they were pressing and we feared they would come that summer all the way to the very gates of the City, then they began to amass another host down near to Pelargir. They crossed the river and besieged her for... three months."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "So many?" the wizard wonders, settling down near the lean-to, yet far enough away to let the boy finish his work without interruption. The wizard returns his attention to his pipe, carried now in long fingers... and setting it to his lips, he begins to puff upon it. The bluish, spicy smoke rises almost immediately from the clay: and yet, it is sure that there is no fire to be seen nearby. "I had not heard but tales of this, while in the north," the old one continues. "Such lore is gathered by he who dwells in Nan Curunir, the Wizard's Vale; wisest of my Order is he, and given to the study of the ways of the Shadow."
Rhiforath goes on as though not hearing Mithrandir's comment, "So all who could possibly be spared were sent south, though Minas Tirith herself was still threatened. But if Pel fell, Gondor would forever be breached as never before! It was very grim... I was in Pelargir then. My sire came, and Ravenwyr.. and his friend Lt. Garen. Ravenwyr had been gone to Umbar or somewhere I think but he slipped in among the orcish army and posed as a Haradrim spy to report. He had free run among them, so he poisoned their water. Hundreds died... but he was caught when he tried to free a Great Eagle. They tied him to wagon in the snow and left him there for days...." The young man's voice is now low, remebering with dread, "He nearly died then from the cold."
Taking a breath Rhiforath continues more slowly, "But Prince Imrahil had heard Pel's plea and sent the Knights - and so also came some few hundred strong of Edorus at Lord Denethor's call for help. Even so, Pel's walls were breached and those besieged were trapped within the Citadel. There was little hope until the Eagle that Ravenwyr had almost loosend got free and rescued Ravenwyr himself... and then flew away north. A few dark days later teh Commander returned with more than ten dozen from Minas Tirith and they turned the tide of the battle!"
Rhif's eyes shine brightly with remembrance, "And they were pushed back... that was the Seige of Pelargir. She was burned to a shell, sacked. But we got her back!" His voice drops, almost as if Mithrandir was forgotten, "My sire, Dunirk, died there... and Lt. Garen... I was just a boy then, before I joined the Guard." The young man pauses, then looks to Mithrandir and says, "Afterwards, months later, Ravenwyr returned to Minas Tirith and married Lynnithia, and then they adopted me."
Only at the last does Rhiforath blink and look to the older man, recalling that Mithrandir had spoken. Now conscience that he had ignored the other, Rhif's face colors slightly, "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
[Mithrandir(#27404)] The old one shakes his head, filling the air with the comforting smoke. "It matters little," he says. "I was but making conversation, as you thought. What came of the army, once it was pushed back? Did it survive the trip through Ithilien, and beyond? Or did you have intelligences of it, once gone from your border?"
Rhiforath nods once, "Oh no, I stood atop the walls with all the others and watched the Eagles, the Rohir, the Knights and those few remaining of our own, push the terrible host right into the Anduin! Most of them drowned because there were too few boats and they had come across a few at a time. There had been well more than two thousand, but others said after only a few hundred at most got across... it was a great victory for us.." almost the boy's voice trails off before he finishes, "Also a great, horrible loss."
Rhif plucks at the yellowed, autumn grass, ďPelargir will never be as grand as she once was... they bear the scars still, those men. In their hearts." But he doesn't mention his own.
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "Have you been back since?" asks the wizard, listening with lively ears. His own hands busy themselves of course with his smoking, but also they draw out of one of his many pouches a small cake of golden bread, of which he takes a bite, and then offers some to the younger man. All around, the sound of the crickets in the fields fills the air with electric shivering.
The boy, no... the young man, for he seems older now than in days past, shakes his head negatively, "No. I have no wish to ever return there. Much of it I do not want to remember even for all the glory in the end. It was terrible." He sighs, fingers touching his blade's hilt, "I was 14 then."
Rhif gladly accepts the crust of yellowish cake and nods his thanks for he anticipated a hungry night - but didn't mind. He tastes it and whatever more he was about to say is forgotten, "What is this? It's sweet."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] The other nods, drawing another time from his pipe: and this time, he releases the smoke in a beautiful ring that shimmers silver in the light of the pale and wanton moon, fading to blue and then to grey as it passes far across the fields. "Waybread," he replies. "Lembas, in the Sindarin. You speak some of that tongue, do you not? You seemed to mark the Eagle's farewell."
Rhiforath blinks and looks at the cake, "Lembas... yes, I know a few words of it, from studies, but I don't really speak Sindarin. It seems like everyone in Gondor knows a little... I was told, once long ago, everyone in Gondor used to speak that tongue and another... Adunaic. Mostly I just know the sounds of it, but not the meanings."
He gestures vaguely in Mithrandirís direction, "Like that pouch you have, with the glittery thread, it's like Sindarin but different. I canít read it. I know place names, things like that."
As he nibbles lightly at the bread Rhiforath watches the smoke rings and then pauses, voice very low, "I saw and elf once. Two of them... when I was north. Before then I didn't think they existed anymore. Just legends."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "Nay," says the wizard, setting his pipe upon one of the firestones to smoulder. "Elves are real, and power lies within them to shame the Shadow's wished-for might. Here... I will show you."
The old man reaches to take hold of the bladehilt that stands from his scabbard, and from it he pulls a blade... and O, such a blade is seldom seen in these younger days. "This is Glamdring," he says, "the Foe Hammer!" Hilt first he offers the youth the blade to test, and with it a severe nod. "Forged she was in the fires of Gondolin lost," continues his voice, sonorous and noble. "In her steel is wrought the very terror of the Elvish Smiths: and the orcs fear her above all others."
Unafraid but awed, Rhiforath does not flinch or ease back as he would have before... his distrust is not entirely gone for he is still wary of things, but this time he leans forward, interested and listening. Eyes bright and with slender but steady hands, the young man very carefully accepts the drawn blade, studying it with more than a touch of awe... he is careful to touch only the hilt and not the shining steel. Again he is silent. His own long sword lays across his lap, cradled there but not forgotten.
"Made by elves? Gondor... Gondolin?" The name is clearly unheard to Rhiforath's ears before, "Is that what you mean? Was Gondor called something else before? Were elves here before men.. in Gondor, I mean?"
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "Gondolin was a great city," the old man replies, "north of here... and her story is a fine one, though this eve does not have enough time within it to do her justice. Greatest of the elvish kingdoms," he says, "in the Ages before even I wandered this land... shimmering and bright, a story onto the eyes of all who beheld her."
The old man takes up his pipe again, a thought burning visibly within his eye. "And so she would remain," he finishes, "until the dragons came, with fire demons in their train, and at the behest of an enemy so dark that even the Shadow is but a slave before him."
Offering the fine hilt back to the older man, Rhiforath both reluctantly and gladly returns the shining blade - surely so unlike any he has ever seen before in his young life... Doubtless what Mithrandir says must be true for no blade is like that one. Rhif continues looking at it as it goes back to it's master's hands, "Please tell me Dragons aren't real, or at least that they won't come here. I would hate to see Minas Tirith so fouled as Pelargir was... it's my home."
Mithrandir re-sheathes the blade, ancient and terrible, and he draws up his head as she slides away home. "Dragons were real," he answers. "They came of old from the Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains, far in the north... farther than you have ever been, or are likely to ever go. But their kin in this Age has been weakened by far, and to the best of my knowledge the last of the fire dragons was lain low... only the cold drakes live yet, that I can be sure of. And they will never come to Minas Tirith."
Rhiforath says softly, "If nothing else in this life, I want to know that what we suffer here, and others before us... is not in vain. I've had such terrible nightmares of Gondor falling to the Shadow... all of it for naught."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "Few there are who do not wish that," agrees the wizard with a grim nod. "So much do some of us care for it, that we have spent a thousand years and half again, and more, in pursuit of your selfsame goals."
The boy picks at the yellowed grasses in the darkness, falling silent. Still his own blade rests like a babe in his lap, over his thighs. The shorter, wily locks of his hair in front slip free to fall over his face again.
[Mithrandir(#27404)] The old man watches for a time, his face smiling upon the youth even as that other looks away, lost in his thoughts. "But tell me," he says, "what you will do to save your country? The war will come again to Minas Tirith: you may make your name here, if you wish it."
Rhiforath looks up, "Or die here." He shrugs and looks off over the grasses as though their whispers might tell him things he longs to know, "I don't know. I don't want to be a hero... my step-father was a hero and called a traitor too. Some still hate his memory... I'd rather not be remembered. I just want it to be worth something. For Darvian... and Nithwyn, my foster-siblings, you know?" The lad sighs, "It doesn't hurt as much anymore, oddly enough, but I remember that it did. For a long time. I'll never forget." The young man makes a fist over his belly.
[Mithrandir(#27404)] "You have within you the strength to do what you would," the old man agrees, tapping the hilt of his stubby pipe against the tip of his bearded chin. "I would not see it otherwise, for your goals are full of honor, and speak well of you: to do right by the memory of your father, your stepfather, and those who have come before."
The wizard says little more on the subject, returning to his pipe and the waybread that passes between the two. But after a time, he speaks again. "How does your family find you?"
Finishing his share of the cake, Rhiforath dusts his hands off on each other and lays his scabbarded blade in the grass beside himself. He leans back with his hands behind his head to get more comfortable for a nap later, "Fine enough, I suppose. Lynnithia's always busy, with the babes or at the Houses of Healing. She still finds a little time to work at the University Library too. There's enough again, if I pitch in some of my pay, for a nanny when she needs to leave my sibs at home."
A stalk of grass finds its way into his mouth, "What about you? You have family someplace, Mithrandir?"
[Mithrandir(#27404)] Chuckling, the aged one releases his next breath of spiced smoke, in a ring that takes upon a shade similar to that which lies upon the low grass in the night, deep blue, almost violet. "Of a sort," he replies. "My good cousin Radagast, of whom you heard me speak: and Saruman the White, wisest of our kin. And others, too, I have known so long they might be as family... and as for children, many there are who I have not sired, but who have learned under my tutelage."
"But my kin are rare," he says. "Five in number, we: the three I mentioned and two others, long lost. From the far West we come, and that is all I may say of it. We see one another but rarely, and often a hundred years will pass between our meetings."
Just a bit dubious, Rhiforath turns his head and raises a brow, "You keep saying that... hinting at being O' so old but you don't really expect me to believe that, do you? Men don't live that long... I doubt even Elves do!" He tries to smile to cover his slight embarrassment, "But surely such are the likes of the years compared to my own, being as I'm only seventeen." He grins and shrugs, passing it off, "I'd think it was lonely, wandering about... and dangerous, if you truly intend to go far to the South, into Harad."
[Mithrandir(#27404)] With a sudden sigh setting upon him, Mithrandir the Grey looks his age for a moment, or as close to it as a body can manage: withered and curled, old and lonely. "South I will go," he says. "For I have spoken with Saruman the White, and it is a hope that must be examined."
Rhiforath nods slowly to himself, thoughtful, "I still do not know if I will go with you. I should stay... for there are things I need to do here." He hesitates, "Oddly enough, more now than I could conceive of clearly but days ago." He chews the grass stem and retucks his head upon his arm, "You look as tired as I feel. Shall we rest a little before going back the rest of the way in the morning?"
[Mithrandir(#27404)] The old figure nods, taking a last draw from his pipe before he knocks the ash and smouldering weed out upon the fire rocks. "There must ever be a time for rest," he agrees, moving to lie in the shadow of the lean-to. "Let us make ours now."
The wind blows, its chilly song over the drying autumn grasses under the setting moon's light, blocked from the two who would rest by the lean-to's regained small height. Overhead the stars twinkle on indifferently.
This is the end of 'A Night's Strole with Mithrandir'. Afterwards, the young Minas Tirith guardsman, Rhiforath, journies south into Umbar with Mithrandir, using his small knowledge of Haradiac and his late step-fatherís kinship to the Lady Arali to do what he might to aid the Wizard on his quest for knowledge. Mishap in the form of a battle with Witch-King befalls them and they are split up, Rhiforath falling prisoner to a Tower Lord of Umbar and made a galley shipís slave for the next two years of his young life. What became of Mithrandir, was never known unto him.