The Ride of the Dunadain - Chapter 1
Halbarad Dunadan relaxed, and slid deeper into his armchair, revelling in his night off duty. He smoked from a pipe, and there were many wisps of smoke dancing around the room. In the grate, a fire blazed merrily, illuminating the small room he had chosen for night. He took a sip of wine, and as he set the goblet down again, he heard soft footsteps climbing the stairs outside his room.
His ranger instincts told him that the person climbing the stairs was attempting to do so stealthily, and he also heard the faint jingle of armour buckles.
He loosened his sword in its sheath, retrieved his long bow from beside fireplace and knocked an arrow.
The doorhandle began to turn slowly, and Halbarad pulled the bowstring taut. The door opened, and a hooded and cloaked figure entered the room, somewhat confidently, thought Halbarad.
"I was not expecting visitors, stranger," he said.
"My apologies, Halbarad Dunadan, but my mission required swiftness, I am sorry to bother you during your "night off", so to speak," replied the stranger, the voice was female, of that he was certain, and it spoke gently, as if in song.
He lowered his bow and set it against the wall once more. He then grabbed another chair from beside the bed, and moved to next to his own, near the fire.
"You must be weary, having travelled all the way from Lothlorien," he said as he sat down again.
The stranger removed her hood, and Halbarad had been correct. She was an elf, the pointed ears, golden hair and perfect complexion marked her as one of the Eldar. She took off her cloak and placed it on the back of the chair Halbarad had provided for her. She was fully armoured, which didn't surprise Halbarad, considering times of late. She proceeded to remove her armour and sword belt, without saying a word, and layed her possessions reverently upon the bed at the far end of the room. She returned to the fire, wearing a simple tunic of white cloth, and light trousers, which were made of the same material. Around her neck she wore the pendant of Galadrial, marking her as a servant of the Lady of The Wood herself.
"How did you know I came from Lorien?" she asked.
"I smell the fragrance of the Mellyrn tree's yellow blossoms on you," he sighed to himself, "It has been long since I have walked the woods of your homeland. How you came here, and why? I do not know. Please speak, have some wine, and relax."
He poured her some of the red liquid he was drinking, and then settled back into his chair.
She sipped at the drink and the placed it on the table between the two chairs.
"My name is Idrial. I am a servant of the Lady of The Wood. She bid me ride to Arnor swiftly, and seek the leader of the Dunadain."
"Alas, it is no longer Arnor, and I am not their leader. Aragorn son of Arathorn is my master and lord. The last I saw him, he was travelling south and east, in a strange Fellowship."
"He it was that sent his summons to my Lady. She told me he had need of his Kinsman, to help in the coming war. He is currently in Rohan.. My Lady said he orders you to assemble the Men of the West, and ride to his side."
Halbarad drained his goblet, and then looked straight at Idrial.
"It will take many days to assemble my rangers, and the passage south is controlled by Saruman. How then do you propose we reach Aragorn, swiftly at that?"
"You make a strong point. I, as I single rider, was able to ride past Isengard without incident. But a company of men, that is a different story. My Lady has told me that Saruman will engage the peoples of Rohan, and that Theoden will flee to Helms Deep, to make their stand. She has the gift of Foresight, so I doubt not her words. That should distract the evil wizard, and all his troops will be drawn to the battle, leaving us with a free passage south. As for time, I say within the week, we ride to Elessar, and to War."
Setting down his goblet, Halbarad stood up and paced in front of the fire.
"Yes," he said, more to himself than to Idrial. "I shall assemble the men at Amon Sul in two days. At dawn on that second day, we ride for Rivendell; there we shall get provisions and equipment. My men haven't carried long swords for quite some time. I would also seek the Master Elrond's permission for leaving the Shire unguarded. Yes, meet us upon Weather top tomorrow evening. In the morning we will ride for Rivendell. You are welcome to my room here, at the Prancing Pony until that time comes."
"Your offer of hospitality is appreciated," she said with a smile.
Halbarad began getting his pack, and his things together. He pulled on his travelworn cloak, slung his long bow over his shoulder and turned to face the she-Elf.
"I will see you again in two days milady," he bowed and exited the room and disappeared into the night.