Chapter 2 – The First Challenge
“How far outside Imladris do you reckon we are, brother?” Letholes asked Faihran after they had stopped.
“I do not know, three or four leagues maybe?” he replied.
The two sat down next to the fire while Jedgron was tethering the horses. He came back and got a blanket from his pack.
“Eat up, we leave at dawn. We should sleep soon.” Jedgron said to them. He got three lembas cakes from his pack and gave one to Letholes, and one to Faihran, and ate the remaining waybread.
“This cake gives me a full stomach, even though I have not eaten since noon-time today. What is this?” Letholes asked the others.
“Lembas, waybread from Lothlorien. I have a store of it from the last time Faihran and I visited Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel.” Jedgron replied.
“Well, Cúthalion, save the rest; as we need this nourishment for later.” Faihran said.
Jedgron smiled and got his pipe from his pouch. He lit its contents, a type of weed smoked by the Hobbits of the Shire. His pipe was long, with a slender stem and a deep bowl. It was a color of red, carved by Jedgron him self from a branch from a yew tree, so it looked rust-colored without the firelight upon it. He puffed thoughtfully, then spoke.
“Do you think we should stray from the road for a few days? I have heard of Númenoreans under Sauron’s will that use it, sorcerers and thieves.” Jedgron said.
“It would be wise, but slower, as riding would be limited,” Letholes replied, familiar with the western roads instead of the eastern roads like his company. “But I would rather sacrifice speed than fail the quest completely.”
“Let us decide in the morning. Sleep, we need our strength.” Faihran said to the others.
They got blankets from their packs, put out the fire, and climbed into trees. They cut boughs from the trees and laid them across branches, and laid the blankets on top of these. Each slept on their own bed with their eyes open in elf fashion, blending dream with reality. Faihran immediately fell asleep and Letholes soon after, but Jedgron stayed up, puffing his pipe in concentration on his tree-bed. After a while he extinguished the smoldering leaves in his pipe, dumped them into a hole in the tree, put the pipe back in his pouch, and closed the pouch. He wrapped his cloak around him and shut his eyes, choosing to sleep as the rest of the world did, as he was not a pure elf. His grandfather, Elrond, was born unto two half-elves, Eärendil the Mariner and Elwing the Fair. Elwing’s father, Dior, was the child of Beren and Luthien Tínuviel, the first union of the Edain and the Eldar. Luthien’s mother, Melian, was a Maia, one of the Ainu, a spirit of the time before the earth was shaped. Her father, Thingol, was the king of the Doriath, and it was from him and his kingdom that the Sindarin division of Elvendom was set. Eärendil’s father was a mortal man, Tuor, and his mother Idril Celebrindal, was a Noldor Elf, the daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin after Fingolfin. Elrond’s wife, Celebrian, was the daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel of Lothlorien, and Galadriel’s father was Finarfin, son of the Noldorin King Finwe. So by this way, Jedgron had the descent of two different clans of Men, both Noldorin and Sindarin descent, and even the spirit of the Ainu in him.
As he slept, the night passed without any occurrences related with the Scouts. At dawn, Jedgron woke and stood on a tree-limb. He removed the blanket-bed, rolled it like a scroll, and climbed down to Faihran and Letholes. He let them sleep a little, while he prepared the first meal. He started a small cooking fire and got a pot from his bag. He got a bag of oats from Letholes’ pack and put some in the pot. He poured a bottle of water into the pot and held it over the fire. He let it cook and got Faihran and Letholes’ pots from their packs. By then, the porridge was done. He put a third into Faihran’s pot, a third into Letholes’ pot, and kept the remainder. He called them, and they woke and came down with their beds rolled up.
“Porridge anybody? Got your pots here, you sleep like trolls.” Jedgron laughed.
The two grinned and sat down. Jedgron whistled loudly and the horses came, dragging their tethers.
“Great job those did”, Letholes muttered.
They finished breakfast and rinsed their pots in a stream. Jedgron refilled his bottle, and they all fastened the bough beds to their horses. They went back to the road and mounted their steeds, and rode into the west.
They did the same thing for a few days, and eventually came to the Mitheithel, or Hoarwell in Westron-speech. This river was a midway point between Imladris and Bree, and also the beginning of dangerous territory. They took the bough beds from their horses, and bound them into staves with rope. They took the packs off the stallions and slug them on their backs. They whispered to their horses, and the horses rode back to fair Rivendell. It was the elvish way with all animals of good nature, being able to command them, to their doing.
The horses went east, and the scouts continued west. After a few hours, they rested for a meal. Jedgron got his satchel of food from his pack, and got three honey cakes.
“Bannocks?!” Faihran yelled with glee.
“What?” Letholes then said.
“Try these, Thranduil sent them to me. The men in Esgaroth make them.” Jedgron told Letholes. Letholes tasted the bannock, and soon gobbled down the rest of the bannock.
Jedgron and Faihran laughed a little at Letholes’ behavior, and then proceeded to eat the other two cakes.
“They are very good! Never have I tasted a cake so good!” cried Letholes.
“Yes, they are good. They make me thirsty though.” Jedgron said. “Water!” he yelled jokingly. All three laughed, until from the near south there was a sudden cry and horn-call.
“Raiders ho!” yelled a voice.
“Draw, brethren! Be aware, we may be assailed.” whispered Faihran.
They removed their packs and drew their weapons. Letholes drew his long knives, which weren’t glowing at this time, Faihran drew his, and Jedgron drew his bow swiftly from his back. He carried an arrow in one long hand held his bow securely in the other, and the three headed south. As they left, Faihran marked the place with a sign only elves can see. It would appear to all elvish folk that the grove they rested in was faintly glowing green, so that they would be able to find it later.
“Raiders to the rescue!” someone yelled again. The three walked stealthily into a small clearing to the south, finding five brigands with drawn swords, unaware of their presence.
“These must be the raiders,” Jedgron whispered to the other two. “I’ll shoot, and then we charge. If they run, we split up and meet at the grove. If you need us, or I you, blow the horns and run here, ok?”
They nodded, and Jedgron fit an arrow to the bowstring. He bent the bow and took careful aim. He let go, and the arrow hit its mark. A raider fell with an arrow in his back. The remaining four spun around and charged the scouts. Jedgron drew another arrow and fired. Another raider fell with an arrow in its chest. Jedgron drew his knife and hung his bow across his back in one motion. As he hung the bow, he slipped his arm into his shield straps. Letholes and Faihran, weapons already in hand, charged with Jedgron right behind them, and the skirmish began.
Letholes ran at the raider he picked, and dodged his sword-swing. He quickly jabbed in and cut his opponents arm. He rolled on the ground right past the ruffian, dodging another slice, and ran to the trees. The raider followed, but lost sight of the Elf. As soon as he burst through the brush, he stopped and looked for a sign of the elf. All of a sudden, he felt a sharp pain, but slipped into blackness as Letholes pulled his knives out of the raiders’ back. He looked at the corpse and searched it for any coins or gear he could use, as the scouts always did. He said a prayer over the corpse and buried it, then went back to the clearing.
Faihran sped at a raider, kicking him over and, suddenly catching him unawares exploited his positioning and snuck behind him, out of the brigand’s periphery. He tried to stab the raider, but he spun around and rolled to the side. Faihran wheeled around and jumped to his opponent as he was getting up. He cut his arm deep, buy the brigand kicked him over and raised his sword. He started to swing, but stopped part way.
Letholes saw the brigand knock his brother down, and gasped as he raised his sword. He shifted his grip on his right-hand knife and threw it at the raider, waiting for the outcome. The knife hit the raider in the heart, killing him and preventing the death of his brother.
Faihran stood up, dusted himself off, and pulled the knife from the body. Letholes ran over and bound Faihran’s cuts, taking his knife back. They grinned and turned to watch Jedgron end the fight.
As Letholes and Faihran started to fight, Jedgron walked nonchalantly to his opponent, who had watched him draw his knife, and the ruffian now drew his broadsword. Jedgron slowly started to draw his long eket, then ran to the raider him and suddenly stabbed in at him. The ruffian jumped back from the blade, and countered with a fierce swing of his sword. Jedgron jumped back away from it, buy not wholly, as the tip caught him on the leg. He groaned and stabbed his opponent in the gut, and drew his bow. He fitted an arrow to the string, and shot it over the raider’s shoulder into the ground behind him. He took out the knife and stared at the brigand.
“That arrow is meant to find you. I get to it, and it is over.” he whispered to the raider. He hung the bow on his back and leaped back. The raider wielded his sword two-handed and gave a yell. Jedgron smiled and charged him. He blocked the first blow with his shield, ducked under the second, and rolled through the robber’s legs on the third. He kicked his opponent in the back as he stood up, and ran to the arrow. He drew his bow and grabbed the arrow. As he pulled it from the ground, the raider turned around and threw his sword at him. Jedgron dove and turned. He fired the arrow at the raider and rolled as the broadsword came flying at him. The fight was over.
“Letholes, what happened to the other one?” Jedgron asked as he gathered his spent arrows. “Where is he?”
“In the ground, he took two in the back at the same time.” The tall Elf replied as he put his knives back in his boots. Jedgron hung his bow on his back and knelt down. He prayed over his fallen opponents and buried them. Grinning at his brothers, he stood and walked over to them.
“Let’s rest, shall we?” he said. They all nodded and went back to the grove and rested until the next day.
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.