Halbarad sighed and pulled up the cowl of his cloak, trying in vain to purge the strong north wind of its bitter chill.
He had sent riders to all parts of Eriador, carrying word for the Rangers of Arnor to rally at Amon Sûl. While the Dunedain were being gathered, Halbarad had rode north of Bree to Fornost, to inform in person, his second in command, Andrae. Halbarad knew Andrae would not be happy to leave his post; Aragorn had entrusted to him personally, which is why he made the journey himself. He also wanted to visit the tombs of the fallen kings that lie buried at Fornost Erain, the Norbury of the Kings. Halbarad was not a man of faith per se, but he did want the blessing of his ancestors before he took the perilous trip south.
He crested a small rise and came upon Andrae’s campsite. There was a small fire burning within a ring of stones, with a rabbit roasting upon a crude spit.
Halbarad approached the fire to warm his hands. The campsite was in a small depression, giving it shelter from the wind, but it still was nonetheless, freezing cold. A few paces from the fire, Halbarad heard a bowstring being tightened.
`Halt thief!’ cried Andrae, as he emerged from the bushes, a grin forming on his rugged features.
`Andrae! Well-met old friend! I trust I find you well?’ replied Halbarad as he settled himself beside the fire, placing his pack to the side.
`Ahh, well enough my lord, well enough.’
`Andrae, cut the formalities, we’re just two men, in the wilderness,’ Halbarad said with a chuckle.
Andrae took the rabbit off the spit and began to cut off chunks of meat with a dagger. He tossed half a loaf of old bread and some meat to Halbarad, who ate hungrily.
Andrae settled himself opposite Halbarad, also eating.
`What brings you Halbarad? The last time I saw you was when Elessar was heading south with the Ring of Power.’
`It is our master whose errand I am running. He summons us. He has called the Men of the West to him, and we must answer his call. He is in Rohan. The Dunedain are being assembled at Amon Sûl. At dawn, in two days, we ride for Imladris, and then, to war.’
Andrae was silent, eating his food. He did not look up; his gaze was fixed on the dancing flames of his small fire.
`Elessar summons us? How do you know?’
`An elf visited me in Bree. She told me Aragorn passed through Lothlorien, and left word that we were to be summoned, that we would find him in Rohan.’
`If we leave Eriador unprotected, none can say what will happen to her. Even as recent as yesterday, did I see goblins and the evil men of north, consorting in the North Downs. The Ancient evil that was Angmar was never fully cleansed. They will invade from the north I fear. But if Elessar calls us, we must ride, and ride quickly.’
`You are not going to fight me on this one?’ Halbarad raised an eyebrow at his comrade.
Andrae chuckled between mouthfuls. `I am as stubborn as they come Halbarad, but I cannot refuse the call of my master. Even if it spells doom for the little Shire folk.’
`Good. Can you be ready to head out before dusk?’ asked Halbarad.
`Dusk? So soon? It can be done of course, but let us sleep in shelter this night, my camp may be modest, but it is warmer than camping aside the road.’
`We must leave tonight. Idrial, the elf maiden, has agreed to accompany us to Imladris. She is expecting us at Weathertop by tomorrow. We must leave as soon as we can.’
`Ok, give me some time to recover my possessions and hide the camp,’ said Andrae.
`I would look upon the Kings, one more time, ere I depart,’ answered Halbarad, as he rose from the fire and walked to the burial place of the Kings of Men.
It was a bleak site. Halbarad was standing upon the former chief city of men, now just a desolate stretch of misty moor. The Rangers had honoured the place properly, but they could not save it from the harsh weather, and time itself. Proud headstones still stood in some places, but crumbling into decay, their legacy still intact, but the names long since worn off the smooth, carved surface of the stone.
Halbarad bowed his head, kneeled, and recited an ancient song of farewell in the Númenorean (Adûnaic) tongue. The song was from the time when Westernesse was still above the waves of the great sea. It was a song sung by the women, to farewell the men who sailed in their great ships to Middle-earth.
**(If anyone would like to give me a representation of this song, or poem, please email it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll put it in a latter chapter)**
Halbarad stood up, wiped away a tear and returned to Andrae’s camp to find the place unrecognisable. The ashes from the fire had disappeared, and all signs of habitation were gone. Andrae came out of the bushes, his pack on his back, longbow slung over his shoulder, and his travel stained cloak draped over his shoulders.
`Ready?’ he asked.
`I don’t think I’ll ever be ready Andrae,’ Halbarad said with a laugh. `We’d best be off if we want to reach Amon Sûl tonight.’
The two Rangers travelled just off the road, on well-worn paths that only a Ranger could know, let alone see in the darkness. They pressed on, and as the new day was dawning they emerged from the trees of the Chetwood and beheld the southernmost tip of the Weather Hills; known as Weathertop.
The crumbling remains of a great tower were atop the small mountain/large hill, and Halbarad could see light glimmering in one section of the rubble. The two travel weary rangers headed for the source of the light. As they walked around a large boulder they saw their brothers, their fellow Dunedain. Sitting on a rock, arms folded neatly to her chest and one foot tapping impatiently was Idrial.
`Is that the elf you spoke of?’ queried Andrae
`Indeed, tis her. She does not look happy does she,’ replied Halbarad.
At the site of Halbarad, Idrial leapt to her feet.
`I arrived last night. I expected to meet you here. You are late.’
`Idrial, you sound like my mother,’ said Halbarad; his comment was met with sniggers from the other men around.
`I apologise for being late, I am truly sorry. Frealud, how many have come?’ Halbarad asked a man to his right.
`So far only twenty and three. Twenty and five now that you are here.’
`So few,’ Halbarad shook his head. `We must stay here for today at least, maybe there are others who are still coming.’
`Halbarad there is no time. Aragorn needs you now. If twenty five is all you can muster, 25 it will be who ride south to his aid,’ Idrial pleaded with him.
`We will stay here for today. More will come,’ Halbarad said with finality in his tone.
Idrial sighed and snorted under her breath: `Hmpf, Men’ and stormed away.
`Halbarad, the She-elf has a point,’ said Andrae. `Elessar needs us now, we linger for too long while he is in peril.’
`More will come Andrae. You have never doubted me before, do not start now,’ and he too stormed off.