The chest that the Men of Minas Tirith had found contained items the like of which they had never expected to see. The halls of the Descendants of Numenor had not been graced by that of the Sons of Durin as long as any of them could remember, nor did any of them know a time when Dwarves had graced the land of Gondor with their presence. The moonlight shone as they beheld the master craftsmanship of the ancient dwarves.
Ondoher reached in and with a bit of a struggle was able to pullout a large bundle of blue cloth. A soft, rich material of blue, the make of which had not been seen in the lands of Men. With the bundle removed from the chest, the moonlight was able to shine down more directly, and that is when the true dwarfish nature was reveled.
“Bless me,” declared Hurin. “Is that Ithildin magic?”
“I don’t know of any other type of magic that could be similar,” replied Turgon.
The men of Minas Tirith gawked as the moonlight revealed an elaborate embroidery of a family tree, detailing a vast family tree that went all the way back to a single name.
“ That is none other than Durin the Deathless, or I’m a Dwarf!” said Ondoher. “The dwarves of the Iron Hills would definitely be remiss not want this cloth alone!”
Ondoher then gently removed the wrapping and laid it aside with the greatest of care. Beneath the covering, he found a hefty tome, bound I metal plated leather. He had never seen Dwarvish designs so intricate, even in the oldest history books of the White Tower. The designs were inlaid into the iron plates, detailing stories that he did not recognize. In the spines were set Sapphires that even in their age were stunning to behold in the light. On the front of the Tome were set clearly and neatly written Dwarvish runes, that appeared to shimmer. There were 3 tomes total, all appearing in the same fashion.
Ondoher attempted to open it, but they were securely locked, each with their own runes that appeared to glow brighter when he attempt to open them was made.
“These were clearly made to be opened exclusively by dwarf-kind,” said Turin. “They are a very reclusive folk, dwarves. They never teach their own language to any but their own kin, and I heard they don’t even use their real names with those outside of their own kind!“
“Aye,” chimed in Arveleg. ”I’d want to keep to myself too with women like theirs!” The others began to chuckle, they were cut off quickly…
“Enough!” declared Ondoher. “If we are to secure these dwarves as allies, then they must be treated with utmost respect! You can shall show treat them as you would the Steward himself!”
“Yes, sir!” Came their reply.
Ondoher sat down and wrote out a detailed letter of the circumstances under which the tomes had been found. He did not go into detail of the items found, for fear of an interception. He then detailed a location that he knew of, a stone formation like a bridge in northern Rhudaur, just south of the Ettenmoors; a well known spot for the emissaries of Arnor to meet with the Middle men of Rhudaur in ages past, known as Govadmiluin Sarianu. It was there that the arrangements would be made. The young noble sealed the letter with the seal of Minas Tirith.
Ondoher brought it to Hurin. “This land is full of danger, but this letter is important. Your first task as Ranger is to take this and get it to a local Dunedain outpost not far from here and have them send it as quickly as possible to this dwarf leader of the Iron Hills, Mhulo.”
So it was with this letter that Hurin went off on his first mission alone since his new title as a Ranger. He got himself lost once or twice, but before long, he delivered the message and returned to his brothers in arms.
Ondoher and his men made their way north with the dwarf tomes in tow. They kept out of site of the main roads, but traveled along them, with nothing to report other than the odd traveler here and there. They arrived at the Govadmiluin Sarianu and found that the dwarves were already arrived. There stood at the top of the bridge a hardy Dwarf with a mattock, followed by two crossbow dwarves, vigilantly scouting about.
Ondoher rode up to the stair, hailing the dwarves as friends to prevent confusion. “To be sure, I was not sure you would have arrived at all! It is good to see friends in these parts!”
“Well, met Gondorian. It seems we have crossed paths most fortunately. It seems you have done a favor large to the Folk of Durin’s lineage.”
Turgon and Turin laid the chest beneath the bridge.
“It was most fortunate that my Lord Beren got word of it! We assuredly would be more than happy to pass on these relics to the folk of the Iron hills. They are of gorgeous make, even more beautiful than we could have guessed in the South. We have little dealings with the dwarven folk ourselves.”
Mhulo began to come down the stairs to see the relic. As he did so, Ondoher watched as a dwarf dismounted not a horse, but a goat! With the biggest horns he had ever seen. Ondoher let his mouth hang for a moment, but a dwarf with a crossbow gave him an odd look, so he immediately shifted his focus back to the task at hand. Two other dwarves approached the chest, clearly eager to see the artifacts of their elder-kin.
“Aye and for good reason, meaning no offense. Our people are most solitary. Our Loremaster, Torvim the Old, sent us leagues from home for such a gift. Now let’s see what gift that be…”
The goat bleated as it hopped up on the stone bridge, finding a good patch of grass. This still amazed Ondoher, but he had to focus.
“By the beards of the Old…” They pored over the contents of the chest . The dwarves explained how the cloak belonged to one of the Dwarven kings of old, and the Tomes were unknown to any of them. They began murmuring amongst each other in Khuzdul. “Indeed this is work for the Loremaster.” said Mhulo to his companions.
Suddenly, the Goat was getting close to Ondoher and his horse. The horse began to bray and huff and shift around. The rider of the Wargoat began shouting in Khuzdul as he wrangled the goat back to the bottom of the Govadmiluin Sarianu’s steps. This shook the dwarves from their conversation with eachother in Dwarf speech.
Mhulo finally climbed up and spoke again. “Indebted to your cause, we folk of Durin be, Ondoher, leader of these free folk. These gifts further enrich our history and our culture, and cement an alliance between our people. How would you have us repay such an offering?”
“We only ask that you provide as much aide as you can to our Northern Kin,” replied Ondoher. “But there a many plans to take into consideration, to be sure.” Ondoher and Mhulo brought their voices down low and began speaking of where this alliance could lead.
As Ondoher and Mhulo spoke, The men kept their eyes peeled. The Dwarves of the Iron Hills also looked out It was nearing sunset, and who knew what enemies could be lurking.
They looked here and there, but none could really see anything. The sun had just set, but the moon could still be seen. Mablung casually glanced off to the right, and there he thought he saw a glint in the bushes. He rushed forward. As he did so, arrows began to fly from the multiple sides of the camp.
“Ambush!” Mablung cried! “Now for Gondor! For the Iron Hills!” as he gave this cry, Mablung was swarmed by many Easterlings, and he was quickly dispatched. Ondoher looked quickly over in the direction of the Mablung. “Form up Men! Spears behind! Team with our allies,” he ordered. He turned to Mhulo. “Those are the Easterlings we faced some time ago. They must d wish to see me dead!” he remarked as he rode is horse down the steps of the bridge.
“Well, they won’t have you as long as you have us around. Form up with Nasek . The two of you can ride them down together!”
Ondoher quickly formed up behind the heavily armored goat rider and hey awaited the enemy’s approach. Similarly, the dwarves and Men of the White City came together and formed shield walls as best they could. The Men of Minas Tirith were amazed to see the dwarves of the Iron Hills form up so easily, and with such tight formations. “Not even a mouse could find its way between them!” noted Malbeth, getting as close as he could. He stood himself near a ledge, awaiting the what ever enemies may approach.
Turgon and Hurin quickly set themselves in a position to fire at the enemy Goblins that began to approach on the opposite side of the raised rock.
One goblin made its way to the hill and climbed up to charge Malbeth, But the man quickly fought him off and shoved him back with his shield. As he went to strike, the Goblin ducked out of the way, but its foot slipped on the edge of the cleft and it fell to its doom, and didn’t rise during the battle.
On the southern side of the bridge, Mhulo and the hard mattock-armed dwarves made their stand with Turin ,Thorondir and Hirgon. They met the front line of Easterling’s block of soldiers, while Nasek and his mighty goat prepared to charge. Before Ondoher could lead up behind him, an Easterling warrior woman shot at ondoher, but struck his horse down. Ondoher fell to the ground, but his armor took the brunt of the hit.
As he stood up, beneath the bridge, Ondoher saw that Hurin had fired many shot. “Hurin, your bow is needed to the South! Fire at that archer! “ Hurin Quickly passed around to assist as best he could.
It was then that you could hear a loud guttural sound from the distance, and Turgon shouted, “I see you mean to be a pin cushion!” With that, the a goblin archer captain fell.
Ondoher heard an arrow whizzing from behind and threw his shield up and nearly was struck by it, but fate smiled him as the arrow was inches away from his face through the shield.
Ondoher got in behind his men who were facing the Rhûnish leaders. “Do not let them in men! For Gondor! For the Iron Hills!” With that, the dwarves and men of Gondor were able to charge in to the enemy and the Easterlings could not move before they were charged by the wall of White Tree and Dwarven Heraldry. “Down Ondoher! “ cried Turin. “That archer has it out for you and you are no use to us dead!” He knocked back an Easterling captain, fighting beside Mhulo, who was wielding his mattock deftly to fight off the attack.
As Ondoher laid himself down, attempting to get himself behind his shield, He looked out at and gazed directly back into the Easterling woman’s helmet in the moonlight, but by then it was too late. Time appeared to slow as the arrow made its way to him and struck him in the shoulder. It knocked his head back and he struck his head on the stone bridge’s base, and he heard no more.
Turin was about to strike out against the enemy, but they immediately began to retreat. “Get those cowards!” The Dwarves and Men were ready, but suddenly the Easterlings had picked up Mablung. They held a knife to his throat and began backing away. “Stop! Let them be. They have done their damage this day,” said Turgon, coming up behind. “We must find him another time. He is out brother, but we do not want to doom him for the sake of avenging Ondoher. “
The Easterlings slipped silently into the night. Meanwhile, the Goblins had done their job, distracting the northern side, so they left when they heard that all was clear.
Quickly, Turgon and Turin approached their leader, and sat him up. Turin held is bracers beneath Ondoher’s mouth, and it began to fog from his breath. “Strength of the Valar, he is alive,” he sighed in relief.
“We thank you for your strength of arms, Master Mhulo,” Turgon aid turning to the dwarf leader. “Your folk are as hardy as it is said!”
Before the dwarf could respond, the gallop of a single rider could be heard. Up rode a ranger, Numenorean features to be sure. “Mae Govannen, mellon nin!” It was an elf ranger. “I was seeking Ondoher, a lieutenant of Gondor, when I heard your skirmish occur. Is everyone all right? Anyone hurt?”
“Mae govannen!” replied Turgon. “Yes. Ondoher, the man you seek, is injured. He needs a healer and quick.”
“Well, it is in a fortuitous moment that I have come. Here, take my horse, Amroth.” the elf dismounted. “He knows the way to where we wish to take your company! There is a small fortress of the Dúnedain that needs your help, and they could definitely provide assistance for your current situation. I can lead the remainder of your company there myself.”
“I will go,” said Turin. Turin mounted immediately. They helped Ondoher onto the horse as best they could and they rode off.
Turgon thanked the dwarves for their service in defending their Lieutenant, and they followed the elf into the wilderness.
Ondoher woke to find himself on a well stuffed straw mattress near the foot of a ruined watch tower. There were men of unfamiliar clothing and features around him, but they certainly did not appear hostile. “This must be a fortress of the rangers of the North,” he thought. He sat himself up in the bed. “Ah! Bless me! It’s good to see you up and moving, sir,” came the familiar voice of Turin. He was sitting in a box nearby, carving a stick with a small knife. “You’ve missed a bit, Ondoher, my lad.”
“Pray tell, what would that be?” Came his response.
“Well, to begin, your leg has been mended. These northern men of Numenorean blood have some decent skill with healing, and were able to mend your wounds . You should be able to jump and leap with the best of them even now! I suspect it’s their connection to elves what makes them so good.”
Ondoher moved his leg and found that it did not catch so much when he bent it.
” Also, they have given me a horse And a keen lance. I shall indeed make use of them quite soon! Your horse Also has been seen to, and is good as new! He just needed a rest and some good healing hands is all.”
Ondoher stood to his feet. He managed to make his way to a nearby bucket of water. As he ladled himself a drink, he pressed further, “And what of the others? How do they fair?”
“Turgon has failed very well! He felt his marksman ship was lacking in the last battle, being limited by unsteady hands when moving. He continues o practice now, and he is getting to where he prefers moving to shoot!”
Ondoher looked around. Many rangers of the North he saw. It did not take long for him to pick out his companions in the crowd.
Turgon was with several other bowmen, honing his skills and moving as he shot. Hurin was discussing Ranger tactics with the northerner nearby. Thorondir and Arveleg were speaking with the men from Arnor, having a laugh about something indistinguishable from here. Hirgon and Malbeth sparred with each other. But where was Mablung?
“Turin,” the young lieutenant began, looking frantically to and fro to find the Heavy Hand. “What happened to Mablung? Where is he? What did they do to him!?” His voice escalated as he came close and grabbed Turin by his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “Where… is he?”
“They took him,” said Turgon approaching, having set his bow aside as heard his leader about. “Those filthy worshippers of the dark lord took him. They used him as a human shield to get away once they did their dirty work.” He spat.
“Then we must retrieve him! Who knows what they have done to him!” Ondoher turned to go get his horse, but Turin laid his hand on his shoulder. “No. they wouldn’t let us leave if we wanted to. They, and therefore we also, are preparing for a siege. The enemy is days away from here, but they need us to shore up this fortress to prepare its defenses. There are relics here that must be preserved.”
“That’s right, and we must assist out northern kin,” said a familiar voice. A voice that Ondoher had not heard in many a month.
“Cousin Ostoher! What in all of Middle-Earth are you doing here?” Ondoher greeted his ranger garb clad kinsman with a long embrace.
“To come save your sorry hide, it would seem,” retorted the Ranger. “Lord Beren sent us North with the intent of shoring up a few paces here and there, and then we are to return home when those places have been secured.”
Ostoher had come with a few good men. Two Rangers flanked him, and they were followed by two knights of Minas Tirith leading their horses. Their retinue also included a guard of the Citadel and two others.
Ondoher would recognize those helmets anywhere. Their white seabird plumage could be seen a mile off. “Truly your errand must be one that our Lord deems a high priority if he sends the Guards of the Fountain!” Ondoher recognized that these elites were meant only for the business of the King. They only answer to the King himself, yet there had not been any king in a good many years… too long…
“Indeed he did think that,” replied Ostoher. “We are meant to be an elite task force to get work done as quickly as possible, and the. To return. And so, here we be, little cousin.”
“I am grateful to see you, but I still wish to address my missing companion,” Ondoher declared, turning to his remaining men still of afar. “Men of the white city, come hither! We must deal with our loss quickly!”
Hurin came up with Thorondir and Arveleg, while Hirgon and Malbeth come from the other direction.
“What was it that you saw when this happened? Where did they take him?”
No sooner had he asked this question did a blaring horn come from the North, then another in the South, and then another in the West. Ondoher rushed quickly to his horse and mounted it and saw that in the distance he could see hordes of Haradrim approaching from both sides of the open stone walls. Then he looked elsewhere and saw swarms of the giant orcs he had seen not so long ago fighting for the dwarf relics.
Suddenly a call went up within the camp, “To arms! To arms! Bows at the ready!”
A battle was joined, and the Brigade of the White City was at the center of it all….