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Old 01-12-2023, 11:20 AM   #1
Spirit of Mist
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,329
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Isengar the Mariner by The Barrow-Wight, First posted February 21, 2004

Isengar the Mariner
by The Barrow-Wight
First posted February 21, 2004


"Ah dad, you've told me that one before," said the young hobbit smiling up from where he sat on the floor before his father. "Everyone knows about the Bullroarer. Don't you know any other stories? "

The older hobbit stood from his chair, looking down at his son.

"You should be proud of what old Bandobras did for the Shire, Faramir. After all, he was your great, great....well ... he was a great ancestor of ours."

He crossed the room to a tall bookshelf filled with many dusty, leatherbound volumes. Most of them were labeled with a large 'T' indicating they contained the genealogical histories of the Took clan. Pippin reached up to the highest shelf and pulled down a small, brown book. It, too, was marked with 'T', but it was also bound with a delicate silken ribbon.

"This is one I don't think I've read to you before, Faramir.", he said, returning to his seat and untying the ribbon. "It was given to me by Frodo Baggins just before he...left. His mother wrote most of it before Frodo was born."

Faramir moved closer to his father to get a better look.

"Is it about old 'Broadbelt' Brandybuck and the secret tunnels of Buckland?"

Pippin laughed. "No, it's not about old Gorbadoc. It is about one the many brothers of his wife, Mirabella Took. She related this story to her daughter and had her write it down so it would not be forgotten, and Miss Primula recorded what she told her in the pages of this very book.

"Have you ever heard of Isengar the Mariner?"

Faramir's eyes grew wide, "Isengar the Mariner! The seafaring hobbit!?"

Pippin grinned at the excitement he now saw in his son's eyes.

"Yes. This is the story of Isengar Took who became a mariner in his youth and sailed the Great Sea beyond the Havens. Would you like to hear of his adventures?"


Chapter 1 - Journey to Shiremeet

In the Summer of 1280, Gerontius Took, the Thain of the Shire, prepared for the bi-annual Shiremeet (not to be confused with the Shire-Moot). Every two years the Thain met with the community leaders of the Four Farthings, the Westmarch and Buckland to discuss various matters of government, agriculture and trade. On this particular year, the Meet was scheduled to be held at Brandy Hall, and Gerontius had decided to make a holiday of it.

Along with his wife Adamanta, he was taking his three youngest children, Donnamira, Mirabella and Isengar, and several of their friends and cousins, including two of Mungo Baggins' boys, Longo and Bingo. The large group filled two carts and required two wagons to bring their baggage. In the early morning light of a late Forelithe morning the hobbits, young and old, climbed aboard their carts and wagons and began the trip down to Buckland.

Isengar Took sat in the back of the second cart as it bounced along the lane that led from the Smial down to the Stock Road. He was more excited that he had been in a very long time. This was the first Shiremeet he had been allowed to attend, and he couldn't wait to get to Brandy Hall. Though he knew the Meet was supposed to be what he was most interested in, it was the festivities that were to follow that inspired his enthusiasm. Let his older brothers, who had left with their families the previous day, worry about governing and such. The fireworks and food were what really made the Meets worthwhile.

This year was going to be particularly special. This was the first time in over 20 years that the Meet had been held in Buckland, and on a Leap Year, no less. Marmadoc, the Master of Buckland, had been boasting for months that this celebration would be even better the seven-year Free Fair on the White Downs. Isengar looked back at the last wagon in their small train. Though it was supposed to be a secret, he knew that several of the crates under the heavy tarp contained fireworks specially prepared for the occasion by Gandalf the Wizard.

A rut in the road caused Isengar to fall backwards as the cart bounced out onto the Stock Road.

"Hey, watch it!", shouted Longo, whom Isengar had fallen on. He punched Isengar on the shoulder, and the two hobbits were soon wrestling on the wooden floor of the cart.

"Don't let papa catch you fighting again", said Mirabella from the front seat. "He just might make you boys walk all the way to the Brandywine."

Bingo laughed from her side on the seat, "If we left these two on the their own they'd most likely walk only as far as Pincup."

Longo looked up from where he lay pinned beneath Isengar. "Listen. Can you hear it?"

Isengar cocked his head. "Yes. The 'Broken Cup' is calling!"

The two hobbits laughed.

"Oh no!", said Mirabella. "There will be enough ale at the Overlithe Fest! But you've got to get there before you can enjoy it."

The two hobbits sat up from their wrestling, grinning. Longo was known for dragging his friends into most of the pubs between Overhill and Longbottom.

"We'll have plenty of time for celebrating after the Meet," said Isengar. "But 'Bella's right. If we don't behave, Dad's going to have us working the entire holiday instead of celebrating."


Chapter 2 - Crossing the Brandywine

That evening they pulled the carts and wagons into a narrow clearing beside the road. Isengar helped his father erect a small canvas pavilion while the Baggins boys fetched water from a narrow stream not far from their campsite. Soon they all gathered around a small fire to enjoy the smell of grilling sausages. Belladona and her mother brought out loaves of bread and jars of strawberry and gooseberry preserves. Longo, always the helpful one, tapped a small keg of ale he had sat on an old tree stump. Gerontius poured glasses of Old Winyards for the ladies.

The sun sunk below the trees and the air filled with the flickering lights of fireflies. The hobbits finished their meals and sat back enjoying the warm Summer evening. Bingo ran through the grass catching the glowing insects and then setting them free. To the north, the Sickle swung in a cloudless sky. Slowly the fire died and one by one the travelers moved to their blankets and went to sleep. Only Isengar still sat by the last glowing embers, watching the stars above and imagining the fireflies were fireworks. He noticed a young fox watching curiously from the edge of the forest. He sat wondering what the fox might be thinking until he fell asleep.

He woke with the first light of morning just beginning to creep through the trees. The others were still wrapped in their blankets, covered with dew. He gathered firewood from the forest edge and soon had a small blaze burning. His mother stepped down from the cart from where she had slept and began to prepare a light breakfast for the travelers, sending Isengar to the stream for more water.

When he returned, he found everyone awake and breakfast almost ready. He helped his father feed the ponies while his sister set the 'table'. Longo and Bingo packed away the pavilion and then they all sat down to eat. There were fried eggs and toasted bread with sweet apple butter, cold chicken brought from home and hot coffee straight from the fire. They quickly ate the frugal (for hobbits) meal and boarded their carts for the days ride. Longo carefully drowned and buried the fire before they left.

On the Road again they soon passed through the last folds of the Green Hill Country and began to drop down into Yale. In the midmorning sun the ribbon of the Brandywine, still many miles away, glistened and the hills of Buckland shined brightly. But the Old Forest formed a shadowy, dark smudge.

Their path took them through farmlands and past many of the above-ground homes common in this part of the Shire. Hobbits looked up from their chores and waved, most of them recognizing the Thain who was well-known and well-liked. Geronotius and his family waved back to them. Old Tab Goodbody, whose home lay just south of the Road, shouted a 'Happy Overlithe' from where he sat on his porch.

The farmlands ended at the town of Stock where the road climbed up onto a high causeway used to hold back the Spring floods of the Brandywine. Turning left led towards the Brandywine Bridge and right led to the Bucklebury Ferry and the Marish. Gerontius steered his group right and drove the last several miles to the Ferry.

Isengar immediately disliked the looks of the Brandywine at the Ferry. He had been to Buckland before, but each time he had crossed the river using the Great Bridge on the East Road. Now, looking at the dark water sliding by under the ferry he began to have an uneasy feeling. He had a difficult time looking out from the cart as Belladonna drove it out onto the flat boat and closed his eyes when the boat began to rock. But that only made the rocking sensation worsen so he opened them again quickly. He began to feel sick to his stomach as his father pushed the boat out into the flowing stream.

The queasiness increased as they approached the middle of the river until Isengar was forced to lie down looking up at the sky. To make matters worse, Longo and Bingo showed no signs of fear and began to jump up and down in the cart. Only the arrival at the far shore spared Isengar the further embarrassment of becoming sick in front of his friends. He rushed from the ferry, running up the short path and past the poles marking the lane. He dropped to his knee, breathless and dizzy, thankful to be in Buckland at last.


Chapter 3 - Brandy Hall

A cock crowed and Isengar opened an eye to see sunlight streaming into his room. He, Longo and Bingo were sharing a spacious bedroom located in the outer ring of the third level of Brandy Hall. The two brothers lay in heaps on the floor, tangled in their blankets and oblivious to the morning light or the noisy rooster.

A knock came at the door and still the Bagginses slept on. Isengar rose and walked to the door.

"Who is it?" he asked sleepily.

There was no answer, but again there was a quiet knock.

"Who is it?" Isengar said, louder this time.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Isengar began to become frustrated. It was too early in the morning for such games. He grabbed the handle and quickly pulled the door open, hoping to catch the knocking trickster.

There was no one there.

He stuck his head out into the hall and was immediately grappled into a headlock and wrestled to the floor. His assailant attempted to pin him down but Isengar rolled, knocking the attacker from him. He looked up to see a familiar grinning face.

"Your wrestling is getting better," said Gorbadoc Brandybuck, the son of the Master of Buckland and a good friend of Isengar's.

"And you're getting slower," said Isengar as he sprung at his would-be-attacker.

The two fought playfully for a few moments until, tired and sweating, they called a truce and sat panting on the hallway floor.

"You sleepyheads need to get up if you want to have any breakfast," said Gorbadoc, standing and walking into their bedroom. He pushed one of the sleeping hobbits with his foot. "Get up you lazy Bagginses!" he shouted.

Longo's head poked out from beneath his blanket. "Oh goodness! Lord Gorbadoc has arrived. Stand for his majesty, Bingo!"

Bingo peeked out, but neither Baggins could rise because Garbadoc and Isengar both piled atop them, twisting them helplessly in their covers.

A new knock came at the door and the wrestling hobbits looked up to see Mirabella standing in the hall.

"I can't believe you are roughhousing with these hooligans, Gorbadoc," she said with a sly grin. She looked at all of them, "I'm heading to the dining hall. Hurry up!"

They quickly got up and they followed her down a series of halls and stairways, finally ending up at the dining hall off of the kitchen on the main floor. Isengar's mother and father were there, and his older brothers and their families, too. At the head of the table sat Gorbadoc's father, Marmadoc, the Master of Buckland. Beside him was his wife Adaldrida and Gorbadoc's two young sisters.

"Glad you boys could make it," said Marmadoc as the four hobbits sat down. "Thank you for fetching them, Mirabella."

Gerontius looked up from his plate. "You'll be happy to know, Isengar, that today neither you or your cousin Gorbadoc will be required to attend the Meet."

Isengar and Gorbadoc looked at each other smiling.

"But," continued Gerontius, "you are to be on your best behavior, Isengar Took. We are guests in Brandy Hall and this is not a playground." He returned to his meal but looked up again. "And stay away from the 'Brandy Keg', Longo. There will be plenty of time to celebrate on Overlithe"

With that, everyone gave their attention to their meal. Soon the adults finished and excused themselves to get ready for the Meet. The women took Mirabella and the girls off to work on decorations for the Overlithe celebration. Isengar, Gorbadoc, Longo and Bingo found themselves suddenly alone.

"So what are we going to do all day?" asked Longo to Gorbadoc as he shoveled the last bit of his breakfast into his mouth. "That 'Brandy Keg' sounds fairly hopeful."

"There are better things to do than the 'Keg'," answered Gorbadoc. "I thought we could go down to the landings and see about going out on the River."

Isengar groaned. "Oh no! I'm not going anywhere in any boat."

Bingo laughed. "Har. Isengar got so sick on the ferry I thought he was going to pass out."

Gorbadoc looked strangely at his friend. "You're not afraid of the water, are you?" All of the Brandybucks were brought up near the water and could not understand the fear that it inspired in other Shire-folk.

Isengar nodded, looking pale at the very thought of the river.

"Well, that settles it then," said Gorbadoc. "We're going to the landings and teaching you how fun the water can be. If Bari hears that you're afraid to go boating , you'll never hear the end of it."

Isengar groaned again. "Barimac is here? I thought you said he was away north working fish nets for the Summer."

"He is. But it's a holiday. He's down at the landings now getting boats ready for us."

"Who's Barimac?" asked Bingo to his brother.

"He's Gorb's cousin," answered Longo, "and the last time we were here, he and Isengar got into an argument and he knocked Isengar into the Buckbrook. He's a big, bullying oaf and a fool. Why'd you have to invite him, Gorb?"

"Bari's not so bad, Longo," said Gorbadoc in defense of his cousin. "That Buckbrook incident was two years ago, and he's grown up a lot since then."

"Argh!" moaned Isengar a third time, rising from his seat. "But I'll wager we'll still have to deal with his terrible wit all day. Between him and the water, I'll take the water."

Gorbadoc smiled and thumped him on the back. "That's the spirit. I'll make a boatman out of you yet."

So they all left the dining hall and followed Gorbadoc down a fight of steep stairs at the back of the kitchen. These led to a storage cellar and another stair ending in a narrow, damp passage which opened onto a tunnel into which a channel from the river had been dug. Landings were built on both sides of the channel. From these. the hobbits of Brandy Hall loaded and unloaded the many supplies need to run to place. Several workers were unloading barrels from a raft on the landing on the far side of the water.

"This way," said Gorbadoc.

They followed him to the left, finally coming out into the sunlight right at the edge of the Brandywine where several piers stretched out into the river from the landing. As they emerged from the tunnel a tall hobbit waved from the end of the nearest pier.

"There's Bari now!" said Gorbadoc. "Come on." He ran down the wooden pier followed closely by Longo and Bingo. Isengar, taking a deep breath and focusing ahead on the backs of his friends, ran behind them.

Immediately, as on the Ferry, Isengar felt a disorientating sensation of movement as soon as he was out over the surface of the water. His stomach began to churn and his head felt light. He was just about to turn around and head back for solid ground when he heard Barimac shout at him.

" The Brandywine's a little bigger than the Buckbrook, eh Isengar?"

He stopped. He knew there was no way he would live it down if he left the pier. Barimac would probably write a poem about it - 'Isengar and the Boatdock of Doom' - and recite it to the entire Overlithe assembly.

Taking several deep breaths, he turned around and faced his fears. Slowly, with small but steady steps, he made his way towards his friends standing at the end of the pier. He wanted more than anything to prove to himself that he could make it, but it was Barimac's derisive sneer that drove him on. Finally he stood before the other hobbits.

"About time you got out here," said Barimac with an evil grin.

Isengar pushed him into the river.


Chapter 4 - Barimac's Secret

Barimac's eyes locked on Isengar as he pulled himself slowly back onto the pier. He paused for a moment, dripping on the wooden planks, and then moved forward. The Baggins brothers moved quickly aside but Gorbadoc moved up to place himself between Barimac and Isengar. The wet hobbit stopped.

"You really oughtn't to have done that, Took" he growled, looking past his cousin. "I think I just might have to drown you for that."

Isengar stood his ground , planting himself firmly, preparing for an assault from the bigger hobbit.

"Come on, Bari" said Gorbadoc, still standing between the two. "You two can't be fighting like this."

Barimac snarled and pushed past his cousin. "Itís time I ended this, Gorb."

Isengar braced himself and put up his fists.

Barimac stopped in front of him. "Itís about time you did that."

Isengar's mouth dropped open.

"I've been picking on you for years, Iss," said Barimac, extending a hand. "and I really did deserve that."

Isengar eyed him warily. This had to be some kind of trick. He and Bari had been feuding for a long time. It had started at the last Free-Fair when he had beaten the other hobbit at a fishing contest, something no Bucklander would take lightly. But Barimac had been embarrassed by the loss and had retaliated by collapsing the Took pavilion while Isengar and his brothers slept. The next year at the Shire-Meet the two had met again in an argument that left Isengar with a black eye. And the last time Isengar had ended up in the freezing mid-November water of the Buck Brook.

But that had been two years ago. Perhaps Barimac's apparent offer of truce was genuine. Gorbadoc had said that he had changed. Bari was working now, no longer a spoiled Brandybuck running around the Hall without a care. From what Gorbadoc had told him, Barimac now spent each day from dawn until dusk working for old man Fishbanks running nets along the Brandywine north of the Bridge.

Isengar looked at the outstretched hand again and made a choice.

He reached out carefully and shook it.

The other hobbits cringed, waiting for a fight to begin. But it didn't happen.

Barimac shook Isengar's hand heartily and laughed. "The Buck Brook in winter is a lot colder than the Brandywine in Summer. Maybe I should let you throw me in again."

Isengar laughed. "No. I'd just as soon we call it even, Bari. I was dreading us fighting through the entire Overlithe."

"That's good" said Barimac looking around at the other hobbits "because we've got to cooperate if you all are going to help me."

"Help you?" asked Longo. "What do you mean?"

"Yeah" said Bingo, echoing his brother. "What do you mean?"

Barimac stepped back from Isengar so he could look at everyone.

"I have decided to allow you all to help me investigate a mystery."

"A mystery?" said Longo.

"A mystery?" repeated Bingo.

"Come on, Bari!" said Gorbadoc with a groan. "It's Overlithe. We haven't got time to be playing your adventure games again."

He looked at Isengar. "The last time Barimac had a mystery to solve it left us lost and knee-deep in the Overbourne Marshes. It took us three days to find our way home. My dad nearly tossed me in the Buck Brook."

"Come on, Gorb" said Barimac. "That was very different, and it was years and years ago."

"The year before last you mean" said Gorbadoc. "He had us convinced that he had discovered an old Barrow hanging wide open with its treasure just waiting for the first Hobbit to find it. Instead, we found the remains of an old stable on the top of a briar-covered hill. The great treasure turned out to be a broken wagon wheel and a rusty pitchfork."

"How was I to know it was only a barn?" cried Barimac. "There haven't been any hobbits living that far out in the marshes for generations. And it's always been said that the King's men had lived down that way before we crossed the River."

"Well, your treasure was nearly the death of me, Bari, and I'm not going to go chasing any more of your mysteries."

Barimac looked at the other hobbits. "This time itís different! The information I had in the marshes was given to me by a very unreliable source."

"Ha!" laughed Gorbadoc. "That's what you get for listening to your older brothers."

"But this time is different" said Barimac. "This time I've seen it myself!"

"Seen what" asked Isengar.

"Yeah, seen what?" repeated Bingo.

Longo smacked Bingo on the head. "Stop repeating everything we say."

Bingo punched Longo on the arm but kept his mouth shut.

"So what have you seen?" said Isengar, repeating himself.

Barimac looked around and then moved in close as if to guard a close secret from prying eyes.

"I've found a Dwarven burial chamber" he whispered.


Chapter 5 - Barimac's Discovery

"A what?!" shouted Gorbadoc, looking at his older cousin incredulously. He had heard many tales from Barimac, but this one sounded more far-fetched than most. And he had heard a lot of them over the years.

"Where is it?" asked Longo excitedly. The idea of a pile of Dwarven gold sounded marvelous to him.

"Yeah! Where is it?" repeated Bingo, dodging as Longoís left foot suddenly shot out.

Barimac gave a sly grin and looked around to see if anyone else on the docks might be listening, but there were no other hobbits in sight. "Like I said, Iíve found a Dwarven burial chamber, at least whatís left of one. Itís up on Grummage Island, and I mean to open it!"

Bingo pranced about on the wooden dock. "Oh, thatís great!" he shouted. "Iíll bet itís full of treasure!"

Barimac grabbed him roughly around the neck and shook him, dragging him down to the wooden planks of the dock. "Be quiet!" he hissed. "Do you want every boat-hobbit on the Brandywine to hear you?"

Bingo slapped his hands over his mouth and looked around to see who might have heard, but there were only the five of them to be seen. A hush came over the group as they stood looking at each other wondering if Barimac was setting them up for some kind of terrible prank.

Isengar broke the silence. "Grummage Island?" he asked. "Iíve never heard of that."

"Of course you havenít," said Barimac gruffly as he stood, pulling Bingo up beside him. "Thereís a lot down here in river-land that you hill-climbers havenít heard of, but Gorbadoc knows where itís at, donít ya Gorby."

Gorbadocís head nodded up and down slowly. "Yes. I know where itís at, of course, but Iíve never been there." He looked at his cousin strangely. "And as far as I know, no one has been there, at least not in generations. What were you doing on Grummage Island?"

Barimac looked around again and turned back to the listening hobbits. He spoke directly to Gorbadoc in a voice so low the others had to move closer to hear his story.

"As you know," Barimac began, "Iíve been working for old Carpy Fishbanks all Summer long." He looked a bit embarrassed but admitted, "My dad says its time I start working for a living instead of only standing around on the docks."

"Sitting around in the inns is more likely," laughed Isengar. "I hear The Brandy Keg has a reserved stool with your name on it."

Gorbadoc snorted a quick laugh, but Barimac ignored him and continued his story.

"Like I was saying, Fishbanks has me out every morning setting and checking nets in the west narrows along Girdley Island away north of the Stone Bridge. Brandy Hall serves fish twice a week, and with deliveries from the Havens being short of late, they have been making extra demands on the Brandywine fishers."

"Now, old Fishbanks is a true Bucklander alright," explained Gorbadoc, "but he actually lives on his barge year-round, if you can believe it. He donít hardly ever set foot on dry land, especially through the Summer. Except for Overlithe. He donít miss an Overlithe celebration, being as fond of Buckhillís finest brews as most good Bucklanders are."

Isengar got suddenly dizzy thinking of such a water-bound lifestyle and had to grab the nearest post to steady himself. Gorbadoc smiled at him and went on with his story.

"Last week, right after that big storm we had Ė you remember the storm, Gorby Ė well, old Fishbanks sent me out to the nets as usual but the water was a muddy mess and it was full of floating debris. He has been keeping his barge anchored up towards the north end of Girdley, so I was approaching the nets from the north, and I had a time getting to them. But when I finally got to where we had set them, it was worse than I had imagined. Half the nets were missing and the rest were hanging useless on the riverbanks.

"I took off downstream as quick as I could paddle to see if I could salvage any of the missing parts, and I soon cleared the southern end of Girdley without a sign of the nets. So, I kept rowing until Grummage Island came into sight. Itís not far from Girdley, and though it is a much smaller island, the river narrows there, so I though the nets were likely to be hung up there."

"Sure enough, when I got close to it, I could see a tangle of wood and net washed up in a pile of other storm debris on the northern tip of the island. A huge pile of logs and limbs had come up against a tall wall of rock, lodging against it in a terrible knot. It looked like it might be impossible to get all of the nets out of that mess, but I wanted to save as much as possible. Itís much easier to piece together a net than to have to make a new one from scratch."

Barimac looked around one more time and then started right back into his tale. He had been getting more animated as he went on, and his voice had started to rise. But now he began to whisper again.

"Like I was saying, I climbed out of my boat and up onto the huge pile of limbs and logs and started untangling and cutting the nets free. It was hard work, so hard it took me a couple of long hours to get what was savable into the boat. By that time, it was midmorning and there was no chance I would get back to Fishyís barge by lunch, so I decided to have lunch right there on the little island.

"Now, Iíd rowed by Grummage many times before but never set foot on it until that day. No one had, as far as I know, because Grummage island isnít like Girdley, not at all. Girdley slopes gently out of the water and has nice, muddy beaches to wade in. Itís got nice fields, and a few people have even been known to stay there in better weather, a kind of vacation spot for Bucklanders who want to get away from the crowds of Hall and Hill."

"I remember picnicking there as a young hobbit," said Gorbadoc thoughtfully. "Girdley Island was always a great place for a game of tag or football."

"Grummage isnít like that at all," Barimac said loudly, "Itís all stone and steep banks poking straight out of the water and covered with thick brush and tall trees. Normally, it would be nearly impossible to climb up on to the island, but the pile of fallen trees had formed a kind of ramp which I use to climb most of the way up to the top of the cliff face. From there I could scramble to the top, and I was nearly 30 or 40 feet above the water. I sat up there atop a boulder bigger than the Three-Farthing Stone."

He raised a hand high above his head to demonstrate the size of the boulder.

"Really, the place I had climbed to was quite high and was probably the highest place on the whole island, even higher the trees that lined the Brandywine. I could see for miles and miles around. To the south, a few leagues away, was the Great Bridge, and further on was the rise of Buck Hill, and beyond that the lowlands of the Marish, though really, I couldnít see that far. Westward, the Water was shining like a bright ribbon, and I could follow it all the way across Bridgefields.

"I sat there for a while eating my lunch and enjoying the view, but the sun was getting hot, and I knew the boss would be wondering where I had got to. So, I gathered up my things and prepared to climb back down to the boat when I heard the strangest tapping noise behind me. It was very faint and sounded like when the Yale farmers are breaking rocks in their fields across the river. You know the noise Iím talking about Gorb?"

"Sure," answered Gorbadoc. "The farmers in Yale swear the rocks grow faster than the crops sometimes. And when they are Ďharvestingí them you can hear it for miles around."

ĎRight," said Barimac. "Thatís kind of what it sounded like. It was an odd, distant kind of sound that echoed off the boulders around me. And I noticed that below me was a narrow lane between two boulders that created a kind of natural path leading downward between several boulders larger than the one I stood on, its bottom hidden in a grove of tall trees. But as I looked, the tapping stopped.

Gorbadoc paused dramatically for effect and finally looked at Gorbadoc.

"I stood there for several minutes wondering if I should investigate. You know how I love to investigate."

Gorbadoc rolled his eyes.

Barimac went on. "Well, I was just about to leave when suddenly the tapping started again, and it really sounded this time as if someone was banging with a hammer on a metal plate, somewhere just below me in the trees. I thought that someone had to be down there, so I crept down the stairs to see what was going on.

"The boulders on either side became carved stone walls, and the stairs themselves soon turned from rough rock to even steps obviously carved with great skill but now rounded almost smooth by many years of rain and wind. I went deeper down what was becoming a hallway of rock with the midday sun shining directly down upon me.

"After more than 100 steps I came to a level platform that had to have been as low as the river. Before me was a low stone archway, and inside, no more than ten feet, was a stone door on great metal hinges. The door hung slightly ajar, open only a few inches, and it was swaying back and forth, tapping the stone portal it was set in.

"Above it, carved into the stone but hard to read from long years of weathering, were what had to have been Dwarven runes."

He drew the markings in the air with his fingers.

R ^ B I Y

Beleriand, Beleriand,
the borders of the Elven-land.
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