Chapter 20: Fornost Erain

 

Hello folks,

CALANDAR: Tolkein's main elven calandar is a rough variation on our own. This calandar is the most commonly used in Western Endor. There are twelve months and each approximates one of our months. Also, there are three intercalary days that are not assigned to any month.
Yestarë (intercalary day: Yule)
Narwain (winter)
Ninui (winter)
Gwaeron (winter)
Gwirith (spring)
Lothron (spring)
Nórui (spring)
Loëndë (intercalary day: Midyears)
Cerveth (summer)
Urui (summer)
Ivanneth (summer)
Narbeleth (fall)
Hithui (fall)
Girithron (fall)
Mettarë (intercalary day: Yearsend)

And on to adventure,

The 27th Day of Ivanneth. T.A. 1640

Kirahan, jaw clenched tightly, waited for the King's Guards to leave with Ordain before he dared speak his mind. "Dogs," he grumbled beneath his breath. "I've not known Ordain long, but he has sworn an oath with me. I'll see justice done by him. Where is this 'Seven Stars'?"
Fred looked around a little nervously and then whisperred to the rest of the group, "I spoke with Ordain for awhile last night, and I think I have a little bit of an idea of what is going on. I suggest we don't talk too openly about this here, or anywhere that unfriendly ears might hear us."
He looked around nervously again.
"I suggest we get to the 'Seven Stars' and talk more there. I am sure that one of Ordain's men can show us the way. I have known Ordain as long as anyone here, and I know that seeing justice done is more important to him than his freedom...or his life. I think we will have to work within the law..." he paused for a moment and then continued with an evil little smirk "...or at least appeared to. "We need more information about what he has supposedly done, and then maybe who is behind this. I think we are in the middle of something pretty big, so let's wait until we get somewhere safe before talking about it...or showing strong emotion about it. I know, it is difficult, but we don't want to make enemies before we know who, and what is involved."
Still keeping his voice low enough for only the party-members to hear he continued. "I tell you all now, that I will do whatever I have to do to see that Ordain goes free. If any of you need some cash for equipment or horses, let me know and I'll take care of it. We are all in this together, and Ordain is one of us." Fred's voice started to shake a bit and it was obvious that he was having a hard time keeping his emotions under control. After he had finished talking he ducked under the table and after taking a moment to compose himself, he re-emerged with his pack. He then asked one of Ordain's men which way it is to the 'Seven Stars.'

Clarissa moved herself close to Fred and asked softly, "You mentioned you could supply us with funds for equipment? I am not sure how or where you came about with such resources, but I am ill prepared for any adventure." She felt somewhat embarrassed for asking, unaccustomed to such a situation.
Fred lowered his voice and whispered to Clarissa, "I picked up some items here and there in that evil manor where we met. Before I got there, I was no better prepared than are you. I was merely planning to explore the land with Ordain and Ranciryon when we got involved in that...place. But since we know we are likely to be involved in something that requires us to have every advantage, I think we should all be prepared." Fred looked around to make sure no one else was listening and then continued. "Let's get to the 'Seven Stars' and find out what we will need, and where to get good equipment and animals and I will take care of whatever we need."

Clarissa nodded in agreement. After Fred finished speaking to the men, she stated, "Any luck?... We are a party now, let's stay together, and lets go find the Seven Stars"
Daern said to Fred, "Calm down Fred, we're going with you. I would not leave Ordain unjustly imprisoned also."...Daern gathered his gear so that he was ready to leave with Fred.
After Ordain had been taken away and Fred had talked softly to the
party, he turned to one of Ordain's men and quietly said, "Ordain said we should go to the 'Seven Stars' in order to find some help. Can you show us the way?"
One of the men got up and bowed to the party. He was a younger man, though how old was hard to say as the Dunedain often seemed younger than their years could ever suggest. He wore simple leggings but their weave was of good quality and his cloak seemed both sturdy and well kept. As this man spoke to the party, his dusky hazel eyes, peeking out beneath longish black hair, regarded them in turn, capturing each's own gaze with his own.
"I am Thirghol, a squire in training to Sir Ordain. If you seek the `Seven Stars,' it is to be found at the gate at the upper part of the city, where Rath Aran (Kings Street) and the Rath Rammas meet. The owner is one, Jo-nag, and he is a friend of my master's."
Fred nodded. "I thank you, Thirghol. You are very kind. If I may presume upon you yet farther, I am not familiar with this city. Could you tell me how to get there?"
Thirghol led the party outside the tavern. Above them towered the great walls of the Citadel and it's attendant forts.
"Follow these walls," Thirghol said until you come to the gate of the Citadel. There, at High Square, the open pavilion where all the sellers from the lower city come to sell their wares, you will see the broad stones of the Rath Aran. Travel that avenue until you come to the gates that separate the upper and lower parts of the city. There, at the very tip of the upper quarter, where the Rath Rammas follows the walls, you will find the Seven Stars."
Fred nodded. "Thank you my good man. Is there anyone specific we should speak with there? Will you be accompanying us?"
"I will accompany you, if you wish," Thirghol told Fred. "And when we get there, you should speak to Jo-nag. He is a good friend of all who serve the Tarmas." At that point, not only Thirghol, but all of Ordain's retainers, some twelve in number, began to gather their things and head for the Seven Stars.

After a brief discussion with Thirghol, Fred told the party that, "We are supposed to follow these walls to the gate of the citadel, where there is an open pavilion. From there we take the broad stones of Rath Aran to the gates separating the upper and lower city, where the Rath Rammas follows the wall we will find the Seven Stars."
Fred started toward the citadel and when he was sure that they had left the Inn and its crowds behind, he motioned for everyone to walk a little closer as he began his tale.
"I spoke to Ordain for some time after the rest of you had gone last night and he told me a bit about the situation around here. Marl Tarma succeeded his father some fourteen years ago and has proved himself to be an accomplished warrior and a popular hero in these parts. He has now been appointed as an advisor to the King."
Fred paused for a few seconds and looked around to make sure that no one else was walking too closely and then continued. "Apparently there are seven great families, or houses. Of these Tarma and Eketta are the most powerful. Obviously Marl Tarma is the leader of his own house, and he is to marry Elaine Eketta, thus cementing an alliance between the two houses. Apparently most of the other houses support Tarma, and the Rangers and many fighting men do as well."
Fred stopped talking again, and looked around, then continued. "These two houses have been calling for an invasion of Angmar to stop the raiding that has been occuring on the borderlands. In addition, they are strongly opposed to King Argeleb II having granted a certain piece of real estate to Marcho and Blanco Fallohide. A piece of land that was claimed by House Tarma, a piece of land in southern Arthedain that is now called the Shire."
Fred paused to let this sink in. After another quick look around, he started again. "The only house that fully supports the King is House Noirin which is the least powerful of the great families. I feel that we could be in the process of getting mixed up in a Civil War. And I am afraid that if the King loses out, things will not go well for Hobbits, who are not highly regarded by the opponents of the land deal, especially House Tarma..." He let his voice trail off. Fred did not appear to be very happy.
But after a few seconds, he shook it off and looked around once again. He then continued. "I am afraid that because Ordain is relatively high in Lord Tarma's camp, the King might be using this as a way to show Tarma that he is willing to play rough. Or maybe something that some zealot in Tarma's camp has done has somehow involved Ordain. I don't know...yet...but I suspect that this is not about Ordain, and it will be tough to get him off."
Fred paused once again, and let these thoughts sink in. He looked around again and continued. "From what I have gathered about the legal system, there will be a trial by a jury of peers before a judge, the judge will be either some civil servant, or a Lord, or even the King. The judge can allow trial by combat instead. The punishment for treason is either banishment, or occasionally death. Witnesses, evidence and character can all be used for or against the defendant. Trial length is dependant on the complexity of the case, and the amount of evidence, but I suspect that we will at least have some time to plan a strategy to help him out."
Fred stopped once again to make sure that everyone was following, and that no one else was too close. "When we get to the 'Seven Stars' I would like to see if anyone knows what is really going on, and more about what Ordain is accused of and how we can help. I hope we can come up with a plan for getting the charges dropped, or Ordain freed. Then we can find a good place to purchase whatever we need and I'll make sure we are well equipped."
They noticed that Fred's voice had been getting a little hoarse from all of the talking...and that maybe he was getting a little choked up with emotion. He took a drink from his canteen and walked for awhile in silence, letting the party think about what he had said.

Fred looked around, trying to get a general feel for the populace. Dwarves, like those he had briefly seen at the White Cockade, seemed notably absent. But he surmised, being the great traders and travellers that they were, Dwarves could probably be found elsewhere, perhaps in inns nearer to the main city gates. Elves also, seemed to be absent, but they were a mysterious and taciturn people and their visits, even to a Dunadan city, were probably rare in these troubled times.

Looking at the sky, Fred saw dark clouds gathering, promising more rain and thunder.
Thirghol whispered, "Angmar."
"Angmar?" Clarissa asked, looking up. "Surely it's just a late summer storm. I grant you though, a big one."
One of Ordain's other retainers, a man named Dertanan, cast his piercing green-eyes over to Clarissa. He had a rough wary look about him, like he'd once been a soldier and had seen too much death.
"Summer storm? Perhaps, my lady, perhaps. Though this black wind blows from the nor-east and anything from that quarter usually comes from he that wears the Iron Crown."
Off in the distance, the storm rumbled and brief flashes could be seen as the black clouds cast the world below it in darkness. The storm was moving fast and would blanket Fornost in a few hours.
Pushing through the crowd buying at the orderly stalls of High Square, the party continued onward, down the Rath Aran. Everywhere around them, tall handsome well groomed people went about their business. Though there were some who were probably descended from other types of men, no one could doubt that Fornost was anything but the City of the Dunadain.
In short order, they came to the Seven Stars, named after the royal crest of Arthedain. A placard showing the royal crest and a tankard was displayed over the main entrance. The building was build of dark oak, with bits of stone inlay along the walls to add a natural sort of colour to the place. It looked more like a tavern that princes might drink in. Taurvantar thought it odd that a mere tavernkeeper would be allowed to make such blatant use of a royal seal, but then, perhaps the Dunedain were a more tolerant folk than most. This assumption was soon put to rest as the party entered.
The gathered crowd, an eclectic mix of well dressed merchants and more soberly dressed travellers wearing swords all stopped their conversations, staring at the new comers.
Kirahan couldn't make out what in their own appearances could have drawn so much attention, until he followed the gaze of the tavern goers. They were not looking at them, but rather at the hobbit, Fred.
"We don't serve `halflings" here!" a young well dressed man said, standing up before the crowd. Others stood up, as if to back up his words. Fred had never felt that the word halfling had ever carried any onus, until he heard it spoken in the way the young man had just said it.
Kirahan and Ranciryon both dropped their hands down to their swords, but Taurvantar interceded.
"We cannot afford to make enemies here," he whispered to them both. "Remember Ordain."
Taurvantar turned to Fred. "I'm sorry, Fred. Could you?"
"Wait outside?" Fred nodded and sadly turned to leave. Clarissa dropped a friendly hand onto his shoulder.
"I'll go with you, Fred."
Takenya nodded. "I too."
Fred shook his head. He did not want them to follow. "Stay clear of me for now," he warned them. "We don't know what this place is like. Taurvantar is right. Don't make any enemies you don't need to. I'll go and check out the market place."
As Fred shuffled off outside, the party made themselves ready at a table. Suspicious eyes looked toward them. Ordain's men seemed more welcome and they disappeared among the assembled crowd and could be seen talking hurriedly.

Everyone sat down to order drinks. (one penny/c.p.- each) Taurvantar inquired about Jo-nag but was told that the owner had just stepped out. The news of Ordain's arrest travelled fast and grumbling could be heard, quite openly, all around them. Many wondered what Marl Tarma would do at this latest slight. Many more offered to back Tarma in whatever he did. There were complaints that justice had become a mere word, and it was now a crime to hold any opinion that did not match that of the King's.
Though wary eyes were cast at the party, for having entered with a hobbit, no one bothered to lower their voice or disguise their conversation. Rather, several comments were cast towards the party, as if some were expecting them to rise to the defense of the King. When the party offered no rebuttals, but merely kept to their cups, the young merchant who had accosted Fred, approached their table.
"I have not seen you folk here, before. Tell me, are you strangers in Arthedain or do you perhaps hail from one of the towns out in the country?"
"We are indeed strangers," Taurvantar smiled. "We come here for rest and entertainment and of us, only Kirahan has relatives here. We've been away for some time."
"Being as you're friends of `halflings', don't you think you'd find more comfortable entertainment at some other establishment."
Kirahan and Ranciryon kept their hands tightly clenched on the table. Taurvantar was grateful but he could see that it wasn't without effort.
"Tell me, sir," Daern asked. "To whom are we speaking? I do not know you nor of any wrong I might have done you or your family. Do we have some quarrel?"
"I am Eurel, son of Owrwn. And I apologize if we are poor seeming in our manners. But here, you are judged by the company you keep. Remember that and you will keep yourselves well. Gorwin!"
As the young man called out, a teenage boy appeared from behind the counter. "Bring our friends here a drink of your best to show them that we bear them no ill will. To your health, sirs and ladies."
The young men and those he was with raised their glasses and tankards. As new drinks were brought out, those in the party followed Daern's lead and reluctantly raised theirs, not desiring any confrontation.
After the young man had seated himself back down, the party fell to talking in hushed whispers.
Kirahan started. "Well, I didn't think that appearing with Fred would prejudice us so. These people seem to have a fond hatred of hobbits."
Clarissa added, "I think I heard one of them saying that hobbits were flea-ridden and little better than apes. I think we should watch Fred carefully lest he come to some harm while we are here."
"Certainly, we haven't come across in the best light at first," Taurvantar said. Looking around, his glance was met with suspicious glares. "And I don't think we're going to do Ordain much good. These people probably wouldn't take much stock in our claiming to be friends of his. I wish I could talk to Jo-nag. Tavernkeepers are usually more talkative given a bit of coin here and there."
Suddenly young voice could be heard crying out in the street.
"WAR! WAR!"
At once, all folk in the tavern moved closer to the door, to see what was afoot.

Outside, Fred sat down on the steps for a bit to rest his legs, before he headed for the market. How he longed for good company then, and a pint and friendly banter, like he'd had at home in the Green Dragon.
Just then, a wooden ball rolled up at his feet, it's surface worn and showing brief glimpses of the red paint that had once coated it. Taking it, Fred looked up to see a small Dunadan girl, probably about four years of age, looking intently at him. He smiled and she smiled in return, holding her hand up for the ball. He rolled the ball back to her. She, in turn, rolled it back to him.
First friendly face I've seen here, other than my companions and Ordain, Fred thought. He rolled the ball back and soon the two of them were having quite a game.
"What's your name?" she asked him.
"I'm Fred," he said. "And you?"
"I'm Lassandra, she told him. "How old are you? I'm four."
Fred laughed. "Not old," he said.
"I'll be going to school next year. And you?"
Fred realized that she mistook him for another child. "No, I'm all through with school, at least I hope I am."
She approached him, not the least bit afraid or shy. Reaching into her pockets, she pulled out a flower she had plucked, probably from someone's garden. It was dark blue, with yellow stamens and flecks of white dappled around its petals, looking nothing more like stars in an evening sky.
"Here, this is a present," she said, opening Fred's hand and putting it on his palm.
Fred took the flower from the child's delicate hand. "Thank you," he said.
"My father's an Arequain," she told him. How about yours?"
"I didn't know my father very well," he confessed. "He died when I was very young."
"Oh, that's sad she said," giving Fred a hug. "Is that why you are sad?"
"Lassan! Lass! What are you doing!" a woman's voice shrieked.
Both Lassandra and Fred looked up to see a tall well dressed but somewhat elderly woman. She reached down and yanked Lassandra away from Fred.
"Don't let me ever catch you near one of - `those'" she hissed, not bothering to disguise her voice. "Don't you know they have lice. And they're lecherous bastards. Even if you don't catch a disease, you could end up with your throat slit. What were you thinking?"
Lassandra yanked her hand free. "Oh Nann! He's my friend. You're bad to say such things!"
"Wait till I tell your father," the elderly woman said. "What will he and your mother think? Come now, away with you."
She pulled the child away from Fred. Lassandra tried to turn and wave good-bye, but her nanny kept a tight lock on her and always yanked her to face back forward.
"I'm sorry about that," a tall, thin and balding man said. He had obviously come out of the tavern. He was well dressed, though he wore simple clothes and his the colour of his eyes nearly matched his grey hair, what was left of it. "People have uncommon impressions around here. Rumour has it that halflings are just a variation of goblin. They look more human because of the souls of all the children they've eaten."
"Really?" Fred was shocked. "I would have thought that the Dunedain were a better educated people than to believe such tripe."
"Well, we are. But there are a few among us who aren't very bright. Unfortunately, like that woman you just heard, they tend to be the more vociferous of the lot."
"Thank you, sir," Fred said. "I would buy you a drink, but I don't think I'm welcome back in there," Fred said, using his thumb to indicate the tavern on whose steps he was sitting on.
"Then let me buy you one," the man said. "Would ale be alright?"
"Ale would be most welcome," Fred said, licking his lips.
The man called to a boy named Gorwin, to bring them ales. The young lanky teen-ager appeared and after taking a long curious look at Fred, deposited two foamy tankards. He didn't wait for payment.
"I am Fred Underhill," Fred introduced himself. The man took Fred's proffered hand and shook it, despite the curious glances thrown their way.
"I'm Jo-nag," he said. "I own this tavern."
Fred choked on his drink. "Well sir, I'm surprised, given the sentiments of your guests, that you choose to drink with me here."
"Given the sentiments of my guests," Jo-nag said, "is the reason I am drinking with you here, and not inside. But, their sentiments are their own and not mine. I have a mind of my own, and I take care to let others know it. I keep fine kegs and that's as good a reason for any to visit me and I don't care for the thoughts of those who would try to do my thinking for me. Drink up, sir." Jo-nag clinked his tankard against Fred.
Fred smiled. "I thank you sir. And it's very fine ale indeed. Among the best I've ever tasted."
Jo-nag nodded at the compliment and sipped his own ale.
Thunder rolled across the downs in the distance. The storm seemed stalled, some several miles beyond the city, perhaps as an upwelling of wind sometimes keeps clouds at bay when hill rise so sharply as they did on the Weather Hills.
"Tell me, Jo-nag, do you know a man by the name of Ordain Pentacost? I ask, because he's a friend of mine and he's in trouble."
Jo-nag's eyes widened. "Ordain is a friend of yours you say? Hmm, that is surprising. He's a fine man, Ordain, and yes I know him. But given his liege, I am surprised to find that any of your people would count him among their friends."
"Well, he is my friend. Do you know of what has happened to him?"
"Yes, all voices inside are abuzz with information."
"Tell me, Jo-nag, do you know why he was arrested."
Jo-nag sipped his ale some more, glancing at Fred now and then. "Well, it is said, I don't know if you know this, that the King and his young cousin, Marl Tarma, are at odds. As Ordain is one of Marl's chief knights, perhaps the King seeks to assert his will and show his nobles that he is still in charge. And there is word that Ordain was involved in plots, at Tarma's behest, to discredit the King."
"And what of Marl Tarma? What will he do in all this?"
"Ordain is his man. He will defend his man and thus, his own honour, against any such charge. Any charge of treason levelled at a knight is truly meant for that knight's lord. Ordain is being charged because of the action's of Marl Tarma and his allies. The King can not move openly against a noble without risking civil war. So, Ordain will be tried instead. Regardless of what Ordain may or may not have done, this is really about Marl Tarma."
"What can we do then, my friends and I? We would do anything to help him." Fred was so keen on the subject, that he forgot to partake any more of his fine ale.
"Anything? Well, unless you are of more means than you seem, or you are willing to undertake more dubious measures," Jo-nag said, looking down at Fred's worn clothing, "I doubt there's much you can do. This affair is between the nobles and the King. Ordain is just a pawn in the matter."
Fred nodded. "Tell me Jo-nag, do you know of a good place where I and my companions can buy goods and animals to ride? Also, Ordain was going to tell me of a music maker, who could craft me a fine flute. He was said to be expensive but expertly trained. I never heard his name though."
"That would be Fenstil of Rood. He has a shop here on the Rath Aran. You can see it over there." Jo-nag pointed to a shop not a stone's throw away. "And yes," he said in a warning tone, "he is very expensive. He crafts instruments for all the courts of Arthedain and his creations are destined to be handed down as heirlooms, I've heard. As for other goods, you can buy them on any market day at the High Square, or down by the city gates. I would say, buy your goods here in the upper city and your animals down in the lower. The goods here are of the best if you can afford them, while the animals down there are more reasonably priced. Only the best animals are brought up here to cater to rich nobles and merchants."
Before Fred could thank Jo-nag, a young boy, probably only a few years into his second decade, appeared, running up the Rath Aran, his breath winded and hoarse as he screamed.
"WAR! WAR!"

The party exited the tavern, only to find Fred still there, seated alongside the tavern keeper, who had disappeared so quickly upon their entrance. People were gathering in the street, rumours flying hard.
Jo-nag, knowing one of the King's Rangers called out to him. "Thorendal, what is this? Are we at war?"
"The Seers of the Stone have seen an army marching upon us. Messengers were sent yesterday! Now, news has come to the populace, as the King has called his own army to arms. That storm you see heralds the approach of a vast army. The Witch King brings us war!"
"When will the Witch King's army be here?" Jo-nag asked, genuinely alarmed.
"That is not known," Thorendal said. "Right now, it is besieging a small fortress in the wastelands. Rangers have come in saying that a small band is holding out there and that the Witch King's army has paused to crush them before advancing onward."
Horns could be heard sounding from the towers of the King's keep and banners were raised. Seeing the banners, the crowd gave out a joyous tumult.
"TARMA! TARMA HAS COME!" The crowd began to walk briskly toward the lower city, to be ready to greet the arrival of reinforcements. The party, assembling themselves, accompanied them as well, walking down the steep road to the lower city and the outer gates. Enroute, hearing what had transpired inside the tavern, Fred reiterateed what he had learned from Ordain.
"I didn't want to say everything in a public place on the way over here, but it's better you realize what Ordain told me. I got the impression from talking to Ordain that there is a strong faction developing that supports Marl Tarma over King Argeleb II.
This is due to both the land deal giving the Shire to the Hobbits, and to the King's reluctance to attack Angmar. People see Marl Tarma as a leader and a fighter, and since 'he is already doing all the planning and fighting...why not make him King.' Anyone from one of the seven families could probably be King, I guess. I gather that Ordain might have been involved in this faction, and maybe was part of a plot to overthrow the King and replace him with Marl Tarma. Either that, or he's just being punished as a means of reigning in Marl Tarma, or thus forcing a showdown."
"If so many are against the King," Ranciryon said, "I wonder at the wisdom of such a confrontation. Maybe the nobles are right. Maybe Marl would make a better king."
"Are you forgetting your history?" Taurvantar reminded him. "The line of Kings passed unbroken, even in the guise of the Chieftain's of the Rangers, all the way down to Aragorn II. There's no word in my dream lore of any coup. Maybe, we're here to help stop such an event from happening."
"A tall order that would be, given the sentiments in the tavern," Kirahan noted.
At the gates, Thirghol, who once again appeared, spotted them and used his connections to guide them to a tower flanking the gate. There, they had a commanding view of the approaching army, which marched toward the gate.
The crowd below them shouted - "TARMA! TARMA!" Two-thousand men, many of them on horseback, rode in column, approaching the gate. A plumed knight led them, riding a black horse, several other knights following.
Another banner was raised from the wall above them and the crowd resounded again. The Ekettas had come. As the pageant of armed men filed into the city, the party took a quick glance at Marl, who had removed his helm, and on whose fair face and form, flowers were showered down upon him. He was obviously well loved by the people. As the pageant continued, and the stern looking veterans of House Eketta filed past, Lord Eketta in the lead, other banners were hoisted, those of House Noirin and Foros. Whatever issues the nobles had with the King, at this time of crisis, all were rallying to the crown. Other banners of lesser houses were raised, as men from all over the kingdom rallied to the King's call. Soon, a new city, composed of tents, blossomed on the hills around Fornost, new tents being added with each passing moment, while the file of knights continued to stream into the city.
"By Eru! Isn't this glorious!" Ranciryon shouted. His own hand wandered down to his sword.

The 30th Day of Ivanneth. T.A. 1640

It had taken several days for the armies to assemble, still it was quite a feat. A host of ten-thousand men had gathered, and would depart on the morrow, under the command of Marl Tarma, Captain of the Rangers. As the bustle of horses and wagons tore across the ground outside the city, the men readied themselves for battle. Word had come that the Angmarim host, still paused outside the wilderness fortress, was fully four times the number of Arthedain's muster. As the elation of the assembly died down, many in the city now realized that the brave men of the armies could easily be marching to their doom.
It was said that the King wanted to wait, until more levys could be brought in from the countryside, as well as Cardolani mercenaries, and allies from Mithlond. But Marl had pressed for marching sooner, hoping to both catch the Angmarim host ill ready in their siege, and rescue the brave unknown men, who somehow still held out against an impossible host for these several days.
The party had learned that Ordain had been released, though his reprieve was only temporary, until the crisis had passed. If he was lucky enough to survive the battle, he was ordered to turn himself in to the King's Justice upon returning. The party had been allowed to approach Lord Tarma's tent, hoping to catch sight of Ordain and receive an introduction to Marl. Whether this would happen seemed doubtful, since as army commander, Marl was rushing all over, attempting to throw the army into a ready state to march. The party was patiently waiting, arguing amongst themselves as to whether or not they should join the host, when a great commotion sounded around them. They caught sight of Marl then, and Lord Eketta as well. Another army had arrived, but looking to the tower, they could see no banner raised. A eerie stillness and quiet had come over the host.
Looking outward, the party was witness to the arrival of the new force. The nobles assembled, puzzled looks on their faces as the leaders of the Halfling levy, leading a full five-hundred hobbits, both young and old, presented themselves.
Fred gasped as he recognized the hobbit leaders. Their portraits were on display at Michel Delving Museum, and now, impossibly, he was seeing the Fathers of the Shire in person, though by his time they were dead and dust. Marcho Fallohide raised his hand, and the hobbit levy stopped. He and his brother, Blanco approached the nobles and bowed to Marl Tarma, the army commander.
"We have heard the King's call, and as loyal subjects, we have come," Marcho said.
Marl seemed stunned. He looked around, at the other nobles, who returned his looks. No one said anything for some time, but finally, Lord Eketta spoke.
"You must be joking," he said, looking at the hobbits. "We never summoned you!"
Marcho Fallohide blushed, but he held his ground before the veteran warlord. "We do not come to your call, nor to that of the Tarmas!" he said in a loud voice. "We answer the King's call and to the commander of his army, we present our arms."
"Your arms?!" Eketta laughed. His laughter was taken up by the other nobles except Marl, who gazed sternly at the hobbits. The troops around them, started to laugh also until the hobbits were surrounded by a sea of laughter. Looking at them, one could see why they were scoffed. They were poorly armed, some having only large knives or pitchforks. Few had any real weapons and some carried nothing more than slings, or bags of rocks.
Marcho raised his hands, and strangely, the laughter died, as the soldiers wished to hear yet more words to fuel their mirth.
"It is true, my lord, that we are poorly armed. We hobbits are a poor folk, newly come to this great land. But we are grateful to the King and people who have given us refuge in our wanderings and have given us a home where we had none. We have heard the call of need and we know the danger you face. We know the odds, but as sworn subjects, we have come. We know that our foes outnumber us greatly, but there is not a hobbit here who isn't prepared to lay down his life if the need should come. Our arms are poor, but our hearts are brave and we shall stand and die rather than fail our King and our country. So, mock us and call us "halflings'! But, even if all we have are bags of stones, then we have carried these heavy bags through the night and morning to come here and defend YOUR homes for the gift of ours. And though poor we are, we shall stand and show you what hobbit courage is made of!
At the conclusion of his words, there was no more laughter. The silence was total.
Marl Tarma at last spoke. He gauged the hobbit levy. The hobbits, each one, stared back at him, as if wondering what he would say.
"Your people look tired," he commented to Marcho.
"They will be ready, my lord," Marcho insisted. "Isn't that right lads?"
The hobbits erupted into a cheer, raising their arms as if they were broadswords.
Marl Tarma turned to his aid. "See that these - troops - are fed and housed. And see that they are issued proper arms." He turned to Marcho. "We leave at dawn, sir."
Marcho bowed and he led the hobbits, following Lord Tarma's aid. They passed the party where they stood and looking down, Clarissa could see tears in Fred's eyes.
At the approach of the hobbits, the assembled soldiers made way, more respectful. Then someone cried out and the cry was taken up.
"Hurray for the Halflings! Hurray for the Shire!" The hobbits looked around, stunned by the shouting. Hats were tipped and bits of food handed gratefully to the little warriors.
"Order a banner be raised for the brave levy of the Shire," Marl Tarma was heard to order.
Eketta protested. "Marl! You must be joking!"
"They came to the King's call. They deserve that honour."
Daern saw Ordain in the crowd and called out to him. Ordain waved back and approaching Lord Tarma, he was seen whispering to him. He then approached, along with Marl Tarma.
"Here, my Lord, are the people I was telling you of."
"Friends, this is my liege lord, Marl Tarma, whom you last saw as a babe."
Marl smiled, his handsome face warm and welcoming. "I have heard so much about you all. Please, let me make your personal acquaintance." Marl held out his hand for the fist who would shake it.


x.p. award: Clarissa - 30, Daern - 15, Fred - 355, Kirahan - 265, Taurvantar - 100

1. You'll have to tell me what skill you wish to utilize to find out the information requested, as you've asked some pretty specific things. Things that are just general knowledge or that can be volunteered by Ordain's followers that I can tell you are: a) The legal system is one based on trial by peers before a seated judge. There is also the option of trial by combat but the judge must give his permission for this. Usually the judge is either a civil servant or someone of a higher station, such as a Lord or even the King himself. b) The length of the trial depends on its complexity and how many witnesses must be brought forth and what type of evidence is to be presented. c) Treason is punishible by banishment (usually) or sometimes death. d) Witnesses, evidence and character may all be brought into play.

2. This is the first appearance the party has seen of the King's Guards, but you've hardly been in the city all that long.

3. Lot's of folks have been watching you, ever since Fred displayed the goblet and voiced having plenty more wealth. Remind me about how you keep an eye out and what you're looking for in your next move.

4. If an action involves just your own character, then you may do it in a mini-move. If it involves more than just your own character, you should include it as part of your weekly move.

5. You have two goblets (having given one away), and three plates. (All the weight you could carry away. The rest still await you in the House of the imTar.

Your other questions should be addressed as part of a mini-move, i.e., asking a N.P.C., going out for appraisals, and maybe to commission your flute. The population of the Fornost is unknown to you of the top of your head, but the information probably lies somewhere.

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