LOTRO Role Play

A selection of Brrokk Barrowbane's role play anecdotes in Lord of the Rings Online.

Ways and Means
Moria at Last
Just Walk Away
Get my Goat
Out of Bounds
A Song of Healing
Party Time
Advanced Deed
Tokens of Affection
Nightmarish Battle
Blackberry Pie
Under the Table
A Happy Ending
Let Them Eat Cake
A New Quest

In the Post

Ways and Means

In Brrokk's former kin Wight Knuckle, there was friendly rivalry between those who were (in real life) over 50, and those who were less than half that age. We had a race to finish a quest chain and return with tidings to Elrond in Rivendell.

At the end of a long, arduous journey, I finally rode down into the hidden valley of Rivendell. It wasn't exactly home as I am a dwarf who prefers halls in stone under the mountains, but it was good to rest and enjoy the hospitality of the elves once more. Once refreshed, I went to speak with Master Elrond in his library. I told him of my recent adventures and he rewarded me with the gift of a magnificent cloak of elf-make, wondrous to behold.

"A matter perplexes me, friend Brrokk, and I would ask your counsel", he said. "The elves are determined to resist the evil of Sauron, and often discuss ways and means. Of late, we have considered whom best to set against the Shadow. Should we send those who are full of youthful enthusiasm and in the prime of their strength, or should we rather set forth those who are older in years but also in wisdom and experience?"

"I cannot say", I answered. "I only know that the dwarves also are determined to resist the one who would despoil all of Middle Earth. Yea, I can say so also on behalf of men too, for my recent exploits have been in the company of the man Carlfrid, who you have also had occasion to reward. I can only add, that we of the Wight Knuckle will continue to do our part in this strife with all our might."

Elrod smiled. "Good dwarf, you have answered my question!", he replied. "You have come out of perils bearing great tidings after an epic series of quests and are now ready to journey further, into the Ice Bay of Forochel. I see that of Wight Knuckle, it is those over the age of 50 who have been first to complete these quests, and I must still await the return of your younger comrades. In this instance, years of wisdom have clearly surpassed the vigour of youth!"

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Moria at Last

Ah, at last I, Brrokk Barrowbane, have gained entry to great Khazad-Dum, the halls of the fathers of the dwarves of old. I heard rumours of its greatness and terrible darkness from afar off, but I have been delayed these two weeks in my journey hither through Eregion. Many elves besought my aid in tracing and covering the route of some secret company despatched from Rivendell by Elrond. And then the dwarves working to uncover the lost Door of Durin sought my help. We had a strange battle against a watching water creature at the very door. But finally, I was ready to enter.

I had made a pact with Steveomere the elf. We two were to enter Moria together, side by side, in recognition of the many times we had already quested together in Middle Earth. So, we arranged to meet at Echad Dunann. From there we determined to walk slowly to the door, savouring the triumph and enjoying the bright day, even though many other folk were running or riding in haste past us. A breeze blew in the holly trees. Sadly, we fell to arguing. I may have started it myself, by noting that the downfall of our two realms started when the elves first received the dark lord Sauron into their realm. Steveomere of course threw back at me the fact that it was the dwarves who delved deeply and greedily, awaking Durin's Bane. But all thought of old griefs died when we crested the rise and beheld the great Wall of Moria in which the door is situated.

True, the evil lake is still right up to the door, but its waters are now still. I hope that the course of the fair Sirannon can one day be re-opened.

We came to the door and stood, one at each side, savouring the moment. What a heady promise can be held by a simple archway of stone! But dwarf-builded stone has a kind of magic. What more would lie inside?

At last we passed within. Ah, the greatness and splendour of the halls of Durin's folk! Many of them were there, hard at work already in the restoration. Yes, the halls are great, but they have become dark and there are goblins and fell creatures within. Clearly there is much to do, and my hammer will swing mightily beside the sword of Steveomere until it is accomplished. I hear that many of RFI are within and have gone ahead of me into the dark places, and I hope to strive alongside them also.

Nothing could spoil such a day, unless it was perhaps the somewhat unfriendly welcome I felt from my kinsmen dwarves. I had come bearing great wealth of coins, hearing that one cannot ride a horse within the caverns and must purchase a strange goat-beast as a mount. But those dwarves would have none of my gold! They insist that they will only sell a goat to one who is their "friend", who has demonstrated helpfulness to them. "But I am a kinsman from the Lonely Mountain", I insisted, "Why must I bear this insult?" They are obdurate folk. So be it. I will do such deeds in Moria that they will have to admit my fame among them, and I will purchase from them the strangest goat of all their flock, be it at great price.

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Written after a debate in kin chat between those who felt attached to their first horses and those who were happy to trade them in.

The weather was windy and cold, but clear that night. Clouds scudded rapidly across the full moon as I made my way back from a pleasant evening in the Prancing Pony to my home in Hamlin. I entered my house, flung off my outer garments onto a chair and retired to bed quickly. The wind above the roof did not keep me awake for long.

But in the night I awoke suddenly. Had I heard a noise? A soft movement outside the front door? I decided not to bother investigating. Who would dare to rob a strong dwarven warrior? Such a thing was not likely in Chestnut Road. I turned and fell again into sleep.

Abruptly, I was awake again, or so it seemed. I opened my eyes: there was a strange quality to the light in my bedroom. And now, unmistakably, there was the sound of heavy breathing. I sat upright, and was astonished at what I saw.

Before me stood a great black horse! It was larger than most horses and thin, showing protruding bones, and yet strongly muscled too. It was clearly no ordinary horse, for its eyes glowed red; these eyes were in fact the source of the strange light in the room, mingling with the moonlight.

"What are you?" I said, startled. I was even more surprised when the apparition replied. I AM THE NIGHT MARE. I AM THE DARK HORSE. I AM ROCH DÛR. I HAVE COME. I HAVE COME TO JUDGE YOU AND WARN YOU. The words were felt in my mind rather than heard with the ears; the experience was very strange and disagreeable.

"Judge me?", I said, noticing that my voice was a little too high in my own ears. I collected my wits. I was a dwarf, fearsome in my own right. I had vanquished trolls, drakes and worse creatures. I would not quail before a horse. "In what way do you intend to judge me?", I asked in a calmer tone.


"My horse, Joll, is well cared for", I asserted. "She is even now in her warm stable, well supplied with oats. You need not reproach me for my treatment of her."


"I do not choose to go anywhere at this time of night!", I retorted, but my protest had no effect. I felt a rushing sensation. I seemed to rise out of my bed, shrink, and fall into those red eyes. Abruptly, the black horse vanished. Or rather, I was the horse. I was in a cobbled street at night. I recognised the street as one I had passed through earlier, on my way out of Bree. It was a narrow one, near the stables.

As horse, I was walking slowly along the street. The "clip-clop" sound of hooves seemed loud to me, but in the houses no-one stirred. But then a man came around the corner. He was weaving slightly, obviously having taken some ale. Becoming aware of the horse before him, he stopped and looked. Then a look of fear appeared on his face.

I, or rather the horse, gathered and sprang forward. The man stumbled and fell. A great hoof descended on his chest, pinning him to the ground.


Horrified, I saw terror and then agony on the unfortunate victim's face as the hoof slowly crushed the life out of him. At the end it glowed red with supernatural heat and there was a ghastly smell of burning flesh.

Suddenly, the scene vanished. I was once more in my bed. No horse was to be seen and light was coming in the window. There just seemed to be an echoing 'WARN THEM ALL' in my mind.

'Phew, what a dream', I thought. 'I want sunlight now, and a good breakfast.' I supplied myself with an adequate meal from the cupboard, fell too, and once I felt refreshed I took my pipe and went outside to smoke. Looking at the trees in the sunlight, I reflected on the strangeness of the sleeping mind and its fancies. Perhaps I had been too long in the dark places of Middle Earth and needed to wander in pleasant places for a while.

But then, my eyes fell on the door step. On the doormat, clearly outlined in the low sunlight, I saw the impressed shape of a great horseshoe.

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Just Walk Away

Pah, those unfriendly, stiff-necked dwarves. Just because they have returned to Moria, they imagine themselves the lords of Middle Earth and look down (if it were possible) even on distant kinsmen of their own race from afar.

All I wanted was to buy a shaggy goat-beast so that I might ride about the halls and rest my legs. (Not that I ever grow weary; after all, I am a dwarf too. I merely wish to save wear and tear on footwear and leggings). At last I had done deeds of fame and increased my renown in Moria, so that they grudgingly called me "friend" and even "ally", and agreed to show me the goat creatures they had for sale. I had taken so much silver coin from roaming orcs that I felt I could easily afford to buy one.

But the creature I was offered! I was led first to inspect a great, evil-smelling creature. It had a shaggy, matted coat. It hung its head and its eyes seemed strangely unfocussed. Its knock-kneed legs seemed almost incapable of bearing the weight of the tool box affixed behind the saddle. I feared to mount in case it should roll and pitch me onto the floor.

I looked around. "No, I will have this one!", I told the seller. "This one is alert. It holds its head erect. It has clean hooves and its body ripples with muscle".

"Ah, well, there is a problem", he replied, and my heart sank. "This one is a goat of our 'nimble' variety. It is not made available even to friends and allies. To purchase this goat you must be regarded as 'kindred' here!"

Well, I would have none of their evil-smelling lumbering creatures. I will go forth once more, slaying orcs and fell creatures, until at last I will be acknowledged in Moria and be judged worthy to ride the best goat of their flock. Until then, I will go upon my own legs still.

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Get my Goat

I triumph at last. I ride now on a magnificent goat-beast within the halls of Moria. It has been an arduous struggle in the long dark, but at last I have managed to purchase the goat I have sought for so long.

I returned to the seller of goats in the Twenty-First Hall. "See here," I said, "I come bearing writs and seals from many of your kinsmen in Moria. They certify that I have done such deeds here that I am worthy to be accounted 'kindred' among the miners. I also carry much gold, and now I will buy a goat."

That miner dwarf did not even extend to me the dignity of a proper greeting. He turned away without a word and led me to a line of goats. He first showed me the evil-smelling near-sighted beast which I had previously rejected.

"No, I will not have this straggle-furred monstrosity!" I insisted. "I require a nimble goat. There was one such here before; where have you hidden it?"

I was shown another. Less ungainly and less obviously defective perhaps, but my keen eye was not fooled. "Do you take me for a fool?" I asked, "This one is cross-eyed. It also has differentially curved horns and a bald patch upon the back (which you have tried to conceal under the saddle). Moreover it has cranked knees and, if I am not mistaken, it is suffering from the disease known as Reticulated Throat!"

I looked around. "Ah, here is the beast for me! Nimble; rippling with muscle; glossy hooves. See how it lifts its head alertly when hearing the jingle of my mail".

"This one also has glossy hooves", he mumbled, showing a fourth goat. I looked. The hooves were indeed shiny, but the creature was obese and had an ill tempered look, holding its head aslant. On closer inspection I saw that in fact its hooves had been varnished! I scratched some of the gloss away and shook my head, returning to stand by the goat of my choice. "I choose this one", I insisted."But...", he stammered.

"Do you intend insult?", I shouted. "I have done the deeds. I have brought the money. Now I have made my choice. I will ride away from here upon this nimble creature. And no butts!"

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Out of Bounds

Bah, are all the free peoples of Middle Earth untied in a conspiracy to insult me? For some time I had been riding about Moria upon my new goat, Drun. After many struggles I had forced the dwarf miners to acknowledge me as worthy to ride one. But at length I grew weary of the mines, and purposed to take an excursion into the open air.

Think not that a dwarf would ever weary of great underground halls, or ore and gems, or workshops and forges. But my travels in the Dwarrowdelf had led me to the deepest and least hospitable places. The Foundations of Stone, where I must eventually fulfil a quest as a guardian, are not the magnificent works of the dwarves of old which I had hoped to see. They are ghastly, huge and inhabited by evil creatures.

Therefore, hearing of the opening of borders in the elf-realm of Lothlorien, far down the Dimrill Dale, I purposed to journey there and enjoy breaths of the free air under the bright sun once more. I left Moria by the East gate and bade farewell to my nimble goat, gladly welcoming my faithful pony Joll once more. We sped over the green grass in a joyful reunion.

I came first to a camp site near to the gate from Moria. There I met both elves and dwarves, unusually working together. They warned me that all was not well in Dimrill Dale. I could journey south to the Nimrodel and the borders of Lothlorien, but I was to beware of three orc camps on the way. I was warned not to assail these camps alone, but to go with friends.

But why give such a warning to a dwarf warrior? Of course if there were orcs upon the way, I would be unable to resist ringing their helms with my hammer. And so it proved: I invaded each camp in turn, slaying many orcs and destroying siege engines and the like. I found that my armour was adequate protection and had no need of comrades, although at times I had to be cautious. Well, once or twice I was even forced into a kind of tactical retreat. Not running though; not at full speed, anyway.

But still, I took from those orcs much silver and many interesting objects.

Finally I came to the Nimrodel and I could see the golden wood of Lothlorien before me. But at a camp of elves on the near bank I was told that the way was barred!

"Ah, no," said a pointy-eared, smugly smirking elf, "it is not yet possible for you to enter Lothlorien. One of your race has recently done so, by the favour of the lady, but you need not think to follow him immediately. We have many tasks, er, that is, there are many ways in which you may prove your fealty, er, loyalty."

With this, he leaned forward over me, as if to emphasise his height advantage. I responded by glowering meaningfully at his knees and fingering the edge of my axe. He drew back.

"Well, but if you wish to enter the Golden Wood, you must collect orc rubbish, find elf-arrows, raid orc camps and fulfil as many other tedious tasks as we can think of for you!" he asserted. "Think not to enter Lothlorien without permission; you would be shot at unawares by archer sentries."

"Cowards!", I muttered, "To shoot at friends by stealth. May Durin's Bane take them! And yet, I will not be turned back and I still purpose to enter the Wood. No task can be so arduous that a stout dwarf cannot soon fulfil it." Well, I have performed many of these menial tasks and I labour still, in the hope of a rest from my labours in the pleasant wood which I can see but not yet enter.

I climbed a mallorn tree which stood beside the Nimrodel and met other elves with yet more tasks. Do they never actually do their own work? And one of them was a woman, passing fair in appearance but with a surprisingly deep voice. The other free peoples often make fun of us dwarves, saying that dwarf women are hard to distinguish and may even be bearded, but do the elves also have strange quirks in their nature which they keep secret? I wonder, and I think we should be told.

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A Song of Healing

Written after Candy raised the question of how a dwarf would react to being asked to fulfil the "singing to saplings" quest.

I was having trouble understanding the needs of a strange quest in the elf-realm of Lothlorien and the elf-maid Sendiel was beginning to get exasperated as she explained it to me.

"Those Nimbrethil saplings you found wilting", she repeated, "I just want you to go and sing to them."

"What then?", I asked. "Should I fight and defeat the evil wight which causes the wilt and which will be called forth by my song?"

"No, there is no wight involved", Sendiel replied. "Just sing".

"Well, surely I must ready my hammer to vanquish the horde of orcs which will cross the Anduin in battle barges when they hear me?", I enquired.

"No, this need not involve orcs!", she stated. "All you have to do is sing to the saplings. Orthir has told us this, and he is an expert concerning Nimbrethil trees."

"Well, it seems a very complicated quest, not at all what I am used to. But I will attempt it", I said. With this, I turned and marched off to where the saplings grew, wondering at the strangeness of the land of Lothlorien.

Sendiel awaited my report when I returned. "You were right", I told her. "There was no wight there and no orcs came near. I am not sure why I needed to wear heavy armour and carry my shield and my legendary hammer Wight Gold. But I sang to the wilting saplings."

"But with what effect?", she asked. "How do those saplings fare now?"

"There was no change!", I told her. "They wilt still".

She was not pleased at this. "Are you sure? Why did Orthir's advice not work? What did you sing?"

"I gave them 'Gold is yellow, gold is pretty, gold is the metal of my ditty'", I informed her. "But even after all seven verses I could discern no beneficial effect. So then I tried a simpler song: 'Gold, gold, gold'. That one is even longer, but fortunately the words are not hard to memorise."

"I think I see the problem", Sendiel stated. "Your songs are about gold. I am not sure that Orthir envisaged such subject matter. I would like you to return to the trees and sing of something else. Do not mention gold."

This sounded even more difficult and complex, but I agreed to try. Off I went to make the attempt. But soon I had to return again and report failure. I found the elf sage Orthir waiting with Sendiel when I did so.

"I tried", I told them, "but I found the quest hard because my stock of songs not featuring gold was sparse. In fact, I realised that I knew none. So, I tried composing. But I was unable to make 'axe' rhyme with 'mine' or even 'forge'"

"'Axe'!", shuddered Orthir. "Well, you must desist, foolish dwarf. The Lady herself has heard of your failure and she comes to heal the saplings herself. Your attempts will no longer be needed."

It was true. I saw coming towards us a great procession. At its head, surrounded by dancers and musicians, came the Lady Galadriel and the Lord Celeborn. I forgot my annoyance at Orthir's disdain and fell in with him and Sendiel in the procession. Birds sang in the trees as we made our way to the grove of the saplings.

When we came to those sorry young trees, all stopped at the sight and a silence fell. Then Galadriel stood forth and lifted up her clear voice in song. And such a marvellous song it was.

"I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew..."

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Party Time

Phaedrea suggested I write a story around our frustration at the "admonish revellers" quest.

I stood with the elf-lady Maliriel surveying the guests arriving for the Hythe Feast, beside the river in Lothlorien. It looked to be a merry occasion; the evening was fine and the preparations had been perfect. Many good-humoured revellers were already present and food and wine were being served.

But my mind was not on partying. I was struggling to understand the needs of a new "quest" which Maliriel wanted me to undertake. Why do elves always have complex requirements? What is wrong with just slaying orcs or trolls?

"All I want you to do", she repeated, "is to mingle with the revellers and detect whether any have over-indulged with wine. If they have, your job as a steward of the feast is to admonish them."

"Very well", I replied, "but how am I to know which have over-indulged?"

"You will find that the guests who have had too much strong drink will talk nonsense", she stated. "That much is simple. Then, you must admonish them."

"I will do so", I replied, taking my great battle hammer 'Wight Gold' from my bag and attaching it ready at my belt.

"What is the hammer for?", Maliriel asked, surprised.

"Admonishing, of course", I retorted, setting off into the crowd. I think she called some kind of protest after me, but I could not catch the words.

I spent some time surveying the gathering. I sampled the buffets and drinks myself in order to blend in with the crowd and quietly sidled up to various groups of revellers to assess their sobriety. Often I found that they noticed my presence and fell silent, which I found frustrating. Perhaps I should have changed out of my armour for the feast in order to be less conspicuous.

But eventually I returned to Maliriel frustrated. "You told me that intoxicated elves would talk nonsense" I reminded her.

"Indeed I did", she replied. "What is your difficulty?"

"Well then, how does this distinguish them from the sober ones?", I demanded.

"Insolent dwarf!", she flared. "Be about your task! Do not bother me again with trifles, for I have many things to attend to."

I returned to the party and revisited the buffet. Standing there consuming very small sausages six at a time I surveyed the throng once more. Ouch! Why do the elves have to add a small twig to each sausage? Then my eyes fell upon a newcomer who was acting very strangely.

A fair elf-maid she was, of maybe seventeen summers according to appearance, (although it is always difficult to guess the age of the elder race), and dressed all in black. She was running, no, skipping from one group of revellers to another, staying only a short time in each group. "I wonder if that one is intoxicated", I said to myself, setting off in pursuit through the crowd.

When I drew near, my suspicions were confirmed. "La la la", I heard her sing as she skipped from group to group. 

"Baruch-Khazad! Prepare to be admonished!" I roared, brandishing 'Wight Gold'. I pursued the elf-maid. I came quite close; close enough even to see small marks of pink paint on the hem of her garment, which I thought incongruous. But she was ever ahead of me.

A tactical reappraisal seemed necessary. "It is the skipping", I thought. "Her method of locomotion is well adapted to this party situation, in which one must squeeze through small gaps and change direction frequently. I will have to try it myself."

So, I skipped. It was the first time in my life I had ever done such a thing. It may be that I am the first dwarf to have skipped, ever. I made progress through the throng but still the elf-maid drew away and her "la la la" became faint. But then I found that I was unsuited to skipping. The handle of my hammer became entangled between my boots and my armour rang as I crashed upon the ground.

I rose painfully to my feet, in the centre of an embarassing silence. "Bah, this is not for me", I told myself, "I have bruised my shins. Slaying orcs is safer entertainment. I will go at once to find some." I placed my hammer over my shoulder and limped off.

"Heh, looksh everrywunn, tha dwarv thur wantsh a fight!", slurred a partygoer in a nearby group, but I took not the least notice.

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A story prompted by the rather out-of-control LOTRO legendary weapon system. How can weapons be 'legendary' when everyone has more than one of them?

A distant kinsman, Cadi by name, had journeyed far from the Lonely Mountain and met me one night in Bree, at the Prancing Pony. He had expressed interest in my collection of weapons, (which is not to be wondered at in a meeting of dwarves), and I had already agreed to show them to him.

Cadi is something of an inventor, especially concerning weapons and armaments, so I guessed that his interest was partly professional. Many of his cunning ideas had quietly revolutionised the effectiveness of the fighting dwarves of the Mountain. His success was not uniform, though, as many of his inventions were more remarkable than useful. For example, his experimental axes: the two-bladed one with one blade at each end of the long shaft was supposed to double the frequency of goblin-smiting, but it often entangled the unwary wielder. And the 'great-great-axe' was supposed to continue the progression from one-handed to two-handed weapons. It was so large that it required two dwarves to wield it, but volunteers to try doing this in battle had so far been few.

Over a last tankard of the excellent Pony ale, Cadi told me of these latest innovations and then raised the subject of the nature and status of "legendary weapons", as they are now called.

"I am not sure how, for instance, my hammer 'Wight Knuckle' can be regarded as legendary", I told him. "Surely most warriors of the free peoples of Middle earth now have magnificent weapons which they claim to be 'legendary'. Since the opening of Moria, such equipment, once rare, has become common. How, though, can a hammer rightly be called 'legendary' when almost no-one else has actually heard of it?"

"True", agreed Cadi, "And then there is the habit of having more than one such weapon, for various uses. Do you follow this practice?"

"Why, yes", I admitted. "I do keep a variety of weapons for different types of fighting. But drink up. Come with me to my humble home and I will show you the whole collection."

We walked out of Bree to my home in the Hamlin neighbourhood. Cadi had a large canvas-wrapped package among his luggage, but I did not comment on it. It is impolite among dwarves to imply that someone might have trouble carrying his belongings, as if a strong dwarf could ever be over-burdened.

It was a fine night and a full moon lit our way, so we had no difficulty. I reflected that if this were a story we would have some dramatic encounter with orcs or a troll on the way, but in fact we arrived without incident. I lit up a fire and some candles and we fell to more drinking and talking. At the same time, I brought forth a good set of weaponry to show Cadi.

"Here, first of all, is the great hammer 'Wight Knuckle', which must be wielded with both hands, and which I use whenever heavy damage is needed to quickly break the defences of an opponent. The name I have given it commemorates the former Wight Knuckle kin, which included Steveomere, Carlfrid, Daveomere and Jayar among other warriors. They were my guides at the beginning of my career as a guardian in Middle Earth. Ah, those were the days! I remember our first visit to the Great Barrow. Somehow I became separated from the rest and had to pursue the sound of their voices, around twisting stairs and passages. Of course I was not afraid, being a dwarf, but the darkness behind me did make my hairs stand upright! But we smote the wight Sambrog and I took the name 'Barrowbane' after that time."

"What became of Wight Knuckle then?", asked Cadi.

"Ah, that was a sorry story", I admitted. "Really, there were too few of us to maintain a kin. But we were enthusiastic and confident, and Daveomere's inspirational leadership convinced us to establish a great house. We enjoyed this for a while and installed an enormous keg of ale as one of our first projects. But none of us realised that we had to pay rent! Alas, there came an evil day when the door was barred and the house taken from us. We had to beg for the return of our possessions at the nearby vault!"

"After those days, we lost our motivation somewhat. Alas, I have not encountered Daveomere or Jayar for many moons. But Carlfrid, Steveomere and I were kindly received into the mighty Room for Improvement kin. Though I suspect that Steveomere the elf grows slack in the defence of Middle Earth, not having the persistence of the dwarvish race"

"Well, but what about these other weapons?", interrupted Cadi.

"You are right to curtail my ramblings", I replied. "I could go on thus for many hours. Why, I remember when... ah yes. Well, here is a smaller hammer which can be wielded with one hand. 'Wight Gold' it is called, and it has been blessed by the elves of Lothlorien with the vigour of Beleriand, since I have often fought orcs about their borders."

"It shines", breathed Cadi, "but so does this axe. Axes are more to my liking, especially experimental ones..."

It was my turn to interrupt. "This axe is named 'Bane of Sambrog', after the first such, which I took from the evil wight Sambrog himself that time in the Great Barrow. It is imbued with the virtue of Westernesse and is to be used in fights against wights and other eerie creatures of the barrows."

"Fascinating", stated Cadi. "It is a shame that such noble 'legendary' weapons are unknown to most of the peoples they defend. You should write a learned account, or at least a story in which they appear. But continue."

"Finally,", I said, "you can see here my newest weapon, the mace 'Wight Night' which was recently given to me by my generous friends in Room for Improvement. I have visited the Library of Steel and gained a scroll which has imbued this one with ancient dwarf-make properties. It is therefore highly effective against worms, dragons and reptilian creatures, as well as the vile cave-claws which infest our mines."

"Ah, worms and drakes are among the things that I would discuss with you", said Cadi. "But tell me, is it not inconvenient to carry so much weaponry when abroad in wild places? Does not the need to be prepared for every fight mean that you must go heavily loaded? Of course, burdens are nothing to us dwarves, but still, it is a significant consideration."

I winced slightly at Cadi's impolite suggestion, but I knew that there was reason in it. "You are right", I reluctantly agreed, "The load often seems heavy. I wish that some means of carrying the necessary variety of weapons and being ready for each fight could be contrived. But what then is your interest in worms?"

"I will tell you in the morning", said Cadi, "for I have a suggestion for you. We will go slaying worms, you and I; you will wield your mighty weapons and I will help you with my new invention.


"What is this invention of yours?", I asked Cadi the next day as we breakfasted, "And what worms do you propose to slay? Your project sounds as if it might be good sport."

"Let me refer to the worms first", Cadi replied. "There is a region North of the Shire and East of the Blue Mountains which would be a pleasant place for relaxation if it were not plagued by salamanders. Indeed, I have travelled it myself, and it has occurred to me that one who owned some land and could clear out the reptiles could make a tidy profit by accomodating guests seeking relaxation. I refer to the wide sands of the Barandalf. One can enjoy lying there on a warm day of summer; the shore and the breeze can be very pleasant. But one dare not relax because of the salamanders. Anyone daring to sunbathe ends up rather burned."

"Well and good, let us journey there and slay these salamanders", I replied. I immediately began casting my eye about for my pack, travelling clothes, provisions and equipment. "Now, I must decide which of the fine weapons I showed you last night I will take with me. Clearly the mace or the great hammer would be best, but which?"

"Ah, now here my new invention comes in", interrupted Cadi. "Look at this!"

I looked. Cadi had unwrapped his bundle, and I saw a wicker basket with wheels and a long handle. "See here", he said, "we will take all of your legendary weapons with us, placing them in my trolley. Set them in handle downwards, so that the heads may all be seen for easy selection. Now, we will go to slay evil creatures. I will follow you, and whenever a weapon is indicated, we can select it from the trolley with no delay."

I saw the benefits of Cadi's invention at once. "Intriguing", I said. "This has possibilities. The choice of weapon and damage properties can be postponed to the very last moment after assessing each foe. Very well, with you and my weapon collection following me, I will look upon these salamanders."

We journeyed there, Cadi and I. His invention even made the journey easier than it would otherwise have been, though neither of us liked to comment on the fact out of politeness. Eventually, we strode over the wide flats of the Barandalf seeking salamanders. Their traces were evident in many scorch markes, and we were also plagued by insects like the neekerbreekers of Midgewater.

Seeing a salamander, we stopped. "Well, let us slay this one", I suggested. "But there is no need to be unscientific. We might adopt a strategy to make the job easier. See, there is a large pit behind it. A good strike on the nose will drive it into the pit."

"Which weapon will you select now that you see the salamander?", asked Cadi.

"Hmm, perhaps the great hammer 'Wight Knuckle'", I mused. "Although, the pit is no great distance off; perhaps some finesse is better. Hand me the iron: the mace 'Wight Night'"

Cadi slid the mace out of the wicker basked and placed its handle in my hand. Ideal! Perfect! I took a practice swing and advanced on the worm. It noticed me, and gave me a baleful glare from its beady eyes.

Cadi was occupied with checking the remaining weapons behind me. I heard him counting them, "one, two, three..."

"Four!" I yelled, and whacked the salamander hard on the nose. It snorted, making a strange "putt!" sound. But instead of leaping backwards into the pit I had noticed, it sprang sideways and leaped into a sand pit! I followed cautiously.

"Oh look, there it lies", said Cadi pointing. "How are you going to get it out of there?"

"That could require quite a few hits", I admitted, discouraged.

So it proved. Striking the salamander out of the sand pit took some time. And then there were other salamanders too. We dealt with eighteen in the course of a morning, and then we paused to take stock of our activities.

"Clearing the whole area of salamanders like this will take us a very long time", stated Cadi. "I have another idea. Rather than purchasing the land after it is cleared and offering a holiday resort, I will make the clearance into a game. I will invite all comers to strike the salamanders into pits and make a competition of it."

"A good scheme", I admitted, "but not everyone in Middle Earth has the necessary equipment."

"I have seem the effectiveness of your mace", replied Cadi, "so I think I will offer the hire of suitable equipment. I will need maces of various sizes to suit all peoples and a place to store them, which I will call the Club House".

"What will you call this game of yours?" I asked.

Cadi thought for a moment. "Since it involves smiting salamanders into pits, I think I will call it 'Gulf'", he replied.

We walked South back to the Shire in search of refreshment. On the way, Cadi described to me what he would do when all the salamanders were dealt with. Rather than a peaceful holiday resort, he now proposed importing giant toads from the Baranduin and driving them through hoops in a game called "Croak-it"...

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Advanced Deed

Prompted by that feeling of annoyance when you see that you only need 7 more Barrow Spirits to complete a deed, so you go and slay them, then you find that there's an "advanced" deed to slay 200 more...

The scene: the fire cavern of Sammath Naur in Mount Doom.

"I have come," said Frodo. "But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!" And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight.

Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him. He lay still and for a moment all went black.

Sam got up. He was dazed, and blood streaming from his head dripped in his eyes. He groped forward, and then he saw a strange and terrible thing. Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words.

The fires below awoke in anger, the red light blazed, and all the cavern was filled with a great glare and heat. Suddenly Sam saw Gollum's long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as they bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm's edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.

"Precious, precious, precious!" Gollum cried. "My Precious! O my Precious!" And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.

There was a roar and a great confusion of noise. Fires leaped up and licked the roof. The throbbing grew to a great tumult, and the Mountain shook. Strange, fiery letters appeared on the opposite wall of the cavern:

DEED COMPLETED – RING BEARER: Cast the One Ring into the Fires of Mount Doom.

"Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee," said a voice by his side. And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again; and in his eyes there was peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear. His burden was taken away. There was the dear master of the sweet days in the Shire.

"Master!" cried Sam. and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world for the moment he felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free.

"The Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me", said Frodo.

"But master, what...", Sam's voice tailed off in bewilderment and he pointed at the wall. The letters had changed:

DISCOVERED DEED – RING BEARER (ADVANCED): Cast the Three Elven Rings into the Fires of Mount Doom.

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Tokens of Affection

Prompted by a conversation with Candy when we were both doing the 'Spiders Deed' in Haudh Iarchith.

One evening in the Prancing Pony, Ottar began to tell Calvi and I of his latest achievements. From working in the Breeland horse-fields, he had made real progress towards becoming a notable warrior. He was able to proudly inform us that he was now accounted an "ally" by the Bree Town Hunting Lodge. The people at the Lodge had awarded him a certificate, and he had also been able to purchase useful items of weaponry and equipment from them.

"How did you gain this new status?", I asked him.

"By making forays into the Barrow Downs", he replied. "Brr, the whole place gives me the shivers, but I have impressed the folk at the Hunting Lodge by collecting 'barrow treasures'. After managing to overcome my initial fear I have become bold enough to slay barghests, spiders and even wights, taking the treasures from them. They yield coins and valuable items too, so I have also made a tidy sum from the activity for myself."

Ottar's satisfaction at his achievents was evident, but we wondered at this sudden development of boldness and courage.

"Is that all your story?", Calvi asked. "You have been raiding the Downs for the purpose of raising your reputation at the Hunting Lodge?"

"Well, no, there is more to it", admitted Ottar. "Those creatures in the Downs also give up silver tokens when slain, and I have been collecting those too." He produced a few; we saw thin silvery discs, not as weighty as silver pieces but still valuable.

"Once one has collected five of these, one can exchange it for a gift box", Ottar continued. "See, here is a gift which I obtained just this afternoon and have not yet unwrapped." He produced a small box attractively wrapped in blue paper, with a ribbon tied in a bow.

"Well, that looks nice; open it", said Calvi. Ottar did so, and revealed a small bottle of green potion. He undid the stopper and we took turns to sniff the contents.

"Cough mixture?", wondered Ottar.

"Athelas, I think", I told him.

"Yes, nothing like it for lifting the spirits in a difficult fight", agreed Calvi. "You must practice the art of wielding your weapon with one hand, making parrying strokes, while simultaneously swigging from the bottle held in your other hand."

Ottar seemed pleased with the gift and slipped it into his pocket, but Calvi still looked puzzled.

"So, you have been making forays into the Barrow Downs in order to collect these tokens and build up a stock of medicines, have you?", he demanded.

"Well, it is not just the tokens", admitted Ottar. "Well, it is, but... You see, you can trade them for the gift boxes, at the Boar Fountain, in the square, with... Emma Bywood."

Ottar turned slightly redder than his ale would account for, and now Calvi and I understood. Well, we approved of course. Among the possible motivations for warriorly prowess, the wish to impress a fair lady ranked high. We knew of this Miss Bywood, having sometimes met her in her capacity as token trader ourselves. We saw no reason to tease Ottar about his new priorities, so over a few more drinks we just talked of the creatures of the Barrow Downs. The name "Emma" cropped up with surprising frequency though, even though we were ostensibly discussing ghastly wights.

Eventually the three of us left the Pony and made our way back towards the stables. We looked towards the West Gate and thought of the frightening creatures of the Barrow Downs not far beyond it.

"Look!", exclaimed Calvi.

Ottar and I followed his pointing hand and were horrified to see a black cloaked figure, silhouetted for a moment in moonlight as the gate was opened to admit it, slipping into the town.

"Is that some ghastly wight from the Downs invading Bree?", wondered Ottar. "Why does the gate-guard open the gate? Is it a betrayal?"

"Maybe there is some innocent explanation", I said, "But then, what is the need for stealth? Why a night-time entry in black hood and cloak?"

"Into the stable here!", hissed Calvi. "The black one is coming this way! We will spring from ambush and find out if this is some evil invasion!"

We crammed into the stable alongside a perplexed horse. I wished that I had my legendary axe "Bane of Sambrog" which has vanquished countless wights. Furtive footsteps approached.

"NOW!", roared Calvi. We all sprang forth and seized the black figure. Ottar tore away the hood. But our combined momentum was too great; we overbore the intruder and continued, all falling flat into a muddy, horse-reeking puddle.

"Eeeeeek!" The night was torn by an anguished scream from our victim. Instead of some ghastly visage of evil and death, we saw a familiar face.

"Emma!", exclaimed Ottar in astonishment.

"Oh, oh, eugh!", screamed Emma Bywood in rage, "Idiots! Oh, this is too much! What do you fools mean by hurling me into the mud? Too much ale and not enough sense between you! Oh, what a foul ending to a perfectly hideous day! I hate mud. I hate the smell of horses. I hate this job; I don't know why I let the mayor talk me into it! Oh, what foul mud. Idiots!"

We all rose with difficulty. Ottar babbled incoherent apologies and tried to help Emma to her feet, but she angrily waved him away. He pulled her hooded cloak from the mud with a soft sucking sound and then tried ineffectually to brush it off with his mud-coated hands.

But Calvi was seeking explanation. "What is this job you mention?", he demanded. "Why do you enter the town stealthily at night, while honest folk sleep?"

"Why, I am the Bree-town token trader, did you not know?", retorted Emma. "You at least", she tossed her head at Ottar, "should know this, for I traded you a gift box only this afternoon".

"Yes, I know", said Ottar, and here is the sack you placed the tokens in." (He held up a muddy black sack). "But now it is empty. What happened to all the tokens you took today? Have you been robbed? Can we help you recover them?"

"Fool!", Emma stamped her foot with a splash, then hopped as it sank to the ankle. "You have only seen half of the disgusting job I have been given. I thought it would be a pleasant matter of standing beside the fountain on fine days meeting interesting folk, but the secret distribution task keeps me up half the night! Have you never thought to wonder how it is that nearly every creature you defeat in the Barrow Downs is in possession of one of my silver tokens?"

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Nightmarish Battle

The fight with the dragon was a nightmare. One of those nightmares where you helplessly watch events unfold and cannot move.

I was with the mighty Room for Improvement raiding party in the fastness of Helegrod. We had passed through the spider-infested tunnels and now fought the foully reanimated dragon Thorog in the midst of a freezing blizzard. But while my friends strove mightily against the beast, I was afflicted by the foul magic of the Lagg of Helegrod. I stood immobile, the hammer Wight Gold raised in my right hand and my shield before me, unable to strike any blow. The shouts of our noble leader Lointje rang in my ears, but I was unable to answer his call. 

But after a while, the voices of my comrades change to cries of gladness. "The dragon dies!", they exulted. "See, it falls! It is no more! Now, let us loot the hoard it guarded." I could not believe my ears, for the beast leaped before me still, striking this way and that with its great jaws. "No, you are wrong, beware: Thorog lives yet", I tried to warn them, but my tongue was as immobile as the rest of my body. 

But at length, the beast did die. A killing blow was struck, I saw not by whom. The dragon swayed, turned, opened his mouth and made his final death-lunge, at me! I watched the mighty topple, still unable to step back. 

It was well for me that the beast had opened his jaws wide, for turning as he fell, he landed with his jaws around me. I was unhurt, but I found myself completely within that foul maw. At the shock of this, I awoke! 

I saw bolt upright in bed. "Phew, that dream again!", I thought. Ever since I had been afflicted by the sorcerous Lagg, its dreamlike feeling of helplessness had frequently returned to plague me at night. But now sunlight was streaming through my bedroom window. The dragon was vanquished weeks ago and I had no more need to ponder on the experience. 

Following my usual custom on fine days I gathered a good breakfast and pipe and weed, and went to sit in the sun outside my door. Enough of nightmares; I tried not to notice the deep horse-hoof print still visible on my doormat. 

After eating and lighting a pipeful, I sat reflectively in the sunlight. I would, I decided, have to banish the vestigial Lagg somehow from my mind. What would serve to do this? Should I consult a wizard, perhaps Radagast at Ost Guruth? But if the Lagg was truly a magic, how would more magic help? Might I not start a descent even into raving madness? Or how about a consultation with an apothecary in Bree? But I cared not for drugged sleep, no matter how deep and dreamless. 

As I mused, my eye fell again on the hoof-print. I had not thought of the dark steed which had seemed to make it for some months now. Of course! There was nothing like one nightmare to drive out another! I would live up to my name of Barrowbane, return to Mirkwood, and perform mighty deeds ridding the wood of foul wights and the evil wizards which conjured them forth. Once the horrors of the wights had driven any fear of dragons from my mind, I might eventually return even to Helegrod, just to check that Thorog really was completely dead. It was time to sharpen the legendary axe "Bane of Sambrog".

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Blackberry Pie

"What is the pie for, then?", asked Calvi, as we sat at a table in the Prancing Pony waiting for our other friends.

"I don't exactly know", I replied, "but it seems that Ottar has a great need for one. I received a note from him this morning, delivered by an out-of-breath young hobbit: 'See you in Pony this eve. Bring blackberry tart. Important. O.' As a well-known Master Cook I couldn't disoblige him of course, so here is the best pie I could make in time."

"Mysterious", commented Calvi.  "Perhaps a new craving has struck him, or he has taken to a diet. But here he comes now, I think."

Calvi was right. Ottar hurried into the bar room and crossed straight to our table. His gaze fell on the pie and an expression of relief and satisfaction crossed his face.

"Perfect! You got my note. And that looks really nice. An ideal gift.", he said.

"A gift? Who for?", enquired Calvi.

"Why, can you not guess?", exclaimed Ottar. "But I suppose I should begin at the beginning. Early this morning I received a package in the post. 'From a Secret Admirer', the label said. It was neatly and attractively wrapped, but the contents were as enigmatic as the label. In fact, there was only a sheet of paper inside, bearing a recipe for blackberry tart. It was all anonymous and I puzzled over the meaning for some time. But at last I realised the truth. Blackberries are obviously a favourite of hers, and so a tart filled with them would make an ideal inexpensive but delicious gift. I am to pay my respects, bearing such a gift as soon as possible! What a subtle, clever, welcoming way to encourage me to overcome my reticence. Isn't she clever as well as pretty?"

"Who?", I demanded.

"Why, Emma Bywood of course!", replied Ottar. "Who else could be my 'Secret Admirer'? I know for a fact that Emma is the only girl in Bree who has paid me any notice. I suppose I am lucky that there is no confusion on this point; if there were more than one candidate I would not know how to guess..."

"Notice?", queried Calvi. "Do you refer to the time a few weeks ago when we three hurled her into the mud and she called us ale-addled fools?"

"Oh, I know the circumstances were not ideal for romance", admitted Ottar, "and that must be why this subtle and secret method has seemed necessary to her. But that incident was some time ago and it was quite soft mud." A frown of worry creased his brow but soon disappeared. "I expect she appreciated my helping her up afterwards and, after all, my prowess against the creatures of the Barrow Downs had already impressed her that day. And now, I must go to her home and deliver this pie (for which I will pay you later, friend Brrokk). Oh, but I admit I am nervous. What if she is out? What if she comes out of her door just before I knock and I come face to face with her unexpectedly? What if…"

Ottar seemed lost in possible confusions, but Calvi immediately took matters in hand in his capable way. "What you need before a venture like this, lad, is 'encouragement'", he asserted.

"Oh, you are good friends to me", Ottar replied, "but baking the tart is enough. I could listen to your encouraging words all evening, but then it would be too late to pay a respectful visit. I must go though with this at once, before my nerves fail me utterly."

"No", I interrupted, "I think you have mistaken Calvi's meaning. He means 'encouragement' literally; you need to be actually inspired with actual courage. We dwarves know all about how to do this. You need, in fact, to be filled with true dwarvish resolve."

"But I am a man, not a dwarf!", Ottar objected, "How can you say I need dwarvish resolve?"

Calvi leaned forward to explain. "The resolve of the dwarves can be imparted to those of other races", he said, "if they partake sufficiently of the company and customs of the dwarves. Since time is short, our options for achieving this are limited. The best plan seems to me that you should support a true 'roistering carouse'. We must teach you a song about gold at once, which all of us will sing. After this, you will find that you are indeed encouraged."

"Very well, I must learn a song. And I don't even have to sing it solo? You two will sing with me? This doesn't seem difficult", Ottar said. "But how am I to exactly 'support' this carousing?"

"That is the simple part", I put in, "True carousing requires the quaffing of a few mugs of ale, both before and during. You must buy the necessary drinks."

"I will do so!", exclaimed Ottar, leaping to his feet. And he did. In a very short time he returned from Barliman at the bar bearing a large tray filled with brimming, frothing mugs and extra jugs for refills.

Well, we passed a good half hour. We drank and sang. Ottar learned the words more by imitation than by systematic teaching. But eventually he stood on the table giving a good rendition of "Gold is yellow, gold is pretty, gold is the metal of my ditty"; all five verses, while we staggered around the sides roaring the words also and beating time with blows of pewter mugs on the table edges. This was more lively than many evenings in the Prancing Pony but Barliman didn't mind; as word spread outside, an audience came in to hear and purchase more drinks for themselves.

Finally, Ottar was infused with sufficient courage. With a determined gleam in his eye he walked slightly unsteadily from the bar, carefully carrying the blackberry tart. There was a nasty moment in the doorway when he met our hobbit friend Hamble coming in, but mishap was avoided. Ottar having left a vacant seat, Hamble came and joined us and looked hopefully to see if any of the jugs still contained ale.

"Oh, I am thirsty", Hamble said, "It has been a long day working for the Shire post. This new advertising campaign for the Summer Festival has doubled our workload this week. And I see you two are doing well at the ale."

"Do you mean the myshtery packages 'from a Shecret Admirer'?", I asked him.

"Yes, exactly", he replied. "It takes ages to attach all those labels."

"It'sh a good scheme", I admitted, "I ha' one yesterday".

"Yesh, and I ha' three thish morning", put in Calvi. "Two blackberry tart reshipes and a nishe novelty hat! Hic!"

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Under the Table

I sat with Calvi at our usual table in the Prancing Pony the next evening. We felt slightly guilty. True, it had been Ottar's idea to ask me to make a blackberry tart so he could take it as a gift to Emma Bywood. We hadn't suggested the scheme to him. But neither had we pointed out the scheme's flaw: that in fact there was no reason to suppose she liked blackberries. It had been Ottar's own idea, and we had known it to be mistaken, but we said nothing. Instead, we had allowed Ottar to enthuse himself by teaching him to sing of gold while quaffing ale, in the course of which we drank a considerable amount of the ale ourselves, at his expense.

"Well, maybe we should have said something", mused Calvi, "But when all's said, there's nothing actually wrong with quaffing and singing of gold, is there?"

"No", I agreed, "and it was good ale too. Barliman's best. No-one could say we have seriously misled him in these respects. Ah, but here he comes now. I think we are about to hear of last night, and perhaps this time I should buy the ale."

I did so. Once we were seated with fresh tankards, Calvi and I simply waited for Ottar to begin his tale. At first he seemed lost for words, but eventually he poured forth the following explanation.

"No, I couldn't say that I fared well last night. The ale had given me courage, but it also left me rather confused. I knew the street in which Emma lives; I have previously seen her turn in there after her work by the Boar Fountain. But I did not know the actual house. I stood around for a while at one end of the street, holding the blackberry pie and feeling rather foolish. But then I saw her! She came from the other end of the street, approaching. My heart pounded. I resolved that when she reached me I would offer her the pie. But just as I had formed this resolve, she turned in at a certain door! Unnoticed, overcome by nerves, I confess that I retreated. I stood for some time in the cool air by the Boar Fountain and collected my wits. After a while I realised that this indecision was getting me nowhere. I had to carry out my plan before the pie was ruined. I would approach the house and boldly knock on the door."

Calvi and I nodded. "A good resolve", we commented. "What happened when you did so?"

"I went back, and I knocked", continued Ottar. "I knocked several times, but received no answer. I began to think that Emma had left again while I had been at the fountain, but just as I was giving up I saw that I was being watched from upstairs. She seemed to be peering at me through a crack in the curtains. Why would she not answer the door? I couldn't understand it, but eventually I formed the opinion that my visit was not welcome after all. What could I do? Now my courage was at an end. I placed the pie respectfully on the doorstep and left, feeling very confused."

"What happened after that?", we asked.

"Why, nothing", Ottar replied. I retired to my home and I still don't truly know whether Emma likes blackberries. But… argh!"

Ottar slipped from his chair and slid under the table. I checked his mug, but it was still half full. I didn't think the amount he had consumed could account for this behaviour.

"What are you doing?", I asked.

"Quiet! Not here. Annual safety table leg inspection, very important", he said in a low voice.

But when Emma Bywood crossed the room from the door to our table I understood Ottar's attack of shyness. I was astonished, though, when she sat down with Calvi and I.

"You two dwarves are friends of that Ottar, are you not?", she demanded.

Calvi and I exchanged glances, both wondering whether we should admit this and, if so, whether we should also point out that Ottar was under the table. But we had no need to decide. This was a rhetorical question; Emma was the kind of girl who could talk without needing to pause or, apparently, draw breath.

"I want to talk to him", she continued. "I want him to help me with something. I know that he has become a fearsome warrior, ridding the Barrow Downs of evil creatures. In fact, I've started to like his daily returns from there as I get a chance to meet him, trading the Breeland gifts for silver barrow tokens. He's quite cute really. But I want to know if he is clever as well; I want him to investigate a shocking crime."

We listened. The table listened too.

"Before going indoors I always call on widow Griggs who lives next door to me", Emma continued. "Last night I checked that she was alright, then went to my own home. But at some time in the night she was the victim of a shocking practical joke, and this morning she told me all about it. Someone had come knocking on her door. She never likes to answer the door after my visit, and she saw an ill-favoured and threatening man knocking, so she remained upstairs. Once she was sure he had gone, she crept to her door, but on looking out she stepped in a ghastly pie which had been left in her way on the doorstep! Well, this morning I reasured her, helped her clean up the remains of the strange pie, and promised her that I would find someone strong and fearless to investigate."

"Well, that's why I want to find Ottar; I think he would do. He's strong and brave, oh, and handsome. I would be very pleased if he agreed to investigate this crime. And if he can find out who did it, well, I'll make their life a misery! They'll be sorry! Do tell him why I'm searching for him, won't you?", she said, rising from the table.

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A Happy Ending

Well, we haven't seen much of Ottar the last few evenings. Calvi and I think that he has worked out our rather underhand deception and isn't pleased with us. Also, we believe he has managed to unravel the confusion with Emma Bywood, as you can see below. To make amends for our meddling I am going to have to invite him to my presentation of Midwinter Pastries and Cakes, which I hope to write of shortly.

A happy ending

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Let Them Eat Cake

There was a pleasant air of festive anticipation in the upstairs room we had hired in the Prancing Pony. I don't like to boast, but I am well known in Bree as a Supreme Master cook, and my friends had persuaded me to make a range of interesting sweet pastries to enliven the midwinter celebrations. My kinsman Calvi had had a major part in the organisation. Ottar was also present, (oh and Emma; although since our minor deception Ottar doesn't unfold his heart to us as he used to, so we don't really know how things stand with them). Of course Hamble was present since food was involved, as well as several other young hobbits. Nob, Barliman's assistant in the Pony, was among them.
I had ranged several delicious-looking examples on a trestle table set up in our exhibition room. There were puzzled looks as well as expressions of anticipation, because I had taken care to research and produce little-known examples of the bakers' art.
"Let us begin with this one", I said.
"Chocolate!", interrupted a hobbit-voice from the back.
"Yes", I agreed, "with cream filling! Now, the basic cake mixture is an ancient one. It was originally used aboard the ships of the Numenoreans on their voyages to Middle Earth, for it can easily be baked in large flat trays in great quantity to feed an entire ship's crew. The basic cake would therefore be in flat slices and was considered a welcome change from ship's biscuit on high days. But for the captain and his officers a better version was naturally devised. Here I have rolled the flat cake with chocolate cream filling, into the shape of a winter log."
"Enough history; cut slices!", interrupted Hamble.
"But what's it called?", asked Calvi.
"It doesn't have an actual name…", I began, but Ottar came to my rescue.
"Clearly we must call it 'The Captain's Log'". Beside him, Emma nodded enthusiastically.
"Very well…". I left the cutting of the Log to some hobbits and moved on. "Now here is an example of an ancient dwarvish recipe, originating from the halls of Nogrod. It is a pudding, containing every available kind of winter dried fruit and nuts as well as fats and spices. Its round shape is formed by being boiled in a sack; a typical ancient dwarvish cooking method."
"Ah, traditional dwarvish cooking!", sighed Calvi. "I remember in my youth; we had sugar-coated mice at the midwinter celebrations. You haven't done those today?"
"But the pudding is burnt!", interrupted Nob.
"No, the dark colour results from the ingredients and the cooking method", I replied. "You will find it pleasant to the taste, if a little heavy and sticky."
There were no immediate takers for the pudding since Captain's Log was still being distributed, so I moved along the table.
"Now here is something rather more distant from my own traditions", I said. "In fact, it is of elvish origin. This spiced fruit bread is dusted with sugar on top and baked with almond paste in the centre. It is from a recipe I obtained during a visit to Rivendell. The elves like to keep such lore secret, but I copied it from an ancient book in Elrond's library when no-one was watching."
"Ah, it is Stolen?", observed Calvi with a wink.
"You could say that", I allowed.
Then I heard hobbit voices from a corner table, where a hobbit lad and lass had carried away the pudding:
"…only boiled. Let's see what it's like when it's really burned!" To my surprise I saw that they had added a small leafy twig and were trying to set fire to it with a tinder box.
"Wait…", I began. But: 'click – FOOM'. Blue flames shot up and the hobbits recoiled, overturning their chairs. They had not realised how much brandy I had used in the mixture! Well, let that be a lesson to them not to play with their food. I turned back to the last item on the table.
I didn't have time to explain that the small pastries originated from Dale and contained a spiced fruit preserve. All the talk of ingredients and recipes had made Calvi hungry. He grabbed one and, thinking it was just a cake or biscuit, bit into it. Fragments of sticky fruit and pastry scattered and he was left frantically trying to brush them out of his beard. Oh the ignominy for a dwarf!
Ottar was beside himself with glee at Calvi's discomfiture. In the general laughter I still couldn't explain the recipe, but it was now fairly clear to everyone.
"Bah!", exclaimed Calvi, "I must learn to beware of your trick recipes. I see this one now. The cake is a pie!"

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A New Quest

I dreamed a dream, and in my dream I was visited again by Roch Dûr; the Dark Horse. In my dream it seemed to me that I awoke and sat upright in bed, and saw again the tall, bony, black horse with glowing red eyes before me.

COME WITH ME; I WILL SHOW YOU WHAT MUST SOON TAKE PLACE, were the words I seemed to hear in my mind. It was similar to the first visit of the Horse. This time, though, my mind filled with curiosity rather than apprehension. I had survived the first visitation with no injury worse than disagreable memories. And it happened that I was already considering the future with interest. I knew from my dealings with the Rangers in Enedwaith that a push southwards towards Isengard was contemplated, and I wondered if the Horse would reveal to me anything useful of the Wizard's Vale.

In my dream the scene changed. I was riding Roch Dûr. We flew high in the sky in cold air at dusk; it was strange that I had never noticed before that the Horse had great wings with black plumage, but the appearance of things can change in a dream. We flew South at great speed and I saw below me the peaks of the Trollshaws, then the rolling downs of Eregion at the feet of the Misty Mountains on our left. Finally we passed over the stony haunted hills and thick forests of Enedwaith and approached indeed the wizard's tower at the end of the mountain range.

We passed over Isengard and I saw the central tower, black-shadowed in moonlight. Wargs howled and I heard the harsh voices of orc-hosts in the walled circle. Then we wheeled and passed northeast and I saw before me the dark edge of Fangorn Forest at the feet of the mountains.

We alighted in an open area, and I saw that it was open because of tree-felling. Savage, indiscriminate tree-felling; orc-work! The air was chill. I stood contemplating the stumps and fallen boughs for a moment, but Roch Dûr nodded towards the forest. I looked from my steed to the forest and understood that following the narrative of the dream I was meant to enter, so I turned and walked northwards. The moon cast my shadow before me and it seemed to point the way.

Once under the trees, the night air was warmer. In fact it seemed close and stifling. The silence apart from my footsteps was oppressive; there was a feeling of pressure upon my ears. "There is anger here", I thought, and I did not need to be a master of nature-lore to connect the anger with the felled trees I had seen. I seemed to walk for a long time into the forest, but eventually I reached a clearing where the light was better, and there I saw two figures I recognised.

"Ho, hobbits!", I called, for these two had been there in Rivendell, members of a secret company sent forth by Elrond. I strode towards them and they turned with smiles of greeting. But then I stopped. Surrounded! I had thought the clearing otherwise deserted, but now I became aware that tall, still figures, which I had taken to be trees around the clearing edge, were watching me with shining eyes.

The Shepherds of the Trees! I had heard tales of such, but never thought to meet the reality, even in a dream. Why had Roch Dûr brought me to meet them?

I soon found out. The oldest, called Treebeard, questioned me at length. With relief I realised that I was not accounted an enemy. My presence in the forest would be accepted. And now, Treebeard unfolded his mind to me. The Ents planned to march upon Isengard, having finally been provoked to fury by the murder of ancient and majestic trees. They were planning and preparing for this bold venture.

"Hoom, hom, but we must not be hasty", Treebeard told me. "There is much to consider. Much to prepare. In fact (hoom hm), we need your help, and the help of all strong, capable fighters who are swift on their feet. Will you aid us?"

"I will", I replied, thinking of the orc-host I had seen.

"Hoom, well, you are hasty", replied Treebeard, "but perhaps you are right to be so. Perhaps we should begin straight away. This, then, is how I wish you to help us. There is a place north from here, where the trees grow thinner on the rising slopes of the mountains. There, many boars forage. I would have you journey thither and slay twelve of these boars, collecting a single tusk from each one. When you have these tusks, return to me!"

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In the Post

Well, there's a thing. I was strolling around Bree last night, at the instance of the Postmaster, picking up lost envelopes. I had already collected a few, but then I picked up one that seemed a bit bigger. If I had stopped to notice, maybe it was heavier (well, but I am a dwarf and we don't really notice the weight of things). It could have been slightly warm, too.

I tore it open. Imagine my astonishment when I found that, instead of a written message, it seemed to contain a horseshoe. But my astonishment grew ever greater as I drew forth the horseshoe, finding that it was attached to a hoof!

"Urrgh, someone has posted the leg of a horse!", I thought, aghast at such foul humour. But it was not so, for out of this small parchment envelope, somehow, eventually, an entire horse emerged!

The horse was alive. It stood before me, snorting and shaking its mane, gazing intelligently. It had saddle and bridle already and seemed none the worse for its confinement in such a small space. I recognised the style of its gear as being of the Lossoth people in the far North.

Naturally I reported this astonishing find, but the Postmaster assures me that, since I was opening envelopes with his authorisation, the ownership of the horse passes to me. Indeed, it is docile and seems happy to let me ride it, and it consumes oats as well as any other horse.

I am still amazed and marvel at the great powers of magic demonstrated in enclosing such a great animal in such a small envelope. Could Gandalf have been involved? Saruman? Other powers within or beyond Middle Earth? I suppose the origin of the amazing horse will always remain a mystery to me.

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