Burgh Ailgra is pretty much a one horse town and that horse is dead. The Wumbahud is where most of the merchants preparing to pass through Mirkwood and onto Buhr Widfurias gather. No such luck at the moment. Looks like I missed them and my chance of being able to scout the south road without travelling alone. The bar room is empty save for three of us. One looks like he is known locally by Tostig, the inn keeper. Dark hair and grey eyes mark him out as a Noldo, which is strange given the down at heel look and that he seems to live near here. There seems to be something strange about this one and a story that would interest my Lord. A Noldo abroad so far suggests something is afoot.
Then there is the dark-haired, half-elf who entered long after I’d arrived. Mistook me for a boy and headed straight for the bar all burly and manly. Seeking to dull his senses in ale and talk proudly of his prowess in arms to any (Tostig) that will listen. By the time ten minutes have passed he has revealed his given name to all in the room, Gerran, and I am sure if it wasn’t for the arrival of the merchant, every detail of his life within the half hour.
Thankfully, we were all saved by the arrival of a rather flashy merchant by the name of Fryancryn. Cherry travelling cloak and clothes appearing to dazzle the other occupants of the inn but I’m not fooled I can see the frayed edges beneath the mud and road dust. Says he is late on the road and looking to hire some guards for security on his final leg to Buhr Widfurias. Gerran of course is first to proclaim his fitness to role, gesturing at the pair of short swords strapped to his side and ensuring that all look at his shiny mail coat. I am beginning to wonder if he has the wit to do more than show off. Soon the Noldo – Talaras – has expressed his interest after a healthy nod from Tostig and so I know that I have a good chance of travelling with this caravan without having to resort to anything that might get me noticed. I gracefully unwind from my place in the corner and offer my eyes to the party but perhaps it is the bow that tips the balance in taking such a callow looking youth with them.
Overnight, I check on Fryancryn and his cargo; he has a mule man, slow, sullen and bullnecked man who seems more at home with the beasts he looks after than company. The goods appear to be just as he says a supply of grain and a few iron weapons.
The morning is a good day to start travelling. The mule train is led by Fryancryn with Gulstaff (the mule man) in the middle. I let the gaudy Gerran take up the vanguard and the Noldo with mace and shield seems best suited to guarding the rear, which is just as I need it to be. I travel towards the middle roving up and down the train keeping a weather eye on the surroundings. The journey to ….is uneventful and from there we enter under the eaves of the Mirkwood.
Once this Southern wood was full of light and shade. Ents and Entwives cared for the trees and the creatures that dwelt there. Now the trees grow too close and cut the light on the south road until it is almost permanently twilight. Thorns clamour in the spaces between the trees seeking to choke the remaining light. My Lord’s fear that things are amiss in the Southern Marches of Thranduil. We travel a few days and during each night I am worried by nocturnal visitations. Nothing more than the glimpse of eyes in the undergrowth but I feel we are being trailed by more than just a natural nightly visitor.
On the second day, we are halted by a tree fallen across the path. I’m worried, the tree is large and we can’t get the mules over such and obstacle. The undergrowth is thick and I can’t even worm through a gap. This could have been an ambush site. The tree looks like it has been felled. There has been no storm to bring down such a large and healthy tree. However, not much is going to get through and if they are in the trees our only hope is to run. Gerran decides to show off and wave his two swords about, blunting them on the thick undergrowth in the process. It is fortunate that the Noldo discovers some loew aglor and the blades are resharpened. Some hours later, a section of the tree has been hacked clear and the mules are able to pull the block clear.
Another night and the eyes are back, this time though they are bolder and the wolves attack in the early hours when Gerran and I are on watch. The lump takes a nasty gash to his cheek but I am too quick for them and from a vantage point in the trees rain arrows at the retreating beasts. Soon they are among the mules and it needs the strength of Talaras to drive off the wolves. Meanwhile, Gerran continues to attack the bushes before realising that his target is at the rear and provide support to the flying mace but not before one of the mules is injured beyond saving.