Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 3. The Rangers
Normally fighting a common foe creates a certain camaraderie, but not this time. Hurin became aware of a definite constraint between his party and their hosts as soon as they awoke the next morning.
The Rangers undoubtedly realized they'd given themselves away but refused to acknowledge the fact. and Cemendur seemed reluctant to challenge Hawkeye directly.
Not that Hurin blamed him. Seen by full daylight the elder Ranger looked even more formidable than he had the night before. Few Dunedain in these degenerate days reached what had once been the standard height of two ranga, Hurin himself being one of the exceptions, but Hawkeye stood at least a handspan above it. Many Men of the West have grey eyes but Hurin had, until now, seen only one other pair with that quicksilver gleam like a light shining within. Hawkeye's worn clothing and the grime of a long sojourn in the Wild did nothing to detract from a truly kingly presence.
The nephews, seen clearly for the first time, were obviously twins - as alike as two stars - shorter than their uncle though still more than 'man-high' with hair of the true raven black and their uncle's bright piercing eyes. Swift and silent in their movements they shared an elusive quality, creatures of the Wild that could be glimpsed but not grasped.
The three Rangers went about the mundane tasks of building a fire and cooking breakfast in dextrous, efficient silence. Hurin and Rumil stood about uncomfortably and tried not to get in the way, and Cemendur sat on a stone block watching pensively.
By the time they'd reached the washing-up stage the silence had been unbroken for more than two hours and passed from uncomfortable to unbearable.
"We will collect the rest of your gear from your camp and then find those horses." Hawkeye said suddenly.
Hurin nearly dropped the folded cloak he was holding. Rumil did drop the stick of wood he'd been carrying around all morning. Cemendur leveled a steady look at the elder Ranger.
"My Lord, I have not told you all our errand here in the North." Hawkeye's brows quirked at the form of address but he said nothing. The Councillor continued; "We are servants of the Steward of Gondor. He has also in his service a great captain of war we call Thorongil. He came to us from Rohan but he is not of the Rohirrim but one of our own people, a Man of Westerness, though not of Gondor. There are few places in Middle Earth where Men of our kind have dwelt; Gondor, Umbar and here in the Lost Realm of Arnor. Our Lord has sent us to find Thorongil's people if we can and make alliance with them."
"Why not simply ask this Thorongil where he comes from?" Hawkeye asked.
"He will not answer. No more than he will give us his true name."
"Then no doubt he has his reasons." Hawkeye knelt to quench the fire with a dipperful of water from the crumbling well in the corner of this former garden. "I know no 'Thorongil' and I have already told you there are none of your kin here in the Wild."
"The Dunedain have ever made poor liars." Cemendur retorted mildly.
Hawkeye's head came up, eyes narrowed at the challenge. Hurin held his breath then let it out in an audible gust of relief when the Ranger smiled wryly. "A sore weakness which we have been unable to amend." he admitted, no longer in the rustic accent of Bree but in speech as pure as any Hurin had heard in the Court of the Tree. "Yet it was not all lies. I told you there are neither kings nor lords here in the North and that is plain truth."
"There are many years of neglect to make amends for." Cemendur returned seriously. "It would be a kindness to accept our help."
But Hawkeye shook his head. "No." finished spreading earth over the ashes of the fire and rose from his knees to tower above them like one of the heroes of old. "It is not pride that has held us silent all these years but prudence. We have neither armies nor fortresses now. To be secret and forgotten is our only defense. Do not seek to strip it from us."
"But there's no need to hide any longer!" Hurin blurted suddenly. "Come back with us to Minas Tirith, a hundred or a thousand such as Thorongil would be a strength beyond our wildest hopes."
The bright, unnerving eyes swerved from Cemendur's face to his. Hurin gulped and withstood their gaze as best he could.
"If we could be of aid to you we would." Hawkeye said quite gently. "Never think we hold old grudges above our common blood and common danger. But a Shadow lies on the North as well. For nearly a thousand years we Rangers have guarded the peoples of Bree, the Shire, the Angle and the River Villages from the creatures of Angmar. We cannot abandon them."
"They do not know what you do for them." Cemendur said softly. And Hurin, remembering what the Innkeeper Butterbur had had to say about Rangers knew he was right.
"Nor do we wish them too." said one of the nephews.
"They have courage enough at need, Men and Halflings both," continued the other. "but they are not a folk for war. Better they should enjoy their peace and live without fear."
"Long ago Elendil promised their fathers' fathers his protection in exchange for their allegiance." Hawkeye finished. "His heirs will keep that promise as long as we have the strength to do so."
Elendil's Heirs? The words shivered over Hurin's skin and he stared at the Ranger in wild surmise. Was he saying the line of Kings had somehow survived here in the North, that he himself was of that blood? "Come, we have horses to find." Hawkeye changed the subject abruptly, as if he'd said more than he'd intended. *************************************************** Notes: 'Ranga' was a Numenorean unit of measurement equivalent to three feet two inches or just under a meter. Two ranga were colloquially known as 'man high' meaning the average height of Numenorean men was six foot four. By the time of the WR the average height of the Dunedain of Gondor had become somewhat shorter, probably about six feet. Hurin, at six four, is known as 'the Tall'. Hawkeye is about four inches short of seven feet and the Padfoot Brothers are six five or six six.
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