Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 4. The Holding
Their camp was much as they'd left it; burnt out
fire, neatly piled saddle bags and spread blankets.
There was no trace of the Sergollim.
"What happened to the bodies?" Hurin wondered.
One of the Padfoot Brothers grimaced. "Believe me,
you don't want to know."
Hawkeye cast about in ever widening circles
searching for horse sign. "Here they are, heading
"Probably run all the way back to Bree." Rumil said
gloomily, rolling blankets.
The Ranger shook his head. "More likely they'd have
made for Gwathlad once they got over their panic."
"Your 'Ranger Cabin'?" Cemendur smiled.
Hawkeye gave him a wry, sidelong glance in reply.
His nephew told Hurin, "We never would have shown
ourselves if you hadn't been making right for the
holding." to his uncle. "If the horses did come to
Gwathlad its folk will be out looking for their
"Back tracking the horses." Hawkeye agreed. "It may
take them some time to find the camp and our trail to
the city. Let us save them the effort."
Some little time and many miles later the party was
unexpectedly hailed. "Welcome and well met, Captain.
You are far north of your wardenship."
Hurin was growing accustomed to Dunedain popping
unexpectedly out of the downs but this one was a
woman, which was slightly startling. Dressed much as
Hawkeye and his nephews in hunters' green leathers,
dark hair braided, armed with a short bow and a long
"Blame our kinsmen here, I have followed them all
the way from Bree." the elder Ranger replied.
The woman gave the three Gondor Men a curious look
out of pale, winter blue eyes. "They were your mounts
then? We have been looking for their riders since
dawn." her eyes went back to Hawkeye. "the Chief
chanced to be at Gwathlad when the horses were found.
He has delayed his journey in hope of meeting their
It was clear from Hawkeye's face he did not
entirely approve of this decision. Cemendur visibly
pricked up his ears.
The woman turned back to the strangers. "I am
Laebeth daughter of Findegil son of Findobar, Master of
Gwathlad," she said formally, "be welcome to our
Laebeth led them to a grassy bank between two downs
pierced by a wooden gate that opened before them
without knock or call.
Hurin saw at once why the holding had been given
the name 'Shadow Vale'. Gwathlad stood at the head of
a long, narrow valley darkened by the tall hills
hemming it round. grassy berms had turned the vale
into a secure pasturage for the sheep and small cattle
grazing contentedly on the late summer grass.
There were several horses as well, tall and strong
but shaggy coated. The three sleek, well curried
mounts of the Gondor Men stood out from among them
just as their elegantly dressed masters contrasted
with the green and brown garbed Rangers. Hurin was
begining to suspect the unkempt look of Men and horses
alike was deliberate, a not entirely successful effort
to hide the breeding of both.
The Gondor horses trotted right up to Rumil and it
took him some time to greet them properly, checking
legs and hooves for injury crooning idiotically all
the while. If Hurin hadn't known better he'd have
sworn Rumil was part Rohirrim with his passion for the
beasts. The rest of them waited with what patience
they could muster until the groom was finally
satisfied his charges had come to no harm.
At last they were able to continue along the valley
floor to a steep path cut into the hillside climbing
up to the holding on a terrace just below the crest.
Enclosed by grass grown earthen walls with roofs of
turf showing above them, Gwathlad had obviously been
built with an eye to concealment as well as defense,
and by somebody who knew his business.
They entered through a tunnel-like gateway cut
between wall and hill and found themselves in a
cobbled courtyard surrounded by low buildings of
dressed stone, probably salvaged from the ruins of
Fornost. The encircling walls were faced with the
same material and an oiolaire tree drooped its
boughs of dark, sweet scented leaves over the gate
arch. There was a large house on the opposite side of
the yard and various outbuildings ranged around the
walls. Doors had been cut into the side of the hill
showing part of the holding was underground.
Laebeth led them across the courtyard and through
the open door of the house into a pleasant hall
smelling of the chopped heather strewn over the
flagstone floor. There was a fireplace at either end
with plain but serviceable chairs and settles drawn up
before the cold hearths, and benches along the back
wall. Sunlight fell freely through the open door and
three windows and colorful wall hangings and seat
cushions brightened and softened what might have been
a stark interior, all cold stone and dark wood. It
could have been the main room of any small holding in
Anorien or Lebennin and was the most homelike and
comfortable place Hurin had seen in months.
There were two women seated before the farther
fireplace, one spinning with a hand distaff the other
carding wool, both in plain gowns of fawn and soft
grey. A man dressed as a Ranger sat with them, rising
as Hurin and his group entered.
Hawkeye and his nephews had reminded Hurin at once
of Thorongil but the likeness was mostly a matter of
similar coloring and bearing. This man was even more
like the Captain than the Lord Denethor, enough like
to be father or brother.
Hurin and Rumil could only gape but Cemendur, with
his characteristic presence of mind, stepped forward
and bowed. "Lord, I am Cemendur son of Nardil sent by
the Steward of Gondor with my companions to seek out
our long sundered kin of the North. And now that we
have found you I am loath to simply ride away as I
have been bid."
Grey eyes quick with that now familiar silvery
light passed over Cemendur's shoulder to share a long
communicative look with Hawkeye, then returned to the
Councillor. "I am Armegil son of Arador, Chief of the
Rangers of the North." he said at last in a soft,
shockingly familiar voice. "And I will hear what you
have to say, Son of Nardil."
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