Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 1. Bree
accustomed to the fine stone built cities of Gondor,
but it was the first settlement of Men larger than a
farmstead they'd seem since passing through the Gap of
Rohan and as such a most welcome sight.
Bree was protected by a dike and hedge pierced by a
large wooden gate where it crosses the road. But the
sun, though low in the West, was still shining as they
approached and the gates stood open. Fortunately, as
Hurin suspected they might have had some difficulty
talking their way inside after nightfall.
They were only three; Hurin himself, the Lord
Cemendur and their servant Rumil but they were all
Dunedain of Gondor. Tall, lean men with dark hair and
light eyes wearing bright mail beneath colorful
surcoats and long swords at their sides. Very
different from the ruddy, stocky, brown haired
villagers eyeing them with mingled astonishment and
The narrow cobbled street climbed the hill to an
innyard, a sign with the figure of a rearing pony
hanging above the hospitably open door. A short, fat,
balding man swathed in a white apron popped out at the
sound of hooves on the cobbles and froze in his
tracks mouth slightly agape.
Hurin was becoming a little tired of that reaction.
True the Dunedain were growing few even in Gondor, but
not so rare as to evoke this kind of slack jawed
amazement in Men of other kinds.
The innkeeper recovered himself in a moment and
bustled forward. "Welcome to the Prancing Pony,
Masters. Beoman Butterbur is my name, at your
"I am Cemendur son of Nardil." the Councillor
replied with his usual courtesy. "My companions are
Hurin son of Beren and Rumil son of Rhudan. We will
require supper, a room for the night and stabling for
The innkeeper proved more efficient than his
appearance might have suggested. In very short order
they found themselves seated at a table in the Common
Room spread with a plain but plentiful meal, and the
object of covert stares and whisperings from the local
"We don't see folk of your kind often in Bree."
Butterbur explained apologetically. Hesitated visibly
then blurted; "You're not *Elves* are you?"
Rumil, caught taking an experimental sip of Bree
beer, choked on it enabling Hurin to conceal his own
reaction by pounding him on the back. Cemendur kept
his countenance, barely.
"No. We are men of Gondor."
Butterbur looked vastly relieved, and maybe just a
little disappointed. "Gondor." he echoed, then his
eyes widened. "Why that's the southern kingdom isn't
it? You're a long way from home, sir."
"Indeed we are." Cememdur agreed. "We are on a
mission for our Lord. Did you know Gondor once had a
sister kingdom here in the North?"
The innkeeper puffed up indignantly. "We're decent
law abiding folk here in Bree, of course we've heard
of the King!"
"I beg your pardon," Cemendur said quickly. "I
meant no offense."
Butterbur nodded mollified. "But they're long gone
the Kings of Old. The witch-folk of the North killed
the last of them hundreds of years ago."
"We know. But our Lord wondered if some of the
Kings' own people, Men of the West like ourselves,
might still live here in the North."
This time Butterbur shook his head. "Oh no, sir.
They all died with the King or went to live with the
Elves. They're all gone now, the Men from the Sea."
continued with a sort of wistful pride. "Bree was here
before the King came and we're still here now that
he's gone and all his fine folk with him."
"Their chief cities were north of here, Annuminas
and Fornost," Cemendur persisted, "Does no one live
"That's wild country, sir, no settled folk just
"Rangers?" Hurin repeated curiously.
"Vagabonds," the innkeeper replied dismissively,
"hunters, bandits too most likely. A nasty bunch of
rogues if you ask me. There's three of them right over
there." He turned to point to a corner table, empty
save for three abandoned mugs. Butterbur blinked.
"That's odd. Hey Dickon!"
"Yessir, Mr. Butterbur?" a nearby serving boy
called back. No, not a boy, Hurin realized with a
shock as he looked more closely. A Halfling right out
of fireside tales, his big, bare feet covered with
"Didn't I see Hawkeye and the Padfoot Brothers in
that corner just a moment ago?" the innkeeper asked.
"Right you are, Mr. Butterbur." the Halfling looked
at the empty table and shrugged. "They seem to have
gone off though."
"That's Rangers for you," the innkeeper said
turning back to the Gondor men. "They come and they
go, no knowing when or why."
"What do they look like, these Rangers?" Cemendur
wanted to know.
"Tall, dark, grim faced customers." Butterbur
replied. "Sinister if you want my opinion. They behave
themselves right enough here in Bree but I wouldn't
care to meet one in the Wilds, might do anything they
"I should like to see some of these Rangers."
Cemendur mused sitting in a chair by the window of
"Bandits living wild? Thorongil couldn't have come
from such people." Hurin objected.
"Master Butterbur did not impress me as a judge of
men." Cemendur replied drily, "He mistook us for Eldar
Rumil, unpacking saddle-bags in the corner,
grinned. "I'm not going to forget that in a hurry! Not
even my dear old mother ever thought I was fair enough
for an Elf."
"I agree with her," Hurin laughed. Then to
Cemendur, "We continue north then?"
The Councillor nodded. "And hope to meet some of
"Not all tall, dark men are Dunedain." Hurin
"True. But I wish to judge for myself."
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