King's Folk, The
11. Rangers At Home
Brandywine was three hands shorter than the very
tall and rather shaggy horses the Rangers rode but
kept pace with the best of them as they alternately
walked and trotted until mid-afternoon when the
company stopped at the Forsaken Inn for lunch.
The Forsaken was much smaller than the Pony, and
had a discouraged, run down look as it huddled behind
its protective stockade of massive logs. A lonely
outpost of the Breeland it was run by a cousin of
Beomann's. Bannock Butterbur didn't have much to say
about the company his young relative had fallen into
but he shook his head a lot. And Aunt Alisoun kept
muttering 'Your poor mother!' under her breath
whenever Beomann was in earshot.
But Cousin Ban, unlike Barliman, rather liked the
idea of new settlements. "More folk on the road means
more business for me." he observed, puffing his pipe.
The Forsaken, unlike the Pony, was almost entirely
dependent on travelers there being naught but a few
scattered homesteads near enough to give it regular
"Once the building begins you'll have all the
business you could wish for." Gilvagor assured him.
Ban brightened even more. "That sounds promising,
don't you think Mum?"
Aunt Alisoun snorted. "Don't count unhatched
chickens." she told her son. "I'll believe it when I
"I'm not sure I will even then." Gil replied and
smiled at her.
Old Mrs. Butterbur blinked, then to the
astonishment of her nephew and son, smiled in return -
all but cracking her face. "Not that good fortune
won't be welcome if it comes." she half apologized.
"But living hard in the Wild as we do, I don't like to
get my hopes up you see."
"Very well." said Gil.
They went on after an all to short lunch and
continued til nightfall. By this time Beomann was
feeling the effects of his long hours in the saddle
and even Brandywine was begining to droop, his neck
losing the proud arch of the morning.
Suddenly Longbow - no *Belegon* Beomann reminded
himself - who was in the lead, turned southward off
the road into the rolling grassland winding his way
between scattered clumps of brush and occasional stone
"Where are we going?" Beomann whispered to Dan.
"To Tor Nencair (1), we'll spend the night there."
Dan remembered who he was talking to and explained
more fully. "A Ranger holding just off the Road."
"I thought you told me all your homes had been
destroyed." Beomann said, frowning in confusion.
"*North* of the Road. There are still some standing
south of it."
A mile off the Road a boy suddenly rose up out of
the dry winter grass, Belegon reined to speak to him,
unstartled as if he'd expected to be so met. Tall as
Beomann, but skinny with it as if he'd just got his
growth, dark haired and light eyed like most Rangers,
the boy was wrapped in a cloak of mottled greens and
browns that had rendered him invisible in the twilight
until he'd moved.
He exchanged a few soft words in the Ranger
language with Belegon, then walking at his stirrup,
led them around the slope of a down into a little
At first Beomann didn't see the holding, then he
did and stared in disbelief. Several turf covered
roofs rose little more than Man high above the ground
beneath the steep face of the down. One of these
proved to be a stable, sunk deep into the earth and
reached by a covered ramp. They left the horses there,
cozy with beds of straw and mangers of hay, and
followed the boy to a cluster of long gabled roofs of
varying heights and down a steep flight of steps to a
door in a rough fieldstone wall.
Beomann followed Dan through and came to a full
stop, jaw dropping. He was standing on the threshold
of an unusually large but otherwise perfectly ordinary
kitchen with sanded floor, pewter plates on a dark
wooden dresser, and cured hams, strings of onions and
apples, and clumps of herbs hanging from the ceiling.
A girl stood at the long table chopping something
fine. And a Woman bent over a turning spit, ladling
juices over the meat. Aproned and flushed with the
kitchen heat they reminded Beomann, with a twinge of
homesickness, of his own mother and sisters dispite
the differences in height and coloring. A calico cat
dozed contentedly on one of the brick benches inside
the cavernous fireplace and the Woman, finished with
her basting, sat down on the other picked up a small
bowl and began adding pinches of something to a pot
bubbling on the fender.
Then Lightfoot nudged Beomann from behind and he
blushed and hastily followed Belegon, Gil and Dan
through a doorway in the wall next to the big
fireplace into what looked like a dining room.
Like the kitchen it was unusually large and longer
than it was wide, and nowhere near so homelike. The
walls were panelled with strips of willow and alder in
a chevron pattern and hung with colorful, intricately
patterned carpets. The chill of the flagstone floor
was muffled by mats of woven rushes and the ceiling
beams carved with spirals and flower shapes painted
blue and green and yellow and red.
A tall skinny boy, some five or six years younger
than Beomann at a guess, was setting a long table
covered with a fine linen cloth. The plates and
tankards were pewter, just like at home, but engraved
with designs of ships and stars and flowering trees.
A Man with snow white hair and beard rose from a
cushioned settle drawn up before the fire to greet
them, the first really old looking Ranger Beomann had
ever seen and he wondered, a little uneasily, just how
old one had to be before he started looking it.
He greeted them in the Ranger language but Belegon
answered in Westron, for Beomann's benefit. "Thank
you, Ingold, but I fear we're rather a large company
for you to put up on such short notice."
"Not at all, Captain." the old Man replied. "It
will fill up the empty spaces. We've been lonely, my
granchildren and I, with so much of the family away."
"And not likely to return anytime soon, I fear."
Belegon sighed. "All that can be said for conditions
in the South is that we're better off than the North."
and they both looked at Gilvagor.
He shrugged. "We have roofs over our heads and
enough food to get through the winter thanks to our
friends in Bree and the Shire." shook his head. "But
we will have to begin all over again and it's hard to
know where to start."
"Aragorn knows where he wants to start," Belegon
continued as they all found seats before the fire. "he
intends to rebuild the cities. Starting with Fornost,
Minas Sul and Cardol."
Ingold looked startled then dubious, and the two
boys setting the table stopped their work to stare.
"An ambitious undertaking." said their grandfather.
The doubt clear in his voice annoyed Beomann.
"Why doesn't anybody but me seem to like the idea?"
he blurted. "They were *your* cities after all you
should want to rebuild them now that you can!"
"It's been a very long time, even by our measure,
since we were city dwellers." Gil explained. "After
long years of living solitary in the Wild the idea of
living cheek by jowl with thousands of other Men is
not entirely appealing." sighed. "And I wonder if
there are enough of us left to people even one city
much less three."
"The numbers coming in to Annuminas show more have
survived than we at first dared to hope." his sister,
Lightfoot, reminded him. "And I have spoken with
emissaries of our kin over the Mountains. They are
weary of being guests and would like to come home."
"There are more of you?" Beomann asked, startled.
"Over what mountains?"
"The Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains." she explained.
"Your people's legend that we went to live with the
Elves is not entirely wrong, tens of thousands were
harried from their homes after the fall of Fornost and
found refuge in the Elven realm of Lindon. Many,
having no homes to return to, remained there and have
increased in number over the long years." looked at
her brother. "And they are accustomed to cities,
having known both the Havens and Cor Corion." (4)
Gil smiled wryly. "There you are, Beomann, some at
least of our people will welcome the rebuilding as you
1. 'Watership Down', (assuming 'tor' is singular for
Tyrn. ;) I couldn't resist.
2. The Men of age to bear arms, Ingold's son-in-law,
grandson and the husbands of his great-granddaughters,
are on Ranger duty in the former Cardolan, tracking
down fugitive orcs and wargs and putting down bandits
preying on the local population and refugees from the
troubles further south. His daughter and
granddaughter-in-law are also away helping Belegon's
mother, the Lady of the Red Hills, mediate between
those refugees and the locals.
There are few settlements south of the Road, the
fairly large population of Men and Hobbits are
semi-nomadic after the fashion of American
frontiersmen. Building themselves log houses or
tunneling shallow holes and raising a few crops before
moving on when the fancy takes them. These folk are
far better acquainted with Rangers than their settled
kin, though they have no more idea who they really
are, and are accustomed to enlisting their help in
dealing with raiding Orcs or Dunlendings.
The refugees are for the most part simple country
folk of Gondor and Rohan and a few Dunlendings all
wanting to settle down and build new lives somewhere
away from the troubles down South. This has brought
them into conflict with the present inhabitants who
don't like the idea of their Wild being torn up
anymore than Barliman Butterbur did.
(3) The Dunedain of Lindon still regard themselves as
subjects of Isildur's Heirs and over the centuries
many have crossed the Mountains to take service with
them. But as the numbers of Elves dropped and those of
the Dunedain increased they became vital to the
defense of Lindon's long coast against attacks by the
Dark Fleet out of Tol Fuin.
(4) The City of Circles, Gil-Galad's ancient capital
and seat of those Noldor remaining in Middle Earth.
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