At Archet no one seemed to realize what was going to happen, they were all absorbed by their daily activities; Brackenbrook had not wanted to spread the news of the impending attack to not create panic, he believed that when the time would have came the villagers would have been able to defend themselves.
There remained a last hope, the son of Brackenbrook: John, chased out of the town few years before for have putted in doubt the loyaltyof Calder Cob, he went to live in a cottage east of the village here he gathered around him several hunters, as far as they could they kept away from the village wolves and other wild animals.
He and his group of hunters could have been the last hope of Archet.
I learned that Strider had to leave for a matter of vital importance, useless were my attempts to convince him to stay, nor remind him that Archet could have been destroyed that night, he merely rplied that he was leaving us because all the world would have been destroyed soon.
I gave up and thanked him for having saved me then I looked him ride away.
It was up to me then run to warn John Brackenbrook, I left the Hobbits to watch over Amdir and I borrowed a horse from the prison warden and rode eastward.
Brackenbrook was a young man tall and strong with resolute manners, the story of the betrayal of Calder Cob did not surprised him, he was in fact banished six years before for having suspected him, he did not lost heart even though he knew that the attack was imminent, looking from a window in fact we could see the evening shadows begin to lengthen.
Gathered all the men Brackenbrook John explained the situation, he spoke of Calder Cob and his plan to take the power during the speech also a Dwarf spoke, he was Atli who chosen to lives in those lands many years before, he spoke about an ancient East trail that the robbers would have definitely tried to use to catch on the side the people of Archet, but this path was infested by spiders, smaller than those of Mirkwood but no less dangerous, they would have probably slowed down the enemy but anyway we could not lose more time.
We headed for the village, when we took the old path was getting dark; the more we were approaching to Archet the more we could see the glow of a fire, the attack had begun, perhaps the enemy had moved faster.
When we arrived there were people fighting everywhere, I saw the keeper of the prison succumb under the blows of a brigand, many I shot down but more and more seemed to arrive.
I was with John Brackenbrook who seemed determined to reach the main square of Archet, we advanced but more brigands came, we continued to fight meanwhile tha flames all around us the flames were higher and higher, the starry sky was gone in its place an orange glow was all that I could see.
We finally reached the square, there the survivors had erected the last barricade and waited for the enemy, with surprise I saw the old Brackenbrook held sword and shield direct the operations, father and son embraced each other and shed tears each sorry for what had happened years before and for what was happening in that moment, I found with my great pleasure also the two Hobbits fortunately they were fine, the same was not for Amdir who was sitting on the ground motionless and pale, without even the strength to talk; the time for pleasantries, however, was destined to be short-lived and a new wave of enemies was rushing into the square, the Brackenbrook throwed blows with the swords, Atli swung his ax and I rant my arrows, we repeled them back, some brigand was already running away and the battle seemed won, but it was at that point that they arrived.
The same fear that I felt on seeing the Black Knight, the same feeling of death immobilized me and everyone else no one dared to look at the two figures dressed in red who had made their way into the square; with them was Calder Cob with his sneer, admiring the flames that enveloped all the buildings around us, and the completion of his work.
So the “Red Knights” as I call them, spoke with words that everyone could understand, their voice was still made of wheezing and other strange sounds, they no longer wanted to spend time with us so they called him.
Amdir, as if hypnotized, he stood up and at the command of one of the “Red Knights” followed them; useless were our cries it was as if we did not exist, so it was that Amdir walked awa.
Was him part of the plan? Was he working for the enemy? And how Calder Cob could have such powerful friends?
He was realizing his plan, he killed the old Brackenbrook with no pity; that was the last straw, everybody shake the fear off then Calder Cob could not survive, his fool plan was finally ended.
The brigands left were fleeing toward Chetwood, the “Red Knights” had left with Amdir, Archet was burning but we were alive.
After having left behind us the brigands camp Strider led us through the night along paths that only he seemed to know, he lighted up the trail with a torch while I was carrying Amdir on my shoulders, the two Hobbits kept up despite their short legs and I could not help but notice how much they are resilient, they were not weary nor they complained about the rugged ground on which we proceeded, where I had diffuculty to go on with my thick boots they moved swiftly and silently barefoot; just Mundo blabed about the fact that a gentlehobbit as him could not be treated in that manner, but no one was paying attention to his words.
It was the dawn when we finally arrived to a village, located in a small valley was surrounded on two sides by high cliffs the uncovered part was protected by a palisade made of pointed log, I learned shortly after that that place was called Archet.
We received a very cold reception from the guards at the gatewho seeing us instantly stopped us, our prayers were useless, they were willing to let us outside regardless our wounded friend and the condition of all of us, but the arrival of an officer named Calder Cob changed the situation he let us enter with the promise to leave as soon as the wounded Ranger would have been able to walk.
We all slept except Strider who watched his friend who did not seem to perk up, all the inhabitants of Archet were watching us but none approached us to help.
Strider told me that the Rangers were not well seen in those lands, and was at that point that he explained me that that small and peaceful village was in a great danger, he and the Rangers had in fact watched the brigands and their movements reavealing their intensions: assault and seize Archet.
Strider asked me to inform the “mayor” Captain Brackenbrook, a man with long mustche and white hair, from his looking and posture one would have thought he had everything under control; I explained him what Strider told me before, I also told about the Black Rider but to no avail, Brackenbrook would not listen any reason.
Back to Strider he gave me another duty, find a medicinal herb: the Kingsfoil, the night before I had experienced its effects when the Ranger mashed some leaves in a bowl to make a cold pack on Amdir’s wound, its fragrance has the power to cheer up everyone, and in the expert hands of Strider could have given relief to Amdir.
Leaving Archet I was faced by Calder Cob, I thanked him for having let us enter but he made me an half smile saying that we were fools to think that the village would have been attacked and anyway he did not see any brigand around, he rather warned me to be careful in the woods because none could know what could have happened to me going alone in the woods, said that he turned his back on me laughing loudly.
I remembered the place where Strider collected the herb the night before but in the darkness I could not notice the impressive ruins that right now in the full light of the afternoon stood in front of me; staircases and columns, marble blocks, who knows what great men had left such works! Certanly not the people of Archet, perhaps only the Dwarfs could equal the greatness of those buldings.
I found the gras and when I collected enough I decided to give a close look to the ruins, arrived on the top of what have been once a tower I found a banner hanging from a pole, immediatly appeared clear that it was there since little time; while I was examining the banner I heard footsteps behind me, I turned and I saw a man with a wolf on a leash coming towards me, luckily I had brought my weapons with me, I barely had time to nock an arrow that immediatly the wolf lunged to me, I tensed the rope then the arrow stabbed in the neck of the beast who fell lifeless to the ground, meanwhile the man was getting close, too close to let me use the bow, so I had to pull out my daggers; the man yelled to me that it was too late, that I could not hinder their planand in the mean time he tried to kick me with a great club, just I was able to get closer I threw a to his throat, I could see the open flesh and blood comes out, I was alive.
I runned back to Archet but at the gate I had another surprise, Calder Cob looked at me with an expression somwhere between surprise and angry then he came closer and whenhe was sure that none else could her him he told me that I had been lucky to survive, and that if it was not for the guards he would have killed me in that moment, he laughed once again and concluded saying that soon he would have dealed with all of us.
I told everything to Strider who immediatly told me that a brigand was being held prisoner there in Archet and to go to question him; it was quite easy, as soon as I shown him my dagger covered in blood he instantly told everything, after that I talked with Brackenbrook once again and now he seemed to be moved from his positions therefor he decided to send me to the farm of CalSpigley, some of his laborers were in fact disappeared recently; speaking with the farmer I learned that Calder Cob was sent there before toinvestigate but was opinion of Cal that he done nothing.
After have received some guidance I moved to east, there flowed a stream over i could see other ruins; walking along the river bank i found the bodies of the labourers then I saw the smoke rising from the ruin; I crossed the creek and hid in some bushes, from there I could see many guards patrol the area, that surely had to be the enemy’s main base.
I runned back to the farm there Cal Sprigley that sent me to Combe a small town to the south in order to ask reinforcements, but another bitter surprise was waiting for me on the road, the robbers were surrounding Archet, no aids would have come; the inhabitants of the village would have to fend for themselves.
Brackenbrook had to be convinced, Calder Cob was a traitor and Archet would be attacked that night.
Everything that followed the appearance of Strider in front of my cell happened very quickly, and insofar as I can I will try to report it hereunder.
Strider had found my clothes, so I dressed as quickly as I could, then I found my bow beside one of the guards killed by Strider, the arrows were not a problem since several full quivers were hung on the wall of the guard room, there I could find my daggers too.
We got out from what had been my prison, and then I realized that that place was much more big than I thought, more than an encampment it was a little village with rock houses, stables and other things that could not be found in a temporary encampment, I realized then that I was not the only prisoner there, indeed Strider ordered me to proceed toward other farther courtyards where while he was coming he saw a couple of Hobbits detained there, while he would take care of freeing others prisoners inside rock bulidings on the right.
Fortunately there were few guards in that area that I could knock out in ashort time, although I had not yet recovered my strenght; freed the little Hobbits I proceeded with them looking for a way out from that horrible place, and was there that I saw him!
An imposing figure entirely dreesed of black clothes that covered every part of his body except for the hands on wich he wore a pair of armoured gloves; he was riding a mighty black stallion who whinnied and scraped the ground.
A terrible Black Rider was in front of me.
There where should have been the face of the rider I could not see nothing, was perhaps because of the low light (it was just dawning), or because of the black hood he was wearing, but I could swear there was no face at all, just a shadow.
Meanwhile, someone has started a fire, the thatched roofs of the hunts were on fire and I could hear the noise of some collapse.
in front of the rider another Ranger was standing, I have been able to notice the similarity of traits with those of Strider, armed only with a torch he threw chops right and left trying to scare away the rider, but alas the rider pranced his horse lowering a chop on the man’s shoulder, the Ranger fell to his knees then I would expect to see the rider dismount to kill the man, but he did not, indeed the black figure turned towards me and the Hobbits who I freed just before and with a shrill voice he said “Which is the “Baggins” promised me?” I could not help but notice that it was the second time I heard pronouncing that name in a short time, but nothing I could do so was the terror that paralyzed me; only a grating separated us from the rider who was approaching, but at that point all around us and a large fire was raging and then a burning beam crashed down right in front of the horse who instantly pranced, the Black Ridersent out terrible curses in his shrill language that never I heard before then he fled.
Then Strider appeared running on the other side of the courtyard and we all rushed to help the wounded Ranger, I knew then called Amdir; the wound did not seemed deep but he was however already very pale, he tried in vain to stand up, I decided then to help Strider to carry Amdir, the two Hobbits followed us; so it was that we setted out to the woods while behind our backs the fire was consuming what once were the refuge of the brigands.
Hesthorn was born in 2994 T.A. in a little village along the river Celduin south of Esgaroth, his childhood passed happily flowing placid like the river where he loved fish, he learned soon to know the beauty and the threats of Mirkwood that spread behind his village, here he learned to use the bow to hunt wild animals or to kill some foul beasts that approached too close to the village. Growing up, Hesthorn started work at his family’s sawmill, with his father and his brother, many of the village worked there, although the sawmill was not very big earned well because of the position of the village halfway between Esgaroth and Dorwinion lands, even some Dwarf of the Mountain came to buy some woods from his father. His mother was instead an appreciated tailor, she used to sew clothes and cloaks for the inhabitants of the village. So Hesthorn’s life was calm and peaceful, his job at the sawmill made him strong, from his mother he got the love to craft nice things and the hunt made him a good archer. But all this was destined to a tragic end, happened towards the end of the passed year, it was a cold day and in the sky stars started to glimpse, when the road that turns south lighted up of many torches, the bells rang and people ran in their house while the men gathered in the marketplace, it was a massacre, the Easterling knights swooped in on the civilians killing everyone, men women and children, there was no mercy that day. Hesthorn ran in his house saying to the mother to hide, taken the bow and got out he was able to kill three enemies who were trying to get in, soon was flanked by his father and his brother, many enemies fell, but others came and lastly Hesthorn was overwhelmed, hit on the head he fell to the ground, too weak too try any reaction he remained there, the last things he saw were his father killed in front of him and his brother running toward the wood. When he woke up all he could saw were smoking ruins and the bodies of his beloved friends and fellow citizens. He found the strenght to bury his parents, then he called out his brother but none came, would ever meet him again?
Nothing more restrained Hesthorn there, so he left for Esgaroth, after few days of walk he reached the bridge that connect the city to the mainland, the guards rescued him and and when his wounds were healed he was guided to King Brand II himself, Hesthorn told his history and the king moved by pity commanded that the inhabitants of the village were buried with care, the he offered to Hesthorn to join the Army of Dale, but such was the pain that he refused so he was left free to choose his destiny. After few days spent to drink at the inn, he decided to leave Dale-lands forever and joined a group of Dwarfs that was leaving for the Blue Mountains far in the West, the travel was slow but pleasant and he liked the company of the Dwarfs, many were the wonders he saw, the Elf Path that cross Mirkwood, the slopes of the Misty Mountains and the peaks of the High Pass, but once arrived in the Lone Lands the party was atacked by the brigands, the Dwarfs were killed or dispersed and Hesthorn was taken prisoner. Days passed and while was in his cell Hesthorn could hear many conversations, about men called Rangers, abou how the Wraiths were trying to kill them all, and how they were deperatly looking for an Hobbit named Baggins, this last name made Hesthorn smile, cause he rembered a story about a Hobbit named Baggins who visited Esgaroth many years before who helped Thorin Oakenshield to retake Erebor. But his imprisonment was not destined to go on, a morning he was woken by the noise of a fight then suddenly a man appeared in in front of his cell, he was really different fro the brigands, tall and proud and with noble traits his eyes shone of astrange light, he introduced himself as Strider and then he freed Hesthorn…
Tall and robust Hesthorn has long red hairs, they fall on his shoulders framing his round face, a thick beard covers his cheeks, the cheen and the upper lip. This appearence make him look a bit older than he is. He has dark grey eyes like his mother, a long scar runs from the left eyebroe to his nose, gift of an Eaterling blade, fortunately the eye did not suffered ant damage. His muscular physique do not prevent him to move swiftly and silently through the woods. Woods that are his favourite ground and the bow is his best-beloved weapon although he always carries a pair of daggers that uses as last defence. He hates above all the Easterings and brigands, and now he do not fears any death because he has nothing else to lose.