Chapter 2 – Bree
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And so we continue with this remade adventure! Remember to rate and review!
The magic of Imladris was far behind Gandalf and Glyndwr as they passed the Bruinen. Similar to the vibrant valley behind them, the scenery and vegetation was lush and the lands virtually untouched. The air here was considerably fresher than that of Cardiff, though it was to be expected, Glyn supposed, what with the people using technology that would be considered antiquated. The ride was initially silent, with only birdsong filling it as well as the sound of hooves on the dirt road.
"Perhaps it is time that I shared the true objective of this quest." Gandalf spoke up then.
"I see...now that Lord Elrond is not around to hear?" The Welshman asked teasingly and the wizard smiled.
"I keep information from people for a reason, Master Magnus. In any case, I trust you know of the Elves?" He asked and Glyn nodded.
"Elrond gave me the basics. That Elves have been in Middle-earth for many millennia and that there are many kinds of them. He spoke of the Elven realms of the Greenwood, Lindon, Rivendell and Lothlórien. Lastly, he spoke of their rulers."
"Then allow me to tell you of the Dwarves." The wizard said.
"Dwarves?" He asked curiously.
"Yes. This is information that will be important later. The Dwarves were known for their vast kingdoms built in the many mountains across Middle-earth. The most prosperous kingdom of Dwarves was built within a single mountain to the North, known as Erebor. It was also commonly referred to as the Lonely Mountain. The mountain was a place of natural wealth. Gems were abundant, and the stone rich in gold, which seemed to flow through the rock like vast rivers."
"Sounds ideal..." Glyn smiled.
"It was, my lad. Erebor was ruled by the King Under the Mountain. This tale is during the reign of King Thrór, a time when the kingdom was at its most prosperous. It was during his reign that the treasure hoard he and his Dwarves had mined swelled. However, greed is often a powerful thing, Master Magnus, more so in this world than it is in yours."
"Oh I don't know...I've seen greed drive people to do awful or underhanded things many times..." Glyn said grimly.
"I assure you, this is much worse. For a time, there was peace between Elves and Dwarves. The goodwill had begun to wane, however, when Thrór had insulted the King of the Woodland Realm. You see, they possessed gems that had once belonged to his late wife. When it came time for the gems to be returned, Thrór refused and this event led to the rift between the two races."
"Harsh..." He muttered. "I take it back...I've seen greed just like this in my own world."
"It worsens..." Gandalf said.
"How could it possibly get worse?" Glyndwr asked, almost regretting asking.
"Well there are many names for it. Gold sickness, gold lust and the like...but it is best known under the name of Dragon Sickness. A ludicrous concept to someone of your world, but it is so named for the sheer fact that a dragon covets gold violently. This sickness in a Dwarf leads to a similar obsession, hence the name. It would be this sickness that would be the undoing of Erebor."
"I've learned not to question what I consider to be oddities...what happened?" Glyn asked curiously.
"The peace that Erebor had enjoyed came to an end and watchful nights began. Despite their skill with the forging of weapons and armour, they were not prepared for what descended upon the mountain. It was during the day time when a fierce wind blew across the land, uprooting even the oldest of trees. Horns sounded in the nearby city of Dale, but they would go unanswered. A great fire drake from the North known as Smaug laid waste to the city..."
"I'm sorry...did you say fire drake? As in..."
"Yes...a dragon. And unlike the symbol of your country, Smaug is very real. After destroying the city of Dale, he turned his attention on Erebor for the hoard contained within. The mighty army of Dwarves that had been tasked with the protection of the mountain were no match for the sheer power of Smaug...Erebor fell."
"The Elves had arrived just as the survivors were fleeing but the Elvenking would not risk the lives of his men in a fruitless battle. They had left, but that very action led to further souring of the relations between Dwarves and Elves."
"As fascinating, as well as horrifying, as this story is...how does it relate to us?"
"Thrór had discovered a particular stone during his reign, referred to as the Heart of the Mountain. It also came to be known as the Arkenstone and was a symbol that his rule was just. It is the heirloom of the ruling family and so could unite the realms of the Dwarves. That is our objective."
"Woah..." Glyndwr pulled the horse to a stop. "Gandalf...where is the Arkenstone?"
"That, my lad, is simple. In the mountain."
"And is this mountain abandoned?"
"No...no it is not." He said and Glyn looked fearful. "Retaking the mountain is not the immediate goal. Merely the retrieval of the stone to rally the soldiers of the other Dwarven kingdoms."
"Oh yes...and it just so happens to be guarded by a fire breathing dragon that managed to destroy two cities in the space of a single day. Sounds like a walk in the park." He said sarcastically. "And how, pray tell, are we to accomplish a feat like this?"
"Well I suppose moving in the right direction would be a good start." Gandalf said with a smile. "This will be a task that will require more than you or I. I believe I can gather together a company who will be successful and that dragon can be driven out or even killed." He said and Glyndwr merely sighed.
"So I go on a journey to discover my purpose for being in a new world and get roped into a quest to steal one particularly symbolic gem with the hopes of driving out a dragon. And here I thought climbing Snowdon was a difficult feat." He muttered that last part before he continued riding.
"One you accomplished..."
"Please stop reading my mind..."
"I read only what you present to me. That includes sarcastic musings." Gandalf smiled in amusement. "With that said, my point still stands. You set your mind to that task and you accomplished it."
"This is a little different, Gandalf." He pointed out.
"Oh undoubtedly. This is a quest that will require no small amount of determination, skill and luck. You have the determination, you will acquire the skill and we shall see if luck is on our side."
"So how do we gather this company of yours then?"
"That is the nature of our first stop. We make for the town of Bree first."
Bree was a village that reminded Glyn somewhat of the town centre in Leicester. The architecture of many of its buildings resembled that of the Tudor era, but that was where the similarities ended. About the only thing that was identical was the weather, which at this moment was just as bad as the night when Glyn went to bed and woke up in Middle-earth. The cloak did an admirable job of keeping him dry until he and Gandalf made it to the stables, where he lowered his hood.
"I think it best to explain who it is that we are meeting..." Gandalf said and Glyn rose a brow.
"Why do I feel nervous?" He asked and Gandalf smiled.
"Thorin Oakenshield. He is the son of Thráin, son of Thrór and the King Under the Mountain." Gandalf said as he secured his horse.
"Beg your pardon?"
"It should also be advised that he is not overly fond of Elves...or those who are like them. It was he who saw their retreat during Smaug's rampage."
"And you really think he will cooperate with me?" The Welshman asked as they walked towards an inn.
"He will have no choice. I should caution you to not take anything he says too seriously."
"Duly noted. Any more surprises you'd like to spring on me before we go in or are you drawing a blank at the moment?" Glyn asked with a sarcastic smile and Gandalf chuckled once more.
"You will do just fine, Master Magnus." He said as they walked in. "Welcome to the Prancing Pony. There he is at that table..." The wizard gestured and the Welshman spotted him. He was quite handsome, not at all what he was expecting, and he certainly gave off something of a stoic, regal but almost brooding kind of aura. Glyn followed Gandalf before the wizard took a seat, the Half-Elven sitting beside him. The waitress came to them and smiled, taking a order from the oldest of the three before turning to Glyn.
"What can I get you, lovely?" She smiled and he returned it.
"Ale will do just fine, my dear." He said and she headed off. The Dwarf rose a brow as he looked him up and down, his gaze almost analytical.
"I was under the impression that Elves preferred to drink fine wines rather than common ale." He said, voice gruff and Glyn smiled politely.
"And I'd be inclined to agree were I any other Elf."
"There are other kinds?" He asked defiantly.
"My story is quite a long one. Perhaps I shall tell it to you later on. I know you have no love of Elves or those who are like me."
"Yet here you sit. Why?"
"I'll allow my friend here to do the talking." He gestured to the Grey Wizard.
"I should introduce myself. My name is Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey."
"I know who you are." Thorin said gruffly before turning to the Elf. "And your name is?"
"Glyndwr Magnus. Pleasure to meet you." He maintained his polite smile, but the Dwarven king remained as expressionless as ever.
"Well now, this is a fine chance. And what brings Thorin Oakenshield to Bree?" The wizard carried on.
"I received word that my father has been seen wandering the Wilds near Dunland. I went looking...I found no sign of him." Thorin said, his tone saddened and he looked dejected. Gandalf offered him a sympathetic gaze as he spoke.
"Thorin, it's been a long time since anything but rumour was heard of Thráin." The wizard spoke softly.
"He still lives...I am sure of it." The Dwarf responded his tone now determined. "My father came to see you before he went missing. What did you say to him?"
"I urged him to march upon Erebor, to rally the seven armies of Dwarves to destroy the dragon and take back the Lonely Mountain. And I would say the same to you. Take back your home land." Gandalf said, his tone quite firm. There was a pregnant pause in the conversation.
"This is no chance meeting, is it Gandalf?" Thorin broke the silence.
"No...it is not. The Lonely Mountain troubles me Thorin. That dragon has sat there long enough. Sooner or later, darker minds will turn towards Erebor. We ran into some unsavoury characters whilst travelling on the Greenway. They'd mistaken me for a vagabond and my companion for a lonely scout."
"I imagine they regretted that."
"One of them was carrying a message." Glyn spoke, producing a piece of parchment and placing it on down in front of Thorin. "But I do not understand the language it's written in."
"It is Black Speech. A promise of payment." Gandalf explained to them both.
"For what?" The Dwarf asked.
"Your head." Gandalf said somewhat bluntly. "Someone wants you dead. Thorin, you can wait no longer. You are the heir to the Throne of Durin. Unite the armies of the Dwarves. Together you have the might and power to retake Erebor. Summon a meeting of the seven Dwarf families. Demand they stand by their oath."
"The seven armies swore that oath to the one who wields the King's Jewel. The Arkenstone. It is the only thing that will unite them, and in case you have forgotten, that jewel was stolen by Smaug." Thorin said with a small sigh.
"What if I were to help you in reclaiming it?" The wizard asked.
"How? The Arkenstone likes half a world away buried beneath the feet of a fire breathing dragon."
"I'm not the only one making this point..." Glyn rose a brow to Gandalf who gave him a small smile.
"You are both right. Which is why we're going to need a burglar." The Wizard said and they both rose a brow as they looked at him.
"Ignoring that fact...what business do you have coming on such a journey?" He turned to Glyn.
"Gandalf will confirm it. I went to bed one awful night in my home nation of Wales and woke up just North of the Ford of Bruinen, or so I was told. I'm not actually of this world. In fact I was once human." Glyndwr said, a look of disbelief in Thorin's eyes. "Gandalf will confirm it." He repeated.
"He speaks the truth." The wizard said.
"There seems to be a belief that I was brought here for a reason, and just as your meeting with Gandalf is not a chance meeting, mine wasn't either. He believes that by joining you on this task, dangerous as it is, I will be able to discover why I'm here."
"Even though we will potentially face a dragon?" Thorin asked and the other sighed.
"Well I only just found out about that particular part when we were halfway there..." He gave Gandalf quite a pointed look. "But yes..."
"Brave. Stupid. But brave." He acknowledged, before noticing the blade on his belt. "If you're from a different world, have you ever used that?"
"Swords are used in our armies in a ceremonial capacity. The weapons my people use are vastly different. But in short, no. I have never used a sword. I've used the bow but not often." He finished the ale. "It's almost like home. A good ale."
"So despite no training, you're still willing to take the risk?" Thorin asked and the other nodded.
"I've been brought here for a reason in this form. If this helps me find out why and provides an extra person to the company, it works for all involved." He said, before standing. "I'll go get us some rooms." He said to the wizard, who merely nodded before he walked off. Thorin's gaze was on him the entire time.
"He truly is from another world?" He asked and Gandalf nodded.
"Yes. Given he could have so easily as remained in Rivendell, where he was brought to, I believe he is brave as well as curious about this world. Thorin...he knows about your ill will towards the Elves, and I know I will fail to persuade you to abandon that grudge, but he is willing to aid you. He will learn on the road." The wizard said.
"I will not be responsible for his safety."
"I do not expect you to be."
The following morning, the rain abated and the pale morning sun was in the sky as farmers and hunters left to attend their duties. Glyn stood on a balcony that looked into the town square as Gandalf came to stand by him, watching as the townsfolk went about their daily lives. For some time, they stood there in silence as the sky turned blue.
"He's right to doubt me..." Glyn said.
"All things considered, I'd say your conversation with him went quite well." Gandalf said reassuringly.
"How do you figure?"
"Dwarves can be hard-headed and stubborn, but in the right environment, they can also be willing to listen. He listened to your story...and if he did not believe you, he would have refused you on this journey. I cannot say if you will be the best of friends, but I am sure he will come around to you."
"Do you think it can be done, Gandalf? Stealing a gem for a gold-obsessed dragon?" The Welshman asked after a pregnant pause.
"For all the power I possess, I cannot say one way or the other. All I do know is that we must try. Smaug is not a being that should remain in this world, lording over a treasure hoard or not." The wizard said firmly.
"You're determined. I will give you that, Gandalf. Where is Thorin, anyway?"
"He has made for the Blue Mountains, where his kin are. There he will gather his company and appeal to the other Dwarven realms. I suggest you use this time wisely, Master Magnus. Bree is not known for producing a great many soldiers, but they do possess an archery range where you can get some practice in."
"Might be a good idea...I've a feeling dragons are not the only thing that I'll be facing." He said as he went to get his bow and cloak.
"We will be here for a few days. Tomorrow I shall teach you the basics of sword combat."
"I see..." He went to walk off but then turned. "Gandalf...you mentioned that we would need a burglar. Seems like you have someone in mind..."
"All in good time, Master Magnus. All in good time..."
And that's the second chapter done! Remember to rate and review!