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Isengar is the first to jump out of the boat as we approach the landing area, and Mirgalond is behind him. I watch Isengar expertly handle the lines as he ties the boat to the bollards on the landing-stage. I smile; Mirgalond has taught him well. Once everyone is disembarked, the bags are tossed onto the landing by our able Seaman and Seahobbit. Darion and his men take up their bags, and then move into the town square with great caution.
It is eerily silent as we are the only souls moving about. No merchants hawking their wares in the street, no children laughing and running in the square. Belfalas is a fairly large fishing town and is normally bustling with the activity of fishing boats arriving and departing, or unpretentious fishermen selling their fresh catch of the day.
Suddenly I hear a skirmish going on at the rear of our landing party. I discover two Harad soldiers had been cut down by Darion’s men. Then I see one small hobbit sitting in the doorway of the Cobbler’s shop with a bit of blood sprayed on his face. The lad stares with shock at the horror that lies near his feet. Sheltered all of his life within the Shire, Isengar has never before witnessed the killing of another sentient being.
Isengar struggles to stand up. He looks at me. I can see his lips move, but no sound is heard, “Gandalf?” Will this young Took recover?
* * * * * * *
It is March 15, 3019. I have spent nearly all day roaming from one bedchamber to another, here in the Houses of Healing. Three charges I have, but only two suffer gravely from the black breath of daring to smite the witch king. Of these two, my heart breaks most for the young perian, Meriadoc. I have vivid memories of this lad as a youngster visiting his cousin, Frodo, at Bag End. I can still hear their laughter over a shared jest, or eating his fill of Bilbo’s dumplings until he would burst.
All this day long, he lay abed nigh unto death’s door. His face ashen and his sleep filled with darkness; mumbling words and weeping at horrors he was seeing in his dreams. It was Ioreth who prompted my memory about the healing hands of the king. At once I sent for Aragorn, who has called Meriadoc back from the darkness that nearly consumed him.
He is now sleeping peacefully while his young cousin sits at his side. This time it is Peregrin who is holding Meriadoc’s hand. By the expression on Peregrin’s face, he is surrendering to fatigue and worry. Before he falls forward onto his sick cousin, I help Peregrin onto the bed and cover him with spare blankets. He does not request a magic spell, nor for one of my tales of Bilbo’s adventures. I am certain this young lad has had enough of adventures for a while.
In the span of a few days, this lad has sworn himself into service of Gondor and withstood the oppressive moods of his new lord. In spite of this estranged acquaintance, Peregrin went to great lengths to save Faramir from his despairing father. Though Faramir was rescued, Denethor set himself aflame. I knew Peregrin saw part of the Steward burning his own flesh, which is why I shut the door. But I was too late; Peregrin was already affected by the view.
As I smooth out the blankets around him, Peregrin almost immediately falls asleep. I smile at the young Took. Yes, I can see this hobbit has grown.
* * * * * * *
Mirgalond quickly snatches up young Isengar in his arms from the Cobbler’s doorway and slips his hand over his mouth before the lad can protest. Then in silence Mirgalond runs in the direction of his house, which I am told is just on the other side of the square. We wait for the return of the Seaman near the Inn to ensure his safety before moving on.
A short time later, we see Mirgalond running back in our direction without the little hobbit. He is quite earnest when he tells me, “The halfling is not happy, Mithrandir.” I can only envision that an audacious hobbit such as Isengar, being prevented from taking part in an adventure he has waited his whole life for, would be.
As we proceed onward toward the edge of the town, it is then we see the bodies of both Harad soldiers and townsfolk lying about. When we stop to inspect the sight further, we are ambushed by the enemy from the north side. The scuffle went on for nearly ten minutes, as our numbers and skill equaled that of the Harad. Soon, the proficiency of the Dúnedain outweighs that of our opponent, and the ambush turns into a rout for the Haradrim. When their flight becomes apparent to the remaining townsfolk, a few men venture out to aid their allies.
As the din travels further into the dark void beyond the town, a young boy emerges from a doorway. He is shouting for Mirgalond. The boy is alone; my blood runs cold. I follow Mirgalond and the boy towards a nearby house. Once inside, I observe the small figure of a hobbit lying in a puddle of his own blood.
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