Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

It is the year 2946 of the Third Age, and the lands east of the Misty Mountains are astir. From the cloud-shrouded peaks above the High Pass to the spider-infested gloom of the forest of Mirkwood, paths long-deserted are trodden once again. Busy merchants carry their wares to new markets, messengers bring tidings from foreign realms, and kings send forth armed men to extend their influence and the rule of law. Some say that a new age of freedom has begun, a time for adventure and great deeds to reclaim glories lost in long centuries of oppression and decline.

But adventures are not really things that people go out and look for. They are dangerous and rarely end well. While it is true that a handful of valiant individuals set out to make their mark on the world, for others it seems that adventure chooses them, as though it is the path they are fated to tread. They are restless warriors, curious scholars and wanderers, always eager to seek what was lost or explore what was forgotten. Ordinary people call them adventurers, and when they return successful, they call them heroes. But if they fail, no one will even remember their names...

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Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Vardaen » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:27 pm

Image ...what I have heard seems to me for the most part old
wives' tales, such as we tell to our children. All that
lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that
fancy can wander freely there.
In the last days of November, on the fifth anniversary of the eponymous battle, a great feast celebrating the victory at the Battle of Five Armies is held in Dale for the first time. People from all neighbouring lands are expected to participate in the revels, as the feast has been arranged to coincide with local celebrations held for the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the colder months of the year.

Dale is a city of Men built on the western bank of the Running River. It rises in a valley between the southern arms of the Lonely Mountain, where the river turns around the town making a wide loop before resuming its southward course. Its foundations were first laid by Northmen almost four hundred years ago.

For two centuries, the city enjoyed a close alliance with the Dwarves of the Kingdom under the Mountain and grew rich and prosperous, extending its power to the east over the lands between the Running River and Redwater. Many kings passed down their crown to their heirs, until the city was destroyed when Smaug descended on the Dwarf-kingdom. Dale remained a deserted ruin for the best part of two centuries, its power a dream remembered only in sad songs sung in Lake-town and in smaller settlements scattered along the Running River.

Dale was reclaimed in the year 2941 by Bard, a descendant of its former lords and slayer of the Dragon, when news of his great deed attracted many Men from the west and south. With the re-founding of the Kingdom under the Mountain the city is returning to its former splendour as the products of skilled Dwarven hands issues again from the Front Gate of Erebor to be sold in the markets of Dale, along with the wares made by local craftsmen and the foreign goods brought upstream by boats coming from Lake-town.

The last four years have seen the completion of most of the restoration works, including crenelated walls and bell towers, but great labours are undertaken every month as trading blooms and wealth increases. Dwarf stonemasons are seen working everywhere, as they supervise the building of new fountains and pools and the raising of new bridges stretching across the waterways.

Dwarf craftsmen busy themselves with the paving of the streets using stones of different colours (from which the streets take their names). The countryside to the south and west of the Mountain is once again home to vast farmlands providing food for the city population and, especially, for the Dwarf colony under Erebor. Farmers are enlarging their fields every year, getting nearer and nearer to the great forest of Mirkwood and the northernmost extensions of the Long Marshes.

To the north lies Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, looming over Dale. The Lonely Mountain has been known as the lair of Smaug the Dragon for almost two centuries. Today, Erebor is again the seat of the King under the Mountain and the most prosperous colony of Durin's Folk. It is an isolated peak, rising to the east of Mirkwood and south of its greater neighbours, the Grey Mountains. The Mountain is tall enough to be covered in snow until Spring is underway, and extends over a wide area. Its slopes separate in six great spurs, long steep-sided ridges that fall towards the plains to the south and west, and in the direction of the Waste and its tumbled lands to the north and east.

The waters of the River Running spring from the roots of the Mountain, where the two southernmost spurs of the peak meet in a great cliff-wall. Here, the stream flows swiftly out of the Front Gate of the Dwarven stronghold and then winds a wide loop over the valley of Dale, before finally turning away from the Mountain on its road to the Long Lake.

Since the death of the Dragon, the followers of King Dáin have been busy cleansing all the passages of their underground kingdom, to free them from the stench of the worm that permeated every corner. Then, they started delving ever deeper, to carve halls and streets under the earth befitting a rich and powerful kingdom. In just a handful of years they have restored all the upper levels of their stronghold, and reopened many lower passages and tunnels that the Dragon blocked to defend his hoard.

To Be Continued...
Last edited by Vardaen on Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Vardaen » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:32 pm

To the south of Dale is Esgaroth upong the Long-lake. Since the great days of old, when a powerful realm of Northmen stretched far from the Lonely Mountain, there has been a city upon the Long Lake. Grown out of a small community born along its western shore, the village of Esgaroth became a trading port when families of merchants decided to move there from Dale. They built warehouses, and great residences to live in and closely follow the coming and going of their goods. For many years thereafter the boats of the Lake-men were seen going up and down the river, their holds filled with gold and their decks crowded with warriors in armour, ready to bring war to distant lands. When Smaug descended on Erebor almost two hundred years ago, the town of Esgaroth was miraculously spared. Dale wasn't so fortunate, and those inhabitants who were able to escape its ruin with their lives were forced to seek asylum among the Lake-men. But in time, even the town along the shore had to be abandoned for fear of the Dragon, and the Lake-men built new dwellings directly on the surface of the Long Lake itself, in the hope that its deep, cold waters might keep them safe from the fire.

Lake-town was born, and it endured under the shadow of the Mountain until the night Smaug fell upon it, and it disappeared in a cloud of steam and sparks. Today, a great wooden bridge runs out from the western shore to reach the city of Esgaroth, built anew a few miles to the north of the spot where the bones of Smaug rest undisturbed. Larger than before, the new home of the Lake-people is also constructed upon stilts made of huge forest trees driven into the bottom of the lake, and its buildings, quays and streets bustle with the activities of a folk enjoying a greater level of prosperity than ever before.

Skilful Elves from the kingdom of Thranduil have helped in the reconstruction, and their cunning art is visible in the many arches that bend as gracefully as tree boughs across the wider streets, and in the delicate frets that grace several house facades.

To this day Esgaroth remains a free city, governed by a Master elected from among the old and wise. He conducts the affairs of his office from a Great House in the main Market-place, on behalf of the people of Laketown and advised by an assembly of councillors. His duty is to safeguard and preserve the peace and riches of the city, administering its trades and policies. In recent years Esgaroth has started to suffer from the proximity of the city of Dale: fearing for the independence of Laketown, the Master of Esgaroth is tightening his trading and political relations with the Woodland Realm.

The Wood-elves have always been welcome in Laketown, and much sought-after help arrived from them when the city was destroyed by Smaug. Elves have never stopped being an everyday sight for the Lake-men, both along the quays and in the houses of the most fashionable and influential merchant families.

The Wood-elves live in a land described by many as “the greatest of the forests of the Northern world”, Mirkwood is a sea of woodland measuring more than 400 miles from north to south and 200 miles from east to west, at the point where the Old Forest Road crosses its width. It extends across the very middle of Wilderland, and its presence has shaped the history of the region for centuries. Nobody knows exactly what lies within its borders, as no one has thoroughly explored it.

The days when the Elvenking enforced his rule over all of Greenwood the Great are long gone, and the wild wood has reclaimed its hundreds of streams and shadowy vales, its clearings, bogs, hills and mountains. The creatures that inhabit it have become “queer and savage”, as Beorn once put it, like the ever-present black squirrels, the thousands of black moths that crowd around any traveller carrying a source of light, and the hundreds of black butterflies that fly above the tree-tops. Many darker things have descended from the mountains that rise in the middle of the forest and have issued out of the pits of Dol Guldur, to breed and multiply in the dim shadows.

Fortunately for all who live near its edge, the forest has grown less dark since the Necromancer was driven from his stronghold in the south of Mirkwood, and some think that it will soon be possible to open the Old Forest Road to traffic once again.

To Be Continued...
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Vardaen » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:38 pm

Down that road lies the Woodmen on the far side of Mirkwood in the Anduin Valley. The valleys along both sides of the Great River and the western eaves of Mirkwood are the home of the Woodmen. Numerous, brave and well-armed, they populate a land that is constantly imperilled by many threats.

The Woodmen of Wilderland are not united under a crown, but are divided into several Houses, as they call a group of clans or families who dwell together in the same great hall under a common token of kinship. Every house is ruled by its council of Elders, a circle of the old and wise. In times of need, the Elders from all houses meet at a folk-moot, a great gathering where the most important decisions concerning the Woodmen at large are taken. There are four main Houses of Woodmen in Wilderland: the House of Mountain Hall, the House of Woodland Hall, the House of Woodmen-town and the House of Rhosgobel.

Rhosgobel is the name of the place where the abode of Radagast is found, on the southwestern edge of Mirkwood just one hundred miles north of the naked hill where Dol Guldur rises. Its name (“Brown hay”) comes from the high thorn-hedge that separates the area from the nearby forest. The Brown Wizard has been living here since before the Northmen came to the vales of Anduin. His presence has been greatly beneficial to the Woodmen, and over time a small village has sprung up; here the Woodmen dwell under one roof, the long House of the folk, as is their custom.

In the Vale too lies the realm of the Beornings. The borders of the land falling under Beorn's rule
are defined by how far his followers are willing to go to pursue their enemies. To this day, this includes territories around both sides of the Great River near the Carrock. Since the day that Beorn decided to become a leader of men, his followers have come to live close to his house, building homesteads and small fortified settlements along the edge of Mirkwood, from the Old Forest Road up to the Forest Gate.

Ancient rhymes remember that to the south of Wilderland lay realms with sunny vineyards, stone cities and lofty monarchs. Today most of these lands are known simply as names given to exotic goods, sold by adventurous merchants whose tales are difficult to tell apart from what they make up to sell their wares. To the north stretch the Grey Mountains where the Dwarves long delved, and the Withered Heath, the ancient breeding ground of Dragons.

Beyond them lie the frozen wastes, enshrouded in cold mists and dark legends. To the west extend the Misty Mountains, a range of forbidding peaks riddled by Goblin tunnels and mines, running for almost 800 miles from the far North to the South. To the east lay endless plains where wild folk dwell and multiply, until the day a new king or chieftain will once again harness their hatred and bring them to war against the west.

Here in lies the Tales of Wilderland.
Welcome to the game! I'll be posting more, but this is just to get things rolling!
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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Vardaen » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:16 pm

Image
In the last days of November, 2946 of the Third Age of Middle-earth, on the fifth anniversary of the eponymous battle, a great feast celebrating the victory at the Battle of Five Armies is held in Dale for the first time. People from all neighboring lands are expected to participate in the revels, as the feast has been arranged to coincide with local celebrations held for the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the colder months of the year.

Dale is overflowing with travelers and visitors come to enjoy the celebration being called the Battle of Five Armies. The entire city is working hard for the coming events, merchants have been importing wine and food for months, toy makers have been busy crafting their wares for prizes and gifts to be given throughout the celebration. From windows and roofes hand brightly colored buntings and banners of all types. People have been arriving over the course of the last week from all over Wilderland as far as the Anduin Vale and the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood. Dwarves from the Iron Hills have been flooding into Erebor and men from Lake-town are a constant stream of boats up and down the Running Riving delivering goods. There is hardly an Inn left in Dale with room in it.

This is the fastest-growing area of the city, already occupying a sizable part of the town and with several large buildings used to store the wares destined to be shipped to Lake-town. The Merchant Quarter rises close to the main opening to the south of the city, the Traders Gate, leading to the landings and quays along the river where the goods are loaded onto the boats going downstream, and to the Merchants Way, the southbound road to Esgaroth. Here the most activity is, for travelers from all over funnel through it.

That is not to say that in the north at Ravensgate it is dull or quite. Along the north-western bend of the river, closest to the Mountain, stand many large houses, the homes of loyal followers who were richly rewarded by Bard the Bowman for their part in the Battle of Five Armies, and of those merchants and artisans who have grown wealthy through trade. The district is bordered by a long street lined with narrow houses and paved with white cobblestones, the White Lane, where most of the craftsmen workshops of the town are found. These workshops are a buzz with activity as preparations are made for the celebration.

Yet it is teh Toy-market, in the center of town, that is the most fun, and it is here that the party has already begung. The toy-market of Dale is a colourful and noisy centre of activity attracting merchants from Wilderland and beyond. Here, Dwarf master artisans compete to sell the product of their craft, beautiful toys made of wood and metal with near-magical properties: life-like singing birds, Dwarven masks that laugh when a string is pulled, and smoking-pipes that produce soap bubbles are just some examples of the wide offering to be found at the market.

The best-selling item since the reopening of the market is certainly the Dalian musical cracker, finely embossed with entwining dragons, that when pulled apart makes a sharp noise and reveals a small but perfectly functioning musical instrument inside. A separate area is dedicated to the dangerous art of making fireworks; here, interested parties can buy squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles, elffountains, goblin-barkers and thunder-claps.

Visible in most parts of the city is the royal palace, and it is just as gaily decorated as the rest of Dale. The residence of King Bard is a stone palace built by Dwarven masons directed by King Dáin himself. From the outside it is an imposing sight, with its marble pillars and commemorative fountain representing the Fall of Smaug. Inside, the palace looks like a Dwarven underground hall, with its small deep windows and glass lamps hanging from the distant ceiling. The two great openings at the side of the great front gate are oriented to receive the light of the sun as soon as it rises over the easternmost Mountain arm. Flags fly high over the palace welcoming all people to Dale.
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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Vardaen » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:32 pm

Tucked away in a corner of the city, just outside the Toy Market, down a narrow lane is a small Inn, one of the rare few still with rooms to rent to those people arriving late or who failed to book a room a head of time. Over the stout wooden door swings a sign carved to look like a quiver, a single black fletched arrow poking out of it. "The Lucky Shot" is run by a pair of young men, brothers, who were just old enough to be on the bucket brigades when Lake-town was burning, but too young to fight with the militia. Gram and Gilford keep a clean establishment but without much of the luxuries found elsewhere in Dale. Which is one of the simple reasons it remains partially vacant. The common room is a collection of stout tables and chairs. Hung on the wall over a small bar are a pair of water buckets, lightly singed these are the very buckets the pair used to fight Smaug's fire with.

Gram works the bar, taking drink orders and helping to settle guests while Gilford tends to the kitchen and their one young cook, an orphan girl they took in after the real Battle of Five Armies. The lamps are burning low, and the ceiling is filled with smoke. The few guests sitting around are laughing and in good spirits excited for the start of things in the morning.

Outside in the market many of the merchants and stalls are still open. The nearby corner is home to a few toy makers selling small wooden doll houses or tiny sail boats to be raced along the river. Women inspect the bolts of fine cloth that are out, and men try on the various feathered caps of a nearby tailor. Lamps are lit, and the shadows and light create a peaceful calm before the storm of tomorrow's celebration. A dog barks in someone's house nearby, and the soft music of a flute drifts along with the smoke of many chimneys.

So it is in this out of the way place that we find a few unlikely heroes.
Now you can post.

Tomorrow the festivities begin. A few of you could be staying here already, or are in need of a room and were directed here by someone in the square. Or if you like you can wait until "Tomorrow" and meet up with some fellowship members during the festival. This part of the adventure we will try and get to know your character, and weave some connections between PCs.

The market outside the tavern is also still open, so if you would prefer to be outside still looking around, we can do that to.
"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." - Gandalf
J.R.R. Tolkien, Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by TetNak » Wed Sep 25, 2013 2:18 am

Not often does Aerth find comfort under a roof that is not also a canopy of branches sprouting from the trees of the Wilderland. Aerth sits in a corner at a small table, alone, with a pipe in hand and a mug of ale in front of him. The man arrived the previous day, and allowed himself to be lured into staying, even though his supplies have been purchased. Aerth and his long blond hair are known in these parts. He travels the Wilderlands, typically staying away from overly populated places like Dale.

Aerth has allowed his hood to sag onto his shoulders. His hair is pulled backward, and tied down to the base of his skull, over his ears. He is a strange looking man, slight and pale, but he has a strangely exotic beauty about him. He is tall, but slender, a thick bow leaning against his table along with a long hilted axe. Aerth's blue eyes look over the crowd without emotion on his face.
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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Muskrat » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:11 am

Varuthil has been to Dale a number of times before with her uncle and adoptive father, Eällandor, an envoy for King Thranduil of the Mirkwood Elves. She has come with the king's delegation, but, growing restless, has chosen to wander the streets of Dale, looking both at the people and the goods for sale. As with all elves, she is tall, thin and fair to look upon, with white-blonde hair and deep green eyes. Unlike most of her kinfolk, her face does not wear a smile. Instead, it is grim and forbidding and she seems to study people as if they were specimens under the gaze of a scholar collecting samples of wildlife. In truth, she takes delight in watching the people around and the pulse of life in the city of Dale. She just does not know how to show it on her face.

As she wanders the streets, she comes across an inn called the Lucky Shot. Something about the impertinence of the name arouses her curiosity and she enters, walking up the bar to order a drink of, well, whatever they have--hopefully wine, but she has found that some human and dwarvish ales and beers can be passable as well.

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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Eilandor » Wed Sep 25, 2013 5:37 am

Wren had been to Dale several times over the last few years. When he wasn't crafting wooden tools and such he would travel as a guard to the many trade runs between Dale and Lake-town. These were never visits of recreation as this one would be. Making his way to the market square Wren asks some folks to recommended a stay for those arriving late. The Lucky Shot was a unanimous response. As Wren makes his way to the inn he doesn't hesitate to stop and compliment the craftsmanship that went into some of the wooden toys on display.

"This is exquisite work, is it yours or are you selling on behalf of another? If the latter perhaps I could show you some of my own creations..."

In only a few conversations Wren has made some solid connections to possibly sell his wares. Not bad for just passing through...now where is that inn, "Oh, there it is."

Upon entering The Lucky Shot he spots all sorts having a time of it on the night prior to the celebration. Wren makes his way to the bar, "Ale sir." Wren has acquired a taste for ale in lieu of the fact it has little to no effect on him. He is served his ale and with pint in hand he surveys the crowd.
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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Shurijo » Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:29 pm

It's not unusual for a dwarf to be seen at The Lucky Shot tavern. In fact, since the reclaiming of Erebor, many dwarves have spent time in Dale for trading and working to assist with the rebuilding. Some dwarves have even set up smith shops to sell their wares in the markets.

Sitting on a human sized stool, one particular dwarf stares into his custom made dwarven tankard. While the Lucky Shot has an ample supply of tankards and cups, this particular dwarf has seen fit to bring -what appears to be- his own tankard to the tavern.

It's hard for anyone to tell the age of a dwarf once they've aged over 40 years and their beards began to take hold and this dwarf is no exception. He's average build and size for a dwarf with a mid-chest length brown beard held by three golden rings which separates his beard into three sections. His long hair is clasped together with a silver ring behind his head.

For a dwarf, he appears like most other dwarves, with an exception of a large scar over his left eye. The scar doesn't appear to have left him blind or otherwise deformed, but nobody would consider him (or most any other dwarf) an attractive fellow.

He wears a simple blue vest with red trousers and straps. It doesn't appear that he's taken a drink from his tankard in a while and instead, he just looks into it as if he's contemplating something or maybe coming up with some strange dwarven design for a toy, armor, or weapon.

The quiet dwarf doesn't seem to pay attention to any of the new visitors to the tavern and Gram seems enough to leave the dwarf alone without asking questions.

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Re: Prelude: The Gathering of Five Armies

Post by Trogdor » Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:04 pm

Walking down the streets of Dale, Pipkin Brandybuck muses at what the last few years had brought him. First there was the trip out from the Shire. What an adventure that had been. And to think, he'd beleived that the trip to Bree was a long one. That was nothing compared to travelling over the Misty Mountains and through Mirkwood. And the dwarves. What a fine bunch of companions they were - don't let anyone tell you differently. Grim at times, to be sure, but as stalwart a companion as you could ever want. Better still, they appreciated good cooking! He'd even met some elves on the way. That was a treat. They were so elegant and graceful - just like he'd expected from the stories.

Then there was the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves had been so kind to him there, letting him stay in their caverns and see some of the spectacular stonework, not to mention a few of the smaller treasures on display. Some had actually been part of the dragon horde, the tales of which had brought him to the East. They probably would have let him stay as a guest for as long as he'd wanted, their generosity was so great. But after a while he took to helping with the cooking, as he'd done on the trip out to the Lonely Mountain. His hobbitish sense of what was proper told him that he really ought to earn his keep if he intended to stay for long. The dwarves were fine cooks, of course, in their fashion. But their skills at baking left a bit to be desired. So Pipkin had provided the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain with cakes and cookies and all sorts of delicious biscuits.

But as comfortable as his stay at the Lonely Mountain was, the young hobbit had come east to see as much as he could, and to hear tales not just from dwarves, but from men and elves as well. So it was that with many pledges of friendship, he took his leave of the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. Since then, he had explored the areas around Laketown and Dale, hearing all sorts of stories - none of which he could have heard in the Shire - and meeting all sorts of people - none of whom he might have met in the Shire. And the dwarves had been more than generous in gifts when they parted, so that he had no need to work during his wanderings.

Of late, he had come to Dale for the festival marking the fifth year since the Battle of the Five Armies. Oh, he'd heard plenty of stories of the battle already. But here he might meet some people who had actually been in the battle; and he might hear stories told by them - stories about what it was like to experience a real battle. Besides, Borir was working in Dale, and he hadn't seen his old travelling companion in nearly a year. So, having arrived in town, and before he'd even had a chance to go back and visit Dale's famous toy market again, Pipkin was shouldering his pack and heading to the Lucky Shot, a slightly dilapidated inn, but one that Borir liked to visit. Looking at how crowded things were, the hobbit was also hoping it might have a room left for him - though really, in these houses the big people lived in, a small closet in the cellar would do him just fine. All it would need was a small cot and he'd he happy.

Entering the inn, he hails the man who seems to be in charge and is happy to find that there is indeed a room available - at least one suitable for a hobbit. He wasn't certain the same could be said for any of the bigger folk looking for a place. Then he moves into the taproom, hoping to find his friend, or at least to have a chance to sit down and get a bite of food to eat and sip of ale to drink. The road had been long and dusty, and it had been hours since he'd stopped to roast some sausages for a mid-afternoon snack.

As he steps into the taproom, Pipkin steps up onto a stool to get a better look around - he was, after all, likely the shortest person in the room. More specifically, he was a few inches shy of four feet - tall for a hobbit, but short compared to the other races. And while he still had the relatively lean body of a hobbit in his tweens, he had enough meat on his bones to "do a mother proud," as she would no doubt have ageed. The hobbit had sandy hair and blue eyes - rare for a Harfoot, but not uncommon among Fallohides, of which lineage he claimed. And he wore brown trousers, held up with braces, a white shirt, yellow waistcoat, and a green jacket - respectable hobbit clothing, he was happy to say. His feet, of course, were bare.

After a moment of scanning the room, he spots the dwarf at a far table. Hopping down, he weaves his way through the crowd of big people and jumps up onto the bench next to his friend. "Borir!" he says with genuine pleasure. "It's been too long. How are you doing?"

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