Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Albinor Chronicles Chapter 21
"Coming of an ur-Warden"

By Marcus Pan

July 18, 004

The horse slowed to a trot as it's rider gave a quick, upward tug on the reigns. The rider was a halfling, slightly over 3' in height, clad in full plate armor with a good build and dark-lined eyes that seem to prove he has seen much. A riding cloak hung loosely around and draped over the broad horse's back. No livery decorated the man's breastplate although there was a shield-shaped spot on the front anticipating such a decor. Looming a half-mile dead south rose a large city, the capitol of the Five Shires, named Shirville. In this city resides the clearland warden and most prominent individual in the shirelands. The iron-clad stranger rode slowly on, passing between herds of cattle and sheep that scattered before him. He soon reached the city, his mount still at a trot, and ambled up to the city gates. Two knights met him before the gate and looked up at the mounted halfling, his face hidden behind a shining steel helm and visor. After a moment of silence a young halfling came out dressed in the garb of a teamster. The stranger dismounted roughly and handed the reigns of his beast to the teamster and the horse was slowly led away to the city's stable compounds. The man took a few delicate steps forward. Mystery seemed to form out of the very air as he moved to stop a few feet from the knights. His helmet he did not touch and his face remained hidden behind the steel mask. "'Tis five pieces of gold to enter Shirville, stranger. And the armor upon you as well as the blades you brandish must be kept here to be returned upon your leave. Do you enter and obey?" The stranger did not speak for a few long moments. Then he spoke in a loud, resonating tone that came from his chest and echoed within the confines of his helmet.

"Nay. I wish to speak with the warden within. Fangorn Plains. Bid him to come hither." A look of cautious concern flashed across the speaking knight's face. The second knight who stood be sped his hand to the hilt of his sword on his right side. Both the chain mail suits they wore flashed defiantly in the noon-high sun. But before either of them could throw a harsh comment or say another word, the stranger continued. "I know the times in which I ask for your lord are harsh with bitter war against the traitor, Treebeard of Forestia. But I will lay my weapons before you so you know I bid no harm. Again I bid thee to return Fangorn Plains, Clearland Warden, to the city gates so that I may speak with him." The two clearland knights looked at eachother indecisively and then the first one spoke.

"I will do so, but I can not guarantee he will return with me for audience. Shall I give a name, stranger?"

"Just tell him one comes to help thee in your crusade against Forestia. That is all. I will wait here." The knight entered the city and was soon out of sight around a bend in the road within the gates. The second knight stood cautiously by.

It took nearly an hour of time to track down the warden, busying himself with battle plans and war treaties. He returned to the city gates with the knight that had come to fetch him and they found the stranger lounging in his riding cloak with a pipe clasped between his lips. His armor, weapons and helm he had removed and these were locked away in the gatehouse of the city. His back was to the knight and warden and wisps of smoke rose above his head blowing lazily in the breeze to and fro. The small halfling relaxed on a small, grassy hill just outside the gates. The warden approached the stranger from behind. "You asked for me, my friend? What is it I can do? I dearly hope it is urgent as I postponed some important objectives to meet with you under these strange circumstances." The warden snorted, almost as if uncertain as to whether his time will be utilized or wasted on this strange encounter. The stranger turned, pipe still clenched between his teeth. His face was young, but his eyes and forehead bore deep lines of power or longing. It seemed, by the dark glimmer in his eyes, that he has seen much of the world. He glanced at the warden and nodded his head in a snobbish sort of satisfaction then glanced warily at the knight beside him. The knight bowed low then backed away stopping beside the second knight. The two warriors then began talking softly amongst themselves. Finally, the stranger spoke.

"Please, warden. Be seated. Can I offer you some tobacco? It cometh from the city of Darokin. Fine leaves, 'tis." He offered a second pipe to the warden and a small block of packed, brown leaves. The warden accepted this graciously and packed the pipe with the tobacco, lit it and puffed it joyously.

"Been such a while since I have had pleasures of life such as this. They are fine leaves and still fresh. I assume you left the city recently?"

"Aye," said the stranger as a wisp of smoke escaped his lips. "From there I came straight to your fair shires and onward to the city we are seated before. I heard of the treasonous act of the Warden of the Forests. I come to help. I also heard of the fall of the hill warden, Hillman. I am grieved to hear of such heinous actions taken against the shirelands. I forward my sympathy unto you, your comrades and your people." They sat a few moments in silent memory of Merry Hillman together.

"Mind if I ask your identity, stranger?" asked the warden.

"Not at all, warden. I have only one name and it is simply Warrior. That is all I ever was called and all I ever will be called. I hail from Threshold of Karameikos. But my parents hail from here, the shirelands. Farmers they were, in the shire that you now rule. And I've come to offer my services to my heritage."

"I see. In what way do you wish to do so, Warrior?"

"I wish to take the place of the late Merry Hillman. I wish to control the army and lands of the hills, as the hill shire warden." Warrior spoke in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice. He seemed almost sure of his acceptance.

"That is hard to do in such an untrustable state of war, my friend."

"You will turn me away without a chance? A fleeting glimpse of my abilities and actions you will not accept?" Warrior snorted, seeming almost insulted by the accusations laid upon him by Fangorn Plains. He glowered at the warden beneath his brown, bushy eyebrows.

"Nay, that I did not say. You will prove yourself, slowly at first, but the chance you will have. Please, do not accuse us of hipocricy, for if you were in such a position as I and the other remaining wardens you would be cautious as well. I do not see where I could be overly cautious, however, the chance you will have. I bid this."

"I thank you, warden."

"I name you, Warrior, ur-warden of the hills. You are the commander of the army of the hills. You will reside here in Shirville with me and my knights and I am not afraid to tell you that you will be observed. You are on trial for wardenship. You are ur-warden. Be on your highest degree of behavior, Warrior. Shall you enter my fair city and let my show you to a home for you?"

"Aye. I accept this trial of worthiness graciously and am in anticipation of representing my shire in open battle against the traitors. I thank you again and can not thank you enough. Thanks will be given by my utmost service to you and the other wardens. And in appreciation and memoriam, I will from this day forward take on a final name coupled with my current name of Warrior. I shall heretofore be known as Warrior Hillman, in memoriam of the late, great warden of the hills, Warden Merry Hillman." The two halfling gentlemen entered the gates and turned onto a side road. The place of wardenship for the people of the hills may soon be filled. But that remains to be seen in the future events and actions of ur-warden Warrior Hillman.

The above item may have been edited by the author since its first appearance in Legends No. 52.