AND SO IT BEGINS....

Shiona Anklebiter, Fighter

Shiona wasn't always an anklebiter, though it was probably in her blood and she never knew it.

She'd lived with Granny Took just outside the Old Forest for a long time. Granny Took had been something of an oddity herself, living alone on the edge of the Forest, cultivating Old Toby pipeweed and selling it in Bree and other far off places. So Shiona was already well travelled when she moved to Michel Delving, and well used to the company of Dwarves, Humans and Elves.

Maybe that's why she could never settle and found herself now, years later, crouching on top of the snow-clad hills overlooking the Ettenmoors, keeping a wary look out for Orcs while she worked to heal an unfortunate (and pretty stupid) young dwarf who obviously thought he could take on a whole warg-pack single handed.

So much had happened since she left the Shire. So many adventures, battles won and lost, new friends made and old friends gone, some forever. This is the story of Shiona's journey through Middle Earth.

Just a scrapbook of hastily thrown together memories in no particular order, jumbled together and bulging at the seams - much like one of her kit-bags really.......



8 Feb 2010

5. StoutnSturdy

Shiona stood outside the Ivy Bush Inn at Hobbiton, wondering whether to go in.

The sound of a horse galloping up to the stables behind her snapped her out of her wonderings and she turned round to see a distinguished looking Elf approaching the Inn.
The Elf stopped and studied Shiona’s badge with curious interest. “You coming in then?” she enquired, grinning slightly.
Shiona noticed the Elf was sporting a similar badge to her own “I will in a minute” She mumbled nervously.
“See you inside then,” said the Elf brightly as she disappeared through the door.

After a few more minutes dithering, Shiona took a deep breath and entered. In the far corner, she could make out the Elf joining a group of figures. One figure, a Dwarf in a very audacious hat, rose to greet the Elf with a wave of his tankard. “Somara!” he said, “take a seat!” He sat himself back down on the chair with a flourish but overbalanced and chair and dwarf toppled backwards, much to the merriment of those around. Shiona stifled a giggle and waited for the dwarf to compose himself before approaching the group.
The chuckles and laughter gradually subsided as one by one, pairs of interested eyes turned to look at the newcomer “Oh Glory,” Shiona thought to herself “I don’t think this was such a good idea….”

Clearing her throat nervously, she addressed the now silent group. “I’m looking for someone by the name of Radi Redbeard” she said.
“Ah, well that would be me!” said the big-hat dwarf as he made to get up from his chair.
“No please, don’t get up!” said Shiona earnestly “I wouldn’t want you falling off the chair again!” The party erupted into laughter once more and Shiona felt her cheeks redden. “I didn’t mean, I mean, I didn’t..well..I just meant….oh my……” her words fell away and she stood staring anxiously at the floor.
“It’s these Shire-made chairs” said Radi with a grin. “They can’t take the weight, you see. Built for little ones such as yourself, they are”

“I’m NOT a lit….” Shiona started to say, but thought better of it. “I mean, my friend Fielanor asked me to find you and make myself known to you. So here I am” She looked round the gathered company again. “I um, I’m likely to be off travelling again soon and she said that you said that well, I shouldn’t do it alone. Though I don’t know how you’re supposed to know where you’re going if I don’t know myself, if you see what I mean. I mean, well, I’m not..”

“Whoah lass!” chuckled Radi. “You’ve lost me already. Yes, I remember Fielanor. Pull up a chair and start again from the beginning. Gorgrim, go get the lass a drink – nothing too strong mind, till we know she can hold her liquor” There was another roar of laughter from the group and the dwarf who’d been sat beside Radi got up and headed to the bar.

Feeling a lot less nervous and a lot more relieved, Shiona took the tankard from Gorgrim and had a drink. “Water?” she said enquiringly. Gorgrim winked “For now” he said. “Now then lass, from the top……………”

7 Feb 2010

4. Kinsmen

Shiona sat on the steps of Ost Guruth contemplating her next move.

“Oi” shouted a voice “Message here for you – Shiona, right?”
Shiona turned and spotted a harassed looking Longshanks bustling up to her and waving a small package in the air.
“Yes, that’s right. How did you know it was me?” she asked, feeling more than a bit confused.
“Well, it says it’s from a Fie-el-anor he spelled carefully “And it says to look for a female hobbit, short, slightly scruffy, fat around the middle, ginger hair, probably not brushed.” He looked Shiona up and down critically. “You’d be the only one here that fits that description” he said.

Shiona snatched the package, thanked the man tersely, and settled down to read it. “Cheek!” she thought. As she opened the package, a small badge tumbled out and lay on the ground twinkling slightly in the sunlight. She picked it up and studied it carefully. It had a picture of what looked like two tankards engraved on it, and the words “StoutnSturdy”.  Slipping it in her pocket, she opened the letter and began reading.

“My Dearest Shiona,
I happened upon a group of people in a Tavern in the Shire before I left for the North Downs. They were most concerned to hear of our intentions to travel alone in these times and offered their help. They were members of a Kin called “StoutnSturdy” which I have to say, made me smile, as the name instantly brought a picture of you to mind…..”

“Oh really, Fie!” Shiona muttered, nearly scrunching up the note with annoyance. “I’m not stout, I’m just well-covered” Sighing to herself, she carried on reading

“…they have allies all over Middle Earth, but to help them recognise each other, they wear a badge. Wear this where it can be seen, Shiona, and look out for others who do.
If you have the chance, you need to seek them out at your first opportunity and make yourself known to their Leader, Radi Redbeard. I’m told if you can’t find him in Thorin’s gate at the KinHall, you’ll probably track him down if you ask for his whereabouts in the Tavern in Thorin's Hall, any of the Inns in the Shire, or indeed Bree.
On another note, little one, my young sister Tielan has left Celondim and is making her way to the Shire. I said she would be welcome at the smial, as we are away.

I fear I may not return for some time now. I travel to Aughaire shortly. There are puzzles in the texts that I need to resolve and I have arranged to meet a guide in Esteldin.

Take Care,

Fielanor”

Shiona folded the note carefully and placed it in her bag. She’d heard no more of Aldefrith’s fate, and now this Kin….. and Tielan on her way to the Shire. She pulled the badge back out of her pocket and gazed at it thoughtfully.
“Back to the Shire, I think, to re-stock, rest, and figure out what to do next” she mused, as she pinned the badge to her cloak. “And maybe find this Radi Redbeard.…..”

6 Feb 2010

3. Spiders and swords, part two

The blade of Shiona’s new sword glinted in the sunlight. “I must admit, it is very handsome” she said, turning it around in her hand and admiring the engraved hilt. “Shame they don’t make hobbit sized ones. This is making a deeper groove in the path than my club did!”
“Oh, stop grizzling and get a shift on” said Aldefrith. “I want to make Agamaur by nightfall and we’ve got to collect your moss from the Bog Lurker nests as we pass through Haragmar.” He stopped briefly and studied the short Halfling with the long sword. “It’s not going to be easy – you do know what Bog Lurkers are, don’t you?” he asked.
Shiona shrugged “Some sort of bird?”
Aldefrith turned slowly and headed off down the path. “Some sort of bird!” he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. “Nope, they’re not birds” he called back “They’re insects, and  big ones at that”.
“Well, anything’s better than those spiders” said Shiona.
Aldefrith seriously considered putting the Halfling completely in the picture then grinned to himself and walked on in silence.

As they reached the brow of the last hill, they could see the boggy marshland of Haragmar stretching before them. Here and there, small pools and ponds glistened red in the sunlight.
“What’s making the water that colour?” Shiona asked.
“No idea” shrugged Aldefrith, “but it’s known as the circle of blood and that’s where we’ll find your moss. Beyond that is the red pass and beyond that, Agamaur.“
Aldefrith frowned slightly “Nasty place, Agamaur. Come on, I think I know where this moss is”……

……The sun was sinking behind the hills around the marshes as Shiona pushed the last lump of moss into her bulging bag. All afternoon she hadn’t heard a single bird call, nor yet seen any sign of the inhabitants of the huge nests she’d been crawling around. An early evening mist was beginning to rise from the boggy waters, reflecting red in the setting sunlight and adding to a growing feeling of unease that she couldn’t quite explain.
“Shiona! Here! Quick!”
Aldefrith’s urgent call pierced the gloom from somewhere off to her left. Something didn’t sound right. Grabbing her sword she scrambled down towards the source of the cries.

The sight that greeted her stopped her in her tracks for just a second. Gathering all the wit & courage she could muster, she hurtled down towards Aldefrith. A huge bug like creature on thin legs as tall as trees was bearing down on him, trampling him underfoot while a living root writhed and snapped, lashing at him repeatedly and binding itself around him.
“Help me Shiona” he called. “I can’t hit it – the root’s trapped my arms, can’t breathe!” Desperately recalling all she’d been taught, Shiona pointed her sword at the thing and screamed an incantation. The thing recoiled briefly, stunned, as she raced across to the root, slicing though it where it emerged from the earth. Aldefrith, still held tight in its’ grip, fell to the ground and lay still.

As Shiona began frantically cutting at the dead root a sharp blow sent her reeling backwards, tumbling down the hill as spasms of pain rippled through her body. Hauling herself groggily to her feet, she was vaguely aware of the creature, rising high above her. With her last reserves of strength, she murmered another incantation and then slipped into darkness……..


………“You Ok love?” A concerned voice forced it’s way into Shiona’s consciousness.

“I really thought you were a goner there for a minute. You got the Bog Lurker, though, look!  Repulsive things they are, can’t stand ‘em!”.
Shiona desperately tried to focus on the voice, gradually making out the shape of a dark haired young human female standing by the carcass of the beast that had attacked herself and Aldefrith. “…Aldefrith, where is he?” she asked urgently.
“Whoah, careful now” the girl replied. “There’s no-one else here, I only saw you”.

Shiona started to scramble back up the hill. “I left him up there”, she panted. “He’s up there, the root attacked him, I couldn’t free him. We need to cut him free…”
The girl pulled her back. “Stay here and get your breath back. I’ll go and look”. She disappeared into the gloom and returned minutes later. “Nope, nothing” she said. “Just pieces of root”.
Shiona slumped dejectedly back on the ground. “It’s all my fault” she cried. “I should have saved him. I could have healed him but I couldn’t think straight! Where is he? I don’t understand why he’s not there”.

“Look”, said the girl gently. “Animals could have taken his body – or maybe others found him alive and took him to safety. I’m heading into Agamaur. Come with me & we can ask there”.
“No”, said Shiona. “I’m going back to Ost Guruth – we left there this morning together. There might be news of him there. Would you do something for me though? Would you ask in Agamaur when you get there and let me know if you hear anything?”
“Sure thing”, laughed the girl, “though I’ll need to know who you are! My name’s Clianor”
“Shiona” said Shiona, rising unsteadily to her feet. “Ouch!” she grimaced as she felt a myriad of cuts and grazes opening themselves up again. Clianor grinned. “That’s gonna sting in the morning!” she said. “Take care now”
Shiona watched as the girl turned and headed towards the source of the ominous red glow in the sky. She scanned the marshes one last time then turned and with a heavy heart headed back towards Ost Guruth.

2. Spiders and swords, part one

Running, running, running, frantic for breath but too scared to stop, Shiona dived into the ditch and burrowed down into the grass, lungs bursting.

“Please let them be gone, please let them be gone” she panted. Curling herself into a ball she waited, silently, listening for the ominous clicking but could hear nothing. As quietly as her shaking hands would allow, she stretched up to the top of the ditch, parted the tufts of grass and scanned up and down the track. There appeared to be no sign of them.

Giant Spiders, her worst nightmare. “How am I ever supposed to kill them off when they stay so close together?” she wondered, fighting the urge to be violently sick. “They’re a whole lot worse than the ones in the Old Forest and they were bad enough” she thought, ruefully rubbing the puncture wound on her arm. Sipping the last of the potion she’d bought, she slipped back down into the ditch & tried to control her heaving stomach while she waited for the liquid to take effect. “I should have bought more of this”, she thought to herself. “I didn’t realise I was going to need so much.  Oh no, I’m going to be sick again!” Shivering uncontrollably, Shiona fell into a fitful sleep, hidden from view.

Some time later she awoke with a start. Checking again for signs of any movement along the track, she crawled shakily from the ditch. It was dark now and the dew had started to seep through her clothes, chilling her to the bone. “I need to find somewhere dry to rest” she thought. She scanned her surroundings for signs of anything familiar and realised with a huge sense of relief she had practically bumped into the walls of Ost Guruth in her desperate haste to be rid of the spiders. She climbed the dark steps wearily & headed inside.

The next morning, after a hot supper and a relatively comfortable night’s sleep, Shiona re-stocked on food and dubious potions and prepared to set off again. “Hullo” said a voice from behind. She turned to see a tall young man, grinning cheekily. “I saw you come in last night, looking a bit worse for wear. What have you been up to then? It was those spiders, wasn’t it? Have you been trying to kill them with that club?" he laughed "Messy! You need a good sword, you know. Oh, my name’s Aldefrith” he said almost as an afterthought. “So where are you going now, then? To finish what you started? I’ll come with you if you like. I can show you how to kill ‘em off really quick . You need to buy a sword first, though. One like this, see!” He drew a handsome looking sword and made a few thrusts at thin air.

“Erm, I’ll stick with my club if you don’t mind, it’s more than just a bashing machine” said Shiona warily. “Anyway, it’s none of your business what my business is, and whatever it is, I wasn’t planning on meeting any more spiders, alone or accompanied”. “As you like” grinned Aldefrith “but if you’re planning on heading any further East or North, you’d do well to travel in company. Good luck anyway, I’m off to Agamaur. Maybe I’ll see you again - if the spiders don’t get you first”. Chuckling to himself, Aldefrith turned and headed down the steps.

Shiona mulled it over for while. She'd been asked to collect some rare moss from around there.
Gathering up her club and her bag, she sprinted down the steps. “Aldefrith, wait a minute…..”
She found him, sat waiting on a rock outside Ost Guruth, munching on a sandwich.
”I’m not taking you anywhere till you get rid of that club” said Aldefrith.  He grinned broadly and motioned to a grubby looking bag. Shiona peeked inside and helped herself to a large lump of bread liberally covered in tasty looking gooey scrambled egg.

“This club has been good to me” she said defensively, taking a big bite of the sandwich. “It’s a bit mucky at the end, I know, but it’ll wash up OK”
Aldefrith laughed. “That’ll be spider brains”, he chuckled. “You were covered in them when you came in yesterday. I keep telling you, get a sword, it’s not so messy. Nice clean cut to the stomach and they drop their guts in a neat little heap on the ground”
“Urrgh! do leave off” spluttered Shiona. “I think I’ll save this for later.” she said, studying the scrambled egg topping more closely.
“I’ll finish it if you don’t want it”, said Aldefrith, eyeing the remnants of the sandwich. “Right, let’s get you fixed up with a sword and then we’ll leave”

“And what if I don’t want……” Shiona’s words tailed off as Aldefrith disappeared back up the steps. She sighed and turned to follow.

4 Feb 2010

1. The parting of the ways

Shiona stared glumly at her half-eaten mushroom pie and pushed it to one side. “But why do you have to leave so soon, Fielanor? It’s been so long since I last saw you and you’ve barely been here long enough for us to catch up on everything!”
“It’s a wonder we found each other at all, Shiona. I’d heard you were travelling through the Lonelands so I’d not expected to see you here of all places” said Fielanor. The young Elf gazed around at the comfortable little hobbit hole that she and Shiona now shared in the Shire. Apart from an uncompromisingly low ceiling, it provided a cheerful safe haven and the furnishings Shiona had sought out for Fielanor’s room reminded her of her childhood.

“Where did you find that red vase, with the rushes in?” she asked.
Shiona grinned, “Had to go to Duillond to see the Elves for that. It took me ages to find what I wanted so I just had to stay for a few days”. She felt her cheeks redden and dived briefly under the table on the pretext of chasing a stray crumb. “I came back to the Shire for a rest. Anyway, you’re avoiding the question” said a muffled voice from somewhere near Fielanor’s feet "Why do you have to leave right now?” Shiona asked as she resurfaced, brushing herself down and straightening her ruffled hair.
Fielanor sighed and studied her diminutive friend.  “ I need to find a particular text and I’m told it’s hidden in the North Downs"
“But I don’t understand” said Shiona “Why is your research more important than what’s happening here and now? There are Ruffians at every corner and Orcs and Goblins have been sighted close to the Shire!"
“I believe that whatever I can learn from the texts is likely to be of even more use to us in the fullness of time” said Fielanor.

Fielanor rose and remembering to duck her head, walked out of the door and gazed out across the village green. Shiona wandered out to join her “See that windmill over there?” said Shiona “The Elf Kyranor lives near there. They say he dances naked but I’ve often looked out that way and yet never seen him.” There was a hint of disappointment in Shiona’s voice.
“Oh really?” laughed Fielanor. “And how many hours, pray, have you been lying in wait in the hope of a sighting?” Shiona felt her cheeks getting hot again. “I can’t help but look,” she said defensively “the green is right ouside the front door and the windmill just beyond. What would you have me do, walk around blindfolded?” She caught Fielanor’s eye and grinned.

Shiona thought for a while, absent-mindedly drawing circles in the dust with her toe. “So I’m to stay in the Shire alone then?” she said. Fielanor turned to her friend “Think on it, Shiona,” she said “The bounders can protect the Shire well enough. You have a stout heart and strong will and have healing skills that should not be restricted to the Shire alone. There is an even greater Evil growing out to the North and East and you need to join with those that would defend us from it”
“You think I should head back to the Lonelands?” Shiona muttered, with a growing sense of unease. “Yes, and beyond” said Fielanor “but you will find company. There are many that travel the roads between Bree and Rivendell."
“We will see each other again, won’t we Fielanor?” said Shiona quietly.
“I’m certain of it, little one” grinned Fielanor.
“Well then take your great brown bear with you too for protection!” said Shiona impishly “He’s been causing a bit of a stir with the neighbours – and that crow as well, if you don’t mind – and DON’T call me little one”
“It’s a Raven,” laughed Fielanor “and yes, they’ll be coming with me. Well, my friend, it’s time for me to depart . Tenna’ ento lye omenta, Shiona” she said as she turned away.

Shiona stood in the lane a while, watching her friend disappear into the distance “Vanya Sulie, Fielanor” she murmered.

1 Jan 2010

Shiona's extended Family

Shiona. Hobbit Minstrel and Explorer


Aldefrith. Human Guardian and Armourer
                                                                
 









Tielan. Elven huntress and Jeweller
                                                                             
                                                                                   
                                                                               
Fielanor. Elven Loremaster and Scholar.

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