A Ranger's Job Chapter 1 by Beren_Onehand
Vëaner woke and found his entire body to be stiff. His small fire, nothing but cold embers by now, lay looking grey and forbidding in the morning light. Three days ago he had entered the old wood that was beside Brandybuck hall. As he had wandered through he had no set path. Even with one, he would not have gotten far because he soon noticed that the paths often changed unexpectedly and had no apparent direction. Except that of trying to get him out.
Many strange and queer things he had heard in the night, and none had dared to come closer than just inside the fire-light. Even then, when he looked at them, they scampered off into the night. He had been ordered by the highest order of the rangers, Strider, to make sure that this area of Middle-earth be as safe as possible. So far, nothing had been of an unusual manner.
So, Vëaner the ranger rose up and stretched his stiff and aching legs. It was when he had done this that he realized that the clearing he had built his fire in had grown considerably larger. The trees must be mortally afraid of fire, he though to himself. He made sure that his fire was well put out before he moved on, farther and deeper into the forest.
He had not been going for half the morning when he stumbled onto a stream. He followed it and it eventually widened into a river. And it had a path on his side which he followed. Finding a willow, and a very large one at that, he sat under it and leaned his back against it. He half expected the tree to vanish or something like that. But it did not, instead the leaves seemed to move and shelter him from the hot sun all the more. It was comfortable enough and he decided to rest here a while, to catch up on some sleep that he had missed in the night.
He woke with a terrible start and heard a loud audible crack as he was enveloped in darkness. And then the squeezing began. The walls around him seemed to come closer, trying to squeeze the life out of him! At first he tried to push, but that was no use. Slowly his breath was forcefully pushed out of him. And just when he thought death was in the contraction of the walls, he thought he heard a faint sound, as of someone singing. And then he heard no more, passing into unconsciousness.
Vëaner’s eyes snapped open and he became aware of everything. He was lying on a very comfortable bed in a room that was dimly lit in the waning light. He tried to get up but a gentle hand appeared on his shoulder.
“Be still, ranger,” said a soothing voice, “you are in the house of Tom Bombadil. No harm can come to you here.” Vëaner wanted nothing more than to sleep, but he had to know what happened to him.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am Goldberry, the wife of Tom Bombadil. But ask no more questions. You must sleep now and regain your strength.” Vëaner relaxed and drifted into sleep once again. And he had very unpleasant dreams for the remainder of the night.
Vëaner awoke refreshed and invigorated. He stood up, dressed himself and opened the door. As soon as he did so, he found standing there a short man. He was too tall to be a dwarf and he had a bright blue jacket and yellow boots.
“Well, good mornin’ to you, sir. Hope you had a good sleep! Welcome to my house! I am Tom Bombadil, and the land around here is not mine. I am merely the caretaker.”
“Mister Bombadil, how did I get here?”
“Well, before we do that, let’s go down and sit by the fire. There I will tell you all.” He led Vëaner downstairs to the side of a fireplace and made him sit down on a chair. “Now, I’ll start. It so happened that I was walking down the path beside the river, and I was gettin’ pretty close to the Old Man Willow that I heard him shut a good gaping crack in the side of himself, and I thought that I should investigate. When I got there I noticed that he had someone or something inside of himself. So, I sang you out and brought you back here.”
“My good sir, how can I repay you?” asked Vëaner.
“Well I been thinking about that and I think I might have come upon an idea.”
“By all means, name it!”
“There have been some orcs around these parts and they aren’t doing any good to the trees. So, I want you to either kill or chase the orcs out of these parts. Now, you won’t be able to do it all by yourself, so I will show you a path back to where you and the other rangers often meet, and you can bring some of them, and eradicate the orcs from here! What say you?”
“It’s a deal, but it will take some time. I’ll be back as soon as I can get enough men.”
“Good, now I’ll feed you and send you on your way. But I must warn you, don’t dilly-dally. If you do, you’ll have Tom Bombadil to deal with, make no mistake!”