Hello everybody, I am back again with the next instalment of this series and I fully intend to get back on the writing ladder. Thank you all for your patience thus far, and sorry I am late with this but the work went on longer than I was expecting and then real life seemed to determined to get in the way. Plus the second half of this chapter was actually really difficult to write, and I can only hope that I did a good job with it, but… well… I suppose it will be your verdict that tells me the answer to that question.
Still, enjoy the chapter everyone, in the knowledge that there is no way that I will stop writing this story no matter HOW LONG it takes me.
To Be a King
Chapter 33:- The Strings Draw Closer
A group of ten ruggedly bearded Wild Men from Dunland, wielding long curved and crudely made swords and spears, most of which were sharpened pieces of stone attached to the end of a wooden staff or were even just braches with a sharpened end hardened by fire, were currently creeping along through the boulders strewn across the plains of Rohan – their animal-skin clothing flapping in the slight breeze and their scruffy bears and long hair falling in mats around their torsos.
The reason they were creeping was become from a slight distance away, they had spotted what appeared to be a wandering column of peasants from a nearby village, moving through the boulder field at an excruciatingly slow pace. Some of them were being born on hastily and crudely made litters if they were too weak to carry themselves. Others were limping, others were helping those that were limping, and the rest that seemed to be just fine were forced to stick to the pace of the those that weren't.
Not to mention there only seemed to be one horse in the entire group and it was being ridden by a woman and two children. No Rohirrim fighters here – they looked to be easy pickings.
Technically the Wild Men knew that they could simply charge down the hill and fall upon the group and there was little chance that any of them, except perhaps those on the horse, would get away. But they had always found that a surprise attack was all the more satisfying – they could watch the expressions on the people's faces turn from calm to fear as they leapt out of hiding. And besides, there was a chance, however remote, that there were a couple of fighters among them so this was the best option.
So they stealthily clambered over and around the boulders, advancing on the column as they kept low to the ground, looking more like some kind of animal than Men and with savage expressions on their scarred faces, baring their blackened and misshapen teeth and delight evident on all of their expressions.
Or so it seemed.
Their leader – a man with grizzled grey hair and a longsword, or at least the Wild Men's equivalent of a longsword, was the first to go down. As he led the group from the front and stealthily crept closer, he became aware of a shadow extending up from that of the large rock that towered above him that he was standing next to. He looked up in alarm, but the only thing he saw was an orange blur plunging downwards him and the flash of white teeth before his world went black and he never saw anything ever again.
The other Wild Men lurched back in shock as the giant orange wolf wrenched his head and sent their leader's body flying from his jaws to crash against another nearby rock. The wolf then turned to face them with narrowed eyes, bringing its long tail with the drill end up like that of a scorpion to point it threateningly at the group of flabbergasted savages.
"I suggest you back away now," it said. "That is, if you would like to live to see the Sun set again later today."
The Wild Men pulled back at his harsh tone and looked around in fright, expecting several more strange-looking wolves to appear from behind the boulders – wargs rarely travelled alone after all. But there was nothing. There was just this lone individual, standing between them and the Rohan column, which had become aware of their presence by this point and had increased their speed.
"Stick him!" cried one of the Wild Men when it became obvious there was no additional wolves. "Don't let the villagers get away."
The group rushed the wolf en masse, and Dorulumon narrowed his eyes at their approach.
"Fine," he said. "Have it your way."
One of the Wild Men threw a large spear directly at him, but Dorulumon merely flicked his head and used the drill poking out of his forehead to parry the blow and knock it aside, seizing the shaft of the spear in his teeth before barrelling forwards at incredible speed. He shot straight between the first two Wild Men and the two ends of the spear pole crashed into their necks as his did, crushing the windpipe of one as they both went down hard. One remained alive but robbed of air, but Dorulumon's tail slammed down on top of him without him even pausing in his stride a split second later and finished him off.
Another Wild Man swung a sword widely at him but the Wolf sprang over it and bounded off the side of a boulder to spring upon another and bare him to the ground, the large spike on his chest going through the Wild Men's torso in the process as his tail swung around and clobbered his previous attacker in the face. Another Wild Man ran in from the side with spear raised but Dorulumon thrashed his head and sent the spear he was still holding in his jaws flying at him, the point burying itself in his chest before he could fully heft his own weapon.
Three of the other Wild Men rushed towards him at the same time, their swords swiping the air or raised above their heads and vicious snarls adorning their faces now. But Dorulumon merely gave them a side-long look before he enlarged his tail drill and leapt onto it, drilling his way underground in a split second.
The Wild Men faltered, staring at the hole which he had disappeared down before the earth beneath their feet exploded and Dorulumon surged up from under them. His claws slashed across the middle one and slew him and his tail wrapped around the ankle of another to swing him around into the third and send them both crashing against the side of a boulder.
Then the one that he had clobbered in the face returned for more, springing from the top of a boulder and falling down towards him. Dorulumon just side-stepped and swung his tail up, slamming him in the face a second time and sending him spinning backwards to land in a heap. Dead or unconscious, Dorulumon wasn't sure.
But that left one Wild Man unaccounted for, and Dorulumon's nose instantly told him where he was to be found. He had broken away from the group attacking Dorulumon and was charging towards the column of peasants, running up across a boulder and preparing to fall down upon them. Dorulumon swung around and fired a single drill from his forehead, which blasted through the air faster than an arrow and crashed into the back of the Wild Man right between his shoulder blades right before he sprang off the boulder.
He collapsed in a heap next to the peasants, many of which freaked out a little bit at the sight of the dead body.
"Honestly," Dorulumon muttered as he stepped around the would-be raiding party, or what was left of it, and towards the group. "You lot really are in a fix aren't you? That's the third group of those people that I've had to deal with since I started guarding you, and that doesn't include the initial force that attacked your village."
"Our lands are overrun," the woman on the horse, Morwen, gritted her teeth. "It seems that the minions of the enemy are everywhere. No matter where we turn we will find them close by."
"Where are the Rohirrim?" protested one elderly man. "Are they not supposed to be protecting us from all of this? Why are they not the ones here guarding us from these threats?"
"Who knows?" said an equally elderly woman. "But we have no need of them right now, for Dorulumon has proven himself a perfect guardian in their place. Praise be to you, Dorulumon and thank you so much for your generosity in helping us."
"It is no bother," Dorulumon replied, which was not true – it was a lot of bother. Dorulumon was itching to get back out there and going at a proper, fast pace to start trying to find his friends again, but he knew as much as any other Xros Heart Digimon that abandoning these people in the middle of enemy-strewn terrain was not an option. There was no way he would stain Xros Heart's name – not even for something like that.
Plus, there was the small fact that he was killing humans. Savage, brutal humans – that was true – but humans nonetheless. Granted he had only ever known six humans before this and all of them were children, but he had become close to almost all of them before and could never think of laying a paw on them. Now, in the course of the last day, he had killed over twenty humans with his claws, teeth and drills. It really didn't sit well with him.
But he did anyway, because not doing it, and allowing them to kill these other humans who were innocent people… that just wouldn't fly. No chance at all of that.
Not that these humans called themselves humans. Dorulumon was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that all of them were Men even though half of them were women. It made so little sense to him.
Regardless, he had been shepherding them for almost two days now and it was starting to get very wearing indeed. But at least they were grateful for his help, though he still overheard a lot of them talking about how weird it was to get help from a wolf, even if he wasn't a real warg.
The more Dorulumon heard about wargs the more he actually wanted to see one, if only so that he could compare himself to one and see what the villagers were getting at. Nothing that he heard sounded good though. All he ever heard was that they were savage creatures that only formed allegiances with orcs and their masters and liked nothing better than charging into a group of innocent people to kill, dismember and devour them, and that anywhere a warg pack went, horror and misery and death were sure to follow.
Dorulumon was uncomfortably reminded of his own past – his time during the Bagra Army, which was something he didn't like to talk about at the best of times and something he had deliberately forgotten to mention to these people. But while he had not taken pleasure in the subjugation, slaying and oppressing of the innocent Digimon that the Bagra Army had done, there was no denying the fact that he had done it. It had all been about loyalty and following orders, but that changed nothing really.
Though thankfully he had never eaten any of the Digimon he had killed during that time.
He liked to think that everything that he'd done during his time with Xros Heart had more than made up for all of that, but the burden of that would never go away. Still, he was thankful to Cutemon and Shoutmon for teaching him about friendship again, for he had all but given up on that until they and Taiki had entered his life. And now he forged a life protecting the innocent rather than destroying them.
Which was what he was doing now, even if it was tedious.
"How much further is it until this Helm's Deep place?" he asked. The sooner you get to safety the sooner I can leave to go and find my friends, he added in his head.
"By my reckoning," said a middle-aged Man at the front of the column, "We should be there within an hour or so. I recognise this place. It is not much further now. Though the fact that the Wild Men have dared to come so close to the fortress is troubling."
"Regardless, let us press on," Dorulumon bounded down to stand by the group. "If anyone requires a lift my back is available."
Moments later, he was being ridden by a couple of adults and three children all at the same time, which was a weight that he could easily manage but he had to tell one of the children to pipe down after screaming with excitement almost directly into his ear and reminding him that they were meant to be keeping a low profile here.
Eventually though, the Man's prediction turned out to be right, when they drew close to a the end of a steep hill and the Man called out. "There it is! Helm's Deep is within sight."
Dorulumon put on speed to join the Man at the front, and he had to admit that he was impressed with what he saw down below. At the base of the mountains there appeared to be a deep ravine or valley that extended into the mountains some distance and right at the end of that ravine, pressed up against the cliffs of the mountainside, was the fortress. They were still at a distance from it, but Dorulumon could make out the long causeway leading up to the gates on the right of where he was standing, the tower that stuck up like a spear near the back and the long wall that stretched from the main fortress right across the rest of the valley, creating a solid barrier from right to left.
"Seems like solid stronghold," he observed. "But how do you defend against aerial attack?"
"Aerial attack?" the Man chuckled. "Nothing from the skies has launched an attack on Helm's Deep since it was built. But even if there was, there's plenty of room for a bunch of archers to bring it down within there."
"Yes, I suppose," Dorulumon nodded, before he shook himself. "But regardless, my business does not lie here. I am needed elsewhere – with my own comrades. Do you think that you can all make it to the fortress from here without me. For I very much doubt I would be welcome there if I've understood all this warg stuff correctly."
"We can make it," said another Man. "No raiding party would dare come this close to the fortress. Thank you, Master Not-Warg. I forget your name."
"Dorulumon," the Digimon coughed. "Well then, everybody off and I'll be on my way."
"Wait," Morwen protested as Dorulumon's passengers clambered down off his back. "I was under the impression that once we had delivered the people safely to Helm's Deep, you were going to accompany my children and I to Edoras to warn the King and raise the alarm just in case someone else has not done it already. We have already wasted enough time and I fear the pillaging to the Wild Men and those giant Orcs will have gotten far worse already."
Dorulumon shut his eyes and tried not to obviously grit his fangs. "Forgive me for asking but why exactly did you not set off yourselves when you had the chance a couple of days ago? Surely you do not need my protection while on horseback."
"You don't know that," Morwen shook her head. "I will not put my children in danger unnecessarily. I thought, back at the village when I sent them away, that it was the only option. But now that is not the case and there may be warg packs patrolling the plains of Rohan now. That is why I have stayed until this point."
"They why do you not leave them here at Helm's Deep and then go by yourself?" Dorulumon asked.
"No, we won't leave Mummy!" the little girl, Freda, suddenly cried. "You can't make us stay behind while she goes off on her own."
"That's right," Éothain nodded. "Please, Dorulumon, please help us."
Dorulumon sighed. "Can't turn your back on your mother, huh kids? Well I guess I can understand that. Just like Cutemon and his parents." The thought of his little charge and how he had shepherded him along solo long before he had joined forces with the Xros Heart army made his decision almost before he had really considered it. "Alright then, alright. I shall go with you again, but this time we must be swifter. The longer I tarry the more potential danger many of my friends are put in."
"We shall be swift, don't worry," Morwen nodded as Dorulumon stepped over to them. "We must warn the Royal Guard of what is transpiring as fast as we can and I suppose we have some lost time to put behind us. If we ride hard from now, we should be there by some time tomorrow morning. Assuming we do not run into trouble."
"Fair enough," Dorulumon muttered, though Morwen could see he still wasn't especially pleased.
"If it would make you feel better, perhaps this will help. In our company, you may have a better chance to explain your situation to the Rohirrim. I understand that your last visit to Edoras resulted in your being chased away as a result of them taking you for a warg. We can put in a good word for you and get them to see sense and with that, they will stop hunting you. That is something they will never stop doing unless they understand, for they would think you a threat to every member of the Rohan country."
"That would be a plus, I suppose," Dorulumon murmured. "And perhaps I could ask the horseman patrols to keep an eye out for any of my fellow Digimon friends."
"Yes, exactly," Morwen nodded.
"Very well," Dorulumon nodded. The horse, Garulf, nickered and shied away slightly as he approached. It had gotten used to his presence and no longer tried to kick him or run away, but it still wasn't entirely happy about it. Still, it seemed to be a fairly intelligent animal and understood that Dorulumon didn't seem to want to eat it.
"Then let's go," Dorulumon ignored the horse. "Which way."
"South east from here. If we follow the mountain range it will lead us straight back to it," Morwen reported.
"Then I'm going," Dorulumon offered them a smirk. "Let's see if you can keep up. Farewell everyone else."
The villagers barely had time to call out their gratitude once again before Dorulumon sprang away at tremendous speed, his claws and paws hitting the ground hard as he tore through the boulders and across the grass at a speed that his heavy looking bulk didn't look capable of. Morwen quickly wheeled Garulf around and spurred him forwards, the two children clinging on in the saddle before her and Garulf, sensing a competition, actually began to chase after the wolf Digimon, which is something that he never would have seen himself doing in the past – he wasn't a military horse after all.
"Keep up if you can, kids!" Dorulumon smirked over his shoulder as they went.
"Shouldn't we be the ones leading?" Morwen shouted. "We're the ones that know the way."
"Sounded pretty simple to get there to me," Dorulumon replied. "And besides, I'm not very good at following anyone that isn't Shoutmon or a General."
And so they barrelled on into the distance, leaving the villagers behind to make the final leg of the journey alone. And what a story they would have to tell when they finally got there. They were going to have a very hard time making themselves believed, that was for sure.
Some distance to the north of the running wolf, Beelzemon was setting about his final day in Lothlórien. He, like Dorulumon, felt that he had tarried for too long. Yes, he had been useful during his brief stay with the Elves and helped to fight off a large number of Orcs for them, but he did have other duties to attend to. His own duties as a guardian of the members of Xros Heart. And where were they all now? Still scattered across this land.
He still wasn't sure how he was going to go about finding them.
But apparently, the Lady Galadriel had a plan of some kind. How she had managed to come up with such a plan or how she knew without leaving the forest where any of his friends might be was beyond Beelzemon, but he didn't question it. He would never question Galadriel – she reminded him so much of the goddess of the Sand Zone and held so many of the same values and even had an incredibly similar presence, that he simply could not question her.
The Goddess had always known what she was doing, through some inexplicable way.
And he trusted Galadriel was the same.
Plus, she had that Mirror thing, so that must have been helpful.
Her words from a couple of days ago kept rattling around in his brain – the ones about how he had an important role to play and how that path would not lead with Shoutmon. His heart clenched slightly, remembering how that would keep him apart from Mervamon for some time. There was some part of him that craved to see her again so much that he considered ignoring Galadriel's words and going to try and find her instead of doing whatever it was that she said he was meant to do.
But he would never do that. Not really. His sense of loyalty to the group was too strong and when Galadriel said whatever it was that was going to keep him away from Mervamon was important, he believed it. And he knew that Mervamon would understand, and would do the same thing in his position. It didn't lessen their love for each other in any way, but they were both warriors. Guardians. Their duty was to protect the group, and each were more than capable of taking care of themselves. Finding each other was not the real priority. Finding those who were less capable in battle was.
Nevertheless, he hoped it wouldn't be too long before he could see her again. But he knew it would likely be some time, and however long it was it would be too long for his liking.
For now, in the early morning sun, he contented himself by amusedly watching Wisemon making some last minute requests from many of the Elves around him.
"Alright then, forget the tooth, can I at least have a few of somebody's eyelashes. I've always wanted to study eyelashes and find out exactly what they're there for."
"No, you can't have any of our eyelashes," one of the Elves nearby said, looking as highly perturbed as all the rest of them. "Nor can you have any of our teeth, our nails – finger or toe – and you certainly cannot have one of our internal organs or some of our blood."
"Oh but those have always fascinated me," Wisemon whined. "I want to make a comparison between those with flesh and blood and those with Digital bodies like mine and Beelzemon's. Is there no chance you will reconsider?"
"No," the Elf shook his head.
"Can I at least have a sample of your nose mucus or earwax?"
"WHY WOULD YOU EVEN WANT THAT?!"
"Trust me," Beelzemon chuckled. "Wisemon can find anything fascinating. Tell them about the time you stared at a small sample of drool you took from Shoutmon while he was sleeping for three hours."
"It was interesting, damn it," Wisemon muttered. "Not that you simpletons could ever understand it."
Beelzemon snorted and rolled all three of his eyes, before he felt a tugging at his leg. He looked down to see that little Elvish girl Sindria, who was looking up at him with a big smile and holding up a flower to him.
"Here you go," she said. "You can give this to Mervamon when you see her again okay? She can put it behind her ear. I bet she'd look really pretty."
Beelzemon was touched. The flower would most likely have long-since died and wilted away before he could give it to Mervamon but he nevertheless accepted the little blossom and stored it safely at the belt around his waist. "Thanks little one," he smiled. "I'm sure she'll love it."
"I'll miss you," Sindria said. "You were funny."
"Well maybe I'll see you again one day," Beelzemon said, painfully aware that he would probably never be coming back here. Once he left the boundary of the Golden Wood he was going to be busy out in the world and when whatever they were meant to do here was accomplished he was hoping they would all be taken back home quickly. But he couldn't bring himself to tell the kid that.
He briefly considered again the possibility of him and Mervamon having a child together themselves.
But he knew that would be a long way off, even after they were reunited, whenever that was. Most likely not for a couple of years at least. Mervamon had said once that if she ever did have a kid, she would want it to hatch from its Digi-Egg around the same time as Shoutmon's child if he ever had one as well. That way the heir of the throne and the future guardian of the army could grow up together.
"Um…" Sindria said, shuffling one foot a little hesitantly. "I don't suppose… there's a chance… that before you go I could have a little ride could I?"
Beelzemon blinked, but then he grinned and scooped Sindria up in his one arm, the Elf girl squealing gleefully as her back was pressed to Beelzemon's armoured chest and he took to the air, wheeling and slaloming around the trees in an intricate circle and occasionally barrel-rolling. Many of the Elves turned to watch the giggling youngster having her fun, and smiles adorned the faces of even the most hardened of their kind. There were few things that delighted them more than watching a young child being happy.
Sindria was set down a couple of minutes later, beaming. Beelzemon chuckled at the expression on her face. Yes, he was sure he would have a kid one day. But not for long, loooong time yet. Being a parent would be a big thing, and for now, his and Mervamon's duties as warriors were more important than that.
"You certainly seem to have a way with the youngsters," said the elegant voice that he instantly recognised to be Galadriel's from behind him. Folding his wings, he turned around to face her with a smile on his face.
"I've been around them a lot," he said. "Cutemon is still practically a child even if he has matured some, as is ChibiKamemon and Lunamon. And sometimes even King Shoutmon behaves a little like a child… less so now than before of course but you know what I mean."
"Indeed," Galadriel nodded as she and Celeborn stepped forwards, with a number of Elves behind them and gathering around them. "But now it is time to say farewell, Beelzemon. Perhaps one day we shall indeed meet again but now we must part ways. I sense that many troubles will follow you when you go, but go you must to help fulfil the destiny of not yourself, but another… and of Xros Heart in general."
"I don't suppose you know exactly which member of Xros Heart it is that I am supposed to be helping, do you?" Beelzemon asked wryly.
"I do," Galadriel chuckled.
"And I don't suppose there is any chance you can actually tell me who that someone is?"
"No. You will learn it yourself in due time. But it will not be long before you meet them again, that I can promise you."
"Well, I trust your judgement, Lady Galadriel," Beelzemon nodded.
"And that is all I ask," Galadriel replied. "For the path I have in mind for you to take today is a very specific one, but I believe that you will find it most beneficial."
"And what path is that?"
"The sparrowhawk shall be your guide," Galadriel looked up into the tree where the mottled bird in question was preening a couple of its wing-feathers. "It will take you to where you need to go to find some of your friends."
"How does the sparrowhawk know which direction to go in?" Beelzemon raised a brow. "Does it have some kind of innate mental ability?"
"No, the sparrowhawk is as normal as most other birds," Galadriel smiled. "But I have instructed it to take you to the stronghold of some of our brethren to the north-east of here – Wood Elves from another forest, for I learned last night that some of your friends fell into their company and are currently staying with them. The sparrowhawk is one of our messengers, so it knows the way there. All you have to do is follow on, which should be a simple enough task for creatures with wings such as yourselves."
Beelzemon gave a half-smile. "Well it's good to know that some of my friends made it to some form of safety… they are safe with those fellow Elves of yours aren't they?"
"They will come to no harm there, especially not from the Elves themselves, and though their stronghold does not have the same protection as ours, it is still a strong place. However, it is likely they will consider you as dangerous, so I suggest when the sparrowhawk dips into the trees you do not follow immediately. Allow it to explain the situation of your arrival to the other Elves before you reveal yourselves."
"I can do that," Beelzemon nodded. "Is there anything else that I should know?"
"Yes," Galadriel nodded. "When you have reunited with some of your friends, if you want to fulfil your role then you, Beelzemon, and one of your friends, must immediately head straight west. Follow the Old Forest Road – our Elf brethren will direct you to it. You must follow it until you reach the Misty Mountains once again, for it is there that the destiny of your friend will begin."
"Delightfully vague," Beelzemon remarked. "But I believe that I can remember that. And afterwards?"
"Afterwards you will find the path you need to take on your own," Galadriel replied. "It is a long one, and there will be dangers even for your immense power, Beelzemon, lying in wait for you on it. But have full confidence that you shall prevail as long as you stick close to your friends."
"That is something that I will have no trouble doing," Beelzemon nodded. "Very well. Then I suppose we must make haste."
"Yes," Celeborn, who had remained entirely silent while his incredibly beautiful and incredibly knowledgeable wife took the helm to walk Beelzemon through what he was meant to do. "Time is short for all of Middle Earth and where you are needed to be you must go. Though we do not receive many visitors to the Golden Wood, at this parting it would be our tradition to let you leave with a gift of some kind. But I feel that we Elves have nothing to offer you Digimon which you would have need of, or even find that useful."
"You do not need to give anything to us," Beelzemon shook his head. "We are more than content in the knowledge that we were of some help to you during our stay."
"Be that as it may," Celeborn replied. "If there is anything that we can do…"
"Just one thing for me," Beelzemon replied. "If ever the situation arises where someone here runs into Mervamon, please let her know that I am safe and explain to her why I cannot, for now, return to her side."
"Then it shall be done," Celeborn nodded. "I do not know if such an event will arise, but if it does then we shall pass on your message."
"Thank you," nodded Beelzemon with a smile. "That is something that gives me greater peace of mind now that I must leave."
"As to you, Wisemon," Galadriel said, as she reached up one hand. "It seems that I am making a habit out of this, but I will not lose anything precious to me if I allow you to take a few strands." She neatly plucked, apparently painlessly, three golden hairs from her head and placed them in a small vial that was handed to her by another Elf standing nearby. "I gave such a gift to another on his passage through the Golden Wood not long ago but if you truly desire some kind of sample from one of us then it makes sense that I should distribute it once more."
"Oh my, thank you," Wisemon gushed as he hurried over to take the vial, staring at the hairs inside like they were the most precious things in existence. "I shall study every inch of each strand. I wonder how much Elvish DNA differs from Human DNA… I can compare these to the pieces of Nene's hair that I took from her while she was sleeping when I get back home."
"I'm sorry, what?" blinked Beelzemon. "You took some of Nene's hair?"
"Only a few lengths from one of her ponytails," Wisemon shrugged. "It is not as if she noticed their absence."
"Is that a violation of privacy of some kind?" Beelzemon wondered aloud before he shook his head. "Oh never mind. Let's us be on our way. Thank you for your incredible hospitality and everything else. And farewell, Lady of Light. May you forever shine out on the world to deliver it from the darkness that haunts it." He knelt, and used the same salute that he had done to Galadriel when he had first arrived, holding his hand up with palm out, just like the warriors of old did with their Goddess.
"And farewell to you, Beelzemon," Galadriel smiled. "May your wings remain strong with the wind at your back and your cannon reduce those who deserve its sting to dust. And now, the sparrowhawk is ready to fly whenever you are."
"I am ready. Come on Wisemon. We've got to get moving at long last."
Wisemon sighed. "Very well, but I simply must return in the future to get some samples of these Mallorn trees. They are truly excep…"
"Right, right, sorry. Let's go."
The Elves raised their hands in farewell gestures, with the little girl Sindria waving enthusiastically as Beelzemon and Wisemon lifted themselves into the air on their wings. The sparrowhawk eyed them for a moment before it flexed its own wings and leapt into the air, wheeling around and shooting through the trees. Beelzemon immediately swept after it, Wisemon close behind him, and so their journey began when the sparrowhawk found a gap in the Mallorn tree canopy and soared into the open sky, with the Digimon on its tailfeathers.
Thing progressed quickly after that – the lake-like expanse of golden leaves unfolding beneath them as they soared higher and higher into the sky and pushed across the land of Middle Earth, reaching the edge of the woodland after only a short time and passing out across the plains.
As they rose higher, Beelzemon and Wisemon could both see the incredible landscape unfolding all around them. Behind them lay the huge mountain range that Beelzemon guessed to be the Misty Mountains, where he was supposed to head after he had collected his friends. Why he was meant to head there he didn't know, but Galadriel seemed focused on making sure that he reached a specific point of those mountains by following some road. He supposed he could only wait to find out her reasoning behind it and for now he just had to go with the flow.
But the view before them as they flew east behind the hawk was equally impressive. In the far, far distance, they could see one, huge, single mountain sticking out of the ground like a giant spire. And between that mountain and where they currently were flying was a vast expanse of woodland so huge that it put Lothlorien to shame, and between the woodland and them were large plains and rolling hills that were broken only be a couple of copses and a long winding river that wove its way between those hills and curved around until it almost reached the eastern border of Lothlorien itself.
Beelzemon did not know the names of any of these places. On reflection, he probably should have studied a map or two – surely the Elves must have had a couple in their possession. Instead, he was following a hawk, and when the hawk could lead him no further he was supposed to follow a road. Not exactly navigation that most other people would feel comfortable following, but Beelzemon had the confidence that he was on the right track, and not just because he trusted Galadriel's words. Something about it also just… felt right.
Not that he could explain it of course. Nobody ever could.
But of course, Wisemon suddenly surprised him by saying, "Ah, I think I understand where we must be going now. With the Misty Mountains at our back and heading northeast, I am betting that we are heading towards the Kingdom of Thranduil."
"Sorry?" Beelzemon blinked.
"Yes," Wisemon nodded. "Look, there in the distance is the Lonely Mountain, also know as Erebor and a stronghold for the Dwarves – I wonder if I can get a hair sample from one of their beards… but anyway… the river beneath us is the longest one in Middle Earth, called the Anduin and that great forest there between them is the former Greenwood, now known as Mirkwood."
Beelzemon chuckled. "I take it that you studied a map or two then while you were there."
"Of course. Didn't you?"
"Sad to say, no. I had other things on my mind."
"Well, for me, there is never a time when it is not possible to gain more knowledge and since we are in a whole new world, I could not resist. I very much hope to learn a lot more before all this is over."
"Well, for now, let's just follow this hawk. He knows where he is going. And we can finally get on track with uniting our group once we get where we're going."
So the two of them flared their wings and flapped on, following the raptor's trajectory as it steered its way in the direction of the giant forest beyond.
And far to the west – way beyond the Misty Mountains that Beelzemon and Wisemon were currently flying away from, the small, blue-armoured, wild-haired little Digimon – Spadamon – stirred. His eye twitched and he rolled over slightly without opening them, his fingers flexing as he struggled to clear the fog within his head and make some sense of things, as well as get rid of the unusual amount of grogginess that he felt.
What had happened? Where was he? What was going on?
And then suddenly his mind was filled with the horrible sound of the rattling breath and the images of the skeletal, rotten hands reaching towards him and the dark hoods, the greenish glow and the faint light emanating from the skull-like face hidden with the hood. Instantly, his eyes snapped open and he sprang up with a raucous scream, drawing his sword and slashing it around him wildly, yelling, "Get back! Get back!"
His sword was brought up short with a clang that jarred his hands a little and he saw what appeared to be a short dagger of some description holding it in place. The hilt of the dagger was clutched in a rough, slightly calloused looking hand and he followed the arm upwards to see the face of a tall human male with straggly brown hair and a stern expression crouched beside him.
"Calm down, small one," the Man said. "You are safe here. Those creatures will not follow us to a place like this – they cannot stand the sunlight. Quite literally – it burns them and kills them if they are exposed to too much of it."
Spadamon was still breathing heavily, but he allowed himself to drop back onto his tail, breathing heavily and clutching at his head, as if hoping to banish the thought of those… things… by squeezing it until they poured out of his ears of something. "What… wh-wh-what… w-were those… those things?" he gasped out.
"Barrow Wights," the Man sniffed. "That's what we call them. Undead spirits that haunt the tombs of the long dead kings of the barrows. It is a dreadful, terrible evil that has befallen the Barrow Downs where you were wandering, and on such a place of important history and honour too. Its disgusting that the tombs of such noble leaders of Men have become so besmirched and twisted by the spell of the Barrow Wights, and if I had had my way they would have been driven out long ago. But alas, it is only the sunlight that can damage them, and I have no ability to clear the fog that infests that land as they do now."
"Undead spirits," Spadamon shivered, plunging the tip of his sword into the ground and leaning on it. "And here I thought I got off lucky when I heard about what the others had to go through in the realm of NeoVamdemon. I'm never going to be able to sleep without those things… coming back and haunting me again."
"They certainly don't make the most pleasant thoughts, do they?" the man said dryly.
"How long was I out?" Spadamon asked.
"Over twelve hours," the Man replied. "When I found you, you have been touched by one of the Wights and it was sapping your strength. You are very fortunate indeed that I was travelling in the area. I do not visit the Barrow Downs very often – in fact I only ever pass through when I am on my way to some place and am trying to make up for lost time. It is not a place where the unprepared should tread. Still, I managed to drive off the Wights long enough to grab you and get you to safety where the Wights would not be able to follow without perishing."
"Yes… I remember that now… Well… whatever the case…" Spadamon gasped. "I… I'm in your debt. You saved my life… thank you. Thank you for that. But… who are you?"
The Man raised his eyebrows. "That's funny, because I was going to ask you the same question. As I told you yesterday before you passed out, I am Halabarad – a Ranger of the North. We Rangers mostly wander the wilderness and try and protect the people who live in this land in any way that we can, but I was not expecting to have to rescue something like you when I set out into the Barrow Downs yesterday."
"Well… thanks for that again, Halbarad," Spadamon sighed. "That's the second time, I think, that my life has been saved by a human."
"Yes. That is what you are, right?"
"I am a Man. A Dúnedain Ranger. I do not know anything of these humans of which you speak but I assure you I am not one of them."
Spadamon opened his mouth to protest, asking that wasn't a Man just a way of saying a male human, but realised that that probably wouldn't help any and decided to drop it. "Erm…" he coughed, trying to recover himself. "Those… those Barrow Wight things… what… what would they have done, if they'd caught me?"
"It is perhaps best that you do not know, if you believe that you will already be haunted by nightmares of them," Halbarad replied grimly. "But suffice to say that you would have been taken back into one of their barrows and you would have been very lucky to survive until the morning."
Spadamon shuddered and fought the urge to wretch a little.
Halbarad gave him a few moments to gather himself, before he said, "But I believe that I should be asking you some questions of my own. Most notably, what are you? The only conclusion that I can possibly draw is that you are some kind of strange new breed of Hobbit that I have never seen before, but you are far shorter than even the shortest adult Hobbit I have ever encountered and regardless, you look nothing like them. So, what are you?"
"I'm Spadamon," the little guy pushed himself up onto his feet and held out his hand to shake. "And I'm a Digimon. Have you ever heard of one of those before?"
"No, I cannot say that I have," Halbarad eyed the hand a moment before he took it and shook his, his own hand dwarfing Spadamon's as he shook the arm firmly. "Where does your kind hail from?"
"The Digital World," Spadamon replied. "I came from the Sweets Zone until the entire Digital World was united into one again thanks to the Code Crown. But I don't think I'm there anymore. There aren't any humans… Men… whatever, in the Digital World anymore. And there aren't any Barrow Wights there either. So… I think its safe to say that I am very lost."
"I think we can make that assumption yes," Halbarad nodded dryly.
"Do you know the way of getting to the Digital World?" Spadamon asked hopefully.
"No, I do not," Halbarad was not even sure if it was a real place or Spadamon was making it up, but it did sound strange to him. "And I have been all over this land in Eregion and never come across it… nor have I seen it on any map nor heard about it in any song or tale before, and I like to think I am well versed in those at the very least."
"Maybe I really am in a totally different dimension then."
Halbarad gave Spadamon a strange look before he shook his head and said, "Well, regardless Master Spadamon or whatever you may be, you must be hungry. You have not eaten in some time if I am not mistaken and you won't have found anything edible on those downs. Here, try these." He handed Spadamon some roots and bulbs that he had managed to forage for, and then turned back to the pot that was simmering over the fire nearby. "And I hope that you are not averse to meat, for I am preparing a rabbit stew."
Spadamon eyed the roots and bulbs a little for a moment, unsure what to make of them because he'd certainly never eaten anything that looked remotely like them, but he certainly was hungry.
"Have you got any chocolate?" he asked.
"Any ch… What is… chock-lut?" Halbarad frowned. "I do not know of this. Is it a food?"
"Wow, I must be really lost if you don't know what chocolate is," Spadamon picked up a root. "What about candy canes? Gingerbread? Toffee? Fudge? Ice cream?"
"I have not heard of any of these either," Halbarad looked apologetic. "Are they common where you live?"
"Oh yes. I used to live in a house made of gingerbread," Spadamon grinned.
"A… house… made of bread?" Halbarad stared at him.
"Yeah, and it was pretty neat, though I couldn't stop myself from eating the front door every now and then – it was made of liquorice, you see and I had to make a new one every time."
Halbarad couldn't even begin to fathom half of the things that Spadamon was saying, and was now half convinced that the creature, Digimon, whatever he was, was actually half mad. Nevertheless, he went back to stirring at the small pot over the fire as Spadamon chewed on a couple of the bulbs and found them to be surprisingly delectable.
Should Halbarad even trust the words of this creature? What was it really? None of what it was saying made any sense to him, but he couldn't tell whether that was a reason to trust it or a reason to be wary – because surely a minion of the enemy would not think that such a backstory would suffice as an actual tale, would they?
Halbarad had been on the alert for the enemy actually. He had had news from some of his fellow Rangers that there had been increasing amounts of activity around the area – some Goblin sightings out in the Sun, for one thing, which was extremely rare in itself but certainly so this far away from all the mountain ranges where the Goblins lived. And the fact that the Barrow Wights attacked Spadamon meant nothing about his allegiances – Barrow Wights attacked anyone.
Was he an enemy spy that was trying to bluff his way out of suspicion by doing something so ridiculous that he wouldn't look like one?
Somehow Halbarad severely doubted this, but if there was one thing that he had learned from being a Ranger, it was that you did not trust anyone out here unless you had a very solid reason to. All of the Rangers knew one another by sight, but out here in the wild, there were no rules or civilisation – no laws of any kind. Out here, anyone could be anyone and they could do anything they pleased. And if you trusted too easily, there was a very good chance you ended up dead. Even if the person killing you was just an ordinary thief rather than a proper minion of evil.
But as he put the finishing touches on the rabbit stew, Halbarad perked up slightly. There were some other people who lived nearby that Halbarad knew he could trust extremely well and who were far from ordinary in just about any way you looked at it. Perhaps they could assuage his doubts and help him learn a little more about this Spadamon.
"Well, if you are lost," Halbarad said, lifting up a bowl and spooning a small about of the stew into it, "then perhaps you'd like to tag along with me for a while. I know this land better than most. In fact, I believe there is only one Ranger who knows this place better than I do, and Strider has gone off east and south towards the darker lands."
"Really?" Spadamon's eyes looked bright and thankful as he accepted the bowl the Halbarad was offering him. "That would be neat. I need to try and find out where I am so that I can find my friends – all the other Digimon. But I won't have a clue where I'm going. And last thing I want is to find myself back in those Barrow Downs or some other creepy place."
"Then it is settled," Halbarad nodded. "And not to worry, I know of a couple of people that live nearby that would most certainly be the ones to ask about you and where your… Ditial World is…"
"Digital World," Spadamon snickered. "And that would be great. It will be nice to have a purpose to what I'm doing. And to have someone to talk to besides my sword as I walk along."
"I'm… not much of a talker," Halbarad coughed, which was true, but could also be said of most rangers who all generally kept to themselves. "But very well. Eat up the stew and then we shall set out immediately."
"Aye, aye, governor," Spadamon laughed as he supped on the stew, smacking his lips and the nice taste, which was even better than the bulbs but not as nice as his liquorice front door.
Once the meal was over, Halbarad packed everything into the small pack that he carried – Rangers barely carried much more than the bare essentials and their weapons – shouldered his bow and quiver of arrows and stepped off, signalling Spadamon to follow him with a flick of his head. "We're heading towards that forest in the distance," he said, pointing at a dark treeline that could be seen on the horizon, perhaps a couple of miles away. "Walk with me. We should be there before long."
"Okay," Spadamon nodded, and hurried to catch up. "If you think that's the way to go then who am I to argue?"
The two of them walked side by side, for Halbarad was not willing to let Spadamon walk behind him just yet but he did not want to let Spadamon know that, because if he was a bad guy then that would make him aware that Halbarad suspected him and if he was a good guy then that suspicion might hurt his feelings. But they made good progress nevertheless, with Halbarad keeping one eye on the trail ahead and the other firmly peering down at his fellow traveller.
It wasn't long before they reached the edge of the woodland, whereupon Spadamon hesitated a little, drawing Halbarad up short. Spadamon was peering at the trees with a slight sense of foreboding, for the trunks were gnarled and bloated and the inside appeared to be very dark. In short, it looked more or less exactly the same as the forest of Fangorn down South, where unbeknownst to him Shoutmon was sitting and waiting for something to happen.
"You… want me to go in there?" he asked.
"Yes," nodded Halbarad.
"It looks… kinda dark and creepy," Spadamon shivered.
"There is nothing to fear in that forest as long as you stick close to the river," Halbarad pointed to the strip of water that was running out from the trees nearby. "Granted if you stray from there you might just find yourself in trouble but if you do not then you will be absolutely fine. I have entered The Old Forest many times. It's trees may be hostile on occasion, but the river is immovable."
"Well… okay… are the people you're looking for in there?"
"Of course," nodded Halbarad. "They've lived here for as long as I can remember, and as long as you're with them, nothing in that place can threaten you. Come on, let's go."
Spadamon swallowed a little nervously but drew up alongside Halbarad again as they entered the tree-line. And he found that the Ranger was right. While the forest looked deep and dark in the distance, when you were by the river it seemed to be very lush, green and open, like how a proper woodland should be. There was an air of sanctity and security about the place, while the distant shadows did seem much more threatening.
Halbarad kept walking, leading him on across the bank of the river until Spadamon could no longer see the edge of the forest. He was still nervous and he was about to ask Halbarad if he was sure they were going the right way and if they were how much longer would it take… when he heard singing in the distance ahead… a deep voice coming from somewhere beyond the trees upriver and singing words that made, literally, no sense at all to Spadamon:-
"Hey dol! Merry dol! Ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! Hop along! Fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom! Jolly Tom! Tom Bombadillo!"
Halbarad chuckled. "That will be one of them right there," he said. "Old Tom Bombadil is out and about like always, enjoying his life."
Spadamon frowned as the deep voice returned, along with rustling footsteps that grew louder as he and Halbarad drew closer.
"Bombadil dances on. Truly a merry chap!
Always there to greet the day, with a feather in his cap!
Roots sunken, trees tall and the river winding,
Who knows what merry folk today he shall be finding?
Perhaps a squirrel in a tree, or a duck on water,
All friends of Bombadil and the River Daughter,
Maybe even a surprise, to this jolly fellow,
Why just two days ago he saw a bird that's yellow,
Flying high above it was, in the sunlight gleaming,
Making a faint whooshing sound, leaving trails steaming,
As brightly coloured as his boots, truly astounding,
Wonder if I'll see its like today while I am bounding,
Or maybe just a wise old owl, or a deer grazing,
Whatever Old Tom comes across, he finds it amazing.
So let us sing and dance along, for its nearly springtime,
Forest let me hear your song, for you can hear me sing mine."
"Er…" Spadamon muttered. "Doesn't sound like this person is a very wise man to me."
"Well, you do not know him. Old Bombadil is the Master of Water, Wood and Hill, or so he claims," Halbarad pointed out.
Spadamon still looked dubious but followed Halbarad further forward and, once they rounded the next corner, they both saw the singer. Spadamon was utterly bemused at what he saw. He looked like a human, but he was shorter and stouter than Halbarad, with a massive white beard. But he was not a Dwarf either – he was too tall for that (although Spadamon had never seen a Dwarf so this thought did not run through his head).
He was wearing a bright blue jacket with equally bright blue trousers, along with boots that were a vivid yellow that somehow did not clash with the rest of his outfit, including his hat, which sat perched firmly on his white haired head and had a similarly white swan feather sticking out of the side.
And the man was dancing round merrily and singing at the top of his voice still, and Spadamon could make very little sense of anything he said.
"O'er water, wood and hill I go, Tom Bombadillo,
On stones my feet skip and hop, in wind my beard does billow,
I make sure that no-one has been ate by Old Man Willow,
Til night falls and I return to rest head on my pillow."
"Hail, Bombadil!" Halbarad called as he walked over to him. "It's been a long time. I see that you have lost none of the spring in your step my friend."
The man whirled around and his face split into a beam at the sight of the Ranger and he practically skipped over to him and seized him by the hand, shaking it thoroughly. "Put it there, Halbarad old chum. Its surely been a while since you set foot in my forest. Still wondering the old hills and dales I bet. The kind of life I like myself."
"Indeed," nodded Halbarad. "But I'm afraid this isn't a social call. I've brought some company with me that I think you might be interested in."
Bombadil looked down at Spadamon, who was leaning away from him in slight bemusement. His face held the same enormous grin as he lashed down with inhuman speed and seized Spadamon's hand, shaking it so thoroughly that Spadamon was practically flicked off the ground. "Nice to meet you, little thing. Never seen nought like you before. I was hoping for another surprise today and look what I come across. Another strange creature, like that bird thing I espied in the sky not two days hence."
"Bird thing?" Halbarad frowned. "What bird thing?"
"Did you not hear of me singing of it shortly afore?" Bombadil asked. "It was a large bird, high in the sky and as yellow as the boots. It was shining brightly as it shot overhead high above the canopy. Never seen anything like it before. It was even trailing some faint bits of steam behind it."
Halbarad frowned, having never heard of a bird like that before, but Spadamon's eyes widened and he cried. "Yellow bird? That sounds like Sparrowmon. She's a friend of mine. She was here two days ago?"
"A long way above the forest it was. Didn't get much of a good look at it, but it was like nothing I've ever seen, and I've been around for a very long time no, so I have. But come, come, you're guests on my land the pair of you. It's only right that I entreat you to the full hospitality. Come on, come on. Let's head back to the house."
And with that, he bounded away, spinning and skipping at the same time and somehow managing to not trip over his feet even once, though Spadamon couldn't for the life of him see how he was doing it. And, naturally, he broke into song again as they followed behind him.
"Old Tom Bombadil takes guests back to his dwelling,
Where doubtless they will eat so much their bellies will be swelling,
Come now little one and meet the River Daughter,
Her good eats and sweetness mean that many now have sought her,
Goldberry, Goldberry, Tom is coming home again,
With guests to the table and one thinks that he is insane,
But Tom's a jolly man, and there's nought that can offend him,
With good food in his tum, maybe the creature can befriend him."
"Wow… he's… eccentric," muttered Spadamon.
"That's just the way he is," Halbarad replied. "I have never once seen Bombadil looking unhappy. It would not suit him. But come, he is offering us hospitality as he always does when I pass this way. And like I said, if there's any that can answer your question nearby, then it will be him."
Tom lead them to a large, charming looking wooden house set in the bank of a river, and waiting out on the front doorstep for them – perhaps having heard Tom's constant singing – was a beautiful woman who looked to be very human indeed, with long golden hair and a green dress with little rivulets of silver running across it, as well as gold belt around her waist.
"And that," Halbarad nodded towards her. "Is Goldberry. The River Daughter that he keeps singing about."
"River Daughter?" Spadamon asked, bemused.
"I wouldn't expect too much detail from them if I were you," Halbarad chuckled. "I've asked them many times about where they come from and who or what they even are, but they've always been extremely vague about it. It seems that they like to remain mysterious. Tom wants told me that it's more fun that way."
And that was the point where both Tom and Goldberry began to sing at the same time, with Goldberry's lovely soprano notes blending perfectly with Bombadil's tenor ones.
"Welcome oh good travellers, to our dwelling by the water,
The residence of Bombadil and the River Daughter,
Leave all troubles outside and your boots upon the doormat,
And put away your sword, you will have no need to draw that,
Cakes and stew and vegetables, we will not leave you starving,
And if you so desire there's a turkey here for carving,
Enjoy yourselves and come on in, have no more need to worry,
And we sincerely hope you won't be leaving in a hurry."
"Excellent voice as usual, my dear," Tom Bombadil laughed as he danced up to his place on the threshold.
"And who could question your own singing talent?" Goldberry laughed out loud. "And oh my, the company we have this time is odd indeed. Unique to all the land, I would guess."
"Possibly," Bombadil nodded. "But possibly not. Come on in, come on in and tell us now what ails you, if any. You said this was no social visit after all."
Halbarad and Spadamon stepped inside and Spadamon's eyes widened at the spread that had been laid out for them already, as if Goldberry had been preparing for their arrival for a few hours.
"Your generosity is as boundless as always, Bombadil and Fair Lady Goldberry," Halbarad nodded to them as he sat down and picked up a piece of cheese. "And now, I would very much like for you to help my small companion in any way that you can. I encountered him on the Barrow Downs under attack by some of those Wights that rule the roost out there."
Bombadil frowned for a brief instant but brightened up again almost immediately. "A sad fact indeed that we have such creatures so close to our borders. But at least you were rescued eh, little one?"
"Well, yes," Spadamon nodded, picking up a piece of bread. "But do you really think you can help me?"
"Oh I certainly intend to try," Bombadil laughed. "For what use are you if you cannot do what is right for other people, eh? Eh? That's what I always ask myself. But first order of business, what exactly are you? Are you what I think you might possibly be?"
"I… I don't know," Spadamon muttered. "What do you think I might possibly be?"
"Why a Digimon of course," Bombadil laughed. "That is the most likely explanation I have."
Spadamon blinked, as did Halbarad. "A Digimon?" Spadamon asked. "Yes, that's exactly what I am. But how did you know that? Have you ever been to the Digital World?"
"Never heard of it before just now," Bombadil said brightly, helping himself to a small bun.
"Eh?" Spadamon asked. "But… how can you have heard of a Digimon but never heard of the Digital World?"
"Has there ever been a Digital World in Middle Earth?" Bombadil asked.
"Then I won't have heard of it," Bombadil said brightly. "But I know about the Digimon, or at least a little bit about them. Not much really, just that they exist and that there are a large number of them – over twenty-five different kinds of them as a matter of fact, that have all been in this dimension as of a few days ago and all of which arrived at pretty much the same time. I also know that they all look very different, albeit in some cases slightly similar, to any of the resident creatures of Middle Earth and that none of the ones that have landed in our universe are evil or have evil intent towards us."
"Wow… that was… to the point and very quick," Spadamon remarked.
"Well why waffle on about things you don't know when you can tell what you do know, that's what I always say."
"No it isn't," Goldberry laughed.
"No, you're right, it isn't. But I should say it more often."
Halbarad looked mildly surprised. "Then you're saying… what exactly? That this guy really does come from an entirely different dimension?"
"That's about the size of it," Bombadil nodded, leaning back in his chair.
"Wait, does that mean you thought I was lying?" Spadamon frowned at the Dúnedain Ranger.
"Not lying per se," Halbarad replied. "But such a tale can only be taken with a pinch of salt. Never before in the history of this world, not even in the Undying Lands as far as I know, has there been any creature from an entirely different world visit our own."
"You would be right," Bombadil nodded. "Not until a few days ago at the very least. I felt the disturbance and the change in the world quite clearly, and I knew immediately what was going on. This is the will of Eru himself, just as it was that he brought Gandalf back to life after he killed the Balrog some time ago."
"Gandalf died?!" Halbarad yelled. "And he killed a Balrog and got brought back to life?"
"By Eru for that last bit, yes," Bombadil nodded. "I could sense it all happening. And I know the reason the Digimon were put here too – to help us fight this war and to help them get over some of their own issues. But that really is the extent of my knowledge. I have no idea what any of these Digimon look like, except for the one sitting on my table right now. And I know that another one is yellow and can fly, but as to the others and where they are, I don't have the foggiest. I would probably know if they were on my land somewhere but alas, none of them currently are except for you… what was your name my good fellow."
"Yes, Spadamon. How rude of me not to ask sooner. Anyway, you need not worry yourself, Halbarad, for you have got seated next to you a perfectly trustworthy being, and little fighter too if I'm not mistaken."
"I could never understand why most people in the world seem to find fighting so necessary," Goldberry sighed. "Why can the world never just get along? Even here, Old Man Willow seems to find it necessary to mislead and chew up anybody who passes by the can't control him, like my Tom can."
"Who's Old Man Willow?" blinked Spadamon.
"A big old Huorn that lives in the middle of the forest," Bombadil replied. "One of most misbehaved trees you could ever hope to find anywhere. Old grouch. But regardless, I presume you'll be heading on back to your fighting and battling and other nonsensical stuff right, Halbarad. That's what you Rangers do."
"It's not all we do," Halbarad replied. "But essentially yes."
"Slow down, slow down," Spadamon waved his hands. "What are you talking about? What do you mean we Digimon were put into this world to help you? Help you with what?"
"Well, presumably all this malarkey involving Sauron in the East," Bombadil replied, waving his hat airily. "Rather irritable guy, lives in a dark fortress near to a volcano and seems bent on making sure that he gets everything under his thumb. Extremely bothersome I suppose, but then again, he'll never get to me or my wife. We're perfectly fine here."
"Yes, you certainly are," Halbarad nodded.
"Shouldn't the fact that a Dark Lord's trying to take over the world be more… alarming?" Spadamon asked.
"Why should it? I'm sure the whole thing will blow over, Bombadil replied, waving his hand airily. "Now, would you like some eggs? The thrushes that live in the area always make sure to lay an extra one each for us, which often means we have more than we know what to do with."
"Thank you, Tom Bombadil. You're generosity is boundless," Halbarad nodded diplomatically, leaving Spadamon hopelessly confused.
"So, what was this about you having to go off to fighting?" Spadamon asked.
"Well," Halbarad muttered. "Now that I have ascertained that you are in fact, not an enemy, I suppose it would do no harm to tell you. I have received communication from some of my fellow Rangers of increasing numbers of goblins, minions of Sauron, in the surrounding lands. It is our belief that they may be planning to move in en masse and attempt to attack the Shire or Bree or some other settlement in the area, so we have been gathering together to set up a perimeter and do our duty as Dúnedain to protect those places from the Goblin threat."
"You're going to war?" Spadamon asked, rather alarmed.
"Hopefully not, but probably yes," Halbarad replied. "But you need not be a part of it. You are more than capable of stopping off here, if you like. Old Tom Bombadil surely would not mind a little more company for a while until you figure out what you want to do, but meanwhile I have duties to attend to."
Spadamon frowned and poked a hole in some cheese with his small sword. "Well…" he muttered. "I'm not really a member of Xros Heart. Just an honorary one, but I didn't help them to fight against the Bagra Army very much. Not after they liberated my home at any rate… sometimes that's made me feel a little guilty. Xros Heart were all so brave and so selfless. As in their very motto, they never turned their backs on people. And I formed a DigiXros with Shoutmon X4 and still didn't join the party, which made me feel, at times, that I had turned my back on them."
"That must have been hard," Halbarad observed, though he had not understood three quarters of the things that Spadamon had just said.
Spadamon clenched his fist slightly and muttered. "But I… I have been thrown into this situation just as much as the rest of Shoutmon's court. So even if I had the option, I don't think I could do it this time. I'll… I'll go with you. I'll help out where I can. I… I won't feel like I've turned my back this time, even if I'm not very helpful. This time, I will fight."
Halbarad stared at Spadamon for a couple of seconds, but then lifted up a hand and said, "If that is the case, then I am glad to have you on board… Spadamon."
Spadamon grinned and grasped the hand, which still dwarfed his, but it was a comradely gesture.
"Though, I have to ask," Spadamon lowered his voice. "How did that guy know so much about our situation?" he nodded towards Bombadil where and Goldberry were practically dancing around each other as they prepared the eggs.
"I really don't know," chuckled Halbarad. "Tom Bombadil is an unfathomable riddle at the best of times. I don't know what he is, but he is neither Man nor Dwarf. And I don't know how he knows the things he does. He just knows them and that is all there is to it. I have never been able to work out exactly how he can know things that he's never clapped eyes on or been told by anyone, but that's just the way he is. But he's a solid person and dependable if you're in a jam."
"But why is he not… you know… more worried about the fact that there could be a giant war going on?"
"Probably because he thinks it just doesn't pertain to him," Halbarad replied. "It just doesn't occur to him that the war could affect him and because of that, he doesn't think it to be important. He's not even being selfish when it comes to the lives of all those other people out there that will be lost as a result of the conflict. He just… doesn't understand the point of the war so he doesn't think about it. Like I said, he's a riddle. Best not to trying fathoming it."
"But…" Spadamon tried fathoming it and gave up. "What happens if this Dark Lord guy comes here and attack him? Then would he be worried?"
"I don't even know if Sauron could attack Bombadil," Halbarad shrugged. "I don't know if he could get into his land or if he could win if they fought. Bombadil is pretty powerful in his own way but he never leaves the borders of his own land, so unless Sauron comes here himself, we would likely never know who would win. But I would very much hope that Sauron never gets this far west."
"I… just… fair enough," Spadamon sighed. "I can't work it out."
"Like I said, don't try," Halbarad muttered. "Bombadil will forever remain a puzzle to everyone but himself and Goldberry."
"I do enjoy a good puzzle," Bombadil skipped over to them. "Let's sing and be merry now before you have to leave and attend to your Ranger-y duties."
And naturally, this is when he and Goldberry broke into song again:-
"Come now and eat your fill of birds eggs and apple pies,
We'll even chop you onions until water leaks out from our eyes,
"Gorge, guzzle, stuff and gulp until you fill your tummy,
We have a choice of everything that you will find most yummy."
"Is there anything they don't have a song for?" Spadamon asked.
"I have yet to find a subject," Halbarad chuckled.
And there you go, my first chapter back after my temporary hiatus, and what a challenging one to start with. For those of you not familiar with the character Tom Bombadil appears in the Lord of the Rings books, but was cut from the movies because he had a very large passage that contributed very little to the overall storyline, if at all. But, as he is technically still a part of Middle Earth, I thought that he deserved a mention somewhere in my work, and the fact that he sings all the time… yeah, that was hard. That and getting his character as close as I could to the one in the books. And I'm still not convinced I got it right.
But anyway, back I am, and see you all soon with another update from QOTG. Providing real life does not try and bite me in the backside again.
Oh, and whoever it was that was sending me multiple guest reviews for the last chapter under different names, all of which were about Mervamon and Beelzemon having a child together and trying to make me think lots of people loved the idea a lot (including posing as some of my other guest reviewers to leave similar messages) – stop it. You weren't fooling anyone. Do not make me disable guest reviews because there are a couple of guest reviewers who have been with me a long time that I don't want to lose if necessary. As stated in this chapter, Mervamon and Beelzemon will one day have a child together, but not in this story and not for several years of writing at LEAST!
Back at the Withered Heath, Cyberdramon continues his vigil while watching out for Dracomon amongst the dragon population. But events are about to be set further into motion when a stranger arrives at the Withered Heath wishing to speak to Drogoth the Dragon Lord. What can this mean?
Coming up:- Chapter 34 : Dragon Deal