I decided to spend a day or two at Brokenborings while I considered my plans. Happily, there was an Inn nearby and some good fishing a short stroll away.
As it turned out, I was very glad that I didn’t move on immediately. You will recall that one of the reasons I came to this part of the world was that I was trying to trace my Great Aunt Keli. For someone who is a great Champion she seems remarkably elusive. But now I think I may have a clue.
It happened yesterday; I was strolling out of Brokenborings just past the windmill when I came upon a curious sight. Well, truth to tell, it was a smell rather than a sight! Under a large tree was a dwarf slumped on the ground. Clearly, by the tankard in his hand, he was somewhat the worse for wear and he certainly smelled as if he had fallen into a vat of ale. What a disgusting sight. I gave him a wide berth but to my alarm he stirred and called out.
“Hey, youngling, would you have some spare coppers for a dwarf down on his luck. I’m powerful hungry”
The cheek of it! I was all for walking on but something in his rheumy old eyes caught at me and I decided to take pity. I had a decent sized backpack filled with food for my days fishing and it would be a charitable thing to share it with someone.
“Well, Master Dwarf, you are in luck. Food I have aplenty though you will get no more ale from me. Here, let me spread a picnic and we’ll share what I have”.
In no time, there was a feast laid out – fresh baked bread, cheeses, meat pies, some greens and so forth. And of course, honeycakes and muffins and fresh berries. The dwarf fell upon the food like a troll that’s seen a goat. As we ate, I introduced myself and asked his name.
“My name, is it? Powerful things, names. But you’ve shown me a kindness so I shall oblige. My name is Twobeers Barrelbelly and I am the most powerful and famous Guardian in all these lands. I only have to glance sideways at an Orc to send him fleeing”.
Hmm, Twobeers Blowhard, more like. Probably his breath that sends the Orcs fleeing. Still, an interesting name; I asked about its origin.
“Oh well, that’s easy. They call me Twobeers because after two beers I can tank a mountain. Nothing can stand in my way”. I replied “Presumably you use your head to bore through the mountain? It seems thick enough”.
He laughed, “Oh well, I can see you are not taken in easily. The real reason for the name is simply that I am impatient so I always order two beers at a time to save the endless walk back and forth to the bar”
It was my turn to laugh and say “That sounds more like it. And I think I can guess at the Barrelbelly too after seeing you demolish that feast”.
Well, we got on famously after that. After a while, Twobeers asked what I was doing in these parts and I told him that I was looking for a famous Champion called Keli; perhaps he had heard of such a legendary figure? I was not expecting him to splutter and nearly choke on a piece of cheese. “Keli, I know Keli. But she is not a famous Champion. The Keli I am thinking of is a somewhat lazy character that hardly leaves her house these days”.
“That can’t be the same Keli” I responded. “Keli Shieldmaiden is my Great Aunt and I have it on good authority that she is legendary in Eriador and beyond”. Twobeers said “Aye, Shieldmaiden, that is what she calls herself though I don’t know why. I’ve never seen her with a shield just a great two-handed axe that goes shing-shing when she swings it. Which is not very often”.
I have to say, I felt somewhat deflated at this. But, on the other hand, Twobeers did not seem the best person to give a character reference. I told Twobeers that maybe I would catch up with Keli in Bree where I was thinking of going to meet with a man called Strider.
Suddenly, a great change came over Twobeers – his eyes seem to be sharp and his slur was gone. Was it all an act? He told me to quickly tell him what I knew of Strider. I related my adventure with Halros and his instruction to meet with Strider, but said that I was not sure whether to do so.
Twobeers said “You must go, lass. Strider is a very important man, I cannot tell you more, but believe me – if you have attracted the attention of the Rangers and they want your help then you must have something about you. And it is vital that you go to Bree and meet with Strider, he will tell you more”.
So, it seems as though my immediate plans are made. I shall leave the Shire for the moment and go to Bree. This is quite a journey and it will take many days but Twobeers gave me some guidance. And so, he raised his tankard and toasted me on my way. Not a bad old dwarf, after all.