I travelled back to The Prancing Pony, but could find no trace of Strider. I spoke to Barliman Butterbur and he told me that Strider had left The Prancing Pony, but that Gandalf, a Wizard by reputation, had arrived and asked to speak to any who were looking for the Ranger. I made my way up to Gandalf’s room.
A most impressive sight greeted me; Gandalf had the appearance of an old man, his hair was white, and his long white beard grew down below his waist. His eyebrows were particularly noticeable; they were so long and bushy that they stuck out from beneath the rim of his hat.
He dressed in a long grey cloak, which is perhaps the origin of his title ‘The Grey’. He is also described as wearing a tall shady-brimmed pointed blue hat and he carried at all times a spiked staff. He seemed to have a great strength about him.
“You are lost or seek me with intent. By the look in you eye, I gather the latter, though I also sense you sought another… Strider perhaps? Then we have both come too late. Our mutual friend has left, bearing with him a terrible burden.
I am Gandalf the Grey, a friend of Strider’s. If he set you to a task, it could not be much less urgent than his own. Tell me your tale, and I will deliver it to him”
That was quickly related and Gandalf responded
“So Angmar arises? It is grim news, but I am not surprised. Nevertheless, I cannot turn aside from my own task, for the fate of all Middle-earth hangs upon it. You have done much good for the people of Bree-land, but the Shadow out of Angmar spreads far and wide. I have learned from Gwaihir the Windlord that another of my order has found corruption in the Lone-lands, east of Bree. It may even be related to the dangers you encountered in the Great Barrow. Unfortunately, Radagast is given to wandering and will be difficult to find. I would ask that you enlist the assistance of the Rangers in finding his location. There is one here in Bree-land, Saeradan, who will be able to aid you.
This burden I place upon you in the name of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth: Hinder the Witch-king’s plans, if you may. Whether east or north, I bid you good fortune. Farewell”
Saeradan I had met before and I soon met up with him just north of Bree. Unfortunately he did not know where Radagast may be and suggested that I speak to another Ranger, Candaith who keeps a camp in the Weather Hills.
Now, this was a more difficult task as I had no idea of where the Weather Hills might be!
I checked with the patrons of The Prancing Pony and an adventurer there sketched me a map of the Lone Lands where the Weather Hills were. Hmm, looks to be quite a journey, maybe two days to get there. I packed up my things and set off.
I decided not to take The East Road but instead made my way past the northern edges of Midgewater and across the hills in the north-east. It was an uneventful journey and I spied few other travellers on the way. Eventually I found Candaith’s encampment. He made me welcome with a quickly prepared meal and then he told me what he knew.
“Saeradan’s word comes late to the Lone-lands. If Radagast the Brown passed into these lands then perhaps hope is not lost in this place. I have returned only recently from a journey in lands far to the east, lands held firmly in the grip of evil. When I returned from that journey, I learned to my dismay that evil does not stir in the East alone.
I have seen an Orc-messenger in these parts. I followed, trailing him eastwards along the shoulder of the hills and then south, but my search was interrupted. I could follow no further, for foul crebain circled above, and to be discovered would do greater injury to our work here than I can permit. The messenger likely carries with him orders to the outlying camps. If you can intercept the messenger, we may learn the nature of these orders. So armed, we will be better equipped to deal with the Orc-threat Search among the Orc-camps in Glumhallow, to the west, and return to me with the orders this messenger surely possesses. I will seek sign of Radagast’s passage elsewhere”
I found the orc messenger but he had no letters on his body. I returned to meet with Candaith in the hope he had better luck. He told me that he had trailed a large party of Orcs to a large camp where some kind of Orc Leader was present. The orcs called him Uzorr. Candaith asked me if I could go to the camp in the hope of catching this Uzorr and dealing with him.
The Orc camp was not far but was tricky to negotiate, consisting of a series of interlocking rope bridges each of which being guarded by an orc. Thankfully, they were not well trained and I soon dealt with them. I was also lucky enough to find Uzorr on his own and like all orcs was easy to defeat; they prefer fighting in packs like all bullies. In his tent, I found some documents which I brought to Candaith.
“Seolferwulf, I have news of Radagast, but I must ask you once again for assistance here. The letter you recovered from Bleakrift speaks of the Orcs’ true goals: taking control of Amon Sûl! Orc-forces are to move towards the crest of Amon Sûl under cover of night and will move in a large group, establishing small units along the paths from that larger force.
We cannot stand against the force when they are assembled, but we can once they are splintered. They wish to establish an encampment that will allow them a vantage over the entirety of the Lone-lands. We must foil their plans, Seolferwulf!
Gather allies and return to me when you are ready. Together we shall scale Amon Sûl and defeat Rigûl, their leader, before he can carry out his master’s will”
So, I must find some allies for this task; Candaith suggested I try The Forsaken Inn. But before heading there, I had a quick look at Amon Sul, or Weathertop as it is sometimes known. Hmm, formidable. I have quite a task ahead of me.