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Stranger in a Strange Land

chrysophalax

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Nilme shuddered when John compared him to humans almost instinctively. What little exposure he had had to them had been less than pleasant, fraught with suspicion and slant-eyed glances. Until meeting John, he had considered the Second-born almost an insult. Had his own people and, of course, the dwarves, not been enough for the Valar after all? The race of Men seemed to be continually questioning, questing, never satisfied with the beauty and harmony that existed in the very air they breathed.

With a sigh, he searched the night sky, then held out his arm. Aran and Tari settled there within moments, their bright eyes fixed keenly on his own. Above, he heard Alcarin's call. His shoulders relaxed as he stroked each bird's breast, happy in the knowledge that his feathered companions had come to no harm. John's voice continued, speaking of things he, Nilme, did not understand and then...more questions. He is my friend and is helpless here. Though my heart is grieved at his words, nothing will be accomplished if I have no patience.

The Elf turned away from his mourning cousins and the Dwarf, who's continued silence had ceased to concern him. John was shivering in the chill air and was looking up at him miserably. "Come with me, John. We will continue on to Brithombar, alone if needs be." Here he glanced sharply at the other elves. "They have ill-used you, my friend and I have have been remiss in allowing you to sit in the open, wounded as you are. There is shelter to be had in the thickets of the forest. You should rest at least an hour or two until the sun has risen and you have eaten a little." John seemed fascinated by the birds and appeared to be hearing little of what Nilme was saying. The Elf grinned as he settled down on his haunches next to John. "They will not hurt you. They know you are my friend as well. May I?" He reached out and let Tari hop onto John's left shoulder. After a moment, the man slowly reached up to stroke a wing very lightly. When she didn't flinch away, John smiled. "Will you look at that. I wish I had a camera!"

Nilme raised an eyebrow at that, but was glad to see that John's humour had not entirely gone. He helped him to his feet, then tossed Aran aloft. Tari followed and they flew into the branches of a nearby tree. John cradled his arm as he walked into the woods at Nilme's side, more weary than he had been in quite some time.

After a short walk, Nilme found what looked like a traveler's lean-to Gratefully, John sat down with his back against a large beech as Nilme made a small fire. He then covered John with his cloak, checked him for early signs of a fever and gave him some water. "Rest now. Later, as we make our way to Cirdan, it will be your turn to answer myquestions! You said many things this night that make no sense to me and confusion is never a good friend. So, I will stand watch for now. Sleep!"
 

baragund

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John awoke to a clear crisp morning with a fresh breeze from the sea whispering through the trees of the forest. Birds sang in the trees and dappled sunlight played across the ground. It was a singularly peaceful setting and he allowed himself to become immersed in the gentle sounds around him. “What a beautiful county,” he thought to himself. “If I can’t get home, there are worse places I can be. But those orcs! If they are as Nilme says, shoot! I don’t want to be within a hundred miles of any of them!”

He got to his feet and stepped out of the lean-to where he saw Nilme tending to a pot of something cooking over the camp fire. The sun was rising over a range of rounded tree-covered hills on his right and to his left the forest sloped downward but leveled off in the distance. The smell of the salt air told him they couldn’t be more than a few miles from the sea. His arm throbbed a little but it had been tended well the night before and he noticed the same remarkable rate of healing as had happened with the knee he had injured during his time at sea. The Elves had some kind of skill or they knew what plants to use in their poultices that made his injuries heal faster than if he was receiving the finest care in the best hospitals.

“Good morning,” he said to the Elf, crouching down beside him. Nilme smiled in reply. “That was some night, huh?”, he continued and his companion nodded in agreement. “I guess those other jokers decided to go their own way”, and Nilme nodded again.

Nilme spooned something out of the pot into two bowls and handed one to John. It resembled porridge but was much more fulfilling, not to mention delicious. As he ate, he felt new vitality course through his limbs and by the time he finished he felt as if he could march all day without a break.

As he ate he tried to gather his thoughts. Finally he spoke up: “Those Orcs that tried to kill us last night, they are called “Goblins” where I come from. And the short guy? Naugrim you called him. That’s “Dwarfs” in my language. Everyone I’ve met since I washed ashore, including you Elves, has been something from our myths and legends… otherwise known as fairy tales. Stories we tell our children when we put them to bed at night.” Nilme did not answer and waited to see where his friend was going with this.

John fell silent for a while. Then, tilting his head to one side he asked, “How old do you think I am?” Nilme indicated he did not know.

“I will be thirty this summer,” he continued. “Thirty years from the time I was born. That must be a blink of the eye to you, but I’ve already passed my peak in terms of physical strength. I can’t run quite as fast as I could, say, ten years ago. Ten years from now, especially if I don’t take care of myself, I’ll lose more strength and my muscles will start to turn to flab. If I were thirty years older I would consider myself lucky to be strong and healthy enough to make this journey. Eighty years would be considered a long life for me and, most likely, I would be pretty feeble for the last ten to twenty years. Have you ever met one of our elderly?” Nilme said he had not.

“As we age", John continued, "our skin sags and becomes wrinkled, our hair turns gray, or falls out, our teeth turn yellow or wear out, we may develop a paunch,” at this he put his hands on his stomach to illustrate the point. “We lose our muscle tone and our joints start to creak. All sorts of things happen to us that I guess you have never seen before. But it is as natural part of Men's existence as breathing. All of this must be as strange to you as the notion of your being immortal is to me.”

“What happens when you die?” asked Nilme. “Are you reborn? Does Mandos have separate halls for you?”

“Nobody knows for sure,” John said. “There are some who believe in rebirth of some kind or another and I don’t know who ‘Mandos’ is or what his halls are. But most of us believe that we have a spirit, a soul, which continues after our bodies expire. Now in different countries and different cultures there are many variations but basically, those who follow his God, lead a good life and treat others as he would like to be treated will have their spirits enter Heaven, or paradise, when they die. Those who do not are sent to Hell. Our spirits go to one of these places for all eternity and, as you might guess, one would want to enter Heaven and avoid Hell. Heaven is described in terms of eternal bliss and Hell is described as eternal torment.

“There are others who believe there is no enduring spirit. That when we die, that’s it. We just cease to be.”

“So now you know what ‘Go to Hell’ means,” John said with a smile.

“Will you go to Heaven when you die?” asked Nilme.

“Haven’t a clue,” responded John. “Like I said, nobody knows for sure what will happen to them. That’s why some of us are afraid to die while others have extraordinarily powerful faith in what they believe."

“What about you? You’re immortal but you can be killed. What happened to the one who caught the Orc’s spear last night?
 

chrysophalax

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John's description of what it meant to grow old to Men filled Nilme with sadness as he looked at his friend. What he saw before him was a man fit and healthy, with a good mind and strong enough to fight well. He had noticed that John had appeared somewhat out of shape when he had found him, but the air and exercise had strengthened him almost before Nilme's eyes. He found it hard to imagine John in only thirty short years becoming so frail. But did it have to be so? He began to wonder as John spoke. Had John's people been cut off some how from Iluvatar? How had these tales come to be? The need to know more burned in Nilme's breast and he eagerly wanted to ask questions of his own.

When asked what would happen to him after death, Nilme looked long at John before answering, suddenly sobered. He pushed at his food for a moment, then set it aside. Softly he began to speak. "Mandos is the name of of the Hall of the Dead and Namo is guardian of the dead. It is said that when those of my kin die, our fea go to dwell in his Hall and wander in his gardens. Some are called to live again, though I do not know if it is by choice. Death is...a very difficult thing for one who is immortal to contemplate. Iluvatar, the Ainur, all who created us and all that you see did not give us the gift of natural death as he did to Men. We can only die if slain, starved or grief takes us. Nay, Iluvatar made us one with Arda, the world, if you will. We hear the trees speak! If anything should ever happen to her, we, all of us, will die too for our spirits are bound with hers."

He stood then and walked a little apart, threw wide his arms and inhaled the morning air deeply. Looking over his shoulder at John, he said, "So you see? To think of death is to think of everything withering, dying. It is not a thing spoken of lightly." John opened his mouth as though to speak, but Nilme spoke first. "You say you tell tales to your children of us, eh? Know you then of Dragons? Of magick?" He smiled wickedly. "Ah, my friend. I know naught of "fairy tales", but from what you say, this is the land from whence your tales come. There are kingdoms here and kings and queens who rule them. There are the Valar, gods you would call them if I understand you aright. Many are good and one...one who is not. He it is who turned many of my kin into orcs and it is he against whom many of my kinsman fight! Listen well when I tell you that you must use caution here, for all is not as it seems. Here, the tales are life itself!"

John's eyes widened as Nilme spoke, for rarely had he seen the Elf so animated. Not for the first time, he wondered what he had gotten himself into. Nilme meanwhile began to clear up the remains of their breakfast and to make ready for their journey. John finished hurriedly, then helped Nilme as he could. Soon, they were making their way through a strip of forest in the direction of the coastline. The tang of sea air lifted their spirits and soon Nilme was pointing out different flora and fauna to John. Ever driven by curiosity, it wasn't long before Nilme began questioning John again. "Tell me. Why is it Men die so soon where you come from? Here, it is said, Men live hundreds of years before they fail. As you are here now, might it not be the same for you?"
 

Ciryaher

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Shûaz'rha sat with his stumpy legs out in front of himself as he basked in the morning light. Now that there was no longer the ambiguity of night to mask his features, he could be clearly seen to have what was unmistakably grey skin. He scratched his head, then smoothed out his beard to take another spoonful of the porridge which he had failed to have been offered (but helped himself to anyhow). As John and Nilme sat speaking, he grumbled to himself, "Going to be a long bloody trip, yah..."

He pulled a biscuit from his pack and dipped it in the porridge, tearing away a chunk of it and chewing mechanically as he stared at his surroundings. He spoke as if to himself, but loud enough for anyone listening to hear, "Nice place you've got here. Don't fancy it over a house of stone, myself, but I suppose all yer flowers make it nice." He inspected his biscuit, "Don't have many flowers in the old home, eh?" He shrugged as if to toss a brooding thought off of his shoulder and went on talking, gesturing to John with his biscuit, "Need to figure out where he's from. He's no dwarf, and he ain't an elf or an orc, but he's heard of us. And I don't fancy being known without knowing the knower, aye."

So he stuffed the rest of his biscuit away into his (cavernous) mouth, and slurped up the last of his elven-cooking, then clambered up to his feet. The dwarf tucked his beard away into his belt--obviously proud of the length and volume of said beard--and sauntered over to where Nilme and John were speaking. He cleared his throat and looked up at the sky, "If I'm going to be stumblin' along with you lot, I reckon I might as well make nice and get to know ya, eh? No sense in bein strangers the whole time." He stroked his beard approvingly, thinking himself quite amicable and benevolent for offering so generously his time to these silly beings, but suddenly found that he wasn't sure what else to say. "Err...hm. So...where did you say we were going? Kerr-dan? Boats?"

He thought of clapping Nilme on the shoulder, but thought better of it and clapped John's instead, hardly giving either of them a chance to respond, "Oh and no worries about those orcs, eh? Nasty things. Fierce as badgers, dumb as posts, and they've the conversational skills of a badger with his eyes put out and his tail on fire." He paused and grumbled something about them also not being worth a spit, but he apparently didn't think that much worth speaking up about. Looking at John again, he seemed to grow very curious, and the tone of his voice changed considerably, becoming much less gruff and much more friendly, "So...where do you come from? Why are you here? And does it bother you if I ask you lots of questions?"

He grinned amicably and gave the man's beard an appraising look.
 

Elorendil

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As the sun's first light crept over the top of the trees, Curunir stirred at last from his long vigil over the grave of the fallen Annael. Edrahil looked up at him as he rose and walked slowly around the clearing, contemplating the best course of action. The appearance of orcs was most disturbing, for their kind had not been seen in over 450 years. Could this be a sign that the Enemy was regrouping and preparing to launch yet another assault? That thought had been troubling Curunir, hanging over him like a storm cloud about to burst forth with rain, throughout the long night.

Edrahil broke into his thoughts. "What are we to do, now, cousin? Should we not return to Hithlum and warn the High King of the reappearance of the orcs?" he asked.
Curunir regarded his kinsman, considering. "Yes, he must be warned," he agreed. "But what of Nilme and John? The Atani saved my life and I owe him a debt. It seems to me that we should accompany them to Brithombar. There may be more orcs lurking about, and it is likely they might prove too much for one Elf and a Man who knows little about battle."

"And, in doing so," Edrahil said, following his train of thought, "We could insure that Cirdan hears of the orcs, and repay your debt. From their, we could return to Fingolfin, ourselves, bearing the news, or send a messenger."

Curunir nodded, grateful that his kinsman understood his wish to see the Atani safely to the harbors of Cirdan. "We should move now, before they get too far ahead of us."
The Noldo summoned their horses with a piercing whistle. Soon, the stamp of their hooves could be heard as they ran through the underbrush. A majestic, black stallion appeared, followed closely by Edrahil's smaller, fine-boned dapple gray mare. The two Elves quickly mounted and set off, following the still-fresh tracks of John and Nilme.

It didn't take them long to find the small traveler's lean-to where Nilme and John had passed the night. Curunir and Edrahil exchanged a look of distaste as the voice of the dwarf they had encountered the night before met their ears as they slipped from their mounts and approached the camp.
Curunir stepped into the lean-to and greeted Nilme, ignoring the fact that he was interrupting the dwarf. He quickly told the Dark Elf of their wish to accompany them to Brithombar and awaited his response.
 

chrysophalax

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As if the suddenness of the dwarf's arrival and declaration of intent to join with he and John hadn't shocked Nilme enough, the re-appearance of his "cousins" did nothing to lighten his mood. They arrived so certain of welcome...proud, noble Noldo that they were and Nilme ground his teeth in silent anger. They told him that they wished to accompany he and John wheresoever they were bound. Again...so certain of welcome. John, who had never really prided himself on being overly observant of his friends, now noticed how tense Nilme looked as the Elves addressed him and he knew there was definite trouble on the horizon.

"Curunir...Edrahil. Follow me." Oh, yes...that soft, deceptively quiet voice confirmed it. The Elves glanced at each other, then followed Nilme a short distance away from the lean-to. As soon as they were out of earshot, Nilme rounded on them. "I will have nothing said against John. Is that understood? He is a stranger here...lost, confused and in need of aid. He is unlike anyone I have ever encountered, like one of the Ainur! I feel that Ciradan might know how best to help him, but I will have no more Noldorin discourtesy nor incivility, therefore do not presume upon my patience, for I find I have very little to spare of late." Odd how he felt more at ease with the Naugrim that John was now entertaining than he did with his own people. He looked at the both of them steadily. "Are we in agreement then? If so, you are welcome to join us, for I fear that we are more likely to see more orcs than I would wish."
 

baragund

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Like a single candle being lit in a darkened room, real understanding began to grow in John’s mind as he listened to Nilme. The accumulation of things he has seen and experienced since washing onto these shores added up to a tipping point where the rational side of his mind, the engineer’s side where only that which can be quantified, documented, scientifically tested, verified and peer reviewed, began to reconcile with what he had felt on an emotional and intuitive level but could not quite bring himself to believe. Until the encounter of the previous night and now listening to Nilme, there was a part of him that believed, still, that the end of their journey would bring them to a recognizable town, with recognizable people and telephones and cars and McDonald’s, and he would contact the authorities so he could go home.

He was at the same time relieved, fascinated, sobered and afraid. Relieved that the uncertainty and doubt that nagged at him since he came to these lands was being resolved. Fascinated over the prospect of exploring an entire new world that, given what he had seen so far, contained wonders he could only dream about. Sobered at the thought that he may never return to his home, never see his country, his town, his family and friends, his Jennifer again, afraid of the orcs he encountered and whether there were many more of them about.

Dragons? Magic?” he murmured, half to himself. “Yeah, our myths and legends have a lot about those, and lots of other fanciful beings and creatures besides. Animals you could talk to, and creatures that are part animal and part human. I would very much like to find out what else I will find here. What the kingdoms are and what they are like.”

John had not seen Shûaz'rha sitting by a tree as he and Nilme were talking, and he startled when the Dwarf started to speak. There was so much more he wanted to say to his companion but he kept quiet as he did not altogether trust this newcomer. He listened pensively but grew distinctly uncomfortable when the Dwarf brought his hand down on his shoulder. It felt like his hand was made of stone and it had the same force. The blow bent him over as if he was a weakling, and he had to work to suppress a yelp of pain.

The discomfort only grew when Shûaz'rha’s tone changed. Was there an… amorous tone… in the Dwarf’s voice as he grew more friendly? “Oh great,” John thought to himself. “He’s gay and he likes me. So that’s why Snow White had nothing to worry about…”. This last thought made him put his head in his hand and bite his tongue hard to keep from laughing out loud.

“What’s so funny? Do I… amuse you?” the Dwarf asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

Still suppressing his laughter, John replied, “Never mind. You just reminded me of something very… silly.”

Trying hard to change the subject, he got up and busied himself with cleaning the breakfast dishes. “So you want to know where I’m from and what I’m doing here.” He gave an inquiring look to Nilme and he returned the look that seemed to say ‘Go ahead, you might as well tell him’.

So he began, “Well, the ‘why’ is pretty easy. I shipwrecked and washed ashore just north of that watchtower at that point on the coast. Nilme here found me unconscious on the beach. I was hurt pretty bad and he and a friend of his got me back on my feet at their house. He’s showing me the way to the city of Brithombar to get advice from the ruler there on how I can get home.”

“Why do you need advice?” Shûaz'rha asked. “It’s pretty simple that you just sail back down the coast the way you came.”

“It’s not that simple,” John replied. “I didn’t come up or down any coast. I came… across. And from what Nilme here tells me, that’s supposed to be pretty much impossible. So that’s why I need advice.”

John stopped what he was doing and peered closely at the Dwarf. “Are you… alright?” he asked. Shûaz'rha indicated he did not know what the Man was talking about. “Your skin, it looks like putty. Is that…typical… for your kind?”
 

YayGollum

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The vibrations and brush noises easily gave up the secret that something large was moving towards the building. What it was remained a mystery until, with heroic music accompaniment by way of a fiddle and a red-haired and Dwarflike man's signing voice, an unnaturally small mumak ambled into view. When the guy spotted a human and a Dwarf, he tossed a carefree smile and a wave over, and, although his song was of the catchy and entertaining ilk, he thought that halting it would be polite. After dismounting and tethering his mumak to a tree with an old rope, he trotted right up to them, doffed his helmet at them, and bowed. "Greetings, fellow travellers! Would you object to company?" While waiting for a response, his eyes drifted about and ended on the mumak, who was tearing at the bark of his tree with his tusks. "Blunderbuss was hungry, and I smelled something good for me to eat coming from here."
 

Ciryaher

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Shûaz'rha wasn't sure how exactly to take implications that he was either silly, or with a putty-like face. He harrumphed mightily and stroked his beard, eyeing John's in return and taking half a moment to touch his own cheek. He felt the skin, which was scarred a bit from battle, maybe a bit hard from long days in the cold wind of years gone by...but putty? Surely the man had a different meaning from the word. And how very likely that must be, since only a cracked sort of person would claim to be from across the sea.

Unless...

Suddenly, in a rush of excitement, the dwarf realized that this could be a messenger from Mahá himself! He bowed deeply before John, and then glanced up at the man, "My skin, sir, I am not sure what word would best describe it. I am as the Great Mahál created me, and I of course am so very grateful that he did!" He straightened himself up again, a bit unsure if he was being gracious enough to the potential representative of the very father of all dwarfdom. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, then spoke again, "Ah, perhaps, you were only expecting to see some of...the other Houses, sir? I know for certain that they have a more--" he paused and gestured to the elves-- "like-that appearance. I admit that I am so very far from home...but as I said, I am looking for the Halls of Uzod."

He scratched his head, wondering why he suddenly felt like a youngling again, even though this being that named itself as 'Dzhôn' didn't look a day over...well it was hard to tell. He knew that elves didn't really seem to age at all, ever. And yet he wasn't an elf...and so he thought of his own people, where one could live out a rich, prosperous life to over a few hundred summers. But he wasn't a dwarf, either. Orc? Impossible. And he certainly didn't look like one of the terrible...things...that his people found themselves fighting against as they bored down deeper into the Earth. So the only solution seemed to be that he really was from across the sea, and that he could very well be the messenger from the Maker that he first suspected!

All of these thoughts passed through Shûaz'rha's mind in the blink of an eye, and he took in a sharp breath, drawing himself up proudly--not wanting to look silly. Then another thought crossed his mind, and he seemed to slump a bit. Surely Mahál's messenger wouldn't go to the elves for help... he thought to himself. So of course he asked the obvious.

"Ah, but I ask you, friend, why is it that you seek out the elves for advice?" he leaned forward intently, looking up at John with intense curiosity, "Why not ask the dwarves for advice?..."

Like all great questions, however, this one was forced to await an answer as the dwarf's slate-colored eyes darted over to a rumbling sound coming from the woods. A moment later and a figure appeared, perched on top of a great beast and looking almost as like a dwarf as the human did, much to Shûaz'rha's confusion. He stood perplexed, not quite sure if he was going mad or if this was was just the beginning of more strangeness than was quite healthy for him.
 

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When the Dwarf spoke the name Mahal, John thought for a moment and then figured it was the name of the deity that was worshipped by that particular race, just as Nilme and the other Elves worshipped a god named Iluvatar. Simple variations in culture, he thought to himself, but he reminded himself to speak carefully lest an offhand remark could cause offence or even a quarrel with these beings.

"I have two parents, four brothers and sisters and a fiancee who probably think I drowned at sea," he answered. "If your people can help me get home then I would most appreciate your aid. Nilme here has not been across the sea himself but a lot of his people have. The folks in this city of Brithombar seem to be the experts in sailing so that's why we are headed there."

The conversation was interupted by the sound of heavy tromping through the forest accompanied by a hearty and cheerful singing. Presently, a type of elephant that was somewhat unlike what John was used to seeing at the circus or in National Geographic, ridden by an odd red-haired fellow lumbered into view. The rider halted the beast, dismounted and greeted the group while asking for breakfast. He was rather short and heavy set like Shûaz'rha and at first John thought he was another one of the Naugrim. But on closer inspection, he saw the familiar features of a human. "You're a Man!" John cried. He gave a whoop of joy and relief, and embraced the newcomer in a bear hug. "You can tell me how to get out of here right?" he asked after calming down and exchanging greetings. "I'll bet I drifted all the way to the coast of France or Spain. Tell me, are we in that Basque Region up at the top of the Iberian Peninsula?"
 

YayGollum

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Accustomed to adapting to varying customs, the short human took it all in stride and hugged gamely back, although he had grown a perplexed smirk. Easily picking up John's excitement for reasons of his own, he looked around again, as if he had to get his bearings. "Of course, fellow Man! Any direction will lead you out of this forest. It would help if I knew where you were trying to go, though." After glancing at the Dwarf with a concerned frown, he turned back to the human with eager eyes. "I am afraid that I have never heard any of the names you just mentioned. France? Spain? What was it? Bask region? Which peninsula? I am sorry, but I am still unfamiliar with the lands this far west. Are there any other names that those places go by? I do have a map somewhere, but I find that the journey is far more enjoyable with surprises behind every hill." He squinted at them through a childish grin, then eyed the remnants of the last meal to be had.
 

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Edrahil scoffed at Nilme's assertion that John was like unto the mighty and god-like Ainur. "Like one of the Ainur?" he exclaimed incredulously.

Curunir shook his head as he regarded Nilme, pitying this Dark Elf who had never seen the light of the Two Trees or the white shores of the Undying Land. "I have seen the Ainur, Dark Elf, and, mark my words, they are nothing like this mortal Man," he said, adding emphasis to the word mortal. "I dwellt in their presence long before the Atani first walked these lands. John is no different than the other Aftercomers I have had dealings with, Nilme. There is nothing exceptional about them, save it be the shortness of their fleeting lives. To compare them with the Ainur-" he stopped short, knowing that completing his thought would only anger Nilme. His voice softened as he continued. "I will grant that John has more courage than many of the Atani I have met. That does not alter the truth that he is nothing more than a lost and confused mortal Man."
He paused for a moment. "I might remind you, Nilme, that Noldorins are not the only ones capable of discourtesy and incivility," he said pointedly. "But-" he went on, holding up a hand to cut off Nilme's reply. "We are willing to put aside our differences and 'incivilities' to see that this errand done. I, too, think it likely you shall encounter more orcs on your journey. We will accompany you to Brithombar and lend our swords to the protection of this Atani."
 

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A scathing retort on his lips, Nilme was suddenly interrupted by a sudden unaccustomed trembling of the ground. All of the Elves looked around, startled. A stranger's voice reached Nilme's ears and he quickly returned to the camp, only to find John in an animated conversation with another man. A man who's mount was unlike any the Elf had ever seen.

Since there appeared to be no immediate danger, he approached the animal, which seemed friendly enough. It was busily tearing small limbs off a tree, so Nilme left the creature to it's meal, shaking his head in fascination.

The dwarf was watching the two men talk, so Nilme decided to join him. "When did they arrive? It seems almost as though John has found has found long-lost kin! Tell me...what do you make of..whatever you may call the beast? I've never seen it's like!" Nilme watched as the newcomer distractedly tried to answer John's questions, but seemed to be having no better luck than Nilme had had upon first encountering John. The man kept looking at the remains of their food wistfully. That made up Nilme's mind.

"Come, traveller! Sit down while I prepare you some food. Tell us of your journeys." He tossed the man a waterskin from his pack as he set about making breakfast for their guest.
 

YayGollum

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Mostly focused on staying ready to react to such a friendly human, he only noticed the elf's presence when it spoke out to him. He caught the waterskin and nodded his thanks before taking a sip, then lowered himself to the ground as quickly as he could while watching his benefactor work. He was too distracted by the food to gather his thoughts well enough to decide on an adventure to relate, for a while. When he eventually obtained a bit of focus, he looked around to size his audience up before attempting to repay the kindness.

After spotting the other elves and waving them over ---> "Ah! Come closer, Quendi! How lucky am I, to have met such a rare troupe! It reminds me of a circus in Harad that I had the opportunity to join! I'd still think that some of them were at least half Ainur, if I hadn't been able to pilfer old Blunderbuss there so easily!" A reminiscent laugh and a mischievous grin were given but he seemed to be expecting everyone to gather around before he continued.
 

Elorendil

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Curunir regarded the newcomer, yet another of the Atani, with a mixture of curiosity and vague suspicion. Edrahil stood beside him, staring at the Aftercomer with undisguised suspicion and disgust. For his part, Curunir was actually interested in this stranger. His unusual mount intrigued the Noldo. Curunir had heard of the oliphants, but he had never seen one until now. From what he had heard told of the beasts, he had expected them to be a bit bigger.

The Atani seemed to notice him for the first time. "Come closer, Quendi!" he said, beckoning. His conversation with Nilme still fresh in his mind, as well as his promise to "put incivilities aside," Curunir took a step towards this strange, fire-haired Adain, despite his reservations. "How lucky am I, to have met such a rare troupe!" he continued. "It reminds me of a circus in Harad that I had the opportunity to join! I'd still think that some of them were at least half Ainur, if I hadn't been able to pilfer old Blunderbuss there so easily!"

This piqued Curunir's curiosity. "You have been to the Harad?" he asked with interest. He had heard many rumors of the far off place and its colorful inhabitants. Mindful of Nilme's watchful eye, though the Dark Elf seemed intent upon fixing a meal the their guest, Curunir seated himself beside the Atani in what he hoped looked like a gesture of goodwill. "My journeys have not taken me as far as that land. Tell me of it."
 

YayGollum

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With more elves than anything else around, the human bit his lip while wondering about what sorts of conversation they might prefer. He repositioned himself excitedly, though, so as to include everyone in his explanation. "As a matter of course, my friend! Hm. Let's see... Ah! For one, it is full of happy, hard-working people. The farther west we go, the more conflicts we seem to find. Harad is lucky to be so far away from such things. It is much warmer there, too. I can understand why most that I have met in the west are so quiet. Not as much heat to light the path to your passions, I'd suspect. And they have mumaks, for one thing. Smarter than any horse I've ever met, old Blunderbuss is! Well, Harad was a fun place. If you want to see the whole thing, though, plan on staying and getting lost several times. It's much larger than anything they call a country up here! Heh. But I am just a wanderer. The world is my home. Every part has its charms. Er, at least so far!" He paused only a beat to take the time to glance around at each of the others. "Now, would you let a man die from suspense? No. You look like good people! What, if I may ask, is such an odd gathering collected for?"
 
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