The Ranger And The Fountain

Story by the Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner

High up in the rugged northern heights of Evendim, between the cascading falls of the Even-rills and the frozen wastes of Forochel, there is a glade. In this hidden place the grass was of the brightest green, the water pure and crystal clear, and no stain marred even the smallest pebble. For ages uncounted it had lain hidden, a place of quiet and singular beauty, untouched by the toils and troubles of the outside world. Wars had come and gone and many lands had been changed or fallen into the sea, but not here. Through remarkable fortune or some will of the Gods, the Glade had remained inviolate.

In the middle of the glade, surrounded by the pink blossoming flowers of cherry tree’s, was a fountain. Carved by some unknown hand into the living rock, it had existed for nearly as long as the glade itself. The cool blue water basin was overlooked by pink granite stones carved into the shape of a great eagle overlooking the leafy circular pool. It was here that the sun shined brightest and it was here that the source of the Glade’s imperishable endurance through time, lived. But though it had remained hidden from the eyes of men and elves since the first cherry blossom had fallen to earth, it was fated that eventually, it would be found.

He stood before the fountain now, a slight wind blowing through a long black beard that reached all the way past his belt. A green scarf was tied around his head and green was his rainment, with the exception of a chainmail shirt that shone like polished silver. In one hand he held the shaft of a mighty spear, a pendant tied near it’s sharpened tip, fluttered lightly in the breeze. If one looked close enough, one might discern an emblem stitched into the pendant that identified it’s owner as one of the Dunadain Rangers, tasked with defending the lands of the West. Amongst the poets it was said.

His brow was set with troubles great
No man could break him from his vows
Or best his spear, unwavering
Against the dark he conquered fate

Nobody knows how he had found the hidden glade and in the greater scheme of things it is not important. What is important is that once he discovered it, his life was dedicated to making sure that the glade’s secrets remained hidden. For this sanctified haven was surrounded in a sea of darkness, and the darkness had eyes and evil intentions on all places in this Middle-earth that were pure and unsullied. But the Ranger was undaunted and tireless, and no thing of evil came near the paths into the glade that did not meet the point of his great weapon.

He waited now at the foot of the fountain, the weight of his labours heavy on his shoulders, the care-lines deep on his brow. A ripple in the water catches his eye and he stands with baited breath for what he knows is about to happen. The water bubbles slightly and out of the pool, like a blossoming flower, rises a lady of unsurpassed loveliness and grace. The spirit of the glade smiles at the Ranger and all sorrow and weariness is washed away as she places her hands in his. They stand there, hand in hand, and one gets the feeling of having entered the middle of a play half finished, with many acts passed and many more to follow. You do not understand fully what is going on, you only appreciate the beauty of this single scene, highlighted from the rest, a painting on the wall.

Minutes pass like hours as the lady and the ranger stare into each other, wordlessly exchanging feelings they both know so well that language would only cheapen and confine them. The breeze picks up and the pair enjoy the sight of cherry blossoms fluttering slowly down around them like a gentle rain before settling on the fountain basin. She laughs gently and the ranger is entranced by the musical tones of that laughter and he wishes again that he never had to leave her side. But the world outside had not gotten any less dark and a warden who neglects his oaths by enjoying to much what he protects, often loses that which he wishes to save.

It was these thoughts that occupied his mind when his trained ears picked up the sound of a twig breaking on the ground somewhere behind him. The ranger turns swiftly but can see nothing through the canopy that surrounds the fountain, but he knows he was not mistaken. He turns back towards the fountain, but the lady is gone and feelings of forboding begin to creep into every fiber of his being. His mighty spear is quickly in his hand, his fine-tuned senses fully on the alert as he prepares for whatever approaches his way.

No one but the ranger had ever set foot in the glade, but his acute hearing was picking up the unmistakable sounds of heavy footsteps in the distance, and they were coming his way. Soon, he could hear several voices speaking in a harsh gutteral language and it was then that he knew who approached the fountain. The Gauradan had lived in the wilds of Evendim long before the sons of Numenor had ever set foot there and they had warred ceaselessly with them for control of the land. For a time, when the kingdom of Arnor was strong, the Gauradan had been pushed back into the frosts of Forochel, but with Arnor’s waning, the wild-men had slowly begun to reclaim the forests and waters of their ancestral home.

There was a particularly evil shaman among them, and it was this soothsayer who was to be the ranger’s greatest foe. Rumour had come to him of the secret glade and he hungered for it endlessly, using his scouts and anamistic powers to try and descry it’s location. But always he had been thwarted by the ranger and they had fought and battled endlessly, though never face to face, two foes equally skilled and deadly in their ways. Many years he had hunted and it was only now, in this brief moment of repose, that he had finally discovered what he sought. The shaman decended on the glade with glee, three viscious, wolf crowned warriors, flanking him on both sides as he walked pathways formerly untainted by his poisonous arts. Flowers wilted as he walked and the cherry tree’s that guarded the fountain darkened and parted away from his touch and for the first time evil entered that sacred place, and found the ranger waiting.

The two adversaries faced each other across the clearing, heedless of all else, and not the slightest sound could be heard. Finally the shaman sneered in triumph and taking his totemistic staff in hand, pointed it at the ranger, and his gauradan minions attacked. As the wild-men came on, slavering and howling in their battle frenzy, the ranger stood firm, his spear before him like a sharpened tower, his back to the nature-carved fountain he had sworn to protect. Wrecklessly, with a fury born of the wolves they worshiped, the gauradan struck and the ranger met them full force. His hand-wrought spear flashed high in the sun and sang as it danced in and out in furious melee, and soon the tip was as red as the pendant that cut the air behind it. The frenzied battle state of the wild-men was no match for the well trained skill of the ranger and soon once long untainted grass was darkened and stained with their blood.

But the wicked shaman only laughed maliciously in his heart as he witnessed the carnage before him, and as the last warrior fell the two foes finally stood before each other face to face. The Guaradan shaman raised his great totem staff once, and the sky overhead darkened and the tree’s seemed to weep for the loss of the light. A second time the staff was raised and came down on the fearless ranger, a signal that the final battle between the two was about to begin. Furiously did the fight waxed and wane before the fountain as the two long time adversaries clashed and strove with each other for the mastery. Both of them were consumed by their parts in this play, one to corrupt and one to preserve and you wonder if this struggle had happened in many other places, in many other lands.

The two combatants strove with each other back and forth, both of them knowing what was at stake, neither of them willing to be the one to fall. But the totem staff of the shaman raised itself high for a third time and came down on the ranger and the mighty spear was broken in two. The defeated ranger was brought low before his nemesis, his shattered weapon lay useless on the ground and he listened as the wild-man howled in exstasy at the shaman’s final victory. The stalwart warden watched as the Shaman lifted his staff for a fourth time, and he wept for the loss of all he had held dear. As the Shaman prepared this final blow, the ranger closed his eyes and imagined he heard the quiet rippling of water behind him.

A deep breath and a pause, but no blow fell and the ranger opened his eyes to see a strange sight before him. The evil shaman stood towering above him, his arms raised high ,his staff poised to strike the fatal blow that would end the ranger once and for all. But the soothsayer’s eyes were transfixed in wide-eyed wonder and he stood as if frozen in time, a relic of a bygone age. The ranger turned and saw a thing that sent his heart racing and his spirit burst forth with immeasurable joy. There his lady stood, her spirit uncloaked by mortal form, a beacon of light, radiant and neverending. The dark clouds were rolled back and the sun shone down on the fountain as if it shone only for the two of them. The shaman was pierced straight through with the overwelming splendour of the Spirit of the Glade, his body turned to dust and was carried off by the wind, never to trouble those hallowed grounds again.

The ranger shielded his eyes, but soon the Spirit returned to the beautiful lady of the fountain that he had first discovered years ago, and he was glad. They stood once again, hand in hand, cherishing those things they held dear. Those things we hold dear gain potency, all the more when we come close to losing them, and thus it was for the ranger and the lady of the fountain. The silent call of the eagle fountainhead is answered from high overhead by an eagle of the sky, and we find outselves carried on the wings of that great bird from out of the dream. The heights bewilder us, the sun blinds us, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot get a glimpse of the secret pathways that might lead us to that place. But we are content with our memory only, and we cherish all the more those places close to our hearts, and those who defend them.

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