13th Halimath, 2948 (Autumn)
Weary, miserable, and feeling in need of a rest, the Company say goodbye to their friends at The Old Ford and head off to Stonyford, settling down in their hall whilst the rains pelt the roof and water the land.
During the week they join the Beornings in song, drink and a last feast before Winter sets in and they have to preserve their supplies. The songs and companionship, laughter and tall tales help lift their spirits, and both Dafydd Ap Alfred and Alberic of Woodland Town feel a renewed confidence, their hope blossoming as the end of the year draws ever near. The others feel less confident, but even they feel less of the burdens they faced up in the High Pass, and as the days grow colder and the rain stops for a time, they pack up their gear and head East.
Planning on eventually ending up either at the Lonely Mountain or perhaps back down to Rhosgobel, they cross over into the forest, following on the rumours of the ruined tower that Gilthannas heard from Beorn. They cross the fields, entering the forest just South of the Old Forest Road, passing into the misty dell of the Barrows of the Northmen: nine rows of ancient barrows, wreathed in mist as evening draws in. They find a sheltered spot to make camp, and set watch as they eat a cold meal and keep and eye out for danger.
23rd Halimath, 2948 (Autumn)
During the night, Popo Took wakes the others. He points out small, flickering lights visible in the mist, like candles but with flames that are blue and bright. They seem to be leading off deeper into the mist. Recalling the tales, they grab their gear, leaving the ponies at the camp, and move off into the mist. The two Hobbits move ahead, keeping quiet and virtually invisible. Wilibald Took takes point, and sees the lights disappearing into the hollow of a barrow. The lights flare and suddenly blink out as the companions gather closer to the hill.
The stone that once blocked the entrance lies broken, covered by moss and obscured by weeds. A dark, low-ceilinged passage leads inside. They light torches and shine them in, seeing the tunnel sloping down into deeper darkness. Wilibald sneaks down the tunnel, and in the dim light cast by the torches he spies a domed chamber, a pair of stone biers in the middles, a pile of coins and some gemstone glinting faintly in the light. The biers are empty. Roots poke through the ceiling, stone blocks cracked where the roots have broken through. The air is stale, cold, and the Hobbit scurries back to tell the others.
They agree to all go in, and with torches raised they make their way through the tunnel and gather in the chamber.
Suddenly the earthen ground parts as a pair of Wood-Wight’s climb out of the cold earth, catching the companions momentarily off-guard. Alberic and Dafydd fling their torches to the ground as the Wights flank them; Gilthannas sends one staggering back with an arrow in its chest, but the creature just rears up, its skeletal form shaking the Hobbits and filling their bones with a deep chill; they retaliate with their King’s Blades, stabbing low as Dafydd thrusts with his spear at the creature’s chest, and Alberic swings high with his axe; another arrow flies into the creature’s chest: combined they send one staggering back against the wall, and another couple of jabs and a swing, and then the wight collapses as Popo slashes it apart with his sword, severing the bonds holding it together: brittle bones shatter, earth falls away, and the creature is gone.
The other tries to claw at the living, but Wilibald parries and dodges, keeping its attention of him as the others hack and slash, weakening it enough for Dafydd to deliver the final blow!
They seize the treasure, silver coins for the most part, but one particular item catches the eye of the Elf: an emerald of Numenor, reflecting and seeming to hold the light of the torches inside. He pockets it, and they exit.
Back to the camp they go, feeling lighter, happier. The ponies greet them warmly with soft neighs, and the Company settle down for the night. They sleep peacefully, and as dawn breaks, the dark forest become a grey, misty realm, and the search for the ruins begins.