From the journal of Alto Boffin

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From the journal of Alto Boffin

Post by Iliana » 23 Jun 2011 19:03


In loving memory of my dearest Papa, Alto Boffin , Master Scholar of Gondor, Ranger of the Westlands.

"Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell."

-- from "Sam's Song"

Preface by Nitramin Caleniel, Ranger of Ithilien

This is a book of hope. It is also without question the story which has caused me the most pain during my life in these Realms, for it is a story of self-sacrifice, and thus of the departure from this world of one of its most unique inhabitants. While I still claim the message of the following story to be a positive one, it is because the subject of this tale, Alto Boffin, who lived and died for his beliefs with unflinching courage, and because his death, however much it hurt us all, was a significant contribution to our continued struggle.

Alto Boffin was an elusive creature, known in person only to a select few, yet those who earned the priviledge of his friendship will not ever forget him: For you cannot be touched by a legend and remain unchanged.

I remember vividly my first encounter with Alto, at that time the Lieutenant of the grey company. When we met I had recently offered my service to the Rangers of the Westlands, and was waiting to hear from an interested Mentor. I received a letter requesting an interview, and hurried to the hidden Ranger quarters in the Druedain forest. At the board I found a short curly-haired hobbit, less than half my size and dressed in a grey cloak fastened with a star-shaped brooch. He led me to a peaceful glade in the forest, and started preparing a campfire, chatting in a friendly manner as he went about his work. Looking at his cheerful smile and furry feet I could hardly have imagined a figure less imposing, and yet there was something about him from that first moment, a gleam of sharp intelligence and deep wisdom in his gaze, that told me beyond any doubt that there was much more to this hobbit than met the eye. The gloom began to gather among the ancient tree-trunks, and while he carefully tended the flames from which showers of sparks rose towards the leafy sky above, Alto began questioning me in a seemingly aimless and sociable manner. We talked until the break of dawn and well into the morning, and before the interview was done I had told Lieutenant Boffin more about myself than I had thought was there to tell. When we parted, Alto said to me that he had a pupil already, but he promised to mentor me when his current pupil graduated, unless I was spoken for before that time. Later that day I was contacted by Draft, who conducted a second interview in the presence of the junior Recruiter Nightingale. At the end of this interview I swore fealty to Gondor as Draft's pupil.

Although I was not mentored by Alto, he remained a model of Rangerhood to me. But in spite of his clear-cut qualities of courage and compassion, honour and intelligence, he did however remain the most enigmatic figure I have yet come across in this world. Alto combined in one person the qualities of the heroes of the old songs of my people with the cheerful and homey nature of a true Shire citizen, and beyond this there was something more. At the core of this smiling curly-haired figure was both steely determination and fiery temper, and as fortunate as I consider his friends, as luckless did I count his enemies.

When Captain Iliana Feahith asked me if I would write this introduction I was deeply honoured, yet I was not sure if I could fulfill the task. It is not easy in a few words to do any credit to a person of as much depth as Alto, nor to do it in a manner worthy of one who was both a Master Scholar of Gondor, and a poet. But Alto Boffin's words in his last letters to his daughter the Captain and to his fellow Rangers will speak for themselves.


Hevenesdei, Eighteenth day of Afterlithe of the year 1417 (SR)

Greetings Rangers of the Westlands!

I write with tidings of desperation and hope. Some weeks back I chanced upon one of my cousins, Pippin Took, in a tavern in Minas Tirith. He told me a rather amazing tale of his journey from the Shire, a tale of Uruks and Ents, Rohirrim and Wizards, seeing-stones and lost caverns.

It was not these things, however, that made my ears perk up, but rather a more quiet, almost unspoken tale of two hobbits who are now alone in the wilderness bearing a great burden. He would not tell me what this burden was, nor would he tell me of their destination, but something in his uncharacteristic solemnity told me that this tale was perhaps the most important.

The tale spun quietly in the back of my head until two days ago, when upon a brief excursion to Ithilien I found something entirely out of place. Two sets of hobbit prints and the prints of some creature I had never seen before. I immediately climbed into one of our outpost trees and spoke with a scout. To my amazement, my cousins had been honoured guests of Faramir only two nights before! Even more amazing was that Faramir bid them farewell under the guidance of a creature named Smeagol. Now that third set of prints made the hackles on my neck rise -- a creature by that name escaped from Mirkwood some time back during an orc raid.

I picked up the trail of this unlikely trio and found, to my alarm, that they were heading east! The tracks led southwards for a ways, and then doubled back north and east, at last ending at the foot of the stairs ascending Cirith Ungol.

Whatever this errand my two cousins are on must be grave indeed to take them into the heart of Mordor -- and through such a dangerous pass. That place is warded by a dark guardian, leading me to suspect this Smeagol may be leading them into treachery.

It would be futile to send a squadron of rangers up the stairs in aid, we would only draw attention to them, and likely do nothing more than bring hordes of orcs rushing to capture them and crush our relatively small forces. Hence I will depart on a covert mission with only one companion -- another hobbit. Together we will attempt to lead His armies on a goose-chase through His very own land -- and away from the true bearer of this burden.

I have enlisted the aid of a Kahedan named Sehirus for the task. The Kahedans are stout fighters, and we will now require all the skills at our disposal to carry of this mission successfully.

I intend to make for Barad Dur itself. Although my knees shake in fear, although my teeth chatter in despair, still I will press on as long as I am able. Although I know not the mission of my cousin, I feel in my bones it is far more important than anything I can or will ever do in the coming war.

I leave with the knowledge that I will not return. My heart is heavy, and I look about this room with many fond memories. You have made my life a happy and rewarding one. You have been the most oustanding group of friends I could have hoped for. Thank you for the many blessings and memories you have given me. I shall cling to them as I lead our enemies on a merry chase!

I will send reports as long as I am able. Keep up the fight, Rangers of the Westlands!

Yours always,

Alto Boffin Ranger of the Westlands


Sterrendei, Twenty-first day of Afterlithe of the year 1417 (SR)

Captain --

I am presently two days into my mission to the dark land. Following is a journal I have kept to date:

After rounding up my traveling companion from the taverns of Minas Tirith (I yanked him from a mug, much to his dismay), we journeyed eastward and crossed the moonlit Anduin by our covert ferry. After a day's march, I returned us to the trail of our cousins, Frodo and Samwise, at the foot of the stairs at Cirith Ungol. Shouldering our packs and swallowing our fears, we ascended the long climbing stairway.

At the top, we found evidence that Shelob had recently had visitors - webbing slung at all exits, only beginning to grow brittle and dry. Fortunately the material had grown thin enough to cut, but only after much effort and the dulling of my blade. Within we found a trail of black sticky fluid leading away into the depths of one tunnel, but not a sign of hobbit or Smeagol. From the signs, Shelob had been pricked, but whatever had become of the pricker could not be determined. As it seemed unlikely to find survivors down the tunnel through which Shelob had fled, we chose a different passage and began to sniff about for signs of our kindred.

I eventually picked up tracks of a different sort -- orc. A small band had seemingly appeared from nowhere, visited the site of Shelob's pain, and retreated back to their point of origin. A careful search of the passage, however, revealed a secret way leading away from the main tunnel complex. This we followed with growing dread - we were walking straight into Minas Morgul!

The dread eventually manifested in paralysis at the foot of two statues at the gate of the tower. These evil watchers, each with three heads, had a will, an evil will, that made our hearts quail and our knees lock. I fear my mission would have ended there, had not Sehirus, a servant of the Valar, called upon Elbereth for her light. In a small voice he spoke the word of power "Silme" and his robes burst into brilliant white light. The will of the watchers subsided and we passed through the gate and into horror.

My captain, I fear that what we found at that tower spells mischief for the Westlands, for the stronghold of the Nazgul was empty! Of the great host of orcs rumoured to house within there was no sign. Although I cannot confirm the location of this horde, I worry that it is headed west - straight into the heart of Gondor. Be alert!

What we did find, however, were a fair number of dead orcs. While my first hope was that our forces had struck a blow to this stronghold, a closer inspection revealed that these foul creatures had battled among themselves. Orcs are greedy by nature, and they must have squabbled over something of worth - it must have been valuable indeed to have brought on such a ruckus. Up and up the spiraling stairs the battle had raged - we sped upwards until we at last popped out into a little room at the summit. The battle had culminated here, but no orcs appeared to survive.

How odd.

I found this intriguing enough to carefully search the room, and it was this intuition that at last provided some clue of my cousins -- an ever so tiny leaf of pipeweed! At least one of my cousins had been in this very room! There was no sign, living or dead, that any halfling remained in the tower, so there was only one direction for us -- east.

Passing the silent watchers again, we began to descend into a land I had never dreamed my bare feet would touch. I am now covered in the filth of this place, and yet I cringe still at the first fouling of its dust upon my toes. A blessing, however, despite His fouling of this land, as the small party of orc tracks heading in the direction of Barrad Dur were easy to find and follow. Even as I write, we give chase!

In haste,

Alto Boffin Lieutenant, Gondor Company Ranger of the Westlands


Meresdei, Twenty-sixth day of Afterlithe of the year 1417 (SR) from the east.

Captain --

In the days since my last report, we have tracked and pursued a small band of orcs moving quickly from the tower of Minas Morgul toward a far darker destination. Although I cannot see it from this distance, I know with no doubt that Barad Dur lies directly ahead.

For all their evil, orcs have little guile, and with the confidence of beings in their own demesne, our quarry made no effort to conceal themselves. This horrid land is covered entirely with ash and filth, such that our greenest pupil could have tracked them while blinded.

We sighted them last night, a small pack loping in the distance. We could not make out any hobbits or other prisoners among them, but it was dark and even my eyes cannot see all details from so far away. We sped after them even faster and ran through the night.

As a dim light began to grow on the horizon (the sun never truly shows its face in this land) we rounded a bend to find the five orcs resting in the road not five metres away! If we were surprised, they were shocked to find two halflings hurtling toward them in a place where no halfling has any business existing! My sword flew from its sheathe as I charged into the band -- one orc lost his head before his hand could reach the hilt of his curved scimitar.

Sand flew into the eyes of a second even as Sehirus dropped a third with a punch to the solar plexus. For the moment, the odds were even.

I have to give these filthy creatures credit - the orcs of the Red Eye know how to handle a sword. I took a rather nasty cut across my brow before felling my adversary, fortunately just in time to parry the orc I had blinded just moments before. My travelling companion and I fought with our backs against one another, and the only way I could tell he still lived was that I had not yet taken a scimitar through my back. That and the tell-tale snap an orc neck makes when a Kahedan roundhouse kick breaks it.

When the dust settled, we stood over the corpses of four orcs and a fifth clutching his stomach in agony. I had driven my sword through the vile creature, and it would be only moments before he would be cast into whatever void exists for such tortured souls. Before he could slip away, I put him to the question.

"Yes, me see hobbow" he groaned. When I pressed him, I discovered he had seen a hobbit in the tower. Had he seen two? No. I pressed again.

"No no .. only one hobbow. Widdiw fewwow, pwetty silvow coat. Pwetty silvow leaf. Nasty hobbow wiff pwetty fings." And so on and so forth.

When the chap died at last, we searched through cloaks and packs until we discovered two interesting items. The first was a small leaf-shaped brooch. The leaf was shaped very much like a rare mallorn tree. The second item I recognized on sight - a small coat of mithril armour - the very coat that old Bilbo had placed in the museum at Michel Delving years ago. I am certain the story of how these fair items came into this fouled land must be amazing, but one thing seems obvious -- These items had been in the possession of Frodo and Samwise until very recently. These orcs must have been speeding toward the dark tower with the hopes of receiving a reward from their master, or perhaps just to pawn them off to someone with silver coins for nformation and artifacts.

My captain, I see this as a small ray of hope. These orcs may have borne my cousin's belongings, but they did not bear my cousin. Also, while this mithril coat might be worth a king's ransom, I cannot believe this is the burden he was carrying into this land. Hence I will continue to believe that he somehow escaped and has resumed his journey to whatever grim fate awaits him.

Sehirus and I are going to press on toward the dark tower. Crows have been circling above us and I have little doubt He knows we are here. Perhaps we can lead Him on a little chase and keep His eye on us -- and away from my cousins -- for a little longer.

Pray for us,

Alto Boffin Ranger of the Westlands


Highdei, Eleventh day of Wedmath of the year 1417 (SR)

My Captain,

We have led our adversaries on a merry chase!

Many times over the past few days we have sat quietly laughing while entire troops of orcs pass almost close enough to reach out and touch from our hiding places. Perhaps there was a day when they might have caught the unfamiliar scent of cleanliness, but I fear that after weeks in this land we stink just as much as they. This is hardly a source of pride, but it does keep us alive.

These wretched creatures are amazingly easy to deceive. Despite the numerous crows and unseen spies of the Dark Lord which doubtless mark our progress, His orcs seem unable to follow even the most obvious tracks. I have taken the habit of leaving false trails, doubling back and heading in unexpected directions, and to my unending frustration I must almost mount a signpost to make them even notice. Not that we seem in any danger of being captured -- if they cannot follow an obvious false trail, they can hardly follow a carefully obscured real one. But after taking such care, I feel my work is unappreciated.

We had a near brush this morning, however. Our journey toward Barad Dur is dawn in this land we were spotted by two rather large orc hosts. I estimate each host was comprised of several hundred footsoldiers and perhaps thirty warg-riders. It was one of these who broke away from the main group and gave us chase.

Perhaps he thought we would quail at his snarling mount and simply surrender. Who can guess what goes through the mind of an orc? Perhaps a couple of simple country hobbits would have done just that, but Sehirus and I have seen far worse things than wargs on this journey. I opened the beast from stem to stern as it leapt at us, while Sehirus stunned the poor orc with a well-placed punch. Propping the chap against a boulder, we ran due north as fast as our little legs would carry us.

When the time comes for Gondor to battle these hosts, my Captain, remember this one important fact about orcs -- they are embarrassingly predictable. After going to ground, circling back, and hiding in a shallow ravine to the south, we watched the now wargless orc recover, jump up and down, shout to his approaching fellows and point north. I must admit that Sehirus and I laughed to the point of tears at their backsides tromping away from us. We shall press on after dark and continue to harass and confuse these scoundrels for as long as we may.


Alto Boffin Ranger


Sunnendei, Thirteenth day of Wedmath in the year 1417 (SR)


The tower of Barad Dur, called Lugburz in the foul language of this land, spire of darkness, ancient fortress of evil -- a place I had never thought to see with these eyes, appeared upon our horizon this morning.

In truth, we have seen the plumes of smoke belching forth from this wretched place for some days now. The Valar only know what dark machinations and industry produce such fumes, we know only that dread and weakness of spirit seem to grow in us with every step closer. Even the surprisingly light mithril coat I now wear seems to weigh heavily upon my weary soul.

Captain, I fear the end game is fast approaching on us. The land leading down to the tower itself if flat and desolate, and few places between lend themselves to stealth. Crows continue to circle overhead, croaking what are assuredly insults and jeers upon our heads. During the night, something far larger and wicked than a crow passed high above us. We could not see it, but rather felt an unseen shadow of malignancy and evil drift over our concealed campsite. It would seem that the Nine have taken wing - beware!

As we descend into the open plain before us, I see the dust rising from three armies -- one to the left, one to the right, and one behind. How we chuckled and laughed only days ago at the inept armies of the Red Eye. I suspect the last laugh will not be ours.

Only one way remains open to us -- ahead, into the waiting shadow of Barad Dur.

Alto Boffin


Trewesdei, Fifteenth day of Wedmath in the year 1417 (SR)


Although we are yet a full march away, the tower dominates the horizon before us.

We fell under ambush this morning. Scouts from one of the pursuing armies managed to arrive ahead of us and concealed themselves in a large crack cutting through the parched terrain. As we approached, I could sense that something was amiss -- despite the stench of this place, something in the air smelled of danger. As I stooped to search for tracks, an archer rose from the trench and let fly in my direction. I live only because Sehirus saw the chap and leapt before me, taking the arrow in my stead.

Seven orcs leapt immediately from the trench, weapons drawn, teeth bared in grins of confidence and malice. I stood above my ailing friend, tightened my grip upon the longsword in my hands, and vowed to take at least half of them with me before I fell. With shrieking cries, the orcs charged toward us.

There are few virtues in this land, but one advantage to fighting on sun-scorched desolation is the abundance of dust and sand. I managed to blind several of my enemies just as they reached us and threw back two others with my sword, but it was not enough. Two orcs slipped through my guard and hammered at my shoulders and chest with heavy scimitars, knocking me from my feet and beating me to the ground. Were it not for old Bilbo's coat of mithril, I would have assuredly been sliced to ribbons. As it was, I lay upon the ground, bruised and breathless, staring up into the eyes of my enemies.

"Fawewell widdow hobbo," grunted the largest orc as he raised his scimitar, "No worry, me make swippows outta you footies."

I closed my eyes and waited for the end.

Needless to say, I was somewhat surprised when it did not arrive on cue.

After several moments, I peeked an eye open to see my attackers still standing above me, looking rather dazed and confused. The big one, who I assumed was the leader, stared stupidly at the scimitar in his hand. I must admit I shared the general sense of confusion that had settled upon the scene like a shroud.

"Come, Mr. Boffin," whispered Sehirus, "we must go quickly..."

Still confused, I stared stupidly at my injured companion. My gaze was drawn from the arrow buried deep in his side to the pouch on his belt. Why was he fumbling about with those little mushrooms at a time like this?

Then reason returned with a rush. A peace spell! Bless the Valar for helping their heralds think clearly when a ranger guide cannot.

"Come," he whispered again, more urgent and with obvious pain.

We fled as quickly as we could, given the injuries of my companion (and my own as it turned out -- I acquired several broken ribs in the encounter). After Sehirus lay clutching his side in agony, wheezing in quiet whispers of pain. For all my skills in the healing arts, I fear I was able to do little more than stabilize the arrow with a strip torn from my cloak -- to remove it would undoubtedly spell a hasty end for my friend.

Although he appears to grow weaker by the moment, Sehirus even now presses for our return to the journey ahead. Unspoken is the understanding that the end of our journey grows near.



Hevenesdei, Sixteenth day of Wedmath of the year 1417 (SR)


I have at long last come to the end of my adventure. How I wish it could be 'there and back again' but I shall have to make do with 'there'.

I stand in the very shadow of His lair, Barad Dur, gazing upon the three converging hosts which now descend upon us like a dark tide. Sehirus is resting with his back against the battlements, eyes closed, breath shallow, skin pale. I no longer doubt that the arrow which he took in my place was poisoned -- I cannot cure it, but I have eased his suffering as much as possible. It seems he is mustering his reserves for one last battle. He will not have a long wait.

This last night seemed eternal as we limped across the miles, and yet in retrospect it passed all too soon. How I wish the sun could shine here! The dawn will soon break upon Gondor, but not here. The sun has abandoned this land. To have the morning sun warm upon my face just one last time..

O stars that in the Sunless Year
With shining hand by her were sown,
In windy fields now bright and clear
We see your silver blossom blown!
O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!

Somehow, the singing of her fair name seems to lift the darkness here, if only the darkness in our hearts. A sense of rage radiates from the walls behind us -- He has heard our song! No doubt He peers down upon us from some high window, willing us to submit, willing us to surrender our souls to Him. Beneath the rage, however, is the fear that betrays Him -- fear of the name of Elbereth -- fear of .. something else? Why does He not come down to claim us? What does He fear from two hobbits?

Two hobbits .. I am reminded of my mission .. of two other hobbits in the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie. If my mission has been successful, they have escaped His eye -- if my mission has been successful, He believes us to be them! He fears Frodo Baggins! What is this burden that my cousin bears? My mind shudders from the implications.

To whatever end, we seem to have drawn a vast number of His orcs upon us. In a moment, I shall nudge poor Sehirus awake to do battle one final time.

As I meet my end, far away from the gently rolling hills of the Shire, I recall a verse that upon first hearing seemed nothing more than a silly little rhyme.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I must finish with haste, my daughter. The orcs have crested the last rise and will fall upon us soon. I have tied my diamond ring to this pigeon -- please deliver it unto the steward. With fondness I read the inscription one last time. Alto: Ranger of Gondor.

Sehirus has risen to make his final stand beside me. As I pen my last words, he is offering a prayer to the Valar above. I wonder ..

Ohhhh .. sweet Varda .. the dawn!



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