Guarding the Heedless Folk

Author: Branwyn (Lady Branwyn)

Nominator: Larner

2011 Award Category: Adventure: General - Third Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Violence

Summary: Written for the 2008 "Six Days of Spooky Challenge" at the Spooky Arda LiveJournal Community. When a man disappears, the Breefolk reluctantly enlist the aid of an untried ranger.

Read the Story  ✧  Backup Story Link

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

Brandir was warned on his first posting as a Ranger to be careful among the Breelanders, not to drink heavily, not to gamble, or to do anything else that might dull his wits or put him at moral or unnecessary physical risk. For the most part his duty should be light, unless enemies should come from outside the lands that these folk dwelt in. But when a Breelander’s horse returned to Bree without its master, young Brandir finds himself leading a party of Hobbits and Men in search of the missing Man, and the path leads directly into the Barrowdowns. All in the party knew the terrible tales told of those drawn by the Witch-king into the old burial grounds, and their only hope was to find the missing Man before he could be taken by the wights for purposes of their own. But when Brandir realized that the stricken Breelander was already under the dread influence of the wights, what was he to do! A wonderful story told in four chapters, this has a wonderful balance between creepiness and action that is delightfully satisfying. Lady Branwin’s details convey the atmosphere most effectively, and bring this original character most convincingly to life, drawing us with him into the eeriness of the Barrow-downs and its dread denizens so that we find ourselves drawing back in horror even as we admiringly watch Brandir and his fellow Dunedain going effectively about their business. A most satisfying read!

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 9

I love Rangers, so I'm always glad to see a good story about them. Branwyn gives us a coming of age story for a young Ranger, left behind at Bree to keep an eye on things until Halbarad shows up to relieve him. Brandir does his best to hold to all the advice he gets from his more experienced peers, and to deal with the fact that Bree just doesn't seem to be a cauldron of trouble. It's so quiet, one might feel useless. Except of course that Bree is bordered by the Barrow Downs, from which can come trouble in terrifying forms. Branwyn does a fantastic job writing the terror of the Barrow Wights, and showing them to be deadly creatures in their undead afterlife. This story definitely gives fresh legs to Aragorn's claim that Bree lies [within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin]. Branwyn manages to keep this story short, but it's packed with action, and Brandir acquits himself well in the end, though he's so young, he lacks the perspective to see that. Fortunately, he does have more experienced heads to help him, and to convince him that he has a vital role to play in guarding those who do not know the forms that the enemy can take. Well done, Branwyn! Thanks for the story!

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 8

After being cautioned so sternly against doing anything enjoyable (because it might antagonize the Bree-folk,) that he might as well been required to take vows, Brandir, an OC and very young Ranger, is sent off to his first post. When a Breelander goes missing, the local people need Brandir's help. This story is well written in all respects: plot, characterization, dialogue, and style. Brandir's aid to the locals is, typically, not valued as it should be, and circumstances are such that he soon feels he has failed. It takes the succinct but wise words of their Chieftain Aragorn to make Brandir understand that he has not done a poor job. BTW, one of my favorite parts of this tale is when a local man, under the influence of magical forces, addresses Aragorn as "lord," and one of the locals believes the man is out of his head because "That's just Strider, the Ranger." Those lines kind of sum up the meaning of this tale; the Rangers and the Dunadain are needed, but not valued as they should be. A very enjoyable story!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 7

I recall beginning this story when it was first posted as part of a "spooky" challenge on LiveJournal. Yet somehow I never got around to finishing it-- no doubt RL interruptions put it out of my mind. I was very glad to see it here, nominated for a MEFA award. I finally got to finish it. It certainly lived up to being spooky. The barrow-wights are probably one of Tolkien's creepiest creations, and Branwyn uses them to good effect. I really like her OMC, Brandir, a young Ranger who finds himself in over his head as he tries to help some folk of Bree rescue one of their own from the barrows. The Breelanders, with their plain common sense and their ingrained mistrust of both the uncanny and or the strange Rangers, are well shown. They are not without their own sort of courage, but they have no idea of what they are up against, nor of the true natures of those who come to their rescue. A very exciting and suspenseful tale, well worth the time to read it! But probably best to read it in the daytime!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 5

A grim and suspenseful tale of Rangers v. Barrow-wights in late Third Age Eriador. I really liked the author's choice of someone other than Aragorn for the main character, an original character who is a young Ranger forming part of the ongoing Dunedain watch on Bree. How he copes with a foe that, for all his courage, is beyond him at this time, makes for a gripping and haunting narrative. And of course, it's great to see Aragorn and co. sweep down on the wights, the pros coming to the aid of the rookie. Branwyn captures the haunted landscape of wild Eriador very well. I hope she writes more stories of Aragorn's Ranger days.

Reviewed by: cairistiona  ✧  Score: 5

I hope you can use the phrase 'gee whillickers' and have it actually count for points because that's all I could think of as Brandir was being chased through the Barrow-downs by... well, you'll have to read the tale to find out by what. I may have uttered a slightly more eloquent, 'hurry hurry hurry oh hurry oh no... oh wow!' a time or two as well. What a creepy, scary tale this is of a young Ranger trying to do right by the Breelanders but falling into deadly peril himself. Definitely a topnotch, terrifying tale of adventure and valor, perfect for reading on a dark, fall night.