The Secret Journey of Ruke, King of Travels
This is for the halfling diary contest. I plan on really enjoying this, so sit back and watch while I write a diary nobody knew existed...
Entry One: January 19th
I suppose, before anything else, I should probably describe myself a bit, just in case there comes a time when someone else should have need to read this...
My name is Rukenon Took, but everybody just calls me Ruke for short.
I am a hobbit, and a very adventurous and curious one at that. And while this side of me has saved me from many a dull, boring day, it has also gotten me into many a spot of trouble (and many a near-death experience).
I'm a traveler. Always have been, and probably always will be. I'm always wanting to explore places I haven't seen, always wanting to see what no one else has. I basically just love the unknown.
This diary is an account of my adventures, or rather, one particular adventure I had a very long time ago. The one I swore never to tell anyone.
This "secret journey", should you wish to give it a name such as that, is one that was so disturbing, so utterly terrifying, that even fifty years later, I still
have nightmares about it: that horrible, wrenching feeling, the disgusting mass of bodies and blood, that dark, deathly figure walking amongst it all, coming towards me...
But now I'm getting ahead of myself.
You see, this story started one day when a good friend of mine, Peter, told me about a place called "Haven". Supposedly, it was a place that was like heaven on earth: there were gems and priceless artifacts, clear, fresh water springs, majestic and beautiful animals, and plants and fruit worth dying
for. (Uhh, maybe I shouldn't have used that
particular word to describe it...) But anyway, according to what Peter said, once you got there, you never wanted to leave.
"So, Ruke, think you might go check it out?" he said, smirking slightly, for he knew I could never miss the chance for an adventure like this.
"I don't just think I will; I know
I will," I said determinedly.
And so, the next day was spent preparing for the journey ahead. I called on friends and companions of mine, wishing to have some company on my travels to this unknown place. I packed up all of my necessary supplies, and also went to the store of an expert who was skilled in the art of mapping, and whom I always trusted with helping me find the places I wanted to go to.
"So where are you off to this time, Ruke, my boy?" the old man asked. I was quite the regular customer there, so we were pretty familiar with each other.
"I wish to find this place known as "Haven". Have you heard of it, Rupin?"
I guess I should have payed more attention to Rupin's expression, because if I had, I would have noticed that it paled suddenly at the mention of the name. And that, to me, would have been warning enough.
"Aye, I've heard of it. And I know where it is, too. Are you sure you wish to go there, Ruke?" The old man looked seriously at me.
"Of course." I found it slightly odd that he would ask me if I was sure about going to such a supposedly wonderful and mystical place, but quickly forgot about the feeling when the old man went into the back out of his little store, and came back with a dusty old piece of parchment, that was written in barely visible ink. But it was readable, even to poor Rupin's old eyes.
"Here." Rupin pointed towards a spot on the old map that was marked with a blue star. "This is the location of "Haven". But... if you actually manage to reach this place, promise me one thing: that you'll leave this map there."
At the time, I was too oblivious to notice how carefully he avoided saying anything about getting out
of "Haven". I suppose it's only after you grow old that you fully realize just how big of a twit you used to be, huh?
"Why should I do that?"
"Because that place is not one for the likes of mortals. And this map should never have been made in the first place."
I suppose you could say I was a bit dense back then, but the words Rupin spoke only made me even more excited to see this mysterious place.
"Thank you, Rupin! Well, I'll be off now." I walked out the door and headed back towards my house. All the while, I could feel the old man's eyes following me, but I thought nothing of it at the time.
I was a fool.
Entry Two: January 22nd
The trip had finally started.
I had three companions with me: Cyroril, a lazy, but very reliable dwarf; Kari, a quiet, dark-haired elf with a surprisingly quick-temper; and Karni, Kari’s twin sister. Although the two looked alike in every way possible, I doubt that there has ever been two twins born that were as opposite as these two. And although they constantly bickered back and forth, they made a great team, and were both valuable assets to our group.
I hadn’t told them where exactly we were going, but I intended to once we stopped at an inn for the night. The sun was setting fast, and I still had yet to find a good way of telling the three of them our destination.
“There’s a tavern in a town up ahead. I suggest we stop for the night.” Kari, ever the practical traveler, turned to the rest of us, waiting for our answers.
Both Cyroril and I agreed with him, but Karni, of course, just had to pick a fight.
“Eh?! Stop?! Why?! I say we keep going; we can always camp outdoors, you know,” she whined.
Hoping to stop the fight that was sure to come, I stepped in, saying, “You do have a point, Karni; we could always just sleep outdoors, if we had to.
“However, I would prefer to sleep on a nice, soft bed on last time before we resort to that. And I believe that both Cyroril and Kari agree with me. So for now, let’s just sleep at that inn; don’t worry, we’ll be sleeping outdoors soon enough, Karni.” I smiled, hoping to appease her, and breathed a sigh of relief when she agreed to my proposal.
When we got to the tavern, we checked out four rooms (we were each paying for our own), then went to the diner to order some food. While we sat waiting for our meals, I decided that now would be a good time to explain everything.
Taking out the map, I said, “This, my friends, is where we shall be headed.” I pointed to the blue star on the map, and everybody leaned in closer for a better look.
“The place is called ‘Haven’. Supposedly, it’s filled with treasure, and wildlife. It’s said that once you get there, you never want to leave.”
“Sounds cool,” Kari said, looking closely at the map.
“Definitely,” Karni agreed.
“But isn’t it awfully far away?” Cyroril asked, squinting at the paper as she tried to see the ink printed on there.
“True… but the rewards are surely worth the long trek,” I said, looking at her. She kept staring at the map.
Only Cyoril would find something like that worth complaining over
, I thought amusedly.
I somewhat wish now that this long trek towards “Haven” would have daunted us enough to make us turn back.
But, unfortunately, we were still just as excited as before, if not more
Entry Three: January 30th
I’m writing this story down when I can, but the progress is slow, as I’ve recently fallen ill, and still have many things I must take care of, even while sick.
I must hurry. I’m running out of time.
Entry Four: February 5th
We had been travelling for three days already. Karni was getting impatient with walking, and Kari was getting impatient with her. Cyroril hadn’t said much of anything, although Kari and I had heard her talk to herself on a couple of occasions. However, it was usually while we were resting, and neither of us could hear what she was saying.
Karni, on the other hand, had no such restrictions.
“Hey, Ruke! When are going to get there? I’m tired and my feet hurt and my clothes are-“
“Shut it, Karni. We’ll get there when we get there,” snapped Kari, cutting his sister off. He then leaned over towards me and whispered quietly, “But really, Ruke, when are we going to get there?”
“Why do you ask? Don’t tell me you’re tired, too?” I replied with some amusement.
“Of course not! And anyway, Karni’s just faking it – she just likes to complain. I’m getting sick of hearing her whine, though.” Kari looked seriously at me.
“Well, although I don’t really know if she was really faking that or not, we should reach our destination in three to four days, if we keep up this pace and don’t get lost.”
“Hmm. Karni won’t like hearing that. We should probably keep it to ourselves.”
“Yes, I agree. But what about Cyroril? Shouldn’t we tell her about this? I mean, she may complain, but she’s still very reliable...” I questioned, cocking my head as I thought about it.
“Hmm. Maybe you’re right. But even so, let’s keep it between us. These kinds of things have a habit of getting around.” Kari glanced at his sister, indicating that he didn’t want to risk the chance of this getting to her. I nodded.
“Very well. Best we stop talking, Kari – we look like conspirators here,” I joked, smiling. He grinned.
“But that’s exactly what we are, right? After all, we’re keeping secrets and whispering suspiciously. Isn’t that what they do?” Kari said, standing up straight and looking up ahead, down the road.
“Yeah, that’s true,” I laughed.
Kari walked ahead of me, and his good mood was obvious from his grin.
At least that’s one good thing, then, I thought. I looked up at the sky, and thought I saw a sort of gathering darkness far away, up ahead of us.
Although it looked bad, and even a little dangerous and scary, I ignored it. In fact, I completely forgot about it until many days later – only after the end of this incident.
Entry Five: February 15th
Traveling, as one might think, is no easy matter - it's easier said than done. People get irritated as they grow tired, and things can go very bad if nothing is done about it.
We'd been traveling for two and a half days, total, but, strangely, nothing had happened. In fact, everyone was still in a very good mood, almost unusually so. But none of us, of course, found that strange at all.
"Hey Kari! Shouldn't we stop to rest for a bit? We've been walking for hours!" I called to him.
"I suppose your right," Kari said, turning back towards the rest of the group. "We'll stop here for a bit, eat, and then move onwards."
"Great!" Karni cried, shouting for joy. She immediately flopped down on the ground, took of her sandles, and began massaging her feet. "That's better..." she smiled.
Everybody began to follow her example, and we were all sitting on the grass, enjoying the relief from our sore feet. I personally decided to make some food for us all, and quickly went about getting the ingredients. I planned on making a broth that we could all dip some chunks of bread into, which was apparently just what everyone wanted, for once it was made, they dug in quite heartily.
"That was good," Karni sighed, and everyone nodded in agreement. "You're a good cook, Ruke."
"Why, thank you. I do try my best, you know," I replied, which made them all chuckle.
A little while later, we all got up, put our shoes back on, and set out once again.
We'd been walking for only about an hour, when we came across a little man heading down the same path. He stopped when we passed by, then called, "Fellow travelers! Where might you all be headed on such a fine day as this?"
We turned towards him. "We are headed to a place called 'Haven'. Why do you ask?" I questioned, cocking my head.
"'Haven', huh? I've heard of that place. I've always wanted to go there, but could never find the darn place. But I'm assuming you all know? If so, mind if I tag along?" He looked at me as he said this, maybe because he thought I was the leader of the group. Which I was, but people weren't really suppose to know that right off the bat.
"Well, I don't mind, but it's not completely up to me," I replied. I turned to the others. "What do you guys think?"
"Well, I don't mind, either," Karni said. Kari and Cyroril both nodded in agreement, so I turned back to the man, and said, "Seems you can come after all."
"Wonderful!" the man said, and began walking once again.
"Wait, we still haven't introduced ourselves," I called over. "I'm Rukenon Took, but please, just call me Ruke - everyone else does."
"As for these three - this is Cyroril, Kari, and Karni," I continued, pointing to each one in turn. "What would your name be?"
"Me? Call me, Larc - Larc of Gont."
The man smiled, then once again began trotting off in the direction we had been headed. I glanced over at Kari, but his only response was a shrug of his shoulders, and a jerk of his head towards the man, indicating he didn't know what to think of the little guy.
I shrugged back at him, then we all continued on our way.
Now that I think back on it, if it hadn't been for Larc, I doubt any of us would have made it out of that place alive. Larc is now a good friend of mine, and we've been on many a travel together.
But still, I always wonder what would have happened to us if we hadn't met him along the way...
Entry Six: March 7th
We were one day away from our destination, yet for some reason, we didn't seem to be any closer than we were three day ago, or maybe it was only two. None of us could really tell, but we all agreed that we should be closer than we apparently were. We were judging mostly from landmarks, but even if we weren't, I had a sneaking suspicion that we should be able to see the place, even from so far away, since, according to the map, the place was in a valley with huge hills on either side. Technically, we should have reached those hills, if not having actually reached the top yet.
A fact that Karni, at least, had no problem pointing out.
"Rule, aren't we suppose to be there by now? I'm getting sick of walking, and my clothes and hair are a mess, and-"
"Karni, just suck it up and deal with it already. The rest of us are in the same position you are, and you don't see any of us
complaining, now do you?" Kari snapped at her.
"Well, no, but-"
"Zip it, Karni - just... just zip it, okay?" Kari turned away, muttering irritatedly to himself.
"Hey, Ruke." Cyroril walked up to me, frowning.
"Yeah? What's up?" I said back, looking at her.
"Am I right in guessing that we actually should
be there by now?"
"Well... yes, you are. But what's confusing me is that we don't even see it yet. And I know we are going the right way, too - see the other landmarks?" I pointed first at the map, which I had out, then at the different places with the corresponding things.
"Yes..." Cyroril said slowly, looking at a spot on the map. Then she looked up ahead, far down the road. She looked back at the map again, and frowned. "Is it just me... or does this spot right here-" Cyroril pointed at a spot on the map. "-correspond with that point up there?"
I looked back and forth between the two, now frowning as well. "T think you might be right," I said at last. "In which case, we might be closer than I thought."
"That's good," Cyroil replied, turning back to the road.
"Yeah..." Once again, I noticed the darkness gathering in the distance, but, just like before, forgot about it until much later.
It's amazing how dense
one can be when they're happy.
Entry Seven: March 28th
We had finally reached our destination - well, sort of. We had reached the top of the "hills" (which had turned out to be nothing more than cliffs high above the gorge), but now face a problem with finding a way down from the top of the gorge, to the bottom of it.
"I'm guessing nobody brought enough rope to climb down all that way," Larc said, with sarcastic humor in his voice.
"Well, I have rope, but it's not that
long - does anybody else have any rope? We could tie them all together and see if it makes it down there." Kari looked at me as he said this, obviously expecting me to have prepared for this kind of thing (after all, I was
the one with the map).
I, however, was busy looking left and right along the cliff, hoping to find an alternate route down, since I didn't want to resort to dropping off the side of the cliff with only rope to support me. I found one, too, luckily.
"Look over there. Is it just me, or is that spot about five meters down that way a path?" I looked at the others questioningly.
"You have good eyes, Ruke," Kari said, shading his own eyes from the sun as he looked down.
"Why, thank you," I replied, somewhat surprised.
"Don't mention it. But looking at that path, we should probably rope each other together so that we don't lose one another. See how steep that is? It's probably a goat path - meaning if normal people tried to go down it without any support, they'd be finished," he continued. Karni looked down that way, and nodded in agreement.
"You're right, we probably should do that," she said. Suddenly, she blinked, and glanced behind her. She smiled mischievously.
"It seems that we have a sneaky stalker tracking our trail," she murmured, eyes twinkling.
"Really? Who?" I asked, trying to keep a straight face - the look on Karni's face was somewhat comical, and I had to work hard not to laugh.
She cocked her head and seemed to listen for a moment.
"Most likely and elf," she said at last. "Male, probably. Somewhat tall - hmm... I wonder what he does for a living - he seems to be very good at sneaking about, and knows where to hide while trailing us... Could he be a thief?" She seemed to be talking more to herself now, rather than to any of the rest of us.
I was somewhat astonished at how much she was able to find out about our follower just by listening to him, but I kept those thoughts to myself as I said, "Should we do something about it, or should we just leave him be? If he continues to follow us, he could get very badly hurt."
"Good point. Guess I'll go get him out of his hiding place." Kari took a few steps forward, then said loudly, "We know your following us, so you can come our already. The jig is up."
"Understood, sir," came a sarcastic voice in response. I looked around, trying to figure out where it was coming from. Then, suddenly, Larc, who had kept silent for almost the entire trip, took his staff and thrusted it in the direction of a nearby clump of bushes.
"Astra Valgus!" he yelled. The bushes disappeared instantly, to be replace with the figure of a tall male elf dressed in a white tunic, long cloak, and a strange pair of pants that fit around his waist with a belt, and went straight down his legs until they almost touched the ground (and they would have, had it not been for a pair of brown boots on his feet).
The elf got off the ground where he'd been sitting, and brushed off his pants, seeming very nonchalant about everything.
But as much as I was amazed by the man's strange behavior, what amazed me even more was Larc's
sudden aggressive behavior. Then my amazement grew as the little man said, "Well, are you just going to stand there and hold us up all day? Tell us your name, for god's sake, and knowing why you're following us would be good, too."
The strange man's manner never changed, however, he replied, "My name is Coryn Felanous. I was following you because I heard you talking about some sort of treasure back in that tavern you guys stayed at. Wasn't that hard, either, though it got harder once that guy joined up." He pointed at Larc, and when everyone looked at him, the hobbit shrugged.
"What? I didn't do anything, so why are you all staring at me?"
"Because you surprised us, that's all," I said, before anyone else could answer. "Don't worry, Larc, it's all good." I smiled, then turned back to Coryn, the elf.
"So, did you say your name was Coryn Felonious
? Or did I mishear?" I heard Karni suppress a giggle, and saw the other hiding smiles. Good,
I thought, for this was what I wanted.
The elf grinned ruefully. "Believe me, you're not the first one to make that mistake. It's Fela
nous, with an "a". I'm not a felon or anything, you know. Just your average, everyday thief. But I'm not going to be stealing from you guys," he said quickly, as he noticed Karni clutch her bag. "So don't worry. I'm just here to get my hands on some much needed treasure - after all, where there's treasure, there's always going to be money."
"However, wherever there's money, there's not always going to be treasure. Am I right?" I said. The elf smiled, but said nothing.
Instead, he asked, "So. Can I tag along with you guys?" He said it in such a way that left no doubt in our minds that whether we allowed him to come with us or not, he would
find a way to get to that treasure.
I turned to the others, and asked the obvious question: "What should we do?"
Kari frowned, thinking. He said, after a little while, "I guess we'll just have to let him tag along. It's not like he's giving us much of a choice, after all." The others nodded.
"I suppose your right," I replied, then turned to Coryn.
"You can come. We all agreed on it."
"Great! Now, if I remember right, you all were trying to find a way down to that valley, am I right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Well, I saw an area back that way that isn't very steep, and would be quite safe to go down, rope or no rope."
We looked at each other, then back at Coryn. He smiled, seeming sincere. Kari and Larc looked at me for my opinion, and I shrugged.
Stepping forward, I said, "Lead the way," and followed his as he did just that. After a few minutes of walking, Kari came up beside me, and whispered, "You sure about all this, Ruke? I don't trust that guy at all, especially around my sister."
"I don't trust him any more than you do, Kar, but for some reason, I get the feeling that we're going to need him." I looked up at the sky, and noted the darkness on the horizon. "We'd better hurry. A storm is coming."
Entry Eight: March 30th
I'm writing this down when I have time, which I'm getting more and more of as I am confined more and more to my bed.
Entry Nine: April 2nd
Entry Ten: April 3rd
Entry Eleven: April 4th