Sunday, March 13, 2016

HPKCHC : Bushwhacking Into Mordor! - Badger Hiking Trail (F15) - Throwback

So the term-long Hufflepuff challenge for Fall 2015 was Badger Hiking Trails.  There were a few different types of goals you could sign up for, and one of them was called "Local Trails", where you picked a "tier" from a list of exponentially more difficult goals.

The top tier from the list was called "Bushwhacker".  It required an OWL or NEWT exam, 12 classes, and 5 items from either HMC, Quidditch, BROOMs, or Detention.

And then of course I opened my big mouth and said wouldn't it be fun to do a hike to Mordor based on The Lord of the Rings?

I had it all planned out; using my spreadsheet magic I could convert the miles to Mordor (based on the ever-so-helpful Éowyn Challenge website) into a points system that would allow us to track our progress on a map!

Well, wouldn't you know it, but there were quite a few other crazy badgers in Hufflepuff that wanted to 'Whack Into Mordor, too.

May I present our fellowship:

And of course I designed new ravatars for all of us:

We started out in Hobbiton:

And a merry band of travelers we were!  At the end of Week 1 we were in the green hill country:

We have started out strong this week, with BraschElegance and storytellerknits submitting classes and detention! Twenty-six miles puts us deep in green hill country, headed in the direction of Woodhall and eventually the Buckleberry Ferry. It has been a peaceful journey so far, and the weather is still warm and pleasant as we continue forward.

Week 2 put us out of the land of hobbits:

We have left the Shire behind! Now officially in Bree-land, (well, more specifically the outlying land called Buckland) we are not quite 75 miles into our trek, thanks to the scoring efforts of annaspackman, storytellerknits, and yours truly. However, this brings us somewhat tremulously to the tunnel leading to the Old Forest…the place rumored to have almost been the undoing of Frodo and his companions. The air is misty, and the forest eerie as we contemplate the next miles to be traveled.

I did a mid-week update, which shows us most of the way across Bree-land:

Zonino! (As wizards have been known to say.) We have jumped over ninety miles in our journey towards Mount Doom! Tremendous thanks to midwestAliceAnn and frithuswith for their enthusiastic trekking!

Although the Old Forest seemed daunting at first, we passed beneath those haunted boughs with relative ease. Old Man Willow knew not to even try to detain us, and we waved at Tom Bombadil’s silent house in passing. The barrowights seemed intimidated by our cheer and camaraderie, and we moved freely through those bone-chilling barrows until we were able to find our way to the Great Road.

Eastward we hiked into Bree, where we all spent some time among the vendors, hawking wares ranging from the sweet, juicy apples shipped to them from our very own Appledores up in Hobbiton (bringing a few tears of homesickness), to yarn spun from the sheep of nearby farms. Of course, we put up in the Prancing Pony for the night before departing from the east gate. We passed near Archet and then into Chetwood, avoiding notice by the wolves that like to prey on lone travelers.

Now, on the other side of that forest, we look out over the Weather Hills to the distant Midgewater Marshes, wondering whom among us remembered to pack insect repellent.

At the end of Week 3 we had trekked across the Lone-lands:

It’s as if the Valar themselves have given us all the haste and agility of the eldar! The sure-footed purlingkitten led us forth in our lengthy wade across the Midgewater Marshes, and then into the Lone-lands where we spent one chill night atop the former watchtower now called Weathertop.

annaspackman then guided us from that breezy peak to the eastward rolling hills, where we kept off of the roads in order to avoid notice. Storytellerknits regaled us with stories of our heroes as we went, keeping our hearts light as we walked through the sparse land. 

Then in a great feat of perseverance, arianwenmcb forged our trail nearly all the way to the Last Bridge; our final marker before we begin the slow ascent into the mountainous land of the Trollshaws, and to our first real destination: Rivendell.

There was a mid-week map update again:

In the cold mist of the morning, frithuswith roused us and led us across the Last Bridge, and we took our first steps into the Trollshaws. While we munched on crisp apples for breakfast, we watched as the hills rose up taller around us and yet we hiked further to the northwest, straying from the road and blending with the trees.

It was the sharp eyes of purlingkitten that spotted the glint of sunlight off of smooth stone—we stumbled into the Stone-trolls Glade quite by accident. With excited laughter we dallied part of the morning among the hulking statues, singing a song for Mr. Bilbo and his cleverness.

When our hearts were lightened, the wise DragonflysArts herded us back towards the Great Road, with a twinkle kindled in her eyes as we continued onward in high spirits. The day warmed appreciably as crimson, gold, and amber leaves tussled through the air around us on a light autumn breeze.

annaspackman took the lead as our steps began to climb upward, the tall crags of the Trollshaws closing in the sky overhead. Distantly, those with sharp ears hear the rushing water of the Bruinen, our last great milestone before the final climb to Rivendell Valley. We share determined looks amongst ourselves; we shall not falter.

By the end of Week 4 we'd been to Rivendell and were on our way south!  This was the first of the legs of the journey, and a great milestone for us!

We have reached Rivendell!

My dear bushwhacking badgers, we’ve just completed the longest leg of our journey. The hike to Rivendell was 458 miles, and we have far exceeded that. Congratulations to one and all for your dedication, courage, and participation in this challenge so far!

DragonflysArts kept up a lively stream of conversation as we waded through the waters at the Ford of Bruinen (some of us bare-footed folk squealing a bit at the cold temperatures). Arianwenmcb took point and led us up and up the steep slopes on the opposite side, weaving among the trees and brush as if she’d navigated this terrain before. It was Storytellerknits who found the faint cobbled path through the High Moors towards the hidden Gates of Imladris. And BrashElegance has used her knowledge of the elven language to speak with the sentries guarding Rivendell Valley.

Of course, you all did not stop there. We have already departed Rivendell and are on our way southwards towards Eregion and the Mines of Moria.

Allow me to share this excerpt of our journey as a token of my elation and thanks:

Arianwenmcb snugged her brightly-colored shawl a bit more tightly around her shoulders; the late summer breeze through the craggy pass was a bit chillier than normal. Beside her, the patient DragonflysArts pulled out her pipe and lit it.

Ahead of them, BraschElegance was conversing seriously with the left elf sentry, a broad-shouldered Noldor elf with dark hair and a quick tongue. Slightly behind and to the right, frithuswith, annaspackman, and storytellerknits had decided to engage in a mid-morning snack involving slices of cheese and apples. (Really, they were watching the elf sentry on the right side of the gates and were trying to look inconspicuous.)

Nearby, VelvetKey had her ever-present sheaf of maps out, unrolled on a handy boulder and had weighted down one corner with her shield and the other with what looks suspiciously like a very hard, uneaten muffin. midwestAliceAnn was looking over her shoulder with interest, while purlingkitten appeared to be studying the state of her favorite set of knitting needles (in a completely non-threatening way, of course).

Finally, BrashElegance returned to DragonflysArts. “They say we are welcome,” she reported, as the wizard puffed happily away. “Rooms are prepared for us; Lord Elrond has heard of our coming.”

“Lord Elrond what?” Storytellerknits asked incredulously.

“How does he know who we are?” Annaspackman chimed in.

DragonflysArts took one final pull on her pipe, blew out the smoke in the shape of a swan, and answered, “I told him to expect us.”

The other fellowship members took a moment to gape at the wizard as she tapped out the bowl of her pipe and then stowed it inside one of her voluminous robe pockets.

Frithuswith rallied her wits first. “Well, if we are indeed as expected as all that, perhaps we shouldn’t keep the lord of Rivendell waiting?”

There was a polite cough and VelvetKey looked round to see the other eight travelers looking at her and her pile of maps and charts. “Oh, sorry!” she said quickly, piling everything together hastily and rolling the resulting sheaf up. Hefting her shield and pocketing her muffin, she quickly took her place at the rear of the procession.

Purlingkitten and Arianwenmcb nodded their thanks to the two elf sentries as they led the way into the narrow cleft between the rocks aptly titled the Gates of Imladris. A few trees grew in the shade of the rock walls, and as the nine walkers wove between them the breeze picked up and whistled through the branches.

“Do you think the elves will mind us staying over?” midwestAliceAnn asked DragonflysArts. “We don’t want to be an inconvenience to them.”

“An inconvenience?” DragonflysArts laughed a bit before sharing a secretive smile with her companion. “I daresay they will pull out all the stops!”

The pass opened out abruptly onto a high path, and the air lightened around them. Golden shafts of sunlight played through emerald, amber, and ruby leaves overhead as the party stepped out onto the path that wound downward into Rivendell Valley proper.

“Sweet Valar,” BraschElegance said in a whisper.

And then a host of fair elven voices sang out: “Hail and well met! Welcome to Imladris, seat of Elrond Half-elven and open to you, weary travelers!”

For they were most certainly, welcome.

Week 5 ended with our little party in the land of Eregion:

Another week of hard hiking has brought our fellowship into the land of Eregion. Annaspackman was the first to see beyond the Bruinen Gorge out into the lush, green land below. She called out to the rest of us, who lagged behind beneath the shimmering autumn leaves. Though we would miss the Trollshaws, we knew we had conquered the first leg of our journey.

Frithuswith, with her steady pace and sure steps, took us down the winding, rocky path into the rolling land. Trees dotted the landscape as far as normal eyes could see, and as we passed a wild herd of aurochs storytellerknits regaled us with a song she had heard from a traveling dwarf minstrel.

Our cheer restored, DragonflysArts directed us to the southeast, so that we might shelter in the shadow of the mountains as the evenings continued to grow colder. We spent a cooler night in a cleft between two boulders, with a roaring fire to ward off the crisp air.

The next day, BraschElegance took a strong lead, encouraging a quick pace that pushed us ever-closer to the snow-capped peaks of the Hollin Ridge. As we went, she pointed out the ruins of many a former outpost, tower, and dwelling, telling us stories of the people that used to dwell in the land. At our current hiking speed, we shall reach the doors of Durin before mid-October.

During Week 6 we met up with another traveler, Sumiregusa/Valadhiel.  (She's in Ravenclaw, but she wandered along with us and we had a good time!)  We toiled on through Eregion some more:

It has been a week of banged shins and twisted ankles for our fellowship plus one new traveler as we continue southward towards Hollin Ridge. Under the careful direction and guidance of VelvetKey, we managed just under fifty miles this week. The mountains rise high around us, and our days appear shorter as the sun disappears much sooner. We are left in chilly darkness in the afternoon, and do not see the sun again until mid-morning.

It is a time of deep reflection among us; just what is this path we have undertaken? Will this journey break us asunder, or will we unite and carry on, regaining our speed and good cheer?

This lady of Gondor thinks that we will rise to the calling set before us.

At the end of Week 7 we had arrived at the last stop before the Mines of Moria:

We have trekked over one hundred miles since our last update! We have gone from hugging the western edge of the mountains to passing through Hollin Ridge with quick, sure steps. Purlingkitten, ever on the lookout for wargs and other dangers, scouted ahead for us as we passed through the Silvertine foothills. Her impressive efforts have brought us safely to Echad Dúnann:

This final haven for all travelers is set up within the ruins of what might once have been a tower or guard post. MidwestAliceAnn took up trading on our behalf, being quite interested in ensuring we had all the apples, cheese, bread, pastries, and pipeweed we needed for our prolonged visit in Moria. As we redistributed the load amongst ourselves, frithuswith took it upon herself to trade with one particular vendor: a story for a story. She came back with news of what we might expect at the Doors of Moria: fallen rocks and danger.

But annaspackman was quick to rally us; while no one had disturbed the water in the lake for fear of waking the Watcher, nobody had ever seen it come back. There was no need to fear; we could continue our hike to the doors and take extra care to be quiet.

So we gathered our things, VelvetKey consulted a new map, and we set out once more. Now we are at what remains of the doors that once glowed only for starlight and moonlight, ready to descend into the depths of the earth on our journey.

We only spent a week in Moria, so by the end of Week 8 we were just passing through the Dimrill Gate:

We did have a close call in Moria, but I unfortunately didn't keep the story in my forum post as I should have.

Reaching Lothlórien was our next milestone, and I again celebrated with a special story!

And now a little written adventure to celebrate the milestone of reaching Lothlórien…

Dawn came with chilly fingers that worked their way under the fellowship’s blankets and cloaks, prodding as us to wake and continue our journey.

BraschElegance had had the last watch; she was perched upon a high rock overlooking the Mirrormere, her expression closed. As soon as she saw that Valadhiel had returned from the path of dreams, she went to their visitor and began a hushed conversation.

Oblivious to the whisperings of the concerned elves in the group, arianwenmcb, frithuswith, and annaspackman began to root through their packs in search of first breakfast.

“Is everything all right?” midwestAliceAnn asked BraschElegance in an undertone, drawing her knitted capelet closer around her shoulders as the morning mist swirled off of the Mirrormere under the guidance of a faint breeze.

“It’s too quiet,” Valadhiel said, her eyes darting about. “There should be scouts to watch the Dimrill Gate.”

“You believe there was an ambush recently?” Unheard, DragonflysArts came up behind the group, puffing sedately on her pipe.

“It’s just…odd,’ BraschElegance said tightly. Now she, too, had her bow out.

The four of them cast glances at the other six members of the fellowship. Storytellerknits and VelvetKey had assigned themselves the task of cleaning up the campsite, while purlingkitten scouted the immediate perimeter and then with a nod at BraschElegance, began to scout further down the main road which followed the curve of the Celebrant.

She returned a quarter of an hour later, with no sightings or news of anything except a few golden-tailed deer and the odd boar off in the trees. By that time, everyone had broken their fast and a couple of the other hobbit-folk among the group were trying to persuade DragonflysArts to let them linger a little longer for after-breakfast tea.

Arianwenmcb finally put her foot down, literally. “We have less than a day’s travel to the gates of Caras Galadhon, yes?” she asked VelvetKey, who was trying to wash leftover goblin-bits off of her shield. At her companion’s nod, Arianwenmcb went on, “We can get there today, if we are diligent.” She shrugged off her latest knitted wrap and folded it carefully into her pack, exposing the matching needle-like daggers she wore on one hip.

“Well then, we give you the lead,” the wizard of their group said with a smile, gesturing to the open road heading east. “And we shall try to keep up!”

There was a general scramble for the remainder of the group’s possessions as Arianwenmcb set off at a brisk trot, following the worn, still mostly-cobbled way. Frithuswith kept pace with her, while the rest of the group spread themselves out into a guarded formation.

Storytellerknits found herself at the rear of the tight procession with MidwestAliceAnn. “And what were you on about with the elves?” the dwarf asked, fingering the leather tooling on the handle of the one-handed axe she kept within easy reach at all times.

“The notable presence of scouts from Caras Galadhon has them worried,” MidwestAliceAnn replied. “Both of them have traveled extensively; they think they should have been greeted by the Marchwarden or one of his brothers by now.”

“Hmm,” was all Storytellerknits commented as to that piece of news. “If the keen eyes of our elf friends detect nothing, then perhaps there is more going on here than meets the eye.”

Just then, VelvetKey slowed her pace and fell back to join them. “I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I think we’re being followed,” she said softly. “On the other side of the river.”

Her friends cast covert looks across the wide Celebrant, but saw nothing. “The elves of Lórien no doubt have the drop on us in stealth,” Storytellerknits pointed out.

“Like trying to spot a ghost,” Valadhiel agreed, her sharp ears picking up their conversation.

The four of them were distracted by a shout up ahead; two of them had their weapons drawn, and the other two had closed ranks in the rear before they identified the cry as jubilant, and belonging to Annaspackman.

“The golden trees!” the hobbit lass exclaimed, just as the sun rose properly over the mountains and cast first light on the shimmering leaves of Lothlórien.

“And the crossing to the other side,” Purlingkitten said, a smile lighting her face. “The shade beneath the mallorn trees will be welcome.”

“Wait,” BraschElegance said after a quick conference with Valadhiel. “Let us cross first; if any Galadhrim scouts are watching, they will see we are of elf-kind.”

The hobbits acquiesced, using the brief pause to pull apples from their pockets and have a quick second breakfast.

“Oh by the Valar,” came an amused, exasperated voice from a nearby bush. “Can none of you appreciate a well-deserved surprise?” Two blond-haired elves wearing matching tunics emerged from within the forest interior.

Valadhiel recognized them, and BraschElegance was quick to incline her head. “Orophel and Rúmil,” she greeted, a puzzled frown creasing her forehead. “What—”

“You might want to warn your companions,” Orophel interrupted. “Since we are speaking entirely in elvish.”

BraschElegance looked over her shoulder at the other eight travelers, who were hovering on the other side of the river crossing and looking uncertain as to whether or not they needed to finish drawing their weapons.

“Stay your swords, needles, and everything else,” BraschElegance said quickly in Common. “These are the brothers of the Marchwarden; they wished to surprise us.”

“I’d say they succeeded,” DragonflysArts said, her eyes twinkling beneath the brim of her hat. Annaspackman giggled, and then Frithuswith joined in. Within moments, all of the adventurers were laughing aloud in relief.

“Come!” Rúmil beckoned to them. “Caras Galadhon awaits, with a feast spread for all of you on the banquet lawn. The Lord and Lady of Lothlórien bid you welcome and eagerly wish to welcome you to our fair wood.”

With the brothers as their guides, the ten companions continued on their journey, with the two elven members translating all sorts of questions. Noon came and went, but they did not stop for lunch. Between the light banter, enthusiastic questions, and camaraderie, the gates of Caras Galadhon came into view before any of them noticed the passage of time.

An honor guard awaited them, decked with the banners of Lórien and they hailed the travelers warmly.

“Come! The celebration could not begin without you!” Haldir hailed them. “And we welcome you all to the Great Golden Wood, Lothlórien and all it’s splendor.”

At the end of Week 9 we departed the Golden Wood and set off down the Anduin River:

Arianwenmcb roused us all early from our beds beneath the boughs of a great silver weeping willow on the morning we were to depart from Lothlórien. She had led us faithfully from the Dimrill Gate all the way to Caras Galadhon (with a bit of help from the Marchwarden’s brothers).

DragonflysArts had already seen to it that our provisions were packed last night, and the tokens of our elven allies went with us. They were kind enough to replenish all of our provisions; even more than we had when we left Rivendell.

To Purlingkitten the elves gave careful directions, as she was to be the lookout in the first boat. She thanked the elves gravely and was the first to climb aboard the gracefully-carved vessel she would share with two of the other companions.

Annaspackman helped load all of the well-stuffed packs into the boats, and when she was satisfied the weight had been distributed evenly, she too hopped aboard.

After a quick discussion (translated by the helpful Valadhiel) VelvetKey assigned the others to their boats. She tossed her shield and sheaf of maps into the nearest, and began to push them off. Rúmil and Orophel assisted her, and we all waved farewell to our briefly-made-but-never-forgotten friends.

And now we sail down the wide, gray Anduin River, somewhat lost in our own thoughts and reflecting upon the places we have yet to see.

(Apparently I had two "Week 9" map updates...?  This is the second one:)

It has been a mighty week of travel, by boat and by foot!

Annaspackman became our lookout as we continued down the Anduin River towards the Rushgore and the Brown Lands. She was careful to help us navigate all of the rocks and snags in the water, preserving the graceful boats of Lothlórien with her diligence and sharp hobbit eyes.

From the prow of her own boat, BraschElegance easily spotted the river’s end, marked by the two imposing sentinels of the Argonath. The statues stood so tall that their crowns were wreathed in clouds, and it was only with her elf eyes that BraschElegance could even see the features on the craggy faces.

As the sun lowered towards the horizon, Frithuswith spotted a safe haven on a distant shore where we might rest and camp for the night. She built a warm fire and helped the provisions. Everyone knows that hobbits know how to make up the softest of camp beds, and Frithuswith is no exception. We were ready to enjoy our meal in record time.

MidwestAliceAnn stood watch in the night, keeping a close eye on our surroundings. She roused us all early and we partook in a cold breakfast before setting out on foot, following Frodo and Sam’s path towards the mountains of Mordor.

With her trusty maps at the ready, VelvetKey led us through many twists and turns in the hills, dipping into gorges and finally coming to a ravine. From there, we could smell the pale odor of death on the wind, and we knew that we would soon come to the Dead Marshes.

A perilous road still lies in front of us, but we will not turn back now.

That concluded the third leg of our journey, and we were now on the fourth: to Mount Doom!

Week 10 had us wading through the Dead Marshes:

Finally, after a long week of toil and difficulty, we have passed through the Dead Marshes:

It was Arianwenmcb who rallied our spirits and led us faithfully through this dark and gloomy land, despite the ghostly lights and the ever-watching, always-silent faces of the fallen in the murky waters. We kept our eyes averted as we hiked on, finally coming to the wasteland that lies between us and Mordor. And now the mountains grow closer with each mile we travel. Will the journey break us before we can reach those high and forbidding mountains? For the Black Gate is our next stop…

By the time Week 11 came upon us, we were hiking for Minas Morgul:

It has been a week of difficult hiking as our trail continues southward. We feel the shadows of the mountains of Mordor looming over us, bearing down on our hearts with an ominous weight.

Purlingkitten, ever bold, took the lead and scouted ahead for us as we came to the outskirts of Osgiliath. We feared bands of roving orcs might have made the ruins of that once-great Gondorian city their new camp, and we wished to stay far away.

MidwestAliceAnn was so fortunate as to locate a dwarf trader traveling the same road, and with hobbit-like skill she bargained and bartered for some foodstuffs to replenish our meager provisions. We enjoyed a rare warm meal together, sheltered in a tumbled-down guard tower on the edge of Osgiliath.

Our spirits revived a little, Frithuswith shared a little song and story with us before bed, then roused us all early in the dawn to continue on our road. We rubbed the sleep from our eyes, checked to make sure we had repacked everything, and set out once more.

As the sun rose over the mountains, a glimmer of white and silver caught BraschElegance’s keen elf eyes and she sang out joyfully that she could see the spire of Minas Tirith in the distance (which our fair companion Valadhiel confirmed with equal delight).

There were a few glances at VelvetKey, who sighed with longing to hear mention of her home, once far away and now not so distant. She adjusted the shield on her back and gazed pensively into the distance for a moment, before turning her attention back to the path before them.

Arianwenmcb carefully picked our path towards Ithilien, the wilds wherein Faramir had once met up with Frodo and Sam on their way. We welcomed the sight of the thick trees after so long amidst the feet of the mountains, and rested for a day in their shade.

Yet still the growing shadow of Mordor seemed to fall over us, and we were not truly at ease. Annaspackman laid out the next step of our plan to enter Mordor: we must pass by Minas Morgul and take the dark stair where once Shelob made her lair. It is a plan fraught with danger and no little risk.

But we look amongst ourselves, and we agree; the hike will continue.

The next week was the last; we reached the final milestone of our journey!  My closing post:

The End of the Trail

What a hike we have had, my dear friends.

It is hard to believe that this time last week we were all standing on the burning slopes of Mount Doom, while ash and smoke choked the air. We were all of us tired, some of us bruised, more of us injured than not, and yet…

We made it.

We stood on the brink within that violent volcano and stared down into the licking flames edging the lava. The heat seared our skin and yet we gazed into those embers with defiance on all of our faces. For we could not be beaten! We followed the trail together and therein was our strength.

Annaspackman was our savior as we entered the lair that had once belonged to Shelob. Her beautiful Elizabeth Shawl protected her as she slipped easily through the leftover spider silk and guided us quickly and without incident to the ruins of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. With sure feet, she helped us traverse a deep ravine as we pressed deeper into the interior of Mordor.
We came to an abandoned orc post along the road, and we took our time, wary of possible attack from any remaining forces of Sauron. BraschElegance wrapped herself in her cunningly-crafted Judah’s Blanket and scouted ahead for us. Finding no one, she continued to lead us forward along the stony path, and our footing grew uneven as the ground turned to shale and sharp rocks.

Arianwenmcb came to our rescue as our hiking formation began to falter. With quick fingers she spun fiber to yarn, enough for us to rope ourselves together as the terrain sloped upward. The fumes from the volcano seemed to thicken, trying to choke any fresh breath from us. More than once, we slipped and fell, only to be helped back up by our companions.

As we crested the summit of Mount Doom and saw what was left of the Door to the Sammath Naur, the ground began to shake and heave beneath us. Frithuswith reacted quickly; she delved into her pack and produced some of her lovely woven cloth and wrapped herself and the other hobbits in it to protect them from the needle-like rock shards as we all tumbled to the ground.

DragonflysArts pulled us back to our feet as the mountain tried to shake us loose. “Only a bit farther!” she cried against the rumblings of the ground and clattering of loose stones. She punctuated her words with thumpings of her staff. “Come on!” One by one, we again struggled forward, offering helping hands to one another. From within her robes, our wizard produced an odd hexiflat pouch and from it, a crystal that lit up at her word. For a moment, the earth stilled beneath us and we rushed into the heart of the volcano before it could fall on us.

There we beheld the final goal: the fiery pit into which the One Ring had been cast, along with Gollum. And those of us that had the Six Quidditch Rings let them fall from our fingers into the molten landscape below, until they were lost from sight.

It was Purlingkitten that shook us from our mesmerized trances as we paused in the mountain’s inferno. We had achieved our goal, but we had a renewed energy, now that we were free of the rings! Thus we descended quickly from the peak of Mount Doom, not caring if we started rockslides in our haste to escape the choking, inhospitable landscape. She led us towards the Morannon, where Aragorn made his final stand against Sauron’s forces. As the temperature began to drop, she donned her Lady Sunnyside Sweater and blended in with the surrounding rocks to scout ahead for us.

MidwestAliceAnn took note of our shivering as a cold wind rushed across the open land, and quickly produced five colorful scarves from her pack, keeping one for herself and passing out the rest to those of us that shivered the worst. We had forgotten just how much of the year has passed in Middle-earth during our trek, and the slopes of Mount Doom kept us warmer than we thought. Once satisfied that none of her friends would catch cold, midwestAliceAnn spotted the Southward Road, which would take us back to Minas Tirith.

The borders of Ithilien looked most inviting as we freed ourselves from the oppressive atmosphere of Mordor and entered friendly territory once more. In celebration, storytellerknits pulled out her festive Softsweater shawl and settled it about her shoulders before laughing and beginning a new story to keep our spirits high as we hiked onward toward Henneth Annûn and then back to Osgiliath.

VelvetKey hefted her shield a little higher on her back, smiling at the camaraderie of her friends as they crossed the lands of Gondor—her homeland. She learned much and seen more than she ever thought she would along this hike. As the gates of the White City opened to them, a great wolf charged out to meet the party and VelvetKey greeted him with a laugh.

But the smile on her face wavered and she quickly knelt when she and the others saw King Aragorn standing with the beautiful Queen Arwen at his side.

“Great travelers,” he hailed us, “welcome to the proud city of Minas Tirith. Your noble journey has drawn the attention of all the people across Eriador and Rhovanion, and it is my honor to greet you now, at journey’s end.”

He welcomed us each in turn, before bidding us come to the palace, where we are seated in the great hall. The celebration of our momentous hike had just begun, but for us nine travellers, we knew something great had also ended.

Thank you all so much for a wonderful term with you! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. ~VK

This was by far my favorite term at the HPKCHC, for this challenge alone.

Craft on!

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