The smell of smoke hung in the moist air, as fires sputtered from the light rain that fell. Men and women-folk sat around cook fires while rabbits, or other catches, sizzled on spits. The men spoke in low voices, puffing on pipes as they did, seeming hushed by the gloomy weather. The gathering was formed in a circle around which were the many camps of the envoys from the different regions where word had been sent. Tent-town was what the congregation was being named and it swelled larger with each week that passed as more travelers arrived.
A better part of the first month of Spring had passed since Ceawin had sent forth his summons. With the aid of Radagast the Brown, the word was carried by wing and foot to the far north of Mirkwood. The message was received by the King in Erebor, the men of Dale, and even to the lands of Dorwinion. Other envoys were sent to the lands of the Woodmen along the western eaves of Mirkwood, and many of the clans responded as evidenced by the growing size of Tent-town.
The news of the Folk-moot did not only bring those that were intended, but merchants and traders also followed the caravans as they moved south, east, or west towards Rhosgobel. It became evident that the gathering needed better leadership, as Ceawin was for the most part unknown to the men of Woodland Hall and Woodmen-town, though they were akin. So it was Ingomer, of the House of Woodland Hall that took up the mantle of head of the council of elders. He saw to the organization of Tent-town and the encampments of each traveling clan. Laws were set by the council, for though this was a Folk-moot to debate the needs of the Woodmen of Mirkwood, there were still troubles that existed between the clans and not a few bouts were seen. Weapons were ordered to be carried only at need and only by those that were on station as sentries. This limited the fights to nothing more than fisticuffs and only wounded egos were the victims.
Ceawin and his company had been the first to arrive in Rhosgobel when the winter was finally releasing its grip on the forest. They had traveled the narrows of Mirkwood to the western eaves and brought tales both fearsome and enlightening. A gloom still clung to the southern end of the forest – those woods that surrounded Dol Guldur – and his people were afraid to move in that direction. Great spider webs and the remains of animals were seen at times wrapped within the trees. Other fears followed due to the legends of vampires and werewolves that were said to haunt the forest.
Though a seeming perilous journey, Ceawin and his folk had arrived safely and settled the first part of Tent-town. Through March and April, the other folks came and were coming still. From Mountain Hall came old and quarrelsome Hartfast, son of Hartmut. He led thirty of his clan out of the Misty Mountains and over the Anduin to bring both tidings and to be part of the debate. Fridwald the Runner came from Woodmen-town; Amaleoda, shieldmaiden of the Black Tarn came west with her folk; Targus, son of Feoll, came from Stoneyford; Bofri, son of Bofur, of Erebor was present though it had not yet been revealed if he was there as envoy for Dáin Ironfoot, King under the mountain; Orophin of the Silvan Elves and Thranduil’s people; Grimbeorn of the Beornings; and so on. Even a Hobbit from the Shire-lands, far away, was present again in Mirkwood, though it was not the Folk-moot that had brought him so far afield. Still, the many clansman marveled at the young Hobbit and there was much laughter as Bandy would walk-about telling his tales. Last on the list, but certainly not the least was the mysterious wizard, Radagast the Brown. The Folk-moot was being held within the bounds of his lands, but he had yet to make any counsel to those that had gathered.
Bandy sat by one of the smouldering fires, which stayed alive due to the kindling that crackled around the thicker logs, but still the smoke from it filled the circle of log seats. He watched as a brace of coneys sizzled and darkened and his mouth watered. The young Hobbit found within the camp of Woodmen that it was the skills that you brought, not the coin in your purse that would get you fed here. Many times he had experienced what he thought as rude behavior from the large men who would not accept a coin for a leg of meat, or a cup of drink. Instead, the men would laugh and croak for him to go hunt his own food. Now he was enthralled by the two rabbits cooking, due to the pangs of hunger that raged within his stomach. Fortunately for the Hobbit, he had a stake in this meal after finally finding a friend who assisted in his procuring of food.
The youth on the opposite side of the fire, who slowly turned the spits, was named Arbogast. He was of Woodmen-town and had come to the Folk-moot in the company of Fridwald the Runner. His sire, Arbodag, had sent his son south to Rhosgobel so that he could bear witness to the councils of clans, and for the young man to be tested in any and all matters that related to the survival of Woodmen-town. Arbogast was quiet, where Bandy was as talkative as any good-natured Hobbit, and the young man would sit and listen to the stories that Bandobras Bracegirdle would weave of lands across far away mountains that rose to reach the mists in the sky.
All around them, other folk sat in the common ring of cook fires and spoke amongst themselves. Orophin of the Silvan Elves was a wonder for many to behold, even more so than the Hobbit, but yet he was visited by only a few. The superstitions of the Woodmen kept them at a distance to the Elf, though he was friendly to all. It was Grimbeorn who also sat alone that was more withdrawn than any other. The son of Beorn, who was a legend in the region, was a grim, opposing figure and he received the same attention as Orophin.
The companions’ quiet thoughts were interrupted as Freda, daughter of Fridwald, and Munderic, her cousin, approached. The girl was tall and thin, with auburn hair that hung in two braids to her shoulders. She had eyes that twinkled with the light of day and she made Arbogast stammer a hello at her arrival. If she heard him, she did not seem to notice. Instead she spoke over him, “My father has an errand that needs done. The Tent-town has filled so and the game in the local area of the forest has been shied away. He sent me to tell you to gather those that will accompany you and set out on a hunt. It would do well for our clan to have a deer brought down. Can you do that?”
Bandy looked at Freda, and then to Arbogast, and he wondered if he, too, would need go on this hunt, and would he be able to enjoy some of the beautiful rabbits that now sizzled over the fire.