Arnulf and Burin approached the large main entrance to Laketown for the first time in many months. Since they had permanently moved to the new City of Dale a few years ago they had only rarely needed to return here. Today, of all days, seemed the perfect reason to come however. Today was the first day of the great new festival to be held hear each year named Dragontide, in commemoration of the events five years past and those who lost their lives, as well as a celebration of the new age of prosperity the people of the lake and Dale were enjoying.
The pair passed through the main entrance, manned by a few more of the town guards than usual, and then through the busy tollhouse to enter the town. As they opened out onto Bridge Street Burin was quite surprised to the place heaving with people.
‘By Durin’s beard lad! Would you look at the amount of folk they’ve managed to squeeze into these streets, it’s a wonder the place hasn’t sunk!’
Arnulf couldn’t help himself from beaming with pride at the success of his hometown
‘I know, isn’t it brilliant?’ He said ‘I only hope we can see the great streets of Dale as busy as this soon!’
They continued down the main street until they reached the market pool, which was somehow even busier still, with various merchants and craftsmen from lands near and far. They spent some time wandering the stalls, taking in the sights of exotic wares and enjoying the somewhat frantic but cheerful atmosphere.
At least, that’s how Arnulf saw it. Burin however sensed that something may be wrong. There weren’t as many Dwarves in the area as he would have expected, and the few that were around seemed to be keeping to their selves, or having hushed conversations amongst themselves. As Arnulf was occupied talking to one of the merchants, he decided to go over to a couple of Dwarves and see what the issue was. It’s never very unusual for Dwarves to be acting in this sort of manner, but clearly something was wrong, and Burin found that his hunch was correct as he was told that two important Dwarven emissaries who had been sent west across the forest ahead of the festival had still not returned, and Glóin was in Laketown seeking help finding them.
Burin knew that Arnulf would want to hear of this, so as they exited the market area and moved into a street where it was easier to talk without the din of the crowds, he told him of the problem.
‘Now I know we aren’t exactly here to become part of a search party or anything, but-‘
‘No no Burin’ Arnulf interrupted ‘of course we should go to Glóin and offer our help, it’s not as if we were planning on taking part in the wreath shoot contest. And after all, this festival is meant to celebrate the prosperity that the people of this land have found by working together once again, what hypocrisy would it be if those of us who can help our neighbours did nothing at a time like this?’
‘You know what Arnulf? I couldn’t have said it better myself, but one day I can see that eagerness to help getting you, and therefore me in trouble. Ah well, come we should find Glóin in his house by the town hall’ Burin said as he continued walking.
They made their way towards the centre of the town where the town hall and Glóin’s own mansion stood. Glóin usually stayed in Laketown for several weeks out of the year to act as an envoy in Esgaroth for the King under the Mountain, which was why he had his own residence there. It took them some time to get through the crowds, but they eventually arrived at Glóin’s front door.
‘Yes sirs, how can I be of service to ye?’ a Dwarf guard, casually leaning on his axe, asked as they approached. Burin introduced himself and Arnulf and said that they were here to help with the current situation.
‘Ah yes, right, well please go right in, Master Glóin is eager to see any helpful folk such as ye’selves, allow me’ the guard said as he pushed open one of the heavy double doors for them.
As they walked in they found themselves waiting for a short moment before they were then led into Glóin’s study, with the Dwarf himself sitting at his desk with a worried but determined expression across his face. Wiping ink from his fingers with barely contained impatience, staining the white trimming of his robe that matched the hue of the two points of his forked beard, he welcomed the pair to his hall. Speaking mostly at Burin, he exchanged greetings and started to explain
‘I’m sure you can understand that we want to keep this situation fairly quiet, mostly due to the worry it would cause amongst the people here to celebrate. The last thing we want is to bring down the mood at such a time. However, something must be done, and I’m thankful that a few such as yourselves have offered to help’ As he spoke he started to draw what looked like part of a map on a small piece of parchment.
‘Now, the details. My cousin Balin son of Fundin has left the Lonely Mountain with a companion. He was meant to personally deliver a letter, a formal invitation from King Dáin Ironfoot to the Lord of the Eagles for the coming Gathering of Five Armies, an important meeting to be held soon, he was also meant to spread the word to others of the festival of Dragontide here. He planned to go south along the Running River, to investigate the conditions of the Old Forest Road and possibly traverse it, now that the threat of Goblins has been greatly reduced. I don’t know what happened, but unfortunately the possibilities are many in these days of doubt… if the perils of Wilderland were not enough, there are always the suspicious dwellers of the Woodland Realm to consider. They are sworn enemies of the Shadow, but unfortunately they don’t love Dwarves and watch their land jealously. I hope my concerns are ill-placed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Balin had found himself again a guest of the Elvenking’s celebrated hospitality…’
Burin could see the great worry on the older Dwarf’s face at this moment, despite him trying to hide his profound concern, and his experience told him that something more was not being said, perhaps this unnamed companion was someone closer to Glóin than his cousin. His older brother Óin perhaps?
‘Not only do I intend to offer a princely reward to whoever finds and returns these missing persons, but you would also have my gratitude and the respect of King Dáin himself’ Glóin carried on. ‘Now, seeing as you two have come forward and generously offered your help, I gratefully accept and pronounce that you are officially tasked with the rescue of these two missing Dwarves’ He then handed over the small parchment ‘Here is a map showing their planned route through the lands south of Esgaroth. Now, if you could wait a moment while we organise you and others who have volunteered in the search into groups to go out as soon as possible, thank you’.
They both bowed formally and exchanged parting words with the Dwarf before leaving the room to wait outside.
‘I wonder who else has volunteered to help? Perhaps we’ll know them’ Arnulf said as they began to wait.