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The Mark of a Warrior?

Chapter 1: The Mark of a Warrior?

by Ariel

The Mark of a Warrior?

By Ariel

Rating: PG-13

Description: A bit of potty humor that might give you a chuckle. You just know that a group of men of different races would do this at least once.

The land of Hollin drowsed under the weak sun of a winter afternoon. Shadows lengthened across the deserted land and bleak, windswept escarpments held the last of the day's fading light. The only movement across the desolate landscape had been the slow, measured pace of a grey robed figure and the thin trickle of pipesmoke that had emerged from it from time to time. Now even that lone wanderer had settled and the hills awaited the night with hushed expectancy.

Onto one of these lonely, barren ridges, a new figure strode.

He was tall and rugged but ill-kempt, as if he had just risen from his bed. He strode to the edge of a cleft in the mountain. Across the narrow cut, almost close enough to reach over and touch, rose a wall of sandstone which gave the flat on the other side shelter from the chill winter winds. The man eyed the stone as if trying to focus on it while a second figure approached.

It was a dwarf, stocky and proud, with a stiff beard that hid most of his face. He walked to the edge of the drop and paused, seeming to gather his thoughts. He glanced at the man from the corner of his eye and gave a curt nod of acknowledgement. They were both there for the same purpose.

A third figure approached. This was an elf; there could be no mistaking that elegant breed, and he walked to the edge of the cut a little ways away from the man and dwarf. The elf seemed not to notice his companions, or rather to be very properly not noticing them as they all stood staring at the blank wall of rock.

The elf wasted no time in bleary-eyed contemplation, but began his day in the same way he had for thousands of years - the way males everywhere have for uncounted generations. He reached down and loosened his breeches.

The man rubbed his rough beard, coughed and scratched himself, then prepared to do the same. The dwarf, without preamble, did likewise.

A mark appeared low on sandstone wall.

The man blinked and eyed the spreading stain as if judging the distance. He frowned. The cleft was a several feet wide at this point and its floor sloped down steeply. Stubby pines clawed a foothold in the little shelter it offered, but no traveler could walk it. He frowned again, set his feet a little apart and leaned back slightly.

His mark was higher on the far wall.

The dwarf raised an eyebrow, but no other evidence of his expression could be discerned from his taciturn face. His brows seemed to knit together as he angled his body.

His mark, though higher than the elfs, fell short of the mans. He scowled for a moment, then, with a flashing glance at the others marks, grunted deferentially at the man.

Another figure stumbled towards the cleft. This was also a man. Though his clothes were finer and his grooming more refined, he looked even less cognizant than the first had been. He coughed and spat, then drew himself up at the cliff face and began to fumble with his pants.

After a moment, he looked up and seemed to notice the three growing marks on the wall before him. He glanced surreptitiously at his companions. They seemed rather intent on their business, but there was an air of smugness about the other man. The second man again looked at the wall and his eyes widened. He cleared his throat and stood a little straighter.

His mark moved up on the wall.

The elf, finished, began reordering his attire. The first man glanced over at him with a look of cocky self-assurance. The elf sighed and shook his head.

Another being approached the wall and lined himself up between the elf and the man. This one was small, shorter than the dwarf and nearly half the height of the men and elf. He clutched his woolen cloak tightly but paid no heed whatsoever to his companions as he hurriedly fumbled with his may layers of garments. When he had settled back in a miniature semblance of the other's stances, he looked up, seeming to at last notice that he was not alone. He blinked, apparently surprised, but the others, the elf, the dwarf and the two men, now became engrossed in their own business and did not look at him. The diminutive being stared curiously at them, but it wasn't until he looked forward, to see what he was doing, that he noticed the mark his activity was making on the cliff that faced him.

It was several feet higher on the wall than any of the other marks.

The self-confidence on the face of the first man drooped. The elf seemed to be forcibly suppressing a grin, but showed no sign of leaving the little cleft as he patted his garments back into place. The dwarf was purposefully not looking at any of them.

The diminutive creature, who was a hobbit, of course, blushed and finished swiftly, wrapping himself in his cloak again and stumbling back to his bedroll as two more hobbits emerged from the pile of blankets. These two, one elder and one younger, approached the cleft as well, the older one yawning and stretching as he went and the younger seeming to fight to pry his eyes open. They stopped at the cleft, one to either side of the first man. The elder one glanced up at him with polite curiosity and a nod, but the younger seemed as oblivious as his predecessor had at first been. Both bent to their tasks and fairly soon two more marks appeared on the cliff wall.

They were both higher up than any of the previous ones.

The younger hobbit glanced around as if just noticing he was flanked by humans and saw the second man frown. He looked at the wall and his eyes widened in comprehension. He stood a little taller and placed his feet more apart, inching his mark up the wall by several inches.

"Pippin!" the older one hissed disapprovingly. The youngster blushed and resumed his more humble stance, but the mark had already been made. The dwarf made a sound that might have been a chuckle or a cough, but made a pointed effort to finish and recompose himself. The older hobbit rolled his eyes and put his clothing back in order before returning to pack his bedroll.

The younger one tarried, glancing cautiously at the others lined up around him. The first man's humor seemed to be returning but the second beside him was reordering his clothes with a look of bemusement. The elf had a hand over his mouth and looked as if he was desperately trying not to laugh and the dwarf kept his back to the company.

Meanwhile the last hobbit had arisen and, stooping once to throw some wood on the ash of that morning's fire, walked unconcernedly to the cleft. He looked neither left nor right, but settled in at the edge on the far side of the elf. The cleft was widest there and the wall quite far away. The others who still remained at the cliff waited expectantly.

If the last hobbit noticed anything unusual, he gave no sign. He loosened his drawers and settled back, closing his eyes with a sigh as a sparkling stream arched across the gap and struck the far wall.

Much higher than any of the previous attempts had reached.

It wasn't until the last fellow had finished, tucked himself away, stretched the kinks out of his back and returned to the fire, that the elf's bright laugher rang out accompanied by a low grumbling that just might have been a dwarfs amused chuckle.

And in a secluded scrape on the far side of the ridge, out of sight of any of the others, the grey-robed figure looked up from the scroll he'd been absently scanning. He seemed to listen intently for a moment, and then relaxed, refocusing on his paper and shaking his head.

"Hobbits," he muttered.