- Age: Oldest and fatherless
- Species: Great question, actually
- Weapons: Immense, mysterious magic power, deeply unsettling songs
- Special Attack: The element of surprise
- Is unaffected by the One Ring
- Is ageless, possibly immortal
- Exercises great power with little effort
- His voice defeats enchantments
- Seems to be bound to the Old Forest
- Is a bit unreliable
- Oblivious to concerns of mortals
- Age: 40+
- Species: Stained (Obsidian)
- Weapons: IonBlade
- Special Attack: Being bigger and badder than you
- Enormous & physically powerful
- Stoic and wise
- Skilled with his blades
- Devotion to his sister
By Liana Brooks
This was no Mars, nor any other planet Ragnar knew of. The air smelled strange with no touch of metal or fire. There was a silence, an emptiness to the place, but a warmth as well. In a few hours, the sun would be hot on the open plains, and there was shade ahead.
Woods could be treacherous. He knew that well, but heat was an equally deadly foe.
So, he went, ionBlades drawn, cautious and careful. Perhaps Allmother Death was waiting for him. Perhaps not.
But, if he survived, he would be able to tell Darrow and the others how three strangers tried to kill him. Four, if he counted the strange woman who did not wish to fight and who spoke of heroes. Yet, he fought. He lived.
Ahead, the trees swayed in a gentle autumn breeze. A thin track meandered through the wood catching the edge of a shallow river and running alongside it. Small flowers of yellow and white danced and shook as he walked, massive feet shaking the ground. Branches snapped and broke as they brushed against his arms. Even the fish in the river darted away from his shadow.
Ragnar eyed a willow tree that creaked with the wind. The shade underneath was cool and inviting, the soft babble of river lulling. He didn’t trust such unnatural calm and steered well clear.
The track led him past a meadow, a wide sweep of grass cut short and cared for. Stones had been added to keep the path free of weeds. Everything about the place screamed TRAP.
Ragnar turned away, stepped off the path and slipped between the trees.
As the sun set over the western hills he found a fresh grave with dirt newly turned and too shallow to keep animals away. He kicked the dirt aside and saw a lowColor Red woman with pale skin and mud-clumped hair lying dead. Reds didn’t usually get burials. Society didn’t care for Obsidians like him either.
In the falling darkness, someone sang a song. It was a strange tune, looping, and jumping, and falling as it evoked a memory not entirely his own.
“Down west sinks the sun: soon you will be groping. When the night-shadows fall then the door will open; out the window-panes, light will twinkle yellow.”
Ragnar turned toward the sound.
In the distance, off the path and between the trees, a man in a blue jacket danced as he sang to himself. Sliding into the deep shadows, Ragnar drew his blade.
The song stopped. The woods stilled.
“I can see you, lad. Wight you may look, but wight you not be. Nor do you have the smell of the free.” The man’s voice came from nowhere and everywhere at once.
“I am Ragnar Volarus, son of the people of the Valkyrie Spires. Born free-“
“But not free, I see,” the man said cutting him off.
“I am the Shield of Tinos.”
There was a chuckle in the darkness. “Is that supposed to impress me, boy?”
“I am no boy,” Ragnar said pushing away from the tree. “No stripling youth without scar or learning. I have fought. I have fallen. I –“
“You are a fool.” The proclamation fell like a corpse from the sky.
Ragnar stepped onto the path, looking for the fat man and his blue coat. “A fool?” Rage burned in him hotter than a summer sun, hotter than the lava flows beneath Mar’s surface.
Mists of night gathered and dispersed leaving a fat man with blue boots and feather in his cap standing just out of reach. “Only a fool thinks that power comes from killing and conquering.”
“I fought to free my people.”
“A noble goal, I’m sure,” the man said.
Ragnar tried to lift his foot, but the ground held it fast. He grimaced. “You aren’t going to turn into a bird, are you?”
The fat man chuckled. “No, wandering wight. My power is in song. The first song I brought when darkness was young to bring rain to the parched earth. With song, I called for root and branch, tree, acorn, river and sky. For Tom Bombadil, am I.”
Ragnar tried again to move, but his body was listless, shaking almost with a breeze he could not feel. “Songs to create? Then why are there dead buried in shallow graves? Did you try to rescue the girl?”
“The Devil from a city far did sweet Goldberry try to charm. But, the Devi child forgot whose daughter she desired. The daughter of the River that through the vale is flowing.” His smile was cold. “No mortal may lay in the River’s bed without the mortal drowning.”
Pointing his ionBlade at the man, Ragnar scowled. “Release me from your hold, so we may fight. One or both of us will go to Allmother Death. That is how I will be free of this nightmare.”
“You are a mountain come to life, ice of another age. Weary are your wandering feet, and angry is your heart, oh so filled with rage.”
The bonds around Ragnar broke, and he shook off the tingling feeling.
“Do you think you can defeat me?” Bombadil asked. “I who have stood in these woods through the rise and fall of so many?”
“If you had risen to their defense, you could have had more than a wood to stand in. I have met gods before. I have killed them. Gold. Silver. Red. I do not care what Color you are.”
“Old Tom by day, he is a merry fellow. Bright blue is his coat, and his boots are yellow.”
“That is no answer,” Ragnar said, but reason persuaded him to caution. The odd man was trying to warn him.”
Tom Bombadil looked up at the clear night sky.
Ragnar followed his gaze trying to trace a constellation he knew and seeing only stranger stars.
“Tom knew when the darkness held no fear, but that was before Old Tom did appear. Oldest. Fatherless. Dangerous am I. Old Tom’s songs are stronger songs; they turn bone to ash and lye.”
The ionBlade in Ragnar’s hand shook as his body trembled. Ragnar snarled.
“Hold now angry one with a heart so bold. Old Tom is a dangerous one, but his old heart’s not cold. To your friends, I could return you with a song of home and hearth. To Sefi’s silent, heartfelt lullaby and the conquerors of Earth.”
Without warning, Ragnar struck, ionBlade crashing down. The old man wasn’t there as his blade hit the ground.
Smoke curled up from dead grass.
“Sing your song, old man,” Ragnar told the darkness. “I will sing you the song of Persephone.” He started to hum, tuneless at first, but growing recognizable as he stalked through the woods. Then, he found his favorite verse. “Remember the chains when gold ruled with iron reins. We roared and roared and twisted and screamed for ours, a vale of better dreams…”
He stepped around lichen covered boulders, saw the place where his quarry had crushed the grass as he passed, crept past an ancient wooden box left by some other unlucky traveler. Through the mist, he could make out the form of the strange man as he tried to hide himself in the bramble.
Growling low in his throat, Ragnar moved forward. He roared as he found the old man’s hiding place and cut down.
Wood and bramble gave way beneath him. The very ground he stood on trembled and the caved collapsed. He fell, breathless into the darkness.
“Tom’s songs are strong songs, and my roots grow deeper. Older than the ancient sky, Old Tom is life’s keeper.”
The voice was all around Ragnar, echoing off unseen walls.
“You may slay gods and men, but can you kill a world? Lift sword, mountain man, and give us one more twirl.”
Ragnar screamed as he slashed at the darkness. His foot caught on something, and he stumbled.
With a scratch of a match against his nail, Tom Bombadil brought light to the cavern under Old Man Willow’s roots. The Luggage that had followed him along licked its lid with a mahogany tongue.
“Lug, what fools these mortals be.”