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We’ve updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Returns to Roost

by Hole Dweller

A month had gone by since the disappearance. The Floating Log Inn was ablaze with stories and rumors of what had happened to Jamwine Hamfiddle, a nightly customer here at the pub. “Old fool of a Hamfiddle fell in the swamp, chasin’ after a wheel of cheese”, one patron loudly gossipped, slamming his mug to the table. Nearly everyone had their own tale to tell, each more ridiculous than the prior. If there was one person in the bar that evening that had heard them all it was Mr. Loamsdown, the owner of the Inn. Jamwine and Mr. Loamsdown had been childhood friends and Jamwine was a loyal patron - although a bit dozy perhaps. Now he was tired of the ramblings. “Ok that’s quite enough all of you!” Loamsdown’s gravelly voice burst through the clamoring. “If I hear one more bit of tittle-tattle regarding the business of Mr. Hamfiddle you’ll be out on yer ass, that goes for the lot of ya!”. The crowd murmured among themselves, and as the night was growing late the last few customers stumbled out the creaking front door
It was a cool Autumn morning as the fog settled in the fields that rolled on for ages outside the Floating Log Inn. Mr. Loamsdown was brushing the bits of dirt and longbottom leaf from between the cracked porch planks that had seen hearty dancing the night before. From over the distant horizon approached a slow moving carriage which billowed with dust and smoke. A tall grey figure sat atop the cart. A pointed hat and long grey beard, this man was certainly far from home. As the stranger approached the Inn, he muttered down to Loamsdown, who was already wary of the traveling foreigner. “Excuse me kind sir” said a scruffy voice as he looked at Loamsdown from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “Could you please tell me directions to the Bagg--” “That will be enough of that” Interrupted Loamsdown. “No adventures today, PLEASE AND THANK YOU”. As he turned his head and went about cleaning the faded planks. The wise looking fellow turned his head, somewhat flabbergasted at the Innkeepers harsh response, and continued down the road… in search of an adventure of sorts.
Loamsdown moved swiftly from chore to chore. Much needed to be accomplished before hungry patrons arrived that evening. As he entered his stables, Greymane and Plumpy greeted Loamsdown with an exuberant neigh that nearly resembled a chuckle. The ponies could feel their shoes loosening and had spotted the farrier tools in the old man’s hands. Twas one of many tasks around the property, one that Loamsdown truly took pride in. There was a time when he had pursued the thought of breeding his prized race ponies, now a distant memory as their gait grew creaky and slow. As he stooped down, pick in hand reaching for Greyman’s hoof, Loamsdown noticed a curious satchel at the edge of the stall. A small leather pouch, the tying string had been loosened. Upon closer inspection the initials - “JH”. As his focus changed to the ground, a few pennies could be seen scattered down the hill. The sleuthing innkeep tossed the bag up in there air, causing it to make one complete flip, and quickly snatched it midair. “Jamwine”, he smirked.
“What had become of that old sod?” Loamsdown thought as he churned curds in the cool dark cellar of the Floating Log Inn. Every theory that came to him seemed more ridiculous than the last. He just giggled to himself. Suddenly, the humor was dampened. A bitterly cold and sharp gust flew past the imperturbable man, causing him to tremble. And ominous stillness was in the air. A beam of sunlight sone down through the holes in the cellar doors, through which dust could be seen suspended in air, perfectly still. Loamsdown cautiously clambered the rungs up to the surface. Emerging out into a now eerily cool afternoon, a dark and portentous cloud swelled in the distance, the center becoming almost pitch black. Something sinister was impending in the Shire.
As the dark clouds creeped in and over The Floating Log, a violent wind churned up the dry leaves and barn straw. The ponies reared and cried out in fear. Loamsdown quickly wrangled them into their pens. All around, the world set dark as night, and above through the sweeping trees one could see many spectral figures weaving about the branches. Such magic had never been seen in the shire. Certainly not this dark sorcery. Forcing shut the stall door, Loamsdown clasped the latch, and against the wind’s force, slowly trudged towards the entrance of the inn. As he rounded the corner of the building, he saw out in the road the mysterious grey hooded figure he had met that morning. His arms were raised to the air, staff in hand, cloak fluttering in the wind. It took a moment for Loamsdown to notice that the man was in the midst of a duel of supernatural powers. The darkness was powerful, but surprisingly no match for the aged grey wizard. All at once, a deafening shriek echoed and suddenly dissipated along with the gail. The air settled as the hooded figure collapsed to one knee.
Running to his side, Mr. Loamsdown knelt to face the old man. He could see the exhaustion in his wise and sunken eyes. “What in the blazes was that? Explain yourself wizard!” Loamsdown at this point somewhat annoyed at the altercation that had startled his ponies. “What you saw was not pertaining to your business I am afraid” the wizard grumbled. “Remember, as you said, No adventures today”. Loamsdown looked perplexed as the man rose and hobbled away down the path. It was the last of any type of magic the lonely innkeeper witnessed in the Shire. Just as soon as the old gray wizard disappeared over the horizon, a mail carrier approached from the edge of the path.
My dear friend, I hope this message finds you well. As you may have noticed by now, I have wandered far and away from the Shire. I am not lost, well not entirely at least. In the late evening hours some days ago I managed to set into action a course of events which has led me to find part in a Dwarven Caravan. It was with their assistance that we managed to uncover something that is not safe to discuss in this letter. Anyway, I am in long need of an ale at your hearthfire. I shall be stopping in as I return home to Frogmorton. I am setting out on a path as I write this. Please burn this note upon reading, I do not wish to startle you, but I feel as though I am being watched… -Jamwine
Mr. Loamsdown had just finished unloading the delivery cart of brewer’s supplies. Barrels full of ingredients moved out from the road, down the narrow cellar stairs and into the stockpile. It was a taxing job that took a good portion of the afternoon, and although quite strong for his age, the Innkeeper had to take a rest in the midst of his duties. Whilst relaxing, Loamsdown pondered the letter Jamwine had sent him. Though secretly elated to hear of his friend’s safety, he could not help but to dwell on the dreadful tone in the message. What possible doom would follow Jamwine Hamfiddle back to the Shire?
The Inn was especially busy this evening, and strangely no one seemed to have any recollection of the sensational storm from earlier that day. The night carried on like any other with song and dance. Pipe smoke filled the air and churned delightfully with the smell of roast suckling hog and burning embers. Just as one happy tune began to reach its climatic drunken surge, the front door burst open, and through the foggy air a silhouetted figure emerged into the light. “Jamwine!” the crowd surged. Jamwine stepped into the room, nodding his head low, a bit embarrassed at his follies, but with a smirk around his face prompted by the warm welcome of his friends. The night carried on with laughter and libations. Though many prodded the hobbit on his homecoming, eager for tales of adventure, Jamwine was not too hasty to divulge much information. As the barrels emptied, so did the inn. Jamwine took a seat at the bar across from Mr. Loamsdown. As the innkeeper wiped away mug rings and seed shells, he noticed the joyful smirk had gone completely from Jamwine’s face. Now he sat with a solemn stare, swirling the warm swill of ale at the bottom of his glass.
“Out with it Jamwine”. The grizzly old barkeep belched. “What happened out there on this adventure of yours?” “Twas no adventure.” Jamwine muttered. “More or less a bumbling trek of timidity.” He went on to tell his tales of false specters, scone chasing, and the most humiliating chase through the Bindbole Wood. “But tell us, what of the Dwarven Caravan? What was it you uncovered that bodes so grim?” “I should not reveal so hastily” Jamwine returned with a hiss. “The dwarves 4 they were. Gobli, Bunkin, Blob and Oink. A map I found hidden in ruins of the woods. The four of them and I sought out in search of promised gold. We found gold in fact, but in addition something far darker in fact.” “What became of these dwarven friends?” Loamsdown peered in curiosity. Suddenly, a crash was heard from outside the Inn. The two hobbits spun swiftly towards the noise. As they focused befuddled eyes on the source of clamouring, it was clear they were not alone. For outside the pub windows was a huddling of small slimy characters, reaching over one another in an attempt to get a peek inside the tavern. Crude steel makeshift spears and hatchets clinked together as the numbers grew larger. “Goblins” the hobbits growled with a tremble...


released March 7, 2020

Tim Rowland - Synths, Drums, Bass, & Production

Album art by Paul Noble

Logo by Lord Tetrarch


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Hole Dweller Athens, Georgia

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