I am Braxwolf Stormchaser. I hail from the disputed lands of South Gondor where the land is hard and the vegetation is sparse. As a young man, my father (Kanewolf, Guardian of the Desert) was the chief elder of our village, which was loyal to the northern kingdom of Gondor and the stewards ruling there. Under the watch of my family, our village was kept safe from the various tribal assaults that occasionally endangered our people. My older brother, Borowolf, was a fine leader of men and shrewd in battle. We had little trouble beating back what little threat the other local tribes posed to our village.
However, as news of the battles around Gondor’s capital city of Minis Tirith grew ever louder, Borowolf felt it his duty to ride to the white city and aid its defenses. Though he was to be my father’s heir, Borowolf convinced my father that the greater good lie northward. His departure left me as the heir to the title of Chief Elder. My interest, however, was never in leadership. I loved the hunt, and spent every spare minute in the harsh wilderness tracking game. It was on one of these hunts, about a year after the departure of Borowolf, that I caught the scent of battle and immediately set off towards home. Upon my return, however, I discovered that my village had been attacked, and all of the free people, including my father, slain. I wept that neither Borowolf nor myself were there to assist, but this attack was unlike any that had come before it. The tracks, weapons, and corpses left behind suggested that the attackers were not merely a rival village, but a legion of dark men, possibly from Umbar, and headed northeastward. Visions of the Dark Numenoreans haunted me. I gathered what supplies I could, and set off to track the army. My thoughts were bent on revenge. Soon, sense overtook me and I changed course to Minis Tirith to re-unite with Borowolf. My efforts against a force of that size would be futile, and Borowolf deserved to hear the news of our family’s passing so that he, too, could mourn.
The road to the white city was not easy. Game and water was scarce, and I was able to shoot only small creatures for sustenance. My bow skill increased greatly out of necessity during that journey.
Upon my arrival at Minis Tirith, I was surprised to hear that Borowolf was not there. He had learned much of battle in the months that had passed, and had been quickly promoted to a lieutenant under Captain Boromir and assigned to the defenses of Osgiliath. His skill in strategy and ability to motivate had quickly gained him favor in the captain’s eyes, as they were much alike. I was summoned to give account of our village’s slaughter to Lord Denethor. He listened carefully but not sympathetically. Denethor was distrustful of many, especially of those from the south. When I requested permission to join my brother, he laughed and granted it eagerly. I later learned from Boromir that Denethor had doubted whether a young villager clothed in rags and armed only with a crudely fashioned bow would survive even the short trip to Osgiliath.
As I rode to the gates of Osgiliath, Borowolf came out to meet me. His face was a mixture of joy, surprise, and great concern. My appearance surely betrayed the somber reason for my arrival. As I relayed my story to Borowolf, we both wept. Despite his affinity for optimism, I could tell Borowolf was greatly troubled that he had left our village prior to its fall. I, too, still burned at the thought of being absent in my family’s time of need. We decided to depart immediately for our home village to honor the dead and to plan our revenge against the southerners.
Borowolf and I met with Captain Boromir to request a leave for my brother. Boromir, being accustomed to death on the field of battle, was of course sympathetic, but would not grant his Lieutenant leave. His reasoning was that Borowolf could do much more to harm the enemy by commanding the forces of Gondor than by traipsing off into the wilderness. So convincing was his speech that by the end of it, I, too had joined the Gondorian army to fight alongside him and my brother. As my skill was with the bow, I was assigned to the archers in Osgiliath.
Although many in my company were skeptical of my arrival (they no doubt saw my brother’s rank and friendship with Boromir as a reason for my assignment), I quickly won many of them over with my trick-shot skills, wit, and aggressiveness in battle. While Borowolf was always strong and joyfully stern, I have always been fuller of good humor and less concerned with duty. However, as battle would rage, I continued to be driven by thoughts of my slain family, and more times than not, my arrow would find its mark. Likely it was this, and not my good humor, that caught the eyes of my superiors and allowed me to be quickly promoted within the ranks of archers until mine equaled that of Borowolf. Within two years’ time, the sons of Kanewolf were both Lieutenants in the Gondorian forces, defending Osgiliath under the banner of the white tree.
However, fire can burn too brightly. It was during one particularly dark night that a company of orcs was laying siege to the city. A low layer of thick fog hung between the top of the wall, where my company was stationed, and the fierce battle at ground level. As we listened helplessly to the slaughter of our comrades below, I ordered my company to leave the high perch of the wall, draw their swords, and to join the ground forces below. In the time that it took us to move to ground level, a troop of orcs had raised its ladders and reached the top of the wall uncontested. It was a grievous error in judgment borne from my desire to be in the thick of the battle. It was only by Boromir and Borowolf’s ability to rally the ground forces within the city that the attackers were turned away. Boromir was furious, but his fondness for Borowolf and my skill with a bow kept him somewhat at bay.
Denethor, however, was not so forgiving. Since my arrival in rags and with a doubtful story of escape from a legion led by black numenoreans, he had kept a watchful eye on my movements. He suspicioned I was a spy from the south, and my concession of the high ground during a key battle only solidified his mistrust. The thought of a spy amongst his military ranks was too much for his paranoid mind, and despite the pleadings of his son Boromir, he banished me from the land of Gondor. I was devastated. Finally, I had begun to think of Minis Tirith as my new home, and the defenses of Gondor as my new purpose. Now, both had been ripped from me due to a careless mistake.
Borowolf was forced to choose once more between his duty to country and his duty to family. This time, he chose family, the death of our father still being fresh in his mind. Borimir, who knows the bonds of brotherhood well, grudgingly accepted his resignation, and bade him to return at any time. For me, he also had a departing embrace, apparently feeling that the punishment his father had bestowed was far too harsh.
Though we knew the land to the south well, Borowolf and I decided to set out northward. South Gondor is not hospitable, and we were now driven by a sense of adventure and new beginnings. Perhaps the land of Rohan would be in need of seasoned commanders. As we entered the barren brown lands, however, it became apparent that bands of orcs from both Mordor and Isengard roamed freely and unchecked across the vast expanse. What their purpose was, we couldn’t guess. But there seemed to be no military presence for miles. Gondor was busy defending its people against the east, and Rohan was nowhere to be found. After weeks of very little game or water (the brown lands seemed even less hospitable than South Gondor would have been) we decided to make for a forest in hopes that food would be more prevalent. Of the three forests within reach, Fangorn and Lorien were both feared for the old magic that protected them. Mirkwood, it was said, had at one time housed a great evil, but that evil had since been driven out. So, we headed for the dark of Mirkwood. I was confident that my wilderness skills would guide us through it, and the forest would provide cover from the roving bands of orcs on the plains.
Mirkwood was unlike any wilderness we had ever seen. Its age and thickness made the woods of Ithilian seem a mere thicket. Although we were successful in evading the orc bands and in finding food and water, an uneasy feeling followed us everywhere. Eventually, we began to feel more comfortable in our ability to navigate a small section of the forest. After several weeks of eating and recovering from our journey, we were silently approached by a small band of wood elves who called themselves the Mallehdrim. They had been watching us since our arrival in Mirkwood to determine our intentions and were possibly at least partially responsible for the uneasiness that Borowolf and I had sensed. Although some were suspicious of us, the leaders of the Mallehdrim kin recognized that we were good-hearted, and welcomed any friends in these times of war. Although we never learned what their intentions were, nor why there was such a large band of heavily armed elves in the forest, we learned much from them during our time together. In particular, I learned the importance of channeling my rage during battle and of focus with the bow. The Mallehdrim are expert bowmen, and yet were impressed with my skill (for a man). My tracking and navigation was also honed through my time with them. Borowolf, likewise, learned much from their tales of battles long past.
We spent many months with our new kindred. After some time, the elves began to receive word of continued unrest in the west of Middle-Earth. Across the Misty Mountains, the peaceful land of Bree, which had long been watched by the Dunedain Rangers, was starting to see an influx of orcs and bandits, numbers that could eventually overwhelm the meager band of rangers who remained. Borowolf’s sense of duty once again stirred in his heart. Being banished from Gondor, and with Rohan seemingly allied with Isengard, the land across the mountains was one place that we might still be able to make a difference in the war. So, with much new wisdom, and some trepidation, we bade our new Mallehdrim kin farewell, and set off on the long journey towards Bree, to help the rangers defend some of the last free lands of Middle-Earth.