He furrows his brow, "Amdir's fall, the attacks in Bree, and the gathering of goblins on the borders of your homeland. These events are bound together, and I see the hand of the Captain of the Nine in all of them."
"The Nine?" I ask, my voice squeaking a little. "Isn't that the wraith guys who work for you-know-who?" This is not exactly where I was hoping the conversation would go.
"Indeed, though I am surprised to meet one of your kind that knows of such things."
I'm anxious to prove to him that I'm more than just a pretty face and jaw-dropping fashion. "Yes! The Nine. I know all about those fellas. I even faced one a few weeks ago on my way to Archet. That's where I met up with Amdir." I leave out the details about how I was just cowering in front of it waiting to be killed until the Elves showed up.
"Few mortals in this age have faced such an encounter, and fewer still live to tell the tale. You must be a great deal stronger than you look."
And now he's going on about my looks again. My plan is working!
He fixes me with a stern gaze. At first I think he's going to profess his love right then and there, but apparently he's not ready to give in just yet, "I know that you have done much already, but I would ask one final boon from you."
"I'll do anything," I say.
"You need not agree so quickly! There is no shame in caution when facing these, the most deadly in all the servants of Sauron. Still, I would ask that you accompany me to a camp some distance from here. I believe that is where we will find Amdir."
"Oh," I say, trying to mask my disappointment. This is not what I'd imagined for our first date.
"There we must go, and there we must end Amdir's life, if indeed he can still be called living."
I brighten up a bit, "Oh, that actually sounds kind of nice."
"Uh, I mean... important."
Strider nods, "The path ahead is hard, but I believe we must do this if we hope to unravel the thread of their plans."
Reluctantly, I hop down off of his bed. "Great so... what now?"
"We may leave as soon as you've recovered your gear."
I shrug, "I'm good."
"You wish to go into battle clad thus?" he asks, motioning towards my new dress.
I think back to my old outfit, which I flung off in the middle of the auction house. Not a proud moment for me, and it would be even less proud if I were to go back and try to recover my things. Finally I stammer, "Of course! This is my combat... gown. Yes. It will be just fine."
"Very well then. Let us depart immediately."
This could actually work out well for me. We're going off to a remote camp in the woods at night to face Amdir. Once Amdir is dead, Strider will most likely be full of sorrow. (But not in a gross blubbering crybaby way. He might do that "shed one tear" thing that brave men do.) He'll be in need of comfort, and we'll be all alone.
A bit later in the evening we arrive at the bandit camp.
Curses. A couple of other rangers have met up with us here. I'll need to get rid of these guys if my plan is going to work.
Strider speaks gravely to us, "Can you feel the chill in the air? This is not the natural cold of the night air, but the powers of evil. I have no doubt that Amdir is here, but we may find greater evil still ere we see the dawn. Be on your guard."
"We should split up!" I blurt out.
They all turn and look at me, waiting for an explanation.
"Because... Amdir might escape," I stammer. "He's a slippery one. He's always running off instead of fighting."
"You speak wisely, young Hobbit," Strider says with a nod. "You and Torthann should explore beyond the nearby gate, while Lenglinn and I shall look for another way-"
"No!" I yelp. "I mean, shouldn't you and I...?"
"Fear not," Strider says in a gentle voice, "Torthann is as capable as any of the other rangers. He will protect you."
"That's not what I..."