The Riders Four
"We were dispatched by Lord Éomer to harry the Orcs roving the plains of the Mark, but what we discovered in the Brown Lands was truly terrifying. Now we ride through the Eastemnet on our way to Edoras, warning the Reeves of the Easterling horde marching upon them...."
Burnoth, son of Baldeg, is 28 years old. His father is a high-ranking retainer in the employ of Thane Sparláf of Fenmarch. From an early age, Burnoth yearned to be a warrior, though his father – embittered by constant fighting with Orcs out of the East Wall – did all he could to guide him into more peaceful pursuits. As a result, Burnoth is proficient at playing the harp and a good storyteller. Despite his father's efforts, however, Burnoth still found ways to train at arms, and proved himself by hunting and killing a band of four Orcs when he was just 16. Grudgingly, Baldeg allowed him to become a squire to the Thane, and Burnoth fit into the role of warrior easily. Within three years he was a retainer himself, and at the age of 25 he was invited to Aldburg to serve Éomer, the Third Marshal of the Mark. There he trained in command, and became leader of a small band of warriors. He also met and married Merewen, the strong-willed daughter of one of Éomer's counselors. They have a young daughter, Céolwen, together: she is currently three and a half years old, precocious, and already a good rider.
Burnoth is a proud man, a natural leader and teller of tales. Éomer himself has his eye on him as a future captain, and Burnoth admires the Marshal greatly. He honors his heritage, and would do anything to protect his family. As a result, he has accepted a mission to lead a small band into the Eastemnet to harry the enemies of the Mark who dwell there. While the éoreds ride hither and yon, bringing ruin to the enemy, Burnoth's band strikes quietly, from the shadows, in an attempt to find the head of the serpent and cut it off.
His most prized possession is Fyrbrand, the sword of his longfathers, which has been handed down through his family since the days of Helm Hammerhand. His father gave Fyrbrand to Burnoth when he set forth for Aldburg, as a sign of his respect and esteem. Burnoth still does not quite believe himself worthy of such a gift, and takes good care of the blade.
His second greatest possession is his horse, which was foaled on the same day Céolwen was born. He named the steed Brynmód, but his daughter has taken to calling it Prancey for its springing gait – a fact his fellow warriors often remind him of with mirth. He is gruff about these jokes, appearing to weather them grudgingly, but in private he often calls the steed Prancey. He fears losing the horse as much as his own life, for he knows that Céolwen's heart will break if it does not return alive from the field.
Léofdag, son of Winedag, is a career warden, a veteran Rider in the éored of Éomer. He is 43 years old. His father was a farmer in the fields of the Sutcrofts, who took up arms when called upon like all men of Rohan, and who once saved the life of Éomund, father of Éomer, in battle. As thanks, Éomund agreed to take Winedag's young son into his service, squiring him to Gártorn, one of his fiercest warriors and a master of the spear. From the age of eight, Léofdag's life revolved around training at warfare. He knows little else, but has become a masterful fighter. When he was 18 he became a full knight in Éomund's service, and rode beside his lord into battle many a time. Soon the King himself took an interest, and word was that Théoden was soon to invite Léofdag into his service among his personal guard. But then disaster struck: Éomund, ever reckless, rode forth to chase Orcs at the feet of the East Wall, not far from Winedag's farm. Léofdag was in the Marshal's company, along with a handful of other warriors. Their numbers proved too few, and all but him were slain by an Orkish ambush. Léofdag was wounded trying to save Éomund – he bears the scars to this day – and bore the lord back to Aldburg upon his own horse. This defeat shamed him, and Gártorn himself turned his back on Léofdag, exiling him to the garrison of Stangard for two years. The invitation to attend the King never came, and while Léofdag considered giving up his spurs and returning to his father's croft, he was too ashamed to face his younger brothers. He remained in the Marshal's éored, a steadfast warrior whose moment of glory has passed. A glum and brooding man, beaten down by years of cold treatment, he has few friends among the retainers, but one young commander in particular – Burnoth, son of Baldeg – has befriended him and values both his strength and his counsel.
Prior to his disgrace, Léofdag married Fleda, Gártorn's niece. She bore him two daughters, Léoflad and Wynith, who are now 20 and 18 years old. Fleda remained faithful to Léofdag, even speaking in his favor against her uncle at times, and harbors a deep resentment toward Gártorn and the other warriors for the way they treat Léofdag. Now a new stress has entered the family, for though both Léoflad and Wynith are lovely and of marrying age, no man will have them because of their father's dishonor. The elder girl remains resolute in her love for Léofdag, but Wynith is embarrassed by him, and they quarrel often.For the sake of his daughters, Léofdag has agreed to accompany Burnoth into the Eastemnet, there to find glory and redeem himself. He is ferociously protective of Burnoth, and has sworn not to let him fall as Éomund did, even if Léofdag must give his own life to save him.
Prone to black moods, Léofdag seldom smiles and does not spend words freely, not seeing the point of using ten if one will do. He is a bold and skillful warrior, particularly with Wrecend ("avenger"), a spear he had made out of the broken pieces of the weapon he was wielding when Éomund was slain. He is a true friend to his shield-brothers, and devoted to his family – even willful Wynith, who professes her disgust in him. His horse, Flyting, was once one of the swiftest in the Eastfold, but is aging now and has lost some of his speed. He knows that, whether he lives or dies, this will be the beast's last war-riding, and considers it his best friend.
Léofdag's prize possession is an old, tattered scarf that was given to him by Fleda as a token when they were courting. He has worn it to many battles since; the only time he forgot and left it at home was the riding when Éomund fell. Superstitious, he now refuses to part with it, and is reluctant to talk about it despite the most prying of his fellows' questions. If he should fall in battle, his hope is that the scarf, at least, will be returned to his beloved wife.
Hutha, son of Hengest, is an expert archer and huntsman, the youngest of three warriors, at 22 already one of the most formidable Orc-slayers in the Eastemnet. His father was chief knight of Thane Elda of Firien, a mountain of a man whose two elder sons, Hereman and Heca, took after him and became masterful swordsmen. Hutha, however, was smaller and slighter, and this led to merciless teasing by other children, who disparagingly called him "Elfling." This was mitigated only by the ferocious protectiveness of his brothers, who would dole out brutal thumpings to anyone they caught bothering Hutha. Hutha, in the meantime, developed a quick sense of humor to protect himself, and at his father's insistence trained with bow and arrow alongside the huntsmen of the Everholt. Rather than Eorl and Helm, Hutha grew up idolizing Bard, the northman who slew Smaug the Golden, and dedicated himself to the archer's craft. He turned out to be a natural shot, and by the age of 10 he could feather a quail in flight from a hundred paces. At 12, he could follow this by splintering the first arrow with a second while the bird was still falling to earth. This talent earned him great respect and renown, and at 15 he was sent to Aldburg to serve Éomer. Training with the Marshal's own best archers, he shifted his quarry from game to Orcs, and has spent much time in the field, stalking and slaying the fell creatures with his bow. He is a master of stealth and cunning, moving through the shadows and killing without a sound, and was therefore a natural choice to join Burnoth's band in their infiltration of the Orc-held eastern plains. The other warriors still tease him: his long, flowing hair, proficiency with the bow, and lack of beard keep the "Elfling" nickname alive, but the mockery is more good-natured now, and he often goes along with it. The fact that women adore him certainly helps matters: he has not even considered marrying yet, for there are too many girls to woo to think of such things.
Hutha is a jocular young man who counts riddles and word-play among life's pleasures. His past as a target for bullies has made him an expert at making friends, and he is an excellent scout, able to travel far and learn much from those he meets. In battle, however, his personality changes radically, and the twinkle in his eye gives way to the gleam of a true killer. He is brutally efficient at his bloody work, and has no pity for anyone who pits themselves against the Riddermark. Utterly dedicated, he would follow his captain straight through the Black Gate of Mordor. He bears a deep love for both his brothers, and worries about them now that they are no longer together – Hereman has ridden to the Fords of Isen alongside Elfhelm of Faldham, and Heca is a knight in the service of Théoden King. It would devastate him to learn that harm had befallen him, and the feeling is mutual.
Hutha's bow, Bloodhorn, is a simple weapon, unadorned and unremarkable as it is deadly. He crafts and fletches his own arrows, and even keeps one painted black in mimicry of Bard. His horse, Hafoc ("hawk"), is a spirited and temperamental stallion that fought him for an hour when they first met. Undaunted, he remained with the animal until they became accustomed to each other. Hutha jokes that he doesn't know who broke who; inside, he suspects it was Hafoc who trained him to ride. Often, Hafoc has been his only companion in his wanderings, so the bond between them is strong even according to the standards of the Rohirrim.
Ulf the Reaver is a mystery: a bloodthirsty, reckless, and deadly warrior with a past that he keeps hidden from his fellow warriors. Indeed, Ulf is not even his birth-name: he was born Wigelm, son of Waldere, 36 years ago near the vales of Gapholt in the faraway Westfold. A woodcutter's son of mixed Rohir and Dunlending stock, he received no formal training, but learned to wield an axe in the manner of his forebears. He lived a commoner's life, marrying a girl named Atta at the young age of 17. By 26 he had three fine sons: Wigbrit, 8, Dermod, 5, and a babe named Egric. And then it was all taken from him.
The Orcs of the Misty Mountains had grown increasingly restless in recent years, and Thane Gladsúnu of Gapholt called a weapontake to cleanse them from the area. Wigelm, his father, and his brothers all took up their axes and joined the mustering, pushing the battle deep into the Orcs' caverns. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Orcs – actually servants of Saruman when he was still pretending to be a friend to the Mark – had laid a trap, and pinned the men down inside the caves by attacking from both above and below. Of 120 men who had entered the caves, the Thane led fewer than 20 back out again after three hard days of fighting. Wigelm alone, of all his kin, escaped the bloodbath. When the survivors returned home, however, they found their homes burnt and their kin slain by Dunlendings who had cunningly crossed the Fords of Isen under cover of night. Wigelm returned to ashes and corpses – his wife and sons, all dead – as well as a dozen Dunlendings camped amid the ruins. That was when the red fog first settled upon him. Overcome by grief and rage, something snapped inside him, and he waded into the Dunlendings' midst, unarmored and with axe awhirl. He remembers nothing of what happened next; he simply awoke in a forest glen, covered in blood from countless wounds, including a deep gash across his face, with the severed heads of the Dunlendings strewn about him. So Wigelm perished, and Ulf the Reaver was born.
For five years Ulf roamed the wilds of Rohan, from the foothills of the Misty Mountains all the way up to Eorlsmead, then down to the Mouths of the Entwash and back again. He hired out his axe to those beset by Orcs, Dunlendings, and Men of the East, and let the red fog carry him, falling into a frenzy of bloodlust from which no foe could escape. Minstrels sang of his deeds, and so the lords of Rohan became aware of him. It was Éomer who finally found him, asleep beside a heap of mangled Orcs at the foot of one of the Argonath, and offered him a place among his retainers. Tired of wandering, Ulf accepted, and he has served the Marshal ever since. In Aldburg he found a kind of peace, forgetting his past among the warriors there, and even made a few friends. Even so, on the battlefield Ulf's anger still worsts him more often than not, and woe befall any who get between him and his quarry. He barely remembers his old life now, the wife and children and brothers he lost: he only knows the need to slay, not why. In his darkest dreams, however, he returns again and again to the charred ruins of his home, and lives that dark day over.
Ulf chose to join Burnoth's band, happy for the opportunity to wreak havoc anew among the Orcs. The coming war has awakened his hunger for blood as never before, and he hopes to make an ending for himself that the minstrels will sing of until the breaking of the world.
Ulf does not name his axes, for he has a tendency to break them in battle in his fury. Gesith, his horse, has been with him since Éomer brought him to Aldburg, and is the only being toward which he ever shows tenderness. Its loss would likely unman him for good.
The Riders Four appear in their own story line in multiple locations across the world.
- First in the Harwick Refugee Camp (The Wold)
- Next in Cliving (Norcrofts)
- Next in Eaworth (Entwash Vale)
- Next in Snowbourn (Sutcrofts)
- Next in Edoras (Kingstead)
- Next in Ost Rimmon (The Beacon Hills)
- Next in Field of Onslaught
-  The Riders Four
-  Instance: The Riders Four - Instance
-  The Reeve of the Wold
-  Five Against the Wold
-  Instance: Five Against the Wold - Instance
-  Tempting Fate
-  The Reeve of the Entwash Vale
-  Instance: The Reeve of the Entwash Vale - Instance
-  Eaworth Under Siege
-  Instance: Eaworth Under Siege - Instance
-  The Reeve of the Sutcrofts
-  A Thirst for Blood
-  Instance: A Thirst for Blood - Instance
-  The Riders Three