Eirallyn was eating breakfast when Nelnardis returned from her early morning walk around Mirobel. There was nothing out of the ordinary, though she noted the clear skies and forgotten beauty of the view.
“Good morning, Eira,”
Eirallyn beamed, “Good morning, Nelnardis! They have eggs! And some really good cake things.”
Nelnardis smiled, having enjoyed one or two before she left, “They are delicious.”
Eirallyn peered over her shoulder, “Thendryt! Have you eaten yet?”
Thendryt, who was already awake, made his way over to them from their bed rolls, “What was that?”
She always forgot how bad the hearing of men was. Not wanting any spiteful comments from him this early, she kept her eyes away from him.
Eirallyn continued, “They have eggs and cakes.”
“Yes, I had breakfast earlier,” Nelnardis heard him saying, “Didn’t sleep much.”
Too bad, we’re not going to wait for you to have a lie in, she thought.
After Eirallyn finished her breakfast she set the dishes down by the elf who made it, “Thank you for breakfast,” she bowed deeply to him and he nodded, taking the dishes.
“We had better not tarry,” Nelnardis spoke, “You are both ready to leave?” she said, looking more at Eirallyn than Thendryt, who nodded.
“Yes,” Eirallyn replied.
“Then let us go.”
It was a swift ride out of Eregion into Enedwaith. Over the river the lands steadily got more wild as more trees and bushes blocked their path. At one of the ranger’s camps the three of them made a short stop so that the horses could rest and drink, and so that Thendryt’s horse could get rid of a stone.
“I think we should stay off the roads from here,” Nelnardis noted as they began to leave.
“All right. Are we headed to Lhanuch?” Eirallyn asked, “Or do you want to make camp outside of settlements?”
She shook her head, “I do not think it is a good idea to go near any of the locals. We can probably make it through into Dunalnd by nightfall.”
“I recommend heading via Torren,” Thendryt interjected.
Nelnardis nodded. It might not be a safe and easy journey, but at least they wouldn’t have any hostility from the men who lived in Enedwaith, “We will have the cover of the trees that way.”
“We'll certainly avoid the locals,” Eirallyn agreed. “I've been down that road, but not into Dunland.”
“Is there anything we should know?” Nelnardis asked her, “About that road?”
“There are lots of odd...lights there. The locals say they're spirits. Probably best to ignore them. Some odd hounds, also supposed to be supernatural. And lots of wood trolls.”
Hounds, lights and trolls… “Maybe we should lead the horses through there, just in case they get spooked.” Nelnardis suggested.
“We can see if they're handling it and get off it they're frightened.” Eirallyn replied, patting her horse’s neck. “I’d like to think he’d live up to his name.” Steelheart.
Nelnardis smiles. “I'm sure he will.”
The horse whined and snorted beneath her. Every now and then when there was a white flicker between the trees, Legrinaur stamped his hooves trying to change their direction. Nelnardis leant forwards a little, speaking some soothing words in Sindarin to him and stroking his neck, but he seemed to take not notice.
At last they reached a circle of stones. Eirallyn and Thendryt rode ahead, while she tried to keep control over the horse. A large light seemed to pass right next to them. Nelnardis dismounted just before Legrinaur had a chance to rear up, wildly. The reins were pulled from her grasp and he galloped away into the forest.
Having realised Nelnardis was behind them and probably hearing the horse, Eirallyn trotted back over to the stones with Thendryt in tow.
“Are you all right, Nelnardis?” Eirallyn asked, concerned.
“Yes, I’m alright.” Except now they would have to spend maybe hours going to search for her horse, but she didn’t say that.
“We need to get him back,” Eirallyn said.
Thendryt rode up beside Nelnardis and held out a hand to her, “Hop on.”
“Really?” she asked, unsure if she should trust him for a brief moment.
“You’re welcome to run up to your horse if you want.”
She swallowed, glancing at his hand. It would be faster, but the idea of sharing Thendryt’s horse made her feel slightly ill. The only reason they rode this way was due to his suggestion.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll track him on foot. He probably hasn’t gone far.”
He shrugged, “Do as you’d like.”
Nelnardis tried to persuade them to go on into Dunland without her as she could travel longer and faster on her own. She could catch up to them quickly, but they both refused. Instead Eirallyn followed her back into the forest to find the horse, while Thendryt scouted ahead.
Not long later, Yaisael, Eirallyn’s horse, called out to Legrinaur. He has found a small hill behind some trees, seemingly calm without the lights nearby. Nelnardis slowly approached the beast, and it let her stroke his neck as she told him to be still in Sindarin.
“Why have we stopped?” Nelnardis turned her steed around on the island in the shallow stream. He began to drink the water, and she let him for now.
Thendryt had stopped, staring ahead at the gate between the two large hills, gripping Bovad’s reins.
“The Isen?” Eirallyn asked. Nelnardis was glad at least she wasn’t the only one who had never been to these lands before.
“Why have we stopped?” she persisted, looking at Thendryt, who just kept looking ahead at the gate, “What’s wrong?”
“That’s Rohan,” Eirallyn exclaimed.
Thendryt inhaled deeply, “I haven’t been home for a while.”
Nelnardis didn’t say anything. She wondered how long it had been till he had seen or spoken to any family. Eirallyn had mentioned he had one, but how long had it been? Take the road South and at least there are two companions to help if there is anything dangerous about. But why did he have to make them go now? While they had orders and a mission?
“We can travel some more while the light is left, or stop here for the night.” Eirallyn said.
Glancing at the Rohirrim camp nearby, Nelnardis shook her head, “We are too close to their camp.
“And to Isenguard.”
Nelnardis nodded. “That as well. We have to keep moving.”
Thendryt pulled his hood up, “You might want to cover those ears.” He said to Nelnardis.
She was already fastening her cloak to her shoulders. She pulled up her hood, too.
“Do you know a good campsite further on, Thendryt?” Eirallyn asked.
It took a moment for Thendryt to think, “I’m not entirely sure, it’s been a while.” He paused, “Gapholt is close. It’s a small town, but I think we best avoid any town.”
“Yes, we should stay hidden where possible,” Nelnardis spoke.
Eirallyn nodded, “Well, let’s go on and see what we can find.”
We have made it into Rohan and are trying to stay as hidden as possible. I do not know these lands, but just in case I will not tell you where we are, only that we will be out of Rohan in less than a week. I am assuming T’s business will not take long, however he will not explain any of it to me. Not a single word. From my experience a company is about trust. He cannot trust us with simple explanations and at times I find I cannot trust him either. Can there really be a place in our company for this type of man?
“I was thinking...perhaps we could get Nelnardis some more Rohirric-looking gear, for herself and her horse.” Eirallyn suggested, sitting down near the fire, having returned from watching the wild horses.
Nelnardis finished folding up the letter to Elrohir and slipped it into her pocket, “Where from?”
Eirallyn shrugged, “Thendryt or I could go into a town and buy it.”
“I did not bring much in the way of coin…” Nelnardis started. She only had a little, no thinking they would need much coin in Lorien and Mirkwood.
“I have some, curtesy of Lord Elrohir,” Eirallyn exclaimed.
“I have some as well,” said Thendryt, “It’s not a bad idea.”
“If you pass from a distance,” Eirallyn pointed out, “They’ll be less likely to question.”
“How would you know what size? If the armour is ill fitting it may prove distracting if there was to be a fight...” She didn’t really want to get rid of her fine leather armour. It fit her perfectly.
“I'm sure we would find something,” Thendryt told her.
“I'm more worried about your horse, to be honest.” Eirallyn admitted, “They look first at horses here, I would imagine, and that is very obviously elven gear.”
She was right, the blue and white was far more Elven than Rohirric. “I can take off the gear. I suppose...” She sighed. “I suppose I can leave it behind.”
“A tabard would cover most of your armour and not be too constricting or expensive. We could buy a packhorse and bundle it up. I'd rather not leave it behind. Particularly since it didn't occur to me to get you some human looking gear earlier.” Eirallyn replied.
Nelnardis frowned, “It would be a lot to carry. My cloak can cover my armour.”
“A packhorse wouldn't come amiss anyway. Isn’t it cold in Wildermore? We might want tents, and more blankets.”
“A large enough caparison should go over the gear,” Thendryt said.
“It would serve to keep the horse warm, as well.” Eirallyn nodded,
Nelnardis hesitated, “Very well. A caparison for the horse, and tents and blankets for you both. I do not feel the effects of the cold as much as you both will.”
The Wildermore farm was completely abandoned. Nelnardis dismounted, her boots hitting the frozen, black mud. Tucking her hair into her hood, she walked around the farm, looking for signs of life.
Thendryt hammered his fists on the door, “Anyone there?” he called out. No answer.
“This looks like orc work,” muttered Eirallyn, looking around curiously.
“Whatever it is, it’s not right,” Nelnardis murmured as Thendryt moved on to another door.
After a while he came back to them, “Seems abandoned.”
“Do you know this place?” Nelnardis asked him.
“Not really, but it’s getting dark.”
She pulled her cloak around her, but not because it was cold, “I do not feel like it is wise to stay here.”
“This makes for good cover.” Thendryt said.
Nelnardis shook her head. It didn’t feel right at all. Maybe it was just because it was so quiet and empty.
“I went up to the windmill. Didn’t see anyone in the fields,” said Eirallyn. “Did you know these folk?” She asked Thendryt.
“No. Seems abandoned. I was thinking it might be a good idea to spend the night in one of the houses. It’ll shield us from the wind.”
“No fire.” Nelnardis exclaimed, “The smoke will give us away if there is anyone watching.”
Eirallyn nodded, “Chimney smoke would just bring trouble, I expect.” Especially if there were orcs around.
“I would agree,” spoke Thendryt,” No light, we have enough blankets. We’ll bring the horses inside as well.”
Nelnardis lay awake for a while with her eyes closed, listening to the darkness. She could hear Thendryt moving around, though he was keeping watch. There was the sound of the latch on the door and then it was closed.
She opened her eyes. Was he just going for a walk? To make sure there were no orcs around the farm?
Nelnardis stood up, letting the blanket fall onto the floor. She had to know.
Keeping out of sight, she made her way around to the edge of the stables. Around the corner she could hear the door being opened, and then the sound of hooves. She turned the corner, preparing to question him. But it was too late. Thendryt was on Bovad, galloping away.
There were footsteps behind her.
“He’s gone,” Nelnardis muttered to Eirallyn.
“Any idea where?”
“No. Maybe one of the Rohirrim settlements,” Nelnardis sighed, walking over to the fence to lean against it.
“It looks like there’s a town over there.”
A huge wall with watchtowers covered the landscape in the distance. “Quite a large one.”
“I’ll go in the morning. We don’t know this land.” Eirallyn said.
“Yes,” Nelnardis replied, “Get some rest. I’ll keep watch.”
“He may be back by then in any event. From his ever-so-secret business.”
Nelnardis stared out at the small lights in the watch towers.
“Good night, mellon. Wake me if you get tired.” Eirallyn began to walk away.
“I will. Sleep well.”
Whatever Thendryt was doing, he had better have an explanation. And he’d better be prepared to share it.