What is it about the world and the men in it, that they must always war with each other? I set out from Snowbourn yesterday morn, and rode north into the Stonedeans to make a delivery to the stablemaster at Woodhurst. I had naught but Jack and my short sword, and had little reason to think I might need anything more. The air was fresh, the sky was blue, and the daffodils and snowdrops were so cheerful along the roadside.
In hindsight, I thank Béma's protection and guidance that we arrived without incident, but upon reaching the town gates, the guards halted us and informed us that a violent skirmish had just occurred at a nearby farm. After seeing that I posed no threat, giving them my name, the name of Elfswith, and explaining my purpose for being there, I was ushered inside with haste. I can scarcely put into words the sickening feeling that filled my gut as I rode through the streets. A young byrnwiggend was standing with his helm under his arm, looking lost, and when he glanced up as I went past, my heart was pierced at the sadness in his eyes. I dared not stop and ask anyone for details of the attack. The townsfolk stood huddled in groups in their doorways, peering out fearfully, and for a moment I felt a pang of anger that I had not come an hour sooner, when I might have been able to aid them better.
The parcel was delivered into the stablemasters' hands, and then I entered the village tavern with trepidation, unsure of what sort of mood might be found within in the wake of such a fresh tragedy.
I felt more surprised than I should have, to see more than one wounded soul sitting around the room, though spirits were higher than I expected and that encouraged me. I recognized Haeneth and Lord Aethelwyne quickly, and went over to greet them and inquire about what had happened. My stomach turned when they informed me that a caravan just outside the town had been attacked, and that all but one soul had been killed. I did not think to ask who was to blame, and perhaps the grief was too strong for me to dare. Aethelwyne was wounded, though nothing that threatened his life, thankfully. Another woman, whose name I learned was Adriwyn, had a heavily bandaged arm, and the cloth was stained crimson, but she seemed quite sturdy and resilient, and introduced herself without complaint. Another woman was beside her, whose name I did not catch, and who seemed to be taking comfort in whatever drink filled her cup. There was an older man also, tall and grave, whose name I can’t recall, but who seemed to have been the one leading the defense against the attackers. And to my confusion, a man of slightly duskier complexion, who I believe was a Gondorian, and in the midst of so much conversation and tension, I did not determine why he might’ve been in the Mark, though from what I could hear, he also had lent a hand in the fight.
A shadow lingered behind me through the evening. Aeruthuil dared ask why I was there at all. After ensuring that he was not himself injured, I found myself vexed by his words about the ordeal. That those who had been murdered were somehow foolish and partly to blame for their own misfortunes. I understand why he said this. And perhaps there is some truth, that if someone had scouted ahead of the caravan, perhaps the threat might have been spotted. But this cannot be known or guaranteed, nor does it help now, in the wake of the tragedy. Whoever lay in wait for blood might not have shown themselves to a solitary, scouting rider. But more importantly, there are now grieving women, children, and families upon whom such words will bring no comfort whatsoever. Yes, yes, I understand that the warriors and those who lead and guard the people will likely have to examine any shortcomings and failings, but must it be in the immediate wake of bloodshed, while folk are still reeling? Perhaps I am simply being too much of myself.
Aeru’s words did not only reach my ears, but those around us, and the tension was so thick in the air, it was intolerable to me. I tried to escape it with a brief walk outside the tavern, but it was all the more pungent upon my return. I care so deeply for him, but he continues to perplex and frustrate me. And I know he doesn’t desire to do so, which only increases my feeling of sadness for his sake.
I wish I had some sort of redeeming, uplifting thought upon which to close this entry, but I haven’t. I am grieved for the people of Woodhurst, and all the moreso that harsh words were exchanged when comfort and solace were needed. I have no answers, no solutions, no helpful wisdom. But I will write back to Elfswith and inform her that I will stay on here a few more days, and if I can help the people here, then I will.