After a chance encounter in Edoras, Haeneth and Tidhelm chose to journey together to the town of Woodhurst, as both travelers had their own reasons for reaching the dwelling in which the men of Rohan and Dunland have lived together for generations. They rested in Brockbridge at the end of the first day, and on a clouded summer day they had traveled far enough to see the town in the distance.
Tidhelm sits a bit lazily in his saddle as the two riders continue on the road. The old man is obviously tired from the journey, and he had spoken a few times that he was happy to reach Woodhurst soon.
Haeneth |The huntress spoke as often, and only in answer, until Woodhurst's meadhall rose on its hill above the treeline—a goal just hours away. "Do all your journeys tire you?" she volunteered after watching him a little. The day and a half they'd ridden already only one hand had guided her reins, the other sitting on the grip of a horse-bow lying across her pommel.
Tidhelm made a disregarding gesture of his hand at the question directed at him. He answered modestly. "If it was not for the companionship, I might have fallen asleep in my saddle. The journeys tire me at my age, and soon I shall do it no more, I think. A place to settle down. Maybe Cliving, or a return to Walstow where I was born." He rode on.
Haeneth nodded to his mount. "You trust your horse enough to take you, even asleep?" It was a half-tease. She'd watched the beast more than once with some respect at its complaint-less duty.
Tidhelm let out a hoarse chortle that followed into a light coughing spree. Though it seemed to be not too bad, the old man needed a moment before responding again. "What are riders if they do not place some trust into the steeds they ride? My father used to make the comparison between steeds and swords." The Old Man continued with a slight pitch change in his voice, making it lower. Even at his age, he seems to imitate the voice of his father by making it deeper. "In both swords and steeds, the maker is important. Both the Stallion and the Smith count for a part. Still, it matters just as much if the hand that holds the reins or hilt is trained, that they have strength in sinews, and that the wielder is familiar with the strength and weaknesses." He concludes. "My father liked such simple comparisons to make sense of things."
Haeneth only glanced at the elder, but he seemed unconcerned with his own cough, so she did not draw further attention to it. Her gaze swept out over the hills as they cleared the birch grove, the summer grass thick and green. "I'm a wonderful thing shaped for fighting..." she said after a pause. "...beautifully dressed, dear to my master. Gold colored is my byrnie, bright wire that my wielder who guides me gave me, embraces the death-gem, who sometimes to strife directs my wanderings." She glanced at him again. "What am I?"
Tidhelm gave the riddle a thought, but he soon answered it by placing his hand on the pommel of his sword, that was slung around his waist in its simple leather sheath. While keeping his eyes on the road he answered. "You speak of a sword, I reckon. Because we were speaking of it, it might not have been a fair riddle as the world was already on my mind!" The old man removed his hand from the tool of war, before he continues. He seems to speak in earnest now. While throughout the journeys the old man was stern at most times, he also had moments of deep honesty about himself. Just like he spoke to the child a few days ago, he spoke now. "To be fair, I was never fond of the sword, or war itself. At times have I been called cowardly for that fact, but I do not have the stomach for it now, nor did I ever. Some things have to be done, for they are our duties, but I take no pleasure in it. Do you wield your bow with delight, Hunter of beasts?" He rode on.
Haeneth 's grin for the game of riddles was short-lived. Her fingers fit snugly over the weapon’s oiled grip, indented after years of hunts and battles. "I wield my bow with delight," she confessed. "I do not always feel delight in hitting its target."
Tidhelm |Funnily enough, the old man took longer over this puzzle than the actual riddle. He questions the answers given. "Is there a difference? I know not your mind, but I would think that after years merely practising with a weapon brings no joy. I once knew a hunter near Walstow. He hated the bow, and trusted more on his hounds to do the hunting. Bringing food to his table is what made him go out into the wilds, leaving his comfortable home behind to step through the mud, and the cold, and the rain. True, a warrior he was not, and I know not if you would weep for the death of an orc or brigand."
Haeneth ran her hand down the shaft of the recurve, a shorter length than the longbow flanking her courser, tied snugly to her saddle. "When I was a girl, my father said I would close my eyes at the last minute, just before loosing the string." The weapon-work was fine to a keen eye, unlike the rest of her arms and garb, could not be hidden in dull leather wrappings or rags. "'Poor deer...' I used to think he mocked me. 'Poor hare. Poor Haneth...'" She suddenly looked up and on ahead at the road. "I don't close my eyes anymore. I hit my target."
Tidhelm beheld the movements of Haeneth, but it was unclear if the old man had the eyes of a fletcher or bowyer. Still, he seemed to praise at least one thing. "At least your arrows are guided by conviction. Something can be said for the strong of heart and mind. Would I scorn rather the half-hearted warrior who commits acts of brutality against their will and wish, or the the ardent fighter who knows not better than the actions they commit? A question for the wise and bards, I reckon."
Haeneth |"For the wise..." she echoed, "...and for long rides through troubled hills." A glance at the sky as the sun crept closer to the western ridge. They chased it at a slow walk as the slope to Woodhurst rose higher, the air cooling as the shadows of Fangorn crept in. "I am glad you are done with that duty." She nodded as if to settle a matter.
Tidhelm nods for a moment, his eyes upon the faint shapes of the town in the distance. "I am at the age of such reflection. Still, I have enough strength left for action in the here and now. I hope that our ways do not yet split at the gates of Woodhurst, and that I can be of some help in your search within the town. You came all this way for that purpose, you said to me in the tavern."
Haeneth |A ghostly grin spread under her freckles. "I feel I have always been at that age, even before I learned there were certain times of life for certain kinds of thoughts." She grew quiet when the town approached and talk drifted to the reasons they rode thence. "I did. I'm looking for someone. Two people, actually. Kinsmen, long lost."
Tidhelm pondered on the words for a moment, before he questioned further. He seemed to be genuinely interested in the topic for some reason. "Well, two sets of ears will hear more than one, and perhaps my contact will know of them. You must know names, and their appearance." The old man pauses for a while, before he continues in a softer tone despite them being alone. "Unless they would have any cause to hide either." His gaze shifted to his side. Small blue eyes fell upon the face of Haeneth for as good as able while on horseback.
Haeneth was quiet a moment, listening for undertones in his questions. Though they neared the walls and came into the protective range of the towers' bowmen, she did not let abandon her scrutinous gaze of the hills. "They share the blue eyes of my husband's family. Very light. The woman is small. Their names..." She frowned. "My late husband warred with his family. I cannot trust all the names he gave me were true."
Tidhelm seemed to have judged the answers of the woman in his head, keeping the verdict to himself whether or not he believed them. He pressed another question. "Is that the reason you will give the guard at the gate, when asked for your reason to answer the town?" The old man continued, as the two ever neared the walls of Woodhurst. "You know as good as I that these parts are wilder than most, and your search might end before it begins if Woodhurst doesn't want to welcome a manhunter today, riding from Edoras no less. If it troubles you not, I can ensure that you answer the town untroubled, if they would stop us at the gate."
Haeneth looked at him for longer than she had since riding from the King's gates two dawns ago. "You would vouch for me, knowing me only these two days?"
Tidhelm answered simply and plainly as he rode along. "I can vouch for you being a hired hand to protect an elderly messenger, who requires aid in town to complete his tasks." The gates now came into view, and as predicted by the old man they were closed.
Haeneth considered it. The faces in the towers were small, but she could still see their frowns. "If you say I am here to protect you, then I will protect you." She raised a hand as they rode towards the gate, then lifted the bow in her other. Slow and deliberate, she lay the weapon against her shoulder and popped the string from its notch. She knew by their stances the archers above did not relax, but neither did they raise their bows. "I will not lie, Elder," she muttered as they were only meters from judgment. "I will aid you, if you tell them I will."
Tidhelm seemed visibly pleased at the actions of Haeneth, as he himself now rode forward slowly, giving a signal with his left hand for Haeneth to halt. When the old man was within shouting distance of the towers he began to speak.
Tidhelm |"Greetings, guardsmen of fair Woodhurst. I am Tidhelm of Walstow, messenger and envoy bearing the mark and favor of Cliving. I have come to deliver a message to the merchant Gifemund. This here is my hired hand Haeneth. May we enter?" There was silence for a moment, with only faint sounds on the other side of the gate from the town itself.
Haeneth eased the reins back to her belt. As the courser obeyed the gesture, the huntress waited and watched. Her hand on the reins rested atop her thigh, not far from the resting bone handle of her seax.
Tidhelm |After waiting for a minute that felt way longer for the old man, an answer was shouted from the tower by a young-looking head. "We know your name Tidhelm, son of Waldhelm. I greeted you the last time, and the time before that one. You seem to have brought with you fairer company than the last times, but all the same you are responsible for who you bring inside town." Tidhelm listened, and he seemed to scowl for a moment when the subject of previous company was brought up. Either the young man's eyes were keen enough to spot a woman from this distance with ease, or it implied something else. Regardless, the old man made his way over towards the gate of the town, which were slowly being opened from the inside.
Haeneth followed dutifully, her unstrung bow resting against her shoulder. She watched the face of the one who spoke until it disappeared behind the stacked timber and stone. She was soundless, and tucked away the riddle of Tidhelm's companionship for another time.
Tidhelm [A stable-master and his help soon came to the aid of the two riders. After a few shared words, Tidhelm allowed one of them to take the reins of his horse Rofmanu and lead her to the stables. The young stable-help walked over towards Haeneth, though he seemed uncertain if the stranger wanted to be helped or not.
Haeneth hesitated. She did not often spend the coin for someone else to attend to her horse, but their pantomime was still young. She decided to let the stablehand treat her as the body-guard she was supposed to be. She jumped down from her saddle and retrieved her pack, leaving the saddle and horse for the boy.
Tidhelm dismounted, and instructed for the contents of his saddlebag to be brought to a specific place in town, though they spoke too hushed to hear its exact location. All that the old man retrieved from it were three pouched that he fixed to his belt.
Haeneth slipped her bow into the bag with its longer cousin and slung her travelpack over her shoulder. She nodded down the road, though she expected as a frequent visitor the man knew where he could find lodging, and where she would have to join him. "Well, Master...lead on."
Chat Log: 07/01