The first cold rays of the morning sun shone down into the gorge as Alweard opened his eyes. He had never planned on dying amidst the boulders of the White Mountains, but when the troll had flung him off the ledge where he and his companions were fighting, he knew each moment could have been his last. Just as his eyelids began to droop once more with the promise of sleep, a sharp ache throbbed in his ribs. The world, blurred around him, was dragged back into painful focus. 

Mustering his strength, Alweard gripped at his side as he sat up, biting back the pain until his lip broke beneath his teeth. The tiny bead of blood that followed was metallic on his tongue. He dared not look under his armor to see the damage. With a long, shuddering breath, he grabbed at the rock wall beside him, dragging himself to a stand, and brushed pebbles of limestone from his shield. The Huntress had assigned him a task; he would not rest until it was completed.


After a long climb out of the gorge and what he jokingly referred to as “a scuffle” with a mountain-Orc later, Alweard found himself alone in the bath the band had constructed behind their camp. He had the strength to smile then; now, it took all his will not to groan in pain at the wounds that stung across his shoulder and shield-arm. Bruises blossomed, green and blue, over his right side; a couple more marred the left side of his ribcage. Yet a single sound might have alerted the lady who had visited them and, seeing Haeneth treating his visible injuries, volunteered her services.  

As if he needed more scrutiny. Every moment at camp bore the weight of a dozen pairs of eyes. 

In time, the wounds would heal; he could already imagine how the gruesome gash in his shoulder might blend in with the few white scars scattered over his skin, all pale and faded from the passing years. Better to lose flesh than honor; he told himself, and sank into the water.