They had all made it to High King's Crossing without any further mishaps. Finchley nearly cried with relief at seeing the glow of a warm campfire from under the Colossus. Destiny was still quite proud of herself and practically preened the entire way, even in the rain.
"Adleithian! Herthdur!" called out a voice ahead of them on the bridge. "Did you find the rider?"
"Hail Trevadir!" called out Adleithian as the rain-bedraggled party found their way up to the campsite. "We found her. She's--..." The ranger paused and Herthdur rolled his eyes slightly. He leaned over and whispered as an aside to the woman and her horse, "Terribly sorry, I didn't get a name, miss."
Finchley removed her decidedly soggy cap, once she was out of the rain, and shook it out a few times, splattering a few droplets on the stone beneath her feet, before waving to Trevadir and the rest of the camp, who were now all looking at her with interest, for she was clearly not one of them. Destiny, ever observant, caught that eyeroll from Herthdur and snorted loudly at him. Herthdur, in turn, sidestepped away from the horse, not willing to have his behind bitten a second time.
"Oh, hello! I'm Finchley. Just Finchley. Thank you kindly for comin' to get me and for puttin' up with my companion here."
Destiny managed to look slightly affronted but was too caught up in side-eyeing Herthdur to make any fuss.
"Hold on!" came another voice from across the camp. "Did you just say your name is Finchley?" Another ranger stood up from where he sat and peered over at her before deciding to come over and see for himself.
Finchley blinked once. Then twice in rapid succession. "Aye, I'm Finchley."
Another surprised blink. "I'm sorry?"
The ranger pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long suffering sigh before stepping up to the woman and holding out his hand for her to shake in the manner of Breeish folk.
"Well met, Miss Finchley. I am Sardan. Your name is known to me thanks to a few letters from my brother in arms. I believe you had gotten acquainted with Amarion in the North Downs this past autumn?"
Slowly but surely, a bright smile appeared on Finchley's face as she shook his hand. "Oh! Aye, I remember Amarion! He was--... Well, he had a lot to worry about with all the refugees from Kingsfell comin' to him."
"Indeed. He mentioned how you practically talked his ear off and pestered him with questions about ruins in the area."
The smile fell from the woman's face and she managed to look a little sheepish as a hint of color appeared on the apples of her cheeks. "... Oh."
A glint of humor could be seen in Sardan's grey eyes and he let out a good-natured chuckle. "He also mentioned how much you had done to help him care for all those refugees. They had enough supplies to last them half the winter by the time you were done which freed Amarion up to get supplies for the other half of the season in short order. He said it gave him more time to figure out how to better protect them from the foulness coming down from Angmar."
That bright smile appeared on the woman's face again, though she merely shrugged and shook her head. "Ah, it wasn't much of anythin', I don't think. I wish I could've done more for 'em."
"Don't discount your help," replied Sardan, lightly wagging a finger at her. "You did more than was expected and even looked for; especially from one not of our kin. We owe you a great debt, Miss Finchley."
Seeing that she would not be allowed her usual humbleness, she merely shrugged and finally nodded.
"Now Sardan! Quit holding the lady up! She's soaked to the bone and probably hungry," called a woman huddling by the fire. As if on cue, Finchley's stomach made a loud growl. More color flooded her cheeks as Sardan laughed aloud.
"Ha! Amarion mentioned her appetite too... Well, Miss Finchley, make yourself at home and perhaps we'll discuss what in the world you're doing in these lands on the morrow, hmm? Knowing what all my brother said about you in his letters, I'm sure your answer will be interesting. Meanwhile, Trevadir will care for your horse... Provided she wont be nipping him on the arse as well?"
This time it was Finchley's turn to laugh as Sardan made his way back over to his own campfire. Destiny meandered over to Trevadir and the other horses, ready to charm for treats and have her way in everything, as per usual.
"Come here by my tent, Miss Finchley," called the woman, beckoning her over and holding a bundle of clothing in her arms. "I'm Agorindel. Let's get you out of those wet clothes and you can have some of my old things here. They might be a bit big on you but they'll do. And you can keep them if you like; I don't use them anymore and there's nothing I like better than a good re-purposing! Then we'll see about getting you some food."
If Finchley wasn't so wet and bedraggled, not that she overly minded it, she could've hugged the lady!
(to be continued)