Finchley and Dewitt, the explorer, sat around his campfire, warming themselves as night fell on Lake Evendim and the stars began to be reflected within the water that surrounded the small island they were upon. In their hands were wooden mugs filled with the last of Dewitt's ale supply and at their sides were the remnants of some lake fish they had caught for their dinner. Two for Finchley, one for Dewitt.
"In all my years of coming and going from this part of the world, I have never seen so many fell creatures roaming back and forth across Emyn Uial," recounted Dewitt, brows raised and hands spread wide to convey his astonishment.
Finchley sat across from him, green eyes widened in fascination and a little apprehension.
"And one of them got you and Floid?"
"Aye! A strange group of men - not the average tomb robber that the wardens here often deal with. These ones are ginormous! And they don't act like normal men; they go about wearing the guise of a wolf and, indeed, they even act like them - howling at the moon and gnashing their teeth. I know not what they call themselves yet but I have a hunch that they are remnants of the tribes of wild men that the kings of old warred with long before founding Annúminas here."
Finchley nodded, remembering her history lessons, as her mentor continued his explanation.
"They can move very quietly when they want to. They caught us unaware not too long after he stepped ashore and I stepped off the boat. They chased the both of us along the shoreline until I was given no choice but to try and fight back. But..." Dewitt smiled wryly as he took a sip of his ale. "I'm not as young as I used to be. One thing led to another and eventually they grabbed Floid - picked him up like he was a sack of taters! - and made off with him. I injured my leg during the fight. By the time they had gone and I had hobbled back to where I left the boat, that was gone too. Only thing for it was to swim back here and recover my strength. I'll need it if I am to go back over there and try to get Floid back... If they haven't done anything horrible to him yet."
Though the aged explorer put on a brave front, much like the shield he wore on his back, Finchley didn't fail to notice the anxiety and sadness that lingered in his brown gaze. It was more than enough for her to make a decision.
"I'll go get him back for you, Mister Dewitt."
Dewitt glanced up at her with raised brows and looked on the verge of saying something against it for a second or two. Instead, he raised his mug of ale and took a deep gulp before nodding. "Ah, Finchley... I know better than to try deter you once you've made your mind up. If I hadn't trained you and brought you up in the ways of travel myself--..." He took another deep sip and scowled at his leg, which was still in a makeshift splint.
A smile appeared on the young woman's face and she shook her head as she had a sip from her own mug. "You taught me well, Mister Dewitt, and it's gotten me this far, aye? Trust me, if Floid is still alive, I'll find him and bring him back to you. It's the least I can do after all you've done for me over the years."
"Aye, though it's not like you gave me much of a choice, lass! You were always so very persistent about getting me to teach you this and that," said Dewitt with a chuckle. "I couldn't very well refuse someone so determined."
It was Finchley's turn to laugh and she drained the rest of her ale before setting the mug off to the side. She rested her palms on the ground beneath her and leaned back to look up at the stars in the night sky above them, partially obscured by a few trees.
"I knew what I wanted," she replied simply after letting out a sigh which was echoed by Dewitt as he glanced towards the western shore.
"... You'll promise to be very careful, won't you?" he asked.
To his relief, Fincley nodded seriously, though her smile did not fade.
"Don't worry too much. Tomorrow, I'll go find Floid."
(to be continued)