Khaki was the colour of Bree-land. Green, the colour for sleep or delusion, and beige yellows, dulled, sedately corrupted passions.

It was the type of place to lull those who stayed too long into a sense of trouble despite their luxury and wellbeing. People invented trouble here, and sometimes willed it into harmful reality. A side-effect of so much peace and, Ryheric figured, boredom.

The land was like a paradise of plenty. Beautiful lush fields like an eternal spring-time, birds singing, trickling water, abundant life. Leathery farmers, healthy crops and fat livestock. The folk of Bree-land worried more about infringements of their neighbours' fences two inches over their property boundary than about anything serving a true threat to life or limb.

Outsiders were the most likely thing to kill someone here.

It made perfect sense to Ryheric why these folk enjoyed their existence and preferred it to be insular. Except of course, for wide acceptance of the trade routes and frequent merchants, adding to the prosperity, oddness and plenty of the town. 

... But the khaki colour he saw in front of his eyes, like a glaze over the people of this land, made him restless. It was not a terrible colour; certainly nowhere near as bad as burgundy. Not as morose as grey. But it was like a nausea or a tooth-ache. A sickly colour. An ill-omen.

For all the traits of paradise to be found in Bree-land, Ryheric had never been able to dismiss that strange colour, uniquely settled over the people who stayed too long in this land.

He had stayed far longer than he usually would, to see Brynleigh.

He had seen her twice; his heart was warm and fresh memories of the Rohirric widow's silver-blonde hair in the sunlight swam through his head at foolish moments. 

Seeing her come to him in Combe with Jack, Son of Mouse and Hatty in tow, in the full sunlight and the promising breeze was far better than finding her in the dim-lit Pony or any other inn she might hide herself.

Her pale hands were so often cold. He secretly fancied the image of her warming them outside in the sun, when she thought no one was looking. 
The reserved widow wore the indoors like she might wear a seductive cape of death, draped and weighed upon her to bury her in gloomy "safety". Familiar, predictable. A control; a reliable plan, and ultimately a doom slowly gnawing her away.

In Ryheric's eyes, the sunlight, footsteps outdoors, wind-caught blonde hair in the stray laughing breezes lit the woman's spirits much better than all her dim, cloying safety.

That smile, rare and bright and so real now, her laugh. The little squeak of play and silly surprise when he'd led her across the bubbling creek in her long, wheat-coloured dress. The moments were like gold and treasure to him. She was safe, she was warm, and that was more than enough. 

Fire looked so good in her, her colour that of the warm heart of a hearth. Coral; the sea-flower, the gentle, ember-heart of a fierce flame.

...But fire was never safe.

It had been too long since he'd seen her, and yet... What was this? Space. Time. He knew she was trying to cure them. He would play along, and perhaps she would forget him as she should. And he would pretend to forget her in kind. They might be just notes of a song caught on a breeze. 

Things such as this couldn't be kept. They both only fed their hearts, like strange starving shadows in the background of everything. Fire-coloured things, his orange, her coral - both of their hearts too red sometimes.

Red, the colour that was ever-starving and pining for what would not do it any good in the end.

... Meanwhile, the real danger was already here. Ryheric had postponed it and denied it, and sheltered his clan from it for as long as he possibly could.

The sands in the glass had run out. 

A month they would stay in Bree, Jocie would make windows for their houses. They had their chickens, and their farm-hands, and all things that deceived and assured with controlled safety of civilisation. Brynleigh's world.

... But Ryheric knew it was all just an illusion for him. Maybe he could at least make sure the others got to keep it, when he was gone. Maybe Brynleigh would see the houses in the mountains, one day.

He would ride with Nunen, soon, extend this strange, surreal time in the khaki-land of Bree, and then he would take his clan to their new settlement. Finish the houses, and it would be time to take to the road.

... Before anything else, he knew he would have to see Winnie. The hidden wound on his leg from his recent fight would fester if he didn't let the healer tend him for once.