To Dale: Entering Hollin

((From chat logs: edited for tense and expanded for narrative))

The river below the small, makeshift camp drifted by lazily. The fens around the southern bend grew thick with rushes and the sound of a fish jumping from the water interrupted the song of the morning birds. A hill-toad slunk into the shallows and disappeared with a plop.

Eirikr stretched and climbed to his feet. He took a deep breath and quickly looked around camp to ensure everything was in its place. A chill clung to the air and he shivered slightly but disguised it as a shaking-out of his limbs.

Eruviel pulled her hood back as she sat up. She nodded to Eirikr she stood and shook leaves off of her cloak. “Rest well?”

Eirikr looked to the horizon and the sun’s lazy beams drifting through the leaves. “I guess so.” The ground had been hard and the breeze swept up over the cliff’s edge throughout the night, but he had managed an hour or two at a time. He could only imagine how ragged he looked; a mirror was not something he had found valuable enough to pack.

The Elf walked to the edge of the cliff, her eyes peering south. “It seems the wind will be at our backs today,” she said quietly.

Eirikr looked down and commented dryly, “Too bad we have no sails.” He rolled his shoulder as he headed over to his pack to get some jerky and dried fruit for breakfast. He hoped Eruviel did not notice the action; he had been able to keep up thus far but the quick draw on the run was taking its toll. The dull ache in his shoulder grew with every arrow he strung.

Eruviel chuckled softly as she studied the land below them. “If only.” Stepping over to her own effects she pulled out her own ration of dried fruit. “How many arrows do you have left?”

He reached over and tugged his quiver toward him. “Ten. You?”

Eruviel quickly counted her own. Pulling out one, she tossed it to him. “Now I have eleven,” she says.

Chuckling, he slid the arrow into his quiver. “Thank you.”

Eruviel nodded, smiling as she stood to fit her sword belt around her waist. “You are welcome. Ready for another day?” she asked as she fit a smaller dagger into her bracer.

He nodded as he packed up the remainder of his things. “How far do you think we’ll get today?” he asked nonchalantly.

Eruviel rotated her jaw around as she looked back to the view. “I’m thinking we can make it to Gwingris,” she said thoughtfully.

Eirikr smirked. “Then let us be off to Gwingris.”

She chuckled under her breath as she fit on her pack then her quiver. Giving him a nod, she picked up her bow and walked to the entrance to the campsite.

Eirikr shouldered his own pack and quiver. His knuckles whitened as he gripped his bow and followed her.

As she stepped out onto the path, her eyes narrowed as she surveyed the road ahead of them. Gradually, she increased their speed as she led them down the trail; soon she met the speed they traveled at the day before. Eirikr kept pace doggedly. His eyes surveyed the right side of the trail, traveling up the looming cliffs as he sought hidden enemies and a distraction from his worry.

Beside him, Eruviel adjusted her grip on her bow as they crested a small incline. They weaved around a ruined stone structure. As the path led them down along side the river, Eruviel pulled an arrow from her quiver. She held up her pointer finger as they crossed over a shallow stretch of water; she shot mid-stride, hitting a fat crawler that lay curled in the path ahead. Not bothering to slow down, she retrieved her arrow from the creature as they passed its corpse.

Eirikr grunted as he sloshed through the shallows. The reeds on the shore swayed in the wind. Eruviel glanced back at him with an arched brow as they followed the trail back up onto the bank. He remained quiet, though, as he ran after her, his bow readied. He wouldn’t let the strain show; he refused to let it show.

They continued on through the hills, pressing ever onward toward the south. The sun broke through the canopy enough to cause the sweat to pour steadily down his temples. His coppery hair darkened to rust and he would dodge into the river to scoop up a handful of water to his lips without breaking his stride. At noon, they paused only for a bite to eat and to ensure their water-skins were full before pressing on again.

By the time the ruinous dome of Gwingris rose before them, Eirikr felt like he had died at least twice. Once when they were climbing an incline so steep and tall, he could not see its peak from the bottom of the path. Eruviel never faltered in her step, but it was all he could do keeping on his feet. And then a second time on the way back down the hill when their pace gathered speed with gravity. They reached the rocky bottom of the path at a controlled breakneck speed.

At the entrance of the settlement, the stable-master greeted them with a wary bow. In response to Eruviel’s greeting, he introduced himself as Baidhrochiel and directed them to the provisioner for a meal and rest. They spoke little as they ate by the fire. Weariness had long ago transformed into a trance-like state; Eirikr washed and ate automatically. He followed Eruviel to a place nicely tucked out of the way but in range of the warmth of the fire and settled into a deep sleep almost as soon as his head came to rest on his bedroll.

Eregion RidgeRacer


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