((edited from chat logs for tense, exposition, and continuity))
Mirkwood was as miserable as ever, but Eirikr took them north along the Great River and found the traces of the Elvish path so they did not have to cross through the forest the long way. Straight across, not horizontally from southwest to northeast, he thought. Besides, the Anduin was refreshing after such a long time in Moria. The sun on the rapids helped dispel some of the shadows that remained from the caves. The journey through the dark forest remained uneventful – the incursion of the Galadhrim pulled the attention of much of the evil in the woods and their path remained relatively clear. When they emerged on the edges of the forest, they could see far in the distance the outline of the mountain in the northeast; down the Forest River, the waters merged with the Long Lake and Eirikr could almost smell the scent of fish from where he stood. He breathed deeply; he was nearly home.
They bought passage across the waters on the small boat of a farrier Eirikr knew from Esgaroth. Tyrvi was a jovial man in his late forties who spent little time on land. He inquired about the hunting as of late and the troubles in Esgaroth and Dale due to raiding Easternlings.
“Bold as brass they are!” he exclaimed as they sailed through the fading evening. “I tell you, Master Tenorbekk, things ain’t right in the land. Trouble’s a-brewin’ and we best be wary!”
Eirikr and Eruviel exchanged glances. The troubles in Bree-land were not isolated then. The enemy grew bolder not only in the north, and with more than one front, the free peoples of Middle-earth would be the worser for it.
But how would these tidings influence his goal? Eirikr knew his father often traveled to the East. His trade thrived on it. The exotic fabrics from the Men of Rhun, the imports from farther south since the Easterlings often worked with the Men of Harad…
The last of the sun’s beams stretched fiery streaks across the horizon as they stepped from the boat and onto the dock. As Eirikr paid the farrier, Eruviel found herself walking up the weathered boards toward Esgaroth. She set her stern gaze on the town ahead of them. “It is all so foreign,” she said quietly as he joined her side. Looking over to him, she asked, “What is the plan, gwador?”
Eirikr looked over at her and chuckled. When he first heard the Elf call his sister “oselle,” he hardly knew what to think. But then united by the need to save Anya’s life, Eirikr was able to see how Eruviel loved his sister as her own. Then, soon after, he became “gwador”. And finally, he was grateful for a sibling who could take care of herself.
“It is not so foreign, really. Just another town full of men.” He looked ahead and pursed his lips. “I am truly not certain of our next step, though. I envisioned bursting in and carrying Ninim away to safety, but now that we are here, I do not think that would be wise.”
His companion wrinkled her nose slightly, a small smile cracking her expression. “I will go along with what you think is best, but would it be better if we avoid prying eyes?”
Nodding, he agreed. “Most likely. The farrier spoke of the Eastern threat. There is more trouble here than perhaps we bargained for.” They crossed a side street and took a narrow alley between a row of houses.
Eruviel ‘s eyes darted around, searching for nothing in particular, taking everything in. “If we could only figure out if there was a time he would be away to allow us time to sneak in and get her out.”
Eirikr grunted. “Perhaps in the evening. Or if he had another assignment from my father. I suppose it just depends on the current business needs of the caravans.”
Eruviel ‘hmm’ed’ quietly to herself. “So we are running blind.” Her head tilting to the side, she offered him a smile. “What would he least expect? Us walking up to the house asking what time dinner is served?”
He laughed, a rather loud and surprising sound that echoed off the stone walls of the buildings. “I suppose that is always an option. It would certainly catch him off guard. We should probably observe him for a bit…make sure he is the only one. He rarely is, though. He is a coward and a sneak and I doubt he has left his back exposed.”
She could not help but grin at the sound of the laugh. “I am rather good at observing,” she chuckled. “And it is not as risky for me to be seen and to talk to the townsfolk. It might be wise, on the other hand, for you to stay hidden as much as possible.”
The sun had set fully and the shadows cast by the light from the passing windows cloaked his expression as he looked down at her. He nodded after a brief moment. “More than wise. I know how to lay low and avoid being seen. Be aware though: an Elf here would gain some attention. They are not as common since Dale has been rebuilt.”
They paused at the end of the alley and the light from a tavern fell upon his face. Eruviel studied him, nodding. “I have some coin on me. I will procure more appropriate attire before I look about. An Eldar lady in armour is bound to draw more than just notice, and I hope to keep my dress nice for Dale.”
Eirikr smirked as he nodded. “You will find something easily in the trader’s market. This place still has the heart of a market town; if you hurry you may find someone still peddling.” He gave specific directions with landmarks and street names where they had one. “There is an inn just north of the square. Nicer than,” he gestured across the street. “I will find you there.” He pulled his hood up and nodded to her.
Eruviel returned the nod as she let her cloak fall around her, concealing her armour for the most part. “I will see you then.”