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Old 02-17-2005, 08:28 PM   #323
Hilde Bracegirdle
Relic of Wandering Days
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: You'll See Perpetual Change.
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Hilde Bracegirdle has just left Hobbiton.

The mountains had long since slid below the horizon as the small caravan reached the first well along their route. They were making good time, and Surinen harbored a private hope that perhaps they might catch up to Narayad or at least gain some rumor of him along the way. His friend was only a day's ride ahead, and seeing that the two Gondorians seemed keen on traveling swiftly, Surinen obliged them gladly, guiding them by starlight the first evening when the heat of the day had passed.

And on this, the second day of their journey, Surinen had already begun to forget his initial displeasure at being stiffly reminded by Fador of the duties of his station, and his uncle’s gentle insistence that he serve as guide to their northern visitors. Knowing that he could not prevail over the elder’s wishes, even so that he might not stop to wish Thorn well with the meeting of elders or with his impending marriage, Surinen had followed Fador to the outskirts of the camp where all stood ready, extracting from him a promise to look after his father while he was gone.

But now the outrider felt heartened for it was by happy chance Narayad had seemly taken the same path they now followed. For Surinen found, as he rode, the odd trace of his friend having passed this way ahead of them, but guessed that it was short lived and that his fellow outrider would veer off shortly after reaching this first landmark and water.

Jumping down off his horse, Surinen took the shawl off his head and threw it over his shoulder as he strode over to the well's edge. Circling it once, and finding no dangers at its side, he peered briefly over its low wall to see if any thing unfortunate had fallen in. "It is a good well!" he announced to his traveling companions in their own dialect. "Very clean." And it might have seemed to the foreigners as though a signal had been given, for the three other men of the eagle clan who accompanied them quickly dismounted, and once they had unstrapped their water skins, they set about rapidly filling them and refreshing their horses.

Surinen returned to Mithadan and Airefalas as they too dismounted and stood aside waiting for an opportunity to draw water. Hurrying past Mithadan without a word, Surinen took the water skin from behind the saddle of his horse and handed it to a stout maenwaith who had followed closely behind. The large fellow grinned at the sea captain, revealing a pronounced gap between his front teeth. Surinen turned to fetch Airefalas' water skin also, but found that the tall Gondorian held it ready in his hands, and seemed intent on filling it himself. Politely asking for the skin, Surinen explained, "This is not our well and we can not stay here. Let the others fill this, it is good to let them feel useful." Seeing that the two still seemed to have doubts about surrendering their last skin, the outrider assured them that both their water skins and their horses would be returned to them shortly, when all was ready for them to set out once more. "And while they do this, maybe you will tell me by which way I should lead you," he suggested as he looked toward the horizon that spread out under the westering sun, picturing to himself where in that wide expanse they might next expect to find water.

Airefalas then handed the skin to Surinen, who in turn passed it the other. "I suppose by the most direct way you may know," Mithadan said, as the stout maenwaith bowed slightly and carried away the skins. "If that would be considered advisable," he said turning to the outrider. "There doesn't seem to be much to conceal us other than the darkness, which ever path we choose to take."

"Ah, but I have thought of two ways to go. One would be to head deeper into the desert. It is a longer and much more difficult way, but for you maybe safer." Propounding his thoughts now in a conspiratorial tone, Surinen's dark eyes glittered beneath his brows as he lowered his voice to a whisper. "The other would be to head for a remote village by the sea. There maybe we find a fishing boat to take you home, right under Lord Falasmir's nose." He winked at them, and smiling at his cleverness, waited to see which course they might choose.

But Airefalas looked at Mithadan uncomfortably and to the outrider's chagrin he said, "We are not going home Surinen, not yet." A spike of suspicion arose unbidden in the maenwaith's heart. Maybe these men had come as spies after all, and all their stories would, given time, prove false. Was he then to lead them? Noting Surinen's reaction Airefalas spoke to his captain in a language that sounded to the outrider very much like Westron, but whose words were so confusing the maenwaith could recognize very little of it. After a moment Mithadan nodded.

The captain looked at the other two maenwaith who were still occupied with the horses and then at Surinen, whose open expression had now evaporated. "Surinen," he said slowly. "Didn't your uncle tell you were we were proposing to go?"

The wiry man looked him in the eye, unblinking as he pondered his situation. "No. Fador said only that I should take you where you wanted to go. I thought that you were to return north, and so agreed to this. But if we are not going there, where are we going?"

"Perhaps I should explain our change of plan," Mithadan said. "Before we left the encampment your uncle proposed that it would be useful for us to first go investigate this new city - Wyrma's city," the captain said cautiously. "He said that it may be of help to the Eagles if we can determine its progress and layout. And of course, it might have some value to Minas Tirith as well."

May be helpful? It would be more helpful to give the seat of Wyrma's ambition a very wide berth, Surinen thought as he clucked disapprovingly. "But it is a bad place. They don’t like eagles there," he said, with a sinking heart. He wondered what had he done that his uncle would knowingly send him near the place.

"You have seen it then?"

Surinen snapped out of his reverie. "No, no," he muttered shaking his head. "I have not seen it, but I know where it is. They say it is close to Umbar." The unfortunate truth was that the outrider knew very well where it was. Being a trusted friend of Thorn's carried with it many blessings and curses, and this bit of information was quickly coming to be viewed as one of the latter to Surinen.

"Close to Umbar," Airefalas' sigh echoed with dismay. "Just how close the Umbar, is it?"

"Too close," Surinen said looking up, with the hope that perhaps Airefalas was beginning to understand. "Maybe only two days ride from burnt docks and angry lords. It is not safe for you," he pleaded.

"And to be sure there are messengers traveling between the two cities," Airefalas added, looking back to Mithadan who stood behind him.

"Will you take us there, Surinen?" Mithadan asked the maenwaith directly, "To help your people?"

Surinen felt a surge of misgiving and pride, as if he was being tested, but the Gondorian captain had struck him as sincere. "If Fador said I will take you there, then I will take you. I will not leave you here." With that he turned and walked back to the others.

And sliding into another shape as they set out, a mottled brown dog ran before the horses for many hours, before he tired and again deigned to ride beside the foreigners under the stars.
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