Dale trip

To Dale: The Gates



The fires of Echad Dunann glistened in the distance as scattered rays of lingering sunlight colored the clouds high above them. A short ways beyond the manned elf ruin more campfires illuminated a caravan of wagons, and the large, hardy goats that would pull them.  Reigning in their mounts, Eruviel and Eirikr trotted the last hundred yards to the Stable-master. The elf maiden smiled kindly at them as they dismounted, taking their few possessions with them. Eruviel never questioned the capabilities of a horse that had been under her care.

“Suilad, Rocherves,” Eruviel greeted the maiden with a faint bow as she handed her the reigns.

“Suilad, mellyn,” replied Rocherves as she offered her own curtsey to Eruviel, then to Eirikr. “Your paths were safe, I hope.”

“They were, thank you,” said Eirikr, his gaze lingering on the towering peaks that looked down upon them. He stretched up to his full height and Eruviel bit back an amused chuckle, wondering just how sore her traveling companion was.

Rocherves nodded, giving the man a thoughtful look before turning to tie the horses to the hitching posts. “It is good to receive such news. The south-western paths have grown more dangerous. It was prudent of you to send a second, and might I say, horrendously vague message. The first never made it.”

Looking around Eruviel frowned slightly at seeing an elf missing from those gathered around a far table strewn with maps. “Is Glavroleth not here?”

“She went to Echad Mirobel,” said Rocherves as she shook her head, “but she instructed me about your arrival.”

“Very well,” Eruviel nodded. “When does the caravan depart?” Her question seemed to coax Eirikr from his thoughts and he looked up to glance between her and the Stable-master.

“They will leave in a few short hours. One merchant has yet to arrive but Brogur does not intend to wait longer than an hour past dusk for him.”

“That is understandable. We should catch our rest while we can,” said Eruviel as she fixed her satchel over her shoulder.

“You should be able to find Brogur at the front fire. Be well, and safe travels to you,” said Rocherves before turning her attention once again to the horses.

Exchanging curt nods with Eirikr, the two of them set out to walk the short distance between the two camps. Speaking with Brogur they were shown to a lone merchant three wagons back that they would be traveling with. The portly dwarf named Norlin was hospitable and Eruviel could not hold back an amused smirk as he took an instant liking to Eirikr. In spite of the sound of dwarvish laughter that relaxed her companions stern expression, a shadow remained. She entertained the thoughts that it might be the caverns that awaited them, the slower pace they would be traveling at, or the foul creatures that still lurked in the twists and turns of Moria that weighed on Eirikr’s mind, but she knew otherwise.It weighed on her mind as well.

Sitting by Norlin’s fire as he chatted away about the delights of being a traveling merchant, Eruviel only half listened. Her gaze drifted upwards to the ever-brightening stars above. She would miss them greatly. Though they would be in Moria no longer than a week, Eruviel doubted she would sleep the first few nights. The craftsmanship of the dwarves amazed her, and the company was good, but she never did care much for enclosed caves.

A call rang through the wagon train an hour later as the merchants or their servants hitched the goats to the wagons. Looking behind, three more wagons pulled up at the rear. Just in time. The caravan moved forward at an almost practiced pace, climbing the gradual slope of the wide trail. The Gate-Stream to their right was as dry as the last time she had passed this way, though in some distant memory she recalled water once flowing over the Stair Falls.

“When was the last time you were here?” asked Eirikr as they neared the top of their accent.

Eruviel gave him a thoughtful look as she continued forward. “Not since before I met Anyatka. Was your trip to Bree the first you had been through?”

“It was,” Eirikr nodded as the wagons crested the hill to look out across the Black Pool. “Though I did not pay much mind to it.”

“We will not be rushing at break-neck speeds for several days. I do hope you try to enjoy some of it.” She wanted to say that it would be a lovely thing to tell Ninim about, but she swallowed her words, unwilling to take the risk. An ache had begun to grow in her. A fear that they would arrive too late, or that something would go wrong.

“I’ll try,” said Eirikr, chuckling slightly as they neared the Hollin Gates.

Nodding ahead of them, Eruviel took joy at seeing the dwarven doorwards standing by the two lone trees that grew against the mountainside. Not since many years before her birth had there been doorwards at the West-gate. “Moria seems so much more grand when entering from this side,” she said quietly, a small smile curving up her mouth. Eirikr shot her a smirk but she merely pointed forward.

The moon emerged just as the guards turned and spoke to the stone while the caravan was still yards away. The runes set by Celebrimbor in ages past glowed bright in the moonlight, illuminating the rocky shore, and the heavy gates opened.


To Dale: An Understanding


“If I ever forget myself and travel too fast let me know,” Eruviel said matter-of-factly as they ran up the last incline. The day had begun to fade as she led Eirikr through a narrow ravine to a hidden camp site jutting out from a near cliff side.

Eirikr shook his head. “I am fine.”

Eruviel smirked at Eirikr as they slowed to a walk. “Of course, though I doubt you would tell me you were not unless the moment was dire.” A twinge of gilt  stung her as she glanced at the man. He had kept up with her all day, and it had been rather impressive. His shooting had gotten better throughout the day as well, but she knew better than to mention it. Her intent to encourage seemed to always get skewed somewhere between her speaking and the recipient hearing. No, it would be wiser to say nothing at all.

Eirikr rolled his eyes much like his younger sister would. “What sort of man would I be to not be able to keep up, hm?” He gazed out over the cliff side and took in the view. Trees of eternal autumn crowned the ridge around them, and from the perch one could make out the length of the Bruinen south towards Eregion

Eruviel shrugged off her pack, chuckling as she began to rummage through it’s contents. “Now I see where Anyatka gets that look.” She remembered the look of the elf at their last stop who had given her a letter from Anyatka. The memory of the exhausted, addle-brained bird made her laugh a little harder. The poor creature.

Eiriikr arched a brow, though not willing to take his eyes from the scenery. “What look?”

Pulling out a leaf-wrapped package she offered a corner of lembas to him. It was the last parcel of way-bread given to her by Peloras, and was just enough to see them through Moria. “That eye roll. It came quite naturally,” she quipped. Pointing down the gorge into the evening haze she added, “That will be our path tomorrow.”

“Anya and I are alike in many ways,” said Eirikr as he looked down at the waters flowing between the hills. “But still very different.” Accepting the lembas he added, “That leads into Eregion?”

“I can see it,” she nods thoughtfully. Breaking off a piece of the way-bread for herself she continued, “It does. The trail leading up the mountain is long, but there is a Free-People’s camp just over the border. We should not run into too much trouble till past Gwingris.”

Eirikr frowned as the shadow of a thought passed over him. “There was much movement in the lands when I passed through. The Elf I hired to lead me preferred to move at night.”

Eruviel ‘s eyes narrowed as her gaze stretched out into the south. “I share the sentiment. I hope for us to arrive at Gwingris at midday so that we can rest before it grows dark.”

“You sent messages ahead there, as well?” asked Eirikr as he stretched his shoulder, kneading the muscle.

Eruviel nodded, smiling as she flexed her right hand. She hoped the hours of writing would be worth it. “I wrote a great many messages.”

Eirikr shoot her a look. “Did you receive any back? About the person you seek for your friend?”

Eruviel shook her head, keeping her face calm. This? Again? “I did not send any messages regarding him. I know no one in Dale, though perhaps a dwarf or two. The caravan that we will travel with through Moria might know something, though.” She offered Eirikr a half-hearted smile. “I can only hope.”

The Barding turned towards her and crossed his arms. “What do you plan to do if you find this person? Simply take the information back to your friend?”

Eruviel studied him seriously, clasping her hands behind her back. “My friend merely wants to know who it is, and if the criminal still lives. Now, if I meet the man face-to-face . . . that is another matter that hinges on many factors. Why . . . why do you ask, Eirikr?”

Eirikr looked back out over the gorge. “No reason, really. The likelihood of you finding this person is small, anyway.”

Eruviel observed him for a minute before finally looking away, not entirely satisfied with his answer. He must be nervous. Attempting to cover his anxiety with other thoughts . . . I hope. “If I am able to find any information I will consider it a success.”

“You do keep repeating that,” sighed Eirikr. His eyes darted at her out of the corner of his eye. “Is there something else on your mind, my friend?”

Eruviel did her best to keep down a chuckle as she lowered herself to sit on the soft grass. “Merely that you seem exceptionally curious about a small matter that should be the least of your worries,” she said kindly.

Eirikr stared down at her. “Eruviel, I plan on slipping in and slipping out. This is no pleasurable visit to Esgaroth, I assure you. I see our troubles greatest there as Ninim will be under guard. I hope to sneak Abbi out . . . unless . . . .” he trailed off and looked back out over the valley.

Eruviel frowned up at him, narrowing her eyes. The strength it took to keep back the tide of harsh words surprised her. Had she missed making her intentions clear? “I am well aware of the challenge ahead of us,” she said sternly. “I plan to do everything in my power to ensure that we succeed. If you ever thought that I hope to dally and distract from our purpose, I pray that you put it from your mind once and for all.”

Eirikr sighed, obviously exasperated. “Then how do you intend to succeed in helping your friend?”

Pulling out her water flask, Eruviel focused on uncorking the top. “I plan to ask the merchants we are to travel with. If we run into any Bardings on the road I hope to be as lovely and congenial,” and convincingly innocent, she thought, “as an Eldar lady can be to get whatever information they have out of them.” Taking a drink she arches a brow up to Eirikr. “You doubt me,” she said simply.

Eirikr scratched at his beard. “I do not doubt you. Just the compatibility of your intents with mine.”

Eruviel leaned back and folded her hands behind her head, not bothering to hide that his words bothered her. “Finding that man is the least of my concerns. We are going to save your wife and sneak out your brother. Once we are past Lorien you are in charge of this . . . expedition. I even packed a dress, just in case,” she added, her revived humor creeping back into her voice. “A female Noldor in armour could be disconcerting.”

Eirikr looked at her for a long moment as he sucked on his lower lip. “A merchant’s dress?” he said, finally speaking, “It won’t be like the streets of Bree. You’ll need a fine gown to fit in.”

Eruviel looked up at him with a faint smile before fixing her eyes on the emerging stars. “I did my research. Besides, I always bring my best.” Her thoughts lingered on the silk dress folded and wrapped carefully in the lovely blue and gold cloak that had hung idly in her room for several months.

Eirikr stared at her for a moment then turned away, shaking his head and chuckling. “Fair enough, my lady.”


((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/30/2014))

To Dale: Departure from Imladris


Imladris rested in the sun of morning like a peaceful Island along the East Road. She had left her room in the predawn hours and sat on a rock off the path to the Last Homely House to rest, and to listen. Now standing on the wide front porch Eruviel pulled her gauntlets on as she heard Eirikr emerge from the doors behind her.

“Aaye, mellon. I trust you slept well?” she asked as he walked up beside her, squinting in the sunlight.

He nodded silently, his eyes falling on the rushing waters. “Yes. Very well. I have not slept like that in years.”

A contented smile spread across her face as she took a deep breath of the sweet morning air. “It is good that we stopped here. I doubt we shall sleep half that well for the rest of our journey.”

Eirikr grunted in agreement. “How soon are you wishing to move on? And which path shall we take when facing the Mountains?”

Eruviel skewed her mouth slightly, the light in her eyes dimming as she looked up at the high, distant peaks. “The desire for haste tells me to go over the mountains, but we would have no safe house to shelter at by that road. There is a caravan of dwarves that intend to pass through Moria. That is the road I suggest we take.” Looking over at him she added, “But this is your journey. If you desire to take the high road than that shall be our course.”

“Moria is a better choice,” Eirikr said, shaking his head. “The passes over the mountains are not passes any more, by all I’ve heard. I went through on my way here.” He paused for a moment and then added, “I wonder how Anya got through.”

“I thought they had gone around . . . but I cannot seem to recall how she got though at the moment,” said Eruviel. Her shoulders relaxed, glad that he decided against the mountain paths.

“I can’t imagine her beneath the stones,” Eirikr said, nodding.

Eruviel smirked at the man, her mind thinking of Anyatka who, for the time being, lived at the homesteads in the mountains of Ered Luin. “She does much better under the open sky, does she not.”

Eirikr looked over at her. “Don’t you?”

Smiling thoughtfully, she turned her gaze back out towards the autumn-crowned valley. “I do indeed.”

Eirikr rubbed his beard and said thoughtfully, “You have been here often, haven’t you? You like it here very much.”

Eruviel chuckled slightly, nodding her head. “I have. I enjoy all the elf havens, though I have not been to Lorien since before the Battle of Fornost. The only one I have not seen was Mirkwood back when it was still Green.”

Eirikr bobbed his head slowly as he shifted his cloak around his shoulders. “Thranduil rules there still. His people are kind enough.”

Eruviel glances to the host as she shifts her sword belt over her hips. “I have not met him, though I wonder if our paths will take us through a different road?” She felt silly, asking about Mirkwood. She liked knowing where she was going.

Eirikr shruged. “If we intend to pass through the Mirkwood, the safest routes are along the Elvish paths.”

Eruviel shoot Eirikr an apologetic look. “I fear I will be no good when it comes to directions once we pass out of Lorien.”

Eirikr smirked, a pleased light passing through his eyes. “Good. Then I’m not a complete waste on the journey to Dale.” He looked over to her with a lazy grin. “I can’t stand being useless.”

“You are far from useless,” she responded, arching a brow her companion. “I would still be in Bree if you were not going back to Dale. And two bows are better than one.”

The edge of Eirikr’s mouth twitched at her comment. “Indeed, you would be in Bree if I were not going back to Dale. In fact, you should be in Bree now. While I agree that two bows are better than one, Eruviel, it does weigh on my mind that you mentioned another reason for accompanying me to Dale.” His eyes remain on the scenery as he adds in a light tone, “What is it?”

Eruviel pursed her lips in a moment of thought before replying. “My first reason is to keep you alive. I can only imagine at how devastated Anyatka would be if you should perish. Also, the simple matter of you being my friend is reason enough.” She skewed her mouth before adding, “And I am looking for someone. A favor for a friend back in Bree.”

Eirikr looked over at her and gave her a hard look. “Who is this person? Dale is a large city — how do you expect to find this person? We won’t be hanging about in the local taverns, you know.”

“Several years back a Watcher of Dale named Hallem was murdered,” she said after a long moment of thought. “A friend of his asked me to see if I could find out who did it. It is most likely a lost cause, but I hope to scrap something up for him . . . anything, really.”

Eirikr frowned as his brows knit low over his dark grey eyes. “You’re going to investigate a murder? What do you know? Dale isn’t like Bree…it’s a merchant’s town, not a seedy backwater trading depot.”

Eruviel took a step down the ramp, glancing back up at Eirikr. “The wealthy have their own crime just as much as the poor.” And they can be less honest about it, she thought grimly. “But as I said, I expect to find nothing, but hope merely for a whisper of something to put my friend’s mind at ease with his loss. Apparently the man had a son that went missing not long after the incident.” She shrugged, looking down the road. “But first we need to retrieve Ninim and Abi.”

Eiriikr grunted and started after her. “You suspect it was someone of the merchant class that committed the crime?”

Eruviel rolled her shoulders. “I hope not. If it was, I fear that could make the situation an even greater problem. A man held in such high esteem as I heard Watcher Hallem was, does not simply get murdered for no reason. I would wish him a more noble death, at least.”

Eiriikr hummed as they headed for the stables. “It would make the issue more difficult indeed. Everything is more difficult when money is involved.”

Eruviel glanced over as she falls in step beside him. “I definitely prefer villages and the wilds to cities. To be killed over money . . . .” she mutters quietly, not bothering to finish her sentence. The thought of being killed over the power of money left a sour taste in her mouth.

Falling silent, Eruviel smiled slightly, seeing their horses saddled and waiting for them. The ride today would be harder than the last leg of the journey, but now she felt assured that they were more prepared, for now.



To Dale: From Ost Guruth to Rivendell

A stagnant air hovered over Ost Guruth. Eruviel could sense the restless spirits from beyond the Red Pass, and the weight of their wickedness and sorrow made her skin crawl.

Eirikr walked up beside her and looked out as the sun crawled up over the horizon. “Sleep well?” he asked gruffly.

Biting her lower lip slightly, Eruviel fixed her cloak over her shoulders. “No, unfortunately. But it was sleep, I suppose.”

Eirikr turned his head only slightly to look at her as he started for the stables. “It was rhetorical. I didn’t realize Elves slept.”

“Some times,” she said with a small smile, shrugging as she followed him down the broken stone steps. How little the man knew of the Eldar. They did not sleep, not like the race of men did, but they required rest just as much as the other children of Iluvatar. How she delighted of visions of nature, of dancing beneath the tall flowering trees amidst the starlight. Her keen senses remembered the smell and music of elvish banquets, hobbit feasts, and the sensation of cool spring water caressing her skin on the first swim as the seasons turned. But not here in the Lone-lands, especially so close to the lair of the Red Maid.

Eiriikr handed Unni, the stable-master some coin and took the reins of his horse. “Fair enough,” he said. Arranging his things, he mounted his steed as Eruviel guided her own horse from the kindly dwarf and stepped into her saddle.

Nodding curtly to the man as she turned her horse around she nodded towards the East Road. “Let us be off.”

As eager to be off as their masters, the horses leapt forward into a run over the low hills towards the neglected cobbled road. Wargs roamed in the brush, forcing them to alter their course. Trusting her mount to guide itself, Eruviel took a few seconds as they crested a hill to pull her bow off her back and rest it across her knees. The man and elf dodged the occasional creeping spider and keen-eyed crebain as they charged over the dry earth and onto to the road.

“That Elf . . . did you stay up with her long?” Eirikr shouted back to her as they crossed over the Last Bridge.

Eruviel shook her head though she knew he could not see her. “No,” she called up to him, “not long at all.”

Eirikr smirked slightly, “She seemed hungry for company.”

“She was indeed,” Eruviel said, chuckling as her eyes took note of the wolves prowling beyond the treeline and bears lumbering too close for comfort. “I apologize, though, for the interruption to our conversation last night.”

Eirikr humphed, frowning slightly. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

Time flew by as they charged along the rugged road through the Trollshaws. She let Eirikr ride in the lead, following only several feet behind, keeping a sharp eye on the few predators that made rather lazy attempts to pursue the swift riders. Over the far rise Eruviel could see the gleam of the Ford of Bruinen drawing nearer. We will make it, she thought, more as a statement than for encouragement . . . or possibly both.

Eirikr reigned in his horse, stopping at the edge of the clear-flowing river. “The ford,” he said flatly. “It seems calm enough.”

Eruviel surveyed the land around them and the river with a stern, cold look. “We will be safe crossing the waters. I do not doubt that my kin know we approach.”

Eiriikr nodded to her. “You take the lead – I do not know the other side at all and I’ve heard the paths can disappear beneath your feet.”

Eruviel returned the nod. “It has been a long time since I have followed the path,” she said quietly. “Do not fall too far behind.” Checking their surroundings one last time Eruviel spurred her horse forward.

“You know, I am surprised Anya did not talk Anric into following us,” Eirikr called up to her as their horses waded through the shallow crossing.

Eruviel skewed her mouth to one side at the thought. “As am I . . . or even that she did not follow us herself, with Anric in tow.”

Eirikr took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “I think she knows what must come to pass. She does not want to revisit our old lives.”

Eruviel glances over at him for a moment. “I do not blame her. It is for the best that she stayed behind for this . . . trip.” Reaching the far side of the river their mounts moved into a gallop. Making their way up the steep trail, Eruviel did not hesitate the as the road vanished, letting her memory and her mount plow the trail. She rode tall, one hand loosely holding the reigns, the other gripping her bow. Several wild cats made chase, but the pounding of the horses hooves discouraged the few that dared getting too close. A small wave of relief washed over her as she saw the road reappear beneath them. Following it around the bend they approached the narrow pass into The Hidden Valley.

Eirikr brought his horse up to ride beside Eruviel. “I still think it best if you sojourn in Imladris while I carry on.”

Eruviel shot him a curious look as she urged her mount forward. “Why do you keep saying that?” she calls over to him.

“Can’t I just want to keep you safe from harm?” he shouted after her.

Eruviel reigned in her horse at the top of the switch-back that lead down to the Hidden Valley. “I thought that was what I am doing here, keeping you safe from harm,” she said, eyeing the valley with a joyful familiarity.

Eirikr sighed heavily and let out a low growl. “Eruviel, this isn’t like battle. There is no honor in this war, if it be called that.”

An amused smile crept across her mouth. “I have a friend in Bree you might see eye to eye with. He held a knife to my throat twice for getting between him and his . . . vengeance.” Tugging lightly on her reigns Eruviel guided her horse back to the path. “I have made up my mind, Eirikr,” she sad sternly.

Eirikr sighed and reluctantly followed her. “Stubborn Elf,” he muttered under his breath.

Eruviel ‘s tilted her chin up slightly with a hint of pride, taking his grumbling as a compliment. Eruviel inclined her head to the view of the Last Homely House. “Shall we to the stables first, or to our host?”

Eirikr’s eyes followed her gaze. “You know best.”

Eruviel glanced between the two horses and nodded. “They need rest. We go left.” Walking their weary mounts down the lane carpeted with leaves a cool, sweet breeze combed through her travel-tousled hair. The bright green and orange leafed trees rustled their ancient songs into the wind, accompanied by the distant echo of the large waterfall across the valley.

Passing under the smooth stone arch leading into the stables Eruviel dismounted, bowing in thanks to Ladrochan the stable-master as he took the two traveler’s horses. Nodding to Eirikr she smiled and motioned to a secondary path leading to a graceful, sweeping bridge. “I suppose you have never been here before?”

Eiriikr shook his head. “No, I haven’t.” His eyes betrayed the wonder her felt as he looked around. “Tales cannot hold a candle to the true majesty of this place.” Stretching out her arms, her face gleaming with contentment, Eruviel stepped forward. Falling into step with Eirikr they strolled quietly out of the stables, abandoning words as their senses drank in the beauty and tranquility of the haven.


((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/3/2014))

To Dale: Waiting for the Dawn

“Behind you!” a muffled voice cried out. Whirling around, Eruviel narrowly missed the blade that whistled past her head. Her armour weighed her down, and her joints felt sluggish as she struck down the faceless Barding criminal. Who are these men? her mind wondered as she worked to keep herself from panicking.

Eirikr fought the swarm of faceless men who had attacked them as they had passed through the grand, stone city gates of . . . was this Dale? Glancing behind her, Eruviel let out a horrified cry as she saw Eirikr stumble forward with a spear stuck in his back. “Why will my feet not move?” her mind screamed. She had to help him! Anya would never forgive her. . . nor could she forgive herself.

Hardly fifteen feet beyond her reach an older man who could have only been her companions father, Kolrson, emerged from the clouds of dust that surrounded them. Eirikr raised his head, meeting Eruviel’s gaze as he pulled the spear out. Giving her a sad smile he turned away from her outstretched hand to face his patron. A cold hate radiated from the proud merchant as he threw a round sack to the ground at Eirikr’s feet. Long, soft hair tumbled out of the mouth of the sack. A harrowing roar of rage and grief rose out of Eirikr. Lunging forward he plunged the spear into his father’s heart, only to be pierced through by the elderly man’s sword.

All the air seemed to be sucked out of her lungs. “No,” the word brushed past her trembling lips. Her sword felt heavy. Looking down, her eyes glazed over from shock she saw the dead body of one of Kolrson’s brutes hanging from her blade. Releasing the blade she stumbled back, her chest heaving as the silence assaulted her ears. “It was not supposed to be like this,” she whispered miserably.

A soft wind stirred, carrying the dust and haze back out the gate. There was a body slumped against the stone wall. Seeing who it was Eruviel jumped back, tripping as she scrambled to get away. Alagos, the Black Numenorian who had had her captured all those years ago stood skewered by pikes a short distance from her fallen companion.  “By the Valar, what is going on?” she asked in a quiet whimper. Turning again her heart sunk she saw Arathier slumped against a far wall, sitting in a pool of blood, a ruined piece of paper crumpled in his limp hand. She tried to step towards him, to help him as she had before, but then she saw them. Beyond him was Sig, then Anric, Anyatka, Adrovorn, Cwendlwyn, and countless others who she had befriended, loved, and even those who had sheltered her and Eirikr on their journey. The streets were littered with bodies, and all of them were dead.

Glancing down, Eruviel stared at herself in horror. Her armour was gone, and she stood naked in the noon-day sun amidst the carnage. Her body looked deathly pale and her own life blood began to drain from her as every wound she had ever acquired began to reappear on her skin. Each stab, scratch, lash mark, burn, and bruise reemerged on her flesh. A thousand years of pain tore through her still-youthful body and she dropped to her knees, cupped her hands over her face, and wept.

Eruviel jolted awake, gasping for air. The building of healing in Ost Guruth was silent except for the soft breathing of its sleeping occupants. Wiping hot tears from her cheeks she took a moment to find her composure. Carefully climbing down from her bunk she stepped over Eirikr’s sleeping body and tiptoed across the stone floor. Glancing around the dark chamber she quickly stepped into her trousers, pulled off her sleep-shirt, and tugged on the padded shirt she wore under her breastplate. Scooping up her armour, bow and boots she padded barefoot out into the crisp night air. Finding a concealed corner beyond the courtyard she put on the rest of her gear, taking extra care as she cinched each strap and clasped each buckle.

Her moist eyes turned cold as she slung her bow over her back and climbed the battlement to sit watch. Watching the horizon she forced the images from her dream out of her mind as she waited for the dawn to arrive.