Reggie, who had long journeyed with his master gave a huge sigh and put his head in his hands. Even Herynglas seemed to be affected and unsure of what should be done next. A good few paces away a wight was shaking on the spot as if trying to free itself, with its head wrapped tight with some cloth.
Caethir, however seemed to be deep in thought.
“I’ve seen this… behaviour before, but I cannot for the life of me remember where. I do not believe we need to be worried.”
“Don’t be mean, Hanawen!” Faeladar scolded from the ground, wincing as he did so.
The girl turned around to face them, grinning.
“Gah, you spoil all my fun, Da” Hanawen laughed, hanging her crossbow over her shoulder, “Let me clarify. You’re too late to save my Da, because I did it. And before you ask, I trapped the wight over there and made sure he couldn’t shout at me. I had to guard father, instead of taking the bony idiot down.”
“If you had time to gag it, you had time to take it down, no?” Caethir asked, a little annoyed.
Displays of Power and Family Ties
“Well then, if you did not wish to dismantle the bag of bones, let me oblige,” Herynglas offered.
She her staff high over her head, surrounded herself in light then launched a beam at the skeletal form, who was reduced to a pile of bones with a horrible rattling.
“I will recover, though it was timely that my daughter should find us. My leg got bitten by some hound or other and the wound festers. My sword should be around here somewhere too,” he winced.
“You’re Faeladar’s daughter?” Caethir asked Hanawen, stepping up to her.
“Yes, does that matter, Caethir?” she asked, pushing her pale brown hair from her face.
“Pleased to meet you. I have questions, but here is not the place. I must know, however, how did you know to find us?”
“A random Raven came bearing a message that my Da had been led astray by two Elves. Those weren’t her words, of course!”, Hanawen laughed, “I was passing out of Bree at the time to go hunting. Interestingly, this Raven did not tell me who her master was.”
“My brother often uses Ravens,” Caethir started, “But I don’t think he’s even in Bree-land right now.”
“No, he’s not and I recognised Ayrthir’s Raven by its red-tipped feathers. A most unusual breed.”
“You seem to know a lot about me and my family, Hanawen,” Caethir frowned, not for the first or last time that day.
“You’d be surprised.” was all she replied.
Herynglas strode up to the girl at the mention of ‘feathers’.
“An Eagle, a lesser Eagle…have you seen it?”
“Oh! Gwathruin? Yes, he seemed to have a quiet word with the Raven before flying off on his own. That was some time ago, though.”
Arriving at the Perch
As if summoned by the mere mention of his name, the Eagle returned and landed at Herynglas’ feet, bowing his head as he did so.
“Yes, but not unaided. Their teeth bite deeply,” he explained, referring to the Barghest who had attacked him. Hanawen and Reggie helped him to his feet.
“Thankfully, I left a trail we can follow,” Hanawen stated,”the Raven told me you were headed to Dead Man’s Perch, so that was where I began my own trek from”.
Flanked by Caethir and Herynglas and watched over by the Eagle, they made it through the Barrow-Downs just as the sun was setting. The welcome sight of a camp fire and unknown but friendly faces met them and they all collapsed exhausted. Caethir rooted in his pack and retrieved a coat and shoulder-drape. Discarding his chest armour he wrapped the coat around him, wanting to feel even a little refreshed. He then turned from his companions and looked back over the land they had just crossed.
Masking the Fear
Herynglas and Reggie were tending to Faeladar’s leg-wound, aided by a herbalist who was also camped at Dead Man’s Perch. Hanawen sidled up to Caethir and peered out over the Northern Barrow-Downs.
“I don’t have your quality of sight, but even I can see more shapes moving over the mounds.” she acknowledged.
“You seemed… fearless,” the Elf ventured.
“We all have to cope somehow,” Caethir admitted, “but thank you. I’m glad that, rare as it is to encounter your people, you are able to communicate with birds. If not for that, we may all have been lost.”
A Reminder of Reliance
Hanawen turned to the Elf and smiled, her deep, green eyes lighting up.
“We all just have to keep our heads, listen and be prepared to change course when the situation demands it, my new Elf friend. From what I hear, Faeladar rescued you because someone told him you’d need it. You set out to save my Da, despite it meaning you would become more lost in this horrid place. And I’m missing a meal because I heeded the word of a Raven I did not even recognise. We all depend on each other, more than we like to admit sometimes. So, you’re welcome!” she laughed, turning back to the direction the Elf was facing.
“We could have used the light today,” he sighed shaking his head, “the mist was our worst enemy.”
“I disagree. Your, no, our fear is our worst enemy. But yeah, this place is truly evil. Mind and eyes get clouded and the mist makes it worse.”
Caethir put a hand in his pocket and withdrew the brooch they had found earlier that day and passed it to Hanawen.
“This is your father’s. When he is rested, return it to him. Memories of home can help.”
The girl took it, thanked him and examined it closely. She recognised the emblem and it brought back memories. Some of them were joyful; remembering the beautiful dawn sun, the rolling hills and the horses running free across the land, their manes and tails flying in the wind. But other thoughts intersected at the same moments – separation from her mother and a little sister she had not seen since they were both children. Hanawen sighed and clutched the brooch tight to her heart.