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His vision swam, when he tried to open his eyes, so for a long time they remained shut.  It was very hot, and there was something over him, but it did not appear to be too heavy.  He had no recollection of how he had gotten here, or even where ‘here’ was, but his head hurt enormously.

Here was very warm, so eventually he forced his eyes open, and pushed his covering off of him.  He tried to focus on it—it was too large to be a blanket, and very foul-smelling—but the effort was too much for him.  It was fortunate that he was lying down.

After a few minutes he was ready again.  This time, he stood up, and after an initial spurt of dizziness, found that he liked standing up very much.  He surveyed the area—he was on a hill, and there were a good many bodies lying around, and some of them were moving among the bodies…

Quite suddenly he found an arm on his shoulder and a face peering into his.  “Are you well, soldier?”

He shook his head numbly.  “The healers’ tents are that way,” and the hand pointed in a direction that was vaguely up.  He started to stumble off in a direction.

“No, not that way—here, let me lead you to them.”  He followed the man, stumbled up the hill, and suddenly found himself in a very large tent filled with groans and a smell he did not care to think about.  “Sirs,” said the man, “this is—”

“Beregond, son of Barahir,” he supplied, and he was pleased that he knew that and was lucid enough to respond.  How his head swam!

The other man in the tent looked at him.  “Concussion.”  Beregond was taken somewhere else in the tent, where he waited…

By the time a healer came to see him, his head was a good deal clearer.  He could recall the battle, now, but he did not remember the blow that must have stunned him.  He remembered Angrod, and Peregrin and others… where were they?  Suddenly Beregond was gripped with the fear that they all had perished.  “Where are they?” he asked.

“Where are who?”

“The—the members of my company.”

“Which company did you march in?”

“I—I was of the Third Company… but no, we were in front of Prince Imrahil’s men, the Swan Knights…  Where are they?”

The healer continued to peer at his face.

“Where are Angrod, and Peregrin—”

“I am sorry, Beregond, but there were many in this battle, and it is but recently won—Peregrin the Halfling?”

“Yes.  Do you know where he is?”

“No word has been brought of him yet.  I am sorry.”

Beregond remembered the Halfling’s buoyant spirit, the way he tried to make light of things that would have scarred doughtier men.  If he had not managed to make himself heard of, he must have been slain.  Beregond bowed his head in despair.

 

*  *  *

Angrod found him, later, perhaps a day, and told him what had happened—how Beregond had been struck down, and Peregrin bravely stabbed into the troll that would have slain him, and thus was crushed himself.  Beregond wept at this, but Angrod clasped his arm.

“Be of good cheer,” he said.  “For they have found him, beneath the troll, and though his life is in danger, he is not yet dead.  The King is tending to him, as he has been to the other two Halflings who were found in the enemy’s land.

For the first time, a number of disparate things slid together in Beregond’s mind—the other two Halflings that Peregrin had told him about, the fact that Peregrin had lived, the fact that any of them were still alive…  “We won?”

“We won indeed,” said Angrod, with a wide smile on his face.  “Though if the tales be true, the Halflings won it for us, for theirs was the darkest road of all.”

“I must see them,” said Beregond, and he tried to rise, but Angrod made him stay seated.

“You are not well, and half the camp wants to see them—especially those that fought beside Peregrin.  The best you can do now is recover.”

But it was still two full days before the healers told him he could leave (though they added that at the first sign of pain, or nausea, or anything of the sort, he was to return to them, for head wounds could turn ill).  He wondered how well equipped the healers’ tents were to hold so many wounded.  They had moved camp by now, to a fairer place, and he began to ask where Peregrin was located.

“He is still sleeping,” said one of the healers, “from what I have heard, and orders are that he is not to be disturbed.”  But Beregond still enquired, until at last he found the tent.

He only got a peep in before the attendant shooed him out, but it was enough to see that Peregrin was alive.  His sword was hardly serviceable, now, but he remained outside the tent for the rest of the day, to stand guard.  Angrod came by at night, to make him rest, but Beregond would not lie down until Angrod promised he would find someone else to guard the tent.

The next day, two more of their company—one with a fresh stump for a hand—had found the tent, and stood guard.  That night, two more came.

And by the time that Peregrin awoke, the only tent more looked-after was the King’s.





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