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Dawn of the next morning rose wan and fitfully over the Forsaken Inn. The lowering clouds screened what light there was in the morning, giving all a sullen look. But even under the canopy of cloud, there was great labor in the forests and around the hamlet of buildings that made up the Inn. The Dunedain were breaking camp; cook fires were few, horses stamped in the mist, and riders mounted to scour the lands once more.
Three great wains assembled outside the Inn, near its spacious paddock, each pulled by mighty horses of great size and strength. The wains were loaded high with goods and store for the long journey to the foothills of the Misty Mountains. As the teamsters harnessed their animals, old Galador sat in the board of the first wain, directing everything from his high perch. But ever and anon, his gaze would travel east, knowing on what errand he had sent forth his young Rangers. Halrohir had departed before dawn with a party of five others, scouts to blaze a trail along the Road and find the first night’s shelter and camp, and make it ready and secure for the folk on the march.
Galador stood up on the board, looking at last over the assembled people. In addition to the great wains, there were lesser carts, some pulled by lighter horse, others by hand. Many were on foot, some mounted. All who could ride were formed up into two companies; one would ride with the wains, the other would circle the caravan out and away as scouts. They were few, no more than two hundred, and the riders were a tithe of that strength, but it must serve. With a wave of his arm, Galador signaled the start of the march. One by one, the wains moved out, flanked by horsemen and those on foot.
The flight of the Dunedain had begun.
Miles eastward along the Road, six riders had found a place off the path, in a hollow in the land which sheltered from the wind and from prying eyes. Halrohir set the party to work, gathering wood, clearing brush and making a way for the caravan into the hollow. One rider he sent back along the Road to advise Galador as to their labor. As the work went on, Halrohir rode to the crest of a small hill, dismounting before reaching the summit and walking up crouched low, scanning the lands around for signs.
Hard and bare and dreary were the lands beneath his gaze. Halrohir could see several miles to the south and east from this point; nothing stirred, nothing moved. He stayed here at this vantage point for some time before descending back to his horse, mounting and hurrying down to the hollow. The work had progressed well; a good store of bracken and wood stood here now, along with a cleared path cleverly concealed, which would allow access for the folk.
The day wore on, the party taking turns to watch, resting in the cool of the hollow at spaces. At length, just before sundown, the scout returned, riding fast; the main body of the caravan was approaching, and they knew where to go. Halrohir bade them build two fires for the start of their comfort, and rode out to meet Galador and report. Halrohir found Galador seated in the front wain, no trace of weariness of fatigue on the old man. The first of the three great wains which bore goods, supplies and equipment for the wandering folk. Before long, the curve of the land showed where the thickets had been thrust aside, clearing a path into the hollow wide enough for each of the wains to enter. The smell of wood smoke reached Galador, an inviting scent of safety. The old man looked around at the folds of the land, seeing how well Halrohir had chosen the site, and approved of the young man’s actions. As he surveyed the place, the sound of swift hooves warned him of a rider’s approach. After a moment, Halrohir reined up alongside the captain.
“Well chosen, son of Haladan”, Galador said approving. “Our first camp is ready and secure?” Halrohir’s smile widened a bit, hiding the man’s weariness from his labors.
“You will find all in order, my lord”, Halrohir answered. “The watch fires are already lit, and there is chip and bough in plenty for the camp’s need. I have sent three riders on wide patrol, and the others are guiding the folk here. The wains can be set there, and the horses tethered in safety. There is even fodder gathered for their need, as well. Water is in short supply, however, barely enough for the animals, let alone the people.”
“The wains bear water enough”, Galador said. “I did not expect to find a spring or well for some time. As we approach Amon Sul, there will be water in the gullies. Once the ground begins to rise, we will not see water again until we reach the Last Bridge. That is my concern, but not for today. All I require is to get off this miserable board!” He said as he stretched, groaning, favoring his back. Halrohir dismounted, and offered a hand to Galador, who waved it away and alighted to the ground, unsteady but standing tall.
“See to the direction of the wains, son”, Galador said, “and I shall walk on, and see the camp.” Halrohir nodded, and did as he was bid, ushering the three wagons through the wall of thicket and into the place he and his men had prepared that day. Following the wains came a stream of carts, wagons, and people on foot, eager to see the end of their march, smelling the smoke from the fires as a welcome destination. The first leg of the flight of the Dunedain was over.
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