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Flight of the Dunedain  by Halrohir Haladanion

The Dunedain rested well in the hollow beneath the Weather Hills that night, upon learning that they were not moving the next day, but rather resting from travel and toil.  Snatches of songs reminding of better times could be heard near the central fire, before the middle of the night brought peaceful sleep to most of the camp.  But not to all.  The Rangers kept up their ceaseless watch, just out of the edge of the firelight.  The drovers stirred in their sleep by the animals, ready to join the defense should the marauders return in the night.

One who had no peaceful sleep was Halrohir, who kept seeing things in the dark, then faded back to sleep only to wake again at the slightest sound.  Feeling sleep eluding him, he rose from his bedroll and walked into the paddock area, finding the place where Morindal was tethered, still awake and cropping grass.  Reaching into the fodder barrel, Halrohir offered an apple to his new mount, who accepted it without a second bite.  He smiled as he stroked the behemoth’s mane and muzzle.

“We did well today, mellon nin”, Halrohir said, “and there shall be more tomorrow.  You and I shall ride before the dawn.  You have an uncanny nose for danger, and between us, we can use that to great advantage.  I trust I’m keeping up my end of our bargain?”  Morindal lowered his head and shoved him gently back in the direction of the camp, nickering softly.

“Yes, yes, I’ll get some sleep, you great heap!  You do so as well,” Halrohir said over his shoulder as he walked back to his bedroll.  He was already feeling sleep come on as he lay down, and drifted off once again.  Once again, he awoke and sat up, seeing it was bright morning light about him – had he slept that long, and no one woke him?  He quickly rose to his feet, and looked around him.  He saw no camp, no fires, no animals or carts – he was alone, and the camp was gone!  Only a thicket of grasses and bushes surrounded him.  The air was thick with fragrant scents from flowering herbs and bushes.  It was a scene that almost made him relax, save for knowing that this was all amiss.

At that moment, Halrohir smelled then saw something that made him pause:  a rose bush, in full bloom, impossible for this time of year.  It strongly resembled the garden his mother tended with such care, especially the large rosebush it featured.  Her morning roses.  Why did that seem so important in this scene around him, so keen to be noticed?  Were his thoughts so bent on her that he could wander in her garden?

Halrohir stepped closer to the morning roses, and took in their scent, clean and wonderful, their color so vibrant.  The strong aroma of the flowers around him made his head begin to spin.  He thought, for just a moment, that he was being watched.  He shook his head to clear his vison, but to his shock, in the leaves of the bush he saw eyes – startling clear eyes, the color of bottles of green glass.  He knew there must be a connection, something about the morning rose, and those eyes of bottle-green.  The eyes looked at him with an expression of delight, of longing, even of love.  As he was transfixed by the vision of the eyes, he heard the voice over his shoulder, the husky whisper that might be the voice of a lover, saying only one word:  "Rana…"*

At the sound of that voice, Halrohir sat up with a bolt.  He looked around and saw the fire, the camp, he was resting on his bedroll and he could hear the quiet sounds of the camp even at this hour.  Where were the thicket and the roses?  Did he dream all of it?  What did it mean, if there was any meaning at all?  Roses, eyes and the voice – it was a woman’s voice, certainly…

“Halrohir, what are you doing awake?” came Cormadin’s voice from across the fire.  “It’s nearly time for the scouting of Weathertop, have you not had any rest at all?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Halrohir said, “but I do know I was asleep for a time, so it will have to serve.  But tell me one thing:  do we have extra tack and harness to spare for a mount, and I mean a very large one?”

“What, you mean a saddle and gear for Blackfoot – I mean, Morindal?” Cormadin asked.  “I’m sure I know not if we do.  We are missing several horses from the raid, and their gear was on one of the wagons.  We can certainly try to find something that will fit that half-dragon you now ride.”

Halrohir rolled up his meager gear, and walked behind Cormadin to the wains.  Together, they found a spare saddle, bridle and other harness that at a glance just might fit Morindal if loosened and altered.  Taking it back to the firelight, the two adjusted and pulled and re-strapped the gear, then carried it to the paddock.  Morindal was standing there, watching the two men as they approached with the saddle gear.  At the first sign that Halrohir made of swinging it onto his back, Morindal began huffing and pawing the ground, and then suddenly shifted his bulk to make Halrohir drop the saddle to the ground.

Cormadin moved to help, and the two men began a merry chase, Morindal dancing in a circle with the Rangers trying in vain to get the saddle on.  After several turns, the saddle and blanket landed more or less in place. Cormadin moved to the opposite side, and together he and Halrohir began the task of saddling a horse that refused to be saddled.  Morindal constantly shifted his weight, twice knocking the Rangers on their backsides, but soon the saddle was in place.  The bridle and bit came next, which the great horse twice spat out, but accepted on the third try. 

Then came the moment of truth.  Halrohir planted his foot in the stirrup, and heaved himself off the ground and into the saddle.  Morindal, for the first time since the struggle began, stood stock still and looked around at first Cormadin, then Halrohir, rolling his eyes to meet the Ranger’s gaze.  Tentatively, Halrohir nudged his heels in the stirrups, and the great black responded by a slow walk, as if nothing had changed.  He steered the horse with the reins slowly, both of them getting the feel of the harness. 

Cormadin looked content with the deed.  “Now, brother, at least you look like a rider, and not trying to be an Elf!  Wait, why that look? Halrohir, did I say something wrong?”

“No, nothing wrong,” Halrohir said absently.  “Just something… not real… yet…”

* Wanderer 

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