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The rains on the night of the departure from Weathertop were not as severe as the Dunedain had feared. What was heralded as a storm of strength by the wall of clouds in the west turned out to be a gentle, soaking rain, although the searching wind drove the water into every open crevice. The folk managed to erect several large tents, with one central pavilion centered in the camp like a hall, even as the rain began to fall. This central tent had a large conical dome, open at the top, with no central post but rather held by slanted poles from the walls, allowing for a hearth fire in the center for warmth. Here were gathered the wounded, the elderly, and those who were weakened by the journey thus far.
The rest of the camp was dry enough, with as many people under cover as could be provided for. Many families took in relatives or strangers, and found room someway for all. The animals and beasts were tethered near the wains, which were parked close by the main camp; Galador had ordered it so, both to keep better watch on the livestock, and to ease the burden on the folk as well.
The leaders of the Dunedain shared a small tent near the main hall, a smaller fire in front of the tent door, a large pavilion flap giving shelter from the rains. There near the fire sat Halrohir and Ercolindo, eating in thoughtful silence. Cormadin sat there as well, his wounded leg propped on a log; he was healing well, due to the skill of the wisewomen and their herblore. Angbrand sat next to him, his arm mending but the head wound still troubling him.
“We will not know how long the rain will hold, not until day comes”, Cormadin said. “Shall we stay here and hold out until it does, or risk the Road in the weather? Either way, it’s going to be a wet few days.”
“Or hide them from us”, Halrohir said darkly. “I do not trust the weather, it works to our enemy’s advantage more than ours. It makes us burn more wood for more comfort, and the folk need both. I’ll not deny that a warm fire cheers the spirit, but there is a time for it – and now is not it.”
“Then what would you have us do?” Cormadin asked. “We cannot ask the folk to move with more haste. Though they had their rest, this rain will strain their will once again.”
“Then it is our lot to be their will,” Halrohir said. “We four, plus the captain, are the most visible signs the people follow. They are being inspired by our deeds. None of us dare falter, now. By my reckoning, we are at least six days until we see the Last Bridge before us; and at least three more until we cross the Ford of Bruinen. We know not the weather, we know not the Road, and we know not what the enemy has in store. Too many unknowns make my stomach turn. I say we all rest tonight as much as we can. Our new young Rangers, Meldor and Cenion, are proving worthy. I have set them to guard the camp tonight, turning watches as they go. That will allow us rest. And so, to bed. Sleep well, all.” And with that, Halrohir stepped inside the ten, found his bedroll and promptly fell into a slumber. The other three friends did the same, Cormadin staying last by the shrinking fire.
Much later, Halrohir awoke to the quiet of the night. The rain seemed to have stopped, thought the wind had slackened to a light breeze. Rising from his bed, he stepped out of the tent to a glorious sunset, reds and oranges and pastels dappling the western skies. Behind him, the east was dark, starless and full of a wrack of clouds, more like a broiling fume of many fires, a coming darkness more than night.
I could not have slept this long, Halrohir thought to himself, this is another dream. Is this the foresight of the Dunedain, or something else working on my mind? He continued looking all about him, if some sign would present itself, like the roses or the eyes from the last dream. He kept looking at the skies in both west and east, dreading both the coming of night and the dark. It was at that moment that he heard, behind him, that same breathy voice, as if on the wind: Rana…
Halrohir turned, and there nearby to the east, was a single grey cloud amidst the dark, and in the cloud were the eyes of bottle-green, staring at him once more with a look of such devotion that it smote his heart. And out of the cloud, or rather in his thoughts, he heard:
Estan lin Halrohir Haladanion. Boe tog i Dunedain i Imladris, han Thelion gwin nin.
[Your name is Halrohir, son of Haladan. You must lead the Men of the West to Rivendell, that is your new Trial.]
Halrohir wondered that he could understand the Elven-tongue perfectly, for his use was halting though he could manage to converse in it well enough. He tried to respond, but only heard the Common Tongue in his voice, “Who are you? And what do you mean, a new Trial? I am a Ranger already, in fact and deed.”
No dirweg, Dunadan. Guidhoth nin farad nin. Echuio nin i minuial, i lagor ego!
[Be watchful, Westman. Your foes hunt you. You must awaken at dawn, and leave quickly!]
“They are that close?” Halrohir asked. “And who are you?” He recalled his lessons in the Elven-toungue and repeated, “Man eneth lin, hindgalen?” [What is your name, green-eyes?]
The eyes changed expression, seeming to laugh or smile, then:
Av-osto guidhoth. Tolo an Imladris, Rana, i govaded ennas vin. Edraith tolon u-haer!
[Fear not the enemy. Come to Rivendell, Wanderer, and we shall meet there. Help is coming, it is not far off!]
Halrohir suddenly sat up, and it was utterly dark in the tent. He looked around as his eyes took in the sleeping forms of his friends, and the light coming through the tent flap from the still-burning campfire. He rose, struggled into his boots, and peeked out to see Galador sitting and tending the fire, which burned brightly and warm.
“Sit with me, lad, we must take thought – but let me see your eyes”, Galador said softly. Halrohir sat next to him, Galador’s voice barely above a whisper.
“Did you hear it, too”
“I thought I was dreaming, I’ve had the same dream now two nights.”
“A voice in Elvish, and a warning, did you hear it as well?”
“Yes, and it was in the Elven-tongue, and would only answer in the same.”
“My boy, I think that help is on the way at last. I am told that some of the Elven gifts include speaking into the mind between each other, or in dreams among Men. That we two have dreamt the same thing, lends truth to that. What was told to you?”
“We must rouse the folk at dawn, and be on the Road as quickly as can be. And that the enemy is closing behind us. But if they’re that close, why do they not attack?”
Silence, then, “I think that either your presence holds them back, or we have friends unknown speeding our passage by holding back the pursuit. Or perhaps both. In any case, I deem the message should be heeded. Dawn is coming, even through the clouds. At least the rain stopped for now. We must pass the word, to be ready and strike camp with the dawn. Awaken your sleeping comrades, and prepare them to shepherd the folk once more.”
“Yes Captain”, and Halrohir entered the tent and roused the others. The next march was about to begin.
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