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  1. Spirits - Part 3



    After a time, we came to a fork in the road. An eastward path led away from the brook toward a copse of trees growing within a depression in the land, and the graveyard I knew to be to its north.

    I waited for Deverell to come up along side me.

    "Let us turn this way for a bit," I suggested. She nodded her assent, and we turned from the main road and onto the other.



    The trees aligning the path to the graveyard acted as a corridor, making the air cool and vision narrow. A breeze swept through, pushing us forward, and I shivered in the brisk, hiemal air.

    Once we reached the small cobblestone wall that bounded the graveyard, we left the horses to graze while we went to look around.



    We wandered about silently, whispering wishes for those who had been laid to rest and for those who cared for them. Eventually, we came to the graveyard's heart, where we lingered for a spell.

    "What is it that is troubling you, Kaleigh?" Deverell asked, after a time. "Why have we come here?"



    I looked up and went over to stand beside her, taking her hand in mine. "Nothing, really. I just thought that we might want to stop here for a moment before continuing on our way, to remember."



    She nodded and squeezed my hand as we slowly turned in place, seeing what we could see before turning once more.
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  2. Spirits - Part 4



    I knelt to the ground, visions of those lost to me in days before sweeping before me, as if carried upon the wind that breezed through the corridor of trees...



    ...I reached down to the dirt before me, spreading it about to wipe the slate clean. It felt as though my fingers threaded through a bed of ashes...

    ...I traced upon it the names of those for whom I still grieved...



    ...the wind from the corridor, caught by the stone walls which surrounded the graveyard, swirled about us. As I traced my fingers in the dust, wisps of ash arose, like ashen spirits. They swirled about, clinging to me rather than escaping into the air rising over the walls...



    Deverell knelt behind me and embraced me.

    "It is time to leave the dead to their rest and move on," she whispered.

    I leaned my head back onto her shoulder for a moment before nodding. We made ready to leave.



    We went back through the tree-lined path and onto the main road, turning northward once more.
    Last edited by Valkrist; Sep 05 2013 at 02:05 PM.
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  3. Spirits - Part 5



    In the afternoon, as we continued on the road, we came upon Saeradan's old cabin, where he once lived and kept watch over these lands.



    ...my friend, my mentor, who somehow tamed and began to shape a lost and frightened girl into the Scout I would become. Would that you were here, that I might seek your counsel...



    ...yet know that which you taught stays with me, on every road I walk, whether we share the same path or not...



    A light rain began to fall in the late afternoon. We looked about for a place to take shelter and rest for night.



    We found a small copse of trees not far off the road, near an old ruin. I went off on my own to search for a better place but to no avail.

    "This is as good a place as we are going to find," I told Deverell upon my return.
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  4. Spirits - Part 6



    "Very well. Let's find the horses a place they can stay dry and make camp," she replied.

    We set to work, getting Dandi and Dancer settled away from where we meant to make a fire, leaving them to graze under some trees that would hopefully keep them somewhat dry.



    We made camp and got a fire going. The drizzle of the rain sounded above us, but we were able to keep mostly dry while under the canopy of leaves and branches that the trees provided.



    We settled before the fire as twilight approached, reliving the past through the telling of stories and remembrances of times long ago...

    "So, how is Francis?" I asked, during a lull in the conversation. "I did not see him while we were in town, and you have not spoken of him."

    She flushed a bit before saying, "I... I think he is away for the summer, helping his aunt and uncle down in Staddle."

    I nodded, a bit sorry I had brought it up.

    "We are not courting anymore, Kaleigh. But after a time, we were able to set aside our differences and be friend to one another once again, as we were before."

    "Deverell, I am so sorry," I said softly.

    "Do not feel badly about mentioning him," she said. "Honestly, I am a bit surprised you had not asked about us before."

    I looked down to the grasses beneath us, and then to the fire. Its crackling and the pattering of rain was all that broke our silence for a spell. I leaned back against one of the trees that sheltered us and watched the smoke from the fire rise toward its leaves.

    "What about you?" she asked after a bit. "Is there anyone?"


    I tried to answer, but there was a tightness in my chest. I struggled for a moment before leaning back against the tree with a sigh.

    Deverell came over to sit beside me, putting her arm around my shoulders and holding me close to her.

    "It must be difficult, after what happened to Beckham," she whispered.

    I nodded, squeezing her hand.

    "We always thought..." I started but could say no more. I looked away, wiping tears from my eyes.

    We sat together until the darkness came.



    Deverell let me have my rest first while she kept watch over us. She woke me for my turn, but nothing disturbed us that night.

    The next morning we broke camp and set out on our way once again.
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  5. Spirits - Part 7



    We meant to reach Trestlebridge before darkness fell that day, so we pushed hard to keep up our pace...



    ...but the beauty of the northern lands made it difficult to maintain.



    Rather than stop for a rest and a bit to snack on mid-day, we walked the horses side by side for a spell, that we might look around and take in some of that beauty, to have something to remember in darker places we might soon find ourselves in.



    Just as the daylight was beginning to fade, Trestlebridge came into view over a rise in the road.



    I guided Dandi and Dancer to the stables, while Deverell brought some of her curatives to one of the healers she knew in town.
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  6. Spirits - Part 8



    "Where d'ja steal these fine horses from, lass?" asked the stablehand with a laugh, as he began to see to Dandi and Dancer.

    "Never you mind!" I said with a smile, handing him some coin. I remembered Hal from when I passed through often a while back.

    "How are things in town? I asked.



    "Same old, same old," he said with a grimace, as Deverell walked over to us. "Fightin' just to keep what we have. Nellie can tell ya better."

    I looked over my shoulder to Deverell, as she finished fetching her things from Dancer.

    "We can have a look around until dark, if you like," I suggested.

    "I think we should," she said.



    We wandered about, but much of what we saw was not new to us, sadly. Trestlebridge, like Archet, remained caught in a struggle for its own existence, with no days of rest, or of peace, for its people.

    The guards keeping watch over the northern end of the Trestlespan were harassed and harried by orcs most every day, with encampments too entrenched to be rooted out by the meager forces the town had remaining.



    We listened to those willing to tell us of the trials they suffered. And we did our best to console, to offer encouragement, but there was little more we could do in the moment. My heart broke for these people, for what they suffered...

    "But what we go to do will make a difference, both near and far, even as what those of you do here lends aid to those who are far-distant as well. It may take a little time for the mistrals to carry it all that way, but they will in time," Deverell said.

    As we all turned to look at her, she looked to me, "Like dandelions on the wind. Right, Kaleigh?"

    ...I was never so grateful to my friend, for taking this road with me...

    Afterward, as we made our way over to Nellie's home, I put my arm through Deverell's and said, "Remind me to thank you everyday for coming with me, okay?"



    Captain Trotter was just leaving Nellie's as we approached her home.

    "Good to see you again, sir!" I called out to him and waved. "Do you think Nellie would be willing to see us?" I asked him.

    He knocked on the door and went inside to speak with her, while we waited at the foot of the stair. After a minute or two, he came back out and beckoned us to him.

    "Go easy with her," he whispered to us, as we met him on the step. "It does not go well for us here."

    "I wish you all the best with things," I offered, knowing what little else to say. He left us as we knocked on the door and went inside when Nellie called for us to enter.
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  7. Spirits - Part 9



    We visited with Nellie Boskins, the Mayor of Trestlebridge, into the early morning hours, offering our ear and our shoulder, even as she lent us her own...



    ...but those are no small things, when offered in earnest and with sincerity. Sometimes, just speaking with someone outside a shared circle of troubles can give one another to confide in, to lean on, without the guilt of weighing upon those who are close, sharing those same burdens with you everyday...



    We promised to speak with the way-watchers on her behalf, to see if there was more that could be done. Each of us knew that it was not likely they could lend much aid, as nearly all of them had left these parts for far-distant lands, but it gave her something in which to have hope.



    Nellie let us rest in her home for the few hours left before the dawn. When morning had come, we parted with well wishes for each other in our endeavors.



    In the early morning, we mounted up and were away once again.
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  8. Spirits - Part 10



    As we approached the Trestlespan, Deverell rode up alongside me and said, "I have never crossed the span into the northern downs before."



    I lay my hand on her arm as we began to move across the span. "Be alert. These lands are treacherous and far more untamed than the lands of Bree."

    She nodded, looking forward once again. I noticed the tension in her face, and how her grip tightened around the reins she held.

    "But go easy as well. You have traveled dangerous roads before. We will be fine." I smiled, putting my hand on her shoulder.

    She relaxed a bit and smiled at me.

    "I will ride ahead. Call out if you see anything." I said, letting Dandi go out in front again.



    We crossed the span and rode the Greenway, heading down into the lowlands.



    As we continued our descent, I spied what appeared to be a campfire on the outskirts of the fields of Fornost.



    The men at the camp let us share their fire with them, and we all sat down for a mid-day meal. When I asked if they had word of the way-watcher, Mincham, who used to keep watch over the fields to the north, they said that they had heard he had left with most of his kin, headed for far-distant lands to the south and east.

    Return soon, men of valor, for these lands wither without your touch. Return to us soon, men of wisdom, while the signs of your presence still linger...

    When it was time to set out once again, we wished the men well with their endeavors and went to fetch Dandi and Dancer, where we had left them to graze in the grasses to the south.
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  9. Spirits - Part 11



    We had to chase them down for quite a ways, as they did not care for the northern fields at all. When Deverell asked about them, I said only that we should hope that we will not be sent there.



    We made for Amon Raith as the sun began to set in the west.



    It was to here that many who live in these parts fled when bands of orcs began to appear, raiding their homes, setting alight crops, and hopes, and the lives of many who only wished for peace.

    ...it was here that I met the way-watcher, Amarion, whose concern for those in his care moved me both to tears and to action, and to a vow that I have tried ever since to keep...



    I looked up to what was left of the ruined tower as Deverell got Dancer settled with some of the people in the camp.

    I lit out for the tower, with the hope that perhaps Amarion had remained behind, still to see to those under his care, even now.



    "Kaleigh, wait!" Deverell cried, but I could not.

    ...in that moment, I needed to know...
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  10. Spirits - Part 12



    I reached the top of the stair, but Amarion was not to be found. He had left with his brothers, to aid in endeavors far away.

    I told Deverell of my time with Amarion before we took our rest for the night.

    "He may not be here, Kaleigh, but the good of what he did remains," she said while sweeping her arm in an arc to indicate the whole of the camp, where many took refuge and were safe.

    I held her to me for a long while before I was willing to let go. Her wisdom had humbled me yet again.

    We took our rest with those in the camp and made ready to leave the next morning.



    Dearest friend, who opened both my eyes and my heart to the wonders that compassion can bring...



    ...know that your deeds have taken root in fertile ground, both in the lands that you hold dear, and in the hearts of those whom you nurtured...



    We left Amon Raith in the early morning, traveling the Kingsfell road eastward, toward the goal of our journey...



    ...the day I received the summons returning me to these lands seemed so long ago...
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  11. Spirits - Part 13



    ...together we had traveled many roads. Roads of friendships renewed, of visions past and of those perhaps yet to come...



    ...of joyful times and of times more difficult. So many roads in such a short time...



    ...but the one that bound them all was now coming to its end...



    Together, Deverell and I walked the horses toward the Way-watchers' encampment, sheltered within a rift in the Kingsfell mountains, to learn where our next road might take us...
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  12. Acquiescence



    Acquiescence



    "Let me go and speak with the way-watchers first, just to be sure things are as they seem," I suggested, when we began to close upon the entrance to the encampment. Deverell agreed, so we steered the horses toward a grassy knoll upon which some trees grew nearby.

    "I will not be long." With a wave over my shoulder, I headed down the hill and toward the encampment.



    But it seemed I had presumed too much...

    "Scout Kaleigh," the watcher said, "you are free to enter here, but we do not know of your friend. She must remain outside." I even showed him the scroll delivered to me from Halbarad, but to no avail.



    I returned to Deverell. "They will not let you enter." I said with a sigh, avoiding her eyes. "I will go and see what this is all about and return as soon as I am able. I am so sorry."


    She turned and went to see to the horses without a word. I felt so badly for her, and I was a bit steamed as well. But I could see both sides, for they did not know her as I did.

    ...before this is over, they will come to you, my friend. They will come to you, and take you by your hand, and bring you amongst them with great honor...
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  13. Acquiescence - Part 2



    I left Deverell and walked into the encampment on my own.



    As I came into the western courtyard, my frustration with these wise and noble men eased. I stood, frozen in step, as memories of the time I had spent in this place swept over me. The days that I had wandered aimlessly after leaving Archet came to an end due to the way-watchers...

    I still wandered afterward, far and wide, but I did so with direction, and with purpose, and with a wisdom imparted to me that was far beyond my own...

    ...of late those things had forsaken me, chased away by a frozen darkness that I could neither pierce, nor shed. But from the days spent since I had received Halbarad's letter, I knew I was on the right path...

    "Kaleigh! Over here, lass!" I heard someone call.



    I turned to see the ranger, Hithlim, beckoning to me from across the courtyard. I ran over to him and into his embrace.



    "Ha! It's good that you've come, Kaleigh!" he laughed, as I put my arm around him and held him close. "We could use some Scouts these days!"

    I looked around at how sparse things were, both of people and the implements that those people should need.

    "You could use more of everything by the look of it," I said. "There are so few of you that remain."

    "Don't fear for us, Kaleigh, nor should you grieve. We are safe here, and those who have gone, have gone to aid with endeavors in distant lands." He gave me a reassuring squeeze about my shoulders, which helped put me at ease.

    "Halbarad sent for you, did he?" he asked, after I had let him go once again. To my nod, he held out his hand and said, "Let me see."

    He looked over the scroll I handed him and then looked at me silently for a few moments. Concern had passed from my visage to his.

    "Go to the Library and fetch a map from the librarian. Show him this note, and he'll give you what you will need," he said at last. "Return with it to me, and I'll tell you what must be done."



    I walked further into the encampment, toward the central courtyard where the Library was kept.
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  14. Acquiescence - Part 3



    There were even fewer of the way-watchers in this courtyard, and my spirits fell a little as the hope of seeing old friends diminished.



    I visited with a few old friends briefly at their campfire before continuing on to the Library.


    When I handed my note to the librarian, he retrieved a map from a shelf in the hollow of the old bookstand behind him and spread it out on his table.


    I looked at it briefly before taking it in hand. He handed me back the note from Halbarad, and I thanked him before leaving the Library.



    "Show me your map," Hithlim said upon my return. I unfurled it and held it out before us.

    He began pointing to different places on the map. "These sites that are marked are areas where we believe leaders and powerful minions of the Enemy lie in wait, either to join the coming war or to wreak havoc in places thought safe, as you will be doing. Places like this."

    He stopped to look at me for a moment. "I'm glad you're one of us, Kaleigh, and not one of them."

    ...my eyes brightened and my heart eased, the darkness enveloping it pierced for a moment. To know that you are needed can mean so much...
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  15. Acquiescence - Part 4



    "See to these places, but also rely upon your skills and knowledge of the wilds. Listen to the whispers on the air, and see through what is near in order to view what is afar, putting them both within the whole of your vision. Act upon that vision, and you will serve us all."

    My heart stirred, my spirit fought against an unseen tether, wishing to take flight...

    "There is no greater evidence of how highly Halbarad thinks of you than the message you hold in your hand. We are counting on you. Go well, Watcher of Roads."


    For a moment there was a glimmer in the darkness, a rift in the veil of frost and shadow. I reached for it with all speed...


    My hand came down upon the hand of darkness gripping my heart with great force. In an instant, my thumb leveraged its counterpart from its grip and held it away. It faded into nothingness, like a whispered word on a frigid breeze...



    I hugged Hithlim to me for a moment and then made to run to Deverell, that we might begin our journey straightaway.



    Hithlim caught me by the wrist before I could get away. He gripped me forcefully, turning me to face him.
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  16. Acquiescence - Part 5



    "Kaleigh, the foes you go to meet are not the sort that fill legions upon the battlefield. They are of the highest Tier one can imagine dwelling in this realm. And with most of us scattered in distant places, you will not likely find any to aid you, nor to run to should things go badly. If you should fall, there is no retreat."

    [While running the ‘gauntlet’, a permanent death rule applies. Any that are forced to 'retreat' have instead died and are forever lost from these lands.]



    ...my mind strayed into a dream...



    ...there is no retreat...


    ...the hand of shadow writhed under my touch, its fingers clenching and its nails piercing, seeking to strengthen its hold upon my heart. We struggled to a draw, while still working to find a weakness in the other...



    The gauntlet had begun...
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  17. Acquiescence - Part 6



    Wordlessly, I turned from Hithlim, slowly making my way out of the encampment, and to Deverell, that we might begin our journey.
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  18. Discretion



    Discretion



    I found Deverell waiting for me outside the encampment, watching the horses graze on the grassy hill nearby. She stood as she saw me approaching and gathered up her things.

    "What word from the way-watchers?" she asked. "What have they planned for us?"

    I unfurled the map that I had been given, showing her the areas that Hithlim had pointed out. "We have much to do," I said gravely, "and little time in which to do it."

    Deverell whistled. "There is so much ground to cover. Did the way-watchers say where we should begin?"

    I shook my head. "No. I suspect, with so few of them still in these parts, there are no others with whom to coordinate. We are on our own."

    When she did not say anything, I looked to her and put my free arm around her shoulders, smiling at her. "You know, we did quite well against the watchers back in Archet, and that was when we were young. Think of all the tricks we have learned since then to employ."

    She nodded, smiling a little, and moved closer to study the map. "Where should be begin, do you think?"

    As I poured over the map, my eyes were drawn to the south and east, to a weathered peak where a watchtower once stood.

    "Here," I poked at the map, where a lonely hill rose over the level lands surrounding it. "Weathertop. We will have a good look about from there and be able to spy anything moving toward the east.

    Deverell pointed to the map. "What about this marshland to the south? Will we be able to skirt it safely?"

    "Lin Giliath lies on its northern border. From there, the marsh may be a safer road than what lies on either side of it," I said softly.

    We looked at either other silently for a moment. I drew her close to me and asked, "Are you ready?"

    She looked to me and nodded, a tear spilling down her cheek. I pressed my cheek to hers, to share the burden with her, as we would together in the days to come.

    "Two troublemakers, off to make trouble one last time," I whispered, holding her close.

    "Two mistrals, that will scatter and divide every foe before them, until their last breath is finally spent," Deverell replied.

    ...our path lay before us, and her words lit the way more brightly than a thousand torches. We were away...



    We left Esteldin behind us and rode westward, seeking the north-south road that would lead us to Lin Giliath.



    The downs rose in the south, before dropping away toward the marshland once again.



    The path rose, as did our spirits, knowing that the true journey had finally begun. Our path was lit before us.
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  19. Discretion - Part 2



    Once we gained the peak, we began our descent into the lowlands.



    The beauty of the lands before us betrayed nothing of the turmoil brewing upon them.

    "May that always be so," I whispered...



    Finally, Meluinen and the elven settlement of Lin Giliath lay before us.



    I walked Dandi down the slope leading to the refuge on the marshland's border, and the ruins that lay nearby.



    I looked over my shoulder to Deverell and beckoned she and Dancer forward, toward the western side of the marshes, where I had spied an elf-maiden tending to some horses.
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  20. Discretion - Part 3



    She waved to us, and we made our way over to where she stood near the waters' edge.



    The elf-maiden told us she would watch our horses while we took rest in their settlement, so I guided Dandi over to her.



    As I was about to dismount, I noticed Dandi pawing at the wet earth. Thinking she did not want to be left alone, I leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "Do not worry, girl. We will away again early tomorrow."



    She looked out over the water to the east...



    ...and before I could do anything, she twirled in place so quickly that I was nearly thrown.
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  21. Discretion - Part 4



    "Dandi!" I cried. "What are you..."

    I looked back to Deverell and the elf-maiden, "What is she doing?!"



    The two of them just shrugged and laughed, as Dandi carried me out further into the water.



    "What are you up to, girl?" I asked, as she carried us into deeper waters. She seemed to be looking for something.



    I looked back to the shore and beckoned to Deverell. "Come on out here!" I called out to her.

    She held up her hand in protest. "You two are on your own!" she laughed.



    Dandi took a drink of the water she stood in, while still peering into its depths, so it seemed.
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  22. Discretion - Part 5



    No urging of mine could get her to the shore. She kept on wandering about, until her eye caught something. She began to turn about and then eased backward...



    She had found a depression at the bottom of the water and was backing into it. The water touched my boots and began to climb.



    "Oh, no you don't!" I laughed, strengthening my grip on her, as she continued to try to get me in the water.



    She straightened up, and I felt myself sliding backwards. I looked back to ready myself for the plunge...



    ...but it never came, thankfully. She stopped just before I was about to become drenched, and had a good laugh at me to boot.
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  23. Discretion - Part 6



    Finally, Dandi eyed the shore and began to make her way back for us.

    "You have had enough fun now," I pretended to chide her, though we both knew it was only for show. It was her spirit above all else that made her so dear to me.



    I took one last look at the water where we nearly went in and shivered.



    Deverell and the elf-maiden beckoned to us as we neared the shore, both of them trying not so hard to suppress their laughter.



    Once we were on shore and finally settled, Dandi nudged me with her muzzle, her way of being playful and showing her affection. I was not sore one bit, though, and I hugged her about her neck for a long while before finally turning to the others.



    "Welcome to Lin Giliath," said the elven maiden with a smile. "My name is Dilath. Most visitors do not honor us with such a show upon their arrival, though few visit us at all."

    I flushed a bit, but before I could introduce myself, she continued...

    "Deverell has told me why you have come. You may not remember me from your visit before, Kaleigh, but you are known to us. Please, take your ease while you are here, though I know you mean to leave us on the morrow. Until then, you both are our honored guests."

    I lay my hand on her arm and smiled at her, "You are very kind, Dilath. Thank you. I think I will lie out on the grass and dry out for a bit before anything else."

    With a graceful curtsey she laughed and said, "As you wish."
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  24. Discretion - Part 7



    I turned to Deverell, and we gazed out over the wetlands.

    "The beauty of the water is very alluring, is it not?" she teased.

    "That beauty is better appreciated from afar," I grumbled, feigning irritation as I took off my boots to let them and my feet dry.

    She grinned, nudging me with her shoulder. "No, really. It is lovely here."

    I turned to her and nodded, smiling at her. "Wait until the evening comes. It will not be easy to leave come morning."



    Evening did come, and the moonlit beauty of Lin Giliath was revealed.



    One of the elven lords, Medlichen, offered to show us about, and we gladly accepted.



    As we neared the Library of Tham Giliath, Medlichen said, "Lord Gildor is visiting us here, and he has heard of your arrival. He would like a word, with each of you, privately."

    He meant Gildor Inglorion, the elven lord who took part in the Council of Esteldin and who advised the elves who remained in this refuge.

    "We would be honored, of course." I smiled and nodded to him.

    "Yes... yes, of course," added Deverell haltingly. I felt her clutch at my arm, so I stopped to speak with her. Medlichen waited for us on the far side of the bridge patiently.

    "Kaleigh, I've hardly ever spoken to elves, much less met with an elven lord. What do I say?" She was very nervous, I could tell.

    "Deverell, I think they know what we are up to already, and Lord Gildor is amongst the wisest of all who walk these lands. Just be candid and forthcoming, and all will be more than fine."

    She nodded, still nervous, but a bit calmer.



    I returned from my meeting with Lord Gildor, nearly bumping into Deverell, who was awaiting her time with him. I wished her luck before rushing to fetch my map and quill, in order to put Lord Gildor's insights onto parchment before they were lost to me.
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  25. Discretion - Part 8



    I visited with the elves for a while before finding a spot near the waters within the refuge to reflect on things and await Deverell.



    After a time, I heard footsteps, and she came to stand behind me, upon the rock I had settled myself upon.



    "How did your meeting fare?" I asked her. She lay her hand on my shoulder, and I reached up to place my hand over hers.

    "It was wonderful, Kaleigh. To speak with someone of such wisdom and splendor..."

    I craned my neck to look up at her and smiled at her beaming face looking down to me.

    She blushed, "...not that you aren't either of those..."

    I laughed and held up my hand, "Say no more, my friend. I know what you mean."



    We looked out over the water quietly for a moment before she asked, "What did you two discuss together?"

    "Oh, mainly places for us to consider scouting for foes," I replied. "His ideas on when and where the minions of the Enemy might show themselves, and things of that sort."

    She nodded. "Knowing you to be a first-rate Scout, I would imagine so. Did he have any insights?"

    I flushed, both at the compliment and out of embarrassment, "More in the few minutes he looked over our map than in the entire time I have done so, from when it was first given to us."

    She gave my shoulder a squeeze and laughed, "Oh, for the wisdom of the ages, yes?"

    "Indeed," I replied. "So, what did you two discuss?"



    The mirth left her voice, "He spoke about the nature of our endeavor, and that it would be our discretion that would ultimately decide its fate and ours."

    I turned to look up at her. "In what way did he mean?"

    She paused for a moment, as if she were deciding what to say.

    "He said that there would be two different types of foes that we would face. Some, like the orcs and the goblins, are beings born to evil. These serve it, and it alone, knowing no other way."

    I nodded. "And the other?"

    "The others are like the Dourhand and the Blackwold brigands, those whose hearts are their own but, whether through malice, or greed, or any number of things, give themselves over to something else," she said. "For those, it is only a lack of discretion that changes them from friend to foe, both toward others, and to themselves as well."
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