October 3, 2911
Halladan raised his hand in greeting at the call, waiting to speak until the other Ranger was near enough for conversation. "Guilin. Good to see you."
Guilin smiled in response, then asked, "Where are you bound for?"
"Fornost, to report to my captain, then most likely the Bree-land or Sarn Ford."
Halladan hoped it would be Bree, but Sarn would do. Though none were as good as the Prancing Pony, there were inns in Tharbad too, and there were usually a few of the men from the Sarn and Southern Greenway companies there to keep an eye on traders and other travellers passing through the town. Halladan had never seen any reason why such duties could not be accompanied by a pint or two of ale.
"Lucky. Home for a week and then I'm headed for the Hoardale," his friend muttered darkly.
"You spent the last three winters loafing around Bree, and luck has little to do with it. It's your own fault for catching the Captain's attention in that troll-hunt last spring, and not turning down a transfer to the Grey Company."
Guilin merely grinned at the correction. "Even so, where would you rather be?"
"Between these choices? I'll take my chance in the west," Halladan replied.
Given a choice, he would rather be in Caras Dirnen, especially now that Bereth had said that they should marry sooner rather than later. Alas, duty came first, and he would not be back in the Angle until spring at the earliest. Though Bereth was not happy about that, she knew that it could not be otherwise. She would speak to her mother again over the winter, and then as soon as Halladan was back from his patrol, hopefully he could ask for her hand and they would finally have their troth-plight announced.
Halladan was drawn from his thoughts by a knowing laugh from Guilin. "You're obviously miles away, and I think I can guess where that is."
"Never mind," Halladan stopped him. Guilin knew of his 'understanding' with Bereth, but Halladan was not in the mood for his friend's banter. "If you're not set on travelling on tonight, we should look for shelter. I doubt it'll stay dry."
Guilin cast a quick look at the sky before he replied. "Rain before midnight. There's an abandoned farm about three miles from here."
As they led their horses towards their intended shelter, it was clear Guilin refused to be distracted from his topic. "It's time you settled down," he casually observed after about a mile.
"It's only partly up to me," Halladan replied. Guilin knew as well as he did that if it had not been for Fíriel's hesitation about her daughter marrying a Ranger, they would have been married already.
"I know. It's still true."
Halladan said nothing, and Guilin wisely kept his silence too. Once they reached the farm, Halladan quickly took care of the horses, while Guilin went off to check the area.
"No sign of enemies. We can risk a fire without drawing attention to ourselves," Guilin reported when he came back. Halladan had already collected wood, and they were soon settled in what remained of the farm's main stable.
"I'll take first watch," Halladan offered after they had eaten.
Guilin might not have seen any enemies, but others would know of this farm too, and he would rather not be surprised by Orcs looking for what little plunder might still be found. Halladan wondered what would be a good place to watch from. Perhaps the stable roof, if it was still sound enough to hold his weight? He would have a good view, and if he stayed low, he would be hidden from hostile eyes.
Halladan settled down for his watch. It was still dry, but one look at the clouds confirmed there would be rain overnight. Then he looked again.
"Guilin!" he called. "Come quick!"
"What? Is there danger?" his friend asked from indoors.
"No, but come." Halladan jumped down quickly from the roof and pointed at the darkening sky. "See? Geese. They're flying south already."
"Grey geese too, by their call," Guilin added. "Too early for them, I'd think."
"Could be a bad winter coming, if they're migrating already," Halladan said.
"I'd rather have frost than mud," Guilin responded with a shrug as he went back inside.