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#13149295 Mar 24, 2017 at 08:01 AM
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Aldilienno gathered up the reins. Ras’ legs danced through the ford, hooves kicking up water and nostrils flaring.
“Woah there!”
No, it was too much. Ras squealed, tossed his head and rose up on his back legs. Aldilienno toppled off, landing in the water as the horse bolted to the bank with stirrups flailing at his sides. The Gondorian leapt to his feet. No hurts, but he lifted his bow off his back and nocked an arrow. All was quiet. Ras had stopped at the other side, heaving and shifting, restless still. And then Aldilienno saw it. On the rise in the middle of the river where it was shallowest was a fish, flipping this way and that as it gasped in the open air.
“Oh, really! Leastways, it’s an easy dinner.”
Aldilienno put away his bow and drew his knife. He pulled the fish further onto the rocks and drove the blade into the fish’s head. The fish went limp and he held it out.
“See, Ras! It’s all right, you silly horse.”
The fish was wrapped in cloth and stowed in Aldilienno’s bag as he jogged over the fords to catch Ras again. He gave the horse a reassuring pat and leapt up, turning westwards along the path to the Gravenwood.

He tied a rope around four trees in a hidden spot on the outskirts of the woods, giving his tired steed enough space to move around a little and graze. Aldilienno sighed. His clothes from the day were saturated from his dip in the fords of Isen. He hung his jacket and pants on the makeshift fence and pulled on his spare tunic.
“This is on you, Ras. If they’re not dry by the morning we’re going to have words.”
The horse shook his mane and snorted.
He’d only light a dim fire over which to cook the fish for fear of unwanted attention; and as darkness fell, he doused the flames. It was a silent night – a night in the open Aldilienno never preferred to the crying of owls and humming of crickets, and no stars shone. He pulled his blanket over his head and fell into an uneasy sleep.

Dark storm clouds rushed across the sky and sent chilling rain to the earth. Aldilienno pushed Ras into as hasty canter along the grass by the road and pulled his hood over his head. There would be little time to stop today, not in Dunland. He had to get past Galtrev and find a safe place to rest before nightfall… he’d been in these parts before, plenty, but the Dunlendings were an independent people and run-ins with them seldom ended in friendly conversation. Aldilienno tied a knot in the reins and drew his bow as Ras bore him swiftly north. He was taking no chances.
“On, on, Ras.”
A squeeze of the steed’s sides sent him forward, his paces quickening to a gallop. At that moment a terrible growl was followed by a dark wolf, leaping out of the bushes, slavering and shaking its head in maddened rage. Aldilienno twisted, and with single snap of the bow, left the wolf behind on the road bleeding the last of its life onto the stones. The horse hadn’t even flinched.
“Well,” Aldilienno said, sniffing as he took up the reins again, “since when was a dying fish of more worry to you than a hungry Dunland wolf?”
He shook his head with a humourless laugh.

It took three more days to pass out of Dunland, through Enedwaith and into Eregion. This was another place he liked to pass quickly through – crebain were on the move in this land as much as in Dunland. He steered Ras beneath the trees, moving at a walk for some hours until the land opened up and trees were few and far between. Aldilienno tugged on the reins.
“Woah, Ras.”
He stiffened; the trees whispered as an ominous breeze passed through and clouds, dark and looming, covered the sky. A cry came from up above, then several, and then the unmistakable sound of beating wings. He dismounted in a panicked haste and led Ras at a trot further beneath the trees, pulling his hood and mask over his face. His green cloak he wrapped around himself and what belongings he could after pulling Ras into a sit so he would not been quite so easy to spot. The cries grew ever louder until they passed overhead in a flurry, some diving into the trees and soaring past Aldilienno. They circled around him, curious and staring with sharp dark eyes, then burst back up through the trees and back eastward with those horrifying calls of theirs.
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