Die ersten Späher kehrten bereits nach einer relativ kurzen Zeit zurück. Lorron hörte sie an, bevor er sie mit neuen Befehlen wieder rausschickte.
Das Lager nahm derweil immer mehr Gestalt an.
Torvuns Männer hatten das Tor und die Verteidigungsanlagen inspiziert und ihre Posten eingenommen, ihre wachsamen Augen auf die schroffen Felsen gerichtet, die die meiste Umgebung darstellten. Lorron sah Torvun bei einem von ihnen. Er mochte seine Art nicht mögen, seine Arbeit hingegen verrichte er gut.
Wulthred und die ihm zugeteilten Helfer bauten Zelt um Zelt auf, während andere sich um die Pferde kümmerten und die von den Feinden zurückgelassenen Vorräte prüften. Wie sie bereits vermutet hatten, schien die Besatzung aus Menschen bestanden zu haben, wie Lorron ihnen Äußerungen entnehmen konnte. Vielleicht würde etwas Brauchbares zu finden sein, wenn sie sicher sein konnten, dass es nicht vergiftet war.
Einer der Gondorianer hatte Anwines Platz als Koch übernommen, ein kräftiger Bursche mit einem ansteckenden Lachen und immer einem Scherz auf den Lippen. Seine Axt lehnte griffbereit an dem Pfosten neben ihm, doch trotzdem der Spannung, die über dem Lager lag, winkte er Lorron mit einem Kochlöffel zu, bevor er sich wieder dem Kessel widmete.
Lorron kam am Heilerzelt vorbei, wandte sich jedoch zuerst Hrimholts Zelt zu, sich seine Worte überlegend. Er würde sich später nach dem Jungen sehen und den anderen, die bei den Kämpfen in den Tagen seit ihrem Aufbruch vom Feld von Cormallen schwerer verletzt worden waren.
Kurz verharrte er vor Hrimholts Zelt, dann gab er sich einen Ruck und trat ein…
Lorron beendete seinen Bericht.
„… es sieht so aus, als hätten seine eigenen Leute dafür gesorgt, daß er nichts unternimmt das Wort zu brechen, das uns gegeben wurde. Seine eigene Waffe wurde in der Wunde stecken gelassen um uns diese Nachricht deutlich zu übermitteln. Wir gehen davon aus, daß diese Gruppe keine weiteren Schwierigkeiten machen wird, dennoch sind meine Leute weiter wachsam. Ich möchte nicht wieder so etwas wie mit Hamnath erleben.“
Hrimholt hörte Lorrons Bericht mit unbewegter Miene an. Das verletzte Bein hatte er ausgestreckt. „Ich gehe davon aus, dass noch andere hier irgendwo sind. Anwine sagte mir, Hamnath hätte von der Uneinigkeit zwischen ihnen berichtet, jedoch hat er nicht verstanden, was sie in ihrer eigenen Sprache sagten. Was sollte dieser eine also erreichen wollen, alleine? Schließlich hat er darauf verzichtet, mit seinen Kameraden bei dem Angriff auf uns zu sterben. Nein, er wußte etwas, etwas dass ihm von Nutzen gewesen wäre.“ Lorron überlegte kurz. „Es ist möglich, dass er wußte wo andere sind und ihnen entweder Informationen über unser Lager zuspielen wollte oder an unsere Waffen gelangen wollte um sie mit jemand anderem zu teilen.“
Hrimholt nickte. „Seid wachsam. Auch wenn die Festungen mit dieser gefallen sind, ist dieses Land alles andere als sicher.‘
„Dessen bin ich mir bewußt. Jarl ist draußen und versucht, die Spur seiner Gefährten aufzunehmen. Vielleicht kann er dort etwas hören, das uns weiterhilft. Es gibt niemanden sonst, der so nah an sie herankäme, ohne, dass sie ihn bemerken.“‚
„Gut.“ Hrimholt verlagerte sein Gewicht, kurz das Gesicht verziehend. „Womit ich zu einem anderen Punkt komme: wir werden hier noch einige Tage bleiben. Diese unbekannte Bedrohung zu ergründen wird eure Aufgabe sein. Sprecht euch mit Cynefrith ab, wenn die Feste durchsucht ist. Wir werden das Lager hier so gut es geht befestigen und den Schutz der Feste nutzen.“ Lorron nickte. „Ich verstehe. Diese Gegend zu verlassen ohne sicher zu sein dass sie befriedet ist wäre leichtsinnig und so, wie es Hamnath geht, sind ein paar Tage Ruhe nicht das Schlechteste.“
„Der Junge soll seine Ruhe haben. Ebenso wie die anderen Verletzten. Der Rückweg in diesem Gelände wird anstrengend genug.“ Hrimholts Auge verengte sich leicht, als erinnere er sich nur zu gut an die teilweise ausgedehnten Strecken, die sie zu Fuß die Pferde führend hinter sich gebracht hatten, um hierher zu kommen.
Dann straffte er sich, als hätte er mit sich gerungen und wäre nun zu einer Entscheidung gekommen. „So wie die Dinge stehen, zähle ich auch zu denen, die etwas Ruhe benötigen. You have seen that leg when you entered. Right now I won’t be of much help if it comes to fighting or riding.“ ‚Yes‘, Lorron thought, ‚I’ve seen it. And I remember what Father faced, so…‘ he had dreaded what was probably to come and Hrimholts next words confirmed it: „For that reason and in case something happens to me I will name you commander of this expedition.“ Lorron said nothing but gave a nod of understanding. ‚I feared he might say something like that,‘ he thought, realizing the depth of strain in the lean face of the older captain for the first time.
„I need some rest and you can’t wait for orders or come back to consult me if there is more danger here,“ Hrimholt explained. „I will tell Cynefrith to report to you. I do not expect problems with him.“ Hrimholts voice sounded somewhat flat and dispassionate.
‚… your men will be heartbroken and still look to you, but that will be my problem‘, Lorron thought. „Cynefrith is very good at what he does“, he agreed. ‚…and Torvun will be pesky… still, my problem…‘
Hrimholt sighed with a glance at him as if he at least guessed some of the unsaid: „If all of this is over both of you will have to work together since I expect you to return to Cliving and that isn’t too far from the area where he will be.“
He drew a deep breath: „I expected this to be my last ride even if I had thought it to end in a different manner…“ Hrimholt’s face was stony, but his eye briefly showed a pain beyond this moment and the current situation.
Lorron nodded. „And what a ride it has been so far“, he said. He couldn’t help it, he smiled, despite the fact that he knew how terrible Hrimholt felt at the moment. „You rode with Theoden, Thengel’s son, to the greatest battle of our time, to the defeat of our enemies, and then again alongside king Eomer, to a victory past all hope. You saw the minions of the dark lord run from us, you chased them to the farthest corners, cleansed this land so that no danger may take root hereabouts anytime soon. What a ride! No sir, there can hardly be another like that. I’d stop at this point, too, if I were you. I cannot myself, for many years of service lie before me still, hopefully, and I can just wish my career will come to a good ending one day. But I know it will be nothing like yours. So do not fret, for you’ll miss nothing, and do do not fear for the future of your men. We’ll get along.“
Hrimholt smirked. „I appreciate your efforts, captain, but as for your future… I expect you to have a lot of tasks before you when you return. From what I heard of the Gondorians I do not think those southerners will be befriended soon. They have their own will and plans as we saw. The King will ride if Gondor calls.“
‚…and so will your men and mine, but not you… I know‘ Lorron thought, but he kept silent and watched Hrimholt’s face for clues of how to proceed.
Hrimholt observed him:“I must admit I was wrong in my judgement over you. Back then when Geol laid down his post, I thought you were too young and inexperienced to take over. What happened afterwards seemed to prove me right. I couldn’t understand why Reeve Athelward had agreed to it. Hearing of his treason I began to think he might have believed you to be easier to manipulate.“
„Sure he did“, snarled Lorron.
Hrimholt looked at him. „I guess he wanted you to fail.“
Lorron balled a hand into a fist and opened and closed it several times. This subject still wasn’t easy for him. „Thinking back on it he must have been dead angry some of us returned, but he did manage to stop all our efforts… I’m just glad it is known now, what he was like,“ he said.
Hrimholt nodded, not commenting Lorron’s disruption as if he could understand his anger. „Still you gave up your command after things went awry to go on a fruitless search as it seemed at that time.“ His gaze lingered on Lorron for a moment.
Lorron had the feeling he should justify himself. „I thought I had no other choice. No one believed me at that time and my presence was a hindrance more than a help where my men were concerned.“
„As it might well have been,“ Hrimholt went on. „As things were I did not see a reason to change my rather harsh judgement when we met at the King’s trial at Dunharrow.“ An involuntary sigh escaped Lorron as he remembered that day… No, Hrimholt had been at his best then…
„I heard some of what happened before from Aenwulf,“ Hrimholt prompted.
„Who against all odds is quite happy where he is now.“ Lorron couldn’t quite keep his irritation about that out of his voice since it was the one outcome he surely had not expected.
„He is going to stay with Cynefrith after all this… Against all odds? You might say so after what brought him under my command“, Hrimholt mused. „I couldn’t leave him under your command back then. One miscreant in control of another… no way…I had never ridden to a fight before with you as I had with Geol in old times. So all I had was hearsay and reports from others who generally picked you to pieces.“
Lorron grumbled. „Let’s not go back to the quarrels of those days, shall we? I didn’t want to leave him under your command either, as you very well know. After all he’d been through having to live under your harsh judgement before you even gave pause to the thought he might have changed was what I didn’t want for Aenwulf. But it seems I was wrong about you, too.“
„It seems we both had much to learn,“ said Hrimholt. „I know I can count on you now.“
Lorron’s eyes widened. He hadn’t expected Hrimholt to speak this aloud so clearly, now. He swallowed. „Thank you“, he said softly. „You know, it does me good to hear you say this. I could guess at what you were thinking, but I could never be sure until you said so. It is quite a difference if you leave command to me out of sheer necessity or because you really trust me. Your approval means much to me.“
But something about this still nagged at him, and he didn’t like the conclusion to which he came: ‚Damn, it almost sounds as if he wants to clear up things before leaving this world… have an eye on this one, Lorron. Things with Cenham aren’t cleared yet and cannot be now. You got to bring him safely home….‘
Hrimholt had watched him. „You earned to know it and I will leave no doubt about it with the men.“
Lorron gave a sigh of relief and nodded. There was nothing more he could say to that.
Hrimholt nodded to Lorron in return, obviously not expecting an answer as he continued by changing the topic. „You have your tasks to see to, captain. And I believe it is time for a break.“ He actually winced as he moved and had to force his leg into that position.
Lorron got up, but didn’t leave immediately. „Hamnath didn’t mention how bad it really was…“, he started. „I told the boy not to,“ said Hrimholt. „It couldn’t be changed and we all had other things to take care of.“
Emboldened by this strange new trust Lorron dared add: „With him flat out at the moment… may I have a look at it? Maybe your wound is alike to my father’s, and believe me, if he hadn’t had a good salve or two to help him on the way, the Pelennor would not have been possible for him.“
Hrimholt looked at Lorron pondering. Then he nodded: „From all I heard all spoke of a miracle to see him ride with the Eored again. But I guess this one is beyond hope.“ Hrimholt spoke without bitterness as if he had done what he thought was neccessary knowing quite well the possible price he would have to pay.
Lorron gave a crooked smile as he bent down to take a look. „I guess the use of that knee, if it really comes to that, would be a small prize to pay, considering you’d have had to stay in the houses of healing and hear others tell you of what happened here, weeks later… the way I know you now? No way you’d stay behind. And Geol… he was lucky to stumble across the path of a very good healer up in Bree, and lucky that she saw to it he stayed put till it healed…which wasn’t easy I heard, since there was trouble with the minions of the dark one up there, too. It will never be like it once was, though. So He used salves to cope with the pain. Almere’s recipe for the salve is unknown to Hamnath, I’m sure, but it is a good one: It kills the pain, but only where it’s needed and does not hinder your reflexes in any way. It also works against inflammation and can be applied even if the wound isn’t fully closed, so…“ He stopped to look if it was ok for him to remove the bandage.
Hrimholt repositioned himself to give Lorron a better look at the leg. The bandage he had been changing when Lorron had entered wasn’t attached yet. Hrimholt carefully lifted it, talking to Lorron meanwhile: „So this is why Geol has chosen the healer’s part?“
„He chose it mainly because it was so very different from what he did before, so that he wouldn’t be tempted to stand in my way. But yes, it is something that had always interested him and the knowledge of which he deepened up there,“ Lorron answered while he looked at the leg. It really didn’t look good and he flinched at the thought that the man had been walking with them for days and weeks with it now. The first wound was already healing and almost closed, but it had been deep and something seemed not right within. Then there was a second wound that he’d aquired more recently, and it was open and in dire need of rest. Lorron chose to distract him while he examined it more closely. „You know, I was shocked to find Geol had so absolutely chosen another way up there, he’d gotten married to Almere.“
Hrimholt barked a laugh. „He is married now? I remember him speaking against it every time we met. Times are changing.“ His voice, that had shown an unfamiliar dry amusement had dropped to a thoughtful tone. He pointed at the more recent wound:“ I wouldn’t give it a second thought and in time it might heal. That old one from Pelennor troubles me. Something is twisted and probably beyond repair and as I said of not much use since the leg stiffened up by now.“
Lorron didn’t like what he saw. „You are right, I can only confirm this. I fear all we can do is give it a rest and work against the pain. Geol’s leg was broken a second time and Almere pieced together the bones better then… I do not think that a wise course here, unless she chose to move here sooner than we thought. I’d advise you to lie back and try to relax. I’ll teach Anwine how to make that salve now that we have time. We should have the ingredients as far as I know. He’d better make a poultice and bandage the leg anew ere you go to sleep this night. And then, sir, I’d wish for you to sleep well.“
Again, a rather unfamiliar smirke appeared on Hrimholt’s lean face. „I’ll try.“
Lorron hardly managed not to stare at him. No, he definitely wasn’t used to this kind of Hrimholt. He smiled. „See you tomorrow. Good night.“ He left the tent, not without looking back from under the flap for one last time.
Hrimholt did sit back in a more comfortable position inclined to wait for Anwine. He had realised the confusion he had caused but had chosen to ignore it. That still young captain would have to grow accustomed to the fact that people didn’t always act as imagined. As he himself had. Even if it had taken him quite a long time…
Lorron made his way straight over to Anwine, who was still in the healer’s tent busy with the wounded.
Hamnath’s still form lay on one of the bedrolls obviously fast asleep.
Anwine was looking after one of the Gondorians changing his bandages. Finishing his task at hand he looked up at Lorron when he entered and greeted everyone present.
Washing his hands he turned to the young captain: „Hamnath is asleep, captain. But he will be ok once he is healed. He will look just a bit more seasoned if that nose stays a bit off.“ Anwine’s lightly tone showed clearly his relief at the good ending to that episode. „A bit more seasoned, eh? “ Lorron repeated with a grin. „I’m glad to hear he’ll be otherwise fine, Anwine.“ „As we all are. We do like that lad. Even Torvun asked about him.“
Lorron came to stand next to Anwine after going over to some chests and peering at them. „Do we have spearleaf? I need you to mix together a salve“, he said. „Hope you got time for that?“
Anwine’s face grew worried again. „I’d say so. If it isn’t there you have to ask Wulthred as he should have gone through our provisions by now that we stay here till tomorrow.“‚
„We’ll stay here longer than tomorrow, you can prepare for a few days in which you can get those of us who aren’t fit to travel back on their feet again.“ Lorron informed him. „We’ll stay until we’ve found out if and where other attackers might lurk and then we’ll end that threat ere we leave from here.“ Then it registered what Anwine had said. „TORVUN asked after Hamnath?“
Anwine let his words sink in and nodded. „Yep, Torvun does astonish even us at some times.“ He nodded in the direction where Hrimholt’s tent had been put up. „I do hope he will let himself get a bit of rest, too?“ He sounded worried.
Frowning, Lorron looked around and finally groped for a loose wooden lid and started to carve the recipe into it with his knife, for it was what he had at hand.
„Yes, he will. I told him to try and relax while he’s waiting for you to turn up and badage that knee of his. You’ll get to see if indeed he laid back or is drumming on something, impatiently. I can’t tell, but I hope for the best. Anyway, here…“ he handed it over, „… is the recipe to a salve my father made good use of. It kills the pain among other virtues. I told him you’d have it ready in a moment, provided we have all the materials.“
Anwine took the recipe and looked over it frowning slightly as always when deep in thought. Then he looked at Lorron. „You told him…?“ Lorron gave an apologetic shrug. „I fear now you’ll have to have it ready in a moment…“
Anwine grinned: „Since you live to tell the tale I take it a good sign.“ He turned and began searching the packets for the ingredients. „That is no problem, really. I hope it does help.“ „It helped my father cope with the strain of the ride to the Pelennor and from what I’ve seen the wounds are similar, although Hrimholt’s is fresh, of course. It should do the trick, though.“ „Hm, if we need more of it we’ll have to go through all our packs. I will ask Wulthred about it. But I have some of all you mentioned here. Do I need to know something special about the making?“
Lorron bent over the recipe and gave a few instructions here and there on how to handle the ingredients. „You don’t have to wait long, it may be applied still warm, after you’ve mixed it with the bee’s wax, but not liquid, of course. But yes, you’d better look for more. It quite a way back, and he’ll need it.“
Anwine listened carefully, sometimes frowning, sometimes nodding. „I’ll have it ready soon enough, I guess.“
Lorron made ready to go, then paused and looked about. Nobody was listening to them in this corner.
„Anwine…“ he hesitated. „There was something I didn’t like… I had the feeling he’d rather died up there… I’ve witnessed it before, when my father thought he’d never be able to fight again… He didn’t know what to do with himself at first… I fear… I’m sure Hrimholt will take it no better. Keep an eye on him, will you?“
Anwine sighed, looking at his hands who kept working with the ingredients all the while:“I will.“ He paused. „He does fear to return home, I guess. In all that years he kept the old house but never has gone back to visit it. We took up turns to keep it in shape, but we never told him… „‚
Lorron grit his teeth. „As if I didn’t know“, he sighed. „Father was the same. After he’d given captaincy over to me it was fine for a few days, as the strain ebbed, and then… hell, and it’s all going to start again now… at least you’re telling me Hrimholt’s got a home to return to, question still pending: will he return there alone?“
„I doubt it. He has lived for the company and his oath to fight ever since leaving it. Without an incentive to do so, all that waits there for him are painful memories.“ „I just hope Cenham’s still with Elfhelm when we return.“ „Aye. And that there is a way to reconsile them.“
„It isn’t hopeless. He’s learned that sometimes, people change or are different than he thought them to be. And believe it or not, he’s willing to act accordingly.“ „Then I will hold on to that hope. For that is more than we had before. For that you have our thanks, captain.“
Lorron just nodded. „I need to be going now, there’s still a lot that needs to be done tonight. See to it you get some sleep yourself Anwine.“
With that, he left.