A clear night at Ost-in-Edhil [Mirobel], and yet the Gwaith-i-Mírdain have a clouded report. Dúnedain scouts from Echad Dagoras have warned that a mixed force of orcs and wildmen hold the ford east of the elven ruins. Eadirin and Finnehas would do better to cross the Glanduin downriver, south of Ost-in-Edhil, there to pick out the safe passage into Enedwaith marked by signs that the rangers have left for them.
East and west of the ruins, the Glanduin crashes over rocks in several cascading waterfalls. Eadirin finds a spot along the bank where the grass is trampled and a path emerges on the opposite bank, flanking a narrow stretch of riverwater flowing fast but less wild than elsewhere.
The ellyn wade in chest high, and a few quick strokes take them across, past more ruins of Ost-in-Edhil.
Turning east, guided by starlight, they make their way past scattered outcrops of rock, remaining beneath the shadow of a range of steep hills running east-west. In the distance, the howl of wolves carries across the still night air, but the path of the elves is unimpeded except by the thick undergrowth.
Eadirin looks around. ''The enemy line is thin. The Dúnedain took care of most of them.''
Finnehas pauses by the rocks, to examine a series of tiny, almost unnoticeable scratches. “Aye, it appears we have found the trail they left for us.” He fingers the grooves in the rock ledge. “The markings are no accident. Made by a knife blade here.”
Some distance east along the Glanduin, the hills recede and the travellers veer south to avoid the ford and its expanse of flat open land. Dawn is not far away, its blush already beginning to hide the stars along the eastern fringe of the sky.
Eadirin looks up. ''We must be quick. The sun is rising. It may chase away the orcs but the Dunlendings can spot us.''
Finnehas feels his skin prickle as dark shapes gather in the bushes. “And we are watched by wolves. I hear their growling, low in their throats, and close by.’
Eadirin looks around. ''But not only the unfriendly eyes are watching. A route leading up to the hill. I think we should follow it.’
As the elves climb, a shout goes up from atop the hill and the morning sun pierces the foliage. Finnehas turns to Eadirin. “Your friends see us - we are not unexpected.”
Eadirin looks ahead. ''I think we have found them. And just in time. The dawn has come and brought us shelter.''
As the Eldar step gracefully further into the camp, silent signals pass among the Men clad in hues of leaf and earth. The band of rangers has already noticed their presence, gazing at them sternly but with no hostility.
Lothrandir says nothing as the Eldar approach, and it is Braigiar who answers Eadirin's greeting in fluent if oddly accented Sindarin, “Our scouts saw you approach and have kept the way safe, barring one or two wild beasts. Upriver, the ford crossing has been overrun lately.” His brow creases in a frown. “Orcs and dunlendings march together - to what end we know not yet.” The man continues, “What word do you bring from Ost-in-Edhil? Does Eregion also feel the scourge of the foul alliance?”
Eadirin nods. ''They feel it, though they keep themselves together as much as they can. Our kinsmen are few but we are strong. That is why we are here, partly. We decided to go south, to find the source of these banners with white hands on them. And if it is possible we deal with the problem. If you could lend us some supplies and some guidance about the pathways to the south, or any information, we would be grateful.’'
Dagoras and his Men have few provisions to spare, but they give Eadirin and Finnehas what they can, and the rest of the day passes quickly as the Dúnedain instruct the elves about divisions and rivalries among the wildmen. Later, looking south across Enedwaith at sunset, Eadirin recalls a time when the kingdom of Arnor ruled in the north and Enedwaith belonged to the kingdom of Gondor in the south.
The elves depart Dagoras’ camp at twilight, descending nimbly into the valley south.
The land grows ever more rugged and wild, the wind rising and carrying on it the sounds of creatures that stir in the dark. At last, Eadirin finds the Old Southern Road, or what remains of it, the stone pavings of a thoroughfare that once connected Arnor and Gondor, now in disrepair.
Some distance along the road, a series of bird calls pierces the whistling of the wind. The undergrowth thins slightly and Eadirin veers off the path, heading westwards up an incline. Finnehas follows, only to find that his friend has heeded the signals well — as they approach a small campfire tucked out of sight of the Old Southern Road below, they find themselves in the company of Dúnedain once again.
At Saeradan's camp, what will be revealed about the strange unrest sweeping the valley and stirring the wildmen against one another — or joining them with Yrch?