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Author Topic: A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring  (Read 2514 times)

Anitra

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« on: February 04, 2015, 05:10:00 AM »
Bren, daughter of Torr, thought that she would see snow fall from the sky in midsummer when she received the message from one of her own link girls asking for a travelling guide. And it had been a friend of the link girl that sent the message; otherwise the old barkeep’s wife would have given Anitra, niece of Dyen, a piece of her mind about it. A travelling guide to Ered Luin, indeed! But there had been a small sum attached to the note, as well as relinquishing the sum for the next run she would make, so denying this small request to spread word for this wanted post was petty, to say the least. Three days did Bren have to spread the news of a potential employment as a travelling companion, possibly by a new merchant, and all that time did the old Dwarf woman wonder what business would such an unprospective wretch like Anitra would have away from her family and into the lands of the west

The very offer had been put down in print and spread around her place, as she always did when requested. One would have to be careless or very observant to find the small piece of paper with the coarse markings of a near illiterate girl. “SOUGHT FOR: A travelling aid/guide for a journey to the Blue Mountains, North. Must know the land well. Must provide for their means of transportation. Food for the voyage will be given. PAYMENT shall be discussed on arrival, but a sum will be paid in advance, as the journey is for business. Interest in the post can be addressed to Bren of the Red Spear’s Inn only.” Yet the Cirth was legible, Bren was being paid, it was an employee she could trust...why would she not put up the sign, truly?

And speaking of which. here came the very lady in question! It was a busy night at the Red Spear, as were the usual weekends, but it was even more so for potential torchbearers, for newcomers with their own businesses, their own matters, would come flooding into Ered Mithrin and request for light for whatever beeswax they were running around. And this particular pasty Dwarf girl had floundered her way through the crowd of customers to the front desk to approach her. “M’me Bren!” she called out hoarsely. A cough interrupted her, and Bren tutted quietly. While rains did not bother her business much, the innkeeper’s wife certainly was preoccupied at the sight of the girl in her rather wet travel cap, most because she was such a delicate child. “M’me Bren, has anyone applied - ?”

“No, dear,” shouted Bren, above the din of the customers. “Not yet, no one’s called up for the post. You, however, have another job to do.” The older Dwarf swept her skirt and walked over to let the caped girl in, lead her to the back. “They a’xed for our quietest link boy, and that’s what we’re goin’ to send.” Not a word of complaint, of course, it really didn’t matter if it was a boy or a girl as long as it was a spare hand. “Relatively large pay, actually. And you bet it all payin’ for us to put up for that post you requested!” Bren made a boastful laugh.

All this dismissive laughter, all this vulgar lack of faith, was disregarded the same way Bren had set aside Anitra’s wanted ad: at first noted, but then forgotten. This was only seen as a light pink blush in the lass’ cheeks, but it was shaken aside with set lips. “Prospect comes up in two hours. You tell me how well it went.” Once again, Anitra nodded quietly. “Wait - ye cannot stay in the back. Ye’ve already got a bit of a cold comin’ on.” “I should like to stay inside, yes, thank you, M’me.” So once again, Bren led the girl back to the tables for the residents at the inn. “I’ll invite you to a sip of tea, kid. You’ll need it, bless your delicate constitution.”

The tow-haired haired payed no mind when her boss called out for a waiter to attend her, and went to a table in the back, by the rain-beaten window. There was almost no light here, but this she preferred. She merely wanted to remain there, steel herself for the always could-be-perilous task ahead...and wondered what next nugget of gold she could stumble across now. All these years, the secrets had felt more like stones picked up on the path rather than nuggets of gold. Except for the one she had picked up a week ago. The one she felt that would help her and her family rise. After all, gold was to come of the secret of a mountain full of gold.

Even the thought of it made her flinch. So Anitra hovered both hands above the candle on her table, and reflected without a thought on it. Her candles were the only source of light in this wasteland of ashes; but now she was to make her own light in the world. She would be a little richer by the time she went to Ered Luin, and perhaps there was chance of selling more secrets that she had not expected; she would return home triumphant and alleviate the bent necks of the people who had taken her in, and life would be a little less dark for the foreseeable future.

The waiter finally made his way to the young hooded girl with the cup of tea Bren had requested for her, and Anitra signed her gratitude in Iglishmêk. She did not feel like using her sore throat...that was, until she took a sip from the delightfully sweetened lemon tea of the Red Spear. Her smile graced her lips for a moment, recalling how the Red Spear and their owners had connections to a certain faction of beekeepers, and thus, their proclivity for beeswax candles and honey as a sweetener made them known - those were not cheap products at all, especially not in Ered Mithrin. A pretense of privilege, in a land where everyone was struggling to live.

She could almost see the gleam of the coins in the flicker of the flame before her...

Played by Jo

Kophas

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2015, 11:55:00 PM »
“You're heading out soon, right?”

 Kophas nodded, glancing up at the innkeeper over the rim of a tankard. The peregrine falcon trapper that he had been intending to negotiate with hadn't been ideal, as it turned out, and so he had no further business here. The birds were untrained – contrary to the promises delivered – and Kophas didn't have the resources to transport one when it would need constant supervision. Letting a new falcon sit untethered on his shoulder the way Eir did would be a recipe for losing it instantly. If he had had access to a cart he might have been able to take a few in travel boxes, but that was currently impossible. The caravan that had taken him here had disbanded over a disagreement between merchants. There had been no blood drawn, but their immediate turnaround back to Ered Luin certainly wasn’t going as planned and likely wouldn’t happen for some time. Kophas didn't want to sit around for the weeks until they either made up or some other train in need of an extra sword set off. He missed his home, his family, missed the sun having warmth in its rays. And Ered Mithrin was exactly as everyone had always made it out to be – a dismal, wearied place that only seemed to survive through sheer stubbornness.

 “Fancy taking a passenger and making a profit?” Kophas raised his head with an enquiring look.

“What's that mean?”

“Bren over at the Three Spears - the one with the honey and the link boys?” The falconer shook his head; he didn't know it. “She's advertising for a guide to the Blue Mountains. Some payment in advance.” The option was considered for a moment. He didn't mind travelling alone – solitude was at worst tolerated, and mostly liked – but he wouldn’t object to company provided they were likable enough. It’d be safer, too, and there would be no point not joining forces if they were heading the right way, no point giving up pay for no reason…

 And so later that evening a soaked and thoroughly frustrated figure finally managed to find his way, at last, to The Three Spears. Having lost his way in the above-ground, badly-maintained streets a few times, he was later than he had intended to be. As he entered the bubble of light and heat, a large portion of the bad mood evaporated and he wondered – almost amused – if the employer would have bothered to come out in this weather. If not, he wouldn’t be trying again. There was no point wasting any more time here and he would leave the next morning. Early. Get a good start on the journey.

 Kophas sighed internally and wondered when and more importantly why he had picked up habits that he hated.

 The proprietor gave him an extremely sceptical look when he enquired after the position and pointed him towards a corner at the back, which didn’t seem like a good sign. She seemed dubious not only of him (and why? He looked positively normal for a decent hired sword, if a little less bulked-up and shorter-bearded than some. It might have helped that everything but the sword sheathed at his waist was hidden by a thick, well-made cloak) but of the offer he was considering – odd, really, was the employer so cantankerous that no one would work to them?

  He slid into the seat opposite the grey-bearded dwarf and started off confident, his steady voice clear even in the hubbub of the crowded tavern. “You're looking for a guide to the Blue Mountains?”

 The other dwarf glowered at him. He instantly felt like forgoing the employment. And then, causing a tilt of his hooded head: “No.”

 Kophas narrowed his eyes, but before he could ask for a confirmation the bar attendant counting out the older dwarf’s change interrupted with an almost amused snort. “That’d be her that’s looking a guide.”

 Muted blue eyes blinked in surprise when they landed on the slip of the girl at the next table over, beardless and fragile-looking. She didn’t look much like a traveller. But then, everyone had to start somewhere. It would probably be far easier to deal with someone who wasn’t convinced to the marrow of their bones that they already knew how to do everything in the best possible way. Plus she didn’t look like she would steal his pony and run off in the middle of the night with all of his belongings.

 It only took a moment to change tables, gaze steady on the blonde head throughout. Belatedly, Kophas pushed his hood down, leaning back in the chair. This time he voiced a statement, not a question. You’re looking for a guide to the Blue Mountains. Name’s Kophas, son of Anlaf, at your service.” A polite dip of his head in place of a bow. “I live there. Planning on heading back as soon as I can. I know the land,” well, mostly, “I’ve got transport…” Some combination of getting the note second-hand and not paying enough attention combined to fail him, and scarred fingers scrubbed through his hair sheepishly. “And I cannot remember what the other conditions were. But I’ve had plenty of experience guarding convoys, your party shouldn’t be too different.”


(#384450)

Anitra

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2015, 02:19:00 AM »
Surprises were not Anitra’s specialty. Especially she was deep in thought, but when choices appeared from right in front of her nose, it did not take long for her to adapt...unless they involved speaking. And right now, her concentration was ruined by the sight of a dwarf moving away from a seat not far from her and plopping right in front of her out of nowhere. Drenched as she was in travel clothes already, no less! “You’re looking for a guide to the Blue Mountains.” Anitra leaned back into her chair with widened eyes. “ Name’s Kophas, son of Anlaf, at your service.” The young dwarf gave an amicable nod, which Anittra repeated...rather weakly. At her service, indeed! Why did she feel like this was the beginning of a rather startling journey?

Kophas continued speaking. “I live there. Planning on heading back as soon as I can.” This cheerful bit of news made the color return to Anitra’s cheeks, and she opened her mouth in wonder, as if she was going to say something, but she wasn’t interrupting him. “I know the land, I’ve got transport…” The young Dwarf (he actually look a few years older than herself) trailed off, probably trying to recall what else was on her list. “And I cannot remember what the other conditions were. But I’ve had plenty of experience guarding convoys, your party shouldn’t be too different.” And that was it, a Dwarf sent right from the Maker to lead her to Ered Luin! Apparently so. While the link girl still looked fairly delighted by this Dwarf’s appearance…

What guaranteed her safety?

“...Well, Master Kophas, charmed to meet you too. Anitra, at your service,” began the girl. Suppose that was diplomatic enough? She stood upright to look at him in the eyes - what an odd blue...of course he’s not from around here she thought. “Well, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind me askin’ - a dwarf like you, while he’s only going home...what is there guarantee that a maiden like me would be reassured of her safety throughout this trip?” The end of the sentence was coated with steel; and no one was to blame her for the piercing question. “My ‘payment in advance’ is not a very large amount, though the payment at the end would be rewarding.” She paused for a moment, trying to consider if all she wished to say had been conveyed. “After all, this is a party of one. I am the one that wishes to travel, and I wish to do it as soon as possible.”

She probably did not look very impressive, trying to stand her own against this well-stocked traveller from Ered Luin before her. Bren’s hand on her shoulder saved her from looking too ridiculous. Anitra gave curt nod as an ‘excuse me’ gesture, then turned back to greet the old dwarf lady. She did not look too amused at the sight of a potential guide for Anitra, for if she took off now, she would lose her ware for the girl’s next run. “M’dear, I should think tha’ haggling is not the best thing to try right now - ” “Do not worry,” murmured Anitra. “It’s a rather too rainy night to go off and leave the Mountains anyway, mistress Bren. You can rest easy.” And just the sight of this cheerful stranger had given her a strange attitude - for the first time in her life, she waved off the domineering old woman. She was not insulted; there was only an eyebrow lifted, and the innkeeper’s wife left the two alone.

“So,” continued Anitra, “master Kophas...if I may be so bold...why should I trust you?”

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Kophas

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2015, 12:09:00 AM »
Kophas had surprised the unnamed girl, sent her eyes wide and her jaw loose with shock. She recovered as he went on, though, expression sharpening and hardening into suspicion. The underlying happiness at his appearance didn't fade entirely but it certainly became less obvious. A little more usual. People weren’t normally ecstatic to see another hired sword signing up – accepting, yes, and content, relieved to make deadlines, but never open-mouthed with wonder. She must have been desperate to leave.

 Her name was Anitra and she was polite, more confident than he had begun to assume, with eyes as dark as Andar's that met his without wavering. There was a strength to her that hadn’t been immediately obvious. The question caught him off guard, causing consideration to stray across his features. He probably should have expected it. People wanted to be sure that they wouldn’t be bringing a thief with them as opposed to someone who stopped thieves, and there would be other worries for one alone.

 It suddenly occurred to him that everyone who could vouch for him was in Ered Luin, and a faint frown tugged at his mouth. How was he supposed to reassure her?

 She went on, about payments (which he probably should have paid more attention to) and the size of her group - one. Just her? Odd; did she not have family to go with her? But it wasn't his business, so he merely nodded and went back to trying to think up a reference. Before he could answer, however, the innkeeper arrived to interrupt. It seemed that she was worried that her link girl (that was what the blue shawl marked her as, Kophas knew that much) was going to take off right this minute. He hid his rueful grin – there really was no good option when it came to when to start a journey – added an agreeable nod and a slight smile to Anitra's explanation. It was far too late at night to be heading out, though they might not end up with a chance of avoiding the rain no matter when they left.

 “So, master Kophas… If I may be so bold… Why should I trust you?”

 The falconer tipped his head, gazing into the shadowed rafters sightlessly. His voice was slow as he thought on his figurative feet. “Most who’d vouch for me are back in the Blue Mountains.” His gaze returned to her, lighting with an idea. “Though there’d be the merchants I came in with. I never gave them any trouble, and they'll tell you so – if you can stop them going for each other's throats long enough to talk. Kaillen and Jati. I believe they’re parked at opposite ends of the wagon courtyard at the gate. And you might want to take someone with you; some of the permanent swords aren't too pleasant.” The irony of the statement sailed right over his head, unmarked in his expression of vague concern. “Tell them you’re looking to hire the one with the hawk, if they’ve forgotten my name.” There had been no women in the train, but the thought didn’t yet occur to Kophas. A reference was a reference. A smile flashed across his face at the mere mention of Eir and was gone, replaced by open seriousness. “And you have my word – if that counts. You can trust me. I’ll do my best to get you to the Blue Mountains safely.”


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Anitra

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2015, 11:07:00 PM »
Her guide did not look the least fazed at her questions. He had no right to be cross with her, after all...he only had the right to leave. But Anitra had promised to herself that the events in that cave in 2915 were not repeating themselves, ever. If she were able to look at herself in this moment, she would have dared say that she looked far more stately than she had in her entire life...but right now she needed to worry about whether this kind-looking dwarf before her was going to take up her offer, or bow out. How to look strong, yet not domineering?

But Kophas was…taking her seriously. Anitra’s strength came from bowing down and scraping favor and acting weak...how did she take charge when she was finally given power? “Most who’d vouch for me are back in the Blue Mountains.” Anitra’s face wavered from the mere disbelief that he was actually interested in gaining her respect. It seemed like most of men she had met in her life would have merely asked her if she wanted a guide or not. “And you might want to take someone with you; some of the permanent swords aren't too pleasant.”

Of course Anitra frowned at the statement. “Well, that’s - “ she never exactly finished the thought, because it was obvious. So didn’t he kept pleasant company? Kophas could tell he had made a mistake, to which he added, “Tell them you’re looking to hire the one with the hawk, if they’ve forgotten my name.” The one with the… Anitra rarely heard from other businesses other than her family’s, but she didn’t know Ered Mithrin’s stance on falconing...normally, she would think buying birds of prey as a luxury. This all spoke more and more that this was some high-positioned merchant...and so young! Had all the prayers she’d been making in her life to the Maker suddenly been answered? “And you have my word – if that counts. You can trust me. I’ll do my best to get you to the Blue Mountains safely.”

She felt so unbelievably staggered by the opportunity facing her - that she leaped at the chance. “If you’ll excuse me - “ the girl interrupted their talk with a little nod, and walked back to Bren’s side for her word. “Have you ever heard of Kaillen and Jaiti?” To which the innkeeper's wife replied with a guffaw and several comments about “tasteless men” but “honorable if paid”. And if Bren wasn’t scowling at their names, they were respectable by Ered Mithrin standards. That was all she needed. “Thank you, Bren.” The honorific removed, the old woman raised an eyebrow at her sudden courage. But it was not disrespect so much as frankness, so for one last time, she ducked her head humbly and spoke thankfully. “For everything. I think I have found my guide.”

While the innkeeper’s wife looked ready to sputter in confusion to this outburst of sincerity, she reigned herself in and merely said, “...so long as I’m paid tonight.” “Don’t worry. If I wasn’t in your debt before, I am now.” And the woman shied away from the conversation with some allegation that business needed to be attended to...and so went on one of the few dwarves Anitra thought to be allies, dismissing her like just another link girl. Yes, Miss Bren...there is definitely business to attend to. The link girl gave one of her rare smiles and returned to her seat so she could speak to Kophas onec again.

“Well, I have it on my boss’ account that the friends you mentioned were respectable. And I’ll take your word for it.” There was something about this lad...how he was so different from everything she had ever known...so she could not hold him to what she had previously been through. Her concerns were quelled...for now. “What else would you like to know? I…” she trailed off when she remembered the bag of silver coins in her pocket, that she had carefully saved for some time like this. It wasn’t very difficult to part from it when she saw the stranger before her - so she placed it on the table quietly. Her eyes gleamed for an instant, then returned to being as business-like as she could manage. “I hope that you’ll find this satisfying for the beginning of your reward.”

Played by Jo

Kophas

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 12:10:00 PM »
The odd, muted look of overwhelmed and joyous surprise stayed as Kophas talked on, making him raise an eyebrow slightly when he was done. Anitra must have been waiting quite some time for someone to take up her offer of employment, to be so please.

 She excused herself almost immediately and he nodded, not questioning the sudden interruption to their conversation. He waited patiently, casting his gaze around idly and not bothering to look too closely at anything in particular, sipping his drink absently. There were questions to be asked and they were considered silently, the falconer wondering if she had a horse, how far south she intended to go before crossing the Misty Mountains, if she could fight or cook or start a fire. Had she ever slept outside before? Forded a river?

 The wisp of a girl returned with the traces of a smile still lingering around the corners of her mouth. The falconer lowered his tankard, brows raised in enquiry. “Well, I have it on my boss’ account that the friends you mentioned were respectable. And I’ll take your word for it.”

 They’re no friends of mine. But that detail was unimportant, and so Kophas dipped his head with an assured grin. He had been hired, and he’d do his best to make sure his employer didn’t regret it. “What else would you like to know? I…” There was a moment’s pause, and then slender fingers placed a small pouch on the table. Money, by the jingle. At least two dwarves from neighbouring tables shot glances at them, drawn by the song of silver. “I hope that you’ll find this satisfying for the beginning of your reward.” The sellsword pulled the coin towards himself, teasing the opening wider to check the mark but not bothering to count them. It wasn’t exorbitant, but it was sufficient.

 “Works for me. So, I’ll work for you.” The coins went into his tunic, shortsword stirred aside for show. The sturdy hilt was enough to bounce calculating glances away from him. Then the falconer leaned forward, folding his arms loosely on the table.

 “Got a few questions, though. I’m assuming we’re going on horseback; it’ll speed us up a good bit. Do you have a pony sorted? I can help you find one, if you want.” He was no Andar, but he knew horses as well as most who rode regularly did. Scarred fingers ruffled curly hair thoughtfully as he went on, eyes enquiring when they landed on Anitra and distant when he glanced away as though staring at some giant, invisible map hanging mid-air, gesturing vaguely at it. “Do you have a time limit on this journey, or a preferred route? I’d be for taking the High Pass over the Misty Mountains – it’s quicker than the Gladden pass and ponies’ll manage it – but I can adjust down to the Redhorn over Khazad-dûm if you want. Never been over it, though. And I hear it’s cold going, even at this time of year. And there’re orcs. Gundabad’s impossible unless you’re on foot and stealthy enough to get past an army. I’d be reluctant to go all the way down to the Gap of Rohan, but I suppose it’s the easiest. Just takes forever and a day. Your choice.”


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Anitra

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A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2015, 03:26:00 PM »
What Anitra offered to the guide would have been frowned on by anyone else, seeing the crumbling economy of the Grey Mountains. But while there was no susprirsed look from the guide, there was no indignation either. “Works for me. So, I’ll work for you.” The Dwarf pocketed the reward and left his sword for show for anyone that might be watching. Anitra wasn’t the one in view of the restaurant and its occupants, but had she been, she would have also noticed several inquisitive eyes turned over to their table. The clever little move drew the smallest of smiles from Anitra. It was difficult not to feel hopeful for this trip, in the company of a seemingly honest and intelligent guide. She was about to remind herself of her usual mantra on the dangers of Ered Mithrin - but he wasn’t from Ered Mithrin, wasn’t he.

The sellsword continued. “Got a few questions, though. I’m assuming we’re going on horseback; it’ll speed us up a good bit. Do you have a pony sorted?” The setback made Anitra widen her eyes. Kophas could tell from this that she hadn’t. “I can help you find one, if you want.”[color] Light returned to Anitra’s eyes, and she was about to thank him candidly for his efforts on their journey when he continued. Maybe it was best to leave the thanking to the end - not of the journey, but of the briefing. [color=2c3539]“Do you have a time limit on this journey, or a preferred route?” Anitra shook her head wordlessly, out of ignorance. I’d be for taking the High Pass over the Misty Mountains – it’s quicker than the Gladden pass and ponies’ll manage it – but I can adjust down to the Redhorn over Khazad-dûm if you want. Never been over it, though. And I hear it’s cold going, even at this time of year.”

Anitra inclined her head, as if saying that she trusted his choices. He continued glibly on about the different choices they could take. The following sentence made her shiver, as no Grey Mountains dwarf ever found the mentions of Orcs very far away. “And there’re orcs. Gundabad’s impossible unless you’re on foot and stealthy enough to get past an army. I’d be reluctant to go all the way down to the Gap of Rohan, but I suppose it’s the easiest. Just takes forever and a day. Your choice.” He finished the briefing with an amiable note, and Anitra cooperated. “I - I should trust your judgment on the High Pass, I believe. I’m not a stranger to climbing and if you think it’s safe enough for the ponies, then - then it can be our chosen route.”

It was clear that she was leaving this to his word. “I haven’t ever...managed...a pony.” While her word was bleak, she tried to make it up by saying. “I have travelled only within in the Grey Mountains, but sometimes I’ve covered long distances.” Cliffs and mountainsides were familiar to her, in all her escapades within the colonies of Ered Mithrin. Sometimes, it was the Dwarves within that were more treacherous than the peaks they inhabited. “So I’ve...rationed food, cooked it,” but never hunted it “...started a fire.” The last was said softly, because starting fires was her specialty. Didn’t she know, as a candlemaker? But then again Kophas did not know of this. He just saw her as a link girl, which was in fact only a second job. “I happen to run a candlemaking business,” she explained.

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Kophas

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Re: A Light in the Shadows Shall Spring
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2017, 02:08:57 AM »
 So finding a pony was on him. Right, he was fairly sure that he could manage that in the morning. Depended how much experience she had – if she needed a quiet one and things didn’t line up, it could delay them a little, but Kophas would manage. It would feel a lot better to at least be moving in the direction of leaving rather than sulking about getting stuck in one place, being useless and missing his family.

 Anitra seemed willing to listen, thankfully, and wisely apprehensive of orcs. She accepted his chosen route with a slight hesitance that he took a moment to decipher, eventually deciding that it was either shyness or the shock of a little too much information at once. Not distrust, or belief that his advice was bad.

 High Pass it is. Grand.

 “I haven’t ever...managed...a pony.”

 Ah. For a moment she had almost reminded him of Andar, with her dark eyes, and quiet, hesitant voice, and for that moment surprise sparked at the words. They were a contrast to the concept of his brother.

 But the surprise gone almost as soon as it had begun – he hadn’t really expected much riding talent until the association had occurred to him. So he nodded acceptance. Once he had been surprised that there were would-be travellers who couldn’t ride – it has been so normal to him since… Well, he couldn’t even remember the first time he had been put in a saddle. It had seemed strange that there were people who looked at ponies with fear or worry, particularly people who had cause to travel. The (usually) very sensible reasons they had weren’t reasons that would have occurred to Kophas.

 He was used to it now. And Anitra was a link girl from Ered Mithrin, and probably not much like Andar at all. She’d need a dependable, steady pony. Fair enough, he could manage that. At least she’d covered distance before, she could (and more importantly sounded like she would) climb, she could manage a fire. And she was honest and pragmatic about her capabilities; those were valuable traits.

  “I happen to run a candlemaking business.”

 Kophas chuckled. “Just a bit of experience with sparks, then?” He ran over the information in his head again, eyes sliding away. Nodded. “Grand. You seem practical enough, we should get on alright. I can handle supplies, there are a couple of people we can stock up with on the way, and Eir and I can fill them out with hunting on the way without slowing too much.” He tapped fingers on the table as he thought, planned, explained. “We can sort you a pony in the morning, hopefully. Ten’s pretty strong, and I do a fair bit of walking, so we should manage without a pack pony. Unless you’re travelling heavy, that is – I was assuming you were mainly transporting yourself, rather than many goods, but if it’s a business trip then obviously we’ve got to carry your wares, too. Tell me what you need.” Will candles need extra care? His gaze had come back to hers somewhere in the middle of that, both appraising and offering assistance, if necessary. He wasn’t generally renowned for professionalism, but he mostly managed it when it was appropriate these days. (‘Appropriate’ being something he defined.)

 He had worked out similar deals before, with less prompting from Cephas each time. He could almost hear his brother’s teasing chastisement. No one knows who Eir is, Ko. Or Ten. You have to tell them so they know they’re getting one dwarf, not two, or three. Yes, no matter how useful Eir is. He smiled to himself. “Eir’s a hawk, Ten’s a pony. I’m told that’s sometimes confusing.”


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