So I'm back to tie some loose threads which I left – most shamefully- when I finished "A Wind from the Sea". But though this story is a sequel of some kind it can stand alone and you'll not have to read "Wind" first to understand what's going on, as things will become clear as you trudge along.

If you nevertheless want a short revitalisation of your memory, have a peek at the chapters 32 and 33 in "Winds".

Many thanks for supporting me while I was struggling with the beginning of this story go to Lady Bluejay and Lialathuveril. Lady Bluejay has again been very kind and has helped me as a very patient beta-reader and thus protected you, dear readers, from countless Germanisms.


Clouds over Isen

Chapter 1

5th August, first year of the Forth Age

Of Hope and Dread

"So at last you found your way to the Westfold to show off your new queen." Without any attempt to hide his grin, Erkenbrand of Westfold filled two tankards from the jug the servant had set on the board and then held one out to his young king. "Welcome to the Hornburg, Éomer Cyning, and congratulations on your speed in complying with your lady's proclaimed wishes for offspring."

Taking the proffered tankard of frothing ale, Éomer shrugged. He felt in no mood to rise to the bait. They had been riding for hours through sweltering heat, eager to reach the shelter of the burg before the ever-growing clouds of the thunderstorm that was approaching from the north-east toppled over and opened their sluices on them. All through their ride up the Westfold vale they had heard the muffled sound of thunder, and even here, in the normally cool rooms of the ancient castle, the air felt stifling. It was certainly no weather to get into any bother if one could avoid it. He took a swig and then eyed the tankard with an appreciating eye. "Looks like I did the right thing to wait until you had brought in this year's barley. This certainly is a brew worthy of the highest praise."

Erkenbrand's grin deepened. "I'll pass the praise to my lady. But then this summer's barley has been exceedingly good, as I am sure you knew without me telling you so. Though I don't quite believe you had the Westfold wait for your visit until now only to be able to show your queen the Mark's barley and drink Leofwaru's ale."

With a sound between a groan and a sigh, Éomer slumped down on one of the high-backed chairs. If he could have got his way, he would have gone nowhere, but simply stayed in bed for the last five months with that incredible woman who was his wife now. But one did not admit that to one's marshal, especially if said marshal complained that his fief had not been the first part of the Mark his king had visited after the wedding. So he just took another swig before attempting to mollify his counterpart. "Look, Erkenbrand, I took her to the Eastemnet first, for I wanted to show her the newly born foals, and then the midwife didn't want her to travel for some weeks and..."

Throwing his head back, Erkenbrand guffawed good-naturedly. "Certainly, there always are the midwives to consider. And you taking her to the Eastemnet first has nothing to do with you being an Eastfolder."

Éomer frowned. "Harping on the same old string again? So what if I wanted my wife to see the places of my own childhood first? That bloody, idiotic rivalry will one day tear the Mark apart if we do not learn to overcome it."

Erkenbrand shrugged, not impressed at the slightest by his king's reproach. "I suppose every man would have done the same, but with you being the king now, things differ a bit. After the queen's attention for the Westfold and your stunt at Baeccotlif last year, people were expecting you would continue Théodred's preference for Helm's Deep."

Éomer grimaced and reached for his tankard. "I'm just happy I haven't married a woman from the Eastfold, for you boneheads would have certainly engineered a revolt against me."

The remark just got him another shrug from his marshal. "Not as long as there is a single foe from outside left you can lead us against. But I dare say I would have been happier had you come earlier and taken that Airik woman off my mother's hands. The old woman is at her tether's end with the Dunlending wildcat." The Westfolder took a swig and then put his tankard down with a sigh. "Dealing with Airik had never been easy as you very well know, but since Frithuhelm went back to cultivate his new orchard up the Isen in spring she has simply become a pain in the arse."

Éomer faced him over the brim of his tankard. Things must have really become annoying if Erkenbrand came up with that topic so soon. But he was prepared to meet Erkenbrand's expectations. "I'll take her off your mother's hands, don't you worry. That's one of the reasons I have come."

Though he nodded his approval, the Westfolder's eyes stayed askance. "Nice to hear. And what are you going to do with her?"

"Take her to Edoras. She's the king's hostage, so I suppose it is time the king dealt with her." The doubt in Erkenbrand's gaze now became open disapproval, but Éomer forestalled any comment, adding with a shrug: "Well, to tell you the truth: It will rather be the queen who will do that."

"The queen?" Erkenbrand's tankard almost toppled over. "Are you out of your mind?" The beefy man visibly fought for air. "Éomer, you know that …" Shaking his head in disbelief, he shoved the tankard out of the way. "You can't saddle your queen with such a task, especially as she's with child now and everything... And you don't have anybody who speaks Dunlendish at Edoras to start with."

"Lothíriel Queen suggested it herself." Éomer was surprised how cool and unconcerned his own voice sounded now while he himself had reacted exactly like the man in front of him when she had told him of her plans. But fortunately he did not have to let his marshal in on that. So he rather mentioned one of his wife's reasons, keeping his face as deadpan as possible. "You know, she's quite interested in languages, and I'm sure she'll learn that Hillmen's gibberish as soon as anybody."

Snorting, the marshal reached for his tankard. "If Airik talks to her at all..."

Éomer's smirked. "She will. That wife of mine has a will of steel and the patience of a lynx on the prowl. And who knows? They might even get on, being both headstrong and fearless women."

"Headstrong!" Erkenbrand grimaced. "That Airik is as stubborn as a constipated mule. The only woman she ever talked to in a free and friendly way was Frithuhelm's sweetheart, and I dare say she did it for Frithuhelm's sake." He shook his head. "You cannot really want the queen to have to deal with..." He hesitated, the purposeless movement of his large hands showing his disquiet. "Look Éomer, she's a Gondorean princess. She's used to being treated with the respect and devotion due to her rank. You must not..."

Éomer interrupted his marshal's stammering. "No, you are certainly right. I'm sure I must not and I will not force my wife to do anything against her will. But it was her, Erkenbrand, who suggested we'd have a look at the situation here and at Landbúnes. Check on the situation of Airik's people and on that of the Isen, to get an idea if there is any improvement. I know we'll have to let Airik go back one day, but I would like her to find her tribe well-fed and cared for, so she will have no reason to incite a riot. Or if she still thinks she has a reason to do so, she hopefully will stand no chance as her people are satisfied with the way they have been treated by the Eorlingas."

Thoughtfully, Erkenbrand scratched his bearded chin. "The situation of the Dunlending villagers has improved quite a lot this summer. Sigward made sure they got enough seeds to re-cultivate their gardens. He even sent them some chickens and a handful of sheep. Though I'm not sure what might happen when the evacuated inhabitants of Landbúnes come back one day."

Éomer frowned. "You fear the king feeding some Dunlending women and children might cause envy and ill will?"

Erkenbrand shook his head. "No. But some little bird has told me that a village of unattached women just across the river has led to certain...well, let's call it breach of commandment. The guards Sigward left at Landbúnes were quite lonely, you know."

Éomer felt as if a cold draught had hit his sweaty nape. His mien got stony. "What are you hinting at Erkenbrand? Don't tell me there was any abuse."

Again the marshal of the Westfold scratched his impressive chin. "I would not call it abuse. But what do you expect a young man to do when he knows that he only has to swim the river with a brace of rabbits or fowl tied to his back to earn a solid shag? Can't really blame the lads, can you? And neither the women. Must be pretty sad a life without someone to warm their beds properly. So far there have been no problems, but I wonder what will happen when there are more than just six lonely men on this side of the Isen."

"I see." Éomer nodded grimly. "One more reason to sort things out. And I suppose we had better think of some other items that could be traded. What about that salt your mother wrote to me about?"

Erkenbrand seemed only too happy to change the topic. "Sigward traded salt with the women, but on a very small scale." He grimaced with regret. "It's absolutely pure, solid rock salt of the best quality I've ever seen and they could make a fortune out of it but as it is they simply don't have the people to mine it."

Éomer took another swig. "Who has the rights to the deposit? I mean, was it generally used by all Hillmen or is it a site mined only by Airik's tribe?"

Erkenbrand shrugged. "The latter, though in the end it's on the territory of the Reunited Kingdom and I doubt that the king of Gondor will let such a source of income go unnoticed. Especially now with all those Gondorean soldiers and workmen going north and the old roads through Dunland being repaired."

"Those Gondoreans are bound for Tharbad, Erkenbrand. Aragorn wants the bridge there rebuilt. There has been a ford since the old bridge was destroyed by the great flood, but that ford is more than dangerous and poses a serious obstacle to any traffic between Arnor and Gondor. It's not for no reason Boromir of Gondor was unhorsed there."

The Westfolder grimaced. "As far as I know the Greyflood is not just a rill one can bridge like that."

Éomer laughed. "No, for then Aragorn would not need to send so many men. But they know a thing or two about building bridges in Stoningland. I saw the new stone bridge over the Anduin at Osgiliath when I was in Gondor for Éowyn's wedding. And that river is much wider than the Greyflood, though one of the craftsmen I talked to at Edoras when they passed through told me that the strength of a river's current presents the most serious problem for the builders."

Erkenbrand did not look convinced at all. "I've never been up to that Tharbad myself, but where will they get the stones for the bridge from? Quarry them there and then?"

Éomer nodded. "That and use the material from some of the ruins. Aragorn sent a group of master-builders and masons as early as last spring to check how it could be built, and only when he had all the necessary information and equipment were men sent to start the preparations."

Erkenbrand grimaced. "They might find that the Dunlendings are not very welcoming."

"They might. And that's why he sends armed men with each troop of craftsmen. But the Gondoreans have their main quarters on the opposite bank of the river anyway, for it's from there they get the necessary stone."

With a grunt, the marshal leaned back in his chair. "Well, no matter where they stay at the moment: That Aragorn of yours will claim the land as his and the Dunlendings as his subjects and I dare say they won't like the idea."

Éomer found it hard to suppress a grin. It felt just too good to be prepared for any such objections. "He certainly will. But he's a wise man and he won't impose any hard or unjust conditions on them but rather accept their ways of living as long as they let travellers pass through unmolested. Thus the Dunlendings might even profit from the rebuilding of the road, as will the Mark. He's even prepared to grant them the right of trading their salt without dues to the crown in both, Gondor and Arnor."

Erkenbrand's brows almost reached his hairline. "You told him about the salt?"

Pretending unconcern, Éomer played his trump card. "The queen did. She said it would be good to have a carrot to dangle instead of having to show the stick to make Airik cooperate, and as her father is Aragorn's chief counsellor there was nobody to stop her from getting the king's ear."

The marshal nodded appreciatively. "Quite a clever one, your queen. But then one could guess that already from the gift of the granaries." With a wink he raised his tankard in a mock salute to his king. "And, as far as I could see in the few moments until the women swept her away, not a sore to the eye either, though a bit too much on the Gondorean side for my taste. But I've heard there are quite a number of Eorl's sons who took a fancy to dark hair."

Éomer shot him a glare. "I did not marry her for her Gondorean looks, Erkenbrand."

The marshal put down his tankard. "Ah well, I dare say you did not, though there is no harm in a wife being handsome and the people will like her the better for it. But that's certainly not what I wanted to talk about with you." He somewhat cumbersomely cleared his throat. "You said the Mark might profit from the rebuilding of the old roads. I've heard that traffic through Dunharrow has brought quite some trade to Edoras, but so far the Westfold has not had much participation in that. On the contrary we are still struggling with the aftermath of the war. Most of the destroyed farmsteads have been rebuilt, that's true, but the Hornburg is still in urgent need of repair and of competent repair, mind you. There still is the breach in the Deeping Wall, and I know of no craftsman who has the skill to rebuild it in the way the Old Ones constructed it."

Éomer thoughtfully turned the tankard in his hands. "The dwarves would know how to do it."

"The dwarves! What dealings have the Eorlingas ever had with dwarves, save that the bastards killed Fram Frumgarsson for Scatha's hoard."

"You know only too well that Gimli Gloinsson saved my sore neck from being hacked in a sortie during the attack on the burg. And have not you yourself always insisted that there are those who can be trusted in every people?"

Erkenbrand grumbled something unintelligible into his beard but did not gainsay his king openly.

Shoving the tankard away, Éomer leaned back in his chair. "I saw how the dwarves rebuilt the gates of Minas Tirith, and I have to admit it was quite impressive."

Erkenbrand snorted. "Have you asked them how much they got paid for their work? I doubt that we have even a tenth of the riches the king of Stoningland can spend on the gates of Mundburg."

Éomer nodded. "True. But who knows? There might be a way to get an agreement. Anyway it would not go amiss to contact Gloinsson and present the task to him. But in the meantime we don't need to be idle as far as trade is concerned. You see, what they did at Dunharrow could be a pattern for what could be done for example at the Fords. You already have the garrison there to guard the crossing of the river. What if you enlarged it to some kind of trading base? Build a travelling inn, sheds to store goods and stable horses, provide the opportunity to buy provisions and get a cartwright and farrier there to do the odd maintenance and repair, and you have the start of what can become the base for any trade coming into the Mark from the west and north." He flashed the marshal a grin. "And as I have heard from your mother, there are no better pelts and buckskins than those worked by the Dunlendings. It will take some time before the bridge at Tharbad will be standing and regular traffic will be going west, but Gondor is mad for pelts of all kinds. Why not trade for them with the Dunlendings? And then there is that salt."

A thoughtful frown on his face, Erkenbrand reached for the jug to top their cups. "That doesn't sound amiss at all. A trade base near the Fords. I only wish I knew where those dratted Hillmen went when they abandoned the village on the river."

ooooo

With an annoyed grunt Frithuhelm shook his head in a vain attempt to keep the blood-sucking flies and midges buzzing around him from settling on his sweat-covered face. The air felt stifling, smothering him like a heavy blanket. No doubt there would be a thunderstorm soon and it simply drove the insects mad. He reached the skirts of the willow and birch thickets that grew in the loop of the river, where it meandered along, splitting into several armlets in its stony bed, and shifted the huge bundle of willow rods he was carrying into a less inconvenient position before he continued uphill. For three days now he had been cutting osiers down on the banks of the Isen and he was more than fed-up. There certainly were tasks with which his large frame was no help at all. But nothing be done about that: The old woman had insisted in fencing in her garden and having cut enough rods now for a smallish patch, it would take him at least three more days to put the posts and fix in the wattle.

He cursed under his breath as he almost lost his footing on the loose surface of the slope. If things had gone as he had wished, he would be at his new orchard now, or in one of the upper valleys to tend his goats. That dratted crone! It was folly to insist on rebuilding the burnt-down farm so near the river that marked the borders with Dunland, only two winters after the War, but who was he to oppose Osláfa's mother-in-law? He grimaced. At least he had managed to fence off his orchard first and build a solid cabin for Osláfa and the children on the land around his own destroyed farm a three-hours walk further east. Far enough from the river that still seemed dead from the poison the pits at Isengard had belched forth.

He heaved a breath. It probably was not right that he had brought Osláfa and her children out here before everything was ready and fit for a family. But she had not wanted to stay behind at the Hornburg when he had made ready to go back to his farmstead to rebuild and salvage what he could, and truth be told, he had been more than happy with the prospect of her company. She was sweet tempered, an ardent worker and a wonderful mother to her three children. A fond smile flickered across his face. Yes, she certainly was the right woman to start anew with. And what did it matter that she was a few years his senior? They both had lost loved ones, had lost their homes and possessions, but they both had the strength and spirit to overcome the past. And was not mutual respect and friendship a reliable basis to build on? He still grieved for the loss of his first wife and their little daughter, as much as Osláfa probably grieved for her husband, who had been killed by the wizard's orcs, but they both wanted a new life and were ready to sweat for it.

And he knew only too well that for all her docility, Osláfa had wanted to be rid of Wulfrun, her dead husband's mother, who had made her days at the Hornburg more than miserable. Frithuhelm shook his head. How could such a shrew raise so calm and fair-minded a man as Oslafa's late husband? Acwuld had been a good neighbour, hard-working and valiant, a keen hunter and fighter and yet keeping peace with his neighbours, always welcome at feasts for his unrivalled tenor voice, a man who liked his ale but was no braggart. Frithuhelm sighed. Yes, Osláfa had chosen well when she had married Acwuld, though there were not a few who said they would not have taken him for all his niceties with that demon of a mother.

Plodding on, he shifted the bundle. How ironic that it had been the only other woman he knew to be absolutely insufferable who had helped her to put her foot down against Wulfrun. Airik, the Dunlending wild cat. He shook his still eluded him why she had befriended Osláfa without hesitation while she kept her distance to anybody else or even showed open enmity. Not that she had ever done so to him. But she had more or less just tolerated him, listened to him but never spoken more than necessary. With Osláfa though she had chatted, and only from Osláfa he had learned that the Dunlending spoke Rohirric just fine if not fluently. To anybody else she still pretended not to understand, even to Lady Egefride, the lord Erkenbrand's old mother. The woman really was a riddle.

True, Osláfa had taught her how to milk the goat so the Dunlending could feed her baby, but Egefride and her ladies had tried everything to please her, giving her clothes and nice rooms and teaching her the weaving techniques of the Mark and yet that strange woman had not had any word of thanks for them let alone a smile, whereas for Osláfa she had even made one of those beautiful pelt jerkins the Hillmen wore.

Was her enmity solely aimed at the nobles? At the lieges of the king that had taken her hostage to ensure that her people kept the peace? Thoughtfully, Frithuhelm blew away a bead of sweat that hung from the tip of his nose. No matter how honestly he admired Éomer King, he had not understood his reasons for taking the woman hostage then and could not comprehend them now. And if it was like Gamling said and her tribe had been abandoned by the other Dunlendings, of what worth was she at a hostage anyway?

He found it difficult in the sweltering heat of August to recall the numbing cold of that winter's evening when she had been brought into the garrison at the Fords by the king's men. Haggard like a starved hawk, and yet as wild and indomitable. And like a hawk she had fought for her child's survival. Sighing, the huge man shook his head. The poor mite. Well, at least the little girl had thrived, even if her mother's appearance and behaviour had stayed the same. How could a single person contain so much hatred and fury? But then, how would he react were he forced to stay at the Hornburg, unable to roam the free open spaces?

But still that did not explain why she had so wholeheartedly supported Osláfa from the moment she had met her. And not only against her unreasonable mother-in-law. Had Airik perhaps understood how much Osláfa had fretted in the closeness of the burg?

The Hornburg... He swallowed. It had meant safety for him and his family when the wizard's army had approached, but then, with the poisoned river, they had been stuck there, forced to sell their livestock one by one to survive the winter. And with his cattle his hope for a new start had dwindled until that cursed day in early spring when the coughing disease had swept through the crowded quarters of the burg, taking his wife and child amongst so many who had been stranded there, waiting for the moment they could return to their ruined farmsteads.

And one year later that strange haggard Dunlending woman and her child had been given into his care at the Fords, and upon his coming back to the Hornburg he had found that his last goat had yeaned a white kid and like a rosy dawn in spring, his old neighbour, soft-spoken Osláfa had come to him, begging him for some milk for her children and his life had known a focus again. And here he was now, slaving for her children's grandmother. He grimaced. At least thus he was able to keep that nuisance from plaguing his wife any longer. Let the crone live on the site of her old farm if she insisted on it if that meant that he and his new family were able to live in peace.

Was it really only two years since he had noticed the wizard's orcs build that bridge over the Isen, further up north, where it ran in a steep gully? Frowning, he trudged on. The bridge was still there, guarded now by a small band of Riders. And sure there was no danger any more from that direction, now that the wood-ghosts, the tree-herders, kept watch at Isengard, where for so many years the cunning white sorcerer had sat, lurking like a fat spider, casting webs of fear and treachery over the land until Greyhame had ripped them apart.

And yet: Could the Ents be trusted in the long run? Had not Saruman too seemed a trustworthy ally in the beginning? There were not few who rather feared them. And what about himself? Again he swatted at the flies. He certainly was thankful for the aid the Ents had brought in the darkest hours of the Mark, but he was well content they had left again and were staying on the other side of the Isen.

Having reached the top of the elongated down, he put down the bundle in order to rearrange some of the rods that had started to slid out of it. Wiping his sweaty brow, Frithuhelm let his gaze sweep over the hills on the western bank of the river, where the billowing clouds were already gathering dark and threatening, casting the path that led up to the wizard's valley into ominous shadows. He had better hurry if he wanted to reach the lean-to shelter he had built for Wulfrun before the downpour set in, even if that meant spending some hours in the company of the worst grimalkin the Mark had to offer.

He was just about to shoulder his load again, when a sudden gleam in the shrubs on the opposite bank caught his eye. His heart dropped a beat, the image of Saruman's hordes taking shape in his mind, and he could hardly control the impulse to drop the bundle and run to warn Osláfa, run to take her and the children to safety. But living on the border for all his life had taught him not to be a fool. If there really were orcs or raiders in the thickets, they had no doubt seen him, probably been watching him all the time while he had been cutting the rods. It would not do to let them know he had spotted them and probably trigger an assault. Forcing himself to move calmly, he took up the osiers and turning his back to the river, he continued his way slowly but steadily, though his mind was racing.

The moment he had traversed the low ridge and was sure to be out of sight of anybody down on the opposite bank, he threw down the bundle and then hurried south, to where a small rivulet had cut a gap through the ridge. Crouched low, he followed it to the point where two large boulders formed a barrier to the stream, causing it to form a shallow pool before plunging down towards the Isen. The ferns and birches growing in the crags of those boulders formed a perfect point to overlook the river without being seen, though the midges made staying immobile a torture. Frithuhelm grimaced. No doubt it was them who had given away whoever was hiding on the opposite bank.

His eyes, trained to spot the occasional stray one of his mottled goats in the brushwood of the vales soon caught sight of what he had feared: men, hiding in the coppice of the western bank. Dunlendings? He was not sure, but in the growing murk of the approaching thunderstorm he made out seven figures, at least three of them armed with spears. Thoughtfully he bit his lower lip. If there were not more of them there was a fair chance of picking them off from where he hid should they cross the river. If they decided to cross before the rain set in, that was. He was just an average bowman and he knew he would not be able to aim true once the bowstring was wet. And anyway a heavy downpour would encumber the arrow and make a good shot quite difficult. And he needed to warn Osláfa.

Having made up his mind, he hurried back, leaving the streamlet as soon as possible and made a beeline for the ruins of Acwuld's farm. Wulfrun looked up from where she was digging the patch that had been her kitchen garden before the wizard's Uruks had destroyed everything when she heard his step.

"Where are the rods? That's just you: Lazing all day and running for shelter as soon as a little rain threatens."

He did not oblige her by giving away how much her nagging annoyed him. His face deadpan, he shrugged. "Just shut it, Wulfrun. There's more threatening than just a little rain. There are men on the other bank of the Isen, watching the near side. Armed men, mind you, probably Dunlendings, and I'm taking no risks."

The old woman snorted. "There are men on the other bank. So what? Don't you know to wield arms? But I forget, you ran, when Saruman's monsters came upon us instead of fighting them as a real man should. What a poltroon you are! I'm just happy that your are not my kin, as I would die of shame, having a dastard like you in my family."

With two quick steps he was near her and towering the crone, he grabbed her arm: "Listen, Wulfrun. As you said yourself, I'm not your kin. And therefore I will not listen to your drivel. Your kin listened to you and they are dead now, slain by a force that any blind man could see was too strong in numbers to oppose. If you have at least a brain worth a wren's egg you'll take Stapa and ride over to Appeltun and warn Osláfa and the children. Tell her to make for the garrison at the Fords and inform the guards. I'll stay and try to at least lessen the Hillmen's numbers."

Not waiting for her reply, he went to fetch his bow. When he came out of the shelter, she still stood there, staring at him hatefully. He just left her standing and fixed the string to the bow and the quiver to his belt before he went to fetch the gelding from where he was grazing in what formerly had been fields. Talking softly to the horse, Frithuhelm saddled him, shortened the stirrups and then led him over to Wulfrun.

But the crone stubbornly shook her head. "I am not..."

He did not let her finish. Grabbing her round her midst, he made good use of his extraordinary height and simply hoisted her onto the gelding like a doll.

"If you lack the brain, Wulfrun, Stapa does not. And he knows the way. Hold fast now, if you value your old bones. To Appeltun, Stapa. Faer! Forth!" He gave the gelding's rump a hefty smack and then quickly stepped aside as the horse shot off, following the path leading north-east. Gazing after the galloping horse, Frithuhelm could not help a grin. Wulfrun might be pigheaded, but she certainly knew when she had lost a battle and now she quickly shoved her feet into the stirrups, leaning forward to ease the horse's movements. Despite her age, the woman was a good rider and he had no doubt that she would reach the orchard without any problem. If Stapa kept up a fair speed she would be there in less than an hour. And then? Frithuhelm sighed. They only had this one horse and in order to reach the garrison as fast as possible Osláfa would have to leave the children behind. There was the hide-out they had built in the crags further east and the rain would surely wipe out any traces, but it also would make it almost impossible for Osláfa to ride cross-country to the Fords. It would take her at least two hours to reach the garrison, and what would she find there? His face set with grim determination, he pulled the splitting axe out of the chopping block. The Dunlendings had no horses as far as he had seen, so it would take them at least three hours to reach Appeltun if they marched straight on, and he was going to make sure that they did not.


Annotations:

Cyning: (Old English/Rohirric) king

Fram Frumgarsson: king of the Riddermark; he killed Scatha, a dragon, and took the dragon's hoard

Scatha's hoard: The dwarves demanded that Fram should give them back their treasures that had been in the dragon's hoard, but Fram only sent them the dragon's teeth to mock them. That's the reason why they killed him

Baeccotlif: in Thanwen universe a small village in the Westfold

Appletun: Frithuhelm's farm and orchard

faer: (Old English/Rohirric) danger

Who's Who? (Thanwen universe)

Éomer: King of the Riddermark, said to have a tendency to fly off the handle

Lothíriel: Queen of the Riddermark, for good reason called skipflota cwen (pirate princess) by her husband

Éothain: the king's friend and captain of the royal guard

Erkenbrand: Marshal of the Westfold

Egefride: his mother, a clever old woman, knows Dunlendic

Leofwaru: his wife, a sweet-tempered lady, but not the brightest candle on the cake

Frithuhelm: a young farmer (widowed), the gentle giant of the Mark who can get quite ungentle if need be

Osláfa: his second wife ( Acwuld's widow ) has three children and is some years older than Frithuhelm

Wulfrun: (in "Winds" her name was Arild, but I changed that ) Acwuld's mother; not the most lovable contemporary, to say the least

Acwuld: farmer, killed by Saruman's orcs, Frithuhelm's former friend and neighbour

Stapa: Frithuhelm's horse, partly cold-blooded and well-trained

Airik: Dunlending, taken hostage by Éomer in the last winter, clever, ruthless and famous for her bad temper

Umirok: her baby-daughter