In the morning, the weather had turned cooler than previous nights, and Balfrith was glad that he’d been able to sleep near a fire. He found his sword and other belongings laid out next to him on the ground, and looked around for Eldamir, to thank him. But the young Elf with the strange sense of humor was gone.
The other Elves - Balfrith corrected himself mentally, Elefdar - were already up and moving about, packing their things in preparation to depart, so Balfrith jumped to it and got his few things put away in his rucksack. Branulf, he once again tied securely along the side of the pack. It didn’t take long, and soon enough he was ready to depart.
Eldamir was still nowhere to be seen, and Balfrith approached the Elefdar leader, steeling himself to ask what should have been a simple question, but for the fear he felt in this Elf lord’s presence. Finally he saw that Felaranthir glanced at him, and so he said, “Excuse me, my lord Felaranthir, but do you know what happened to the Elf who brought me in last night? I think his name is Eldamir.”
The Elf nodded, “Yes, I sent my son on to prepare the way for your arrival. He will come behind us, for he had several errands, but fear not - you may see him again.”
“Ah - good. That is, I am glad to hear it is that simple. Thank you, my lord.” And he bowed again, beginning to back away, but then Felaranthir interrupted his retreat.
“Master Balfrith - my son retrieved your things last night after you fell asleep, as I’m sure you noticed.” Balfrith flushed, embarrassed, and nodded. Felaranthir continued, “I am curious, where did you get it?”
Balfrith hesitated a moment, realizing he couldn’t tell the whole truth but afraid to be caught in a lie. “The sword? It belongs to my family, my lord. But it is cursed, or so my father says. He didn’t want it in his house any longer, and so I thought to bring it with me, in the hopes that the magic of the Elves could somehow remove the curse.”
“Cursed? This is something we will need to discuss further, before I allow you to bring it within the borders of Illithëon. But for now, I suggest you leave the sword sheathed, and covered. There are other eyes that occasionally watch our footsteps, and I would not draw unwanted attention to this thing. I will summon you later, after we make camp in the edge of the forest.” Felaranthir then returned to his own preparations, dismissing him.
Balfrith wandered about the small camp, watching the others as they completed their preparations to depart. The Elvish tents appeared to be made of silk, sewn together in large panels of different colors, forming rainbows of fluttering cloth as they were collapsed and folded, and tucked into sturdy sacks for transport. Aside from the tents, the Elves seemed to travel very lightly, for they only had a few riding horses, but no pack mules or wagons. Men and women moved about the camp, each obviously knowing their areas of responsibility, packing away the smaller equipment along with the tents, and loading up the horses to depart. A few Elves glanced back at him as he observed, but most kept to their own business, ignoring his presence.
The sky had started clear, but as time wore on, steel gray clouds gathered overhead, obscuring the sun, still low in the eastern sky. Balfrith thought it would probably rain later in the morning, the way the clouds looked. He went back to his rucksack and pulled out a hooded cape that he’d packed for just such weather, wrapping it over his shoulders and ensuring the clasps would keep it in place even if a heavy wind arose.
Finally, the Elves began mounting their horses, and Balfrith suddenly realized he had no beast of his own to ride - how would he keep up with them? He began looking around nervously, wondering if any of the Elves would be willing to offer him a ride. In the midst of this, Felaranthir approached upon his own steed, and looking down at Balfrith, said, “Well, lad, I suppose you’ll be needing a ride?” and he winked, showing just the hint of a smile.
Balfrith, relieved, said, “Yes, my lord. I seem to have left my horse back home.”
“Indeed, from what my son told me, you seem to have left a few things behind, of late,” replied Felaranthir.
Balfrith flushed, for he knew the Elf lord referred to his belongings, especially Branulf, which he’d left behind when following Eldamir to the Elvish camp. “Y-yes, my lord. It won’t happen again.”
“I’m certain of that. Come, climb up behind me and we will cross together. The Asca is no small stream at any time of year, and with the spring thaw it runs especially strong right now.”