Ioreld’s Tale: Into The Northerlands (part 11)

The Greenway, though in grave disrepair, still showed the way as we passed through the desolation of Minhiriath, though at times it was little more than a paving stone every mile and a shallow rut between them. While the road seemed to fade away more as we neared the Gwathló, its stones devoured by the increasingly sodden lands, the ruins we saw grew more prominent. We might see sections of wall, or crumbled cellars, or even an archway left standing with only a piece of the wall straddling it on either side. Shadryn’s enthusiasm for exploring these ruins was only increased as they became more substantive, and I had to set a limit on how long we waited for her digging at each one, or we might not reach Bree before winter.

It was near nightfall when we first caught a glimpse, perhaps a half-league from the road to the west, of a ruin that comprised enough fragments of wall to suggest the shape of an entire building, and even some small pieces of roof still spanning corners in places. Shadryn’s breathing quickened and she fidgeted in the saddle, anxious to explore, but before she could gallop off towards the ruins, I held up one hand. “This one, we shall pass untouched,” I decreed.

Though my eyes were on the ruins and I could not see her, I could hear her exasperation well enough that an image of the expression she wore rose unbidden in my thoughts. “But these are the most pristine we’ve seen yet!” she exclaimed.

“And do you see anything moving there, hear anything?”

“No!” she proclaimed with a hint of victory in her voice. “It’s perfectly safe.”

“But look and listen in all other directions. What do you see and hear?”

She swivelled impatiently in her saddle. “Nothing. Just birds.”

“Birds everywhere except at the ruins,” I said. “They avoid the place. Why do you suppose that is?” I turned to watch her consider this question.

“Perhaps they just don’t care for the stone,” she protested feebly, but even she could tell this was not a satisfactory answer.

“More likely there is some predator that makes its lair in those stones. It’s too dangerous.” Her stricken look pierced me to the heart, so I added, “There will be many more, my Lady. I make it not more than two weeks before we reach the great city of Tharbad, or whatever of it has not been washed away by the Greyflood.” But she had turned her back on me angrily, and did not speak to me when we made camp. She did not even deign to listen to the songs I played before the camp-fire.

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