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Uvatha leaned back in saddle, enjoying sun warming his face, calmed down by monotonous sound of crickets in high grass. 
Almost two weeks passed, since he left lonely house of woman at the borders of small village and was still heading North, expecting soon to see at far horizon low peaks of Gray Mountains. 

The weather was warm and sunny, as even here, in far North, the summer was in it's full season. The road was empty and he haven't meet a soul since three days, when passed few merchants and one bigger caravan of dwarfs from Iron Hills. He remembered, one of dwarfs greeted him and asked loudly if didn't want to buy gems for a lady or crafted hauberk, but Uvatha just waved negatively. 
Sure? We have a good prices! - dwarf yelled from a wagon, opening own vest to show shiny metal under - Hand-crafted by Dain's folks! Won't find better ones! Or for your lady! Gold and agate, green malachite, will match her beauty!
Uvatha turned in saddle a bit. 
- I have no lady and my mare won't like those!

That answer caused burst of ribald laugh in caravan, making dwarf give up finally and let him go. 

He camped under the bare sky, though it was pleasant cause of nice weather and he felt for first time since long, peaceful and maybe even happy. 
There was an evening and last rays of sun made sky on the west red, while on the east all stars were visible clear already, as a tiny crumbs of crystal over darkening night sky. 

Uvatha tied his horse to a small tree, loosing it's girth and removing saddle for make animal comfortable. He stopped to be afraid of a chase, nor he believed a wanted latter would reach those lands - wild and forgotten. 
He slept well now, though still was waking up at dawn, as used to even when lived in own house, thousands miles away and as he had impression, also thousands years ago. 
He was now a different man, stronger and harder than before, having many grief and hatred implanted in his soul, though more stable as already taught by experience from last year, when hunted down felt like a wolf caught in a snares. He was tired, ready for a change, leaving behind an adventurous life of vagabond and occasionally a bandit, wanting only to be left alone in peace and get some decent job. 

He lay down on horse blanket, promising self, the man he robbed and killed close to Lake City was the last. He never had regrets when thought about people from own burned village, nor a guard that killed in Lake City, but that innocent traveler made him feel bad. 
He slept under starry sky, waking up again before dawn, saddling his horse and moving forth. 


The sun raised, and to his eyes appeared sudden looming peaks of still distant mountain chain. 
- Ered Mithrin. - he murmured, patting his horse's neck. 

Midday came and it was so hot, he took off his vest and shirt and rolled in saddlebags, getting shirtless though sweating still under bright sun as road was going through open lands, without trees to give some shadow. 
Finally it got colder, when sun went lower and slight wind dried his skin, making him feel better. There was no river nor stream in many miles, though luckily there was an old well, beside the tract, made for thirsty travelers and their animals. 
Uvatha dismounted and started to pull the wheel, making fresh, icy water flow into a chute, letting horse drink before himself put face under the stream, sighing of relief and filling empty canteens. 
He was still sitting close to the well, eating what lasted from his storage, when saw a horsemen coming from opposite direction. That made him calm about, the more was just a one man, looking curiously at him, when he stopped at same spot and dismounted. 

- Hope you days were good, anon. 
- And your nights calm. - Uvatha answered as a custom, in ancient manner - Are you riding from Forodwaith? 
- Yes.
- From Mithrin maybe..?
- That's right. There's no much more places to go. 
- Oh, good. I see, the road is safe? 
Man nodded, seeming surprised, when he seemed interested. 
- In summer is safe, yes, but there were rumors about easterling squads bothering caravans and mountain orcs attacking few times last winter. I'm moving to Dale... - he seemed to bit own tongue, before added "I sold everything I owned", not sure if the man wasn't a robber - Anyway, no one wants to travel there... Unless, have no were else to go.
Uvatha shrugged. He dressed shirt and got up, mounting his mare as was late already, close to sunset. 
- Have a safe road, stranger. 

Man bowed head slightly, taking the wheel and drinking from wooden mug, observing young, fairhaired man until he disappeared behind closest hill. 


Soon, Uvatha saw mountains clearly and they were getting closer and closer. Few more days left and he finally rode in middle of hills and rocks, right under the feet of Ered Mithrin. 
Another night he spend among rocks, warming up at small campfire, before fall asleep with back supported on a huge stone.

The road followed safely through, leading him through narrow mountain pass, sometimes getting no more than a trail that would let one wagon in a row, or two riders. It was somehow scary to ride through such narrow rocky throat and Uvatha was nervous, listening carefully and almost grimacing with each loud sound that his mare's hooves were causing on gravel and loose rocks as high walls of mountains were echoing every single whisper. He was looking also around all time, having in mind what heard about orcs making traps for lonely travelers or even whole caravans, painfully aware of own defenseless in such case. 

Road passed though without any threat, soon getting wider and more plain again, leading him straight into an open land, hidden in middle of mountains. He gasped, when first saw it. The plain seemed to be surrounded by solid and sharp rock walls, seeming hidden on purpose and guided by nature itself, being also exceptionally beautiful in rays of early sun, all green after monotonous, gray landscape of mountains. 
The land was very wide, seeming of oblong shape; he could see easily mountain peaks closing the valley at his front, though sides seem go endless both west and east direction.

He rode on the hill, guiding then horse by bridle, leaving it and climbing further by self, at it's top that was towering over whole plain surroundings, giving him a good observational spot. He was trying to see batter, narrowing eyes, now seeing a flickering of water far, on the western side. 
There were also rivers, as far as he could say flowing into the lake, unable though to see better. 
In the middle, there was a town. He saw maps and knew, the land was located in middle of mountains as in a cradle, from west side being limited by big lake that had it's source in high-mountain streams and only from the west opened endlessly, until steppes of Rhun, the easterling's kingdom. The land had it's ancient name given by elves, though people called it Mithrin. The town, laying in heart of this hidden, northern land, was called Talath. On opposite side there was another, smaller one, seeming more a village. 
Uvatha stood on the hill's top for some time, unable to stop looking at the land, feeling strangely moved by it's rough beauty. Also, what didn't escape his attention, the land had excellent strategic position; well guarded by mountains and the lake, just from the east being exposed for easterling attack what as heard, happened from time to time. 
He was wondering, if wasn't that cold and raw, with hard winters that made even mountain orcs and wolves coming down to try luck and find some food, the land wouldn't be more desired place to settle. 

He finally climbed down the hill, untying and mounting his horse and moving in direction of the town. He saw first poor houses made of rough wood and stone, hearing also barking of dogs. He was hungry already and his sensitive smell caught scent of fresh baked bread, as well of smoke and tar. 

He rode through dusty road that seemed a main road, not sure what to do, thinking about finding some inn first and eat, asking later for free room to hire. 

The town was wide, but seemed more a poor village. Houses were small, surrounded mostly with rough barns and chicken coops, having also wide backyards and behind, seemed to be a farmlands. 
Uvatha noticed, land though seemed green and fertile from far, was in fact rather barren. The soil was good, he thought, but it had to be cold climate that made farmers having poor yields, and farm animals seemed what mostly keep people here able to survive. 
Dust was raised by his mare's hooves, while he lead her in step unhurriedly, liking to look around while. 


Sudden, he heard something what seemed a weak, painful scream, urging horse to trot, looking around. 

He saw an old barn and from behind again was heard some noise. He nudged horse with heels, sudden stopping. There was a small girl, seeming no more than ten years old, sitting in mud and crying desperately, hold by one boy more or less in her age, while other two were kicking and tormenting a small, yelping dog. Tallest boy hit the dog with stick, laughing as it was funny, looking at the girl with malice. 
- I'll break all his legs! Mongrel won't run aga... - he didn't finish his treat, when sudden Uvatha jumped from his horse and thrown him on ground with much strength. 
He stood above the boy with cold, murderous look, kicking him very hard in stomach, stepping then hard on his forearm, satisfied with loud crack of breaking bone. He grabbed another one in one jump, hitting his face over bent knee before made him fall blackened, stepping on his palm with satisfying, audible crack as was breaking a thin branches. Boy howled, in man's opinion, as slaughtered pig. The third boy run away in meantime, letting girl free. Tallest boy was screaming now madly of pain and surprise, being silenced by short, strong slap, before Uvatha thrown him again with face down, straight into the mud. 

- Ye feel a hero now?! Fucking brat!!!

He pushed his head won, making him choke with the mud for few moments, tightened fists and stopping self with great effort from doing something worse, counting slowly in mind, remembering that killing two brats wouldn't be a good start in new society. 
He slowly exhaled, getting up, still almost shaking of fury, sudden turning to the girl who observed with wide eyes and face all red from crying. 


Uvatha crouched beside her, only now noticing, she had her right arm swollen and bent in unnatural angle. 
- Hey.. What's your name? 
Girl swallowed, muttering through tears and snot. 
- B-Brunhil... - she showed with finger on small, shaggy shape few feet away, behind his back - P-please, help my dog... They beat my dog, don't let him die...

Uvatha turned and got up promptly, crouching again above small, brown shape, that now seemed no more than a fluffy rag, though still was breathing. Uvatha examined him fast, trying to not move his small, tortured body more than unnecessary, seeing the dog was conscious and in great pain. It made his heart twitch, as always had weakness towards animals, hating to see them suffering. 

- They broke his leg badly. Open fracture. Some internal injures possibly... - he spoke aloud, instantly remembering all, his stepfather taught him - I can try to fix him, but I won't promise anything.
Girl nodded abruptly, unable to stop crying, not even wiping snot or tears.

In mean time, shorter of boys run away too, holding broken palm as a useless glove in skin color, full of broken bones. He was staggering while tried to run, looking behind just once to meet fairhaired man's cold gaze, what made him groan and move quicker. Another one was still on ground, seeming unconscious. 

Uvatha looked again at the girl.
- You seem also hurt. 
- My arm.. Hurts... - she looked at him miserably - They broke my arm! 
- Shhh, ok.. - he rubbed his chin, not sure what to do, willing to get rid of problem but feeling pity to just leave them alone - I'll take ye to your home and then back for the dog... 
- No! Take him first, please! 
Uvatha was surprised with that girl's bravery, specially she was so small and in pain too. 
- Right, listen.. I'll take you both, can be? You just need to tell me where do you live. 

He searched for a moment in saddlebags, unfolding clean shirt and spreading it on ground, ripping one sleeve, before took the small dog with delicacy, putting him in middle and securing his wound. Dog cried few times of pain, but Uvatha lifted him very slowly, not having much idea how to carry both at once. 
He approached the girl handing to her little bundle.
- Here... Can you hold him while I hold you? 
Brunhild nodded, taking from him the dog with healthy hand and seeming to trust him fully, screaming though piercing of pain when he too her in arms.


He walked with the girl, leading his horse by bridle loosely, trying to not think how it may look like - a stranger carrying crying, injured girl.

Luckily, the house was close. Girl pointed with chin, speaking with some difficulty, explaining was alone with her mother right now. 
Uvatha entered fast, not bothering self with knocking, just kicking the door for open. Inside there was a woman indeed, who got up seeing him, having wide eyes and screaming muffled.
- My child...! Oh my god, my little daughter!!! - she run, trying to take her away, but man pressed the girl to his chest closer, snorting at her to move away, while kid screamed of pain - What happened?! What have you done?! 
Uvatha turned eyes at her stupidity. 
- Are ye dumb?! Shut up and show me some place, I can put her down! 
- M-mam, he saved me... Don't beat him..!!! - girl screamed, making woman finally understood and back to conscience, after slapped the man in face, who barely noticed though. 
- Here... - she showed a small bed in corner, covered with linen scarfs and wool - Oh my god... What happened...?

Uvatha lay the girl down, taking the bundle away from her and resting in bed's feet gently, noticing she was sweating of pain, suddenly pushing her mother back. 
- Don't touch! She has arm broken! - he turned to look at woman's face finally. She was middle aged, with first wrinkles appearing in corner of her lips and eyes, with typical northern features and dark hair bond in tight bun. She looked at same time scared and defying; stubborn look he never liked - Heat some water and bring me clean linen tissues and herbs. And needle and thread! Be quick about it!

Woman turned fast, running to heat water in big, cine cauldron, putting all utensils neatly. Uvatha took out a knife, cutting girl's upper clothes for see her arm, making her mother inhale deep and protest hysterically when saw. 
- Want me to help?! The stop being dumb, do your job! 
Woman listened after short hesitation, biting nails while observed the unknown, young man exposing her daughter's arm and shoulder, pressing here and there in what seem a skillful way. She thought he must be a medic, wondering frantically what happened, though afraid him again to rise his voice at her, choosing to stay silent and do what he wanted. 

- Sweetheart, your arm isn't broken, just knocked out of the pond. - he spoke to the girl, who seemed much more reasonable than her mother - Bone is whole, but I'll have to set it on right place, ok? 
Girl looked down anxiously, trying to see how was her dog, raising then reddish eyes at the man. 
- Could you just.. Help him first..? Please, I don't want him to die. 
Uvatha smiled and turned head as amused. 
- Look, it'll take just a moment, then I'll take care of your little buddy. Will ye let me set your arm? 
Girl nodded, seeming calmed down and trusting him. 
Uvatha stood up with one knee over bed, along girl's side, holding her arm and with other hand her back, securing the grip with elbow. 
- Now relax... Just like that. I'll count to three and then pull, ok? 
- I can't.. count.... 
- Right, then tell me your parent's names. 
- My mom's is Lorain and... AAAUUUU!!! 
She screamed very loud and piercing, together with audible knock of bone jumping in right place, crying after while Uvatha secured her adjusted arm with a scarf, speaking as calming. 
- It's alright... Arm is fixed, brave girl. You just need to lay and not move it for few days. - he helped the girl to lay down, looking up at her mother, who stood at the kitchen furnace, pressing one hand to her mouth and staring with watery eyes - It's the water ready? 

Woman moved back, making a place when he walked and took the cauldron, throwing some of water at the bowl and sterilizing knife and needle. He waited until water cooled down, using the time to throw everything from wooden table, putting the clean scarf over it. 

- What are you doing? 
- I need the table, I'll sew her dog. 
- But we eat there! 
Brunhild raised head as desperate. 
- Mom! 
Woman just sighed, turning to the sink and saying anything more. She was staying there, crumpling her gown's collar, sitting then with her daughter and looking at her injury, not touching tough and only asking if she was hungry.
Girl refused, observing with reddish eyes fairhaired man putting her little dog over table and washing off the blood, sewing then his wound and stiffening his leg with two sticks taken from furnace. Animal was silent all time, what made him worry, as it was sign of dog loosing strength. He finished, thinking did all could, preparing a small bedding under girl's bed, taking the dog gently and resting his body there, after gave him some water. 


He sighed as tired, sitting over the chair, turning to the girl. 
- I did my best, but he's in bad state. You'll have to ask someone for look at him.
Girl looked at him serious, saying thank you. She looked calm now, but very tired, having circles under her eyes, laying back when he suggested. 
Uvatha looked at woman, who was cleaning the table already, seeming very tensed. 
- Won't you offer me something to drink? I'm thirsty and hungry. - he looked the girl again, trying to soften his voice - Your daughter will be alright, no worry. Few days and she can run around, actually. She's in slight shock though, make her verbena tea, or better if ye have something stronger...
- We don't drink alcohol in this house. 
He made exaggerated sigh. 
- Alright. But at least some supper I could have? 

Woman nodded and started to prepare food. She put in front of him a plate with big piece of cheese and basket with fresh bread, cutting some vegetables from garden and pouring milk. 
- I'm sorry, we don't have meat today. - she hesitated - Would you like fried eggs..? I should thank you... 
Uvatha waved as it was obvious. 
- Eggs will be nice. 
Woman put three at a big pan, frying on some butter and adding fresh spinach. 
- I still don't know what happened... 
- Your daughter was beaten by three brats. They also mutilated her dog, I guess... 
- Hama was trying to protect me... - girl spoke in weak, sleepy voice, calm after drink verbena - Erol started to pull my hair... I fell... And he bit Eorl's shin and then they started to kick him... 
- Brunhild, I was telling you to not walk alone far from house!!! 
- Lady, they caught her very close to your house. - Uvatha spoke with full mouth - But I guess, for some time they'll leave her in peace.
- I'm so sorry... - woman sat on another chair, on opposite side - When you came in, with her crying in arms... I thought... - she silenced, seeming to hold tears, wiping them with gown's hem - I didn't even ask for your name, sir... 
- Uvatha. You must be Lorain. 
- I'm very thankful for what you've done. 
- That's ok. I hate animal cruelty... 
Woman was silent, looking stealthy at his face, seeming still tensed in his presence, asking just once, if he wanted a makeweight. 

He wanted, and she got up again to the kitchen, when suddenly door opened, letting in short, darkhaired man with skin burnt from sun. 
- Lora! You made an early supper? 
He sudden stopped at door, letting fall a bucket that was carrying, staring at unknown man in middle of own house, eating his food and then, at the bed where his little daughter was laying with arm bandaged. 
- WHAT THE HELL?! Who are you, for Valar??! 
He moved fast, making Uvatha get up and retreat instinctively, but both woman started to speak fast, making the man confused, not knowing what should do. He heard much about bandits that were saw around, though young man at his front wasn't an easterling, not he seemed to be hostile right now, and man's daughter's and wife's explanations made him chill. 
He run though fast to daughter's bed, to see if she was alright, embracing her gently for not hurt her arm. 
- What happened?! 
He was told everything, this time mostly by the girl. 
- And that lord saved me. - she said on end with almost adoration in her voice.
- I'm not a lord, just Uvatha. 

Uvatha approached the man, reaching his hand, seeming to leave. 
- Thanks for a supper, I was starving. 
- Hm.. At least that I could do. - man also got up, shaking his palm and stopping him - Wait, are you new 'round here? 
- I arrived just today. 
- Wait, take a sit please. - man seemed now much more polite, making him stay - My name is Rowan. And I would like to thank you, from all my heart for saving my little girl... - he seemed to have a tight throat, making Uvatha notice promptly it wasn't a bad man at all and he loved his daughter crazily - Those little bandits... She told me they were making fun of her, sometimes pulling her hair... But I thought wasn't serious, you know? Just a stupid boyish things. I was telling Brunhild to ignore and behave like a lady... It's my fault! If I knew, I would go to their houses and... - he tightened fists, hitting the table. 
Uvatha grinned slightly. 
- Then I guess, you'll be glad to hear, there's no need to worry about them. - he widened grin when man looked up at him - Let's say... I gave two of them some lesson, how boy should not behave. 
- Good! - man raised his hand and hit fist over table again - You made good! I would rip the skin of them, if got in my hands first... 
- Broken wrist will take some time to heal, so Brunhild can feel safe for now. 

Rowan suddenly got up and embraced other man, who stiffened surprised. 
- Thanks you again. I have a debt towards to. 
Uvatha forced weak smile, not used at all to such displays of gratitude, suddenly thinking about something. 
- Listen... I have no place to sleep and it's almost dark already... Could you maybe find me some corner to stay for the night?
- Yes, sure! We have just one room, but you could maybe sleep in a kitchen... 
Man's wife seemed anxious, interrupting as rebuking. 
- Rowan! 
- What? He saved our daughter! 
- But we don't know this man! 
- Maybe a barn... 
- Barn will be perfect. - Uvatha cut it fast, thinking would like it even more than dirty house floor - Thank you, I'll take my horse in and sleep on attic. 
Brunhild made a sound of cheer, appearing to be awaken and listen everything, making her father smile. 
- I think it's even better... You could eat with us at morning and take a look on her.


At night, when girl fall asleep finally, man and woman in house were speaking in lowered voices, sitting at the table. 
- Come on, Lora! I couldn't just kick him out, not after what he did. I don't even want to think what those little bastards would do to our Brunhild... 
- Langue, husband! 
- ... And he didn't even wanted our money for cure her. - man added as didn't hear wife's rebuke, thoughtful - And the dog. I think it'll die still, but at least he tried and my girl has now some hope... She can say goodbye and what's better, I didn't have to kill it by my hands... 
- But you left the stranger man to our house! We don't know him! We don't know if he may be some bandit, or a thief... 
- Stop it. - man got inpatient, waving as was casting away insistent fly - I said, he'll stay for a night and morning. I think he's a horse medic or so, but how cares, seem better than one we have here. And if wanted to steal something, he would do already, you were two defenseless in empty house. 
- He said, he broke that boy's wrist. Who normal would do that?! 
- If I was there and saw my daughter hurt, I would do no less! 
- But... 
- I said, he stays. 

Woman seemed not convinced, though not arguing anymore, as understood, this time her husband's word was the last word. She got up in silence and washed the dishes, going to bed then. Her husband joined, but she turned on other side, unwilling to let him touch, to show own displeasure. 


Uvatha took own horse to the barn, letting it drink first till full and unsaddling, throwing all on ground. 
He cleaned animal's fur with hard brush, doing everything fast and skillful, though himself was very tired. He felt also pleasant warmth in the stomach, after ate decent warm meal, willing to just throw self over the hay bales and sleep. Before though, he cleaned self best could using bucket with cold water from the well that brought, snorting when throw it over own sweated back. 
After felt a bit cleaner, he took own belongings and climbed upstairs, using a ladder, sitting there and spreading horse blanket over fresh hay and straw. 

It didn't took him long to fall in deep sleep, feeling safe finally, though keeping a dagger close, just in case. 


Warm sun rays woke him up and first, he was confused, seeing wooden ceiling and golden smudges of light falling through holes, remembering all after a moment and stretching arms with sigh. 
It was so good to sleep under the roof finally, not feeling wet ground nor morning dew under his back. It made him lazy and sleeping a bit longer, too comfortable to get up at dawn. 

It was still early, but sun stood already high, when he woke up for second time, sitting finally and taking with fingers few straws from his hair. He slid down on ladder, remembering his host's offer and going out for late breakfast. 

Lady of the house was awaken since dawn, seeming not very happy to see him, though the man was around, sitting at table for make company. 

- Morning. - Uvatha greeted him, looking at the girl, who was still sleeping - How's she? 
- Ah, good, I believe. She woke up before and drank warm milk and now again slept. 
- She was in shock, yesterday. Give her some time. 
He got up, approaching the bed and looking down at floor, checking the dog. It was still very weak, though looked at him, wagging his tail very weakly, what made Uvatha more optimistic. 
- You can give the dog some milk too. I think he'll ok. 

- Who are, a vet? - Rowan asked with full mouth, when woman put in their front thick bread slices, oates, milk and slices of cold ham with fat rim. 
- Yeah.. Kinda. My father was a medic, but I'm better with horses than humans. 
- Were are you from? 
Now it starts... - Uvatha thought. 
- Rohan. But I spend some time here and there. 
- I understand.. You look like a rohirrim, I knew from first time I saw! 
- I guess so... 
- So... - woman supported palms over the table, when put on the pitcher with hot coffee - What were you doing, sir, before started to travel..? 
Uvatha sensed some trick in her voice, knowing she wasn't convinced to him at all and willing to find something wrong about him, making effort to speak calmly and politely. 
- I think it's obvious... I was treating horses. 
- In Rohan must be really a lucrative job. - woman sat, taking self a slice of bread and putting butter over - Why would someone leave such a nice employ and travel here, where winters are rough and soil hard? 
- I think, that's too personal, Lora. - man said fast, in tone as was excusing his wife - If our guest will like, he'll tell us in time... 
- My home burned down. - Uvatha spoke harshly, while eating - I lost everything in fire. Nothing left dear to my heart on the South. 
- Oh my gods.. I'm so sorry. - Rowan rubbed his face, seeming truly worried - That's horrible accident... 
Lora nodded, looking at young man as checking if he was saying truth, though excused own curiosity, blushing almost imperceptibly. 
- Maybe more coffee? Let's talk about something more pleasant. 


It was midday, when Uvatha went to the barn to saddle own horse, being stopped by Rowan. 

- Listen... - man seemed in good mood, as his daughter woke up and was cheerful, not seeming in pain as much as wasn't moving injured hand - There are two inns in the town and another on western borders, but that one is filthy... And other two have free rooms for sure, but they'll rip a fortune of you. If you don't have much money... You could stay here, for some time. - he noticed other's surprised, speaking with slightly lowered voice - I know, my wife doesn't approve... But is that, she's very mistrustful towards strangers. Woman here... Have a rough life, and they taught to be hard to survive. I trust you're a decent man and I'm grateful for what you've done more than anything. I have also a horse and few cows and I would like someone skilled to take a look on them, but I don't have money enough to pay to only vet here. He lives far, at another side of country and I would have to pay twice. 

Uvatha got interested, thinking that may be not be so bad for couple of weeks. He also needed to save some money, as the sack he stole from an unknown man at the lake, was almost empty. 

- Alright... Sounds good. What else ye want me to do? 
- I need someone to help in minor repairs around the house and most important, with the harvest. It's a summer, soon there will be much to do. 
- And in exchange, I can stay here and have a meals? 
- That's right, you can eat and use every convenience we have here... Just sleep in the barn, I won't be able to convince Lora. I'll bring you blankets and some candles... 
- Good, seem a deal. 

They shook hands, and man went to his house to pick few old and torn blankets, giving to other some time to settle. 


- Tomorrow you can help me with fixing the roof. - he said later, at supper, what Uvatha confirmed with curt nod. 

Lady of the house seemed upset and worried, excusing self and going to bed earlier than usually, embarrassed with presence of other man inside the house, though her daughter was cheerful about, curious of young man as rarely was meeting anyone from outside the village. 

Uvatha asked where could take a bath and man showed him cauldron they used for heating water, as well a place outside the house, at it's backyard, which was in fact on fresh air, having just a linen curtains as cover.
- During the winter, we used to bath inside. - Rowan explained - But for now that's not a problem. Not a luxury, I know. 

It wasn't a luxury indeed, Uvatha thought, but he felt as one when finally could use warm water and clean self twice with gray soap, doing it at evening, when others were already asleep. 
He stood on thick wicker mat, cleaning self and drying in towel that still smelled fresh as was washed before, with wet strands of hair falling over back, thinking if that was a good decision to stay.
He didn't want to be someone's farmhand, but on the other hand his host seemed nice and had a debt, so it shouldn't be bad. He wasn't also afraid of physical work as did many in past, thinking still that was better than hire a room until money will be all gone... What probably would happen in few weeks, even if he would tight the purse strings. 

He dressed self in additional clothes that had saved from travel, throwing dirty ones to big basket used for laundry, walking back to the barn. 
Now, with blankets and candle lit, it was very cozy. He had only to be very careful about the candles, picking a place far from hay bales, securing it over one rough wooden bar supporting the roof. 

He lay on back, regretting had nothing to read beside old maps, staring at the ceiling, seeing through one bigger chink a moon on clear night sky. 
Soon, he was asleep, sleeping well whole night and waking up at dawn, as old habit. 


First thing he did, was walking behind the barn to piss, too lazy to visit old, almost falling apart privy which was behind the house, close to fields. Then, he walked unhurriedly in direction of house, hearing noises of woman making breakfast. 
They all ate fast and both men left for prepare some tar and other things to repair the roof, hoping to finish before sun will start to heat mercilessly. Uvatha took an old ladder from barn, carrying it on backyard and soon him and Rowan were sitting over the roof, painting with sticky substance and gluing together with straw and some linen pieces. 

They finished at late afternoon, all sweated, with hands dirtied black, going down and washing before the dinner. Uvatha was cursing, unable to get rid of tar from his fingers, both waiting for woman bring hot oil, what only helped to get their hands finally clean. 

Later, Uvatha went to see Rowan's horse, discovering it was kept together with two cows and few goats in another poor building, that supposed to be a stable. 
Cows were already on the grassland, as Rowan took them out at dawn. 
Uvatha saw, animal was in surprisingly bad condition, seeming sick and weak. He entered the place, speaking in calm way, but horse seemed indifferent, only when he approached, turning head to sniff offered hand. 
- Hey, buddy.. Let's see what's up here. 

Uvatha examined horse without haste, seeing it was a gelding and a very old one - what partially explained his terrible look. It had yellowish, used teeth, as well few abscesses from horse-fly bites and most probably laminitis. Uvatha looked closely at his legs, discovering short after it was indeed the painful illness, he suspected. He narrowed eyes, stroking horse's mat fur, looking for some brushes and things to clean.

It took long time, before he finished, though animal looked far better after grooming. Uvatha planned to clean his hooves and ears, as well to cut short his mane which was too messy to brush, before start to heal his health and skin problems. 

He sat on box stall's wooden door, wiping forehead from sweat, leaving gray smudges from dust. 

- Hello. - he turned, hearing girlish voice - Are you here, sir? 
- Yeah, come in. - he saw she brought some water and food, feeling glad about it and taking all - And not "sir", just Uvatha, ok? 
- Sorry. I brought you a sandwich. - girl was staring at him with obvious curiosity, while he unwrapped from linen cloth two very thick bread slices with cheese and onion in - Are you treating our horse? 
He started to eat, still sitting over the stall box, above her head. 
- Yeah. I hope so. He's old, isn't he? 
- Yes, older than me! Daddy said... - she seemed to think hard and he guessed, she was trying to remember the number - ... he bough him... I think ten years before I was born. 
- Ah, that explains alot. How old are you? 
- Ten. But almost eleven, I'll have before winter. 
- Uhm. - he wasn't sure how should talk with such kid, feeling slightly embarrassed - So... Your horse is above twenty. That's much for a horse. 
Girl looked worried, trying to look inside the stall. 
- He'll die soon..? 
- No, I didn't say that. But it can happen in few years... Maybe faster, depends. - he observed the girl who sneaked in, approaching big animal, wondering if her father let her to do it - He's sick. 
- I know. - she said as was obvious, turning to see his surprise - I can see how he moves, he can't walk properly and stopped to run. Father says, he can still work but I'm pity.. He seem in pain. 
- Well, you're much right about that. 

Uvatha felt interested slightly, in spite of himself. He never liked children, always feeling annoyed when saw any close, not having any good will nor patience to them, though that particular girl seemed smart and not annoying, so far. 
Girl was passing hand along whole horse side now, as admiring. 
- He got so smooth... 
- I cleaned much crap off him. - he smiled slightly, when girl chuckled with word he used as it was forbidden - Literally. Horse must be brushed everyday, know? Else, their fur gets mat. And all that dirt and sweat is like invitation for horse-flies, who suck it's blood and shit over. Here, I'll show you how... - he took a brush, making few fast, strong movements together with direction of fur growing, taking then a harrow and rubbing brush over - Like this. See, how much dust stays? You must also clean his mouth and groin with sponge, I won't do this now to not bother him too much, but if you want, I can show later. 

Brunhild was very interested, trying to it by self few times, liking to be around as that man seemed nice and was talking to her like to one adult, in her opinion. 

She was also still amazed how he saved her from the boys, remembering all with details though pretending to not, as refused to share with her mother, knowing instinctively, she wouldn't approve such thing. 
Herself though, felt special for being protected in such way, looking at the man as he one almost one of ancient gods, finding him strangely winsome. She didn't know much about manly attractiveness, nor was yet interested in boys of her age, having for now just vague feelings of interest and admiration when looked up at him, different than to her father or any man ever knew. 


Uvatha ate everything and gave her empty cloth back, together with mug. 

- Be nice and give it back to your mother. I'll finish here. 

He was back in hour, feeling tired and very dirty, smelling with horse strongly, going to wash self before supper. 
He took off upper clothes, braiding sweated hair untidy and throwing back, washing forearms and face in cold water. He snorted and dried own chest hastily, seeing sudden the girl staring at him from far. 

- I'm coming! - he waved for her, thinking she was send to call him for supper. 


Rowan and Lorain already sat at the table, together with girl who was eating as starving, seeming already good beside arm still wrapped in scarf. 

- Thank you for spending so much time with my horse. - Rowan served him a fried fish - Eat, fresh trout from river. 
Uvatha took two fishes, only now feeling how was hungry, speaking with full mouth. 
- He's not well. Beside old, he has laminitis. 
- What..? 
- A founder. 
- Oh.. Damn. 
- Rowan! - Lorain looked at him rebuking - Not in front of child! 
- Sorry, my love. But it's bad... - man ate another piece thoughtful - I hoped for have some use of him few more years... Can you cure that? 
- I'm not sure. - Uvatha took a bread from basket - I have experience and it all depends. Some horses can be healed, some not. I'll finish him tomorrow and clean his sick leg, I did just a grooming part today for see better his condition. 
- I know, I may not have cared properly... I'm too busy with everything here. 
- Yeah. Listen, there's some medicines, I'll go tomorrow to the town and try to buy some. 
- It's expensive..? 
- Not much, I can make it myself, but I need to buy ingredients. 
- Oh, that's a good news. 
- The bad is, if his hoove is badly attacked, it may not pass. I already saw, it's deformed... I'll try to file it off a bit, should help him with walking. 
- Right, good. It all started since he stepped on a stone in the field, I think... Was some two years ago. 
- Possible. Injures like that can be dangerous, without proper care. 

They finished supper and he was back in the barn's attic, after cleaned own horse who spend whole day at fresh air, running free among farm animals. 
He covered self with blanket, making in mind a list of things to buy tomorrow, falling sleep fast. 


- Sir! Uvatha! Wake up! 
He opened eyes instantly, sitting confused when saw Brunhild staying on ladder and looking at him as desperate. 
- Wha... Get off from the ladder! - he leaned down to see if she went down safely - Fuck, your father would kill me, if ye fall. 
He censored self, though girl didn't seem to notice the curse, very worried about something. 
- What happened? 
- My dog... He pisses with blood.. 
Uvatha rubbed face, feeling still confused by sleep. 
- Ok. Wait here, I just wear a shirt. 

He dressed self fast, buttoning in wrong way, jumping down from upper steps on ground. 
They walked fast to the house, but the dog was outside, where girl left him to when run for help. It was before the dawn and sky still was gray, though birds were singing already, when Uvatha kneel beside small brown shape. 
Dog was freshly bandaged, as he changed it day ago, showing also the girl how to do it properly. Wound seemed to heal and looked good as far as he could say, though something had to be wrong. He started to touch and press slightly on dog's sides and belly, seeing indeed there was small amount of blood around his legs and groin. 
- Have you seen that? It was much blood? 
- Not much but... I took him to pee cause mother gets angry when he does at home and... I was holding him and he started and there was blood... - girl seem very pale, barely holding will to cry - Will he die..? 
Uvatha was some time in silence, examining the dog carefully, before answered. 
- It may pass... I suppose, they damaged his kidneys when kicked him, he's very small... We'll see in time. For now just give him milk, water and food and look carefully at him. 
- He'll piss with blood..? 
- For some time. If won't get worse, it may pass by self. 
Brunhild stroked the dog, who wagged with tail weakly and licked her hand, doing same when Uvatha caressed it's head. 
- Brave little guy. I hope he'll make it. 
- Yes.. Thank you si... Uvatha. 
- It's early still. Go to bed. 

He looked behind the girl until she was back, closing house door carefully, though himself wasn't sleepy anymore, going to the well and showering place, circling then around kitchen's window to see, if there was something interesting to grab. He took one apple from windowsill, eating lazily while backed to the barn. 

When sun appeared, he heard the house was awaken, after the breakfast saying was going to the town. 
Rowan gave him few cooper coins for herbs, asking also to by some pepper and salt. 
Uvatha saddled own horse and moved in step, leading it straightly through main road, curious how it all looked, as didn't leave the farm since arrived. 


The town was poor as well, though still seem civilized compare to village borders, having also much houses, market stalls and stores in middle. There was also a big square, where was the main market, as well two inns, as Rowan said. 
Uvatha first rode unhurriedly along the street, dismounting and buying all stuff needed. He bought also for self two big bottles of apple cider and hooch, and some dried meat straps to chew. 
There was much food over the stalls, mostly meat, fishes and vegetables, as well few had leather wares and weapons, making him look interested, he thought, it would look weird if was back to the farm with sword sticking out from saddlebags. 
For rest of own money, he bought a thick, fur waistcoat for colder nights and a pint of beer, which drunk on place, giving mug back to old, fat woman. He was tempted for a moment to stay longer and visit some inn to take a whore, but decided to not as was out of money and promised to back at evening, leaving that on next occasion.


He prepared medicine and it took long, making him busy around the kitchen until late. 

He left all to cool down at windowsill, on next day taking care for a horse, first fixing his hoof as far as could without cause pain to animal. 
Brunhild was around all time, as father left her, only making warn to not move close when Uvatha was using a saw, nor approach the horse from behind, what she already knew. 
She was watching young men first cleaning gelding's hoof, while held it supported over own bend knee, then cleaning it and rasping carefully. 
Uvatha was surprised, she stay for so long when noticed her presence after some time, not feeling it bothering but rather useful, as girl handed him different objects when asked.
- Isn't that boring job, for a girl? - he asked, working leaned over horse's hoof, supporting self over it's side - You supposed rather to play or I don't know... Cook or something. 
- Cooking is boring. - girl chuckled - But worse is doing laundry. 
- So, ye prefer to be a blacksmith? 
- I would, but woman can't... 
- Who said that? - Uvatha finally put horses's leg on ground, wiping forehead from sweat. It was big and heavy animal - Ye would be the first one. I heard, she-elves craft weapon, sometimes. 
- Really? - Brunhild crouched closer, not noticing her dress was already all dirty at it's bottom - Have you seen elves? On your own eyes? 
- No much. They don't like to mix with us, humans. But I was in Rohan and saw few trading there with marketers.
- And how they look like? 
- Like everyone, I guess. - he sat on turned bucket, wiping hands in dirty tissue - One head, two legs... 
- You're joking me! 
Uvatha laughed. 
- I mean that, just as humans but most of them are tall and slender... And more beautiful, I guess. They have young or middle-aged appearance, but people say, some are older than all human civilization and you can see in their eyes. But I never was close enough look in she'elf's eyes. - he winked - I prefer real woman, I guess. 
- She was a warrior? 
- Maybe. 
- I would like too.. I don't want to spend whole life in the kitchen, as my mom. 
Uvatha looked amused, getting up and stretching back. 
- Most of woman prefer that way. Know, find a husband, have children, care of house and stuff. 
- Boooring...
- I think so. 
- I would like to be a vet, like you. Or travel... And see warriors!
- And marry one... - he grinned maliciously - And carry his child...
- No! - she chuckled - Stop it!
- Don't want to merry? 
- No... 
- Then, ye have to learn some craft. And don't get pregnant too fast... - he sudden bit own tongue, censoring self, remembering that talked with ten year old girl - You didn't hear that one, understood? 


He spend many days similar, not even noticing it passed already more than two months. 
It was August and harvest time was close, so him and Rowan slowly were preparing everything, making place in the barn and underground cellar, where man used to keep potatoes, beetroots and apples as ground protected it from heat and cold in winter. 

Uvatha used to farm life, liking somehow peaceful monotony of habitual three meals at common table and physical works. He knew, Rowan was developing some kind of friendship towards him, seeing the man was glad with his help as together did imposing work there, specially around the house and with animals. 
Uvatha achieved to cure old gelding, if not entirely then at least horse was now in much better state, able to do work on the field. Uvatha was pity of him, offering own horse to do it, if old one would get worse from hard labor. Houses's roof was all almost new, as well the barn's had no more holes. 

He was feeling good around his host, as Rowan was not stupid and easy going man, though to own surprise, mostly got used to his daughter's company, who was around most of time, if only mother let her go from house duties. 
She had her eleventh birthday and her parents made a festal supper with cake and sweet fruits served after roasted meat. 
Only Lorain seemed still hostile and suspicious, and Uvatha had impression, it had something to do with her daughter's liking towards him. 

Himself, he was feeling well during that time, eating well, even if was a simple food and having a place to sleep, though slowly started to think about saving more money to buy a house or room, gaining some from time to time as Rowan recommended his skill to few local farmers. Some paid on cooper, some in food and crafts, but he had also few good clients ready to give silver for their worthy animals. He didn't tell anything yet to Rowan, though he suspected, his wife was bothering much about money issue. 


Indeed, Lorain talked again about it, using time when young man, as she called him, was not around, bothering her husband while he ate a late snack before bedtime. 

- It's just not right, he has his gains, should buy food too... We have many needs... 
- Woman, I told you already! - Rowan was already pissed, unwilling to listen, sometimes dreaming about simply telling her to shut up - He works hard here! Can't you see? House and yard never looked so good, I wouldn't do a half without his help! And horse... 
- Horse and horse! We have daughter, you should be worried about her future dowry! What you'll give to her future husband, huh? 
- Damn, Lora! She's eleven! 
- Do not curse, my man. I know, it's no much to proper age, I want a good candidate for her, but who'll take a poor bride? Only another poor! 
- Stop it. She's a child yet. 
- Not for long. I was given to you, when I was seventeen!
- Gods... - Rowan rubbed own temples, loosing appetite - What do you want, him to buy her dresses or what?!
- I'm just telling... 
- I told already! He's working hard and for that he can use our hospitality as long as needed! He doesn't even eat much, for sake, he eats less than myself! 
- But, Rowan... 
- No, stop. Just stop talking, I have a headache. 
- He smells with booze sometimes... 
- And what? 
- I bet, he goes for a... prostitutes! - she almost spat out, disgusted by word - What's an example for our daughter?! 
- C'mon... He's young. Young man has his needs. 
- It's disgusting. I don't want you tolerate this in my house and... 
- I told ya, I have a headache!

Woman got up, taking roughly his plate with half eaten fritter. Man looked at her again, pulling hair in short ponytail, as tired. 

- Why you don't like him so much..? 
Lorain stopped washing the dish, not looking at him. 
- I don't trust him. 
- Why, for sake? 
- His eyes... He has so cold eyes, even when he smiles... Didn't you notice? 
Rowan snorted. 
- Stupid old wives' tales.... 

App. II - Story of one nazgul from the times before he received the ring. 
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