Ottor cautiously lifted the leathern flap over his tent’s doorway, hand automatically tracing the runed hilt of his dagger. His small crew had camped near the shore, in sight of the longboats. Harald was always a bit partial when Northmen sailors visited his realm, and allowed them leeway. Such as camping by the sea without too many permissions or tolls.
The soft knock on the wooden shorings his tent had come from the taller of the two hooded figures. The other one seemed to be lolling, almost collapsing. A drunk tavern-wench perhaps? Ottor did not budge from the door.
“May we come in? It is a dire time, and you do know that you have always waited for something like this.” The Rider from the tavern! The rest of it was not spoken words, but things Ottor himself seemed to think: in those sudden gusts of chill clarity out of the West. When you dreamed of sailing beyond the westering Sun. Into the Uttermost West. This may be the time to sail the waves of your dreams
He did not know how, but next they were seated as well as they could on his lumpy mattress. The Rider’s companion was a woman – all green eyes and golden tresses bundled up in a dark cloak, breathing raspy and uneven. Near to death. Ottor stared, bereft at this strange spectacle.
“My name is Elentyaro, known as the Hargrim Rider in these parts. And you are Ottor, who shall sail beyond the Sundering Seas to those white shores that have often pulled at your soul.”
Ottor felt a vast understanding through his bewilderment, that needed no words. “And she is…”
“Very sick. Her time here in this diminished world, little remaining as it was, is now almost used up.”
Goldberry was like a guttering flame throughout that night. Elentyaro laved her feet in the brackish water that stood in a pail. Ottor sat silent and watching, as beings that peopled his half-forgotten childhood yarns passed before his very eyes.
At last she spoke. “Elen..tyaro. I must see the Swordbearer, since you too cannot bear the burden.”
Ottor then saw that part of the Starlord’s swordhand was charred, with jagged rune-like patterns somehow etched into it – an eerie menace emanating from them.
Elentyaro grimaced. “This is the Shipwright, my lady. Since the Starsword is broken (he looked disgustedly at his own injured arm) we shall need a new one.”
“Can the Shipwright not weild both tiller and flail?”
“No.” The answer was definite. “Nay lady, this is not the age of Heroes. Better two mortals for two tasks.”
“Very well” A sigh like the wind in weeping willows. “Then go forth my lord and bring the Swordhand hither. I shall tarry as long as I may. Ottor shall guard me til then, will you not?”
Ottor looked into the limpid pools, and bowed his head.
Without a word the Rider left, his cloak billowing out as he rode away like a grey ghost into the stony hills.