Chapter 4: Westward Borne

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Three days passed without return or sign of Harthorne.  A storm rolled in from the north to swell the banks of the Veeterloude even more than before.  the waters rose to cover the porch of the dockhouse promising to invade the interior.  Perforce, Beomund and the others retreated to one of the older buildings that stood farther from the river. Though more safely removed from the the waters, it was half fallen in disrepair; its crumbling walls stood frowning with the threat of collapsing in upon the party with the slightest of gusts.

The lack of proper shelter added to the already miserable circumstances.  Having already endured much misfortune the past few days, the whole of the group sacame to melancholy.  Nothing was said between them for some time, and all endured the rain in silence, no longer questioning its presence, but accepting it as immutable fact and reality.

But when the lower level of the dockhouse was at last submerged later that day, Beomund resolved that they could await Harthorne no longer. Rising he declared, “Time and weather will not suffer us to wait here any longer. Harthorne, for what reasons I know not, has not returned at the appointed time and we ourselves have tarried here overlong.  I fear that this has become our lot, to wander from place to place overstaying our welcome and testing the patience of our temperamental hosts, the elements.”

With that, all rose and gathered themselves and what provisions they still possessed. Eomund untied the horses as he ruefully eyed his father.  Turning to Lithos, he patted the beast’s neck and said to him, “We’re off again. I’m sure you’d like to go home, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.” The horse nuzzled Eomund’s chest reassuringly and then shook his wet mane.

They traveled westward along the consistent bank of the Veeterloude as it sought its way to the sea.  If the going had been swift two nights before, it was now slow and laborious. The rain fell constantly, and the grey clouds above hid the light of the sun like a jealous king hiding his gold.  Though the banks of the Veeterloude were generally high and rocky, the ground in places still proved soggy and toilsome.

Around noon, they took shelter under a mass of trees that had fallen in the fire to form a crude hovel. After having a miserably cold and wet lunch, the party once again moved on. The rest of the day was much the same as the morning, save that everyone proved to become colder and increasingly dejected.

Beomund had hoped to find some form of shelter by nightfall, but this proved fruitless.  At best the party found a semi-circle of trees not far from the bank of the river.   here they camped and the men fashioned a crude lean-to, which rather than shield from the rain proved only to change the situation from smaller more frequent drop to larger infrequent dripping.

Still, no one complained, lacking the will to do so at this point.  That night no one took watch, for there was nothing to watch against save the endless rain that fell from the sky.  They attempted to build a fire, at which they partially succeeded.  Much of the wood was wet and the fire needed constant tending.  Never amounting to much of a flame they eventually let it die on its own.

Sitting in the darkness, Beomund began to chuckle and then said all at once, “Rain in abundance and over late to quell that beastly fire, but enough to snuff out a fire we make in need of warmth!”

No one knew if they should laugh or cry, and thus none replied and the group fell silent once more.  If anyone slept that night, it was little, and provided no rest.  The second day’s march proved even more difficult than the first, because they soon came to a thicker part of the forest, where the trees had been larger and greater in number.

Navigating the fallen trees and avoiding the fall from the high river bank proved a taxing prospect, especially with the horses in tow. By the afternoon they came upon one of the larger streams that feed into the Veeterloude and found no place to cross, so near the banks of the river.

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