Zaradanoric awoke the next morning refreshed. As Zaradanoric ate breakfast Althanier told him that Barain would only be in the village for another day and they would need to prepare for their travel. Zaradanoric listened and thought then he remembered something.
“Althanier, what happened to the sword pieces I was carrying? They are very important to me.”
“Child, we placed them in a bag we made for you,” the Earth-kin paused and handed a specially knit bag to him. This bag contained all his belongings and supplies. Althanier spoke, “Zaradanoric, I have a feeling that you are going to be very influential in the years to come. Be careful in the wild.”
Zaradanoric was confused but he nodded and left. He spent the rest of the day packing and talking with Barain about their trip.
“My boy, we will set out tomorrow morning quite early. Our destination is Othrikar and the trip will take almost a week. It could take less if you hike faster but I am not sure how much speed you could manage. Winter is upon our doorsteps and foul evil has begun to lurk the road could be dangerous but I don’t think we should be in too much trouble. When we get to Othrikar we will look for a Ranger and since they are your kin you will go with them for your safety.
Zaradanoric nodded because his head was swimming with so much information. He was excited and somewhat scared. He laid down to bed and fell asleep to the sound of Barain’s raucous snoring.
When they rose in the morning it was dark, cold, and there was a heavy rain pouring down. Zaradanoric was handed a rain cloak and ankle-high boots and he followed Barain out of the Earth-kin camp. They began to head north and as a chill breeze began to blow.
Barain complained, “We will have to be careful. Harvest season is almost over and winter comes! The rain may turn to snow before too long!”
Zaradanoric nodded and replied, “Wouldn’t the snow be to our advantage though? It would cover our tracks.”
Barain smiled at the youngsters attempt think strategically about a situation and replied, “Nay child, when it stops even a blind orc would be able to follow us. Good thought though. If we are lucky we might get to the tip of the mountains before the snow hits.”
With those words leaving Barain’s mouth the rain promptly changed to snow as if it were listening. The ground began to gather a white covering as they trudged. It lent a festive look to everything all glistening in white.
As the snow began to fall Barain grumbled, “Me and my mouth. I say it shouldn’t snow and there it goes! Bah!”
Zaradanoric chuckled at the irony and Barain, seeing the humor began to chuckle as well. They walked for a good potion of the day slowly eating from their packs. They ate only enough to keep themselves going and the snow continued to fall. As dark fell Barain began looking for a spot to sleep amongst the trees. The snow only came to Zaradanorics ankles but it showed no sign of stopping. Zaradanoric found a small copse of thorn bushes. After wiggling through an opening Barain and Zaradanoric found a small hollow about ten feet tall and 15 feet across. It was completely dry inside but quite cold. Barain went out into the storm to gather wood and Zaradanoric prepared the food. An hour later they had hot food and were somewhat comfortable.
“Tonight, we will post watch. While we are in the wild this is the safest thing. I will watch from sundown to midnight and you will watch from midnight till dawn. You should get some sleep. You are going to need it.”
Zaradanoric did as he was told and settled down in the dirt and dead leaves on the ground. The warm air in lulled him swiftly to sleep. After what felt like only a few minutes Barain awakened him at midnight.
“Your turn lad,” the dwarf paused for a yawn, “Nothing has stirred so far but keep awake. Don’t hesitate to wake me if you need to.”
With those words the dwarf promptly fell asleep on his feet and fell face forward onto the ground snoring before Zaradanoric could catch him. Zaradanoric watched with mixed shock and amusement at the dwarf for a moment then he turned his gaze towards the entrance they had disguised.
Some time later Zaradanoric was startled by the noise of footsteps in the snow near by. He slowly moved towards the entrance and looked out through the thick brambles at the snow-laden forest. At first glance he couldn’t see anything, but out of the corner of his eye he saw something move. Staring hard against the blowing snow through the brambles but only caught a glimpse of a canine looking animal. The rest of his watch Zaradanoric was on edge but nothing came.
When dawn came, it was barely perceivable through the blowing snow. Zaradanoric work Barain, who went to his bag and retrieved a flask of whisky, after a quick sip there was a noticeable difference in the dwarf’s countenance.
Barain belched, sighed, and handed the flask to him. “Here lad. Take a sip of this. It will warm your body and make you bolder.”
Zaradanoric took the flask and sipped. Struggling not to gag as the liquid, which felt like fire, flowed down his throat. Gingerly handing the flask back, Zaradanoric choked back the last sip of the fiery draught. Barain began to laugh uncontrollably.
“Boy, that was the finest funniest thing I have ever seen. That was family dwarf brew beer. It could lay most men flat and many, including your father, didn’t even swallow the first sip! Ha! You showed them didn’t you!”
With a slight buzzing in his ears Zaradanoric began to laugh a felt pride mixed with sadness. He was proud of what he did but sad that his father couldn’t be there.
“Well Barain,” Zardanoric coughed several times, “My father always told me that if I was going to drink I needed to be able to hold it down.” After saying this Zaradanoric began to cry a little, the fresh memories brought emotions he couldn’t control.
As he sunk to his knees crying, he felt Barain roughly hug him and move him back on his feet. “There, there, lad. I forgot that you aren’t a seasoned battler like me. Have a good cry and try not to dwell on it. Remember; don’t let evil drag you down. Let it motivate you to beat it back!” Barain looked out at the sky and surroundings. “Now tis time to get moving we are going to lose time in this snow storm.”
Zaradanoric wiped the tears from his face, got up, packed his things, and followed Barain out of their hallow. Entering into the cold white worlds around them, Zaradanoric realized that it was snowing heavier and the sky was darker than the day before. Barain looked around and headed off the same direction as before. Zaradanoric followed after and walked into the snow.
Several hours later as the conditions worsened, Zaradanoric heard Barain swear.
The stocky dwarf turned and shouted into the wind “By Durin’s Beard! This snow must be a trick of the enemy. I haven’t seen this since the winter of the battle at Erabor! Come here lad!”
Zaradanoric leaned into the gusting and walked up to the dwarf. The stocky dwarf tied their wrists together with a length of rope before explaining.
“We use this in the mines when we are exploring! This should keep us together!” The dwarf shouted and carried on.
As they marched Zaradanoric noticed cebain gathering and what may have been wargs in the tree line. As he marched he touched Barain’s shoulder and motioned silently at the gathering animals.
The dwarf singled a halt and spoke to Zaradanoric in the gusting wind. “Lad we are probably going to be attacked. We need to dash up that hill when we get to the top we should be near the low hills of Nan Amlug. If we can get into the hills we can get to the watch post and they will take us to Othrikar! Now we have to run. Ready? Now!
With that the dwarf and young boy dashed towards the hill through the snow and wind at full speed. And the enemy followed.