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Pitfalls of the Palantir  by Haleth

Anger was a potent fuel. It kept Haleth moving well beyond the time they normally would have stopped for the night.

Camp was cold and cheerless affair perched on the southern side of a small, rounded hill. It offered scant protection from the wind and none at all from the cold rain. The sleet extinguished their small cooking fire, making a bad situation worse.

Haleth huddled miserably in her cloak and leaned against the hillside, her mood matching her cold, wet, miserable surroundings. Of all of the stupid, thoughtless, arrogant things that Inglor had ever done to her, this had to be the worst.

The list was not very long when Haleth was being reasonable, but she was in no mood to be reasonable.

She glared into the night, vaguely aware that Inglor was somewhere nearby and very likely quite disconsolate. Not that his being miserable was necessarily a bad thing. His current unhappiness could be considered the beginnings of a payback for all of the frustration and sleepless nights he had caused her.

Haleth determinedly closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

The heat generated by her fury slowly abated. Cold trickles of rain soaked through her cloak and she began to shiver.

She stood up, intent on walking until she was warm, and almost became lost in the mist and darkness. The clouds loomed above, blocking the brilliant light of the stars.

Disoriented, she almost tripped over Inglor, who was curled into a tight ball on the ground. She loomed above him, glowering downwards, but he did not move.

She sighed in utter frustration. There was truly no point in staying angry with the elf. He would not understand and would likely dismiss her mood as yet another incomprehensible human whim.

Once she stopped moving, Haleth immediately became cold again. Her fingers were almost too stiff to move.

She seated herself next to Inglor's sleeping form and tried to think of a calm, rational way to explain her reaction to the news that he had lost her in a bet. At first this simply made her angry again because it should have been self-evident.

She dragged herself from the red edges of anger and tried to consider the situation from a calm, immortal, elvish point of view. Try as she might, she could not achieve the proper mindset. She could, however, shiver.

Haleth looked down at Inglor's recumbent form. The sleeping elf did not seem to be the least bit uncomfortable. He was most likely warm, though.

With her back to his, Haleth lay down next to Inglor and  once more attempted to sleep.

She must have dozed because she awakened with a start to an odd, rattling noise inside  her head. Her teeth were chattering uncontrollably. She considered her situation for several seconds, then rolled over and pressed herself against Inglor's back.

At first she felt nothing different. But slowly his warmth began to flow into her. Eventually she stopped shivering and fell into a dream-filled sleep.

The sun was up but still obscured by heavy clouds when Haleth awakened the next morning. Warm and well rested, she stretched without opening her eyes. There was something warm and soft all around her.

Her eyes flew open in alarm as she struggled to remember the events of the previous night. She had been desperately cold and had nestled next to Inglor and then. Good grief. And then what? Jumbled images passed swiftly through her mind and immediately faded to nothingness in the morning sun.

A strong arm was gently cradling her against what had to be a broad chest. With a great deal of trepidation, she took in her surroundings. The arm was wearing Inglor's sleeve.

"Good morning." Inglor's soft voice was directly in her ear.

Haleth hopped straight up as if a dragon had breathed fire on her. The sleet had changed to snow during the night. A fine layer of it covered the world as more flakes lazily spun to the ground.

"Good...morning," Haleth stuttered without looking at the elf.

"It's snowing," she said stupidly.

"Yes, it changed some time during the night."

Haleth was afraid to ask if anything else had changed during the night.

Inglor smiled at her as he got to his feet. Her whirling mind tried without success to interpret the faint smile.

"Shall we have something to eat?" he asked mildly.

"Why not?" Haleth said without moving.

He found his pack beneath the snow, reached into it and pulled out some dried fruit. Haleth gratefully took what was offered and wracked her unco-operative brain. A random thought wandered in and patiently waited for her panicked attention to notice it. It was getting frustrated and about to leave when she focused on it. Whenever there was something Inglor did not wish to discuss or explain, he simply did not mention it. That seemed the safest course of action in this case. His behavior for the rest of the day might offer some clue about the events of the night before.

Haleth stopped in mid-chew, remembering his confession of the previous day. Her righteous anger seemed rather beside the point now, but she could use it to justify her silence.

If she told herself that long enough, she might actually begin to believe it.

Inglor was asking her a question.

"I'm sorry?" she shook herself out of her distraction.

"Would you care to partake of this?" He was offering a small, silver flask to her.

Haleth eyed it suspiciously.

"What is it?" she finally asked.

"It is call T'Ang," he said calmly. "It was originally made for Eärendil for his voyages into the Void over the Walls of the Night."

Haleth unscrewed the cap and sniffed cautiously. It smelled of far off summer.

"It smells of oranges," she said.

"Yet it is not of oranges," he said.

She studied his face. It might be just her overactive imagination, but Inglor seemed to be wearing a look of mild anticipation.

"I think I'll keep this for later, if it's all the same to you," she said, replacing the cap and absentmindedly sticking the flask into a pocket. "Shall we go?"


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