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It was early evening when the long procession of dwarves came out of the forest, six days after entering it. At first everything seemed strange to Halldis because she had already got used to being surrounded with high trees and seeing just a small part of the sky. But the feeling passed as quickly as it appeared and she smiled, enjoying the open grass-land. The Wood of Greenleaves was behind their backs, while on all other sides huge plains stretched.
Northern and southern horizons were a flat green line, but the west looked just a little bit different. There were the peaks of Misty Mountains. They were several tens of miles away and in that distance they were just tiny specks, and moreover, they were partially hidden in the mist. But they could still be discerned.
They set the camp on the very edge of the forest; as they were close to it, Halldis and Tyra took their flagons, towels and spare clothes, and headed back to find some hidden place for freshening up. Of course, they were not the only ones with the same intention, so the edge of the forest was actually quite crowded.
"Hm, until now the washing was quite simple," noticed Tyra as they walked towards the forest. Really, they managed to wash themselves almost every evening, hidden from view behind the trees near the road. "Now that we'll be in a plain, it will be more difficult..."
Halldis frowned a little bit.
"Hopefully we'll make it somehow... We'll wait for the complete darkness, and then we'll find a spot further from fire-light and hold towels for each other, as screening."
"I bet there will be those who will jump into the Anduin to have a bath!" laughed Tyra. "Anyway, I hope we'll figure something out."
At that moment they entered the forest and started searching for a suitable location. Daylight slowly faded, but visibility was still quite good. In their search they entered the forest a little bit more, and Tyra looked up.
"Everything is all right, there is no huge spider-web," said the dark-haired dwarfess joyfully.
Halldis, on the other hand, looked at eye-level and lower than that.
"I see no ordinary web either. And there is no stream, be it enchanted or normal," she laughed. Then she considered the two quite wide trees and high bushes in front of them. "I think we don't have to walk further than this," she said and lifted her hand to show what she meant. "If we stand behind all this, nobody will be able to see us."
Tyra nodded in a sign of agreement. But when they went around the trees and the bushes, they stood agape.
Hidden until then from their sight, there was a cabin in front of them. It was very little and made of wood. On one side there was a small garden, and the well on the other. They stopped, cautiously looking around themselves. Tyra lowered her hand on the handle of her axe.
"Hm... I wonder if anyone is here," muttered Halldis. But she could see nobody. The only sounds they heard were made by their people, and they remained behind their backs, in the direction from which they came. The cottage was completely silent, and there was no one in their surrounding. The door was partially opened, and no light came through it or through the window.
"Looks like it is empty..." said Tyra pensively, and then suddenly extended her hand as if to show something. "Look at this!" she exclaimed and approached some bundles on the ground that Halldis hadn't noticed till then. Tyra lifted what turned out to be trousers, and the other item was a tunic. Beneath them there were leather shoes.
"Judging by the size, this must belong to an elf or a man, and certainly not a dwarf," said Halldis. "But where is he? And why would he leave his clothes outside the house, on the ground like this?" She looked around one more time, and couldn't prevent a nervous quiver. Tyra started to bite her lower lip.
Then they checked the surroundings one more time and saw that everything was empty, while still the only sounds were those of the other dwarves. They shrugged, then returned a little closer to the forest edge and to their compatriots for safety, and started to wash themselves.
Halldis then remembered the encounter with Darri that morning. In fact, if she was to be honest, she was remembering it often during the day. And that confused her. Why was she thinking about him so much?
"Tyra?" she called over her shoulder while washing herself.
"Err... do you remember the moment from few days ago, when that young lad called me a child?"
"Uhm, well... I met him again after that. Two times. We talked a little. Last time – this morning." She paused. "In fact, he happened to be in the group that saved me when I had strayed and saw a bear."
Water splashing behind her back stopped for a moment.
"Really? You didn't mention that."
"Actually, when I returned to the camp, I was still very much shaken because of the encounter with the bear and I couldn't think of anything else," explained Halldis. "And later I simply forgot to tell you."
She was silent for a few moments, occupying herself with washing again, and Tyra did the same. Then she decided to continue.
"As I said, I met him again this morning, when I went to take water. We talked a little..." she stopped, thinking how to articulate what she felt. "His name is Darri, and I'd say he is our age. He is a very interesting conversationalist... and funny... and, uhm... he is nice."
The sounds behind her back halted again.
"You like him?"
Halldis couldn't see her friend's face, but she didn't have to. She felt Tyra's smile just as she watched it with her eyes.
"Err... yes," she admitted.
"That is great, I am so glad," said Tyra with a warm voice. "I think it is great if you met someone nice and interesting."
Halldis smiled. Sister of her heart, always with her.
"Exactly." She then shook her head. "Looks like this journey is full of different surprises – from enchanted streams, over adventures with bears and spiders, to unexpected encounters..."
"Will you see each other again?" asked Tyra eagerly.
Halldis smiled. "You asked just the right question, and I was coming to that anyway. He said we could meet sometimes, that is, he asked our company to come to him and his friends. So that we spend some time together and have fun."
"We will surely go," came the statement from behind her back, and Halldis smiled again.
When she dried herself with a towel and put clean clothes on, she felt great, just like in the previous occasions. As for the tunic and underwear she wore until now, she planned to wash them the next evening, when they reach the Anduin.
And just when they meant to go back, they heard noises from the forest.
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