Khemlal’s young son met Berendil a few paces from Hanasian’s tent but as much as he wanted to go, Berendil forbade it. When Khemlal met with Berendil later the boy again begged to go with Berendil. Such was the burning eagerness in his young face, fierce and strong, but Khemlal agreed with Berendil and forbade it. Instead, he dispatched his eldest daughter to go with them. This made Berendil uneasy and he was reluctant to have Khemra with him but resisting her fathers could well create yet more difficulties and the company had enough of those as it was. He acquiesced finally and limited Khemra’s role to that of a translator. As he praised her fluency with Westron, Khemra remained impassive. As far as she was concerned, she was not there to act as a guide and translator no matter what Berendil’s thoughts on the matter were. Aside from his party of six, only Hanasian, Khemlal and his young son knew why they went north. But maintaining that secrecy would prove difficult. Disguising Molguv as anything other than Haradrim was nigh on impossible but Khemlal assured him that Haradian traders would, at times, venture into Khand to ply their wares. Instead, it was Berendil and the other northern men that would stand out. Khemra came to their aid here and provided them with clothing that covered to some degree the strangeness of their garb. By the time their preparations were concluded, the setting sun had finally broken free of the clouds and they set out into the rapidly approaching night. The stars guided them through the darkness and by the morning they had come to a village known as the crossroads. There they rested and took time to eat and observe the locals at a small trading post. The men had some hot, bitter, brewed black liquid that Khemra eagerly sought. Berendil didn’t care for the taste himself but it was quite invigorating. Molguv too seemed to know of it and he promptly set about trading with the proprietor for a small bag of the beans it was made of. Judging from the grin on his face, the Haradrim seemed quite pleased with the deal and when they set off again, the sun was once again obscured by clouds. It approached midday by the time they reached what Khemra said was the land of the northern clans. A sense of emptiness could be felt in the air. Aside from the old and very young were there, few others remained. Khemra attributed this to the war but even though she had endured this amongst her own people, she seemed troubled. Berendil ordered them to move west along a rocky ridge that afforded a good view of the village below. Once in place, they settled in to await night’s cover for a stealthy approach. The day passed, hours turgid, as the sun burned off the lingering clouds. The clear night that followed allowed them to watch for shadows, and there seemed to be a lot of men filing out of a small shelter and heading with speed into the night. Too many Berendil thought. It did answer where everyone was, but what were they doing? Khemra said they have underground dens to protect them from Khand’s harsh heat, and further that there were many such places. She pointed them out now, but none had so many depart at once as this one. He took two men with him to explore further and made for the shelter below. They gained the door and paused to listen. There was not a sound now, the strange and urgent procession of men now ended. Berendil stepped inside with one of his men, leaving the third stationed by the door within clear view of the three he had left upon the ridge. ”Be vigilant,” he warned, ”For we know not what we will find.” The two men nodded tersely at him and Berendil padded through the door to find a sweeping set of steps carved into the very rock itself. It sunk deeply into a black maw. He stared at it, glanced at the lanky Ithilien Ranger that accompanied him, and began to descend.