Ringo loaded the shot into his blunderbuss, keeping an eye on the bear cub. It had seemed dangerously interested in the targets a little while ago, but now was rolling on its back in the snow, playing with a large pinecone, flinging it up in the air with all four paws, then catching it, growling and biting it, rolling and tumbling through the snow in mock combat with the defiant toy.
“A dream?” Beli stood behind him, her hands wrapped around a mug of scalding morningbrew. “Like a vision?”
“I told you, I don’t know,” Ringo lifted the gun, bracing the stock firmly against the meat of his shoulder, sighting carefully. The metal disks atop the split logs had once been Dragonmaw helmets, but after countless target practices, they had been torn to ragged metal shreds by shot. Periodically, Ringo had one of the Anvilmar smiths heat up the helmets and bang them back into more or less circular shapes, but at this point, no one would know without being told they had once been helms worn by the orcs who had conquered Khaz Modan during the darkest days of the Second War. “I just had a dream.”
“Did any ravens talk to you? Or turn into magicians?”
He lowered the gun and looked back at her over his shoulder. He couldn’t tell from the eyes peeping over the rim of the mug whether or not she was teasing him.
“Nay, missus,” he sighted the targets once more, then squeezed the trigger. The shot went wide, spraying the snow with pellets, and he lowered the gun to adjust the sight. The bear cub had squealed at the thunderous noise, and had burrowed under Beli’s dress. “I’m not Thrall.”
She grunted, squatting down, pulling her dress back, exposing the bear’s face, cooing softly to calm him.
“You never can tell.” She glanced up at Ringo. “Dun Morogh has a lot more problems than just your bad dreams.”
“Aye, I know.” He returned the gun to his shoulder, sighting again. “Frostmanes, Rockjaws, Dark Irons.” The shot rang off the helmet, spinning it off the log. “I’m thinking we need to restart the militia.”
There was a silence behind him, and his shoulders stiffened. He had meant to have a few beers in her when he brought this up. He turned, hands spread in the helpless supplication all husbands learn as a survival instinct soon enough.
Beli was stalking off through the crunching snow, the bear jumping happily along after her, misreading her return home as a sign of dinner. He could see her fists clenched in anger.
“Maybe I better camp out tonight,” he murmured, pulling on his mustache.