Third Age 1106 The Carrock - On the Edge of the Wild
Clouds of black smoke rose into the sky, obscuring the last remnants of daylight as the setting sun bled into the horizon. A dreadful tragedy had unfolded earlier that day far away in the North. There, amidst bleak mountains, stood an orcish stronghold that was as hideous as it was evil. Jagged were its towers and windowless its walls. It was a desolate place, condemned to a forlorn existence in a barren wasteland, where neither Men nor Elves would ever dare set foot, unless utter despair drove them into those forsaken lands. Yet someone had come, someone who surely did not belong there. A fair Elvenking, noble and proud, had gone into battle with fierce determination in his eyes and the desire for retribution in his heart. Bright gleamed his armour and his silver elven swords were eager to taste blood. His warriors were most valiant and their shields were raised bravely in defence of their king. But alas, it was to be an ill day for all that was good in this world and the rising fumes were only the echo of the terrible events that had shaken the earth beneath.
Many leagues further south, on a rocky outcrop as grey as the leaden sky, stood a tall and imposing figure. Wrapped in a coarse grey cloak and leaning on his staff, he appeared like a watchful sentinel, weathered and old like the stone under his feet. He drew his bushy eyebrows together in a frown, keen blue eyes gazing intently at the unsettling sky above him. He may not have been able to see whatever was causing this disturbance, but he did not need to, as the forerunners of doom rolled in from the North towards the vast woodlands that stretched out before him. Black clouds, thick and heavy like stone giants, thundered through the sky and their low growling swelled to a deafening rumble as they drew ever nearer. A hushed whisper went through the trees, the wood creaking as if in a desperate warning and then suddenly a flock of birds broke through the net of twigs. Like a myriad of winged leaves, startled by the oncoming storm, they shot up into the sky, their cawing drowned by the roaring wind.
The watcher nodded gravely, his eyes following the black specks until they disappeared from his view. So the tidings would take wings faster than what he would have wished for. He couldn’t linger much longer. The evil in the air was palpable as the howling wind picked up speed, crashing against his lonely vantage point like a pack of hungry wolfs. Still, something kept him from leaving, and he turned his concerned gaze back to the forest, where the trees stood huddled together, an army of trunks and branches bracing themselves against the incoming assault. The angry tempest raced over the treetops like a ferocious tide, rattling madly at everything that offered resistance and the trees sighed and shivered beneath the force that hit them, but stood their ground, ancient and resilient as they were.
But then the sky unleashed a power so great it seemed to tear apart the earth itself. A lightning ripped through the sky, cutting across the clouds like a sword cleaving through a veil. In the blink of an eye it had found its target right in the heart of the forest, a mighty oak, taller and older than all the other trees surrounding it. An ear-splitting noise rent the air as it struck the tree, splintering the wood with an overwhelming ease that was frightening to behold. The shockwaves of the sudden impact reverberated through the forest like a ripple through water. A moment of deadly silence, then came the fire. The cloaked man on his outpost gripped the staff tighter with both hands, his eyes widening at the terrible sight as the ancient guardian of the forest succumbed to the power of the flames. Bright like a torch the tree burned, the clouds glowing orange where the flames pierced the darkening sky like blazing spikes. This was the beginning of the end. If no help came, the fire would spread, the majestic trees reduced to nothing but blackened stumps, and the creatures and elves that lived within doomed to a horrible fate.
The old sentry looked around, but there was none other to ask for help and so he did what he had to. For a moment he seemed to grow taller, awe-inspiring even, like a statue of old. Muttering indistinctly under his breath he thrust his staff hard into the rock, a faint glow emerging from its top and then gossamer threads of silver spun themselves around it, shooting up into the sky like bundles of starlight. And so another force arose against the destructive one of the fire, rushing to the aid of the withering tree. It was not a moment too soon, for the flames were ever hungry for more, greedily devouring whatever they could. Bathed in blinding light, the rock and its solitary occupant could be seen from afar like a beacon of hope in a black sea of despair. Rain began pouring down in thick and heavy drops, erratic at first, but then the heavens above opened their floodgates and unleashed an unbridled torrent upon the earth. A grey curtain enshrouded the forest, drowning out the flames and depriving the fire of its power, thick wisps of smoke the only evidence of the disaster that had struck just moments ago. The sigh of relief on the old man’s lips was lost in the splattering of water, as he slowly shrank back to his ordinary appearance. Droplets so dense they appeared solid rather than liquid were bouncing off of the rocky ground. In a matter of minutes he was soaked from the tip of his pointy hat to his toes, ankle deep puddles forming rapidly around his boots.
“And so it begins. The deadly shadow moves with haste and without pity,” he muttered into his tangled beard, the water trickling down the brim of his hat like rows of silver beads. “But where there is darkness, there is light, however dim it might appear.” He adjusted his belt and pulled his hat further down to shield himself from the rain. “Far must I travel to find it though, much further than I have ever wandered.” And with those words he turned around and was gone, his cloak a grey ripple in the wind.