If vengeance had a voice
The figure standing on the very edge of the bridge had at first glance looked like something very different, perhaps a pole wrapped in cloth, some sort of scare crow. It wasn't until it moved that they realized that it was a person and yet they didn't understand what this being was about to do. After all, the very concept is suicide is something elves have a hard time understanding. It wasn't until the figure slowly tilted forward that their minds did register what this was. The howling wind and the rain that was hammering against everything made it hard to see and the river that ran underneath the simple stone bridge was roaring like some giant beast. This was an autumn storm of almost violent strength and they were in a hurry for more reasons than just one.
It was Elladan who saw it first, the road was transformed to a stream and the horses were walking through the mud and water with their heads low. The riders kept their hoods up and were crouching over their saddles, trying to defend themselves from the cold wind that seemed to go straight through their clothes. Everybody was drenched and miserable and the front riders were desperately trying to catch a glimpse of their destination. They had to reach the village in time! Elladan had seen some light off in the distance and was pointing to make the others aware of it when they first saw the bridge they had to cross, and the lone figure standing on it. Or rather, on the wooden railing built along it to prevent carriages and people from going over the edge.
It was such a dark day and even elven eyes have their limits, the figure could have been anything really, dark cloth flying around it and for a moment Elladan had thought that it resembled a ringwraith, his father had shown him drawings of such back home. But then the wind had grasped onto the thick dark cloak and pulled it aside, revealing a shock of dark blonde hair and then the figure had taken one step forward into thin air, tilting forward almost in slow motion. They had just stared, confused and in disbelief. Then Glorfindel had let out a shout and spurred his mighty white charger onward and into the river, leaving the other riders staring in disbelief.
Earlier that day:
The battle had been a small one, the victory relatively easy since the group of orcs had been completely unprepared for the sudden arrival of three elves and a group of dunedain rangers. They had followed the orc pack for two days and were set on avenging the small village the filth had plundered. There had been nobody left alive and the orcs had perhaps gotten a bit too cocky since they didn't anticipate any sort of retaliation.
But they were sorely wrong, whilst trekking through a narrow gorge arrows had started raining over them and before long the orcs were all dead. It had been easy, almost too much so. It was ironic though, the battle had been so short nobody had time to even break a sweat and nobody had gotten injured. But afterwards? That was when it happened. Elrond's young fosterson had helped Elladan search the dead orcs for anything valuable or clues as to where they originated from and he had slipped on a loose rock and fell. The fall itself was harmless, normally they would have just joked about the clumsiness of the second born and laughed a little but as he tried to break his fall with his hand he accidentally cut himself on a blade a dead orc still clenched in its fist. It was a small cut, it bled a little but wasn't too bad and it shouldn't have caused any problems at all if it hadn't been for the fact that the blade had been poisoned. And the poison one they hadn't encountered before.
It hadn't taken long before Estel was shivering, sweating and delirious and since they had left Imladris thinking that they would only be gone for a day or two they had brought only the most basic medical supplies such as bandages and some painkillers. Elrohir and Elladan found some herbs which could counteract poisons but they didn't work that well and before long they realized that Estel was in real trouble. Riding back to Imladris would take three whole days since they had forgotten all about time tracking those orcs and they knew that they had to get Estel under a roof and dry and warm if he was to make it. The group of dunedain rangers were nervous they would lose the young man but Elrohir was pretty sure he would survive, although it would be agonizing and he had to stay indoors.
One of the rangers knew of a village not too far away and he had a friend there, they could probably stay there until Estel was out of the woods and they decided that it was their only chance. The cold weather and the rain sapped the wounded ranger of strength and the poison was wreaking havoc upon his body. They were told that the village was rather small, it had once been important and rather grand but as time went by it had diminished and now it was really just a place most people had forgotten about. A road had been changed some hundred years ago and there had been a mudslide too which drove people out of the area. The ranger who knew of the place told them that the inhabitants were good people although a bit old fashioned and very superstitious. The elves ought to hide their identities and allow the ranger to do the speaking.
They had ridden hard for almost an entire day before they found the old road and now they all longed for some rest, a warm place to sleep and perhaps some food too. And their horses needed a stable, and needed it badly. When Elladan first made them aware of the lights in the distance they all felt relieved but it soon changed as they witnessed how the figure on the bridge fell forwards and plunged into the raging torrent.
None of the rangers had time to react, but Glorfindel did and Elladan let out a shout as the huge elf made his horse jump into the river, the water was deep and the current very strong but the strong horse managed to keep itself upright while the rider let himself be pulled along with the animal. The others rode along the river, shocked by what they had seen and very confused too. Before long they could see that Glorfindel had gotten hold of something that almost resembled a sack of some sort but it was most certainly a body. He shouted to the horse to make it swim towards the shore and the others threw a rope at them to help the elf and the steed fight the river.
It wasn't easy, and they had to ride for almost a mile before the balrog slayer and his steed managed to get back onto dry land. The horse was shaking all over with fatigue and Glorfindel was shivering too from the cold water. He held the body tightly against his chest and the rangers helped him lowering it to the ground gently. It was a woman, hardly more than a girl and she was alive although only barely. Elladan and Elrohir managed to get the water out of her lungs but she was unconscious and almost blue in color. The rangers looked very sad and angry. " We have to go, she'll need help and so does Estel, we cannot linger here"
Elladan nodded. " You are right Haskald, show us the way to your friends home"
They mounted their horses again and rode on, it was late and very dark so nobody saw much but Haskald found his way rather easily. On the outskirts of the village there was a rather huge building with a tall fence around it, it could perhaps have been an inn once upon a time but now it was just a private home.
Haskald rode up to the front gate and hammered his hand against the solid oak. A short while after a man opened the peephole in the door and stared at Haskald who whispered something swiftly. The gate was opened and a rather short and stocky man appeared in the opening. "Hurry, get inside, it will not be good if anyone sees you here"
Haskald seemed surprised but the man shut the gate the moment the last rider had passed through, he almost ran in front of them towards a stable with room for many horses. " I am afraid you will have to take care of your steeds on your own, I do no longer have any servants here."
Elladan saw that the place once had been well taken care of and probably a wealthy establishment. Now there was a very distinct feeling of decay hanging over the place and the man wore rather shabby clothing and he was unwashed and looked nervous. They quickly stabled the horses and one of the rangers volunteered to rub down Asfaloth since Glorfindel needed to get some dry clothes on right away. The man who owned the place stared with huge eyes when he noticed that three of the riders were elves. " Oh my goodness, I am honored, but I wish my home was more presentable. Pardon the primitive conditions."
Haskald frowned and stared at the man. " What has happened here Thorwald? This used to be a nice place and now you look as if you are afraid of thine own shadow?"
Thorwald sighed and gestured for them to follow him, Glorfindel still carried the unconscious girl and Thorwald got aware of her. " Who is that? What has happened?"
He stared at her and Estel who Elrohir was supporting and Elladan answered. " Our fosterbrother got injured during a fight against orcs, he has gotten a poisoned wound, and this girl we just saved, she threw herself into the river and Glorfindel here pulled her out"
Thorwald went over, removed the cloth covering her face. " Oh Eru's mercy. That is Ingelda, the blacksmiths daughter!"
He opened the door and they entered a rather huge room that now seemed rather empty. Once it had probably been filled with guests, tables and benches and life but now it was dark and rather dank and not very inviting at all. Haskald looked even more confused than before. "You haven't answered my question my old friend."
Thorwald got the fire going in the hearth and started pulling blankets out of a closet in the corner. They looked as if there had been mice living in them. " Oh, that question is not so easily answered Haskald, but I will try, once I have gotten some heat into all of you, and perhaps some stew too"
He grasped a huge kettle and put it over the fire, started throwing stuff into it with a remarkable speed. It was obvious that he was used to this. It didn't take long before he had cooked up some stew and the wet and cold rangers had been able to get out of their soaked clothing and gotten warm again by the fireplace. Estel was almost unconscious but Elladan was using as much healing energy on him as he could and Thorwald had entered a side room and returned with some boxes of dried herbs, including athelas. It was obvious that this man knew a lot and that he wasn't just anybody.
The girl on the other hand didn't wake up, she was still very cold and Thorwald looked very worried when his gaze rested upon her. " She should be washed with hot water but I am afraid there are no womenfolk who can do that in this house anymore."
Haskald swallowed. " Your wife?"
Thorwald shook his head. " Dead, she got the plague three years ago now. Many perished back then, it was bloody awful but I have learned to live with the loss"
Haskald looked remorseful. " I am sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned her."
Thorwald just shrugged. "Death is such a regular visitor here these days, don't be sorry, at least she is safe wherever she is now"
Glorfindel had managed to dry his hair and wrapped in a towel he was quite a sight for sore eyes. " The girl, she tried to drown herself, why?"
His melodic voice made Thorwald's face seem softer for a moment, almost as if he was in some sort of a dream." Oh yes, well, that is a part of this whole damn story, I guess I'd better tell you what has happened here over the last few years, but be warned, it is not a pretty tale at all."
The elves had sort of guessed that already, something felt just wrong about this village, there was an atmosphere of fear here that was almost nauseating and the decay and poverty they saw there only served to make that impression so much stronger. Haskald tilted his head. "This place was nice the last time I visited, lots of guests, good food, good ale, a merry little inn"
Thorwald nodded and started distributing stew, it wasn't much but it was hot and the rangers were used to eating almost anything. To them it was a treat. " Aye, it was old friend. A merry place indeed. But five autumns ago everything changed, and not for the better I can tell you that!"
He sat down whence everybody had gotten their food and Elrohir tucked Estel into some blankets and let him lean against his body on the bench. The poison seemed to lose its grip upon the young man by now but it was still tormenting him and he was burning hot. The girl was as before, seemingly lifeless.
Glorfindel was staring at the girl, she couldn't be more than seventeen years of age and the very idea of someone that young trying to end their own life was terrifying. Something very bad had to have happened to her. Thorwald stared at the flames, his face seemed to age before their very eyes and the expression within his eyes got distant and pained. " In our village we had a good community, everybody helped out and it was great that way. The future looked bright. But then one of the sons of our most wealthy merchant returned from a long journey and he had brought his friends along. And they were not any better than orcs."
Haskald seemed to be deeply shocked by this. " What do you mean?"
Thorwald sighed and used a poker to get the fire going again. " They were men without honor, without remorse. They had us on our knees within weeks."
Elladan frowned. " What did they do?"
Thorwald turned around, stared at the elf with sadness in his gaze. "They simply took control of everything, and they took all they wanted too. We are all their slaves now, nobody dares to oppose to their reign of terror for they are strong and vicious and have no problems killing."
The rangers were mumbling. " Are there no strong men among you, men capable of overthrowing them?"
Thorwald shook his head." Oh those of us capable of using a sword most certainly tried but they are all dead now, some put to death in the most terrible ways imaginable. We starve and fear and they live like kings."
He stared at the unconscious girl. " Poor thing, she was engaged to be married to a young man from another village, it was arranged when they both were children. When he came to collect his bride they killed him before her very eyes and what they did to her afterwards is something I will not even try to describe. She must have been able to get out of their palace and sought to free herself from them the only way she could."
Glorfindel was growling, the sound was menacing and the rangers looked very enraged as well. " Then they are indeed spawn of Mordor, how many are there?"
Thorwald sighed and put the fire poker aside. " About twenty, there were seven at first but more came and some young men from the village has joined them too, some reluctantly but others out of their own free will. I guess it is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven."
Elladan hawked. " This sounds terrible but the girl needs help and we do also need more medicine for Estel, is there none here in the village with knowledge of healing?"
Thorwald made a grimace. " We had a very good healer, Srian was his name and he was originally from Gondor I think, married a local woman and had a few kids too but he died last winter, pneumonia. He was old too."
Elladan sighed. " So you are without a healer?"
Thorwald shrugged. "Not entirely, there is this one woman we call upon when we need help, but I am not so sure that her skills are anything more than just petty tricks. The only good thing about her is that the darn gang is afraid of her, they think she is a witch."
Elrohir giggled and some of the rangers grinned too, they had seen the things one really ought to fear, a village witch was not among them. "But she must have some skills yes?"
Thorwald nodded. "She is a very good midwife, but there hasn't been any births here for years. Most elderly people you know."
Elladan leaned forth, he was feeling Estel's forehead, the young adan was still burning and almost delirious. " We need more herbs, the athelas you gave us was too old and we need something which may lower his fever."
Thorwald sighed and his face looked worn, even more than before. " I could go and get her but I am afraid of being seen. If they see that I have visitors they will demand to know who it is and they are ruthless and without moral nor decency. The sight of elves will most certainly tick them off, and the knowledge that the girl is here even more so."
Elrohir sneered. " We are used to humans reacting with distrust when they encounter us, the secondborn are no longer used to seeing the eldar."
Thorwald turned his head and the expression within his eyes was one of deep sorrow. " Aye, I know. But they will not react to you with fear, no, you are fair beyond words and they will lust for your beauty. Believe my words, if they see you they will wish to use you the way they used poor Ingelda here."
The twins stared at each other and shuddered and Glorfindel bared his teeth in something that wasn't a smile. " We are three elves and five rangers but we are all skilled warriors. They will not have much of a chance against us."
Thorwald nodded. " I know, but they are devious and sly. I will go and see if I can get Esme over here but stay indoors and do not leave the house. If the valar are smiling we could perhaps manage to stay undetected."
Glorfindel let out a sigh. " Yes, let's hope so"
Thorwald put on a ragged old cloak and left and the rangers gathered around the fire, now they all felt a bit better since they were out of the wet clothes and had eaten and Haskald looked very determined. " I had no idea of this, the village used to be rather idyllic before and Thorwald was a very wealthy and merry man. Now you will find more cheer in a graveyard than in his home"
One of the other rangers, a very tall man by the name of Helfran spat into the flames and made a grimace. " Mercenaries, I am bloody sure of it. There were quite a few bands of such roaming around a few years ago, something happened in Harad back then, a coup I think. And suddenly there were many sell swords without a master nor work."
Glorfindel tilted his head, his blue eyes were like cold fire. " That makes sense, but let us not worry too early, we were not seen when we arrived, if we manage to avoid detection we could be on our way in a couple of days."
Elrohir stared at Ingelda, the unconscious girl was a source of great concern to him, he had never seen anyone trying to end their own lives and he just couldn't comprehend what she had to have been thinking. Nor her desperation. " I guess we ought to bring her along, she cannot stay here."
Elladan nodded slowly. " You are right, she can't. Perhaps ada can help her. At least she ought to be seen by a real healer."
Glorfindel shrugged and made a grimace. "Let us just hope that this Esme woman knows something about poisons."
Elrohir scoffed. " A village witch? Do not put your hopes up too high. She probably knows how to cure hiccups with cold water and how to put leeches on people"
Glorfindel shuddered, the very idea of leeches gave him the creeps. " Maybe she does have some real skills, hoping is after all legal"
Elladan sent them a wry grin. " Oh, do you remember the old adeneth ada treated for stomach pains? She had pushed a whole onion up her…rear end. Someone had told her it would help."
The others just winced and the rangers sat there smoking and quietly discussing the situation. They weren't heavily armed but could fight and they would defend themselves but all of them wished to return to Imladris and gather more warriors to return later. This village ought to be cleansed of the filth that had possessed it. The elves tried to relax and rest but they all felt deeply disturbed by what they had learned and they wished that there was something they could do.
After a while Thorwald returned with Esme, the woman wasn't as old as they had anticipated and she had a sort of proud aura that told them she was far more than what met the eye. Her clothes were old and worn and she wore no jewelry but she had a sort of forlorn beauty that was rather captivating. She was quite tall and her age was impossible to guess, she could be anything between thirty and sixty and her eyes were shining and sharp as daggers. She saw Ingelda and let out a soft moan, sat down next to the unconscious girl and her eyes were dark with rage and grief. " I anticipated this, those pigs have ruined our lives for years and for some it has been absolutely horrible."
She checked the girl's pulse and sighed, gestured towards Thorwald. " I know you still have the huge bathtub down in the basement. Please try to fill it with warm water and I will add herbs to it. Her body is rather strong but her soul is not. I know not if she will want life anymore but I will try to save her."
Elladan felt a bit awkward but he asked quietly. "They have abused her?"
Esme sent the peredhel a rather nasty grin, filled with anger. " Oh, they have done everything a man can do to a female and more. She has been their whore, I guess they all have had a go at it, several times. Her father was helpless and so are the rest of us. They are spawn of Morgoth for sure"
Glorfindel shivered when he heard that name. " I wish we could help you"
Esme went over to Estel and clicked her tongue. " Then go home and bring an army, kill them all. They are vermin and deserves no mercy"
She stared at Elrohir and gestured towards Estel. " He has been poisoned?"
She caressed Estel's dark hair with a gentle hand and there was compassion in her gaze, she obviously had some knowledge of real healing after all. " Yes, and the poison is a new one, we haven't seen the orcs use it before."
Esme stared at the cut in his hand. " It is very powerful, such a small injury and yet he is very ill. It makes me think of something I once encountered in my youth."
Elrohir looked fascinated. " You appear to know a thing or two about healing my lady?"
Esme nodded, her face stern. " I do, my father was working as the official healer of the court of Minas Tirith for almost twenty years. Then he somehow made some enemies that would have loved to see him dead and we all had to flee. I was his apprentice although they disliked the idea of a woman learning anything except sewing and cooking."
Elladan frowned. " Edain can be so…blockheaded sometimes!"
Esme just nodded. " Ruled by fear and superstition yes, my father died on the road, too old and too frail for a long journey. I married a farmer and lived well for a few years before he too perished and his family drove me away. They had never liked me. I ended up here of all places but I cannot complain. I am after all alive."
She stroked the girls hair. " Ingelda here is among the few young left in this place, those who could flee have done so years ago but her father is alone and she didn't want to leave him. He must have been unable to protect her."
Glorfindel sighed, his eyes sad. "Believe me my lady, we will do whatever we can to help you. This has been going on for too long and those men are worse than the orc's of Sauron. I have never heard of such depravity"
Esme seemed to shrink. " Oh but believe me, what was once considered abominations will become rather common. The time of man is drawing near and it will bring misery, believe my words. "
She saw that Thorwald had returned from the basement, he nodded his head. " There is some water in the tub now, I will leave some buckets outside of the door when I have heated more."
Esme smiled and gestured towards Elladan and Elrohir. " Please help me carry her downstairs, I will make sure she is warm again, then I will tend to your friend."
Elladan cocked his head. " You said the poison reminded you of something?"
Esme wrapped a blanket around the girl to protect her modesty as Elrohir gently lifted her. "Yes, when I was a child there were a string of poisonings, all within a small group of people who originated from far far south. And all had the same signs of it as your friend here."
Elladan looked curious. " What type of poison was it, and how did it work? Did they die?"
Esme closed her eyes, pushed old memories forth. "No, nobody died, but they all suffered for days and they became incapacitated. I guess that is the point in using this stuff, to keep the victim alive but in agony"
Elrohir cringed and Esme opened the door to the basement. It was a dark staircase behind it but it wasn't very steep and the peredhel had no problems carrying the girl. "Do you know the poison?"
Esme nodded. " Yes, I think I do. It is rare but if you know of it, it is easy to make. The poisonings I encountered were all done by one person, a very disgruntled family member who was convinced that his older brother had slept with his wife and he wanted vengeance, and as it is common, vengeance is a cup hard to empty."
She opened a door and they entered what had been the bath of the inn. Now it was empty except from one huge wooden tub and it was half filled with water. Esme grinned and Elrohir put Ingelda down onto a bench. " You may leave us now, I can take it from here. If she gets pneumonia she is done for, I need to get her warmed up."
She smiled at the two half elves and her smile was somewhat bittersweet. "The poison is made from the bark of a certain type of willow and it is mixed with ravens moss, wolf lichen and flowers from foxglove plants."
Elrohir looked stunned. "All those are very toxic, why don't it kill the victim right away?"
Esme sighed, "It is to be boiled with the skull of a deer, I think the bone somehow neutralizes the worst effect. But the orcs have apparently learned how to use it. "
Elladan bit his lower lip. " Can we help Estel in any way?"
Esme nodded. "Yes, heat helps, put him as close to the fireplace as you can and make him sweat it out. And make sure he drinks a lot, as often as it is possible. I will try to make some potions later that will ease the pain and help him flush it out faster"
The twins bowed and left the room to let Esme work in peace, they were glad to hear that Estel would survive but they didn't like the fact that the orcs had found such a terrible new weapon.
Outside the storm was just as ferocious as before, the wind made the trees groan and creak and everybody who could stay indoors did. In the shadow behind a huge old oak a cloaked figure had sought refuge, the figure was very tall and completely covered by a worn old cloak. Eyes like silver and steel stared at the faint light from the village, a narrow grin could be seen on the very beautiful and yet strangely marred face. The light in the eyes was otherworldly, something not seen for ages and he tilted his head. There were elves in that village, the sons of Elrond Eärendilion, and Glorfindel the balrog slayer. They had walked into a hornets nest and maybe they already knew of the danger but he felt as though he needed to do something.
He walked closer to the buildings, he could move among men unseen, their senses were so dull, so inadequate. He hadn't any weapons except from a small sword and a dagger but he didn't need any, he had learned how to master much more subtle ways to overpower an enemy. It had come with a price but he now knew the meaning of the gifts they all had been given and in most cases thrown away. It had all been in the song, all the possibilities and he had seen them again and again, every thinkable outcome of the battle they had fought against the enemy but also against themselves. He smiled again, the grin was vicious. He was no longer the ellon he had been, few would have recognized him for he had been so soft back then, a pampered and civilized young princeling used to the court life. Later it had changed and now it had transformed him completely.
He found the inn, there was some huge elms growing close to the wall behind the stable and he quickly climbed into one of them, sought cover in the canopy. He was soaking wet but he didn't feel the cold, he had grown rather insensitive over the millennia and was able to endure more than an ordinary elf. The losses and the grief and madness had burned away everything in him that even resembled weakness. What was left was a diamond, hard, shiny and unbreakable. A terrible beauty awaiting its moment, for he knew it would come. This village had eyes everywhere and the enemy would most certainly notice that old Thorwald was using precious firewood, and more than normal.
He didn't have to wait that long, two men came sneaking around a corner, both were from the village and both had embraced the newcomers with open hearts for they had always been convinced of their own superiority and had seen the villagers as scum way below their own worth. They enjoyed forcing others to submission and seeing the fear of those they saw as weak, it was such a thrill. Now their leader had sent them out to see if they could find the girl who had managed to escape from them. She had kicked out a small window and crept through it and their leader wanted her back. Nobody was to defy them and nobody was to flee.
But someone had smelled smoke and it came from Thorwald's old inn, it could be that the girl had sought refuge there and they were to retrieve her. If Thorwald had indeed sheltered her they would hang him for sure, or cut him open so his innards would drop out. They were looking forward to it. And then they would fuck that slut to death for having tried to escape. It would be sweet.
They crept closer to the stable wall and stared at each other, it smelled of horse and it wasn't the old scent they were used to. This was fresh and they started moving faster, curious and a little alarmed. The wall wasn't well maintained at all, some places the moss that had been used to fill the cracks between the timbers had disappeared and they could peek into the building. They immediately saw that the stable was filled with horses, very good horses and some were exquisite. They knew elven steeds when they saw them, and their eyes were huge with disbelief and then with greed. They wanted those horses, they would indeed look like lords riding such steeds and if they sold one or two they would be filthy rich.
The oldest one of them grasped the other by his shoulder. " Efraim, we keep this to ourselves, do not tell Markal, we take the horses and leave."
Efraim frowned. "If there are elves here they will see us for sure, just the two of us won't be able to take all those animals without anyone noticing? We need three more men for sure Dharian."
Dharian looked doubtful, he bit his lower lip and hissed, then he spun around. " Alright, we can ask the Kurdhar brothers but no others."
Efraim nodded and grinned, he was actually rather thrilled by the idea of fooling some darn elves. He would have liked to see them though, to see for himself if they were as fair as the stories said they were but right now his greed was greater than his curiosity. They turned to return to the mayors home which they had turned into their own little fortress and neither did see the figure in the tree above them.
A very narrow and very nasty grin was plastered onto his lips, and the silvery eyes shone with an almost malevolent light. He was without compassion when it came to such scum, they did deserve death and he would prevent them from returning to their lair. Humans were more vulnerable than orc's, he had discovered that ages ago. They were fragile and soft compared with the firstborn and compared with orcs they were as easy to destroy as eggs. He stared at them and the two men slowed down, they sensed that they were being watched and stopped, they saw nothing but out of somewhere they heard a peculiar sound, like a buzzing noise? No, it was shrill, almost a sort of keening and all of a sudden a terrible pain raced through their heads. Both grasped their ears, gasping and eyes bulging, they fell to their knees, writhing in agony and blood started gushing from their ears.
Slowly they both tipped over, dying from massive internal hemorrhaging and he chuckled to himself. He had early discovered how sound can affect physical matter and he had started to unravel the very mysteries of creation itself. He knew how Eru had shaped the world now, and he knew of the great song and its ultimate goal. He didn't care about the valar, he was his own master and bowed to none, but he liked to think that he could do something honorable still.
He didn't bother removing the bodies, and he silently whispered to the horses on the inside of the stable. Their masters had to be prepared, when the two didn't return there would be others sent and they wouldn't be mere pawns but more experienced warriors. A storm was indeed raging and before it ended more blood would be spilled. He would aid them but they had to be ready to fight. He snickered, those bastards would meet their maker soon enough, one way or the other and good riddance. He disappeared into the darkness once more, like a ghost, and to some that was perhaps just what he was, a ghost of an age long gone.
Glorfindel was trying to swallow some of Thorwald's beer, it tasted like crap but he didn't want to insult their host by spitting it out. To an elf this was the equivalent of drinking horse piss and he was glad elves don't get sick. This stuff ought to be made illegal, he had no idea of what it was made from and honestly he didn't want to know. He was about to excuse himself and try to get rid of the content of his jug whilst pretending to be needing the privy but he suddenly got a weird sensation. It came from his horse, Asfaloth had been a trusted friend for many long years and the horse had a very strong connection with his master. Now the great white stallion wanted to catch his master's attention and Glorfindel got up and put the jug down. He turned towards Elladan. "Come with me, I have gotten a sort of message from Asfaloth, someone's been at the stables."
Elladan went pale and put on his sword, Thorwald was visibly nervous. " Oh gods, if they have seen your animals they will most certainly return."
Glorfindel sneered as he put on his armor and swords, the two elves left rather quickly and used the darkness as cover as they ran to the stables. The horses were calm but Asfaloth snorted and threw his head in the air, nickering softly. He knew that his master would protect him but he hadn't liked the scent of the humans that had been outside of the stable. Glorfindel calmed the horse with soft words and Elladan opened a door that was leading out to the back of the stable, the back wall was a part of the fence surrounding the inn and behind the door was just some huge trees and a small pasture. Elladan had keen eyes and saw the footprints right away, he sighed and let out a small sound. Glorfindel followed him and stared at the tracks. " Two men, they crouched down next to the wall."
Elladan nodded. " Aye, they saw that the stable is full of horses. Damn it!"
The tall blonde elf raised his head and sniffed, he looked a bit nervous. " I can smell blood"
Elladan frowned and sniffed too, he too caught the metallic scent of fresh blood and they moved forth, slowly and with their swords drawn. They saw the two figures laying on the ground rather fast and exchanged a confused glance before they advanced even more slowly than before. The two men were dead, there was no doubt about it and they had died in agony. The faces were contorted by intense pain and one had bitten his tongue off. Blood had leaked from their ears and noses and they were a terrifying sight.
Glorfindel looked stunned. " What in the name of Eru is this? There are no wounds on them, their weapons are still sheathed?"
Elladan bent down, stared at the dead men with narrow eyes. "It killed quick whatever it was, they haven't had time to flee."
Glorfindel kicked one of the bodies, it was still soft and warm. " It can be some sort of poison? Or maybe a plague of some sorts?"
Elladan shook his head. " No, it is no disease and why would anyone poison them? A poison that works that fast has to be administered right before it is to work, no, something else is happening here."
Glorfindel bit his lower lip and looked at the surroundings with distaste. " We have to hide the bodies, someone is certainly going to look for these two and we cannot let them be found."
Elladan nodded, " I agree, but the river is not far from here, let's toss them into it."
Glorfindel just shrugged. " Good idea, let's do it!"
They grasped a dead body each and carried them through the bushes towards the river. It was a side river to the one they had crossed earlier that night but it was rather large and the current strong. They tossed the corpses inn and returned to the inn, they didn't like the idea of treating someone like that but if the bodies were found the blame would most certainly be laid upon them. Glorfindel stared at the dark forest surrounding the village, he felt a presence in there, and a cold shiver ran down his spine. It had naught to do with the cold wind, he just knew that they were being watched by someone completely capable of staying unseen and he didn't know if he liked it at all. He grasped Elladan's elbow. " Come, let us hurry back, I don't like this place at all"
Elladan sent him a wry grin. " You have got to be kidding me? I thought dark dangerous places were your favorite?"
Glorfindel tried hard not to stare at the tree line, he felt eyes upon him even know, cold calculating eyes. "Not when we are being watched, keep going El, and do not stare. Somebody killed those men, and I have no idea of who or why!"
Elladan swallowed, he believed Glorfindel, after all, he was ancient and wise and he had been through the halls already. That did things to an elf, and he respected the captain and knew he had seen things the peredhel never could even imagine. He too felt a strange sensation of unease out there, and he was certain that the woods hid something but he wasn't as sensitive as the balrog slayer. "Someone is on our side?"
Glorfindel got the door open again, he couldn't return to the stable fast enough. " Maybe, or someone is playing his or hers own game and we are being manipulated."
Elladan pushed the door shut and barred it, the horses were staring at them and Glorfindel threw some hay into their stalls to keep them occupied. Asfaloth nickered softly and he let his fingers run through his mane. " Keep your eyes open mellon, if anyone enters the stable who isn't one of us you know what to do!"
The stallion rubbed his nose against the elf's chest and Glorfindel smiled, a rather stiff grin. Anyone trying to steal his horse was in for a nasty surprise.
The others were waiting anxiously, Esme had bathed Ingelda and had managed to get some heat back into the girl and now she lay in a bed covered with blankets with a bed pan at her feet. Esme had started working on Estel now, she was using Thorwald's kettles and some bags of herbs she had brought along with her. The smell of her concoction was terrible and made the rangers cringe their noses and sneeze but as they say, if a medicine is to be effective and trustworthy it has to smell or taste bad.
She had gotten Elrohir to help her administer the dreadfully looking goo, it was dark and looked a bit like tar but they had managed to get some of it into the young adan. Now they were waiting for it to do the trick and Esme stared at the two who returned. She cocked her head. " Something tells me you have bad news?"
Glorfindel pulled his gloves off and sat down with a sigh. " Two men had been spying on the horses, through the wall. They had tried to leave but something stopped them, we found them both dead and I have no idea of how it had happened. "
The rangers stared at them, Haskald clenched his teeth together. " Do we have some ally of whom we are unaware?"
Glorfindel shrugged. " Some ally then, the men had been bleeding out of their ears and their mouths and nose. They had died without a wound but in absolute agony. I cannot say that I like it."
Elrohir hissed. "Dark magic?"
Glorfindel stared into the flames. " Or something even worse, I do not know. But prepare yourselves men, I can guarantee that the two will be missed and I sense trouble brewing."
Elrohir nodded. " They will come to investigate right?"
The balrog slayer nodded. " Yes, and we cannot remain hidden if that happens."
The rangers had gotten some dry clothes on and their leather armors had been placed by the hearth and had dried too. Now they silently donned them once again and put on their weapons, all had grim faces and their expressions were hard and determined. Esme sighed and pulled the blanket tighter around Estel's body. " If it wasn't for him I would have given you the advice to leave right now, these bastards are dangerous."
Glorfindel pulled his sword, stared at the shiny surface with narrow eyes. "Well my lady, so am I. I haven't been sent back from the halls to get murdered by some human scum. If they attack they will bleed."
Esme smiled but the smile was rather nervous and her eyes dark. "Then be ready to fight, for they are no strangers to setting buildings on fire to get people to come out."
Glorfindel turned his head, stared at Haskald and one of the other rangers named Garun. "You two are skilled archers, go to the second floor, find positions where you can see the entire front yard. If anyone approach with torches, shoot them!"
Both men nodded and grasped their bows. They were not as good as elven bows but very well made still and the two men were almost as good marksmen as the elves. Elladan and Elrohir looked eager and at the same time worried. " What do you think they will do?"
Glorfindel bared his teeth. " They will first send some more to investigate where the two lackeys went, then more will come. I guess the whole bunch will show up rather eagerly, like a pack of mad dogs looking for a meal."
Elrohir nodded and he sent Esme a swift smile. " No matter what happens, we will not allow them to hurt you or the girl."
Esme stared at the floor. " The girl they have already hurt, and me? Me they fear, they think I can summon evil spirits."
Elladan scoffed and his face revealed his disbelief. " Nobody can do that, none of mankind at least"
Glorfindel stared towards the woods, as if the solid timber walls weren't there. He wasn't so sure that they hadn't already summoned something almost comparable with the spirits these men feared. What he had felt out there was terrifying and yet in a most disturbing way familiar. He had almost anticipated seeing someone walking through the mist, someone of a long lost family, cursed by the valar and cursed by the world itself.
The mayor's home had been the grandest building of the village, back in the days when the place had been wealthy it had once served as the home of a minor nobleman and the mayor had sort of inherited the house. Now it was as worn down as the rest of the village, parts of the roof were leaking, there were windows missing and it hadn't been tared since the mayor who now by the way was dead, was born. It was slowly falling apart like so many other things there and the inhabitants had done nothing to repair the damages. The first owner would have wept to see the beautiful walls covered with sooth and dirt, to see the once grand tapestries pulled down and used for everything from bedding to stuffing for the cracks in the walls. The chimney had become crooked and the rooms dank and dark. The place stank of feces and urine and sweat and the kitchen area was more comparable with the city dump than a real kitchen.
The men were gathered in what had been the dining hall, it still held some sort of varnished elegance since the leader liked to live like a king and he had even made himself a sort of crown from the sad remains of a bronze chandelier. It looked ridiculous and way too pompous but nobody had dared to say that to his face. It looked a bit as if a kid had taken some sort of putty tubes and wrapped them around into a ring shape, it wasn't pretty and it wasn't really well made but he felt as if it was a real crown.
Markal had been the youngest of four sons and he had always been spoiled by his mother and brought up to believe that he ought to be something grand. But sadly he was neither smart nor talented in any way and he always preferred to get things the easy way. He had become convinced that the sole reason for his lack of success was the fact that everybody was out to get him, that they were envious of his brilliant intellect and glorious personality and tried to bar his way to power. In short, he hated everybody and preferred to have people cowering before him in fear rather than being respected. He had gathered this small group of cut throats and mercenaries rather easily and now he did at least rule this village. It was his, and his alone and everybody within it was to follow his rules. It was such a sweet though and he was thinking of perhaps expanding his realm, overtaking other villages as well. Sooner or later he would become the king he already knew he deserved to be.
But the wench had escaped and he was furious, not that she was that tempting anymore, after all, all of his men had used her vigorously, but the very idea of her disobeying him made him see red. The two spit lickers he had sent out to see if they could locate her hadn't returned and Markal wasn't stupid. Efraim and Dharian were cowards but more than that they were greedy. They had found something of value, he was sure of it. He should have sent some of his more trustworthy men but it was too late now. He had gathered his followers and stared at them. Most stared down into the table, it had once been polished and so shiny you could use it as a mirror, now it was covered with an inch thick layer of grime, grease and soot and it had cuts and holes everywhere. He believed that it was fear and respect that made them divert their eyes, but in reality most of them couldn't bare the idea of staring at the so called crown, it would only make them burst into involuntary laughter. Instead they preferred to stare at the interesting patterns in the wood.
"Brother's, Efraim and Dharian has not returned. I fear that they have deserted us. I will send five of you to see if you can retrieve the traitors and check if it is true that old Thorwald is using more firewood than normal. It has to mean something, perhaps the slut is hiding at his place. If she is then return to me and we will all go there and make sure they are both punished. "
The men all nodded and grinned, things had gotten boring lately, nothing happened there and the villagers were too cowardly to offer any resistance. Markal pointed at five of his most loyal followers. "You, go now and see what this is about. Do not do anything, just return when you have checked things out."
They got up and nodded, rather eager to see if they could get some action that night. The bad weather had forced them to stay indoors and they didn't like it at all. The place did stink and there wasn't much to do these days, They hoped that Markal did keep his word and allowed them to start raiding other villages as well. They got their weapons and left the building, donning heavy robes and cursing the darkness and the rain. It was still pouring down and the wind was tearing at everything that was loose. Some pieces of roofing came flying by and the howling of the wind made them nervous. They went straight to the inn, there was smoke pouring out of the chimney and lots of it, and there was a hint of an unfamiliar scent on the air. The most experienced of the five raised his head, sniffed. It smelled of stew and also of wet clothing. And then they caught the scent of fresh horse manure and horses and they knew that the inn had guests. It had been years since it had been in use as an inn but now there were people there and judging from the smells more than one person. The doors were closed and there was no lights to be seen but every window had been barred off years ago and they just knew that the place wasn't deserted. One of the men did take a peek at the stable and he returned and nodded, his eyes rather wide. " Many horses, at least nine, some very fine ones too. I bet they are of elven breeding."
The older man grinned, this ought to be interesting. He had never encountered elves before and even though everybody claimed that they were superior fighters he didn't believe that. He saw the brute strength of the group as the strongest there is and he gathered the others around him. " I bet they are rich, with such good horses they have got to have something of value right. And they say that among the eldar the males are even prettier than any maiden, I would love to check that out."
The others grinned and he started walking back to the head-quarters. " Markal will be glad to hear of this. Finally a chance to have some fun."
They hurried back to their home and Markal listened to their description of the horses and the smells. He grinned, a rather wide and pleased smile that wasn't pretty. Markal wasn't a handsome guy anyhow, he was tall, but he had a peculiar body shape which some may describe as a pear shape. His face was pear shaped too, and he was carrying quite a few pounds too many. His face was filled with scars from acne and pox and his attempt at growing a beard was nothing short of a disaster. It looked terrible. But he insisted on wearing very nice clothes in rather glaring colors that didn't match. If his eyes hadn't revealed a soul devoid of empathy and compassion he would have looked silly, as it was nobody dared to compare him with a clown although the similarity was striking.
He got out of his huge chair and started shouting orders, one of the younger men came carrying his armor. He had bought it somewhere far south and it had once been a good protection but it hadn't been maintained as it ought to and it was too small. He seemed to be unaware of this fact, he always complained about the leather shrinking. The young man had a tough job getting him into it and the result looked a bit like a disaster waiting to happen, or a overstuffed sausage ready to burst. He couldn't really move that much with it on but he was firmly believing that he looked splendid and inspired awe and fear. The other men had gotten their own gear on and they looked just right wearing armor, it was natural to them. The good thing about their leader looking like an over decorated Christmas tree was that he was the first target any archers would aim for.
One could perhaps wonder why the hardened mercenaries allowed someone like Markal to boss them around but the answer was rather simple. He was ruthless, he had no problems killing his own followers and he had visions of a grand future which they wanted to share. If things went to hell he was someone they would blame for everything without losing any sleep and if he thought he was in charge then be it. They knew the truth but he was a fool and one that was easily manipulated too. Some flattery and well placed although false respect and he was ready to go where their subtle influence was leading him.
Before long they were ready to go and Markal would have preferred to ride but he was without a horse for the moment. He had brought a very nice animal with him from his journey south and it had been honestly and fairly stolen from some noble man. But unfortunately his servants hadn't known how to feed such an animal and the horse had died from colic. He had of course flogged and beheaded the guilty workers. So now he proudly walked or rather waddled in front of his men towards the inn. They would certainly get the horses and whatever else these guests had of value and if it was true that there were elves among them then they would provide some other forms of entertainment.
The atmosphere within the inn was one of tense anticipation, all were armed and the two archers were ready and had quivers filled with arrows. Glorfindel had given his orders and he knew that they had to stay on top of the situation at all times. If they allowed themselves to be caught indoors it could turn ugly and everybody had gone outside now. He stood in the middle and Elladan and Elrohir had taken a flank each, the three remaining rangers had taken position between them and they had placed some torches in the holders on the walls. The light wasn't strong and it was very flickering but as they stood between them they fell into shadows and the intruders would be unable to see much. Thorwald was peeping out through the gate, he waved his hand. " They are coming!"
Glorfindel nodded at the elderly man. " Good, go back indoors and seek shelter. Do not let them see you, you will be an easy target."
Thorwald made a grimace. " I may be old but I was a soldier once, I may not be much with a sword but I can still swing an axe and I am no coward."
Glorfindel smiled at the old adan's stubbornness. " Alright then, you may protect the stable. Do not let anyone enter it."
Thorwald pushed his chest out and took position outside of the stable door, his axe ready in his hand. Elladan and Elrohir had put on their cloaks and so had Glorfindel, they were inches taller than the dunedain but their faces were covered by the cloaks and invisible. Glorfindel planned on using their identity as a tool. The gate had been unlocked, by letting the enemy come to them they had the upper hand. It was a trick Glorfindel had learned back in his first life and he knew how to play with the fear and doubts of others and use it to his benefit. These men were brutes, used to making others cower before them. When faced with real resistance such men would usually respond either with a burst of violence to ensure that they still were in charge or they would become uncertain and try to trick their way out of the situation. Glorfindel didn't mind the first method, then they would have a good excuse for slaughtering the scum.
The inn was a rather grand building with three chimneys, behind one of them a dark figure was crouching. He was staring at the approaching group with eyes shimmering like silver in the darkness. He could smell them, the filth and the darkness that had consumed their very hearts. He was looking forward to this, he would spare that big peacock of a man for Glorfindel, for one who had slain a balrog that man was nice to use as sword practice. The rest would get the surprise of a lifetime. He had learned to manipulate human emotions and he was waiting like a panther waits for the deer.
Markal was anticipating a locked gate they would have to break down, instead the gate was open and the men hesitated. Markal nodded and they pushed it open. They saw six cloaked figures standing in front of the main building, all rather tall but three of them were huge and the one in the middle was towering above everyone. All were armed and looked rather ominous and Markal immediately felt insecure and as it often is with men like him it made him aggressive right away. He saw Thorwald standing by the stable door, the old man held an axe and he looked rather confident. He had eighteen men, these were six and that wasn't bad odds at all but he felt that things were not as they seemed to be. He raised his chin and tried to look as terrifying as possible, in truth both Elladan and Elrohir had problems staying serious, the man looked so ridiculous they would have been pissing themselves with laughter hadn't the situation been so darn ugly.
" I am the lord of this town, who are you to come sneaking into my domain without paying tribute?"
Glorfindel tilted his head, the motion barely noticeable but the men saw it nonetheless. It was a somewhat mocking gesture, the type you would use before you scold an insolent child. "That is none of your business, and I see no lord here, just thieves and murderers. "
Markal hissed and some of his men drew their swords, they were about to step forth when arrows suddenly buried themselves in the soil right in front of their feet. "As you can see, we are prepared. You cannot win here, no matter how many you are."
The voice was calm, spoke of great strength and determination and Markal knew by sheer instinct that this was a person who couldn't be intimidated by sheer brute force. He was forced to use other techniques but his mind was failing him, he wasn't able to think quick enough. He just stood there and the tall figure pulled his hood down. Markal stared at the elf with eyes that were rather wide. He had never believed that elves were that tough looking, beautiful yes indeed and strangely enticing and yet extremely masculine, just…perfect! He took a step back. " You have no right speaking to me like that, this village is mine, so is this inn."
Glorfindel caressed the hilt of his sword, the blue eyes were filled with steel. " No, you do not own anything, you think you do but that is an illusion. We know what you did to the smith's daughter and know that she will be avenged."
Markal felt a surge of rage rushing through him, he had a very bad temper and a short fuse and it was a nasty combination, and one that could become rather dangerous too. He simply ignited and forgot to weigh his words. " So the slut is here? She is mine! I demand that you return her to me, she belongs to us!"
Glorfindel smiled, a rather dangerous smile. " Really? No human being belongs to someone, that girl tried to kill herself, and it is your fault"
Markal sneered. " I am not afraid of you, no pointy eared freak is gonna keep me away from what is mine!"
Elladan and Elrohir pulled down their cowls too and the men stared at the two elves with disbelief. They stared at something almost unreal, two identical elves? Both were armed and Markal saw that the other people there were rangers, hardened warriors and he felt a swift surge of nervous energy rush through him. The tall golden haired elf didn't look impressed at all. " All I see is a filthy dog, a murderer without honor. You deserve no mercy and believe me, if you try anything none shall be given"
Markal was about to shout an order to his men to make them attack when they heard an unexpected sound. It was a woman screaming for a short second and then they heard the sound of a door being kicked open. The inn had a balcony right over the main entrance, it was ready to fall apart any moment since it had been out of use for years but it was strong enough to support the weight of a desperate person for a few seconds. They all looked up and saw that a pale figure dressed in a thin nightgown suddenly seemed to fly from the railing. Glorfindel moaned, it was too late. This time he couldn't help her. The girl fell to the ground straight in front of Markal who almost got hit by the falling body. She hit the cobblestone with a sickening thud and a crunching sound and blood spattered for several feet around her. The body twitched a few times but she was dead, her head smashed by the impact.
Markal just stared, in shock and disbelief and disgust and the men who followed him stared at the corpse with shock too. Something akin to shame could be seen on the faces of most of them. Glorfindel growled. " Now, see what your deeds have brought upon this innocent soul, I ought to take your head for this."
Markal suddenly realized that this elf was dangerous, it takes a killer to know one and he knew that they were in trouble. The fire in those sapphire blue eyes was like nothing he had ever seen before. The two other elves were staring at him with eyes like wolves and Markal felt his anger rising yet again. He felt humiliated by all of this, and he had lost an asset too. The girl had helped keeping the men under control, now he would have to replace her somehow. The elves were beautiful, even if he preferred females he would have loved to fuck those pale skinned beauties and he sneered. " And we are going to demand that she is replaced by someone just as pliant and pretty, I think we all would agree that those twins would suffice."
Glorfindel smiled again, a very slow and narrow smile. " Oh but I think you are about to chew over more than you can swallow human, the last man who tried to touch these two against their will ended up getting castrated!"
Markal cringed and his anger made his face look like a red ripe apple. Glorfindel had seen more attractive hogs. "Get them guys, I will not allow our honor to be soiled by these freaks!"
The men ran forth but suddenly they all stopped dead in their tracks, there was a strange sound coming from seemingly everywhere and it was making the men dizzy and disoriented. Glorfindel gasped and gestured towards the rangers and Thorwald. " Get inside, now! Hurry!"
The rangers obeyed although reluctantly and he knew that he and the twins were safe. This power was aimed at the men, not elves. The men started to moan, their heads hurt, they felt as if they were in some sort of bizarre dream and suddenly they all saw monsters everywhere. With loud shrieks of fear they attacked what they saw as horrible apparitions, but it was their own comrades. The sound continued, the men fought with desperation and one by one fell. Glorfindel had never seen anything more disturbing but he knew what this was, and he sort of knew who it was who caused it too.
Markal didn't understand, he saw his own men turn against each other and he didn't hear the sound at all. Obviously the creature responsible for this thought that Markal ought to be punished by some more worldly power than the magical sound. The man saw his last man fall and he got desperate, fear and anger mixed within him and created a very volatile mixture. He drew his sword and rushed forth, trying to attack Glorfindel. Once upon a time Markal had been a rather good fencer, he had been swift and agile and he had good technique but that was decades ago. Now he was slow and the elegance was gone. It was like watching a huge seal trying to attack a wolf, the result was given before he took the first step.
The tall golden haired elf met his strike with a swift blockade, forced the opponents blade down with ease since he was way stronger than the adan and then he kicked Markal hard and made the man spin backwards. Markal swore like a sailor and attacked again, he hadn't learned anything by his failed attempt and the next move was a vicious low thrust, he tried to plant his sword in the elf's guts but Glorfindel just grinned and spun out of the way like a leaf on the wind before he gave Markal a punch straight to the jaw. The man staggered back, he was seeing stars and it felt as if he had been kicked by a horse. The humiliation became too much for him, he roared in anger and ignored the fact that he was bleeding from the mouth since several teeth had been broken.
He swung the sword yet again and saw that the two black haired wolf eyed elves stared at him with cold indifference. They knew that this human couldn't win, to even think that he could hope to defeat the great Glorfindel of Imladris was sheer stupidity. Markal didn't know that, he tried to make a mock attack to get the opponent to lose his balance and concentration but that failed miserably. Glorfindel saw through his deception right away and he growled. " You and your men abused that poor girl, ruined her until she no longer saw any way out this except through death. If I was following my own consciousness I would have wounded you and left you in the woods for the orcs. That had been a very deserved end for you, for you are naught but a beast"
Markal was short of breath, just a minute of fighting had brought him to the edge of fatigue, sitting on your ass every day drinking ale and eating really does nothing good for your fighting capabilities. He had had others to fight his battles for him, now that came back to bite him where it hurt the most. He was panting and tried to spin to avoid the elf's blade but Glorfindel had foreseen his move and he cut a long deep gash across the man's chest. Markal screamed, the wound wasn't deadly in itself but of course it hurt, and blood was gushing out of it.
The elf sneered. "I hope that those who claim that there is a special place for the bad ones are right, you deserve to burn for eternity for what you did to poor Ingelda, and the others of this village."
Markal roared again and threw himself forward, just to suddenly realize that the world had turned upside down, weird, what was this? Then he saw the sky and then the ground and the ground came towards him very fast and he wanted to stop his fall but where was his hands? The last thing Markal saw was his own body crumbling to the ground beside his head, the sword falling from dead hands. Glorfindel lowered his blade and stared at the corpse, he spat at it in disgust and the twins came forth. " That was a much easier death than he deserved."
Glorfindel shook the blood off his blade and nodded. " Yes, but we are not orcs. If there is justice in this world his soul will be punished for eternity."
Elladan and Elrohir stared at him. " What happened to his men? They went insane?!"
Glorfindel sighed and touched their shoulders gently. " I will maybe answer that later, but now, go back indoors. There is something I need to do"
The twins frowned but obeyed, they had learned to trust the balrog slayer centuries ago and followed his bidding although with curiosity burning in their minds. Glorfindel waited until the doors were shut before he slowly walked towards the shadows covering the inner part of the yard. He could sense the presence again and stopped, his hands visible but never too far from his blade. " Why?"
A figure seemed to materialize out of the shadows, tall, clad in dark clothes and a dark cloak. Silvery eyes were staring into his own blue ones and he felt a chill running down his spine. This was no longer an elf, this was something different, something new. " Because I could"
The voice was hoarse, deep. It was so very different from the once so soft and beautiful voice that had many mesmerized back in Aman, when the trees still were alive and the darkness naught but a word. " I think I ought to thank you."
Glorfindel didn't know if he should sound impressed or rather terrified. The other elf grinned, the face was scarred and pale, the dark hair and the eyes even more striking than before due to that fact. He looked like a predator, and a mad one too. "I accept that, but it is not needed. Those men were scum, rotten meat to be discarded off."
Glorfindel swallowed. " What now?"
The darkhaired ellon cocked his head. " How so? I walk my own path and I will leave now, no need to linger. "
Glorfindel had a hard time finding the words. " The twins would love to meet you. There is food in there, and warmth."
The other elf laughed, a harsh hard laughter. " You are offering a kinslayer a meal, I never thought I would hear those words from your mouth Laurefindil. You were always so righteous, so perfect. I am glad to see that this world have sharpened your edge, you will need it"
Glorfindel swallowed, this was one immensely dangerous creature. " Whose side are you on?"
The tall noldo grinned, a vicious grin. " What does that matter? If you think you can fight me you are only going to die again, believe me. But to soothe your nerves, I will fight him once again, I will hunt his servants, torment his lackeys and destroy them, one by one."
Glorfindel felt the words form in his mouth, almost outside of his control. " What have you become Makalaure?"
The last remaining son of Fëanor just grinned again, the grin of a creature almost consumed by darkness but fighting it still. "Death"
Glorfindel stared at the spot where the once gentle minstrel had stood and the hairs stood up at the back of his neck. He mumbled to himself. "Death indeed, the voice of vengeance, the fist of the doomsman."
He went back inside and was met by a crying Esme who had failed to see that Ingelda had awakened and she had been too late to stop the girl from running up the stairs to her death. It took some time calming her down but the woman slowly recovered from the shock The bodies were removed and buried and the head of Markal put on a stake outside of the village. Glorfindel wanted to tell the twins of the meeting with their father's foster father but he held his mouth shut. What he had encountered out there hadn't been Maglor, not really. It was something he couldn't describe and he knew that he wouldn't find any answers no matter how hard he tried. Elrond would only go searching for Maglor if he was told he was alive still and Glorfindel knew that this new creature never would allow himself to be found unless he wanted to be seen.
Ingelda was buried and Glorfindel managed to convince the rangers of the wisdom in leaving their money there to help her family overcome the loss. The village was grateful for the help and would return to normal soon enough but Glorfindel had a strange fear festering within his heart. Maglor hated the enemy more than anyone else, and such feelings can be manipulated, turned even. Would they one day have to fight a ghost, a remnant of ages past, powerful like a force of nature and just as ruthless? He didn't know, and he didn't want to know the answers.
Estel recovered and after a couple of days they left the village, the horses were well rested and they rode hard back to Imladris. The mission had been a success in a way, they had killed the orcs and the mercenaries and their leader but the twins wondered why Glorfindel suddenly seemed so solemn and silent. He refused to answer their questions and they were smart enough not to push it. He did after all have a temper too.
Elrond wondered too and he knew that something had happened, something with far reaching consequences but the balrog slayer said nothing. On a spring day some years later the group Glorfindel was leading came across a clearing with a group of dead orcs, all with blood seeping from their ears and bodies contorted by agony. He stopped his horse and felt the eyes upon him once again. He hid his shudder of discomfort and whispered almost to himself. "Until next time"
The answer could have been an echo, or maybe it was the strange ellon who once had been a king. " Next time"