Stare into the fire
Do watch the dancing flames
What do you see within its raging heart
Where hunger always will rule supreme
The valley was rather quiet, the heat of summer made the air shimmer and most living creatures had sought refuge in the shadows, trying to endure until the cool breeze of dusk brought some relief. A narrow river snaked its way through the area, now it was almost dry and the water tepid, the animals would come down to it to drink but it brought no relief from the heat, not anymore. It hadn't rained for weeks and the heat was unusual for this land, it was rather far north and the summers were short and hectic before the cold reclaimed the land and wrapped it in freezing snow yet again.
Some deer lay underneath the shade of some huge elm trees, they were relaxed and at peace but a couple were keeping an eye on things, just to be sure. Not even the wolves would bother hunting in this heat. The leader of the herd was an old doe, she had given birth to several strong calves and she had always been able to find the way to the best pastures, the herd trusted her. Now she was standing there with her latest calf suckling her and she stretched her neck to reach some leaves, then she suddenly froze. The huge soft eyes scanned the surroundings for the thing that had set off her senses, she turned her head to and fro and her long ears were moving, there was something there, something was wrong.
Then the earth started to move, a low rumbling sound could be heard and the forest came to life again, in a most unusual way. The trees did sway like a drunken sailor, there were loud creaking and popping sounds as roots and stems were ripped over, rocks fell from the cliffs, the birds all took to their wings in a fit of panic and other animals also came running. Earthquakes were not unheard of in this region but this was a particularly nasty one. The ground did shake as if it was trying to get rid of everything upon it and it lasted for many minutes before it calmed down again. Many animals were killed or hurt and huge areas of forest had been flattened, there was a stench of brimstone in the air and dust and smoke blotted out the sun.
The herd of deer had sought refuge by the river and they had made it through the whole ordeal unscathed but others were not so lucky. The ground had stopped shaking but the old doe knew it wasn't over yet. Her instincts were keen, they had kept her alive for over a decade, she wouldn't let the sensation of peace fool her. Something was amiss. They heard it then, a distant rumbling sound and the doe quickly ran into the woods, something was coming, something very dangerous. She didn't want to take any risks with her herd and calf.
A mile further up south a very large canyon started to cut its way through the terrain, it looked as if someone had grabbed a humongous axe and cut into the very crust of the earth and now the canyon had become wider than before, and way deeper. It formed a chasm, and heat rose from it together with smoke and ash and dust. Rocks still came loose from the unstable walls, there was a constant rumble and hissing and then something roared again. A roar that turned triumphant, deafening and mighty. The ground shook again, but more locally this time, something was making its way up towards the light, something massive and the heat made trees growing by the chasm explode.
It had rested there for so long, awaiting its master's call. It had never come and so it had slept there for ages, impatient but unable to break free from its bonds. But now the earthquake had set it free, it could do its masters bidding and it worked its way upward, slowly but with fierce determination. It was made to be unstoppable, made to be feared. It was its master's ultimate weapon and if the dark lord had managed to awaken it back when he was vanquished it could possibly have turned the tide of war completely. It had no concept of time, no understanding, all it knew was that it was free, and the world would shiver before its wrath and power.
The silence of the great hall was eerie this morning, the sunrise always threw such a very delicate light upon the peak of Taniquetil and it made the palace even more beautiful than usual but this morning was different. There was an atmosphere of something almost somber there and the leader of the Valar sat upon his throne and looked very concerned about something. His wife came rushing into the room, she too looked nervous and she stopped in front of Manwë and swallowed hard. "You felt it?"
He got up and nodded. "Yes, the others?"
Varda grasped his hand, she was a bit pale. " Felt it too, Yavanna almost passed out, what is happening?"
Manwë stared out of the huge open windows, his gaze was distant. "Something forgotten, something we didn't know of. A relict of a time long gone, a spawn of Morgoth"
Varda's eyes went wide and she whimpered. "What?"
Manwë sighed. "He had many things sworn to his service and he also created some servants of his own, many most terrible. This is one of them, the only one I pray."
Varda looked confused and her husband hugged her, he was a bit pale. "I saw many of the scrolls that were taken out of Angband after its fall, one of them mentioned an experiment Morgoth had performed, but it didn't say anything about the result. But this has to be it, I can sense it Varda, it is…an abomination, something utterly wicked and vile and it has awakened. The very earth shudder from its presence, cringes in disgust."
She caught his gaze with her own. " Then what are we to do?"
Manwë was staring out into the distance. "There is little we can do, none of us are in Arda, and with the recent fall of Sauron the rings have lost their power too. There is none strong enough to face the thing that has now awakened."
Varda was wringing her hands, she looked distraught. "But there has to be some way to warn them? It awakened in the north? Then it will most certainly be heading south."
Manwë nodded. "Do see if you can make Lorien send some visions, there are still strong minds present, not all have sailed. We have to save them from this terrible enemy."
Varda nodded. " I will go to him immediately. Is there nothing we can do to stop it? I fear it will ruin everything, turn the lands into fields of death. "
Manwë shook his head. " There is not time enough to raise an army, and an army would be useless. Not even our magic is strong enough against this, we can just hope that as many as possible will sail right away, and that it can't cross the sundering sea."
Varda sighed. " The firstborn might sail yes, but what about the others? What about the humans and the other races? Do we leave them to face a most cruel fate? Do we not care? Do we turn our gaze away from middle earth and leave her to doom and destruction?"
Manwë closed his eyes. " This is one enemy like none other we have ever encountered, I fear that the dark one created something so strong he himself didn't dare to awaken it. There is nothing we can do my love."
He turned around and stared out towards the sunset and then he tensed up. "Or is there?"
He just mumbled and Varda frowned. "What?"
He spun around on his heels. " I just got an idea, it could work, it has to work. Our world is yet one of many, there are others who may be able to fight this monster. Go to Lorien, ask him to send dreams and visions and tell him to tell them help is on the way, I hope!"
Varda immediately ran to follow his order and Manwë turned towards the light once more, he felt dizzy and frightened, this threatened the very balance itself, it was as if Morgoth somehow had managed to reach through the doors of night and yet again created discord within the great music, and he seriously doubted that this was in Illuvatars great plan. It had to work, he had to find someone somewhere capable of stopping this monstrosity. The very idea of what he just felt sent shivers down his spine. It could bring forth the end, way ahead of time. He closed his eyes, gathered his powers and started to seek souls capable of facing such a challenge.
The two elves were sleeping soundly, curled up together in bed like they had for the past ages and the warm breeze caressed their hair and skin where it was exposed. Celeborn sighed in his sleep and pulled his wife even closer to him, they had celebrated the fall of Sauron just months ago and the world was still in a bit of turmoil. But they had hope now, and the future looked brighter. He felt her sweet smell and felt at ease when she was this close, he could protect her from harm then. She groaned in her sleep, tossed around and suddenly she went completely rigid. Celeborn awakened within the blink of an eye, he knew something was wrong.
Galadriel gasped, then she shrieked and her body arched off the bed, stiff as a board and shuddering all over. He stared at her in wide eyed fear and she went completely limp and just collapsed in a heap, sweaty, teary eyed but awake. He embraced her, very frightened and confused, "Meleth, what is wrong?"
His voice was thin and shivering and she sat up, slowly while panting, her eyes were wide. " A vision my dear, a most horrible vision."
Celeborn embraced her, kissed her hair, feeling a strange chill rushing through him. "What did you see?"
She trembled. " A warning, something has awakened, something terrible. Up north, it is…something Morgoth created and yet feared to use."
Celeborn stared at her and his eyes were wide with shock. " Valar no, not now!"
She got the sweaty locks of hair out of her face, her eyes were dark. " The message was clear, the Valar know Celeborn, and they can do nothing. We have to warn everybody, not all may be reached in this way."
Celeborn bit his teeth together. " Thranduil. He never listens to anybody, not even the Valar. He thinks he is safe in that fortress of his."
Galadriel pulled her blankets tighter around herself. " This time he won't be safe at all, that fortress is no match for the beast of Morgoth. He must prepare to evacuate his people if it heads that way and I fear that it will."
Celeborn felt ice cold to the very core. " How can we save people, we cannot gather everybody and get them to leave for the blessed realm in just days or weeks.?"
Galadriel leaned her head onto his shoulder. " The warning spoke of help, the Valar will bring us help. That was all it said though."
Celeborn closed his eyes, held her tight. " I will send riders to Mirkwood right away, and to Imladris too."
Galadriel smiled. " Elrond already knows, believe me, I felt I touched his mind too during the vision, They are preparing but we are closer to Thranduil's realm."
Celeborn nodded, Thranduil was after all a relative and although he was stubborn like none other he was a well respected king and a fierce warrior. Celeborn got out of bed and walked barefoot across the floor of their talan, he went over to a desk and wrote something on a parchment, then he made a few copies, sealed them and put his own sign in the wax. He put on a robe, went out and after just a few minutes riders were dispatched, they had been given strict orders. They had to reach Mirkwood and they had to do it fast. They were not to stop for anything or anyone.
Celeborn returned to bed, Galadriel reached out for him, embraced him and he knew that she needed to be comforted, to feel safe. He kissed her neck and pulled her close and she closed her eyes and just relaxed. She had done what she could do at the moment, now they could just hope that the Valar did manage to find someone capable of fighting the monstrosity that had been brought forth.
"Whoa, easy, easy there" The voice was calm and yet filled with tension, the loud whinnying of a frightened horse could be heard through the forest and the animal rolled its eyes and reared yet again. The tall elf holding its lead rope was struggling to calm it down. " Damn it Rarach, if you keep panicking every time you see Arazz eating this will be a long journey indeed."
He threw a quick glance over at the dragon that sat underneath a tree, gnawing away at a dead deer. The young stallion snorted and danced and refused to calm down, the elf shook his head. "Wougar! I need your help!"
A very tall figure got up from the camp fire and walked towards them, almost eight feet of tha'lar elf stared at the frightened horse and he grinned. "Again hu? You ought to get yourself an elven bred horse, not one of those skittish thoroughbreds."
Wougar reached out and touched the horses forehead, he whispered a few words and the horse immediately calmed down, became completely manageable. He petted the horse on the neck. "He is a good one, but too young for this. Qu'ghan, I can get you a steed from our people."
The younger elf smiled but the smile was a bit stiff. " I know but I will tame that darn colt, or die trying!"
Wougar just chuckled. " Well, you are too stubborn mellon, but then again, you might succeed. Or end up with a broken neck."
Qu'ghan shook his head. " I didn't survive a millennia with Kheran and his group to be killed by a horse, believe me!"
Wougar just raised an eyebrow and smirked. " Let's hope so."
Qu'ghan tied the horse up again next to the other steeds, Wougar's animal stood at the other end of the meadow, it was not a horse but a zahar, an animal which resembled a horse to some degree but it was omnivorous and very fierce and accepted only one rider. In front of the fire a giant feline lay licking its paws with slow and methodical determination, it was the size of a horse and Qu'han had been utterly shocked when he joined the group and met Bloodjaw for the first time. He had never even known that such creatures did exist.
He sat down and stared at the faces assembled there, Kheran, his former captain and leader, the most deadly assassin and warrior of the dragon empire and by his side his mate Morghian. She was a former officer of the dragon city and she had saved the entire city but she had paid a terrible price. The young elf was in awe of her, for she was a true dragon in humanoid shape and more powerful than anyone could imagine. Kheran was of the same bloodline, he was the one the powers had put their hope upon and the original chosen one but he didn't have the right type of power. He was an elf, with some dragons blood yes but not enough to be what he had been meant to be. And he was too bloodthirsty and addicted to violence to be completely trusted, Morghian had tamed him, but only to a certain degree. He was still lethal and Qu'ghan remembered all the times they had fought side by side, it was memories that were precious to him and yet frightening.
Next to them Wougar had sat down with his friend and lover R'enith, she was another tha'lar elf, extremely tall as they all were, tattooed and primitive looking but the shaman and the priestess were a terrifying unit. Their powers were undeniably great and right now Wougar had created a safe zone for them, nobody with evil intent would find this meadow and R'enith had turned the frosty night into a warm and comfortable one.
Next to them Abry had sat down, she was gnawing at a leg of lamb and Qu'ghan had to grin. The woman looked like a human, a very pretty human too, but she was a were cat and very dangerous. The glowing eyes were the only thing about her which gave away her true nature and she could fight like a devil if she had to. And she was a dancer, not even the gods could dance like Abry when she let herself go and just let the music fill her. She became sensual and elegant and tempting and she used to brag about the fact that she could make men come undone just with her dancing. He didn't doubt that.
Qu'ghan was a dancer too, it was his disguise, his way of getting to the targets he had been sent to assassinate and he was very good at both dancing and killing. The two of them had often shared a dance and sometimes bedfur's too and nobody would be able to resist them when they really wanted to capture someone's interest. Abry was a mischievous one, she embraced life with a fierce joy and she never backed away from a challenge. He liked that. The group had also one more person or person? She sat next to Abry and they were chatting away about dresses and shoes of all things, females are females no matter what race they are of. Yliahr was also a dragon but not of the original ones, she was of a much younger race created to help and aid their masters in the great wars of old.
She was not able to hide her identity the way Morghian could, nobody who saw Yliahr could mistake her for a human being, Her skin was red and her hair and eyes too, she was tall and slender and her sharp teeth and flaming gaze could scare the living daylights out of anyone. He had been a bit scared of Yliahr at first but he liked her, she was after all a mighty dragon and with her by their side they had few enemies who could hope to cause any problems. One of the group had left just two weeks earlier,. Yrrbram was a man who also had fought side by side with Kheran, he was a human but had been given immortality by accident, he was more than five hundred years old and it had made him both a bit bitter and melancholic. Yrrbram had fractured a leg while crossing a river and he chose to stay put in a village until it healed, he didn't want to cause any problems.
Arazz growled and Morghian got up, walked over and scratched the young battle dragon under its massive jaw. It closed its eyes and purred to her and she helped it getting rid of some pieces of meat that had gotten stuck between its teeth. Arazz had been the steed of her tutor and protector but when he died in the final terrible battle against the leader of the evil black dragons Arazz had chosen her as his new rider. He was a brutal looking beast, bred for war and only for that but she had discovered that the animal was far more gentle than one could expect. The battle dragons were just animals unable to speak or think but she had always had an uncanny ability to understand them. He was larger than the dragons the city had owned before the war, about five meters tall and three times that long, the huge wings were folded up and just as the riding dragons he was a wyern. His front legs were also his wings, he used the knuckles to walk on. The dragon was almost black but he had stripes and spots in a dark red color and he was beyond any doubt the steed of a general, made to lead the troops into battle.
Morghian had been proud to be an officer, to be a dragon rider and to protect the city and the empire but when the war ended and she was the hero everybody suddenly worshipped it all became too much. She had to leave or lose the very core of her own being and so they had chosen to just travel and explore and let fate lead them wherever it wished to. She felt that Kheran was staring at her, he never left her side for long and she knew it was normal for a soul bound couple. Humans don't bond like that, but she and Kheran had, the tall elf was the other half of her and she couldn't imagine a life without him. If she had chosen to return to the world of the true dragons with her kin she would have been able to regain her dragon form again, but Kheran would not have been able to follow her and she would rather die than lose him. Her choice had been an easy one.
She petted Arazz on his neck again and stared at her hands, around each wrist she wore a bracelet, an honor bond. They were wrought from moon silver and could never be removed once in place. She was bonded with Wougar and R'enith too, in a way created solely by magic. The bonds could not be removed as long as she was alive and her guardians would always know where she was and how she was. It felt like a burden, like being spied upon but she was grateful too. Their powers made her safe when she was weak, gave her strength and confidence. But it had also created problems, for some reason the bond between Kheran and herself was so strong it enabled Wougar and R'enith to feel his presence too, and it could be a bit confusing and overwhelming at times.
And she knew too darn well how Wougar felt about her, she could sense it very well, she could almost smell it at times. He loved her, fiercely and with absolute devotion but she was already someone else's mate and she was not one to share. She liked Wougar, and he was as beautiful as every elf but the tha'lar were intimidating too, very different from the ordinary elves races. Their origin was so far back in time nobody really knew from whence they had come and their strength was legendary, as were their magical abilities. R'enith on the other hand loved Wougar, and she suffered knowing he did care about her and that he in a way also did love her but she could never own his whole heart. That was the priestess tragedy and Morghian was very sad on her behalf, but hearts do not let common sense stop them from feeling the way they do.
She returned to the camp fire, they had travelled for months, they had left the empire and were in the mountains of the north. She had always wanted to see them and it was spectacular and wonderful and a bit scary too. The nature was so wild there, so unpredictable. But with Arazz and Yliahr they were safe and Wougar and R'enith often used their magic to protect the group. Yet Morghian could not relax, there was something nagging at the back of her mind and she didn't know what it was.
Kheran let a hand glide through her long dark locks, he tilted his head and the flint grey eyes glittered. " You look like a cat on a windy day starry eyes. "
She leaned into his touch, closed her eyes in bliss. " I feel uneasy my love, that is all."
He pulled her closer, kissed her neck underneath her ear and she shuddered and gasped. " I can make you much more relaxed. "
His husky voice told her what he was thinking about and she saw that Abry grinned with a vicious glimpse within her eyes. " Oh no, not again. You kept us all awake for hours the last time he had that look in his eyes."
Qu'ghan had been very glad to see that his former captain had found a new love, the loss of his previous mate had been pretty close to killing him too but the younger elf was a bit jealous too. He wished he could have that sort of connection with another as that couple shared.
Morghian showed Abry the finger and the dancer giggled and rolled her eyes, Wougar sniggered and Yliahr lifted an eyebrow in an expression of mock shock. Kheran just grasped Morghian and lifted her and she squealed and wriggled but his arms were strong as steel and she didn't mind a quick tumble. He found a patch of soft grass covered ground behind a huge elm and laid her down before he started tearing off their clothes. Morghian was still amazed by his appetite and passion, and in awe of his beauty and strength.
He had earned the nick name Steelhand back when he was working for the emperor as an assassin, the reason was that he had crushed the head of a huge orc just with his hand and Morghian didn't doubt the truth in that tale. He was extremely strong, even for an elf. The flint grey eyes had gotten soft with desire and yet they were burning and she helped him get her pants off before he ripped them apart, he had done that on a few occasions and she was no seamstress so she tried to avoid that outcome. Kheran had thick waist long hair and it looked like silk, but it had a peculiar color. It was black at the roots but got lighter towards the tips and so it held every hue from nightblack to silvery white and some stripes went up and down, it was most unusual among elves to have such strange hair and he did cause some confusion when he showed up. The harsh and yet handsome features could seem frightening but Morghian knew him and she was never afraid of him. He would never hurt her and she was very lucky to have him.
She still remembered her previous lover Ayren, another officer who had gotten killed in the first attack upon the capital. She too had gotten severely wounded, she had almost died and she had wanted to die and be reunited with him on the other side but destiny had something else in store for her. She knew now that Ayren never would have been able to cope with the truth of who she really was, the last true dragon of their world, the last chosen one. Kheran could, and he did. He never had any problems accepting the truth, his people didn't find it weird that a female chose to fight or lived as a male.
Kheran did have a warriors body, he was scarred and toned and more muscular than most elves with the exception of the tha'lar race. She had seen what he could do with the two blades he carried and she had the greatest respect for his skills, she was a good warrior but she was nowhere near being as perfect as him. Greedy kisses and caresses turned to more and before long they both were lost in their passion and hunger.
When they returned to the camp fire the others had gone to rest, wrapped in their blankets. Bloodjaw sat there washing its fur and the horses were calm too, the breeze did rustle the leaves and Morghian felt at ease. She was glad the others were sleeping, she knew they would have made jokes otherwise. She was a loud one and Kheran was also unable to stay quiet, he would often roar or scream when he came and he had rather good lungs so everything in a miles radius could hear him. Morghian saw that Wougar was awake, he didn't move though, but the glowing green cats eyes of the tha'lar followed her and she saw the sorrow and longing in them. It made her feel guilty somehow. If she hadn't had Ayren when she first met Wougar it wasn't unthinkable that she would have fallen for him but she wasn't used to the idea of many living together as spouses. To elves that was rather normal and nothing anybody wondered about but her human upbringing was hindering her. Kheran would not have felt bothered by it if she chose to involve Wougar in their relationship, he knew that her heart belonged to him and the bond between soulmates could never be broken. She just found the idea of it a bit unsettling.
She fell asleep with Kheran's large worn hand on her hip and she wondered what the next day would bring them, the area was beautiful and filled with wildlife and she had seen a lot she never had even heard of before. The journey had somehow reawakened her joy and her spark, if she had stayed in the city as a symbol and pretty face to be shown to others at festivals and celebrations she would have withered for sure, it would have killed the very light in her. She was a warrior at heart, not some trinket.
Morghian woke up with a most peculiar feeling, it was as if she was dead drunk and at the same time suffering from one hell of a sugar high. She groaned and realized that someone was shaking her rather violently. She opened her eyes and stared at the faces of Wougar and Qu'ghan and both were pale with wide eyes and rather startled expressions. She shook her head and then she noticed a very obvious change from the day before. The meadow was no longer as it had been, it had shrunk and the open forest surrounding it had been replaced by a thick and dark and somewhat sinister looking forest. The horses stood where they had tied them, Bloodjaw and Arazz were there and so were Wougar's zahar Bladesong so nobody was missing but what the hey had happened?
Morghian got onto her feet, it smelled differently, it felt differently and she still had that strange feeling in her head. Kheran stood by a tree, bent over and he was retching. R'enith stood by another tree and she did the same and Abry was on her hands and knees saying goodbye to everything she had eaten the last day. Yliahr didn't seem to be affected though and she just looked curious. Wougar was obviously very upset, he was almost panting and his eyes flickered from one side to the other, he was covered in sweat and shivered. "What in the name of the ancients have happened? Where are we?"
R'enith managed to get a hold of herself. " This is not Dhra' khib, that is for certain. This is a different world."
Kheran turned to Morrghian. " Could it be your real home? Where the dragons originate from?"
Morghian shook her head, this didn't feel anything like the sensation she had had when she for a short while had entered that dimension. "No, no such luck I am afraid. This is a strange land."
Qu'ghan shook his head and his eyes were blurred, he didn't look well at all. Wougar patted his back and the slender elf groaned and bent over, his pale white face turning a sickly green. Wougar sighed. " Whoever it was that got us here, they didn't exactly do it with gentleness, I feel like I have been fighting a whole army damn it."
Kheran was having trouble standing up, he almost looked cross eyed for a moment and that was rather impressive, usually he had a stone face. He grasped the hilt of one of his sword as if it was a life saver. " Wherever this is, I am sure it is rather dangerous, I can somewhat feel it."
Abry rolled her eyes and got up onto her feet, she looked awful. "No shit, can someone please stop that infernal spinning?"
Morghian tried to smile but her face felt stiff, so the others felt dizzy too, no wonder. She felt a tingling sensation all over and knew that it was due to a rather immense use of magic. It was no accident, someone had deliberately thrown them out of their own world and into this one, wherever it was. Wougar was tense, he tried to open his senses to the forest but it didn't feel right, it felt…angry. Almost hostile and there was agony there, a sort of wailing lament hidden within the general song of the trees, he tried to reach out, to comfort them but they shut him out. It was a most unusual reaction, something was very wrong there. The shaman straightened himself up and tried to get a grip of himself, he sighed. " We cannot linger here, it is not safe. Do break camp and do it fast. "
They all gathered their belongings, rolled up the blankets, got the pots and pans back onto the pack horses, saddled their own animals. Wougar did ride without a saddle, a zahar never allows its rider to use any tack and the animal had a strange sort of mental connection with its chosen rider, he could almost talk to Bladesong. Morghian saddled her cream colored mare Icewind and the horse was nervous and skittish. She didn't like the sounds and scents there at all. Qu'ghan's young brown stallion was rolling its eyes and whinnying and even Kheran's destrier Rhekk was dancing around. The group left the small clearing in a hurry, Yliahr rode a huge mule since horses would bolt if she tried to ride them, and Bloodjaw ran next to them panting and looking a bit uncomfortable too.
Arazz had taken to the air and flew up above in wide circles, Morghian had thought of riding him but had decided against it, she saw that the forest was very dense and she didn't want to leave her friends and be safe up there if something happened down between the trees. Wougar decided that they should head westward and they all agreed, one direction was probably as good as the others since they had no idea of where they were.
The forest did indeed look sick, thick moss was hanging off the trees, dripping with moisture but it wasn't the fresh water of a normal forest, this was some sickening oozing liquid that stank. Rotten wood and strangely colored mushrooms covered the land and fallen trees made it difficult to move forth. Qu'ghan shuddered, he found this place creepy and unpleasant and Kheran did too. They were at least partly from the same race of elves and shared the same tall elegant and yet strong body type. Qu'ghan was in fact the son of a noble lord of one of the main houses of their nobility, he had been disowned due to a rather juicy affair with the daughter of the high priest and also his eldest son. It had been a scandal but Qu'ghan had been more than happy to turn his back to the constant power struggles of the high society.
He had met Kheran at the military academy and had always worshipped the famous warrior as a symbol of strength and independence.
Kheran too was a high born, but he was a bastard, his mother had had an affair with a man from an almost forgotten branch of the elven race and Kheran was the result. Her husband had accepted the boy as his own since he saw the strength in the child but Kheran had proved to be too much of a handful. He was a rebel at heart, he was unable to bow to the strict codes and rules which controlled everybody of the high society, he became a warrior and then an assassin and he was famous throughout all the seven kingdoms, and feared.
Now they all fell into a fighting mode, keeping their weapons ready and their senses open. R'enith were using her magic, scanning the surroundings for danger and she was so confused, there were darkness everywhere, evil lurking all around them as if it permeated the very air. Morghian felt her skin crawl, she felt like hiding in some hole in the ground, this was not good at all.
They had ridden for some hours when Bloodjaw suddenly growled and the fur stood up along the animals back. Wougar stopped Bladesong and stared out into the darkness, they could hear a very low but incredibly sinister clattering sound and Morghian felt a scent that floated on the air and it made her nauseous. R'enith had an expression upon her face of utter disgust and she had let go of the reins. Qu'ghan had pulled out each and every one of his long sleek throwing daggers, he hissed and looked a bit like a snarling cat. Abry and Yliahr sat at the back of the group and they looked a bit confused.
Then something moved, ahead of them and around them, something rather large and very fast and Morghian almost screamed when she saw that it was spiders, bloody huge hairy spiders with vicious looking eyes and huge gaping mouths with teeth that looked more like those of a shark than an arachnid. Kheran swore, he had pulled both swords and his huge red destrier was snorting and stepping, eager to fight. Wougar began to chant, a low almost menacing sound with no real words, just a sound that made the hairs stand up at the back of their heads. The spiders stopped, it was as if they had hit a wall of some kind. R'enith whispered her own chants, her magic was less bound to the powers of nature than Wougars, it came more from herself and it could thus wear her out but she was not a force you should play with. She was formidable and very skilled and now a huge ball of light rose into the air above them and cast a very harsh and strong light onto the surroundings. The spiders shrieked, tried to turn around and get away from the terrible light but they couldn't move. Wougars magic had bound them to the place and moving was like trying to cross a deep river while wearing lead boots.
Kheran grinned, a wide and vicious grin. " Qu'ghan, you take the left flank, I take the right one."
The two were off their horses and the barrier didn't stop them. Kheran started killing spiders like it was just an everyday affair and Qu'ghan was dancing through the spiders on the other side of the path. He threw his daggers and they returned to him when they had done their job, it looked as if the air around him was filled with flying steel at any time. Morghian sighed, she felt angry, and she hated spiders. These were particularly nasty, she could sense that they weren't natural, they were abominations, monsters. They were made from darkness and evil and she could feel their minds, cold and dark and filled with naught but hatred and hunger. Morghian could no longer transform herself into a dragon, she had lost that ability when she used all her power to rebuild the city, she had burned herself out. But she could still control fire to a certain degree and so she let her disgust manifest itself as fire but not the usual sort of flames, she formed a ball of pure plasma with her mind and it wasn't much larger than a child's hand but it shone with the light of a small sun.
She aimed for the huge group of spiders in front of them and just let it fly. The ball passed through the hairy bodies as if they were made from butter and the spiders made awful sounds and fell, one by one. The ball kept flying around until there were no spiders left in that direction. Kheran and Qu'ghan had finished the spiders attacking their flanks and both looked very pleased. Kheran had a wide smile on his face and his eyes were shining, Qu'ghan tossed his waist long dark blue hair back and laughed and Morghian sensed yet one more time the bond between the two. They had fought together long before she had ever been born and she just knew that Qu'ghan knew Kheran in a way she never would, bonded or not. He had seen her mate back when the empire was young, when assassinating the enemies of the young nation was needed.
Wougar stopped chanting and R'enith let the orb of light disappear too, Morghian called the fireball back and absorbed its energy. She felt stronger immediately, invigorated. But the energy was somewhat stained, it didn't feel quite right and she knew that she shouldn't kill any more spiders like this, the life energy she got from them was not good for her at all. She shook herself free from the shivering feeling and Kheran looked at her, concern visible in his eyes. " Are you alright starry eyes?"
She nodded, gave him a thumbs up, The two mounted their horses again and Wougar was staring at the dead spiders. "At least a hundred of them, and so large, I don't like this, at all!"
Kheran petted his blades. " I got thirty three I think. "
Qu'ghan sent his former captain a rather naughty wink. " Oh, I got twenty nine, you beat me with just four!"
Abry rolled her eyes. " Males, everything becomes a competition doesn't it?"
Wougar sent them all a rather tired glance. " Please, be quiet, I sense that this is just the beginning, there are more foul beasts in this forest and I do need some silence to be able to sense them."
Kheran just sent him a polite grin but Morghian knew the flame she saw in his gaze, battle fever. He was never far away from getting caught by its dark allure and she knew that he would be very passionate this night and possibly less gentle than usual too. It was just the way it was with him, bloodshed got his blood pumping and if they had been alone he would have been all over her already. She could sense it through their bond. Wougar urged Bladesong on and Bloodjaw sniffed at a couple of the carcasses and growled, there was nothing edible there at all.
The great hall was rather silent, most of the elves were busy elsewhere and the king sat on his throne with a book in his hands, he had sent some troops out to get rid of a few spider's nests but he feared that they would have little success. Sauron was perhaps defeated but all of his evil hadn't disappeared with him and the forest was still suffering. Dol Guldur was still a problem and the orcs still came surging from that old fortress like a never ending river. They had to breed like bunnies. Thranduil had been beside himself with relief when his son returned home after the war against the evil lord but he was less than thrilled learning of his decision to move to Ithilien. Still, it was better than receiving the message he had feared the whole time, that his son was lost for him. He of course knew that Legolas was suffering from a severe case of sea longing but he had never felt that pull and had no way of knowing how bad it was.
They had feasted and rejoiced and the general mood of the kingdom was lifted, there was some optimism to be found now and they hoped that the future would be lighter than their past. And yet their time was drawing to an end, the elves were leaving, ships sailed west never to return and Thranduil knew that he would wait, he could not leave before all of his people had left too. It was an oath he had sworn long ago and he was going to stand by it, no matter what. He was too attached to this realm to leave before he absolutely had to.
He was reading some poetry book and it was not even good but it was new and he hadn't read it before, that was enough for him right now. Some of the poems made him scoff and he started to believe that this poet was writing while under the influence of something far stronger than miruvor, or he had smoked his own used socks. He was frowning while reading a poem that a four year old human could have done better when one of the guards came, bowing before the throne. "My liege, a messenger has arrived from Lothlorien, it is urgent."
Thranduil sighed, he felt a strange chill running down his spine, now what was this? "Let him inn"
He still had some problems trusting his neighbors, they were Noldorin and he had always been able to protect his realm all alone. Yes, his warriors were perhaps not as disciplined as the troops of Lothlorien or Imladris but that didn't in any way mean that they were less efficient. Far from it, he was very proud of his Silvan and Avari troops.
The messenger was followed in and the king immediately knew that something was very wrong indeed. The ellon was covered with mud and he was so tired he was shaking all over like a leaf in a storm, he looked awful. The guard had to give him a hand so he didn't collapse. He held out a piece of parchment and Thranduil saw his relative's seal upon it, strange, usually it was Galadriel and not Celeborn who sent messages. Was something wrong with anybody he knew? Had something happened?
He gave the guard the order of making sure that the messenger got a decent rest, food and a bath and a new horse as his old one had collapsed from fatigue. He opened the parchment, feeling a bit nervous while doing it, why he did not know. It was not happy news, he just knew that by now. He started to read and he gasped for air, feeling a bit faint. Was this real? Could it be true? Or was Galadriel exaggerating or maybe she just had suffered from a nasty nightmare? He could hope that it was so but his instincts told him that she was right. Something was very wrong, it lay in the very air itself and he felt a terrible fear rush through him. He had gotten his son back home alive, he refused to let him endanger his own life yet again, if there was some monster heading this way then he was the one to face that challenge. His son had done his fair share of fighting, if anyone was to perish it ought to be himself, not Legolas, never him.
He read about the valar promising to send help, yeah right, He had no faith in them, no trust. They didn't care about the people of Middle earth, they had caused havoc before with their lack of understanding and compassion, the doom of the Noldor were the best example of that. Yes, they had finally participated in bringing Morgoth down but the result had been a cataclysm, huge landmasses had become sea and the face of Arda forever changed. If they sent help well, he would believe it when he saw it.
He let the parchment rest in his lap, there was no way of knowing if the monster was heading their way, if it was moving at all, or what it was. A dragon? He remembered the tales of Ancalagon the black, and Glaurung. Something so powerful Morgoth hadn't dared to awaken it even to save himself?! Gods, it was just so hard to believe. Could he order people to evacuate just because of a parchment? No, he didn't want to cause a panic, he would wait and see and perhaps send some scouts out to check if something indeed was amiss further north. He called for his butler and ordered him to gather some of his best captains. When they arrived he briefed them shortly of the parchment and its content and he ordered them to send five groups each consisting of ten warriors northward to see what this was about. The captains left and he sat there staring into the darkness, not really knowing what more he could do. He almost started when one of the palace servants came running, looking a bit pale. "My lord, one of the hunters returned just now, and he swore he saw a dragon above the woods just south east of here."
Thranduil got up onto his feet, he felt as if his heart had dropped several inches within his chest. "How big?"
The servant swallowed. " Not very big at all my lord, perhaps a juvenile?"
Thranduil forced himself to look calm, a juvenile? Even a young dragon could wreak havoc but this was most certainly not the monster he had been warned about. This was something else. He nodded calmly to the servant. " I will look into it."
He got out of the throne room and walked towards his office, he sent another servant to go gather his son and some other warriors. Legolas came right away, he had been training and he still had his blades strapped to his back. He bowed before his father and Thranduil nodded back, he let the pride he felt show within his gaze. " A hunter has claimed to have seen a dragon, southeast of here, do check it out but be careful. If it is indeed a dragon then observe it, see if it is heading in our direction or not but do not engage it. Even a young dragon is a terrible enemy."
Legolas smiled, he had never thought that he would see a dragon again, he had believed that Smaug was the last one but perhaps there had been eggs hatched somewhere. Nevertheless, it made his heart beat faster and he felt a strange tingling sensation of excitement rush through him. This was something he would enjoy doing, and he remembered the monstrosity that had been Smaug, perhaps he could get the chance to bring down a dragon too? He bowed and gathered his best archers and scouts, if there was a dragon there then he would at least try to get a look at it, he promised himself that.
Thranduil stared after his son as he left the room, he swallowed and grasped a decanter and a glass, poured himself a generous amount of wine. He had a strange feeling of oncoming change, something was about to happen that would leave them all as different beings, he just knew it. He had little faith in the Valar but he did have faith in his own intuition and right now it was shouting at him. He sat down by the table and stared at the wine in his glass. It looked a bit like blood and he cringed internally. He had seen enough blood already, he was loathing the very idea of seeing more of it spilled, elven blood above all. But what was it that fate had in store for them now? Would he yet again have to go out to fight to protect those he loved? He stared at his own hands. They knew their strength, and they knew the hilts of his blades very well, he was perhaps a king but he was also among the most skilled warriors of this world. If it came to it he would face the enemy head on, not cowering like some frightened animal. If they were to go out it would be in a blaze of glory, in a battle well worthy of a song. He clenched his teeth, closed his eyes and forced himself to calm down. Yes, he could perhaps hide but he would never crawl, never!