Of Moonlight Messengers

Alatar slammed his cup on to the table and looked straight at Pallando, “How much longer are we supposed to just sit around waiting? We’ve been here a week already and you haven’t even told me why we’re here.”

Pallando calmly kept chewing on his food, “Patience, my friend. I told you I’m waiting for a message. And besides I thought you’d like spending some time at an inn after our wanderings. Doesn’t it remind you of home?”

“It did. Until I found out that the pillows are thin, the bread is too dry and the wine is too sweet. I’d never let my business come to this. Anyway, how are you supposed to get this message?”

“I’m not entirely sure. But I think I’ll know when the time comes.”

Alatar scoffed at this, “You’ve always been one for riddles. In all these years you haven’t learned to talk straight.” He got up to get more wine. Pallando smiled to himself and kept eating. As he looked out the window we could see the sky gradually darkening. Tonight the moon would be out in all its glory.

—–

Later that night Pallando stood high up on the hill that bordered the north side of the village. Below the village was asleep under the moonlight. Like most villages of the Sun-Lords it was small but orderly. The streets were clean, the houses laid out in order, the border wall was well-kept and there were constant guards at the gates. However tonight no guard had seen Pallando in his blue cloak slip past them and none would see him enter.

To his back were the outer fringes of the great Northern Woods. The villagers mistrusted the woods, rightfully so. Though nothing had been seen in many lifetimes of men stories were told of strange creatures coming out of the North, killing men and women in their sleep and stealing the children. Walls had been built to protect villages like this. Pallando couldn’t help but think that the walls were both too short and too thin to keep out any of those creatures if they should return. But that would not happen, he would see to it.

His reverie ended as the moon fell behind a cloud and he heard the rustle of leaves behind him. Anyone else would have called it the wind, but Pallando knew better. Without turning he said, “You are far from home, Gamma Runok”.

A voice answered him from just inside the wood, “I could say the same for you, Bluecloak. And it’s Beta now.”

Pallando turned towards the voice and as he did a man stepped out of the wood. He was tall and muscular, his face obscured partially obscured by a dark beard and flowing dark hair. But his eyes were sharp and keen. His bare chest bore many bruises and scars. As he walked out he stood tall and perfectly straight, there was an air of pride, even nobility around him.

Pallando held him silently for a moment. “Beta? I take it Alpha Laanor did not survive?”

“No. He died three days after you left. Kamil leads the pack now.”

“And the child?”

“He is safe, the Duchess and Romar the Elder take care of him. The castle is guarded day and night by both our peoples.”

“Then Laanor’s death was not in vain. The truce is safe.”

“For now. It is still early days and many are still not sure it is the right way. The blood-feud has been long and the distrust runs deep.”

“It will take time. And the boy holds to the key to the future of both your races. But you already know that. There are other matters we must take care of now. What does the Prince say?”

“The Prince agrees with you. His smiths have begun to forge Mirrors, but he says it will be a long time before any of them are ready. He is less willing to send an emissary. He still remembers how few returned from the last mission.”

“I don’t blame him. But the last mission was one of war, this one will be of peace. We must know what is happening beyond the borders. We cannot afford to be caught unawares. Will you be returning to Rorikshore?”

“Yes. I will rest here tonight and meet with some of my brothers tomorrow.”

“Then be so kind as to tell the Prince that I am coming to Rorikshore. I have… artifacts… that I believe will help him. I won’t keep you any longer, I know how much you enjoy the moon.”

Runok’s face curved into a half smile under his beard. “I do enjoy the moon. And it is a good night. But before I go, there is something else I think you should know about.”

“Oh? About the Prince? Or the child?”

“Neither. Do you know about the Moonlight Circle?”

“Yes, I’ve passed it in many times… the phases of the moon carved into fourteen stones in a circle. I believe one of your Alphas had it placed there long ago.”

“So our legends say. I rested there three nights ago. It is said the Circle is sacred to our people, that while we are in it nothing can harm us. So I slept there and I had the strangest dream. I was in the Circle, but it was a full moon night and the stones were glowing in the moonlight. And it was beautiful. But I wasn’t alone. There was someone else in the Circle with me. The thing is, I can’t remember who this person was, or what he looked like. I only remember one thing.”

“And what is that?”

Runok lowered his voice, as he feared there was someone listening to him, “Darkness will fall. That’s what he said to me, just that one line. I woke up soon after. I fell asleep again, but I didn’t dream. I didn’t think much of it then, but I thought you might be interested to know it.”

“Hmm… I can’t think of what it means. But thank you for telling me.”

At that moment the moon came out from the clouds and Runok turned to look at it. It seemed to make him happy again and wash away all memory of his dream. “Enough talk of darkness and dreams. I shall be off now. The Prince will get your message. Farewell, Bluecloak.”

“Farewell Beta Runok. Safe journeys.”

Runok turned and disappeared into the woods. If he had noticed the bright Ring on Pallando’s finger, set with a large white stone, he did not say anything of it. Pallando, for his part, had not said much of Runok’s dream, but in his mind he kept turning over the words: Darkness will fall.

The Standard Bearer of the Star.

The Dark was whispering something sultry and seductive to the night as it danced around It. The formless thing was about as beautiful and oppressive as the lament of a hundred dying nightingales in a conflagration. The ravens cawed and the choughs cried and the crows tore and the rooks battered at them.

For a moment it would seem that Goldberry sought far into the cloud to see the Dark – to see the shadow disperse and coalesce into something she knew. Someone she knew. The only one she knew.

The Dark encompassed their corporealities, entrenched itself in the little cavities of their skin, filled up their imperceptible imperfections (the Valar, they were not) and unfurled Its true shape to their true eyes.

She was dismayed and gladdened when the masked thing saw them through Its eye and drank their scent them through Its mouth. That was not he. Yet the one eye saw her hungrily, lustily.

The Starlord waited for the Dark to form in front of Goldberry. He knew what It was trying to do, yet he knew not how he knew. It seemed there were a few surprises left for him as well. As the Sun hastily and selfishly slipped away from the scene, the stars – nay – the Star erupted from being a faint smoke-swirling point of light to an excruciatingly powerful candle in the Starlord’s hands. It swirled and weaved itself around his fingers, becoming stronger and more powerful with every strand that seemed wound around the star so far above them all.

The Dark saw it all and knew it all. Yet it screeched and scratched at them with the feathered proxies that would be dying in a moment or two.

And that is when Goldberry saw it all.