A/N: So this has been bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I started reading the Silmarillion about a month ago, and though I haven't finished the book yet, my muse is joyously feeding from it! For those of you familiar with Destiny, you'll know what I mean when I say that Destiny: The Dark Below heavily reminded me of Lord of the Rings, and I've considered making a story combining them both for some time. However, much to my dismay, I've seen only two, EXACTLY TWO crossovers involving the Lord of the Rings and Destiny. And I'm going to be perfectly honest... they're not written that well. But sadly, I know far less about Tolkein's universe than I'd like to admit, so I never felt adequately equipped to make such a story myself. I still don't, but I have spent that last several weeks reading up on pertinent lore. I've spent whole days just surfing the LOTR wikia and reading related passages in the books. I think I can, at the very least, begin now. So here it is, chapter one of my long desired story, Anthem Anatheme. Enjoy!
P.S. Though this first chapter is done in the First-Person Present persepective, subsequent chapters may and probably will differ. Just FYI.
I take my time relishing the cool water as it runs down my face. My fingers, gloved. My arms, gauntleted. But they feel natural all the same. I enjoy the cold that seeps into my hands. It calms me, sates me. The taste is pleasant and refreshing. My naked eyes open to examine my surroundings, though with no difference in sight since last I repeated the action.
It has been… Three weeks since I first arrived here. I know not where nor when I am. The confluxes of the Vex are by no means simple, and I am certain their labyrinthine mazes are the cause of my plight. But I worry not. I've seen the end of the universe as the Vex wish it. Wherever I am is some place they have no interest in, which makes it intrinsically interesting to me, simulation or not. So, I study.
I'm not a Hunter; taking stock of the land and my surroundings only garners me so much knowledge. My passion is in understanding, not of the world around me, but of the world around the world; of the universe and its clock-like intricacies.
Even so, I can learn nothing from the forest birds chirping and squirrels chittering. I have long since felt eyes upon me from afar, yet never once have their possessor come forth to challenge or greet me. I've begun to wonder if my senses have grown dull. Have I become to complacent in this strange, plain world? Am I the only sapient creature to walk its muddied stream banks and touch its aging barked trees?
Of course not. What a silly thought to think! But still, it romances my fantasies like a curious morsel. It whets my appetite but satiates nothing. So, I consume more of the world. I watch, wander, and wonder. I linger and loiter. I walk and I run. I breath in sights and exhale intrigue.
I rise from my knees and do not replace my helm. I enjoy viewing this world for what it is with mine own eyes, not through a digital or dimmed visor.
I continue to follow the river north with great white peaks of unknown mountains to the east rising to hedge my path. Through its rushing waters I could see no purchase to cross, and its strength was too great to swim against and breadth too far to leap. So, I walk on seeking northerly paths.
It was upon this path that I finally came across unfriendly company. I will not deign to call them "life" for such creatures, though living, did not deserve the name. Their foul disposition belied the darkness within them, and familiar hackles raised along my neck. They were few in number and small in stature. Their hobbled gates slowed them down and their gnashing teeth implied their hunger for freshly mauled meats.
I would instead bequeath the gift of steel. And I, with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, damned the ground where they fell, black blood oozing and soiling the green undergrowth. It was over before it began. And so I took my time examining them and their effects. Roughly hewn animal pelts, crudely shaped curved blades both rusted and unclean, malformed physiques, and a singularly sinister aura. They were unnervingly similar, yet different from what I was already familiar with. My peace of mind gave way to suspicion, and my steps were thenceforth measured and eyes keen in their gaze.
I continue onward along the river's side, for at the very least I knew, where fresh water flowed, life congregated, and this land did not hold the corrupted taint that I would expect if it's only inhabitants where more of those pitiful wretches. Not that I mind my solitude. I was never one to taste its enjoyment in the past, I so rarely even had a moment to do so. Now I all I could ask for, and yet for all I appreciate it I feel... alone. Not alone in my individuality, but alone as if... as if every light in the galaxy was so very far removed from myself. I feel like a wanderer in a vast desert of night.
Speaking of, the nights here are beautiful. The stars are vibrant and blazing in the tapestry above, though foreign in every conceivable way. I trace their forms for a glimpse of familiar constellations, yet none seemed obvious, and even my spectral companion could find no link between their shapes. Nevertheless, they were fantastically luminous. Whenever I stop to rest, I watch them for hours.
The warm weather of late summer had wakened me to it's gentle caress, and from there the day devolved into a menacing game of hide and seek. The filthy little stunted gremlins were nowhere to be seen, but I felt, more so than saw, the observation of more keen eyes. I know not from where, only that they were fixated on myself. That I had not yet been attacked was only a sign of impending danger. Perhaps they meant no harm, but that is not a risk I am willing to take. So, I carry on my way with open eyes and ears.
And yet I cannot feel their peeping attentions as keenly as I had before. The hackles of my neck do not rise near as often. My instincts do not scream to me as loudly as before. Has their watch lessened? Or has their intent become neutral, or perhaps hidden? Instinct would only carry me so far. My feet on the other hand would carry me much further. The foliage of the forests beside the river is foreign, with large trees untouched by naught but time reaching hive above to shadow the leafy earth. My hunger is sated by the berries that grow at the edge of the riverbanks, and those leaves which do not appear poisonous. Certainly not my first choice for sustenance, but I see so little fauna to hunt for meat. I believe the growlers (what I have taken to calling the impish little fiends) have either hunted them to scarcity, or they have scared them from the area. But I suppose the lack of life is a benefit to myself as well; if my hypothesis is correct, then the more life I don't see, the more likely I am to come across more growlers. Eradicating them was... refreshing. I can sense the faint traces of darkness in them. Not like the Eliksni who harried the City's walls and outskirts in olden days, but like the Hive, who embodied within themselves living catalysts of paracausal shadow.
I did not care for killing Eliksni. But Hive? I could kill Hive. A lot of Hive.
Yet unlike the Hive, I do not see the typical corruption of the environment, so it is unlikely that they have established camp nearby. Perhaps I shouldn't compare too much. Misinterpreted comparison leads to fallacious presumption, and I prefer being right to being wrong.
The daylight burned bright, then burned vibrantly. Now it is setting beneath the canopy, it's final rays filtering through in beams no larger than my hand. I would ordinarily find a nice tree to climb and sleep in, but tonight I feel whimsically compelled to keep moving. So I do, my eyesight adjusting steadily to the darkness as I pick my way among the tees. My ever-present partner remains out of sight, obliging my enjoyment of the faint night air without the garish stark white light he could produce to aid me. In hindsight, I am glad to have set this precedent so early on in my arrival here.
In time, I see the faint pinpricks of light dancing between the silhouetted trees beyond. I feel my breath still as I realize it is no firefly's light. It is a torch. Torches mean other travelers. Only, I see many such lights. I creep as close as I dare to see who it was.
The terrible gnashing of teeth, hissing, and barking calls tell me what they were before I actually see them. More growlers. Some twenty-odd beasts. This time, they're layering some sort of... tar, or pitch... (it's a thick, oily substance) onto the trees. One or two direct the others with harsh, unknown words, yet ever do their eyes the trees. Not the base where predators like myself reside, but rather the high-born branches above.
I'd heard tales of a species of animal that lived in certain parts of Earth that would descend on unsuspecting passers-by. "Drop Bears" I think they were called. Though there is some debate on the nomenclature as there is also supposedly an identical species called "Koala." The texts aren't exceedingly clear on the subject.
All creatures learn to fear that which heralds the appearance of danger, even malformed mongrels like these. So what danger lay in the treetops that they feared more than on the ground? I watch as they smear more oil on the trees around them, spreading it on the forest floor between each trunk. I frown as I see their intent; I know a fuse when I see one. They planned on starting a forest fire. I look around me. The leaves that littered the forest floor are dry, and the bark on the trees are as well. They will burn well. But whatever these miscreants meaning was for the fire they were about to light, I know no good will be born of it. I could kill them, but how to do so without alerting the pack? They are spread out in throughout the hundred meters in front of me... No ballistics would end all of them fast enough before they tendered their ill-intended flame... Their spacing was just too far.
Ah! I must pick them off one by one, starting with the outliers and work my way in. Actually, the only real danger were those who bore the flames. That eased my task; kill the torch bearers, douse the flames, kill the rest as they stumble in the dark. And the weapon best suited for swift, silent death is a bow.
I duck behind a tree and command such a weapon to me. I extend my left hand and into it, it's slender curve fit into my grip. A bow hard fought for and earned by trial. I wonder how much death it had brought in the hands of its previous owner before it came into my possession. Its graceful form belied its lethality which I was about to demonstrate.
I withdraw an arrow and nock it. Carefully I creep about the darkness and spy my first target. I pause, step out of the shadow of the tree. It doesn't see me. I draw the bowstring back and let it loose. Death is almost instant. It falls tot eh ground dead. The torch falls with it. I check to see if my assassination caught any attention, but I hear to call of alarm. That is good. I dash past the corpse, waving a hand over the torch as I did, withdrawing the heat from it and lowering its ignition temperature to within a non-combustible level. The flame sputtered out like the life I just took.
I see another growler out of place. It dies as swiftly as the last. Rinse. Repeat. After my sixth strike, I hear their guttural utterances become more frenzied. No doubt they've noticed the distinct lack of light where their outer patrols should be. Now I was against the clock.
The two or three that spoke loudest and most often, if that is what they were doing, are my first targets. Without a commander to instruct them, they seemed about as harmless as Thrall. Such fragile little fiends. I line up my shots carefully, utilizing the bow's innate strengths to remain undetected. For this bow is strong. Stronger than any I'd ever seen. And its arrows were capable of piercing even the thickest of hides... flesh far more dense than the trees I hid behind. Its reticle revealed their positions, and I fire through the trunks with pinpoint accuracy. I imagine their confusion at the impossible vectors the arrows were killing them from and heard as much from their surprised barks. Now their torch-bearers are down to a single, solitary member. But my advantage has turned against me; though I can see the enemy through the trees, I could not see their details; I knew not which bore the final torch. I peek out in time to see it ignite the pitch on the first tree and the fire begins to creep up the trunk almost instantly.
I step out of my cover and loose another arrow, catching two through their skulls with a single shot. All eyes turn to me with panic and rage. They brandish their weapons high as they come at me. I quick-nock another arrow and loose it into one's chest. It pierces through the armor and into the leg of another some twenty paces behind. The first to reach me receives a scorching palm to the face as he is sent flying back into its fellows, tumbling them to the ground.
Stealth broken, subtlety unnecessary now, I hold the bow in my left hand as I reach behind my back and withdrew my iron. Death cocooned in iron blazes from its barrel in cacophonous reports, dropping three with such force as to knock them off their feet. The sudden flashes of light and peals of canistered thunder strike them into a stupor, their confusion palpable as they either foolishly rush head on for the attack or backpedaled in panic. I kill the foolish first, then train in on the more intelligent, though no less damned. I reload with honed precision, ejecting the spent cartridge, sliding another into place, and with practiced familiarity issue a single flick of my wrist that snaps the break-action back into place.
They are scattering like the dried leaves beneath their feet. Five more rounds and I've killed everything in within reason. In the distance I see two or three stragglers making a break for the depths of the forest, though each in different directions. I won't catch them all. Still, twenty... two... out of twenty-five was still eighty-eight percent success. One more kill would have put me into the nineties, a realm I would feel considerably more satisfied in...
I holster my second weapon and make swift pursuit after one of the escapees. I idly rip an arrow out of the eye-socket of a dead growler as I pass by its corpse and load it into my bow. But my mind brings my body to a halt, my escaping quarry forgotten as a strange sense of concern fills my mind, though I can't imagine why so.
I stroke the base of the arrow between my fingers idly. That when I realized the origin of my trepidation. I look down, lifting the arrow to my eyes. This arrow wasn't mine. It is finely crafted, that I can tell even in the veritable darkness of the under-tree. Simple in design but the elegant curve of the flattened arrowhead was in stark contrast to my arrows, whose tips were a trinity of wide, razor sharp blades.
But if this was not my arrow, then where had it come from?
I recalled how the growlers had been peering up the forest's skirt at some unseen danger. Now I wonder if perhaps that danger had actually been real. No, I don't wander. I know. Whatever had fired this arrow had killed the creature I pulled it from. Which meant they were an excellent shot, even in this darkness. A master of the hunt, then?
The arrow was more visible now, light from the growing flames illuminating the killing ground with an ominous golden haze. I turned to regard it, placing the foreign arrow into my quiver before I move to the tree that had been set alight. With careful brushes, I once again pull the heat from the air, lowering the surface temperature of the tree and the pitch to below the ignition point. Working in sweeping motions, I slowly bring the blaze under control. Fortunately it had not spread too far above my reach. What was left was a black, charred stain on the side of the tree. Hopefully the tree would recover, but thankfully the fire hadn't spread to its leaves or to any neighboring living pillars.
I turn from my examination to the bodies around me. My night vision ruined from the fire, I decided not to bother collecting the bodies or burying them. Let them rot, and their bodies feed the organisms they had tried to destroy. Poetic justice, so to speak.
I close my eyes, forcing what little additional darkness my eyelids could provide to accelerate my night vision's return. When I open them again, it takes a moment to refocus. I realize I am not alone. There before me stands a creature of... curiously magnificent beauty. Even in the cover of shaded night and hood I can see the fascinating graceful shape of the face, the piercing eyes... and the strength of hands which hold bow and arrow to my cranium. They were so still, it takes a moment to realize there is indeed someone actually standing there.
I am aware of more surrounding me. I turn and see four others lining up nocked arrows in my precise direction, their intent clear even to me, a stranger in a strange land; do not move.
I don't. They're the first human looking creature I've encountered since I arrived and I have little intention of provoking violence. They do not speak, and instead regard me warily, as I do them.
I don't hear the steps of another as he... or she... walks up and with one hand on my wrist and the other on the weapon, not so subtly encourages me to release my weapon. I do so, if only to indicate my compliance. Another presence from behind me and to my right withdraws my pistol from my belt.
I turn my head in alarm as I see the pilferer step away with long strides. My eyes follow the hand that clutches the weapon and notes the manner in which he does so. So long as he holds it the way he is, he shouldn't set it off accidentally. As far as I have seen, firearms are a touch advanced from the knives and clubs wielded by the growlers. I am, of course, only assuming though.
Hands now emptied, I raise them in a gesture of peace. I do not know if I should speak first or wait.
I opt to wait and am rewarded after a time with a silky masculine voice. "What business does a man have in these woods? All alone and hunting goblins no less." The man steps around and into my vision and I see that perhaps he isn't a man at all. In many ways I liken him to an Awoken; he certainly possesses their particular grace of features and movement, but he also lacks their distinct pigment. Instead, his skin is as pale as my own, and unlike me his ears are elongated and pointed at the ends. He also stands several inches taller than myself, and I'm by no means short in stature. Something about him discourages me from calling him human.
I feel surprise show on my face as I hear the familiar language. I had not expected that at all. I hide it as best I can and smile as disarmingly as I can manage. "Arsonist..." I correct before considering his words. "...goblins. A man must have his hobbies, I think." Goblins? I liked growlers better.
"Indeed?" The skepticism in his voice is palpable, not that I can blame him. He regards me, his eyes looking me up and down discerningly. "Tell me, hobby-hunter, why would a sorcerer expend the effort to slay a pack of goblins, save a tree or two," his eyes flickered over pointedly at the weapon in his compatriot's hands, "and with a bow of all things?" He takes a step towards me as he named off each article. He was a pace away and I could see him much better now. His features are smoothly curved and lean, and his feet make no sound even as they step atop dried leaves. I know of very few individuals with that sort of stealth, and this one did it (from appearances anyway) thoughtlessly. His hazel eyes were sharp and his hair a pale gold. He looks every bit as regal as certain fictional races were thought to be in the olden tales taught to children before bed. Perhaps there was more to those tales than most thought.
I raise an eyebrow curiously. He called me a sorcerer, and with a casual manner that indicated some measure of familiarity. I felt a thought prickle the back of my mind, but the urgency of a response forced the thought to drift away. "I'm familiar with many weapons," I answer nebulously. I know I should answer honestly, but I also have no idea who this is, and he seemed the type to indulge in a little banter. At the very least, he didn't appear rushed in how he moved, slowly and with purpose from in front of me, around, and off to inspect the rapidly cooling corpses strewn about the copse. I turn my body and head to keep him in my vision, though I was consciously aware of the no less than three arrows (that I could see) pointed at me. If they took umbrage with my movement, they didn't make it known.
The stranger looks down and inspects one of the bodies with a distant gaze. His voice is dry with pragmatism as he speaks. "A point made sufficiently apparent," he says, using the toe of his boot to turn the side-facing head of a dead goblin toward the sky. This goblin in particular had a perfectly round hole directly in the middle of its forehead. He turned and held out a hand to a fellow, the one who is holding my piece. The other steps over and lays the weapon in his outstretched hand. He accepts it without a glance. Instead his eyes are on me. "I have never seen a weapon like this before. It resounds like a sledge upon stone, and many times strikes dead those you point to with..." He eyes the corpse again. "...bolts smaller than a finger."
He holds the weapon out as if presenting some sort of damning evidence. But for his unspoken question, he reveals he has never heard it's like before. Though I realize something quite interesting. "Bolts," I repeat as a question. "You could see them?"
He gives a small, disdainful grin. "I see it appears that you know very little of we Elves," he says, punctuating all the right words to sound proud and irritated. He steps forward and looks me in the eyes. For the first time, I feel the weight of his presence. There is something there... I cannot place it, but it screams of a depth of knowledge that I did not expect. "There is very little we do not see."
He steps away and I follow him with my eyes.
"My name is Caranorion," He says with a look that indicates he feels obligated to tell me, though for what reason I cannot precisely divine. "And we would be poor captors indeed if we did not give you a chance to explain yourself fully," he says, turning with a sort of satisfied smile. "Which you may do at length with one of ranking much higher than myself." He waits for a moment, likely to let the words sink in before he turns and walks away uttering a short, foreign word to those under his command. I look between those poised to shoot and see the one closest to me, the first one I saw when I opened my eyes, tilt his head in the direction of his superior.
I understand the motion. Walk.
I glance between the face of this one and Caranorion's back before lowering my arms experimentally and stepping forward. They didn't say anything about keeping my hands raised.
Caranorion took the lead and the rest of his men follow after him, keeping me close to the front, but always too far to strike out at the man if I so wished. As we moved I noticed that the six Elves that had made themselves known, including Caranorion, were not the only ones. Six more yet join our party from... elsewhere. I know not. I had felt more eyes on me for some time but I had not thought so many. No wonder I felt so uneasy.
We walk for some time until we come before a clearing of sorts. Without the canopy to occlude it, the bright rays of the moon now shown down upon all. But it was ultimately unnecessary, for in the middle of the clearing, talking with his fellows stands an man of such curious luminescence that it almost appears as if the light of the moon radiated from his body. Yet for its light, it does not seem to erase the shadows cast by night on his fellows. I catch myself tilting my head at the sight of it.
The bright one turned before Caranorion had a chance to call out and the look on the bright one's face was joyful. "Ah, Caranorion! Na-i faroth eithel?"
I blink as Caranorion responds mutely, clasping the other man's arm. The bright one's words lower as he realizes, I suppose, that I am not here of my own free will. He gives me a glance with his eyes before returning them to Caranorion. Their voices remain low, the words passed between them too incoherent for me to discern, if indeed they were even speaking the common tongue I was familiar with. Presently Caranorion steps aside and allows the other to approach. Unlike Caranorion, this one's gaze is inquisitive and gentle, the smile on his face genuine and honest. "Greetings good fellow!" he says with a warmth I almost feel. "I am Glorfindel. My captain says you are to thank for eliminating a pack of rather pesky goblins. And he says you're some manner of sorcerer." The smile on his face has me split between his fearing for his captain's sanity and already knowing the answer. "And before any lies are considered, know that I trust Caranorion with my life. He has no reason to deceive me and, as you might have already noticed," he lout a short laugh, "he doesn't joke."
I couldn't resist giving an assenting noise of agreement and nodding. If Caranorion took offense at the jab, he didn't show it.
"So," he continues, "I would have you tell me who and, if not a sorcerer, what you are. And what your business in these woods is." The friendliness of his voice falters as he speaks and his grim intonation leaves little to interpretation.
I give my surroundings a glance and note that many a bow was nocked with an arrow. None were drawn or pointed at me, but any one of them could be fired at a moments notice. And if the fantastical tales told to children in the City were anything to go by, Elves were apex bowmen.
I return his hard stare. At the very least, the truth never hurt anyone... Usually.
"You may call me Lazarus," I say. "And yes, I am 'some manner of sorcerer.' And additionally," I take a breath, "to clarify, I have no idea where I am."
I can't say I expected them to laugh at me, but their laughter doesn't surprise me either.
Glorfindel's laughter though, is almost infectious. He collects himself unashamedly. "Ah forgive my humor, friend Lazarus," he apologizes, pronouncing my name slowly to make sure he did so correctly. "But I find it difficult to believe such a thing." His smile dims as he continues. "We have been tracked your trek north along the Bruinen for many days now. Anyone who travels as such seeks the Ford's crossing into Eriador."
Well... "I was looking for a ford of some description, if indeed this river had one."
Glorfindel narrows his eyes. "Indeed. What for?"
I open my mouth to speak but find the answer as silly in my mind as I imagine it would sound should I speak it. But, ah, I've already opened my mouth. "Truly, I don't know," I say with an anxious chuckle. "It just struck my fancy." That was the truth. North was as good a direction as any.
Glorfindel's eyes narrow scrutinizingly. I doubted he believed me. It was a terrible excuse, even if it was true. And for their abrasiveness they did seem like pleasant creatures, these Elves. If I have to flee, I shan't want harm to come to them. Finally, after a short time Glorfindel speaks again, and when he does it is with a quiet self-assuredness. "I can tell as truly as I stand before you no lie has passed your lips."
I raise a brow at him. Eerie. Good news. But eerie. Perhaps he was simply just so capable of reading people, even complete strangers. Glorfindel turned to look Northward. "I should like to escort you, if I may, to the house of Elrond, son of Eärendil of Rivendell."
I was half tempted to bless him for sneezing, but I stow my sarcasm and simply nod. I know not of who either those people are nor of such a place, and I have a sneaking suspicion that that was what Glorfindel is looking for; that... spark of recognition in my eyes or a lack thereof. "I... should be grateful for your hospitality," I say with some wariness.
If it was a test, evidently I passed. Glorfindel nods, mostly to himself I think, and turns and speaks to his men. "Mín úlime an Imladris!"
Silently, like the wind, they turn and make their way northwards. The luminescent Elf turns back to me and gestures me on.
"Come, friend Lazarus. We're some ways from Rivendell. We should become familiar with one another and share stories to pass the hours away. What say you?"
I let out a breath, feeling the weight of my stress as a physical strain. Despite his rather pleasant manner, Glorfindel was essentially holding me hostage. And despite his luminous disposition, it was not Light that spilled from him. Rather, perhaps, Light of a different kind... If nothing else it warrants study, as most everything I've seen since my arrival does; I will acquiesce to his request.
But I knew better than most that the Light, by itself was no assurance of righteousness. Call me a skeptic if you must.
Being a Dredgen will do that to you.
A/N: Well there's chapter one! I hope you enjoyed it! LotR buffs are encouraged to critique as needed any inconsistencies they see! I already have chapter two completed and chapter three is in the works. Look forward to those in the near future! Until next time, O reader mine!