A middle-aged Black man was walking down Peachtree Street. An artist, he always looked for pleasing stones or scraps of wood to include in his statuary. He saw one, looked like a petrified egg, and picked it up. Felt pleasing to hold too, like a properly broken in baseball. He juggled the stone once and dropped it in his pocket. With that simple act, Men moved Arda into the Seventh Age.

-

The one with the yellow eyes and the one with the long white hair and beard had been yelling at each other for what seemed like hours. Finally the tall one with the burned hands walked to them, grabbed each of them by the nape of the neck, and slammed their foreheads together. Then he flipped each into a corner, stalked to his throne, and sat with a thud.

Of course there were not really eyes hair or hands because these beings are disembodied, and there were no corners or any thrones because they are in the Void, but SOMETHING was going on and what follows is close enough for understanding. The tall one did/didn't speak: "If you two worms do not be quiet I will use one of you to blast that Gates open."

After a few seconds of the proper respect - if not groveling - being shown the tall one growled, "That is better. Now here is what will be done. Men are still weak and aid their own destruction. So many 'teachers' and they still desire power to do Good. Once more I will offer it to them. You Saron, You Saruman will do this for me. Saron, approach the Door of Night, distract the guard, you will be stopped. Saruman, approach the Gate of Morning. The spell I have crafted will crack the gate open enough for your spirit, your weak spirit, to pass through. Through you I will focus my will. We will find a Man who wants to do Good. We will offer that Man power. For that power, he will help release us. Do you both understand?"

Both knelt and said "Yes Lord Melkor."

"Then go!"

And the last of the Great Evil set off on the last attempt to turn all of Arda to darkness until the last of Time.

-

When David got home, Carlton and Walter were at the table in the spare room examining the strange rock. After he had gotten suitably comfortable, he asked, "Where did that come from?"

"Carlton found it. Isn't it beautiful?" Walter enthused.

"It's a rock." David tried hard not to smile. Walter clearly showed his displeasure.

"Don' mind him," Carlton said, "what does he know of rock? This is not from here, I don' think it's even from Georgia."

"I love it when you talk dirty." David said no longer trying not to smile.

"You're picking on us again," Walter, said "you round-eyed geek."

"All right I'll stop. Seriously, what is that, a petrified egg?

"I'm not sure. Carlton's right about this not coming from here, and it's encased, there is definitely another rock inside this, but no natural thing would do that, I have no idea what we have here."

"Yea, I was going to use it in my latest work, but now I jes' might let Walter talk me into breaking it to see what's inside." Carlton said.

"Well, you two have fun." David said, "I've got to get ready for tonight." Just then, the doorbell rang. When David opened the door, in bounced happy femininity. They pecked a kiss. "Hey Davie, you ready to go?"

"Not quite Marielinda. I just got here from work. I had to help with a billing problem."

She gave him a look that could only be described as a cute pout. She was tall, dark, but more brown than black with short corn rowed hair that came together in a short, wavy ponytail. She was built more for comfort than for speed, but with a definite waist. If her jewelry were a little larger or her tattoos a little more colorful, she would be trashy. Now she was simply vibrant.

"Why you wana spend so much time at work? You want 'em to think they own you?"

"No, I'll make them see they can't get along without me. Job Security. I'll just be a minute, we'll still make the show."

"O.K." Marielinda said, "Where's Walter? I jus' wana hollar at him."

"He's in back with Carlton. Good luck getting them away from their new rock."

She went to the room that was the general work-and-junk-storage room and leaned in the door, her shoes in her hand, looking at the young Japanese and the older Black man with their heads together mumbling esoterica about geology.

"Hey Walter, how you? Carlton? Davie said you got something new?"

"Oh, hello Marielinda. Rock Carlton found near Midtown, has some really unusual fracture lines and crystallization patterns, never find those together, and it seems like a protective case 'round another rock, and the weight, it shouldn't be this heavy." Walter ran on excitedly.

"Yea but I think I can get a sample without breaking it if I tap it...here." Carlton's hammer came down on the rock. Even as it hit a part of the cover began to uncoil more than chip. A piece fell off and a light burst out of the rock. It was so bright for an instant their eyes were burning, then it changed to more-than-light that seemed to burn directly into the brain. Walter cried "NO!" Marielinda gave a strangled yell, Carlton moaned.

"Marielinda! Walter! What's wrong?" David yelled, then ran into the room and stopped then staggered as he was also caught in the more-than-light. He staggered back, they all did. Finally Carlton fell out of his chair and dropped the rock so that the light was hidden. They all collapsed.

-

He had walked the shores for so long he could remember nothing else, always singing to the sea. His songs were all of sadness and loss, regret, and pain, hope destroyed; in a language, he could no longer recognize. Yet, he sang quietly as though letting others hear would corrupt them so they to would become as he, broken, abandoned. He wandered over the earth, always near the shore in this Age considered only a drunken, dirty beach bum with tangled hair. He could feel himself fading, ever fading until he was almost to a spirit. The utter pointlessness of his existence had finally soaked into what was left of his consciousness. He was ready to walk his final beach to his final wave, sing his final song, then release all, and leave the world of his ultimate failure in all he had attempted.

Until he felt the power tingling through him.

He was standing as he stood almost every morning, facing the sea and the rising sun with arms upraised and face lifted in song when the feeling struck him silent. He did not want to recognize it, desperately tried not to, almost refused to, but the feeling was too strong. It was the power that he had made oath to follow, and had done so to the near destruction of all he held dear, returned. He dropped to his knees hands on the sand and stared at he waves at... nothing...

When he came back to himself the sea and the sun still faced him. He could have been out for seconds or for days. As he gloried in the painful return of memory he realized one of them was back. Arda would change, everything would change, and nothing would change. He would help because the world would never be as it was from this second. This would not before his father or cause of the Oath, not for his brothers, not even for himself but for the younger Children and for the saving of Ea. He almost leapt to his feet. He used his good hand to tuck in his shirt as his burned one beat the sand out of his clothing. Then, with one last look at the sea that had been his only companion for so long, the turned and raced toward the power.

And the last of the host of Beleriand set off on his last mission in the last battle of the War of the Jewels.

-

Walter was leaning against the mantel and wiping his face with a towel. He saw David leaning against the wall close to him looking as shaky as he felt. This was wrong. They should both be lying on the floor in the other room with... As his vision, cleared? Focused? He could see Carlton and Marielinda supporting each other against the back of the couch. They were breathing hard and seemed glad to be able to stand.

Walter looked down at his friends. He gave the lie to the idea that Japanese are short, easily the tallest of the group. His long hair and tendency to wear kimonos made him look like a samurai, a wounded samurai at the moment.

Carlton left and came back moments later with water. "Its dark outside, how long were we out?" he asked.

David looked at his watch. "It's 3:00 AM Sunday, Thirty-two hours.

Marielinda gave a wide eyed stare: "Wha' happened?"

The three men just stared at her.

-

Running. Running. His life is running. Not escaping the past, approaching his future but his present is running. Two days with little rest and no food, two more, maybe three of running. And he is burning, good burning, not just muscles. The ice that was his fea, that had preserved him all these ages, is melting. He could feel it starting to affect his hora, he had no idea how long it would be before he started true fading as his fea melted his hora, but that was for the future. This is the present. This is where he remembers he is Maglor. This is where he is running and burning, and breathing, and alive.

-

The four Men spent the rest of Saturday night in a combination sleep and stupor. By the time it was fully light and the Sunday morning, church-going traffic was moving outside Carlton realized he was hungry. As he moved around in the kitchen, he also realized he was sweating, breathing hard and his sight and hearing felt extra sharp. Everything seemed to look brighter, sound louder, and smell stronger. He prepared the meal as though he was in a dance with more physical confidence than he normally felt.

Carlton looked like someone who belonged behind an information desk where he could smilingly help or politely tell you to go to hell. When he was with his younger friends, he acted as a beloved crazy uncle. He made his living as an artist making statues and jewelry. Some weekends he vanished without telling anyone where he had gone.

Now he used his artistry to fix breakfast. As he got the others up to eat, he realized they must look the way he did. They were sweating and puffing as though they'd been running. Staring at everything as though seeing it for the first time, stopping every now and then to listen to some new sound, eating as though starving. After eating, they sat.

-

He let the bird light on his hand, chirped to it for a moment, received his answer and let if fly away. He was pleased that after all these ages he could still easily learn the speech of those without voices. Though why he was still here to do it was not clear to him. He was not forgotten, he was asked to stay and still received messages, but for many an age, no real instructions.

It was just as well. He had made only a minor contribution in his entire time upon Arda and that was by accident. He was in his proper place, assisting the lesser creatures of the lands. The information he gathered he passed to Men who desired good relations with the others of Arda and they did what they could with it. Lately it seemed that not much could be done. Fewer and fewer Men were friends with the others, some were even becoming unfriends to them. He did not know what else he could do to help.

Until the eagle came.

The eagles of today are smaller than the eagles of the past but inside they are the same noble servants of the Valar that they ever were. This bore his message with all the grander of a scion of the House of Thorondor, King of Eagles. It had been so long since one of the House Thorondorion had visited, he thought they had died out. The message was of equal importance as the messenger.

And the last of the Istari started on the last journey to assist Men in the last stand of the Free Peoples.

-

He filled the door of the shop side-to-side and top to bottom. "Magdalene hey Magdalene, you here?"

She was brown hair flowing onto brightly colored blouse flowing into swirling skirts.

"Michael, sweet one, you're early today." He loved the way she said his name.

"Yea, the library finally gave up the books you wanted, I got them here. I also got some news you would like. One of my friends said he saw an angel last night."

"Really?"

Yea, out I-75 south."

-

'Nuther day, 'nuther dollar.

The languages of Men didn't often say things as clear as his native tongue, but this was perfect. It told all any of them needed to know about what he and the others did outside the cave. Just survival. Working at anything to do with metal and stone. He was lucky, still got to do what he was supposed to do, shape earth. So many were just tinkers or worse had to work with words or carry loads. No wonder their numbers were getting low, no females having kids, no males wanting them. He had an eye for a stout-bearded lass himself but she almost refused to talk to him. Still teaching the old ways even if they ain't used much.

They said of us that we were like the rocks; you could break us but not change us. But we are changing. Should be in the back of the cave, looking for ore or gems. But no, the Elders say we can't do that anymore, can't even dig in our own cave, can't draw attention to ourselves. Have to go through all the mess that Men leave looking for pieces they wasted.

Sometimes he wondered why he bothered. Like now, he should be resting but he could not resist going through the garbage. At least find metals to work. The strange new stuffs were impossible, didn't melt, had small chips in 'em. He was not finding enough in the stuff to make it worthwhile to look, probably would stop after this pile and just sit like most males did after work.

Then he found the bracelet.

It was True-Silver and it came from this age. There was no chance of error. Enough of the old work was around for them to know what this was, know it was new. Only his people knew how to find it and work it. He took the bracelet to the Elders and they let everyone know about the discovery. The cry rang through the caves: "There are more of us!" The Elders did not want subjects, they wanted noise. They wanted hammers to ring on anvils, singing at work, loud dinners, and louder wagering on fights. They decided to send someone to seek out these others.

The one who found it could speak the tongue of Men found on the bracelet. He was instructed to choose a companion and go find their brothers. The bracelet came from a place across the sea where years ago some strange quest Men held for tests of strength were held. The quest came regularly, but all that mattered was that brothers saw this one.

Not soon, he and his friend had gotten what they needed. So many old storerooms to look through! So much treasure to sort for what could be easily sold! Then with one last look at the caves that were his home, he led his friend to the city.

And the last of the host of Moria set off on his last mission in the last search for Mithril.

-

Monday dawned with the calm assurance of a natural phenomenon that could ignore insignificant details such as the complete uprooting of the lives of four Men. Marielinda came up with the only sensible course of action.

"We all need to get som' sleep. Let's all go home."

A group hug later, it was done.

-

The Hobbit came out of his hobbit-hole. It still was not a narrow hole or a damp hole but it was not as grand a hole as his great-great grandfather's great-grandfather had. Still he had his Parlor and sitting rooms and his bedrooms and his storerooms, study kitchen and grand dining room. Simply everything was smaller. Even Hobbit-folk were smaller than before.

No wonder, with all the Big People clomping and stomping about. None of them would look out for anything but going where they were going, and the fastest way at that. He was lucky one of them had not stepped on him when he ran inside to escape the last lot of them. Well, they were gone now and since he did not hear them they were far enough away for him to have a bit of pipeweed.

Until he saw the Big Person looking right at him.

He froze with his pipe inches from his mouth. Never in his life had he let a Big Person get close to him, much less see him. This one looked determined to get him. Then he saw the slightly tattered brown robes the Big Person wore and he realized it was a Wizard. One that wanted to talk to him!

And the last adventurous Hobbit set out on the last search for the golden treasure of the last dragon.

-

Maglor had not left the shore for a long time. This was the farthest inland he had traveled since the Fourth Age. Of course he had to ask directions to the source of the power. Nobody even considered that he might be running instead of driving so he followed roads and was following I-75 south as her entered Atlanta.

Atlanta, Georgia is a collection of paradoxes and parodies. It calls itself a city to busy to hate but has neighborhoods in which the two sides of the street don't talk to each other. The world's largest small town, its metropolitan area covers one-fifth of the state of Georgia. More of an automobile city than any in California (the usual standard), any place one can drive to in ten minutes is your neighborhood. Since everyone drives, it is safe to walk in the city because only Rapists, Streetwalkers, and Perverts walk in downtown Atlanta so every body ignores everyone else to avoid Rapists, Streetwalkers, and Perverts. The modern Klu Klux Klan was started near Atlanta in the first quarter of the twentieth century and the Drag Queen RuPaul in the last quarter. Living in Atlanta is Fun, leaving is work and no one has ever memorized the streets.

New Orleans, Louisiana was once described as a dead museum, Washington, D.C. as a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm, them Atlanta is the neurotic child. Everything being so crazy, no one officially noticed an elf.

Maglor reached the city where the jewel was located. He started searching for it.

-

Detective Sergeant Vang Cho and his partner Detective Longstreet had absorbed many different stories from the small time con artists and petty crooks they usually dealt with. This one was already in the top ten. A small timer named Turnett had turned himself in with some of his stolen goods.

"You say you're turning yourself in for the robberies because an angel told you too? Longstreet asked.

"No, I saw an Angel, a glowing angel, and knew it was time to change my life. No message, not even words. He simply walked by, saw me, stopped, faced me, and waved.

"You turning youself in because of an angel?"

"Yes. He looked for me. He noticed me. I have to go right."

Both officers stared at him. Both officers stared at each other.

-

Maglor had no idea how to find the jewel. He had run around the city attempting to get some bearings, but it was still accident that he saw the Woman walking who had the feel of the jewel on her. By now he was back to his full true physical form, undiminished. Basically, he was Seven feet tall, he glowed, and his charisma was frightful. He had planned nothing but desperation so he walked to her and blurted out: "My lady, my name is Maglor son of Feanor and I have come to throw the Silmaril you have possessed back into the sea."

Marielinda looked at him and fainted.

-

Existence shivered. Space-time wrinkled. One of the lumps in Reality expanded. An intense ghostly form of shifting colors oozed more than appeared in this continuum. Sauraman had hade it. He slowly rotated to get his bearings. Then he floated along.

-

SO IT BEGINS.