Fred was still present but she was not alone.
Through her it spoke and when it spoke, she felt not afraid. For the first time in her life, possibly the only time she suspected, would everything be so clear, would the path ahead have little divergence. As she was carried by Eric through the ruined streets of Tirion following Glorfindel's revelation that Frank Miller was presently at the house of Elrond, the child she was grieved for the destruction she saw. She recalled only recently, coming to visit Galadriel with Tory and Bryan. She liked the golden lady and seeing the woman was always a treat. Galdriel spoke to her and Sam of true things, things that most grown ups did not believe children should know. Thinking of Tory brought grief to her and she remembered how it felt to know that the lady was dead. It was almost as bad as seeing the Nazgul killing her mother and father.
Little one, the voice inside her head said gently. You will see them again someday, I promise you.
I miss them, she answered back.
They live in your heart child and their souls watch over you.
Fred wanted so much for this to be true.
Much of Tirion was abandoned. The balrogs had done their work well and had driven the elves from their city. Those who lingered, did so out of fear loved ones would not find them and also to mount the defense against the enemy they had believed, somewhat erroneously, was vanquished forever. The mobilization was slower than it ought to have been for the Eldar had not known war in a hundred millennia. The complacency that Manwe himself had felt was showing itself and while some rose to the occasion, others were bewildered. It was difficult to offer leadership and to rouse the spirit of battle in those who had never in their lives known what is to fear for one's very existence.
Elrond Peredhil who had fought more battles than any elf or man should do in one lifetime, found himself playing leader to a council of war once again. As Glorfindel and those under him went to defeat the Balrogs, a party had been sent across the island, to seek out Mithrandir if he still remained on the island. It disturbed him because his mother in law, the great Noldor lady Galadriel, seemed to be in a trance like state. In such times, it was her counsel that he relied upon in the past but now, she offered him little guidance and her mental state was so disaffected that her loved ones feared for her. Celebrian had taken to her mother's side, determined not to leave the lady because on one thing Galadriel was immovable, she would not leave Tirion.
"Not yet," she said.
"Elrond I can't stay anymore," Frank Miller found the former lord of Rivendell and declared firmly. "I have to go find my family."
"Frank," Elrond looked at him impatiently as he saw more wounded being brought into his home, the women immediately rushing around them like ants to tend the fallen. "Your wife and children are on the fringes of the island, far from this carnage. They are most likely safer than you are. The balrogs are determined to level this city and while Glorfindel manages to hold some at bay, the danger is still considerable. It is not wise for you to..." his voice trailed when he saw another batch of arrivals enter the hallway.
"FRANK!" Miranda's voice called out immediately upon seeing her husband on the steps leading deeper into Elrond's grand home.
Frank's head snapped around, following that voice, a surge of untold relief flowing through his veins at a sound so sweet to his ears, it was almost music. Without another word, he raced down the steps and met his wife's body in a tight embrace and bruising kiss that was passion, gratitude and a thousand unspoken emotions that only she could see in his eyes.
"Oh bloody hell," he said holding her, not realising until a moment later that she was holding Pip in her arms and the child was being crushed between the two of them. "Oh god I'm so glad you're here, I was just coming to find you, balrogs be damned." Glancing down at his son, Frank offered Pip an equally fond smile, kissing the boy on his forehead and ruffling his hair in affection. "How's my Pip?"
"Happy to see you daddy," the little face looked back at him smiling.
"I know we shouldn't have come," Miranda said quickly as Frank took steps towards Eric, Fred, Jason and his brave Sam who was clutching the camera man's hand tightly but smiling happily at the sight of his family reunited. "But we had to tell you what's happened."
"You know what's going on here?" Frank looked at them.
"Yes," Miranda nodded as Elrond came to greet them. "David Saeran has escaped."
"What?" Elrond exclaimed in a mixture of horror. "That is not possible."
"Its possible," Miranda answered grimly, thinking of the man and the sheer evil radiating from him. Even the Nazgul that they had fought did not seem so sinister. "Not only has he escaped but he released all these things from wherever it was he escaped from."
"Where is he?" Elrond managed to ask after the enormity of what had happened sunk truly into his consciousness.
"He's gone," Eric replied setting down Fred. "He's taken all his monsters with him. They're heading back to our world."
"And no is going to have any idea how to deal with him," Jason added. "Jesus, no one back there has any idea what he's capable of."
"We have to go back and tell them," Frank said without even having to think twice. "We're going to have to tell them what they're up against."
"We can't just march there and blurt it out!" Jason retorted.
"Why not?" Miranda looked at him. "He's not taking any pains to hide himself and whether or not people want to believe, they're going to have to when they see fire breathing dragons turn their cities into rubble. We know he's got an army waiting for him already. We've seen it."
"She's right," Eric nodded in agreement. "We have to go back."
"We must go back," Fred spoke and this time she addressed Elrond directly. "All of us."
Elrond's mind had been so preoccupied with the realisation that Sauron had made his escape that at first the words from the little girl did not register. However, like drop of ink on parchment, it seeped it and left its mark. Power. The child was radiating power. Not even in Galadriel's presence had it felt so strong. Staring at her for a moment, Elrond tried to place it and could not.
"All of us? Do you mean the Eldar?"
"The End of Days has come, son of Earendil," Fred spoke in that haunting voice not at all her own. "It cannot be fought in isolation. If the reign of Sauron and Melkor is to end for all time, then the Eldar must fight along side of the Edain. Even now, Auel's children are awakening. As Sauron is awakening all the fell beasts that still walk the earth, I have called the armies of the light. We must make the crossing to join them."
"Auel's folk?" Frank burst out. "You mean the dwarves?"
"They no longer exist," Elrond exclaimed. "There has been no word...."
"They hide just as well as you," Fred smiled and broke away from her minders. Walking past Elrond, the little girl made her through the hallway.
"What's happening to her?" Eric asked as Fred walked away, a curious sight among the elves dressed in battle armor.
"She is not alone in her body," Elrond stated the obvious. "There is someone with her, someone I do not recognise."
"Fred," Miranda called out, "stay with us love." For Miranda, it did not matter who occupied the child's body, her maternal instincts allowed her to see nothing else and to protect the girl the same way. It was the least Miranda could do for Bryan.
"I must find the White Lady," Fred answered and continued meandering through the bodies towards the steps. "I must speak to Galadriel."
The world changes.
Her grand child had said that once or so Legolas Greenleaf had claimed. Galadriel herself had never heard the words uttered by the dear child for she had by then, sailed across the sea towards the Undying Lands leaving Arwen to her fate. Like Elrond, she had grieved for the child but Galadriel was wise enough to know that great love were worth the sacrifice they sometimes demanded. The Evenstar's love for her ranger had certainly been that. Now, with Valinor thrust unceremoniously into Arda's bosom once more, the protection of the Valar seemingly vanished and the dark creatures of Mandos turning Tirion into ruin, Galadriel knew that the fate of her people was about to take a irrevocable turn for change.
She felt the child even before Fred arrived in her chamber.
Galadriel had felt it for some time now but she had not believed it. She did not think anyone else would either and dared not speak of it to anyone else without leave. Her daughter Celebrian sat at her side, fretting in growing concern. Celebrian took after her father, a gentle more caring soul than her mother who was too long in a position of authority and had been hardened by it.
"Mother," Celebrian said holding her hand. "Please speak to me. You frighten me with your silence."
Galadriel was barely conscious of her words, still locked in stunned silence as the child appeared in her chambers with a small part of humans led by her son in law. Celebrian's first impulse upon seeing her husband was to go to him, needing comfort herself. Galadriel did nothing to stop her because her eyes were fixed on the child that was Fred and something else all together. Meeting those eyes, blue like orbs that could pierce the skin, Galadriel was forced to look away. It was seemingly too.
"You honor me," she said dropping her head down.
"There is no honor," Fred responded quickly, uncomfortable by the humility of one so great and worthy in deeds and counsel. "You know what is coming?"
"Yes," Galadriel nodded, "the End of Days."
"The elves must take part in the battle. The Edain will not know what it is they deal with. Their memories are short, they do not have your knowledge. Only together can you defeat Sauron."
"Who are you?" Elrond demanded to know, for the course this child was suggesting was folly. For so long, his people had remained within the confines of Valinor and though they had recently been exploring Arda once again, they were not ready to emerge in such a manner. They were not ready to attempt an alliance with men who might perceive them as a threat and could conceivably be as dangerous to them as Sauron.
"It matters little," Galadriel spoke in a firm voice. "Except that she is right. We must arm for war and we must do it now."
"You expect us to simply leave Valinor in this state and cross the sea to Arda?" Elrond looked at her incredulously. "What about the danger we face here? There are balrogs roaming through our cities, laying waste to all that we have built."
"If we do not go, it does not matter what the balrogs do," Galadriel answered, "we will be destroyed nonetheless. If Sauron takes Arda, how long do you think it will be before he turns his eye to us? The balrogs were left here to delay us while he unleashes his worst upon Arda."
"We have weapons in our world," Frank spoke up, understanding what Galadriel was saying, "weapons so powerful that they could reduce this entire planet to ash. If Saeron, Sauron, whatever pushes my people hard enough, they will use it and we will all die."
"When that happens," Miranda added her voice to Frank's, "it won't matter whether or not there are balrogs here, there will be nothing left."
Elrond let out a deep breath because while the identity of who was occupying Fred remained a mystery, the word of Galadriel could not be questioned. The word of she whose bloodline was traced directly to Finwe, the first High King of the Noldor and the remaining member of that great and noble house could almost be considered a royal decree. If Galadriel believed their doom would follow if they did not do as this child demanded, then Elrond believed. He had listened to her counsel for too long to ignore it and in more ages than anyone could even count, she had led her people wisely. He did not think that had changed.
"Where will we go?" Elrond asked. "Where would Sauron go first?"
"England," Eric spoke first without thinking.
"England?" Miranda stared at him. "Why England?"
"First port of call and if he intends to use all the resources available to him, then England is Malcolm Industries main seat of power. From there, he can rally all those things we saw under Germany."
"The Uruk Hai," Frank nodded in agreement. "According to Bryan, there was another place, a bigger one in Romania. Gandalf claimed it was the seat of his power back in the ancient times."
"Mordor," Elrond nodded. "Gandalf said that Sauron had built his fortress in your world in what used to be Barad-dur. He will rally them and the Nine."
"The Nine!" Jason exclaimed. "There can't be nine, we killed one. There should be eight!"
"You cannot kill what is already dead," Elrond explained. "Their spirit may be returned to the shadow world but they are bound to Sauron. While he lives, so do they and if he is restored to his former strength, then it should be assumed that they will be as well."
"Oh shit," Jason muttered, "they're going to be really pissed at us then."
The remark earned him a jab from Eric's elbow. Speaking like that in front of Galadriel was like making flatulence jokes in front of the Queen of England or worse yet, the Pope.
"We must rally our forces," Galadriel said looking at Elrond. "We will take everyone who can travel with us to the Enchanted Isles. They will be safe there from the balrogs, at least for a time. Those who can fight will continue on towards Arda."
"Move everyone?" Celebrian gasped. The enormity of it was too much for her to comprehend. "We are to flee?"
"We cannot stand indefinitely against the balrogs," Elrond looked at her, "we could defeat them if we willing to expend the time and effort but we do so with losses we cannot afford if there is a greater battle to be fought."
"Maybe we can get help," Frank looked at the elves. "You are in the real world now, perhaps we can contact them for assistance."
"And what will you tell them?" Elrond stared back at him.
"He's right," Eric said with a heavy sigh. "To even get anyone out this far will take time that is if they didn't think you were insane to begin with."
"Are you going to be able to move that many people?" Miranda looked to Elrond.
"Some of us will remain behind to battle the enemy," Elrond replied. "Most likely Glorfindel and his men. If they are able to turn the tide then the others may return, if not we will abandon the island until such time as Sauron is destroyed."
The gravity of what was being discussed drew a heavy curtain of silence over all of them. Frank could see how difficult it was for the elves to even entertain such a notion, let alone come to the understanding that there could be no other way. While Galadriel seemed set largely because of her strange understanding of who was inside Fred, Elrond and Celebrian who did not have that insight were less certain. Frank could not imagine what it must be like to take a step into a world that was completely alien to fight an enemy so dark and powerful.
"It must be this way," Fred broke the silence by taking Elrond's hand in her own, her small palm closing around his long, slender fingers. "For all to be renewed, there must be a beginning and an end. We are nearing the end. For too long you have remained hidden away, left apart from all others. It was to protect you but it was not a wise choice. Your race like any others must evolve, must become more than what it is. Elves have an advantage that no others have, you have the years to shape your destiny, not race to keep up with it as do men and dwarves. The age of isolation is ended, it is time you joined the world again, even if it is in its final moments."
He looked into her eyes and understood then who she was.
His breath caught and when she nodded at his understanding. Elrond released his gasp and then did the same.
"It will be done as you will," he said finally to her and to the others present. "We will go."
Jesus H. Christ.
That was the only thing that Isaiah Hill could think as they approached the city on horseback. It had been years since he had been astride a horse and the navy captain was somewhat surprised that he had even remembered how it was done. Unfortunately, this had been the island's only means of transport so Isaiah did not have the opportunity to debate the matter. Purcelli had complained bitterly, being a Brooklyn boy, about riding double with one of the elves since the only wildlife he had ever mastered was a New York cockroach and stepping on them was quite different from riding the damn things.
Of course horses were the least of it. Purcelli was riding double with a fucking elf.
An elf, for Christ sake, an elf.
When Aaron Stone had explained it, Isaiah and his men had laughed. No shit, they had actually burst out laughing because it was ridiculous. Elves were the poor, underpaid, overworked little guys in Santa's workshop, not tall, perfect looking specimens that seemed to make men appear coarse and brutal by comparison. They were figments of story tellers' imagination, not flesh and blood and certainly not real. However, it was hard to be so obtuse when Isaiah was standing on an island that had somehow escaped the notice of every cartographer who had ever sailed these waters and had managed to escape modern satellites until a short time ago. Denial could only go so far before empirical evidence and logic won the day.
And he certainly could not deny it when he saw the city in the distance. Even through the rain and wind, Isaiah was mesmerized by it. Years ago, he had found himself in Athens, looking at the Parthenon and wondering to himself what it must have been like to see the ancient city in its former glory, when it stood as the symbol of freedom and civilization for the fledgling human race. When he saw the city of Tirion for the first time, Isaiah knew. He could see ornate spires, tall, exquisitely built towers, seeming like figurines sculpted from crystal, bone and pearl. Even with the grey skies surrounding Tirion, there was no doubting its magnificence. For a brief second, the years of jaded service to his country and everything Isaiah knew about anything, fell away to be replaced by the wonder of the explorer who had just discovered the New World.
For that brief second he believed. They all did.
"Christ," Isaiah gasped, "its beautiful."
"We have spent many ages making it so," Legolas could not help but smile at the man's awe at Tirion. "It is but one of many cities on this island. There is Aqalonde on the coast as well. That is the home of the Teleri."
"How long have you lived here?" Nicholas Purcelli inquired, his disbelief having gone the same way as his captain.
"We have existed on this island for ten millennia," Elladan replied, "as it is measured by your calendar I believe."
"One hundred thousand years?" Isaiah gasped. It was beyond him.
"Bloody hell," Bryan exclaimed as they entered the equally ornate gates of Tirion that stood high like a fortress from an ancient castle. Beyond the gates, the pristine beauty of Tirion ended. The paved streets were deserted and what had not been apparent earlier was clear to all of them now as the horses trotted deeper into the city. Chunks of debris covered the floor, there were blooms of amber fire scattered throughout the buildings. Smoke columns, obscured by the rain and wind was billowing into the sky. Tirion's innards looked like a war zone.
"Jesus," Aaron exclaimed, not realising until this moment how bad the onslaught of the Urloki had been.
"What the hell is going on here?" Isaiah managed to ask.
Having spent most of his adult life beneath the ocean waves, surrounded by a steel craft that could just as easily turn into a tomb if anything were to go awry, Isaiah knew how to read men. Something was happening on this island beyond its sudden discovery by the rest of the world. Something ominous that preyed heavily on the minds of their new companions. Isaiah could see the thin line of tension that connected all of them together. They were all poised for trouble and until reaching the gates of Tirion, Isaiah had been unable to guess what it was that was so ominously awaiting them.
It was Legolas who sensed it first.
Mostly because he was the only one in their company who had ever faced what was looming closer in his awareness. The memory had stayed with him throughout the ages. Time could not erase such terror, no matter how much of it had passed. Ariel who rode with him, noted the straightening of his spine, the sudden clenching of its jaw.
"It cannot be..." Legolas stammered.
"What?" Bryan shot the elf a stare, not missing how the blood had suddenly drained from his face.
"Can you not sense it?" He threw the question at the others.
"Sense what?" Aaron demanded, growing impatient and frankly, alarmed.
Almost in answer to his question, the sudden sound of a tremor rumbled across the ground beneath them. Puddles of water rippled in reaction to the slight quake, growing more intense as the sound repeated itself. Debris shuddered on the ground, breaking into smaller fragments. The elves had fallen silent, all of them, as they were invaded by the same infectious sensation that that made Legolas turn pale with fright.
"What is that?" Bryan looked at them in puzzlement until he saw the shadow emerge from the building and all words left him. "Bloody hell...."
The balrog that Legolas Greenleaf had only seen in his nightmares stood at the end of the debris-covered street, its glowing eyes fixed upon the newest arrivals to the city. Swirls of dark smoke curled around in tendrils, combating the wind and rain. It stared at them for a few seconds before bellowing loudly, the sounds of its scream seemed to almost tear the fabric of the sky. Assailed by arrows that could still be seen protruding from its dark flesh, the great best rumbled forward like a dark storm. Heat and smoke followed its juggernaut pace towards them.
"Come on!" Bryan shouted as he dug his heels into the side of his horse, sending the already frightened animal surging away from the monster pursuing them
"Hold on to me!" Legolas ordered Ariel as they raced away from the gates. Behind him, he heard the smashing of rocks as the balrog burst though the pearl laden archway leading into Tirion. Fragments of rock rained down upon them. Making their horse rear up in an attempt to evade falling debris. Ariel tried to remain behind her husband but the sudden action was too quick and she stumbled backwards.
"Legolas!" She screamed.
"Ariel!" Legolas turned around in horror to see her fall. The balrog was almost upon her. No, no, no! He could not allow her to die! As the others began to ride away, Legolas turned back to reclaim his mate, his horse thundering towards the fell beast.
"Legolas! Stop!" Aragorn shouted as he saw the prince turn back. "BRYAN!"
Bryan was already turning his horse back towards the city. Reaching into the folds of his coat, he pulled out his gun and started shooting, hoping the din caused by the weapon would somehow confused the beast long enough for the elf to reach his wife. After losing Tory today and Eve in Saeran's clutches, Bryan was not about to see another friend lose the woman he loved. That would be too cruel.
She could feel the heat on her skin. As Ariel looked up and saw the balrog, carrying with its cloak of shadow, she became numb with terror. She had heard stories of these creatures all her life but to see one in the flesh was beyond her ability to cope. The beast it seemed could smell her fear and its fiery eyes seemed to glow with greater malevolence as it lashed its powerful whip in her direction. Ariel let out a soft cry as she threw herself out of its path. The great lash of flame struck the wall behind her, destroying it completely. She stumbled out of its path, like a mouse trying to escape a man's angry boot. Scrambling away in desperation, she tried not to show fear but fear she felt. Her senses were becoming overwhelmed by its evil, thick and vicious.
Suddenly a barrage of arrows struck the creature as Ariel saw Legolas riding towards her, commanding his terrified mount to continue forward as he assailed the enemy with more and more arrows. Each met their mark, extracting a pained bellow of pain as they tore into its dark flesh. For a moment, she could only watch in a mixture of relief and pride, her golden archer coming fearlessly to her rescue. However, the charge of the once prince of Mirkwood could not be left unchallenged. The balrogs were the most fearsome creatures of Melkor's army, save the Urloki and would not be cowed by one lone archer.
"LEGOLAS!" She shrieked in horror as she saw the whip coming down at him.
The powerful lash struck powerfully into Legolas' horse, sending both rider and mount into air, like toys flung aside by a petulant child. Ariel's scream died in her throat as she saw the animal bray in helpless agony as the fiery lash set it alight. Legolas landed on the ground hard, falling against the fragment of broken wall. Her breath died in her throat upon seeing him merely lying there, unconscious to the world beneath the gaze of the looming balrog who was preparing to make the kill.
NO! She would not let that happen. She could not!
Running forward, she saw nothing but her husband, lying amongst the debris, about to become another victim of this monster's evil. Ignoring her terror, Ariel scrambled to his side, noticing the blood running down the side of his face. Heart pounding, she dropped to her knees and took him in her arms, trying to wake him before the balrog came any closer.
"Prince!" she shook him hard, her eyes darting back and forth from the approaching monster. "You must awake, please! You must get up!" She shook him harder and could feel the icy cold touch of the shadow that followed creatures of such darkness like slaves to an evil master. "PRINCE! GET UP!"
Legolas opened his eyes and for a moment, thought he was dreaming. She had called him Prince.
Ariel did not think it possible that there could be a worse thing than falling prey to a balrog's rampage until she heard her husband call her by someone else's name.
"You must awake!" she said trying not to show how much his words had shaken her. "We must move now!"
Legolas blinked twice and realized why,
"MOVE!" Coming to life as he saw the lash bearing down on them both, Legolas rolled across the ground taking Ariel with him as the earth heaved violently where they had been, raining sots of soil and dirt over them. The last ripped through the soil cruelly and Legolas shuddered to think what would have happened if they had not escaped its reach in time. As it was, they were nowhere near safe and the balrog was resuming its attack. This time, it was aiming for its prey with far more precision..
"Hey!" Bryan Miller bellowed loudly as he closed in on his friends and the beast that was too close to them for comfort. The abrupt appearance of the arrival caused the massive creature to turn momentarily and Bryan took that advantage of that slight distraction to open fire. A murderous hail of bullets tore through the balrog's dark torso as he aimed for maximum penetration. Bryan had no idea whether or not bullets could harm the creature, particularly when it was man made. Having recalled that the Nine could only be affected by elven blessed weapons, Bryan was uncertain if the same rule applied here. However, since the dragon that had chased them earlier was susceptible to bullets, Bryan had to believe that this monster was similarly vulnerable. As the projectiles hit their mark, he saw the creature staggered back, startled by both the noise and the manner of weapon that was assailing it. Taking its disorientation as a good sign, Bryan continued to shoot, emptying his entire clip into the demon's chest.
Riding hard on his heels was Aaron Stone who raced his horse across the ruined landscape towards the fallen couple. Taking advantage of the lesson that the Englishman was currently giving the balrog in twentieth century weaponry, Aaron rode past the creature to reach the elves. "Legolas! Ariel! Come on!" He said extending a hand towards Ariel, to pull her onto the saddle with him. Legolas would expect him to take his lady to safety first.
"Go!" Legolas hoisted his wife onto the saddle and shouted at Aaron.
"But Legolas...!" she protested
"I shall be right behind you," Legolas said not caring on his own safety when his wife and his best friend was imperiled.
"I'm coming back for you!" Aaron said firmly.
"You will not have to," Legolas returned just as confidently. "Go!" He swatted the horse's rump and sent the steed racing away.
As the horse raced away, Legolas followed closely behind the animal and only diverged in his course when he saw the balrog battling Bryan on his horse. The Edain still had the advantage and it was an unearthly sound indeed to hear the sound of such crude weapons bursting in his ears on the isle of Valinor. It added to the unreality of it all, to the deconstruction of paradise. Riding next to him, Legolas saw the newly arrived human who was Imrahil reborn join the former captain of Gondor in doing battle with the balrog. Similarly armed, the one who called Isaiah in this life was releasing the same projectiles at the enemy, causing the balrog to retreat in confusion. Legolas suspected the wounds would be slight in the final accounting of things but the balrog's lack of knowledge was a tool to be exploited.
"Legolas," Elladan's voice reached his ear and he looked up to see the Elrond's son coming to retrieve him.
"Your timing is impeccable," Legolas said taking the offered hand and mounted the horse in one graceful leap.
"As always," Elladan replied grimly, no humor in his voice as he rode away from the scene and shouted at Bryan to withdraw, now that their friends were safe.
Suddenly, there was the sound of rushing air. Like a flock of birds had suddenly taken flight. Their elven senses detecting it first, both Legolas and Elladan honed in quickly on the direction of it. Against the grey sky, they saw it coming, a barrage almost as relentless as the projectiles that Bryan and Isaiah were sending at it. It came from the roofs and balconies of buildings that had not been gutted by flame or demolished by the balrog's lash. Warriors in armor glistening under the blanket of rain, stood tall and brave as their bows delivered their deadly bounty.
"Bryan!" Elladan shouted. "Withdraw!"
It was through the break in gunfire that Bryan managed to hear Elladan's frantic cry and when he saw what was coming, understood immediately. "Get back, get back!" He shouted at the navy captain, digging his heels into his horse to send the animal bolting.
Isaiah who was still trying to comprehend how he had come to find himself battling what could only be the stuff of nightmares, was not about to debate the matter. His brain could play catch up with his survival instincts later. At the moment, he was going to do the sensible thing and follow the Englishman away from that bloody monster. The soldier in him could not stand by and let innocents be killed but Christ, his bravery was fighting up an uphill battle against his sense of reality. Riding away, he looked behind long enough to see the creature becoming engulfed in arrows. There were so many of them that Isaiah couldn't even begin to count them.
"NAR!" The elf lord Glorfindel, standing in front of his archers like a general on the battlefield, shouted once again, sending another wave of arrows at the enemy.
Withdrawing to a safe distance beyond the reach of the balrog's lash, they watched the battle resume between the elves and the creature. Wave after wave of arrows rained down upon the beasts, followed by sharp spikes and lances. Glorfindel's assault was near relentless with the balrog sustaining terrible wounds. Even as it began to comprehend that it would die if it remained, the hail of lances and spikes that brought it to its knees thwarted the beast's escape. At its most vulnerable, the final charge was issued and the warriors of Tirion, led by Glorfindel wielding his great sword, fell upon the balrog and finished the beast before the eyes of an astonished audience.
"Jesus Christ," Isaiah exclaimed as he watched the carnage from a safe distance.
"What is that thing?" Purcelli asked as his captain made that awed statement.
"We call it a balrog," Legolas said watching the elven warriors led by Glorfindel fall upon the creature like a pack of wolves bringing down a large animal. "A demon of fire."
"A demon!" The First Officer of the Connecticut burst out. "Are you kidding?"
"Does that look like a joke to you?" Aaron glanced at the man.
Purcelli felt silent because he had no answer to that.
"Let's keep going," Bryan urged his horse forward. "We need to find the others, tell them what we know."
As the party continued through the ruin gates of the city once more, they rode their horses quickly past the battle raging between Glorfindel and Morgoth's dark minion. It appeared as they hurried past, trying not to become embroiled in the fighting, that Glorfindel's legend as a balrog slayer was no exaggeration or in danger of being forgotten.
Expanding to their full strength, they flapped once, sending a blast of air hurling in all directions. The massive head reared back with a loud snort and as teeth parted, they gleamed in the dim light of the cavern. A hand stroked the long, serpentine neck, tracing across scales of dark mottled grey. The creature emitted a low rumble of content, almost like a cat purring to its master touch. Eyelid blinked but once as another flap of its wings fanned the cloak worn by the one who had nursed this particular animal from infancy to adulthood. The spines along the ridge of its back stood up in pleasure, recognizing the familiar touch of one whom had been gone for too long.
"Ghash," the Black Speech of an ancient tongue filled the cavern.
The beast snorted in answer to its name, nudging its head against the shoulder of the master absent for too long. A gesture of recognition that showed the only affection it was capable.
"I am sorry to be away for so long," Morgul said affectionately to the winged creature, "but we shall be parted no more." Running his hand along the bridge of the creature's nose flattened against its skull, Morgul slipped the leather harness into place. The beast was unconcerned by this action, having endured this before and was accustomed to the sensation of this odd device against its hide. Trusting its master, it allowed Morgul to snap the fastenings into place.
"Come Ghash," Morgul said as he led the beast across the rocky surface of the only home it had ever known. The beast had not seen the sky since its passing and only then, had it ever seen the moonlight night, never the sun or the light of day. Now with the great Lord returning, there was no need for pretext and the shackles of anonymity had been cast aside at last. This day was theirs to soar.
The others were waiting with their own mounts for the journey to begin. Tonight they would leave their underground lair and go forth to greet their own master who was travelling to them from across the sea. Not only was Sauron making a triumphant return to the world of men but he was returning to them in a manner they had never before seen. Even through the great distances, the Nazgul could sense the raw power he now wielded, they understood not how he had suddenly become the equal of any Valar. Nevertheless it had replenished them as fully as Sauron himself had been at its infusion.
Balancing on powerful hind legs with its wing partially expanded, the winged beast followed Morgul out of the chamber, allowing the Nazgul to lead it forth as it had done so many times before in the past. It had taken Irina Sadko's genius and Sauron's own power to give birth to these creatures once again and in truth, they were but a few years old. It had been Sauron's gift to the Nine, a reward for their service. Each had raised and trained each of the winged beasts, preparing them for the day when they would take to the skies unfettered. So far, the creatures had ever only known freedom for brief periods of time in the night sky because the veil of secrecy had to be maintained while Sauron plotted the destruction of Arda.
Now the time for pretext and concealment was over.
The Uruks were moving out of their underground chambers even as Morgul led Ghash to the rest of his brothers. They were arming themselves with weapons the Nazgul had trained them to use. For this war, there would be no pathetic adherence to things long past. The effect of shadow on the Age of Man had been quite effective. The Edain had created weapons befitting an army of Mordor and the Uruks no longer wielded maces and blades as they had done in the wars of Middle earth. Instead, their new armaments were machine guns and hand grenades, explosives and rocket launchers. A fitting arsenal for a more sophisticated age.
Unheard by all others except worshippers of the dark, the minions and allies of Sauron began to emerge from their hiding places. From the fell beasts deep beneath the earth, to the dormant watchers that now found new sport in open waters. Transport vehicles zigzagged across Europe, taking long concealed roads deep into the hidden enclaves beneath Malcolm Industries properties in Germany, Romania, Paris and Spain.
Six months after her death, the genius of Irina Sadko would finally reach the world and set it alight to burn.
The House of Elrond Peredhil was in a state of chaos once the orders to depart was issued.
Elladan and Elrohir returned to their father's home to see the elves preparing for war in a manner he had never seen before. Weapons emerged that had only seen the light of day whenever it was time for upkeep, never for the purpose it was crafted. Elves they had known all their lives were now clad in armor while maidens hurried across the floor in preparation for an exodus neither of the brothers had seen since their departure from Arda at the end of the Third Age.
"Mother!" Elladan called out when he saw Celebrian emerging from their father's study.
"Elladan! Elrohir!" The lady exclaimed in relief when she saw her sons before her, unscathed by the night's evil. "Thank Eru you are safe. I had feared for you both." She embraced each one after the other and repeated the gesture with Aaron when she noticed that her daughter was not amongst them.
"Where is Eve?" She demanded, her face filling with fear.
Aaron could not say it, he just couldn't. "She...she...."
"Sauron took her mother," Elrohir answered softly as he bundled his mother into his arms and offered her comfort when he told her the worst of it. "He took when he left Valinor. She is with him now."
Grateful to Elrohir for bringing this dark news to Celebrian, he struggled to maintain his composure, reminding himself that if Bryan could pull himself together after the devastating loss of Tory, then he had to remain just as strong to save Eve.
"Yes," he nodded quietly. "He is on his way back to Arda."
"Who the hell is this Sauron?" Isaiah demanded, announcing his presence since he felt like he had walked into the middle of a play and had no idea what was taking place.
"Evil," Elrond Peredhil stated at he emerged from his parlor and widened the door so they could all enter. His expression showed his own reaction to the news of his daughter's fate but as always with the leader of so many, he pushed aside such fears for the moment. His sons were comforting his wife and though he wanted to offer her his arms, Elrond had graver matters to attend. "We have much to do and little time to do it. Please come in," he said before stepping back into the room once more.
Isaiah had questions still but something about the man demanded respect even from an experienced naval captain like him. The submarine commander could not explain it and tried to recall when he had been in the presence of someone so great that it was awe-inspiring. He did not understand any of it, this strange world he had stepped into but he knew that there was danger and it looming large over his reality, beyond this almost fantasy like island.
When Elrond had heard the others outside, Frank had been poised to go find his brother, having been told by Miranda what had happened to Tory. All thoughts about dwarves and the End of Days had been driven away by the news that the great love of his brother's life had been snatched cruelly away from him by Sauron's malice. Frank had never known Bryan to fall so hard for any woman and could only begin to imagine what pain his brother was enduring. However, seeing Bryan for himself, seeing the shield over Bryan's eyes that kept those who knew him from looking to his soul, Frank knew that he had miscalculated his brother's anguish considerably.
"Bryan," Frank said meeting Bryan's stony gaze. "I....," the words failed him. What did one say to a loss like that? What could anyone say to him if Miranda had been lost that would make the least bit difference? Nothing.
"Don't," Bryan said abruptly before Frank could offer any well-meaning words of comfort. He couldn't bear to hear it at this time, he couldn't hear it without feeling the resolve he had built up since he had found Tory, shatter like glass. There was too much to be done for him to break, not when Eve was still out there and Saeran was about to unleash a second hell on earth.
Frank's protest died there and then. Bryan offered his brother a look of thanks and sought instead the other female he had loved as much as Tory. The little girl was standing next to Galadriel and suddenly Bryan knew that Fred was the only one who could make this ache inside of him bearable. Crossing the floor as the others spoke among themselves, he swept the little girl in his arms upon approaching her.
"Hello Fred," he said quietly, holding her in her arms. Thinking that it was only this morning, they had set around the breakfast table, talking about their day.
"Bryan," Miranda spoke up, "there's something about Fred...."
"I am sorry Bryan," Fred's small head leaned forward, until her forehead rested against his. It was a familiar gesture of affection between the two. "It was her time. It could not be stopped."
Bryan pulled back and looked at the child. "What?"
"To all things there is a beginning and an end," Fred's blue eyes bore into him as she explained, with a look on face that did not at all seem childlike. For a moment, Bryan swore it was not Frederica Bailey he was holding in his arms but someone else....
"She's been like this since we've arrived," Miranda offered though it was a poor explanation.
"She speaks the truth Bryan," Galadriel added. "You must listen to her. We mourn with you in your hour of loss but the child speaks words we must all listen if we are to survive this."
"What's happening to her?" Bryan demanded, not certain that he could deal with losing Fred so soon after Tory. He stared at the little girl and knew that there was something not right about her, something in her eyes that was not at all Fred.
"I am here Bryan," Fred said holding his face in her hands, her forehead dropping against his. "It was Tory's time to go. To all things that live, there is a moment of birth and a moment of death. I could not stop it when it was Tory's time. I am sorry."
"Who are you?" He asked, not really listening to her words but more interested in who was sharing his child's body.
"One who has always watched you Son of Gondor, who has always known that you bore the courage of a king, even as the son of a Steward. We will have great need of your strength in the battle that to be fought."
"Battle?" Bryan looked to the others.
"You must lead us Bryan," Galadriel explained. "The elves will go to war across the sea in Arda but we cannot do it without guidance. Too much time has passed and we no longer know the enemy we fight. Sauron is gathering an army to him, not just from Mandos but an army he had built over the centuries. They are awakening even now, emerging through the cracks of the world to meet him when he reaches the shores of Arda."
"I am not the Son of Gondor, that man is dead," Bryan retorted. "He died a hundred thousand years ago."
"And his soul lives inside of you and much of who you are gains its power from him," Fred said once more. "All your life, you've sought to finish everything you have set your mind to do, struggling to fill the emptiness left behind by another task unfulfilled. Boromir of Gondor failed his people in its greatest hour and his soul has been plagued with that defeat ever since. You must finish this Bryan, not just for him but for you."
Bryan wanted to refuse but he could not.
Fred and Galadriel were right. From the very first moment he had laid his eyes upon Fred, he had known that his responsibility to her was more than just to keep her from David Saeran's clutches. There had been more, something deep inside of him recognizing that he had failed her once and was not about to do it again. Was this then Boromir's absolution? Leading an elven army against the forces of Mordor, amassing at this very moment in the modern world?
He didn't know for certain but one thing he would do, whether or not it was destiny or absolution. Bryan did give a damn whether it was right or not or whether prophecy had deemed this to be his course. All he knew for certain was that David Saeran once Sauron, Lord of Mordor had taken from him the only thing he had ever loved more than his life.
And the bastard was going to pay.
Before the end Bryan was going to see to it.