Western Edge of Mirkwood
The forest here is like a wall. One moment there are flat, grassy plains, and then suddenly the mighty, twisted trees of ancient Mirkwood forest lunge up from the ground to tower imposingly above you. You can feel a dank humidity rolling out from under the gnarled boughs of the woods, and it carries a rank, fell stench that makes you wrinkle your nose in disgust. An unused road leads like an arrow into the heart of the mirky darkness. Tracks run along the edge of the forest towards the north.
It is raining.
A smile comes to Sulas' face as he regards the elleth. "Yes, you're right, of course. We can head for the trees if we need to. They can't climb trees as well as us, can they? Certaiinly not on their horses."
Narufumelle grins. "No, I imagine thier horses do very poorly in the trees. And I suspect they do not do much better." It is the first real jest she has made in days. Our strength is there, aye, and our arrows are straight, and our eyes much better than theirs, I imagine, if it could not see me so close, and so poorly hidden."
Well, mellon, I need to have some time to think." Sulas says after a long moment spent looking - well, not at her, but more through her to a point several paces behind her head, though not at anything in particular. "But I'm sure Aranellome will show up soon. And I'm sure she won't be too disappointed at me not waiting to greet her when she arrives."
"Under the silver moon
And through the drenching rain,
The river whispered my name
Crooning a song,
Of my love lost and gone
It beckoned, and I came.
A sweet, soprano voice manages to weave its way through the sparse trees of the outer forest, softly touching the ears of those who happen to be around, if their hearing is as keen as the elf who croons such a song.
"The face that I saw
In the glassy calm mirror
Stopped my heart from it's beating,
Twas my lover relfected
So very unexpected
And so swiftly retreating.
"Nay!" I cried out
I have waited so long!
Patiently for your return!
But the ripples erased
The sight of his face
And here I am left,
Alone and bereft,
Waiting amonst the forest fern."
Sulas starts to climb a nearby tree, but stops halfway up as he hears the voice. "Ah, there she is, mellon" he calls down to Narufumelle. "Doesn't sound like she's had any similar encounters. Perhaps the other night was just an isolated thing."
The forest is slow to awake in the morning, for the night has many places to hide in its deep shadows beneath the ancient trees. But the clear melodical elven voice and the bright rays of raising sun shake the woods from their sleep. Slumber of the night gives way to the multitude of the voices of the day. Daylight poors from the sky and drips from leaf to leaf, deaper into the forest. Only along the ground the shadows still lurk, the last remains of the night.
The elleth's song must be uplifting, for Naru's face lights like the sky when the clouds part. "Mellon! It has been so long! Last I saw you, you were breaking your spear, crude as it was..." Naru approaches the elleth and embraces her. "You have been gone a very long time!"
Sulas descends the tree, and starts toward the returning elleth and smiles. "It is good to see you again, Aranellome. I hope you had a relatively uneventful trip." He looks as though he may chuckle, but, being the closest of the three to the forest, he seems a bit more susceptible to the lingering shadows and looks a bit uneasy, though he says nothing, probably not even really noticing it himself.
Deeper and deeper into the woods thrusts the light, and louder is the voice of the living forest, the song of its many voices. And yet, in the depth of the forest, a cloud of silence grows, a void in the vocal ambience. Its presence is felt like the quietest of the whispers, but already the more alert of the forest creatures become wary. The shadows deepen beteen the trees, crawling along the ground, as if finding new strength to combat the light.
Approaching the group, and being so happily greeted, the Gliridis Aranellome shifts her readied spear to one side and returns Narufumelle's embrace. Then, turning to the gathering, she chirps fondly, "Mae govannen, mellyn! Ai, the stories I shall have to tell by our camp fire, if," she glances toward the forest, an uneasy expression flitting across her high features, "a fire we are to have. It is good to see you both, especially, Sulas and Narufumelle. Long have I missed the company of my kin and close friends!" Setting down a beaten looking pack, the elleth grins, "And who has chosen to risk life and limb in escorting me home at last?"
"But my travels have left me weary, not an easy thing to contend with if there is a long journey ahead of us," Aranellome murmurs, glancing about. "I hope that I will not offend any if I should choose to take a short rest before regailing all with such stories as I have to tell." With a quick, worried glance at the forest, Aranellome picks up her sack and spear, and makes for a comfortable looking spot to rest.
Seeing how truly exhausted the elleth is, a look of sympathy washes over Naru's face, and she looks at Sulas. "Poor Aranellome. I imagine it has been a very long time since she felt safe enough to let her guard down. I think we might just stay a while and watch over her." She looks up at a tree branch that looks particularly comfortable.
Sulas nods at Naru, eyes cast back toward the forest for a long moment before reaching out to give her shoulder a quick squeeze. "I'll climb one of these trees and keep an eye out. "I've got a bit of thinking to do and the Gliridis needs her rest. Perhaps we can discuss things further in the morning?" He doesn't wait for her response, but climbs back up the same tree he started up before, this time finding a good perch quite a way up and staring off into the forest.
Suddenly, unnoticed in the conversation at first, a change is upon you. It is as if the advance of day has halted, and now hangs in the balance. The light is still strong above, skimming the treetops, but shadows swell beneath the boughs and chilling cold raises from the ground.
Relaxing at last in the sunshine, Naru's mind has almost moved completely away from the disturbing thoughts she has had of late, when a sharp cold breeze cuts through the warmth of the sunshine. It seems to cut through yet more than that. The elleth's eyes open in a flash, and she looks around. The sun is bright as ever, but the shadows are darker, longer, and blackness seems to bleed from them. Naru looks down at the resting elleth, who seems not to notice yet, then over to Sulas in the next tree, who apparently has, for the look he wears must mirror her own.
In the stiffling creeping silence the rattling of iron-shod horse hooves along the old road to the south carries almost like thunderclaps. From the dark maw of the gap in the wall of trees where the road enters the forest, a wave of darkness spills into the plains like a black avalanche. In the light of day it gains a shape, an outline: a black rider on a great black stallion. Black robes billow and whip in the air behind him, shadows tear from their fraying edges and fade away in his wake. Gripping panic rides before him, and bottomless despair trails in his wake.
Not even thinking, Naru jumps to her feet. She glances again at the elleth, who is trying to make sense of this new sensation while pulling herself out of her restful meditation...confusion appears to engulf her. Naru looks at Sulas, which is drinking in the sight of the black being rather like in a trance, and whistles to him. He looks at her just in time for her to motion to Aranellome, then she takes off rather noisily across the trees, running and jumping frm branch to branch.
Now in the plains, the black horse gallops with great speed along the edge of the forest. Sweat glistens on his dark skin, and white froth foams on his lips, but the rider himself is black as moonless night, his black robes blot out the rays of the sun poking through the whispy clouds, any light perishes that touch es this darkness.
In sight of the elven camp, the rider suddenly tugs on the reins, and the horse rears. Shadows dash madly around him. He stills the horse, and the black head in a great horned helm turns this way and that, he even raises on the stirrups leaning forward, as if sniffing something out. Menacing venomous hiss escapes the unseen mouth.
Crossing back and forth in an erratic pattern in the treetops, Narufumelle winds her way southward. She pauses to see where the dark one might be, and is dismayed to see that it still searches in the direction of the elves. Casting about for something that might make a greater noise, she spies a tree branch, half-rotted on the trunk. With a small amount of maneuvering, the elleth jumps down upon it, intentionally breaking it off. It makes a loud CRACK! and the elleth falls with it briefly before snagging a branch, which is also nearly too small to catch even her light weight. The branch waves wildly. She pauses to see if she was detected.
The black rider turns toward the sound with a snap, and his horse sniffs the air intently, its nostrils flaring. The rider raises his hand, and a long dim shadow stretches forward, creeping along the crass and between the trees. The aura of terror and hate is now focused like a beam emanating from the lightless void which is the rider.
Narufumelle squeezes her eyes shut in concentration as she fights the urges the rider seems to command at will. Her resolve strengthened, she looks about once again. Hanging from the undersized branch, the elleth could pull herself upon it, and run to the trunk. However, her efforts finally paying off, she decides instead to drop to the ground, (It's not too far, she tells herself) and run along the tree line to a large, promising tree some small distance away. It's great age shows in its thick branches as they stretch languidly to the ground. Firm in her decision, Narufumelle drops to the ground, crouching to absorb the impact, and runs full speed for the tree.
The gripping shadow probes the trees, but the rider does not appear to have seen the quick dash of the elleth. He sends the horse into a slow trot until they reach the very edge of the forest. The helmed head turns, scanning the forest, but there are no eyes under the visor, only dark blind void. Still, whatever senses the terrible apparition posesses, it either cannot locate the elf precisely, or is reluctant to dismount and follow. The horse slowly walks along the edge of the forest.