You stand upon a large wooden platform, cleverly concealed above the ground in the embrace of an ancient fir tree. The view in all directions is mostly unobstructed, as this platform was built for exactly that effect. A few miles off to the southeast, across the eager Silverlode, Lorien's familiar but awesome beauty of the beaming sunlight against silver tree-bark and golden leaf warms your heart and fortifies your courage. Beneath this hideout, amidst a wooded vale, a well-worn path running north-south along the outcroppings of the impassable Misty Mountains can easily be espied.
You peer down at the roadway below...
In this small level clearing, a large brook plunges over a fall of green-hued stone to the immediate north, and foams down into a small dell at your feet, before continuing its hurried way south. About the pool are fir-trees, short and bent, keeping the company of harts-tounge and shrubs of whortle-berry which cloth the area. One fir tree, larger than the others, stands in their midst as a shepherd might stand amidst their flock. To the west, the high promontories of the Misty Mountains range, their peaks shrouded in snow, block any travel in that direction. To the east, the foothills of the mountains blend into a wide hazy plain.
The wood is full of life all around: a small brook bubbles merrily, jumping from rock to rock, splashing the lush grass with its clear chilly waters. Birds chirp and hop from branch to branch in the growth of whortle-berry. And above it all, tall, dark, and solemn, great fir trees stand guard. Silent and brooding they are, and their silence taints this bright day with a hint of watchful waryness.
From the Wooded Vale beneath you... There is a shadow that travels through these proud woods, a darkness and tumultuous storm that seeds its way into the souls and hearts of every living thing. Brightly lit is the canopy of the forest, hued in plush colors of green and dazzling browns, and yet, as the presence of this peculiar stranger gallops forth even they are dimmed as if doused by inky night. The sun grows cold, distant, and for those who can see the heavens, the firmament looks to be swiped away by clouds. There is a frozen wind that blows from the lofty peaks of the Misty Mountains, born by fell winds that gloat downward into this wooded vale, and there amongst the evening's shade that has betaken this place can be spotted now a rider cloaked in black. Nay, richer is its saturation, mocking all other tinges that might compare: the mines of Moria, the starless night itself, all are pale compared to this being's ill color. A steed rides beneath it, silently, as if gliding more that trotting on its hooves, and before it goes forward a sense of dread and terror -- quieting song and chatter alike throughout the forest like the choking hand of death.
Paling visibly, Elena stands looking down across the now quieted forest, her emerald eyes widening at the strange presence. "Ith the same ath before..." she whispers, barely audible, "we encountered him latht week." Apparently she can be quiet, and knows that the "s" syllable carries the loudest of any, so lisping her words.
Haldir nods grimly, and squints, peering into the shadow creeping around the galloping rider, "Night in the middle of the day... And such night that turns back my eye..." Only now does he react to Elaine's words, and quickly drops to her, in a loud whisper, "You have seen it before?". Even as he speaks, his hands seem to move on their own, steadying a bow... But the usually calm Commander is less sure of himself, his movements are not as agile...
A barely audible sound, a note of a tight string being plucked, carries far on the wings of the cold wind in the silence which creeps before the rider.
Haldir cringes as his fingers slip on the bowstring.
The Elven healer's usually jovial demeanor is definitely not present, and she nods her head gravely, delicate hands trembling on the Wood of her staff. "Aye. Aegraum confronted the being on our travel to the Gladden." Her emerald eyes regard you with a touch of concern, "It gave no trouble then, simply rode off...but I would not have met this being again."
Haldir slowly releases the bowstring and looks at his hand, in disbelief, "If it has ears it knows we are here now". He shakes his head, then looks down through the dense canopy of fir branches, "Did Aegraum say his name? Was it...", the word does not leave Haldir's mouth.
"He did not need to..." Elena intones softly, taking a deep breath to calm herself. "But I believe you are correct." she adds finally, fingers stroking lightly over the railing of the talan. "I don't know that I could heal the wounds of this being...perhaps if we are silent, it will pass us by."
From the Wooded Vale beneath you... In the deadly silence, in the fearsome wake of terror that has besieged this once vibrant woods, the nearly inaudible plucking of a bow sings more like a wailing note rather than a quiet murmur. Mists scathe the leafy ground, and darker does the sky grow still, above thunderheads fill its upper most regions, illuminating only faintly the world in tinges of blue, accompanied by the pounding mallet of thunder. Neighing softly, the mount beneath this black rider coming to a halt, its slouched figure growing firmer, taut, its posture all the more noble and yet terrifying, its cowl nevertheless hangs low and formidable, ever blocking sight and access to the frigid features held within. Reigns tightly grasped by gloved hands, hued like obsidian's pallor, the momentum of the beast beneath the Black Captain is ceased entirely as a voice rings out in the coldness of the shadowed day. "And what hides from eyes that see all?" it asks, shrill and malevolent, frozen and horrible to the ear, its tambour carrying sharply like steel upon an icy breeze.
"Carr!" - a black crow dives from the sky, almost hitting the top of a great fir tree, standing over the dell, its wide strong branches reflecting in the calm waters. "Carr!", the bird circles around the tree, nearly scaping its wings on the green needles. "Carr!". Something in the tree must be drawign the noisy creature, for it does not abandon its attempts to find a gap in the wide bough.
"Cursed bird", whispers Haldir...
A soft sigh escapes the Healer's lips and she closes her eyes momentarily, a pained look on her countenance. "We cannot defeat it...." Elena murmurs, eyes fluttering open again as she regards the Commander. "We must hope it will do as it has done before." None the less, her grip on her staff tightens and she glares down at the offending force, "and it does not see all...not into our Wood....not yet."
Haldir freezes still at the sound of the voice, then shakes his head sharply, as if trying to fend off the icy grip of the creature's voice. "That is one of them indeed...", his own voice sounds lower, almost miffed. "And his ears are a match for ours." He draws in a deep breath, holding it for a while, "I shall need all my strenght to withstand one of its kind". He sounds sure and calm as he says this, perhaps forcefully calm.
From the Wooded Vale beneath you... A spur is given to the steed beneath the black rider, a spur that sends the mount stumbling forward through the misty ground-cover of this wooded vale and over the gurgling brook and twisted roots of sentineled trees. Quietly, however, does the breath of the horse ring in the air, a faint whisper veiled by the surrounding darkness, and of its master, no audible sound is relinquished at all. Rather, this being guides its beast beneath the very trees on which the crow perches, cawing loudly in its deadly song, and bending up its hood, as if to gaze into its lofty branches, it speaks again -- features still shrouded by the length of the cowl -- "Come out, silent ones...my patience wanes, and only squirrels and elves climb trees with any skill. Be you the later, come forward then, and face thy enemy, be you the former -- then die swiftly and let me continue on my way in peace." These words, stated with such cold and surreal sentencing, so that they scathe the very surface of reality upon which they're uttered, grow cold and dim inside the mind, numbing almost, the hoary wake of terror stringent upon their fringes to douse the fiery soul of good and pureness, freezing it like a winter's tempest.
"Commander this is an unwise idea, to face it....." Elena shakes her head, "Try first Aegraum's approach, make it go away with words. We must be fearless...." she murmurs, steeling herself and giving an icy glare down at the being.
"Too late for words, I am afraid", grimly notes Haldir...
In the eerie silence which falls after the rider's challenge, a change comes onto the great fir tree. Uncertainly and flickering at first, then stronger and steadier, a light feels its bough from inside, glittering on its needles like a fresh snow. A gap opens in the branches, and the light strikes out, bright and piercing. Should you will be strong enough not to look away, you see a tall figure with bow in one hand and a shining silver globe in the other, basking in its light. The harsh beams emanating from the globe turn into a gentle glow as they fall onto the Elven shape standing in the tree. "What do you know of peace, dark one?" comes from above the answer to the challenge, and metal rings in the voice.
Within the rays of the newly created circle of light stands another figure, of lesser frame but no less steadfast in posture than her companion and equally defiant. "Be you lost again, dark one? You'll find no more welcome here than before." Her voice is counterpoint to the other elf, and breathes of the conviction of light against the ice of night's companion below.
Withdrawing, the horse beneath it rearing upward as the light of the elven stranger falls quietly downward, thin strands, nay rays, of breaking dawn born from a sphere like silver, the Ulari guides its whinnying steed backwards in a brief and agitated trot. Then, there, sight fueled with eyes like flame, it searches the pine-needles of each fir tree, finding finally the hidden assailant peaking through one's branches. "Ah..." says the wraith, voice cold and menacing, a frightful tinge to it that calls outward with a deadly tambour, keeping still and quiet all other beasts that walk the earth. "Then thou is what I indeed suspected...this delays me, fool, and presents such a futile endeavor. Depart, I shall pass." Growing silent then, thoughtful, the Black Captain comes to respond to quendi's challenge, as well, "What know I of peace thy asks? -- What know thee of peace?! when the world is swallowed by all its shadows and the inky reign of thy true Master begins, thou shall know peace, in the halls of lamentation, in the halls of Mandos, where thy shall feel the pity and pain of none for all thy kin will have faded or died. Now, leave, thy childish nature amuses me not and I will as soon as make a cloak for my mount to trot on from your flesh than bother with thee and in idle chat...or do you dare to face me small one?"
Haldir shifts uneasily on his perch in the bough of the fir, holding the light higher in the air, then almost setting it aside to free the second hand for his bow, then he holds the lamp forward again, evidently unsure what would be the better weapon against the abomination before him, "Your master have taught you well of things you should know naught about", finally speaks the quendi, his voice strained but the silver still rings in it, "Would you be perhaps so brave as to speak the name of Elbereth? Or would you rather scurry away and walk the roads where shadows lie? Into my world, you will not pass." The light in Haldir's hand flickers, but then grows brighter, as the quendi gathers his strength for the last challenge.
The sun sinks in the sky and falls below the horizon. Nighttime takes over.
"Enough of this!" cries the Witch-king, voice cold, patience lost, the utterance of that name having further enraged this spectral being. There, from its waist, it draws a thin, long blade, decadent and fearsome does it look, a fire to it that wields itself in the darkness of the woods and drives back even the holy light that shines from Haldir's bright glowing sphere. Then, with an agileness, and the skill of an aged and practiced warrior, it is thrown -- the poisoned darker, tipped with shadow and with death, cast towards the elven figure who would stand against this most dire foe. Spurring on its mount as the steely dagger is tossed, forge from the very pits of Morgul, the Ulari comes to laugh sharply in the air, no whimsical notes however in its tambour. The chortle of the phantom is rather terrible to the ear, frigid and lonely, devoid of love or feeling, like the unfriendly edifice of stone. Steam blown from the beast beneath it's nostrils, this most dangerous of phantoms, the Black Captain of the Nine itself, charges forward to break its way into the eastern lands.
Witch-king wields Morgul Blade.
Elena stands behind Haldir, an island of silence in the words of defiance that fly from lightness to dark and back admist the boughs entangling chaos about her. What opinions she has, she voices not, for this is not her fight. But her stance remains firm, only her emerald eyes betraying the fear-tinged anger that lays within this elleth's soul, a piercing gaze that filters down towards the infestation below. As the fleeting sunlight fades finally away, the silver light only intensifies the stoic features of the maiden, bathing her allover in the aura of her kind.
Witch-king throws a dagger...
The entire wood seems to fall silent, listening to the exchange between the Quendi and the Ulairi. Even the small brook is quiet, its surface frosty-still, as if the cold aura of the dark rider have chained it with a skin of ice. The shining globe throws its piercing rays at the shadow before it, and they shred it and chase away, but then wane struggling to penetrate its darkness.
Suddenly, it flashes as the hand holding it is hit by the evil blade. The branches close, and the light is withdrawn.
A shudder wracks the elleth's frame as the black dagger pierces the Commander, and she shirks back against the tree as the foul being below retrieves his weapon and rides on. Free of its paralyzing presence she turns quickly to the Commander, throwing back her hood to convey a countenance beset with concern. "How bad?" she murmurs quietly, releasing her staff to begin searching her cloak for the means of proper bandaging.
On the talan platform inside the tree, Haldir stands, leaning against the trunk of the fir. The blade which punctured his armor on the shoulder is nowhere to be seen, perhaps it has fallen down. In the wale below, the sound of the hooves fades in the East.
Haldir drops the bow onto the talan floor.
Haldir shakes his head, "I feel cold..."
The wound on the shoulder is but a tiny puncture, and no blood comes through the broken skin, but it feels cold to the touch, and white as snow.
"Stay standing, if you can, Commander." Elena leans in to examine the wound, her features belaying a sense of disgust as she encounters cold skin. "Poison." she relays the obvious with a disdained tone. "Their weapons are as dark as their presence...we must stop the spread, quickly."
Haldir grasps at the fir branch, sticky with tar, with his good hand, but remains standing. His breath comes out in heavy gasps, "Yes..."
Working deftly, Elena uses a bandage to bind first not the wound, but around beneath your arm and above it, tightly, doing what she can to slow the spread of the dark being's poison. Emerald eyes are tinged with concern, as she leans in to help support you. "Talk...Haldir. Stay alert." her voice too is tinged with worry, but soothing.