Posted in Mithril Knight: Guardians of Middle-earth
. I have only copied my own posts here, as always please see the original thread for others' work, including the other halves of conversations with Meneldor.
03 Apr 2011 23:42
The huge avian form momentarily blotted out the rising sun as Meneldor alighted upon the ground before Dirk. For a time, the two stood opposite one another not moving, not speaking. The dark warrior regarded the Great Eagle’s giant golden eyes, wondering whether Meneldor still saw the young Mithril Knight, true to his vows and brave of heart. Or did he see what Dirk was becoming as the things that lived in the darkest recesses of his soul have begun to come to the fore once again?
“A Star enters the darkness
And consumes him from within…”
The great gold orbs proved unreadable, and therefore useless in helping Dirk to decide whether or not to proceed as he had planned, and so he did.
“My friend,” he swallowed hard, “my brother. I’m afraid it may have been utter folly that you choose me to mentor you.”
The Great Eagle’s head twitched quizzically to the side.
Dirk continued, “For what could a man of one-and-twenty years offer to one so ancient and wise as you?” He turned, strode to the dying campfire and sat upon a flattened stone. “But to that end, I would tell you my story and give you my best guess at what wisdom I may have derived from it.”
Dirk bore the heavy gaze of the ages-old eyes as he told Meneldor the truths of his life, including his birth, how he came to bear an evil facsimile of a Ring of Power, his days with the black shade of Eöl, the slaughter upon Gundabad, and the Doom of Mandos. Lastly, he stood and lifted his jerkin, exposing the rotting, blackened wound that now stretched nearly to his heart.
“So you see my brother, what I do in Carn-Dûm may be my last act as a Knight and as a living man, barring some miracle. I told all of this, even though you may have already known or guessed some of it, as my confession-so that one who is not man and therefore purely a creature of the Light could hear and understand and perhaps someday derive a lesson to teach others from my short, ruined life.”
Meneldor stood silently for several minutes as Dirk absently stirred the embers with a stick.
Finally the bird spoke, “My brother I have heard and will remember all you have told and more of you, including those days which are yet to come, however many there may yet be. Tell me of the wound brother, does it pain you? Surely it cannot be so grievous as it looks. The Healers in Imladris or the elf Vanaladiel would have known.”
“The pain is…bearable my brother,” he lied, “thank you for your concern. But I’m afraid that it is even more grievous than it looks for it is no alchemical poison of this world that festers over my heart. If that were so, then yes, it would be as you say and my elf-sister Vana would have seen and rooted it out of me. No, the poison of the Warg-rider’s blade gave way long ago to a poison of the soul, though that is a poor word for it. It is more like a warning from Mandos, an hourglass. I am its vessel and its sand runs black into my heart.”
Again there was a long pause as both man and Eagle calculated in their minds the hour at which the upper bulb of the hourglass my run empty. Then the Eagle asked, as if he suddenly remembered, “and the wisdom?”
“What’s that my brother?”
“You promised me your best guess at wisdom.”
“Oh that.” Dirk actually chuckled. “That’s where the folly comes in. You see, what little I have that might pass for wisdom would be no revelation at all to one such as you.”
“I shall hear you and judge for myself.”
“What it all comes down to is giving,” Dirk said. He stood, threw the stick into the ashes, and began to pace. “The worth of a man’s life is measured not what he gains, but in what he gives. To Illuvatar’s greater children, like the elves or yourself, I suspect that this is intrinsic to your nature. But for men, it is the opposite. We readily accept the gifts that are given to us, but instead of using them to benefit others who are not as blessed as we, we spend them like coins in order to garner worldly things for ourselves: riches, power, glory, fame.”
The bird’s impassive face gave no clue as to how Dirk’s words were being received. Despite a suspicion that he was coming off the fool, the young Knight continued.
“Meneldor, I’ve spent my life seeking to purchase redemption with my blessings, first to redeem my low station as the seventh son of a mere innkeeper, then as the ill-gotten son of Angmar born of necromancy. It is why I joined the Mithril Knights.” He moved close to the great bird and stopped his pacing. “I thought I was righteous, noble. Turns out, I did the right thing in joining the Knights, but for the wrong reason. It is not about my stature as a prestigious Mithril Knight redeeming me of my birth or my sins. It is not about me at all, or any other individual. You once asked me what it meant to be a Mithril Knight. The best I can give you is this: Taking the oath of the Knights is a pledge to give everything of yourself, even your very life if need be, to the people of Middle-earth. It is about leaving your own self behind and sacrificing personal glory, wealth, prestige, everything for the greater good…”
Meneldor waited for Dirk to continue, but when he didn’t, he started, “My brother, this is not folly…”
“No brother,” Dirk cut across him, “I fear I’ve already spoken too long. The time is grown short and we both have much to do today.”
It was then that Meneldor realized that Dirk’s horse was saddled and he was packed to move.
“What would you have of me, brother?” asked Meneldor.
“My night patrols tell me that our company of Mithril Knights has returned from the northwest. They are about three days’ ride from here. You must go to them and deliver a message. Tell them that I shall arrive at Carn-Dûm at sundown three days hence and that if they are not there at Midnight of the fourth, then we shall fail and the men of the north, and probably the Shire as well, are doomed.
“They also need to know that some two-hundred Rangers patrol the area and that they must make contact and have them gather their strength, for there will be a veritable swarm of orcs to deal with, as well as my Uruk night patrol, which is forty strong, and at least two trolls from the Trollshaws. Also, they should know that I fear the dragon will call the drakes to Carn-Dûm once I make my presence known.
“My brother,” Dirk lowered his voice, “I beseech you, speak to no-one of my wound. I do not want to cause undue worry. Any help I may be able to gain for it will have to wait until after we deal with this dragon and I would not have anyone troubled over me before we have.” He placed a hand on the great bird’s wing.
“Go with all speed back to our fellow Knights and return to me if you can tomorrow. I hope to be at the half-way point between here and yonder fortress by nightfall tomorrow. We can talk a little my poor excuse for wisdom, if you wish.”
“Yes, I can see that haste is necessary. And, as always, your confidences are safe with me my brother. I will return to you at the halfway point on the morrow. Until then, farewell.”
Then the Great Eagle spread his wings and lifted from the ground with a hurricane rush of wind.
23 Jul 2011 14:50
If the Hithaeglir were a Scorpion then the Mountains of Angmar would be its tail, and Carn-dûm its gleaming black sting. Dirk was now so close to those evil peaks that he stood in their shadow, though it was the second hour before noon. Meneldor, even with his Eagle-vision, had had a difficult time finding the Shadowed Warrior within the mountains' gloom; for there was more to Dirk that was Black than merely his garb and armor.
The ancient Eagle's eyes would not have missed the toil that Dirk endured in order to keep hold of the last vestiges of himself. The young Knight was sweating profusely, and he stammered as he spoke, often losing his train of thought completely. In the end, Dirk could not recall most of what he had said to the great bird, which was mainly to remind the Mithril Knights that they must join forces with the Rangers in the area so that they could fight the orcs and other beasts, allowing the Knights to concentrate upon the Drakes and the Dragon. Dirk also managed to remind Meneldor that the Knights must be ready two days hence, for that was when the Dragon would emerge from the mouth of the Witch-king's ancient lair, if his plan worked as he had foreseen. Other words were exchanged that would never be remembered by either man nor Eagle, until their farewell.
Shakily Dirk approached Meneldor and tentatively reached out to touch his wing, "Y-you have honoured me, O great Eagle. F-farewell, and if I sh-should come out on the other side of this, uh, adventure," he paused for several moments, his brow knitting and un-knitting, "if I am still intact, wh-whole, that is, then I will do my best to honour my commitment as your mentor Knight. For I have been a poor one s-so far."
24 Jul 2011 21:57
Meneldor's sorrow washed over the young Knight even as his hot tears did. Even within the Eagle's feathery embrace the pain of his wound was almost unbearable and he had to lean upon the bird for support. Feeling Meneldor's heartbeat, he recalled their last conversation - Dirk's confession that he was dying. Now the Knight was weeping as well. He gave his emotions their head, that the well within him could dry up and refill with what must inevitably live there if he was to fool the serpent beneath Carn-dûm.
Then suddenly their embrace was broken and the great Eagle was flying away west, the beating of Meneldor's wings echoed within Dirk's poisoned chest. Dirk continued to watch and weep, until at last he could no longer see the bird; and he could no longer produce tears.
He turned then and shuffled to where Endlómë stood stamping at the ground. The great warhorse tossed his mane and nudged the saddle upon the ground.
"No my f-friend. Not this time," he told his long-time companion. With a deep sigh to collect his composure Dirk continued, "once before I chose a different mount and now I must do so again. But this is not folly as it was before, but necessity."
The tall black courser lowered his head and nuzzled Dirk's shoulder, allowing his bridle and halter to be gently removed by fumbling fingers.
"Go now, my Midnight, my Endlómë and be free. Should I make it through this we will find each other, I promise." He paused, patting the horse's neck, "If not, follow your heart. Choose another warrior if you will, and carry him into battle as you have me: with strength and courage and honor."
Dirk lovingly scratched the horse's ears and kissed his nose. Then he slapped him upon the rump, with which the great destrier reared and neighed. Then the thunder of his hooves shattered the silence as he bolted not east toward the mountain passes and his homeland, but west. Dirk knew that he was heading to join the Mithril Knights and hoped he would find a worthy rider among them in need of a mount. He smiled despite the pain for he knew his horse would have done nothing else.
After Endlómë's hoof beats had faded into the silence of that dead place, Dirk drew up his remaining strength and threw the last of the wood upon the dying embers of that morning's cook fire. He then girt himself with his arms and armor and proceeded to destroy everything else in the blaze: saddle and tack, pack and blanket, food and water skin. But this task of purging proved too much, and even as he laid his coin purse and the little pouch that held a small quill, ink pot, and bits of paper into the fire, he collapsed beside it. The sun was at its zenith.
25 Jul 2011 01:19
He awoke to the sound of beating wings. But this was not the life-embracing heartbeat of a Great Eagle's wings, but the thrumming beat of a war drum signifying only death and despair. This was the inexorable leathern whump
that seemed to suck the very air from Dirk's lungs. It could only be a Dragon.
He opened his eyes and immediately realized that it was night, moonless and dark, with the stars of the Valacirca shining brightly above him. Briefly, a thought floated through his mind like a ghost from the distant past:
“A Star enters the darkness
And consumes him from within…”
Then it was gone like smoke rising from a funeral pyre, and with it the final iota of self that Dirk had clung to. What he was, he was now wholly. None could deny him. None could withstand him.
So it was that the hovering beast was drawn to him. The Sickle of Varda was blotted out by its immense shadow as it wheeled slowly downward until finally it lit upon a patch of bare rock a few yards from where the Zaugoth lay, its terrible talons scritching
upon the stone.
The young shadow lord rolled and stood. He dusted himself off and stamped caked mud from his once-proudly polished boots. He inhaled the brisk northern night air and found that he felt no anger, no joy, no love, no sorrow. And despite the pool of coagulating blood upon the ground where he had lain, he felt no pain. He touched his side and felt the blood there it had soaked through his shirt, mail and hauberk, then lifted his blood-covered hand to his mouth and savored the sanguine fluid with his tongue.
Grinning bloodily, he turned to the huge beast and discovered that it was not a full-grown dragon, but neither was it as small as a fell-beast like those he and his father had ridden before. There stood before him an animal with green-gold reptilian scales and bat-like wings the span of which was nearly double that of its length. The young man's eye was drawn to those of the beast: immense and yellow, with cat-like pupils and filled with ancient intelligence and malice.
"Do you speak, beast?"
"Aye, master," it said in the common tongue.
"Are you what they call a 'Cold Drake'?"
"It is true, my Zaugoth, that my brother and I are not gifted with fire, as are the larger serpents. But you will find that we are useful in our own ways."
"I'm sure you are," sneered Zaugoth. "Do you have a name?"
"I am called Balorosak
, my lord."
, let us away."
The Drake lowered its head in a gesture that was taken by the young Dark Lord to mean that he was to mount and ride the beast. Therefore he strode to its side and grasped the horny spikes that grew down its spine to pull himself up onto its shoulders. As he settled between the spikes, the Drake spread its wings and with a powerful thrust of its legs, leaped into the air. Where a man might have feared, the Zaugoth exhilarated, spreading his arms wide and laughing at the wind.
The journey was short however, and as they approached Carn-dûm the Zaugoth saw that it was not deserted. Many fires were lit on the plateau near the main entrance; and when they were near enough, the deep booming of many great war drums could be heard.
lit upon the stones directly before the gaping maw of Carn-dûm's main entrance and, gracefully for such a huge beast, lowered his head for the Zaugoth to dismount. Once the dark warrior was deposited upon the stones, the Cold Drake once again took to the sky, this time to fly up to his perch upon the pinnacle of one of the three peaks of Carn-dûm. It was then that the Zaugoth noticed its brother, a red Drake he could only assume was called Kukurosak
upon the opposite spire, presumably leaving the central tower empty for their true master, who yet slumbered below.
The drums stopped as the Zaugoth turned and faced his small but enthusiastic host. Immediately, his guard of forty Uruk-hai charged to the fore and arrayed themselves before him. Their captain stepped forward and bowed, waiting for the order to speak.
"I'm glad for your sake that you heeded my command and allowed none to enter my home before me."
With eyes still cast down the Uruk answered, "it wasn't easy, my lord. The mountain bugs wanted to scurry underground as soon as we got here. It took a little head-rolling, but we brought them in line, me and my lads did."
"Tell me what we have here, captain, all told."
"Seven-hundred bugs from under the mountains, my forty mighty Uruk-hai, and three great stinking trolls." Growing bolder, the Uruk spoke freely, "These northern trolls are easier to handle than the southern lot, seeing's how they can talk and all, but they eat everything in sight and haven't stopped beating those infernal drums all night until you arrived."
The Zaugoth ignored the small insolence. "See that the orcs are arrayed in squads for patrol and appoint a sergeant to each squad to lead them in battle. See that the sergeants are liberal with the whips if need be."
"And if they aren't?"
"Then see that your boys are liberal with the swords upon the sergeants' necks."
The Uruk captain leered.
"Also," continued the Zaugoth, "all forces except the Drakes are to be housed within the mountain once I've entered. Find suitable housing for all near the entrance," he looked directly into the black pupils of the Uruk, "and no-one is to go below the main level upon pain of long, slow death."
With that the Zaugoth turned to enter the fortress.
"My lord, there is one other thing."
The Zaugoth turned, a slow-burning flame kindled behind his grey eyes. "What is it?"
He saw that the Uruks had parted and the only other man within leagues strode tentatively forward carrying a large object under an oilcloth. He was a small man with a bend back, darting eyes and greasy hair and clothes.
"Who are you and what have you got there?" demanded the Zaugoth.
"Me I'm nobody sir. Just Drewe. Drewe the delver from Bree. Digs, I do, for me livin' sir."
The Zaugoth stood motionless, growing impatient, until finally Drewe uncovered his burden. It was a great iron helm, topped with an iron three-pointed crown. The ancient crown of the Witch-king
"Where did you get that?" said the Zaugoth, eyes wide with lust.
"In Dead Man's Dike sir, that is Fornost they calls it now," he answered.
"And just how, Drewe the delver, did you manage to get this away from Fornost with the king's men there?"
"I didn't rightly know how I was gonna do that, sir. At first. 'Til I heard all the fuss over those two." He jutted his chin up to where the Cold Drakes rested. "It was easy then. I just slipped out while everyone was fussin' and fightin' over them beasties."
"And how did you know such a thing was there to be found?"
Drewe's tongue thrust from his wet lips as his hairy brow knitted and his eyes shifted nervously, "you see sir there was these two blokes, elves they were in shiny armor. And they walks right up to me at the Pony one night and says, 'you the delver?' and I says, 'aye'. They says get yerself to Fornost. They says there's sometin' they want that'd be in the deepest pit where the old castle were. They says get it and bring it here and I'd get me a reward. So I got it and took it here. For weeks I been waitin' and nobody ain't around for miles. Then this evenin' just when I were almost out of food, all these beasts and orcs and other nasties start showin' up. I were afraid, sir I was. But they didn't touch me once they saw this," he lifted the helm slightly.
"No, I'm sure you were quite safe as long as you bore that." The Zaugoth strode forward and took the helm from Drewe.
With a deep breath, he settled the helm over his black locks. Instantly, it seemed as if he gained stature. Where he had been eye-to-eye with the immense Uruks, he now towered over them two feet or more. Unbridled power coursed through him as he had only felt when he bore a ring of power. He drew Neleg Amlug
and flames danced red upon its edges. Lifting the sword above his head, he blasted his terrible voice into the weak minds of his minions:
"Maurdat lat Zaugoth, baurobzot Nazgûl!
The incessant murmur of the crowd had stopped. Only the crackling of bonfires broke the silence.
Until a seemingly tiny voice spoke out, "sir," squeaked Drewe, "can I be havin' me reward now? So I can be goin' an' all?"
The Zaugoth looked down upon the insignificant man. Drewe saw a flash of white teeth and crimson eyes behind the hideous façade of the Iron Helm.
"Boys, give him his reward."
The Uruks closed ranks around the small man as the Zaugoth turned and strode toward the entrance of Carn-dûm. Drewe's blood-curdling cries were drowned out when the trolls resumed beating their war drums.
But the Zaugoth heard none of this. With the light of Neleg Amlug to guide him, he walked beneath the threshold of Carn-dûm and disappeared into its inky blackness.
It was midnight.
*I am your Dark Master, the son of the Lord of the Nazgûl!