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Disclaimer: The characters and places belong to Professor Tolkien.
Beta reader: Cairistiona
A/N: With thanks to Lirulin-yirth-k'aio and openmeadow for the roleplay "Undying Lands" - an undying source of inspiration =)
1. The Star that hunts with the Moon
"Eärendil, wait!" Tilion's call echoed among the stars. The swan-ship before him slowed, waiting for her hunting companion. When they were in the same level, Tilion leaned over the rail, and shook his head. "You are doing it again..." With displeasure he noticed that Eärendil's dragon-bow was ready within his reach, although his hand had not yet entirely healed from the recent fight.
Eärendil looked at him apologetically. "Vingilot is eager to sail tonight..."
Tilion sighed. It is you who are too eager, my friend... But he just nodded. "Try to keep near me, please. I wouldn't want to get separated again..."
Eärendil nodded shortly, and turned away again, searching for any dark creatures that might have slipped through the Doors of the Night when Morgoth was thrown out.
Tilion shook his head. It was getting ever more difficult to keep an eye on his hunting companion. He was brave, and a skilled warrior, but still he was a mere Half-elf, not even an Ainu...
He stopped his musing immediately when one place caught his attention. Only darkness was there, but... he squinted his eyes. Did something move there? He moaned inwardly. Not those again...
"The bats!" He barely had time to cry out the warning before a swarm of giant bats descended upon both ships like bloodthirsty arrows – but in that moment the ships dove in a perfectly synchronized manoeuvre, the hunters firing arrows into the swarm.
"Eärendil! Cover yourself!" Tilion cried out, knowing that the Mariner wouldn't be able to fire the dragon-bow for long. But Eärendil didn't heed his warning – just as he feared. The bow was a gift from Eönwë, made from Ancalagon's horn as a trophy, Tilion knew. But right now he would prefer if Eärendil would cease gaining new trophies with it and turn his ship toward retreat - he noticed fresh blood seeping through the bandages on his hand. There were several dead bats lying on the deck of Vingilot, each as big as a grown man. Eärendil manoeuvred his ship as if it were a part of his own body, and continued killing the beasts – Tilion had to nod approvingly between two shots of his own silver bow.
But soon what he feared happened. Eärendil hissed with pain and the bow fell from his trembling hand. Immediately he drew his sword, wielding it one handed and waiting for the first bat to reach his deck.
Stupid Peredhil! Tilion thought. They will swarm you before you kill one of them! "Get away!" he cried out, but had to turn his attention to his own fight, to keep the bats away from both ships with his arrows. But the Mariner seemed deaf to his warnings, fighting like a wolf drawn into a corner and manoeuvring the ship so that he faced only one enemy at a time. Black wings blocked Tilion's view for some time. He gritted his teeth. Why didn't they withdraw before the light of the Silmaril? They hated the light – they should fear it, and yet they circled around it like moths around the flame. No, like moths intent to extinguish the flame!
"Back! Back!" Tilion shouted. Too late... While Eärendil fought, they grasped the lantern with the Silmaril in their claws, squeaking with pain is it burned them but not letting go. The Silmaril hung on a firm chain on the mast. They pulled it, yanked it... it didn't yield. Shadows of giant bat-wings danced wildly on the deck of Vingilot in the swaying light of her lantern. Finally Eärendil saw what was happening and ran to the mast, blocking the attacks attempting to stop him. The chain held still... The mast cracked...
"Eärendil!" Tilion cried out a warning. Too late again...
Eärendil looked up. The blood drained from his face from his face. At the last moment he jumped away.
Not far enough.
The next cry froze on Tilion's lips. Eärendil lay under half of the broken mast. He didn't move...
"No!" In a bold manoeuvre, Tilion flew over Vingilot, trying to knock the bats of her deck with his own ship. With broken mast and no guidance, Vingilot was beginning to lean dangerously. They fled before the vessel of the Moon, but as soon as he turned, they returned, aiming for the Silmaril laying on the deck now – still attached to the broken part of the mast.
Tilion cursed. Never did the evil kin of Thuringwethil behave so. They should fear the light – not try to steal it! He flew over Vingilot's deck again, but more bats came from somewhere, swarming him so that he could barely defend his own ship. He knew they were too far for anyone to reach them in time... despite that he cried out for help desperately; knowing also how much was at stake.
But high among the stars, his cry was heard...
A giant hawk turned sharply in the air, leaving a cloud of softly clicking hoar-frost behind. He clapped his wings mightily, hurrying to the place from whence the call came, faster than the wind, a golden hunter.
He saw the fight from afar. Vingilot was leaning heavily to one side, Eärendil lying unconscious while Tilion fought desperately. Eönwë folded his wings as he descended upon the bats like a golden shadow of death, his beak and claws glistening sharply. He flew right into their middle. Mad whirling of wings. Still the bats didn't let go of the chain holding the Silmaril.
Finally the chain yielded. In that very moment the bats flew away as quickly as they could. A golden shadow pursued them. Eönwë plunged into their swarm, pursuing the precious light –he could not fail!
Kee! Kee! the bird's call sounded like a war-cry as his claws tore the black wings.
Kee! Kee! he tasted their dark blood, and it was like wine in the thrill of the battle.
For a moment Tilion saw only a scrimmage of wings and shadows, flashes of gold against black. Falling black shadows... and a flash of bright light as the golden hawk broke the wall of black wings, crowned with a Silmaril.
The bats seemed to hesitate, but when he turned against them again, they fled before his anger. He almost leaped into the air in pursuit... then he remembered the two ships. He realized Tilion had been crying his name for some time.
He turned his head toward the guide of the Moon-vessel.
"Vingilot can't hold up much longer!" Tilion called to him anxiously.
Eönwë looked after the fleeing bats once more, and then he turned and hurried to Vingilot's deck. Right before landing on it he returned to the form of a golden-haired warrior again. It was much warmer and easier to breathe there, but Eönwë paid no attention to it. He ran across the swaying deck to the madly turning helm, and with great force he managed to stop it. The ship evened, and began to move slowly, brokenly like a wounded animal.
Eönwë glanced quickly at Tilion, but he saw the Maia had enough work with his own ship – his sails were torn by the bats' claws, and very hard to control. Vingilot seemed to gain her balance again. Eönwë sighed in relief... and tensed again, realizing it was too soon for relief – for all this time, Eärendil had not moved.
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