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There were screams from the Mortals and pandemonium all around.
“Nae! Nae! Tirn! Tirn vin Nen! Men barad!”
That was Legolas who stood there rooted to the spot, caught in a memory of an earlier, darker time.
“Atto! Atto!” Finda yelled.
Finrod forced himself to look away from the horror crawling out of the tarn to see his son and the other youngsters coming down. “No!” he shouted, holding up a hand to stay them. “We’re coming up! Legolas! Legolas! Glorfindel!” Finrod turned to his gwador who also had not moved, shaking him, but Glorfindel was too deep in shock for some reason to respond. The Mortals, in the meantime, had recovered from their own fright and were actually throwing large rocks at the thing as it writhed its way toward them, rocks that bounced harmlessly off the monster’s tough hide. “Fools!” Finrod hissed as he yanked a rock out of Joe’s hands. “Climb! Climb! Finda, come help me!”
The Three Amigos and Nielluin rushed down. “Get these fools up to the ridge,” Finrod ordered them. “I will get Legolas and Glorfindel.” He went to Legolas first as the four younger Elves urged the Mortals to move. Shaking the younger ellon, he shouted in Sindarin, “Legolas! Snap out of it! Damn!” He glanced down to where the horror was still advancing. Glorfindel, closer to it than he, never moved, as if he were caught in some dark web. One of the monster’s tentacles snaked toward his gwador. “Pui-en-orch!” Finrod hissed, half in anger, half in fear, as he rushed toward Glorfindel, who seemed to wake from his fugue just then, recognizing his danger. He gave a yell and started to move away, but a tentacle reached out and wrapped itself around his left ankle.
“No!” Glorfindel fairly screamed, reaching out toward Finrod, terror in his eyes.
Finrod grabbed him, trying to pull him away, but it was a futile gesture, for the monster was dragging them both toward the tarn. He pulled out a knife and attacked the tentacle, the knife barely penetrating the tough hide.
“Look out!” he heard someone scream but he had no time to react as two more tentacles lashed up, with one wrapping itself around his waist and the other tightening itself around his neck. He was forced to drop the knife as he struggled to pull the tentacle off, desperately trying to breathe even as he was being dragged toward the tarn with Glorfindel.
“Atto! Atto!” he heard Finda scream, and even as he felt himself blacking out from lack of oxygen, he saw his son come racing toward him with his gwedyr and the mortal Men following, but he knew they would be too late, for he and Glorfindel were now at the tarn, the water lapping around them, sloshing across his face as he thrashed about so that he was choking on it and he wondered if he would drown first. His thoughts went to Amarië and he knew that she would never forgive him for having died a second time, and in that last moment of conscious thought he realized he was more afraid of his wife than he was of Lord Námo, whom he assumed would be equally upset to see him again.
As darkness and water took him there was a sudden flash of brilliant light and he vaguely heard shouting. There was a confused moment where he was not sure what was happening, but he felt someone pulling at him, the pressure around his throat and waist easing. Water filled his nostrils and mouth and he began choking even as he felt himself being lifted up and then placed on the ground, someone holding him while he vomited the tarn water and everything else inside him.
“Holy crap!” he heard one of the Mortals exclaim and, struggling to a sitting position and opening his eyes, he saw a most unbelievable sight: three Maiar battling the creature with their swords of light and the fact that it was taking three of them to defeat the monster told him something, though he was feeling too confused to marshal his thoughts enough for any coherence. He glanced back to see who was holding him and saw that it was Elennen with Nielluin kneeling beside him. Looking about, he saw Finda was with Glorfindel, holding him as the ellon was also vomiting tarn water. Calandil was with Legolas, who appeared to have come out of shock. The Mortals had eyes only for the Maiar as they continued battling the Watcher.
He recognized one of the Maiar as Olórin and was surprised to see him, for this particular Maia never struck him as the warrior type, not like Manveru and Erunáro who were fighting beside him. The three fought with a fluidity of motion that stunned him, vaguely wondering if the Maiar who had joined Lord Eönwë in the War of Wrath had fought this way, half wishing he had survived long enough to see it.
The monster — or was it úmaia? And the implications of that thought sent shards of ice through Finrod’s veins — appeared to be holding its own, even managing to wrap a tentacle around Olórin’s waist. The Maia attempted to slash at it but his sword arm was caught in the grip of another tentacle as he was being drawn forward. Manveru rushed to Olórin’s aid while Erunáro attacked the creature, somehow avoiding the writhing tentacles. The tarn boiled and the monster thrashed about, seeking to capture the Maia, but then Erunáro reached the creature’s body and plunged his sword deep within it.
There was a horrendous screech from the monster that nearly burst their eardrums and Finrod flinched along with the others, covering his ears. Then all became quiet and, opening his eyes, Finrod saw the three Maiar standing over the corpse of the creature, examining it and speaking quietly among themselves. Glorfindel groaned and uttered a profanity as he clutched his head. Finrod forced himself to stand with Elennen and Nielluin giving him a hand and stumbled over to his gwador and Finda. Satisfied that his son had taken no harm he knelt beside Glorfindel, who huddled there with his knees up, hiding his face.
Finrod felt rather than saw motion as the three Maiar walked toward them. He looked up. “You left it rather late, didn’t you?” he couldn’t help saying, glaring at them.
Olórin gave him a disdainful sniff. “A Maia is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.”
Both Manveru and Erunáro snickered as they sheathed their swords. Erunáro knelt, brushing a comforting hand through Glorfindel’s hair. “Natyë mai, macil-háno?” he asked quietly.
Glorfindel looked up. “It… it was my dream,” he whispered, also speaking in Quenya.
“What do you mean, hanno?” Finrod asked in the same language. “You dreamt this? Is this what you couldn’t remember?”
Glorfindel shook his head. “Yes. No. I don’t know. I just know that that,” and he pointed at the carcass of the Watcher, “was in my dream and it was pulling me down into the water, just like here, only I don’t think you guys showed up to rescue me.” He climbed to his feet and Erunáro stood to give him room. Walking over to view the creature, Glorfindel suddenly became angry and he turned to face the others. “Damn it! I’m supposed to be on vacation! And this happens?” He pointed to the Watcher without taking his eyes off the Maiar. “What the hell is going on?”
“The trees were concerned,” Calandil said suddenly, glancing at Legolas, who stood mutely by, a look of shame on his face.
Everyone stared at the younger ellon in surprise. “Is that true?” Finrod asked, looking to the Maiar for an answer.
“Apparently,” Olórin said.
“You don’t know?” Finrod demanded.
All three Maiar shrugged. “We only know that you were in danger and that our lord ordered us to rescue you,” Manveru answered. “Believe me, we were as surprised to see that,” he jerked his head at the carcass, “as you. We assumed the úmaiar had all been destroyed ages ago, but apparently not.”
“The Mortals speak of demons and such,” Glorfindel commented, “and even today there are reports of encounters with them, so apparently your assumption is incorrect.”
“Speaking of Mortals,” Finrod said softly, reverting to English. The Elves and the Maiar looked around and realized they were alone.
“There,” Nielluin said, looking up and pointing just in time to see Gary disappearing over the ridge.
“C’mon, we need to stop them,” Glorfindel ordered, then turned to the Maiar. “Get rid of that thing now.” Without waiting to see if he was obeyed, he set off to climb the ridge, stopping beside Legolas just long enough to give the younger ellon a hug. “Dartho thalion,” he whispered in his ear.
“A dago velryg,” Legolas whispered back with a catch in his throat.
Glorfindel stepped back, giving him a smile. “You remembered. Good. We’ll talk about it later. Right now, we need to do some damage control, okay?”
Legolas nodded, then gave him a half smile, one that reminded Glorfindel of Thranduil at his worst, or possibly best, depending on one’s perspective. “The trees always know.”
Glorfindel decided not to comment on that. Instead, he just nodded and started up the side of the cirque with the other Elves following.
“You’re welcome!” they heard Olórin call out.
The Elves stopped to stare down at the Maiar who stared back up. “Yeah, whatever,” Glorfindel called back, not in the mood for politeness. “Get rid of that thing,” he ordered again and turned away. In minutes they were on the ridge and they could see the Mortals making good time in spite of the fact that they were having to make their careful way across a snowfield that was perhaps an eighth of a mile further on.
Without speaking, Glorfindel began running and everyone else followed. They saw Gary looking back and there was panic in his eyes. He shouted something they couldn’t hear and the Mortals began moving faster, but Joe stumbled over something and went sprawling, snow half covering him. Michelle and Danielle frantically tried to pull him up, shouting at him in their fright.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Chase urged them all. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
But the delay cost them and by the time they had gotten Joe to his feet the Elves had reached them, automatically surrounding them without needing any orders from Glorfindel. The Mortals all huddled together like frightened children.
“Don’t hurt us,” Michelle pleaded, nearly in tears. “Please don’t hurt us.”
“No one’s going to hurt anyone,” Glorfindel assured her, holding up his hands in a conciliatory manner. “Look, we just want to talk, okay?”
“Who are you people and those… those were angels?” Chase demanded.
“Sort of,” Glorfindel answered. “Look, let’s just take this slow and—”
“What was that thing that attacked you?” Gary insisted. “My God! That was straight out of a horror flick. This is unreal.”
“All too real, I’m afraid,” Glorfindel said with a sigh. “Look, we shouldn’t stay here. Liam, go and scout ahead, see if there’s someplace we can settle for a bit.” Legolas nodded and without a word set off, the Mortals gasping at the sight of the Wood Elf racing over the snow, his feet barely touching the ground. Glorfindel continued speaking, drawing the Mortals’ attention back to him. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I could use a stiff drink right about now.”
“Amen to that, Brother,” Finrod said softly, though even the Mortals heard him, giving him surprised looks at the colloquialism.
“That’s settled then,” Glorfindel said, flashing them a smile that set more than one Mortal heart racing. “If Quinn needs a pick-me-up, then I know we’ve been to hell an’ gone. Unfortunately, all we can offer is some hot tea.”
A couple of the Mortals nodded bemusedly. “Good,” Glorfindel said brightly. “Lawrence, you, Cal, Alan and Nell go on ahead. Quinn and I will stay with our friends and make sure they get across the field safely.”
The younger Elves hesitated for a second or two before complying with the order. Again the Mortals gasped at the sight of them stepping lightly. “How do they do that?” Danielle asked.
Glorfindel ignored the question as he called out to the youngsters. “Make a path,” They stopped to look back in puzzlement. Glorfindel mimed stepping heavily and they nodded in understanding and began plowing through the snow, creating a path of sorts.
“Let’s go,” Glorfindel urged the Mortals. “It’s getting too cold to be standing about. Look, I think we’re going to lose the sun.” He pointed to the sky where they could see clouds beginning to roll down from the mountains to the west. “Let’s hope we don’t get rain or snow before we reach the campgrounds. I’m already waterlogged and parts of my anatomy are feeling very unhappy right now.”
His light, self-deprecatory tone seemed to ease the tension around them and the Mortals meekly followed Glorfindel while Finrod brought up the rear. Soon they were past the snowfield and working their way through brush. There was a dip and they found themselves coming to a small dell where a couple of stunted firs, barely elf-high, clung precariously to life. Legolas was there with the youngsters, clearing the brush a bit to make a temporary camp.
“Well, this is more like it,” Glorfindel said as he joined the others with the Mortals coming right behind. “Too bad we can’t light a fire. I’d love to dry off.”
“You will just have to put up with being wet until we return to camp,” Legolas retorted mildly.
“Let’s have some tea and whatever else any of us have to share,” Glorfindel said as he pulled off his daypack and rummaged for the thermos of tea, pulling out a couple of energy bars at the same time. “I think we’re all a little shocky after what just happened.” The other Elves complied with his suggestion and after a moment of hesitation, the Mortals did the same. All the Mortals had sandwiches and offered to share with the Elves. Gary even produced a thermos of coffee.
“Sorry, no milk or sugar,” Gary said in apology. “I prefer it black myself.”
“Not a problem,” Glorfindel said. “We’ll just share what we have and be grateful for it.” For the next several minutes they were all busy eating, though Glorfindel noticed that Legolas declined a sandwich and something hot to drink, settling for an energy bar and water as he stood away from the rest, apparently on watch, his body tense with hypervigilance. Glorfindel cast a meaningful look at Finrod, who nodded, understanding what his gwador wished from him. The Elf-prince rose gracefully, filling a mug with tea and going to stand beside the Wood Elf, offering him the hot drink. When Legolas looked to refuse, Finrod thrust the mug into the ellon’s hand and gave him an order in softly spoken Sindarin. Legolas blinked and finally complied. Glorfindel could almost see the tension seep out of him as the hot drink did its work. The balrog-slayer turned his attention back to the Mortals and resisted a sigh.
“So where are you all from?” he asked.
“Anchorage, or there about,” Gary answered readily enough. “We’re all students at U of A there. So where are you guys from?”
“Wiseman,” Glorfindel said.
“Huh? Where’s that?” All the Mortals gave him stunned looks.
“North of the Circle on the way to Deadhorse.”
“What are you?” Chase demanded. “And those… those… you seemed to know them.” He cast an accusing look at Finrod who just shrugged, letting Glorfindel handle the situation.
“Yes, we know them,” Glorfindel said. “Sort of. They’re Maiar, what you would call angels. In fact, that was Michael, Uriel and… um… Raphael.”
“Michael? As in the Archangel Michael?” Michelle asked, her expression of disbelief mirrored on the faces of the other Mortals.
“Who’s Uriel?” Joe asked.
“Regent of the Sun,” Gary responded before Glorfindel could.
“Excuse me?” Joe turned to Gary, raising his eyebrows.
“Regent of the Sun. Milton? Don’t you guys read?” the Man said in disgust.
For a moment his friends just stared at him and then Chase made a disgusted sound. “Trust an English major to know something like that.”
“Hey! Stop dissing me. At least I sort of know these guys ain’t no Vulcans or Romulans or anything made up like that.” He turned to Glorfindel with a glare. “You’re elves, aren’t you? Uh… um… Tylwyth Teg… the Fair Folk.”
Glorfindel gave him an appraising look. “Something like that,” he hedged.
“And that… that thing?” Danielle asked. She pointed at Legolas, who apparently was still on watch, his back to them all. “He seemed to recognize the creature. He was afraid.”
“And with good reason,” Glorfindel countered. “That thing was… oh, I suppose you might call it a demon and—”
“A demon! Here?” All five Mortals began shouting at once, Joe and the Women even going so far as to start packing up their supplies as if they were about to run off.
Glorfindel held up his hands. “Whoa! Get a grip guys. It’s dead and it can’t hurt you. Now sit down. We’re not done yet.” Such was the power of his voice that they all complied.
“The earthquake,” Gary said, the light of comprehension dawning in his eyes. “It opened up something… a…. gate… a gate into hell… and that, that demon escaped. Right?” Without waiting for an answer, he stood. “We gotta go. We’ve gotta warn the authorities.”
“Wait, Gary,” Glorfindel said, holding out a hand to stay him. “Tell them what? That you saw a many-tentacled monster come crawling out of a tarn? That you met Elves and watched some angels battling the monster? Do you know how crazy that sounds?”
“But it’s not crazy!” Gary exclaimed. “You were there.”
“Yes, we were, but that doesn’t change the fact that by the time you reach anyone in authority and lead them back to the tarn, all evidence of what happened will be gone. All of it.”
Gary slowly sat down as he realized the truth of Glorfindel’s words. “But what if there are more demons who escaped?” he asked.
“The Maiar will make sure they don’t,” Glorfindel said. “I doubt, though, that there are any more. I think if there had been, we would’ve seen them.”
“But if there’s a hellgate or something…” Chase started to say, but Glorfindel shook his head.
“If there is such a gate, it’s been closed. Trust me, the Maiar know what to do. What we need to do, what you especially need to do is to forget this ever happened.”
“Are you nuts?”
“How can we forget this?”
“You’re crazy, man!”
The Mortals all began speaking at once, fear in their voices and in their eyes. Glorfindel held up his hands but it took a few minutes for everyone to calm down again long enough to listen to what he had to say.
“Think about it,” he said quietly. “You walk into the visitor center babbling on about earthquakes, angels and demons and what-have-you, and the next thing you know, they’ll be carting you off to the funny farm and throwing away the key. If you value your lives, you’ll forget about this. You won’t talk about it to others. You certainly won’t put it up on Facebook or even in a diary for others to read. You will be in danger if you do, because there are people out there who are rooting for the monsters, believe it or not, and they will come after you and your lives won’t be worth a hill of beans.”
The Mortals sat there looking stunned. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” Joe finally asked.
“Deadly serious,” Glorfindel retorted coldly and there was absolutely no levity in his tone or expression.
“But… but we can’t just forget about it,” Danielle pleaded. “How can we forget something like that? We’re just supposed to go back to our little, humdrum existence and pretend none of this ever happened? How can we do that?”
“I don’t know,” Glorfindel said. “I wish I did, but I don’t. None of us do. I’d love to wave a magic wand and make you forget for your own safety and peace of mind but I don’t have that power, nor does anyone else.”
“Why Wiseman?” Chase asked suddenly.
“What?” Glorfindel blinked, trying to shift mental gears.
“Wiseman. You said you came from Wiseman. Why there?”
“Why not?” Glorfindel countered, giving them a diffident shrug. “Everyone has to come from somewhere. We just happened to live in Wiseman. We could as easily be living in Anchorage or anywhere else in the world.”
“Yeah, but why?” Chase insisted. “I mean, you’re not human. You’re aliens or whatever. Are you planning on taking over the world and enslaving us and—”
Finda, Calandil and Elennen actually burst out laughing almost at the same time, much to the consternation of the Mortals. “Take over the world? Enslave you?” Finda sneered. “Why would we waste our time doing anything like that? You Mortals are so full of yourselves.”
“Enough, my son,” Finrod said softly, speaking for the first time. Finda subsided, offering a quiet apology.
“What do you mean, mortals?” Chase demanded.
“Elves, dufus,” Gary said in disgust. “These guys are immortal.”
“Yeah? Prove it.” Chase gave them a belligerent look. “All I’ve heard is talk, but talk is cheap and anyone can make up a story. You tell us to keep quiet. Well, I agree with you there. No way am I going to tell anyone anything, but what I want to know is what your deal is. Where do you fit in in all of this? It wasn’t just an accident or good luck that you showed up when you did, was it?”
Glorfindel sighed, looking to Finrod. Legolas had turned around to face the group, apparently interested in how Glorfindel would respond to the young Man’s questions. Before anyone could speak though, there was a hail from above and everyone startled at the unexpected sound. Craning their necks, they saw someone dressed in a black duster and wearing a wide-brimmed hat that hid his features walk down from the ridge to their camp. All the Elves stood, as did the Mortals. Joe reached down for a rock to use as a weapon, but Glorfindel grabbed his arm and shook his head, forcing him to drop it.
To the surprise of the Mortals, all the Elves gave the stranger a bow. “My lord,” Finrod said, “to what do we owe the pleasure?”
Námo smiled, his amaranthine eyes shining with amusement. “I came to help,” he finally said.
“Help, how?” Glorfindel asked, his tone enquiring rather than demanding.
“Wait! Who are you?” Gary demanded. “Where did you come from?”
Námo gave the young Man a fond look. “Take it easy, Gary. We’re all friends here.”
“How did you know my name?” Gary asked, paling and stepping back. The other Mortals also looked as if they were ready to bolt.
“You may call me Nate,” Námo said, ignoring the Mortal’s question. “My real name would mean nothing to you. Now, I really hate to break up this little lovefest you have going here, but in case you’ve not been paying attention, there’s a storm coming and if you don’t hurry you’re going to be in a lot of trouble and this time there will be no Maiar around to get you out of it.”
“And you came all the way from Valinor to tell us this,” Glorfindel said somewhat skeptically.
“I happened to be in the neighborhood,” Námo countered with a smile. “Come. Gather your things. Liam, you’re point. Head north-northeast. That will get you to the creek in about an hour. Quinn, you take the rear, make sure no one lags behind. Loren, when you reach the campgrounds, remain there for the night. It will be too dangerous for you to try to reach your own camp. I’ll see to it that it’s undisturbed. Quickly now. Manwë’s keeping the storm from hitting here but he can’t stop it for long or there will be serious consequences.”
“We’ll be staying at the campground illegally, though,” Glorfindel pointed out, even as he and the other Elves were grabbing their gear while the Mortals stood there gaping.
“Don’t worry about that,” Námo assured him. “You’ll be fine, but you need to hurry or I will be very unhappy and you know you don’t want me to be unhappy, do you?”
“C’mon,” Glorfindel said to the Mortals, ignoring Námo’s rhetorical question. “Nate’s right. We need to get going or we’re going to be in real trouble. Look!” He pointed up and to the west and now they all realized that the sky was dark with storm clouds and somewhere in the distance the sky was lit with lightning. That seemed to motivate the Mortals into motion and soon they were all climbing back to the ridge with Námo in their midst.
“North-northeast, Liam,” he said, pointing in that direction. “Don’t stop to smell the roses.”
Legolas set off and the others followed. Finrod brought up the rear, stopping long enough to give the Vala a bow. “Thank you,” he said softly and Námo nodded but did not say anything. Finrod ran to catch up with the others.
“Hey, where’s Nate gone to?” Chase asked, looking back. Everyone stopped to see but the landscape was empty and there was no sign of him. “Where did he go?” Chase asked again, clearly puzzled. “He couldn’t have disappeared so quickly.”
“For that matter, where did he come from?” Gary added. “How did he know who we were?”
“Come on,” Glorfindel said. “We’re wasting time.”
With that he set off as did the other Elves. The Mortals hesitated for another second or two before following, their expressions ones of confusion and even fear. Finrod sighed as he watched them and then, taking a last look back to where Námo had been, he brought up the rear.
And somewhere behind them a storm approached.
Words are Sindarin unless otherwise noted:
“Nae! Nae! Tirn! Tirn vin Nen! Men barad!”: ‘Alas! Alas! A Watcher! A Watcher in the Water! We are doomed!’. Note that barad is also a noun meaning “fortress, fort, tower”, as in Barad-dûr, but this is derived from a stem in b-, whereas the adjective barad meaning ‘doomed’ is derived from a stem in mb- and would have different mutations.
Úmaia: (Quenya) A Maia who became evil and followed Melkor.
Natyë mai, macil-háno?: (Quenya) ‘Thou art well, sword-brother?’. The pronominal suffix -tyë is the intimate/familiar form of ‘thou’; the formal/polite form being -lyë.
Dartho thalion a dago velryg: ‘Remain steadfast (or we might say stay calm) and slay balrogs’.
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