Curse of the Hidden Mirror II



Herein may be found some of the creations of Xanderian of the 3 Graces Kinship, who kindly looked it over beforehand for consistency. We all have our own 'head canon'.

 

Having much time to reflect upon the events of the past half-year, Laicamiril looked once more upon her reflection in the tall mirror that graced the corner of the room she shared with her husband. Arthandron had gone off early to try his hand at falconing with a pair of Cirdan's master-builders. He did love to pick up new things. She was left alone with her thoughts, many of which led down the rocky, slick slope to regrets. Such as it ever was, she thought, reflexively dismissing the notion that her flight from Tol Lochul's confines had been other than the best course.

Looking into her own eyes as she braided her brown hair, she was struck buy something peculiar. The mirror seemed to be clouded somehow. A brilliant light shone in from the open windows where the leaded glass panes had been opened wide to admit the fresh sea air. Transluscent curtains billowed slightly and little birds sang gaily a celebratory autumn song. They also seemed to carry a reproachful and somber note in their song. And a warning of danger ahead. The elves are alert to such things. Her reflexion seemed suddenly to carry a shimmering nimbus, as though the double she looked at was somehow offset to itself, as though the double of the reflection were mimicing her motions.

She'd have to have Arth look at this mirror. Perhaps one of his friends would know what would cause it to fail so. She knew mirrors made by inferior mortal hands could fog or cloud up over time but this example was of the finest quality. Something her husband had acquired from some hunting companion. There had been a trio of mirrors but one had broken and the previous owner had chosen to give it away. It had been made in Nan Elmoth it was said, which she had found peculiar. The knowledge of who made it was long lost and it bore no maker's mark or other device.

The more she looked however, the worse it seemed to become. She finished braiding her hair, becoming annoyed to the point of distraction. The surfacing of negative feeling coincided seemed almost to coincide with a dimming of the light outside. She went to the window. Not a cloud could be seen. A perfect day.

But it wasn't. She had been absorbed with a feeling of guilt since Cirdan had informed her what the nature of her new errand was to be. The incident at Kheledul came back to her. What had seemed like a piece of metal resolved itself into a twisted and hateful figure. A spirit that had some special animus for Lady Arahen's squire. That it was driven from the Ered Luin had been enough for the Lords of the West. The unexpected re-appearance of the disembodied thing called 'Mans' in Addiela's presumptuous and catastrophically failed binding rite had driven her to eager acceptance of a long-standing summons from Cirdan.

The relief felt on the ship had faded quickly after her interviews with the Shipwright. Now she recalled her promise to Addiela, who had pleaded with her to never leave.

Well, I've failed a friend. But I swore no oath. The fact that she had not invoked the Powers or pronounced some doom should she fail was of no comfort as she drifted through the vast libraries in Mithlond, collecting clues. She could not draw upon the help of Arahen, who was in Imladris. Or Rhavanielle who had once more disappeared as was her habit. All her old comrades were scattered by events. Hrangach was in Lothlorien the last she had got word, as was Inwis. Aipolossë was seconded to the dwarf expedition. The others had sailed west to follow the setting sun to their reward for labors and pains of Middle Earth.

She had no one to seek counsel or absolution from save Cirdan, who was typically enigmatic, saying only that the 'circle will complete itself in its due course. I cannot see how wide the ambit.' Whatever that really meant, it was cold comfort. She had felt stifled and useless in Xandelif's villa, laying about the gardens in idle and luxurious indolence.

She had had intimations that something was deeply wrong about Addiela's comportment in the days leading up to her ill fated magickal rite that suddenly went very wrong: Very much not herself, her panoply of expression was utterly changed. Snide, reflexively choleric and insular, she seemed to retreat into her preparations.

But when she tried to speak to Xandelif- who was the one least trusting of the motives of others- she was rebuffed in her effort to organize an intervention before this sorcerous rite should be carried out. “Don't worry about it. It's probably nothing, I'm sure.”

That intuition proved right was not much of a sop now. It seemed that dealing with Mans was not something she could escape.

The more her mind drifted through the sad terrain of failure, the more she was drawn to look back at the mirror. She tied the belt on her morning gown tighter and stared hard, fingering the soft beads of the chyrsocola bracelet Calidis had gifted her as she often did when she was anxious.

The ambit of her vision was at once reduced to the reflection. All else was a black and spinning starless void. The eyes of her reflection held her mind fast. There was no time for a counterspell even had she known what the nature of this bewitchment was. The face in the mirror reflected her sudden and complete panic and an irresistible pulling sensation

A sensation of eternal vertiginous plummeting gave way to a sensation of being stretched. Pulled painlessly, as though she were made of a piece of untanned skin. Or liquid mercury oozing in several directions. Or a puffy clouds blown by a winter wind. Yet all the while she maintained an I, though its distinction was only maintained through a mental recitation of facts, bits of poetry. “A Ebereth Gilthoniel..” the universal prayer of the elves.

Is this death? Am I on my way to the feet of Mandos to be remade in Valinor? There were two at least who had undergone this journey and come back to Middle Earth. But they did not speak of it. To any that she was aware. It remained a great mystery. The gods did not divulge all their secrets to the eldar.

Then there was a sensation that brought her senses into sharp focus: a hard slam of hitting a hard floor. The ache in her head was all emcompassing. A gray shroud overwhelmed her circuit of vision but she defied unconsciousness with tremendous effort of a disciplined will. Looking up, she saw a silhouette towering above. As though looking down. The expectation was red glowing eyes. But of eyes there was not a trace. Only a void.

Lying on an icy stone floor, her silk robe was torn from her.

“You've inconvenienced us for the last time,” came a voice. A long knife was in its hand. As dark as the hand that held it. “But there is still time before you meet your end. Time aplenty for my reward.

Ahmo twisted violently as a black oily foot came down toward her arm. The knife was a blur as it slashed the meat of her upper right arm on its way to her heart. The wicked long blade stung ferociously. She felt her heart jump in her chest. Poison!?

“Be still. I do think you'll rather enjoy this,” came a rumbling voice. Flipping to her feet, she realized her hands were bound before her.

Using her assailant's momentary frustration at her nimbleness, she pulled her arm back and up as she popped to her feet. Vertigo was gone and her head had cleared with the burning pain of the knife. Whatever or whomever it was was caught out a bit by her counterintuitive move. She caught it by the wrist and smashed her knee upwards into the space between its legs. A gasp then a roar. The morgul knife clattered to the floor as she closed and thrust hands forward, thumbs outward, catching the lust ridden sorcerous fool by the throat.

“Oh! So you are no wraith!” She laughed in spite of the burning agony in her arm. Following the man down to the floor, she straddled him, garrotting him with the leather thong which bound her wrists. Though she could make out no features but only inky black, the gasping sounds and coughing gave a good indication she was having an effect. She released her strangulation and reared back quickly. Spatters of blood had scarce time to hit the ground before her right palm smashed upward into where a face should be. A loud sickening pop filled the room and the dark assailant went supine. And in that deadly instant, the illusion was dispelled. The dizzying dark was a man. A man with a bald head and a strangely familiar face she had seen on Tol Lochul. A delivery of tidings from Princess Lothoniel of Dol Amroth.

Ignoring the pain of the wounded arm, she grasped the fallen blade, sawed easily through her bonds and thrust it into the man's heart. He was already dead from having his nasal bone smashed into his brain.

But more dead now, she thought. How had he come to be here in the robes of the Guild of the Unmoving? The court of Dol Amroth must not pay its flunkies sufficient coin that this oily weasel had come to serve the darkness.

She remembered the heart palpitation and stilled her mind. Gripping the poniard, she felt the blood seep down over the back of her hand. She realized she was quite nude. And very very cold. She tore strips of linen from her ruined night robe and bandaged her arm. There have been worse ends for such garments, she thought.

Taking stock of the situation, she felt at once more confident and uneasy. She still had no idea where she was or why she was there and she was wearing nary a stitch and it was abysmally cold. But her immediate antagonist was beyond harming her further. More, she was armed with his weapon. A morgul knife, naturally. The serpentine hilt guard seemed to writhe evilly in her hand. Her instinct was to throw it away, loathsome thing. But there was nothing else at hand save instruments no less grim. But those were all considerably less useful in a fight.

Scanning the walls, she was in a chamber given over to extraction of information or simply infliction of pain for its own sake. A rack, manacles on the walls, other sinister tools of torment. Torches provided scant illumination. She took one up in left hand after donning the dead priest's wool tunic and buskins and finally his heavy fur cloak. The lecherous wretch was paunchy and hairy as a Dunlending. The clothing was all a bit large on her, though she was powerfully built. Though of advanced age, he was broad of shoulder and rather equally broad of beam. The boots, though lined in fur were far too big so she endured the cold granite of the floor stones in bare feet. Perhaps the next unfortunate victim of her wrath would have smaller feet.

A metal door was slightly ajar and she slipped out of the torture chamber into a long passage. She felt as though she was far underground and the place had the feel of the horrifying prisons and dungeons they had found under Dol Guldur long ago.

She spared a glance once over her shoulder. No pursuit. No alarm sounded.

Is this a dream? Was she alone in this insane place? She felt flushed with adrenaline and wide awake. Yet the unreality of the situation was alarming. She must be dreaming. But how? And where? Had she been coshed on the head from behind? She felt her heart fluttering again and an icy pain in her head.

Nothing for it but to continue forward. So onward she went. She felt a growing chill emanating from a larger door. A way out?

Opening this door and walking into bitter cold air even worse for a hard wind that lashed her brown hair round her head like a ship's flag in a tempest, she realized she was standing on rough ice in her bare feet. She slid out of control down an icy stair, landing on her bottom painfully before she could recover. She still held the knife and the torch. She looked behind and felt a bit of relief. The ground was solid. She was in a snowy courtyard on some mountainpeak eyrie. The icy wind swirled snow from high drifts covering the paving stones and ice spikes hung everywhere, glittering in the moonlight giving the place the aspect of an open air cave. There was an encircling wall round this courtyard. It had no style or ornament that might be discerned.

Well, this was nowhere she wanted to hide and heal, she thought. But turning to find another path, she discovered the way was blocked by a figure of singular loathsomeness.

A fiendish winged figure of tremendous size awkwardly glided down from one of the spires or towers above. Landing with a crunch as its raven like hindclaws dug into an ice rimed snowdrift it delivered a backhand that sent Ahmo to the paving stones with a cough. She rolled by instinct, the dagger on guard. With a start, she discerned sepulchral figures in tattered sable cloaks bearing long wicked spears appear on all sides, though curiously facing outward. The alarm had gone out, apparantly.

Ahmo brought herself into a fighting crouch and looked up at the freakish thing. The big merrrovail's paw slashed out again, trying to grasp her but she dodged the attack and sliced at its palm, a black splatter landing on the ice like rock oil on pure snow. “First blood!” laughed the elf.

The merrovail queen's heavy, pinched brow deepened into a hateful frown as she brought her clawed hand to her mouth to lick a rivulet of blood. “Insect! You'll pay dearly for mocking Ngurthos.”

“Your weren't supposed to have time to recover. Za'ln failed. And in the Guild of the Unmoving, failure is forbidden. But don't fret, Ahmo, you have administered the necessary punishment.”

“You can thank me later. I had things to do today and you've got in my way,” the Noldo spat.

“Insolent bitch to the end, I see. Ngurthos swung a big spade like hand in a lightning arc. Ahmo rolled forward, slashing with the evil black knife, extracting a shriek as she sliced across the merrovail's thigh. The thing was draped in tattered black shrouds and from what she knew of such creatures, she was glad she could not see more of its anatomy as she crouch-rolled through its legs as it tottered and twisted to grasp her and crush her.

The wights seemed somehow powerless to intervene and simply stood menacingly as though they were illusory. Ahmo suddenly grasped it. She had studied black sorcery and the mysteries for millenia. The man she had murdered was their master. Without his words of command, these shades were without any direction, summoned from the void but powerless to interact in this world.

As Ngurthos's taloned hindfeet pounded behind, she desperately dashed, slipped and crawled pell mell up the worn icy steps toward the octaganol keep from which she had emerged. This thing was too big to brawl with in her bare feet on ice. She must avoid being got hold of at all costs. She was in exquisite shape but she was also not twelve feet tall.

Just as she gained the big door, a face appeared. She collided at full career, knocking the figure over. A man. Younger. Beardless. Before he could recover, she slammed shut the door and drpped the strog bar across it with a wooden bang which echoed in the big chamber. Followed in an instant by the raging of the merrovail.

Ahmo raised her voice to be heard through the big door as it shook with Ngurthos' raging screams and battering fists. “Remind me the penalty for failure in the Guild of the Unmoving!” Ahmo shouted with glee.

The man she had crashed into lay on his back, eyes closed. He had hit his head and been knocked senseless. Considering it beneath her honor to murder a man in such a state, she simply looked down and slapped his cheeks lightly “You! Wake up!”

Without opening his eyes, the youth twisted violently, reaching for his sword hilt. But the elf was quicker. Her foot was on his wrist and the morgul knife at his throat. “You've already failed, so you may as well play along with me. Which way off this ice block?”

The boy's soft features melted in fear as the realization struck home. “There isn't any. We're on top of Angubric, the mountain of the Void Gate. There is no path. No stair. You can't get off unless you can fly. You may as well surrender now. I will take your head cleanly and tell them I bested you in combat. You'll die painlessly. I swear it. I'll say it was luck I beat you.”

“Luck is something in short supply it would seem,” Ahmo said, frowning. She tugged his sword free and stood clear. The implied threat was clear in her stance as she looked him up and down. “You'll do. Get those boots off. Or it'll be a shame if you had to walk on stumps. Because I'm not leaving here barefoot but one way or another, I'm leaving.”

The young man tugged his felt lined boots off and she quickly put them on. Perfect fit, she thought. His face betrayed his anxiety.

“What's wrong? Tell them that you came to and I was gone.”

“There...may be a way,” he said. She read his face clearly but softened her tones. s

She realized he did not bear the insignia of the sorcerer's Guild of the Unmoving. He instead wore the robes of the Creoth, hardy and ill-famed mountain folk in Angmar's service since Sauron had first built the Black Tower. “What are you supposed to be? What are you called?”

“I am Remthen, miss. Messenger boy is all. I ride up once a month to see to the needs of the merrovail who dwell in the tower above.”

“Ride up?” she said. “Ride up what? How? Let's ride back down.” She realized that Ngurthos had ceased her pounding upon the door and several things dawned on her. She gestured to a passage, “We've stood here a mere moment but it's too long. After you, unless you know the true way.”

“There is a way, but it'd be easier for you to take your chances climbing down the cliff face,” said Remthen as he walked at sword point down a hall. Distant echoes of sounding horns cold be heard.

“I'll see judge what is easy or no,” she said angrily “But don't toy with me or lead me astray or you'll be the first to die. And I'll be sure it takes time for you to bleed out and contemplate all your betrayals. Lead me true and I'll make you rich,” she said. She realized she had his full attention when he looked back over his shoulder.

“The Pit is to further this way. Through the cells.

“The Pit? Cells?”

“Prisoners?”

“Spies...traitors...hostages.”

Ahmo immediately sensed the opportunity to gather a force together. If these wretches were not too wasted and spent then they could perhaps bring this place down. Whoever brought her here would pay dearly. In blood.

“Let's go. And quickly.”

Together they bustled round a series of bends then began descending a series of steep stairs that seemed worn by countless ages.

“What is this place?” Ahmo asked her impromptu guide. “I see no cells or cages.”

“You will soon enough,” he rejoined and she did not like his tone.

“Who brought me here?”

“I know not who you are or why you were brought. Only that I and another carried a mirror with a silver frame yesterday. And some ritual knives. Who did you see?”

Some tall thin bugger with silver hair was sent to welcome me.

The young man frowned as he tumblers clicked mentally. “Anything else?”

Dandruff. Lots of dandruff. Always adds to the menace when wearing black robes. Sorcerer of the Guild. Know him?”

“That would be Primate Garvon,” the boy said, distaste in his voice. Careful, she thought. These people always hated one another, but this kid would cut her throat if he thought he would win favor from his superiors. She had a vague promise of gold and some kind of safety to offer him for his treachery. But this was all theoretical as far as a servile of Angmar was concerned. The pain of disobendience was something that was not at all theoretical here.

They came to a corner and he stopped, turning. “Round the corner are two guards,” he whispered. “Give me 20 heartbeats and come round swinging but make no sound,” he cautioned. She wondered at this. He was trusting her for now and she had little choice but to follow his lead unless she wanted to lay a one woman siege to this freakish eyrie castle. The chances of success in that endeavor seemed rather low. IF he should betray her, he'd be the first to die. She nodded. Remthen turned the corner. She crouched with her sword in her left an the grim dagger in the other.

“You're leaving us early?” came a gruff voice.

“Orders,” stated the young man.

In an instant, Ahmo burst from round the corner and launched herself full force into a flying kick at Remthen's back, driving his lighter frame fully into the guard. As she had anticipated, he had a cocked arbalest, which discharged into the stone floor as it was dropped. Her two blades were already at work as she landed on her feet with a tiger's grace. The archer's head flew off at an angle as a crimson arc followed the progress of the broadsword's return, ending in the other guardsman's belly.

Ahmo tugged the blade free and rammed her boot down on Remthen's chest.

“Why..?” he stammered in disbelief, trying to rise.

“Primate Garvon? Your mistress has betrayed you. Za'ln it was she named. And so you have betrayed me.” With that she drove the sword into his heart.

She tugged open the door the two men had been keeping guard over. Seven millenia of research into the dark mysteries and sorcerous arts and nearly as much of hard combat had done little to prepare her psyche for the blasphemous singularity of what she saw then.

A collossal pit yawned vulgarly a mile across. A ledge wide enough for two to stand side by side with arms outstretched had been delved into the side by hands unknown. Light filtered in from apertures high above, in the dome atop the castle, she surmised, admitted enough light to see it. A nauseous green-litten effulgence rose from the vast space below like some horrid vapor. IT was like a colossal worm-shaft. A wound in the earth.

What 'it' was she guessed only too acurately. But she had hoped that the abomination described in that ancient and accursed volume ,The Book of the Elders would not be what she dreaded may fill the 'Pit' referred to by Remthen.

The sage Allorri-Zrokros spoke of such a monstrosity in the mountain Angubrik in furtive and horryfing hints. That ill fated Numenorean explorer was forced many times to employ the most oblique language to convey things that if stated in clear prose might be sufficient to force a scholar to question his entire cosmology and ontological framework.

But the sheer terror of looking down at it forced Laicamirill at this moment to shut tight her eyes and employ every magickal theorem, prayer and protective mantra she knew. Steadying herself by looking away to the wall on her right side, she managed to keep her feet and through her superhuman will, she managed to keep from shrieking and fleeing at once.

The space below was a riot of squamous and writhing limbs, eyes, feelers, tentacles, mouths and eyes all in a profuse and promiscuous riot. This pulsing fountain of madness and filth could be none other than Ubbo-Sathla, Devourer of Souls.

The tale of Melkor and Ungoliant is well known but even the most ancient recognized that the origin of Ungoliant was unknown but it had long been whispered that the devouring spider was but one of a brood of terrors which had come into Ea from Outside and had no place in the themes of Illuvatar, but had been awakened and lured by the discord amongst the Ainur. The heretical sage Rhavanielle asserted that some few of these beings were priomordial enemies of Eru who sought to undo his creation and restore a primordial chaos. Others were akin to Illuvatar, wise and disposed to kindness.

Allorri-Zrokros stated in his meticulous history of his discoveries of elder earth that the horror in spider form Ungoliant had a sibling, a formless and senseless entity which, when provided suitable sacrifice, bestowed visions to a secret and ancient priesthood made up of the hellish offspring of Sauron and Thuringwethil; the vampiric race of the Merrovail.

Ahmo gripped her sword tighter and shut the heavy door behind her. There could be no retreat now. Escape or oblivion were her only paths. She slipped the morgul knife into the belt she had appropriated and, eyes firmly averted to the encircling wall began making her way at a slow trot toward the aperture at the far end of the pit, hoping not to be noticed by the bat-winged figures wheeling mockingly in the vast domed space above. She made inerringly for the space opposite where she could make out with increasing detail, a platform upon which the golden altar of sacrifice was set. Beyond it was another door, this one of black iron.

As she gained the platform, she felt a burst of hope. But before she could reach the door, a shriek sounded from just above and behind and with a rush, two Merrovail swept upon her from the vast gulf above where iron cages hung suspended from stout chains. Some empty. Some inhabited by gibbering victims. Some filled with bones and leathery, tattered flesh.

Having to manouvre past the hanging cages forced the vampires to sacrifice much of their surprise and momentum. While one hit Ahmo square in the back with taloned feet, her sense of sudden movement behind had caused her to tighten her grip on the sword in her left hand.

Catching herself with her right hand, she spun with her sword and caught the creature across the outstretched hand on her upswing. Clawed fingers flew outward trailed by ribbons of black blood as the Merrovail landed upon the platform. Ahmo bobbed round the altar and thrust her Angmar blade through the thing's heart but already the second was trying to grapple with her, evading her swing. A high pitched shriek caused her to lose focus momentarily and the Merrovail moved in quickly, grasping her left arm. In vain, for Ahmo's right hand brought up the deadly Morgul blade across the assailant's throat. A gurgle and a spray of caustic black ichor and the creature went supine upon the platform. At that, she sensed motion behind again. Now it was that Ngurthos landed upon the platform and dashed akwardly to block the door as Ahmo sprinted. This time the vampire queen was in earnest, wielding a deadly iron shod spear, which she thrust viciously. Ahmo parried and darted sideways.

“There's no escape for you. A small army guards the stairs. Go on and look,” the winged terror exclaimed in exultation.

“Nice try,” answered the elf, lunging to attack. Ngurthos parried in turn, using the long iron clad shaft of the spear to block her sword-stroke. Back and forth they raged, Ahmo's twin bladed attack against the merrovail's spear/staff. A quick spark of faerie-light whirling about a looming storm shadow.

Laicamirill, dodging under a chain used to hold one of the suspended cages over the altar spied a gear lever On the vampire's next calculated thrust, meant to provoke a parry and over balance, she throw herself into a roll under the heavy chain and landed right next to the capstan. Ngurthos spit a curse and spun to face her intended victim. “I'll spare you the formality of the sacrifice and just kick you right in,” said Ngurthos with a fanged grin. “We can find another elf to feed the oracle.” Another lunge. Ahmo threw the sword deftly like a great dagger, forcing the winged vampire to react with a flinch. As Ahmo took the end of the spear in an iron grip and jammed the end into the winch, hauling hard at the lever and leaping aside. The free flying chain tore the spear from Ngurthos' grip as the empty cage shot upward at lightning speed toward the the post from which the chain was strung, hitting it with a resounding metallic bang. The spear was lost into the pit. In a flash, Ahmo was upon the merrovail, fingers gripped tightly around her throat in an iron vice of pure hate. Squeezing.

Ahmo's green eyes met the red of the merrovail's. Hard clawed fingers dug through the thick leather fur trimmed coat the elf had stolen from her intended executioner but the eldar's fingers only tightened more. The full wrath of the Noldor was awakened and could only be slaked by death. Ngurthos was daunted by what she saw in those eyes. This was no pitiable victim plucked from the forests of Mirkwood by night and by stealth. These eyes carried an imperishable light.

Spawned by two accursed Ainur in the time before time, the vampiric race of merrovail are in Middle Earth tied to a material form and one that must draw breath. As the two foes grappled and twisted in mortal struggle, Laicamiril's arms knotted with a hidden well of power as Ngurthos managed to roll on top. Ahmo grinned as Ngurthos' black, forked tongue flapped slackly in her foetid mouth and her eyes rolled up into her head, her coal black features grown limp-the pideful scowl long gone. Only then did Ahmo relax her grip, hauling the big body face down onto the pure golden altar that had been intended for her. The morgul knife she gripped in her left hand as she grasped Ngurthos' oily black hair and forced the merrovail's head onto the blue granite block with her right.

The merrovail began breath a bit, jerking spasmodically as it realized with awful suddenness its predicament.

Ahmo drew the monstrous black blade, forged in the fires of Orodruin of unholy metals by one of the Nine across Ngurthos' throat slowly but forcefully. Jets of scalding black ichor burst forth as the vampire queen shrieked one last time. Ahmo angrily cut the head free and tossed it into the hell pit below. Ngurthos would have no unholy resurrection with a new form as Ahmo shoved the rest into Ubbo Sathla's awaiting mouths to be devoured.

“No escaping that,” she said. Then she whirled round, realizing that the door had creaked open and a troop of nervous Angmar soldiers in heavy furs bearing spears were peering within. Having been ordered under pain of torment and death to stay out, they were loath to enter until they could be sure...

But before they could be sure enough, Ahmo threw the Morgul blade at them, catching a man in the belly before scampering up the chain hand over hand like an ape. There was nowhere to go now and there were too many of them.

She grasped the pole from which the cage hung, climbing up upon it, leaning against
the wall an staring up at the ceiling above, taking heart from the harsh arctic sunlight pouring in. She dared not look down. For even in her exultation, to view the blasphemy below might cause her to lose hope entirely. There were fingerholds to be had in the wall...perhaps...up...up...

Voices sounded below. They had come in now. If they had bows and were brave- or insane enough, they might be able to shoot her off her perch. And more merrovail were even now wheeling above, coming in through the skylights. Much as they hated the harsh daylight, they came as they sensed their queen's spirit depart for the inescapable void. Then came distant screeches. There! They'd seen her!

She caught her breath and decided to try the climb while adrenaline still shot through her body. If only she'd had sense to keep the Morgul knife as a piton.

But at that grim moment there came a burst of pure light that rent the gloom like lightning splits the night sky. And a twin burst of flame. A a pair of merrovail, burnt to a cinder after being blinded dropped onto the squamous pool of living filth below. Poor food indeed for a god.

There came rushing toward her five great eagles. Upon four of them were familiar figures; Calidis, Seregrian and Eduwiges and the elven knight Maellendir.

“She's in no shape for riding,” exclaimed Seregrian and the fifth bird grasped her gently in its talons as they all swept up and out through the apertures above, the remaing merrovail too terror struck to attempt a pursuit. Her was an enemy they were in no wise equipped for. Light and fire. Ahmo fell into a swoon.

 

As Ahmo lie abed in the dwarven castle Zigilgund, she opened her eyes to see them looking down upon her. Anurania held out a cup “Hot tea would be good for you”

Ahmo arranged the pillows and sat upright, “How did you find me!?”

Calidis said, “I did not give you that bracelet for nothing, silly. When you went missing, hawks were sent to Tol Lochul and to Falathlorn. Xandelif had already told me about that mirror and whence it came. It took me two hours' time in Seregrian's library to put it together. Seregrian provided the eagles and here we are.”

“Did you look down?” Ahmo asked, face betraying a sudden worry.

“No. I always look up,” said Calidis. “For the light.”