A lone figure rode up the shadow mountain. He seemed but a shadow, casting a darker shadow on the stones inform of him. Moving silently and swiftly as a wraith.

Down at the foot of the mountain lay a town; a single light shone out, then was swiftly cut off as if a curtain had been drawn over a window. Beyond the town were some fields, all blackened and scorched. Here and there were great rifts like those made by falcons when they pounce on their meal to be. Except these scars were many, many times larger that any bird of prey could make.

The man turned and glanced down into the valley, where so many souls lay in fear. Tonight would be a night of harrowing, of fell deeds and great changes: for better or worse.

Onward and upwards he climbed, each footfall as silent as a moth’s wings, each movement nearly invisible beneath the shadows. He steadily rose upward along the craggy surface of the great mountain until he had nearly reached the summit. There appeared to be a great depression in the mountains face; a jagged hole gaped like an empty mouth. Breath flowed from it, a warm current that pressed its foul self against the man’s face. Still hidden in the shadow of his hood the man smiled; the Ravager had not strayed.

A whisper of sound also issued from the gaping mouth; at first it was so quiet that if you heard it you would think it was but the wind twining itself against and around the jagged rocks. But it rose steadily until it settled deep in the man’s bones and shook him. It was the sound of laughter.

“Wanderer or thief? What is it that you wish of your humble servant?” an impossibly low, mocking voice hissed. Again that terrible laugh filled the air, but the hooded man stood firm.

The moon came out from behind a great black cloud and covered the valley and mountain with silver light. The mortal man’s hood fell back and a light shone forth from his brow, both mirroring the moonlight and glowing with a light of its own. An elven stone.

“So, you have come.” The great voice no longer had a mocking note to it. Instead it was infinitely weary.

“Aye, I have.” The slow hiss of steel sounded as the man drew his sword. It too shone with a fair light, though less brightly than the stone set upon his brow. His face was strong and fell, lined and creased with years and hardships. A silvery scar ran from his right eye to his left check, giving his mouth a cynical smile. Not a sound now emanated from the mouth of the cave. Slowly the man raised his sword to the ready position. All was silent.

With a sudden, violent roar a black shadow erupted from the cave. Smoke and fire leaked from every corner and crease of it and sparks rang as the mortal met it with his sword. Steel and iron rang and the man disappeared into the shadow. His light vanished.

The moon disappeared behind a cloud; sound now was the only way of keeping track of the battle that raged. The clanging of blows, punctuated by roars from that monstrous throat. The man was silent. The shadow plunged off a cliff and fell towards the valley; the shadow seemed to sprout wings and for a moment the elven light shone forth. Then it vanished again as they hit the ground, replaced by the red glow of flames.

Hours they seemed to battle, now fire and shadow, now moonlight and steel shining forth till at last all grew silent and dark.

The palest glimmer played along the sword that was streaked and dirtied with blood. Only the dimmest spark of light shone at the heart of the elven stone. A dark pool lay about him that gave off the glint of red when a stray spark of red illuminated it.

The shadow heaved and spoke, its voice no longer filled with strength and power; it now sounded dry and almost small. “My life leaks out of me, warrior; give me your name that I may bring it to the halls of my kin, that we may know you for who you are at the end of all things.”

The man, broken and torn, spoke, a mere breath passing through his lips. “Estel. My true name is Estel.”

“Estel. Estel, hope to men…”

“Estel!” the voice was no longer deep but light and slightly worried.

The little boy sat up, “Yes nanneth?” he called out into the dusk.

“I have been calling you, love, why did you not answer?” His white-haired mother came gathered him up into her arms and kissed him. “It was naughty of you my son, very naughty.” Her voice was stern, but her eyes shone.

“I am sorry. Look!” The small 7 year old child pointed at the moon, which was emerging from the black dragon of a cloud that had seemed to devour it. “He won! The moon won.” Wiggling out of his mother’s arms he ran over to a figure silhouetted against the light from an open door way.

“The light always wins, doesn’t it Ada,” he said confidently, wrapping his arms around his foster father’s knees.

“We pray that it does, muindor.” The elf unwrapped Estel from him and set him firmly on his feet. “But next time do not use day dreams for an excuse to miss your bath. It is easier to fight evil when you are clean than it is when you are dirty.”

“Why is that?”

“Because when you are dirty some one might mistake you for an enemy and try to kill you. You cannot fight the good and the bad. Now stop stalling and do not forget to scrub your feet,” Lord Elrond answered glibly, he had a lot of practice in answering strange questions. He followed the boy into the house, and as he went he cast a glance over his shoulder. Gilrean stood in the moonlight watching them, and not watching them.

What lay in the fate of her son, she knew not, and she dreaded knowing. Hope for herself, she had none. Every drop was given so that man would have the chance to hope. As her frail body grew weaker every year she poured more hope and prayers into a child she loved, so that she might loose it. She pondered these things silently in her heart.

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