"When Darkness rules and hope is lost, the Wielders Three will rise.
One of the mountains, one of the Kings, and one of the star-filled skies.
On mountain's peak, in secrecy, the Black Weapons they'll find.
In the place where the Darkness rules, and Blue is not kind.
With blades of Black the Three must strike the heart of Arda's end.
But beware, for They are Dark, and slay both foes and friends.
For Light to win, and Dark to fall, there must be a price.
In the end, blood will spill, in noble sacrifice.
The Void will strike, the Sanctuary fall, as He slays a preserver of life
But He will fail, the Light prevail, with a twist of the hidden knife."
Legolas, known as Esgal the Assassin to many and the Lost Prince to a select few, stared intently out into the forest, as still and silent as stone. Violet eyes scanned the trees in front of him for danger, only slightly reassured that there was none by the soft voices of the Light and shadowed trees as they whispered in the back of his mind. His twin daggers were in their sheaths at his shoulders, his bow right beside them, and the assassin felt the light pressure of his throwing knives within his sleeves, but neither the familiarity of his weapons nor the peace of the forest was able to calm him, each muscle tense and ready to react if he suddenly was attacked.
It was almost ironic. Here, in the Sanctuary that Mirkwood had become, the violet-eyed elf should feel the safest, and be able to lower his guard. He should not feel the need to be ready to fight, nor watching for danger like a wolf searching for prey. Yet danger always appeared when one least expected it, and in the past month since he had revealed himself to Hannel that phrase could not be more true.
The elf standing below him seemed to disagree with that statement at the moment, however.
"Legolas, you should relax." Aglar, Crown Prince of Mirkwood, told his brother calmly, surveying the assassin with concerned blue eyes. "Nothing is going to happen."
The pale-blonde-haired elf glanced down at his silver-haired kin before looking back up and continuing his careful vigil. "I know you are most likely right. But I cannot shake the feeling that something terrible is going to happen."
"Do not tell me you have gained the ability to predict the future!" his eldest brother gasped jokingly.
Legolas gave Aglar a half-hearted shrug. "Of course not. I am just... concerned about this meeting. So many leaders and important people will all be in one place..."
"...In the Sanctuary, where Darkness cannot reach us." Aglar said persuasively. "Even so, we will not be milling around the courtyard waiting to be shot if someone does attack. Adar has posted guards around the meeting hall in two rings, with three warriors in each group. That way, if a few do turn out to be Fallen..." He trailed off, grimacing.
His youngest brother looked equally unhappy. He leapt down from the tree, landing lightly and speaking softly to the Crown Prince. "It has been two months since Iãgaw awoke, and only two weeks since the first Fallen Elves were discovered. In those two weeks, thirty-eight more Fallen Elves have been detained. And their discovery and captures were only after they started attacking their comrades. I know that the Fallen Elves are insane, disorganized, and like mindless animals at times, but I cannot help but worry that a group of them may attack the Council meeting. There is going to be a diversity of races and people there, and you know as well as I do that the Fallen tend to react negatively to people who are not like them..."
"Which is why we have the guards set up, and why Adar and the others have passed on information about the Fallen Elves to the dignitaries from the other realms." Aglar reminded the assassin. "I for one expect this meeting to run smoothly— as smoothly as it possibly can, anyway— but we are all prepared. Nothing bad will happen."
Legolas shifted his weight slightly, arms crossed over his chest. "I admire your optimism, but I will believe that when the meeting is over. Do not expect me to 'relax' any time soon."
"Fair enough." the Crown Prince agreed readily. His amiable expression faded into something more serious. "You will be right next to Adar, correct?"
So you are not as confident and unconcerned as you are pretending to be. You are worried as well, Legolas thought. "Of course. I would like to see someone try to make me stand somewhere else."
The assassin deeply hoped that arguing, irritable people would be the only excitement in the upcoming meeting. Representatives from the different Realms of Elves, Men, Hobbits, and Dwarves had all arrived in the Sanctuary for the upcoming Council, to discuss and hopefully come together in order to retrieve the only things in this world that could kill Iãgaw, the Void. The whole event was more than enough to make the violet-eyed elf nervous, and not just because of the number of influential and important people involved.
Legolas had been trained to get past guards and other safety precautions, and he could see every hole and potential weak spot in the warriors' defensive circles. It was true that none of the Fallen Elves that may attack were assassins— skilled at getting past protection in order to reach their target— but if they really wanted to kill the leaders and representatives that had gathered in the open courtyard...
The more people you have in a room, the more likely it is there will be trouble. And it is also more likely that an attack will result in chaos and confusion, not readiness. The assassin kept a grimace off his face. This could end badly.
He prayed that would not be the case.
Thranduil and most of the representatives were already in their places, the races from each realm sitting together in a wide circle around the open courtyard. The rooms normally used for meetings like this were too small for the occasion, so chairs and seats had been set out beneath the sky. Legolas took his place just behind his father, drawing a few curious glances from the ones he had never met. Those who did know of Esgal accepted that the assassin would stand beside the Elvenking, who the young elf had become quite protective of for reasons unknown by most.
The violet-eyed elf scanned his surroundings once more, eyes drifting over the diversity of races in front of him. Thranduil, Legolas's siblings, Elrond, his three children, Glorfindel, Erestor, Galadriel, Celeborn, and the Councilors were representing the elves. Thorin, Fili, Kili, Balin, Gloin, and Gimli had come from Erebor for the dwarves.
Aragorn and Boromir sat in for Gondor— the former residing beside Arwen— while Eomer, Theodred, and a few more Rohirrim came from Rohan. The men— who had had the furthest to travel— had arrived surprisingly quickly, though for Boromir it was rumored that a young Eagle had taken part in his early arrival. Then there were the hobbits, Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam along with a couple others Legolas did not know by name. Finally there was Gandalf and Radagast.
Aglar took his seat, the last to do so, and the murmuring conversations going on around the circle ceased. All eyes turned to Thranduil, including Legolas's. His father sat tall and proud, eying those that had gathered in his kingdom with a calm grimness. Instead of looking upon the different races with coldness or contempt like he might once have, Thranduil portrayed a feeling of welcome mixed with urgency. Without preamble he began, strong voice easily heard by all.
"I thank you all for heeding my summons. As you are all aware, a great Darkness has come to our world. Iãgaw, the Void, is the physical incarnation of Darkness and evil. He is a nearly immortal demon whose goal is to conquer and slowly destroy Middle-earth before proceeding to the West and killing the Valar and obliterating all of Arda. No realm is safe from this fate if he succeeds."
The dignitaries were surprisingly without comment, all exchanging glances with their fellows that revealed each's deepest fears. Thranduil did not let them linger on their dark thoughts for too long.
"Iãgaw can be stopped, however. Through Lorien himself, Erestor has gained knowledge on how to defeat the demon. Long ago, three Black Weapons were created in the fires of Mount Doom. These Weapons— the Black Sword; Mornestel, the Black Axe; Dūrcuil, and the Black Bow and Arrows; Daesīdh— are the only things that can kill Iãgaw. Any other weapons, mundane, elven, or magical, have no affect on the Void. There are obstacles to using these Weapons as well. Only the Weapons' chosen Wielders can use them to slay Iãgaw. Any others who attempt to use them will perish."
A few people had been leaning forward, eyes bright and slightly gleaming at the thought of being the ones to kill the demon, but their expressions quickly crumbled into ones of alarm as the potential death sentence was uttered.
"Where are these weapons?" Boromir of Gondor asked, leaning forward in his seat with his hands gripping the chair arms tightly.
Legolas noted that the man's aura was slightly unsteady, emotions fluctuating unnoticed by most beneath his calm facade. The assassin scanned his face once, noticing his pale skin and tired eyes. He recalled that the man had been in Rivendell when it fell, and wondered if seeing the elven realm burn had affected him more than he let on...
"The Weapons are in Rhun." the Elvenking informed Boromir. "In a temple that is hidden in the mountains."
"In the Dark Lands?" Thorin questioned, brow furrowing. "Surely it would have been wiser to hide the Weapons here, in the Sanctuary?"
"Iagaw has no interest in the Dark Lands at the current moment." Radagast spoke up. His hair was slightly less wild and dirty than usual, and Legolas realized the Wizard had actually cleaned himself up a little bit. His robes were as messy as ever though. "In fact, I doubt he will ever go there. The realm is covered in Darkness and some of the Easterlings actually worship the likes of Morgoth and Sauron. Iãgaw has no interest in being worshiped, only in being feared. He desires opposition because he wants to crush it."
"We'll oppose him all right." Gimli growled, fingering his axe. He looked to Thranduil. "What do we need to do, Elvenking?"
More than one dignitary looked disapproving at the dwarf's blunt question, but the dwarves, Legolas, and thankfully Thranduil were all not bothered by the lack of tactful address. Out of those that did not know Gimli well, only the hobbits seemed to not care about protocol. Legolas spotted Frodo speaking softly to Bilbo, the elder hobbit looking increasingly drained with each murmured word.
"A small group of warriors need to go to Rhun, retrieve the Weapons, and bring them back so we may find the other two Wielders." the golden-haired elf responded to the dwarf firmly. "This must be done as quickly as possible. Iãgaw has been quiet for a while, but I fear he will not leave the world in relative peace for much longer. Eventually he will stop sending orcs to burn cities and will go himself. And if we do not have the Weapons to stop him, no one will stand a chance."
Thranduil looked at each of them, blues eyes dark and grave. "None can escape from this war, and it is only right that we work together to ensure that our world survives. That is why you all are here. Since we are all bound by this one dark fate, this one doom, we must unite our races to save Middle-Earth. Erestor, Aragorn, Gandalf, Elrohir, Elladan, and Esgal have already agreed to go on this quest."
The named members stood or stepped forward as one, letting those who did not know them put a name to their faces. Some showed open approval, others suspicion, but none voiced their opinions to the group.
"You can add me to that list." Gimli proclaimed without hesitation, rising to his feet. "The mountains may be different, but it would be good for you to have a warrior that knows the secrets of caves when we find this temple."
The dwarf walked confidently up to the Company and stood proudly beside Legolas. The assassin shot his friend a quick smile that the dwarf returned with ease.
"Might as well make that two 'cave-warriors'." Kili broke in cheerfully, eyes alight with an odd mix of mischief and seriousness.
He stepped beside Gimli and grinned. The auburn-haired dwarf sighed and looked skyward, muttering something uncomplimentary under his breath in his native tongue. Legolas held back a chuckle and Kili jabbed Gimli with his elbow, pouting.
"Three." Fili said instantly, moving beside his brother and placing a hand on his shoulder.
In his seat, Glorfindel looked at the dwarf brothers, then at the elven twins, and rose an eyebrow at Erestor. The scholar's eyebrow gave a small twitch but he said nothing. Meanwhile, Thorin's lips were mashed in a thin line and Legolas could see he was barely holding back protests.
"Fili." Gandalf intoned gently. "You are the Crown Prince, Thorin's Heir. It would do your people and uncle no good if you were killed on this Quest."
"If Kili goes, I go." Fili stated, a hint of dwarfish stubbornness shining through. "Besides, Iãgaw wants to kill everything. I would rather die trying to find the way to stop him than sit twiddling my thumbs waiting for him to invade Erebor."
"If orcs and Shadowed Elves come to Erebor, my people can fight them without their Princes." Thorin broke in, any reluctance he might be feeling hidden behind a stoic mask. "And if Iãgaw himself does come, we will spend our efforts getting to the Sanctuary."
A few nodded, but Legolas noted that Theodred looked unconvinced. "Is Iãgaw truly so unstoppable that you would flee rather than try to fight for your home?"
The King Under the Mountain looked the Prince of Rohan straight in the eyes. "Yes. If Thranduil and Gandalf are so insistent that Iãgaw cannot be stopped, I fully believe them. I would rather save my people than have them die needlessly against a foe they cannot beat."
Theodred schooled his expression but Legolas knew his views had not changed. The Prince of Rohan flinched slightly when Eomer rose to his feet.
"I, Eomer of Rohan, also will go with you to represent both my realm and the Race of Men."
The words caused a short but intense silent battle between the two Rohirrim. Theodred looked stunned and angry, while Eomer was firm and stubborn. Legolas did not know what had caused the horseman to believe in their goal so greatly that he would go against his cousin and Prince, but he would be glad to have the strong, noble man at his side. Nothing was said, but Eomer's head tipped and Theodred sighed, nodding once.
"Eomer has my permission." the Prince of Rohan said with great reluctance, a visible grimace marring his features.
"I shall go as well."
It was not another one of the dwarves or men that spoke, but a soft, gentle voice from among the hobbits. Frodo, one hand upon Bilbo's arm, the other limp at his side, stood to his full short height, wide blue eyes surveying the diversity of races that stared at him. He shifted slightly, eyes focusing on Legolas, and the elf gave the hobbit an encouraging smile.
Frodo took a breath. "It was Bilbo that lost the Ring to the Witch-King. Because of that, the Void was released. As his kin, with him unable to go on this journey himself, I must go in his place to... to try to make things right."
None spoke as he walked over to the group, standing beside Legolas. The assassin leaned over and spoke softly in Frodo's ear. "No one blames you or Bilbo for anything." he murmured. When the hobbit said nothing, the young elf patted him once on the shoulder before letting his hand fall away.
"We're coming too!" Pippin exclaimed, jumping up with Sam and Merry following.
The hobbits got more than one odd glance or chuckle from many of the seated dignitaries, but the elves and Radagast merely blinked or smiled knowingly. The three other hobbits, though not as skilled in the ways of the warrior as the others in the company, would be much-needed additions on their mission.
Finally, Boromir exited his seat, slinging his shield over his shoulder as he strode to join the mixed company. "I will represent Gondor. I do not know how this will come to a close, but I will fight for this company and mission until the end."
The remainder of the Council observed the four elves, three men, three dwarves, four hobbits, and one Wizard who would hold the fate of their world in their hands. Old and young, experienced and naive, it would be up to all of them to succeed and bring back the Weapons that would vanquish the Void. It was quite a heavy burden to bear, Legolas mused, for the assassin even more so. Him and two other Wielders...
"Two." Fili said suddenly, eyes resting on Thranduil. "You said we would need to find two Wielders, but there are three Weapons."
"Indeed. We already know the identity of a Wielder..." Erestor cut in before the Elvenking could speak.
He trailed off, glancing at Legolas as if asking for permission. Holding back a grimace, the violet-eyed elf gave it with a nod. The others needed to know.
"...Daesīdh's Wielder— an elf as was predetermined— is Esgal."
The results were instantaneous. Dozens of gazes bore into the assassin, judging his worth and either approving or not believing as they surveyed one of their potential saviors. He cringed internally under the startled stares but the assassin kept his head high and his expression blank. Gimli gave a small chuckle that seemed out of place in the tension, and jabbed the young elf in the side lightly.
"You always have to be center of attention, don't you Esgal? Now you're one of three who can save the world." His tone was teasing but held a hint of something else as he gave the gawping observers a pointed look. They quickly avoided the dwarf's warning glare, looking sideways, at each other, or even up at the sky for some reason.
Legolas managed to smile. "Of course. Being a normal elven warrior in this war would be boring."
In reality, he would much rather be one of the non-Wielders. It was already worrying enough to know that he was a Royal, but now he was a supposed chosen one of some sort as well. The assassin found himself pushing back a wave of bitterness at the thought. He had denied the fate that the Witch-King had decided for him back in Dol Guldur, and had spent many years after fighting against what others wanted for him and for what he believed in… but did his choices truly matter?
He was the destined Wielder of Daesīdh, a duty which had been placed upon him before he was even born. The notion that his part in the upcoming battle was predetermined made his stomach twist and his fists clench in anger. Every fiber of his being raged against having to follow the path someone else decided for him. If not for the fact that denying his place as a Wielder would result in Middle-Earth falling to Darkness, he would fight against his so-called "destiny" with everything he had.
"This must be kept secret." Thranduil's tone allowed no room for debate. "If word of the Weapons or Esgal's status were to reach Iãgaw or his followers, the company would have all the evil in Arda hunting them. As far as we are aware, the Void does not think anything can kill him. We must ensure that he keeps that belief."
"Agreed." Thorin stated, Elrond, Radagast, and the others quickly conceding as well.
Gandalf stepped to the room's center, staff tapping the ground once. "The company should be ready to leave at dawn tomorrow. Time is of the essence, and we should begin our mission as soon as possible." He glanced at the sky, frowning once, then looked back to those around him. "As Thranduil said, we are all bound to a terrible fate if Iãgaw wins. Our company— a Fellowship of all our races— must put all allegiances to realm and leader aside and fight only for this quest. Once we begin, we cannot return until we succeed or perish. There is no middle ground in the upcoming war."
"I will lay down my life if need be." Aragorn stated. "As will we all."
His eyes flicked to Legolas and away, meeting Gandalf's before moving to his brothers and Erestor. The assassin did not need Galadriel's telepathy to know what was going through each of their minds. He kept his expressionless mask firmly up, barely able to keep his protest from being voiced. The Ranger had lied; not all should lay down their life for the mission.
The violet-eyed elf was the Wielder of the Black Bow, the only one who could use Daesīdh to kill Iãgaw one of three times. Not only that, but he was a Royal as well, one of the people whose death would cause the Sanctuary's magic to fail. If he died, hope would be truly lost. So it would be the Fellowship's secondary mission to make sure Legolas survived. Even if it meant sacrificing themselves for him.
…"NO!" Ciaran shouted, twisting Legolas around and shielding the elf's body with his own. The assassin felt his mentor jerk as the arrow struck him, a gasp of pain ripping free of the man's lips. Ciaran slumped, weight falling heavily on the elf, who held the man firmly to keep him from collapsing to the ground...
Legolas's fists clenched, nails biting into his palms. No one will die for me again. I will not let it come to that.
"If there is nothing left to discuss, this meeting is adjourned." Thranduil said heavily, blue eyes staying on his son's face. "Members of the Company, prepare yourselves for your journey. You will leave at dawn."
The forest had eyes.
Thousands of them watched Carrick, man of Gondor, as he stumbled determinedly through the shadowy trees around him. It seemed like all the animals had already fled from this place, a heavy, eerie silence hanging over this section of the forest. Carrick's frantic heartbeats were the only thing he could hear, yet the soft, rhythmic pounding in his chest was too loud, far too loud.
Why could his heart not be quiet? It needed to be calm and silent. Carrick was not a warrior, not a fighter, just a small town's shoe maker, but he knew that silence and stealth had to be his allies now if he ever wanted to evade his pursuer. He was stronger than him, faster than him, and was most likely tracking the man through these very woods.
Not that following the shoe maker would be difficult. The blood dripping from a cut on his arm was leaving a trail easy enough for a newborn chick to follow, but Carrick could do little to cover his tracks. He had no time or supplies to care for the wound, and there was none around to assist him. All he could do was run, and keep running, until he hopefully reached safety. But was there any place he could call safe?
A twig snapped beneath Carrick's foot and he flinched, his foolish heart beating even louder than before. Could the hunter hear? Was he close enough? The man looked around at the dark, foreboding trees uncertainly, and was relieved when nothing leapt from the shadows to slaughter him. He was still safe. No, not safe. He was still alive. Alive alive, not dead yet. Alive. For now.
He continued on, ignoring his aching feet, squinting up at the barely-visible sun as he tried to gauge whether he was going in the right direction. Shockingly he was, which gave some relief to the exhausted, terrified man. Carrick had been traveling for more than a week, barely taking any stops as he haltingly made his way to Minas Tirith. Surely if any place was safe from the demon that had attacked his home, it would be there?
Carrick shuddered, trying to push any thoughts of the demon out of his head. Instead, as if his mind itself were being invaded by him, memories of the monster forced themselves to the forefront of his consciousness. Beautiful, terrible, and stronger than anything Carrick had ever seen, the demon had appeared in his village out of nowhere. Before the villagers could do more than stare at the intruder, before the shoemaker could even gasp in surprise, all around him had collapsed like abandoned puppets, blank, unseeing eyes revealing their bitter fates.
Something invisible had swept through the little town like an inferno through dry grass, killing all in sight. But unlike fire this plague, this Dark power, had left no marks. The only proof that death had come were the lifeless bodies of women, children, and men, and single, beautiful, horrifying monster that had come and somehow slaughtered them all.
Carrick did not know how or why he survived whatever the demon had done that had killed his fellow villagers, and he had not stayed around to test his luck. He ran from the demon— who did not seem to spot him— his only injury coming from gouging his arm on the edge of a wooden cart as he fled. The wound stung, and was most likely infected, with tiny splinters stuck in the broken skin, but Carrick did not care. All he knew was that he needed to keep running, keep fleeing, in a desperate attempt to stay ahead of the demon that may or may not be chasing him.
He just wanted to escape. He just wanted to be safe. He just wanted to live.
The shoe maker walked three more steps, faltering as he came upon a sharp downward slope. With a startled cry he descended, tumbling head over heels down to the bottom, where he was abruptly halted by a boulder twice the size of him. Carrick lay there for a long moment, winded and stunned, and tried to gather the strength to rise and continue on. His fall, however, seemed to have drained him of any remaining energy he had possessed. He was a turtle flipped onto its back, only able to helplessly wiggle as he attempted to right himself. Wheezing, the man lay there, shutting his tired eyes in an attempt to summon up the necessary energy to move.
"Well, that was entertaining."
The voice came from nowhere and everywhere, purring and smooth and beautiful and dark. Carrick froze, eyes snapping open before they widened in terror. Before him was the demon, the monster, the Dark creature that haunted his every thought since he first laid eyes on him. Black hair fell like a curtain made of Darkness down the black-clothed back, sucking in all light around it like an abyss swallowed a torch. Pointed ears peeked out from between the dark strands, and glowing, hypnotic crimson eyes peered gleefully down at Carrick, only made brighter in contrast to his shadow-colored sclera and skin.
Carrick had always been told that Dark creatures like orcs and Nazgûl were only threats at night, or when clouds covered the sun. Monsters were not supposed to be able to come out during the day time. They were supposed to only be able to mingle with shadows and darkness. But this demon stood proudly and apathetically in the bright sunlight, standing idly beneath the brilliant blue sky without a care for the rays that should have been burning his skin. It should not be possible. How could the Valar let such a monster walk in the Light?
Carrick found himself unable to move, paralyzed as the Darkness the demon exuded pressed down on him. He could not even find the ability to scream, only able to stare at the demon in open fear. The dark, elf-like features twisted into a mockery of a friendly expression. Carrick never knew that what could be considered a kind smile could ever be so frightening.
"It has been quite amusing to watch you stumble and run like the little mouse you are for this past week," the demon said in a pleasant voice, speaking to the man like he was an old friend he had run into at the market. "Men are so unobservant. You never even noticed me..."
Around him, the trees blackened and died.
Carrick watched with horrified fascination as the moss on the rock beside him turned from bright green to grey before crumbling into dust. He cowered, expecting to follow the plants into death's embrace, only to remain firmly in his body, again unaffected by whatever power the crimson-eyed creature had. Before Carrick could sort any thoughts in his head, the demon chuckled and spoke.
"Do not think you are special, little mortal. You are only alive because I wanted to test myself. I have been practicing, you see." the demon explained patiently. "It is harder then you think, draining away the life of everything around someone while letting only them live. If I can resist devouring you—" Carrick swore those mesmerizing red eyes glowed a little brighter. "—an insignificant little man, then I most definitely will have the restraint to avoid killing the Valar while I destroy... everything... around them..."
His voice deepened, echoing and harsh, and something in Carrick seemed to rip in half. He screamed in pain, cringing as something tried to separate itself from his body, pulled in by the enticingly Dark aura surrounding the demon. It was as if an orc was tearing out his heart, its claws digging into his flesh as it attempted to separate the organ from his body. Carrick wished that was what was happening to him. At least if his heart was being torn out the pain would end. This pain did not.
The crimson-eyed creature eyed him for a moment, watching Carrick writhe and shriek in the dirt with a small smile on his face as the man clawed at the ground, eyes rolling back into his head. Then the demon sighed, scoffing lightly. There was no visible movement or change but the pulling feeling receded, leaving Carrick gasping and quivering, perspiration running down his face. The demon tipped his head, tapping his chin idly with a long finger as he studied the shoe maker.
"My little test is over now..." the monster informed him idly. "I don't need you any more. And now you do not have enough energy left to even be considered a snack for me." For the first time he frowned, looking genuinely disappointed as he ignored Carrick's whimpers. "Your kind always did have such little Light in you, it is no surprise almost all of yours is gone. What to do, what to do..."
He stared blankly into space, thinking deeply as he considered the man's fate, but before Carrick could even consider trying to crawl away red eyes focused on him once more, lighting up like a child who had just received sweets. "I have an idea! You have lasted a week of harsh travel with an injury, an exceptional feat for a man, I must admit... and I cannot help but wonder how long you will last with more... extensive wounds. I have always wondered what the inside of a man looks like..."
The shadows beneath the trees rippled, peeling away from the earth like monsters rising from the abyss, and Carrick screamed. But in the dead, shadowy graveyard, not even the trees were around to hear him.