Chapter 1: Pure Dark
I hummed as I dallied in the dirt, the soft earth underneath my fingernails from digging into the rich land. Seeing as harvest season was near, I needed the produce ready. My fingernails held the earth hidden underneath them. It was going to take a long bath to remove what covered me. However, it was worth the memory.
My basket was now partially filled, the filthy produce laid without a care in the world. I wiped my hands on my trousers, a tich that Mother very well hated, and got off my knees. Mother would scold me, but I didn't care. My humming ended as there was no more song left. And there was no reason to choose another so I held the silence. The garden gate latch closed behind me, almost hitting me in the rump.
I gave a quick glare to the offending piece of wood, it wouldn’t be the first time nor the last.
Too many wild creatures had been eating the plants, so Mother and I had created the mid-thigh high fence to keep the critters out. It worked for so long before we resourced to laying out smelling things, items that brought unwanted odors to animals. It worked splendidly.
I smiled at the smell of spring, buds gave off their sweet smells, fresh leaves on the trees, the air was crisp with life. Soon that life would be new and crawling after their mothers. To me, that sight meant more than new life, it meant a new chance for the world to grow. The trees that gave the path its shade, in their places danced slightly in the weak wind. What a glorious day, I thought. What more could a person ask for?
The house came into view, the smaller one-story home held its appearance for being the middle of a forest. Built from the ground up with stones from the creek not far off, timber from the very trees that sheltered it, miscellaneous expenses bought from the village not a distance to the east. It was as much apart of the forest as the life around it. For it seemed that the forest agreed, vines creeped around on the walls, giving the house a natural look.
It was home.
Mother sat in her porch chair, some letters in hand. Oddly enough, her brown brows were scrunched in a look of dislike. Such a beautiful woman Mother was, holding her natural beauty even through her fight with age. Her long brunette hair in its normal braid, the sun hit it casting the black appearance. Honey eyes held mirth and experience in their endless depths. Some years ago, when I had been but a child toddling beside Mother, I had been jealous of her eyes. Laughter lines framed her eyes, from a life of laughter. Some freckles from birth and years of working under the sun. She stood around 5’6, a smidge taller than I. Today she had chosen to wear her favorite dress, pine green with white and black accents. She was so beautiful.
And I looked just like her. Often was the statement heard, “Why, a spitting image of your mother.” While true, I still held some features from my father. Such as my long legs, something Mother did not have, or the parting of my dark brunette hair. The only unknown thing that I held as mine were my eyes. A common comment holder, for a person with three colored eyes was apparently something of a rarity. My left eye was created a storm holding blue, my right was one of two colors. Cut exactly in half, the top was a lovely shade of green and the bottom was violently bright gray. So much more bright than that of a day after an unforgiving storm.
Mother glanced up from the letters, I frowned and asked what was bothering her. “A letter from an old friend came today. You missed the Courier by a few moments." I placed the basket on the table beside Mother, “What friend, so many to keep track.” She snorted at the comment, “Yes well, this one is more important than my old gossip vendors. It is signed from Master Gray.”
I grinned, the name being very familiar, “The old coot who told the best stories?” She nodded tightly, there was something going unsaid. I tapped her shoulder and tilted my head. She sighed, “It would seem that he has ran into some problems on his unyielding adventures. He will be staying for a time.”
“That is nice,” I hummed.
“Yes, but that means you will be in the barn for a night or two.” I scrunch my nose at the thought, but held my wicked tongue. Mother rose from her seat and tossed the letters in the basket. A smile graced her lips, “Wonderfully done, why don't you go care for Lady and I will get supper going?”
Nodding, I went over to the barn. A simple structure, held together with hopes and ropes. Faded brown boarding gave its shape and duty. The door sounded out its complaint from being shoved. I went over to a shutter and allowed light in to flood the dark out. Two stalls, a single room for equipment, and a door to each stall that led to a small run. In the stall to the left munched a large mule. Old hay in her mouth, “Hungry are you?” She held her head high at the sound of my voice, long ago had she gone blind. That had been the only reason Mother had been able to purchase her.
A draft mule, used mainly for aiding with the sales cart. She was of large proportions. Standing well over my head, she had legs like small trees. Her hooves larger than some stones. But she had a personality of an proper old lady. She was gentle and calm even with her disability. Children of the village adored giving her treats on our visits. She was a soft gray color, slowly turning white from age.
Her ears were forward, tracing my movements. I clicked and she sauntered to hang her head over the door. I chuckled and stroked her forehead, a soothing touch. She nickered and leaned into the touch. “Let me grab you some food Old Lady,” I went over and grabbed a flake of hay. She perked up at the sound of it filling her bin. Right away, she was munching away.
Okay time to supper, maybe Mother needed some help. I was not wrong as she was cursing at the carrots. I took another knife and took over with the vile carrots. Mother huffed and went to stirring the broth. In silence we worked before we were sitting with a bowl of steaming stew in hand. It turned out perfect, Mother had added some new herbs she'd bought at the market.
I had a hot tummy and was ready for bed. Though I volunteered to do the dishes, they clacked in the metal bucket as I took them out to the pump. The moon casted her radiance on me as I scrubbed the scraps. I wiped my brow with my sleeve, very unlady like, I snorted. Yet as I worked, a sound I'd never heard before caused me to pause. Sure there were wolves around here, but Lady generally made them turn the other way. However, this sounded different than a wolf.
It sounded bigger.
All sleepiness was flushed from my mind as curiosity replaced it. Then the sound of a hunting horn bellowed. Old Lady was nickering nervously from her pen. “What?” I dropped the bucket and took off in the direction of the situation. I peered through the thicket from my hiding spot. Following my tracking of the sounds, I came across a group of mounted men. Various attire, nothing that could tell me from where they hailed. Strapped to the teeth with weapons of different types of torture. One gripped his long spear almost to the point of splintering the wood.
Something was not settling right in my gut. What were they hunting to call for such power? I held tight to the branch I sat upon, its support perilous to me not falling. The men conversed but a few yards from my spot. I could almost hear what they were talking about. I held my breath and leaned forward a smidge.
One of the men snapped his head in my direction, I feared I had been sniffed out. Horrifyingly, it was not me who that had heard. Because stepping out of the shadows the tree I had sat in, was the largest wolf I had ever seen.
If side to side with this creature, I would be dwarfed. It was the same size, if not larger, than Lady. The canine appearance was morphed with living nightmares. Fangs as long as my forearm were barred at the hunters. A warning I exacted. For, it was not attacking, but trying to scare them away. Its pale coat was scattered with under-toned spots.
This thing was terrifying.
If this was what the men were hunting, I now saw the need for the heavy arms power.
My eyes widened when I noticed the belly of the beast. It was a bitch. Her teats were swollen with nourishing milk. Having already birthed her whelps because her thin structure was not compromised with a hanging belly. I huffed a silent laugh of disbelief.
“There you are monster, led us all over countryside you did. Now are you ready to finish this foolish chase,” A hunter with a sword hollered at the beast.
She growled and let out the most blood curdling roar. It shook the air around me. Soon however, a battle ensued. The bitch sent five of the hunters to the hell she had crawled out of before her body made the ground rumble. Finally, the beast had fallen.
The remaining hunters hooted and hollered, not paying attention to their losses. No, all that mattered was the spoils. I choked and a gag as the hunter who had spoken dismounted and raised his blood soaked sword. Whose blood it was I did not know. With a strong arm, he brought it down and cleaved the head of the bitch of cleanly. I stared and watched as he held it over his head. A mighty treasure indeed.
He mounted and took off toward what I was assuming their hired. I could only swallow the vomit and scale down the tree to the ground. Even with the bitch dead, I was cautious. If anything out of respect. No one could grow that large without a long life.
Softly, I felt her pelt, wiry and course. It was the same texture as a hound’s coat. Odd. I touched her teats, they were full. But no first milk, so the whelps were a week or so. In reality, I should have walked away right then and there.
But, some calling was whispering at me to seek out the innocent. Who was to say that they should live or die? I sighed and tried to find any clue as to where she had denned. My answer came as a branch. A small sliver that came from a bush that only exclusively grew in a small area. The den was an old bear cave. She must have killed it before moving in. Hidden from sight by the bushes, I parted them. There in the black came the cries and mewls of whelps. I counted two. They were so small, no bigger than a dog's pup. But I had seen what they would grow into.
I placed the bushes back into place. Mother never knew what had transpired. If she did, she never said anything. I continued to visit the whelps, first with cow milk, as they grew in size and strength, I began hunting. Every night I would drop a bird or small deer into the cave.
It was five months in that I found the remains of the smaller whelp, it had grown ill. I buried it deep in the earth, next to the bitch, a way to hide the evidence. For if a hunter was to come across a lactating bitch, the whelps would be found.
Soon the remaining whelp disappeared. I could not find a trace of it. So I returned to my non-secretive life. Soon forgetting about my whelps. Life was normal.
Until I opened the door to a knocking wizard, Gandalf the Gray.
Chapter 2: Wizards Who Wander
“Gandalf!” Mother seemed so pleased to see the wandering wizard. Her eyes were shining, reminiscing memories of past. The old man, much older, grinned, “Ah, why Vinry, you are still radiant as the day I brought you through your parent's door." The old friends embraced in a binding hug.
I stood off to the corner, awkwardly trying to not giggle. However, as they came apart, Gandalf turned to me. Something in his timeless eyes held an emotion I could not place. Strange, I mused. The wizard stroked his long beard, “This cannot be the child who trailed behind her mother everywhere?”
Mother smiled, “Indeed old friend. My babe is now a young woman. Can you believe that?! Not years ago, I would scold her for bringing snakes in the house. Now, she sits in my chair and plays with them.” I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks, roses as they looked. Coughing into my fist, I held out a hand to take Gandalf’s coat. He handed it to me and I placed it on the coat rack.
Mother and Gandalf were seated in the lounge room, Mother was telling of all that he had missed these years. After deciding to leave them to their business, I headed over to my room.
It was a simple room, enough space to hold a bed, a dresser, and a bookshelf filled to the brim with books. I ran my fingers along their spines, stopping at a well worn case. One of my favorites. So many books, so long it took to accumulate. There was only a small minority of people this part of the land who knew how to read, let alone write. I was taught how to do both by Mother. Seeing as she was from a noble family, it was mandatory that the children of the house knew how to read and write.
I plucked the book from the shelf and sat on my warm bed.
“...I don't know Gandalf, she might be a young woman but she is still young,” Mother hesitated, she was wringing her fidgeting hands. I was peeking out from behind a corner, watching as Mother and Gandalf were talking. Speaking of the old coot, he nodded, “Yes, however this friend of mine is by no means a being of darkness.”
Mother's eyes narrowed in speculation, “Would not happen to be a Hobbit, would this friend of yours?”
Gandalf gave an expression that held much adoration. What was a Hobbit? I'd heard of such a creature before, but never in full details. Were they like in size with elves or dwarves?
“Shorter than Dwarves, my dear,” I froze and felt my ears grow red. I stepped out from behind the corner to find a frowning Mother and a smug Gandalf. I coughed into my hand, “So what is this about a Hobbit?”
Mother puffed her cheeks, “Eavesdropping, and here I thought I taught you better.”
“You did, not to get caught.”
Gandalf chuckled and patted Mother on her knee, “She is most definitely from you. Same fire.”
Mother motioned towards the remaining empty chair, I sulked over to it with my head hung. Both of them were more so amused than angered with my eavesdropping.
“Shena, Gandalf is trying to persuade me into allowing you to go with him for a month or so. Any remarks?”
I peered at the old wizard suspiciously, “What exactly will I be doing with you if I might ask?” He coughed into a fist, “You see child, a dear friend of mine, Bilbo Baggins, is in need of a companion for the next month or so."
“Why is it that your hobbit friend requires a companion,” I asked, there was something nagging in the way he was dodging the details.
“It wasn’t so long ago that Bilbo was in a battle,” he murmured, “I am sure you’ve heard about the retaking of Erebor?” I nodded and leaned forward, now very much interested. “Well, Bilbo was one of those mighty souls who partook in that noblest of adventures. And well… it would seem that the darkness of battle might have followed the fellow home to his hole in the ground. It was only recently that I had become aware of the nightmares that were plaguing my gentle hobbit. But it is within my mind that if someone was there with him, he might find some ease in his days.”
My blue eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger, “You are trying to tell me that the hobbit went, voluntarily, on an adventure with a gaggle of dwarves to go up against a dragon who woke up on the wrong side of the gold pile?” There was no way I was able to conceal the doubt in my snark. He nodded, calloused hand stroking his ancient beard.
Mother held her tongue in an unusual veil of silence. From the corner of my eyes, I took her expression in. She was staring off into the distance through the window, she was deep within her thoughts. “I was not so older than you now when this old windbag dragged me off on my first adventure. Ah! What a crock were we Gandalf! I still recall the look on Lord Elrond’s pristine face when you showed up at the gates of Rivendale with a Daughter of Man at your hip.”
The Gray Pilgrim chuckled lightly at Mother's remembrance. A soft nod, “That I do my dear Vinry, however I do also recall the flaming young woman who flirted with just about everyone.”
Mother sniffed and turned away, “Yes, well we know I can't hold my mead.”
I was smiling brightly, it wasn't often that Mother opened up about her past. If anything, it was the one thing she preferred to not disclose. Uncharted territory that I was waiting to investigate.
Gandalf tiredly set the empty bowl down beside the chair, stifling a contagious yawn. “It would appear that even wizards cannot outrun the need to sleep. I will have to wish you two a goodnight.”
Mother stood, brushed her dress, “Of course Gandalf! Shena has courteously offered her room and bed up for the next few days. Isn't that right Sissa?”
I nodded, “If you would follow me, I'd gladly show you to the room.”
The night drifted by slowly, taking its sweet time. I pulled the thick blanket higher up, the nipping chill had found a way into my makeshift bed. Though it was gone as I curled up tighter. In the remote night, I could hear as the crickets and toad sang their melodies. The hay itched beneath me, but I would grow used to it.
I knew I needed sleep, so I shut my eyes and focused on the nothingness.
That night I dreamed of fire.
Chapter 3: Warning
The Oak shall burn unyieldingly
The ancient and regal tree, its branches, thicker than some trunks, stretched way into the opened sky. So great was it awesome, the history it held was vaster than most history books. Despair, it was burning! Lighting the world so bright. A torch forever.
The Oak shall nare fall to weapon
The oak burned and sparked, slashes and gashes appeared on the base. But no matter how hard or deep they were, the tree held.
Serpents seek the demise of the Sun Daughter
The Oak gives defense to the Daughter
A light burst from behind the ancient oak, bright and brilliant, but soft and unblinding. A snake appeared at the foot of the Oak, twisting and choking the massive roots.
Change nips at the heels of time
They shall come as the Champions
Fear not their prowess
Stand firm Sun Daughter and Oak
Chapter 4: Tune
It was the sudden shift in the air that awoke the wandering wizard, his gray eyes snapped open. He sat up, the unfamiliar bed creaked under his shifting body. The energy was crackling like a newly lit fire, this wasn’t controlled, in fact, it was growing rapidly.
Gandalf was instantly in the silent hallway, following the trail, past Vinry’s door and to the outside. All was quiet in the night, however the radiant light from the barn loft window shattered the illusion. His eyes widened at the sound of a piercing scream.
It held the illusion that my blood was being cauterized internally I was screaming. My voice echoing in my head. Why did it burn?
Voices that were not my own argued and agreed. Their overlapping conversations shaped different emotions in me. In a span of mere seconds, they told me stories and lore. Despite their promises and sweet words, torment followed each and every word. Like a being with multi personalities, they fought over something. A subject that I was privy to. Nonetheless, it held something about me. For I could feel their otherworldly eyes set upon me.
Dragging up all the ache I could, I attempted to throw the pain at them. A ploy to gain their attention. Something! Yet, my assault simply bounced off their presence.
Then, I became sensitive to the pet of a caress on me. It was then that silence rang sharp. The voices bit their tongues and held their opinions.
Oh child,forgive our ignorance. How rude of us to not regard your discomfort. It is not often that we find those sensitive to us.
I frowned, who were They?
We are No-one and Everyone. It us who temper the storm of time. We are regarded as the keepers of all that is kept. All those who live and die, those are our children.
Questions swirled around like the storm of time They spoke of. Desperately, I wanted to ask of all kinds.
Be at peace child, your thoughts ring out loudly here. Nothing of yours is ignored. In fact, in place of individual inquiries. We will simply show you.
And I saw everything.
It was that night, stretched from each corner of Arda and further beyond that a new harmony rang pure and true. All those who were Aware, glanced to the sunrise with fear and trepidation.
Olórin was hit with the song, a sensation powerful enough that he took a knee. So long had it been since a new voice joined the symphony. This was pure, innocent, not at all like his or Them. However it was strong, like a back flute who aided in tempo.
Gandalf, as he was known through Arda, choked in disbelief. Leaning on his staff, the old man stood. Cautiously, if not shaky, he made it to the loft. In the hay, wrapped in a wool blanket was Shena. Her veins followed with light, her pale features stood out among the natural dark of the loft.
It was from her that Gandalf heard the tune. Mortal Daughter of Man, held a tune. He shuffled over and gripped her shoulders, “Shena, child, you must awake! Come back, somethings are not meant to be seen by those of mortal eyes.”
Shena was not responding at all to his voice, she began to twist and turn. Her furious squirming discarded Gandalf. She grew to screaming and wailing. A nightmareous fit. Suddenly it went quiet. Shena stilled and froze, her eyes wide open, searching for something among nothing.
“Gandalf, the Ainur are loud.”
Her hoarse voice spoke, scratched and scared. Her blue eyes found the Wizard’s and he found a change in them that was not there before. He sat down beside her, on a bale, and sighed. In his ancient and withered hands, he took her young unmarred ones. “What did you see?”
Shena was quiet, almost calculating, “Everything.”
This was the answer he feared.