Overdone: The Risen

Heavy boulders and piles of rubble blocked the nondescript door near the submerged docks of Annúminas. A handful of men—dressed in roughspun tunics and leather and armed with daggers and clubs—worked diligently to clear the way to the door.

“Watch that pile!” a man ordered harshly. The pile in question teetered dangerously. A few smaller stones shook loose and fell to the cobblestones. One struck a man on the foot and he let out a disgruntled and pained shout as he hopped away.

“Told you,” muttered the man who had issued the warning. His partner grinned as they stooped together to roll away a particularly large boulder with a series of grunts. It was the last of the major impediments blocking the entrance to the Hidden Vault where Parmanen had disappeared the day before. They had stayed away as ordered; a full day’s time passed before they began excavating the site. Now, the door resisted with a groan as the men pulled it open. The man, who the others called Matt, though none knew his true name, grimaced and muttered about how difficult it was being. Finally, it pulled open.

A stale, heavy smoke poured out into the afternoon sun and the men looked around warily. The last thing they wished to do was alert the patrolling Angmarim of their presence in the city.

Matt squinted and waved a long, slender hand in front of his face to dispell the smoke cloud hanging in the air. Stepping around the remaining rubble, he peered into the long dark tunnel that stretched beneath the city proper. He exchanged a furtive glace with his partner and then said, “C’mon, Gil,” before grabbing a torch and plunging into the darkness.

Gil, along with several other men, followed Matt cautiously as the tunnel steadily rose beneath the city. None save the lead man had ever before ventured into the caves and tunnels. The reward did not keep them out; spells and artifacts and secrets of the fallen kingdom always lured these men. Parmanen alone had kept them from braving the close tunnels. Even the fact that these men alone of dozens stayed by his side after taking the girl did little to sway his mind when it came to the vault. It was far too dangerous, Parmanen had said.

Matt’s sensitive nose, which meant his bedroll was always downwind of the latrine, sniffed the stale air. A fire had burned itself out not too long ago. Old wood and dust. Bracken and mold. No flesh, though, tarnished the smell of the remaining scents of the smouldering flames. Bookshelves were half cinders. Equipment of various types still glowed hotly as they picked their way through the ruins. The heat scorched the delicate skin of their nostrils and most covered their noses and mouths with their tunics.

“Fan out. Look for any sign of him or his enemies.” Matt stepped away from the group and began searching among the remains of the laboratory for any evidence of Parmanen—or his passing.

“What exactly are we lookin’ for?” a man asked. “They ain’t nothing ‘cept smoke and ash left.”

“Any sign that Parmanen lives,” Matt answered gruffly. “His magic is strong; surely a little fire could not end a dark lord such as himself.” He did not like that he did not smell death if only because that left a mystery. Matt greatly preferred no loose ends.

But there was still no scent of burning flesh on the stagnant air. No sense of death, only centuries of knowledge lost. Their torches flickered dully; the thin air vents to the surface slowly replenished the wholesome air in the vault, but breathing was still difficult.

“Matt! Over here!”” Gil’s voice came from the little alcove off the main room.

Hurrying over to the doorway, Matt barked, “What is it?” He felt a chill even as he drew close.

Gil pointed into a corner where his torch barely revealed a figure huddled in on itself. Dark red and black robes dripped steadily into a puddle that body lay in.

“Master Par!” Matt rushed over to the body and turned it over onto its back. Parmanen’s eyes were closed and his face seemed frozen in a peaceful sleep. “What’s wrong with him? Is he breathing?”

Gil lingered in the doorway. “Matt, don’t,” the man whispered hoarsely.

Ignoring him, Matt pried an eye open. It was vacant and partially rolled back into his head. But the body didn’t feel dead. There was a presence in the little room. It surrounded him and urged him to feel the body’s too cold cheek and try to move it’s stiff, no, frozen arm.

The body was thawing steadily.

“What in the…” Matt pulled back in shock at the realization that the body had been frozen as the air had been sucked away.

“Matt, let’s get out of here, there ain’t nothin’…”

Suddenly, Matt felt as though his entire body was being torn in every direction. The scream from his mouth pierced the ears of all who searched the destruction of the vault. His mind protested as something invaded it. Took over his thoughts and his will and his heart…

Gil watched in horror as his friend screamed and threw out his arms. He hovered just like that for what seemed to be an eternity until he collapsed to his hands and knees beside the body of the Black Numenorean. Matt panted for a moment with his head down and his hair brushing the dusty stones.

“M-mate?” Gil asked hesitantly. He did not step toward his fallen friend.

Matt did not need any assistance. Slowly, he raised his head to gaze at Parmanen’s body and then he gracefully climbed to his feet. With a wave of his hand, he gestured to the body.

“Please. We should get out of his gloomy place, don’t you think? Fetch the others. Carry the body out—gently.”

Gil stared at his friend with his mouth gaping. “M-Matt?”

“Matt” turned his head slowly and gave Gil a commanding look that dared the man to question him. “There is a process that must be done quickly if we are to save the body. I could go about in this suit, but I would much rather rejoin with my kin. After nearly fifty years, I have grown rather accustomed to the length of his arm. This man’s arms are much… bulkier.”

Completely bewildered and thoroughly terrified, Gil nodded and called out to the others. Quickly, they picked up the body and carried it down the long tunnel and into the fading sun.

Matt, Delostor, squinted up at the bright orb with a frown. “Into the water,” he ordered. The men lowered the body into the water and Delostor knelt at its edge. “Out.” The men scrambled out of the water as Delostor held Parmanen’s shoulders and closed his eyes to focus. The water around the body froze instantly, trapping the man’s arms up to the elbows.

Delostor began murmuring a spell and the water slowly thawed. Colour returned to the body’s skin and When the ice broke above Parmanen’s face, Delostor raised his mouth and nose above the surface. Shallow breaths stirred the water and suddenly, his arm and legs thrashed wildly.

Matt’s eyes blinked and suddenly he was dropping the body and backing away so quickly he lost his footing and fell to his rear. He watched, eyes wide, as the body floundered in the water before sinking slowly beneath its surface. The murky image floated at the bottom obscured by the mud stirred up by the flailing.

“What happened?” Matt gasped.

Gil opened his mouth to answer, but a huge splash erupted from the lake as Parmanen shot to the surface. The man gasped as the figure rose to its feet and stood there for a moment simply dripping.

Parmanen turned and gazed at Gil and Matt with dark, amused eyes.

“Thank you, gentlemen. I knew I could count on you.”

As Parmanen stepped from the lake, a hot wind wrapped around him and dried his hair and clothes. The men felt the edges of it and backed away.

“Yessir,” Matt said with as much courage as he could muster. As the restored lord advanced on him, he tried not to cower or pull his boots back.

“They will be attempting to contain the spirit of my apprentice in the Dragon statue,” Parmanen said without a trace of emotion. “We will let them. It will be easier to let them think they have won. But Faethril is strong, and will be stronger once she’s whole again.” A soft smile finally curved his lips. “And then we will find Anyatka and her brothers and they will be sorry that they did not kill me when they had the chance.”

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Overdone: The Strength of One

His scent is heavy. Both young and wise in such a Man’s body. He follows their trails to ensure they are safe.

I will do the same.

Mainy seasons have passed since I left the sanctuary of the forest. Perhaps my paws have forgotten the feel of the grass of the Shire. The sands of the Barandalf. How long has it been since my muscles have strained as I tore over open plains?

My pack is strong. I trust them to keep the vigil and watch over her as I have watched over her since I returned from the burning Brown Lands to find her still and beautiful. I can finally leave the forest without fear.

Her scent keeps me alive.

Her understanding keeps me strong.

Her forgiveness guides me.

She tells me in my slumber that the Mountain-lake Pack is troubled. Their members quarrel and stray. In the years since I was exiled, the descendants of Shadowclaw have only grown fatter and more frivolous. They see not what their actions do to the security of the pack. They did not listen. They would not help me. They forced my hand and I pay the price to this day.

And now, as Bregamir and Hara… Hara move north…

I will not help them but I’ll help Them.

His scent is heavy.

It keeps me strong.

She tells me they are strong through visions of trees and flowers. They reach the sky, tall and terrible to behold with the majesty of the days when the Old Forest took me from the western sea to the Anduin. Brilliant colours: crimson and greens and blues. Gold and orange. Then the vision shifts and I understand they seek great peril. A great winged-worm of silver. An iris such a deep burgundy it is black. The earth speaks deep secrets if only one is willing to listen.

He listens. They will hear.

Or they will die.

Silloth, when will I hear your shining laughter again?

~~~***~~~

Arrival in Oatbarton

They arrived in Oatbarton without incident. Anya’s wrists chafed beneath the cords that wrapped around her wrists, but she did not complain. For most of the ride, she simply listened to Abiorn ramble about tracking and hunting and Bregamir’s training. She hoped the boy understood that he would never be able to keep up with “normal” young men. She hoped his hopes wouldn’t be crushed.

The waggon turned and climbed a steep slope up to the farms. She listened to the others debate about what was good for her and what was not and tried not to respond with the emotions that rolled through her. She understood that they were acting in her best interest. Their best interest. She felt Faethril surge when Anric sat in the back of the waggon with her. But it didn’t make it any easier.

See how they leave you behind?

She tried not to jump as the voice echoed in her head.

“They didn’t leave me behind. People stayed with me.”

To watch over you. To bind you. Try to control you. They do not trust you; they fear you for no reason. Give them a reason to fear you. Take control by accepting the power only I can give you. Strike down those that try to wear you away to the small, suffering whelp you once were.

“Why? Why do you do this?”

Let me show you…

Blackness that faded into a midnight sky. No stars dotted the great expanse above. A swirling disorientation and Anya was standing before the Tower in the Lone-lands where she knew Faethril’s master, Delostor kept his study. Anya moved forward and reached to the worn handle. Her footsteps echoed off the stone walls. There. At his workstation with his back to the stairs, Master Delostor held the heirloom in his hand. He chanted over the small silver dragon as he held it in the smoke rising from his ritual bowl.

She stood at the top of the stair with her hands clasped in front of her. She could feel the power of the experiment.

“You are certain you wish to do this? Once done, it can not be undone.” Her master’s voice was silky and rich. It cooed like a lover even as the purple smoke curled around his head as if caressing him.

She nodded.

“Very well. You have it?”

She held out her hand. A few strands of hair. His hair, freshly pulled as he slumbered next to her. He would never miss the few she plucked from his scalp; in fact, he had only winced and rolled over. As she murmured the soothing spell over him, the Adûnaic flowing with her remarkable penchant for language, he stilled and sighed. It was for him. This would make him strong – both of them strong. He would survive.

Master Delostor’s eye gleamed as he took the hair and added it to the fire.

“For the last ingredient,” he said as the smoke swirled angrily as the hairs burned, “I need your arm. Please, Faethril. Step forward.”

Anya felt herself stepping forward and she held out her left arm to the sorcerer. She felt herself cringe slightly as the jagged dagger left its sheath, but she did not pull away.

Pain.

A steady stream of crimson blood. A low hiss as a drop missed the open mouth of the dragon and fell into the flames. The smoke turned black and then a rich, warm burgundy. With a noise like a child slurping from a running stream, the dragon swallowed the smoke until it’s emerald eyes flashed like aquamarine. As they faded back to green, the remaining smoke cleared and Faethril’s master handed her the statue.

“This will protect him?”

Anya took the dragon from Master Delostor and though the metal was hot, it did not burn her. As she tilted the statue to the side, she thought she saw Aeron’s image flash in the adamant star mounted on its forehead. She ran her finger down the six set into its hide. The irony of the trophy from the King… his father’s pride. Her master had assured her the use of the Arthedain relic would not weaken the spell.

“Yes. He cannot be killed as long as this statue is whole. It will take the power of the Witch-king himself to destroy it. And your blood only strengthens the spell; you have bound your souls together until the end of time.” Delostor looked at Anya with his changeling eyes and she smiled even as she trembled.

“Thank you, my lord.” She curtsied deeply, sinking all the way to the cold stones of the tower’s floor…

You see, I will do anything. He is my strength and my succor. This world took him from me and for that it shall suffer.

Anya closed her eyes and shook her head. She heard the horses whinnying outside the waggon. She felt the heat of the fire on her face still as she leaned back against the canvas.

I will bring him back. We will have the life that was stolen from us once these Men with their petty quarrels have paid.

As she fought to ignore the sinister undercurrent, Anya whispered to her solitude, “Give me strength.”