March 2942

The messenger rode full tilt up the grass-carpeted road, his horse lathered and snorting. It was the herald out of Arnach, on an errand of grave importance. Eyes rimmed with exhaustion, he raced northward, sweat pouring down his face, soaking his clothes and hair. He changed mounts at a farm along the South Road to lend him speed before he plunged into the fabled valley of Imloth Melui.

He would not rest until his message had been carried from one end of the fief to the other. There were precious few settlements in Lossarnach, separated by many hedges, but he had seen each one before the day had ended - clattering over cobbled squares, standing on fountains, crying from the steps of their weathered houses. Now it promised to be day again. The sun had not yet touched the valley floor though the sky had turned to gray in the east. The deadly east.

The messenger leaned into the last leg of his journey. He kicked the gelding's sides and loosed the reins, giving the horse its head. The hollow tattoo of hooves on the loam kept his heart going. He would not fall out of the saddle from exhaustion or for any other reason. He would deliver his message.

An ancient stone pile under a thatch roof appeared beneath the colossal silver-green trees at the end of the greenway. Bar-en-Ferin, at last. Dogs raced out to meet the rider. The horse reared in nervous energy. He halloo'd and hollered until one-by-one faces appeared at the leaded windows, on the threshold, in the yard. He found the silver-eyed girl with the blue-black hair framed by her household beneath the arched lintel, the daughter of kings over the sea and the lords of flowering vales. The mistress of Imloth Melui, Hirwen's daughter.

"Hardang has fallen," he cried between gasps. "The Lord of Lossarnach is dead!"

Thanks to Lialathuveril and Gythja for supplying feedback! For those of you worried about starting a story that is still "in progress" - I have already finished the complete rough draft. No fear! Thanks for reading.