Barthant was dying. He knew it from the depths of his immortal soul, knew it even before the fatal blow had fallen upon his neck. Before he fell into the darkness, he had one last glimpse of Arda. Then all was engulfed in shadow.

Until he awoke with a jolt that felt like a landing, to find himself in a strange city. He felt his neck, incredulous, and found it clean of blood and free of injury. He took stock of himself, and saw that he retained all clothes and weapons, battle-worn though they were. Then, with his sword unsheathed and ready for any untoward business, he faced the city.

His senses were immediately overwhelmed. The air shimmered with heat, smells and bright colors, and people streamed across the rock floor of the place, jabbering in a strange tongue. Huge metal beasts streamed past down a dark path, honking and screeching like nothing he had ever heard. Above him, towers loomed high into the sky. Some seemed carved of a single stone, others glittered with shining panels as bright as the facets in the eye of an insect.

Before him stood the silent masses of people. They had gathered in a rough semicircle, and were gaping at him, edging forwards. Some rubbed their eyes, as though ridding themselves of the aftereffects of a too-bright light.

In the distance, he heard the wail of a horn over the babble of the crowd. It was approaching. He held out his hands to the crowd, but they seemed to surge and growl in the heat of the day. He did not know what was coming, and he was certain these were not the Undying Lands.

Under the glaring light reflected from a tower as the sun set, he fell to his knees in defeat, and the curious mob tightened their circle inexorably about him.

The melancholy wail of the horn drew closer at an impossible speed, and he could soon hear a voice echoing, unnaturally loud, from beyond the throng which encircled him. The crowd parted, and he was seized in rough arms and divested of his bow and sword. He elected not to break and run out of pure common sense. Unresisting, he let himself be towed along to the steaming metal beast which rested at an angle on one side of the black path. He felt himself shoved into the gaping maw of the thing, eyes wide in fear.

Once inside, he saw it was not beast so much as machine, like one of the foul creations of the Dwarves. It moved as a chariot without horses, and impossibly quickly. His stomach lurched, feeling as though it were jerked out of his body with every forward motion. He was going to be sick, and he was trapped in this tiny metal space.

A sudden urge to leave this contraption, and now, took hold of him. Losing all sensibility, he fought like a wild animal, tearing and clawing at the door of the thing despite the metal bonds they had forced over his wrists. He succeeded in smashing the door so that the metal crumbled and gave way, desperation lending him extra strength. Barthant fell from the twisted opening and landed on the black road. He hit the ground hard, and knew no more.


The policemen in the patrol car brought the vehicle to a screeching halt.

Did you see that, Frank? one asked the other.

Oh, yeah, his companion replied grimly, stepping out of the driver's side door. He bent that metal like it was butter. He unholstered his gun and aimed it at the prone figure warily.

Well, you know, they say in moments of trauma, see, people can do amazing things, the first policeman, Max, answered.

Frank said, That's a crock. This guy has something just plain weird about him. I don't think he'd seen a car before, either.

Well, see, that's my point exactly! See, it's trauma because he's never seen a car, so that's how he did it.

Rolling his eyed, Frank held his gun warily and circled behind the strange man. When he'd been a kid he'd dreamed of being a knight, and this guy looked a lot like one, long hair, weapons and all. That's a reasonable explanation, Frank though sourly, time travel.

He rolled his eyes again and cautiously tapped the man on the shoulder. He didn't respond, so Frank turned to Max and asked him to radio for an ambulance. He stood waiting for the ambulance to arrive, watching the odd man's chest rise and fall. Time was, his job was to shoot them, not take care of them.

Gazing harder at the man's profile against the ground, he noticed something rather odd about the ears. They were... pointed. Very pointed. And he had no beard.

said Max, following Frank's gaze, What is this guy, some kinda fairy or something? He snickered.

said Frank slowly. He's an Elf.