In An Age Before - Part 1


IN AN AGE BEFORE

By Phantom Bard

Disclaimer: All characters and backstory from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" have been used without the permission of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd. All characters and backstory from "Xena Warrior Princess" have been used without the permission of Universal/Renaissance Pictures/Studios USA. The author intends neither profit nor distribution in print, nor are any claims made of official connections to the original works or creators. Any privately created copies of this work, any Internet postings, and any further presentations of this work must carry this disclaimer. There is no intention on this author's part to debase, belittle, or trivialize the original works. This author holds all the original material in the highest regard for its creativity.

Note to Readers: In writing this story I have presumed that the readers have a familiarity with the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, for most of this story is set in his world. Where material is not derived from his works, "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings" I have made notes of attribution, (i.e. UT, "Unfinished Tales"), or for Elvish words and phrases, as to their composition. Please excuse any errors in the creation of such words and phrases, as I am not a linguist. Knowledge of the canon of Xena Warrior Princess is less necessary, save that Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington were WWII era descendants of Xena and her companion Gabrielle, presented in the episode, "The Xena Scrolls".

"In An Age Before", © 2004-2005 by Phantom Bard


Prologue

Minas Anor - F.A. 2,021 (1,901 BC) - The Fourth Age of the Sun

The din of sudden battle echoed amidst hard walls of close-fitted stone. It rebounded back, harsh, from the mountain's sheer face behind. Barking of dogs, crashing of timbers. Clattering hooves chasing a panicked tide of fleeing feet. Cruel laughter, cries of fear. Crowds raced through the city's darkened streets. It was an hour when only watchmen and the drunks staggering from the first circle's bars should have been afoot. But from narrow alleys and broad avenues came the clash of arms, the yelling of battle orders, and the words shouted in a harsh foreign tongue. Screams shattered what had been a peaceful night. And as always in war there was fire. Snapping, crackling, the hungry flames leapt skyward and reddened the underside of a rising pall of smoke. Dark and acrid clouds swirled up from the burning lower precincts, choking the fair airs about a tall white tower.

In the King's City on the Eve of Midsummer, none had expected such an attack. It had been long since war had visited this country, and longer still since it had been fought on the avenues within the gates. Here an Age had begun and passed in peace. But on this night the old strength and nobility of that Age came crashing down.

Now at last the enemy was come in force, numerous as ants, reckless as dogs with the mouth-foaming madness, and filled with an ancient hatred. The great cavalry from the eastern steppes, a barbarian horde grown unstoppable as a floodtide sweeping o'er the bottomlands; they had finally breached the border defenses. Many of them had entered earlier under the fair guise of traders, opening the way for their army. It was a successful treachery, for none had imagined that they would strike on this night ere the Ré i Anaro.

(Ré i Anaro, Day of the Sun, day(24 hours) + i (def. art. the) + anaro sun(gen. -o, of); the Summer Solstice, celebrated to commemorate among other things, the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen. Quenya)

Conquering the city alone would not satisfy these hereditary enemies; nothing less than the utter destruction of the realm would suffice. Their hatred had been passed down from father to son through all the long years of an Age. Only when all the white walls were broken and tumbled and the fair courts shot with fire, when all the people lay dead and the glory of this ancient kingdom was reduced to ash, then only would the dark enemy smile in the triumph of their malice. And then they would take trophies, skins and scalps and skullcaps, to adorn their saddles and the poles of the tent cities they called scythes.

It was an old and familiar story. Through the Ages of Arda many a kingdom had risen to glory only to fall into ruin. Endóre was littered with crumbling stones and buried nations. None stood forever in this Middle Earth, for in mortal lands all things changed. The low rose, the high fell, glory was found, lost, restored, and faded again, and ever darkness and light contested for supremacy. The tale was long but not endless, and though events had been presaged in the First Song long before, ever were the details a revelation to those who watched. And to those who lived within the song, they were heartbreaking and eventually tiresome in their toll.

(Endóre, Middle Earth, Quenya).

Were I not now so faded, I would raise again my sword, she thought helplessly, yet my time is long done, my being become ghostly, and my hand as a vapor.

A longsword with a fell blade of black steel rested in a scabbard at her hip, a ring of gleaming mithril hung at her side, but like her they were phantasms only, here under the moon and the sun and the stars. Neither would bite on an enemy any longer. She was still clad in her mail and plate, peerless armor from a bygone Age, the work of a realm long ago fallen into dust. Yet all of it was useless now, for no weapon of this time could bite on her anymore. Her fea remained intact, but her hroa had been consumed in the passing of the years. The world had changed and she had overstayed her welcome in it.

As a specter she walked through the streets, bypassing the combat, the conquerors and the vanquished alike, moving unseen as the very air, less substantial than the smoke and steam. She climbed to the High Court in time to see the King fall before the doors of his Citadel, his black robed guards already lying slain about him. The first bloodthirsty foes trampled his body in their rush to plunder the Hall of Kings. And she came just ere his breath fled. For a moment they locked eyes.

"Unto the King's line alone is sight of thee given, yet now all fails," he whispered before coughing up a bloody phlegm, "the West hast fallen at last and lesser men shalt rule the days to come. I am the last of my line."

She knelt beside him and took his hand in her own. He was the last here that could see or speak to her, and the last that she could touch, for across countless years and many generations, they shared a link in blood. In a few heartbeats she would truly be alone.

"Go now wheresoever it be that the spirits of Men may go," she said softly. "An end must come of all things in Middle Earth. Go in peace. Thou hath been a good king."

For just a moment a smile curled his lips, but it did not last. With his dying breath he made a request.

"Take now this ring, for it is a thing of value for its ancientry alone, and I would not that it fall into any but the hands of my kin and those who love my house."

(Shamelessly based on the words of Arvedui, last King of Arnor, to the Lossoth of Forochel, T.A. 1975)

Upon the first finger of the hand that fell limp within her own was a circlet of gold, the band formed as of two entwined serpents with eyes of green gemstones. Quickly she drew it from his finger and it came away easily, for the time of its abiding with him had passed. Then clasping it tight in her fist she closed his eyes, and turning, left the Court of the Tree for the last time. So ended the Fourth Age of the Sun.

By dawn the sack was complete and the city lay in smoldering ruins, while on the field before its shattered walls, the conquering horde reveled in the spoils.

Yet time shalt wipe away thy civilization too, she thought as she watched them, and thy people shalt be forgotten in their turn, for all thy days shalt pass into memory, and finally be forgotten in the fleeting of the years.

To Be Continued