Disclamers in the intro
"He is back in Arda already! You must go there too, Alcaforne!"
"Why me, father? Why not you? Why not Melkor? He is even in Arda already..." the youth shrugged his shoulders petulantly. "And besides Melkor is more powerful than I am - so why can't he stop his own son?"
"Oh, how hard it was not to answer you "just because!" on your every "why"... Aegman sighed. "Yes, father is more powerful than you, as well as Daenar is... but there is one thing that we all do not have and that you, my child, have. The Yirthi* blood... the legacy of your mother..." he winced at the memories of the wight princess who nearly killed him once. Who betrayed him... but unwillingly gave him such a gift - a son.
Sometimes Alcar reminded him of her - the same gestures, the same glances from under the eyelashes... the same habit of not telling a half of what he thought.
"All right, father. I go." Alcar uttered suddenly. Aegman startled and stared at him with a silent astonishment. For several days he tried to convince a stubborn youth without any result and now... his son agreed - without any reason. Without any obvious reason... Probably he had reasons for himself, but he didn't show any sign, any hint.
"Why?... so suddenly you change your opinion..."
"Just because, father, just because!" laughed Alcar. "But you go with me."
The youth looked at his father for a long time, then smiled reconcilingly. "I need you." he explained simply and quietly. "And your father needs you... and... I will not let you stay here without me." he finished in the most assured manner.
Aegman was silent for some time, then he nodded: "Be it so... if you wish, my dear, but too canny son..." he uttered reluctantly, still trying to understand why Alcar changed his mind so quickly. "You're hesitating to agree..." the youth shook his head disappointedly. "You still don't trust me..."
"I do..." the Vala tried to contradict, but Alcar only shook his head again:
"No... don't tell anything... I know. I feel it. But I understand..." he paused. "So... if you agree to go with me - get ready. I'll do the same." and with these words he went out of the room, leaving his father alone, with doubts and fears only.
The Doors of Night closed with a crush behind them... Both Aegman and Alcar startled and glanced behind.
"It's... just the door..." murmured Alcar as if trying to calm himself down. "Just a door..."
"I wonder why Ere let Daenar back into Arda..." Aegman looked ahead thoughtfully. "Does he know something that we do not know? After Dagor Dagorrath nearly broke forth - not without Daenar's help - and after Ere himself had to stop the catastrophe... he just let him in again. And when we ask to let us in too - he hardly holds his rage..."
"You think, he slammed the door intentionally?" Alcar winced at such an unpleasant thought.
"It sounded like that... so let's hurry away from here while he has not changed his mind to the worst for us." he quickly paced across the narrow field before the Doors of Night, then spread his wings and flew up - and to the North-East. Alcar followed him silently.
They were flying over the Gardens of Lorien when a huge eagle heaved in sight, quickly approaching them... and carrying Manwe on his back. The King of Arda made a gesture ordering the two newcomers to land.
So they did and waited until the eagle landed too and Manwe jumped off his back onto the soft grass.
"Welcome to Valinor, dear nephew..." he nodded to Aegman. "And you, Alcaforne..." the King raised his eyebrow slightly. "May I ask you what brought you two into..." short laugh "...into my realm?"
"We wanted to try..." Aegman began, but Manwe interrupted him:
"No... let me guess... you wanted to try to stop your brother?" the King looked intently at the younger Vala. "It seems it's the fate of our family - the elder brothers are always unstoppable and listen to no words of sense..."
"So... Your Majesty... will you let us try?" Aegman inquired. Alcar was standing in a certain distance, just watching and listening them, and it made his father feel strangely uneasy.
"Why not?" Manwe replied. "Try - and maybe you'll be more successful in your attempts than my brother was... But tell me - do you have any definite plan? Or are you going to act as the circumstances suggest?" he scrutinized Alcar thoroughly with his sapphire eyes, as if suspecting already WHAT was the plan.
Aegman caught that glance of his and after some internal fight uttered quietly:
"Wise you are, Your Majesty.. wise beyond measure!"
"Paying me compliments is not necessary, Aegman... and no majesties, please! After all, you are my nephew, so should be called Your Highness... but would you like to be called like that? I suppose not..." he paused. "Grumbling like an old mortal..." he sighed addressing more to himself than to anyone.
"As you wish, Your... sorry. As you wish, uncle. Is that better?" the younger Vala smiled softly.
"It is..." the King nodded.
"And I was paying no compliments - you are really wise, if you already figured out that the plan... or something like a plan, involves my son."
"You are wise too, if you thought out exactly what I would suggest... though last time I met Alcaforne was not the best one..." Manwe murmured, walking slowly to and fro.
"Ah! So you still remember that pretty row that accompanied my leaving for Numenor?" the half-wight laughed, casting one of his best daring glances at the King of Arda.
"Oh, I do!" Manwe frowned. "But I see - and see quite well - that you have changed a lot since that time. And I must say, I like you more now..." he caught another glance from Alcar - a surprised one this time - and continued. "But let us not waste time. If you came here to stop Daenar - than you need to find him first... though he behaves so far."
"So far is a good word, uncle..." Aegman sighed. "After the recent events... anyone would behave!"
"But he may change to the worse any moment." the King's tone became very dry. "Last time I saw him, he was somewhere between Gondor and Ithilien. It was... yesterday morning. Since then I could not find him. You should hurry and - Alcar, that is mostly for you - find him without being found by him."
"Do I understand you right, Your Ma... sorry..." Alcar smiled wryly. "...that I may use... the powers that I've inherited from my mother?"
"Yes, Alcaforne. You may. Now - fly and good luck to both of you." Manwe turned back to the eagle, then stopped suddenly and added. "Aegman... pass my best regards to your father. If he ever wishes to visit me - I'm waiting..."
"That sounded strange..." Alcar commented when they were already above the sea.
He was sitting alone in the hall of a small and shabby inn not far from Minas Tirith, drinking local wine and wishing Daenar would fly by, the sooner - the better. The hall was almost empty, the candlelight was dim... Alcar was so deep in his thoughts about what to do, when Daenar appears at last, that he didn't pay any attention to the group of men, looking like Haradrim, who were casting interested and evaluating glances at the seemingly half-drunk elf. At last, when the "elf" dropped his head down on his hands, lying on the table, the Haradrim approached him and surrounded so that he could not escape.
"You shouldn't have fallen asleep right here, in the hall..." one of the men murmured, touching Alcar's shoulder.
"Ah! What?" the half-wight startled and looked at them, twinkling his eyes sleepily. "Oh... so many of you..." he said thoughtfully. "Then I'm quite safe..."
"Absolutely safe, yes, master elf!" some of the men nodded. "So far noone escaped us... so, listen now. If you try to run or call for help - the worse for you. No, we will not kill you, but you will still regret much..."
Alcar choked on his breath and mumbled:
"Yes... I understand.. understand and accept my fate..." he gave them a most frightened look. "Mei-antye..."
"What? Are you with the dark too?"
"If to put it like that - then yes, I am!" Alcar suddenly uttered a short laugh. "Poor you - is your trade completely ruined? The elves stay in their kingdoms since the last war, neither leaving them nor letting anyone in?" he became serious again. "Who of you is the leader?"
"I am..." one of the men stepped forth. "Why did you want to see me, elf?"
"I need to talk to you. Without witnesses." Alcar's tone was more than confident as if it was he who took them captive.
"Bah!" the leader looked about the rest of the gang. "He wants to talk to me! He NEEDS to talk to me... and mind it - without witnesses!"
"He's pretty, have you noticed, Ilnar?" one of the Haradrim commented.
"But don't forget - no harm to the goods... The main rule!" reminder another.
Alcar blushed slightly, but quickly pulled himself together and stood up:
"If you have a room here, worshipful Ilnar, we could talk there..." he nodded courteously.
"Be it so, my immortal friend!" no less courteously replied Ilnar and lead Alcar to his room, accompanied by encouraging whistling of other bandits.
The room looked as if a one third of the gang lived there besides the leader. The floor was covered with folded cloaks, weapons, some bales... together with empty bottles and some pieces of cheap jewelry.
Alcar watched the man questioningly. Ilnar replied with just the same glance, supporting it with the words:
"So what was it that you needed to talk about?"
Alcar kept silence for a long time, just looked at him enigmatically... then whispered:
"I... need... you..."
"What?! Where did you hit your pretty head, elf?"
"I didn't..." Alcar shook his head slightly and slowly, still looking into the eyes of the man. "Do you like me?"
"Y-yes, but..." Ilnar shivered trying to wipe out the strange feeling, enveloping him.
"What? No harm to the goods?" the half-wight laughed daringly. "But are you really going to... sell me?...Ilnar..."
Ilnar felt that Alcar's voice mesmerized him... brought him under control of this dangerously pretty elf...
... and the heartbeat wentmad... and words escaped the lips without his own consent:
"Never.. never.. my... only..."
"I need you... Ilnar..." Alcar's voice swamped his mind like a morass...
...like overwhelming slumber...
... and a sudden awakening:
"Besides, I really like you." Alcar laughed again and his silvery laugh sent shivers down the man's spine. He stepped back, gazing at the half-wight with a mixture of awe and admiration.
The idyll was broken by the sound of the door thrown open.
"Ilnar! There's a raid!!!"
The man shivered again and looked at a young girl-bandit standing in the doorway her eyes wide open and filled with anxiety.
"Thank you, Gaia! Leave the place... I'll catch up with you later..."
The girl disappeared at once.. and Ilnar looked around with a stifled groan.
"Damn! We'll have to leave it all here.. and... you too.." he looked at Alcar, who stood thinking what to choose - to help the bandits or just to escape himself.
"I'll... I'll find you and bring you all this..." he promised at last. "Just tell me where to look for you, and I'll be there..."
The sound of forthcoming footsteps was now clearly heard from the stairs. Ilnar cast an raged glance at the door and rushed to the window.
Already on the narrow windowsill he turned back to Alcar.
"Khand.. Revir... Tea-house "The Star of Darkness"..."
... and only the broken glass tinkled slightly and the cool night wind swept into the room, playing with Alcar's hair.
In some moments he jammed all the scattered bandits' belongings under the beds - just before the door was thrown open again, this time by a group of Gondor soldiers with their swords unsheathed. Having seen Alcar, standing like a statuette in the middle of the room with a slightly frightened expression on his face, they stopped obviously astonished and not knowing if it's a bandit too and what to do with him anyway. At last one of the soldiers asked:
"Noble elda, have you seen the bandits from Khand in this inn? Slavers... They might have... errrr.."
"I've... I've seen them, yes..."Alcar mumbled pretending to be shocked. "They... they dragged me here and... oh, if not for you, they would..." he blinked several times to wipe out the tears.
"Where did they go?" asked the soldier, though the opened and half-broken window answered his question well enough.
"They... jumped out of the window, kind sir..."
"Thank you very much, elda..." they even bowed - and left the room and Alcar in it. From the corridor the half-wight heard some orders to search the surroundings of the inn.
He came up to the window, breathed in the night air... He felt that he had to fly to the South-East, and not only because of the bandits and his sudden promise. The destiny was calling there too.
He turned off the window and began to gather the things from the floor.
Manwe stood on a balcony, watching the sunrise, when Namo approached him, and though the steps of the Master of Fates were barely audible, Manwe felt his presence and nodded slightly.
"Beautiful..." Namo whispered.
"Indeed..." was the answer. Manwe waited. There should have been a reason for this early visit.
"So it begins..."
"What exactly?" the King turned his head to see the other Vala's face, because the voice didn't reveal much of Namo's emotions. The face was dreamy.
"It is what the Fourth Age will be actually remembered for in further ages..." Namo explained quietly.
"You've said before that there may be no further ages after this one..." Manwe sighed.
"It may... but then it will be one of the most beautiful and magnificent ends..."
"As if there were many..." the King chuckled.
"Many possible - yes... one - nearly... and maybe this time it's not the end either..."
TBC - of course!
* Yirth = wight