From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

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From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Thu May 24, 2018 11:02 am

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Re: From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:38 am

Western Coast, The Continent, 95

They had become so common now, the earth tremors. Even now, as she stood at the edge of the branch-woven platform that she called home, she had to shift her weight in time with the tree’s swaying to keep her balance.

Where was it coming from this time?

Her eyes, a vivid blue flecked with gold, scanned the horizon in every direction. To the west, the ocean, dimly lit by the ever-darkening Silver Tree, glistened in waves that ebbed and flowed. North, jagged mountains were silhouetted against the silver light emitted by the Tree. Or perhaps, she realized sadly, she should consider the silhouettes to be blocking her view of the stars in the sky, so weak had the light of the Tree become.

The trembling increased suddenly, taking her away from her thoughts and reminding her again of what she was looking for.

It was when she looked southwest that she saw it. It was the same thing that had happened … how many days previous had it been? It was difficult to remember. But it was all too familiar. The swaying of treetops no different from the one in which she herself was currently perched. Their leafy shadows being replaced by pointed peaks as a new mountain – no, new mountains, she realized, surprised for the first time in a long time as she saw not one, but four new peaks emerging to point at the sky.

This was new, and it was something she didn’t understand … but she was distracted from thinking about it by the dilemma that had brought her to her sanctum, the place she was best able to think. The familiarity of her home, her possessions, did much to calm her mind. Even the oddity of the current upheaval could not divert her for long. She had a decision to make: a life-altering decision. And for a child of eight years, that was a daunting task.

Her gaze on the stars, she heard before she saw a glory of unicorns approaching. Their pale glow illuminated their path, and she knew by their presence that the ground would be safe. Perhaps a walk would clear her head.

The sea was not far distant, and by the time she reached it, the earth tremor had ceased. She wondered briefly how many new mountains there would be this time, considering how many she had witnessed; then, with a sigh, her mind returned to the question she had to answer.

“Greetings, young one.” A soft male voice startled her from her thoughts.

Flustered, she fought to keep her composure even as instinct caused her to whirl around to face the man who had spoken to her. He was tall, even compared to others she had come to know. His raven black hair was about as opposite from her shimmering gold as it could get, as were his brown eyes. Like her, he was elven, and there was nothing about him that indicated that he was dangerous to her. In fact, his expression was warm. Kind. She relaxed.

“Greetings, sir,” she replied respectfully. “You startled me.”

The man smiled softly at her. “For that, I apologize,” he murmured. “I did not mean to startle you. You do seem very distracted.” He touched one hand to his heart. “My name is Valdemar.”

She recognized the gesture for what it was: a greeting, an introduction, a reassurance of peace. She returned the gesture. “I am Lancaeriel.”

The man’s smile widened. “A pleasure to meet you, Lancaeriel.” He paused a moment, then added, “Might I walk with you?”

She hesitated, and he clasped his hands behind his back. “Forgive me if I seem forward,” he murmured, “but it is so rare to see one so young as yourself so deep in thought.”

She considered the comment, then nodded and continued walking along the silver shore, not reacting when he fell into step beside her. “I have a decision to make,” she told him quietly, “and I am running out of time to make it.”

“A decision?” His eyebrows arched in surprise. “And what decision might one so young have to make that would be so difficult?”

She lifted her gaze to meet his. “I was visited by Lord Manwë four star cycles ago. In two star cycles he will return to bestow upon me a Gift. I have but two days left to choose what Gift I would ask of him.”

At her words, his eyes filled with wonder. “I see,” he murmured. He turned his gaze toward the sand beneath their feet. “Yes, I see how that might worry you.” He looked back at her once more. “If you seek clarity, perhaps I might offer myself as an aid? Someone to whom you might confide your thoughts, perhaps help you to make sense of them?”

It had never occurred to her to speak with others about her thoughts. True, she spent most of her time alone; yet even those with whom she lived had ever suggested turning the decision into a discussion. The idea was appealing, though: and why not speak with this stranger? He would have an unbiased opinion, would he not?

“There are many things I would wish to do,” she began. “I would wish for the power to stop Melkor and his destruction of our world. I would wish for the ability to renew the light of the Trees. To comfort those who suffer. To heal those who are hurt. To return life to the dead.”

She knelt to scoop a beached fish back into the water and watched as it swam away.

“I want to be able to do something to help this world and what is happening to it,” she finished, almost in a whisper. When she turned back to Valdemar, there were tears glistening on her cheeks. “How could I possibly choose?”

He looked at her, and his gaze was both tender and anxious. “I understand now why Lord Manwë would consider one so young as you to receive your Gift already,” he said softly. “That is indeed quite the decision to make.”

He fell silent for a moment, though he continued to walk alongside her.

“Have you asked your parents for their advice?” he asked suddenly.

Without flinching, she replied, “My parents were killed by creatures of Melkor a long time ago.”

He winced. “Again, I am sorry.”

She looked up at him and brushed her hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ears. “Thank you.”

They continued in silence for a spell, both of them deep in thought. His eyes flickered continually to her, while she kept her gaze on the waves lapping against the shore.

“If I may,” he said abruptly, drawing her attention once more, “I have the honour of knowing Lord Manwë relatively well … perhaps if you were to explain your thoughts and your desires, he would help you.”

“How?”

He smiled at her. “Not all Gifts are as specific as your desires. To heal. To revive. To save. To renew. Some Gifts can give you the ability to learn how to do all of those things. Wisdom. Intelligence. Physical strength, magical ability.”

Her eyes filled with wonder. “Truly?” She considered for a moment. “Yet even if I had the ability to learn, I would need the opportunity …”

This time, the silence was brief, and in fact went almost unnoticed by her, as her curiosity was roused by the slow, pleased smile that spread across his face.

“If you wish,” he said quietly, “I know of a group of people who would be able to help you …”

For the first time in a very long time, her eyes lit up with excitement, causing her to appear closer to her eight years than an adult.

“I would like that very much,” she murmured, controlling her voice.

But she had to clasp her hands together to keep them from trembling with excitement.
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Re: From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:53 pm

Western Coast, The Continent, 95

It was the third star cycle after she had first met him that he returned once more. This time, she was waiting for him. Not idly, as that was not her way; but, knowing that she would be leaving her home, she was preparing her few belongings for travel.

She had never traveled before. This was the very tree in which she had been born and lived her entire life so far. This was where her parents had taught her what they could before they had been killed, and this was where they had died.

“Lancaeriel,” came the voice of one of the elves who had been taking care of her. She looked over. The woman was standing next to the branches that served as a stairway to the ground. Beside her was Valdemar. He was smiling warmly, his hands clasped together.

“Valdemar!” she beamed. She dropped the clothes she had been putting into her bag and rushed over to greet him. She grasped his two hands in hers and squeezed them, causing him to chuckle bemusedly. “I’m so happy you’ve come!”

“So I see!” he laughed. “And it is good to see you in such high spirits! You were quite thoughtful when last I saw you.”

Her eyes sparkled in the twilight. “I did as you suggested. I spoke with Lord Manwë about my concerns and he gave me exactly what I needed!”

She tugged him over to her area of the platform and released his hands. “I told him everything I wanted to do, and he gave me a generous Gift – the ability to learn, just as you suggested!”

He was visibly pleased. “What kind of ability?”

“Physical, mental, emotional, magical.” The gold flecks of her eyes glinted in the light of the stars. “Watch.”

She put her hands together, one above the other, palms touching; and then she slowly separated them with a twisting motion. A light appeared in the space between her palms, a pinpoint light at first, but it grew larger as her hands drew further apart.

He was impressed. “Well done, Lancaeriel. And have you thought further about my offer?”

She nodded vigorously. “When can we leave? I’ve almost completed gathering my things together!”

“Calm yourself!!” he laughed heartily. “I am pleased that you are so eager, but we cannot leave today. It is a fair distance to where we are going, and we will need protection.”

His smile faded and he looked around them. “Melkor’s creatures grow ever stronger and greater in number,” he murmured. His brow furrowed slightly. “We would not survive on our own.”

She looked at him, far calmer than she had been the moment before. Yes, now that he had brought it up, she knew that he was right. They would not be safe, just the two of them, on the ground. Even the treetops were not completely safe from the creatures that Melkor had created for the destruction of the Firstborn. She knew that from experience. So how could they be assured of safety on the ground? Would they find a glory of unicorns and travel with them?

“Wait for me here,” he said after a moment’s silence. “Two, perhaps three star cycles. I will find those who can help us.”

She nodded. “And in the meantime?” she asked hesitantly.

He looked down at her bare feet. “You will want protection for your feet,” he replied. “Thick leather, as much as you can get your hands on. Who knows the path we will have to take?”
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Re: From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:36 pm

Western Coast, The Continent, 95

For the next three star cycles, she kept her eyes on the stars, watching as they revolved around Idris, the Unmoving Star. With each constellation that disappeared over the horizon, her anxiety and excitement grew. She thought of nothing but Valdamar’s return, forgetting even to eat unless one of the elves with whom she lived would bring her something.

It was as the stars were beginning their fourth cycle that he arrived. When he climbed to the top of her tree, he was alone.

“Did you find anyone?” she asked him breathlessly.

He smiled, and the light of the stars reflected in his dark eyes. “The very best,” he promised her. He looked around. “Do you have all of your things ready?”

“I was ready two star cycles ago,” she laughed.

He chuckled at her. “Bind your feet and meet me below,” he instructed her. “There, I will introduce you to my friends, our protectors.”

She did as she was instructed, and when she descended below she found Valdemar in conversation with two other elves of very tall stature, who made even Valdemar look small, and who, like Valdemar, also had raven hair and eyes. The man had a serious air about him, while the woman had a warm smile and kind eyes. They were speaking as she approached, but when she came near, they stopped and looked at her.

“Lancaeriel,” Valdemar smiled, holding one hand out to her invitingly. “Meet Aldrich and Alyse. The first of us.”

Her eyes grew wide with awe.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, child,” said Aldrich, stepping forward. He put one hand on her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. “It is an uncommon thing to hear Valdemar speak so highly of one so young as you are.”

“Me?” She blinked in surprise.

Valdemar laughed softly. “Lord Manwë himself showed his fascination with you,” he reminded her, “when he chose you to receive your Gift so young.”

“I just wanted to do something good!” she protested, though her cheeks warmed with pleasure at the praise.

“And that,” said Alyse, her smile widening, “is why we are so willing to guide and protect you on this journey.”

“Which we should begin.” Aldrich released Lancaeriel’s shoulder and picked up a bag which had been lying at his feet. “Come.”

Lancaeriel picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder obediently. She was both excited and nervous, not only for the trip itself, but for her arrival at … wherever it was they were going.

“Where are we going?” she asked curiously. “Valdemar said that there were people who could help me to learn, but he did not tell me much beyond that.”

“Far to the east,” Alyse replied, directing a warm smile towards Lancaeriel. Aldrich had taken the lead already, and Valdemar was walking next to him, while Alyse had taken a position next to Lancaeriel. “There is a group of people there who are working together to learn all that they can about … well, about anything. The world we live in. The Valar. The Ainúr. Eru. Magic. The creatures that inhabit this world with us, whether they were here with us from the beginning, or if they have only recently appeared.”

Lancaeriel and Valdemar jumped slightly as a large fern nearby rustled, and before Lancaeriel even realized it, Alyse and Aldrich had long blades out, holding them in front of themselves protectively. Their speed unsettled the child almost as much as the rustling, and she took a deep breath to calm herself.

“It is safe,” Aldrich said quietly after a few moments of complete silence.

They continued walking once again.

“What are those?” Lancaeriel asked, pointing to the long blade Alyse was sliding into a long leather thing at her waist.

“Swords,” the older woman replied. “They are weapons that are quite effective for protecting us from Melkor’s creatures.” She followed Lancaeriel’s curious gaze and smiled. “And this is a sheathe,” she added, patting the long leather thing. “For carrying a sword safely.”

“We may have to consider teaching her the defensive arts,” Aldrich spoke up from in front of the two. “It is a long journey and we may not always be able to defend her.”

Lancaeriel’s eyes lit up. “I can learn to be as fast as you?”

Alyse laughed, a soft, clear sound. “Perhaps.”

“Perhaps we could also use this time to teach her a little about our world,” Valdemar suggested. “It would give her a head start on what she would be learning with the others. And I believe that it would also help her to understand better the situation in which we all live.”

There was a moment of near silence, broken only by the sounds of nature around them, as the others considered the suggestion.

“Perhaps in small amounts,” Aldrich decided at length. “She is still very young, and it would not be wise to overwhelm her.”

“And only when it is safe,” Alyse added. Lancaeriel looked up at the woman, and she noticed that her eyes never rested, but were constantly flicking this way and that. “While we are traveling, we must remain alert.”

Valdemar glanced at Lancaeriel over his shoulder. “That means,” he cautioned her, “that while we are walking, you must limit your questions. If we are taken by surprise, we will be in grave danger.”

She nodded to show her understanding, and as much as she wanted to start asking questions about what they might encounter, or how long they would be traveling, or when they would rest or eat, or about so many other things, she held her tongue, remaining silent.

For now, she would be content simply to listen and observe.
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Re: From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:02 pm

Crossing the Continent, 95

As promised, the journey was long. While they walked, there was little conversation, as their guides and protectors remained alert to what was around them; and even when they rested, they stopped only long enough for Lancaeriel to recover before they continued once more. Occasionally they would take the time to share a full meal together, and during those times Lancaeriel would ask as many questions as she could think of, begging the other three – Aldrich and Alyse, especially – to tell her all about the beginning of their world and what it had been like before Melkor had begun his destruction.

Often, she learned just as much by simply listening as she fell asleep.

“It is getting darker,” she heard Alyse murmur to Aldrich. “Soon the stars will be our only source of light, save building fires.”

“Which makes everyone near them a target for Melkor and his creatures,” Aldrich replied, equally quietly.

There was a moment of silence.

Then: “Do you think the Valar will provide an alternate light source?”

This time the silence was longer, and he sighed heavily before answering. “If they do, and if they wish it to remain untouched, they will need to have it out of his reach. Up where the stars are.”

That left Lancaeriel wide awake and looking thoughtfully up at the stars for a long time before she was able to fall asleep.

Four times in the first three star cycles, they were attacked by creatures of Melkor, and each time Aldrich and Alyse used a combination of magic and skill in weaponry to defend the group. The attacks scared Lancaeriel in ways she had not felt in a long time, and they also brought to remembrance the incident where her parents had died – been killed by some of the very creatures that she knew were now stalking her and her guardians. Several times, she woke up to find herself drenched in sweat, being held in someone’s arms – usually Alyse’s, though on occasion she would wake to find Valdemar holding her, and even, rarely, Aldrich.

Over time, she grew bold enough to ask more of her protectors. She asked them to tell her about how the world was changing, how long before they predicted that the Trees would go completely dark. She asked them to teach her about magic and about the weapons that they used. She asked them about their lives, and what it had been like to be the first of the elves to be created.

Eventually she moved past simply asking about things, and asked to be taught to do much of what they did. Some things came to her more easily than others: she seemed to have an affinity for water (for which they all became grateful when they passed through a newly destroyed area where there was none) and for light, while other things, such as fire, seemed to be more difficult for her to work with.

“It will come with time and practice,” Valdemar promised her with a warm smile. “Do not fear.”

Eventually, Lancaeriel wore through all of the leathers she had brought for binding her feet. She was amazed and then grateful when Aldrich used the skin of a deer he had hunted to fashion her some boots like his and Alyse’s. He used the opportunity as a lesson, showing her how it was done, and how to treat the skin so that it would be stronger and last longer. It was a lengthy process, requiring a few star cycles, but no one complained of the time it took from their journey.

One of the most important things she learned as they traveled was navigation: how to know where they were and which direction was which by looking at the position of the stars.

“If you know where you are,” Valdemar murmured to her once while they were resting, “you will always know where you are going.”

Rarely, they would come upon other elves, some of whom were traveling, most of whom were not. They would share a meal, rest easier for a while knowing that there were others also watching out for danger, and then press on.

They traveled for a long time: so long, in fact, that Lancaeriel lost track of how many star cycles had passed. What finally made her realize just how long they had been traveling was when the others asked her if she would be willing to create a few small orbs of light for them to better see the way forward.

She looked up at them fearfully. “The Trees are dead, aren’t they?”

All three of the others looked grim, and it was Aldrich who nodded and murmured, “Yes. We are very nearly at our destination, and I think it would be wise to arrive as soon as we are possibly able. For that, it would be helpful for us to see more clearly where we are going.”

Without further question, Lancaeriel produced a light orb, making it grow larger until she was instructed to stop. She passed the orb off to Valdemar and then made a second one for herself. This left Aldrich and Alyse with their hands free to use their weapons if they needed.

“Let us press on,” Aldrich said, his eyes filled with determination.

So they did.
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Re: From the Beginning (Lancaeriel's Story) | 95 1A+

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:49 am

Altak-Bet Ainúl, 96

Their arrival was abrupt. With a suddenness that startled Lancaeriel, the trees stopped, revealing a large, flat, open area surrounded on three sides by mountains that were little more than silhouettes. Here and there were clusters of light, the same orbs she had learned how to create magically, and around the lights were groups of people.

“It has changed so much,” Alyse murmured sadly as they all looked around.

It was Valdemar who started them forward once more, bringing them all out of their reverie. “After the last earth shift, they deemed it safer to remain where Melkor has already worked his evil,” he explained in a low tone. “They can see his creatures coming, and it is less likely that he will return to do more damage.”

Damaged was an apt word to describe the area. Whereas the ground among the trees was relatively flat and smooth, this area was jagged rocks with little growth of any kind; and they had to move slowly, careful of their footing, often having to take another’s hand for balance.

Valdemar led them towards the nearest group of people with confidence, but Lancaeriel had to swallow away her nervousness. She had never met any of these people before, and she was just coming to the realization that there were going to be a lot of people to meet – people she was going to be living with for … she didn’t know how long. And as she looked around, trying to distinguish how many people there were and trying to see anything about them, she saw with dismay that there were no other children there – she would be the only one.

That was about all she could see. Every last person there was dressed in loose, hooded black robes that his almost everything about them.

“Coriander,” Valdemar called out as they approached the group.

One of the robed figures turned, and in the glow of the orb floating in front of him, Lancaeriel saw bright golden hair and pale blue eyes. He smiled widely when he saw the travelers approaching and moved to greet Valdemar with a hearty handshake.

“Valdemar,” he beamed. “It is wonderful to see you again. It has been a long time.” He looked at the rest of the group. “Aldrich, Alyse. It never ceases to amaze me how willing you are to leave your daughter and escort Valdemar here.”

“She has good people looking after her,” Aldrich replied with a soft chuckle. Alyse smiled as well, but her smile was sad, and did not quite reach her eyes.

This was the first Lancaeriel had heard of her guardians having a daughter, and it surprised her. She had suspected that they were very close to each other, but in all their time traveling, they had never said anything to indicate that they had a child.

“And who is this?” the man asked, his eyes coming to rest on Lancaeriel. There was a curiosity and warm to his eyes that made her smile despite her nervousness.

“This is Lancaeriel,” Valdemar introduced her. He put his hands on her shoulders and tugged her to stand in front of him. “She is very gifted and has a desire to learn and to care for our world. Lord Manwë himself recognizes her and has gifted her with great abilities.”

Coriander knelt to one knee so that he was eye-to-eye with her. “It is an honour to meet you, Lancaeriel,” he said, touching his hand to his heart. “I am Coriander. I’m fairly new here myself, but I’ll be the one showing you around, at least for the first while.”

She blushed and smiled at him. “Thank you,” she murmured shyly.

He looked up at the others again. “You will stay a few star cycles this time, will you not?” he asked, standing. “Surely you could use the rest?”

“Yes, but not more than one or two,” Aldrich spoke up firmly. “We have been away for long enough.”

Lancaeriel looked up at him sharply, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. “You’re going to be leaving me?” she asked, choking on the final word.

Alyse knelt and put her arms around her. “You knew this was going to happen,” she murmured softly into her ear. “But you will not be alone. We will stay long enough to make sure that you are comfortable here.”

Comfortable would not have been the word Lancaeriel would have chosen, given the lack of trees or any semblance of comfort; but she knew what Alyse meant, that she would wait until she was comfortable with the people with whom she would be living, and she knew that it was more than she had a right to ask of her protectors. She hugged Alyse back and nodded into her shoulder.

“Where do you sleep now that there are no trees?” Aldrich was asking Coriander in the meanwhile.

The man gestured towards a dark area behind him. “We have found a way to make do,” he smiled. “With adjusted expectations, it is amazing just how much comfort you can find.” His smile widened. “Come, let me show you.”

And there was much to see. There were separate sleeping areas for single men and single women, and where there were couples (though they were few) they had their own small separate areas as well. The beds were woven frond mattresses, as Lancaeriel was accustomed to, and they had similarly woven blankets for them. They were situated on areas of rock that had been smoothed down so that they were actually the smoothest surfaces on which Lancaeriel had ever walked. With her boots as worn as they were, she was glad of that.

There was a single cooking and eating area with an oblong oval around a line of fire pits. More woven mats were placed around the circle, and in front of each of them was a small stone table for holding food.

“Everyone takes turns helping out with the cooking,” Coriander explained as they passed by. “There are a few among us who are skilled hunters, so it is rare that we lack for food.”

Aldrich and Alyse chose to stop there, as they needed nothing more from their guide, and Lancaeriel and Valdemar continued on with Coriander.

“Over there is where you will begin,” he said, nodding towards a group with more light than the rest. “When the druids first began their studies, Lady Nienna came to visit us and taught us about reading and writing, a way of recording our knowledge so that others may learn from us without needing us to be there with them.”

Lancaeriel wasn’t sure what that would entail, but she suspected it would be some kind of markings, like the trails left by people and animals that hunters followed to find what they were looking for.

“And there,” their guide went on, gesturing towards another area, “is where we make our own paper. It’s a bit of a walk, so we won’t go there today. It is an odorous process, so we prefer to keep it distant from our researching and living areas.”

“Understandable,” Valdemar chuckled. “I have had the misfortune of being near them while they were working – this before your change of terrain, of course.”

“In some ways, Melkor has made things easier for us,” Coriander smiled. Lancaeriel was amazed at how much the man seemed to smile – it was as if he never stopped, no matter what. How could Melkor have made anything better for anyone?

Catching her incredulous look, the man explained. “We’re all on the ground, so no need of going up and down trees, and now that the Great Trees have been extinguished, it’s easier to have fires closer together for better light and warmth. Additionally, all of this open space makes it far safer to experiment. We’ve had a few accidents, and … let’s just say that it is better there are no trees around.”

While he was speaking, a white light appeared near the area where the cooking fires were located. It was small at first, but grew in size and intensity until the entire area was lit, brighter than even the Trees had ever managed to illuminate the world. Then the light split into two, and then dimmed slightly, and at that point they were able to see the source of the light: two figures in elven shape, but with enormous wings folded behind their backs.

“Lord Manwë,” Lancaeriel breathed, amazed at seeing the Vala now that she already had her Gift. She didn’t recognize the other with him, though …

“Lady Varda,” Valdemar breathed, his eyes growing wide. At Coriander and Lancaeriel’s questioning looks, he explained, “She is Lord Manwë’s wife, the Lady of Light. It was she who created the Great Trees … but she has not been seen since then.”

“I wonder if her appearance has anything to do with the death of the Trees,” Coriander said to no one in particular. He changed direction and began leading the others back in the same direction from which they had come. “Let’s see what is going on.”

Lancaeriel hurried after the two men, both of which were far taller than she was, and soon enough they reached the Valar who had appeared. They weren’t the only ones there, either: Aldrich and Alyse were in conversation with them, and the other researchers were also gathering around.

Lancaeriel tugged on Valdemar’s sleeve to get his attention, and when he looked down at her, she gestured towards Aldrich and Alyse and whispered, “They’re talking like they’re old friends!”

Valdemar just smiled at her. “They are. Aldrich was the first of us, and he was the only one of us for a long time. He became quite close with the Valar.”

And before she had the time to think about just what that meant, Lord Manwë raised his hands and a hush fell over the crowd.

“You know by now that the Great Trees are dead,” he began. His voice was a mystery to Lancaeriel: light, yet deep; a whisper, yet booming; soft, yet strong. “When Lady Varda created the Trees, we never thought that they could be destroyed. Yet this is what has happened. Of all the elves, you know better than anyone the destruction he has wrought.” He paused and looked around at everyone who had gathered. “Even we Valar were astonished when he succeeded in destroying the Trees. For some time, we did not know what to do.”

“You, the Firstborn, were created to live forever,” Lady Varda took up his narration. Her voice was similar to his, loud and quiet at the same time, a whisper and a booming echo; but lighter, higher. She also looked around at those gathered as she spoke, and her gaze was so beautiful and so bright that Lancaeriel could hardly bear to look at her. “The Trees were intended to allow you to live without worry of time, as you had no need to know how the time was passing.”

She paused, circling slowly, and her expression changed slightly, a hint of sorrow showing through. “But there is a new race coming. The Secondborn of Eru, humans: a mortal race with but one short lifespan to live. For them and for you, and for all the creation, two new lights are coming. They will not be trees, for Melkor has already proven his power in destroying that which is created upon this earth: but they will be in the heavens, as the stars, where they cannot be touched by his evil.”

“As the stars, they will circle Arda, and they will be your method of knowing the passage of time,” Lord Manwë picked up for her. “The greater light will be called Sun, and by its light you shall have Day. The lesser light shall be called Moon, and its darkness, Night. They will coincide with the star cycles: one star cycle shall comprise one Day and one Night. It will bring you together in your activity and your rest, and the activity and the rest of all others.”

Lady Varda spoke again. “The Moon shall have a cycle of its own. Naught but a reflection of the sun’s light, its own light shall wax and wane. Twelve times it will cycle in a year, the word you currently use to describe the time it takes for an infant to learn to walk.”

The Valar fell silent then, and looked at each other; but no one else dared to speak yet, each of them wondering if there would be more to come.

There was.

“We know that there will be other changes as a result of this,” Lord Manwë said, speaking more slowly now, and looking around at everyone. “But I must confess that we are not certain of what those changes may be. We also do not experience this world as you do. Because of this, we ask your aid in learning what you can about those changes and in helping everyone to understand and learn to live well with these changes.”

All of the druids bowed their heads in respectful acknowledgement of the request, and one of the men said, “It would be our honour.”

Coriander bent over and whispered softly in Lancaeriel’s ear: “That is Achaar, our leader. He was the first to begin gathering people together to study, and he is the most knowledgeable of us.”

Lancaeriel took note of the man, trying to see and memorize his features so that she could later find and speak with him; but before she could glimpse anything beneath his cowl, Coriander added, “I will introduce you to him later.”

She nodded, grateful for his help in understanding things. She felt quite lost here with so many people, even with Aldrich and Alyse in sight and Valdemar by her side. She was so full of questions she could hardly wait to begin asking them.

But the Valar had not finished speaking, and so she had to wait.

“It will be several star cycles yet before these changes take places,” Lord Manwë was telling the group, “but you are forewarned. Change brings fear, and we wish to inform as many as possible before it takes place to spare them from that fear.”

“For that reason, we cannot stay,” Lady Varda concluded. “But we shall return.”

With a flash, she vanished. Lord Manwë, however, remained.

“Aldrich,” he said, looking directly at the man, “I would speak with you alone before I depart.”

“Of course, Lord Manwë,” Aldrich nodded; and the two of them walked off together.

Lancaeriel looked up at Valdemar and Coriander to see what would happen next. Coriander was looking at Valdemar and for the first time since she had met him, he was not smiling, but rather had a serious expression on his face.

“Take her and get her settled in,” he told Valdemar. “I have some people to talk to, but I’ll be back later.”

And as quickly as that, he was gone.

Valdemar looked down at Lancaeriel. “Come,” he smiled at her. “Let us find you a place to sleep.”
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