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The Falcon and the Star
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Prologue

Hear my prayer…and let my cry come unto thee…
For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth
Psalm 102 (1 and 3)


~~~

I walk across a darkling plain that is lit only by distant fires. The heat of the rocky surface stabs through the thick soles of my boots. When I stumble, I must stand up quickly, or my hands blister as I stop my fall on the rocks. The flames at least advance slowly and give the only light to be found in this place. When I turn to see the fires, perhaps half a league off, they fill my heart with great fear. How can I smell the distant smoke from here? It carries a charnel odor, of burning flesh. What dead have been burned, and who set the fires? The smell makes me want to flee. That urgency perhaps is good; it keeps me on my feet. I am parched, and there is no water anywhere. I have thirsted before. I can bear this heat. It would take several days to die of thirst. I have been here a day, a little more, perhaps…or is it merely a few hours? I truly do not know. At least my wound bleeds not, nor pains me much. Who drew forth the arrow? There was an arrow, was there not? So hot, it is hard to think clearly. No matter. I keep moving. The heat, the flames…they are not the worst thing.

I am not alone. Fell voices cry in the air, lamenting and cozening and threatening. And there is a voice I know all too well, and would answer, but I cannot puzzle out from where he calls. Yet since he calls, I know he still lives; and if he lives, and I can hear him, I will find him. There are other, bothersome, wights. But those fell presences are not the worst thing.

I know not where I am. It is troubling. When I try to get my bearings, try to remember exactly how long I have been here, the horizon blurs, the flames dim and the darkness recedes…shadows enmesh me as if I were walking in a cloud. The cursed fog leeches my strength, wracks me with heat and strange cold. And then all swirls about me and I am once more adrift in this fire-scored vale. Have I come this way before? The lack of direction disheartens me, yet it is still not the worst thing.

I try not to dwell on what has happened to my men, my home. There are no signs of the troops I led back across the Pelennor. We were so close to the City; we had fought for every step between the Forts and the Great Gate, paid that toll in blood, our foes' and our own. I fought a Southron captain; we were both mounted, and the arrow struck me. Is that not what happened? I thought I heard a trumpet sound, and Dol Amroth’s call, before I went down. That time is muddled in my head. I fell, and then I was here. I must believe that the swan-knights brought my company home…must believe that home is still there and not over-run by merciless orcs and trolls and cruel men. No, no. If I ponder such horror, I will weep, and stop in my tracks; and I dare not falter. There must be a way to leave this place! To go home... Still, even my fear and longing are not the worst things.

The worst thing is what I cannot see, no matter how hard I crane my neck to search the firmament. When the sullen clouds part, the skies are empty. Has the Enemy won then, seized back his Ring from those poor halflings whom I let go to Mordor with only a murderous guide to aid them? And if he won, did the Enemy claw the sun and moon from the heavens in his victory? I am lost, with no knowledge of place or time. And there are no stars. I shudder again and keep my eyes ahead, not look up lest I be overcome by dread. By the Valar who exist somewhere in a place still cool and green… If I die, let it be with the stars above my head. I will keep going, I will fight until I can no longer stand; but O, Elbereth, let me see the stars again!


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