To The End of Night
The temperature in the room dropped by a hundred degrees or so. Kalista's brow furrowed.
What the hell was that supposed to mean?
The grey haired man's gaze locked on hers with such intensity that she nearly took an unconscious step back. Shaking it off, she stood her ground and stared back - for about two seconds. Those eyes… they made her hands shake. Kalista looked down on them, in disbelief. Weak – afraid – he'd made her feel that with a glance. Souls below…
Magic! Kalista could smell it on him, thick and pungent. The old man had power, and wasn't shy about using it, either. What had he called himself? Gandalf? A moment passed, and Gandalf already loomed over the kneeling orc. Kalista balled her empty hands into fists. Quick and agile, for a man with one foot already in the grave.
"Rúk? Why would you call this woman by such a name, beast of Morgoth?" Gandalf asked. "Speak truthfully. If any falsehood should pass your lips, I will know of it."
Kalista found herself believing it, with a sinking feeling in her gut.
Rurbag shrunk away from his approach, teeth bared. A broad shouldered man, a shield strapped to his back, grabbed the orc by the arms and forced him to still. Snap his scrawny neck and save me the bother.
"Human? You sure 'bout that wizard?" Rurbag made a harsh sound in the back of his throat and spat on the ground. "Could 'ave fooled me."
Kalista felt her stomach drop.
The man standing guard over the orc narrowed his eyes and pushed Rurbag to the ground. "Explain yourself, or die." He growled. "I leave the choice to you."
"You kill me, now, and you'll never know." The orc pointed her way, "She ain't likely to yap 'bout it."
That double-crossing bastard. That the orc would sell her out came as no surprise, just that fact that she managed to walk into it so easily.
A musical voice spoke up. The tones vibrated on a higher frequency than human ones – it made her ears ring. "Let him speak. My knife, or your axe, Gimli, will find him soon enough. What does a moment more matter?"
"Aye," 'Gimli' said, clutching the throwing axe, now in his left hand. "The elf has a point. Very well then, let the orc speak, but be warned; I care not what he says or what information he offers. As far as this dwarf is concerned, he has long since drawn his last breath." The words lingered. "He is naught but a walking corpse."
Rurbag straightened and hissed, "You need a shara's say-so to kill me, dwarf?"
The orc struggled with his bonds and winced – Kalista knew he would. She had rigged the ropes to tighten when he moved. The son of a bitch had to be in some considerable pain by now... The thought brought a smile to her lips.
Rurbag continued, "Better bend down for a buggering too, then." A sneer bared his rotting teeth. "Ain't that right, dwarf?" When he couldn't move his arms, Rurbag rotated his shoulder blades slowly instead. "You wait for his say so before you take a piss, I reckon."
Real smart. Kalista stopped herself from groaning out loud – it figured that the rat wouldn't have the good sense to keep his mouth shut.
Gimli's eyes flashed, his jaw clenched. He muttered something low, before saying, "Ask your questions, Gandalf." Slowly, the axe lowered. "Quickly."
The man standing guard grabbed the orc by the back of the neck and pushed him down. "Do not try our patience, beast," he said. "You will find it lacking." Rurbag's head snapped back, sharp teeth flashing.
In the brief struggle, the rotting material of Rurbag's shirt tore open and a shining pendant, hanging on a silver chain, both of exquisite craftsmanship, appeared. Kalista's eyebrows arched up. Nice. It stood out, to say the least; a jeweler's dream, against the background of rotting clothes, and crude armor... Trouble ahead.
At the sight, Gimli took a slow breath, his lips parted, and a low, rumbling sound tore from his throat. "Ori's pendant! I would know it amongst a hundred others by the mithril in its center. He would never part with it." A pause. "He is dead, then." A moment more and the throwing axe already moved in his hand.
Rurbag leaned back, swayed on his knees and tried to twist away; to escape the depth of hatred behind the dwarf's eyes.
Good luck. Kalista had seen such hate before – there could be no escaping it. But… A shiver ran through her. Visible, boiling rage… only three steps away. And she couldn't feel even a twinge of it. Nothing. This close, it should have set her blood on fire. Two years she'd lived with this… curse. Sent prayers without count to gods she wouldn't worship to be rid of it. Sent silent pleas to her once-God, but he'd stopped listening decades ago. Screamed curses when all prayers went unanswered. Withdrawn into silence as time went on. Then came to depend on it. Made it her strength.
Be careful what you wish for – isn't that what they say – you might just get it.
In that split second, Rurbag glanced her way - so now he wanted her help. Hells, the mood she was in, she'd cheer short stack on while he tore the orc limb from limb. The sight of Rurbag's ugly head bouncing of the pavement could have brightened up an otherwise lousy day… and save her having to face questions best left unanswered.
Rurbag deserved whatever pain came his way. That was a given. Her senses were off here… More than off. I'm standing naked, deaf and blind in the dark... Kalista shook the thought away. Regardless, the evil son of a bitch deserved to be put down sooner rather then later.
Unfortunately, this particular evil son of a bitch just happened to be her guide.
The axe flew from the dwarf's fingers, right towards the orc. Kalista moved forward, sharply to the side, catching it, only inches from her skin; a one second delay in her reflexes and the axe would have gutted her, level with Rurbag's head. The dwarf had good aim; she had to give him that.
"Gimli!" The wizard's voice rang out.
"I warned you once," Gimli ground out. The dwarf stood his ground, legs spread, balanced, head held high. Dangerous. "I will not say it again." One step forward. "Step aside."
Or else. The rest of them seemed to agree with that. Saving Rurbag's hide turned out to be a full time job. Kalista's fingers tightened on the axe hilt. "As much as I would like to see Rurbag shortened by a few inches, preferably from the top down, I wouldn't advise it just yet." Not while she needed him. Who could tell if these men knew how to find their way out? She wouldn't risk it, wouldn't trust them to lead her. Trust could – would – get you killed. The Awakening had drilled that lesson into her.
"Going out on a limb here, I'll say none of us are thinking of taking up permanent residence in this hell hole," Kalista said. "If you want to leave this place alive, you'll listen."
Still nearly shaking with rage, the dwarf took another step towards her. "Step aside." The low tones almost made her reconsider.
Kalista remained where she was, careful to appear motionless, but repositioned her fingers on the hilt. Throwing axes were not her weapons of choice, but at this distance, she wouldn't miss her target. For all the good it would do her; short stack's death would only lead to a whole new set of problems.
Don't blow this. "I'm doing you a favor," Kalista said, softening her voice. Believe it or not. "The rat knows his way around these caverns and can show us a way to the surface," a glance towards the wizard, "If you let him."
"You would trust that to lead you?" the broad shouldered man asked, his voice drifting in from behind, heavy with contempt. Thinking her insane, no doubt. Kalista didn't take it personally – she couldn't have cared less for his opinion. Rurbag alone, she could handle. These men… she wasn't too sure of that.
Shrugging, she answered, "There is zero trust involved in this arrangement." Her boot connected with the side of Rurbag's head on the last word – he groaned and doubled over. Good. "If he tries something stupid, he's dead. He knows that." Backstab me again, and you'll wish I'd let them kill you. "I'm getting out of here – alive." Kalista pointed at Hithriel, "We both are. And if I have to bargain with this," a glance at the orc, "to do that, that's fine by me."
Seeing the dwarf's expression darken further and the dark haired man's lip curl – distaste? - she added, "Do you have a problem with that?"
Short stack looked about ready to gut her, but the broad shouldered man spoke up, "Indeed, we do." He shifted to adjust the shield strapped to his back and grabbed the end of the rope that bound the orc. "Do not think us eager to trust anything you say." A pause. "Do not cross your bounds, woman. None of us have love for those who would side with orcs."
Rurbag hissed out something in that guttural tongue of his, and the man pulled on the makeshift leash. Digging his heals in, the orc refused to climb to his feet. The rope tightened around his throat – ashen, the rat struggled for breath, before the man noticed what he was doing and loosened the rope. Released, Rurbag coughed violently, drawing the air into his lungs with abandon.
Fact of life number one, Darius had said, at times it pays to keep ones big mouth shut.
A wave of fatigue crashed over her again, and Kalista braced herself, not allowing it to show. Never show weakness. Kalista sneered at the man instead. "There wasn't an abundance of other options available. I'm sorry if my unseemly struggle for survival offends your delicate sensibilities."
Fact of life number one – once again blatantly ignored. Darius' raspy voice rang in her head, Damn it, girl! Don't go with the first thing that pops in your head; think first. And in case you can't manage it, keep your damn mouth shut till spoken to. You get in enough trouble as it is… Pass the bottle. Her lips stretched into an unwilling smile. Darius had his moments… before he screwed up her life beyond repair. Him and that pile of horse dung, Galliano.
Gimli kept his eyes on her – oh, that look again. Out for blood – both hers and the rat's. The man's eyes narrowed to slits, his hand reached for a sword hilt and lingered there. Kalista considered her options and frowned; none appealed to her much.
Fact of life number two. Necessary choices are never pleasant. All you can do is choose the one least likely to come back and bite you in the ass. And fact was, without Rurbag, she had no way of getting out if they turned on her. Like it or not, she needed to keep the vermin alive.
"Boromir," another voice rang out, "Calmly, friend. There is much that is unknown here." That dark-haired man… She'd attacked him, moments before. When he glanced her way, Kalista dropped her head, unwilling to meet his eyes.She warned him – someone – stay away. She had. Then a scent engulfed her, male, strong, vibrant… A warm, breathing body next to hers. Close, then closer. Touching. And she was not made of stone. Everything blurred – except the tantalizing feel of a pulse beneath her teeth, living blood rushing up to meet her lips, and the rapid sound of a heartbeat ringing in her ears. Blood on fire, aching. The body beneath hers – nothing more then a pulsing mass of flesh, muscle and bone; gloriously alive.
And she wanted it.
A shake of the head, and Kalista rid herself of the memory. Just like that – habit, now. Did he know? If not for Hithriel, if she hadn't taken that backpack with that poison – the junk still moved through her veins, little jagged shards of glass – he would have met his ancestors by nightfall. The sun was still high, outside – she could feel it.
"Who are you?" the man-that-should-be-dead asked, keeping a cautious distance between them.
What are you, he meant. Keeping a civil tongue for once, she answered, "Kalista." She supposed they could skip the 'pleased to meet you' part. A pointed look the elf's way followed. "I don't suppose you would consider not aiming at me?" Not even a twinge of acknowledgment. "And you are?" As if it mattered.
"It is not our custom to introduce ourselves to spies of the Enemy."
What enemy? "I am not anybody's spy," Kalista said. "Rurbag is a means to an end, nothing more..."
The broad-shouldered man, Boromir, cut her off. "And what would that end be, I wonder?"
Kalista suppressed the urge to sigh. "Do you need to hear it again?" Pointing at Hithriel, she shook her head. "Ask her. She's the one who got me into this mess in the first place."
"It is true," Hithriel said, stepping forward. About sodding time. "The only reason she agreed to the orc's company was to find a way out of this miserable place. We had no hope of doing so on our own."
Hithriel crossed the distance separating them, step by slow step, and took Kalista's hand. With a kind of firm gentleness, Hithriel made her let go of the dwarf's axe, took it and placed it carefully on the ground. Too tired to really care, she allowed it. "There is no need to bear his company any longer. By a fortunate chance, we have stumbled upon far worthier companions." Ernest eyes met Kalista's. "They will lead us to safety."
Right. Or to our deaths.
Out loud, she said, "Lead us where?" Kalista turned to face the wizard — the leader of the group by her guess. "Unless… You are familiar with the layout of this place?"
Gandalf approached them, head bobbing while he walked. "I am familiar with it. But, there are matters that need to be resolved first." His eyes met hers, and this time, Kalista found herself unable to look away. Frozen in place – helpless. And people asked why she hated magic!
"Speak of your intent." His voice resonated inside her mind, the echo making her temples throb. "Tell me, do I have cause to bind you with rope and spell; leaving you behind for the safety of us all?"
A word repeated in her mind; ruk. This time, she knew what it meant. A question. Raw power radiated from the wizard's body, making her skin tingle and crawl – a taste of what the old man was capable of. There could be no fighting her way out of this. "I don't mean any of you harm," Kalista forced the words out. At Gandalf's slight frown, she conceded, "Unless you attack me first. Then, all bets are off."
Bushy eyebrows knitted closer together. More questions followed. "Do you intend to betray us to the orcs? Are you a spy of Sauron?"
Questions she wouldn't have to lie about – some luck at last. "No, on both counts." Who the hell was Sauron? Her eyes wouldn't close; she couldn't even blink. Get out of my head!
Gandalf maintained eye contact for a few more intense seconds and then looked away. "I am satisfied," he said. "For now. You may journey to the surface with us."
The pressure on her mind eased, then dissipated as the morning mist. Kalista took a deep, unneeded breath. Son of a bitch…
"Are you sure of this, Gandalf?" The dark haired man looked unconvinced. "Can we afford to take such a gamble?"
"Whoever she is, she is not in league with the Enemy. That much I can tell. Would you have me leave her here?"
A reluctant shake of the head followed the long silence.
"It is settled then," said Gandalf.
Kalista heard Hithriel release a long breath and turned to see the girl smile at the wizard. "Le hannon, Mithrandir," she said, bowing slightly.
The blond elf lowered his bow – about time – Kalista's eyes glanced further, and the dark haired man sheathed his sword without another word. Boromir voiced his concerns. "I do not like this, Gandalf. And I do not trust this woman." He paused and threw back his shoulders. "But I have faith you will not lead us astray." The torch-light glinted off his shield. "Very well, she will travel with us."
Silent, the dwarf crossed the distance that separated them – Kalista balanced on the balls of her feet – and retrieved his axe. When he secured it, Kalista saw he carried two smaller axes in leather loops on his belt; these sat at his left-hand side, making it easy to draw the weapons quickly when needed. Smart. Efficient. Throwing axes had their uses - they would have served well when faced with an opponent armed with a bow, or in close combat, when short stack couldn't swing his main axe.
Be careful of him.
The dwarf fingered the sharp edge and cast a hateful glance her way. "I will be watching you," he rumbled. "Pray that I find something to my liking." Gimli turned and walked away.
"Where were you taking them?" Kalista heard the wizard ask the orc.
"To the Eastern Gate." Rurbag covered away from the old man.
"And from this corridor; what path would you have them take?"
The orc slowly pointed at the gateway leading downwards and Gandalf nodded, seeming uncertain. "That is the path I would take also."
Quiet, the dwarf stepped forward. "Gandalf." A warning. "We have no need of the orc." The heavy axe pointed forward - Gimli gripped the hilt with both hands.
Kalista spoke up, "His friends patrol the mines." That drew the wizard's attention. "We'd want to avoid them." Short stack looked about ready to shorten her by a head. "And the rat knows where they are." The words lingered.
"Gandalf..." The gruff tone spoke volumes. The dwarf took the old man aside; the two soon became engaged in an animated conversation. Kalista had little doubt what it was about. Craving revenge – she could relate to that. The dwarf was welcome to his… as soon as Rurbag's usefulness wears out.
The dark haired man leaned against the wall on her right. "Do not think us fools," he said, watching her. "You will have but this one chance." His hand lingered on his belt. "No more." The other rose up to rub the side of his neck. Would he ask her about that?
When gray eyes found hers, Kalista found it difficult to look away – strength without malice. She'd forgotten that such a thing existed. Sure as hell hadn't seen it in the sanctimonious prigs she'd had to put up with for the past two years. Protectors of mankind, my lily white ass. Their protection had a price-tag attached to it, at least where she'd been concerned. They'd never forgotten what she had been. What she still was. But they'd found a use for it.
"One chance is all I need," Kalista finally said.
He pushed away from the wall and stepped towards her. "But what will you use it for?"
Two throwing knives were still sheathed in her arm-sheets, securely fastened. "That depends entirely on you people, doesn't it?"
His hands lowered to rest against his sides before the man nodded, once. Subject dropped – but the topic was far from closed. The old man came back, Gimli in tow, the dwarf's mouth set in a thin, angry line. He muttered something in his beard, curses by Kalista's guess, and sat on a boulder, eyes trained on the orc. Soon, they said, soon, I will have your head.
As long as soon didn't turn into now, Kalista could live with that.
Gandalf faced the orc. "You will show us how to avoid the patrols."
A murmur of voices drifted in from the back of the room – four… children? It couldn't be. Rurbag said nothing, but nodded in turn, subdued for the moment. It wouldn't last long; the orc had a tendency to run his mouth.
The old man continued, "I will know if you try and deceive us."
Boromir looked about ready to say something, then shook his head. the rest did not voice their objections. That was done, then. A backup plan, in case this bargain backfired. Kalista crouched to pick up the backpack, and slung it over her shoulder. The rest of the vials were there – she'd need them. But they wouldn't last indefinitely.
"Ahem!" Her head snapped back; a remarkably short man stood before her. A man, not a child, as she'd thought before. He inquired with barely concealed excitement, "Are there hobbits where you come from?"
Kalista frowned. "Hobbits?" Why do I bother?
He smiled at her, unperturbed, and pointed at himself and his three other – short – companions in answer. "We are hobbits, or as some call us, Halflings." An expectant pause followed. "From the Shire."
Did he think the words would hold some meaning for her? "And?" Kalista was in no mood for making small-talk.
The... hobbit looked decidedly disappointed and moved back, closer to his companions, his eyes still on her. Unafraid. Interesting. Now that she had the opportunity to examine them without a sword at her throat, Kalista wondered how she made the mistake of taking them for children, even in that split second glance. Exceptionally short, granted, even more so then short stack, not even four feet in height, but unmistakably adults. Their body build leaned towards stoutness, yet the hobbits were remarkably well proportioned. Children or adults, it didn't matter – Kalista dismissed them as a possible threat.
When she glanced further down, Kalista arched an eyebrow in surprise. Their feet -- bare and covered in curly hair. How the soles hadn't been reduced to bloody scraps of skin while they climbed amongst the sharp rocks that filled most of the mines was a mystery. Obviously, the little... the hobbits were more resilient than they appeared.
The wizard's voice shook Kalista from her musings... Musings -- exhaustion masquerading as idle thought.
"Strider," A shout meant for the dark haired man. "We should keep moving. There is no telling what creatures could have overheard all this commotion." Gandalf gave her a pointed look she chose to ignore. "Our meeting in the dark did not take place in a quiet fashion. Indeed, I would be surprised if none took notice of it."
With an uncomfortable shrug, Kalista fell in stride with him, keeping a discreet distance. The rest of them followed, Hithriel close to the other elf, a hand on his arm. The man the wizard called Strider took point, surveying the darkness that lay in their path, the hobbits several paces behind him, protected by the dwarf's axe. Boromir guarded the orc, keeping him on a short leash and every once in a while cast distrusting glances her way.
Fine by me. Kalista planned keeping a wary eye on him as well.
Only fools can afford to trust… fools and the dead.
Kalista leaned back, against the wall.
"Where did you say the pass on the right would lead us to?" the old man asked.
Rurbag struggled against his bonds again, a habit he had acquired. Not that the effort would do him much good – there could be no wiggling or breaking out of the knots she'd tied. But it figured that the rat would grow to like the pain. "To the Eastern Gates, wizard. Where else?"
Gandalf glanced down, at the orc. "More detail would be welcome."
He looked at her, next. Magic, again! Kalista's skin tingled and crawled. Tell me… the eyes said. Tell him what? More tests? If she had known anything about the layouts of the mines, or the orcs that inhabited them, it would have all blurted out of her. Stop. The pressure on her mind continued, slow and steady. Don't… Stop. He pressed her, yes... but it wasn't her answer that he wanted. The old man glanced down again.
The orc slumped down under the wizard's gaze, his back bending beneath an unknown weight, the mocking light in his eyes going out. "We'll get to the upper mines…" a pained grunt, "…after fifteen miles or so, I reckon. After that, it's a day's walk to the Gates." He nearly crawled on all fours before the old man, who nodded and turned away.
Kalista felt the mist clear from her mind as soon as she found herself facing the wizard's back, the hazy compulsion to do anything, all, that he would want of her disappeared. A growl rose in the back of her throat, fingers twisted into claws. How many times would the bastard do that?
"And what of these other corridors?" Boromir questioned, not satisfied. "Where do they lead?"
Rurbag shook his head, emitting a low sound. Inch by inch, he straightened. "To a bunch of Uruks just waitin' to make maggot holes in your belly. Go an' look," the orc spat.
Strider placed a calming hand on the other man's arm. "Peace, Boromir," he said, "do not let the creature bait you." At length, the man nodded, but not before sending a scathing look in Rurbag's direction.
"What are their numbers and positions?" Strider asked.
Eyes narrowing, Rurbag busied himself with his bonds. "To the left, you'd be comin' to a camp after 10 miles or so. I ain't sure of the number of Uruks there but could be close to fifty. Depends on the day. The middle one just leads to a huge gapin' hole in the ground." A thin smile, "You can all go there an' take a flyin' leap for all I care."
Kalista saw Gandalf nod with some satisfaction. "He is telling the truth as he knows it. Although, his manner could do with some improvement." The wizard sighed and sat down abruptly. "I am too weary to decide," he said, shaking his head. "And I expect that you are all as weary as I am, or wearier. We had better halt here for what is left of the night."
Kalista's knees just about buckled at the wizard's announcement. After staying awake for fifty four hours straight, she was near ready to collapse on the first available surface. And those hours had been far from uneventful.
Weariness seeped into her bones. But if she fell asleep -- the others scrambled about the open hallway -- she would be defenseless. And she trusted this lot just about as far as she could throw them.
Her hand sneaked to the gun strapped to her thigh, giving it a reassuring pat. They didn't think to take that away, presumably because they didn't know what it was. Hithriel knew, but didn't volunteer any information. Two throwing knives rested within her arm-sheets, securely fastened; they didn't take those either. Small mercies. She'd hate being unarmed in a place such as this.
As she walked past Rurbag, he spoke up. "You likin' your new friends man-brat?" The rat grinned, showing his rotting teeth. "Cause I get the feelin' they don't like you much." With a quick movement, Kalista grabbed the back of his head and introduced her knee to his face. The tension left her muscles, suddenly.
I needed that.
Boromir, who still guarded the orc, stiffened with surprise, but didn't comment otherwise.
Determined not to succumb to the lure of dreams, Kalista lowered herself to the ground, her legs stretched out before her. Something light fell over her lap. A blanket – her fingers trailed over the rough material. She inclined her head in Strider's direction in acknowledgement; he returned the gesture with some wariness.
Most of the blanked ended up piled beneath her, to provide some protection from the hard surface. The gun strapped to her thigh was within easy reach, she made sure of that. Covered by the blanket, Kalista moved one of the knives to the waistband of her pants, on her lower back. That done, she relaxed, somewhat. Then fragments of conversation drifted in within her earshot – Hithriel and that elf.
"Do not fear," he said. "Estelio nin."
Before they could say more, Strider joined the two. "Is everything well?" the elf asked, moving to make room.
Smiling, the man sat beside them and made himself comfortable. "As well as can be expected," he answered. "Pippin took first watch at the entrance and I fear for our safety if another urge overtakes him," Strider shook his head; dark strands of hair whirled through the air. "Valar protect us from over inquisitive hobbits."
Both of the elves glanced in the hobbit's direction. Pippin, as they called him, sat hunched by the door, wrapped in a blanket. He could be heard berating himself quietly from time to time.
With a small smile still playing on his lips, Strider said, "You are proficient in the Common tongue. I thought it rare among the elves of Lorien," he questioned, turning slightly to face Hithriel.
"It is true; not many of the Galadhrim choose to learn the tongue of men," Hithriel said. "I was thought something of an oddity when I expressed my desire to learn Westron, but my father soon found someone to tutor me. I found it a joy to learn." A faint flush of embarrassment colored her cheeks.
Kalista couldn't help but snort lightly at the sight, and Hithriel's head snapped up; she had heard the sound.
Their eyes met, and Hithriel frowned. "Excuse me a moment. Legolas. Strider." She climbed to her feet with intrinsic grace and made her way to where Kalista rested - leave me alone - sliding to the ground beside her.
"Why do you not sleep?" Hithriel asked. "I know you are weary."
Kalista glanced at her with half lidded eyes. "I have this irrational desire to live past tomorrow."
The elf gave a light laugh and placed a gentle hand on her still bloodied cheek. Kalista flinched away. Did the girl think she was kidding?
A slow shake of the head followed, and Hithriel rose taking a step back. "Do not fear, friend," she said. "We are safe with them. Sleep now." Her voice -- so soothing, with an odd edge to it.
Kalista found it increasingly difficult to keep her eyes open; a tired yawn escaped her. Eyes drifted shut.
The last thing she remembered before sinking into the darkness of sleep was Hithriel's voice.
And the world faded away.
Ruk – demon
Shara – human
Le hannon – I thank you
Estelio nin – trust in me
Losto mae – sleep well
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.