Triumvirate: 2. Chapter One: The Mirror

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2. Chapter One: The Mirror

EARLIER…

Whenever Aaron woke up in the morning and looked out his window, he was struck
with the absurd thought that he was not in Kansas anymore.

It was difficult not to think this way when the view outside his window was the
magnificent city of Tirion constructed by the Noldor and Vanya elves on top of
the hill of Túna in Calacirya, the Pass of Light. The city was a construct of
white pearl and crystal, with jewel-encrusted walls and terraces with pristine
gardens. It stood high enough for its occupants to enjoy a panoramic view of
the sea as well as the equally breathtaking Pelóri Mountains. Whenever Aaron
found himself greeted by the resplendent beauty of this ancient land, there was
a brief moment when he wondered if he was truly awake or was this all a product
of a particularly enchanting dream.

After a year in Valinor, it was still a difficult thing to distinguish.

Since their arrival in Valinor, the mysterious land built by the Valar in ages
so far in the distant past, it could not even be considered pre-history, Aaron
had found his perceptions of the world altering drastically on a daily basis.
Everything he had ever thought he knew about the world, which the elves called
Arda, was nothing akin to the truth. He was a product of twentieth century
thinking, where Darwinism and physical science purportedly had all the answers
to one's role in the scheme of things. Until that fateful day when he had
unknowingly accepted the charge of a new patient whom he had labelled Moses,
Aaron had never considered that what he knew amounted to very little.

It was a little more than a year after that day and Aaron found, not only the
woman that he knew he would spend the rest of his life with, but he was sharing
that life with her in a place with whom not even dreams could compare. Since
their arrival in Valinor, Aaron and Eve had been permanent additions to the
House of Elrond in the city of Tirion, in the lands of Valinor called Eldamar,
the portion of the Undying Lands allotted to the elves. Aaron did not think he
would ever be able to wrap his mind around the notion that the elves shared the
same island with their gods. However, as far as he understood it, the pantheon
of gods the elves referred to as the Valar were apparently created by a higher
power called Iluvutar who did not reside on the same plane as any of his
creations.

As a psychiatrist, this was the hardest concept for him to grasp, the fact that
he and Eve were the only modern humans to be provided with irrefutable proof
that there was a supreme being and that the afterlife was not a fanciful
construct of organized religion but a reality that was awaiting them some day.
There was life after death because he and Eve were living proof of it. They had
been a hundred thousand years ago, Aragorn Elessar and Arwen Evenstar, lovers
bound in fate and time that had found each other again.
However, he was happy to have his beliefs challenge because living in Valinor
meant that he could hear the Valar sing.

And for that privilege alone, he would have believed anything.

Living in Valinor was like taking a step through time, to a more innocent age.
There was a profound sense of reverence for all living things so therefore the
land was cherished and nurtured. The elves constructed wondrous cities that
appeared to blend into the natural beauty of Valinor instead of against it. It
was a place dedicated to music, artistry and thought, a monument to civilisation
once greed, lust and war were forgotten. Aaron had never thought he would
experience this peace in his lifetime but in Valinor it was not an ideal to be
pursued, it was a way of life.

In his youth, he had backpacked across Europe and though the old world had built
great cities, compared to the majesty of Tirion, Valimar and Alqualonde, they
seemed crude and unfinished. Yet it was more than just the architecture and
land that made Valinor so remarkable, it was an understanding that even though
they lived apart from the world, they cared what happened to it. T

Aaron wished that the rest of the world could feel the same way.

At first, he had thought he would never get accustomed to living in this place
because he was too much a product of his race to ever be content with the
serenity of Valinor. However, Elrond and Celebrian had welcomed Eve and him into
their home, treated them both like long lost kin which in truth they were and
opened a whole new way of existence to them. There was so much to see, so much
to learn. Aaron upon discovering that Elrond was a healer had spent a good deal
of time with the elven lord, letting Elrond teach him what he knew.

Elrond had said with a smile, that he would be happy to share his knowledge with
Aaron again.

There were portraits of Aragorn and Arwen in Elrond’s house and Aaron were
struck by how closely he resembled the very accomplished king he saw on the
canvas. The man who was adventurer, woodsman, healer and king who had brought to
end a thousand years of uncertainty for his people and had made his kingdom a
beacon of light for centuries until the dark ages had reclaimed the world. It
was no wonder that Legolas had recognised him immediately. They were almost
identical, even without the four days growth that Aragorn wore on his face.
Aaron would have thought being king might actually require the man to shave but
supposed in those days, grooming was not exactly a high point, even for a king.

It was Arwen’s portrait that took his breath away however. Eve was beautiful to
him in away that transcended physical appearance but when he saw the Evenstar
for the first time, he could very well understand what had driven Aragorn
Elessar to move heaven and earth to make the lovely elf maiden his. Though they
were identical in appearance there was something luminescent about the Evenstar
when she looked at him from the canvas. It was able to make one forget body and
soul just by being in her presence. Elrond had said that she was the fairest elf
maiden of her day and Aaron could very well believe it. He tried to imagine
Aragorn at twenty, meeting this vision of beauty and realised the future king
never really had a chance but to be smitten by her.

It pleased Aaron to know that the king in the portrait did win his elf maiden
and that they lived a long life together. It gave Aaron hope that even when his
own life was done, somehow he and Eve would find each other again. The hope of
that made death a little easier to bear.

When he was not learning the healing arts with Elrond, he went travelling with
Legolas who was eager to show he and Eve, the richness of the Undying Lands.
From Eldamar, they sailed to Tol Eressea and Alqualonde on the Anemone, the
vessel Aaron and Eve had sailed to bring Legolas, Elrohir and Elladan home to
Valinor. They walked the woods of Orome and visited the gardens of Lorien where
Gandalf who went by the name of Olorin on these shores, resided. If Aaron had
thought living in this utopia would have stagnated him, he was highly mistaken
because there were aeons of knowledge in Valinor that appreciated a new mind to
shape.

The exchange was mutual however because the elves were thirsty for knowledge
regarding the outside world despite their decision to remain in cloistered in
their eternal paradise. As the Firstborn who had taught all the other races the
power of speech, they had been eager to learn English and any other language
that Aaron and Eve was able to teach them. It was quite something to discover a
group of elves trying to conjugate verbs in Spanish and even more startling to
hear them attempting to speak it. Aaron would tell them about man’s progress
(such as it was) since the early days of civilisation. Some of them had ventured
forth from Valinor as late as three thousand years ago and found nothing they
could consider progress, which was why none had wanted to return since.

Unfortunately, Aaron and Eve’s stories about a mechanized, urban world with its
threats of deforestation, environmental pollution, thermonuclear Armageddon and
global warming did not improve their view that the world had not changed for the
better. In truth, as the two humans described it to their immortal companions,
Aaron could not help thinking that they were right. How the Valar regarded these
tales, Aaron was uncertain but Gandalf seemed to think that the recent excursion
beyond Valinor had given them much food for thought.

It was quite a sobering experience to know that the gods walked among them, that
to look up the peak of the eastern Pelóri Mountains was to see Taniquetil, the
home of the Valar gods Manwe and Varda. The gods in Valinor co-existed in the
same manner that English lords might have ruled their lands in medieval times,
taking active part in the lives of their people but remaining separate
nonetheless, the class distinction being replaced by deification. Fortunately,
while the Valar were held in reverence, they regarded the elves the way parents
would watch over children. They moved about formlessly for most part but could
take on corporeal form whenever they needed to converse with the elves or some
other duty that required a physical presence.

The Valar that did make himself known to Aaron and Eve was Aulë, who appeared to
them in the guise of a big, fiery haired man who looked as if he had walked out
of a movie about Vikings. He had a booming voice, a red bead and a fascination
for everything on board the Anemone. As he went through the motor yacht,
examining everything from the ice cream scoop to the television and video
recorder, he demanded explanation on how it all worked, how it was made, what
materials were used to make it. Explaining plastics to a god had very nearly
sent Aaron into therapy himself.

In fact the trawler-style motor yacht that they had used to sail to Valinor was
a source of great fascination to all the elves, particularly the Teleri who
lived in Tol Eressea and an elf Legolas introduced to them as Cirdan who in his
day, had been a master ship builder. Cirdan, like the Teleri had built the
great ships that brought the elves to Valinor. During the first few weeks of
Aaron and Eve’s arrival, many had come to the main island just to inspect the
vessel.

The Teleri found the Anemone functional and luxurious in its comforts though not
very aesthetic. After seeing some of the magnificently crafted ships in their
harbour, Aaron could understand why. Sleek, long and grey, when looking at them
through the mists a man could be forgiven for thinking that he was staring at a
great bird gliding through the water. The ships were graceful in their
construction with a quality about them that was as enchanted as the rest of
Valinor.

Aaron was to learn later that technically speaking, the Anemone should not have
been able to reach Valinor at all. Only a vessel made in the manner of the
Teleri elves could make the crossing. The construction of the magical grey ships
was imbued with the power to reach Valinor, which was why no ship was able to
breach the curtains that kept Valinor in its isolated dimension. However,
Gandalf had explained that the Valar had anticipated the Anemone’s arrival
following their part in uncovering Melkor’s presence on this earth and were more
than happy to open the gateway to bring them to Valinor.

However, Aaron sensed that there was more to it when Gandalf had made this
explanation, though he could not say what had precipitated this suspicion. The
psychiatrist in him was too much a student of behaviour to miss the slight
nuances in the Maia’s manner when he made this revelation. After all, in the
real world, Gandalf had been his patient and though it was probably completely
unnecessary, Aaron still felt a professional obligation to the old man. He was
certain that there was something Gandalf was hiding but despite Aaron’s
insistence, Gandalf remaining maddeningly tight lipped about it.

In the end, Aaron shrugged it off and decided Gandalf would tell him when he was
ready.

Until the day that Aaron was summoned to the house of Celeborn and Galadriel.

When Haldir, devoted march warden of Galadriel and Celeborn, escorted him to
their presence, Aaron did not know what to think. In truth, it was Galadriel who
had made the request for his presence but that made little difference in the
scheme of things. Being summoned by Galadriel, former Lady of Lothlorien, Noldor
Princess and grandmother to Arwen Evenstar, was not to be taken lightly. In the
months since his arrival in Valinor, Aaron had come to learnt that the lady did
not make summonses lightly even though they saw each other often when Galadriel
came to visit Eve, whom she considered her granddaughter.

A summons was a formal request made only when there was something of great
importance to be discussed and Aaron wondered what business he could have with
the great lady to warrant that.

While Aaron was more than happy to acquiesced to her summons, he was
apprehensive as well. That nagging sensation in the back of his mind that told
him Gandalf was keeping some secret from him had returned with a vengeance when
he was led to the mansion occupied by the Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel.
Like all the buildings in Tirion, this one was carved out of ivory and pearl and
yet looked perfectly natural against the backdrop of tall trees, overhanging
branches and vines, laden with flowers. His journey through the mansion came to
an end in Galadriel’s garden, a place with soft verdant grass, multi-coloured
flowering shrubs and strong, trees whose leaves clenched together to form a
canopy overhead that gave plenty of cool shade.

Galadriel stood before an ornate pedestal holding a silver basin and an equally
silver ewer next to it. An exquisitely beautiful woman with cascading hair of
gold, she had more regal dignity in her one finger than the entire royal family
of England since the Tudors. It was difficult to imagine that she was already
ancient when the elves had left the world because she did not look all that much
older than him. However, one only had to look into her eyes to see the great
wisdom of her years.

Standing next to Galadriel was Gandalf and the expression on their faces at
seeing him was severe. Something was wrong, Aaron concluded immediately to
himself.

“You asked to see me,” Aaron addressed Galadriel after she had dismissed Haldir,
his gaze shifting briefly in Gandalf’s direction as he spoke.

“It was I who requested that Galadriel summon you here Aaron,” Gandalf answered
before Galadriel could.

“Why?” Aaron asked, feeling a tightening in his chest. Was it time for Eve and
him to return to the outside world? Were they being asked to leave? Aaron prayed
it was not because he rather liked being in Valinor, there was so much to learn,
so many people he had come to care for here. It would hurt Eve to leave the
people behind she considered her family, Elrond, Celebrian and so many others.

“Still your heart Aaron,” Galadriel said smoothly and as always her words
reached into his heart with ease. “You are welcome here for as long you live,
you need never fear being turned away from this place.”

Galadriel was one of the few people capable of appreciating that Aaron was not
Aragorn Elessar, the Elfstone but rather a person in his own right who was in
possession of an old soul. It was one of the main difficulties that Aaron had
encountered since arriving at Valinor and finding himself surrounded by elves
that remembered his earlier incarnation. Only a few people could see that it
made him uncomfortable to be bombarded with a history that he did not remember,
even though he could feel the person he had been at times. Galadriel reminded
him of an old college professor he had once, who seemed capable of listening
with good humour to the youthful prattling of all his students and offered
advice not as a teacher but as a friend.

Aaron had become accustomed to Galadriel’s ability to know what was on his mind
and did not react to her statement but rather her response. “I’m sorry, I should
let you tell me before jumping to conclusions.”

“All is forgiven Aaron,” Galadriel smiled and then continued to speak, “you have
been brought here at Olorin’s request and also because I have need your
assistance. Of late, I have been visited with visions of a troubling nature that
I am unable to explain or understand. I believe they are images of your world
and what I see frightens me greatly.”

Aaron met Gandalf’s eyes, “you can’t tell what they are?”

“To some extent but not all,” Gandalf replied sincerely. “My memories as Moses
are a mixture of lucidity and delusion, it is difficult to separate the two at
times. It is Melkor’s legacy unfortunately. I prefer not to rely upon them. It
is important that you see for me.”

There was something more that Gandalf was not telling him but Aaron decided not
to press. Gandalf’s statement was not entirely untrue because Legolas had told
him that whenever Gandalf returned from death, his old persona became something
in his past, even if the memories and the friendships of that life remained
intact. It was difficult for Aaron to grasp but no more than anything else he
had encountered in Valinor since his arrival.

“What do you need me to do?” Aaron asked with a hint of apprehension thought he
would never think to refuse.

“Look,” she instructed as she poured clear water into the basin and beckoned him
forward. “Tell me what you see.”

Aaron gave her a look of scepticism but did as he was asked. The elves had given
both he and Eve sanctuary from the outside world and had welcomed them with open
arms. If helping meant taking a look into a silver basin, then Aaron was happy
to do so without hesitation, even if he was certain that Gandalf was lying to
him about the reason. Taking a step forward, he dropped his gaze into the
basin below him and stared for a moment at the bottom of the silver receptacle.

”What am I looking for?” He asked when he was confronted with the reflection of
the sunlight bouncing off the settling surface of the water.

“You will know when you see it,” Galadriel answered, accustomed to his
impatience and wondered if he would find it amusing to know that he shared this
trait with Aragorn Elessar.

“Whatever you say,” Aaron declared and furrowed his brow in concentration.

The reflection on the water showed the branches overhead with points of sunlight
spearing through the leaves. The radiance of the sunshine was difficult to keep
staring at for long but then the leaves began to rustle even though there was no
wind. Amber light contracted into a single burst of bright white, so intense
that he had to glance away for a moment. Suddenly, Aaron found himself
confronted with at parched, arid landscape with dusty winds that was reminiscent
of Arizona perhaps, he was not quite sure until the a mushroom shaped cloud
surged through the air like a towering skyscraper and put an end to all his
questions. As did the shockwave that spread out in a rolling wall of dust and
fire that swept away every thing in its path like a gust of wind blasting
everything out of its path.

For as long as he knew, the world had lived with the threat of nuclear
destruction but what he saw in Galadriel’s mirror was no threat, it was the
reality. Images flashed at him like exploding suns and in the aftermath of
blinding glare, he saw the world decaying in the wake of the nuclear fire. The
cities that survived the initial blasts were slowly poisoned by the nuclear
winter as the world and its people began to die in the millions. In a matter of
seconds, Aaron saw the world he knew, the one that gave birth to him, die in a
slow choking death and it was not even the end of the nightmare. It was just the
beginning.

“What is this?” He gasped but no one answered because his journey was not done.

He saw a mountain made of skeletons, bleached white from fire and the faded sun
trying to see through the darkened skies of ash. He saw a throne carved from
human bone, fingers taping arm rests made of skulls, fingers belonging to the
arm of he who was now master of the dead husk that was once Arda. The master
whose face Aaron could not see but who was staring at him with red eyes glowing
with evil, pure and incarnate. Aaron wanted to recoil from that malevolent
gaze, a cold shiver running through his spine as he saw other things taking
dominion over this devastated world, things not human but strangely familiar.

The skies were filled with them, the dark things. Their enormous wing flapped
through the tainted air, breathing fire, killing those who did not die or who
had not succumbed to becoming food of the black, crawling beasts that moved over
the dead or the dying like an infestation. A landscape designed by Dante, made a
reality because of nuclear fire. This couldn’t be! It was impossible! Yet,
amidst the wreckage, he saw a silhouette behind master with the red eyes that
made him realise that this was real and it was the future.

Because behind the beast was the Statue of Liberty.

That was all Aaron’s mind could manage before he pulled away from the mirror and
stumbled backwards in near terror. He thought he had been afraid when he had
faced the creature beneath the Malcolm Building, he learnt later on was a
watcher, but this terrified him beyond that because it was yet to happen. Aaron
did not know how he knew, but with every fibre of his being, was convinced it
was the truth. He had been shown this for a reason, a reason he suspected
Gandalf and Galadriel already knew.

“This is the future?” He demanded once he was able to compose himself enough to
speak.

Galadriel and Gandalf exchanged glances before Galadriel nodded grimly. “It is
the future.”

“How?” Aaron exclaimed. “How could this be the future? Malcolm was destroyed!”

“Indeed he was but he has many agents in the world,” Gandalf answered sombrely.
“He was in your world for four centuries, biding his time, planning for the
eventuality you saw in your vision, the vision that Galadriel, myself and the
Valar have seen.”

“Then why didn’t they destroy it when they destroyed him?” Aaron shouted, his
heart pounding with fear as the images of that hellish world appeared in his
mind again. He knew where this was going and he was scared to death of it.

“Even during the War of the Wrath, when the Valar emerged from Valinor to fight
Melkor, some of his agents escaped notice. They know how to hide well, they have
done it for a long time and now they use the bodies of men to hide, the way
Melkor hid within the body of John Malcolm. He has had four centuries to bring
his servants from the Void into Ea, to give them new life as he was given life,”
Gandalf explained. “The time for the Valar moving about your world is over, they
only emerged because Melkor was beyond any of you to destroy, his agents are
not.”

”So its up to us to clean up the mess?” Aaron hissed with more anger that he
intended. “I can’t stop what happened in that vision. I can’t stop a nuclear
war! My people have lived with nuclear weapons for the past fifty years and the
best alternative they came up with is to never use the damn things! If Malcolm’s
agents have gotten their hands on a nuclear arsenal then it is over! They only
need to launch one and that will enough to start a chain reaction across the
planet and you know why? As terrified as my people are to use the things,
they’re even more terrified of being attacked first! They’ll launch a counter
strike, which will no doubt be interpreted by someone else as a hostile act and
the entire fucking planet will fry!”

“Are you quite finished?” Gandalf gave him a stern look when he had stopped
ranting.

Aaron sucked in a deep breath and felt somewhat embarrassed for his outburst
especially in front of Galadriel, before answering in a decidedly calmer tone,
“I think so.”

”Good,” Gandalf replied and resumed speaking. “I suspect this vision would not
come unless there was time to stop it from happening. Iluvutar is not so callous
as to allow us to see what we cannot change, so there is time. I have been sent
forth to find this evil and stop it but I cannot do it without you. After our
encounter with Malcolm, it is clear that I need a guide through the world of men
or else I may fall into the same trap I did once before. I need your help and
that of Eve’s to battle this threat. You may refuse and I would understand if
you did. Both of you have done enough service to your people in aiding the
defeat of Melkor. There is no shame in choosing to stay here in Valinor, you
will still be welcomed.”

Aaron turned away, hating the choice before him. He wanted to stay here with
Eve, to live in this paradise for as long as time allowed them to be together
but he could not do it, knowing that the world he had left behind was burning in
the fire of that hellish vision. Aaron knew the choice that Eve would make. She
could no more stomach it then he. The world that had given them both life was
not Valinor but it was their home once and to some degree, always would be. It
deserved to live. It and the people who lived there deserved the chance to be
all they could, in the proper course of time.

It did not deserve the end he had seen in Galadriel’s mirror.

“I am not a soldier,” Aaron said softly. “I’m just a doctor.”

“You have a brave and compassionate heart,” Galadriel met his gaze. “That above
all else made Aragorn Elessar great, not his skills as a warrior or his wisdom
to rule. He was a man who cared about others and was willing to protect them to
the best of his ability. That is sometimes all the difference between life and
death but you will not be alone. Olorin will be at your side, as will Eve and I
am certain Legolas will insist on accompanying you.”

“I think you are right,” Aaron agreed. He seriously doubted that Legolas would
let him go into any dangerous situation without being there at his side. Good
conscience would require Aaron to try and talk him out of it but Aaron had
learnt one thing by now it was that the elf could be exceedingly stubborn when
the mood took him.

“There is one other thing,” Galadriel replied, her voice dropping an octave
lower as she spoke. “There was a further part to the vision that you did not see
but I did. I believe it will help you in your quest to find the darkness that
awaits in the outside world.”

“What is it?” Aaron asked and noticed Gandalf nodding at her to continue.

“It is a riddle to which we have the answer in part though what it means to your
quest, I cannot say,” Galadriel confessed. “The visions are not always exact.
You must interpret them as best you can.”

“Nothing new there,” Aaron shrugged sarcastically. “Please, go on.”

Galadriel closed her eyes and spoke softly,

The hour dawns near when all must end,

Evil perpetuates its own sire and child

Infusing it with old spirit

The one who made it, the one unmade it and the one was unmade by it

The circle of gold binds them together,

He who failed in one life must redeem himself in another

To protect the one he did not protect before,

To save the world and give peace at last to the Son of Gondor.

“What does that mean?” Aaron looked quizzically at Gandalf and Galadriel.

“We are not certain,” Gandalf answered truthfully. “The circle of gold sounds a
good deal to me like the One Ring.”

“The One Ring,” Aaron mused, recalling a little about the War of the Ring as
told to him by Legolas. “Wasn’t that destroyed or something?”

“It was,” Galadriel nodded slightly. “Frodo Baggins unmade it in the fires of
Mount Doom. It ended Sauron’s reign in Middle earth.”

This was getting more bizarre by the minute and Aragorn was forced to ask the
obvious question, “well if this Frodo didn’t fail, then who did?”

*************

TODAY

Bryan Miller sat outside the door to his section supervisor’s office and knew
this interview was not going to go well.

He supposed he should have expected this sooner or later but even the cynic in
him had hoped it would be later. Still, he had been living on borrowed time
since the destruction of the Malcolm Building and it was only a matter of time
before he was made accountable for his activities since them. In truth, Bryan
had sincerely believed that he would have found some irrefutable evidence that
his suspicions were right, that he had not been wasting the last year and a half
of his life on a fruitless investigation. Unfortunately, the vital evidence he
had needed remained out of his reach and even MI6 had its limits in how long it
wished to indulge its agents, even one as respected as Bryan Miller.

Six months before the Malcolm Building had been so spectacularly destroyed in
New York, Bryan had been just another field agent in MI6, affectionately known
to insiders as "The Firm". Bryan had started his espionage career in the SAS
with the Royal Marines before he was recruited and trained at the facility at
Fort Monckton in Hampshire. A twelve year veteran, Bryan had survived more than
his share of dangerous assignment and had seen people from all walks of like,
from respected statesmen to parasitic vermin masquerading as men.

His life spent moving about in the shadows of the intelligence world and until a
eighteen months ago, had come to the firm conclusion that nothing was capable of
surprising him anymore. That is, until he stumbled upon the possibility that one
of the world's biggest conglomerates might be secretly funding terrorism on a
global scale.

At first, Bryan had thought it was insane.

John Malcolm's reputation as a businessman and entrepreneur simply did not fit
the profile of a terrorist sympathiser. Like all large companies, Malcolm
Industries had a vast connection of contacts throughout the world. MI6 and no
doubt every other intelligence agency in the world, knew that Malcolm liked to
keep people in his pocket but assume the reason for it was to further his
commercial interests. It never occurred to them that this vast network might
have a more sinister purpose that had little to do with corporate ambition as in
global power. Once Bryan stared to pay attention, the possibilities demanded
investigation, especially when it appeared that Malcolm might have been funding
a secret organization known as the Black Serpent.

Until that moment, Bryan had thought Black Serpent was little more than a myth.
A convenient scapegoat that other agencies used whenever a bombing or an
assassination could not be attributed to any particular group. From what little
was known about it, the Black Serpent had all the characteristic attributed to
groups like the PLO or Al Qaeda. Powerful, elusive with a wide network of
operatives. Unfortunately, proof that there was even such an organization was
scarce. However, upon further investigation, Bryan had learnt that if it did
exist, it was set apart because of one rather curious aspect; Black Serpent did
not seem to have a political agenda of any kind. A great deal of money was
supposedly funnelled into organization, distributed across the globe to fund
various terrorist groups, yet possessing no specific ideology.

It was bizarre.

Bryan had only managed to learn this much because of an informant and the man
had managed to get himself killed within hours of revealing the existence of
Black Serpent and its possible links to Malcolm Industries. Until then Bryan had
believed what everyone else did, Black Serpent was a myth. However, as he began
to look into the possibility of its existence, he found that it was even more
elusive than that. No one could confirm who had first produced the name, only
that it had been spoken about in whispers and then accepted as a joke, it not an
outright fabrication. Fortunately, when he brought this information to his
superiors, they were willing to give him a little latitude in investigating the
possibility.

After all, Malcolm Industries was a world conglomerate and terrorists’ links to
such an influential company had to be investigated.

Bryan’s efforts from the beginning were met with indifference to every agency he
approached. The CIA thought he was chasing a phantom, the links between Malcolm
Industries and the group a fabrication, fed to him by an informant looking to
save his own skin. It was not long before Bryan was being met with the same
response across the intelligence community. If he did not know any better, he
would think they were trying to avoid the subject but that would mean a
conspiracy he could not even begin to imagine and dismissed it.

He was almost ready to give up when a bombing at the Pakistani embassy in
London, produced some interesting results. Twelve people had died and MI5 who
had conducted the investigation following the destruction, turned up some
unusual evidence. The weapon supposedly used by the Indian terrorists claiming
responsibility for the destruction had a Soviet detonator, one of many such
devices that were lost and sold on the black market following the collapse of
the USSR.

Bryan followed the money trail from the sale of the weapon and through some
rather unorthodox methods involving contacts and acquaintances that would not at
all been approved by his superiors, he found the Indian arms dealer who had made
the purchase. Bryan was not able to prove that Black Serpent was responsible the
plot but he did learn that the money had been siphoned through a dummy
corporation belonging to a subsidiary of Malcolm Industries. It was the first
tangible piece of evidence that Bryan was able to find that Malcolm Industries
was guilty of something, if not exactly what.

Unfortunately, before he could acquire the warrants needed to take a closer look
at the company and its CEO, the Malcolm Building was levelled by what appeared
to be a terrorist attack equal to the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

In the wake of its destruction, Bryan was in stupor of disbelief. Suddenly
everything he had been working for during the past six months felt into doubt.
He had utterly convinced that Black Serpent had links to the company, perhaps as
an agent of chaos to destabilise selected regions in the world for commercial
profit. With the attack upon the corporate head of the company the subsequent
death of John Malcolm, it seemed Malcolm Industries was exonerated of any wrong
doing in the eyes of Bryan’s superiors. It was an opinion that Bryan was unable
to change, especially when what proof he had was scant to begin with.

He had flown to New York following the destruction and stood before the pile of
rubble in the middle of Manhattan, watching dispassionately as work crews took
on the arduous task of clearing away the debris. He did not know how long he
had stood there, trying to make sense of it and finding after hours, that he
could not.

Something did not feel right.

There were too many questions about the calamity. The fact that other than a
small portion of C4 detected when the investigators shifted through the rubble,
there was no trace of any other explosive, certainly not in the amounts required
to demolish a skyscraper the size of Monolith as locals called the building.
Structural engineers examining the wreckage had equally baffling reports of
their own. The type of fractures running through the wreckage seemed to
indicate a seismic disturbance not an explosion. However, since a localised
earthquake around one building was a virtual impossibility, it was decided that
the terrorists had used some form of designer explosive not known to the
authorities.

If that inconsistency was difficult enough to swallow, so was the FBI’s main
suspect; a man called Aaron Stone, an American psychiatrist who until that
particular day had no prior record of any kind. Stone was a doctor at a New York
hospital until he was fired a few days before. The hospital board had discovered
that he had illegally liberated one of his patients. Stone’s history indicated
no affiliation with any kind of terrorist group. If anything, he was the least
likely candidate for blowing up a building. The FBI had decided to label him a
lone gunman in the way Timothy McVeigh had been but everything they knew about
the good doctor was academic because six weeks after the explosion, Stone and
his patient had vanished and not been seen since.

Bryan had made an attempt to find him but to no avail. Wherever Stone had gone
to ground, it was clear he was not coming back.

**********

“Agent Miller,” a soft, feminine voice interrupted Bryan Miller’s thoughts as he
sat outside his supervisor’s office, waiting for the man to see him.

Bryan looked up and met the gaze of Alicia Perkins, the pretty secretary who
kept a vigil outside the old man’s office. She offered him a little smile, one
he had been familiar with ever since she took over the role from her
predecessor. It was a smile of romantic interest that Bryan had sense enough to
ignore. Even in MI6, office romances were not a good idea and he did not need
another woman in his life who would tell him he was a bastard after six months.

”He’ll see you now,” she informed him dutifully when he looked her way, careful
to keep eye contact with her instead of noticing the scandalously low cut blouse
she was wearing beneath her smart, navy suit.

“Thank you,” Bryan rose to his feet and made his way to the door, giving her no
more attention that that.

In truth, he was not looking forward to this meeting because he had some idea
how it was all going to play out. When he was told that Caldwell wanted to see
him earlier today, he had mentally prepared himself for the worst. After all,
he was perfectly aware with how many regulations he had broken in order to chase
down what everyone was starting to call his obsession. Bryan wanted to disagree
with them but in the last twenty minutes that he had been sitting here, waiting
to see Section Supervisor Caldwell, Bryan had realised that his life was his job
and for the last eighteen months, his job had been Malcolm Industries.

It disturbed him even further to realise that without his job, there was little
else in his life. Being in the game meant it was difficult to form
relationships. After all, he was called to travel the world at a moment’s notice
and keep his whereabouts a secret, and there was that annoying little thing
about possibly getting killed on assignment, not exactly the ideal ground to
establish permanent attachment. Most women he had been foolish enough to become
attached to, worked out within six months that his job was his first love and
everything else was filler.

Section Supervisor Caldwell was old school.

He had been old when Bryan was still a novice and seemed to never age, only grow
balder as the years go by. There was a joke that his smooth skull could deflect
signals from enemy surveillance equipment but no one dared to say it to
Caldwell’s face, not unless they wanted to be posted to someplace hellish, like
Antarctica or worse yet, Whitby. Bryan had a great deal of respect for Caldwell
and knew that if he was in here, then it was for good reason. Caldwell trusted
the people under his authority and only cracked the whip when he felt it was
needed, unfortunately for Bryan.

Upon entering Caldwell’s office, Bryan saw the man at his desk, perusing the
files he had accumulated during his investigation of Malcolm Industries
beginning with the initial report from his dead informant to Bryan’s most recent
investigations into the heir of the Malcolm estate, David Saeran. Caldwell’s
grim expression at Bryan’s entry into the room caused the field agent to stiffen
involuntarily and reminded him of the days when he was sent to the headmaster’s
office at school. Caldwell acknowledged his arrival with a quick glance from
over the top edge of the file before gesturing at him to take seat.

Bryan would prefer to endure this whole ordeal standing but supposed this was
not the time to be difficult, particularly if he wanted to keep his job. He was
starting to suspect that it might already be too late but permitted his pride to
suffer a little if it meant he would be allowed to continue his investigation.
Caldwell was a good man and a better friend. Even Bryan had to acknowledge that
Caldwell had given him a good deal of latitude before reaching this point and
was probably justified in what he was about to do.

“Bryan,” Caldwell began, obviously deciding to skip the formalities and launch
directly into the heart of the matter. “I thought we had an understanding that
you were going to drop the investigation into Malcolm Industries.”

“With all due respect Sir, you had an understanding that I didn’t share,” Bryan
replied having reached the conclusion in the last few seconds that Caldwell had
already made up his mind and if he had, little that Bryan said now would make
any difference. Therefore, there seemed little point in hiding his feelings
regarding the matter. “I think the company bears further investigation.”

“Not according to your own files,” Caldwell retorted, dropping the file onto the
desktop. The papers contain within it slid out of its confines across the
polished oak surface. “All I see here is circumstantial evidence and hearsay,
which I might add appears less credible since its central headquarters was
reduced to a pile a rubble of rubble in the middle of Manhattan!”

“Sir, we have no idea if the destruction of the Malcolm Building was motivated
by terrorists. Don’t you find it odd that no one has stepped forward claiming
responsibility? If Malcolm Industries is a front for the Black Serpent
organization, then this could be a retaliatory response to some agenda that we
are unaware of!” Bryan insisted with just as much determination.

“You’re speculating Agent Miller!” Caldwell cried out in exasperation. “This is
MI6, not some Fleet Street rag! You are not justified in chasing down your pet
theories, especially when you have provided not one shred of real evidence that
such an organization even exists. This phantom that you’ve been chasing has made
you the laughing stock of the entire intelligence community and I will not have
you using our resources to give validation to a rumour that makes British
intelligence look like tabloid hunters!”

The insult stung more than Bryan wanted to admit because he knew he had been the
subject of some ridicule but until now, had not suspected the full measure of
it. Did his entire department think him insane?

“I know I’m right,” Bryan insisted, refusing to let Caldwell see that his words
had struck home. “There is something there. Something that no one suspects and
unless we pay close attention to it, we are going to wake up one day and find a
disaster on our doorstep that will make the bombing at the World Trade Centre
look like a walk in the park!”

“Bloody hell Bryan!” Caldwell exclaimed loudly, standing up in his chair and
leaning forward. “You’ve produced nothing that would indicate that and I see by
your surveillance reports that you have been watching David Saeran as well?”

Bryan sucked in his breath, trying to restrain his own temper before it got the
better of him and forced him to say something that he would really regret.
“David Saeran is John Malcolm’s Vice President and heir to the entire Malcolm
fortune. Malcolm ran the company from across the Atlantic but Saeran controls
the European division. The money that came through the dummy corporations to
Gupta Singh for the attack on the Pakistani Embassy came in Deutsche marks. It
is entirely possible that Malcolm knew nothing about Black Serpent and every
possibility that Saeran is the one funding the organization!”

“So now you don’t think that Malcolm is responsible, you think its Saeran?”
Caldwell demanded in disbelief, his expression showing clearly that his patience
with Bryan had finally reached its end.

“Yes,” Bryan answered in resignation, realising at this moment that his battle
to convince his superior was over. Caldwell thought he was obsessed and perhaps
he was but Bryan was certain that he was right. There was something about
Malcolm Industries that warranted caution. No one had heard of David Saeran
until after the destruction of the Malcolm Building where he had been produced
by the company’s board of directors as the new Chief Executive Officer and
subsequent heir to the Malcolm fortune. The company PR people had claimed that
Saeran had been Malcolm’s right hand man in Europe but almost nothing was known
of the man.

“Bryan,” Caldwell lowered himself into his leather chair, a sure sign to Bryan
that he had come to a decision. “I think you need to take some time off. You’ve
been on this investigation for too long and you’ve lost your objectivity.
You’re a good man Bryan and I don’t want to lose you but you need to step away
from all this while you can.”

“I don’t need a rest,” Bryan insisted but suspected the decision was out of his
hands. Caldwell was obdurate once he made up his mind. “I’m telling you there’s
something here. I just need a little more time.”

“Bryan,” Caldwell said firmly. “This isn’t a request. I’m ordering you to take
leave. Don’t assume that I won't make this official if I have to."

Bryan opened his mouth to protest but knew anything he said to Caldwell would
only condemn him further in the eyes of his superior. The last thing he needed
was for Caldwell to think that he was insubordinate as well as obsessive. Right
now, the most important thing was to walk out of here with Caldwell suitably
appeased. The rest he would figure out later. If he wanted to get to the bottom
of things with Malcolm Industries, he would need the resources of MI6. As a
wise man once said, it was best to play dead for the time being.

“Alright," Bryan let out a heavy breath, feigning capitulation. "I'll take a
break if that's what you want."

"Its what you need," Caldwell insisted, relaxing a little now that it appeared
Bryan was willing to listen to reason. "Take a month for yourself, go sit on a
beach somewhere."

"Can you possibly imagine me at a beach?" Bryan gave him a look, shuddering at
the thought even if he was operating under the illusion that he had accepted
Caldwell’s advice.

"Not really," Caldwell cracked a little smile, "as long as I don't imagine you
here."

"I don't suppose there's any way I can get you to change your mind?" Bryan
pressed once more, hoping that their long standing friendship might convince
Caldwell that he had not gone off the deep end as so many agents tended to do in
this line of work.

"Not unless you want to work elsewhere," the older man said with flint in his
eyes. Bryan knew Caldwell enough to realise that he would be true to his word if
Bryan did not obey him on this matter.

“Point taken,” Bryan replied with a sigh of resignation. “I will take a break.”

“Good,” Caldwell nodded in approval. “I’ll see you in month and we can talk
about a new assignment.”

Bryan hid the frown that almost crossed his face at the prospect of abandoning
his labours for the past eighteen months. While Bryan respected Caldwell and his
hard-nosed demeanour, the MI6 agent wished his superior were not so obtuse.
Bryan was absolutely certain that his suspicions regarding Malcolm Industries
were not unfounded, even if he could not prove it to Caldwell to any satisfying
degree. Unfortunately, his enforced holiday meant that he had only a month left
to get to the bottom of things or he would be taken off the case permanently.

Hopefully, this would work to his advantage. What he did during his holiday was
nobody's business but his own. If he chose to spend that time continuing his
investigation discreetly, he was within his rights. Of course, it would be
preferable if it did not get back to Caldwell what he was doing because
technically speaking, that could be construed as disobeying direct orders.
Fortunately, Bryan was more than accustomed to skirting the edge of trouble.

It was a skill that came with the job.

*************
The black Mercedes rolled silently up the darkened street of Huntington Road,
Riverside shortly after midnight. Its engines rumbled low as it crept along the
kerb and came to a halt in front of a crimson post box.

The neighbourhood was quiet one and at this hour, most of its inhabitants were
safely tucked in bed. It was a cold night that ensured that everyone was driven
to either take refuge under the covers or in front of equally warm fires. The
ocean breeze had carried the fog in and Cardiff had a decidedly vague look about
it this evening. The fog carried with it the faint stench of the sea, though not
many noticed it at this hour. Cardiff had a decidedly country atmosphere,
therefore folk tended to rise early and go to bed in the same manner.

The driver had chosen his waiting place well. There was no moon tonight,
certainly none that could be seen through the heavy clouds overhead. The
streetlight provided some illumination but against the fog, the glow was slight.
The car waited in the spaces between the radiance of light and watched the house
in the corner that was shrouded in darkness. He had been waiting there for
several days now, waiting for word to come that this was the one they had been
searching for so long.

Six years they had searched the globe, travelled far across the world looking
for the one who had brought the ruin of them all, thirsting for vengeance. Six
years of disappointments, of eliminated possibilities, of finally nearing the
end of the list, knowing that if the prey was not here, they would have to
continue searching in more obscure places. That would mean a delay that would
anger the one who was wronged the most.

The potential had no idea regarding the presence of the black cars that had
taken up vigil over its home the past week. The driver wondered if the prey felt
the net closing in, whether insight or premonition warned of the danger that was
tightening the noose slowly but surely. Fortunately, it appeared that the
occupants of the house were oblivious to everything and completely unaware that
time was running out for them.

Perhaps it would not be tomorrow or even the day after, but time was indeed
dwindling for the occupants of the house with the red roof and the gnome
ornaments in the front garden. They had been waiting too long for this moment.
Before the inevitable revenge however, there would be a meeting.

Finally, after a hundred thousand years, they would face each other.

************


Fred could not sleep.

She had waited until mummy had turned of the lights and gone to bed before she
dared to slip out of the covers. Padding across the floor in her bare feet
because it made the less noise, Fred crept to the windowsill and looked past the
glass into the street below. It took a moment for her to find them in the fog
but she had no doubt they were there. They had been there the night before and
the night before that and how much father beyond those two days, Fred did not
know. She only noticed them last night when she had another one of her terrible
nightmares. She had felt them very strongly and had awakened screaming once
more, frightening mummy to no end and driving daddy to distraction.

After they had put her back to sleep, Fred had ventured out of bed and went to
her window, taking care to ensure she was not seen and sure enough, her worst
fears were confirmed. They were there in the darkness, waiting for her. All her
life, she knew they were searching for her and until now, had prayed that it was
a terrible dream and a mistake. But when she saw those dark cars, with their
even darker windows that no one could see through, she knew that they had found
her. She thought maybe she could run away but she did not know how. She knew
that if she stayed, mummy and daddy might get hurt but she knew of no way to
slip from under their notice without causing more harm to her parents.

So she stayed and watched them, wondering how long it would be before he
followed.

Before she saw him face to face at last.











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.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Triumvirate overview

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