Daystar - The Bloodied Sun

A brief History of Ildar, as told by the Erídu.

In the utter beginning, there was the Void. In the Void, there was no light or life. Into the blackness and stillness that was the Void, a light appeared. It flared once, then faded and died. Another light appeared, and this also flared, wavered for a moment, and then steadied. Soon these pinpoints of light filled the sky. The stars were born. The Lady Eltharniá looked upon her work, and was glad. Now there was Light in the Void.
Elráthon, the Great Smith, worked upon a Jewel, a great Stone of beauty and power. With it, Fiadon made the Moon, Velthar made the Sun, and they were set in the sky upon their different courses. Now the light was separated into Day and Night. Now all the Lords and Ladies came, and each singing their own song, laid their hands upon the Stone, and the stars danced and wheeled to the harmony of the Making Song. As the music reached a crescendo, in the dark centre of the Void, four spinning globes appeared. They grew in size as the songs continued, and the Stone's light pulsed, until the worlds of Ildar came into existence. And the Lords and Ladies looked upon their work, and most were glad. But the Lord Arjax looked upon the worlds, and desire and malice filled his black heart. He desired the worlds, to rule them for himself, but he bided his time, waiting for his chance to strike.
Again, when they had rested from their work, the Great Lords and Ladies placed their hands upon the Stone, but their songs were changed. Lord Gwedden's song rolled and roared, then stilled, and roared again, like a waterfall or stream, while Tirianndon's song was coaxing and quiet, then tall and majestic, and Eltharniá's song brought forth flowers and people to cover the worlds. Then the light faded from the Stone, and it was done. The First Age of Ildar was begun, and the Lords saw, and were glad. And the peoples of Ildar grew, and cared for the trees, plants and other beings they saw upon their worlds, and the Lords saw this also, and were glad, and they walked the worlds with their people, listened to their songs, and rejoiced in them. And so it was known as the Age of Peace.
But Arjax saw his time. He took the Stone from the Halls of the Lords, and smote the great works wrought at the dawn of time. And so the Age of Peace was ended, and the Age of War begun. For Arjax polluted and destroyed rivers and streams, pulled down hills and mountains and burned forests and woods. The Lords saw this, and were dismayed. They marched against Arjax with all their might, and smote the Stone from his very hands, breaking it into four pieces. But Arjax was not defeated, for no prison could hold him, and his evil could not be undone. And so the Age of Sorrow was begun. Arjax was banished, and each world was given a piece of the Great Stone, so they could protect themselves, and Arjax could not blight the worlds again. And so, the worlds renewed themselves, and the Age of Sorrow passed; yet still the destruction that Arjax had wrought could not be undone. The Age of Ildar had begun, and Arjax lay, plotting his return.

In the Beginning...

Of all the peoples in the solar system of Ildar, the Erídu were the wisest. They lived in the woods and forests that covered the world of Tirion, and understood the ways of the beasts and birds. They charted the movements of the sky, and knew the properties of all the different plants. They loved Vilithon, which was the moon, and worshipped Fiadon, the Lord of the Night, Maker of the Moon, and Eltharniá, who was known as the Lady of the Sky, the Builder of Stars. But they were no hunters, for they lived in peace and harmony with all of Ildar.
The people of the hills in the world of Elthix, the Arxmor, were the hunters. They were a fierce and wild people, who worshipped Arjax, the God of War. Dark and small they were, quick to anger, fighting amongst themselves, and made their homes under the sky, but paid no heed to its beauty, nor the Telirúth, the Lords of the Air, worshipped by the Kelimore.
The Kelimore were the people of the mountains in the world of Linthor. Tall and strong, they were quick to anger but also to laughter. They were fierce fighters when the need arose, and did not battle amongst themselves, unlike the Arxmorians. The Kelimorian people were allied to the Telirúthians, the eagles, who were known as the Lords of the Air, and, as the Eríduian people were friends with all beasts, so the Kelimorians were friends with all birds.
Horse breeders, song lovers and fishermen were the people of the waters and plains of Eldirn, the Ilriuth. Tall and fair, they made their homes near rivers and streams. Peace loving, very few of their kin became warriors, but those who took the initiation ceremony, and were not spurned or sundered from their kindred, were great warriors, fierce and terrible in battle. They worshipped Tirianndon, the Lord of the Waters, and loved Iri, which was the sun, and rejoiced in her light upon the still or rapid water by which they dwelled.

Daystar - The Bloodied Sun

The sleek, black prow of the star-ship `Warbird' gleamed in the moonlight and the furled sails hugged the mast, which gently groaned against the wind. She tugged slightly at her anchoring ropes, a couple of yards above the ground. It was a fine ship, air and space worthy.
Eríndani looked down from her vigil of the moon and smiled. Her father had given `Warbird' to her for this day, and she longed to fly it into space for the first time. Her brown eyes were soft and knowing, yet behind them was concealed a will of iron, and she was dressed in a loosely fitting robe. Her soft golden hair framed her face, and the moonlight lit the shape of a moon on her forehead, the mark of a priestess and a sorceress. She silently greeted the priestess who was coming towards her, Vilanthion, and allowed her to take her arm. Thoughts raced around Eríndani's mind, and she touched the mark on her forehead. For that night, the mark of the sorceress and priestess would be joined by the mark of the warrior. Long had she studied in the lore and history of the ways of the Warrior. Now the night had come when she would bear her mark, the mark of the warrior, as well as the mark of the moon. She would be the first of her kind, the Erídu, to bear both marks.
The priestess led her up a steep hill, and into a circle of sorceresses bearing torches. Another person, a boy she recognised from her village was already standing there, licking his lips nervously. Vilanthion bowed to each of the sorceresses in turn, and then bowed to Eríndani and the boy, and left. There was no sound or movement until she had retreated far away from the hill, for the initiation ceremony was not for her eyes. Then the sorceresses began to chant softly.
"Eríduian, Eríduian, eru nor
Vian thion.
Eríndani, Eríndani, eru nor
Vian thion.
Rithian, Rithian, eru nor
Vian thion"
"Eríndani, Daughter of Tirindil of the Erídu, and Rithian, Son of Firil of the Erídu, you have broken with the tradition of your people, the wisest of all the people in Ildar." A sorceress stepped forward, shrouded in darkness. "Eríndani, you will bear both marks, and you will be feared by your enemies, and perhaps even your allies. Beware, both of you, for the mark upon your forehead will not be chosen by you, but for you. Many have tried, and been branded cowards, or have not returned at all, rejected by the Gods. None can say what your mark will be. You will go forth nameless, and be shall be known by the mark that will be placed upon your forehead. You may leave now, and go back to your people, without shame, or step forward. If you continue, be warned, there is no turning back."
Eríndani nodded, and stepped forward, Rithian following after a moments pause. Eríndani's golden hair shone in the torchlight, and the mark of the moon glowed on her forehead, like a silver jewel. She knelt before the sorceress, who handed her a goblet, filled with a dark, foul smelling liquid - alorin. The circle closed about her, the sorceresses' backs turned towards her. She put the goblet to her lips, hesitated for a moment, and drank. She fell to the ground, clutching her stomach, groaning, the world spinning before her eyes, and she knew no more of that realm. In the darkness, she heard a faint whisper.
"What are you, to come to this world?"
"I am a warrior, seeking counsel." She replied.
"As am I." Rithian had also drunk from the goblet. He nodded to her in greeting.
"What counsel needs two Children of Ildar, warriors, from the Keeper?"
"We seek names, and the mark of a warrior."
"Many have come to this world seeking names, children. But you are hungry, and thirsty. Eat, drink, for I promise you that I will not harm you, until the tests are taken, and your heart revealed." A goblet of cool water and a plate of bread appeared before her, and she fell upon them hungrily. Rithian paused, watching her, and then fell upon his plate. When they had finished, a shadowy figure appeared before them. "Let the test begin!" it cried, and held aloft a golden ring. It shone in the darkness, casting off a golden light, yet it did not illuminate the darkness surrounding the figure, which seemed to smother the light as it touched him. Rithian stepped forward.
"I shall take the test!" he said, and the figure nodded.
"Touch the ring." It told him. "Touch the ring, and your heart will be opened. Beware, for if you are not true, then the ring will reject you, and cast upon you the fate that you deserve. Some are doomed to walk the earth with the mark of a coward branded upon their forehead, others to walk it blind or maimed, some are left stranded in the Dark Realm, and some, some are rejected so strongly, that the ring leaves them crazed and witless, or, at the worst, dead. Are you willing to take the risk, Nameless One, Child of Ildar, Son of Tirion?" In answer, Rithian reached out for the ring. The figure held it out to him, and Rithian's fingers touched the gold. Suddenly, a blue flash of lightning shot from the ring, striking his fingers. He was thrown backwards and lay in a crumpled heap at Eríndani's feet. She felt for his pulse, but there was none. "Alas for Rithian." The figure sadly said. "The ring rejected him too strongly. However, Daughter of Tirion, the way is now open for you. Come, touch the ring." Hesitantly, she reached out for the ring. Before she touched it, a golden mist flowed from the ring, wrapping around her arm. It was a pleasant feeling, cool and soft, and the figure nodded. "The ring accepts. Know now that you are a true warrior, and nameless no more. Bear the mark of the warrior with pride, your mark, a single flame, and know that your name is Maitharné, Flame of White. Shine in the darkest hour of Ildar, and give light to those in need. Shed no tear for the Cast-off, the Maliron - the Fool." He said, as she knelt over Rithian's broken body. "His crime was too great for the ring to bear."
"What was his crime, Lord?" She asked.
"He betrayed the trust his father placed in him, grew proud and ill at heart. His compassion had grown to hate, his trust to fear. He was not willing to learn, or help others. His heart was laid bare, and his intentions became clear. He would have killed his father, if it meant gaining power. Death tainted his heart.
"You have taken the test, Maitharné, and the ring has seen that your heart is true. Yet your greatest test is soon to come. It will come neither from the Lords, nor from the land. It will come from your own heart. Now depart to your own world, Flame of White, and stay in the Land of Night no longer." As Maitharné felt the dark move and spin around her, she felt a cold sensation on her brow as the mark of the warrior, her mark of the flame, was placed upon her brow by Fiadon, whom the priestesses call the Lord of Night, and she shed a tear for Rithian, despite the words of the Lord.
She came to, her face lying upon the damp grass, the backs of the sorceresses turned to her, their torches burning. There was no sign of Rithian's body. Her hand flew to her brow. There, in the centre of her brow and in the mark of the moon, was the mark of the flame.
Their backs still turned, the figures whispered "Your name? Your name? What is your name?"
"Maitharné," she replied, "Maitharné, Flame of White, is my name."
"So be it!" They called, and broke from the circle to form two rows of burning torches. Lifting their torches high, they formed a flaming tunnel, through which Maitharné walked, to be met by the High Sorceress at the end.
"Welcome, Maitharné. The Lord of Night has found you worthy. Do you still wish to bear arms? For you need not, and walk away from this holy place, knowing not what you forsook. Do you still wish to walk this path?"
"I do." Maitharné answered.
"It is good. Take then these arms," she moved aside, and Maitharné saw an altar upon which lay a sword and armour, bow and shield, "and wear them with pride, Flame of White. Speak not what the Lord of Night said to you, for that is for your ears alone, but keep it locked in your heart. The time is yet to come when it shall be needed." Maitharné moved forward, and picked up the sword and shield. The sword was light, and easy to wield, and the shield was adorned with a white flame. "When you leave this hill, Maitharné, I would counsel you to go to the haven of the Eternal forest, for there one awaits you, I know not who, but it is one of great power. Light will not die whilst the Flame lives." Maitharné bowed, and turned her back to the sorceresses. She made her way down the holy hill, and turned to the east, and the soft light of Vilithon shone upon her face, and upon Tirion.
Deep in the heart of Tirion, where only the Erídu can find the paths of the forests, there was a haven of peace, Quenmar, only a rumour to those who knew not the way, where the trees never lost their majesty, and the music of the waterfall was sweet and calming. Time seemed to have passed it by, and Rithian, the Lord of the Trees, and Iri, who blessed the water and all who grew or drank by her banks, ruled it. Into this place Maitharné came, and hearing singing beside the waterfall, she made her way towards it. When the trees thinned, and she could see who sang, she paused in amazement. In front of her was Eltharniá Nimdríl, the Lady of the Sky. The light of the stars shone from her eyes, and the robes she wore changed colour as Iri rose in the east.
She sang of Vilithon and of Iri, of the Telirúth who coursed her sky, of Norodrhim Selmeth, the Lord of the Wind, who blew under her command, and of Haradrhim Derecoth, the unruly Lord of Storms. Her song was of power, of wonder, of sadness and of joy, of beasts and of birds. When the song ended, she turned to Maitharné, and beckoned to her.
"Airon, Maitharné. For you, Flame of White, I have waited long. I see you have taken, at last, from Fiadon, that which belongs to you. Come hither, and do not fear." Maitharné walked slowly towards her. "Child, what was spoken to you at the initiation is true. You are the flame that will burn in Ildar's darkest hour. Yet that time I cannot see. Do not fear, for this," she handed Maitharné an emerald, "is the Emerald of the Gods - the Stone of Healing. It will protect you, and keep you safe. Find the other three stones, for I fear that they are in danger. If all four stones touch, then all the worlds in Ildar will be overthrown, and perish.
"The stones were once whole, at the beginning of time, and sundered when the worlds were made. Each part of the stone was given to a different world to be kept safe, in the hope that the stones would never meet. Set this stone into your shield, and should darkness fall, it will help keep you safe. Trust not your life to it, though! For should another have a Stone, then the power yours contains will be cancelled. Take now to the skies, Maitharné, and seek the Stones of the Gods. Eminare!" Taking the emerald from the Lady, Maitharné set the Stone in her shield, at the top of the flame. Bowing low, she left for the low flat hill where her starship lay. It was a strong ship, and spacious. At both the prow and stern there was a holder, each containing a blue crystal. Standing at the base of the mast, where the bridge was housed, she deftly touched a few buttons, and watched with pride as the sails unfurled, the crystals threw a protective shield over the ship, the ropes tightened and the anchor withdrew from the ground. As the sails gathered the starlight and sent it down to the helm, the ship strained to be off, with a curious rocking motion. Soon she was sailing in low sweeping circles, gradually gaining height. She set a course for the world of the Ilriuth, Eldirn, and watched as the pointed prow cut through the clouds, and entered into space. Soon, though, the gentle hum of crystals sent her to sleep. She woke as her ship entered the atmosphere of Eldirn, and she landed gently upon a flat plain. She stepped out upon a road, and here she saw herds of wild horses grazing on open land, or bucking and rearing like foals in spring. The road followed, and passed over, many rivers and streams, but the Roaring Water, Elid-ian, ran through the centre of the land. She was following the small river of Glian-gol, Magic Water, when she came upon a man sitting by the side of the road. He seemed to be in pain, and so she stopped. Seeing her, his hand flew to his sword, but he withdrew it, wincing, as she knelt beside him, laying down her weapons. He was an Ilriuthian, handsome, tall and fair, his eyes gentle, yet there was a steely determination hidden behind them. On his head, there was his mark of a warrior, a tri-horned unicorn.
"Thank you." He said, as Maitharné touched, and healed the wound on his arm. "You must be an Eríduian, to know such magic. Yet I have never seen any of your kin to bear both marks of the warrior and priestess. What is your name, warrior and kin?" He asked in the formal greeting.
"As you ask, I shall answer, warrior, if you shall also answer thus to me. By Light and Moon, Star and Shield, Flame and Dark," she correctly replied, smiling, "My name is that of Maitharné."
"And by Sword and Bow, by Tree and Sky, my name is that of Viathon." He replied in the fashion of warriors.
"Indeed," Maitharné explained, "I am the first of my kind to bear both marks. Yet I see that you are an Ilriuthian. I did not know that any of your kind became warriors. What mark is that you bear? It is certainly strange."
"Few of our kind become warriors. I am one of those who would rather fight and become renowned in song, than sit by a fire with a harp and sing of war heroes, and never touch a sword." He said bitterly. "My mark signifies great strength, and that one day I will fight alongside the Light when the dark comes..." He trailed off, staring at Maitharné's mark. "Why, Tirianndon, at the initiation ceremony, he told me that I would serve by the side of the flame..."
"Fiadon told me that I would shine in the darkest hour of Ildar, and give light to those in need, and Eltharniá that I would be the flame that would burn in Ildar's darkest hour! It seems fate has brought us together, my friend. Yet what this means, I do not know," she paused, concerned, "though it may be that the prophecy of Eltharniá is come already, that the Stones of the Gods are in danger, and so we are in the greatest peril! I must find them!" She exclaimed, leaping to her feet.
"Wait!" Viathon cried, struggling to stand. "The Sapphire of the Gods - the Stone of Seeing, the Stone given to the Ilriuthian people, lies in safety in my home city of Aithon, by the river Orinil. I will take you there, and you may see the stone is safe."
"Then we must make haste!" She paused, and turned towards him. "How fare you?"
"Well." He replied. "Your powers heal more than hurts, Maitharné. I feel stronger than I have ever done before."
"Then let us make haste, for I fear we have not much time. Is there a landing place nearby?"
"No, and it is far," he told her, as they crossed the river, and headed north, "now we have crossed the Glian-gol, the hills of Túrnil lies over the rise before us, and then we come to the Orinil, in the Plain of Iliun. There, starships are forbidden to land, for it is the breeding grounds of the Thiron Horses, whom are sacred to us, and whom are now in foal. It will take many marches to reach Aithon, perhaps four or five suns." As they left the river Glian-gol behind them, the ground fell steeply. They walked long into the night, never stopping. Norodrhim and Iri were kind to them, and Vilithon shone down upon them at night, showing them the way. After three long nights of walking, on the fourth day, when the sun began to climb high in the sky, the ground started to rise steeply in front of them, obscuring any view of the terrain behind. "This is the true border of our land, and beyond it the Iliun plain lies, through which the Orinil passes, and by which the fair city of Aithon is built. Come, my brother will welcome us!" He started to run up the hill, laughing, Maitharné following closely. He came to a sudden stop as he reached the top of the rise, and sank to his knees. Maitharné stopped beside him, and placed her hand on his shoulder. By the river, where once the city of Aithon had stood, tall and proud, there was a smoking heap of charred timber and ashes.
"And so it begins." Maitharné thought. "And so the worlds of Ildar enter their darkest hour."
"These are evil times." Viathon whispered to himself. "And will the flame burn bright enough to pierce the night?" He thought.
"Evil times indeed, brother." A fair-haired boy, carrying a harp sadly said, walking towards them. "Evil times indeed."
"Valinore!" Viathon leapt to his feet and embraced the boy. "Thank Iri and Tirianndon! I feared you were dead!"
"Nay, brother, for I was out walking upon the hills when the Arxmor... when they attacked."
"The hills? To think, that once I despaired at your wanderings, composing your ballads amongst the trees, when those very same ramblings saved your life upon this evil day! But, the others in Aithon?"
"Slain. The Arxmor ransacked the place, and stole the Sapphire of the Gods. Then they razed it to the ground."
"Dead? And the Stone is gone?" Maitharné asked, troubled.
"Aye." Valinore replied. "Yet what is that to you? I see you are a warrior, but you are no Ilriuthian. Indeed, by your armour, I see that you are an Eríduian, for no other people would dress in the greens of the wood, or would fight with bow and arrow."
"Aye, I am an Eríduian, but I fear that all the Stones are in danger, and therefore we are all in danger. I have been set with the task of retrieving all of the four Stones, and setting them in my shield. Only this way will the peoples of Ildar come together in peace. Already I have the Stone of Healing set into my shield, and I vow, by Fiadon and Eltharniá, by Tirianndon and Norodrhim, and by Iri and by Vilithon that I will not allow the Arxmorians to take the third Stone, the Ruby, and I will stop them! I will not allow darkness to coat the worlds of Ildar. The flame will burn, and the night sundered!"
"And so it comes to pass." Valinore said. "For there is a saying, passed down from before the dawn of time,
When the sun rises over the eastern lands,
And it turns the colour of blood,
When the deer graze by the old oak tree,
But find the ground turned to mud,
When the people gaze at the growing nights,
And the horn blows from the mount,
When the day itself turns to dark,
And the water stops from the fount,
Then the Flame will burn,
And the dark retreat,
When the four Stones will meet.
I believe that you are the Flame, Eríduian, for indeed, that is the mark that you bear."
"And I shall stand by your side, Maitharné." Viathon added.
"I know not how to fight, or I would surely join you. All I can offer you are horses. Brother, I kept your horse safe; all you need do is call him. For you, Maitharné, I give you Kaline, Fire Spirit. She is fast, and she will bear you well back to your ship. The Kelimore, in the city of Elthon Drúis, on Mount Erúnu, holds the Ruby of the Gods. Ride fast, for the Arxmorians have the greater power now."
"Eldir! Kaline!" Viathon cried, and two great horses came galloping over the plains in front of them. One was jet black, the colour of night, with a blaze of white upon its forehead. The other was brown, with four white socks. Viathon quickly mounted the brown one, and gestured to the other. "That is Kaline. She will bear you well." Maitharné nodded, mounted, and thanked Valinore.
"Do not thank me," he replied, "but ride fast and well. You must land outside Rhárn, for the ground beyond is difficult terrain. Watchers also guard the mountains. Do not harm any bird or beast, for they will surely kill you.
"To Elthon Drúis, then!" She cried, and spurred Kaline into a gallop. The ground raced by under their horses hooves, and Valinore's golden head soon disappeared out of sight. Again, Norodrhim was kind to the warriors, and he kept Haradrhim at bay, though once or twice the skies threatened with storms. They rode long into the night, and Vilithon's face shone down gently upon them. Eventually they halted, and dismounted to rest. In the distance, they could hear the sound of water flowing rapidly.
"That is the Great Water - the Roaring One, Fi-mohen." Viathon told her. He grows louder at night, but he is far away. He lies in the Plains of Mildirn, where it is thought that magic grows strong, and where strange things happen to unwary travellers.'
"That is like Quenyai," she replied, "the Fair Water, the river that runs through Quenmar, the Eternal forest in Tirion."
"Quenmar?" He asked, puzzled. "I know of all the lands in Tirion, yet that name I have not heard."
"That does not surprise me." She replied, smiling in the dark. "It is a hidden kingdom, and the paths can only be found by ones who know how to. It is a beautiful land, where the trees never lose their splendour, where the hand of winter cannot touch. Plants and other beings live there that can be found in this place no longer. It is a haven of peace for all beasts and birds, where time does not exist. There the troubles of the outside world are lifted, and there is no hunger, illness or thirst. Throughout all the land, the song of Quenyai can be heard, and when you can hear her no longer, then you have passed out of that realm. I have been there many times, and my heart aches for the time when I can see that fair land again, and hear the song of the Fair Water.
However, if we fail, then it will pass out of existence, as will the other fair lands, for it was built by magic at the dawn of time, by the hand of Eltharniá Nimdríl and Rithian Elenríl, and the Arxmor, when they sweep over the land, will destroy all that is good. What they do not know, is that the power of the Stones will twist their evil hearts, and they will be destroyed. Only one, who wants the Stones to keep them safe and not use them, will be free from their power to twist intentions, minds and hearts." As they lay quiet, Maitharné began to sing quietly, he voice mingling with the sound of the far-off river.
"Far away in a distant world,
There lies a beautiful land,
Where the birds call high in the trees,
And the beaches are of golden sand.

Lofty mountains reach up tall,
Whilst stream that runs over stone,
Provide the music that blesses the ear,
By the plains where the red-roans roam.

Majestic trees climb high out of sight,
In the shade the Dryads sleep,
And the spirits rejoice in the cool fresh air,
And the Gnomes have nowhere to creep.

There sits a maid, with harp in hand,
She sings of the world to be,
The light of the stars shines from her eyes,
Her hair flows loose and free.

Dark as the shadows her raiment is,
Silver as the moon her hair,
And as she sings the sun rises up,
And her raiment becomes fair.

First ruby then pink, to gold, her robe
Changes with the sky to blue,
And tiny stars entwine with her hair,
Her feet dance on the morning dew.

Wise and ageless, tall and fair,
Cheerless then joyful the Lady sings,
For the death of a single flower,
And life that from the ground springs.

Not a blemish upon the ground,
Nor death of a bird in the tallest tree,
Escapes the Lady Eltharniá,
Who weeps for all those who are free.

She sings and weeps upon the earth,
For injustice cruelly done,
For the felling of the mighty tree,
To the blighting of the sun.

She sings of things not yet made,
And things that already are,
Of birds and beasts and growing things,
And of stars and moon afar.

She sings of how the world was made
Of the jewels set in the sky,
A glowing gem sits on her brow,
Her voice is like a sigh.

As beautiful as the dawn she is,
As terrible as the sea,
She is bound to sing the day away,
Or the world will cease to be.

No mortal has ever seen the Lady,
The queen of the spirit world,
Whose banners fly high by night,
Yet by day are furled.

But seen by Mortal Man they are,
The banners of the night,
Upon a field of blue they shine
Their everlasting light.

High above Man's heads they gleam,
And one star shines out bright,
Beloved by the Erídu,
The North Star's guiding light.

`Ai! Eltharniá Nimdiril!'
The Erídu cry in song,
To the one who made the Earth,
And guarded it so long.

She will live and see the end,
As she has lived so long,
Flying her banners high,
Lifting her voice in song.

Proud they fly above the earth,
A challenge to evil's might,
Battle standards fly unfurled,
Eager for the fight!"

"That was beautiful." Viathon whispered. "Are there still plains and mountains on Tirion?"
"Nay. This song was written before they were marred by Arjax."
As Viathon slept that night, he dreamt he stood beside the Fair Water, and heard her song. He dreamt of the trees and of the beasts and birds in that land, and his heart ached to be there. The next morning, they woke as the sun rose in the east, the colour of blood.
"We must hurry!" Maitharné called to Viathon. "The power of the Stones grows stronger!" Soon they came to the `Warbird' and set a course for Linthor, the home world of the Kelimorians. They ate a hurried meal, before landing on the small planet. It was late evening, and in the distance, they could see Mount Erúnu silhouetted against the sky. In Maitharné's shield, the Emerald began to glow faintly, and as they neared the start of the northern land of Rhárn, where the Kelimore dwelt in Elthon Drúis, the Stone glowed ever brighter.
It was slow going, and they stumbled in the fading light, though the Emerald still glowed. Eventually they stopped, nursing sore and bruised limbs and stubbed feet.
"It is no good." Viathon complained, rubbing his leg. "We cannot carry on like this."
"I agree." An amused voice came from out of the darkness, followed by a tall shape dressed in furs, and carrying a staff. In the dark, they could not see his face, but he was young, and had kindly eyes. He was a Watcher; a guardian of the mountain, whose task it was to protect the Mountain and the City from any invaders. A horn hung from his waist, and he would use it to call upon the Kelimorian armies if the need arose, but only if they drew dangerously near to the city's perimeters or he had reason to believe that they would kill anything that lived upon the Mountain. "I am Bloodwind, son of Rockfall, of the House of Lionsun, and I have watched you since you entered our land, and I deem you hold no ill will. Therefore, if you wish, I will take you to the place where Rhárn meets Elthix, or wherever you wish. But I warn you now, if either of you harm bird or beast, then you will both be instantly killed."
"We do not wish to harm any creature upon this mountain, only for safe conduct to the city of Elthon Drúis, and to speak with the Guardian of the Stones." Maitharné told the Kelimorian.
"So be it. I shall take you to Elthon Drúis. It is not far, using the Kelimorian route, and the way is easier than this on tired limbs and bones. So if you have rested enough, follow, and we should come to Elthon Drúis when the sun rises once more." Bloodwind took them up the mountain a little way, winding past craggy rocks and outcroppings, until they came to a waterfall, cascading down the mountain, for they still were not yet high up, and the melting snow swelled the rivers. Behind the waterfall there lay a tunnel, twice the height of a man, and wide enough for two to walk abreast. It was long and winding, and delved down, deep into the heart of the mountain. They walked on, in darkness, following the sound of Bloodwind's feet. After a while, he stopped, and Viathon sank to his knees, glad of the break, for his wound was bothering him once more. They sat and ate, and Maitharné tended Viathon. When they were rested, they began walking once more, but the going became steeper, and they slowed. Eventually, Maitharné felt a soft breeze upon her face, and saw a chink of light where there had been none before, and which grew steadily nearer. They stepped out of the tunnel, onto a small ledge, and slept. It had taken them no longer than an hour or so to pass through the mountain, but to Viathon, it seemed like an age, and when he laid down his head, he fell into a deep dreamless sleep. Maitharné lay awake, resting, but watching Bloodwind warily.
When the first red rays of the sun started to creep down the mountain, Bloodwind woke Viathon. "The Sun rises the colour of blood once more." He shook his head. "This may recall..." He paused, gazing at the ruby-coloured sun, and then turning to Viathon and Maitharné, he held out his arm. "And there," he said, with a strange glint in his eye, "There is the pride of the Kelimorians, the White City of Elthon Drúis!" Above their heads the mountain stretched up, while under their feet grew Télith, minute blue flowers, flowing down the side of the mountain like a cobalt blanket, the dew upon their leaves glistening. In a small, quiet dell, where the flowers mingled with the grass akin to blue stars upon a field of green, surrounded by tall mountains, there lay a fair city, shining in the early sun. Surrounded by a white wall, its houses faced onto white paved streets, and in the centre of the city, four great turrets had been raised. From three of the towers, a blue and golden flag fluttered in the early morning breeze. The banner upon the tallest was furled, and there was no sign of life in the citadel.
"We are come at a most fortunate hour!" Bloodwind exclaimed. "With the rising of the sun, the Golden Horns will sound!" As he spoke, the rays of the sun fell upon the city, turning the white stone red, and three glints of gold were seen as the horns were blown. The standard was unfurled, and revealed a golden sun and three stars set against a field of blue. "Alas for the evil day!" Bloodwind cried. "For it is a wondrous thing to see, the city gleaming white and gold in the morning sun. Yet the sun now shines with a new fire. What this means, I do not know."
"I think I do." Maitharné quietly said. "Yet I will say no more. I do not fully understand it yet... but I will say no more."

They soon neared the walls of the citadel, and came to the tall, wooden gates of the outer circle - the Woodendown, carved with images of beasts, birds, which Viathon guessed were eagles, and mountains. The guards called down to Bloodwind in the tongue of the Kelimorians, and upon his reply, the wooden gates swung open. Inside, the Woodendown was teeming with life. Watchers stood in groups, clad in fur and horns by their side, smoking long wooden pipes, telling stories, drinking ale, eating bread smothered in honey, or listening to the storytellers. Young children played in the street, and stalls were opening up, selling meat and fish, jewellery and rugs, and tools for every trade - carpentry, masonry, tools for fishermen, and horns for the Watchers. Men and women walked the streets, buying wares, and talking. They all wore furs, covering them, and their faces and hands were brown, as they worked high in the mountains, herding flocks or working in the fields.
The Woodendown was set upon a slight rise, and Maitharné could see another tall white wall ahead of them. They had to walk right around the Woodendown to come to the second gate. The Kelimorians had designed this gate out of silver, and had set the same designs into the metal, save that now a single star sat in the centre of the gate. This middle circle was the Silverdown. Here Kelimorians walked in finery. Women stood buying gold for spinning, in dresses of red, blue, green and purple, traced with lines of gold or silver, with jewels in their hair and upon their fingers. Men walked here and there, scrolls in hands, dressed in gold and silver. Walking around the Silverdown, they saw tall buildings, highly decorated.
"Bloodwind," Maitharné asked, "why do the people in the Woodendown lead such poverty-stricken lives, when the people here live amongst such finery?"
"Nay, all are given the means to live comfortably in the Woodendown. No one person here is that much better off. When a Kelimorian is born, the Council of Elders gives them a pension, which is set aside until they come of age . The Council then give them a choice at that age, to stay, live and work in either the Silverdown or the Woodendown, or to move to the other. Mostly they will stay, for they have grown up in one area, and do not wish to move to the other. Nobody here is richer than another is, for he or she all have the same pension, save the ones who squander. Yet that also is rare." They eventually came to the final gate. It reared above their heads, tall and imposing, made of gold, with images of dragons set into the main sections, and of birds flying set into the frame. It swung open silently, and revealed the courtyard of the three towers. Guards stood at the entrances to the towers, alert, watching the companions. The gate closed behind them as they stepped out into the sunlight courtyard, the long shadows of the towers falling at their feet as the sun rode lower in the western sky, sinking behind the mountains.
"Watcher! Rockfall-Son Bloodwind, of the house of Lionsun," a guard stepped forward out of the shadows, bowing slightly to Bloodwind, "why do you bring strangers to the towers?" She was tall, with long brown hair pulled into a plait tied with silver cord, dressed in the golden armour of the guards, with a spear at her side.
"Wingfeather-Daughter, Snowlake of the house of Lionsun," he replied, bowing low with mock respect, but his voice lost the jest as he spoke again. "I bring them to see the Guardian of the Stones. `Ties a matter of great importance."
"It is not my place to question the matters of the Stones, Rockfall-Son, but I must ask all of you to leave your weapons here. They will be cared for until your return." Agreeing, Maitharné and Viathon laid their weapons upon a rock, set in the middle of the courtyard, and turned to Snowlake. Bloodwind kept his short dagger concealed under his cloak. "Rockfall-Son Bloodwind Lionsun! I know you too well. Lay down your weapon!" Snowlake Lionsun commanded, though there was a trace of laughter in her voice.
"You do know me too well, Snowlake!" He laughed, and laid his dagger beside Maitharné's sword. She smiled openly now, and the laughter in her voice made it ring like a mountain stream.
"Indeed I do, Bloodwind! And I know that when we meet, you will always try to slip something past under my nose, be it dagger, or menór (a freshly cooked slice of meat) very similar to the one I left out for my mid-day meal two suns ago." She looked at him with a raised eyebrow, but the corner of her mouth belied the smile that was struggling to come forth, and he grinned sheepishly, before they both started to laugh. Then she looked at Maitharné and Viathon, and her smile faded. "However, I also know you well enough to know that if you say that something is of great importance, you do not lie. Pass then, and be well, brother Bloodwind, Rockfall-Son, you and your companions."
"Fare well then, sister Snowlake, and keep well." He replied with open affection.
She bowed to each of them in turn, and walked away to continue her silent watch of the gate. Maitharné looked around the courtyard. It was large; paved with white stones it housed the three round towers of Elthon Drúis, and posted at each door into the towers was a guard in golden armour. By the left wall, there was a cave-like room, brightly lit, from which faint sounds of chatter and laughter could be heard. This guardroom stretched back into the wall itself, a strong defence in times of war, but in times of peace served as a mess hall and pub for the guards. In the centre of the courtyard in front of the towers, a slab of rock lay, where they had laid their weapons. High above them, fluttering in the strong breeze from the mountains, the flags flew proud. They walked across the courtyard, passing the guard, and entered the tallest tower. It seemed to be made of continuous stone, or carved from the rock of some long-fallen mountain. Inside, a long hall lay in front of them, warm from the fire at the furthest end. Above their heads, the ornate stone ceiling was carved with images of birds, wings outstretched. A table was set in the centre of the room, and beside the fire, worn, uneven stairs led up the inside of the tower.
Bloodwind led the way up the steps, which threaded their way through the tower, until they reached an open space. Here the tower continued up, but on either side stone walkways led to the other towers, where another joined them, forming a triangle with the three towers at the points. Low walls had been built on the walkways, but otherwise they were unshielded from wind or rain, the former blowing through the stone arches. Shivering, they pulled their cloaks about them, and hurriedly carried on climbing. After passing through two more of these alahan, they found themselves in a large room, at the top of the tower, comfortably furnished, with a pedestal set in the centre, on which was placed a small pottery pot. From this pot, a faint glow was emitted, pulsing like a fading star.
"So, you have come." An old man, sitting in a chair in the far corner of the room, by a roaring fire, slowly stood up. His hair was long and white, and it flowed down his back like snow. He used a stick to help him move, yet strength rippled in the muscles beneath his bare arms and legs, giving Maitharné the impression that, if he wanted, he could cast away his stick - and even be a match for her in a fight. She was instantly on her guard, but he smiled. Behind his thick, bushy eyebrows, he gazed intently at her with piercing blue eyes, and she flinched, feeling her mind open up to his probing, feeling the fingers of his mind sorting through her thoughts. Mentally, he questioned her - seeking answers to ancient riddles, but she repelled him, forcing him out of her mind, closing it to him. He sighed and nodded.
"I cannot read you. Perhaps that is good, but perhaps not. You are strong-minded, Maitharné, of the house of Elthon. What you do not wish to be revealed, is not. Yet I do not understand what you want from me. I can glean the information that it has something to do with the Stone I guard - but what, I do not know, nor cannot guess."
Maitharné and the Guardian stood facing each other, each bending their minds on the other. Soon their foreheads were covered with beads of cold sweat, glistening like tiny diamonds, but still neither gave way to the other. Viathon stepped forward, trying to break their contact, but Bloodwind pulled him off.
"No!" He whispered. "They are testing each other. He must see if she truly is who she says she is, and she must be able to trust him."
"Trust him?" Viathon asked, puzzled. Bloodwind nodded.
"You and I do not understand. That may be the will of the Gods. You have had no reason to come with her, and I have come merely to show the way. If you will, I will show you the way to the place where I found you, and from there you can make your way home."
Viathon's eyes flashed and he turned sharply to Bloodwind. "I have no home." He hissed sharply. "The Arxmorians destroyed it. That is why I travel with her."
"To gain revenge?" The Guardian looked at him, having broken contact with Maitharné. He looked puzzled, and tired.
"No...I...I do not know why. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I should have stayed to look after my brother, instead of coming on this...this foolish quest."
"Foolish?" Maitharné looked at him, also puzzled. "Did you not hear what was spoken in your world? By your own brother?" She shuddered, and closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, they shone with the light of the stars, and her voice, when she spoke, sounded like the roaring and tumbling waters of the Quenyai, and power and strength coursed through her limbs.
"Meren ethen du arthion elen mel,
E ren mar thu yeth nor
Meren ler hon a rin tur alemel
Min har thurion af lor,
Meren fin apar in ri turiet
E rina thur a le moren,
Meren thina sel mithion ere,
Eyai nur en afeiren,
Aneth Tharné ni thar
E Mor ether
Meren el niur Rilel nirer.
"When the sun rises over the eastern lands,
And it turns the colour of blood,
When the deer graze by the old oak tree,
But find the ground turned to mud,
When the people gaze at the growing nights,
And the horn blows from the mount,
When the day itself turns to dark,
And the water stops from the fount,
Then the Flame will burn,
And the dark retreat,
When the four Stones will meet."
`She spoke the words of the Gods!' The Guardian cried. Bloodwind jumped in front of the Guardian, a small knife that lay concealed in the folds of cloak drawn and pointed at Maitharné. `No!' The Guardian cried, and with a swift movement, knocked the knife out of the Watcher's hand.
`This is the prophecy that was spoken.' Maitharné continued. `Hear me! I am Eltharniá Nimdiril, Maker of the Stars, and it was I who sent Maitharné upon this `foolish' quest. These worlds are in peril, Raven,' she addressed the Guardian, `not only Linthor, but all of the worlds in the Ildar system. Remember, Raven, whom it was that first brought you to this world, and what is written in the place of the Gods. You have seen the first of the signs -- the sun already has turned to blood. This is the doing of the Arxmor, and of the Stones, and many worlds will be bloodied before they are done. Only one now can save these worlds from ruin. Only one has the power to bring about the destruction of darkness. One will bum in Ildar's darkest hour. That chosen one is Maitharné.
Im nar é Tharn! Lasto em nin, al tur neth an!
Lasto il fur lath ne im than!
Til thre nath urie, an Laithur Mir,
Al an Reth il Tharné, il Tharn, il Ir!
Meren Mor alt, dath an tharn,
Meren Mor alt, hal fir an darn,
Meren Mor til ather nathur,
Tharn las brin ath an tilur.
An Ret/i il Limma il Tharné,
Talorth ni hir, ni em, ni lamé!
"I am the Light! Hear me now, all beasts and birds!
Hear the one who bears the Mark!
Yield up your powers, the Ancient Way,
To the Protector of Flame, of Light, of Day!
When Darkness comes, heed the light,
When Darkness comes, fear not the night,
When Darkness gathers all around,
Light will drive it into the ground.
The Protector of the Realms of Flame,
Called by heart, by mind, by name!"'
At that, the light faded from Maitharné's eyes, and the strength drained from her limbs. She staggered, and almost fell. "
`Lay her on the bed.' The Guardian's tone was soft but demanding.
`No.' She insisted. `I'm alright.' She stood, her eyes cast downward, as she struggled to bring herself together. She swayed slightly on the spot, and Viathon reached out to help her, but Bloodwind grasped his hand and shook his head, his eyes glinting dangerously in the firelight. Finally, she raised her head, and gave a tired smile. `Well, Raven?' She addressed the Guardian, weakly. `Do you trust me now?'
`Yes. I trust you -- though still I know not what it is that you want from me. I am the Guardian of the Stone. Yet you are the chosen one, chosen by the Maker of the Stars. She is not one that we, the mountain folk, worship -- yet she is one of the Lords, and must be obeyed. It is true; I know the prophecy, for it is written upon the living rock on the height of the Branmair - the Mountain of Sight, and in the caves of the Roinmair -- the Mountain of Truth. I know it to be true. Yet, part of me challenges that. Can it truly be? That the one who will burn, now stands before me? The one who will light the way? In truth -- I did not think I would live to see the day. I hoped, and yet dreaded it. But my dear girl, the question is not whether I trust you, but rather if you trust me.' He paused, and looked at her, considering her. `For if you do not, then I know that your quest, laid on you by the Lords, though I cannot see what it is - it is shrouded in mist, and you are closed to me - will fail, and many fair things will pass out of this world. I have seen the red sun, and I too know what it means. But again, I ask, do you trust me, Flame of White?'
`I do, Raven. You, Bloodwind and Viathon are the ones I trust. Yet I have not been open with you. Now the time has come to tell you the truth. Viathon, I thank you. You have followed me this far without question. You need not follow me further. This task has been entrusted to me. I do not, no... I cannot ask you to risk your lives. The Arxmorians search for the Stones. With them, they will conquer all the worlds of Ildar, casting them into darkness. All that is good and green will die. I have been entrusted with the task of obtaining the Stones, setting them in my shield, keeping them safe, and defeating the Arxmorians. That is my task. Ildar's darkest hour is come.'
Viathon stared at her for a moment, and then stepped forward. He knelt at Maitharné's feet, his hand clasped over his heart.
`I once swore to stand by the side of the Flame of White. I hold to that promise. I am yours to command.' He raised his head to her.
`I do not ask you to follow me into danger, Viathon.' She replied, raising him to his feet.
`I know, Maitharné, I know.'
`You have my sword.' Bloodwind stepped forward and bowed to Maitharné. `The life of the Watcher is not for me. I have longed for adventure - I swear to stand by your side, and see this through. Elthon Drúis shall not fall.'
`So be it.' Raven walked to the pedestal, and reached inside the pot, drawing out a pearl, that glowed in his hand. `Take this, Maitharné, the Stone of Hearing. I also give you these.' And he handed her an armlet, wrought in silver and gold, with a black stone in the centre. As she slipped it on her lower arm, the stone glowed faintly, and then subsided. He also handed her a golden horn. `The armlet is an ADATE -- Atomic Disassociation And Teleportation Equipment. It is powered by magic, but it can transport only one, and for a limited range, about 10 ria. (3 miles) The horn will bring the pilots to you. Transport yourself to the top of Mount Erúnu, and there blow the horn. May the blessings of the Lords go with you, Flame of White. You are our last hope. You are the last hope of Ildar.'
She nodded, and left with Viathon and Bloodwind for the courtyard. By this time, the sun was setting, and Snowlake approached them once again.
`You have seen the Guardian?' She asked.
`We have.' Bloodwind replied. `Sister Snowlake, I fear that this may be last time I see you for some while.' Her face grew pale.
`Brother? What do you mean? Has war been declared?'
`Not yet, my sister. But soon it will be, and I have promised to stand beside Maitharné when the time comes.' She nodded, and gave a wry smile.
`A warrior knows when his calling has come. Go with her then, but tonight, stay here with me.' She turned to Maitharné. `Your weapons are returned to you.'
Picking up her sword and shield, Maitharné set the Stone of Hearing in the centre of the white flame on her shield, sealing it in with magic, whilst Bloodwind watched in wonder, and then followed Snowlake into the cave-like room. They ate, a soldier's meal of meat and ale, and slept. Maitharné lay awake in the pile of furs that hat been provided for her, remembering the words she had heard -- no, felt come from her own mouth when the Lady had spoken through her, and the strength that had streamed through her entire existence.
`And that strength will come again, when you need it most. ` A voice spoke, but Maitharné could not tell if the words had been spoken aloud, or if they were inside her, a remnant of the Lady's spirit and will.. She glanced over at Viathon, fast asleep. She wondered what he was dreaming about, and felt a shudder as her mind slipped from her own conscious state, to his subconscious. She saw the rivers of the Quenyai in his mind, roaring, tumbling, flowing free, and then, suddenly Aithon, his home city, in flames, his brother stranded, his parents, trapped, calling for Viathon to save them, but it was impossible. Then it was back to the Quenyai, but the waters had stilled, and dried, and the forests around it were dead. For a few peaceful moments, the dream went dark. But just as Maitharné thought that Viathon was waking, she realised that the blackness was the dark of a night with neither stars nor moon, and in the dream, the red sun rose over the plains of Eldirn, and revealed devastation. The worlds were dying. Then a light - like no other light Maitharné had seen - shone out brightly upon the earth, and the forests grew again, and the world was set to rights. But a new scene appeared. In it, Maitharné could see a figure, head bent, over what seemed to be a tomb. An object, roughly the size and shape of a shield lay on top of the tomb, but there was a dark between her eyes and the figure. She could not see it clearly, but she could see, shining brightly, the stars in the heavens, and one star shone the brightest of all. Yet, again, the dream returned to Aithon, but now Viathon's brother was burning, and screaming for help. Darkness took Maitharné, and she knew the dream was finished. Light, or at least, the natural darkness of night, slowly returned, and she reached for Viathon, who stirred into her arms.
`Maitharné, I saw...' He said, holding back tears.
`Hush,' she replied, softly, cutting him off, `I know. I know.' She did not know why the Lady had shown her the things she had seen, but in the darkness, as he wept into her arms, she thought to herself ` the Lady, I swear this night, that I will let no harm befall him.'
And so it was, that in the dark of the night, Maitharné felt a bond grow between herself and Viathon. And she knew that it would linger, through flame and water, and even death itself could never break that union.
As the sun rose, they walked out into the courtyard. Maitharné stood by the stone where they had laid their weapons the day before, looking up, her eyes searching the skies for the mountain's peak.
`That is Mount Erúnu," Bloodwind said, directing her gaze to a majestic mountain, taller than all the others, piercing the sky with its peak. `Now you can see why the Guardian gave you the ADATE -- you would never have reached there by yourself. One other thing. The ADATE only works once. You must get a lift from the Pilots back down -- or climb.' Maitharné looked up at the great peak and raised an eyebrow. Then she smiled and nodded.
`So be it. How does it work?'
`Close your eyes.' Snowlake said. `Picture the top of Mount Erúnu. Now place yourself there. Concentrate. Concentrate...' Her voice faded, and Maitharné opened her eyes, feeling a change in the air around her. She was standing on a rocky mountain peak, clouds below covering her view to the ground. `Just as well' she thought. She shivered, and pulled her cloak around her. The air was thin, and snow lay thick on the ground. She gathered herself, and put the horn to her lips and blew. The thin, harsh note failed quickly, and Maitharné shook herself, drew a deeper breath, and tried again. This time, the horn produced a clear, loud, deep note that resounded off all the mountains, and the echo made it seem like a hundred horns were blowing. Maitharné raised the horn to her lips once more, and blew three more times. She heard an answering call, higher pitched, mingling with the echoes of her horn, then another, this time lower pitched, and another, all blowing back, answering her call. She blew once more, and the resulting majestic chord filled the sky and made the air seem to shiver. On the ground, all of Elthon Drúis stopped, and listened, for it seemed the air was alive with the sound of horns.
`Hark! The horns of the Telirúth! Never will the Dawning Horns sound sweet again to me!' Bloodwind exclaimed in awe, as he strained to catch the last strain of sound as the echoes faded. `This sound I will remember till my dying day.'
As the echoes diminished, Maitharné stood on the mountaintop, and waited. Soon she could hear the beat of mighty wings, and a Telirúthian swept down in front of her. He was a mighty beast, tall and proud, the light of the stars and sun shining in his eyes. His race was kin to Haradrhim and Norodrhim, and they were nearest to the Gods.
`Lord of the Air,' Maitharné began, kneeling to him, her head bowed, `we beseech your aid'
`You are not Kelimorian. What are you to us? We know from our brothers what you seek to do, yet what do the Stones mean to you?' He replied.
`Surely, Lord, you know of the Arxmorians? What they have done already?'
`We meddle not in the affairs of other worlds. That task is for the Erídu.' He looked at her with a sharp eye.
`So you do not know? That the Arxmorians have left their world, destroyed the city of Aithon, and taken the Stone that lay within, and without doubt they are now headed for Elthon Drúis?'
`Look to the affairs of your own world, Eríduian, before you meddle with others. That is my counsel, if counsel you sought. Now be gone!' He turned, and spread his wings.
`You do not understand!' Maitharné stood, holding up her shield, and the stones glowed together. `This task was appointed to me the Lady of the Stars herself! I do not seek counsel, but an army! I beseech you to help us! I cannot do this alone. Lord, you are our last hope!' At this, he turned his head slightly, wings still spread, but he paused and asked,
`How may we know you tell the truth, and are not on some dark errand? What proof can you bring us? I see the stones in your shield, Eríduian, yet how can I trust you?' Maitharné drew herself up to her full height, and using her sorceress training, she cast her mind back swiftly, to the memory of the tower of Elthon Drúis, and the words that had been spoken through her. She felt the echo of the power that had stirred her limbs and soul, and fought to grasp the words she had spoken. A mist enveloped her mind as she sunk into the recesses of the past, stretching out with her mind. The Eagle waited, and watched.
On the ground, Viathon and Bloodwind were frantically searching the sky.
`Do you think the Eagles came?' Bloodwind said, half to himself, and half to Viathon.
Viathon replied, `Aye, by the Gods, they must have! Yet whether the Eagles will believe her is another matter entirely.'
In the Branmair, Raven was having much the same thought. He also was searching for Maitharné, but in a very different way from Bloodwind and Viathon. His body lay cold and hard on a stone slab, set high on the peaks of the Branmair, while the wind swirled cold and hard about him, whipping snow against his hands and cheeks. His soul was warm, and he thanked the soft black feathers that covered his entire body as he soared in the sky, though he cursed the fact that he had not had time to build a fire beforehand. In his raven shape, he could see further and clearer in the sky than in his human form, and he had heard the horns first, and now waited to hear Maitharné speak.
Suddenly, like a flood, the words came to Maitharné, and she spoke them loud and clear.
Im nar é Tharn! Lasto em nin, al tur neth an!
Lasto il fur lath ne im than!
Til thre nath urie, an Laithur Mir,
Al an Reth il Tharné, il Tharn, il Ir!
Meren Mor alt, dath an tharn,
Meren Mor alt, hal fir an darn,
Meren Mor til ather nathur,
Tharn las brin ath an tilur.
An Rethi il Limma il Tharné,
Talorth ni hir, ni em, ni lamé!
I am the Light! Hear me now, all beasts and birds!
Hear the one who bears the Mark!
Yield up your powers, the Ancient Way,
To the Protector of Flame, of Light, of Day!
When Darkness comes, heed the light,
When Darkness comes, fear not the night,
When Darkness gathers all around,
Light will drive it into the ground.
The Protector of the lands of Flame,
Called by heart, by mind, by name!"'
The incantation resounded strongly from the tops of the mountains, and as she spoke, her mark on her forehead pulsed and glowed, emitting a blaze of light before fading on the last sentence.
`Eménar! So it is true. No other could utter those words, and not in that tongue. Very well, Flame of White!' He spread his wings and rose, calling. Suddenly, Maitharné could see a fleet of star-ships rising up from the mountains, flanked by Eagles of all shapes and sizes, calling to the two birds in the sky. The Eagle cried `Blow the horn again, Flame of White! Let them know where we are!' And so Maitharné raised the horn once more, and once more, the note blew out deep and loud, long and clear. And again, the Eagles answered. Soon, Maitharné could see that this was no ordinary fleet, but the ships were crafted in the likeness of Eagles, golden and glowing in the sun, rushing with the speed that only magic combined with filan crystals could achieve. Reluctantly, again cursing the fact that he had not lit a fire, knowing he would regret it even more when he returned to his body, Raven flew back to the Branmair, his time in the raven form nearly done. He contemplated Maitharné's words as he flew, and saw behind him a great shadow enclose the mountain. His sharp senses were fading fast, but he saw the mountain engulfed in black shadow and then, as if nothing had ever been, the sun streamed back onto the lonely peak, now empty, and cold.
Maitharné slid down from the Eagle's back, and watched in admiration as the ships came in to land. Their prows were sleek, shaped in the fashion of eagle heads, and the clear shields over the main decks, the shields that made any ship safe for space, twinkled in the sun like glass. The hum of the crystals filled the air around her, and Viathon and Bloodwind were pounding over the landing field, only admiring .

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