Réllika stood looking at her reflection for a long time. The muffled slosh of the waterfall beneath the ice turned to a low moan and then to a dull roar of white noise as the Seerganash woman stared at the eerie green eyes that stared back at her – eyes so deep and fathomless, yet so empty at the same time. Seerganash all had green eyes for one reason.
For the elves of forests such as Lothlorien, all eyes eternally reflect the greenery and beautiful foliage that surround them. They care for the earth, and build not with destruction but work with the natural beauty of nature. Look into the eyes of any elf and see not only one’s own reflection but also the mirrored love of the woods.
The Seerganash now, they disappeared inside the greenery they knew so well. Once gone from sight and almost from mind, they made the Iron Hills their domain. To drive the fire dragons into their valley, they utilized water and fire as means of destruction. Tree after tree they tore down in brutal manner, feeding fires only to use that fire on more land. The ash still lingers. That, in combination with the growing rivalries among the dragons, has created the Mist that still grows to choke more land.
The land is barren now.
For all the life those elves destroyed so carelessly and personally, the green reflections evaporated from their eyes. The residue, the left over evil that holds captive that green light, was sucked deeper and deeper into the Seerganash eyes until their depth became immeasurable and forever stained green. Generations of elves born into this Seerganash world, devoid of life other than their own, bear the hollow green eyes of their ancestors.
Réllika stood in her stiff way, staring into the nothing behind her black-lined eyes, until her breath, raising clouds of steam in the cold air, became shallow and slow. Ice crystals began to form on her eyelashes, and her black leather slowly turned a shade grayer though the sheen of frost that covered it.
When a guard entered a few hours later, somewhat fidgety out of fear of entering the cavern of the Cascadelunara, he found Réllika still standing as if frozen on the iced-over surface at the base of the waterfall. Her hand was gripping the blade of her sword, the hilt reflecting in the ice. A frozen drop of blood had run down the side of her hand where it clutched tight the arctic-cold blade.
“RÉLLIKA!” He yelled, not daring to go out on the ice as she had done.
Quite abruptly, Réllika whipped around while simultaneously twirling the blade over the top of her hand, sliding it down and flipping up the hilt so that the tip of the hilt reeled between her fingers and slid home into its sheath, sliding off icicles in sheets. Her frozen hair crackled as it swung around, as well as her leather shirt and boots. She came off the ice with shocking speed for someone who was walking and roughly pushed past the guard as if he was being rude, awakening her from thought and forcing to come to a swift conclusion.
Almost falling off balance from the shove, the guard angrily shouted to Réllika as she walked out of the cavern door, “Whoa, easy there killer!”
Unexpectantly, Réllika suddenly swung back around and flicked her wrists. In the blink of an eye, the guard suddenly found himself pinned to the stone behind him, two sickle-shaped knives crisscrossed over his neck. He strained himself up against the stone to avoid touching the sharp knives. When he looked up, Réllika’s furious eyes were an inch from his own.
“What did you call me?” She hissed through clenched teeth.
“Uh… uh.. it’s a figure of sp-sp-speech…” The guard stuttered timidly as Réllika’s eyes glared at his. It seemed to be the right answer, as Réllika proceeded to remove her scythes from his throat and swiveled around, smacking him in the face with her ice-coated hair as she walked away.
The guard sat slumped on the ground, rubbing his thankfully uncut throat. “What the bloody hell was that?” He muttered to himself.
Outside of the Vantranack, heavy-set guards flanked every stone door and hall. Each door, however, was blocked from the inside by heavy boulders that had fallen and caved in any possible entrance. Even the stair and all tunnels leading to Castamir’s lookout point above the Vantranack had been blocked. Castamir had told the guard explicitly not to use any explosives or force entree, only to guard heavily each passageway.
Inside, Jack lay trapped.
At times the stone would shudder violently, and sometimes during the deep rumblings a low moan of pain could be heard, or sometimes when things seem to get really bad the guards would hear the captive inside call out for Rowen, trying to tell her something. The guards at first just yelled back she was not there, and Jack would become silent. Now they simply ignored his random mumblings and cries of pain. They knew not what was happening within the closed stone doors, or what crushing agony could be affecting the elf that was caught in the very jaws of the legendary Vantranack.
As of now, Jack and the Vantranack had been silent for a good long time. The silence had become unnatural and stifling. Then, suddenly, the voice of a male elf shattered the silence with a low song that grew in volume. Learned as they were, the Seerganash could not understand the song, as it was sung in a language they did not know. The voice softly singing was Jack’s, in the language only the Raen elves use. The Raen, the wanderers. His soft voice echoed eerily in the silence, singing with eerie finality and definity… and despite his situation, the song sounded nothing mournful or despairing. It sounded…hopeful and vengeful, or something with the air of a prophet foretelling events, or instructions, or… no one knew. It was uncanny, especially since no one could understand it. Especially though, since it the way it was sung gave the chill feeling like when a prisoner, devoid of hope and about to die, suddenly smiles like he knows something no one else does.
The ghostly song drifted forlornly off the stone walls, echoing up the endless hollow cone that was the cavern of the Vantranack, and finding its way through every crack in the stone to reverberate everywhere in the vicinity. As soft as Jack sang, it amplified a million times in the stone. The Vantranack began to lurch and shudder, but Jack finished this spine-chilling song with one last minor-keyed note that wailed off, tapering to niente as it echoed off the stone long after Jack had finished. With the exception of the low groan of the Vantranack, complete silence followed it, such as the foreboding silence that comes in the eye of a storm.
Miles away, in the area of training for the female Seerganash elves, a young girl with thick black hair suddenly faltered, giving her sparring partner an opening to ruthlessly stab her in the ribs with the blunt training stick, knocking the wind out of her. The entire class turned to look, and a sour-looking woman yanked the girl up by the hair.
“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?” The woman demanded, smacking the girl hard across the face.
The girl got back up, ignoring the blood running from her cut lip, and answered meekly, “Did, did you not hear that..that.. song….”
It was not the right answer.
The woman raked her hard across the face with a leather whip, sending the girl flying backward.
“You’re hearing things. Your ears are no better than ours. You have earned yourself three hours in the vault, you little wench.” The girl looked up fearfully as the woman continued. “You are lucky I let you live. Remember your place, especially you. “
The girl could never remember why she was supposed to be treated worse and harder than everyone else, but she knew to ask would only get her in more trouble. She wondered what name they would give her once she received her sword.
Slightly nearer to the Vantranack, Rowen’s slightly pointed ears caught the sound of a song. It seemed to make the guards uneasy, but somehow it heartened her. Before she had time to wonder about it, the song faded and the guards roughly shoved her on. She was surprised that they had not knocked her out again once she had woken up. Usually she was unconscious for such trips, but they kept her conscious now. She was also surprised to see she still had the bag containing the frosted glass. Somehow, no one had touched it. But something else Rowen realized she had been missing… Larenteth’s wooden instrument. Rowen felt a pang of sorrow to think about poor Larenteth, the youngest and sweetest elf of the Seerganash. And now she had lost his odd little drum, made of last wood before the final trees were incinerated.
The guards brought her to a door that Rowen did not recognize, though it was large and ornate. The smooth stone door opened and the guards escorted her inside. They took a tunnel to the right, then down a long set of stairs that wound in a tight spiral inside a wall that lined a circular cavern. A full-length window to the room they descended into appeared every ten feet or so. A single figure waited below. Water trickled from a small stream that ran through the middle of the room, and the candles, fueled by some sort of natural wax, produced blue flames that lit the cavern with an eerie blue glow. Their footsteps echoed in the tunnel-like spiraling staircase.
Near the bottom, they entered a dark, unlit tunnel that continued without a window of light for as far as Rowen could see. She wished she could light some sort of flame, but her bands were crossed and tied behind her back. The guards stopped. Troubled, Rowen began to turn around in question as to what was happening (though her mouth was tied with a gag), when a large hand stuck her unexpectantly on the back, knocking her off her feet and onto smooth stone – it was not longer stairs but a slide. She slid down in the darkness, spiraling until the chute spilled her out on the stone floor below. The opening behind her abruptly sealed itself off.
Her head spinning, Rowen sat up as best she could with her hands being tied behind her back. Where she had landed not much light was being shed; the candles were on the other side of the cavern. She looked up to meet a pair of familiar green eyes only inches form her own.
Castamir’s hands reached behind her head, his eyes still locked on her yellow ones, and untied the gag from her mouth. Rowen waited for him to knock her senseless like all of the guard usually did, but Castamir did not. In fact, his eerie eyes left her face as he got up and went behind her. She felt him untie her hands – she now had back the power of her gold bands. Rowen looked up at him incredulously as he walked back around and set her on her feet. Her hands clenched at her sides, glowing slightly with the firepower growing in them. Her eyes roved Castamir’s expressionless face, shuddering with how much it looked like Jack.
Seething with anger, Rowen raised her arm and let loose a bolt of flame.
To her surprise, Castamir reached up and grasped her white-hot wrist and put it back by her side.
“Save your firepower, Rowen.”
She could only look back at him with wide eyes in response.
“Why so surprised?” Castamir asked her, holding her alarmed gaze.
“How did you do that?” Rowen demanded. “How could you possibly hold down my hand without burning yourself?!”
“Who said I didn’t burn myself?” Castamir said, breaking her gaze and holding up a raw, red palm.
“How could that not hurt?” Rowen whispered in shock.
“Who said it didn’t hurt.” Castamir said quietly, his gaze diverted. He quietly picked up her hand again and led her to the wall. There, the stone was cut so that a gutter-like outcrop of stone held a steady stream of some liquid. Castamir placed Rowen’s hand in it. The water ran in the small gutter-like ledge of stone that spiraled around the chamber from the base up. Rowen could not see what it lead to. Holding her wrist in place, Castamir stood close to her until their eyes were inches apart.
“Ignite it.” He ordered smoothly.
“No.” Rowen replied, uneasy about this would do.
Suddenly Castamir leaned farther and locked Rowen in a kiss. The unexpected move sent a shock of anger through Rowen, and her band suddenly ignited, sending a flame to the liquid that was at the base of the spiraling gutter. Evidently, it was not water.
Once it was lit, Castamir backed away from Rowen, satisfied he had caused her to do what he had asked. The liquid ignited in a rapid fury, spiraling fire up its path until the entire room was lit with the rings upon rings of fir that ran up the walls. The single flat-ish wall of the cavern, on the far side, suddenly ignited in a pattern. As is spread, Rowen realized it was the symbol on the flag of the Seerganash. The dragon sign became completed in flames, and the spark of flame was now traveling along the gutters back in its spiral, but now heading downwards towards the ground. When the spiral reached the opposite side of the cavern, the side opposite the enormous dragon symbol that covered an entire wall, it dropped suddenly down a small tricking waterfall that led to the stream running through the middle of the cavern. This stream ignited in a huge blaze, being of greater width than the tiny gutter streams, and rapidly enflamed, speeding the flow of fire in a great long column towards the flaming symbol of the Seerganash.
The river of fire exploded when reaching the base of the dragon wall, and sent a thin column of fire shooting up the middle of it in a straight line. It reached the top, leaving a trail of fire behind it, and gave a small pop.
For a moment, everything was quiet save the crackling flame as a single large ember floated down, glowing brightly.
Rowen turned to Castamir, still not sure what she had done, and quite irritable at how Castamir had achieved his goal. “What, you couldn’t have done that with a torch?”
Castamir smiled. “I needed dragon fire,” he said lightly, now smirking in a self-satisfied way.
“…to do what?” Rowen asked, watching as that single ember was right near reaching the ground.
Suddenly Castamir lunged at Rowen, knocking both of them back ten feet. Castamir pinned her down, his cloak covering both of them as the large ember reached the ground.
It exploded with a deafening bang.
Clouds of molten fire erupted, blowing over both of them. Castamir’s cloak protected them from the blasts of fire. As the greater part of the fire stopped, Rowen felt the floor begin to shudder and shake as if something incredibly heavy was being dragged across it, and an enormous gust of parched, hot wind blew over them. Then the rocks came… the walls behind them began to crumble, blasted away. Rowen tried to look up, but Castamir held her tight, his arm protectively behind her head. She didn’t have the heart to try to blast him away with fire, as much as she loathed him. He was, after all, protecting her… though from exactly what she did not know, nor why.
When the destructive noises began to die down, Rowen at last felt Castamir loosen his grip. He sat up, then pulled Rowen up beside him. She met his smiling face as he put his hands on her shoulders, spun her around, and leaned his head over her shoulder.
The wall that had held the enflamed image of the Seerganash flag, once smooth, had split along that fire line up the middle. It had opened as two enormous doors, eight feet thick each and immeasurably high, leading to a cavern not built by the Seerganash. It was more immense than even the Vantranack; Rowen could not even see how vast it must be. It was filled with a different kind of air, an air that felt more like home than even the Seerganash halls. The rest of the walls of the cavern behind them had collapsed.
The two of them kneeled there, Rowen leaning back with wide yellow eyes, her hair blowing wildly behind her, and Castamir kneeling behind her, gripping her shoulders and grinning with his head next to hers. His green eyes glittered in the heat.
“Rowen, you have just opened the cavern of the Master Dragon for me.” Castamir, laughing, turned his head and kissed her cheek.
Rowen was too amazed and frightened to care.
Chapter 35: https://www.theonering.com/docs/12119.html