Author’s Note: I have decided that this particular Tale will be dedicated to the over-worked Ellysia, who for the last week has been loaded with last-minute school projects (which is why she has not submitted more of her own fic) and needs to sit back and take a break from it!
Recap of Tale 12 . . .
Without a word he embraced me gently and I hid my eyes in his shoulder. I sighed shakily and let his tunic soak up my fresh tears; wherever I found them, for I thought I had wept all I could. [Oh, Legolas . . .]
He merely stroked my hair and made soft cooing noises. Surprisingly enough, I did calm down and finally went to greet Aragorn and Gimli. While Legolas very reluctantly went out to scout the area for what was apparently the twentieth time, they told me all about what had happened after the battle at Helm’s Deep and about their long trek to Isengard and their confrontation with Saruman, as well as their surprise when they received a gift from Wormtongue: the Palantir, which he threw down at them from the heights of the tower.
I humphed. “So the fool had a use after all, did he? I suppose then that it is not with regret that I should reflect on my choice to allow him to survive his flight from Edoras.”
Trying to rest later, I felt a stab of pain and placed my hand over my chest, trying to remain focused even as my sight blurred. As I was a forest Elf and it was my nature, I sought comfort in the trees we had camped near, searching for something to ease the pains that lanced through my body all at once.
But abruptly, the world went black.
Concerned, as he had noticed Kyshri’s sudden bout of pain, Aragorn followed the female Elf into the trees. He kept a fair distance between them so she would be less likely to notice him, but it was not far enough that he could not see what she was doing.
When she stopped to lean against a tree, he stopped as well and watched her. Apparently oblivious to his presence, she massaged her chest firmly, her head hanging in the universal sign of distress.
But as he was about to approach her, she lurched forward as though someone had taken hold of her tunic and jerked her toward them. Her head flopped back loosely as she rose a few feet from the ground, a strange purple light shining beneath her hand.
Slowly, her form faded and was replaced with one a great deal larger and taller than her. Aragorn’s eyes widened when he saw what it was, but he neither moved nor spoke. The creature, however, noticed him immediately and turned its head to look at him. They stared at each other, neither moving, for several minutes. In the end, the creature dropped to all fours and turned to face him, snarling and revealing serrated fangs.
He ran then, not sure what point there was in such a futile attempt to escape a beast that could easily catch him in a few strides, but knowing he had to try to warn the Rohirrim. He burst from the trees, well aware that the monster was right behind him. “Dragon!”
Legolas could feel the heavy thumps in the ground. Except for the Oliphaunt, he had not been aware there was anything that could do so. He rounded a bend in the path just as an earth-shaking roar reached him. His eyes fell upon a scene of utter chaos as he took in the massive dragon that now terrorized the camp. It had startlingly green eyes and a mane of golden hair. The talons and horns were gold (though certainly not as soft as the metal) and the scale-plating from its neck to the end of its tail was blood red. And besides its fire craw and the underside of its wings (both were grey), it was completely black.
But however dragons were supposed to be evil, he knew that this one was not. It was simply mistaken, for it had certainly never seen Men before. He ran a few steps forward. [Keelica! Keelica! Shadow Queen!]
The dragon turned on him immediately and dashed for him at a dead run, the back of its throat glowing orange in preparation to flame. He realized the mistake that he had made too late to correct it. As it neared, the orange glow becoming more prominent, he turned his head to the side and closed his eyes in resignation. The flame itself would probably not kill him, but the dragon’s subsequent attack on him would.
There was suddenly the sound of earth being torn up and then silence. He felt the dragon’s smoky breath as it sniffed at him and he did not move at first, not wishing to provoke a renewed attack on himself.
It finally spoke. The language was a positively ancient form of Elvish and he could just barely understand it. [You are a child of the Valar.]
He straightened deliberately, making no abrupt movements, and met the dragon’s green eyes, which were easily as high as his forearm was long. [Yes.]
The dragon tilted its head, as though equally troubled at the foreign-ness of what was basically the same language. [Where am I?]
[You are in Middle-earth, in the land of Rohan.]
It tilted its head more and drew back a little. [What year is this?]
He told it, adding, [It has been many millennia since you last came to my kin. I do not know how you were summoned, but I am glad of your presence. We may need your aid.]
[Has Morgoth risen again? Is Glaurung reborn?]
[Not as far as we know. Our battle is with the Dark Lord Sauron.]
It snorted. [Morgoth’s disciple? He is trouble?]
[His strength has increased a hundred-fold since you last fought him. He is trying to take control of Middle-earth.]
It bared its fangs, but he knew it was not at him that the gesture was aimed. Turning to the camp, it asked, [What are these beings? I have never seen their like before.]
[They are the race of Men.]
[Are they similar to your kin?]
[Very little. Men are mortal and possess many abilities far dissimilar to our own. I must ask you to bear patience toward them.]
[You speak as though they are everywhere, like rats.]
[In a way they are, though not like rats. Not generally.]
The dragon stretched its right leg out, lowering its shoulder to him. He needed no instruction to understand what it wanted. Hopping onto its back, he sat between the wings and felt the dragon’s mane. It was silk to his touch and he found it odd that a dragon would have such soft hair.
It crouched and then pushed from the earth, rising high and remaining in the air with two half-flaps of its wide wings before landing in the camp with only the sound of rushing air to announce its arrival. He dismounted and called Aragorn over. Not to his surprise the Ranger came nearer, but did so with extreme caution, his eyes on the dragon that was currently preparing to lie down and make itself right at home.
“This is Keelica, the Shadow Queen.”
Aragorn shook his head, his eyes still on the dragon. “The name is familiar, but I cannot recall where I heard it.”
Legolas searched for names his friend might recognize. “. . . The Mother of Dragons . . . The Iluvatar’s Dragon . . .”
Now the Ranger nodded. “Yes, I believe I remember reading about it. But there was something else . . .”
Legolas nodded in return. “I, for one, would like to know how it is that she got here.”
Aragorn looked at him, as though aware of something the Elf was not and pondering whether it was safe to tell him. “. . . It took Kyshri.”
“Took her?” was the curious and unexpectedly calm reply.
“Yes. I have noticed that Kyshri has been experiencing pain for some time and when she went into the trees I followed her, fearing that she might walk into danger. She stopped by a tree . . .”
“. . . And?”
“Turned into the dragon, which chased me back to camp.” Puzzled by the Elf’s lack of concern, Aragorn continued with, “How was that possible?”
“For the Shadow Queen to be summoned, one must possess the Orb of Eru and a female host for the spirit to enter. However, I was not aware that Kyshri was in possession of such a valuable item.”
“. . . The Orb of Eru?”
“Yes. When the Iluvatar created Time, he also created companions to aid him and keep peace in his worlds. These were the dragons two–Glaurung and Keelica–who had many a fine brood of dragons to also be of assistance to him. But Morgoth stole Glaurung and many other dragons and soiled their souls, turning them to evil.
“To prevent this from happening to the dragons that had not yet been captured, the Valar created an orb and imprisoned the free dragons’ souls inside of it. There were few–only seven–but the Valar knew that even those seven were better than the full lack of them opposing Morgoth. Then they gifted this orb, the Orb of Eru, to the Elves to use against him.
“Four of these dragons–the Element Keepers of Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water–can be summoned and commanded by an experienced wielder of magic. Two others–the Primary Element Keepers of Light-Life and Dark-Death–are far stronger than the Element Keepers and usually require the skill of one with the power of an Istar to be summoned and controlled.
“The last dragon was, of course, the Shadow Queen. She is extremely powerful and because of this, they could not compress her physical form into the orb as they had the others. To save her they were forced to slay her and snare her soul as it escaped. For this reason the Shadow Queen cannot simply be summoned from the orb to use in battle no matter how magically-adept one is. One must be able to produce a female host body for her soul to inhabit so she can take form.”
“There are many theories. One is simply that as she is a queen dragon, she would require a body of the same gender. Another is that as females were born to withstand the strain of another life alongside their own, they are far more able to endure the drain the habitation would cause. Also, females of any race are considered to be closer to the Valar because they are creators and preservers of life, which were two of the purposes for the Shadow Queen’s imprisonment. Yet another insists that females are far stronger than males at least in magic, which is where a great deal of a dragon’s power comes from. Still another is that females are excellent strategists and extremely patient when necessary; combined with a dragon’s strength, it would be unbeatable. Then there is the theory that females are far more successful in points of defense, though it often does not take too much prodding to anger them and incur their wrath, a few moments of which is supposedly worse than an eternity in Udun.”
Aragorn chuckled. ” Perhaps.”
“Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for this privilege. It is certainly one a female should be willing to pay for peace, but it is still a high price. She must be willing to sacrifice her life. While the Shadow Queen’s spirit is immortal and could inhabit a thousand host bodies, the host body itself suffers whatever injury is inflicted upon it during battle. Though there are scales protecting her, the Shadow Queen has her weaknesses and if one is exploited and she is killed, the soul merely returns to the Orb of Eru while the host body dies instead.”
Aragorn did not like the sound of that. “But how could Kyshri have summoned such a creature?”
“That I do not know. There is no mention of what happened to the Orb after it was employed. Being the size of a large nut and glowing purple only when used, there is a possibility that it fell into the hands of one who did not know what it was and decided it to be a plain sphere of onyx. It may not have reached Kyshri until she had established Veikai. She might or might not have known what it was when she acquired it.”
“Is it reversible?”
“I do not know that either. I am assuming so, but the Orb has only been used once before.”
“Could the dragon possibly be discontent with life in the Orb? So discontent that she would not relinquish her flesh?”
Legolas shook his head. “There is only one way to find out.” He turned to the dragon, ten times the size of a horse, and asked, [Shadow Queen, will you return the host body you inhabit?]
Keelica opened the eyes nearest to them, the pupil dilating and contracting to adjust to the dimming light of the day, and bared her sharp fangs in a frightening parody of a smile. [You need not fear, young Quendi. I came to this world of my own accord because I sensed rising evil. Also of my own accord shall I reenter the Orb, for it is merely a channel for me to appear in this world. At any other time I am free to go wherever it is that I please. Your friend is safe–she sleeps within my breast.]
Aware that dragons often spoke rather poetically with much figurative embellishment–as he had studied them while Smaug had inhabited Erebor–Legolas did not give her final comment much consideration. Instead, he thanked her and returned to his scouting assignments.
It was only at night, when he and Aragorn had convinced Gimli that Keelica would not harm him and he could sleep safely beside her, that he discovered that the dragon had not been figurative. Curled against the Shadow Queen’s chest and looking thoughtfully up at the stars for three hours, he finally rested his head on the hard but oddly comfortable chest plate and started to drift to sleep, hearing a dim heartbeat beneath his ear.
Not paying the soothing sound much attention, he was startled awake by a deeper and slower heartbeat. He lifted his head and stared at the chest plate as though it would reveal answers to him, then slowly placed his head on the chest plate once more.
As before, it was the lone heartbeat that was barely quicker than his own. Then came the second heartbeat, like someone was slowly pounding on a drum. He listened in fascination as the twin heartbeats continued, lasting only until the sound eased him into sleep.
He did not resist; Keelica had been telling the truth.
Kyshri was still alive . . . still safe.
Okay, everyone! That’s it for now (with ‘for now’ being the key phrase)! You won’t see ROTK until next January or February (I promise, I will give a big recap for everyone, geek_chick; and I’m sure I’ll remember, but just in case I don’t, somebody remind me sometime near the end of December, please)!
But fear not–I’m far from done with my works! I have three other fics lined up for you, even though none of them are finished. Therefore, I will be skipping a week between now and then (sorry; it must be done)–look for the next post, titled Startracer, Starchild, on the week of May 18th!!
Until then, namarie!!
Goto: Shinigami’s Citadel