Chapter 2. LOTR
The moon was beginning to rise on the faraway horizon, casting a purple glow over the landscape and bringing a biting chill along with it. The figure pulled his cloak up to cover his pointed ears, both to combat the cold and to avoid being seen. He had been called here by one whom many would consider to be a rather unsavory character, and needless to say, anyone in his position did not want to be caught doing anything questionable.
As he rounded the corner and felt the land begin to slope beneath his feet, he could see several other figures standing in a tight circle on the other side of the wide dip, speaking in hushed, hurried voices, and some shooting nervous glances over their shoulders. So, these were the others. These were the ones who had been chosen for the same fate he had, awaiting the same result – whatever that may have been – that he was.
The dry dirt crunched under his feet as he went, reminding him of just how odd it was to be here. As an elf, he was accustomed to much more elegance; great halls in the midst of wide forests, cities resting in the treetops, all surrounded by nature and none as dry and desolate as this. The fuming mountain behind them loomed above the other peaks, holding a nervous doubt over his head and over his mind.
As he drew closer to the huddled group, a cold feeling he couldn’t quite identify began to creep, unbidden, into him. There was something about this that wasn’t quite right. There was a note of fear in the air, a tense unease that was almost tangible. It was as if it were radiating from a specific source, some dark entity that lay ahead.
He shivered in spite of himself as his own name reached his ears, riding on a ragged breath from somewhere inside the circle. That voice… it was like the grave. Cold and rasping, with a cool danger behind it that nearly made him stop in his tracks. But no, he couldn’t stop. Not now. He was too far in to turn back.
Drawing confidence from somewhere within himself, Frond took the final steps into the midst of the circle, looking up at the shadowed faces of the others. Most, like himself, wore some sort of head covering to conceal their identity. He was glad not to be alone in this, but at the same time unnerved by the anonymity of the gathering.
There was a pregnant pause, through which only the sounds of heavy breathing and cloth rustling could be heard. The group stood waiting, though for what, they did not know. The foreboding feeling grew in Frond’s mind, and he began to look shiftily back and forth. Something was about to happen, he could feel it; there was something in the air now that promised something beyond what any of them had imagined. Something that would change the world, though for better or for worse, he had no way of discerning.
He appeared suddenly, as if from nowhere. Frond staggered backwards in surprise, as did many of his companions. The figure was adorned in a sleek, black armor from head to toe, several spikes and small spires protruding from the top of his helmet. On his hands, he wore mail gloves, and on one finger, a gleaming golden ring.
It was the ring that seemed to catch their eyes, to enrapture them in its glow and hold them in their places. All movement had ceased, and what had before been quiet had deepened to silence. There was a commanding air about this man, something that told the others exactly what he was capable of. It sent a shiver down Frond’s spine as his eyes traced the firey letters running across the band of the ring. They were fragments of a tongue he did not know, but he could feel that they spoke of something great and powerful.
The figure turned slowly, examining each of the members of the circle in their turn. He took his time, pausing on some, nearly passing over others. When the icy gaze, so out of place in this land of fire, lit upon Frond, he looked away. It was overpowering, searching, and yet, somehow, imploring.
“My friends…” The return of the rasping voice shocked them all into some small movement. The man – if, indeed, it was a man – stood tall and proud, the hand bearing his ring placed solidly on the hilt of the sword that hung at his hip. This was it. The reason that they had all been called here was about to be revealed.
“I have a proposition.”