The night was closing in fast. Ellron stood looking out across the cliffs. He rested his aching arm on the hilt of his sword. The sword glinted dully in the shadows. He was tired of this war. The Belrog had seemed to be endless as they scuttled forward. Wave after wave of them had advanced toward his troops. He had lost half his army in one day and they were good men and women. Poor and honest soldiers who believed they were fighting for the freedom of their families. Ellron knew the truth of the war and had been training his men for this battle for five years.
His wife was standing beside him and she rested her hand on his shoulder. She kissed him gently on the brow. Ellron had not told her yet of what ultimately needed to be done to stop this war once and for all. He did not know if he could do it alone. He was about to speak when she said, "Ellron we have done well today. We have turned them back." She had fought as well as him that day and he loved her all the more for her courage.
"Yes...we have held them back...for now." Ellron replied.
"Surely now the others will help us once they have seen how many we have lost today." She had said while her hand dropped from his shoulder.
"Some of them may...others I know I cannot trust..." He had replied while wiping the sweat that fell freely from his face and dripped from the end of his dark beard. He looked out across the battlefield where the crows were already picking at the corpses.
He turned away in silence and walked back to their tent. His wife followed. When they got there he told her to gather the council as they had much that needed to be planned and discussed.
When she left he knelt and prayed to the gods of Aeon to guide him in his decisions and to give him a sign. He kept his eyes closed and waited. A gentle breeze began to circle Ellron and a piercing white light surrounded his body. The gods had spoken to him. They had showed him a glimpse of the future. If he did not defeat the Belrog there would be a great empty darkness. He saw his people as slaves and many others from other worlds tortured and killed for pleasure.
Ellron stood up and bowed his head honoring the gods who had blessed him with this vision. He thought of his wife and knew then that he must do it alone. If he took her with him he knew she would die. He took off his royal cloak and folded it neatly on the bed. Then he shaved off his beard. He could hear the council arguing loudly with his wife. He smiled when she told them to be silent. She had such authority in her voice. He took out a faded robe from a chest in the corner of the room.
Ellron put on the cassock and exited the tent with the hood covering his face. The rain was falling hard and no one gave him a second glance as he walked away from the arguing council. He knew his wife would take control once they knew that he was gone. He walked as far as he could that night. He knew the way well into the nearby Farglen forest. It was quiet at first and then he became accustomed to the sounds of the animals. He often heard beasts nearby. Only a handful of the creatures that lived here had been seen before and few wandered this far by themselves into the forest. Eventually, Ellron stopped after he could no longer see the faint path that he was following. He pulled the priest's robe around him. He was wearing ordinary clothes underneath the robe and the night air was chilled. All he could hear was the faint dripping of the rain coming from the trees and falling on the plants and grass around him. He slept soundly underneath a large Oak. He woke to the sounds of the birds calling to each other. As he got up he heard a branch snap nearby and drew a dagger from a hidden pocket in the robes. It was the only weapon he had kept with him for the journey. He waited and a short thin man crept into view. He turned and saw Ellron with the dagger drawn. The man stopped where he was and put a single finger to his lips and then pointed up towards the branches above where Ellron had been sleeping. Ellron glanced upward making sure he could still see the thin man in his peripheral vision. Above him was a black shape that began to hiss as Ellron met its gaze. Ellron ducked as the thin man drew an arrow and fired it into the body of the thing above him in a blur of precision. It fell at Ellron's feet. Even though the creature was barely alive it lurched forward to try and sink its fangs into his shins. Ellron plunged the dagger into the creatures head killing it instantly.
"Who are you?" Ellron asked hesitantly.
"My name is Slyth. Jack of all trades master of none...I can whistle a tune...I can bring you undone." Slyth reached forward and pulled a coin from behind Ellron's ear.
Ellron couldn't help smiling at this foolish man.
"Well I owe you my life Slyth."
"Ah yes...that you do...that you do...but we will come to that another time..."
"So what are you doing in the god forsaken place?" Ellron asked.
"I am hunting for pelts amongst other things and I will ask you the same question. What is your name and why are you here Priest?"
Ellron had almost forgotten that he was wearing the old robe and looked down at his simple garb.
"My name is Ellron. I am on a journey...a pilgrimage..."
Slyth looked Ellron up and down. He studied Ellron's face very carefully.
"Fair enough friar Ellron. We are both lying now. But two lies are better than one truth. Don't you think?"
Ellron shook his head and smiled.
"Shall we journey together for a while...Friar, friar my fellow liar?"
"Very well then...get on with it."
They travelled for three days through the forest. Slyth was an amiable companion. He was full of tricks and he had a wry sense of humour. But his best quality was that he didn't pry into Ellron's business and Ellron responded by doing Slyth the same courtesy. Slyth would sometimes go ahead for a few hours. It was obvious he had been hunting. He often returned with furs of strange beasts that he would roll together and carry across his shoulders. On the third day they reached a bridge above a river. The bridge looked like it could fall apart at any moment. Many of the wooden slats were cracked and broken. They stood there for a moment lost for words. Slyth spoke first, "I can't swim Priest Ellron."
"Ah...I see..." Ellron replied.
"And the furs father Ellron...the furs..."
"Yes...of course the furs..." Ellron replied.
They followed the river for a while along the bank to see if there was a narrow crossing but there didn't seem to be any such luck.
"I suggest father...that we set up camp here..."
"Yes we may as well...Until we can figure out how to get across this river..."
Slyth began to make a clearing a short distance away from the bank and Ellron began to gather wood for a fire.
Ellron turned to see a woman waving at them from the other side of the river. There was something strange about her. Her naked body glowed luminous. It was the most beautiful woman Ellron had ever seen. He started to walk toward the water.