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Cadenza

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There is no light here anymore, nor love nor faint, chill spark of star. The ground is hard and paved with boulders, fine stone-work by the Lord of Caves hewn to evil-seeming by the will of the Lord of Wolves. The air itself is thick and heavy, no life-giving breath left in it; as though such blasphemy refts soul of the wind itself, in mockery of its Master.

The Oath hangs heavy in the deadened sky, sharp rays of fear winding tentacle-like down dark passages and trickling like poison through prison grates. Orc, wolf and thrall alike, caught mid-motion as the nothingness crystallizes around them, flies caught not in limpid sap but in venom and blood.

The Song takes them by surprise these prisoners of the dark, honor, light and even sorrow forgotten beneath misery, minds too wearied to even dream. First a distant storm, low on the horizon, prison chains and shattered intellects. Fierce the light and treacherous, showing nothing of hope, betrayal and broken allegiance laying like bleached bones beneath lightless sky.

But the Song catches them like a breeze in a desert, unlooked for even by him. The Song fair and lonely, melodies strung together as opals on silver. Faint, pure and gleaming in the dark, a high tower white and fair in the light, unbroken trust and un-tarnished loyalty.

He remembers sorrow first, he that faithful might have been. No dream of betrayal yet entering into mind and heart. The stars seen again after a long while, even as they shone so long ago in the Days of the Lamps. The Starqueen’s glimmering hearts-of-fire so loved by the children that first woke to them. There is strength too, not drawing of blade nor shine of battle-dress but steady, tenacious strength that walked the cruel ice and still forgave. Measureless, a silent pool, still and clear, light of trees suffusing and rendering jewel-like. 

The first song falters but a moment, and gathers itself lion-like to leap, severing cord and sundering harmonies. The notes fall away, like raindrops on storm-crushed petals, glimmering as they vanish into thirsty stone. The lightening flashes the faster now, bars of no-light rising around beleaguered enemy, for there is no doubt of their loyalty now. The mists climb, curling serpents of fanged thought, born of the cruel one’s darkest imaginings.

The Singer struggles still re-weaving his harmony as they strike, plucking vaporous asp from untouched skin and starts again. The notes laid down like paving-stones, and builds therein a melody, rising above the sunken floor and shadowed eyes. Refrains like rafters covering and closing hall from cruel weather. The bars fall away, shrinking back towards the thought of him who brought them forth. The chains, reel and clatter and spring open, their catch escaped.

Now he remembers beauty, ancient and wonderful. Beauty such as not been thought for years uncounted, the splendor of the mountains and the loveliness of ice. Wind and water, marred-in-seeming by the fetter’s cold, taken up and sculpted into something better and exquisitely itself, no neatly ordered cells and copied wolves, each flake its own separate charm and yet kindred to every other.

They clash now like those first songs before the world, the first attempting to drown the second, the second sweeping in on the spray and making it glorious, exulting in the starry waves as long ago in the Swanhaven. Stronger and stronger, harmony and discord, first one way and then another, floundering and gaining power. The hall is ablaze now, all having crept into the shadows save the Eleven that stand still, as though guarding their lord. There is fell fire and starlight, dappling shadows where once was light and more lately darkness.

The second swings high, edged and glittering like the Sickle to sweep down upon the enemy, might and music of Elvenland in its wielding. The enemy cowers searching and finds a forgotten cord, a dissonance in the music and brandishes it like a club. The Swanhaven burning, the Foamriders slain, the white ships taken in theft and treachery and  here at last there is no defense against the darkness, barrier upon barrier breached and fallen. Even as at the Sudden Flame so here there is no warning of peril imminent and defeat; and thus, the Song falters fighting as futilely as did the High King against Vala Immortal, striving still beyond hope and yet refusing despair.

So, the melodies quiver for a moment and quenched die.

The Singer falls, like a tree, lightening-touched, or tower whose foundations have been sapped. His form shifting even as he lies upon the stones, no longer goblin-foul and clawed but elven fair even as the others who kneel in fear beside unmoving body.

Now he remembers triumph, harsh and exulting in the darkness before the stars. Recollected virtue burning now like triple jewels. Strength he laughs at for it lies crumpled at his feet. Beauty he disdains for he himself is a thing of beauty, fair and terrible. And sorrow he fears, domain of the Weeper that it is and hates the more having remembered it. No mere chains for these foes, no lash of whip yet cruel enough to pay for reminding him of honor. Theirs a different fate, most terrible that he can devise. Such a fate as the High King had not even his dead, unfeeling limbs subjected too. Thrown to hell-hounds yet living, knowing that despite their deaths the singer shall not be free, but suffer still worse. And if perchance they break he shall know who it was that thus presumed to make him sing.