A Long-extended Party presents Emissaries of the Eyrie, a short story featuring two new heroes in Fire on the Eastemnet, the upcoming fan-created Adventure Pack in the Oaths of the Rohirrim cycle. Written by BobbinmcSmallburrow, ALeP Lore and Storytelling Assistant.
Have you been looking for a way to support ALeP? We don’t accept any money directly, but you can help commission art, like the one above that was commissioned from Ted Nasmith, through this Patreon run by Seastan. Supporters of this Patreon get access to full resolution images of brand new art commissions, most of which will get turned into ALeP cards!
Stretching out his wings to their full span, Alagos let the cool mountain breeze wash over him. He loved the early night, when there was enough light to still see up and down the Misty Mountains and out across Mirkwood Forest, but it was dark enough that none of the poor land-bound creatures could ever hope to spy Alagos perched high above the Anduin River valley. He stood watch, along with his close friend Faunith, as a guard of the Lord of the Eagles, Gwaihir.
These were always the best nights. Many of the other Eagles saw it as a chore to have to stand guard while Gwaihir surveyed the sky and land each night, but Alagos loved the freedom of seeing the vastness of Middle-Earth and knowing that he could fly wherever his wings could take him. Being one of the keenest sighted of the Eagles of Manwë, Alagos often flew far from the eyrie to experience the world sung of before time by the Ainur, and formed by the will of Eru Ilúvatar. He had seen the dark frozen wastes of Forochel and the mysterious lands far in the east of Rhûn. He had flown over the jungles of the Harad, and he still loved to glide toward the sunset in the West where, in ages past, his forefathers had flown from Taniquetil in Valinor at the bidding of the Vala Manwë to keep watch on the evil of the Dark Lord Morgoth.
“The moon is beautiful tonight, my lord,” said Landroval, who was standing next to his brother Gwaihir. Alagos had to agree. The moon, in his opinion, was what made the night sky so lovely.
A lone hawk soaring in front of the moon reminded Alagos of the many brothers who, forgetting their service to Valinor, became dumb and bestial, focused only on food and the hunt. He grieved their loss; some of them had been his close friends. But the race of the great Eagles of the North had stayed true to the Valar, under the leadership of their lord Gwaihir.
Through the fog of his reflections on the journeys of his past, Alagos heard Gwaihir say from his perch, “What’s all this uproar in the forest tonight? I hear wolves’ voices! Are the goblins at mischief in the woods?” Alagos turned on his perch to see what he was talking about.
Gwaihir leapt into the air and Alagos and Landroval swiftly followed. They looked down, where far below the large forms of Wargs could be seen circling a few trees around the edge of a clearing. Suddenly a blue flame flew from one of the trees and struck one of the Wargs on his back, setting him ablaze. More blasts of flame followed in blue, red, and green.
“The Wargs must have some prey cornered up in those trees,” said Gwaihir. “Seldom are they alone in mischief however,” he observed, and then, with a glance at the eastern base of the Misty Mountains, he exclaimed, “There! The moonlight reveals the goblins, coming to meet the Wargs for some fell purpose. Let us go down and see what evil is afoot. Alagos, send for the chieftains. We will gather and disturb the tricks of the servants of Morgoth.”
Immediately Alagos left the other two Eagles and flew back to the gathering place on the eyrie where the other thirteen chieftains of the Eagles had their abode. He called them and their warriors to action and then down they swooped toward the forest far below.
By the time the Eagles caught up to Gwaihir and his brother Landroval, the goblins had reached the clearing and were setting fires around the base of five trees, in which Alagos could now make out the forms of fifteen people. In the tallest of the trees, he recognized the form of the wizard Gandalf, a great friend of the eagles. He was climbing to the very tip of his tree and seemed to be preparing to jump. Gwaihir leaned his head forward and swept his majestic wings back, speeding into a fast dive. The rest of the Eagles followed their lord down into the fray. Just as Gandalf leapt forward, the Lord of the Eagles extended his talons, snatched up Gandalf, and soared back high into the night sky.
A roar of anger arose from the goblins and Wargs in the clearing as Landroval led a detachment of Eagles to grab the other unfortunate victims. Alagos led the remainder of the eagles straight into the crowd of enemies. With his talons leading, he shredded three goblins with the speed of his flight and grabbed a large grey Warg on his way back up. Directly in front of him, he spied a particularly intrepid goblin who had climbed up in another tree with a spear. The goblin took aim and hurled it at Alagos as he pulled out of his dive. There was nothing he could do to avoid it at the speed he was going. He rolled to the right in a desperate attempt to dodge his death . With a screech, another Eagle came plunging down and deflected the projectile with its talons. The spear just missed him, taking off a few of the feathers on his left wing. Alagos then flew up away from the forest and dropped the still struggling Warg from several hundred feet up, ensuring his swift demise.
His rescuer came alongside him, her feathers glistening in the moonlight. “Cutting it a little close, don’t you think?” commented Faunith, Alagos’ best friend of the last few centuries.
“Thank you Faunith. I probably would be dead ten times over without you always being there to save me out of my predicaments.”
“No problem! Clumsy oafs like you always need backup,” joked Faunith.
“Hey!” Alagos acted insulted but he was used to the playful banter from his companion.
With the goblins’ quarry, who Alagos had recognized as a company of dwarves and one suspiciously small person, rescued, the Eagles flew back to the safety of their eyrie.
Alagos and Faunith alighted at the Great Shelf, the council place of the eagles. Gwaihir was already there, deep in conversation with the wizard Gandalf. Seeing Alagos, Gwaihir turned for a moment and ordered him, “Alagos, take Faunith to organize the scouts and keep a close watch on the goblins’ movements. Our guests have killed the Great Goblin. Who knows what mischief they might attempt for revenge?”
“Yes, my lord,” Alagos replied, and turning to make sure Faunith was coming, he flew off at once.
Alagos glided through the clouds high above the sphere of the world. When flying with Faunith, he tended to give in to her desires to be rising over the clouds rather than flying close to the ground. The clouds’ puffy lightness reminded Faunith of the fluffy Eagle hatchlings that were all too rare nowadays. Her greatest joy was soaring through the open blue sky and seeing the clouds and the earth below, and then to use her height advantage to grab some unsuspecting prey by diving from beneath the cloud cover.
It had been over two months since the Eagles had rescued Thorin’s company and sent them on their way by landing them at the Carrock. Gwaihir had sent scouts far and wide to keep watch on the hated goblins but none had seen any signs of them. Most of the scouts had flown home long ago, claiming that the death of the Great Goblin had caused the goblins to disperse and become unorganized. Faunith did not believe it, however. She and Alagos had stayed on the hunt, but in the last month they had seen but one goblin, and he was a stray, scurrying from cleft to hillside dell, trying to keep out of sight.
Alagos was ready to head home, but Faunith convinced him to take one last day to fly far north to the stronghold of Mount Gundabad to see if the death blow really had been struck to the goblins. They approached the fortress in the early evening from a great height, to avoid the arrows of the inhabitants, if they were still there. As the skies grew dark they circled and circled, but saw nothing but the emptied walls and keep of the ancient Dwarven fortress, which, until recently apparently, had been occupied by all kinds of goblins and orcs of horrible appearance.
Finally relenting, Alagos turned towards home, but a cry from Faunith made him whip around. At first he saw nothing, but then he noticed it. A lone orc, much larger than normal, was emerging from under the mountain! In his right hand he held a wicked dark sword aloft, and in the other a large flaming torch. Faunith was already swooping lower to investigate and Alagos followed suit. The orc kept walking forward and it soon became apparent that behind him, marching forward, was a massive army, outfitted for war.
“What can this mean?” asked Faunith, visibly confused. “Where can all of these have come from, and for what purpose?”
As the shadows lengthened on the mountainside, Alagos looked in the direction the army appeared to be headed. Though he could not see it in the dark, he knew there was only one point of interest in that direction: the Dwarven stronghold of Erebor, infested by the fire-drake Smaug.
“They’re headed to Erebor,” he said. “They mean to kill Smaug and take the treasure of the mountain for themselves.”
“I think they’ll find their job pretty easy, considering the Dragon appears to be dead,” observed Faunith. “Look, just south of Erebor! The city of Men, Lake-town is glowing red like the embers of a fire. But from it I can see the lights and masses of an army of Men heading towards the Mountain! Smaug must be dead!”
“Those Men stand no chance against the might of this fell army,” said Alagos. “Hurry, we must get back to the Eyrie and tell Lord Gwaihir!”
The two companions turned toward home but were ambushed by hideous shrieks from all sides. Large black forms descended on them, intent on sending them crashing out of the high airs.
“Bats!” shouted Alagos. “Great Bats of the North!” He twisted and dove in an attempt to avoid the furious cloud of evil creatures. They were large, with a wingspan of seven or eight feet, and had sharp claws and razors for teeth.
Faunith climbed up in the sky, able to outpace the bats, and disappeared into the clouds above. She watched her friend below and prepared to dive down to his aid.
Alagos continued in his struggle with the bats, slicing two or three with his talons as they slashed back and forth. He lurched and turned and dove, but could not shake the horde of darkness. Suddenly, like a terrible thunderbolt from the sky, Faunith came, the wind screaming over her in her swift speed. She shredded through the cloud of bats, shrieking in her approach. The boldness and wrathfulness of her flurry caused the bats to balk in their attack, giving the two Eagles the gap they needed to quickly get away. They were soon able to outdistance the bats, and came in sight of home just as the sun peeked over the Misty Mountains to the west.
Alagos was enraptured as the army of Eagles flew towards Erebor, over the vast forest of Mirkwood. The flock was arrayed in a beautiful formation, ready for war. He knew not what evils and perils lay ahead for them or the rest of the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. But he did know that no matter what, the servants of Manwë, the valiant Eagles of the Eyrie, would be watching and guarding against the dark powers of this world. And he hoped that one day, he and Faunith would live to see the darkness overthrown once and for all, and that they could fly back to the shining land of his fathers, the glorious country of Valinor.