The Last Days of the Valorim
So the Valorim came to know that their last days were upon them. The Reced was doomed, and the Ethelim they had loved well and guarded long would fall under the sharp trunco of the faceless OMondim and the traitors who led them. The Valorim looked down from the high walls of the Reced and knew they would find no mercy in the dark fury of the OMondim massed below—none for all they had loved.
Not a one of the Valorim did not weep for what would be lost forever.
Not a one of the Ethelim did not fear what would come.
But the Valorim would not yield, though day after day they watched the OMondim flash the gray metal of their trunco, though day after day they heard the OMondim pound at the barricaded gates of the Reced. But a First Sunrise finally came when the hearts of the Valorim began to beat with the rhythm of the battering rams, and by Second Sunrise, the gates could hold no more. The Valorim abandoned the Outer Court and fled into the Great Hall of the Reced, where the hanoraho had once sounded for the victories of the Valorim, and where there was none now left to play them. They barred the doors, and in the Great Hall, the sons of Brythelaf stayed with orluo drawn and held before them.
The Valorim fell back into the inner courts, and then upward into the Council Room of the Ethelim, which held the Twelve Seats of the Reced. There did the ten daughters of Hild stand, while the last Elders of the Valorim were brought into the Tower, and the stout doors of the Tower closed and barricaded behind them—though none believed those doors would hold the tide of the faceless OMondim.
And truly, when the OMondim found the Great Hall closed, their fury was renewed, and the last Elders heard the battering of the iron rams at the doors of the Great Hall, and the terrible groaning of the OMondim.
Then spoke Ecthael, who had warned to no avail of the treachery of the Lord Mondus and the stirrings of the OMondim.
"Now are the days of rancor ended. Now is the time of feuding over. Only these few remain of the Faithful Valorim, and when we have passed, who will stand by the Ethelim then? Who will guard the Twelve Seats? First Sunrise saw the blood of the OMondim spilled over the Reced steps, but Second Sunset will see our own. The Song is over. The Silence begins."
Then spoke Brythelaf. He spoke words of anger. "Ever have you warned of the Silence," he said. "Ever have you spoken of unending woe." He faced the other Valorim. "I say this: It may be that our time is over. Perhaps the Silence that we beat back with the strength of our hearts at Brogum Sorg Cynna— there were gumena weardas!—perhaps that Silence may overwhelm us and the Ethelim we guard. It may be. But if it is to be, then let us take all our song, our story, our beloit, gliteloit, all we have made from our hearts, all we have brought against the Silence, and let us forge it together and send it out from us, so that the Art of the Valorim might still be heard and seen and known even when the Valorim are no longer. Then shall the Silence be defeated."
A great cheer rose from the Valorim in the Tower, and from the ten daughters of Hild in the Council Room of the Ethelim, and from the sons of Brythelaf in the Great Hall, and the sound of it chilled the hearts of the OMondim, so that for a moment their long arms weakened, and the rams battering at the doors of the Great Hall faltered. But for a moment only—and then, terrible was the strength of the OMondim.
So the Forge was heated again, as it had been long ago, heated in the uppermost of the Tower chambers, and one by one the Valorim Elders gave the songs of their hearts, and Young Waeglim shaped a Chain, green and silver, each link a piece of their Art, each link a piece of the Heart of the Valorim.
His striking hammer sounded even as the doors of the Great Hall were broken and the OMondim leaped through. Fierce were the sons of Brythelaf waiting for them there, and fierce their vengeance upon the OMondim. But the OMondim were more than could be counted.
Young Waeglims hammer sounded even as the OMondim beat past the inner courts and upward into the Council Room of the Ethelim and beyond the Twelve Seats, where the ten daughters of Hild cleaved many before they too fell and the OMondim moved upward again.
Young Waeglims hammer sounded even as the Tower door was breached, and the Valorim Elders, unto Ecthael, gave themselves now from chamber to chamber, from staircase to staircase, so that Young Waeglims hammer might not be stilled. But the Valorim were hewn down one by one, and the faceless OMondim came to the uppermost of the Tower chambers, where the last two of the Valorim held. There the OMondim battered and smashed against that door until the framing splintered.
Then it was Brythelaf who stood in the doorway against the great and terrible host of the OMondim, his orlu before him. And it was Young Waeglim who stayed at the Forge, heating the last of the Art of the Valorim into the Chain. Grievous was the battle at the doorway, and grievous the wounds of the noble Brythelaf. But he would not yield, and he would not yield, not until Young Waeglim plucked the Chain of the Valorim Art from the fire of the Forge and carried it to the window of the Tower of the Reced. There he cupped the heated Chain to his chest, and when the Art of the Valorim beat with the song of his own heart, he held it out into the last dark light of setting Hengest, and on the breath of Young Waeglims own Song and Thought, the Chain lifted away from him, higher, then higher, until it was so high that Young Waeglim could see its bright shining no more, and the Art of the Valorim flew from him and was gone.
Then did Brythelaf fall, and Young Waeglim did turn to meet the OMondim triumphant.
But the Chain of the Valorim Art flew upward, far away from the victory of the OMondim, and far from their sudden despair and fierce anger at the loss of what above all things the Lord Mondus had desired to hold in his hand, and for which he had hazarded all.
And so Second Sunset fell over the Ethelim, and their Reced, and their world.
But the Chain left that world, and the Song and Thought of Young Waeglim and the Art within that Chain gave it power. It flew past the highest clouds, through the blue air, and into the dark of cold and black space. It flew past moons and planets, past stars whose songs the Valorim had learned and sung, beyond the constellations that wheeled over their world and whose stories the Valorim had told the Ethelim. The Chain flew past comets and nebulae, and past more stars, strange constellations, and so, finally, out of the galaxy of that world.
And still it flew on through the cold darkness, past farther galaxies that had once shone to the Valorim like distant stars, and which the Chain tumbled by until it left those galaxies as small as single stars again. And so through cold light and colder darkness and cold light and colder darkness, the Chain sped.
And sped, until listen! It came to a small wheeling galaxy, and to a single small star at the edge of that galaxy, and to a single small planet—blue like its own—that rolled around that star. The Chain streaked past its moon and shuddered into its canopy, where it fell, glittering in the light of the strange, single sun. It fell, passing through the cold mist of high white clouds, down through their shadows and into the sunlight again. It fell, cooling as it went, down toward the sea and the green land and the red brick building, until, with a final tumble, the Chain of the Valorim Art, the Chain that held their Song, the Chain that was all that was left against the Silence, struck a window ledge, dangled through, skidded across a white plastic table top, fell toward a gray plastic bench, and dropped into the Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box of Tommy Pepper, sixth- grader, of the class of Mr. Burroughs, of William Bradford Elementary School, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
It took some time before Tommy noticed.