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Old 03-26-2020, 12:56 PM   #24
Spirit of Mist
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,968
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
“Losssst! Lossst! Lossst we are and we shall never find it. My preciousssss!”

Mithadan glared at the tiny dragon hovering over his shoulder. “Enough!” he cried. “We are not lost.”

“You could have asked for directions,” Bird hissed. “Maybe at that White City that we passed.” The wyrm flapped its wings and rose up towards the sky. “It’s not too far back. I can still see it.”

A cloud seemed to pass over Mithadan’s face and he, once again, appeared weary. “Empty; long since abandoned,” he mused. “Long embattled by bots and spam and neglected until its gates closed.” He closed his eyes for a moment and, opening them, appeared to see a vision of things long past. “Tall were its walls and bright were its banners. Many were its folk, and among them minstrels, storytellers and seekers of wisdom. Now gone. All gone.”

“And we’ll be gone as well!” snapped Bird. “Wasted away. I was hungry before we left. Your pantry was nearly bare. And now we’re lost! Keep in mind that I’m a dragon. Not above snacking upon a Man.”

Mithadan snorted in amusement. “I’d like to see you try,” he retorted, with a pat on the hilts of his sword. “Anyway, we’re not lost. There’s the Uniform Resource Locator now.”

To their right was a path leading into a dark forest. Its trees were shaggy, overgrown with moss and lichen, and cast a dark shadow on a track leading through their broad and craggy boles. A wooden sign stood next to the entry into the wood. “Da Downs” it read in green letters, and an arrow pointed the way. Without hesitation, Mithadan strode forward and entered the gloomy way. Bird hovered briefly before the entrance.

“This does not look right,” she grumbled. Then she darted forward, agile as a sparrow and quick as a hawk, and followed the Man into the trees. Catching up to Mithadan, she burrowed into his hood and folded her wings. The two trudged along for a while until the path broadened into a clearing that lay before a grey hill. The track ended at a black wall of rock in which stood a closed gate, flanked by two standing stones. Cobwebs hung from the lintel and a noisome mist crawled from beneath the gate. Over the door were glowing runes that read “The Barrow-Downs.” Under the letters, a graven image of a sword appeared to underline the words. Atop one of the stones, a crow cawed, then wavered and fell to the ground in a heap.

“Home, sweet home,” said Mithadan with a sardonic grin. Then he entered his password and stepped through the gate as it opened with a creak. Before them was a broad, gloomy entryway of dark green marble, covered by a pale, yellowish ceiling. Corridors led off to the sides, each labelled by a sign. “The Books, Name Generators, Fun and Games, Reader’s Section, Themes…” he read. The entryway was empty, and his steps echoed as he traversed its length.

“You’d think there would be more folks heading to the party,” muttered Bird.

“That’s something I noticed early on,” replied Mithadan. “Even when something has people’s interest, members live all over, in different time zones, and posts come in at all hours. Waiting for a response isn’t wise; the person you’re exchanging thoughts with may be asleep, thousands of miles away. Ah! There it is…” At the end of the hall was a doorway bearing the label “Ultimate Bulletin Board.” Grinning broadly, Mithadan entered, expecting to see a room filled with appropriately socially separated friends.

Bird’s eyes narrowed and a trail of smoke issued from her jaws. “Some party,” she commented as she spread her wings in caution.

The hall beyond was empty. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling. There were no candles in the sconces. The only light was the ambient glow from the sickly-colored floor. A deep, sepulchral tune came from an unseen source. “That old black magic has me in its spell, that old black magic that you weave so well, those icy fingers up and down my spine, the same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine… pzzzzt.” Acrid smoke wafted through the hall and sparks flew from behind a large dust bunny. Then, with a crash, a speaker fell over. A stream of rats issued from the walls, seized the fried piece of electronics, and carried it off, squeaking in glee.

“Looks about the same,” commented Mithadan. “But something’s wrong. Where is everyone?”

To the left was a heavy door, ornately carved, with a knocker made in the image of a ravening wolf’s jaws. A stream of spittle dripped from the fangs, and a low growl could be heard. Above the door was a sign that read “Middle-Earth Discussions: The Books.” He ignored the knocker, which was now audibly whining, and reached for the knob. The door opened with a creak. Here, at last, there were people, but this was not what Mithadan expected.

Figures walked to and fro, intent on their own tasks and lost in their own thoughts. But this was no party. The figures lacked substance. They were pale, translucent and their features were unclear. But their voices could still be heard. “Wings!” one cried. Another was expounding upon the naming of rivers in eastern Beleriand. A young woman spoke of the influences in Tolkien’s writing. Yet another argued that the Bridge at Khazad Dum could not be the only way in from the east side of Moria. To the side, two men raised their voices. “What part of enigma do you not understand?” one cried. “He’s clearly an earth spirit,” responded the other.

“Nerd party?” whispered Bird.

“No,” replied Mithadan. “Downers do know how to party, even in these times of stress and uncertainty. This is odd.”

He approached two of the figures and squinted at their indistinct features. “Galpsi?” He said. “Dogtrot?” Other figures approached. “Gwaihir? Joy? One White Tree? Saulotus? I have not seen any of you in ages! Have you returned?”

Another figure approached. Mithadan recognized him immediately. “Sharku!”

Sharku smiled sadly. “No,” he sighed. “We have not returned. We are no longer wights, but rather are shades or echoes of what was. Our words and thoughts remain, but we are trapped in the past and do not appear in the here and now. We exist only in the Ultimate Bulletin Board.”

“The UBB,” Mithadan “That’s our old platform. We moved years ago. This must be an archive.”

“Release us!” Rimbaud cried. “We have forgotten our passwords!”

“You need only sign on to the forums and post,” cried Mithadan. “Your passwords can be recovered. You need only ask.”

A man walked forward with a rattle and clamour. Mithadan recognized him as Saucepan Man. “But we are tired,” he said. “We have become treeish and have other things to do.”

“Follow if you will,” said Mithadan. “But know this, I need not release you. Your words remain on the boards and your thoughts speak to others who seek knowledge even today. The forums remain and are viewed by members, visitors and friends every day. Come if you may, but I cannot make you log in.”

Mithadan turned and stalked from the caves of the archive. He paused at the gate for a moment, looking inside wistfully. “Hither shall the flowers of simbelmyne come never until the world’s end. I wish that they would return, but I can do no more. For that is not my errand!”

Bird took wing and floated above Mithadan’s head as they made their way from the archive. It took some time, but they soon found the correct Uniform Resource Locator. Before them was the celebration.

“Let’s party!” they cried.
Beleriand, Beleriand,
the borders of the Elven-land.
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