Music: Twilight and Shadow from Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King soundtrack.

She stands before the waters of the deepest lake.

Legends are told of this place, where once a star seared from the heavens, falling to earth with an impact that defies understanding, undermines these words.  Filing with water, a hole became a source of light and power, drawing the forces of the great metallic dragons to its shores–even the wisest, most ancient dragons among them relying on intuition as their guide.  So followed others, until a city of gleaming, righteous spires reaching skyward was reflected in its surface, and monstrous evil gathered, lurking below that same surface.  Just as the millennia of history lost before the cataclysm, this lake contains fathoms unknown, where both the beasts of nightmares and the hopes of ages yet to come live and breathe, waiting.  It is a world unto itself.

Legends, too, are told of the elven woman who gazes into the waters now –stories that share her face stretching across time, like a star that surges, dies and returns throughout eternity.  Many names, many purposes, a collection of celestial dust and wild essence is bound together in her being, forming a crossroads of change, a horizon where sky and land embrace as the light dies and is reborn.   She is marked, as she has been in other lives, as a passage, a gateway for many people, the protector of their hopes.  A crown should grace her bare brow — she is the symbol and future of two opposing cultures: a great race of elves and the dark underfolk mired in slavery.

Invisible, the ghost of a crown still lingers where her previous incarnation had united lands to the north, now besieged by ancient enemies. So, too, is this princess… this queen, this girl… marked by the touch of deception and shadow from across time and the planes, where even the gods are caught in a web woven around them. Not far from there, war rages, stealing life from the bravest of men and the most cruel of monsters.  Even they are pawns and rooks, pieces moving across a board in a game of which they are not aware.

Forces of light and darkness surge forward because this is a time – their time – for change and legend; a time when their stories shall lift into song that will be shared in the hearts and throats of people yet to come, even if their spirits shall fade away into history at the new dawn.

Yet, legends exist beyond this single girl, beyond this deepest lake – tales of heroism and sacrifice, of bonds that outlast the challenges of wearying travel and cosmic burden.  Stories have risen and fallen in waves not unlike the races and kingdoms across the face of the land, the pattern of their lives an echo of the future that may only complete a circle to the past. Prophecy presses on progeny, straining the ideals of duty and fidelity to their breaking point. Must the banner bearer forsake those who protect her sacred duty, or should she stand with them even if it means the banner may fall? What makes a leader? What is necessary and what is too much? Is future… history…. legend born through supplication to the demands of  that which transcends oneself, no matter the cost? Or is the future born of the intimate connections built through the sacrifices and loyalty among peers, friends, the knots made between people that strive together towards that horizon?

She stands before the waters of the deepest lake.

And then she does not.