This story ties Middle-earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien and Thief – The Dark Project together. As I played through

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This story ties Middle-earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien and Thief – The Dark Project together. As I played through Thief for the first time, I noted all the similarities between these two epic and immersive universes, so I thought it would be fun to write something like this. I hope I’m not violating any copyrights on this or anything, but as this story is purely for my entertainment and yours, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Enjoy!

The History of the Fourth Age of Middle-earth
Prologue - Of the World Before
In the years ere the destruction of the One Ring of Power, Middle-earth abounded with the ancient people. The Elves, the wisest of all and immortal, doomed to see the world until it’s end. The Dwarves, builders of magnificent underground mansions and caverns, mightiest of all the races as forgers and armourers. The Hobbits, quiet and unwilling participants in the events that would bring about the destruction of Sauron, the last of the mighty Dark Lords. And the Istari, or the Wizards, the only beings able to conjure true magics in Middle-earth apart from the Dark Lords, and also wise in the happenings of Time and the politics of the races of the world.

Middle-earth of the Third Age held wonder and magical beings beyond the minds of Men in the days of the Fourth Age, and all races were a part of the intricate webs of Time, willing or not. All of the fair people of Middle-earth were united against the Dark Lord, though at times not by choice. In this Last Age of Wonder, the Three Elven Rings still held their power, good and true over all other Rings. The Seven Dwarf Rings (three held on the Dark Throne in Mordor by Sauron) as well, capable of forging the strongest sword, shield and mail ever beheld apart from Narsil, the Sword of Isildur, itself. And the Nine Rings of Men, corrupt and evil, destroying and twisting all that used them.

But now, as the world plunges into a new Age, all these Rings, good and evil, are lost to the world. The Elves and the Wizards have journeyed to the Far West, in search of better life and wisdom in the land of the Valar, creators of Middle-earth. The Dwarves have vanished into caves deep below the earth, most likely never to be seen by Men ever again in the world. The Hobbits have also vanished, but no one truly knows where they dwell now, for they try to keep away from the other races, and their problems.

Of the Beginning of the Fourth Age

In the days and years that followed the Defeat of Mordor and the destruction of the One Ring, some magic and fairness remained in Middle-earth, but it faded, though slowly. The Elves (knowing that with the destruction of the One Ring, the power of the Three, the Seven and the Nine would also fail) became a rumour, a whisper in the forest wind, fading from the world’s arena of good vs. evil. For in those days after the War of the Ring, though the source of evil had been crushed forever, the Orcs remained, as well as the Balrogs, servants of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, in the First Age of Middle-earth. Gondor battled long and terribly against these last vestiges of evil, and at length triumphed.

Note: to make this tale easier read, I will use dates to define the time periods these events take place, using the years 1-2999 (being that this Fourth Age is 3000 years long) to help the reader achieve a concept of great amounts of time passing during this tale.

The battles were long and hard, for the Orcs easily multiplied and had many more soldiers than Gondor. The Balrogs also slew many a Gondorian warrior ere being defeated themselves. It is said among the Elves that the reason Gondor won it’s war was because of Aragorn, heir and descendant of Isildur himself, who led courageously and did not waver but a moment against the terrible servants of the Enemy. This war to eradicate the Enemy’s army lasted 51 long, horrible years. Gandalf the White had long since left Middle-earth, journeying with Galadriel, Celeborn and Cirdan to the land of the Valar. The Hobbits, who are no expert warriors to begin with, had disappeared like the Elves and Dwarves.

The Fourth Age of Middle-earth is also known as the beginning of the Dominion of Men, a time of darkness, different than the darkness upon the world under Sauron’s shadow, yet darkness nonetheless. Despair and greed overwhelmed the Men after there was no longer a common enemy, and feuds and even riots broke out between the once-fair lords and nobles of Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Because of the inherent ability to be corrupted, that all Men have, the unknown Elves of Middle-earth, the ones who chose to remain, banded together with a group of Men from Gondor to create a secret order, an order that was, and is, forever dedicated to the possession of knowledge and the guard against any who would try to bring back the evil ways of Mordor, be they Men, Elves, Dwarves or even Hobbits (however unlikely some of these may be). These Protectors of Knowledge will play extremely important parts in the years to come. This brings my tale to a new chapter, a chapter that must be told in it’s entirety to establish a connection to the Fifth Age of Middle-earth, more commonly known as The Metal Age because Men no longer keep, or care, for knowledge of the past Ages and their events.

Of the Fourth Age and the Corruption of Men
And now begins the tale that will eventually lead to connection with everyone’s favorite thief, Garrett. It is now the Year 1014 of the Fourth Age, nearly a millennia after Aragorn and the White Army finally crushed the forges and spawning chambers of the Orcs (yet a few legions still remain, buried deep in the Misty Mountains, mostly located near the Mines of Moria and the protection offered by Durin’s Bane, the Balrog) and rid the world of all but five of the dreaded Balrogs. In these years of freedom and learning of Men, corruption and greed also crept into civilization. Yet make no mistake, the advent of primitive electricity and machinery are some of the greatest achievements of any of the races of Middle-earth, young or old.

At this time of greatness and accomplishment of Men, there was yet an evil, not crushed, not even damaged, only weakened by the destruction of the One Ring and the War of Aragorn’s Gondor. Note: I am now traveling back in time to the days when the One Ring was destroyed; just letting you know so you don’t get confused :) This evil was none other than the most dreaded servant of Sauron himself – the King Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgul. He made not the mistake his master did in thinking the enemy was incapable of destroying the Ring. Though his entire existence was mastered by Sauron, he saw his next act of evil as one only furthering his master’s works of darkness. He waited in his tower in Minas Morgul for the day when Frodo Baggins, a lowly Hobbit caught up in the raging waters of Time, would finally, inevitably, bring the One Ring to the Cracks of Doom atop Orodruin, the Mountain of Fire. Though it is presumed the Lord of the Nazgul was there at the battle with the Captains of the West, and subsequently flew to Orodruin just as the Ring fell in, Sauron had actually commanded him to remain in Minas Morgul to protect against any other attack from Gondor. And when this day of judgment came, the Witchking Ringwraith descended into the lowermost pits of Minas Morgul, to his forge where he constructed all his weapons of evil and poison. At this time, Sauron had entrusted the Nine Rings to the Lord of the Nazgul, so his power would not, or could not, be destroyed all in one place. With only a few moments remaining until the One was completely melted in the horrible fires of Orodruin, the Lord of the Nazgul cast the Nine Rings of Men into his mold, poured a poisonous formula of melted glass and stone over them, and forged the resulting mass into a gem. The glass and stone were not of any variety, no, they in fact possessed a power to block the destruction of the One away from the Nine, thus preserving their power inside the gem. The gem also had five metal prongs extending from it’s base. At exactly this instant, when the Evil Glass covered the last piece of melted Nine Rings, the One was eradicated.

The King Ringwraith, not forgetting the effects this would have on himself even without his Ring, transformed himself into a beast, a hideous minotaur-like creature, turning himself back into a living being. As he did this, he stumbled and fell. The other eight Ringwraiths had just been destroyed along with the Ring. The Lord of the Nazgul nearly died at this moment, for his power was not only bound to his one of the Nine Rings, but also to the other eight. He was only saved by his own cunning and knowledge of magic, and his master’s paranoia of protecting his power (this will be explained in a later tale). After this moment of weakness, he rose up again. His immortality and near-invincibility were lost to him forever, but he did what Sauron could not – survived the destruction of his sustaining force. This act weakened him terribly, and he had not the strength to lift his new creation, the gem, off it’s forging table, so he crawled from his forging chambers, sealed them behind himself, and fled to Dol Guldur, the Hill of Sorcery, in Mirkwood Forest. (This brings us back to the year 1014 of the Fourth Age)

Minas Morgul, since being abandoned by the Ringwraiths, was taken over by the Men of Gondor and remade into its former glorious city, Minas Ithil. It was only called this name by the Men of Gondor, however. The remaining Elves in Middle-earth and that secret order that was somewhat illustrated earlier in this tale call it Minas Gor-Lom, The Tower of Terror’s Echo. They named it this because, as they are the wisest peoples left in Middle-earth, they know that there is a remnant of evil that still resides in the city, waiting for it’s chance to be awakened. To the residents of the city that are not from Gondor, it is called only The City, for they do not remember its true name at all.

We now come to the year 1189, in which the White City of Minas Tirith has fallen, like it’s sister city, Minas Ithil/Gor-Lom, into corruption. Gondor is governed by greedy, fat nobles who prize their jeweled scepters in their hands more than the glory and goodness of their realm. Minas Ithil has fallen completely out of their notice and care, but it is much the same way, with riots, hangings and beheadings taking place every day, becoming almost a form of entertainment for those not in the noose.
Of the Fall of Minas Tirith and the Rise of the Hidden Evil

And now, in that time of hopelessness and fear, the Orcs attacked. They came in numbers so great, the watchmen in the White City’s towers thought the end of the world had come, and the black army of Orcs swarming towards them was the land falling away right before their eyes. The city alarm was sounded. Men rushed to the gates, walls and windows of the great fortress, hoping to catch the giant legion with their arrows before the Orcs reached the city walls. But, in the thousand years since Aragorn passed on and his army was disbanded, Gondor had become complacent and weak, thinking that the mighty armies of old rid the world of all evil. On that dark day, the White City fell to the Orcs, for within their ranks, four of the five Undead Balrogs walked, and dark dragons from far lands flew overhead and scorched the city to the ground.

Yet, against all odds, a number of Men escaped the devastation of their fair city. They were the strongest and fairest of all Gondor’s warriors, and this is why they managed to escape with their skins. These last of the fair Gondorians fled to Minas Ithil and told all of the need to create a giant army to defend against the Orcs, and they were accepted well by the people of The City. Unbeknownst to the residents of The City, this is exactly what was intended to happen by the Hidden Evil.

This brings us to the year 1575. The ruler known only as The Baron was still in control of most of The City’s populace, and he preached constantly about defending against the Orc Legion Who Conquered, and the Balrogs and dragons who also rallied against Gondor in it’s final days.

At this same time, in the lands that separate Minas Tirith and Minas Ithil, a forest inexplicably sprung from the earth, and any who ventured into this dark land never returned. Those that have returned alive have told tales again and again, about how the rest of the world was seemingly swallowed up in dark and evil trees. They said they had journeyed for weeks and weeks without reaching so much as a clearing in the wood. Anduin, The Great River that runs between the lands of Gondor and Mordor was once a fair and clear river, but since the Consuming Forest sprung up it became black and seething with cesspools of evil.

When finally the threat of destruction at the hands of the Orcs had faded, a man came into The City. He claimed to have journeyed from the Distant North through the Consuming Forest, and spread word through The City’s populace that the creatures known to live in the Forest were not evil of any kind. They merely wished to be worshipped as creators of life in Middle-earth. This message was condemned harshly, and the man was thrown in prison for 32 years, but this man had friends. These friends of his continued to spread his message, and eventually “The Forest Prophet”, as the man who came from the woods had been recently called, was released from jail.

This was a grave error on the part of The Baron, for the Forest Prophet was not the good man he seemed. He immediately summoned dark creatures of terrible power into The City, taking control without more than a single arrow fired here, a swung sword there. He then revealed himself in his true form, a hideous minotaur-like creature, and named himself the Woodsie Lord, Master of the Earth and Lord Undying of Men. He enslaved the poor people of The City, and renamed it Minas Kemen-Heru, Tower of the Earth Lord. Any attempt to rise against this evil was met with severe punishment, most often banishment to the Maw of Chaos, the nether-realm from which all the Woodsie Lord’s creatures spawned.

Among the people of The City, there was one who was wise above all others. He escaped from slavery ten years into the Woodsie Lord’s reign (we are now in year 1617 of the Fourth Age) along with several others who were in the same slave camp as he. This man’s name was Yora, the Quick-Minded, and with him in his band of escapees were these three of his closest friends: Tennor, the Skilled Forger, Jenel, the Boundless Scholar, and Vale, the Star Gazer. The other five in his group were Theol, Terrence, Dale, Mason, and Wainwright. They hid in the lowermost basements of The City, tunneling through walls and up inside prison camps to free others to help them in their quest to rid The City of the Woodsie Lord, whom they dubbed the Trickster for his acts of treachery against all the people he enslaved. After a whole year of freeing soldiers and city guards who were still strong enough to fight, they made their attack.

Of the Dawn of the Hammer
These makeshift soldiers and recruited shopkeepers, Yora’s Band, as it was originally called, devised a weapon to strike fear into the black hearts of the Woodsie Lord’s minions, and it did work. One day, one the eve three days from the attack on the Woodsie Lord, Yora came unto Tennor in his forging chambers and he said, “Brother Tennor, dost thou have an idea, one for a weapon all our men shall use against the Trickster, that shall assure us of a great victory over him?”

And Tennor replied, “Yea, I do have one, one that will for-ever name us in history. We shall use hammers, as to smite the evil minions of the Woodsie Lord to the ground, as you would an old and deficit building. Then we shalt use our same hammers to rebuild this great City, and for-ever guard it against this bane, this evil we call the Trickster.”

And after this, Yora and Tennor continued speaking of their plans of the attack, but they did not see the spy, hiding in the shadows near the door to the forging chambers. Unfortunately for Yora and his Band, they did not know that the Trickster’s minions had taken human form and convinced this spy to help the Trickster, with a reward that this corrupt Man could not refuse. And as Yora and Tennor’s talk changed to noise from the forges, constructing the hammers to be used against the Trickster, the spy slipped away, to report the plans of his former friends to the evil creatures who ran the Woodsie Lord’s evil errands.

Yora’s Band’s plans were completed the day before the attack was to take place. Their idea was as follows: the Band would sneak through the many tunnels they had burrowed in the bowels of The City to a place directly underneath the Trickster’s great tower. They would then climb the many stairwells into the main part of the tower and storm the Woodsie Lord on his throne and force him to leave The City.

And so, on that fateful day, they set out from their secret lair under The City and made toward the tower. When they reached the tower, they used fire arrows and mines to open a portal into a terrible room. They walked in with dread and wonder in their hearts, and they gazed upon the forging chambers of ancient Minas Morgul, City of the Ringwraiths. Everywhere in the room, huge forges towered to the 30 foot ceiling, and glistened with a beautiful yet evil glow. But in the center, the forge of the King Ringwraith himself, was the center of all gazes. For sitting on the table was a gem so bright, that it would burn the eyes if looked upon for too long. Yora stood next to his three truest friends, staring at the stone, when Jenel said, “This gemstone, can be seen plainly, has a great power, one that may aid our quest against evil.”

But Yora replied in a hushed tone, “This place is also, can be seen plainly, evil. Let us not disturb any of these ancient pieces, for I dread the event that would come if we did.”

Then the company moved on, up the long stairwell to the main chambers of the tower. As they reached the huge stone door at the top, they were about to breach it with more fire arrows and mines when it suddenly burst open, throwing some men back down the stairwell. Yora, Jenel, Tennor, and Vale all remained at the head of the Band, and looked up at their greatest bane and enemy – the Woodsie Lord himself. Then, in a voice so deep and terrible it shook the tower, the Trickster said, “So, manfools, you dare defy my reign? My woodsie minions shall feast upon thy manflesh and use thy bones to build they houses soon, and then my woodsie reign shall be rid of all of manfool race, and the Earth shall be the Woodsie Lord’s to rule!”

With this he let forth a burst of flame from his giant wooden staff, and many of the company was lost there at the top of that stairwell. But Yora, Tennor, Jenel, and Vale remained, and they defended against the Trickster’s minions, but were driven back down into the dungeons and forges, with the Woodsie Lord close behind his creatures. When the company was fully driven back into the forging chambers, suddenly the Trickster commanded his minions to stop, and the room was filled with a silence. Yora stared at the Trickster, and followed his gaze to the gem sitting on the forge table.

The Trickster said, “So, there be my power gem! All the years me spent in Mirkwood, I forgot where I left my shinesie jewel. But now, this stone shall truly aid my woodsie reign, for I alone know how to use it!” Yora had just begun to lunge for the gem, in order to keep the Woodsie Lord from attaining it, when a sudden voice filled the room.

The voice whispered, yet was heard plainly by all present. It said, “So, there be our ruling King, who betrayed us before our Dark Lord was even finished! We shall aid thee, poor ‘Woodsie Fool’, but only ‘cause we hate the Gondor-ones more!”

And the Trickster replied, “Ah, the Eight Under Me speak again, and now the Woodsie Lord has his power… yet, I still need a flesh-eye, so the Eye of Stone shall see!”

And the whispering voice came again- “Take that eye of the one who betrays his own….”

A cold light took flame in the Trickster’s eyes, and he said, “Dale, my servant manfool, step forward now, and I shall take thee foolish life quickly!”

And as he said this, Yora suddenly realized the truth. Dale had betrayed them, and that was why the Trickster had been waiting for them at the top of the stairs.

He said, “Dale, yea, come forward, so that ye may be slain by those you betray!” And Yora leaped upon Dale, and slew him there in that forging chamber. Then Yora turned to the Woodsie Lord and said, “Ye shall never have this City, ere I am dead!”

And he lunged upon the Trickster, and the battle continued. Yora and his companions Tennor, Jenel and Vale, along with Theol, Terrence, Mason and Wainwright, dueled against the Woodsie Lord for a full hour. Yet in the end, Yora raised his hammer, blessed with Holy Water preserved through hundreds of generations from the Elves of old, and struck the Trickster in the forehead, where he had a third eye. This eye was his Realm-Eye, the one he used to transport between Middle-earth and the Maw of Chaos.

He screamed, and said as he and all his minions fell back into the Maw, “You foul, hammer-wielding manfools! I shall not be denied forever!”

And he was gone. Many of Yora’s band were slain, Theol being among the dead. But the Trickster was defeated, and the world could rest.

Of the Rise of the Order of the Hammer
And ever in The City after, for many hundreds of years, the Trickster was gone. Yora’s Band became called the Order of the Hammer, and they believed in the Builder, who it was said gave Yora’s Band the building and fighting skills needed to defeat the Trickster. They raised the Builder as their god, and almost all in The City joined the Order of the Hammer, because they had delivered them from the darkness of the Woodsie Lord. Yora, Tennor, Jenel, and Vale all died in the year 1642, were sainted, and given their own Houses behind the Hammerite Cathedral in the Old Quarter of The City. Theol, Terrence, Mason, and Wainwright were buried next to their comrades (until after the Second Disaster of the City), each with his own fitting epitaph. Dale is also buried here, but his chilling epitaph reads, “Here lies unhappy Brother Dale: buried here as a symbol of lessons not learned.” One of the most important decisions made by Yora and his comrades was what was to be done with the Eye, as some called it. Some said it should be taken to Mt. Doom and cast into the Cracks, as the One Ring was. So this was tried, and when it was hurled in, the Eye was thrown straight back out at them! Yora and Mason, being the two with the most knowledge of the Third Age and the magics of that time, concluded that the glass protecting the melted Nine Rings of Men was not only impervious to the destruction of the One, but was also proof against the fires of Mt. Doom itself. Thus they decided to safeguard it in the vault underneath their Cathedral, and there it remained for over 1000 years.
Of the Second Disaster of The City
Now we come to the year 2889 of the Fourth Age. In the years following the rise of the Order of the Hammer, they battled long and hard with creatures who were not sucked back into the Maw with the Trickster. And, as unlikely as it may seem, there are still some people who worship the Old Gods of the Forest, the Trickster included. They sometimes lived quite near to the edge of The City, under the eaves of the Consuming Forest. But some lived near the center of the Trickster’s evil, at the base of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood itself. Many Hammerites pursued fleeing pagans into portals leading into this dreadful land, and none save the most bold of warriors ever returned. These pagans were almost completely destroyed by the year 2889.

Then strange things began to happen in and around the Hammerite Cathedral. Novices and Brothers of the Order became sick and died inexplicably. Holy relics from the reliquary were found smashed on the gigantic Hammer Altar. Apparitions appeared, and conjured skulls to throw at passersby. And maybe most disturbing, every day for a week, the Eye was found floating above the Altar every morning, after being locked in the vault the night before. People began to lose faith in the Hammerites because of these ominous happenings.

At the end of that week, disaster struck. In the dead of the night, while all of the guards and Brothers were asleep in the dormitory in St. Yora’s House in the back of the Cathedral, the Eye escaped again. But this time, it did not journey to the Altar first. It went down, into the long-forgotten tombs and crypts below the Cathedral. It raised the dead. Hundreds of Hammerites were buried there, and all but a few were awakened, not alive, but not dead, either. The Undead walked in legions, up the stairs and into the Cloister behind the Cathedral. They broke down doors and stormed the dormitory in St. Yora’s. Guards awakened and took up arms against the Undead, but there were too many, and as you or I know, Undead cannot be killed, except by only the most fair or holy weapons ever devised by Men. Also, the accursed Undead had the power to raise up any they killed, and control them. Dead Hammerites took up weapons against their own, alongside numerous apparitions of the same Brother – Brother Dale. Meanwhile, the Eye broke into the Cathedral and floated, again, over the Hammer Altar, almost as if it was waiting for something… After the Undead had killed all in the Cathedral compound, they moved out, into the rest of the Old Quarter. They smashed doors of houses and set afire all that was built in their way. Many hundreds died, even before word had gotten out to the rest of The City about this catastrophe. Hammerites from other temples came and fought the Undead, alongside the City Police, and even the Baron’s elite guards. The secret order, that was founded nearly 3000 years ago by the Elves and the Fair Men of Gondor, the Keepers, also helped. But they came better armed against the Undead, using holy water arrows and holy swords to drive the Undead back to the Cathedral. Meanwhile, another group of Keepers went around the Old Quarter to the back of the Cloister and sealed the gate there, going inside the Cathedral grounds only to collapse and hide the entrance to the crypts from the which the Undead came, and to perform an errand asked of them by the Hammerites – retrieve the bodies of Theol, Terrence, Mason, Wainwright and Dale from their places next to Yora in his House. When finally the Keepers had driven their way all the way back to the Cathedral, the Keepers used four magical relics, the Elemental Talismans, to seal the doors. These pieces of mystery had long been in the possession of the Keepers, and only now had they any use for their powerful but dangerous magic. They also nailed a plaque above the door of the Cathedral, saying, “Warning: Great evil resides in this place, and it is no longer fit for men. The doors are sealed, to protect us from that which lies within. Do not remain here.” Then they went to their hideout in this Quarter which was nearby, and placed there information that would tell how to open the Cathedral again, if the need ever arose. They then left and sealed this lair well, knowing the dangers of this sensitive information. As they did this, a wall was being built around the Old Quarter to contain the Undead. Many soldiers died defending the rest of The City, but it was finally accomplished. The only problem left was: what was to be done with the Talismans? The Baron was too untrustworthy and greedy for power, but the Hammerites demanded to hold two of the Talismans since it was their Cathedral (Theol, Terrence, Mason, Wainwright and Dale were moved to another temple’s burial ground). So they took the Talismans of Earth and Air, while the Keepers hid the Talismans of Fire and Water in the underground caverns of Karath-Din, an ancient Dwarf realm built in the days of the War of Aragorn’s Gondor, when Dwarves still tunneled deep into the earth near to where Men dwelled. Karath-Din was second in majesty only to Khazad-dum, the Mines of Moria. The Talismans remained safe for over 50 years, until everyone’s favorite thief enters the story.
Of the Return of the Woodsie Lord
In the year 2999, Garrett was in his prime. He was on top of his trade, one of the most sought-after thieves in The City, both to do jobs for people, and to rot in jail. In this year, a new face in The City named Constantine requested Garrett’s services. Constantine wanted the Eye from the sealed Hammerite Cathedral, and was paying Garrett handsomely for the job.

So, after fighting his way through hordes of zombies in the Old Quarter, he reached the doors of the Cathedral. After realizing he could not get inside, he turned to leave when he heard a voice.

The voice whispered, yet Garrett could understand the voice perfectly. It rasped, “Comes a man to rescue me. Poor man. The Keepers have sealed the doors, and only they know how to open them. Seek you, the bridge, the Grotto, of the Keeper’s Lore. Stand you on the pedestal, and illuminate the statue with fire. Enter then, and discover the secret of the Talismans…”

With this new enlightenment, Garrett walked back down the street, to where he had seen the Keyhole, the Keepers’ symbol, over a doorway. And there, he saw a pedestal in the shape of a keyhole in the middle of a shallow moat, with a Keeper statue inset into the wall on one side of the circular room. He dropped into the moat and climbed up onto the pedestal, nocked a fire arrow, and let it fly. Two torches on either side of the statue burst into flame, and a section of the wall opened next to the statue. When Garrett entered it and had walked through a short passageway, he came to the Keeper Lair. After defeating the locks on the outer door, he proceeded into the library and learned the locations of the Four Talismans.

After retrieving Fire and Water from Karath-Din (through much trouble) and robbing the Hammerites of Earth and Air (through much more trouble), he returned to the Cathedral after three days. As soon as he had put the Talisman of Earth into it’s mount next to the doors, he heard the voice again… “So. You have returned with the Talismans, you clever man. I did not think it likely you would return…”

And Garrett entered into the face of death. The Cathedral was filled with Undead and their Hammerite Haunts, but he managed to steal towards the Altar, where he saw the Eye floating. As soon as he had climbed on top of the Altar, a ghostly light flashed in the Cathedral, and when Garrett’s eyes cleared, he saw all the Haunts, Undead and Apparitions looking up at him, waiting for him to try to escape with the Eye. Garrett sighed, and killed a few of the Haunts with his meager supply of holy water. Then as he grabbed the Eye, it rasped again, “Now you have your precious Eye! Can you escape with your skin?”

Instead of jumping back to the floor and trying to run for it, he shot a rope arrow into a beam in the ceiling and climbed to the attic level. He knew there was an armoury in the attic, and decided to check there for any things like holy water that could be used to fight the beings haunting the Cathedral. Instead, after breaking in, he found a heavy explosive pack, and took it “just in case”. He then snuck back down to the front doors of the Cathedral through the side rooms and when he tried to open the doors to his freedom, a cold laugh came from his pocket.

“I’m afraid that would have been too easy. These doors have been sealed again… You’ll have to find another way…”

And another cold, evil laugh. Garrett stood for a moment in the entryway, thinking. He knew he could not breach the seals of the Talismans on the main doors. He also knew the Undead would be searching for him, and he knew he should think of something fast… Then he remembered the Cloister Gate. He again stole through the Cathedral, out it’s back door, and among many Haunts and Undead finally reached the Cloister Gate. There was his exit route. He blasted it open with the heavy explosive, and as he fled the evil of the Cathedral, the Eye said, “So. Now you have your precious Eye. What do you intend to do with me?”

Garrett journeyed to Constantine’s mansion that same night. When he entered Constantine’s chamber, the Eye floated out of his pocket, right into Constantine’s hand.

“I simply can’t find the words, Mr. Garrett. I am very pleased. But… I’m afraid this Eye is completely blind.”

Garrett replied in a gravelly voice, “It’s a rock. It’s what you asked for. And it’s time for my well-deserved payment.”

Constantine grinned knowingly, and motioned to his assistant, Viktoria, and said, “Yes, it is. Viktoria, are you prepared to give Mr. Garrett his… compensation?”

And as he said this last word, his voice boomed, shaking the very floor and ceiling of the mansion. Constantine seemed to grow, and then… No, Garrett thought. No way…

Constantine sprouted horns on his head, and above his eyes, another eye socket opened. Viktoria transformed, as well, but into a half-tree, half-person form. She pinned Garrett to a pillar with vines that sprouted from her very hand.

She said in a sinewy and screechy voice, “Yes, offer up your flesh eye so that his Eye of Stone may see, manfool!”

And with her other hand, she grabbed Garrett’s right eye from it’s socket and handed it to Constantine. He placed it within the five prongs extending from the Eye, and they greedily grabbed it, and the Eye began to glow an angry red. Viktoria dropped Garrett on the floor, still wrapped in vines, and Constantine stood over him and said, “Now, you bow before the Woodsie Lord, manfool! But your sacrifice is not yet complete. My minions must feed upon your flesh, to grow strong for the re-conquering of this foul, man-infested City!”

And with this, he ripped a whole in the air with his hand, and he and Viktoria descended into the Maw of Chaos. Garrett went unconscious.

“Is this the way?”

“Ah, look here. Our path is true.”

The sound of knives cutting vines woke Garrett. Then, one of his rescuers spoke, “Since you left us, you have been a stone, rolling downhill. New it is time for you to aim this remarkable momentum. It is past time for the Balance to shift.”

“They come.” Said another of the rescuers.

Garrett, finally coming to, said, “Wait…”

The leader of his rescuers turned and said, “The Trickster will not forgive you for doing what he could not. Nor, I trust, will you forgive us.” And with that, they disappeared into the shadows.

“Keepers,” Garrett muttered. There were strange moaning and squealing noises coming from the other end of Constantine’s chamber.

“I better get going, or whatever those things are will waste a perfectly good rescue,” and he started towards the door at his end of the room. He descended into the sub-basement of Constantine’s mansion, which turned out to be more of a cavern/forest, with the same noises coming from it. Unwillingly, Garrett moved through the shadows, passing through room after room, guarded by hideous ape-beasts, except they had tails and wielded short swords. There were also Fire Elementals, glowing balls of flame that floated here and there through the tunnels. Garrett had run into several of them before, in the gigantic caverns of Karath-Din. Garrett wandered into a cave with a huge tree against one wall, with a strange praying mantis-like creature walking about, and small things that looked like deformed frogs on the ground. Garrett stole around the edge of the circular cavern, being careful to stay well into the shadows. When he reached the base of the tree, he shot a rope arrow into a branch of the tree and climbed up. It turned out that there was a “room” inside the trunk of the tree. How the tree still lived, Garrett didn’t know. He moved to a desk at the far wall and picked up a book with the Trickster’s Third Eye emblazoned on it, and began to read. “As soon as the manfool thiefsie steals my precious Eye, I’ll take this infested city by it’s very roots, ascending from the Maw with my legions of evil minions, and crush the stringsie foolsie Men, who raised up their hammers against me, so long ago!”

“Great,” Garrett said under his breath. “so not only is he bent on destroying the City, he’s out for revenge against the Hammers, too. Well, as much as I hate fanatics, I may just have to ask those crazy Hammers for some help. Maybe they’ll be too distracted by the Trickster’s return to hold a grudge about those Talismans I… ‘borrowed’ from them.”

And Garrett descended from the tree, and left the cavern. Not long after, he came to a stairwell that led up into the basement of Constantine’s mansion. Soon he was dodging past ape-beasts and mantis-creatures, running out the front door. He ran to the gates of the surrounding wall, pushed them open, and ran out into the night, towards The City.

Garrett went back to his apartment that night, but only for a while. He managed to contact the Keepers, and they revealed to him that the Trickster had descended into the Maw of Chaos, to perform a ritual with the Eye that would reveal all of it’s power to him again, giving him the mastery over magic and evil that he had, so long ago, as the Witchking Ringwraith. After leaving the Keeper Lair, he went to the new Hammerite Temple, the one that had been built in place of the Cathedral. He reached the doors, and his heart plunged into his stomach. The gate had been thrown off it’s hinges, and the statues to either side were smashed down. Cautiously, Garrett entered the Temple. Everything was ruined, and arrows and broken swords lay here and there. Garrett stole through the side rooms, to avoid all the mantis-creatures and giant spiders crawling in the main lobby area. He made towards the back of the Temple, where the chapel was. This room, too, was trashed, but the altar was thrown aside, revealing…

“Hmmm… Trust those Hammers to always have an escape route.” There was a secret passageway underneath the altar, descending into an underground cavern. Garrett climbed down the ladder, and almost jumped down on one of the ape-beasts. It did not see him, but Garrett resolved to be more careful. He crept through the passageways, always following the trail of dead Hammerites and broken hammers until he came to a room where, alone, lying on the floor, was the Hammerite High Priest. He was unconscious, but probably mistaken for dead. Garrett picked him up, hoping that by taking him back to the Hammers, wherever they were, they would agree to help him defeat the Trickster.

Finally, after many close-calls with ape-beasts and mantis-creatures, he descended a stairwell to a hole in the wall, shaped like a hammer. He heard the sounds of battle beyond, and shouted into the hole. Not long after, a Hammerite soldier came to the window.

He said, “Ah, so there be that master thief, who so slyly took our Talismans and unleashed this evil. But, no matter, speaking of past errs will not aid either of us. I see thou cometh with our great High Priest. We thought he was lost to us forever, but since thou hast brought him hither, we shall help thee. Give us time, and here in our underground forges we shall create for thee a weapon with which to defeat the Trickster. But first, thou must hand me my High Priest of Hammers, for only he hath the skill with which to construct your weapon.”

So Garrett pushed the unconscious Priest through the hammer-hole, and he only barely fit. The Hammerite soldier woke the High Priest, and they went off into another room to create the weapon, whatever it was. And Garrett waited in the shadows next to the window.

Nearly three hours later, when Garrett had been considering shouting through the portal again, the High Priest himself came to the window and said, “Master Thief. Speak thyself, if thou be there.”

Garrett said, “I’m here,” but did not go to the window.

The High Priest, whose name was Markander, said, “Here is the weapon my brethren spoke wisely of. Thou must come to the window, so I may make light to thee how it functions,” and Garrett got up and walked to the hole.

“Now, Master Thief, here it is, the False Eye.” Markander revealed to Garrett an almost exact replica of the Eye. Only his own eye was missing from it.

Markander spoke again, “Now, all thou has to do is replace the Eye with this one, and the Trickster shall be destroyed. I trust, Master Thief, that thou knowest how to enter his vile Maw of Chaos?”

Garrett nodded and said, “I think I can manage it.”

“Good. Take care, however, Master Thief, for this Eye cannot speak, though the true one can. It must not see you approach, or it will reveal you to the Woodsie Lord, and all our work will be for naught. Also, Master Thief, here is another gift from us. Since thou art descending into terrible places against terrible odds, we shall give to thee a mechanical eye, so thou may have full vision in the Maw. It is magical, so thou hast no need to do anything to it. Merely place it in your empty socket, and the right side of your world will be revealed again.”

So Garrett took the false Eye, and the mechanical eye, left the caverns, and then the Temple.

Garrett wandered the streets then, wondering whether he should be sticking his neck out like this. But in the end, he made up his mind. He journeyed back to the Keeper Lair, and found four of them waiting for him outside the doors.

The leader, the same leader that had rescued Garrett from the vines of the Trickster, spoke. “Garrett, we alone know how to enter the Maw of Chaos, apart from the Trickster himself. You must enter it, and defeat the Trickster, or he will surely triumph over The City for good this time. There is no St. Yora and his Band to rescue us now.”

Garrett replied, “What about you? You guys always seem to be only four people, but I bet you’ve got hundreds of Keepers hanging on your every command.”

The Keeper sighed and then said, “Did you not learn anything while you were with us? Our purpose in this world is to know. That is all. We are forbidden to interfere in the politics of Men, or become attached to any side in any confrontation. We keep knowledge, not arms. Only at times of great need do we interfere with the Balance. Even when we aided you in escaping Constantine’s mansion, we were treading dangerously close to breaking our code.”

He paused for a moment, seeming to disconnect with the present for only a second, then said, “Garrett, you must know something before you enter into this unspeakable evil. The Trickster is an evil over 6000 years old. He is the Darkness second only to two in the history of the world. He is the Lord of the Nazgul.”

“What does that mean? Who are the Nazgul?” Garrett asked.

“The Nazgul are the Nine, the Ringwraiths who served under the last Dark Lord of Middle-earth. The Lord of the Nazgul survived, by his own cunning, when his master could not. In truth, we have only recently discovered this, for the Witchking Ringwraith’s fate was entirely bound to the Dark Lord’s, and we grew complacent in our watch against evil. Sauron, this Dark Lord I spoke of, was destroyed 3000 years ago, but his legacy of mistrust and evil between the Men of the world lives on. You will not, and could not understand this, but you should know that what you do now will determine the destiny of ages to come. Know also, if this is of any value to you, that the Maw of Chaos is actually the belly of Dol Guldur, the Hill of Sorcery, Sauron’s most powerful stronghold save only Barad-dur, The Dark Tower in Mordor close at hand.

He paused again. “That is all I have leave to tell you at this time. You must enter now. As I told you before, it is past time for the Balance to shift. The Trickster must end now, to ensure the survival of Men in Middle-earth.”

Garrett jumped at that last word. “What is this Middle-earth you keep talking about?”

But the Keepers were gone, and a glowing, angry red portal loomed where they had been. Garrett sighed and stepped through.

Garrett fell through the angry red color for minutes until he was thrown out into a dark cavern. He got up, brushed himself off, and looked down the only exit tunnel from the cavern. It led through a corridor filled with red mist to another tunnel that descended rapidly into more and more caves. Garrett walked along, and had to doge several mantis-creatures and ape-beasts until he finally found a passage that seemed to be more out of the way. He continued down, getting lower and lower with every step. He journeyed through caverns filled with hot, blue crystals taller than himself, and even had to swim through a upwards-flowing subterranean river to continue down towards the Woodsie Lord’s lair.

At length he came to a cavern with a lava-river flowing through it, and he saw an ape-beast and a mantis-creature guarding another portal. The four corners of it were each glowing with a different color… Then Garrett understood. Each corner of the portal was laced with the four elements. The white mist was air, the green was earth, the red was fire, and the blue was water. Suddenly, a transparent green bubble burst through the portal, with an ape-beast curled up inside. The portal was the gateway that the Trickster’s minions were entering this realm through! Garrett searched his pockets doubtfully for something he could destroy the portal with, knowing he didn’t have much since he escaped from Constantine’s mansion. But, surprisingly enough, he found a crystal of each of the elements. Then he realized who put them there. Those Keepers really don’t have a way with words, he thought. He strung each of the crystals to an arrow, an began firing. He shot each corner with it’s opposite, fire to water, earth to air, etc. When the last arrow sailed over the lava-river and hit the portal, it collapsed in a burst of red smoke and fire. The ape-beast and mantis-creature were thrown into the lava. That should give the Hammers a fighting chance, Garrett thought, and he continued on.

Garrett was just thinking that he would never reach the Trickster’s chamber when he heard that low, rumbling voice. He crept closer and saw a wall of earth and grass blocking the way. Fortunately, there was a vine hanging from the ceiling, and he climbed up and jumped over the barrier, and froze. He had come to it at last. The Trickster was there, in a room with a seven point star pattern on the floor, with wooden pedestals at each point. Another pedestal sat in the center, with the Eye floating in it’s red glow above it. Here we go, Garrett thought.

He stepped out into the star-pattern and froze again. It was made of marble, and his foot had just clacked down loudly on it. The Trickster, who was reciting some kind of poem over each pedestal, jerked his head around towards the noise. He saw nothing.

“Hmmm, strange noises not welcome in the Woodsie Lord’s lair, but it seems to be… nothing.” And he went back to work.

Garrett had expertly jumped off the marble and into the shadows near the doorway. That was way too close, he thought. Sitting there in the darkness, he planned out how he would get the Eye, and furthermore, how to get the Eye without it screaming for the Trickster the second he grabbed it. Just in case, he searched his pockets again, and he was surprised once more when he found two more earth crystals, with a note tied to them.

It read, “Garrett, here are some items to aid you. I trust you found good use of the others we gave to you; you have more of a fair spirit in you than you care to admit. Also, we know of your plight in acquiring the Eye without notice. I can only say this without truly breaking our code this time: to defeat one who has sound as his ally, give to him naught but silence.”

The note was signed only with a Keyhole. Garrett pondered this for minutes, knowing he was dangerously close to failing his mission. He had to switch the Eyes before the Trickster finished his ritual, or it would not matter which one he had because the power would rest inside him, and the seven pedestals around the star. Garrett was extremely close to just running noisily out and grabbing the Eye, then fleeing for his life, when he realized what the clue meant. He strung the one of the earth crystals to his remaining arrow. Earth crystals, when cast at a surface, break and set loose pads of moss and turf, allowing the skillful thief to walk over loud surfaces quietly. They also have a magical power of silence. With this in mind, Garrett launched the earth arrow at the marble floor between him and the Eye. It spread out into a carpet of moss, and Garrett crept across it towards the Eye. When he reached it, he broke the other crystal in his hand and extracted the moss inside. He created a makeshift bag with it, and very quietly, moved to take the Eye. Suddenly Garrett stopped. He had noticed his own eye in the evil gem’s grasp. He wondered at this, remembering Viktoria’s words… “Yes, offer up your flesh eye so that his Eye of Stone may see, manfool!”

If the Eye could truly see, it would cry out when it saw the moss bag coming towards it. Garrett, being a master thief, silently extracted his dagger from it’s sheath. He rose up straight, poised to strike, with dagger in one hand and bag in the other. Then he lunged. Garrett stabbed his own eye out from the Eye’s grasp and, as quickly as possible, threw the bag over it. The Eye only let out a surprised gasp before it was completely covered in moss, and the world (but most importantly the Trickster) was deaf to it’s cries. Garrett then placed the false Eye into the real one’s place.

All of this happened in less than a second. Garrett, grinning at his prize, suddenly remembered where he was. He turned and looked at the Trickster. He was still reciting his poems, unaware that he had just been robbed by a ‘manfool’.

Garrett crept back to the shadows next to the doorway, taking extra care to keep the Eye completely covered. He watched as the Trickster finished his last reciting and moved to the center of the star to receive his power. He muttered something, most likely another poem and reached for the false Eye. The second he touched it, a gout of white flame erupted from the fake Eye, consuming the Woodsie Lord. Wherever it touched him, it turned to the now-familiar angry red.

The Trickster, realizing his defeat, screamed, “It betrays me! Garrett, my foolsie thiefsie pawn, you still live!”

And with these last words, the last evil of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, was destroyed. The Witchking Ringwraith, the Woodsie Lord, the Trickster of Men, fell and died.

Garrett, completely awestruck by what he saw, slumped in the corner. Even as he sat there, the vines that had made up the floor outside the star began to wither and blacken. The flames of every color that had burned above the seven pedestals of the Worldly Magics died away.

“Hmph. I’ve never robbed a god before. Wasn’t much of a challenge.” Garrett said to himself. With that, he rose and left the Maw… But not forever.

Garrett walked aimlessly on the streets of The City that night. He had just destroyed the most powerful of the Old Forest Gods, and he didn’t feel any better. Actually, he felt worse. He wasn’t aware of his guest until he stepped in front of Garrett.

The Keeper said, “So, you think you’ve won.”

“I think I’ve got two eyes again.”

“But still, you are blind.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I just saved the world. Yourself included,” Garrett retorted.

“As we knew you would. As it had to be,” the Keeper said calmly.

“Now I remember why I left the Keepers,” Garrett mused.

“And I remember why we let you go.”

“Why are you following me? Want to congratulate me? Welcome me back to the fold?” Garrett began to walk on, and the Keeper walked beside him.

“Very well, I will speak my piece plainly. You have saved Middle-earth, and yes, you’ve done it well. But there is no longer a place for you with us.”

“Why do you keep calling the world ‘Middle-earth’?” Garrett asked.

“There is something you were not told while you were with us. The Keepers are not merely made up of Men.”

The Keeper pulled back his hood, and that part of the street was illuminated somehow, and the light emanated from the Keeper.

“I, like many of my Keeper friends, am an Elf,” the Keeper continued.

“Don’t try to fool me with some kind of wisdom scheme. The Elves died out of the world 3000 years ago. Everyone knows. It’s in thousands of songs and records all over The City. The Elves and all the rest of those fairy-tale races are gone.” Garrett rasped.

“I am not fooling you. Now you know why I refer to this realm as Middle-earth, and how we knew what the Trickster was, and whence he came. The Elven race is immortal. I am Elrond. I chose, along with five others of my kind, to remain here in Middle-earth (that is not to say there are not others living out in the Consuming Forest). We forsook the chance to live in the Far West and dwell forever in the Land of Undying Light. We remained, to ensure the survival of the race of Men, which we loved so dearly in the days of old. It was made sure, 3000 years ago, that none save Gandalf the Wizard and Aragorn, King of Gondor, knew that six Elves had stayed behind to watch over your race in a secret order known as the Keepers.”

He paused. “Are you pleased now? I have given you my name, which is forbidden in the Keeper Code. Listen to me now, and know why I trouble you so. There is a book you were not made aware of. You should read it, if you still know how to read glyphs. It will make light to you all the history that I told you of earlier, and more.”

“I do try to forget, but you Keepers leave things for me everywhere.” Garrett responded.

“Yes. You have more friends than you know.”

This sparked Garrett’s anger, and he replied, “Tell my friends that I don’t need their secret book, or their glyph warnings, or their enigmatic messengers. Tell my friends that I’m through. It’s over. Garrett is done.”

Elrond stopped, but Garrett kept walking. And as Garrett faded into the shadows, out of the reach of the street lamp, Elrond said, “I will tell them this: Nothing is changed. All is as it was written. The Trickster is dead. Beware the dawn of the Metal Age.”
Epilogue – Of Garrett and the Metal Age
Garrett continued thievery for a living after this for seven years, until the age that Elrond spoke of reached Middle-earth, but that is another tale, and this one speaks not of it. And so the Fourth Age of Middle-earth comes to a close, but the Dominion of Men continues on. Elrond and his five companions remained with the Keepers for long, knowing that without the guidance of the Elves, the Men of the Keepers would fall prey to the same corruption as the rest of the denizens of The City, and as the Nine Kings of Men did, so many years ago, when the magic and fairness of the Elves remained in the world, and Men were not corrupt as they are in this age, and in all the others to follow.
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