Story Downloaded from Open Scrolls Archive (https://www.openscrolls.net)
Title: The Dark of Night (#2978)
Category: Lord of the Rings
Description: An ancient menace stalks the elves of Middle-earth, but what, if anything, can be done to defeat it?
Published: 05 Oct 2006
Updated: 31 Oct 2006
Warnings: violence, blood
Chapter 1 - Chapter 1
Many thanks to my betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie, Weird Alfi
Extra special thanks to the folks at HaldirLovers for their feedback and encouragement in the telling of this tale.
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Terms: fëar - spirits
Calaquendi - elves of light (elves of Valinor)
elleth - female elf
ellon - male elf
Since the Night before nights, the First Born have told tales of creatures that stalked the unwary, snatching them from the world of the living. With the birth of the sun and the moon, these tales ended, to be replaced by rumors among the elves of a different sort of horror, an interminable darkness which fed upon the light. With the captivity of Morgoth, the slaughter of his minions, and the destruction of Beleriand, it was hoped among the elves that these dangers were at an end. Then Sauron rose to power and the stories resurfaced. With the loss of the One Ring at the end of the Second Age, it was believed that this threat had died with Sauron. Now the elves of the Third Age will learn how very wrong they were.
“Celegon!” The elleth complained in frustration as the ellon stole another sweet kiss then escaped yet again.
“Silly Green elf,” he shot back as he danced away. “You will never catch a Noldo with your feet. You must use your wit and your charm, for you will never match us in speed.”
She found his taunts frustrating, yet endearing at the same time. He was the silly one, not she.
“Keep running, Noldo,” she egged him on. “For the trees speak to my kind where they have no care for yours.”
He turned and sped away.
Silencing her squeal of delight, she pursued her lover and his friends into the trees. It was a moonless midnight and the sky was lit with stars. How perfect, she thought as she sped unhindered through the dim wood. The trees whispered of their presence ahead and all too soon she spotted them. This nightly chase was becoming far too easy. Soon she would catch him, then his friends would foolishly tease before departing, leaving them alone in each other’s arms for the night.
Creeping closer, she saw the glow of their Calaquendi fëar, betraying their location. These descendants of the elves of Valinor whose eyes and fëar still reflected the light of the now extinct Two Trees must learn to go hooded and cloaked if they wish to hide in the dark. But she was never going to tell them that and spoil all of her fun!
Still unobserved, she snuck around the group until she was behind Celegon.
Suddenly an impenetrable shadow descended between her and her beloved, obscuring him and his ever-present glow from her view. Frozen with horror, unable to even breathe, she clung to the tree in front of her. Unwillingly, she watched as the blackness swelled while her lover and his friends screamed their agony.
When the echoes of their cries died away, the shadow melted into the black of the night. Her lover and his four friends lay sprawled on the dark forest floor, bleeding from their chests and backs. Slowly, she moved closer and fell to her knees beside the nearest prone form. Tentatively, she reached out a trembling hand and turned his head to face her. His skin was pale and clammy. The delicious mouth she had kissed minutes before gaped open as he struggled for breath. His terror-stricken grey eyes were dark. In fact everything about him was dark. She looked around and saw that the same was true of his friends as well.
“Oh Celegon,” she whispered as tears stung her eyes. “What…wh…”
“Help me,” he quietly begged.
She lovingly brushed his cold cheek with her hand. “I…I will go find help.”
Rising, she ran through the trees as fast as she could, their own terror thrilling through her as she fled.
The council chamber was filled with every one of the lords and councilors of Imladris. Lord Elrond looked around at the anxious faces as the nervous tension consumed the air, permeating every corner of the room.
Breaking the latest silence, Erestor calmly replied to his lord’s question. “My lord, the pattern of attack is always the same. The victim suffers a wound to the chest or the back in the region of the heart. The wound is seldom fatal, yet the victim in completely incapacitated and appears to have been drained of his or her vitality.”
“How have mortals fared in similar attacks?” A councilor seated beside Erestor asked.
“Oddly enough,” Erestor replied. “We know of no mortal who has ever been attacked. The victims that we know of have all been elves. The number of victims varies with each attack, however not every elf in the company of the victims has been attacked. Some victims have been fully armed warriors while others have been maidens frolicking in the moonlight. The attacks only occur under stormy skies or at night.”
“We have established that the assailant is not an orc. Has anyone been able to give us a description of it?” The same councilor asked.
Erestor hesitantly replied, the disbelief evident in his voice. “Impenetrable darkness. Sudden opaque shadow. Shapeless evil. It makes no sense to me. The victims with whom I spoke all seemed to struggle with the words they used to describe it. According to them, none of these descriptions are exactly correct, but none of them could tell me why.”
Elrond rested his elbows on the table and massaged his temples. They had known peace for many years now. There were many new marriages and many new elflings about in all of the elvish settlements. Sighing heavily, he asked, “For nearly 1000 years, there has been peace in these lands. Why does this menace strike now?”
The occupants of the room collectively shook their heads or shrugged their shoulders.
Glorfindel replied, “I remember hearing tell of similar attacks in the Second Age and Erestor has found documentation of such as early as the First Age, though we never heard tell of them in Gondolin. I suggest we send word of what we know to the other elven realms. Perhaps they will know more.”
Elrond nodded to an elf seated beside Glorfindel. “Be sure to include everything we have discussed today. See to it that the messages are dispatched with couriers in the morning.”
“Yes, my lord,” the elf replied.
“How close to Imladris was this most recent attack?” Elladan asked from his seat at his father’s right side.
“A few leagues outside of our Southern, borders,” Glorfindel replied. “I have doubled the guard, but thus far, they have reported nothing unusual.”
Elrond clasped his hands, resting them on the pile of reports in front of him. “Lord Glorfindel, assemble a patrol of your most experienced warriors. I want you to explore the locations of the most recent attacks for anything we may have missed before. See if you can figure out what this menace is and why it haunts us here in Imladris.”
“Adar, I wish to accompany Glorfindel,” Elrohir said from his father’s left.
“As do I,” his twin immediately agreed.
“No!” Elrond’s resounding response silenced both of his sons. “I said I want Lord Glorfindel to take only his most experienced warriors. This is not the work of simple orcs. I do not know what this evil is nor how nor why it discriminates in its choice of victims. Your prowess with sword and bow is not in question. It is your limited experience in battle which keeps you from joining this patrol.”
The twins both stiffened, trying to hide their displeasure. Elrond would be sure to discreetly assign guards to his sons to make certain they did not depart Imladris without his knowledge.
“How soon can you leave, Lord Glorfindel?” Elrond asked, ignoring his sons’ scowls.
“Tomorrow at dawn,” Glorfindel confidently replied.
“Very well. We will adjourn for now and meet again upon your return to hear what you have learned,” the Lord of Imladris said.
Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, my lord.”
The next morning, Glorfindel rode out as planned, accompanied by 25 of the best warriors in the service of Imladris. Looking back over his shoulder at the assortment of dark and silver heads, Glorfindel felt confident in his choice of soldiers. Each had fought in the Last Alliance; each had been trained either by him or by Gil-Galad’s captains in Lindon. This mixture of the finest Noldorin and Sindarin warriors remaining in Middle-earth truly was a force to be reckoned with.
Just after noon, the patrol searched the site of the most recent attack. On foot, the soldiers scanned the ground and rocks for signs of anything unusual. After several hours of sifting through earth and foliage, Glorfindel was about to call off the search in that area, when a Sinda called to him from high up in an oak.
“My lord,” the warrior cried, his silver hair glinting in the evening light. “I believe we have found something!”
“Galadin and his brother and I have searched each of the trees surrounding the area of the attack. We have found that many of their trunks show patterns of small gouges or loosened bark. In each tree it starts here, just below the canopy.” He pointed to a small indention just above his head, “And trails all the way down to about 8 feet above the ground. On each tree, the marks occur in equal lines on opposite sides of the tree. We have asked the trees what has injured them so, but their response makes no sense.”
Glorfindel raised his hand to examine the strange marks above his head on the warrior’s tree. “What is this odd response that the trees give you?” He asked curiously.
“My lord, all they say is that it was “the dark of night”.” At Glorfindel’s puzzled look, the warrior elaborated. “We have asked the trees if they refer to the time when the attack occurred or what did this to them and they all respond the same: ‘that which attacked the speakers of light’, which is their name for elves, was something the trees all refer to as “the dark of night”.”
Glorfindel looked around at his assembled troops who had all gathered to hear the Sinda’s report. Their bewildered expressions belied their answers to his questions before he even posed them, but he asked anyway. “Does this have any meaning for any of you? Have you ever heard of such a thing before?”
They all shook their heads and a few murmured “No, my lord.”
Glorfindel pondered the information for a while, then addressed the Sindarin warrior again, “Ask the trees where this “dark of night” went when it left and where it came from before it damaged them and attacked the elves.”
The warrior closed his eyes for a few moments as he communed with the tree. His face was full of confusion when he opened his eyes again, and replied, “My lord, the tree says that the dark of night came from the black of the sky and returned there after it attacked the elves. The tree says that there was more than one dark of night for each elf attacked. That is why so many of the trees are scarred. It also said that the dark has not returned since the attack.”
Glorfindel motioned for the elves in the trees to return to the ground. Slowly, he looked around at each damaged tree, trying to figure out what could possibly have done this, but nothing came to mind. Realizing nothing more could be learned here, he ordered his soldiers back to their mounts. His heart warned him that it would be best to camp within the borders of Imladris this night. They could begin their ride to the site of the next most recent attack in the morning.
They made good time back to the borders of Imladris. For additional safety, Glorfindel met up with the regular patrol for that area and set up camp with them. Once the evening meal was complete, he met with the soldier in charge of the patrol and ordered 10 warriors to be on watch at a time.
As Glorfindel observed the first four hour rotation of guards disappearing into the trees, he desperately hoped that it would be a quiet night. The full moon shone brightly, dimming the stars, but his heart misgave him. When sleep came upon him at last, he dreamt of a time he had not considered for more than a thousand years: the last festival he had attended in Valinor before the Two Trees were destroyed forever.
Galadin quietly shifted his position in the tree, moving to a branch with a better view of the forest to the north of the camp site. The trees surrounding them had little to complain about except for the occasional tickling of an owl on a branch. A dark-haired elf from the regular patrol perched alertly in the next tree. Their watch was almost over and the moonlight was lengthening the shadows cast by the trees. It was a mindlessly boring watch.
Catching the attention of the dark-haired elf, Galadin pointed to the moon’s position in the sky. Then he closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side in imitation of mortal sleep. The other elf answered him with a wide-eyed smile and a vigorous nod of his head. He was obviously bored and ready for the watch to be over, too.
Galadin smiled back, but his face fell in dismay as he watched a shadow suddenly descend over the dark-haired guard, blocking him from view. Frozen in place, unable to move or even blink, he watched the darkness and listened as the guard and a few others around him screamed in agony.
When the screaming ceased, the darkness moved through Galadin’s tree, sucking the air from his lungs, freezing the blood in his veins as it passed. Just as quickly, the shadow passed. Galadin gasped for air, shivering as his chest heaved and warmth returned to his body. Briefly, he heard the sounds of heavy objects crashing through the limbs of neighboring trees. As the sounds faded, the trees called to him and to the others of his kind, asking for aid for the fallen speakers of light they had caught in their lower branches.
Gathering his wits, Galadin realized he was still hale and turned, sounding the warning call to the camp. Within moments, he could hear the commotion of a roused camp preparing defenses. Scrambling from tree to tree, he passed a couple of wounded elves dangling in the crooks of branches. Other hale warriors joined him as he made his way to the camp site as swiftly as possible.
The screams started before they reached their destination, but nothing could have prepared them for what they beheld when they arrived within sight of the camp.
The warning from the patrol had come too late. There was barely time to react as shadows descended upon the camp. All too soon, the ground was littered with the bodies of soldiers, some with swords, some with daggers, some who never even managed to draw a weapon. The bodies which were not bloody lay prone as if forced down by a great weight. Depthless shadows still hovered over some of the wounded, eliciting agonized screams. In the back of his mind, Glorfindel realized there was something eerily familiar about this.
Drawing his sword against he knew not what, Glorfindel stood in challenge in the middle of the camp. Putting forth all of his power, he felt his eyes blazing as the brilliant light of his powerful fëa cast outward, illuminating the entire area. The few warriors near him who still stood, brandished their weapons, their faces determined masks of abject terror in the odd light. A few fired arrows, but to no visible effect.
What command was he to give them? Were the shadows even solid?
Moments later, the shadows completed their vicious assault and vanished up the trees. Glorfindel turned his head, following their progress up into the branches until they disappeared into the darkness of the night.
No wonder the trees gave the menace that name, he thought.
After a couple of minutes of silence and no discernable movement from the foe, Glorfindel relaxed his stance, allowing his light to fade to a more normal radiance. Turning to his remaining guard, he said, “Go help the wounded and then…”
Suddenly, shadows descended all around him like a cloud of blackness, obscuring his surroundings. Unbelievable pain seared through him eliciting screams the likes of which had never before escaped his lips, not even when he had faced the balrog at his death. Many sets of dull yellow eyes met his gaze as fangs like knives bore into his chest and stabbed his back. He felt as if he were pierced to the core as the strength of life seeped forth from his fëa. When he was finally released, he collapsed to the ground, hollow and empty, a mere shell of what he had been.
After an indiscernible amount of time passed, he realized his shirt felt wet and sticky, but he did not know why. Perhaps it had something to do with the dull ache in his chest and back. Something touched his face, but he did not have the strength to turn toward it. Explicatives uttered in horror in the background did nothing to ease him as he felt his head being turned. He struggled to focus on the terrified eyes of the silver-haired warrior who was kneeling beside him.
“Mmm…my…my lord,” the warrior stuttered.
Glorfindel moved his mouth, trying to form words, trying to make some sort of sound come out. Dully, he realized now what the creatures and the attack had reminded him of. Putting forth all of the strength he had left, he managed to whisper, “Tell Elrond it was the death of the Trees.”
The warrior looked confused. “My lord, no trees have died.”
Glorfindel gasped, inhaling sharply, painfully as he felt his shirt, tunic, and cloak being cut away, chilling his body and exposing his wounds. “No…” he gasped. “No…not…not these trees.” His vision began to cloud. He felt so very tired, weary to the bone. With one last great effort, he tried to explain, “The…the Two Trees. I …I remember. I was there when they died.”
And darkness closed about him.
Chapter 2 - Chapter 2
Many thanks to my betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Terms: fëa - spirit
Calaquendi - elves of light (elves of Valinor)
elleth - female elf
ellon - male elf
Darkness was the first thing that Elrond noticed when he came to awareness. What had awoken him? Celebrian snuggled closer against the chill of the autumn night. Her head nestled into his shoulder, splaying her hair in a silvery glory across his chest. He felt her warm breath on his neck as he rested his head against hers, trying to go back to sleep.
The sound came again. Apparently he had not imagined it.
Carefully disentangling himself from his lovely wife, he slipped away. Throwing a robe over his shoulders, he opened the door as the persistent knocker finished pounding yet again.
A disheveled stable hand stood before Elrond. Bowing awkwardly, the ellon breathlessly said, “Your pardon, my Lord Elrond for awakening you. Lord Glorfindel’s patrol has returned and you are needed immediately. There are 13 wounded, some from Lord Glorfindel’s patrol and some from the regular patrol with which he met up this evening. The officer in command begs you to come quickly. Lord Glorfindel is among the injured and … and it is horrible, my lord.”
Elrond nodded. “Thank you. I will come at once. Go alert the healers to make ready for many patients.”
“Yes, my lord,” the ellon replied as he bowed. He hurried away down the corridor as Elrond closed the door.
Elrond rushed back through the sitting room to the bedroom, discarding his robe and night clothes as he went. Celebrian was already up and laying out clothes for him to change into.
“I heard,” she said. “What could have happened that Glorfindel and so many others were injured?”
Elrond sighed as he began to dress. “I do not know. Considering Glorfindel only left yesterday morning, it must have been something very bad for him to have returned so soon.”
He hurriedly put on his clothes and she braided his hair as he pulled on his boots. “Go wake the twins and tell them to meet me in the healing wing.”
“Yes, of course,” she replied.
Fastening his last boot strap, he turned and gave her a quick kiss. “Say a prayer that this is not as bad as my heart tells me that it is.”
He saw her nod as he rose and raced out of the room.
Glorfindel’s third in command, a Sinda named Angaril was helping to bear Glorfindel’s litter up to the main part of the house as Elrond approached. The soldier was overly pale and his grey eyes were haunted as he halted and bowed low.
“My Lord Elrond, I bring very grave news. We explored the site of the last attack then made our camp with the regular patrol within the borders of Imladris. The…the “enemy” attacked, taking out four of the warriors on watch. Then it attacked the camp. We never stood a chance. Some managed to draw weapons and even fire a few arrows, but to no avail. Lord Glorfindel kept it…them at bay by the light of his fëa at first and they fled. But when he relaxed his stance and his power, they attacked him. There was nothing we could do. He lives, my lord, but barely.”
Elrond leaned over and touched Glorfindel’s ashen face and neck. The golden-haired warrior’s heart beat was weak and his breast barely rose with each breath. Elrond looked under the blanket and saw the blood-stained bandage covering his friend’s broad chest.
“Do you know what did this to him?” Elrond asked.
“No, my lord,” Angaril replied. “However, before he lost consciousness, Lord Glorfindel did say that he knew what the creature…creatures were. He said ‘it was the death of the Trees’. I asked him for clarification for no trees had died and he said that he spoke of the Two Trees. He said he remembered because he was there when they died.”
Elrond looked over at the ellon in surprise. “The death of the Trees?” He pondered this for a moment, then felt his eyes grow wide. “That is impossible,” he said almost to himself, shaking his head in disbelief. “It is just not possible. It cannot still exist. It was destroyed.”
They resumed their trek toward the house, with Elrond walking alongside Angaril, helping to bear Glorfindel’s unconscious body.
“My lord,” Angaril offered as they approached the doors. “We discussed Lord Glorfindel’s words on the ride back here for it was a slow journey, bearing so many wounded. The only thing that any of us could remember about the death of the Trees was that a creature destroyed them at Morgoth’s bidding. Unfortunately, all of those among us who actually have had much study in the lore of Valinor were among the injured. One warrior joked that perhaps the creatures did that on purpose, attacked those who they thought might know about them. The soldier beside him reprimanded him, saying this was all too bitter for jest. Yet, it did make us wonder, especially when we noticed that all of the injured had in them the blood of the Noldorin.”
Elrond pondered this a moment, then looked over at the lieutenant. “Are you suggesting that whatever attacked these soldiers singled them out for a reason?”
“My lord, look around you. Is it not odd who remains to bear the wounded and who we are bearing away? Those of us who were not injured were temporarily incapacitated, the breath stolen from our bodies, the blood frozen in our veins while our comrades in arms screamed all around us, also unable to move as the creatures drew blood and we know not what else from them. Even Lord Glorfindel screamed as if the very life were being sucked from him. My lord, he has slain a balrog and yet …” Angaril’s voice trailed off.
They entered the house and started down the corridor to the healing wing, passing newly roused servants and kin of the soldiers along the way. Many gasped in alarm when they saw Glorfindel being carried by.
When the train of litter bearers reached a clear section of the corridor, Angaril quietly spoke again, “My lord, we believe that it took eight of them to bring him down. Every one of the other warriors bore only one puncture wound to the chest and one to the back, indicating that two creatures attacked. The creatures dropped down out of the trees without warning – even the trees did not know they were there until the creatures attacked us.
We were all so terrified by what had transpired that we drew lots to see who would stay and man the regular patrol and who would bear the wounded back here. I am the senior unwounded officer, so I returned to report to you. We need to send relief and reinforcements to the patrol, my lord. Or perhaps… Please forgive me, I know this sounds ludicrous for it would mean leaving our borders unguarded, but perhaps we should recall them. There is nothing they can do against the creatures if they are attacked again.”
Elrond was silent, brooding over all that he had heard. They entered a room and carefully lifted Glorfindel onto a bed. After Angaril briefed Elrond on how Glorfindel’s wounds had been treated, Elrond sent him to submit a detailed report to Erestor, then settled in to begin treatment.
News of the attack had spread quickly through Imladris. That afternoon, the council chamber was once again filled. Lord Glorfindel’s empty chair was occupied by an uncomfortable Lieutenant Angaril, who opened the meeting with his account of what had transpired the previous day and night.
Weary from the healings, Elrond looked around at the anxious faces. Any lingering doubt as to the true danger of the situation was utterly vanquished by the report of what had happened to Glorfindel. Genuine fear, the likes of which most of those present had never before known, now flooded the room with the realization that they were all defenseless against whatever this menace was. For if mighty Glorfindel the balrog slayer could not stand against the menace, how could they?
Knowing it might add to the growing restlessness in the chamber, Elrond spoke, “I believe that most, if not all of the injured will survive. They have lost much blood, but that is not what weakens them the most. As with all of the other victims, something else was taken from them as well. Something of their very fëa it would seem. And that is what I do not know how to heal.”
Turning to Erestor, Elrond asked, “What have you found in your research of what Glorfindel suggested was the nature of the menace?”
Erestor opened one of the two books which lay in front of him, a red ribbon marking the page. “Glorfindel suggested that Ungoliant was the menace which attacked him. We know that Ungoliant did indeed consume light and things of light and then used the light to spin webs of interminable darkness. I found an account of Ungoliant’s attack upon the Two Trees in Valinor, and found that she did indeed have a paralyzing effect upon those near her when she attacked. This paralysis did seem to be similar to what Lieutenant Angaril described. After Ungoliant drained the light from the Trees, she went on to consume the light from half of the jewels Morgoth had stolen from Fëanor’s horde in Formenos. Afterward she grew to such a hideous size that even Morgoth is said to have feared her. She spun a web of darkness and shadow about her so none could see her as she traveled, swinging on her web from mountain top to mountain top. This is consistent with reports of the menace suddenly appearing and disappearing. She fled away to the South in Middle-earth.”
Erestor opened the other book before him to another marked page. “However, it is also documented that Ungoliant was indeed destroyed shortly before the fall of the Havens at Sirion. On one of Eärendil’s last journeys before the fall, he found and slew Ungoliant. It is said he slew her with arrows and sword.”
Taking a deep breath, he concluded, “Therefore whatever assails us now is not Ungoliant. It may be offspring of hers or some other kin of hers, but it is not her.”
There was an audible sigh in the room.
Puzzled, Elrond turned to Erestor, “So why attack us here and why now? What is to be gained?”
But, it was Lieutenant Angaril who answered. “Lord Elrond, if I may be so bold…” Elrond and Erestor looked over at him in surprise.
“Proceed,” Elrond said, noting Angaril’s nervousness. The ellon had never attended a council session before today.
Taking a deep breath, Angaril said, “I believe I may have an answer for you. If you recall, this morning you and I discussed the possibility that the victims were chosen by the adversary for a reason. I pointed out to you that every ellon injured in the attack last night had the blood of the Noldorin in him. But what is more, every one of them had the light of Valinor about him… Thus marking each of them as “Calaquendi.” Lord Erestor said Ungoliant consumed light, and these creatures, we now speculate, are offspring of hers. So, perhaps…perhaps they also seek to consume light. That would explain why the creatures ignored the Sindar among our patrol and only attacked the Noldorin.” He paused and looked questioningly around the room. When he met Elrond’s eye, he received a nod of encouragement.
“But, they did not attack Lord Glorfindel when he put forth his power. They fled from his light. However, as soon as he relaxed, they attacked him and his light was taken from him. My lord, could they also fear what they must consume in order to survive?”
Elrond raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Excellent point, Lieutenant, and plausible. Ungoliant was said to have feared the light of the Two Trees and only attacked them once Morgoth wounded them. So why is it, do you think, that these creatures attack here and now?”
Angaril was silent for a few moments, then replied, “My lord, though there is or was peace and our numbers grow again, the elves dwell almost exclusively in the north now. Also, there are fewer descendants of Valinor left in Midde-earth. There are more of them here in and near Imladris and in Lothlorien than anywhere else. Do not predators follow their source of food when the herds migrate?”
The answer Angaril received was restless movement and mutterings from around the room.
Elrond was deeply impressed with this soldier’s observations and conclusions. They were concise, logical, and, he feared, most probably correct.
Turning to Erestor for confirmation of one last detail, Elrond asked, “Lord Erestor, of what kindred were the other victims of the creatures?”
Erestor searched through his notes for a few minutes, a mixture of awe and concern growing on his face the whole while. “My lord,” he finally answered, “Every victim was of Noldorin descent, some half-blooded and some full-blooded. And, every victim lost the light of his or her fëa after the attack.”
Elrond looked around at his lords and councilors as the news sunk in. The tension was almost palpable as those of Noldorin descent stiffened in apprehension and those of the Sindar relaxed a bit, apparently relieved to be off of the menu.
“Lieutenant Angaril,” Elrond said, “You are in charge of Imladris’s defenses until further notice. Send Sindarin warriors to replace the Noldorin on the patrols and recall the Noldorin soldiers. I also want you to choose some of your best warriors to serve as escorts for the messengers I am sending to the other elven realms.”
Angaril’s face was full of shocked disbelief. Obviously he was not expecting the sudden and hopefully temporary promotion. “Yes, my lord. Thank you, my lord,” he shakily replied.
Addressing one of the scribes, Elrond said, “Compile detailed notes from this meeting. I will draft a letter for King Amroth as our findings closely concern his subjects. I will also draft letters for Cirdan and Thranduil as well.”
“My lords, make it known to the people of Imladris that there is a mandatory curfew and no one is to go outside after sundown unless absolutely necessary until we have a better understanding of what we face and how to defeat it.”
If we can defeat it… Elrond thought, but he dared not say it aloud.
Galadin stood rigidly at attention, trying to hide his dismay. Was the acting captain truly asking him and his brother to do this? The screams of the fallen still haunted him and the images of the bloody bodies of the injured were visible to him every time he closed his eyes. He had seen many bloody battles and mangled dead bodies of the fallen, but never had he heard elves scream like that. And then Lord Glorfindel…his fall had been the worst. Now the commanding officer was asking them to leave the relative safety of Imladris to take a message to Lothlorien.
“Galadin?” The acting captain was staring intently at him. “Galadin, did you hear what I just said?”
Galadin shook himself internally. The lives of others may depend on news of this reaching Lothlorien. He needed to get a grip on himself. “Sir, I am …I am sorry. No, Sir, I did not hear you.”
“Pay attention, soldier!”
Galadin snapped to immediately.
“I said that I understand your apprehension, but we have very few options left to us. You and Galador have a close communion with the trees. I feel confident that you will be able to enlist their aide in your travels.”
“Sir, with all due respect,” Galador nervously spoke up from his brother’s side. “Even the trees did not know of the coming of the “dark of night”.”
“That is true,” Angaril agreed. “However, these assaults are coming from the Southern borders and you will be traveling East. Also, the company riding with you will not include any children of Valinor. I do not believe that you will be assailed by this menace. You both have first hand knowledge of an attack and you both were subdued, but not injured by the creatures. Between the documents you will be carrying, which provide details of all of the known attacks and the current condition of the injured, and your own personal experiences, you should be able to answer King Amroth’s questions.”
Angaril paused, his eyes suddenly unfocusing for a few moments. When he regarded the brothers again, he gave them a small smile and said reassuringly, “I am confident in my selection of the two of you for this assignment. And, unless my heart misguides me, I believe I will be seeing the two of you safely in Imladris again. You are dismissed.”
Realizing the discussion was over, if it ever could have been called a discussion, Galadin replied, “Yes, Sir.” Saluting, he and his brother turned and left the office to make ready for their journey.
Elrond stood on a balcony overlooking the gardens. By the pale vestiges of first light, he could make out the bustle of activity at the stables. He was exhausted after a long night of further healing the many wounded from the day before and preparing the messages. Celebrian had helped Elrond carefully compose the letters to each of the rulers of the distant elven realms. Now he could only hope that his fellow leaders would appreciate the magnitude of the threat which faced Imladris enough to send him aid as well as see to their own safety.
Clutching the railing in front of him, Elrond watched as the messengers rode out with their guards. Whispering a prayer for their safety, he relaxed his desperate grip as he felt arms slide around his waist.
“Come inside and rest now, my love” Celebrian quietly insisted. “You need to recover your strength enough to be able to help the injured.”
Silently, Elrond turned and allowed her to guide him back into the house.
“Now I am worried about you,” Celebrian said, her voice full of concern. “You are obeying without protest.
Be at peace, Elrond. My parents advise King Amroth. Help will come.”
He nodded, but couldn’t help worrying. What could they possibly do to lend aid and would the help come in time?
Chapter 3 - Chapter 3
Thanks to my betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's I make no money from this.
Fëar – spirits
The messengers made the trek to Lothlorien in a surprisingly short amount of time despite the numbers of the guard accompanying them. The journey had been quiet and blessedly uneventful with only a few brief stops to rest their mounts and refresh their water supply. Everyone relaxed during the day, but come nightfall… the tension was such that no one knew peace or rest. The trees they questioned along the way knew nothing of the “dark of night”, however, they sensed the elves’ apprehension and dutifully kept wild animals at bay to ease the nervous tension.
In spite of the trepidation he felt about traveling with the menace about, Galadin found he feared even more for his kin in Imladris. His parents, his wife and daughters, his brother’s family were all there awaiting their return. But what if Angaril was correct and he and his brother did return? Would Imladris be the same? What if there were more attacks? What if the dark decided that the Calaquendi were not enough to appease its appetite and turned to the Sindar to supplement its diet? Would his family be safe then?
The night before he left, his wife and daughters had curled up with him before the fire, each snuggled as close to him as she could get. Would he ever hold them again?
No, he would not do this to himself! Such fears were foolishness! He would keep the thought of their warmth in his heart and he would do what needed to be done to see to their safety.
Looking up, he realized that the group had finally reached the woods of Lothlorien. The other trees along the way truly had been kind to them on this journey, but would these unknown mellyrn prove to be as helpful?
He reached out with his fëa and felt the strangeness of this wood. There were elves present here, but he did not know exactly where. Their trees dearly loved and protected them, refusing to treat with him at all. These folk were not called the Galadhrim for nothing to own such loyalty from their trees.
The sun began to set, moving the guard to nervousness and greater awareness. Galadin looked around at the warriors surrounding him. Eight of them had been present the night of the attack and they had successfully alarmed the rest of the guard on this journey such that none knew peace – even in a realm guarded by others far removed from whispers of the menace – everyone was now overly nervous beneath trees.
Galadin felt a tingle down his spine. Someone or something was watching them. Glancing again at the guard, he realized they all could feel it. Silently bows were shifted and nocked with arrows while hands moved to the hilts of swords as the wood thickened about them.
Everything was utterly silent. No animals, no insects disturbed the windless forest. The watchers were directly ahead, waiting…completely hidden by the trees. Giant ancient trees which were filled with…amusement?
Galadin lowered his bow, looking around at his fellows’ relieved faces as they relaxed as well, some smiling. They sensed it, too.
Raising his right hand, silently calling for a halt, Galadin called out in Sindarin, “We know you are there. We come from Imladris, bearing important messages from Lord Elrond to be given into your king’s own hand.”
Elves garbed in forest grey dropped from the surrounding trees. Mighty bows as long as each bowman was tall were held at the ready, arrows loosely dangling from long slender fingers, waiting to be fitted to the strings if the order were given. The ellon who was obviously their leader sauntered forth and leaned casually on his bow.
Shaking his head disapprovingly, the elf clicked his tongue and said in a condescending tone, “Two messages from Lord Elrond in as many days. Something must be amiss…” The ellon regarded the group from Imladris appraisingly. “And you certainly are a nervous, heavily-armed folk, are you not? Bringing your weapons to the ready in a realm guarded by your eastern kin. Do you not trust us?” He paused, looking thoughtful for a moment, then continued. “Or perhaps you were planning to attack? Though your numbers are rather small for an invasion force.”
Galadin, remained motionless, patiently tolerating the mocking tones and the amused smiles of the Lorien elves. He could sense the irritation of his comrades in arms, but they remained silent and still as well. The elves of Lorien truly did not know of what had transpired in Imladris or they would not be treating with them so.
The elf continued, still scoffing, “Your other messenger managed to travel here from Imladris all by himself. Who are you and what do you bear that so many “anxious” armed warriors are required in a time of lasting peace?”
Galadin replied, “I am Galadin of the Imladris Guard. We come bearing grave news. The messages we bear are to be given directly into the king’s own hands, as I said before.”
“And why do you need such an escort?” the elf questioned again.
Sighing, Galadin replied, “Because the borders of Imladris are being threatened by an unknown menace and the escort was necessary to see the messages safely out of Imladris.”
The leader straightened, his eyes growing wide in his now sober face. All trace of amusement was gone from his voice when he spoke again. “Have any lives been lost? I recognize you and most if not all of the soldiers accompanying you from the Last Alliance. The members of this guard were not chosen lightly.”
“There have been no deaths that I know of, but there have been many wounded, Lord Glorfindel among them. And, yes, this guard was hand-picked to accompany my brother and me on this journey.”
The elf humbly bowed to the Imladris warriors. “Please forgive my earlier jests. I did not realize the gravity of the situation. You will be escorted to the king immediately.”
“Thank you,” Galadin replied bowing respectfully in return. “An escort would be much appreciated.”
Leaning back in his chair, King Amroth slid his fingers through his long golden hair, trying to massage the tension from his head. By the Valar, what was he to do? What could he do? Imladris besieged by…by Ungoliant’s children? This could not be possible! And Elrond sounded so desperate and “afraid” in his letter. There had to be something Lorien could do to help. But what?
Rising, he stoked the fire, then poured himself some wine in a crystal goblet. Taking a long drink, he opened the door to his study and called for his servant.
When the ellon arrived, bowing low before his king, Amroth said, “Tell Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel that I need to speak with them in my study immediately. Then bring us some refreshments.”
The servant bowed, “Yes, my lord.”
“Thank you,” Amroth replied.
Alone once again, he returned to his desk and began an agenda for the council meeting he would call after discussing the matter with Celeborn and Galadriel.
Less than an hour later, Celeborn and Galadriel sat side by side in comfortable chairs, holding hands and staring at their king in dismay. Amroth was not pleased by the way Galadriel had been shaking her beautiful golden head and whispering explicatives the whole time she and her husband read the documents from Imladris.
“I had hoped,” Amroth said, leaning forward and folding his hands on his desk “That after you read this, you might tell me that I was over reacting. However, I can tell by your expressions that you are just as…uncomfortable from reading this news as I find myself to be.”
Celeborn and Galadriel both nodded at him wide-eyed and very serious.
“Do you think this threat will find us here in Lothlorien?”
Sighing, Celeborn replied, “If Elrond’s guess is correct and the creatures are feeding upon the light in the fëar of the Noldor, then it does stand to reason that once Imladris runs out of healthy Noldor, this threat may indeed eventually find its way here.” He noticeably tightened his grip on his wife’s hand.
Regarding them carefully, Amroth quietly asked, “I know that your daughter and grandchildren are under threat now. Is there anything we can do from here to aid them in Imladris?”
Celeborn replied, “I do not know.” His ageless clear blue eyes took on a far away look. “I remember that Eärendil told me that he had used 10 arrows and his sword to kill Ungoliant when he found her secret caves far in the South. That was on the second to the last voyage he made before the Havens at Sirion fell. He was telling us the tales while cuddling young Elros on his lap as Elwing was clutching a sleeping little Elrond to her breast. It always upset her to hear the stories of her husband’s adventures on the sea while she waited alone with the twins for him to return. Then the voyage after the next, he did not return home again.”
Celeborn paused for a long drink from his glass, then continued. “I also remember Beren telling of his time wandering the Mountains of Terror near Doriath before he first met Luthien. He told us about fighting huge spider-like creatures. We were in awe of Beren’s courage for few had tried those mountains and none had ever returned. It is possible that these beings were relatives of Ungoliant’s as well and we just did not make the association at the time.”
They all sat in silence reminiscing, when Celeborn suddenly turned to Galadriel. “My lady, tell me again what the Valar had proposed to do to heal the Two Trees when Ungoliant stole their light?”
Galadriel seemed surprised at first and took a moment to recover for she obviously had been sharing Celeborn’s memory. She looked thoughtful for a time then replied, “Nienna had cried over the Trees washing away the poison of Ungoliant. Then Yavanna asked my Uncle Fëanor for his Silmarils. She said that because they contained the unblemished light of the Two Trees, she could break them open and return the light to the Trees. Then the Trees would be healed again and the darkness would vanish away. Fëanor refused her, but then it was discovered that his refusal mattered little anyway for Morgoth had stolen the Silmarils and disappeared from Aman.”
Amroth smiled blandly then commented, “Well, we appear to be fresh out of Silmarils with Maglor’s Silmaril in the ocean, Maedhros’ Silmaril in the earth, and Eärendil’s in the heavens…So now what do we do?”
Celeborn looked at him oddly. “We are not trying to heal holy trees here, fortunately. We are trying to slay Ungoliant’s descendants and heal broken fëar.”
Wonder filled Galadriel’s face as she regarded her king. “Oh, but Celeborn, Amroth has a point, and a very valid one at that. Oh! But how to make it work…” her voice fell to a whisper. “How to make it work…”
Amroth chuckled. “I was being sarcastic, Galadriel. I was not seriously proposing that we use Silmarils to heal what Ungoliant’s offspring have wounded.”
Galadriel placed her free hand on her mouth, slowly shaking her head. “Oh, but Amroth… I am… I am.”
Abruptly she released Celeborn’s hand and rose from her chair. One arm across her waist and the fingers of her other hand tapping her lips, she paced the room several times. Over and over she whispered, “How to make it work…How… and then…then how to transport it…How…How.”
For some minutes Amroth and Celeborn watched her walk a path six paces away, turn, six paces back, turn, six paces away, turn, six paces back. Afraid to disturb her, Amroth looked questioningly at Celeborn who responded by shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head in denial. Amroth refilled Celeborn’s glass and his own and they sat back and watched her tread the rug in front of the fire.
Suddenly she stopped, an expression of eureka lighting her face. “Of course!” she exclaimed, her fist pounding the air.
“My king, may I please be excused? I think I know now what needs to be done, and Oh! It might, it just might…Please, my lord,” she begged, “May I have your leave?”
Staring at her oddly, Amroth exchanged a brief curious glance with Celeborn who looked as confused as he felt. “Yes. You have my leave. You may go.”
“Thank you! Thank you, my lord,” she said breathlessly giving a quick courtesy and practically running from the room.
Celeborn looked at Amroth, put up his hands in defeat and shook his head. “I do not know, my lord. But she obviously knows what she is about. I seriously doubt she will desire my company any time soon. Would you like some help with the agenda for the council meeting?”
“Certainly,” Amroth replied, and they set to work.
Chapter 4 - Chapter 4
Betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Adar - Father
Daeradar - grandfather
Galadriel raced down the steps to her private fountain in the glade in the center of Caras Galadhon. Carefully setting down the basket of small crystal phials she carried, she continued to ask herself: Could this really work?
Her brother Finrod had used songs of power when battling Sauron thousands of years ago, invoking the feeling, the joy, the light of the Blessed Realm in the middle of Sauron’s foul pits. That was the last time that she knew of one of her kin using a song of power. Could she create and sustain this long enough to do what needed to be done?
She looked up. Eärendil’s star had just crested the horizon and soon his light would be visible through the trees. She could not afford doubts now. Finrod doubted in the middle of his song and that had been his undoing. She had to be confident. She had to be strong. She could do this. With Nenya’s help, she knew she could do this.
Clearing her mind of all thoughts but the song of the trees about her, she set to work. Carefully filling the silver ewer beside her fountain, she emptied it five times into the large silver basin perched on the carved stone pedestal beside the fountain. When the basin was brimming full, she breathed upon the waters. Then, taking a deep breath, she began.
Slowly, she started to sway in time to the soft, barely audible song she felt beginning to grow inside of her. Visions of Cuiviénen and the first awakening of the elves and their first glimpses of the stars filled her mind. Then invoking Elbereth, the Vala who had created the stars, she softly, reverently sang of their beauteous light. Raising her hands into the air, she began to walk around the basin.
Her song grew louder, turning to one of creation calling upon Yavanna and praising her glorious fount of life, gushing forth as plants and animals awoke at the rising of the sun and moon. Now she skipped with the fire of growth she felt. The song grew louder still, turning again to light with the creation of the sun and the moon and their radiant power bursting into the sky, banishing all darkness away.
Her steps became a glorious dance as Eärendil’s star shone down from directly overhead. Light trickled through the trees, dripping from the leaves above her, as she practically shouted her song. Power charged through her. Nenya exploded in brilliant whiteness, bathing her in a radiant glory. Eärendil’s light streamed down in a solid beam into her basin, washing the entire glade in flashes of silver and white.
When Eärendil finally passed behind the trees, her movements slowed, her song grew quieter. Finally she stilled before her basin which glowed from within of its own volition. She swayed almost to the point of overbalancing, trying desperately to eek out the last bit of the song. When at last the final note fell from her parched lips, she collapsed to the earth utterly spent, losing consciousness before she hit the ground.
Celeborn stood just out of sight of his wife, marveling at the music and light she was producing. Amroth standing beside him gaped in equal wonder. The servant who came running in to tell them of the beauteous song and lights at the Lady’s fountain had not been exaggerating. Now half of the residents of Caras Galadhon stood staring in wonder at the spectacle before them. Celeborn had never before seen anything like this, and judging from the looks on the faces around him, neither had anyone else.
When Galadriel’s dancing finally stilled from its hours of whirling wonder, Celeborn could sense across his bond with his wife that she was completely drained of all strength. When the song died, he dashed to her, catching her head before it smacked into the fountain. Amroth was right there beside him, cleansing the glistening sheen of sweat from her forehead with the hem of his sleeve. Her breast barely rose with each breath she took. Celeborn patted her face, calling her name.
At last her eye lids fluttered weakly. Her lips moved, forming words, only a few of which were discernable “The…the…my basin… water…” she whispered.
Noting her dry chapped lips, Celeborn said, “My king, would you please get her some water. I saw some containers in the basket. Water from her basin should be fine. She always keeps it clean and only uses fresh pure water in it.”
Amroth nodded in acknowledgement, already moving as Celeborn cradled his exhausted wife closer to his chest, stroking her overly pale face. A moment later, Amroth knelt beside him again, holding a crystal container of water to her lips. Celeborn tilted her head back, opening her lovely mouth a little bit to allow the water to wet her lips and trickle inside. As she swallowed a third time, Amroth suddenly paused.
Celeborn looked up to see a bewildered look on his king’s face. “My lord, what is it?” he asked.
Amroth set the container on the ground, then rubbed his fingers together, staring oddly at his right hand. “Celeborn…Celeborn, this water feels… strange. It is like nothing I have ever felt before. Like…almost like liquid silk. It…my hand feels strange.” He turned his hand around in wonder, watching as a last couple of drops trailed across the back of his and slid down his wrist to dampen his sleeve. “It feels … I do not know how to describe it.” He flexed his fingers. “My hand feels stronger.” Then his eyes grew wide. “By the Valar, Celeborn! What have we just given your wife to drink?!”
Alarmed, Celeborn looked down at his wife. Color was returning to her cheeks and her chest moved more noticeably with each breath. Eyes still closed, she smiled lazily.
“My love, it is all right,” she quietly said. “It worked.” She took a deeper breath, slowly exhaling. Her smile widened. “It worked even better than I had hoped.” Taking a few more deep breaths, she opened her brightly shining blue eyes, glanced over at Amroth, and softly announced, “My king, I believe we may have a cure for the victims of Ungoliant’s children.”
Slowly, Amroth lowered his hand. “What?” he asked incredulously.
“Fill all of the containers in the basket with the water from my basin. If any water is left, leave it in the basin for now.” She took a few more deep breaths, smiling wider still. “We have to get this water to Imladris.”
“My lady,” Amroth asked carefully. “What is in this water?”
She closed her eyes, snuggling closer to Celeborn’s chest. “The light of a Silmaril, my lord.”
And she promptly fell asleep.
Haldir sat at the table, admiring the platters and bowls of food spread out before him. His mother, nieces, and sisters-in-law obviously had been hard at work all day preparing this. He eyed his brothers across the table. They nodded their silent agreement. The only time they ate like this was when he and both of his brothers were going to be away at the borders for an extended period of time. Silently everyone filled their plates, the ellith unusually quiet as they always were when the ellyn were going away.
As Haldir took his first bite, his father looked over at him and asked, “So why does the king send a battalion of Silvans to Imladris?”
Thoughtfully, Haldir chewed his food. How much did he dare reveal about this mission? He had just returned from the borders two days ago only to be accosted by his commanding officer, King Amroth’s general. He remembered how annoyed he had been that during a long, well earned peace, their Noldorin commander felt it necessary to order Galadhrim away from their beloved trees. Then he had heard the tale of the threat to Imladris from those warriors who witnessed attacks themselves. After that, he knew he had to go and help his fellow elves.
“There is a great need, just now. Imladris is in trouble, so the King wishes to send them aid,” Haldir answered looking all the while at the meat he was slicing.
“Those Noldor have been harbingers of doom from the very first time they set foot in Middle-earth, extinguishing our stars with their over bright sun and moon, bringing Morgoth’s evil upon us. Beleriand was ripped apart and Sauron rose to power because of them, too,” his father declared.
Neither Haldir nor his brothers responded.
“Your daeradar died in the Last Alliance because of them and their foolish king.”
His brother Rumil answered. “Adar, Daeradar died because he followed King Amdir into battle. King Amdir had no gift for strategy. Amdir followed King Oropher’s disastrous charge.” Their father looked askance and Rumil raised his voice. “AGAINST the wise council of King Gil-Galad. And our folk died because of it. You should stop trying to blame your adar’s death on the Noldor.”
“How dare you speak ill of our king whom you served!” their father exclaimed.
Haldir’s other brother Orophin answered this time. “Adar, even King Amroth admits that his adar was foolish to have followed Oropher. We were there at the battle, too, Adar. We remember hearing these words from Amroth’s own lips.”
Their father scowled. “The Noldor are still responsible for all of this...this nonsense in Imladris.”
Haldir saw his mother set down her knife, roll her eyes, then sigh heavily and shake her head. This happened every single time anything involving the Noldor came up in conversation.
“Adar,” Haldir quietly added, “Allow me to remind you that Lord Elrond has the blood of the Vanyar, the Sindar, the Atani, and a Maia in addition to his Noldorin ancestry.”
“Haldir, my understanding of this threat in Imladris is that it targets anyone of Noldorin ancestry. Why should we endanger OUR sons to try to help defeat it? It is a “Noldorin” problem. It is not “our” problem. Let them sort it out for themselves. If they are so mighty for their having been taught at the feet of their precious Valar as they have so proudly claimed since first setting foot in Middle-earth, then they do not need us!” His father finished up by deftly spearing another piece of meat and putting it on his plate.
Calmly praying for patience, Haldir glanced over at his brothers and noted, by the looks on their faces, that they were quietly doing the same. “Adar,” Haldir evenly explained. “I am the captain of the march wardens…”
“Something of which I am very proud!” His father interjected.
“Yes, Adar. I know. But as such, it is my sworn duty to protect the Golden Wood and its inhabitants. If we do not defeat this…this adversary in Imladris, then when it runs out of elves there, it will come here. I, for one, would rather defeat it while it still does not acknowledge us as a threat nor as a meal. We have to go help Imladris and we have to go now.”
Frowning, his father continued to eat, then swallowed some of his wine. Everyone at the table had stopped eating except for his adar. No one else moved. Finally setting down his goblet, his adar sighed.
“Very well, my sons. Go and defeat this menace to save the Golden Wood from having to face it. So long as you are not doing it to help the Noldor, I will say no more on the subject.”
Haldir watched the tension in the room visibly dissipate as everyone relaxed and began eating again. Perhaps getting away from the Golden Wood for a while would be a good thing – even it meant facing an unknown peril which sucked the light and blood out of elves. At least it did not argue at the dinner table…
Chapter 5 - Chapter 5
Betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie
Summary: An unknown menace stalks the elves of Middle-earth, but what
if anything can be done to defeat it?
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Daeradar – grandfather
Daernaneth – grandmother
At dawn the next day, the battalion of Galadhrim and the guard from Imladris set out. Immediately, Haldir noted the disquiet in the warriors of Imladris. Even their mounts seemed a bit agitated, and they had not even made it to the borders of Lothlorien yet. Looking around, he could tell that his own soldiers had noticed this odd behavior as well. In spite of the stories he had heard, Haldir still could not understand how circumstances could be quite so terrible that seasoned veterans of battles in Mordor feared to return to their own homeland.
As the journey wore on, the anxious Imladris guard spent more time looking up than looking at the road. Any sound at night had them half drawing swords, brandishing glittering phials of liquid starlight, and fitting arrows to bowstrings. None of them rested and every one of them jumped at the chance to take watch. After some days of this behavior, Haldir and his soldiers had endured just about all they could tolerate. Still, every evening he counseled his ellyn to patience and forbearance, for obviously there was something terrible out there or Elrond would not have sent for help.
But for the entire journey, there had been peace. There simply was nothing out there, nothing around them. The trees were all at peace with joyful forest song. The forest animals were all at peace. There were absolutely no indications of anything being amiss. But if so much as one more nervous ellon drew a sword or an arrow, or waved a flashy container of the bright water Haldir was going to break the peace with some long private words with Galadin of Imladris.
At camp that night, an irate Haldir finally drew Galadin aside.
“Galadin,” he reprimanded in annoyance. “I realize that you and your guard have had some… unusual experiences, but your warriors are behaving like frightened elflings! Those of us from Lothlorien wish to aid you, but you have to trust us and you have to trust yourselves. This anxiety is totally ridiculous and unbefitting elves, especially seasoned warriors.”
Taking a deep breath, Galadin met Haldir’s gaze with a steely one of his own. “Captain Haldir, we do not expect you to understand our experiences. Once you and your warriors have experienced the “dark of night”, then you will understand, and we can talk of this further. Until then, you can bear with us or ignore us as you see fit. But, I will not ask my soldiers to behave any differently.” Then Galadin saluted, turned his back, and walked away.
The afternoon a few days later when the group crossed the borders and were well into Imladris, there was nothing out of the ordinary. However, after a few miles of this continual “nothing” even the battalion from Lothlorien became concerned. The entire Imladris guard fitted arrows to strings as they cautiously led the way deeper inside the borders toward the Last Homely House.
Where was the border patrol?
Two hours inside the border, every Lothlorien soldier held a weapon at the ready. Still there was no one in sight. Just after sundown, they reached the Last Homely House.
No one greeted them at the stables. Every visible window and door was shut. One quarter of the soldiers dismounted and slowly made their way to the main house while the rest took up defensive positions.
Haldir now regretted every ill thought he had had toward the Imladris guard on the journey there. Silently, he walked beside Galadin.
“Even the main house is barred now,” Galadin quietly said. Glancing to his left, he added in a relieved voice. “There are lights on in my house and I can sense my wife and daughters across our bond. All is still well with them at least.”
Haldir looked over at the smaller dwellings, noting that only half of them were lit. What had happened here?
Suddenly the door to the main house flew open and a silver-haired warrior hurried out to meet them.
Halting a few paces before them, the ellon saluted. “I am Lieutenant Angaril, currently acting captain of the Imladris Guard.”
Haldir saluted and introduced himself.
“I cannot begin to express how relieved I am that you have finally arrived,” Angaril said. “And Galadin, it is good to see you again. Your whole family is still safe, so you can be at ease about that. Unfortunately that is about all there is to be at ease about now.”
“Sir,” Galadin asked worriedly, “What happened to the border patrol?
Angaril sighed heavily. “Lord Elrond recalled them to help protect our people here. The attacks have grown more frequent and closer to the main house. Two days ago, the creatures attacked one of the Noldorin stable hands who had broken curfew going to check on a new foal. No one goes outside after dark for any reason now.” He paused, looking around at the sky. “Fortunately, the attacks do not begin until closer to midnight, so we have some time to stable your horses and get you inside before it will be unsafe to be out. The creatures also seem to prefer to attack from trees, so this area where we stand now has been deemed safe so far.
I will send you some assistance with your horses, but please hurry with them and come join us inside. We can speak more then.”
Haldir thanked the acting captain, then he and Galadin turned and began ordering their soldiers in the stabling of the horses.
Once again the council chamber was filled. But this time the nervousness was tempered by anticipation that this menace could finally be defeated. By the afternoon light streaming through the windows, Haldir relayed the message from Celeborn.
“When Lord Eärendil destroyed Ungoliant, he first observed her movements in her spider’s lair. He noted that she fed every few days and that she appeared to be at her weakest in the early hours of night before she fed. According to Lord Celeborn, Eärendil found a wide clearing, free of trees and overhanging branches near her lair. He walked back and forth from her lair to the clearing many times that day to leave a strong trail for her to follow. The he hid himself on the opposite side of the clearing and waited. As soon as she entered the clearing, he fired many arrows at her, aiming for her eyes. Once most of her eyes were blinded, he drew his sword and attacked her. He thrust his sword into her torso five times before she crawled away and died.
Lord Celeborn suggests we find her children’s lair and use a strategy similar to Eärendil’s.”
Elladan listened intently to everything Haldir said. No one had ever before told him or his brother the story of how Eärendil had defeated Ungoliant. Nor had he heard tell of Beren and the spiders in the Mountains of Terror. He felt a great swell of pride at the resourcefulness and courage of these forefathers he had never met. Briefly he wondered if either of them would be proud of their grandsons if they had known Elladan and his twin.
Elrond nodded his agreement with Celeborn’s recommendation, drawing Elladan’s attention back to the conversation at hand. “What Celeborn proposes worked well enough for my sire when he defeated Ungoliant. There are caves south of here which we think may be where her children are hiding. But how will you draw them out?”
Haldir confidently replied. “We have the phials of light which the Lady gave us. One possibility would be for us to pour some of the Silmaril water out where the creatures could find it. Then we would lie in wait and attack them when they come out to drink.”
Elladan had long known the march warden from his many visits to Lothlorien. He also greatly respected his daeradar Celeborn, but he found one potential flaw in the plans.
“Captain Haldir,” he said. “It is true that the creatures drain the light of life from their victims, but they also drain blood. What if they require both in order to be satisfied?”
Elrond replied matter-of-factly, “Ungoliant only required light to sustain her. We have no reason to believe that there would be a need for blood as well.”
“But,” Elrohir commented. “According to what Haldir just said, Daeradar used himself as bait to draw out Ungoliant. The light of the Trees would have been in him, but…What if Ungoliant bred with lesser creatures in order to create these children which trouble us now? What if they do require blood?”
“Absolutely not!” Elrond declared glaring first at Elrohir on his left and then at Elladan on his right. “What you two are suggesting is that living beings be used as bait for this venture. I will not order anyone to endanger his life so.”
“But Adar,” Elladan interjected. “We have administered vials of Daernaneth’s light of the Silmaril to all of the victims here in Imladris, and overnight we have seen marked improvement in all of them. Even Glorfindel who was near death is far stronger already. It would be possible to heal anyone who went along to serve as the bait.”
“No! I will not risk the life of anyone else at the hands of these creatures. We do not yet know if a full recovery is possible or if the effects of the liquid light are only temporary. I stand by what I said. We will use Haldir’s recommendation for luring the creatures.”
Elladan exchanged glances and thoughts with his brother across the table. Their adar was being overly cautious and it could make the difference between the success or failure of the mission. Well, if their adar would not order anyone to go along on this mission as bait, perhaps their finding a volunteer or two would be the better course of action.
Elrohir nodded almost imperceptibly in agreement. And they both knew exactly where to find such volunteers.
“Acting Captain Angaril and Captain Haldir, I want you each to select warriors to accompany you on this quest to locate and destroy Ungoliant’s children. You will leave at dawn two days from now. That should give your warriors time enough to rest after the long journey here.”
When the meeting was adjourned, Elladan and Elrohir immediately went to their suite of rooms to make their plans for the volunteers.
The morning sun stained the sky red when the combined forces of Lothlorien and Imladris departed from the Last Homely House. The 48 warriors and their captains rode out hooded and cloaked against the chill of the early hours of the day. The nervousness was palpable as they took to the trail, each carrying at least two phials of light, yet no one noticed the two additional warriors who rode at the rear of the guard.
Elladan glanced over at his brother and smiled conspiratorially. Their own daeradar had killed Ungoliant, so did it not make sense that his grandsons should be part of the force which slew her children? Elrohir smiled his agreement, then assumed the slightly bowed nervous stance of the rest of the troops. They would see to it themselves that this assault succeeded.
Chapter 6 - Chapter 6
Betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie, Malinorne
Characters: Glorfindel, Erestor, Elrond, Celebrian, Elladan, Elrohir,
Haldir, Rumil, Orophin, Celeborn, Galadriel, Amroth, OCs
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
* denotes telepahtic communication.
Daeradar – grandfather
Ellon – male elf
Fëa - spirit
The sky grew thick with heavy rain clouds as the host rode on. By the time the elves reached the guard station for the Southern borders, rain poured from the sky. Angaril called a halt. The sodden troops dismounted, caring for the horses and settling in for a damp lunch, while the captains planned strategy.
Accompanied by Galadin and Galador, Angaril stood in the shelter of the small station house with Haldir and his brothers Rúmil and Orophin, studying a map.
Agaril pointed out the location of the caves two miles south of their current position. “According to my scouts who investigated this region three days ago, the creatures currently dwell here. These caves are interconnected and have more than one entrance. However, my scouts only observed the creatures using the entrance here.” He tapped his finger on the map.
Straightening, he turned to Galadin. “You know this area well, so I want you to lead the scouting party. You four are to determine possible strategies for an attack. Be careful. Enlist the aide of the trees. And do not enter the caves!”
“Be back by sundown,” Haldir warned.
“Yes, Sirs!” the scouts answered.
Saluting, the four departed, leaving Haldir and Angaril to discuss further plans.
Rúmil smiled as he passed soundlessly through the rainy woods, following his brother and the Imladris guides. Reaching out with his fingers and his fëa, he gently stroked the dripping trees as he passed. The trees here were so very friendly and so very much in love with the elves of Imladris. He had traveled abroad a number of times, accompanying Haldir in the gathering of news in the outer lands. In spite of this, he still found it discomfiting to be surrounded by strange trees that did not know him. Apparently sensing this, these trees seemed to be making an extra effort at making him feel welcome. Yet, he sensed something else from these trees, too. Unease and perhaps…warning?
Stopping suddenly, he reached up and ran his hands along the sides of a tall oak. There were odd injuries to the bark and great disquiet in this tree.
“Galadin!” he called. “Wait. There is something … odd here.”
Within moments, Galadin and the others appeared at his side.
“This tree…” Rúmil began worriedly.
Galadin and the others reached out and touched the tree as well, then Galadin and Galador smiled grimly.
“This tree has been touched by more than one of Ungoliant’s children,” Galador said matter-of-factly. “It is trying to warn us of the dark of night.”
“I have sensed many feelings in trees before, but never fear. Not like this,” Rúmil said quietly.
Galadin clapped him on the shoulder, and said without any trace of reassurance in his voice. “My Silvan friend, they care deeply for the speakers of light. They fear for us.” Looking around, he added. “We draw close to the caves. We must stay together.”
Reluctantly, Rúmil slid his hand from the tree and walked away. At a nod from Galadin, Galador took up the rear of the group.
The feeling of fear grew greater with each tree they passed, until they finally reached the caves. Soundlessly they began their evaluation of the area. The largest entrance opened into a broad clearing cluttered with large rocks from a not-too-recent landslide. The largest of the rocks had indentations in their tops and occasionally down their sides, holding small puddles of rainwater. Brushy seed-bearing plants surrounded the edges of the clearing.
The birds must love this place, Rúmil thought as he dipped his fingers into the cold water of one of the little puddles. But, he realized to his surprise, he could not sense any birds in the area. Looking around, he could not sense any other animals either, except…
He eyes lit upon the dark gaping maw of the cave. No sounds emanated from the blackness, but there was a definite sense of something living in there, resting, but not quite lying in wait. Immediately he reached for his bow and an arrow, but Orophin stayed his hands, startling him.
Orophin shook his head in warning, then nodded toward Galador who was beckoning them away from the cave. Reluctantly replacing the arrow and his bow, Rúmil followed as he was instructed.
Once they were far enough away to speak aloud again, Orophin pulled him aside away from Galador and Galadin. Gripping Rúmil’s shoulders tightly, he rounded on him angrily, speaking rapidly in Silvan.
“Rúmil, what were you thinking back there? You cannot take on those creatures all by yourself!”
Rúmil stood rigid taking the reprimand. “I know. I was just…There is something horrible in those caves.”
“Of course there is! That is why we are here! Now keep your wits about you, brother, and do not do anything else rash. I will not lose my brother to these things. Besides it would be very embarrassing if one of us makes a mistake in front of the Imladris soldiers. It would dishonor our brother and captain, so think about that if saving your own skin is not enough to keep you thinking clearly.”
Rúmil nodded in mute response, angry for allowing himself to get so caught up in his surroundings and irate with his brother for the rebuke.
Orophin gave him a satisfied smile, then clapped him on the back reassuringly. “Come, Rúmil, we need to get back and give our report.”
Schooling his expression to hide his anger, Rúmil rejoined the Imladris warriors. However he could not hide his scowl when he heard Galadin whisper to Galador, “Those two remind me of us.”
Rúmil brooded darkly for the entire hike back to camp.
Angaril was pleased with the news the scouts brought to him. Carefully, he and Haldir sketched a detailed map of the area surrounding the cave entrance, filling in details with the information from the scouts. The plans for the attack looked quite promising with such agreeable terrain for an assault from the ground as well as from the trees. The boulders would provide natural containers for the liquid light. He truly did not think he could have hoped for better circumstances - except for the rain, of course. But if they were fortunate, the rain would let up before the next sundown.
The night passed slowly. No one in the camp could rest with the threat looming out there in the night. Everyone kept a phial of liquid light in hand and a weapon within easy reach. Angaril and Haldir had not bothered with assigning a watch, knowing that the night would pass this way. Tonight the entire camp would keep watch.
The sound of the rain trickling through the leaves did nothing to ease the nervous elves. Occasionally someone would jump apprehensively, then settle back again, looking around alertly.
At one point, Haldir, obviously weary of observing the nervous troops, strode over and quietly whispered to Angaril, “I never would have thought to see a day when armed warriors feared the sound of rain in the trees.”
“Aye,” Angaril agreed. “Or a day when Silvan and Sindar feared to sit beneath the trees that love them so.”
At dawn, the rain still had not let up, but the possibility of attack had finally passed. Angaril walked among the troops assigning two hour shifts for the watch and ordering everyone else to rest for they would all be seeing battle that evening.
Elladan and Elrohir had spent the previous day avoiding the Imladris elves. Everyone had remained hooded and cloaked against the rain and the chill of the night. Elrohir had suggested that they each hold two phials of light and keep their backs against trees during the night. It appeared to have worked for there was no attack that night and they both knew that they would be the intended victims if any such attack did occur.
At dawn, they pocketed their phials and slept alongside everyone else. Shortly after noon, the rain finally stopped. The twins managed to remain hooded throughout lunch, without anyone questioning them. By late afternoon though, the day had heated sufficiently for everyone else to have removed their hoods. Still the two remained apart from the others as best they could. Unfortunately, some bored comrades in arms had other ideas.
Elladan nudged Elrohir in the ribs as two silver-haired Lorien soldiers approached. It was too late to feign sleep, so they were going to have to talk this one out and hope the soldiers went away soon.
Sitting across from the twins, the two smiled in friendly greeting. “We are Rúmil and Orophin, Captain Haldir’s brothers. We noticed you two sitting apart from the other Imladris warriors.”
“Yes,” Elladan said abruptly.
“Is this your first time out or are you being punished? Or are you just nervous about the menace?” Orophin asked in a kindly voice. “Everyone was rather anxious last night,”
Elladan looked over at his brother then said, “We are not being punished. We just wished to sit in silence, undisturbed by others.”
Elrohir asked his brother in thought, *Do you think we need to be any more blatant in telling them we do not wish to speak with them?*
“You do realize there will be a battle in a few hours and there are likely to be many “disturbances”.” Rúmil proffered sagely.
*Apparently we do need to be more blatant* Elladan replied back with a telepathic growl.
“Yes, we realize that,” Elrohir said in annoyance.
“Why are you still wearing your hoods?” Orophin asked with a grin. “Are you planning to roast yourselves in the hope that the creatures prefer their meat raw and will thereby avoid you?”
As one, Rúmil and Orophin mischievously reached up and pushed back the twins’ hoods.
The Lorien brothers started in surprise as the sons of Elrond groped frantically for their hoods, trying to hide their dark hair again.
“By the Valar!” Rúmil exclaimed.
“What are you two doing here?!” Orophin asked in an equally loud voice.
At this, many heads suddenly turned in their direction. Expressions filled with shock and dismay met the twins as the two realized to their horror that their identities had been discovered. Warriors from Imladris immediately hauled them to their feet, marching them off to see the captains.
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged looks of defeat and fear. Their adar was going to kill them when he found out what they had done.
The sun was setting as Elladan and Elrohir watched through the window of the station house while the last of the troops marched away. Two annoyed soldiers from Imladris and two equally irate ones from Lorien sat outside the door, scowling. An occasional curse found its way through the window from one of the guards outside while the twins brooded inside.
To describe their meeting with the captains as a tense and angry affair would have been putting it mildly. Elrohir was convinced that the only reason they were not executed then and there was because the twins were Elrond’s sons and Celeborn’s and Galadriel’s grandsons. The captains had told, no, yelled to them that their very presence endangered the mission because of their Noldorin, Telerin, and Vanyarin blood.
In spite of this, the twins still argued that they should have been allowed to help slay the creatures. After all, their daeradar had managed to slay Ungoliant ON HIS OWN. The twins had the blood of more than just Valinoreans and Atani in them. They were part Maiar as well!
The captains never even bothered to listen.
Elrohir slammed his fist down on the table for the tenth time while Elladan paced the small room. It just was not fair!
Haldir and Angaril positioned their troops around the perimeter of the clearing before the entrance of the cave. Lorien archers perched in the trees, completely hidden by their Galadhrim cloaks. The Imladris warriors took up positions on a ledge above the cave opening and in the brush at the base of the trees. The rainwater in the crevices of the rocks in the clearing had been replaced with Silmaril water. No one made a sound as they waited for the order to attack.
According to Celeborn’s memories of Eärendil’s encounter with Ungoliant, she did not travel obscured by her dark cloud when she first left her lair to go feed. Haldir desperately hoped that her children would observe the same practice, so his elves might have a chance of at least engaging them in combat and not be slaughtered by them without so much as a single stroke falling. Although, he did have to admit that was not so certain that he really wanted to know what Ungoliant’s spawn looked like.
He did not have to wait very long, for just after moonrise, the first of the creatures came forth. It was a large black hairy spider-like creature with a torso about the size of a large child. Hideous yellow eyes darted around as the creature scuttled toward the nearest boulder. Soon more creatures of similar size followed suit.
So these were the horrid beasts that had been terrorizing Imladris, sucking the life and blood out of so many hapless elves! Haldir watched with revulsion, feeling his stomach lurch and his dinner threatening to come back to visit him. Not only was he afraid of what this vile menace might do to his soldiers, he really hated spiders. The snicking, scraping sound these giant wretched beings made as they crawled made him shudder involuntarily. Getting a grip on himself internally, he patiently willed his hand to stay at his side as he waited to see if more of the creatures would issue forth. When the entire clearing was filled with a dark hairy mass of clicking legs, glittering yellow eyes, and the press of spidery bodies, six more creatures finally emerged, more than twice the size of the earlier ones. Taking a deep breath, Haldir centered himself, focusing on the battle he was about to start and gave the signal.
Suddenly the air was filled with a maelstrom of arrows raining down upon the creatures. Haldir concentrated on the twang of bowstrings and the whoosh of arrows, so he would not so readily hear the crackling crunch of swords cleaving appendages and the screams of elves as spiders attacked while trying to flee into the woods. Dying spiders screeched as they were dismembered and blinded. Black blood spurted everywhere.
When Haldir ran out of arrows, he leapt from the tree, drawing his sword and landing softly in a crouch with his weapon at the ready. He clenched his teeth every time his sword smacked into the body of a spider. He would rather fight orcs any time than these foul beings. By the Valar, that sickening crunch was an awful sound!
Another of the Galadhrim dropped to the ground beside him, but was immediately pinned to a tree by a fleeing spider. The ellon screamed while Haldir hacked at the spider until it retracted from the ellon’s chest and fell to the ground. Black blood gushed forth; soaking the ellon’s tunic and mingling with flowing red blood as the spider half collapsed on the ellon’s prone form. Haldir kicked the body off of his comrade, and continued beating his way through the fray.
When the battle was finally over, Angaril set about assessing the situation. Spider parts thickly littered the clearing, extending into the surrounding brush and just inside the cave where some had tried to retreat but died. None of the young spiders appeared to have escaped, however three of the larger ones were still unaccounted for. As he directed soldiers to begin piling the carcasses for burning, Haldir approached, carefully stepping over bits of spider and flinching every time he crunched an appendage under foot.
Angaril smiled sympathetically. “I hate that awful sound, too.”
Haldir grimaced, nodding in agreement. “I prefer orcs and goblins, myself.” Sighing heavily, he reported, “Ten of the soldiers were wounded. Four from Lorien and two from Imladris bear stab wounds to their chests and/or backs. The rest have broken bones and possible internal injuries incurred when they fell from their station above the entrance of the cave. Apparently our missing spiders crawled over them, flinging them off the ledge as they fled. My brothers and six others are tracking them now, for at least one of the creatures is wounded and leaving a trail of blood.”
“Do you know exactly how many of those spiders were injured?” Angaril asked hopefully.
Haldir shook his head. “No one knows for certain. It could be just one. It could be all three.”
Angaril looked down at the ground and swore loudly, kicking at a stray black leg. He had hoped against hope that they would be able to eliminate all of these foul creatures in one assault.
Meeting Haldir’s steady gaze, he said. “We need to get the wounded ready for transport as soon as possible. Elrond’s sons may yet serve some useful purpose. They are highly skilled healers and will be able to treat the injured. When the wounded are ready, take them back to the guard station and we will catch up with you once we finish cleaning up here.”
Haldir nodded, clapping Angaril on the shoulder, then strode away.
Slowly, those bearing the wounded made their way back to the camp. The trek through the forest was uneventful and everyone was far more at ease knowing that the mysterious “dark of night” seemed to be mostly destroyed. The injuries of two of the soldiers were grievous. Haldir quietly thanked the Valar that the sons of Elrond had accompanied them for it could mean the difference between life and death.
As they neared the top of the hill where the camp was located, Haldir loudly called out, announcing their arrival. Oddly enough it was Rúmil’s voice that responded.
“Haldir!” His voice sounded relieved. “Bless the Valar you are here!”
Now Haldir was worried. Why would his brother who was supposed to be out pursuing the escaped spiders be here at the camp?
As they broke through the trees and entered the clearing near the guard station, Haldir and his comrade helping to bear a wounded Lorien soldier stopped abruptly.
Pieces of spider littered the clearing. Black and red blood puddled together in pools on the ground. The four guards lay unconscious. Three had obviously been tended, and Rúmil was busily bandaging the wounds of the fourth.
It took a few moments of staring transfixed with horror before Haldir was able to articulate a response. “Rúmil,” he finally managed aghast. “What happened here?”
Rúmil looked up briefly. “We followed the trail of the three escaped spiders here. One of the guards was still conscious and told us that they had been attacked. He said that the creatures just “appeared” from the trees, much like the other attacks we had heard about. Elladan and Elrohir heard and came out to help. The twins managed to kill one of the spiders, but by then the other two had finished off the last of the guards. The soldier said he lay helpless and bleeding while the creatures attacked the twins. After the twins’ light had been sucked away, the creatures spun a hideous cocoon of white silk around each of them.
One of the creatures then spoke in a horrible, hissing clicking voice saying, “Eärendil killed our mother Ungoliant. Now my sisters and I will have our revenge. Eärendil’s children shall be food for our young.” Then they disappeared back up into the trees, taking the twins with them.”
Haldir and his companions stood staring in shock. Rúmil finished tying and tucking the last bandage around the chest of the guard before him, then added breathlessly. “At least one of the spiders is injured and left a trail. Orophin and the others have given pursuit.
But, Haldir, we do not even know if Elrond’s sons are still alive…”
Chapter 7 - Chapter 7
Betas: Chrissie, Malinorne, Elda
Characters: Glorfindel, Erestor, Elrond, Celebrian, Elladan, Elrohir,
Haldir, Rumil, Orophin, Celeborn, Galadriel, Amroth, OCs
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
ellon/ellyn - male elf/elves
adar - father
Chapter 7 The Rescue
Orophin, Galadin, and the other five members of their group pursued the spiders through the trees. The trail of black blood gradually grew sparse as the night wore on. The trees were helpful in relaying where the dark of night had gone when the blood stains were not visible. Orophin quietly expressed his gratitude to each tree that assisted them, receiving kind feelings back from the terrified trees in return.
After a few hours of searching, the group found themselves in a clearing, facing a craggy wall of rock. Orophin climbed a tree to see if he could determine where the spiders had gone next, while the others searched the ground for any signs they might have missed.
As dawn lit the horizon, Orophin was ready to give up and come down from the tree, when something dark and wet drew his attention.
“I see where they went!” He cried. “There is a narrow opening up here and…Oh Valar!” He paused, breathing deeply, pressing his forehead against his arm which rested on the tree branch above him.
He swallowed hard, then let out a long sigh. Looking back up at the opening, he began again. “I see...I see some red blood smeared on it. The spiders must have scraped one or both of the twins on the walls while climbing through. It must have been a tight fit.”
The rest of the group wandered around with upturned faces, trying to get a better look at the opening.
“Can we scale the wall?” Galadin asked.
Orophin was quiet for a few moments, then answered, “I do not…Wait! Yes! Yes we can. Start over where Thandronen is.” He gestured to a golden-haired warrior from Lorien, standing at the edge of the group. “And climb up diagonally to the left.”
Without waiting for orders, Thandronen removed his bow and handed it to his son Ferevellon who stood beside him. Reaching up, he groped for a handhold and began the climb. It took him a few minutes and some scrapes to his hands, but he soon made it to the opening. Hoisting himself up to a sitting positing just inside the entrance, he reached into his tunic pocket and pulled out a phial of light.
After momentarily disappearing into the cave, he returned, sticking his head out of the opening, “The cave ceiling is too low for any of us to stand, but it appears that we could crawl or crouch through it a ways. There is no room to draw a bow or a sword initially, but the way may open up farther inside.”
Galadin looked up at Orophin, “Shall we go hunt some spiders?”
“Yes,” Orophin answered in mock delight, beginning his descent from the tree. “Should we take our bows in case there is ample room for target practice?”
Galadin looked up at Thandronen. “Will they be too cumbersome?”
Thandronen looked back into the cave then replied, “If they become too much trouble we can drop them and return for them later. I for one prefer to have my bow close at hand whenever possible.”
“I share you sentiment,” Galadin replied.
Ferevellon put his adar’s bow over his shoulder beside his own and began to climb, closely followed by his brother Fereveldir and the rest of the group. When Orophin reached the cave entrance, he withdrew an extra phial from a pouch at his belt. Removing the stopper, he poured a small amount of the liquid light down the rock face, watching it glisten and glow brightly in the light of the rising sun. If anyone else followed to lend aide, at least they would know where his group had gone.
A musty dank darkness met them as they scuttled through the cave, hunched down in a low crouch, carrying their long bows beside them. The light of the phials of Silmaril water each ellon held before him glittered on drops of water oozing and dripping from the ceiling. Small stalactites hung down, eliciting a slight hiss or moan every now and then when one of the taller ellyn bumped his head. A ways inside, the passage way opened up enough for them to stand upright. Thandronen, who was leading the way, looked back and noticed that his twin sons and Orophin each had scraped foreheads with lingering drops of blood on their brows. Giving them a small smile and a scolding look, he drew his sword, followed immediately by everyone else, and turned his attention back to the way ahead.
Thandronen slowed his pace, looking around more carefully as the musty stench grew to one of decay. Whispy, filmy threads of sticky white silk stuck to the walls in places, occasionally clinging to their boots. However, the only sound was the constant drip of water seeping through from above.
The passage turned abruptly to the left. He halted a moment as the reek almost physically overpowered him. Dead animals hung suspended from the roof of the cave: birds, rodents, a couple of foxes, and some things which were so badly decomposed he could not readily distinguish the species. The reek of rotting flesh was horrendous. He silently gave thanks that he had not eaten since dinner the night before or he knew he would lose the contents of his stomach.
Soundlessly the group moved on, but Thandronen was very aware of the presence of his sons behind him. He knew they could take care of themselves, but still he worried for them. He had lost his eldest son in the Last Alliance and since then, he never let his twins go on a patrol without him. Haldir knew this and understood, much to his relief.
Thandronen could only imagine what Elrond would feel if he knew what had befallen Elladan and Elrohir. How would he himself feel? Rage began to boil in his blood at the very thought of what it would be like if his own sons had ever disobeyed him in such a dire situation, and palpable fear brewed just above it when he imagined his sons cocooned like the dead animals hanging around them.
He shook himself internally, clearing away such evil thoughts. His precious sons were with him just a few steps behind. Whatever they encountered in this cave, he would find it first. That was all he could do, and he would see to it that it was enough.
The passage way twisted and turned with a noticeable downward slope. The phials continued to cast their blessed light in this most unholy place. Animal bones littered the floor, crunching underfoot, and the bodies of larger animals hung from the ceiling or lay suspended in horror against the walls. When the way opened up into a wide room, Thandronen suddenly stopped. His son sidestepped to avoid running into him and angrily became enmeshed in the thick webbing on the wall. His brother and Thandronen patiently struggled to free him, as Thandronen motioned with his head whispering, “The sacks hanging over there are different from the rest.”
Galadin and Orophin cautiously moved forward to investigate. They both softly swore as realization dawned.
“What is it?” one of the others asked.
“Egg sacks,” Galadin replied. “Four of them.” He walked further into the darkness to the left. “No, make that six of them.”
Orophin walked to the right. The floor was deep with webby residue, causing him to lift his feet high with each struggling step he took.
“Ack!” he exclaimed as he suddenly leapt backward. “I stepped on something squishy.”
Ferevellon joined him and together they cut away at the webbing on the floor.
“By the Valar!” Ferevellon swore as he swiftly drew his dagger and began cutting away at something.
“What is it?” Galadin asked.
“It is a body,” he replied aghast.
“I guessed that,” Galadin replied irritably. “What kind of body?”
“Dark hair…” Orophin interjected, ripping away at the webbing Ferevellon had just cut.
“Sweet Eru, it is one of Elrond’s sons!” He paused for a moment then added. “He lives.” Frantically the two Lorien warriors cut away the cocoon surrounding the dark-haired ellon.
The others waded into the think mess of stringy whiteness, hunched over and carefully sweeping away webbing with their swords.
“Found something!” Galadin called, awakening soft echoes in the cave.
Thandronen assisted him in tearing away the cocoon. Suddenly they both gasped and dropped what they were holding. Jumping to their feet, they ran a distance away, breathing heavily, their hands over their mouths.
“It is someone else and he or she has been dead for a while,” Thandronen finally said his voice heavy with revulsion and sorrow.
When Galadin regained his composure, he gestured toward the others and ordered, “Go cut down and destroy those egg sacks.
Orophin, how is your patient?”
“His chest no longer bleeds, but the front of his tunic is soaked with blood. He has some gashes to his scalp and forehead. We are trying to revive him enough to get a few drops of Silmaril water into him.”
The sounds of swords swishing through web and hacking at sacks mingled with the ripping of fabric as Ferevellon cut strips of cloak to bind the wounds of Elrond’s son.
Fereveldir cut down the last egg sack. When it fell with a soft plop into the mass of web on the floor, he thrust his sword into it. A sudden moan caused him to leap backward away from the egg sack, muttering curses.
“What is it? Afraid of spiders, little one?” Thandronen asked his son sarcastically.
His son glared at him, then gasped. “No! I do not know…” Carefully he probed the sack with his sword. “I just was …”
The moan came again.
He kicked and pushed the sack and its contents away to reveal another cocooned body, freshly bleeding from one of its arms. Drawing his dagger, he began cutting away at the web, revealing a face and dark hair.
“Galadin! I believe I have found Elrond’s other son!”
Two other warriors standing nearby immediately came to his assistance, helping to cut away the webbing.
One of them called out, “This is Elrohir. I recognize him. His wounds are similar to his brother’s – except where Fereveldir managed to stab my lord’s son.”
“I am sorry!” Fereveldir defended as they worked to free Elrohir. “I did not know he was there!”
“Your sword went all the way through his arm and nicked his side!”
“I was trying to cut apart the egg sack. If I had meant to injure him, I would have gone for some place other than his arm. Besides, the wound I gave him is nothing compared to what Lord Elrond will do to him when he finds out his sons came with us.”
The Imladris warrior nodded sagely, conceding. “Aye, that is true enough.” He rested Elrohir’s head against his chest and opened the semi-conscious peredhel’s mouth. “Give him some of that Silmaril water.”
Fereveldir opened a phial and poured a small amount into Elrohir’s mouth. Elrohir coughed a little then swallowed. After a few more swallows, Elrohir opened his eyes. Fereveldir started to pour in a little more, but Elrohir flailed his good arm in panic, trying to break free and spilling the phial’s contents onto the floor.
“It is all right, Elrohir,” the Imladris warrior crooned softly, gathering Elrohir closer to him in a protective fatherly embrace. “Shh, settle down, son. We are here to help you. You are safe now.”
Suddenly a vile hissing sound emanated from the floor. Everyone looked over to see a filmy steam rising from the spider eggs.
Fereveldir’s face was full of disgust, but his voice filled with wonder. “The Silmaril water is destroying the spider eggs.”
“We can have fried eggs to break our fast, if anyone is interested,” the Imladris warrior offered. “It is Fereveldir’s turn to cook for us.”
Everyone laughed, their snickers echoing off the walls, making it sound as if dozens of elves shared in the jest.
The warrior looked down into Elrohir’s wary eyes. “How do you feel, Elrohir?”
“I…I feel sore…” he whispered breathily. “And weary…and my arm is on fire. My chest hurts.”
“We will bind your wounds so we can get you out of here,” the warrior gently said.
“Your brother is fine. His injuries are similar to yours, except for the wound to your arm.”
Fereveldir opened another phial. “Take small sips, Elrohir. And this time do not jostle my arm so.” He leaned closer and smiled, quietly confiding. “I weary of being teased.”
Elrohir weakly smiled back in reply.
He had nearly drained the phial when another hiss and a few clicks caused Fereveldir to jump and drop the phial again. Amidst the new hissing of burning spider eggs, Fereveldir immediately arose, assuming a defensive position joined swiftly by everyone not holding a son of Elrond.
Something else was out there, coming their way.
Chapter 8 - Chapter 8
Special thanks to my betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie, Malinorne, Elda, and to Weird Alfie who gave me feedback on all of the iterations of the ending until I got it just right.
Characters: Glorfindel, Erestor, Elrond, Celebrian, Elladan, Elrohir,
Haldir, Rumil, Orophin, Celeborn, Galadriel, Amroth, OCs
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Terms: fëar – spirits
ellith – female elves
adar - father
They had been in these disgusting caves, trudging steadily upward for possibly an hour now, though it felt like it could have been the whole rest of the night. Was it even dawn yet? Angaril stretched and flexed his tired muscles, his phial of light casting weird shadows upon the walls with his erratic movements. From the sighs and grunts escaping those behind him, the rest of his party fared about as well as did he.
Upon completing the clean up outside the cave, Angaril had sent a quarter of his remaining troops on to join Haldir back at camp, taking the rest with him into the cave. So far, they had not found any more spiders though the evidence of their habitation was everywhere. The travel had been slow-going at best for they had to explore every nook and branch off the main passage. They had to be certain that there were no more spiders left alive.
More than anything now, Angaril wanted to go home to his soft, warm wife and his playful little daughter and curl up on his bed with them. He wanted to rest peacefully without the fear that the menace would claim another victim or the guilt of having to visit families of wounded or dead soldiers who had been under his command. How many such visits would be required of him by the time he returned home? He did not want to even think about it. The worst part of all would be telling Lord Elrond about the involvement of his beloved sons in this whole affair.
By the Valar, he wanted this to be over! He would gladly return Glorfindel his captaincy of the Imladris Guard -- on a garlanded silver platter borne by the slender hands of lovely voluptuous ellith if need be. And if Angaril were fortunate, Elrond would not reward him with a promotion upon his return. The obscurity of being third in command behind a balrog slayer was wonderfully appealing compared to what he had been dealing with for the last few weeks.
And if he were extremely fortunate, no one would attempt to glorify this wretched endeavor with an epic song about “The Spider Slayers of Imladris and Lorien” or some such nonsense. Then again, elves love a good story and even more a good song. He sighed irritably. His wife and young daughter could call him “spider slayer” for neither of them coped well when confronted with insects, but he would not allow anyone else to call him that.
Bringing his light around, he noticed that the webbing on the walls was much thicker here and the stench of death far greater with more dead things hanging from meshy web sacks. The dead things were getting larger, too. He heard soft exclamations and curses floating up from the warriors behind him as they noticed this, as well. How much food did these vile creatures need? It was almost as if they were planning on feeding an army.
He stopped in his tracks at that thought. What if they were?
He turned to ask his troops about this when a sudden sharp pain lanced through his left bicep. He gasped aloud, dropping his phial as his hand went numb. Bringing his sword around into the darkness before him, he felt and heard the ring of his steel meeting something solid. Hands grabbed him, dragging him back from the cause of his pain amidst shouts from those behind him. Biting his lip till blood dribbled down his chin, he kept back his screams of agony when the sharp thing withdrew, further ripping his arm and part of his shoulder.
Strong arms hauled him back from the ringing of steel while arrows whooshed past him as he staggered away, finally falling to his knees against the sticky mess of a far wall. His left arm burned and ached like nothing he had ever felt before. His stomach churned from the pain, but he desperately clung to his sword with his good hand. Resting his head against the cold gooey dampness of the wall, he watched hypnotic shadows dance in ghostly combat by the shimmering light of phials of glowing water.
“Sir, I will protect you,” the owner of the arms said in heavily accented Sindarin as the warrior rose with his back to Angaril, an arrow nocked and ready on the string of his longbow.
The cavern echoed sickeningly with clanging weapons, twanging bows, screaming elves, and the hisses of the enemy as spider legs crunched and flesh was rent asunder. His protector fired several times into the fray with relaxed precision.
Breathing deeply, Angaril shut his eyes against the overwhelming sights and sounds tormenting his senses, dropping his sword into the webby mess with a soft thump. On a whim, he groped in his pocket for a spare phial as he slumped further down the wall. Ripping out the stopper with his teeth, he drank the entire contents, hoping it might at least help his stomach to settle if nothing else.
At first nothing happened. Then strength started to flow back into him. His mind slowly cleared, erasing the dizziness and nausea. Unfortunately, his pain also became much more pronounced as some of the numbness in his arm wore away. He failed miserably at spitting out blood from his now swollen lip as he turned to face the battle. But, judging from the sounds around him and the steadier light, the engagement must have ended. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, watching the Silvan warrior who had defended him, kneel and began to tend his injuries.
“I only saw two of them, Sir, and they are both dead,” the warrior said. “You are very fortunate that you turned when you did or it could have pierced your heart.”
Angaril nodded in acknowledgement then painfully ground his head back against the wall in an attempt at fighting the sudden weariness that assailed him.
The warrior smiled sympathetically. “Go ahead and give into it, Sir,” he said reassuringly. “You would do better to sleep through what I fear must be done to your arm when I can get someone to hold the light for me.”
Angaril fiercely shook his head in reply. No! He must stay awake! He must lead his troops. He was entrusted with this. He could not fail. Not now . . . not now.
The warrior continued to smile at him, and softly soothed, “We will see this mission completed, Sir. But for now, you must rest.”
The acting captain continued to fight for a few moments more, but his eyelids were so heavy. It was such a great effort to hold his head up.
He felt consciousness slip away just before his chin met his chest.
The clicks and hisses grew louder accompanied by the odor of rancid flesh. Fereveldir held his sword at the ready, his eyes straining to see the shadow moving among the blackness of the cave.
Suddenly his adar called out, “Son, you have no phial! Drop back and I will throw one to you.”
Fereveldir looked over to judge the distance for the toss, as the shadow and stench grew greater. Taking a few steps back, he tightly clutched his sword while motioning to his adar to throw the phial.
Something impacted with his chest, knocking him to the ground as he caught the phial. Bringing up his knees, he shoved with all of his strength while madly waving the phial in front of the creature’s two hideous lopsided yellow eyes. It clicked and hissed in his face, dripping foul smelling black goo which stung his cheek. Awkwardly bringing his sword around, he hacked at the creature as he shoved it back away from him.
Rolling to his feet, Fereveldir wiped his sleeve across his face, and realized the spider had dripped blood on him. His fellow warriors advanced on the creature as it loudly and painfully backed up against the wall.
Hissing louder still, a mournful keening wail erupted from the beast’s mouth. “My babies! Our children unborn! You have killed them. Killed them all! They were to be weaned on the Maian blood of Eärendil’s brood to restore us to the greatness of Ungoliant. But now the babies are gone! Gone!”
It was bemoaning the loss of ITS babies? Anger and bitter paternal fear rose up in Thandronen at the spider’s words. That spider had attacked his son. HIS son! How many other sons had it and its kind already claimed? And what they were planning to do to Elrond and his sons! With a cry of rage, Thandronen launched himself forward, piercing the yellow eyes with his sword then bringing his blade up underneath and stabbing the beast’s heart again and again.
Emitting a final hissing whine, the spider collapsed.
Withdrawing his sword, Thandronen spat in disgust upon the spider’s body. An arrow suddenly whizzed past his ear from the direction where the spider had just come.
Bringing his weapon around and leaping away from the spider’s body, he and the others in the room began yelling, “Do not shoot! The spider is dead! Lower your weapons! The spider is dead!”
Elladan was still unconscious when the last of Elrohir’s wounds were staunched and bound. At Orophin’s orders, the assembled warriors poured phials of Silmaril water onto all of the eggs, filling the chamber with the hisses of sizzling spider eggs. Thandronen and others from Angaril’s group completed a thorough sweep of the floor, finding no more bodies. As a last token of spite, Thandronen poured some of his water on the spider’s body as well.
No more children of the Eldar would suffer because of these foul creatures, he grimly thought as he watched the massive body crackle and hiss. He looked over at his own twin sons as they worked, and silently offered the Valar a prayer of gratitude that his children were safe once again.
The journey back to the Last Homely House was long and slow. The wounded were born in the arms of hale comrades while their riderless horses followed along behind. Fatigue ate at the warriors, particularly those from Imladris for they had known little to no rest for many weeks now since the attack on Glorfindel. None had died from their wounds so far, something for which Haldir was grateful. He was still very concerned about his counterpart in the Imladris Guard as Angaril dozed for most of the trip back to the Last Homely House. An arm and shoulder wound such as his did not bode well for the future of an archer.
Haldir also worried about what he was going to tell Lord Elrond now that it was his responsibility to report on the mission and the injuries, including news of the capture and wounding of Elrond’s sons. Briefly the Lorien Captain wondered if Angaril had gotten injured on purpose so he could escape having to make this report to Elrond himself. Chuckling softly, he reminded himself that would have to tease Anagril mercilessly about the convenient timing of this injury when the acting captain regained consciousness.
Anxiously Celebrian and her daughter Arwen clung to each other, watching as the healers tended Elladan and Elrohir. For hours, the wounds were cleansed and treated, with special care paid to the twins’ chests and backs and the angry skewering of Elrohir’s left arm. Elrond had lamented being unable to see to his sons himself, but there were others with more grievous injuries who needed his superior skill in order to survive.
Whenever Celebrian sensed Elrond pausing for a brief rest from his work, she sent him reassurances across the bond of their fëar, updating him about their sons’ conditions. When his work was completed at last, he came and sat with her on a wide bench situated between the beds of their sons in the healing ward. Lovingly, she stroked her husband’s neck and back, while Arwen lay curled up at the foot of Elladan’s bed, holding her brother’s hand and singing softly to her family.
When Celebrian had found the note detailing the intent of her sons in joining the mission, Elrond had been furious. She was angry and afraid as well, but she also knew that, had Elrond been in their position, he would have done the same thing. Elrond had seen such a tumultuous early life that he seemed to forget that, where he had no choice but to prove himself daily in order to survive, his sons might actually choose to put themselves in danger to prove they were worthy sons of the lines of so many kings of the elves.
Once the twins recovered their strength, she and Elrond would both talk to them about this. Though the twins had distinguished themselves by slaying a spider unaided, they still needed to understand how much they had made their family and their fellow warriors suffer in the process. Then again, had they not been captured, then the method of destroying the eggs might not have been found, and the escaped spiders might have made their way to the Last Homely House and ultimately claimed a member of Eärendil’s line anyway.
Celebrian sighed, Elrond always had been better at composing and delivering the disciplinary lectures than she. She would let him handle this one as well.
A heavy weight came to rest on her shoulder. She glanced over at the glazed eyes of her husband and realized he had finally fallen asleep. Nuzzling his head with her cheek, she whispered, “Sleep well, my beloved. You have earned it.”
After a few minutes, she quietly beckoned two passing healers to come help and she guided them in gingerly lifting her husband and laying him down to sleep in a nearby bed. He deserved a long and peaceful rest.
Fortunately for Elladan and Elrohir, Elrond sternly reprimanded them with a long, intimidating, guilt-inducing lecture, but decided not to punish his sons further for their involvement in the mission. Considering what the spiders had done to them and the humiliation the twins had already endured from the captains, Elrond decided that he could think of nothing worse to do to them.
Two weeks after the destruction of Ungoliant’s offspring, all but the most severely injured elves were hale enough to attend a grand celebratory feast. Even Glorfindel, Elladan, and Elrohir managed to sit through the meal unaided.
At the end of the feast, Elrond stood, looking out across the grand hall filled with the folk of Imladris and warriors of Lorien. He smiled proudly as he raised his glass in a toast, proclaiming, “Tonight we honor the soldiers of Imladris and of Lothlorien who so courageously and selflessly risked their lives to protect us. Without the power and ingenuity of the Lady Galadriel in obtaining the Silmaril water and the generosity of King Amroth in sending his valiant warriors, we could not have survived and overcome this threat. Let us all now raise our glasses and our voices in honor and praise of those who destroyed the offspring of Ungoliant forever!”
The hall filled with cheers and then with individual expressions of gratitude made to the warriors seated near each civilian attendee after the toast.
Elrond sighed as he resumed his seat and clasped hands with Celebrian under the table. Considering what he had been told about the vendetta the children of Ungoliant had felt toward the line of Eärendil, there was no way he could ever fully express his gratitude to those who saved Imladris and his family.
Briefly overcome once again with the personal magnitude of the vanquished threat, he bowed his head, offering more silent heart-felt thanks to the Valar that this menace was gone forever, never to trouble the people of Middle-earth again.
But, in a series of caves many many leagues to the south and east of Imladris, something lurked...
“There agelong she had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West which is now under the sea.... How Shelob came to be there, flying from ruin, no tale tells, for out of the Dark Years few tales have come. But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dur; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness. Far and wide her lesser broods, bastards of the miserable mates, her own offspring, that she slew, [would] spread from glen to glen, from the Ephel Duath to the eastern hills, to Dol Guldor and the fastness of Mirkwood. But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world." – Book IV: Shelob’s Lair, The Two Towers pp 422-423.
Printed from Open Scrolls Archive (https://www.openscrolls.net) on Sat May 15, 2021 6:40 am