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The Dark of Night

Chapter 8: Chapter 8

by ellie

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

Chapter 8
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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


THE END

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Chapter 8
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31 Oct 2006
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31 Oct 2006
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