The sleek black catwhich, contrary to everything that
Wilawens father had taught her about the nature of matter,
had somehow emerged from the onyx statuettestretched out
its powerful forelegs and bared its claws, impatiently tamping
the ground with its hind feet and swinging its his head from side-to-side,
opening its massive mouth to display its terrifying teeth.
Wilawen inched backwards until her shoulders touched solid rock.
But Purple EyesDrizztapproached the animal smiling
and, catching it by the scruff of the neck, playfully stroked
it between its glowing eyes.
The monster purred!
OWilawen, said Drizzt, beckoning.
Wilawen shook her head, but the dark elf beckoned again, trying
to encourage her with an exaggerated smile, repeating something
in his strange tongue, over and over.
Why? she asked.
The drow tilted his head, questioningly.
Why bring it here? Why ask me to stroke itoh no!
Responding to a command from its master, the animal was padding
towards her. Wilawen clenched her fists as it sniffed at her hands,
and trembled when it nuzzled her waist. Make it stop,
she whispered. Pleasemake it stop touching me.
The dark elf pointed to herOWilawen,then
to the catGuenhwyvar,then, emphatically,
to the cave floor. He searched her face for a sign that she had
Wilawen bit her lip.
The drow pointed to himselfDrizzt,then
moved his hand to indicate out of the cave.
Smiling reassuringly, he slowly took her hand and placed it on
the cats headGuenhwyvar,then, with
his own hand, he made a stroking motion in the air.
Oh gods, whispered Wilawen, you want me to
make friends with it because you are leaving us here together...
Her head spun with questions. Why? For how long?
The drow repeated the stroke.
Yes, I understand. Wilawen obeyed and, to her surprise,
the cat responded with a deep, contented purr, nuzzling her waist
again, but this time the gesture was gentler, almost affectionate.
She looked up at the smiling drow. You brought it here
to protect me?
He held out his hand and waited for her to take it.
Haldir and the others had reached an unexpected fork in the tunnelArador
was studying the map by the light of his glowing crystal whilst
the big elf, painfully aware of the slow progress they were making,
handed round a flask that Dínendal had given him.
Just two sips, he said to the boy, sternly.
Yes, sir. Arador took a mouthful, then stared up
at him in surprise. Oh my gods! Is this...?
Haldir nodded. It is miruvor. We must make it last.
Do you know where we are? asked Valandil impatiently.
Yes. We must go right, said Arador. Then, in
about, oh,he measured the distance with his thumbfour
hundred yards, we will join the path the drow took.
Are you sure? asked Haldir, quietly.
As sure as I can be, whispered the boy.
Let us go, then, urged Valandil.
Wait! Haldir caught him by the shoulder. Drink!
Theneveryoneback in formation.
You do know, said Orophin, as his brother handed
him the end of the rope, that we are being followed?
Yes, replied the March Warden, but I sense
no threat, as yet. He shrugged. Just make sure that
you stay closeand be ready to use your sword.
Led by Orodreth, the returning border guards had brought their
injured comrades into the clearing beneath the city.
Arinna, the woman from Far Harad, came hurrying down the main
staircase to greet her two elves. Ori! What has happened
He is sleeping, my Lady, that is all, said Orodreth,
holding her back from the fallen elf, who was being examined by
Master Findecáno. The young man claimed that he
slept for twelve hours, he said, over his shoulder, to the
healer. Valandil recovered in less, but Camthalion seems
to be taking much longer.
There are two punctures in Camthalions arm,
replied Findecáno, so he received a double doseas
He looked around the clearing. There was a bad chest wound, already
cleaned, stitched and dressed by Master Dínendal; two head
wounds, one of whom was also recovering from the effects of a
single sleeping dart; a superficial shoulder wound; and two sleepers.
Findecáno rallied his assistants. Bring the injured
up to the Healing Roomwith care.
Go with Camthalion, my Lady, said Orodreth. I
must make my report to Lord Legolas, and then I have a message
Legolas has gone, said Arinna, quietly.
They are trying to keep it quiet but I just happened
to hear... She shrugged; she never revealed her sources,
not even to her elves. He has gone to rescue Lady Eowyn,
who has fallen into something called The Aelvorn. Caranthir and
Fingolfin are in charge.
Then I must report to them. I will see you later, my Lady.
And do not worry, Camthalion will make a complete recovery,he
kissed her foreheadand be home with us in no time.
The Green Cave
Drizzt guided Wilawen past the beds of glowing moss to a small
hole in the rock wall, about six feet above the cave floor and
well-shielded by a group of thick stalagmites.
You want me to climb in there? She reached up towards
a handhold buteven on tip-toe, and over stretching every
part of her bodyshe could not quite make it. You will
have to help me...
The dark elf laid a firm hand on her shoulder.
Wilawen turnedand gasped as he stooped, caught up part
of her skirt, and pulled hard.
What are you doing? she cried; had she been
wrong to trust him?
He pulled again, this time tearing away a large patch of material,
and exposing her bare legs.
But his smile was still reassuring, and Wilawen, watching him
roll up the fabric and push it down the front of his jerkin, realised
that it must be a part of his plan. If only you could talk
With slow, exaggerated movements, he pulled a small water skin
from his belt and gave it to her; then he bent down and made a
stirrup with his hands.
I know you cannot understand me, said Wilawen, putting
her hand on his shoulder, butthank you. She
gave him a grateful squeeze, and climbed into the hole.
Drizzt gestured for her to move further inside.
Wilawen gave him an almost cheerful wave before shuffling backwards
The tunnel was not completely dark, thanks to the phosphorescent
glow coming from the cave floor below, and she could see immediately
that after about twelve feet, it came to a dead end.
I am a sitting duck in here! she thought, and she turned
back, intending to crawl out again.
But, before she could move, she heard Drizzt issue a quiet command
and, suddenly, a huge, black form appeared in the tunnel mouth,
and sealed her in.
Arador had been correctthe right-hand passage had, after
about four hundred yards, joined what seemed to be a much broader
tunnel running from right to left, andas far as Haldirs
blunted senses could judgedownwards into the earth.
Left? asked Valandil.
Yes... The boy held out the glowing crystal, faintly
illuminating a high, vaulted ceiling dripping with delicate stalactites.
Then he bent and held it close to the ground. See how smooth
the floor is? I think this tunnel is well-used.
Yes, said Orophin, but by what?
Our unseen companion is growing more curious, said
Orophin nodded. Getting closer. And, now and then, it makes
a strange soundlike two rocks, tapping together...
Let us keep moving, said Haldir, decisively. If
this tunnel is better, perhaps we can make up some time
Wait, said Valandil, suddenly. Arador,
bring the light over here.
The boy handed him the crystal.
Without letting go of the rope, Valandil dropped to his knees.
Oh Valar... He reached down and picked up a tiny object
and, holding it in the tips of his fingers, showed it to the others.
This is Wilawens, he said. It is a button
from her dress.
Well, that proves that we are going in the right direction,
But how did she lose it? Valandil swept the crystal
across the floor. How was it torn off? What has happened
to her? He sat back on his heels. I cannot find anything
Perhaps she dropped it deliberately, said the boy,
coming up beside him and, tentatively, laying a hand on his shoulder,
to leave you a trail.
Arador is right, said Haldir, firmly. Remember
how resourceful she is, Valandil. Come, we must keep moving.
Wilawen leaned back against the tunnel wall.
The cat seemed to be sleepingstretched full-length across
the alcove, its head resting upon its crossed forepaws.
Wilawen was exhausted, but she could not rest.
Not now that she had time to think.
She had seen Valandil fall but, in her own selfish fear, she
had assumed that he would come and rescue her!
Suppose the drug did more than just induce sleep?
Suppose Valandil had been poisoned?
Suppose he needed her?
The larger tunnel had opened up into a cave, andalmost
without realising itthe elves, less oppressed by the weight
of rock above them, had begun to move more confidently.
Stop! cried Arador, pulling hard on the rope. Stop!
Not so loud! hissed Haldir, remember we are
not alone down here! Then, What is it?
I am not sure, said the boy, peering at the map.
But there is something markedit could be a lakeI
do not know.
Let me have the light, said Rumil. I will scout
aheadshow me, Arador.
Whatever this is, said the boy, running his fingertip
around a jagged oval line, I think you should watch your
feet. This may be a bridge.
Tie the rope around your waist to leave your sword arm
free, said Haldir. And if you get into trouble, remembertug.
And yell, said Rumil, with a grin.
He picked his way slowly across the great, uneven slabs of the
cave floor, holding the crystal low, his eyes on the ground around
his feet. It certainly slopes, he said, andyes,
you are right, Aradorthere is a sudden drop.
Can we climb down? asked Haldir.
Rumil crouched by the edge, found a small stone, and dropped
it over. One. Two. Three, he counted, reaching down
with the crystal and peering into the blackness. Eight.
Nine There was a splash, followed by a hissing, bubbling
Acid, said Arador.
The important thing with animals, thought Wilawen, is to show
no fear. She reached towards the cat.
Wilawen froze. Then she took a deep breath andclosing her
eyespatted its head.
The cat purred.
Wilawen sighed with relief. I want you to be good,
she whispered, and stay exactly where you are... Coming
up on her knees, she drew the remains of her skirt between her
thighs and tucked its hem into her belt, thanking the gods that
Valandil could not see herHe would surely want his ring
back! Then, with some difficulty, she swung one knee over
the cats bodyGuenhwyvar growled a warning, but did
not moveand she climbed over.
Come back from the edge, called Haldir.
Work your way to the right, said Arador. These
lines must be a bridge.
Crawling on his hands and knees, Rumil followed the shoreline
until he found the narrow spur of rock jutting out into the void.
I cannot see if it spans the entire hollow, he said,
but I think there may be a light at the other end...
Stay where you are, said Haldir, following the rope,
hand over hand. We are coming to join you.
Gradually, the entire party assembled beside the bridge.
This is narrow, said Orophin, using the crystal to
examine the path. And we will not be able to see where we
are placing our feet.
Wilawen must have crossed it, said Valandil,
The drow can see in the dark, Valandil, said Arador,
so they may have carried her across.
Haldir turned to Dínendal. If one of us were to
fall, could you...?
The healer shook his head. If he survived the dropassuming
we could pull him back upI have nothing that would help
him, he said. It would be a very painful death.
What a terrible place this is, said Valandil, quietly.
We could cross in twos, going and coming back,
said Arador suddenly. Like in the childrens puzzle.
The view from the mouth of the alcove was partly obscured by
stalagmites, but Wilawen could neither see nor hear any obvious
danger. She sat with her bare legs dangling down the rock wall,
trying to come to a decision.
Should I wait?
For some reason, she trusted Drizzt and, though she had no idea
why he was helping her, she was convinced that he intended to
come back for her and take her, somehow, to the surface.
But what happens if he cannot get away from the others?
she wondered. How long can I last on a pint of water and no
What happens when I am weak and the cat is hungry?
Should I try to find my own way out?
If she could carry some light... Drizzt had warned her not to
touch the moss, but if she could find a patch growing on a loose
stone, and hold it carefully, and if she could persuade the cat
to go with her, perhaps she could follow her own button trail
back to Valandil.
She sighed: There are a lot of ifs in that plan.
Leaving the cave would be dangerous, she knew, but she also knew
that her only hope of remaining sane was to find something to
I can start by looking for a mossy stone...
She rolled onto all fours, backed up to the edge, and reached
down with one foot.
Guenhwyvar suddenly raised its head and growled.
Startled, Wilawen missed her footing and slid down the rock wall,
scraping her hands on the rough stone and landing on her knees.
She picked herself up and examined her injuries.
Silently, the cat leaped down beside her.
What do you mean? asked Haldir.
It will take a long time, said the boy, buttwo
people cross with the crystal, then one brings it back; then two
more cross, and one brings it back; and so on, until we are all
Haldir considered the idea. Rumil and Orophin will go first,
then Rumil will bring the crystal back. That means that you,he
patted his Orophins armwill be on your own until
the next pair arrive.
I will manage, said his brother. Our noisy
companion will be over here, with you.
He may have friends, said Haldir. Be careful.
Lord Caranthir's chambers
The Divor Rocks, said Lord Fingolfin. Everything
seems to point to Berryns great crack in Middle-earththank
you. He accepted a glass of wine from Lord Caranthir.
But thirty-seven dead, said Caranthir. He
handed a second glass to Orodreth.
The warrior thanked him with a polite nod. Yes, my Lordthe
Mayor of Newhome, his newly-wed daughter, her husband, and the
entire wedding partyapparently, the bride and groom wished
to spend their wedding night in the Forest
Oh, Valar! Caranthir sat down heavily.
It is an ancient custom amongst the edain of these parts,
I understand, said Fingolfin. It is believed to make
the marriage fertile
Oh, no... Caranthir shook his head.
The March Warden immediately informed the Reeve of Newhome,
my Lords, continued Orodreth, and he sent the
Night Watch to retrieve the bodies.
Tell us more about these dark people, said Fingolfin.
According to the Reeves sonwho seems to be
something of an expert, my Lordsthey visit the surface rarelyperhaps
once in every two generations of men
But when they do, there are many deaths.
Why? asked Caranthir.
Hatred, my Lord, said Orodreth, and revengeso
the young man says. The drow, as they call themselves, believe
that they ruled Middle-earth until we forced them
underground. They hate all surface dwellers. Fortunately, the
light of the sun is unbearable to them, so their raids are short-lived.
Are they likely to strike again? asked Caranthir.
I do not know, my lord.
If they do not, said Fingolfin, it may be over
for another sixty years.
But the March Warden, my lord, said Caranthir. He
will surely need help. And Mistress Wilawen...
Quite. Fingolfin leaned back in his chair, pressing
his hands together. You are a diplomat, Caranthir; I am
a scholar. We are hardly equipped to deal with this situation,
and Lord Legolas is not here to guide us... He turned back
to Orodreth. Did Haldir tell you how he intended to enter
the Divor Rocks?
The young man believes there is way through the Divor Caves.
Are you willing to return?
Are you willing to lead another expedition to Eryn Laeg?
It would be an honour my Lord.
Then what I suggest is this, said Fingolfin. We
send a well-equipped force to Eryn Laeg to contain any further
invasion by the dark people and to provide March Warden Haldir
with any assistance he may require. In the meantime, Lord Caranthir,
you and I must draw up plans for a permanent guard post at the
The Acid Cave
The two elves set off across the bridgeRumil in front,
holding the light, and Orophin behind, his hands on his brothers
shoulders. The remainder of the rescue party sat motionless on
the rocky shore, watching the pale greenish glow disappear into
Are you glad I came? asked the boy.
Haldir smiled in the dark. You have yet to prove your worth,
We are across, announced Orophin, and...
We have found something.
Gods, muttered Arador. He reached for Haldir, found
an arm, and squeezed it. The drow do not need light,
he said. They can see in the dark.
Wilawen would have needed it, said Valandil. But
why would she have dropped it?
I do not know...
With Guenhwyvar waiting patiently at her side, Wilawen crouched
beside her third moss bed.
It was hopeless. The plant was rooted in a rich, dark soil that
lined the hollows of the cave floor; she could see no way to remove
a piece, and carry it, without using her hands, and Drizzt had
been adamant that she should not touch it.
She looked through the cave mouth, to the profound darkness beyond.
I cannot leave here without light, she said patting
the cat. Not unless you can carry
The words died on her lips. Something in the cave had changed.
Wilawen slowly rose to her feet and stared.
When Drizzt had summoned the cat, she had been standing close
to the cave mouth, with her back against the rock. Now, a row
of mushroomsshe could think of no other word for them, though
they were more than six feet highwas growing against the
Grasping Guenhwyvar by the scruff of the neck, Wilawen threaded
her way between the clumps of moss, towards the strange fungus.
Using both crystals, the entire rescue party had crossed the
narrow bridge two at a timeRumil and Orophin; then Arador
and Valandil; then Rumil and Dínendal; and, finally, Orophin
We will take a few moments rest, said the March
Warden, laying his burden on the ground.
He stretched his body, wearily, before crouching beside his pack
and pulling out the flask of miruvor. Elves were tireless under
normal circumstances, but for an elf to be confined within a mass
of rock, isolated from the trees and divorced from the starseven
a worldly elf like Haldirwas not normal.
Where is the dwarf when you need him?
And where is that Manling?
Arador? He glanced over his shoulder. The boy was
crouching beside the bridgefar too close to the acid lake
for Haldirs liking. Arador! he barked, get
away from the edge!
The boy whirled round, his facevisible in the light of
the crystal he was holdinga picture of guilt.
What have you done? demanded Haldir.
Shhhhh, said the boy.
Rumil and Orophin gasped.
Ignoring the boys insolence, Haldir repeated the question.
Arador glanced unhappily at Valandil before answering, quietly,
I have found something.
What? demanded Haldir. Answer me.
The boy ran his hand through his hair. A piece of a womans
dress, he admitted.
WHERE? Valandil scrambled towards him.
I did not want to tell him like this! cried Arador.
He turned to Valandil. It is snagged on the rock down theresee?
He held out the crystal. It looks as though she fell,
No! cried elf, No! NO!
The boy grabbed his arm.
Mistress Cyllien. Orodreth placed his hand on his
heart and bowed his head. I have a message from March Warden
Haldir. May I come in?
The elleth ignored his formal greeting, but stepped aside to
allow him to enter.
Orodreth had visited Haldirs flet twice before and, on
both occasions, had been impressed by the sparse neatness of his
home, run with military precision.
Now the place lay in chaos, with objects piled on every surface
and elliths clothing draped over the furniture and scattered
across the floor.
Where is he? asked Cyllien.
May I sit down?
The elleth shrugged.
Orodreth could not help wondering what Haldir saw in her. We
were attacked, he began, adding, quickly, the March
Warden was not injured,though the elleth did not seem
particularly concernedbut Mistress Wilawen was abducted.
He paused, expecting a response, but Cyllien said nothing.
The March Warden is leading the rescuers. He asked me to
give you this. He handed her a small wax tablet.
Thank you. She did not open it.
I will leave you then, said Orodreth, rising. I
shall be returning to Eryn Laeg, in case the March Warden needs
any assistance. But if there is anything I can do before I leave
No, thank you.
Orodreth bowed his head. I will see myself out, then.
He closed the door behind him, thinking, That elleth is fading.
The Green Cave
Crouching low, Guenhwyvar flattened its ears and growled andas
if in responsea cloud of spores puffed from one of the mushrooms,
entering Wilawens nose and mouth, making her organs twist
in her body. She clasped her stomach with one hand, coughing violently,
whilst she tried to restrain the massive cat with the other.
Still coughing hard, but less painfully now, Wilawen peered at
the fungus. It was as tall as an elf, its stem as broad, and its
dark, rounded cap resembled a head, with unblinking white eyes.
...Why are you here...?
How are you speaking to me? she whispered. What
...WHY ARE YOU HERE...?
I am hiding from the dark warriors...
...You bring danger...
I am sorry.
...We are a peaceful people. But we will fight if we must...
The fungus released another cloud of spores, making Wilawen gag
uncontrollably as her stomach threatened to turn itself inside
Please stop, she sobbed, please! I will go
as soon as I can, but I cannot leave by myself.
...We intend you no harm. Take the beast back into the hole
and wait there...
I will, said Wilawen. Thank you.
Hush! cried Orophin, Listen! He swept
the outstretched crystal back and forth in a wide arc.
What is it? asked Haldir.
Dark warriors! The cave is full of them! And,
even as he said it, his companions heard the now-familiar click
of tiny crossbows coming from left and rightand even from
Haldir reached for his sword
But Valandil was already springing to his feet and, screeching
like a wild animal, he charged into the enemy, hacking and slashing.
Valandil! Haldir drew his own sword and followed,
trying to protect his comrades right flank, whilst Orophin
joined them on the left.
The three elves fought blindly in the darkValandil screaming
obscenities like an Uruk Hai berserkeroutnumbered five or
ten to one, occasionally connecting with flesh or steel, but more
often slicing through nothing but air.
Agh! Haldir felt something cut his shoulder.
An intense light flared up behind him, and an unexpected voice
shouted, Get down! GET DOWN NOW!
Haldir hit the ground.
There was the bizarre sound of breaking glass, and then burst
of fire, and the cavern floor ahead of them was ablaze.
Howls of pain went up around them, and Haldir raised his head
to see, through dazzled eyes, twenty or thirty drowsome
of them in flamesfleeing to the safety of the next cavern.
Still wondering about Cylliens strange behaviour, Orodreth
entered the flet he shared with Camthalion and Arinna to find
his friendstill fast asleeplying on Arinnas
Master Findecáno says that he will awaken, quite
naturally, in an hour or so, said the woman, so I
had him brought home. I hear that you are going back to the Divor
How can she possibly know that? he wondered. Yes.
Arinna rose, and Orodreth marvelled, as always, at her cat-like
sensuality as she came up to him and slid her arms around his
neck. (It was true what they said about elves and women, and he
and Camthalion were the luckiest ellyn in Middle Earth).
You will be careful, she said, softly.
Of coursedo not worry, híril nín.
He kissed her, thoroughly. Camthalion will not have you
to himself for long. He smiled down at her. Can I
ask you a favour?
You know you can.
It is not that sort of favour.
I have been known to do other things, occasionally.
Will you visit the March Wardens lady?
Yes. She seemsI think she needs help. From a woman.
Arinna looked up at him shrewdly. Leave it to me, Ori.
What in Middle-earth was that? asked Haldir,
raising his arm to shield his face from the searing heat.
A glass bottle part-filled with spirits, replied
Arador, guiding a stunned Valandil away from the flames. I
got the idea from seeing my mother knock over an oil lampyou
pull out the cork, light the cloth wick, and throw it. When the
bottle breaks, the spirits run out and catch light. That is why
I was late joining you outside my fathers houseI had
to make them.
Them? You have more?
Master Arador, said Haldir, I think you have
just proved your worth.
For about the tenth time, muttered the boy.