The Underdark

The sleek black cat—which, contrary to everything that Wilawen’s father had taught her about the nature of matter, had somehow emerged from the onyx statuette—stretched 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 Eyes—Drizzt—approached the animal smiling and, catching it by the scruff of the neck, playfully stroked it between its glowing eyes.

The monster purred!

“O’Wilawen,” 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 it—oh 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. “Please—make it stop touching me.”

The dark elf pointed to her—“O’Wilawen,”—then to the cat—“Guenhwyvar,”—then, emphatically, to the cave floor. He searched her face for a sign that she had understood.

Wilawen bit her lip.

The drow pointed to himself—“Drizzt,”—then moved his hand to indicate ‘out of the cave’.

Wilawen nodded.

Smiling reassuringly, he slowly took her hand and placed it on the cat’s head—“Guenhwyvar,”—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.

“What now?”


Haldir and the others had reached an unexpected fork in the tunnel—Arador 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 thumb—“four 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! Then—everyone—back 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 close—and be ready to use your sword.”


Eryn Carantaur

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 to Cami?”

“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 Camthalion’s arm,” replied Findecáno, “so he received a double dose—as did Amras.”

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 Room—with care.”

“Go with Camthalion, my Lady,” said Orodreth. “I must make my report to Lord Legolas, and then I have a message from Haldir—”

“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 forehead—“and 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 but—even on tip-toe, and over stretching every part of her body—she could not quite make it. “You will have to help me...”

The dark elf laid a firm hand on her shoulder.

Wilawen turned—and 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 to me...”

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, “but—thank 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 and turning.

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 correct—the right-hand passage had, after about four hundred yards, joined what seemed to be a much broader tunnel running from right to left, and—as far as Haldir’s blunted senses could judge—downwards 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 Haldir.

Orophin nodded. “Getting closer. And, now and then, it makes a strange sound—like 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 Wilawen’s,” he said. “It is a button from her dress.”

“Well, that proves that we are going in the right direction,” said Arador.

“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 more...”

“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 sleeping—stretched 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, and—almost without realising it—the 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! Stop! Wait!

“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 marked—it could be a lake—I do not know.”

“Let me have the light,” said Rumil. “I will scout ahead—show 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, remember—tug.”

“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, “and—yes, you are right, Arador—there 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 sound.

Acid,” said Arador.


The important thing with animals, thought Wilawen, is to show no fear. She reached towards the cat.

Guenhwyvar growled.

Wilawen froze. Then she took a deep breath and—closing her eyes—patted 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 her—He would surely want his ring back! Then, with some difficulty, she swung one knee over the cat’s body—Guenhwyvar growled a warning, but did not move—and 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, anxiously.

“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 drop—assuming we could pull him back up—I 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 children’s 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 food?

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 do.

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, “but—two 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 across.”

Haldir considered the idea. “Rumil and Orophin will go first, then Rumil will bring the crystal back. That means that you,”—he patted his Orophin’s arm—“will 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.”


Eryn Carantaur
Lord Caranthir's chambers

“The Divor Rocks,” said Lord Fingolfin. “Everything seems to point to Berryn’s great crack in Middle-earth—thank 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 Lord—the Mayor of Newhome, his newly-wed daughter, her husband, and the entire wedding party—apparently, 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 Reeve’s son—who seems to be something of an expert, my Lords—they visit the surface rarely—perhaps once in every two generations of men—”

“Sixty years...”

“But when they do, there are many deaths.”

“Why?” asked Caranthir.

“Hatred, my Lord,” said Orodreth, “and revenge—so 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. “Tonight?”

“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?”

“My Lord?”

“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 Divor Rocks.”


The Acid Cave

The two elves set off across the bridge—Rumil in front, holding the light, and Orophin behind, his hands on his brother’s shoulders. The remainder of the rescue party sat motionless on the rocky shore, watching the pale greenish glow disappear into the blackness.

“Are you glad I came?” asked the boy.

Haldir smiled in the dark. “You have yet to prove your worth, Master Arador.”


“We are across,” announced Orophin, “and... We have found something.”


“Another crystal.”

“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 mushrooms—she could think of no other word for them, though they were more than six feet high—was growing against the wall.

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 time—Rumil and Orophin; then Arador and Valandil; then Rumil and Dínendal; and, finally, Orophin and Haldir.

“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 stars—even a worldly elf like Haldir—was 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 bridge—far too close to the acid lake for Haldir’s liking. “Arador!” he barked, “get away from the edge!”

The boy whirled round, his face—visible in the light of the crystal he was holding—a picture of guilt.

“What have you done?” demanded Haldir.

Shhhhh,” said the boy.

Rumil and Orophin gasped.

Ignoring the boy’s 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 woman’s 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 there—see?” He held out the crystal. “It looks as though she fell, Valandil...”

“No!” cried elf, “No! NO!

The boy grabbed his arm.


Eryn Carantaur
Haldir's flet

“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 Haldir’s 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 ellith’s 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 concerned—“but 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 and—as if in response—a cloud of spores puffed from one of the mushrooms, entering Wilawen’s 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.

...Keep back...

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 are you?”


“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 out.

“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 right—and even from above.

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 comrade’s right flank, whilst Orophin joined them on the left.

The three elves fought blindly in the dark—Valandil screaming obscenities like an Uruk Hai berserker—outnumbered 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 drow—some of them in flames—fleeing to the safety of the next cavern.


Eryn Carantaur
Arinna’s flet

Still wondering about Cyllien’s strange behaviour, Orodreth entered the flet he shared with Camthalion and Arinna to find his friend—still fast asleep—lying on Arinna’s divan.

“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 Rocks.”

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 course—do 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 Warden’s lady?”

“Mistress Cyllien?”

“Yes. She seems—I 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 lamp—you 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 father’s house—I had to make them.”

“Them? You have more?”

“Two more.”

“Master Arador,” said Haldir, “I think you have just proved your worth.”

“For about the tenth time,” muttered the boy.




Contents page


Previous chapter: Friends in need
Lord Fingolfin asks Legolas for a favour; Aranwë rides home; the Shieldmaiden defends her people.

Chapter 10

Next chapter: Disagreements
Shadow Eowyn faces up to the realities of leadership; shadow Legolas makes a decision.

Chapter 12

The cast
I thought you might enjoy a reminder of what everyone looks like ;-)
















don't hotlinkWilawen


There seems to be general agreement on the web that the Lothlorien elf shown above is called Dínendal—I don't know where the information comes from, possibly his Decipher card. At any rate, he does look gentle and caring!

And if Arador looks familiar, that's because when I saw War of the Worlds I thought, "Arador!"