the hook-horror

The Underdark

In the firelight, Rumil and Orophin quickly found a defensible position, shepherded their companions into it and, swords drawn, mounted guard. Arador settled Valandil against the rock wall, then drew the glowing crystal from his pack—the flames were already dying down—and held it over Haldir’s wounded shoulder whilst Dínendal carefully opened the March Warden’s jerkin.

“How is he?” asked Rumil, over his shoulder.

He,” answered Haldir, pointedly, “has been much better.”

“It is a deep cut,” said the healer, “and needs stitching. Bring the light closer, Arador.”

“Did you feel anything,” asked the boy, curiously, “apart from the blade?”

“What do you mea—nn?” Haldir gritted his teeth as the needle pierced his flesh.

“I have read,” said Arador, “that some of their swords are sentient, and will feed on their victims.”


“Yes, this is cold,” said Dínendal, spreading a thick layer of healing salve over the wound. “But it will deaden the pain...”

“I felt nothing but steel,” said Haldir.

“Pity. I mean—not from your point of view, obviously—”

Haldir tried to move his hand, but Dínendal caught it and, gently bending the March Warden’s arm at the elbow, placed it on his breast. “I have no choice,” said the healer, in response to Haldir’s heavy sigh, “your shoulder must be kept still.” He slid a piece of cloth beneath the arm and motioned the boy to hold the ends in position.

“What else have you read, Arador?” asked Valandil suddenly. Since his crazed attack on the drow, he had been silent, leaning against the rocks with his eyes tightly closed. Now he seemed fully alert again. “Why have they taken her? Do you know?”

“Not really... Though, in their society, women are far more important than men.”

“So they may have thought she was our leader?”

“Your holy woman,” said the boy. “They have holy women who accompany the warriors into battle to call upon their goddess for help. They probably thought she was your holy woman.”

“And what will they do with her?”

“Valandil...” The boy handed the bandage to Dínendal and turned towards the other elf. “She fell...”

“No. She did not,” said Valandil, firmly.

“We cannot be sure, Arador,” agreed Haldir, relaxing his arm into the sling. “All you found was a piece of her dress—”

“And I know she is still alive,” said Valandil. “I can feel it.”

The boy opened his mouth to point out that Valandil’s earlier suicidal fury had suggested otherwise—but immediately thought better of it. “What are we going to do then,” he asked, “now that they know we are here—and Haldir is wounded?”


Fighting waves of nausea, Wilawen backed away from the mushroom men, turned, and ran, doubled-up, across the eerie moss-lit cavern to the screen of stalagmites that hid her tiny refuge. Still clasping her stomach, she stared up at the hole. It is too high, she thought, tears of exhaustion—and frustration—spilling from her eyes. I cannot reach it...

She searched the ground for a piece of stone to use as a step.

Behind her, Guenhwyvar growled softly and, nudging her back, gently pushed her out of the way, then crouched down at the foot of the wall.

Wilawen gasped. “Are you sure...?”

The cat did not move.

Wilawen patted its shoulder. “Good cat; good, good cat,”—slowly she raised her foot and climbed onto its back—“keep still, keep—” But Guenhwyvar had a better idea, and rose smoothly to its feet, allowing Wilawen to crawl easily into the safety of the tunnel.


“We know they are afraid of fire,” said Haldir, struggling to shoulder his pack with his one good arm. Dínendal stepped forward to help.

“It blinds them,” agreed Arador.

“And they have no long-range weapons,” continued the March Warden, reaching for his bow. “So we will attack suddenly. Arador will throw one of his fire-bottles, and we will use the light to shoot as many as we can.”

You cannot draw,” said Orophin,“which means we only have three archers.”


I have never used a bow in my life,” said the boy. “Not even a human one.”

“Then it will have to be Dínendal.” Haldir handed the healer his great war bow and, with a struggle, unbuckled his quiver.

“I shall do my best...” said Dínendal, doubtfully.

“I know you will,” said Haldir. “Give me your healing bag.”

“I do not suppose you need me to point out,” said Arador, “that, given that we cannot see without the crystals, our chances of creeping up on a drow army are less than nil—”

“No,” said Haldir.

“I thought not.”

“All I need you to do, Master Arador, is follow my orders.”


Wilawen crawled to the end of the tunnel and curled up into a ball. Guenhwyvar, seeming to understand her distress, settled down beside her and nuzzled her shoulder, purring softly.

The woman’s sob turned into a shaky smile. “Thank you,” she whispered.


“You did not answer my question,” said Valandil, taking hold of the rope beside Arador. “What will these demons do with Wilawen?”

“I do not know.”

“You are not telling me the truth,” said the elf, for betrothal to a woman had taught him to recognise when something was being hidden from him ‘for his own good’. “What will they do with her?”

The boy sighed. “Their goddess demands living sacrifices,” he admitted.

Haldir touched Valandil’s shoulder. “We will get her back before they have the chance to harm her, mellon nín,” he said. “Move off Rumil. And, from now on, everyone is silent.”


Eryn Carantaur
Arinna’s flet

Camthalion took a sip of dark green liquid. “What is this?” he asked, eyeing Arinna suspiciously

“I have no idea, Cami,” said the woman. “Master Findecáno told me to give it to you when you woke up. I should think it is some sort of tonic.”

“A tonic...” He reached for her arm.

“A-ah!” Arinna drew back with a playful wave of her hand, and rose gracefully. “I have promised Ori that I will visit Mistress Cyllien—he is worried about her. Will you be all right on your own for a while?”

“Of course.”

“I shall try not to be too long.” She draped her silken shawl over her dark hair, throwing its fringed ends over her shoulders. “If you get up, Cami, remember to take things slowly,” she said, bending over to kiss his forehead.

But the elf caught her around the waist and, drawing her close, kissed her mouth.

Slowly, Cami!”

Arinna left their flet and strolled along the winding pathway, through the clusters of elegant houses—all delicate swirling arches and opalescent glass—amongst the red-leaved carantaur boughs.

Who would have thought, she mused, admiring the beauty all around her, that I could be so happy living in the middle of a forest, cooking, cleaning—sometimes—and being faithful, like a good housewife?

She passed Legolas’ private chambers, turned off the main walkway, and climbed the spiralling stairs up to the next level.

Of course, she thought, it does help having two willing and able elves for husbands...

She nodded a greeting to an elleth she knew by sight, and continued along the private path to a select group of dwellings tucked just behind the Palace.

I wonder if Lord Legolas realises how well his garden is overlooked?

She stopped at the first house, and knocked on the door.

There was no answer.

She knocked louder.

Still no response.

She laid her fingertips on the wood and pushed, lightly.

The door swung open. Strange... “Hello?”

Arinna stepped inside. The sitting room looked exactly how her own bedroom had looked the time she had found that animal, Wolfram, ransacking it, but she did not, for one moment, imagine that the March Warden’s flet had been burgled.

She took a few more steps.

And gasped.

Because lying in the middle of the floor was a leather apron—of the kind the human carpenters working on the new wing of the Palace all wore—and coming from what Arinna assumed was the bedchamber was the unmistakable sound of two people having sex.

Silly tart! she thought. If that was all she wanted, she should have stayed in Carhilivren. And for a moment she considered barging in and sending him—whoever he was—packing.

But no, she decided. I promised Ori I would take care of her, and I shall.


The Green Cave

Wilawen opened her eyes.

There was something else in the green cave—something other than the mushroom men—something that had just made a noise like two stones, banging together. She turned to Guenhwyvar. The cat had heard it, too, and had already risen to its feet, ears pricked and listening hard—


Wilawen immediately caught the scent of the mushroom men’s noxious spores. That will stop it, whatever it is, she thought, remembering the effect the poison had had on her own body.

But Guenhwyvar was growing more and more agitated, and suddenly moved to the tunnel mouth, tamping the rocky floor with its paws.

Wilawen closed her eyes and listened. There were more rhythmic stone-claps, more spores, then the sound of clawed feet scraping on stone... getting closer... and closer...

Guenhwyvar growled and dropped into a crouch.

Wilawen looked around frantically for a weapon.


Watching his feet, Arador shuffled forward, rope in one hand, uncorked spirit bottle in the other, steeling himself for his part in the next battle. The moment Haldir gives the order, he thought, I drop to the ground, pull out the tinder box, light the wick, and throw... Ground, tinderbox, wick, throw. Ground, tinderbox—gods! What was that?

The boy pulled hard on the rope, and the elves around him stopped as one. Haldir came up beside him and leaned close to his ear. “What?” he whispered.

“Another piece of Mistress Wilawen’s dress.”

“Where?” hissed Valandil.

“Lying on the floor, back there.”

Letting go of the rope, Valandil dropped to his knees and crawled along the ground, sweeping the crystal back and forth. “I have found it,” he whispered, excitedly, “I—”

Suddenly silent, he lifted the crystal and held it a few inches above the ground. “Tail,” he whispered. Then he brought the light higher, slowly revealing a pair of leather-clad legs, a fine mail hauberk, a shock of white hair, and a handsome ebony face...

It was one of the dark warriors, standing with his back to the wall, his empty hands raised in surrender.


Guenhwyvar sprang.

Wilawen heard the cat snarl, heard more stone-claps close to the tunnel, and snatched up a jagged piece of rock. She hesitated for just a moment; then, spurred on by the sounds of fighting, she followed the cat, sliding painfully down the rock wall and tumbling out into the green cave.

The air was thick with spores and she immediately clutched her stomach, gagging. But the effect did not last long and, squinting through watery eyes, Wilawen realised that she was kneeling amongst the ripped and shredded remains of the mushroom men, strewn across the cavern floor.

Horrified, she raised her head to see what had killed them.


The elves drew their weapons; Valandil slashed with his sword.

“O’Wilawen!” cried the dark elf, neatly dodging the cut.

Valandil froze. “What did you say?”

“O’Wilawen,” the drow repeated, and pointed down the passage.

“Take me to her,” said Valandil, sheathing his weapon. “Take me to Wilawen.”

The dark elf raised his finger to his lips. Shhh. Then he beckoned. Follow me.

Valandil nodded.

But Haldir, sword in his left hand, came up beside the drow and, using his superior size, caged him in against the wall. “How do we know we can trust you?” he hissed.

“He saved her before,” said Valandil. “When I was shot, I saw him—he has purple eyes—the others have red.”

Haldir looked at Valandil for a long moment. Then, “Very well,” he said. He stepped back.

Suddenly, the dark elf drew a pair of swords and, snapping them into line, brushed Haldir’s chest with their curved points, let the blades drop and, turning the hilts outwards, offered them to the stunned March Warden.

“I think he is trying to show you that you can trust him,” said Arador, obviously impressed.

Thank you, Master Arador,” said Haldir. “Make sure that bottle of yours is ready.” He shook his head at the drow, refusing the weapons.

The dark elf spun his swords back into their scabbards. Then he pointed to his own chest. “Drizzt,” he said. “Drizzt.”


The creature that had killed the mushroom men was huge—at least twice the height of a man—with a vulture’s head and massive forearms ending in long, hooked pincers. Wilawen crouched down, ducking in terror as the thing staggered back and forth across the rocky floor, flailing its arms—deadly pincers clacking—in an attempt shake off Guenhwyvar, who was hanging from the upper rim of its crab-like shell, snarling and snapping.

Wilawen could see that, although the monster’s head and strange under-body were protected by a natural bony armour, the plates shifted as it moved, occasionally leaving patches of its moist red flesh exposed...

She shuddered.


Holding the end of Haldir’s rope, the dark elf drew the rescuers swiftly down the branching tunnels. He had already cautioned them to be silent but, several minutes into the journey, he suddenly bought them to a halt and, stepping into the light of Arador’s crystal torch, he raised his hands and made a series of complex shapes with his fingers—evidently giving them some sort of explanation.

When there was no response, he put a finger to his lips and waited until Haldir had acknowledged his instructions with an emphatic nod.

They were clearly passing close to his dark comrades, and Haldir wondered what he was planning. Did he intend to lead an attack on his own people? Or had he somehow managed to separate Wilawen from her captors?

Or was he simply leading the elves into a trap?

Uneasy at the trust he was having to place in this stranger, Haldir passed the rope to his injured hand and grasped the hilt of his sword.


Guenhwyvar was tiring, but so was the monster, and the cat seemed, at last, to have gained the upper hand—clamping its hind feet on the lower ridge of the thing's shell, it lashed out with its claws, raking its foe’s unprotected eyes...

The creature lurched under Guenhwyvar’s shifting weight and, bringing its unwieldy pincers up to its face in blind panic, crashed down on its knees.


Look, mouthed Arador, slipping the glowing crystal under his jerkin.

“Sometimes, Master Arador,” whispered Haldir, “your behaviour baffles me—”

“The tunnel is getting lighter.”

Haldir peered down the passage. He had failed to notice it—perhaps because his elven senses had been less hampered by the dark than Arador’s—but the boy was right. The darkness had acquired a faint green tint.


Guenhwyvar, thrown clear, landed on its feet and turned, ready to spring back into the fray.

But Wilawen had spotted a chance. With determination, she staggered to the monster’s side, slid her jagged rock point into the crimson gap between its shell and its bony skull cap and, when the creature blindly pushed itself up on its hooked pincers, she drove the stone home, crying out as—hitting bone—it slipped and cut her own hand.


Without warning, the dark elf suddenly grasped Valandil’s arm and, hissing “O’Wilawen!”, tried to push him towards the source of light, but Haldir drew his sword—clumsily—and slipped it between their bodies, holding the drow back. “Stop—”

From somewhere up ahead, Wilawen screamed in pain.

With a cry of anguish, Valandil slipped from the dark elf's grasp and took off down the tunnel.

Haldir released the drow and ran after Valandil, crying, “Come on!” and the rescuers followed as best they could, Arador fumbling for the tinder box in his pocket.


Lying face-down in the lethal moss, the creature convulsed, blood-streaked foam pouring from its open beak.

Wilawen sank to the ground. Guenhwyvar, equally exhausted, padded to her side and settled down, laying its great head on her lap.

The woman looked at her hand—it was hurting, but the cut did not seem very deep. Using her left hand, she pulled Drizzt’s water skin from her belt, took a mouthful of water, and offered to pour some into Guenhwyvar’s mouth.

The cat refused.

Wilawen’s head slumped forward. We are safe for now, she thought, closing her eyes...


Wilawen!” Valandil raced into the eerily-lit cavern, ripping out his sword and lunging at the monstrous black cat that was pinning the woman to the ground. “Yaaaaggghhh!

But the blow fell short—for the drow, smaller and nimbler than his surface cousins, had brought Valandil down with a flying tackle. The elf kicked and swore and struggled, using the strength of his arms to crawl towards Wilawen—until her calm voice finally penetrated his fury.

“Valandil?”—she raised her head, staring at him in disbelief—“Oh Valandil!”

The cat, who now seemed to be standing guard over her, growled a warning but, “No,” she said, patting its shoulder, “this is Valandil.”

And, to the elf’s relief, the cat stepped aside, the drow released him, and he crawled to his beloved, and took her in his arms.


Eryn Carantaur
Haldir's flet

Arinna leaned over the walkway rail, idly wondering what fun might take place in that pretty little garden—beneath the canopy of that bed—when the moon was full and the stars were shining bright. She had a great fondness for Legolas, who, despite his three thousand years, struck her as a very innocent lover...

A noise caught her attention and she turned, screened by a carantaur bough, and watched ‘him’ slip from the house—wearing his leather apron and carrying (she smiled cynically) his bag of carpenter’s tools—and swagger off down the twisting walkway.

Arinna assessed him with a professional eye—tall, blond, ruggedly handsome, and, by elven standards, magnificently built—though the woman knew that elven bodies were deceptive in the critical matters of strength and stamina.

She waited until the lover had disappeared around a bend, then crossed the flet and knocked on Cyllien’s door.

The elleth opened it immediately. “What do you want?” she demanded, for the pair had had more than one encounter in Carhilivren, and none of them had been amicable.

“I saw that you were having the bed refurbished, and thought I might offer some advice.” Arinna stepped inside. “I have come,” she said, quietly, “because someone has asked me to watch over you.”


Arinna shook her head. “No. But someone who has his well-being, as well as yours, at heart.”


Arinna did not correct her. “You are such a fool,” she said.

What! How dare—?”

“I, as you know, am the first to recommend sex as a hobby, but it is not the answer in your case—you do not even like it.”

“How dare you—?”

“You are using that young bull to escape your disappointing life with the March Warden just as you used the March Warden to escape from Ribhadda, and you used Ribhadda—”

A stinging blow from Cyllien cut her off, mid-sentence.

Arinna calmly rubbed her face. “You used Ribhadda,” she continued, “and, I imagine, many others—to deaden the pain of losing him.” She waved her hand. “We need not speak of him—there is always a ‘him’ and, no doubt, some tragic reason why you cannot be together—”

“Get out! I mean it! Get out now!”

But Arinna stood her ground. “I have made a fortune out of fools like you,” she said, “men and women who think that sex will make them forget. Do you forget him? Of course not! That oaf only makes you remember him more. Sex is release, and when a woman is filled with pain, pain is what it releases. Look—” She moved aside a pile of clothing and sat down. “No one doubts that you have suffered a great loss. No one doubts that, as an elf, you can grieve for eternity. But you have been given a second chance with the March Warden—”

“What do you know of Haldir?”

“I know that he is good elf and that you would be stupid to throw him away. I also know that he is far too proud to turn a blind eye to this sort thing,” she said, waving her hand towards the bedroom.


The Green Cave

Haldir’s gaze lingered on the reunited couple—

“Look at this!” hissed Arador.

Haldir turned away, reluctantly.

The boy was crouching beside a strange creature, lying dead in a patch of luminous moss. “It is some sort of crab-man!” he whispered, excitedly. “It has eight legs and—look—these are what make that noise we keep hearing!” He pointed to its curved pincers. “And this,”—he rapped his knuckles against its shell—“is a natural suit of armour, but Mistress Wilawen found a chink.” He reached for the jagged sliver of rock protruding from the thing’s neck, but Drizzt grabbed his arm. “What?”

The dark elf pointed to the glowing moss, then gestured with his hand, No.

“It must be poisonous...” Arador bowed to the drow. “Thank you.”

Drizzt smiled.

Haldir!” cried Rumil. “Over here.”

Beckoning Arador to follow, the March Warden joined his brothers beside what looked like pieces of a vast mushroom. “It has eyes,” said Rumil, prodding the rounded cap with the tip of his sword. “And organs,” he added, distastefully.

“We must move,” said Haldir. “The Valar only know what else is down here.” He turned to Drizzt. “Show the Manling the way out.”

He returned to where Wilawen was sitting between Valandil and Dínendal (who was bandaging her hand). “How is she?”

The woman smiled up at Haldir. “I am tired and hungry and my hand hurts,” she said, “but none of that matters now.” She turned to Valandil, who hugged her close and kissed her forehead.

“If you could just wait until I have finished,” grumbled Dínendal.

“What happened to your arm, March Warden?”

“Oh—it is just a scratch. Do you think you can walk, Wilawen? I want us all safely back on the surface as quickly as possible.”

“Of course,” said the woman.

“And I will carry her if she cannot,” said Valandil.


“But what about the lake?” asked Arador, pointing to the map. “There is no bridge.” He spread his hands to indicate that he did not understand how they could cross the water.

Drizzt moved his arms, imitating breast stroke.

“Suppose one of us cannot swim...”

The dark elf, not understanding his question, seized the map and traced the entire path—from the green cave, across the lake, and along a short tunnel that appeared to end in a rock wall but which must, Arador realised, connect with the surface world. The route had the advantage of taking them, as quickly as possible, far from where Drizzt’s comrades were lurking...

Arador sighed. “Yes,” he said, “I understand. It is the best way.”


Drizzt approached Wilawen and Valandil cautiously, hands raised in a gesture of reassurance, but Guenhwyvar, having no inhibitions, bounded up to the couple and nuzzled Wilawen’s shoulder affectionately.

Wilawen laughed. “This,” she said to Valandil, “is the best bodyguard a woman could have—except one.” She looked up at Drizzt. “Or two.”

The dark elf reached into the pouch at his hip and drew out a small black object—the onyx cat that Wilawen had seen him use before. He placed it on the ground and, with a smile at Wilawen, said something in his own language.

Reluctantly, the cat left the woman’s side and approached the figurine, its body seeming to dissolve with each step, until, when it reached the tiny cat, there was nothing left but a dark grey mist, swirling down into the black stone like water in a funnel.

“Good bye,” whispered Wilawen.

Valandil gave her a comforting hug.


With Drizzt leading them, the companions—though they heard the occasional stone-clap—reached the lake without further incident. Arador gazed across the expanse of inky water, just visible in the shafts of dim light that filtered through chinks in the rock above and turned the roof of the massive cavern into the semblance of a moonless sky.

In its own way, it is beautiful down here, he thought. Which is just as well... He glanced at the March Warden. Best to get it over with. “Haldir...”

The elf sighed. “What have you done now, Master Arador?”

The boy considered the phrasing of the question and gave his answer accordingly. “I have never learned to swim.”

The elf laughed. “Is that all?”

Arador was surprised at the reaction. “I cannot cross the water,” he insisted. “I will have to stay here...”

“You will come with one of us—with Rumil or Orophin, that is,” said Haldir, indicating his sling. “He will do the swimming—so all you will have to do is stay calm.”

“But I have never been in deep water—”

“Are you saying that you are afraid?”


“Good. Then just lie on your back and stay calm.”

Arador, relieved beyond words, and disliking Haldir's obvious amusement, changed the subject. “Why have his people not come looking for him?” he asked, nodding towards Drizzt.

“Because they do not know he is missing,” said Haldir. “He is a scout, used to patrolling the tunnels on his own, or with the cat; his commander has sent him ahead and has no way of knowing that he is not doing his job.”

“Why do you suppose he helped her?”

“Because a true warrior does not harm the weak and helpless.”

“Mistress Wilawen is hardly weak and helpless,” said Arador. “And drow men are afraid of women—or so I have read.”

Haldir tried to shrug, but only achieved a wince. “Are you ready for your swimming lesson, Master Arador?”


“Goodbye,” said Wilawen, “and thank you.”

As she walked away, her hand automatically slipped into her pocket, where she found something and, turning back, pressed it into Drizzt’s hand. “To remember us by,” she said, smiling.


Arador watched nervously as Valandil and Wilawen, then Dínendal, and then Haldir and Rumil all waded waist-deep into the water and began the long swim across the lake.

“Ready?” asked Orophin.


“Take off your pack—that is right, you will have to drag it beside you—then wade into the water.”

Clenching his fists, Arador did as he was told—

“Open your eyes,” said Orophin.

“Easy for you to say...”

“Now turn your back to me... Good.” The elf wrapped his arms around the boy’s torso and, pulling him down into the water, set off in pursuit of their comrades.

Arador, staring up at the ceiling, had just begun to relax when something pulled on his feet—pulled and pulled—so hard that he slipped from Orophin’s grasp.

“No!” he cried, “no, no, nnn...” getting in a mouthful of brackish water as he slid beneath its surface and began to fall—slowly at first, then faster, and faster—struggling to hold his breath as he sped towards a pale saucer of light that seemed many miles beneath him...




Contents page


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

Chapter 12

Next chapter: The rival
Arador wonders if he's dead; Legolas comes face to face with the drow; Eowyn is comforted.

Chapter 14

A hook horror
An illustration from the Wizards of the Coast website.


Cyllien's secret
If you have no idea what Arinna is talking about, go here.
Thanks to Wendy Y for pointing out the need for this!

Cyllien's lost love

Tail ... ‘Feet’!