wilawen and valandil

For Arwenevenstar


Clutching the glowing crystal in one hand, Rumil dived beneath the surface of the lake. The cave was dimly illuminated but beneath the water the world was black and oily and, even with the torch to light his way, the elf could see nothing. The profound darkness made him nauseous, but he kept trying, diving down as deep as he could bear, turning full circle, then coming up to the surface, taking a great gulp of air, swimming to another spot, and diving again—

But this time his older brother was waiting for him. “It has been too long, muindor nín,” said Orophin, catching him by the arm. “Come. Swim back with me—the others are waiting.”

“No,” said Rumil, wrenching his arm free. “Dínendal says that he can be revived—if I can find him, he can be revived!” He tried to swim away.

Orophin grabbed his brother’s shoulders and, like a human adult chastising a child, shook him hard. “Dínendal said,” he corrected, “that a person can sometimes be revived if the water is cold enough... But listen.” He nodded his head towards the southern edge of the cave where an ominous clack-clacking sound was rapidly approaching. “More of the crab-men. We must get the others to safety, little brother.”

“He is not dead, Orophin. I know he is not dead.”

The older elf tightened his grip. “If anyone could have survived, it would have been Haldir,” he agreed. “But we have run out of time—Rumil!” He shook his brother again. “He would have moved us off long before this—”

“No! You are talking as though he were dead!” cried Rumil, angrily. “He is not! And he would never give up looking for one of us!”

“Rumil?” Wilawen’s tearful voice suddenly echoed across the water. “Is there any sign of him?”

Rumil’s normally impish face contorted with grief.

“No,” shouted Orophin. “So we are coming back. Be ready to move off.”


“What about Arador?” asked Valandil, helping Orophin bring Rumil ashore.

“Nothing,” said Orophin. They sat his younger brother on a rock. He turned to Dínendal. “Miruvor?”

The healer laid down Haldir’s bow, fished in his healing bag, and brought out a small flask, which he uncorked and handed to Rumil. “Just one sip. We must make it last.”

“What about Drizzt?” asked Valandil.

“Gone,” said Orophin, strapping on his quiver. “He must have left the moment we began to cross the lake.” He took a sip of cordial and passed the flask to Valandil—“Quickly.”

“But without him,” said Valandil, “or the map...” He handed the flask to Wilawen.

“I know,” replied Orophin. “We will have to trust to luck—”

Clack, clack-clack!

Ceryn Manwë! They are almost upon us! Come Rumil—are you ready, Wilawen?”

The woman returned the miruvor to Dínendal, and wiped her wet face with the back of her hand. “Yes,” she said, with a sniff. Then she added, “Drizzt and the boy showed me the map, so I may be able to find the tunnel.” She scanned the wall of the cavern. “I think it is over there.” She pointed to a shadowy recess towards the south—the direction from which the noises were coming.

“Orophin,” said Dínendal, taking up his borrowed bow, “if we leave this cave, we will be blind. Would it not be better to fight them here, where there is at least some light?”

“I do not intend us to fight if we can avoid it—”


The closeness of the noise took them by surprise, and the elves turned, instinctively raising their weapons—Valandil stepped in front of Wilawen. “Can you see them?” he whispered.

“No...” said Orophin, peering into the shadowy maze of rocks.

“I can see one,” said Dínendal, sounding unnaturally calm. He had already nocked an arrow and drawn his bow. “Over by that crooked spire—and I think there are two others, further left.

“I see them.” Orophin aimed for the centre shape. “Valandil, take the left, Rumil, Dínendal, you take the right. We must aim between their armour plates.”

“I cannot see well enough for that,” said Rumil.

“Then wait. Let them come closer. Do not waste your arrows.”


Wilawen dropped to the ground, searching for a weapon, a blade-shaped stone, which she could use as a dagger if it came to a hand-to-hand fight—

Something moved on the mirror-still surface of the lake.

She crawled closer to the water’s edge.

A shadow...?

It took Wilawen a moment to understand what she was seeing—to realise that something must be obscuring the light that filtered down from the ceiling.

Slowly, she raised her eyes.


The creatures charged.

The elves, shooting almost blind, loosed their arrows—and Orophin must have scored a lucky hit, because the one in the centre suddenly dropped like a stone but the others, protected by their living armour, came on, snapping their massive pincers.

Discarding his bow, Valandil drew a short knife and ran at the creature on the left, ducking under its outstretched arms and coming in close to its body—too close for it to bring its pincers to bear on him, too low for it to use its beak.

Instead, the thing folded him in its arms, and crushed him to its armoured chest.

Struggling to breathe, fighting the darkness that was quickly filling his head, the elf slid his knife point up the creature’s bony casing—if he could just—yes—he found a chink, below the thing’s left breast and, willing all his remaining strength into his hand, he worked the blade into the narrow gap between the plates, and—praying to the Valar that the creature’s organs were arranged like his own—he drove it home, ramming it upwards into the monster’s heart.

The creature shuddered, and tightened its arms around him; and, as the darkness finally claimed him, it seemed to Valandil that the world was falling away, and that he was spiralling down after it...


“Aim for the eyes!” shouted Orophin as he, Rumil and Dínendal took on the rightmost beast.

No!” cried Dínendal. Forcing himself to work slowly, he carefully nocked another arrow, and raised Haldir’s great Galadhrim bow. “Aim for the mouth,” he said, “inside the beak.” The healer took careful aim, and loosed. “Elbereth Gilthoniel...” he whispered.

And his arrow flew true.

Pierced through the back of its throat, the creature took a great gasp of air and shook its head, coughing and retching, trying to expel the missile. Then Rumil loosed and, despite the creature’s frantic thrashing, buried a second arrow deep in its gullet. And Orophin brought the monster to its knees by taking out its eyes with two rapid shots.

The brothers drew their knives, and moved in for the kill.


“DROW!” cried Wilawen. “Hundreds of drow! Up there!”

Orophin whirled round, looking up into the roof of the cave.

Dark shapes—Yes, drow!—floating against the ‘starlit sky’, were streaming over the lake, their swords and poisoned crossbow quarrels at the ready—Not hundreds, thought the elf, but certainly more than enough.

Forgetting the dying hook horror, Orophin took up his bow. “Rumil, Dínendal, Val—Valandil?” His comrade was buried beneath one of the armoured brutes. “Wilawen, see to Valandil—you two, shoot at will! Make every arrow count.”

“Just look at that,” whispered Rumil. High above the hovering drow, three massive lizards, bridled like the horses of the Rohirrim, were running swiftly across the cavern roof, their dark elf riders hanging upside down in their saddles. “This place is an abomination...” Rumil loosed an arrow, narrowly missing the leading rider but hitting his mount in the thigh—though the creature barely broke its stride.

Beside him, Dínendal drew his bow—and held it. To kill a monster was one thing. But to kill a person, someone with thoughts and feelings like his own—someone with a mother and, perhaps, a wife—when he had taken an oath to preserve life—

“Shoot them, Master Healer,” cried Orophin, as if sensing his doubts, “they will not scruple to kill you!” And, setting his gentler comrade an example, the brother loosed, and shot the foremost drow out of the air.



He was lying across the crab man’s body, still trapped in its suffocating embrace.

Blinking back her tears, Wilawen knelt beside him, and touched his face. He felt cold, but she quickly found a pulse in his neck—strong and steady—and when she checked his breathing she could see that, although shallow, it was regular.

Thank the gods for elven resistance to hurt!

Crying with relief now, she tried the break the monster’s grip.


Darkness engulfed the three archers.

“Keep shooting,” cried Orophin. “Shoot blind! We have nothing to lose now!”


Gently, Wilawen prised Valandil’s fingers from the handle of his knife and pulled the blade from the creature’s body.

She could not hope to use an elven sword, but a dagger was becoming a familiar weapon, and she would defend her betrothed with it until the drow took her life.


The elves never knew how many of the enemy they killed—certainly not enough—for, the moment they ran out of ammunition, the dark cloud vanished, and they, together with Valandil and Wilawen, were bombarded by a hail of tiny crossbow quarrels.


Eryn Carantaur
Haldir's flet

“Suppose I tell you to mind your own business,” said Cyllien.

“That would be a terrible waste of good advice.”

“And you would pay no attention to me, anyway.”

“You are learning.” Arinna leaned forward, and stared at her intently. “I am here because there are people in this colony—people I respect, who—for reasons I cannot begin to understand—care about you and want you to be happy. So...”

Arinna counted off the options on her fingers. “You can carry on as you are, betraying Haldir—many people thrive on the piquancy deceit adds to a relationship—but,”—she glanced around the domestic chaos and raised her hands with a flourish that Cyllien found particularly annoying—“I do not think that that is the case here.

“You can make a clean break with the March Warden, live alone, and entertain men or elves—or dwarves—” Cyllien shot her a murderous look. “I am told,” said Arinna, “that dwarves make surprisingly tender lovers—you can entertain them wherever and whenever you feel the urge. But you strike me as the sort of woman that does not do well on her own.”

Cyllien sighed, theatrically.

“Well,” said Arinna,“we have hit a raw nerve. In that case, and taking all other things into consideration, I would say that you have only one option left: be faithful to the March Warden.”


“What is wrong with him, you foolish elleth? I mean, apart from the fact that he is not him, (because you can never have everything), what is wrong with him? Does he beat you?”

No!” Cyllien was genuinely shocked at the suggestion.

“Does he chase other women?”

“He—no.” Cyllien was certainly not going to discuss the Mistress Perfect problem with this woman. “But he leaves me—”

“Because he has a job to do. That is how men are. But, goodness, woman, count your lucky stars! He is handsome. And, if I am any judge of male flesh at all, he is a decent lover and ready, willing and able to learn.”

Cyllien did not reply.

“You elves are designed for openness and innocence,” said Arinna, “not for furtive sex—leave that to us humans.”

Still she did not reply.

“Well, that is all I came to say; so, if you will excuse me, I will take my leave. There is, after all, no sense in flogging a dead horse.” She picked her way to the door. “Thank you for your generous hospitality.”


The Divor Rocks

Straddling the fire trench, Orodreth placed his ear to the soot-stained wall, closed his eyes, and listened.

“Do you really think,” asked Malgalad, filling the trench with new wood, “that the dark elves will emerge here again—after losing so many of their comrades in the flames last time?”

“I have no idea.”

“Can you hear anything?”

Shhhh!” Orodreth let his mind clear and tried to focus on the unknown world beyond the rock, searching for the strange, hypnotic chant that he and Camthalion had heard before the last attack.


He turned to his second-in-command. “Our orders are to prevent another massacre,” he said. “We do not have enough elves to seal off the entire ridge, so we have to assume that they favour this place—and have used it two nights running—because the rocks have some special quality...”

“Might I make a suggestion, sir?”

“Go on.”

“You could station lookouts at intervals along the foot of the ridge—hide them up in the trees. Then, if the dark elves emerge elsewhere...”

“The lookouts can relay a warning to us. Good. Arrange it. Use our least able warriors and impress on them that their task is to watch and to raise the alarm—they are not to engage the enemy until they are sure we have received it.”


Arinna walked slowly back to the flet she shared with Camthalion and Orodreth.

Should she pay the young stud a visit and warn him off?

No. The oaf was collecting tails. To add a whiff of danger to this one would merely increase its bragging value. She had said her piece, planted the seeds of doubt, and she was almost sure that Cyllien would do the right thing.

But she would keep a discreet watch on the elleth, just to make certain.



As the sun rose above the Divor Rocks, Orodreth gave the order to stand down. Malgalad and his second lieutenant, a former Ranger, fell in beside him.

The man stretched his cramped limbs. “What now, sir? Shall I dismiss the lookouts?”

“No,” said Orodreth, “rotate them—I want the entire ridge under constant watch. Meanwhile, the rest of us will look for that tunnel the boy claimed was in the Divor Caves.”

“Do you intend to follow the March Warden, sir?”

“I will make that decision,” said Orodreth, “once we have found a way in.”


Eryn Carantaur
Haldir's flet

Cyllien opened the door. The carpenter—Heral, though she had never used his name to his face, and could seldom remember it—gave her his usual impudent smile.

“Come in,” she said, watching him cross the threshold.

He was tall—taller than most elves—and broad, (heavy when he lay upon her), with a strong-featured, freckled face, deep blue eyes, and a shock of thick blond hair. Everything about him was... manly—he smelled of ‘man’, and he moved as though displaying a permanent erection.

Cyllien bit her lip. Twenty-four hours ago his body had almost driven her out of her mind. Now the sight of him made her feel faintly nauseous.

She closed the door. “We need to talk,” she said, “Sit down.”

But the man came up close, backing her against the door and, placing a hand either side of her head, deliberately used his size to intimidate her. “Talk? Why waste time on talk?”

“Because there is something I want to say to you. Sit down.” She slipped beneath an arm and escaped to the centre of the room. “Sit down.”


“Very well. Stand.” Cyllien took a deep breath. “It has been enjoyable—”

“Ha!” The man laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

Cyllien felt a sudden shiver of fear—for, although his tone was calm, there was something wild in his eyes, something she had never seen in him before. “At present,” she said.

“Then let me make sure I understand, because I am only a stupid man, not an elf princess...” He followed her into the room, and the natural sensuality of his movements only made him more threatening. “You have decided that you have had enough, and you want to be rid of me?”

What was the point of lying? “Yes.”

The man shook his head. “Well that doesn’t work for me. You see, I came here ready for a fuck.”

Cyllien took a step backwards. “Then I am sorry to disappoint you.”

“Oh no. I am not leaving disappointed.” He reached for her hair—

But if there was one thing that Cyllien had learned from her encounters with Wolfram, it was to be prepared and, before the man could touch her, she had a knife to his groin.

“Now,” she said, pressing the tip through his woollen breeches, “all I have to do, is slice.”

The hand that—a moment before—had been threatening her, rose in submission.

“Good,” said Cyllien. “Now go. Go, and do not come back.” She shuffled forwards, pushing him across the room and through the door.

The man stumbled outside. “You bitch!” he cried. “You crazy bitch! You have not seen the last of me! Just watch out!”

Cyllien closed the door, and barred it with a chair.

She pulled open the side-slit in her gown, and sheathed Haldir’s hunting knife in the scabbard she had strapped to her thigh.

Then she sank to the floor, and buried her face in her shaking hands.


The Underdark
Some time later...

Wilawen opened her eyes and, instantly remembering the danger that surrounded them, tried to scramble to her feet, but a gentle hand restrained her. “Dínendal?”

The healer placed a finger to her lips. “Try to be quiet,” he whispered. “It seems to anger them less.”

“Where is Valandil?”

“He is lying beside you, still sleeping—it may be some hours before he wakes. He and the brothers were hit more times than we were...”

The crossbow bolts! Wilawen pushed herself up on her elbows—every part of her body seemed to ache—and turned onto her side. In the faint, bluish light, Valandil did, indeed, seem to be sleeping. She stroked his face. “I have never seen him close his eyes before,” she whispered.

“It is healing sleep,” said Dínendal.

“But he was already unconscious before they shot us—are you sure he is all right?”

“As far as I can be.”

Wilawen turned back to the healer. “I am sorry; I did not mean to doubt you.”

“You are worried about him. That is all.” Dínendal patted her shoulder, supportively.

“Where are we?” she asked. They were sitting in a smooth, oval, bowl-shaped object, with a glassy floor that curved up into low sides topped by a broad ledge. “Is this a boat?”

“I think,” said Dínendal, “that it is some sort of shell...”

Shell?” Wilawen leant over the side, until the sudden crack of a whip above her head made her pull back, but she had seen enough.

Dínendal had been right, they were sitting in an enormous shell—like one half of a vast freshwater mussel—borne on the back of a creature that resembled a giant slug—Wilawen gagged at the memory of its slime-covered body rippling along beneath her. And she had briefly glimpsed at least three others, all driven by whip-wielding drow, and several lizard-mounted escorts...

She crawled back to Valandil’s side.


Wilawen lay on her back, staring up at the roof.

The slug’s soft body dampened all sense of movement, so it seemed as though the tunnel itself were slowly streaming past her. She had no idea how long she had been awake, nor how much time had passed since they had been ambushed in the starlit cave, but she was certain that they must be nearing the end of their journey, for the blue light was gradually growing brighter and brighter.


The roof had stopped moving.

Cautiously, Wilawen shuffled to the rim of the shell and, keeping her head well inside, peered out.

“Gods!” she murmured. “Dínendal, look at this... It must be their homeland.”

The caravan had paused at the edge of a massive cavern—perhaps two miles across at its widest point, with a great, arched roof that soared hundreds of feet above its sloping floor. To her left, Wilawen could see a dense forest of tree-sized mushrooms and, beyond that, the very tip of what looked like a lake and, to the right of the lake, carved from the living rock, a city—a magical city...

Dínendal came up beside her, and she heard him gasp.

The cave was filled with natural rock formations, with spikes and spires—stalagmites, she had heard her father call them—and hanging spines, and curtains and pillars, and every one of these forms, it seemed, had been worked upon—hollowed out to form a city of castles, with fluted walls and crenulated battlements, slender towers and spiralling turrets, every surface carved with exquisite spider-web patterns, and softly outlined in blue and mauve and red light.

“Spiders,” whispered Dínendal. “They venerate spiders as we venerate Nature.”

“But why have they brought us here?” said Wilawen. “Of what use can we possibly be to them?”

“The boy, Arador,” said Dínendal quietly, “told us that their goddess demands living sacrifices.” He turned his back to the city. “He thought that surface dwellers might be considered a special gift—particularly surface elves, for whom the drow have a deep hatred—”


They flinched at the sound of the driver’s whip, but the lashes were not directed at them. Slowly, the slug-creature moved off, silently hauling its cargo down the steeply sloping causeway that led into the City of Spiders.


After the eerie silence of the rest of The Underdark, the sudden din of a market place took Wilawen by surprise. “Dínendal...”

The healer, who was making one of his regular examinations of the sleeping elves, placed Rumil’s hand back on his chest and crept up beside her. “Do you have any ideas?” she asked.


They heard the driver shout, and turned to see him gesturing to someone on the ground. Moments later a ladder appeared, and whoever was holding it tried, unsuccessfully, to hook it over the rim of the shell.

Dínendal took hold of Wilawen’s hand. “I cannot leave my patients,” he said softly, “and... And I would advise you not to try to run. Not yet.”

Wilawen squeezed his fingers. “Do not worry...”

There were more shouts; the driver gesticulated, then he rose up, climbed over the back of his seat, walked nimbly along the shell’s edge and guided the hooks into position.

Immediately, two dark elves swarmed up the ladder. One drew a long, slender blade and, hooking it under Dínendal’s chin, forced him away from Wilawen. The other grabbed her by the arms. “You come,” he said, in heavily accented, broken Westron, “or we kill.” He gestured towards Dínendal, and his cohort grabbed the elf by the hair.

“No!” said Wilawen. “I will come with you.”

The drow shoved her towards the ladder.

“Take care—and look after Valandil for me,” she said to Dínendal. Then she added in a whisper, “Goodbye my love...”

With difficulty she climbed onto the rim of the shell and swung herself onto the first rung. The ladder curved over the slug’s body, and, for the first part of the climb, she lay horizontal, her face just inches from its spotted, slimy skin. Closing her eyes, she worked her way downwards until she felt someone seize her by the waist, and let him lift her the rest of the way.

Not until her feet were firmly on the ground did she open her eyes, and her first impression was of chaos—market stalls, some built from stone, some from bone and hide, stretching as far as she could see (in the dim light), packed with familiar and unfamiliar wares—the narrow spaces between them seething with creatures of every size and shape and smell that Wilawen could imagine.

The newcomer grasped her arm and held it tightly.

She risked a glance at him.

He was a male drow, taller than Drizzt, but thin—a scholar, perhaps, or, judging by his exquisitely embroidered cloak and his elaborately dressed hair, a courtier—at any rate, not a warrior.

The drow who had threatened Dínendal came down the ladder and padded into one of the tent-like stalls. The courtier—quite gently—pushed Wilawen inside and, holding her at arms’ length, scrutinised her, turning her head this way and that, checking her eyes, her ears, grasping her chin and opening her mouth so that he could examine her tongue and her teeth, holding her hands up to the light to inspect her fingernails, and, finally, grasping her skirt and lifting it—

Wilawen slapped his face.

The trader snatched up his whip, but the courtier merely laughed and waved the other drow away.

There was a brief interchange of words—and Wilawen realised that the pair were haggling over her—then the courtier handed the trader a pouch of money and said, in perfectly pronounced Westron, “Leave us.”

The trader held up his hand, fingers spread.

“Then I shall be quick,” said the courtier. “Go.”

He turned to Wilawen.

Wilawen backed away.

“You have nothing to fear,” he said, “not as yet.”

He reached inside his cloak, drew out a small object and, holding it towards her, moved his free hand, weaving his fingers in a strange pattern, whilst reciting some sort of chant. When he came to the end, he smiled, and bowed as if expecting applause, and Wilawen realised that, try as she might, she could not move her feet.

“Come,” said the drow, “at the very least we must bathe you, and time is short.”

Then he gestured towards the street, and Wilawen had no choice but to step out into the crowd.




Contents page


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

Chapter 14

Next chapter: Confusions
Haldir and Shadow Eowyn grow closer; Legolas and Golradir find the Drow encampment; Arador has an idea.

chapter 16

More about the City of Spiders.


muindor nín ... 'my brother'.