the elves prepare to defend themselves

Valandil inspected the fire trench one last time.

We must not burn ourselves to death, he thought, sprinkling the spirits, which Camthalion had found amongst the murdered humans, over the kindling, then touching his torch to the alcohol-soaked twigs.

The wood caught quickly, and an angry sheet of flame was soon rushing up the stone wall.

Valandil took his place in the line of archers, immediately in front of Wilawen and the child. Come soon, whoever you are, he thought. Come whilst my warriors are still fresh…

Come before the flames die down.

Half past ten

“Oh, gwendithen…” Legolas smiled affectionately at Hentmirë. “I cannot ask you to—”

You are not asking, Legolas,” said the little woman, firmly, “I am telling: Gimli and I will not let you go alone.” She turned to the still slightly dazed dwarf for confirmation. “Will we, Gimli?”

The dwarf shook his head.

“Can you swim?” asked Legolas.

“Like a fish,” replied Hentmirë. “Well, really more like a cork, but I will manage.”

“No. No, it is too dangerous, gwendithen.”

“Only if you think about it,” said Hentmirë, firmly. “But I have found that if you do not think, and just do a thing, the danger seems to disappear.”

Legolas smiled. “And you will follow me, anyway.”

“We both will,” said Gimli. He knocked back the remainder of his ale and slammed his tankard down with a flourish.

The elf conceded defeat. “I want to be at The Aelvorn by dawn,” he said, “which means we will leave here before three. We cannot take much with us—and nothing that will weigh us down—Gimli, I think you must leave your armour behind—”

“But, surely,” said Hentmirë, “we need to sink to the bottom?”

“What makes you say that, gwendithen?”

“The djinn said that Eowyn was beyond the water… Does that not mean past the bottom?”

“I have no idea, gwendithen. I will simply jump in and hope that whatever currents swept her away will take me in the same direction.”

Lord Fingolfin’s chambers

“I do apologise, my lord,” said Legolas, “for disturbing you at this hour.”

Fingolfin waved the apology aside. “I was not resting,” he said. “Berryn and I are searching for information about The Aelvorn.”

“I thought you would be.”

“Come in.”

Fingolfin’s chambers—little more than an enormous study—were normally kept very tidy but, tonight, they looked as though a whirlwind had ripped through them, knocking books and papers from the shelves and throwing them into a rough circle on the floor. Legolas nodded to the young man sitting at the centre of the chaos.

“I am so sorry, my lord,” said Berryn. “If I had taken better care of Lady Eowyn—”

Legolas held up his hand. “You carry no blame, Berryn,” he said. “I know that Eowyn persuaded you to take her there, and I am sure that whatever happened to her,”—he smiled sadly—“will have been the result of her own curiosity.” He gestured towards the papers. “I plan to enter The Aelvorn in a few hours. Have you found out anything that might assist me?”

Fingolfin and Berryn exchanged glances. “We have, my lord,” said the man. “But we do not know whether we can believe it.”

“So you are saying that the crack definitely exists?” said Legolas.

“Yes, my lord.” Berryn spread out one of his maps. “It starts here, just north of Emyn Arnen, and runs along here as series of caves. It virtually disappears here…” He traced his finger south west, in a great curve. “But then it slices through the Divor Rocks, runs along the edge of the Doro Lanthron hills, disappears again until it crosses The Aelvorn, and ends about here.” He pointed to an area some fifty miles to the south.

“And are all of those places associated with the legend?”

“We do not know,” said Fingolfin. “The people of the various regions have different attitudes—some faithfully record such stories, others dismiss them as mere superstition.”

“How do I pass through?” asked Legolas. “Assuming that the stories are at least partially true, what do I have to do to cross from this Middle-earth to the other?”

“In every account I have read,” said Fingolfin, “the protagonist has fallen into the water by accident.”

Legolas sighed. “Then that is what I must do… Somehow.”

21st day of Cerveth
One o’clock in the morning

At first, Valandil thought he was seeing smoke—one thin column of black smoke rising behind the wall of fire, and then another, and another, and then too many to count. And, quickly, each column broadened, and grew arms and legs, and a shock of white hair, and, worst of all, a pair of fire-coal red eyes…

“Shoot!” cried Valandil.

His archers responded, but the volley passed harmlessly through the wraiths, who were still too insubstantial to feel its sting.

“Hold!” shouted Valandil, raising his hand and waiting until the creatures seemed more solid, then, “SHOOT! SHOOT NOW! SHOOT AT WILL!”

Some of the invaders, shocked by the fire and by the rain of arrows, immediately slipped back into the rock—though one failed, screaming piteously when his head and arm remained trapped outside; Valandil loosed an arrow, and put him out of his misery.

Others howled, and writhed in agony, caught in the denser patches of flame; they were easy targets.

But many—too many—passed through the fire unharmed and advanced on the elves in a solid line, simultaneously raising their small hand-crossbows.

“We cannot pierce their armour,” cried Camthalion.

“Aim for the head and the hands!” shouted Valandil, and another volley of elven arrows whistled across the divide, dropping three of the invading warriors, and slowing the rest.

“Again!” cried Valandil.

But the enemy had suddenly been enveloped in a strange cloud of darkness, and only the click of mechanical triggers warned the elves that their foes had shot their poisoned darts.

“Agh!” Camthalion pulled a quarrel from his shoulder and threw it to the ground. “Numb…” he gasped, and slumped to his knees.

To the right and the left, Valandil saw other warriors fall. “Stop those crossbows,” he roared. And his elves shot blindly into the dark.

“Camthalion is alive,” cried Wilawen. “It is a drug, not a poison!”

Of course, thought the elf, they like to use swords for the kill. “Keep them back!” he ordered. “Send them back into the flames!”

His archers shot faster, falling into a rapid rhythm that seemed to be holding the unseen invaders at bay and, here and there, holes appeared in the unnatural darkness.

But on the right flank, where the elves had taken most casualties, one dark warrior suddenly seized command, calling out orders—or threats—in a strange, guttural language, and several soldiers emerged from the cloud, swords drawn, and charged the elven line.

“Do not let them lure you away,” shouted Valandil, “stay in position—protect the civilians!”

The elven line drew back, forcing the invaders to come to them, and—though the elves lacked their enemies’ extraordinary armour—their superior size seemed to be carrying the sword fight. Meanwhile, elven archers to the left and centre were opening up more and more holes in the strange darkness.

Valandil started to feel confident…

Then a wail of terror pierced the air behind him, and the child broke free and ran, screaming, towards the enemy, and Wilawen—his astonishing Wilawen—ducked beneath his arm, and followed her.

“No, meleth nín,” he cried, “no!

Something thudded against his chest. And, suddenly, his arms and legs would no longer obey him and—as his head drooped—he noticed a tiny crossbow bolt embedded in his jerkin.

It can only be a scratch

He sank to the ground.

And through rapidly clouding eyes he saw—as if in dumb-show—one of the warriors raise his sword to strike Wilawen—another rush forward, knock his comrade away, and help her to her feet—and then another push her protector aside and drag her, by the hair, into the last shred of darkness…

Two o’clock

Haldir could smell burning.

He reined in his horse and fell back to where the Captain of the Night Watch was hurrying the cart drivers along the bumpy trail. “How many men can you spare me?” he asked.



“Leave me five—and I will need a guide.”

Haldir placed his hand on his heart and bowed his head. “Thank you. Rumil will stay with you. Good luck, Captain.”

Moments later the March Warden was galloping down the trail towards Eryn Laeg, followed by Orophin, ten Night Watchmen, and the Reeve’s son, bringing up the rear on his feisty little pony.

Half past two
Eryn Carantaur

“One last thing, my lords,” said Legolas, pausing with his hand on Arod’s back. “Eowyn and I promised Haldir that we would watch over Cyllien whilst he was away…”

“Leave it with me, my lord,” said Caranthir.

“I do not believe I have ever told you—either of you,” said Legolas, turning back to his counsellors, “how much I value your friendship and rely on your advice—the entire colony relies on you.” He held out his hand to Fingolfin, human-fashion. “If I should not return—”

“Of course you will return,” said Caranthir.

“I will certainly do my utmost,” said Legolas. “But should it not prove possible, my Lords, I will at least know that the future of Eryn Carantaur is safe.” He shook Caranthir’s hand. “Oh—” he smiled, drawing a sealed parchment from inside his jerkin, “one final thing! This is for my father; it explains what I am doing. If you would—”

“It will go by messenger immediately, my Lord,” said Caranthir. “Take care; and bring her back to us.”

“I shall do my best, my Lord.” Legolas swung himself up onto Arod’s back. “Ready?” he asked.

Gimli, already mounted behind him, grunted; Hentmirë, on her stout little pony, nodded; and Berryn, on one of Caranthir’s mares, replied, “Yes, my Lord.”

“Then let us go.” And, with a final salute to Lord Fingolfin and Lord Caranthir, Legolas led his three companions out of the city.

Haldir stared at the elves lying at the centre of the stone alcove. “Valandil? Camthalion? Dead?

“No!” Dínendal quickly assured him, “no, just drugged. We have no fatalities, a few sword wounds, but they—”

“Thank the Valar!”

“I have no idea how long Valandil will sleep,” said the healer, “and he does not know—”

“The boy says it lasts twelve hours.”

“Twelve hours on me,” called Arador, “it may be different for an elf.” He was kneeling beside one of the fallen enemy. “Come and look, sir!”

Haldir shot Dínendal an exasperated glance. “How many of them did we kill?” he asked, joining the boy.

“Seven,” said Dínendal, “—if you count the one caught in the stone—but they have taken—”

“Just look,” cried Arador, pulling back the cloak covering the creature’s head.

Haldir looked, expecting to see a monster. But the face was extraordinarily handsome, with delicate, angular features, ebony-black skin and sharply pointed ears. “Valar,” he said, “he is an elf!”

“Of a sort,” agreed the boy. “A dark elf. They call themselves ‘drow’, apparently.” He replaced the cloak. “Their women are said to be even more beautiful, and much deadlier than the men. They kill their own husbands—like female spiders!”

Haldir suddenly scanned the stone alcove. “Dínendal,” he said, “where is Wilawen?”

Half past five
The Aelvorn

Legolas stared at the circle of black water, shining like a mirror, with its strange stone lip and its empty grass verge. “It is as though the Forest is afraid to get too close to it...” He dropped from Arod and walked to the edge of the rocky funnel. “Where was she standing when you last saw her?” he asked.

“About where you are, my lord,” said Berryn, dismounting.

Legolas crouched and lightly brushed his hand over the grass. “Nothing…”

“My back was turned,” said Berryn. “So she may have gone closer without my knowing—she may have gone onto the rock itself.”

The elf stepped over the lip and into the funnel.

“Do be careful, my dear,” said Hentmirë coming up behind him, “it does not look safe.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Legolas chuckled. “We are here to throw ourselves into the water, gwendithen,” he said, over his shoulder. “So I do not think I need to be—”

His expression suddenly changed as the stones shifted beneath him and, instinctively, he threw up both arms to maintain his balance.

And Hentmirë, just as instinctively, lunged for him, losing her own footing and tumbling both of them down the rocky slope and into the waiting waters...

Gimli blinked.

He could have sworn that the lake, like a living thing, had reached up to catch his two friends, and that—although they had broken its surface without a sound—the inky splash, like a great hand, had then seized the helpless Berryn, and dragged him down after them.

The dwarf blinked again.

All three. Taken.

With a furious roar he threw himself from Arod’s back, drew his axe, and charged down the stone funnel, launching himself into the black pit.

The water was thick, and so silent that Gimli could hear his own heartbeat.

He felt the lake twitch around him, then heave and heave again, as though trying to cough him from its throat.

But the dwarf was having none of that.

Stunning the gullet with a swing of his axe, he rolled onto his belly and stretched himself full length, kicking his powerful legs to propel himself downwards. Faster and faster he went, following his outstretched axe, deeper and deeper, shuddering when a corpse-like face—Legolas!—briefly loomed before him as he shot towards a pale saucer of light.




He closed his eyes.

And suddenly he was no longer under water but crawling upon dry land, coughing and spluttering, and gasping for air.




Contents page


Previous chapter: The Aelvorn
Fingolfin explains his theory; Legolas follows a fugitive.

Chapter 6

Next chapter: Double Trouble
Legolas and Eowyn are reunited. Shadow Legolas lays down some rules; his messenger has two strange encounters.

Chapter 8

If you don't recognise the crossover
See here for some background information about 'the dark people'.


Divor is my attempt to translate ‘Underdark’ into Elvish.