DISCLAIMER: I do not propose to own any of J. R. R. Tolkien’s characters, nor any places or names that before appeared in his books. Other characters and places, however, are mine, and are copyright © of Me-Elf.
Night in Valinor
In Valinor the Elves were fighting viciously for their lives and their Alqualondë. Blood and the dead covered the walks and streets of the Seaside city. Statues had been knocked over, buildings, houses, and pillars had been destroyed. Fires burned where they had caught.
At the very moment Legolas had greeted his father so far away in Mirkwood, Alqualondë, shrouded in darkness, had been attacked by creatures not seen in beautiful Valinor for many centuries. They were hideous beings, snarling, killing, massacring the Elves of Valinor mercilessly.
Yardan’s armies had finally been able to drive the forces of Morgoth back. Orcs fled before the flashing blades of the Elven warriors; screaming they died before steel and were ground into the mud that their own feet had created with their trampling. Valinor had been marred and broken. The Undying Lands faced their death throes, and Yardan saw no hope.
Now, camped just inside the circle of the great mountain range, the King sat with his knees drawn to his chest, his head between them. Many Elves had died, including Elgil, Yardan’s faithful servant who had given his life to protect his king.
He had not heard from Rayn for two months. He knew that a journey like hers could take many more weeks, but he could not help but think that she would never return, and it saddened his heart.
They had not had any sightings of Orcs for two days. Many wondered if the bands that had been marauding would return, or if they had moved on to other cities. As a precaution Yardan had sent messengers to Avathar to warn the Elves there of the danger. He had nothing more to do. So he slept, wandering on his dream-paths, paths that led him to memories of his daughter and the Elf that had come and torn her away from him. Rayn had been smitten with him, Yardan could tell. Her mother had always told her that Rayn’s own would come to her from the Sea. He never thought it to be true. Yardan distrusted Legolas, thinking that he had only come to destroy Rayn, to get her killed in a land not her own. He knew he was being irrational, but he didn’t care. He missed his daughter, the half-queen of Yardan. Nay, Pher-Bereth of all Alqualondë.
His senses came to him. A scent, a sound. Yardan’s head snapped up and his Elvish eyes strained into the dark around him. Foliage blocked his veiw, he could see nothing, so he listened.
Allowing his head to fall back onto his knees he sat vigilant, hearing, smelling, feeling. A scream in the distance rent the air. He looked at the faces of the sleeping Elves around him. They seemed unconcerned.
Zzzztsssssing! A hiss of flying metal grazed the King’s ear and across from him an Elf groaned, an arrow in his side.
Yardan whirled to face his attacker. He drew his sword and prepared to defend himself, calling to the other Elves. None of them moved and Yardan realized they were all dead, pierced by the filthy black blades of the Orcs.
Another hiss, and this found its mark. An arrow buried itself in Yardan’s heart, causeing the King to fall to the ground; unfeeling, unseeing. Grunts and snorts from around the small, shadowed clearing made known the victory, for no Elf remained alive. Alqualondë had no king, and as far as the Orcs knew, it had no heir.
§ § §
Dragged into the deep stone beneath the ground, Rayn began to feel panicked, squashed, at a loss of breath for the air around her was stale. Rest had been tied outside with a guard set around him, and now Rayn was alone in the halls of the Dwarves. She felt like a jewel among granite, an eagle among sparrows, and yet she was helpless.
The company of Dwarves dragged her deeper and deeper until they reached another door. Sounds of laughter and merrimaking sounded from within, but it was rough, as coarse as the stone around her. Dwarven merrimaking.
The door burst open at the shove of her foremost captor, and Rayn was dragged into a great hall. The first thing she noticed was that it was dark, even darker than outside. Torches were set up around the great room, but the light was different from the candles she was used to. Rayn gasped at the finery she saw about her. Jewels and precious metals adorned the walls, goblets and plates of fine gold and silver were being filled and used.
Upon a great throne sat the Lord of this Deep, the throne was made of iron, inlaid with mithril.
The Lord of the hall sat among his people, eating and drinking and laughing with the rest. Above his head Rayn noticed a plaque of sorts, silver, ornate and skillfully wrought. Upon this plaque in an intricate patern were three strands of gold, or so it appeared to Rayn. These strands glimmered with an Elvish beauty, not the crude beauty of the Dwarves that they were surrounded by. She was puzzled by this, but had not the time to wonder for long as she noticed that the hall had grown quiet.
She was lifted bodily and thrown upon the table like an animal from the hunt. Looking up, she found herself staring into the hard, deep eyes of the Dwarf-Lord, his hair and beard graying, his hands old and rough from years in the forge, and other years of battle.
His voice was cold and steely as he spoke to her captors.
“How dare you trap an Elf in this manner? Two Elves I have looked upon in any closeness and neither were worthy of such treatment, nay, the opposite! Untie her!”
The Dwarves were quick to obey and soon Rayn was free from the ropes and nets that had bound her, biting into her skin. She rose and stood upon the table, all of the Dwarves around her looked up at her, tall as she was. The Dwarf before her spoke again.
“Now, lady of the fair-folk, who are you and what brings you to us?” said he.
“My name is Rayn, I am trying to return to my home in Valinor to warn my father of the growing evil. I traveled to Mirkwood in company of two Elves and a Maia. One of these Elves is my kin, the other is of Mirkwood itself. He was a prince there.”
At her last statement the Dwarves began to chatter to each other in hushed tones while the one on the throne sat silent, pondering her words.
“A prince?” he finally said. At the sound of his voice the hall again grew quiet.
“Yes, sir,” Rayn replied.
“What was his name?”
Rayn did not answer for a moment. The whole hall seemed quiet, sucking its breath in, anticipating her reply with fear and held-back excitement prepared for her reply.
“His name is…” she began. The Dwarf-lord’s eyes gazed at hers, solemn and anxious.
“Legolas,” she finished.
The entire room flew into chaos. Dwarves everywhere began talking, and the talking became shouting, and soon the entire room was roaring louder than the Sea ever had. Suddenly the King-Dwarf stood upon the table and cried with all his might:
“SILENCE! Let me speak!”
All the Dwarves stopped again, mid-sentence.
“Legolas Greenleaf, long under tree?” the Dwarf asked.
“Y-yes,” Rayn answered. She could not understand why she was so afraid of these people.
The Dwarf before her began to laugh so hard and so loud Rayn thought he would die from the effort.
“Legolas! Legolas has returned!” he cried between guffaws. When he had composed himself he addressed Rayn.
“Welcome to the Glittering Caves, Lady Rayn. The glorious realm of I, Gimli son of Glóin!”