Legolas and his company continued over the wide flatland between the Mountains of Terror and old Angband for seven days. The darkness had grown more hideous and pressing, and their only sense of direction came from the red light of flame that spewed in showers of sparks from the circle of black mountains that served as the fortress walls of Morgoth’s palace. If it had not been for that awful beacon, the army might have marched in circles and never known it. At last Angband was at the back of the company, and as they rounded the last of the great peaks of the Mountains of Terror, an icy blast of wind hit them, nearly knocking even the horses to the ground. Struggling against the tumult, Legolas opened his eyes and looked his first upon the wide, forboding, ice-desert of Helcaraxë. Except for the ice, it would have been sufficient to call it only ‘hell’.
It was a wasted expanse of snow and crystal. Howling winds whipped across the jagged peaks and deep drifts, flinging snow for miles around.
Legolas had never known cold. Elves had no feel of anything but warmth and strength. Love, joy, their world was painless, for the most part. But this cold, biting, stinging, snow-blowing ice-desert had a cold driven by the Powers themselves, cold that penetrated nerveless Elven skin and snow that stung their eyes with its force.
And they must cross it.
The Army was unaffected, they were neither living nor dead, and the Grinding Ice took not its toll on them. The company had not been prepared for cold. Legolas searched his mind as far back as he could remember, but he could not recall a time when he had ever needed the warmth of the thick leather coats of men. How he wished for one now.
“We cannot go back,” said Aer. “There is not time.”
“We could build boats for ourselves and the Army could walk under the Sea,” said Balved, teeth clacking together in a most unusual manner.
“There is still not time. And we must come to Aman from due East, even a little south would ruin us. The Sea, as it is, is deep, and would take the Army much time to traverse the bottom of it and they would arrive many days after we had reached the opposite shore,” Aer explained.
“They could swim,” said Balved, his arms tightly folded across his chest.
“No time,” said Aer once again. “We must cross this.”
§ § §
“Gimli? I have heard nothing of you,” said Rayn looking down at the Dwarf in the throne before her.
“Legolas and I were part of the Fellowship of Nine during the War of the Rings when Sauron was overthrown forevermore. It was rough between us, but when we came upon Lorien, and the Queen thereof, my separation from Elves ended, and I accquired these.”
The Dwarf gestured to the golden threads above his head.
“Three hairs from the head of the Lady of the Golden Wood. They are an heirloom to be passed down in my house.
“As I said before, though, Legolas and I became friends and when he told me he was to depart for the Undying Lands, I felt I could not, as I had hoped, make the journey with him. My kingdom needed me, as did my family, so I stayed behind. But no more of me, what is your business so near Helm’s Deep?”
“I was traveling with Legolas and an army of massive size to Mirkwood to warn King Thranduil of the impending danger, for indeed it seems as though any day the earth might come tumbling in about our heads. We were commanded to make haste for the North of Valinor, I was to sail across the Sea and, with an army of Elves, approach Aman from the south, while Legolas with his army would attack from the east. Then I was captured, and brought here with Rest, my horse.”
There was silence in the Hall for some time. Gimli thought, grumbling unintelligible words to himself over and over.
“Do you need an army?” he said finally.
“We need all strength we can muster to defeat the Evil One,” Rayn said.
“Then we shall go with you,” said Gimli, gesturing to the Dwarves about him.
“The Weeper said that there are no boats left on the shore, those that we had were taken by our Admiral, Erindor, and he sailed West, homeward,” said Rayn, the real hopelessness of her situation overtaking her, calling tears to her eyes.
“Erindor, you say?” said Gimli.
Rayn nodded, looking down.
Gimli raised his bushy eyebrows and nodded slowly in the direction of a Dwarf near a door.
“Do not weep, Rayn, for the Powers smile upon you,” he said.
Rayn looked up, and outside the hall rose the sound of shouting and the clanging of chains. Rayn looked up toward the door and through it an Elf, tall and filthy with blood and grime, was forced through and thrown onto the ground. He scrambled to his feet and was quickly thrown down again. A Dwarf behind him raised a leather whip to strike on the bare back of the Elf.
“Do not!” cried Rayn, jumping over a Dwarf in her haste to get off the table. “Leave him alone!”
She went to the sorry looking Elf and touched his shoulder.
“Erindor,” she said. “What happened?”
“They attacked us, all of us with such fury that we could not retaliate. We were captured and dragged here, but we would say nothing of what our pupose was, so they beat us and threw us in dungeons deep in the ground. It is horrid down there, Rayn, do not let them take me back!”
“I won’t,” said Rayn. “Did they leave the boats, Erindor?”
“Yes, they did not touch the ships.”
Rayn stood and addressed Gimli.
“If you will set my friends free, we will allow you to come with us to Valionor. Otherwise I shall do something which you will regret. I have not forgotten you dragged me here, too,” said Rayn.
“Any friend of Legolas is a friend of ours, and we are willing to make bargains with them. But what is this thing you would have done had we said no?”
Without speaking, Rayn snatched her sword from the Dwarf nearby that stood with it. She pulled it out of the scabbard and hefted the hilt deep into her palm. The blue light wrapped up her arm and into her body. The Dwarves gasped and backed away, afraid of this light in their dark places. only Gimli sat, rigid and unconcerned.
“I am the servant of Nienna, the Powers will prevail!” cried Rayn, turning and walking swiftly out of the room.
“Assemble the masses!” she cried, her voice echoing through the halls of the Caves. “We go to war!”