Arwen had not taken a single rest since she had left Rivendell, and she could not afford to take one now. Her horse, through at the last limits of its endurance, strove valiantly on towards its destination, never lessening its breakneck speed. Arwen had passed the crossroads many leagues ago; she could not reverse her decision. Either she had made the right choice, or she hadn’t, and Middle-earth would fall. On and on she rode, ignoring the twigs and branches that lashed her face as she entered the northernmost border of Mirkwood. Straight as the flight of an arrow she rode, towards the Shadow Mountain and the fate of Middle-Earth.
* * *
Dayarvon burst into the chamber and felt as if he had just entered a scene from a nightmare. Kalavai lay, limp and unconscious, on a jagged and barbed alter that reeked of blood and death. It was made of the same warped stone that the mind-controlling amulet had been of. Mordraug stood above her, arms raised above his head, thin fingers grasping the bone knife that he had formed from the shard of Anaclagon’s fang, a leering smile on his twisted face. Then, before Dayarvon could move, Mordraug brought the knife flashing down to bury it in Kalavai’s stomach.
“No!” he screamed, and lunged forward, swinging his sword in a vicious arch. Mordraug blocked his attack with his knife, and at the same time plunged a dagger into Dayarvon’s shoulder. Dayarvon ignored the pain and swept his sword around and then back to slash at Mordraug’s leg. The corrupted elf stumbled backwards against the cave wall, and before he could move, Dayarvon’s sword was at his heaving chest.
Contemptuously, Dayarvon yanked the dagger out of his shoulder, snapped it with his free hand and flung the two halves into Mordraug’s face. “You are no longer an elf. You corrupted Elrohir, corrupted Haldir, you killed my mother, you almost killed me, and now you have slain the one I loved.” Slowly Dayarvon drew back his sword, as if to let Mordraug go.
Mordraug’s hand crept to a sword he had hidden in a small crevice in the wall to his left. A little more- there, he had it! Mordraug whipped his sword around and sprung up, expecting to see a look of horrified surprise on Dayarvon’s face. The merciless, half amused smile that met his eyes unnerved Mordraug and he brought up his sword, preparing to strike.
“Yes, that’s it, get your sword up. I do not care for killing the defenses, unlike you.” Dayarvon’s eyes were cold. In a motion almost too quick to follow, Dayarvon lashed his sword down then up, cleanly slicing off Mordraug’s blade at the hilt. The useless piece of metal fell to the ground. “Then again,” Dayarvon said quietly, bringing his face close to Mordraug’s, “this time I shall make an exception.” In one clean stroke, Dayarvon plunged his sword into Mordraug’s heart. The blade went all the way through to bury itself in the rock wall.
Dayarvon wavered where he stood, then stumbled over to Kalavai. Blood flowed out of the horrid wound in her stomach, and her face was deathly pale. Dayarvon felt her neck; it had a pulse, but the pulse was weak. Kalavai was slipping away from him and there was nothing he could do.
“I’m sorry” he whispered. The poison finally took hold of him and he collapsed on the ground. Blood seeped sluggishly out of his own wounds, and with it went his strength. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered again, then embraced the darkness that had come for him.
Arwen had entered the chamber to find Haldir sitting, shocked, on the blood soaked ground. For one horrified moment, Arwen saw the limp, bloodied bodies of Kalavai and Dayarvon, and feared that she was too late. Then the faint sound of a rattling breath reached her ears, and she ran over to them and leaned over Kalavai, shuddering at the sight of the wicked wound the knife had made in her stomach. Kalavai still lived, but barely, and Dayarvon was in little better of a state. She turned around to face Haldir, who was still sitting paralyzed on the floor.
“Get me some hot water, hurry!” she ordered. “They will not last much longer.” Then she set to work, calling on the elven powers gifted to her and the medicinal teachings of her father, Lord Elrond. She turned back around to find Dayarvon staring pleadingly at her. The poison flowed strongly in his veins, but even through the haze that surrounded his mind he recognized Arwen.
“Lady Evenstar!” he rasped, fighting the blackness threatening to overwhelm him for a final time. “Please, help Kalavai! Save her, please!” Then his strength wore out and he lapsed back into unconsciousness. But even in his unconscious state Dayarvon could not be rid of the clinging grasp of despair.
Haldir returned with a large bowl of warm, clear water, and Arwen did not stop to ask where he had gotten it from. Rolling up her sleeves, the Lady Arwen set to work.
The battle for their lives was not easy. More than once, Arwen had to supplement them with her own life force to keep them from slipping away. Haldir did what he could, but he had little strength and none of the healing powers or training Arwen had. Long into the night and into the morning of the next day Arwen struggled, but eventually it was over. They would be weak for several days, during which they would both probably sleep, but they would live. She turned to Haldir. “My horse is waiting outside. It can carry both of them, but we will have to walk,” she told him.
“Actually, my Lady, we will not. Mordraug stole several fine elven steeds, and I know the location of the stable they are in. If my Lady would give me but two moments, I would be happy to fetch horses for us,” Haldir said, respect evident in his voice. He had been greatly awed by Arwen’s ability to heal both Kalavai and Dayarvon when they were on the brink of death.
“Call me Arwen, please,” she laughed. “And yes, I would be very grateful if you could find us mounts. But please do hurry, I wish to get to Mirkwood as soon as possible.” Haldir bowed and left. Indeed, he thought, the sooner we arrive at Mirkwood the better.
He walked back out into the Chamber and froze in surprise. Standing protectively over the limp Lakaríön was a golden, draconic figure. Shocked out of the ability to move, Haldir watched the serpentine head turn gracefully towards him. The creature’s entrancing emerald gaze caught Haldir, and he heard a lovely voice inside his head.
“Greetings, elf-kin. I am Yamyrri.”
* * *
Needless to say, there had been some commotion over the arrival of Lakaríön and Yamyrri, who refused to leave the dragon’s side for a moment. Through her care, Lakaríön had recovered quickly and as soon as he had recovered he and Yamyrri had gone back to Yamyrri’s island, with a promise to keep in touch. But with all of the confusion, there had been little time for a reunion of friends, and now that there was time Dayarvon was nervous about seeing Kalavai again. He, Kalavai, Legolas and Ianithiel rode down one of the shady paths of Mirkwood, heading towards the new Archery field. They rode in silence; one Dayarvon was reluctant to break. He still had not told Kalavai what he was, for he had not had a chance, but now that he had one it was so hard to find the words . . .
Dayarvon gulped against the large lump forming all too quickly in his throat. He turned towards Kalavai. She had been staying with Ianithiel, Arwen and Eleinathar since he had killed Mordraug and Arwen and Haldir had taken them back to the Elven kingdom a week ago. Dayarvon could hardly tell that it had been burnt down; the trees, with coaxing from the elves, had grown back and the lost buildings had been replaced. Even his own home had been rebuilt. The only signs were the occasional patches of burnt and dead grass that could be found scattered around.
“Um . . . Kalavai?” he asked nervously, his voice cracking with the strain of speaking. But he had to tell her now, if he waited he might lose what little courage he had. “Can I talk to you for a moment? Alone?”
Ianithiel wisely exited the scene, clearing her throat as she did so. She then returned to elbow Legolas in the ribs; he had apparently not gotten or ignored the hint. As she dragged him away, Dayarvon could have sworn he heard her hiss under her breath, “Idiot.”
“Hmm? What is it, Dayarvon?” Kalavai asked, stopping Roan to glance over her shoulder at him.
“Umm . . . well . . . It’s . . .” He sighed. How could he ever tell her what he really was?
“Yes?” she asked. Kalavai had tethered Roan to a nearby tree and was staring at Dayarvon, face blank.
” It’s just . . .” Dayarvon turned away. He knew it was cowardly, but he couldn’t face Kalavai, the only one he had every loved, and scatter all of his dreams to the Winds of the Great Eagles by telling her what he was. He just couldn’t. “You- you should know what I really am.”
“And what are you, Dayarvon?” Kalavai’s voice was unreadable.
“A . . .”” his voice cracked again as he choked on the words. ” I’m a . . . a murderer.” The words came as easy as the tears flowing down his face after that first utterance. ” I’m so sorry! I know that I should’ve told you before, but . . . I love you, Kalavai, and-” The sound of clinking metal made Dayarvon stop in mid-sentence and whirl around.
Kalavai had untied Roan and was mounting him. Dayarvon stared at her in numb shock, unable to move. Then, without a word, she rode off. Tears streaming down his face, Dayarvon gazed after, not making a move to try and stop her. He’d known this would happen, and yet still he had dared to hope. Desperately, he tried to memorize her, engraving in his mind her swinging hair, its golden length tied back three fourths of the way down, her thin lithe figure, the butterflies swirling in a graceful rainbow around her-
Butterflies, Dayarvon realized numbly. When his mother had been alive, she had always said that butterflies were a symbol of forgiveness. The tears rushed down his face even faster as Dayarvon realized with growing despair how ironic it was that his last memory of Kalavai would be with her riding off, surrounded by a whirling cloud of glistening butterflies.
* * *
Kalavai sat, huddled into a little ball on her bed in Ianithiel’s house. Dayarvon, she thought Dayarvon is a murderer. He killed Elrohir. Haldir was right. Why didn’t he tell me? Why? She was so wrapped up in her own misery that she didn’t notice Arwen was there until she spoke.
“Kalavai, why do you cry?” the Lady Evenstar asked gently. She had taken an almost motherly liking to this lonely girl.
“Dayarvon . . . told me th- that . . . he was a murderer. Haldir told me when I was caught by Mordraug, but- but . . . why? Why didn’t Dayarvon tell me?”
“Maybe he was afraid to,” Arwen said gently. “He loves you Kalavai, you know that. After he fought Mordraug, when he was near death because of poison and many grievous wounds, do you know what he said to me?” Kalavai shook her head, no one had told her much about the actual battle and the aftermath. “He said, `Help Kalavai, please! Save her, please!’ He did not care if he died or not, as long as you lived. I have some mental abilities, and I could hear what he had not the strength to say. He was afraid to tell you because he thought you would hate him for it. Did he murder Elrohir, yes. But do you know what, Kalavai? Elrohir was corrupted from Mordraug. My father found in his chamber just three days ago an amulet like the one Mordraug used to control Haldir.”
“Oh . . .” Kalavai said faintly. So that’s why he had always been so quiet, why when she had stayed over there he had always been staring at her. It all made sense now.
“Do you love him, Kalavai?” Arwen asked.
Kalavai paused. She had never thought she could love anyone, how could she, growing up with a family that hated her? But, Dayarvon . . . Dayarvon loved her, respected her, and had always been nice to her. . . “Do I love him? Yes,” she said, “yes, I do. . . Arwen, please excuse me. I have something to do.”
Arwen smiled, watching the girl go. She knew what first love felt like; she had felt it when she first met Aragorn. All would turn out well, she had made the right choice, and so had Kalavai.
* * *
Dayarvon sat on his bed, head in hands, drowning in his despair and self loathing. Ryvrien whined and nudged his leg, but Dayarvon ignored him. His spirit was shattered, and he could care for nothing anymore. I made her go. She hates me. Kalavai hates me. Hates me. I’ll never see her again . . . A soft footstep sounded at the door, but Dayarvon did not care. Nothing mattered anymore, not without Kalavai.
“Dayarvon?” the voice was hesitant, but it startled Dayarvon out of his misery. Kalavai stood in the doorway.
“K-Kalavai?” He stood. Dare he hope?
Tears glittered in her eyes and she rushed over to Dayarvon and hugged him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder. “Oh, Dayarvon, I’m so sorry! Please, forgive me, I don’t hate you. Dayarvon, I love you! Please, don’t hate me!”
“Kalavai . . .” Dayarvon wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. “Oh, Kalavai, I don’t hate you! Don’t ever think that I hate you! Not ever!”
For a moment they stood, holding each other. Then Dayarvon raised Kalavai’s head with a finger and kissed her. And at that moment, both the Exile and the Forgotten One knew; they had finally found where they belonged. And far, far away, across the ocean, Lakaríön and Yamyrri flew their own courtship dance in the perfect blue sky; his One had found her love as had he, and they would never be lonely again . . .
* * *
Deep within the wilderness of the Ered Mithrin, a lone figure snarled at the shadowy blood-red palantír he had been staring in. It lifted the palantír as if to throw it to the ground, then paused for a moment, and set the palantír gently to the ground. Even caught in the fires of rage, he would not risk harm to the palantír, it was too important of an object.
So instead the figure paced angrily, shadowed face contorted into a mask of fury. Its thick black cloak swirled around the figure as it growled furiously at itself. Mordraug had failed, that cursed One had lived and found her mate, the thrice-cursed Dayarvon, and as if that wasn’t enough, the dragon had come out of no where, defeated Anaclagon, and managed to find Yamyrri, who had eluded him . . . Yamyrri!
Of course! She had thought he was dead, hadn’t she? And the stupid beast had assured everyone else that, as well, and had not bothered to reveal his name . . . Now that had promise. Through Yamyrri, he could strike at all of his enemies at once. Of course, he could not use his true name; it would be too dangerous. But if Yamyrri, the stupid beast, had not bothered to tell anyone his name, then he would use it. Again he would be Nvakhor of the Dark Arts. Now, all he had to do was collect a few favors . . .
Stowing the palantír away in some hidden pocket in his cloak, Nvakhor strode purposefully away into the black night. He had no fear of leaving his territory; very few creatures in the Grey Mountains were stupid enough to attack him and his magic was more than sufficient to deal with those. And so on he strode, heading for Darkblood Mountain, the home of the Vampires.