Lakaríön leapt into the air, strong wings carrying him above the island’s mountains. He would have stayed longer with Yamyrri, for he enjoyed her company, but the inner pull that had woken him from his sleep had grown stronger, almost too strong for Lakaríön to bear. Faster and faster his wing strokes became, already Yamyrri and her island were out of sight. Lakaríön felt a brief wave of sorrow, but it was immediately overwhelmed by a spiritual yank on the cord that bound him to the one he was searching for.
She was in danger. For a blinding instant her pain overwhelmed him, Lakaríön’s wings faltered and he began to plummet to the blinding blue expanse below. At the last moment, he remembered that the pain was not his own, that he had to get to her, save her from her pain and his wings snapped out, catching a rushing updraft. Lakaríön increased his speed, pushing himself to the limit. He flew flat out, following the link that connected him to her. With a dreadful certainty buried in his heart, Lakaríön knew that if he did not reach her soon, she would die and the new world and everyone inside it, including Yamyrri, would perish.
A tiny smudge on the horizon caught Lakaríön’s attention, land. Forcing himself to go even faster, Lakaríön altered his flight towards the dark smudge. She was somewhere over there, he knew it. If only I can get there in time . . . he thought desperately. I must get there in time . . .
* * *
Mordraug approached Kalavai’s cell, swirling his dark cape around him as he descended the stairs. It was time. Mordraug nodded at the two Dark Elves who stood at attention at the entrance to Kalavai’s cell. The guards moved aside and Mordraug laid a single finger in the face of the heavy, complicated lock. A tiny stream of the gray-green light of his magic flowed into the lock and twisted around it like a serpent. Then with a barely audible click the lock undid itself and Mordraug flung the door open.
Flinging his hand upward, Mordraug threw into the air burst of his magic, illuminating the dark cell with the sickly gray-green light. Mordraug’s shadowy eyes flickered around the barren chamber, searching for his prey. Then his eyes lit on Kalavai’s frail form huddled in a corner.
As he walked towards her, Kalavai raised her thin arms as if to ward him off. She had never recovered quite from the abuse she had received from Lady Siddan and Lord Garrick, and her condition had only worsened in Mordraug’s care. The many scars across her back had been joined by various welts inflicted upon her for Mordraug’s twisted enjoyments and those of his Dark Elves. Bruises of varying degrees of severity covered her arms, legs, face, and chest. Mordraug thought amusedly that she looked rather like one of the grotesque sculptures he kept in his personal chambers. With the back of his hand Mordraug slapped away her frail arms then whipped his hand back around to strike her across her face. “Get up, wrench.” He ordered coldly.
Kalavai resisted the urge to wince. If she had the strength, she would have lunged up and strangled him with her bare hands, but as it was she hardly had enough strength to stand after the torments Mordraug and the Dark Elves had inflicted upon her. Hatred welled up in her for all that he and the Dark Elves, his servants, had done, and in her eyes flickered a dangerously flame like light. She could not take much more of this, Kalavai knew, before she went insane. The slash across her face burned as she found the strength to utter the word blazing in her mind. “No.”
Mordraug’s hand clenched into a fist and he let out an angry hiss. His shadowed eyes glowed more than there normal blood red and he raised an outspread hand in Kalavai’s direction. “You will not disobey me!” he snarled, and flung five magical bolts of his gray-green magic at Kalavai. They enveloped her, a net of writhing gray-green serpents forming an electrifying circle around her tortured body. Against her will Kalavai screamed.
Mordraug let the net of lightning he created play over Kalavai for a few more moments, then took back his power. Kalavai fell to the floor, unable to make a sound. Then he turned on his heel and strode out to the two Dark Elves waiting outside. “Bring her to the Chamber,” he ordered curtly, “in one piece.” The he left; he had to prepare for the sacrifice. It was time.
* * *
Haldir and Dayarvon struggled along the seemingly endless corridor, Dayarvon supporting Haldir despite his own gradually disappearing strength. The Lorien elf had regained some of his strength, but not enough to walk on his own. They had been walking for a while, and to pass the time had exchanged stories. At first, Dayarvon had been reluctant to talk to him since he was the one, who had taken Kalavai under orders of Mordraug and tortured her, but eventually Haldir’s honesty had convinced him and he had told Haldir a little of himself and why he had come to the Shadow Mountain.
“You really do love her, don’t you?” Haldir asked.
For a moment Dayarvon just kept walking, and Haldir thought he would not answer. Then, speaking so soft Haldir could hardly hear despite his excellent elven senses, Dayarvon responded. “Yes. I do. But she will hate me . . .”
“Why?” Haldir asked, his curiosity aroused. During the past half hour, this strange solitary elf had gained his respect.
Dayarvon answered Haldir with a question of his own. “Do you know the story of the elven murderer banished from Rivendell?”
“Why, yes. My Lady Galadriel is well acquainted with Rivendell through her family, so of course I know of the vile elf who murdered Prince Elrohir. But, what does that have to do with anything?”
“Because,” Dayarvon said bitterly, “I am that `vile’ elf.”
Haldir froze in shock. Dayarvon was the murderer of Elrohir?! “But- how is that possible?!”
“Possible?” Dayarvon laughed bitterly. “Oh, anything’s possible, Haldir. What did they tell you, the usual story? That Elrohir was trying to comfort me after my mother’s murder? That I said that I had not recognized him? That it was all an accident?”
“Well . . . yes,” Haldir said. He still could not believe that Dayarvon was the same elven murderer that had been banished from Rivendell.
“Part of that was right. I had not recognized him. Not even Lord Elrond would have recognized him . . .” Dayarvon’s face grew shadowed. “But it was no accident.”
“What- what do you mean no accident?!” Haldir stammered.
“I meant what I said, Haldir. I killed Elrohir on purpose. Yes, my father was killed in an orc raid, and yes my mother and I were captured by a human male and forced to become slaves. But I bet you didn’t know that this man and his slave enterprise were owned and managed by Elrohir.”
Dayarvon smiled grimly at Haldir’s startled gasp and continued. “Yes, Elrohir. One of Elrond’s beloved sons. For some reason which I could never figure out, Elrohir had some grudge against me and decided to take advantage of my father’s death to increase his profit. He got a lot of money by selling out my mother while she still lived.” Dayarvon’s voice was harsh, his face turned away from Haldir. “Elrohir told me all of this as he made me watch my mother die. He was going to kill me next, after sufficient torture of course, but I didn’t give him the chance.”
Dayarvon turned back to Haldir, who was leaning against the rough wall of the tunnel for support. “So, Haldir, now that you know the truth about me, do you not hate me as the others do?” he asked, his face unreadable.
Haldir thought for a moment, silent. He knew that the Lord and Lady would not allow Dayarvon to live in Mirkwood if he was a threat to their kingdom. Not only that, but Haldir had a touch of the magical gift and what he had told him Dayarvon was not lying. He considered everything for a moment more, and then said softly, “She will not hate you, Dayarvon.”
Dayarvon was taken aback by his response. “Wh-what?”
Haldir smiled up at him, mind made up. “You will see, my friend. But now, we must hurry.”
Dayarvon shoved Haldir’s odd response and the tiny hope that had been raised with it out of his mind and help Haldir up. “You are right my friend. Let us go.” And pray that we are not too late . . . he thought.
As they continued to follow the tunnel, a growing sense of urgency tugged at Dayarvon, telling to forget about the poison trying to slow him down. The tunnel seemed to grow narrower, the air thicker, and though Dayarvon knew that it couldn’t be true, it seemed to him that the very air was trying to slow him down. Unconsciously he increased his pace, Haldir shifting to match him. They both new that it was close. Then at once the tunnel ended with a final bend, and Dayarvon and Haldir walked into a scene that Dayarvon knew would haunt him for months to come.
They stood in a small depression surrounded by three solid stone and earth walls connected to a large oval shaped Chamber. The Chamber was massive, enclosed by curved walls made of a strange dark stone and behind that the normal dark gray rock of the Shadow Mountain. The vaulted ceiling was high and narrowed to a point, the Chamber was near the very top of Orod Gwathorod. At the far end of the Chamber was a raised section of stone, carved steps leading up to it. In the very center of this was a great carved stone throne, made of a glossy version of the stone that formed the walls, floor and ceiling of the Chamber. It was tall and spikes branched off its dark surface like limbs off a tree. It was a work of forward aggressiveness, brash confidence, unlike the elven thrones of slender yet study beauty. Behind the throne suspended by iron spikes on the wall hung a grotesque tapestry. It depicted a large, snarling black wolf, fangs red with blood, standing on a mountain peak in front of a blood red moon. And at the edge of this raised section, standing right above the stone steps, stood Mordraug. But it was not Mordraug who caught Dayarvon’s attention.
Two Dark Elves entered the Chamber, dragging behind them a limp Kalavai. A trail of sickly red blood dribbled down from her chin, leaving scarlet red drops on the remnants of her tattered clothing. Her face was marked by a vicious hand-sized black and blue bruise, as was the rest of her now skeletal body. Welts left from long hours of whipping covered her entire body, not just her back.
Horrified, Dayarvon thought at first that she was dead. Then he saw her glare at Mordraug, saw the pain and hurt in her eyes, saw the flickering of red behind the emerald green, and knew that the worst damage had been done to her mind. Unable to move, Dayarvon watched as the two Dark Elves threw Kalavai roughly on the ground in front of Mordraug. Shakily, she lifted herself up with her bruised arms to glare, fearful and full of hate, at Mordraug.
Mordraug bent down and leered in her face, knowing she had not the strength to strike him. Slowly, he drew from behind his back a rawhide whip, viciously studded with sharp metal bits. Kalavai’s eyes were fixed fearfully on the whip; she could not take her terrified gaze away. Then, without waiting another moment, Mordraug cracked the whip down fiercely across her back.
Kalavai screamed and fell onto the ground.
The scream was the worst thing Dayarvon had ever heard. It seemed to go on forever and ever, tearing apart his very soul, invading his mind. “KALAVAI!” he cried. The scream stopped abruptly as Kalavai looked up and saw him.
Mordraug looked up, threw out his hand, and flung a massive bolt of gray-green magical energy strait at Dayarvon. Heedless of the danger, Dayarvon hit it head on, and then it was his turn to scream. It was a more powerful version of the lightning spell Mordraug had used on Kalavai. Shocking him viciously, the magic encircled Dayarvon for a moment more, then spread out to form a wall around the depression in the floor.
Fighting the poison flowing through his veins and the welts left by the electrical lashes, Dayarvon stumbled backwards. Then, with a mindless scream of fury, he flung himself at the barrier between him and Kalavai. His scream turned to one of pain as the barrier wrapped bolts of lightning around him. Again he was flung backwards, and again, tears of fury falling from his dark eyes, flung himself at the barrier. He had to reach Kalavai. He had to.
Kalavai stared at Dayarvon as he flung himself yet again at the lightning barrier. Why is he doing this? Why is he trying to save me? Mordraug’s eyes narrowed and he threw another bolt of power at Dayarvon, striking him in the chest. Dayarvon collapsed to the ground, and then again got up to throw himself against the barrier. “D-da-dayarvon . . .” Kalavai whispered. Again Dayarvon struck the barrier, and this time when he fell he did not get up. “Dayarvon! Dayarvon!” she shouted.
At the sound of her voice, Dayarvon rose painfully to his feet to see Mordraug grabbing Kalavai by the arm and dragging her to the tapestry. “No . . .” he whispered. Mordraug raised a hand, and the tapestry disappeared to reveal two dull black doors carved with gross figures of death and sacrifice. They reeked of blood. Mordraug reached out a laid a hand on the handle. “No! Kalavai!” he screamed. Then two things happened.
With a roar that seemed to shake the very foundations of Middle Earth, Lakaríön burst through the ceiling, showering boulders and rubble below. With an answering snarl Anaclagon the Black erupted through the closed doors, pushing Mordraug and Kalavai aside. Both dragons crouched in the middle of the Chamber, assessing each other.
“I have found you, my One,” Lakaríön said into Kalavai’s mind. “I was afraid I would be too late.”
Awed, Kalavai somehow found the strength to walk shakily over to the shining white dragon. “You’re . . . you’re magnificent!” she exclaimed softly. Hesitantly she raised one hand and touched it to the magnificent dragon’s flank. “Oh!” Kalavai stiffened and her eyes opened wide, colored the same silver white as Lakaríön. The bond between dragon and One was renewed.
What is this? Mordraug thought. Kalavai should not be able to move, much less walk! And where did this other dragon come from?! I thought they were all extinct!!
Anaclagon’s twisted around on his serpentine neck to glare at Mordraug. “What are you waiting for, mortal? Bond with me, before my tenuous hold on this world disappears! It is the only way I will be able to defeat this dragon since he has bonded with the Forgotten One!”
Hastily Mordraug threw himself out of his body with a blast of magic and bonded with Anaclagon. So Kalavai really was the Forgotten One, the prophecy really was true . . .Excellent. Now, with the help of Anaclagon, he could defeat the last of the Good Dragons and have not one but two dragons, the most powerful ever, under his control. Then, just as Mordraug merged with Anaclagon and entered the dragon’s mind, Lakaríön issued his challenge.
The magnificent dragon stood tall, wings raised proudly, silvery white scales gleaming as he stared calmly at Anaclagon. Kalavai had bonded with him perfectly, he had found her, and now all that was left was to defeat those who had tried to kill his One. Lakaríön paused a moment to alter his mind voice that all in the Chamber could hear. “Dragon Anaclagon and the One Mordraug, I Lakaríön and my One Kalavai challenge you to the Death.”
Dayarvon stared at the two dragons in amazement. Kalavai was the Forgotten One, and the noble beast that he had just heard in his mind the last of the Good Dragons, Lakaríön? Dayarvon’s gaze shifted to Anaclagon, and the still form of Mordraug, eyes open and black. And this sinister black creature was the most feared of all the dragons, Anaclagon the Black, created by Melkor himself?! Dayarvon tried to stand up, to go, try to get to Kalavai and stumbled, the poison weakening is knees. Dayarvon watched, unable to do a thing, as the dragons leapt at each other, one a burning beacon of silvery-white hope, and the other a dark herald of destruction. May the Elenath help you, Kalavai, my love . . .
* * *
“What is the situation in our kingdom, I know that is what you all wish to know. I am afraid it is not very good.” Legolas gazed out at the assembled patrol. He had, after questioning the scouts who had returned but moments earlier, called a meeting. Everyone, even Ianithiel, was accounted for, he noted with satisfaction, if they were to win back their home, he would need everyone’s assistance. Legolas regretted deeply the words that he had said to his friend, thoughtless in the grasp of anger and helplessness, and wanted to apologize to her, but there simply was no time. His family, his kingdom, needed help, and the situation was desperate.
“Our home, as you all know,” he continued, “is under the attack from the very creatures we were sent out to vanquish. Our scouts have seen them, and they appear to by a form of Dark Elves, a cross between the true Dark Elves,” if they can be thought as such, he thought, “and orcs. Therefore they are twice as deadly.”
He paused to allow the patrol a moment or two to think over this new information. He knew what they were thinking, a cross between the vile and shamed Dark Elves, and the hateful orcs? Surely, he knew they thought, surely not even one so defiled as a Dark Elf would ever consider such a concept? Legolas cleared his throat; his kingdom needed his aid as soon as possible. “I know it is hard to think of, my friends, but for now we must accept it for the truth. Mirkwood needs our aid now. Let me outline the situation . . .”
* * *
Arwen rode, not daring to even stop for a drink. The thin, near-death face of Kalavai and the strained, sorrowful eyes of Dayarvon haunted her thoughts, and were not about to let go. Relying of the endurance of her faithful steed, Arwen urged it on faster. The feeling of impending doom the dream had gifted her with too had not left, and with each passing second it grew threefold. She had to hurry, had to get there in time, she had to help the two souls caught up in this nightmare . . .
At once another vision struck her, so strong, so lifelike, so terrifying that Arwen almost fell off her horse. Horrified, she clutched at the beast’s mane, trying to block out what she was seeing. For in her mind she was seeing Mirkwood, or what had been Mirkwood. The stables, the archery buildings, all of the upper structures were gone, burnt to ashes, as was the once luxurious green grass. Elven bodies, pooling crimson blood, littered the ground, and in their place swarmed- swarmed things. They were like some twisted parody of elves, like . . . like a cross between the most savage Dark Elf and the most hideous orc, a twisted mimic of life. They struck out at the elves trying to stop them, killing all in their wake. Eventually the elves were forced back into underground realm, and still the Dark things pushed forward, slaughtering, killing with a mindless, reckless hate . . .
At once the vision ended, but Arwen still clung to her horse in shock, paralyzed with fear. The visions were meant to tell her something, she knew, she had to help with one of them, but which one? Which one could wait till she dealt with the other? Which one should she chose, and which would cause the end of Middle Earth?
* * *
Kalavai was in Lakaríön, she was Lakaríön, knew what he knew, felt his pain as Anaclagon’s wickedly curved claws tore a gash through the noble dragon’s shoulder. Lakaríön retaliated, whipping his tail through the fragile membrane of one of Anaclagon’s wings. Blow for blow was exchanged, each dragon equally matched. Then Anaclagon took to the air, and as Lakaríön turned and rose to follow him, opened his vast fanged maw and spewed forth a gout of black streaked fire. Lakaríön dipped towards the side, but the stream of fire caught the outermost of the fragile bones of his wing and he screamed, plummeting downward. With a massive effort, Lakaríön regained his balance and leveled out just in time to avoid crashing to the floor. Eyes fixed on his quarry, he opened his silver jaws and from them burst a burning streak of silver, heading strait to Anaclagon; the fabled WhiteFire of the Akrine. Anaclagon whisked his ghastly head around just in time to see the crackling ball of silvery-white fire. Desperate, he tried to veer away, but too late, and the WhiteFire hit him square in the chest. He reeled back, but drew on Mordraug’s strength through the bond.
His huge black head snaked forward and strong jaws chomped down on Lakaríön’s shoulder, just to the side of the dragon’s neck. Again the valiant creature screamed, and Kalavai screamed with him. Dark red blood seeped out between the jagged swords that were Anaclagon’s teeth. Almost mindless with his own pain and the pain of his One, who felt everything he did, Lakaríön was caught with a sudden inspiration. He flicked a hind foot up to rake the soft scales of Anaclagon’s belly, distracting him for a vital moment. Down Lakaríön’s head came, and he clamped onto and through Anaclagon’s neck, through scales, flesh and bone.
Somewhere in the back of Anaclagon’s mind, Mordraug’s spirit was terrified. Most of his magic had gone into the unnatural bond he had formed with Anaclagon, and the rest had gone to bolstering the dragon’s strength. But now Anaclagon’s dark green lifeblood was seeping out of his crushed neck, soon its spirit would depart for a final time and so would his. Unless . . .
With the absolute last of his magic, Mordraug broke the bond and wrenched his spirit away just in time to sense the dragon’s horrified surprise. Mordraug re-entered his own body in time to see the dead dragon, teeth still latched in his opponent’s shoulder, drag Lakaríön down. As Anaclagon’s body thudded onto the ground, his jaws finally opened, and Lakaríön slumped down, strength gone, and entered the healing sleep his kind emerged themselves in after taking on serious injuries. Kalavai, Mordraug noticed, had not known to break the bond; she too fell to the ground, strength gone, in a dead faint. Seeing a chance to complete his plans after all, he absorbed back into himself the wall barrier for strength, grabbed Kalavai and ran to the sacrifice room. He had to kill her before dawn, by then it would be too late.
For a single moment after Mordraug took back the magical barrier, Dayarvon simply stared, horrified, as the Dark Wolf grabbed Kalavai’s limp form and dragged her into the hidden room. Then his senses came back to him with a rush, and he lurched to his feet. Leaving Haldir behind, forgotten, Dayarvon ran across the chamber to the doors, hanging open haphazardly on their hinges. He knew now, knew what Mordraug meant to do; with Kalavai’s blood he could revive and enslave both Anaclagon and Lakaríön, and then he would be unstoppable. He would destroy the entire elven race, and enslave all of the others. Dayarvon knew now that it was Mordraug who had possessed Elrohir that day, Mordraug who had ruined his life. And now Mordraug was going to kill Kalavai. He could not let that happen, no matter what. He could not. To loose her would forever shatter his soul, and to let her be sacrificed would mean the end of Middle-earth.
* * *
Legolas and his patrol found their home to be under a bloody siege. The barns, stables, storage houses, paddocks, every structure above ground had been burnt down. Everywhere bodies littered the ground, and far more were of Mirkwood elves than the Dark Elf-orcs creatures. What remained of the Elven populace had been forced into the underground realm, and were valiantly keeping the enemy at the entrance. But a quick glance told Legolas that they could not last much longer; they had to act now.
Legolas kneed his horse forward, fitting an arrow to his bow as he did so. The Dark Elyrch- as he named them in his mind- did not notice him, as all their attention was fixed on their targets. Sighting carefully along the shaft, Legolas aimed for one of the Dark Elyrch that was standing apart from the others, rallying his fellows with grating cries and swings of his immense broadsword. In one swift movement, he let the arrow fly; it struck its target in the back of his unprotected throat. The Dark Elyrch dropped down, dead, and at that signal, the patrol burst forth from their hiding places in the dense underbrush. That got their enemies’ attention.
The battle was fierce. Although the patrol was mounted, the Elyrch had the greater numbers and longer reaching weapons. Their huge, barbed broadswords and double bladed axes wrecked havoc in the elven ranks. But as all the Dark Elyrch turned to face their new opponent, the remaining elves of the original force leapt forward, their courage bolstered by the return of the patrol. Together they caught the Dark Elyrch in a pincer movement. Both sides fought viciously, and the ground was soaked with blood. But gradually the Dark Elyrch’s numbers lessened and the elves won. No prisoners had been taken.
Wearily, Legolas slumped in his saddle. It was over. They had won. But at a great cost. At least a third, if not half, of the Elven population had died in the fight. It would take a long time to recover from such heavy losses. Then a cry brought him out from his sad thoughts. “Legolas! Legolas!” He looked up to see both his father and his mother rushing towards him. His father was spattered with blood, and there was a bandaged slash on one arm, but other then that he looked fine.
“Oh, my son, I though we were not to see you again. Thank the Valar that you arrived in time!” Tharnduil exclaimed, clasping Legolas on the back.
Legolas smiled wanly. “So am I, Father.”
“Come down off that horse, Legolas. It makes your mother feel shorter than she should,” Eleinathar said, and hugged her son as soon as he dismounted. “Next time you shouldn’t be gone so long.”
“Next time, we are leaving more troops here to protect our home,” Legolas said, detangling himself from his mother’s embrace. His father nodded in agreement. “We do not want this to happen again. It will take long enough to repair the damage.” He was about to say more, but at that moment Ianithiel ran up.
“Legolas! I cannot find either Kalavai or Dayarvon!” she cried, distressed. “I checked Dayarvon’s home, the house is in shambles and the tree-post is completely destroyed. Ryvrien was there, but Dayarvon and Kalavai were no where to be seen.”
A feeling of dread formed a tight knot in Legolas’ stomach. “Father, were they with you when the Dark Elyrch struck?”
“The what? Oh, no. Now that you mention it, I had not seen them at all.” Tharnduil adopted the same worried look as his son. He too knew the prophecy of the Forgotten One. “Mayhap-” he was about to say more, but at that exact moment, a great tremor shook the ground. Clouds that had been gathering unnoticed in the once clear sky abruptly closed in, and Mirkwood was cloaked in darkness. Every elf’s eyes at once went to the north; even through the dense trees and burned wreckage the looming shadow of Orod Gwathorod could be seen. For an everlasting second, the Shadow Mountain flared a ghastly, pulsing shade of green, then it too was cloaked in shadow. The ground gave one final last heave and the settled. Every trace of color had drained from Legolas’ face, as well as that of every other elf.
“Valar save us,” Legolas whispered, his voice shaking with fear. The final duel had begun.